De Minaur tops Carballes Baena to reach the final. Berlocq saves five MP's


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De Minaur tops Carballes Baena to reach the final. Berlocq saves five MP's

* Alicante, Spain, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : 19-year-old Alex de Minaur, who lives and trains here in Alicante, will play in his third Challenger final after a solid 6-2 6-4 triumph over Roberto Carballes Baena in an hour and 27 minutes. The young Aussie served at only 49% but no one could notice that since he lost just nine points in nine service game, never facing a break point.

Roberto couldn't follow those numbers, dropping 42% of the points on his serve and facing six break points, getting broken three times to miss a chance of playing in the final. Alex kicked off the match with a break and that set the tone for the rest of the match, sailing through his service games and securing the set with another break in game five, by far the longest of the match.

He claimed the opener with a hold at love in game eight and he carried that form into the second set as well, earning the break in game three to keep it until the end to book the place in the title match. A former world number 32 Pablo Andujar has been dealing with injuries and he dropped from the rankings in September last year.

Starting all over again, the Spaniard moved back into the Top 600 and he received a wild card here in Alicante to play his first Challenger since Kenitra in 2016. He used it with both hands and will fight for the title after a 6-4 5-7 6-4 win over the second seed Marco Cecchinato in 2 hours and 28 minutes. As the result suggests, nothing could separate them and they finished with 101 points each, although Andujar grabbed three breaks of serve compared to two from Cecchinato.

Pablo made a better start, breaking in games one and five for a 4-1 before Marco recovered his game to pull one break back in game six and create another break point at 3-5 that could return him in action completely. Pablo saved it and he delivered a nice hold in game 10 for a 6-4, moving a set away from the place in the final.

He saved four break points in set number two to keep the pressure on Cecchinato but the Italian found the way to break him in game 12 and send the match into a decider. There, Andujar served better and he grabbed the break in game three to keep the lead until the end and move into his 14th Challenger final.

* Panama City, Panama, $50,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : 35-year-old Argentinian Carlos Berlocq has advanced to his 31st Challenger final after a thrilling 6-7 7-5 7-6 win over the qualifier Juan Ignacio Londero in 3 hours and 25 minutes, saving five match points in the ninth game of the final set, earning the chance to play for his 19th title at this level. The more experienced player had to dig deep in his service games, saving 13 out of 18 break points and scoring six breaks on the other hand from 12 opportunities he created.

Londero saved three break points in the opening game of the match and he drew first blood in game four when he moved 3-1 in front. Berlocq got the break back in the next game, he saved three break points in game six and stoled rival's serve again in game seven to create a 4-3 gap.

Juan Ignacio pulled the break back immediately to level the score at 4-4 (the fourth break in the last five games) and he had a set point on the return in game 10. Carlos fends it off and they traded breaks again in games 11 and 12 to set up a tie break that Londero won 7-3 to gain the lead.

The first set lasted almost 80 minutes and the second one was more fluid despite another close scoreline, with Berlocq who won it 7-5 to send the encounter into a decider. He settled into a nice rhythm on serve and captured the break in game two for a 5-2 advantage, only to lose 12 of the next 14 points to bring his rival back on the scoreboard.

Juan Ignacio got the break back at 15 in game nine when Carlos served for the set but he failed to reach another tie break, getting broken in game 12 and missing a chance of closing the match in straight sets. Londero was the better player in the first phase of the final set and he forged a 5-3 gap with a break in game seven.

Serving to stay in the match Carlos saved five match points in game nine and this gave him a huge boost, as he broke at love a few minutes later to prolong the set and create a solid base for a complete turnaround. Juan Ignacio saved a match point on serve in game 12 but he couldn't do much in the tie break, losing serve four times to hand the win to his rival who proved his passion for tennis once again despite passing his prime years and some big career goals. Semi-final results:

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