Pablo Andujar makes a perfect return! Carlos Berlocq wins 19th title


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Pablo Andujar makes a perfect return! Carlos Berlocq wins 19th title

* Panama City, Panama, $50,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : 35-year-old Challenger legend Carlos Berlocq had to save five match points in the semi-final against Juan Ignacio Londero in the match that lasted almost 3 and a half hours but that didn't leave a mark on his, storming over Blaz Rola 6-2 6-0 in the title match to grab his 19th Challenger crown from the 31st final. The match lasted an hour and 39 minutes and the Argentinian repelled all six break points he faced to keep his serve intact.

He was the dominant figure on the return, winning 57% of the points and stealing Rola's serve five times in a row to rattle off the last 10 games of the match. Blaz was there to fight in the opening four games but he simply stopped after that, playing against seven break points in games five and seven to drop serve on both occasions and Carlos closed the set with an important hold in game eight after saving four break chances.

The Slovenian lost the ground completely in set number two, serving at 31% and winning just nine points in six games to fail the win at least one game and make his defeat a little bit softened. Carlos crossed the finish line with a hold at love in game six, finishing the job with a backhand slice cross court winner to deliver the first title of the season.

* Alicante, Spain, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : A former world number 32 Pablo Andujar has had a rough few years, suffering numerous elbow problems and surgeries, losing his ranking last year in September. The 32-year-old is on a comeback trail and he received a wild card for the main draw in Alicante, his first since Kenitra in 2016, and he managed to go all the way, beating the 4th seed Alex de Minaur 7-6 6-1 in an hour and 36 minutes for his first title since Orbetello 2010 and sixth overall. De Minaur lives and trains here in Alicante but he couldn't win the first Challenger trophy, serving at only 49% and managing to stay in touch only in the opening set before Andujar faded in the distance in set number two.

Pablo served well, saving three out of four break points, and he outplayed the teenager from the baseline with rock solid groundstrokes that gave him three ATP titles between 2011-2014. Both players had their chances in the opening set and it was Alex who made the better start, breaking in game two and creating another chance in game four.

Andujar saved to avoid a huge deficit and he broke back in game seven to get back on the scoreboard, setting up a tie break after five good holds on both sides in the rest of the set. We saw six mini-breaks in the first 10 points, as they stayed locked up at 5-5, and it was Pablo who pulled another good point on the return to take the breaker 7-5.

Carried by this momentum, the Spaniard was just too strong in set number two, serving at 83% and losing two points in four service games to keep the pressure on the other side of the net. De Minaur was far from that pace, dropping serve in games four and six and allowing Andujar to close the match on own serve in game seven and lift the trophy that will burst hi ranking position and confidence before the rest of the clay season. Final results:

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