Rudolf Molleker shines at home. Opelka and Robredo claim title as well


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Rudolf Molleker shines at home. Opelka and Robredo claim title as well

* Busan, South Korea, $150,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : Matthew Ebden has won his ninth Challenger title in Busan and the first since Toyota in November after a 7-6 6-1 win over the 3rd seed Vasek Pospisil in an hour and 27 minutes. Ebden made the biggest difference with his first serve, saving three out of four break points he faced and he broke Vasek three times from six chances, saving four set points in the opening set before taking control in set number two.

Vasek served well in first four games and he broke Matthew in game four to create a 5-2 gap, creating another break point in game eight that could deliver the set for him. Ebden saved it and he broke back in game nine but only after saving another pair of break chances, serving for a 5-5 in the 10th game.

Pospisil squandered two more set points and he lost the momentum before the tie break, with Ebden who took it 7-4. Carried by this outcome, Ebden sailed through the second set, dropping just three points on serve and scoring breaks in games two and four for a commanding win and huge 125 points he grabbed.

* Bordeaux, France, €106,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The 20-year-old Reilly Opelka has claimed his second Challenger trophy, the first since Charlottesville in 2016 and also the first on clay. In the title match, Reilly prevailed against Gregoire Barrere 6-7 6-4 7-5 in two hours and 20 minutes after a rock solid serving display, getting broken once from six opportunities he gave to Barrere. The Frenchman gave his best to prevail in front of the home crowd, saving 11 out of 14 break points he faced to stay in touch until the closing moments of the match.

Reilly fired 22 aces and he defended his second serve in a more efficient way to emerge as a winner and move closer to his best ranking position he has had in June last year. The first set was very close and Gregoire managed to save two set points at 4-5, sending the set into a tie break and winning it 7-5 after three mini-breaks.

Opelka bounced back in style with back-to-back breaks at the start of the second set and Barrere could only pull one break back, allowing the American to save two break points in game eight and bring it home with a solid hold in game 10, sending the encounter into a decider.

There, Reilly fends off two break points in game four and he had a colossal chance to move in front in game nine, squandering three break points for more drama and excitement. Still, Opelka found the way to steal rival's serve in game 11 and he crossed the finish line on the second match point in the following game for his biggest success in many months and the first big title on clay.

* Heilbronn, Germany, €85,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : Rudolf Molleker has made a name for himself last year in Hamburg when he became the first player born in 2000 who qualified for the ATP tournament and he also had a couple of good Futures results to maintain his place in the Top 500.

Rudolf has arrived in Heilbronn with no wins on Challenger level but that wasn't an obstacle for the 17-year-old as he defeated the 2nd seed Jiri Vesely 4-6 6-4 7-5 in an hour and 49 minutes to claim his maiden professional title, four years after Alexander Zverev won his first Challenger crown at this site, at the same age! Thus, Molleker becomes only the third player of his generation with the Challenger title after Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nicola Kuhn and he settles into the Top 300 for the first time in his career.

Rudolf is also the fifth player since the start of 2017 who has managed to lift the Challenger trophy before turning 18, and he is the youngest champion so far in 2018. It was a very close title match and Rudolf has won just one point more than Jiri, playing against only three break points and stealing the Czech's serve thrice from six opportunities.

The youngster kept fighting after losing the opening set and he outplayed much more experienced player to celebrate the title in front of the home fans. Vesely did everything right in the opening set, holding with ease and breaking Molleker in game three to gain the crucial lead that he carried over the finish line in game 10.

They traded breaks of serve early in the second set and it was Rudolf who kept his focus in the decisive moments, fending off a break point in game nine and breaking Vesely a few minutes later to take the set and set up a decider.

There, we saw some impressive serving from both players and Vesely was the first who cracked under the pressure, losing serve in game 10 to hand the victory to his rival. Final results:

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