The top seed Laslo Djere and a qualifier Gianluca Mager are the last players standing in Milan Challenger, winning their semi-final matches to set up a final. Djere is through to his 11th Challenger final (won only one title so far) and the third of the season after a hard-fought 7-6 4-6 7-5 win over Thiemo de Bakker in two hours and 28 minutes. As the result suggests, it was a mighty close match decided only by a few points and a single break in the final set that Laslo made while leading 6-5.
He was the better player on the court, defending his second serve in a more efficient way and facing just six break points. De Bakker had to play against 10 break chances but he saved seven to stay in touch with the Serb until the very last moments of the match.
Laslo broke in the first game of the match to settle into a nice rhythm and he had three more break points in game five that could give him an even bigger lead. Thiemo saved them and he broke back in game eight to level the score at 4-4, with four good holds that followed to set up a tie break.
The Dutch player wasted a set point at 6-5 and Djere stole the set after winning the last three points, closing it with a service winner for an 8-6. De Bakker bounced back and he broke twice in the second set to open up a 4-1 gap, losing his serve once to reduce the advantage but bringing the set home with a forehand down the line winner in game 10 to send the match into a decider.
There, Djere saved both break points he faced and he managed to cross the finish line before the tie break, earning that crucial break in game 12 when de Bakker netted a backhand to book his place in the title match. The 23-year-old Italian Gianluca Mager opened his Milan campaign as a qualifier but that was hardly an obstacle for him, advancing to his first Challenger final thanks to a commanding 6-3 6-1 win over the 6th seed Pedja Krstin in 56 minutes. 12 months ago, Gianluca reached his 6th quarter-final at this level here in Milan and he will now play for the title after a dominant performance, losing nine points in eight service games and never facing a break point.
On the other hand, Krstin was in all kind of troubles behind his initial shot, losing half of the points in his games and getting broken four times from seven chances he offered to Mager, unable to stay on the court for at least an hour.
The Italian drew first blood in game four after a forehand error from Pedja and he had two more break points in game six. Krstin saved them with two good serves but that was all he could do in the opening set, as Mager closed it with a backhand down the line winner in game nine.
This gave him the momentum to push even harder in set number two, serving well and keeping the pressure on Krstin who couldn't endure it. Gianluca broke at 15 in the first game of the set after a lucky net cord and he broke at love in game five as well after a deep return that Pedja failed to control.
Home player sealed the deal with a forehand winner that gave him another break in game seven, advancing into his first final at this level and hoping for more of the same against Djere on Sunday. Semi-final results: