Ulises Blanch wins title on debut. Hanfmann and Kubler shine as well

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Ulises Blanch wins title on debut. Hanfmann and Kubler shine as well

* Braunschweig, Germany, €127,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The 26-year-old German Yannick Hanfmann has won the strongest Challenger of the week in Braunschweig, defeating Jozef Kovalik 6-2 3-6 6-3 in two hours and two minutes for his third Challenger crown and the second of the season in as many finals. Kovalik served at only 54% and he had to play against nine break points, getting broken three times to end on the losing side.

On the other hand, Hanfmann saved five out of six break points he faced to limit the damage in his games and keep the pressure on his rival. The German has won the last five games of the opening set, breaking Kovalik in games five and seven for a 6-2, and it was the Slovak who raised his level in the second set, facing no break points and taking a 2-0 lead that he carried throughout the set to set up a decider.

Hanfmann was back at his best in the final set, sailing through his service games and earning a break in game four to gain the crucial lead, sealing the deal with a hold at 15 in game nine to celebrate the title and the first appearance in the Top 100.

* Winnetka, USA, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : The 23-year-old Russian Evgeny Karlovskiy had come to Winnetka with just eight Challenger wins and he leaves with his maiden title at this level, toppling the 4th seed Jason Jung 6-3 6-2 in an hour and 11 minutes. Karlovskiy served at 70% and there was nothing wrong with his initial shot, dropping 10 points in his games and saving three break points at the start of the second set in the only loose service game he played.

On the other hand, he won 45% of the return points and created 14 break chances, converting four to control the pace all the time. Jung never found his rhythm, playing against nine break points already in the opening set and getting broken in games five and nine to hand the opener to his rival.

After saving those three break points in the first game of the second set, Evgeny claimed the last four games of the match, including breaks in games six and eight to conquer the title in style and enter the Top 250 for the first time.

* Winnipeg, Canada, $75,000 (Outdoor Hard) : Another player who is on a career-high ranking is the Australian Jason Kubler who claimed his fourth Challenger crown and the second of the season after a rock solid 6-1 6-1 triumph over Lucas Miedler in 47 minutes. Over the course of his young career, Jason has struggled a lot with his knees and he was forced to skip tournaments on hard court for years, recovering his body and getting into the right shape to become a very solid player outside clay as well.

Both players have served above 70% and it was Kubler who drew the most from it, losing nine points in his games and never facing a break point. Miedler was miles away from that pace behind his serve, taking only 40% of the points and getting broken five times from seven chances he offered to Jason, unable to stay on the court for at least 50 minutes.

Kubler has found his rhythm early on and he won the last five games of the opening set for a 6-1 after a double break in games four and six. The second set was even more one-sided and Jason grabbed three breaks for another 6-1 score and the title that brings him closer to the place in the Top 100.

* Bastad, Sweden, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The 21-year-old Spaniard Pedro Martinez has claimed his maiden Challenger crown in Bastad, prevailing over Corentin Moutet 7-6 6-4 in just under two hours to find himself in the Top 200 for the first time. The Frenchman landed in 77% of the first serves but that gave him nothing, losing almost 50% of the points in his games and getting broken four times from eight chances he gave to Martinez.

The Spaniard also had to work hard in his games and he saved three out of six break points, prevailing in the crucial moments to bring the match home in straight sets. Corentin drew first blood in game four to open up a 3-1 gap but Martinez got it back in game seven, saving two set points at 4-5 on own serve to prolong the set.

They traded breaks in games 11 and 12 as well to set up a tie break and Martinez won it 7-5 after more than 70 minutes! Carried by this momentum, Pedro broke in the second game of the second set to gain a 4-1 advantage and Moutet pulled it back in game seven for another tight set.

Nonetheless, Martinez earned a break at love in game 10 to seal the deal and celebrate his maiden title at this level. * Perugia, Italy, €43,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The third player who has won his maiden Challenger crown this week is the lowest-ranked one and also the most unexpected, as the 20-year-old American Ulises Blanch went all the way in Perugia for his biggest result in a career so far.

Blanch is the first lucky loser who has won the Challenger crown since Uladzimir Ignatik in Rennes in January 2017 and he is the first player who has won the title on debut since Casper Ruud in Seville in September 2016. He is the second player ranked outside the Top 500 with Challenger crown in 2018 after Pablo Andujar and also the sixth youngest champion and he earned all this after a 7-5 6-2 win over another youngster Gianluigi Quinzi. Blanch blasted 11 aces and his first serve proved to be a huge weapon, taking 24 out of 28 points after landing the first serve in.

He lost just 12 points in 10 service games, getting broken once but taking 45% of the return points to create seven break chances, converting three to clinch the win. Gianluigi was off to a better start and he had everything in his hands in the opening set, breaking in game four and wasting three set points in games eight and nine to lose all the momentum, allowing Blanch to stay in the set and rattle off the last five games to steal the set 7-5.

This gave a huge boost to the American who lost just two points on serve in set number two, outplaying Quinzi who lost serve in games three and seven, leaving Ulises to cross the finish line in game eight after forcing an error from the Italian. Final results:


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