Andreozzi edges Berlocq. First title for James Duckworth in two years


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Andreozzi edges Berlocq. First title for James Duckworth in two years

* Szczecin, Poland, €127,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : The 27-year-old Argentinian Guido Andreozzi has moved closer to his 200th Challenger win after claiming the seventh title in Szczecin, ousting a qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4 4-6 6-3 in two hours and 13 minutes for his third trophy of the season and the first since April.

Both players served at almost 80% but we still got 26 break points, with Andreozzi saving 11 out of 15 to keep the pressure on his rival. The young Spaniard fought well in his first Challenger final but it wasn't enough in the end, suffering five breaks from 11 break points he faced and missing a chance to prolong the encounter in the final game.

They traded breaks in games two and three and Alejandro could have moved in front in game nine but Guido saved a break point that gave him the momentum as he broke in the following game to steal the opener 6-4. Davidovich Fokina created nine break chances in set number two and he forged a 3-0 lead with a double break, losing serve once but keeping the advantage until game 10 when he held at love to clinch the set and force a decider.

Andreozzi bounced back at the start of the final set, breaking his rival twice in a row and bringing the match home after fending off two break points in game nine to celebrate another title and his first appearance in the Top 100.

* Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina, €85,000+H (Outdoor Clay) : In one of the longest Challenger finals of the season, Alessandro Giannessi has defeated Carlos Berlocq 6-7 6-4 6-4 in three hours and 24 minutes for his second Challenger crown and the first in two years. The Italian won just five points more than the Argentinian veteran and he saved seven out of 10 break points, stealing Berlocq's serve five times to cross the finish line first and secure the title that brings him back inside the Top 200.

It was a grueling battle between two fine clay courters and the first set lasted for almost an hour and a half, with another marathon coming in set number three as well, spreading for more than 70 minutes. Giannessi kicked off the match in the better way, breaking Carlos in game two to open up a 3-0 lead before Berlocq claimed five games in a row to move 5-3 ahead.

He wasted three set points on serve in the following game and had to save a break point in game 12 to secure the tie break, with Andreozzi playing better in those moments. The Italian squandered his fourth set point at 6-5 and Carlos won the next three points to claim the breaker 8-6.

The second set was much more fluid and they stayed neck and neck after breaks of serve they traded in games three and four. From 4-3 down, Alessandro won 12 of the next 16 points to win the set 6-4 and set up a decider where he was the favorite now.

Still, he had to work hard as Berlocq refused to surrender, saving six break points in games four and six and creating the crucial gap when he broke Carlos in game three. After that crisis in the middle of the set, Giannessi served well in games eight and 10 and he brought the match home with a forehand down the line winner to end this marathon on the winning side.

* Istanbul, Turkey, $75,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : The 19-year-old Corentin Moutet is on a verge of entering the Top 100 after winning his second Challenger crown in Istanbul, overpowering his compatriot Quentin Halys 6-3 6-4 in an hour and 21 minutes. Both players struggled to find the rhythm on serve but it was Moutet who drew the most from his initial shot, losing serve three times but converting six break points from 12 chances to control the scoreboard all the time.

They broke each other four times in the opening six games and it was Moutet who shifted into a higher gear after that, breaking Halys in games seven and nine for a 6-3. After back-to-back breaks in games five and six of set number two Corentin claimed another one at 5-4 to seal the deal and secure the title, his first since October last year.

* Cary, USA, $50,000+H (Outdoor Hard) : Competing in his first Challenger tournament since the end of 2016, a former Top 100 player James Duckworth has won his sixth Challenger crown and the third in the last four tournaments (three straight finals in 2016) after a 7-6 6-3 win over the American Reilly Opelka in an hour and 10 minutes. After a strong end of 2016 season, James was forced to miss the entire 2017 after the Australian Open and he had five surgeries in a year, starting to recover his form and ranking in the previous months.

The Aussie took a set away from Andy Murray at the US Open and he entered Cary Challenger ranked 418th, having to qualify for the main draw. He barely escaped a defeat against Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in the last qualifying round and he looked better in the main draw encounters to go all the way and secure the much-needed title that brings him back inside the Top 300.

In a fast and fluid title match that saw only one deuce and two break points in the entire match, Duckworth lost just 10 points in his games and he never faced a break point to keep the pressure on Reilly. Opelka fired 23 aces and he stayed on the same level as his rival until the eighth game of the second set when he suffered a break that pushed James 5-3 up, allowing him to serve out for the title in the following game. Final results:

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