Note to mods - please don't move this to the Challenger forum, where threads go to die. Surely this is more main board worthy than a lot of the crap in General Messages
La Serena, Chile
Mariano Zabaleta (ARG) d. Rainer Eitzinger (AUT) 6-3 6-2
(q)Juan-Pablo Brzezicki (ARG) d. Marcos Daniel (BRA) 3-6 6-4 6-2
Mariano Zabaleta (ARG) d. (q)Juan-Pablo Brzezicki (ARG) 6-2 6-4
While many of the worlds players were scrapping it out in qualies and the early rounds Down Under, there was an absolute festival for mediocre clay courters in Chile. In a tournament bereft of exciting young talent, Zabaleta finally broke through in his ongoing comeback attempt, re-entering the top 200. Brzezicki has also missed time with injuries, so he'll be pleased with his result. By and large though, it was just the usual suspects like Carlos Berlocq and Boris Pashanski (both lost in the QFs) who are allergic to the hard courts of the Australian Open.
Durban, South Africa
(6)Rik de Voest (RSA) d. (1)Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4 6-1
Mathieu Montcourt (FRA) d. Michal Mertinak (SVK) 6-3 7-5
Mathieu Montcourt (FRA) d. (6)Rik de Voest (RSA) 5-7 6-3 6-2
Mathieu Montcourt picks up some big wins in a big money challenger (he also beat Udomchoke in the QFs). He had an inconsistent 2006 both in his performance and ability to stay healthy, so this is a good start to his year. De Voest is one of those solid journeyman who slowly creeps towards the top 100; we'll see if he can get to the fringe in 2007 - he's currently ranked 132.
$100k, Hard (Indoor)
Michael Berrer (GER) d. Tomas Zib (CZE) 1-6 7-6(2) 7-5
(4)Michael Llodra (FRA) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-3 6-4
Michael Berrer (GER) d. (4)Michael Llodra (FRA) 6-5 ret.
Michael Berrer wins a shortened final in another relatively big-money challenger on hard court, beating Llodra. Berrer, the very definition of a journeyman, moves up 37 spots to #120. The big name to watch here, of course, is Gulbis, who rebounds from a disappointing Australian Open qualifying campaign with a SF performance. He's just starting to heat up...
(q)Fabio Fognini (ITA) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 6-3 6-7(4) 6-4
(2)Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) d. Adrian Garcia (CHI) 5-4 ret.
(2)Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) d. (q)Fabio Fognini (ITA) 1-6 7-5 6-4
Martin Vassallo-Arguello picks up a title in Santiago while most of the country was probably watching Fernando Gonzalez's AO run...not Vassallo-Arguello's glorious run to the title. He beats Fabio Fognini, who has been fairly highly regarded but was frustratingly inconsistent in 2006. He's 19 until May, so he's still got time - could this be the breakthrough he needs? After all, he did beat Oscar Hernandez... He moves up 48 spots to #194.
Waikoloa, HI, USA
(q)Jamie Baker (GBR) d. Wayne Odesnik (USA) 7-6(5) 1-6 6-4
(5)Michael Russell (USA) d. (3)Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-0 7-6(2)
(5)Michael Russell (USA) d. (q)Jamie Baker (GBR) 6-1 6-4
Russell finally blasts his way back into the top 100 with another impressive performance. Let's look at it this way: in 2007, Russell has played 14 matches for a record of 13-1. He's won two challenger titles and qualified for the AO. The only match in which he lost a set was his five-set loss to Lleyton Hewitt. Other than that, he's won 26 out of 26 sets. He's too good for challengers right now.
Jamie Baker shows that there's life outside Andy Murray for British players - although don't make the mistake of thinking that Baker has anywhere near Murray's potential; Baker is about a full year older and is only now breaking in to the Challenger circuit.
Wrexham, Great Britain
$25k+H - Hard (Indoor)
(8)Richard Bloomfield (GBR) d. (1)Jean-Christophe Faurel (FRA) 6-3 6-4
Michal Przysiezny (POL) d. (2)Robin Haase (NED) 7-5 5-7 7-5
Michal Przysiezny (POL) d. (8)Richard Bloomfield (GBR) 6-2 6-3
Michal Przysghskjlaghdf takes home the title with a run of nice wins at Wrexham. Not that he has superstar potential, but he seems to be one of the more talented Poles; we'll see how far he can go. Bloomfield makes it a nice week for mediocre Brits by reaching the final. And Robin Haase picks things up after an 0-2 start to the season by reaching the semifinals. There's a lot of talent in the 100-200 range; Querrey, Bozoljac, Gulbis, Zverev, Haase, Cilic, Giraldo, Kuznetsov, Lacko, plus a few others - it will be interesting to see how many of them can crack the main tour this year....my guess is quite a few.
Edit: corrected Heilbronn's surface