Challenger Roundup: Week 14
$25,000+H - Clay
(1)Jan Hajek (CZE) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-4 6-2
(5)Werner Eschauer (AUT) d. (4)Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 7-5 6-4
(5)Werner Eschauer (AUT) d. (1)Jan Hajek (CZE) 6-0 3-0 ret.
While the stars were battling it out in the Davis Cup, the lesser lights and journeymen did their weekly yeoman's work down on the challenger circuit. In Monza, it was the 32 year old Austrian Werner Eschauer who continued his very solid year to improve to #94 year, a personal best, impressive form for someone at that stage of his career. Monza was his third final of the year having won Wroclaw and lost in the final of Barletta. Jan Hajek retired to save himself from the embarassment of being double-bagelled in the final, apparently - no idea if an injury was involved.
Carlos Berlocq, the man who beat Eschauer in the Barletta final earlier this year, continues a consistent year that has seen him return to the top 100 now. If he can put together a few wins at the ATP level, he could finally become a fully accredited ATP Tour Clay Court Clown. He did reach the QF in Vina del Mar earlier in the year, so there's hope!
Andujar is a young-ish Spaniard with middling potential. Sometimes these guys really break through to the 60-80 range in their early-mid 20s; usually they don't.
San Luis Potosi, Mexico
$50,000+H - Clay
(4)Santiago Giraldo (COL) d. Michael Lammer (SUI) 6-3 6-2
(2)Fernando Vicente (ESP) d. Horacio Zeballos (ARG) 6-4 4-6 6-3
(2)Fernando Vicente (ESP) d. (4)Santiago Giraldo (COL) 6-3 6-3
Vicente is one of those pesky Spanish old guys who just won't go away, even when you just start to think he's done. More power to him for fighting the good fight and re-entering the top 100. More interesting is Colombian prospect Giraldo who moves up 20 spots to #122. He doesn't turn 20 until November and he's already picked up a title in Bogota earlier in the year. I believe he's one of the more underrated young prospects, although you do have to remember he's only a few months younger than Murray and Djokovic. While he's much less likely to achieve the heights of AM and ND, he's got a good chance to be a very good player.
Michael Lammer is a mid-20s vet in the futures/challenger limbo. He did qualify for the AO in 2006 where he had the privilege of losing badly to Andy Roddick in the first round. There's a decent chance that will be the highlight of his career.
A lot of Argentine players have trouble making the jump from futures to challengers (other than big-time prospects like JMDP of course). It's tough because they're often short on money and there are only so many events in South America. Zeballos has been making steady if unspectacular progress over the past few years. Now at a career high of #230, he's at a critical juncture - if he can keep up the good work he'll be able to get direct entry into most challengers and establish himself at the next level.
(3)Rik de Voest (RSA) d. (1)Davide Sanguinetti (ITA) 6-3 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-4 6-3
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (3)Rik de Voest (RSA) 6-1 6-4
Look out! There was once a time when people debated whether Tsonga or Gael Monfils was a better prospect as they both came up through the ranks. Both have disappointed - Monfils has regressed lately; Tsonga has been chronically injured. Tsonga has been healthy lately though and took the title in France F5 a few weeks ago. Now he shows up in Tallahassee and wins through in straight sets. This takes him to #172, but if he gets on a roll, he'll be moving up very quickly. Here's to hoping he stays healthy because it would be a shame if we never see what he's capable of.
Rik de Voest is the top-ranked South African these days, with the decline of Wesley Moodie. He's never quite been able to make that final push to the ATP Tour but at #121 he's only a few big wins away. The same could be said about many others who never made it, however.
Davide Sanguinetti looks older than my grandfather, but he's slightly better at tennis. Like with Vicente...still fighting the good fight. Bobby Reynolds had a great run a while ago, but his slid into journeymanism and is only just recovering. He's ranked #202.