Daniel Cracks Top 100 With Yokohama Crown
Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to who’s in action in the week to come
A LOOK BACK
Keio Challenger (Yokohama, Japan): Taro Daniel completed a career year with his third ATP Challenger Tour title, rallying past countryman Go Soeda 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday in Yokohama. One week after finishing runner-up to John Millman in nearby Kobe, the Japanese added to titles in Vercelli (Italy) and Furth (Germany). The 22 year old will enter the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time at World No. 93, joining Kei Nishikori as Japan’s lone members. Soeda, meanwhile, was bidding for his 18th title. He is currently third on the all-time list behind only Yen-Hsun Lu and Dudi Sela.
JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana (Champaign, U.S.A.): For the eighth time this year, an American teen featured in a final on the ATP Challenger Tour as Taylor Fritz battled Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen for the title on Saturday. The Rancho Santa Fe, California native, who took the Challenger circuit by storm last month in becoming the ninth player to win multiple titles before his 18th birthday, would surrender an early lead to the Swiss, losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 26 minutes. The youngest Challenger champion this year, Fritz has since turned 18 and is projected to rise to a career-high Top 200 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, becoming the second-highest ranked American teen.
Laaksonen fired 10 aces and converted on five of 12 break points to capture his maiden title. It was an impressive week for the 23 year old, who rallied from a set down in four consecutive matches, notching two wins in deciding tie-breaks. He is the first player from Switzerland to win a Challenger title since 2010, when Stan Wawrinka won in Lugano and Stephane Bohli in Recanati. The Finnish-born Laaksonen is also the 25th first-time champion this year.
“I had an amazing run here in the U.S.," he told broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. "I was lucky to win a few matches this week at 7-6 in the third, but especially today I played unbelievable.
“A few weeks ago when I lost to [Fritz], I lost pretty badly. He played well. Today, I was returning really well. I took his serve out and I put pressure on his second serve. I struggled earlier in the year, pushing the ball and running. Now I'm hitting through the ball and going for my shots.”
Trofeo Citta di Brescia (Brescia, Italy): Igor Sijsling turned in a dominant week in Brescia, not dropping a set en route to claiming his seventh ATP Challenger Tour crown and first since 2012. Having dropped two final decisions earlier this year, in Alphen (Netherlands) and Rennes (France), the Dutchman entered Saturday’s title match following wins over top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky, ATP Challenger Tour Finals contender Farrukh Dustov and home hope Luca Vanni. He would defeat Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-4 for the title.
Uruguay Open (Montevideo, Uruguay): The Uruguay Open hosted its 11th edition, with a final encounter set between a pair of players who have qualified for the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Spain’s Inigo Cervantes and Argentina’s Guido Pella will be in Sao Paulo for the year-end championships, and they had one last matter of business to tend to on Sunday in Montevideo. Pella rallied for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win, notching his fourth title of the season. He joins Hyeon Chung and Paolo Lorenzi as title leaders, having toppled World No. 40 and home hope Pablo Cuevas earlier in the week. Cervantes secured his debut in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings with a run to the final.
GRACIAS MONTEVIDEO, HASTA SIEMPRE pic.twitter.com/CFrjLcFuuo— Guido Pella (@guido_pella) November 23, 2015
What The Players Said
Daniel: “I am very happy I won a tournament in Japan because I can only come to Japan once or twice. But, I am very glad many people have come to watch a Challenger match because no other country has this many people that come and watch us play.
"I would like to congratulate Soeda for playing very well this tournament. It was an honor being able to play with him in a Challenger final, because I respected him since I was playing in the juniors. I am looking forward to play with him again."
Sijsling: “In the beginning of the year I was struggling with my game. I didn't play so many matches, wasn't so confident and every match was little more difficult. I didn't gain many points. Now I try to finish well: two finals and one title is a good start for next year.
“Dutch tennis is ok, but it was better before with Richard Kraijcek and Jan Siemerink in the Top 20. Eltingh-Haarhuis were No. 1 in doubles. It's not easy to be in their footsteps. Now there are Robin Haase and Thiemo De Bakker inside the Top 100 and I'm trying to get back but it's tough. There are lots of players hungry to be above you. The level of the sport is good.
“I don't know if is the beginning of a new career, but for sure it is the right way to finish the year. To win a tournament is always difficult. My goal for 2016 is to come back to the Top 100.”
The 2015 ATP Challenger Tour season comes to a close with three tournaments on three continents. The elite eight of Guido Pella, Inigo Cervantes, Farrukh Dustov, Paolo Lorenzi, Daniel Munoz-de la Nava, Marco Cecchinato, Radu Albot and Guilherme Clezar make the trip to Sao Paulo for the year-end championships – the ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Clezar reached the final last year, while Pella was the champion in 2012.
Year-end Top 100 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings are up for grabs in Toyota and Andria. In Toyota, top seed and World No. 103 Matthew Ebden looks to close his campaign with a third title of the year and second in the Japanese city (2013). Fourth seed Go Soeda is the defending champion. In Andria, Italy, World No. 104 and last year’s runner-up Nikoloz Basilashvili leads the field. 2013 titlist Marton Fucsovics is unseeded.