Brown Kicks Off Grass Court Season With Manchester Title
A LOOK BACK
Unicredit Czech Open (Prostejov, Czech Republic): No. 6 seed Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan picked up his first title of the year by defeating qualifier Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, 6-1, 6-2. The 59-minute win was the fourth Challenger final of the year to last less than an hour. Kukushkin is now on a 10-match win streak on the ATP Challenger Tour, having prevailed in the most recent event he had entered last July in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Despite the loss, the week was a success for Fucsovics. He reached his first Challenger final in nearly two years, with his most recent runner-up finish coming in July 2014 in Todi, Italy.
Former World No. 1 and eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl, the tournament ambassador this year in Prostejov, was on hand to present both players with their trophies.
Aegon Manchester Trophy (Manchester, England): Dustin Brown of Germany also picked up his first title of the year by prevailing over his doubles partner and No. 4 seed Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei, 7-6(5), 6-1. The win gave Brown his seventh career ATP Challenger Tour title and his first since September 2014, when he prevailed in Szczecin, Poland. He is now just the fourth player in the past five years to win Challenger titles on grass, clay and hard courts (joining Nick Kyrgios, Denis Kudla and Grega Zemlja). Brown will also return to the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Ranking when the newest standings are released.
Lu has been enjoying a successful return from elbow surgery, finishing as runner-up in two of his first three Challenger tournaments back on tour.
Franken Challenge (Furth, Germany): Radu Albot of Moldova won his third career ATP Challenger Tour title by upsetting No. 4 seed Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, 6-3, 6-4. Albot was in top form all week and didn’t drop a set. Struff is still looking for his first Challenger title of 2016, having also finished as runner-up last month in Heilbronn, Germany.
WHAT THEY SAID
Kukushkin: “I didn’t expect that I was going to win coming here, but was getting more confidence with each match. My quarter-final (against Jiri Vesely) was probably the most important win for me this week. To win the biggest Challenger is very important. This tournament is famous on tour and has a lot of strong players."
Brown: “Coming here when I saw the draw, I didn’t really expect this. All the guys are very good grass court players, especially in my section. I think the key part was just to stay calm and keep playing, it could have gone the other way a few times. During the week, I often found myself a few games down or broken early, so today I just kept telling myself that I’m playing well. I stayed calm and kept playing my own game."
A LOOK AHEAD
The next week on the ATP Challenger Tour is packed with five events. The $125,000 tournament in Caltanissetta, Italy, takes top billing as it returns for the 18th consecutive year. Two players inside the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings are in the field, with world No. 54 Paolo Lorenzi of Italy as the No. 1 seed and World No. 99 Facundo Bagnis of Argentina as the No. 2 seed. Defending champion and #NextGen star Elias Ymer of Sweden is the No. 3 seed. Other notable names in the draw include former Top 25 player Filippo Volandri of Italy and former Top 30 player Santiago Giraldo of Colombia.
A new event on the calendar is the $75,000 tournament in Lyon, France. Taro Daniel of Japan is the No. 1 seed and Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain is the No. 2 seed. Other notable names in the draw include former Top 25 player Julien Benneteau of France and Frenchman Mathias Bourgue, who took World No. 2 Andy Murray to five sets this year in the second round at Roland Garros.
The $75,000 tournament in Moscow, Russia, returns for the second consecutive year. Kukushkin looks to continue his form from Prostejov as the top seed, while #NextGen star and local favourite Karen Khachanov is the No. 2 seed. Another notable name in the draw is No. 8 seed and #NextGen star Andrey Rublev of Russia.
The illustrious $50,000 grass court event in Surbiton, England, returns for the 13th year. Past champions include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish. Local favourite Daniel Evans looks to add his name to the list as the No. 1 seed, while Australian Jordan Thompson, a winner of two ATP Challenger Tour events this year, is the No. 2 seed. Lu and Brown also look to continue their top grass court form as the No. 3 and No. 5 seeds, respectively. Other notable names in the draw include American #NextGen stars Frances Tiafoe and Noah Rubin.
Lastly, the always-popular $50,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, is back for the 21st straight year. Local favourite Lukas Rosol is the top seed and Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil, a winner last month at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Bordeaux, is the No. 2 seed. Gerald Melzer of Austria, a winner of three Challenger titles this year, is the No. 5 seed. Another notable name in the draw is former Top 40 player Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.
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