Filip's Great Escape: Krajinovic Claims Heilbronn Crown
In just 48 hours, Filip Krajinovic experienced a full spectrum of emotions at the NECKARCUP in Heilbronn.
In Saturday's semi-finals, the top-seeded Serbian trailed 1-6, 1-4 against Stefano Travaglia. Down a set and a double break, it was all but done and dusted. His Italian opponent was dialed in and he was struggling to find any rhythm. But Krajinovic would mount one of the greatest comebacks of the year, clawing back to force a decider and eventually book his spot in the championship.
Elated and relieved, Krajinovic entered Sunday's final in search of a second title at the ATP Challenger Tour event. In 2017, he emerged victorious and history would repeat itself on a warm yet overcast afternoon. With the trophy on the line, he would concede an early break to Belgium's Arthur De Greef, but streaked to the finish line from there. The Serbian reeled off 12 of the next 14 games to take the title 6-3, 6-1.
It was Krajinovic's 10th Challenger title in total and first in two years. The 27-year-old is back in the Top 60 of the ATP Rankings, capping a dominant six-week stretch that also included a Challenger final in Sophia Antipolis and run to the title match at the ATP 250 in Budapest. He is 15-2 since the beginning of April.
But the drama was not finished after Krajinovic lifted the Heilbronn trophy. Sitting one spot out of the Roland Garros main draw cut and having missed the deadline to sign in for qualifying, anxiety was high in the Serbian's camp. He needed one more withdrawal ahead of the 10am deadline on Monday (when qualifying begins) to punch his ticket to the second Grand Slam of the year. And with just hours to spare, Andrey Rublev would oblige, pulling out with a lingering back injury. Krajinovic's dream week proved to be extra special.
In other action, Joao Menezes became the 18th first-time winner this year, claiming his maiden Challenger title on the clay of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He defeated Corentin Moutet 7-6(2), 7-6(7).
Jason Jung lifted a trophy for a fourth straight year, prevailing on the hard courts of Gwangju, South Korea, on Sunday. Jung defeated Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-2, capping an impressive week that saw him drop just one set.
And in Lisbon, Roberto Carballes Baena earned a second title of the season with a stunning comeback over Facundo Bagnis. Trailing by a set and a break, he fought back for a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 win. Also the champion on home soil in Murcia, Spain, last month, he is now 7-3 in Challenger finals.