From Clay To Carpet: Huesler Captures Second Straight Title
Swiss rallies from a set and a break down to triumph in Ismaning, Germany
It's one of the unique aspects of life on the ATP Challenger Tour. Twice a year, a once-extinct surface comes to life. In 2008, carpet courts made their last appearance on the ATP Tour, but the indoor synthetic material is still alive on the Challenger circuit. Every October, Germany hosts a pair of tournaments on the surface in the cities of Ismaning and Eckental.
Carpet is typically one of the fastest types of courts, featuring a low bounce. That makes what Marc-Andrea Huesler achieved even more special, as the Swiss claimed back-to-back titles on the slow outdoor clay of Sibiu, Romania and slick indoor carpet courts of Ismaning. He lifted the trophy at the Wolffkran Open in Ismaning on Sunday, rallying from a set and a break down to defeat Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 7-5.
"I grew up in Switzerland and we're used to playing on carpet in the winter," said Huesler. "It's actually something that suits me, at least with some aspects of my game like my serve. With my backhand I wish I had a little more time, but overall I like the surface."
Moving from one surface to another is never easy, but lifting trophies on clay and carpet in consecutive tournaments is quite impressive. Since returning from the tour's COVID-19 hiatus, Huesler has been a Swiss sensation, securing a combined 17 wins from 20 matches on the Challenger circuit and ATP Tour. After streaking to his first tour-level semi-final at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel a month ago, the 24-year-old carried the momentum to Sibiu, where he lifted his second ATP Challenger Tour trophy. And then, competing in his first non-clay event in exactly one year, he would proceed to capture his third Challenger crown in Ismaning.
After earning three-set wins over Dustin Brown and Brayden Schnur, he defeated #NextGenATP star Sebastian Korda and fourth seed Antoine Hoang to reach the championship. There, Huesler fired 19 aces to edge Van de Zandschulp after two hours and 18 minutes.
"I was struggling early, but I tried to stay in the match with my serve," Huesler added. "In the end, it could have gone either way and it was just a few points either way that decided it. That's tennis. Sometimes there's nothing you can do and you just have to stay focused. I was a break down in the second and then a break up in the third before he came back. It was up and down like this for the whole match. I'm happy I could get it done and hope this will continue."
Huesler is the first player to win on multiple surfaces in 2020. In addition, his victory marks the second straight year in which a player has won titles on different surfaces in consecutive tournaments. In June 2019, Norbert Gombos achieved the feat on the clay of Bratislava and hard courts of Winnipeg.
Considering that Huesler had sat out the start of the 2020 season with a foot injury, missing action for a total of nine months, his dominant run of form is even more impressive. In August, the Zurich native was sitting outside the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. After winning in Ismaning, he is up to a career-high No. 154.
"Coming back from injury, it wasn't easy at all. I started playing tennis again in March and since there were no tournaments, I had some time to recuperate. It just shows me that when you practise a lot and work hard, it pays off in the end.
"I won two Challengers and made the semis of an ATP event, so I'm definitely playing the best tennis of my career so far. That surely helped me with my mindset, knowing that you can do it, rather than thinking you can do it. Winning twice in a row, once on clay and once on carpet, gives me lots and lots of confidence. Still, there are lots of things to improve on."