Cecchinato To Face Pella For Umag Crown
Marco Cecchinato's breakthrough 2018 campaign is far from over. In a season that has seen the 25-year-old achieve a bevy of milestones and signature moments, Cecchinato has taken it to the next level.
The Italian reached his second ATP World Tour final of the year on Saturday, surging past qualifier Marco Trungelliti 6-2, 6-1 in just 66 minutes at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. He saved four of five break points faced, while converting four break chances of his own. Trungelliti started strong, breaking immediately to open the match, but Cecchinato would right the ship, reeling off 12 of the next 14 games to run away with the encounter.
"I'm putting in the hard work and that's the key to this run," said Cecchinato. "Tomorrow I'm playing against a very good player in Guido Pella. I need to play very good tennis to win again."
Cecchinato, who lifted his first tour-level trophy in Budapest in April and stunned the tennis world with a run to the Roland Garros semi-finals, will next face Guido Pella for the Umag title. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter and third at all levels, with Cecchinato prevailing at the 2015 ATP Challenger Tour Finals and Pella exacting revenge at the Heilbronn Challenger in 2017.
A winner over John Millman in the final of the Gazprom Hungarian Open, Cecchinato has seen his position in the ATP Rankings soar from outside the Top 100 at the start of the year to a current career-high of No. 27. The Palermo native is projected to rise at least two spots this week as he closes in on the Top 20.
On Sunday, the third-seeded Italian will face unseeded Argentine Pella with the trophy at stake. The 28-year-old earned his third three-set victory of the week with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 triumph over Robin Haase in the first semi-final.
"I think I played a very good match overall," said Pella. "In the second set, I was nervous. I struggled with the level of his game and tried to push a little bit, but I couldn't do it. After I lost the second, I started to play well again and was very aggressive in the third. That was the key."
Pella, who rallied from a set down to defeat both Taro Daniel in the first round and Aljaz Bedene in the second round, is vying for his maiden ATP World Tour crown. It is the third straight year he has reached a title match, having finished runner-up to Pablo Cuevas in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and to Alexander Zverev in Munich in 2017.
While Cecchinato is the third Italian to reach the Umag final in the past three years, joining 2016 winner Fabio Fognini and last year's finalist Paolo Lorenzi, Pella is the first from his country to advance to the championship since Guillermo Canas and Guillermo Coria went back-to-back in 2004-05.
Did You Know?
Cecchinato and Trungelliti previously met in the second round of Roland Garros, with the Italian prevailing en route to the semi-finals. It was a dramatic tournament for both players, with Trungelliti driving from Barcelona to Paris to sign in as a lucky loser.