Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Jozef Kovalik Wins First Post-Surgery Title

Jozef Kovalik

The Pekao Szczecin Open, the only highest category Challenger event this week, capped off on a high note. Jozef Kovalik, last year’s Hamburg European Open semifinalist, defeated defending champion Guido Andreozzi in a classic near three-hours final. Earlier in the tournament, Andreozzi and Kovalik threw out the highest seeds. The Argentinian got the better of Spaniards Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Roberto Carballes Baena, while the Slovak defeated Marco Cecchinato.

Kovalik was three match points down to Lorenzo Giustino in the second round. In his own words “after that, everything else is a bonus”.

The bonus will be 125 ranking points and over 18 thousand euros.

The Slovak had a surgery on his right wrist after the US Open last year. After not playing for half a year, his ranking dropped to no. 312.

How the final was won

Andreozzi came into the championship match as a slight favorite, but in the end became a victim of his own success. The Argentinian had a very busy fortnight and was on playing on his last legs today. A week ago at the AON Open in Genoa, he was the runner-up in doubles and lost in the singles semifinals. At the Pekao Szczecin Open, he won the doubles competition together with Andres Molteni. Just about 15 hours after that, he had to come out on the court for the seventeenth time in these past two weeks.

Andreozzi claimed a marathon first set in a tie-break. With his serve not granting any free points, the Argentinian was losing explosiveness with each minute. He managed to open the last set with a 2-0 lead but it was only a short burst of energy. Kovalik was much stronger physically and capitalized on that to win 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.

The Slovak has massively improved his confidence and level of play during the week and seems to be back on the right track. Kovalik peaked at ATP no. 80 before the wrist injury.

Other winners of the week:

Tallon Griekspoor won his second ATP Challenger title in Banja Luka. The runner-up was Indian Sumit Nagal, the one who took a set off Federer at the US Open. Griekspoor was a set and a break down to Facundo Mena in the quarterfinals.

Yasutaka Uchiyama won all four tie-breaks played and didn’t drop a set on the way to the title in Shanghai. It was a great week for former world no. 140 Di Wu, who reached his first Challenger final in three years (defeated Yuichi Sugita in the semifinals).

It was a great week for world no. 72 Ugo Humbert, who captured the title in Istanbul. Denis Istomin was the runner-up, but stood no chance in the final, losing it 2-6, 2-6.

Another player saved three match points this week and went on to clinch the title. Andreas Seppi took home his ninth Challenger title, defeating Michael Mmoh in the final (the match point saves happened a round earlier against Enzo Couacoud). The tournament was played in Cary, USA and 30 places in the draw were occupied by Americans.

Of 48 men in the draw, 24 were Spaniards in Seville and an all-Spanish final brought so many fans to the courts, that to enter the grounds you had to wait in a queue. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina finally captured first Challenger Tour title in his fourth attempt, beating Jaume Munar.

Some Challenger Tour magic:

Mischa Zverev asking the umpire “If I retire now, can I play the qualies on the weekend?”. He went for it and played Metz qualifying on Sunday. You know what he did when he went a set and a break down to Maxime Janvier? Yes, that’s right. Retired.

Karol Drzewiecki’s stunning second serve to lose the match:

A tanked last game from Renzo Olivo:

Carlos Alcaraz Garfia making Seville quarterfinals at barely 16 years old:

The ATP main tour will be back next week, but don’t forget to keep up with ATP Challenger Tour action. Exciting events will be played in  Kaohsiung (Challenger 125), Columbus, Glasgow, Sibiu, Biella (all Challenger 80). Well if you do forget, be sure to tune in to our next week’s recap.

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