Week 37 on the ATP Challenger circuit threw up a mix of champions, many of whom find themselves at contrasting junctures of their career.
Experience prevails, the young continue to rise
Richard Gasquet made a rare foray into the Challenger circuit when he featured on the clay in Szczecin and his decision was vindicated as he collected his first Challenger title since 2010.
The Frenchman saved a match point in his quarterfinal encounter with Guido Andreozzi but he was otherwise flawless in Poland. He bageled wild card Marcin Gawron in the opening round and dropped only a single set all week.
He tamed the dangerous Taro Daniel in the last four before prevailing in two tie-breaks against Hamburg finalist Florian Mayer. The 31-year-old will resume duties on the main tour next week at the Moselle Open in Metz after a rewarding week in his recovery from a niggling back injury.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum, meanwhile, China’s 17-year-old sensation Wu Yibing recorded his first Challenger title in Shanghai.
Remarkably Yibing flew from New York to China immediately after capturing the US Open boys’ singles titles last week before ousting second seed Peter Polansky in straight sets in the opening round.
Brimming with confidence the teenager breezed through the draw without dropping a set although he did benefit from a pair of retirements.
None more so than during his finals showdown with the veteran Yen-Hsun Lu. Yibing took the opening set tie-break 8-6 against the man from Chinese Taipei before Lu was unable to continue.
It follows fellow 17-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime's title in Seville last week and Yibing has already made great strides in restoring China as a force to be reckoned with on the ATP tour.
Kevin King, meanwhile, upset Cameron Norrie in the final in Cary, 6-4, 6-1, to notch his maiden Challenger title and jump to 253rd in the world.
The victory caps off an excellent two weeks for the 26-year-old after prevailing at the Futures event in Canada last week. He stunned top-seed Ernesto Escobedo in the second round and outlasted Noah Rubin in three tricky sets in the last four.
Elsewhere the 22-year-old German Maximilian Marterer registered his third title on the Challenger tour with success on the clay in Banja Luka. The number three seed disarmed Carlos Taberner, 6-1, 6-2, in the final and was rock-solid behind his serve all week.
He disarmed the dangerous Andrea Arnaboldi — who halted Auger-Alliasime winning run — for the loss of only six games in the semifinal to before collecting his first piece of silverware in 2017.
Malek Jaziri defended his title in Istanbul by staving off the threat of the rising Italian Matteo Berrettini, 7-6(4), 0-6, 7-5, in Sunday’s final.
Jaziri rarely had it all his own way in the Turkish capital, rallying from a set down against Benjamin Bonzi in the second round.
He raced away from hometown favorite Marsel Ilhan after dropping the second set in the next round — taking the deciding set to love — to advance before battling past the 21-year-old Italian in the final.