It was a great week for some of South America’s best in the race for Australian Open places.
After a season that’s seen him both spend time out with injury and play for Argentina in Davis Cup, Leonardo Mayer needed to win the Guayaquil Challenger in Ecuador to get himself back into the top 100. The top seed dropped just one set (to WImbledon junior champion Gianluigi Quinzi in the semi-finals) before easing to the title against that other Portugese Sousa, Pedro.
Despite defeat in the decisive match ATP Challenger Tour finals, it was a landmark week for Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez. Three group stage wins and semi-final success will vault him into the top 100 for the first time, and after that exhausting schedule, there was no disgrace in being out weaved by Filippo Volandri – a fate that still awaits more players yet.
Gonzalez began the year ranked at 238, and was not the most obvious candidate for “10 to follow” lists a year ago. With not a wild card to be seen, he’s put in a tremendous effort.
Other notable successes in the past seven days were for both finalists in Yokohama, where Matthew Ebden lifted himself way in the clear of the top 90 with a victory over Go Soeda.
Soeda’s runner up performance gives him every chance of joining Ebden in the Melbourne draw, and he has one more Challenger chance this week. His final stop is in Toyota as he attempts to go places. Soeda is also in the happy position where any victory adds further points to his total.
But it’s not all success stories. Jack Sock, Diego Schwartzman and Dustin Brown suffered early tournament eliminations, and Adrian Ungur wasn’t able to replicate his Challenger finals success. Brown’s three set loss to Henri Laaksonen on a quickish surface in Helsinki might be particularly exasperating.
There are three more Challengers this week, the final week before the season stops for players in the second tier and there are still a few players hauling aching bodies across continents in pursuit of Melbourne money.
As well as the final Japanese event in Toyota, there are tournaments in the Siberian city of Tyumen. The week’s weather forecast suggests temperatures around freezing to add to the chilled souls of frustrated tennis players.
The final alternative, where Paolo Lorenzi heads the field, is in Andria, in Italy. The fact he’s headed straight back home from South America is an indication of the seriousness of his situation. All three events offer 80 points to the winner, and 48 to the losing finalist.
It means a semi-final for Lorenzi is the minimum, a final for Haider-Maurer and a title for Dustin Brown may not be quite enough. The wild card is Evgeny Donskoy, who must win in Tyumen – something the Russian did a year ago.
90) Alejandro Gonzalez 597
91) Michael Russell 594
92) Oleksandr Nedoveysov 586
93) Leonardo Mayer 579
94) Aljaz Bedene 573
95) Donald Young 568
96) Bradley Klahn 568
97) Sergiy Stahkovsky 554
98) Alejandro Falla 552
99) Ryan Harrison 549
100) Jesse Huta Galung 549
101) Andrey Golubev 548 (plays Tyumen)
102) Jack Sock 545
103) Go Soeda 543 (plays Toyota)
104) Blaz Kavcic 542
105) Michael Llodra 541
106) Jan Hajek 540
107) Jan-Lennard Struff 523
108) Martin Klizan 518
109) Paolo Lorenzi 515 (plays Andria)
110) David Goffin 510
111) Andreas Haider-Maurer 506 (plays Andria)
112) Denis Kudla 498
113) Evgeny Donskoy 488 (plays Tyumen)
114) Stephane Robert 487
115) Dusan Lajovic 483
116) Diego Schwartzman 480
117) Guido Pella 478
118) Adrian Ungur 474
119) Marc Gicquel 469
120) Grega Zemlja 467
121) Dustin Brown 458 (plays Andria)
122) Ricardas Berankis 458
123) Facundo Arguello 454
124) Rhyne Williams 453
125) Thomaz Bellucci 450