Krueger takes first Challenger title

Dallas native Mitchell Krueger lost to the eventual champion in the junior French Open and Wimbledon semis in 2012, and cleaned up at the national level.

But since the former No. 5 junior passed on college tennis to turn pro, he’s been grinding it out for seven years.

Finally, a breakthrough – at his home club, with a big cheering section behind him.

Krueger won the Dallas Challenger, his first title at that level after three in the Futures.

He’d bounced around between No. 180 and No. 300 in the rankings for four years. Monday, he reached a career best No. 160.

Paul wins first Challenger title

The road to the top for Tommy Paul, as with countryman Stefan Kozlov, has had potholes.

But the former junior world No. 3 (he beat Taylor Fritz in the 2015 junior French Open final and lost to him at the US Open final) is back.

Paul won his first career Challenger title Sunday in Charlottesville.

Battling knee tendonitis, he went from a lucky loser to a champion. He moved up 55 spots in the rankings, to No. 222.

The 21-year-old missed half the season with an elbow injury. The goal now is to make the Australian Open qualifying cutoff.

Fratangelo back in winner’s circle

The first nine months of 2018 were rough for American Bjorn Fratangelo. 

Coach Brad Stine left him without warning, after what he thought was a great pre-season. Then, the frustration of giving max effort and still ending up in the same spot – just outside the top 100 – three years straight started to burn.

Then he tore a quad muscle and missed his favorite part of the season.

Given all that, Fratangelo said his win at the $100K Fairfield Challenger Sunday was “probably the most emotional one of his career“.

After going 2-12 this summer, he’s 14-4 since the US Open.

Dominican Republic tunes into Challenger

The Santo Domingo Open, a $125,000 Challenger, is getting television coverage worthy of a Masters 1000.

It’s being broadcast every night throughout the island on Canal 56.

The quality field included Paolo Lorenzi, Federico Delbonis, Pablo Cuevas, Santiago Giraldo, Carlos Berlocq, Facundo Bagnis and Jurgen Melzer.

The best player in the Dominican’s history, Victor Estrella Burgos (career high No. 43, three ATP titles), has struggled with injury and needed a wild card.

The big question: were they still on air at 3:24 a.m. Wednesday morning, when Gastao Elias finished off Marcelo Arevalo? It tied a record.

Ferrer and Karlovic, 36 and 39, still truckin’

David Ferrer has already announced he’s wrapping things up. 

Ivo Karlovic, who turns 40 in February, has made no such announcement.

But at No. 137 and No. 147 respectively going into last week, the two were looking at the qualifying in Australia in January. So they’ve hit the Challenger circuit.

The Monterrey final between the two, per the ATP, was the oldest-ever combined final in Challenger history.

Ferrer won, 6-3, 6-4. Both jumped in the rankings.

Individually, Karlovic beat out the previous oldest, Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, by 11 months.

Karlovic carries on in Fairfield this week, and Calgary next week.

Auger-Aliassime in exclusive company

Félix Auger-Aliassime had to breathe a sigh of relief after successfully defending his Lyon Challenger title Sunday.

Without it, he would have dropped out of the top 200 this week. With it, he stands at No. 172.

The teenager trails only Richard Gasquet for the most career Challenger titles by players 17 and younger. Gasquet had five. Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro each had three.

Auger-Aliassime plays in Blois this week. He turns 18 in August.

His friend Denis Shapovalov, currently in the top 25, won one Challenger at 17, and another at 18. Many different paths to the top.

Robert second-oldest Challenger champ

Just over a week ago, France’s Stéphane Robert was keeping his pal Roger Federer in shape on a packed practice court in Melbourne.

Sunday, likely in front of the same number of people, he became the second-oldest Challenger winner ever in Burnie, Tasmania.

At 37 years, eight months, Robert is short of the record holder, Dick Norman of Belgium.

Norman was a month past his 38th birthday when he went from the qualifying through to the title at a $35,000 Challenger in Mexico City.

Also a shutout to Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, who reached three Challenger finals in 2016, at age 38.

Olaso, Karlovskiy equal tiebreak record

Guillermo Olaso, a 29-year-old Spaniard, is ranked No. 425 in singles and unlikely to make a huge splash in his tennis career.

But he’ll always have Dallas.

Olaso now holds a Challenger record after he pulled off a 22-20 tiebreak during his final-round qualifying match against No. 1 seed Evgeny Karlovskiy at the Dallas Challenger.

He saved 10 set points, converted on his seventh set point. 

“When I won the set, I raised my hands up like I won the match already,” Olaso told the ATP Tour website.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t over. Olaso lost 6-7 (20), 6-1, 7-6 (5).

(Tiebreak starts at the 51-minute mark)

 

Big crowd in Ho Chi Minh City

The ITF obviously thinks enough of Vietnam as a tennis nation to host its big annual general meetings there this summer.

But on Tuesday night, it was a heartwarming sight to see such a big crowd out to watch tennis in such an unusual place, in the third edition of the Hung Thinh Vietnam Open.

The $50,000 Challenger has a really good field, including American Taylor Fritz, Mikhail Youzhny, Marinko Matosevic and more. 

But they came out to see a 20-year-old home boy, Nam Hoang Ly. 

Nam lost 6-4, 6-1 to No. 5 seed Go Soeda.

Marathon point in Las Vegas

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

But a marathon point at a crucial stage in a match is a master class in suspense.

At the Las Vegas Challenger last weekend, Great Britain’s Liam Broady and American Evan King had a 56-shot rally late in the second set of their semifinal singles match. 

It lasted a minute and 22 seconds.

Both are lefties. It was, ahem, not the most aggressive point ever. In the end, the man who came to the net – Broady – won it.

King had issues with the line call. Luckily they didn’t have to replay it!