© Amber Alva

Taylor Fritz won his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Sacramento, becoming the youngest American to do so since Donald Young in 2007.

Fritz, 17, Completes Stunning Title Run In Sacramento

Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to who’s in action in the week to come

A LOOK BACK
Sacramento Challenger (Sacramento, U.S.A.): The future of American tennis was on full display on Sunday, as the three-week northern California swing on the ATP Challenger Tour rolled into Sacramento. For the first time since 2007, a final on the circuit featured a pair of teenagers as 19-year-old Jared Donaldson battled 17-year-old Taylor Fritz. Donaldson was looking to claim his second title after emerging victorious in Maui to open the 2015 season, but in the end it was Fritz who came away with the pulsating win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“One is a great ending and the other is a great beginning,” said Fritz of his recent US Open boys’ title to cap his junior career, followed by his stellar start to his professional career in Sacramento. “I had the perfect ending with the US Open win and I get to start my pro career with a Challenger win. That’s a great way to get me started.”

It was a story of survival and mental fortitude for the young American, who saved a remarkable 34 of 37 break points faced throughout the week, including 15 of 16 in the final. Competing in just his second Challenger main draw, Fritz would become the youngest American titlist on the circuit since Donald Young in Aptos 2007. He joins rising talents Borna Coric and Alexander Zverev as players aged 17 & under to win a title in the last two years. At World No. 694, he is the lowest-ranked player to win a Challenger crown this year. He soared to No. 339 with the win.

“I need to not get myself in so many tight situations, but it shows that I play the big points really well and I compete pretty hard,” Fritz explained to broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. “I’m mentally strong in tight situations.

“The main thing is to not let this get to my head and to not think that I’ve made it. I’ve got a lot of work to do and I know that. Hopefully if I keep working I can continue to be compared to those guys (Coric, Zverev, etc.). I don’t think I’m going to rush into too many tournaments this year. Obviously we’ll rethink my schedule but it will be more Challenger events and less Futures.”

Ethias Trophy (Mons, Belgium): The lone ATP Challenger Tour event in Belgium returned to Mons, where Illya Marchenko claimed his fourth title and first in nearly a year, edging Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-4. Marchenko emerged from a stacked draw that featured all eight seeds in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. He looked to be on the ropes in the third set against Becker, after the German saved three match points late in the second and snatched an early break in the decider. The Ukrainian would eventually triumph after breaking back and rose 29 spots to World No. 82 with the title.

Claro Open Medellin (Medellin, Colombia): Paolo Lorenzi moved into a tie for fourth on the all-time ATP Challenger Tour titles list, notching his 16th crown and second in Medellin (2012). The Italian veteran, who improved to 4-0 in finals this year, joined Yen-Hsun Lu, Dudi Sela, Go Soeda, Takao Suzuki and Carlos Berlocq as the only players to win at least 16 titles in Challenger history. Lorenzi prevailed over Gonzalo Lama on Saturday after the Chilean retired down 7-6(3), 2-0 with a right arm injury. His win streak is up to 10 straight, having topped Alejandro Gonzalez in Pereira the week prior.

IS Open Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil): Joining Lorenzi in the ‘16 Titles Club’ was Carlos Berlocq, who defeated Belgium’s Kimmer Coppejans 6-3, 6-1 in Sao Paulo on Sunday. Berlocq converted on six of seven break chances to prevail after one hour and 17 minutes. The Argentine, who has won 10 of his last 12 finals on the ATP Challenger Tour, improved to 16-9 overall in title matches. Coppejans, meanwhile, fell to 2-2 in finals this year, having triumphed in Guangzhou and Mersin.

Morocco Tennis Tour – Mohammedia (Mohammedia, Morocco): Seventh seed Roberto Carballes Baena ended the Cinderella run of 19-year-old qualifier Kamil Majchrzak, prevailing 7-6(4), 6-2 on Sunday in Mohammedia. The final was postponed from Saturday due to rain and the Spaniard would claim his second ATP Challenger Tour title in one hour and 36 minutes. All three finals reached by Carballes Baena this year have come on Moroccan soil, having also finished runner-up in Meknes and the winner in Kenitra. Poland’s Majchrzak was the 10th different teen to advance to a final on the circuit this year. He dropped a combined 12 games in routing top seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the semi-finals, fourth seed Marco Cecchinato in the quarter-finals and fifth seed Inigo Cervantes in the second round.

What The Players Said
Marchenko: “I am so happy with this victory. I played a great first set but than Becker showed he is a great player. It is a Challenger with a real high level and I came back every year because I love this tournament so much. So now winning it is a great achievement and I'm very happy. I have no words.”

Becker: “Like we said yesterday, I'm not the youngest anymore and I was tired after the semi-final. Illya played a great match. I had a great time at this tournament. I was told a lot of good things about this tournament and all was true. If I still play next year, I'll definitely be back.”

Lorenzi: “To win two tournaments in a row is not easy. I played very well and am very happy because the first set was very difficult, like all the matches this week. I hope that Gonzalo recovers quickly.”

Carballes Baena: “I'm very happy to get my second ATP Challenger Tour title. We worked very hard to get good results at the end of the year. Now I will try to compete more and to achieve new goals.”

Berlocq: “It’s a good achievement. It helps me a lot to improve my ranking and to achieve my goal to get back to the Top 100. If I keep winning ATP Challenger Tour events, I will achieve my goal and I will be able to conquer bigger accomplishments.”

Coppejans: “I think that at the beginning we both were very nervous. Until 3-3 the match was even, but after that he started to play better. I made a lot of unforced errors and my balls were very short. He played at a higher level and served better than me.”

WHAT'S AHEAD
Tournaments are held on five continents. The ATP Challenger Tour returns to Vietnam for the first time since 2007, when the 10-year event in Ho Chi Minh City concluded. The tournament returns this week with Marcel Granollers the top seed and James Duckworth seeded second.

Defending champion Steve Darcis is seeded third at the prestigious Open de Rennes, while the $125,000 Tashkent Challenger returns for an eighth edition. Top seed and 2011 champion Denis Istomin faces 2012 titlist Uladzimir Ignatik in the first round and third seed Lukas Lacko looks to successfully defend his crown. Dudi Sela won the title in 2013.

The northern California swing concludes in Fairfield, which relocated from Napa. Tim Smyczek is seeded first and Taylor Fritz received a special exempt into the main draw. One of two events in Argentina this year is staged in Corrientes, where home hope Diego Schwartzman is the top seed. Paolo Lorenzi looks to make it three in a row as the Morocco Tennis Tour moves to its last of five stops, in Casablanca.