ATP Challenger Mid-Week Round-up (Week Beginning 30th Sept)

By Liz Curran

Mons Challenger, Belgium

Lorenzo Guistino d James Ward 63 36 62

James Ward, Britain’s no 3, ranked 179 in the world was the second seed in the qualies for this 106k Euro challenger and as such he received a first round bye. However in round two he lost out to 22-year-old Italian Lorenzo Guistino (WR254) in three sets. It has been a slightly disappointing couple of weeks for James given he lost his first round match last week too.

Sacramento Challenger, California

We again have had a band of Brits contesting the Sacramento Challenger, just up the road from last week’s Napa tournament, in Northern California.

In round 1 Ed Corrie (WR344) lost to big serving rising Aussie star 17 year old Thanasi Kokkinakis whose ranking of 775 belies his talent as he is just moving out of playing juniors and onto the senior tour. Dan Smethurst (WR406) also fell in two sets to Dan Nguyen (WR458).

Josh Milton (WR503) reached the final qualifying round, beating Matt Seeberger in R1 and Dan Nguyen in R2. He then lost in the final round to Fritz Wolmarans (RSA WR 579) 61 64. However this was still a good effort for Josh to reach the final qualifying round of a big $100,000 challenger tournament.

And so we are left to see how our two British Dans, Dan Cox and Dan Evans, get on in the main draw.

A tale of two Dans

On Monday Dan Cox (WR263), who gained his main draw place as an alternate, opened up main draw proceedings on the Stadium Court in Sacramento. He was drawn against this week’s top seed Denis Kudla (WR95). I was probably not alone in holding my breath and wondering whether Dan would be able to make a decent match against such a higher ranked opponent.

The match went on serve until the seventh game of the first set, when Dan lost his serve. I thought this might be curtains, however he showed good resilience in immediately breaking back to even the score at 4-4.

At 5-5 came the most important and difficult game of the match and it proved to be a turning point. Dan Cox was serving and, after a very long hard fought game which saw seven deuces and three break points, he finally held to take the score to 6-5. The next game Dan earned three break points and he took the set on the second of these.

In the second set Dan kept up the pressure and an out of sorts Kudla seemed to have nothing left. Showing true Ivan Lendl determination Dan showed no sympathy for his opponent and did not take his foot off the pedal for a moment. His momentum increased as the set progressed and he won the second set 6-0.

To put this win in context, last week in Napa Kudla beat Ed Corrie 60 62 and Dan Cox himself suffered a 61 61 loss against Tim Smyczek (WR100). So this was a much improved performance for him and a really great win against a top 100 player.

On Tuesday it was down to GB’s highest ranking Dan, (or Daniel as they formally call him on the tour), Evans to try and get a first round win. He was, for the second week in succession, drawn against the 5th seed, and this week it was 22 year old American Rhyne Williams (WR 124). Dan was sporting his new clothing sponsor’s Nike kit. He avoided the salmon pink favoured by Dan Cox and wore a tidy pale blue polo shirt and white shorts banishing the Nike pink accent to his new pink and grey trainers.

Dan broke to love in the fourth game of the first set taking a 3-1 lead and then proceeded to hold serve through the rest of the set to take the first set 6-3 with typical Evans speed in 29 minutes.

The second set was a little tougher, Dan served from behind all set and there were no breaks of serve or even break point chances. However throughout Dan Evans to me looked confident and in charge. The tie break went swimmingly, Dan securing a double mini break early on and won the tie break 7-2.

Great stuff from both these British Dans as they beat higher ranked seeded opponents to progress to round two, picking up 8 ranking points and $1,720 on the way.

Dan Evans is also playing doubles this week paired with his new best friend, 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios, another young Australian rising star who recently cracked the top 200. Dan Cox meanwhile has paired up with 22 year old El Salvadorian player Marcelo Arevalo.