ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FINALS 2013
Volandri Set For Rematch With Gonzalez For Challenger Tour Finals Crown
Sao Paulo, Brazil
by Josh Meiseles|
A rematch of Wednesday’s round-robin encounter, won by Gonzalez in straight sets, the stakes will be even greater when these two Challenger titans square off with the championship on the line. Gonzalez won that meeting 6-3, 6-3, saving all nine break points faced.
Volandri enters his 25th final on the ATP Challenger Tour seeking to become just the ninth active player to capture 12 titles on the circuit. The Italian will compete in his sixth final of the year after hoisting the trophies in Milan and Orbetello.
The No. 2 seed survived a rollercoaster duel with top seed Teymuraz Gabashvili, prevailing 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 in just under two hours.
The semi-final began with five consecutive service holds to love, before Gabashvili broke for a 4-2 lead. The 28 year old would be broken, however, serving for the set at 5-3, and would go on to drop four straight games to relinquish the set.
Gabashvili rallied to take the second set after securing consecutive breaks of serve and would snatch the early advantage in the third, breaking for a 2-0 lead.
Volandri held his ground, responding with an immediate break back. He would prove to be the steadier competitor down the stretch, breaking for 5-4 and serving out the match.
“People know me here and they were cheering for me which was nice,” said Volandri (pictured right). “[The final] will be a different match. I was coming from Europe, a different atmosphere, and now I feel more comfortable in the court. I hope to play at least better [than in the first round]."
It was the fifth encounter between the two veterans and first since 2010. Their storied rivalry dates back to 2007, when Volandri defeated Gabashvili in the first round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in Rome, en route to a stunning run to the semi-finals, which included upsets of Richard Gasquet, Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych.
Gabashvili concludes his Challenger Tour Finals campaign with a 2-2 record, having also fallen to home favourite Guilherme Clezar in three sets on Friday.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, became just the sixth Colombian-born player to crack the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings this week and was the only player to go undefeated in round-robin action this week. The Medellin native will look to win an impressive five matches in five days in Sao Paulo after ousting third-seed Oleksandr Nedovyesov 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-0 on Saturday.
“It’s one of the most important tournaments that I’ve ever played in my career,” Gonzalez said. “The thing is that I’m pretty glad with the way I’m playing. Despite the fatigue after four big matches, I will give everything to win the final tomorrow.”
The 24 year old put on a serving exhibition, firing six aces and winning 88 per cent of points on his first serve. Gonzalez staved off all four break point chances faced and converted on four of nine on Nedovyesov’s serve.
After a backhand return winner set up his first break of the match, for a 5-3 lead in the first set, Gonzalez held at love to close it out.
Clutch serving from both players dominated the second set, with Nedovyesov summoning a huge forehand winner to save a crucial break point when serving at 4-4. The set would extend to a tie-break, with the Ukrainian unleashing a clutch backhand cross-court pass to battle out of an early 3-1 hole. He would win six of seven points to close it out 7-4.
Gonzalez would not be intimidated, digging in and finding another level. He would proceed to reel off six straight games in the deciding set, converting on his first match point when a Nedovyesov backhand sailed long.
“I have to focus on my game,” added Gonzalez. “I feel very well inside the court and it’s been an amazing week. I’m feeling great and that’s what matters.”
Gonzalez will seek his fourth ATP Challenger Tour crown of the year, having clinched the titles in Salinas, his hometown of Medellin and Sao Paulo.
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