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Challenger Weekly Spotlight: Baghdatis Wins First Title In Four Years

Vesely© Radek Vana/Unicredit Czech OpenJiri Vesely triumphed on home soil in Prostejov.

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

Unicredit Czech Open (Prostejov, Czech Republic): Jiri Vesely is gathering steam in recent weeks and his strong form paid dividends on Saturday, claiming his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title on the clay of Prostejov. Vesely, who advanced to his first ATP World Tour semi-final at the Düsseldorf Open and earned his first Grand Slam victory at Roland Garros (d. Rosol), prevailed on home soil with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Norbert Gombos. The €106,500 clay-court event now boasts four home-grown champions, with Czechs Radek Stepanek (2003-04, '13), Jan Hajek (2006, '09-10) and Bohdan Ulihrach (1997, '01) having also emerged victorious.

Read: Vesely young gun feature

Aegon Trophy (Nottingham, England): The grass-court season commenced in England in typical fashion, with a waterlogged week of tennis. Former World No. 8 Marcos Baghdatis survived the rain to claim his first title since his 2010 triumph at the Apia Sydney International. It was the charismatic Cypriot's first career triumph on grass at any level, improving to an impressive 7-1 in ATP Challenger Tour finals. Baghdatis upset third-seed Marinko Matosevic 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Meanwhile, Gilles Muller had his 18-match win streak snapped at the hands of Matosevic in the semi-finals, denying the former World No. 42 a fourth consecutive title on the circuit. Despite the defeat, Muller remains atop the 2014 ATP Challenger Tour match-wins leaderboard:

Player Win-Loss
Titles
Gilles Muller 34-7
Guadalajara, Shenzhen, Taipei, Gimcheon
Tatsuma Ito
22-10

Steve Johnson
21-5
Dallas, Le Gosier
Gerald Melzer 21-10
Morelos
Blaz Rola 21-10
Guangzhou
Simone Bolelli
18-2
Bergamo, Vercelli, Tunis
Pere Riba 18-6
Panama City

BRD Arad Challenger (Arad, Romania): Damir Dzumhur defeated Pere Riba in an ATP Challenger Tour final for the second time this year, prevailing 6-4, 7-6(3) in Arad. The Bosnian previously upset the Spaniard in straight sets in the Mersin title match in April. The 22 year old is on the precipice of cracking the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, ascending to a career-high World No. 109.

Franken Challenge (Furth, Germany): Tobias Kamke won the 28th edition of the Franken Challenge, becoming just the fourth German to triumph on home soil. The 28 year old dominated on the clay of Furth, Cuevasdropping just 13 games from the quarter-finals through the final, upending Inigo Cervantes 6-3, 6-2 for the title. The runner-up in 2010, Kamke has since claimed six of seven Challenger finals.

XII Venice Challenge Save Cup (Mestre, Italy): The six-week Italian clay-court swing rolled into Venice, where Pablo Cuevas (pictured left, photo credit: Simone Bianchi) won his third title since returning from knee surgery in 2012. The Uruguyan outlasted Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, improving to 17-3 on the ATP Challenger Tour this year. Cuevas has reached three finals in five tournaments in 2014.

What the Players are Saying
Baghdatis (pictured right, photo credit: LTA): "After these wins I’ve found myself, my game, my attitude on court and the way I want to play Baghdatistennis. I’m alone here with no coach. I’m playing tennis and doing things that I want to do and don’t have someone telling me what to do. That is a big change for me.

"It feels great. I felt I played really well throughout the week. Every match I got through I felt better and better and in the final I was just playing really solid, not giving too many points away and served well.

"I've been working hard for so many years and maybe there are things I didn't do right. Lately I have been working smarter and that has paid off."

Vesely: "I’m very happy about the victory. I played quality matches from the quarterfinals in which I remained physically and mentally stable. It’s always harder when you play at home. On one hand, there is a great support from the crowd, but on the other you’re under pressure and there are greater expectations."

Cuevas: "A perfect week for me. I’m feeling better and I played very well all matches in singles and doubles. I hope to improve my position during the summer in the [Emirates] ATP Rankings. Playing in Mestre has been lovely, an amazing location."

Dzumhur (pictured below, photo credit: Miklos Haas): "Thanks to Pere for a good match. I wish the best for him. Thanks to the people who came to the tournament for support. I hope I will come next year because I like this tournament. Thanks to the sponsors, the supervisor, my father and my coach who came here today for the final."

DzumhurWHAT'S AHEAD

The clay-courts of Caltanissetta welcome a strong field for the €106,500 Citta' di Caltanissetta as the Italian swing rolls on. Pablo Carreno Busta is the top seed and Pablo Cuevas seeks his second consecutive title. Filippo Volandri leads the home charge.
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Nottingham hosts its second Challenger event in as many weeks. Go Soeda is seeded first and could potentially face qualifier and young gun Nick Kyrgios in the second round. Gilles Muller looks to continue his strong run of form.
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Lukas Rosol, champion in 2011, is the No. 1 seed on home soil in Prague. Defending champ Aleksandr Nedovyesov is seeded third. Jiri Vesely eyes his second straight crown after his victory in Prostejov.
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Damir Dzumhur heads to Kosice, Slovakia, fresh off his title in Arad. The 2013 runner-up at the Kosice Open is seeded fourth. Austrians Andreas Haider-Maurer and Gerald Melzer are other title contenders.
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Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Guido Andreozzi lead the field in Blois, France, with Federico Coria, younger brother of former World No. 3 Guillermo Coria, competing in his fifth Challenger event.
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Uzbekistan hosts its third Challenger tournament in five weeks, as Blaz Kavcic descends on Fergana as the top seed.
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Caltanissetta, Italy, Centre Court

Prague, Czech Republic, Centre Court

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