Bedene Aiming High As Challenger Run Keeps Rolling
Undefeated Aljaz Bedene is experiencing a hot-streak of results on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2017, prevailing past all 15 opponents in his path. On Sunday the Brit maintained his success by clinching the Open Citta Della Disfida in Barletta, Italy, for his tour-leading third Challenger trophy of 2017.
The 7-6(4), 6-3 triumph over top seed Gastao Elias backed up his Verrazzano Open title win in France last weekend and improved his impressive record to 14-2 in Challenger finals.
“I am really pleased with the way I played the last two weeks. I have worked hard to get here,” said Bedene. “I stick to my game plan every match, my level of tennis has been consistent this year and I am trying to stay disciplined through every match, and that has brought me success on this level in 2017.”
Playing as second seed in Barletta, Bedene dropped just one set on course to lifting the trophy, adding to his 2011 and 2012 titles at the Open Citta Della Disfida. The Mediterranean country clearly appeals to Bedene, who has now accumulated seven Challenger titles in Italy.
“I wouldn't say it's just Barletta, I am generally very successful in Italy,” joked Bedene. “I love how much the people love tennis here and of course I love the food. However, Barletta was my first Challenger title (2011), so it will always be a special one for me, different to any other.”
A renewed focus and plenty of endeavour have reaped reward for Bedene, but the 27-year-old signals out some misfortune en route to securing the BMW of Dallas Irving Tennis Classic last month for sparking his recent upturn in form.
“It didn’t start well in Irving, I twisted my foot on the Monday and played that tournament injured, but I fought really well there, which I am very proud of,” revealed Bedene. “I think I was playing well at the beginning of the year, lost some tough battles, but I think that foot sprain in Irving changed many things. I showed myself I can play if I stay disciplined, which wasn't the case in the previous years.”
Bedene has frequently been able to practise and confide in World No. 1 Andy Murray, who was present at the Verrazzano Open to present his countryman with the trophy at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy. Murray’s relentless work ethic has inspired a change in perspective for Bedene.
“Every time I practise with Andy I learned something,” said the 27-year-old. “Just watching him play is very encouraging, he is a very hard worker and sometimes I can't believe how hard is he working. He’s a pleasure to watch really.”
Back in November 2015 and Bedene was playing at a career-high ranking of No. 45 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. His fortnight of double Challenger titles has seen the Brit surge up 24 places to No. 69, but the Londoner is intent on building on his momentum to reach his season target of being seeded at Grand Slams.
“I have big goals for 2017, to reach the top 32 and to keep enjoying playing the game, I am playing good tennis, changed a few things in my tennis so let's see what happens,” said Bedene. “I am enjoying it so far. I am playing great tennis at the moment, feeling fit and ready, so if I stay focused on the tasks I have to do, I will be back where I want to be.”