Opelka Blasts To First Clay-Court Crown In Bordeaux
A LOOK BACK
BNP Paribas Primrose (Bordeaux, France): For the 11th time, the ATP Challenger Tour descended on the French city of Bordeaux. And the prestigious €106,000 event would celebrate its first American champion on Sunday. Reilly Opelka rallied from a set down to defeat home hope Gregoire Barrere 6–7(5), 6–4, 7–5 in two hours and 20 minutes, firing 22 aces and saving five of six break points faced.
"I served great, served a lot of aces from the first match and competed really hard," said Opelka. "I love it here. Even off the court I've been hanging out in the city a lot and enjoying my time. The architecture is incredible."
The title marked Opelka's first clay-court crown at any level and second victory overall on the Challenger circuit. He previously prevailed on the indoor hard courts of Charlottesville in 2016. The 20-year-old continues the youth movement in 2018, becoming the third-youngest winner this year, after Sunday's Heilbronn champ Rudolf Molleker (17) and Newport Beach titlist Taylor Fritz (20).
Opelka is on a roll on the dirt, posting an 11-2 mark over the past month, including semi-final finishes in Sarasota and Savannah. He soars 62 spots to No. 144 in the ATP Rankings and rises to eighth in the ATP Race To Milan. The American is now just 128 points behind Alex de Minaur for the coveted seventh position, with the Top 7 players born in 1997 and later qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals in November.
Reilly took ATPChallengerTour.com on a tour of his hotel room earlier this month in Savannah...
Heilbronner Neckarcup (Heilbronn, Germany): Opelka wasn't the only #NextGenATP to lift a trophy on Sunday. Rudolf Molleker capped a fairytale week on the clay of Heilbronn, claiming his maiden title in what was just his third Challenger main draw appearance.
At 17 years and six months, Molleker demonstrated maturity far beyond his age to secure his first professional trophy, rallying from a set down on three occasions during the week. Upset wins over fourth seed Yannick Hanfmann in the second round, recent Mexico City champion Juan Ignacio Londero in the semi-finals and second seed Jiri Vesely in the final gave the teen a well-deserved title.
Molleker's maiden moment!— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) May 20, 2018
🇩🇪 Rudolf Molleker becomes the first teen titlist of 2018, rallying past Jiri Vesely 46 64 75 in Heilbronn. Maiden #ATPChallenger crown for the 17-year-old. pic.twitter.com/FtWxrkY9k3
An unseeded wild card, Molleker entered the week at No. 497 in the ATP Rankings and the German would catapult nearly 200 spots to a career-high No. 300. Born in the Ukraine but now residing in and representing Germany, he is the youngest player from his country to win a title since a 17-year-old Alexander Zverev in Braunschweig in 2014.
In addition to becoming the first teen titlist of the year on the ATP Challenger Tour, Molleker is the third player born in the year 2000 to claim victory on the circuit. He joins surging #NextGenATP stars Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nicola Kuhn in the exclusive club.
Lisboa Belem Open (Lisbon, Portugal): The two-week Portuguese swing concluded on Sunday in the capital city of Lisbon. It was an emotional day for 36-year-old and former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo, who captured his first title at any level in five years, since the 2013 Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag.
On the comeback trail from multiple surgeries, including elbow and foot, the Spaniard broke down in tears during the trophy ceremony, displaying the emotion of years of hard work and dedication. He rallied from a set down in both the semi-finals and final, taking the title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Christian Garin. Robredo rises 59 spots to No. 168 in the ATP Rankings.
Samarkand Challenger (Samarkand, Uzbekistan): The 22nd edition of the storied Samarkand Challenger saw Italy's Luca Vanni notch his first crown in two years. Vanni triumphed on Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Mario Vilella Martinez, capping a week that saw him drop one set en route to the title. He is the sixth Italian winner this year, joining Andreas Seppi, Matteo Berrettini, Marco Cecchinato, Stefano Travaglia and Gianluigi Quinzi.
Busan Open (Busan, Korea): Aussie Matthew Ebden continued his surge up the ATP Rankings, scoring his third Challenger title in six months in Busan. The 30-year-old, who reached the final at the ATP World Tour event in Newport last year, is up to No. 73 after defeating Vasek Pospisil 7-6(4), 6-1 on Sunday. It is his highest position since 2014, following career-threatening knee surgery.
Meanwhile, qualifier Yosuke Watanuki, who is guided by legendary coach Bob Brett, ascended to a career-high No. 283 after reaching his first Challenger semi-final. The 20-year-old is now the youngest player from Japan in the Top 300.
A LOOK AHEAD
With the majority of today's ATP Challenger Tour stars competing in Roland Garros qualifying, there are only two events on the calendar. Top seed Arthur De Greef leads the field on the clay of Mestre, Italy, while Lukas Lacko is the top seed at the inaugural Loughborough Trophy in England. The indoor hard court event also features Max Purcell and Christian Harrison.