Ze Zhang Claims China's Second Challenger Title
A LOOK BACK
Kunal Patel San Francisco Open (San Francisco, USA): One year ago, China had its moment in the spotlight, as native son Di Wu claimed the nation's first ATP Challenger Tour title in Maui, USA. On Sunday, the total doubled. Behind a bevy of monster forehands and lightning-fast agility, Ze Zhang notched his maiden crown in San Francisco, overcoming Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 3-6, 6-2.
Zhang rang in the inaugural event in San Francisco with a bang, notching seven wins in eight days to lift the trophy as a qualifier, overturning an 0-3 mark in Challenger finals in his career to finally claim victory. The Nanjing native is the first qualifier winner of the year on the ATP Challenger Tour. He is projected to rise 37 spots to No. 158 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, just 10 places off his career-high.
Neville Smith Forest Products Launceston International (Launceston, Australia): Seventh seed Noah Rubin streaked to his second ATP Challenger Tour title, dominating the final 6-0, 6-1 over fellow American Mitchell Krueger. It was the fewest games played in a Challenger final since Moscow 2015.
The #NextGenATP star needed 54 minutes to emerge victorious in very windy conditions, ending a 15-month title drought since lifting his maiden crown in Charlottesville in 2015. It marks the third straight week that an Emirates ATP Race To Milan contender has lifted a Challenger trophy. Rubin, who entered the week in Launceston at No. 7 in the standings, follows No. 3 Hyeon Chung's victory in Maui, USA, and No. 4 Omar Jasika's win in Burnie, AUS.
Excited to head back home to NYC after a long and exciting time down under! See ya next year Aussie! 🙌🏼👟 pic.twitter.com/upcy5Rm1f9— Noah Rubin (@Noahrubin33) February 12, 2017
Hungarian Challenger Open (Budapest, Hungary): Playing with a protected ranking, former World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer turned back the clock in Budapest to capture his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title. Melzer downed Marton Fucsovics 7-6(6), 6-2 to lift his first professional trophy in more than three years, since the 2013 Winston-Salem Open.
At 35 years and eight months, the Austrian is the oldest Challenger winner since Michael Berrer (35 yrs, 9 mos.) triumphed in Leon, MEX, in March 2016. Melzer, who returned to action last year following shoulder surgery, will rise to No. 200 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Jurgen joins younger brother Gerald and Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev as two sets of bros. in the Top 200.
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID
Rubin: "It's been great here in Australia. A nice way to go back home and it makes the trip a little easier. Today I put together a lot of good points and thought I served very smart. I used my speed to run down some balls and I knew it was going to be tricky conditions with the wind."
A LOOK AHEAD
Two tournaments are on the schedule next week, with Challenger La Manche in Cherbourg, France, celebrating its 31st consecutive year on the ATP Challenger Tour and the Tempe Challenger marking its inaugural edition. Jeremy Chardy leads the pack in Cherbourg, with 2014 champ Kenny De Schepper and 2015 winner Norbert Gombos in the draw. Ernesto Escobedo is the top seed in Tempe, with fellow #NextGenATP stars Stefan Kozlov and Michael Mmoh also present.
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