VILLENA, April 7, 2018
Pablo Andújar defeats #NextGenATP star Alex de Minaur at the inaugural €43,000 Ferrero Challenger Open to clinch his first title since Gstaad 2014. The 32-year-old Spaniard, who entered the main draw at the Equelite Sport Academy with a wild card, won 7-6, 6-1 on a chilly Saturday morning in Villena.
In front of about 300 spectators, de Minaur had the better the start into his third ATP Challenger final, gaining the first break of the match in the opening game. However, Andújar stroke back immediately and started to dictate most of the rallies in the following. The three-time winner on the ATP World Tour took the first set in the tie-break 7-5 after 69 minutes.
In the following, Andújar was in control of the encounter and broke his opponent two times in the second set to convert his first match point after one hour and 36 minutes.
It was an emotional victory for the former World No. 32, as Andújar was forced to undergo a right elbow surgery and missed more than eight months of last year’s season. He returned to action in September 2017 competing on the ITF Pro Circuit.
“One or two points in the tie-break of the first set made the difference today. He started very well but I tried to do my best. It was a very even match,” Andújar told Tennis TourTalk after lifting his first ATP Challenger trophy in eight years and his sixth overall.
“It is a Challenger but this title means a lot to me, a lot of work, a lot of bad moments I had to go through in the past. But I was trying to come back and I am happy that it worked out. It was a very emotional moment for me on the court,” the current World No. 593 commented. Andújar takes away €6,190 in prize money as well as 80 ATP ranking points.
“Now I will try to play as many matches as possible on the ATP World Tour during the clay court season. I will next go to Marrakech, using my protected ranking. Then another week with a 250 tournament followed by Roland Garros.”
De Minaur finishes runner-up again
De Minaur, who had a great start into the year, lost his third consecutive Challenger final. The teenager finished runner-up in Eckental 2016 and Segovia last season.
“I played a great level of tennis this week. The first set today could have gone either way. We both played well but Pablo took the first set and sort of rolled with it. It is great to see where he is right now,” de Minaur was a fair loser.
“For me it was graet to play this week in front of my family and friends. Nice that everyone could come and watch me. I really appreciated the support,” the Alicante resident added. De Minaur will join Andújar in Marrakech next.
“There is not much time to stop. It’s always keep on going,” he told with a smile. “I want to finish the year inside the top 100. I am close but still far away. It’s tough mentally to play a good level of tennis every week.”