TEMPE, February 21, 2017
Absent from the local sports scene since 1995 when the ATP World Tour event was held at the Fairmont Princess Resort, men’s professional tennis returned to the East Valley section of metropolitan Phoenix last week for the inaugural $75,000 Tempe Challenger, held at Whiteman Tennis Center at Arizona State University.
This time the event did not feature familiar names from the 1990’s such as past ATP tournament champions John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl, but it spotlighted a couple of the sports’ rising stars of today.
19-year-old US-American Stefan Kozlov, who claimed his maiden Challenger title in Columbus last year was seeded second, advanced to the quarterfinals but fell to Teymuraz Gabashvili from Russia.
Ernesto Escobedo, the tournament’s number one, who is only one year older than Kozlov and lifted two trophies on the ATP Challenger Tour last year, was also stopped in the stage of the final eight, as he lost to fellow US-American Dennis Novikov in a three set battle, which took two hours.
Sandgren Takes Singles Crown, Italians Lift Doubles Trophies
Eventually two unseeded players competed in the singles final, which had to be postponed to Monday due to bad weather, when Tennys Sandgren from the United States rallied past Nikola Milojevic of Serbia, winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-3.
The 25-year-old fired nine aces and won 79 per cent of his first service points to secure victory in just under two hours of play. Sandgren captured his second title on the ATP Challenger Tour, following his triumph in Champaign 2013. He takes away $10,800 in prize money as well as 80 ATP ranking points, moving up to a career high World No. 175.
“It’s been a beautiful place to play and I’ve really enjoyed it. Thankfully the tournament was gracious enough to extend to a Monday family. I think I’ve played some really good tennis this week and the competition was really strong, so I got a little lucky today and just hung in there,” Sandgren told.
On Sunday, Italian duo of Walter Trusendi and Matteo Viola, who battled through the qualifying, defeated Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and José Hernandez-Fernandez from the Dominican Republic 5-7, 6-2, 12-10 to clinch the doubles title. The encounter lasted one hour and 37 minutes.
Video Interview with Tennys Sandgren: