Kuzmanov, Gaston Seek Maiden Challenger Crown At Emilio Sanchez Academy

Dimitar Kuzmanov (photo: Emilio Sanchez Academy)


A new Challenger champion will be crowned on Sunday at the €44,820 Emilio Sanchez Academy clay-court event organized by the Fundación Emilio Sánchez Vicario and held in El Prat de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain. Top favourite Hugo Gaston will take on unseeded Dimitar Kuzmanov in the singles final.

Gaston overcame a topsy-turvy encounter with fellow Frenchman Alexandre Muller on Saturday, winning 6-2, 0-6, 6-0. The World No. 112 converted seven of his nine break-point opportunities to prevail after one hour and 36 minutes.

“I am very happy. It is never easy to play against a good friend,” Gaston said. “It was a strange match. I played well in the first set, didn’t play the second set but regained my game in the third. I am pretty happy about that.”

Later in the day, Kuzmanov knocked off second seed Alex Molcan from Slovakia 7-5, 7-6(5). The 28-year-old Bulgarian won three points more than his rival to advance after two hours and six minutes.

“What a thrilling and tough match against an opponent, who is probably playing his best tennis this year,” Kuzmanov said. “It was a big battle and I am happy that I managed to close the match out in two sets. It was physically tough for me, as I had two matches yesterday with the doubles. Now I am satisfied having time to rest, enjoy and prepare for tomorrow.”

Kuzmanov, a winner of 20 trophies on the ITF Pro Circuit and currently sitting at a career-high World No. 218, will appear in his second title match on the ATP Challenger Tour after he finished runner-up to Nikola Milojevic of Serbia at the Zadar Open in Croatia in early March.

Gaston is seeking his maiden crown after losing three Challenger finals this year. The #NextGenATP Finals contender lost the championship matches in Rome, Iasi and Tulln. Kuzmanov and Gaston will meet for the first time.

Top seeds take doubles title

In other action, Harri Heliovaara from Finland and Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic clinched the doubles title. The top seeds defeated the all-Portuguese duo of Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral 6-4, 6-3. The final lasted 58 minutes.

Heliovaara and Jebavy split €2,670 in prize money and earned 80 ATP Doubles Ranking points.