Kovalik To Face Pouille For Mauthausen Challenger Title

Jozef Kovalik (photo: Sportmediapics.com/ Manfred Binder)


Lucas Pouille of France and Slovakian Jozef Kovalik will compete for the title of the Danube Upper Austria Open powered by SKE in Mauthausen, Austria. Kovalik battled past Bulgarian alternate Dimitar Kuzmanov 6-7(10), 6-3, 6-0 in the stage of the last four on Saturday.

The No. 6 seed of the ATP Challenger Tour 100 clay-court tournament hit five aces and won 77 per cent of his first-service points. Due to a minor thigh injury, Kuzmanov had nothing left to offer in the decisive set and Kovalik prevailed after two hours and 28 minutes.

“It was a rollercoaster. I had a good start and suddenly found myself trailing 2-4. Even though I lost the tight tiebreak, I remained optimistic. I found my rhythm and knew I just needed to keep my focus high. I stood closer to the baseline and could build more pressure, which was crucial. Taking risks paid off. Playing against an injured player is never easy; the pressure is greater. I focused on myself and executed my game plan,” said Kovalik.

Comesana retires, Pouille advances

Pouille benefited from the retirement of top seed Francisco Comesana of Argentina. The French veteran was leading 7-6(5), 3-1 when the South American was forced to stop playing due to a muscle injury.

“This is not how you want to win. I only noticed something was wrong in the third game of the second set. It was a great match until then against a fantastic player. For me, it was an important assessment of where my tennis stands. Francisco is in the top 90 in the world, and his trajectory is pointing sharply upward. It was an incredible battle,” reflects Pouille, adding, “I’m really happy with how I played. I tried to play aggressively and chase after my shots. It’s always about the details. You hit winners, then you make mistakes. But with wins, confidence comes back, and I need to stick with that. I want to return to the top of the world rankings.”

Pouille is bidding for his first trophy since his win on home soil at the ATP Challenger in Bordeaux five years ago. Kovalik is seeking his ninth ATP Challenger Tour career title, his third of the season following his two triumphs in Croatia in Split and Zadar. The 31-year-old from Slovakia won the only previous meeting between the two at an ITF Futures in Serbia 12 years ago.

Frantzen/Jebens triumph in doubles

In other action, second-seeded Germans Constantin Frantzen and Hendrik Jebens secured the doubles title. The previous year’s finalists were in control over their US-American opponents Ryan Seggerman and Patrik Trhac, winning 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 12 minutes.

Frantzen Jebens, Mauthausen

Constantin Frantzen and Hendrik Jebens
(photo: Sportmediapics.com/ Manfred Binder)

It’s a great feeling. It’s always nice to hold the title at the end of an intense tournament week. This year was a bit up and down for us. We lost seven times in the first round in a match tie-break. So, this is a turnaround for us. The success gives us a lot of confidence, especially in the tight moments of a match. We enjoy being here in Mauthausen. It’s a great tournament, and we feel really at home,” Frantzen revealed.

Jebens added, “The relief is, of course, huge. Last year was a steep uphill climb, then we had to pay some tuition on the big tour. The victory is a big reward for us for sticking with it. The most important lesson is that we can trust our game and are well advised when playing aggressively. At this level, everything is very tight. Nuances make the difference. The win is good for us.”

By winning their seventh ATP Challenger Tour team title, their first of the season, Frantzen and Jebens split € 6,845 in prize money and collected 100 ATP Doubles Ranking points.