SAO PAULO, November 18, 2014
With the season finale in London last week, the ATP World Tour has come to an end but at one level below the tennis year 2014 is still in action. For the fourth time the ATP Challenger Tour Finals are taking place in Sao Paulo involving the top-seven players of the year on Challenger level plus an invited player from the host country.
The tournament is played in round-robin format with the eight players divided into two groups of four. From there, the two players with the best records in each group progress to the semifinals, with the winners meeting in the final to determine the champion. 125 ATP Ranking points and US-$ 91.200 in prize money will be awarded to an undefeated champion. Former title holders are Cedric-Marcel Stebe (2011), Guido Pella (2012) and Filippo Volandri (2013).
This year’s event is held on indoor clay at the Pinheiros Sports Club starting on 19th November. On Tuesday the draw has been made.
Group A: Simone Bolelli, Victor Estrella Burgos, Andreas Haider-Maurer and Maximo Gonzalez
Bolelli gained four ATP Challenger titles in 2014 winning in Bergamo, Vercelli, Tunis and Oberstaufen. The world number 60 had a 16-matches win-streak in summer before he lost in San Marino in August to Alessandro Giannessi and as the tournament’s top-seed must be considered as the favorite in this group.
Estrella took two ATP Challenger titles this season winning in Pereira and Salinas. In 2014, the 34-year-old became the first Dominican player to reach the top 100 in the ATP Rankings. “The expectations are good. I’ll think about one match at a time, in each player. I hope I can play my best tomorrow so I can improve and reach the semi-finals. The conditions are pretty good. I arrived on Sunday and I’ve been training well. Now I just have to prepare for the match tomorrow,” the world number 80 from Santiago de los Caballeros told.
Haider-Maurer is the tournament’s number five and played a solid clay court season with two Challenger titles in Brasov and Trnava. The 27-year-old Austrian also reached the final in San Benedetto, where he lost to Damir Dzumhur and made it into the second round at Roland Garros.
Gonzalez gained three Challenger titles winning in Santors, Blois and Padova. By reaching the semi-finals in Kitzbühel, the 31-year-old Argentine also showed an outstanding result on the ATP World Tour in August this year.
Group B: Diego Schwartzman, Blaz Rola, Joao Souza, Guilherme Clezar
Second-seeded Schwartzman gained the most single titles on the Challenger Tour of all Sao Paulo contenders this year winning in Aix-en-Provence, Prague II, Campinas and San Juan. The only 22-year-old from Buenos Aires also made his first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam event at the French Open, where he came through the qualifying before he lost to Roger Federer in the second round.
Rola took one Challenger title winning in Guangzhou on hard court. The 24-year-old leftie from Slovenia also reached the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time this year. At the Australian Open he lost in second round to Martin Klizan. “It’s my third time in Sao Paulo and I always play well here. Indoors is different. The stadium is pretty cool. It’s certainly faster than any other clay courts,” the world number 81 said.
Sao Paulo native Souza has already reached great results in his hometown this year by winning the Challenger event on hard court in January. One month later he beat world number 45 Robin Haase in round of 32 at the ATP 250 tournament in the Brazilian metropolis. “Any group would have been tough. Almost all the players are in the Top 90. The level is extremely high. Clezar and I ended up in the same group, so I’ll have to face him. I’ve played Schwartzman in the San Juan final. He’s had a great year and comes in with a lot of confidence. I’ve faced Rola in the semis in Poland and lost in three sets. I have to use the advantage of playing at home, having the crowd by my side. I love playing in Sao Paulo because of the altitude and we have indoor courts here. It suits my game. I’ll try to be aggressive and shorten the points,” the world number 90 is looking forward to the start of the event.
Clezar is the tournament’s wild card and currently ranked on 331st position with a career high 156 in November last year. The 21-year-old best result on Challenger level came in San Marino this year reaching the semi-finals.