Stan is the man in Prague!
For the first time in 2020, Stan Wawrinka has his hands on a trophy. The Swiss dismissed Aslan Karatsev to capture the title at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague on Saturday, earning a hard-fought 7-6(2), 6-4 victory.
Having entered the I.CLTK Prague Open by Moneta in search of match play and confidence following the COVID-19 hiatus, Wawrinka made the most of his time in the Czech capital. The former World No. 3 claimed his first title since 2017, when he triumphed on home soil at the ATP Tour stop in Geneva.
“I’m really happy,” said Wawrinka. “It was the best match of the week and the level was good. The focus was there, I was serving well and I’m really happy to get the trophy today. It was nice to come back here and play a Challenger at the Prague Open, especially after so many months away.”
Competing in his first Challenger tournament in more than a decade, Wawrinka added a seventh title at that level and a 23rd professional crown in total (Tour-level and Challenger combined). It did not come easy for the Lausanne native, who rallied from a set down on three occasions during the week, before earning a more routine victory in Saturday’s championship.
Wawrinka faced a break point immediately as proceedings got underway against Karatsev, but the Swiss would settle into a groove from there. He reeled off 18 of his last 20 service points in the first set, before eventually taking the opener in a tie-break. The only break of the match came early in the second set, when Karatsev sent a volley into the net. Wawrinka edged ahead 2-1 and never looked back, emerging victorious after one hour and 44 minutes.
“I feel good, but I know I’m not at my best yet,” Wawrinka added. “But that’s the reason why I came here. I wanted to get some matches. Every match I was playing better and this was the best of the week. I’m happy to keep going next week.”
Highest-Ranked Challenger Champions (since 2000)
|Winner||FedEx ATP Ranking
|Joachim Johansson||No. 12||Luxembourg 2004|
|Sjeng Schalken||No. 13||Prague 2003|
|Ivan Ljubicic||No. 14||Zagreb 2005|
||No. 17||Prague 2020
|Martin Verkerk||No. 17||Hilversum 2003|
At No. 17 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Wawrinka is the highest-ranked player to win on the ATP Challenger Tour since 14th-ranked Ivan Ljubicic in Zagreb in 2005. Moreover, he is one of just eight players inside the Top 20 to win on the Challenger circuit since 2000.
As he continues his quest to find his top form and gather momentum entering the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome and clay-court Grand Slam at Roland Garros, Wawrinka will next compete at the second Prague Challenger, starting Monday. He is the top seed at the RPM Open by Moneta and will open against either Malek Jaziri or Goncalo Oliveira.
Karatsev, meanwhile, was competing in his sixth Challenger final and second of the year. Also the runner-up in Bangkok in January, the World No. 253 is projected to rise 58 spots to return to the Top 200.
“I played against a big champion today,” said Karatsev. “I started well, but he was better today in the end. I made too many mistakes today. To beat this guy, you have to play your best. I will take a lot from this week for the future and the end of the year.”
Frenchmen Win Doubles Title
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Arthur Rinderknech did not drop a set all week, culminating in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Zdenek Kolar and Lukas Rosol on Saturday. It was the first team title for the French pair.
Herbert, a four-time Grand Slam doubles champion alongside Nicolas Mahut, claimed his second trophy of the year. In February, he triumphed with Mahut at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam.
Rinderknech, who leads the Challenger circuit in singles wins this year (16), added a second doubles title to his haul. He previously prevailed with another Frenchman, Manuel Guinard, in Drummondville, Canada, in February.