By Florian Heer
(January 26, 2014) TALHEIM, Germany – Traditionally one of the first stops on the ATP Challenger Tour every year are the Intersport Heilbronn Open at the Tennis Centre in Talheim. The tournament has always been able to present a strong field of players. Former champions are Carl-Uwe Steeb (1986), Michael Stich (1989), Michael Llodra (2001) and Robin Söderling (2006). This year’s edition has prize money of US-$ 125.000 and is one of only ten tournaments in the highest category on ATP Challenger level.
The first semifinal on Saturday was a quick affair. The match between the two Dutchmen, top-seed Igor Sijsling and sixth-seed Jesse Huta Galung only lasted 23 minutes. The latter was forced to retire after the fourth game. “I felt some problems in the left groin,” Huta Galung explained afterwards. “I had a similar injury last year, so I recognised immediately what had happened on court. I couldn’t run and so it didn’t make any sense to play on,” the world number 100 continued. “Last time it took about one week to recover, so it’s not a big injury but if you’re not able to run it is pointless to play tennis,” the Dutch said.
In second semi Jiri Vesely faced the tournament’s last remaining German in person of Peter Gojowczyk. The only 20-year-old Czech represents a new generation of players, who is tall with good movement on the court. Last year the Czech received the ATP “Star of tomorrow award”, reached the quarterfinal in Chennai two weeks ago but wasn’t able to qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open. Same happened to his opponent in Melbourne. Nonetheless, Gojowczyk had a great start into the season by reaching the semis in Doha, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in three sets. Both players had faced each other before on clay in Prostejov last year with the better ending for Vesely. In the encounter in Heilbronn, the German was the better player right from the beginning with solid baseline shots and good return games winning in 72 minutes 6-4, 6-3. “Before the match my coach and I analysed Jiri’s game very well, which helped me a lot today. I tried to go for his forehand as often as possible, what he doesn’t like,” Gojowczyk said afterwards. “The final here will be very special for me as in case of a victory I’ll be within the top 100 for the very first time,” the German was looking forward to his encounter against Igor Sijsling.
Peter Gojowczyk won the last meeting between the two in first round of the US Open last year and in Heilbronn both players have reached the final without dropping a set. On Sunday, it was again the German, who took command of the match. In front of 1400 spectators, Gojowczyk was the more solid player, overpowered his opponent from the baseline and gained the decisive break in the third game of the opening set to eventually take the frame after 28 minutes. The German served big and handled Sijsling’s service pretty well. After 71 minutes Gojowczyk closed the match out by an ace winning 6-4, 7-5. “In the beginning I was quite nervous but I was able to handle it,” the world number 135 said afterwards. “It helped that I could read his service quite well, in particular in the first set. Later the encounter became more even but I think I was mentally very strong today,” Gojowcyzk told us. “Tomorrow I will have a break and relax a bit. It is great to break into the top 100 for the very first time,” the German was happy. “Maybe I am going to play in Montpellier next week, as long as I make into the main draw,” Gojowcyzk stated about his further plans.
The doubles competition was won by Tomasz Bednarek and Henri Kontinen, who managed to save match points in the 10th game of the second set to finally gain victory against Ken and Neil Skupski winning 3-6, 7-6, 12-10 after one hour and 28 minutes. It was the first title for the unseeded team. “We were a bit luck today. Our opponents were better at the beginning of the match,” Bednarek analysed afterwards. “We were sleeping during the first set,” Kontinen added. “Maybe it was a bit too early for us, as this was the first match of the week we didn’t play in the evening. Nonetheless they played very well but we managed to pick it up,” the Finn explained.
Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit! Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.