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ATP Challenger


After two days, and countless rain delays, Indian Yuki Bhambri held his nerve to become the inaugural Traralgon ATP Challenger champion on Monday.

The eighth seed came in to the tournament reserve day leading the deciding set against Brad Klahn 4-2, after rain forced an early end to play on Sunday, and served out the match in 12 minutes to win 6-7 (13-15), 6-3, 6-4.

Bhambri scraped past New Zealander Michael Venus in round two and came back from a 1-6 second set loss to former top 100 player Tatsuma Ito to advance to the semi-finals.

The Indian then ousted second seeded Australian James Duckworth, who he lost to in Melbourne the previous week, to reach the final where his aggressive net game held him in good stead against the might of top seed Klahn.

“By far… one of the toughest matches I’ve had to come and play, so it’s just good to be winning not just a challenger, but beating (Klahn) and coming back after rain to keep my focus in the last two games, I’m really proud of myself,” Bhambri said.

The world number 204 said his overnight focus was to serve well and secure the match off his own racquet.

“He stepped up his forehand and backhand so I’m just glad I put a lot of first serves in and got a lot of free points,” Bhambri said.

The Challenger marked Bhambri’s first trip to Traralgon but, with an Australian Open junior title to his name on the same hard court surface, said the local venue played to his strengths.

“I love coming back here. I think it suits my game playing in Australia, this is my first time in Traralgon and it’s good to come and play matches before the Australian Open and get used to the courts again,” he said.

American Klahn, who came in to the tournament as a hot favourite, furthered his claims for automatic Australian Open entry with his ranking set to improve from 123 to about 115 following the second place finish.

The left hander said he came in to Monday with a plan to attack.

“I tried to come out and be a little more aggressive, keep the ball deeper and not give him as many chances to get to the net but he served well and when you’re down a break in the third already you don’t have much room for error,” he said.

Klahn jetted out to compete in Korea and Japan immediately after the Challenger, having relished the chance to play in country Victoria.

“I really enjoyed it, this is my first time to Traralgon… it’s a great tennis town and everyone was really helpful,” he said.

“I really appreciated everyone was willing to go out of their way to really make the players and everyone here feel really welcome so I really enjoyed the week.”

The tournament upgrade to Challenger status this year saw a marked improvement to the field.

Defending dual champion Ben Mitchell was only able to reach the quarter-finals in a tough draw littered with local and international talent, a good sign for the future according to Tennis Australia tournament director Jason Simmons.

“That’s the difference just a stronger player field all week and great matches all week as well,” he said.

“It does bode well for the future and players will start to support this event as it gets known as a great event. We’ve seen that in juniors, players love coming to a community that supports great sporting events, and next year will be bigger and better once again.”

The Traralgon Tennis Association will now begin preparations for its annual ITF Junior International in January.