October 4, 2020 – The winner of the premiere edition of the ATP Challenger Split Open is Francisco Cerundolo, who defeated the first-seed Pedro Sousa in the tie break of a tense final.
The Argentine reduced the result, then twice failed to serve for the match in the third set before reaching his first title at a Challenger tournament. Cerundolo finally celebrated in the 13th game of the final (4:6, 6:3, 7:6 (4)). To make the story more intriguing, Cerundolo was the last tennis player to enter the main draw of the tournament directly according to the ranking. As such, he was certainly not among the winners.
“I am thrilled. This was an amazing week full of long and difficult matches. I fought in every match, and I believe this will be just the first in a series of my trophies. I hope to play all four Grand Slams next year,” said the 22-year-old from Buenos Aires.
Sousa, a Lisbon native who is ten years older than Cerundolo, opened the match better. Sousa led 6-4, 1-0 with a break, but Cerundolo fought back by winning six of the next eight games. There were no breaks by the middle of the deciding set, and then the match began to heat up and reached a climax worthy of a final. Cerundolo served twice for the match, at 5:4 and 6:5, just like in the quarterfinal against Marterer, and again, as then, he did not finish the job.
Still, his more aggressive and risky game eventually paid off. It was 5-2, then 5-4, and Cerundolo managed to keep both of his serves to win in the tie break. He dropped to the ground while the spectators applauded him for the well-deserved title.
“I was nervous and tired at the end of the match. I couldn’t even think anymore. I am glad that I still got a new opportunity and still won,” said Cerundolo, who achieved four victories this week in three sets, which speaks volumes about his mental stability. He showed it the day before in the semifinal against Duja Ajdukovic, played in the stormy southern wind.
“It was impossible to play yesterday. I was hitting in the middle of the court because otherwise, I missed everything. It was a real mental victory,” recalled the Argentine who will enter the top 200 on the ATP list for the first time tomorrow. He will receive 6,190 euro for the title in Split, while Sousa will receive 3,650 euro.
The Portuguese entered the final as a favorite, considering that he was the first seed, has more experience, played the final of the ATP tournament in Buenos Aires, and won seven Challengers.
“Today, the conditions were perfect, but that didn’t help me either,” commented Sousa, who is close to returning to the top 100 (he will be 111th from tomorrow).
“I hope to get closer to entering the top 100 and stay there. I like your city, it is beautiful, and the conditions are great, so I would love to come back here,” said the 32-year-old Portuguese at the end.