Otto Virtanen has won the biggest ATP Challenger tour event of this week, which took place in Lille. Virtanen defeated Max Purcell in Sunday's final match, winning with a score 6-7(3) 6-4 6-2. It's the third career's ATP Challenger title for the Finn and second in this month, after taking the victory in Lugano three weeks ago.
Virtanen, ranked 139th in ATP rankings, was the pre-match favorite despite playing against the tournament's top seed, being ranked 40 places higher than him. Pre-match odds rated the 21 years-old Finn as a slight favorite with an odd 1.62. Both of the players lost just one set on the road to final. Virtanen was quite more convincing during the week in Lille tough, as Purcell had to put some more effort in opening rounds, while playing really close matches against lower ranked opponents.
The final clash started better for Virtanen. He managed to clear the danger in the opening game, holding the serve from being 0-40 down. The Finn was also first one to gain a break advantage in 6th game. The set was seemingly coming to be credited on Virtanen's account, as he had two breakpoints within Purcell's serve within the score 5-3. The Aussie cleared the danger very well, making a huge hold, and breaking his opponent in the following game, leveling the score. It was a big turnaround, as Purcell came out of nowhere to force the tie-break, where he led from the start and clinched the first set after winning it 7-3.
Second set had the similar turn of events, but with different ending tough. Virtanen took the lead again, breaking Purcell in 5th game. Same as previously, he produced two setpoints during the Aussie's service game, but Purcell stayed alive in the set again, clearing the danger. This time, the Finn withstood the pressure and managed to serve out the set win with a score 6-4 and took the match to the distance.
The decisive set was an intense battle from the start. Both players shared breaks in two opening games. The middle phase of it was crucial. Purcell had a chance to break his opponent in 4th game, but Virtanen cleared the danger and broke the Aussie's serve in next game. Purcell had no response for the dominant game of his lower ranked rival, as Virtanen raised up his level brilliantly and won all the following games till the end, securing the title after 2:17 hours of a really exciting battle.
Otto Virtanen has shared his thoughts about the victory in Lille and his plans for the upcoming weeks: "It was a tight battle. All the time I was able to put the ball sharply into the corners. Purcell was really solid throughout the match, but I was the first to got the break in each set, which always gives some more boost. A good game and week as a whole. I am happy with my indoors campaign in general, as it was very succesfull. Now it is the time for outdoors competitions. The French Open is of course the goal in my calendar. It is uncertain yet wheter I will go to Spain or to Croatia for the next Challenger, but at least I know that I will enter to the qualifying for the ATP in Barcelona." (source: tennis.fi)
Recent months are definitely the best time in career of 21 years-old player from Finland. Same time a year ago, Otto Virtanen was ranked 354th in the ATP rankings constantly advancing from the lower hundreds of the ranks. The great improvement gave him him 3 titles in ATP Challenger tour in last 5 months and an advance to the career's highest position in the rankings. The Finn will be ranked 109th in tomorrow's official list. The ATP Race looks even more prominently for Virtanen, as he is the 65th best player in the world considering just the tournaments in 2023. It is the great time for tennis fans in Finland, as Emil Ruusuvuori has recently reached the quarterfinals in ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Miami and also celebrates the best rankings position in career, being ranked 37th in tommorow's list. With two constantly improving and relatively young players, the future looks bright for the Finns.