Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Split Open 2 Comes to End: "This is the Roland Garros of Split"

April 20, 2021 - Split Open 2, or the third Split Open edition held last week at the Firule Tennis Center, has come to an end. 

The ATP Challenger Split Open passed its third exam with an excellent grade. This time it was a double edition, the second and third, accompanied by many challenges. But with all the adversity, the organizers succeeded and sent back to the world a beautiful picture of Split, Dalmatia, and Croatia.

"We watched two weeks of top tennis. Everything we could influence, we did properly. The tennis players felt comfortable with us. Our team did a fantastic job, and I can say that this is Roland Garros from Split," began the director of the tournament, Ismar Moralić, giving his review of the past two weeks in which all seasons changed in the Firule neighborhood of Split. There was snow, rain, strong bura, strong south wind, warm and sunny weather—unique conditions for tennis.

"There was no tennis player to whom these fickle conditions would suit him continuously. It was hard to watch, let alone play."


Bruno Karadza

Moralić often points out that the tournament is important not only as a sporting event but also as tourism in Split and Split-Dalmatia County. In this context, it coincided that these two editions of the tournament were marked by tennis players from countries from which a large number of tourists come - Slovenia (winner of the first tournament Blaž Rola and finalist Blaž Kavčič) and Poland (Kacper Žuk won singles in the second tournament, and Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski doubles).


Veljko Martinovic

"It is a pity that there was no television broadcast, but an ATP stream was popular, especially in Slovenia and Poland. In both countries, the tournament was very well attended. It was a nice promotion of Croatia and Split."

However, to make the impression complete from the organizers' perspective, better results of Croatian tennis players were lacking. Last fall, at the premiere edition of the tournament, the local boys Borna Gojo and Duje Ajduković played in the semifinals, but this time none of our representatives reached the quarterfinals. Gojo did not even play due to injury. Duje, who had just recovered from the coronavirus, only passed the first round in the first tournament. Nino Serdarušić was eliminated in the second round both times. There wasn’t much success in the doubles either.

"Gojo got injured a few months ago, Duje overcame corona, and Nino lost to Ymer in a match that could have gone his way. You know what, our players probably missed the audience as well, because they are the ones who give motivation at certain moments of the match. Our policy is to give invitations to our young players, and perhaps some of them are not yet experienced enough for this level. I believe that their results will be better when they mature a little more."

Moralić added on the topic of empty stands, emphasizing the illogicality of such a decision.

"There are people in churches, casinos, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, and cafes, and it turns out that tennis is the riskiest for people's health. I don’t know why this is so because we were able to maintain space at the stadium. It hit us organizers and tennis players as well, but unfortunately, we can’t influence those things."

After the curtain was drawn on the third Split Open, there are smiles, satisfaction, and relief on the faces of the organizers, staff, and volunteers for a job well done, but we are still a little sad that it is over. They are already starting to work on the next edition, an even better and stronger Split Open. The term should remain the same, in the spring."It is difficult to plan anything in the short term, let alone in the long term because of the coronavirus. However, we will do everything to make the tournament even better. We do it because we want to create a tennis center in Split that will be recognized worldwide. With our partners, we will do everything to make next year's tournament as top-notch as it was in the past two weeks," concluded Ismar Moralić, concluding a beautiful two-week tennis story in Split.

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Monday, 12 April 2021

Blaž Rola Wins ATP Challenger Split Open Title!

April 12, 2021 - Blaž Rola is the winner of the ATP Challenger Split Open, defeating Blaž Kavčič in the final on Sunday at TC Firule. 

At the Central Court of TC Firule, the sixth-seed Rola reached the triumph with a 2:6, 6:3, 6:2 result in two hours and 16 minutes of play. Kavčič was flawless in the first set, but when he returned from the break between sets, Rola played much more decisively and aggressively. He immediately went to 3:0 and kept that advantage until the end of the set, only to enter the final set with a break.

Kavčič found it increasingly difficult to cope with his shots, so Rola once again took away his serve for the 5:2 lead, but that was not the end. The longest game of the match followed, in which Kavčič did not realize three break opportunities, while Rola realized the third match point. 


Veljko Martinović

This is Rola's first victory over Kavčič in their fourth duel and certainly the most important. He reached his fifth Challenger title, but the first on European soil, after Guangzhou in 2014, Santos in 2015, Tallahassee in 2017, and Leon in 2019.

"My feelings are mixed because I played against a good friend with whom I train every day. It is a pity that there had to be only one winner," said the 30-year-old from Ptuj to the gathered journalists after the match, holding the winning trophy firmly.

He looked back at the match:

"I don't even know how I got it! These conditions are more suitable for the other Blaž; it was slow and cold. He played the first set without a mistake, and then I became a little more aggressive. Too bad for the corona because I'm sure the stands would be full today. Everyone from Slovenia who supports us would come, but all credit to the organizer. I know it wasn’t easy for him in these times."

On the other hand, Kavčič from Ljubljana, who is four years older, delighted everyone with his fighting spirit and numerous upheavals. However, he failed to win this third set in the final. He ran out of fuel.

"I did the first set without a mistake, and then I lost my temper a bit. Maybe fatigue had accumulated, so I was making mistakes I don’t normally make. After the first set, Blaž started attacking more, and I wasn’t ready for that. I fell on the defensive, I tried to get as close as possible to the line, but I failed," commented Kavčič.


Veljko Martinović

With 17 titles, he is among the ten best players in the Challengers of all time. However, he will have to wait a little longer for his next title. 

The coach of Rola and Kavčič, also Blaž, Trupej, proudly watched the match from the stands and later took photos with his players, who recently won the Zadar Challenger in doubles.

"We have been working together since last December, and this final is proof that we are doing well," said Rola, and Kavčič continued:

"We know each other very well, and we are friends off the court. We almost spend more time with each other than with our wives, haha. We are training hard, and we hope that there will be more finals."

The director of the tournament, Ismar Moralić, presented Rola with the winning trophy. He will also receive 6,190 euros and 80 points. Kavčič receives 3650 euros and 48 points. Rola should jump from 165th place to approximately 147th on the ATP list, while Kavčič should progress from 238th to around 215th place.

Unfortunately, Rola will not defend the title next week because he is going to the Belgrade Challenger. The performance of Kavčič, who should play in the first round against the second seed Marco Polmans, is also questionable.

"I need to talk to the coach. I’ve had injury problems recently, so I have to be careful; I don't want to go with my head through the wall. It is possible that I will not perform," Kavčič concluded.

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Sunday, 11 April 2021

ATP Challenger Split Open: Andrej Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovjesov Win Doubles Title

April 11, 2021 - Saturday at the ATP Challenger Split Open concluded with an exciting final in the doubles competition in which Kazakhstani team Andrej Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovjesov won the title.

Golubev and Nedovjesov justified their first-seed role by winning the Split Open with a victory in the final against Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski from Poland 7:5, 6:7 (5), 10-5. In a dramatic and quality clash, the nuances really decided the result, and in the end, a series of three consecutive points for the Kazakhstani pair's 6-3 lead in the super tie break was crucial.


It was close in the first two sets, especially in the second when the Kazakh side failed to realize as many as seven break opportunities and the Polish team three. In the 13th game, Walkow and Zielinski won the third set, but the winning trophy still went to favored Golubev and Nedovjesov. This is the sixth joint title in the Challengers for the Kazakhstani pair. They will share 2,670 euros and 80 points, while the finalists will receive 1,550 euros and 48 points.


Both pairs stay in Split for the new Challenger next week - Golubev and Nedovjesov are the second seed in the draw and start against the Croatian team Borna Gojo - Nino Serdarušić, while Walkow and Zielinski go against the fourth seed Purava Raju and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn.


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Saturday, 10 April 2021

ATP Challenger Split Open 3rd Edition Begins on April 12!

April 10, 2021 - The ATP Challenger Split Open 3rd edition, which starts on Monday, April 12, was announced at a press conference on the Firule Tennis Center's terrace.

Tournament director Ismar Moralić said that this week's tournament, which is still in progress, is going great, and he also revealed that three invitations for the main tournament go to Croatian tennis players Borna Gojo, Duje Ajduković, and Nino Serdarušić.

"The first tournament is taking place in a nice atmosphere so far. It is disturbed only by bad weather and low temperatures that we struggle with every day. We are bravely going to the second week," said Moralić, expressing satisfaction that all the players, their entourage, and the tournament staff are negative for Covid-19.

"This is actually a key thing because only one infected person can knock down an entire tournament like a domino. Tests are according to the ATP protocol every Wednesday, and I hope that next week we will all be negative."


Veljko Martinović

Like this week, Duje Ajduković and Nino Serdarušić will receive two invitations for the main tournament. The third will be given to Borna Gojo, who skipped the first tournament due to a back injury.

"Borna worked hard, went through therapy, and we believe that he will achieve a good result in the next tournament, just like Duje and Nino. Duje returned in an incredible match against Brown, and Nino defeated Clarke in conditions that were more similar to polar ones, and that certainly took away a lot of his strength for the next match," said Moralić.

The list of players will remain similar to this week.

"The 'cut' for the main tournament is 202nd place, and for the qualifications 220th, so even a little lower than this week. We hope for a slightly better weather forecast," Moralić added.

Borna Gojo, who was also at the press conference, spook about his back problems.

"It started in Australia when I was quarantined for 14 days. The day after I went out, I played with Popyrin and carried those problems ever since. It's taking a while. I expect to win every tournament, so do Duje and Nino."

Unfortunately, there will be no audience in the stands next week either.

"The audience will be missed a lot. I wouldn't be the first to play in the semifinals last year if it weren't for the audience. They pushed Duje and me. Home is always a special feeling. From what I hear from other tennis players, the impressions are positive. They are satisfied with the club, organization, and accommodation," said Gojo.


Veljko Martinović

Ajduković, on the other hand, hopes for a better result than this week when he was eliminated in the second round. However, he’s happy to be playing at all, given that he recently got over the coronavirus.

"My fight and effort brought me back to the match against Brown, and against Role, I chose the wrong tactics, and after that, it was difficult to come back. I had COVID-19, because of which I spent ten days in isolation in Zadar, and now it is not easy to regain my old form. I didn’t even know if I would play, so these two matches will help lift my form. I will definitely be better next week," said Ajduković.

Serdarušić also dropped out in the second round, but that is also a shift compared to last year when he was knocked out in the first round.

"Thanks to the director for the invitation, it's great that we have three Croatians in the main tournament. For me, this week was positive because I didn't really play this year. I also went through COVID-219 and quarantine. The situation is certainly not normal because we are quarantined almost every week, we have to get tested, and we don’t know if we will cross the border, but at least we are lucky to be able to play. A lot of players are under stress, and no one is in great shape. It’s great for us that we don’t really have to travel outside the country every week, and now we’re home for two weeks. These conditions on Firule can only be compared to Monte Carlo, in that the terrain is immediately at sea."

The draw for the qualifiers, singles tournament, and doubles tournament is scheduled for Saturday.

"I hope that we will have at least one Croat in the final. Let Borna, Duje, and Nino agree on who it will be!" concluded Ismar Moralić. 

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Monday, 5 April 2021

ATP Challenger Split Open: Croatian Mili Poljičak Falls against Aleksandar Vukić

April 5, 2021 - Mili Poljičak tried as hard as he could, but failed to make it out of the Split Open's first round.

The 16-year-old tennis player from Split, who received an invitation from the organizers instead of the injured Borna Goja, met Aleksandar Vukić on Monday who made it very tough to win. It was 6:1, 6:1 in 51 minutes of play.

Even with good knowledge of the Firule terrain, it couldn't help Mili, as the Australian tennis player with Montenegrin and Bosnian roots was simply too strong. Mili tried many things, on one occasion even a serve under his arm, but nothing worked in the long run against the twenty-four-year-old Sydney-born player and the 207th tennis player on the ATP list.


Robert Pleško

"I expected more, but it didn't work out. He was a lot better than me, and I wasn’t at my best. For me, this is only the fourth senior tournament; here the guys are more prepared, better, and faster and it is difficult to switch from junior tennis. If I had used some opportunities at the beginning of the match, it might have been different, but Vukić set himself up well and I had no chance," commented Poljičak after the match, who reached his first professional victory in ITF tournaments in Rovinj last month. Now, he's made his debut in the Challengers in Split and, despite a convincing defeat, gained valuable experience to continue his career.


Robert Pleško

Poljičak is also competing in the doubles competition of the Split Open, where he and partner Duja Kekez will play against fourth seed Raja and Weissborn in the first round.

"After these doubles, the plan is to play the next Challenger in Split, then Futures in Šibenik, some junior tournaments, and then junior Roland Garros," concluded Poljičak.

Winner Vukić praised the young Croatian tennis player.


Robert Pleško

"He is young and has potential, it can be seen immediately. I was already in Croatia, in Bol at the ITF tournament and it was really nice. So that is why I am here now in Split. The hotel and food are great, the tennis center in Firule too. Everything is great."

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Saturday, 3 April 2021

Split Open: Two ATP Challenger Tournaments in Split this Month!

 April 3, 2021 - The second edition of the ATP Challenger Split Open this year will be a two-parter! Week after week, two ATP Challenger tournaments in Split will be played, from April 5 to 11 and from April 12 to 18, at the Tennis Center in the Firule neighborhood of Split.

Last year's premiere edition at the beginning of autumn was a success, and this year an additional step forward is expected in all segments of the organization.

Just before the start of the tournament, a press conference was organized on the terrace of the Split Tennis Club 1950 in Firule, where the tournament director Ismar Moralić revealed the main news.

“The fact that we have two tournaments is a reward for all the good we did last year. The original date was from April 12 to 18, and then there was an opportunity for another tournament that we couldn’t miss. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts, we did not get permission for spectators in the stands. These are some things we can’t influence.


Robert Pleško

Strong names in the draw are expected this year, although Moralić points out that the final list of players depends on the negative tests for Covid-19, which the players must submit by Sunday.

“The ‘cut’ for the main tournament is 188th place, and for the qualifiers 216. Again, none of our players could enter the qualifiers, giving them invitations for the main tournament. They go to the local boys and last year's semifinalists Borna Goja and Duja Ajduković and our Davis Cup national team member Nino Serdarušić. I believe the second tournament will be even stronger as only Monte Carlo is played that week. We have 32 players in the draw, and 450 of them applied for the tournament. This year we also had pre-qualifications in which 40 players competed. They were a complete hit, and that is the direction we will continue.”

Moralić thanked everyone without whose support the tournament would not have been possible.

“Thank you to the City of Split with Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara, who recognized the project; thank you to Split-Dalmatia County, the Split Tourist Board, and the Split Sports Federation headed by Andrija Polić. Look at the club today; it looks better than a year ago, infrastructurally and the court's quality."

Mate Omazić, Head of the Department for Social Activities, spoke on behalf of the City of Split.

“Under normal conditions, the goal was to have a tournament before Sv. Duje, in the pre-season. Last year's edition had a great response, and I am glad that the children of Split will once again get a chance to earn points that will raise them on the ranking list. We need to invest in young people, and the City has recognized that. TC Firule gets the final views.”


Robert Pleško

Ivica Kekez, president of TK Split 1950, announced that Split could soon win the tournament at the ATP level.

"We are creating a world brand, and Split and this center deserve an ATP tournament, although it will depend on the economic situation in the city. We could do it at the level of Umag, if not better."

The statement of Tomislav Borozan, director of the Public Institution Sports Facilities Split, is on the same track.

“I am sure that this tournament will make a step forward in quality and organization and that it will become an ATP tournament. This center deserves it. By the way, traffic and parking are a big problem at this location, but we have a solution. There is a two-story parking project on plots 8, 9, and 10 where there are over 3000 square meters; it was denied funds due to COVID-19 last year. There are 250 parking spaces and three new tennis courts at the road level, which would give us three indoor courts. It is a self-sustainable project; not a penny is needed from the city budget.”

The draw for the Split Open qualifiers is scheduled for Saturday, and the main tournament draw for Sunday. Qualifiers are played on Sunday and Monday, and the first matches of the main tournament are also from Monday, April 5t.

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Monday, 22 October 2018

Ivo Karlović Becomes Oldest Winner in ATP Challenger History!

The 39-year-old from Zagreb has made ATP Challenger history!