Down a set-and-a-break, American Aleksandar Kovacevic rallied to stay alive in the Arizona Tennis Classic qualifying.

The 24-year-old earned a hard-fought 6-7(12), 7-6(6), 6-2 victory on Monday against Frenchman Geoffrey Blancaneaux after three hours, 10 minutes.

In the opening set tie-break, World No. 155 Blancaneaux fended off Kovacevic’s two set points before converting his eighth set point. The Frenchman then served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but Kovacevic increased his level to advance to the second round of qualifying at the Phoenix Challenger.


“Sometimes when you’re in those situations, a guy serving for the match, it’s kind of freeing, you’re thinking ‘I might as well go out swinging!’” Kovacevic said post-match. “If I was going to lose, I wanted to lose the right way, which is playing my game and being aggressive.

“I knew if I could put my game together a little bit that I could win a lot of points. I put it all together in that game [where he served for the match]. It gave me a little bit of confidence.”

Kovacevic, who is No. 107 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, will next meet countryman Bjorn Fratangelo for a spot in the star-studded main draw, which features Matteo Berrettini, Diego Schwartzman, Richard Gasquet, and Gael Monfils. Fratangelo, who earlier this month announced his engagement to WTA star Madison Keys, ousted Elias Ymer 6-4, 7-6(6).

In other qualifying action, Australian Rinky Hijikata won seven of nine break points to defeat Mitchell Krueger 6-3, 6-3. The 22-year-old, who triumphed at the Burnie Challenger in February, will clash Tuesday against Jan-Lennard Struff, who defeated Enzo Couacaud 6-4, 6-3. #NextGenATP Swiss Leandro Riedi cruised past Puerto Vallarta Challenger champion Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-1. Italian Mattia Bellucci downed American wild card Murphy Cassone 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Nathan Ponwith, who hails from Arizona, caused the first upset of the Phoenix Challenger qualifying by taking out fourth seed Yosuke Watanuki 7-6(2), 6-2.


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