Soeda beats Zverev for Challenger title

WAILEA – For the first time since 2006, world-class tennis was played on the Valley Isle over the last week in the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Maui Challenger.

Go Soeda is glad to hear that plans are for the event to return on an annual basis.

Soeda battled a relentless sun and Mischa Zverev for nearly 2 1/2 hours in Sunday’s final at Wailea Tennis Club to win 7-5, 7-5 for his second straight Challenger title in Hawaii – the first came on Oahu.

“It was very, very tough because it was hot and he makes no mistakes,” Soeda said. “Here in Hawaii, maybe I have luck, you know?”

The top-seeded Soeda, No. 73 in the ATP world rankings, said if his schedule allows he will be back on Maui next year. The 28-year-old from Japan had to hustle to the Valley Isle after being eliminated in the second round of the Australian Open earlier this month.

“I hope I come back here, but it depends on my ranking,” Soeda said. “I like this tournament, so (I want) next time to come here.”

Soeda picked up $7,200 and 80 rankings points for the title.

Zverev narrowly missed being seeded – the No. 8 seed went to Ryan Sweeting, ranked 153rd by the ATP, five spots ahead of the 25-year-old German, who beat No. 2 Tatsuma Ito, No. 5 Alex Bogomo-lov Jr. and No. 3 Mike Russell, the champion of the 2006 event at Wailea, on the way to the final.

“He knew he would have to be especially mentally tough today and he didn’t miss anything,” Zverev said of Soeda. “I think he played very smart, he played intelligent against me and it worked out for him. I think maybe he was able to, you know, a little bit destroy my game, so I wasn’t as effective as I wanted to be. I mean, he deserved to win and he won.”

Zverev, who has four Challenger titles to his credit, received $4,240.

“I will probably move up a little after this final, but my goal is to be in the top 100 again,” he said. “That’s what I’m aiming for. This is my fourth final in a year or so, so I have been around a little bit.”

The two finalists played a match in Japan nine years ago.

“I won that match, I remember,” Soeda said. “It was from juniors, but I have a very, very good memory.”

Zverev smiled and said, “That was a long time ago.”

Soeda reached No. 47 in the world last year.

“It’s tough, but I am trying this year, too,” he said.

The 75-minute first set had seven service breaks – Soeda rallied from a 3-1 deficit, and converted his third set point.

In the second set, there were three breaks – back-to-back to tie the set at 3-3, and then by Soeda on his fourth break point of the 11th game. He took the match with four straight points in the next game after falling behind love-30.

With Soeda trailing 4-3 and the score at deuce in the second set, Zverev turned an ankle and required a seven-minute break to get it taped by a trainer.

“It bothered me a little bit, it was a little painful,” he said. “I can’t say without the ankle I would have won it easy, but if you twist an ankle and take a medical timeout, it still hurts a little bit.”

The doubles title went to Hsin-Han Lee and Hsien-Yin Peng, Chinese-Taipei’s Davis Cup doubles tandem, who defeated Americans Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren 6-7, 6-2, 10-5.

Lee and Peng, seeded third, had three of their four matches go to a super tiebreaker.

“How tough was it? First of all, it is very sunny and there is no wind today, also our opponents were doing very great today, especially from the baseline,” Peng said. “We had a little trouble in the first set, but we came back in the second and we did good in the super tiebreaker.”

* Robert Collias is at