Artem Smirnov is the men’s spotlight player for March after securing three consecutive singles titles in his native Ukraine whilst also picking up a doubles title along the way.
Smirnov made a solid start to 2014 by taking home the title in two tournaments and reaching the quarterfinals of a third event in Turkey in February. Those successes meant the 26-year-old entered Ukraine F1 at the start of March as the top seed and one of the potential favourites.
Moldovan qualifier Alexander Cozbinov provided the first test and pushed Smirnov all the way in a 64 67(4) 63 scoreline with Smirnov proving just too strong at the vital moments to close out the victory.
Another test awaited in the second round as Florian Bath also took the Ukrainian to a third set but again fell just shy of causing an upset.
Two seeded players were dispatched in the following rounds on the way to the final as first the former Top 10 junior Stefano Napolitano was eased aside 63 76(4) before Smirnov really hit his stride in a 64 62 defeat of third seed Filip Veger.
Standing in the way in the final was qualifier Vladimir Uzhylovsky, who was also Smirnov’s doubles partner at the event with the pair reaching the semifinals together. A tight first set went to a tiebreak which was taken by Smirnov before he confirmed a straight sets victory 76(4) 63 to add to his haul for the year.
The second of the three weeks in Cherkassy saw Smirnov entered into the qualifying draw with a wild card and very nearly went out before reaching the main draw as he dropped the opening set against Maxim Ratniuk and was pushed to a tiebreak in the second set before eventually winning through 46 76(4) 63.
William Boe-Wiegaard was seen off in straight sets to set up a rematch of the previous week’s second round match against Barth. The German once again proved a tough nut to crack as they split the opening two sets only for a repeat of the eventual result from seven days earlier.
A semifinal against fourth seed Erik Chvojka produced one of the closest matches with Smirnov once again proving he has the capacity to win tight encounters, progressing 67(5) 76(5) 63.
Ahead of the singles final, Smirnov was once again partnering Uzhylovsky in the doubles competition where they had progressed comfortably through and defeated Vladyslav Manafov and Veger 64 63 for the trophy.
It was once again a qualified who stood in the way of Smirnov achieving back-to-back titles, this time Dmytro Badanov pushed the top seed to three sets but his challenge fell away at the end with a 64 46 61 result in a what was a 12th straight victory for the Ukrainian.
The final week of the series saw Smirnov once again dominate the tournament with four of the five match-ups being repeats of previous weeks. Uzhylovsky retired having lost the first set of the opening round before Ratniuk and Chvojka failed once again to snap the increasingly impressive win-streak.
Denys Molchanov in the semifinal was the single new opponent in Ukraine F3 but fared no better than the others, losing 76(4) 62. Badanov was again across the net from Smirnov in the final and once more forced a deciding set only to be defeated 62 46 62.
Having accumulated a total of 17 victories and 54 singles ranking points Smirnov ended the month ranked world No.289 – just shy of his career high from 2011 of No.262. The 26-year-old now leads the way in total Pro Circuit titles for the year with five and is next scheduled to play for country in Davis Cup action at the start of April against Sweden.