Emilio Gomez is your 2022 Winnipeg National Bank Challenger champion.
The 30-year-old from Ecuador beat Canadian Alexis Galarneau in Sunday afternoon’s final at the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club.
Gomez won the first set handedly at 7-3, and then jumped out to a 4-1 advantage in the second, but Galarneau wouldn’t go down without a fight. The Laval native fought back but ultimately lost 7-6.
The match was originally slated to start at 11 a.m., but a rain delay prevented them from starting until 2 p.m.
“Alexis kept fighting like the fighter that he is. That’s his best quality,” Gomez said.
“But I was happy with my performance all week. In the tiebreaker, I played a little more aggressive to try to take it and go for the title.”
Gomez, the top-ranked player in Ecuador, is the son of Andrés Gomez. Andrés was a star tennis player who beat Andre Agassi to win the 1990 French Open.
Gomez didn’t drop a single set all week.
“I’ve been feeling great the whole week. I had a really good practice session for 10 days in Bradenton, Florida before coming here,” said Gomez.
“I’ve been in Winnipeg since not last Thursday, but the Thursday before that to get used to it and see how it is. I’m happy that it went the best possible way.”
Although Galarneau was hoping to become the first Canadian to win the event, he’s happy with his performance.
“It’s a big step forward for me. It also shows me that I have the level (of skill) and that I have the physicality,” Galarneau said.
“I just have to keep improving and working on the things that I need to work on.”
This was the first Winnipeg National Bank Challenger since 2019 when Slovakian Norbert Gombos beat Canadian Brayden Schnur in the final. The pandemic kept professional tennis out of Winnipeg for the past two years, but players like Galarneau were thrilled to be back in town this week.
“I’ve played this tournament three times now and each time it’s gotten better,” Galarneau said.
“Also, the people that organize it are really good people. They’re authentic and it’s a really, really nice environment for me, and for all players, really. It’s not just because I’m Canadian. It just shows how Canadians are nice people.”