Third crown for Clayton after Challenger ‘breakthrough’

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The Jerseyman, who retired from Wimbledon last summer with a wrist injury that would keep him sidelined for six months, partnered Adil Shamasdin to men’s doubles glory in Pau on Sunday, having only paired up with the Canadian in January for his competitive comeback.

The duo beat Dutchman Sander Arends and Austrian Tristan-Samuel Weissborn 7-6, 5-7, 10-8 in the final to send Clayton back up to 164 in the world. The former De La Salle student had dropped down to 191 on the men’s doubles ladder after failing to retain his title at the Bergamo Challenger in Italy last month.

‘We reached the semi-finals in Budapest and in Italy [in February], so to get the title this week was great,’ said the 25-year-old.

‘It’s my third one so it’s still a relatively new thing and it’s even more special having been away from the game for so long. At one stage during my injury I wasn’t sure if I’d be playing again so to come back and win relatively quickly is a bonus, and we’re beating some good teams.

‘We had a breakthrough moment in Italy and we took that into the matches last week. We beat Fabrice Martin, who won an ATP 250 event the week before and has been as high as top 20 in the world and we saved some early match points. If you save match points early on in a tournament it’s almost as if you’re destined to go on and win it and in Italy we won three Championship tie-breakers out of four.’

Having missed the second half of last season Clayton will not have ATP ranking points to defend from July 2019 onwards, meaning progression through the rounds of post-Wimbledon Challengers could reap huge rewards as he looks to reach the top 100.

‘After Italy I dropped down because I only made the semi-finals and I was defending the title,’ Clayton explained.

‘I ended up dropping down into the 190s but winning this gets me back up to the 160s, which is a big step. To be around 160 after playing for just six months [after injury] is great so I want to maintain that and look to push on when I’m not defending any points after Wimbledon.’

Discussing a potential third wildcard visit to the showpiece Grand Slam in London, he said: ‘If we keep doing what we’re doing and winning Challengers it will put our names into their [the organisers’] heads. But it’s still a long way away – for now we’ve just got to focus on the Challengers and getting my ranking back to where I feel it should be.’

Clayton is supported by Rathbones.

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