Often marginalized, the ATP Challenger Tour is a wild place. Professional tennis players try to discover their path to the glory and the prize money that being in the top 100 brings. Some just breeze through that level and then stay in the upper echelons of the ATP rankings and some might never make it. Each year, there are about 160 Challenger tournaments and if you’ve never been at one, here are eight reasons why you should definitely do it.
Little to no money
Forget about enormous ticket fees and not being able to find an affordable place to stay. Most Challenger Tour events don’t take place in world-famous holiday resorts and a lot of them are entirely or at least for the first few days, free to watch. When you go to a big tennis tournament you would usually choose a few days so that you don’t spend all your savings. The affordability of Challenger Tour tickets allows you to see the entire tournament and follow as the players progress through the draw.
You can see future stars…
As mentioned before, many players breeze through that level and never look back. Coming to a Challenger Tour event you never know who this 18-year-old will become in the future. The audience at the 1999 Brest Challenger had no idea that the winner of that tournament will be one of the dominators of the sport for the next 20 years and capture as many Grand Slam titles. Don’t you want to be that guy who goes around telling people that he first saw Novak Djokovic at the 2004 Budapest Challenger and forecasted that he would achieve great things?
…and former greats on the verge of retirement
Challenger Tour is also a place where many former top 100 players end their careers. Just the previous week, Andrey Golubev, Paolo Lorenzi, Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Teymuraz Gabashvili and Tommy Robredo all played Challenger tournaments. Nicolas Almagro, four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, played his last career match this year at the Murcia Challenger. A former top 100 player Michał Przysiężny called it quits a week ago at the Sopot Open. Sometimes the Challenger Tour might also be a comeback platform for those coming back after a break – Kei Nishikori played two Challenger events in January 2018, Andre Agassi famously decided to play Las Vegas Challenger back in 1997 and just last week Hyeon Chung won a title in Chengdu after being six months out of the competition.
The quality of play
Any player who has an ATP ranking has had years of training and you shouldn’t undervalue it. The difference between the player ranked number 400 and the player ranked number 50 is slimmer than you might think (as of today, it’s Martin Cuevas and Pablo Carreno Busta). Following a Challenger Tour event, many times you would find yourself thinking – why did that guy make it and this one did not? The answer isn’t simple – it lies in the mental side of the sport and the ability to consistently produce your best during high-profile matches. Take some time and have a closer look at how perfect all these guys are when it comes to the technique. Don’t just believe this article, go see for yourself.
Being really close to the players
ATP Challenger Tour events give you the unique opportunity to really meet the players. Think about how tough it is to even get an autograph from Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. At these tournaments, the players often wander alone around the courts, you will sit in the stands right next to their wives, parents and coaches and be able to personally congratulate them after a good match. The Challenger Tour events aren’t played at big stadiums where the competitors are many meters away from you and there is a lot of joy and excitement to be found in communicating with the players. Who knows maybe you’ll find yourself a new idol who has a flashy, spectacular game and is a nice, humble guy in person?
Check the viewing perspective
Have you ever bought tickets for a big sporting event and then found that the seats you bought were quite cheap but the perspective makes it unwatchable? As most Challenger Tour events allow you to freely roam around the stands during breaks, take a moment to sit at different spots and see which angle is your favorite. This might save you some nerves when you buy your Arthur Ashe Stadium etc. tickets as you will know which perspective suits you best.
Watch all of the action
Forget about being able to only access one court. During the first few days of a Challenger Tour event, matches are usually played on around three or four arenas. If you want to see every single player you have to check live scores, plan well and do a lot of walking around the complex. The reward is great though as it never really gets boring and time just flies by you. Watching all of the matches allows you to see where everyone’s at and make some early judgments on how the tournament will go and it’s a lot of fun seeing how it unfolds in real life.
Crazy stuff happens
There is a lot of anger and breaking rackets on the main tour but Challengers aren’t far behind. Here Carlos Berlocq destroys a racket at the second point of the match:
Es solo el 2º punto del partido entre Carlos Berlocq y Rogerio Dutra Silva en Aix en Provence y ojo a lo que pasa: pic.twitter.com/dZLdmsrBTU
— Resultados de tenis (@result_de_tenis) May 21, 2016
Ante Pavic breaks a racket in a pretty unusual situation:
Warning Mr. Matosevic pic.twitter.com/EWMOXS78Cs
— Stefano Berlincioni (@Carretero77) May 31, 2016
And last but not least, the hot shots!
See you at the ATP Challenger Tour!