The 2019 ATP Challenger Tour saw 158 events played around the globe over the course of almost eleven months. It was the Tour’s 42nd edition, although it was known as the ATP Challenger Series until 2008, and as ever it saw no shortage of thrilling tennis, with both young guns and experienced veterans battling it out in the hopes of breaking into the top tier of the sport. So ahead of the new season, let’s take a look back at the most important numbers from 2019:
- 4 – Emil Ruusuvuori, Ricardas Berankis, Mikael Ymer, James Duckworth
- 3 – Gianluca Mager, Pablo Andujar, Alexander Bublik, Andrej Martin, Ugo Humbert, Thiago Monteiro, Tommy Paul, Jannik Sinner
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a real mixture of youth and experience amongst the champions on the ATP Challenger Tour this season. The 20-year-old Finn Ruusuvuori saw the most success overall, adding two doubles titles to the four he won in singles. But it is arguably Berankis who deserves the MVP award, having won four tournaments despite competing in just seven events. By way of comparison, Ymer played 14, Ruusuvuori 16 and Duckworth 22.
- 7 – Max Purcell, Luke Saville
- 6 – Ariel Behar, Gonzalo Escobar, Hsieh Cheng-peng, Filip Polasek, Andrei Vasilevski
Purcell and Saville played 20 events together, winning seven of them and finishing the year with an excellent record of 41 wins and 12 losses. Polasek, meanwhile, only returned to professional tennis in 2018 having retired five years earlier due to nerve damage and loose discs in his spine. But he stormed back into the limelight in 2019, winning six Challengers with three different partners. But things then got even better for the Czech.
Joining up with Ivan Dodig, who broke the world’s top 30 in singles and won the 2015 French Open in doubles, Polasek made the step up to the main tour. Together they reached the semifinals at the All England Club, before winning titles at the Cincinnati Masters and the China Open in Beijing. That was enough to take him to a career-high ranking of world #10 and saw the pair qualify for the ATP Finals in London. Don’t expect to see him on the Challenger Tour in 2020.
Most finals, semifinals and quarterfinals
Finals: 6 – James Duckworth, Mikael Ymer
Both Duckworth and Ymer managed win four of the six finals they played.
Semifinals: 8 – Federico Coria, Sumit Nagal
Quarterfinals: 11 – Gianluca Mager, James Duckworth, Federico Coria
Most match wins
- 49 – James Duckworth, Federico Coria
- 47 – Andrej Martin
- 45 – Carlos Taberner
- 44 – Gianluca Mager
- 41 – Federico Gaio
- 40 – Norbert Gombos, Sumit Nagal
Best win percentage (at least 10 matches played)
- Pablo Andujar – 19/2 (91%)
- Ricardas Berankis – 24/3 (89%)
- Tommy Paul – 27/5 (84%)
- Vasek Pospisil – 14/3 (82%)
- Jannik Sinner – 28/7 (80%)
- Hyeon Chung 8/2 (80%)
Titles in Alicante, Marbella and Prostejov saw the 33-year-old Andujar, four times a champion in ATP Tour-level and once ranked as high as 32nd in the world, top this list. The only two players to beat him this year were Wu Tung-lin and Federico Gaio. All five events the Spaniard contested were played on his favoured clay.
Number of events per surface
- Hard – 87 (Outdoor – 59; Indoor – 28)
- Clay – 65 (Outdoor – 62; Indoor – 3)
- Grass – 3
- Carpet – 3
Most titles by surface
- 3 – James Duckworth (Bangkok, Playford, Pune)
- 2 – Soonwoo Kwon, Yuichi Sugita, Ricardas Berankis, Emil Ruusuvuori, Tommy Paul, Yasutaka Uchiyama, Marc Polmans, Zhizhen Zhang, Marcus Giron
- 2 – Ricardas Berankis (Drummondville, Rennes), Gregoire Barrere (Quimper, Lille), Alexander Bublik (Pau, Budapest), Ugo Humbert (Cherbourg, Brest), Jannik Sinner (Bergamo, Ortisei), Emil Ruusuvuori (Glasgow, Helsinki), Mikael Ymer (Orleans, Mouilleron Le Captif), Jeffrey John Wolf (Columbus, Champaign), Dennis Novak (Taipei, Bratislava)
These nine men won 18 out of the 28 Challenger titles played on an indoor hard court in 2019.
- 3 – Pablo Andujar (Marbella, Alicante, Prostejov), Andrej Martin (Nanchang, Shymkent, Shymkent II)
- 2 – Juan Pablo Varillas, Tommy Robredo, Yannick Hanfmann, Pedro Sousa, Pablo Cuevas, Stefano Travaglia, Roberto Carballes Baena, Gianluca Mager, Hugo Dellien, Thiago Monteiro
Although Andujar and Martin both claimed three titles, the Slovakian played a lot more tennis on the Challenger Tour than Andujar. Martin entered 22 Challengers this season, whilst, as mentioned above, Andujar played just five. Notably, however, neither man played a Challenger away from the clay.
- 2 – Dan Evans (Surbiton, Nottingham)
- 1 – Dominik Koepfer
It was possible to win all three Challenger Tour grass-court events this season, but Evans, who finished the year inside the world’s top 50 and as the British #1, elected not to play in Ilkley.
- 1 – John Millman (Kaohsiung), Lukas Lacko (Ismaning), Jiri Vesely (Eckental)
Number of events per country
- 26 – United States
- 18 – Italy
- 16 – France (including Noumea, New Caledonia)
- 13 – China
Hardly surprising, right?
Titles won by nation
- 15 – Italy (Gianluca Mager, Jannik Sinner, Matteo Berrettini, Stefano Travaglia, Lorenzo Giustino, Federico Gaio, Lorenzo Sonego, Andreas Seppi)
- 14 – United States, Spain
- 10 – Australia
It was a great year for Italian tennis all round and that was certainly the case on the Challenger Tour. Eight of the 15 Challenger titles won by Italian players came on home soil, but they also picked up victories as far afield as Kazakhstan, Poland and the United States. In contrast, the only American to win outside of the USA was Ernesto Escobedo and even he did not travel far, triumphing in Granby, just under 50 kilometres north of the US/Canadian border.
Top 50 Challenger Commitment
Top 50 players in Challenger draws this year pic.twitter.com/aEZk2QdXQX
— Oleg S. (@AnnaK_4ever) September 27, 2019
Qualifiers that went on to reach the quarterfinals
17 qualifiers made it to quarterfinals, nine to semifinals, but just one qualifier, Maxime Cressy, made it all the way to a Challenger Tour final, doing so in Cleveland. But the Frenchman didn’t rest on his laurels, beating Denmark’s Mikael Torpegaard 6-7 7-6 6-3 to win the title, the first of his career in Challenger Tour-level.
Lucky losers who reached quarterfinals
- Viktor Troicki in Heilbronn
- Andrea Pellegrino in Vicenza
Players on a protected ranking who reached quarterfinals
- Facundo Mena in Cuernavaca and San Luis Potosi
- Raymond Sarmiento in Little Rock
- Daniel Altmaier in Como
- Inigo Cervantes in Sevilla
Wildcards who won the title
- Jeffrey John Wolf in Columbus
- Taylor Fritz in Newport Beach
- Jannik Sinner in Bergamo
- Kyle Edmund in Indian Wells
- Pablo Cuevas in Tunis
- Lucas Pouille in Bordeaux
- Roberto Carballes Baena in Lisbon
- Dan Evans in Nottingham
- Zhang Zhizhen in Jinan
- Lorenzo Sonego in Genoa
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Cassis
- Mikael Ymer in Orleans
Wolf, Sinner and Zhang deserve special mention for being the only three players on the list who needed wildcards to make the draw. The other nine players were awarded wildcards as late entrants.
How successful were the recipients of the ITF places?
Due to the ranking system reform that was abandoned in August, a few spots in the main draws were reserved for players qualifying by their ITF ranking. Three players who got their place in the event that way won the title:
- Steven Diez in Burnie
- Matias Franco Descotte in Morelos
- Christopher O’Connell in Cordenons
O’Connell’s success came in the penultimate week where the ITF places were awarded.
- Sandro Ehrat beat Martin Cuevas in Savannah.
- Ze Zhang and Maoxin Gong beat Patthravut Saimongkol and Chotiwat Naen-Udorn in Bangkok.
- Lukas Miedler and Sebastian Ofner beat Iker Munoz/Jose Andres Perez in Leon.
- Joao Domingues beat Bernabe Zapata Miralles in Braga.
- Duck-hee Lee over Darian King in Little Rock.
Longest doubles super-tie-breakers
- 18-16 Andrea Vavassori and Vega Hernandez beat Sander Gille and Talion Griekspoor in Poznan.
- 18-16 Jamie Bendeck and Sven Lah beat Nathan Pasha and Max Schnur in New Haven.
- 17-15 Treat Huey and Max Schnur beat Roberto Maytin and Jackson Withrow in Little Rock.
Youngest match winner: Carlos Alcaraz Garfia
At just 15 years and 11 months old, Carlos Alcaraz Garfia beat fellow young gun Sinner in Alicante 6-2 3-6 6-3, becoming the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP Challenger Tour match. A week later in Murcia, he became the youngest player to beat top 200 opposition since Rafael Nadal when he got the better of Pedro Martinez. In the second half of the season, he reached a Challenger quarterfinal, becoming the youngest man to do so since Felix Auger-Aliassime. Surely a player with a bright future.
Worst semifinal record: Carlos Taberner (0/6)
- Alicante, lost 3-6 3-6 to Pablo Andujar.
- Prague, lost 5-7 2-6 to Mario Vilella Martinez.
- Meerbusch, lost 6-4 3-6 4-6 to Pedro Sousa.
- L’Aquila lost 6-4 6-7 6-7 to Andrea Collarini (2 MPs wasted).
- Seville lost 1-6 4-6 to Jaume Munar.
- Helsinki lost 1-6 3-6 to Mohamed Safwat.
Oldest ATP Challenger Tour champion: Tommy Robredo 37y1m
Ivo Karlovic had a big chance to improve on his own record for the oldest ever Challenger Tour champion, but failed to convert on six match points against Marcos Giron in the championship match in Houston.
Lowest ranked ATP Challenger Tour champion: Matias Franco Descotte – 612
The Argentinian got into the Morelos Challenger in February by virtue of his ITF ranking and ended up winning the title, beating Gonzalo Escobar 6-1 6-4 in the final. However, he failed to win back-to-back matches again at Challenger-level in 2019 and currently 90 of his 135 ranking points are the result of his triumph in Morelos.
Finals between the top two seeds:
- Danang – Marcel Granollers beats Matteo Viola 6-2 6-2
- Drummondville – Ricardas Berankis vs Yannick Maden 6-3 7-5.
- Marbella – Pablo Andujar beats Benoit Paire 4-6 7-6 6-4.
- Playford – James Duckworth beats Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-6 6-4.
In Playford, the top four seeds reached the semifinals. There wasn’t an event in which the top eight reached the quarterfinals.
Some players that surprisingly failed to win a match on the circuit this year:
Thomas Fabbiano (0/3)
- Brest, Ilya Marchenko 4-6 4-6
- Helsinki, Otto Virtanen 6-1 3-6 4-6
- Maia, Daniel Masur 4-6 6-2 3-6
Fabbiano beat Stefanos Tsitsipas at Wimbledon and Dominic Thiem at the US Open in a broadly successful season on the main tour, highlighted by a run to the third round at the Australian Open. But when he returned to the Challenger Tour late in the year in search of the points that would take him back into the top 100, he fell well-short.
Ernest Gulbis (0/4)
- Phoenix, Evgeny Donskoy 3-6 6-7
- Vancouver, Go Soeda 3-6 2-6
- Orleans, Hugo Nys 4-6 2-6
- Mouilleron Le Captif, Oscar Otte 6-2 6-7 0-2 RET
Another stellar season for Gulbis.
Jack Sock (0/3)
- Fairfield, Jack Draper 6-3 6-7 3-6
- Las Vegas, Michail Pervolarakis 6-7 0-1 RET
- Charlottesville, Sekou Bangoura 3-6 RET
After missing half a year with an injury, Sock failed to get a ranking point all year and is currently unranked as a result. His victory at the Paris Masters and run to the last four at the ATP Finals feels a lot longer than two years ago now.
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