Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Kohlschreiber’s First Challenger Title in 15 Years

The first week of the 2020 ATP Challenger Tour was a bit overshadowed by the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup but it featured loads of good tennis and popcorn matchups.

Canberra (Bendigo)

Due to the bushfires in Australia, the Canberra Challenger was moved to Bendigo, about a 6-7 hour drive away. But the organizers worked well to make sure that every player had an easy way to travel to the new destination.

Philipp Kohlschreiber was the first winner crowned on the 2020 ATP Challenger Tour circuit. The German veteran defeated coming-up Finnish star Emil Ruusuvuori 7-6 4-6 6-3 in the championship match. Both players were sublime on their way to the finals, dropping just a set apiece. Ruusuvuori had to come through a blockbuster matchup with Jannik Sinner in the second round, while Philipp Kohlschreiber stormed through some ATP World Tour regulars, including Evgeny Donskoy, Peter Gojowczyk and Steve Johnson.

It was Kohlschreiber’s first ATP Challenger Tour title since 2005, when he defeated Teymuraz Gabashvili at Reunion Island. He was unsuccessful in his next seven Challenger events, reaching one final at Istanbul in 2011 (lost to Denis Istomin). Struggling to get his rhythm going in the latter half of the 2019 season, Kohlschreiber’s decision to start the year at the ATP Challenger Tour has paid off. With five matches under his belt, the German will be arriving in Melbourne shortly with a lot of new-found confidence.

Noumea

The final had to be played on Monday due to excessive rain throughout Sunday.

Former college star J.J. Wolf was the best player throughout the week in the French collectivity of New Caledonia. In Wolf’s first ATP Challenger Tour event outside North America, he dropped just one set, in the second round against Roberto Carballes Baena. The American ripped his apart his semifinal and final opponents, Matteo Viola and Yuichi Sugita, giving them just eight games combined. Over the whole week, Wolf dropped his serve only four times (three to Carballes Baena).

The youngster now finds himself on an 11-match winning streak, dating back to the Champaign Challenger in November. He will also improve his career-high ranking by a couple of positions. This week’s Australian Open qualifying will be Wolf’s second attempt to make it to a Grand Slam main draw.

Maximilian Marterer played his first match since the 2019 Roland Garros. The German missed over half a year due to knee injury but looked very solid in a first-round loss to Ernests Gulbis. Seeking his first Challenger Tour win since September 2018, the Latvian defended three match points and slowed down Marterer’s comeback with a 1-6 6-3 7-6 victory.

Ann Arbor

Ulises Blanch took advantage of a very depleted field with no top 200 players participating. Logistics was the reason for that as these who would go far would have to go to Australia with very little time to acclimatize. Blanch played four Americans to reach the semifinals, ending up having to beat two “foreigners” to grab his second ATP Challenger Tour crown (Perugia 2018). Blanch will make a jump of 154 ranking spots and reach a career-high ranking of world no. 265. The American didn’t make the cut for the Australian Open qualifying but this new ranking position will allow him to get a main draw spot in almost every ATP Challenger Tour event.

It was also Carlos Berlocq’s first event in a new role – a coach of Agustin Velotti. The recently retired Argentinian had to endure some tough moments as Velotti dropped his second round encounter to Roberto Cid Subervi, despite serving for the match and missing six match points. Subervi took the win in a 28-point marathon deciding tie-break and went on to reach the final.

Challenger Tour magic:

If the quarterfinal victory meant this much to him, just imagine what he felt after the final:

And a brilliant lob from the 18-year-old Juan Manuel Cerundolo:

Events held this week:

  • Bangkok Challenger (Challenger 80)
  • Bendigo Challenger (Challenger 80)

The week before a Grand Slam the Challenger Tour gets much less priority, as most players ranked in the second hundred of the ATP Rankings choose to play qualifying for the Australian Open. But the Bendigo Challenger has attracted a fair share of top players who are already in the main draw of the January Grand Slam. ATP Rankings top 100 players in action are:

  • Marton Fucsovics, Roberto Carballes Baena, Stefano Travaglia, Steve Johnson, Damir Dzumhur, Egor Gerasimov

As Bangkok Challenger is far away from Melbourne, it wasn’t a possible choice for those participating in the Australian Open. But there are some great players in the field who decided to skip the first major of the year, including Jiri Vesely, Attila Balazs, Robin Haase, Denis Istomin, and Malek Jaziri.

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