Although the ATP 500 Rio Open caught most of the attention in men’s tennis this week, the Challenger Tour saw another week of thrilling tennis as well as some controversy. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed.
Challenger Tour Recap
With the coronavirus having reached Europe and a lock down ordered by the Italian government, the Bergamo final could not be played. Instead, Ilya Marchenko and Enzo Couacaud were both awarded the prize money and ranking points they would have earned as runner-up. Marchenko, once ranked as high as 49th in the world, had been struggling to get his season going, winning just one of his previous four matches and is still making his way back from two six-month long spells out injury.
But he played some fine tennis in Bergamo, most notably in rallying from a set down to beat Baptiste Crepatte, who served for the match up 7-6 6-5, with Marchenko winning the decider to love. The points he earned for his ‘runner-up’ finish in Italy will take him to world #211, with a return to the top 200 now looking likely for Marchenko. He will next be in action at the Pau Challenger, where he faces the German Matthias Bachinger in the first round.
The 24-year-old Couacaud, meanwhile, excelled, although he was not the favourite of the Italian crowd having beaten the home hopes Luca Vanni and Roberto Marcora. In the semifinals, he accounted for the talented young gun Tseng Chun-hsin, saving two match points in the decider en route to a 4-6 6-3 7-6 win. He will now enter the top 200 and, like Marchenko, will be in the draw in Pau, where he will open his campaign against either Mats Moraing or Wu Tung-lin.
The other big news from Bergamo was the Challenger Tour debut of Leo Borg, son of the great Bjorn Borg. The 16-year-old was given a wildcard into the event, facing the aforementioned Tseng in the first round. But Borg, who had never previously played even at ITF-level, proved no match for the Taiwanese, who is two years his senior, and won just four games. However, he will return to action in Pau this week, where he has been awarded another wildcard and will face former-world #10 Ernests Gulbis in his opener.
After failing to defend the title he won last year in Cleveland, Maxime Cressy recaptured the winning touch in Drummondville. The French-born American is one of the rare exponents of the serve-and-volley style and also regularly chips and charges when returning. Fortunately for Cressy, he has a thunderous serve to ensure his forays to the net are often to put away simple volleys. In Drummondville, he hammered down 82 aces, saving all four break points he faced.
That big serving took him to the title relatively comfortably. His run included creditable victories over Germany’s Tobias Kamke and the Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech, who had some fine results on the Challenger Tour this season in his own right. He cracked the top 200 for the first time as a result, rising 61 spots to a career-high ranking of world #191. This week, he will remain in Canada for the Calgary Challenger, where he will face either Patrik Niklas Salminen or Jacob Grills after a first-round bye.
The 19-year-old Czech Tomas Machac proved to be the best in the field at the CGM Arena in Koblenz. Machac showed his talent on the Challenger Tour last summer, reaching the quarterfinals in Ostrava and the semifinals in Liberec. In Koblenz, he beat, amongst others, Teymuraz Gabashvili, Vit Kopriva, and Ruben Bemelmans on the way to the final, with the Dutchman Botic Van De Zandschulp providing him with his only real test of the week, taking a set off the young gun in the final. Machac will now compete at an M25 event in Trento, at a career-high ranking of #251.
Last year’s champion, Matias Franco Descotte, returned to the Morelos Open in an attempt to defend 80 of his 103 ATP points. But although he once again showed some good touch on Mexican soil, defeating Collin Altamirano in the first round, he was well-beaten by eventual champion Jurij Rodionov in the second round and fell 328 places in the rankings to world #685 today. He will no longer gain direct entrance to Challenger main draws as a result.
Rodionov, however, had a week to remember, becoming the first player to win two Challenger Tour titles in 2020. He had a disappointing year in 2019, but played some great tennis two weeks ago to win the title in Dallas. In the quarterfinals, he found himself a double-break down in the decider, but rallied to beat Alejandro Gonzales and did not look back, battling to hard-fought three-set wins in the semifinals, over Guilherme Clezar, and final, against Juan Pablo Ficovich, to claim the title.
His efforts have earned him a career-high ranking of world #172 and the 20-year-old will next be in action in Columbus, opening his tournament against either Lloyd Glasspool or Cannon Kingsley.
Challenger Tour magic:
Absurd touch from Ilya Marchenko:
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) February 23, 2020
Dustin Brown had a decent week after a while, so there were hot shots, obviously:
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) February 20, 2020
Some stunning defense took Roberto Cid Subervi to the quarterfinals in Drummondville this week:
Cid on the run! ??
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 21, 2020
A stunning tweener from Antoine Escoffier:
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) February 18, 2020
Events held this week:
- Terega Open Pau-Pyrenees (Challenger 100)
- Calgary National Bank Challenger (Challenger 90)
- Columbus Challenger (Challenger 80)
Top 100 players in action:
- Jiri Vesely (Pau)
- Vasek Pospisil (Calgary)
The Terega Open Pau-Pyrenees have given their wildcards to some very intriguing players. Besides the aforementioned Leo Borg, it will be Jerzy Janowicz’s next step on the comeback trail. Australian Open juniors champion Harold Mayot also received a wild card.
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