Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Coronavirus Halts Play

Dustin Brown in action on the Challenger Tour

The coronavirus has caused the cancellation of sporting events across the globe and the ATP is no exception, with both the main tour and the Challenger Circuit cancelled for the next six weeks. That announcement came midweek and saw the Challengers in Nur-Sultan and Potchefstroom cancelled with the tournaments not yet completed. But before that, some entertaining tennis had been played. Here’s our (abbreviated) recap of what you might have missed:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Nur-Sultan

It might have been better had the Challenger in Nur-Sultan not gone ahead. The tournament seemed ill-prepared for dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19, with the response confusing to say the least. Wu Tung-Lin and Yang Tsung-Hua were denied entry to Kazakhstan, with the Kazakh government implementing a blanket travel ban on citizens of Chinese Taipei. Combined with a spate of withdrawals that saw the qualifying draw cancelled.

That saw a number of players handed a spot in the main draw who were perhaps out of their depth. Nenad Zimonjic, for example, had a fine doubles career, highlighted by his triumphs at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 and Roland Garros in 2010. But he is now 43 and his career-high ranking of world #176 in singles was achieved in 1999. Sanjar Fayziev, who was himself well beaten in the second round, made short work of the Serb, winning 6-1 7-6.

The government of Kazakhstan followed their initial ban with one on players from Germany, France and Denmark. That saw Yannick Maden and Enzo Couacaud forced to leave the country before playing their first-round matches or else face 14 days in quarantine. Mats Moraing and Mikael Torpegaard did manage to get onto court in Nur-Sultan, but were then faced with the same decision, with both choosing to return to Europe.

And not for the first time in Kazakhstan, there were some possible issues with the integrity of the competition. The most glaring example came in Mikhail Elgin’s clash with Szymon Walkow. Both men were alternates, but it was the Pole Walkow who was the slight underdog. However, after he won the first set 6-3, the odds shifted dramatically in his favour with Elgin appearing somewhat disinterested, ultimately going on to lose 3-6 1-6.

All third-round matches were finished in Nur-Sultan with the following players advancing to the quarterfinals:

Tallon Griekspoor

Pavel Kotov

Bernabe Zapata Miralles

Aslan Karatsev

Roman Safiullin

Kimmer Coppejans

Jesper De Jong

Ilya Marchenko

Potchefstroom

The first edition of the new Challenger 50 format did not quite go to plan. There were nine byes in the qualifying draw due to insufficient entries, although whether this was an issue with the format or due to the pandemic is unclear. Benjamin Bonzi, the top seed, and the ever-popular Dustin Brown did play some fine tennis, however, with both reaching the quarterfinals without encountering too many issues. But Brown, who is on the comeback trail after a serious hamstring injury will doubtless be frustrated at the prospect of spending another six weeks, at least, on the sidelines.

Seven second-round matches were finished, meaning these players will receive quarterfinal points:

Benjamin Bonzi

Sadio Doumbia

Dustin Brown

Daniel Masur

Fabian Reboul

Benjamin Lock

Hugo Grenier

Due to rain, one of the second-round matches was delayed and will not now be finished. The 18-year-old Briton Jack Draper led Tobias Simon 6-3 4-6 5-4, with Simon serving to stay in the match.

Challenger Tour magic:

Despite the shorter week, Dustin Brown still managed to find the time to hit a brilliant tweener:

Events held from 27th of April:

The ATP Challenger Tour is supposed to return in six weeks’ time. That date, however, is subject to change, depending on the status of the coronavirus outbreak, which many experts do not expect to peak until the summer. But if Challenger tennis does return in April, it will do so at the following events:

  • Puerto Vallarta Open (Challenger 110)
  • Prosperita Open (Challenger 80)
  • Savannah Challenger (Challenger 80)
  • Garden Open (Challenger 80)

The Prosperita Open will take place in Ostrava and the Garden Open is supposed to be played in Rome. But with Italy and the Czech Republic amongst the worst affected counties, play may well not prove possible at either event.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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