Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Illya Marchenko Back on Top

Illya Marchenko Challenger Tour

As ever, there was no shortage on entertaining action on the ATP’s Challenger Tour. A number of players stormed to unexpected triumphs whilst others slumped to disappointing defeats. Here are some of the stories you might have missed:

Not one, but two crowns

Illya Marchenko, once ranked as high as 49th in the world, won his first title in two years at the Nur-Sultan Challenger. The Ukrainian had his best career result at the 2016 US Open, where he reached the fourth round and took a set off eventual champion Stan Wawrinka. But Marchenko thereafter suffered a series of injuries, resulting in a lengthy break across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. As a result, this time last year he was the world #1004.

However, he had shown some good form in recent weeks, picking up decent wins over the likes of Israel’s Dudi Sela and Ilya Ivashka of Belarus. During his Nur-Sultan campaign, he scored fine wins over the veterans Teymuraz Gabashvili and Konstantin Kravchuk. Then in the semifinals the Ukrainian found himself down 1-6 0-1* to Ruben Bemelmans in the semifinals, but recovered well to reach his first final in more than two years.

The championship match was, once again, a test of his fighting spirit. Standing on the opposite side of the net was Yannick Maden, playing in his seventh Challenger final (fourth indoors). The German is yet to win a title at this level, but it looked like it could finally be his day as he took the first set 6-4. However, Marchenko did very well to come back and claim victory in over 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Ukrainian will leave the capital of Kazakhstan with two trophies, having also won the doubles crown a day before partnering with Henri Heliovaara.

Marchenko’s victory has propelled him into the top 300 of the ATP Rankings, a position that will make him seeded at many smaller events. The Ukrainian plays a very physical game, one that is clearly tough on his body. However, finally healthy, the 32-year-old will be in a good position to seek a late-career resurgence next season. He is currently signed up for a 25K ITF tournament in Monastir in two weeks’ time. It remains to be seen whether this unexpected success in Kazakhstan will make him change his plans.

Other winners of the week:

Salvatore Caruso will make his top 100 debut on Monday, following a title in Barcelona. The Italian defeated Tommy Robredo, Pedro Sousa and Jaume Munar on his way to the final. Facing him there was Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalik who recently captured a title at the Szczecin Challenger. But Caruso won comfortably 6-4 6-2, to continue what has been an excellent season in which he reached the last four at the Croatia Open and the third round at Roland Garros.

In a Challenger Tour battle of Juan Pablos, Juan Pablo Varillas defeated Juan Pablo Ficovich 2-6 7-6 6-2, becoming the first Peruvian to win a Challenger since Luis Horna. Varillas didn’t lose a single set on the way to the final, beating the likes of Federico Coria and Facundo Bagnis, once a top-100 stalwart, in comprehensive fashion. He’ll jump over 100 spots and debut in the top 250.

Some different stuff:

That’s how Alejandro Davidovich Fokina decided to finish the match. Yes, that was a double fault.

Barcelona Challenger used Foxtenn system for line calling this week. Any thoughts?

Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos advanced to a Challenger Tour doubles final in Campinas with just one win:

Mouilleron-Le-Captif and Fairfield will host Challenger 100 tournaments next week, while Santo Domingo features an event of the highest category. Top 100 players in action will be Leonardo Delbonis, Hugo Dellien, Leonardo Mayer (all Santo Domingo), Steve Johnson (Fairfield), and Ugo Humbert, Stefano Travaglia, Gregoire Barrere, Kamil Majchrzak, Mikael Ymer, Corentin Moutet (all Mouilerron-Le-Captif). Meanwhile, in possibly his last career tournament, 39-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos will play Marcelo Arevalo. The three-time Quito champion got a wildcard to the Milex Open in Santo Domingo.

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