Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Botic Van De Zandschulp Wins Maiden Title

Botic Van De Zandschulp

Better known for his long and funny-sounding name than his results so far, Botic Van De Zandschulp was another victim of the ITF reform, which forced him to work hard for half a year to even get a chance to play on the Challenger Tour. However, titles at Bolton, Nussloch, and Prijedor allowed him to bump his ITF ranking to a spot where he could start getting accepted into one of the ITF main draw spots.

The clay-court season did not go too well, with only four wins in six Challenger Tour appearances. However, things started to take turns for the good with more hardcourt events available. Botic reached the semifinals in Istanbul, dropping a tight three-setter to Denis Istomin. A month later, Van De Zandschulp started a series of indoor German Challengers – Ismaning, Hamburg and Eckental.

Ismaning was a bit of a false start. In one of the very few carpet Challengers left, Botic lost his opening round to Luca Vanni. Relief came in the form of a very favorable draw at the Hamburg Challenger. Van De Zandschulp tore through German lucky loser Osman Torski and took advantage of Tallon Griekspoor retiring after just six games of play.

Van De Zandschulp rising to the occasion

The first sign of great form came in the third round. Van De Zandschulp blew away one of the most prolific Challenger Tour performers of the year, Gianluca Mager, 6-3 6-2. The Italian won 43 matches at this level of the competition this year but was helpless as Van De Zandschulp saved all five break points faced. Another fantastic win over former World No.71 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe took him to the semifinals.

Botic then faced the top seed Salvatore Caruso, coming back from a 4-6 4-4 deficit to win eight of the next ten games and advance to his maiden ATP Challenger Tour final. Waiting there was another debutant, Bernabe Zapata Miralles.

The Dutchman was able to abuse Miralles’ weaker serve and take the first set six games to three. The Spaniard was able to stage a comeback and take the match to a decider. Yet, it was Van De Zandschulp who managed to find another gear in the third set, at one point winning thirteen straight points. Serve turned out to be the key as Botic’s solid first delivery allowed him to construct points around his forehand and pushed him through a tough game at 1-1. He went on to pounce on Miralles’ weaknesses and take 16 out of the next 17 points, finally coming out victorious 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.

What’s next for Van De Zandschulp?

The 24-year-old will jump over 50 ranking spots and clinch a career-high of no. 211 on Monday. Eckental Challenger will be his next stop on the tour. German wildcard Tobias Simon awaits in the first round. Van De Zandschulp lost to him in Segovia this year but on indoor hard, his chances should be much higher.

Even before this Hamburg Challenger success, Van De Zandschulp was chosen alongside Robin Haase, Tallon Griekspoor, Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer to be part of the Netherlands’ Davis Cup Finals team.

Other Challenger Tour winners of the week:

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina took home his second Challenger Tour title in Liuzhou. Facing Denis Istomin in the final, he almost blew a 6-3, 5-2 lead, losing the next five games. The Spaniard managed to rebound and triumph 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) on his seventh match point. This victory sees him advance to a career-high no.82 in the ATP Rankings.

22-year-old Australian Marc Polmans won his second title of the year in Traralgon. Due to rain delays, the semifinals and the final had to be completed in one day. Polmans defeated Hiroki Moriya before coming back onto the court later in the day to face countryman Andrew Harris. Polmans will also reach a career-high ranking on Monday (ATP 137).

In Brest, Ugo Humbert defeated Evgeny Donskoy in the final 6-2, 6-3. The Frenchman was down 4-5 in the third set to Antoine Hoang in the quarterfinals. Hoang served for the match and held a match point in that game but dropped the next three games. Humbert went on to take down Norbert Gombos and Donskoy to capture his sixth Challenger Tour title (third this year).

Juan Pablo Varillas’ winning streak was finally stopped in Lima. Thiago Monteiro defeated the Peruvian in the semifinal and went on to survive a late comeback from Federico Coria in a 6-3 6-7 6-4 win. He avenged a semifinal defeat to Varillas in Santo Domingo. It was his third Challenger title of the year.

A week full of tweeners:

And a rather costly umpire error:

Understandably, Sander Arends was not the happiest man on the planet:

A bold move from Alejandro Davidovich Fokina deep in the third set of a championship match:

Events next week:

  • Shenzhen Longhua Open (Challenger 110)
  • Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger (Challenger 80)
  • City of Playford Tennis International II (Challenger 80)
  • Challenger Eckental (Challenger 80)
  • Challenger Ciudad de Guayaquil (Challenger 80)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Soon-Woo Kwon, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Shenzhen)
  • Brayden Schnur (Charlottesville)
  • Yasutaka Uchiyama (Playford)
  • Kamil Majchrzak (Eckental)
  • Hugo Dellien, Leonardo Mayer, Jaume Munar, Thiago Monteiro (Guayaquil)

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images