Thiago Monteiro: A Clay Court Challenger Superstar

Thiago Monteiro

Although Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro did not enjoy one of his best seasons in 2019, his solid play throughout the year at clay-court Challengers has set him up to play in the main draw at the Majors next season. He may well also be a force to be reckoned with during the golden swing in his native South America and on the European clay, thanks to his heavy lefty forehand. But he will need to improve his ranking to secure direct entry to the trio of Masters events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.

After starting the season with middling results, highlighted by a run to the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open, Monteiro won the clay court Punta del Este Challenger, beating Facundo Arguello in three sets to win the title late in January. However, he struggled to back that success up in the following months. He did make a couple of Challenger quarterfinals, but he struggled to make any impact on the main Tour throughout the early part of the clay-court swing.

But he picked up some momentum in Munich, where he reached the second round as a qualifier, beating Albert Ramos Vinolas, Andrey Rublev and Jan-Lennard Struff. Then at the French Open, he won through three rounds of qualifying, dropping just one set in the process, only to crash out in the first round at the hands of Monte Carlo Masters finalist and 30th seed Dusan Lajovic in straight-sets. Undeterred by that defeat, he then qualified into the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time.

Unfortunately for the Brazilian, he again proved unable to advance any further, losing to eighth seed Kei Nishikori. Nonetheless, it was a solid run for a player competing on his worst surface and he backed it up by winning another Challenger in Braunschweig, scoring an excellent win over Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals before dismissing home hope Tobias Kamke in straight-sets in the final. However, his form then deserted him once again, as he won just two matches in four tournaments, before ending his summer with a first-round defeat at the US Open.

Thereafter, he returned to playing clay-court Challengers and not without success. Monteiro reached the quarterfinals in Genoa and semifinals in Buenos Aires and Santo Domingo. He then travelled to the Peruvian capital where he won his third Challenger title of the year, stopping Peruvian #1 Juan Pablo Varillas’ 15-match winning streak in the semifinals before beating Federico Coria in a hard-fought three-setter in the final.

Thus, whilst Monteiro won’t be thrilled with how he played on the main tour this season, his performance at clay-court Challengers paid huge dividends and may well have set him up for a profitable 2020 campaign. He will also surely be proud of his efforts in qualifying at the Grand Slams, where he compiled a more than respectable 8-1 record. But to improve, he will need to work on his backhand and display the same sort of tactical flexibility that took him to the main draw at Wimbledon on a more regular basis. Do that and 2020 might just be a year to remember for Monteiro.

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