Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Wawrinka Kicks Off Roland Garros Preparations

The ATP Challenger Tour was back for the first time since March, with some unlikely guest appearances from Stan Wawrinka and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Prague and Todi were the first step for many in the lead-up to Roland Garros, which starts on September 27th.

Challenger Tour: August 17th-23rd

Prague

World No. 15 Stan Wawrinka defeated Aslan Karatsev 7-6 6-4 in Saturday’s championship match. The Swiss is the highest-ranked Challenger Tour champion since Ivan Ljubicic in 2005, and only one of eight winners on this circuit in the 21st century who were ranked in the top 20. Wawrinka signed up for the event as he didn’t want to go to the US Open. As it looks, this decision might give him a big head start when it comes to Roland Garros preparations.

Wawrinka didn’t have it easy at all, losing a set in each of his matches before the final. The three-time Grand Slam champion had to overcome a very slow start in three of them, dropping the first set before coming back to win in the decider. He was two games away from losing in the third round to Oscar Otte, who managed to play himself into form in exhibition events after a disastrous start of the year. Another notable run was 20-year-old Czech Michael Vrbensky, who reached his first Challenger Tour semifinal. Vrbensky also gave Wawrinka a pretty stern challenge, ultimately falling 7-5 3-6 3-6.

The second seed for this event was Pierre-Hugues Herbert, whom many expected to reach the final. The Frenchman’s path to the semifinal stage was just as tough as Wawrinka’s, with Herbert prevailing in three consecutive deciders. The one to stop him was the surprisingly in-form Aslan Karatsev, runner-up this year in January’s Bangkok Challenger. Karatsev did not drop a set on the way to the final. His run included great wins over Jiri Vesely, Henri Laaksonen, and the aforementioned Herbert. However, Wawrinka’s performance in the final was by far his cleanest this week as he dominated the game on his serve (37/41 points won on the first delivery) to clinch the title and come back to the Top 15 on Monday. The Swiss is also the top seeded at next week’s Prague 2 event.

Todi

The 2020 Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi featured just 32 players in the main draw, meaning that everyone had to win five matches if they wanted to claim the title. Yannick Hanfmann showcased some fine spot-serving and a solid attacking game throughout the week, defeating three Italians along the way, including No. 2 seed Marco Cecchinato.

Hanfmann’s final opponent was Bernabe Zapata Miralles, who impressed with a dominant win over the top-seeded Roberto Carballes Baena. Zapata Miralles didn’t lose a set all the way to the finals but was quite easily overcome by Hanfmann’s aggression, allowing the German to dictate the play completely.

Italian tennis fans got their hopes up with a great run from Gian Marco Moroni, who went all the way to the semifinals with an impressive display of defensive tennis. Moroni defeated rising star Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, and came back from 2-6 3-5 against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the quarterfinals. His run was finally stopped by Hanfmann, as Moroni opened up with a 4-0 lead but couldn’t even take the first set. With this title run in Todi, Hanfmann will jump 25 ranking spots up to world No. 118.

Challenger Tour magic:

While losing in the semifinals in singles, Pierre Hugues-Herbert also made these two beautiful hot shots on the way to the doubles title:

Bad weather was not enough to stop Arthur de Greef from hitting this insane tweener lob:

Tallon Griekspoor breaking the racket but then realizing he needs it for the “handshake”:

Events this week:

  • RPM Open (Prague 2, Challenger 125)
  • Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Trieste (Challenger 100)

We stay in the Czech Republic and Italy (and that will be the case for even one more week after that). The event in Prague started on Saturday, taking place in the same venue as last week’s Advantage Cars Prague Open.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Stan Wawrinka, Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Prague)

Main Photo from Getty.


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