As most of the usual Challenger Tour players were playing Roland Garros qualifying this week, it was a rather unusual week for the circuit. Forli saw many top 100 players compete but they were all stopped by the 18-year-old prodigy, Lorenzo Musetti. Sibiu was much less crowded and it allowed some of the lower-ranked players a great chance to make a deep run. Next week will feature another Italian event in Biella and the first Croatian Challenger of the year in Split. But back to Forli and Sibiu…
Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Italian youngster Lorenzo Musetti captured his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Forli. The 2019 Australian Open junior champion had a big breakthrough last week at the Italian Open, taking out Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori. Before Rome, he didn’t have a single top 100 win in his career. In Forli, he added four more to that tally. After straight-setting former world no.45 Teymuraz Gabashvili, Musetti defeated Frances Tiafoe in a spectacular three-setter. He then went on to crush Andreas Seppi and benefitted of a third-set retirement against Lloyd Harris.
In the championship match, he faced Thiago Monteiro. The Brazilian leftie is a well-known clay-specialist, having clinched five ATP Challenger Tour titles on this surface and made the semifinals at a tour-level in Quito two years ago. As it was a last-minute decision to play in Forli, Monteiro had to go through the qualifying draw. His path was still significantly easier than Musetti’s, featuring just one top 100 player – Yuichi Sugita. The Brazilian took on five Italians in the whole event, failing on the fifth one in the final.
Musetti served for the opening set of the final at 5-4 but was broken to love thanks to some great deep returns from Monteiro. The Brazilian leftie was the better player for a couple of games there. The tie-break started as a tight affair but Monteiro went down 2-5 with a couple of failed drop shot attempts. His big forehand was firing though and kept him in it. But two consecutive double faults saw him give away the set to the 18-year-old. Both players dedicated even more effort to holding their serves in the second set. It went to another tie-break but it was again Musetti who showed no fear of winning. At 6-5, he blasted a forehand up-the-line that clipped the baseline. The crowd greeted both players with respect but was roaring as the Italian youngster celebrated the victory.
Ranked world no. 280 after the restart, Musetti is making huge leaps in the rankings. On Monday, he’ll find himself in the top 140 for the very first time. Monteiro’s run allows him to solidify his position in the top 100. The Brazilian starts against 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili at Roland Garros and is considered the favorite to make the second round there.
24-year-old Marc-Andrea Huesler grabbed his second ATP Challenger Tour title (San Luis Potosi 2019). The Swiss impressed two weeks ago at the ATP 250 event in Kitzbuhel as he made the semifinals of that event from the qualifying draw. Along the way, he grabbed four top 100 wins (Fognini, Lopez, Balazs, Ruusuvuori). Before that event, he was 0-5 down against top 100 players in his career. His path to the title was no bed of roses though, with the Swiss taken to over 2,5 hours by Borna Gojo and Carlos-Gomez Herrera.
His opponent, Tomas Martin Etcheverry is a 21-year-old Argentine who’s just starting to leave his mark on the ATP Challenger Tour. After solid results in the previous weeks (wins over Alessandro Gianessi, Quentin Halys), Etcheverry was rewarded for his consistency with his first runner-up run. In the first round, he beat Halys again, edging the Frenchman in a third set tie-breaker. Argentina is building a new generation of great clay-courters and along the route to the final, Etcheverry had to beat two compatriots, the Cerundolo brothers. He managed to take down both the 22-year-old Francisco and 18-year-old Juan Manuel in straight sets.
Huesler saved five break points in crucial games of the opening set, not afraid of going for the big shots. Using his second serve forehand return to put pressure on Etcheverry, he was able to lure errors from the Argentine and break to take the opener seven games to five. That turned out to be the pivotal moment of the match as Huesler did not lose a single game after that, finishing the match 7-5 6-0. This victory will allow him to make his debut in the top 200 on Monday.
Challenger Tour magic:
A compilation of Lorenzo Musetti’s beautiful single-hander:
It's a thing of beauty 😍
Here's 75 seconds of Lorenzo Musetti hitting backhand blasts 💥 in his win over top seed Frances Tiafoe in Forli. pic.twitter.com/gN3YnjX0hU
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) September 23, 2020
Around the net in doubles:
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 23, 2020
Being out of position was no problem for Carlos Gomez-Herrera:
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 21, 2020
Events held next week:
- Thindown Challenger Biella (Challenger 80)
- Split Open (Challenger 80)
With almost all of the top 100 players taking part in the 2020 Roland Garros, there will be no top 100 players in action next week. Of interesting stories, after failing a COVID-19 test in Paris, Damir Dzumhur is playing the qualifying to the Split Open as an alternate. He’ll open against Pedro Sakamoto (edit: Dzumhur lost to Sakamoto 1-6 4-6).