Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Alcaraz Goes Back-to-Back, Munar Reigns in Lisbon

Carlos Alcaraz in action on the ATP Challenger Tour

With the dust having settled after the Grand Slam season concluded with the French Open, action continued this week on the ATP and the Challenger Tour, with Challengers held on the clay in Alicante and Lisbon. As ever, there was plenty of entertaining tennis to enjoy. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Alicante

For the first time since 2011, four Spaniards found themselves in the semifinals at the same Challenger. Carlos Alcaraz, the champion last week in Barcelona, appeared fatigued throughout the week, having three times been taken the distance en route to the title in Catalonia, and he was made to work hard for his wins again in Alicante. Daniel Elahi Galan, Juan Pablo Ficovich and Mario Vilella Martinez all took a set off the 17-year-old, only for Alcaraz to battle through in three sets.

That was perhaps unsurprising, with the young gun boasting an extremely impressive 15-3 record in three-set matches this season (11-2 since the restart). Those hard-fought wins saw Alcaraz into the final where he faced Pedro Martinez, who impressed recently at the French Open, reaching the third round (lost to Sebastian Korda). Martinez maintained that fine form, for the most part, in Alicante, opening his campaign with wins over Marco Trungelliti, via retirement, and Guillermo Garcia Lopez.

He then survived a mid-match loss of concentration to overcome the 20-year-old Czech Thomas Machac 6-4 1-6 6-2 to reach the semifinals. There he came out on top against Bernabe Zapata Miralles in an all-Spanish clash. Once again, Martinez uncharacteristically lost his way in the second set, but he was able to rebound, completing a 6-4 2-6 6-3 win which saw him into his second consecutive final at the Alicante Challenger.

He may well have gone into the final with real confidence with Alcaraz having struggled behind his serve throughout the week. The 17-year-old did improve from the line in the final, but nonetheless handed Martinez a break which gave the older man the chance to serve for the set. But Martinez threw away his advantage, hitting four unforced errors as Alcaraz broke back. He was then broken again when Alcaraz lofted a superb lob over his head.

But Alcaraz proved equally incapable of serving it out, as Martinez broke to send the first set to a tiebreak. Alcaraz got off to a poor start, missing with two drop shots, as Martinez took what looked like a decisive 6-4 lead. But, not for the first time, Alcaraz showed remarkable composure under pressure, drilling two backhand winners down the line to get back on terms before chasing down two Martinez drop shots to win the set in incredible fashion.

Thereafter, he quickly seized control of the match. The pair traded breaks to start the second set, but Alcaraz then broke his opponent’s serve again decisively. Martinez offered little further resistance, with Alcaraz sealing a 7-6 6-3 with another backhand down the line. A resigned-looking Martinez did not even attempt to track it down and instead walked straight to the net to offer his congratulations to his countryman.

It capped another remarkable week for Alcaraz, who is now the second-youngest player to win three Challenger Tour titles behind only Richard Gasquet. He has compiled a hugely impressive 24-4 record since the season resumed in August and has now won back-to-back titles. Overall this season, he has won five titles, having claimed two titles at ITF-level, and has reached a new career-high ranking of world #136. All this at just 17 years and 5 months.

Lisbon

The final in Lisbon was contested between the two top seeds in the Portuguese capital, with both making swift progress through the draw. Jaume Munar, who has found some form after an extended period of struggle, did not drop a single set in reaching the final, with his 6-3 6-0 dismissal of fifth seed Federico Gaio a particularly emphatic win. Pedro Sousa, meanwhile, was taken the distance in the first round by Gastao Elias, but was scarcely troubled thereafter.

He scored comfortable straight-sets wins over Hugo Grenier, Dmitry Popko and Alessandro Giannessi to reach the final. However, there he found himself under pressure early on as Munar raced out to 5-1 lead, with Sousa bleeding unforced errors. Eventually, however, Sousa found his range, battling back from the brink to lead 6-5. But he proved unable to press his advantage, with Munar reasserting himself to force a tiebreak, which he won comfortably, 7-3.

He then dominated the second set, twice breaking Sousa’s serve to take a decisive lead. With the Portuguese unable to rally for the second time in the match, Munar closed out a 7-6 6-2 win to claim his fifth Challenger Tour title and fourth on the clay. He will return to action this week in Istanbul, where he is seeded second, with a return to the world’s top 100 in reach for the Spaniard. Sousa has elected to take a week off.

Nuno Borges is also deserving of a mention. The 23-year-old Portuguese enjoyed a fine college career at Mississippi State and has so far made a successful transition into the professional ranks, having won two ITF titles so far this season. He has gone 15-3 since the season resumed and impressed in rallying from 1-6 down in the first-set tiebreak to beat third seed Damir Dzumhur 7-6 6-1. He wasn’t able to back that up, losing to Guilherme Clezar in the second round, but is a name to look out for in the future.

Challenger Tour magic:

A showcase of how well Carlos Alcaraz can cover the court:

Events held next week:

  • Amex-Istanbul Challenger (Challenger 90)
  • Wolffkran Open (Ismaning, Challenger 80)

Ismaning will be the first Challenger this year played on a carpet surface. It’s also the first indoor event of the circuit after the restart.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Pedro Martinez (Istanbul)
  • Federico Delbonis, Yannick Hanfmann (Ismaning)

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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