Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Lop-Sided Finals, Andreas Seppi’s Resurgence

Andreas Seppi in action on the ATP Challenger Tour

The ATP Challenger Tour circuit stopped in Saint Petersburg and Biella this week and, as always, there was plenty of entertaining action. A maiden champion was crowned in Russia, whilst in Italy the title went to a more established name. Here’s a recap of what you might have missed:

ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Saint Petersburg

After being crowned the champion at the 15K ITF World Tennis Tour event in Saint Petersburg, Evgenii Tiurnev has once again been thriving in Russia’s second city over the past two weeks. A week ago, he scored one of the best wins of his career, beating world #164 Roman Safiullin in the first Challenger event played in Russia’s second city, and having been awarded a wild card for the second Challenger, Tiurnev was on fire all week.

He sent home some dangerous opponents, including Vit Kopriva and last week’s runner-up Altug Celikbilek to reach the last eight, before a 6-4 6-2 win over Mirza Basic sent him past the quarterfinal stage at a Challenger for the first time in his career. His serving was particularly impressive, with the 23-year-old only broken three times on his way to the final.

Jack Sock, meanwhile, had looked likely to be a strong contender in St Petersburg, especially after a hard-fought win over the third seed Cem Ilkel in the round of 32. But although Sock backed that win up by beating Pavel Kotov to reach the quarterfinals, he had some issues with his hand there and was beaten comfortably by Kacper Zuk. The Pole was playing in his fourth straight quarterfinal, but had lost the preceding three.

His victory over Sock saw him snap that losing streak and a victory over Czechia’s Jiri Lehecka then too him into his maiden ATP Challenger Tour final. Unfortunately, the final proved to be a non-event, lasting under an hour as Tiurnev completely dominated his opponent. Zuk, who had to take a medical timeout, was clearly not at his best physically, but that should take nothing away from Tiurnev’s brilliant performance. He was completely untouchable on serve throughout.

In fact, in 39 points behind his serve, Tiurnev fired 14 aces, won 25 out of 25 when he landed his first serve and dropped only three points from the line in total. Zuk never managed to win more than one point against his opponent’s serve in the same game and unsurprisingly came nowhere close to threatening a break.

Tiurnev’s triumph has seen him break into the ATP’s top 300 for the first time in his career, whilst Zuk is inching closer to the top 200. Neither are competing on the Challenger circuit this week, but Tiurnev signed up for a 25K in Biel in three weeks’ time.

Biella

A regular competitor on the Challenger circuit for years, Liam Broady had made it to six finals on the circuit prior to this week, losing all of them, most recently in Potchefstroom to Benjamin Bonzi. The Briton earned himself a seventh chance to win his first title at this level in Biella, reaching the final in Italy without losing a set, despite facing what looked like tough opposition on paper in the shape of Jurij Rodionov and the Italian young Luca Nardi.

He delivered his most complete performance in the semifinals against Ilya Marchenko, surviving a second-set fightback from the Ukrainian to score a 6-3 7-6 win. Waiting for him in the final was former-top 20 star Andreas Seppi. The Italian is now deep into the twilight of his career, but he is still able to produce some great tennis when he is on song, although not on a particularly consistent basis.

Seppi’s path to the final was not entirely straightforward. After a confident start against fellow veteran Sergiy Stahkovsky, the Italian was made to work hard by Tristan Lamasine of France in the second round. But Seppi hung tough to win that match in a third-set tiebreak, before Peter Gojowczyk retired after just four games of their quarterfinal clash. Seppi was then largely untroubled in beating Robin Haase to make his first Challenger final since September 2019.

Just as in Saint Petersburg, the final failed to live up to expectations. The conditions in Biella, which were considerably slower than those in Russia, didn’t favour big serves or lead to short rallies. Instead what mattered was consistency in the baseline exchanges and Broady was completely outplayed off the ground from the very start. Seppi pulled his opponent round the court, tying him up with some pinpoint precision.

Broady struggled to defend his serve, which seemed to be offering him almost no advantage, and was broken five times in the 73-minute affair. Seppi saved the only break point he faced and it almost felt like a mercy when he wrapped up his 6-2 6-1 triumph.

Having claimed his first Challenger title all the way back in 2008, Seppi won his 10th in Biella this week. This victory also means he’ll be back to the top 100 on Monday, having fallen out of that elite group in October last year. Both Seppi and Broady are both playing in Biella again, but one of them probably won’t be too glad about the draw. As luck (or bad luck) would have it, the pair are set to play each other again in just a few days.

Challenger Tour magic:

A compilation of the best shots from February:

Events held next week:

  • Biella Challenger Indoor IV (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Cleveland Challenger (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Challenger de Santiago (Challenger 80, clay)

Players who’ve just competed in the tour-level Golden Swing will get a chance to finish their South American circuit with a clay Challenger in Chile. The next event on the continent after that is planned for the middle of April. Cleveland Challenger will be the first tournament held in the United States this year.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Lucas Pouille, Andreas Seppi (Biella)
  • Roberto Carballes Baena (Santiago)

First-round matches to watch:

Biella

  • (1) Lucas Pouille vs Quentin Halys
  • Aleksandar Vukic vs (7) Gregoire Barrere
  • Sebastian Ofner vs Arthur Rinderknech
  • Liam Broady vs (3) Andreas Seppi
  • Benjamin Bonzi vs (8) Jurij Rodionov
  • Bernard Tomic vs Roberto Marcora

Cleveland

  • Jenson Brooksby vs (WC) Zachary Svajda
  • (ALT) Lucas Catarina vs (4) Mikael Torpegaard
  • (7) Thai-Son Kwiatkowski vs Bjorn Fratangelo
  • Donald Young vs (2) Go Soeda

Santiago

  • (1) Roberto Carballes Baena vs Thomaz Bellucci
  • (WC) Gonzalo Lama vs Tomas Martin Etcheverry
  • (WC) Holger Rune vs Sebastian Baez
  • (8) Alejandro Tabilo vs (WC) Nicolas Jarry

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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