Last week saw action on the ATP Challenger Tour in Tallahassee and Rome. An American champion was crowned in Florida, whilst Rome saw a final between two maiden finalists and an underdog getting a taste of the glory thanks to a wildcard. Here’s a look back at every thing that happened on the Challenger Tour last week.
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Despite dropping the first set three times on the way to the final, Andrea Pellegrino always found the extra gear in time. The Italian wildcard had only four wins in 2021 coming into the week, but managed to get on a roll playing at home. Pellegrino has enjoyed all his best ATP Challenger Tour runs in Italy, including a semifinal appearance at Forli last year. Sporting a memorable sleeveless shirt, he was able to take out excellent clay-courters such as Steven Diez and Sebastian Ofner. In the semifinals, he fended off another player looking for his first Challenger final, Vit Kopriva.
Hugo Gaston made headlines at last year’s Roland Garros, eliminating Stan Wawrinka and taking Dominic Thiem to five sets. However, like Pellegrino, he was also yet to make a Challenger Tour final. The Frenchman was in stunning form early in the week, not dropping a single set on the way to the championship match. Gaston took out in-form Thanasi Kokkinakis in a very high-quality second-round encounter. The semifinals saw him square off against Juan Pablo Varillas, who has won two titles on the circuit.
Gaston continued his fine form in the opening set of the final, using his drop shot well and standing up to Pellegrino in baseline rallies. The dynamics of the match were soon to be changed though. Pellegrino’s rally tolerance gradually improved and he succeeded in getting the match to be more physical. Gaston’s forehand is great for the occasional counter but its limitations as a leading the rally tool were easily exposed. The Frenchman grew increasingly frustrated and committed a few double faults or weak drop shots in key moments. Pellegrino once again completed a comeback victory, winning his first Challenger Tour title 3-6 6-2 6-1.
The reward for that feat also includes a top 250 debut. Gaston also finds himself at a career-high 147th spot. Both players are next set to compete in the Garden Open II and they can meet as early as in the second round. Pellegrino takes on wildcard Stefano Napolitano, while Gaston is seeded fifth and will play Andrea Collarini in his opener.
Despite appearing spent multiple times throughout the week, last week’s Orlando champion Jenson Brooksby kept showcasing his impressive will to fight. In fact, it is becoming increasingly tough to even find the words to keep praising for Brooksby’s ability to fight through his matches and find the way to win. The 20-year-old is having a superb season so far, having won another Challenger in Potchefstroom and finished runner-up in Cleveland. In Tallahassee, Brooksby took out the top-seed Thiago Seyboth Wild in the second round. Despite running on fumes, he was then able to clinch two deciding set victories over Michael Mmoh and Facundo Mena, reaching his fourth Challenger final in a row.
In the aforementioned Cleveland final, Bjorn Fratangelo came out on top over Brooksby and the two got a chance for a rematch just a month later at Tallahassee. The older of the Americans survived 31 aces from Ivo Karlovic in a thrilling contest that featured 36 straight service holds. Fratangelo then received advanced past the second round thanks to Yosuke Watanuki’s withdrawal and fought through Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and last week’s Orlando runner-up Denis Kudla.
Brooksby was started the match exceptionally, returning brilliantly and playing a very clean set of tennis with two breaks to grab a lead in the match. Things were only getting tougher from there though, with all the accumulated fatigue hitting the youngster really hard. But Brooksby never gives up and he fought for every single ball with intent, all the way to the very end. Despite constantly being forced to run side to side in the decider, he was able to secure the 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory. The 20-year-old also saved 16 out of 19 break point chances, while Fratangelo couldn’t save a breakpoint in the entire match. The title sees Brooksby secure a career-high ranking of world #1166.
The event in Salinas will be completed on Monday, due to COVID-19 restrictions in Ecuador. Therefore, it will be covered in next week’s recap. The semifinal line-up stands:
- Nicolas Jarry vs Camilo Ugo Carabelli
- Nicolas Mejia vs Altug Celikbilek
Challenger Tour magic:
Jenson Brooksby survives a marathon rally in Tallahassee, outlasting Michael Mmoh. The 20-year-old refuses to lose once again, moving his #ATPChallenger record to 17-2 in 2021.
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) April 23, 2021
Events held next week:
- Garden Open II (Rome, Challenger 80, clay)
- Ostrava Challenger (Challenger 80, clay)
- Salinas Challenger II (Challenger 50, hard)
There will be no top 100 players in action.
First-round matches to watch:
- Aleksandar Vukic vs Roberto Marcora
- Lorenzo Giustino vs (7) Juan Pablo Varillas
- (WC) Giulio Zeppieri vs (2) Hugo Dellien
- Zdenek Kolar vs Tomas Martin Etcheverry
- Constant Lestienne vs (WC) Jiri Lehecka
- Roman Safiullin vs (3) Benjamin Bonzi
- (6) Maxime Cressy vs Elias Ymer
- (4) Altug Celikbilek vs Thiago Tirante
- (8) Roberto Ortega-Olmedo vs Tim van Rijthoven
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