Just one ATP Challenger Tour event was held this week as most players ranked between 110 to 230 were contesting Roland Garros qualifying. Still, the fourth edition of Oeiras Challenger this year featured plenty of entertaining tennis. Two Portuguese players made the semifinals, as did the 2019 Roland Garros boys’ singles champion, who made his first deep run at an event of this level. Here’s a look back at what you might have missed:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
The top half of the draw was dominated by two Portuguese players who finished runner-up in the previous Oeiras events. Gastao Elias lost to Zdenek Kolar in the first edition, while Nuno Borges was defeated by Pedro Cachin the week after. The two met for the seventh time in less than a year (three times on the ITF Tour, twice on the ATP Challenger Tour, twice in Portuguese exhibition events last summer).
Borges led the head-to-head 5-1 and once again was looking quite comfortable leading 6-4 5-5 in the all-Portuguese meeting. But the 24-year-old then twisted his ankle and despite trying to continue after a medical timeout, he was forced to retire when Elias took the match to a third set.
The 2019 Roland Garros juniors champion, Holger Rune, made a breakthrough on the main tour earlier in the year when he reached the quarterfinals at Santiago. The Dane was yet to have pretty much any success on the Challenger Tour though, losing in the qualifying at Marbella earlier this year. But with the consistent improvements he had been making, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before he’d finally land a good Challenger result.
His second-round win over Julian Lenz took him two hours but the rest of the campaign was much more straightforward. Particularly impressive was the straightforward victory against Gran Canaria Challenger champion, Carlos Gimeno Valero. In the final four, he had to fend off another maiden semifinalist on the circuit, 20-year-old Kazakh Timofey Skatov.
Rune’s backhand is rarely a weapon but the Dane was able to utilize it as such for the most part of the match. By consistently hitting with great depth and precision, Rune was able to take the opening set and looked cruising. A sudden shift of momentum occurred as he had to take a medical timeout after his knee collided with one of the covers. It might have been unrelated but the accuracy wasn’t quite there anymore as Rune began to rush the points.
But the matchup with Elias proved to be really hard for the 18-year-old once again. The Portuguese can match his opponent in forehand battles and as Rune’s precision fell off, he was able to get back in the match and ultimately claim a 5-7 6-4 6-4 win.
It was Elias’s eighth Challenger Tour title and his first since Campinas 2017. The former world #57 made at least the quarterfinals in all four Oeiras Challengers and maintained his good form in what is already his best season in four years. Meanwhile, Rune’s run to the final saw him to make his debut in the top 300 on Monday. Both finalists received special exempts to the main draw at Biella, which will be just a second appearance outside of Portugal for Elias this season (previous one – ITF Villena, where he won the title defeating… Rune).
Events held next week:
- Little Rock Challenger (Challenger 80, hard)
- Biella Challenger VII (Challenger 50, clay)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Juan Pablo Varillas vs Zdenek Kolar
- (SE) Gastao Elias vs (WC) Flavio Cobolli
- (SE) Holger Rune vs (3) Daniel Altmaier
- (1) Jason Jung vs Christian Harrison
- (4) Ernesto Escobedo vs Donald Young
- (WC) Oliver Crawford vs (9) Peter Polansky
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