Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Altug Celikbilek’s First Challenger Title

Altug Celikbilek Singapore 2021

With the 2021 Wimbledon into its first week, just one Challenger Tour event was held this week on hard courts in Porto. Quentin Halys demonstrated his ability to quickly switch surfaces by reaching the finals at Forli, then playing Wimbledon qualifying, only to go all the way on the Portuguese hard courts the week after. The tour will be entering its post-Wimbledon clay-court season now, with tournaments in Salzburg, Braunschweig, and Perugia awaiting for those who lost early in London. Read back on this week’s action:

Porto

Runner-up at Saint Petersburg earlier this year, Altug Celikbilek is having a breakout season with multiple deep runs at Challenger events and two main tour victories (Kacper Zuk at Antalya and Shintaro Mochizuki at Singapore). The Turk kicked off his campaign with a three-set win over Yosuke Watanuki, before gearing up not to lose a set again on his way to the finals. He eliminated the top seed, Thiago Seyboth Wild, and stopped Sergiy Stakhovsky’s vintage run in the semifinals, keeping the veteran on the back foot with his explosive forehand.

Just before Wimbledon qualifying, Quentin Halys reached the final at Forli on clay, losing in three sets to Mats Moraing. The Frenchman demonstrated that his first-strike tennis can be played on all surfaces in Porto, advancing to another Challenger final despite switching to hard, showing up on each of the three surfaces in three weeks. Like Celikbilek, Halys only lost a set in his opening match in Porto (to Ulises Blanch). The impressive wins came later though as he was able to take out recent Biella winner Thanasi Kokkinakis and this year’s Salinas champion, Emilio Gomez.

It all seemed to lead to a very tight affair in the finals but tennis isn’t that simple and it soon turned out that the winner was by far the better player from the first ball to the last. While Halys couldn’t find any rhythm and misfired on many aggressive balls, Celikbilek impressed both in defense, tracking down everything the Frenchman had threw at him, and on the attacking side, unleashing many forehand winners and winning 88% of his first-serve points. He was able to break Halys a total of five times, taking his first Challenger final in a straightforward 6-2 6-1 encounter.

Celikbilek is now in the top 200 of the Live ATP Rankings, but it’s uncertain if he’ll remain there before the next official version is published after Wimbledon. He’ll take a break now and head to Pozoblanco in two weeks’ time to contend for another Challenger there. Halys will sit out a week less and play a fortnight of hard-court Challengers in Nur-Sultan.

Challenger Tour magic:

June’s best Challenger hot shots:

Events held next week:

  • Salzburg Open (Challenger 125, clay)
  • Sparkassen Open (Braunchsweig, Challenger 90, clay)
  • Internazionali di Tennis di Citta di Perugia (Challenger 80, clay)

Austria will be hosting its first Challenger Tour event in ten years (2011 ATP Salzburg Indoors, won by Benoit Paire). This time, Salzburg appears during the clay-court season.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Thiago Monteiro, Pablo Cuevas, Federico Coria, Facundo Bagnis, Roberto Carballes Baena (all Salzburg)
  • Benoit Paire, Ricardas Berankis, Yannick Hanfmann (Braunschweig)
  • Salvatore Caruso (Perugia)

First-round matches to watch:

Salzburg

  • (4) Facundo Bagnis vs Roberto Carballes Baena
  • Blaz Rola vs Dennis Novak
  • (PR) Gerald Melzer vs Federico Coria

Following a series of injuries, Gerald Melzer will play his first Challenger event since May 2019 (Shymkent).

Braunschweig

  • (1/WC) Benoit Paire vs Guido Andreozzi
  • Zizou Bergs vs Maximilian Marterer
  • Kimmer Coppejans vs (6) Tomas Machac
  • (4) Jozef Kovalik vs Filip Horansky

Despite a 2-17 win/loss record this year, Benoit Paire continues to play almost every other week, accepting a late wildcard for the Braunschweig Challenger after an opening-round loss at Wimbledon.

Perugia

  • (WC) Flavio Cobolli vs Dmitry Popko
  • Yannick Maden vs Dominic Stricker
  •  (5) Thomas Fabbiano vs Holger Rune
  • Gian Marco Moroni vs Evan Furness

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