Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Altmaier and Etcheverry No Longer in the Running for Best Player Without a Challenger Title

South Americans proved their clay-court excellence in the Challenger 125 event in Salzburg this week, dominating the field and taking all the spots in the semifinals. Meanwhile, tournaments in Braunschweig and Perugia gave us brand new winners, players who have been among the very best still lacking an appearance in the winner’s circle for a while until now. Here’s a look back at last week’s ATP Challenger Tour action:

ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Salzburg

Federico Coria is on a brilliant run recently, including three ATP Challenger Tour finals in a row. The Argentinian first took out Alex Molcan in Prostejov, then lost to Gian Marco Moroni in Milan, before going deep again in Salzburg. The Argentinian stopped Gerald Melzer’s comeback attempt (first Challenger event in over two years for the Austrian), then took out Marc-Andrea Huesler and Blaz Rola. Juan Ignacio Londero seemed to be catching fire with each match but he was easily stomped by his compatriot in the final four.

Three of the four semifinalists came from Argentina, the other one of them being Facundo Bagnis. It has perhaps gone under the radar, but the 31-year-old is having an excellent season, highlighted by runner-up appearances at the Oeiras Challenger and his maiden tour-level title in Santiago. The lefty was just as quick and efficient on the way to the final, including very impressive wins over Damir Dzumhur and Nicolas Jarry.

Coria threw away a 4-2 lead to lose the opening set but the momentum seemed to be shifting into his favor again, especially after a lengthy rain delay. As it turned out, taking the second set was all the younger of the Argentinians had on Sunday, looking quite gassed towards the business end of the match. While he still managed to grab two games from 0-5 down in the decider, Bagnis managed to serve out the match at the second time of asking.

Bagnis grabbed his 14th ATP Challenger Tour title, also making a significant ranking jump up to world #74 in the ATP Rankings, overlapping Coria by just five points. Both Argentinians will next feature in the main draw in Bastad, where Coria takes on a qualifier, while Bagnis plays Roberto Carballes Baena.

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Braunschweig

A very surprising late entry into the event was Benoit Paire. As a top 50 player, the Frenchman required a wildcard pre-approved by the ATP, one they granted despite his less than impressive showings this season. Perhaps eager to put that behind him, Paire produced a great fightback against Guido Andreozzi to score just his third win of the season, before going out to Vit Kopriva. The Czech made a run to the semifinals, where he was stopped by Henri Laaksonen.

The 29-year-old got injured during his third-round appearance at the French Open, and it was his first event back on his favorite surface. Laaksonen had a very dominant run to the championship match, not dropping a single set in victories over the likes of Nicola Kuhn or Jozef Kovalik.

After a brilliant 2020 campaign that featured a win over Matteo Berrettini at Roland Garros and a round of 16 appearance there, Daniel Altmaier struggled with both health and form this year, coming into the Braunschweig Challenger with 11 wins and 15 losses under his belt. It’s hard to determine where this sudden improvement from the German came from, but Altmaier was able to channel some of his best-ever tennis, matching Laaksonen in not losing a single set on the way to the final.

Due to rain delays, the last three matches of the event had to be completed on Saturday, but with both men recording very convincing semifinal victories, neither of them seemed to be at any disadvantage coming into the final. It made the conclusion all the more surprising as Altmaier completely dismantled his opponent in just about an hour. The German saved both break points faced, served nine aces, and won 23 out of 27 points on his first serve to completely rid Laaksonen of any comeback hopes.

Despite significant achievements on the main tour in the past, this was Altmaier’s maiden Challenger title and just his second final (Burnie 2018). The German upped his ranking by a fair bit to comeback to the top 150 of the ATP Rankings. Laaksonen is currently trying to qualify for the main draw at the tour-level event in Bastad, while Altmaier received a wildcard to the Hamburg European Open, where he is due to face Filip Krajinovic in the opening round.
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Perugia

Tomas Martin Etcheverry had already made four ATP Challenger Tour semifinals earlier in the season, but wasn’t quite able to break that barrier and grab his second-ever final. The Argentinian took out the 2020 Roland Garros boys’ singles champion Dominic Stricker, before finally reaching a championship match by defeating Salvatore Caruso, which was his maiden top 100 victory.

Vitaliy Sachko had a breakout performance in Vienna last year, where the Ukrainian defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert and pushed Dominic Thiem in two really tight sets. The 23-year-old made his first Challenger final in Lugano back in March, losing to the aforementioned Stricker. After a couple of more quiet months, Sachko was back in full flight again in Perugia, scoring one upset after another, including over recent Challenger winners in Holger Rune and Gian Marco Moroni.

The only upset Sachko couldn’t score this week was the one over Etcheverry. The Ukrainian came back from 3-5 down in the opening set to level the match, but was broken again and couldn’t convert any of his next three breakpoints. Long, dragged-out games would become standard in the match as the second set rolled around and despite a very tight affair, it was Etcheverry who took all of them. That seemed to be the final nail in Sachko’s coffin as he slumped to a 5-7 2-6 defeat.

Etcheverry took his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title, also making a new career-high ranking of world #166. It’s a huge milestone for Sachko as well, who broke through to the top 300 for the very first time in his career. Both finalists will feature in Challengers next week, Etcheverry in Todi, while the Ukrainian will go to Nur-Sultan.

ATP Challenger Tour magic drama:

Events held next week:

  • Iasi Open (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Dutch Open (Amersfoort, Challenger 80, clay)
  • President’s Cup (Nur-Sultan, Challenger 80, hard)
  • Internazionali di Tennis di Citta di Todi (Challenger 80, clay)

There will be no top 100 players in action.

First-round matches to watch:

Iasi

  • (1) Hugo Gaston vs Nerman Fatic
  • Adrian Andreev vs (3) Alexandre Muller
  • Riccardo Bonadio vs (2) Enzo Couacaud

Amersfoort

  • Zizou Bergs vs Michael Vrbensky
  • (7) Guido Andreozzi vs Jiri Lehecka
  • (5) Mohamed Safwat vs Gastao Elias
  • Marcel Guinard vs Jesper de Jong

Nur-Sultan

  • (1) Roman Safiullin vs Malek Jaziri
  • Ryan Peniston vs (2) Denis Istomin

Todi

  • (7) Gian Marco Moroni vs Nicolas Jarry
  • Andrea Pellegrino vs Giulio Zeppieri
  • Tristan Lamasine vs (2) Mario Vilella Martinez

Main photo:
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