Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Italy and Argentina on the Rise

Ryan Peniston

While many of the usual Challenger Tour competitors were in New York for the US Open qualifying, Italy and Argentina dominated the circuit this week. A player from the former country won at home in Barletta, while someone from the latter took Warsaw. The winner of the third event in Prague has dual Italian-Argentinian citizenship, no kidding. Read back on this week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Warsaw

It was easy to forget about Camilo Ugo Carabelli with the plethora of young Argentinians emerging onto the circuit, but it won’t be so easy anymore. The 22-year-old is having a great season, earning a first top 100 win last week against Pedro Martinez and now making his first Challenger final. He started his campaign with a solid victory over one of Poland’s brightest juniors, Maks Kasnikowski, and went on to score a stunning upset over top-seeded Daniel Altmaier. Because of the rain, he had to play two matches on Saturday, easily taking out Nicolas Jarry before outlasting Javier Barranco Cosano in an almost three-hour marathon.

Last week’s Verona runner-up, Nino Serdarusic, also started with a straight-set dismissal of a Pole, Daniel Michalski, before going on to score a 7-5 deciding set victory over Tristan Lamasine (he was briefly a break down in the third). Serdarusic was the most impressive on Saturday, first fending off Michael Vrbensky and then producing a fantastic performance against second seed Jozef Kovalik. Serdarusic faced no break points in that match and stood up really well to the Slovakian in extended rallies, earning his third shot at a Challenger title (Ostrava 2018, Verona 2021).

Despite having a much tougher semifinal behind him, Ugo Carabelli was still able to outlast Serdarusic in the extended rallies of the final. The center court played a bit slower than the outside ones, and the Croat wasn’t able to impose himself from the ground so easily, a lot of times himself getting pushed behind. He stuck around with the 22-year-old in the first set but just couldn’t find enough ways to win points, outside of the occasional big forehand winner here or there.

Ugo Carabelli claimed his maiden CH title 6-4 6-2, debuting in the top 250 for the very first time. He is now situated just two spots behind Serdarusic, who also made a significant ranking jump. Both players took special exempts into the main draw of the Como Challenger.

Barletta

Rome runner-up Flavio Cobolli hadn’t been doing that well since his breakout run, but he was able to link a couple of strong performances together to advance to another Challenger final. The 19-year-old struggled a fair bit against Pavel Kotov but played better as the week went on, completely demolishing Tim van Rijthoven. In a semifinal between two extremely talented youngsters, he took out former junior No. 1 Thiago Tirante 7-5 in the deciding set.

He took on Giulio Zeppieri in an all-Italian Next-Gen final (Zeppieri is six months older). The lefty kicked off his campaign with a stunning win over Timofey Skatov and lost a set to another player from the home country, Julian Ocleppo. In the semifinals, he took out two-time Grand Slam boys’ singles champion Chun-Hsin Tseng in a deciding set, making his maiden Challenger final.

Despite Cobolli having more experience at that stage, it was the younger of the Italians who came out on the court startled, making a lot of errors in the opening set without even pressing Zeppieri that much. He impressively fought back to level the match but was unable to keep up in the decider. In the most important moments, it was Zeppieri who was able to keep a clean head and avoid making unnecessary errors. The maiden finalist took the match 6-1 3-6 6-3.

Both Zeppieri and Cobolli made new career-high rankings – the former breaking through to the top 250, while the latter debuts in the third hundred in the world. Zeppieri got into the Como Challenger as an alternate, while Cobolli was granted a wildcard for the main draw. If they keep up their form, they can meet as early as the quarterfinals.

Prague

Franco Agamenone started the year at World No. 675, having to play on the ITF Tour. In about six months, he was able to pile up 59 match wins on that circuit and take five titles (two M25s, three M15s). All these results allowed him to finally try himself at the Challenger level, where he only appeared in a main draw twice before this year. The event in Prague was perfect for the Italian (who used to represent Argentina until 2020 and has dual citizenship) as the Challenger 50 category made the field slightly weaker than usual. Agamenone lost just one set on the way to the finals, coming back from 5-7 3-5 against Michael Geerts to make his maiden Challenger final.

The other finalist was a lot less familiar with clay courts, in fact, Ryan Peniston hadn’t even played on them in three years. It was also his first Challenger tournament on this surface, and even at the ITF level, Peniston never found much success on the dirt (hadn’t made it past the second round). The Brit took out Uladzimir Ignatik in three sets before going on to post two upsets over Argentinian clay specialists, Facundo Diaz Acosta, and Gennaro Alberto Olivieri.

Agamenone took his maiden Challenger title with a 6-3 6-1 victory. The final lasted almost 90 minutes, but the second set was actually very lop-sided, with Peniston winning just 12 points in total. Agamenone will make his debut in the top 300, showing that a very quick jump from the ITF level is possible, but it requires an absolutely insane run (his win/loss record for the year is now 68-17). The Italian will play the Como Challenger now but needs to start from the qualifying draw. Peniston is signed up to play a 25K ITF in Ricany.

Events held next week

  • Citta di Como Challenger (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Rafa Nadal Open by Sotheby’s (Mallorca, Challenger 80, hard)
  • St. Tropez Open (Challenger 80, hard)

Benjamin Bonzi will be the only top 100 player in action (St. Tropez).

First-round matches to watch:

Como

  • (4) Juan Manuel Cerundolo vs Tristan Lamasine
  • (SE) Nino Serdarusic vs (7) Marc-Andrea Huesler
  • Jack Draper vs Thiago Agustin Tirante

Mallorca

  • (7) Kacper Zuk vs Dimitar Kuzmanov
  • Bernard Tomic vs Frederico Ferreira Silva

Toni Nadal’s son, Joan, unsuccessfully tried to qualify for the Rafa Nadal Open, losing 1-6 2-6 for Nick Chappell. It was his 3rd professional event.

St. Tropez

  • (WC) Luca Van Assche vs (6) Elias Ymer
  • (5) Roman Safiullin vs (WC) Arthur Cazaux

It will be a Challenger Tour main draw debut for the 2021 French Open boys’ singles champion Luca van Assche.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images


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