Thirteen top 100 players competed in this week’s ATP Challenger Tour events. Benjamin Bonzi stole the show by tying the record of most titles in a single season, while Zdenek Kolar won his biggest title to date at Szczecin. Read back on this week’s action:
No Pole had ever reached the Pekao Szczecin Open finals since the event became a Challenger in 1996. Kamil Majchrzak was unseeded for the event and last competed in Szczecin back in 2015, as it usually collided with Poland’s Davis Cup tie. The 25-year-old was extremely calm and focused, enjoying the support of the home crowd. Majchrzak didn’t drop a set on the way to the final, at one point saving twenty-one breakpoints in a row. In the quarterfinals, he defeated three-time Challenger Tour winner this year, Holger Rune, for the second week in a row.
Zdenek Kolar is enjoying the best season of his career and the Czech made his biggest final to date at Szczecin. After eliminating his countryman Jiri Vesely in the opening round, he had no issues dispatching Jay Clarke and Jesper De Jong to get to the semifinals. In the final four, he benefitted from a second set retirement from Nicola Kuhn, who suffered from a lower back issue.
Kolar and Majchrzak are the same age and have been friends since juniors. The Czech was leading the head-to-head 2-1 before their final at Szczecin, having already won a final at Poland at the expense of Majchrzak (ITF event in Sopot four years ago).
The Pole missed five set points in the opening set of the final, with most of them saved in an emphatic fashion by Kolar. Majchrzak will regret a forehand sitter that he missed on one of them, allowing the Czech to bounce back and take the set in a tie-break. Kolar was the more proactive player in almost all of the pivotal moments and he fully deserved to clinch the biggest title of his career, 7-6 7-5.
For the Czech, this means a top 150 debut, an achievement that the 25-year-old didn’t even realize he was about to achieve. He has entered next week’s Challenger in Bucharest, while Majchrzak will go to Sweden to train for a week, before playing tour-level qualifying in Sofia.
Back-to-back champion at Cassis and St. Tropez, Benjamin Bonzi‘s game was just as impressive as his fitness in Rennes. The Frenchman showed little signs of exhaustion and even managed to outlast Arthur Rinderknech in the semifinals, getting revenge for what was the very first Challenger final of the season in Istanbul. Before that, Bonzi was able to dismiss Elias Ymer, Kacper Zuk, and Liam Broady, all in straight sets.
Mats Moraing also took the title the previous week, making his final run almost just as impressive as Bonzi’s. It had another important factor though, as the German had to change surfaces, coming from clay in Tulln to the indoor hard conditions at Rennes. Moraing saved a match point in the opening round to beat 2020 Australian Open boys’ singles champion Harold Mayot, before securing a stunning win against top-seeded Richard Gasquet in the semifinals.
Bonzi was down a break early on in the opening set, but managed to keep his cool and take it in the tie-break. Both him and Moraing were very careful about holding their deliveries but with the overwhelming support of the crowd, the Frenchman managed to take another tie-breaker and grab a record-tying sixth Challenger title in a single season, matching Younes El Aynaoui (1998), Juan Ignacio Chela (2001), Facundo Bagnis (2016).
What’s even more impressive, Bonzi’s last three titles came through a fifteen-match win streak across just 21 days. The unstoppable Frenchman made a career-high ranking of World No. 61. As we all know by now, there’s no such thing as rest in Bonzi’s dictionary. He’s signed up for the ATP 250 event in Nur-Sultan, before he gets a chance to break the Challenger record at Orleans.
Bjorn Fratangelo came to Cary on a three-match losing streak, but he made it clear from the very beginning that it wasn’t caused by an actual drop-off in his form. The first and only player to him give a scare on the way to the final was the big-serving Aleksandar Vukic, who at one point got into a 7-6 3-0 lead. Fratangelo was able to win the next five games on the spin and advance to his 3rd Challenger final of the season.
Mitchell Krueger won the first Challenger played in Cary two months ago and he clearly enjoyed the conditions again. The American was only troubled by Denis Kudla in the semifinals and was very close to going out as the second seed led 5-3 in the deciding set. Krueger put up a great fight to break back and take the match in the tie-break.
Krueger put up very impressive serving numbers in the final, winning over 90% of his first-serve points up until late in the second set. Up 6-4 5-1, he suffered from tightness when given the opportunity to close out a match and got broken for the very first time. It ended up taking him six match points to take his third Challenger title. The 27-year-old will reach a career-high ranking of World No. 156 on Monday. Both finalists will feature in Columbus next week.
Top-seeded James Duckworth lived up to his status by making it all the way in Istanbul. The Australian had a very solid North-American hard court season and managed to bring that level to Europe from the very beginning of the week. Three straight-set victories took him all the way to the semifinals, where he dropped a dramatic tie-break to Quentin Halys before finally making inroads on the Frenchman’s serve to take the match.
Tung-Lin Wu‘s season wasn’t going great before this week as the Taiwanese was only able to secure one quarter-final at Nur-Sultan back in March. He recently qualified for Atlanta with a top 100 win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, and proved this great form here. The 23-year-old defeated Borna Gojo 6-4 3-6 6-4 in the semifinals.
As expected, Duckworth kept up his great form by beating the Taiwanese 6-3 6-2. The Australian is playing really well at the moment and his recent success brought him to a career-high 65th in the ATP Rankings. It was his 12th Challenger title. His next start will be the ATP 250 event in Nur-Sultan, while Wu’s plans remain unknown.
Gonzalo Lama hadn’t reached a Challenger final in five years, struggling with serious health issues that made him even consider retiring. The 28-year-old has been slowly making his way back up the rankings, taking four 15K ITF titles this year. The altitude clay of Quito really suited him as Lama made his way through the draw with stunning wins over Mario Vilella Martinez and Thiago Tirante. He won all four tie-breaks played on the way to the final.
Facundo Mena had a bit of an indifferent year, making a couple of semifinals at Tallahassee and Prague. Back to South America, the 28-year-old Argentinian also really enjoyed playing on the altitude, despite not being the most potent of servers in usual conditions. In the final four, he managed to stop a breakthrough run from Alexis Gautier and make his 2nd Challenger final.
Mena had another fantastic serving performance, blasting 12 aces in the final. He lost just eleven points in ten service games, not giving his opponent any chances on return. Lama struggled a bit with an arm injury and got broken once in each set to lose 4-6 4-6. Mena took his second title (Como 2019), advancing by 53 ranking spots. For the Chilean, this means a return to the top 400 after over 3,5 years. Both finalists will play in Ambato next week.
Events held next week:
- Ambato La Gran Ciudad (Challenger 80, clay)
- Flowbank Challenger Biel/Bienne (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
- Braga Open (Challenger 80, clay)
- Trofeul Tiriac-Nastase (Bucharest, Challenger 80, clay)
- Tennis Ohio Championships (Columbus, Challenger 80, indoor hard)
Top 100 players in action:
- Pierre-Hugues Herbert (Biel)
- Thiago Monteiro (Braga)
- Stefano Travaglia (Bucharest)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Juan Pablo Varillas vs Roberto Quiroz
- Goncalo Oliveira vs (SE) Gonzalo Lama
- (1) Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs Go Soeda
- (5) Liam Broady vs (ALT) Andrey Kuznetsov
- Lukas Lacko vs (2) Henri Laaksonen
- (3) Hugo Gaston vs Javier Barranco Cosano
- Nuno Borges vs (4) Nikola Milojevic
- Vitalyi Sachko vs Alexander Erler
- Duje Ajdukovic vs (3) Thanasi Kokkinakis
- Christian Harrison vs Mikael Torpegaard
- (6) Ernesto Escobedo vs Aleksandar Vukic