Out for almost three years with a chronic ankle injury, it looked like 31-year-old Gerald Melzer might have a hard time coming back to professional tennis. But ever since he showed up in May this year, the Austrian has been constantly improving and added to his trophy cabinet this week in Bogota. Other winners included Sebastian Baez, who won back-to-back titles to grab his fifth Challenger Tour crown of the season, while Carlos Taberner is set to make his debut in the top 100 thanks to a title in Losinj. Here’s a look back at what you might have missed:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
The top two seeds got to the final at the Losinj Open, held at the Ivan Ljubicic Tennis Academy. Marco Cecchinato’s past couple of Challenger Tour appearances ended in disappointment as the 2018 Roland Garros semifinalist bombed out early in Tulln, Szczecin, and Naples. The 29-year-old was pushed by Nino Serdarusic in the second round, taking the second set in a tie-breaker before dominating the decider. Cecchinato had to play two matches on Saturday due to Friday being completely rained off, but even despite struggling against Mathias Bourgue in the first of them, he managed to comfortably dispatch Nerman Fatic later.
Taberner probably didn’t feel the physical toll of playing two matches on the same day. Eliminating two Italians, Andrea Arnaboldi and Alessandro Giannessi, took him just about 135 minutes. The Spaniard lost just one set on the way to the championship match, against Geoffrey Blancaneaux in the second round. Still seeking his top 100 debut, Taberner needed a title in Losinj to secure that achievement.
The 24-year-old completed his goal, although in slightly different circumstances than expected. Cecchinato pulled out before the final (right elbow injury), allowing Taberner to claim his third Challenger title of the season (fourth overall) and make the top 100 for the very first time. The Spaniard got a special exempt to Brest next week, while Cecchinato barely missed on making the main draw in St. Petersburg and will have to rest up.
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It was Thiago Monteiro’s first South American event after a long stretch far away from home. The Brazilian faced only home country representatives on his path to the final, taking out Hernan Casanova, Nicolas Kicker, Tomas Martin Etcheverry, and Fransisco Cerundolo. The matches against the last two were especially tough – Monteiro had to win four games in a row from 3-5 down in the decider to Etcheverry, and five consecutive ones from 1-3 down to Cerundolo.
Baez reached his fourth final in a row (third in consecutive weeks). The 20-year-old lost the opening set of his first-round match against Pedro Cachin but somehow found a lot more energy and intensity towards the business end of the week. That proved vital when, on Saturday, Baez had to play two matches in one day. Fortunately for him, he didn’t use up to much energy in beating Juan Pablo Varillas and Juan Manuel Cerundolo in straight sets.
The final was non-streamed for technical reasons, but Baez won 6-4 6-0 to claim his fifth Challenger title of the year. The Argentinian is up to the 112th spot in the ATP Rankings, with serious chances of making the main draw at the Australian Open. His win/loss ratio in Challenger main draw matches this year is a stunning 39-6 (87%). Both finalists decided to pull out of Lima next week, Baez citing personal reasons, while Monteiro is suffering a right knee injury.
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Melzer is a player who has been constantly hampered by injuries. The Austrian participated in just two professional events between November 2018 and April 2021 (both in May 2019), before finally being able to play a full schedule from May this year onwards. Protected ranking helped him get into Challenger main draws and Melzer was able to take advantage of that opportunity. Bogota was his fifth consecutive quarterfinal as the 30-year-old scored a win over top-seeded Daniel Elahi Galan in the second round. Two wins later, Melzer reached his first final since Guayaquil 2017.
Facundo Mena has been in excellent form on clay this year when playing at a high altitude. The 29-year-old won the title in Quito, reached the semifinals in Ambato and got to the final here. All of these cities are situated at over 2,500m above sea level. In the meantime, Mena played a few Challengers in regular conditions and hadn’t performed that well. The Argentinian never dropped a set on his way to the final, pulling off a tough straight-set win against Jesper de Jong in the final four.
With Losinj not having a final and Buenos Aires not streaming one, Melzer and Mena had to step up. Thankfully for Challenger tennis fans, they did. The final was interrupted at 4-4 in the decider due to rain, with the players having to wait about four hours to get back on the court. The finish was just as tight as the whole affair as Melzer clinched the decisive mini-break at 5-4 in the tie-breaker, converting his second match point to win his first title in four years.
The Austrian will be back to the top 300 on Monday, which should be able to secure him some Challenger main draws without using a protected ranking. He will feature in Lima next week, while Facundo Mena opted to rest and come back in November in Guayaquil.
Events held next week:
- Open Brest-Credit Agricole (Challenger 90, indoor hard)
- Las Vegas Tennis Open (Challenger 80, hard)
- Lima Challenger (Challenger 80, clay)
- Wolffkran Open (Ismaning, Challenger 80, carpet)
Top 100 players in action:
- Arthur Rinderknech, Jenson Brooksby, Richard Gasquet, Brandon Nakashima, Stefano Travaglia, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Henri Laaksonen, Carlos Taberner (Brest)
- Jordan Thompson, Jiri Vesely, Andreas Seppi (Ismaning)
- Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Tennys Sandgren (Las Vegas)
- Juan Manuel Cerundolo (Lima)
First-round matches to watch:
- Holger Rune vs Zdenek Kolar
- Liam Broady vs (7) Henri Laaksonen
- Jiri Lehecka vs (3) Richard Gasquet
- (1) Steve Johnson vs Ivo Karlovic
- (WC) Aleksandar Kovacevic vs Christopher Eubanks
- (6) Mitchell Krueger vs Aleksandar Vukic
- Bjorn Fratangelo vs Ernesto Escobedo
- Juan Pablo Ficovich vs (9) Tomas Martin Etcheverry
- (ALT) Orlando Luz vs (2) Juan Manuel Cerundolo
- (4) Yannick Hanfmann vs Tim van Rijthoven
- Marc-Andrea Huesler vs (WC) Mats Rosenkranz
- Maximilian Marterer vs (2) Jiri Vesely
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