Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Griekspoor and Otte Can’t Stop Winning

Oscar Otte French Open

It’s five events no more as the Challenger Tour went through a last week that busy this year. The action doesn’t stop until the 19th of December though and there was plenty of excitement again as Tallon Griekspoor won his fifth consecutive event, taking his all-time record of most titles in a single season to eight. Other winners included a maiden title for Hugo Grenier and Christopher Eubanks capping off his season in style. Read back on this week’s action:

Roanne

Just 6-16 for the year in Challenger main draws, Hiroki Moriya could very well have been eliminated in the opening round again. Alexander Ritschard had three non-consecutive match points on return, but could only get the ball back once, committing an unforced error on his third shot of the rally. Moriya survived another long deciding set to beat Georgi Kravchenko, before massively upping his level to beat his last two opponents prior to the final without losing a set.

Hugo Grenier has been knocking on the door of a Challenger title a couple of times this year and after wasting his first chance losing to Constant Lestienne in Alicante, he got another one in Roanne, against a slightly more comfortable opponent. The Frenchman had to take out four of his countrymen to get there, losing a set only to Maxime Janvier. He also stopped a stunning run from the 15-year-old Gabriel Debru, who made a great Challenger-level debut by eliminating three top 500 players, including the World No. 220 Andrea Pellegrino.

Grenier had the upper hand in the match from the very beginning, using his superior power to dominate the rallies. The Frenchman was very clutch too, saving all five break points faced on the way to a 6-2 6-3 win. The 25-year-old’s maiden Challenger title helps him break the top 150 for the very first time. He chose to withdraw from next week’s event in Pau, while Moriya took a special exempt to enter the main draw.

Bratislava

Zsombor Piros won the 2017 Australian Open juniors’ title but it took him a few years to develop as a professional. This year has been great for the Hungarian though as he won two 25K and had a 23-3 ITF record since July coming into Bratislava. The 23-year-old had to kick-off his campaign from the qualifying draw and saved a match point with a forehand winner in his very first match, beating Patrik Niklas-Salminen. Little did he know that seven days later he’d be playing his first Challenger final. Piros played Stefano Travaglia in the semifinals, but the Italian retired after going a set and a break down.

Many of the Challenger recaps this year have been focused on Tallon Griekspoor, but the incredible Dutchman just keeps on giving. After winning a record seventh title at Tenerife last week, the 25-year-old went to Bratislava and added even more victories to his fantastic winning streak, taking the count to 25 (24 in Challengers plus one Davis Cup match).  Despite that, there were no signs of him running out of steam. In the first three matches, Griekspoor was exceptional in all the tie-breaks, but even when he dropped one against Alex Molcan, he was able to find a way to claw back and win in three sets.

Griekspoor took a fairly comfortable 6-3 6-2 match to grab his 8th Challenger title of the season. The record in one year stood at six before 2021 and will likely be extremely tough to break. His 25-match win streak at this level is also the longest one ever in a single season (surpassing Juan Ignacio Chela’s 24 from 2001). The Dutchman isn’t signed up for any tournaments in the upcoming weeks, while Piros has the option to take a special exempt into the main draw at Helsinki.

Ortisei

Ortisei is quite possibly the fastest Challenger on the circuit and the two finalists certainly enjoyed these conditions this week. Roberto Quiroz was the only player to get any play on Maxime Cressy‘s serve the whole week. In the other three matches, the American lost just 25 points behind his delivery, 12 of them through double faults. A semifinalist at Ismaning and the runner-up at Eckental, this three-week stretch of rapid indoor Challengers is where the serve-and-volleying game of Cressy gets the chance to shine.

Oscar Otte was the only one to take him out in Ismaning and secured another meeting with Cressy, taking advantage of his top seed status. What’s more, the German’s serving statistics had been just as ridiculous as his opponents. Otte lost just 15 points on serve in his first three matches, saving one break point against Matthias Bachinger. Jack Draper gave him a fairly tough challenge in the semifinals, creating another two but was unable to take them. As it stood, both finalists got to the championship match yet to be broken.

Cressy failed to capitalize on five break points in the opening set, ultimately losing it in the tie-breaker. Otte started getting a better read on the American’s serve and produced a number of chances in the second set, ultimately taking one after Cressy missed a volley long. The two produced fifteen break point opportunities, but that was the only one taken as the 28-year-old took his 2nd Challenger title of the year 7-6 6-4.

Otte is now up to a career-high ranking of World No. 116 and will be in a great position to push for top 100 early next year. Both finalists are scheduled to appear next week as Cressy goes to Pau, while the German is due to travel to Helsinki.

Knoxville

Christopher Eubanks lost in the opening rounds the past two weeks, but managed to turn it around by taking out Vasek Pospisil from a set down. The 25-year-old would then prevail over Go Soeda in a deciding tie-break, grabbing more confidence and getting to play much better as the week went on. Eubanks secured his second Challenger final of the season by defeating Christian Harrison and Bjorn Fratangelo, both in straight sets.

Daniel Altmaier had long been in the chase for the top 100, skipping the US Open in order to get it on red clay in Europe. His form suddenly went away though, there was also an injury concern and it took the German a lot longer than expected. After a few disappointing results in South America, Altmaier chose to play hard-court Challengers in the States. Knoxville was just his fourth event of the season on that surface, but the 24-year-old was serving very well all week (especially in the quarterfinals against Jack Sock), and secured himself a top 100 debut by reaching the final.

The aforementioned Altmaier serve was not shining as much on Sunday, facing off against a huge delivery coming from Eubanks. The American landed 78% of his first serves and took 92% of them, absolutely ripping apart his opponent in his games. His return strategy was to go big and deep and he was able to link enough of these risky shots together to find a break in each set, taking his 3rd Challenger title 6-3 6-4.

This title allows the American to re-enter the top 150 after 31 months, very close to his career-high ranking. Eubanks will now play the World Team Tennis exhibition, effectively ending his season. Altmaier is signed up for more Challengers, including Knoxville next week.

Montevideo

After claiming the title in Lima over a month ago, Hugo Dellien continued to be as solid as a rock in the next events of the South American circuit, racking up quarterfinal appearances almost week-in week-out. The Bolivian got through a deciding set against Timofey Skatov in the second round, before surviving an absolute war in a 2-6 7-6 7-6 win over Federico Coria in the final four. Dellien failed to serve out the match three times, before ultimately clinching it in the deciding tie-breaker.

Juan Ignacio Londero was having an absolutely dreadful year, coming into Montevideo with a 7-21 win/loss record. Weirdly enough, the 28-year-old was still capable to reach a Challenger semifinal in the middle of all this (Salzburg). A sudden resurgence on Uruguayan soil saw him eliminate Fransisco Cerundolo in the opening round, before backing it up with a couple of stunning wins over Jaume Munar and Thiago Monteiro.

With Dellien coming off a 3h 15mins marathon, one could expect that the Bolivian would show some signs of fatigue. Yet somehow, Londero’s shots seemed to do absolutely no damage to him as he could easily stand behind the baseline and counter-punch. The Argentinian missed literally anything he could and quickly lost the final 0-6 1-6.

Dellien has withdrawn from Campinas, but will be back after a week of rest in Brasilia. Londero is currently signed up for both of these events.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Terega Open Pau-Pyrenees (Challenger 100, indoor hard)
  • HPP Open (Helsinki, Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Champaign Challenger (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
  • Campeonato Internacional de Tennis (Campinas, Challenger 80, clay)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Emil Ruusuvuori, Henri Laaksonen (Helsinki)
  • Daniel Altmaier (Champaign)
  • Federico Coria, Jaume Munar, Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Thiago Monteiro, Pablo Cuevas (Campinas)

First-round matches to watch:

Pau

  • (4) Dennis Novak vs Sergiy Stakhovsky
  • (WC) Gabriel Debru vs (5) Norbert Gombos
  • (8) Zdenek Kolar vs (WC) Harold Mayot
  • Jiri Lehecka vs (3) Gilles Simon

This is very likely Stakhovsky’s last tournament, as he has previously stated that 2021 will probably be his last season.

Helsinki

  • (3) Alex Molcan vs Tim van Rijthoven
  • Damir Dzumhur vs (5) Oscar Otte
  • Ramkumar Ramanathan vs (WC) Otto Virtanen

Champaign

  • Tatsuma Ito vs (3) J.J. Wolf
  • Nicolas Mejia vs (2) Mitchell Krueger

Campinas

  • (1) Federico Coria vs Nicolas Jarry
  • Camilo Ugo Carabelli vs Thiago Seyboth Wild
  • Nicola Kuhn vs (6) Daniel Elahi Galan

Main Photo from Getty Images


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