ATP Challenger Tour: 2021 By The Numbers

Camilo Ugo Carabelli in action on the ATP Challenger Tour.

After hosting just 59 events in the shortened 2020 season, this year saw the ATP Challenger Tour thriving again with 147 of them across the globe. Let’s have a look at some of the most important statistics and storylines related to how this season played out.

ATP Challenger Tour By The Numbers

Tournaments by surface

  • Clay – 85 (indoor – 2)
  • Hard – 58 (indoor – 32)
  • Grass – 2
  • Indoor carpet – 2

Back in 2019, the last regular pre-pandemic season, clay stood for just 41% of Challenger events. Despite about a hundred fewer events in 2020, that percentage remained roughly the same (about 0,5% smaller, but still rounding off to 41). This year’s 85/147 equates to 58%, making clay a very dominant surface on the Challenger circuit in 2021.

Number of events per country

  • 25 – Italy
  • 15 – France
  • 13 – United States

The podium here remains the same as last year, although France overtakes the United States for second place. Italy has once again proven to be a very prolific tournament holder, especially in such a difficult time. 

Titles won per country (singles)

  • 20 – Argentina
  • 19 – United States
  • 11 – Spain, France
  • 10 – Germany

Argentina tied its own record of 20 titles in a single year (also 2007 and 2016). France has also scored 20, back in 2005.

Most titles won (singles)

  • 8 – Tallon Griekspoor
  • 6 – Sebastian Baez, Benjamin Bonzi
  • 4 – Holger Rune
  • 3 – Daniel Altmaier, Zizou Bergs, Jenson Brooksby, Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Zdenek Kolar, Stefan Kozlov, Oscar Otte, Carlos Taberner

The biggest storyline of the season was certainly first Benjamin Bonzi tying the all-time record for most Challenger titles in a single season, then Tallon Griekspoor breaking it. It had previously been held by Younes El Aynaoui (1998), Juan Ignacio Chela (2001), and Facundo Bagnis (2016). Grieskpoor’s run also included the longest-ever winning streak on the Challenger Tour (25), overtaking Chela and Coria’s 24. 

With the COVID-19 ranking system still in effect, some players were held back in Challengers for a little longer than they’d usually be, which was certainly a big factor in a total of three players breaking or equaling the all-time record in one season. 

Griekspoor won six titles on clay and two on hard (one indoors). Baez took all six on the dirt, while Bonzi captured four on outdoor hard courts, one under the roof, and one on clay. 

Most titles won (doubles)

  • 8 – Orlando Luz
  • 7 – Rafael Matos, Aleksandr Nedovyesov
  • 6 – Nuno Borges, Fransisco Cabral, Rafael Matos
  • 5 – Sadio Doumbia, Felipe Meligeni Alves, Denys Molchanov, Fabian Reboul

Orlando Luz won his titles with four different partners, including four with Rafael Matos and one with Aleksandr Nedovyesov. Nuno Borges and Fransisco Cabral captured the most as a pair, including the last couple of weeks in Maia. They were closely followed by Sadio Doumbia and Fabian Reboul with five titles together. 

Most match wins (singles main draws)

  • 50 – Benjamin Bonzi
  • 49 – Tomas Martin Etcheverry
  • 44 – Sebastian Baez
  • 42 – Tallon Griekspoor
  • 39 – Holger Rune, Nicolas Jarry

Tomas Martin Etcheverry stands out a bit with “just” two singles titles, but once you delve deeper into it, it turns out that the Argentinian has been among the most consistent Challenger players this season, making the quarterfinals a tour-leading 15 times.

Best win percentage (minimum 15 matches played)

  • 89% – Jenson Brooksby (23/3)
  • 86% – Sebastian Baez (44/7)
  • 86% – Tallon Griekspoor (42/7)

Jenson Brooksby lost his opening match to Cem Ilkel in Potchefstroom and then proceeded to win 23 out of the next 25. With a ranking well into the top 100, it’s doubtful we’re going to see him in Challengers at all in 2022 (the other two losses came to Bjorn Fratangelo and Thanasi Kokkinakis). If you’re wondering where’s Benjamin Bonzi, he’s sitting at just under 80% with 50 wins and 13 losses. 

ATP Singles Ranking Top 50 participation in Challenger events (which requires an ATP approved wildcard)

  • 26 – Ugo Humbert at Orleans, lost in the opening round to Quentin Halys
  • 27 – Dan Evans at Nottingham, lost in the quarterfinals to Denis Kudla
  • 46 – Benoit Paire at Roanne, lost in the opening round to Jelle Sels
  • 46 – Benoit Paire at Braunschweig, lost in the second round to Vit Kopriva
  • 48 – Albert Ramos-Vinolas at Szczecin, lost in the opening round to Nicola Kuhn

It’s never easy to win a Challenger, even when you’re ranking is much better than that of the rest of the field. Benoit Paire had a pretty awful season and dropping down a level wasn’t enough for him to grab a deep run. Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Ugo Humbert run into excellent performances from opponents who are always very dangerous on their day, while Dan Evans lost to one of the few remaining players who could really be called grass-court specialists, Denis Kudla.

Qualifier champions (singles)

  • Zizou Bergs – St. Petersburg and Lille
  • Sebastian Baez – Zagreb
  • Alex Bolt – Nottingham (2)
  • Pedro Cachin – Oeiras (2)
  • Jesper de Jong – Almaty (2)
  • Igor Marcondes – Florianopolis
  • Daniel Masur – Biella (4)
  • Arthur Rinderknech – Istanbul
  • Kacper Zuk – Split (2)

Wildcard champions (singles)

  • Carlos Gimeno Valero – Gran Canaria (2)
  • Nicolas Jarry – Salinas
  • Gian Marco Moroni – Milan
  • Andrea Pellegrino – Rome
  • Dominic Stricker – Lugano
  • Dalibor Svrcina – Prague
  • Evgeny Tiurnev – St. Petersburg (2)

Dominic Stricker was also the lowest-ranked champion this year at world #874. The title propelled him to some amazing results on the main tour (back-to-back quarterfinals on different surfaces) and the talented Swiss finished the year ranked 246th in the world.  Gian Marco Moroni was the only wildcard champion who didn’t actually need it to appear in the main draw, he was handed it after not signing up for the entry list before the deadline. Stefan Kozlov won his title in Charlottesville as an alternate, Jenson Brooksby took his first trophy in Potchefstroom (2) after entering the tournament with a protected ranking.

Finals between the top two seeds (singles)

  • (1) Tallon Griekspoor def. (2) Botic van de Zandschulp in Amersfoort
  • (1) Tallon Griekspoor def. (2) Roberto Carballes Baena in Murcia
  • (2) Carlos Taberner def. (1) Marco Cecchinato in Losinj (walkover)
  • (1) Tallon Griekspoor def. (2/WC) Feliciano Lopez in Tenerife
  • (1) Oscar Otte def. (2) Maxime Cressy in Ortisei

Every time a final like this actually took place, it was the top seed who went on to win. Marco Cecchinato withdrew before the match in Losinj after having to play two matches on Saturday (so did Carlos Taberner, but the Spaniard had an easier time dispatching his opponents). Tallon Griekspoor being (and winning) three of these is a real curiosity, but after all, he’s been the most successful player of the season. These three titles were the only ones he captured as the top seed, he was second, fourth, fifth, fifth, and unseeded at the othehrs.

Longest super tie-breaker 

  • 18-16 Denys Molchanov/Aleksandr Nedovyesov def. Luis David Martinez/David Vega Hernandez in Antalya
  • 18-16 Facundo Bagnis/Sergio Galdos def. Andres Molteni/Andrea Vavassori in Salzburg

In the final of one of the first Challenger events of the season, Denys Molchanov and Aleksandr Nedovyesov saved six match points and converted their fourth to win what would turn out to be the first of their four titles as a team. Facundo Bagnis and Sergio Galdos won the semifinal match in Salzburg by also saving six, but taking their third opportunity.

Double bagels

  • Denis Yevseyev over Vaja Uzakov in Saint Petersburg (2)
  • Adrian Andreev over Blas Ruiz Romero in Pozoblanco
  • Diego Hidalgo/Cristian Rodriguez over Juan Esteban Pinto Vela/Sebastian Andres Sevilla in Ambato
  • Jay Clarke over Hasan Abdulnabi in Manama

All double bagels came in the opening rounds and all involved wildcards (on the losing end). Vaja Uzakov lasted just 33 minutes against Denis Yevseyev, which didn’t come as much of a shock as the 33-year-old had played just two matches in the previous six years.

Blaz Ruiz Romero managed to extend the duration of the match to 46 minutes but won two points fewer than Uzakov (11 and 13). It was his third professional match and the 18-year-old Spaniard is yet to win more than two games in a set.

The Ecuadorian duo of Juan Esteban Pinto and Sebastian Andres Sevilla were making their debut at any level of competition and won just thirteen points in the only Challenger doubles 6-0 6-0 of the season. Hasan Abdulnabi was a bit unlucky not to win a game, taking 16 points and even creating two break-point opportunities.

Least amount of matches required to win a title – 1 

Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos needed to win just one match to claim the title in Concepcion. Many players withdrew, deciding to go to Cordoba to play qualifying for the ATP event held there. The whole tournament ended up with just eight matches and Luz/Matos received three straight walkovers to make the finals, where they defeated Sergio Galdos and Diego Hidalgo 7-6 6-4 (their opponents played twice to get to the final).

Most dominant week in singles – 19 games lost

Alex Molcan’s dominance over the field in Liberec was just ridiculous. The Slovakian dropped 19 games and 9 of them came in his quarterfinal meeting with Kamil Majchrzak (7-6 6-3). The other rivals never stood a chance as Robin Haase won 5, Dalibor Svrcina took three, and Malek Jaziri and Tomas Machac could only muster one game each at the expense of the 23-year-old. The spectators who bought the tickets for the weekend in Liberec were extremely unlucky as all three singles matches were over in a flash (6-2 6-2; 6-1 6-0; 6-0 6-1).

Some surprisingly winless players (singles main draws):

  • Mikhail Kukushkin – 0-5
  • Thomaz Bellucci – 0-4 (plus 0-8 in qualifying)
  • Steve Johnson – 0-3

A 14-time champion of the circuit, Mikhail Kukushkin played five Challengers this year and never took a single set. Former world #21 Thomaz Bellucci had a shocking season. His win-loss across all levels of competition stands at 2-17 and besides the 0 for 4 in Challenger main draw, he also went 0 for 8 in qualifying at this circuit. Steve Johnson’s drop-off is shocking when you consider that he actually led the 2020 season with the best win/loss record of anyone (15/2; 88%).

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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