Benjamin Bonzi and Chun-Hsin Tseng appeared on the Challenger Tour for the first time this year and both cleaned up their respective tournaments. The Taiwanese didn’t drop a set on the way to the final in Bangalore as Bonzi, while it didn’t seem so at first, had a much more eventful weekend. Read back on this week’s action:
Benjamin Bonzi won six Challenger titles last year but still can’t quite turn into some big runs on the main tour. The Frenchman had a disappointingly straightforward loss to Karen Khachanov at the Australian Open, then blew a huge lead against David Goffin in Montpellier. A return to the lower circuit did him good as the Frenchman’s serve was on absolute fire in the first three rounds (he got to deuce just once, never faced a breakpoint). Zizou Bergs turned out a worthy opponent in the semifinals, but Bonzi managed to clinch the victory 4-6 7-5 6-1.
Constant Lestienne had to find some dramatic victories on the way to the final, defeating Mohamed Safwat, Luca van Assche and Ernests Gulbis in deciding sets. He looked down and out especially against the Latvian, but the former top 10 player failed to capitalize on a 7-6 4-1 lead and let the feisty Frenchman come out on top. Lestienne has a bit of a reputation for unpredictable runs, one of which came last year when he won the Challenger in Alicante in October.
Bonzi won the opening set, but soon enough his serve stopped clicking and even the baseline game looked quite flat. After all the tennis Lestienne played during the week, it seemed like he would be the one struggling physically, but the top seed wasn’t holding up well himself. Bonzi went 1-4 down in the decider, before a brief moment of tension from Lestienne allowed him to claw his way back into the match. It was never the terminator version of the 25-year-old that blasted through his first matches here, but he was able to reel off the next five games and secure the win.
It’s Bonzi’s 7th Challenger title (all previous six came in 2021). Lestienne’s runner-up finish allows him to almost climb back to the top 200. The champion will play a tour-level event in Marseille next week, while the one who lost the final stays on the Challenger Tour in Forli.
Chun-Hsin Tseng claimed his maiden Challenger title at Maia at the end of last year and while he kicked off his 2022 campaign with a couple of tour-level losses, a return to this level of competition brought him instant success. The Taiwanese never dropped a single set going into the final, dismantling all the opponents with his brilliant footspeed and the ability to absorb pace. It was as if the court shrank when his rivals stepped onto the court to compete against Tseng.
Borna Gojo peaked for the Davis Cup Finals last year, taking out three top 100 players in Lorenzo Sonego, Alexei Popyrin, and Dusan Lajovic. The Croat had been struggling to turn it into consistent results on the Challenger level though, losing in the second round at two events in Forli in January. Bangalore brought an end to that, which was quite a surprise given he had a very tough match against 41-year-old Jaroslav Pospisil in the qualifying (who’s coaching Vit Kopriva and playing only sporadically). The Croat reeled off six straight victories to make his maiden Challenger final.
Gojo had to be really patient in this matchup and couldn’t really find that at the beginning of the match, ending the vast majority of the baseline rallies on his own errors. He was also unable to capitalize on his opponent’s weaker serve and swiftly lost the opening set. The Croat had a wonderful patch of play to go from 0-2 down in the second to 5-2 up, but all the nightmares of the opener soon came back. Tseng was like a wall from the baseline and some untimely double faults (10 in total) cost him the next five games and the match.
The Taiwanese is now about 30 points away from debuting in the top 150. Gojo will be the highest-ranked player without a professional title on Monday (0-2 in ITFs, 0-1 in Challengers), overtaking Andrea Vavassori. Both players are scheduled to stay in Bangalore for one more week.
Challenger Tour magic:
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) February 8, 2022
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) February 9, 2022
Events held next week:
- Bengaluru Open 2 (Challenger 80, hard)
- Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Forli 4 (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Aleksandar Vukic vs Prajnesh Gunneswaran
- Dimitar Kuzmanov vs (2) Hugo Grenier
- (1) Quentin Halys vs Vitalyi Sachko
- Maximilian Marterer vs Nino Serdarusic