Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Aleksandar Vukic Claims his Maiden Title

Aleksandar Vukic Australian Open
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Jack Draper took his second Challenger title of the year, again on the indoor hard courts in Forli. Meanwhile, fourth time was the charm for Aleksandar Vukic, who won a maiden title at that level, defeating Dimitar Kuzmanov in Bangalore. Read back on this week’s action:

Forli

Jack Draper claimed his maiden Challenger title in Forli at the beginning of the year and has really improved the control over his groundstrokes during the off-season. The 20-year-old’s lefty serve is a massive weapon on quicker surfaces and only Yosuke Watanuki was able to break the Brit more than once. The up-an-coming talent lost just one set to the Japanese in the semifinals, otherwise progressing through the draw with relative ease.

Tim van Rijthoven progressed through the qualifying draw, dropping his serve just once in six matches. The Dutchman reached a Challenger final in Segovia last year and had a perfect game for the fast indoor conditions at Forli. In his semifinal match against Nuno Borges, he hit 16 aces (34% ace percentage), not dropping a single set on the way to the championship match.

The quick conditions had everyone expecting that the final would be very serve-oriented, but it turned out not to be the case. Draper broke van Rijthoven four times and while it was the Dutchman who generated the first break opportunity of the match, he wasn’t able to convert any of his chances. The 20-year-old Brit ended up dominating the final 6-1 6-2 and taking the title in just over an hour.

Draper breaks the top 200 with his title and will be situated at a career-high ranking of 162 on Monday. Van Rijthoven reached the same milestone thanks to his runner-up appearance, locking in the 200th position. Both finalists will appear in another Challenger in Forli next week, the Dutchman thanks to a special exempt.

Bangalore

Aleksandar Vukic made his fourth ATP Challenger Tour final, having lost to Adrian Mannarino (Monterrey 2020), and Stefan Kozlov (Charlottesville and Champaign 2021).  The Australian only dropped his serve three times on the way to the championship match (twice to Max Purcell and once to Jay Clarke). In the semifinals, he managed to exact revenge on Borna Gojo, who had defeated him in the first event at Bangalore. Broken three times in their previous meeting, this time Vukic won all 31 points on his first serve to look for his maiden Challenger title.

Dimitar Kuzmanov had already cleared that obstacle at Barcelona last year, making his first hard-court Challenger final in Bangalore. The 28-year-old played four Frenchmen in a row to get to the finals (Hugo Grenier, Alexandre Muller, Mathias Bourgue, Enzo Couacaud). His first three victories were claimed in straight sets, but the one against Coaucaud required a comeback from 3-6 3-5 down, which had Kuzmanov save one match point on serve.

Like Mannarino and Kozlov, Kuzmanov also left most of the initiative to Vukic but his groundstrokes aren’t nearly as unpleasant as the Australian’s previous final opponents. On top of that, the 25-year-old has definitely improved his patience recently, got better at waiting for the perfect ball to strike. Vukic saved all five break points faced (including one 0-40 hole) and raced away to a 6-4 6-4 victory, claiming his first Challenger title.

In Monday’s ATP Rankings, Vukic will find himself just about 75 points away from the top 100, at a career-high ranking of 118. Both players will now take some rest as their next scheduled event is in three weeks – for the Australian it’s Indian Wells qualifying, for Kuzmanov it’s a Challenger in Rosetto Degli Abruzzi.

Events held next week:

  • Terega Open Pau-Pyrenees (Challenger 100, indoor hard)
  • Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Forli 5 (Challenger 80, indoor hard)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Benjamin Bonzi, Richard Gasquet, Jiri Lehecka, Radu Albot (Pau)

Radu Albot decided to sign up late and will start from the qualifying draw.

First-round matches to watch:

Pau

  • (3) Jiri Lehecka vs Mikhail Kukushkin
  • Dominic Stricker vs (4) Pierre-Hugues Herbert
  • (5) Norbert Gombos vs Lucas Pouille
  • Roman Safiullin vs (WC) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Forli

  • (1) Tomas Machac vs Lukas Lacko
  • (SE) Tim van Rijthoven vs Franco Agamenone
  • Jack Draper vs Jesper de Jong

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