Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Unlucky Francesco Passaro, Comesana vs Navone v2

Francesco Passaro ATP Rome
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It was a great week for Argentina on the ATP Challenger Tour as their representative not only claimed the title at home in Buenos Aires, but also at Milan. Meanwhile, Kaichi Uchida shocked everyone with his new-found clay skills to take the title in Oeiras. Read back on this week’s action:

Milan

Federico Coria lost in the opening round of two of his previous three Challengers, so he was kinda desperate for a good result. The top seed in Milan was in incredible form from the very first match, simply destroying all his opponents. Coria dropped six games in his first three encounters, before engaging in a very high-quality semifinal against recent Bratislava champion, Alexander Shevchenko. The Russian played extremely well, but still managed only five games against Coria, who outlasted him physically in the second set.

Francesco Passaro‘s rapid improvement has been one of the biggest stories on the Challenger Tour in recent months. The Italian completely changed his playstyle and lost his finals in Sanremo (to Holger Rune) and Forli (to Lorenzo Musetti) only through mental insufficiencies. Just like Coria, the 21-year-old wasn’t just beating his opponents, he was absolutely smashing them in Milan this week. Passaro dropped sixteen games in his first four matches.

Passaro’s ball-bashing put a lot of pressure on Coria early, but the Argentinian managed to withstand it and take over the initiative with his forehand whenever he could. After dropping the opening tie-break, the 21-year-old felt a bit more tired and with the power-oriented playstyle still being relatively new to him, his shot selection would also become all over the place.

Coria took his 4th Challenger title 7-6 6-4. Passaro is now 0-3 in finals at this level, although it has to be said he’s been unlucky with the opposition being excellent – all top seeds in the top 100 (Coria, Musetti, Rune). The runner-up will now rest up, while the Argentinian goes straight to Wimbledon, starting his main draw campaign against Jiri Vesely on Monday.

Oeiras

Former ATP 97 Kimmer Coppejans wasn’t having a great year with just one Challenger quarterfinal in Bangalore in February. The Belgian had to be on top of his game in Oeiras, facing the top seed Roberto Carballes Baena in the opening round. Not only did he manage to eliminate him, but he also took out Nicolas Jarry in the semifinals, clinching it 7-5 in the deciding tie-break. He was also a set and a break down against Daniel Michalski in the quaterfinals.

Kaichi Uchida hadn’t done well at Challenger level on clay before, only reaching a couple of quarterfinals at weaker events in Prague (2021) and Shymkent (2022). The Japanese had an easier path to the final than Coppejans, but made two stunning upsets in the quarterfinals and the semifinals. The first was a deciding set win against Michael Geerts, the other a straight-set dismissal of second seed Facundo Bagnis, which was also his second best-ever victory ranking-wise.

Uchida had a bit of a slower start, but saved a couple of break points early to get back on track. The Japanese was slowly wresting back control over the baseline and whenever Coppejans tried to ramp it up with his forehand, he was also absorbing pace well. Performance on serve was key too as Uchida saved 4/4 break points to claim the title 6-2, 6-4, using dropshots nicely to mix up the rhythm.

It’s the Japanese’s second Challenger title (Rio de Janeiro 2021) and he’s now very close to debuting in the top 200. Both finalists will be in action next week – Uchida in Malaga, Coppejans in Luedenscheid.

Buenos Aires

Francisco Comesana won his maiden Challenger title at Corrientes the week before, defeating Mariano Navone in the final 6-0 6-3. The 21-year-old was the third seed this time around to the addition of Felipe Meligeni Alves into the draw, whom he had to defeat in the semifinals. Comesana lost his only set on the way to the championship match against Nicolas Alvarez in the opening round. Even further the line, he showed not signs of accumulated fatigue.

Neither did Mariano Navone, who managed to secure another final appearance and allow for a Comesana vs Navone rematch. Just like at Corrientes, the Argentinian had to eliminate top-seeded Juan Pablo Ficovich, although this time it happened a round earlier. Navone also survived three-set matches against Nick Hardt and Valerio Aboian, although realistically only Ficovich came anywhere close to taking him out (opened the decider with a break).

Navone didn’t start as nervously as in their final at Corrientes, but soon enough it was clear that Comesana is just the much better player right now. The runner-up from the previous week again struggled to find the consistency to hit through his opponent, and it’s not like he was going to just stand there and wait for the attacking blows to come.

Comesana claimed his second Challenger title 6-4 6-0. It was a huge fortnight for the two Argentinian 21-year-olds – Navone doubles his ranking point, while the back-to-back champion is now firmly into Grand Slam qualifying range. Comesana is still scheduled to appear at Cali next week, Navone will take some well-earned rest.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Sauerland Open (Luedenscheid, Challenger 80, clay)
  • Malaga Open (Challenger 80, hard)
  • Cali Open (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Internationaux de Tennis de Troyes (Challenger 50, clay)

As most top 100 players are at Wimbledon, no one from the world’s best hundred will be in action this week. Initially, a Challenger in Quito was planned instead of Cali, but Ecuador is currently under a state of exception due to an ongoing protest against the President’s economic policy.

First-round matches to watch:

Luedenscheid

  • (1) Nicolas Jarry vs Daniel Dutra da Silva
  • (4) Marco Cecchinato vs Nicolas David Ionel
  • (WC) Rudolf Molleker vs (8) Filip Horansky
  • (6) Dominic Stricker vs Robin Haase
  • Oleksii Krutykh vs (2) Mats Moraing

Malaga

  • (1) Christopher O’Connell vs Emilio Nava
  • (PR) Roberto Marcora vs Lukas Lacko
  • (5) Emilio Gomez vs Yasutaka Uchiyama

Roberto Marcora retired in November last year, but came back for Wimbledon qualifying (lost to Radu Albot in the opening round) and now appears also willing to compete in Challengers.

Cali

  • Aleksandar Kovacevic vs (8) Miljan Zekic
  • Francisco Comesana vs (5) Roberto Quiroz
  • Malek Jaziri vs (4) Felipe Meligeni Alves
  • Goncalo Oliveira vs (2) Facundo Mena

Troyes

  • (1) Nino Serdarusic vs (PR) Joris de Loore
  • (5) Evgeny Karlovskiy vs (WC) Luca van Assche
  • Lorenzo Giustino vs (3) Genaro Alberto Olivieri
  • Kacper Å»uk vs (2) Thiago Agustin Tirante

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