Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Struff Perfect in Braunschweig, Cachin Breaks the Top 100

Jan-Lennard Struff won a Challenger Tour title in Braunschweig.
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Five ATP Challenger Tour events were organized during the second week of Wimbledon. By far the biggest story was Jan-Lennard Struff looking next to unbeatable in Braunschweig. Pedro Cachin managed to secure his top 100 debut by triumphing in Todi. Read back on this week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Braunschweig

Jan-Lennard Struff came into this week with a 2-13 win/loss record for the year (lots of that related to a foot injury), but his most recent match had him play great but lose a five-setter to Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon. Despite a very rough draw (Federico Delbonis in round one), the German was in absolutely crushing form all week. The only opponent who took more than three games in a set from him was Delbonis (and Struff served for that one at 5-3).

Maximilian Marterer had a much wilder path to the final, defeating Bernabe Zapata Miralles in a third-set tie-breaker in the quarterfinals, before doing the same against Zhizhen Zhang. The latter match was probably one of the greatest Challenger comebacks ever. Marterer saved eight match points, two with the Chinese serving at 3-5 in the third and six on his delivery at 4-5. Unlike Struff, he’s been having a very solid year, but was still without a single final since November 2020.

Understandably quite flat after his two previous efforts, Marterer never really stood a chance in the final. A rain delay didn’t help, especially as by that point, Struff was already 6-2 3-2 (with a break) up. The 32-year-old won all three games after the restart and claimed his sixth Challenger title, first since October 2016 (Mons).

Marterer was supposed to play in Amersfoort next week, but he opted to pull out. The next plans for the champion remain unknown, although a wildcard for Hamburg (ATP 500) could be expected given his great performance in Braunschweig.

Salzburg

Thiago Monteiro reached his first final of the season in Salzburg. It certainly wasn’t an easy run as it included three deciding set victories. Dusan Lajovic led him by a break in the third set, Facundo Bagnis briefly went up a set and a break. Both times, Monteiro managed to level right back though. The Brazilian also took out Jurij Rodionov and the recent Bratislava champion, Alexander Shevchenko, with the Russian being the only opponent he fended off without the loss of a set.

Norbert Gombos had reached one final on the Challenger Tour this year already, losing in Murcia to Chun-Hsin Tseng. The Slovakian was in trouble in the opening round already, down 5-7 5-5 to Luca Nardi, but he managed to up his game as the week went on. He survived another key moment at 3-6 5-5 against Corentin Moutet in the semifinals, saving five break points and going on to win the match. Gombos won his only previous meeting with Monteiro, beating him at the Liberec Challenger back in 2014.

Gombos missed a few second serve returns too many early on, including on break points, to let Monteiro run away with the opening set. But in general, his rhythmic pace suited the Brazilian’s counter-punching skills and as the 28-year-old continued fending off break points (5/5 in total), the second set finished in a tie-breaker.

At 3-2 Monteiro, the two played a very long rally where the Brazilian eventually outlasted his opponent and got the momentum required to clinch the match 6-3 7-6. It’s his 7th Challenger title. Gombos will play in Verona next, while Monteiro was forced to withdraw from Bastad (ATP 250) qualifying (he will compete in Hamburg (ATP 500) next).

Todi

Pedro Cachin has been one of the most improved players of the season, making four Challenger finals and claiming titles in Madrid and Prague. The Argentinian was the top seed in Todi, but had to fight through a very rough draw full of tricky opposition. The only one to take a set off him was the three-time Challenger runner-up this year Francesco Passaro, but Cachin recovered from dropping the opening set to give himself a chance of making the top 100 for the very first time.

After a brilliant 2021 campaign when Nicolas Kicker quickly made his way back from a match-fixing suspension to become a Challenger regular again, the Argentinian wasn’t able to maintain that level at all this year. In fact, his run in Todi was the first time in 2022 when he won consecutive matches. He benefitted from a third-set retirement of Jesper de Jong in the opening round, before going on to upset the second seed, Flavio Cobolli, in the quarterfinals.

The final was tighter than the scoreline suggests, but Kicker just really couldn’t find a way to perform in key moments. The 29-year-old was in control of the baseline, but struggled with the execution when push came to shove. Cachin hit six aces and broke five times to grab the 6-4 6-4 victory. It’s a fifth Challenger title for the 27-year-old, third this year. As a result, he managed to secure a spot in the top 100 for the very first time. Both finalists are scheduled to appear in Challengers this week – Cachin in Verona, Kicker in Amersfoort.

Porto

Altug Celikbilek won in Porto last year, but was having an awful season pretty much up until two weeks ago. In Malaga, he made his first semifinal of 2022 and wasn’t able to clinch a 6-3 lead in the deciding tie-break against Emilio Gomez. Porto clearly has some good vibes for the 25-year-old though as he cruised to the final without even dropping a set. He particularly impressed in the defeats of James Duckworth (top seed) and Egor Gerasimov.

Christopher O’Connell got one match away from debuting in the top 100 by making the final in Porto. It’s been a great season for the Australian, especially in Challengers, where coming into the championship match here, he owned a 16-4 win/loss record. Like Celikbilek, he took all of his encounters in straight sets, losing eight games fewer than the Turk. His best performance came in the semifinals as he dispatched second seed, Yoshihito Nishioka, showing no signs of nerves related to the possibility of grabbing a spot in the world’s best hundred.

Both players were very focused on getting to strike their forehand first after the serve. The Australian was a little looser with the errors, but also exposed Celikbilek’s weaker movement in the rallies. The Turk took a tightly-contested tie-breaker though and O’Connell had a medical timeout on a right leg issue at 0-1 down in the second (the same treatment was required in his semifinal).

The Australian eventually retired a couple of games later at 6-7 1-3. Celikbilek defended his 2021 Porto title and took his third Challenger overall. The champion will now take a week off before playing a couple of hard court events in Spain, whilst O’Connell will likely try to heal up the injury before Atlanta (ATP 250).

Bogota

Gerald Melzer only won consecutive matches on one occasion in 2022 prior to this week (Mexico City). Altitude clay has been a good hunting ground for the Austrian in recent years, including a title in Bogota nine months ago. In the opening round, he recovered from a bagel in the second set to beat Adrian Menendez-Maceiras and suddenly caught some rhythm. He still had to fight back from 2-4 down in the decider against Nicolas Alvarez in the quarterfinals and beat last week’s Cali runner-up, Miljan Zekic, 6-4 in the third in the final four.

Juan Pablo Ficovich took a couple of disappointing losses in the South American events recently, first going out to Mariano Navone in Corrientes and Buenos Aires, before not being able to take down Nicolas Mejia on altitude in Cali last week. Despite struggling against Sergio Luis Hernandez Ramirez in the opening round, he exacted revenge on the aforementioned Mejia, then taking out Roberto Quiroz and Nick Hardt. Only one of these matches was won in straight sets.

Even though altitude conditions have suited him recently, Melzer just couldn’t get himself started on Sunday. His lefty forehand was incredibly erratic and he was basically a non-factor in return games. Ficovich ended up losing his serve once near the end of the match, but other than that he was just as solid as they get.┬áThe Argentinian claimed his 2nd Challenger title with a 6-1 6-2 victory in just 66 minutes. The champion took a special exempt spot in Rome this week, while Melzer is expected to appear in Iasi.

Events held next week:

  • Concord Iasi Open (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Van Mossel KIA Dutch Open (Amersfoort, Challenger 80, clay)
  • Internazionali di Tennis Verona (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Georgia’s Rome Challenger (Challenger 80, indoor hard)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Jiri Lehecka (Iasi)
  • Tallon Griekspoor, Roberto Carballes Baena, Bernabe Zapata Miralles, Carlos Taberner (Amersfoort)
  • Yoshihito Nishioka (Rome)

First-round matches to watch:

Iasi

  • Filip Misolic vs Luciano Darderi
  • Borna Coric vs (WC) Nicholas David Ionel
  • (7) Renzo Olivo vs Lukas Klein

Amersfoort

  • (1) Tallon Griekspoor vs Javier Barranco Cosano
  • Zsombor Piros vs Alexander Ritschard
  • (4) Carlos Taberner vs (ALT) Robin Haase

Verona

  • (1) Pedro Cachin vs Nino Serdarusic
  • Santiago Rodriguez Taverna vs (7) Alexandre Muller
  • Thiago Agustin Tirante vs (8/WC) Marco Cecchinato
  • Riccardo Bonadio vs (3) Gianluca Mager
  • Giulio Zeppieri vs (2) Norbert Gombos

Rome

  • Li Tu vs Yasutaka Uchiyama
  • Aidan McHugh vs (4/SE) Juan Pablo Ficovich

Main photo:
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