Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Maiden Champions Only

Gabriel Diallo of the Kentucky Wildcats hits a forehand against the Virginia Cavaliers during the Division I Men's Tennis Championship

Four ATP Challenger Tour events this week have granted us four maiden champions. Banja Luka and Granby had finals between players who already tasted the glory at this level, Nonthaburi and Prague were guaranteed to do that with two first-time finalists. Read back on this week’s action:

Banja Luka

Fabian Marozsan felt like he was getting closer and closer to a Challenger breakthrough all year, having reached the semifinals at Bergamo in November 2021. The 22-year-old was putting in solid results like a 25K title in Loule and another final four appearance in Milan, but had to wait until August to make his first final at this level. He only dropped one set on the way to the final in Banja Luka (against Dragos Nicolae Madaras in the semifinals).

Damir Dzumhur had made just a couple of quarterfinals all year, one of them in the Meerbusch Challenger and the other in an ATP 250 in Montpellier. The Bosnian decided not to travel to the United States for the US Open and play in Banja Luka instead. This was a risky call, but you could say that it paid off as he made his first Challenger final in sixteen months. The only opponent to trouble him on the way to the final was Filip-Cristian Jianu, whom he took out 7-5 in the third.

Marozsan came out firing, serving great and finding plenty of forehand winners, both with spin and relying on power. Dzumhur tried to dropshot him a lot early on and while he had some success by luring the Hungarian to the net, he soon fell behind on the scoreboard. His motivation quickly dropped and he half-tanked the rest of the match.

The Hungarian won his maiden Challenger title 6-2 6-1 in just 49 minutes. The 23-year-old will break the top 200. Both finalists are scheduled to play on this circuit again next week, but in different events – Dzumhur in Como, Marozsan in Toulouse.


A maiden Challenger champion at Lexington two weeks earlier, Juncheng Shang made sure to recover and was back in Granby, playing just as well as he was during his first title campaign. The field this week consisted of a few higher-ranked players who were already in the US Open main draw and those who didn’t make the cut. Shang was the best of the latter bunch. The Chinese scored a key win over Jordan Thompson in the quarterfinals and didn’t drop a set on his way to the title.

Gabriel Diallo plays college tennis for the University of Kentucky, but has been getting some great results in pro events over the summer. A titlist at the 25K in East Lansing, he’s also scored wins over the likes of Zizou Bergs or James Duckworth. The 20-year-old survived deciding set tie-breaks against Aziz Dougaz and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, saving a match point against the latter (a serve +1 forehand followed up to the net and capped off with a smash).

It seemed at first that Shang would dictate the baseline rallies and keep Diallo moving, but the 20-year-old fought back. He was able to work the angles really well too and suddenly produce huge forehands out of nowhere. While the Canadian had some issues closing it out (6-5 40-15 on serve in the second set missed), he eventually played a great tie-break to take it home.

Diallo claimed his maiden Challenger title 7-5 7-6. He’ll be the new World No. 335, while Shang is almost into the top 200. Diallo’s next starting plans remain unclear as the Chinese will take a few weeks of rest before appearing at Cary.


Oleksii Krutykh was a surprising semifinalist at Nur-Sultan last year, but has since then raised his game and became a Challenger regular in 2022. He only made one quarterfinal in Bratislava though and a Challenger 50 event was a perfect way for him to go for a first final/title. The Ukrainian survived a couple of deciding tie-breaks against Marius Copil and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, saving a match point with an unreturned serve versus the latter.

Lucas Gerch had won three ITF titles in his career (including a 15K in Ueberlingen just the week before), but had never been past the second round at a Challenger. The German had a couple of “close but no cigar” losses against quality opposition this year (Mats Moraing, Facundo Bagnis, Andrea Pellegrino), before finally putting it together in Prague to reach the final on a 9-match win streak. The only opponent to take him to a deciding set was Joao Domingues in the semifinals.

Both playing their maiden final, Gerch and Krutykh were very nervous and emotional from the get-go. The German seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit more, struggling with the execution on his volleys or the serve plus one shot. He produced a great fightback in the second set, but was unable to match that intensity as the Ukrainian ramped up the aggression for the decider.

Krutykh won his maiden Challenger title 6-3 6-7 6-2 and got himself into Grand Slam qualifying range with a very good chance at making the cut for the Australian Open. Gerch is nearing a top 300 debut. Both players will feature in Como next week, the German with a special exempt.


After making his maiden Challenger quarterfinal on altitude clay at San Marino a couple of weeks back, Valentin Vacherot got a couple of rounds further and earned himself a premier final appearance at this level. Since graduating from Texas A&M, the 23-year-old had won five ITF titles and the Challenger 50 format gave him a great chance to make the jump to the higher level. Starting from the qualifying, he dropped his serve just three times in six matches on the way to the final.

Ly Hoang Nam had recently been on a 24-match win streak at the ITF 15K level, winning four titles this season. A Wimbledon boys’ doubles champion back in 2015 (along with Sumit Nagal), the Vietnamese had never been past the second round at a Challenger. He took out Illya Marchenko 7-5 in the third to break that barrier, before eliminating the top seed in Nonthaburi, Alastair Gray. Ly went on to drop one more set against Dane Sweeny in the semifinals.

Vacherot got an early break and never looked back taking the opening set. A rain delay then caused the final to be interrupted for over an hour and it was a much tighter affair once they returned. Ly wasn’t overwhelmed by the opponent’s weight of shot anymore and started moving him around the court more effectively. But eventually, it was Vacherot who prevailed 6-3 7-6.

It’s the first Challenger title for a player representing Monaco since Jean-Rene-Lisnard won his second trophy back in 2004. Both Vacherot and Ly will break the top 300 and are scheduled to appear in the next two events in Nonthaburi.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Challenger Citta’ di Como (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Open de Toulouse (Challenger 80, clay)
  • Rafa Nadal Open by Sotheby’s (Mallorca, Challenger 80, hard)
  • Bangkok Open 2 (Nonthaburi, Challenger 50, hard)

As almost all the world’s best players are at the US Open, there will be no top 100 players in action.

First-round matches to watch:


  • Vitalyi Sachko vs (5) Matteo Arnaldi
  • (7) Stefano Travaglia vs Miljan Zekic


  • (1) Carlos Taberner vs (WC) Mathys Erhard
  • (ALT) Benjamin Hassan vs (3) Alexandre Muller


  • (1) Dominic Stricker vs (WC) Abedallah Shelbayh
  • (PR) Sebastian Ofner vs (WC) Jerzy Janowicz


  • (1) Yosuke Watanuki vs Alibek Kachmazov
  • (4) Denis Yevseyev vs Dane Sweeny
  • Ly Hoang Nam vs (3) Yasutaka Uchiyama

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