Both Leandro Riedi and Yosuke Watanuki managed to claim back-to-back titles in what is the penultimate week of Challenger Tour action in 2022. Meanwhile, Oleksii Krutykh claimed the win in Valencia, while Guido Andreozzi was a shocking champion at Temuco. The Argentinian became the lowest-ranked player to win a Challenger since Guillermo Canas, who was unranked when he came out on top 15 years ago in Belem. Read back on this week’s action:
After some serious injuries in recent years, Guido Andreozzi had been focusing on doubles this year (with excellent results, 7 Challenger titles with Guillermo Duran). Temuco was just his 5th singles event of 2022 and he had to start from the qualifying draw. It was a long path to the final with Andreozzi going to deciding sets with Mateus Alves, Facundo Mena, Thiago Tirante, and Emilio Gomez, pulling off a brilliant comeback from 3-6 4-5 0-15 on return against the last player on that list.
Nicolas Kicker reached the semifinals in the similar one-off hard-court Challenger in South America in 2021 (Rio de Janeiro). Along with two 25K titles on this surface last year, he once again proved he’s better at translating his game than the average clay specialist. Kicker was down a break in sets 2 and 3 against Joao Lucas Reis da Silva in the second round, but ended up coming out on top. He was also the one to eliminate the top seed, Facundo Bagnis, in the quarterfinals.
Kicker took the opening set, but his game on hard courts is mostly just staying consistent. It soon came back to bite him as Andreozzi raised his level and finding a way to respond became very complicated. The match was tight until 4-6 1-1, but soon enough got rather straightforward. Andreozzi claimed his 9th Challenger title (first since 2018) 4-6 6-4 6-2 and will jump over 500 spots in the ATP Rankings! Both finalists have ended their season.
A champion of the Challenger 50 event in Prague earlier in 2022, Oleksii Krutykh had been struggling on the tour since, only grabbing one main draw win in his next nine tournaments. Getting back to clay definitely helped though as the Ukrainian was able to progress to another final despite a number of tough matches. Riccardo Bonadio, Andrea Pellegrino, and Nikola Milojevic all took him to a deciding set with Pellegrino even going up 2-0 in the third.
Luca van Assche has been very consistently going deep in Challenger events recently, making the quarterfinals (at least) for his third event in a row. The 18-year-old enjoyed a bit of a funky path in Valencia, benefitting from two straight second-set retirements. By beating a fellow Next-Gen player Pablo Llamas Ruiz in the final four, van Assche earned himself a third shot at a maiden Challenger title, all in the past two months (Lisbon and Brest).
The Frenchman was the favorite coming into the final, but was completely blown off the court. He was much more erratic than usual and struggled on serve with Krutykh standing far back and lining up for some heavy balls right away. The whole affair lasted just 58 minutes. Krutykh won his 2nd Challenger title 6-2 6-0, taking the last ten games of the match. He will break the top 200 for the first time on Monday. Both finalists are scheduled to appear in Maia next week.
Leandro Riedi took his maiden Challenger title at Helsinki the week before and had no intention of slowing down. In fact, he was even less up and down in Andria. His run began with eliminating the second seed, Hugo Gaston, in a couple of tie-breakers. The next three opponents didn’t even manage six games in a set against the 20-year-old, who was playing with incredible confidence and didn’t look like the accumulated fatigue was getting to him at all.
Mikhail Kukushkin had one of his best runs of the season in Helsinki the week before and proved it was no accident. Just like Riedi, he didn’t drop a single set on the way to the final in Andria, not even allowing any of his opponents the chance at beating him in a tie-breaker. The wins over Jurij Rodionov and, especially, Marton Fucsovics were extremely impressive and showed that on a low-bouncing indoor court, his flat strokes are still a nightmare to face.
While Kukushkin had the chance to serve for the opening set, the trajectory of his shots didn’t do much damage to Riedi. The Swiss loves lower bounces himself and began returning more and more aggressively as the match went on. Riedi took his 2nd Challenger title (and 12th win in a row) 7-6 6-3. In just two weeks, he made it from 277th to 161st in the ATP Rankings. Both finalists have ended their seasons.
Yosuke Watanuki has gotten on a pretty insane hot streak near the end of the year, getting to a 13-2 win/loss record during the Japanese swing (before the final in Yokkaichi). Last week’s Kobe champion did not drop a single set in his first four matches here. The only player to take him to a tie-breaker was James Duckworth, but Watanuki soon took over the initiative and came up with a 7-6 6-3 win. The 24-year-old made the third final in his last four events.
Frederico Ferreira Silva was the runner-up to Watanuki in Kobe and secured himself another shot at the Japanese. His path to the final was much more eventful as he came out on top in deciding sets against Yu-Hsiou Hsu, Shintaro Mochizuki, and Colin Sinclair. Has to be said though that he wasn’t close to losing in any of these matches. Still seeking his first title, Ferreira Silva earned himself another shot at joining the winners’ circle (Sao Paulo 2020, Kobe 2022).
While their Kobe final was close, Watanuki never allowed Ferreira Silva to get going in Yokkaichi. He was constantly rushing the opponent’s groundstrokes and despite a brief moment at the beginning of the second set when the Portuguese took over with this forehand, the 24-year-old was quick to respond. Watanuki claimed his 3rd Challenger title 6-2 6-2 and will break the top 150 on Monday. Ferreira Silva’s run secured him a spot in the Australian Open qualifying draw. Both finalists have ended their seasons.
Challenger Tour magic:
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🚨 Tweener Lob Alert🚨
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) November 26, 2022
Events held next week:
- eo Hotels Open Maspalomas (Challenger 80, clay)
- Maia Open (Challenger 80, indoor hard)
These will be the last two Challenger events of 2022. Nuno Borges is the only top 100 player in action.
First-round matches to watch:
- (4) Alexander Shevchenko vs (WC) Alejandro Moro Canas
- Javier Barranco Cosano vs (3) Vit Kopriva
- Luca van Assche vs (3) Elias Ymer
- Nicolas Alvarez Varona vs (8) Riccardo Bonadio