Lefties reigned supreme on the Challenger Tour last week with both champions being southpaws. Matteo Gigante broke the top 200 with his maiden title in Tenerife, while Liam Broady got back on track with a long-awaited 2nd trophy he captured in Vilnius. Here’s a look back at last week’s action:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Zdenek Kolar had a terrible second half of 2022, going 7-22 after Roland Garros. The Czech is back to his best now, having reached the semifinals at Koblenz last week and now finding another good run in Vilnius. He was taken to deciding sets by Jurij Rodionov and Antoine Escoffier. Against the latter, he had to produce a major comeback effort as he was down a break twice (0-2 and 2-4). Kolar reached the first indoor hard final of his career (the only previous one under the roof was an ITF event on carpet).
Broady, meanwhile, hadn’t made a final since winning his first Challenger title in Biel 2021, but was in absolutely brutal form in Vilnius this week. Mats Moraing, Elias Ymer, and Damir Dzumhur all managed just four games each against him. In the quarterfinals, Evan Furness was forced to retire after just seven games. The bouncy court in the capital of Lithuania was very suitable for both finalists, Broady benefitting from it on his forehand side in particular.
Kolar was certainly able to give Broady his toughest challenge yet. This was always going to be a match with plenty of long rallies and the player who was going to take an overwhelming number of them, was simply going to win. That turned out to be the Brit, who was just as solid as he had been all week and was even really comfortable hitting through the ball.
Broady took his second Challenger title with a 6-4 6-4 win, dropping just 20 games the whole week. It puts him back inside the top 150 in Monday’s ATP Rankings. Kolar chose to withdraw from Chennai and will be back in action in Rovereto, while Broady also rests up before possibly appearing in the Doha ATP 250 qualifying (currently tenth on the alternate list).
Gigante was top-seeded in the qualifying draw for this event, but lost to Giovanni Fonio. The 21-year-old managed to snatch a lucky loser spot though and took advantage of that opportunity extremely well. In the second round, he took out world #109 Franceso Passaro from a set down, before winning two matches on Saturday due to a rain delay. Despite that, he was the much fresher player in the third set against Riccardo Bonadio, who didn’t have to endure such inconvenience.
Stefano Travaglia is still very much on the comeback trail after an injury hiatus. The 31-year-old received a wildcard to join the main draw here after falling in the qualifying of the previous Tenerife Challenger to none other than Gigante. His form this week was something else though as he dropped just one set to Ryan Peniston, crushing an in-form Oleksii Kruytkh 6-2 6-2 and handing Oscar Jose Guttierez a first main-draw double bagel of this year’s Challenger season.
Despite Travaglia’s great form, it seemed like Gigante has his number. The older of the Italians went 0-7 against left-handed players in 2022 and had already suffered a 6-3 6-1 loss to the same opponent in the previous event in Tenerife. This time he was in trouble from the get-go again with the 21-year-old’s lefty spins, good footwork, and a touch of creativity making him very uncomfortable.
Gigante took his maiden Challenger title 6-3 6-2, which allows him to break the top 200 for the very first time. He will now take a week of rest before coming back to action in Rovereto, while Travaglia took a special exempt for Manama, but received a terrible draw and will face the top seed, world #79 Jason Kubler.
Challenger Tour magic:
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 8, 2023
De Loore vs Ilkel is delivering again!
This wild point with both players running up-and-down the court gave the Turk the momentum to take it to a decider. The quality of ball-striking has been incredibly high.
📷: @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/xOxA6bMvTi
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) February 10, 2023
If you think Damir Dzumhur's still the fastest player on the Challenger Tour, you might be right. Quite a performance against Gerasimov today in general, his creativity really shined through and the Belarusian never found the right answers.
📷: @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/RFneSFv38t
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) February 9, 2023
Events held next week:
- Bahrain Ministry of Interior Tennis Challenger (Manama, Challenger 125, hard)
- Chennai Open (Challenger 100, hard)
- Challenger Cherbourg La Manche (Challenger 75, indoor hard)
Top 100 players in action:
- Jason Kubler, Alexei Popyrin, Christopher O’Connell (all Manama)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Jason Kubler vs (SE) Stefano Travaglia
- Otto Virtanen vs (2) Alexei Popyrin
- (1) Chun-Hsin Tseng vs Nino Serdarusic
- Seong-Chan Hong vs (3) Sebastian Ofner
- (1) Vasek Pospisil vs (ALT) Mats Moraing
- (7) Laurent Lokoli vs Antoine Escoffier
Main photo credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports