Two defending champions from last year made the finals on the Challenger Tour this week, but they both failed to pick up the title – Pedro Cachin in Madrid and Daniel Elahi Galan in Sarasota. Meanwhile, rain made it very tough for the organizers in Split with the last few games being played indoors. Alexander Shevchenko broke the top 100 with his 3rd Challenger title. Read back on last week’s action:
The defending champion in Sarasota, Daniel Elahi Galan came to this event with just a 3-10 win/loss record for the year, although just one of these events was a Challenger (second round in Mexico City). The Colombian loves the green clay though and he proved it instantly, making the final without dropping a set. Along the way, he eliminated such quality players as Aleksandar Vukic or Tomas Machac to finally get himself going in 2023.
Daniel Altmaier was engaged in a thrilling contest with Martin Damm in the opening round, but eventually managed to prevail 7-5 in the deciding set. That was the last time he fell into trouble on the way to the final as he dispatched Zizou Bergs, Gabriel Diallo (first set retirement), and Enzo Couacaud. The German also hadn’t been doing that hot in 2023, making two Challenger quarterfinals in Monterrey and Puerto Vallarta.
The first set of the final was very tight, especially as Altmaier couldn’t serve it out at 6-5. He was the one on the front foot though, creating offense off his backhand much more comfortably than his opponent and being able to move him around the court because of that. The German dominated the tie-break and rode that momentum to grab a comfortable victory in the second set. Altmaier claimed his 7th Challenger title 7-6 6-1. He’s now scheduled to appear in Munich (ATP 250) next week, while Galan had to withdraw from the qualifying for that event.
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Juan Pablo Ficovich was just 1-8 for the season before Leon, but the Argentinian very often randomly comes alive for an altitude event (although he lost in the opening round at both Mexico City and San Luis Potosi). In the second round, he had to save two match points on serve against Terence Atmane at 4-5 in the 3rd, eventually winning 7-5, before scoring a brilliant win over top-seeded James Duckworth in the quarterfinals.
Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard had been looking for his breakthrough at the Challenger level and finally found it in this altitude swing in Mexico. After losing in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Tomas Barrios Vera the week before, the 19-year-old had to qualify for this event and caught fire, only dropping his serve three times in six matches on the way to the final. Four of them he had to wrap up in deciding sets.
Ficovich took the opening set in the tie-break and looked set to take the match with a 4-2 lead in the second one. Mpetshi Perricard was struggling with the balls on the rise coming at his backhand, but he managed to peak at the right moment to force a decider. Both players only faced one break point each in the entire match with the 19-year-old blasting 21 aces to eventually come out victorious in yet another tie-breaker. Mpetshi Perricard took his maiden Challenger title 6-7 7-6 7-6 and gets himself into Grand Slam qualifying ranking range. He heads to Florianopolis now, while the runner-up will stay in Mexico (Morelos).
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After a couple of disappointing weeks in Sanremo and Barletta, Alexander Shevchenko needed a big run to again put himself in contention for the top 100 debut. Despite dropping a set to Billy Harris in the opening round, he did just that by making the final. His win from a set down (even a bagel) against Francesco Passaro wasn’t enough for it to be mathematically safe yet, but by the time he stepped onto the court for the final, it was already secured.
Speaking of players who really needed a big run, Pedro Cachin entered the week with just 5 wins and 12 losses for the year, although he had only played one Challenger (Girona quarterfinals). The defending champion in Madrid, he was in trouble down 2-6 1-3 to Alejandro Moro Canas. He eventually managed to produce the comeback though and beat the in-form Sebastian Ofner in the quarterfinals, taking out Andrea Collarini to make the final in Madrid again.
While the opening set of the match was definitely tight, once Shevchenko began crushing his groundstrokes more effectively he swiftly separated himself from the opponent. Cachin’s game kinda fell apart in the process as well and while he did produce a mini comeback from 1-5 to 3-5 down in the 2nd set. Shevchenko took his 3rd Challenger title 6-4 6-3. Both finalists will now appear in the ATP 500 event in Barcelona.
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Another player who really needed a run was Norbert Gombos, who was only competing in his sixth event of 2023 due to health issues. Before Split, his best result of the season was making the quarterfinals in Canberra and Biel. A crazy second-round match against Kacper Żuk saw him save three match points at 3-6 down in the deciding set tie-break, before winning two matches in straight sets on Saturday after the schedule was ruined by rain delays.
Zsombor Piros exacted revenge over last week’s Barletta champion Shintaro Mochizuki, who eliminated him on the way to that title. The Hungarian was then put in a weird position by the rain as he also had to play two matches on Saturday like Gombos, but didn’t even get to finish his second one. It was supposed to be completed indoors on Sunday, but the organizers eventually found a small window without rain to allow Piros to beat the defending champion, Christopher O’Connell, from 6-2 2-3 up.
The final was once again delayed by the rain, this time at 7-6 6-5 as Piros claimed the opening set in a tie-break that featured a few brilliant down-the-line shots from him. The rest of the match had to be moved indoors and wasn’t streamed as the two finalists engaged in another tie-break, but this time a much more competitive one (11-9). Piros took his 3rd Challenger title 7-6 7-6 and while he had to withdraw from Munich ATP 250 qualifying, he took a special exempt for Oeiras instead. Gombos had to pull out of Banja Luka.
Challenger Tour magic:
Tweener mode: engaged 🔥@pecachin1 hits a stunning winner en route to reaching the semifinals in Madrid!@atptour • #ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/9GCBXyicYj
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) April 14, 2023
This was quite a huge point for Enzo Couacaud. This sort of a shot is very often the right choice instead of the flashier tweener. It was extremely important at 2-4 in the TB, especially with Olivieri having all the momentum after coming back from 2-5 MP down.
📷: @ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/TB1gC2cPtU
— Damian Kust (@damiankust) April 14, 2023
Events held this week:
- Oeiras Open 3 (Challenger 125, clay)
- Regione Abruzzo (Roseto Degli Abruzzi, Challenger 75, clay)
- Tallahassee Tennis Challenger (Challenger 75, green clay)
- Morelos Open presentado por Metaxchange (Challenger 75, hard)
- ENGIE Open de Tenis (Florianopolis, Challenger 75, clay)
Top 100 players in action:
- Adrian Mannarino, Alexandre Muller (Oeiras)
- Zhizhen Zhang (Tallahassee)
First-round matches to watch:
- Dane Sweeny vs (7/SE) Zsombor Piros
- (6) Kaichi Uchida vs Joris de Loore
Roseto Degli Abruzzi
- Kacper Żuk vs (6) Dalibor Svrcina
- Mariano Navone vs (JA) Kilian Feldbausch
- (4) Facundo Diaz Acosta vs (PR) Bjorn Fratangelo
- Alex Michelsen vs Camilo Ugo Carabelli
- (1) James Duckworth vs (WC) Bernard Tomic
- Jay Clarke vs (2) Antoine Bellier
- Gonzalo Lama vs (WC) Joao Fonseca
- Gonzalo Bueno vs (2) Alejandro Tabilo