Tomas Barrios Vera and Zsombor Piros kept up their winning streaks on the Challenger Tour this week, although one of them had a week of rest between his back-to-back titles. Filip Misolic and Raphael Collingnon were involved in a very dramatic final in Roseto Degli Abruzzi, while Zizou Bergs completely dominated the field in Tallahassee. Here’s a look back at last week’s action:
Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
After claiming his third Challenger title in Split the week before, Piros was once again the man to beat last week in Oeiras. Going back-to-back was usually quite tough for him with the wide array of physical issues that the Hungarian has struggled with in his career, but this time he was completely crushing the opposition, dropping just 21 games on the way to the final. The 23-year-old is on an incredible run recently, making the quarterfinals (at least) in six consecutive Challengers played.
After losing two consecutive matches on Har-Tru clay in the United States, Juan Manuel Cerundolo went to Europe to play on the much more natural for him red version of the surface. This was evident from the get-go as the Argentinian was making it through the draw almost as seamlessly as Piros, not dropping more than four games in a set either. Cerundolo stopped an inspired run from Pedro Sousa to make the final (the Portuguese will retire next month).
But Piros was still not showing any signs of exhaustion and brutally capitalizing on Cerundolo’s weaker serves. The Argentinian’s defense and heavy topspin also didn’t bother him that much and he was able to maintain his streak of not allowing anyone more than four games in a set the whole week. Piros claimed his fourth Challenger Tour title (all since July last year) 6-3 6-4 and now finds himself less than 100 points away from breaking the top 100. Both finalists will appear in the qualifying for Madrid next.
Roseto Degli Abruzzi
Misolic wasn’t doing that well to kick off the year with just two Challenger quarterfinals, but getting into the clay season was bound to improve his results. The Austrian was the top seed in Roseto Degli Abruzzi and despite a pretty tough draw, took that opportunity to make the final. His only troublesome moment along the way came against Andrea Pellegrino in the quarterfinals as Misolic won the last five games of the match to take it from 1-4 down in the third.
Collignon also needed a bit of a change-up, losing six of his last seven matches coming into this week. Clay is his best surface though and he was quickly able to prove it, making his first Challenger Tour final. It was a pretty eventful path with three deciding set wins. In the quarterfinals, he faced his friend Gauthier Onclin, who is coached by Steve Darcis alongside Collignon. The 21-year-old didn’t have the upper hand early (5-7 0-2 down), but managed to find a way to win.
It was a very dramatic finish to the week in Roseto Degli Abruzzi as Collignon had multiple leads like 4-2 in the second set, but Misolic found a way to break back and take it to a decider. The Belgian wasn’t done yet though and produced some incredible backhand down-the-line winners to get a chance to serve for the match, but the experience of having been there before proved key. Misolic won his second Challenger Tour title 4-6 7-5 7-6 (6) and moves to a career-high World No. 126. Collignon will now play in Ostrava, while the champion is scheduled to try himself in Madrid ATP 1000 qualifying.
Bergs was already in solid shape on the green clay the week before, but lost to the eventual champion Daniel Altmaier in Tallahassee. This time there was no stopping the young Belgian as he never dropped a set on the way to the final, allowing five games in a set only to the top seed, Zhizhen Zhang. This was really needed as his win/loss record stood at a pretty disastrous 7-13 with only two second rounds made in three Challengers played.
The defending champion in Tallahassee, Tung-Lin Wu is really comfortable on green clay, despite an opening-round loss to Jason Kubler in Sarasota. The Taiwanese was briefly down a break in the deciding set to Mitchell Krueger in his second match, before coming back from a set down to dispatch Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Enzo Couacaud. Especially that latter encounter had him go through hell and back to grab the win, but he eventually made it.
Bergs continued his set of near-flawless display, firing on all cylinders in the final. While he did have a small blip when serving for the opening set, he then quickly recovered to break right back and continue to dominate. Wu tried his best, but was just way too unsteady to tackle him on the day. Bergs claimed his fifth Challenger title 7-5 6-2 and is just the second active player with titles at this level on hard, grass, and both green and red clay. The Belgian will stay in the States for the event in Savannah, while Wu takes the week off and will feature on the South Korean swing next.
Barrios Vera is in fabulous form this year after missing half of his 2022 campaign due to an injury. Just two weeks ago, he won his second Challenger title in San Luis Potosi and wasn’t about to slow down in Florianopolis, although he did have a very tough encounter with Guido Ivan Justo in the second round. He was already down 3-6 2-3 with a break to the Argentinian, but survived and made his third final of the season already.
Alejandro Tabilo made it a final between the top two seeds, but also the first all-Chilean final since Vina del Mar 1985, when Hans Gildemeister defeated Pedro Rebolledo (also the top two seeds). After crushing the Peruvian talent Gonzalo Bueno in the opening round, Tabilo was engaged in a few tougher clashes, particularly against Francisco Comesana and Benjamin Hassan. He survived a couple of deciding sets though and made his first final in over a year.
From the get-go, it was clear that Tabilo’s lefty topspin forehand isn’t really causing that many issues to Barrios Vera, who was able to flatten his backhand out off this sort of ball quite easily. Despite a small blip in the middle of the second set (was 4-0 up), the top seed managed to take it home without any further issues. Barrios Vera claimed his third Challenger title 6-4 6-4 and as he’s not defending anything from July onwards (was out due to an injury), puts himself in contention for a top 100 push this year. Both finalists were expected in Ostrava next, but Barrios Vera has already withdrawn.
James Duckworth didn’t do well in the altitude clay swing in Mexico and suffered a disappointing exit to Juan Pablo Ficovich in the quarterfinals at Leon the week before Morelos. Top-seeded for the event, he had to survive some brutal challenges from Oliver Crawford and Vitaliy Sachko, beating them both from a set down. The 32-year-old locked up his third final of the season already, but was still seeking his first title.
Thiago Agustin Tirante usually doesn’t make much impact on hard courts at the Challenger level, but the 22-year-old loves altitude conditions and he managed to show that even on a less favorable surface. He was in very dominant form going into the final, dropping his serve just once in four matches. Evan Zhu was the only player who broke him and also the only player who even managed to take him to a tie-breaker in one of the sets.
The final was as tight as they come until 5-5 when Duckworth committed a few simple errors and suddenly lost control over his game completely. The next few games were just an absolute horror show from the Australian, especially as he also didn’t agree with a few line calls and got agitated. Tirante stood strong to take his second Challenger title 7-5 6-0. Duckworth is supposed to appear in Seoul this week, while the champion at Morelos comes back to South America to play in Buenos Aires.
Challenger Tour magic:
🇨🇿 Dalibor Svrcina powers past Jesper De Jong to reach the semis of the Roseto Degli Abruzzi #ATPChallenger! pic.twitter.com/lQdkVa5iI0
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) April 22, 2023
Events held this week:
- Seoul Open Challenger (Challenger 125, hard)
- Savannah Challenger (Challenger 75, green clay)
- Ostra Group Open by Moneta (Ostrava, Challenger 75, clay)
- Roma Garden Open (Rome, Challenger 75, clay)
- Challenger AAT Legion Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Challenger 50, clay)
Top 100 players in action:
- Max Purcell, Christopher Eubanks, Jordan Thompson (all Seoul)
First-round matches to watch:
- (WC) Hyeon Chung vs (3) Jordan Thompson
- (7) Aleksandar Vukic vs Lloyd Harris
Hyeon Chung hasn’t played a singles match since September 2020, Roland Garros qualifying.
- (1) Zizou Bergs vs (ALT) Bernard Tomic
- (8) Alex Michelsen vs (WC) Patrick Kypson
- (1) Ryan Peniston vs (WC) Jakub Mensik
- Evan Furness vs (WC) Gael Monfils
- (WC) Jiri Vesely vs Lorenzo Giustino
Jiri Vesely will be taking the court for the first time since the 2022 US Open.
- Michael Geerts vs (8) Joris de Loore
- Flavio Cobolli vs Nicolas Moreno de Alboran
- (1) Andrea Collarini vs Daniel Dutra da Silva
- (8) Thiago Seyboth Wild vs Benjamin Hassan
Main photo credit: Matthias Hauer/GEPA via USA TODAY Sports