Another week full of Challenger Tour action has passed with five events across four continents. Bu Yunchaokete won the Challenger 125 in Seoul, claiming his maiden title at this level. Meanwhile, Sumit Nagal returned to the winners’ circle after a few years. Thiago Seyboth Wild maintained his amazing form by clinching the trophy in Buenos Aires. In Savannah, the main story was the USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge finally being resolved. Read back on last week’s action:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Aleksandar Vukic was given a really tough draw in the first few rounds in Seoul, but he managed to make the most out of it. The 27-year-old was got through Lloyd Harris in two tie-breakers, before missing a match point in set two against Ricardas Berankis, but cleaning it up in the third. He also had to take out the recent top-100 breakout Christopher Eubanks, before defeating Yunseoung Chung to make his first final of the season.
Yunchaokete was briefly down a set and a break to Altug Celikbilek in the opening round, but managed to steady the ship and run away with it. He then went on to take out Emilio Gomez (also three sets), Seong-Chan Hong, and Yasutaka Uchiyama to make his maiden Challenger final. His only previous final-four appearance came just a month earlier at Las Franquesas del Valles. The 21-year-old was one of the Chinese players who were out of the tour for a long while due to the pandemic, but broke through not long after he was able to return.
Despite being a sizeable going into the final, Vukic was in trouble early. No matter if it was Yunchaokete moving him around or just trying to draw out some errors, he just wasn’t finding many clean hits off the baseline. He clawed his way back from 3-5 down, saved a set point at 5-6, but eventually lost the opener in the tie-breaker. Not much changed in the dynamics of play later on as Yunchaokete claimed his maiden Challenger title 7-6 6-4. The 21-year-old breaks the top 200 as both finalists head over to Gwangju next.
A surprise finalist in Ostrava back in 2016, Zdenek Kolar is bouncing back in style this year from a tough moment in his career after the last French Open. The 26-year-old would almost always do well at this home event and last week’s edition wasn’t an exception. Kolar survived a tough challenge from Gauthier Onclin in the semifinals (came back from 1-3 down in the decider), before taking out the recent Barletta champion, Shintaro Mochizuki.
Mate Valkusz has long been one of the most talented players without a Challenger title to his name, especially as his fellow 1998/99-born Hungarians, Zsombor Piros and Fabian Marozsan, managed to land their firsts last year. But a healthy Valkusz is always dangerous on clay and almost five years since his only previous appearance (Cordenons 2018), the 24-year-old secured another chance, dropping just one set to Patrik Rikl along the way.
Valkusz did not make the expected impact in the final though. While undeniably the better shotmaker of the two, the Hungarian didn’t really have a clear idea on how to capitalize on that. Kolar was fast and run down every dropshot, working him around with the forehand whenever possible. The Czech claimed his fourth Challenger title 6-3 6-2 and will return to the top 200 when the next ATP Rankings are released. Both finalists took special exempt spots into Prague.
Nagal is coming back to his best after an injury and had already posted a Challenger semifinal in Chennai earlier this year. The Indian had to start from the qualifying in Rome, battling through Viktor Durasovic in three sets in the final round. He went on an absolute tear in the main draw though, handing out bagels to Fausto Tabacco and Max Houkes, before making his first Challenger final in 3,5 years by defeating Joris De Loore.
He was still flying a little under the radar prior to last week, but Jesper de Jong is having an amazing season. In seven Challenger appearances, he never lost in the opening round and made four consecutive quarterfinals. After finishing runner-up to Juan Manuel Cerundolo in Tigre in January, he managed to lock up another final in Rome with a truly stunning set of performances. On the way to the championship match here, he never lost a set and didn’t even have to play a tie-breaker.
Despite crushing almost every opponent along the way, de Jong didn’t manage to repeat that same level of performance in the final. Nagal mitigated the serve difference by being so much cleaner off the baseline and had a clear edge in any longer rallies. The Indian claimed his third Challenger title – and first in about three and a half years – with a 6-3 6-2 win. Both finalists are going to rest up this week before coming back to the tour in Mauthausen (Nagal) and Francavilla al Mare (de Jong).
Facundo Diaz Acosta suffered a couple of early exits in the previous two events of the American green clay swing (Sarasota and Tallahassee), but didn’t give up and things finally worked out for him in Savannah. However, he was close to losing to Moez Echargui for the second week in a row, picking himself up after a bagel opening set. He went on to defeat Aziz Dougaz and Patrick Kypson, snapping the great run of the American, who was the leader of the USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge.
Tristan Boyer was an absolute revelation of this green clay swing. Savannah was just his second-ever Challenger main draw and yet the American was able to keep himself alive in the USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge with an incredible run from the qualifying draw. The 22-year-old took out players such as Enzo Couacaud and Mitchell Krueger (another contender for the wildcard), before coming back from 0-2 down in the deciding set to dispatch Calvin Hemery in the semifinals.
Due to extreme weather conditions on Saturday, Boyer had to play both his semifinal and the final the day after. As expected, that turned out to be a real challenge, especially against someone like Diaz Acosta, who’s definitely got the ability to grind. The Argentinian secured his second Challenger title with a 6-3 6-1 title, which meant that the aforementioned Kypson stayed on top of the USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge leaderboard. The champion will now take a couple of weeks off before playing in Oeiras, while Boyer is scheduled to play in a 15K ITF in Orange Park.
After a solid start to the season, Luciano Darderi lost momentum a bit and was entering this event on a four-match losing streak. He quickly managed to turn over a new leaf though and was barely giving his opponents games on the way to the semifinal. The final four saw him have to take on the top seed, Andrea Collarini. Despite going down 4-6 2-4, Darderi emerged victorious to make his second Challenger Tour final (Sao Paulo 2021).
Nothing’s changed – Seyboth Wild is still on fire. The 23-year-old suffered a brief setback when he lost to the 16-year-old sensation Jose Fonseca in Florianopolis the week before Buenos Aires, but was quickly back to making Challenger finals. A finalist in Santiago and a champion in Vina del Mar in Marcha champion in Vina del Mar in March, Seyboth Wild dropped a couple of sets early in the event (to Benjamin Hassan and Murkel Dellien), but seemed to be getting even sharper as the week progressed.
Outside from a small blip at the beginning of the second set, it was very clear that this final could only have one winner. Seyboth Wild was crushing his forehand exactly like he’s been the past two weeks and didn’t really give his opponent much of a chance. The Brazilian claimed his third Challenger title 6-3 6-3 and now finds himself in the live ATP Race top 100, which gives a pretty clear hint at what he might achieve this year if he keeps up this level. Seyboth Wild took a late wildcard for Coquimbo, while Darderi will rest up before playing in Francavilla al Mare.
Challenger Tour magic:
Take a bow, Riccardo Bonadio 👏
Chasing down the ball and coming up with this flick lob winner in Ostrava…#ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/2oe9NuKBaD
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) April 28, 2023
Point of the week in Savannah 🔥
Wild exchange between @Facudiazacosta and @ADougaz 👏#ATPChallenger pic.twitter.com/jak15MnIlz
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) April 28, 2023
Events held this week:
- Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole (Aix-en-Provence, Challenger 175, clay)
- Sardegna Open (Cagliari, Challenger 175, clay)
- Gwangju Open Challenger (Challenger 75, hard)
- Advantage Cars Prague Open by Moneta (Challenger 75, clay)
- Challenger Dove Men+Care Coquimbo (Challenger 50, clay)
The tournaments in Aix-en-Provence and Cagliari are the first Challenger 175 events in Europe. The only previous event of that category was held in March in Phoenix.
Top 100 players in action:
- Tommy Paul, Brandon Nakashima, Adrian Mannarino, Mikael Ymer, Andy Murray, Alexander Bublik, Gregoire Barrere, Tomas Martin Etcheverry, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Jason Kubler, Quentin Halys, Nuno Borges, Luca Van Assche, Alexandre Muller, David Goffin (Aix-en-Provence)
- Yoshihito Nishioka, Ben Shelton, Mackenzie McDonald, Laslo Djere, Diego Schwartzman, Ugo Humbert, Marco Cecchinato, Thiago Monteiro, Daniel Elahi Galan (Cagliari)
- Max Purcell, Christopher Eubanks, Jordan Thompson (Gwangju)
- Filip Krajinovic (Prague)
First-round matches to watch:
- (ALT) Benoit Paire vs David Goffin
- Arthur Fils vs (7) Gregoire Barrere
- (5/WC) Andy Murray vs (WC) Gael Monfils
- Yosuke Watanuki vs (8) Thiago Monteiro
- (7) Marco Cecchinato vs Francesco Passaro
- Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Nikoloz Basilashvili
- (1) Max Purcell vs Ricardas Berankis
- Lloyd Harris vs (2) Christopher Eubanks
- Norbert Gombos vs (5) Zsombor Piros
- Tomas Barrios Vera vs (2) Radu Albot
Zsombor Piros defeated Norbert Gombos in the final in Split just three weeks ago.
- Eduardo Ribeiro vs (6) Joao Lucas Reis da Silva
- Daniel Dutra da Silva vs (2/WC) Thiago Seyboth Wild
Main photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports