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Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Diaz Acosta Picks Up a Third Title This Year

Steve Johnson, a titlist on the Challenger Tour, in action.

It was another exciting week of tennis action on the ATP Challenger Tour. Facundo Diaz Acosta is on the verge of breaking the top 100 after clinching his third trophy of the season. Mariano Navone is now a multiple-time Challenger champion, while Alejandro Tabilo earned his second title of 2023. Meanwhile, Manuel Guinard and Steve Johnson managed to rebound after some recent struggles. Here’s a look back at last week’s action:

ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap


Giulio Zeppieri is in a bit of race to break the top 100 right now as he’s defending his ATP 250 Umag semifinal points soon. The Italian made sure to stay in contention with a brilliant run in Karlsruhe, despite the very stacked draw. He pulled off two comebacks from a set down to Benoit Paire and Zsombor Piros along the way. Zeppieri had previously made two finals in 2023 with them coming in consecutive weeks back in February.

Alejandro Tabilo has seemingly been enjoying his time on the court more since dropping down to the Challenger level this year and is producing some really good results with the Florianopolis final and the Francavilla al Mare title. The Chilean struggled in only one round on the way to another championship match, going a break down in the decider to Leandro Riedi twice. He eventually prevailed 7-5 in the third and beat Timofey Skatov in the final four.

Zeppieri dominated the opening set of the final, serving great and moving around the court to run around his backhand with lots of explosiveness. In the very first rally of the second set though, he took a nasty fall. Despite the best efforts of the physio, he was unable to move properly and had to give up after a couple of points. Tabilo won his third Challenger title as Zeppieri was forced to retire at 6-2 0-1 up. Both finalists are supposed to play on the Challenger Tour next week – the champion in San Benedetto and the runner-up in Braunschweig (unless the injury doesn’t allow him to compete).


Facundo Diaz Acosta made his fourth final across the last two and a half months in Milan, adding to his results from Tallahassee, Oeiras, and Heilbronn. The Argentinian blasted through his first three opponents, including the veteran Pablo Cuevas, who’s just coming back after a serious injury. Despite a bagel in the opening set against Flavio Cobolli in the semifinals, that match quickly got complicated for Diaz Acosta and he eventually had to come through in three.

Matteo Gigante scored a great win over Gabriel Diallo in Wimbledon qualifying and managed to turn that confidence into a great run on the Challenger Tour the following week. He played four Italians in a row on the way to the final, being involved in some amazing battles at the quarterfinal and semifinal stages. Against Luca Nardi he had to save a match point, chasing down a drop shot and watching his colleague’s lob sail long.

Gigante’s lefty game can often be really unpleasant for his opponents along with his retrieving skills. Diaz Acosta is a southpaw himself though and maybe that’s why he was better prepared to handle these spins, plus he’s also not overly-reliant on attacking and feels great in extended rallies. The Argentinian had to be clutch break point down in the opener to come out of the match unscarred, saving all seven chances. Diaz Acosta won his fourth Challenger title 6-3 6-3 and finds himself in the top 100 of the Live Rankings, but his spot in that group is not mathematically safe yet as the next update to the official rankings comes after Wimbledon. Both finalists are scheduled to play in San Benedetto del Tronto next.

Bloomfield Hills

Mikhail Kukushkin reached the final in Tyler at the beginning of June and took a long break until the event in Bloomfield Hills. These courts were just as excellent for him, really favoring flat-hitting. The veteran survived a deciding tie-break against Christian Harrison in the opening round, before going on to improve some surprisingly dominant head-to-heads against Denis Kudla (5-0) and Tennys Sandgren (4-0) later in the event.

It had been an awful campaign for Johnson with a 5-13 win/loss record and just one Challenger quarterfinal in Cleveland, so this run came completely out of nowhere. The key win came over Yasutaka Uchiyama in the quarterfinals as the American was able to prevail 6-4 6-7 7-6, overcoming the disappointment of missing two match points in the second set. A day later Johnson secured his first final in well over a year.

And what a final it was with the two veterans going at each other in more ways than one. Johnson led 6-4 5-3, but Kukushkin suddenly found a way to put him under pressure with very aggressive returning. He went on to clinch the second set in a tie-break and went as far as to grab a 4-2 lead in the decider. It all culminated in another tie-break with the tension so high that there was no handshake and the two were bickering long after the match was over. Johnson claimed his eighth Challenger title 6-4 6-7 7-6. Both finalists are expected in Chicago next, Kukushkin thanks to a special exempt.


Guinard fell out of the top 300 after an extremely poor start to the year, but seems to be back on track with the quarterfinal in Poznan and the run here. Having to start from the qualifying draw, it took him six matches until he finally found someone who was able to snatch a set off him. In the end, his solid game proved a bit much for Duje Ajdukovic though as the Croat lost the deciding set with a bagel scoreline.

Calvin Hemery hadn’t made a Challenger final in over five years (Nanchang 2018), before finally breaking that dry spell in Troyes. Just like Guinard, he kicked off his campaign in the qualifying and moved through it with relative ease. He then had to eliminate the top seed Genaro Alberto Olivieri in the second round and was involved in a real tussle with David Jorda Sanchis in the final four, having to save two match points, one with an inventive situational shot.

Hemery’s explosive shotmaking can be brilliant when he’s on, but players like Guinard are pretty tough for him to face. He basically needed to use the dropshot or close down the net, otherwise the opponent would just grind two meters behind the baseline and eventually find an opening for himself. The execution of these all-court tactics has to be spot on though and on Sunday, it simply wasn’t. Guinard claimed his second Challenger title 6-4 6-3. Hemery is now signed up for a 25K in Uriage, while the champion claimed a special exempt into Salzburg.

Santa Fe

After winning his maiden Challenger title in Poznan, Navone only made a brief appearance at Wimbledon qualifying before heading back to South America to play in Santa Fe. Top-seeded in this event, he easily made his way through the first three rounds before coming up against Francisco Comesana. He had never beaten his Argentinian peer in six previous attempts (including back-to-back Challenger 50 finals in June 2022), but finally got the first win on the board against his “nemesis”.

Adolfo Daniel Vallejo was the junior world #1 last year, but couldn’t manage a Challenger main draw win in his first five appearances on this circuit. This changed in Santa Fe as he qualified and took out Matias Franco Descotte from a set down. His best win came over Roman Andres Burruchaga as he managed to fight back from 0-3 down in the decider against the much more experienced at this level opponent.

The final seemed closer than the scoreline suggests with the pair getting involved in many multi-dimensional rallies with interesting angle work. Vallejo’s game is still a bit raw, rough around the edges though and Navone was taking advantage of that beautifully with his ability to turn defense into offense. The Paraguayan made it a bit more interesting in the second set, but couldn’t execute his game well enough. Navone won his second Challenger title 6-2 6-4. Both finalists aren’t scheduled for any events in the next two weeks. After that, Navone will head back to Europe, while Vallejo is signed up for a 25K ITF in the United States.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held next week:

  • Brawo Open (Braunschweig, Challenger 125, clay)
  • Sparkasse Salzburg Open (Challenger 125, clay)
  • Concord Iasi Open (Challenger 100, clay)
  • San Benedetto Tennis Cup (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Chicago Men’s Challenger (Challenger 75, hard)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Daniel Altmaier, Alex Molcan, Marco Cecchinato (Braunschweig)
  • Roberto Carballes Baena, Juan Pablo Varillas, Sebastian Ofner, Arthur Rinderknech, Alexandre Muller, Thiago Monteiro (Salzburg)
  • Bernabe Zapata Miralles (Iasi)
  • Richard Gasquet, Albert Ramos-Vinolas (San Benedetto)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (1/WC) Daniel Altmaier vs Giulio Zeppieri
  • (8) Pedro Martinez vs (ALT) Stefano Travaglia


  • (4) Thiago Monteiro vs Oleksii Krutykh
  • (WC) Federico Delbonis vs (2) Juan Pablo Varillas


  • (PR) Pablo Cuevas vs Gauthier Onclin
  • Vitaliy Sachko vs (3) Tomas Machac

San Benedetto

  • Dimitar Kuzmanov vs (5) Tomas Barrios Vera
  • Kimmer Coppejans vs (3) Facundo Diaz Acosta


  • Tennys Sandgren vs (7) Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard
  • (SE) Mikhail Kukushkin vs (4) Juncheng Shang
  • (6) Alexis Galarneau vs (WC) Kei Nishikori
  • Beibit Zhukayev vs (2) Aleksandar Kovacevic

Main photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


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