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Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Michelsen On the Rise, Ofner Finally wins a Title

Benoit Paire, a champion on the ATP Challenger Tour, in action.

The second week of a Grand Slam is usually a very busy time for the Challenger Tour and nothing changed in that regard this time. Five events, four on clay in Europe, and just one on hard courts in the United States. Alex Michelsen’s maiden title was one of the stories of the week, along with veteran Benoit Paire with another great showing. Sebastian Ofner finally claimed a trophy this year after five lost finals. Read back on last week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly recap


Franco Agamenone came to Braunschweig with just a 12-18 win/loss record for the year and the Italian was in danger of even missing US Open qualifying with the Umag semifinal points dropping soon. But he played so well to ensure that doesn’t happen, motivated like never. He pushed through an extremely strong set of opponents, beating Maximilian Marterer, Taro Daniel, Daniel Altmaier, and Benjamin Hassan to make his first final in over a year. Against Daniel, he had to save three match points at 3-6 in the final tie-break.

Pavel Kotov lost early in Karlsruhe the week before, but was back in much better shape in Braunschweig. In the quarterfinals, Jan Choinski took the opening set against him, but never really got the chance to do anything more in that encounter. The final four saw Kotov pitted against Thiago Seyboth Wild in a blockbuster matchup and he managed to take down the in-form Brazilian 6-4 7-6. This was his 8th Challenger this year and the first time he made the final.

Agamenone came out playing with the same intensity that characterized his game all week and despite an early streak of errors, he made the comeback in set one and was up on the scoreboard. A thigh injury flared up at 7-5 3-0 though and while his movement was briefly hampered for a few games, Kotov wasn’t really convincing in his attempts to expose it. Agamenone claimed his fourth Challenger title 7-5 6-3. He’s still on the entry list for Trieste, while the runner-up plays Bastad ATP 250 qualifying.


In fourteen Challengers this year, Ofner reached the final for the sixth time when he beat Juan Manuel Cerundolo in just 51 minutes in Salzburg. The Austrian was tested just once by Nerman Fatic, eventually prevailing 4-6 7-6 7-5. The 27-year-old’s season had been almost flawless, outside of all these final losses. In Tenerife, Antalya, Zadar, Prague, and Ilkley, Ofner finished runner-up and was only close to winning on one occasion.

The courts in Salzburg are pretty unique and they often produce upsets, particularly when it comes to Austrian players. Lukas Neumayer made the quarterfinals in 2022, beating Gilles Simon and Arthur Rinderknech. The 20-year-old was even better in this edition, blasting through Sumit Nagal, Facundo Bagnis, and Thiago Monteiro, all in straight sets. Only the resurgent Blaz Rola played him close in the semifinals, but Neumayer prevailed thanks to a couple of key break point saves.

Ofner had been struggling to lock up that first title of 2023, but this was a chance he wasn’t going to pass on. Despite posting low percentages on serve, he managed to win 95% (23/24) points on his first delivery. Fighting hard, Neumayer just couldn’t compete with that in the long run and only generated one break point. Ofner claimed his fourth Challenger title 6-3 6-2 and will grab a career-high ranking of world #57. He’ll now play the ATP 250 in Bastad, while Neumayer stays on this circuit in Trieste.


Bernabe Zapata Miralles came to Iasi on a five-match losing streak, although most of that came on grass, which certainly isn’t his favorite surface. Back to more suitable conditions and in his first Challenger Tour event of the season, he was quickly back to his best. In the quarterfinals, he took down the up-and-coming 17-year-old Jakub Mensik, before coming back from a set and a break down against Cristian Garin in the final four.

Hugo Gaston went down a set and a break to Miljan Zekic in the opening round, but was quite fortunate as his opponent suddenly injured his back. Fate often works in mysterious ways and the 2021 runner-up turned this slice of luck into another great run in Iasi. The recent Bratislava champion, Vitaliy Sachko, pushed him in the quarterfinals, but Gaston was ready for the challenge and went on to reach his second final of the season.

After advancing to the second round in such a weird way, Gaston played with completely different focus throughout the rest of the week. He was forcing Zapata Miralles to play with plenty of patience and construct smart attacking points. Weakened by the previous two three-setters, the Spaniard wasn’t really delivering in these departments and got really tired after the opening set. It was still a hustle, but Gaston claimed his second Challenger title 3-6 6-0 6-4, improving his record in finals to 2-5. He grabbed a special exempt for Trieste, while Zapata Miralles intends to play the ATP 250 in Bastad.

San Benedetto

Benoit Paire is appearing in plenty of dramatic matches lately and if he wins them, he often turns that into big runs. That’s what happened in San Benedetto as he came back from 2-5 down in the decider against Francesco Maestrelli in the opening round. The Frenchman went on to win his next three matches in cleaner fashion with a brilliant showing against Alejandro Tabilo in a repeat of the recent Francavilla al Mare final (where Paire lost).

Richard Gasquet had only appeared in a couple of Challenger 175 events, deciding to kick off his post-Wimbledon swing this time with a smaller tournament in San Benedetto. As the top seed, the 37-year-old went down a set and a break to Flavio Cobolli in the quarterfinals, but managed to make up for that deficit and run away with the match in the decider. He then eliminated 2021 US Open boys’ singles champion, Daniel Rincon, in the final four.

Paire started a bit low, struggling to limit his error count. His aggression was a bit overwhelming for Gasquet though and as the match went on, he was able to blast through him more and more effectively. The older Frenchman never came up with the right response and could only watch as his opponent raced to the finish. Paire clinched his eighth Challenger title 4-6 6-1 6-1 and is now back in the top 100 in the ATP Race. Both players will now rest for a week as Gasquet intends to play the ATP 500 event in Hamburg, while the champion is supposed to feature in a Challenger in Verona.


Yuta Shimizu made his maiden Challenger final in Puerto Vallarta in March, but wasn’t really following it up with many first-round exits since and just one quarterfinal in Tyler. The Japanese survived a rough battle with Yunseong Chung in the second round in Chicago, blowing a couple of leads but still going on to win. In the final four, he eliminated Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard in a couple of tie-breaks, overcoming a height difference of almost forty centimeters.

Michelsen needed three tie-breakers to pull through Li Tu in the opening round, but was quickly back in much better shape. He not only straight-setted Aleksandar Kovacevic, but managed to clinch a stunning win over the resurgent Kei Nishikori. His semifinal match against Juncheng Shang needed to be played out over the course of two days. It was no problem for Michelsen as he swiftly run away with the decider on Sunday to make the final.

The American only had to play five games in the resumption of the semifinal, so fatigue wasn’t really going to be an issue. He took a moment to break down Shimizu’s game, but once he did he just run away with it, especially winning the last six games of the match. Michelsen won his maiden Challenger title 7-5 6-2 and will break the top 200. He’s supposed to join the University of Georgia soon, but might have a hard decision to make regarding whether to enroll. Next up for him is the ATP 250 in Newport, while Shimizu will take a week off and be back in Astana.

Challenger Tour magic:

Apparently, this was the week of Franco Agamenone going between the legs:

Events held this week:

  • Les Championnats Banque Nationale de Granby (Challenger 100, hard)
  • Citta di Trieste Challenger (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Open de Tennis Ciudad de Pozoblanco (Challenger 75, hard)
  • Tampere Open (Challenger 75, clay)
  • Van Mossel KIA Dutch Open (Amersfoort, Challenger 75, clay)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Thanasi Kokkinakis (Granby)
  • Fabian Marozsan (Trieste)
  • Facundo Diaz Acosta (Amersfoort)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (3) Juncheng Shang vs Mark Lajal
  • Adam Walton vs (4) Vasek Pospisil


  • Andrea Pellegrino vs (7) Flavio Cobolli
  • (3) Tomas Barrios Vera vs Guido Andreozzi


  • Max Houkes vs (7) Nicholas David Ionel
  • (WC) Sander Jong vs Rudolf Molleker


  • (1) Hugo Grenier vs (PR) Pierre-Hugues Herbert
  • Fernando Verdasco vs (5/WC) Pablo Llamas Ruiz


  • (3) Lukas Klein vs Elmar Ejupovic
  • Nino Serdarusic vs (2/WC) Cristian Garin

Main photo credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports


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