Liam Broady couldn’t quite win the title in Saint-Tropez, but he still managed to find a milestone achievement, securing his top 100 debut. Nerman Fatic and Damir Dzumhur faced off in a repeat of last year’s final in Sibiu. Meanwhile, another large Challenger in Bad Waltersdorf had to be wrapped up on Monday. Among the players returning to form on the Challenger Tour were also Denis Kudla and Camilo Ugo Carabelli. Read back on last week’s action:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Andrea Pellegrino usually has a few weeks every year where he’s almsot unplayable, but this season hadn’t really been like that. Even his final in San Marino wasn’t actually that amazing and more of a product of a good draw. But finally, in Bad Waltersdorf, the Italian managed to find that very high ceiling. On the way to the final, he took out Jurij Rodionov, Francesco Passaro, Jozef Kovalik, and Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Despite the rain and no lights, he managed to wrap up his semifinal on Sunday, unlike the second finalist.
Dennis Novak won a Challenger Tour title in Nonthaburi at the beginning of the year, but was struggling a bit after suffering an ankle injury in February, never really regaining that sort of form. That is until Bad Waltersdorf as the Austrian very confidently moved past his first three opponents. Vit Kopriva led him 6-3 5-3 though and held five match points in the second set, including a 6-3 lead in the tie-break. Novak fought back and finished off the deciding set 6-2 on Monday, just before having to play the final vs Pellegrino.
But on the day, only one player began executing their game pretty well. Pellegrino’s worst performance of the week suddenly stopped at 1-6 0-4 down though as he realized he might have a shot at outlasting Novak. The Austrian fought back by crushing some inside-out forehands, but eventually went down in three sets. Pellegrino claimed his third Challenger title 1-6 7-6 6-3. He’ll now rest for a week before heading over to South America, while the finalist took a special exempt to Orleans.
Constant Lestienne won Stanford in August, but lost his next three matches (only one of them was at a Challenger though). In Saint-Tropez, he kicked off his campaign with a couple of wins over his younger compatriots – Hugo Gaston and Harold Mayot (the latter even had him saving some key break points in the decider). To make the final though, Lestienne benefitted from a couple of retirements – Michael Mmoh and Sebastian Ofner – both didn’t even get to the second set.
Broady’s top 100 debut was guaranteed by the time he had to play his semifinal against Radu Albot, but the Brit didn’t stop there. The 29-year-old was the king of consistency the last couple of months with three Challenger Tour final four appearances since the beginning of August. Adding to that his Wimbledon round three, Vilnius title, and Biel final it all resulted in Broady getting that milestone achievement. It happened for him eleven years after he was the junior world #2.
A nightmare start saw Lestienne go down 0-4 in the opening set. While the comeback attempt was too little, too late, he did shift the momentum of the match completely. He was so much more creative than Broady and played around with the crowd which seemed to be flustering the Brit a little bit as well. Lestienne claimed his eighth Challenger title 4-6 6-3 6-4 and will return to the top 100, just one spot ( and one point) behind Broady. The champion will now head to Orleans, while the runner-up chose to withdraw from ATP 250 Astana qualifying.
One of the stars of the 2023 USTA Roland Garros Wildcard Challenge (barely missed out to Patrick Kypson), Tristian Boyer only had one big run since. In Stanford, he led Emilio Nava 6-2 5-2 in the semifinals, but couldn’t close out the win. On clay in Antofagasta, he was able to save three match points against third seed and local hope Alejandro Tabilo in the opening round, eventually turning that thriller into a wonderful run to the final.
Ugo Carabelli had a rather uninspiring campaign so far this year, although he did pick it up with the final in Meerbusch recently. Back in South America he lost to altitude king Facundo Mena in Santa Cruz, but showed some vintage form in his next event at Antofagasta. The key win definitely came in the second round with a 7-6 3-6 6-2 dismissal of top-seeded Juan Manuel Cerundolo. As it turned out, that was the only set he dropped on the way to another final.
Ugo Carabelli started out playing the match in a very passive manner, allowing Boyer to spread the court with his heavy FH and dictate. This sort of “outlast the opponent” attitude quickly proved effective though with the 22-year-old suffering a physical crisis in the second set. He did recover from it, but the Argentinian now had many opportunities to pounce on a softened rival. Ugo Carabelli won his fourth Challenger title 3-6 6-1 7-5. Boyer decided to withdraw from Bogota qualifying and both finalists will be back in Campinas after a week of rest.
Fatic won his maiden Challenger title at Sibiu last year and while he didn’t really follow it up, he had a few deep runs in 2023 as well with semifinals in Modena and San Marino. Faster clay courts are definitely his specialty and the Bosnian didn’t disappoint. His title defense campaign almost ended in the second round though as Riccardo Bonadio had two match points to take him out. Fatic went on to take out Ivan Gakhov and Zsombor Piros to make his second-ever Challenger final.
Dzumhur was Fatic’s opponent in the 2022 Sibiu final and the tournament actually got the exact same line-up this year. Having recently broken a dry spell of six years without a Challenger title (and a 6-match losing streak in finals), the 31-year-old only lost one match to Yannick Hanfmann at Davis Cup in the meantime. His path to another Sibiu final was really comfortable with no sets lost and just one tie-break played along the way.
The two Bosnians don’t really bring the best out of each other and we saw that for the second year in a row. Dzumhur received treatment on his thigh during the set break and it did make the rest of the match more competitive, but the whole affair still felt a bit off-pace. Fatic emerged as the more solid player to take his second Challenger Tour title 6-2 6-4 and massively improve his chances of making Australian Open qualifying. He aims to play Braga next, while Dzumhur is in the field for ATP 250 Astana qualifying.
Alexis Galarneau had an absolutely phenomenal performance during the Davis Cup group stage, winning both singles rubbers and claiming three more points in doubles. Despite the rather short turnaround to Columbus, he was able to be right back up there and showcase some very dominant displays over the course of the four matches on the way to the final. He never dropped a set and only needed two tie-breaks (Laurent Lokoli and Cannon Kingsley).
Kudla only making four Challenger Tour quarterfinals until the middle of September was definitely a bit of an indicator that the American’s form is falling off. But you can never count him out on fast/low-bouncing courts, like the ones in Columbus. The 31-year-old struggled a bit with Michael Geerts in the second round, but otherwise produced a set of great performances to find his best week of the 2023 season, and by far.
Kudla came out all guns blazing. From the get-go, he overwhelmed Galarneau with his timing and just how dangerous his low-skidding backhand was on the Columbus courts. He just never really gave the Canadian an opportunity to feel comfortable and rolled over his opponent. Kudla claimed his ninth Challenger title 6-2 6-1 in just 62 minutes and he’ll try to keep that form going in Charleston, just like Galarneau.
Events held this week:
- Co’Met Orleans Open (Challenger 125, indoor hard)
- Directv Open Bogota (Challenger 125, clay)
- Braga Open (Challenger 75, clay)
- LTP Challenger (Charleston, Challenger 75, hard)
Top 100 players in action:
- Richard Gasquet, Luca van Assche, Hugo Gaston, Benjamin Bonzi, Constant Lestienne (all Orleans)
First-round matches to watch:
- (1) Richard Gasquet vs (WC) Pierre-Hugues Herbert
- (ALT) Gabriel Diallo vs Giulio Zeppieri
- Tomas Machac vs (7) Maxime Cressy
- Dino Prizmic vs (3) Hugo Gaston
- Viktor Durasovic vs Joao Lucas Reis da Silva
- Eduardo Ribeiro vs (3) Hugo Dellien
- (3) Jan Choinski vs Duje Ajdukovic
- Riccardo Bonadio vs (4) Pablo Llamas Ruiz
- (5) Alexis Galarneau vs Ethan Quinn
- Mark Lajal vs Abedallah Shelbayh
Main photo credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports