Coleman Wong and James Duckworth met in a Challenger final for the second week in a row, which is even more remarkable given that they had to travel from China to Australia. Lukas Klein went one step further than last year in Ortisei, saving two match points to claim the title. Pedro Martinez was an unexpected winner of an indoor Challenger, while Hugo Dellien prevailed in an extremely rainy Curitiba. Read back on last week’s Challenger Tour action:
Benjamin Bonzi played his 8th Challenger event of 2023 last week, reaching his 2nd final (lost to Maxime Cressy in Rennes via retirement). The Frenchman was in big trouble against Calvin Hemery in the second round, at one point falling behind 4-6 2-4 0-40 on serve. He somehow managed to get himself out of trouble there, before taking out the in-form Arthur Fery and the dangerously unpredictable Hugo Gaston.
Pedro Martinez had only reached one professional final on hard courts, winning an ITF title in Sharm el Sheikh in 2018. The Spaniard hadn’t won an indoor match in almost two years by the time he made his appearance in Brest. His tight battle against Jaume Munar wasn’t a forecast of what was to come yet, but the 26-year-old just kept making his way through the draw and eventually took out Zsombor Piros and Constant Lestienne to advance to the final.
Bonzi was a little off-color in the final, requiring a shoulder treatment after the first set. That doesn’t take away from how well Martinez was playing, though, really making the audience recall the days when he was in the top 50 and was also competitive on hard courts on the main tour. Some vintage forehands gave him the 7-6 5-2 lead, but Bonzi mounted a stunning comeback. The killing blow was the Spaniard winning 10 of the last 11 points though. Martinez claimed his 4th Challenger title 7-6 7-6. His next plans remain unknown, while Bonzi has a main draw wildcard for the ATP 1000 in Paris.
Oliver Crawford took a couple of weeks of rest after finishing runner-up to Abedallah Shelbayh in Charleston. The American was back in Curitiba, which ended up being a very weird event. Altitude conditions are already pretty unique, but horrible weather meant that a few matches had to be finished/played indoors. Crawford was actually the only winner of both the second round and the quarterfinals to have to wrap up his match under the roof.
The same didn’t happen to Hugo Dellien, who was fortunate to just keep playing outdoors until the semifinals. In the first two rounds, he eliminated the two mercurial, but underrated Brazilians in Eduardo Ribeiro and Joao Lucas Reis da Silva. But Dellien’s turn to stop benefitting from the scheduling was coming soon, and it rang a bell since something similar had already happened to him in Luedenscheid earlier this year.
Both the semifinals and the final were contested indoors on Sunday and without streaming. Crawford defeated Luciano Darderi in about an hour, while Dellien battled Guido Andreozzi for almost three. But despite that, it was still the Bolivian who prevailed a few hours later. He actually wasted four match points and a 5-2 lead before entering the deciding tie-break, but it didn’t matter. Dellien claimed his 10th Challenger title 7-6 4-6 7-6, spending over five and a half hours on the court. Both finalists are in the draw at Guayaquil.
James Duckworth took the title in Shenzhen the week before Playford, but had no issues taking that form back to Australia. He was pushed by Hiroki Moriya and then Rinky Hijikata, avenging three recent losses against the latter (including a quarterfinal at this very event from 2022). Little did he know that he would be facing the same opponent in the final for the second week in a row. Duckworth secured his 5th Challenger championship match of the season.
Chak Lam Coleman Wong earned a special exempt to the Playford main draw by going deep in Shenzhen and did the unthinkable by finding an even stronger run. The 19-year-old had never played a top 100 opponent before this week but managed to eliminate two of them to make another final. World No. 68 Thanasi Kokkinakis retired against him at 6-7 0-2, and World No. 100 Taro Daniel went down after a dramatic three-hour battle (Wong also defeated Tristan Schoolkate in another three-hour+ match).
Their Shenzhen final lasted just 52 minutes, and Wong needed to save three match points to save himself from a double bagel at 0-6 0-5 0-40. He did perform much better in the rematch and was up to his usual standards of playing hyper-aggressive tennis. Despite a good fight, his opponent impressed with his speed around the court and how he effectively used Wong’s pace against him and didn’t give up any ground off the baseline. Duckworth won his 14th Challenger title 7-5 7-5, claiming the title in Playford for the second time (2019). Both finalists are playing Sydney next week, the 19-year-old with a special exempt.
Lukas Klein was the highest-ranked player in the field in Ortisei, but wasn’t originally signed up for the event and only got into the qualifying as an alternate. He was even a break-down in the decider to Andrea Picchione in the final round, improving rapidly as the week went on. Last year’s runner-up dropped two sets in two matches in the qualifying and then none in the main draw on the way to another title match.
Facing him this time would be a maiden Challenger finalist in Maks Kasnikowski. The Pole had only reached two quarterfinals the whole season and, despite drawing 2nd seed Gauthier Onclin in the opening round, found his serve and aggressive play again on the very fast courts in Ortisei. He took out Michael Geerts in a deciding tie-break and went on to defeat Federico Gaio to make the final of a Challenger for the very first time.
And what a final it was as Klein kicked off with some incredible forehand offense, but Kasnikowski was playing steady enough to keep asking if he has more of that where it came from. The Slovak almost ran out of his attacking steam, going down 4-6 in the final set tie-break after a brilliant passing shot combination from his opponent. The forehand didn’t crack under pressure, though, and Klein took his 3rd Challenger title 6-7 7-6 7-6, saving two match points. He’s scheduled for Ismaning now, while Kasnikowski flies over to Canada for the Calgary/Drummondville double that was very kind to him last year.
Challenger Tour magic:
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 27, 2023
Events held this week:
- Trofeo-Perrel Faip (Bergamo, Challenger 75, indoor hard)
- Wolffkran Open by Tannenhof (Ismaning, Challenger 75, indoor hard)
- Jonathan Fried Pro Challenger (Charlottesville, Challenger 75, indoor hard)
- NSW Open (Sydney, Challenger 75, hard)
- Challenger Ciudad de Guayaquil (Challenger 75, clay)
Top 100 players in action:
- Jack Draper, Flavio Cobolli, Liam Broady (Bergamo)
- Dominic Stricker (Ismaning)
- Thanasi Kokkinakis, Rinky Hijikata, Taro Daniel (Sydney)
- Federico Coria, Daniel Elahi Galan (Guayaquil)
First-round matches to watch:
- (3) Liam Broady vs Arthur Fery
- Matteo Gigante vs (4) Alex Molcan
- (WC) Marko Topo vs Oscar Otte
- (WC) Max Hans Rehberg vs (3) Maxime Cressy
Cressy finished runner-up at this event in 2019, Rehberg in 2022.
- (1) Michael Mmoh vs Steve Johnson
- (WC) Reilly Opelka vs Tennys Sandgren
Opelka will make his first appearance since August 2022 (Washington) and his first Challenger appearance since February 2019 (made the semifinals in Dallas).
- Rio Noguchi vs (7) Seong-chan Hong
- Yasutaka Uchiyama vs (3) Taro Daniel
- Luciano Darderi vs Dalibor Svrcina
- Kilian Feldbausch vs (2/WC) Daniel Elahi Galan
Main Photo Credit: David Kirouac – USA TODAY Sports