It was Luca Nardi against Sumit Nagal in the final at Chennai and only one was going to break the Top 100 in this direct play-off. Meanwhile, there was another all-Australian clash for the title in the second event at Burnie and Nottingham featured the first final between one-handed backhand players in over two years. Read back on last week’s Challenger Tour action:
ATP Challenger Tour Weekly Recap
Luca Nardi was the top seed in Chennai and a title could potentially get him into the Top 100. The Italian took care of his first three opponents in relatively straightforward fashion (third set against Stefano Napolitano was a bagel), but then got involved in a crazy thriller with Chun-Hsin Tseng in the semifinals. After saving one match point in the deciding set tie-break (with a dead net cord), he was able to lock up that chance at a Top 100 spot for Sunday’s final.
Sumit Nagal had an excellent performance at the Australian Open, qualifying and beating Alexander Bublik in round one. It opened up the possibility for the Indian to look for a Top 100 debut sometime soon. By making the final in Chennai, he secured himself a direct opportunity to do that. He wasted no time taking out his opponents along the way, not dropping a set and not even getting taken to a tie-break (only Giovanni Fonio managed to win five games in a set).
From the get-go, it was pretty clear that Nagal was handling the occasion a bit better. Nardi just didn’t have that much fire in his attacks and even when he finally had some chances in the second set, he would blow them very quickly with another patch of errors. Nagal stood stronger mentally to claim his 5th Challenger title 6-1 6-4 and become the 10th Indian player to break the Top 100. Nardi stays 35 points away from that feat and will get another chance in Bangalore this week, where Nagal is also competing.
Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard lost his last three matches going into Nottingham via deciding tie-breaks, so it was definitely quite refreshing for him to grab a win in that scenario against Manuel Guinard in the second round. The 20-year-old really trusted his baseline game this week and was sometimes feeling to grind without losing too much control over his groundstrokes. In the semifinals, he avenged his Koblenz round-one defeat against Alexander Blockx.
Matteo Martineau had been knocking on the door for a while now with four Challenger semifinal exits since late 2022, including in Quimper a few weeks ago. The breakthrough came along with a fantastic run in Nottingham, during which he didn’t drop a single set on the way to the final and only required two tie-breaks against Billy Harris and Mikhail Kukushkin. Mpetshi Perricard vs Martineau was the first Challenger final between one-handed backhand players since Knoxville 2021.
Martineau was always the one falling into a bit more trouble on serve in the final and a lot of that was due to Mpetshi Perricard’s baseline improvements from the whole week. He was able to rely on his athleticism a bit more than usual and actually turn some rallies around, including a key backhand pass in the opening set tie-break. Add to that just nine points dropped on serve in total and Mpetshi Perricard kinda cruised to his 2nd Challenger Tour title 7-6 6-4. Both finalists are headed to Cherbourg now.
Adam Walton got a couple of main tour experiences in Adelaide and at the Australian Open to start the season, before hitting the Challenger Tour again in Burnie. His loss to Alex Bolt in the first event came in fairly straightforward fashion, but made up for it as the top seed last week. The toughest matches on the way had him beat Andre Illagan 6-3 in the 3rd and then Philip Sekulic in the deciding set tie-break. Walton made his third Challenger final.
Dane Sweeny‘s Australian Open showing was even better with a successful qualifying campaign and two sets won against Francisco Cerundolo in round one. The first Burnie event he lost to the eventual champion Omar Jasika and managed to make his maiden Challenger final in the second week. Unlike Walton, his draw featured plenty of Japanese opponents with Rio Noguchi, Makoto Ochi, and Yasutaka Uchiyama. However, the biggest test came against James McCabe in the quarterfinals as Sweeny won 6-4 in the 3rd.
The final ended up being a very dominant performance by Walton. Sweeny was left with no answers as his opponent was both more comfortable being proactive, but also had no issues controlling his shots well enough to keep outrallying him. The speed around the court that he’s usually known for wouldn’t actually draw out any errors here, at least until 2-6 1-3 when the final got a lot tighter. Walton claimed his 2nd Challenger title 6-2 7-6 and is nearing the Top 150. Both finalists will now try their luck in the Indian Swing, starting in Bangalore.
Challenger Tour magic:
Tweener. Lob. Winner 🤯
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) February 5, 2024
Events held this week:
- Bahrain Ministry of Interior Tennis Challenger (Manama, Challenger 125, hard)
- Bengaluru Open (Bangalore, Challenger 100, hard)
- Challenger Cherbourg La Manche (Challenger 75, indoor hard)
- Lexus Glasgow Challenger (Challenger 50, indoor hard)
Top 100 players in action:
- Christopher O’Connell (Manama)
- Brandon Nakashima (Cherbourg)
First-round matches to watch:
- Marc-Andrea Huesler vs (5) Richard Gasquet
- (WC) Nikoloz Basilashvili vs (4) Jakub Mensik
- (4) Benjamin Bonzi vs Philip Sekulic
- Seong-Chan Hong vs (WC) Vasek Pospisil
Pospisil beat Hong 6-4 6-3 just two weeks ago in the Davis Cup tie between Canada and South Korea.
- (1) Brandon Nakashima vs Valentin Royer
- Mark Lajal vs (7) Pierre-Hugues Herbert
- (5) Jiri Vesely vs (WC) Henry Searle
- (WC) Kyle Edmund vs (2) Dimitar Kuzmanov
Main Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran – USA TODAY Sports