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Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Vacherot 18-1 in 2024, Virtanen beats Riedi

Clay-court tennis

Leandro Riedi against Otto Virtanen in a Challenger final. It literally doesn’t get better than that for fans of indoor tennis. In the other events Valentin Vacherot kept up his incredible winrate for the season, while Matteo Gigante prevailed over Stefano Travaglia in the Tenerife final, a matchup that’s very familiar to the local crowd by now. Here’s a look back on last week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap

Pau

Riedi has been exceptional indoors this year with two titles and just one loss to Tallon Griekspoor at Davis Cup. The Swiss ran into the top seed Jurij Rodionov in the second round here, but the Austrian simply found himself unable to contain his offense. The 22-year-old then followed it up with a tough win over Dino Prizmic (saved break points at 5-all in the third) and snapping Clement Chidekh’s 13-match win streak in the semifinals.

Virtanen finds himself under a lot of pressure in the next few weeks, defending over 50% of his points until the end of March. That extra bit of motivation was visible in his game right away in Pau as he played tennis of quality that he was only presenting to the world in Davis Cup ties the past few months. He was focused and deadly, going 5-0 in tiebreaks to not drop a single set on the way to the final and beat the likes of Benoit Paire or Brandon Nakashima.

The two players having such a reputation for indoor prowess, this final was bound to give the crowd some fireworks. Riedi went up 5-4 40-0 on serve in the opening set but just like the whole week, the clutch factor remained strong for Virtanen. Highly-motivated and willing to dig deep, the Finn won a few longer exchanges to steal the game and eventually the set, showing a level of rally tolerance that had been missing from his game for a long while. Virtanen kept it up to clinch his 4th Challenger title 7-5 7-5, maintaining a perfect 4-0 record in finals. Both finalists are next expected to appear in Lille.

Pune

Vacherot won back-to-back Challenger titles in Nonthaburi to start the season and since then had only shown up in Davis Cup (scoring two key points for Monaco over Paraguay) and posting his only loss for the season in Delray Beach qualifying to Gabriel Diallo. Faster hard courts with a bit of altitude like in Pune are a great profile for him and he showed it again this week, only dropping one set to Dane Sweeny on the way to the final.

Adam Walton came over to India after claiming the title in Burnie and lost in the Chennai quarterfinals to Sumit Nagal. Despite a tough draw in Pune right away, he survived a crazy match with Tung-Lin Wu in the second round. Initially he was up 6-0 5-3, before having to erase a 3-5 deficit in the decider himself. Walton then made another Challenger final by a walkover from Sasikumar Mukund and a straight-set win over Duje Ajdukovic, who was only two matches away from breaking the top 100.

Vacherot opened up a lead in every set, but Walton was keeping his consistency when it mattered and outlasting him in the rallies. From 1-3 down the Australian won the opener 6-3 and reached a tiebreak in the second and third from 2-5 and 3-5, respectively. Vacherot was there with the continuous pressure though and Walton basically cracked on just two very important points (5-all in each breaker). But that was enough for the Monegasque player to get the win and his fourth Challenger title (third in 2024) 3-6 7-6 7-6. He’s now 18-1 for the year and breaks the top 150. Both finalists are scheduled to appear in New Delhi this week.

Tenerife

Travaglia had a big run to the Koblenz semifinals recently and having reached the final at one of the Tenerife Challengers in 2023, he kept that patch going at a venue that clearly suits his game quite well. He started by taking out of a couple of fellow Italians (Raul Brancaccio, Riccardo Bonadio), before getting a third-set retirement from Jozef Kovalik. In the semifinals he once again didn’t give any chance to Jules Marie, who was also comfortably beaten by him in Koblenz.

Gigante was the player who beat Travaglia in that Tenerife final last year, also defeating him in the qualifying draw of another event at the same venue in 2023. The 22-year-old returned to the Challenger Tour after a couple of unsuccessful ventures into the ATP Tour (qualifying round one losses in Montpellier and Marseille) and had an even more Italian-heavy draw than Travaglia, playing Alessandro Giannessi, Salvatore Caruso, and Francesco Maestrelli on the way to the final (only Caruso managed a set).

And just like last year, Travaglia came out looking very confused. His overall record against left-handers has been strong the past two seasons, but something in Gigante’s game just bothers him a lot more. The veteran looked like a deer in the headlights in the first set before improving his performance slightly as the match went on. Gigante stood strong though and clinched his fourth Challenger title (second in 2024) 6-2 6-4. He’s getting closer to the top 150 and will be seeded for the next event in Tenerife as well, Travaglia finding himself in the opposite half of the draw.

Challenger tour magic:

Events held this week:

  • Play In Challenger (Lille, Challenger 125, indoor hard)
  • Delhi Open (New Delhi, Challenger 75, hard)
  • Tenerife Challenger 3 (Challenger 75, hard)
  • Rwanda Challenger (Kigali, Challenger 50, clay)

Kigali (played at 1500 meters altitude) is the first-ever ATP Challenger Tour event in Rwanda.

Top 100 players in action:

  • Arthur Rinderknech, Brandon Nakashima (Lille)

First-round matches to watch:

Lille

  • (1) Arthur Rinderknech vs Leandro Riedi
  • (3/WC) Benoit Paire vs Alexander Blockx
  • Pierre-Hugues Herbert vs (2) Brandon Nakashima

New Delhi

  • Bernard Tomic vs (4) Dalibor Svrcina
  • Gauthier Onclin vs (2) Adam Walton

Tenerife

  • (3) Pablo Llamas Ruiz vs (WC) Martin Landaluce
  • (6) Matteo Gigante vs Dennis Novak

Kigali

  • (3) Calvin Hemery vs David Pichler
  • Stefan Kozlov vs (2) Clement Tabur

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