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Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Boyer and Rocha with Premier Titles, Fonseca’s Crazy Run

Nikoloz Basilashvili BMW Open 2022

17-year-old prodigy Joao Fonseca was probably still the story of the week on the ATP Challenger Tour, despite falling to Gustavo Heide in a marathon final. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Henrique Rocha was among the three maiden champions as well, defeating former Top 20 player Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Murcia final. Jozef Kovalik kept it up for the veterans, claiming his first trophy since September 2022 in Zadar. Read back on last week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap


Nikoloz Basilashvili (ranked 1086!) pulled off some solid runs on the ITF circuit recently but was 0-4 on the Challenger Tour this year coming into Murcia. The Georgian found his level and rally tolerance, though, playing with a lot more clarity than the last few years (his win/loss record in 2023 was 4-19). He qualified and won six straight matches in Murcia, beating the likes of Jesper de Jong, Marco Trungelliti, or Albert Ramos-Vinolas to make his first Challenger final since 2016.

19-year-old Henrique Rocha won six ITF titles last year and qualified for the ATP 250 in Estoril. The Portuguese had some early issues translating that form to the Challenger level, but everything changed for him with this run in Murcia. He didn’t even drop a set on the way to the semifinals, beating veterans like Gregoire Barrere or Radu Albot. But most memorable was his final-four win over Pablo Llamas Ruiz, with lots of spectacular shotmaking from both players.

For a while, it looked like Rocha had no business hanging with Basilashvili, but the Portuguese was able to keep fighting and somehow stay in the match. He broke back at 3-6 4-5 before erasing a 0-3 deficit in the decider. By the end of the match, he was flying high and actually doing fine in the trades with the big-hitting Georgian. Rocha claimed his maiden Challenger title 3-6 7-6 7-5 and has a good chance of debuting in the Top 200 after Miami. He’ll play in Girona next week, while Basilashvili took a special exemption for Naples.


Going 23-34 in 2023 was a bit of a disaster for Jozef Kovalik, but he saved his ranking by peaking for about a month in July. His level to start the next season was already much better, and it took until Zadar for that to present itself in his results. Losing the opening set 0-6 didn’t stop him in his tracks against Zsombor Piros as he went on to produce a comeback, as well as defeated Nino Serdarusic from 1-3 down in the decider in the final four.

Adrian Andreev made three Challenger semifinals back in 2022 but suffered a few injuries last year and had to wait until this event to get another opportunity. He snapped the 11-match win streak of 18-year-old Matej Dodig in the second round before coming back from a set and a break-down to defeat Enrico Dalla Valle. To get that milestone and make a maiden final, he beat Timofey Skatov 6-3 6-4 in a matchup of FH-oriented grinders where he just had a lot more confidence in his trademark shot.

The final ended up being a bit of a victory lap for Kovalik, who didn’t need to do much more than just stay solid while hitting reasonably deep and heavy. Andreev was also seen grabbing his shoulder a few times, indicating a potential physical issue. Kovalik claimed his 6th Challenger title 6-4 6-2 and will return to the Top 200 when the new ATP Rankings are published after Miami. The champion will feature in Naples next week, while the runner-up decided not to pick up a special exemption for either Naples or Girona.

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Gustavo Heide had to withdraw from his only previous Challenger final due to illness (2023 Bogota), so he was kind of due a big run at this level. Coming off the Santiago semifinals, where he already seemed to be on an upswing, the 22-year-old only dropped one set in the first four performances in Asuncion. He came back to beat Valerio Aboian and scored a particularly impressive win in the semifinals, dispatching last week’s Santiago champion, Juan Pablo Varillas.

2023 US Open boys’ singles champion Joao Fonseca has been grabbing loads of valuable experience on the tour this year, the biggest run being his Rio de Janeiro ATP 500 quarterfinal. At the Challenger level, he made one semifinal back in January and was able to reach another here with a stunning comeback against Orlando Luz from 3-6 4-5 15-40 on return. To go one step further, he defeated Roman Andres Burruchaga, avenging his Brasilia loss from last year.

The two Brazilians delivered a classic in the final. If not for Fonseca running low on steam after two mammoth games to start the decider, this could have been the 2nd longest Challenger final ever. Eventually, the counter stopped at 3 hours and 15 minutes as Heide picked up his 1st title 7-5 6-7 6-1. The 17-year-old prodigy was in a battle even with himself, trying to navigate being a human highlight reel but not having any percentage play abilities. Heide kept fighting back with an insane number of drop shots, most of them successful. The champion will play Sao Leopoldo next, while Fonseca gets a week of rest before taking a main draw wildcard for the ATP 250 in Estoril.


Tristan Boyer was probably a little disappointed with his early results in the Indian Swing but managed to save that part of the season with a semifinal run in New Delhi. The American then took a couple of weeks off before showing up in Merida, where he was among the title favorites, especially after making two Challenger finals on clay last year. The key match came against Dmitry Popko in the quarterfinals as Boyer came back from a set down to snap the Kazakh’s incredible run (29-1 in last 30 matches, four ITF titles).

Juan Pablo Ficovich had also played Popko recently, snapping the Kazakh’s 23-match win streak in the final of an indoor clay 25K in Recife. By the time he made the final in Merida, he was already on nine wins in a row himself. The Argentinian dismissed the in-form Stefan Kozlov in the quarterfinals before beating the recent Santa Cruz runner-up Murkel Dellien from a set and a break down. Usually known for his altitude clay prowess (or faster conditions as a whole), Ficovich showed he’s got what it takes at sea level, too.

The third time is the charm, after all, but you wouldn’t necessarily call it after the first eight games of the match. From 3-5 down, though, Boyer produced an absolute clinic of attacking clay tennis. He was taking the ball early on both wings, producing great angles to open up the court and get to the net. While the opening set tie-break was still close, this level was simply too much for Ficovich. Boyer claimed his maiden Challenger title 7-6 6-2 and will likely break the Top 200 after Miami. He chose to withdraw from San Luis Potosi next week, while the runner-up is still in the draw.

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Challenger Tour magic:

Events held this week:

  • Napoli Tennis Open (Naples, Challenger 125, clay)
  • Eurofirms Girona – Costa Brava (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Circuito Banco BRB/Engie de Tenis Profissional Sao Leo (Sao Leopoldo, Challenger 75, clay)
  • San Luis Open (San Luis Potosi, Challenger 75, clay)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Federico Coria, Luca Nardi (Naples)
  • Pedro Cachin, Pedro Martinez (Girona)
  • Juan Pablo Varillas (Sao Leopoldo)
  • Thiago Agustin Tirante (San Luis Potosi)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (6) Zsombor Piros vs (ALT) Francesco Passaro
  • Jozef Kovalik vs (2) Luca Nardi


  • (4) Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs (WC) Alejandro Moro Canas
  • Henrique Rocha vs (3) Cristian Garin

Sao Leopoldo

  • (3) Camilo Ugo Carabelli vs Alvaro Guillen Meza
  • (ALT) Orlando Luz vs (2) Thiago Monteiro

San Luis Potosi

  • (4) Valentin Vacherot vs Bernard Tomic
  • Juan Pablo Ficovich vs (5) Denis Kudla


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