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Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Kokkinakis and Bergs Face-Off for Roland Garros Main Draw

Thanasi Kokkinakis Australian Open

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Zizou Bergs faced each other in the Sarasota final, which was a de facto play-off for one of the last Roland Garros main draw spots. Meanwhile, Yasutaka Uchiyama ended a long title drought and Jozef Kovalik picked up his second Challenger title in the past 3 weeks. Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard was also unstoppable at altitude again with Stefano Napolitano surprising in the Madrid final by beating Leandro Riedi. Read back on last week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap


Uchiyama made back-to-back semifinals in Burnie at the beginning of the season, but had to wait until Busan to make his first Challenger final in almost three years (Mallorca 2021). The Japanese took down Paul Jubb from a set down (and briefly a break down in the decider), before taking on James Duckworth in a semifinal thriller. The Australian top seed was fighting to secure his Roland Garros main draw spot, but Uchiyama found the key backhand pass and beat him 7-6(4) in the third.

Seong-chan Hong had to battle it out against some very exciting young talent in the fourth quarter of the draw in Busan, beating Otto Virtanen, Mark Lajal, and Coleman Wong to make the semifinals. The South Korean is quietly enjoying a great season with Busan becoming his third Challenger final of 2024 (Nonthaburi-3, Bangalore), perhaps with a bit less pressure on his shoulders now that he’s joining the army in December for compulsory 18 months of service (same as Soon-woo Kwon, who gave him a walkover in the semifinals).

Uchiyama might be past his peak but he still has that amazing feel for the ball and timing, especially when he moves forward into the court. He can’t avoid some easy misses though and despite being up 5-3 in the opener, he soon faced two break points at 5-6 15-40. Saving them with unreturned serves and Hong starting slow in the tiebreak was a real turning point for the match as Uchiyama claimed his sixth Challenger title (first since 2019) 7-6 6-3. He returns to the top 200 after 26 months as both finalists are also scheduled for Gwangju next week.


Leandro Riedi took some time off after a brilliant indoor swing (which ended with two losses though) and hit the tour again with renewed energy in Madrid. The 600-700m altitude at this venue was a brilliant fit for his aggressive playstyle as well. He was able to take down the prodigy Joao Fonseca in the quarterfinals before getting engaged in a brilliant battle with Jurij Rodionov. Riedi was eventually too strong in the deciding-set tiebreak and made his first clay-court final at any level.

Stefano Napolitano ended a 7,5-year Challenger Tour title drought in Bangalore in February, but entering Madrid he only had one win under his belt since. The quicker clay conditions in Madrid were very much to his liking though as he didn’t drop a set on the way to the final, only getting taken to a tiebreak each by Vit Kopriva and Marc-Andrea Huesler. Mikhail Kukushkin retired at 2-6 1-4 in their semifinal clash, struggling to recover from his almost four-hour-long match with Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

While Riedi definitely had the easy power advantage, Napolitano did well to keep him honest and was striking the ball as cleanly as his young opponent. The Italian didn’t let the breathtaking shots coming from the other side of the net get to him and was counter-punching effectively. The level he brought to the court on the day was very sharp and he got the reward with a 6-3 6-3 win and his third Challenger title (second this year already). He also broke his career-high from 2017 to debut in the Top 150. Both finalists had to withdraw from ATP Tour qualifying events next week with Napolitano also picking up a special exempt for Oeiras instead.


Zsombor Piros was eyeing a Top 100 debut when he picked up the title in Cherbourg in February, but only grabbing three wins in the next five events meant that he couldn’t get there before having to defend his points from back-to-back trophies in 2023, the first one of them being Split. The Hungarian once again had a great time at this venue, making the final for the third year in a row. On the way there, he only dropped one set in the opening round to Nerman Fatic.

Kovalik claimed the title in Zadar recently and came back to Croatia hungry for more after playing just one match in Naples in the meantime. He had to keep up his strong form, facing three former Top 100 players in a row (Quentin Halys, Stefano Travaglia, Benjamin Bonzi). Only the Frenchman was able to push him to a deciding set as Kovalik maintained his disposition from Zadar and locked up a second Challenger final in his last three events.

Kovalik looked like he was about to roll over Piros at 6-4 3-0, taking five games in a row and beginning to break through the Hungarian’s defenses. His opponent fought back though and made this one a real battle all the way until the end, but the Slovak stood strong and kept playing his game. Kovalik claimed his eighth Challenger title (second in 2024) 6-4 5-7 7-5 and isn’t far out the Top 100 in the ATP Race. Both finalists are scheduled for Oeiras next week, Kovalik with a special exempt after withdrawing from ATP 250 Bucharest qualifying.


Bergs had one thing in mind going into Sarasota this week – getting the title would mean a Top 100 debut and getting automatic entry to Roland Garros main draw. The Belgian had missed out on a couple of opportunities like this before and he ensured he would get another one by advancing to the final. Mitchell Krueger and Tennys Sandgren took him to a deciding set with the latter even briefly going up a break in the third.

Kokkinakis was also going for the goal of making Roland Garros main draw but with a slightly easier task with the final run already putting him on the verge of that feat. His Sarasota excellence was mostly built on going 4-0 in tiebreaks in his first four matches, including two against Gabriel Diallo. He even went down 0-2 in the third set against the Canadian, but managed to recover and make his first Challenger final in 14 months.

Bergs fell behind an early break in the opening set and couldn’t make up for it in time despite a few chances. But the momentum was on his side as he leveled easily and was entering the decider with positive energy. Kokkinakis smelled blood though when the Belgian started feeling some nerves at the beginning of the third set and never let it go, claiming his sixth Challenger title 6-3 1-6 6-0 to earn his main draw spot at Roland Garros and likely deny Bergs the same feat. He intends to travel to the ATP 250 in Bucharest next, while the runner-up will be defending his title in Tallahassee.


Nicolas Mejia claimed his maiden Challenger title during this Mexican swing in San Luis Potosi on clay courts and after an early loss in Mexico City, he had to qualify for the main draw in Morelos. After coming through a tough battle against doubles specialist Ryan Seggerman, the opening round of the main event had Mejia win the last 11 games to beat Zachary Svajda 0-6 6-3 6-0. It really sparked his run going forward as he took down Maxime Cressy in two tiebreaks in the semifinals.

Mpetshi Perricard went 5-0 in tiebreaks on the way to the Morelos final, posting some incredible serve numbers like 40/40 on first serve and 46% ace rate against Maxime Janvier (avenging his Mexico City defeat from the week before). Against Adam Walton he upped that ace count even more to (31), but had to take down the Australian in the deciding set. Mpetshi Perricard won the now-discontinued Leon Challenger in this part of the season last year.

Mpetshi Perricard only had to save one break point in the entire match, but besides the serving he was also able to string together a few nice returns in both 5-all games. Especially in the second set Mejia also helped out with some poor execution on the volleys. Mpetshi Perricard raised his ace count for the week to 116 and claimed his third Challenger title 7-5 7-5 as both finalists will be playing Acapulco next, the runner-up thanks to a special exempt.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held this week:

  • Oeiras Open (Challenger 125, clay)
  • GNP Seguros Tennis Open (Acapulco, Challenger 125, hard)
  • Tallahassee Tennis Challenger (Challenger 75, green clay)
  • Gwangju Open Challenger (Challenger 75, hard)
  • AAT Challenger Santander Edicion Tucuman (San Miguel de Tucuman, Challenger 50, clay)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Fabio Fognini (Oeiras)
  • Rinky Hijikata (Acapulco)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (1) Fabio Fognini vs Joris De Loore
  • (WC) Jaime Faria vs (2) Thiago Monteiro


  • (WC) Ernesto Escobedo vs (WC) Adolfo Daniel Vallejo
  • (WC) Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez vs (2) Michael Mmoh


  • (1) J.J. Wolf vs Henry Searle
  • Calvin Hemery vs (3) Patrick Kypson


  • Alexander Blockx vs (5) Bu Yunchaokete
  • (4) Mattia Bellucci vs Philip Sekulic

San Miguel de Tucuman

  • Daniel Dutra da Silva vs Juan Carlos Prado Angelo
  • Kaichi Uchida vs (2) Renzo Olivo

Main photo credit: Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports


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