Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Fearnley Against All Odds

It was another huge week on the Challenger Tour circuit with a couple of Challenger 125 events going in completely different manners – Luciano Darderi picked up the title in Perugia as the top seed, while Nottingham had a surprise final between two British qualifiers. Kamil Majchrzak continued his resurgence to return to Grand Slam qualifying range, while lefties Juan Manuel Cerundolo and Hugo Gaston picked up important trophies after recent struggles. Read back on last week’s action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap


Luciano Darderi took a wildcard for the Challenger Tour event in Perugia and played it as the top seed ranked World No. 41. Players entering Challengers like this can often struggle for motivation and not take advantage of their status of the overwhelming favorite. But that wasn’t the case with the Italian, who won four matches to get to the final without dropping a set. Only Daniel Altmaier came even remotely close to him, losing 6-7 3-6 in the semifinals.

Sumit Nagal was coming off the title run in Heilbronn and had no intention of slowing down. Only through sheer willpower did he survive the second-round match against Alessandro Giannessi. He lost the opening set with a bagel and was 3-5 down in both sets 2 and 3. Somehow that marathon wasn’t even the end of his run as Nagal kept going with wins over Maks Kasnikowski and Bernabe Zapata Miralles, eventually securing nine wins in a row.

It was total domination for Darderi throughout the week and final was no different. Would it look slightly different if Nagal wasn’t tired going for back-to-back titles? Probably, but the trush is the Italian had that vibe all week that nothing was going to deny him this success. That’s exactly what happened as Darderi claimed his 3rd Challenger title 6-1 6-2 and doesn’t have much time before switching to the grass at the ATP 500 in Halle now. Meanwhile, Nagal opted to withdraw from Sassuolo and likely won’t be back until Wimbledon.


Charles Broom hadn’t made a Challenger quarterfinal for almost an entire 12 months, losing in Surbiton qualifying in his first grass event of this season. The Brit had to start from the qualifying in Nottingham, getting through to the main draw and upsetting Surbiton champion Lloyd Harris in the second round. Matches against countrymen Dan Evans and Billy Harris took him to his first Challenger final against another fellow Brit with college tennis ties.

Jacob Fearnley is yet another British player that played college for Texas Christian University (Alastair Gray, Cameron Norrie, Jack Pinnington Jones…). Despite just two previous Challenger appearances (0-1 main draw, 0-1 qualifying), the 24-year-old produced a cinderella run here. In the opening round of the qualifying competition he had to go the distance with Clement Chidekh, all the way to a deciding set tie-break. By the time he made the final, his pro record this year went up to 14-0.

Early on it just wasn’t the same aggressive Fearnley who got to the final in style and Broom was ahead with his excellent movement and slices drawing out errors from his compatriot. The Texas Christian University style grew increasingly confident in his forehand though and once that shot was tuned in, Broom had no idea how to respond. Fearnley claimed his maiden Challenger title 4-6 6-4 6-3 and will jump straight into the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings. But it was the runner-up who had priority for a special exempt in Ilkely and got in alongside Mattia Bellucci. It’s very likely that Fearnley secured himself a Wimbledon wildcard with this run though, but it’s unclear if main draw or qualifying.

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Kamil Majchrzak restarted his career after a doping violation (supplement contamination) at the beginning of the season and is pushing for a return to Grand Slam qualifying draws (and later on maybe even the Top 100). The run in Bratislava is yet another step in that direction. Majchrzak started from the qualifying and it took until the semifinals for someone to take a set off him with Prostejov champion Jerome Kym looking very dangerous again.

Henrique Rocha had a big breakthrough with the Murcia title in March, but then went quiet for a couple of months. It took him until Bratislava to properly put himself back on the map. Wins over veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas and in-form Jozef Kovalik were two of the best he managed to pull off since the run in Murcia with Rocha also defeating Genaro Alberto Olivieri and Norbert Gombos to secure a spot in his second Challenger final.

It was a topsy-turvy final with Majchrzak going up 6-0, but quickly descending into frustration when faced with Rocha’s gritty baselining. Second set was almost as lopsided as the first in favor of the Portuguese with his opponent able to gather himself for the decider. Majchrzak had the much higher level in patches when he was more aggressive and took his 6th Challenger title 6-0 2-6 6-3, pretty much securing his US Open qualifying spot (less than six months after starting from scratch). Next up for him is Poznan, while Rocha is switching to grass in Ilkley.


Alexandre Muller found some great form recently with the big run at the ATP 1000 in Rome and the win over Luca Nardi at the French Open. It didn’t take him a long time to start dominating his opponent in Lyon as well, picking up one bagel set each in the first two matches. Only Raphael Collignon was able to push Muller along the way with a 6-1 win in the opening set, but the second seed stood strong to make his way into the final.

Hugo Gaston is having a pretty weird season with deep runs and a huge streak of losses. The Frenchman won just one match across ten events between Rotterdam in February and Lyon in March, but things are evidently trending upwards again. Especially entertaining was his quarterfinal against Nikoloz Basilashvili with a very intense clash of styles. Gaston ended up taking the win 4-6 6-4 6-3 and then defeated Kyrian Jacquet to make it to a final between the top two seeds with Muller.

Muller plays such a solid game, but even players like that can find themselves rather uncomfortable against all the trickery of Gaston. The battle of the two Frenchmen ended up being quite up and down with the deciding set running away from Muller after back-to-back double faults and a tamely placed approach at 1-2 down. Gaston claimed his 4th Challenger title 6-2 1-6 6-1 and heads to Ilkley next, while the runner-up intends to wait one more week for the switch to grass and plays Sassuolo instead.


With just two quarterfinals all season, Juan Manuel Cerundolo really needed a Challenger Tour run in an event he was one of the main favorites in. Things weren’t even looking that bright for him from the get-go with Lautaro Midon going up a break in the deciding set in the opening round. The 22-year-old didn’t make much of his draw from hell and while he also had to dig deep in his matches with Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida and Juan Bautista Torres, he kept finding the goods when it mattered.

Pedro Boscardin Dias used to be regarded as an exciting prospect with a Top 10 ranking in the juniors and a Challenger final in Coquimbo back in 2022. But it had been a while since he made an impact at the Challenger level with no quarterfinals this season (not for 11 months overall). The underdog in all his matches, Boscardin Dias used this week to remind everyone what the fuss was all about, upsetting Valerio Aboian, Joao Lucas Reis da Silva, and Hernan Casanova.

Boscardin Dias was once again a huge underdog in the final, but he gave it a solid go. Overall hitting through Cerundolo was a problem for him and especially in rallies of the lefty forehand against the righty backhand, it just felt like the Argentinian can keep him there forever.  That’s exactly what he did as Cerundolo claimed his 8th Challenger title 6-4 6-3 as both finalists will now head to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Boscardin Dias on a special exempt.

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Challenger Tour events held this week:

  • Emilia-Romagna Tennis Cup (Sassuolo, Challenger 125, clay)
  • Lexus Ilkley Trophy (Challenger 125, grass)
  • Enea Poznan Open (Challenger 75, clay)
  • Internationaux de Tennis de Blois (Challenger 50, clay)
  • Dove Men+Care Challenger Bolivia 2 (Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Challenger 50, clay)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Federico Coria, Alexandre Muller, Borna Coric, Daniel Altmaier (Sassuolo)
  • Hugo Gaston, Lloyd Harris (Ilkley)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (1) Federico Coria vs Francesco Maestrelli
  • Jesper de Jong vs (2) Alexandre Muller


  • (4) David Goffin vs Jurij Rodionov
  • (6) Richard Gasquet vs (SE) Mattia Bellucci


  • (1) Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs Maks Kasnikowski
  • (WC) Pablo Carreno Busta vs (8) Dmitry Popko


  • Darwin Blanch vs Gabriel Debru
  • Martin Landaluce vs (2) Clement Tabur

Santa Cruz de la Sierra

  • (1) Juan Manuel Cerundolo vs Lautaro Midon
  • (WC) Emilio Gomez vs (3) Andrea Collarini

Main Photo Credit: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports


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