Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Cerundolo Goes Back-to-Back, No Wildcard for the Ilkley Champion

David Goffin Wimbledon

It was an unwritten rule that the Ilkley trophy champion receives a Wimbledon wild card and David Goffin was the unlucky winner who did not get one as the first player in years. Jesper de Jong beat two Top 100 players on the way to the title in Sassuolo, while Maks Kasnikowski secured a US Open qualifying spot by winning Poznan. Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Cerundolo went back-to-back in Lima and Santa Cruz. Read back on last week’s Challenger Tour action:

Challenger Tour Weekly Recap


David Goffin decided to play Ilkley in the hopes of earning a Wimbledon wildcard, but as it turned out during the event, the LTA decided to forgo that unwritten tradition this year in favor of another Brit (Charles Broom). That didn’t stop the veteran from having his best run of the year, though, and it took him until the semifinals to drop a set. Goffin was already serving for the match against Zachary Svajda at 7-5 5-4, eventually coming back to win in three sets.

Harold Mayot found himself in a similar position as Goffin, beating a few dangerous opponents in straight sets before the semifinals. That list included the Surbiton champion Lloyd Harris and ended with Mayot’s resurgent countryman Benjamin Bonzi. By making the final, the 22-year-old secured an opportunity to look for a Top 100 debut on Sunday against Goffin. He led the head-to-head against the former World No. 7 1-0 after defeating him in Miami earlier this year.

Goffin couldn’t get the wildcard he was going after, but he could still earn the 125 points for claiming the title. In fact that’s exactly what he did, taking less than an hour to dispatch Mayot 6-4 6-2. The Belgian became the 12th active player to own a Challenger title on all three surfaces, joining his countryman Zizou Bergs on that list. This success gets him back deep inside the Top 100, but it comes too late to save him from having to go through Wimbledon qualifying this week alongside Mayot.


Daniel Altmaier decided to stick around on clay after Roland Garros and play a few Challengers in a row. His Heilbronn performance ended abruptly in the second round, but he was already in better shape in Perugia (he lost to eventual champion Luciano Darderi). The run in Sassuolo was quite heavy on the thrillers, with deciding set battles against Stefano Travaglia, Riccardo Bonadio, and especially Federico Coria. Altmaier saved one match point each at 4-5 and 5-6 in the third set with well-executed net approaches.

Jesper de Jong pulled off a surprisingly clean win over No. 2 seed Alexandre Muller in the first round and took over his spot in the draw. The Dutchman had been 0-4 in Challenger Tour quarterfinals this year until defeating Alexander Weis from a set down and did the same against veteran Martin Klizan in the final four. De Jong, who recently qualified and won a round at Roland Garros, made his first final since claiming the title in Kozerki in August 2023.

It was an intense one-hour-long opening set, with Altmaier serving for it at 5-4 but eventually going down 6-7. De Jong’s mission for the beginning of the second was going to be to pile up the pressure and not give the German any breathing space. That’s precisely what he did, thanks to some massive second serve returns, and it earned him his 3rd Challenger title 7-6 6-1. He now finds himself 75 points away from debuting in the Top 100 and will have to change surfaces quickly ahead of Wimbledon. Altmaier is directly into the main draw in London but is skipping this week.

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Maks Kasnikowski dropped down to the ITF level in Kiseljak and found a lot of momentum by winning the 25K there. In the next weeks, he made the quarterfinals in Heilbronn (first Top 100 win over Daniel Altmaier) and Perugia (second Top 100 win over Borna Coric). He couldn’t do the same in Poznan with no Top 100 players involved, but he did the next best thing by beating No. 1 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas and making his first clay final at this level. He took out Kamil Majchrzak in the second all-Polish Challenger semifinal ever.

Camilo Ugo Carabelli entered Poznan on a streak of five consecutive losses, turning that around in style. The only tough match on the way to the final was granted to him by Gastao Elias, with both players barely standing after 2 hours and 58 minutes under the sun. Ugo Carabelli defeated Genaro Alberto Olivieri in an all-Argentinian semifinal and secured a 3rd meeting with Kasnikowski, whom he had already defeated twice on Polish soil (2021 Warsaw and 2022 Poznan).

It was quite windy on Saturday in Poznan, with Kasnikowski struggling to hit his way past Ugo Carabelli at the beginning of the match. But with the conditions getting a bit more quiet as the match went on, the Pole produced a crowd-inspired fightback from 3-6 0-3 down and started dominating. He was able to throw all his aggression at the opponent and got the reward in his 2nd Challenger title 3-6 6-4 6-3. That puts him firmly into the Top 200 and secures him a spot in US Open qualifying (his Grand Slam debut). He is now headed to Milan, while Ugo Carabelli will feature in Wimbledon qualifying.


Calvin Hemery hadn’t won a match since late April, finding success again at the Challenger in Blois that ended up being a very unique experience. Due to heavy rain almost all week, basically all of the action was moved indoors to a slick hard court. The impact of that on the results was huge, although in Hemery’s case it’s not that big a deal as he can handle himself both on clay and hard. He survived a tricky encounter with Corentin Denolly 7-6 3-6 7-6 at the last eight stage and made his first final since September.

Ricardas Berankis, on the other hand, really enjoyed the indoor hard court switch as clay is far from his best surface, especially at this point of his career. On the way to his first final since March 2023, the Lithuanian only dropped his serve three times in four matches. He dished out two bagels and was taken to a tie-break once by Hazem Naw in the first round. The final (and the first Hemery vs Berankis meeting since 2014) was moved indoors, just like pretty much the entire week in Blois.

At this point, it would have been kinda unfair to have them compete on clay in the final after playing the entire week on hard courts, and the final was scheduled for the indoor venue the day before already. The slick surface provided for a very serve-oriented final, with both players just under 90% points won on the first serve. Berankis emerged as the victor in that sort of contest and claimed his 15th Challenger title 7-6 7-5. He opted to withdraw from Milan next week while Hemery is off to Wimbledon qualifying.

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Santa Cruz

Juan Manuel Cerundolo claimed the title in Lima the week before Santa Cruz and ran into Lautaro Midon in the opening round again. His countryman didn’t make his life easy this time around either, pushing him all the way to 7-5 in the deciding set. But Cerundolo held firm and didn’t let the fatigue of trying to go back-to-back get to him in the next matches. The 22-year-old rolled past Jose Pereira, Pedro Sakamoto, and Hady Habib to make another final.

A Challenger 50 champion in Lima last year, the expectations were pretty high on Alvaro Guillen Meza with plenty of events of the same category organized from April to June in South America. The Ecuadorian wasn’t really fulfilling them, though, with just three match wins across five tournaments before Santa Cruz. It took him until this week to turn it around, posting a key win over Juan Bautista Torres in the second round (the Argentinian had recently defeated him in Santos). In the final four, he took out Santa Fe runner-up Facundo Mena.

Cerundolo’s body was close to giving up on him with thigh and foot issues as the effort of trying to go back-to-back was starting to impact him heavily. He kept fighting despite dropping the opening set and stopped giving Guillen Meza any short ball forehands to attack. The patience and discipline in finding the Ecuadorian’s backhand corner earned Cerundolo his 9th Challenger title 3-6 6-1 6-4. He chose not to sign up for Wimbledon qualifying and will fly over to Europe in a couple of weeks to play in Iasi, while the runner-up will be in Ibague this week.

Challenger Tour magic:

Events held this week:

  • Aspria Tennis Cup (Milan, Challenger 75, clay)
  • Ibague Open (Challenger 50, clay)

First-round matches to watch:


  • (1) Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs Gonzalo Bueno
  • (4) Maks Kasnikowski vs (PR) Nicolas Alvarez Varona


  • (3) Hady Habib vs Juan Bautista Torres
  • Ulises Blanch vs Alejo Lorenzo Lingua Lavallen

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane – USA TODAY Sports


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