Challenger Tour Weekly Recap: Teenage Americans Steal the Show in Bloomfield Hills

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Learner Tien and Nishesh Basavareddy squared off in Bloomfield Hills in a real glimpse into the future of the American NextGen. Murkel Dellien and Gabriel Debru were the maiden winners for the week, while veterans Jozef Kovalik and Albert Ramos-Vinolas posted important wins in regards to the US Open main draw cut. Read back on last week’s action:

Bloomfield Hills

18-year-old Learner Tien was injured recently and missed a few months before returning for the ITF SoCal Pro Series. He grabbed three consecutive titles there and got his win streak up to 19 by the time he made his maiden Challenger final in Bloomfield Hills. The American wasn’t always comfortable during this run, but he came back from 0-6 2-4 against Bu Yunchaokete and saved a match point against Philip Sekulic to somehow find a way to keep going.

19-year-old Nishesh Basavareddy plays college tennis for Stanford and recently made the semifinals in Little Rock when the NCAA season was over. His next event was Bloomfield Hills with the young American defeating Marc Polmans and Antoine Bellier to kick off the event. Basavareddy was a bit fortunate getting retirements from Bernard Tomic and Stefan Kozlov, making his second Challenger final after losing to Zachary Svajda in Fairfield last year.

Basavareddy quickly went up 6-4 2-0, dominating on serve and playing well inside the court to take time away. But as we already knew after the entire week, Tien’s matches are rarely that easy. The 18-year-old hit a stunning lob to really get himself back into the match and was fantastic from there, moving up the court to start putting pressure on his opponent. It was a great showcase for the American NextGen and Tien ended up claiming his 1st Challenger title 4-6 6-3 6-4, completing the crazy week and posting his 20th win in a row. He breaks the Top 300 and his next event is a 15K ITF in Lakewood this week, while Basavareddy grabbed a special exempt for Winnipeg.

Brasov

Murkel Dellien made a Challenger final in Santa Cruz earlier in 2024 and is enjoying the best season of his career. The Bolivian recently got the chance to debut in Grand Slam qualifying at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon before securing another big run in Brasov. The event was almost a complete washout for two days straight, which led to the semifinals and the final being played on the same day. Dellien must have been pleased to produce a comfortable win over Nerman Fatic while his potential opponents went the distance.

Dmitry Popko is in the middle of a great resurgent season after missing a few months due to injury in 2023. The Kazakh won four ITF titles and made a Challenger final in Buenos Aires in January, but had been struggling to make major impact at the higher level since. It was a gritty win from a set down over Filip Cristian Jianu that helped him break a streak of three quarterfinal losses in a row. On Sunday morning, he defeated Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and the only concern was getting less time to rest than Dellien (by an hour).

Dellien earning himself that extra hour of rest proved vital as he came out dominating the rallies with forehand aggression. The confidence was a little up and down and some parts of the match ended up being messy, but overall he was still always in front. He claimed his 1st Challenger title 6-3 7-5 and is now two points ahead of his older brother Hugo in the ATP Live Rankings, surpassing him for the first time in his career. Both finalists are expected to appear in Iasi this week.

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Karlsruhe

Camilo Ugo Carabelli made the final in Poznan just before taking a brief detour for Wimbledon qualifying and was right back in great shape in Karlsruhe. He dropped the opening set of the event to Zdenek Kolar, coming back to win in three and wasn’t troubled again until the final. With rain ruining the singles schedule for Saturday, both the semifinals and the final had to be played on Sunday. Ugo Carabelli delivered a quick defeat to Zsombor Piros and had a lot more time to rest than his potential final opponents who played three sets.

Jozef Kovalik is playing with so much confidence this year, having already claimed two Challenger titles and won a Grand Slam main draw match on his 10th attempt (he even made the third round, beating Karen Khachanov). The Slovak isn’t slowing down and made his way into another final with comeback wins against Germans Liam Gavrielides and Daniel Masur. On Sunday, he won his semifinal in three sets in the morning and had an hour less than Ugo Carabelli to get ready for the final.

Kovalik kicked off the match in style with lots of patiently constructed aggressive points. It wasn’t until the second set that he started getting a bit more tired and had to fend off a set point at 4-5. Given the circumstances, it seemed crucial for him to win the tie-break and he was given a helping hand by Ugo Carabelli who received a point penalty for audible obscenity to go 0-3 down. Nonetheless, Kovalik was really good in the breaker and took his 9th Challenger title 6-3 7-6. He’ll be trying to return to the Top 100 in Braunschweig this week, while Ugo Carabelli plays Iasi.

Modena

Albert Ramos-Vinolas had been struggling on the Challenger Tour recently, not making a single quarterfinal since middle of April. Things were once again looking quite bleak for the veteran in the opening round. The top seed of a Challenger for the third week in a row, he dropped the opening set to Giovanni Fonio before suddenly finding his game and keeping that level up for the rest of the week. Particularly impressive was the win over this year’s Szekesfehervar and Vicenza champion, Chun-Hsin Tseng.

Federico Arnaboldi, who is the cousin of former World No. 153 Andrea Arnaboldi, had never been past the second round of a Challenger before Modena (was 0-5 in round of 16 matches). A wildcard into the main draw in Modena, the 24-year-old produced a surprising run to the final with four deciding set wins in a row. Titouan Droguet, Oriol Roca Batalla, and Andrea Collarini have all claimed a title this season, but they were unable to stop Arnaboldi this week.

Ramos-Vinolas is playing a bit more aggressively right now to cover up for his physical decline and that was working out great for him in the opening set. Arnaboldi was back in the match soon though with good grinding and some astonishing forehand accelerations. It seemed like he had an edge going into the decider but the Spaniard picked up his game again after the break between sets and claimed his 8th Challenger title (1st since 2015) 6-4 3-6 6-2. It should be enough to secure his US Open main draw spot (the cut is after Wimbledon) and he’s playing Iasi next, while Arnaboldi received a wild card in Trieste.

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Troyes

Timofey Skatov got to the third round at Wimbledon qualifying and has been producing some good runs this clay season, including the title in Augsburg in May. The Kazakh was the third seed in Troyes and unexpectedly dropped a set to Mika Brunold in the opening round. He steadied the ship soon enough though and was able to make his way to another Challenger final, beating Mathys Erhard, Jonas Forejtek, and Lorenzo Giustino along the way.

Gabriel Debru has been struggling this year and despite the occasional performance reminding the fans about his potential, he was slowly getting pretty desperate for any big results. The 18-year-old Frenchman found his opening in Troyes, getting a retirement win over second-seeded Calvin Hmery in the first round. It was enough to help him get off to the right start and make his second Challenger final, including a brilliant win over Martin Landaluce in a battle of recent Grand Slam junior champions.

Debru was playing inspired tennis with a more offensive mindset than usual and wasn’t stopped by a nasty slip at the beginning of the second set. He kept dominating but just wasn’t ready to take the trophy at 6-3 5-3 up. It seemed like Skatov might turn it around completely, but it wasn’t the case. Debru went 5-3 up in the 3rd set again, once again choked the lead away, but showed considerable mental strength to keep coming and took his 1st Challenger title 6-3 6-7 7-5. He chose to withdraw from Trieste qualifying, while Skatov is in the main draw in Salzburg.

Events held this week:

  • Brawo Open (Braunschweig, Challenger 125, clay)
  • Sparkasse Salzburg Open (Challenger 125, clay)
  • Concord Iasi Open (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Citta di Trieste Challenger (Challenger 100, clay)
  • Winnipeg National Bank Challenger Presented by MBuilds (Challenger 75, hard)

Top 100 players in action:

  • Roberto Carballes Baena, Sumit Nagal, Thiago Seyboth Wild, Botic van de Zandschulp (Braunschweig)
  • Federico Coria, Taro Daniel, Thiago Monteiro (Salzburg)
  • Camilo Ugo Carabelli (Iasi)

First-round matches to watch:

Braunschweig

  • (1) Roberto Carballes Baena vs (WC) Rudolf Molleker
  • Matej Dodig vs (8) Cristian Garin
  • (3) Thiago Seyboth Wild vs (WC) Nicola Kuhn

Salzburg

  • Maks Kasnikowski vs Filip Misolic
  • (WC) Joel Schwarzler vs (ALT) Marc-Andrea Huesler

Iasi

  • (1) Camilo Ugo Carabelli vs Jiri Vesely
  • Dmitry Popko vs Murkel Dellien

Trieste

  • (1) Richard Gasquet vs (ALT) Samuel Vincent Ruggeri
  • Enrico Dalla Valle vs (2) Francesco Passaro

Winnipeg

  • Ethan Quinn vs (3) Benjamin Bonzi
  • (WC) Vasek Pospisil vs Bu Yunchaokete

Main Photo Credit: Clayton Freeman/Florida Times-Union]

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