The ATP Challenger Tour was host to two tournaments this week located in Cherbourg, France and Kyoto, Japan. Players came from all around the world to to do their best at the respective tournaments. Some crashed out in qualifying rounds while others made title runs. The exhilarating thing about the Challenger Tour is that it fosters players to become the future stars of the game. It helps players gain match win confidence that will eventually translate to the main tour and allows fans to interact in a more up front way with the players.
Many close matches were played that went the full three sets. It shows how much depth their is in the game and also that it is an extremely competitive environment.
The Challenger La Manche held a riveting final over the weekend. Sixth seed Jordan Thompson was victorious in his title quest as he took down fifth seed Adam Pavlasek in three sets; 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. The match lasted a long one hour and 42 minutes. Both players gave maximum effort but the 21-year-old remained firm in the closing stages of the match to claim his first ATP Challenger Tour title.
A rare final occasion, as it was the first tournament in Cherbourg to not have a Frenchmen contesting the final since 2003, where Argentina’s Sergio Roitman defeated Rafael Nadal. It took three final appearances before the Australian could get his maiden title. After the tournament, both players that contested the final have reached career high rankings. Thompson has gotten one step closer to the top 100 as he now posts a ranking of 123 in the world and Pavlasek reaches a career high of 131 in the world.
The doubles final was also equally close as the match went the distance to a tournament ending match tiebreaker. British brothers Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski took the title as they beat out Aldin Setkic and Yoshihito Nishioka; 4-6, 6-3, 10-6. The top seeds won their previous matches all in straight sets en route to the final. The both have new climbed up the rankings to number 80 and 85 in the world. The match lasted a total of one hour and 11 minutes.
An important part of the season for Asian tennis took place in Kyoto this week. A large portion of the players competing were from Asian nations and were proud to play in Japan in front of Japanese fans.
A Japanese-Chinese final took place at the Shimadzu Kyoto Challenger. 27-year-old Yuichi Sugita defeated Zhang Ze in a hard fought 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory. The match lasted a duration of one hour and 40 minutes in a grueling final. Both players fought to get back momentum from each other with the more experienced Sugita coming out on top.
With the victory, the top seed reached a new career high of 99 in the world while passing the top 100 rankings milestone. With Kei Nishikori establishing himself in the top 10, his compatriot has furthered tennis for the Japanese constituent. It is the sixth time in the Kyoto Challenger's history that a home grown champion has been crowned. It also is the 27-year-old's second Kyoto title and sixth ATP Challenger title overall. Meanwhile, 25-year-old Zhang is at a ranking of 195 in the world. Reaching a career high of 148 in 2013, the Chinese player has struggled to find consistency on a weekly basis. Zhang is best known for his doubles partnership with current tennis legend and world number three Roger Federer. The pair made an appearance together at the Shanghai Rolex Masters courtesy of a wildcard. It saw them see winning form before getting knocked out in the second round. Hopefully Zhang can back up this week's performance moving forward.
The doubles final was also an all Asian affair. Japanese pair Go Soeda and Yasutaka Uchiyama lost out to fourth seeds Mao-Xin Gong and Chu-Huan Yi; 6-3, 7-6(7). The match lasted an hour and 14 minutes. It was a perfect way to finish the tournament for the fourth seeds as they remained clutch to sneak out the second set tiebreak. The pair won 81% of their first service points as well as break three times on eight break point opportunities. Yi will reach a career high of 151 in the world with the victory.
Thoughts From The Players
“It feels great to have won my first Challenger title. I’m really pumped. The Top 100 is my goal for sure!” Thompson said.
The Challenger tour heads to Quimper, France this week. It is host to the prestigious Open BNP Paribas Challenger which is in its sixth year of establishment. It is the sole tournament on the calender this week on the ATP Challenger Circuit.
Two Frenchmen have taken the title in the last couple years. Most recently, Benoit Paire, who won in 2015. A big part of his most improved year featuring an ITF title, Challenger title, and main tour-level title. In 2014, Pierre Hugues-Herbert took home the prize. First round matches have already started and the tournament will end on March 6th.
To follow more updates on the ATP Challenger Tour, go to @ATPChallengerTour on Twitter. It is a new addition to 2016 as a way of giving the fans more knowledge and interaction with the going ons of the Challenger Tour.