The ATP Challenger Tour 2015 calendar comprised 166 tournaments with prize money of $40,000 to $220,000. It was the 39th edition of Challenger tournaments cycle and the 7th under the name of the “ATP Challenger Tour”. Tennis TourTalk is having an annual review in eleven parts to close the year.
The month of September was fully packed with 25 tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour. The first seven events took place in the week of 7 September. Since 2003, the €106,500 AON Challenger has been held in Genova, the capital of Liguria and the sixth largest city in Italy. Nicolas Almagro clinched his first title on the Challenger Tour since he had lifted the trophy in Kiev in 2004. The 30-year-old Spaniard defeated fifth seed Marco Cecchinato 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 to win Monday’s final due to rain the day before.
“I want to congratulate Marco, as he is part of the future of Italian tennis,” Almagro told during the ceremony. “The tournament here is great. On Challenger level, I have never seen so many people attending the matches. I am really happy with this victory.”
Besides the Sparkassen Open in Braunschweig, the tournament was honoured as co-ATP Challenger of the Year in 2014.
Meanwhile in South America, the fourth edition of the $50,000 Claro Open took place in Barranquilla, a city and municipality loacated in Northern Colombia. Top seed Borna Coric dropped only one set en route to his second Challenger title, winning the final 6-4, 6-1 against Rogério Dutra Silva.
Back in Europe, more than 1,200 spectators filed into the Real Club de Tenis Betis, located in the capital of Andalusia in Spain, for the final day of the €42,500 Copa Sevilla to witness the end of one of the greatest streaks in ATP Challenger Tour history. Top seed and defending champion Pablo Carreno Busta carried an 11-0 mark in finals when he entered the title match against world number 248 Pedro Cachin, but the Argentine refused to roll over. Carreno Busta would be denied title number 12, falling 7-5, 6-3, as Cachin notched his first Challenger title.
“You filled the stands at every match I played this week and made me feel like home. It is difficult to find a tournament you feel as good as in Seville,” Carreῆo-Busta told the spectators after the encounter.
Damir Dzumhur solidified his place inside the top 100 by winning the €42,500 TEAN International, held since 2006 in Alphen aan den Rijn, a city and municipality located in the western Netherlands. The 23-year-old Bosnina, who finished the season on 82nd position, defeated local Igor Sijsling 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 in the final.
Dzumhur captured his fifth ATP Challenger title in his career, all on clay. “After a few weeks of bad luck, when I got difficult draws or problems with my game, this has been a great week for me right from the beginning. I really liked the conditions here. The weather was great, but not too hot, ” he told. “Sijsling played great in the second set and I could only hope that it wouldn’t go on like this. But I also felt the support of the Bosnian fans, which gave me energy.”
Fifth seed Ivan Dodig needed one hour and 15 minutes to dispatch Nils Langer in the €42,500 Trophee des Alpilles final. The hard court tournament is held in Saint Remy, a commune in Bouches-du-Rhone-department in southern France. The Croat clinched his first ATP Challenger Tour title in five years and third overall. Dodig’s triumph ends a run of four straight years of a Frenchman hoisting the trophy on home soil.
In Africa, two Spaniards met in the final of the eighth edition of the €42,500 Moroccon Tennis Tour held in Meknes, the kingdom’s sixth largest city with a population close to 1 million people. Top seed Daniel Munoz-de la Nava continued his winning ways, extending his ATP Challenger Tour leading match wins total to 38 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Roberto Carballes Baena.
On the hard courts in Asia, Yuki Bhambri captured the title on the Road to the Shanghai Rolex Masters $ 50,000 ATP Challenger tournament, held in Shanghai since 2011. The fourth seeded Indian beat Di Wu, who would have become the first Chinese ever winning a Challenger event. Bhambri rallied back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-0, 7-6.
“It’s my third trip to Shanghai and I really enjoy coming here. Last year I won the doubles and this year I got the singles, so obviously I do very well in here and I really hope to come back again. This is definitely one of the nicest challengers that I’ve played. Everything is very convenient for the players and the city is very nice as well, so hopefully you guys keep hosting the tournament,” Bhambri told.
The week of 14 September started with another event of the series’ highest category – the €106,500 Pekao Szczecin Open, held on clay in the capital city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. Seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff, who finished runner-up last year, captured the tournament’s crown this time by winning the final 6-4, 6-3 against Ukrainian qualifier Artem Smirnov.
“Artem played very well, it was pretty tough. He is a leftie, so it was different compared to yesterday. He hit a couple of good backhand shots but I stayed focused,” Struff told afterwards.
Dusan Lajovic had to wait a day to hoist the €64,000 Banja Luka Challenger trophy after persistent rain washed out the final against 2012 champion Victor Hanescu. Postponed to Monday, Lajovic would prevail in a pair of tie-breaks, beating the Romanian 7-6, 7-6
The third clay court tournament of the week took place in Africa when the Morocco Tennis Tour continued in Kenitra, a city with about 450,000 inhabitants located in the country’s north. Roberto Carballés-Baena clinched the titles of the third edition with a total prize money of €42,500. The fourth seed from Spain led 6-1, 5-1 when his fellow countryman Oriol Roca Batalla retired due to adductor problems. It was the first Challenger title for the 22-year-old from Tenerife. One more should follow this season, again on Moroccan soil.
On hard courts, Karen Khachanov rallied from a set deficit to upset top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the $75,000 Amex-Istanbul final, claiming his maiden Challenger title. The 19-year-old Russian became the ninth teenage champion on the circuit this year. During the week, the tournament held in the most populous city in Turkey, was honoured for 25 years on the ATP Challenger Tour. With the events in Aptos, Fürth, San Luis Potosi, Segovia, Sevilla, Tampere and Winnetka another eight tournaments have been part of the series for the same time period.
Still in Asia, Peter Gojowczyk needed a mere 51 minutes to dispatch Amir Weintraub 6-2, 6-1 in the final of the $50,000 China International in Nanchang, the capital of the Jiangxi Province in southeastern China.
Dennis Novikov claimed his maiden Challenger title, winning the final of the inaugural $50,000 Cary Challenger, held in the seventh largest municipality in North Carolina. The 21-year-old US-American downed Ryan Harrison 6-4, 7-5 in the 14th all-countryman-final of the season.
“Very happy to get my first Challenger title, especially in the USA! Thanks to everyone for the support and to Cary for hosting a great event,” he wrote on twitter.
The week of 21 September, Hyeon Chung notched his fourth title of the season, winning the $125,000 OEC Kaohsiung, held in south-western Taiwan. The 19-year-old second seed dispatched Yuki Bhambri in the final 7-5, 6-4. The Korean teenager lifted the trophies on clay in Savannah as well as on hard in Burnie and Busan.
The second stop on the three-week Turkish swing was in Izmir with the €64,000 Folkart Izmir Cup, where fourth seed Lukas Lacko claimed his ninth Challenger title in his 18th final. Lacko triumphed 6-3, 7-6 over Marius Copil in one hour and 25 minutes, saving all four break points faced. It was the Slovak’s second title in the Turkish city, adding to his crown in 2011 when he defeated home hope Marsel Ilhan.
The ATP Challenger Tour added two stops in the United States this year – the hard court events in Cary, North Carolina and the $50,000 Columbus Challenger in Ohio. Dennis Novikov won both tournaments, defeating Ryan Harrison in back-to-back finals for his first Challenger titles. One week after topping Harrison in straight sets in Cary, he would prevail 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in one hour and 40 minutes in Columbus.
Back on Europe’s clay, Robin Haase extended his dominant run in finals on the ATP Challenger Tour, improving to 11-2 with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 win over Horacio Zeballos in the final of the €42,500 Arimex Challenger Open in Trnava, a city in western Slovakia. The Dutchman was awarded the crystal champion’s trophy – his second title of the year.
“Last year I arrived here a bit injured from the Davis Cup and lost in the second round but I told Dominik (Hrbaty) that I wanted to come back and do better. So the victory today is amazing,” Haase told afterwards.
“I have been playing a lot of tournaments during the last couple of weeks. Mentally it was very tough for me to play here but the organization is great and you feel like home. Fortunately I also improved my tennis throughout the week and I am very happy to win the title,” the 28-year-old said.
At the €42,500 Sibiu Open, held in Transylvania in Romania, for the third straight week, a final on the ATP Challenger Tour had been postponed to Monday due to torrential rain. Both the Genoa and Banja Luka finals were also washed out in previous weeks. The match would be moved indoors and home hope Adrian Ungur edged Pere Riba 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to claim his second Sibiu title after 2012.
“It was a very fought match game, as expected. I know Pere very well and if I`m not mistaken, in our last meeting I also won with 7-5 in the third. It was the hardest match of all tournament and I was very close to losing it. Riba served for the match but probably he was very nervous so I kind of took advantage of that. I`m a second time champion in the Sibiu tournament and last year I won the doubles, so I can say that I feel at home here. I`m very glad that the doubles was also won by Romanian players. It`s a very good thing for Romanian tennis because we are scoring points,” Ungur told.
Jan-Lennard Struff continued his winning streak on the ATP Challenger Tour in the final week of the month, starting September 28. The 25-year-old German prevailed on the clay of Szczecin two weeks ago and would follow that up with a title run on the indoor hard courts in France, winning the €106,500 Open d’Orleans. He ended the title defence of top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in the quarterfinals and defeated second seed Jerzy Janowicz 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
“It was a very tough match. The first set was with high intensity. At 5-5 I got the break and then I lost the set. I was twice a break down but managed to stay in the match. In the end it’s not important how I won, only that I was able to win,” told Struff afterwards. “I was more aggressive and served pretty well and I always believed that I could win,” the German added.
Tim Smyczek captured the title at the $100,000 Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger, saving four match points en route to a stunning 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 victory in the final against fellow US-American Denis Kudla. The tournament has been held since 2003 at the incorporated town of Tiburon in Marin County, California.
“Denis came out doing what I do to other players normally,” Smyczek told broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. “I made a little adjustment tactically and it seemed to bother him a little bit. For players that know each others’ games really well, the margins are really small. Obviously we saw that with the third set tie-break. I got very lucky today and was ready for the small windows.”
“The first (match point) I played a good point and hit a good backhand. The second was the forehand down the line and the third one was when I had that ridiculous let cord, and that’s when I thought I didn’t want to squander some luck like that. I got down a couple more but the rest were on my serve. It was a situation where it was my day. Denis was the better player for most of the match, but I had a couple of small opportunities and was able to convert,” he explained.
Sixth seed Farrukh Dustov won his fifth Challenger Tour title at the inaugural €42,500 Agri Cup, held in the eastern end of Turkey near the border with Iran. The Uzbek defeated India’s Saketh Myneni 6-4, 6-4 in the final, firing 11 aces and saving eight of nine break points faced. Also the champion in Wroclaw in February , Dustov did not drop a set en route to the title.
“The fast courts were pretty ideal for my game and I served well during the tournament. My goal is to be back in the Top 100 and get a spot in the 2016 Australian Open main draw,” Dustov said but finished the season being ranked 161st.
The month closed with three tournaments played on clay. Federico Delbonis triumphed at Due Ponti Sporting Club extending his perfect record to 15-0 with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Filip Krajinovic in the €42,500 BFD Energy Challenger final, second tournament of the series taking place in Rome.
A second seed toppled a top seed in a Challenger final for the third time this year, as Guido Pella handed countryman Diego Schwartzman his second straight final defeat at the $35,000 Aberto de Tênis do Rio Grande do Sul, held in Porto Alegre, the capital and largest city in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Pella won 6-3, 7-5.
“I knew it would be a difficult match and I tried to attack a lot. I didn’t play well in the first round but during the week I improved my tennis,” Pella stated.
Paolo Lorenzi continued to affirm his status as a Challenger legend, capturing his 15th title with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over home hope Alejandro Gonzalez at the sixth edition of the $50,000 Seguros Bolívar Open in Pereira, capital city of Colombian Department of Risaralda.