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.
Four weeks with at least five tournaments in each week held in October, presented another fully packed month on the tour. In Europe, the tournaments were held indoors again. The lone ATP Challenger Tour event in Belgium returned to Mons, the capital of the province Hainaut, with the €106,500 Ethias Trophy, where Illya Marchenko claimed his fourth title and first in nearly a year, edging Benjamin Becker 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 in the final.
“I am so happy with this victory. I played a great first set but than Becker showed he is a great player. It is a Challenger with a real high level and I came back every year because I love this tournament so much. So now winning it is a great achievement and I’m very happy. I have no words,” Marchenko told.
The story of the week, however, took place in the United States at the $100,000 Sacramento Open, annually held in California since 2005. For the first time since 2007, a final on the circuit featured a pair of teenagers as 19-year-old Jared Donaldson battled 17-year-old Taylor Fritz. Donaldson was looking to claim his second title after emerging victorious in Maui in January, but in the end it was Fritz who came away with the pulsating win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
“One is a great ending and the other is a great beginning,” said Fritz of his recent US Open boys’ title to cap his junior career, followed by his stellar start to his professional career in Sacramento. “I had the perfect ending with the US Open win and I get to start my pro career with a Challenger win. That’s a great way to get me started.”
On South American clay court swing, Paolo Lorenzi notched his 16th crown winning the $50,000 Claro Open Medellín a second time after 2012. The Italian veteran, who improved to 4-0 in finals this year, joined Yen-Hsun Lu, Dudi Sela, Go Soeda, Takao Suzuki and Carlos Berlocq as the only players to win at least 16 titles in Challenger history. Lorenzi prevailed over Gonzalo Lama on Saturday after the Chilean retired down 7-6, 2-0 with a right arm injury. His win streak is up to 10 straight, having topped Alejandro Gonzalez in Pereira the week prior. It should reamain the 34-year-old’s last title of the season.
“To win two tournaments in a row is not easy. I played very well and am very happy because the first set was very difficult, like all the matches this week. I hope that Gonzalo recovers quickly,” Lorenzi told.
Joining Lorenzi in the ‘16 Titles Club’ was Carlos Berlocq, who defeated Belgium’s Kimmer Coppejans 6-3, 6-1 at the $50,000 IS Open, a second tournament held in Sao Paulo. Berlocq converted on six of seven break chances to prevail after one hour and 17 minutes. The Argentine, who has won 10 of his last 12 finals on the ATP Challenger Tour, improved to 16-9 overall in title matches.
“It’s a good achievement. It helps me a lot to improve my ranking and to achieve my goal to get back to the Top 100. If I keep winning ATP Challenger Tour events, I will achieve my goal and I will be able to conquer bigger accomplishments,” Berlocq said, finishing the season on 112th position.
Meanwhile on the €42,500 Morocco Tennis Tour in Mohammedia, a port city located on the country’s west coast, seventh seed Roberto Carballés-Baena ended the Cinderella run of 19-year-old qualifier Kamil Majchrzak, prevailing 7-6, 6-2 on Sunday’s final, which was postponed from Saturday due to rain. The Spaniard captured his second Challenger Tour title. All three finals reached by Carballés-Baena this year have come on Moroccan soil, having also finished runner-up in Meknes and the winner in Kenitra. Poland’s Majchrzak was the 10th different teen to advance to a final on the circuit this year.
“I’m very happy to get my second ATP Challenger Tour title. We worked very hard to get good results at the end of the year. Now I will try to compete more and to achieve new goals,” the Spanish winner told.
The week of 12 October US-American teenager Taylor Fritz continued his historic run on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning the $50,000 Fairfield Challenger. The 17-year-old went back-to-back in Northern California, downing Dustin Brown 6-3, 6-4 in the final after prevailing in nearby Sacramento. Up to world number 232 and riding a 16-match win streak that includes the US Open junior title, he has become one of the rising sensations on tour.
“I served a lot better than last week,” Fritz told after the final. “In Sacramento I was off in some service games. This week I served really well and played great tennis all around. It’s surprising because this week the scorelines would suggest that it was much easier for me. But the draw was much tougher. I played a seed every round besides the first round and that just shows how much better I played.”
“I’m going to play a lot more tournaments. The plan was to take two months to train, but I think I’m going to bring the offseason down to one month. I thought I needed to train to have these results, but I put two really hard weeks in before Sacramento and that’s all it took to start playing like this. Once you get the results, you have to capitalise on it,” Fritz said in October. The youngster ended his season in November by reaching another Challenger final in Champaign. He is currently ranked world number 177.
Denis Istomin pulled double duty on final day at the $125,000 Tashkent Challenger, en route to claiming his 10th ATP Challenger Tour title. The top seeded Uzbek and 2011 champion added a second crown in his home capital, downing defending champ Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4 just hours after winning a rain-delayed semi-final over Yuki Bhambri. Istomin, who rallied from a set down three times during the week, was competing in his first event on the circuit this the year. He became the sixth player to win both Challenger and ATP World Tour titles in 2015, having captured his maiden tour-level title on the grass of Nottingham.
“It feels special, it’s important for me to win at home than anywhere else,” said Istomin. “It was a very tight match and I was very happy to play indoors , but the key today was my serve.
Meanwhile in Europe, for just the second time in the 10-year history of the €85,000 Open de Rennes, held in the east of Brittany, a Frenchman failed to reach the final. Malek Jaziri won his third Challenger title and first since 2013, rallying past Igor Sijsling 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.
The ATP Challenger Tour returned to Vietnam for the first time since 2007, when the $50,000 Vietnam Open Presented by Bia Saigon Special event in Ho Chi Minh City concluded. Fourth seed Saketh Myneni claimed the title. The Indian prevailed 7-5, 6-3 over Australia’s Jordan Thompson.
Last week, Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq became just the sixth player in series’ history to lift 16 trophies. On the clay of the $50,000 ATP Challenger Corrientes, located on the eastern shore of the Paraná River, countryman Maximo Gonzalez joined his friend in the club, overcoming the tournament’s top seed Diego Schwartzman 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 on home soil.
“It was a very difficult match. I tried to impose my game and I did it.I felt very comfortable in the city, also at the tournament. I want to thank everyone for the attention that they have given me. It fills me with pride to be able to join the players with the most Challenger titles. It was a very special week for me,” Gonzalez told.
The five weeks Moroccan Tennis Tour concluded with the second tournament held in Casablanca with a total prize money of €42,500. Damir Dzumhur hoisted his sixth ATP Challenger Tour title and third of the year. The fourth seed defeated Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Dzumhur has won titles on three different continents this year, having also prevailed in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Alphen, Netherlands.
Four of the five tournaments taking place the week of 19 October took place on hard courts. The indoors season in Europe continued with the €106,500 Open Brest Arena Credit Agricole, held in Brittany in northwestern France. Ivan Dodig lifted his second trophy of the season after winning the tournament in St. Remy in September. In the final, the 30-year-old Croat beat top-seed Benoit Paire 7-6, 6-1.
In Asia, top-seed Yen-Hsun Lu captured the title of the third edition of the $125,000 Yinzhou Bank Cup, held in Ningbo, a sub-provincial city in northeastern Zhejiang province in China. The 32-year-old from Taipei didn’t drop a set en route to winning the final 7-6, 6-1 against sixth seed Jurgen Zopp.
Thiemo de Bakker clinched the title at the inaugural $50,000 Las Vegas Tennis Open, held at the Frank and Vicki Fertitta Tennis Complex. The seventh seed from the Netherlands ousted Grega Zemlja, winning the final 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The two top-seeds went head to head in the final of the $50,000 Air Asia Open, held in Bangalore, the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. The tournament’s number two eventually took the title, when James Ward defeated Adrian Menendez-Maceiras 6-2, 7-5 in the final.
The week concluded on the clay in South America with the $50,000 Movistar ATP Challenger, the second tournament of the series taking place in Santiago de Chile. Eighth seed Rogério Dutra Silva overcame Horacio Zeballos in the final, winning 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.
The first editon of the $100,000 Monterrey Open welcomed a strong field with threet top 100-players in the final week of the month starting 26 October, including rising US-American teens Taylor Fritz and Ernesto Escobedo grabbing the spotlight with respective quarterfinal and semi-final runs. The tournament, which was a rare combined ATP Challenger Tour and ATP Champions Tour event, featured the stars of tomorrow and legends of the game in one venue. In the end, it was fifth seed Thiemo de Bakker survived a four-hour rain delay in Saturday’s final to overcome top seed Victor Estrella Burgos 7-6, 4-6, 6-3. The Dutchman went back-to-back on the circuit following his successful run on the hard courts of Las Vegas the week prior. It was his 10th ATP Challenger Tour title.
“It has been the best finish to the season I could think of. Before I went to the States I didn’t expect to play for the Top 100 anymore but I made it. That’s a great feeling and definitely motivates me to work harder in the offseason,” de Bakker told being ranked world number 99 at the end of the year.
Another tournament debuting this week was the $75,000 China International in Suzhou, a major city in southeastern Jiangsu Province of East China, where Dudi Sela continued making history on the Challenger circuit with his 19th title. The second seed from Israel, who dropped a combined nine games through his first three matches, claimed victory when first-time finalist Matija Pecotic retired in the second set trailing 6-1, 1-0.
The Australian summer of tennis commenced this week with $50,000 Latrobe City Traralgon ATP Challenger and an all-Aussie final between top seed Matthew Ebden and second seed Jordan Thompson. Ebden took the title, winning 7-5, 6-3 in what was his third final of the year.
“I really enjoyed my game, having a few really good matches throughout the week,” Ebden told afterwards.
Yuki Bhambri is enjoyed the best season of his career and the Indian surged to a career-high world number 89 with a title on home soil, winning the $50,000 KPIT-MSLTA ATP Challenger in Pune. He joined four players to notch 40 match wins on the ATP Challenger Tour this year: Marco Cecchinato, Daniel Munoz-de la Nava and Inigo Cervantes, Bhambri improved to 2-3 in finals this year. Also a winner on the hard courts of Shanghai in September, he captured his fifth title on the circuit, beating Evgeny Donskoy in the final 6-2, 7-6.
Gastao Elias captured his third at the Challenger level with a title run on clay at the $50,000 Copa Claro Challenger in Lima, the capital city of Peru. It was the same day, when fellow Portuguese Joao Sousa triumphed at the last edition of the ATP 250 Valencia Open. In Lima’s final against Facundo Arguello, Elias celebrated a 6-2, 7-6 victory over Andrej Martin. It was his first title in more than two years, also ending a streak of five straight Argentine champions in Lima. He is the first non-South American to win there in the nine-year history of the tournament.