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 season ended in the month of November when Noah Rubin completed arguably the comeback of the year the week of 2 November, saving two match points to defeat fellow US-American teen Tommy Paul 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 for his first title, winning the $50,000 Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger. The 19-year-old rallied from a 3-6, 1-5 deficit, breaking back twice in the second set and surviving a late charge by 18-year-old Paul in the decider.
“I’m just happy to be out here playing good tennis, moving well. You know I have a great staff be-hind me, a great team, and I’m really enjoying myself right now,” said Rubin.
Benjamin Mitchell claimed his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on home soil, winning the first edition of the $50,000 Canberra Tennis International, rallying past countryman and fifth seed Luke Saville 5-7, 6-0, 6-1. Mitchell needed four match points to earn the win after one hour and 51 minutes. The 22-year old, who was appearing in his first Challenger final, is one of six different Aussies to lift trophies this year, joining a strong contingent that includes Thanasi Kokkinakis, Sam Groth, John Millman, Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith.
Eduardo Struvay joined Rubin and Mitchell as first-time champions, stunning second seed Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the tenth final of the $50,000 Open Bogotá, held in the capital of Colombia. The Colombian’s win on home soil marked the 23rd first-time titlist this year on the ATP Challenger Tour, surpassing last year’s total of 22.
“It is difficult to describe it. It’s an incredible sense of satisfaction and pride for myself to have survived so many complicated situations: injuries, bad moments, poor seasons. The perseverance is thanks to the good team that I have. I will continue rising,” Struvay told.
Gastao Elias went back-to-back in South America, winning the $50,000 Ciudad de Guayaquil Challenger title one week after hoisting the trophy in Lima, Peru. It was Elias’ fourth Challenger crown. He routed top seed Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-4, sending the 2014 ATP Challenger Tour Finals champion to 0-4 in title matches this year.
“The truth is that I was not expecting to win two tournaments in a row. I came here tired from last week, but the good thing is that I adjusted very well to the conditions and played my best tennis this week. I won against Top 100 players, tough players and I am very happy,” Elias said.
Japan’s Yuichi Sugita completed the Thai sweep, emerging with the title of the first edition of the $125,000 Hua Hin Open just two months after lifting the Bangkok trophy. Sugita captured his fifth career title after turning aside qualifier Stephane Robert 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Meanwhile in Europe, Mikhail Youzhny clinched his first ATP Challenger title since lifting his last trophy in Samarkand in 2000. The former world number 8 from Russia beat Benjamin Becker in the final of the €35,000 Bauer Watertechnology Cup, held in Eckental, a municipality in the district of Erlangen-Höchstadt in Bavaria. The town with about 15,000 residents is located about 15 km northeast of Nuremberg.
“It was a good week for me. Every match I played better and better. Today, Benjamin didn’t serve so well, so he gave me a good chance,” Youzhny told after taking his second ATP Challenger career title. It was also Youzhny’s third crown on German soil.
“I have always achieved good results here with wins in Stuttgart and Munich. I also made it to the final in Halle,” the Russian added.
The week of 9 November, was dominated by the British players taking two titles. Kyle Edmund was successful on the South American clay, claiming his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the year, winning the final of the $50,000 Copa Fila presentado por DXTV 6-0, 6-4 over Carlos Berlocq, held in Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires. With this victory, the 20-year-old Brit broke back into the Top 100 finishing the season ranked on 102nd position. It was Edmund’s third crown on three continents, he added to titles on the hard courts of Hong Kong and Binghamton earlier in this season.
Daniel Evans joined Edmund in the winners’ circle with his first title in six years, rallying past American teen Frances Tiafoe 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 in the final of the $50,000 Knoxville Challenger, held in the U.S. state of Tennessee. He denied a strong contingent of US-Americans this week, also beating second seed Austin Krajicek, Bjorn Fratangelo and Jared Donaldson. After lifting four trophies on the ITF Future Circuit this season, it is the first Challenger title for Evans in six years. His last came in Jersey in 2009.
“It’s a great start for next year,” Evans told following the match. “End of the year isn’t just the finish. Especially since I have not played that much tennis this year. It’s also a great effort from Edmund, especially in South America on the clay. He’s a really good player and is Top 100 again. He’s going to be great for Britain.”
Meanwhile in Asia, first seed John Millman topped home hope Taro Daniel to claim the title at the $50,000 Hyogo Noah Challenger, held in Japan’s sixth largest city of Kobe. The Australian captured his eighth crown overall and did not drop a set all week.
The tournaments with the highest prize money this week took place in Europe. Fourth seed Lukas Lacko eyed on claiming his third title at the €85,000 Peugeot Slovak Open after 2011 and 201 in his home capital of Bratislava, but qualifier Egor Gerasimov had other ideas. Gerasimov upset top seed Lukas Rosol in the second round and needed seven match points to defeat sixth seed Norbert Gombos in the quarterfinals, before winning the final against Lacko 7-6, 7-6. The 23-year old won his maiden crown, becoming the third Belarusian to claim victory on the circuit, joining Uladzimir Ignatik and Vladimir Voltchkov. He was the fifth qualifier to capture a title this year.
“I am very happy that I won this tournament. It is the biggest victory of my career so far. I won here eight matches in a row. It is not the first time, I remember in past I won also twelve matches, but it was on completely different level of tennis,” Gerasimov told.
Benoit Paire rose to a career-high world number 19 after edging countryman Lucas Pouille on home soil at the €64,000 Internationaux de Tennis De Vendée in Mouilleron Le Captif. The top seed survived 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, saving one match point for his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the year after lifting the trophies in Bergamo and Quimper. It was his fifth and last pro title in 2015. The Frenchman hoisted his maiden ATP World Tour trophy in Bastad in July and won on the ITF Futures circuit in January.
Two top 100 players met in the final of the €64,000 Sparkassen ATP Challenger in Ortisei, a town with about 5,000 inhabitants in South Tyrol in Northern Italy, when first seed Ricardas Berankis captured his fifth ATP Challenger title. The world number 82 beat Rajeev Ram in the final 7-5, 6-4.
“This was my best match in the entire week. Rajeev is a great server and also returns very well, I was a bit lucky in the tie-break but that’s how tennis is. I tried to avoid easy mistakes and I am very pleased with the result,” the winner told afterwards. “This victory here is important for me, as I confirmed my points for the Australian Open,” Berankis said.
The week of 16 November, Taro Daniel completed a career year with his third ATP Challenger Tour title, rallying past countryman Go Soeda 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the $50,000 Keio Challenger, held Japan’s second largest city of Yokohama. One week after finishing runner-up to John Millman in nearby Kobe, the Japanese added to titles in Vercelli and Fürth. The 22-year old will enter the top 100 for the first time ranked world number 93, joining Kei Nishikori as Japan’s lone members. Daniel finished the season as number 96.
“I am very happy I won a tournament in Japan because I can only come to Japan once or twice. But, I am very glad many people have come to watch a Challenger match because no other country has this many people that come and watch us play. I would like to congratulate Soeda for playing very well this tournament. It was an honor being able to play with him in a Challenger final, because I respected him since I was playing in the juniors. I am looking forward to play with him again,” Daniel told.
For the eighth time this year, an US-American teen featured in a final on the ATP Challenger Tour as Taylor Fritz battled Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen for the title at $50,000 JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana. The California native, who took the Challenger circuit by storm in October in becoming the ninth player to win multiple titles before his 18th birthday, would surrender an early lead to the Swiss, losing the final 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
“I had an amazing run here in the U.S.,” Laaksonen told after the match. “I was lucky to win a few matches this week at 7-6 in the third, but especially today I played unbelievable.” The Finnish-born repeated his triumph on the ITF Future Circuit winning in Waco next week.
Igor Sijsling did not drop a set en route to claim his seventh ATP Challenger Tour crown and first since 2012, winning the €42,500 Trofeo Città di Brescia, held in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. Having dropped two final decisions earlier this year, in Alphen and Rennes, the Dutchman entered the title match following wins over top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky, Farrukh Dustov and home hope Luca Vanni. In the final, he defeated Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-4.
“I played my best tennis today and I am very happy with the result. I had a tough match against Luca Vanni yesterday, who served great but I was confident and focused with my shots. I am glad that I closed the match in two sets,” told Sijsling after his triumph.
“I was playing very well in the past weeks, but it’s never easy to win a tournament, even after you’d beaten the top-seed in the draw. I did not expect to lift the trophy today, definitely,” the Dutch added.
The $50,000 Uruguay Open hosted its 11th edition in its captial of Montivedo, with a final encounter set between a pair of players who have qualified for the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Spain’s Inigo Cervantes and Argentina’s Guido Pella. The latter had the better ending, winning 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
The fifth edition of the ATP Challenger Tour Finals headlined the action in the last week of the year, starting on 23 November. The season finale took place in Pinheiros Sports Club in Sao Paulo. The field was comprised of seven qualified players and one wild card, (Group A: Paolo Lorenzi, Daniel Munoz de la Nava, Inigo Cervantes, Farrukh Dustov – Group B: Guido Pella, Marco Cecchinato, Radu Albot, Guilherme Clezar) contesting in round robin format with the two from each group advancing to the semi-finals.
Inigo Cervantes finished as undefeated champion and took away US-$ 91,200 in prize money as well as 125 ATP ranking points. In an all-Spanish-final he defeated Daniel Munoz de la Nava, saving two match points to seal a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 victory.
“Tennis is tough. In the first set it looked like the match would be easy for me, 6-2. I was really calm and Daniel making more mistakes than usual. However, a break in the second turned the match around and I saved match points in the third. But I could recover and win this match, that meant so much to me. I’m glad that I won such an important and special final,” said Cervantes.
With the €42,500 Andria E Castel Del Monte Challenger in the Apulian city in southern Italy and the $40,000 Dunlop Srixon World Challenge, held in the Japanese city of Toyota, two more indoors tournaments took place the same week to close the year.
Just returned from the doubles competition at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, Ivan Dodig claimed his third Challenger title of the season, winning the final on the hard courts in Andria 6-2, 6-1 against Michael Berrer.
“It was an amazing week for me. Every match I played better and better. The final was of a very high level,” Dodig told afterwards.
Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka triumphed on home soil, claiming his second ATP Challenger career title in Toyota, one of the seldom tournaments played on carpet. The 20-year-old beat Alexander Kudryavtsev 7-6,6-7, 6-3. He became the the fourth different Japanese player to lift a trophy on the Challenger circuit this year (Daniel, Yuichi Sugita and Go Soeda). He finished the season on a career hight 117th position.