JÖNKÖPING, March 7, 2016
The ATP Challenger Tour has returned to Sweden, as the city of Jönköping is hosting the RC Hotel Open with a total prize money of €42,500 this week. It has been the first tournament of this category in Scandinavia since 1996.
“It is important for Swedish tennis that our local players have the chance to take part in international competitions on home soil. The European countries, which host most of the international tournaments also have a lot of international tennis stars. Launching the Challenger event in Jönköping is the first tournamet of this category, but we hope for more in the future,” said Thomas Wallen, Chairman of the Swedish Tennis Association in a press release last December.
One of four local players in the main draw of the inaugural edition in Jönköping, and the only one who didn’t need a wild card to enter the tournament, is youngster Elias Ymer. The only 19-year-old is one of 11 teenager ranked inside the top 200. “I love having the crowd supporting you and playing so close to home,” the world number 151 said. “I am from Skara, which is 100 kilometres from Jönköping, and I believe many of my friends will come and watch me play. Sweden hasn’t had a Challenger in a very long time. It’s really nice that we get a chance to play at home. The arena is completely transformed since we played Davis Cup here two years ago.”
The €42,500 event in Jonkoping is being held at the Racket Centrum, which has recently undergone a major transformation with a newly-built four-star hotel in the heart off the action.
“Our ambition is to establish Jönköping as a great tennis city in Sweden,” told tournament director Martin Claesson. The city is located in the country’s south and has a population of about 62,000 inhabitants. “This is also great for the entire region and with this new Challenger, the gap between our ATP World Tour events in Bastad as well as Stockholm and our ITF Future tournaments has eventually been filled,” he added.
World number 97 Filip Krajinov, will be the tournament’s top-seed. The Serbian and only top 100-player in the main draw will face a qualifier in the opening round. Second favourite Dustin Brown will take on one of the three Swedish wild cards Isak Arvidsson, currently ranked on 658th position. Third seed Jan-Lennard Struff will also play a local to start his campaign. The German will face world number 483 Markus Eriksson.
Two first round matches took place on Monday, when Karen Khachanov emerged victorious from the all-Russian-affair with Alan Karatsev, winning 6-3, 6-4. Khachanov hit seven aces, saved all two break points he faced, converting two of his own to prevail in 63 minutes.
Andrea Arnaboldi defeated only 17-year-old French wild card Elliot Benchetrit 6-3, 6-4. The world number 169 from Italy won 76% of his first service points and capitalized on three of his 13 break point opportunities to close the encounter after one hour and 17 minutes.
“It’s so important to have that level of tournament in Sweden,” said Bastad resident and former world number five Anders Jarryd. “We have had the ATP World Tour events and the Futures for some years. But frankly, we haven’t really had players for the tour level. That’s why the Challengers are perfect in this phase for some of our players. Hopefully some of the Swedes can raise their game and produce upsets. It also means that Sweden is on the map again, both domestically and internationally. Tennis is still very popular and that generates publicity in the media in Sweden. What’s hard for Swedish youngsters is that it was such a long time since we had many players in the Top 100. So they have no one really to look up to. I think if you have great players in your environment, you become better yourself.”