The 2016 ATP Challenger Tour calendar contained 166 tournaments, with prize money ranging from $40,000 up to $125,000. It was the 40th edition of Challenger tournaments cycle, and eighth under the name of “ATP Challenger Tour”. Tennis TourTalk is having a review of the season in eleven parts to close the year.
The month of July started with five tournaments held the during the first week. Clay court players gathered at the ATP Challenger of the Year in Braunschweig. All eight seeded players of the €106,500 Sparkassen Open were ranked inside the top 100 with top favourite Thomaz Bellucci eventually taking the title. In front of about 1,700 spectators, the Brazilian defeated Spaniard Inigo Cervantes in the final in three sets.
“I was putting a lot of pressure on him in the beginning of the match. The first set was almost perfect. I started to produce a couple of mistakes in the second set and Inigo started to play well, gaining more confidence. I just tried to keep my focus, not to give up any point and played aggressive,” Bellucci told about the key to success.
The same week, Horacio Zeballos became the champion of the inaugural €42,500 Bastad Challenger, held at the same venue of the SkiStar Swedish Open one week ahead of the ATP 250 event. The second seed from Argentina defeated Roberto Carballés-Baena in the final 6-3, 6-4.
“This is the best preparation for next week. Playing two weeks in a row with the same balls on the same courts in same conditions is perfect for us. I hope that this competition will continue next year. I will come back,” Zeballos said.
Miljan Zekic lifted his first trophy on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning the €42,500 Internazionali Di Tennis Dell’Umbria in Todi. The 27-year-old from Serbia battled through the qualifying, winning seven matches en route to the title. In the final, Zekic fought past Italian wild card Stefano Napolitano, who also appeared in his first title match, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.
“This is my first Challenger title and I will always remember it with great emotion. I started the tournament in the qualification and to eventually win it is a great feeling. Now, I have to continue this path. Thanks to all the people here involved in the event,” Zekic told afterwards.
In South America, Darian King took the title of the $50,000 Milo Open Cali. The man from Barbados rallied from a set down to overcome Victor Estrella Burgos from the Domenican Republic in the final 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.
Yoshihito Nishioka was successful on the US-American hard court swing, winning the title of the $50,000 Nielsen Pro Tennis Championships in Winnetka. The Japanese eased past US-American teen Frances Tiafoe 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
In the week of July 11, with Go Soeda another player from Japan lifted a trophy on the ATP Challenger Tour. Soeda battled past Blaz Kavcic from Slovenia in the final of the $75,000 Winnipeg National Bank Challenger.
Federico Gaio triumphed on home soil, winning the €42,500 San Benedetto Tennis Cup. The Italian overcame Constant Lestienne of France 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
Top seed Radu Albot became the champion of the €42,500 Poznan Open held at the Park Tenisowy Olimpia. The world number 92 from Moldova defeated Belgian qualifier Clement Geens, who appeared in his first final on the ATP Challenger Tour, 6-2, 6-4.
Four tournaments were held the week of July 18. Darian King defeated Mitchell Krueger in straight sets to capture the 23rd $50,000 Levene Gouldin & Thompson (LG&T) Tennis Challenger singles title.
“I tried to go to my strong points and his (Krueger) weakness,” King stated following his victory. “Mitch was striking his backhand well so I got my thoughts together and said you have to get to Mitch’s forehand. I kept attacking it and I think it broke down. Tennis is your strength versus your opponent’s weakness and that was my mindset today.”
In Asia, Australian teenager Max Purcell clinched his first Challenger singles title at the $50,000 2016 Gimcheon Open ATP Challenger, where he defeated compatriot Andrew Whittington in the final.
Illya Marchenko took the hard court title of the €42,500 Guzzini Challenger in Recanati. The Ukrainian defeated Ilya Ivashka from Belarus 6-4, 6-4.
Kimmer Coppejans lifted the trophy at the 35th edition of the €42,500 Tampere Open. The youngster from Begium edged past Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6–4, 3–6, 7–5.
The month closed with six tournaments held in the final week. Federico Gaio celebrated another title in Italy by winning the €85,000 Thindown Challenger Biella. He defeated Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 7-6, 6-2.
Luca Vanni captured his second ATP Challenger crown, winning the 31st edition of the €64,000 Open Castilla y León held in Villa de El Espinar. The 31-year-old Italian fought past third seed Illya Marchenko in the final, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“I knew that it was going to be a tough match. Illya won a lot of Challengers on hard court before and he is a very good player, ranked inside the top 100. But here in Segovia, the altitude benefited my serve. I was a bit tired in the beginning of the match but then I started to believe in my game and in my options,” Vanni was happy afterwards.
Santiago Giraldo won his first Challenger title in three years, as he emerged victorious from the final of the second ATP Challenger event held in Czech’s capital city of Prague, the €42,500 Advantage Cars Prague Open by Zenova held at Česky Lawn Tennis Klub Praha located on Štvanice Island. Giraldo ousted Uladzimir Ignatik 6-4, 3-6, 7-6.
Evgeny Donskoy became the champion of the $75,000 President’s Cup in Astana. The Russian beat fellow countryman Konstantin Kravchuk 6-3, 6-3.
Robin Haase captured the title of the €42,500 Hague Open, held on the clay courts in Scheveningen. The Dutch fought past Adam Pavlasek 6–4, 6–7, 6–2 in the final.
Ernesto Escobedo won a thrilling third-set tiebreak with fellow US-American, Frances Tiafoe to cap off his first-career ATP Challenger Title on Sunday afternoon, as he was crowned the $50,000 Kentucky Bank Tennis Champion in front of a great crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center in Lexington.