Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Arvis wrote:
Week 7

Men's

Bangkok, Thailand (80)
Swiss journeyman Henri Laaksonen (26, #121) is truly in better form than he's been in in years.  He didn't let his painfully-close losses in Davis Cup discourage him, but rather he brought a confidence into this Challenger tourney that saw him take the trophy.  And he defeated well-known names along the way: Stephane Robert, Thiemo de Bakker, Go Soeda, James Duckworth, and finally at the end a resurgent Dudi Sela.  This makes Challenger trophy #4 for Henri, who was seeded #3 here.
#2 seed Tatsuma Ito retired with injury, to Sela, in the semis, while #1 seed Gunneswaran lost his opening match to unseeded American JC Aragone.

Cherbourg, France (80)
In a shocking twist of Challenger competence, new Cherbourg champ Ugo Humbert (20, #75, France) not only won this tournament as the #1 seed, but did it by defeating other seeded players in every match besides his opener and the final!  Even then, his final opponent was Steve Darcis (34, #283, Belgium) who is playing really well this year and also defeated every possible high seed on his way to the final (including #2 seed Yannick Maden and #3 seed Stefano Travaglia).
While he's still struggling to make a mark on the Tour level, this makes Humbert's 4th Challenger trophy and he's not even 21.

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Women's

Shrewsbury, Great Britain (60)
While last week's Grenoble champ Vitalia Diatchenko (28, #97, Russia) far outranked her opponents there, entering the tournament seems to have been the right choice.  She fought through some yips in the early rounds there before rounding into form to take the cup, and the result was that she had a much easier time winning here at the more lucrative Shewsbury tournament.  She was #2 seed here and yet didn't drop a set until the final, where she came back from a set down to defeat #1 seed Yanina Wickmayer.  This gets Diatchenko into the Top 100 again and brings her impressive title count up to a whopping 16.  There are rumors that she is dating our very own TennisElbow, so we all have a rooting interest here.

Trnava, Slovakia #2 (25)
While last week's Trnava W25 was won by a familiar face, this one had two unseeded players competing in the final.  The result was Isabella Shinikova (27, #253, Bulgaria) quite easily defeating Denisa Allertova (25, #363, Czech).  You may remember Allertova, as she was once close to Top 50.  She seems to have had injury struggles.  Shinikova was once as high as #133.  This makes five W25 titles in Shinikova's career, winning ALL of the other four in 2016 alone.  Perhaps she can replicate her 2016 campaign in 2019?  Or maybe do better?

Surprise, Arizona, USA (25)
Our winner here has been on the pro tennis scene for so long, and so notably, that her highest ranking was #35 back in 2005.  At the time she achieved the #35 ranking, our runner up had not even been born yet.
Sesil Karatantcheva (29, #232, Bulgaria) defeated 14-year-old American Cori "Coco" Gauff (#579) in three sets to take her first title since 2017, and only her second title in the past 7 years.  As much of a story as that is, Gauff is really what's impressive here.  At her tender age and low ranking, she got into the draw as a special "Junior Entry".  Despite this, she defeated the #4 and #8 seeds, as well as Olga Govortsova in the semis.  She even took a set off Sesil in the final.  I really think this young lady is the next big thing in the future of the WTA.

Our W15 winners of the week:
- Lulu Sun (17, #552, Switzerland, born in New Zealand, acquainted with both Tono and Adunar, probably?).  First career title, dropped no sets, lost no more than 4 games in a set.
- Anna Morgina (27, #611, Russia). 12th career title, literally all twelve have come in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.  Do note that there are several Sharm El Sheikh tournaments every year.
- Kamilla Rakhimova (17, #???, Russia). First career title.  Won 16 pro matches last year, already up to 6 wins this year.
- Marta Lesniak (30, #???, Poland). This is her 10th career title, with her first two coming in 2004, and the other eight coming after 2016.  Apparently she quit tennis after 2005 because of some injuries and didn't officially restart her career until 11 years later.  Incredible.
- Maryna Chernyshova (19, #569, Ukraine). 7th career title, 8-1 match record on the year.

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Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Alexander Bublik lost his opener in Cherbourg but is set to play his opener in Bergamo tomorrow.
- Corentin Moutet lost his opener in Bangkok.
- Vitalia Diatchenko won another tournament (see above)!
- Lucie Hradecka qualified for Dubai but lost in R1 to Belinda Bencic.
- Yuki Naito lost in a W15 final to Maryna Chernyshova (see above), but then finally ran out of gas at another W15 this week, losing in R1 in a 3rd-set TB.
- Lara Michel lost in R1 of another W15.
(all others DNP)

Great work Arvis, I'm a fan smile

16 Wimby 14 US Open Yoda Cup
16 Wimby 14 RG Alpha Cup
12, 13 & 16 King Droid
15 Naboo Cup 14 Lord Vader- RU

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Week 8

Men's

Bangkok, Thailand #2 (80)
This tournament's 15-seed, James Duckworth (27, #169, Australia) had to work hard for this one, but with a couple big retirements in the draw (including two previous Challenger champs, Mager and Laaksonen, as well as 2-seed Tatsuma Ito) as well as an impressive 3rd-set TB win in the semis, Duckworth sails to his 7th career Challenger title and jumps 41 ranking spots!  Duckworth was once a Top 100 player, so it's nice to see him getting back on track as he enters the second half of his professional career.
His vanquished final opponent is yet another Spanish up-and-comer, 14-seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (19, #184), who defeated the 4th, 5th, and 13th seeds here before being straight-setted in the final.

Bergamo, Italy (80)
When you think of a "sinner", you think of someone who needs forgiveness because of mistakes they've made.  Well, here's at least one Sinner who made no mistakes last week: Jannik Sinner (17, #324, Italy) wins the Bergamo Challenger as a Wild Card, ranked outside the Top 500!  Think of the theological implications of this win!
Puns aside, Sinner's last match before this challenger was a 3-set loss to another player outside the Top 500, so there was no indication that he would... well... do THIS.  Not only did Sinner win this tournament, but he won his last 3 matches in it without losing more than 3 games in a set!  He was absolutely BLASTING his opponents!  To add to this amazing achievement, Sinner is the FIRST EVER ATP player born in 2001 to make a Challenger final, much less win it!  His victims include the 9th and 4th seeds, and the runner-up was Roberto Marcora, who has previously been mentioned as the runner up of Budapest (80) just two weeks ago.  Poor Marcora is STILL seeking his first Challenger trophy.
#1-seed Evgeny Donskoy lost in the 3rd round to Stefano Napolitano.

Morelos, Mexico (80)
As if the Bergamo result weren't shocking enough, Morelos was won by a player outside the Top 600!  Not only that, the final itself was very surprising.  Matias Franco Descotte (24, #334, Argentina) barely made the finals, winning FOUR 3-set matches, two of them 7-5 in the 3rd.  His opponent, Gonzalo Escobar (30, #157, Ecuador) had only dropped one set on his way to the final and defeated the 9th and 5th seeds, as well as reigning Burnie champ Steven Diez.  The result of the final?  Descotte annihilates him 1 and 4 for his first ever Challenger trophy and a leap of 278 spots in the ATP rankings.  But wait, there's more!  2019 marks the very beginning of Descotte's Challenger career, as he had never played a tournament at this level in prior years despite already being 24 with a career-high ranking of #312. Escobar, for his part, has played at this level for a while, but not well, having a career Challenger record of 28-53, losing almost 2/3 of his Challenger matches.
#1 seed Pedja Krstin lost his first match, while #2 seed Roberto Quiroz lost to Steven Diez in the QFs.

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Women's

Kyoto, Japan (60)
You'll probably recognize most of the names of the seeds in this one, except for the seed that won the tournament: #7-seed Ylena In-Albon (19, #183, Switzerland)!  She defeated #2-seed Kurumi Nara in the QFs and then #8-seed Zhang Kai-Lin in the final.  Although she won the final 2 and 3, she had to win two 3-setters along the way.  More impressive still is the travel she's done before winning this, as she was in the states playing on clay exactly a month ago, then took the long way to Japan, stopping in Grenoble where she went 1-1.  Although she got one W25 title and four W15 titles last year, winning a W60 is by far her biggest achievement and launches her into the Top 200 for the first time ever.
#1-seed Nao Hibino was defeated by runner-up Zhang in the SFs.

Altenkirchen, Germany (25)
According to the ITF website, this tournament is still played on carpet.  Not even sure what to think about that.
ANYWAY, yet another young teen wins a tournament here, this one China's Shuyue Ma (19, #318).  This is actually Ma's first ever title at ANY level and brings her to her career-high ranking!  We've talked about Ma this year, back in Week 2, when she lost to Lopatetska (now listed in some places as "Dasha Lopatetskaya") in one of the Hong Kong W25s. 
Ma defeated #2-seed Maryna Zanevska in the final here, despite a rankings gap between them of well over 100 spots.
#1-seed Antonia Lottner (herself a successful ITF darling a couple years ago who even started a small WTA breakthrough) lost in the first round here to previously-reported-on Romanian Laura Ioana Andrei, who was here as a Qualifier.

Glasgow, Great Britain (25)
#5-seed Jessika Ponchet (22, #231, France) "did the bizzo" here as all of the other seeds dropped like flies in the QFs or earlier.  TBF to Ponchet, she was the one responsible for #1-seed Anna Zaja's (27, #191, Germany) loss.  Runner-up here was a Georgian named Mariam Bolvadze (21, #315) who hadn't won a pro match all year coming into the tournament.

Rancho Santa Fe, California, USA (25)
#2-seed Nicole Gibbs (25, #139, USA) defeated fellow American and #5-seed Kristie Ahn in the final here, 3 and 3.  This is her 3rd career W25 title, 7th total including three W50 titles.  Gibbs was once as high as #68 and is looking to get back there.  Elsewhere, Claire Liu was in action as the #3 seed but lost in the QFs to Ann Li, an opponent she famously defeated in the 2017 Wimbledon Junior finals.
#1 seed Sachia Vickery lost to Qualifier Usue Arconada (20, #355, USA) in the QFs.

Our W15 winners of the week:
- Victoria Kan (23, 598, Russia), this was her first pro tourney of 2019, only dropped one game in her first two matches combined.
- Lulu Sun (17, #552, Switzerland), our resident friend of Tono and Adunar wins her 2nd W15 in as many weeks, STILL has not dropped a set in that run, although she was pushed to a TB in this latest final, where she dropped one whole point in it.
- Jiaxi Lu (21, #588, China), like Kan is undefeated in 2019, as this was her first tourney of the year. Unlike Kan, this is her first career pro title at any level.
- Magali Kempen (21, #???, Belgium), this is her second W15 of the year, adding to her title reported here in Week 4.  This result gets her to a 10-0 record for 2019.
- Daria Kruzhkova (20, #583, Russia)
- Mirjam Bjorklund (20, #472, Sweden), second title of the year for this (probably) part-time fitness model, now at 17-2 on the year with 12 wins in a row including a singles win in Fed Cup plus another to start Week 9. Had to recover from a 1-6 1st set disaster in the final to get this latest title, the 4th of her career.  Another one of TE's many girlfriends.

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Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Henri Laaksonen is on a two match skid, losing his first match in both Bangkok and the IW Challenger.
- Ugo Humbert made the SFs of Marseille 250! Wow!
- Isabella Shinikova lost in R2 of Altenkirchen to eventual champ Shuyue Ma (see above) but as of this writing has qualified for a W25 in Macon.
- Sesil Karatantcheva lost to Ann Li in R2 of Rancho Santa Fe and also lost in R1 of the IW Challenger to Caty McNally.  Lots of familiar names here!
- Lulu Sun has won another tournament (see above)!
- Anna Morgina has gone 1-2 over two tournaments since last week's title run.
- Kamilla Rakhimova made the SFs of another W15
(all others DNP)

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Thanks Arvis! It's nice and thorough.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

very nice Arvis. Appreciate the info

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Good stuff Arvis, there is some good players playing on the Challenger Tour eh.

2018 - Princess Leia Champ
2017 - Rey Saber Champ, Padme Champ, Obi Wan R-Up, BIG 5 Career Slam, Yoda Crew Hall Of Fame 2016 - Padme Runner-Up
2015 - Obi Wan Master, King Droid, Yoda Crew POTY 2014 - Guru Race Runner-Up
2013 - Guru Race Winner (2014 Yoda Cup Guru), US Open Yoda Cup, Yoda Crew POTY 2012 - Lord Vader 2011 - Wimbledon Yoda Cup

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Week 9

Men's

Indian Wells, California, USA (125)
The results here really read more like an ATP 250, but this tournament really was worth only half of that.  In an impressive and talented field, the #1-seed Kyle Edmund (24, #23, Britain) thumped Andrey Rublev (21, #102, Russia) in the final, 3 and 2.  With the rankings disparity you might expect a result like that, but Edmund was by no means imperious on his way to this result.  Really, this win in the final was easily his best score, after having dropped sets to Yannick Maden and Lloyd Harris on the way.  Could this title have broken Edmund's slump?  Also, how is he still so highly ranked after losing all those AO points?  A great mystery of universe.
Elsewhere, #2-seed Filip Krajinovic lost in R3 to Jason Jung.

Pau, France (90)
The #1-seed here was Gregoire Barrere (25, #121, France), already a Challenger champ once in 2019.  However, in order to get his second he was going to have to go through another 2019 Challenger champ in the semis: #4-seed Alexander Bublik (21, #134, Kazakhstan).  Bublik would take down Barrere in two tight sets and go on to take the title here, defeating unseeded Norbert Gombos (28, #231, Slovakia) in three sets.  After starting his Challenger season going 2-2 (plus losing in the QR1 in Australia), Bublik has now improved to 11-4 at this level on the year.
Gombos, for his part, was once as high as #80 in the world and, on the back of this result, will be looking to improve his ranking steadily for the rest of 2019.
#2-seed Simone Bolelli lost his first match here to Mathias Bourgue.

Yokohama, Japan (80)
This tournament was way the heck over in Japan and worth less points than the other two, so who the heck would want to play here?  Nobody, that's who.  So the top half SF saw a Korean defeat a Japanese, while the bottom half saw... a German defeat an Australian?  Didn't expect that.
But it's true: the final saw Korea's Kwon Soon Woo (21, #170) and Germany's Oscar Otte (25, #144), the tournament's #2-seed, square off for the title.  Although Otte was higher ranked, Kwon hadn't dropped a set the entire tournament and he continued that trend in the final, defeating Otte 6 and 3 for his first career Challenger trophy!
Shockingly, Kwon is actually a contender for the Next Gen finals this year, as he won't turn 22 until December 2nd.
#1-seed Tatsuma Ito lost in R3 to Lee Duck Hee.

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Women's

Indian Wells, California, USA (125)
With a metric ton of ranking points on offer in this one (compared to the other tournaments below, at least) who would rise to the occasion to claim them?  With all the high ranked players here (#1 seed Qiang Wang is ranked #18 in the world) it was actually #14-seed Viktorija Golubic (26, #82, Switzerland) who took the title!  A Challenger Chat update just wouldn't be complete without a Swiss champion somewhere, eh?
She defeated unseeded Jennifer Brady in the final in 3 sets.  That final was the only sets dropped for BOTH players in this tournament.  Inspired play from both of them!  Would have loved to have seen it.  Golubic defeated the #1, #3, and #6 seeds, as well as promising American teen Caty McNally, all in straight sets.  Brady defeated the #2, #11, and #12 seeds, all in straight sets.  What can we expect from these two in Indian Wells?  Brady got direct entry via WC, while Golubic has to play Qualies (because that makes a ton of sense??).  Interestingly, Brady has drawn a Qualifier in her R1 match.  Wouldn't it be something if these two play each other again?  I think I'd root for Golubic to win, just to stick it to the tournament organizers.

Macon, France (25)
This French tournament had a French champion in 2019, and a Qualifier no less!  Myrtille Georges (28, #256) defied the odds and defeated #8-seed Lesley Kerkhove (27, #202, Netherlands) in the final to win her 4th career W25.  The Qualifying tournament here has players play a Super TB when splitting sets, which Georges barely managed to win 10-7 to qualify.  Then, she had to play #5-seed Antonia Lottner in the 2nd round, just barely winning in a 3rd-set TB, 7-5.  After that, it was all smooth sailing as she never once lost more than 4 games in a set on her way to the trophy.  Myrtille is nearly a full 100 ranking spots off her career high, let's see if she can get back there.

Osaka, Japan (25)
The #1-seed here was Ivana Jorovic (21, #107, Serbia) and she won the title.  Hm.  Not that interesting, I guess.  Just before this tournament she qualified for WTA Dubai and even won her R1 match there against Sara Errani.  I guess she wanted to stay match fit, because this tournament is clearly beneath her ability and ranking.  Looking at the results, though, I'd say it was probably a good idea, as she had to play FOUR 3-setters in a row to win the tournament.  This makes her 4th career W25.
Runner-up here was #4-seed Lu Jia-Jing (29, #186, China), who had been 0-3 in 2019 before this run to the final.

Moscow, Russia (25)
Probably one of the hottest players at this level right now, Playford runner-up and Launceston champ Elena Rybakina (19, #194, Kazakhstan) gets yet another 2019 title, defeating Ukrainian qualifier Ganna Poznikhirenko (24, #401) 5 and 0 in the final.  Despite already having a W60 title this year, this tournament wasn't without difficulty for Rybakina, as she was just a handful of points from losing to #8-seed Olga Doroshina (24, #242, Russia) in the semis.

Our W15 winners of the week:
- Victoria Kan (23, #599, Russia) is still undefeated, improving to 9-0 on the year (10-0 if you count the walkover she had in the SFs this past week).  She has only dropped one set in that span.  This makes her 22nd career title.
- Lu Jiaxi (22, #588, China) just like Kan (above) continues to be undefeated; 10-0 with only two dropped sets in 2019.  Both her and Kan were mentioned just last week.  This is Lu's 2nd title of the year and of her lifetime, this one coming on the day she turned 22.
- Anastasia Detiuc (20, #487, Czech) totally slammed all of her opponents until the final, where she came back from 2-6 1st loss to take the 2nd in a TB, and from there took the trophy. Rumor has it she challenged her opponent to try to pronounce her last name, which distracted her opponent enough for her to win the match.
- Clara Tauson (16, #???, Denmark) has been mentioned once before in Challenger Chat 2019, but if you look up her 2019 results, this past week's W15 title run are her first pro wins of the year.  What's the deal?  Here's the answer: she's the reigning Australian Open Girls' Champion!  Nice to see her backing that up with her 2nd career pro title.  Also, take note of her Fed Cup results a few weeks ago: she took Vikhlyantseva to a 1st set TB!  A very promising year for this young woman.

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Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Jannik Sinner won a Futures tournament.
- Mattias Franco Descotte DNP, but has entered a clay Challenger in Santiago, winning his R1 match.
- Ylena In-Albon made the SFs of Osaka, losing in 3 to runner-up Lu Jia-Jing (see above).
- Shuyue Ma retired in R1 of Macon.  Carpet burn, maybe?
- Jessika Ponchet retired in R2 of Macon.
- Nicole Gibbs lost in the QFs of IW 125 to Jennifer Brady.  She has won her QR1 match in IW.
- Victoria Kan won another W15 (see above).
- Lulu Sun DNP, but this week has qualified for a W25 in Mildura, Australia..... which is a grass court tournament.  O__o
- Lu Jiaxi won another W15 (see above).
- Magali Kempen finally ran out of steam and lost in R1 of a W15.
- Daria Kruzhkova lost in R2 of Moscow.
- Mirjam Bjorklund lost in R2 of a W15.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

I'm a Sinner! wink

Thanks for the great updated Arvis!

16 Wimby 14 US Open Yoda Cup
16 Wimby 14 RG Alpha Cup
12, 13 & 16 King Droid
15 Naboo Cup 14 Lord Vader- RU

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Can't get this quality in-depth reviews anywhere else - Thanks Arvis..!!!

2018 Lord Vader
2018 Yoda Crew Best Newcomer

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

superb, as usual, Arvis

2017 Supreme Jedi, 2017 Lord Vader, 2017 Chivalrous Wookie, 2015 Naboo Champion, 2018 Big Fat Nothing

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Fascinating. You’re SO good at this.

2016:-Diamond Droid and Captain Plasma Helmet Champ.
2018:-Ruby Droid and Jar Jar Dartboard Champ.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Shucks, guys, you make me blush.  tongue

Would be cool if we could post articles like this right on TDC.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Indian Wells Qualifiers - WTA

Ysaline Bonaventure
Age: 24
Rank: #144
Country: Belgium
Nickname: "Bon Bon"
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With a 15/6 record for the year, Bonaventure has won at least one match in every tournament she has entered in 2019.  Although she has a 50% or better record on every surface, she prefers clay.  The slower hard courts of Indian Wells could benefit her.  Look for her to beat Townsend (who I can only assume has achieved her ranking of #89 through witchcraft, because it certainly can't be from her tennis*) in straights, then lose to Vekic.


Misaki Doi
Age: 27
Rank: #121
Country: Japan
Nickname: "The Prius"
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Always treading water in her career, Doi is always just barely above .500 in her W/L record.  And surprise: she's 6/6 this year.  Doi prefers quicker, indoor conditions, yet she got probably her two best wins this year to qualify for this tournament.  Perhaps this is the start of a good run of form for her?  Maybe.  More likely she'll lose to Ons Jabeur in R1.


Christina McHale
Age: 26
Rank: #140
Country: USA
Nickname: "The Oldest 26-Year-Old on the Planet"
---
It feels like McHale has been hanging around for forever.  But 2019 has, so far, been a decent year for her.  She was a TB away from qualifying for the AO, has a 13/5 record for the year, and delivered two bagels on her way to qualifying here.  Do note, however, that her QR2 win here came against an ailing Zvonareva who retired 6-0, 2-0 down.
Still, look for McHale to upset a struggling Sakkari in 3 sets, then lose to Pavlyuchenkova.


Zhu Lin
Age: 25
Rank: #95
Country: China
Nickname: "The Shoe"
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Our first Top 100 qualifier, Zhu Lin has been all over the outdoor hardcourts in 2019, refusing to play on any other surface thus far and amassing a 17-5 record.  She won a W25 in Singapore at the end of January.  Although she lost in R1 of the IW 125k, she toughed out two 3-setters to qualify for the main event.  Oddsmakers favor her over Barthel in R1, but she'd have to hope for a miracle to upset Keys in R2.


Zarina Diyas
Age: 25
Rank: #94
Country: Kazakhstan
Nickname: "Dripping With Sexiness"
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I really need to think of a better nickname for poor Zarina.  Suggestions?
Diyas could be the most dangerous qualifier in the draw (and I don't mean dangerously attractive).  She started 2019 by losing 9-7 in a 3rd-set TB to Rodina, but since then her losses have all come at the hands of in-form players, while she handles her business against anyone ranked lower than her.  Her defeat of red-hot Nicole Gibbs in QR2 here is one of the more impressive results she's had.  She's favored in her R1 match against WC Jessica Pegula.  However, look for her to give #24-seed Lesia Tsurenko all she can handle in R2.  I like Diyas to get the upset there.


Natalia Vikhlyantseva
Age: 22
Rank: #112
Country: Russia
Nickname: "Natty Vicky"
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Vicky hasn't had the greatest results in 2019, but she did win a main draw match at the AO after qualifying, and also went 3-0 in Fed Cup a few weeks ago.  Double-bageled her hapless QR1 opponent here.  In the main draw, her R1 opponent is...


Priscilla Hon
Age: 20
Rank: #142
Country: Australia
Nickname: "Honey"
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Will be playing Vikhlyantseva in the first round here, who is, generally speaking, quite a bit better at tennis than her.  Don't count on Hon getting the upset here.  Either way, neither her nor Vikhlyantseva are going to be prepared for The Carla Suarez Navarro Experience.
Hon is 7/6 on the year and has won exactly one main draw match.  All six of her other wins have come in qualies.


Caty McNally
Age: 17
Rank: #238
Country: USA
Nickname: "Rally"
---
Despite the silly nickname (seriously, what idiot made that one up?) Caty prefers faster courts than what she'll get here.  She's played pro matches since she was 14 and in that time, she has amassed an indoor hard court record of..... *drumroll* ....13/1.  Seriously, she lost her first ever indoor pro match and since then is UNDEFEATED in indoor tournaments.  Good grief.
IW, though, is not an indoor tournament, so she had to fight hard to qualify here.  Qualify she did, though, even defeating Timea Bacsinszky in QR2.  Huge result for our youngest and lowest-ranked Qualifier.  I think she's almost a lock to defeat Bernarda Pera in R1.


Stefanie Voegele
Age: 28
Rank: #109
Country: Switzerland
Nickname: "The Other Swiss Miss"
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Our oldest qualifier, I can't emphasize enough what a bad year Voegele is having.  She had a whopping two wins before defeating Dolehide and Errani here in qualies.  Still, her R1 is very winnable, and then after that is Sloane, who is capable of losing to anyone.


Nao Hibino
Age: 24
Rank: #117
Country: Japan
Nickname: "Hear This"
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Hibino is yet another uber-neutral Japanese player with no clear strengths or weaknesses and whose results always kind of feel like they're totally up to her opponent.  She was 7/7 on the year coming into the qualies here but played fairly well, routining promising American teen Claire Liu, as well as coming back from a set down against Cirstea and delivering her a breadstick and bagel in the process.  Still, her R1 opponent is red hot Jennifer Brady, so expect her to be bundled out of the main draw immediately.


Kateryna Kozlova
Age: 25
Rank: #114
Country: Ukraine
Nickname: "KK"
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Another underachiever, Kozlova was once as high as #62 but hasn't played consistent tennis in over a year.  She's maintained a losing record from 2018 until now.  And despite two very nice, tidy wins in qualies, with her R1 being against Siniakova I think her losing trend will continue for another week at least.


Viktorija Golubic
Age: 26
Rank: #82
Country: Switzerland
Nickname: "Golly"
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Our highest-ranking qualifier, this is the player we were all wondering about.  Where would she land in the draw?  Well, she drew Strycova, who is a good player and by rights should beat her.  However, Golubic has not lost a tennis match since a 3-set QF loss to Zidansek in Hua Hin, on February 1st.  Since then, she has won 8 matches in a row and dropped only two sets in that span.  She has a great shot to get the "upset" against Strycova and then give Halep a stern test in R2.



*that was a joke, Townsend won three ITF titles last year, so she CAN actually play tennis

Last edited by Arvis (Mar. 11, 2019 9:02am)

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Indian Wells Qualifiers - ATP

Bjorn Fratangelo
Age: 25
Rank: #128
Country: USA
Nickname: "Frat Bjorn"
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Fratangelo's been playing pretty good tennis in 2019, but he was still a point or two away from losing to Rublev in QR2 here.  He was lucky Rublev did his cheap tent impersonation.  Bjorn's R1 opponent is none other than...


Elias Ymer
Age: 22
Rank: #117
Country: Sweden
Nickname: "Beamer"
---
Most of us know this guy despite him having NEVER been in the Top 100.  As of today, he's played EIGHT 3-setters in a row and gone 5-3 in them.  His QR1 win over Darian King was impressive, but can he get another upset against Fratangelo?  I say no.  Look for Frat Bjorn to win (in 3 sets, lol) and move on to eat a yummy breadstick or two against Novak.


Prajnesh Gunneswaran
Age: 29
Rank: #97
Country: India
Nickname: "Gunner"
---
Prajnesh is a perfectly fine tennis player.  However, he's not exactly great at beating any players of note.  And Benoit Paire is a player of note, despite being kind of an idiot.  I say Gunner loses here.


Marcos Giron
Age: 25
Rank: #217
Country: USA
Nickname: "Moaner Groaner"
---
Our lowest-ranked Qualifier, Giron's had quite an interesting 2019.  He started it by winning a Challenger in Orlando, FL, USA, but he also played three Challengers in a row where he lost to the eventual champs (Fritz, Cressy, and Krueger), all in 3 sets.  So he's definitely been playing well. Despite that, he still needed a 3rd set TB to dispatch Kecmanovic in QR2 here.  Expect him to crumble in the face of Chardy's experience.


Ugo Humbert
Age: 20
Rank: #66
Country: France
Nickname: "You Go, Humble Bear!"
---
Our youngest Qualifier, this may be the last time we ever see Humbert play qualies for any tournament if he keeps playing like he has in 2019.  Look for him to dismiss Marterer and then upset a still-rusty Kevin Anderson.  After that he'll likely have Laslo Djere, so he could even be in the 4th round here!
**NOTE: this prediction has aged VERY well, I think.


Radu Albot
Age: 29
Rank: #54
Country: Moldova
Nickname: "Where Is He From, Again?"
---
Easily our highest-ranked Qualifier, Albot is a lifelong journeyman who is enjoying a late-stage career renaissance.  He started the year 1-2 on outdoor hardcourts and since then has gone on a 7-match win streak on the surface, including winning his first-ever Tour-level title in Delray Beach a couple weeks ago.  He defeated the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Steve Johnson there, and defeated red-hot Dan Evans in a super close 3rd-set TB in the final.  Now, he's qualified for IW and has found himself placed in literally the softest part of the entire draw.  Could Albot make some noise here?  If he keeps his cool, look for him to make the 4th round here, defeating the likes of Fognini and Edmund before losing a dream match against Roger Federer.


Dan Evans
Age: 28
Rank: #100
Country: Britain
Nickname: "The Doper"
---
Quite possibly the most dangerous Qualifier in the draw, but unfortunately he drew possibly the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw, Stan Wawrinka.  Although Evans has amassed a ridiculous 21-5 record on the year, look for Wawa to be too high class for him.  But it will be close.  At least one TB, maybe even a 3-setter.


Alexei Popyrin
Age: 19
Rank: #131
Country: Australia
Nickname: "Popcorn"
---
Although 2019 has been a "breakout" year for Popcorn, looking at his whole body of work for the year shows intense inconsistency and glaring concerns.  "He beat Thiem at the AO!"  Thiem retired with injury in the 3rd-set.  "Yeah, but then he took Pouille to 5!"  It's frickin' Pouille, though.  Anyone can take him to 5.  "But he qualified for Acapulco!"  He played one whole set in that qualifying tourney.  Really, 2019 has shown a real struggle for Popyrin to consistently win at all, much less at a high level.  That said, his straight-sets wins over Kovalik and Rosol here in IW qualies show promise.  His chances in R1 here against fellow Next Gen-er Jaume Munar are about 50%.


Alex Bolt
Age: 26
Rank: #125
Country: Australia
Nickname: "Dead"
---
Another Australian who made a splash at the AO and then followed it up by being crappy at tennis again, Bolt was "just ok" enough to qualify here.  Honestly, this dude isn't that great, but he drew Gulbis in R1 so... surely he'll win anyway?  And Guido Pella may have a letdown after his big title, and he's even switching from clay court play, so Bolt could even get the upset there.  Then everyone will think he is good at tennis again!  And yet, he still won't be.


Denis Istomin
Age: 32
Rank: #101
Country: Uzbekistan
Nickname: "Help, Help! I'm Being Repressed!"
---
That nickname doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  Anyway, by far our oldest Qualifier, Istomin is the only one on this list who can claim TWO Tour-level titles in his career.  Although he's only 5-7 on the year, he isn't playing poorly and has landed in a decent part of the draw.  Look for him to beat Haase in 3 and then upset slumping #19-seed Rublev.
(^ so many things wrong with this one)


Filip Krajinovic
Age: 27
Rank: #113
Country: Serbia
Nickname: "Kraj-ogenics"
---
Once upon a time, in a mystical place called "The Paris Masters", Filip Krajinovic barely squeaked past an aging doubles specialist in the 4th round, "beat" Nadal in the QFs without playing a single point, and then lucked through a 3rd-set TB against Servebot Isner.  This plopped 600 ranking points in Krajinovic's lap, which essentially DOUBLED his point total.  He shot up so high in the rankings he was actually seeded at tournaments.  That feels like forever ago.  He did exactly NOTHING with that gift, so when he lost in the first round of the Paris Masters last year, he plummeted about 60 ranking spots.
Still, he's good enough to beat Kukushkin on slow courts.  Krajinovic gets the R1 win then loses to Goffin here.


Tatsuma Ito
Age: 30
Rank: #148
Country: Japan
Nickname: "Cousin"
---
Did you know this guy was still playing tennis?  He's had a decent 2019 and even beat Casper Ruud in QR1 here.  He may or may not beat Jared Donaldson in R1, but even if he does, his reward is a match with Rafa, in which he will eat a lot of bread.
(This counts, right?)

Last edited by Arvis (Mar. 11, 2019 9:12am)

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

that might be one of the funniest things ive read in a long time
poor Alex Bolt

Last edited by Johnny_Incognito (Mar. 8, 2019 1:46pm)

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Arvis - Team Murreee needs you to join our scouting team - Wait just saw Koslova Win and Golubic lose - Will the WTA ever make sense..!!!

2018 Lord Vader
2018 Yoda Crew Best Newcomer

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

My prediction success ratio here isn't particularly great

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Week 10

Men's

Zhuhai, China (80)
Although we had high-quality #1 and #2 seeds here in Brayden Schnur and Marcos Baghdatis, the final here was waged between two unseeded players, as Spanish journeyman Enrique Lopez-Perez (27, #252) defeated Evgeny Karlovskiy (24, #272, Russia) 1 and 4 in the final. 
ELP won his first Futures tourney in 2011 and continued to win multiple Futures every year after that, but he had never won a Challenger until now.  He showed some vulnerability in his early matches, dropping two sets and playing (winning) three TBs, but after that he showed no sign of nerves in his final two matches to reach his biggest title.  Along the way, he defeated the #6, #11, and #14 seeds.
Karlovskiy, for his part, has a losing record at this level, but does have 1 Challenger title to his name, coming last year in Winnetka.

Santiago, Chile (80)
Our winner here is far less surprising, as it's a player who has been playing extremely well in 2019: #2 seed Hugo Dellien (25, #87, Bolivia).  Recently becoming the first Bolivian in the Top 100 in 34 years, Dellien made sure not to let the pressure get to him.  He dropped his first set here, but from that point on settled in comfortably and had no troubles... that is, at least until the final, where he lost the 1st and was a TB away from losing the match and the title.  Who gave him this scare?  The #1 seed, Pablo Andujar?  No, but it was the unknown, unseeded kid from Taipei, Wu Tung Lin (20, #363)!  Wu's career is very young, but might good things be in store for him?  He beat Andujar 2 and 3 after all, and could have won this tournament, but it's likely he got nervous, as he lost the 3rd set to Dellien 6-1 after dropping that second set TB (wherin he only won a single point).
Dellien already has 4 wins at the Tour level this year and is 15-6 overall.  We'll be seeing him more regularly on the tour level now that the clay season is starting in a few weeks.  Dellien has not played a single match on any other surface this year.  Out of the 531 pro matches he has played in his lifetime, a whopping 17 have been played on hard courts, and he lost 13 of those.  He has also played 1 grass court match, which came last year when he hilariously attempted to qualify for Wimbledon.

---

Women's

Mildura, Australia (25)
Yes, that's right, this is a grass court W25.  Isn't that exciting??  The final was between the #6 and #7 seeds, with the former, Naiktha Bains (21, #285, Australia), defeating the latter, Kaylah "Nanny" McPhee (21, #312, Australia) in the final in three sets.  Actually, Bains won 5 matches here and 4 of them were 3-setters, including #2 seed Ellen Perez in the QF and red-hot Swiss qualifier Lulu Sun in the SF.  McPhee defeated #1 seed Destanee Aiava in the QF.
This is only the 2nd career title for Bains, and the highest level tournament she has won.  Bains claims grass as her favorite surface, so it's nice to see her back that up.  She is now at her career high ranking.

Yokohama, Japan (25)
Despite winning two Tour level matches earlier this year in Hobart, Greet Minnen (21, #243, Belgium) still had to win this tournament without being seeded.  But she seemed to have finally recaptured her impressive Hobart form here, as she didn't even get taken to a TB on her way to the title.  She DID have one dip in form in the QF, dropping a set 6-2 to Japanese qualifier Kyoka Okamura (23, #382).  Even her opponent in the final, Elena Gabriela Ruse (21, #253, Romania) had no answers for Minnen's game and lost 4 and 1.
This is Minnen's highest level trophy and 8th total.

Irapuato, Mexico (25)
Since the #1 seed here withdrew, the final was played between our two highest seeds, with #3 Astra Sharma (23, #163, Australia) defeating familiar #2 Veronica Cepede Royg (27, #175, Paraguay) in three sets.  Although Sharma was challenged in the first round by hometown player Renata Zarazua, after that it was mostly a breeze for her.  After Sharma's first career Grand Slam main draw win earlier this year, she took time off for several weeks.  She returned a few weeks ago, losing in QR1 of Acapulco, but this tournament got her 5 more wins, getting her 2019 record up to 9-3.  This makes her 7th career title, 4th at this level.

Our W15 winners of the week:
- Elizabeth Mandlik (17, #???, USA), first career title, Junior #20
- Zhang Ying (22, #727, China), second career title, this one on clay. Was 5-12 on clay in her career before this and now has a clay title.
- Daria Snigur (16, #???, Ukraine), 2nd career title, 5-0 in 2019 (DNP in Jan and Feb). Played her first ever pro tournament last September.  By November had won her first pro title.  Got injured in December, finished 2018 with a mindblowing record of 17-2 (14-0 on hard courts).  Looks like she's picking up where she left off.  Current Junior #26, lost to Clara Tauson in the SF of AO 2019.
- Rebeka Masarova (19, #636, Spain), 2nd career title, 12-3 record in 2019.  Has twice this year lost to opponents who went on to win the tournament (Rosca and Payola) in other W15s.  Former Junior #2.
- Rosa Vicens Mas (18, #667, Spain), 1st career title.  9-2 this year with one of the losses being a retirement due to injury.  At age 18, her pro record stands at 72-49, while her Junior record is.... 12-4?  Odd.
- Maryna Chernyshova (19, #571, Ukraine), 8th career title, has now won 10 matches in a row and somehow went down two ranking spots for it.  Probably because she has not played since winning a W15 on Feb. 17th.

---

Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Kyle Edmund is getting obliterated by Roger Federer in Indian Wells in a matter of hours.
- Kwon Soon Woo DNP but is currently into R3 of this week's Shenzhen Challenger.  Counting that, he is 10-2 in his last 4 tournaments, losing only to Tatsuma Ito and Prajnesh Gunneswaran in that span, with only one other player even taking a set off of him. Shows you the kind of form he is in.
- Viktorija Golubic qualified for Indian Wells and lost to Strycova in R1.
- Elena Rybakina is currently defending her 2018 Kazan W25 title this week.
- Lu Jiaxi finally lost a tennis match in 2019, in R3 of the W15 that Zhang Ying won (see above).
- Anastasia Detiuc lost in R3 of a W15 to Oona Orpana (18, Finland), who was runner-up to Snigur (see above).
- Clara Tauson is currently into R2 of Shenzhen W60.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Fabulous updates, Arvis!
I loved the IW qualifiers synopses and nick names - scratching my head a bit over Moaner Groaner - I mean the initials are there and all, but... well, maybe you know something we don't...

Snigur is a name to remember it seems!
(and you were right about Edmund!)

2017 Supreme Jedi, 2017 Lord Vader, 2017 Chivalrous Wookie, 2015 Naboo Champion, 2018 Big Fat Nothing

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Masarova is swiss by the way. She changed officially her tennis loyalty a year ago. Nut she was raised and trained by the swiss federation. Still counts as another swiss win there!!

2016: Rey Saber, Lord Vader, Supreme Jedi, Yoda Crew player of the year
2014: Lord Vader, King Droid, Naboo Champion, Yoda Crew player of the year
2013: Yoda Cup Wimbledon champion, Yoda Cup Guru Runner-up
2012: Yoda Cup Wimbledon champion

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Ok, Adunar, that makes sense.  I could have sworn I saw a Masarova in Juniors slams the last few years but she definitely wasn't Spanish.  I wonder why she switched?  If she was getting lost in the shuffle of all the talented Swiss players, switching to SPAIN doesn't seem like the best idea...

And thank you, Dwight!  Giron's nickname just came from, as you guessed, his initials and rhyming with "Giron".  It was one of the lamest nicknames in a series of lame nicknames.  Think of a better one for me! smile

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Week 11

Men's

Phoenix, Arizona, USA (125)
Our third 125 of 2019, the final here was a very exciting one between #4-seed Mikhail Kukushkin and #6-seed Matteo Berrettini (22, #52, Italy).  Neither of them had lost a single set on the way to the final.  Kuku won the 1st set in the deciding match, but afterwards simply could not break through Berrettini's serve.  In a 2nd set tiebreak, Berrettini save one MP, took the set, then went on to take the match and the trophy.  Berrettini broke into the Top 50 earlier this year, and this result will really help him get back, and maybe further.  This makes Challenger title #3 for the young Italian.
Elsewhere, #1-seed David Goffin lost in QF to Salvatore Caruso, while #2-seed Jeremy Chardy lost his first match to Lorenzo Sonego.

Shenzhen, China (90)
Our winner here is an old, charismatic veteran we all know and love: #2-seed Marcos Baghdatis (33, #129, Cyprus)!  Finally having a run of good health for the first time in years, Baghdatis is having a pretty good 2019, even notching 3 Tour-level wins so far this year.  But this title run shows that he's only getting better and better as he continues to play.  BagMan lost only two sets this entire tournament, one in the final to runner up Stefano Napolitano (23, #199, Italy), who defeated #1-seed Brayden Schnur in the SFs, and one to Week 9's surprise Yokohama champ, Kwon Soon Woo, who seems to be having no letdown after that breakthrough.

Drummondville, Canada (80)
This was the lowest ranking tournament of the week for the men, so it probably had some really unexpected results, right?  Well, I guess you could say that...
#1-seed Ricardas Berankis (28, #82, Lithuania) defeated #2-seed Yannick Maden (29, #108, Germany) in the final here in two sets.  I'm not sure if that counts as "surprising", but I'd argue it's unexpected.
Berankis improves to 10-1 at this level on the year and has won his 11th Challenger title, an impressive number.  Just like when he won Rennes earlier this year, Berankis didn't drop a single set, although Mikael "Torpedo" Torpegaard pushed him to a TB.

---

Women's

Guadalajara, Mexico (160)
"Guadalajara" is fun to type, with those staccato As going on.  Anyway...
Despite this tournament being worth so many points, only one of the top 4 seeds made the semis here and the final was contested between two unseeded players.  Veronika Kudermetova (21, #81, Russia) completely obliterated Marie Bouzkova (20, #116, Czech) in the final here, 0 and 2.  This was after Kudermetova beat #3-seed Tatjana Maria 2 and 2 in the SFs.  The odd thing is, Kudermetova struggled through all her matches before those, winning all in 3 sets and coming to within a few points of losing in straights in the QFs to Kristyna Pliskova.
Kudermetova has shown promise this year, but has been a bit inconsistent, so it's nice to see her fight through that enough to keep winning and get herself a title.  This is by FAR her biggest career title, 5th of her young career.

Shenzhen, China (60)
Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you, the REAL deal, a legit Future #1 Grand Slam winner: Clara Tauson (16, #407, Denmark).  Yes, that's right, this year's AO Junior champ and W15 title winner last week, Tauson has now won a W60 at only 16 years of age!  And she defeated the #6, #7, and #8 seeds here on the way to the title.
You may think I am getting ahead of myself, but there are so many impressive signs from this young woman, not the least of which is her work ethic.  She committed to a W15 after she entered this tournament last week, assuming she would only win a round or two.  After she won the whole title, did she withdraw from that "lowly" W15 she had previously committed to?  NOPE!  She's playing in it right now!  AND she's winning all her matches there, putting in her best effort!
Earlier this year, Tauson had two (close) losses in Fed Cup to Top 150 players.  Not counting those losses, she is 13-0 in pro matches in 2019 as of this writing.  Really can't wait to see how the rest of her 2019 goes.

Sao Paulo, Brazil (25)
Anyone remember Louisa Chirico (22, #385, USA)?  She made the SFs of Madrid in 2016, one of those rare clay court experts that sometimes comes out of the States.  In 2016 she made it as high as #58 in the world.
Well, things are much different for her now, but perhaps she's starting something of a comeback?  She had to qualify here in Sao Paulo, and even dropped a set in her R1 match against an unseeded opponent.  But after that, she defeated the #6, #2, and #4 seeds for the title, losing only one more set (to #2 Cepede Royg, last week's Irapuato runner-up) and absolutely crushing #4-seed Danka Kovinic 0 and 2 in the final.
This is Chirico's fourth career title.

Nishi-Tama, Japan (25)
You'll recognize our winner here from her back-to-back W25 wins earlier in the year: Ukraine's young Daria Lopatetska (15, #303).  Younger and higher-ranked than Clara Tauson, "Dasha" just can't stop winning at the W25 level in 2019.  Her 3-set win in the final here over Gabriella Taylor (21, #282, Britain) is her 17th match win of the year against only two losses.

Kazan, Russia (25)
In 2018, this W25 was won by talented teen Elena Rybakina.  However, this year, the winner of this tournament is.... talented teen Elena Rybakina (19, #163, Kazakhstan).  Rybakina could arguably be in the best form of all the teenagers mentioned.  She has entered 5 ITF tournaments this year, and in those 5 she has lost only two matches, and one of those was a final.  That makes this win her 3rd title of the year.  She defeated Urszula Radwanska here in the final.

Our W15 winners this week:
- Anna Kubareva (18, #838, Belarus), 1st career title
- Eleonora Molinaro (18, #493, Luxembourg), 3rd career title, clay court specialist, 12-1 on that surface this year. Former Junior #8 (2018).
- Lou Brouleau (23, #690, France), 2nd 2019 W15 title, 17-3 on the year
- Malene Helgo (19, #801, Norway), 3rd career title, undefeated on clay this year
- Viktoriia Dema (18, #???, Ukraine), 3rd career title, 2nd this year, all on clay
- Hanna Chang (21, #443, USA), 4th career title, she has won 1 title per year every year since 2016. Defeated last week's champ Mandlik in the final.

---

Where Are Last Week's Champs Now?
- Enrique Lopez-Perez lost in the QFs of Shenzhen to runner-up Napolitano.
- Hugo Dellien lost in QR1 of Miami to Noah Rubin
- Naiktha Bains went from grass right to clay in Canberra this week, losing yesterday in R2 to Destanee Aiava.
- Elizabeth Mandlik lost in the finals of a W15 to Hanna Chang (see above).
- Zhang Ying lost in R1 of a W15 this week
- Rebeka Masarova lost in the final of a W15 to Eleonora Molinaro (see above).
- Rosa Vicens Mas lost in the SFs of a W15 last week and in R1 of a W15 this week.
- Maryna Chernyshova lost in the finals of a W15 to Viktoriia Dema (see above).

Last edited by Arvis (Mar. 22, 2019 1:30pm)

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

Thanks Arvis. A good read as ever. I do remember Louisa Chirico, so will look out for her now.

2016:-Diamond Droid and Captain Plasma Helmet Champ.
2018:-Ruby Droid and Jar Jar Dartboard Champ.

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

At least a "swiss" player got to another final
Pfew, had to wait until the end of the post to find it!

Thanks Arvis !!

2016: Rey Saber, Lord Vader, Supreme Jedi, Yoda Crew player of the year
2014: Lord Vader, King Droid, Naboo Champion, Yoda Crew player of the year
2013: Yoda Cup Wimbledon champion, Yoda Cup Guru Runner-up
2012: Yoda Cup Wimbledon champion

Re: Challenger Chat 2019

No problem, guys, thanks for reading. smile

I just added pics to the latest post too, now, if anyone is interested.