Topic: Challenger Chat

I didn't know if anyone paid any attention to the Challenger tour, but thought I would create a thread here to post tournament champs and allow for discussion.  The guys winning Challengers are the ones who can make some noise in Qualifying tournaments and such.  And considering how many Qualifiers have gone deep in Tour level events this year, I thought it might be worth keeping track of who is winning these Challengers.

Yesterday saw quite a few Challengers wrap up.

Rajeev Ram (#141, USA) def. Jason Jung (#184, USA)
--7th title for Ram, first ever final for Jung
--Ram up 41 ranking spots, 63 spots down from personal best ranking
--Jung up 93 spots, achieves new personal best ranking

Blaz Rola (#93, Slovenia) def. Germain Gigounon (#210, Belgium)
--2nd title for Rola, first ever final for Gigounon
--Rola up 19 ranking spots into Top 100, 15 spots down from personal best ranking
--Gigounon up 41 spots, achieves new personal best ranking

Hyeon Chung (#88, South Korea) def. James McGee (#152, Ireland)
--3rd title for Chung, up 19 spots to a career-high rank
--2nd Final for McGee (no titles), up 19 spots to a career-high rank

"Pantyhose" Taro Daniel (#164, Japan) def. Filippo Volandri (#191, Italy)
--This is Taro Daniel's first-ever Challenger title.  He gains 38 ranking spots, 9 down from his career-high.
--15th runner-up trophy for Volandri at this level.  Once in the Top 30, Volandri gains 47 spots to get back into the Top 200.

Re: Challenger Chat

Interesting Arvis, Chung seems like one to watch. And I didn't realise/remember that Volandri was a top 30 player.

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Re: Challenger Chat

Agreed on Chung.  I first noticed him this year when covering the Aussie Open qualies.  Found out he was junior champ, I believe.  He could be the next Asian Top 20 player.

According to the ATP website, Volandri's career-high rank is #25.  O__o
On July 23, 2007 Volandri reached World #25 in the ATP ranks.  Apparently he achieved this by making the semis of Rome, defeating Gasquet, Federer (!!), and Berdych along the way before being royally murdered by Fernando Gonzalez.  He followed that up by making it to the 4th round of Roland Garros, beating World #7 Ivan Ljubicic in 5 sets along the way.  He came back to earth afterwards, though, with only three wins against Top 100 players for the rest of the year.  He made nearly half a million US dollars that year, which is roughly 1/8th of his total prize money earned as a professional tennis player in his 18 years on tour.

Re: Challenger Chat

Wow. Good for him. Guy deserves a break trying to play a sport where all the players have become 6' 6 muscle bound giants.

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Player of the Year 17, 20

Re: Challenger Chat

Yeah he did make the semies in Rome 2007, beating Federer on the way, R16. His second serve use to be very weak but a bit less on clay.

Chung is a young gun to watch for sure. Like Rublev as well.

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Re: Challenger Chat

Sao Paulo 2

Guido Pella (#132, Argentina) def. Christian Lindell (#180, Sweden)
-- This is Pella's 8th title at this level, 6th on clay.  Interestingly, it was only his 9th final.  The guy seems to play well in finals.  He gains 27 ranking spots to get to 132, but still well away from his career-high of World #75.  However, he did not defeat anyone inside the Top 200 on the way to this title.
-- This is Lindell's first career Challenger final and, like the runner-ups from last week, he achieves his highest career ranking, up 42 spots from #222.  However, Lindell did just play a Futures final two weeks ago, where he choked after achieving a 1st-set bagel against Chile's Juan Carlos Saez.


Inigo Cervantes (#184, Spain) def. Adam Pavlasek (#209, Czech Republic)
-- This is Cervantes' 3rd title in 5 finals, all on clay.  His career-high ranking is #135, but he was ranked #277 coming into this tournament.  At age 25, he still has plenty of time to break into the Top 100.  Trophies like this one will help, as he defeated 3 Top 200 players, including James Ward, along the way.
-- This is, by far, 20-year-old home favorite Pavlasek's career-best result.  His 4 wins here are his first 4 wins at this level this year, and gets him to .500 on the Challenger Tour for his career.  Gained 54 ranking spots this week, and earned himself a nice win over a Top 100 player: world #95 Lucas Pouille.  Not bad for a guy who lost to this dude back in February.


Franko Skugor (#318, Croatia) def. Gavin van Peperzeel (#339, Australia)
-- 27-year-old journeyman Skugor may finally be turning his career around.  Ranked just inside the Top 150 back in 2011, Skugor was ranked #547 coming into this tournament.  That's right: this win gained him 229 ranking spots.  This is his 2nd Challenger title.  What makes this win even more unlikely is that Skugor retired with injury in his last tournament back in March, and in February he lost TWICE to players ranked #400+.
-- Gavin van Peperzeel is another in a long line of young Australians itching to be the next Lleyton Hewitt. At age 23, this is only the 4th Challenger tournament he has ever played, and the first on clay, so this result is remarkable in that respect.  However, his Futures record does not suggest that he will now be a dominant force at this level, and he beat no one of note on the way to this runner-up result.


Sam Groth (#68, Australia) def. Konstantin Kravchuk (#149, Russia)
-- Groth needs no introduction.  #68 is now his best-ever ranking, although this is only his 2nd ever Challenger title.  The title couldn't come any sooner, as Groth was 1-6 in his last 7 matches on the Tour level.  This may help his get his groove back a bit.
-- Kravchuk is a 30-year-old journeyman simply looking for bigger paychecks.  This is his 5th runner-up trophy at this level, defeating slumping Yen-Hsun Lu along the way.


Marco Cecchinato (#124, Italy) def. Kimmer Coppejans (#112, Belgium)
-- This is young Cecchinato's 2nd Challenger title, gaining him 26 ranking spots to his career-best.  This is his 3rd Italian Challeneger tournament in a row, and he has steadily improved in each one.  He dropped only 15 games in his last 3 matches here.
-- Coppejans is a young guy to be on the watch for.  At only 21, he is almost in the Top 100, and just played his 4th Challenger final.  He was 3-0 in finals at this level coming in, but was simply outplayed.  Two of his Challenger titles came this year: one in Mersin, Turkey where he defeated Marsel Ilhan in the final, and another in Guangzhou, China where he defeated Hyeon Chung in the semis before going on to win the tournament.  He also has 4 Futures titles on clay, so watch out for him in the French Open qualies.

Last edited by Arvis (May. 4, 2015 9:51am)

Re: Challenger Chat

Kravchuk just lost in the 1st round of the Rome Challenger to Potito "Chip" Starace, who hasn't done anything on tour in 80 years or something.  I guess 2K was tired.

Gerald Melzer retired in his match against "Pantyhose" Taro Daniel.  Injury?  Or lack of motivation?
Dudi Sela also retired in his 1st round in Busan.

Novak won a Challenger match as well today, in Karshi.  1 and 4 against Vladimir Ivanov.  I am speaking, of course, about Austrian player Dennis Novak.

Re: Challenger Chat

Man Coppejans is really acing these Challenger tournaments!!

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
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Re: Challenger Chat

Indeed!  The only thing I really knew about him before my write-up was that I don't like his last name.  It's annoying, not really knowing how to pronounce it, and the pronunciation I think is correct sounds really dumb.  So I was surprised to see just how successful he's been, because it went right past me.  Those wins over Ilhan and Chung shocked me.

Re: Challenger Chat

Hyeon Chung wins YET ANOTHER Challenger tournament with an easy 3 and 1 victory over Lukas Lacko.  Chung is now #69 in the world and 25-6 this year on the Challenger level.

Aix en Prevence
Robin Haase decided to head to France early to tune up for Roland Garros, and it seemed to work: he defeated Paul Henri-Mathieu in the final here, 7-6 6-2.  He's up to #78 in the world; still a far cry from his top ranking of #33.

While the higher-ranked players were all in France, over in Colombia there were great opportunities for lower-ranked players to make up some ground.  Unknown Brazilian player Fernando Romboli decided that he would be the one to capitalize, defeating Giovanni Lapentti in 3 sets in the final.  What's interesting here is that Romboli was WELL outside the Top 500 and had to QUALIFY for the main draw!  He gained almost 300 ranking spots with the win!  However, now ranked at #332, he is still well off his career high of #236.  This is a guy who has only played 2 Futures tournaments this year and only won 1 match in that span.  Qualifying for and then winning a Challenger level event could mean something huge for the future of this 26-year-old from Brazil.

Rome (Challenger)
Aljaz Bedene won this tournament just before Rome's Tour level show was set to begin.  Bedene beat hot-shot Czech newcomer Adam Pavlasek in the final, who was playing his second Challeneger final in as many tournaments.  Bedene is now ranked #74, just 3 spots off his career-best.

Teymuraz Gabashvili won this tournament after his opponent, Evgeny Donskoy, retired in the 1st set of their final.  Gabashvili has never really lived up to his potential, but has been starting to get more solid results lately.  He's now ranked #82.

Re: Challenger Chat

Fascinating Arvis.  You are the master of this stuff.  You should invent a competition to test us all on it... smile

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

Re: Challenger Chat

Thanks, Dwight! smile

Top-seeded Teymuraz Gabshvili and Indian #2 Yuki Bhambri will face off in the Samarkand final.  Could this be two Challenger titles in a row for Gabashvili?  What will this mean for his French Open campaign, a tournament he has had some moderate success in?  Will Bhambri surpass Somdev Devvarman for the top spot in India?

Re: Challenger Chat

I wonder if Gabashvili believes he can be more than a challenger?  He's sometimes looked like he's not playing to his full potential in main draw events...

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

Re: Challenger Chat

We'll see, Dwight.
Gabashvili won Samarkand and is now in the main draw of Geneva, so we'll see how he does. If he wins two Challengers and then follows it up with a 1st round loss, then you may be on to something.

Young upstarts Alexander Zverev and Thanasi Kokkinakis were both victorious in their respective Challengers as well. TK especially was impressive, having had to come through Qualies for the Bordeaux tournament. He continues to back up his breakthrough year.

Elsewhere, in Seoul, Hyeon Chung was FINALLY stopped by an unlikely foe: Japan's #2 player, Go Soeda. Chung had won 26 sets in a row at this level before finally dropping a tie break to Yen-Hsun Lu in the semis here. Chung will receive direct entry into Roland Garros and could prove to be a deadly 1st round opponent for anyone.
Go Soeda, on the other hand, has been slumping, this being his best win of the year. He had already played three 3-set matches in a row to get to the finals before taking the title from home favorite Chung 6-3 in the 3rd. If I had to put money on it, I would say this was a fluke win for Soeda over an exhausted young kid.

Re: Challenger Chat

I know nobody is paying attention to the Challenger Tour at the moment, but last week unseeded Inigo Cervantes won his 4th Challenger title in Vicenza, defeating 6th-seed John Millman in straights in the final.  Cervantes also defeated 5th-seed Montanes and 8th-seed Fratangelo along the way.  When asked to comment on his triumph, he reportedly said "My name is Inigo Cervantes.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die."

In other news: I was wrong about Hyeon Chung getting direct entry into RG.  Apparently his ranking was still too low at the cutoff, so he had to enter Qualifying.  After winning around 348 Challenger matches in the span of 6 weeks, the exhausted (and perhaps injured?) Chung lost 0-and-1 to Jared Donaldson.  We'll see how he does on the grass.

Re: Challenger Chat

Please tell me Inigo actually said that, and you're not just making it up. 

Montanes is  probably in retirement mode, he has done squat this year. 

Intel suspect Chung will do better on grass.  There's a challenger this week in Mid-northeasten England, will have to look at the draw to see if he is in it.

Edit: No, no Chung.

Another edit: You do not like Coppejans' name?  How dare you!

Last edited by Tommy_Dearest (Jun. 6, 2015 10:41am)

Re: Challenger Chat

Chung is playing den Bosch qualies this week Arvis! He lost in his first round today.

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

Yeah, I'm wondering if Chung is just worn out.  Kid's played A LOT of tennis these last 4 weeks or so.

I'll post last week's Challenger results here soon.

Re: Challenger Chat


Taro Daniel defeated Albert Montanes 3-and-0 to win his second Challenger title of the year, and the second of his career as well.  The man who was born in New York, lives in Spain, and plays for Japan is absolutely without question in the form of his life at 22 years of age.  He is now at a career-high ranking of 125.  Dating back to the beginning of April, Daniel is 23-4, with his 4 losses coming against Nicolas Almagro, Kimmer Coppejans, Aljaz Bedene, and Fernando Verdasco.  In that stretch, he has wins against quality opponents like Volandri, Dustin Brown, and of course Montanes.
Because of this, Taro Daniel will no longer be known as "Pantyhose" Taro.  He will now be called....... "Awesome" Taro (until such time as he starts sucking again).


Former World #58 Maximo Gonzalez absolutely wrecked the entire field here, scarcely even coming close to dropping a set on his way to the title.  It may be his 15th title at this level, but it's his first this year.  And considering he was 2-7 in his last 9 matches coming into the tournament (including a loss to a player outside the Top 400), I'd say this was much needed for him.  He's now back into the Top 100.  His victim in the final round was one Jozef Kovalik, and 22-year-old Slovak just breaking into the Top 200.


Why do Aussies love grass so much?  This was the only Challenger played on the surface last week, and two Australians fought it out in the final, with big-serving Sam Groth unsurprisingly winning out over his younger countryman Luke Saville.  Groth's gargantuan serve always helps him win matches on this surface.  Look for him to trouble some folks during these next 4 weeks on the green stuff.


What happens when two unheralded American journeymen fly to South Korea for a Challenger tournament?  Why, they beat everyone and play each other in the final, of course!  25-year-old Alexander Sarkissian, playing in only his SECOND Challenger event ever, defeated Connor Smith in the finals.  It was the first Challenger final for both men.  Sarkissian came into this event with a 0-1 record in Challengers.  His unlikely victory here saw him gain just over 100 ranking spots.

Last edited by Arvis (Jun. 8, 2015 5:04pm)

Re: Challenger Chat


Dating back to the beginning of April, Daniel is 23-4, with his 4 losses coming against Nicolas Almagro, Kimmer Coppejans, Aljaz Bedene, and Fernando Verdasco.  In that stretch, he has wins against quality opponents like Volandri, Dustin Brown, and of course Montanes.

I'm more impressed by the quality of his few losses than by the wins mentioned.  Montanes hasn't done much this year, though his recent challenge runner up finish does now count as having done something.  Volandri?  Maybe several years ago, but this guy is a suspected match-fixer.  Last year, I saw a fine example of tennis display: after serving for the match against Martin Fischer, he loses many games, and on match point, allows Martin to hit a walk-off ace - by "walk off", I mean Volandri was walking off the court mid-serve; 

I've seen Connor Smith in some of the challengers past, so he snuck into a final in Asia?  I'll have to see if he beat anyone of note, probably not.

Re: Challenger Chat

Volandri is a former Top 30, though, as we discussed ( tongue ) and has already played at least one Challenger final this year, which means he's playing well.  And who did he lose to in that final?  You guessed it: "Awesome" Taro.

BTW, Inigo Cervantes did NOT quote The Princess Bride when he won Vicenza.  Just thought I should clarify.  Chalk that up to my reporting what SHOULD have happened, rather than reality.

Re: Challenger Chat

How fitting, in the grass challenger this week, there's an Englishman, Aussie, American, and James "fecking" McGee.

Re: Challenger Chat

Wimbledon still believes in Chung at least: … e_map.html

Re: Challenger Chat

Yes! Ymer's first Challenger title! Pretty soon we could have a Swede back in top 100 smile

Re: Challenger Chat

Indeed, HTS. smile

Norbert Gombos was 2-3 in his last 5 Challenger matches before taking the title here in Prague, with a 7-6 5-7 7-6 win over Albert Montanes.  This was the longest Challenger final of the year.  3 of Gombos' 5 wins here went the distance, with another 3rd-set tiebreak keeping him alive in the quarterfinal round against Inigo Cervantes.  The 24-year-old Slovak is now up to #127 in the world and has 15 wins and 2 titles on the Challenger tour this year.  Prior to 2015, Gombos was 0-2 in Challenger finals, so this is a good year for him, despite still being below his career-high ranking (#103).

In perhaps the most relevant Challenger of the week (because it's played on grass), Australia's Matt Ebden defeated Denis Kudla in a 3rd-set tiebreak to take the title here in the Surbiton area of Kingston, in England.  Ebden saved 2 Match Points to win his first Challenger title of the year (5th of his career) to gain 35 ranking spots and get to #154 in the world.  Still a far cry from his career-high rank of #61.
This was Kudla's first final this year and those 2 MPs may haunt him.  We'll see how he responds in Wimbledon qualies.

As HTS said, Elias Ymer wins his very first Challenger title, defeating American Bjorn Fratangelo 3 and 2 on the Italian clay.  Despite his low rank, the 19-year-old Swede has turned some heads lately, even getting a Top 50 win at the Tour level in Barcelona, defeating Nick Kyrgios in a 3rd-set tiebreak.  For many, this Challenger title was a long time coming.  The title gains him 41 ranking spots to a career-high #130.  With a career grass-court record of 0 wins and 0 losses across every level of professional tennis, what can we expect from Ymer if he plays Wimbledon qualies?

Comrade Daniel Munoz de la Nava CRUSHED Comrade Radu Albot in Russia last week, offering him both a bagel and a breadstick in the final.  DMDLN is apparently taking heart from the example of all the 30+ aged players having success on tour these days.  The Spaniard is 33, turned Pro in 1999, and has just won his 2nd Challenger of the year.  Why is that remarkable?  Because in the 15 years prior to 2015, he had won only ONE Challenger title!  He's now up to his career-best ranking of #107.  Imagine if a 33-year-old journeyman breaks the World Top 100 in his twilight years.  What a story that would be.