2015 Challenger Tour Finals Preview and Predictions
Chris De Waard, Tennis Atlantic
ATP Challenger Tour
Sao Paulo, Brazil
25-29 November 2015
Prize Money: $220,000
Entrants (ATP/Challenger ranking in parentheses)
1: Paolo Lorenzi (68/3)
2: Guido Pella (76/4)
3: Daniel Muñoz-De La Nava (87/2)
4: Marco Cecchinato (89/7)
5: Inigo Cervantes (98/8)
6: Radu Albot (120/10)
7: Farrukh Dustov (161/9)
8: Guilherme Clezar (186/>50)
A strong field will compete for the Challenger Tour Finals title, with seven of the top ten Challenger players of 2015 entering this event. Missing are #1 Hyeon Chung, #5 Yuki Bhambri and #6 John Millman, all of whom prefer to play on hardcourts and unsurprisingly aren’t travelling to the other side of the world to compete in a clay event. For the third year in a row the wild card has been awarded to Guilherme Clezar, who made an unexpected fairytale run last year when he beat countryman Joao Souza 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(7) and Blaz Rola 6-4 6-3 to qualify for the semi-final. There he continued his spectacular run, fighting off Victor Estrella Burgos in undoubtedly the Challenger match of the year, 7-6(4) 6-7(0) 7-6(12). After losing 6-2 6-3 to Diego Schwartzman in the final he unfortunately wasn’t able to build on this result, as he finished 2015 outside of the top 50 in the Challenger standings.
Daniel Muñoz-De La Nava
Round Robin Match-Ups To Watch
Paolo Lorenzi – Daniel Muñoz-De La Nava
The Challenger Tour is often announced as a breeding ground for new talent, but these two 33-year-olds couldn’t be further from that description. However, for Muñoz-De La Nava 2015 meant his first ever entrance into the top 100, so he surely is a new face in that way. The Spaniard, citing confidence and fitness as the biggest components of his sudden rise, achieved it in an impressive manner, starting the season outside of the top 200. After a slow start to the season he won the Napoli Challenger in early April and reached five more finals after that, taking down additional titles in Moscow and Meknes. He faced Lorenzi once this year, in the semi-final of Cortina, where the Italian comfortably won 6-2 6-4.
Lorenzi also won the final, claiming one of his four titles this year. Lorenzi is a late-bloomer as well, but has been hovering around the top 100 for six years now, reaching a career high ranking of #49 in March of 2013. He has sixteen career Challenger titles and 335 match wins, which he wants to add to in the coming years. If his health allows it, he wants to play four more years and reach 400 career wins. He can make a head start in Sao Paolo, starting the tournament as the favorite and in the conditions he loves the most, playing on an indoor clay court at high altitude.
Guido Pella – Marco Cecchinato
25-year-old Pella is no stranger to the Challenger Tour Finals, having won the event in 2012 and cracking the top 100 for the first time because of it. However, he experienced a setback and even dropped out of the top 200 just over a year ago. Now firmly back into the top 100, he aims to reach the top 50 in 2016. He feels that he is now ready for it mentally, saying that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to maintain a top 100 position when he was younger. Having won four titles this year, his most impressive victory came last week in Montevideo, where he beat home player and world #40 Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-2 in the semi-final. In the final he beat fellow Challenger Tour Finals competitor Cervantes 7-5 2-6 6-4, coming into Sao Paulo on a high.
23-year-old Cecchinato made his debut in the top 100 this year after reaching the semi-final in San Benedetto. He can be called the king of consistency, reaching the semi-final of twelve Challengers this year, even though it only led to one final and one title. To reach one of those semi-finals, in Caltanissetta, he managed to double bagel fellow Challenger Tour Finals competitor Clezar.
Dustov is the clear outsider in this group and it’s hard to see him win a match. The last match he played on clay was three months ago in Como, when he got humiliated by world #735 Carlos Gomez-Herrera in the first round, 6-1 6-1. Given the circumstances, surface and altitude, Lorenzi should have an edge here, but Muñoz-De La Nava likes these circumstances as well. He grew up in Madrid, where he managed to beat world #22 Sam Querrey in 2010, while he was still ranked outside of the top 300. Muñoz-De La Nava also told that he has had Sao Paulo as a big goal since midway through the season, so he should be very motivated. Cervantes is well in this race too, however, with a big win over world #73 Diego Schwartzman in the semi-final of Montevideo last week, before falling 7-5 2-6 6-4 to Pella.
For Albot the same goes as with Dustov. He hasn’t been playing well in his last couple of tournaments and the last time he played on clay was over three months ago in Prague. Although he managed to reach the final there, he did it without beating a top 300 player. Then again, at least he played matches, Cecchinato is a big question mark given that he played his last match a month and a half ago. It might indicate that he isn’t taking the tournament all that seriously. After Clezar’s poor 2015 it’s hard to predict him to repeat his miracle run of last year. The man got double bageled by fellow group member Cecchinato this year, after all. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me either, last year he came into the tournament on exactly the same note. But realistically you can’t go around predicting him to come in third or fourth.
- Muñoz-De La Nava
Lorenzi d. Albot
Pella d. Muñoz-De La Nava
Pella d. Lorenzi