Argentina Continues Challenger Dominance
Buenos Aires Challenger features all-Argentine final
If a player from Argentina is competing on clay in an ATP Challenger Tour event, they’re a likely candidate to be the last man standing.
Argentina has been the most dominant country when it comes to winning Challenger titles in 2016. Nine players have won a combined 15 singles titles this year, already up from 14 in 2015. Facundo Bagnis has a tour-leading five Challenger titles, followed by Guido Andreozzi (2), Horacio Zeballos (2), Nicolas Kicker, Carlos Berlocq, Leonardo Mayer, Agustin Velotti, Diego Schwartzman and Renzo Olivo. Six of these Challenger wins have come over the past two months.
That number is also guaranteed to increase on Sunday, with the $50,000 Challenger in Buenos Aires fittingly featuring an all-Argentine final between Olivo and Mayer.
“We have a lot of players at a very good level between No. 100 and No. 200 [in the Emirates ATP Rankings],” said Olivo. “Not everyone is playing Masters 1000 Series events, but it’s a level where there are a lot of us pushing each other in that direction.”
With 15 Argentines ranked inside the Top 200 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, it’s common to see a brigade of players from the country competing at Challenger events and making deep runs in the draw. This is particularly true at clay-court events, which is the surface of choice among most Argentine players.
“In Buenos Aires, there are two clay courts for every hard court,” said Andreozzi. “We generally don’t practise on hard courts unless it’s to prepare for a specific tournament. We’re more accustomed to clay and our style is better suited to the surface.”
Luckily for this group of players, there are five consecutive weeks of South American clay-court Challengers ahead on the schedule. But beyond surface preference, Kicker said the reason Argentines have enjoyed so much success is due to their resilience that has helped them through plenty of tough matches.
“We live far from Europe and the United States, so we spend two months at a time away from home. It’s not always easy for us, so we are known for being fighters,” said Kicker. “When we’re on the court, we give everything that we have.”