© Philippe Montigny / Open d'Orléans

Aljaz Bedene improves to 15-2 in ATP Challenger Tour finals, prevailing in Orleans, France.

Bedene Lifts Champions' Painting In Orleans, 15th Challenger Title

Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to who’s in action in the week to come

Open d'Orleans (Orleans, France): Few players have been as dominant in ATP Challenger Tour finals as Aljaz Bedene. Throughout his career, the 29-year-old Slovenian has been a force with a trophy on the line and he came up clutch once again on Sunday.

Bedene improved to a staggering 15-2 in finals, claiming his first title of the year at the prestigious Open d'Orleans. He rallied from a set down and saved a match point for a thrilling 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) win over home hope Antoine Hoang. The 22-year-old Hoang, who was appearing in his first Challenger final, had a championship point at 6/5 in the deciding tie-break, but Bedene would not back down. He reeled off three straight points to seize the victory after two hours and 34 minutes.

The London resident, who reached his third ATP World Tour final earlier this year in Buenos Aires, is up to No. 64 in the ATP Rankings. Moreover, Bedene has now claimed his last four Challengers entered, including 2017 triumphs in Irving, Sophia Antipolis and Barletta. That's 20 matches won in a row on the circuit.

"This is my 15th title and it's always great to win," said Bedene. "And this is my first of the year, so it's even more exciting. I played a solid tournament and I'm very happy."

As is tradition at the €127,000 event in Orleans, the champion receives a painting by a French artist. Since 2005, a different artist each year creates two identical, but original pieces of artwork. One piece is given to the singles champion during the trophy ceremony, while the other goes to the tournament and is added to a collection. 

This year, the painting was made by Paris native Thomas Dreyfuss. It depicts a boxer with a tennis racquet, indicating the similarities between the two sports. A former boxer himself, Dreyfuss was inspired to represent the tennis player as such.

Meanwhile, on the doubles court, Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara added a third title of the year. Champions at the ATP World Tour event in Eastbourne and ATP Challenger Tour event in Surbiton, the British duo dropped just one set en route to the title in Orleans. Bambridge is enjoying a breakout 2018 campaign, notching five Challenger crowns in addition to his maiden tour-level trophy. He has prevailed on indoor hard, outdoor hard, grass and clay.

Wells Fargo Tiburon Challenger (Tiburon, California, USA): Welcome to the Top 100, Michael Mmoh! The #NextGenATP American blasted into the club in grand fashion, claiming back-to-back ATP Challenger Tour titles to surge to a career-high in the ATP Rankings. He rises to No. 96 after defeating Marcel Granollers 6-3, 7-5 in the Tiburon final, capturing the biggest crown of his young career.

Mmoh also moves up two spots in the ATP Race To Milan, rising to ninth place. Just two weeks ago, the 20-year-old was at No. 15 in his quest to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Now, following statement wins on the ATP Challenger Tour in Columbus and Tiburon, he is making his move.

Learn more about Mmoh's win in the latest Challenger Q&A...

You May Also Like: Challenger Q&A: Mmoh Cracks Top 100 With Tiburon Title

The 2015 Tournament of the Year in Monterrey, Mexico, returns for a fourth edition. Granollers and Mmoh are the top two seeds and will fight for a final rematch, but David Ferrer, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Ernesto Escobedo and Ivo Karlovic have other ideas. Ferrer is competing in the last Challenger of his career, having announced he will retire from pro tennis next year. Escobedo (2016) and Thiemo de Bakker (2015) are former champions in the field.

The lone tournament of the year in Brazil is in Campinas, with Pablo Cuevas leading the charge. He opens with a tough test against 20-year-old American Ulises Blanch, who won his maiden title in Perugia, Italy, in July. US Open junior champ Thiago Seyboth Wild faces third seed Hugo Dellien.

The Northern California swing continues, as players move from Tiburon to Stockton. Jordan Thompson is joined by #NextGenATP seeds Reilly Opelka, Lloyd Harris, Casper Ruud and Marc Polmans

Meanwhile, the inaugural Firenze Tennis Cup in Florence, Italy, features home hope Lorenzo Sonego as the top seed. And in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Denis Istomin leads the pack and is joined by Felix Auger-Aliassime and Miomir Kecmanovic.

ATP Challenger Tour