Five Challenger Player Storylines From 2022

Shelton finished the year on a 15 match-winning streak
December 13, 2022
Jack Draper (left) and Shang Juncheng were among #NextGenATP youngsters to win a Challenger title this season.
Philippe Kermoal/Lexington Challenger presented by Meridian Wealth Management
Jack Draper (left) and Shang Juncheng were among #NextGenATP youngsters to win a Challenger title this season. By Grant Thompson

After 11 months of weekly ATP Challenger Tour tournaments, a bow was put on the season which held historic moments.

Whether it was players launching their career, making a comeback, setting records for their home country, or graduating to Tour-level tournaments, looks at five Challenger player storylines from 2022.

Jack Draper
Nobody finished the year with a better winning percentage on the Challenger Tour than Draper. The 20-year-old boasted a 24-4 Challenger match-winning record and collected a season-leading four Challenger titles (tied w/ Pedro Cachin): Forli-2, Forli-4, Forli-5, and Saint-Brieuc. At the Forli-5 Challenger, Draper fended off four match points in the final to defeat Swiss Alexander Ritschard.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Draper is the second-youngest player from Great Britain to win multiple Challenger titles, only behind the-then 18-year-old Andy Murray in 2005 (Aptos, Binghamton).

“I think the Challenger Tour is massive for players,” Draper said. “When you come through and start winning tournaments back-to-back at that level it gives you huge confidence you can come on Tour and compete with these guys. Everyone on the Challenger level is hungry to do well because that is what gets you onto the Tour. The Challenger Tour has given me a real base and confidence of coming onto the Tour.”

The Briton’s standout season earned him a spot at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, where he won two round-robin matches and was a semi-finalist (l. Nakashima).

Ben Shelton
The 20-year-old American made the biggest jump to crack the Top 100 this season. After starting the year ranked outside the Top 500 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Shelton climbed to a career-high 97 following three consecutive Challenger titles (Charlottesville, Knoxville, Champaign) and ended the season with a 15 match-winning streak.

Challenger Win Percentage Leaders (2022)

Player W-L Pct.
Jack Draper 24-4 85.7
Wu Yibing 23-4 85.2
Ben Shelton 35-8 81.4
Quentin Halys 43-10 81.1
Ugo Humbert 19-5 79.2

The 2022 NCAA singles champion is the youngest player in Challenger history to win three titles in as many weeks and the second American to do so (Sam Querrey ‘14 Napa, Sacramento, Tiburon). The former University of Florida star is the first player to win a Challenger title and the NCAA singles title in the same season since Steve Johnson in 2012.

“[The Challenger Tour] gives you an opportunity to see tennis from guys who are playing at Top 100-level,” Shelton told in July. “It's a lot of different types of competition and it sets you up for playing on the ATP Tour. It's a really good stepping stone and the level isn't that far off from the ATP [Tour]."

Chinese Trio
Wu Yibing, Zhang Zhizhen, and Shang Juncheng combined to make Chinese tennis history this season.

Wu, who claimed three Challenger titles this season (Orlando, Rome, Indianapolis), held the second-best winning percentage on the Challenger Tour. In the Indianapolis Challenger final, the 23-year-old saved six championship points in a dramatic 6-7(10), 7-6(13), 6-3 victory over Aleksandar Kovacevic.

After being sidelined for three years due to injuries and the pandemic, Wu was nominated for the 2022 ATP Comeback Player Of The Year.

Wu Yibing en route to a dramatic ATP Challenger Tour victory in Indianapolis on Sunday.
Wu Yibing in action at the 2022 Indianapolis Challenger. Credit: Larry Lawrence

Part of his inspiring comeback came at Flushing Meadows, where he and Zhang battled through qualifying to become the first Chinese men to compete in the US Open main draw in the Open Era.

In October, Zhang became the first Chinese male to crack the Top 100. The Shanghai native was a four-time Challenger finalist this season, including in Cordenons, Italy, where he won his first Challenger title since October 2019 (Shenzhen).

At the Lexington Challenger, it was Shang’s turn to etch his name into the history books. The Beijing native won the hard court event to become the youngest (17 years, 6 months) Challenger champion this season. Since 2010, only four men have won a Challenger title at a younger age: Felix Auger-Aliassime (16 years, 10 months), Alexander Zverev (17 years, 2 months), Carlos Alcaraz (17 years, 3 months), and Nicola Kuhn (17 years, 3 months).

Pedro Cachin
It was a record-setting year for Argentine players, who combined for 23 Challenger titles. Cachin, 27, led the way as he competed in seven Challenger finals this year and claimed four titles: Madrid, Prague, Todi, Santo Domingo. The Bell Ville native was the only Argentine to win more than a pair of titles this season.

“[Argentina’s 23] Challenger titles in a year is incredible.” Cachin said. “It's amazing to have such an opportunity for all the players to be a part of something special like that. It is not easy for our players to travel the world, going very far from home, but to have this achievement makes it all worth it.”

At the US Open, Cachin won back-to-back five-setters to reach the third round (l. Moutet). After starting the season as No. 245, Cachin’s breakthrough season propelled him to a career-high 54 in November.

Luca Nardi
The 19-year-old’s three Challenger titles this season was the most of any Italian. The Pesaro native triumphed at the Forli-1, Lugano, and Mallorca Challengers. #TheNextGenATP star’s title on home soil in January made him the second-youngest (18 years, 5 months) Challenger winner this season. Nardi and Swiss Dominic Stricker were the only teenagers to win multiple Challenger titles this season.

<a href=''>Luca Nardi</a> celebrates winning a point at the 2022 Mallorca Challenger.
Luca Nardi celebrates winning a point at the 2022 Mallorca Challenger. Credit: Alvaro Diaz/Rafa Nadal Academy

At the beginning of the year, Nardi made new commitments to himself, which helped him achieve a career-high 126.

“I started training harder and with more intensity. I also started a diet and eating better,” Nardi told in May. “Everything is going better from that. I'm trying to be as professional as I can. In general, it is the same training, with maybe some extra work on the forehand and backhand, but the intensity is much different. That is the difference.”

In October, Nardi earned his maiden Tour-level win (d. Shevchenko) at the ATP 250 event in Astana, where he advanced through qualifying and lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round.

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