Challenger Tour: Five To Watch In 2023

The Beijing native Shang aims for a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals 
December 29, 2022
Luca Van Assche celebrates a semi-final win at the 2022 Brest Challenger.
Un Oeil Averty
Luca Van Assche celebrates a semi-final win at the 2022 Brest Challenger. By Grant Thompson

One of the intriguing elements of the ATP Challenger Tour is the chance to witness the game’s brightest young stars before they evolve into household names at the season’s most prestigious events.

Each week players work hard to secure points, prize money, and the chance to launch their career to new heights. In 2022, several youngsters made a sudden impact on the Challenger Tour and now they hold high hopes of furthering their careers this upcoming season. looks at five Challenger Tour players to keep an eye on in 2023, including Frenchman Luca Van Assche, who looks to build upon his late-season surge while Italy’s Francesco Passaro hopes to use the valuable Milan experience as a stepping stone in his career.

Luca Van Assche
The 18-year-old, who won the 2021 Roland Garros boys' singles title, has won nine of his past 10 matches, including collecting his maiden Challenger title at the Maia Challenger. The Frenchman was also a finalist at the Lisbon, Brest, and Valencia Challengers.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Now at a career-high 137 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Van Assche aims to continue his strong run to open the new season, including at the Canberra Challenger, where the teen will compete next week.

“My goal is to continue like how I ended the year, with a lot of confidence," Van Assche told "I’m just working hard every day and my goal is to be in the Top 100 as soon as possible.”

Francesco Passaro
Following the Italian’s standout year, which earned him a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Passaro is closing in on making his Top 100 debut. A five-time Challenger finalist in 2022, Passaro earned his maiden title at the Trieste Challenger, where he rallied from a set down to defeat Zhang Zhizhen in the championship match.

Passaro was one of seven Italian #NextGenATP Challenger champions this past season. The Perugia native joined countrymen Matteo Arnaldi, Mattia Bellucci, Flavio Cobolli, Francesco Maestrelli, Lorenzo Musetti, and Luca Nardi.

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Juncheng Shang
At the Lexington Challenger, the Chinese teen became the youngest (17 years, 6 months) player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history.

After a runner-up finish in Granby and a semi-final appearance in Las Vegas, the lefty cracked the Top 200 for the first time. The Beijing native, who became the first player born in 2005 to win a Challenger title, now sets his sights on a strong year with hopes of qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals.

Gabriel Diallo
Earlier this month, the 6’7” youngster announced he will forego his senior season at the University of Kentucky and turn professional. The Canadian had already seen his game translate well to the Challenger Tour. Now tennis will be his full-time job.

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In August, only one week after claiming his first Challenger main-draw win in Vancouver, Diallo was lifting his maiden Challenger trophy. The Montreal native was unfased as he won on home soil in Granby and the following month finished runner-up at the Fairfield Challenger (l. Mmoh). The 21-year-old enters the new year as 227 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Timofey Skatov
At the Challenger 125 event in Parma, Italy, Skatov became the only Kazakh Challenger champion of the year. The World No. 142 defeated Jozek Kovalik, who was on a nine-match winning streak, in the final.

Skatov, 21, plays his best tennis on clay, where he reached six Challenger semi-finals in 2022: Coquimbo, Lisbon, Braga, Seville, Roseto Degli Abruzzi-2, and Parma. Across four tournaments in September and October, the Kazakh won 14 of 16 matches and earned the highest-ranked win of his career, then-No. 71 Federico Coria, at the Coquimbo Challenger.

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