© Joao Pires

Ernesto Escobedo reached his first ATP Challenger Tour final in Sao Paulo.

Escobedo Becomes Newest Teen To Excel In Challengers

The hard-hitting Californian is proving he has the game to excel on all surfaces

American Ernesto Escobedo reached his first ATP Challenger Tour final last week in Sao Paulo, but the teenager proved he has the tools to ensure it likely won’t be his last.

Standing at 6’1” and with a highly aggressive baseline game, one might assume that Escobedo’s style of play wouldn’t translate to slow clay courts. The 19-year-old proved any doubters wrong by showing off impressively smooth movement and the ability to play defense when necessary. He weathered a marathon second-round match against No. 2 seed Joao Souza before prevailing in another three-set match in the semi-finals against last year’s finalist in Sao Paulo, No. 7 seed Christian Lindell.

Although he lost in the championship match on Sunday to Gonzalo Lama, he became the seventh different American teenager – and 10th in total – to reach an ATP Challenger Tour final since last October.

“I never expected that this tournament would be my first ATP Challenger Tour final,” said Escobedo. “I was playing really aggressive and, to be honest, that’s my game. That result gives me a lot of confidence and now I feel like I can play more freely.”

Although Escobedo grew up in California hard courts and feels most at home on them, he believes he has the ability to enjoy success on all surfaces in the years to come.

“I’ve always thought I could be a really good clay-courter. I’m just not as used to the surface,” said Escobedo. “Americans can play on clay. It’s just a stereotype that we don’t know how to.”

With a new career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 260, Escobedo said he will move on from Futures tournaments and focus primarily on the ATP Challenger Tour as he continues to build his game.

“It’s been such a great experience being on tour,” said Escobedo. “It’s been very important for me because I feel that I can play my game against good players and get good results. Hopefully I can keep improving my game"