Fognini Saves 2 MPs, Downs Bautista Agut To Win Valencia Challenger

Tabilo, Watanuki also win titles
November 27, 2023
Fabio Fognini wins the ATP Challenger Tour event in Valencia, Spain.
Eduardo Manzana
Fabio Fognini wins the ATP Challenger Tour event in Valencia, Spain. By ATP Staff

Fabio Fognini won his first title at any level since 2019 on Sunday when he triumphed at the ATP Challenger Tour 100 event in Valencia, Spain.

The Italian saved two championship points to down home favourite Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 7-6(8), 7-6(3) after three hours, 11 minutes in Sunday’s Copa Faulcombridge final. Fognini, who fended off a match point at 4-5 in the second set and another at 7/8 in the second-set tie-break, is the ninth ATP Challenger Tour champion to save at least one match point in a final this year.

Fognini and Bautista Agut, who were competing against each other for the 12th time, combined for the oldest Challenger final in 2023. At 36 years, six months, Fognini is the oldest Challenger champion this season.

A seven-time ATP Challenger Tour champion, Fognini’s victory in Spain marks his first title since his lone ATP Masters 1000 crown at the 2019 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

In other Challenger action, Chilean Alejandro Tabilo collected his fourth trophy at that level this season by winning the Aberto Da Republica in Brasilia, Brazil. The 26-year-old downed Argentine Roman Andres Burruchaga 6-3, 7-6(6) in the final after winning 81 per cent of his first-serve points.

“I am so happy and speechless with how this weekend has been,” Tabilo wrote in Spanish on Instagram following his triumph. “So thankful for my team for all the work and support they have given me. This is just the beginning and [now] we go stronger.”

Tabilo is one of four South American players to win at least four Challenger titles in 2023, joining Mariano Navone (5), Facundo Diaz Acosta (4) and Thiago Seyboth Wild (4). Tabilo is the only player of that group with titles on both clay and hard.

Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki won his first Challenger title of the season on home soil at the Yokohama Keio Challenger, where he defeated countryman Yuta Shimizu 7-6(5), 6-4 in the final. The top seed Watanuki was a finalist in Yokohama last year, but he went one step further this week to become the fourth Japanese player to win the Challenger 75 event.

Watanuki and Shimizu are set to face off again on Tuesday in a first-round match at the Yokkaichi Challenger, where the 25-year-old is the defending champion. Watanuki aims at building upon his momentum to finish the season, much like he did last year by earning back-to-back titles and winning 14 of his final 15 matches.

Watanuki, who is coached by his older brother Keisuke, made his Top 100 debut in July shortly after reaching the second round of Wimbledon.

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