Kukushkin claims second straight Challenger title; Rinderknech wins at home

Blancaneaux, Majchrzak also triumph
March 04, 2024
Mikhail Kukushkin wins the Tenerife Challenger 3.
MEF Tennis Events
Mikhail Kukushkin wins the Tenerife Challenger 3. By ATP Staff

Mikhail Kukushkin secured his second consecutive ATP Challenger Tour title Sunday, when he was crowned champion at the Tenerife Challenger 3.

The Kazakh, who two weeks ago won the Manama Challenger, advanced through qualifying en route to the Tenerife title. In the final, Kukushkin led 6-2, 2-0 when Italian Matteo Gigante, who won the previous week in Tenerife, was unable to continue with an abdominal injury.

“I was working really hard the last few months. I was really motivated to come back to my level, play great tennis and play on the big stage,” Kukushkin said. “I’m happy that I managed to win back-to-back titles.”

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At 36 years, two months, Kukushkin is the oldest Challenger winner this season and the oldest Kazakh champion in history (since 1978). Kukushkin is the fifth player to win multiple Challenger titles past age 36, joining Andy Murray (2023), Paolo Lorenzi (2018), Tommy Robredo (2018-19) and Stephane Robert (2017-2018).

“In tennis, age is not as important as before,” Kukushkin said. “At age 36, Novak Djokovic is still number one in the world. It doesn’t mean anything but obviously it’s not easy to stay in shape. It was much easier to play when I was younger. That’s why I am working really hard now and I also have a lot of experience and that helps me.”

A 16-time ATP Challenger Tour titlist, Kukushkin trails Facundo Bagnis by one trophy for most titles at that level among active players.

In other ATP Challenger Tour action, Arthur Rinderknech won the Play In Challenger in Lille, France, where he saved two championship points to down Belgian Joris De Loore 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8) in the final.

<a href=''>Arthur Rinderknech</a> wins the Challenger 100 in Lille, France.
Arthur Rinderknech wins the Challenger 100 in Lille, France. Credit: Laurent Sanson

Four of Rinderknech’s five matches this past week went to a decider, but the top seed continued to hold his nerve, earning his sixth Challenger title.

“It’s a relief because the final was very intense,” the 28-year-old Rinderknech said in French. “After all my three-set matches this week, it was maybe destiny… It was the tightest match of the week for me. I’m very happy to win, this win is a reward for my work.”

Frenchman Geoffrey Blancaneaux dropped just one set all week to win the Delhi Open in India, where he marched past #NextGenATP teen Coleman Wong 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

Despite entering the Challenger 75 event with a 1-6 record on the season, the 25-year-old Blancaneaux produced a high level to claim his second Challenger title and first since December 2021.

<a href=''>Geoffrey Blancaneaux</a> triumphs at the <a href=''>Delhi Open</a>.
Geoffrey Blancaneaux triumphs at the Delhi Open. Credit: Delhi Open

In Kigali, Rwanda, wild card Kamil Majchrzak lifted his fifth Challenger trophy. The 28-year-old Pole downed Argentine Marco Trungelliti 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

World No. 652 Majchrzak became the lowest-ranked Challenger champion since an unranked Kei Nishikori won in Palmas del Mar last July.

“It feels amazing,” Majchrzak said. “I was very happy to come to Rwanda and that I was awarded a wild card. The level of competition was very high and I needed to play my best to take the title. The conditions here are a little tricky because it’s high altitude, sometimes it’s dry and fast and other times it rains and it’s a little bit slower.”

The clay-court Challenger 50 event in Kigali, Rwanda marked just the seventh African country to host a Challenger tournament, joining Morocco, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Kenya. A second week of action in Rwanda is underway, with top seed Ivan Gakhov set to play Majchrzak in the opening round.

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