#NextGenATP Spaniard Llamas Ruiz Wins First Challenger Title

Rinderknech wins Challenger 125 event in Zug
July 31, 2023
Pablo Llamas Ruiz wins his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Segovia, Spain.
Alberto Simon
Pablo Llamas Ruiz wins his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Segovia, Spain. By Grant Thompson

It was a weekend of comebacks on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Pablo Llamas Ruiz, who earned his maiden Challenger title Sunday at the Open Castilla y Leon in Segovia, saved three match points in the semi-finals before becoming the youngest Spanish winner at that level since Carlos Alcaraz in 2021. Vit Kopriva fought back from a set and a double break down in the Internazionali di Tennis Verona final to capture his second Challenger crown.

Llamas Ruiz, 20, defeated seventh seed Antoine Escoffier 7-6(9), 7-6(5) in the final to win on home soil and rise to a career-high No. 146 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. In Saturday’s semi-final, the #NextGenATP star fended off three match points at 4-5, 0/40 in the deciding set against Nicolas Moreno De Alboran before tallying five consecutive points and later closing the match in a final-set tie-break.

Following his triumph in Segovia, Llamas Ruiz rose to 12th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race. The Spaniard is aiming to make a maiden appearance at the Next Gen ATP Finals.

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Kopriva rallied from a set down in his final three matches to win the Challenger 100 event in Verona, Italy. The Czech survived Ukrainian Vitaliy Sachko 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 in the championship match after dropping just one point behind his first serve in the final set.

The 26-year-old Kopriva, who won his maiden Challenger title last year at home in Prostejov and later reached a career-high No. 124, got into Verona as an alternate before embarking on a week to remember.

“Amazing week, I am speechless because I was 6-1, 5-2 down. I just fought and I won the title,” Kopriva said. “I didn’t even know if I was coming to Verona because I didn’t get in on the first [entry] list, so it was a very special moment to be here and hold the trophy.”

At the Finaport Zug Open, top seed Arthur Rinderknech also had to claw his way to the title. The 28-year-old moved past Belgian Joris De Loore 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win his fifth Challenger trophy.

“It was a very close match,” Rinderknech said. “I started well but then got broken in the first set and all of a sudden I was behind in the score. I just had to stay there, focussing on my serve. I continued to serve very well, which allowed me to win the third set and take the title.”

<a href=''>Arthur Rinderknech</a> wins the ATP Challenger Tour 125 event in Zug, Switzerland.
Arthur Rinderknech wins the ATP Challenger Tour 125 event in Zug, Switzerland. Credit: Fabian Meierhans

Players from France have now combined for a season-leading 18 Challenger titles. They are aiming to pass Argentina’s record 23 Challenger titles in a single season (2022).

Illya Marchenko played inspired tennis at the Challenger de Salinas in Ecuador to win his ninth Challenger trophy and first since 2021. The 35-year-old defeated Croatian qualifier Matija Pecotic 6-3, 6-4 in the final and dedicated the victory to his fellow Ukrainians.

“It’s been a great week for me, I’m really happy and relieved that I could add another Challenger title to my career,” Marchenko said. “I used my experience today and it helped me a lot. Many matches here I was the underdog, but whatever happens I always fight.

“I would like to dedicate my trophy to all the people in Ukraine right now. It’s really difficult times for our country.”

<a href=''>Illya Marchenko</a> wins the ATP Challenger Tour 75 event in Salinas, Ecuador.
Illya Marchenko wins the ATP Challenger Tour 75 event in Salinas, Ecuador. Credit: Armando Prado

Pecotic, 34, was competing in his first Challenger final since 2015. The lefty made a splash at this year’s Delray Beach Open, where he became one of the stories of the season. Pecotic is the Director of Capital Markets for Wexford Real Estate Investors and works remotely while travelling to tournaments.

At the President’s Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan, home hope and third seed Denis Yevseyev dropped just one set all week to earn his maiden Challenger title. The 30-year-old ousted Khumoyun Sultanov 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 to triumph.

Yevseyev is the first player to win his maiden Challenger title after turning 30 since 2015 and first home champion Astana since 2015, when Mikhail Kukushkin clinched the title.

"To win my first Challenger at home is incredible. It was nice to feel such support from native fans,” Yevseyev said. “It was a wonderful experience. Never stop dreaming, even at the age of 30 you can play at the highest level and win tournaments.”

<a href=''>Denis Yevseyev</a> wins his maiden ATP Challenger Tour in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Denis Yevseyev wins his maiden ATP Challenger Tour trophy in Astana, Kazakhstan. Credit: President's Cup

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