#NextGenATP Lead Challenger Q1 Storylines
ATPWorldTour.com looks back at an exciting first quarter on the ATP Challenger Tour
The #NextGenATP contingent picked up where they left off in 2016, boasting strong performances early in 2017. Denis Shapovalov, Alexander Bublik, Hyeon Chung and Noah Rubin all lifted trophies thus far this season, with Shapovalov and Bublik claiming their maiden crowns.
The quartet are currently Nos. 10-13 in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan and remain in the hunt to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in November.
Back in March, Shapovalov delighted the home crowd with his first Challenger title at the $75,000 Challenger Banque Nationale Drummondville in Canada, defeating fourth seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 6-3, 6-2. He is the youngest Challenger winner this year and the first 17-year-old Challenger titlist since Norwegian Casper Ruud prevailed last year in Seville, Spain. He is also the youngest Canadian to ever win a title.
Drummondville has become a second home on tour for Shapovalov, having won his first Challenger match there in 2016 and then title in 2017. Shapovalov’s Drummondville success pushed him into the Top 200 of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Rubin was champion at the $75,000 Neville Smith Forest Products Launceston International (Launceston, Australia) in February. The American streaked to his second ATP Challenger Tour title, dominating the final 6-0, 6-1 over countryman Mitchell Krueger. It was the fewest games played in a Challenger final since Moscow 2015.
Building off a promising end to 2016, Chung clinched the $75,000 Sportsmaster Tennis Championship of Maui (Maui, Hawaii), rolling through fourth seed Taro Daniel of Japan 7-6(3), 6-1 in the championship match. The 20-year-old didn’t lose a set throughout the week and dropped an average of less than five games per match to secure an eighth Challenger title.
In October 2016 Bublik was ranked outside the Top 300, but a quarter-final result at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow - his first ATP World Tour main draw - and a run to the second round as a qualifier at the Australian Open, set the stage for his biggest professional title on the hard courts of $50,000 Morelos Open.
First Time Champions
In addition to Shapovalov and Bublik, fellow teen Omar Jasika lifted the Caterpillar Burnie International (Burnie, Australia) on home soil. Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama and China's Ze Zhang also won titles. Zhang notched his maiden crown in San Francisco, overcoming Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, to become the second winner from China, joining Di Wu (Maui 2016). Uchiyama's title (Kyoto, Japan) is one of a tour-leading four for Japan after Yuichi Sugita has won two (Yokohama and Shenzhen) and Taro Daniel ruled in Buenos Aires.
2017 Title Leaders
|Player||No. of Titles||Tournaments Won
|Aljaz Bedene||2||Irving, U.S.A. & Sophia Antipolis, FRA
|Rogerio Dutra Silva||2||Santiago, CHI & Panama City, PAN
||Noumea, NC & Quimper, FRA
||Budapest, HUN & Wroclaw, POL|
|Yuichi Sugita||2||Yokohama, JPN & Shenzhen, CHN|
|Janko Tipsarevic||2||Bangkok I, THA & Bangkok II, THA|
Challenger Resurgence For Former Top 10 Stars
The 2017 season has not only provided an opportunity for the Next Generation to shine, but the old guard to stake their claim among the Top 200 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Six players own multiple titles thus far in 2017, including former Top 10 players Janko Tipsarevic and Jurgen Melzer, who are both returning from injury. Tipsarevic (foot surgery) vaulted back to the Top 100 after titles in consecutive weeks in Bangkok I and Bangkok II. Melzer (shoulder surgery) is back in the Top 200 after victories in Budapest and Wroclaw, Poland. His title in Wroclaw at 35 years, 9 months made him the oldest winner this year.
The other four two-time winners this year are Sugita, Adrian Mannarino, Rogerio Dutra Silva and Aljaz Bedene. Mannarino is the only repeat winner thus far, retaining his Noumea title to open the season.
Harrison's Springboard To Success
Ryan Harrison is closing in on a career-high position in the Emirates ATP Rankings after an impressive start to the season, ignited by a run to the title at the $125,000 event in Dallas. The World No. 50 became the first player to win on the ATP Challenger Tour and ATP World Tour in consecutive tournaments since David Goffin in 2014. He is also the only player to win on both circuits this year as he climbed back into the Top 50 for the first time since peaking at No. 43 in 2012. Harrison's win in Dallas was his fourth Challenger title and the Memphis Open produced his maiden ATP World Tour title.
Moments In The Spotlight
- Blaz Kavcic leads the Challenger Tour with 19 match wins in 2017, followed by Sugita with 16. Kavcic is a three-time finalist this year on Asian soil in Bangkok I, Kyoto and Shenzhen.
- Sugita is the only player to save match points in a final, turning aside two in beating Soon-woo Kwon in Yokohama.
- Zhang (San Francisco), Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Leon) and Egor Gerasimov (Saint-Brieuc) are a trio of qualifiers to go onto claim the title. Leon witnessed the first all-qualifier final since 2010, where Menendez-Maceiras ended a decade-long title drought to oust Roberto Quiroz.
- Uladzimir Ignatik became the first Lucky Loser champion of the year in Rennes, France, winning five straight matches after falling in qualifying.
- Evgeny Donskoy won his 10th Challenger title in Zhuhai, China, returning to Top 100, immediately after stunning the rejuvenated Roger Federer in Dubai.