As the season’s brightest #NextGenATP stars set their sights on a strong week at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the Challenger Tour has been a vital part of each of the Milan qualifiers successes this year.
Seven of the eight players in Milan have won a Challenger title in 2022. ATPTour.com looks at each of the competitor’s rise through the Challenger level this season.
No player has a better winning percentage on the Challenger Tour this season than Draper. The 20-year-old boasts a 24-4 Challenger match-winning record in 2022. The Briton holds a season-leading four Challenger titles (tied w/ Pedro Cachin): Forli-2, Forli-4, Forli-5, and Saint-Brieuc. At the Forli-5 Challenger, Draper fended off four match points in the final to defeat Swiss Alexander Ritschard.
“I think the Challenger Tour is massive for players,” Draper told ATPTour.com. “When you come through and start winning tournaments back-to-back at that level it gives you huge confidence you can come on Tour and compete with these guys. Everyone on the Challenger level is hungry to do well because that is what gets you onto the Tour. The Challenger Tour has given me a real base and confidence of coming onto the Tour.”
The Czech, who is a two-time Challenger finalist this season, claimed his third Challenger title on home soil in Liberec, which propelled him to a career-high 59 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. In May, the 20-year-old finished runner-up at the Mauthausen Challenger (l. Rodionov).
“The Challenger Tour is a very important part of everyone’s journey,” Lehecka said. “I won my first Challenger last year in Finland, that was one of the best moments of my life so far.”
The Italian, who is a five-time Challenger finalist this year, collected his maiden title at the Trieste Challenger in July. The 21-year-old was a finalist at the Sanremo (l. Rune), Forli-6 (l. Musetti), Milan (l. Coria), and Como Challengers (l. Stebe). Passaro is 29-20 at the Challenger level this season.
“Sometimes I think it’s more difficult to play Challengers than the ATP (Tour),” Passaro said. “We are more hungry to go up. I think it’s like university for us and then the ATP Tour is the job. We are trying to study to be ATP Tour ready.”
Francesco Passaro claims the title at the 2022 Trieste Challenger. Credit: Citta di Trieste Challenger
The Italian triumphed on home soil at the Forli-6 Challenger in May. Musetti, seeded first, rallied from a set down in the championship match to defeat countryman Francesco Passaro. The 20-year-old is one of three #NextGenATP stars who will be competing on home soil this week in Milan.
Musetti is one of six players to collect a Tour-level and a Challenger title in 2022 (Francisco Cerundolo, Borna Coric, Marc-Andrea Huesler, Holger Rune, Yoshihito Nishioka).
Following the American’s two Challenger titles in 2021, Nakashima graduated to the ATP Tour and only competed at two Challengers this season (Phoenix and Surbiton). On the grass courts of Surbiton, Nakashima reached the quarter-finals, where he lost to top-seeded Andy Murray.
The 21-year-old boasts a 30-13 Challenger match-winning record this season. The Chinese Taipei star was crowned champion at the Bengaluru-1 and Murcia Challengers. During the two title runs, Tseng didn’t give up a set either week. Tseng also finished runner-up at the Roseto Degli Abruzzi-2 Challenger in March.
Chun-Hsin Tseng at the 2022 Murcia Challenger. Credit: Andres Molina
The lefty claimed two Challenger titles this season, including on home soil at the Zug Challenger (d. Gulbis) in July. In the championship match at the Cleveland Challenger, the Swiss avenged his loss to Yoshihito Nishioka from the previous week’s Columbus Challenger final to be crowned champion. Stricker also reached the semi-finals at the Biel Challenger in March.
Arnaldi, 21, collected his maiden Challenger title at the Francavilla Al Mare Challenger in May. The Italian finished runner-up at the San Marino Challenger (l. Kotov) in August and this past month at Saint-Tropez Challenger (l. Bellucci). Arnaldi is tied with Gregoire Barrere for fifth most Challenger-match wins this season (36). Only Quentin Halys (43), Constant Lestienne (40), Pedro Cachin (38), and Tomas Martin Etcheverry (37) have claimed more.
Arnaldi is one of seven #NextGenATP Italian champion this season. Mattia Bellucci, Flavio Cobolli, Francesco Maestrelli, Musetti, Luca Nardi, and Passaro have also claimed Challenger titles in 2022.
The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, which showcases the season’s eight best 21-and-under players, will be held at the Allianz Cloud in Milan, Italy from 8-12 November.