One Of The Strongest Doubles Draws In Challenger History
At this week’s prestigious $150,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Irving, U.S.A., the elite competitors in the singles draw garnered a lot of attention. A multitude of #NextGenATP players joined a red-hot Nikoloz Basilashvili, Jeremy Chardy and former champions Marcel Granollers, Aljaz Bedene and Lukas Rosol to create one of the strongest fields of the year.
But players and fans around the Four Seasons Resort and Sports Club are quick point out that the doubles draw is just as ruthless, with the level of competition akin to an ATP World Tour event. In fact, at No. 134 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings it boasts the highest cut at any Challenger since 2010. Former Top 10 stalwarts Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna, Jonathan Erlich, Alexander Peya, Philipp Petzschner, Oliver Marach and Robert Lindstedt have been driving fans to take in the action.
"If you look at the singles and doubles draws this week, you see how many top players are coming here," former World No. 1 Paes said. "This might be one of the toughest draws for a Challenger in the world."
“I was really surprised with how strong the draw is,” said 18-time tour-level titlist Erlich. “I came here because I’ve heard good stories about the tournament and I think people were saying that it would be strong, but not like this. It’s not almost, it is like an ATP World Tour event. Not just the facilities, but the level of the players is the same as a tour-level event. With five or so former Top 10 players and Grand Slam winners, it’s amazing. And the rest are very good too. The level of the doubles here is outstanding and could be even better than the singles.”
Good friends Petzschner and Peya teamed up this week for the 38th time in their storied careers, having reached four ATP World Tour doubles finals together from 2008-16. The Austrian-German duo cut their teeth in Irving in preparation for a deep run at the next ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Miami, which begins Wednesday.
"It's amazing," said former World No. 3 Peya. "Me and Philipp didn't even get into the cut and we're fortunate to get a wild card. The quality of the draw and level of the players here is special for a Challenger event. There are former Grand Slam champions and Top 10 players across the board. It's good quality and a lot of people have come out to watch the matches."
"I love this tournament," added Petzschner, a former World No. 9 and six-time ATP World Tour doubles titlist. "I'm close friends with the three guys running it and it's always good fun. The facilities are amazing. You see it with the quality of the draw. I think it's the toughest I've ever seen. A cut in the 120s is ridiculous. I hope this tournament remains for a long time. They are doing a tremendous job."
On Sunday, top seeds Marach and Fabrice Martin will face Marcus Daniell and Marcelo Demoliner, who are coming off a run to the final at the Brasil Open in Sao Paulo. Marach and Martin lead the FedEx ATP Head2Head 1-0, following a first-round victory in Antwerp late last year.