Lorenzi Leads ATP Challenger Tour Finals Field
With the field confirmed for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London, it was time for the ATP Challenger Tour to take centre stage on Monday, as the elite eight punched their tickets to Sao Paulo for the season finale.
To be held on indoor clay at the famed Pinheiros Sports Club from 25-29 November, the field is comprised of seven qualifiers and one wild card. Contested in round-robin format, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals, 125 Emirates ATP Ranking points and $91,200 in prize money will be awarded to an undefeated champion. Seven of the participants are currently ranked in the Top 150 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, with 2014 runner-up and home hope Guilherme Clezar receiving the tournament wild card.
Here are the contenders…
In 2015, three players entered the 300 match wins club on the ATP Challenger Tour. Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi was the second of the trio to etch his name in the record books with a quarter-final victory on the hard courts of Eskisehir, Turkey. Thirty-five wins later, Lorenzi is turning in a dominant campaign at the age of 33. Tied with Hyeon Chung for the most titles in 2015 with four, the World No. 66 triumphed in Eskisehir, Cortina (Italy), Pereira (Colombia) and Medellin (Colombia).
“I have good memories of Sao Paulo,” Lorenzi, who is making his second appearance at the season finale (2012), told ATPWorldTour.com. “I like the city. Last time it was on hard courts and this time on indoor clay, so I hope to play better.”
The second-highest ranked player to make the trip to the Pinheiros Sports Club will be Guido Pella, currently at No. 73 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The Argentine has fond memories of the ATP Challenger Tour Finals, having lifted the trophy in 2012 (d. Ungur) when the tournament was held on indoor hard. This year, Pella posted a 3-1 record in finals, prevailing on the clay of San Luis Potosi (Mexico), Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre (Brazil), with 37 of his 38 match wins coming on the surface.
With seven different players from Spain winning Challenger titles in 2015, the Spanish contingent is led by Daniel Munoz-de la Nava and Inigo Cervantes. Madrid native Munoz-de la Nava claimed a slice of history in August after winning the title in Manerbio, Italy. The 33 year old became the 14th-oldest player to crack the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time. The last player aged 33 and older to enter the Top 100 for the first time was Victor Estrella Burgos in 2014. The World No. 85 reached six finals this year, winning titles in Moscow, Napoli and Meknes (Morocco). Cervantes, meanwhile, is one of six players to reach 40 match wins on the circuit this year, having prevailed on three occasions in Ostrava (Czech Republic), Vicenza (Italy) and Marburg (Germany).
Tied with Munoz-de la Nava for the match wins lead this year (44) is World No. 89 Marco Cecchinato. The Italian captured the crown in Turin (Italy) in April, and has been a semi-finalist at 11 tournaments. He also qualified at three ATP World Tour events, in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Winston-Salem, before making his Grand Slam debut at the US Open.
Also qualifying for the season finale are World No. 120 Radu Albot and No. 150 Farrukh Dustov. Albot made Emirates ATP Rankings history in becoming the first Moldovan to break into the Top 100, peaking at No. 85 in August. He won one title from four finals on the Challenger circuit, emerging on the hard courts of Kolkata (India). Dustov, meanwhile, posted a 22-16 mark this year, including title runs in Wroclaw (Poland) and Agri (Turkey). He reached a career-high World No. 98 following his successful week in Wroclaw.
Making his return to the Pinheiros Sports Club is home hope Guilherme Clezar, who received a wild card into the eight-man field. Clezar reached the final in stunning fashion last year, notching wins over Top 100 players Blaz Rola and Victor Estrella Burgos. He saved three match points in edging Estrella Burgos 14-12 in a deciding tie-break. In 2015, the Brazilian reached his third Challenger final in Santiago in March, falling to Facundo Bagnis. He owns a 23-20 win-loss mark.