Summer Months Heat Up On The ATP Challenger Tour
It's that time of year again. As the grass-court season nears a dramatic crescendo on the ATP World Tour, the action is also heating up on the Challenger circuit.
In July and August, award-winning tournaments on both clay and hard courts mark the calendar, highlighted by two of the three Tournament of the Year recipients in 2017: Braunschweig, Germany and Vancouver, Canada. This week, the 'Tennistainment' tradition at the Sparkassen Open in Braunschweig has taken centre stage once again.
Music and entertainment is at the core of the tournament's identity, with fans taking in the action on the court while indulging in the nearby festivities. Last year, it became the first Challenger to celebrate multiple 17-year-old champions, as Nicola Kuhn followed in the footsteps of hometown hero Alexander Zverev (2014) to lift his maiden trophy.
The clay-court event is flanked by the scenic seaside tournament in Bastad, Sweden, a prelude to next week's SkiStar Swedish Open at the same venue, as well as a pair of North American tournaments (Winnetka, USA & Winnipeg, CAN) that kick off the summer hard-court swing. Located just north of Chicago, the Nielsen Pro Tennis Championships in Winnetka is one of the longest-running Challengers in the U.S. It is celebrating its 27th anniversary this week.
Meanwhile, the tournament in Winnipeg kicks off a three-week Canadian swing leading up to the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto. The stars are out at the tournaments in Gatineau and Granby, with Denis Shapovalov taking the title in Gatineau last year and Frances Tiafoe notching his maiden Challenger crown the year prior in Granby.
In 2017, Cameron Norrie kicked off his Top 100 ascent with a stunning triumph on the hard courts of Binghamton, storming back from a 1-4 0/30 deciding-set deficit to earn his first title. He joined countrymen Andy Murray and Kyle Edmund as British champions at the 24-year-old event. Tournaments in Lexington and Aptos also feature in the U.S., while the award-winning Odlum Brown VanOpen returns to Vancouver, Canada.
Other hard-court events include the picturesque Zavarovalnica Sava Slovenia Open in the stunning port town of Portoroz, the $150,000 tournament in Jinan, China and $125,000 event in Chengdu, China. In addition, the Open Castilla y Leon in Segovia, Spain, will welcome players and fans for the 33rd time. Spanish #NextGenATP star Jaume Munar reigned on home soil last year.
One of the more unique events on the ATP Challenger Tour is in Scheveningen, Netherlands, next week. Located in the low-lying region of The Hague, the aptly named The Hague Open features a centre court below sea level. Held on clay for 25 years, legend has it that the court has never been watered. The venue is embedded in the community, with adjacent houses seemingly rooted in the foundation of the club.
In addition to Braunschweig and Scheveningen, the dirt is alive at the Tampere Open, where the longest-running Challenger (37 years) is held in the Finnish coastal city. A pair of inaugural clay-court tournaments feature in Sopot, Poland, and Pullach, Germany, while six events are on the dirt of Italy.
One of the more highly-anticipated new tournaments is held during the second week of the US Open, as Rafael Nadal's academy hosts a €43,000 hard-court event. The World No. 1's glittering facility will celebrate the inaugural Rafa Nadal Open Banc Sabadell, as the month of August comes to a close.
With players jockeying for position in the ATP Race To Milan, July and August are shaping to be a pivotal stretch. Challenger stars Jaume Munar (No. 7 in the Race), Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, Reilly Opelka and Marc Polmans are targeting further success on the circuit to bolster their Milan chances. View Standings