Shang and Zhang Create History On ATP Challenger Tour
Shang Juncheng and Zhang Zhizhen etched their names in the history books on Sunday when they became the first Chinese duo to win ATP Challenger Tour titles in the same week. Following the success of Wu Yibing, who’s won three Challenger titles this year including two weeks ago in Indianapolis, China now has three male players in the Top 250 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Shang, 17, triumphed on Sunday to become the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history. The teenager defeated Emilio Gomez, who was on a nine match winning streak, 6-4, 6-4 to capture the Lexington Challenger presented by Meridian Wealth Management title.
En route to the trophy, Shang took out the top seed and recent Nur-Sultan titlist, Roman Safiullin, recovering from a 0-6 first-set shutout to advance to the semi-finals, where he again rallied from a set down to defeat Aleksander Kovacevic. Two weeks ago the American had six championship points against Wu in the Indianapolis final but could not close out the match.
Coached by former World No. 1 and fellow lefty Marcelo Rios, who was in Lexington, Shang is the youngest player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020.
Shang Juncheng celebrates his Lexington Challenger title with coach Marcelo Rios.
Since 2010, only four men have won a Challenger title at a younger age: Felix Auger-Aliassime (16 years, 10 months), Alexander Zverev (17 years, 2 months), Carlos Alcaraz (17 years, 3 months), and Nicola Kuhn (17 years, 3 months).
The left-hander rises more than 100 spots in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, as he reaches a career-high 241. Ecuador’s Gomez, who won the Winnipeg Challenger the previous week, draws closer to a Top-100 debut, climbing to a career-high 114.
Appearing in his third straight Challenger final after runner-up finishes in Luedenscheid and Trieste, Zhang collected his third Challenger title when he triumphed at the Serena Wines Tennis Cup 1881 in Cordenons, Italy. Needing three hours and two minutes to win his first title since 2019, Zhang overcame home favourite Andrea Vavassori 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 in the final.
The 25-year-old’s career best mark of 136, reached in 2020, is the highest achieved by a male Chinese player. His Cordenons title lifts him to World No. 161 and reclaims his status from Wu (now 173) as China’s highest-ranked player.
In a busy week on the Italian clay for Vavassori, he teamed with Dustin Brown to win the doubles title. Appearing in back-to-back singles finals in San Bendetto and Cordenons, his recent success propels Vavassori to a career-high 176 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
#NextGenATP Jiri Lehecka kept his eyes set on the eight-player Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals after winning the Svijany Open. Playing at home in Liberec, Czech Republic, the 20-year-old took down Spaniard Nicolas Alvarez Varona 6-4, 6-4 to clinch his first Challenger title of the season and third overall.
The Czech charged to a maiden Tour-level semi-final in February as a qualifier at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam, a run that included upsetting Lorenzo Musetti, Botic Van de Zandschulp, and Denis Shapovalov.
The former Wimbledon boys’ doubles champion (w/ Jonas Forejtek) climbs to a career-high 59 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and is sixth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race to Milan. Alvarez Varona also reaches a career-high 223.