Italian Mattia Bellucci and Australian Li Tu will never forget this week on the ATP Challenger Tour.
Bellucci, 21, advanced through qualifying and dropped just one set en route to claiming the Saint-Tropez Challenger while Tu triumphed at the Seoul Challenger and dedicated the victory to his mother, who recently passed away. Bellucci and Tu were among five champions on the Challenger Tour this week.
On the hard courts nestled in southern France, #NextGenATP star Bellucci defeated countryman Matteo Arnaldi 6-3, 6-3 to capture the Saint-Tropez Open.
“It was an amazing week,” Bellucci said. “I started on Monday, I played every day, seven days, seven matches and with each match, I felt better and better.
“Today, I stayed focussed as much as possible on every point, on every ball. I’m super happy because I won my first Challenger and the first time is always special. When I arrived here, I couldn’t have imagined that I would win the tournament.”
Bellucci is the seventh #NextGenATP Italian champion this season. The lefty joins Arnaldi, Flavio Cobolli, Francesco Maestrelli, Lorenzo Musetti, Luca Nardi, and Francesco Passaro. The title at the Challenger 100 event lifts Bellucci to a career-high 186 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Arnaldi, 21, strengthens his hopes of qualifying for the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals following his runner-up finish in France. The Sanremo native climbs to 11th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan.
At the FILA Seoul Open Challenger, Aussie qualifier Tu capped off an emotional week by defeating Wu Yibing 7-6(5), 6-4 to earn his first Challenger title.
Tu, 26, returned to professional tennis in February 2021 after a six-year hiatus. During his time away from pro tennis, he earned his college degree and coached junior players. Now making a sudden impact on the Challenger Tour, the Adelaide native rises to a career-high 190 following the title in Seoul, which he dedicated to his mother.
“My mom passed away three weeks ago and tomorrow is her birthday,” Tu said during the trophy presentation. “So this is for her.”
Wu, who boasts a 23-4 match record at the Challenger level this season, climbs to a career-high No. 115. The 23-year-old has won three Challenger titles this year and now looks to become the first Chinese man to break through the Top 100. His countryman, Zhang Zhizhen, who is a four-time Challenger finalist this season, is the highest-ranked Chinese player (No. 109).
In Ismaning, Germany, top seed Quentin Halys ended home favourite Max Hans Rehberg’s dream week in the final. Halys fired 24 aces in the championship match, claiming a 7-6(6), 6-3 victory to win the Wolffkran Open by Tannenhof.
“I was playing really great during the whole week,” Halys said. “I was serving amazing, I’m super happy about my performance. In the final, we had chances to break each other, I was lucky to get a break in the second. It was very tough.”
Frenchman Quentin Halys lifts the trophy at the Ismaning Challenger. Credit: Juergen Hasenkopf
The Frenchman boasts a Challenger season-leading 43 match wins. Halys joins Constant Lestienne, Nardi, and Wu as three-time Challenger champions this year. Only Pedro Cachin and Jack Draper have captured four Challenger titles this season.
Players from France have combined for a season-leading (tied w/ Argentina) 19 Challenger titles. Both nations are one title shy of tying the Challenger Tour record for most titles won by a single country (20), which Argentina has collected three times (2021, 2016, 2007) and France has claimed once (2005).
Rehberg, 18, was given a wild card and upset second seed Tomas Machac and third seed Vasek Pospisil en route to his first Challenger final.
American Michael Mmoh, who didn’t drop a set all week, took down college standout Gabriel Diallo 6-3, 6-2 in the final at the Taube-Haase Pro Tennis Championship in Fairfield, California.
Mmoh has won 12 of his past 13 matches, including claiming the title this past month at the Cary Challenger. The American believes his success has come after a newfound mindset.
“The toughest loss for me this year was at the US Open [qualifying],” Mmoh said. “I was up 6-2, 5-2 against Gilles Simon and ended up losing that. That was a heartbreaker, it really crushed me. I really took time to say, ‘What can I do outside of tennis?’ I tried to challenge myself after that horrific loss.
“I started reading books, started talking to psychologists, broadening my horizons. I was challenging myself to get better. Whenever you have some of those losses, you look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘There’s a reason that happened, how can I fix it?’”
The 24-year-old, who boasts seven Challenger titles (all on home soil), rises to No. 110 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and sets his sights on surpassing his career-high mark 96, which he reached in October 2018.
Diallo, who is a senior at the University of Kentucky, climbs to a career-high 250 following his runner-up finish in California. The 21-year-old claimed his first Challenger title at the Granby Challenger in August.
Italian Marco Cecchinato, seeded third, was crowned champion at the Challenger Dove Men+Care Rio de Janeiro after he rallied from a set down to defeat German Yannick Hanfmann 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
Italian Marco Cecchinato celebrates his second Challenger title this season. Credit: Luiz Candido
Cecchinato has won 10 of his past 11 matches, including triumphing at the Lisbon Challenger this past month. The 30-year-old is a three-time Tour titlist (Budapest, Umag, Buenos Aires). Following the title on the Brazilian clay, Cecchinato launches back into the Top 100.
In 2019, the Italian reached a career-high 16 shortly after winning the ATP 250 event in Buenos Aires. Cecchinato reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2018, when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals before falling to Dominic Thiem. As the-then World No. 72, Cecchinato became the lowest-ranked Roland Garros semi-finalist since Andrei Medvedev (No. 100) in 1999.