Cerundolo Captures First Challenger Crown Of 2023
After experiencing several highs and lows in 2022, Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo got off to a fast start this year on home soil at the season-opening Tigre Challenger.
The 21-year-old recently battled leg and hip injuries which forced him to take time off. When the lefty was able to play tournaments consistently in the latter part of 2022, he made a sudden impact as he triumphed at the Buenos Aires and Coquimbo Challengers. Cerundolo, who has won 19 of his past 22 matches, picked up right where he finished the previous season.
Cerundolo, seeded first, rallied from a set down in Sunday’s final to defeat Bolivian Murkel Dellien 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and claim the Challenger Aysa de Tigre-1.
Juan Manuel Cerundolo is crowned champion at the 2023 Tigre-1 Challenger. Credit: Asociación Argentina de Tenis
“I feel really good about this week,” Cerundolo said. “I think I had an amazing level, and tried to play offensive. The final was super tough coming from a set down, but I managed to turn it over. I’m really happy.”
At the Oeiras Indoor-1 Challenger in Portugal, Joris De Loore advanced through qualifying en route to collecting his maiden Challenger trophy. The Belgian took down Romanian Filip Cristian Jianu 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match.
De Loore is the oldest (29 years, 8 months) first-time winner since 2015, when Italian Luca Vanni won his maiden title at 31. The Bruges native has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, including missing the entire 2019 and 2020 seasons following multiple surgeries. The 29-year-old’s persistence paid off this week when he won the Challenger 50 event.
Joris De Loore earns his first Challenger title in Oeiras, Portugal. Credit: FPT/Sara Falcao
“Over the past seven years, every year I had a surgery,” De Loore said. “This [the title] will give me a boost, I really feel that I am physically good now and now it’s just about staying healthy. I think this year can be my year.”
In Canberra, Australia, Marton Fucsovics collected his second Challenger title in the past three months. The Hungarian defeated Swiss youngster Leandro Riedi 7-5, 6-4 in the final at the P2 Advisory Canberra International.
“It’s a great, great start of the year. Cannot wish for a better week,” Fucsovics said. “I was very focussed on each match and I felt very strong physically. I think it’ll help me in the future and especially at the Australian Open.”
Marton Fucsovics in action at the 2023 Canberra Challenger. Credit: Anastasia Kachalkova
Fucsovics, 30, has played some of his best tennis in Australia. The six-time Challenger champion has won 13 of his past 14 matches and will next look for another strong run at the season’s first Slam. The World No. 74 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings has twice reached the fourth round at the Australian Open (2018, 2020) before losing to Roger Federer on both occasions.
Saturday’s Canberra final marked the end of Riedi’s 16-match winning streak. The 20-year-old went on a late-season surge in 2022, when he collected the title at the Helsinki and Andria Challengers.
In Thailand, second seed Dennis Novak earned his first Challenger title since November 2019 (Bratislava). The Austrian defeated Tung-Lin Wu 6-4, 6-4 in the final to win the Bangkok Open-1.
“I played a really good tournament,” Novak said. “Lost only one set and felt really good, I would say it’s the perfect start to the season.”
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The 29-year-old rises to 142 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and keeps his eyes set on his goal for the season: “to get back into the Top 100.”
On the island of New Caledonia, Raul Brancaccio fended off a championship point before a four-hour rain delay to defeat Frenchman Laurent Lokoli 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 and win the Open SIFA Nouvelle-Caledonie.
After claiming his first Challenger title on home soil in July, the Italian had his back against the wall three times this week in Noumea. Brancaccio dropped the opening set in his final three matches of the week, including comeback wins against former Top-20 players Benoit Paire and Cristian Garin, who was seeded first at the Challenger 100 event.