Life on the ATP Challenger Tour is a grind. Players are constantly on the move, traversing the globe in search of critical Emirates ATP Rankings points and prize money. On Sunday, Frederik Nielsen took this philosophy to the next level, contesting two matches in two tournaments in one day. This time, no global trekking was involved. Only the state of California.
Here is how it all unfolded… The 32-year-old Dane was competing at the $100,000 event in Tiburon, a suburb of San Francisco located just north of the U.S. metropolis. Alongside Johan Brunstrom, the doubles top seeds would reach the final, which was slated for Sunday. But there was one problem: Nielsen was also in the qualifying singles draw at the next stop on the California swing, in Sacramento. Despite receiving a first-round bye as the second seed, his opening match was scheduled for Sunday as well, leaving him with a potential logistical nightmare.
“It’s a unique situation, but I was told by the supervisors before Friday sign-in that they would be able to accommodate me in case it was an issue,” Nielsen told broadcaster Mike Cation in Tiburon.
Finding Freddie: The Right Balance
Establishing clusters of tournaments in a region provides an advantageous situation for players, who seek to minimize travel time between tournaments in order to save money and reduce stress. With three consecutive ATP Challenger Tour events in northern California, it created the perfect setting for Nielsen to pull off the feat. A manageable two-hour drive separates Tiburon and Sacramento, leaving the order of play in both tournaments as the only potential pitfall.
“If it would happen in any place, it would be here because there’s not a long drive. I knew when I came that it could be an issue, but I’m just happy to get the chance to play both.”
“This situation is somewhat common when tournament sites are in close proximity to each other,” explains USTA supervisor Mike Loo, who identifies page 84 of the 2015 ATP Official Rulebook for confirmation. “Usually a one to two hour drive between sites is reasonable for a player to compete in both events.”
Nielsen’s singles qualifying match in Sacramento would be scheduled for first on Court 7 at 9:00am. With a 12:00pm singles final in Tiburon preceding the doubles title match, it meant the Dane would have plenty of time to complete the journey. He would defeat Reilly Opelka 6-2, 6-4 in just 61 minutes and returned to Tiburon with time to spare. He and Brunstrom later hoisted the trophy, beating Carsten Ball and Matt Reid 7-6(2), 6-1.
“On Saturday, I was waiting in Tiburon to see how the schedule would look,” Nielsen added. “I could have played in Tiburon first or Sacramento first. When they released the schedule, I drove to Sacramento late in the evening and grabbed some dinner on the way. I was lucky my housing was flexible. I woke up Sunday morning, played a good singles match which finished quickly. That allowed me to take a shower and take a nice and easy drive back to Tiburon.
“I knew that I had roughly two and a half hours, so I was pretty comfortable time-wise. My game plan was very good and had great execution. I like these situations with no expectations. This is what I play for. I knew it was going to happen. I was happy to get the chance to play two matches. It’s always encouraging.”
Nielsen would qualify for the main draw in Sacramento on Monday, defeating American Eric Johnson. He will look to ride his wave of momentum against fellow qualifier Nicolas Meister in Tuesday’s first round.