From The Vault: Watch 20 Classic Challenger Matches On Demand
With the ATP Challenger Tour on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we open the vault for some of the classic matches from the past six years. From Alexander Zverev battling David Goffin in Mons 2014 to the all-Canadian clash between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Drummondville 2017, and this year’s epic encounter between Frances Tiafoe and Brandon Nakashima in Dallas, enjoy these full matches for free and on demand…
David Goffin vs. Alexander Zverev – Mons, Belgium
It’s the only time in which two players in the current Top 10 faced off on the ATP Challenger Tour. A 17-year-old Zverev was first embarking on his professional journey, while Goffin was in the midst of his Comeback Player of the Year campaign. The Belgian would reel off 20 straight Challenger-level matches and 36 sets in a row.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Filip Krajinovic – Sarasota, USA
This would mark the beginning of Kyrgios’ breakthrough season in 2014. Sitting outside the Top 200 at the time, the 18-year-old Aussie would capture back-to-back titles in Sarasota and Savannah, before lifting his first grass-court trophy in Nottingham and stunning Rafael Nadal en route to the Wimbledon quarter-finals. It all started on the green clay of the Sarasota Open.
Borna Coric vs. Malek Jaziri – Izmir, Turkey
It was not only the first title of Coric’s budding career, but his first Top 100 victory as well. The 17-year-old enjoyed his maiden moment on the hard courts of Izmir in 2014 after a two-hour and 30-minute marathon.
Alexander Zverev vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu – Braunschweig, Germany
One of the youngest champions on the circuit in the past decade, Zverev was just 17 years and two months old when he lifted his first trophy in Braunschweig in 2014. The local favourite, sitting at No. 665 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, had won just one Challenger-level match entering the tournament. He would leave with the trophy, capped by a comeback victory over former World No. 12 Mathieu.
Taylor Fritz vs. Jared Donaldson – Sacramento, USA
It was a story of survival and mental fortitude for the 17-year-old Fritz on a windy afternoon in Sacramento. The California native saved a remarkable 34 of 37 break points faced throughout the week, including 15 of 16 in the final. Competing in just his second Challenger main draw, Fritz would become the youngest American titlist on the circuit in eight years.
Diego Schwartzman vs. Guido Pella – Porto Alegre, Brazil
Today they are the highest-ranked players from Argentina, but in 2015, Schwartzman and Pella were still battling to gain full-time status on the ATP Tour. With the season winding to a close, the pair met for the title in Porto Alegre. Just one year later, Schwartzman would lift his maiden ATP crown in Istanbul and Pella would stun Dominic Thiem en route to the final at the 500-level event in Rio de Janeiro.
Noah Rubin vs. Tommy Paul – Charlottesville, USA
It was one of the most remarkable comebacks you’ll see in a final. Leading by a set and a double break, Paul had one hand on the trophy, but Rubin would not be denied his maiden moment. The New York native saved two match points and stormed back from 3-6, 1-5 down to take the all-teen championship clash in Charlottesville 2015.
Dustin Brown vs. Rajeev Ram – Manchester, UK
It was vintage Brown throughout the week in Manchester. The human highlight reel put on a show on the lawns of the The Northern, diving for volleys and slicing and dicing his way to his first grass-court title. His first-round upset of second seed Ram was a memorable one, including an array of trick shots.
Frances Tiafoe vs. Ernesto Escobedo – Lexington, USA
At the time, Tiafoe and Escobedo were two #NextGenATP prospects looking to make a name for themselves on the professional scene. Both were in search of their first Challenger title in the 2016 Lexington championship and an epic encounter would ensue. They left it all on the court for nearly two and a half hours, with Escobedo eventually prevailing in a deciding tie-break. Tiafoe wouldn’t wait long for his maiden moment in the spotlight, lifting his first trophy one week later in Granby.
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andrey Rublev – Quimper, France
They would later meet in two high-profile matches at the tour-level, but it was the first encounter between Tsitsipas and Rublev that provided an instant spark to their budding rivalry. The first-round meeting on the indoor hard courts of Quimper would be settled in a deciding tie-break, with both teens looking to make a statement. Just one year later, they would find themselves in a five-set battle at the Next Gen ATP Finals, before squaring off once again at the 2019 US Open.
Denis Shapovalov vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime – Drummondville, Canada
The indoor hard courts of Drummondville would not only produce Shapo’s maiden Challenger crown in 2017, but the first professional encounter between the two Canadian prodigies. It was one of the most highly-anticipated matches on Canadian soil and it was standing room only from first ball to match point. From outside the Top 250 at the time to Top 20 stars today – just three years later.
Tennys Sandgren vs. Tommy Paul – Savannah, USA
Pulsating rallies, Hot Shots, incredible drama. This match had it all, as Sandgren and Paul battled for a spot in the Savannah final in 2017. All three meetings between the American pair have had a flair for the dramatic and their very first encounter was no exception.
Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Casper Ruud – Lyon, France
We anticipate many more meetings between these budding stars. It was on the clay of Lyon in 2017 that they launched a new rivalry. At the age of 16 years and 10 months, Auger-Aliassime would go on to become one of the youngest champions in Challenger history, but he first had to get through Ruud. After three sets and more than two hours, it was a memorable quarter-final.
Alex de Minaur vs. Daniel Evans – Nottingham, UK
De Minaur’s maiden moment arrived on a sun-kissed afternoon in Nottingham. After falling in four previous Challenger finals, the Aussie would finally break through with his first trophy. Two of the game’s best grass-court performers clashed in the championship, with Evans going on to take the title the following year.
Jay Clarke vs. Jordan Thompson – Binghamton, USA
One of the more entertaining finals in recent history, the 2018 Binghamton championship provided plenty of drama. Thompson had break points to serve for the title in the second set and led 4/0 in the ensuing tie-break, before Clarke mounted a monumental comeback.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Mikael Ymer – Cassis, France
After undergoing left knee surgery, Tsonga admits that his future as a pro was in doubt. But late last year, the Frenchman said that playing Challenger tournaments helped him find the reasons he was playing tennis again. That comment was made after he sprinted to the title on home soil in Cassis. He did not drop a set all week, but faced a stern test from #NextGenATP star Ymer in the semis. It was a high-octane encounter on the hard courts of the Tennis Sporting Club, with the Swede giving the home favourite all he could handle.
Vasek Pospisil vs. Hyeon Chung – Vancouver, Canada
Arguably the match of the year in 2019 was a first-round meeting between the Canadian and the Korean in Vancouver. Pospisil had the crowd behind him, but Chung was riding a wave of momentum in his comeback from a back injury, winning seven straight matches. They exchanged baseline bombs for more than two hours, before Chung saved three match points to triumph.
Dominik Koepfer vs. Dennis Novak – Ilkley, UK
For Koepfer, it all started in Ilkley last year. The German enjoyed a successful summer stretch that included a Grand Slam debut at Wimbledon and fourth round appearance at the US Open, but those results would not have been possible without his breakthrough Challenger title in northern England. Koepfer saved a match point to defeat Austria’s Novak in a deciding tie-break in the final. The lead swayed back and forth for two hours, before Koepfer seized his maiden moment in thrilling fashion.
Tommy Paul vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis – Tiburon, USA
Paul claimed an instant classic against Kokkinakis in last year’s Tiburon final. The 22-year-old survived after two hours and 46 minutes, converting five of 12 break chances. With the wind howling across the Peninsula Club throughout the day, both players were forced to make plenty of adjustments. They would manage the conditions well, blasting winners off both wings and delighting the packed crowd in the San Francisco suburb. And despite relinquishing a set and a break lead, Paul came up clutch in the critical moments for his third title of the year.
Frances Tiafoe vs. Brandon Nakashima – Dallas, USA
It was arguably the match of the year, prior to the tour’s suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No match on the ATP Challenger Tour is easy, even for a perrenial Top 50 talent like Tiafoe, and the American was put to the test early and often. Tiafoe had his back against the wall against 18-year-old Brandon Nakashima and was made to fight for more than two hours in front of a packed crowd at T Bar M Racquet Club. Nakashima brought his A-game and forced Tiafoe to raise his, resulting in blistering baseline exchanges and incredible drama.