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Halys, Cachin, Shelton …They shone on the Challenger circuit in 2022, watch out for them on the ATP Tour in 2023

A focus on those players who have been successful on the Challenger circuit and who could well become major players on the ATP circuit in 2023

Quentin Halys Quentin quer Singles sport s tennis TOUR Tournament x0x

The 2022 Challenger Tour season has been marked by many events from which lessons can be drawn. French “old hands” have broken through their glass ceiling, young Chinese players have shown the way to a country that is on the verge of experiencing its first good generation of tennis players. Finally, Italian tennis is denser than ever with 18 players in the top 200, 10 of whom are under 22 years old.

Jack Draper, Constant Lestienne and Marc-Andrea Huesler have been very successful on the Challenger circuit in 2022 but they are already in the top 65 and have already achieved good results on the ATP Tour, at least a semi-final. Here, the spotlight is on those who will want to emulate them next year by turning their good results on the Challenger Tour into top performances.

Here are 13 players who have emerged this season on the Challenger Tour and who should be making waves on the ATP Tour in 2023.

Pedro Cachin, 2022

PEDRO CACHIN, THE MAN IN WAITING

  • 27 years old, Argentina
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 247
  • Ranking at end of 2022 : 55
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022 : 4
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022 : 38-11
  • Best ATP Tour result: Third round US Open 2022

Pedro Cachin is, along with Jack Draper and Constant Lestienne, the player with the most titles on the Challenger circuit in 2022 with 4 trophies on the books. The 27-year-old Argentine was ranked 247th in the world at the beginning of the season and had never been ranked higher than 166th in his career, a ranking he achieved in September 2015.

He was already known on the secondary circuit as a solid clay-court player but to see him win the Madrid, Prague 2, Todi and Santo Domingo tournaments on that surface was still unpredictable last January. He also reached the final of the Marbella, Lyon and Verona tournaments.

Pedro Cachin has managed to beat Francisco Cerundolo, Richard Gasquet, Dominic Thiem and Adrian Mannarino this season.

On the main tour, he never made it past one round in 2022, except for a third round appearance at the US Open (winning his first two rounds against Bedene and Holt 7-6 in the fifth set, before losing to Corentin Moutet).

In his career, unsurprisingly, his best performance to date was on clay in Cordoba in 2019 when he reached the quarter-finals, eliminating Pablo Carreño Busta in the process.

Quentin Halys - 2020

QUENTIN HALYS, 12 YEARS ON

  • 27 years old, France
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 153
  • Ranking at end of 2022 : 64
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 3
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 43-10
  • Best ATP Tour result: Second round, Wimbledon 2022

Quentin Halys has a winning percentage on the Challenger Tour of 75 percent. He has won three titles, played in four other finals and two semi-finals, in other words, he has reached the last four nine times in the 14 tournaments he has entered in 2022.

Halys won Les Petits As in 2010 when he was 14 years old and thus carried great hopes on his shoulders. He came close to the top 100 for the first time in 2018 but did not manage to reach it.

This year he has done it, and has even made it into the top 70. His serve has become even more efficient, guaranteeing him a place on the ATP Tour next year.

For the moment, he has not yet had a breakthrough on the big circuit, never winning more than one match in 2022 in a main draw. There was some improvement at the end of the season with his first qualification in a Masters 1000 at the Rolex Paris Masters, where he eliminated Pedro Cachin and Thiago Monteiro in qualifying. He also made it through to the second round at Wimbledon, by defeating compatriot Benoît Paire.

Tseng Chun Hsin at the ITF World Tennis Tour M25 in Hamburg, Germany

CHUN HSIN TSENG, THE NUGGET FROM TAIWAN

CHUN HSIN TSENG, THE NUGGET FROM TAIWAN

  • 21 years old, Taiwan
  • Ranking at end of 2021 : 187
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 86
  • Challenger Tour titles: 2
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 30-13
  • Best ATP Tour result: Qualifying for main draw at Roland-Garros

Chun Hsin Tseng also won Les Petits As in 2015 and thereafter his junior career was outstanding. In 2018, he won the French Open and Wimbledon junior titles. A strong tactician, he also reached the final of the Australian Open and the semi-finals of the US Open.

At the very end of the 2021 season, he won his first Challenger title, suggesting that he could have a great season in 2022, and he didn’t disappoint.

The Taiwanese won the tournaments in Bangalore and Murcia and reached the final in Roseto Degli Abruzzi. The piano fan performed superbly at Roland Garros, qualifying for the main draw by beating Arthur Cazaux, Jason Jung and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and thanks to this result he entered the top 100.

He made it through the first round for the first and only time on the ATP Tour in Los Cabos by knocking out qualifier Nick Chappell.

He gained a little more publicity by qualifying for the Next Gen Masters in Milan at the end of the year, where he was eliminated in the group stages.

BEN SHELTON, THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY STAR

  • 20 years old, United States
  • Ranking at end of 2021 : 573
  • Ranking at end of 2022 : 96
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 3
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 35-8
  • Best ATP Tour result: Third round in Cincinnati

Ben Shelton is already a star in the United States. As a player for the Florida Gators in the NCAA, a team coached by his father, he helped them win the team championship for the first time in their history in his rookie season (the first of four years in college). In his second year, he won the individual championship this time, beating a player four years older in the final.

This university investment meant that he only started his season on the Challenger Tour in June. He quickly reached the finals in Rome, Chicago and Tiburon but it was at the end of the season that he really exploded, winning back to back tournaments in Charlottesville, Knoxville and Champaign, a feat which allowed him to finish the year in the top 100.

In the meantime, the attacking left-hander made a name for himself with the non-American public by qualifying for the third round of the Cincinnati Masters 1000, eliminating Lorenzo Sonego and, more importantly, world No 3 Casper Ruud.

Shelton has given up on going back to college and will begin his first full professional season in 2023, which he will start at No 96 in the ATP rankings, with no points to defend until mid-season.

Zhizhen Zhang at the ATP Naples Open

ZHINZHEN ZHANG, THE FIRST CHINESE IN HISTORY IN THE TOP 100

  • 26 years old, China
  • Ranking at end of 2021 : 323
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 99
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 1
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 32-17
  • Best ATP Tour result: Quarter-final in Naples

Zhinzhen Zhang became the first Chinese player in history to break into the top 100 when he qualified for the quarter-finals of the ATP 250 event in Naples. During this crazy week in the south of Italy, he came out of the qualifiers by eliminating Bonadio and Zeppieri and then dominated Marton Fucsovics and Sebastian Baez in the main draw. He had already made a name for himself on the main circuit by eliminating Aslan Karatsev in Astana and qualifying for the main draw of the US Open.

On the Challenger Tour, he won just one title, in Cordenos, but lost two finals and qualified for the semi-finals twice.

This excellent season allowed him to gain more than 200 places and to set an example for the young Chinese generation that has emerged this season.

Wu Yibing

YIBING WU, BEGINNING OF HIS SECOND CAREER

  • 23 years old, China
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 1122
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 117
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 3
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 23-4
  • Best ATP Tour result: Third round at US Open

Yibing Wu was also an excellent player in the juniors, even becoming the world No 1 in the category in 2017.

He also made his professional debut, winning his first Challenger in 2017 at the age of 17 and reaching the second round of the Shanghai Masters 1000 the following year, even taking a set from the then world No 8, Kei Nishikori.

But in 2019 everything changed, Yibing Wu suffered a serious elbow injury, underwent surgery and did not see the professional circuit again for almost three years, due to the strict confinement rules in China.

2022 sounded like the beginning of his second career and Wu reminded the whole tennis world of his immense potential, with 40 wins to seven losses this season in all categories, three Challenger titles, one final and a superb run at the US Open.

In September, Wu successfully qualified for a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. He qualified for the main draw, eliminating Basilashvili and Borges before losing to the No 1 seed Daniil Medvedev.

Francesco Passaro, 2022

FRANCESCO PASSARO, ITALY’S HOME STAR

  • 21 years old, Italy
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 605
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 119
  • Challenger Tour titles: 1
  • Challenger Tour win-loss: 29-15
  • Best ATP Tour result: Second round in Florence

Francesco Passaro has a peculiarity; outside of Italy he has never made better than a quarter-final in a Challenger, but when he is pushed on by his fans he becomes much more dangerous.

A title winner in Trieste, a finalist in Forli, Milan, Como and Sanremo and a semi-finalist in Todi, Passaro has had some excellent results this season which saw him qualify for the Next Gen Masters in Milan at the end of the year.

At this event he won a crazy match against his compatriot Matteo Arnaldi (who also deserved to be on this list) but was eliminated in the group stages.

On the main tour he has only won one match so far. In the first round of the ATP 250 in Florence in October 2022, he dominated Zhinzhen Zhang before losing to Mackenzie McDonald.

LUCA NARDI, THIRD-BEST OF THE 2003 GENERATION

  • 19 years old, Italy
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 364
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 129
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 3
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 23-12
  • Best ATP Tour result: Second round in Astana

The 2003 generation is led by the two phenomena, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune, but behind them the highest ranked player is Luca Nardi. However, in the junior Grand Slam tournaments, the Italian has never done better than a third round, where a player of his generation like Arthur Fils played the final of Roland Garros for example, but this season he has made a very successful transition to the seniors.

First tournament of his season in Forli, first title. He also won the tournament in Lugano a few weeks later and the one in Mallorca at the end of the year, this victory in Spain allowed him to get closer and closer to the top 100.

His major highlight of the season was a superb week in Astana, where he had the biggest win of his young career in the qualifying round, beating Belgium’s David Goffin. In the first round, he eliminated Alexander Shevchenko in two sets to earn the luxury of playing Stefanos Tsitsipas. In this match, he developed an offensive game, held off the Greek, not conceding any break points, even getting two at the end of the second set, but he ended up losing in two tiebreaks.

He earned the respect of Tsitsipas who said: “He can be very strong in the future, I was impressed by the level he maintained throughout the match. There were no holes in his game. I gave it my best shot by changing my strategy as much as possible, but it wasn’t as easy as I had planned in my head. He made it difficult for me today.”

Filip Misolic, Kitzbühel 2022

FILIP MISOLIC, AUSTRIAN CLAY-COURTER

  • 21 years old, Austria
  • Ranking at end of 2021 : 356
  • Ranking at end of 2022 : 148
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 1
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 14-7
  • Best ATP Tour result : Final in Kitzbuhel

Apart from the qualifying rounds of the US Open, Wimbledon and the year-end tournaments in Naples and Vienna, Filip Misolic has only played in clay court events this season. This excellent returner knows his qualities and knows how to take advantage of them.

Two weeks in particular have marked his season, firstly the Zagreb challenger in May where he came through the qualifying rounds before winning the tournament in seven consecutive matches.

Then there was the ATP 250 in Kitzbuhel, where he received a wild card to play in his first major tour event. He made the most of this invitation, dominating the likes of Pablo Andujar and Dusan Lajovic to reach the final, in which he lost to the experienced Bautista Agut.

MATTIA BELLUCCI, AN OCTOBER TO BE REMEMBERED

  • 21 years old, Italy
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 680
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 153
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 2
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 16-11
  • Best ATP Tour result: Yet to play

In Futures, Mattia Bellucci has dominated this season with 41 wins and 10 losses but until October, the dynamic left-hander was struggling at the level above the Challenger.

The tournaments of Saint-Tropez and Vilnuis reshuffled the cards as during these two events he lost only two sets in 12 matches and won both trophies by beating well-known players of the Challenger circuit such as Hugo Grenier or Jurij Rodionov.

These two successes allowed him to gain more than 115 places in a month, ensuring him a place in the Australian Open qualifiers next January. His excellent serve despite his relatively small size (1.78m) will make him a player to watch in Melbourne for his first tournament on the main tour.

LEANDRO RIEDI, A GREAT END TO THE SEASON

  • 20 years old, Switzerland
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 693
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 158
  • Challenger Tour titles: 2
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 20-8
  • Best ATP Tour result: 1st round Geneva

The last two weeks of Leandro Riedi’s season guaranteed him a place on this list. In Helsinki and Andria, the Swiss player was at his best, beating the likes of Hugo Gaston and Thomas Machac to win his first two career Challenger Tour titles.

The 1.91m tall player confirmed his ability to be present whatever the level of the opponent in front of him. In Lugano at the beginning of the season he qualified for the final by beating Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Marc-Andrea Huesler and Maxime Cressy in the same week.

In 2020 Riedi won the Australian Open juniors before losing in the final of the French Open to his compatriot Dominic Stricker. Together with Stricker, he represents the new Swiss generation.

Luca van Assche at Roland-Garros in 2021

LUCA VAN ASSCHE, THE LEADER OF THE YOUNG FRENCH GUARD

  • 18 years old, France
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 501
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 138
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 1
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 24-19
  • Best ATP Tour result: First round in Anvers

The 2021 French Open junior winner has had a two-part season. Until the Lisbon Challenger at the end of September, his best results were a semi-final in Blois and a quarter-final in Amersfoort.

In Portugal, he made it through the qualifiers to the final and since then he has also reached the final in Brest and Valencia, beating players of the calibre of Grégoire Barrère, Elias Ymer and Roberto Carballes Baena in two sets. He even beat his first top 100 player, Nuno Borges.

With his small frame (1.78m and 70kg), Van Assche has improved his serve, and is now able to regularly serve at more than 200 kmh.

His style of play: A high level of game science, a very low number of unforced errors and a backhand with a distinctive loop that wreaks havoc.

His only match on the main circuit was a 7-6 final-set loss against the 39th player in the world, Yoshihito Nishioka, in Antwerp. Before that he had qualified for the tournament by beating Lucas Miedler and Geoffrey Blancaneaux consecutively.

JUNCHENG SHANG, NOT YET OF AGE BUT ALREADY A CONTENDER

  • 17 years old, China
  • Ranking at end of 2021: 666
  • Ranking at end of 2022: 192
  • Challenger Tour titles in 2022: 1
  • Challenger Tour win-loss in 2022: 20-14
  • Best ATP Tour result: First round in Indian Wells

After Yibing Wu in 2017, Juncheng Shang became the second Chinese boy in a few years to become world No 1 junior in 2021. His titles on the Naples and Vero Beach futures at the end of last season suggested a quick and efficient transition into the professional world.

This did not fail as his first full season as a professional was a huge success for the young left-hander. A quarter-final, a semi-final, a final and even a Challenger title before turning 18, in Lexington. During this beautiful American week, he eliminated the first two seeds of the tournament, Roman Safiullin and Emilio Gomez.

At the beginning of the season, Marcelo Rios’ protégé also became the youngest player to qualify for a Masters 1000 since Rafael Nadal in 2003 in Indian Wells, where he dominated Francisco Cerundolo and Mats Moraing. This excellent year ensures that he will be in qualifying for the Australian Open in January, a rarity at his age. By comparison, the next highest-ranked player under 18 is Czech Jakub Mensik, ranked 449th in the world.

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