This week, the Challenger circuit rolls on with a pair of events in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan and Potchefstroom, South Africa.
The indoor hard courts of the Nur-Sultan Challenger I welcomes players and fans for a second edition. The Kazakh capital, previously named Astana, hosts the tournament at the National Tennis Center, with 13 players inside the Top 200 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.
#NextGenATP star Jurij Rodionov headlines the field, having taken the ATP Challenger Tour by storm in February with a 15-2 record and titles in Dallas and Morelos. One month ago, Mohamed Safwat claimed Egypt’s first title since 1996 and now the 29-year-old is the top seed at a Challenger for the first time. Defending champion Illya Marchenko returns as the 15th seed.
Also in action in Nur-Sultan – a Challenger 80 event – is second seed and 2019 runner-up Yannick Maden, former World No. 33 Robin Haase and recent Cleveland champion Mikael Torpegaard. Talented youngsters Tallon Griekspoor, Elias Ymer and Roman Safiullin are also in the field. Safiullin is coming off his first Challenger title last month in Cherbourg, France.
Meanwhile, Challenger tennis returns to South Africa for the first time since 2013, when the Soweto Open ended a four-year run on the circuit. This week, the PotchOpen in Potchefstroom, South Africa, marks the debut of the ‘Challenger 50’ series.
Located less than two hours west of Johannesburg (the country’s largest city), Potchefstroom is a well-known university town in the North West Province. The city is perhaps best known as the province’s ‘Home of Sport’, with headquarters of 17 major sports in the region. In fact, the Spanish national football team chose Potchefstroom as their base camp during their run to the 2010 World Cup title.
Cricket and rugby are the country’s most popular sports, but this week tennis takes centre stage. Benjamin Bonzi is the top seed at the PotchOpen, with former World No. 64 Dustin Brown seeded fourth. Teenagers Lorenzo Musetti and Jack Draper are also competing. Musetti won the 2019 Australian Open boys’ title, while fellow 18-year-old Draper finished runner-up at the 2018 Wimbledon junior event.
The newly-formed ‘Challenger 50’ category features a series of events in strategic weeks on the calendar. Tournaments may only apply for a Challenger 50 through the end of March and in the qualifying weeks and first weeks of the Grand Slams. Prize money is USD $35,000, with draw sizes of 32 singles, 24 qualifying and 16 doubles. The tournaments are only available to players ranked outside the Top 150.
One wild card may be awarded to a national player ranked between 50-100 and one may be awarded to a player ranked 100-150. As usual, hospitality is provided for all main draw players on the ATP Challenger Tour, with a five-night minimum for singles main draw competitors.
Following Potchefstroom, the Challenger 50 series moves to Olimpia, Brazil next week, with Todi, Italy and Orlando, Florida, USA on the calendar in late May. Troyes, France is also on the schedule during the week of 29 June.