The ATP Challenger Tour held no shortage of historic moments this season. From crowning champions who went on to showcase their talent at the season’s most prestigious events, to Argentina’s record-setting 23 titles, or Li Tu’s emotional victory in Seoul.
As the 2023 season approaches, ATPTour.com reviews five memorable moments from the ATP Challenger Tour this year.
Coric, who won the Parma Challenger in June, upset three Top-10 players en route to winning the title in Cincinnati to become the first player since 1993 to win a Challenger and an ATP Masters 1000 title in the same season. And then it was the Danish teen’s turn in Bercy.
Rune, 19, claimed the Sanremo Challenger in April before rising to three Tour-level titles, including the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris.
Lorenzo Musetti is crowned champion at the 2022 Forli-6 Challenger.” />
Lorenzo Musetti is crowned champion at the 2022 Forli-6 Challenger. Credit: Riccardo Lolli
Argentina’s Record-Setting 23 Titles
Heading into this season, the previous record for most Challengers by a single country in a season, 20, had been reached four times (France in 2005, Argentina in 2007, 2016, 2021). After tying the record for a third time in 2021, Argentine players set their sights on attempting to stand alone at the top of the Challenger Tour record books. After breaking the record in late October, Argentine players added two more trophies and finished with 23 Challenger titles in 2022.
Pedro Cachin, 27, held a season-leading four Challenger titles (tied w/ Jack Draper) and was the only Argentine who captured more than two titles this season. Cachin, World No. 57, won titles in Madrid, Prague, Todi, and Santo Domingo.
“Most Challenger titles in a year is incredible.” Cachin said. “It’s amazing to have such an opportunity for all the players to be a part of something special like that. It is not easy for our players to travel the world, going very far from home, but to have this achievement makes it all worth it.
Pedro Cachin in action Sunday in the Santo Domingo Challenger final.” />
Pedro Cachin in action at the Santo Domingo Challenger final. Credit: David A. Martinez
“Especially for the younger guys, to see that Argentina has the ability and potential to win many titles. Hopefully this will increase the enthusiasm of players from Argentina to play this great sport. For us, it is a privilege to be a part of this great moment. The guys have worked hard and their talent is now showing.”
Li Tu Dedicates Challenger Title To His Late Mother
The Australian’s journey to the ATP Challenger Tour has been a unique trek. In 2014, Tu was finding success at the junior level, but the-then 18-year-old decided to put his racquets away to pursue a college degree and a coaching business, resulting in a six-year hiatus from professional tennis.
If it wasn’t for Tu’s close friend having a heart-to-heart conversation with him two years ago, he may have never returned to professional tennis and enjoyed the success he’s found this year.
After suffering the loss of his mother in September, Tu travelled to South Korea the day after her funeral. Little did he know what the Korean Challenger swing had in store for him.
Li Tu is crowned champion at the 2022 Seoul Challenger.” />
Li Tu wins the 2022 Seoul Challenger. Credit: Do Won Kim
At the Seoul Challenger, which was Tu’s seventh Challenger appearance, the 26-year-old advanced through qualifying en route to his maiden title. Tu dedicated the victory to his mother, who would’ve celebrated her birthday the day after his title.
Shang Juncheng Rescues Ballkid
The Chinese teen and American Stefan Dostanic were locked in a three-set battle in scorching temperatures in the American state of Kentucky when Shang noticed a ballkid, Atharva Dang, in distress.
After asking Atharva if he was okay, Shang exclaimed, “He’s going to faint!” Immediately, Shang set his racquet down and assisted the overheated boy, lifting him into his arms and rushing him behind the umpire’s chair and out of the direct sunlight. After setting him down in the shade, Shang gave a bottle of water to Atharva and placed an ice-pack behind his head.
Shang Juncheng and ballkid Atharva Dang at the Lexington Challenger. Credit: Rena Behr
The day after that moment of sportsmanship, Shang and the ballkid reunited for a picture. While Dang competed in a local tournament that weekend, the Beijing native was crowned champion at the Lexington Challenger. Shang became the youngest player to win a Challenger title since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020 and the youngest Chinese champion in Challenger Tour history.
Shelbayh Secures History
At the Rafa Nadal Open by Sotheby’s, 18-year-old Abdullah Shelbayh became the first player from Jordan to win a match in ATP Challenger Tour history.
“It’s surreal,” Shelbayh said following his victory over top-seeded Dominic Stricker. “To do something for your country is a big achievement. I come from a small country where tennis is not a big sport and to do that, it means a lot to me to be in the history of my country. I actually never thought about that entering the match, but it feels amazing. I hope many players from Jordan show their talent in the near future and I can inspire them as much as possible.”
Abdullah Shelbayh celebrates his first Challenger Tour win. Credit: Alvaro Diaz/Rafa Nadal Academy
Although his first Challenger win came far from his Jordan home, it was only fitting it came at the Rafa Nadal Academy, where Shelbayh has trained since he was 14-years-old.
The Academy graduate was a semi-finalist at the Mallorca Challenger, where he lost to Zizou Bergs.