French teen Luca Van Assche and Australian Max Purcell etched their names into the ATP Challenger Tour record books this week.
Van Assche, 18, saved two championship points against countryman Ugo Humbert to win the longest Challenger final in history (three hours, 56 minutes) at the Terega Open Pau Pyrenees. Purcell extended his winning streak to 15 by triumphing for a third consecutive week in India. American Aleksandar Kovacevic also collected a title of his own at the Texas Tennis Classic.
In the Pau Challenger 125 final in southern France, home hope Van Assche rallied from a double break down at 0-3 in the final set and again from 4/6 in the deciding-set tie-break before winning four consecutive points to survive Humbert 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6) and capture his second Challenger title.
“It was a crazy match, an amazing fight against Ugo,” Van Assche said. “I’m very happy. A lot of emotions during this match. I was leading, then losing. I was match point up, then match point down. It was a fantastic match with great support from the crowd.
“At 4/6 in the tie-break, I was hoping he wouldn’t hit an ace! I was playing point by point, just focussing on every point. I was a little bit exhausted so I was not thinking too much, just playing my game.”
Math + Tennis = Winning Formula For Van Assche
Van Assche, who won the Maia Challenger in 2022, is the fourth Frenchman to win multiple Challenger titles before turning 19, joining Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils, and Fabrice Santoro. The Belgian-born player is the fifth #NextGenATP Challenger champion of the year and joins Arthur Fils as the only teenage champions of 2023.
En route to the title, Van Assche needed deciding sets in four of his five matches and ousted the Top 3 seeds: Arthur Rinderknech, Humbert, and Gijs Brouwer. The teen rises to a career-high No. 110 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Luca Van Assche triumphs at the Challenger 125 in Pau.” />
Luca Van Assche triumphs at the Challenger 125 in Pau, France. Credit: Alexis Atteret
There was no stopping Max Purcell at the Pune Metropolitan Region Challenger. After dropping the opening set in his first-round match against Mukund Sasikumar, the 24-year-old didn’t lose a set the rest of the week to claim a third consecutive Challenger title (Chennai, Bengaluru). In the championship match, the third seed defeated 19-year-old Italian Luca Nardi 6-2, 6-3.
“It’s great to win three in a row,” Purcell said. “In tough, hot conditions too, I recovered well since the first week and now I’m thrilled to move into the Top 100.”
Three weeks ago, Purcell was No. 203 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but following his trio of titles in India, the Sydney native climbs to a career-high 95.
Max Purcell in action at the 2023 Pune Challenger.” />
Max Purcell in action at the Challenger 100 event in Pune. Credit: Pune Metropolitan Region Challenger
The 2022 Wimbledon doubles champion (w/ Matthew Ebden) is the 14th player to claim three consecutive Challenger titles and the first since Ben Shelton did so this past season (Charlottesville, Knoxville, Champaign). Purcell is the first Australian to achieve the feat in Challenger history.
At the Texas Tennis Classic in Waco, third seed Kovacevic dropped just one set en route to his second Challenger title of the season. The 24-year-old defeated Alexandre Muller in the final 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
In the semi-finals, the American avenged his loss from last week’s Monterrey Challenger to Borna Gojo, who defeated him in the quarter-finals in Mexico en route to the title.
This past month, Kovacevic won his maiden Challenger title in Cleveland, where he defeated Wu Yibing in a thrilling championship match before the Chinese star won the ATP 250 event in Dallas the following week.
Now at a career-high 107, the former University of Illinois standout Kovacevic sets his sights on cracking the Top 100 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, where he received a main-draw wild card.