ATP Challenger Tour Welcomes New South American Circuit

Tennis in South America has long been an integral part of the ATP landscape. Its many diverse and vibrant cultures are stitched into the fabric of the sport, with numerous stars and legends hailing from the region.

Now, the continent is expanding its footprint even further. The ATP has announced the launch of a new circuit as part of the ATP Challenger Tour, the Circuito Dove Men+Care Legión Sudamericana. Founded and organised by former World No. 31 Horacio de la Pena, the continued growth and development of professional tennis in South America is its main objective.

With the goal of creating more opportunities for players at the Challenger level and increasing their exposure throughout the region, De la Pena and his team of former ATP stars are spearheading this initiative. The circuit will kick off with four clay-court tournaments in April, beginning in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and followed by events in Concepcion, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as in Lima, Peru, in early May.

“I’ve spoken with many players and they all tell me the same thing,” said De la Pena. “That we need more opportunities in South America. As a professional tennis player coming from here, I know that it is very difficult to grow without this. We are creating a circuit where South American players can travel with their coaches. We are making swings that are very close to each other, with easy flights, similar conditions and altitude, same balls and the same surface. Players can benefit from this as they are playing these tournaments, getting the experience and going up the [FedEx ATP Rankings].

“It’s these opportunities that can help so many players and that is what we are doing with Dove Men+Care. We came together and decided to do this. That is why I am so happy to work with the ATP, because we all understand the needs of South American tennis. With this energy, we are going to make it great.”

Upcoming Tournaments on Circuito Dove Men+Care Legion Sudamericana

Date Location
12 April Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
19 April Concepcion, Chile
26 April Buenos Aires, Argentina
3 May Lima, Peru

De la Pena is targeting 12 tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021, with the goal of expanding even further in the coming years. He explains that many events will be strategically placed in the lead-up to Grand Slam qualifying. The four initial clay-court tournaments will lead into Roland Garros, with a potential grass event in Brazil prior to Wimbledon and two hard-court stops ahead of the US Open.

“It’s so important to have someone like Horacio driving the resurgence of Challengers in South America,” said Alison Lee, Executive Vice President ATP International Region and Challenger Tour. “He has so much knowledge of the region, the people, former players and what it takes bring everyone together to stage these events. Providing as many Challengers as Horacio is targeting in the long-term, will hugely impact up-and-coming players from the region.”

Ross Hutchins, Chief Tour Officer, said: “The Circuito Dove Men+Care Legión Sudamericana sets a blueprint for providing additional playing opportunities for local up-and-coming players on the ATP Challenger Tour, all through the know-how and passion of former ATP players and coaches, led by Horacio, who are giving back to their sport. To have a commercial partner backing the series of events shows the significant value created through this regional swing. This is fantastic news for tennis in South America and sets a great example for other regions as well.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

The most unique, and arguably the most integral, aspect of the Argentine’s plans include the involvement of tennis legends from the region. With the help of the national federations in South America, De la Pena has created a team to further the promotion and dialogue around the growth of tennis on the continent. Members from all countries are included, featuring many former stars of the ATP Tour. These players will be directly involved in the growth of tennis in their home countries, through the development of tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour.

“I really think that being united makes us stronger. If we all spread our efforts, to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, it will be better. If we stand together as a group, it will help South American tennis. That is the main thing.

“I spoke with guys like Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador), Luis Horna (Peru) and Santiago Giraldo (Colombia) about organising tournaments in their countries. Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Hugo Dellien (Bolivia) are still playing, but they are helping too. Mariano Zabaleta and Agustin Calleri are going to run the tournaments in Argentina and Juan Monaco will help the tournament we have planned in Punta del Este, Uruguay. They all wanted to do something for tennis in South America, but they didn’t know how. We gave them a reason to stay in tennis, but with a purpose.”

Having enjoyed a 10-year career as a professional, which included four ATP Tour titles, three more on the ATP Challenger Tour, a Top 40 stay in the FedEx ATP Rankings and victories over the likes of John McEnroe, Mats Wilander and Jim Courier, De la Pena is using his extensive knowledge and experience in his latest endeavor. Not only does he want to create more opportunities for players to grow, develop and mature, but also allow them to increase their exposure on an international scale.

“This is important for players and potential sponsors, and gives them even more recognition in their countries,” added De la Pena. “The Challenger Tour makes you very strong for the ATP Tour. The level is a lot stronger than when I played. You have newcomers who hit the ball really hard and guys with experience who are tough to beat. It’s such an important stage to pass and you have to win many, many matches to move up. The Challengers really filter who can make it and who cannot. You need to always be improving here, because when you get to the ATP Tour, it makes you find that extra level.”

For more than a decade, the ATP Challenger Tour has built roots in South America. De la Pena acknowledges the foundation these tournaments have laid over the years. Lima, Peru and Guayaquil, Ecuador, celebrated their 13th and 16th editions, respectively, in 2020, and the tournament in Montevideo has also been a longtime stalwart, with 15 editions in the Uruguayan capital. These events are notorious for providing fans with a world-class experience, with vibrant social scenes that include on-site entertainment and local cuisine. But this year, with players’ health and safety at the forefront, De la Pena has outlined a different set of priorities.

“For 2021, the main goal is that no one gets COVID,” De la Pena added. “I am thinking about bubbles, facemasks, making the players feel comfortable and safe. Everything we do will include facemasks and social distancing. We have to be very serious with these things and that is my main focus. I am confident we can make this a great success.”

The 2021 Circuito Dove Men+Care Legión Sudamericana launches on 12 April in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and will be followed by tournaments in Concepcion, Chile, on 19 April, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 26 April, and in Lima, Peru, on 3 May.

Player Reactions
Diego Schwartzman, ARG [World No. 9]: “This is amazing for South American tennis, and especially during these tough times, to have so many tournaments coming to the region. When I started playing tennis, I was lucky to have many tournaments there and that helped me a lot. It’s a great achievement and now more players can compete in their home countries. I hope that tennis continues growing in South America.”

Robert Farah, COL [doubles World No. 1]: “This is a very special moment for everyone in South America. Bringing so many tournaments to so many countries is very important for our tennis. It’s a great initiative and it will only help promote tennis in the region. Players can now compete at home, and growing up in Colombia, I know how important this is. All these tournaments can only help us grow and develop on our own continent and give players the opportunity to rise the rankings.”

Guillermo Coria, ARG [former World No. 3]: “I want to congratulate everyone involved in making this happen for tennis in South America. I have no doubt that Horacio de la Pena will bring the same passion that he had on the court to this new endeavor. For players in South America to have the possibility of competing so close to home, it is incredibly important. When I was on tour, having the opportunity to play in South America helped me get to the Top 100 and stay there. I wish everyone much success and that the young, rising players take advantage of these opportunities.”

Nicolas Lapentti, ECU [former World No. 6]: “It’s clear that in South America there is great talent, but we just need more resources. This circuit will go a long way to helping us develop tennis here. It will also inspire even younger players to pick up a racquet and give them the incentive to play this wonderful sport.”

Nicolas Massu, CHI [former World No. 9]: “I’m very happy that the Circuito Dove Men+Care is bringing so many tournaments to South America. It is very important to have the biggest talents in the region competing so close to home. This will help them develop and grow both on and off the court. It is something spectacular for them and for tennis in South America.”

The Dad Duo: Tiurnev, Seppi Celebrate First Challenger Titles As Fathers

Biella Challenger Indoor 3 (Biella, Italy): Winning a title is always an incredible feeling. Winning your first as a father is even more special. That was the reality for Andreas Seppi on Sunday in Biella. The Italian veteran celebrated a return to the winners’ circle with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Liam Broady on the indoor hard courts of the Palasport Biella. The 37-year-old and former World No. 18 dropped one set all week.

It’s not often that a father wins a title on the ATP Challenger Tour. In fact, there were only two such champions in all of 2020. But, as Seppi emerged victorious for the first time since 2019, the Italian enjoyed a special moment with his family. He and his wife Michela had welcomed their first child, Liv Bernardi Seppi, one year ago.

“Of course it was an important week for me,” said Seppi, who hails from nearby Caldaro, Italy. “It’s my first title as a father, which is for sure special. Also it was important because I’m back in the Top 100. At my age, it’s good to be back there or else you will have to play more Challengers and qualifying. If I continue to improve my ranking, it would make it a little easier.

“It’s nice winning in Italy and Biella was one of the first Challengers I played in my career. It was in 2001 on clay. Coming back after all these years is something special also. It was a great week and of course having my wife and my daughter with me makes it easier and even more special. I chose to play here because I could bring them and we could drive by car. It was a good decision in the end and hopefully I can continue playing like this.”

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Seppi lifted his 10th Challenger trophy, returning to the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. At the age of 37, he is the oldest champion from Italy in the history of the circuit. In addition, he joins Ivo Karlovic, Tommy Robredo and Stephane Robert as titlists aged 37 or older in the last four years.

Also a three-time champion on the ATP Tour, the Italian is targeting a long-term stay in the Top 100 in 2021. He rises to No. 96 on Monday.

Seppi
Photo: Enrico Eletto

Grand Palace Championship II by Formula TX (St. Petersburg, Russia): Entering the week, Evgenii Tiurnev had never reached an ATP Challenger Tour final. In fact, the Russian had posted only five match wins at the level since making his debut in 2015. But the 23-year-old would save his best tennis for a run on home soil. Tiurnev streaked to his maiden title on Sunday, punctuated by a 6-4, 6-2 win over Kacper Zuk in the championship.

An unseeded wild card sitting at No. 403 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, his run to the title was as impressive as it was improbable. Tiurnev dropped just one set all week, also including wins over former Top 100 stalwarts Mirza Basic and Marius Copil. After battling on the ITF circuit for more than seven years, the Russian finally had his moment in the spotlight on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Tiurnev’s victory was even sweeter when you consider it was also his first Challenger title as a father. He and his wife Ksenia are parents to a five-year-old boy.

Tiurnev, who hails from Gatchina, Russia – the same hometown as Alexander Bublik – will soar more than 100 spots to a career-high No. 293 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. He is the sixth player to claim his maiden title in 2021 and also the second unseeded wild card champion. Just last week, World No. 400 Carlos Gimeno Valero captured his first title in Gran Canaria.

Tiurnev


Ready For Launch: Musetti, Nakashima Headline Challenger Season Debut

Welcome to 2021. Following a thrilling finish to a wild and unpredictable 2020 campaign, a new season has dawned on the ATP Challenger Tour. While the initial stages might appear different than in years past, the battle to become the next breakout star remains the same.

In a typical year, the stars of the Challenger circuit would be descending on tropical Noumea and sun-kissed Australia in January. But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the world, players are adjusting and adapting to a new setting to kick off their campaigns. This week, snowy Istanbul is the site of the ATP Challenger Tour’s opening tournament. The indoor hard courts of the TED Sports Club play host to the Istanbul Indoor Challenger.

Coming off breakthrough seasons in 2020, #NextGenATP stars Lorenzo Musetti, Brandon Nakashima and Thiago Seyboth Wild enter 2021 looking to take the next step in their bids to crack the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. For the trio, the journey to the Next Gen ATP Finals begins in Istanbul.

At World No. 129, 18-year-old Musetti is the youngest player in the field. The Italian teen opens against Serbia’s Danilo Petrovic, with third seed Antoine Hoang looming in his quarter of the draw. Nakashima, who closed 2020 with a maiden Challenger title in Orlando, faces Turkish No. 1 Cem Ilkel on Tuesday. A potential Orlando final rematch against Prajnesh Gunneswaran awaits in the second round. Nearly one year removed from his breakthrough ATP Tour title in Santiago, Brazil’s Seyboth Wild enters the year at No. 118 in the world. Seeded second this week, he opens against Mohamed Safwat in Monday’s nightcap.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Also competing in Istanbul is front-runner Daniel Elahi Galan, who reached the third round at Roland Garros in October and capped 2020 with a title on the clay of Lima, Peru. He joins Seyboth Wild, Hoang and Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis as the Top 4 seeds in the Turkish metropolis. The Colombian opens against a qualifier on Tuesday.

Marc-Andrea Huesler is one of the unseeded players that no one wants to face in Istanbul. The Swiss was the only player to win on multiple surfaces a year ago, prevailing on the outdoor clay of Sibiu, Romania and indoor carpet courts of Ismaning, Germany. One of the hottest players on the planet in the latter months of 2020, Huesler also streaked to the semi-finals at the ATP 250 stop in Kitzbuhel, where he earned his first Top 20 victory over Fabio Fognini. He looms large in a loaded top half of the draw, with Guido Andreozzi his first-round opponent and Bagnis, Nakashima, Gunneswaran and China’s Zhang Zhizhen also in his quarter.

One of the ATP Challenger Tour’s longtime stalwarts, the city of Istanbul celebrates its 31st consecutive year on the circuit. The TED Sports Club also hosts an annual outdoor hard-court event in September, with future Top 10 stars Nikolay Davydenko (2001), Robin Soderling (2003) and Karen Khachanov (2015) among its past champions. Founded in 1936, the club is both the oldest and largest tennis facility in all of Turkey.

Istanbul