July 12, 2024

Open Court


Stan Wawrinka returns to action at Prague Challenger



After so much “real” tennis last week, as the WTA and some of its best players toiled in Nicolasville, Kentucky and Prague, this week is a bit of an abyss.

Just when you started to get psyched about tennis being back.

There are two Challengers on the men’s side: a top-level one in Prague, and a smaller one in Todi, Italy.

And the fact that Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka took a wild card into the one in Prague elevates it beyond what it might have otherwise been.

Wawrinka salutes the fans in Prague after his first match in nearly six months. Note the lack of social distancing among the fans in the stands on the right.

After a first-round bye in the 48-player draw, Wawrinka played match Monday. It was his first match since he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in Acapulco in late February.

Wawrinka defeated Roman Safiullin of Russia, ranked No. 178, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 to advance to an encounter Oscar Otte of Germany (No. 217).

It’s the Swiss star’s first Challenger tournament in more than 10 years. In June, 2010, already ranked No. 22, he won the Lugano Challenger in his homeland. He played that Challenger in 2009 as well; overall, it is Wawrinka’s third Challenger since … March 2005.

If you want to watch it, here it is.

Herbert, Kohlschreiber also in the draw

Notably, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who is bypassing the US Open as he awaits the birth of his first child, is also playing in Prague. He is the No. 3 seed. Herbert defeated Czech wild card Jonas Forejtek (No. 436, but No. 1 in the juniors a year ago after he won the US Open junior event) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in his first match.

Philipp Kohlschreiber, seeded No. 4, also is playing and defeated countryman Mats Moraing in his opener.

As with Herbert, Wawrinka is not playing the US Open. Kohlschreiber is on the entry list.

Meanwhile on the women’s side – there just isn’t a thing. The only professional tournament going on this week is a $25,000 ITF in Portugal called the Oeiras Magnesium K Active Cup.

It’s literally the only game in town. And yet, there are 12 byes in the 48-player qualifying draw.

The only top-200 player on the entry list is No. 176 Cristina Bucsa of Spain.

This week on the ITF women’s tour

On the men’s side, there also is only … one ITF tournament.

It’s a $25,000 in Hogau, Austria where the top seed is Francesco Cerundolo of Argentina, ranked No. 244.

More opportunities for the men (as usual)

This week on the ITF men’s tour.

The Hogau draw also includes some former junior standouts – Geoffrey Blancaneaux, who defeated both Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime to win the 2016 junior French Open. Former top Italian junior Gianluigi Quinzi, who has struggled in the pros, also is playing.

As well, with junior exempt status getting him straight in, Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune of Denmark is playing. Rune, still 17, is the current junior No. 2 player even if he hasn’t played in the juniors since last October.

By contrast to the women, the men’s 48-player draw was full – not a spot to be had.

Next week, the women have a pair of $15Ks in Italy and the Netherlands scheduled. The men have three tournaments: $15Ks in Austria and the Netherlands (the same location as the women), and a $25K in Poland.


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