More than 6,000 miles apart, French youngsters Arthur Cazaux and Arthur Fils combined to be crowned champions on the ATP Challenger Tour this week.
While Cazaux advanced through qualifying in Nonthaburi, Thailand, 18-year-old Fils won his maiden Challenger title at the Oeiras Indoor 2. Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo also triumphed Sunday on home soil.
Fils, who was playing in his first Challenger final, seemed unfazed as he earned a 6-1, 7-6(4) victory to end Belgian Joris De Loore’s 11-match winning streak.
Shortly after beating Top-60 players Jaume Munar and Fabio Fognini last season to qualify for the ATP Masters 1000 event in Paris, the 2021 Roland Garros boys’ singles finalist has built on his momentum and worked hard in the offseason to prepare for 2023.
“I did a really good preseason, so I knew I was playing good,” Fils said. “It was an amazing week [in Oeiras], I played well the whole week.”
Arthur Fils at the Challenger 75 event in Oeiras. Credit: FPT/Sara Falcao
Fils joins an exclusive list of French Challenger champions aged 18 and under: Richard Gasquet, Sebastien Grosjean, Gael Monfils, Fabrice Santoro, Corentin Moutet, and Luca Van Assche.
The teen rises to a career-high 195 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and is the youngest French player in the Top 200.
At the Bangkok Open 2, Cazaux won seven matches in as many days, including taking down the Top-2 seeds Dennis Novak and Lloyd Harris, who he defeated in the final 7-6(5), 6-2.
The 20-year-old has reached at least the final the past three times he’s played in Nonthaburi, including winning the title at the Challenger 50 event in September.
Arthur Cazaux in action at the Bangkok Open 2. Credit: The Lawn Tennis Association Of Thailand
In Cazaux’s second-round encounter against Indian Prajnesh Gunneswaran, the #NextGenATP star saved three match points to stay alive. The title lifts the Frenchman to a career-high 266 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Harris, who was a quarter-finalist at the 2021 US Open, was competing in just his second event since May, when the 25-year-old underwent wrist surgery following Roland Garros.
In Tigre, Argentina, which is near Buenos Aires, home favourite Juan Manuel Cerundolo defeated Dutchman Jesper de Jong in the final 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to triumph at the Challenger Aysa de Tigre 2.
Cerundolo, 21, has had a dream start to this season. The lefty has won back-to-back titles in Tigre and is on a 10-match winning streak.
Juan Manuel Cerundolo wins his second Challenger title of 2023. Credit: Asociación Argentina de Tenis
“It was a pretty amazing week, with incredible tennis for me,” Cerundolo said. “Two in a row, I’m comfortable with my tennis. I’m really happy and I’m hoping to keep going and keep winning.”
The seven-time Challenger champion is the first player to win back-to-back Challenger titles to open the season since Marcel Granollers in 2018 (Bangkok 1 & 2). After battling injuries for much of 2022, Cerundolo has been on a hot streak, including winning 24 of his past 27 matches.