The busy Challenger Tour culminates this week with three tournaments in three different countries.
Lower-ranked grinders and up-and-coming players have been competing in scores of Challenger events throughout 2013, earning valuable points and prize money. Tournaments is Japan, Italy and Russia over the coming days offer one last chance to end the season on a high note.
Here is a closer look at this week’s Challengers, and the players most likely to win them…
2013 Dunlop World Challenge Tennis Tournament - Toyota, Japan
The Dunlop World Challenge is a joint Challenger/ITF competition and a regular fixture on the tennis calendar since 2008. A homegrown player has contested the final every year; Go Soeda won the inaugural event and Tatsuma Ito triumphed in 2010 and 2011. Played on indoor carpet, the men’s event awards $5000 and 80 ranking points to the champion.
Australian Open mixed doubles champion Matthew Ebden is the top seed in 2013, and will be keen to maintain the form that brought him the trophy in Yokohama last week. Soeda, the man Ebden beat in the Yokohama final, is the second seed in Toyota.
Other notable names in action include France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who memorably beat Benoit Paire in the Paris Masters a few weeks ago, and Borna Coric, the US Open junior champion who played Andy Murray in the Davis Cup in September. James and Alexander Ward are the only Brits in the Toyota draw. James, the sixth seed, faces little-known Belgian Kimmer Coppejans in the opening round, while Alexander will take on the big-serving Aussie Samuel Groth.
ATP Challenger Tour Andria Castel Del Monte - Andria, Italy
The southern Italian town of Andria will host this €30,000 indoor event. There is no shortage of local interest, with 14 of the 32 main draw places occupied by Italians. Paolo Lorenzi, who broke the top 50 earlier this year, is the top seed, and is joined by Andreas Haider-Maurier and Dustin Brown, conqueror of Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon. Hotly tipped Swede Elias Ymer is also one to look out for - the 17-year-old won three qualifying matches to make the main draw.
Siberia Cup, Tyumen, Russia
The Siberia Cup made its debut on the Challenger circuit last year, with Evgeny Donskoy winning the inaugural trophy. The Russian returns to Tyumen in 2013 as the second seed, behind compatriot and world number 84 Teymuraz Gabashvili. Also competing for the top prize at the $35,000 event are Andrey Gulubev, once ranked 33 in the world, and Andrey Kuznetsov, winner of the Boys’ Singles at Wimbledon 2009.