Stan Wawrinka will lead the draw for the upcoming back-to-back Challenger 125s in Prague as ATP Challenger Tour tennis returns….
Stan Wawrinka will lead the draw for the upcoming back-to-back Challenger 125s in Prague as ATP Challenger Tour tennis returns.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka will be the star attraction as the ATP Challenger Tour resumes its lengthy hiatus.
The second-highest tier of elite men’s tennis, the ATP Challenger Tour has been suspended – alongside the ATP Tour proper, the WTA and the ITF – since mid-March, due to the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
WTA tournaments resumed on 3 August and ATP Tour tennis is due to return on 22 August, but the ATP Challenger Tour will restart on 15 August in the Czech Republic and Italy. With the aim of keeping international travel to a minimum, there will be a four-week swing of tournaments in the Czech Republic and another in Italy.
And the return of Challenger Tour tennis received a boost with the news that world no. 17 Wawrinka has signed up to lead the field at back-to-back Challenger events in Prague.
Wawrinka will be playing a Challenger for the first time since winning Lugano in 2010 when he leads the field at the I.CLTK Prague Open by Moneta from 15-22 August, followed by the RPM Open by Moneta from 22-30 August.
The Swiss star is one of the high-profile players to have opted not to travel to the USA for the upcoming two-tournament bubble to be played behind closed doors in New York, with the relocated Western & Southern Open (22-28 August) followed by the US Open (31 August-13 September).
‘It’s a privilege to be back on court doing what we love. I’m looking forward to returning to beautiful Prague after many years.
‘I’ve been working hard and practising well during the last few weeks. Now I can’t wait to be back in competition and to play matches again.’
Other top-100 players set to play the Prague Challengers include Czech hope Jiri Vesely, German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber and France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
Wawrinka will be playing for the first time since reaching the quarterfinals of Acapulco in February, where he lost to Grigor Dimitrov, and hoping to find his game ahead of the upcoming Rome Masters and the French Open – both played, like the Prague Challengers, on red clay.
Tournament director and I. Cesky Lawn Tennis Klub manager Vladislav Savrda said it was ‘a real honour’ to have Wawrinka joining the field.
He added: ‘I am confident that the first ATP Challenger after six months will run very smoothly.’
Savrda can draw confidence from what has been a smooth resumption of competition on the WTA Tour, despite unfamiliar health and safety protocols and limited or absent crowds. One player tested positive for COVID-19 before last week’s Palermo Ladies Open began and was withdrawn, but otherwise the International tournament proceeded calmly, with France’s Fiona Ferro claiming the title. To date there have been no positive tests reported at the Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, where Serena Williams is leading the field, or at the Prague Open at the TK Sparta Praha which features world no. 2 Simona Halep as the top seed.