Wolf wins Pro Circuit Challenger,
Nakashima takes title in France
Arthur Kapetanakis | November 1, 2021
JJ Wolf led an American title sweep in Las Vegas at the ATP Challenger 80 event on the USTA Pro Circuit. While the former Ohio State Buckeye claimed the singles title, another pair of former college stars—Will Blumberg (UNC) and Max Schnur (Columbia) won the doubles crown. Also victorious on the Challenger circuit last week was Brandon Nakashima, who won a 90-level event in Brest, France.
Wolf's title is his first of 2021, and marks a return to the winner's circle following eight months out due to hernia surgery in late 2020. He now has six ITF titles in all, with each coming on hard courts, including five Challengers.
Unseeded in Vegas, he knocked off No. 2 seed Denis Kudla, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in the Round of 16 before beating Americans Ernesto Escobedo, Michael Mmoh and Stefan Kozlov in straights. ADVERTISEMENT The opener against Kudla was the only set Wolf dropped in five matches, capped off with a 6-4, 6-4 final decision over Kozlov. That result marked a turnaround from the pair's semifinal meeting in late September at the Columbus Challenger, where Kozlov went on the win the trophy.
With the title, Wolf jumps to No. 159, up from No. 195 in the ATP rankings. He reached his career-high of No. 120 in September 2020, following his third-round run as a US Open wild card.
In the doubles competition, Blumberg and Schnur topped American Evan King and Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei in a match tiebreak. The No. 4 seeds clinched the title, 7-5, 6-7, [10-5].
In France, Nakashima did not drop a set in five matches as he won the title as the No. 4 seed. In Sunday's final, he took out Joao Sousa of Portugal, 6-3, 6-3, to win his second Challenger title of 2021. Including his victory in Quimper, France, in February, Nakashima now has three Challenger titles to his name—along with two additional 25-level trophies. He is also a two-time finalist at the ATP level, reaching the title round this summer in consecutive weeks Los Cabos and Atlanta.
Now sitting at a career-high of world No. 65, Nakashima is in the seventh and final qualifying spot in the Race to Milan for the Next Gen ATP Finals. The Top 7 players age 21 and under qualify for the year-end event.
Tiafoe, Fritz, Ram make ATP finals
It was also a strong week for Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz in Europe. Tiafoe, 23, reached the final as a qualifier at the ATP 500 Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Austria. The Maryland native knocked off world No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 15 Diego Schwartzman and No. 9 Jannik Sinner before falling to world No. 4 Zverev, 7-5, 6-4, in the final. Tiafoe came back from a set down against both top seed Tsitsipas and Schwartzman.
Rajeev Ram was a doubles finalist in Vienna, pairing with longtime partner Joe Salisbury.
Fritz, 24, built off his Indian Wells semifinal run with another deep run in St. Petersburg, where he fell to Cilic, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, in the final of the ATP 250 event in Russia's second-largest city. The SoCal native and No. 5 seed battled back from a set and a break down in the final before Cilic got over the line.
Other notable American results on the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF World Tennis Tour last week include:
- Maxime Cressy was a singles semifinalist at the ATP Challenger 80 event in Ismaning, Germany.
- Tristan Boyer was a singles finalist at the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF WTT M25 event in Calabasas, Calif., where Govind Nanda and Nathan Ponwith reached the semis. Gage Brymer and Omni Kumar were singles quarterfinalists. In the Calabsas doubles event, Raymond Sarmiento won the title (with Francis Alcantara), defeating American Wally Thayne (and Johannes Seemann) in the final.
- Former Florida Gator Oliver Crawford was a singles semifinalist at the ITF WTT M25 event in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
- Vasil Kirkov won the singles title at the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF WTT M15 event in Tallahassee, Fla., where Ryan Shane was a semifinalist and Ben Shelton reached the quarters. John McNally won the doubles title.
- Madison Brengle, Claire Liu and Caty McNally all reached the quarterfinals at the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF WTT W80 event in Tyler, Texas.
- Kayla Day was a singles finalist at the USTA Pro Circuit and ITF WTT W25 event in Austin, where Kylie Collins reaches the semis. Chanelle Van Nguyen reached the singles quarters and the doubles final, alongside Rasheeda McAdoo. Elysia Bolton and Maegan Manasse were the doubles champs.
- Sofia Sewing was a singles quarterfinalist at the ITF WTT W15 in Antalya, Turkey.