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As the ATP Tour moves through a part of its glamour period with Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami it is excitement plus in the States before the majority of Tour players head to Europe to attack the slow clay courts. A major difference for all players who prefer the hard courts in the USA but life on Tour waits for nobody and everybody must adapt and adapt quickly.

All tennis fans look to the big events such as the Sunshine double which consists of Indian Wells and Miami and of course the four major events throughout the year the Grand Slams which receive mega media coverage also. But if the majority of fans pulled back the curtain just a little bit and put their focus on the Challenger Tour they would see some players that are playing week in week out making their way through for the opportunity to play the biggest events on the main ATP Tour.

In terms of the performance and player pathway the Challenger Tour door must be knocked down and the majority of players never make it through. It’s why as a sport tennis is arguably the toughest professional sport in the world.

It’s a global individual sport almost 365 days of the year. You must be incredibly fit and finely tuned ready for the rigours at the highest level. You must be technically sound in all areas and last but not least you must be mentally tough and have a hunger and desire inside and within that defies logic.

On the Challenger Tour the level of tennis is extremely high. A recent example is of former US Open Champion Dominic Thiem playing a Challenger Event in Hungary on his preferred clay surface. Thiem lost 6–3 6–4 to Daniel Michalski ranked 302 in the world in the very first round.

We know Thiem has been struggling to get back to his Top 5 standing in the sport but this result is not a part of the plan. Thiem then moved on to Croatia the following week where he was once the top seed again. Only this time he was bundled out in round 2 to Lukas Neumayer 6–2 6–1 ranked 219 in the world.

Dont be fooled by the Challenger Tour. Wins are earnt and not given and the hunger shown by the players at this level often outweighs the main ATP Tour.

The prize money difference between the two Tours is extraordinary and it is what makes the Challenger Tour so tough in the tennis world. Players must survive week in week out. They must travel, they must eat, they must have a roof over their head and what about resources such as coaching teams and mentors?? Most at this level and on this Tour are living week to week.

Tennis fans are often heard saying things like wow that guy was an incredible player but I’ve never heard of him. But have you heard of players such as Lorenzo Mussetti, Sebastian Baez, Jakub Mensik or 17 year old Joao Fonseca?? Mussetti and Baez were on the Challenger Tour two short years ago and now both reside in the worlds Top 30. As for Mensik well the big Czech is just 18 years of age and was in Canberra at the start of the season playing the Challenger Event.

He looks to be inside the Top 50 very soon with some major scalps already this year on the ATP Tour. As for Fonseca well he looks a future star as well. He is just 17 and made the Quarter Finals of his home town event in Rio on the ATP Tour. Fonseca has serious firepower and took down two players that are Top 50 caliber. If you pay attention to the Challenger Tour you will see the players and athletes early on that will mould the sport into the future.

As the players pack their bags and leave the United States to Europe most will be back on the Challenger Tour looking to grind their way through so they can experience the comfort that is the ATP Tour. The depth in the men’s game as never been deeper and tougher and a closer look and analysis of the performance curves of the players tells you who is breaking through and who is stagnate.

Pull the curtain back and look at the youngsters who knock down and demolish the Challenger door .It is tough, it is a major grind and the level is very high but it is necessary to break through to play on the big time show courts on the ATP Tour.


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