To be held on outdoor clay at the Sociedade Harmonia de Tenis from 13-17 November, the field is comprised of seven qualifiers and one wild card. Contested in round-robin format, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals, 125 Emirates ATP Ranking points and $91,200 in prize money will be awarded to an undefeated champion.
It’s a strange hybrid tour tour really. When the bigger ATP tournaments are in play, the bigger players drop into a challenger event. Other times, it’s a fairly unknown group of lower tier players. The rankings are therefore unusual with no real bearing on who is playing/qualifies for this tournament.
The Players: [from www.atpworldtour.com]
Alejandro Gonzalez (COL): The 24-year-old Colombian is enjoying a career year on the ATP Challenger Tour, qualifying for the year-end championships after reaching five finals and ascending to a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of 106 in late September. Gonzalez’s rise to the precipice of the Top 100 was fueled by a trio of titles, on the clay of Salinas, Sao Paulo and his hometown of Medellin. He also reached the final in Panama City and Sao Jose do Rio Preto.
Oleksandr Nedovyesov (UKR): The 2009 National Player of the Year at Oklahoma State University, the 6’4” Ukrainian is in the midst of a meteoric climb up the Emirates ATP Rankings. Sitting outside the Top 1000 in March of last year, Nedovyesov soared to a career-high No. 99 after hoisting the trophy at the Challenger event in Kazan a week ago. The 26 year old also claimed the titles on the clay of Prague and Szczecin and reached the final in Samarkand.
Jesse Huta Galung (NED): At the age of 28, the Dutchman has discovered the best form of his career in 2013, capturing Challenger crowns in Cherbourg, Saint-Brieuc, Scheveningen and Tampere. He earned his second win over a Top 50 opponent last month, ousting Jurgen Melzer during The Netherlands’ whitewash of Austria in the Davis Cup World Group Play-offs. The seven-time ATP Challenger Tour champion also reached the doubles final at the ATP World Tour stop in Rotterdam, alongside countryman Thiemo de Bakker.
Filippo Volandri (ITA): Volandri is the elder statesman in the draw, at age 32. A two-time champion on the ATP World Tour, the Italian is best known for his five-set victory over then-World No. 7 Ivan Ljubicic in the third round of Roland Garros, in 2007. The Livorno native is enjoying a resurgence on the Challenger level in 2013, winning a pair of titles on home soil in Milan and Orbetello. He advanced to his 24th ATP Challenger Tour final in Genova last month.
Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS): Volandri isn’t the only player in the field to have reached the Round of 16 of a Grand Slam. Gabashvili attained the feat at Roland Garros in 2010, where he upset Andy Roddick in the third round as a qualifier. The 28-year-old Russian veteran is a seven-time champion on the ATP Challenger Tour, claiming a hard-court title in Karshi and a clay-court crown in Samarkand this year. Currently ranked 95th, he was also the runner-up in Kenitra and Tashkent.
Adrian Ungur (ROU): The defending ATP Challenger Tour Finals runner-up is back in Sao Paulo. The only former contestant in the field, the Romanian fell in a third-set tie-break to Guido Pella in last year’s title bout. The diminutive 5’10” 28-year-old raised his seventh Challenger trophy in front of the home crowd in Arad, in June, a month after winning in Tunis. His most notable tour-level result came at Roland Garros in 2012, when took a set from Roger Federer in the second round after upsetting David Nalbandian.
Andrej Martin (SVK): Three years removed from his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title, Martin clinched his second in late April, defeating Adrian Mannarino in Mexico City. After lifting another trophy in San Benedetto in July, the 24 year old competed in his first Grand Slam main draw at the US Open and ascended to a career-high Emirates ATP Ranking of 119, two weeks later.
Guilherme Clezar (BRA): The youngest player in the field, Clezar was awarded the tournament’s wild card. The 20-year-old Brazilian is also the lowest ranked, at World No. 177. He won his second title at the Challenger level last month in Campinas, not relinquishing a set all week.
Let’s break it down:
Surface: Indoor Hard
Defending Champion: Guido Pella – Ranked 92 with no Challenger titles this year, did not qualify.
Veteran Watch: Filippo Volandri – A tricky customer on clay but doubtful he’ll win this event on indoor hard courts.
Up and Coming: Guilherme Clezar – Hardly a household name apart from in his own house, but should be interesting to see how he does.
In Form: Jesse Huta Galung – Has made an impact on the main tour this year and looks strong here.
My pick: Teymuraz Gabashvili – Has big match experience and a winner of 7 Challenger titles, should have enough to win this one.
Did You Know?: Triumph in Sao Paulo can help an undefeated champion stand to gain 125 points.