#NextGenATP Stars Nardi, Passaro Shine Bright, Boosting Milan Chances

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Two Italian youngsters, Luca Nardi and Francesco Passaro, are making a push for the eight-player Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals after strong weeks on the ATP Challenger Tour. Nardi claimed his third ATP Challenger Tour title of the season (Forli, Lugano) in Mallorca, Spain, while Passaro reached the final at the Como Challenger.

Nardi, 19, outlasted Belgian Zizou Bergs Sunday in a three-set battle, 7-6(2), 3-6, 7-5 to triumph at the Rafa Nadal Open by Sotheby’s.

Needing a deciding set in four out of his five matches, the Italian is the fifth player to win at least three Challenger Tour titles this year. Argentine Pedro Cachin and Briton Jack Draper lead the Challenger Tour with four titles this season while Nardi, Constant Lestienne, and Wu Yibing are tied with three titles each. The Pesaro native’s trio of titles leads the group of seven teenagers who have claimed a Challenger title in 2022.

Nardi improves to 12th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan and looks to continue climbing to claim his spot in Milan, Italy, where the world’s best 21-and-under players compete in the season finale Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. The 19-year-old rises to a career-high mark No. 142 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

Bergs, seeded fourth, advanced to the final without dropping a set and climbs to a career-high 136 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

Earlier in the tournament, Abdullah Shelbayh made history by defeating top seed Dominic Stricker to become the first player from Jordan to win a match in ATP Challenger Tour history. Shelbayh advanced to the semi-finals before falling short to Bergs.

In Como, Italy, home favourite Passaro reached the final to improve to ninth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Milan.

German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe captured his ninth Challenger title and first since November 2020, dropping just one set all week and taking down Passaro 7-6(2), 6-4 to claim the Challenger Citta’ di Como.

“I came here with not many expectations and some really rough weeks recently,” Stebe said. “Finally it worked out, managed to win a few matches in a row, I’m super happy to win a tournament in almost two years.”

Cedrik-Marcel Stebe is a nine-time ATP Challenger Tour champion. Credit: Bettina Musatti

The title lifts Stebe to World No. 178 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, marking a return to the Top 200 for the first time since November 2021. The 31-year-old reached a career-high No. 71 in February 2012.

Passaro’s run to the final in Como, Italy, propels him to a career-high No. 127 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The 21-year-old plays his best tennis in his home country, where he won the Trieste Challenger in July (d. Zhang) and reached the final in Sanremo in April (l. Rune) and Forli-6 in June (l. Musetti).

Arthur Cazaux collected his maiden Challenger title at the Bangkok Open II, where he defeated Australian Omar Jasika 7-6(6), 6-4, winning seven matches in eight days as he advanced through qualifying and dropped just one set all week en route to the title in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

The 20-year-old is the youngest French champion since Ugo Humbert won the Cherbourg Challenger in 2019 and is the 10th different French champion in 2022.

Arthur Cazaux celebrates his first Challenger title in Thailand. Credit: LTAT Media

Cazaux rises nearly 100 spots to a career-high No. 333 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. The former junior No. 4 reached the 2020 Australian Open boys’ singles final before losing to countryman Harold Mayot. Cazaux first came onto the professional tennis scene in May 2021, when he defeated countryman Adrian Mannarino in his ATP Tour main-draw debut in Geneva.

Belgian Kimmer Coppejans advanced through qualifying to win the Open de Toulouse, defeating home favourite Maxime Janvier 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3 Sunday to capture his sixth Challenger title and first since 2018.

Coppejans, 28, produced several dominant performances in southern France, conceding a combined five games in his second round, quarter-final, and semi-final matches.

Kimmer Coppejans triumphs at the Toulouse Challenger. Credit: Tous Droits Reserves

The Belgian, who has won 11 of his past 12 matches, climbs to No. 207 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He reached a career-high No. 97 in June 2015.


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