Success on the ATP Challenger circuit is one of the most sure-fire predictors of success on the ATP Tour. Though the prize money is lacking, the level of competition is not. We identified five competitors who won a challenger title in 2020, and are poised for a big breakout during the 2021 season.
The Spaniard, who won three challenger titles in 2020, is one of the more promising talents in recent memory. Armed with massive power and spin from both wings, the 17 year old has drawn early comparisons to Rafael Nadal. While it’s a bit premature, being compared to the 20-time major champ is never a bad thing.
Alcaraz earned his first ATP-level win of his career in Rio de Janeiro against skilled clay-courter Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He finished the season with three Challenger titles in Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante, and will likely notch a few more victories on the clay during the golden-swing in February and March.
The 19 year old from San Diego, who captured his first ATP Challenger title last week in Orlando, is ready to do some damage in 2021. In his tour-level debut in Delray Beach, Nakashima reached the quarterfinal round, earning wins over Jiri Vesely and Cameron Norrie before falling, 6-4, in the third to Yoshihito Nishioka. To compliment his cool and collected on-court demeanor, Nakashima boasts one of the better backhands in the world.
Currently ranked No. 166, expect the former Virginia Cavalier All-American to crack the Top-100 before 2022.
Following a run from qualifying to the Roland Garros fourth round, Sebastian Korda improved his ranking from No. 213 to No. 138. After securing the first Challenger title of his career in Eckental, the 20 year old jumped to No. 117, putting himself in 2021 ATP NextGen Final contention.
Armed with a massive first serve and aggressive all-court game, Korda has shown the ability to get hot, and stay hot. In Paris, Korda earned wins over John Isner, Andreas Seppi, and Pedro Martinez, before falling to his idol Rafael Nadal. Korda’s flat and powerful game is not necessarily suited towards red-clay, which makes his fourth round appearance even more impressive.
Speaking of players who can get hot, former Ohio State All-American J.J. Wolf hits a humungous ball. The 21 year old stormed to the New Caledonia Challenger title in January, losing just 19 total games in his final four matches. One of the strongest, most athletic young players on tour, Wolf has the firepower to hit anyone off the court on any given day. The Cincinnati, Ohio native is especially dangerous indoors.
Arguably the most talented player on this list, Lorenzo Musetti had a week he’ll never forget earlier this year in Rome. After cruising through the qualifying rounds, Musetti upset Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori in the first two rounds. It’s a shame there were no fans allowed, because they would have been going bananas for their home grown kid. Musetti displayed some incredible shotmaking in Rome, highlighted by this beautiful one-handed backhand winner.
Musetti turned heads in Rome, but followed up his breakthrough performance with a Challenger title the very next week in Forli, Italy. There, Musetti defeated seasoned pros Frances Tiafoe, Andreas Seppi, Lloyd Harris and Thiago Monteiro. Ranked No. 127, the Italian phenom should crack the Top-100 very soon.