After a two-year hiatus, the ATP Challenger Tour is back in Todi. The first round of the Internazionali Di Tennis Citta Di Todi kicked off on Monday under bright skies in the Italian hilltop town.
It was the Germans that stole the headlines on Day 1, with Daniel Altmaier and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe both advancing to the second round. Altmaier upset eighth seed and home hope Lorenzo Giustino 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, needing two hours and 18 minutes to advance. The 21-year-old, who has battled abdominal and shoulder injuries since reaching his first ATP Tour quarter-final in 2017 (Antalya), used his time in quarantine to work on his fitness and build a “more stable” body structure.
“I am happy with the result today, but not with my performance,” Altmaier told Tennis TourTalk after the match. “I didn’t start well and it was more of fight than a nice win. I served well and I opened the points in a solid way. When I started to improve my forehand, it felt easier to hit my backhand down the line. That was key today.
“The atmosphere is pretty nice. Of course you have to wear a mask but that’s good. During a tournament week, I usually do not spend too much time at the venue. It’s all about the right behaviour of our entire community.”
Stebe, meanwhile, needed just 65 minutes to defeat Italy’s Andrea Vavassori 6-1, 6-3. The fourth seed is just one year removed from his first Tour-level final in Gstaad. A seven-time Challenger champion, he will face Frenchman Elliot Benchetrit on Wednesday.
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Two days ago, men’s professional tennis made its long-awaited return at the Challenger event in Prague, and now it was Italy’s turn to enter the spotlight in Todi. Today’s Challenger stars resumed their 2020 campaigns after a five-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spain’s Mario Vilella Martinez set a second-round date against sixth seed Antoine Hoang after dispatching Andrea Arnaboldi 6-3, 7-6(3). The 25-year-old qualified for his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January, before taking the opening set from Karen Khachanov in the first round.
“I’m very happy,” said Vilella Martinez. “He’s a tough guy to play with a lot of experience. He plays with very good tactics and I’m just happy to get the win. It’s good to be able to travel again and come back to the circuit.”
It was not to be for Vilella Martinez’s countryman Carlos Alcaraz, who succumbed to Gian Marco Moroni 6-3, 6-2 after qualifying for the main draw. Joined by coach and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in Todi, the 17-year-old is one to watch on the Challenger circuit. Moroni dismissed the Murcia native after one hour and 17 minutes and will next face Altmaier in the second round.
Other Italians advancing on Day 1 were Alessandro Giannessi after a 6-2, 6-3 over Maxime Janvier and third seed Federico Gaio, who rallied past countryman Matteo Viola 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Gaio, who opened his 2020 campaign with a title on the hard courts of Bangkok, concluded Monday’s action in Todi at 11pm.