Futures tournaments are a great way for young players to not only gain ranking points early on in their careers, but also gain valuable experience playing at the professional level. Challenger tournaments, which are one level above, are a whole other story. While there are often younger players in the mix, these types of tournaments can also feature some of the very best players on the ATP World Tour.
Just a few weeks ago, former world no. 4, Kei Nishikori played in a Challenger tournament in Dallas, Texas as a means of preparation for his return to action following an injury. This week in Drummondville, we have Canadian Vasek Pospisil, currently ranked no. 75, who will be competing in the main draw. For the most part, players at a Challenger event will be ranked anywhere between 90 and 250 in the world, but there are occasions when younger and less experienced athletes are given the chance to showcase their talent.
That is the case here in Drummondville, where 18-year-old Vancouver native Benjamin Sigouin received a wildcard into the main draw. This was the Canadian’s fifth time playing in the main draw of a Challenger tournament, having lost in the first round on four previous occasions. Despite ultimately falling to Nicolaas Scholtz of South Africa (1-6, 6-2, 4-6) in the first round, Sigouin proved that he was able to compete with higher-ranked players at a competitive level.
Taking in the match were fellow young Canadians Taha Baadi (16 years old) and Chih Chi Huang (17 years old), who had lost in doubles earlier in the day. The pair took advantage of their stay in Drummondville to soak up as much tennis as possible. They were seen watching matches throughout the day. Just last week, Huang got his very first singles points by winning his opening round match at the Sherbrooke Futures.
There was another watchful eye observing Sigouin’s first round encounter, Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic. After hitting with Vasek Pospisil earlier in the day, Dancevic took the time to see his young compatriot in action.
It was a very youthful Canadian contingent in the qualifying draw this past weekend, with five players under the age of 20 and the other two under the age of 24. For his part, Sigouin was the second youngest competitor in the main draw along with his compatriot Jack Mingjie Lin. He will now return to the University of North Carolina where he is currently studying while also playing on the NCAA circuit.
And while Sigouin, Baadi, Huang and Mingjie Lin remain kids in terms of their age, they are certainly proving that they deserve a spot among the men.
Dominik Koepfer (GER) d. [WC] Pavel Krainik (CAN) – 3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Benjamin Bonzi (FRA) d. Vincent Millot (FRA) – 6-4, 5-7, 7-5
Constant Lestienne (FRA) d. Gleb Sakharov (FRA) – 6-3, ret.
Nicolaas Scholtz (RSA) d. [WC] Benjamin Sigouin (CAN) – 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
[LL] Jared Hiltzik (USA) d. Nicola Kuhn (ESP) – 6-4, 6-3
[LL] JC Aragone (USA) d.  Liam Broady (GBR) – 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3)
 Filip Peliwo (CAN) d. [Alt] Alejandro Gonzalez (COL) – 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
Nathaniel Lammons / Alex Lawson (USA) d. Taha Baadi / Chih Chi Huang (CAN) – 6-3, 7-6(3)
Joris De Loore (BEL) / Frederik Nielsen (DEN) d. Luke Bambridge / Joe Salisbury (GBR) – 5-7, 6-4, 10-8
 Ante Pavic / Franko Skugor (CRO) d. Benjamin Bonzi / Gregoire Jacques (FRA) – 5-7, 6-4, 10-8
Frank Dancevic / Adil Shamasdin (CAN) d.  Evan King / Nathan Pasha (USA) – 6-1, 6-4
*Feature photo: Sarah-Jäde Champagne