The inaugural Calgary National Bank Challenger tennis tournament went off without a hitch Oct. 13-21 at the spectacular venue, the Osten & Victor Alberta Tennis Centre. The first ever ATP Challenger Tour event hosted in Alberta, the tournament is destined to become a tour favorite.  The week had all the qualities of a professional ATP event with many special touches.

Photo credit above:  Kyle Clapham.  Doubles winners from the USA, Nathan Pasha and Robert Galloway.  With Samson Lamb from the National Bank, Glenn Scott patron of the Osten & Victor Alberta Tennis Centre, Danny Da Costa tournament director, and Daniel Nestor, Canadian tennis icon.

The ATP Challenger Tour is the entry tour to the ATP World Tour.  It includes 159 tournaments hosted in countries around the world, including 7 now in Canada with the addition of the Calgary National Bank Challenger.

A typical Challenger Tour player enters over 30 tournaments a year and travels literally around the world.  These committed players not only battle mentally and physically on the court, they also deal with the mental and physical demands of grueling schedules, long airplane rides, time zone changes, and being away from home.

After Calgary, Braydon Schnur was heading directly to Liuzhou, China for his 36th tournament this year ($83,000 prize money thus far).  And Norwegian Casper Ruud was heading to Las Vegas for his 29th tournament this year ($334,000 prize money thus far).  Playing four tournaments a month is not unusual.  These players have a demanding lifestyle where they travel, travel, play tennis, play tennis, 11-months/year.

By the numbers

A few interesting facts about the week in Calgary:

5  Sessions sold out (out of 9)

16  Number of tournaments won by Ivo Karlovic in his career, including the Calgary National Bank Challenger (includes ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events)

24 Aces served by Karlovic in the final.

39  Karlovic’s age.  With his Calgary win, the oldest player ever to win a Challenger event.

56 Participated in the Daniel Nestor doubles workshop (40 juniors, 16 adults).

59  Corporate boxes sold (out of 60).

70  Ball kids took part.

150 Volunteers took part.

5,918 Tickets were sold.

18,000 Saw Daniel Nestor at the Calgary Saddledome (Flames vs. Bruins).

100,000 Saw tournament promotions at the Mall, and at three Stampeders games.


Braydon Schnur Rises to the Challenge

Braydon Schnur, unseeded and the second highest ranked Canadian in the event, played a heroic quarterfinal on Friday night.  His worthy opponent was Norwegian nineteen-year-old Casper Ruud, the tournament’s fifth seed, ranked more than 100 points higher than Schnur (Ruud at 127 vs Schnur at 237).

To reach the quarterfinal Schnur came back to win over Tommy Robredo (4-6, 6-1, 6-4) in the first round.  Then he came back again in the second round to beat the tournament’s fourth-seed Menendez-Maceiras (4-6, 6-2, 7-6).  Calgary has been a winning location for Schnur, who won Calgary Futures events in 2013 and 2016.

Schnur took the first set 4-6 looking confident and focused.  He lost the second set 6-3, and was keeping pace, controlling rallies in the final set until a pair of unforced errors took their toll and he couldn’t recover to a 6-4 loss.  This level of play against higher ranked players bodes well for Schnur’s future. For the past year and a half Schnur has been under the tutelage of Tennis Canada’s Frederic Niemeyer.  This was a very entertaining match for Canadian fans who were not disappointed with Schnur’s performance.

Photo credit:  Melissa Penney.  Braydon Schnur, serving in the quarterfinals.

Harrison Scott returns to Calgary for his Challenger debut

Calgary’s Harrison Scott, age 21, had a special moment in his first ATP Challenger event, in the facility that his dad helped to build.  See article in The Province.  As the Calgary and Alberta top ranked player, currently an NCAA Texas Longhorn, Scott earned a wildcard by winning a qualifying tournament earlier in the year.

He faced Borna Gojo from Croatia in the round of 32.  Though unseeded, Gojo was in top form, eventually making it to the semi-finals (after defeating Canada’s top see Filip Peliwo in the quarterfinal) where he lost a close match to the tournament winner, Ivo Karlovic (7-6, 7-6).

Harrison Scott as quoted from The Province article:  “I think it’s really special playing here,” Scott said. “Growing up, we didn’t really have that big of a facility for me to train at. So now having a top-five facility and now having a world-class event here is very special. It’s great for me to be able to compete here in front of people I’ve know for my whole life. I think it’s really good for the tennis community and for Calgary as well.”

Photo credit above:  Kyle Clapham.  Harrison Scott left, and Borna Gojo of Croatia.

Ivo Karlovic Serves His Way to His Sixteenth Career Championship

Ivo Karlovic, age 39, set an ATP record with his Calgary National Bank Challenger victory.  He became the oldest ATP player to win a Challenger Tour event, taking the honour from Dick Norman who held the record for almost ten years (with his Mexico City win in 2009 at age 38).  Over the course of the tournament Karlovic delivered 126 aces with relentless consistency.  He gained momentum as the tournament went on, starting with three-set wins and ending with two-set wins in the semi-finals and finals.  The final against the number one seed, Jordan Thompson of Australia, was a display of the best serving in the world (7-6, 6-4).  Karlovic took the title in one hour and 15 minutes, holding his nerve at key moments, winning eight of nine tiebreakers.  See more.  

Karlovic on his final match against the number one seed, Jordon Thompson of Australia:  “It was a very difficult match. He was serving very well. Not as hard, but a good placement. But at the end of the match, I was able to control it. It has been an excellent week. I enjoyed it a lot here and had a great experience. This tennis centre is unbelievable.”

(Photo credit:  Kyle Clapham.  Ivo Karlovic, winner of the Calgary National Bank Challenger) 

The Doubles Final a Fan Favourite, USA vs. Australia

The doubles final was fun to watch, between Australia’s Reid/Smith and the USA team of Galloway/Pasha.  Doubles has a more relaxing feel to it than duke-it-out singles, and these teams in particular had a definite crowd appeal.  The USA team took the first set 6-4, but the Australian’s came back to win the second, 4-6.  The best rallies were saved for the tiebreaker, which went to the nerves-of-steel USA duo at 10-6.

Photo credits above:  Melissa Penney

Competitive university tennis

The University of Alberta Golden Bears vs. the Calgary Dinos.  The University tennis face-off offers an enjoyable alternative for the tennis fan, with the team-vs-team format, the hustle and skill of high level players giving it their all, and without the stress of the professional tour.  The Calgary Dinos came out on top, 3 matches to 2, their first win in some time against the Bears.  Golden Bears Coach Russ Sluchinski praised his opponents’ efforts:

“Our players have been playing a lot of tennis lately and a few  players are recovering from some minor injuries.  Calgary’s team is quite a bit stronger than last year’s team and they played very well against us.  Andrew Ochotta  (playing coach) is a great addition to the Calgary team.  He is very good player, of good character and he should help them a lot over the next few years.”  Russ Sluchinski, University of Alberta Golden Bears Coach.

Photo above:  Left to right, Tim Van der Zee and Andrew Ochotta of the Calgary Dinos.  Zack Perala and Daniel Henschel of the U. of A. Golden Bears.

Daniel Nestor Front and Centre

Daniel Nestor added a touch of class to the event as the honorary tournament director.  He was high profile throughout the event and made himself available to fans and players.  He even made an appearance at a Calgary Flames game where he was honoured and the Calgary National Bank Challenger promoted.  His doubles clinics were well-attended and a highlight for local juniors and adults.


What’s Up For Next Year

Next year will build on the success and hard work of the 2018 inaugural.  Danny Da Costa, Tournament Director and General Manager of the Osten & Victor Alberta Tennis Centre, had this thought on next year’s event:

“We will look to refine some areas and continue to grow the number of fans and continue to improve the fan experience.”   Danny Da Costa

That’s a wrap on coverage of the first ever Challenger event held in Alberta, a first class event for the Osten & Victor team, for Calgary, and for Alberta.

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