Photo : Martin Sidorjak
For the first time in tournament history, the Drummondville National Bank Challenger will be held in November this year instead of its usual calendar slot in March which means that some of the top rising stars on the ATP Tour will be arriving in town this weekend to compete in the seventh edition of the event at Tennis intérieur René-Verrier.
Over the years, the tournament, which used to be held in Rimouski, Quebec before moving to Drummondville in 2015, has welcomed some familiar names who find themselves at the top of the game today but who were somewhat unknown and just getting started with their professional careers when they came to Drummondville.
In 2016, Brit Daniel Evans was crowned champion after defeating his compatriot Edward Corrie in the final. Evans has since gone on to win an ATP title and reach a career-high ranking of no. 22 in the world. He was also a semifinalist at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal this summer. In 2020, the last time the event was held before the COVID-19 pandemic, American Maxime Cressy was the winner over runner-up Arthur Rinderknech of France. Both players are now ranked inside the top 50.
The most memorable edition of the Drummondville Challenger likely came in 2017 when Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov faced off in the semifinals. In the end, it was 17-year-old Shapovalov who came out on top and went on to capture his first ATP Challenger title after knocking out Ruben Bemelmans in the championship match. At the time, he was the youngest Canadian to win a Challenger singles trophy. Drummondville is not only significant for Auger-Aliassime because of that semifinal appearance, but also because it’s the place where he made his professional debut back in 2015 as a 14-year-old and against all odds, played his way through qualifying to earn a spot in the main draw. He became the youngest player in history to earn an ATP ranking point.
“Getting your first ATP points is a moment you never forget as a tennis player,” reflected Auger-Aliassime. “Even though I wasn’t realizing what I achieved at the time, I remember it being a big moment in my young career. I will always keep great memories from the Drummondville Challenger.”
A Strong Canadian Contingent in 2022
This year’s draw will be headlined by the Canadian trio of Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau, and Vasek Pospisil.
Diallo, 21, is enjoying a breakthrough season on the pro circuit after going the NCAA Division I route one with the Kentucky Wildcats. He won his first Challenger title in Granby this summer and reached another final in Fairfield. These results have helped him reach a career-high ranking of no. 248. Galarneau, who has been steadily climbing the ATP rankings this season, will be looking to win his second career Challenger title two years after claiming top honours in Fayetteville. As for Pospisil, the 32-year-old veteran will be making his much-anticipated return to Drummondville looking to add more hardware to his collection of 10 Challenger singles crowns.
In addition to the Canadians, Drummondville will also host five top 200 players, including Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, American Michael Mmoh and Germany’s Dominik Koepfer.
Beyond the players that many tennis fans will recognize, it will be just as fun to follow which unfamiliar names will emerge and be discovered during this year’s tournament.