Arthur's Ascent: Rinderknech Kicks Off 2021 With Istanbul Title

New season, same story for Arthur Rinderknech.

One year ago, the Frenchman opened his 2020 campaign with a piece of silverware wrapped in his arms. This week, Rinderknech kicked off his 2021 ATP Challenger Tour season in similar fashion.

The 25-year-old wasted no time in finding the winning formula in Istanbul, reeling off seven wins in eight days as a qualifier to lift the trophy. With the Turkish metropolis blanketed in snow, Rinderknech turned up the heat on the indoor hard courts of the TED Sports Club. He rallied past countryman Benjamin Bonzi in Sunday’s championship, taking the title 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(3) in two hours and 17 minutes.

“It feels great to win the first Challenger of the year and even more when it’s a 125-level tournament,” said Rinderknech. “I’m happy about the way I handled things this week and went through seven matches in eight days.”

Rinderknech’s triumph moves him 43 spots to a career-high No. 135 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. A former college standout at Texas A&M University, he outlasted #NextGenATP star Brandon Nakashima, before overcoming an in-form Marc-Andrea Huesler in the quarter-finals and defeating seventh seed Jozef Kovalik for a spot in the title match.

“I think the key was to go day-by-day and take it match-by-match, as it was a long week,” Rinderknech added. “Taking care of my body and making sure I was staying fresh, mentally too. I wanted to play doubles with my partner Manuel Guinard, but we didn’t get in and that would have been too much. We will play together in Quimper.”

The Parisian is carrying some serious momentum from a breakout 2020 campaign. One of the revelations on the Challenger circuit last year, Rinderknech soared nearly 200 spots to a year-end position inside the Top 200. Not only did he open his season with a title on home soil in Rennes, but he followed that with a second crown in Calgary, Canada, just weeks later. And in September, he was rewarded for his efforts with a main draw wild card at Roland Garros, making his Grand Slam debut in his hometown.

Rinderknech, who finished 2020 in fourth place on the Challenger wins list with a 22-12 record, is the first qualifier to lift a trophy since Carlos Alcaraz achieved the feat in August. In addition, the 25-year-old is the youngest French champion in nearly two years.

Next week, Rinderknech will return home for the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale. He opens against a qualifier, with top seed and former World No. 10 Lucas Pouille also in his quarter at the Challenger 100 event. Rinderknech is one of nine players in the Top 150 to feature in Quimper.


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