It’s what every player on the ATP Challenger Tour dreams of. The opportunity to take their game to the next level, and see all their hard work on the Challenger circuit translate to the ATP World Tour.
For Filip Krajinovic, that dream has become a reality in a flash. Many players competing on the ATP Challenger Tour have enjoyed great success in their transitions in 2017, with Denis Shapovalov, Damir Dzumhur and Yuichi Sugita streaking to career-highs in the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Add Krajinovic to that list.
The 25-year-old Serbian, who owns a tour-leading 47 match wins and five titles at the Challenger level this year, is into his first ATP World Tour final at the Rolex Paris Masters. In just his second tour-level event of the season, he has sprinted to the title match as a qualifier, claiming a pair of Top 20 scalps along the way (Querrey, Isner).
One of the candidates for Comeback Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, Krajinovic is projected to soar to at least a career-high No. 33 on Monday. He’s vaulted more than 200 spots in less than one year, having opened the season outside the Top 200 following surgery to remove a bone in his right wrist.
“I suffered a lot and I’ve had a lot of injuries in my career,” said Krajinovic. “But I stayed calm. I knew that one day everything will come back. I didn’t believe it’s going to happen this year, this tournament. Coming from qualies it’s an amazing feeling. Now I’m Top 40 in the world. I didn’t expect that also. My goal was to be Top 100 at the end of the year. And now, I’m just happy and emotions are big.
“A couple years ago I was starting to play better and better and I broke into the Top 100. Then all of a sudden they saw that I have an extra bone in my wrist. So I had to take care of that. It was hard. It was mentally really tough because getting older and older, all the sponsors said no to me. It was hard for me, but my family stayed with me and now I’m here.”
Players To Win On Both Circuits In 2017
*Krajinovic is bidding to become the first player to win a Challenger title and a Masters 1000 title in the same season
Krajinovic has taken the ATP Challenger Tour by storm this year, in his quest to build his position in the Emirates ATP Rankings and rediscover his top level. A title on the clay of Heilbronn, Germany, as a qualifier, was followed by success in Marburg, Germany and Biella, Italy, during the summer months. Just one month ago, Krajinovic added crowns in Rome and Almaty, Kazakhstan, with both titles coming without dropping a set.
“It was my goal to play Challengers this year and get some confidence for the ATP World Tour,” said Krajinovic. “I didn’t expect to win five titles from five finals, but I believe that if I didn’t do well in the Challengers, I would not have the confidence here in Paris. I’m proud and happy for that.”
Djokovic Influence At Heart Of Serbian Challenger Success
Krajinovic has been the centerpiece of an impressive Challenger movement for the nation of Serbia this year. A total of 12 titles from five different players has been a bright spot in Novak Djokovic‘s absence. Janko Tipsarevic has lifted four trophies, with Laslo Djere, Dusan Lajovic and Miomir Kecmanovic each hoisting one. At 18, Kecmanovic is the country’s #NextGenATP hopeful, claiming his maiden crown last week in Suzhou, China.
Filip Krajinovic picks up his fourth #ATPChallenger 🏆 of the season, defeating Daniel Gimeno-Traver 64 63 in Rome. Joins fellow 🇷🇸 @TipsarevicJanko as lone players with four titles in 2017. pic.twitter.com/z4KYU9qlqh
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 1, 2017
Krajinovic has reached the final of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in just his fifth attempt. Only Jerzy Janowicz had fewer main draw appearances at the level (two) when he broke through in Paris 2012. In addition, he joins Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and Albert Ramos-Vinolas as players making their Masters 1000 final debuts this year.
But with all his success this week, Krajinovic believes it is icing on the cake after completing such a dominant Challenger campaign. He is looking to turn the page on what has been a tumultuous career and provide Serbia with a new superstar. If he defeats Jack Sock for the Paris title on Sunday, his prize money for the week would total more than $990,000, which is more than his entire career earnings ($860,429).
“My goal this year was to play Challengers to pick up the points for the next year to play against those guys. I wanted to play the smaller tournaments to pick up the [Emirates ATP Rankings] points and I did that. I said now I’m going to just play ATPs all the time.
“I know I have the game, that’s for sure. I just need to believe and to play with those guys every week. So next year it’s going to be like that, playing with those guys. I’m going to be ready and then we’ll see.”