For the first time in 2021, Portugal has a champion on the ATP Challenger Tour. At the age of 30, Gastao Elias found his way back to the winners’ circle with an impressive week on home soil in Oeiras.
Elias, who peaked at No. 57 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2016, has fallen on hard times in recent years following a rash of injuries. But the Lourinha native rediscovered his winning formula at the Oeiras Open 50, lifting his first trophy since 2017.
“I had total confidence in my abilities and didn’t need the title to know that I still had it in me,” said Elias. “I knew that if I could get back in shape and have the opportunity to compete in Challengers I could do it again.
“I never had the opportunity to win and enjoy a title like this in home soil. I’ve had some great wins over the years and perhaps even more exciting victories, but a title is a title and it’s still a relatively important tournament, so I am very happy. I’ve been wanting to win one of these in Portugal for a while.”
Photo: Sara Falcao
Elias was battle tested all week, securing three straight wins from a set down. In Friday’s quarter-finals, he rallied past Camilo Ugo Carabelli 6-7(0), 6-3, 6-0 and in Saturday’s semis he overcame countryman Nuno Borges 4-6, 7-5, 0-0 (ret.). The Portuguese veteran would outlast Danish teen Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 for the championship on Sunday. Elias’ victory is his eighth on the ATP Challenger Tour and first on home soil.
“I feel very good about winning a match that I felt was getting too complicated,” Elias reflected. “It could have been simpler if I had taken my chances in the opening games of the sets, but it ended up having a tense outcome.
“Yesterday he had cramps and I knew that if I managed to make the points longer and more intense and giving him less time to breathe it would be good for me. But he was able to impose himself on my style of play and was very aggressive and strong at the beginning of the points, which complicated my life.”
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) May 30, 2021
The tournament is the culmination of a memorable run of four Challenger events in Portugal in 2021. In April, Zdenek Kolar triumphed at Oeiras 1 and was followed by Argentina’s Pedro Cachin a week later at Oeiras 2. Last week, 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz triumphed at Oeiras 3 and it all wrapped with a home grown champion in Elias at Oeiras 4.
“I’m not sure if I’m already in Wimbledon qualies but now the goal is getting back to Grand Slam qualifying. I’m not sure if I can get to Wimbledon, but if so I’ll have to go after white clothes because right now I don’t have any.”