It's tennis in paradise. Last year, the Puerto Vallarta Open made a stunning debut under the radiant glow of the Mexican sun. With the Pacific Ocean glistening in the distance and the Sierra Madre mountains towering overhead, it provided the perfect setting for a tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour.
With a tournament hotel that doubles as a beach resort for thousands of vacation-goers, all-inclusive food and multiple practise courts on the premises, it's no wonder that many players arrived early to enjoy a rare mid-season break. Next week, the award-winning 2018 Tournament of the Year returns for a second edition and once again features an impressive field.
With nine players inside the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings and World No. 98 Alexander Bublik leading the charge, fans will be treated to a show all week at the Parque Parota. Bublik is seeking a staggering fourth ATP Challenger Tour title in 2019, with his previous three triumphs coming on the hard courts of Budapest, Pau and Monterrey.
One year ago, the 21-year-old Kazakh was recovering from a broken ankle suffered in Indian Wells, but now he is dominating in his comeback campaign. Already back inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, Bublik has his sights set on yet another triumph on Mexican soil. He opens against either Renzo Olivo or Joao Menezes, with 13th seed Darian King looming in the third round.
Also in the top half of the draw, fourth seed Dustin Brown looms large as one of the hottest players on tour. The German streaked to the title in Sophia Antipolis, France, earlier this month, putting on a show with his patented highlight reel shotmaking. Brown is targeting a Top 100 return with a strong showing in Puerto Vallarta. He opens against either Kevin King or Baptiste Crepatte. Aussie John-Patrick Smith, Colombian veteran Santiago Giraldo and this week's Leon semi-finalist James Ward also loom in that quarter. Ward could face 2018 runner-up Danilo Petrovic to open his campaign.
Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the draw, defending champion Adrian Menendez-Maceiras is seeded second. The Spaniard was the comeback king a year ago, rallying from a set down on three occasions, en route to the title. He faces either Scott Griekspoor or Manuel Sanchez first, with third seed Peter Polansky, fifth seed Sebastian Ofner and 16th seed Blaz Rola the biggest threats in that half of the draw. Rola is coming off a title run in nearby Leon on Sunday.
Mexico has never had it so good. With five tournaments on the calendar in March and April, the country is greatly invested in growing the game at the Challenger level. Morelos champion Matias Franco Descotte, Monterrey champ Bublik, San Luis Potosi winner Marc-Andrea Huesler and Leon titlist Rola are all competing in Puerto Vallarta.
First round action begins on Monday, with seeded players kicking off their campaigns on Tuesday. If you're already in Mexico or merely want an excuse to break away for a week of paradise, there are few better weeks to enjoy a tennis holiday on the ATP Challenger Tour.