Brad Gilbert has witnessed first-hand the impact Challenger tournaments have had on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour and major events like Wimbledon.

The Bay Area native and current ESPN tennis analyst watched as 17 alumni from the Fairfield Challenger — now known as the NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship — opened play July 1 at the All England Club in London. One player almost worked his way into the second week of competition and nearly reached the quarterfinals, while three owners played their way into the third round.

ATP Challengers, partnered with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Pro Circuit, are a series of international professional men’s tournaments, much like those on the ATP Tour and at the majors. While the ATP Tour is the top tier on the tennis circuit, Challengers are one step below, a place for young players to advance their careers and gain vital ranking points, and a place for former ATP regulars who are looking to work their way back.

“Challengers are the lifeline for players trying to make it on the ATP Tour and Grand Slams,” Gilbert said by email from London during his recent two-week stint at Wimbledon. “Right now, it’s amazing how many Challengers there are in the states, giving a great opportunity for young players to play week in and week out.”

The NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship returns to Solano College Oct. 7-13. The four-year history of the Fairfield Challenger has already shown that many are already starting to make an impact, even at Wimbledon.

American Tennys Sandgren, a 2017 Fairfield quarterfinalist, nearly reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last week. Sandgren won three straight matches before dropping a long five-set battle to fellow American Sam Querrey. The final three sets were decided by tiebreakers.

Gilbert gave the Fairfield Challenger a national “shout out” during a 2018 Australian Open telecast on ESPN when Sandgren made a deep run into the third round. That major tournament appearance for Sandgren came only three months after he played in Fairfield.

American Reilly Opelka, Canadien Felix Auger Aliassime, and Daniel Evans of Great Britain all played the Fairfield Challenger last October, and all three went 2-1 and advanced into the third round at Wimbledon. Cameron Norrie and Jay Clarke of Great Britain, American Taylor Fritz, German Dominik Koepfer and American Denis Kudla also picked up wins on the famed grass courts.

Bradley Klahn, Ivo Karlovic, Frances Tiafoe, Denis Shapovalov, Jordon Thompson, Casper Ruud, Noah Rubin and Lloyd Harris also competed at Wimbledon.

While finalists Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have not played in Fairfield, many that have played the Fairfield Challenger have played against the two heavyweights. Djokovic knocked out Kudla during the first week at Wimbledon en route to his major title. Federer’s first two wins in his run to the finals were against Harris and Clarke.

The Fairfield tournament is the final leg of the Challenger swing through Northern California. It continues a great tradition of letting tennis fans watch high-powered professional matches up close.

The tournament benefits the Dr. Chris Cammisa Tennis and Education Foundation, an organization that supports the women’s and men’s teams at Solano College and introduces tennis and related education program to underserved youth in Solano County.

For sponsorship opportunities and all other information, contact tournament director Phil Cello by phone (707) 853-0915 or email, or co-director Rafael Rovira by phone (707) 246-0990 or email at