If there’s one thing I hope you’ve learned from this highly educational site by now, it’s this: there is no off-season! Professional tennis is a year-long festival, although the late-December circuit is the province of those ranked outside the Top 300 for sure. The highest-ranked player remaining in action on this particular day is 315th-ranked Daniel Silva at the Brazil F37 Futures. But all of the still-active players in this week’s three tourneys stand to make some extra cash for presents at the Futures.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at what’s shaping up to be a fascinating Cuba F1 Futures event. To start with, the ITF page lists this as the Cuba F1 Fugures, so right from the get-go you know this tourney has something unique to offer. Perhaps everyone is playing in a fugue state and will finish the week wondering where the hell they’ve been. Or maybe everyone there is just fugly. Either way, the point is: typos can tell us so much. Everyone thinks typos are bad and all, but if there’s one thing in my life that I will never be, it’s typo negative.
Anyway, let’s have a look at the fugly folk who’ve made the semifinals in Havana this week. It’s an interesting, international mix: an American, a Guatemalan, a Latvian and a Venezuelan. The American, Christopher Racz, has an intriguing past he’d do well to recall as he fugues his way into the future.
In 2005, Chris made the semis of the Kentucky International Junior Tennis Derby and then won the Canadian ITF Grade 4 Event, destroying a 15 year-old Milos Raonic 6-1 6-4 along the way. He also had a tightly contested three-setter with Thiemo de Bakker at the Canadian Open Junior Tennis Championships, in which he just came out on the losing end. In doubles, believe it or don’t, Mr. Racz actually teamed up with Challenger Tennis fave Ricardo Urzua-Rivera, the Chile F9 semifinalist whom I profiled yesterday. He also played a couple of events with the fantastically-named Attila Bucko, who is now one of my tennis heroes based on name alone. After juniors, Christopher attended the University of Tennessee, coming into his freshman season as one of the Top Ten seniors in the Class of 2006 according to tennisrecruiting.net. As a Vol, he had some moderate success before turning pro.
Currently ranked #942 in the world, Chris came into Cuba with 6 wins and 27 losses on the year. So in this one event alone, he’s increased his 2010 win total by 50%. And he picked a helluva time to hit a hot streak, as a win today would net the 22 year-old an extra $420 of holiday anti-scrooge scratch. He plays third-seeded Christopher Diaz-Figueroa today, against whom he has a 1-1 head-to-head record. May the best Christopher win, I say!
The other semifinal features Latvian 5th seed Deniss Pavlovs (does that name ring a bell?) against 7th seeded Venezuelan Roman Recarte. (I hope some readers process that last sentence to mean there’s a player named “Recarte” (one name, a la Kaka) who’s a Venezuelan Roman.)
Now, you may think that Ernests Gulbis is the first Latvian pro tennis player of note. To which I say, “Pah!” in disdain (or, at the very least, “Pavlovs!”). Deniss is 27 years old, so was almost a teen when Ernie was in diapers (little known fact I just made up: Ernie wasn’t potty-trained until a very late age). Pavlovs, perhaps drafting off of diaper dandy Ernie’s success, reached a career high of #263 in the world last July, but has slipped back to #652 for reasons I don’t even pretend to know and am too tired to investigate. I’ll ask him the next time I see him, OK?
Deniss had a monster year in 2008, going 63/29 and making the finals of 5 Futures events (and losing all five of them) before finallybreaking through and winning the Nicaragua F1 in November. He followed that up with a mysteriously awful 5/26 year in 2009 and came into Cuba 14/18 this year. A win in the semis would get him back to .500 for the season! This will be his first meeting with the Venezuelan Roman Recarte.
And that’s about all I have to say about the fugly fuguey folk who are doing well and/or generally do-gooding in Cuba. But I’ll be sure to keep you abreast of the latest developments.