You might think that next year’s tennis season actually starts, you know, next year. And that wouldn’t be an entirely foolish notion on your part (just slightly foolish). But once again, Brazilians are way ahead of the tennis curve, and thus are starting their next year this week – today, in fact! Yes, the appropriately named Brazil F1 Futures, which concludes on New Year’s Day, is doing the honor of ushering us into 2011, and making sure there is no week in the calendar year without a professional tennis event. Thank you, Brazil!

Now, you might also think that this tournament is gonna be just the same as the Brazil F37 and F38 and all the Brazilian tournaments I’ve been boringly blabbing about on this site. But once again you’d be wrong Wrong WRONG! You see, this here event is a $15K tournament (with hospitality, mind you), which means that all first round winners pick up a whopping $123.75 in extra spending cash, instead of the measly $72.50 one picks up for winning their first round in a 10K event. That’s an additional $51.25 on offer to first-round victors, people! I did the math! (so it’s probably wrong)

The 15K-ness of the Brazil F1 experience means that there are more points to be won here as well. Which, in turn, means that actual Top 225 players are coming out of their holiday slumbers and/or vomit-inducing training rigors to once again compete: #158 Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, #200 Guillermo Alcaide, #223 Uladzimir Ignatik and #225 Ciao Zampieri have all dusted off their racquets and will begin competitive ball-swatting again in no time!

Brazil F1 Top Seed Rogerio Dutra da Silva

And, unlike the Brazil F37 and 38, the piles of points and cash on the table mean that now it’s not just the Brazilians signing up to take the spoils. Uh uh – people are traveling to get in on this sweet, sweet action. Dutra Da Silva and Zampieri are Brazilian, sure. But Alcaide is Spanish and Ignatik made the trip from Belarus, bless his swingin’ little heart. Plus the projected 5-7 seeds are from Thailand (Tsung-Hua Yang), Italy (Thomas Fabbiano), and Germany (Andre Begemann).

Tsung-Hua Yang of Taiwan

So spare a thought for this week’s F37 and F38 champion, Fernando Romboli, won’t you? The guy finishes a 50-win season and ends 2010 with a ten match winning streak, and where does he find himself in the New Year’s tournament? Unseeded, that’s where. Survey says: ouch.

You know how they say the transition from juniors to pros is tough? And the transition from Futures to Challengers, and then from Challengers to the ATP? Well, they’re all right when they say that, but let this little example show that even a change from a measly 10K to a 15K represents a significant step up, sometimes. That being said, if the talent is there, it should prevail in any context. But it can be difficult even going up a level within the tourney tiers because suddenly you might get a bad draw or two and be playing top-seeded players in your next few tournaments. Something to think about (and I trust that you will).

Anyway – there are two Challengers (Noumea and Sao Paolo) starting next week, and believe me I’m excited about those. But in the meantime, I’ll be almost as excited to follow the events at the Bradesco Prime Club this week in Sao Paolo. The F1 will be the formula I use to continue warding off any tennistical withdrawal symptoms I have in the interim.

Oh, and one last interesting (to me) bit of trivia for this week: Romboli turns 22 on January 4th, 2011. The cutoff for my “Players To Watch” series, age-wise, is 22 years-old. And the series is scheduled to end six days from now, when the F1 is deep in the week. Might a late Romboli run in Sao Paolo translate into Player To Watchdom? Stay tuned and see!