We’re only four days into the 2011 tennis season, and already some of the players who’ve spent most of their young pro careers at the Challenger level are making a bit of noise at this week’s ATP 250 events. Here are the notable performances so far:
At the Brisbane International, unseeded 18 year-old Ryan Harrison made it through the qualifying tournament, taking out the hobbled third-seed Michael Russell before posting wins over solid Challenger players Matthias Bachinger and Jurgen Zopp to qualify. Unfortunately for Ryan, he drew top seed Robin Soderling in the main draw, and went down to the fifth ranked player in the world 2-6 4-6 in a fairly respectable effort.
20 year-old Richie Berankis, last seen winning the Helsinki Challenger in a win that propelled him into the Top 100, has done Harrison one better: so far he’s not only qualified (including a tough three-set win against Peter Luczak in which the 5′ 9” Lithuanian served 23 aces against only 2 double faults) but then defeated former Top 25 player (and current #78) Arnaud Clement in straight sets.
Ricardas “Richard” Berankis and coach Remigijus “Regis” Balzekas after the Clement match
At the Aircel Open in Chennai, unseeded 20 year-old Belgian and 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch David Goffin also marched through the qualifying tourney, upsetting 7th seed Ivo Minar and top seed Go Soeda to take his place in the main event. He’ll face local fave Somdev Devvarman in the first round there later today. It will be their first meeting.
Finally, in Doha, 21 year-old Dutch lefty Thomas Schoorel – another 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch – moved through qualies as well, although he was the 4th seed and was expected to do such a thing. His reward? A date with Roger Federer. Can’t wait to watch that one! In the meantime, if you’re jonesing for a Schoorel kick, I just happened to find this new interview with him posted very recently on YouTube. It’s in Dutch (of all things), but there’s some good footage interspersed of him hitting some balls. Enjoy: