All right, my friends. You all are gonna hafta earn your Thursday Sao Paolo Challenger recap today.  How?  Well, I’m about to get insanely autobiographical, and you’ll have to wade through terrifying glimpses into my mania in order to pick out snippets of tennistical insight and actuality. Why? Because I like you!

Anyway, take a look at this:

click to enlarge

What is this? This, my friends, is my so-called life. An actual screenshot of how my computer looked a few hours ago, as I stretched into hour *mumble* of Deadly-Sinworthy tennis watching. In the upper right is the heart of the operation, the tennis stream, usually pirated off of livescorehunter.com, although I pay for tennistv.com as well (don’t ask me why). This is where the tennis viewing takes place, primarily. A lot of the time, the streams I watch aren’t even as glamorous-looking as the one above (Lapentti-misspellings, horrible font and all). They’re usually smaller and blurrier. And still I watch. Very still, ’cause I’m afraid any slight movement will cause me to lose the feed (kidding) (mostly).

In the bottom-right corner is the control panel of the operation, the “live” scoreboard (though it’s often frozen). There’s another one I have open behind the one in the picture above, which I control-tab over to so I can keep (controlled) tabs on the action in Auckland, Brisbane, Chennai and Doha (it’s as easy as A,B, C) (and D).

The left portion of the screen contains the context, the brain, the additional info that adds substance to what I’m seeing. In this case, it’s a Google-translated (per)version of a just-completed article about a just-completed tenis match (that’s Spanish for “tennis match”). This week, these translations are from Portuguese, and are quite necessary since a) I don’t speak Portuguese and 2) no English media outlet gives a rat’s ass about the kind of tournaments I follow (Challengers and Futures, keep up). I’m using the idiomatic “rat’s ass” phrase on purpose, by the way, in case you’re also reading this on Google-translate, as I’m sure its translation into another language will be titter-inducting.

Often, these articles come with the added hindrance/hilarity of mangled translations, so really, who even knows if the info I give you is correct most of the time? For instance, the one open in the above screenshot has the headline “Delbonis expects tough game in front of beans in SP 4As Open” – I shit you not. Will he really play in front of beans tomorrow?  I have no idea.  Another article I’ll read as background for today’s matches is entitled, “Mello is choking, but eliminates talented pupil of Larri Passos.” Now, I don’t know if this is a crazy translation error, or if the press in Sao Paolo is just refreshingly candid and no-holds-barred. You’ll have to judge for yourself.

Anyway, this is what I go through to produce the kind of high-quality, well-informed, and thoughtful (haha) pieces you read here. The things I do for you people. The things I do for (thirty) love. You’re welcome.

I only watched one-and-a-half matches (but 4 men) from today’s Sao Paolo slate, which went off without a hitch despite apocalyptic weather forecasts. But only two singles matches were scheduled for Court Central on this day, anyway – quite scandalously – so I’m still doing pretty well.

First, here are the results of the matches I didn’t watch:

Juan-Pablo Brzezicki (ARG) def. [6] Rogerio Dutra Da Silva (BRA) – 6/4 e 7/6(2)
[7] Federico Del Bonis (ARG) def. Guillermo Alcaide (ESP) – 6/3, 3/6 e 7/6(5)
Uladzimir Ignatik (BLR) def. Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA) – 7/6(5), 6/7(4) e 6/4
Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP) def. Andres Molteni (ARG) – 6/1 e 6/2
Thomas Fabbiano (ITA) def. [WC] Fernando Romboli (BRA) – 3/6, 6/1 e 6/1
[Q] Rafael Camilo (BRA) def. [2] Horacio Zeballos (ARG) – 7/6(5), 3/6 e 7/6(7).

The Brzezicki upset continues some really solid play from Juan-Pablo of late – the former Top 100 Argentinian 28 year-old is now 6/1 in his last 7 matches, including his run to the finals of the Buenos Aires Challenger late last November. He’s so hot he’s practically stolen – someone put out a JPB on this guy! (Sorry.) With the win, Brzezicki avenged his two tiebreak loss to Silva last September in the Belo Horizonte Challenger.

The Delbo and Iggy wins were both predicted and expected by moi, but I’m about as trustworthy in that regard as Mr. Weatherman, who really bungled his prediction for today as well. I will say I’m surprised by how hard they had to work for their wins. Ulad had 22 aces against 4 double faults and served at 64%, so good effort overall from the Belarussian.

With the AMM-azing Molteni result… yeah, I have no idea what happened there. Molteni had been 13/3 in his previous 16 matches, and I have no idea what caused the 22 year-old to yield so easily to someone who’d had far less impressive results of late.

But the Fabbiano result? To me, that’s an even bigger surprise than even that last one. It’s just the 3rd loss for Romboli in the last 23 matches. A super win for the 21-year-old Italian.

As for that Zeballos score… I almost-kinda-not-really saw that one coming. Camilo had started to put together some good wins at the end of last year (over the likes of Romboli and Gastao Elias), so I didn’t think the 20-year-old Brazilian was gonna get whitewashed. Still, I thought Horacio would come through. And with 21 aces against only 1 double fault, serving at 65% and winning 82/55 percent of first/second serve points, I’m not sure how the former Top 50 player didn’t come through. Hell, Horacio even had the only break of the match, and held a couple of match points. What a tough loss for the gregarious 25 year-old. But a good win for the qualifier, for sure.

Now, to the contests I actually saw…

[3] Joao Souza (BRA) def. Giovanni Lapentti (EQU) – 6/1 e 6/4

Well, I only saw the last two games of this one. Idiotically, weathermaniacally, I had predicted a Lapentti victory here, based on his 3-2 head-to-head advantage (winning the only two meetings last year) and some alleged “feeling” I had about it. Which, in retrospect, was probably just gas. Instead, the third seed cruised, although it seemed Giova was in it with a chance at 4-all in the second. Alas, the 22 year-old Brazilian broke in the crucial 9th game with a big backhand down the line, accompanied by a windmilly fistpumpy thing. Souza then gagged on a few match points – in a Frankly, Mr. Shankly kind of way – and, after a forehand long, Gio had breakback point.

But it wasn’t to be for the 27 year-old Ecuadorian. On break point, Souza served an ace out wide, which Lapentti thought was really out, wide, and dropped his racquet in disbelief. He argued with the ch/umpire a bit, and the crowd jeered. Souza then service winnered to match point, and the crowd cheered. Then he closed it out with a forehand winner. “Bad day at the office,” Lapentti wrote in Spanish on his twitter, “This is just the beginning, head up.”

Indeed, G Man. Indeed.

[1] Ricardo Mello (BRA) def. Tsung-Hua Yang (TPE) – 3/6, 6/4 e 7/6(4)

Joao, what a match. Maybe the best match I’ve seen all year (reminder: I have a terrible memory). The 19 year-old Yang, as you’re no doubt sick of hearing about, is one of my 2011 Players to Watch, and the man from Taiwan – who trains under coach Larri Passos (you know, of Gustavo Kuerten fame) in Florianopolis with Thomas Bellucci, Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, and Tiago Fernandes – was able to take the only set anyone’s ever taken from the 2-time defending champion of this event.

It was a quality match from the very start, with both Yang and Mello striking the ball well, hugging the baseline and ceding no ground, taking the ball on the rise and looking to attack. Most of the points were won not lost, often at the end of a hard-fought and aggressive rally. It was Tsung-Hua who pushed forward more persistently early, looking to take time away from the top seed, and this gained him the first break of the match to *4-2, having survived BP’s of his own. On his first set point, Yang missed a wide open court, pulling a backhand just wide, hands on head in anguish. But he recovered well and eventually took the first set 6-3.

Then the match got a bit chippy (and by “a bit” I mean A LOT). At 2-all in the second set, Mello – serving at 15-30 – got into an argument with the chair umpire. Well, Yang didn’t like that too much, so the two players did a bit of jawing, which got the Brazilian all fired up as he took the next three points to 3-2*, much to the delight of the home crowd, who in turn began increasingly getting after Yang. To his credit (or possibly detriment), the young man gave as good as he got, and the ch/ump had to make an announcement for everyone to simmer down at one point. Tense stuff, beyond just the tennis.

Yang had break points at 4-all but couldn’t convert, and Mello seized on this momentum shift, breaking and taking the second set 6-4. It seemed at that point Yang was rattled. Hell, I sure would’ve been.

In the fifth game of the third set, the top seed just flat-out nailed a ducking Yang at net on a short ball. No apologies given, none asked for. Mello got to a double break point, but the gritty youngster saved both, showing tremendous resolve. Two games later, from *3-4 0-40, Yang saved four break points, the last on an ace out wide, before holding to 4-all. The kid has sterner stuff in his right pinky finger than I have in my entire body. An amazing display of guts out there today.

The two combatants eventually found their way into a third set tiebreak, of course, and at 3-4* Mello powered a passing shot for the mini-break, then held his two serves for triple match point. Yang saved one, but double-faulted on the second. Mello may have kept his Sao Paolo streak alive today, but it was Yang who served notice.

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