All of the first round matches have now been played at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Florida, and the scores have finally been postedAnd there are lots of interesting results to chew on:

[Q] Andrea Collarini USA #580 d [1] Jesse Levine USA #289 4-3 ret. – A forearm injury for the top seed, here. But 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch Andrea Collarini is now a perfect 4-0 for this season, having come through qualifying, so I’m feeling pretty good about that pick right now. Thanks, Andrea, for making me look good! The Americanized Argentine will play Slovenia’s Luka Gregorc (#464) in the next round. Gregorc beat qualifier Chris Kwon (#844) 6-4 6-0.

W] Wayne Odesnik USA d [Q] Teodor-Dacian Cracian ROU #602 6-2 3-6 6-3. For some reason, people are paying a lot of attention to this unranked player. I won’t do that (for now). Odesnik will play the formerly Sideshow Bob-haired qualifier Thomas Cazes-Carrere #582 in R2.

Dan Smethurst GBR #497 d [4] Nicholas Monroe USA #348 7-5 7-6(5). The 20-year-old Brit is, I feel, much better than what he’s currently ranked. Coming off a fairly abysmal 29/24 season in 2010 that saw his ranking slide 160 spots from a high of #337 in May, this win sees the inconsistent former Top 30 world junior start the year in a direction more reflective of his promise.

Conversely, Nick Monroe is someone who ended his 2010 campaign with some promising results, winning 9 straight Futures matches in Canada in September and qualifying for the main draw of the Knoxville Challenger, making it all the way through to the semifinals before going down to Kei Nishikori. This obviously won’t be the start he was looking to have, but as I said, Smethy is a better player than his ranking and I don’t think this result is as much of an upset as it looks on paper.

[Q] Christian Harrison USA d [W] Jeremy Efferding USA 6-4 7-5. While older brother Ryan was off playing strip tennis with Michael Llodra, John McEnroe and Henri Leconte, Christian racked up his first ATP point here. Normally this would be a good achievement in its own right. But considering the 16-year-old is returning to competition here after being sidelined for 18 months, I’d say it’s a fantastic achievement.

[Q] Phillip Simmonds USA #570 d [Q] Andrei Daescu ROU #814 2-6 6-4 6-2. OK, this wasn’t a very interesting result. But that’s just because the 24 year-old Simmonds has been near the Top 200 in his career and is by far the more experienced campaigner. Hey – how many interesting results do you need in the first round of a 10K Futures, anyway? Tough crowd! Moving on…

[6] Roman Borvanov MDA #431 d Daniel Garza MEX #454 6-0 6-4. An unusually lopsided score, for two players ranked so close to one another (Garza just missed being seeded here). Sure, the 28 year-old Borvanov has now won the last 7 matches against his 25 year-old opponent, but 4 of those matches have been 6-4 in the third or closer. This one wasn’t.

[7] Benjamin Balleret MON #443 d Denis Kudla USA #496 4-6 7-6(1) 7-6(0). This loss has to sting, for the 18 year-old, who – like Collarini – is a 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch. Not just the loss itself, but the scoreline seems particularly demoralizing. Luckily, Kudla’s made of sterner stuff than I am, so he should bounce back from this and be raring to go next week at the USA F2 in Tamarac.

[PR] Matej Bocko SVK #900 d Borut Puc CRO #488 6-4 6-1. I’m surprised by this result, as the big Croatian had such a successful conclusion to last year, winning the Chile F8 event to top off his season. Then again, Bocko had won their previous meeting 6-2 6-4 just over a year ago in another USA Clay Futures. So based on a sample size of two matches, I’ve concluded that the 27 year-old Slovakian just has the 19-year-old Slovenian’s number – at least insofar as USA clay Futures are concerned. #scientific

Pierre-Hugues Herbert FRA #498 d [W] Maksim Tikhomirov USA 7-5 6-2. “P2H” continues to impress in the new year. The 19 year-old US Open junior semifinalist in ’09 (l. Bernard Tomic) was an Honorable Mention on my PtW list for this year, having improved his ranking a tidy 1042 spots last year. His win over the 20 year-old from Philadelphia starts 2011 where he left off.

[W] Alexander Domijan USA #595 d [3] Yong-Kyu Lim KOR #330 6-3 6-0. While the result of this match isn’t a total surprise to me (though an upset on paper), the scoreline certainly is. Total domination by the big Virginia Cavalier. Wow.

[5] Catalin Gard ROU #412 d Jordan Cox USA #472 6-3 6-2. Another case where the score is more lopsided than I would expect, even if the outcome is what I was expecting. The 29 year-old Gard is trying to make his fifth consecutive Futures quarterfinal (or better) in Plantation this week.

David Souto VEN #455 d Alexander Ward GBR #473 6-4 7-5. The 18 year-old Venezualan is the third player on my increasingly-annoying 2011 Players to Watch list who features in this tourney. But both Ward and Souto are ranked beneath where their potential will eventually take them.

Souto and friends

[LL] Olivier Sajous HAI #563 d Alexandre Folie BEL #483 6-1 6-4. Sajous is the feelgood story this week, for sure. After losing to Odesnik in the wildcard event and Daescu in the qualifying tournament, the third time’s a charm for the Plantation-based Haitian. Exactly one year ago, having played his way through qualifying in his home-away-from-hometown tournament, the then-22-year-old learned about the devastating earthquake that rocked his homeland.

“I was playing a Futures tournament in Plantation and it was going well. I qualified against very tough competition.  Then the next thing you know, that happened. I didn’t know if my dad was alive. I found out at 1 a.m. he was alive. I had a match in the morning, but I just wasn’t mentally and physically ready for it,” he says in this article, and the emotional aftereffects lingered beyond that.

A new year equals a new start (and – at this tournament – another new start, and another new start), and Sajous is determined to make the most of it. “I am very thankful for this and I like being able to play on this court. I have been able to use these facilities for a long time and I am happy to go back. I grew up playing here and I am glad to have this chance,” he says in this even newer article.

Unfortunately for Sajous and some fans, he’ll be coming up against one of the other feelgood stories this week. Second seed Alex Bogdanovic #292 of Great Britain, who defeated qualifier Dennis Zivkovic 6-3 7-5 in the first round, is returning full time to the tour after a back injury he sustained at the US Open kept him from all but two events for the remainder of 2010. Impressively, one of those events was a qualifying semifinalist showing at the Eckental Challenger.  Tomorrow’s match will be the first meeting between the Haitian and the Brit. And however it turns out, the result will most likely be interesting indeed.

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