This first U.S. men’s pro tournament of 2011 is unfolding in a most unusual fashion; all of the second rounds have been played at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Central Park, and not a single seed is left standing. There are no seeds even left leaning or squatting. Remarkable. Let’s take a look at some of the surprising results:
Luka Gregorc SLO #464 d [Q] Andrea Collarini USA #580 7-5 6-1. Even though the 26-year-old Slovenian had ranking and experience on his side, I’m somewhat surprised that the 18-year-old ex-Argie and current 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch, Andrea Collarini, was handed his first loss of the year in this match. I mean, sure, occasionally Gregorc’s been known to string together some wins – such as when he beat Jose Acasuso, Ivo Karlovic and Andreas Seppi on his way to the semifinals of the Pilot Pen New Haven in 2008 – but the big guy hasn’t made it past the 2nd round of any event since the Ojai Challenger in early June of last year. He also had a sub-.500 record on clay the past five years. Meanwhile, Collarini usually does quite well on the dirt. So, yeah. Tennis. It’s a weird game sometimes.
[W] Wayne Odesnik USA d [Q] Thomas Cazes-Carrere FRA #582 6-3 6-2. I’m sure you’ll find enough coverage of this result at other sites and outlets. I’m here to chronicle and celebrated the unsung athletes, remember? And, at least for the moment, Mr. Odesnik is well-sung enough. Moving on.
Dan Smethurst GBR #497 d [Q] Christian Harrison USA 5-7 6-4 6-1. So end’s Christian’s comeback after a year-and-a-half layoff, but there’s a tremendous amount of upside for the 16-year-old’s efforts this tournament: four wins, his first ATP point, and a set off of a very underranked (in my opinion) main draw opponent. That’s a terrific foundation from which he can continue rebuilding. Meanwhile, if Smethurst can just become more consistent in this new year, I expect him to be a Top 300 player and start moving up to Challengers later this year.
Smethurst, Doing His Best Gulbis Impersonation
[Q] Phillip Simmonds USA #570 d  Roman Borvanov MDA #431 6-3 6-2. Another upset on paper, but not in my mind (that said, hardly any matches ever play out properly in that particular venue). Heck, Simmonds once racked up junior dubs titles with World Team Tennis stalwart Scott Oudsema and was a two-time Coffee Bowl finalist, taking sets off the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray back in the day. Dude’s got more than a little bit of game.
Matej Bocko SVK #900 d  Benjamin Balleret MON #443 6-3 6-2. What can I say about Matej Bocko that hasn’t already been said? Probably a lot, huh? Well, suffice it to say the 27 year-old Slovakian’s playing under a protected ranking this week, having had his 2010 season cut short in April. So this is his first event in 8 months (I did the math). Not quite Harrison-esque, but it is another impressive return to competition for one of the main draw players here. Bocko racked up some boffo results on the USA Futures scene in 2009, winning two titles and amassing countless quarterfinal-or-better showings (OK, 11, I counted). He was on the verge of cracking the Top 400 before being sidelined in April.
[W] Alexander Domijan USA #595 d Pierre-Hugues Herbert FRA #498 6-4 6-4. It’s full steam ahead for the 6 foot 7 inch Virginia Cavalier, as the Floridian came out the better in this battle of very promising 19 year-olds. “P2H” is a former top ten junior player who has one of the more extensive websites of any player in the farthest reaches of the Top 500. It’s fairly legendary. I almost chose Herbert as a 2011 Player to Watch, and am pretty sold on his talent. Needless to say, Domijan bears watching as well. Someone make him an awesome website too, OK?
But until that time… there’s P2H
David Souto VEN #455 d  Catalin-Ionut Gard ROU #412 6-4 7-5. As I recounted earlier, Souto is one of my Players to Watch for the year, and I expect this sixth-youngest player in the Top 500 to quickly move up in the rankings this year. He climbed 250 rungs on the ATP ladder last year, having won a Futures title and made the semis of six others in 2010. Someday I’ll do my proper profile of him – then you’ll see! Plantation is nothing if not a tournament of intangibles this year, but I’d cautiously tout the 18 year-old Venezuelan as the bottom-half fave here, though he is less of a clay monster than some of the other guys. Such an exciting assemblage of players and possibilities in the QF’s – such a shame I can’t be there to see the matches tomorrow.
[LL] Olivier Sajous HAI #563 d  Alex Bogdanovic GBR #292 7-6(7) 3-6 6-3. Wow – third time really is a charm in Sajous’ case this year, huh? Lost in the wildcard tourney, lost in the qualifying tourney, and now this doubly-lucky loser will be playing his third match in the main draw tomorrow. As I wrote yesterday, Sajous is the feelgood story of the tournament for me, and I’m pleased for him that the journey continues.
On the other side of the coin, I am a bit disappointed for Boggo’s sake, as he’s still another in the long line of comeback attempters this tourney’s tossing our way. I always think of Alex as the Charlie Brown of tennis, who keeps kicking at the football only to have it yanked away time and again by Lucy (whose role has been played, at various times, by injury, fate, the LTA and so on). But, bless him, the hardluck man with the smooth swing and the brilliant ballstriking ability just keeps coming after it. One of these days, I hope it’s not yanked away.