Apologies for my MIA-ness of late – I ran into a little bit of trouble down south (and no, that’s not a euphemism). Nothing big – just logistical snags for the most part. I see that gauloises and Christina Marie did a fantastic job of taking up the “toiling in semi-obscurity” torch I passed to them and running headlong with it into the enveloping darkness. Your checks are in the mail, ladies, but I’ll take it from here!

Well, I know that a few days ago I announced my impending absence/scarcity due to upcoming travel, moving and re-situating, and I know there are no challenger tournaments for the next two weeks… so why do I feel so guilty having been off the internet radar for 2 days? Who knows (and, probably more to the point, who cares)? All I know is, I’m here in Florida, I’m somewhat situated, and I’m ready to type things at you again. Look out, world!

So what have I missed? Tons. Tennis, it turns out, did not have the common decency to cease and desist whilst I was in transit. There may be no challenger events, but I am supposed to be covering the futures these next few weeks, after all. Plus, Australian Open qualifying holds no small amount of interest to Challenger Tennis fans – I’ll be typing more about the men’s qualifiers and what that achievement means later on, I premise.

For now – and finally, in the fourth paragraph (and possibly beyond) – let’s look at the past few days of futures, OK? We’ll start with The Plantation Open aka the USA F1 Futures in Plantation, Florida. Remember that one? It’s the one I was ostensibly supposed to cover for you in person. Well, that ship has sailed now. But let me tell you what went down while I wasn’t around. When I last left you, the Quarterfinals Were Set (actual article headline) – which means that you had to survive without me chaperoning you through the QF’s, semis and finals! I don’t know how you survived, really, but I applaud your courage.

In the quarterfinals, Slovenian Lukas Gregorc put an end to the oft-alleged scourge Wayne Odesnik’s run, 2-6 6-7(5) 6-4. So Big Wayne leaves Plantation $290 richer and with 2 brand spanking new ATP points to call his very own, and I’m not sure where he went after that, as he’s not playing in the USA F2 in Tamarac this week. What I am sure is that an anagram for “Wayne Odesnik” is “Disown Yankee.” Draw your own conclusions about that.

Meanwhile, one of the many Top 500 Dans of British Tennis (Smethurst variety), continued his fine play for the week into the QF’s, upending Phillip Simmonds in a decidedly trouncy fashion 6-2 6-2. Matej Bocko of the Slovak Rep continued his stellar comeback from an 8-month layoff, beating the previously unstoppable-seeming Alexander Domijan in straight sets, 6-4 6-4. And lucky loser Olivier Sajous continued his cinderella story of lucky loserdom with an improbably easy 6-1 6-2 romp over Venezuelan David Souto to round out the final four.

Incidentally, during his stay at the F1 tourney, the 18-year-old Souto wrote one of my favorite tweets of 2011 so far. To friend and player Jose De Armas, he typed: “jose estoy aqui en el imperio! Tu donde estas?” Or: “Jose, I’m here in The Empire! Where are you?” That made me giggle.

In the semis, the Big Sloven Gregorc put a Slovenly smackdown on Mr. Smethurst, 6-2 6-2. But Smethy stuck around to play the doubles final anyway (more on that in a bit). And Sajous continued his transplanted-local-makes-good-a-year-after-the-Haitian-earthquakes-rocked-his-homeland feelgood march into the finals, 6-4 6-3.

And then there were two. That’s how these things work, you know? In the final, Sajous won the first set 6-3 and it looked like he was all but destined for his fairytale anniversarial ending. But Luka Gregorc stayed calm and didn’t choke – even though one of the anagrams for his name is “gurgle croak” – and came back to take the title 3-6 6-2 6-0.

My name is Luka.  I won by a three-set score.

Not to take away from Gregorc’s non-gurgle/choke-ing victory, but perhaps Sajous was tired in the final, as I see he had to play a round 2 qualifying match at USA F2 in Tamarac on the day he won his F1 semi (I think). And I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Haitian didn’t get a special exempt into the F2 draw. (For those unfamiliar with the rule, a “Special Exempt” entitles a player to bypass having to play qualifying of the next week’s event if he’s still alive in the current week’s singles draw at the time said qualifying begins, as was the case with Olivier’s situation).

Outside of asking Sajous himself, I’m not sure I’ll be able to add anything useful, other than the wild supposition that perhaps Sajous didn’t alert the relevant authority that he wanted/needed the SE? Sounds silly, I know, but stranger things have happened.

Now to the doubles. The British team of Dan Smethurst and Alex Ward (nothing but Dans and Wards, the 19-23 year-old English crew seems to consist of) beat Jordan Cox and Christian Harrison 6-4 2-6 [10-5] in the semifinals after Cox and Harrison had displaced the top seeded Daniels Garza and Yoo in the quarters. After this match, A.Ward cheekily set himself up for the Silver Medal in the Challenger Tennis Tweets of the Year contest with his, “Call me Bob Bryan after that display.” Which made me wrinkle my nose a bit, but hold fast: his redemption is coming soon!

The bottom half of the draw held more to form, as the second seeds, Moldova’s Roman Borvanov and USA’s Dennis Zivkovic, beat third-seeded Nick Monroe and Phillip Simmonds 6-4 4-6 [10-4]. So Borvanov/Zivkovic were the mad dawgs who met the Englishmen in the midday sun, and the mad dogs won it 6-4 6-4. After which, Ward picked up his silver medal: “More like bob the builder today…” AHAHAHA.

Incidentally, on my drive down from the frigid Northeast, I’d been reading a book called The Geography of Bliss (from the jacket description: “Many authors have tried to describe what happiness is; fewer have shown us where it is, why some places seem to be happier than others, and how changing your location can change your mood”); seemed like an appropriate choice for my journey, no? And coincidentally enough, I just finished reading a chapter on Moldova and how it is, by social scientific and quantifiable standards, the Unhappiest Place on Earth. So I hope Borvanov’s victory at least lifted the spirits of one Moldovan, anyway.

Finally, Borvanov defeated a Zivkovic-populated team to claim his previous dubs title at the Mexico F9 in November, which had been his first since September of 2008. So I guess Zivkovic figured, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and that paid off in the form of an F1 doubles title and the $422.50 bounty that goes with it (assuming a 50/50 split). That’s pretty deep karmic stuff right there. So I’ll leave you now and give you some time to reflect on this until you’ve Moldova it properly.

I’ll be back with (not as long-winded) tales of the other non-Christina Marie-covered Futures that took place this week soon.