Yeah, yeah. I’m way behind on this (as I noted last night, it’ll be more like a midview than a preview), but I’m determined to go through with it anyway. Better later than never, no? Plus I get to seem like I’m smart by predicting upsets that have already happened. Everybody wins! (Except for the players who lost, of course.)
We gots three events on the Challenger Map this week:
Courmayeur, Italy (Indoor Hard, €30,000 plus some good, old-fashioned hospitality):
Hmmm. I don’t know if I’m just having an off day today or what, but I’m having a hard time getting very excited about this one. And you know if I’m having trouble getting excited about a tournament, then something’s either wrong with me or with it.
Simone Bolelli is the top seed here, but we all know he’s not going to win. Then again, I thought the same thing about the Turin Challenger last year and look what happened (hint: he won).
I’m pleased to see Lithuanian #2 (behind “Richard” Berankis, of course) Laurynas Grigelis has made it through qualifying. I’ll never forget that fifth live rubber the honorary Italian (he trains there and speaks the language fluently) played against Dan Evans last year, when Big Grig became a national hero and Dan continued to cultivate his national doormat status.
Everyone gave Evans such a hard time for that one, because he lost to a guy outside the Top 500, but I would tell anyone who listened back then that Laury played well above his then-521 ranking. Less than 11 months later, my sentiment has been somewhat borne out as Grigelis will likely enter the Top 400 next week. He’ll play 27 year-old Dutchie Matwe Middelkoop in the first round, with the winner getting Bolelli. A possible quarterfinal in the top section here pits Bolelli vs. fifth seed (and 2011 CT PtW) Benoit Paire, which would be a tasty match indeed. One only hopes they fix their livestream by then, should that come to pass. But Matthias Bachinger will probably beat them both anyway. Because that’s just the kind of thing he does.
Fourth seed Nicolas Mahut headlines the second quarter of the draw, third seed Gilles Muller and sixth seed Martin Klizan are slated to meet in the quarters of their section, which could be good, and  Jerzy Janowicz and  Olivier Rochus make up the long and the short of it in the bottom quarter.
Full draw is here.
Kazan, Russia (Indoor Hard, $75,000, Tretorn SERIE*, not very hospitable (have you seen the picture of Henri Kontinen’s tap water?)): Top seed here is Mr. Conor Niland, seen here eating a dodgy lunch thanks to the twitpicking skills of Mr. James Cluskey:
Pro tip: one of the most advantageous things to doing one’s previews after the event has actually started is you can then use photos the players themselves take at the actual event. I’m gonna do next week’s previews on Thursday, I think. Anyway, two of Ireland’s finest, are they (Clusk’s in the dubs with Miloslav Mecir Jr. But I can’t really vouch for the Little Cat).
Some interesting first round matches include (but may not be limited to): sixth seed Uladzimir Ignatik vs. Amir Weintraub, three seed Alexander Kudryavtsev vs. Marius Copil, and Kontinen vs. 7 seed Jurgen Zopp. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an upset in two out of three of those contests.
A full combo draw with all the Russian fixins is here.
Burnie, Tasmania (Outdoor Hard, $50,ooo, not even a trace of hospitality): Oh, Burnie. What fun we had together last year, you and me. My friends and I would watch all your matches on the Ustream feed and take over the chat room. For a couple of days the local tennis bros at the club there would talk crap about the chatters, not realizing we could hear them (like ESPN3 on every commercial break, basically).
Alas, this year there will not be a stream. Oh Ravernon, where have you gone? But this year I’m supposed to get excited about protennislive scoreboard and a serve speed gun. Evs. I guess I should be thankful that the stream has run dry, as it will no doubt make sleep an easier thing to achieve over the next week. Then again, on the heels of the Australian Open, who’s sleep schedule (outside of Australia’s) is normal anyway? In conclusion: bah.
As ever, I find the draw for Burnie the most interesting of all, which is kind of how it goes for me with all tourneys Down Under. I’m a big fan of most of the raredowells and roustabouts cast off by Tennis Australia, as a general rule (and I even like some of the ones kept in as well).
It would probably save lots of time to just tell you the first round matches I don’t find compelling on some level. They are: Dennis Bloemke vs. Pavol Cervenak and  Yuichi Sugita vs. Danai Udomchoke. And that’s it. I wish I were kidding. I would quite happily watch any of the other 14.
Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that seventh seed Ivo Minar is going to be upset by qualifier Joel Lindner. Don’t ask me how I know. Just be happy that I’m passing along this quality hunch to you free of charge, haha.
*”The premier events of the ATP Challenger series”