Yup. Only one Challenger event to challenge you challenged/challenging fans this week. So expect me get microscopic on this beeyotch this week. Like, I’ll be analyzing the draw electron by electron this week. You’ll get every result in triplicate. All photos in three different sizes. I’ll be all over this here tourney:
Meknes, Morocco (Outdoor Clay, 30,000 Euros with lovely hospitality, 4,300 Euros/80 points to champion, last direct acceptance: Kevin Kim #261): Interestingly, this tournament has a more exclusive cutoff than any of the bigger money tournaments that happened last week. The reason? This is the only game in town, baby. Or the world, for that matter. If you didn’t want to risk your luck in ATP qualies this week, or relegate yourself to Futures play, then the only thing a Challenger-level player could do this week is either rest/train or play here. Many chose the latter option.
28-year-old German top seed Denis Gremelmayr (ranked #108 in the world) has a tricky first rounder against 22-year-old Espaniard Guillermo Olaso, #230, who was last seen beating Challenger Tennis Player to Watch Javier Marti in the Spain F4 finals. [Author’s note: Damn it! I wrote this last night and fell asleep after the Prodon paragraph. Now I’ve woken up to Olaso winning 7-6(4) 6-2, and people will think I wrote the “tricky” part after the fact. But I didn’t! Sometimes I actually know stuff, I swear!)
29-year-old German second seed Simon Greul (ranked #111 in the world) has a less tricky first rounder against 23-year-old toe-tapping Italiano Matteo Viola, #211, who is only 1/5 on the year so far.
I’m very keen to see who faces Gremel in the second round, since another CT PtW, the just-signed-to-IMG Andrey Kuznetsov squares off against similarly-ranked Portugeezer Leonardo Tavares in An.Kuz’s first match since the Australian Open. Not sure what Kuz’s form will be like, but he likes the clay so he should be OK against his almost-exactly-seven-years-elder, 26-year-old opponent. ‘Course, Gremlin wiped Kuz off the court in their last (and only meeting) on clay (or anywhere), at the Poznan Challenger, 1 & 2, and had a tougher time on the dirt vs. Tavares in Marburg last year. (Please note: this paragraph is almost entirely moot now that Olaso has won.)
Hey! Here’s some great news. On line 18 of our singles draw, we find one of my fave players listed there: the wildcard FATTAR, Anas. I’ll leave you to guess why he’s a fave of mine, however.
In that same quarter of the draw, we not only find Lamine Ouahab, but also Talal Ouahabi. I always used to say there was no “i” in “Ouahab”, but now I’m not so sure…
I would say that third-seeded Frenchman Eric Prodon is in the most challenging draw quarter, were I not such a coward. Seriously, though: first, the 29-year-old Bucaramanga champ has to play qualifier Franco Skugor, who’s beaten him in their only previous meeting (in 2007). Then, should he advance, he gets a winnable match against a Spaniard (either Guillermo Alcaide or fun-sized Gerald Granollers). But after that? Prodon can pick his poison from any of Evgeny Donskoy, Reda El Amrani, Attila Balazs, or sixth seed Bastian Knittel. None of those will be a walk in the cake for the pro don.
Ukrainian Ivan Sergeyev makes his first appearance, tourneywise, since the Australian Open. I bet he loses, though, against eighth seeded Italian Simone Vagnozzi, who destroyed him 2 & 2 last summer in US Open quals. (Con man alert: I typed that entire paragraph after seeing that Vagnozzi closed out a 6-1 7-6(2) win over Ivan. One of these days, I’ll actually finish my preview before the main draw play commences. But it won’t be today. Or next week, for that matter, as I’ll be on the ground covering the ATP Delray Beach tourney every day. Such a shame.)
Let’s see what other results I can now disingenuously peddle as “preview” material. *looks at scoreboard* Hmmm – I bet Balazs will initially give sixth seeded Bastian Knittel some problems; but the 27 year-old Heilbronn Challenger champion will figure him out and drum(stick) him in the final two sets. I know what I’m talking about here, people. You can take that to the bank (or your bookie).
Author’s note: I swear there are only three completed matches at the time of this writing, and Nikola Ciric is in the first set with Augustin Gensse at 5-all. That’s a tough one to call – both are similarly ranked and are proficient on clay. I bet the Frenchman (Gensse) takes it, though. And by “bet”, I mean “spend no money at all but just type about it with no financial repercussions whatsoever.”
Let’s see – better wrap this up before more matches are in the books. Plus I have to finish the WATCH List before Shank Tennis accuses me of being lazy (note: may have already happened at this point). Is there anyone worthy of typing about that I haven’t already typed about? Alexander Lobkov and Victor Crivoi just appeared on my protennislive scoreboard (hello, gents). Lobkov was almost one of my Players To Watch for this year, but I’m not completely sold on him yet. Crivoi came through qualifying, but I’m not sure how open his pockets are for this one, so I dare not make a judgment.
OK, let’s publish this damn thing. Apologies to those few aspects of the draw I failed to write about. I’ll be sure to cover them in my nightly review, though. You have been warned. (p.s. Ciric just took the first set. Oops.)
Edited to add: there are really good streams for all Centre Court matches this week. Go to livescorehunter to find them.