tap tap tap. Is this thing still on? Man, this place sure can use some dusting…

Um. Hello again, world (or the 5 of you that visited today)! Sorry to go missing so suddenly and so completely — I ran into some health and personal woes that knocked me both a) for a loop and b) out of the tennis biz.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, news of the passing of Challenger Tennis’ good friend and former WATCH List co-conspirator Steve at Shank Tennis made me want to restore at least the Twitter account for this website, so I could get the word out to as many people as possible (somehow, that Twitter account doubled in followers in my absence, proving that I’m much more popular saying nothing than I am saying something).

Steve’s passing leaves a tremendous void among those who care and write about tennis’s so-called “minor leagues” — there are few enough of us as it is, but Steve was one of the more (and possibly the most) knowledgeable, passionate and, above all, funny advocates of tennis played at the Challenger and Futures level.  In homage to Steve, I decided to start at least tweeting about challenger tennis again (not that I could ever fill the void he left); it was the most I had to give at the time, and one of the only ways I knew how to give.

In the past few weeks, I’ve discovered anew my own passion for life in the challenger tennis ranks. To that end, I’ve decided to bring back this website too — not as an every day thing like it once was, but as an outlet when I have things to say that push beyond the 140-character limit (and long-time readers will know: I’m notoriously long-winded).

Since Steve and I used to collaborate in bringing you both ATP- and Challenger-level career high rankings every(ish) Monday, I figured there was no better place to start fresh than with a new WATCH List, which tells us Who’s Achieved Their Career High ranking this week.

With the Davis Cup this past weekend, a lot of the higher ranked players sat out tournament play and instead battled it out for their respective countries this week.  And since Davis Cup is a murky ground upon which to build ranking points, there was hardly any movement at the top.  Alas, Steve wouldn’t have had much to contribute this week, as he covered those ranked between #1 and #80.

But there was plenty o’ movement among my #80-#300ish crowd, so here is the latest WATCH List*:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman ARG 21 122
Augustin Velotti ARG 21 166
Renzo Olivo ARG 21 184
Kristijan Mesaros CRO 25 199
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 204
Mirza Basic BIH 22 205
Jordi Samper-Montana ESP 23 211
Tim Puetz GER 25 216
Norbert Gombos SVK 23 223
Miloslav Mecir SVK 25 238
Enrique Lopez-Perez ESP 22 246
Lorenzo Giustino ITA 22 252
Andrea Collarini ARG 21 257
Yannik Reuter BEL 22 259
Valery Rudnev RUS 25 265
Patricio Heras ARG 24 270
Kimmer Coppejans BEL 19 293
Victor Baluda RUS 20 299
Mikhail Biryukov RUS 21 310

As you can see, the List is topped by 21-year-old Argentinians. And with two more players in the Top 300 also establishing career highs this week, not to mention** 22-year old Federico Delbonis (ATP #57), Guido Pella (23yo, #100), Facundo Bagnis (23, #160), Guido Andreozzi (22, #167) and Facundo Arguello (21, #195) — *gasps* *catches breath* — the future looks quite bright for La Albiceleste.

Another interesting thing to note is the absence of any player from the United States this week (although a couple of them are at least near their career highs).  Time will tell if this is a statistical aberration, but no US player achieved a career high last week either.  This may be a simple matter of post-US Open scheduling (neither Jack Sock, Denis Kudla, Rhyne Williams nor Bradley Klahn have played since the USO, for example).

In the past two weeks of new rankings, though, there have been *inhales deeply* 3 Argentinians, 3 Spaniards, 3 Frenchmen, 3 Slovaks, 2 Austrians, and 1 person each from Australia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Taiwan and Venezuela attaining career bests. [insert your own “partridge and a pear tree” joke here, readers.] But no one from the States.  (Granted, there have been no Stateside Challengers since the USO and won’t be until the $50K Napa Challenger next week but… *bangs drums portending Stateside doom and decay*)

Lastly, in a week that has already shown the ATP emergence of a 17-year-old Russian phenom (Karen Khachanov, who beat Victor Hanescu in the first round of the ATP 250 event in St. Petersburg), don’t sleep on the two Russians — Baluda and Biryukov — at the bottom of this WATCH list. Both were Top 12 juniors, and Biryukov especially has had a good year, going 41/17 with 3 Futures titles and 2 runner-ups to his name.

Mikhail Biryukov

Mikhail Biryukov

So that wraps up this week’s WATCH List. Do drill me with your questions, comments, derision and/or lavish praise in the comments, please.

*I’m a little rusty, so I’m not giving as much info as I once did.  Please bear with me as I continue to limber up me olde blogging muscles.

**Er, I think I’m about to mention them