Archive for November, 2013


Why yes, I do know it’s Wednesday.  But on Sunday only one of these articles had been published, which would’ve made the Reading List more of a Reading Single Item.  So, like the WTF-delayed W.A.T.C.H. list, this article is merely content delayed.  (And I had to make it a “Sunday” list to keep the cherished tradition* alive for the readers who love it so.)  Besides, Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel.

Moving along from day-related nonsense, our first item is the only one that was available before Sunday. And in fact, it was available in August, though for reasons unbeknownst to me it only started making the rounds last week.  It’s a Forbes article detailing the monetary difficulties for the lower-ranked players on tour, through the eyes of Michael Russell.

Muscles Hustles

Muscles Hustles

I’ve long been one decrying the harsh economic realities for those on the Challenger/Futures circuit, and this article brings into sharp relief how tennis can be more of a fiscal challenge than a physical one.  This quote from Patrick McEnroe is the heart of it:

And if players are not competing on the ATP tour regularly,  the math for staying in the game makes less sense. Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of Player Development at the United States Tennis Association, said the possibility of talented youngsters eschewing tennis for more lucrative sports “is what keeps me up at night. If you have a 7 year old, it’s much easier to sign him up for basketball than tennis. The challenge with tennis, is that once they’re exposed, it takes a lot of time and organization to make players significantly better.”

It’s what keeps me up at night too, PMac.  It’s fairly horrifying to know that these players whom I regularly watch, these guys who are so damn talented, might have to give up the game simply because, that particular year, they weren’t making ends meet.  With the average age of the Top 100 escalating to around 27-years-old, this is kind of akin to a player having to submit to a years-long unpaid internship, as they struggle with the grind of everything else on tour.  Maybe next year is the year they would’ve broke through, but they have to quit this year because they can’t make ends meet.

What a nightmare.

And it’s why players are scurrying to challengers all over the world this week, trying to earn those ATPoints that will get them into the main draw of the Australian Open, where just appearing in the draw earns players $23,000.

The next articles are a bit more upbeat, thankfully.  This business insider article continues with the monetary theme but with a brighter fiscal forecast. It’s, I dunno, comforting (?) to know that after some of these players quit because they can’t make money, maybe they’ll make lots of money after they quit.  It’s reverse incentivising.  Or something.

Maybe it’s just due to my poor memory, but what I’ve found is that when players on the lower circuits retire, there’s no announcement, no fanfare at all. And sometimes it takes weeks or months before I’m looking at a draw and think, “Hey, whatever happened to…” [insert player name]. I’m happy to find some of them folk in the confines of this Business Insider piece.

I see you, Barry King!

I see you, Barry King!

Foot Soldiers of Tennis has weighed in with its annual look at which players have successfully qualified for the most ATP World Tour events this year, a.k.a. the Kings of Qualifying. So click the link and find out who is the biggest KOQ.

The East Central Illinois News Gazette offers a well-written and -researched look at Rajeev Ram returning to the Champaign Challenger at the place where he was part of the legendary 2003 NCAA-champion 32-0 Illini team of 2003.  It also hits on other members of the team, past and present.

Lastly — and speaking of former college stars — this week’s Challenger Tour Finals participant and 2009 ITA Player of the Year, Oleksandr Nedovyesov is the focus of Josh Meiseles’s excellent article for the ATP World Tour website, describing the decision-making parameters inherent in a player’s choice to either turn pro or play for a top U.S. school.

The 26-year-old Ukrainian has been on W.A.T.C.H. Lists aplenty as he’s gobbled up titles and soared to a spot in the Top 100.

That’s all for now. Tune in whenever the next day is that I decide is Sunday!

*two weeks now and running strong!

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Well, (no) thanks to the lollygaggers and dilly-dalliers at the O2 Arena’s World Tour Finals — who lollygaggingly and dilly-dallyingly decided to contest their Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic final on a Monday and not a Sunday — today’s W.A.T.C.H. List comes to you one day late, since the new rankings were delayed. WTF indeed.

So let’s not waste any more time, and cut straight to today’s List to see Who’s Achieved Their Career Highs this week*:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Michal Przysiezny POL 29 59 others lost points
Tim Smyczek USA 25 73 Knoxville W
Julian Reister GER 27 83 Yeongwol R2
Bradley Klahn USA 23 101 Yeongwol W
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 127 Bogota QF
Peter Polansky CAN 25 141 Knoxville F
Victor Estrella DOM 33 147 Bogota W
Guilherme Clezar BRA 20 159 Bogota SF
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 190 Bratislava QF
Taro Daniel JPN 20 214 Yeongwol F
James McGee IRL 26 220 Yeongwol SF
Germain Gigounon BEL 24 240 Yeongwol QF
Axel Michon FRA 22 241 Egypt F32 F
Valery Rudnev RUS 25 244 Yeongwol R16
Aslan Karatsev RUS 20 286 Yeongwol QR2
Tak Khunn Wang FRA 22 289 others lost points
Adrian Sikora SVK 25 297 Bratislava R2
Janez Semrajc SLO 24 306 Croatia F14 SF
Ante Pavic CRO 24 314 Bratislava R2
Juan Lizariturry ESP 22 316 others lost points

“Oh my!” I can hear you saying, “Some of these names are in yellow. What on Earth could possibly be the reason?”

Well I’ll tell you what: it’s because this is Peter Polansky, Taro Daniel and Axel Michon’s first time on the List**.

Polansky, as anyone who’s been paying attention already knows, has been tearing up the Chally circuit of late, making the finals of his last three tournaments and winning at Tiburon. The 25-year-old Canadian is thus 13-2 in his last 15 matches.

PePo Stares Deep Into Your Soul at the Knoxville Trophy Ceremony***

PePo Stares Deep Into Your Soul at the Knoxville Trophy Ceremony***

Taro Daniel, for his part, had an excellent run at the Yeongwol Challenger, where he upset 6 seed James Ward in the first round, and rode that win all the way to the finals, where he lost to Bradley Klahn. The 20-year-old Japanese righty is now the sixth-ranked player under the age of 21.

Axel Michon, meanwhile, is a  22-year-old Frenchman who’s had a very decent 59/29 campaign this year — although most of his success has been on Futures level and hasn’t quite translated to Challenger-level success; in fourteen tries this year, Michon’s only made it past the 2nd round one time.

Lastly, I want to point out just how many of the career highs were posted at the middle-of-nowhere Yeongwol Challenger. *points*

Aslan Karatsev only had to win one qualifying match to achieve his new personal best, fer chrissakes. It seems like all you had to do was show up there and viola — a new career high! Heck, I think even the Yeongwol ball kids have at least one ATP point.

Yeong Jeezy - photo by Jason Jung

Yeong Jeezy – photo by Jason Jung

*Ranked between 60(ish) and 300(ish), as always.

**In the last 10 weeks, at least.

***And you kind of like it.

As I was putting together a database of Challenger and Futures players in the Top 500, I compiled just about every available piece of info I could find. And I found that one of the more interesting data fields came from the players’ “Personal Interests”, as listed on their ITF Biography Pages.

If you’ve ever tried researching players outside the Top 200, you’ll probably know how hard it is to dig up any info other than results for said players.  While a large majority of the Top 200 enjoy a lavish paragraph or two on the ATP’s “Personal” profile tab*, often the only sense one can get of a tenniser’s multi-dimensionality comes from this part of their ITF page.

Now, a lot of these interests are fairly drab or predictable; almost 50% of players list either soccer or football, for example.  Or 15% list “golf”, for another. But some are interesting and unique enough that they bear special mention, which is what I’ll do in this post, expertly dividing them into neat-o sub-categories such as:

Lotharios

A few players naturally list “girls” as one of their personal interests (although, predictably, none list them as “women”) — Marton Fucsovics and Brydan Klein among them (insert your own joke here).

That Ball's About To Be Fucsed Up

That Ball’s About To Be Fucsed Up

But only two (2) (TWO!) players list them as “girls!” with an exclamation point: Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri and Israel’s Dudi Sela. If you’ve been following the news, you will find that to be either a remarkable coincidence or Proof Once And For All of God’s Unquestionable Existence.

Oh, and there’s one (very smart) player who knows on what side his croissant is buttered, and that’s Lucas Pouille. Because instead of “girls” or “girls!”, the 19-year-old Frenchman has: “Girlfriend.” Period.

"Ooh la la -- I know how zee croissant is butTAIRED"

“Ooh la la — I know how zee croissant is butTAIRED”

Moldovans

As with Jaziri and Sela, I noticed that Moldovans like ATP #171 Radu Albot and #379 Maxim Dubarenco are the only people who list “walking with friends” as a favored activity.  Not “hanging out with friends” or “visiting with friends” – walking with friends.  Actually, Albot is even more exclusive than Dubarenco is, as he wrote “walking with best friends”.

Maximum Velocity

Maximum Velocity

Are you merely a good friend to Radu? Or are you a best friend? Find out by seeing if he walks with you!

This Moldovan pattern is either further proof of a Universal Order, or just an indication that the Moldovans copied off of each other’s ITF profile questionnaires when they filled them out.

Scholars

In this increasingly digital age, where 1/4th of all players list one of “internet”, “computer” or “video games” as a main interest, it’s becoming rare to find readers on the tour.

Thus, I am singling out for special commendation Ricardas Berankis, Alejandro Falla, Andrey Golubev (who, in also listing “playing chess” as a favored pursuit, wins the title of Ultra-Nerd) and Uladzimir Ignatik.

"Hi, I'm Andrey Golubev! Have You Ever Read A Book Called "Hitting Back"?

“Hi, I’m Andrey Golubev! Have you ever read a book called “Hitting Back“?

Kimmer Coppejans lists “Manga” as an interest — that’s a kind of Japanese comic book, so I’ll give him half-credit.

Adventurers

One of the few luxuries of being outside the Top 100, I suppose, is that insurance clauses on multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements won’t limit you from your favorite, possibly career-ending adrenalized adventure pursuits.  Yay?

Continue reading

Whaddup, W.A.T.C.H.ers.

I was feeling especially industrious today, so I brought back a column of info that I used to have in WATCH Lists of yore: the “Why” column, which details what exactly a player did to achieve their career high this week.  You lucky devils.  So let’s do it:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Pablo Carreno-Busta ESP 22 65 Paris QR2
Tim Smyczek USA 25 82 others lost points
Julian Reister GER 27 85 Seoul F
Oleksandr Nedovyesov UKR 26 95 Eckental R2
Bradley Klahn USA 23 118 Traralgon F
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 122 Casablanca W
James Duckworth AUS 21 132 Traralgon SF
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 135 Montevideo R2
Guido Andreozzi ARG 22 143 Montevideo R2
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 160 Paris R2
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 179 Casablanca SF
Norbert Gombos SVK 23 192 Geneva QF
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 197 others lost points
Tim Puetz GER 25 207 Eckental SF
Jordi Samper-Montana ESP 23 211 others lost points
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 214 Casablanca QF
Filip Peliwo CAN 19 245 Charlottesville R2
Valery Rudnev RUS 25 252 Seoul R2
Thiago Monteiro BRA 19 254 Montevideo R2
Hiroki Kondo JPN 30 275 Seoul R2
Tak Khunn Wang FRA 22 293 Spain F36 W

Today we welcome to the fold a new* WATCH Lister, Mr. Bradley Klahn. In contrast to recent List regulars like Dominic Thiem, Gerald Melzer, and Tim Smyczek — all of whom have charted career highs in six of the last nine weeks — the Stanford grad’s been drifting around the ATP rankings table of late; he’s been within 11 spots of his previous personal best (#123) since winning the Aptos Challenger in early August, before finally breaking through Down Under.

The 23-year-old was one of a very few Americans who sought his points outside of the States this week, and the move paid off for him as he made it to the finals of the Traralgon Challenger in Australia, going down to India’s Yuki Bhambri in a ridiculously close and rain delayed affair 7-6(13) 3-6 4-6. (For more on that match, check out the superb coverage provided by our friends at Aceland Tennis.)

The Wrath of Klahn - photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

The Wrath of Klahn – photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

During his years at Stanford, Klahn was a three-time All-American in both singles and doubles and was the 2009-10 NCAA Singles champ. This is his first full year on the pro tour, and he’s the latest of many former U.S. college players to appear on the W.A.T.C.H. List.  The upcoming week finds him at the Yeongwol Challenger, as the fourth seed in a stronger field.

Moving right along, Pierre-Hugues Herbert has been on the List five times in the past nine weeks, but it’s how he did it that bears noting this time around.  The 22-year-old Frenchman got a WC in qualifying at the ATP 1000 in Paris (Bercy), and knocked off Horacio Zeballos and Kenny de Schepper to qualify (coming back from a set and a break down and saving match point vs. the former).

But he didn’t stop there.  In the main draw, P2H maintained his focus while Benoit Paire managed to implode spectacularly on the other side of the net (as is his fashion).

Herbert Signs Your Computer Monitor After His Win Vs. Paire

Herbert Signs Your Computer Monitor After His Win Vs. Paire

And in the next round he was perilously close to taking the first set from some mug named Novak Djokovic.  Though he didn’t win the match, he became a cause celebre in Paris for the remainder of the week, playing dubs with the Schepper and making TV appearances all over town.

As Tennis East Coast reported, players at the Charlottesville Challenger cheered Herbert on, watching the lanky lad on Tennis Channel in the players lounge, thrilled to be watching one of their own making a splash at such an elite level.  You can practically see the thought bubbles above their heads when you picture it, right?  It reads: “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

And indeed, a few of those very players are sure to appear on these W.A.T.C.H. List pages one of these days.  Stay tuned.

*new in the past 9 weeks, anyway.

Since there are seven challenger tourneys happening this week, there was bound to be some excellent written work in and around these events. And just in case you missed my tweets about them this week, herein in lies the very best of those.

First and definitely foremost comes this piece about Dominic Thiem’s crazy fitness coach, Sepp Resnik, and the wacky methods he uses to train the D(en)ominator.

Resnik's Guiding Hand

Resnik’s Guiding Hand

If you do nothing else with your life, at the very least you must read this article — it’s truly that remarkable. (Oh, and here’s the article in its original German, if you like to dabble in Deutsch.) And I’d love it if you’d report back to me and tell me your thoughts about it in the comments.

Next up is this introspective, thoughtful and well-written blog post from Jason JungThe ATP #396 — who’s had a very decent year at 42/22, and just fed Mitchell Krueger a double-breadstick today in Yeongwol — nicely and concisely conveys all the joy, doubt, beauty and pain of the weekly challenger tennis grind.

The Jung And The Restless

The Jung And The Restless

Similarly, this stellar article from Tennis East Coast shows us you don’t even have to go halfway around the world to have a lonely challenger experience. There are similar challenges to be faced even in a player’s home country. I love the bit about Pierre-Hugues Herbert, as I felt the same way the pros did.

Charlottesville Chally - Photo by Tennis East Coast

Charlottesville Chally – Photo by Tennis East Coast

And it truly is a shame that some of these events are so sparsely attended. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I can’t think of anywhere else you get as much bang for your entertainment buck as you can at a challenger or Futures tournament (and oftentimes you don’t even have to pay at all).

The players you see are bound to be just a few very small improvements away from the ATP Tour; oftentimes they’re just as talented, but don’t quite have their mental games or fitness focus where it needs to be.  (And, because their mental games aren’t as strong, you get to see far more interesting meltdowns than you’d see at ATP level).

Plus you’re closer to the court than you’d normally be at an ATP tourney. If you’re a tennis fan, you truly owe it to yourself to check the calendar for tourneys in the area, and then go. The players, the tourneys and you yourself have everything to gain. Do it!

Lastly, Colette Lewis spotlights a few of the players you can see at such events in her October Aces columnMitchell Frank was one of the players at the Charlottesville Challenger, Karen Khachanov made the quarterfinals of the Geneva Challenger this week, and Elias Ymer played the qualies at the Bratislava Challenger.

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