Archive for December, 2013

OK, folks. I’ll bring you this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List, but I must warn you: it’s abysmal.

Since the rankings this week are based solely upon five Futures tournaments, there are very few players achieving their career highs via on-court achievements. Thus, over half of this week’s table find themselves backing into their personal bests because adjacent players on the ATP Rankings table are a bunch of point-losers:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Germain Gigounon BEL 24 237 others lost points
Jose Checa-Calvo ESP 28 239 others lost points
Borna Coric CRO 17 303 Turkey F51 W
Alexey Vatutin RUS 21 385 others lost points
Ivan Arenas-Gualda ESP 23 389 others lost points
Tihomir Grozdanov BUL 26 394 Qatar F5 R2
Ricardo Urzua-Rivera CHI 24 414 Chile F12 SF
Tomas Lipovsek Puches ARG 20 415 Chile F12 QF
Yoshihito Nishioka JPN 18 442 Chile F12 W
Facundo Mena ARG 21 492 Brazil F21 QF
Martin Cuevas URU 21 522 others lost points
Pedro Cachin ARG 18 544 others lost points
Tim Nekic GER 21 574 others lost points
Jean-Marc Werner GER 23 576 others lost points
Mateo Nicolas Martinez ARG 19 579 others lost points
Jaime Pulgar-Garcia ESP 24 581 others lost points
Mike Urbanija SLO 24 590 others lost points
Tristan Lamasine FRA 20 600 Turkey F50 QF
Vadim Alekseenko UKR 30 609 Turkey F51 R2
Caio Silva BRA 22 615 Brazil F21 SF
Alban Meuffels NED 21 616 Turkey F50 SF


Leading the charge of those who actually did things on court is the boundlessly active Borna Coric, who won the year’s final pro event in Turkey. This must’ve come as quite a relief to Borna’s practice partner of last week, Rafael Nadal, as a Coric loss the week after would’ve reflected quite poorly on him, no doubt*.

By now, you know all about the 17-year-old Croatian sensation, and I’m really only mentioning him so I can include this picture:

Hot Lava - The Lion Cub In A Tiger Suit

Hot Lava – The Lion Cub In A Tiger Suit

The US Open Boys champ finishes 2013 with five Futures titles and a decent 39/12 record on the pro tour.

Next up on our hit parade is Ricardo Urzua-Rivera, whose semi-final showing at the Chile F12 Futures finds the former ITF Junior Top Tenner at No. 414 in this week’s rankings.  The injury-plagued 24-year-old finishes a successful 66/25 year in which he played as many matches (91) as he had in the previous 2.5 seasons combined.

As a result, he’s up about 600 ranking rungs, after beginning the year outside the Top 1000.

His and Urz

His and Urz

And, since I’m completely uninspired, that’s gonna wrap up this year’s W.A.T.C.H. Lists. Next week/year will feature actual on-court achievements from this week’s/next year’s two Challenger events in Noumea and Sao Paulo. Or something. How exciting!

So be safe, everyone, and let’s do this again in 2014!

*can’t seem to find the sarcasm font here.

This far into the season, it’s time to dig deep — not just for the players, but for me as well, as this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List plumbs the depths of the rankings all the way down to #720 in the rankings.

As has been documented in previous Lists, as tournaments dwindle toward the end of the year, fewer guys are playing, which limits the potential career high ranking opportunities. In this week’s case, it’s limited to the following folk:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 198 others lost points
Roberto Ortega-Olmedo ESP 22 331 Qatar F4 SF
Wilson Leite BRA 22 371 Brazil F20 QF
Ivan Arenas-Guarda ESP 23 392 others lost points
Michael Shabaz USA 26 394 Qatar F4 F
Tihomir Grozdanov BUL 26 399 Qatar F4 W
Oliver Golding GBR 20 406 Qatar F4 SF
Erik Crepaldi ITA 23 416 Turkey F49 SF
Karunuday Singh IND 23 488 Cambodia F3 SF
Yoshihito Nishioka JPN 18 503 Chile F11 W
Mateo Nicolas Martinez ARG 19 581 others lost points
Jaime Pulgar-Garcia ESP 24 583 others lost points
Frederico Ferreira Silva POR 18 603 Turkey F49 R2
Eduardo Agustin Torre ARG 19 674 Chile F11 SF
Markos Kalovelonis GRE 19 689 others lost points
Marko Tepavac SRB 19 716 others lost points
Andrea Basso ITA 20 717 others lost points
Carlos Boluda-Purkiss ESP 20 718 Qatar F4 R2
Herkko Pollanen FIN 19 719 Turkey F49 R2
Adrian Partl SVK 20 720 others lost points

Before I zero in on some of these heroes, I come bearing the following bulletins:

1) If you’re someone who has backed into a personal best ranking by others losing points? Well then sorry, I won’t be doing a pro-file on you this (or any) week. *sniffs snobbishly*


2) If you made the final four at the Qatar F4? Well then congrats, ’cause you’ve got a career high ranking!

One of those Qatar Final Fourers is none other than former University of Virginia standout Michael Shabaz, who’s been bedeviled by illness and injury since making a professional splash as a finalist of the 2010 Charlottesville Challenger (as well as a popular participant of the 2010 USTA Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs). 

The two-time NCAA champ (and 2005 Wimbledon Boys doubles titlist) was only able to play fourteen pro matches in 2011 and twenty-six matches in 2012 before finding this current run of health and form at the end of 2013, in what amounts to his first full professional season.

The only downside to all this good news is that he’ll have to update his website sometime soon.

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As the number of worldwide pro tournaments dwindles — last week there were just six Futures events, this week four, and next week (gasp) only one* — the number of point-gobbling opportunities likewise dwindles.

Those who are still playing this deep into the season and who go deep into tournaments are thusly rewarded with larger-than-usual ranking gains, as the rest of the tour largely stands put.

A lot of those players find themselves on this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 200 Egypt F35 W
David Souto VEN 21 215 Venezuela F9 SF
Germain Gigounon BEL 24 238 others lost points
Jose Checa-Calvo ESP 28 240 Spain F42 W
Juan Ignacio Londero ARG 20 278 Venezuela F9 W
Yasutaka Uchiyama JPN 21 282 Thailand F5 SF
Adrian Sikora SVK 25 295 Spain F42 SF
Edward Corrie GBR 25 298 Turkey F48 F
Borna Coric CRO 17 332 Thailand F5 SF
Andrew Whittington AUS 20 372 others lost points
Pedja Krstin SRB 19 379 Egypt F35 F
Alexey Vatutin RUS 21 387 others lost points
Ivan Arenas-Gualda ESP 23 393 Spain F42 SF
Luis David Martinez VEN 24 396 Venezuela F9 F
Sam Barry IRL 21 410 Qatar F3 W
Liam Broady GBR 19 471 Qatar F3 F
Ramkumar Ramanathan IND 19 502 Cambodia F2 W
Karunuday Singh IND 23 509 Thailand F5 F
Martin Cuevas URU 21 523 Brazil F19 SF
Pedro Cachin ARG 18 545 Chile F10 SF

Tops on this week’s List is Mohamed Safwat. The 23-year-old Egyptian number one took home his tour-leading ninth title of the year at the Egypt F35 Futures, beating fellow Lister Pedja Krstin 6-4 7-6(1) in the final. Safwat is 77/25 in the 102 matches he’s played this season.

He was only 4/9 in the challenger events he played this year, however. It will be interesting to see if he can break through on a level other than Egyptian Futures next year.

Safwat Fare

Safwat Fare (pic courtesy of Game Set Match Egypt)

Our next winner on the List is Jose Checa-Calvo, as his Spain F42 Futures win bounced him up 16 rankings spots to #240 of this week’s dance card.

Bounced Checa (at left with finalist Andrea Basso)

Bounced Checa (at left with finalist Andrea Basso)

The 28-year-old Spaniard (now the Spanish #22), whose surname translates to “bald Czech” in English, has won six titles out of nine finals this year. He’s gone 74/30 in his 104 matches in 2013, but like Safwat has found difficulty at Challengers, going 3/9 at that level this season.

Our next winner on the list — and last to be featured, because I’m officially on vacation — is Juan Ignacio Londero. The 20-year-old Argentine beat three seeds on the way to his second title of the year at the 15K Venezuela F9 Futures event in Caracas.

Londero had a better time of it in Challengers than Safwat and Bald-Czech, going 15/8 at that level in 2013.

Londero Calling

Londero Calling

As such, he was a strong candidate for this year’s Challenger Tennis Player to Watch honors, but didn’t end up making the cut. Hopefully he is not too devastated by this egregious snub, and will continue with his up-and-comingness into the new season.

*Tennis got dangerously close to having an off-season here.

My tenth and final Player to Watch pick for 2014 is bound to confound, surprise and possibly annoy. After all, there are so many worthy candidates, but only one more can be chosen. 

So. Could it be Lucas Pouille, the 19-year-old French lad who gained almost 250 places in the ATP rankings this year and for a brief time was the only teen in the Top 200 alongside 2014 Player to Watch number seven, Nick Kyrgios?

"Come on, you know it should be me!"

“Oui oui oui, it’s me me me!”

Or is it possibly Filip Peliwo, the 19-year-old Canadian former junior #1 who rose over 250 places in this years rankings and is now training in Spain with Galo Blanco?

"It's me, right?"

“It’s me, right?”

Since former US college players who are older than 22 are now allowed under the Colette Lewis amendment of 2013, will it be Tennys Sandgren, the 22-year-old University of Tennessee standout whom we last saw winning the Champaign Challenger and improving his 2013 ranking by almost 50 places?

"Looking for the final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!"

“Lookin’ for your final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!”

Howzabout Karen Khachanov, the Russian 17-year-old who shocked the world by making the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 Kremlin Cup, beating Janko Tipsarevic along the way, and raising his ranking a mere 1,458 places this season?

"Da da da!"

Da da da!”

Or Karim Hossam, the 19-year-old Egyptian who climbed over 800 ranking rungs in 2013 and won four Egyptian Futures titles?

"If it's not me, I will clobber you!"

“If it’s not me, I will clobber you!”

The answers: Non. No. Nope. Nyet. And sorry, Karim.

Nay, this year’s final Player to Watch is someone for whom I’ve shamelessly bent my own arbitrary rules, including him even though he’s ranked inside the original “between #150 and #500 in the world” criterion I established for original PTW selection.

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Our ninth Player to Watch for 2014 is the third 17-year-old to be featured in these here pages. For all the (rightful) talk of the Top 100’s average age increasing to 27, and the recent difficulty for any teens to break through in the men’s ranks, this trio of 1996-borners* has really been Doing Things at the pro level this year.

And it’s not because they’re particularly physically precocious either, which makes their 2013 achievements all the more impressive — and, of course, bodes well for when/if they eventually are at their corporeal peak.

I chose Mr. Ninth Player in part because my picks have been too Eurocentric so far; six of the eight PTWs to date are Euros, with only one South American and one Australian. And, with the Christmas holidays growing ever nearer, it just seemed right that we have a Christian on the roster. #logic

Therefore, it is with much(o) gusto that I present my penultimate Player to Watch for 2014, Christian Garin.

Go For The Gusto

Go For The Gusto

Though many first learned of him through his unseeded red clay sweepage of Roland Garros this year, losing only one set and beating the 3rd, 4th and 8th seeds on his way to the title, the ATPeerers among us took notice of his fine play at the ATP 250 event in Viña del Mar, where he beat Dusan Lajovic and took a set from third seed Jeremy Chardy before succumbing in the second round**.

Hereafter follows some highlights of that Chardymatch in which you can learn, among other things, that Christian could use some more practice with his forehand return of serve:

But you can also see that, while not quite at a Gonzo level of gusto, Garin can also crank his favorite stroke up to a near-Fernando forehandular ferocity, which is something he may have picked up from his pal and legendary countryman, Fernando Gonzalez. 

Gonzo, by the way, has not ruled out a return to the courts for the South American games in Santiago next October, but only in doubles and only if he can play with Christian.

Garin and his Fer-iend

Garin and his Fer-iend

As all Players to Watch apparently must do in 2013***, Garin also practiced with Rafael Nadal at Viña (and additionally signed with Nadal’s manager, Carlos Costa, on the strength of his performance there – although whether from practice or match-play is unclear at this time), a heady experience for the then-16-year-old.  

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