The second player to attain the illustrious honor of Challenger Tennis Player to Watch for 2014 is another teenager, just like our first selection, Borna Coric. And like Lava*, our second selection is also a former ITF World Junior Number One who bagged a Boys’ Slam title recently. Any guesses? Gianluigi Quinzi? Nick Kyrgios? Filip Peliwo?
Wrong. Wrong. And also: WRONG! Those were terrible guesses, and you should be ashamed.
Nay, our second Player To Watch for 2014 is… Kimmer Coppejans!
The nineteen-year-old Belgian has had a year to remember, beginning his first full season at pro level by making consecutive Futures semifinals in Turkey, then going on a summertime tear, winning four out of five Belgian Futures events in June and July. He immediately capitalized on that momentum by making the quarterfinals of the Meknes Challenger before petering out in Asia to close out his 2013 campaign.
OK, so make it a nine months to remember, then. But petering or no, Coppejans rose a decent 506 spots in the rankings to ATP #251 since the beginning of the year, posting a more-than-respectable 49/22 record (a winning percentage of 69%) even while losing four out of the final five matches he played this season.
Named after Baywatch and Jake and the Fatman producer Kimmer Ringwald (“The producer of the program that I watched regularly was called Kimmer Ringwald. I thought it sounded fun”, said his mom), Coppejans was actually dismissed from a tennis academy in Wilrijk — where Kim Clijsters got her start — when he was twelve years old.
Kimmer went on to work hard with the LTA (no, not that one, silly — the Limburgse Tennis Academy, of course) and coaches Tom Devries and Andy Minguet. And, perhaps fueled by his early tennistical rejection**, he gained a measure of revenge just a few*** years later when he defeated Filip Peliwo 6-1 6-4 to claim the Roland Garros Boys Singles title in 2012.
Even more amazing than his successful first pro campaign is how few videos there are of Kimmer actually playing well. Or speaking English. But here’s a video of him doing both on the eve of his Roland Garros Boys Singles title:
There are a couple of crap-quality, soundless YouTube videos of him playing Challengers (which: welcome to my world), so definitely check this out if you’d like to see a blurry account of Coppejans playing mediocre ball vs. David Guez in Meknes (the best things about this video are the hilarious mini-freakouts he has at 1:30 and 7:27, like he’s suddenly playing charades on PCP):
He cites Djokovic as a main contemporary influence, and you can definitely see it in his compact, flat-ish backhand and, increasingly, in his footwork. I’m sure he gains a certain comfort from their similarity in build as well.
With news recently announced of Devries signing on to also coach Jesse Huta Galung in the new year, it will be interesting to see how Kimmer will cope with decreased attention from the disciplinarian in his camp.
In mid-September, I gave Coppejans a 27% of making the Top 200 before he turns 20 (on the 7th of February, 2014), and I’m still liking that figure. It’ll take a heckuva January for him to make it, but who knows? Maybe he can swoop in like the heroes of his beloved Manga comics and heroically pull it off just before time runs out.
Either way, it’s good to see that tennis is working out for him so far, given that his professed back-up career was to be a grass hockey player.
*I swear I’m gonna make that nickname catch on.