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*

Also:

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.

Interestingly*, there are no teens career highing this week inside the Top 500, but there’s an abundance of them outside of it. And though this group didn’t make this year’s Players To Watch for 2014 list, I guarantee that more than one of the teens on this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List will be a future Top 100 player.

A strong candidate to be one of them there players is eighteen-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka. The 2012 US Open Boys semifinalist — who made an out-of-nowhere, Shabaz-like splash as an unranked sixteen-year-old finalist at the 2011 USA F28 Futures — has swept his ten Futures matches in Chile, taking home the F11 and F12 titles, which means (SPOILER ALERT) that the speedy southpaw will be on next week’s List as well.

Nishioka, Like Kei Nishikori, trains at IMG Academy

Nishioka, like Kei Nishikori, trains at IMG Bollettieri Academy

The Chilean Futures titles are his second and third of 2013; he won the Mexico F3 Futures as a seventeen-year-old qualifier in February of this year, winning eight straight matches without losing a single set.

Were it not Christmas week, I’d do a pro-file of the other 18-year-old lefty on this week’s List, Frederico Silva. Instead you’ll have to settle for this picture of him with 2014 Player to Watch Number Three, Kyle Edmundafter taking home the French Open Boys Doubles crown:

Silva And Gold

Silva And Gold

And on that note… Merry Christmas, happy holidays, kwality Kwanzaa and festive Festivus to all! SYOTOS.

*to me at least

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