Archive for December, 2013


The eighth Player to Watch for 2014 is the fifth former ITF World Junior #1 to be featured. Not that junior success is a firm predictor of future success, of course, but it clearly was a main criterion for selection — even subconsciously — this year.

Now, some will accuse me of picking this player just because of the numerous and nearly irresistible punning opportunities he provides. (And those people would only be 43.6% correct.)

But really, we need to convince our inner twelve-year-olds to get beyond the first four letter of his surname and instead zero in on the fourth full year of his pro career, which is coming up next year. Besides, it’s not like he’s this guy:

Things Are Looking Up For Slovenian Basketballer Gregor Fucka

Things Are Looking Up For Slovenian Basketballer Gregor Fucka

So let’s just get over it and clear our minds and hearts to welcome my eighth Player to Watch for 2014, Mr. Marton Fucsovics. (Although, it should be said, his nickname of “Marci” is only marginally less make-funnable.)

Marci?

Marci?

A 2010 singles winner at the The Junior Championships, Wimbledon (defeating Ben Mitchell) as well as singles semifinalist in New York and Melbourne and a US Open boys doubles titlist, the 21-year-old Hungarian lad is finally coming on after his “lost year” of 2011 (in which, some say, he let his ITF-page professed love of girls and motorbikes get in the way of his tennis and training).

Hungary Like The Wolf

Hungary Like The Wolf

As a kid, he wanted to play basketball, but the 6’2” (188 cm) right-hander from the easy-to-pronounce city of Nyiregyhaza found a greater affinity with tennis as he got older. Then came the girls and motorbikes and – after his junior Slammin’ exploits — going the Gulbis route of, er, celebrating his success a bit too much, all to the tune of a 21/18 season at Futures level in 2011.

He actually did a meet-and-beat* with Mr. Gulbis in a five-set April-of-2012 Davis Cup match, but couldn’t seem to kick on from there, making his first Futures finals but finishing the ’12 campaign at #441 in the rankings (up 132 spots on the year).  Around that time, though, he finally recommitted himself and got back to working hard at the game he can play so well.

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I’m really excited about this edition of the W.A.T.C.H. List. Because of the dearth of Top 250 players having results (or having results come off their rankings), this List of 20ish plumbs the depths like never before.  Therefore, much like the special Spinal Tap amps that go to 11 instead of 10, this one goes to 500 (instead of the usual 300).  Stay tuned for obscure pro-files.

Let’s have a look at who these warriors of the Futures are this week, shall we?

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
David Souto VEN 21 224 Venezuela F8 F
Ante Pavic CRO 24 246 Senegal F1 W
Egor Gerasimov BLR 21 251 Egypt F34 F
Toni Androic CRO 21 271 Croatia F17 W
Yasutaka Uchiyama JPN 21 288 Thailand F4 W
Gonzalo Lama CHI 20 294 Chile F9 W
Juan Lizariturry ESP 22 307 Turkey F47 F
Juan Ignacio Londero ARG 20 319 Venezuela F8 SF
Karim Hossam EGY 19 337 Egypt F23 SF
Roberto Ortega-Olmedo ESP 22 345 Spain F41 SF
Borna Coric CRO 17 351 Thailand F4 SF
Andrew Whittington AUS 20 378 Cambodia F1 W
Alexey Vatutin RUS 21 388 Spain F41 W
Federico Coria ARG 21 404 Chile F9 QF
Oliver Golding GBR 20 418 others lost points
Claudio Fortuna ITA 23 419 others lost points
Erik Crepaldi ITA 23 429 Cyprus F3 W
Luis David Martinez VEN 24 438 Venezuela F8 R2
Juan-Carlos Spir COL 23 486 others lost points
Laslo Djere SRB 18 492 Cyprus F3 SF
Anton Zaitsev RUS 26 497 Turkey F47 QF

And what do you know, the first name on this week’s List is none other than my #4 Player To Watch, David SoutoSo, great pick on my part, right? Is the moral of that story. (Also, I just wanted to mention him so I could shamelessly link to his profile.)

Further down the list, we find my first PTW selection, Borna Coricwho appears with a couple Croatian countrymen to form a kind of bottom-of-the-table Davis Cup team. (Overall, the trio of Pavic, Androic and Coric are Croatia’s #6, 7 and 9 players respectively.)

One guy who didn’t make the PTW cut, but was on my original list of 50 candidates, is 20-year-old Chilean Gonzalo Lama. It certainly says a lot about the talented bunch of Chosen Ten that a guy who went 46/20 this year and has risen 461 spots in the rankings this year didn’t quite make it. (Either that, or it says the idiot who’s making these selections really doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.)

"I've Won 70% of My Matches & Cut My Ranking In Half. What More Do You Want Me To Do?!"

“I’ve Won 70% of My Matches in 2013 & Cut My Ranking In Half. What More Do You Want Me To Do?!”

Now, if you’re anything like me (and God help you if you are), then you really wish I’d stop going on and on about this friggin’ PTW list. So I shall not mention it again, I promise!

An interesting name on this week’s List is Karim Hossam. The teenage Egyptian is currently the 8th-ranked player under 20 years of age. At 69/24 for the year, he’s won an almost-astounding 74% of his matches.

Hossam Chop!

Hossam Chop!

The former ITF World Junior #11 was a strong candidate for The List That Now Cannot Be Named; the main thing that kept him from inclusion is that all but 6 of his 93 matches this year come on the Egyptian Futures circuit, where competition isn’t necessarily the strongest level. Although that is probably to no fault of his own; as Reem Abulleil wrote earlier this year about Egyptian #1 Mohamed Safwatthere are many obstacles facing an Egyptian player who seeks to play abroad (or even a dude).

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Our lucky seventh Player to Watch for 2014 is so watchworthy that everyone and their grandmothers have already written a “one to watch” profile about him in the past few weeks. Indeed, his press has been so prevalent that I was almost dissuaded from including him on my PTW roster just because the choice is so ridiculously en vogue (and I’m so ridiculously anti-mainstream).

Alas, even though his profiles have become a dime a dozen, by putting in my own 2 cents I hope to make this profile worth at least 12¢. I guarantee mine will have more nonsense in it. #MyPromiseToYou

According to his first coach, he was a chubby kid who was a bit slow on the court. But his will to win also bore him results at an early age. At age 15, he made the Round of 16 at the 2011 Australian Open Junior Championships. He won a Grade 2 Juniors vs. Herkko Pollanen at the Dunlop Japan Open and had wins over Thiago Montiero and Nikola Milojevic in other ’11 tourneys.

Really Any Excuse To Include A Pic of Pollanen and His Pink Bjorn Borg Undies

Any Excuse To Include This Pollanen Pic In His Pink Borg Undies

He really began making a name for himself in 2012 on the doubles court, taking back-to-back dubs titles with partner Andrew Harris at the Roland Garros and Wimbledon Junior Championships, although he did post a win over PTW #6, Gianluigi Quinzion the singles court at Roehampton in between those two benchmarks (and, you know, also lose to Quinzi on the Wimby singles court. But that’s not important right now.)

So who is this mystery man? Well, you’ve really done very poorly if you’ve not guessed it’s none other than Nick Kyrgios (especially because his name’s just under the title).

Nick And Andy Use The Wimby Trophy As A Wishbone

Nick And Andy Use The Wimby Trophy As A Wishbone

Kyrgios made the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships, losing to Filip Peliwo, and followed up his junior Slam exploits with two junior tourney wins (beating PTW #1 Borna Coric in Osaka) and a slammin’ semifinal showing at the Australia F10 Futures, beating compatriot Luke Saville in the quarters.

This year, Kyrgios has nicked up the field in a way that has boys and pros alike licking their wounds, going 21/2 in the juniors and 27/9 in the seniors for an overall winning percentage of over 81%.

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So the last two Players to Watch in this series were both lefties, eh? I say we continue this non-righty, rockin’ roll and feature our third straight southpaw!

Folks, our next PTW has a massive amount of tennistical history, even though he’s only 17 years old. (Witness this article from World Tennis Magazine three years ago that presciently proclaimed “Remember The Name!” when he was merely fourteen.)

He’s had a scholarship to the Nick Bollettieri Academy since he was eight years old. He qualified for his first Futures tourney in 2010 at age fourteen, though it was another year before he’d win a main draw Futures match at the ripe old age of 15 (a practical geezer).  Along the way, he took a set off of then 22-year-old and current Top 100 Challenger Tour Finals finalist Alejandro Gonzalez.

If you haven’t guessed it already (and even if you have), our sixth Player to Watch for 2014 is none other than Italian Gianluigi Quinzi.

"Yes, it's true, I *am* Challenger Tennis's 6th Player to Watch of 2014!"

“Yes, it’s true, I *am* Challenger Tennis’s 6th Player to Watch for 2014!”

When he wasn’t coming up just short against guys almost twice his age in the Futures (like then-26-year-old Guillermo “The Hormdog” Hormazabal), he was keeping up a perfect record against guys three years older in the ITF 18s junior tourneys, taking four straight Caribbean Grade 5 events before totally titling at the ITF Grade 2 Uruguay Bowl in March of 2011.

He had some growing pains (most likely literally) for the rest of 2011, before really starting to assert himself last year as a 16-year-old in 2012. At the Italy F9 in May of that year, playing someone literally twice his age, he claimed his best-ranked scalp to date, topping off then-#220-in-the-world Victor Estrella. 

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I had such a good response from our lefty yesterday, that I’m gonna keep it on the southpaw side today. And, like a lefty serving in the ad court, I’m gonna send a fairly vicious curveball your way regarding today’s selection.

Remember the whole “needs to be under 22-years-old, ranked between ATP #150-500” ground rules I bored you all with in Borna Coric’s pro-file? Well, a concerned citizen who may or may not be Colette Lewis contacted me to correctly point out that these criteria penalize those players who chose to play college ball (and thus inadvertently aged themselves out my demographic window by the time they turn pro).

I was quite thrilled to concede the point, as I have no shortage of college players who are well worthy of PTW honors. If you follow my W.A.T.C.H. Lists at all (and possibly even if you don’t), you’ll know that a sizable percentage of those who achieve career highs on the pro tour each and every week are guys who mixed it up on the collegiate courts.

Thus, midway through this year’s Player to Watch proceedings, I am instituting a new selection criterion: while a player must still be currently ranked between #150-500 to merit inclusion, I am subtracting a year from any player’s age for each year they competed collegiately.

Therefore, it brings me great joy to bring you a player who competed three years for THE Ohio State Universityeffectively reducing his age from 23 to to 20 for PTW purposes. I present to you the fifth Player to Watch for 2014, Mr. Blaz Rola.

With This Trophy, I Am Hereby Allowed To Reduce My Playing Age By 1 (ONE) Year

With This Trophy, I Am Hereby Allowed To Reduce My PTW Playing Age By 1 (ONE) Year

Blaz has been on my radar for ages. My long-suffering tennis friends will attest that I’ve been going on and on (and on) about Slovenian tennis and how they’re the next Serbia-esque Davis Cup powerhouse for years and years (and years).*

SLO Down, You Move Too Fast

Rola began his career wanting solely to play pro ball. And that he did, in 2010, when he went 36/17 on tour and took home two Futures titles to boot. He even debuted for said Davis Cup team, handing Bulgaria’s Valentin Dimov a breadstick and a bagel in a dead rubber, which sounds grosser than it is.

Even better: his Davis Cup teammates “prepared for him a special baptism. Only in his underwear and the words Slovenia on his head he had to interrupt the wedding party at a nearby wedding and to nearly a hundred people shout: ‘Three Slovenia, Bulgaria zero!’ (Thanks to this Slovenian article for that detail – I wonder if OSU hazing rituals are as colorful?)

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