Archive for January, 2014

One On One With Rising Star Kyle Edmund

Ahead of his semifinal match on Saturday versus Isak Arvidsson, I caught up with my third Player to Watch for 2014, 19-year-old British up-and-comer Kyle Edmund, at the Midtown Athletic Club in Weston, FL. We talked about his selection for the upcoming Davis Cup clash with the United States. Also: tennis drills, lessons learned and life on the road.

As ever, he has a lot of intelligent things to say.

Challenger Tennis: Congrats on your Davis Cup selection, what is this — the third team for you?

Edmund: Thanks. Yeah, the other two, I wasn’t in the squad or team. I was just there as like a hitter. So that was obviously against Russia and Croatia, but this is the first time I’ve actually been named on the team, which is a great feeling for me. The only one who’s definitely gonna play is Andy [Murray], so the other spots are still sort of open to play.

Obviously, it’s Dom Inglot and Colin Fleming for the doubles, and then it’s between me and James Ward for singles. So the playing spots are still not 100 percent, but to be there and for Great Britain to be in the World Group — I think the last time we won a World Group match was like 1980-something, so it’s a long time. To be there is definitely going to be a great experience.

Challenger Tennis: For sure. Have you seen pictures of the court construction as it’s being laid down in Petco Park?

Edmund: Yeah, I have, I’ve seen a few. The last one I saw they actually did half the court, I think. I saw half the clay court — obviously they have to do the other half — but it looked really good. To be inside a baseball stadium on a tennis court, I mean, the stage is set to be really exciting and amazing.

The Petco Dance: Davis Cup Court Construction in San Diego

The Petco Dance: Davis Cup Court Construction in San Diego

Challenger Tennis: So are you here by yourself now or is there anyone from your team with you?

Edmund: I’m here with my coach, my tennis coach, and also with my fitness trainer. But they’re also involved, they’re actually fitness trainer for the Davis Cup, and my coach is a Davis Cup coach, so it works really well. They’re here, and then tomorrow — win or lose — we’re gonna go tomorrow night to San Diego.

So it works really well, them being here helping me and then traveling over to meet the team there.

Challenger Tennis: I know you don’t like specific ranking targets, but what specific drills are you doing to maybe help with footwork or focus and the things you want to improve?

Edmund: I’ve been with my coach two and a half years now, and definitely being with him, we’ve done a lot of what we like to call our “core drills” — drills that make me tick, make me feel good and help my game.

If I know that these drills are working well, then I know I’ll play pretty well. And it’s really basic stuff. It’s just like crosscourts, but then if I get a short ball I’ll come to the net, trying to be offensive.

Recently, we’ve done a lot of movement, so we’ll do like “two-two” it’s called, where he sends one corner, I’ll hit two forehands and two backhands and two forehands and keep going for like two minutes. But it obviously gets quite physical, side to side. And then we do just lines.

So for the first part of the session, we do a lot of drilling, a lot of numbers almost, get a lot of balls in play and then start maybe doing some more shorter stuff but it’s more aggressive. I like to use my forehand, so we’ll do a lot of stuff working my forehand, coming forward. And then at the end of the session we’ll do serve and return.

Edmund Serve

It’s a bit different now, playing tournaments; you don’t do long hours on the practice court. But certainly when I was training with Andy, we were doing three hours on court each day.

Challenger Tennis: So, basically, all your on-court time is with specific drills in mind as opposed to just hitting.

Edmund: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m not going to do something that I don’t feel is relevant to me.

Challenger Tennis: You’ve said a successful tournament is one that you take something away from, and learning something is the main thing. Is there a specific match last year where you learned the most, and maybe what specifically did you learn?

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It’s time for your favorite reason to get out of bed on Monday — that’s right: this here is this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List! And since today’s List encapsulates two whole weeks of ranking-changing goodness (due to the Australian Open fortnight, of course), there’s theoretically twice the reason to see Who’s Achieved Their Career Highs This Week*.

So let’s have a look:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Matt Ebden AUS 26 61 Aus Open R2
Bradley Klahn USA 23 82 Maui W
Jesse Huta Galung NED 28 93 others lost points
Peter Gojowczyk GER 24 99 AO FQR, Heilbronn W
Dusan Lajovic SRB 23 102 Aus Open Q, R2
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 114 Bucaramanga QF
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 115 Aus Open Q, R2
Guido Andreozzi ARG 22 134 Bucaramanga QF
Peter Polansky CAN 25 135 AO QR2, Maui QF
Victor Estrella DOM 33 137 others lost points
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 144 Aus Open Q, R3
Daniel Evans GBR 23 146 Aus Open QR2
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 151 Aus Open FQR
Blaz Rola SLO 23 152 Aus Open Q, R2
Nick Kyrgios AUS 18 162 Aus Open R2
Norbert Gombos SVK 23 189 Aus Open QR2
Kristijan Mesaros CRO 25 190 others lost points
Andrea Arnaboldi ITA 26 191 AO QR2, Heilbronn Q/QF
Steven Diez CAN 22 195 others lost points
Austin Krajicek USA 23 210 AO QR2, Maui QF
James McGee IRL 26 212 others lost points

There’s big movement afoot on this week’s List, and not just because it counts for a fourteen day span of results. It’s also due to the fact that players can earn as many ATP points for qualifying in a Slam as they can for reaching the quarterfinals of the biggest $125K Challenger events (and almost as much as they get for winning a 15K Futures event).

Additionally, reaching the second round of the main draw is worth many points as a $125K semifinal showing. If a player makes a run through qualifying into just the second round of a Slam (as Dusan Lajovic, Dominic Thiem, and Blaz Rola did), that’s roughly the chally equivalent of a $125K final.

I’m not exactly sure why (and your theories are welcome), but this week’s List is also the most geographically variegated in memory. Of the 21 players here, 17 different nationalities are represented. Only Australia, Argentina, Canada and the United States can boast repeat career high ranking offenders on this day.

Fourth on this week’s List (but first in our hearts) is the 24-year-old German Peter Gojowczyk, who bursts into the Top 100 for the first time at #99, on the strength of his Oz Open and Heilbronn Challenger showings.

#99 Gojoloons

#99 Gojoloons (photo courtesy of Florian Heer)

Gojo is having, to put it quite technically, one hell of a year.  With his run through quallies into the semis of the ATP 250 in Doha, his qualifying effort in Melbourne and his Heilbronn title, he’s amassed a 14/2 record so far in 2014. His only losses? Rafael Nadal and… Victor Hanescu. (Hmm. Well, we all know it’s been a breakthrough year for Romanians, too.)

“Tomorrow I will have a break and relax a bit. It is great to break into the top 100 for the very first time,” the German said, adding that he plans to play in the Montpellier ATP 250 if he makes it into the main draw.

Further down the List (but no further down in our hearts), we find the 23-year-old American, Austin Krajicek. Though Gojowczyk makes practically everyone short of Stan Wawrinka look bad by comparison, Austin is also having a very fine year, which began with a sweep through quallies and into the quarterfinals of the Noumea Challenger. Overall, the three-time Texas A&M All-American is 7/3 on the singles court.

But wait, there’s more: for the lefty can celebrate both a singles and doubles career high (#85) today. He and Tennys Sandgren (who’s also at a career doubles high of #115) have posted a 6/1 record so far this year, winning the Noumea Challenger and making the semis in Maui.

Sandgren and Krajicek: Serial Trophy Hoisters

Sandgren and Krajicek: Serial Trophy Hoisters

*ranked between No. 60 and No. 300, as ever.

On a gorgeous, 70 degree day with just the hint of a cooling breeze, the prospect of a final between one of tennis’s most touted up-and-comers and a wily, former Top 100 veteran promised much. And, for two-thirds of it anyway, 19-year-old Kyle Edmund and 31-year-old Victor Crivoi delivered on that promise.

The two had met almost exactly one year ago, with the pair splitting two tight sets before the elder Romanian cruised to victory in a lopsided final frame. So the question was: how much difference would a year make, with the younger Brit having risen about 200 spots in the rankings in that time? The answer, surprisingly, turned out to be: not much.

From an Edmundian perspective, the match unfolded in opposite fashion from his semifinal win against Isak Arvidsson — rather than having to work his fearsome forehand into a good groove, he started out firing on target early and often. And then it started going awry.

But at the outset, the Brit’s favorite shot was working well, and he claimed the first break of the match with an off forehand winner that was anything but off, eliciting a gasp from one of the patrons as he secured a *2-0 first set lead.

Orange Crush - An Edmundian Forehand Blast

Orange Crush – An Edmundian Forehand Blast

But he wasn’t done there. After saving a break point by forcing a Crivoi forehand error, the hulking English teen grabbed game point with an inside-in blast that caused a young father standing courtside to issue forth an impromptu, under-breath review: “wow!”

Wow indeed. He held for 3-0*. (Kyle, not the father.)

The fourth game featured a bit of a mild controversy, as the 31-year-old veteran pulled a 0-15 backhand crosscourt wide, only to walk up the sideline and point to a mark from Edmund’s previous shot that he claimed was wide.

After examining the mark, the chair umpire reversed his original call, giving the point to Crivoi instead. Kyle rightly pointed out that Crivoi had played on and hadn’t stopped the point to challenge where his opponent’s ball had landed. Nevertheless, the point was deemed in the Romanian’s favor, and he held to 30 to join Edmund on the scoreboard.

The next two games just seemed like the 6’4” Beverley boy was showing off; two aces and two forehand winners to hold for 4-1*, then another three forehand finishings to break for *5-1. This had all the makings of a rout, and Edmund had 10 outright forehand winners in the first five games in addition to the assorted times he’d forced his foe into errors from that wing.

But the top-seeded Crivoi, currently ranked #232 but with a career high of #75 in 2009, was not to be finished off so easily. A wily tactician, he began exploiting Kyle’s ad-court shading by deliberately playing backhands down-the-line into Edmund’s forehand corner, catching him out and stretching him wide, forcing errors. Two such rallies, as well as two forehand miscues from the Brit, contributed to Crivoi getting one of the breaks back.

With Edmund’s initially reliable forehand leaking errors, and Victor’s variance of the rally patterns (including a few drop shots creeping into the mix), the 31-year-old chiseled his way back to level in the 1st set at 5-all. Serves were held, and a tiebreak undertaken.

In the buster, the Brit ceded a mini-break with a netted backhand volley (a shot that plagued him the few times he attempted it), and went down 0-2*, only to reel off the final seven points for a — any guesses? That’s right! — 7-2 TB win. The last three points went: Edmund down-the-line forehand winner, Edmund service winner, Edmund forehand crosscourt winner. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

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It’s finals day at the USA F3 Futures in Weston, FL, where top-seeded Romanian Victor Crivoi is set to meet fourth-seeded British upstart, Kyle Edmund. 

Edmund comes in riding a nine match win streak, having taken the title at last weeks USA F2 event in Sunrise. The 31-year-old Crivoi has had almost as good a start to his year, posting a 7/1 record thus far for 2014, his only loss coming to another teenage up-and-comer, 18-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka from Japan.

The two have a history, with Crivoi coming through a 6-3 6-7(4) 6-1 encounter at last year’s USA F1 tournament in Plantation, Florida.

Both players downplayed the importance of last year’s meeting, however. “I can’t remember too much of the match,” the 19-year-old Edmund said, “But I don’t think it’s going to count for too much because it’s a year on, and a different venue.”

Crivoi added, “Yeah, we played last year. I won, but he was young. He improved a lot.”

Both players overcame scratchy patches in their semifinal matches yesterday, but they each finished strong. It’ll be interesting to see what difference, if any, is made one year on.

“He obviously came through a tough one [in his semifinal],” Edmund said, “which shows he’s playing some good tennis under pressure. So yeah it’ll be a good match. But I’m playing well, and hopefully I can go out there and try my best. That’s all I can do.”

“He won last week,” Crivoi countered, “so he’s in good shape.”

After a two-week hiatus during which my own body let me down, I decided to drive down to Weston, FL to see what all the healthy people were up to. Some of them, it turns out, were at the Midtown Athletic Club contesting the semifinals of the most prestigious* of the first four stops on the USTA Pro Circuit Futures tour.

The first guys to be thrown into able-bodied court combat were the top seed, 31-year-old Romanian Victor Crivoi, against his decade-younger opponent, the third-seeded Belgian Arthur De Greef. This would be a rematch of their only previous meeting, another semifinal encounter on these very courts last year, when Crivoi was the one on getting the grief, receiving a 2 & 1 thrashing at the hands of the youngster.

Crivoi, currently ranked at #232 but with a career high of #75 in 2009, entered the match with a 6 win, 1 loss record — that loss attributable to Yoshihito Nishioka — while this is the first tournament of the year for de Greef, the 21-year-old former Top 20 junior and Orange Bowl finalist.

There was not much to distinguish the two from the outset, scorewise — both guys saved a couple of break points early, and serves were held through the first seven games. Gamewise, De Greef flights the ball with more height over the net than Crivoi and an almost Nadal-like amount of topspin off his forehand side, while Crivoi’s shots penetrate a bit more zippily and the Romanian looks for opportunities to come forward often. And while the Belgian can smack his first serve a fair bit, it hardly ever seemed to trouble his veteran opponent, who put a lot of returns into play.

De Greef apparently thought the eighth game was as good a time as any to break himself, so he set about accomplishing the task with two backhand unforced errors sandwiching a forehand miscue from 15-all.

Arthur De Greef Sets Up For a Forehand

Where’s De Greef? Here He Is, About To Connect on a Forehand

 Crivoi subsequently served out the set.

Put A Torque In It: Crivoi in the Midst of his Famous Two-Step Serve

Put A Torque In It: Crivoi in the Midst of his Famous Two-Step Serve

The second set unfolded much as the first did, with both men saving a break point in the early stages, until the sixth game, when Crivoi lost control of his forehand to the tune of some shanking and smothering. De Greef hit a terrific inside-in forehand winner to set up three break points, but only needed the one, and the Belgian went on to take the second frame 6-3.

The third set was also decided by a single break, this one secured by Crivoi in the sixth game when his Belgian foe started forehanding a little too lengthily, yielding two break points. Crivoi cashed in the first with one of his many forecourt junkets, forcing his Belgian foe to miss his forehand pass attempt just wide.

Though he’s far from being a seeming relative of Oscar De Grouch, De Greef is quite a chattery fellow who’s prone to some bouts of self-berating shouts. To be fair though, both guys had their share of extended, impassioned soliloquies on this day as they battled on the Weston clay. But it would be Crivoi’s day in the end, fittingly closing out the match with an overhead for a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win.

I asked Victor why he seemed so hellbent on getting to net and he said, “I’m doing this with such players because it’s my only chance and the key to results. I have to save some energy because I had a tough week. I didn’t play good. This is the first day I could feel the ball. I tried to do my best because normally I got cramps in the end of the set so my only chance was to be very aggressive. I lost to [De Greef] last year 1 & 2 in the semifinal and I tried to make my revenge.”

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