Category: Field Guides

On Monday’s Order of Play at this week’s Champaign Challenger, I couldn’t help but notice there were four (4) (FOUR!) different players named Dennis (or Denis) (or Denys) playing that day.

You See? I Wasn't Lying!

You See? I Wasn’t Lying!

And the last names are almost as similar: Zivkovic, Novolo, Novikov, Molchanov — you could practically spell all these surnames with the same rack of Scrabble tiles*. There’s also a Dennis Novak in the Top 400.

Add Denis Kudla and Denis Istomin to the list, and you gotta whole lotta Den(n)i(y)s goin’ on. And you wanna see something spooky? OK:

Dennis Nevolo Dennis Novikov
Age 23 20
Rank 579 625
Plays RH RH
Backhand 2H 2H
Career High 566 457
C High Was 10/28/13 08/12/13
Jr High 102 30
Best surface Clay & hard Clay
College Illinois UCLA (now pro)

They’re practically the same player**. Hell, they were the only two Dennises to even play collegiate tennis in the U.S. Plus, all these guys I’ve mentioned are right-handers with two-handed backhands. Methinks a field guide is in order! Follow me as we distinguish and differentiate all of tennis’s Dennisses***. In order of ranking, we have:

What Istomin of This?

What Istomining of This?

Denis Istomin

Nationality: UZB
Age: 27
Ranking: 45
Career High: 33
Career High Date: 8/27/12
Best Junior Rank: 412
Best surface: Hard
Identifying marks: Trademark goggles
Frequently seen with: his mother, who is also his coach
Interesting fact: He once won a refrigerator for winning a tourney.
I'm A Kudla Not A Fighta

I’m A Kudla Not A Fighta

Denis Kudla

Nationality: USA
Age: 21
Ranking: 113
Career High: 90
Career High Date: 10/28/13
Best Junior Rank: 3
Best surface: Hard
Identifying marks: Blonde hair
Maybe you can see him with: his USO Runner-up and Eddie Herr trophies
Interesting facts: Used to write all tweets without punctuation. Andy Murray had a dream he was playing Kudla in the Wimbledon finals. Also was one of my 2011 Players to Watch (though I’m not sure that last one really counts as “interesting”).
Molchin' It

Molchin’ It

Denys Molchanov

Nationality: UKR
Age: 26
Ranking: 261
Career High: 206
Career High Date: 5/6/2013
Best Junior Rank: 70
Best surface: Hard
Identifying marks: Shoulder-length brown hair
Frequently seen with: Headphones (main listed interest is: Music).
Interesting fact: When you google him, you get a Denny’s ad as part of search results.
The Other Novak!

The Other Novak!

Dennis Novak

Nationality: AUT
Age: 20
Ranking: 365
Career High: 365
Career High Date: 11/11/13
Best Junior Rank: 29
Best surface: Hard
Identifying marks: Frankly, I don’t feel comfortable revealing this.
Frequently seen with: Ping pong paddle (enjoys table tennis).
Interesting facts: Protege of Gunter Bresnik, trains with Dominic Thiem.
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Seemingly everywhere you look on the Challenger Tour, there’s a Facundo awaiting your gaze.  From challenger draws to W.A.T.C.H. Lists to social media, if there’s one thing life on the second- and third-best tiers of tennis teaches you, it’s that Argentina has an abundance of Facundos.  But just how many are there? And are they a threat to tennis’s top tier?  These questions I shall answer for you, dear reader, in this field guide to Facundos past, present and Futures.

First, have a seat somewhere. Are you sitting down? Because it may just shock you off your fickle feet to learn that there are sixteen (16) (!) Facundos that either play or have played on the ATP Tour.  All from Argentina (apparently they don’t make Facundos anywhere else).

BUT DON’T PANIC: only seven of them are currently active on tour, while a couple more are kicking around the juniors.  It’s still a lot, but it’s manageable. Get your field glasses ready, because it’s time to have a look.

Facundo #1: Facundo Bagnis

W.T.Facu Bagnis

W.T.Facu Bagnis

23-year-old lefty Facundo Bagnis is (by just a little bit) the best Facundo ever to have played, with a current and career-high ranking of ATP #143. The three-time Challenger champ (Barranquilla ’11, Arad ’12 and Santiago ’13) from Rosario, Argentina has a solid 39/23 record this season after struggling last year.

Though he’s yet to break through at the ATP level in singles, he did take an ATP title in doubles (Stuttgart ATP 250 with Thomaz Bellucci) and is ranked #79, with four challenger doubles crowns.

Propects: with some continued hard work, I don’t see any reason Bagnis won’t make the Top 100 in his career, though I feel like Top 50 might be somewhat less attainable.

Facundo #2: Facundo Arguello

Though Facu #2 is currently the number two Facu, I predict that 21-year-old Facundo Arguello will hit higher heights than his first-Facu’ed countryman.  Ranked just behind Bagnis at a career high ATP #150, the aggressive, gruntacular righty was once a Top 10 junior, and he’s had virtually no trouble adjusting to the pro-tennis level.

The Spectacularly Coiffed Facundo Arguello

The Spectacularly Coiffed Facundo Arguello

The truco-playing, clay-loving competitor is 35/19 on the year, after a 41/24 campaign in 2012. Though he has yet to score a Challenger title, he has made the finals of four events, the most recent of which being Savannah, where he took out Tim Smyczek, Michael Russell and Donald Young before succumbing to Ryan Harrison in the finals.

Prospects: I’d be surprised if Arguello didn’t make the Top 50. (Full disclosure: he was also one of my 2011 Players to Watch.)

Facundo #3: Facundo Mena

The prospects might not be as bright for this Facundo, who’s currently ranked ATP #514 (career high #496) at age 21, but he’s a Facundo, dammit, and he needs to be acknowledged!  And there are plenty of late bloomers on tour, for that matter.



Mena is a decent 31/18 on the season, after posting finalist showings in consecutive Futures (Chile F5 and F6).  The wristy right-hander only started playing at age thirteen, and he has plenty of time to grow into (or out of) his somewhat unconventional strokes.

Prospects: partly cloudy with a 20% chance of Top 100.

Bonus Facundo: Facundo Alvo

I told you there were some wee Facundos kickin’ around the junior ranks, and so I bring to you — at no extra cost — this bonus Facundo: Facundo Alvo, a Facundo of the future!

Alvo Anywhere

Alvo Anywhere

The #4 junior in Argentina, 17-year-old Facundo Alvo beat 15-year-old American sensation Stefan Kozlov and took top-ranked Argieboy Pedro Cachin to a 5-7 third set in the Copa Milo 2013 final in February. More recently, he’s been trying his hand at the pro tour level — even notching a win against yet another Facundo (Facundo Jofre) at the Argentina F17 Futures last month.  So that’s something, no?

Also, how great is it when your Bonus Facundo has flowing, Leif Garrett locks? I love it when that happens!

Prospects: I have no idea.

Well, that wraps up this week’s field guide.  Now go forth into the world with a newfound confidence that can only come from fully knowing your Facundos!

Know Your Kuznetsovs – A Field Guide

Due to this Sky Sports article, featuring an alleged picture of Andrey Kuznetsov when it is, in fact, a picture of Alex Kuznetsov, I’m guessing a primer is in order on how to properly differentiate the two.

Here’s a screenshot as insurance in case they correct their article

For the record, they are not related. They’ve never met on the court, and I’d be shocked if they’ve ever met off of it. At the absolute most, they are very distant Kuzn’s. But let’s review:

Alex Kuznetsov is a 24-year-old American tennis player, currently ranked #199 in the world. A former Top Ten junior, AlKuz was once on the fast track, working out with Andy Roddick and attending Miami Heat games with RAndy, Mandy (Moore) and Roddick’s then-coach Brad Gilbert. For those with long memories, you might also recall him as a hitting partner with that year’s US Davis Cup team.

Unfortunately, fate found Alex a quick and cruel exit off the fast track, in the form of a single car collision with a tree that sent him straight into surgery with a broken right thigh. A titanium rod was inserted in his leg, and the promising player was off the courts for three months afterward. He was still able to team up with Scott Oudsema to win a round in the US Open dubs just four months after that, and he made it to the third round of the USO juniors that year (where he was beaten by Tim Smyczek).

Sadly, after that quick recovery, Alex found it hard to recapture his once-promising form. One year later, after winning one challenger but struggling otherwise, he got a WC to the USO main draw where he was ever-so-ironically defeated in the first round by Tommy Haas, who knows a few things about coming back from leg injuries.

These days, Alex is again on the rise, attaining a high of 158 just a couple of weeks ago. He made the finals of the Honolulu Challenger in January (losing to Ryan Harrison) and the semis of the Dallas Challenger last month.

Alex Kuznetsov at the Dallas Challenger

Andrey Kuznetsov is a 20-year-old Russian tennis player, currently ranked #244, with a high of 163 (last August). He is one of my 2011 Challenger Tennis Players To Watch (the first, in fact), and – since I’m too lazy to cut and paste my material – everything you ever wanted to know about him, words and pictures, audio and video can be found here.

Andrey Kuznetsov

The short version, in case you’re too lazy to click: he won junior Wimbledon.

Since I wrote the above-linked profile, he’s had just an OK year, going 9/5 and only really catching fire in Casablanca with today’s win over second seed Marcos Baghdatis.

Now, I’ll grant the good people of Sky Sports this: while Andrey was winning the juniors at Britain’s prestigious “W” tourney (hint: Wimbledon), on this side of the pond Alex was winning ours. That’s right: he won the Winnetka Challenger that very same week, unseeded, beating a top seed along the way – just like Andrey did! So maybe they were thinking of that. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. Could happen to anyone. Plus they’re both brunettes. With birthdays in February.

Anywho, I’ll be watching Alex at the Tallahassee Challenger next week in case more photographic evidence is needed for this study. In the meantime, feel free to review this lesson as much as is helpful. There might be an exam.

Sorry, Brazil: It Appears Christian Lindell Will In Fact Be Swedish

A couple of months ago I wrote about all the mysterious country-switching happening in and around Sweden, mostly among players with an L-I-N-D-?-?-L letter sequence in their surnames (Nick Lindahl and Christian Lindell, to name two) (note: those were the only two).

Well now it appears that at least one of these mysteries has been resolved.  And much as I’d like it to be confirmation of Lindahl’s alleged drunk dial to Tennis Australia’s Craig Tiley, instead I’m reading some news-item tea leaves and coming to the conclusion that the Brazil-raised-and-trained Lindell will, in fact, be playing for the blue and gold of Sweden for the foreseeable future.

“I’m Swedish, damn it!”

A poorly Google-translated Brazilian article (with the tantalizing title: “Lindell train with Sweden in Davis and can stay away from Brazil”) states the 19-year-old talent “was invited by Thomas Enqvist for a week to train with the team’s Swedish Davis Cup home to the expectation of being drafted for the duel against Russia.”  In which case, he’d be prevented from representing Brazil for at least two years.

All of which leads me to wonder: where does this leave Nick’s Swedish Davis Cup hopes?  Is he still in their plans?  After all, Enqvist swooped in after Lindahl in much the same way a year ago or so.

 Even Brydan Klein is worried about him, at this point.

Edited to add: Here’s a better article which confirms it (although it’s probably just as crappy a translation).

Sweden’s Very Mysterious Case of the Country-Switching L-nd-ls.

OK. Here’s what I know. Erstwhile Australian Nick Lindahl has parted ways with the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross, and is now playing under the gold Scandinavian cross of the Swedish flag.

Meanwhile, there’s talk that current Swede and 19-year-old prodigy Christian Lindell is strongly considering a switch to Brazil in 2011.

All of which leads me to conclude one thing, which seems quite irrefutable: if you’re a player whose surname contains a L-nd-l letter pattern of some sort, you’re clearly planning a defection of your own – either from Sweden or away from Sweden.  The pattern is evident; you don’t need to be Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code to figure this shizz out.

So Inigo Landaluce, an 18-year-old from Spain, will clearly be The Next New Swede based on this pattern/pandemic. Don’t even try to deny it, Inigo – I’m on to you! And what country will you play for, 21-year-old Andreas Lindell (no relation), if not Sweden? I know you’re planning something! And what of American Benjamin Lundell (about whom no information is known at all)? Is he now hiding away in Sweden somewhere, awaiting citizenship (whoever he is)?

Now, as disturbing as all of this already is, can you even imagine if such a trend had been underway in the 80’s? Ivan Lendl would’ve defected to the Swedes and joined the likes of Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander!

See? He’s in a blue shirt! He must’ve already got the L-nd-l memo this year!

How scary would the Swedish Davis Cup team have been then, I ask you? Now I hope you go and have a good long think about all of this, because it’s very important stuff.

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