Category: Futures


Though we’ve already embarked upon Players To Watch season for next year here at Challenger Tennis, the 2013 season isn’t over yet. (Will it ever be?*)

Which means there are still W.A.T.C.H. Lists to be tended and attended to, as players are still Achieving Their Career Highs this year. Here’s Who**:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Sam Groth AUT 26 172 others lost points
Marton Fucsovics HUN 21 179 others lost points
Tennys Sandgren USA 22 183 others lost points
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 187 others lost points
Germain Gigounon BEL 24 239 others lost points
Theodoros Angelinos GRE 29 251 Colombia F7 SF
Toni Androic CRO 21 294 Croatia F16 QF
Emilio Gomez ECU 22 302 others lost points
Edward Corrie GBR 25 309 others lost points
David Rice GBR 24 316 others lost points
Gonzalo Lama CHI 20 321 Chile F8 F
Marc Rath AUT 23 325 Turkey F46 SF
Roberto Ortega-Olmedo ESP 22 355 Spain F40 W
Joris de Loore BEL 20 363 Turkey F46 F
Ivan Arenas-Gualda ESP 23 400 Spain F40 SF
Bastian Trinker AUT 23 404 Greece F20 SF
Federico Coria ARG 21 407 Chile F8 QF
Tomas Lipovsek Puches ARG 20 420 Chile F8 SF
Luis David Martinez VEN 24 439 Colombia F7 QF
Erik Crepaldi ITA 23 487 Cyprus F2 R2
Juan-Carlos Spir COL 23 488 Colombia F7 W

Since the Challenger circuit closed up shop until 2014***, the only places players can pick up points for the rest of the year is on the Futures tour. So only Futures results are in play now.  And only old Futures results, for that matter.  

As has been documented elsewhere, Futures points don’t get added to a player’s ranking until the Monday one week after each event comes to a close (rather than the Monday directly afterward). Like the light from a distant star, these new career highs are thus just present indications of events that happened some time ago — in this case, just over a week ago. 

Luminescent Objects in the Celestial Sky, or Futures Results? You Decide!

Luminescent Objects in the Celestial Sky, or past Futures Results? You Decide!

This week, the only way guys inside the Top 250 could gain career highs was to back into their new personal bests. We’ll just ignore those people, and focus on the first two gents who actually did earn their places this week. *sniffs*

First, we find that former University of Virginia Class of 2008 alum Ted Angelinos has found his way onto our pages again.  He was last seen having the best hair in Challenger Tennis as he beat 6th seeded Alex Kuznetsov at the Charlottesville Challenger. 

Teddy Angelinos - Still The Greatest Hair In Challenger Tennis

Teddy Angelinos – Still The Greatest Hair In Challenger Tennis

Since then, Angelinos went south in search of points, and found them in abundance in Colombia (SPOILER ALERT: he reached the semis of this past week’s Colombia F7 Futures, which means he’ll be on the W.A.T.C.H. List next week after his points travel through space and time & finally arrive).

While Borna Coric has stolen the show by being this site’s first Player to Watch for 2014, compatriot Toni Androic was also a candidate for such prestigious honors.  The 21-year-old has been camped out in the Croatian Futures the past couple of months, amassing a 22/4 record since early October and taking two titles in November. (SPOILER ALERT: he also makes the List next week.)

Androic Heroics (photo by Gordan Panic)

Androic Heroics (photo by Gordan Panic)

Since I have amazing prognosticatory powers and have already foreseen who’ll be on next week’s List (and because I have Players to Watch articles to write), I’ll put off my amazing Gonzalo Lama update until next week.  “Always leave ’em wanting more,” as they say in Show Biz. And I know you want that Gonzalo Lama update…

*No, it won’t.

**(see below)

Here's Who

***Or until, you know, the Noumea and San Paolo Challengers on the 30th of this month.

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The articles that comprise this week’s Reading List collectively paint a bleak picture of the Challenger and Futures tours’ financial landscapes, putting into sharp relief the plight of players trying to earn a living on tennis’s minor leagues.

We start with a fairly ominous overview of the situation as it currently stands, courtesy of our friends at the GWH Von Helvete Mens Tennis Blog (scroll down to the Steep Decline of the Challengers subheading).  The article shows that — while total money on the ATP Tour has increased 21.44% from 1995 to 2013 — total money on the Challenger Tour has decreased by 30.27% in that same span.

“With little fanfare the ATP have increased the prizemoney of the lowest level Challengers from $35K+H (hospitality) to $40K+H. It’s good they have done this, but at best it’s tokenism. When over time the prizemoney on the Challenger tour has decreased significantly while expenses and costs have risen.”

Yeongwol Generosity

Yeongwol Generosity

A point is made about court surface homogenization leading to players breaking through at later ages, thus “the younger players are spending more time playing Challenger level.”  Not a very easy thing to do if a player is losing money every year, with costs increasing and Challenger purses dwindling.

Also, the blog echoes what I said here regarding an economical environment in which match-fixing becomes even more problematic:

“The lack of money at the lower level there are greater temptations to fix matches since the payments exceed the amount of prizemoney earned. It stands to reason raise the income at the lower level then the temptation is reduced.”

For corroboration of these numbers, check out Douglas Robson’s story for USA Today last year, which comes to similar conclusions (using something called the “Gini co-efficient”), even for players within the top 100:

“From 1990 to 2011, total ATP prize money went from $33.8 million to $80.1 million in 2011, a 137% increase. Over the same period, total Challenger prize money barely doubled to $10.2 million from $4.9 million and even has fallen from a high of $12.3 million in 2008.”

To get a personal glimpse into what this translates into for a player on tour, we need look no further than James McGee. In this article from this week’s Irish Daily Star, the Irish #1 — who reached a career-high of 220 in the world earlier this month — discusses his having to stay at shared rooms in hostels while on tour, because (in effect) there’s not enough prize money available at tournaments to support staying in the official tournament hotels without incurring a monetary loss.

If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend having a look at McGee’s more-detailed breakdown of his financial challenges. There, the Irish #1 shows how expenses can’t be met even if he wins a Futures event every week.

"Congrats on making the final, but you lost money this week!"

Per my own analysis, McGee would’ve had to make the second round of every Challenger event he played just to make ends meet. We’re talking about finishing the year having made no money at all — essentially an unpaid internship on the pro tour — for having won as much as you’ve lost.

Prize Money Receipt for 2nd Round of Challenger

Prize Money Receipt for 2nd Round of Challenger

As a point of comparison: the 220th-best earner on golf’s PGA Tour, Scott Jamieson, cleared over $130K in 2013, which he made playing only 3 events. Had James McGee made the finals of all 17 Challengers he entered this year, he still would’ve pulled in just $106,635. How’s that for rewarding (potential) success?

Furthermore, as Tom Perotta noted in his piece from the Wall Street Journal earlier this summer, the minimum salary for a Major League Baseball player this year was $490,000. And the minimum for players in the National Basketball Association is $474,000.  So who in their right mind is going to opt to play tennis, when the possible monetary rewards are so weighted against it?

In this article from Spazio Tennis last week, ATP #277 Simone Vagnozzi weighs in:

“If I have to point out, however, an element that I find really bad for those who do my job, apart from the case is not entirely uncommon in the hotel where the tournament proves to be a hovel, I must refer the obvious costs: simply absurd.” (Google translation from its original Italian)

As with McGee, Vagnozzi outlines an average year’s expenses (both with and without a coach) and comes to similar conclusions. Basically, a player needs to make 30-35,000 EUR just to break even. And if they can’t, then playing for a club can offer some semblance of fiscal salvation.

Simone Vagnozzi

Simone Vagnozzi

From Ireland to Italy (and I’m sure everywhere else) it remains the same: one has to have a phenomenal level of success (relative to other professions) to even break even as a tennis pro.

Since mine is a site which purports to celebrate the extraordinary athletes who compete through these extraordinary challenges, I find all of this to be quite alarming.  One wonders: if current trends hold, will Challenger and Futures players become a professionally endangered species?

And if that’s the case, from where will tennis pros of the future emerge, if not from the Futures?  At what tipping point of inequality, if any, will those who guide the game and determine its course off of the courts realize that this is current model is not sustainable and will ultimately endanger the product at every level?

The ATP has just elected a new president, Chris Kermode. As he was mostly a Futures-level player himself, there may be hope that he — along with the ATP’s player reps and governing councils — can steer the tour through factions and transactions to a place in which not just the very top players can earn a living.

Palms Away – The Final USA F4 Installment (Part II)

Sunday dawns almost as bleakly as I feel Nicola Ghedin’s prospects for victory are in his USA F4 singles final against Wayne Odesnik. It’s foggy, cloudy, and there’s a big, green blob of rain moving in on the doppler radar. But before the singles final, we have the doubles championship to attend to (hopefully). I arrive and make my way into the cozy Palm Coast clubhouse with two of the finalists, Jack Sock and Dimitar Kutrovsky, right behind me. “Fancy meeting you here,” I tell them, as I hold the door. They must be convinced I shadow them everywhere by now.

In a rare display of Futures seeding actually going to form, it’ll be top seeds Kutrovsky and Sock facing off today against the second seeded team of Greg Ouellette and Blake Strode.

From left: Sock, Kutrovsky, Ouellette and Strode

It’s also a final that features three four-year college grads/standouts (and one high school senior). This will be Kutrovsky/Sock’s fifth pro final together in the past six months…

while Ouellette and Strode are making their first finals appearance together (although both have made pro finals with other partners).

The weather holds, but Strode does not, broken in the first game on a nice low return from “The Tar” (Kutrovsky) that eventually sets up a well-Socked putaway. The top seeds get a second break in the seventh game, with Kutrovsky hitting a perfectly measured crosscourt lob to start the game and Jack nailing a forehand second serve return at Ouellette’s feet to end it. Sock is broken while trying to serve out the set, but then Sock/Kutrovsky break Strode to take the first set 6-3.

The second seeds fight back, however, going up a break in the second. Sock double faults himself into a 0-30 hole serving at 2-4, but does well to extract himself and keep things close. Strode, the Arkansas grad who’s deferred Harvard Law for a year to try his luck on the pro tennis tour, then takes command, holding to love then slicing an error-forcing return while his partner steps up with some super forehands and an absolutely perfect lob to break and take the second set 6-3.

During the changes of ends, the woman who tends to the tunes (and the “PA system”) also manages to thoroughly entertain us with some spirited dance maneuvers. She’s hilarious, and her enthusiasm only adds to the great spirit in which this match is being played.

As befits a terrific final such as this – with all four players hitting at a high level, playing in front of a large and appreciative crowd – the match will be settled in a match tiebreak. (Actually, it would be better if they played out a third set or even played an abridged pro set, but that’s another argument for a different day.)

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Saturday begins a bittersweet weekend for me at Palm Coast, as it’ll be my last weekend covering live tennis for two weeks, until it’s time for ATP Delray. What the heck am I supposed to do with myself in the interim? Get a life? I dunno – sounds like a dicey proposition.

Anyway, no worries about such weighty matters on this semifinal day, as the sun shines bright and the little amplifier under the ump’s chair pumps out the Jock Jams. The first semifinal of this day features the eighth seed with the nickname that will never catch on, Romanian “That’s So” Razvan Sabau against Italy’s Nicola Ghedin. Six years ago, Sabau was the #74 player in the world, with wins over Janko Tipsarevic (2 of them, actually) (wins, not Jankos), Guillermo Coria (no word on the state of his serve at the time), and Sergey Demekhine, now the infamous coach of Vera Zvonareva. These days, Razvan is ranked #520 at age 33, with maybe a lost step and some evaporated vim but certainly with shotmaking skills still in tact.

Meanwhile, the 22 year-old Ghedin comes in ranked #1,269 with a career high of 1,081, and it’s the first time he’s ever been to the semifinals at the pro level. His previous best result had been the quarterfinals of the 2009 Todi Challenger, where he lost 0-6 0-6 to Challenger Tennis Player To Watch David Goffin.

Nicola Ghedin, at left, with Razvan Sabau

I tweet that Nicola’s coach is someone called Cesare Zavoli, which makes me crave cheese ravioli, but after the match I see that Andrea Collarini has tweeted some much more interesting information:

(helpful note: read from bottom up)

First of all, let me say how impressed I am with Andrea’s quick mastery of the American vernacular. I’ll also admit that his tweet is a tad more relevant than mine. Furthermore, I’ll confess to wishing I had seen this information earlier, as it would’ve saved me from such embarrassing follow-up tweets to my cheese ravioli one (which was mortifying enough as is), like:

“Ghedin, he of the shoddier resume, is out of the gate quickly. Holds, breaks and holds for 3-0.”

“Am hearing inklings in the crowd that Sabau coaches Ghedin? In which case: student schooled the teacher in a 6-1 in a quick first set.”

and

“Wow, that was quick: Nicola Ghedin d (8) Razvan Sabau 6-1 6-4 in under 1 hr. Odesnik vs. (3) Matt Reid next up.” (my using “quick” in three consecutive tweets is no doubt a testament to why I score so low in the Times Word Nerd thingamajig, too.)

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The Palm Diggity – More Tales From The USA F4 Palm Coast

Friday begins as another lovely day for tennis in Palm Coast.  And by “lovely” I mean gray, overcast and cold. “Pity us, people up north,” I devilishly tweet, hoping to stir things up amongst the disgruntled folk living north of the 31st parallel. It doesn’t work. The people of the twitosphere are remarkably good at not taking my infantile bait. Either that or they’re all too buried under snow and/or their fingers are too frostbitten to text me angry but concise messages.

Anyway, it’s horrifically cold again. But we hearty folk in North Florida are undeterred, heroically playing tennis (or, even more heroically, watching it) despite the semi-frigid conditions. It’s quarterfinal day, and it’s thus time to play the quarterfinals. As sometimes happens on quarterfinal day.  And as is nearly my sworn duty at this point, I begin by chronicling the progress of Jack Sock.  Today he plays the third seed, 20 year-old Aussie Matt Reid. Also playing concurrently are Andrea Collarini against the 8th seed, 33-year-old Romanian “That’s So” Razvan Sabau, as well as Italian Nicola Ghedin against Arkansas standout and Harvard Law deferrer Blake Strode.

I don’t care how fair this is for the players – all this simultaneous action is hell on my spectating/reporting. How the heck am I supposed to keep careful track of three matches at once? Regardless, I try. It’s the least I can do for you, dear readers.

Jack begins serving to Reid on Court 4, but they must’ve switched the net over from Court 3, because – as with the one during his comeback win over Soong-Jae Cho the day before – this mesh is messing with his shots, too; it carries a forehand wide at 30-40 in his first service game, and he’s broken just like that.

Though both guys struggle through some deuce holds, serves are held throughout . The scruffy blonde from Oz displays a potent forehand – biggest I’ve seen in the tournament – while Jack struggles at times with errors off the ground, even while throwing some winners in the mix.

Third Seed Matt Reid

The points usually end with a Socked winner or error – by my incomplete tally (I was checking on other matches at times), Jack hits 4 forehand winners and 2 backhand winners in the first frame, but commits 5 forehand and 7 backhand unforced errors. He does try to press the issue a bit more, successfully venturing to net a number of times. But it’s the third seed Reid who displays better consistency in the opener, with almost as many winners but not nearly as many errors.  His one break holds up, and he takes the first set 6-4.

I duck out to check in on Collarini’s progress. Or lack thereof, as I find him down two breaks, 2-5* to the 8th seeded Sabau, who to my eyes resembles Andy Kaufman’s character Latka from the old TV series, Taxi.

Disingenuous Image Alert: This pic is from Sabau’s match the day before

Regardless, the Argentinian-American gets one break back with a backhand crosscourt winner, but then the Romanian breaks him right back to take the first set 6-3. I dart on over to see Ghedin serving for the set against Strode, which the Italian wraps up at love with a drop shot and a passing shot winner, 6-4.

Back to Jack. I return to find Reid serving at 2-3 15-40 in the second. A Sock return hangs on the net and decides to stay on Jack’s side, negating the first break chance. But Jack gets a Reid on his opponent’s drop shot on the next point, sliding a forehand up the line that Matt badly botches for the break.

Sock holds from 0-30, Reid holds to 15, and Jack serves out the second set despite faking himself out with a drop-shot-to chipped-forehand-morphed-midstroke monstrosity at 40-15. Started the game with an ace and a service winner. Closed it with two forcing forehands. 6-3, 1 set apiece. The high school senior shot for shot with a Top 400 guy two years his elder. (That might not sound like much, by the way, but there aren’t too many high school seniors out there playing Top 400 ball.)

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