Tag Archive: Andrea Collarini


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

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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USA F4 Palm Coast – The Coast With The Most

On Thursday I pack up my Futuresmobile and head up from Vero Beach (where I’m currently stationed) to catch the USA F4 in Palm Coast, which is about a four hour drive north from where the previous three Florida Futures events have been played and is the last of the events on this FL winter swing. I know I’m getting in the right area when I see this marquee about two miles from the Palm Coast Tennis Center:

Simply swinging, eh? Do you think they chose that show as a promotional 10K tennis tie-in? Probably not, huh? Doesn’t stop me from stopping to take a picture of it, though. And boy, you can really feel that four hours of northitude in the air. And yes, I know – if there’s one thing that really iced my cream when I lived up North, it was people in Florida complaining about “the cold” where there’s no snow to contend with, no sub-freezing temps, no arctic wind chill, etc. But on this Thursday, people are wearing full on winter jackets (as opposed to half-on winter jackets), and in some cases are wandering around in what look suspiciously like Snuggies.

I head for the bathroom of the quaint Palm Coast Tennis Center and am immediately confronted by yet another sign:

You’ll no doubt be happy to know I rated a “3”. What? Tennis? OK. Lots of that around the facility. And I had already missed a lot as well. The first rounds played out over Tuesday and Wednesday with a few very surprising results. For one, USA F3 Weston champ Phillip Simmonds lost to 17-year-old Czech Jan Kuncik, ranked #1676 in the world, 6-3 7-6(6). Wowzers. Seventh seed Denis Kudla also lost a tough one, 4-6 6-4 6-7(3) to F3 dubs champ Soong-Jae Cho. All in all, it was a terrible tourney for the seeded, as only three of the top eight players advanced into the second round – (3) Matt Reid, (8) Razvan Sabau and top-seed Greg Ouellette.

It was the latter whose match I’m here to see first, as he’s paired up in a lefty battle against none other than Wayne Odesnik – making his comeback, of course, from a substance-related suspension. Wayne had lost one match to F1 eventual champion Luka Gregorc and had to retire against Nikko Madregallejo in Weston, but was otherwise undefeated on the year. I’m interested to hear how Wayne is received, and he gets a smattering of applause from the hearty assemblage of spectators. Ouellette, a bigger local fave, receives a much healthier hand for his intro, but Wayno doesn’t get shut out in that regard.

On court, however, it seems he might. Get shut out, that is. Appearing very nervous, Wayne double faults thrice and gives up his initial service game, while Ouellette holds from 0-30 with two service winners and an ace wide. Down 2-0, Odesnik gets on the board when the top seed nets two backhands from 30-all, and then gets even as Ouellette makes four unforced groundstroke errors in the next game. Already there’ve been three over-fifteen-stroke rallies in the match.  Greg gets it to deuce on Wayne’s service game at 2-all, but Odesnik is starting to settle in and rip the ball. He hits three outright forehand winners and forces two more errors off that wing to take his first lead of the set, 3-2* on serve. Ouellette is broken to 15 in the next game and gets a very strictly-enforced code violation for ball abuse – for whacking it into the net.

Though Ouellette plays a nice game to break back to 3-4, he doesn’t win another in the match. Odesnik is just in his own stratosphere, gamewise; it becomes quickly apparent that Ouellette can’t do anything to consistently trouble the 25 year-old, while Wayne is hitting the ball very deep, hard and heavy – it’s a level of tennis I’ve yet to see on the Florida clay these past few weeks, for all the good ball I’ve seen. Even acknowledging that Wayne was a Top 100 player, there was no guarantee that he’d come back match tough or be able to handle his nerve or be in this kind of form.

After the match, Wayne tells me that he hadn’t played Greg since they were about 13 or 14 years old (they grew up in Florida juniors) and though he didn’t remember the results, he remembers always having trouble with him. “He started out well today, and conditions were a little different, so I’m glad it went my way.” I asked him to compare coming through the Futures circuit again now as opposed to when he was first coming up. “When I started out I was 16 or 17 years old, so I was still learning and I was one of the new guys. Where now, hopefully I’ll just play a couple more Futures and that’s it for me, and then I’ll go back the a challengers and ATP events. But the court doesn’t change – there’s a court, there’s a ball and there’s an opponent, and that’s it. And that’s all I’m focused on right now.”

I hear Jack Sock “C’mon!”ing in the distance, and – since I am now officially his shadow – that cry is kind of my bat signal in the sky to go check on the 18 year-old prodigy’s progress. He’s up against a guy who’s quickly becoming something of a nemesis – the very same Soong-Jae Cho who beat Kudla in the first round here also teamed up with Hyun-Joon Kim to beat Sock and his partner Dimitar Kutrovsky in the finals of F3 doubles. And those same two teams would be meeting for a rematch later on this very day.

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Tamarac USA F2 Futures Update!

And so it actually, finally, began. After braving blizzards, car trouble, and a mixed bag of calamities, our brave reporter (hint: that’s me) finally made it to see some actual tennis. What a concept. I slalomed around the various nefarious Floridumb strip malls to the oasis that is the Woodmont Country Club in Tamarac, FL – the site of the second annual *deep breath* Lawrence D. Share Company $10,000 Championships at Synergy Tennis Academy. Or, if you’re short of breath, the USA F2 Futures.

The site itself is top notch, and the organization seems superb. The twenty-court facility featured play on four of its “clay” courts on this Wednesday, having caught up on a backlogged schedule from a waterlogged Monday washout. The two main courts – the innovatively-named “Court 1” and “Court 2” – are separated by a raised, wide partition upon which random chairs and ceramic-y picnic tables are interspersed; a very spectator-friendly setup. Even better, the area between the featured back courts (Courts 9 and 10, if you’re scoring at home) has a shaded gazebo under which I could protect my blindingly pasty fresh-from-the-Northeast skin. Bonus!

I arrived just in time to see one of my 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch selections, Dennis Kudla start his F2-ing against the tourney’s top seed, Victor Estrella. Estrella, the 30 year-old Dominican Republican (or perhaps he’s a Dominican Democrat – I didn’t ask), had finished his 2010 season on quite a roll, winning three straight Dom Rep Futures events (15 matches in all) before losing his final match of the year. All of which was good enough to land him a career high world ranking of 211 – not a bad achievement for someone entering his fourth decade. So I was eager to see how the rising star would fare against the established vet.

Turned out, not so well. At least to begin with. Two backhands into the net and a forehand long saw the 18-year-old Virginian broken in the first game of the match. Kudla then had two breakback points straightaway in the second game (after Estrella shot himself in the foot with the dreaded mediocre-drop-shot-to-awful-lob combo), but Victor found his way out of trouble with a framed volley and an ace erase to deuce and held from there.

The top seed – who the chair umpire seemed to call “Australia” (to my ears), in an obvious fit of Grand Slam fever – looked sharp early, hitting a heavy ball and knifing away the volleys he didn’t frame, while Denis struggled to find his range and/or mojo, seeming initially uncomfortable with conditions and his game on the day. The fleet-footed Dominican prefers to favor the ad court and load up on the forehand side whenever possible, but his heavily-sliced one-handed backhand is suitable to the Tamarac court, staying nice and low. Kudla is less averse to play off both wings, and he started to settle into the match midway through the first set. Though he had a few back-breaking opportunities throughout the set, in the end he was broken a second time as Estrella took the first 6-3.

Ever the supporter of my PTW’s in distress, I bailed and decided to see what else was going on around the grounds. I wanted to see how one of my almost-PTW’s, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, was faring against Phil Simm(ond)s (I myself have a touch of NFL playoff fever – deal). Turns out, not so well. The gangly 19 year-old showed some cliched French flair (drop-shotting four times in one game, venturing to net behind cheekily sliced forehands – you know the drill), but lost the first set to the 24 year-old American, who offered up my favorite bit of vocal self-coaching: “Really? REALLY?? RELAX!!!” It worked: Simmonds took the first set 6-4.

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This first U.S. men’s pro tournament of 2011 is unfolding in a most unusual fashion; all of the second rounds have been played at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Central Park, and not a single seed is left standing. There are no seeds even left leaning or squatting.  Remarkable.  Let’s take a look at some of the surprising results:

Luka Gregorc SLO #464 d [Q] Andrea Collarini USA #580 7-5 6-1. Even though the 26-year-old Slovenian had ranking and experience on his side, I’m somewhat surprised that the 18-year-old ex-Argie and current 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch, Andrea Collarini, was handed his first loss of the year in this match. I mean, sure, occasionally Gregorc’s been known to string together some wins – such as when he beat Jose Acasuso, Ivo Karlovic and Andreas Seppi on his way to the semifinals of the Pilot Pen New Haven in 2008 – but the big guy hasn’t made it past the 2nd round of any event since the Ojai Challenger in early June of last year. He also had a sub-.500 record on clay the past five years. Meanwhile, Collarini usually does quite well on the dirt. So, yeah. Tennis. It’s a weird game sometimes.

[W] Wayne Odesnik USA d [Q] Thomas Cazes-Carrere FRA #582 6-3 6-2. I’m sure you’ll find enough coverage of this result at other sites and outlets. I’m here to chronicle and celebrated the unsung athletes, remember? And, at least for the moment, Mr. Odesnik is well-sung enough. Moving on.

Dan Smethurst GBR #497 d [Q] Christian Harrison USA 5-7 6-4 6-1. So end’s Christian’s comeback after a year-and-a-half layoff, but there’s a tremendous amount of upside for the 16-year-old’s efforts this tournament: four wins, his first ATP point, and a set off of a very underranked (in my opinion) main draw opponent. That’s a terrific foundation from which he can continue rebuilding.  Meanwhile, if Smethurst can just become more consistent in this new year, I expect him to be a Top 300 player and start moving up to Challengers later this year.

Smethurst, Doing His Best Gulbis Impersonation

[Q] Phillip Simmonds USA #570 d [6] Roman Borvanov MDA #431 6-3 6-2. Another upset on paper, but not in my mind (that said, hardly any matches ever play out properly in that particular venue). Heck, Simmonds once racked up junior dubs titles with World Team Tennis stalwart Scott Oudsema and was a two-time Coffee Bowl finalist, taking sets off the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray back in the day. Dude’s got more than a little bit of game.

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