Tag Archive: Andrey Kuznetsov

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.

So.  Hello.  I’m pretty sure it’s not me you’re looking for either.  And I know I’m supposed to be driving to Florida right now, but the Northeast is getting slammed with snow – bamboozled by blizzard, we are! – so I’m (Tom) delayed for one more day. Which means, despite my procuring of the finest guest-hosting talents (and they are doing a spectacular job), you are stuck with me for one more day. I don’t know what to do with myself, other than sully my site with more of my words. Therefore, I proudly present to you my Australian Open men’s qualifying day one wrap-up – cabin fever edition:

I was able to wake up in the middle of the night and watch the livestream of the John Millman v Sebastian Rieschick match as well as the Greg Jones v Olivier Patience contest. Then I fell asleep again (sorry Gooch!) Turns out that Greg and the Mailman were the only Aussies to come good out of the twelve who played yesterday.

That’s right, two wins out of twelve. Maverick Banes, Matt Reid, Chris Guccione, Sean Berman, Sam Groth, James Duckworth, Ben Mitchell, Luke Saville, James Lemke, and Brydan Klein all lost. Ouch. All Ozzed up, and no place to go. In fairness, Mitchell’s effort (some of which I saw) was superb, taking top seeded Blaz Kavcic to 4-6 in the third set. And Saville lost to a red hot Nicola Mahut. 

Benny Mitchell – Will He Escape From Full Screen Mode?

So I’m especially glad to have seen the rare instances of Aussome success in all their glory. And they were glorious indeed. If ever a match could be called “classic John Millman”, this match vs. Rieschick was the one. The Mailman seemed dogged by the conditions early, and easily distracted by “fans” with highly questionable etiquette. His shots were landing short in the court, and his opponent was taking those short balls and teeing off, making more than he missed.

Thus, the amiable Queenslander found himself down a set and a break, with the burly German serving for the match, when he was granted a rain-delay reprieve. After an hour or so break, Milkman came out raring to go, a noticeable spring in his step that was absent pre-precip. Maybe he enjoyed some caffeine during his break. I offer this as evidence for my hypothesis:

Meanwhile, Rieschick was nowhere to be found, and ambled out onto the court a good five minutes or so after John did. When play resumed, Mailman overcame match point, shoddy line calls, and dodgy inter-game spectator migrations to break twice and take the second set 7-5. Rieschick also could no longer find the court – that helped, too.

The third set opened with three straight breaks, Sebastian settled a bit more into his game after an extended walkabout during the previous frame’s conclusion.

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Late last year, as I was assembling my 2010 Players to Watch list, I came across the name Evgeny Donskoy on the stevegtennis.com Young Guns spreadsheet, alongside names like Grigor Dimitrov and Henri Kontinen, so I had to check him out. But the Donskey Boy hadn’t had the greatest of years, which is maybe why he could only manage a half-smile in all of his old photos.

Though he started off 2009 ranked #514 and even reached a career high 384th on the 9th of November, by the end of the year he had only been able to gain nine meager rankings spots over his position at the start of it, finishing #505 in the world. 

But this year, I feel like Donskoy’s time might finally have come. The former Top 20 junior in the world turned in a high-quality 41/24 2010 campaign, including a run to the semifinals of the Ortobello Challenger in which he beat Robin Haase, Andreas Haider-Maurer and Federico Del Bonis along the way. As a result, his cut his ranking nearly in half, from #505 to #259 in the ATP list, up 246 spots.  The power baseliner has a big serve that is often clutch and gets him out of trouble, but is also sometimes wayward and gets him into trouble. Oh, tennis.

Perhaps his most well-known run this year happened at the St. Petersburg Open, where he made it through qualifying and then beat Day One Player To Watch Andrey Kuznetsov in a close 7-5 7-6(2) contest.

He faced off against Mikhail Youzhny in R2, and… well, let’s go to the video now!

Actually, before I summon the A/V nerds, I just wanna say that one of the more difficult things about profiling up-and-coming players on the Challenger Tour is finding actual videos in which they’re featured. And even when you find them, they’re not ideal. Such is the case for Evgeny Donskoy. You’ll have to stick around to the end of this St. Petersburg highlight vid from two months ago, but then you’ll get to see a couple of Donskoy points. In the interim, I hope might just be entertained by Benny Becker highlights/interview and a funny Dmitry Tursunov misspelling that actually comes closer to what I feel his name really should be. Roll it!

I remember watching this match, and – if you’ll recall (or even if you don’t) – the youngster gave Misha all he could handle in the early going, taking the first set 6-3 before going down 3-6 2-6 in the next two. After that match, Mikhail was all impressed, saying in an article with Eurosport Russia that Donskoy was one of the most promising young Russian players. “Somehow, if a person is not included in the 20 years of age among the 50 or 100 strongest tennis players in the world, we all immediately think he’s weak level,” saluted the elder Russian. “Evgeny has proven to be a very good player, and in the future he’ll add.”

Though I can’t embed it, the bottom of this article has a nice little video newscast featuring Tursunov-Lu and Youzhny-Donskoy match highlights followed by interviews with Dima and the Youzhual Suspect (of course, the real highlight is the Google-translated headline). But you get to see a couple of different Donskoy points in that one.

You can also watch an entire Donskoy vs. Starace match from the previous year here, if you’d like:

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2011 Challenger Tennis Players To Watch: Part III

*sings* On the third day of Christmas, Challenger Tennis brought to you: *unsings*

Two players playing, of course! It’s what we’re bringing to you on all twelve days of Christmas, in case you haven’t caught on yet (you’re a bit slow, aren’t you?).  Today is the third installment of our two-a-day, daily profiles of Players To Watch in the upcoming year. Let’s dive right in to today’s feast, shall we? I’m all for avoiding the usual pre(r)amble…

Well, I must say, I wasn’t planning on profiling this particular gentleman until later in the series, but the recent announcement that he’s received a wildcard into the ATP 250 Brisbane International pushed John Millman right onto today’s “2011 Players To Watch” docket. Might as well learn about the player you’ll be seeing (I hope) soon, no?

Truth be told – scandalous confession time! – Millman (aka “The Mailman” or “The Milkman”), was unofficially on my “Players to Watch” list all last year as well. But I’ll be doing the environmentally responsible thing here by recycling him this year. His results and his position also justify such an act.  John first appeared on my radar at the ’09 WC Playoffs, when he made the semis and had a series of very entertaining guest commentator stints in the booth with Rob O’Gorman and friends. With his bubbly demeanor (and his love of crème brulee), my friends and I dubbed him “The Giggling Mailman” and fully embraced this player with the engaging personality.

But “The Giggling Mailman” is someone who achieved some serious results this year. The 21-year-old (and 5 months) Mr. Millman turned in a super 40/22 W/L season which saw him break into the Top 200 for the first time, to a career high of #179 in October. Most impressive of all was his torrid month-long span from mid-September to mid-October, during which he went 14-1, winning the Australia F6 Futures as well as the Sacramento Challenger. In his run to the Sacramento title, John beat Julian Reister in R2 and straight-setted Robert Kendrick in the final, providing evidence that top-hundred talent may lurk just beneath his affable exterior.  He lost his last two matches in the States in October, however, undercut by a revenge-minded Reister (the worst kind of Reister) in Tiburon and the deadly combination of Lester Cook and shin splints in Calabasas.

I was lucky enough to see Millman play against another of my 2010 Players to Watch, Peter Polansky, in the final qualifying round of the US Open this year (he had beaten Marinko Matosevic 2-6 6-1 7-5 in the previous round, which I was not lucky enough to watch in person or otherwise). Though John eventually petered out as the sun set on the National Tennis Center (losing 3-6 6-4 0-6), he picked himself up and went on a nine-match winning streak in Australia soon afterward. And during the Polansky match, John won the hearts of the many fans who had gathered at Court 12 to watch (as it was the last match of the entire qualifying session) with his determined fightback in the 2nd set – and high fiving a ballkid at the net after running down a drop shot was a nice touch, too.

Millman currently occupies the #204 spot in the ATP World Rankings list, which is 102 spots higher than the one he occupied at the start of this year. Though he had a less-than-impressive result at the AO Wildcard Playoff, losing to James Duckworth 4-6 6-7(1) in R2, that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the extremely likeable Queenslander’s 2011 prospects. As Tennis Hall of Famer and Tennis Australia national selector Todd Woodbridge said yesterday, John “has a phenomenal attitude and commitment to the game of tennis.” I look forward to seeing what The Mailman can deliver in 2011.

For now, though, you should look at the following two videos. This first one is the only I could find of John actually hitting a tennis ball. Sorry about that. I scoured the internet, too – visited the very scariest corners of YouTube and lived to tell the tale. But next time I see him I should take some video, as I had no idea footage was such a scarce commodity. Jeesh.

And even though there is not a single tennis ball hit in the next vid, I urge you to make it through to his superb off-the-cuff analysis of the entire AO Wildcard draw as it unfolded (including some great Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic burns):

Conclusion: it’s just impossible not to support this guy. Go ahead and try.

Oh, and speaking of the scary corners of YouTube – look what I found! That’s right: bonus Andrey Kuznetsov footage (which is tagged “Andrey Kuznetcov”, thus banishing it to the dirty backstreets of YouTubetown).  The racquet toss at :52 is the funniest I have ever seen:

Good stuff!

The next selection from my Players To Watch menu may surprise you, as he’s English. And no one group of tennis players has taken more guff or come under more negative scrutiny than the English boys have. But even though I’m often roundly mocked for doing so, I have not given up in the Search for Great Britain’s Next Top Tim. To surprise (and/or tease) (and/or frustrate) you even more, my pick isn’t even British #2 James Ward. He would be on my list, but J.Ward doesn’t fit my strict “under 23 years old” criteria; poor James missed it by 10 months or so – do give him my condolences if you see him, and tell him that I still believe in him. Thanks.

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Actually there aren’t that many – more like two dozen or so.

You see, at the end of every year I like to pick a 10 to 20-person group of players outside the Top 150 to watch for in the next year. Players whose recent results show they might be on the brink of a breakthrough, even if they’re currently far outside the Top 150. Players who are under 22 years old and look like they’re going somewhere (generally: up). And, somewhat importantly for our purposes at this website, players who haven’t already received a ton of press and attention (i.e. Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, etc).

Ideally, before choosing, I’ll have seen these competitors slug it out in person. A lot of these guys I get to see at the US Open juniors. But sometimes I’ll have to settle for video or pictorial evidence if the player remains relatively unseasoned and has yet to travel far in their young pro careers (and sometimes even that is lacking).

I then enjoy focusing on the results of that particular group all year long, win or lose, to see if I chose “the right bunch”. Usually I do a pretty good job of choosing, if I do say so myself (and I do); a vast majority shoot up in the rankings, and the ones who falter usually do so because of injury. Ricardas Berankis, Grigor Dimitrov and Adrian Mannarino were in last year’s bunch, to give a few examples of those who found great success (and yes, I am cherry-picking my best and cherriest picks here – if it makes you feel any better, Uladzimir Ignatik was also on the list, and Iggy stunk it up in 2010).

Regardless, it helps me get to know and regard some of the young guns as they try to make it up the rocky road of the professional ranks. I thought some of you might enjoy taking the journey with me right from the start this year. So, to help us through the remaining two weeks of the “off-season” (hey – there’s a Futures event in Brazil this week! Pro tennis is still going strong!), I’ll be doing two-a-day profiles of these up-and-coming hot shots.

And though this year’s group is already chosen, membership isn’t necessarily closed, so I encourage you to submit any players who fit the above criteria in the comments below if you have an idea of someone you’d like to see profiled and blog-stalked throughout the year.  Anyway, without further Freddie ado, here are the first two players in this year’s bunch:

Andrey Kuznetsov: The talented Russian Andrey Kuznetsov (not to be confused with the American Alex Kuzentsov) (or the Russian Andrey Kudryavtsev, for that matter) was the 2009 Wimbledon Junior Boys champion, of course (beating recent USTA Wildcard Playoff contestant Jordan Cox in the final).

And even though only 3 out of every 10 Wimby Junior Champs go on to make anything of themselves, I have high hopes for AnKuz. The 19 (and 9 months) year-old sported a fairly nifty 42/15 record in 2009 and attained an ATP Ranking of #364 in the world.

This year, the lanky lad had a bit of a rougher go of it, posting a 35/21 season but still moving up 133 places on the table to his current position at #231. He reached the finals of the Poznan Challenger, losing to Denis Gremelmayr, and not only qualified for Eastbourne but beat Kei Nishikori in the first round before almost beating Gilles Simon in the next, finally succumbing 1-6 7-6 (3) 6-7 (2). He is currently the fifth-youngest player in the Top 250.

The skinny right-hander packs a surprisingly powerful punch, particularly off the backhand wing – somewhat reminiscent of Gilles Simon in that regard. He’s also not afraid to come to the net, and his proficiency across all surfaces speaks to his ability to both attack and defend with equal success.

But enough of my yammering, let’s get some words and see some shots of the young man himself. I now leave you, temporarily, in the capable hands of Jason Goodall (oh, and a warning first: though Kuznetsov only appears in the second half of this video, I encourage you to watch the first part too, if only for the hilarious bouncy-racquet stylings of Potito Starace):

That vid is about a year old, but it’s the best quality one I could find of Kuznetsov actually swinging a racquet. As Andrey said then, he thinks he’s headed for the Top 100. And though I’m certainly not sure of it, I think he might be right about that this year. The only thing I am sure of is that I’ll be following his results closely this year. So stay tuned.

edited on the Third Day of Challenger Tennis Christmas to add the following AnKuz footage, which was found in a darkened side alleyway of YouTube where he’s known as “Andrey Kuznetcov” (you will do well to note the impossibly hilarious racquet toss at :52, btw):

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