Tag Archive: Ben Mitchell


Challenger Tennis Top Ten Players To View (Part III)

Since my esteemed Players to View series was rudely interrupted by the weekend, just as it was picking up some e-steam, I’m hoping that I can quickly get back up to speed by profiling a couple of speedsters today.

No Relation To Alejandro or Santi, Who Spell Their Surnames G-O-N-Z-A-L-E-Z

No Relation To Alejandro or Santi, Who Spell Their Surnames G-O-N-Z-A-L-E-Z

You know, for all our talk in tennis about forehands, backhands and volleys, the game is mostly about movement. After all, it doesn’t matter how good your shots are if you can’t get to the ball first.

When I first started getting serious about the sport, both from a playing and viewing perspective, I was obsessed with shotmaking. But these days, there’s nothing I enjoy more than watching a fleet-footed player glide and/or scrap his way around the court.

The two guys I’m profiling today are very similar players — not just fast, but fit, athletic and agile. Both righties in their early 20s, currently ranked in the mid-200s, they can crank serves and forehands (albeit a tad inconsistently) and are somewhat steady and even occasionally transitional with their double-handers.  Once they figure out how to be more imposing and less defensive off the ground, they’ll start to have some very solid results, I believe.

Until such time as they become ATP Tour-level regulars, treat yourself to watching them motor around the court on the HD livestreams. There’s hardly anyone better to watch at the challenger level, movementally. Also, if you play the game yourself, you’ll find a lot that you can ingest and incorporate into your own play.

Ben Mitchell

I’ve been watching Ben buzz about the baseline since late 2009, when he’d just turned 17 and was playing the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Shortly thereafter he made the Wimbledon Boys final as a qualifier, losing to Marton Fucsovics. I then got to see him blazing to the Bendigo Futures final in 2010, where he lost to Player to View Number OneSam Groth.

I won’t bore you with all his results since then, but he’s somewhat stagnated after a blistering 60/20 first-year-as-a-pro season as an 18-year-old in 2011, during which he won four Futures titles and rose almost 400 spots in the rankings to No. 214.

Ben Mitchell All Smiles

Now 21, he currently sits at #250, which — while no longer precocious — is still good enough for Top 20 in his age group. He’s weathered a nine-match losing streak in 2012 and a six-match loss streak in 2013 to steady himself and start to get some decent results again.

But however unbalanced his recent results may have been, Ben is hardly ever off balance during a rally, keeping a wide base and bent knees as he careens about the court, his center of gravity low and constant as he seamlessly shifts between big and small steps, posture upright throughout.

Though hardly ideal, this YouTube vid shows a little of what I’m talking about with regard to his fluid footwork:

Another video of somewhat dodgy quality, but this is a very good match Ben played recently against countryman Luke Saville:

If you do nothing else, go to 17:30 in the above vid and watch the scrambling Mitch does in the far court.

The next chance to watch Ben will be at the Guangzhou Challenger next week.

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Welcome back to the series everyone is talking about*!  The one in which we examine the questions: how advantageous is it to have the home court on the ATP tour?  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?  (You know, the pressing issues of the day.)

Let’s have a look at the data:

Player Home Hard Court Win% Away Hard Court Win%  Home  Clay  Win %  Away  Clay  Win % Home Grass Win % Away Grass Win % Overall Home Win % Overall Away Win % % of matches played at home
Matt Ebden 58.14% 59.04% 0.00% 40.63% 68.97% 61.54% 58.64% 56.42% 35.37%
James Duckworth 46.30% 58.82% 60.00% 70.33% 60.00% 50.00% 49.28% 65.69% 33.50%
John Millman 55.74% 68.70% 69.23% 53.42% 85.71% 45.45% 60.49% 60.48% 27.84%
Nick Kyrgios 77.27% 65.45% N/A 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 73.91% 63.93% 27.38%
Sam Groth 59.80% 56.69% 68.75% 52.08% 70.00% 67.39% 62.32% 57.82% 31.94%
Matt Reid 59.81% 50.89% 41.67% 63.33% 44.44% 46.67% 57.03% 55.50% 36.99%
J.P. Smith 28.57% 70.73% N/A 60.00% 50.00% 50.00% 31.25% 64.54% 10.19%
Greg Jones 58.06% 53.90% 77.78% 58.93% 66.67% 55.26% 61.04% 54.32% 35.65%
Matthew Barton 62.07% 56.52% 42.86% 40.00% 42.86% 0.00% 56.56% 55.56% 65.95%
Ben Mitchell 65.79% 62.16% 64.71% 25.00% 75.00% 0.00% 66.19% 51.52% 58.40%
Player Home HC Wins Home HC Loss Away HC W Away HC Loss Home Clay W Home Clay L Away Clay W Away Clay L Home Grass W Home Grass L Away Grass W Away Grass L
Matt Ebden 75 54 111 77 0 4 13 19 20 9 24 15
James Duckworth 25 29 20 14 6 4 64 27 3 2 6 6
John Millman 34 27 79 36 9 4 39 34 6 1 5 6
Nick Kyrgios 17 5 36 19 0 0 2 2 0 1 1 1
Sam Groth 61 41 89 68 11 5 25 23 14 6 31 15
Matt Reid 64 43 57 55 5 7 57 33 4 5 7 8
J.P. Smith 4 10 58 24 0 0 12 8 1 1 7 7
Greg Jones 72 52 83 71 14 4 33 23 8 4 21 17
Matthew Barton 54 33 26 20 12 16 2 3 3 4 0 2
Ben Mitchell 75 39 46 28 11 6 5 15 6 2 0 5

In Part I of the Home and Away series, we saw that American players spend the majority of their year at home. Even Wayne Odesnik, who spends the most time playing abroad, spends 64.4% of his match time in North America.

This time around, we see the Aussies are just the opposite**.  Since there aren’t enough events (and enough points on offer) inside of Australia, the Oz contingent must hit the road to ply their trade***. And once they’re overseas, they try to stay awhile; these guys (the smart ones, anyway) aren’t going to fly 24 hours to a destination only to play one event.  That eventually would be fiscal, if not physical, suicide.

So away they stay.  Whereas the American Top 20 play an average of 81% of their matches at home, the Aussie Top 10 (of those who still play regularly on the Challenger/Futures Pro Circuit) only play an average of 36% of their matches in Australia.  Of that bunch, the person most like Marge Simpson’s husband (in that he’s the biggest homer) is also the only guy to play more than 37% of his matches at home. That would be 21-year-old Matthew Barton (with a whopping 66% of his matches played at home), and this year even he has played the majority of his tennis Up Over (as opposed to, you know, Down Under).

Homer and Matthey have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Homer and Matthew have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Although one must reconsider the definition of “home tennis” when one considers the case of one John-Patrick “J.P.” Smith. The 24-year-old Townsville, Australia native made another home for himself in Knoxville, USA, where he was a four-time ITA All-American in singles and doubles at the University of Tennessee.  Hmmmm, an Australian All-American, eh?  The plot thickens.

When we look at the numbers, we see that J.P.’s only ostensibly played 10% of his matches at “home” (i.e. Australia).  And he performs far better on non-Australian soil — he wins 64.5% of his “away” matches, as opposed to his 31% in Oz.  It seems as if the table is inverted where J.P.’s concerned, and his true tennis home is much more Americentric these days.

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Challenger Tennis Week Five In Review

Subtitled: Seriously – How Freaking Awesome Were My Previews? (A: Very.)

I know, I know. Challenger what now? For a site with “Challenger” in the name, I’ve sure written very little about them this week. I’ve been suffering from a bad case of Futurebrain (much worse than bed head, I’m afraid), but will be back to yammering daily about the challenger circuit soon. In the meantime, will you settle for this weekly summary instead? You have no choice, really. I’m just asking to be polite.

But seriously – how freaking awesome were my previews? (please see answer, above.) Let’s take a look at what actually transpired in this past week’s three events, and match it up to what I said would happen beforehand. This will be an exercise whose worth can be computed only on a scale of my own awesomeness. Ready? Doesn’t matter:

Courmayeur

I wrote:

“I’m pleased to see Lithuanian #2 (behind “Richard” Berankis, of course) Laurynas Grigelis has made it through qualifying…I would tell anyone who listened back then that Laury played well above his then-521 ranking. Less than 11 months later, my sentiment has been somewhat borne out as Grigelis will likely enter the Top 400 next week.”

So guess what? Turns out Grigelis made it all the way to the quarterfinals, and his ranking will be at a WATCH-worthy366 (or so) when the new rankings come out in about five minutes. You see? I’m smarter than even I thought I was! (Hard to imagine, I know, but it’s true.)

Grigelis, at right, with some other Lithuanian dude, laughing in awe re: my amazing intelligence

Then I wrote:

“A possible quarterfinal in the top section here pits Bolelli vs. fifth seed (and 2011 CT PtW) Benoit Paire… But Matthias Bachinger will probably beat them both anyway. Because that’s just the kind of thing he does.”

So what happened? Well, Bachinger did beat Paire, but couldn’t beat Bolelli because Grigelis had already done so. *feels doubly vindicated* He then beat Big Grig in the quarters for good measure, finally losing to Nicolas Mahut in the semis.

Matthias Bachinger, at left, with friend Daniel Brands, mocking you for doubting my prescience

All the seeds on the bottom half of the draw made the quarters, which is amazing because those are the only players I even mentioned in my preview. Never mind that I was short of time and mentioning the seeded entrants was the most obvious way to do the fastest preview possible. The important takeaway here is that I mentioned four players, and all four of them made the quarterfinals. Remark-a-balls. (Let the official record show those players were: Martin Klizan, Gilles Muller, Jerzy Janowicz and Olivier Rochus.)

Mahut went on to beat Muller 7-6(4) 6-4 in the final, which is fine because I mentioned him too.

All results!

Kazan

I wrote about top seed Conor Niland’s dodgy lunch. Then he withdru with the flew.  Coincidence?  I think not.

I wrote about there possibly being an upset in the Marius Copil vs. three seed Alexander Kudryavtsev match. And then he went on to win the whole damn tournament (he beat fourth-seeded Andi Beck 7-6(6) 6-4)! I mean, how’s that for an upset?! Nevermind that that’s not what I predicted, specifically. Or that I bunched his upset possibility with the fates of two other combatants, neither of whom came through as I’d insinuated they might. The point here is: I’m awesome. (Remember?)

Marius Copil, the Romanian Roddick, a long time ago in a completely different tournament

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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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Australian Open Men’s Qualifying Preview!

I’m not sure if you know this, so let me tell you: Grand Slam draws are like crack to fans of the Challenger circuit. They’re like the ultimate Challenger event: a tourney featuring players ranked between 100 and 300, and nearly everyone plays. Granted, there are only three rounds instead of five, and it’s kinda like the tourney gets canceled halfway through, but my point stands: pretty much every challenger-level player of interest is here, gunning for a place in a grand slam main draw. What’s not to like?

And after a few glitches and false starts, the Australian Open men’s qualifying draw has finally been unlocked and unleashed upon unsuspecting (or, in my case, very suspecting) cybercitizens. And in my tried and true OCD-tinged maniacal fashion, I am here to break it all down for you. No info-nugget will remain unearthed, no useless factoid shall remain buried, no know-balls will remain unlobbed. (Huh? Well, you get the idea.)

Let’s dig in!

First Quadrant

Top Quarter:

Much as I want to be impressed by Blaz Kavcic’s Chennai Open showing (he beat Jeremy Chardy and destroyed Robert Kendrick before falling 3&3 in the quarters to Berdych), I’m gonna be silly right from the get go and say there are no obvious favorites in this segment. A line-by-line breakdown:

[1] Blaz Kavcic SLO (World Ranking #100) v [W] Benjamin Mitchell AUS (#610): a tough draw for the likeable 18-year-old Queenslander, but not a completely impossible task for the lad who made the final in Bendigo and took Brisbane International quarterfinalist Matt Ebden to two tough TB sets at the Tennis Australia AO Wildcard Playoffs (having a lead in both sets). I’ve seen both play their fair share of matches, and to my mind they’re similar in game, style, speed, grit and even countenance. Blaz just does everything a bit better than Ben does. Odds are extremely good Blaz beats Ben in straights. But I expect Mitchell to give a good account of himself, I really do.

Rik de Voest RSA (#179) v Laurent Recouderc FRA (#204): Recouderc won their only match 6-4 6-4 two years ago on hard courts in Dubai. The big South African, however, has had better recent results, reaching the semis of the Charlottesville Challenger and the quarters in Knoxville at the end of last year. So on recent form as well as ranking, I’ll buck the two-year-old head-to-head data and pick Rik. Kavcic has never played de Voest, but he manhandled Recouderc 2&0 last June on clay, if you want to hedge yer bets.

Greg Jones AUS (#254) v Olivier Patience FRA (#196): The two have never met before, but Greg’s gonna win this one. Based on absolutely no data at all. Just trust me on this one. I’m tired.

Guillermo Alcaide SPA (#216) v [25] Ilija Bozoljac SRB (#152): Bozoljac beat Alcaide pretty comprehensively 6-3 6-2 in a recent meeting at the US Open qualifying tournament. And even though the Spaniard has played more matches recently (and gave Tsung-Hua Hang a pretty good fight in the Brazil F1 QF’s), I’d expect Bozo to make it through to face Greg in the next round. Those two have never met neither.

Who makes it through: De Voest beats Bozoljac (what? He’s won the only two matches they’ve played!)

Second quarter: this is where Simone Bolelli tries not to screw things up, as is his wont. He faces some fairly formidable competition along the way, but they’re all people he should honestly beat. Will he? Probably not. Let’s have a closer look:

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