I had such a good response from our lefty yesterday, that I’m gonna keep it on the southpaw side today. And, like a lefty serving in the ad court, I’m gonna send a fairly vicious curveball your way regarding today’s selection.
Remember the whole “needs to be under 22-years-old, ranked between ATP #150-500” ground rules I bored you all with in Borna Coric’s pro-file? Well, a concerned citizen who may or may not be Colette Lewis contacted me to correctly point out that these criteria penalize those players who chose to play college ball (and thus inadvertently aged themselves out my demographic window by the time they turn pro).
I was quite thrilled to concede the point, as I have no shortage of college players who are well worthy of PTW honors. If you follow my W.A.T.C.H. Lists at all (and possibly even if you don’t), you’ll know that a sizable percentage of those who achieve career highs on the pro tour each and every week are guys who mixed it up on the collegiate courts.
Thus, midway through this year’s Player to Watch proceedings, I am instituting a new selection criterion: while a player must still be currently ranked between #150-500 to merit inclusion, I am subtracting a year from any player’s age for each year they competed collegiately.
Therefore, it brings me great joy to bring you a player who competed three years for THE Ohio State University, effectively reducing his age from 23 to to 20 for PTW purposes. I present to you the fifth Player to Watch for 2014, Mr. Blaz Rola.
Blaz has been on my radar for ages. My long-suffering tennis friends will attest that I’ve been going on and on (and on) about Slovenian tennis and how they’re the next Serbia-esque Davis Cup powerhouse for years and years (and years).*
Rola began his career wanting solely to play pro ball. And that he did, in 2010, when he went 36/17 on tour and took home two Futures titles to boot. He even debuted for said Davis Cup team, handing Bulgaria’s Valentin Dimov a breadstick and a bagel in a dead rubber, which sounds grosser than it is.
Even better: his Davis Cup teammates “prepared for him a special baptism. Only in his underwear and the words Slovenia on his head he had to interrupt the wedding party at a nearby wedding and to nearly a hundred people shout: ‘Three Slovenia, Bulgaria zero!’ (Thanks to this Slovenian article for that detail – I wonder if OSU hazing rituals are as colorful?)