Tag Archive: Blaz Rola


Another week, another W.A.T.C.H. List. So let’s see Who’s Achieved Their Career Highs this week:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Bradley Klahn USA 23 64 others lost points
Kenny de Schepper FRA 26 67 Cherbourg W
Aleksandr Nedovyesov KAZ 27 79 others lost points
Dustin Brown GER 29 89 Cherbourg QF
Victor Estrella DOM 33 99 Salinas W
Blaz Rola SLO 23 128 Guangzhou W
Norbert Gombos SVK 23 166 Cherbourg F
Lucas Pouille FRA 20 173 Cherbourg QF
Andrea Arnaboldi ITA 26 177 others lost points
Albano Olivetti FRA 22 179 Cherbourg QF
Andrea Collarini ARG 22 207 Salinas F
Jarmere Jenkins USA 23 241 Australia F1 W
Emilio Gomez ECU 22 254 Salinas SF
Juan Ignacio Londero ARG 20 257 Salinas QF
Yasutaka Uchiyama JPN 21 273 Australia F1 SF
Jose Pereira BRA 23 277 Salinas QF
Borna Coric CRO 17 289 Croatia F2 SF
Andres Artunedo Martinavarro ESP 20 293 Portugal F3 W
Dennis Novak AUT 20 303 Egypt F6 W
Daniel Smethurst GBR 23 305 Great Britian F5 W

I do enjoy it when all the week’s CHamps make the List. It hardly ever works out that way, but all three of this past week’s events — the €64,000 Cherbourg Challenger, the $50,000 Guangzhou Challenger and the $40,ooo Salinas Challenger — have titlists on a career ascendancy.

Which is especially impressive in the case of 33-year-old Victor Estrella, who has had a breakout month after kicking around the Top 300 for the past six years or so, reaching the Top 100 for the first time and becoming the first Dominican Republican* to do so.

Sweet Victor-y (photo via naciondeporiva.com)

Sweet Victor-y (photo via Michael Monegro at naciondeporiva.com)

In Estrella’s past month he’s gone 12/2 at the challenger level, getting progressively better at each tourney. He made the semis in Dallas (losing to Steve Johnson) and the finals in Morelos (l. Gerald Melzer) before finally taking the Salinas title last week, increasing his ranking 38 spots from No. 137 on the 3rd of February exactly one month ago.

Meanwhile, Blaz Rola, more commonly known as my fifth Player to Watch for 2014, rebounded from a tough Indian Swing with a new coach — during which he went 2/3 at Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi — by grabbing the Guangzhou trophy. The 23-year-old Slovenian, by way of THE Ohio State University, continues to cut a swath through the rankings table, having begun the year at No. 185.

Rola Rocks His Way to the Guangzhou Title (d. Yuichi Sugita)

Rola Rocks His Way to the Guangzhou Title (d. Yuichi Sugita)

Cherbourg champ Kenny de Schepper has also come a long way from the days when we (sort of) watched him in the finals of the 2011 Great Britain F1 Futures event.

The Schepper in His Scotstoun Days - Head And Schoulders Above the Rest

The Schepper in His Scotstoun Days – Head And Schoulders Above the Rest

His win lifts the 6′ 8” (203 cm) lefty 17 spots in this week’s rankings, tying a Career High set September of last year.

Not to be overlooked is the man de Schepper vanquished in the final:

Norbert! Gombos!

Norbert! Gombos!

Because: Norbert Gombos!

Lastly, I don’t want to overlook the efforts of the last man on today’s table, Mr. Daniel Smethurst, as he’s had a truly tremendous 2014 campaign thus far. The 23-year-old Brit has gone 22/3 this season, making the finals of all 5 events he’s entered in 2014 and taking two titles.

So Good It Hurst

So Good It Hurst

I’ve been a Smethurst advocate since I saw him in worldbeater mode at the 2011 USA F2 Futures in Tamarac, FL, against another Challenger Tennis fave, Marcos Giron. At the time, I wrote: “I can’t really see how he’s not a Top 250 player already. He’s certainly got the ability.”**

Well, he’s now on his way.  Clearly ready to make the jump to the next level, he’s already proved his worth at challies, most recently with a singles semifinalist showing at the Champaign Challenger this past November. Can’t wait to see how he does from here.

*or Democrat, for that matter. /obvious joke that I’ve made before

**double negatives FTW!

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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 Universityeffectively 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.

With This Trophy, I Am Hereby Allowed To Reduce My Playing Age By 1 (ONE) Year

With This Trophy, I Am Hereby Allowed To Reduce My PTW Playing Age By 1 (ONE) Year

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).*

SLO Down, You Move Too Fast

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?)

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Happy Monday, everyone! It’s that time of the week again — time to see who’s achieved their career highs for the week of 21-Oct, 2013 (of those players on the Challenger Tour).  Here’s this week’s List:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High
Tim Smyczek USA 25 84
Julian Reister GER 27 87
Diego Schwartzman ARG 21 105
Facundo Bagnis ARG 23 139
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 141
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 148
Radu Albot MDA 23 171
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 182
Blaz Rola SLO 23 184
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 186
Mirza Basic BIH 22 202
John-Patrick Smith AUS 24 207
Miloslav Mecir SVK 25 215
Enrique Lopez-Perez ESP 22 223
Lorenzo Giustino ITA 22 241
Daniel Cox GBR 23 248
Theodoros Angelinos GRE 29 269
Chase Buchanan USA 22 274
Egor Gerasimov BLR 20 302
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan IND 25 309

First of all, I swear I’m not stacking the W.A.T.C.H. List deck with Argies.  They really do keep charting career highs at an alarming rate, and I reckon it’ll continue until everyone in the Top 10 is named Facundo.

Next of all, another hats off is in order for Mr. Tim Smyczek. Four weeks ago, he was thrilled to break into the Top 100, but he hasn’t stopped there: he’s been on the List every single week since then, and is now quite comfortably entrenched in the Top 100 at #84.

As ever, the players with U.S. collegiate tennis experience continue to thrive, with Blaz Rola (THE Ohio State University), J.P. Smith (University of Tennessee), Theodoros Angelinos (University of Virginia), Chase Buchanan (THE Ohio State University) and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (University of Washington) all logging personal bests this week. Nedunchezhiyan was once a Top 10 Junior (#9 in 2006).

Jee Whiz

Jee Whiz

Lastly, I continue to be amused that Dominic Thiem and Gerald Melzer keep racing up the list in tandem, given their acrimonious relationship. It makes me envision a future in which they’re the Top Two Austrians and are forced to be awkward Davis Cup thiemates.  (In case you missed it: the brothers Melzer have been pissed off because the D(en)ominator allegedly demanded fiscal recompense and sat out Austria’s most recent Davis Cup tie because he wasn’t offered enough).

Tennis needs more rivalries, and so far this has been a good one.

It’s Monday, and you know what that means: another W.A.T.C.H. List! So let’s see Who’s Achieved Their Career Highs this week*:

Player NATIONALITY Age New High
Edouard Roger-Vasselin FRA 29 64
Pablo Carreno-Busta ESP 22 66
Kenny de Schepper FRA 26 67
Joao Sousa POR 24 77
Jack Sock USA 20 79
Julian Reister GER 27 92
Alejandro Gonzalez COL 24 108
Diego Sebastian Schwartzman ARG 21 112
Oleksandr Nedovyesov UKR 26 116
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 150
Guilherme Clezar BRA 20 177
Renzo Olivo ARG 21 180
Kristijan Mesaros CRO 25 193
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 197
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 199
Blaz Rola SLO 22 202
Mirza Basic BIH 22 204
Norbert Gombos SVK 23 214
Marton Fucsovics HUN 21 230
Valery Rudnev RUS 25 263
Shuichi Sekiguchi JPN 22 265
Patricio Heras ARG 24 269
Hiroki Kondo JPN 30 279
Kimmer Coppejans BEL 19 289
Victor Baluda RUS 20 290
Mikhail Biryukov RUS 21 294
Bjorn Fratangelo USA 20 296
Alexander Rumyantsev RUS 21 297

A week ago, there was this idiot banging the doom drums re: the lack of young Americans achieving career high rankings post-US Open.  Well that’s because no one was playing in those weeks, idiot! This week sees two young Americans, Jack Sock and Bjorn Fratangelo, charting career highs — they each made the semis of the Kaohsiung and Campinas Challengers, respectively.  Hopefully this will shut that guy up!

Jack Sock - Challenger Tennis's Original Mascot

Jack Sock – Challenger Tennis’s Original Mascot

Meanwhile, the rise of the young Argentinians continues, seemingly unrelentingly. I wonder, though, what kind of ceiling 5′ 7” (1.70 meters) Diego Schwartzman will have.** I’ve been very impressed with his game and the power he can generate with his small frame, but we’ve seen players of similar heights struggle to move up the rankings before (Ricardas Berankis and Olivier Rochus are the first ones who come to mind).  On the other hand, there’s Michael Chang and, more recently, David Ferrer.  So time will tell if the Schwartzman’s height limitation will also limit his height on the rankings ladder.

May The Schwartz Be With You

May The Schwartz Be With You

Either way, you just know that the second David Nalbandian – whose lifelong tennistical goal has been to win the Davis Cup for his country – retires, this contingent of young Argies will probably win it.  Maybe Nalby (who, incidentally, fell 8 spots to #232 in this week’s rankings) will at least get to be coach if/when that happens.

This weekend saw some big results for guys who played collegiately in the US: Oleksandr Nedovyesov, winner of the Sczecin Challenger and former All American/ITA Player of the Year for Oklahoma State, is up 34 spots. While Ohio State’s 2012 NCAA doubles champion and 2013 NCAA singles champ, Blaz Rola, rolled on up 23 spots to #202, courtesy of his semifinal showing at the Kenitra Challenger. As if we needed more evidence, it’s clearly looking more increasingly viable for college players to make a smooth transition to the pros — I really don’t think John Isner will be college athletics’ one-hit wonder***.

Rola Rollin'

Rola Rollin’

Apropos of absolutely nothing, two of my favorite tennis names made it onto this week’s List: Norbert Gombos and Marton Fucsovics. Long may they rise!

Finally, Filip Peliwo, who some morons were saying only has a 14% change of making the Top 200 while he’s still in his teens (aka another 4ish months), won the $15,000 Markham F9 Futures in Canadia, and the 27 ATPts he takes from there will zoom him up to ~250th when his points are added next week (Futures points aren’t usually added until 8 days after its final is played).  He now needs ~51 pts to make the Top 200, so 2 more comparable victories can get him there.

Oh, and in case you didn’t click either of those links above, the “idiot” and “moron” I referred to was me in both instances.  *bows theatrically*

*ranked between #60 and 300, that is

**here’s where a less classy writer would make a “at least there’s plenty of room under the ceiling at that height” joke. But I would never. Not even in the footnotes.

*** why yes, I am trying to make a joke about his serve ending most points.

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