Tag Archive: Champaign Challenger


Sunday Morning Reading List: Tuesday Afternoon Edition

It’s time for everyone’s favorite long-standing* weekly Challenger Tennis tradition: the Sunday Morning Reading List — the very best challenger-related articles of the week.  As is usually the case, Sunday’s reading list is appearing on a day other than Sunday because, let’s face it, the NFL is on Sundays and I can’t be expected to write while football is being played** I can’t be locked into a temporal limitation when good writing does not cohere to such Sunday-shaped, calendaric*** specifications.

For instance, this amazingly entertaining piece by Catherine Prendergast was just published today. (Confession: oftentimes I’m just waiting for a truly great piece of writing to inspire me to get off my lazy ass, walk to the computer, get back onto my lazy ass, and compile that week’s Reading List. AND THIS IS THAT.)

Titled  “The Last American Challenger”, this deliciously detailed read recounts the author’s week at what is the end of a long and grinding road for a lot of players: the Champaign Challenger.

What we have going on in Champaign, then, is something like Custer’s Last Stand—except in this version there are no Indians so the Americans are left shooting at each other.

I laughed approximately 18 times while reading this article. Prendergast does not pull any punches; from Jack Sock’s “brat”-like behavior, to Tennys Sandgren’s Lynyrd Skynyrd “porn stache”, it’s all here in glorious word pictures and not-quite-as-glorious picture pictures (although you seriously haven’t lived until you’ve seen the pointillist rendering of coach and tourney protagonist Billy Heiser).

"S-A-N-D-G, R-E-N. - NIGHT!"

“S-A-N-D-G, R-E-N. – NIGHT!”

Citing David Foster Wallace’s legendary tennis writing, this article dips into a vein of DFW-esque inspiration, which is the highest (and most deserved) compliment I can give it.

Speaking of Sandgren, this write-up from the UT Daily Beacon provides a nice summation of the Knoxville Challenger, from a University of Tennessee POV.  In the feature, Knoxville champ Tim Smyczek says, “Tennys is playing really well, and I think he is going to have a good Champaign.”  And boy, did Sandgren ever prove him right.

Had enough of Tennys? Of course you haven’t! Which is why you should also read Collette Lewis’s account of the success he and other college players had on the challenger tour last week, as well as the splashes juniors like Gianluigi Quinzi, Borna Coric, Christian Garin, Andrey Rublev and Ernesto Escobedo made at the Challenger and Futures levels.

On the subject of Futures, Irish #4 Daniel Glancy has been blogging about his experiences as he tours the late-season European Futures circuit. In the latest edition, he writes of the fiscal and physical challenges he faced at the Cyprus F1 event.  As ever, the best glimpses you can get into life on tour are from the players themselves.

Danny Glanny! (TM James Cluskey)

Danny Glanny! (TM James Cluskey)

Lastly, if you’re already over this season (though there’s still three Challengers and many Futures events happening this week, I’m obligated to point out parenthetically!) and can’t wait for 2014 and the possibilities presented for your Challfaves, look no further than Foot Soldiers of Tennis’s regularly updated series detailing the race to get into the Australian Open main draw.

That’s all for this week. Be sure to check back next (day I decide is) Sunday!

*Three weeks and running!

**Um, forget you just read that.

***Yes I made that word up.

A very long List today. Since a lot of players’ seasons have already been shuttered, those who did play last week stood to gain a lot vs. those dormant others. Thus, there’s a whole lotta career highs to get to today. So let’s get to them!

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Alejandro Gonzalez COL 24 91 CTF F
Oleksandr Nedovyesov UKR 26 93 CTF SF
Bradley Klahn USA 23 97 Yokohama SF
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 121 others lost points
Facundo Bagnis ARG 23 123 Lima F
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 124 Lima QF
Peter Polansky CAN 25 140 others lost points
Victor Estrella DOM 33 143 Guayaquil QF
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 151 Yokohama SF
Guilherme Clezar BRA 20 156 CTF RR
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 178 others lost points
Sam Groth AUS 26 183 Champaign F
Tennys Sandgren USA 22 187 Champaign W
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 189 others lost points
Pedro Sousa POR 25 199 Guayaquil F
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 206 Egypt F32 W
Lorenzo Giustino ITA 22 232 others lost points
Axel Michon FRA 22 239 Egypt F32 F
Kimmer Coppejans BEL 19 254 Yokohama R2
Andrea Collarini ARG 21 257 Lima R2
Egor Gerasimov BLR 21 267 Helsinki QF
Hiroki Kondo JPN 31 275 Yokohama FQR
Adrian Sikora SVK 25 295 others lost points
Ante Pavic CRO 24 297 Helsinki R2
Janez Semrajc SLO 24 300 Croatia F14 F

So what do we make of this uber-long List?

Well, first of all, a hardy “Welcome to the Top 100!” is in order for Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez and American Bradley Klahn. Gonzalez, who lost to Filippo Volandri in the Challenger Tour Finals, is the sixth Colombian to ever break into the One Hundred Club.

AGon The Conqueror

AGon The Conqueror

Klahn, the three-time All-American out of Stanford, finishes his first full year on tour in superb form, going Finalist, Champion and Semifinalist in Traralgon, Yeongwol and Yokohama respectively — a run that saw him rise 26 rungs on the ATP Rankings ladder.

Behind John Isner and Sam Querrey, the Americans are now tightly bunched, with Tim Smyczek at #89, Michael Russell #92, Donald Young #96 and Klahn at #97.  Furthermore, Klahn has now assured his entry into the main draw at next year’s Australian Open, where the cutoff is ATP #105. Our pals at Footsoldiers of Tennis have the latest breakdown of who’s chasing ATPoints at the three Challenger events this week, in order to join Klahn in the main draw.

The Wrath of Klahn - photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

The Wrath of Klahn – photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

Next, we see that tennis’s Facundos are still doing just fine, although they’ll need to qualify at next year’s first Slam.  But at least they’ll be seeded. Click here if you’re still unsure about who the Fac they are.

Clearly congrats are in order for Victor Estrella, who’s the Tommy Haas of the Challenger Tour, finding success well into his thirties. A new career high at age 33 is nothing to sneeze at*.

Sweet Victory

Sweet Victor-y

Lastly, congrats to Sam Groth and Tennys Sandgren, whose bubbly Champaign Challenger success (finalist and champion, respectively) resulted in dual breakthroughs into the vaunted Top One Hundred Eighty Seven.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun

Groth’s breakthrough has been a long time coming, as he’s dabbled in the 200’s for significant periods of time every year since 2008. As the now seventh-ranked Aussie, he inserts himself prominently into the wildcard discussion for the Oz Open.

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Welp, there are many more stories I can tell of those in the lower reaches of this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List, but this article is already long enough, don’t you think?  If I’m inspired, I’ll write a sequel.  So check back often!***

*Unless you have a cold, in which case: sneeze away!**

**Your monitor also doubles as a sneeze guard.

***Chances are <1% that I’ll write a sequel, so use your best judgment here.

Why yes, I do know it’s Wednesday.  But on Sunday only one of these articles had been published, which would’ve made the Reading List more of a Reading Single Item.  So, like the WTF-delayed W.A.T.C.H. list, this article is merely content delayed.  (And I had to make it a “Sunday” list to keep the cherished tradition* alive for the readers who love it so.)  Besides, Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel.

Moving along from day-related nonsense, our first item is the only one that was available before Sunday. And in fact, it was available in August, though for reasons unbeknownst to me it only started making the rounds last week.  It’s a Forbes article detailing the monetary difficulties for the lower-ranked players on tour, through the eyes of Michael Russell.

Muscles Hustles

Muscles Hustles

I’ve long been one decrying the harsh economic realities for those on the Challenger/Futures circuit, and this article brings into sharp relief how tennis can be more of a fiscal challenge than a physical one.  This quote from Patrick McEnroe is the heart of it:

And if players are not competing on the ATP tour regularly,  the math for staying in the game makes less sense. Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of Player Development at the United States Tennis Association, said the possibility of talented youngsters eschewing tennis for more lucrative sports “is what keeps me up at night. If you have a 7 year old, it’s much easier to sign him up for basketball than tennis. The challenge with tennis, is that once they’re exposed, it takes a lot of time and organization to make players significantly better.”

It’s what keeps me up at night too, PMac.  It’s fairly horrifying to know that these players whom I regularly watch, these guys who are so damn talented, might have to give up the game simply because, that particular year, they weren’t making ends meet.  With the average age of the Top 100 escalating to around 27-years-old, this is kind of akin to a player having to submit to a years-long unpaid internship, as they struggle with the grind of everything else on tour.  Maybe next year is the year they would’ve broke through, but they have to quit this year because they can’t make ends meet.

What a nightmare.

And it’s why players are scurrying to challengers all over the world this week, trying to earn those ATPoints that will get them into the main draw of the Australian Open, where just appearing in the draw earns players $23,000.

The next articles are a bit more upbeat, thankfully.  This business insider article continues with the monetary theme but with a brighter fiscal forecast. It’s, I dunno, comforting (?) to know that after some of these players quit because they can’t make money, maybe they’ll make lots of money after they quit.  It’s reverse incentivising.  Or something.

Maybe it’s just due to my poor memory, but what I’ve found is that when players on the lower circuits retire, there’s no announcement, no fanfare at all. And sometimes it takes weeks or months before I’m looking at a draw and think, “Hey, whatever happened to…” [insert player name]. I’m happy to find some of them folk in the confines of this Business Insider piece.

I see you, Barry King!

I see you, Barry King!

Foot Soldiers of Tennis has weighed in with its annual look at which players have successfully qualified for the most ATP World Tour events this year, a.k.a. the Kings of Qualifying. So click the link and find out who is the biggest KOQ.

The East Central Illinois News Gazette offers a well-written and -researched look at Rajeev Ram returning to the Champaign Challenger at the place where he was part of the legendary 2003 NCAA-champion 32-0 Illini team of 2003.  It also hits on other members of the team, past and present.

Lastly — and speaking of former college stars — this week’s Challenger Tour Finals participant and 2009 ITA Player of the Year, Oleksandr Nedovyesov is the focus of Josh Meiseles’s excellent article for the ATP World Tour website, describing the decision-making parameters inherent in a player’s choice to either turn pro or play for a top U.S. school.

The 26-year-old Ukrainian has been on W.A.T.C.H. Lists aplenty as he’s gobbled up titles and soared to a spot in the Top 100.

That’s all for now. Tune in whenever the next day is that I decide is Sunday!

*two weeks now and running strong!

%d bloggers like this: