Tag Archive: Conor Niland


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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Notable Results From ATP Day One Qualifying

And on the first day of the new year, we suddenly went from a drowsy tennistical dormancy to a post-hibernation explosion of action.  Jeezum Pete!  It’s very difficult to keep up with it all.  If I had any discipline at all, and was true to my craft and my mission statement in any way, I wouldn’t focus on tour-level events at all.  After all, this is Challenger Tennis, right? 

But no – my OCD demands that I follow every player ranked outside the Top 90 (and even those inside it, though I will actually exercise restraint and refrain from writing about them).  Plus, it’s exciting to see the players who I (and maybe/hopefully you) have followed try to break through at the next level.  So, even though I have no time to do it properly, I’ll be following the qual draws of certain ATP tournaments (and possibly beyond), and probably doing a very poor job of it.  You’re just gonna have to deal.

And though my anal-lytic nature makes me want to separate all the different tourneys into different posts… to hell with it.  Here are some results I found particularly noteworthy from ATP Day One:

Brisbane International

[1] Adrian Mannarino def Carsten Ball 7-5 6-7(3) 7-6(7).  From all I’ve read, both lefties alternated playing lights out tennis.  And then the lights actually went out.  At 4-3 Ball in the final set tiebreak.  A crazy way to ring in the ATP New Year, and a match that I think will bookend the tennis year quite nicely.

Mannarino

Peter Polansky def [W] Ben Mitchell 6-1 6-7(5) 6-3.  Gotta love the 18 year-old Aussie.  Tremendous heart and a great attitude.  A solid effort in pushing the talented and more experienced Canadian to three sets and recovering from his first set sticking. 

[2] Ricardas Berankis def Jean-Rene Lisnard 6-7(4) 6-1 6-3.  I can’t believe Rycka got off to such a rickety start, losing the first set to The Lizard King.  And according to courtside reports, TLK was not happy with the next two sets, throwing a bottle at a ball kid and jawing with the chump.  Not all right.  Thankfully, the wee Lith recovered.  Otherwise, I’d have to eat Andy Roddick’s shortsNot all right.

Berankis is pleased.

[6] Peter Luczak def Alexander Peya 4-6 6-1 6-4.  Surprised that Looch lost that first set, but nice recovery from the 31 year-old.

[W] Greg Jones def [4] Simon Greul 7-6(2) 6-3.  This is my fave result of the day.  I’ve thought Greg was due for a breakthrough, and maybe this will be the springboard to better things for Jonesy in the new year.  We’ll see if he can beat his second German in a row when he plays Bastian Knittel later today.

Chennai

Vishnu Vardhan def [3] Conor Niland 4-6 7-5 6-4.  This was my big WTF *jaw drops* result from the first day’s matches.  Really thought Conor would be primed to hit the ground running this year.  But Vardhan had done well at the Asian Games, and I didn’t entirely discount his chances to do well in qualies (OK, maybe I did).  As for Conor, I think he’ll take it in stride, not getting too high or low and letting one result define his season.  He knows it’s a marathon more than most, I think.

Doha

Marko Djokovic def Ti Chen 6-4 6-3.  It ain’t easy being the middle child.  But it must be especially difficult for Marko Djoko.  Always in the shadow of his larger-than-life older bro, and trying to stay ahead of the reported talent of Djordje.  For this reason, I root for him.  Granted, a win over the #544 player in the world (with a career high of #255) isn’t the greatest thing he’ll hope to have on his resume when all is said and done.  But it’s better than losing.

Mikhail Ledovskikh def [7] James Ward 6-2 4-6 6-3.  The other big surprise of the day, but not as WTF’y as the Niland loss.  The 24 year-old Russian had finished last year with a run through the qualies into the quarterfinals at the Bratislava Challenger, and had beaten Marco Chiudinelli and Iliya Marchenko there.  So it’s not like he’s coming out of nowhere with this result.

Conor Niland, May I Quote You?

Er, I’m not gonna wait for permission.  The following quote is taken from a Sunday Independent article on Irish #1 (and world #129) Conor Niland that is so damn good, I’m tempted to just cut and paste the entire thing and dump it all right here.  But I’m fairly sure that may violate a few copyright laws, so instead I’ll just grab this bit and implore you to read the rest:

“People just don’t understand the depth of talent out there. They see a guy ranked 100 and think ‘oh he can’t be very good. He must be a part-timer’. But there are guys in the 700s and they’re seriously good players. I’m not just saying that. It sounds a big number but there are hundreds of good tennis players. It’s a bottleneck. Everybody’s trying to beat each other. Everybody’s looking for the same thing.”

He’s singing my song, Conor is.  Challenger tour-level players are seriously good.  And they rarely get the credit they deserve.  For once, one of those seriously good guys gets the attention I think he deserves.  Go read the article, OK?  It’s a great piece of tennis journalism.

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