Tag Archive: Dan Smethurst


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!

The British Are Coming! USA F2 Futures Final Report From Tamarac

I’m not sure what Paul Revere would’ve made of the USA F2 Futures finals in Tamarac, FL, were he alive today. If he had shouted, “The British are coming!” he’d have likely been shushed ’cause – dude, you gotta be quiet at the tennis. Also: duh. We know, Paul – they’re already here in the final, in the form of Dan Smethurst and third seed Alex Bogdanovic.

The last time these two had met, in the second round of Queens Club qualies (“AEGON Championships” what now?), the Bog Monster prowled the grass and ate his younger foe up to the tune of a 6-1 6-0 drubbing. But for this final, we’d have much different circumstances: a different year, a different surface, a different country and a different Smethurst and Bogdanovic. Coming into the final, Smethurst had been hitting the cover off the ball and was the player who’d impressed me the most all week, while Bogdanovic was still making somewhat nascent strides back following a back injury. So I suspected we’d be in for a much more competitive encounter this time around and, for once, I was actually right.

An impressive crowd of over fifty people gathered on a sunny, if cool, day to watch the Brit-on-Brit action unfold. As one who champions the events and players I feel never get enough attention for their efforts, this was very nice to see. Oftentimes the locals can’t be bothered to come out and see top-tier pro tennis, even if the price is right (i.e. free) and they live within walking distance. But it was clear that tournament director Damon Henkel, club pro Diego Ayala and office manager/press liaison extraordinaire Kristen Lake had done a superb job of getting the word out, and as a result I heard more appreciative applause for points in this match than I’ve heard during countless matches featuring Top Hundred players at ATP events or the US Open.

The Assembled Masses

Happily, we were all treated to some terrific tennis. And thankfully, the match even went on at all as I almost ran over Boggo in the men’s room as I was walking briskly in and he was heading out just before warm-ups. In keeping with one of the week’s trends, the player who won the toss (Bogdanovic) elected to receive. Usually this hasn’t worked out well for the elector. But Boggo came up with two good, deep returns on the first points; and after a Smethurst-smothered forehand into net on the initial exchange, I feared that maybe lingering thoughts of Queens were still in the unseeded challenger’s head. A calm and confident point from the 20-year-old at love-15 showed me how stupid I am to conjure conclusions from just one point of tennis. Smetty closed the second point with a well-struck forehand volley, and held from there with two service winners and a missed-but-makeable forehand return from the Bogman. Smethurst, while a powerful guy, doesn’t necessarily have a serve that will blow an opponent off the court with a humongous ace count, but his delivery is strong enough to generate a decent amount of free points from service winners and short replies from which he can dictate with his forehand.

Smetserve

Initially, all of Bogdanovic’s serves went to Dan’s backhand. And after an almost-whiffed first return and three more misses off that wing, one certainly couldn’t argue with the strategy, as Boggo held to love for 1-all and didn’t lose a point in his first two service games.

Bog Monster Serve

In Smethy’s second service game, a stone-handed high forehand volley into the net had me again thinking of that damned Queens score (when would I learn?), but clearly I was more affected by it than Smethurst was. He pumped in an unreturned serve on the second point and then Boggo took over with his usual maddening mix of brilliant winners and head-scratching errors – one of the former, three of the latter – to help the ‘hurst get to double his total games won from their previous contest.

At 2-all, Smethurst played his best game to date, with two forehand winners and an ace up the T, and I finally (FINALLY!) stopped thinking about Queens. Go me.

At 2-3, Bogdanovic serving, Alex hit a forehand into net and a backhand wide to 0-30, then Dan decided to change things up completely with a backhand into net and a forehand wide. I still can’t decide which point-losing one-two punch I prefer. Either way: 30-all. A frankly Mr. Shankly Bogdanovic-framed forehand into orbit put the Bogman down break point. But some solid hitting yielded a Smethurst-sliced backhand long to deuce. Smethurst lucked out with a forehand net cord winner for another BP, but Boggo erased it with a nice serve out wide. They deuced it out a bit from there before two Smetted backhand errors made it 3-all. “C’mon Alec!” the woman next to me shouted encouragingly.

I don’t know if Alec was encouraged, but Alex did fairly well for the rest of the set. At 4-all, with Smethurst serving, Boggo served up a perfect drop shot/lob combo meal. I’m not sure if Smetty tweaked something running for those balls, but he came up a bit gimpy and wincy off a 0-15 double fault, appearing to favour (note: English spelling conventions will be observed for the duration of this Brit-focused article) his left leg and perhaps not able to push off on his delivery as well as he liked. Another second serve ticked long off the tape at 30-all. “30-15,” said the umpire. “Are you sure? That’s 30-40,” said Bogdanovic. “30-40,” said the umpire. And one Smetted netted backhand later, we had our first break of the match.

With Boggo serving for the set at 30-all, Smethurst was set up to crank a mid-courtish forehand into some undetermined corner of the court but dumped it into the net instead. “Fucking footwork,” he self-admonished and followed it up with little dance-like manoeuvre that I swear recalled Michael Jackson’s move by the pool table in the “Beat It” video. His leg may have been tweaked a tad, but his self-mocking movement parodies were still right up there with the legends.

On Boggo’s first set point, the 26 year-old showed catlike quickness at net, reflexing a Smethursted pass off the net cord, only to be passed overhead with a nifty Smethoisted lob. But the third seed closed out the set 6-4 with an inside-out forehand winner and an ace out wide.

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Tamarac USA F2 Semifinals – Now With Ballkids!

The day started off overcast, blustery and chilly as the USA F2 Tamarac 10K semifinals kicked off in the form of unseeded American qualifier Phillip Simmonds, a former Australian Open junior doubles champ, meeting the third-seeded Alex Bogdanovic, the only seed remaining in the tournament. The first semi was played, counter-intuitively enough, on Court 2, where gusts of wind blew little showers of leaves all over the court. In addition to the leaves, linespeople and ballkids also dotted the court – in some cases just as randomly – for the first time all week.

Mr. Simmonds won the toss and elected to receive. Which didn’t work out so well for the 24 year-old, as the British Boggo (not to be confused with the American Boggo, Alex Bogomolov Jr.) only paused for a few chairs to blow over on his way to a quick four-winner (three forehand, one service) hold. Boggo was rocking the inside-out forehand early, as he knocked off his third of the match on Simmonds’ first service point.

The Bogman Unleashed

At 15-all, some elderly country club yokel started shouting “HELLO! HELLLO!” to tournament director Damon Henkel mid-point, resulting in a netted Simmonds backhand and a sour Philface, the American as distracted at the outset as the Brit was plugged in. Three points later, Bogdanovic had broken to 2-0 on a forehand down-the-line passer.

The 26-year-old ball-striker par excellance was not leaving a single shot in his bag in the first set, throwing in an ace, a couple of successful net ventures and a nifty half-volley drop shot winner on his way to a quick 3-0 lead. Simmonds made it all the way to deuce in his next service game before he was passed by another forehand from the Bog Monster and then unceremoniously dumped a forehand into the bottom of the net (I find it’s always better to do one’s forehand dumping in a ceremonious fashion, but that’s just me).

The Sky Is Falling – Simmonds Shields Himself From A Collapsing Universe

The American deuced it up again in the next game but then netted a backhand after a 20-shot rally and promptly self-flagellated with his ball cap (and here, Phil gets it right: if you’re going to self-flagellate, by all means be prompt about it). More shots were hit, as sometimes happens in tennis matches, and before you knew it, Bogdanovic had the first set in his posession, 6-1, with no intention of ever giving it back.

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Friday’s Tamarac USA F2 Quarterfinal Report

OK. So. For the USA F2 Tamarac quarterfinals, I’ll be doing my match reports a bit differently. Instead of my usual 7,912-word treatise on who hit what shot on which point and the expression on their faces when they hit them, I’ll be giving you more of a big picture sense of how things unfolded on the day. You know, a sense of the larger drama and the overall context within which today’s tennis was framed (and sometimes even stringed). The devil is in the details, after all, and I’ve heard that distance can add perspective.

All of which is another way of saying: I spent most of the day socializing my fool head off, and blithely ignored most of the day’s details. But I regret nothing! The socializing, it was good.

Some snapshots from today’s play, which we’ll say is indicative of the larger whole:

Phillip Simmonds USA d David Souto VEN 7-6(3) 6-3: The 18-year-old Venezuelan is a big, lefty beast, more growling than grunting with every viciously topspun shot.

Beast Mode: Engaged

Unfortunately for me, my 2011 Player To Watch prospect exhibits behavior this match that is fairly beastly as well. Serving at 2-3 15-30, he ambles in to retrieve a poor Simmonds drop shot but dumps the ball into the middle of the net once he gets there. Then, for good measure, he throws his racquet into the middle of the net as well. He gets a code violation for racquet abuse, after which he mockingly intones “Warning, warning.” Simmonds closes out the break a few points later with a forehand crosscourt volley.

After the match, Souto self-destructs even more, slamming water bottles and coolers and chairs, saying “Warning, Warning, Warning” all the while and sounding like that annoying robot from Lost In Space. Perhaps the chair umpire’s name was Will Robinson too, as he gave Souto a wide buffer/berth as he warily left the court. “Danger, Will Robinson!”

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Tamarac USA F2 Futures Update!

And so it actually, finally, began. After braving blizzards, car trouble, and a mixed bag of calamities, our brave reporter (hint: that’s me) finally made it to see some actual tennis. What a concept. I slalomed around the various nefarious Floridumb strip malls to the oasis that is the Woodmont Country Club in Tamarac, FL – the site of the second annual *deep breath* Lawrence D. Share Company $10,000 Championships at Synergy Tennis Academy. Or, if you’re short of breath, the USA F2 Futures.

The site itself is top notch, and the organization seems superb. The twenty-court facility featured play on four of its “clay” courts on this Wednesday, having caught up on a backlogged schedule from a waterlogged Monday washout. The two main courts – the innovatively-named “Court 1” and “Court 2” – are separated by a raised, wide partition upon which random chairs and ceramic-y picnic tables are interspersed; a very spectator-friendly setup. Even better, the area between the featured back courts (Courts 9 and 10, if you’re scoring at home) has a shaded gazebo under which I could protect my blindingly pasty fresh-from-the-Northeast skin. Bonus!

I arrived just in time to see one of my 2011 Challenger Tennis Player To Watch selections, Dennis Kudla start his F2-ing against the tourney’s top seed, Victor Estrella. Estrella, the 30 year-old Dominican Republican (or perhaps he’s a Dominican Democrat – I didn’t ask), had finished his 2010 season on quite a roll, winning three straight Dom Rep Futures events (15 matches in all) before losing his final match of the year. All of which was good enough to land him a career high world ranking of 211 – not a bad achievement for someone entering his fourth decade. So I was eager to see how the rising star would fare against the established vet.

Turned out, not so well. At least to begin with. Two backhands into the net and a forehand long saw the 18-year-old Virginian broken in the first game of the match. Kudla then had two breakback points straightaway in the second game (after Estrella shot himself in the foot with the dreaded mediocre-drop-shot-to-awful-lob combo), but Victor found his way out of trouble with a framed volley and an ace erase to deuce and held from there.

The top seed – who the chair umpire seemed to call “Australia” (to my ears), in an obvious fit of Grand Slam fever – looked sharp early, hitting a heavy ball and knifing away the volleys he didn’t frame, while Denis struggled to find his range and/or mojo, seeming initially uncomfortable with conditions and his game on the day. The fleet-footed Dominican prefers to favor the ad court and load up on the forehand side whenever possible, but his heavily-sliced one-handed backhand is suitable to the Tamarac court, staying nice and low. Kudla is less averse to play off both wings, and he started to settle into the match midway through the first set. Though he had a few back-breaking opportunities throughout the set, in the end he was broken a second time as Estrella took the first 6-3.

Ever the supporter of my PTW’s in distress, I bailed and decided to see what else was going on around the grounds. I wanted to see how one of my almost-PTW’s, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, was faring against Phil Simm(ond)s (I myself have a touch of NFL playoff fever – deal). Turns out, not so well. The gangly 19 year-old showed some cliched French flair (drop-shotting four times in one game, venturing to net behind cheekily sliced forehands – you know the drill), but lost the first set to the 24 year-old American, who offered up my favorite bit of vocal self-coaching: “Really? REALLY?? RELAX!!!” It worked: Simmonds took the first set 6-4.

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