Tag Archive: Grigor Dimitrov


No, you goons – this is not a special edition for those who’ve contracted certain romance-related diseases. Rather, it’s a special Valentines Day edition of my weekly list detailing Who’s Achieved Their Career Highs (although some would call Valentines Day itself a romance-related disease. I abstain from comment on the grounds that it might incriminate me).

So what makes this Valentines Day edition so special? Nothing really. Only that’s it’s made with love and dedicated to you, dear reader. *gags on sappy sentiment* Also, I’ve added an “age” column. You’re welcome. You know the rules by now, right? Only those ranked #80-350 make my list, unless I’m feeling particularly in an inclusive mood (who knows? On Valentines Day, you may get lucky). For those Titans of the Top 80, you must confer with our friends over at Shank Tennis.

All right! Enough of this tomfoolery. Let’s get to this week’s WATCH List!

Player Age NATION New High Prev High Why?
Grigor Dimitrov 19.75 BULGARIA 84 85 Q’ed, R1 R’dam
Benoit Paire 21.75 FRANCE 120 136 Q’ed, R2 R’dam
Alexander Kudryavtsev 25.25 RUSSIA 141 147 SF Bergamo
Tim Smyczek 23.10 USA 158 168 QF San Jose
Matthias Bachinger 23.90 GERMANY 161 163 R2 Bergamo
Robert Farah 23.25 COLOMBIA 183 184 Q’ed, R1 San Jose
Jurgen Zopp 22.90 ESTONIA 198 211 SF Bergamo
Sebastian Rieschick 24.99 GERMANY 225 228 R2 Quimper
Facundo Bagnis 20.95 ARGENTINA 231 238 Q’ed, R1 Brazil
Andres Molteni 22.92 ARGENTINA 236 246 QF Colombia F2
Alexander Lobkov 20.33 RUSSIA 252 253 Others lost points
Fritz Wolmarans 24.93 S. AFRICA 254 255 Others lost points
Amir Weintraub 24.42 ISRAEL 255 259 R2 Quimper
Phillip Bester 22.35 CANADA 260 268 R2 Caloundra
Clement Reix 27.35 FRANCE 265 270 R2 Quimper
Karan Rastogi 24.35 INDIA 284 328 W Cambodia F2
Javier Marti 19.10 SPAIN 295 308 R2 Spain F5
Kenny de Schepper 23.70 FRANCE 297 370 F Quimper
Ludovic Walter 28.10 FRANCE 304 315 R2 Quimper

Notable things to note:

The average age of this week’s WATCHers is 23 years old and 4 months. The youngest player achieving a career high today is Javier Marti at 19 and 1 month, while the oldest is former Duke University standout (two-time ITA All-American) Ludovic Walter at 28 and 1 month (warning: all age numbers are achieved by rounding off, for the most part, and are thus approximations).

Ludovic Walter quimping it up at the Quimper Challenger in France

Walter is an interesting case, having not even achieved a pro ranking until after his college days were over in 2006 at age 23. I suspect that, with college ball being an increasingly viable route for top talents and the age of the Top 100 skewing ever older, we’ll start to see many more players in the “Ludovic Walter” mold in the future.

Anyway, congrats to all who’ve achieved career highs this week. And to all the rest of you, I hope you achieve various highs of your own on this Valentines Day.

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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Australian Open Men’s Qualifying Preview!

I’m not sure if you know this, so let me tell you: Grand Slam draws are like crack to fans of the Challenger circuit. They’re like the ultimate Challenger event: a tourney featuring players ranked between 100 and 300, and nearly everyone plays. Granted, there are only three rounds instead of five, and it’s kinda like the tourney gets canceled halfway through, but my point stands: pretty much every challenger-level player of interest is here, gunning for a place in a grand slam main draw. What’s not to like?

And after a few glitches and false starts, the Australian Open men’s qualifying draw has finally been unlocked and unleashed upon unsuspecting (or, in my case, very suspecting) cybercitizens. And in my tried and true OCD-tinged maniacal fashion, I am here to break it all down for you. No info-nugget will remain unearthed, no useless factoid shall remain buried, no know-balls will remain unlobbed. (Huh? Well, you get the idea.)

Let’s dig in!

First Quadrant

Top Quarter:

Much as I want to be impressed by Blaz Kavcic’s Chennai Open showing (he beat Jeremy Chardy and destroyed Robert Kendrick before falling 3&3 in the quarters to Berdych), I’m gonna be silly right from the get go and say there are no obvious favorites in this segment. A line-by-line breakdown:

[1] Blaz Kavcic SLO (World Ranking #100) v [W] Benjamin Mitchell AUS (#610): a tough draw for the likeable 18-year-old Queenslander, but not a completely impossible task for the lad who made the final in Bendigo and took Brisbane International quarterfinalist Matt Ebden to two tough TB sets at the Tennis Australia AO Wildcard Playoffs (having a lead in both sets). I’ve seen both play their fair share of matches, and to my mind they’re similar in game, style, speed, grit and even countenance. Blaz just does everything a bit better than Ben does. Odds are extremely good Blaz beats Ben in straights. But I expect Mitchell to give a good account of himself, I really do.

Rik de Voest RSA (#179) v Laurent Recouderc FRA (#204): Recouderc won their only match 6-4 6-4 two years ago on hard courts in Dubai. The big South African, however, has had better recent results, reaching the semis of the Charlottesville Challenger and the quarters in Knoxville at the end of last year. So on recent form as well as ranking, I’ll buck the two-year-old head-to-head data and pick Rik. Kavcic has never played de Voest, but he manhandled Recouderc 2&0 last June on clay, if you want to hedge yer bets.

Greg Jones AUS (#254) v Olivier Patience FRA (#196): The two have never met before, but Greg’s gonna win this one. Based on absolutely no data at all. Just trust me on this one. I’m tired.

Guillermo Alcaide SPA (#216) v [25] Ilija Bozoljac SRB (#152): Bozoljac beat Alcaide pretty comprehensively 6-3 6-2 in a recent meeting at the US Open qualifying tournament. And even though the Spaniard has played more matches recently (and gave Tsung-Hua Hang a pretty good fight in the Brazil F1 QF’s), I’d expect Bozo to make it through to face Greg in the next round. Those two have never met neither.

Who makes it through: De Voest beats Bozoljac (what? He’s won the only two matches they’ve played!)

Second quarter: this is where Simone Bolelli tries not to screw things up, as is his wont. He faces some fairly formidable competition along the way, but they’re all people he should honestly beat. Will he? Probably not. Let’s have a closer look:

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So, it’s the sixth day of the 12 Days of Challenger Tennis Christmas, and it’s only just now starting to occur to me that deciding to do two “Player To Watch” profiles per day over the holiday season wasn’t the smartest idea I’ve ever had. But I’m determined to follow through with it, even though I’m now stuffed with Christmas cookies and on the brink of passing out. I’ve already hedged my bets by reducing my responsibilities to a more manageable one-a-day profile schedule the past couple of days. But normal service should resume tomorrow, with a pair of profiles to fill up your newly-emptied Christmas stockings.

Now, you know what would really help me get these profiles done? If I were to shut up with my stupid introductory paragraphs and actually start, you know, writing the profile – that’s what!

So. Without further adon’t.  Today’s victim esteemed honoree is…  Tsung-Hua Yang of Taiwan!

That’s right! This power baseliner with the booming serve is a former #1 world junior who in 2008 made the boys final at the Australian Open (losing to Bernard Tomic), then won the Roland Garros boys singles title (beating Jerzy Janowicz in the final)…

…won the Wimbledon boys doubles title (with Cheng-Peng Hsieh and getting some revenge over Tomic in the final 6-4 2-6 12-10)…

…and then made the semis of the junior US Open tournament, losing to Grigor Dimitrov. Not a bad year, as junior Slam results go, no? In addition to all of that, just before that year’s USO, Yang made a run all the way into the semifinals of the New Delhi Challenger, an amazing feat for a junior. Thus, in the middle of August 2008, Tsung-Hua concurrently carried a ranking of #1 in the juniors and #470 in the pros – a tremendous accomplishment.

Alas, after that initial splash, things haven’t all gone Tsung-Hua Yang’s way – reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of what happened to Dimitrov after his junior slam success and his big Berdych-beating burst into the pros, taking Nadal to 3 sets, etc. before ultimately struggling on the pro tour for a while. In 2009, Yang put up a very respectable 42/22 W/L record, but most of his wins came on the Futures tour and his ranking only edged upward to #342 by the end of the year.

The new year started auspiciously for young man, though, as he made it through qualies at the Chennai ATP 250 before losing to Robin Haase 4-6 3-6 in the main draw. At the end of January, he put together a nice four-win run in Honolulu, straight-setting his way through qualifying and beating players like Filip Krajinovic and Jesse Levine before succumbing in R2 to Lester Cook.

I had the pleasure of watching Yang play the now-mysteriously-Swedish Nick Lindahl in the final qualifying round of the Delray Beach 250 in February. Here are some of the embarrassing notes I wrote down for that match:

“This sucks. Marinko Matosevic just came in on the first change to root for his buddy Lindahl. He’s sitting next to me but I’m rooting for Yang. Yang is super-impressive from the baseline. Getting the best of Lindy in almost all rallies. Nick’s serve keeping him afloat so far. Two df’s and 2 errors from lindy + two spectacular returns from the former #1 junior = Yang breaks to take the first set 6-4.

“Total role reversal in Set 2. Now Yang’s shots are wild while Lindy hitting w more power and control. Nick up a double break 4-1… Lindahl takes the 2nd set 6-2. If the Yang from the 1st set and the lindy from this set both show up in the 3rd, it will be a great match. Santiago Giraldo just sat right next to me on top bleacher faced in other direction to watch fellow Colombian Salamanca behind me.”

And my notes for that match pretty much end there. I see that Lindahl went on to win quite easily from there, but that’s only when I look up the score. Thank goodness I take notes, because I seriously don’t remember any of that. Actually, I do remember Santi sitting next to me, but that’s it.

So what did we learn from my notes? Not a hell of a lot, I’d say. Other than the fact I was there and for some reason rooting for Yang (probably to piss off my friends, who were all Lindahl fans at the time). So, clearly Yang left a big impression on me, yeah? Do you think I’m not doing enough by making him a “Player To Watch” this year and also need to make him a “Player To Remember” as well? Maybe so.

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Merry Christmas and happy holidaze, everyone! The hectic Yuletide Party Season has cut down my Challenger Tennis 12 Days of Christmas profiles to one-per-day instead of two. But I think you’ll all agree that I’m sufficiently long-winded in this one, and that you’ll not be  left wanting when you’ve finished today’s feast. So let’s stuff ourselves with today’s ponderous profile, shall we?

Confession: I think I’ve seen nearly twenty Henri Kontinen matches in my lifetime. And I can’t say enough about this guy’s game (although I will attempt to). For my money (and I have very little), Henri is a surefire Top 50 player; and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were Top 5 two or three years down the road.  But it’s not just me saying that; some Top 50 pros, like Michael Berrer and Jarkko Nieminen, have gone on record saying Henri is a future Top 20 player.  And they have a lot more money than I do.

Though Michael Llodra has certainly done his part this year to ward off any non-believers, those who still think serve and volley tennis is dead and buried would do well to see Henri Kontinen play. Armed with a huge serve and a feel at the net that recalls, dare I say, Stefan Edberg (I dare say it!), Henri has a style of play rarely seen in the ATP today. With his one-handed backhand, his always-looking-to-attack attitude and the touch at net when he gets there, it’s actually quite difficult not to make the lazy Edberg association as you see the blond-haired flying Finn careening about the court. And though Kontinen isn’t necessarily a pure serve and volleyer – he picks his spots, depending on surface obviously, but plays a lot of S&V on grass – he has an all-court game in which he’s itching to get to net at the first opportunity that his flat and penetrating groundstrokes can provide him. Having to see so many players using “hit and retreat” tactics and forgoing short ball invitations to net all season long makes watching Henri’s game style such a refreshing change of pace.

OK – enough of me spinning my introductory wheels; let’s get down to the resume, here. Henri, aka HenKon, Henkka, Kone, The Kontinental Soldier, The Jark Shadow, Henk, etc., is a former Junior #4 and French Open boys’ doubles champ (with Christopher “Rug Rat” Rungkat) who perhaps most famously was the 2008 Wimbledon Boys Singles runner-up to Grigor Dimitrov.

Henri began 2009 ranked #1,818 and finnished it at #288, accomplishing his meteoric rankings ascent even while overcoming a wrist injury that kept him out for 3 months. After starting his 2009 campaign in March, he was able to post a 41-19 record in his first almost-full year on the men’s tour. Consequently, Henri gained the most ranking spots among all ATP pros in 2009. To top it all off, he was also a Davis Cup hero, winning not one but two live fifth rubbers.

So everything looking up, right? Wrong.

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