After a two-week hiatus during which my own body let me down, I decided to drive down to Weston, FL to see what all the healthy people were up to. Some of them, it turns out, were at the Midtown Athletic Club contesting the semifinals of the most prestigious* of the first four stops on the USTA Pro Circuit Futures tour.

The first guys to be thrown into able-bodied court combat were the top seed, 31-year-old Romanian Victor Crivoi, against his decade-younger opponent, the third-seeded Belgian Arthur De Greef. This would be a rematch of their only previous meeting, another semifinal encounter on these very courts last year, when Crivoi was the one on getting the grief, receiving a 2 & 1 thrashing at the hands of the youngster.

Crivoi, currently ranked at #232 but with a career high of #75 in 2009, entered the match with a 6 win, 1 loss record — that loss attributable to Yoshihito Nishioka — while this is the first tournament of the year for de Greef, the 21-year-old former Top 20 junior and Orange Bowl finalist.

There was not much to distinguish the two from the outset, scorewise — both guys saved a couple of break points early, and serves were held through the first seven games. Gamewise, De Greef flights the ball with more height over the net than Crivoi and an almost Nadal-like amount of topspin off his forehand side, while Crivoi’s shots penetrate a bit more zippily and the Romanian looks for opportunities to come forward often. And while the Belgian can smack his first serve a fair bit, it hardly ever seemed to trouble his veteran opponent, who put a lot of returns into play.

De Greef apparently thought the eighth game was as good a time as any to break himself, so he set about accomplishing the task with two backhand unforced errors sandwiching a forehand miscue from 15-all.

Arthur De Greef Sets Up For a Forehand

Where’s De Greef? Here He Is, About To Connect on a Forehand

 Crivoi subsequently served out the set.

Put A Torque In It: Crivoi in the Midst of his Famous Two-Step Serve

Put A Torque In It: Crivoi in the Midst of his Famous Two-Step Serve

The second set unfolded much as the first did, with both men saving a break point in the early stages, until the sixth game, when Crivoi lost control of his forehand to the tune of some shanking and smothering. De Greef hit a terrific inside-in forehand winner to set up three break points, but only needed the one, and the Belgian went on to take the second frame 6-3.

The third set was also decided by a single break, this one secured by Crivoi in the sixth game when his Belgian foe started forehanding a little too lengthily, yielding two break points. Crivoi cashed in the first with one of his many forecourt junkets, forcing his Belgian foe to miss his forehand pass attempt just wide.

Though he’s far from being a seeming relative of Oscar De Grouch, De Greef is quite a chattery fellow who’s prone to some bouts of self-berating shouts. To be fair though, both guys had their share of extended, impassioned soliloquies on this day as they battled on the Weston clay. But it would be Crivoi’s day in the end, fittingly closing out the match with an overhead for a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win.

I asked Victor why he seemed so hellbent on getting to net and he said, “I’m doing this with such players because it’s my only chance and the key to results. I have to save some energy because I had a tough week. I didn’t play good. This is the first day I could feel the ball. I tried to do my best because normally I got cramps in the end of the set so my only chance was to be very aggressive. I lost to [De Greef] last year 1 & 2 in the semifinal and I tried to make my revenge.”

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