Tag Archive: James Ward


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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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.

2011 Challenger Tennis Players To Watch: Part III

*sings* On the third day of Christmas, Challenger Tennis brought to you: *unsings*

Two players playing, of course! It’s what we’re bringing to you on all twelve days of Christmas, in case you haven’t caught on yet (you’re a bit slow, aren’t you?).  Today is the third installment of our two-a-day, daily profiles of Players To Watch in the upcoming year. Let’s dive right in to today’s feast, shall we? I’m all for avoiding the usual pre(r)amble…

Well, I must say, I wasn’t planning on profiling this particular gentleman until later in the series, but the recent announcement that he’s received a wildcard into the ATP 250 Brisbane International pushed John Millman right onto today’s “2011 Players To Watch” docket. Might as well learn about the player you’ll be seeing (I hope) soon, no?

Truth be told – scandalous confession time! – Millman (aka “The Mailman” or “The Milkman”), was unofficially on my “Players to Watch” list all last year as well. But I’ll be doing the environmentally responsible thing here by recycling him this year. His results and his position also justify such an act.  John first appeared on my radar at the ’09 WC Playoffs, when he made the semis and had a series of very entertaining guest commentator stints in the booth with Rob O’Gorman and friends. With his bubbly demeanor (and his love of crème brulee), my friends and I dubbed him “The Giggling Mailman” and fully embraced this player with the engaging personality.

But “The Giggling Mailman” is someone who achieved some serious results this year. The 21-year-old (and 5 months) Mr. Millman turned in a super 40/22 W/L season which saw him break into the Top 200 for the first time, to a career high of #179 in October. Most impressive of all was his torrid month-long span from mid-September to mid-October, during which he went 14-1, winning the Australia F6 Futures as well as the Sacramento Challenger. In his run to the Sacramento title, John beat Julian Reister in R2 and straight-setted Robert Kendrick in the final, providing evidence that top-hundred talent may lurk just beneath his affable exterior.  He lost his last two matches in the States in October, however, undercut by a revenge-minded Reister (the worst kind of Reister) in Tiburon and the deadly combination of Lester Cook and shin splints in Calabasas.

I was lucky enough to see Millman play against another of my 2010 Players to Watch, Peter Polansky, in the final qualifying round of the US Open this year (he had beaten Marinko Matosevic 2-6 6-1 7-5 in the previous round, which I was not lucky enough to watch in person or otherwise). Though John eventually petered out as the sun set on the National Tennis Center (losing 3-6 6-4 0-6), he picked himself up and went on a nine-match winning streak in Australia soon afterward. And during the Polansky match, John won the hearts of the many fans who had gathered at Court 12 to watch (as it was the last match of the entire qualifying session) with his determined fightback in the 2nd set – and high fiving a ballkid at the net after running down a drop shot was a nice touch, too.

Millman currently occupies the #204 spot in the ATP World Rankings list, which is 102 spots higher than the one he occupied at the start of this year. Though he had a less-than-impressive result at the AO Wildcard Playoff, losing to James Duckworth 4-6 6-7(1) in R2, that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the extremely likeable Queenslander’s 2011 prospects. As Tennis Hall of Famer and Tennis Australia national selector Todd Woodbridge said yesterday, John “has a phenomenal attitude and commitment to the game of tennis.” I look forward to seeing what The Mailman can deliver in 2011.

For now, though, you should look at the following two videos. This first one is the only I could find of John actually hitting a tennis ball. Sorry about that. I scoured the internet, too – visited the very scariest corners of YouTube and lived to tell the tale. But next time I see him I should take some video, as I had no idea footage was such a scarce commodity. Jeesh.

And even though there is not a single tennis ball hit in the next vid, I urge you to make it through to his superb off-the-cuff analysis of the entire AO Wildcard draw as it unfolded (including some great Sam Groth and Bernard Tomic burns):

Conclusion: it’s just impossible not to support this guy. Go ahead and try.

Oh, and speaking of the scary corners of YouTube – look what I found! That’s right: bonus Andrey Kuznetsov footage (which is tagged “Andrey Kuznetcov”, thus banishing it to the dirty backstreets of YouTubetown).  The racquet toss at :52 is the funniest I have ever seen:

Good stuff!

The next selection from my Players To Watch menu may surprise you, as he’s English. And no one group of tennis players has taken more guff or come under more negative scrutiny than the English boys have. But even though I’m often roundly mocked for doing so, I have not given up in the Search for Great Britain’s Next Top Tim. To surprise (and/or tease) (and/or frustrate) you even more, my pick isn’t even British #2 James Ward. He would be on my list, but J.Ward doesn’t fit my strict “under 23 years old” criteria; poor James missed it by 10 months or so – do give him my condolences if you see him, and tell him that I still believe in him. Thanks.

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