Yup. It’s officially that time of year again. More specifically, it’s time to start breaking down those qualifying draws and seeing which Challenger Tour players can bust into the main draws this week. Just to make it clear from the outset: as this is a Challenger Tour site, we’ll be covering top-tier ATP events only to the extent that they involve players ranked outside the Top 90. Note: this number, while a darn good number, is also just a bit arbitrary and is subject to change at the whims of any of the writers here. But it’s a good general rule of thumb for ATP tourneys, in any case.
ON TO THE DRAW! You can click and get an official .pdf with lines and whizbangs and suchlike here or you can just look at a typed out version after this here colon:
 MANNARINO, Adrian FRA vs BALL, Carsten AUS
POLANSKY, Peter CAN vs [WC] MITCHELL, Benjamin AUS
SERGEYEV, Ivan UKR vs ITO, Tatsuma JPN
CABAL, Juan Sebastian COL vs  KOUBEK, Stefan AUT
 BERANKIS, Richard LTU vs LISNARD, Jean-Rene MON
KLEIN, Brydan AUS vs CRUGNOLA, Marco ITA
[WC] DUCKWORTH, James AUS vs TURSUNOV, Dmitry RUS
PEYA, Alexander AUT vs  LUCZAK, Peter AUS
 RUSSELL, Michael USA vs HARRISON, Ryan USA
FARAH, Robert COL vs BACHINGER, Matthias GER
KINDLMANN, Dieter GER vs ZOPP, Jurgen EST
REYNOLDS, Bobby USA vs  KOROLEV, Evgeny KAZ
 GREUL, Simon GER vs [WC] JONES, Greg AUS
KNITTEL, Bastian GER vs LOJDA, Dusan CZE
EBDEN, Matthew AUS vs CRIVOI, Victor ROU
[WC] GROTH, Samuel AUS vs  ZEMLJA, Grega SLO
Mmmmmm. Tennis draws. My true and delicious love. Let me savour this one for a moment, eh? *drools Homer Simpson-style while looking it over*
Well, the first thing I notice is that the Aussies got shafted, for the most part. Now, I realize that any time you have eight Australians in a 32-person draw, perfect distribution is just not a possibility. However, to have a draw in which there’s an entire Oz-free quarter (i.e. the Russell-Korolev 3rd quarter) and another two quarters that have three Down Under dudes, well… this is less than ideal.
From left: Matty Ebden, Greg Jones, Carsten Ball, Fitness Dude, Marinko Matosevic, Peter Luczak
Especially egregious is the 4th quarter, which crams legitimate Australian hopes Greg Jones, Matt Ebden and the newly-mohawked Sam Groth into the same pack. Grrrrrr.
The infamous, the rarely-photographed Grothawk
The next thing I look for is: where are Dmitry Tursunov and Ryan Harrison placed, who are clearly the most dangerous floaters in this draw. As you can see (do follow along with me, won’t you?), it is Harrison who probably got the more fortuitous placement (for him) – away from top seeds Adrian Mannarino and Ricardas Berankis, who – in my opinion – are the only players who can beat him more often than not. Thus, I can see the 18 year-old American coming good in this section. Tursunov, however, has a much rougher road. After a reasonably solid but should-be manageable opponent in the scrappy WC James Duckworth, Tursunov faces the prospect of a rejuvenated Peter Luczak – who gave Marinko Matosevic all he could handle in the final of the recent AO Wildcard playoff – followed by the lights-out Lithuanean Berankis. And, as we all know, Rycka has rocketed into the Top 100 and won a whole host of Newcomer and Breakthrough awards at the end of last season. A tough ask for Tursunov to get through, but not entirely beyond the former Top 20 player by any means.
OK, so that’s the overall view. Now let’s take out the fine-toothed draw comb and do a more in-depth, line-by-line audit, breaking down the first round matchups.