Tag Archive: Rajeev Ram


Why yes, I do know it’s Wednesday.  But on Sunday only one of these articles had been published, which would’ve made the Reading List more of a Reading Single Item.  So, like the WTF-delayed W.A.T.C.H. list, this article is merely content delayed.  (And I had to make it a “Sunday” list to keep the cherished tradition* alive for the readers who love it so.)  Besides, Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel.

Moving along from day-related nonsense, our first item is the only one that was available before Sunday. And in fact, it was available in August, though for reasons unbeknownst to me it only started making the rounds last week.  It’s a Forbes article detailing the monetary difficulties for the lower-ranked players on tour, through the eyes of Michael Russell.

Muscles Hustles

Muscles Hustles

I’ve long been one decrying the harsh economic realities for those on the Challenger/Futures circuit, and this article brings into sharp relief how tennis can be more of a fiscal challenge than a physical one.  This quote from Patrick McEnroe is the heart of it:

And if players are not competing on the ATP tour regularly,  the math for staying in the game makes less sense. Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of Player Development at the United States Tennis Association, said the possibility of talented youngsters eschewing tennis for more lucrative sports “is what keeps me up at night. If you have a 7 year old, it’s much easier to sign him up for basketball than tennis. The challenge with tennis, is that once they’re exposed, it takes a lot of time and organization to make players significantly better.”

It’s what keeps me up at night too, PMac.  It’s fairly horrifying to know that these players whom I regularly watch, these guys who are so damn talented, might have to give up the game simply because, that particular year, they weren’t making ends meet.  With the average age of the Top 100 escalating to around 27-years-old, this is kind of akin to a player having to submit to a years-long unpaid internship, as they struggle with the grind of everything else on tour.  Maybe next year is the year they would’ve broke through, but they have to quit this year because they can’t make ends meet.

What a nightmare.

And it’s why players are scurrying to challengers all over the world this week, trying to earn those ATPoints that will get them into the main draw of the Australian Open, where just appearing in the draw earns players $23,000.

The next articles are a bit more upbeat, thankfully.  This business insider article continues with the monetary theme but with a brighter fiscal forecast. It’s, I dunno, comforting (?) to know that after some of these players quit because they can’t make money, maybe they’ll make lots of money after they quit.  It’s reverse incentivising.  Or something.

Maybe it’s just due to my poor memory, but what I’ve found is that when players on the lower circuits retire, there’s no announcement, no fanfare at all. And sometimes it takes weeks or months before I’m looking at a draw and think, “Hey, whatever happened to…” [insert player name]. I’m happy to find some of them folk in the confines of this Business Insider piece.

I see you, Barry King!

I see you, Barry King!

Foot Soldiers of Tennis has weighed in with its annual look at which players have successfully qualified for the most ATP World Tour events this year, a.k.a. the Kings of Qualifying. So click the link and find out who is the biggest KOQ.

The East Central Illinois News Gazette offers a well-written and -researched look at Rajeev Ram returning to the Champaign Challenger at the place where he was part of the legendary 2003 NCAA-champion 32-0 Illini team of 2003.  It also hits on other members of the team, past and present.

Lastly — and speaking of former college stars — this week’s Challenger Tour Finals participant and 2009 ITA Player of the Year, Oleksandr Nedovyesov is the focus of Josh Meiseles’s excellent article for the ATP World Tour website, describing the decision-making parameters inherent in a player’s choice to either turn pro or play for a top U.S. school.

The 26-year-old Ukrainian has been on W.A.T.C.H. Lists aplenty as he’s gobbled up titles and soared to a spot in the Top 100.

That’s all for now. Tune in whenever the next day is that I decide is Sunday!

*two weeks now and running strong!

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As I was putting together a database of Challenger and Futures players in the Top 500, I compiled just about every available piece of info I could find. And I found that one of the more interesting data fields came from the players’ “Personal Interests”, as listed on their ITF Biography Pages.

If you’ve ever tried researching players outside the Top 200, you’ll probably know how hard it is to dig up any info other than results for said players.  While a large majority of the Top 200 enjoy a lavish paragraph or two on the ATP’s “Personal” profile tab*, often the only sense one can get of a tenniser’s multi-dimensionality comes from this part of their ITF page.

Now, a lot of these interests are fairly drab or predictable; almost 50% of players list either soccer or football, for example.  Or 15% list “golf”, for another. But some are interesting and unique enough that they bear special mention, which is what I’ll do in this post, expertly dividing them into neat-o sub-categories such as:

Lotharios

A few players naturally list “girls” as one of their personal interests (although, predictably, none list them as “women”) — Marton Fucsovics and Brydan Klein among them (insert your own joke here).

That Ball's About To Be Fucsed Up

That Ball’s About To Be Fucsed Up

But only two (2) (TWO!) players list them as “girls!” with an exclamation point: Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri and Israel’s Dudi Sela. If you’ve been following the news, you will find that to be either a remarkable coincidence or Proof Once And For All of God’s Unquestionable Existence.

Oh, and there’s one (very smart) player who knows on what side his croissant is buttered, and that’s Lucas Pouille. Because instead of “girls” or “girls!”, the 19-year-old Frenchman has: “Girlfriend.” Period.

"Ooh la la -- I know how zee croissant is butTAIRED"

“Ooh la la — I know how zee croissant is butTAIRED”

Moldovans

As with Jaziri and Sela, I noticed that Moldovans like ATP #171 Radu Albot and #379 Maxim Dubarenco are the only people who list “walking with friends” as a favored activity.  Not “hanging out with friends” or “visiting with friends” – walking with friends.  Actually, Albot is even more exclusive than Dubarenco is, as he wrote “walking with best friends”.

Maximum Velocity

Maximum Velocity

Are you merely a good friend to Radu? Or are you a best friend? Find out by seeing if he walks with you!

This Moldovan pattern is either further proof of a Universal Order, or just an indication that the Moldovans copied off of each other’s ITF profile questionnaires when they filled them out.

Scholars

In this increasingly digital age, where 1/4th of all players list one of “internet”, “computer” or “video games” as a main interest, it’s becoming rare to find readers on the tour.

Thus, I am singling out for special commendation Ricardas Berankis, Alejandro Falla, Andrey Golubev (who, in also listing “playing chess” as a favored pursuit, wins the title of Ultra-Nerd) and Uladzimir Ignatik.

"Hi, I'm Andrey Golubev! Have You Ever Read A Book Called "Hitting Back"?

“Hi, I’m Andrey Golubev! Have you ever read a book called “Hitting Back“?

Kimmer Coppejans lists “Manga” as an interest — that’s a kind of Japanese comic book, so I’ll give him half-credit.

Adventurers

One of the few luxuries of being outside the Top 100, I suppose, is that insurance clauses on multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements won’t limit you from your favorite, possibly career-ending adrenalized adventure pursuits.  Yay?

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For the past couple of days, I’ve found myself wondering about just how advantageous home court advantage is in tennis.  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?

Yesterday, I finally started to look for answers. Since I found no sites online that distinguish between home and away records in tennis (and if there is one, please let me know so I can feel silly about having done all this work), I decided to do my own research on the matter. Here’s what I found:

Player Home Hard Court Win% Away Hard Court Win% Home Clay Win % Away Clay Win % Home Grass Win % Away Grass Win % Overall Home Win % Overall Away Win % % of matches played at home
Jack Sock 54.55% 50.00% 65.79% 62.50% 50.00% 33.33% 56.29% 52.94% 89.88%
Michael Russell 63.04% 56.48% 62.81% 44.04% 58.33% 42.86% 63.35% 48.75% 68.37%
Denis Kudla 56.73% 61.54% 55.56% 45.45% 42.86% 58.62% 57.29% 56.60% 78.97%
Tim Smyczek 57.27% 61.11% 59.26% 0.00% 66.67% 55.00% 57.47% 52.27% 91.63%
Ryan Harrison 58.46% 57.14% 53.85% 45.45% 55.56% 50.00% 55.88% 51.61% 68.69%
Rajeev Ram 49.50% 53.00% 35.71% 33.33% 70.00% 34.48% 52.17% 48.24% 71.99%
Rhyne Williams 50.62% 40.00% 59.46% 62.50% 0.00% 40.00% 54.59% 55.88% 84.47%
Alex Kuznetsov 54.84% 52.50% 61.73% 25.00% 62.50% 53.33% 55.21% 46.94% 83.04%
Wayne Odesnik 62.24% 51.28% 70.59% 58.08% N/A 50.00% 62.56% 56.36% 64.40%
Bradley Klahn 65.98% 50.00% 41.18% 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 59.52% 50.00% 92.65%
Donald Young 58.05% 57.50% 56.00% 0.00% 40.00% 36.36% 57.07% 47.73% 81.55%
Bobby Reynolds 61.87% 56.00% 53.85% 27.27% 40.00% 53.66% 60.15% 51.38% 82.73%
Steve Johnson 58.14% 72.73% 47.06% 60.00% 50.00% 75.00% 57.03% 69.23% 83.12%
Austin Krajicek 58.09% 76.47% 65.22% 33.33% N/A N/A 60.22% 65.22% 89.00%
Brian Baker 53.70% 53.33% 87.14% 73.33% 66.67% 61.54% 64.07% 59.57% 83.09%
Robby Ginepri 58.02% 50.00% 48.15% 45.65% 69.23% 39.02% 56.99% 50.26% 66.26%
Tennys Sandgren 63.11% 40.00% 55.17% 16.67% N/A N/A 59.56% 27.27% 94.33%
Bjorn Fratangelo 46.94% N/A 63.64% 75.00% N/A N/A 57.66% 75.00% 89.54%

And yeah, I know that table is hard to read. Alas, my wordpress/HTML tabling skills aren’t what they could be.  To that end, I had to eliminate the “Indoor Home Win Percentage” and the “Indoor Away Win Percentage” columns in order to make room for the rest.  If you’re desperate for that information, I’ll be happy to email it to you.

To make things slightly more legible/enjoyable, I’ve colorfully highlighted the numbers I’m focusing on.  If you’re interested in the methodology behind how I arrived at these numbers, do please check the footnote*.

But within this horrid chart, the first thing that jumps out at me is:

Three of the four players who have a better winning percentage outside North America than they do within have something in common — can you spot it?  That’s right: they all played collegiate tennis. Rhyne Williams, Stevie Johnson and Austin Krajicek all have better records in far-flung regions than they do in the American North.

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

This suggests a few things.  First, the learning curve isn’t as steep transitioning to the pro game from college. This could be because a) they’re more familiar with playing against hostile crowds and people cheering against them (those of you who watch college tennis will know of what I speak); b) their bodies are more developed and physically able to keep up with the men as they begin life on the pro tour; c) their strategic sense is more developed or; d) all of the above. I lean toward “d”, myself, but I’m open to other suggestions.

(Author’s note: yes, I know Tennys Sandgren’s match record away from home flings a statistical wrench at my theory.  However, Sandgren is the American who plays the largest percentage of his matches on U.S. ground, and I don’t consider eleven matches (3 wins, 8 losses) to be a large enough sample size to be statistically relevant.  So my theory remains largely undamaged.  I think.  Maybe. You be the judge.)

Does Tennys Sandgren's Winning % Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

Does Tennys Sandgren’s Winning Percentage Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

You also may notice a red-highlighted Bjorn Fratangelo hangin’ a hefty 75 percent win rate in the foreign soil column.  In this case, the word “soil” is the key to figuring out that stat; e.g. the 2011 French Open Boys Champion is a red clay hound, and there ain’t hardly many red clay courts Stateside.  So he and his team have done a great job finding the proper venues through which he can find success.

The above numbers also give Ryan Harrison a couple of boosts he might be in need of these days: Harrison is the only “young gun” to play over 30% of his matches away from home. Only  the older guys like Robby Ginepri, Wayne Odesnik, and Michael Russell have played a similar schedule. Plus, Ryan has a winning record both at home and on the road.

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Delraving In Delray – Day Two Qualifying Adventures

Day two of qualifying at the Delray Beach ATP dawns as spiffily as the day before. Play starts at noon, so it’s already nice and toasty by the time this day’s matches begin. I start out watching last week’s San Jose doubles champ Rajeev Ram take on top seed Blaz Kavcic, but none of my pens want to start the day with me – they all refuse to write and are seemingly out of ink. Crisis! Are all my pens protesting? Is my writing so awful that they just refuse to cooperate? (Don’t answer that.) Regardless, I find my friend Paul in the crowd and he gives me a nifty felt tip jobber, which I later exchange for some ball points with his lovely wife. So those two get all the credit/blame for the following report. Thanks you guys!

What? Tennis? Sure. Speaking of ball points… Kavcic plays some unbelievably good, scrambly backhands early. The 23-year-old Slovenian – who won his first round match at the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson in his coach’s shoes after his pair ripped and he didn’t have a spare – scurries all over the court, as ever (and presumably in his own shoes). He hits some superb passing shots, ultimately breaking Ram in the fourth game with a low and reaching backhand crosscourt pass and a grunt of maximum effort.

Blaz’s court-blazing ways are on full display in the first set, and people around me are all checking their OOP sheets, saying “What’s this guy’s name again?” To Ram’s credit, he sticks and carves some nice-looking volleys and gets the break back when Kavcic suddenly can’t find his forehand while serving for the set at 5-3.

Blaz cracks his racquet to make it pay for its forehandular transgressions. But the scruffy Slovene breaks right back, as Ram cedes the next game thanks in part to a double fault and some forehand errors. First set to the top seed 6-4.

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Delray Day One – aka Aussie Wildcard Playoff Redux

The day dawns warmly and beautifully at the ATP 250 Delray Beach for the first day of qualifying action. It’s so toasty, in fact, that this February day in South Florida offers a reasonable facsimile of what I’d imagine Australia was like around, say, the Tennis Australia Wildcard playoffs. Not content to merely imagine, I proceed to track down every Aussie on the grounds throughout the day, it seems.

I arrive early and scavenge the practice courts. First and best stop of interest is out on Court 6, where none other than International Tennis Hall of Famer Mark Woodforde is out with new charges Marinko Matosevic and Matt Ebden, helping them with their serves (note: they’re all Australian). “Use the same setup when you go down the ‘T’,” he advises Matosevic. “Gotta get that disguise.” Matosevic scolds himself for each little technical transgression but is very supportive of Ebden.

In the first match of the day, I see Ebden put that serve to good use, as he faces 2010 Easter Bowl champ, 17-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo, who received a wildcard into qualifying. Ebden serves five aces and just one double fault, connecting successfully on seventy percent of his first deliveries, and winning 79% of those.

Ebden serves vs. Fratangelo

Fratangelo is overmatched, sure, but it’s among the more impressive less-than-an-hour defeats I’ve seen in a while. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, I don’t mean to be. He hits some terrific-looking backhands, displaying excellent footwork, balance and technique, outright catching the man from Perth flat-footed on a few. Good movement and the occasional ripping forehand, too (although he seems a bit more inconsistent off that wing).

Ultimately, though, the Western Australian is just that much stronger and steadier, on serve and otherwise. He advances 6-2 6-3 to the next round, where he’ll face second seed Igor Kunitsyn, a 7-5 4-6 6-2 winner over Tim Smyczek.

I watch a bit of Smyczek, who looks good in the set I see him play (I’ll let you guess which one that was), then move to catch top-seeded Blaz Kavcic against the popular Ecuadoran, the 28-year-old Giovanni Lapentti. From Smyczek to Kavcic – seems poetic enough to me. Oh, wait. Back up a bit. While watching Smyczek, I’m treated to the unintentional hilarity of well-meaning fans accosting poor Woodforde while he watches yet another Aussie, Mr. Samuel Groth, fire some first balls.

One gent tells Woody that he got his autograph at Disneyworld in 1999. Another quizzes him about long ago matches vs. the Bryan Bros. “Do you remember that match?” the beset upon coach is asked. “Yeah, we played them a few times,” Woodforde answers patiently, while trying to do his job. Good man.

OK. Kavcic. Lapentti. What can I say? Blaz blazed through the tired-looking younger Lapentti bro, taking some time to gripe along the way, as per. The 23-year-old Slovenian is one of those players whose venting just amuses me (though not in a Joe Pesci way). With others’ negativity, there’s a real sense of menace. With Blaz, it’s just what he does. The Courier-esque baseliner, currently on a career high of #83 in the rankings, displays his usual tenacity and scrambling – with bits of skill and volleying thrown in for good measure. The net result is all kinds of not bad – he advances 6-2 6-2 and will play Rajeev Ram in QR2, who won 7-5 6-2 over local fave and wildcard winner Eric Hechtman.

As today is turning into an Ozsome theme day, I check in on how Matosevic is faring against 28-year-old South African Raven Klaasen.

That’s So Raven

Under a watchful Wood(e)y(e), he’s playing haphazardly, as has been the case for 2011. At 3-all in the third set, he looks up at the chair umpire. “Score?” he inquires. Then he ma-tosses in three consecutive service winners from 15-0 and flashes a cheeky, little-boy smile to his coach, like, “Look what I just did!” He reels off the next eight points to win the match 7-6(1) 3-6 6-3. Amazing how he can just seem to click his game “on” sometimes and thereafter look unbeatable. He’s similar to Alex Bogdanovic, in that respect. When it’s all going right, you think, “How is this guy not Top 50? Top 25?” It seems so effortless. Sadly for them (and possibly for us as well), it hardly ever all goes right.

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