Tag Archive: Rob O’Gorman


My tenth and final Player to Watch pick for 2014 is bound to confound, surprise and possibly annoy. After all, there are so many worthy candidates, but only one more can be chosen. 

So. Could it be Lucas Pouille, the 19-year-old French lad who gained almost 250 places in the ATP rankings this year and for a brief time was the only teen in the Top 200 alongside 2014 Player to Watch number seven, Nick Kyrgios?

"Come on, you know it should be me!"

“Oui oui oui, it’s me me me!”

Or is it possibly Filip Peliwo, the 19-year-old Canadian former junior #1 who rose over 250 places in this years rankings and is now training in Spain with Galo Blanco?

"It's me, right?"

“It’s me, right?”

Since former US college players who are older than 22 are now allowed under the Colette Lewis amendment of 2013, will it be Tennys Sandgren, the 22-year-old University of Tennessee standout whom we last saw winning the Champaign Challenger and improving his 2013 ranking by almost 50 places?

"Looking for the final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!"

“Lookin’ for your final PTW pick? Look no further than this guy, right here!”

Howzabout Karen Khachanov, the Russian 17-year-old who shocked the world by making the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 Kremlin Cup, beating Janko Tipsarevic along the way, and raising his ranking a mere 1,458 places this season?

"Da da da!"

Da da da!”

Or Karim Hossam, the 19-year-old Egyptian who climbed over 800 ranking rungs in 2013 and won four Egyptian Futures titles?

"If it's not me, I will clobber you!"

“If it’s not me, I will clobber you!”

The answers: Non. No. Nope. Nyet. And sorry, Karim.

Nay, this year’s final Player to Watch is someone for whom I’ve shamelessly bent my own arbitrary rules, including him even though he’s ranked inside the original “between #150 and #500 in the world” criterion I established for original PTW selection.

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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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The final weekend of Aussie Wildcard Mania is upon us! And what a wonderful ride it’s been, as ever. Four men remain, as is the case with most semifinals. Lets have a look at who’s playing who, with some whats and whens and wherefores thrown in at no extra cost (other than your patience). First, let me lay down some OOP action:

Melbourne Park – Crt 6
   1. Starting at 10:00 AM AO Women’s Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Knockout Draw 
Olivia Rogowska [5]
Sophie Ferguson [2]
       
   2. Followed by AO Women’s Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Knockout Draw
Alicia Molik [1]
Jelena Dokic [3]
       
   3. Not before 12:30 PM AO Men’s Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
Peter Luczak [1]
Matthew Ebden [4]
       
   4. Followed by AO Men’s Wildcard Playoff 2011 – Main Draw
Adam Feeney
Marinko Matosevic [2]

Our first semifinal features top-seeded veteran Peter Luczak against the rising-star fourth seed Matt Ebden (yes, you can be 23 and still be a rising star in men’s tennis; I proclaim it to be so! Plus he just turned 23 so get off my case JEEZ!). Ahem. These two have only met once, in the bronze-medal match of the Commonwealth Games in October, which Ebden won 6-3 6-3.

I happen to have watched both of Luczak’s matches this week – an unconvincing 6-2 4-6 6-2 win over 16 year-old prodigy Luke Saville and a tight 6-3 7-6(5) victory over 9th seed James Lemke – as well as the light hit he had with his 4 year old-son, Sebastian.

In his first match, the 31 year old Melbourne resident looked shaky and inconsistent, as perhaps befitting of a man playing his first match in almost a month. So unimpressive was his opening round performance that some people were strongly convinced he’d go down to Lemke in the next round (of all things!). But the #2 Aussie tightened up his game just enough to take advantage of a nervous start from his quarterfinal foe, and though the match was even, had enough wiles to just squeak through. Luczak hasn’t had the most convincing of years, going 25/35 coming into this event and slipping 73 spots in the ATP rankings since attaining his career high of #64 in October of last year.

On the other hand, Matt Ebden broke into the Top 200 for the first time this year and hit a career high of #162 in September, and he came into the event with almost exactly the reverse W/L record to Luczak at 35/24. But “the other hand” turned out to be the main problem coming in, as the man from Perth took a training tumble last weekend and badly bruised his right hand to the point where he couldn’t pick up a racquet for days, which even put his playoff participation in doubt. Thankfully, he was able to play, and though I’ve only seen 60-second snatches of his matches this week, it seems as if he’s been working himself back into form. He recovered from huge deficits in both sets of his encounter with young Ben Mitchell and pulled out a 7-6(5) 7-6(3) win in a nifty escape act. In his QF match he also had some work to do, coming back from a set down against the red-hot Sam Groth – a man many were picking to win the entire playoff coming in – and advancing in 2-6 6-4 6-2 style.

Interestingly, Luczak and Ebden will be playing doubles together in next month’s Open. “I have so much respect for him as a role model and a mentor,” the unassuming Western Australian said about his semifinal foe. “It’s hard (playing a friend) but at the same time…you’ve just gotta go out there and try to get the best out of each other and the best out of yourself and put it on the park and try to win.” And how. While they may be friends off the court, it seems as if the tennistical trajectories for both men have been going in opposite directions on the court all year long. Will this be the match where the younger Perth man further asserts his ascendancy?

The second match features the combustible second seed Marinko Matosevic against unseeded New South Welshman Adam Feeney. This will be the sixth on court encounter for the two 25 year-olds, and the fiery Matosevic has won 4 of their 5 previous meetings. As Marinko pointed out in a hilarious interview with Rob O’Gorman…

The Legend, Rob O’Gorman, broadcasting from the Rob O’Gorman Memorial Scaffolding

…right after his comprehensive 6-4 6-2 quarterfinal win over Greg Jones, he hasn’t lost to Feeney “in five or six years.” Make that six, Marinko, as Adam won their first encounter in November of 2004 and hasn’t won one since.

On paper, this looks to be an easy affair for the 2nd seed. But on that same paper, Feeney wouldn’t have beaten Colin Ebelthite, third seed Carsten Ball or James Duckworth in successive rounds, which he did and did and did. So THE PAPER LIES, PEOPLE! Don’t believe a thing it says!

I Reckon It’s Time For A Reckoning

On this day of rest before the Australian AO Wildcard Playoffs resume and the U.S. Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs commence, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back and see if we could learn from some of our past indiscretions.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but yesterday I made a number of BOLD, CAPS-LOCKED PREDICTIONS that went horribly, horribly wrong. In case your memory is being charitable or senile, let’s review the brutal blow-by-blow:

I wrote: “JAMES LEMKE WILL BEAT PETER LUCZAK TODAY. So get your cutting and pasting fingers ready to throw those words back at me if I’m wrong. But I won’t be.

Oh, but I was. Actual result: Luczak d Lemke 6-3 7-6(5). And how good (most of) you were to not cut-and-paste that in my face! Alas, my journalistic integrity (*snort*) demands that I do it to myself (also, I have nothing else to write about today. So that and my journalistic integrity).

I wrote: “SAMUEL GROTH WILL BEAT MATT EBDEN TODAY. END OF INTERVIEW.”

Actual result: Ebden d Groth 2-6 6-4 6-2. I’m sure glad I ended that interview when I did. Otherwise, I might’ve said something embarrassing!

I wrote: “BOLDED CAPS LOCK PREDICTION: DUCKWORTH WILL ADVANCE IN STRAIGHT SETS”

Actual result: Feeney d Duckworth 6-2 7-5. Hmmmm. I know there are certain Marinko Matosevic fans out there who are very happy I didn’t go BOLD AND CAPS-LOCKED in his favor yesterday, as that surely would’ve spelled his certain demise. Well, then. *prepares a stunning defense* (here, look at this photo while I prepare):

The legend Rob O”Gorman (and Adrian Franklin) in the AO Control Center, looking at the computer and discussing my terrible predictions.

There are obvious lessons to be learned here. First and foremost: I CAN CONTROL THE FUTURE! By the reverse-jinxing power I so certainly have (based on an unassailably ample sample size of three matches), I can now determine the course of every match played ’til the end of time. How useful! (And thank you to one of my cutting-and-pasting, word-throwing readers for taking pity on me and pointing out that power to me, as I never would’ve noticed this myself.)

Second and secondmost: there is money to be made here. Sadly, since I only write about Futures and Challengers, I can not bring my world-affecting talents to top-tier tennis. But I can bring them to South Beach, as there are Futures and Challengers tournaments near there – not to mention juniors; and I bet over-invested parents like the ones who came to blows in Melbourne would pay big $$$ to give their kids the vital edge that only I can provide!

Third and lastmost: I will be setting up a paypal account to enable bidding wars for all future matchups. Whichever player gets the most money donated toward his (or her) cause gets a BOLD AND CAPS-LOCKED PREDICTION in their opponent’s favor. Details pending. Offer legal in most states. Please be over 13 to donate. And please brawl responsibly.

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