Tag Archive: Sam Groth


Challenger Tennis Top Ten Players To View (Part I)

Recently, I had the nerve-wracking* pleasure of being on Amy Fetherolf and Jeff Sackmann‘s Margin of Error podcast, during which we discussed the ATP’s amazing new HD Challenger livestreams, Keith Crowley‘s important petition and ongoing efforts to increase prize money at tennis’s lower levels, and a bunch of other good stuff.

At one point, though, Jeff had the temerity — the sheer sac, man — to ask me to name, for the spectator just dipping his or her tennistical toes into challenger-watching waters, the five (seriously, Jeff: just FIVE?!) players a person should look out for.

More specifically, who are the crazy/good/weird players who’d consistently treat that spectator’s eyes to something special. Furthermore, these players shouldn’t necessarily be the next young, up-and-coming stars, many of whom I’ve already identified here.

Well, in my estimation, I totally whiffed on my answer to that question. I mean: have you ever walked into a grocery store without a list and immediately forgotten everything you’re supposed to get? That’s what happened to my brain there.

So, since I have a website that I occasionally even update, I thought I’d take advantage of that and give you a more considered answer to that question. Without further ado**, I give you the official Challenger Tennis Top Ten*** Players to View:

Sam Groth

Before I discuss the man so boldly listed above, I’m going to take you, dear reader, on a journey backstage at Margin of Error HQ. A special trip in which we peek behind the podcast curtain**** and take a look at what goes on behind the scenes.

Immediately after my inaugural podcastic performance came to a close but while everyone was still on the call, I started kvetching about how I’d totally choked the Top Five question. And five seconds after that, we came to a unanimous agreement that Mr. Samuel Groth really is Top Five on all of our lists.

Sam Groth Reacts To Learning He Made The Collective Margin Dwellers' Top Five

Groth Reacts To Learning He Made The Margin Dwellers’ Top Five (and/or to winning at the Champaign Challenger)

Confession: I’ve been a fan of this 26-year-old Aussie for aaaaages (kindly pronounce this with an Ozzer-bite in your vowels: “iiiiiges”). Like, since the only YouTube video of him was a through-the-back-fence shot of him taking serves while practicing on some side court. Like, since even before he beat Janko Tipsarevic in Nottingham quals in 2008.

But enough about me. Here’s why you should watch Groth:

1) A mammoth, monster, weighty, whopping, walloping first (and second) delivery. Currently the world record holder for fastest first serve at something like 800 MPH, give or take.

Land of the Grothed

Land of the Grothed

2) One-handed backhand, all-court game. Variety. He’s more than just a servebot, folks.

3) Color commentates his own matches as they happen. If there’s a more vocal player in all of pro tennis, I can’t think of him. In addition, he has several go-to verbal plays, most of which I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

But here’s a slight spoiler: I’d not only happily attend, but would pay money to happily attend, a one-man epic-length spoken-word opera performed by Mr. Groth entitled, “Towel, Please!”

The sheer dynamic range of emotion and pathos the man can inject into those simple syllables has to be heard to be believed.

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A very long List today. Since a lot of players’ seasons have already been shuttered, those who did play last week stood to gain a lot vs. those dormant others. Thus, there’s a whole lotta career highs to get to today. So let’s get to them!

Player NATIONALITY Age New High Why
Alejandro Gonzalez COL 24 91 CTF F
Oleksandr Nedovyesov UKR 26 93 CTF SF
Bradley Klahn USA 23 97 Yokohama SF
Dominic Thiem AUT 20 121 others lost points
Facundo Bagnis ARG 23 123 Lima F
Facundo Arguello ARG 21 124 Lima QF
Peter Polansky CAN 25 140 others lost points
Victor Estrella DOM 33 143 Guayaquil QF
Pierre Hugues-Herbert FRA 22 151 Yokohama SF
Guilherme Clezar BRA 20 156 CTF RR
Gerald Melzer AUT 23 178 others lost points
Sam Groth AUS 26 183 Champaign F
Tennys Sandgren USA 22 187 Champaign W
Damir Dzumhur BIH 21 189 others lost points
Pedro Sousa POR 25 199 Guayaquil F
Mohamed Safwat EGY 23 206 Egypt F32 W
Lorenzo Giustino ITA 22 232 others lost points
Axel Michon FRA 22 239 Egypt F32 F
Kimmer Coppejans BEL 19 254 Yokohama R2
Andrea Collarini ARG 21 257 Lima R2
Egor Gerasimov BLR 21 267 Helsinki QF
Hiroki Kondo JPN 31 275 Yokohama FQR
Adrian Sikora SVK 25 295 others lost points
Ante Pavic CRO 24 297 Helsinki R2
Janez Semrajc SLO 24 300 Croatia F14 F

So what do we make of this uber-long List?

Well, first of all, a hardy “Welcome to the Top 100!” is in order for Colombia’s Alejandro Gonzalez and American Bradley Klahn. Gonzalez, who lost to Filippo Volandri in the Challenger Tour Finals, is the sixth Colombian to ever break into the One Hundred Club.

AGon The Conqueror

AGon The Conqueror

Klahn, the three-time All-American out of Stanford, finishes his first full year on tour in superb form, going Finalist, Champion and Semifinalist in Traralgon, Yeongwol and Yokohama respectively — a run that saw him rise 26 rungs on the ATP Rankings ladder.

Behind John Isner and Sam Querrey, the Americans are now tightly bunched, with Tim Smyczek at #89, Michael Russell #92, Donald Young #96 and Klahn at #97.  Furthermore, Klahn has now assured his entry into the main draw at next year’s Australian Open, where the cutoff is ATP #105. Our pals at Footsoldiers of Tennis have the latest breakdown of who’s chasing ATPoints at the three Challenger events this week, in order to join Klahn in the main draw.

The Wrath of Klahn - photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

The Wrath of Klahn – photo courtesy of Aceland Tennis

Next, we see that tennis’s Facundos are still doing just fine, although they’ll need to qualify at next year’s first Slam.  But at least they’ll be seeded. Click here if you’re still unsure about who the Fac they are.

Clearly congrats are in order for Victor Estrella, who’s the Tommy Haas of the Challenger Tour, finding success well into his thirties. A new career high at age 33 is nothing to sneeze at*.

Sweet Victory

Sweet Victor-y

Lastly, congrats to Sam Groth and Tennys Sandgren, whose bubbly Champaign Challenger success (finalist and champion, respectively) resulted in dual breakthroughs into the vaunted Top One Hundred Eighty Seven.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun.

I Will Not Make A Tennys Pun

Groth’s breakthrough has been a long time coming, as he’s dabbled in the 200’s for significant periods of time every year since 2008. As the now seventh-ranked Aussie, he inserts himself prominently into the wildcard discussion for the Oz Open.

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Champaign Wishes And Caviar Dreams

Welp, there are many more stories I can tell of those in the lower reaches of this week’s W.A.T.C.H. List, but this article is already long enough, don’t you think?  If I’m inspired, I’ll write a sequel.  So check back often!***

*Unless you have a cold, in which case: sneeze away!**

**Your monitor also doubles as a sneeze guard.

***Chances are <1% that I’ll write a sequel, so use your best judgment here.

Welcome back to the series everyone is talking about*!  The one in which we examine the questions: how advantageous is it to have the home court on the ATP tour?  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?  (You know, the pressing issues of the day.)

Let’s have a look at the data:

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
Matt Ebden 58.14% 59.04% 0.00% 40.63% 68.97% 61.54% 58.64% 56.42% 35.37%
James Duckworth 46.30% 58.82% 60.00% 70.33% 60.00% 50.00% 49.28% 65.69% 33.50%
John Millman 55.74% 68.70% 69.23% 53.42% 85.71% 45.45% 60.49% 60.48% 27.84%
Nick Kyrgios 77.27% 65.45% N/A 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 73.91% 63.93% 27.38%
Sam Groth 59.80% 56.69% 68.75% 52.08% 70.00% 67.39% 62.32% 57.82% 31.94%
Matt Reid 59.81% 50.89% 41.67% 63.33% 44.44% 46.67% 57.03% 55.50% 36.99%
J.P. Smith 28.57% 70.73% N/A 60.00% 50.00% 50.00% 31.25% 64.54% 10.19%
Greg Jones 58.06% 53.90% 77.78% 58.93% 66.67% 55.26% 61.04% 54.32% 35.65%
Matthew Barton 62.07% 56.52% 42.86% 40.00% 42.86% 0.00% 56.56% 55.56% 65.95%
Ben Mitchell 65.79% 62.16% 64.71% 25.00% 75.00% 0.00% 66.19% 51.52% 58.40%
Player Home HC Wins Home HC Loss Away HC W Away HC Loss Home Clay W Home Clay L Away Clay W Away Clay L Home Grass W Home Grass L Away Grass W Away Grass L
Matt Ebden 75 54 111 77 0 4 13 19 20 9 24 15
James Duckworth 25 29 20 14 6 4 64 27 3 2 6 6
John Millman 34 27 79 36 9 4 39 34 6 1 5 6
Nick Kyrgios 17 5 36 19 0 0 2 2 0 1 1 1
Sam Groth 61 41 89 68 11 5 25 23 14 6 31 15
Matt Reid 64 43 57 55 5 7 57 33 4 5 7 8
J.P. Smith 4 10 58 24 0 0 12 8 1 1 7 7
Greg Jones 72 52 83 71 14 4 33 23 8 4 21 17
Matthew Barton 54 33 26 20 12 16 2 3 3 4 0 2
Ben Mitchell 75 39 46 28 11 6 5 15 6 2 0 5

In Part I of the Home and Away series, we saw that American players spend the majority of their year at home. Even Wayne Odesnik, who spends the most time playing abroad, spends 64.4% of his match time in North America.

This time around, we see the Aussies are just the opposite**.  Since there aren’t enough events (and enough points on offer) inside of Australia, the Oz contingent must hit the road to ply their trade***. And once they’re overseas, they try to stay awhile; these guys (the smart ones, anyway) aren’t going to fly 24 hours to a destination only to play one event.  That eventually would be fiscal, if not physical, suicide.

So away they stay.  Whereas the American Top 20 play an average of 81% of their matches at home, the Aussie Top 10 (of those who still play regularly on the Challenger/Futures Pro Circuit) only play an average of 36% of their matches in Australia.  Of that bunch, the person most like Marge Simpson’s husband (in that he’s the biggest homer) is also the only guy to play more than 37% of his matches at home. That would be 21-year-old Matthew Barton (with a whopping 66% of his matches played at home), and this year even he has played the majority of his tennis Up Over (as opposed to, you know, Down Under).

Homer and Matthey have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Homer and Matthew have never been seen in the same place, which I think is kinda suspicious.

Although one must reconsider the definition of “home tennis” when one considers the case of one John-Patrick “J.P.” Smith. The 24-year-old Townsville, Australia native made another home for himself in Knoxville, USA, where he was a four-time ITA All-American in singles and doubles at the University of Tennessee.  Hmmmm, an Australian All-American, eh?  The plot thickens.

When we look at the numbers, we see that J.P.’s only ostensibly played 10% of his matches at “home” (i.e. Australia).  And he performs far better on non-Australian soil — he wins 64.5% of his “away” matches, as opposed to his 31% in Oz.  It seems as if the table is inverted where J.P.’s concerned, and his true tennis home is much more Americentric these days.

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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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