Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nextwavers of the Month: February Edition

FEDERICO DELBONIS (‘90/ARG): The Argentine spent the whole month trying his luck at the ATP level. Despite never having broken into the top 100, he seems to play up to the competition and perform better at the highest levels. He first played at Vina del Mar (Chile), where he survived the qualy to make the main draw. Once there, he beat the almost-retired Nicolas Massu before upsetting Brazilian Thomas Bellucci. He then lost to the streaking Carlos Berlocq, who also happens to be playing the best tennis of his life. Delbonis then was eliminated in the last round of qualifying at Sao Paulo (Brasil), losing to Ramirez Hidalgo. He wrapped up the month by advancing through the Q at Buenos Aires (Argentina). He took out Frederico Gil in R1 before losing to runner-up Nicolas Almagro. He improved his ranking by 31 spots, landing at 141.

DENIS KUDLA (’92/USA): The Ukrainian-American lands on the list for the second month in a row on the heels of another pair of overachieving performances. Due to his ranking he is now finally beyond the futures level. He reached the quarter-finals of the Dallas Challenger after beating former top 100 Mischa Zverev before losing to Stefan Siefert. He then went on to successfully complete the qualy at the ATP San Jose to set up a ’92 showdown against Jack Sock. He dismissed the fellow starlet and then took Andy Roddick to a third set where he lost 64. Kudla closed the month by losing in the qualy of ATP Memphis but planted within the top 200 in the ranking at 178 (a 100-spot rise since the beginning of 2012).

ALBANO OLIVETTI (‘91/FRA): This French bomber has been on the brink of an upset for a while thanks to his massive serve. He started off the month slow, losing in R1 of qualifying at ATP Montpellier and then managing to qualify into main draw at the Bergamo Challenger (Italy) before losing in R1 to Lajovic. However, he got his chance to shine at ATP Marseille and did not let it slip. He qualified into the main draw and defeated 92th ranked Mathias Bachinger before logging the best win of his career in a mega-upset against 8th ranked Mardy Fish. He eventually lost to veteran Michael Llodra in the quarter-finals but let everyone know that his 6’8 frame and his booming serve are only getting started.

JERZY JANOWICZ (‘90/POL): Speaking of big-serving guys, Janowicz has struggled to make his way to the big leagues. He reached 140 in the ranking last year but opened 2012 at 221. This month he had Davis Cup duty for Poland and swept of his (easy) rubbers against Madagascar. That seems to have helped his morale as he then reached the final of the Wolfsburg Challenger (Germany). To get there, the former Jr. Roland Garros runner-up, defeated former top-100s Frank Dancevic and Evgeny Korolev before losing in the final to a red-hot Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands. Thanks to this he’s now at the doorstep of the top 200 again at 205.

STEVEN DIEZ (‘91/CAN): The Spanish-Canadian has been a steady riser in the futures circuit. This month he played on 3 events in Spain and fared very well. He advanced to the semis at Spain F1 (taking out Taro Daniel and Kevin Krawietz) before losing to top seed Guillermo Olaso in 3 sets. The following week at Spain F2 he lost to eventual champion Pedro Clar-Rosello in the quarter-finals. The third time was the charm as he was able to win the title at Spain F3. This time he defeated the 2nd (Enrico Burzi) and 3rd (Pedro Sousa) seeds to clinch it. All in all he went 10-2 and when the points earned are factored in he’ll break into the top 300 for the first time in his career.

GUIDO ANDREOZZI (’91/ARG): This young Argentine is another fast riser who had an excellent 2011. This happens in part due to finally being injury free. He started the month playing at the qualy of the ATP Vina del Mar (Chile) but was eliminated early by Martin Alund. He was then upset in the quarter-finals of the 15K tournament at Brazil F7 by eventual runner-up Jose Pereira. However, he had his breakthrough the following week at Brazil F8. He defeated local veterans Leonardo Kirche and Ricardo Hocevar and talented Frenchman Jonathan Eysseric en route to the title. With the win he will enter the top 350 next week.

RADU ALBOT (‘89/MDA): This 22-year old from Moldova was arguably the hottest player in the futures circuit in February. He logged a lot of tennis hours, beginning with him getting through the qualy at the Kazan Challenger (Russia) before being eliminated in R1 by former top 100 Teimuraz Gabashvili. He then played Davis Cup and won 1 of2 rubbers against Belarus (d. Zhyrmont / l. to Ignatik). Following that he traveled to Turkey, where he won 4 futures events last year. At Turkey F7 he reached the final but was upset by Daniel Smethurst (‘90/GBR). However things went back to normal the following week as he won the title after dismissing Alexander Lobkov (‘90/RUS) in the final. He ended up going 11-2 for the month and when the ranking points are computed he’ll land somewhere inside the top 235.

HIROKI MORIYA (‘90/JPN): The Japanese’s performances got better as the month went on. He first reached the quarter-finals at Germany F4 before losing to Alexander Flock. He then went down-under where he reached the semis of Australia F1, losing to Ze Zhang of China. Finally, he won the 15K event at Australia F2, avenging his loss to Zhang and also knocking down the best local products in Jason Kubler (’93) and Luke Saville (’94). He defeated Brydan Klein in the final and ended the month with a 9-2 record. These performances will get him into the top 270 of the world.

EVGENY DONSKOY (‘90/RUS): This Russian did a very good job of maintaining his ranking when the pressure rose. He replaced the points of winning the Casablanca Challenger (Morocco) last year by winning the Meknes Challenger in the same country. He did so in a very convincing manner beating experienced players like Jan Hajek and Simon Greul. Although the title at Meknes was the high point, he also managed to reach R2 at the Kazan Challenger (Russia) and the semi-finals at Quimper Challenger (France), where he eliminated a trio of great players like Paul-Henri Mathieu, Arnaud Clement and Marc Gicquel before losing to Tunisian Malek Jaziri. With the next big chunk of points to be defended in June, Donskoy has a very good chance of cracking the top 100 with a couple of more similar performances in the next few months.

MARIUS COPIL (‘90/ROM): The 6’4 Romanian started the month with a bang, reaching the final at the Kazan Challenger (Russia). He took out veterans like Ivo Minar and Andreas Haider-Maurer before losing in the final to Jurgen Zopp of Estonia in 2 tie-breaks. Copil then went to Italy 2 weeks later and advanced through the qualy at the Bergamo Challenger. However, he faced top seed Go Soeda and was defeated with a score of 64 64. The big man is hoping to get back on track, since he has fallen to 255 after a career high204 in May of 2011.

·         CRISTIAN GARIN (’96/CHI): The 15-year old won his first 2 ATP points in back to back wins. First he took out Felipe Mantilla (‘93/COL) at Chile F1, and then he defeated Cristobal Saavedra-Corvalan (‘90/CHI) at Chile F3.
·         THANASSI KOKKINAKIS (‘96/AUS): Qualified into a futures main draw for the first time at Australia F1 but lost in R1. The following week he got a WC and took out Adam Hubble in R1 to earn his second ATP point.
·         GIANLUIGI QUINZI (‘96/ITA): The ultimate nextwaver is an ITF top 10 despite being 2 years younger than the competition. Not content with that, he passed the qualy at Chile F3 and defeated Federico Coria (‘92/ARG) to earn another ATP point.
·         BORNA CORIC (‘96/CRO): He earned his first ATP point at Croatia F1 and backed it up the following week by repeating the same feat. Very solid

·         ANDRES ARTUNEDO-MARTINAVARR (‘93/ESP): 0-3 in February (all at home) to fall to 0-5 for the year (the other 2 at Turkey). Expected a breakout year for the young Spaniard.
·         PABLO CARRENO-BUSTA (‘91/ESP): 0-3 in February (0-4 overall). He’s struggling at the Challenger level, even as a seeded player. Losses at Quimper, Bergamo and Meknes.
·         FEDERICO GAIO (‘92/ITA): Lost in R1 of the qualy at ATP Vina del Mar and then lost in R1 of Chile F1 to a qualifier. He then lost in R2 to of Chile F3 to Jorge Aguilar. Expected a little more of him 
·         ILYA BELYAEV (’90): Lost early in the qualy of Kazan Challenger at home. And then followed it up with back to back R1 losses at Russia F4 and F5, both times to unseeded Ilia Shatskiy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Davis Cup review: Nextwavers edition

World Group:

-Andreas Haider-Maurer is a 24-year old but someone who still hasn’t established himself at the ATP level. He notched a very clutch win over a top-40 player like Alex Bogomolov on Day 1. That allowed Jurgen Melzer to take care of business (winning both of his singles matches), resulting in Austria advancing. The play Spain up next but at this point Austria can’t get too picky.

-Kei Nishikori (’89) was Japan’s best chance at upsetting Croatia. And after Go Soeda upset Ivan Dodig in the first rubber, all Nishikori had to do was take care of both of his singles or help out in the doubles. It turned out to be easier said than done as Ivo Karlovic took him out in Day 1 and ended up winning all 3 points so Croatia could move on to face Argentina. Nishikori did keep it alive with a win over Dodig but Soeda couldn’t do much against Dr. Ivo on the deciding match.

-Milos Raonic (’91) took care of business on Day 1, defeating Julien Benneteau in straight sets. With the tie 1-1, he and David Nestor failed to win the doubles, setting up a crucial rubber between Raonic and Tsonga on Sunday. However, Raonic had to pull out with a knee injury and Tsonga smoked Frank Dancevic to close it out.

-Vasek Pospisil (’90) was very instrumental in getting Canada to the World Group last year. He couldn’t do much against Tsonga on Day 1 and was replaced in the doubles by Raonic. However, if Raonic would’ve been able to take out Tsonga and send the series to a 5th and defining match, I would’ve liked Pospisil’s chances at home against Benneteau (and maybe even vs. Monfils).

-Ryan Harrison (‘92/USA) and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe (‘90/GER) both won their dead rubber matches. Harrison beat veteran Swiss Michael Lammer to make it 5-0, while Stebe took out Argentinean Eduardo Schwank to get the only point for his country. Although both matches were only for statistics, it’s always good to log DC matches and to win them. Serbian Dusan Lajovic (’90) did the same thing, defeating Filip Prpic of Sweden after Janko Tipsarevic clinched the series in the previous rubber.

Group I:

-Daniel Evans (‘90/GBR) was without a doubt the hero of the weekend. The ever promising young Brit defeated Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, who’s having a tremendous season himself. And he did in straight sets. Not content with that, he had to play Martin Klizan (’89) in the 5th rubber and stepped up again, winning a 5 set thriller. I doubt he’ll ever forget this weekend.

-South Koreans Yong-Kyu Lim  (’91) and Suk-Young Jeong (’93) were extremely clutch at home, winning a potentially complicated series 5-0 against superior competition. Lim came back from 2 sets down to defeat 28-year old veteran Ti Chen and then clinched the series with a win in doubles. Jeong upset Tsung-Hua Yang (’91) in arguably the best win of his career (Yang wound up losing to unranked Min Hyeok Cho in a dead rubber, prompting questions about an injury). Amazing victory by the Koreans who play Australia next (I know, bummer).

-Peruvian Duilio Beretta (’92) had a very disappointing series. Uruguay defeated them 3-1 despite not playing their top guy, Pablo Cuevas. Despite playing away, Beretta should’ve been able to defeat Martin Cuevas (’92) in Day 1. He did win the only point for his country in doubles (with Sergio Galdos), but it was too late, seeing that the experienced Marcel Felder was expecting him in the 4th rubber. Felder took him out in 4 sets, clinching the series.

Group II:

-Marton Fucsovics (’92) helped Hungary advance to the next round with an impressive 5-set win over Ireland’s top man Conor Niland on Day. That, along with Attila Balazs winning the doubles rubber and his own singles one on Sunday was enough to advance 3-2. Fucsovics then lost his dead rubber to Sam Barry (’92) in straight sets.

 -Jerzy Janowicz (’90) won both of his singles rubbers to help Poland win 5-0 against Madagascar in one of the most lopsided ties.

-Christopher Rungkat (’90) won all 3 of his points to give Indonesia a 3-2 win over Hong Kong

-Jeson Patrombon (’93) won both of his singles rubbers in the Philippines’ 5-0 win over Pacific Oceania.

-Kittiphong Wachiramanowong (’90) won his singles rubber on Day 1 to help Thailand advance with a 4-1 win over Sri Lanka

-Ricardo Rodriguez (’93) won both of his singles rubbers to help Venezuela defeat Puerto Rico 5-0

-Darian King (’92) helped Barbados clinch the win over Paraguay 3-2 by Day 2. He won his singles and the doubles rubber with Haydn Lewis.

-Cesar Ramirez (’90) won his singles rubber on Day 1 and the doubles (with veteran Santiago Gonzalez) to help Mexico win 5-0 over El Salvador. Manuel Sanchez (’91) won the 5th rubber.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nextwavers of the Month: January Edition

AUSTIN KRAJICEK (’90/USA): Krajicek had an amazing month of January, going 12-2 including a title at China F2. The week before he reached the final at China F1 (losing to Vesely in the final). After his Asian adventure, Krajicek flew to Mexico where he reached the semi-finals after coming through the qualy. He lost to experienced local Daniel Garza in straight sets. In the first month of the year he has already improved his ranking 222 spots (from 756 to 534) and will be looking to get better as he continues playing futures in Mexico in early February.

JACK SOCK (‘92/USA): Sock’s rise through the ranking has been breathtaking. He rose roughly 500 spots last year despite trying to maintain eligibility for college. However, now that he has decided to go pro and focus 100% on tennis, this young man has been unleashed. He won USA F1 without losing a set, and then lost in the semis the following week to French veteran Nicolas Devilder (former top 100 who ended up winning the title). Not content with that, he then went to play the Honolulu Challenger, where he advanced to the quarter-finals without dropping sets. He ended up losing to top seed Go Soeda of Japan, who also ended up winning the title and reclaiming a spot in the top 100. In just 3 tournaments, Sock has already risen 82 spots to 300 (a new career high). And the scary thing is that he’s just warming up.

JASON KUBLER (‘93/AUS): The former ITF No.1 skipped the Australian tournaments (where he would’ve probably received wild cards to at least the qualys) to play futures in the USA. It proved to be a wise decision, as he reached the final at USA F1 and F3. He lost those finals to Sock and Brian Baker, nothing to be ashamed of. Sandwiched in between was a 3-set loss to top seed Victor Estrella at F2. During those 3 weeks, Kubler defeated more experienced players like Devilder and Nicholas Monroe. He has already cracked the top 500 (at 496) and is playing at USA F4 to begin the month of February.

STANISLAV POPLAVSKYY (‘91/UKR): The young Ukrainian had a very successful run in the Russian futures in January. He went 10-2, including winning the title at F1 and losing the final to Siarhei Betau of Belarus at F3 (whom he also lost to in the second round of F2). The quality of the players he beat wasn’t too impressive, but his results are undeniable and he’s already cracked the top 500 (and reached a new career high at 498).

ANDREY KUZNETSOV (‘91/RUS): The former junior Wimbledon champion is trying to get back in the right path. After reaching a ranking of 163 in 2010, he couldn’t maintain the pace and finished 2011 at 222. He started the year as the top seed playing at home at Russia F1 but was upset in a toss 3-set loss to Fufygin in the semi-finals. After that, he switched to clay, with much improved results. He won the 15k future event at Egypt F1 without dropping a set. He will play a few more tournaments in Egypt hoping to get his ranking low enough inside the top 200 to move back to the challengers.

JOZEF KOVALIK (‘92/SVK): The young Slovak had a breakthrough season in 2011 and if his performance in January is any indication he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Kovalik used his new ranking to play at the Sao Paulo Challenger in Brasil, reaching the quarter-finals before losing in straight sets to Federico Del Bonis. He then went back to Europe and reached the final at Israel F2, losing to Daniel Smethurst (‘90/GBR). The following week he was upset early, but it happened at the hands of Norbert Gombos, another Slovak with a great 2011. Kovalik already improved his ranking from 412 to 357 (career high) and will look to keep trying his luck against tougher competition at challenger events.

DENIS KUDLA (‘92/USA): The Ukrainian-born American seems to have put his futures days behind him and has moved on to bigger and better things. Kudla lost in R1 of qualifying at Auckland ATP but that did not put him down. He qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw after defeating Nikola Ciric and 2 former top 100 players like Carsten Ball and Eduardo Schwank. Once in the main draw, he took Tommy Haas to 4 sets before being eliminated. After that, he played at the Honolulu Challenger, where he reached the quarter-finals and lost to Tatsuma Ito of Japan. Thank to those performances he improved his ranking from 276 to 218, a new career high.

JAMES DUCKWORTH (‘92/AUS): This guy is the real deal. I picked him to crack the top 150 (with an outside shot of being in the top 100) by year end and he’s already halfway there at 205. Duckworth made great use of the wild cards he was granted. At Brisbane ATP he took out Nicolas Mahut in R1 before losing to world No.12 Gilles Simon. The following week he lost in R1 to Jarkko Nieminen, who ended up winning the title. However, his greatest performance came at the Australian Open, where he defeated Estonian Jurgen Zopp in straight sets in R1 and gave world No.9 Janko Tipsarevic all he could handle before bowing out 36 62 67 46. His ranking is already Challenger-worthy, so expect him to test himself at a higher level in the following months.


·         JIRI VESELY (’93/CZE), 2011 year end ITF No.1 won China F1
·         GLEB SAKHAROV (’88/FRA) went 9-3 with a title, a semi-final and a quarter-final appearance
·         CLAUDIO GRASSI (‘85/ITA) went 10-2 with a title and a final appearance
·         DIMITAR KUTROVSKY (‘87/BUL) went 9-2 with a title and a semi-final appearance
·         TOMISLAV BRKIC (‘90/BIH) went 8-1 with a title and a semi-final appearance
·         FRANK PEPE (‘88/FRA) came out of nowhere to win Germany F2 as a qualifier
·         YOSHIHITO NISHIOKA (‘95/JPN) qualified into 2 USA futures main draws, reaching the QFs at F3 at the age of 16.


·         TIAGO FERNANDES (’93/BRA): 1-3 record with disappointing performances in Great Britain and Egypt.
·         TARO DANIEL (‘93/JPN): 0-3 with back to back to back R1 loses in Turkey
·         DANIEL KOSAKOWSKI (‘92/USA): 0-3 record at USA futures
·         KEVIN KRAWIETZ (‘92/GER): 4-3 as a high seed playing futures at home

Monday, December 19, 2011

Players to Watch in 2012: Vasek Pospisil (’90)

This is one of the most unpredictable young players in the tour. His 2011 campaign has moments of brilliance, overachievement, disappointment and anything and everything in between.

His junior career was good but not great. He did nothing of significance in the Grand Slams, yet his career high was in the top 25. He started 2011 ranked at 336 in the world after a 2010 season where he made little progress. After a roller-coaster year, Pospisil closed 2011 at the doorstep of the top 100 and being one of the early favorites to become the Newcomer of the Year in 2012.

Breaking down his 2011 season, one can find that the Canadian giant played all over the world with some mind boggling results. Pospisil lost early in several futures tournaments while completely dominating others.  At the same time, he reached the semi-finals twice and the quarter-finals 7 times at the Challenger level. Moreover, he qualified for the U.S.Open and advanced to R2 after defeating Lukas Rosol. He also qualified into the St.Petersburg and Valencia ATP tournaments at the end of the season. The cherry on top was his performance in Davis Cup, where he won both of his rubbers to get Canada into the World Group.

Pospisil defeated players like Dudi Sela, John Isner and Juan Ignacio Chela. He also played Roger Federer and Feliciano Lopez very tough. Although he closed the year with early losses at the Challenger level, those wins previously mentioned show that he belongs at the top. I see Pospisil cracking the top 60 by the end of the year. I don’t predict a meteoric rise like that of fellow Canadian Milos Raonic, but Pospisil and his 6’4 frame will be very dangerous in the tour in 2012.

Players to Watch in 2012: Taro Daniel (’93)

This is one of the most interesting up and coming players in the tour. He was born in New York, trains in Valencia (Spain) but represents Japan in the tour. On top of that, he stands at 1.88 meters, an anomaly for a Japanese player. He started 2011 as the 20th best player in ITF and at 978 in the ATP ranking. He focused almost entirely on his professional career, playing just a single ITF tournament all year.

Daniel did not choose the easy route towards the top. To begin with, he played most of his tournaments in Spain. The Spanish futures are considered the harshest in the world because of the local talent and because many players from around the world choose Spain for their development. On top of that, these tournaments have 128-player qualyfing draws, meaning that a player must win 4 matches just to make it into the main draw, and advance at least 1 round to earn ATP points.
This guy can be considered a warrior of the futures. He only received 1 wild card all year, so he had to build his ranking the hard way. He went 30-0 in qualifiers, never failing to make the main draw. On top of that he went 41-27 in main draw action, therefore driving his total number of matches in 2011 passed the 100 mark. Daniel advanced all the way to the 467th spot in the ranking, thanks in part to 2 finals appearances.

In 2012, Daniel will have direct access to futures main draws, allowing him to virtually play more matches and use his fitness towards shooting up the rankings. I see him cracking the top 300 by the end of this upcoming season.

Players to Watch in 2012: Damir Dzumhur (’92)

This is a very interesting player to keep an eye on because of the amount of success that he had in 2011. The Bosnian started the year playing qualys in Israel and ended up inside of the top 350 players in the world. He improved his ranking by over 600 spots, showing that his junior career wasn’t a fluke.

Dzumhur lacked a signature performance in a junior Grand Slam, but won several titles and beat most of the best players of his class. He was ranked as high as 3 in ITF in 2010 and was ready to show in the pros that he belonged. He amassed an amazing 46-18 in his first full year on the tour, which included 4 titles and an additional finals appearance. They weren’t easy titles either, as he played in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Turkey, all hotbeds of young talent.

Throughout the year he managed upset victories over Mirza Basic, Andrea Arnaboldi, Axel Michon and Aldin Sektic among others. It is surprising that he did not attempt to play any Challenger tournaments. However, he was called up by Bosnia to play Davis Cup against Denmark. He lost to Martin Pedersen in 4 sets but it was likely an experience that will aid in his development.

Because of his lack of evidence against older players and in higher stakes tournament it’s hard to predict where he will end up at the end of next year. However, if his rapid development and junior pedigree are an indication, he should be able to continue rising in the rankings. I see Dzumhur ending up 2012 fully immersed in the Challenger tour and sitting right outside the top 200.