France, Switzerland Reach Davis Cup Final; Canada, USA, Croatia to Feature in World Group

France, Switzerland Reach Davis Cup Final; Canada, USA, Croatia to Feature in World Group
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

Davis Cup Official Site

Davis Cup Semifinals:

France d. Czech Republic 4-1
On clay in Paris, a star-studded French team crushed a normally solid Czech team. Richard Gasquet thrashed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-3 in the opening singles rubber, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga followed that up with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Lukas Rosol in the second Friday singles rubber. France clinched with a Saturday doubles victory by the in-form Gasquet and Tsonga over Berdych and Radek Stepanek in 4 sets.

The dead rubbers were won by Jiri Vesely against Julien Benneteau in straights, and Gael Monfils over Rosol in 3 sets. There was little drama in this tie as the Czech team was unprepared for a top tier French squad.

Switzerland d. Italy 3-2
This tie extended into Sunday, but it was in the books after four rubbers, and the dynamic Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka earned a big achievement by reaching the Davis Cup final over Italy at home in Geneva. Federer beat Simone Bolelli 7-6 6-4 6-4 and Wawrinka beat Fabio Fognini 6-2 6-3 6-2 to give the Swiss an opening 2-0 lead on Friday. Bolelli and Fognini came back to win the doubles over Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli in 5 sets, but Fognini could not even get a set off of Federer in the fourth Sunday singles rubber. Federer clinched the Swiss a spot in the final 6-2 6-3 7-6 over the Italian number one.

Andreas Seppi won a consolation dead rubber over Swiss B-teamer Michael Lammer in 3 sets in the dead fifth rubber.
World Group Playoffs:

Serbia d. India 3-2
Serbia, minus Novak Djokovic, narrowly avoided being upset by India on the road, prevailing on a live fifth rubber win. Dusan Lajovic and Filip Krajinovic got the Serbian side off to a great start on Friday with a pair of singles wins over Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman, but Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes kept the tie alive with a doubles win over Ilija Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic. On Sunday, Devvarman continued the Indian comeback with a five set win over Lajovic. After a rain delay pushed the tie into Monday, Krajinovic slammed the door with a straight sets win over Bhambri. The Indian team played spirited tennis but it was not enough, as Serbia will stay in the World Group.

Brazil d. Spain 3-1
A massive upset, Spain went down to Sao Paulo and got themselves knocked out of the World Group by an underdog Brazilian team on clay. Thomaz Bellucci was the hero for Brazil as he won a 5 set singles rubber from 2 sets to love down against Pablo Andujar on Friday, after Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut had dispatched Rogerio Dutra Silva in straights in the previous Friday singles rubber. Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, the Brazilian doubles specialists, beat Marc Lopez and David Marrero, the Spanish doubles team to take a 2-1 lead. On Sunday, Bellucci stuck a dagger in Spanish hearts with a 4 set upset win over Bautista Agut, who played poorly. Spanish captain Carlos Moya did not have any top Spanish players besides RBA on his roster, but this is still a massive embarrassment for Spanish tennis to lose so ignominiously to a non-tennis powerhouse like Brazil.

Argentina d. Israel 3-2
A tie that never really seemed in doubt, though it went to a live fifth rubber, Leonardo Mayer beat little-known Israeli futures player Bar Tzuf Botzer in the opening singles rubber on Friday. Israeli veteran Dudi Sela matched his feat with a win over Carlos Berlocq to leave the tie squared up going into Saturday. Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the Israeli doubles specialist team, beat Federico Delbonis and Horacio Zeballos in 5 sets to give Israel a 2-1 lead, but after Sela meekly bowed out to Leo Mayer in the fourth singles rubber, Berlocq slammed the door, crushing Botzer with a third set bagel. The young Israeli showed signs of promise but the Argentine team was stronger top to bottom and won the day as a result.

Canada d. Colombia 3-2
Milos Raonic joined Bellucci as a Davis Cup star this week. The Canadian number one won a pair of singles rubbers in straight sets to clinch the tie at home in Halifax over an underdog Colombian team. His first win in singles came on Friday over Alejandro Gonzalez, after Vasek Pospisil had defeated Colombian number one Santiago Giraldo in straights. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah extended the tie into live Sunday play with a win over Daniel Nestor and Pospisil in doubles, but a Raonic win in the opening Sunday rubber over Giraldo finished the tie. Gonzalez beat Frank Dancevic in a dead fifth rubber. The Canadian team continues to gel well together and should be a threat in the World Group.

USA d. Slovakia 5-0
It was a comfortable white-washing for the USA in Chicago. John Isner and Sam Querrey combined to win six consecutive sets of tennis against Norbert Gombos and Martin Klizan on Friday, the Bryans clinched the tie on Saturday with a crushing doubles win over Gombos and Lukas Lacko, and then Isner and Querrey wiped up against Lacko and Gombos in the dead rubbers.

Australia d. Uzbekistan 5-0
A fast grass court in Perth helped Lleyton Hewitt and company dominate Uzbekistan. The young Nick Kyrgios and Hewitt combined to win six consecutive sets of tennis on Friday over Denis Istomin and Farrukh Dustov respectively, then Chris Guccione and Hewitt beat Dustov/Istomin to clinch the tie with a doubles victory. Sam Groth and Kyrgios won dead rubbers over Temur Ismailov and Sanjar Fayziev as the Uzbek team went 0-13 on sets in this tie.

Croatia d. Netherlands 3-2
Marin Cilic carried his team into the World Group, coming off his career best US Open victory. In Friday action, Mate Delic, who primarily plays on the challenger circuit, upset ATP regular Igor Sijsling in 4 sets to give Croatia a 1-0 lead. Robin Haase countered for the Dutch over young Croat Borna Coric in straights to make it 1-1. Cilic and Marin Draganja won the doubles rubber over Haase and Jean-Julien Rojer to make it 2-1 in favor of Croatia. Robin Haase forced a live fifth rubber with a 5 set win over Delic, coming back from 2 sets down, but Cilic stepped into the breach and beat Thiemo De Bakker in 4 sets to clinch the tie, a massive result for Croatian tennis.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oivi4bN-NF4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bapl9y_zRAo

Belgium d. Ukraine 3-2
This tie was moved from Ukraine due to the military conflict situation there and played in Estonia on indoor hard. An in-form Belgium team rolled off three straight victories after outspoken Ukranian Sergiy Stakhovsky beat Steve Darcis in the opening Friday singles rubber. David Goffin beat Illya Marchenko in straights, Ruben Bemelmans and Oliver Rochus beat Stakhovsky and Sergei Bubka in the doubles rubber, and Goffin beat Stako in straights on Sunday to clinch the tie. The dead rubber was won by Marchenko over Darcis. If Goffin continues to play well, Belgium may be a dangerous dark horse opponent in the world group.

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2014 Szczecin, Istanbul, Banja Luka, Biella & Seville Challenger Recaps

2014 Szczecin, Istanbul, Banja Luka, Biella & Seville Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

Szczecin

Only one seed in the bottom half survived the first two rounds, as #6 seed Pere Riba lost in the first round of a Challenger for the third week in a row, #4 seed Albert Montanes lost a third set tiebreak in the second round against Lucas Pouille and #5 seed Andreas Beck lost in the first round. Only Dustin Brown lived up to his seeding, going all the way to the final. There he went up against his doubles partner, Jan-Lennard Struff, who reached the final after a strange match against Facundo Arguello, 1-6 6-0 6-2. Brown won the final 6-4 6-3, which saw Struff’s record in Challenger finals drop to a very bad 1-9. For Brown this was a highly important win, as he dropped out of the top 100 last week all the way to #119. This win propels him back to the 96th spot. For Struff the result means a new career high ranking of #61, rising ten spots.

Istanbul

The highly anticipated second round match-up between Jimmy Wang and Alexander Zverev ended in a 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory for the veteran Wang. He couldn’t build on the win, however, as he lost in a third set tiebreak to Tatsuma Ito in the next round. Ito went on to the final after beating Philipp Petzschner in the semi-final. The final ended in an anti-climax, unfortunately, as Ito had to retire due to a left knee injury when the score was 6-0, 2-0 in Adrian Mannarino’s favor. Mannarino had an easy tournament, not dropping a single set en route to the title.

Banja Luka

No shocking results at Banja Luka, with the top 4 players advancing to the semi-finals. Yes, Viktor Troicki was among them as an unseeded player, but we all know how good he is. Troicki beat #4 seed Aljaz Bedene in the quarterfinal 6-4 7-6(5). He wasn’t done yet, as he also beat top seed Blaz Rola 6-2 6-4 to reach his second Challenger final of the year. There he faced Albert Ramos-Vinolas, against whom he fought an epic battle and eventually came out of it the victor 7-5 4-6 7-5. Of course this resulted in another big ranking jump, rising 68 positions to the 170th ranking spot.

Biella

With top seed Benoit Paire withdrawing because of a knee injury, an opportunity was created for some lower ranked players to make a deep run. Funny enough, the lucky loser who replaced Paire, Benjamin Balleret, made it all the way to the semi-final, where he missed a match point before losing to Matteo Viola 6-7(7) 7-6 6-3. Viola took on second seed Filippo Volandri in the final and won that match as well 7-5 6-1. A big result for Viola, winning his third Challenger title and rising 44 ranking spots to #182.

Seville

A second round match was the scene of a remarkable incident, when Lorenzo Giustino received a penalty of three games in his match against David Vega Hernandez, which ended 7-6(4) 6-7(7) 7-6(4) in Vega Hernandez’s favor. Giustino started cramping at 2-1 in the third set, went down, got back up and still broke Vega Hernandez. Giustino went down again and had to receive medical attention on the court, but as you officially can’t receive treatment for cramping he received a time penalty afterwards, which went up all the way to three games due to the lenghty lay-off of five minutes. Therefore, the score went from 3-1 in his favor to 3-4. A tricky matter and opinions vary widely if this was a correct decision from the umpire.

Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta survived two tricky three setters in his first three matches, but after that he cruised to the title after straight set victories against Inigo Cervantes in the semi-final and Taro Daniel in the final. Daniel beat Daniel Munoz-De La Nava in a lengthy match in the quarterfinal 2-6 7-5 7-5. Munoz-De La Nava absolutely hammered second seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver in the first round 6-0 6-3. The final meant a new career high ranking for Daniel, rising 13 spots to #159. Carreno Busta jumped to #63, an improvement of 11.

2014 Izmir, Meknes, Trnava, Campinas & Quito Challenger Previews

2014 Izmir, Meknes, Trnava, Campinas & Quito Challenger Previews
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

Turkey, Morocco, Slovakia, Brazil and Ecuador will provide the venues for this week’s Challenger events, with all of them except for Izmir in Turkey (hardcourt) being played on clay.

Izmir Cup

ATP Challenger Tour
Izmir, Turkey
15-21 September
Prize Money: €106,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Malek Jaziri (96)
2: Filip Krajinovic (107)
3: Alexander Kudryavtsev (132)
4: Evgeny Donskoy (135)
5: Ante Pavic (138)
6: Marsel Ilhan (142)
7: Iliya Marchenko (148)
8: Alexander Zverev (150)

The last direct acceptance is Mirza Basic, ranked 304th.

First round match-ups to watch

(1) Malek Jaziri – (PR) Philipp Petzschner

Petzschner comes off his best week after coming back from injury, reaching the semi-final of the Istanbul Challenger, where he lost in three sets to Tatsuma Ito. Jaziri, on the other hand, lost in the first round of that same tournament to #310 Fabrice Martin 6-4 6-2. We may well see the top seed leave the tournament in the first round for the second week in a row.

Ilija Bozoljac – Borna Coric

Coric is rumored to carry a minor knee injury, but he played a Davis Cup match this weekend on clay, losing in straights to Robin Haase. Prior to that he had a great result on hardcourt, however, reaching the second round of the US Open after beating world number 27 Lukas Rosol. With Bozoljac anything could happen, but a lot of people are hoping Coric will prevail to set up a second round match with another 17 year old: Alexander Zverev.

Top Half

This is a tricky half to predict, with a lot of outsiders having a chance to make a deep run. I’d rate #4 seed Evgeny Donskoy the favorite, but he doesn’t have an easy draw with Mirza Basic, Konstantin Kravchuk/Hiroki Moriya and Ante Pavic being on his path. In the top section, I have the feeling Petzschner will upset top seed Jaziri, making a run to the semi-final to face off with Donskoy.

Bottom Half

A second round match-up between 17 year olds Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric would be really interesting, but Coric has a tricky opener against Ilija Bozoljac. #3 seed Alexander Kudryavtsev also had a bad draw, facing off against Egor Gerasimov in the first round, against whom he lost in straight sets only two months ago. In the bottom section, #2 seed Filip Krajinovic should be able to get through, although Ruben Bemelmans is a dangerous floater when he is on his game. If Krajinovic does well at this tournament, it could mean he enters the top 100 for the first time.

Predictions

Semis:

Donskoy > Petzschner
Krajinovic > Zverev

Final:

Krajinovic > Donskoy

Krajinovic is the player who looks the most consistent and stable at the moment, which should get him through this tournament and into the territory of direct qualification for main tour events. He comes off a great Davis Cup weekend, where he beat Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri to secure a 3-2 victory for his team, so his confidence level should be high.

Morocco Tennis Tour Meknes

ATP Challenger Tour
Meknes, Morocco
15-20 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Pablo Carreno Busta (74)
2: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (75)
3: Damir Dzumhur (113)
4: Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (163)
5: Roberto Carballes Baena (213)
6: Hans Podlipnik-Castillo (218)
7: Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (222)
8: Lucas Pouille (225)

The last direct acceptance is Yannik Reuter, ranked 295th.

First round match-ups to watch

(8) Lucas Pouille – Gerard Granollers

Pouille comes off a good run in Szczecin, where he reached the semi-final and fell to the eventual winner Dustin Brown. Granollers just fell short in his last two first round matches, losing in three sets both times. However, with 42% of his ranking points to defend in the remainder of the year, Granollers desperately has to make something happen.

Top Half

Top seed Carreno Busta is back for more after his victory in Seville last week and I see no reason why he shouldn’t reach another final here. The other seeds in this half are Lucas Pouille, Adrian Menendez-Maceiras and Roberto Carballes Baena, whom I can’t see threatening him. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that the ranking of #4 seed Menendez-Maceiras is about 100 spots worse than Carreno Busta’s.

Bottom Half

What Carreno Busta is to the top half, Ramos-Vinolas is to the bottom half. The only one relatively close to his ranking is Damir Dzumhur, but he played Davis Cup on indoor hardcourt this weekend, so his form remains to be seen. Ramos faces Matteo Viola, last week’s Biella winner, in the second round, which could be a challenge, but he should be able to get through. Ramos lost to Viktor Troicki in a very close encounter in the final of the Baja Luka Challenger last week, so his form is good.

Predictions

Semis:

Carreno Busta > Menendez-Maceiras
Ramos-Vinolas > Dzumhur

Final:

Carreno Busta > Ramos-Vinolas

Arimex Challenger Trophy

ATP Challenger Tour
Trnava, Slovakia
15-21 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Robin Haase (70)
2: Blaz Rola (93)
3: Pere Riba (110)
4: Albert Montanes (111)
5: Andreas Haider-Maurer (118)
6: Adrian Ungur (134)
7: Marton Fucsovics (140)
8: Victor Hanescu (143)

The last direct acceptance is Arthur de Greef, ranked 250th. Last week’s Biella semi-finalist Benjamin Balleret entered the tournament as a special exempt. Jan Hajek, Miloslav Mecir and Karol Beck entered the tournament on a wild card.

First round match-ups to watch

(PR) Steve Darcis – Marco Cecchinato

An interesting encounter between two players who could have well been seeded. Cecchinato picked up his form a bit as of late, reaching a quarter and a semi-final in his last two tournaments. Darcis played Davis Cup on indoor hardcourt this weekend, so it remains to be seen how he will adapt.

(5) Andreas Haider-Maurer – (SE) Benjamin Balleret

Will Balleret be able to continue his form after his unlikely lucky loser run to the semi-final last week? After losing to the world #1616 in qualifying, he got another chance and perhaps should’ve given himself more than a semi-final spot, considering he missed a match point in that match. Haider-Maurer comes off a tournament victory and a semi-final last week, so that’s not an easy customer to try and continue your form against.

Top Half

Top seed Haase should make it to the quarterfinal, but there Darcis, Cecchinato or Ungur will be a tough opponent against whom he could potentially lose. In the bottom section, Haider-Maurer should be able to continue his good form with another semi-final, especially considering #4 seed Albert Montanes isn’t playing his best tennis at the moment.

Bottom Half

#2 seed Blaz Rola ran into Viktor Troicki last week, and here his draw isn’t that pleasant either. In the second round he could face last week’s Biella runner-up Filippo Volandri, after which Mate Delic could wait for him, who had a solid Davis Cup weekend. In the top section, #3 seed Pere Riba has lost his previous two first round matches and is desperately looking for a turnaround. A lot of dangerous unseeded players are lurking here, among them Andrea Arnaboldi and Jason Kubler.

Predictions

Semis:

Haider-Maurer > Haase
Rola > Fucsovics

Final:

Rola > Haider-Maurer

Rola and Haider-Maurer played each other earlier this year on clay in Panama, with Rola winning 7-5 6-3.

Campeonato Internacional de Tenis de Campinas

ATP Challenger Tour
Campinas, Brazil
15-21 September
Prize Money: $40,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Diego Schwartzman (85)
2: Facundo Bagnis (98)
3: Facundo Arguello (116)
4: Gastao Elias (139)
5: Guido Andreozzi (166)
6: Axel Michon (179)
7: Guilherme Clezar (189)
8: Andre Ghem (194)

The last direct acceptance is Fernando Romboli, ranked 409th.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Guilherme Clezar – Gonzalo Lama

Lama entered the top 200 for the first time this month and is well capable of upsetting the seed here. Clezar had a great semi-final run at San Marino last month, but has been a bit shaky in his last couple of matches.

Top Half

Top seed Diego Schwartzman is having a great year, which saw him enter the top 100 for the first time. He should be a fair favorite to advance in this half, although players like Clezar, Facundo Arguello and Guido Andreozzi could pose a threat if they’re on their game. The safest bet here is a Brazilian or Argentinian advancing, since there are only two players with another nationality in this half.

Bottom Half

Second seed Facundo Bagnis is a bigger favorite to reach the final than Schwartzman. Perhaps a dangerous floater like Christian Lindell can trouble him, but I expect Bagnis to reach the final fairly comfortable. Fourth seed Gastao Elias comes off a Davis Cup tie in Russia and hasn’t been in the best of forms lately, so I don’t expect him to pose a threat.

Predictions

Semis:

Schwartzman > Arguello
Bagnis > Ghem

Final:

Schwartzman > Bagnis

XX Challenger ATP Trofeo Ciudad de Quito ‘Diario El Comercio’

ATP Challenger Tour
Quito, Ecuador
15-21 September
Prize Money: $40,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Victor Estrella Burgos (69)
2: Joao Souza (103)
3: Horacio Zeballos (112)
4: Guido Pella (158)
5: Austin Krajicek (164)
6: Chase Buchanan (168)
7: Juan Ignacio Londero (186)
8: Nikola Mektic (230)

The last direct acceptance is Juan Carlos Spir, ranked 433rd.

First round match-ups to watch

(3) Horacio Zeballos – Martin Cuevas

The younger brother of Pablo Cuevas will try to make something happen against the much higher ranked opponent here. Zeballos started the year inside of the top 70, but hasn’t been performing up to that level and now sits at #114.

Top Half

Nobody expected it to happen, but Victor Estrella Burgos even managed to hold his own at the main level this year, at the tender age of 34. With third rounds at Washington and the US Open and a semi-final at Bogota he has performed extremely well and posted a career high ranking of 69. In this field one has to mark him a favorite, especially considering he is 2-0 against #3 seed Zeballos, with both matches ending in straight sets. Perhaps fifth seed Austin Krajicek can cause another surprise, after winning Medellin Challenger out of nowhere two weeks ago. Last year Estrella won the title here, so he should feel really comfortable coming back.

Bottom Half

Second seed Joao Souza lost the final of the Medellin Challenger to Krajicek and in this half he should be favored to reach another final. He is likely to face Guido Pella in the semi-final, but he hasn’t been in great form and should be beaten quite easily by Souza. None of the other players in this half have been displaying a good enough form to be able to beat Souza, so any of them rising up to the occasion would be a big surprise.

Predictions

Semis:

Estrella Burgos > Zeballos
Souza > Pella

Final:

Souza > Estrella Burgos

Hard one to predict, since it can go either way. Souza leads the head to head 3-2, with three of those ending in three sets and one with Estrella retiring in the second set.

2014 ATP Metz (@MoselleOpen) Preview, Predictions

2014 ATP Metz Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

ATP-METZ
Because the ATP event in St. Petersburg that is normally played this week was moved to Tel Aviv, and then the new ATP Tel Aviv event got cancelled this year, there is only one ATP event this week, a 250 indoors in Metz.

ATP Metz
Moselle Open
ATP World Tour 250
Metz, France
September 15-September 21, 2014
Prize Money: € 410,200

Top 4 seeds (who all receive first round byes) (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (12)
2: Gael Monfils (18)
3: Philipp Kohlschreiber (24)
4: Lukas Rosol (27)

It is a French-heavy field in Metz, with two top 20 players, and the action should be interesting enough.

First Round matchups to watch:

Gilles Muller vs. Edouard Roger-Vasselin
The big serving Muller has had a strong season, primarily at the challenger level, and he has already posted an 11-5 record on indoor hard courts this year. Roger-Vasselin, by contrast, has been struggling for a while and has not won back-to-back matches since the grass court season. The indoor h2h favors ERV 2-1, but I would not read a lot into the head-to-head matchups since they occurred years ago. I am going with Muller in a slight upset to win this matchup.

Paolo Lorenzi vs. (WC) Laurent Lokoli
The young Frenchman Lokoli gets a wild card here and has a great chance to get some experience off of clay against ATP level competition. He has shown promise at the challenger level, and he also qualified for the French Open.
Lorenzi, meanwhile, is known for mailing it in on hardcourts, and he is a beatable opponent for Lokoli, who is actually favored going in. This one could go either way depending on how good Lokoli plays.

(6)Joao Sousa vs. Ivan Dodig
Joao Sousa comes off a pair of losses, the first in the second round of the US Open, and the second in Davis Cup action. He will face the tough task of rebounding against Ivan Dodig, who is still finding his way back into form from injury. Dodig has three straight losses, but he should still be the favorite to snap that losing streak and reach the second round. Style and matchup wise, he has the advantage.

Top Half:

Two time Metz champion, and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga opens with the Muller/ERV winner. Tsonga would want to face ERV as he has beaten him four times this season and seven times since 2012, meanwhile he is 0-1 against Muller, though that match took place years ago. Regardless of who he faces, Tsonga, who is in-form after a fourth round showing at the US Open and a win in Davis Cup action on clay, should get through to the quarterfinals to face the red-hot David Goffin. Goffin won a pair of Davis Cup rubbers to propel Belgium to victory in their tie without dropping a set and he has won at minimum consecutive matches at every tournament he has participated in since Wimbledon.

The path for Goffin is a qualifier and Tobias Kamke/qualifier. He should get through that without dropping a set if he still has stamina left after Davis Cup action.

A former Metz finalist, Philipp Kohlschreiber played admirably at the US Open and reached the second week. He has not had the strongest of seasons by his standards but he should be looking to continue his positive momentum against the Lokoli/Lorenzi winner. After that, a quarterfinal duel with one of Dusan Lajovic/JL Struff/Nicolas Mahut/Jeremy Chardy awaits. This is a toss-up section as Lajovic played Davis Cup in India, for Serbia, and is probably exhausted, though he is a rising young player. Struff is competent indoors, but he is coming off losing a clay challenger final in Poland. Mahut won a challenger in France while the US Open was going on, suddenly finding form, while fellow Frenchman Chardy is a streaky player. Indoors, I favor Mahut to survive this section, especially since he is a home player with his previous indoor talents.

Bottom Half:

A former winner in Metz, Gael Monfils remains a fan favorite, and he played some tremendous tennis this summer that he hopes to continue into the fall season. Le Monf opens with a qualifier, then is likely to face Jerzy Janowicz in the quarterfinals. Janowicz must get through Adrian Mannarino, who had a good week on the challenger circuit before having to retire in the final of Istanbul. Janowicz/Mannarino are slated to face the Jarkko Nieminen/Sergiy Stakhovsky winner in round 2. Stakhovsky was competent in Davis Cup for Ukraine, splitting singles rubbers, and Nieminen has dominated the h2h in that one, though he’s been struggling. Given fatigue should be a factor, I have Nieminen into round 2 and Janowicz into the quarters before falling to Monfils.

Lukas Rosol struggled for the Czech Republic in Davis Cup against France. He has lost two straight matches and will open with the winner of Benjamin Becker/Paul-Henri Mathieu. Both players are steady, but declining veterans who could pose trouble for the Czech ball-basher. Neither Becker nor Mathieu are in great form though, and Rosol should be the superior player to reach the quarterfinals. The Sousa/Dodig winner will be the favored quarterfinalist from the section above Rosol. The winner of that round 1 battle will face Andreas Seppi/Igor Sijsling in round 2. Seppi and Sijsling both saw their teams lose Davis Cup ties this weekend and Sijsling suffered an upset loss in his singles rubber. I’d favor Dodig or Sousa over Seppi, and Dodig just beat Seppi in Toronto this summer, so he should make the quarterfinals in what could be a great week for the Croat.

Dark Horse: Ivan Dodig
Dodig is well above .500 on indoor hard courts over the past four seasons and he has a draw he can take advantage of as an unseeded player if he has moved past the rust of coming back from injury. His big serving should conquer Sousa and propel him past Seppi/Sijsling and Rosol if the Czech is in poor form. I have him in the semifinals this week before falling to Monfils.

Predictions
Semis:
Tsonga d. Kohlschreiber
Monfils d. Dodig

Tsonga has been playing great tennis overall as of late, and he has two career wins over Goffin. He has also dominated the h2h with Kohlschreiber. He has a win over the German this year on clay and has won six meetings since 2009 on a variety of surfaces, and he also beat him in Metz in 2007. Tsonga has been the better player this year and should make the final.

Monfils and Janowicz have never met, but I favor Gael given the form factor. JJ just seems too inconsistent to be reliable against a player who can reach his power shots. Monfils is 2-0 against Dodig and in better form, so we should be on a collision course for an all French final between the two in-form French players.

Final:
Monfils d. Tsonga

A case can be made for both players to win the title this week: Tsonga leads the h2h 4-1 and the indoor h2h is split 1-1. Tsonga would likely be favored, but I feel like Monfils is underrated at the moment and I’m going with him to take the title.

Israel-Argentina Davis Cup Day 1 Recap

Israel-Argentina Davis Cup Day 1 Recap
Jonathan Morgan, Tennis East Coast

With the current unrest in the Middle East, the ITF decided to move the Davis Cup World Group Playoff between Israel and Argentina from Tel-a-Viv, Israel to Sunrise, Florida. This neutral venue would provide, in theory, an equal cheering section for both teams.

First, we had the opening ceremony:

The first match of the day was #25 in the world Leo Mayer of Argentina vs. Bar Botzer (#776) of Israel. Botzer was called in to replace the injured Amir Weintraub.

It appeared as though Israel still got the lion’s share of the support. Not as much as they’d receive at home, but throughout the day, Israel had on average more people cheering for them.

Botzer started out nervous, hitting several easy early errors in the opening game and was broken. After that opening game, however, he loosened up and held his own in the set before Mayer won it by 6-4.

Botzer is very Hewitt-like, both in appearance and game style, save for the one handed backhand he possesses.

In the Davis Cup, you play for your team first, and yourself 2nd:

In the 2nd set, Mayer had the break with 3-2, but with 2 double faults, some loud Israeli support and Botzer showing his best, he was able to break back, then hold for 4-3. On the changeover, the Israeli crowd support got even louder. And when Botzer broke again (Mayer a bit loose, and 2 more double faults), and served it out, he belted a big “C’mon!” like Hewitt and ripped out the lawn mower celebration!

After they split sets, both took a bathroom break. In the 3rd, Mayer calmed down a bit and was able to play a normal game and won it by 6-2. Botzer looked to strain a leg muscle sliding into a shot on the hard court and called the trainer between 3rd and 4th sets. He was still able to compete, but he was unable to keep up his level. Mayer won the remaining 2 sets by 6-2, 6-1, but Botzer played a very good match considering he is 700+ in the world rankings vs. a top 25er. The Israelis could not have asked for much more from their young guy in the opening rubber.

Some videos:

A point early in the match:

Argentina + Daft Punk:

After Botzer won the 2nd, the Israelis going crazy!- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sANikhalNgE

More dancing!

More Argentina singing:

2014 Davis Cup Semifinals Preview, Predictions

2014 Davis Cup Semifinals Preview, Predictions
Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast

Gasquet

Gasquet

Czech Republic @ France
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris
Surface: Outdoor Red Clay

Rubber 1: Thomas Berdych vs Richard Gasquet
Rubber 2: Lukas Rosol vs Jo-Wilfired Tsonga
Rubber 3: Radek Stepnaek/Jiri Vesely vs Julian Benneteau/Gael Monfils
Rubber 4: Thomas Berdych vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Rubber 5: Lukas Rosol vs Richard Gasquet

France selected clay in an attempt to neutralize Rosol and Berdych, both of whom play their weakest tennis on the red dirt. The French have many advantages here: the home crowd, the surface and the form of their players. However, team captain Arnaud Clement has made the controversial decision to play Gasquet in singles instead of Gael Monfils, who is certainly in better form, arguably the stronger player on clay and more embracing of a wild crowd like the ones that the Davis Cup bring. The selection of Gasquet will make this tie a closer affair and give the Czechs a fighting chance of going into Paris and getting the upset. Berdych should defeat Gasquet in the opening match. Barring a truly inspired display from Rosol, Tsonga will then even the tie at 1-1 heading into day 2. The remaining matches are all a slight edge to France, meaning they should take 2 of the 3 to beat the Czech Republic 3-2.

Italy @ Switzerland
Venue: Palexpo, Geneva
Surface: Indoor Hard

Roger Federer

Rubber 1: Simone Bolelli vs Roger Federer
Rubber 2: Fabio Fognini vs Stanislas Wawrinka
Rubber 3: Paolo Lorenzi/Andreas Seppi vs Roger Federer/Stanislas Wawrinka
Rubber 4: Fabio Fognini vs Roger Federer
Rubber 5: Simone Bolelli vs Stanislas Wawrinka

Switzerland looks to continue their march to a maiden Davis Cup title and Federer looks to add the elusive Davis Cup title to his immense resume. For Italy, they are trying to extend an already impressive Davis Cup run that included Fabio Fognini routining Andy Murray in Napoli to send Italy into the semis. Fognini will need to produce an even more magnificent display of tennis and get plenty of help from Simone Bolelli, who has been preferred to Andrea Seppi in singles, if Italy is to pull off a massive upset in Geneva. Switzerland is the heavy favorite in all 5 ties and should roll at home to the final.

2014 Genova, Medellin, Shanghai, Alphen, St. Remy & Brasov Challenger Recaps

2014 Genova, Medellin, Shanghai, Alphen, St. Remy & Brasov Challenger Recaps
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

Vik Troicki

Vik Troicki


Genova

The much anticipated first round clash between Viktor Troicki and second seed Dustin Brown, the defending champion, resulted in a victory for the Serb, 6-1 7-6(4). Brown had a 5-2 lead in the second set, but couldn’t build on it. The loss means he lost his top 100 spot and now sits at the 119th ranking position. Troicki, surprisingly, fell in the quarterfinal to Mate Delic in a dramatic encounter, 7-6(6) 1-6 7-6(8). Delic barely made it into the main draw, entering as an alt, but he made it all the way to the final, where he lost, 6-1 7-5 to top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Only his first round match against qualifier Adelchi Virgili was challenging, as it was the only one in which he dropped a set. The victory means a significant rise in the rankings for the Spaniard, going from #95 to #75. Delic lands at a new career high ranking of #154, rising 24 places.

Medellin

This tournament turned out to be a really surprising one, as American Austin Krajicek stunned a lot of accomplished clay court players en route to the title. Sure, he was seeded (#8), but Krajicek’s clay court résumé is pretty much non-existent and no one saw him making a dent this tournament. He fought really hard and survived three three set matches, against Giovanni Lapentti in the second round, top seed Alejandro Gonzalez in the quarterfinal and Andre Ghem in the semi-final. In the final he beat third seed Joao Souza, 7-5 6-3 to claim his first ever Challenger title, with his ranking rising to #164.

Shanghai

The seeds held up nicely in Shanghai, as six of them made it to the quarterfinals. Fourth seed James Duckworth lost to Yoshihito Nishioka in the second round. Nishioka, who qualified for the US Open and fell to Paolo Lorenzi in the first round, suffering from problems with the heat, clearly recovered from those physical problems as he went all the way to the final. There, he faced second seed Somdev Devvarman, with whom he fought out a marathon match. Eventually Nishioka prevailed, winning 6-4 6-7(5) 7-6(3) after saving a match point at 5-6 in the third set with a clean forehand winner. It’s the first Challenger title for the 18 year old, who rises 78 ranking spots to #167. Devvarman’s ranking remains the same, as he defended secound round points from the US Open.

Alphen

My prediction considering top seed Robin Haase’s performance here came through, just like at the Sport1 Open a month and a half ago. Jesse Huta Galung was too much for him, 6-4 1-6 6-4. Huta Galung withdrew from his previous two tournaments with injury and was about to withdraw from this one as well, but his girlfriend convinced the three time Alphen winner to play. It just goes to show how important it is to have a strong woman by your side, as Huta Galung didn’t drop another set en route to his fourth Alphen title. A remarkable achievement considering his horrific year, in which he dropped from #92 to outside of the top 200. Ironically, Huta Galung will not be playing the Davis Cup tie against Croatia this week, while the players who will had a terrible week.

Haase’s faith is known. Second seed Igor Sijsling got absolutely hammered by Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, the eventual runner-up, in the quarterfinal, 6-3 6-2. Fourth seed Thiemo de Bakker lost 6-3 6-7(4) 6-4 to Kimmer Coppejans in the first round after having an absolutely shocking break point conversion of 0/17.

The performance of young Frenchman Tristan Lamasine deserves a notion as well, as he defeated #3 seed Daniel Gimeno-Traver to reach the second Challenger semi-final of his career. He started the year outside of the top 600, but currently is on the verge of breaking the top 200 at #216. Huta Galung re-enters the top 200 at #190, an improvement of 39 spots, while Munoz-De La Nava makes a big jump from #309 to #255.

Huta Galung stated that he wants to get back into the top 100, with the top 150 being his goal for the remainder of this season.

St. Remy

The tournament started off with the end of Alexander Zverev’s downswing, as he had hit a rough patch after his breakthrough semi-final at Hamburg. He eliminated top seed Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round, another top 100 scalp for the 17 year old, 6-4 6-2. Zverev eventually fell in the quarterfinal against #7 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 7-5 4-6 6-2. Vincent Millot was the surprise of the tournament. The unseeded Frenchman eliminated second seed Sergiy Stakhovsky in the semi-final and Nicolas Mahut was needed to stop him in the final, as the third seed beat him 6-7(3) 6-4 6-3 to claim the title. The result saw Mahut back into the top 100 at #95, rising eight spots.

Brasov

A tournament to quickly forget for second seed Pere Riba, who got upset by Roberto Marcora in the first round, 4-6 6-1 6-2. Not only Riba disappointed, but every seed in this half did, as the quarterfinal spots were solely occupied by unseeded players. #3 Facundo Arguello fell in the first round as well, while #5 Gerald Melzer and #7 Marius Copil fell in the second round. Melzer fell to qualifier Guillaume Rufin, who profited from the draw opening up and made it all the way to the final. There, top seed Andreas Haider-Maurer was simply too strong, 6-3 6-2. Surprisingly enough, neither of the finalists saw their ranking improve. Haider-Maurer was defending the title, while Rufin was defending a second round performance at the US Open.