ATP Shanghai, Brasov, St. Remy Challenger Previews, Predictions

ATP Shanghai, Brasov, St. Remy Challenger Previews, Predictions
Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

Road To The Shanghai Rolex Masters
ATP Challenger Tour
Shanghai, China
August 31-Septmebr 7
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1. Go Soeda (106)
2. Somdev Devvarman (143)
3. Yuki Bhambri (151)
4. James Duckworth (154)
5. Luca Vanni (170)
6. Ze Zhang (182)
7. Di Wu (210)
8. Thomas Fabbiano (224)

First round matchups to watch:

Danai Udomchoke vs Hyeon Chung
Battle of young vs old here as 33 year old veteran Udomchoke battles against 18-year-old rising star Chung. Chung is coming off a big challenger win in Bangkok last week where he beat Udomchoke 7-5 6-3 in the first round. These two will have a rare back-to-back week rematch here in Shanghai. It will be a big test for the 18-year-old’s stamina to see how he can cope with playing the very next week after a long week in Bangkok.

Go Soeda vs Jason Jung
Soeda is going through a very rough patch at the moment. He was blasted in US Open qualies by out of practice Oscar Hernandez. Despite being the 31 seed here in Shanghai, Soeda is largely not expected to win this title. He has a formidable test in round 1 vs gritty American Jason Jung. Jung, the former college player for the Michigan Wolverines, is good on hard courts and can give Soeda a tough test and potentially pull the upset over the top seed and end the Japanese’s run before it even begins.

Top half preview:

Soeda is the top seed in the top half but is in poor form, leaving the draw wide open for anyone to make a semifinal run. The top half also includes James Duckworth and Ze Zhang, two players who had disappointing losses in New York as they attempted to qualify for the US Open. It will be interesting to see if Zhang can put his heartbreaking loss to James McGee behind him and show up in his home country, where he has semifinal points from a year ago to defend.

The most interesting player in the top half of the draw is Yoshihito Nishioka, the Japanese youngster who just qualified for his first major at the US Open. He had to retire in his match vs Lorenzi in round 1 in NYC, but he is thought to be near 100% here in Shanghai. He is likely headed for a big 2nd round match with James Duckworth and then potentially a quarterfinal vs Ze Zhang.

Bottom Half Preview:

The more interesting half of the draw is the bottom half. It boasts the top two Indian players in the world, Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri, as well as Chinese #2 Di Wu, who will be playing close to home in Shanghai.

This section is another wide-open one, as just like the top half, the top seed in the half (#2 seed Somdev Devvarman) is in dreadful form. Despite the poor form, Devvarman has found himself in a soft quarter and should reach the quarters with little sweat and likely to face Di Wu, who is also in a soft quarter.

A potential sleeper in this section is Sanam Singh. The former elite college player at the University of Virginia has been on a roll lately. He won 8 matches just to get into the US Open qualies and qualified here. He is best on fast hard courts and could do damage here.

Predictions

Quarters:

Fabbiano def Uchiyama
Zhang def Duckworth
Bhambri def Singh
Wu def Devvarman

Semis:

Zhang def Fabbiano
Bhambri def Wu

Final:

Bhambri def Zhang

I look for Yuki Bhambri to get a big challenger win here in Shanghai. He has been in relatively good form and really needs this to boost himself closer towards the top 100. Wu and Zhang will give great efforts in their home countries but come up just short for the title. An all-Chinese final is not out of the question if Wu can get past Bhambri in the semifinals.

BRD Brasov Challenger
ATP Challenger Tour
Brasov, Romania
August 31-September 7
$45,950

Top 8 seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses):
1. Andreas Haider-Maurer (110)
2. Pere Riba (116)
3. Facundo Arguello (120)
4. Adrian Ungur (137)
5. Gerald Melzer (145)
6. Chase Buchanan (158)
7. Marius Copil (175)
8. Jarsolav Pospisil (195)

Top Half Preview:

The Top half is well balanced with a few players who could make a semi or final run. Haider-Maurer is the favorite to emerge from the section, but home country Romanian Adrian Ungur could be a spoiler in the section for the top seed. American and former Ohio State Buckeye player Chase Buchanan is in the top half, making an interesting choice to venture out and play on European clay after spending most of his career on American hard courts. It is hard to see him beating more experienced clay courters on European soil.

Bottom Half Preview:
The bottom half is the stronger of the two halves as even the unseeded players are dangerous. Players like Guillame Rufin and Lucas Pouille lurk, and they could be sleepers in this tournament. Despite the strength of the unseeded players, the seeds are favored to move on to the quarters here. Copil, Arguello, Melzer and Riba are all pretty good players on the dirt and make their livings grinding out European challenger events. How much advantage will the hometown venue and crowd give Copil here vs the more established clay players Arguello and Riba? That is the question in this part of the draw.

Predictions:

Quarters:

Haider-Maurer def Buchanan
Ungur def Veic
Arguello def Copil
Riba def Rufin

Semifinals:

Haider-Maurer def Ungur
Arguello def Riba

Final:

Haider-Maurer def Arguello

There will be some long 3 setters late in this tournament that will decide the winner. I expect Arguello vs Copil to be a war in the quarters as well as the semifinal. Coming off of two hard fought matches, Arguello will be a little bit too spent to overcome Haider-Maurer, who will have had an easier road to the final.

Trophee Des Alpilles
ATP Challenger Tour
St. Remy, France
September 2-September 7 2014
$55,763

Top Seeds: (ATP rank)
1. Paul Henri Mathieu (81)
2. Sergei Stakhovsky (93)
3. Nicolas Mahut (103)
4. Kenny De Schepper (105)
5. Evgeny Donskoy (118)
6. Norbert Gombos (129)
7. Pierre Herbert (136)
8. Hiroki Moriya (149)

First round matches to watch:

Paul-Henri Mathieu vs Alexander Zverev

ATP veteran Mathieu is the top seed here in St.Remy. He probably possesses the most ability of all the players in the draw, but his motivation can be questioned for a challenger event for a player used to ATP level matches. Meanwhile, Zverev is one of the hottest prospects in the game right now. The 17-year-old German burst onto the scene with a semifinal run in his hometown Hamburg 500 event in July and has had people talking since. This will be a very intriguing match to follow. Experience vs promise.

Top half Preview:

Mathieu is the top seed here and looms at the top of the draw. The rest of the seeds in this section are not the most intimidating, as Mahut is in poor form while Gombos and Herbert are very beatable despite their seeds. That leaves the door open for players like Josselin Ouanna and Fabrice Martin.

Bottom half Preview:

Stakhovsky is the favorite in this section, but dangerous floaters loom. Evgeny Donskoy has a good shot to get out of this section and to the final, as does unseeded Ruben Bemelmans. The winner of Donskoy vs Stakhovsky could very well win this whole tournament.

Predictions:

Quarterfinals:

Zverev def Herbert
Martin def Mahut
Bemelmans def De Schepper
Donskoy def Stakhovsky

Semifinals:

Martin def Zverev
Donskoy def Bemelmans

Final:

Donskoy def Martin

A little bit of a surprise here. Martin has no recent results to indicate he can make the final here, but the others in the section are either in poor form, lacking in proper motivation or too inexperienced and that is why Martin will emerge as the surprise finalist here. Donskoy overcomes Stakhovsky in a very tight match and from that big win will roll to the title herein St. Remy.

About these ads

ATP Genova, Alphen aan den Rijn, Medellin Challenger Previews, Predictions

ATP Genova, Alphen aan den Rijn, Medellin Challenger Previews, Predictions
Chris De Waard, Tennis East Coast

ATP Challenger Tour Official Page

AON Open Challenger

ATP Challenger Tour
Genova, Italy
2-7 September
Prize Money: €85,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Albert Ramos-Vinolas (95)
2: Dustin Brown (97)
3: Benoit Paire (98)
4: Albert Montanes (114)
5: Andreas Beck (115)
6: Damir Dzumhur (119)
7: Aljaz Bedene (133)
8: Gastao Elias (142)

The last direct acceptance is Pedro Sousa, ranked 312th. Viktor Troicki entered this tournament on a special exempt after his victorious run last week and plays second seed Dustin Brown in the first round.

First round match-ups to watch

(2) Dustin Brown – (SE) Viktor Troicki

Obviously. This is a match that easily could’ve taken place at Grand Slam or 500 level, but in a way it’s better for us on Challenger level since we are now guaranteed a stream. Brown must hate his draw. Not only did he as the second seed draw someone who won a Challenger last week, he is the defending champion and now there is a very reasonable chance he crashes out in the first round. Brown currently sits just inside the top 100 at #97, but if Troicki beats him he would drop out of the top 120, so it’s a crucial match for him. He has to hope for one of his good days, since he’ll need to overpower Troicki while keeping the unforced error count lower than he usually does.

Top Half

#4 seed Albert Montanes starts off with a tricky match against Marton Fucsovics, a man who is twelve years his junior and is well capable of upsetting him. However, after moving away from the main tour, Montanes has picked up his results again, winning the Cordenons Challenger two weeks ago, so he should still be favored to get past Fucsovics. After that, a potential meeting with Gastao Elias awaits him should the Portuguese beat Volandri, who beat him 6-4 6-3 at Hamburg earlier this year. Top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas should be able to get through his section, although seventh seed Aljaz Bedene may put up some stiff resistance. After all, the last clay Challenger Bedene played he won, in Italy, even: Todi in early July.

Bottom Half

This is an interesting one. Second seed Brown could fall to Troicki and with third seed Benoit Paire, you never know what you are going to get. Put some dangerous floaters like Marco Cecchinato and Potito Starace in the mix and it becomes a very difficult half to predict. The other two seeds, Damir Dzumhur and Andreas Beck, are in pretty good form as well, so it’s basically anyone’s final to reach. Nevertheless, I have to pick someone, but I wouldn’t advise putting your house on it.

Predictions

Semis:

Ramos-Vinolas > Elias
Paire > Dzumhur

Final:

Ramos-Vinolas > Paire

Ramos-Vinolas has played Elias twice already this year, with Ramos-Vinolas winning both matches in three sets. He also played against Paire, in Umag, where he beat him 7-5 6-3, so Ramos-Vinolas has to be favored over his opponents partially due to this 2014 head to head advantage.

TEAN International 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands
2-7 September
Prize Money: €42,500

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Robin Haase (70)
2: Igor Sijsling (72)
3: Daniel Gimeno-Traver (101)
4: Thiemo de Bakker (140)
5: Victor Hanescu (150)
6: Axel Michon (180)
7: Matteo Viola (193)
8: Roberto Carballes Baena (212)

The last direct acceptance is Inigo Cervantes, ranked 303rd.

First round match-ups to watch

(1) Robin Haase – Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo

Haase has been playing on hardcourt in past weeks and his last clay court match didn’t leave him with pleasant memories, as he lost 6-2 6-3 to Paolo Lorenzi in Kitzbühel, a tournament where he normally excels. To play a solid veteran grinder like Ramirez Hidalgo isn’t ideal when you have a lack of rhythm and he might make Haase pay here. Haase’s previous Dutch Challenger didn’t end all that well either, as he needed three sets to beat world #494 Dino Marcan in the first round and fell in straights to Jesse Huta Galung in the next round.

Top Half

There is quite the ranking difference between the two top seeds, Haase and Gimeno-Traver, and the rest of the field, making them the clear favorites to face off against each other in the semi-final. The second highest seed, Michon, is ranked eighty ranking spots below Gimeno-Traver and a massive 110 above Haase. That said, Haase is projected to play Huta Galung in the second round, who beat him at the Sport1 Open in July. Although Huta Galung pulled out injured in his qualifying match at the US Open, when he is healthy he may well beat Haase.

Bottom Half

Thiemo de Bakker is in a perfect position to make a run here, with two relatively easy first rounds and a projected match against slumping fifth seed Victor Hanescu or Hans Podlipnik-Castillo in the quarterfinal. Second seed Igor Sijsling, despite his form crisis, should be the slight favorite to reach the semi-final from the other section, but against De Bakker he will be the underdog, as De Bakker is quite clearly the more natural clay court player.

Predictions

Semis:

Gimeno-Traver > Huta Galung
De Bakker > Sijsling

Final:

Gimeno-Traver > De Bakker

This final would be a repeat of last year’s semi-final, when Gimeno-Traver managed to oust De Bakker in three sets. Top seed Haase has a tricky draw with Ramirez Hidalgo and Huta Galung back to back, with especially his countryman being a real danger as shown in past meetings.

Claro Open Medellin 2014

ATP Challenger Tour
Medellin, Colombia
2-7 September
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Alejandro Gonzalez (100)
2: Facundo Bagnis (109)
3: Joao Souza (113)
4: Guido Pella (155)
5: Wayne Odesnik (176)
6: Guilherme Clezar (190)
7: Gonzalo Lama (198)
8: Austin Krajicek (202)

The last direct acceptance is Martin Cuevas, ranked 376th.

First round match-ups to watch

(7) Gonzalo Lama – Kevin King

Not only does his name remind one of his legendary countryman Fernando Gonzalez, Gonzalo Lama’s game shows similarities as well, most notably his forehand, on which he can create similar rotation. The 21 year old won his first Challenger title in Colombia in April of this year, so he should feel comfortable coming back to the country. He plays Kevin King, who made an interesting choice coming here to play on clay, a surface which he hasn’t played on since April, when he reached the second round of the San Luis Potosi Challenger in Mexico.

Top Half

Top seed Alejandro Gonzalez should cruise through his section, which contains #8 seed Austin Krajicek, who isn’t impressive on clay in the slightest. #4 seed Guido Pella might look threatening in name, but has been struggling with injury for quite some time and probably isn’t ready yet to pose a serious challenge. It should, however, be an interesting battle between him and Wayne Odesnik for a semi-final spot.

Bottom Half

#2 seed Facundo Bagnis performed above expectations at the US Open, coming through the qualification draw and falling to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. He most likely will face Lama in the quarterfinal, a match which I’m looking forward to very much. They have already played earlier this year at Caltanissetta in Italy, with Bagnis winning 6-4 6-4. In the other section third seed Joao Souza will probably get through to the semi-final, considering the good form he is in. In his last three Challenger events he made two semi-finals and a quarterfinal.

Predictions

Semis:

Gonzalez > Pella
Bagnis > Souza

Final:

Bagnis > Gonzalez

In a match-up between Bagnis and Gonzalez, it’s hard to ignore their previous match, played at a Challenger in Santiago last year, where Bagnis absolutely hammered Gonzalez 6-0 6-3.

2014 ATP Bangkok, Como Challenger Recaps

2014 ATP Bangkok, Como Challenger Recaps
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

 

Bangkok Official Site

Bangkok

Top seed Go Soeda fought through his US Open disappointment, where he lost in the first qualifying round against Oscar Hernandez, to comfortably go through to the semi-final without dropping a set. However, he got upset by unseeded 18 year old Hyeon Chung, who went through after a tough three set match, 6-4 2-6 6-4. This tournament was a great place to be for the new generation, as another unseeded youngster in the other half of the draw made a deep run as well: 20 year old Jordan Thompson.

Thompson showed incredible form as he didn’t just beat the higher ranked opponents on his path: he obliterated them. First up was second seed James Duckworth in the second round, as the Australian fell 6-2 6-4 to his younger countryman. In the quarterfinal, sixth seed Kyle Edmund had no chance as Thompson comfortably beat him 6-3 6-1. A similar pattern followed in the semi-final, when third seed Luca Vanni fell 6-1 6-3.

An all-youngster final between Chung and Thompson it was, in which Chung went down 2-5 in the first set, but ultimately ousted Thompson 7-6(0) 6-4 to win his first title on the Challenger tour. Needless to say that their rankings will rise significantly after this success: Thompson jumps approximately 50 spots from his current ranking of #278, while Chung will crack the top 200 for the first time and lands around 185th spot, a jump of 65.

Como

Prior to the tournament the biggest question was where qualifier Viktor Troicki would end up in the draw, since that was bound to change the entire dynamic. He ended up in top seed Facundo Arguello’s quarter, which set them up for a bombshell meeting in the quarterfinal. They both made it there and Troicki showed he is the former top 20 player between them, comfortably winning 6-3 6-2. Another qualifier on the comeback trail, Jurgen Zopp, finally showed some good form and set up a semi-final meeting with Troicki after he took out two seeds playing in their home country: fourth seed Filippo Volandri (6-3 6-1) and sixth seed Potito Starace (3-6 7-6(4) 6-0).

In the bottom half, the seeds fell like flies, as #3 seed Adrian Ungur and #7 seed Marco Cecchinato lost in the first round, while #2 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert and #5 seed Victor Hanescu lost only one round later. Louk Sorensen and Ilija Bozoljac took advantage as they made it to the semi-final, in which Sorensen scraped by Bozoljac 4-6 6-2 6-4.

However, Troicki was clearly the man of the tournament as he beat Zopp 6-3 6-4 and Sorensen 6-3 6-2 to take the first title of his comeback and his third overall Challenger title. This, of course, means a huge ranking jump for the Serb, rising from 408 to around 260. Sorensen posted a new career high ranking as he broke the top 200 for the first time, landing around the 185th ranking spot.

2014 US Open Week 2 Men’s Preview, Picks

2014 US Open Week 2 Men’s Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast

An exciting first week of action is in the books in Flushing Meadows and most of the big names have survived into the second week, while some new faces also dot the landscape. Here is a look at what has occurred this past week and what should happen the rest of the tournament.

Round of 16 matchups:

(1)Novak Djokovic vs. (22)Philipp Kohlschreiber
Djokovic has been on fire in his first three matches, putting up a bagel and pair of breadsticks en route to straight sets wins over Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, Paul-Henri Mathieu, and Sam Querrey. None of his opponents have managed more than 4 games in a set against him. There were doubts going in, but even against mid-level competition those doubts appear to have vanished.

Kohlschreiber, meanwhile, yet again made the round of 16 by knocking out the last American in the draw, John Isner, this time in 4 sets, as the German weathered an assault of aces by the American, and played a trio of clutch tiebreaks to get the victory. He also has wins over Facundo Bagnis and Michael Llodra this week, and has just dropped the lone set to Isner en route to the round of 16.

That said, Djokovic should dispatch the German. He has won 4 of their 5 meetings, and the last 3 meetings going back to to 2010. Kohli has won a set in the last three meetings so this could go 4, but Novak is back in cyborg mode and probably won’t be bothered even that much.

(8)Andy Murray vs. (9)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
That match I was really looking forward to at the start of the week will take place in the round of 16. Murray has had a topsy-turvy week that featured four set wins over Robin Haase in round 1, and Andrey Kuznetsov in round 3. Sandwiched in the middle was a straight sets routine win over Matthias Bachinger. Murray has played clockwork tennis at times, but in the Haase match where he was cramping, and also for a little over a set in the Kuznetsov match, he endured lapses in play and looked like a totally different player on the court. He very nearly avoided a collapse against Haase that would have sent the match to five sets, and going on walkabouts is unusual compared to his previous standard of play before this season.

Tsonga has had less trouble reaching the second week. He won in 4 over Juan Monaco in round 1, but truly did dictate that match, and also won in straights over Alex Nedovyesov, and Pablo Carreno-Busta. He has been aggressive, the forehand has been snappy, the movement loose, and everything appears to be working for the Frenchman early on.

This is, of course, a rematch of their Toronto match earlier this summer that Tsonga won in 3 sets, and I’m sticking with my original prediction that Tsonga will get through to the quarterfinals. Murray has been much more inconsistent and Tsonga is a player who can seize the momentum and punish Murray getting complacent in a way only so many of Murray’s opponents can. Tsonga in 4 is my pick.

(3)Stan Wawrinka vs. (16)Tommy Robredo
Wawrinka has looked comfortable in the two matches he has played. His third round match that was supposed to be against Blaz Kavcic became a walkover when Kavcic withdrew, and his match preparation for this fourth round encounter took place against Jiri Vesely in round 1, a match he won in straight sets, and against Thomaz Bellucci in round 2, a match he won in 4 sets. Both matches featured tiebreaks and were competitive, but Wawrinka narrowly escaped being pushed any further than that as his opponents missed their opportunities to truly open the match up.

Robredo won in 3 over Edouard Roger-Vasselin, then had to survive an absolute dogfight against Simone Bolelli in round 2. The Italian peppered his forehand for a two set lead, and then came close to closing the match out in straights before a bad call helped Robredo regain some momentum, and he fought his way back over the tired Italian. In round 3, he weathered an early assault from the young Nick Kyrgios, who won multiple matches in a grand slam main draw yet again, having further established himself as a competitive ATP player. Kyrgios went up a set and a break, but it was one way traffic for Robredo from there on out as he won in 4 sets, most notably with a big third set tiebreak victory that sealed Kyrgios fate.

Robredo has an overall h2h lead of 6-2 on Stan the Man, but Stan did beat him in 3 sets at the AO this year. Robredo had a win last season on hard court and otherwise dominates the series. Wawrinka has looked good, but I’ve noticed some slight blips in his game, and if Robredo isn’t gassed I have a feeling he will capitalize and pull off an upset. It’s against the odds, but I’m going with Robredo in any number of sets.

(5)Milos Raonic vs. (10)Kei Nishikori
Another round of 16 match that should be highly competitive, Raonic has straight sets wins over Taro Daniel in round 1 and Victor Estrella, a great story to follow, in round 3. Estrella, at the age off 33, won his first career grand slam main draw match against Igor Sijsling in 4 sets in round 1, and then reached the third round with a 4 set win over the young Borna Coric. He is a testament to the fact grit and determination go a long way on the ATP circuit. In round 2, Raonic vanquished Peter Gojowczyk in 4 sets. He has won six consecutive tiebreakers this past week.

Nishikori demolished Wayne Odesnik, Pablo Andujar and Leo Mayer without incident. He looks healthy and he’s playing very well.

Raonic and Nishikori have met three times before. Nishikori has a 2-1 lead in the h2h series but both matches won by Nishikori were close and Raonic won their most recent meeting at Wimbledon this year. Nishikori has claim to win this match, but I’m personally going with Raonic in 4 or 5 sets. He has proven to be more consistent and steadily good throughout this season and recently.

(6)Tomas Berdych vs. Dominic Thiem
Berdych has looked strong, easily dispatching Lleyton Hewitt and Teymuraz Gabashvili in rounds 1 and 3, and surviving a strong test by Martin Klizan in 5 sets in round 2. Klizan had Berdych searching for answers throughout their match, but Berdych had that extra edge the Slovak did not to pull himself through.

Thiem is the breakthrough young star of this grand slam like Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. The young Austrian has had a strong season on the ATP tour and truly earned his place in the round of 16 here. He beat Lukas Lacko in straight sets, his friend Ernests Gulbis in 5 sets from 2 sets down, and Feliciano Lopez in straight sets. Gulbis was injured sometime around the 4th set, but Thiem’s mettle in coming back to win the match was still impressive, and the way he followed that match up with such an easy victory against the veteran Lopez was incredibly impressive. He is improving his hard court game considerably.

Thiem should give a good account for himself there, but I think Berdych has too much game for the young Austrian, who doesn’t hit as heavy on hard courts and prefers to play methodically. Berdych should seize the initiative and win this one in 3 or 4 sets.

(14)Marin Cilic vs. (26)Gilles Simon
Cilic was supposed to be here, and Simon was not, as they both had interesting paths to the fourth round. Cilic beat Marcos Baghdatis, and Ilya Marchenko without dropping a set, then won In 4 sets over Kevin Anderson, he hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been entirely solid.

Simon beat Radu Albot in straights, Federico Delbonis in 4, and David Ferrer in 4 sets over the last week. Simon has had an awful season and I don’t think any experts expected him to do well here, but he’s played a newly aggressive style, taking the ball further up the court and not waiting back solely for his opponents to make errors. This approach at forcing the issue is helping him play better and it is one of the big reasons his form as improved, not to mention his ball striking has just been better this week than it has been all season. Ferrer was bounced early and didn’t appear physically engaged in the match with Simon. He may be injured in some form or fashion.

Simon dominates the h2h with Cilic, leading 4-0, including a 5 set win at the Aussie Open this year, but even still Cilic is the favorite and I’m going with him as well. It’s hard to believe in Simon after seeing how he has played all season, even if he is in vintage form at the USO. Cilic in 4 or 5 sets is my selection.

(7)Grigor Dimitrov vs. (20)Gael Monfils
Two players in excellent form will meet in a star-studded round of 16 match that the crowd will be eager to watch. Dimitrov has rolled over Ryan Harrison, Dudi Sela, and David Goffin, who played well for a set and a half before being vanquished by the Bulgarian number one in 4 sets.

Monfils beat Jared Donaldson and Alejandro Gonzalez without dropping a set, then annihilated his languishing countryman Richard Gasquet, a defending semifinalist, 6-4 6-2 6-2 in round 3. Monfils made the highlight reel again with a flying forehand, and as I said both players are playing some tremendous tennis, true outside threats to top two seeds at the moment.

One of them has to win though, and Monfils is looking to repeat his 2011 victory over Dimitrov at the US Open. This one could go either way but I’m going with my original selection of Monfils. I just think he will have too much game for Dimitrov and throw in kinks he struggles to handle. Look for the match to go 4 or more likely five sets.

(2)Roger Federer vs. (17)Roberto Bautista Agut
Federer is set to meet RBA for the first time, he has looked comfortable this week, winning in straights over Marinko Matosevic and Sam Groth, before winning in 4 over Marcel Granollers. Federer dominated that third round match after a shockingly poor start in the first set, a rain delayed after going 2-5 down helped him regain his focus and though Granollers took the first set, the match was never that close. Groth likewise was flummoxed by how effortless it was for Federer to deal with his serve and volleys, while punishing his weak backhand.

Bautista Agut continues his career year. He had a five set win over Andreas Haider-Maurer in round 1, but he looked much more at ease after that, winning in straights over Tim Smyczek and Adrian Mannarino, neither of whom looked bothered to compete in their matches.

RBA is a good, underrated, player but I don’t see him having the consistency to truly bother Federer. The Swiss maestro should get through this one in straights, similar to his rival Djokovic.

Predictions for the rest of the tournament

Quarters:
Djokovic d. Tsonga in 5
Raonic d. Robredo in 4
Berdych d. Cilic in 4
Federer d. Monfils in 5

Sticking with my original predictions of Djokovic, Raonic, and also Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic’s seemingly improved game in the first week of the USO compared to this summer increases my confidence that he will reach the final even with Tsonga also playing well. Raonic will likely have too much game for a tired Robedo, Berdych/Cilic is a hard selection but Berdych is usually more consistent, and Federer-Monfils should be a battle but I think Federer has a decisive edge.

Semis:
Djokovic d. Raonic in 3
Federer d. Berdych in 4

Djokovic returns serve exceptionally and that gives him a big edge over Raonic. Federer, meanwhile, has lost to Berdych before and could get in a battle with him, but I do think he also reaches the final without too much trouble.

Final:
Federer d. Djokovic in 4

I’ll be the first to admit Djokovic’s odds of winning the tournament have increased considerably after a strong first three rounds showing little weakness, but I do like to stick to my guns and I went with Federer at the start. He hasn’t played poorly either and this final was always going to be competitive. If it goes 5, Djokovic has an edge, which is why I’m saying Federer in a close 4 sets.

2014 Bangkok & Como Challenger Previews

2014 Bangkok & Como Challenger Previews
Chris DeWaard, Tennis East Coast

bangkok chang sat

It’s not only about the US Open this week, with two Challengers on the schedule. One in Thailand on hardcourt and the other in Italy, on clay.

Chang-Sat Bangkok Open 2014
ATP Challenger Tour
Bangkok, Thailand
August 25-31
Prize Money: $50,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Go Soeda (107)
2: James Duckworth (155)
3: Luca Vanni (170)
4: Thomas Fabbiano (227)
5: Matt Reid (236)
6: Kyle Edmund (237)
7: Yasutaka Uchiyama (242)
8: Elias Ymer (244)

The last direct acceptance is exceptionally high here: Congsup Congcar, ranked 2078th.

First round match-ups to watch

Danai Udomchoke – Hyeon Chung

Udomchoke has had a long career in the shadow of Thailand’s most successful player, Paradorn Srichaphan, which saw him reach a career high ranking of #77 in early 2007. This happened after arguably the greatest tournament of his career, the Australian Open, where he beat 24th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero in the second round and took a set off Novak Djokovic in the third round. You can watch a great point he won against Djokovic in that match below. A year earlier, he pushed #3 seed David Nalbandian to the brink in their first round match, falling 2-6 2-6 6-1 7-6(4) 1-6.

2007 was also the last year in which the now 33 year old Udomchoke was ranked inside of the top 100. Currently he is ranked just outside the top 300 at #308 and one has to wonder how long he will keep playing. Perhaps he can make a final run at his home event here. He will take on the South Korean youngster Chung, who is fifteen years his junior and ranked 249th.

Top Half

Last week, top seed Go Soeda was involved in what arguably was the upset of the year, losing 6-3 6-3 as the second seed to Oscar Hernandez in the first round of qualifying at the US Open. Hernandez had been retired for four years and came back on a protected ranking to solely play the qualifying tournaments of Grand Slams. During his professional days, he was known to be awful on hardcourt (5-32 on the main tour), so his win was an enormous surprise and quite humiliating for Soeda. However, Soeda thrives at Challenger level and should be able to brush off that loss here with a deep run.

Perhaps eighth-seeded Elias Ymer can threaten him, although it is yet to be seen how he performs on hardcourt, since the strides he has made this year have solely come on clay. I can’t see the other two seeds, Thomas Fabbiano and Yasutaka Uchiyama, threatening Soeda. A run by Udomchoke is a possibility to consider and would be a nice surprise.

Bottom Half

James Duckworth heads this half and should be a comfortable favorite to reach the final, fighting it out with Kyle Edmund in the quarterfinal for that spot. Matt Reid and Luca Vanni will battle it out in the other section for a semi-final spot against a variety of low ranked Indian and Thai players, which should be no problem for them. However, against Duckworth or Edmund, I see them as a solid underdog.

Predictions

Semis:

Soeda > Udomchoke
Duckworth > Vanni

Final:

Duckworth > Soeda

Udomchoke lets his hometown inspire him to make a good run, but Soeda will simply be too solid for the veteran. The quarterfinal between Duckworth and Edmund will be the real final, as I can see Edmund beating Soeda in the final as well.

ATP Como

Citta Di Como 2014
ATP Challenger Tour
Como, Italy
August 25-31
Prize Money: €35,000

Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)

1: Facundo Arguello (121)
2: Pierre-Hugues Herbert (136)
3: Adrian Ungur (137)
4: Filippo Volandri (148)
5: Victor Hanescu (150)
6: Potito Starace (156)
7: Marco Cecchinato (160)
8: Andrea Arnaboldi (172)

The last direct acceptance is Christian Lindell, ranked 285th. Viktor Troicki is in the qualifying draw and is very likely to make it into the main draw.

First round match-ups to watch

(5) Victor Hanescu – Jan Hajek

Long time top 100 player Hanescu (33) looks to have dropped out of it for good this year and currently is barely holding onto a top 150 position at #150. Fellow veteran Hajek (31) has made an even bigger drop this year and currently resides exactly 200 spots lower at #350 after starting the year at #105. A big contrast to only a year ago, when he played Federer in the third round of a 500 event. This may very well be the last couple of months on tour for both gentleman and perhaps they can make something interesting out of this match, as both their previous encounters went into a dramatic decider, both won by Hanescu: 6-7(8) 6-4 7-5 and 5-7 6-1 6-4.

Top Half

As expected from a European Challenger the field is a lot more in balance than its Asian counterpart this week. Facundo Arguello heads the field and will be challenged by three Italian seeds in his half, Andrea Arnaboldi, Filippo Volandri and Potito Starace. Volandri and Starace are projected to battle it out in the quarterfinal, just like two weeks ago in Cordenons. However, it is yet to be seen if Volandri is fit enough, considering he retired from that match in the second set. I can’t see a lot of suprises coming from the non-seeded players, so an Arguello – Starace semi-final is very likely here. Unless, of course, Viktor Troicki qualifies and lands in this half, in which case anything can happen considering he would be among the top seeds. For my predictions, considering there is a 75% chance he draws a spot in the bottom half, I’m going to assume that will be the case.

Bottom Half

Pierre-Hugues Herbert leads this half, but he has been in poor form lately, so there might well be a surprise finalist coming out of this half. #7 seed Marco Cecchinato is projected to play him in the semi-final and I think the young Italian should be marked a favorite there. From the upper section, #3 seed Adrian Ungur should prevail over his countryman Hanescu. Ungur won a Challenger three weeks ago in San Marino, which should give him a confidence boost.

Predictions

Semis:

Troicki > Arguello
Cecchinato > Ungur

Final:

Cecchinato > Troicki

Top seed Arguello hasn’t had the best of showings on European clay this year, even losing in straight sets to world number 379 Roman Jebavy in his last tournament. If Troicki ends up in the bottom half, he plays Cecchinato in the semi-final, which would determine the winner of the tournament.

Cecchinato has been sniffing at main tour success lately, but coming up short in deciding sets on a lot of occasions. Here at a Challenger in his home country, he should feel less pressure and prevail. He has posted good results in Italy this year, with three semi-finals and a final in clay Challengers.

2014 US Open Qualifying Recap

2014 US Open Qualifying Recap
Jeffrey McMillan, Tennis East Coast

US Open

Grand Slam qualifying. A mix of promising juniors, weathered journeymen, slumping former ATP level players and everything in between. Taking place during the week before the big lights shine, qualifying is a tournament of its own where players vie for those coveted 16 main draw slots. Pressure is high and players can either make or break careers in the qualifying event.

US Open qualifying this year was full of great matches and interesting stories. One thing that is particularly interesting about the US Open qualifiers to American tennis fans is the wildcards given to young American hopes. This year, a few young Americans made an impact in the qualifying draw. Francis Tiafoe, a 16 year old from Maryland battled hard against Tatsuma Ito but eventually fell 7-6(6) 6-4 6-3. Fellow 16 year old American hope, Stefan Kozlov faired better than Tiafoe, winning his first round match vs one of the best NCAA tennis players in the nation, Mitchell Frank of UVA 3-6 6-0 6-2. Kozlov lost in the 2nd round to another promising junior, Borna Coric, 2-6 6-2 6-2. 2013 Kalamazoo champion and 2014 runner-up, Colin Altamirano, easily beat Luca Vanni in the first round 6-4 6-2 but was overwhelmed by Berankis in the 2nd round after the first set, 2-6 6-2 6-1. Altamirano showed his talent but failed to show the mental maturity that is needed for the next level. He will take his game to Virginia next year and play under coach Brian Boland as a Cavalier where he will look to improve his mentality and to sharpen certain aspects of his game.

But despite the hype surrounding Tiafoe, Kozlov and Altamirano, the young American who fared the best in qualifying was Ernesto Escobedo, who had the lowest expectations among them all. The hard hitting 18 year old from California rolled through Somden Devvarman and James Duckworth in straight sets, both of whom were heavily favored against Escobedo, before falling to Facundo Bagnis in the final qualifying round. It was a great week for the youngster and hopefully for him something to really build upon.

Outside the borders of the red, white and blue, there were two prominent juniors who made their way into the main draw of the US Open with impressive qualifying runs. Aforementioned Borna Coric will be making his grand slam debut after qualifying. The young Croat impressively took care of veteran Jimmy Wang in the final round of qualifying 7-6(4) 6-1 to book his spot in the 128 man draw. Probably the most impressive set of three wins for any player in qualifying came from Yoshihito Nishioka. He started his quest to qualify by beating the #5 seed and ATP experienced Horacio Zeballos 6-4 6-4. In the 2nd round, he beat another hyped junior, Thanasi Kokkinakis, in an epic 7-5 4-6 6-4 match. The 18-year-old Japanese player finished his ascent into the main draw with a dominating 6-3 6-1 win over former top 100 player Marsel Ilhan of Turkey. Exciting junior prospects making grand slam debuts by fighting through qualifying is always a treat to see for tennis fans, and the fans following qualifying saw it this week through Borna Coric and Yoshihito Nishioka.

Qualifying is not only a place for juniors with big careers ahead of them with this only being the 1st step. It is also the place for weathered journeyman who battle week in and week out on the challenger (and in some cases the futures) tour trying desperately to give themselves the chance to play in a grand slam; to finally get to play in a best of 5 match vs the best players in the world on a big stage with millions of eyes watching them around the world. This year at the US Open qualifying, four such journeymen realized their dream and qualified for the main draw.

Taro Daniel’s grand slam qualifying attempt almost had a very short life as he had to win a 2nd set tiebreak 9-7 after he had lost the first set 6-4 vs Alex Kuznetsov in the first round of qualifying. After getting past Kuznetsov, Daniel got past Toni Androic and Peter Polansky, both in 3 sets to slot himself into the main draw of a grand slam for the first time in his career. It is undoubtedly the top moment of the Japanese player’s career to this point.

Moldova will have a player representing them for the first time ever in a grand slam after Radu Albot qualified for the US Open. Albot will fly the flag of the small former Soviet state of only 3.5 million people in New York after overcoming James Ward in 3 sets in the final round of qualifying. The Moldovan had previously never made it past the 2nd round of qualifying for a grand slam, but this time he made the most of his moment of opportunity.

Niels Desein has had a career of few highs. A career high of only 164 and currently deep in the 200s, the Belgian had the first big moment of his career at age 27 as he qualified for the US Open. He defeated Oscar Hernandez in the final round of qualifying to cement his spot. Hernandez has an amazing story himself during this qualifying campaign. Hernanadez, who had been effectively retired from professional tennis, came from nowhere to crush the #2 seed Go Soeda in round 1 and then advanced to the final round of qualifying after another win in his 2nd match. Hard courts had never been his strong surface, yet the 36 year old Spaniard still nearly qualified for the premier hard court grand slam in tennis.

Perhaps the best story of the entire qualifying tournament came from Irishman James McGee. McGee played college tennis at NC State and was never considered a great talent but he still was determined to be the best player he could be. Over the last few years, McGee has toiled away, slowly but surely raising his ranking but has never had a standout moment.

Until now. After cruising in the first round 6-1 6-1, McGee’s tournament was about to become much more dramatic. In round 2, he faced talented Indian youngster Yuki Bhambri, who was looking to make his grand slam debut as well. Bhambri served for the match at 5-4 in the 3rd set but McGee dug in to get a break and finished off Bhambri 5-7 6-2 7-5. In round 3, McGee faced Ze Zhang, yet another player who was fighting to get to his first grand slam main draw. Zhang overwhelmed McGee in the first set, handing the Irishman a bagel. But McGee was determined to accomplish his dream and won 0-6 6-4 6-4 despite some cramping in the final game. McGee let the tears flow after qualifying, because finally after years of hard work and dedication, he will be in one of the premier events in all of tennis.

Daniel, Albot, Desein and McGee. These four plus the two juniors mentioned above combine to create six players who will be making their grand slam in Flushing Meadows, a high number for a grand slam.

128 players started the week with a dream of playing in the US Open. Some had played in several grand slams before, some just one or two, but many never had. At the end of three grueling rounds, sixteen players emerged as US Open qualifiers. Getting in is the first step and now each of the qualifiers will be determined to make their presence known in the main draw.

Kalinskaya, Opelka Win @ITF_Tennis International Hardcourts Tournament @TheJTCC

Anna Kalinskaya had an easy peasy day yesterday in taking two titles at the ITF International Hardcourts in College Park, Maryland. First up was a two set 6-2, 2-1 win in retirement against Romanian Elena Ruse. The tournament’s top seed, she followed up the singles win with a 6-3, 7-5 doubles title with teammate Evgeniya Levashova, besting the American team of Gabrielle Andrews and Mia Horvit.

Anna Kalinskaya (C) TennisEastCoast.com

Anna Kalinskaya (C) TennisEastCoast.com

After the match, Kalinskaya told me that the timing of the title was fortuitous. “It’s great, because I feel more confident now for the US Open.” She admitted it was a nice treat to have more energy for the doubles match to follow than she normally would.

Her opponent, Elena Ruse, who retired, was still in very good spirits and clutched a Wimbledon towel, a spoil of war from her semifinal run through the junior tournament this summer. Ruse, whose middle name is Gabriela, prefers to be known as Gabby.

“My leg was bad”, she explained. “In the second round, I felt something in my leg, put on some tape and everything was good. Today, I felt so bad. I hope I will be much better for US Open”.

And what about that Wimbledon towel?

“It was my second Grand Slam and I played amazing. I love grass courts and I hope I will be there next year”.

Does she hope to have a special US Open towel to remind her of a great run through New York? “Of course”, she said.

Reilly Opelka

Reilly Opelka

Reilly Opelka, an unseeded American, posted an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) comeback win over Tim Van Rijthoven to capture the boys title. Both players did a nice job of holding serve throughout. Opelka’s serve really bailed him out in the final two stanzas. I missed the end of the match, but I was impressed with the resolve of both players. Opelka reminds me a little of Sam Querrey or John Isner.

Let me give you some reminders about junior tournaments:

1) They hang towels anywhere they can: There’s no one to hand your towel to, so you hang it yourself: from a fence post, for example. But if you’re playing indoors, there is no fence. Then, you find something else. A door knob or a fire alarm will do.

2) The delays of chasing down running balls: They aren’t a bunch of time-wasters in the Juniors like they are in the pros. In fact, they often quick-pitch and sometimes opponents have to tell the player on the other side of the net to slow down. No commercial breaks and speedy changeovers means the matches move quickly. The balls are the one impediment to the smooth progress of the game. No ball kids means everyone is a ball-kid: fans, line judges, and even the Chair will occasionally hop down to kick a nearby ball in a server’s direction. Imagine that in a pro match.

Also, players who want to slow down the pace of a match can do just that depending on how passively they gather up the balls before service. A player about to return serve can also slow down the game depending on how quickly or not they return the ball from their side of the net. It’s a moment to catch your breath, if nothing else.

3) Keep your own score: Just like when you’re playing your buddy on the concrete courts behind the middle school. Like a broken clock, the flip scoreboard is only accurate once every two games when the players flip it on the changeover. We all take electronic scoreboards for granted until they’re gone. Or, you could always ask Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com. She keeps a reporter’s note book up-to-date with score and stats.

3) The Fans: They’re aren’t too many of them at a match, and they are probably related to the player on court, so watch what you say. Yesterday was unusual in terms of light turnout. The stars of the host Junior Tennis Champions Center had been eliminated in the semis, and the torrential downpour moved the finals inside. And by inside, I mean you had to walk through four buildings to find the courts. I walked through two buildings full of tennis lessons in progress, each time saying thinking, ‘No, this can’t be it’. Finally, I walked into the last tennis barn on the property, saw Colette Lewis, and knew I had arrived!

It was a pleasure to watch Colette at work yesterday. There’s no one like her in the world of tennis, and everything I learned about junior tennis, I learned from her. She also has a very diligent assistant, when he’s not busy with other duties.

For me, this Saturday used to be about Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day in New York. After watching title-match tennis a short drive from home, this seemed like a much better way to spend the Saturday before the US Open instead.

—Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast