Taro Daniel and the Big Red Tablecloth
Steen Kirby is an excellent interviewer and a budding cinematographer. I’m going to break down and buy him a tripod. Here’s his interview from Tallahassee with Taro Daniel.
Last week you qualified in Savannah and won a couple of rounds. Talk about your play there.
Passing the qualies helped me a lot for playing better in the main draw, gave me some confidence, more groove. That definitely helped me play looser and play at a higher level.
We had a reader ask if you were going to continue to play for Japan even though you have dual citizenship.
I think I’ll keep playing for Japan. I think that I am more Japanese than American and think there will be some great benefits if I can become a great tennis player there.
Do you have a good relationship with Ito and Soeda and the other Japanese players? And what do you think of the state of Japanese tennis?
My relationship with them, I don’t really know them really close. I saw them for the first time and said hi to them the last time I was there. They were all really nice guys. I feel like tennis there is really good compared to the past and I hope tennis in Japan just keeps getting better and better.
You recently reached a career high ranking of 248. What are your short-term goals?
I don’t check all the numbers and results. It puts my head where it’s not supposed to be. Just keep playing at a higher level and improve as much as possible.
What about the financial difficulties on the Challenger level?
Some more open financial help of players would be more appreciated. It’s a real expensive sport, even though there’s prize money. Unless the Federation is covering your expenses, it’s really tough to keep it up. I don’t have any specific suggestions, but some help would be great.
You trained in Spain. Is clay your favorite surface?
I am definitely comfortable on clay. I’m a little more comfortable on clay. When I’m feeling great with my tennis, I prefer hardcourt. I like them both, but I think liking clay makes me like anything.
Describe your training regimen in Spain.
It’s really simple. There not much secrets to how we play. You have to be solid and you have to construct points. It’s not very technical or super-detailed. I think growing up on clay and hard courts helped with the general construct of the game.
American Alex Kuznetsov qualified for the Sarasota challenger before rolling off 7 straight match wins (3 in qualifying, 4 in the main draw) to take an early lead in the points race for the USTA French Open Wild Card. Kuznetsov crushed Wayne Odesnik 6-0, 6-2 in the final after beating Benjamin Becker, Tim Smyczek, Steve Johnson and Somdev Devvarman.
Kuznetsov had lost 5 straight matches going into Sarasota and though he was formerly a star junior player, he has only played 3 ATP level matches since 2011. He has not registered a win in any of them and is effectively known as a journeyman, but he certainly hopes for bigger things now.
Odesnik took 2nd place in the Har-Tru challenge by beating Alex Bogomolov, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Facundo Arguello and Denys Molchanov.
For as much as Venus Williams has accomplished, the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist achieved a first on Sunday.
Williams, ranked No. 22 in the world, defeated No. 66 Johanna Larsson of Sweden, 6-3, 7-5, to clinch the United States’ Fed Cup World Group Playoff victory over Sweden at the Delray Beach Tennis Center in Delray Beach, Fla. It is the first time Williams – who has played in nine U.S. Fed Cup ties and won a Fed Cup championship in 1999 – has clinched a tie for the U.S.
Substituted in for Sloane Stephens by U.S. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, Williams, after eight match points, clinched the tie in the fourth and final singles match. The U.S. won the tie, 3-2, after Sweden recorded a walkover victory in the doubles match.
In Sunday’s first singles rubber, a meeting of each team’s No. 1 players, world No. 1 Serena Williams defeated No. 54 Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2, 6-1, to give the U.S. a 2-1 advantage. Serena’s 57-minute triumph brought her total match time in two singles victories this weekend to 2 hours, 3 minutes between Saturday and Sunday. The U.S. is 6-0 when Serena plays.
Overall, Serena is 10-0 in Fed Cup singles play, while Venus is 15-3. This was the fifth Fed Cup tie in which the Williams sisters have played together and only the third Fed Cup tie in which they have both played singles
The U.S. now improves to 4-1 against Sweden, 4-0 in ties played in Florida and 3-0 in ties played at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. Fifth-year U.S. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez improved her record to 7-5.
WORLD GROUP SEMIFINALS
Italy leads the Czech Republic, 2-1 (rain delay)
Russia defeated the Slovak Republic, 3-2
WORLD GROUP PLAYOFFS
USA defeated Sweden, 3-2
Germany defeated Serbia, 3-2
Switzerland and Australia are 0-0 (rain delay)
Spain defeated Japan, 4-0
WORLD GROUP II PLAYOFFS
Poland defeated Belgium, 4-1
Canada defeated Ukraine, 3-2
France defeated Kazakhstan, 4-1
Argentina defeated Great Britain, 3-1
—Pat Mitsch, USTA
Robredo Tops in Casablanca, Isner Wins Houston
30 year old Tommy Robredo won his first title in 2 years and his 11th career ATP title in Casablanca, coming out of nowhere to defeat Kevin Anderson 7-6 4-6 6-3. Robredo had previously beaten Guillaume Rufin, Tobias Kamke, Benoit Paire in 3 sets and Stanislas Wawrinka in 3 sets after recovering from a first set breadstick.
Anderson improved his clay court record with wins over Pablo Carreno-Busta, a 20 year old Spanish qualifier who won an astounding 39 matches in a row (mostly on the futures circuit) until the loss. Carrena-Busta has only lost twice this year. Anderson then beat Grega Zemlja and Martin Klizan in 3 sets to make his 2nd ATP final of the year and his first ever on clay.
Julian Knowle and Filip Polasek won the doubles crown.
John Isner awoke from his slumber and took the title in Houston. A runner up last year, he did one better this year in beating Nicolas Almagro 6-3 7-5. Before that, he served past Ryan Harrison, Ricardas Berankis, who knocked off Tommy Haas in round 2, and Juan Monaco. Isner avenged his loss in the Houston final last year to Monaco by prevailing in a 3 set semifinal this year.
Almagro beat Gael Monfils, Paolo Lorenzi and surprise semifinalist Rhyne Williams, who continued the streak of Americans making surprise runs in Houston. Williams, who won the Dallas Challenger earlier this year sure seems to like playing in Texas.
John Peers, a former Baylor Bear, and Jamie Murray upset the Bryan Brothers to take the doubles title.
Czech Republic d. Kazahkstan 3-1
No Berdych, no problem for the Czech Republic, as Lukas Rosol and Jan Hajek led their team to a confident victory over Kazakhstan on the road. The Czechs won all 3 singles rubbers, including a pair of 4 set wins by Rosol over Andrey Golubev and Evgeny Korolev. Hajek won the 1st rubber over Mikhail Kukushkin but the Kazaks were able to extend the tie into Sunday by winning the saturday doubles rubber with Yuriy Schukin and Golubev over Radek Stepanek and Hajek. A dead 5th rubber was not played.
Argentina d. France 3-2
Argentina stepped up big to upset France with it all coming down to a 5th rubber. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got the French off to a good start with a win over Carlos Berlocq in 5 close sets, but Juan Monaco fired back with a straight sets win over a hobbled Gilles Simon. In the 3rd doubles rubber, David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos teamed up to take out Julian Benneteau and Michael Llodra (who produced some Google worthy antics of his own). On Sunday, Tsonga rolled over Monaco to keep the French in it, but it was Berlocq who would come up big clinching the tie over Gilles Simon in 4 sets.
Argentina will meet the defending champs the Czech Republic next round.
Serbia d. USA 3-1
The US DC team just didn’t have enough to beat Serbia this time. Novak Djokovic got a pair of wins, the first over John Isner and the latter a tie-clinching 4th rubber win over Sam Querrey. Against Querrey, Djokovic rolled on his ankle very early in the 1st set and was hobbled considerably throughout the match, but still dispatched a collapsing Querrey easily enough. Querrey did beat Viktor Troicki in 5 sets in the 2nd rubber.
The real key may well have been the doubles rubber as Nenad Zimonjic and the unheralded Illija Bozoljac toppled the Bryan Brothers 15-13 in the 5th set in a record setting US DC doubles match. A dead 5th rubber was not played.
Canada d. Italy 3-1
Canada rode their rocket Milos Raonic to the Davis Cup semis with Raonic winning both his singles rubbers, including the clinching 4th rubber over Andreas Seppi. This was preceded by a win over Fabio Fognini on Friday. Also coming up big were Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil who won the doubles rubber over Daniele Bracciali and Fognini 15-13 in the 5th. Pospisil fell to Seppi in 5 sets in the 1st rubber, Seppi coming back from 2 sets to love down.
In other action outside the world group, into the world group playoffs are Great Britain, who shocked Russia 3-2 and came back from 0-2 down after Friday singles. They needed a massive performance from futures level player Dan Evans, who has a noted history of showing up big in Davis Cup. Evans won the key 5th rubber after losing a 5 set 1st rubber against Dmitry Tursunov. James Ward also helped the comeback with a 5 set win over Dmitry Tursunov in the 4th rubber after losing his 1st singles match against Evgeny Donskoy in 5 sets.
Poland beat South Africa 3-1, while Ukraine had a bit of trouble against a pesky Swedish team but did manage to get the job done 3-2. The Netherlands also blanked Romania 5-0.
Japan beat Korea 3-2, Australia got past Uzbekistan 3-1, Colombia whitewashed Uruguay 5-0, and Ecuador toppled Chile 3-2. All those winning teams will also be in the playoffs against the various losing teams of the World Group 1st round.
As for the DC dream team of the week, Evans, Bozolijac, Nestor and Berlocq with Rosol and Raonic as alternates would make quite a formidable DC team.
RISING AMERICAN STAR SLOANE STEPHENS ENTERS FAMILY CIRCLE CUP PLAYER FIELD
World No. 16 Commits to 2013 Tournament
DANIEL ISLAND, S.C.-Sloane Stephens, World No. 16, has committed to the 2013 Family Circle Cup, March 30th - April 7th in Charleston, SC. At nineteen, Stephens is currently the youngest player in the top 20 WTA rankings, and the only teenager.
Indisputably playing her best tennis yet, Stephens recently had a major career breakthrough at the 2013 Australian Open when she upset World No. 1 Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, becoming the youngest American to ever defeat Williams.
“After watching Sloane perform so well in the Australian Open, we are excited to see her game continue to mature at the Cup,” said Eleanor Adams, Tournament Manager. “The fans love watching her play, so Charleston could be a place for her to really shine.”
The 2013 Family Circle Cup will mark Stephens’ third appearance in Charleston.
“I’ve put a lot of hard work in over the past year and it’s starting to pay off,” said Stephens. “I’m looking forward to returning to the Family Circle Cup as it’s our first clay court tournament of the year. Charleston is a beautiful city with great tennis fans”
Stephens has seen success in the Grand Slam singles tournaments. She made it to the third round of the 2011 and 2012 US Open, the third round of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, the fourth round of the 2012 French Open and the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open.
She joins Williams, Samantha Stosur, Venus Wiliams, Sara Errani and Mona Barthel in a world-class player field assembling in Charleston for the Family Circle Cup, featuring three of the world’s top 10 players.
For more information about the tournament or to purchase tickets, visit FamilyCircleCup.com.
2013 WTA Memphis Preview
Steve Fogleman, TennisEastCoast.com
U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships
WTA International Event
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
February 18-Feburary 24, 2013
Though it lacks the firepower of the men’s draw, the Memphis women’s competitors make up for it with a heavy American contingent and a wide open field. Don’t expect to see top seed Kirsten Flipkens taking on 2 seed Sofia Arvidsson in the Final, because it won’t happen.
No matter who I believe will win the main draw, the qualifying field is extremely strong and the placement of the qualifiers could dramatically affect the results. I expect Keys to take the first spot, Falconi to qualify, as well as Jana Cepelova and Taylor Townsend. Any of those players could destroy your bracket in the first round.
#34 in the world is good enough to make top seed in the WTA draw, and Kirsten Flipkens isn’t exactly used to the seeding. She managed to win her first title in Quebec last September. Expect her to surpass Shahar Peer in the first round. Lesia Tsurekno is her second round opponent provided she outlasts one of the dreaded qualifiers. If Tsurenko plays Flipkens in the second, an upset watch is in order.
2012 Washington champion Magdalena Rybarikova opens with Stephanie Foretz Gacon and will meet the winner of Ksenia Pervak/Lauren Davis. This could be a nice time for American Davis to make a WTA run, but she’ll be tested in the opener and a possible second round. Expect the winner of this eighth to strongly challenge Flipkens or Tsurenko in the quarters.
The quirky career of dude favorite Sabine Lisicki finds itself currently at #40, down from the teens this time last year. Nevertheless, she finds herself in the easiest quarter of this tournament and has a very realisitic shot at picking up her fourth WTA singles title. She opens with a qualifier, and with a win, she’ll face the Olga Puchkova/Melinda Czink winner for a quarterfinal berth. Czink’s career is all but over at this point. She’s the walking dead of the WTA. Puchkova will be a pushover for Lisicki.
Kristina Mladenovic may face Lisicki for a semifinal berth, provided the French woman with the Serbian name beats Memphis Tiger Courtney Collins and the winner of the match between Johanna Larsson and Haitian-American Victoria Duval.
Heather Watson has a quarter as top seed? It’s earned based on her recent success, but it won’t be easy to defend. She’s bound to advance over Galina Voskoboeva in the first round. After that, she’ll face a dangerous opponent in either Andrea Hlavackova or Melanie Oudin. These are two players who are able to perform above their rankings at any given moment.
Looking to meet up with the winner of those players will be Hlavackova’s doubles partner, Lucie Hradecka. Hradecka will need to get past a pesky qualifier before she meets Stefanie Voegele or Silvia Soler-Espinosa in the second.
Hradecka could come out of this quarter, but I see Oudin triumphing on home hard courts.
2 seed Sofia Arvidsson does business with a qualifier before meeting up with the winner of Marina Erakovic and Annika Beck. Erakovic is a sleeper here, but Arvidsson should be able to reach the quarters.
The top part of this quarter is open. While Chanelle Scheepers is the top ranked player in the eighth, she’s way off the form she posted last summer when she was world #29. She should get by Coco Vandeweghe. Jamie Hampton is near a career high and should smoke wild card Garbine Muguruza. Hampton would have a slight edge against Scheepers for the right to play Arvidsson to book a trip to the semis.
I won’t even bother naming a dark horse because there are so many. The contenders are Melanie Oudin, Jamie Hampton, Andrea Hlavackova, Lesia Tsurenko and an American qualifier to be named later.
Lisicki d. Rybarikova
Hampton d. Oudin
An All-American semifinal will find two Racquet Club of the South alumni slugging it out to the other’s familiar game in three sets. Hampton is 0-2 vs. Oudin in WTA play, but she is peaking right now.
Lisicki d. Hampton
The Southern Belle will be the overwhelming crowd favorite (except for a few guys in the stands), but Lisicki’s title experience will prevail as she wins a fourth WTA title.
Davis Cup Recap: Raonic, Querrey, Berdych Shine
Canada d. Spain 3-2
Milos Raonic led Canada into its first Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinal with an opening rubber win over Albert Ramos in 4 and a tie clinching 4th rubber win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in straights. Frank Dancevic also won the 2nd rubber over Marcel Granollers in dominant straight sets fashion and in the dead 5th rubber Ramos beat Dancevic. Granollers and Marc Lopez had kept the tie alive with a doubles rubber win over Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in 5 sets.
The Spanish lost their first opening round DC WG tie since 2006 and as previously mentioned, Canada is proud of having reached their first WG Quarterfinal. They dominated the proceedings with home support and the indoor hard court surface.
Italy d. Croatia 3-2
In one of two DC WG matches that featured a live 5th rubber, Italy triumphed over Croatia. Marin Cilic got Croatia off to a solid start with a 5 set win over a tenacious Paolo Lorenzi, but Andreas Seppi countered with a win over Ivan Dodig in 4.
In the doubles rubber, Simone Bolleli and Fabio Fognini beat Cilic and Dodig. Later, Cilic came back to beat Seppi in straights to keep the tie alive.
Fabio Fognini would then clinch it for the Italians, winning 4 sets over a fatigued Dodig and sending the boys in blue and green into the next round where they will face Canada.
Serbia d. Belgium 3-2
Viktor Troicki and Novak Djokovic got the job done for Serbia, which won the first three rubbers, including the doubles to clinch the tie. Troicki came back from a listless 2 sets down in the opening rubber to win in 5 sets over David Goffin 1-6 3-6 7-6 6-4 6-4 before Djokovic rolled over Olli Rochus in straights. Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic beat Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans in the doubles rubber in 4 sets to seal the result.
In the dead rubbers, Goffin won in 3 sets over Serbian backup player Boris Pashanski and the accomplished doubles player Zimonjic played a tournament singles match for the first time in about 5 years. He fell to Steve Darcis in straights.
This result was expected, but credit to Troicki for the comeback. The Serbs will face the USA in the next round.
USA d. Brazil 3-2
The United States struggled but got the win over Brazil in a sparsely attended tie. Sam Querrey started things off right with a straight sets win over Thomaz Bellucci and John Isner gave the US a 2-0 lead heading into Saturday with a straight sets win over Thiago Alves. Then Brazil began to fight back, with Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares upsetting the usually dependable Bryan brothers and Thomaz Bellucci grabbing a 4th rubber win over John Isner in 5 sets. Sam Querrey would shut the door though, beating Alves in 4 and getting the US to the next round.
Isner seems to be slumping and is still not 100%. That is one thing we can take from this tie. He was frustrated after yet another 5 set loss.
France d. Israel 5-0
France walloped Israel as expected: with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga winning in 4 sets over Amir Weintraub, Richard Gasquet winning in straights over Dudi Sela and Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra clinching the tie with an easy doubles win over Jonathan Erlich and Sela.
In the dead rubbers, Llodra beat retired Israeli player Noam Okun in straights and Gasquet beat Weintraub.
Argentina d. Germany 5-0
Argentina pulled off the surprise of the weekend in whitewashing Germany. Carlos Berlocq got the momentum started with a 5 set win, by retirement, against Phillip Kohlschreiber. Kohlschreiber went down with a leg injury at the end of the 5th set. That was followed up by Juan Monaco beating Florian Mayer in 4 and David Nalbandian and Horacio Zeballos winning the doubles over Tobias Kamke and Christopher Kas in 4.
In the dead rubbers, Monaco beat Kamke in straights and Berlocq beat the doubles specialist Kas in the same fashion.
Mayer withdrew from playing the 5th rubber because of a virus. Berlocq will be pumped up from carrying his team and they will face France in the next round.
Kazakhstan d. Austria 3-1
The Kazakhs led by Andrey Golubev beat a disappointing Austrian team. Golubev beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in the opening rubber and Evgeny Korolev upset Jurgen Melzer both in straight sets to give Kazakstan a 2-0 lead heading into Saturday.
Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle kept the tie alive for Austria by winning the doubles over Golubev and Yuriy Schukin, but Golubev came back and upset Melzer again on Sunday in 4 sets to clinch the tie. Both sides mutually agreed to not play a 5th rubber, so the tie ended 3-1.
Czech Republic d. Switzerland 3-2
The Czech Republic kept their DC repeat hopes alive in thrilling weekend fashion with a tight victory over the Swiss. Stan Wawrinka got the Swiss off to a good start with a straight sets win over Lukas Rosol, but Tomas Berdych countered with a 4 set win over Henri Laaksonen. The doubles rubber was the key though, as Berdych and Rosol won the longest DC doubles match in history 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-7 24-22 over Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli. The match went over 7 hours and Wawrinka/Chiudinelli saved a dozen match points before eventually losing. It was purely epic for a doubles match and the second longest in tennis history.
The next day, Berdych clinched the tie with a 4 set win over Wawrinka and in the dead rubber Laaksonen beat Jiri Vesely in 3. Berdych is close to becoming a DC legend after another outstanding performance for his country. Next up is Kazakhstan.
In other DC action outside the world group, Australia powered by Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden won 5-0 over Taiwan and will face Uzbekistan in the next round. Also, South Korea beat India and will face Japan in Asia/Oceania group 1.
In Europe/Africa group 1, Poland led by Jerzy Janowicz won 3-2 over Slovenia (with a dead 5th rubber) and will face South Africa. Meanwhile, Alexandr Dolgopolov helped Ukraine to a 3-2 over Slovakia, though it was Ilya Marchenko that came in to clinch the tie with a 5th rubber win. Ukraine gets Sweden in the next round. Romania also advanced easily and will play the Netherlands.
In one other notable result from Europe/Africa group 2, Finland shocked Grigor Dimitrov and Bulgaria 3-2. Big wins by Harri Heliovaara and Micke Kontinen, a couple of lesser-known players.
Steen Kirby, TennisEastCoast.com
The stars of men’s tennis, along with some of the lesser known players, will put on the national colors once again. The opening round of the Davis Cup begins its 2013 edition this weekend. Here is a preview of all the world group weekend action.
Canada vs. Spain
The defending finalists and normally DC dominant Spanish will have a much weaker armada and will have to head to Vancouver to take on a strong-looking Canuck team in a tie ripe for a surprise. The Spanish had Nicolas Almagro withdraw from the tie this week, replaced by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. He will be complemented by Marcel Granollers, Albert Ramos and doubles specialist Marc Lopez, with the M&M’s Granollers and Lopez forming the core of the doubles team.
The Canadians counter with AO quarterfinalist Milos Raonic (who was nursing a bit of an injury from AO but should be ready to go), Vasek Pospisil (who hasn’t played any since last year and withdrew from a couple of January events), Frank Dancevic, (who made the quarters of the competitive Heilbronn Challenger, an event also on indoor hard courts), and doubles specialist Daniel Nestor.
The Spanish still have the rankings advantage, but the Canadians get home court advantage and home surface advantage on indoor hard. Ramos is slumping, and Pospisil hasn’t played. Seriously, this tie could come down to the doubles rubber.
The Pick: Spain
Italy vs. Croatia
Italy gets home advantage on indoor clay in Turin as AO 4th rounder Andreas Seppi, along with Fabio Fognini, Paolo Lorenzi and Simone Bolelli, all top 80 players, will take on the Croats. Croatia is led by Marin Cilic and his teammates Ivan Dodig, Antonio Veic and Mate Pavic.
Italy will have not only home advantage, but also performance advantage as all of their players are solid consistent clay courters and Seppi just beat Cilic in Melbourne. Ivan Dodig may grab a rubber, but otherwise things don’t look good for Croatia, who have two players ranked outside the top 130 on their squad.
The Pick: Italy
Belgium vs. Serbia
This will be a tie worth watching as the young David Goffin and his teammates Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans and the veteran Olivier Rochus have home court advantage on the red clay of Charleroi, Belgium. They will take on the dominant Novak Djokovic, and the solid Serbian supporting cast of Viktor Troicki and doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic. Janko Tipsarevic has withdrawn.
Rochus and Goffin also enjoy spending time on the golf course.
Belgium coach Johan Van Herck will have his work cut out for him as there are few weaknesses in this Serbian side and the Belgians may struggle to win a rubber in this tie. A big advantage goes to Serbia.
The Pick: Serbia
USA vs. Brazil
On indoor hard at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, the red, white and blue are lead by a hopefully fresh John Isner, Sam Querrey and the AO champion Bryan Brothers. Team USA will face a tough tie against the flamboyant Brazilians who are lead by top 35 player Thomaz Bellucci along with Thiago Alves and the doubles team of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, who are accomplished in their own right.
The Americans still look to have the advantage here, especially because of surface, assuming that Isner’s knee is ok. As long as they win the doubles rubber, Querrey and Isner should be counted on to grab the rubbers needed and advance the USA to the next round.
The Pick: USA
France vs. Israel
On indoor hard in Rouen, France, Les Bleus, headed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet along with Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra will take on Israel, led by the veteran Dudi Sela. Alongside him will be doubles specialists Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram. The other core of the Israeli team, Amir Weintraub, is dealing with a leg infection and may or may not play. His replacement would be an unranked player. This is a big blow to the Israeli team.
This is a very lopsided tie as the French are stacked with two top 20 and three top 40 singles players, while the Israelis don’t have either singles player ranked in the top 110. On a side note, the French are now coached by former pro Arnaud Clement.
The Pick: France
Argentina vs. Germany
In a rematch of last year’s DC tie, Argentina will look to advance on the home clay of the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires over Germany. The Argentines are lead by Juan Monaco along with Horacio Zeballos, Carlos Berlocq and the old DC grinder David Nalbandian. Germany counters with Phillip Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer, Tobias Kamke and doubles specialist Christopher Kas. Both sides have different squads compared to last year and the Argentines will most notably be missing Juan Martin Del Potro.
This tie could go either way, as Monaco is not in the greatest form and Nalbandian has not played since last August. Meanwhile, Berlocq and Zeballos will be adjusting to the change in surface.
Kohlschreiber is solid on all surfaces for Germany, while Mayer is usually competitive on clay and Kamke can be inconsistent. I have a feeling Germany will get revenge here.
The Pick: Germany
Austria vs. Kazakhstan
At the national tennis center in Astana on red clay, Kazakhstan will seek to advance to the next round of the DC world group with a team that consists of Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Evgeny Korolev and Yuriy Schukin. Austria will counter with the reliable Jurgen Melzer, a struggling Andreas Haider-Maurer, Julian Knowle and doubles specialist Alexander Peya.
Both teams have reasonable shots to win this tie, as both are made up of basically challenger level players who have done better in the past, excluding the ATP level Melzer and Peya. It really comes down to which team is more motivated and shows up, but because the Kazaks have the home advantage, I will give them the slight edge.
The Pick: Kazakhstan
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic
The Swiss are lead by the now memorable Stan Wawrinka, with Marco Chiudinelli, Michael Lammer and Henri Laaksonen behind him. They’ll take on defending DC champs Czech Republic on indoor hard in Geneva.
The Czechs have the same core team of Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol back, while Radek Stepanek had to pull out with a back injury and has been replaced by Ivo Minar. Also returning are Jiri Vesely and coach Jaroslav Navratil. Though they are away from home for this tie they will still have a slight edge, Wawrinka aside, look for them to stay in the hunt to repeat.
The Pick: Czech Republic
Notable action outside of the World Group:
Asia/Oceania Group 1: The Aussies, led by Lleyton Hewitt and Matt Ebden, take on Taiwan on hard courts in Taiwan, while the Japanese, with Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito, get a home tie on hard against Indonesia.
Europe/Africa Group 1: Poland, with Jerzy Janowicz and Lukasz Kubot will take on Grega Zemlja, Aljaz Bedene and marathon man Blaz Kavic of Slovenia in a tie worth checking out on hard courts in Wroclaw, Poland.
Ukraine will finally get the participation of Alexandr Dolgopolov, who seems to have finally resolved his dispute with the Ukrainian tennis federation. He teams up with Sergiy Stakhovsky, and they will take on Slovakia, lead by Martin Klizan and Lukas Lacko on hard courts at home.
Have fun enjoying all the national action!
2013 Maui Challenger Preview
USTA Pro Circuit
Maui, Hawaii, USA
January 20-27, 2013
Prize Money: $50,000
As I mentioned earlier this month, I am going to start doing previews and recaps of USTA Pro Circuit Challengers as well as monthly recaps of all the happenings on the ATP Challenger circuit around the world. Here is a preview of the first challenger on American soil this year, with professional action close to the sunny beaches of Maui, Hawaii!
Top 8 Seeds
1: Go Soeda
2: Tatsuma Ito
3: Michael Russell
4: Tim Smyczek
5: Alex Bogomolov
6: Denis Kudla
7: Thiago Alves
8: Ryan Sweeting
A lot of familiar names here and players who participated in either AO qualifying or the early rounds of the main draw.
First round matchups to watch:
Denis Kudla vs. Daniel Kosakowski
If you regularly visit this site, I’m sure you will be quite familiar with both Kudla and Kosakowski, two promising young Americans who have been working their way around the challenger circuit, the AO wild card and grand slam qualifying. Kudla is at a career high ranking of 136, while Kosakowski, who is also 20 years old, is over 100 spots below him at 256. This is always an interesting match.
Donald Young vs. Michael Russell
Two of the more familiar names in American tennis will meet in this one. The respectable grinder Russell remains just inside the top 100 at the age of 34 and comes off a 1stround loss in Australia. He takes on D Young, who is still trying to get his game together again after showing some slightly positive signs to start the year including making the final round of AO qualies. Russell won both of their meetings last year and he still has the edge here.
Top 75 player Go Soeda opens with American wild card Dennis Lajola and then will get either Denis Zivkovic or wild card Petr Michnev. In the quarters, he could draw Bradley Klahn, who opens with the still struggling Ryan Sweeting, while Austin Krajicek and Jonathan Eysseric of France are also options.
The tenacious Tim Smyczek comes off a positive showing in Melbourne and will open with Tsung-Hua Yang of Taipei. Afterward, he may get an AO WC final rematch with Rhyne Williams, who also comes off a positive showing in Melbourne and opens with former NCAA champ Devin Britton. Britton hasn’t lived up to expectations as a pro so far. A Williams-Smyczek rematch could be quite a battle between two in form players.
Top 150 player Thiago Alves of Brazil opens with a qualifier, then will get a tough ask in the form of Steve Johnson, who also played in Melbourne. Johnson opens with a qualifier.
This is a stacked top half filled of in-form Americans and the consistent Soeda.
Soeda’s countryman and AO 2nd round participant Tatsuma Ito will play former top 50 player Mischa Zverev. Ito would get a a qualifier or Suk-Young Jeong of South Korea in the second round. AO qualifier Alex Bogomolov, who opens with Michael McClune, could be Ito’s quarterfinal opponent. Peter Polansky of Canada and wild card Ma Rong of China are also options.
The winner of Kosakowski/Kudla will get Tennys Sandgren or Blaz Rola of Slovakia, before doing battle with the Russell/Young winner. Alex Kuznetsov and a qualifier are also options.
I will not do a dark horse for challengers, since most everybody at a challenger can usually be considered a dark horse, excluding the very top seeds.
Soeda d. Williams
Ito d. Russell
Kudla, Sandgren or Young could also get out of the bottom half while Smyczek could make it out of the top half. You have to go with the consistent Japanese players here, though.
Soeda d. Ito
I will go with the higher ranked Soeda here, though Ito won their only pro match against each other last year on clay. They know each other’s games very well and there will not be many surprises.