The qualifying rounds of the Tallahassee Challenger were completed today with a plethora of exciting matches as the players battled to earn the 4 available qualifying spots in the main draw.
In 2nd round qualifying matches held today, Catalin Gard beat Ed Corrie 6-4 6-2, Blake Strode defeated Sekou Bangoura 6-1 6-4, Ty Trombetta beat the no 2. seed in the qualies, Alex Ward 6-4 6-4 and Artem Sitak beat Olivier Sajous of Haiti 6-4 6-3.
The 4 qualifiers who earned their spot in the main draw were Martin Emmrich who beat Daniel Kosakowski 6-4 6-2 in what was an interesting match due to the contrast of styles, Artem Sitak who beat the tall American Ty Trombetta 6-4 6-3 in a grinding baseline match and Blake Strode who rode his forehand to victory against Catalin Gard 6-2 7-5. Strode took the 1st set with ease but Gard made it into a competitive match in the 2nd urging himself on in Romanian throughout. Strode was able to close it out, though, and John Peers, who knocked off Dennis Lajola in 3 long sets 6-3 3-6 7-5. Peers played a strong 1st set but Lajola had seized the upper hand at the end of the 2nd and early on in the 3rd. It was not to be for Dennis though as he began cramping midway through the 3rd set and while he held on with both players breaking serve consistently. By the end of the match he could barely move and no longer serve at all. An unfortunate end for the young American’s qualifying hopes. Peers continued his strong play this week.
Strode, Sitak, Peers and Emmrich will be joined by lucky losers Daniel Kosakowski and Catalin Gard who will replace 1 seed Yen-Hsun Lu and Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia, respectively, both of whom withdrew from the challenger.
After the qualifying matches were over, many of the main draw participants including Carsten Ball, Vasek Pospisil and Frank Dancevic began to practice around the grounds and a pro-am was held featuring local tournament supporters and volunteers partnered with professionals participating in the challenger this week. It was a fun-filled, jovial event and between the fun atmosphere, intimate environment and low-key mood of the afternoon for most players it proved the optimum setting for interaction, pictures, autographs and the like with the players.
Top Americans Michael Russell and Ryan Sweeting also showed up around the grounds and Sweeting participated in the pro-am along with fellow American Rajeev Ram, the aforementioned Carsten Ball, Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospisil, the promising young Aussie J.P. Smith and more.
At the behest of fellow tennis tweeter @linzsports I asked Ryan how he felt about defending his title in Houston at the U.S Clay Court Championships next week as well and he said he was prepared and ready.
The main draw starts tomorrow along with doubles main draw. Tomorrow’s singles action will feature lucky loser Kosakowski against rising young German Stefan Seifert who was a semi-finalist at the YP Challenger of Dallas back in Febuary, Tasuma Ito of Japan who is a 5 time ATP challenger tour winner, world no. 89, a member of the Japan’s Davis cup team and a bronze medalist at the 2010 Asian games. American wild card recipient Tennys Sandgren a former All-American at the University of Tennessee and a rising star on the USTA pro circuit will finish the days singles matches off against Jamie Baker of Great Britain.
In doubles qualifying action, Corrie and Sajous will take on Strode and Sitak, rising Aussies Peers and J.P Smith will team up to take on young Americans Sekou Bangoura and Kosakowski, Emmrich and Swede Andreas Siljestrom, last years runner-up in Bastad, Sweden along with his doubles partner at the time, Simon Aspelin will take on the Japanese duo of Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita (both of whom are members of Japan’s Davis Cup team) and the Florida State duo of Dominic Cotrone and Anderson Reed, who will surely get lots of local support, will take on British doubles partners David Rice and Sean Thornley. Adham El Effendi and Darren Walsh who advanced in the lone doubles qualfying match today, defeating Azcurra and American Mark Oljaca in a topsy turvy match 6-7 6-1 10-4 will take on the winner of the Corrie/Sanjous vs. Strode/Sitak match.