The Monday and Tuesday sessions of the Tallahassee Challenger were filled with great Tennis as all the top seeds were in action battling to reach the 2nd round.
On Monday, only 3 singles matches were played on the 1st day of the main draw. First up, lucky loser Daniel Kosakowski pulled off a mild upset of Dallas Challenger semi-finalist Stefan Seifert of Germany 6-3, 5-7, 7-6. Seifert struggled to control the ball and made far too many unforced errors to win. Kosakowski kept fending off Seifert’s power game and closed it out in a long 3 set battle to advance to the 2nd round. What made the victory even more remarkable is that Kosakowski had played 4 matches in 3 days. He was joined by Tatsuma Ito of Japan who defeated qualifier John Peers 6-4 1-6 7-5. Ito played pretty well and even though he was breadsticked in the 2nd by Peers, who had played strong all week, he quickly recovered to take it in 3 sets.
In the final singles match, Jamie Baker came back from a 1st set bagel to defeat wild card recipient Tennys Sandgren, a rising American, 0-6 6-0 6-4. The topsy-turvy match featured some very long rallies. Meanwhile, in the doubles, the Aussie duo of J.P Smith and Peers defeated Americans Adham Al-Effendi and Darren Walsh 6-3 6-4, the British duo of David Rice and Sean Thornley beat current Florida State players and local favorites Dominic Cotrone and Anderson Reed 6-3, 6-4. Rice had also beaten Cotrone in singles qualifying on Saturday, and top seeded doubles partners Martin Emmrich and Andreas Siljestrom beat the Japanese duo of Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita 2-6 6-0 16-14 in a thrilling match.
On Tuesday, 13 singles matches were on the schedule featuring the rest of the challenger field. First up Frank Dancevic of Canada, who inherited the no. 1 seeds seed line, defeated qualifier Artem Sitak 6-0 6-4. Dancevic dictated play with his powerful one-handed backhand and Sitak appeared sluggish throughout as his strokes lacked much pop. While Sitak did make the 2nd set more competitive, the result was never in doubt. Local favorite Bobby Reynolds, who has earned the affectionate nickname “Mr. Tallahassee”, took out fellow American Michael Yani 6-4 2-1 (ret.) after Yani was unable to continue in the beginning of the 2nd set. Tim Smyzcek took out fellow American Alex Kuznetsov 6-3 7-6. Smyzcek was in control throughout the first set and held off Kuznetsov in a much more competitive 2nd set to reach the 2nd round of the Challenger.
Wayne Odesnik beat Benjamin Becker 6-4 6-0 in a match that was less known for Odesnik grinding the veteran Becker, normally a grinder himself, down into a stump by the end of it with his baseline play and better known for Odesnik telling a group of elementary age school children who were watching the match to leave the stands and go somewhere else because they were making a bit of noise. His tactless behavior, which was also shamelessly exhibited at the challenger last year, where he reached the final as a qualifier losing to Donald Young in 3 sets, extended into arguing with the chair ump quite often, making rude comments, being testy with ball kids, complaining about such things as the court surface and cursing at himself. He is not exactly the best representative of the pro game, especially compared to many of his fellow pros who conduct themselves much more tactfully.
Rajeev Ram made his return to the challenger after a hiatus last year defeating promising Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in a 3 set battle 6-4 5-7 6-4. The tall Frenchman Herbert battled until the end relying on his serve but Ram was able to gut out a victory and reach the 2nd round. Carsten Ball upset newly top 100 player Vasek Pospisil 6-3 3-6 6-3 in what was a typical Carsten Ball match that featured his powerful serve and top notch volley game that Pospisil had a hard time getting a handle on. Each set only featured one break and the match was closer than the score line would indicate. Ball is very similar to other powerful servers such as Ivo Karlovic in that when he is on his game he can beat nearly anyone but when his serve is not quite as vigorous he struggles mightily. The inability to break a player and consistently deal with a player like Carsten Ball’s serve can frustrate even the best of players and it certainly frustrated Pospisil on Tuesday.
Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil, the 7 seed, beat qualifier Martin Emmrich 7-6 6-2 in a match he had control of throughout. Brian Baker an American wild card recipient who has come back to the pro circuit after a short retirement due to injuries, that featured a stint of college coaching, beat qualifier Blake Strode 6-2 6-1 as once again the qualifier Strode played very fatigued.
In the final match that was finished before t-storms ended the days action, Igor Kunitsyn of Russia beat his friend Mischa Zverev 6-2 1-1 (ret.) Zverev, who was born in Russia but represents Germany, had beaten Kunitsyn the week beforehand in the La Gosier Challenger quarterfinals in route to reaching the final where he fell to David Goffin but Kunitsyn triumphed in this encounter as Zverev was, understandably, clearly worn out from all the tennis he had played in the last few days and the travel he had to do in such a short time span.
As the rain moved in, the remaining matches scheduled for Tuesday were moved to Wednesday and to conclude the 1st round singles matches Ryan Sweeting beat Michael Russell in 3 sets 6-4 3-6 6-3, qualifier Catalin Gard beat Jesse Levine 7-6 4-6 6-2 and Yuichi Sugita beat Canadian Pierre Duclos 5-7 6-1 6-2. Duclos apparently suffered from back spasms towards the end. In 1st round doubles, Ball and Reynolds beat Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot 6-1 6-7 10-8, Sitak and Strode beat Kuznetsov and Zverev 6-1 6-4, Brian Baker and Sandgren defeated the Canadian duo of Duclos and Popisil and Germans Becker and Michael Kohlmann beatTravis Parrot and Rajeev Ram 6-4 6-3.
Tuesday’s matches concluded my live coverage from the Tallahassee Challenger and once again, it was a top notch and wonderful event featuring some of the best players in the world battling it out in such an intimate environment. I plan to attend the challenger next year for my 5th year in a row and, hopefully, I will be covering it for tenniseastcoast.com next year as well. After Saturdays final, I will have a wrap up of the Challenger noting who the champions and runner-ups were. The Tennis runs all week and the weather while being a bit spotty has mostly held so if you’re in Tallahassee or the surrounding area come out to the challenger at Forestmeadows and watch some great tennis!