Americans Williams, Young and Ginepri Among Victors in Tallahassee (@TallyChallenger) on Monday
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
Sunny skies and palatable temps that got hotter as the afternoon wore on welcomed Monday main draw day 1 at the 2014 Tallahaseee Challenger. A trio of Americans were winners today to get to round 2 and a pair of European clay court specialists as well, Gerald Melzer and Antonio Veic, as all of the first round main draw matches went as expected.
Rhyne Williams snapped his 5-match losing streak and got past Takanyi Garanganga 7-5 6-3. Rhyne had a bit of a sore neck this morning and he struggled in the first set, but he huffed and puffed his way past that and Garanganga showed why he’s the lower ranked player as he faded in set 2 and went down easily enough.
Robby Ginepri casually deconstructed Jean-Yves Aubone 6-1 6-1, as Aubone showed his inexperience on the Har-Tru surface. Another victim of surface inexperience was American Dennis Nevolo, who also lost 6-1 6-1 to James Ward, who slid and slipped past his opponent.
Donald Young won a big match against Thanasi Kokkinakis in the night cap, 7-5 6-1. Kokkinakis was able to hang with Young in the first set and at times appeared like he would take it, but DY relied on his experience and was clutch, finishing out the first set and then easily breaking serve and also holding serve in the second set against the deflated young Aussie. Kokkinakis has a lot of talent, but he didn’t play a clean enough match and his head didn’t stay in it long enough to truly push Young into much trouble.
The European dirtballers Melzer and Veic were untroubled by their lower-ranked opponents Sanam Singh and David Rice respectively. Melzer stated he “didn’t play so well today” but still won 6-2 6-0. Not sure what you can say about that one. Veic won 7-6 6-1, as he was 5-1 up in the first set, proceeded to unravel, only to pull it back together just in time, get a hold serve of serve and then win the tiebreak with a great sliding volley winner past the big serving volleyer Rice. Rice’s game is much better suited for a faster surface.
Other players into round 2 include Peter Polansky, who won the only the 3 set match of the day, 6-2 4-6 7-5 over Illya Marchenko. Their previous meeting went 3 sets and Polansky got revenge on his loss last week in Savannah to Marchenko. He was broken serving for the match, but he broke right back and then held to take it.
Yoshihito Nishioka had Tim Smyczek stumbling all over the place en route to a 6-2 6-2 victory. Nishioka reminds me of a more powerful but currently less refined Kei Nishikori, and it’s not just because they are both Japanese. Both are undersized counterpunchers with good speed and solid strokes that don’t fall into disarray easy. Nishioka showed the proper amount of aggressiveness and took it to Smyczek, even with his limited stature.
The qualifiers were also placed, as Americans Bjorn Fratangelo, Mitchell Krueger and Evan King won their final round qualifying matches, along with the Aussie Ryan Agar. Fratangelo put on an aggressive performance against Eric Quigley winning 6-2 6-2. Quigley can’t be too unhappy, however, as with the expected withdraw of Nick Kyrgios with an abductor injury, Quigley is now in the main draw as a lucky loser and plays his round 1 match today.
Krueger won 7-6 6-2 over Nikita Kryvonos and King won 6-3 6-1 over Sekou Bangoura. Agar’s victory over Alex Rybakov prevented all the qualifiers from being American as he beat the youngster 6-4 6-2. Watching Rybakov from a potential perspective, he has a quality single-handed backhand and he’s quick on his feet, but his serve and shot selection could use a lot of work, as Agar feasted on returns and consistently was able to lob and drop shot Rybakov, who found himself on the wrong part of the court and having to catch up from behind.
Lastly in the doubles, Agar and Sebastian Bader beat Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez 6-3 6-7 10-7 to reach the doubles quarterfinals. In final round doubles qualifying, Melzer and his partner Philip Lang both Austrian beat Erik Crepaldi and Kryvonos 4-6 6-4 10-3. Crepaldi/Kryvonos still got into the doubles main draw, however, as lucky losers.
The qualifier vs direct entrant matchups’ today are Fratangelo vs. James McGee, Krueger vs Ilija Bozoljac, Quigley vs. Alex Kuzetsov, and King vs. Agar in a qualifier vs qualifier match for a spot in round 2. Along with those matches, the rest of round 1 of the main draw will be completed, and some doubles will take place.
When it comes to the race for the French Open wild card, it appears it will all come down to Alex Kuznetsov vs. Daniel Kosakowski and their results this week. Kosakowski can clinch the wild card for certain by reaching the final at minimum, but he’s the front runner regardless, as Kuznetsov must at least win 3 matches and reach the semifinals, even if Kosakowski loses before the quarters. Evan King and Bobby Reynolds are also not mathematically eliminated yet but DK and AK must lose early, and King or Reynolds must win the tournament in order to have a chance. Kosakowski plays Jason Kubler today and Reynolds plays Nicolas Meister.