American Young Guns Donaldson, Paul Highlight BB&T Atlanta Open 2015 Qualifying Draw
Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Tennis action from Atlantic Station in Atlanta, GA will begin tomorrow morning at 10 A.M. local time as the 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open (ATP Atlanta) kicks off with round 1 qualifying. The seven highest ranked players to enter qualifying receive byes into round 2, but two American young guns, Jared Donaldson, and Tommy Paul are not among those seeds, and thus will begin their qualifying campaigns tomorrow.
The 18 year old Rhode Islander Donaldson, who now resides in California, has scored ATP main draw wins on US soil in both Memphis and Newport this year and also has a challenger title in Maui, Hawaii, and a successful ATP qualifying campaign at London Queens on his resume this year. The American all-courter decided to turn pro in 2014, and has steadily risen up the rankings since then.
He will open with 24 year old Gastao Elias of Portugal who has yet to break the top 100 in his career. Donaldson beat Elias on clay in both Houston and the Sarasota challenger this year, and given that’s Gastao’s preferred surface, Donaldson should be a favorite to win their matchup tomorrow as well. Elias is on a two match losing streak in singles and last played Davis Cup for Portugal (where they beat Finland on clay).
2015 French Open junior champion Tommy Paul (18) was formerly committed to the University of Georgia, but recently turned pro instead, and the young New Jersey resident is one of the top American junior players around. Paul will face off with a young American who does plan to go to UGA in the Fall Walker Duncan. The 19 year old will have local support as he’s from Atlanta, and he’s the #2 college recruit in the country right now, while Paul was the #1. Both of these Americans could have strong futures in the pro game, so it will be interesting to see the result of their matchup tomorrow.
15 year old Trent Bryde, another Atlanta resident, and the national #5 recruit for his class gets a wild card and will face off with Catalin Gard, a Romanian journeyman who tends to bat around the challenger tour. The winner of that matchup gets Denis Kudla, who made a name for himself at Wimbledon this year where he reached the round of 16.
Below them in the draw, former Louisville Cardinal Andrew Carter faces Matias Castro of Argentina who prefers clay, and the winner of that will face Australian veteran Marinko Matosevic, who has endured an abysmal 3-17 season after previously being an ATP regular. Matosevic hasn’t won a match in months but barring disaster it’s hard to see him not reaching final round qualifying against Kudla, who likewise shouldn’t have trouble winning his first match.
Zimbabwe’s #1 Takanyi Garanganga, another Atlanta resident, will open with former top recruit (class of 2011) Evan Song, an American, given Garanganga is an active player and Song sticks with the futures tour, he should be the favorite to advance, and setup a match with Argentina’s Guido Pella round 2. Pella, who prefers clay, was once a top 80 player but he now sits just outside of the top 100 at 25, and comes off a round 1 loss in Bogota to Sam Groth in 3 sets. Given his limited record on hard courts, he’s not guarantee to reach the final round of qualies, and regardless he’ll be a big underdog against Donaldson/Elias, or J.P. Smith.
Smith, a 26 year old Aussie, comes off one of his best career results as he upset Bernard Tomic and reached the semis in Newport. The former Tennessee volunteer qualified for both Delray Beach and Wimbledon this year, and he just beat Donaldson in Newport, which may give him an inside track to qualify, as Pella appears beatable.
One interesting non-American name in the qualifying is Evgeny Korolev, Korolev was once a top 50 player and has an ATP final on his resume, but outside of Davis Cup for Kazakhstan he hasn’t made waves in years, and he’s playing just his third event of 2015 in Atlanta, where he will open with futures level player Antonio Ruiz-Rosales of Mexico. Even while rusty one would presume Korolev, given his abilities, will work his way into round 2 and setup a meeting with Austin Krajicek who comes off a tough round 1 loss in Bogota, but at 25 has made his move up to the near ATP level finally this year. Krajicek has been struggling in singles as of late but he qualified in Memphis, Acapulco, and Miami, all on hard courts this past spring, and is surely looking to get back in form.
Krajicek-Korolev could be interesting, as conditioning will certainly play a factor given how hot and humid it will be here in Atlanta with the sun beating down. In final round qualies they could meet Paul/Duncan or Kevin King/Yuichi Sugita. King is a tall former Georgia Tech standout who has been around the challenger tour for a while now, while Sugita qualified for Wimbledon and won matches in both Newport and Bogota, suggesting the Japanese journeyman baseliner is in good form. I’d presume Sugita would have enough to qualify over most likely Krajicek unless he wilts in the heat.
Matt Ebden didn’t win a tour main draw match until Wimbledon this year, but he’s 34-15 below that level, and he qualified for both Newport and Bogota in confident fashion, suggesting he’s playing into form going into Atlanta. Ebden is likely to have to face top American junior Reilly Opelka of Florida in round 2. Opelka won the 2015 Wimbledon junior title and he just recently turned pro. He will face off first against Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan who is a relatively solid 27-11 in challengers and futures this year. I have a hunch Opelka is good enough to beat Sekiguchi, but an inform Ebden with his steady baseline offense probably proves too much, as the Aussie should reach final round qualifying.
The last seed in the bracket is another player who regularly has played in Atlanta, Somdev Devvarman of India (and the University of Virginia). Devvarman is now 30, but he’s been in great form in recent weeks, he won the Winnetka challenger in Illinois on hard court, and also helped India win their Davis Cup tie. While he’s unlikely to turn into an ATP regular at this point, he’s still made a decent career for himself and will almost assuredly beat doubles specialist Treat Huey or 34 year old Ryan Haviland, an American futures regular, in round qualifying round 2. Devvarman-Ebden should be interesting, but given Devvarman’s form and his 2-1 h2h edge, I favor him to qualify.
Picks to qualify:
Denis Kudla (d. Matosevic)
J.P. Smith (d. Pella)
Yuichi Sugita (d. Krajicek)
Somdev Devvarman (d. Ebden)
Tennis Atlantic will have on-site coverage from Atlanta all week, and be sure to keep checking the site for our latest reports from qualifying this weekend, and the main draw starting Monday.