Bernard Tomic was on court a full five minutes before Lukas Lacko sauntered into his first round main draw match on Grandstand court this afternoon just before 2:30. Early bird Tomic sent Lacko packing in 53 minutes, 6-4, 6-2, and will face top seed John Isner on Wednesday night at the New York Open.
On facing Isner, I got a great quote out of him: “I think it’s gonna be pretty easy, no?”
Seriously though. “We’ve played a couple of times,” he told me after the match. “Last time I had a chance to win. I lost 7-6 in the 4th (set) in Davis Cup. You know, he has one of the best serves in the world. There’s not much you can do sometimes. I have to go out there and try to play the way I did today.”
Tomic appeared on Australian Television last week and described the poor treatment he received from former US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt during the early days of Tomic’s career.
“There’s a lot of pressure in this sport and you learn how to deal with it,” Tomic told me. “I had a lot of pressure when I was young. I’ve played really solid and really well so far in my career. I mean I haven’t won slams and that, but maybe that’s something I can do in the future. But 10 years in this career, maybe 8-10 years still in this career. I still feel super young. I’m 26 and there’s guys who are 38, 37, 39 and still playing. It’s been a long journey, but got to keep going and do what I do and hopefully one day it’ll pay off.”
Christopher Eubanks and Ernesto Escobedo traded blows for three sets at New York Open qualifying today, with Eubanks down a break in the third before bringing it home for his first qualifying in two attempts at the New York Open. And the opponent who beat him last year? That’s right. Escobedo.
“7-5 in the 3rd,” Eubanks said after the win. “Exact same score, It feels pretty good, you get a little bit of revenge and let things turn around the opposite way. It’s pretty ironic, same exact round, same exact tournament, same exact score, in theory. It was pretty fortunate for me to go my way.”
It was pretty ironic that he knew the exact scoreline from last year. Well done.
“I think I just kind of stayed dialed in, every point,” he said of the comeback win. “When you get down like that, it’s pretty easy to just want to pack it in. Playing it point by point, hoping for the best, hoping for an opportunity. You put yourself in position to capitalize. I just tried to stay dialed in on my serve.“
All players love the surface they’re currently winning on, but Eubanks was emphatic, given the uniqueness of the black courts. “I like it. I like it,” he said. “Last year was my first time playing on the court and it took a little bit of getting used to and sometimes the court felt hollow. It was so slow. This year it’s a little quicker and it’s helping my serve.”
But my favorite response was the refreshing one about the draw.
“I’m not that superstitious about it,” Eubanks told press. “If the draw comes out, I’m anxious to see who some of my friends are playing, so it’s not that big a deal to me.”
Refreshing answers, and after all, it’s nice to have refreshments with a popcorn match.
Mondays are usually lazy days at an ATP 250 tournament. With a field of 32, there’s always a smaller number of qualifiers and tournament organizers can’t schedule the big names with the byes until the first round is complete. Local favorite Noah Rubin is scheduled to marquee the night session today, and that leaves some popcorn match qualifiers for today’s day session followed by two singles main draw matches.
Ernesto Escobedo came back from a set down to beat Yasutaka Uchiyama, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) yesterday to set up an all-American affair with Chris Eubanks, who breezed past wild card Adam El Midawhy, 6-3, 6-2. Eubanks was so comfortable after the win that he ate the popcorn a fan offered him and autographed the nearly empty bag. I expect Eubanks to get some revenge today, as Escobedo won their qualifying final here in New York 364 days ago. Eubanks also beat Escobedo at last year’s Aptos Challenger.
Alexei Popyrin is the breakout player that everyone hopes breaks out in their tournament. The 19-year-old Australian is at a career high of 123, and he faces Canadian Brayden Schnur, who’s also moving within reach of the top 100, at #153. There’s no head to head matchups on these two, so pick a winner.
Tennys Sandgren takes on 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi in the tournament’s first main draw match on stadium court. It’s hard to expect anything less than a victory for Sandgren, as Lorenzi is only 1-12 versus top 100 players in the last year. The winner will be rewarded with a second round match against either Peter Polansky or Ryan Harrison.
Around the same time as the Sandgren/Lorenzi showdown, Bernard Tomic will try to continue to resurrect his tennis career in a first round match against Lukas Lacko. Though the pair each have a victory against the other, they haven’t faced each other in seven years, so this really is the rubber match. A focused and in-form Tomic should easily prevail in this one.
What did they bring Noah Rubin to his homecoming on opening night in his hometown? They brought him his biggest test of the year to date: Jordan Thompson, the world #60. Rubin will have to do everything right tonight to win this match and move things in his direction in 2019, where he’s already lost to the likes of Mikael Ymer and Kamil Majchrzak.
NEW YORK OPEN – UNIONDALE, USA
11-17 FEBRUARY 2019
RESULTS – FEBRUARY 10, 2019
Qualifying Singles – First Round
Qualifying –  A. Menendez-Maceiras (ESP) d [Alt] T. Puetz (GER) 63 62
Qualifying –  A. Popyrin (AUS) d J. Ward (GBR) 75 64
Qualifying –  R. Ramanathan (IND) d [Alt] R. Smith (USA) 46 62 64
Qualifying –  C. Eubanks (USA) d [WC] A. El Mihdawy (USA) 63 62
Qualifying –  B. Schnur (CAN) d [WC] C. Kingsley (USA) 76(3) 63
Qualifying – E. Escobedo (USA) d  Y. Uchiyama (JPN) 46 63 76(5)
Qualifying – T. Smyczek (USA) d  R. Quiroz (ECU) 67(6) 63 75
Qualifying –  A. Arnaboldi (ITA) d Y. Watanuki (JPN) 75 46 63
ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2019
STADIUM COURT start 11:00 am
Qualifying –  C. Eubanks (USA) vs E. Escobedo (USA)
Qualifying –  R. Ramanathan (IND) vs T. Smyczek (USA)
 T. Sandgren (USA) vs P. Lorenzi (ITA)
Not Before 7:30 pm
[WC] N. Rubin (USA) vs  J. Thompson (AUS)
[WC] B. Evans (USA) / J. Isner (USA) vs S. Gonzalez (MEX) / A. Qureshi (PAK)
GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
Qualifying –  A. Menendez-Maceiras (ESP) vs  A. Arnaboldi (ITA)
Qualifying –  A. Popyrin (AUS) vs  B. Schnur (CAN)
L. Lacko (SVK) vs B. Tomic (AUS)
Brian Baker Hired as USTA National Coach for Men’s Tennis
ORLANDO, Fla., January 23, 2019 — The USTA today announced that it has hired former Top-60 pro Brian Baker as a National Coach for Men’s Tennis, based out of the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando and reporting to Head of Men’s Tennis Kent Kinnear.
Best known for his perseverance through a multitude of injuries, Baker ranked as high as No. 52 in the world and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2012. He also won two ATP doubles titles and represented the U.S. at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
A Nashville native, Baker was an assistant men’s coach at Belmont University from 2008-11 and then again in 2015 and 2018. He graduated from Belmont with a Bachelor of Business Administration in General Business degree in 2015. “Brian’s experiences as a player and as a coach will be a tremendous addition to our TEAM USA Pro Department, as he works closely with players and their coaches progressing to break their way into the ATP Top 100,” Kinnear said. “His tennis mind, his analytical abilities and his drive and determination for improvement will all be incredible assets for our staff and for our country’s up and coming pro players.”
Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a crucial point against Grigor Dimitrov during their 4th round clash at the Australian Open
The five ATP 250 level hard court stops in the run-up to the Australian Open saw five different players claim titles and find form during the first portion of the 2019 season. Here is your look at all of January’s ATP action.
ATP DohaEmbed from Getty Images
Roberto Bautista Agut claimed a 9th career ATP title defeating Tomas Berdych 6-4 3-6 6-3 in the final, after stunning world #1 Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4 in the semifinals, one of the best wins of his career. The Spaniard also claimed wins against Matteo Berrettini, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Stan Wawrinka.
It was a great comeback tournament for Berdych who beat Philipp Kohlschreiber, Fernando Verdasco, Pierre Hugues Herbert and Marco Cecchinato. David Goffin and Herbert won the doubles title over Haase/Middelkoop.
ATP ChennaiEmbed from Getty Images
Kevin Anderson is a dark horse for the Australian Open title and he was the player to beat in India, capturing the Chennai title 7-6 6-7 7-6 over fellow big serving veteran Ivo Karlovic. Gilles Simon, Jaume Munar, and Laslo Djere also fell to Anderson as he didn’t drop a set until the final. Karlovic, the oldest top level player on tour, defeated Felix Auger Aliassime, Evgeny Donskoy, Ernests Gulbis, and Steve Darcis, a veteran on the comeback trail.
Home heroes Bopanna and Sharan defeated Bambridge/O’Mara in the doubles final.
ATP BrisbaneEmbed from Getty Images
Kei Nishikori came through as the favorite in Brisbane, defeating rising Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-4 3-6 6-2 in the final. Nishikori didn’t drop a set prior to the final, racking up wins against Denis Kudla, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jeremy Chardy. Medvedev’s path to the final was defeating Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, three capable and crafty veterans.
Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof beat Ram/Salisbury in the doubles final.
ATP SydneyEmbed from Getty Images
Sydney native Alex De Minaur triumphed at home for his maiden ATP title. The Demon edged tour veteran Andreas Seppi 7-5 7-6 for his 5th straight match win. ADM defeated Dusan Lajovic, Reilly Opelka, Jordan Thompson, and Gilles Simon to reach the final, he didn’t drop a set all week.
The veteran Seppi was happy to find form in what was a challenging tournament for him. Jeremy Chardy, Martin Klizan, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Diego Schwartzman were his victims on the week in some nip and tuck matches.
Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares defeated the Colombians Cabal/Farah in the doubles final.
ATP AucklandEmbed from Getty Images
Tennys Sandgren has a lot of points to defend in Melbourne, but he enters the AO in great form after claiming his first career ATP title. Sandgren won Auckland without dropping a set this week. Sandgren blitzed past Cam Norrie who grew up in Auckland. Max Marterer, Marco Cecchinato, Leonardo Mayer, and Philipp Kohlschreiber were all defeated by Sandgren.
Norrie defeated Benoit Paire, Joao Sousa, Taylor Fritz and J.L. Struff to reach the final. Ben McLachlan/ Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Klaasen/Venus in the doubles final.