2014 USTA Tallahassee Tennis Challenger (@TallyChallenger) Main Draw Preview
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The main draw has been released for the 2014 Tallahassee Challenger. Here is a preview. Our on-site coverage starts Monday and runs through Wednesday.
American Donald Young is the top seed and he was the 2011 champion of this tournament when it was played on hard courts. The world number 74 gets a tough opening round opponent in the very talented 18-year-old Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis, who already made waves this season by qualifying for the ATP event in Brisbane and reaching the second round of the Australian Open, where he played a competitive match with Rafael Nadal. Kokkinakis is primarily a hard court player (as is Young), but he did last qualify in Savannah on Har-Tru and reached the final round of qualifying at ATP Houston on clay, winning 2 matches there. Kokkinakis also reached 2 junior Grand Slam finals last year at the junior Aussie Open and the junior US Open. Young was, of course, once the world’s top junior player and this season he reached quarterfinals in Houston on clay. He has had a decent season thus far, though he comes off an opening round loss at the Savannah challenger on this same surface last week.
Expect a battle, and Young/Kokkinakis will meet a qualifier in the next round.
In the quarterfinals, it will be one of Young/Kokkinakis/qualifier vs. either Darian King/Cristian Gonzalez Menendez or Alex Kuznetsov/qualifier. American journeyman Kuznetsov won the USTA Har-Tru wild card for the French Open last year, but this year his best result in the 2 previous Har-Tru events is quarterfinals in Savannah. He also reached the quarters at the ATP event in Memphis this year and that is his best result of the season so far.
Darian King of Barbados primarily plays Futures-level events, but he has been big for Barbados in Davis Cup play as he is 4-0 for his country this year in singles rubbers. King is another player who prefers hard courts over clay and the current Florida State Seminole Menendez, a wild card, who hails from Spain, has a chance to pull off a bit of an upset and reach the second round.
4 seed Frank Dancevic, a finalist here in 2012, the last year the tournament was played on hard courts, is looking to find some mojo in Tallahassee. Dancevic reached quarters in Savannah and was out with injury for a few weeks this season. This will be just his third tournament back since the layoff. Dancevic faces 18-year -old American wild card Collin Altamirano, who reached final round qualifying at the Sarasota challenger and has only played a partial professional level schedule, most notably losing in straight sets in the first round of the US Open last year as a main draw wild card. Altamirano was a talented junior who is looking to break into the professional circuit. Dancevic/Altamirano will face Antonio Veic or David Rice in round 2. Rice is a 25-year-old British player better known for his doubles play and he prefers faster surfaces over clay. Veic is a former top 120 player who is accomplished on clay, having played most of his matches on the surface, with a challenger title on clay in 2012 and 2 challenger finals on the surface. He has only played 4 tournaments this season all on clay, and though he may be a bit rusty, he’s the best dirtballer in this section and is looking to build his ranking back. He has 9 career ATP main draw level wins.
Dancevic/Altamirno/Veic/Rice will face either Bobby Reynolds/Nicolas Meister/Gerald Melzer/Sanam Singh in the quarterfinals. Melzer, the younger brother of well-known ATP pro Jurgen Melzer, has been on the rise and is now at a career high ranking in the top 150. He won his first career challenger this year in Mexico (on hard court) and also has 2 challenger semis, including Sarasota, on his resume. Both of those results came on clay. He lost in the second round of Savannah and will face the former University of Virginia player Singh, who plays a vast majority of his matches on hard courts, in round 1. Former UCLA player Meister will face 2008 Tally challenger champ Bobby Reynolds, a career journeyman who has played at the Tally challenger 10 times, earning him the local nickname “Mr. Tallahassee”. Neither Meister nor Reynolds are known for their prowess on clay.
2 seed Tim Smyczek is another seed who has a very tough first round opponent. The opponent is 18 -year-old IMG academy product Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.
Nishioka has 4 futures titles on his resume between the last 2 seasons and is on the rise, now ranked in the top 400. He qualified and reached the second round in Savannah last and is considered to potentially be the next big thing in Japanese tennis.
Smyczek is primarily a hard court player and has had an average season, with 1 challenger semi on his resume. He’s lost 4 straight matches, including 2 straight on clay and is in poor form right now. Smyczek/Nishioka will face Rhyne Williams or Takanyi Garanganga in round 2. Rhyne is 2-0 career against Garanganga, with both wins coming on hard courts, but he’s another player really struggling right now, having lost 5 straight matches including 3 straight on clay. He looked forward to a promising season after pushing Juan Martin Del Potro to 4 sets as a qualifier at the Australian Open, but things have thus far not panned out as he wanted. Garanganga comes off a first round loss in Savannah.
Smyczek/Nishioka/Williams/Garanganga will face one of Nick Kyrgios/James McGee/Ilija Bozoljac/qualifier in the quarterfinals. Kyrgios is red hot right now and a huge rising commodity. He won the Sarasota Challenger, and is currently in the final of the Savannah Challenger in back to back weeks.
Additionally, he reached round 2 of the Aussie Open where he lost to Benoit Paire in 5, was selected for the Aussie Davis Cup team for their tie against France where he played 2 singles rubbers, plus he’s currently the top ranked teenager and should be close to the top 150 if he wins Savannah.
With all that said he might be tired, and McGee, the top ranked Irish player, who reached a career-high ranking this year already, might have a bit of a chance. He prefers hard courts and reached a challenger semi on those courts this year. Bozoljac has lost 2 straight in Sarasota and Savannah after being out for 5 weeks with the injury bug, but he does have a challenger final and a challenger semi, both on hard courts in India on his resume this season.
3 seeded Canadian Peter Polansky, who reached the second round in both Sarasota and Savannah along with qualifying at ATP Houston and pushing Lleyton Hewitt to 3 sets, faces Illya Marchenko, who just beat him in Savannah in 3 sets last week. Marchenko went on to lose in the next round and comes off quarters in Savannah. Polansky/Marchenko will face veteran American Robby Ginepri or former Florida State standout Jean-Yves Aubone, a wild card, in round 2. Ginepri is a former top 20 player and 2005 US Open semifinalist, but he hasn’t been ranked in the top 100 since 2010 and has lost 3 straight matches, all on clay. He did qualify at ATP Houston and Indian Wells this season. Aubone, who mainly plays futures, qualified in Savannah and a lost 3-setter in round 1.
Polansky/Marchenko/Aubone/Ginepri will face one of James Ward/Dennis Nevolo or Daniel Kosakowski/Jason Kubler in the quarterfinals. The British journeyman Ward reached quarters in Sarasota and has been so-so this season. Nevolo is a former University of Illinois standout who hasn’t done anything great at the challenger or ATP level this season, and the 20 year old Aussie Kubler is a former world number 1 junior (in 2010), who is accomplished on clay with 8 futures titles since 2010 on the surface including one this year, along with 2 finals this season. He has played nothing but clay court tournaments this year.
Kosakowski leads the Har-Tru challenge right now, pending Savannah points being added up, as he reached the semis in Sarasota. The 22-year-old American is competitive on clay and has 2 challenger semifinals this season along with qualifying in Indian Wells. He reached a challenger final on clay last season as well. The first round match with Kubler will be a tough ask, though.