First Round’s Rolling at the Charlottesville Challenger Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It was like they were getting the band back together after Tennys Sandgren’s first round win at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger. Sandgren and Rhyne Williams, former roommates at the University of Tennessee, did everything except break into a rendition of “Old Rocky Top”.
They might as well sing “God Bless America” all week long, because this is a tournament loaded with ‘Mericans.
Sandgren, Reilly Opelka and Jared Donaldson, who all won yesterday, join 16 other Americans in the 32 player draw. It’s the most American, and possibly most talented field in the history of the event.
Rhyne Williams Congratulates Tennys Sandgren After First Round Victory in Charlottesville (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Sandgren reflected on a good season after the win over Brydan Klein. “Quarters and a semi this fall and I had chances in all those matches. I feel like I’m playing well and I feel like I’m giving myself a chance to go deep every match”, he told me.
Reilly Opelka showed big-league composure as he battled bad calls and native son Sekou Bangoura in a three set comeback win. A bad line call at 30-all and 5-5 in the second set could’ve cost him the match, but he stayed composed and survived to advance, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.
Reilly Opelka Stencils the W Before a First Round Match in Charlottesville (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Later, Jared Donaldson faced an onslaught from Switzerland’s Alexander Ritschard but prevailed, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
The qualifiers are placed. Gonzales Austin was another comeback winner yesterday. The former Vanderbilt Tennis standout told me that “sometimes when I get down, I lose a little bit of belief. Today, I came out in the 5-2 game (2nd set) and I was still fighting and I think that sends a message to my opponent that I’m not going to go away and it puts a little more pressure on him.”
Austin closed out Aron Hiltzik, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), and advances to face Mackenzie McDonald.
The last direct acceptance is Daniel Nguyen, ranked 302nd. Mardy Fish is also back in action, playing his first tournament since August 2013, in the doubles draw together with Mark Knowles. They will play top seeds James Cerretani and James Cluskey in the first round.
By the time I am writing this, a highly controversial first round encounter between Denys Molchanov and Agustin Velotti has already taken place. There is no doubt that Molchanov fixed the match. Velotti started out as the underdog, but as he LOST the first set 7-5, his odd had dropped to 1.16. Unexpectedly, Velotti went on to win the next two sets, with $900,000 getting matched on Betfair and Molchanov putting on an awful acting performance as he acted disappointed after missing some ridiculously easy shots. You can watch the entire match here and see the spectacle for yourself: http://new.livestream.com/ATP/dallas2015court1/videos/75819670
Unfortunately, I have been following match-fixing in tennis since 2007 and the offenders get away with it in pretty much every instance. All we can do is spread the word after every case and hope things will finally change, urging the ITF and their Tennis Integrity Unit to do their jobs.
This will be an interesting encounter between two bad boys, hotheads, whatever you want to call it. Fact is they are often their own worst enemy, losing their cool on the court and losing matches because of it. Both had a good start to the season, but immediately regressed after that. Harrison won the Happy Valley Challenger, after which he lost first rounds to Wayne Odesnik and Dennis Novikov, while Williams got through the qualifying draw of Brisbane, but lost to world #877 Sandro Ehrat in the second round of the Maui Challenger last week.
The second section here is a really exciting one, with loads of interesting players having a shot to advance to the semi-final. Tim Smyczek, James McGee, Rhyne Williams, Ryan Harrison and Denis Kudla all fit that profile. Smyczek undoubtedly will be full of confidence after his showing against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open, which also got him praise for a supreme moment of sportsmanship. There is a very good chance this will be the tournament that launches him back into the top 100 again.
It’s hard to look past second seed Teymuraz Gabashvili here. He landed in a section with a couple of low ranked players and is projected to face #6 seed Victor Hanescu in the quarterfinal, who has been on the way back for quite some time now. In the top section Rajeev Ram and Blaz Rola are likely to battle it out for a place in the semi-final, which should be a close encounter.
The last direct acceptance is Maverick Banes, ranked 353rd.
Second round match-up to watch
(8) Hyeon Chung – Radu Albot
18 year old Chung is a big prospect, who will undoubtedly crack the top 100 within a couple of years. He reached the semi-final of the Hong Kong Challenger last week, where he lost to Tatsuma Ito. With a lot of seeds going out early here in Burnie this week, he has an excellent chance to go far and crack the top 150 for the first time in his career.
Top seed James Duckworth should be able to go deep in this tournament and at the very least reach the final. That could create a very big result for him, as a tournament victory would give him a top 100 position for the first time in his career. He had a great start of the year, reaching the quarterfinal of Brisbane after beating Gilles Simon and Jarkko Nieminen, plus reaching the second round at the Australian Open. In the bottom section home player Alex Bolt has an excellent opportunity to come through and face Duckworth in the semi-final.
As mentioned, Hyeon Chung has a great shot at reaching the final. For that to happen he will likely have to go through the winner of last week’s Hong Kong Challenger, Kyle Edmund, in the quarterfinal and Matthew Ebden in the semi-final.
Aegon GB Pro-Series Glasgow – The Scottish Championships
ATP Challenger Tour
Glasgow, United Kingdom
2-7 February 2015
Prize Money: $42,500
Seeds (ATP ranking in parentheses)
1: Aleksandr Nedovyesov (128)
2: Michal Przysiezny (170)
3: Ruben Bemelmans (173)
4: Andrej Martin (175)
5: Andrea Arnaboldi (178)
6: Julian Reister (181)
7: Tim Puetz (183)
8: Matteo Viola (190)
The last direct acceptance is Yann Marti, ranked 267th.
First Round Match-Up To Watch
(3) Ruben Bemelmans – Adam Pavlasek
Pavlasek got an opportunity to play the Hopman Cup last month, giving him some excellent practice against high ranked players like John Isner, Fabio Fognini and Vasek Pospisil. He even managed to beat Fognini, although that unfortunately isn’t really a feat these days. Bemelmans is erratic as ever, but he did well to qualify for the Australian Open, before losing in straight sets to Ivo Karlovic in the first round.
Top seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov is a bit of a headcase, but if he can keep his composure this time around, it’s an excellent opportunity to reach the semi-final. The other seed in his section is Andrea Arnaboldi, who is a lot more comfortable on clay courts. In the other section, Tim Puetz should be marked a favorite to reach the semi-final. The German reached a new career high ranking of #163 after reaching the first round of the Australian Open, falling in four sets to Donald Young, and could well break the top 150 in this event. If he faces Nedovyesov that could prove to be a cracker, given they already played each other this year at the Happy Valley Challenger, with Nedovyesov winning in a third set tiebreak.
Second seed Michal Przysiezny leads the pack here and should be able to reach the semi-final without getting himself into a lot of trouble. Although that of course is easier said than done, given his form in recent times, which saw him slip from inside of the top 60 to outside of the top 180 within a year. In the top section I would give Julian Reister, Adam Pavlasek and Ruben Bemelmans all a fair shot to reach the semi-final, but given the quick conditions Bemelmans has to be favored.
The conditions here are faster than during their Happy Valley marathon match, so this time around I would give Puetz the slight edge, who is better on faster surfaces. Bemelmans – Przysiezny is a coin toss between two of the most erratic players on tour, which at the same time makes it a highly interesting encounter to hope for.
It’s time for me to turn off Tennis Channel and go watch some live matches again. Tennis returns to the East Coast today, as 16 qualifying matches get underway at the stately Boar’s Head Resort in Charlottesville, Virginia. Many fans will be thrilled to see the return of 2012 champion Denis Kudla, who skipped last year to compete in qualifying at the Paris Masters. Kudla might be the only one who isn’t thrilled to be here, as his ranking has flat-lined since Paris. This would be an opportune time for Kudla and others to ramp it up in time for the ‘Happy’ Slam.
Speaking of champs, defending champ Michael Russell returns to Charlottesville at 36 1/2 years old. Russell’s 2014 highlight was a berth in the semis at Memphis.
Summer Surpriser Sam Groth is also in Charlottesville. Groth dazzled in Newport by reaching his first ATP semifinal this summer before winning his first grand slam match at the US Open six weeks later.
Robby Ginepri will also be in town, looking to snatch another grand slam wild card from an up-and-comer.
I’m looking for the next generation to rise up during this Wild Card Challenge. Kudla, Stefan Kozlov, Dennis Novikov, Rhyne Williams, Chase Buchanan, Eric Quigley, Tennys Sandgren, Noah Rubin and the rest of the youngsters could turn the tables on Ginepri, Odesnik, Russell and Ram this year.
Aside from my American pride, the event will also serve as a timely test for players on the rise like Daniel Taro, Gastao Elias and Liam Broady.
Charlottesville always provides an interesting contrast to me after covering ATP events throughout the summer. It’s Pro Sports without the Pro Paycheck. A main draw entry earns you $520 and players carry their laundry around in their racket bags all week. Some spend their off-time looking to catch a ride to Knoxville, Tennessee, the site of the next challenger and Round 2 venue of the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge. The wild card is the real prize here, not the little trophy and the $7,200 paycheck to the winner. A leg up in the Wild Card Challenge standings and a chance to play in the main draw in Melbourne motivates them all.
The USTA cheaped out in cancelling the AO Wild Card Playoffs in suburban Atlanta after a six year run. I jinxed it when I said in years past that it was the one thing the USTA did well. I always felt so conflicted complimenting the White Plains Trash, and I don’t have to anymore. The Playoffs always provided a packed house of fans and possessed a charged-up feeling, unlike these challengers, where you can hear a pin drop on center court even after match point. Perhaps the trio of Charlottesville, Knoxville and Champaign will get a small bump in attendance and on-line viewership. The Challengers and the excellent people who organize them and compete in them deserve that. But we all know that’s not going to happen. Thanks, USTA, for cancelling the only event you didn’t run into the ground. It’s now time to drown my sorrows in some quality live tennis in Central Virginia.
CHARLOTTESVILLE MEN’S PRO CHALLENGER – CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA, USA
27 OCTOBER – 2 NOVEMBER 2014
ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2014
COURT 7 start 10:00
 L Lokoli (FRA) vs. B Schnur (CAN)
J Shane (USA) vs. R Bogaerts (BEL)
[WC] J Richmond (USA) vs. A Ritschard (SUI)
L Burton (GBR) vs.  S Bangoura (USA)
 K King (USA) vs. [WC] H Wiersholm (USA)
[WC] J Cornish (GBR) vs. E Elliott (USA)
A Carter (USA) vs. [WC] R Shane (USA)
J Dadamo (USA) vs.  M Giron (USA)
 D Nguyen (USA) vs. A Halebian (USA)
N Kryvonos (USA) vs. R Schneider (USA)
S Bader (AUT) vs. E King (USA)
[WC] L Corinteli (USA) vs.  J Spir (COL)
 M Willis (GBR) vs. N Rubin (USA)
[WC] J Aragone (USA) vs. B Lock (ZIM)
G Ouellette (USA) vs. M Reyes-Varela (MEX)
T Kwiatkowski (USA) vs.  F Nielsen (DEN)
Not Before 12:00 noon
Qualifying – [WC] J Richmond (USA) vs A Ritschard (SUI)
Qualifying – M Willis (GBR) vs N Rubin (USA)
Not Before 15:00
Qualifying – A Carter (USA) vs [WC] R Shane (USA)
Not Before 16:30
On First Available Court – Qualifying – [WC] J Aragone (USA) vs B Lock (ZIM)
COURT 9 start 10:00
Qualifying – L Lokoli (FRA) vs B Schnur (CAN)
Qualifying – D Nguyen (USA) vs A Halebian (USA)
Not Before 12:00 noon
Qualifying – J Dadamo (USA) vs M Giron (USA)
Qualifying – [WC] J Cornish (GBR) vs E Elliott (USA)
Not Before 15:00
Qualifying – [WC] L Corinteli (USA) vs J Spir (COL)
COURT 10 start 10:00
Qualifying – N Kryvonos (USA) vs R Schneider (USA)
Qualifying – G Ouellette (USA) vs M Reyes-Varela (MEX)
Not Before 12:00 noon
Qualifying – L Burton (GBR) vs S Bangoura (USA)
Qualifying – S Bader (AUT) vs E King (USA)
Not Before 15:00
Qualifying – K King (USA) vs [WC] H Wiersholm (USA)
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.
Gerald Melzer (Photo: S. Kirby)
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.
Veic (Photo: S. Kirby)
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.
Nishioka (Photo: S. Kirby)
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.
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.
2013 USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs Men’s Preview Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
A week from now in Norcross, GA, on indoor hard courts, eight American men ranked between 114 and 341 in the world will battle it out for a coveted wild card into the main draw of the Australian Open this January in Melbourne.
Here is your preview, and you can expect our extensive on-site coverage next week for the third straight year.
The 8 players seeded by ranking (noted in parentheses)
The draw is determined by seeding with four quarterfinals played on Friday, two semifinals played on Saturday and a final on Sunday. Let’s take a look at the four quarterfinal matches and predictions for the rest of the tournament.
Denis Kudla vs. Jarmere Jenkins
A returning semifinalist from last year, Denis Kudla peaked inside the top 100 this year and had his best results on grass this year with an ATP quarterfinal at Queens Club and 2nd round at Wimbledon after qualifying. He was 5-11 at the ATP main draw level this year and notched a challenger title, a challenger final, and a challenger semi, showing his adaptive style of play on grass, clay and indoor and outdoor hard courts.
He has a higher ranking and much more experience than Jenkins, who along with Kudla has ties to the state of Virginia (having played his college tennis at the University of Virginia), helping lead them to an NCAA title.
This match should produce some quality tennis and a big upset opportunity exists for Jenkins, who won his only head to head meeting with Kudla in 2010 on hard courts at the Lexington Challenger. Jenkins has Atlanta roots and should generate some local support.
Though Jenkins’ main experience comes from the futures level and a few challengers along with college tennis, much of which happens to be played indoors on hard courts, Kudla finished his season with 2 straight losses on indoor hard courts. While Jenkins didn’t finish immensely strong, he did perform slightly better, so I’ll give him a miniscule edge to prevail.
The Pick: Jenkins
Rhyne Williams vs. Chase Buchanan
Both Williams and Buchanan played the AO WC last year and Williams has a lot of experience indoors. At the AOWC, he won the wild card last year. Buchanan, meanwhile, played college tennis and is also very familiar with indoor hard courts. It was a rather underwhelming year for Williams, as after much promise and multiple opportunities presented, he failed to break into the top 100 and remained just outside of it throughout the year. He did grab a challenger win, and notch an ATP semi along with 2 challenger semis in 2013. He has more experience and a higher level of play right now than the former Buckeye Buchanan, who along with primarily playing the futures level in 2013, also had his best results on clay.
Buchanan may chase (pun intended) Williams early but I expect Rhyne to take care of business in the opening round and advance. The head to head on hard courts favors Williams 1-0 as he beat Buchanan at a Canadian futures event in 2011. Buchanan got a couple of futures wins against Williams before that on clay.
The Pick: Williams
Steve Johnson vs. Bjorn Fratangelo
Johnson briefly made his way inside the top 100 this year but could not maintain that level and finished an atrocious 1-6 in tournament matches starting at the US Open and after. Before that he won a challenger, made a handful of challenger quarterfinals and went 4-10 at the ATP main draw level. He seemed to struggle with his consistency, though he showed flashes of talent.
The 20-year-old Fratangelo is making waves for himself as a bit of a clay court specialist, which is an abnormal skillset for an American player. He played very well at clay court futures and decently at a few challengers, but his style and past record strongly suggests he will struggle on indoor hard courts, making Johnson a considerable favorite to win this match and win it with relative ease.
The Pick: Johnson
Tennys Sandgren vs. Austin Krajicek
An unfortunate first round draw for these guys as they are close friends and often doubles partners.
They should be used to it, though, as they met twice this year head to head at a futures event and a challenger tournament, both on hard courts and resulting in a split decision with both players notching a win.
The overall head to head, all on hard courts, with meetings in 2008, 2011, and 2012 favors Krajicek 4-1.
Sandgren has a higher ranking and played this event last year where he reached the semifinals after winning a match. He also finished the year much stronger than Krajicek, actually capping things off with a victory in the Champaign Challenger in November, which is also on indoor hard courts. He reached 2 challenger semis and a few challenger quarterfinals in 2013, finishing the year better than how he started it.
A Younger, Hirsute Sandgren
Krajicek is the reverse, starting 2013 in great form and cooling off as the year progressed. He reached a lone challenger semi and did well at the futures level overall.
This match is a bit hard to call but I’m going to go with Sandgren off of current form, even with the head to head disadvantage.
The Pick: Sandgren
Sandgren d. Jenkins
Williams d. Johnson
Sandgren has never played Jenkins in a tournament match but going off of current form I give Tennys a small edge to advance. Don’t get too excited. I could also see Jenkins winning the match.
Williams is a career 2-0 against Johnson on hard courts, including a win indoors at the Memphis tournament this year. With current form also firmly in his favor, he should be able to take care of business and reach the final.
Williams d. Sandgren
Can He Do It Again?
Best friends, often doubles partners, and former Tennessee Volunteers teammates Williams and Sandgren are my picks to reach the final.
They both have things going for them as Williams is the defending champion at the AO WC and Sandgren has finished the year in strong form. The h2h, if it really matters, is split 1 each with Williams winning on clay at a challenger this year and Sandgren winning at a hard court futures event in 2009.
They both know each other’s games intimately and I doubt there will be any surprises in store if this match comes about. I could see either one winning, but in the end, I’m going to pick Rhyne to repeat his performance here last year and punch his spot in the draw of the AO once again.
DUVAL, KUDLA HIGHLIGHT FIELDS FOR 2013 USTA AUSTRALIAN OPEN WILD CARD PLAYOFFS
Duval, Jarmere Jenkins, Grace Min among Players with Atlanta Ties
Competing for Wild Card Entry into 2014 Australian Open
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., December 9, 2013 – The USTA today announced that Victoria Duval, the 18-year old breakout star of the 2013 US Open, and top 21-year old Denis Kudla will headline the up-and-coming Americans playing for a singles wild card entry into January’s Australian Open at the 2013 USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, December 20-22 at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga.
Duval, who has overcome extraordinary adversity on her way to becoming the fifth-youngest player in the WTA Top 200 at No. 168, is also one of several players with Atlanta ties competing in the annual Playoffs, held at its current location for the fifth straight year. Jarmere Jenkins, a College Park, Ga., native who nearly won the NCAA “triple crown” in May as a senior at the University of Virginia, winning the NCAA doubles and team titles and reaching the singles final, will compete on the men’s side, while Atlanta native and 2011 US Open junior champion Grace Min is also in the women’s field.
Dangerous Denis Kudla
The other men’s competitors will be No. 130 Rhyne Williams, the 2011 NCAA singles finalist at Tennessee who won last year’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoff and nearly defeated No. 28 Florian Mayer in the first round in Melbourne, No. 156 Steve Johnson, who won consecutive NCAA singles titles in 2011-12 while at USC; No. 183 Tennys Sandgren, a former all-American at Tennessee; No. 241 Austin Krajicek, once an all-American at Texas A&M; No. 304 Bjorn Fratangelo, the 2011 French Open boys’ champion; and No. 306 Chase Buchanan, the 2009 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion and 2012 NCAA doubles champion while at Ohio State.
Also competing in the women’s field are No. 125 Shelby Rogers, who won USTA wild cards into the 2013 French Open and US Open; No. 150 Madison Brengle, who won USTA wild cards into the 2007 and 2008 Australian Opens; No. 175 Maria Sanchez, once the top-ranked college singles player at USC; No. 184 Nicole Gibbs, the two-time reigning NCAA singles champion from Stanford; No. 188 Julia Cohen, a former Top 100 player; and No. 195 Sachia Vickery, the 2013 USTA Girls 18s national champion who reached the second round at the 2013 US Open.
Duval, who upset 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round of the US Open this August, once lived in Atlanta and trained at Life Time, when it was known as Racquet Club of the South. While there, she met the family of real estate developer Harry Kitchen, who helped rescue her father after he was buried alive during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, having him airlifted to the United States for treatment.
The USTA secured this opportunity through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, where the two national federations exchanged wild cards for the 2013 US Open and 2014 Australian Open.
To help kick off the event, former tennis pros and celebrities Luke and Murphy Jensen, whose underdog run to the 1993 French Open doubles championship both captivated and influenced the tennis world, will play doubles against five local teams in the “Battle of Georgia” exhibition on Saturday, December 21. The Jensen brothers will also host a women’s tennis clinic at Life Time on the morning of Friday, December 20. The club will also host a kids’ day on Saturday morning, featuring the players competing in the Playoffs, with all kids attending receiving free admission to Saturday’s matches.
Eighteen-year old Madison Keys, currently the youngest player in the WTA Top 40 at No. 38, won the last two women’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs and began her breakout 2013 campaign by reaching the third round of the Australian Open with the wild card. Also among previous champions are John Isner, Ryan Harrison, Lauren Davis, Christina McHale and CoCo Vandeweghe.
2013 ATP Charlottesville Challenger (@CvilleTennis) Preview and Predictions
Steen Kirby, Tennis East Coast
The USTA Pro Circuit has three challengers remaining this year. Up next is the 75k indoor challenger in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tennis East Coast will provide some onsite coverage once again this year.
Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger
USTA Pro Circuit
Charlottesville, VA USA
October 28-November 3, 2013
Prize Money: $75,000
Top 8 seeds
1: Tim Smyczek
2: Somdev Devvarman
3: Michael Russell
4: Donald Young
5: Rajeev Ram
6: Alex Kuznetsov
7: Rhyne Williams
8: Steve Johnson
7 of the top 8 seeds are American and Devvarman played his college tennis at the University of Virginia right in Charlottesville.
First round matchups to watch
Filip Peliwo vs. Bjorn Fratangelo
A battle of promising youngsters from both sides of the border, the 19 year old Canadian Peliwo will take on the 20 year old American Fratangelo. Peliwo is ranked slightly higher than Fratangelo and he also recently started working with Milos Raonic’s former coach Galo Blanco. Fratangelo has had some success this year on clay, which is unusual for an American, and has done well at the futures level primarily.
Peliwo is probably more suited for hard courts, with good results there at both futures and challenger level. He even got an ATP win this year in Montreal. If in good form, I expect the Canadian former top junior to take this match.
Peter Polansky vs. (WC)Noah Rubin
Noah Rubin (Photo: Cynthia Lum/USTA
Another cross border battle. The much more experienced Canadian Polansky, who comes off his first challenger title in Tiburon will face 17 year old New Yorker Noah Rubin, who was for a time a top 10 junior. He had a couple of nice results at the futures level and this match will be a big step up for him.
I expect Polansky to advance but Rubin will gain a lot from the experience.
Tim Smyczek, who is at a career high ranking of 84, opens with Saketh Myneni while Chase Buchanan/Austin Krajicek wait on deck. Both of them are mainly futures level Americans. In the quarters, I expect Smyczek against Peliwo/Fratangelo or Jesse Levine/Steve Johnson, who also meet In round 1. Johnson is really struggling here at the end of the year, suffering 4 straight opening match losses in 3 challengers and the US Open. He has not performed up to expectations this year, but Levine hasn’t even played a match since the US Open.
World traveler Michael Russell returns from playing in Asia and Europe to face off with JP Smith, who has had some decent hard court results this year and seems to be on a slight rise.
Tennys Sandgren or a qualifier await in round 2 for the winner of that match, and in the quarters it will be one of them vs. Jarmere Jenkins/Mac Styslinger or Alex Kuznetsov/Theodoros Angelinos.
Jenkins and Styslinger are UVA teammates who play doubles together and are intricately familiar with each other’s games. They worked together to lead the Cavaliers to the NCAA title this year and will have a lot of fervent local support. The 22 year old Jenkins has enjoyed more pro success and he has a good shot at the quarters here, while Kuznetsov has lost 2 straight matches.
Somdev Devvarman, a former UVA standout, also last played on the ATP Asian swing and returns to the US Challenger circuit in Charlottesville. Hard serving 26 year old Aussie Sam Groth will be his first opponent. Groth is inconsistent but can be dangerous when his serve is on. He’s close to a career high ranking in the 180s.
23 year old German Nils Langer is playing his first event in the US. He qualified in Stockholm last and opens with Denys Molchanov. The winner of that gets Devvarman/Groth.
The quarterfinalist from this section should face Rhyne Williams, given the former indoor standout only has to face a qualifier and Jose Hernandez/qualifier to reach the quarters. Williams has not played that great this fall, but the competition is lacking.
Donald Young has regained some great form on the challenger circuit and having won two titles in his last 3 challengers, his chances here are inflated with a qualifier in round 1 and Mitchell Frank/Rik De Voest waiting in round 2. Frank is a UVA guy as well and another quality representative of their strong men’s tennis program. Polansky/Rubin or Max Neuchrist/Rajeev Ram await in the quarters. Neuchrist is another European who has come to the US for this event while Ram splits his time between ATP and challengers.
BRIAN BAKER, RYAN HARRISON HEADLINE MEN’S US OPEN WILD CARD RECIPIENTS
Photo Retweeted by Ben Rothenburg of Harrison Signing Busted Racquet for the Fan who Snagged It. (Now Famous)
Teenagers Christian Harrison, Mitchell Krueger, Dennis Novikov, Noah Rubin, Jared Donaldson Get Qualifying WCs
FLUSHING, N.Y., August 13, 2013 – The USTA announced today that Brian Baker, playing in his first Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open, 2012 Olympian and former world No. 43 Ryan Harrison, 2010 NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn and 2011 NCAA singles finalist Rhyne Williams have been awarded men’s singles main draw wild card entries into the 2013 US Open. Other American men receiving US Open main draw wild cards are Rajeev Ram and 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s champion Collin Altamirano. Australia’s James Duckworth and France’s Guillaume Rufin will also receive wild cards.
The 2013 US Open will be played August 26-September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s singles champions this year will earn $2.6 million, the largest payout in tennis history, with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money – for a total $3.6 million potential payout – based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series.
Brian Baker, Newport 2013
Baker, 28, of Nashville, Tenn., is attempting to make yet another remarkable comeback from injury. After being sidelined since the 2013 Australian Open in January, when he suffered a significant knee injury during his second-round match against Sam Querrey, Baker returned to competitive play last week at the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., and has advanced to the second round of this week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Baker, now ranked No. 185, ascended to No. 52 in the world in 2012 after injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six years.
Harrison, 21, of Shreveport, La., rose to No. 43 in the world in 2012, the year in which he also represented the U.S. in the London Olympics and in Davis Cup. On the Emirates Airline US Open Series this summer, Harrison, now ranked No. 102, reached the semifinals at the BB&T Atlanta Open and defeated former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
Klahn, 22, of Poway, Calif., earned a US Open wild card as the top American points earner at select USTA Pro Circuit events this summer. The 2010 NCAA singles champion while a sophomore at Stanford, Klahn won the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., last week, catapulting to a career high rank of No. 123. Last year, Klahn received a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, qualified and reached the second round, becoming the first men’s qualifying wild card to win a US Open main draw match.
Williams, 22, of Knoxville, Tenn., reached his first ATP semifinal in Houston this year and played in the main draws of the French Open and the Australian Open, winning a USTA playoff to gain entry into the latter. Now at a career-high rank of No. 114, He was a 2011 NCAA singles finalist while at Tennessee, and his grandfather, Michael DePalmer, Sr., was the Volunteers’ longtime coach who helped found the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
Rajeev Ram. Newport 2013
Ram, 29, of Carmel, Ind., is the highest ranked American who did not receive direct entry into the US Open at the entry deadline. Ram owns one singles title (Newport, 2009) and seven doubles titles on the ATP World Tour and has been ranked as high as No. 78 in singles. Ram qualified and reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open.
Altamirano, 17, of Yuba City, Calif., earned his wild card by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship singles title, doing so in historic fashion. Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the tournament in the 71 years it has called Kalamazoo, Mich., home.
Duckworth, 21, of Sydney, Australia, received a wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant an American a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open, to be determined by a USTA playoff (Rhyne Williams was the 2013 winner). Currently at a career-high rank of No. 150, Duckworth reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open and qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon this year.
Rufin, 23, of Charnay, France, received his wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which awarded a wild card into the 2013 French Open to an American player designated by the USTA (Alex Kuznetsov won the USTA Pro-Circuit event-based system this year). Rufin, currently ranked No. 92, has played in all three Grand Slam main draws this year, reaching the second round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
In addition to the eight US Open men’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced eight men who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 20-23 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. One additional US Open qualifying wild card will be awarded to the winner of the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship, taking place August 16-19 in New Haven, Conn.
Players receiving 2013 US Open qualifying wild cards are: 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship runner-up Jared Donaldson (16, Cumberland, R.I.); 2011 French Open boys’ champion Bjorn Fratangelo (20, Pittsburgh, Pa.), who has won three Futures titles in 2013; Christian Harrison (19, Shreveport, La.), who reached the 2012 US Open doubles quarterfinals with his older brother, Ryan Harrison; Jarmere Jenkins (22, College Park, Ga.), who came one win short of winning the NCAA triple crown this summer, leading Virginia to its first NCAA team title, winning the NCAA doubles title and reaching the NCAA singles final; former Wimbledon and French Open boys’ semifinalist Mitchell Krueger (19, Fort Worth, Texas), who won his first pro singles title in June; UCLA sophomore Dennis Novikov (19, San Jose, Calif.), the 2012 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion who defeated 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz in the first round of last year’s US Open; local teenager Noah Rubin (17, Rockville Centre, N.Y.), who has been as high as No. 6 in the world junior rankings; and Tennys Sandgren (22, Gallatin, Tenn.), a former standout at Tennessee who has won five USTA Pro Circuit Futures singles titles in the last two years.
The 2013 US Open will be held Monday, August 26, through Monday, September 9. Tickets for the 2013 US Open can be purchased four ways: 1) at USOpen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.
Qualifiers Find Alternate Routes Into @CitiOpen; Stephens, Blake, Fish Headline Monday
Falconi 1and In
Rain threatened but did not appear at Citi Open in Washington, DC for final round qualifying matches on Sunday.
As main draw players practiced and lounged around the grounds, qualifiers sweated it out on court in the exceptional DC humidity.
On the men’s side, top seed Matt Ebden made it count against Saketh Myneni by a count of 6-3, 6-1, and Somdev Devvarman was even more efficient in his defeat of Christian Harrison, 6-0, 6-1. Ebden will get a taste of Mardy Fish in the first round.
Sam Groth got out to an early start in his match vs. Rhyne Williams and qualified 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, while Yuichi Sugita surprised by outlasting Jesse Levine 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Levine and Williams ended up in the main draw anyhow as Levine took Monfils spot and Rhyne Williams was a lucky loser.
Williams Gets Bad News and Good News
Finally, Alex Kuznetsov beat Malek Jaziri 6-4, 6-4, and Tim Smyczek prevailed in a slugfest over UVA’s Jarmere Jenkins 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
Alexandra Mueller ended 14 year old Usue Arconada’s hopes of a main draw berth in just 51 minutes with double breadsticks, 6-1, 6-1.
Irina Falconi got a bye, and therefore only needed to win one match to qualify. She took full advantage and passed Jennifer Elie in three, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-0.
Jessica Pegula sailed past Shoku Aoyama 6-4, 6-2, while Michelle Larcher de Brito had her hands full with Victoria Duval before prevailing 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
Sloane Stephens, James Blake and Mardy Fish headline Monday’s action at Citi Open. Play begins at 2:00 p.m.
The following players are scheduled to play on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.
§ Marcos Baghdatis
§ Grigor Dimitrov
§ Alexander Dolgopolov (2012 Citi Open Champion)
§ Ryan Harrison
§ Lleyton Hewitt
§ Sam Querrey (No. 1 ranked American on the ATP World Tour)
§ Milos Raonic
§ Bernard Tomic
§ Angelique Kerber (Top seed)
§ Madison Keys
§ Taylor Townsend (2012 ITF World Champion)
The following players are scheduled to play on Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
§ Kevin Anderson
§ Juan Martin Del Potro (Top seed)
§ Tommy Haas
§ John Isner
§ Kei Nishikori
RESULTS – JULY 28, 2013
Qualifying Singles – Second Round
Qualifying – M Ebden (AUS) d S Myneni (IND) 63 61
Qualifying – S Groth (AUS) d R Williams (USA) 62 67(5) 62
Qualifying – T Smyczek (USA) d [WC] J Jenkins (USA) 57 62 62
Qualifying – Y Sugita (JPN) d J Levine (CAN) 26 64 63
Qualifying – S Devvarman (IND) d C Harrison (USA) 60 61
Qualifying – A Kuznetsov (USA) d M Jaziri (TUN) 64 76(4)
Qualifying Singles – Second Round
Qualifying – M Larcher de Brito (POR) d [WC] V Duval (USA) 75 46 62
Qualifying – J Pegula (USA) d S Aoyama (JPN) 64 62
Qualifying – I Falconi (USA) d J Elie (USA) 63 67(3) 60
Qualifying – A Mueller (USA) d [WC] U Arconada (USA) 61 61
ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, JULY 29, 2013
STADIUM COURT start 2:00 pm
C Mchale (USA) vs  M Rybarikova (SVK) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
R Stepanek (CZE) vs [WC] S Johnson (USA) – ATP
Not Before 5:30 PM
[Q] M Ebden (AUS) vs M Fish (USA) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
J Blake (USA) vs M Matosevic (AUS) – ATP
M Oudin (USA) vs A Rodionova (AUS) – WTA
GRANDSTAND 1 start 2:00 pm
E Bouchard (CAN) / T Townsend (USA) vs J Elie (USA) / L Litvak (USA) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
[Q] S Devvarman (IND) vs [LL] R Williams (USA) – ATP
Not Before 5:30 PM
[WC] D Kudla (USA) vs [Q] S Groth (AUS) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
O Puchkova (RUS) vs  S Stephens (USA) – WTA
R Berankis (LTU) vs T Kamke (GER) – ATP
GRANDSTAND 2 start 4:00 pm
M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs A Dolgopolov (UKR) / D Tursunov (RUS) – ATP
D Istomin (UZB) vs S Giraldo (COL) – ATP
[Q] J Pegula (USA) vs A Petkovic (GER) – WTA
G Dimitrov (BUL) / M Llodra (FRA) vs M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) – ATP
COURT 1 start 4:00 pm
P Ormaechea (ARG) vs [WC] B Capra (USA) – WTA
J Cepelova (SVK) vs K Bertens (NED) – WTA
X Malisse (BEL) vs R Ram (USA) – ATP
M Alvarez Teran (BOL) / K Wong (USA) vs A Bhargava (USA) / A Weinhold (USA) – WTA
COURT 2 start 4:00 pm
A Mueller (USA) / A Perez (VEN) vs A Riske (USA) / N Slater (GBR) – WTA
D Goffin (BEL) vs Y Lu (TPE) – ATP
L Lacko (SVK) vs A Falla (COL) – ATP