The American players figure to be even more of a pain in neck here and of course at the USO -- hopefully we wouldn't have to meet them early. Shyam Senepathy was bounced in his first qualifying match, continuing a very unimpressive year for him. There were more early first-round upsets this time around. How would Andronikov do? How does 6-3, 6-0 over no. 9 Poilblan sound? Yikes. As for Srbulovic ... well, Mooljee drew him, which was not exactly what I was looking for. Prakash took care of business though, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2, a very tough first-rounder but he won almost half of his return points, just battering the American into eventual submission. Best he's looked in a while from the baseline, though the serve wasn't that great. Then there was wild-card Robert Jerrold knocking out no. 15 Alberti, 13-11 in a third-set tiebreak. No way that happens without the crowd on his side. Garreth McCuskey needed a lot more help than that, getting dismissed easily by Tomas Niklas and only taking five games. It appears clear the McCuskey, theoretically close to his prime at least at 27, is a sinking ship at this point.
And that was just the first round. Looked like Cincy was off to a wild start. Mooljee dropped another tiebreaker in the next round to another American, Johnny Browne, but would lose just one game the rest of the way. Girsh and Mehul got through easily to get their teeth into the event, as did Ujjaval. Elsewhere though the upsets just kept on coming. Thiago Herrera outlasted Caratti who seems to have this Jekkyl & Hyde thing with hardcourt events; he pushed Girsh to his toughest match last week and now he loses to a declining player outside of the Top 10. It was very close, 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-5, but still. Another quick exit for Kinczllers, tight 3-setter here as well to US wild-card Jake Jolland. Benda was beaten by youngish Hugo Jurco, and Trulsen left early as well courtesy of yet another American WC, aging Radek Smitala. It was nearly an epidemic out there.
Third round, and only three US players left; Gaskell and two wild cards. Weird stuff. Girish Girsh tangled with Prakash Mooljee, basically the worst possible draw at this stage for both of them. Girsh won 7-5, 6-3, and demonstrated that he's still clearly superior. He really shouldn't be, but the younger player lacks the confidence right now. Close ones for the other players, Mehul over Smitala in one and Shreya Ujjaval with a very nice win for him against 5-seeded Theodore Bourdet. Jolland's ridiculous run continued with another narrow 3-set win over Agustin Herrera.
I don't know if I've ever seen a wild-card in the quarterfinals of a big event. If I have it's been a long time. He almost kept it going, splitting a pair of tiebreaks with Thiago Herrera before finally running out of gas in the third. Girsh had himself an unusually tough time with Pierce Gaskell, dropping the first set and needing a third-set breaker to send him packing. That was almost a stunning upset, despite his dominance of the middle set. Antonin Iglar was given a surprisingly hard time by unseeded Tomas Niklas, possibly his heir apparent in the Czech hierarchy, as their match went to 7-5 in the third. The final match was the second of this tournament between a pair of Sri Lanka players, with Anil Mehul just managing to rally to knock out Ujjaval, 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. Another case of experience taking out a better, but younger, challenger.
In the semis, Girsh demolished Herrera, losing four games. Mehul held up well against Iglar through two sets which they split, but then fell apart and was bageled in the third. So, a week later, same contestants for the championship match. It may well have been the best one that Girsh and Iglar have ever played. In a best-of-three it's hard to have a tougher road than the 6-7(9), 7-5, 7-6(7) scoreline they turned in here, but again Girish Girsh came through. Quite satisfying win, and he was a hair better but only a hair. Could easily have lost it.