As a teaser, the Australian Open is underway and some things happen that definitely did not follow the script. But, before that, there were other matters.
Prakash Mooljee headed to the Qatar Open 250, where he was seeded second after Kinczllers and, at least in my mind, a strong favorite to hoist the trophy. Among the interesting things happening here were Janin getting off to a lousy start to the year, and Khasan Zakirov putting his two cents in by upsetting Kinczllers in the semis. Mooljee was the beneficiary of upsets on his side of the draw, getting to the final without facing a seeded player or a remotely close match. Zakirov gave him both, but Prakash prevailed 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 with more difficulty than expected. It was dominated by the servers, and Mooljee was the better player but with only a few break chances each way it didn't matter that much. Still, overall a good start to the year.
Ritwik Dudwadkar, after some debate, headed to the tier-1 in Nottinghill. His goal was to stay in the Top 8 through the junior AO for a better draw. It was on course as the top seed until the semis against Maximo Augusto, who stunningly crushed him 6-4, 6-3. Dudwadkar converted all four of his break chances, otherwhise it wouldn't have been nearly that close. A miserable performance in a match he should have won, and that pretty much seals his fate as he dropped to 9th and would drop further. Some of the players ranked below him are better -- 12th to 15th would be more accurate based on his skills -- but he should have made the final here and a had a pretty good chance to win it. So much for last year's smooth sailing, at least for this event.
The next week, Anil Mehul was in Auckland as the 2nd seed behind Caratti. It turned out to be an up-and-down event for him. Andre Herrera gave him a surprisingly stiff match in the quarters, but Mehul bounced back and drilled Andronikov in the next round. Theodore Bourdet was the other finalist after he easily defeated the top Argentine, and Mehul rallied from a set down for what was ultimately a strong win despite the scoreline, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.