February - March 2039
The American Masters are upon us. Here's what my players have been up to the last few weeks:
Anil Mehul -- Rotterdam(500, Indoor) was chosen as the in-between event, his first 500-level tournament. Memphis was another indoor 500 the following week, but he wanted to make sure he was able to be seeded and others might join that one at last minute if they didn't do well here. Mehul was the 7th seed and had the easiest possible route through the opening rounds, a qualifier and then the winner of a matchup of qualifiers.
In the quarters, he got his second chance at #1 Gabriel Alastra, having lost in straight-sets in the opening round of the USO two years ago. This is Alastra's worst surface, and it was a back-and-forth battle with neither player able to sustain an advantage for long. After a pair of tiebreaks were split, Mehul got the decisive break in the 10th game of the final set for a 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 win despite actually taking two fewer points in the match. In the semifinals, he had a second meeting with Gorritepe. The last time they'd met, Mehul had surprisingly prevailed in two tough tiebreaks in last year's Canada Masters a few months back. It was another extremely tight one here, with the legend prevailing 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(7) in a final-set tiebreak that could have gone either way. This time it was Mehul taking more points(112-106) yet losing the match. He did not break Gorritepe once despite 10 opportunities, while dropping the only chance on his serve. It's hard not to be very disappointed in a defeat like this, when he really should have been able to squeak it out, but the run here could have ended in the last round. In any case, he's now beaten the top two players in the world within the first two months of the year!
Girish Girsh -- The somewhat accelerated tournament schedule continues. He appears to be playing somewhere around the level of a 150-ranked player but moving up through the challenger ranks is difficult. He has managed to establish himself as a solid challenger-level player now though. At a Tier 3 event in Caloundra he made it to the semifinals, losing to Siobhan Doherty(IRE, 41st) who has no real business playing an event this small, but technically still qualifies for it. A few weeks later in Cherbourg, France, he entered a Tier 2 event as there were no smaller ones available in the timeframe except on clay.
Girsh expected to be seeded but a couple of late and unexpected entries had him as an at-large entry and facing the eighth-seed in the first round, who he beat easily. In the quarters he faced anticipated rival and junior #1 from his class Mugur Kinczllers -- and dispatched him in straight sets, a pretty significant upset. Next up was Robert Jerrold, a few weeks older and the junior #4 from the previous year. He wasn't quite as good but Girsh couldn't repeat the magic, falling 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3. Still, back to back semifinal appearances is a good start to moving up the ladder. He'll have a few weeks off now.
Prakash Mooljee -- A second junior event didn't go as well as his first, he won only one singles match and was bounced in the doubles qualifying. This week he's in Noumea(France) for a third tournament.