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Old 09-27-2015, 02:47 AM   #151
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
2041 World Team Cup Preview

This next couple of weeks is my favorite time of year I think. I'll get to the end-of-year rankings, review of the completed season and what I was right and wrong about, ratings and projections for next year, a first detailed look at Girsh's contemporaries, and so on. But first, a look at what the WTC is likely to bring.

A look back here at how Sri Lanka has risen through the national rankings since regaining admission to the World Team Cup four years ago:

2037 -- +19(86th to 67th)
2038 -- +16(67th to 51st)
2039 -- +9(51st to 42nd) -- QF loss to Austria
2040 -- +16(42nd to 26th)

We've still lost only twice, both times to Austria, with no defeats to all others combined. They managed to stay in Level 1, by the way, with a 4-1 defeat of Luxembourg in their playoff. I expect that situation to change this next year.

It's a huge jump up in competition at the elite level we find ourselves at. I'd say it's a bigger jump from Level 2 to Level 1 than it is from not being in the competition all the way up to Level 2. In order to have any real chance at winning the top level, it's pretty much mandatory to have a pair of Top 10 players. There are four nations right now that have that: the US, Spain, Czech Republic, and Russia. Everybody else is pretty much fighting for leftovers. Sri Lanka isn't there yet -- Girsh is still a couple of years away probably. But we are here. From this point we can sniff my ultimate goal, making Sri Lanka the #1 nation in the world and winning the WTC -- the second would have to happen probably multiple times before we reach the first.

I think we're good enough to stick in Level 1. The most likely scenario is being good enough to stay up, but not good enough to make it out of group play. Finishing second in our group and making it to the quarterfinals is possible with a kind draw; so is having to win a playoff to stay up if we get a particularly bad draw like Austria did last year. As it has been through each level so far, we are the lowest-ranked nation at 26th; everyone else up here is in the Top 20.

As it ends up, we are in top-heavy Group 2 with defending champion Spain(1st), last year's runner-up Czech Republic(6th), and over-rated Mexico(10th). It would take a minor miracle to upset the Czechs or Spaniards, so it figures to really come down to our tie with Mexico. The loser figures to be in a playoff. This is the Mexicans 10th straight year at Level 1, and they've made it out of the group stage six times, losing in the quarterfinals every time and almost all of them badly. In that time they've never been subjected to a relegation playoff, but they aren't what they used to be. Girsh has beaten their top player, George Craighead twice in competitive matches recently. Nobody they have can threaten Mehul. So while there could be a surprise, I see everyone beating up on Mexico, Sri Lanka getting thrashed by the top powers as well, and ending up with a win, two losses, and see you next year hopefully with a better draw. . If that's how it works out, it will at least be an education, especially for Girsh, and I'll have a better idea just how far he has to go before we're ready to contend up here.
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Old 09-28-2015, 05:32 AM   #152
Brian Swartz
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The New Year has turned. That means it's time for me to spam this thread with a number of (hopefully useful and/or interesting) update posts.

Top Ten Rankings

1. Antonin Iglar(24, CZE) -- 13,790 points

Iglar finished the year with 38 straight wins. The last time he lost a singles match was the Wimbledon final, nearly six months ago. The game doesn't track streak data, but I can tell you his season was historic enough that I'll be spending a mini-update describing just how good it is. The Czech phenom took the #1 spot from Benda at exactly his 24th birthday, and I expect he'll hold it for a number of years. Simply put, he's the best there is right now and there's no question about it.

2. Bjorn Benda(26, DEU) -- 12,610

The brilliance of Iglar's star means the German champion is done at the top, but he's far from done overall. I don't expect anyone to impinge on his clay kingdom for at least the next year or two, and possibly longer. He's head and shoulders above the rest of the pack, and may well be #2 for a long time. In a year in which he won his first Slam off of clay(Wimbledon) and improved his tour-leading points total of 2039 by more than 1,000 points, Benda isn't even the top story in the game; but it should be noted he had a fantastic year -- just not historically great.

3. David Almagro(30, ESP) -- 6,680

In a very, very distant third, Almagro, like his countryman David Prieto last year, had one of his best seasons at age 30. He's hoping not to fall to pieces the next season and further emulate DP.

4. Perry Hogue(26, USA) -- 6,520

Hogue had a surprising year, rallying from looked like the onset of an early decline in his career. Maybe not quite yet. He's a match for anyone other than Iglar on the hardcourts, and looks like he might hang around a bit longer than anticipated. Hogue did exceptionally well in the smaller events, with a Masters title in Miami and semifinals at the tour finals and Wimbledon to bolster his resume.

5. Mick Elder(29, USA) -- 6,220

Never the hardest-working player, Elder has made up for that to a degree by being extremely tough in close matches. He had just one tournament title this year and none at the big events, but a trio of Slam semifinals certainly kept him very relevant.

6. David Alvarez(28, ESP) -- 5,385

Just as I'd given up on his chances to do so, Alvarez emerged as a new face on the dirt this year. His results were really unremarkable off of clay, but he was the champion in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, with runner-up finishes in Rome and at Roland Garros itself. He'll go as far as his ability to produce similar clay results allows.

7. Anil Mehul(24, SRI) -- 4,690

Mehul continues to be the highest-ranking player without a Masters title or better. One wonders if he will break through against the dominant power structure, fade, or simply continue to see similar success through consistency? Semifinals at the Australian Open, Miami, and Indian Wells saw him get off to a terrific start but the rest of the year was not particularly impressive ... until a late-season run into the World Tour Finals and a semifinal appearance there.

8. Evgeni Topolski(27, RUS) -- 4,530

Ever the underachiever, Topolski doesn't appear that he'll ever make a serious run at the best in the sport.

9. Viktor Goncharenko(27, RUS) -- 4,090

Goncharenko was surprised and miffed to narrowly miss out on the tour finals, culminating a disappointing year for the 2039 Wimbledon champion. Whether he can turn things around remains to be seen.

10. Cestmir Marcek(26, CZE) -- 4,025

Better late than never, they say. For the last year and a half, Marcek has made life miserable for many of the top players. This year he helped the Czech Republic to a close WTC final loss against Spain. For some reason, he had not found significant success in Slams, failing to reach further than the 4th round. A pair of 500 wins in Germany and China, along with a solid set of Masters results including a stunning run to the Shanghai final late in the year certain earned him some very justified notice. All signs indicate that he is a late bloomer who is still getting better.
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Old 09-28-2015, 06:04 AM   #153
Brian Swartz
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 12th to 7th singles, 104th to 126th doubles. Mehul is now unquestioningly in his prime, he can still get a bit better but only very marginally. From here on out it's really as much about the players around him as it is what he does, and making the most of his opportunities.


Girish Girsh -- 98th to 40th singles, 424th to 123rd doubles. Girsh really rocketed up the charts the second half of the year, beginning his move to the top and become a fixture in the Sri Lanka WTC team as the #2 singles and a key part of the doubles as well. I've always thought of him as just a bit better than Mehul; well, he's well ahead of Mehul's pace now(73rd in singles at the same age plus 8 weeks). I do schedule players differently now so that impacts it some. Girsh won his first challenger five weeks later than Mehul did, but has 8 challenger and 10 junior titles, while Mehul only recorded 3 and 9 respectively ... I still say Girsh will be slightly better but both in the same ballpark.

At any rate, Girsh is now embarking on what will be his 'King of the Challengers' season. For the most part he'll be playing only the biggest challenger events and looking to get into the 250s at some point when it proves useful. I'll still have some choices to make in terms of what tournaments he plays, but at some point this year he'll transition into the 'elite schedule' -- mostly Slams, Masters, WTC much like Mehul plays. That's always a bit rocky, but it's his time to prove himself among the best in the international tennis scene.


Prakash Mooljee -- 168th to 66th juniors. Mooljee found himself an excellent groove most of the year, amassing a ridiculous 42-2 singles record largely because his practices were going so well so that I didn't want to move him above Tier 4. Now he's midway through his junior (mis)adventures, and he'll be moving up to Tier 3 immediately, and higher probably. There's nobody both younger and higher-ranked, like last year, but there are about 3-4 that are just slightly older and significantly more accomplished. Mooljee is doing well, and looks to be at least a Top 10 juniors player as was Girsh. The task at the beginning of this year is to find a decent rhythm for him in terms of playing the right events so he can continue to have lots of practice time in between.


Anil Manohar -- 580th to 826th singles, 870th to 590th doubles. A rather amusing situation in which the 38-year-old Manohar essentially swapped singles and doubles positions. His trainer level now grades out to 4.211, a change of +.077 from last year. I'll probably keep him going for about 3-4 more years and retire him as about a 4.5 trainer in his early 40s. Finding the right time for that is basically a timing issue in terms of when I want the next junior after Mooljee, and bearing in mind that Mehul will probably be ready to be a max trainer for the player after that in about 10 years, in his mid-30s. Manohar still plays low-level futures, the occasional run to the business end but often losing in the early rounds. He's doing well enough to keep from being pushed down into the amateur ranks, but not by much.
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Old 09-28-2015, 01:18 PM   #154
Brian Swartz
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What Does That Guy Know Anyway?

I thought it might be interesting here to revisit some of the things I said a year go(game-time), and see how they turned out.

Quote:
Benda is probably headed into a dominant 2040 campaign.

This one is interesting because it is simultaneously almost completely wrong and not that far off. Obviously Iglar had the dominant year but Benda still had his best season and was head and shoulders above the rest of the tour, to the tune of having almost twice the points right now of his next closest rival.

Quote:
Elder is still more than a match for most of the elite

This is still true. He slid a couple of spots to 5th, but barely.

Quote:
All signs point to a fairly quick decline now for the meteoric Hogue.

Or not. Did slide a bit in terms of total points, but he was 4th last year, and he's still 4th. Perry Hogue was as big a surprise as anyone, actually reversing the hands of time if only temporarily.

Quote:
The general consensus is that he's a one-hit wonder who will hang around for a while, but has probably seen his lone brief moment in the sun.

Goncharenko was in view here, and this was definitely true. It looks like he's on his way out.

Quote:
Best guess is he finishes this year as #2 behind the German champion.

After all the flowery things I said about Iglar, I missed the boat a bit with this call. I thought it would take him a little longer, and I didn't see him going unbeaten for half a year.

Quote:
A strong finish to the year, but he's not getting any younger

And then Almagro had his second-best season at age 30, finishing third after an eighth-place standing a year ago. Time to eat a little bit more crow here.

Quote:
I expect to see him off the top page by year's end.

Yeah I was totally off here, in reference to David Alvarez.

So some I was correct about, others ... not so much.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-28-2015 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 09-28-2015, 04:18 PM   #155
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Good showings, Brian!
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Old 09-28-2015, 05:50 PM   #156
Brian Swartz
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*bow*

A couple more things to mention here.

Top Managers

Missed this in my rankings rundown, but I moved up from 20th to 18th this year, adding about 1.5k to my points total for just over 15k entering the new year. There are three fairly close to me that I could potentially pass this year in the 15-16k range, and three more in the 17-18k range, with everyone else at 20k or more.

At the top, oprice set a new record high for rr1 this season. He set it at the US Open, then broke it at the World Tour Finals. The new mark is 52,532. Only two other managers have ever made it within 10k of that mark, and nobody else is currently within 20k. In other words, you could add all of my points to the closest competitor and he would still be in first place.

Right now is sort of a perfect storm for oprice, who manages both Iglar and Benda. I've also noticed, in my observation of other managers, that he's the only one that really doesn't do anything I consider a mistake. I've seen a grand total of one error from him: Benda skipping Monte Carlo this past year. That's it. It seems like just about everyone else is prone to overplay their players, esp. the young ones -- Marcel Bahana, run by third-ranked marsel, the previous record holder at just over 51k, is a good example of this. There is also a near-universal tendency to play developing players in events they aren't really ready for -- going for a quick gain of points at the expense of long-term development. Other consistent more minor flaws also exist. From what I've seen, if I play this game long enough I think I'll eventually outpace everyone else, but I don't know if I'd ever surpass oprice. He seems to really have all his ducks in a row, so to speak.
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Old 09-28-2015, 06:40 PM   #157
Brian Swartz
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2041 Preview

This past year, there was quite a clear line of separation between the Top 12 players and everyone else. From 12 to 13 and beyond, a significant dropoff occurred. Here I'll take a look at how things look for the Dazzling Dozen(or whatever) going forward:

1. Antonin Iglar(95%, 10.14) -- +0.11

Nobody is close. Iglar posted a 36-5 record against the Top 12, which as we will see is far better than anyone else did. It goes even deeper than that, as he was 87-6 overall. I took a look back through history, and only Eric Gorritepe managed to lose as few as six matches in an entire year throughout the now-50 years of the tour. He's a category unto himself, having twice lost only two times, three another year, four another year, and also five on one occasion. Looking at the other greats though, Nicholas Sullivan lost at least seven each season, Oliver Haresign eight, and while the environment was a bit different with players playing a lot more events often, Martin Prieto lost at least eight though one year he had an astonishing 160 wins.

When you put all of that together, it can accurately be said that only Gorritepe ever had a better year than what Iglar just did in the 2040 campaign. It really helps put things in perspective, and only one player was responsible for more than one of his defeats. I'm proud to say it was Anil Mehul, who was also the only player to defeat him on his favored hardcourt surface(Indian Wells quarterfinals, in addition to the French Open 4th round later in the year). Iglar is still getting better, while his top rivals are not. He rules the tennis world with an unshakable iron fist, it's just that simple.

2. Bjorn Benda(91%, 9.89) -- -0.04

I'm not yet sold that Benda is on the decline, but he's definitely just about peaked at best. He was the only other player to post a record much above .500 against the top tier, with a sparkling 28-13 mark. Even at that, he lost well over twice as often as Iglar dead against the best. I expect him to continue to fall away into a more distant second place, but remain well ahead of the rest.

3. David Almagro(84%, 9.70) -- -0.19

Almagro looks likely to begin to fade this year as Prieto did last year. He was better than 8th last season, isn't as good as 3rd this season, and will probably end the year somewhere in between those two. Time is unforgiving. Almagro managed a solid 19-15 record against the best this year.

4. Perry Hogue(88%, 9.72) -- +0.06

I figured Hogue was done last year, and he actually improved somewhat! One thing that I'm learning from this is that, in general, I think players are peaking not at 26 but something closer to age 28. Perry won't be able to fight forever the simple fact that he is a quick developing, fast-aging player, and I'll be surprised if he improves again at this point, but his demise will certainly take longer than I expected. His extreme focus on hardcourt will make him a factor on that surface for at least another year or two I imagine. Hogue split his top-level matchups, 17 up and 17 down.

5. Mick Elder(85%, 9.75) -- -0.12

Especially towards the end of the year, the first signs that even his brilliant mental game can't keep Elder at the top of the sport were seen. He was just 14-18 againt the Top 12, although Mehul still had lots of problems with him during their matchups(tour finals excepted). He's still good enough to hang around the Top 5 I think, but continued slight erosion is expected and by next year he may no longer be a major factor.

6. David Alvarez(89%, 9.67) -- +0.01

It appears that Alvarez is pretty much at his peak right now. I'd expect more of what we saw this year; great results on clay, but he's not a factor anywhere else. A solid overall record against the Dazzling Dozen of 16-15 was actually enabled by the fact that he lost eight times against lower-ranked players on other surfaces. This was rare among the elite group; Iglar was beaten only once by the lower reaches and Mehul was 51-0 against them(hard to improve on that!).

7. Anil Mehul(95%, 9.76) -- +0.13

I'm pleased to say that Mehul grades out as the most improved player among the elite(narrowly over Iglar, who nearly overcame lower endurance with max training and equally good strategy). I'm not sure how much more improvement is in store, I think he's approaching the point where it will be difficult to get much better. Unlike last year though, he goes into the year feeling himself at least an equal overall to most of the rest of the best. He'll be looking to improve on a 12-18 record to something around break-even or better.

8. Evgeni Topolski(90%, 9.73) -- -0.09

The Russian underacheiver, generally poorly managed and not all that dedicated to begin with, looks like he's done about all he's going to do. After two tour finals in three years, he may well not be back. An 11-18 mark showed he was competitive this season, and he'll probably do about that again.

9. Viktor Goncharenko(89%, 9.52) -- -0.04

Goncharenko rode the coattails of his Wimbledon win for a while, but once those points disappeared he slid gradually down the rankings. His 5-17 record against the Dazzling Dozen was the worst in the group, and he lost five matches outside of it as well. I don't see him staying in the Top 10 for another year.

10. Cestmir Marcek(91%, 9.58) -- ??

Marcek was enough of a surprise that I didn't even rate him last year. I wasn't yet sold that he was going to bloom into a top player at this point of his career. Obviously I was wrong. My guess is he gets a bit better this year, and that this might well be a peak season for him. At 10-18 against the Top 12, he was just good enough to be a pain.

11. David Prieto(83%, 9.49) -- -0.15

A charmed year in 2039 had Prieto at #3, belying the fact that he was already well into his decline phase. This season he notched a 5-16 mark against the best, including 0-13 against the top half-dozen or so. A couple of early wins against him by Mehul didn't look quite so shiny in retrospect. Briefly #1 for 19 weeks, Prieto's time has come and gone. I doubt he'll appear in this rundown next season.

12. Julian Hammerstein(95%, 9.88) -- +0.08

Hammerstein is an enigma. His management is decent, although not optimal. Still, he should have been better the last year, year and a half than he has been. By all rights he ought to be competing with Benda for the #2 spot this year, but it was just a strange season for him. 10-14 against the top players isn't great but far from an embarassment. The biggest thing for him was that he wasn't able to produce a single notable upset, and he did drop a few, though not many, against players he should beat. A strong rise up the rankings should happen this year, but I'm less certain that it will.

Synopsis

I think Prieto and Goncharenko will cease to be factors, and Marcek hangs around the bottom of this group. Benda & Iglar own the top, but between them is a group of seven players that should be super-competitive. Anil Mehul could wind up anywhere in this group. I can see him rising to third or fourth, or falling a bit and struggling to even make the tour finals again. At a certain point it is just up to the player, and which players seize their opportunities best is really going to be the determining factor I think.

The Pack

There are only really two possibilities that I see out there for players that could join this group and replace what I expect to be the loss of Prieto and possibly Goncharenko. American Pierce Gaskell(14th, 95%, 9.59) is about equal to Marcek in ability but not managed as well -- he was overplayed fairly criminally last year. Still, he's got the potential to do it. The other possibility, again railroaded by mismanagement of various kinds, is Spaniard Marcel Bahana(97%, 9.75). Bahana really should be a Top 10 player by the end of the year, and really is a tragic waste right now. He's still improving, but needs to see results on the court and stop playing so much. I'm not sure how likely that is.

Here's how the rest of my players compare:

40. Girish Girsh(99%, 9.24) -- +0.45

Still at his physical peak though nearing the end of it, Girsh is improving rapidly and could well be in the top players conversation or at least on the edge of it by this time next year. I expect he'll end the year somewhere in the 20-30 range.

826. Anil Manohar(64%, 6.50)

66J. Prakash Mooljee(76%, 5.10) -- +1.10

Mooljee may be ready for amateurs by the end of the year or beginning of next, but for now is just more practice, practice, practice and mid-level junior events.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-28-2015 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 09-29-2015, 01:42 AM   #158
Brian Swartz
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Generation Flash

With Girish Girsh on the rise, and Iglar having taken over at the top, it's a reasonable time to take a look at the next generation of players. They aren't ready to hit the big time yet, but will be in a year or two. Girsh is 2-3 years behind Iglar; we're looking at players generally in the 21-23 year old range here.

At the head of the class is the already-mentioned Marcel Bahana(9.75), who will still be the standard-bearer if he gets his act together. Probably the next-best possibility was Swede Nils Mednick, whose manager went AWOL several game months ago, ruining chances there. The highest-ranked player is presently Peru's Thiago Herrera(9.17, 24th), who we met a few weeks back. He will probably be a force on clay, but very slow foot speed holds him back some. Here's how some notable others look so far:

31. Radek Smitala(23, USA) -- 9.26. Smitala is a hard worker, but appears to be the Lubos Nedved of this generation; a meteoric career path that has him already well past his physical peak. Still, he's a good athlete and pretty much an even match for Girsh right now. He will bear watching.
37. Tobia Alberti(21, ITA) -- 8.9. Alberti is a fine athlete but hasn't improved his baseline game nearly enough. I expect this will keep him from rising much further the next couple of years.
44. Johnny Loudermilk(22, USA) -- 9.19. Loudermilk is a fitting poster child, and a representative of why I've termed it 'Generation Flash'. He looks pretty good now, a good athlete and decent skills, but he's not dedicated to putting in the work. As time goes by, Girsh will pull away from this kind of player, even though he's not as athletic, simply through the accumulated fine-tuning of his skills that comes only through consistent hard work. Jacinto Iturren(ESP, 43rd), to a degree Marcelo Herrera(PER, 45th), and Efim Lipovsky(RUS, 47th) are just a few of the highest-ranking of the many young players that could be described in this way.
53. Gustavo Caratti(21, ARG) -- 8.72. A clay-court specialist, not the best mentally and a little behind in terms of skills as well, Caratti is one of those guys like Hammerstein with superhuman strength. He's young enough that he may yet become quite an excellent player.
66. Joseph Skirrow(21, USA) -- 8.9. Girsh has already beaten Skirrow a couple of times, but the American is still good enough to be relevant for a while. An excellent athlete with an underdeveloped baseline game.
74. Garreth McCuskey(20, USA) -- 8.76. McCuskey is younger than the others, but from a physical point of view he's a real phenom. Athletically, he's a little more gifted even than Iglar, probably the best overall athlete I've seen. Properly handled he would be a beast. That isn't happening, but he's the standard-bearer for players coming up at the end of this generation and worth watching.

Summary

It looks to me like Bahana is just too good not to eventually succeed to a certain extent eventually, but I think Girsh easily outpaces the rest of this group. There's still a lot of them out there with decent serves and good athleticism, but the mental attitude and commitment to succeed just isn't there. Many will fall by the wayside over the next couple of years. We're probably looking at a two-year gap here before we find out who will contribute and who won't, with Bahana and Girsh really the only sure things. T. Herrera, Smitala, Loudermilk, and McCuskey are all almost certainly Top 20 at some point, but beyond that it's a big question whether they will progress further.
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Old 09-29-2015, 01:54 AM   #159
Brian Swartz
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The annual reports are now complete. We had quite the first WTC clash to begin 2041 ...

World Team Cup, Level 1 Group 2 First Round
Czech Republic vs. Sri Lanka, Hard

Monday -- Iglar flattened Girsh in the first match, surprising nobody. It was competitive, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, and a good learning experience which is about all I could ask for.

Tuesday -- Mehul evened up the tie against Marcek, though it didn't look good early. He cruised through the last two sets for a 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-2 win to start off his year.

Wednesday -- Girsh/Mehul faced off against Nedved/Marcek, a match we needed to win but I frankly didn't expect to. They continue to be a surprisingly effective doubles pairing despite not working at all on that aspect, and won a competitive 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory. Up 2-1, we just needed one upset in the reverse singles to get a big upset!

Thursday -- This was our best chance, to have Mehul knock off the seeming invincible Iglar. It looked like he might do it as well, taking two of three breakers to begin the match. At the end, he couldn't quite hold off the champion and lost after one heck of an effort in what I think is longest, most epic match any of my players has had. 6-7(4), 7-6(1), 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4 was the final, both players exhausted by the end of the 392 points required. Iglar was just a little bit stronger those last couple of sets, but it was very close.

Friday -- In the decider, Girsh did not have the day I hoped for and Marcek blasted him off the court, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. Bit of a downer to have such an anticlimactic end to a fine tie, but we were expected to lose anyway.

Czech Republic defeats Sri Lanka, 3-2.

We will next have Spain, and unless we pull off the upset we aren't making it out of the group stage. They blanked Mexico 5-0 as expected. We will face the Mexicans last in what figures to be a battle to avoid a playoff spot. That will be on clay, but I doubt it will matter -- they are just outclassed right now.

Due to events elsewhere, Sri Lanka moves up one spot to 25th despite the defeat.
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Old 09-30-2015, 08:02 PM   #160
Brian Swartz
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January

There was a bit of rather shocking news during the expected relative quiet of the run-up to the Australian Open. World #5 Mick Elder was dumped by his manager! This kind of thing just doesn't happen; usually when a player is 'fired' they are at least out of the Top 20, declining veterans no longer needed, that sort of thing.

I looked into it and believe it or not, it's not as completely insane as it seems. marsel is the manager in question, currently third in the standings, points record-holder until oprice broke it last year, and a long-running success. He currently has the following players:

** Eric Gorritepe(35 years old)
** David Prieto(30)
** Marcel Bahana(22)
** Rodrigo Rivera(16)

The slide of Gorritepe and Prieto down the rankings has been facilitated by the fact that marsel has been working on doubles for both of them, probably a precursor to replacing his trainers. He has two max trainers, but at age 55 and 53 they would only be around a few more years. Bahana is the next big thing over the horizon, and when Rivera became available he jumped at the chance. All four are Spaniards, as is marsel himself -- which is probably why he dumped Elder, an American, instead of Prieto. Picking up Rivera, giving himself a promising new youngster with nobody coming up for him, makes a lot of sense.

Mick Elder is the kind of player who I would expect someone to pick up soon, as he'd make a great trainer candidate or points-winning vet for somebody, but he's still out there as of the start of the AO.

Prakash Mooljee had his first tier-3 the week before the Slam, and it went smoothly until the semifinals until he ran into marsel's new youngster. Rivera edged him in two tiebreaks, and I think we'll see more of him; there's a gap of just three months between them in terms of age and both look likely to have long, successful careers.

Mooljee will back in action at a Tier-2 in Lima next week while the best players are all in Australia, while Girsh and Mehul descend on the first Slam for the pro tour.
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Old 10-03-2015, 06:20 AM   #161
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Australian Open

Girish Girsh came in winless in 5 Slam matches, with some incredibly unlucky draws contributing to that. This time he had a very average first-round draw, with China's Lan-Feng Chen as his opponent. Chen could match him from the baseline, but his weak serve was exposed in a 6-2, 7-6(2), 6-3 straight-sets win as Girsh finally broke his streak of failures.

Next up was 22nd-seeded Manfred Borrman(SWE), who was about as good a matchup as he could hope to have from a seeded player. Borrman is a bit past his peak, and after a tense first-set tiebreak, Girsh eliminated him in three as well! All the fun looked to come to a dead end in the third round, with Perry Hogue waiting. The American was in for a bit of a surprise though. Girsh fought back to take the second set ... and again in the fourth after being blanked in the third ... but in the fifth he wilted again. I don't think I've ever said a player did well after being breadsticked and bageled, but such was the case in this strange match. Hogue won as expected but not without a fight, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

And so it was that in his first Slam that he won a match in, Girsh reached the round of 32, and pushed the world #5 to a fifth set. That's one heck of a way to start the year, and it moves him up to 35th. I don't think he'll move higher for a while, but it pushes him very close to an important threshold. At 32nd, he would be seeded for Slams and the big Masters(IW/Miami), and also ineligible for challengers. That's pretty much the point at which a player switches from 'training' mode to 'elite competitor' status. So that's something that will be watched closely. He's almost there.

As for Anil Mehul, the draw set up very well for him also. From Paris last year on, a lot of things have been breaking his way after they really didn't for a few months leading up to that. Such is the nature of this profession. The first three rounds were yawn-fests as one might expect, even more so than usual as he didn't face a single seed. David Prieto was as good a matchup as you could have in the fourth, still good enough to potentially cause an upset. First set was tense, but it got progressively easier after that: 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2. A good warmup for the real stage, as it were.

Julian Hammerstein was up next, having survived a five-set epic against Elder; he was the only guy to reach the quarters who was not a Top-8 seed. It looks he's set to make a little more noise this year as expected, but as usual he overplayed coming in, taking the singles title in Sydney the week before. It definitely cost him here as Mehul was the fresher player. The first two sets were a war, but Hammerstein couldn't keep up the pace and Anil advanced to the AO semis for a second year in a row, 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

There was more good news. At this level you expect two players to be waiting, and they were: but Iglar was on the other side of the draw. Bjorn Benda was next, definitely the more palatable of the two. Mehul snagged the first set, and it looked like disaster might set in after he failed to serve out the second. He rattled off five straight points to win the breaker and go up two sets to none ... but the German wasn't through. He fought back to take a close third ... and a close fourth ... and the fifth was what it should be at this stage: an all-out struggle. Both players missed chances, but at the end Mehul had a pair of match points, but couldn't break in the 12th game, but he looked the stronger player. It took two more the next time of asking, but he finally survived and moved on to his first Grand Slam final! It was the match of the tournament, 6-3, 7-6(2), 4-6, 4-6, 8-6! Uncharacteristically, Mehul pulled off the upset by having a particularly good serving day.

And of course, that meant the final against Antonin Iglar. There was more than a little hope here after he'd almost knocked him off in the WTC a few weeks ago. Iglar had looked vulnerable against the Russians in this tournament, having to rally from down two sets to one against Goncharenko in the fourth round, then having Topolski do everything but take a second-set tiebreak that he eventually won by an epic 15-13 count. Had that gone the other way, and there were a number of set points on Topolski's serve that could have made it do so, who knows what happens in that much. But he survived.

Unfortunately, it was pretty anticlimactic. No signs of such vulnerability were to be found. To the contrary, Iglar had one of those days. He was in the zone, as they say, and put forward a display of some of the best tennis that has ever been played. I don't think there are five players, if that many, in the history of the game who could have threatened him on this day. Mehul was able to stay with him for about half of the second set, and that was it. The final was 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, with the Czech repeating after converting six of seven break chances(the one miss was among Anil's four aces). A tough fall, but when he plays at that level there's nothing you can do but shake his hand and try again next time. Still, a fantastic run here obviously that gets the year off to a great start, but tough to reach the pinnacle and not get it done. Who knows how many, if any even, more Slam finals he will get a chance at? As for Iglar, he's now matched Benda in Slams(4), Tour Finals(1), and Masters(6); not in weeks at #1 but in another year he'll surpass him in that to. The winning streak now stands at a ridiculous 51 consecutive matches. That seems unlikely to fall before the clay season.

Prakash Mooljee reached the semis in Lima, winning in doubles, and with that will have a prolonged period on the practice courts, probably close to two months. Coming up next is the second round of the WTC against top-ranked and defending world champion Spain.

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Old 10-04-2015, 06:51 AM   #162
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World Team Cup, Group 2 Second Round
Spain vs. Sri Lanka, Grass

Monday

It all went according to plan until Girish Girsh decided not to cooperate in the third set, taking a long tiebreak from world no. 3 David Almagro. Order was restored, but it was still a nice shot across the bow that they aren't invulnerable. Spain takes the lead in the opening rubber, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-0.

Tuesday

It looked closer than it actually was, but either way Mehul dropped David Alvarez in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-3. He only lost his serve once, but it nearly cost him the middle set.

Wednesday

There's a reason Spain is #1. We met that reason today. There are other countries with top singles players, but none that boast as an ace in the hole the top doubles pairing in the world. Girsh and Mehul have done surprisingly well in doubles since forming up last fall, but they got blasted by M. Serrano/J. Carrera, 6-2, 6-0, 6-1. Ouch.

Thursday

On the brink of elimination, Anil Mehul met up with Almagro in the marquee singles matchup of this tie. it certainly lived up to the expectations. He looked headed for a close loss after winning the first set, but a good tiebreak in the fourth sent the match to a decider. Mehul snatched an early break but couldn't hold it, and momentum swung back and forth a few times. In an ending eerily similar to last week's match against Benda, Anil finally broke through for an epic triumph, 7-5, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-8!! Almagro blasted 23 aces to 15 for Mehul, but the rest of the time he couldn't make the tactics work. Only three points separated them at the end.

An interesting side note here: epic matches like this and the Benda encounter really provide a nice bonus to experience. This match alone was worth as much as a decent practice week(singles and doubles combined). Being in the thick of things for best-of-five struggles against other top players is a big boost: not a huge amount compared to a whole year, but when there's a small margin for improving enough to offset aging, anything that can be added is vital.

Friday

So like the first round against the Czechs, it was tied at 2 heading into the final rubber. Girsh was a monstrous underdog against Alvarez, but taking a set from Almagro in the opener served notice that it wasn't completely a foregone conclusion. If he pulled the upset somehow, we'd be very much alive in this year's top level. Neither player had much of an ace count, but Alvarez had much better placement and variety on his serve and maintained a steady advantage with a focused effort, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Spain defeats Sri Lanka, 3-2!!

So that was that. Spain and the Czech Republic clinch advancement from our group. Mexico will be up next, with the winner avoiding the need to stay up via a relegation playoff, and there will be more focus the rest of the year on individual accomplishments. Interestingly, Sri Lanka still moves up another spot and very slightly in the points to 24th in the world. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but points given are based to some degree on the opponent. Apparently even a close loss against the top-ranked Spaniards was enough to slightly raise our stock.

Coming Up

It's time now for the first significant break of the year. For the next month, all three players I track in terms of tournaments will be on the practice courts. We'll next see them in competition in early March at Indian Wells and Miami.
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Old 10-07-2015, 01:09 PM   #163
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February/March

As expected, I have nothing to report here. So basically this is an update to update everyone with the information that there is no update . This is due to the fact that the last month was a solid training block for everyone.

We are on the cusp of Indian Wells, with Miami and the third round of the WTC to follow as Q1 finishes up. Everybody will be in action somewhere in the next couple of weeks, at all different levels of competition, so there will be actual events and tournaments for me to write about next time.

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Old 10-12-2015, 12:41 PM   #164
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Indian Wells Masters

After cruising through the early rounds, Anil Mehul faced off against Gaskell in the fourth and on this particular occasion, got more resistance than he bargained for. After losing a first-set tiebreak, he had to eke out a narrow three-set win that quite frankly he probably didn't even deserve. The American created more chances but was just 1 of 8 in break points while Mehul converted 4 of his 5. It was his third straight win in their matchups with a total count of six out of seven, but the first meeting in a year and a half. Perhaps the gap has closed some ... but he got through.

In the quarters, Perry Hogue is always a tough out and this match could have gone either was as well. After winning a close first set this time, it was Mehul's time to be comeback victim, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. Both had 10 break chances, with Hogue converting four and Mehul only two this time.

The biggest story of the week was the continued emergence of Julian Hammerstein, who made the semifinals and knocked Goncharenko out of the Top 10. It does look as if he's progressed enough to make himself a major factor at the top of the sport this year.


Miami Masters

Once again the 4th round was Mehul's first tough match, this one against Hammerstein where he hoped to repeat his success at the Australian Open. This one was, like the encounters with Gaskell and Hogue only even more-so, a razor-close match that was essentially decided in the first set. Mehul was probably the better player on this day by the slightest of margins, but dropped a tense tiebreak and Hammerstein prevailed 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3. Total points were 99-98 and that's about how close it was. Both players were dominant on serve with only five combined break chances, and it was another good example of just how little separates most of the 'Dazzling Dozen' right now.

Overall, a bit of a disappointing few weeks here for Mehul. Drawing Hammerstein in the fourth round is unlucky, but he's had his share of fortune earlier in the year. To make these weeks a success he really needed to come through against either the Austrian or Hogue, but came up a bit short in both cases.


In Other News ...

Girish Girsh played a couple of Tier-2 challengers and won both, in Kyoto and Rimouski, taking the doubles in the latter as well. Fedor Starovoitov provided the only really stiff resistance, taking their Kyoto semifinal to three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. They met again two weeks later and it was a much more one-sided affair.

Prakash Mooljee had a successful outing at the tier-3 in Osaka, winning in both singles and doubles but it was close. The final against Yenok Abramov was fairly epic and could easily have gone the other way.
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Old 10-12-2015, 12:51 PM   #165
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 24) -- 14,610

The streak continues. Iglar has now won a truly absurd 70 straight singles matches over the past eight months or so. That will almost certainly come to an end sometime during the clay season, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous. I'm running out of words to describe his dominance.

2. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 26) -- 12,850

3. David Almagro(ESP, 30) -- 6,850

Almagro knocked off Benda to reach the Miami final, ensuring that he remains in third for at least a while longer.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 26) -- 6,030

5. David Alvarez(ESP, 28) -- 5,960

6. Mick Elder(USA, 29) -- 4,740

Elder appears to be in relative free-fall. His new management is making a typical new-management kind of mistake, overplaying him criminally. It's a tempting thing to do, but in this environment all it will do is accelerate his decline.

7. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 27) -- 4,300

8. Anil Mehul(SRI, 25) -- 4,270

9. Evgeni Topolski(RUS, 27) -- 4,100

10. Julian Hammerstein(AUT, 25) -- 4,035

With two quarters and a semi in the three big events so far, Julian is showing the consistency that has eluded him the past couple of seasons. Nobody other than Iglar really wants a piece of him right now.


The bottom half of the Top 10 is really bunching up. Another down-to-the-wire fight for WTF positions could be in the offing later in the year.
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Old 10-12-2015, 01:01 PM   #166
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 7th to 8th singles, 126th to 128th doubles. A strange start to the year: Mehul makes the AO final but drops a spot. He hasn't played badly by any stretch, but skipped Dubai where he made the final last year and couldn't produce any breakthroughs in the IW/Miami Masters as mentioned. I expect he'll stay about where he is over the clay season: last year's results were three rounds of 16 and then a QF at Roland Garros. Repeating those results would be solid for him on the dirt.


Girish Girsh -- 40th to 36th singles, 123rd to 106th doubles. A good start to the year with his first Slam wins at the AO and a pair of recent mid-level Challenger titles added. It's been a lot of matches the last month, and we may not see him on the court at all between the tie with Mexico and Roland Garros. Essentially it'll be a second off-season filled with lots of training. He continues to progress well.


Prakash Mooljee -- 66th to 67th juniors. Treading water at the beginning of the year in juniors is fine, he's had some good results and practice has been mixed. Mooljee will probably stay in Tier-3s for now most tournament weeks, as most of the Tier-2s have a couple players a bit beyond him. That may change later in the year.

Manager Ranking -- 18th to 16th, 15k to 16.5k. I was actually 15th after the AO but there's a couple of people I've been regularly jockeying for position with right about at my ranking. Meanwhile, oprice continues to push his record ever higher ...

Next up, the WTC tie with Mexico is on tap, and two weeks after that the clay season gets going with the Monte Carlo almost-a-Masters.

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Old 10-13-2015, 05:15 AM   #167
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World Team Cup Level 1 Group 2: Third Round
Sri Lanka vs. Mexico, Clay

Monday: A. Mehul d. J. Gabriel, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. G. Craighead, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
Wednesday: J. Gabriel/L. Micquel d. G. Girsh/A. Mehul, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
Thursday: A. Mehul d. G. Craighead, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1
Friday: G. Girsh d. J. Gabriel, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(4)

Sri Lanka defeats Mexico, 4-1!

Not a lot of drama this week as all of the rubbers were determined in straight sets and all of the matches looked decisive pretty early. Mexico has a very good doubles team(15th and 16th in the world) but their singles tandem is simply not top-level quality. As expected, Sri Lanka avoids a playoff and is now done with the WTC competition until next year. A better draw is hoped for, but just as importantly is continued improvement, esp. from Girsh who hopefully will be a lot more of a threat to the top players by the time 2042 rolls around.

For the moment Sri Lanka is up two more spots to 22nd overall. We will still probably be the lowest-ranked nation in the top tier next year, but the gap continues to narrow. Mehul will be off to Monte Carlo after a week off as the clay season gets started.
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Old 10-15-2015, 11:52 AM   #168
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Monte Carlo

First up for Mehul was one of the more dangerous young-ish floaters, Thiago Herrera. Their only clay meeting was at the end of last year in the WTC playoffs. This time it was closer, and he only narrowly avoided an opening upset, 6-7(2), 6-1, 7-5. 20th-ranked Anton Grimaldo of Argentina provided a similar challenge in the next round. It looked like Grimaldo might get the better of him as he served for the first set at 5-4 ... but picked the wrong time to hit a cold stretch and Mehul reeled off a shocking stretch of seven games in a row to take the match!

Then it was 13th seed John Condon(Phillipines), whom Mehul hadn't played since juniors, winning their only meeting there. Condon is an extreme clay specialist, but overplays a lot and was a bit tired coming in. He's got a fine serve, but hasn't spent nearly enough time on his baseline game. After losing a tiebreak, Mehul dominated the last two sets to advance once again.

Suddenly Anil Mehul found himself in the semifinals, a completely stunning turn of events. He was a bit fatigued at this point himself; I didn't expect to make it nearly this far, but with Benda not playing this week and Hogue getting knocked out early, the path was cleared a bit. That fatigue showed against David Almagro, who rallied after a bad first set to win 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Still, it was a strange and very successful week: any of the the first three matches could easily have been losses, and they were exactly the kinds of wins that are needed for Mehul to have a good clay season. The chances of that are now much higher; this is his best clay result of his career to date, and the points yield is more than he got from all three clay Masters combined last year.

It'll now be a couple of weeks off before Rome & Madrid, where he'll try to at least keep up the trend of taking out the lower-ranked challengers.
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Old 10-19-2015, 03:54 AM   #169
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Prakash Mooljee had another successful Tier-3 in May; thought about moving up but it was a light week with only one Tier-2 and one Tier-3 on the schedule. He was the #3 seed but still managed the title in both singles and doubles. Mooljee is hanging around in the lower 60s of the juniors rankings pretty consistently right now, and they've mostly stabilized for the year.

Meanwhile, it was an important time for Girish Girsh who is making his transition to the elite a bit earlier than planned. The intent had been to play in the Busan Challenger(Tier 1) in Korea during the Madrid Masters -- but he was ranked 32nd going in which is last ineligible spot. I.e., the Top 32 are ineligible for challengers, 33 and below can play them.

This left two suboptimal choices: play the Masters events or have cruddy practice weeks. With a 90-point win coming off in a couple weeks at the time(Fergana Tier-2 challenger last year), the Masters option offered the possibility of a chance at staying in that Top 32 and getting seeded at Roland Garros. And so the choice was made: Girsh is ready to attempt to make his move into the elite players status permanently, a move that means a major schedule change, saying good-bye to 'Challenger Hero' status based on training as much as possible, and focusing instead on maximizing performance for the business end of the larger events.

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Old 10-19-2015, 04:08 AM   #170
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Madrid Masters

Girsh needed and got a favorable first-round draw against Russian qualifier Efim Lipovsky, brushing him aside easily. Marcek was up in the next round and Girsh did well to take a set before falling, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. No shame there.

Mehul took three sets to come through against Swede Olav Birkeland in his second-round match; he's dominated that matchup with six wins in as many encounters so it was a little tougher than expected. He then routined Thiago Herrera to make the quarterfinals where David Alvarez waited. Alvarez has clearly established himself as the second-best clay player in the world the last couple of years, and so a competitive 6-4, 7-5 loss -- though it wasn't quite as close as that scoreline would indicate -- was a very credible result.


Rome Masters

It was more of the same, with Girish Girsh astonishingly drawing Lipovsky again, though this time the Russian didn't have to qualify. Switzerland's Roger Federer -- gotta love the originality of some people with the 'idol worship' names -- presently 40th in the world, was a good second-round test and Girsh passed 6-3, 7-6(4). On to the round of 16 ... where it was Marcek again. Guh. He wasn't playful this time, handing out a pair of breadsticks en route to the final as Iglar and Goncharenko would fall in his wake. A fine run for the Czech no. 2 here.

Mehul dusted off Mockler 4 & 4, Blanco in straight sets as well, and had another shot at David Almagro, who'd beaten him in the Monte Carlo semis. Another quarterfinal is a good finish, but after a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 defeat he left the court frustrated and believing he should have won it. He won 40% of the points on Almagro's serve, but just 3 of 17 break chances and was just edged 95-93 in total points. Probably he should have won this one, but it almost certainly would have meant getting beat by Benda in the next round. The German won both Madrid & Rome to the surprise of nobody, upping his Masters total to 8, equaling Alastra and Iglar among others at that number.

Coming Up ...

Heading into Roland Garros both players are feeling good about themselves. Girsh has tied his career-high at 29th and looks secure. He lost in the first round at RG and Wimbledon last year, has no other points coming off in the interim, and since he'll be seeded this year he has the chance to start making up some ground on those ahead of him. Mehul has had a stellar clay season, by far the best of his career, and moved up a spot to a new high of 6th as Elder's free-fall continues. He'll be looking to at least equal last year's QF finish.
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Old 10-22-2015, 01:44 PM   #171
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French Open

Girish Girsh had a very tough match at the outset. The opponent was Argentinian Robert Garcia(36th), one of the toughest if not the toughest unseeded 'floaters' in the draw and a clay specialist. I had Garcia slightly favored actually, which would be a disappointing result for Girsh to lose right away. After an epic first-set tiebreak, he managed to narrowly pull through, 7-6(10), 6-4, 6-4! A huge win, and one that really shows he belongs now if he can beat players like Garcia on clay.

Australia's Robert Minson provided only token resistance, but Girsh met up with Iglar in the third round. A triple-breadstick later, he was on his way home having been thoroughly dismantled by the legendary Czech. He's not near that stratosphere yet, but another third-round finish is a solid result here.

Mehul had virtual walk-overs in his first two matches, and then met up with Eric Gorritepe for the first time in some while during the third round. By this point in time it is no contest. The legend is only a shadow of his former self and took just three games. In the fourth, it was a clash of two players that rolled through their opening matches, with Viktor Goncharenko on the other side of the net. On the whole Mehul has surpassed the Russian but clay is Goncharenko's best surface relatively speaking. Even in a down year last season he made the semis here. I had this pegged as a real 'pick-em' affair that could go either way.

Unfortunately Goncharenko clearly had the upper hand in the first two sets. The third went down to a wild tiebreak with Mehul taking the first two points, then losing four straight only to save triple match point and level it! After that it went back and forth, both players with many chances to take it, eventually Goncharenko prevailing to end it in straight sets. 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(14) in the longest breaker I've yet seen. Goncharenko was much better on 2nd serve points on both ends, using his clay expertise on those occasions, while Mehul converted only 1 of 5 break chances. Overall this is a mildly disappointing result, losing a round earlier than he did last year and falling in the round of 16 after a semifinal and two quarterfinals in the clay Masters leading up to it. But still it's a very successful clay season overall.

The business end of the tournament was a bit unusual, with only three of the top 8 seeds reaching the quarterfinals. Marcel Bahana is indeed sharply on the rise this year and was there, moving up to 17th after a straight-sets loss to Iglar. Julian Hammerstein met the same fate after reaching the first Slam semi of his career, enough to vault him up to a new best of 8th as Elder tumbles out of the Top 10. The most shocking was Argentinian Max Benitez, just 31st coming in to the tournament. The 24-year-old had never surpassed the third round in a Slam before so this is, at least for now, a career-defining moment for him. He's up to 24th after making it to the final 8 and giving Alvarez a surprisingly competitive match once he got there.

During the second week at Roland Garros, Prakash Mooljee had a disappointing tier-3 outing. He exited quickly in doubles and as the 3-seed lost to top-seeded Paul Veal(GBR) in what I considered to be a very slight upset at the semifinal stage.

Coming Up ...

Mooljee will have a few weeks off still before his next event. Mehul once again got enough matches in that he'll be skipping the grass-court warmups, but Girsh will be playing his first 250 the week before Wimbledon. As always it's a short turnaround of a couple weeks in between the Slams here. Mehul slid to 7th just behind Marcek, while Girsh is back at his career-high of 29th. They'll be looking to improve on 4th and 1st-round finishes respectively from a year ago.

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Old 10-25-2015, 08:36 PM   #172
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The last week of the break, Girish Girsh headed off to the UNICEF Open(250), his first tournament at that level. As the 4th seed, he expected to go fairly deep ... but was stunned 7-5, 7-6(2) in the opener by Ignacio Ortiz(ARG, 51st). Relative to reasonable expectations, it might well be the worst loss of Girsh's career; certainly it's the worst in the last couple of years. Ortiz is strong both physically and mentally, but not a grass specialist and technically speaking there is a considerable gap between them. It's a match Girsh should win at least 9 out of ten times, but he just really laid an egg here. It's a crummy way to go into the most prestigious tournament in the world, and practically speaking it was worse than just taking a practice week. No points gained, and he had to scramble to find remotely useful friendly matches for preparation.


Wimbledon

And so it was that both Mehul and Girsh needed to enter doubles in order to get their match levels up. They decided to play together -- and actually did a bit too well, not only making it through qualifiying but also winning one match in the main draw before going out in the second. This vaulted both into the Top 100 in doubles, but also swung the pendulum to the other side of being a bit overplayed. It's hard to find the right balance sometimes.

Girsh had himself a nice stroll through the first couple of matches, notably flattening up-and-coming hopeful Garreth McKuskey(USA) in the second round. David Alvarez loomed in the third, and he's really not all that special off of clay. Girsh thought himself to have a real chance, even if still an underdog, going in. Alvarez had his serve going well though, allowing just 13 points against it for a 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(3) decision. Competitive, but still Girsh looks for his first Top 10 win. A third third-round Slam result on the year shows a consistency that will eventually pay bigger dividends.

Anil Mehul had his path cleared with the good fortune to be in the same section as the shell of Mick Elder. In the first week the only seed he faced was Marcelo Herrera, and he surrendered only a half-dozen games. Quickly he moved on to his first-ever quarterfinal appearance here against Evgeni Topolski, feeling good about himself after a bit of an upset against Hogue. The Russian's serve was just good enough to keep him in it, but Mehul was clearly the better and proved it in a pair of closing tiebreaks, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(10). Tense, but a clear victor.

The semifinals found him a bit weary, and going up against Iglar. A quick result was feared, but this was not peak Iglar that showed up. The early tiebreaks went against Mehul, but he showed great fight to rally and eventually forced a classic finish. 7-6(1), 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 3-6, 10-8 was the final, an epic match that in fact he probably should have won. He put a little more consistent pressure on the Czech's service games than he himself endured, but at the most vital moments the world no. 1 was just good enough. Both players had identical 2 of 13 conversion rates on break points, leaving plenty of opportunities on the court.

Although he made the final back in Australia, this was the closest Mehul has yet come to a Slam title. The other finalist was Almagro, who he had beaten on grass in another 10-8 5th set earlier in the year. It's one of those frustrating epics where you stare at the scoreboard for a long time after it's over, not quite believing you came up short. Twice Iglar rallied from a set down, and had to go a bit further before stopping Almagro 11-9 in the 5th set of the final. Despite that, it required some 86 fewer points than the 451 in the semifinal. No question that he earned his first Wimbledon title, but Mehul had been so very close to a chance to claim it. How many more chances that good, if any, will he get to a chance at the brass ring?

There were many surprises, beginning with defending champion Bjorn Benda being stunned back in the 4th round by Goncharenko, the titlist here two years ago. Alvarez reached the quarters after failing to ever get past the third round previously, and fast-rising Marcel Bahana had his second Slam quarter on the heels of the first in Roland Garros. Meanwhile, David Almagro turned back the clock to make the final despite being closer to 31 than 30 years old. He's had quite the renaissance these last couple of years.
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Old 10-25-2015, 08:46 PM   #173
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 24) -- 16,690

Now armed with a 5th Slam title, Iglar has made the last four finals, losing only to Benda at the FO a month ago. He's playing more against the history books right now than any contemporary.

2. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 27) -- 11,030

Benda's days a serious challenger to the #1 spot may well be over after a surprisingly early loss. He appears to be declining faster than expected, but there is still a gulf between him and the rest of the field.

3. David Almagro(ESP, 30) -- 7,370

A run to the Wimbledon final has Almagro once again stamped in a clear if distant third place.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 27) -- 5,520

5. David Alvarez(ESP, 28) -- 5,400

Alvarez had a less fortunate clay season than the previous year, mostly due to not avoiding Benda's side of the draw as much. However, he's upped his game elsewhere, becoming a bit more versatile and showing no signs of fading.

6. Anil Mehul(SRI, 25) -- 5,110

Back in sixth after his first Wimbledon semi.

7. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 27) -- 4,630

Marcek and Mehul have distanced themselves a fair bit from the pack at the bottom of the Top 10, and are narrowing the gap with Alvarez and Hogue. Whether they can complete that chase remains to be seen.

8. Viktor Goncharenko(RUS, 28) -- 4,110

Unmistakable signs of life at RG and Wimbledon move Goncharenko back above Topolski as the top Russian in the world. It would appear that his obituary was written prematurely.

9. Evgeni Topolski(RUS, 27) -- 4,070

10. Julian Hammerstein(AUT, 25) -- 4,060

Up and down, unfocused and poorly prepared on occasion, Hammerstein has nonetheless been a quarterfinalist in the last four Slams. He remains too talented to be safely ignored.
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Old 10-25-2015, 09:03 PM   #174
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 8th to 6th singles, 128th to 91st doubles. It was a breakout stretch in what is his worst time of the year, with only the French Open even a minor disappointment. Mehul now sets his aim higher. I expect him to improve on a subpar last year, and if he does, breaking into the Top 4 by year's end is not at all out of the question. On the whole, I believe he has turned a corner and surpassed most of his rivals. The question remains whether he is yet good enough to beat them consistently.


Girsh Girsh -- 36th to 26th singles, 106th to 87th doubles. Girsh is now firmly entrenched as an elite player, despite the disappointing loss at the UNICEF Open. He will need to do very well to even maintain his current position however, as he will be losing the points from five Challenger titles won during the second half of last year. The most immediate goal is to continue moving up to reach the Top 16, carrying with it seeding at all Masters events. Beyond that, there is the chase of Marcel Bahana. The skill gap between them is narrowing, but Bahana has been even more successful this year, already up to 15th. I'll delve more into that comparison at the end of the year.


Prakash Mooljee -- 67th to 68th juniors. Gradually he is losing ground bit by bit to his contemporaries who, while lacking Mooljee's staying power, are pushing forward to reach physical maturity first. In the long run, slow and steady tends to be more rewarding. As always we take the patient view, and more Tier-3 tournaments will likely be in the offing.


Manager Ranking -- 16th to 15th, 16.5k to 17.4k. Meanwhile, the record high of oprice continues to rise, reaching the previously unapproached level of over 57k.


Coming Up ...

The summer break is now upon us. Success has it's price in terms of the smaller events. Girsh will likely play in either Atlanta or Washington, while Mehul will have a full month off until the US hardcourt Masters start the leadup to the US Open.
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Old 10-25-2015, 09:29 PM   #175
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2041 Race to the World Tour Finals

Once again we check in with the early report on where things stand:

In

Antonin Iglar -- 9440
Bjorn Benda -- 6910


Probable

David Almagro -- 4890
David Alvarez -- 4700
Anil Mehul -- 3630


Contenders

Perry Hogue -- 3000
Viktor Goncharenko -- 2985
Evgeni Topolski -- 2790
------------------------------
Cestmir Marcek -- 2760
Julian Hammerstein -- 2660


Long Shots

Pierce Gaskell -- 2030
Marcel Bahana -- 1905


Outlook

Compared to last year, much is the same, but much is not. The complete absence of Elder is striking, Prieto as well though that was more anticipated, and there is also the emergence of Bahana. With his hardcourt dominance, Iglar has already wrapped up the Race this year. Instead of being right in the thick of the fight, Mehul is several hundred points clear, although he has much work yet to do to confirm his spot. It seems very unlikely he will participate in any year-end suspense. Marcek and Hammerstein, only late curiosities last season, are very much in contention this time around. Hogue has fallen off badly, but still has a solid chance to qualify, while the Russians are once again on the verge of going either way.
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Old 10-29-2015, 04:55 PM   #176
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July/August

Uneventful, except for Girish Girsh entering the Atlanta(250, H) tournament. As the 4th-seed, he got a first-round bye and then a virtual walkover against an American wild card. Then it was Milan Farkas(CZE, 39th), a meteoric player who is pretty much at his peak right now. Farkas is in the just good enough to be dangerous category for Girsh, a player he should definitely beat but couldn't be completely overlooked. After taking the first set, he succumbed to Farkas taking most of the big points and serving out of his mind. The final was 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

With this, Girsh is unquestionably in a big slump. He hasn't had a good win in about two months, with both of his Wimbledon victories coming against highly inferior competition, and very bad losses both here and at UNICEF. It's not a moment to panic or anything, he'll break out of it eventually I'm sure, but he's certainly squandering some good opportunities right now. Sometime in the last couple of weeks he also hit the point where he is now past physical maturity, seeing the very first barely-noticeable signs of decline, though he'll be able to improve technically enough to still get better for several more years of course. The rate of improvement will now begin to slow, and the gravy train is starting to pull out from the station, as it were.

The Canada Masters is just underway(Sunday qualifying as I write this) with Cincinatti to follow the week after. Girsh and Mehul are both playing of course, with Anil hoping to do better than last year's round of 16 exits in both events while Girish makes his debuts with the goal of getting some points to offset three challenger titles that will be dropping off in the next six weeks. Mooljee is in Sokhumi, Georgia, for his latest Tier-3 outing as well this week.

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Old 10-31-2015, 11:37 PM   #177
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Canada Masters

Girsh had a somewhat unlucky draw, going up against 13th-seed David Prieto in the first round. Still, at this stage of their respective careers, it should be an even match, maybe the slightest edge even to Girsh. Didn't work out that way, with a fairly one-sided 6-4, 6-3 defeat with the outcome never really in doubt. His slump continues; he's lost the first match in three of his last four events(Wimbledon the exception).

Mehul fared better, of course, with a first-round bye. It was pretty much a cake early draw with a qualifier and then Swede 16th-seed Vito Bonamoni in the third. He had a hard time getting to the veteran's serve, but was never really threatened despite a tight 7-5, 6-4 scoreline. In the quarters Hogue awaited, having won their last four meetings going back over a year. He took the first set, but Mehul reversed that with a very strong comeback, winning 4-6, 6-1, 6-2! At the same time, Hammerstein shocked Iglar, the no. 1's first hardcourt loss in a year and a half!!

That set up an interesting semifinal with Mehul's Austrian shadow. His spectacular return game reversed the usual result, a pretty quick straight-set win to reach the final against Benda. They hadn't played since their epic semifinal at the Australian, and this one didn't last as long. All week long Anil Mehul has returned and rallied brilliantly, and that continued. After a tight first set he raced home for a 7-5, 6-2 victory, earning a stunning first Masters Shield here!! Throughout the tournament he won at least 42% of his return points, even going up against some of the very best servers in the game.

This is a huge step beyond his 250 in Stockholm last year and the 500 crown in Japan the year before that. At this level all the best are here, so to come through shows he has really arrived at the top. It also launched him to a new career-high of #4 in the rankings. The feeling over the spring clay season that he had really turned a corner was definitely validated here -- but he's a little tired now.


Cincinatti Masters

Girish Girsh pretty much had his fate chosen for him. Qualifier Arnaldo Barranco of Peru took just four games as he managed to avoid another first-round setback at least, but then Hogue was a little too much in a straight-sets second-round loss.

Mehul's first challenge came from Marcek in the quarterfinals. Like the matchup with Hogue the previous week, he dropped the first set only to come back for the win, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Already a bit tired, he edged ahead in their H2H matchup, still a perfect 3-0 against the Czech no. 2 on hardcourts but winless on the dirt.

His fine run was unceremoniously ended by Iglar, who was clearly disappointed by having lost the previous week and reminded everyone who is the boss in a comprehensive straight-sets bludgeoning. Hogue took a set off him in the final but was served up a third-set breadstick as a further reminder.


Coming Up ...

The final Slam of the year, the US Open, will see Mehul go in with a full head of steam. There are some strange goings-on with Almagro & Topolski not playing the last couple of weeks. They've missed big events before, but not like this: neither has been seen in the several weeks since Wimbledon. It appears their manager might be MIA. If the pair is gone for good, it'll certainly dilute the competition at the top, which would be a shame -- both still had something to give tennis. If Almagro doesn't play in Flushing Meadows, Mehul is almost certain to rise to the #3 spot, though that certainly wouldn't be the preferred way to do it. That's not a real goal for him anyway. Third or fourth doesn't matter for seeding, and at 30 Almagro's days are numbered. The real next target is catching Benda in the #2 spot, and now that he has a Masters Shield to his name, giving himself as many chances as possible to grasp a Slam champion's trophy.

Girsh meanwhile is simply looking to get out of his current funk. The transition to playing top players week in and week out has proved difficult, maybe because he came to it a bit sooner, I don't know. There's no major danger in terms of his long-term, but the sooner he snaps out of it and finds his A game again the better of he'll be.

Prakash Mooljee lost in the Sokhumi semis in doubles, and in the final to the much higher-ranked top seed Khasan Zhakirvo(UZB). He'll be playing a tier-2 next week, with the top players being at the junior USO there wouldn't be many quality practice partners to be had anyway.

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Old 11-04-2015, 11:15 PM   #178
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I'm not sure what it is about the USO that is cursed or something. This is at least the second year in a row that a RL work crisis of some sort has prevented me getting the update up in a timely fashion. Once again it's a week late in game terms, so the World Team Cup QF -- though not as important this year with Sri Lanka not participating -- which take place the week after have already been completed.

US Open

As is my custom we begin with Girsh Girsh, who did not play here last year, electing to take the title in the tier-3 Bangkok Challenger. The year before he lost in the first round, so he comes in seeking his first win at Flushing Meadows. As the 25th-seed, Girsh dropped just a single game against an American wild-card to get started. With John Condon, a clay specialist not expected to do well here anyway, the highest seed to lose in the first round his path was cleared and there were no challenges all the way through to the fourth round, already the furthest progression he's yet made in a Slam event!

There awaited Anil Mehul, whose lone resistance had come from Bonamoni and that only in one tight set. I knew it would happen eventually; Mehul and Girsh in a competitive match. They've played in practice events a few times recently, and contested hundreds of friendly matches, especially over the past year or so as they've become each other's most useful hitting partners. In recent months, Girsh has taken a number of sets and pushed Mehul on many occasions, but he has never won any of these matches. Not once. The gap between the players, at this point, is such that Girsh has a very small chance if everything goes his way, just barely good enough to be a danger.

This was Girsh's first round of 16 appearance at a major event, while Mehul would equal last year's QF finish if he won as expected. The first set went his way easily, but Girsh grabbed an early break in the second and, more surprisingly, held onto it. The third was very competitive as well, but the younger player double-faulted on the first set point against him, and Mehul seized the momentum to finish off the match. 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 was the final.

In the quarters, a 10th meeting with Julian Hammerstein awaited. In the past couple of years, neither player has won two in a row and Mehul took the last one in the Canada semis just a few weeks ago. That didn't stop him from taking a good first set, and he looked to be in control of the second as well. Serving at 5-4, 30-0, just two points away from a 2-0 sets lead, he completely fell apart. A few minutes later, he'd dropped three straight games and the set to let Hammerstein level the match. A tense third had no breaks and went to a tiebreak. Back and forth it went, Mehul had a set point on Hammerstein's serve but didn't convert, then couldn't hold him off when the tables were flipped. After falling behind an early break in the fourth, he had only one chance to break back and couldn't get it done. Hammerstein advances in a tough loss for Mehul, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(8), 6-4.

Hammerstein's serve was ridiculous -- 33 aces, the most Mehul has ever surrendered -- and he converted 4 of 7 with Mehul only getting 3 breaks despite nearly twice the chances(13). The Austrian had to serve 27 more points as Mehul put more pressure on his serve, winning nearly half of the returns he put in play, but it wasn't enough. As much as it ever has been, the mental edge of the Austrian was definitely shown here. A tight and high-quality match. Iglar awaited regardless, so at least it is not a loss of huge consequence. In their personal rivalry, Mehul and Hammerstein have now split 8 hard-court meetings, with the Austrian holding the overall edge 6-4 due to taking both clay encounters. The overall trend is on Mehul's side, but I don't think he has quite yet made up the gap between them. It's definitely an entertaining matchup to watch as both continue to rise and you never know who will when they match up.

On the other side of the bracket, Goncharenko stunned Benda in straight sets while Alvarez outlasted Hogue in five, setting up a very surprising matchup. Neither had made the semis here before -- not even the quarters for Alvarez -- and one would be an underdog finalist! Antonin Iglar went on to win the title as predicted, never dropping a set though Goncharenko did force him to one tough tiebreak in the final.

In Other News

At the Pancevo Tier-2, Prakash Mooljee did well in taking the doubles crown and making it to the final in singles. Zakirov beat him again there but it was his best result to date.
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Old 11-04-2015, 11:34 PM   #179
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(24, CZE) -- 15,870

An early loss in Canada was a bit disappointing, but Iglar has clearly righted the ship. His third straight US Open title -- with more definitely anticipated -- gives him 6 Slams, one more than Benda and equalling Alastra. His 9 Masters Shields are one more than either as well, making him as least as accomplished a player as the game has seen since Eric Gorritepe's reign ended. And of course, he's still at least a year, probably somewhat more than that away from even reaching his peak.

2. Bjorn Benda(27, DEU) -- 10,690

He'll be the clear #2 at least well into next year, but the writing is on the wall; off of clay, he's clearly not the force he was a season or two ago.

3. Anil Mehul(25, SRI) -- 6,200

Leapfrogging the absent Almagro, he reaches a new career high -- but moving up from here is a tall order.

4. David Alvarez(28, ESP) -- 6,200

Not sure what the tiebreaker is here. Alvarez continues to surprise, having diversified his game to produce better consistent hardcourt results than I thought he would achieve.

5. David Almagro(30, ESP) -- 5,950

If he comes back to the game he can still be a significant factor, but at his age that window is rapidly closing.

6. Perry Hogue(27, USA) -- 5,630

Hogue's success has always been based on being a good enough hardcourt player to have great results there balance out weaknesses elsewhere. He was a finalist in Cincinatti, proving that he still has what it takes to produce at least on occasion.

7. Viktor Goncharenko(28, RUS) -- 5,040

I had him buried before the season, and here he comes back again. Goncharenko was a USO finalist, along with a semi in Wimbledon and consistent Masters results. A bit of a career renaissance here has once again made him into a player that is not safely overlooked.

8. Cestmir Marcek(27, CZE) -- 4,760

The question here is whether Marcek has peaked. His rise appeared to stall over the summer, but after producting his first-ever Slam quarterfinal he may yet have more to say.

9. Julian Hammerstein(25, AUT) -- 4,600

Two semis and two quarters in the Slams this year: Hammerstein has been more consistent this season, and could yet move up significantly before it ends.

10. Evgeni Topolski(27, RUS) -- 3,170

Ever the underachiever, Topolski's absence has him about to tumble out of the Top 10.


There's not a huge gap right now in the 3rd-9th positions, which have separated themselves by a big margin from those following. Pretty much what I expected early in the year in general, but with specific players Goncharenko moving back up and Elder/Almagro/Topolski essentially surrendering was not expected.
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Old 11-04-2015, 11:47 PM   #180
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 6th to 3rd singles, 91st to 78th doubles. A strong push continues, and now Mehul has a new target. It will take a while, but the only way he can really improve himself is to unseat Benda at #2. That means consistently making at least the semis at the big events. At a minimum, he needs to fight off close challengers to stay in the Top 4 but I think he should be able to accomplish that with relatively little difficulty. As he approaches his peak, Mehul is running out of realistic targets for improvement with Iglar as ever out of reach. He'll have the entire month off between now and Shanghai as he played more matches than expected, especially at Canada.


Girish Girsh -- 26th to 23rd singles, 87th to 73rd doubles. A career-best run at the USO masks a lot of the summer struggles for Girsh, moving him up to a new personal high. He didn't have to beat anyone good there though, it just sort of opened up for him with a good draw. Nothing wrong with that, but there are still concerns about his recent play at least in the short term. As more challenger and WTC results from last year are lost, I expect him to maintain a spot somewhere in the 20s depending on how he does towards the end of the season, with an eye towards taking another step forward in the new year. He'll have another tournament, probably a 250, between now and Shanghai.


Prakash Mooljee -- 68th to 50th juniors. Pancevo gave him his first significant step forward this year, though he'll be taking several weeks off now to rest and train. He's almost-but-not-quite there in terms of moving up to Tier-2s consistently, and also in terms of being ready to play in some Amateur-level events. Probably by next year.


Manager Ranking -- 15th to 12th, 17.4k to 18.4k. I'm almost 2k behind the next manager above me so the best I can do is really stay here for a while and close the gap. oprice has set another record, up over 59k now, more than his closest two competitors combined.
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:02 AM   #181
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-USO Edition

With Almagro and Topolski vanishing, the picture has changed somewhat Thankfully, this year Mehul will not need to deal with any drama, and frankly it looks like there may well not be any at all ...

In

Antonin Iglar -- 12,620
Bjorn Benda -- 8,830


Probable

David Alvarez -- 5,780
Anil Mehul -- 5,280
David Almagro -- 5,090
Viktor Goncharenko -- 4,635
Julian Hammerstein -- 3,920
Cestmir Marcek -- 3,750


Long Shots

**None**

Topolski is already completely off the radar, and none of the other hopefuls have kept pace either. Barring some miraculous turnaround somewhere, the field is basically set here, only the final order remains to be determined. Never in my memory has the gap between the haves and have-nots been so obvious and pronounced. Hammerstein and Marcek would be first-timers, and Goncharenko didn't make the field last year either.

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Old 11-07-2015, 05:18 AM   #182
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September

Girish Girsh was the only player in action, heading to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Open(250), where he was seeded second. It was a weak field, and he didn't lose a set in crashing through to his first professional title, a full year faster than Mehul managed that feat! It was less impressive than it sounds, however. His final opponent was the only one worth mentioning, 14th-ranked John Condon. Condon is very strong and has an elite serve, but also huge weaknesses in foot speed and baseline play. Both against him and in the semifinal, Girsh's mental strength got him through fairly easily but timing and technique still seemed off. It was a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline against Condon, with the Filipino failing on all eight break chances. Still a good success obviously, moving him back up to his high of 23rd and providing a points buffer against the two end-of-the-year Challengers that he will shortly lose, but there wasn't much to evidence breaking out of his slump.

And so, the tour moves on to Shanghai, the last big hardcourt tournament of the year.
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Old 11-08-2015, 04:43 PM   #183
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Shanghai Masters

Girish Girsh easily stormed through a qualifier in the first round ... and then drew Mehul in the second. They hadn't played a competitive match once, and now a second time in six weeks. Go figure. This time it wasn't as close, 6-1, 6-4.

Anil Mehul's next match was even easier, and then in the quarters he expected Marcek but instead got American Radek Smitala. The unseeded 24-year-old was the surprise quarterfinalist of the tournament. He put up a fight, but Mehul pushed him aside 7-6(2), 6-3. Again his path was cleared as Iglar was supposed to be next, but as in Canada was an upset victim, this time of Perry Hogue in a third-set tiebreak. With his immensely high standards, this fall now has to be a disappointment. They played a strange semi-final that went the distance though none of the sets was close. Mehul advanced 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. It's his second straight win over Hogue on the American's preferred surface: perhaps he's close to mastering him after four straight losses prior.

This time there was no upset on the other side, with Benda waiting and looking very sharp. Mehul was under pressure immediately in the final, but escaped a break point and avoided going down early. There would be only two breaks in the entire match, one each way. A pair of nearly-identical tiebreaks later, he claimed his second Masters Shield with a 7-6(3), 7-6(3) victory, beating Benda for the third time in as many chances this year, though all were on hardcourt. This victory essentially secures the year-end #3 for him, and confirms what his path is now: chasing down the German, bit by bit. With a gap that is still more than four thousand points, it'll be a long chase.

Coming Up ...

Now the hectic finish of the short indoor season is upon us. Mehul will take next week off, while Girsh heads to the Kremlin Cup(250) in Moscow. Both will probably play in one of the 500s the week after, and then the Paris Masters. Girsh needs to get in more matches here, while Mehul has more leeway especially with the tour finals in Finland coming at the end of November. With Sri Lanka having been knocked out of the WTC for the year, the usual scramble to get enough match play for optimal off-season training is a larger goal than any particular points gain.
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Old 11-09-2015, 06:18 PM   #184
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Race To Finland
Two weeks Left

I made a rather stunning error with the last Race standings, when I pronounced it over. It seems I somehow didn't include Hogue at all. Ahem. So things are not as simple as they were then reported to be. Here's where we are now, heading into the week before Paris.

In

Antonin Iglar -- 12750
Bjorn Benda -- 9780
Anil Mehul -- 6210
David Alvarez -- 5910

Mehul is still clear at least as mentioned; he booked his spot with the Shanghai title.


Probable

David Almagro -- 5040
Viktor Goncharenko -- 5015
Perry Hogue -- 4860

It would require a disaster for any of these three to make it, but it's not official yet.


Contenders

Cestmir Marcek -- 3960
-------------------------------
Julian Hammerstein -- 3920

It looks like this is the real contest, only it isn't much of one. Hammerstein is focusing on doubles now. He's not even playing singles in Paris and skipped Shanghai as well -- though he's still scheduled to play both in next year's Australian Open. Still, if this holds up, Marcek pretty much gets the final spot by default. Unless ...


Long Shots

Pierce Gaskell -- 3255

Coming out of nowhere, Gaskell won the Japan Open and then made the semis in Shanghai. He still needs a miracle but he's put himself back in the conversation. He's taking this week off, which means he pretty much needs to win Paris to make it happen. Possible, but extremely unlikely.
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Old 11-11-2015, 01:27 AM   #185
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October

Only a two-week break between Shanghai and Paris, but boy is there always a lot going on. The first week Mehul was off, but Girsh was off to the Kremlin Cup(250). It was an easy trip for him, with a blast down memory lane as he knocked off Fabian Graff in the quarters, then easily took care of the shell of what used to be Mick Elder in the semis. The final opponent was Viktor Goncharenko, at least an equal to Girsh overall but indoors I thought he had a good chance of the upset. It didn't work out that way, a 6-3, 7-6(4) score that was more one-sided in favor of the Russian than that score would indicate. Fairly disappointing that, but another good result even if he didn't have to beat anybody good to achieve it.

Prakash Mooljee headed off to Tokyo, a Tier-3 during a strange week that didn't have any larger events. Because of that, a tougher field was feared but one of the top players pulled out at the last minute and he ended up the second seed. It was a pretty easy run to a singles title and runner-up in doubles. He'll probably have only one more tournament this year.

The following week, Mehul and Girsh were both in action. The younger player was at the Swiss Indoors(500), while the older played at Valencia(500), both indoor events. Girsh reached the semis against top-seeded Perry Hogue, a better player than Goncharenko but even so the match was closer. It was the first real sign of life from him since the spring, but still a loss, 6-4, 7-6(4). He was just a little short of being able to pull it off ... and then Hogue lost to unseeded Roger Federer in the final. Figures.

Mehul expected to yawn his way through, but was stunned in the final going for his second straight title and 10th straight win. David Alvarez beat him 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Overall Mehul was better but might have taken it too lightly: on an indoor court Alvarez should not be serious competition for him, but the Spaniard was the more consistent player and won more of the big moments. It was exactly the kind of loss that could derail his push to knock Benda out of the #2 spot, and probably his worst defeat of the year.

Coming Up

Naturally it's the Paris Masters now, with Girsh making his debut and seeded no less, 15th after his last couple weeks have moved him up a bit. It will be his last tournament of the year. Mehul made the semis last year and his goal is at least to make the final. Iglar is the only player who should beat him indoors, but as we have seen all over the place this fall, nobody is invincible if they don't bring their best tennis.

The Race is also not over, it seems. Hammerstein changed his mind and is playing here, so if he goes further than Marcek he should get the last spot. Once again it will come down to the wire.

Real-Time Update:

Both made it through their first matches(second round). In the round of 16 both are favored, with Marcek taking on Groeneveldt, and Hammerstein meeting unseeded David Prieto(how times change for that to happen). Mehul should have a walk against Andres Blanco, while Girsh has a very interesting matchup with Pierce Gaskell, who has not yet been eliminated either but he needs to take the title and have both of the other contenders lose before the semis so his chances are extremely small.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 11-11-2015 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 11-12-2015, 01:18 AM   #186
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Paris Masters
The Rest of the Story ...

Round of 16

As I left off yesterday, it was the third round about to commence. Mehul had a lazy service game to force a tiebreak against Blanco, but game through in straight sets. Girsh got off to a great start against Gaskell, but he's pretty match-worn at this point and it showed as the determined American fought back for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 final. No shame in losing to a more prepared, desperate 10th-ranked player in three, that's for certain. He'll be in the teens after this and probably drop down to the low 20s by the end of the year, pretty darn good considering the slump. It's nearly two months off for him now, until WTC group play opens after the first of the year. He was 38-18 on the year, the tougher competition showing in the fact that he'd never lost more than 13 matches previously. The long break might be just want he needs to enter the next season roaring. I can only hope.

So with Gaskell advancing that increased the pressure on the other two. I expected them both to win, but Marcek was fairly stunning knocked off by Groeneveldt with a breadstick no less in the decisive set, and that put Hammerstein in the driver's seat if he won. He did so, a competitive straight-sets win over Prieto. That meant if the Austrian upset Benda in the quarters, or if Gaskell didn't win the tournament, he was in. Really good odds those, but not certain yet.


Quarterfinals

Mehul was up against Hogue here, and beat him soundly although he lost a tight second set to extend it to three. Gaskell still wouldn't give up, taking down Alvarez 4 & 4, with Benda putting away Hammerstein by the same score. As a result, the Race was not yet over; Gaskell could still pull off the miracle if he won the title. It was all on his racket.


Semifinals

Both matches were of interest to me with those developments in mind. Gaskell had the monstrous task of trying to beat Iglar to keep his hopes alive, and he played a heck of a first but still lost in a tiebreak. Clearly he broke mentally at that point, meekly surrendering 7-6(4), 6-0. A fine run, but he comes up short.

Mehul then was up against Benda, looking for a fourth straight win against him with the H2H tied at 5-all going in. He was the better player, out-acing one of the game's elite servers 19-9, requiring the German to play 17 more points on his serve, taking the points total 102-98. And still losing, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. This was not like the Alvarez match last week; Anil played pretty well. He had more break chances as well(7-2), but didn't save either as both players broke twice and the world no. 2 took the vital middle-set breaker. A bitter pill to swallow, it was really Benda's championship experience and nothing else that allowed him to steal this one; it keeps Mehul that much further away, preventing him from making further gains in the rankings this week.

And so that was that.

Final

Competitive straight sets for Iglar. Naturally. This one is worth noting as it's his 10th Masters Shield, tying him for 10th all-time. He'll doubtless be moving considerably up that list by the end of next year.
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Old 11-12-2015, 01:30 AM   #187
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Race to Finland
Final Standings

Here's how it looks with two weeks of preparation left but the field completed:

Antonin Iglar -- 13750

No doubt for some time who'd be #1.

Bjorn Benda -- 10380

Another excellent year, and no drama about the runner-up this season either.

Anil Mehul -- 6870
David Alvarez -- 6290

It's possible, though quite unlikely, that Mehul could lose the #3 spot. He and Alvarez will finish third and fourth though barring something highly unusual, and the difference means little in the grand scheme of things. He'll be stewing on that loss to Benda in the meantime, and will assuredly have a chance to get a bit of payback in Finland. It's a big opportunity to gain ground on the #2 spot, an opportunity that must not be wasted.

Perry Hogue -- 5160
David Almagro -- 5040
Viktor Goncharenko -- 5015

There's still no sign of Almagro's manager, so the Tour Finals may well be the last event he plays other than possible a WTC tie or two next year. He's so out of match shape that he will essentially be a walkover. A shame, sad way to go out for a fine player. Hogue and Goncharenko can jockey for position here but neither is likely to move up or down a whole lot.

Julian Hammerstein -- 4100
--------------------------------
Cestmir Marcek -- 4050
Pierce Gaskell -- 3615

Hammerstein just makes it in due to Marcek's early demise in Paris. Gaskell's late surge comes up short, but he'll be back next year. It's the second year in a row Marcek has been the best player left out, and it appears his career apex has passed. He may not get another chance, and the Austrian, despite highly questionable management, sneaks in for his debut.

However ...

Or so it seems. This may be a case where an intermittent, but just enough to be annoying, bug gums up the works. You see, every once in a while some of the small events are not tallied quite properly, I've made mention of this before. In this case, due to such an occurrence, Marcek is actually still listed as being 200 points ahead of Hammerstein. So, despite everything else that's been mentioned, if that calculation doesn't 'correct' -- I've checked it multiple times and verified my numbers -- we will have some controversy with Marcek making it in incorrectly.

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Old 11-12-2015, 05:07 PM   #188
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Breaking News

It is the week before Finland yet, but it has been announced that the 2042 Summer Olympics will be held in the United States. A hardcourt venue has been chosen, though precise details beyond that are not yet publicized. As usual, the event will be held next August, the week before the Canada Masters. Mehul has a legitimate chance at a medal, and both he and Girsh definitely plan to represent Sri Lanka there.
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Old 11-15-2015, 02:59 PM   #189
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World Tour Finals

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. This year's finale was kind of like that. It definitely didn't follow the script. To begin with, Marcek was indeed given the last spot he really didn't earn, despite the protests of the Austrians on behalf of Hammerstein. As for Anil Mehul, he was unfavorably drawn in Iglar's group, but the other two were the last pair in the field, Marcek and Iglar. The other side had Benda and most of the middling players.

After easily dousing Marcek in his opener, he faced the Czech legend with Benda having won his first two on the other side and looking a cinch to take that group as expected. At the end of a tight first set, Mehul was down 5-2 in the tiebreaker and it looked like the usual result -- a competitive effort but not good enough. He rallied though, even surviving a set point on Iglar's serve to stunningly take the breaker. After losing the second set, he broke him for the first time in eighth game of the final set, cruising home at that point for the upset, 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-3! The match broke a string of five straight defeats dating back almost a year and a half, with his last win in the matchup coming at the 2040 French Open. The overall head-to-head count is still 10-4 against him, but this win essentially guaranteed he would advance.

After dusting off Almagro who, as feared, might as well not have been here -- he scored only four games combined in his three matches here -- Mehul figured to go up against whoever won the Hogue/Alvarez match on the last day of the group stage. He figured wrong. Benda was upset by previously winless Goncharenko, in a third-set tiebreak no less, leaving him and Perry Hogue both tied atop the other group; and Hogue lost fewer sets, giving him the tiebreaker.

It seemed Mehul was destined then to meet Benda in the semis, a shot at revenge for the Paris defeat and a rematch of last year's encounter here as well. This time he made very sure of his victory, dominating the German 6-2, 6-4, and it could have been worse; he was only 3 of 14 on break chances, but didn't surrender a single one. There was no question on this day.

That meant a rematch with Iglar in the final. This time Mehul was not so fortunate. He was competitive and it was close, but while he actually put a little more pressure on the Czech's serve overall, his own serve was less consistent and that cost him especially after going up a break in the second set. In the end it was a close straight-sets loss, 6-4, 6-4; he'd won the first meeting but the championship here goes to Antonin Iglar for the second straight year. Only four players have won it three or more times, but Mehul will hopefully have a lot to say about this event in the future as well.

Still it was a fine run, undefeated until that close loss in the final, and closing the gap a bit more on Benda in the #2 spot. A good finish to the year.

Coming Up

A month off until the start of the year, with the WTC wrapping up. Spain faces the Czech Republic for the second straight year to determine the champion, and then the playoffs the week following that. For my players, it's time to make preparations and train for the year that is to come. It's been another successful season, but many goals remain unreached as of yet ...
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Old 11-17-2015, 03:41 PM   #190
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World Team Cup Wrap-Up

Spain and the Czech Republic met for the second straight year in the finals, both of them having to face stern tests. Germany, Russia, and the US all came within a single win of knocking one of them out. This year, it was the Czechs taking home the trophy, 3-2, as Almagro contributed very little. It was the first title ever for them, and puts them just a hair behind the Spaniards in the overall rankings at #2.

The following week, there were some interesting playoff matchups as well:

** Switzerland(21st) vs. Argentina(5th) -- Both nations are looking forward to their past, with Bonamoni on the decline for the Swiss and Alastra no longer a singles competitor for Argentina. The rankings for the singles players are extremely close, and they split their rubbers, but Alastra's doubles team got the job done and Argentina stays while Switzerland is relegated in a tight tie, 3-2.

** Denmark(14th) vs. Italy(7th) -- Denmark has narrowly avoided relegation once already since making it up to Level 1 a couple years ago. Led by Jens Petersen(29th, age 26), they appear to be about at their peak. Despite their stature, the Italians are trying to make a rebound behind a pair of decent borderline players(mid-30s rankings) in Kinczllers and El Brazi. It was just a couple years ago that they barely avoided relegation to the third tier. This was another very competitive tie, with two rubbers going the full five-set distance and Denmark holding off the challengers, 3-2.

** Mexico(17th) vs. Ireland(11th) -- Mexico's been at the top level for a while but has not seen much success, while the Irish are trying to make it back up, having lost a relegation tie 3-2 against Serbia only just last year. In the rankings the Irish players look better, and a 4-1 Mexico win here was pretty surprising.

** New Zealand(24th) vs. Peru(8th) -- After struggling in Level 2 for a while now, this is New Zealand's first attempt to move up, while Peru was knocked down a couple of years ago and only a poor-luck matchup against us kept them down last year. The Herreras are now nearing their best years, and 8th is probably about right for the Peruvians: they are definitely a nation with the quality to be in the top tier. They beat NZ in the Level 2 final, and even easier here, a 5-0 blanking.

2042 Preview

Switzerland goes down while Peru comes up, a bit of tough luck for the former while Peru makes the top level a little better. They definitely should be here.

Sri Lanka did in fact get a better draw as hoped. We're in Group 4, headed by Spain which is certainly no favor after what happened last year. They may not be as good this year with Almagro on his way out, but they still have Alvarez and Bahana is ready to make his presence felt. They should still be more than a match for us. The other two are Peru(8th) and the Phillipines(10th), neither of which figure to cause any major trouble. Mehul should be able to handle anybody they have, with Girsh getting at least one win to clinch matters.

Sri Lanka's WTC involvement should last a little longer this year; we should be able to make it out of the group stage at least. If we do, a lot will depend on the matchups at that point, and how much Girsh has progressed. This year was Sri Lanka's smallest rise so far, from 26th to 22nd overall as we bowed out after the group stage for the first time. Hopefully next year we can at least crack the Top 20.
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Old 11-17-2015, 04:02 PM   #191
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2041 Top Ten Rankings(Final)

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 25) -- 15,050

Iglar was merely human last year after a campaign for the record books in 2040. There's no question who is the top dog or king of the hardcourts though. He'll be starting to make his way up the shortlist of most of the individual all-time achievements this year, with 6 Slam titles, 10 Masters, and 58 weeks at #1, there's no end in sight for the near-term and there's little question he adds significantly to those numbers.

2. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 27) -- 10,530

The first signs of decline were seen for the German former champion. His dominance on clay remains intact, but for how much longer? Probably another go at least, but the clock is ticking and he's much less of a reliable force off the dirt than he was even one year previous.

3. Anil Mehul(SRI, 25) -- 7,720

With his first two Masters titles and finals at the WTF and Australian Open, Mehul took another step forward and eventually distanced himself from the rest of the field as a clear if still distant #3. One of the big questions for the new year is how long it will take for him to chase down Benda.

4. David Alvarez(ESP, 29) -- 6,490

Alvarez broadened his impact beyond clay this year, showing much more consistency and potency than before on other surfaces. He briefly reached the #3 spot and was a surprise, but I don't see him having much more to give. We've understimated him before, but it's difficult to see how he rises beyond his current station with everyone in front of him both younger and more talented. He's had a very fine run the last few years though, and should still be a significant force.

5. Perry Hogue(USA, 27) -- 5,560

No longer able to be a consistent threat even on his favored hardcourts to the best players, Hogue is just trying to hold on as long as he can now. He is clearly on the downside of his career.

6. Viktor Goncharenko(RUS, 28) -- 5,365

Goncharenko is a yo-yo. He plays quite well for several months, then disappears largely for a year, then comes back ... I'm not sure how much is left. He could fall out of the Top 10 again, or he could be at the edge of the Top 5 if he can repeat performances like his run this past year to the USO final.

7. David Almagro(ESP, 31) -- 4,900

There is no indication yet that Almagro is anything more than a corpse. He apparently has no plans to return to the court other than token WTC appearances, and even that will probably not last beyond the group stage as Bahana will eventually be taking his spot.

8. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 27) -- 4,300

It appears Marcek has basically peaked; his last several outings were not particularly impressive. He's had a nice surge the last year and a half, but I don't think it will go much further.

9. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 25) -- 3,815

Gaskell is currently at his career-best and still rising. He could well seize the spot of best US player by the end of the year. To make any kind of challenge to the top players though, he will need to improve his performance in Slam events: he has only two quarterfinal appearances to his name, and none of them within the past year. He's been consistently solid, but will need to step it up from that level to make more substantial inroads.

10. Julian Hammerstein(AUT, 25) -- 3,810

Hammerstein has been dividing his time some with doubles efforts, and this is one reason why he has not risen as fast as he should. He's still good enough to be a major threat to anyone other than Iglar when he's properly prepared, but how much he will make of his gift remains an open question.

It's a gap of over a thousand points right now back to Marcel Bahana in 11th; no doubt the Spanish phenom will make his presence felt here by the end of next year, but for now this should be a stable group at the top.
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Old 11-19-2015, 01:20 AM   #192
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update


Anil Mehul -- 7th to 3rd singles, 126th to 180th doubles. Mehul did not play quite as many events as last year, due to going further in one of the big ones. His overall record of 59-14(.808) gave him five fewer singles wins, but also four fewer losses. More on the prospects for next year in the 2042 preview.


Girish Girsh -- 40th to 19th singles, 123rd to 85th doubles. A good year for Girsh despite the second-half slump, and he moves into the elite category with his eyes on pushing his way towards the Top 10 now. At the same age plus a few weeks, Mehul was 31st -- Girsh continues to be ahead of that pace. He's not really a match for most Top 10 players yet, but should be by the end of the year.


Prakash Mooljee -- 66th to 11th juniors. Mehul was never better than 15th in the juniors, while Girsh made it as high as 6th. It remains to be seen where Mooljee will finish but he should get valuable experience this year, his final in the preparatory ranks, playing in the big events. In between, he'll probably start going to a few amateurs to prepare for the jump to the senior tour. His eyes are still to be mostly fixed on the future, not the present. Half of the players ahead of him are older; half are not. Either way he's situated well to be a major player in his generation, and that's all you can ask for a seniors-focused junior talent.


Anil Manohar -- 826th to 2351st singles, 590th to 602nd doubles. Manohar is out of his depth now at the futures level in singles, but still doing well enough to hang around in doubles. As a trainer, his evaluation is up to 4.31, almost exactly a 0.1 gain which is surprisingly better than last year. I don't have to decide when to retire him yet, but right now I think it'll be 2-3 years from now. He'll be 41-42 at that point, and while he doesn't have to retire until 45, I'll want another junior before then and the gain in trainer ability will slow down over time; he's not good enough to ever reach max anyway.


Manager Ranking -- 18th to 10th, 15k points to 20.2k. Obviously this was quite a good year for me, with Mehul becoming a major earner and Girsh heading in that direction as well with some good 250-level results. I could well reach as high as possibly third by the end of the year; at over 20k, with 3rd place currently just under 25k, there's a lot of managers bunched together ahead of me that should fall if my top duo continue to succeed.
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Old 11-19-2015, 03:39 AM   #193
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2042 Preview

It's been a bigger shakeup this year than expected, with Elder, Topolski, and Almagro(still in progress) plummeting out of the top contenders. This has cleared the way, a bit prematurely, for the next wave. Alastra's generation has been completely swept aside, Benda's is on the way down now, Iglar and his followers are entering their prime while Bahana headlines the next group about to make it's presence felt.

1. Antonin Iglar(94%, 10.15, +0.01)

It would appear that Iglar is close to his peak, although I think he can still get better. He was fairly stagnant this year and had some unexpected setbacks, but there's no question he's the dominant player in the world and can win almost as much as he wants to. I expect at least three more years at the top for the Czech legend. He's not going away, it's just a matter of how impressive his footprint in the record books will be at this point.

2. Bjorn Benda(89%, 9.90, +0.01)

Benda put in some good training work late in the year, but saw a significant decline off clay as has been mentioned. He's on a slow and slowly increasing decline right now, but will still be very much a part of things for at least a couple of years.

3. Anil Mehul(93%, 9.89, +0.13)

Mehul definitely closed the gap this season, and is basically an equal now with anyone not named Iglar. It's becoming harder and harder to improve, and I think he's close to his peak now though maybe not quite there yet. The next two years will probably be his best. He has continued to improve more than anyone else at the top, and it really started showing dividends the second half of this year. His goals for this period of his best play:

1st. Catch Benda for world no. 2. This would seem to be only a matter of time. Late this coming year or early the following year seems to be the most likely timeframe.

2nd. Win the World Tour Finals and a Grand Slam. The WTF he has a good shot at, almost made it this year. Unfortunately there are no indoor Slams; his best chance will likely come at Wimbledon, with clay a weakness and Iglar focusing on the hardcourts those are unlikely as well. I think he's got a solid chance to take one over the next couple of years, but it's far from a sure thing.

3rd. Play Iglar as often as possible. Off clay, Mehul really has no other rivals that are his equal right now. Catching Iglar for the #1 spot will almost certainly be impossible, but his goal will be to beat everyone else and give himself as many chances as he can for upsets, esp. in the big events.


4. David Alvarez(86%, 9.63, -0.04). Alvarez diversified his game well this year, took advantage of fading rivals and is holding off the march of time admirably. He is on the downslope though, no question about it at 29.

5. Perry Hogue(85%, 9.58, -0.14). Now in a steep decline, which I expect will continue this year. He'll probably just be another guy floating around the bottom of the Top 10 by year's end.

6. Viktor Goncharenko(86%, 9.48, -0.04). His second renaissance this last year has more to do with the collapse of others, but the top Russian's game is holding together better than many. Still, the next generation should be booting him soon.

7. David Almagro(82%, 9.56, -0.14) Almagro has done nothing for the past few months, he's over 31, and he's still got the game to hang around in this relatively weak era if his manager was doing their job. It's a tragedy really for him to go out this way.

8. Cestmir Marcek(89%, 9.54, -0.04) Marcek appears to be just a hair over the hill now. He started to slip a few months ago. It's possible he can regain his footing, but more than likely he's done about all that he's going to do.

9. Pierce Gaskell(93%, 9.67, +0.08) Gaskell is the clear 4th best in Iglar's age bracket(after the champion, Mehul, and Hammerstein) and I figure him to be around 5th by year's end. He has outstanding speed and enough mental toughness to make up for a lack of baseline technique and keep moving up, but probably not enough to ever really be a serious threat.

10. Julian Hammerstein(93%, 9.96, +0.08) Hammerstein is the second-best player in the world from where I sit, but he continues to languish due to substandard management and an apparently lack of motivation. His focus wanders from singles to doubles and back again, he pulls out of the WTC then re-enters again to start this year -- you never know whether he's coming or going. Too much doubles and a lack of preparation kept him from being a major threat last year. The door's still open, though not as wide as once it was. Does he want it? With proper preparation, he could still be Iglar's most potent challenger. It's doubtful that will ever come to pass though.


Other Notables

11. Marcel Bahana(95%, 9.88, +0.13) The next Spanish hope rocketed up from the mid-30s to the edge of the Top 10 last year. He's the heir apparent to Benda on clay; the question is when, not if. He's still being overplayed, but not as badly as he was a year or two ago. As impressive as Girsh's rise in the rankings was this year, Bahana's was even better.

19. Girish Girsh(98%, 9.54, +0.31)

Girsh is about to begin the Bahana Chase in earnest, a term that is funnier if you mistake the middle consonant of the Spaniard's name. Ok, it is to me at least. He's younger and better than any of the players between them except Topolski, who doesn't count since he's in unrestrained free-fall. Only Groeneveldt is even close.

However, this is not really what matters; what matters is getting results against the Top 8 players that he will be consistently facing in the big tournaments. After all, you don't get any bonus points for losing closer matches than your less-skilled contemporaries; you've got to win. Against players he's likely to face in those situations, i.e. the round of 16 trying to advance to the quarterfinals, Girsh didn't do well last year. That's really putting it kindly, as he was winless in a dozen opportunities after escaping Challengers a few months into the year.

2042 should be different for him. That assumes facts not in evidence, but I rate him as being right there with Marcek, a bit ahead of Goncharenko and a bit behind Hogue as 9th or 10th best in the world. That's not bad for a guy who is still some months away from his 23rd birthday, but he needs to start pulling the odd upset against the more vulnerable members of the Top 10 soon. He can only rise incrementally until that begins to happen. The older, less durable, eventually vulnerable Spanish phenom will remain out of his reach for at least another year, but time is on Girsh's side.

2351. Anil Manohar(62%, 6.26, -0.24) It's an ugly thing, getting old ...

11(J). Prakash Mooljee(83%, 6.22, +1.12) The flip side of that coin. Mooljee is still a junior and basically an equal to Manohar now.
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Old 11-20-2015, 02:55 AM   #194
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World Team Cup, Level 1 Group 4 Round One
Phillipines vs. Sri Lanka, Indoors

This was a bit anticlimactic. The Phillipines had a couple of players retire over the off-season, resulting in them being unable to field a viable team, and they had to forfeit the tie. It's a rather shocking development for a level 1 nation, ranked 10th in the world as they are, but Manne Pascual has been gone for a couple of years while John Condon(15th) has managed to do just enough to keep them up. It sure doesn't appear that will be good enough anymore.

** OOC Note: What the game actually did here was give Mehul and Girsh a walkover in one of their singles matches. Both beat clay-specialist Condon in their encounters, Girsh in four sets, Mehul in three. In doubles, they apparently entered some sort of VR simulation or alternate universe, playing a pair of Condon clones, and winning in four sets for a 5-0 total. I couldn't even pretend to come up with a realistic way to justify this in-character, it's such an unlikely scenario and one that RR clearly isn't programmed to deal with quite properly in doubles. **

Sri Lanka moves up two spots to 21st, achieving a new high. They'll next face Peru on grass, with the final group tie against top-ranked Spain taking place very favorably indoors as well. If they can defeat the Peruvians again as expected, Sri Lanka will advance from the group stage for the first time.

Coming Up ...

The Australian Open is three weeks away. Both Mehul and Girsh will see some 250-level action in the meantime. It's particularly important for Girsh to do well, in an effort to secure a Top-16 seed at the AO.
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Old 11-22-2015, 05:26 PM   #195
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
January

The first month of the year starter off with a bit of a surprise, as Sri Lanka is in the Junior Team Cup for the first time. Going up against South Africa, Prakash Mooljee split his pair of matches as we lost 4-1.

Girish Girsh meanwhile was in Chennai, India(250) as the third seed. He did reasonably well, getting a bit of revenge on Milan Farkas to even their matchup at 2-all, then getting blasted by Iglar in the semis. No shame there of course.

The following week in Auckland, both Girsh and Anil Mehul took part. It looked like the best chance as it had the weaker field overall of the two events on the docket. Unfortunately, Girsh was the 5th seed here and was drawn in Mehul's section, getting blasted again in the semifinals. It would have been nice if he'd made one of the matches competitive, but getting beaten by the best two hardcourt players in the world is no shame.

As for Mehul himself, he cruised through to a final against Marcel Bahana. The Spanish prodigy put the tennis world on notice that he is indeed ready to hang with the best in the world, and not just on clay. He stole the first set and it was only by the narrowest of margins that Mehul was able to prevail, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5). If this is indicative of the kind of performance he'll put forward on a regular basis, Bahana could well be in the Top 5 by the end of the year. Mehul just managed to get by him though, claiming his fifth career professional title and maintaining what is so far a perfect record in the young season.

A quality start for both, and they are ready for the first Slam of the year in Australia.
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Old 11-23-2015, 09:24 PM   #196
Brian Swartz
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2042 Australian Open

We've got three participants this year, starting off with Prakash Mooljee in the junior field. Seeded 10th, he handled his business convincingly until running into top-seeded and second-ranked junior Hugo Jurco(CZE) in the third round. There, he failed to win a game, being convincingly shown his place by a player several months older and more developed. Mooljee took exactly one-quarter of the points played; this was a demolition. I've now got a few weeks to decide whether he's ready for an amateur or whether to put him in another couple of junior events. The next big event on the junior calendar isn't for another couple months, the same week as Indian Wells.

Girish Girsh was seeded 14th in the pro draw. After a pair of easy straight-sets wins, with one tiebreak the only real resistance, he played Swede Olav Birkeland(28th) for the first time. Birkeland is a hardcourt specialist but one that Girsh should be able to handle fairly easily. After taking a pair of tight sets, he had victory a point or two away in a tight third-set tiebreak ... but lost it, and went in the tank afterwards. Girsh suffers a crushing loss here, and is still clearly having confidence issues. The final scoreline was 6-7(5), 5-7, 7-6(7), 6-2, 6-3. Birkeland blasted 27 aces, but through the first three sets Girsh was playing reasonably well, certainly well enough to win ... he just fell apart. Highly disappointing to lose up 2-0 against an inferior opponent, and one wonders whether his confidence will ever recover at this point.

Anil Mehul figured to have his first test in the quarters, but even that didn't materialize. He did drop a set against Perry Mockler, who had the best run of his career, knocking aside Goncharenko the round before. After that set, Mehul restored order with a bagel to advance in four. This set up a repeat of last year's tournament: a meeting with Benda for the right to deal with Iglar in the final. Benda had nearly lost to Gaskell in the quarters, prevailing only 8-6 in the 5th set. The German was stopped by Mehul for the second straight year, a competitive but pretty one-sided semi despite the 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(6) scoreline. Mehul now leads the head-to-head 7-6, but that's only true because he's never been good enough to face clay on Benda; he's always to someone else earlier.

Back in the final for a second straight year, Mehul had another shot at the champion. Iglar came in having not lost a set or really even been pushed, losing his serve only once(to Marcek). Mehul hung in during a rocky start to the first set, but couldn't hold at the end and Iglar broke in the 10th game to take the first. He seized the momentum with another break at the beginning of the second. Anil didn't fall apart here; he pushed the #1 to deuce in his final two service games but couldn't get a sniff. The third set was like unto the first, with Mehul unable to defend his serve at the end for a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 defeat. It was a little more resistance than anyone else gave the Czech, and quite a bit closer than last year's obliteration, but the result was the same: straight sets, Iglar holding the crown again, his 7th Slam tying him with at least a half-dozen others for 5th all-time.

There were a couple of notable absences here. Almagro and Topolski were of course expected, but Julian Hammerstein has disappointingly decided to 'go doubles', forgoing all singles events so far this year. For reasons unknown, Marcel Bahana also didn't show up, leaving two major challengers on the sidelines. And for those two wastes of talent, all I can say is that you can't make history when you aren't there.

Coming Up ...

The second group tie in the WTC pits Sri Lanka against Peru, who they defeated 4-1 a little over a year ago to seal their promotion to Level 1 originally.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 11-23-2015 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 11-24-2015, 03:57 PM   #197
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
World Team Cup, Group 4, Round Two
Sri Lanka vs. Peru, Grass

Monday: A. Mehul d. M. Herrera, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5
Tuesday: T. Herrera d. G. Girsh, 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4
Wednesday: V. Bureba/J. Torres d. G. Girsh/A. Mehul, 7-6(8), 1-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
Thursday: A. Mehul d. T. Herrera, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2
Friday: G. Girsh d. M. Herrera, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2

Sri Lanka defeats Peru, 3-2!

Wow. This was a lot more drama than we bargained for, and Girsh's disappointing form continues. He had one key moment against Thiago Herrera in the second match; trailing 5-4 at the end of the third, he had two break points to get even at 15-40 but couldn't convert, and a disappointing loss there was followed by an epic doubles encounter. We actually had more points than the Peruvians(161-154) but they had more of the ones that matter to outlast us.

After Mehul took care of business to keep us in the tie, Girsh faced Marcelo Herrera to decide things once and for all. They went the distance as well, with Herrera converting three of four break chances to keep it close though Girsh was clearly the better player. Still not pleased with his form on the week, and we should have won this tie much easier, but ultimately we did win -- and clinched our first-ever Level 1 quarterfinals berth in the process.

In a couple months, the final group match against Spain will be favorably indoors, and determine the Group 4 first-place spot. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is up four spots to 17th in the world!

Coming Up ...

Mehul will take all of the season's first significant break off, a full month until Indian Wells. Girsh will take three weeks, then head to Delray Beach(250, Hard) as a warmup. That same week as IW is Copa Gerdau in Brazil, the next big juniors event on the year('A' category, essentially a junior-level masters). So that will be a busy time, but for now it's back to the practice courts.
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Old 11-30-2015, 03:54 AM   #198
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
February/March

This will be brief, and is overdue. Indian Wells is almost over as of the time of writing. Prakash Mooljee is sliding as is typical at the start of the year, but he did take both titles at a tier-2 event in Montevideo. Playing in the amateurs was considered, but in order to get valuable experience in the big junior events, he really needs to stay in the seedings and that means 'keeping up with the Joneses' a bit in terms of getting some ranking points and not going down to far. He needs to stay about in the Top 20 to do that and so far so good on that front.

Girish Girsh had an outing at the Delray Beach 250 the week before IW. I'd rather not discuss it, but I suppose I have to. He was the 2-seed, and the best player there as the #1 was veteran Andres Blanco of Spain, ranked 12th with a career-high of 11th, one of those players who was never good enough to reach the first page and now at 29 just trying to hang on.

Unfortunately, Girsh was the victim of a truly shocking 6-2, 7-5 upset in the first round by American Eddy Parsons. This is as bad a loss as I've ever heard of, and definitely the worst I've ever seen a player of mine suffer. Parsons has never been higher than 29th and is presently outside the Top 50, a near-30 hardcourt specialist who never developed a credible elite-level baseline game. Girsh just laid an egg here, an absolute egg, and I'm starting to wonder if he's ever going to get it together again. Mehul never suffered the kind of slump he's going through, which has at this point lasted nearly a year. Worse than just the loss itself and wasted opportunity at Delray Beach was the fact that it left him not well prepared at all for the two Masters to follow, where he will be playing doubles now in an attempt to catch up in preparation as much as possible. Just an ugly, ugly, inexcusable loss. No way he should lose to a player like Parsons at this point. Not ever. No way, nohow.

The ironic thing is, he'd just gotten his first-ever practice match win over Mehul a couple days prior. He should have lost it, but just had enough key points go his way, and I thought it might jump-start his confidence. About that ... Right now, I go into every match of his fearing the worst and frankly not expecting him to play well. More often than not, it's exactly what happens. .

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 11-30-2015 at 03:56 AM.
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Old 11-30-2015, 08:12 PM   #199
Brian Swartz
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Indian Wells Masters

Girsh was just high enough to have a bye as the 15th seed. He blasted through his first opponent and then fairly impressively dispatched Marcelo Herrera, who nearly beat him a month ago in the WTC, in straight sets. Following that was No. 7 Pierce Gaskell in the fourth round. Gaskell has really improved himself this year and looks to be continuing to rise. Girsh had a chance here but was a big underdog. Gaskell won it, but he was a given a fight, 7-6(5), 6-3. Girsh played well enough to give himself a chance, and really had a solid bounce-back tournament here even if he still didn't manage to pull off an upset.

Mehul had a good draw, but it almost all came undone for him in the fourth round as well. Matched up with 25th-seed Radek Smitala(USA), who should have been an easy win for him, he managed to escape only by the narrowest of margins in a tough final-set tiebreak. The final count was 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7), with Smitala blasting 17 aces and while Mehul was a bit better, it could have gone either way.

It was a wake-up call, and one that was heeded. Gaskell fell routinely in the next round, setting up a match with Benda that was not as close as the two-set tiebreak victory which resulted. And so Mehul made it to his first final here, naturally meeting Iglar once again. This time was a bit closer than in Australia, but once again the Czech was a couple steps ahead and took his 11th Masters Shield, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Edit: It's worth noting here I think that Anil Mehul went over the 10 million mark in career earnings with his runner-up placement.

All in all a good tournament, and more ground gained on the German no. 2. That near-disaster against Smitala was the key moment; it was a letdown, and one that very nearly cost him.

Prakash Mooljee was in Copa Gerdau('A') and once again had the misfortune to meet the top seed in the third round. The top-ranked junior player in the world, Croatia's Sava Cirakovic, dismissed him 6-1, 6-2, and that was that. It is a couple months now for him before the next A-tier tournament, the Italian Open at the end of May.

Coming Up

Miami next week will conclude the year's fist quarter.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 11-30-2015 at 08:17 PM.
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Old 12-03-2015, 12:28 AM   #200
Brian Swartz
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Miami Masters

In many ways Miami was just a repeat of Indian Wells, which was not entirely a bad thing. A pretty favorable draw for both players. Girsh looked off in his first match but got through it, then blasted through Arsenio Antuofermo easily to set up a fourth-round clash with Perry Hogue. Hogue is off to a good start this year, but if Girsh played well I thought he should have a real chance. This is the kind of opportunity he needs to take advantage of. He was pretty good, but not good enough and Hogue moved on 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. The American veteran was just more consistent really, while essentially sandbagging the middle set once he got behind and saving his energy for the finish. It worked, and it's another decent tournament but once again no breakthrough.

Mehul had a serious case of deja vu when his fourth-rounder was revealed to be Smitala once again. Neither player was interested in a reprise of their classic at Indian Wells, but thankfully that's not what happened as Anil had to survive a tiebreak but was then through in straight sets. After that he really put on a show, decimating both Marcek and surprise semifinalist Perry Mockler(USA), who knocked Benda out. Mehul lost seven games in those matches combined and went into yet another final against Iglar as the fresher man.

It helped, but not enough. He pushed the Czech much harder than in their previous matches this year, but the result was the same: 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(1). Another very fine run for Anil Mehul, and the opening hardcourt phase of the season is now complete.
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