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Old 08-13-2015, 10:33 AM   #101
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Trainers can be used for that, but the main reason you want them is to replace the use of friendly matches. For a player of even moderately high endurance, tournaments/practice won't use up all your fatigue. Trainers are much better than friendly matches for what's left over.
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Old 08-13-2015, 12:19 PM   #102
britrock88
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Swartz View Post
Trainers can be used for that, but the main reason you want them is to replace the use of friendly matches. For a player of even moderately high endurance, tournaments/practice won't use up all your fatigue. Trainers are much better than friendly matches for what's left over.

Makes sense. It'd be great if trainers did their stuff automatically. That's what I get for playing in 4hr/wk worlds.
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Old 08-17-2015, 05:38 AM   #103
Brian Swartz
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Yeah, I think my stay in rr2 will be short. I've got a trainer candidate who is closing in on 4.9 and I want to see him through, but I might not stick with it after that. It's easy enough to make mistakes as it is. Case in point, work can get crazy for me sometimes and I basically back to full time now(good), but I forgot to sign up three of my players for practice tournaments -- I was sure I had, but obviously wrong and it cost somewhere around 200 or so xp points each. With a fast world, mistakes like that multiply.

Anyway ...

February/March

Girish Girsh had a solid run at the Bergamo challenger(tier 2) in late February. After flattening his first three foes, he lost to eventually champion Nils Mednick(SWE, 55th) 3 & 2, but was on the winning doubles team. That was more than enough matches for him to get through this period.

Anil Mehul played Rotterdam last year but this year skipped it and waited until Dubai. Both are 500-level events. He was not looking good at all in practice during the interim, so I was hoping for a better performance. He was set to meet Prieto in the semifinals but the Spaniard was shockingly beaten in three tough sets by another Swede, Olev Birkeland. Birkeland had nearly beaten Mehul at the end of last year at Shanghai -- it went to a third-set tiebreak, another case of a match being closer than it should. Birkeland managed just two games this time, setting up a final against Topolski who was looking for revenge after his only loss to Mehul, in the Australian quarters.

The Russian had the better of the match most of the way, but time and time again Anil denied him on break chances: 13 of 14 saved for the match. The Dubai title came down to a final-set tiebreak, a more crucial result than one would expect for a 500 event between these two. The way the rankings are looking, Mehul will probably have to surpass Topolski to reach the World Tour Finals, his #1 goal for the year. Another win would help greatly, the winner gets 500 points here and the loser 300, a 400-point swing. Topolski got an early minibreak, but Mehul rang off four straight points to lead 5-2. A little later, a match point on his own serve ... but he blew it and lost the match in a heartbreaker 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6). Topolski was the better player on the day, more consistent, and he deserved to win -- but when you blow a match point and lose six of the last seven points, that's a tough pill to swallow. It was the only quality opponent he had all week, so it's tough to say for sure where Mehul's at right now.

At least decent form though heading into Indian Wells and Miami. He's defending 4th-round placings at each last year. He would definitely expect to at least equal those, and will need to push to at least one quarterfinal appearance in order to make this swing a success. Girsh will be there as well for his first Masters action, and during the same time period Mooljee will be getting back out there for another juniors event.

In terms of the Chittoor/Girsh watch, Amrik is down to 81st but Girish is sliding as well, currently at 109th.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-17-2015 at 05:39 AM.
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Old 08-19-2015, 05:02 AM   #104
Brian Swartz
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Indian Wells Masters

The defining point of the tournament, at least for me, was this:

Anil Mehul(SRI) d. Bjorn Benda(DEU), 6-2, 6-2

No, that is not a misprint. It's one heck of a shocking result though. Benda had won both previous meetings, the most recent coming at this event last year in three sets. As a clay specialist, beating him on hardcourt is not out of the question. Blowing the head-and-shoulders world no. 1 off the court in this manner though, is something else again entirely.

I took a look through the German's tournament history to see when the last time was that he was beaten like this. It took a while, because it's been a pretty long time. The most recent one that was close was the Rome final nearly two years ago, where he lost 6-0, 6-4 to Almagro. It's definitely not something that happens often.

This match happened in the quarterfinals, with Mehul dispatching Pietro nearly as easily in the fourth round prior. A fine run ended once again with Iglar in the semis, 7-6(3), 6-4. Almagro was beaten by the Czech by a nearly identical count in the final, so once again Mehul played him as tough as anyone -- and lost. It's starting to remind me of the Federer-Roddick 'rivalry', which Roddick half-jokingly insisted really wasn't one because he'd need to win a match once in a while to be considered a true rival. You can make a good argument that Anil Mehul is the closest thing Antonin Iglar has to a foil on hardcourt, but that doesn't mean he has much of a chance at beating him.

At any rate, a fabulous tournament nonetheless and just as he turns 24, Mehul enters to Top 10 for the first time. Only one spot up but psychologically a big boost to be on the 'first page'. Everyone else in that group has at least a Masters title. Four have won the WTF, six have a Slam to their name. It's elite company.

As for Girsh, he got his first Masters win against a similarly-ranked player before losing competitively, 4 & 4 to Gorritepe in the second round. Nothing to be ashamed of there, a solid debut here for him. Mooljee rolled through another tier-4 junior, and went back for another several weeks on the practice courts.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:19 PM   #105
Brian Swartz
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Miami Masters

A repeat fourth-round matchup with David Prieto was the first challenge, and this one was much closer but Mehul prevailed in three sets. The quarterfinals brought Iglar a round earlier than their last few meetings; he had just outlasted Gaskell in a third-set tiebreak, a surprisingly competitive match. It was clear early on that he'd hit a patch of poor form or was bored or whatever but not his usual dominant self. The match went back and forth but Anil prevailed, his first win on the pro tour against Antonin in five tries, all within the last several months. 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 was the rather unusual scoreline.

This presented an opportunity, a real shot at a Masters title with the presumptive favorite out of the way. Joining him in the semis were the rest of the top four seeds, and Mick Elder was next up. Mehul had won two of the last three after dropping his first three encounters with the veteran American. He was now the better player both technically and athletically, but Elder still has that fantastic mental game which essentially made up most if not all of the difference, and was the reason he hasn't faded as quickly as others of his generation. It was a clear letdown match as Mehul was fed a breadstick in the opening set. He fought back hard in the second, playing as he needed to from the start, and perhaps if he had things might have been different. As it was, Elder took the match 6-1, 7-6(6) after a tight tiebreak. Hogue would go on to beat him in the final for just his second Masters crown.

A disappointing loss, but three semifinals in the big events of the first hardcourt swing is better than Mehul could have hoped for. The year is off to a fine start.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:30 PM   #106
Brian Swartz
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Top Ten Update

1. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 25) -- 12,130

Benda maintains a big lead at the top, and with Alastra out of the picture he is pretty much unchallenged on clay.

2. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 23) -- 8,960

Despite the early loss in Miami, there can be no doubt now that the chase is on. Benda's supremacy on the dirt notwithstanding, Iglar(like Mehul) has very few points to defend and his lack of proficiency shouldn't stop him from picking up a bit more ground -- but probably not too much in the grand scheme of things.

3. Mick Elder(USA, 28) -- 7,415

Sans Alastra, Elder might well be the top clay challenger in the sport.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 26) -- 7,110

The Americans play more the spoiler role than anything else right now, most effective on the hardcourts as they reached up and grabbed the spotlight in Miami. It's far more the exception than the rule though at this stage.

5. Viktor Goncharenko(RUS, 27) -- 6,310

As ever, Goncharenko is steady but unspectacular.

6. David Prieto(ESP, 29) -- 6,190

Twin losses to Mehul in the last month knocked him down a notch.

7. David Almagro(ESP, 29) -- 5,960

8. Gabriel Alastra(ARG, 30) -- 5,270

When he fails to defend his Rome title in a month and a half, Alastra will tumble out of the Top 10.

9. Evgeni Topolski(RUS, 26) -- 4,400

10. Anil Mehul(SRI, 24) -- 3,990

Mehul is also on the chase; he will benefit in terms of seeding from surpassing Topolski sooner rather than later. The Russian is a much more accomplished clay-court player than Anil though, and he has an opportunity coming up as he skipped Roland Garros last year ...

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-20-2015 at 08:33 PM.
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Old 08-20-2015, 08:49 PM   #107
Brian Swartz
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 12th to 10th singles, 104th to 103rd doubles. After starting the year 18-5 last season, Mehul was 21-4 to begin this year. He did not lose a match against anyone outside the Top 10(15-0), and was 6-4 against that elite group, with three wins coming against the Top 5. Overall a brilliant start to the year, and one that has him looking like he'll be challenging for a Top 5 spot himself by the time the World Tour Finals roll around.

The clay season is an opportunity. Not necessarily a big one, but he has only one match win to defend before Roland Garros after a rough go of it last year. Improved seeding well help, and he could pick a couple hundred points or more by just making it to the Round of 16 consistently; one deep run could be a major boon. The more he can accomplish in the next few months, the less pressure will be on him to maintain consistent excellence during the summer and fall.


Girish Girsh -- 98th to 99th singles, 424th to 306th doubles. Girsh is having more and more success against the key 51st-100th rankings bracket, and my sense is he will begin moving up again soon. He had favorable matchups in both of the recent Masters but took advantage and lost in the second round both times credibly. The clay season may delay him a bit, but definitely by the summer I expect Girsh to resume a steady rise.


Prakash Mooljee -- 168th to 150th juniors. He continues to smash opposition in the Tier-4 events and lose badly in most of his practice matches -- too badly right now, actually. Hopefully he'll soon improve enough to find a happy medium, but he's getting plenty of training in which is all I can ask of a youngish junior.


Manager Ranking -- 20th to 18th, 13.5k to 14.2k points. Mehul's consistent excellence is fueling a steady rise.


Chittoor/Girsh Status -- Chittoor is only about 10 spots up in the rankings and less than 100 points. The reversal is almost here.


Coming Up ...

The final WTC group match is now under way, with Chittoor so out of shape by now that a defeat in all three of his matches is very likely, with one win needed for a victory. Thankfully winning doesn't matter all that much in this tie.

Mehul has played a lot of matches and will welcome getting three weeks out of four off after that, the exception being his debut at the Monte Carlo Masters in a couple of weeks. After that, the clay season picks up steam with Madrid, Rome, and then the Summer Slams.
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Old 08-21-2015, 11:17 PM   #108
Brian Swartz
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World Team Cup, Level 2 Group 3 Third Round
Sri Lanka vs. Slovak Republic

Monday: C. Dziadosz d. A. Chittoor, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. E. Tomasak, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0
Wednesday: M. Brodsky/E. Tomasak d. A. Mehul/A. Chittoor, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Thursday: A. Mehul d. C. Dziadosz, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4
Friday: E. Tomasak d. A. Chittoor, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4

Slovak Republic defeats Sri Lanka, 3-2!

This was expected if disappointing. Chittoor was a noose around our neck, having declined now to the point of near-uselessness. Sri Lanka drops a couple of spots to 38th with the defeat. Ironically, by failing to defend any of his points Chittoor dropped out of the Top 100 and wouldn't be a singles representative now, sliding just below Girsh in the rankings. Doubles is another story, but we're at least mostly rid of him.

We still win the group on head-to-head tiebreaker with Romania, who defeated Israel 3-2. In a few months, we'll have the vital quarterfinal matchup against New Caledonia. They are the highest-ranked nation in Level 2 at 11th in the world, but a shadow of their former selves. Their best player, Biju Ruchika, was once nearly a Top-20 guy but at nearly 33 is now out of the Top 50. In his heyday, they spent four years in Level 1 from 2034-2037, never getting out of group play, and after being relegated to Level 2 they've lost playoff ties attempting to get back up the last couple of seasons. Assuming we are properly prepared, we should be able to beat them pretty easily, and knock them out of the playoff with the goal of doing better in that spot ourselves.

A week off now for everyone, and then Monte Carlo starts the clay swing.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-21-2015 at 11:18 PM.
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Old 08-22-2015, 01:07 PM   #109
britrock88
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Speaking of WTC doubles, have you ever noticed a nation send someone that's not in the Top 2 of its doubles rankings to WTC matchups? That's happening to a couple of my guys currently, and I'm trying to figure out what the rationale might be.
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Old 08-22-2015, 01:48 PM   #110
Brian Swartz
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No, but participation is not mandatory. If the manager of the top players opts out on the tournament scheduling, then they won't go.
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Old 08-22-2015, 03:48 PM   #111
britrock88
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Yeah, I've checked that. What I'm thinking is that there's an executive decision made somewhere in the machinery that might limit a player to just singles if he has a certain fatigue level. Or maybe the time at which the doubles pairing is set is far enough in advance that the rankings might have changed. Whatever it is, it's annoying to be #1 in your nation at doubles and not get to play.
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Old 08-22-2015, 04:15 PM   #112
Brian Swartz
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Fatigue could be it, I've never gone into it very high on that. Otherwhise I don't know .
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Old 08-24-2015, 03:14 AM   #113
Brian Swartz
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Monte Carlo Masters

A few of the top players skipped this year, including Benda, the defending champion, and Mick Elder. As a result, Anil Mehul was the fifth seed and had a first-round bye. After an easy win over Birkeland 1 & 1, he had the misfortune to run into the Czech no. 2, Cestmir Marcek. Marcek is 26 and a bit of a late-bloomer, pretty much at his peak right now. He's had a few big upsets in the past year(Iglar once and Hammerstein twice off the top of my head), and while he's only 21st he's better than that and almost certainly a Top-10 player on clay.

Both previous meetings were on clay, with Marcek taking both, notably at Barcelona last year. Both went the distance, but this time it didn't take that long. A 6-4, 6-4 defeat here in the third round. He might have had a chance to steal it if he didn't drop all three break points faced, but it wasn't his day. A credible performance, but it's no more than a warmup: Mehul will not gain in the rankings since Monte Carlo is actually listed as a 500 and he's full up on better results.

More important was what happened at the business end. Both Czechs made the semifinals but it was the Spaniards, Almagro and Alvarez(not Prieto) meeting for the title with David Alvarez prevailing. You may recall, but probably don't, that a little over a year ago in this space I said that Alvarez was a guy who could make some real noise on clay. I thought the window had closed on that, he hung around as the #10 for about a year and was just displaced. Well, now he's back with his first Masters title, bumping Mehul down to 11th and off the front page.

In the last several years that I've been tracking it, this is the most points the 10th-ranked player has had(4325). I've never seen it over 4k before, it's usually in the mid-low 3000s. At 3990, Mehul is more the 700 points clear of the rest of the field and has achieved more than anybody I've ever seen get pushed out. It also complicates his road to the WTF considerably. He'll get back in the Top 10 soon as Alastra plummets, but now he needs to surpass Alvarez and Topolski instead of just the Russian -- or a different combo of two players -- to reach the final 8.

Next up, Mehul takes a couple weeks off before Madrid & Rome, where he won a combined one match last year. Everybody else is in action next week somewhere.
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Old 08-26-2015, 08:11 PM   #114
Brian Swartz
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May

Girish Girsh headed off to Leon for a tier-2 challenger, and all of the seeds made it through the first couple of matches making for some stiff competition at the end. He defeated George Craighead(70th) for the second time in as many meetings, but was easily cut down 6-2, 6-2 by American Eddy Parsons(56th), the best hardcourt player in the draw, in the semifinals. Another solid if unspectacular effort.

Prakash Mooljee ran through to another tier-4 singles title, though he lost in the first round of the doubles. He continues to comfortably hover around 150th in the junior rankings.
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Old 08-28-2015, 12:44 AM   #115
Brian Swartz
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Madrid Masters

Anil Mehul had a scare right away, as he was pushed to three sets in the opening round by journeyman qualifier Pavel Bestemianov(RUS, 58th). Bestiamianov is better than his ranking would indicate, but Mehul controlled the final set 6-2 to avoid losing in the first round for the second year in a row here. He lost just a game against another qualifier, then met with David Almagro, the first-ever meeting between the two. Almagro is one of the best clay players in the world despite being 29, and after a close first set he took the expected 7-5, 6-2 win. The Spaniard went on to reach the final, where he played Benda as well as anyone these days can on clay.

Making the round of 16 on clay is a solid result, so there's nothing to be worried about here. As a side note, Julian Hammerstein, who hasn't done much this year, made his way to the semifinal. I've been very surprised that he's seemed to sort of fall by the wayside: it's partly due to struggling against the best nations in the top level of the WTC, but this might rejuvenate his season.


Rome Masters

Another testy first-rounder brought Mehul a matchup with Perry Mockler(USA, 24th). They've played only twice: a hardcourt match won by Mehul last year, while Mockler handled him easily in their clay meeting but that was six years ago in juniors. Much has changed since then, but the American is good enough to be a threat on this surface. That wasn't an idle concern; he made the most of his chances, pushing through to a first-set tiebreak before Anil took the match 7-6(4), 6-3. Former world no. 4 Fabian Graff was next, fairly easily dispatched as he's now well into his 30s. Mick Elder loomed in the third round, and he laid the smack down 3 & 1. Ah well -- like in Madrid, he couldn't really expect to beat a player of that caliber on clay, and he did make the third round again.

With Alastra not defending his title here last year(the one clay win he had over Benda), he plummets past Mehul and out of the Top 10, allowing Mehul back in. Another big tournament for Alvarez who made the final, with Benda the expected champion to snag his 6th Masters Shield, tops among active players(Elder has 5, Alastra had 8) and maintain his lead over Iglar. Alvarez is becoming a major threat to make the tour finals though, and Mehul needs to keep adding to his total. It was a decent couple of weeks, getting through the tough first-rounders made it a success for him. On to Roland Garros!


Meanwhile, Girish Girsh was in Fergana for a final tier-2 challenger before he goes to France as well. He absolutely flattened all in his path, failing to lose more than two games in any set! There were quality players there, but none of them well-prepared at all going in. Not much competition, but his third challenger title assures him of staying in the Top 100 after a runner-up finish drops off next week -- in the meantime, he's temporarily up to a career-high of 84th.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-28-2015 at 12:45 AM.
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Old 08-31-2015, 03:41 AM   #116
Brian Swartz
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2040 French Open

On tap this year, Bjorn Benda is the presumed runaway favorite as two-time defending champion with no real competition. Anil Mehul is looking to improve on a third-round finish last year; a fourth-round result would give him a perfect set of round of 16 finishes at all of the big clay events which would be solid. Meanwhile, Girish Girsh completes his set of debuts at the Slams, still looking for his first win.

Girsh went up against one of the top unseeded players in the tournament, Argentinian veteran Fabian Graff, former world no. 4. He won the first set but couldn't sustain it and lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. It was his first set won in Slam competition, but really he needed a better draw to have a realistic chance of winning. Fabian may be in his 30s but clay is his best surface, and it's too much of an ask with all that experience on his side as well.

As for Mehul, he was the 10th seed as expected. A qualifier went down, then a second-rounder against Ruben Vega was testy briefly before he came through in straights, bringing up Frenchman Roman Iraugui who upset 24th-seeded Jean-Luc Veniard of Morocco in his previous match. Iraugui had lost both career meetings with Mehul but both were one-sided hardcourt affairs. Even so, the result was shocking -- a triple bagel! Anil absolutely crushed him, allowing just 14 points, four against his serve. Never would I have expected such a performance on clay.

In the fourth round, it was Antonin Iglar waiting. Why not. For the fourth time in as many Slams they meet, the first coming at last year's Wimbledon. This is actually a fortuitious matchup, as Iglar is a bit less skilled even than Mehul on the dirt and most of the higher seeds would be more difficult on the surface. Still, the Czech was still favored and would be looking for revenge after dropping their last meeting in Miami. The winner would reach the second week at Roland Garros for the first time, and take another step towards chasing down their rivals. Mehul's serve was not working of him and he ate a quick breadstick to start the match. It wasn't looking good, but he turned it around quickly. The back-and-forth battle turned into an epic, that wasn't decided until the end ... but he pulled through for a second straight win over Iglar after five straight defeats, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5! The fifth set really was the match after the previous four were relatively one-sided. Anil had just five aces against twice as many double faults, and total points were extremely close(144-142), but he did just enough at the end to eke out the win.

On to uncharted territory, the French Open quarters! Mick Elder was there, hoping to repeat his dominant win in Rome two weeks ago. That didn't quite happen but he was unquestionably the better player and eventually swatted Mehul aside, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4. A credible, competitive effort.

David Alvarez went on to beat Elder in a five-set comeback semi, but nobody was going to touch Benda here. He didn't lose a game the first two rounds, lost one in the third, and didn't come close to dropping a set en route to his third straight French crown. On clay, he is truly untouchable in this era, the only top clay specialist in his prime at the moment after Alastra's generation was full of them. But those players don't have the spring in their step to challenge him. Perry Hogue was the big loser, dropping from third to fifth after a quarterfinal loss.


Coming Up

After getting in more matches than expected here, Mehul will not be playing a grass-court tuneup for Wimbledon. Girsh has played enough to bridge that gap also, and having won another singles/doubles pair of tier-4 titles the week before the French, Mooljee will be taking a few weeks to train as well. It's going to be a quiet month heading into the most prestigious and oldest of the Slams.

A bit of a preview of coming attractions: at the end of the year I'll do a feature on Girsh's chances for his career; I still like him to do a touch better than Mehul when all is said and done. I've nicknamed the players around his age group Generation Flash, as there are quite a few of them -- 17 in the Top 100 are 21-22 years old -- but most are quite athletic while lacking the dedication to really become top performers. As a result it's hard for me to imagine Girsh not eventually becoming at least 2nd or 3rd in the world at some point. More detail on that at the end of the year.

Also, after Wimbledon I'm going to start a regular feature for the rest of the year, the Race to the World Tour Finals. The real-world event is held in London and I've done a breakdown that has proved reasonably popular on a tennis forum I frequent about the competition for the 8 spots in the elite invitational that ends the year. In this game, it changes every year: Knoxville two years ago, Aachen(Germany) last year, I don't know where it's going to be this year but it should be interesting. With Alvarez's recent emergence the competition is really heating up: unlike the past couple seasons none of the top players have skipped any Slams. I find myself very thankful that Alastra didn't try to prolong his singles career any more.

You might wonder why this matters. What's the big deal if Mehul finishes 9th or 10th, he's still pretty young and will have plenty of chances. There are a few reasons it matters a lot whether he gets in. One, it's indoors which means he would have a great chance for a good result if he gets there. Winning it outright would not be out of the question. It's in the off-season which means along with the WTC it's an opportunity to get top-quality matches that time of year which helps alleviate the pressure on the tail end of the year in terms of getting enough court time to continue improving heading into the next season. Additionally, it's a 'bonus' event that is added in the rankings to the normal 'best 18' tournaments: any points earned there are simply added on, they don't have to compete with other results to 'replace' another one in the ranking system. So getting in is a big deal for Anil Mehul and remains his top goal for the year. We could well have a dramatic finish coming up.

Wimbledon itself is the next item on the calendar, starting in about two weeks now. In the meantime, I've got my first trainer up and running on rr2. I got him to about 4.96, I wanted to check if they round up and they do, he's a 5.0. For the record, it seems the minimum required for that is 122 skill, 98 service, 98 doubles. I won't be able to use him yet, my other player is currently 16 and I'm looking for a new junior player to add just for fun but it will be probably a couple of years until he's needed and I'm able to regularly try out the effectiveness. All kinds of time for that though, I should be well versed in using him long before my rr1 Sri Lankans have Manohar retire as their first trainer.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-31-2015 at 04:34 AM.
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Old 09-01-2015, 03:20 AM   #117
Brian Swartz
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Should be some good stuff coming up. I have, in theory, Wed. and Thursday off. That'll be Wimbledon and the Race there. I also just acquired a junior in rr2 that is somewhat better than the one I already have -- he's a castoff from one of the VIPs in that world, so I don't expect to set the world on fire with him but he would be able to make Top 20 I think in rr1. We'll see how well I do with him.

Anyway, this makes the other one who is now 16 expendable, or at least less important. With that in mind, I'm finally going to do some tests on how effective using a max(5.0) trainer is, and I'll post a synopsis here. I'm kind of curious to see how it turns out.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:12 AM   #118
Brian Swartz
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Trainers Test

Things turned out a little differently than I expected. First off, I used matches from practice tournaments as a baseline(competitive ones). That's the 'default' way to train on weeks off of course. Compared to those:

** Competitive friendly matches(60-40 points split or closer) are 67% as efficient(experience gained compared to xp)
** Training sessions with a 5.0 trainer are at about 74% -- it varies a little but not much.

Now, at first glance this might not look like much. 74% to 67% is not a huge difference. A little better, but is it worth the effort? A couple other things to note here -- first, training sessions are also more convenient. They give 17-20 xp compared to around 12 for a good friendly match, and don't take as long; just over 2 minutes compared to about 4 for the friendly. That makes a big difference in faster game worlds when you're trying to race to get all the training in sometimes, esp. if there is one trainer trying to handle multiple players ... Training is also more consistent. And the biggest factor of all might be that for a top player, it's impossible to find good partners for friendly matches.

Mehul is happy to have one once in a while where he doesn't blow the opponent off the court better than 6-2, 6-2 ... and that's with me handpicking the best opponents. For weeks like the recent French Open, where he had the one singles QF match and that's it, he might need 15 or more low-yield friendly matches. That's the kind of situation where a trainers advantage can be quite significant. Looking for any miniscule edge against other top players, it's definitely worth waiting for a good trainer in my opinion but it definitely is limited in effect.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-03-2015 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:38 PM   #119
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2040 Wimbledon

Back for a second round but not needing to qualify this year is Girsh, while Mehul is hoping to exceed last year's third-round exit in an epic against Iglar. With virtually all of the top players spending more effort on grasscourt proficiency, he would be happy with one round further here. The task is made more difficult by the fact that the bigger servers, which he is decidedly not given my strategem of focusing more on baseline play than do most players, do particularly well on the lower bounce of the grass.

In the larger scheme of things, Wimbledon is an open question this year. Viktor Goncharenko has been generally inconsistent since getting his first title last year. He's a contender here but so are many others. Pretty much all of the top seven players in the rankings have a significant chance that I would describe as between 1-in-10 and 1-in-3 for all of them with no overwhelming favorite. My money is on Mick Elder to put together one last big run here, but any of them could be the victor.

Girish Girsh continued his string of bad luck in first-round opponents, drawing #3 David Almagro and winning just four games. He also lost in the first round of doubles qualifying, so it was definitely an unspiring week for him. As for Anil Mehul, he had a routine first-round win, an easy matchup, and then Roman Iraugui, who he had crushed in the French, was next up. Despite three dominating wins in as many matches, I still considered Iraugui more of a threat than those results indicated. Grass would be the worst surface matchup for Mehul. This time the caution proved warranted. The Frenchman took his first set off Mehul to begin, and it was only after a tough four that he advanced 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2) to reach the third round here for the third time.

Swedish 19th-seed Manfred Borrman looked to be a similar though slightly better opponent. A match Anil should win but could lose. He had to survive tiebreakers in the first two sets, but went on to win in four once again. A pair of testy, competitive wins, but he'd made his goal of the 4th round and everything from here on was a bonus. The shoe was on the other foot against Perry Hogue. Hogue was the favorite, but not an overwhelming one. Another upset as in the French at this stage was possible. After they split the first two sets, the third went to a tiebreak and ended up being the decisive moment. It was close, but the American pulled through and went on to close it out, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Neither played had many chances after a combined 31 aces, but Hogue had more and made more of them, and so ended a decent but unsatisfying run.

The next few rounds would see a number of five-set classics. The fourth round saw defending champ Goncharenko narrowly defeat Marcek, Gaskell stopping a comeback attempt from Prieto, Gorritepe defeating Mexican Hugo Sanchez to reach his first Slam quarterfinal in two years, and Prieto narrowly finishing off Hammerstein. Then in the quarters, Hogue over his younger countryman Gaskell 9-7 in the 5th was the main attraction with the rest of the higher seeds advancing more routinely; Goncharenko was defeated in four by Benda.

The second semifinal featured Iglar and my pick Elder. It went on longer than it should have, with the American rallying from a two-set deficit but ultimately he could not contend with the Czech player's athleticism. The first was a match that will be long remembered, between Benda and Hogue. Benda was the better player but Hogue constantly found ways to stay in it, fighting back time and time again until he was eventually defeated, 12-10 in the final set. Nearly 400 points were required to settle this, bringing up a marquee, historical championship final.

The top two players in the world, Bjorn Benda and Antonin Iglar, clashed on neutral territory -- this being neither's favorite surface -- for the first time with basically everything on the line. The winner would be the probable year-end #1, would win a Slam title for the first time off their favored surface, and would generally enhance their legacy considerably. Benda held a 6-4 lead coming in, with four wins in six matches last year, but had notably been blasted in the AO final earlier in the year. The serve was king, especially for Benda in this matchup. There was only one break in a combined 13 attempts, and he survived a pair of breakers for a straight-sets win, 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-6(5). After this it will be virtually impossible for Iglar to catch him in the rankings this year; he'd basically have to run the table the rest of the season. Benda now has four Slams to his name, more than any other active player. The epic against Hogue in the semis is almost certainly set to be the match of the year, both in terms of the match itself and it's importance. Had he lost, it would likely have been Iglar taking the upper hand.
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Old 09-03-2015, 08:47 PM   #120
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Bjorn Benda(26, DEU) -- 12,580

After completing the 'channel Slam' with his first major title off of the red clay, Benda's place at the top is all but assured until next year.

2. Antonin Iglar(23, CZE) -- 10,350

Iglar's time is coming -- just not yet, it appears.

3. Mick Elder(29, USA) -- 7,195

With three semifinals in as many Slams this year, Elder is the 'best of the rest'.

4. David Almagro(29, ESP) -- 7,070

5. Perry Hogue(26, USA) -- 6,890

So close to his first Wimbledon final ... it was still unquestionably his best moment of the year so far.

6. David Alvarez(27, ESP) -- 5,495

The third of Spain's 'Trio of Davids' took advantage of Alastra's absence to fill the void as the #2 player right now on clay. Better late than never. For him this moment in the sun will last however long it can, probably until he is unseated by next Spanish clay warrior -- Marcel Bahana -- in a couple of years.

7. David Prieto(30, ESP) -- 4,920

8. Viktor Goncharenko(27, RUS) -- 4,820

Looking like a certain one-slam-wonder, Goncharenko sinks back to where he's spent most of his career; on the edge of elite status, but not quite there.

9. Evgeni Topolski(26, RUS) -- 4,760

10. Anil Mehul(24, SRI) -- 4,430

The big news here is really that Benda and Iglar have completely separated themselves from the pack. They are in class by themselves, with everyone else squabbling over the leftovers.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-03-2015 at 08:49 PM.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:02 PM   #121
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 10th singles(unchanged), 103rd to 100th doubles. Did a little better than expected, adding over 400 points to his total in his weakest part of the year, but he'll definitely need a big finish to accomplish his goals for the season. 14-5 over the clay/grass season, after basically breaking even last year.


Girish Girsh -- 99th to 98th singles, 306th to 324th doubles. Stagnation defined here. After a quick exit from Wimbledon he's back at it with a Tier-1 challenger in Cordoba. My sense is he's close to a breakthrough, but not quite there yet. More favorable draws in the big events would help, as would getting more finals and titles in the challengers instead of the regular semifinal losses. I'm not sure which is going to come first at this point.


Prakash Mooljee -- 150th to 135th singles. Fresh off his latest Tier-4 crown, though with an early doubles loss, Mooljee continues his holding pattern. He still takes quite a few bad practice losses against players at his ranking bracket, so no changes are anticipated right now. He may well stay at this level through the end of the year when another class of 18-year-olds flies the coop; at that point he'll probably be skilled enough to begin considering amateur events as well.


Manager Ranking -- 18th(changed), 14.2k to 14.6k points. As expected less progress than usual with the clay and grass season.


Chittoor Update -- Out of the Top 200 now in singles which is enough to be out of sight, out of mind. Doubles is a different story; he's still Sri Lanka's #2 at 235th, with Girsh at 324th. I'm hoping those spots reverse by the fall when the WTC starts up again, but it probably won't matter all that much.


Coming Up

As mentioned, Girsh is in Cordoba this week and will hit at least one more challenger after that before the USO. Mehul will have a few weeks off before Washington leading into the Cincinatti & Canada Masters, and the others are doing their usual thing.
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Old 09-03-2015, 09:12 PM   #122
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Race to the World Tour Finals

Here are the current standings, post-Wimbledon. I'll update this several more times throughout the year.

In

Bjorn Benda -- 8590
Antonin Iglar -- 6040

A done deal here, Benda and Iglar are the dominant 1-2 punch of the tour and they'll be a force at the tour finals.


Probable

Mick Elder -- 4750
David Alvarez -- 4495
David Almagro -- 4410
Perry Hogue -- 4130

This quartet pretty much just needs to keep showing up. It usually takes about 5k, sometimes a little less, to ensure a spot. These players have enough of a lead on the field that, barring a complete disaster, they will be in also. Anybody with a 1k lead on the 9th spot in listed here.


On the Bubble

Viktor Goncharenko -- 3010
Evgeni Topolski -- 2860
----------------------------------------
Anil Mehul -- 2795


Here's where it gets interesting. There are essentially three players competing for two spots. As you can see, right now Mehul is on the outside looking in, but he hasn't played many small events yet and will likely pick up points in the WTC relative to the others. I like his chances, but the Russians will be in the fight most of if not all of the way. Anil needs to finish strong; with the WTC and the number of matches he's been playing, there probably aren't going to be a lot of 500s and maybe no 250s for him. I'm going to need him to take advantage of being better prepared in the Masters and at the USO to make a big splash, like he did with that initial Slam SF last year.


Long Shots

David Prieto -- 2320
Julian Hammerstein -- 2290
Giorgio Becerril -- 2150
Cestmir Marcek -- 1915

This is the tier of players currently within 1000 points, but greater than 250 away, from making the cut. As can be seen there's another big gap here. Hammerstein is the only one that I think can legitimately crash the party, and as Austria's gotten ... well, hammered ... in the WTC he's going to lose points there so he'll need a very big finish to year to make up for that. It's a chance, but a small one. Prieto is clearly sliding this year and I don't see him making a run, Becerril is one of those hangers-on that's never really been a Top 10 guy, and Marcek is good but not good enough to make up this much ground.
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Old 09-08-2015, 02:47 AM   #123
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July/August

The month following Wimbledon is always a slow time of recuperating for the top players after having two slams in a similar time frame in the late spring/early summer period. For Anil Mehul it picked up again a week later than last year, at the Washington 500. The field was very strong for a 500-level event; too strong, as most of them were overplaying and shouldn't really have entered here. After an easy win, he met up with Mikaila Groeneveldt(NLD, 17th) who he hadn't faced since juniors. Both meetings there were losses on clay, but this time he won a competitive straight-sets encounter. Perry Hogue flattened him 6-3, 6-2 in the quarters, a disappointing showing in that match despite Hogue being one of the guys who had a lot more match practice coming in and probably should have skipped this event. Mehul had hoped to get another match or two in here -- he was a semifinalist last year in a weaker field -- and will play doubles next week in Canada to get himself prepared for hopefully making a decent run there and at Cincinatti.

Girish Girsh had a tier-1 challenger in Cordoba, making the semis before losing in a close one to eventual champion Milan Farkas, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. It was close enough that it really could have gone either way, and I actually would say Girsh is slightly the better player right now. Farkas hovers around 50th and it was exactly the kind of match he needs to start winning more often than not to take the next step in his career. Close, but not quite there on this day.

That was a couple weeks ago, and next week he'll head to Beijing where he was a semi-finalist last year. It's a great week for challengers as the best players are all at the Canada Masters, while there are four events -- two Tier-1, two Tier-2 -- available for those who don't participate. There's a definite opportunity here to potentially snag a title.

Prakash Mooljee still hasn't lost a singles match this year. It was more of the same for him with a Tier-4 title the second week of Wimbledon which I may have already mentioned, and his next tournament will also be during Canada next week.
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Old 09-08-2015, 04:25 AM   #124
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Race Standings(mid-August)

There have been some changes, but nothing huge yet. The next few weeks will determine a lot more. Points change in the Race is in parentheses.

In

Bjorn Benda -- 8590(--)
Antonin Iglar -- 6040(--)

No changes here at all. These guys know where the bread is buttered, and it's not at the mickey-mouse events. As one would expect, they are set up well for the upcoming swing.


Probable

Mick Elder -- 5200(+450)
David Alvarez -- 4795(+300)
Perry Hogue -- 4790(+660)
David Almagro -- 4660(+250)

All of these added to their resumes; Elder is all but in at this point.


Contenders

Viktor Goncharenko -- 3100(+90)
Evgeni Topolski -- 3010(+150)
-------------------------------
Anil Mehul -- 2885(+90)

Topolski lost earlier than the other two here and had the room to play an additional event during the interim. As a result, Mehul's deficit to get in has grown some. All three lost at the QF stage in Washington.


Long Shots

David Prieto -- 2650(+330)
Julian Hammerstein -- 2470(+180)
Cestmir Marcek -- 2325(+410)
Giorgio Becerril -- 2150(--)


Most of these have been busy trying to catch up -- too busy, but we can't ignore that the gap has closed for now. Prieto in particular is on Mehul's heels at the moment. Of immediate interest is that Julian Hammerstein is banned from the Canada Masters -- this happens when a player misses a mandatory Masters event. The one they are banned from is their best result the previous year. His task has become even more desperate now. A big win at the German Open(500) a couple weeks ago has forced everyone to take Cestmir Marcek a bit more seriously ...

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-08-2015 at 04:31 AM.
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Old 09-09-2015, 10:29 PM   #125
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Canada Masters

Mehul was impressive in a 6-4, 6-4 win that was not that close against Perry Mockler, one of the most dangerous 'floaters' in the draw. He wasn't as sharp against Veniard in the second round, leading to a second meeting in as many weeks with Hogue. The turning point was with Hogue serving for the first set at 5-3. Mehul got triple break point to start ... and then lost the next five points to drop the set, got broken immediately to start the second, and the rout was on. 6-3, 6-1. It seems so long right now since that five-set epic he won against Hogue back at the Australian Open, which remains his only win in six meetings.

Hogue would go on to reach the final against Iglar, and then win just two games in a miserable letdown once he got there. Topolski and Goncharenko both lost in the third round as well, so nothing changed in terms of the Race. However, Topolski and David Prieto, last year's champion, both lost points since they didn't do as well as last year; Mehul went up a bit having lost in the first round in '39. The end result was that Anil Mehul moved up to a career-high 8th, earning him a better seeding for the time being ...

Cincinatti Masters

After a first-round bye and an easy win over a qualifier, it was time for the first clash in nearly a year with Julian Hammerstein. All of their hardcourt meetings have been close, and this was no exception, but the Austrian once again proved that, when well-prepared, he's just a bit better with a 6-3, 7-6(4) final. After making the semifinals of the first three big harcourt events of the year, back-to-back third-round exits are not expiring. It is clear that Mehul is not on top of his game right now. He's playing ok, but ok is not nearly good enough.

The tournament ended with a very competitive finish. Benda challenged Iglar's hardcourt hegemony in the final, taking a first-set tiebreak and an early lead in the second, but he couldn't finish. 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3 was the final with Antonin looking better every set.

The stage is now set for the US Open in two weeks. Mehul is still in 8th, meaning he won't have to face any of the best players until the quarterfinals, should he avoid being knocked out sooner. He's defending a semi-final result though, his first big breakthrough having come at this point last year. If he doesn't make another good run, which will require playing better than he has these last few weeks, he will assuredly drop back down again.
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Old 09-10-2015, 12:39 AM   #126
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Join Date: May 2006
Race Standings(before US Open)


In

Bjorn Benda -- 9550(+960)
Antonin Iglar -- 8040(+2000)

With a pair of Masters Shields doubling his career total to four, Iglar has closed the gap substantially. Benda is still in the driver's seat, but the year-end #1 could still slip away if this continues. Had he held the early lead in Cincinatti, it would be all but over at this point.


Probable

Mick Elder -- 5570(+370)
Perry Hogue -- 5480(+690)
David Almagro -- 5200(+540)
David Alvarez -- 4895(+100)

Alvarez is falling off the pace a bit here as he's not nearly the threat on the hardcourts as he is on clay. When the official cut line is calculated after the USO, it's quite possible Elder and Hogue will be in already. They probably don't need to win another match to qualify.


Contenders

Viktor Goncharenko -- 3370(+270)
Evgeni Topolski -- 3190(+180)
------------------------------------------------------------
David Prieto -- 3190(+540)
Anil Mehul -- 3065(+180)

The plot has changed quite a bit here. Prieto was a semifinalist in Cincinatti for the second year in a row, leapfrogging Mehul and effectively tying himself with Topolski for the last spot in the tour finals. I honestly don't know which of the two would make it in if the season ended today. There are now four competing for two spots, and Mehul is on the bottom of the pile. Failing to make progress these last couple of weeks was quite damaging; he really needs a strong performance at either the USO or Shanghai, maybe both, to get in. 125 points is not at all a huge gap to overcome, but he can't just keep treading water. Anil needs to make something happen for himself here.


Long Shots

Julian Hammerstein -- 2650(+180)
Cestmir Marcek -- 2595(+275)
Giorgio Becerril -- 2320(+170)
Pierce Gaskell -- 2220(new)

Gaskell was a surprise quarterfinalist in Cincinatti, moving him just into the conversation here. Marcek was as well, and continues to inch closer to contention.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-10-2015 at 12:40 AM.
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Old 09-13-2015, 07:36 PM   #127
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A lot has happened, and with an explosion of RL busyness I didn't get the update done as soon as I wanted to. Missed a few friendly matches that I would have set up also. Se la vi. In any case, the final Slam of the year is over and the final leg of the season has begun.

Before I get to that, a bit of a strategy note. I chose to skip the USO with Girish Girsh and play a small challenger instead. The reason for this is that it's basically not worth it to him to play it when he's almost certainly going to lose in the first or second round. When he was of a low enough ranking to go through qualifying, he would get at least five matches in so it was definitely worthwhile, but not now that he's good enough to make the main draw as a direct acceptance, but not good enough to go anywhere yet. I find I'm still learning small strategic wrinkles. Girsh played in the tier-3 Bangkok event, and with most of the usual suspects opting for the USO he was the top seed. The other solid players who were there almost universally were badly overplayed coming in, and he won the singles title easily. A good opportunity to get a number of matches in, and add another challenger title to his points.

US Open

Things first started to get a bit dicey for Anil Mehul in the third round, against 27th-seeded Peruvian Thiago Herrera, a good young player. After two close sets, he made it through 7-5, 6-4, 6-1, but it was tense. That brought up a match with noted giant-killer Cestmir Marcek, who had beaten him twice in the past couple of years though both matchups were on clay. A competitive match was expected but Mehul is a little better and is the favorite. He mastered an initial tiebreak and moved through to the quarterfinals without the loss of a set, 7-6(2), 6-3, 7-6(4). Normally this would be enough to ensure that he'd move up in the Race, but Topolski, Goncharenko, and Prieto all joined him. Some of the better players paid the price for overplaying, Elder and Hogue particularly who lost early, but they are out of reach and nearly qualified already.

The quarterfinal opponent was Benda. While Mehul had won their only meeting this year resoundingly back in Indian Wells, he wasn't in that same kind of form and the world no. 1 was playing better on hardcourts these days. The match essentially came down to the first-set tiebreak. Mehul was up a mini-break early, but the German rallied. After fighting off several set points and failing in one chance of his own, Mehul lost the breaker 10-8. He fought back to take the third set but was downed in four, 7-6(8), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. A credible performance, but a round short of his semifinal run last year and not good enough to make up any ground given the good performance of his rivals.

As it was in Australia, Iglar defeated Benda in the final. This time it went four sets. Mastery of all surfaces is shown in the fact that the #1 reached all four Slam finals this year, which combined with his dominance on clay essentially has made up unreachable even for the Czech phenom. Topolski matched his best performance here with a semifinal finish and tight four-set loss to Benda. Antonin Iglar, meanwhile, has won the last three hardcourt Slams and most of the Masters in that timeframe, and with three Slam titles to his name is second among active singles players to Benda's four.
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Old 09-14-2015, 02:55 AM   #128
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World Team Cup Level 2 Quarterfinals
Sri Lanka vs. New Caledonia -- Hardcourt

Monday: A. Mehul d. B. Ratnasabapathi, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. B. Ruchika, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
Wednesday: A. Mehul/G. Girsh d. B. Ruchika/X. Houssaye, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2
Thursday: A. Mehul d. B. Ruchika, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0
Friday: G. Girsh d. B. Ratnasabapathi, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0

Sri Lanka beats New Caledonia, 5-0!

I expected a fairly easy win coming in, but that was before I remembered that the New Caledonia #2 had been prematurely retired as a trainer. As it turned out, they didn't have a remotely adequate replacement, making the result a foregone conclusion in retrospect. What's that, you've never heard of Biju Ratnasabapathi? Well, neither had I. He was a whopping 995th in the rankings, never a whole lot higher than that, a combination of completely sucking and having been abandoned by his manager a la Chittoor. Won a total of seven points -- not games, points -- against Mehul. When he's your second-best, you have problems, and even Ruchika is sinking now at 33 years old. New Caledonia will be lucky if they are a Level 4 nation in a few years at this rate. They are in free-fall, riding the coattails of a past that no longer is relevant at 11th in the world.

So we're into the semis, +5 to 33rd in the rankings, and assured of our first-ever spot in a playoff to reach the elite status of Level 1! Austria is a possible opponent there, but I put that out of my mind for now. Luxembourg, led by Mikaila Groeneveldt, presently 17th in the world, will be our next obstacle in a couple of weeks. Mehul will have an off week to prepare, while Girsh needs some match practice so he's headed to the big Tashkent challenger. It's a Tier '+' event, the 125-point level, sort of the Masters level of the Challenger circuit.
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Old 09-14-2015, 03:06 AM   #129
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Top Ten Rankings

** Note: all of the rankings updates are a week 'late' -- they are based on the week after the WTC QF, not the USO as I normally due them. The difference isn't significant though. **

1. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 26) -- 14,080

14,000 is pretty rare territory -- 10-11k was typical under the Alastra regime. Unless he's playing Iglar on hardcourt, it's not wise to bet against Benda right now.

2. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 23) -- 11,060

Iglar's had the best year of his career, but has made up less than half the distance required to overtake the dominant German despite winning two Slams and nearly doubling his total. It may take longer than previously thought for the switch to take place.

3. David Almagro(ESP, 29) -- 7,440

The best of the deposed veterans, Almagro sits comfortably in a very distant third.

4. Mick Elder(USA, 29) -- 6,820

5. Perry Hogue(USA, 26) -- 6,250

6. David Alvarez(ESP, 27) -- 5,325

7. Viktor Goncharenko(RUS, 27) -- 5,020

8. Evgeni Topolski(RUS, 27) -- 4,660

The Russians performed well at the USO, and continue to do just enough to hang around and be relevant.

9. David Prieto(ESP, 30) -- 4,330

Given up for dead earlier in the year, Prieto is enjoying a brief run of good form, but time is not on his side. Life doesn't really begin at 30, at least not in this sport.

10. Anil Mehul(SRI, 24) -- 4,140

Back down to the bottom of the list after a brief stay at 8th, and it could get worse. With the WTC occupying him, it's unlikely he'll be able to defend his best career title to date, the Japan Open which comes up in a few weeks. He could possibly even drop out of the Top 10 at that point.
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Old 09-14-2015, 03:22 AM   #130
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 10th singles(still unchanged), 100th to 83rd doubles. Overall a disappointing summer hardcourt phase of the year for him, didn't manage to produce any upsets. More on this in the next post, but it's looking like he might well miss out on the World Tour Finals this year, which was his main goal for the year. On the bright side, the WTC is looking good ...


Girish Girsh -- 98th to 63rd singles, 324th to 257th doubles. It looks like his ascent up the ladder in the Top 100 has finally begun. The next goal is for him to crack into the 250 level of competition, which means being in the Top 50 at a minimum. Right now it appears that he is indeed a bit ahead of Mehul's pace, but the next year or two will tell a lot more about that.


Prakash Mooljee -- 135th to 126th juniors. He really can't improve any more in the rankings until he makes the jump to tier-3 events, and practice results continue to show he's not yet ready to do so. I expect more of the same until the end of the year, when it will get interesting all over again as the next batch of players turn pro.


Manager Ranking -- 18th to 19th(*sniff*), 14.6k to 14.4k points(boo). Looks like I've stalled again for the moment, another plateau perhaps?
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Old 09-14-2015, 04:00 AM   #131
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Join Date: May 2006
Race Standings(after USO, WTC QF)

In

Bjorn Benda -- 10,650
Antonin Iglar -- 10,090
Perry Hogue -- 6250

The gap in the rankings is not yet reflected here in the Race, where Iglar has almost caught Benda. Perhaps my comments about waiting longer to take the top spot are premature. The difference between the two is that last year Benda won both of the remaining Masters events, along with a perfect run at the tour finals last season. Iglar has lost precisely one match in a big hardcourt event this year(Mehul in Miami), so the chance of repeating the Shanghai title appears unlikely. Paris and the WTF are going to be huge for these guys fighting each other for the top spot. Perry Hogue joins the group, a real example of majoring in the minors as he has racked up near-max points in the 'mickey mouse' 500 & 250 events.

Probable

David Almagro -- 5920
Mick Elder -- 5800
David Alvarez -- 5075

I've decided to wait on finalizing the exact 'cut line' until after the WTC semis are finished in a couple of weeks. That will change the picture a bit and is very time-consuming to pin down possibilities for each player. Almagro and Elder probably join the qualified at that point, but Alvarez is going nowhere fast these days and will likely take longer.


Contenders

Evgeni Topolski -- 3910
Viktor Goncharenko -- 3730

The Russians have separated themselves from the pack here. Topolski's semifinal run at the USO dramatically increased his chances, while it's been more of a steady approach for Goncharenko. They are far from safe, but they've opened a notable gap.


Long Shots

Anil Mehul -- 3460
David Prieto -- 3450
Julian Hammerstein -- 2940
Cestmir Marcek -- 2875

Becerril and Gaskell are far enough off the pace that they have dropped out of contention, at least for now. Prieto will probably lose another 100 points off of his WTC count, leaving Mehul at the head of the class here -- but all that means is that he's the most likely to be named 'best player left out'. Hammerstein and Marcek are still in the 'just good enough to be worth mentioning' category. Both still need a near-miracle, which at this stage basically means shocking the field to win one of the remaining Masters events.
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Old 09-15-2015, 11:09 PM   #132
Brian Swartz
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One thing I forgot to mention is that I've been out of rr2 for some days now. Learned everything I can, and really trying to keep up with a world at that pace is just a time sink for me, one that I didn't think was worth it anymore. The primary story in rr1 continues of course.

Girish Girsh was the fourth seed in Tashkent, and easily made it to the final against Jens Petersen. A year and a half ago Petersen had handled him easily. This one was a different story, the first tight match Girsh has had in some while. After an quick first set it could have gone either way, with Petersen looking the better player at many points, but he pulled through 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, claiming his first 'plus' Challenger title, the biggest he's won so far.

World Team Cup, Level 2 Semifinals
Luxembourg vs. Sri Lanka

Monday: M. Groeneveldt d. G. Girsh, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. A. Zagallo, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0
Wednesday: A. Mehul/G. Girsh d. M. Groeneveldt/L. Helms, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Thursday: A. Mehul d. M. Groeneveldt, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0
Friday: G. Girsh d. A. Zagallo, 6-0, 6-0, 6-1

Sri Lanka defeats Luxembourg, 4-1!!

A win here was expected, but I was surprised at how well Girsh performed. Better resistance than I thought he'd put up against Groeneveldt, though the better player was clear, contributing to another good doubles win for a change, and a dominant win in the final rubber. We'll meet Italy, 4-1 winners over Serbia, for the Level 2 title at the end of the year. They are the toughest opponent on the other side of the draw, no top players but two solid ones. Girsh could either win both or lose both depending on how it goes. If it were held on clay, we might even lose to them, but since an indoor surface has been drawn it should be a pretty easy win.

That's not for over two months though. Sri Lanka moves up four more spots to the latest high of 29th. Girsh has played a lot lately, and he'll be taking probably over a month off now for training. Mehul has Shanghai coming up in a couple of weeks, and is in need of a big result there. Planning his schedule for the end of the year will be dicey, and will hinge on what his chances are in the Race heading into the last few weeks of the season.
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Old 09-17-2015, 12:29 AM   #133
Brian Swartz
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Race Standings Update(prior to Shanghai)

The Shanghai Masters has just begun, with Mehul still at 10th and not by much, Hammerstein and Marcek are breathing down his neck. But now I can add a precise cut line and make things looks clearer in terms of the Race ...


In

Iglar -- 10190
Benda -- 9900

Iglar continues to surge as has taken the lead in the battle for year-end #1!! After Wimbledon, that seemed extremely unlikely. Things did not go well for Germany in the WTC, with a 5-0 skunking by the US in the quarterfinals, and Benda has not yet replaced the points lost there. Looks like the two of them are set up for a fantastic finish.

Almagro -- 5920
Elder -- 5700
Hogue -- 5660

The order might change here, but we are up to five confirmed for the tour finals.


Probable -- 5,350 required to qualify

Alvarez -- 5075

Alvarez will almost certainly get there, probably by next week. Just a matter of time as all he needs is for the players beneath him not to basically run the table.


Contenders

Topolski -- 3960
Goncharenko -- 3730
-------------------------------------------------------
Mehul -- 3530

Back to three fighting for two spots again. All will likely to go into the last week in Paris with work yet to do.


Long Shots

Hammerstein -- 3370
Prieto -- 3350
Marcek -- 3335

Not-so-long shots now really. Hammerstein and Marcek each took another 500 title last week during the Japan and China events that most of the top players ignored, and as a result this trio will be breathing down the necks of the contenders if they aren't careful.
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Old 09-18-2015, 02:26 AM   #134
Brian Swartz
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Shanghai Masters

The end of the year just gets stranger every week. The main theme this year, which really I totally welcome as I like having to beat the best, is that the top players haven't just upped and not shown up to big events. This is in contrast to previous years. So what happens now?

Almagro, Topolski, and Gonacharenko don't show up, the last pair being stuck in a tight battle for the final WTF spots. Go figure. They're back in action the week after, so it looks like the manager just had another brain fart or whatever. As a result, Mehul gets a first-round bye, loses just one game in the second round, and all he needs to get to the quarters and put himself right back in the thick of things is to get by veteran Spaniard Andres Blanco, ranked 14th. He's never played Blanco, who is a guy who, at 27, is just past his best play. His career-high ranking was 11th, so he just was never quite good enough to be a major factor at the top.

Naturally, Mehul falls behind a set and a break, with break point against to go down even more. He than rallies, only to royally stink it up in the decider. Blanco, who lost in the fourth round at all the majors and made only one Masters QF(Madrid), takes the match in one of Mehul's most disappointing upsets of the year 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. He then proceeds to upset Mick Elder, making this his tournament of the year at Anil's expense. Huge, huge opportunity lost.

It got weirder. On the other side of the draw, Marcek proceeded to upset Hogue and Benda, making the final where Iglar predictably made mincemeat of him as he did every comer in this tournament. This moved him up to 10th in the rankings, knocking Mehul off the first page for the first time in months.

The upshot of all of this was that Anil Mehul only got in a couple of matches, leaving a very difficult scheduling decision. The top goal in the final phase of the season is to set himself up to be at his best in the WTC playoffs: everything else is secondary to that. After running the numbers, the best chance by far was for him to play the final three weeks(250s next week, then 500s, then the Paris Masters). Making the tour finals is becoming quite a long shot -- updated standings coming next -- and that means he needs enough match practice now to stay sharp after a month-long break between Paris and the WTC resuming in December.

Next week he's in Stockholm, the 250 that had the weakest competition. Gonacharenko and Topolski were playing in the Kremlin Cup, while Benda was in Vienna. All are indoor events, a big advantage for Mehul these last three weeks as none of the top players are as skilled as he is on the surface. Only Iglar is close.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-18-2015 at 02:30 AM.
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Old 09-18-2015, 03:15 AM   #135
Brian Swartz
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Race Standings -- After Shanghai: just three weeks left!

In

Benda -- 11010
Iglar -- 11010

I double-checked this; I think I miscalculated the points here last week. Obviously this is as close as you can get. Still, Iglar has all the momentum right now, and is the better indoor player. That didn't pan out last year in the tour finals, but this year will probably be different.

Almagro -- 5920
Elder -- 5880
Hogue -- 5840


Probable -- Cut is at 5,325 points

Alvarez -- 5255

Well, the line didn't move much at all here, mostly due to Marcek's run to the Shanghai finals. Alvarez will have to wait another week to qualify it looks like.


Contenders

Topolski -- 3960
Marcek -- 3935
-------------------------
Goncharenko -- 3730

Againt three players fight for two spots, but this time Marcek is in, Goncharenko is for the moment out, and somebody's missing ...


Long Shots

Mehul -- 3620
Prieto -- 3530
Hammerstein -- 3460

Ahh, there he is. Our hero is now 315 points off the pace. He's got a big advantage in indoor events, so it's not over, but every week the odds turn more against him ...
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Old 09-18-2015, 06:20 PM   #136
Brian Swartz
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Of the even dozen candidates remaining in the Race, just five -- less than half -- were active this past week. The rest chose to stay fresh for the bigger events. There was a lot of late-week shuffling between the three 250 events, which doesn't usually happen. The biggest one was Benda pulling out of Vienna and entering Stockholm instead, giving Mehul the #2 seed while Hammerstein was the #1 in Vienna. That promised to make what looked to be an easy romp through the tournament much more difficult.

They met in the final as expected, having never played before on an indoor court but Benda holding a 3-1 edge in the head-to-head, all on hardcourt. It was a close match, but Mehul's indoor expertise gave him the edge and he won 7-5, 6-4 to claim the title anyway. It's just his second pro title, and more than a year removed from his first(Japan Open - 500 last year). Hammerstein won Vienna, while Topolski defeated Goncharenko in the Kremlin Cup final which was the best way for it to work out for Anil Mehul -- Goncharenko needed the title to improve his standing in the Race at all. Mehul also slid back up to #10 in the overall rankings though just above Marcek ... they may easily switch places again.

Next up is a pair of 500 events in Valencia, where Mehul will compete against the three Spaniards taking advantage of home court there. Last year he lost narrowly to Prieto in the semifinals. The Swiss Indoors, in Basel, has a slightly stronger field with Elder, Hogue, Topolski, and Goncharenko the top seeds.


Updated Race Standings -- Two weeks left!

In

Iglar -- 11190
Benda -- 11010
Almagro -- 5920
Elder -- 5880
Hogue -- 5640
Alvarez -- 5255

Probable -- The qualification cut line is down to 4640 points this week.

Alvarez is now in, leaving this section empty. The final pair of spots will likely wait until Paris to be filled.


Contenders

Topolski -- 4060
Marcek -- 3935
------------------
Mehul -- 3870
Goncharenko -- 3730

Lots of things could still happen, but it's looking like a horserace between Mehul and Marcek after the title in Stockholm put Anil right back in the thick of things. Marcek couldn't help himself much this week; even another 500 title would only gain him 140 points, while Mehul plays in Valencia and stands to gain 410 points if he wins. He will pass Marcek if he even makes the semifinals which is extremely likely, but that also means he will go into Paris not nearly as fresh as Cestmir will ...

Topolski and Goncharenko, playing in the Swiss Indoors, could also raise their standing quite a bit. Both are fresher than Mehul & Marcek are, so they have that as an advantage. It would take a fairly dramatic turn of events for Topolski to not claim the seventh spot, but he's still less than 200 points clear. And the last one? Any of the three others could claim it. As expected, this looks like it will go right down to the wire. Nobody can afford to falter at this stage.


Long Shots

Hammerstein -- 3560
Prieto -- 3530

Prieto is in Valencia this week, while Hammerstein, after winning Vienna last week, is a lot more tired. He'll rest, and try to make one final desperate push in Paris.
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Old 09-20-2015, 04:07 AM   #137
Brian Swartz
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The first big news this week came out of Basel, where Viktor Goncharenko lost to a qualifer in the second round in a tight three-set match. Spaniard Eduardo Serrano, a skilled journeyman who usually pays more attention to doubles, was the offending party for a fairly massive upset. The upshot of this was to present an opportunity to all but knock Goncharenko out of the Race. He was already 205 points out, and that number would grow if Mehul had a decent week in Valencia.

That left seven of the current Race participants, including three whose fate has not yet been decided -- Topolski, Mehul, and Prieto -- still active. Mehul was first up, advancing with a routine win to move past Marcek into 8th place. With just a week and a half to go, this marked the first time since I started tracking the Race after Wimbledon that he had made it in the field. Only by 25 points though, and the Czech would be back next week. The others soon followed suit, all seven moving through to take all but one of the semifinal spots.

Mehul next met Alvarez, which was the easiest matchup of the three Spaniards on paper. It was just over two years since their first and only meeting(Shanghai '38), which wasn't really relevant at this point. Anywhere off of clay, Anil was the favorite but an upset was possible here. He won a close first set, but the partisan crowd willed Alvarez to a comeback in another disappointing loss, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Topolski and Prieto lost in the semis as well, and the stage was set for Paris. Hogue and Almagro went on to take the titles this week, but that didn't matter all that much.
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Old 09-20-2015, 04:26 AM   #138
Brian Swartz
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So a long work weekend is in the books now, and the Paris Masters is underway. Time to put up or shut up in determining the last two players who will be invited to the tour finals. For Iglar and Benda, the implications for the fight for year-end #1 were just as important. The quartet in the middle was basically jockeying for position as well but nothing enormous on the line for them.

After double-checking the numbers, here where we stand heading into Paris. One caveat -- I've noticed on a few occasions that the game does not always calculate a player's ranking properly. It's rare, and usually just involves a small event, but such miscalculations could play a role here. This is way things *should* be, however ...

Battle For #1

Antonin Iglar -- 11,190
Bjorn Benda -- 11,010

Unchanged since last week of course. Barring some sort of disastrous early loss, both players will go into the tour finals with a chance at the crown. Iglar has not lost since the Wimbledon final, a string of 26 straight matches. I'm not betting that ends before the end of the year.

Race to Belarus

As the title indicates, the location has been revealed for the Finals. Definitely not a sports hotspot, but I don't know how these things are determined.

Evgeni Topolski -- 4150
Anil Mehul -- 3960
------------------------------------------------------
Cestmir Marcek -- 3935
Goncharenko -- 3730
Prieto -- 3620
Hammerstein -- 3560

A pretty close group, and there are still six players mathematically in the hunt. The differences here are quite small, a win or two in a big event or two over the course of the year for any player would have changed the situation considerably. By far the most likely scenario is that Topolski is in, and Mehul is in unless Marcek goes further in Paris, in which case the Czech makes it.

Topolski is in the best position. He clinches by making the Paris final; everyone else needs to win the tournament or get help from others. Goncharenko & Prieto must at least make the semifinals to have any chance no matter what happens elsewhere; Hammerstein must make the final. Obviously the draw will be crucial here.

I'll be posting round-by-round updates as I am able(i.e., awake) given the late-season drama Mehul is involved in.
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Old 09-20-2015, 04:35 AM   #139
Brian Swartz
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Paris Masters -- Second Round

All 16 seeds get a first-round bye so there was little of interest there. In the second round everyone pretty much just wanted to get their teeth into the tournament and avoid an upset. All succeeded, but Goncharenko was in danger against meteoric Argentinian Anton Grimaldo, until the Russian pulled through 7-5, 6-4. This was good news for those in a promising position, and not so good for those chasing. In particular, David Prieto now must make the final to have any chance.

Third-Round Matchups

The men would be separated from the boys in the round of 16;

** Goncharenko faces Hammerstein in an eliminator; the loser is out of the hunt.
** Prieto(vs. Almagro) and Marcek(vs. Iglar) must pull off upsets to keep their hopes alive. This draw particularly sucks for Marcek, the worst opponent he could have drawn -- yes, Benda is still the top seed but not nearly as tough indoors.
** Mehul is smiling broadly as a consequence, and also because he gets a rematch of last week's disappointment against Alvarez, this time without the support of his home crowd. It's important that he turns the tables here; he's probably in anyway but it's far from guaranteed if he loses.
** Topolski meets Groeneveldt, and if he avoids the upset he's all but confirmed as the 7th player.
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Old 09-20-2015, 06:07 AM   #140
Brian Swartz
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Paris Masters -- Third Round

First up was Iglar vs. Marcek. The Czech Republic's top two players were not thrilled about playing each other this early -- they'd much rather play a final as in Shanghai -- but it's hard to imagine Iglar throwing away a chance at #1 to aid another player. Still, Marcek hung tough early, fighting off two break chances late in the first set to force a tiebreak, which quickly went to Iglar. A quick break early in the second looked to be all Antonin needed, and he steamrolled his way to a 7-6(2), 6-0 win. Marcek was beaten mentally after that breaker, and Mehul's chances to qualify were now very good. 28 in a row. And counting.

Almagro and Prieto were on court shortly afterwards. It was a close match at the start and both players had chances to break early. The turning point seemed to be when Prieto failed to break in the sixth game, then lost his serve in the very next game to fall behind. After losing the first set, he had every opportunity to fold but unlike Marcek did not. Rallying from a quick break, he turned the tables and forced a decisive third. Again the sixth game was key; what looked like a routine hold turned into a disaster, Prieto double-faulted on break point and was ultimately undone by his compatriot, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The list of candidates shrunk again; David Prieto has played the tour finals for five straight years, but he will not see a sixth.

The last important match of the day session was the 'eliminator' between Goncharenko and Hammerstein. The loser was out, the winner had the chance to spoil Mehul's party if they kept going. Goncharenko snagged an early break, and survived triple break point as he served out the first set. Hammerstein had to be kicking himself after that, a perfect chance to get back in the match, and he blew it. The Austrian soon found himself down in the second set, once again missing opportunities to even it up. Not the typical pattern for Julian, normally very tough in the most critical moments. He went from long shot to history in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, not putting up much of a fight in the process.

And then there were three. Evgeni Topolski was now all but in, but it wasn't over yet. He found himself in more of a fight than he bargained for, barely sneaking past Groeneveldt 7-6(5), 7-6(3). Heck of a fight by the Luxembourg star, who may have enough skill to add to his impressive athleticism to join the elite next year. He's not quite there yet, but nearly pulled off a big upset.

The last important match, in terms of the Race, was Alvarez v. Mehul in the evening. A loss here, and it would only take one Goncharenko upset tomorrow to knock him out of the finals. It started well for Anil -- of course, that had happened in Valencia as well. Up an early break, he came up with some well-timed aces to prevent Alvarez from breaking back in the sixth game. The Spaniard had a loose game midway through the second set, allowing a relatively straight-forward 6-2, 6-4 win, avenging the loss in Valencia. As a result, Goncharenko would need to reach the final, including stopping the Iglar freight train along the way, in order to surpass him. Unlikely, but not impossible. Meanwhile, the only way Topolski fails to qualify now is for both Mehul and Goncharenko to reach the championship match. That possibility is remote at best.

Quarterfinal Matchups

Three of the four impact on the Race:

** Benda vs. Mehul. Anil will be looking to repeat his success two weeks ago in the Stockholm final.
** Iglar vs. Topolski. A Topolski win would leave Goncharenko winning the title as his only path to failing to qualify.
** Elder vs. Goncharenko. If Elder stops the Russian #2, the Race is over and Topolski & Mehul are the final pair. He's the spoiler's last hope, so to speak.
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Old 09-20-2015, 10:19 AM   #141
Brian Swartz
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Paris Masters -- Quarterfinals

First up was Elder attempting to end things against Goncharenko. It was easy to see the Russian was playing for more here, and an up-and-down match eventually led to the most dramatic of conclusions, a deciding-set tiebreak. Both players had points to win it, and it could have gone other way, but Goncharenko pulled out the upset 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(7). Elder had the more dominant set of the first two and one more point overall, but didn't finish quite well enough. The role of spoiler was still open.

Iglar had similar problems with Topolski, but when it came time for the third set there, he put on a dominant display. That final came to 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Really just a letdown there in the second set, but either way Topolski can only wait and hope the odds fall his way.

For the second day in a row, Mehul had the last important match of the day, taking on Benda with the same scenario; he needed to win, or else his fate was in Goncharenko's hands. The German #1 would be a tougher obstacle than yesterday's opponent, and would be looking for a bit of payback after Stockholm. The tone was set right away, with Benda winning the first five points. The first set was quick, and while Mehul put up more of a fight in the second, a one-sided 6-1, 6-3 defeat was not what he had in mind here. With a fresher, champion opponent on the other side of the net, this loss isn't shameful by any measure, but it did take things out of his hands.

Evgeni Topolski qualified as 7th player officially, and the semifinal between Iglar and Viktor Goncharenko would determine the 8th. If Goncharenko won, he was in; otherwhise Mehul would be. The long season had come down to this, as dramatic a finish as one could ask for but he could only sit and watch now for this one.
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Old 09-20-2015, 05:07 PM   #142
Brian Swartz
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Paris Masters -- Final Rounds

Iglar and Goncharenko split a pair of tiebreaks in the critical semifinal match, suggesting that it could go either way. Once again the Czech dominated the final set though, 6-1, handing Mehul the final spot in the tour finals! Barring a clerical error, that is.

The tournament came down another Iglar-Benda final, won by Iglar in three sets. 31 straight wins and counting, and he'll guarantee himself the year-end #1 if he makes the final in Belarus. After the chaotic rush to end the year, there will be a couple of weeks off before the top players convene for that event, which will be followed by even more important events for me: the culmination of the WTC for this season.
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Old 09-21-2015, 03:50 AM   #143
law90026
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Dramatic last week! Congrats
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Old 09-21-2015, 10:37 AM   #144
britrock88
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Location: WI via ND via NC
Whew!
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Old 09-21-2015, 06:29 PM   #145
Brian Swartz
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Thanks gents! It came down to 50 points(4140 vs. 4090). If everybody had played Shanghai Mehul probably wouldn't have made it -- but on the other hand he was fighting uphill against players with better ranking & seeding all year. Luck flowed both ways at different times, and in the end it was really just a coin-flip kind of situation. Could have gone either way, but I'm glad to be in. Hopefully not too tired to have a chance at making a splash in Belarus ...

Tour Finals Preview

Field was announced officially as we are one week away and my calculations were correct. At the top, Antonin Iglar has officially taken the #1 spot from Bjorn Benda a week shy of his 24th birthday. My guess is he'll be there for a good long while. The German held it for over a year, 65 weeks -- by comparison, Alastra had it for 82 weeks before him. He's still the world's best on clay but other than it's hard to see him taking the spot back from the dominant Czech. As it stands now, Iglar needs to win his round-robin matches and the semifinal to guarantee he keeps the top spot for the end of the year. It's not over yet, but with the way he's played the last few months it probably will be soon.

It's a pretty even split of three age brackets at this year's finals. David Almagro is making an impressive seventh straight appearance, while Mick Elder is here for the fourth year. With Prieto having tumbled out of the Top 10 now, it might be the last hurrah for the vestiges of what was once a dominant group of players headed by Alastra. Those two are currently ranked third and fourth, so they aren't being put out to pasture just yet and might have something to say about results here.

Benda, last year's unbeaten champion, returns for a third appearance. Viktor Goncharenko narrowly missed returning, but David Alvarez and Evgeni Topolski, the former a late bloomer and the latter a career underachiever, both make their first appearances here.

Antonin Iglar had just one round-robin last year and is back expecting a lot more, along with Anil Mehul making his first finals. Along with being the youngest players, Iglar & Mehul are also by far the most skilled indoor players. Despite their youth a definite splash by them is expected, although as Antonin found out in '39, first-timers tend to not do all that well.

** OOC Note: The game says I still can't register for the WTF, even though it's next week. I'm hoping that means it just automatically brings in the Top 8 ... Mehul is back up to 8th this week so he should be in the field. I've just never done this before with my own players so I'm not sure how it works. **

Girish Girsh, sort of a forgotten man in all the Race stuff in terms of my updates, has had the last several weeks off and this week he's back in action at the Sao Paulo 'plus' Challenger. There's another week of challengers after that if needed during the Finals themselves, and then the WTC to finish up the year.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-21-2015 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 09-23-2015, 08:42 PM   #146
Brian Swartz
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World Tour Finals

Anil Mehul was pulled in as expected. Apparently the finals work differently from the other tournaments: the tournament chooses the players, so to speak, instead of the other way around. Top 8 singles and doubles are pulled in whether they want to play or not. At least I know how it works now.

A bit more detail on how the tournament works as well. The eight players are divided into two groups. Half are seeded: #1 and #4 go into one group, #2 and #3 into the second group, and the bottom four get dispersed randomly. In this case, one group had Benda, Almagro, Hogue, and Alvarez, ; the other had Iglar, Elder, Topolski, and Mehul. The round-robin matches are worth 200 apiece, 400 for a semifinal win, and 500 for a finals win, for a total of 1500 possible for an undefeated run such as Benda achieved last year.

Round One

Mick Elder was Mehul's first opponent. The first set was tough, but he played well in the tiebreaker, and Elder basically keeled over in the second set, a shocking bagel. 7-6(2), 6-0. A great start.

Round Two

Iglar had beaten Topolski on Monday, and Elder before today's match started. The upshot of all of that was that Mehul could qualify for the semifinal round by beating Evgeni Topolski today, while the Russian needed to win to keep his chances alive. Fitting for that circumstance, the match was a war from the word go. It took a long, tense tiebreak for Topolski to prevail in the first, while Mehul stole an early break and held onto it in the second. The decisive third set had plenty of chances for both players, with the key moment coming in the 11th game. Tied 5-5 and seemingly heading for another breaker, Anil finally dented the Russian's serve again, then held on to convert his second match point for a 6-7(8), 6-3, 7-5 win!

Surprisingly, the other two semifinalists were booked as well, with Benda and Hogue both winning their first pair of matches. I don't think I've ever seen a Finals where there was nothing to play for other than matchups on the third day.

Round Three

Last up was Antonin Iglar, the reward mostly being a favorable matchup against the second-place finisher in the other group to the winner. Mehul started well, taking a close first set, but the Czech got better as the match went along and won again as expected, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Semifinals

Benda and Iglar, to the surprise of nobody, made it through round-robin play unscathed. That left Bjorn Benda as Mehul's foe here. It was a virtual repeat of his last match: he took the first set fairly easily, but couldn't hold the lead. The German moved on to the finals with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 score. Perhaps if he was fresher he might have done better, but making the semis is still a notable accomplishment. Mehul will move up a notch to 7th in the rankings now, a new best for him.

Finals

By making it this far, Antonin Iglar assured himself of the year-end #1. For the fourth time in his five matches this week, he dropped a set but still came through the victor over Benda, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to extend his streak to an astounding 36 consecutive wins.


Elsewhere, Girish Girsh finished off his season in grand style, winning the + Challenger at Sao Paolo, and then the Tier-2 in Toyota, Japan for his seventh and eighth challenger titles. He's now threatening to break into the Top 50 by the beginning of next year.

After a week off, the WTC Level 2 Finals and then the playoffs to reach Level 1 will commence, with the playoffs especially of obvious vital importance to my goals.
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Old 09-25-2015, 06:40 PM   #147
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
WTC Level 2 Finals
Sri Lanka vs. Italy, Indoor

Monday: A. Mehul d. T. Alberti, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. A. El Brazi, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0
Wednesday: G. Girsh/A. Mehul d. X. Jue/A. Lepore, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3
Thursday: A. Mehul d. A. El Brazi, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0
Friday: G. Girsh d. T. Alberti, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-0

Sri Lanka blanks Italy, 5-0!

A fairly easy win was expected, but doubles and Girsh were question marks. We did well on both accounts with my younger player getting a pair of four-set wins. Sri Lanka is the 2040 Level 2 WTC Champion! This victory moves us up another four spots to 26th overall.

And now comes the real test. We were fortunate not to draw Austria in the playoffs next week -- but not that fortunate. Our opponent will be 13th-ranked Peru, which has spent the last four years at Level 1 without once escaping group play; this is the first year in that stretch they've had to defend their position in a playoff though since ascending five years ago. They are rebuilding a bit, with a pair of solid young clay-court specialists, Thiago and Marcelo Herrera. Both are 23 years old, and they are ranked 24th and 50th respectively. Under most circumstances I'd still be fairly confident that we could beat them, but this encounter is on clay, which frankly makes Peru the favorite.

Even if Mehul manages to defeat both of them, Girsh is unlikely to. We'll need a doubles win to have any chance. On any other ground I think we'd have the upper hand, but this will be an uphill battle; and a vital one. If we lose, Sri Lanka will have to toil another year in the 'minors' of Level 2 to earn another chance at reaching the big time. We're good enough to be a Level 1 nation, I think with the current combo we're probably around 10th best in the world. Still have to earn our place though, and in this matchup the deck is stacked heavily against us. I'd say we have perhaps one chance in four of knocking the Peruvians off.

This will be the most important week to date in Sri Lankan tennis: hopefully we can pull something out of the hat.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-25-2015 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 09-25-2015, 09:07 PM   #148
britrock88
Pro Starter
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: WI via ND via NC
I keep loving this dynasty--the site/program it's based on is great, and the thematic approach is excellent. I'd love to chronicle my RR adventures--but the very fast 4hr/wk approach would make it difficult to go into nearly the level of detail that you do.
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Old 09-26-2015, 05:47 AM   #149
Brian Swartz
Pro Rookie
 
Join Date: May 2006
Glad you still are enjoying it! After this long that's a great sign. I think I've said this before, but I could have put it up earlier, I honestly didn't think there would be much interest in it. It's funny -- I find the ideas I don't think people will like get a solid following, and the ones I think are great often land with a thud.

Anyway, feel free to chime in with any suggestions on things to report or that are repetitive, whatever. I agree with you on the speed thing, you'd really just have to summarize each season or year. It has strengths and weaknesses, but I find the slower pace adds to suspense at certain moments and accomplishments seem more rewarding because I had to wait for them.

Since you were nice enough to comment, I'll throw in a pretty major spoiler. I went off to work having resigned myself to a probable loss against Peru, and a little bummed about having to play a clay nation on clay. I had a lousy day at work, setting a personal record in the longest time ever having to stay over due to various issues. Then I came home and checked the results so far -- three matches in ... and Sri Lanka has swept them all, clinching a victory and promotion to Level 1! Details probably Sunday, but I was pretty floored. Not complaining though .
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Old 09-27-2015, 03:29 AM   #150
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
World Team Cup, Level 1 Playoffs
Sri Lanka vs. Peru, Clay

Monday

The first day featured Girish Girsh and the better of Peru's two singles players, Thiago Herrera. What I didn't realize is that Thiago hadn't prepared himself well, coming in somewhat on the rusty side. Girsh seized the opportunity and battled back for a hard-fought, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(4) win. It was a long tiring match, but one that gave Sri Lanka a fantastic start.

Tuesday

With Anil Mehul going up against their #2, Marcelo Herrera, this figured to be on the gimme in this tie. That's pretty much how it worked out; Mehul won in straights, 6-1, 7-5, 6-1. We were now up 2-0, one win away.

Wednesday

Girsh & Mehul tangled with D. Ciruana/J. Torres in the doubles, and it didn't look good early. Like Girsh had in his singles match on the first day though, they rallied to win it in four. The final was 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. Overall it was pretty even, but after the first set we were the better pair. On break chances, Sri Lanka was 8 of 15, Peru just 6 of 18. And that clinched it, an insurmountable 3-0 lead!

Thursday

Mehul completed a perfect WTC singles season, 14 ties won against zero defeats. Today's foe was Thiago Herrera, who was able to make it competitive but that's about it, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Friday

Going for a previously unthinkable clean sweep, Girsh was tripped by Marcelo in the finale. Aside from the second set, it was really quite a disappointing one-sided affair; 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2. Girsh had a bad day in general, but particularly serving. Fortunately, it didn't cost us.

Sri Lanka defeats Peru, 4-1!

I expect our opponent here will probably return to this point and try to make it back up next year. While the brothers Herrera are overly focused on clay and as we saw this week, not always well-managed, they are talented enough to be a marginal Level 1 nation and should be around for several years. We could well see them again.

More importantly, Sri Lanka has reached the grown-up level. Peru's loss is our gain, and after last year's disappointment we have pushed through with a perfect run through Level 2, which is now in the rear-view mirror.
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