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Old 12-03-2015, 01:54 AM   #201
Brian Swartz
Pro Rookie
 
Join Date: May 2006
Top Ten Rankings Update

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

It's pretty hard to improve on perfection; Iglar is off to an unblemished 32-0 start through the year's first quarter and holds a monstrous lead over the fading Benda. He's now tied for 7th all-time with a full dozen Masters titles, and more accolades are coming.

2. Bjorn Benda(27, DEU) -- 9,860

Benda is increasingly vulnerable off of clay as I've mentioned, but his days as a top player will truly be over when he loses his grip on that kingdom. That probably happens next year, but it's not out of the question that Bahana could begin to depose him this year. More than ever he needs to be strong during the upcoming spring, and surprisingly it looks like he's going to skip Monte Carlo once again. Not a wise choice in my opinion.

3. Anil Mehul(26, SRI) -- 8,700

No major titles this year(Auckland 250 is the only one) but he's done everything but with three finals losses to Iglar. He's now in striking distance of Benda, and should surpass him in the fall if not sooner. It's increasing clear that his ascendance to no. 2 is only a matter of time.

4. David Alvarez(29, ESP) -- 6,530

The latest to wear the title of 'best of the rest', Alvarez has been solid but unspectacular. He's made the quarters of all the hardcourt events, took a clay 500 in Acapulco, and generally has handled his business to maintain his spot.

5. Perry Hogue(28, USA) -- 6,080

With 30 match wins already and semis at all three of the big events so far, Hogue is off to a fine start, refusing to fade away gracefully just yet.

6. Viktor Goncharenko(29, RUS) -- 4,735

The latest top player to leave before he wears out his welcome, Goncharenko skipped Miami and IW and appears to be headed for early retirement. He hasn't been seen in any events of note since a 4th-round exit in Australia. He's still a guy who can be an occasional threat, especially during the upcoming middle of the year on clay and grass, but it looks like that won't be the case.

7. Cestmir Marcek(28, CZE) -- 4,530

Clearly not the player he was a year or so ago, Marcek is just hanging on now and probably not for too much longer.

8. Pierce Gaskell(25, USA) -- 4,035

Gaskell still looks like he's headed for the Top 5 by year's end. He has titles already in San Jose and Sydney, and has been quarterfinalist or better everywhere except Miami, where he had a close loss to a countryman ...

9. Perry Mockler(26, USA) -- 3,210

Say hello to the latest member of the Top 10. Mockler is basically Gaskell without the speed around the court. He's a fine player though and appears to be a late developer a la Marcek a couple of years ago. His run to the Miami semis was a breakout performance of sorts: now it's time to see if he can back it up. He's got the game to add considerably to last year's spring performance.

10. Marcel Bahana(24, ESP) -- 3,000

The latest youth movement, aka 'Generation Flash', is served. I told you it was coming. Bahana has been solid so far and with Hammerstein and Almagro plummeting past he moves up to the first page now. I still think he'll come up short against Benda on clay but he's better than anyone else there if he is prepared. I expect him to knock off some big names in the coming months.

A sleeper to mention here is Peru's Thiago Herrera. He's gradually been on the rise, and is another guy who could be ready to knock off some giants on clay. If he gets the right draws, although only 15th right now, he could be knocking on the door of the Top 10 soon.
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Old 12-03-2015, 02:06 AM   #202
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 3rd singles(unchanged), 180th to 209th doubles. Mehul got some serious luck in the draws so far, as he was not on Iglar's side in any of the three big tournaments. There was only a 1 in 8 chance of that happening. On the other hand, the official rankings for some reason have ignored his Auckland title -- he should be even closer to Benda than he is. Still, it's been as good a start to the year as he could have reasonably expected. A 24-3 record is even better when you consider that all three losses came against Iglar. Can't ask for more than that. The picture probably won't change a whole lot until after Wimbledon: he may add a bit to last year's clay results, or drop a bit, but for now it's about staying as close as possible and getting ready to make another big push in the fall.


Girish Girsh -- 19th to 17th singles, 85th to 127th doubles. Credible performances in Indian Wells and Miami have helped, but Girsh still hasn't broken through against top competition and there have been a couple of painfully underachieving defeats. His 13-7 record so far is actually a worse winning percentage than he put together last year. Probably he'll make up a little ground with virtually nothing to defend on clay, but Girish hasn't yet joined the main group of Blanco, Federer, T. Herrera, and Condon ahead of him that's pushing to be the next to break into the Top 10. It's a disappointment so far, more was expected and he'll need a big finish to the year now in order to salvage it.


Prakash Mooljee -- 11th to 24th juniors. Most of the top players have been a lot more active; many of them too active. Mooljee is still doing ok, he's just got different long-term priorities. He has a tier-2 coming up next week, then the Italian Open, junior Roland Garros, and junior Wimbledon all in fairly quick succession.

Manager Ranking -- 10th to 9th, 20.2k to 21.4k points.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:03 PM   #203
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
World Team Cup, Group Four, Round Three
Sri Lanka(20th) vs. Spain(1st), Indoor

Monday: A. Mehul d. M. Bahana, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. D. Alvarez, 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-2
Wednesday: G. Girsh/A. Mehul d. M. Serrano/J. Carrera, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3
Thursday: A. Mehul d. D. Alvarez, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-3
Friday: M. Bahana d. G. Girsh, 2-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 12-10

Sri Lanka defeats Spain, 4-1!!

On paper this is a huge upset, but there are a couple of factors that make it less so. Indoors plays to our biggest strength and their biggest weakness. Also, the usual doubles trump guard went away as they have the same manager as V. Goncharenko, awol for some time now. Still, it's one heck of a victory, and we take first place in Group 4! The first meeting ever between Girsh and Bahana sure didn't disappoint; it was such an epic match that I almost didn't even mind losing it. Almost. 202-201 was the final points count in favor of Girsh, an extremely even match and the first one I've ever seen with an xp yield this high(404 for GG, almost as much as an extra practice week). That was pretty much just nuts.

After the second round, we were up to 17th but then dropped to 20th due to events in the junior level. This propels us to a new high of 15th, and Spain drops to 3rd behind the Czech Republic and USA. Towards the end of the year, we'll be matched up with Serbia who we should be able to handle, though it's on clay which means it's far from a sure thing. A probable semifinal against the Americans looming if we win. Uncharted territory here, that's for sure.

Coming Up

Monte Carlo starts up the clay season in a couple of weeks, but none of the Top 3, including Mehul, will be there. He's had three matches a week for five weeks in a row now, and needs time off ahead of the Rome/Madrid double. Either Alvarez or Bahana will probably seize the moment there, and Girsh will be playing as well.
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Old 12-08-2015, 11:52 AM   #204
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
So I was about two sentences from having this up yesterday, then accidentally erased everything as I am prone to do from time to time, rage-quit and did other things. It's about a week behind now in game time, but here it is.

April

Prakash Mooljee had a pretty easy win at the Alicante Tier-2 in singles, but lost his first match in doubles. That got him back into the Top 20 for the moment, and he took the next three weeks off to train for the Italian Open.

Then, it was time for Monte Carlo. Girish Girsh was seeded 12th, and started off with a win over qualifier Arnaldo Barranco. It was a pretty easy win despite a fairly close scoreline. He then met Italian Mugur Kinczllers(27th). The former junior world no. 1 figured to be more than a match for him on clay, but Girsh battled his way to a tough, deserved 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory! It was by far the best win he's had in nearly a year, and a great sign. Bahana was up next in the third round and predictably flattened Girsh on his favored surface, but that didn't dampen a strong week.

After taking a week off to practice, he headed to the Estoril Open(250) as the 2nd seed. John Condon was the big favorite. Girsh handled Barranco again, this time much more one-sided, and then met veteran Swede Vito Bonamoni who figured to be another stern test. Bonamoni is a clay specialist and not a half-bad one, but Girsh got through him 6-4, 6-4. In the semifinals though, he was stopped a step short of meeting Condon for the title by Italian Tobia Alberti. Alberti is not the player Bonamoni is, but was a bit more consistent in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 minor upset.

Ups and downs for Sri Lanka's #2 here, but that's much better than the mostly downs that were seen for the last several months. Looks like he's trying and at least partly succeeding in breaking out of his run of poor play.

Coming Up ...

Nearing the end of the Madrid Masters, with Rome to follow it, and the Italian Open in juniors is also ongoing as the clay season heats up now.
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Old 12-10-2015, 12:32 PM   #205
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Italian Open(Juniors)

Seems that the third round is a consistent roadblock for Mooljee in the big events. In this case it was unseeded Brazilian specialist Andreas de Sousa who narrowly defeated him, though he did reach the final in doubles.

Madrid Masters

Girish Girsh had a tough first-rounder in Argentine Gustavo Caratti. He started well, taking the first set in a tiebreak after losing a lead initially, but Caratti got better as the match went on to win in three. This is a case where it was just an unfortunate draw; on clay, no shame in losing this. 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-1 was the final.

Mehul had himself a couple of tough matches early on against journeymen, but proven operators on the dirt. German Harald Oncken went down in a tight straight-sets match, followed by a closer one against 16-seed Max Benitez(ARG). After losing the first set, Anil rallied for a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win aided by 18 aces.

Alvarez waited in the quarters and Mehul just folded here unfortunately, taking just four games. Not an inspiring effort by any means. The surprise of the tournament was Peru's Thiago Herrera, who edged past Iglar after the no. 1 had barely escaped the clutches of Bahana, and went on to reach the final. The winner was Benda who showed no signs of relinquishing his turf.


Rome Masters

Back at it again, Girsh had a second-round date with Oncken after a competitive win in the first round. I expected him to lose this one, but he came through with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win. Iglar flattened him in the following round, but it was a credible showing overall with the Oncken victory.

Anil Mehul found his road a bit easier this time. A routine win over Orziz, and a flattening of Federer including a bagel led him to a quarterfinal tilt with Marcel Bahana. This one was a heck of a match, and showcased the rising Spaniard's mental game. Mehul had him but could not put him away in the key moments, and youth was ultimately served 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4). Benda awaited in the semis and the outcome there was pretty much known but it was still the first match between the king of clay and the heir apparent. The German won 6-2, 6-4, convincing enough that it's clear it will be at least another year. He takes the title here as well, and in both weeks he did not lose a set. Herrera had another good week, this time losing a close one to Iglar in the semis. He's vaulted himself ahead of Bahana and into the Top 10, announcing himself as a serious customer at least on the clay.

Coming Up ...

Junior Roland Garros is next week with the pro version starting the following week. Made a bit of an error in not giving Mehul or Girsh practice tournaments in the off week, so they had to play a lot of sessions against each other. Hate when I miss the chance for better training like that, even though one week doesn't make a huge difference.

In any case, RG is up next and it looks like Girsh has been surpassed by just enough players to knock him out of the Top 16 seeds .
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Old 12-12-2015, 06:25 PM   #206
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
2042 French Open

The FO always holds a few surprises. This year, there were more than a few. We start off in the junior tournament, where Prakash Mooljee was seeded 13th. As in the other big events this year, he proceeded smoothly to the third round. 7th-seeded Blagota Cojanovic was there greeted very rudely. Normally Mooljee loses against a top-ranking player at this stage, or gets upset like at the Italian, but he abused Cojanovic 6-3, 6-0, winning nearly 70% of his points on return to move to the quarters in dominating fashion. There he lost against Jurco, who would go on to lose a tight final, almost as decisively. It was a second straight magical run to the finals in doubles, and the combination of these two successes move Mooljee well into the Top 20 again at 15th. Overall, Roland Garros was his best tournament of the year to date.

The next week, the professional event commenced with Girish Girsh as the 18th seed. Dropping out of the Top 16 was not good for him, but he was unchallenged en route to a third-round match with Spain's veteran Andres Blanco. This was a pretty favorable matchup, and was almost as good as it would have been to keep his higher seeding. It's nice to have things break your way. The match figured to be a toss-up, Blanco a slight favorite if anything but definitely a match either man could win. That's how it played out, with the pair splitting tiebreaks in the first two sets. Girsh took a tight third but really laid an egg in the fourth. The final set eventually went his way, and he claimed his first-ever 4th-round berth here(the USO last year he reached this stage as well), 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. He was the best player overall despite the bad fourth set, but only narrowly: he won 40% on return to 38%, out-aced Blanco 20-14, but was actually out-pointed by one, 176-175. Either player could indeed have won, and it was great to see him come through one of these when he could have folded. Girsh may nearly be back from his months-long slump.

He lost in the next match to Iglar in straight sets, but it was competitive esp. in the second set. All in all a good run here for Girsh and there's nothing to complain about in his game from it. Follow-up performances like this will have him well on his way, if he can produce them.

Anil Mehul had a tournament he will not soon forget. In it's own way, it might be on the shortlist of his greatest moments when his time in the sport is done. He gave up only 10 games in his first three matches combined, actually getting better as the rounds progressed. And there was a familiar and completely unexpected foe in his path at that point:

Julian Hammerstein.

No, do not adjust your receivers. It was the first big singles event Hammerstein has played all year, and yet he still has enough skill to make Mehul a small underdog. They had played only twice a few years ago on clay; Mehul had not one a set in those meetings. He took the first here, but the Austrian rallied to take the second and third and it appeared that our hero might fall in the 4th round for the second straight year. I don't know if it was resurgence at that point or if Hammerstein just ran out of gas or what, but Anil turned the tables on him for a 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. Ironically, the way it was forged was by being better than the normally mentally stout Hammerstein in the key moments. He converted 8 of 15 break chances, compared to 6 of 16 for Julian: not a huge difference but in a tight match it was enough to make the difference. Very possibly he should have lost this, but he's lost plenty in his career he should have won, and either way Mehul moves on. Hammerstein still leads the H2H 6-5, and it has been three years since either player won two in a row. This almost certainly would have ended differently if JH would not have diverted so much effort to doubles; but he did, and so here we are. A big win for Mehul without a doubt.

Gaskell was next in the quarters. This figured to be a tight match with the American not quite as skilled but still improving and considerably better on the clay. Confidence on his part was a big question mark, with Mehul owning a 7-1 edge in their meetings including the last four(all on hard court), along with a decisive win in their only clay matchup back in the '38 Olympics. There were no signs of such struggle though in the first set as Pierce grasped a razor-thin tiebreak. Mehul rallied to take the next two sets, only to struggle at key moments and hand over the fourth without much of a fight. Just when it looked like this might be a reverse of the Hammerstein comeback, he refocused and controlled the fifth set from the start. It still wasn't easy, but for the second straight time he comes through in five to reach his first-ever French Open semifinal, 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Again it was so very tight, 165-162 in points, 41%-40% in return points, break points nearly even, overall Gaskell put the most pressure on but just a bit better in the most critical moments was Mehul to get through.

So on to the semis it was, two 5-setters that could easily have been defeats in the rearview mirror. And who was here waiting? Bjorn Benda. The Emperor of Clay. Mehul held an 8-6 lifetime edge against him including wins in the last three and six of the last seven, but not a one of those prior to this, their 15th encounter, was on clay. As I've mentioned before, this was because he'd never gotten far enough in a clay tournament to face the world's best on this surface. Those who thought the German would be more vulnerable this year had been proved wrong: he had yet to drop a set in 15 matches this year, extending his clay winning streak to an absurd 61 in a row. The last time he lost on the dirt was against Alastra in the final of the '38 Rome Masters, over four years ago.

At least Mehul was here to be part of this year's coronation. The storyline wrote itself ... except that he refused to co-operate, not just winning the first set but taking it to Benda from the opening toss. In the second, a tiebreak ensued and a very tight one, eventually one by the German. Mehul struck back in the third, shockingly putting Benda one set from ending his streak ... and then either he simply didn't have anything left or the champion upped his level. Probably some of both, as such things usually are. It was time for Anil to be on the receiving end of a comeback, 2-6, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. So close, so very close, to ending one of the great runs in recent tennis history. That second-set tiebreak will be something he long remembers. One more big serve, one less error at a key point there, and he would have shocked the world by making it through in straight sets against the seemingly invincible Benda. As it was, on the whole he was outplayed though it was close. On the other side, Iglar and Alvarez staged a classic as well, with the no. 1 escaping only 8-6 in the 5th.

Three straight epic five-setters. And just like Wimbledon last year, he was literally a point or two away from a winnable Slam final, only to fall short. However, this was not even the biggest surprise of the French Open this season. In the final, this semi was proved not to be a fluke. Benda took the first set against Antonin Iglar, but didn't win another; he was dethroned by the Czech legend, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4. Here, perhaps, despite his dominance coming in, is the moment to recognize that Benda's time at the top is either over or nearly so.

More than that though, it was a historic step for Iglar, who not only completes the career Slam but presently holds all five major titles(Four Slams + World Tour Finals). The list of men who have done that, ever, is short. Previously Eric Gorritepe was the only man on it: now, that number is doubled to two, with Iglar joining him.

For Mehul, these events place Benda within his sights, and his ascendance to the no. 2 spot by year's-end seems almost assured. The gap between them in the rankings is now just 430 points.


Coming Up ...

Mehul will have the next couple of weeks off, while Girsh takes only one and then plays a warmup before Wimbledon. Mooljee will be in action there as well of course. It is possible Anil Mehul could take the #2 spot in the world rankings at the oldest championship in tennis; he is also a serious contender for his first title there. It is a particularly big moment for him, full of confidence as he is after an impressive run at Roland Garros. But for now, rest and preparation are in order.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 12-12-2015 at 06:26 PM.
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Old 12-12-2015, 06:54 PM   #207
Tellistto
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Whitman, MA
So many threads, so hard to keep them straight!

Nice job on the tennis matches, Brian!

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Old 12-13-2015, 04:06 AM   #208
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Roffle, I just realized what I did. Feeling a little stupid at the moment.

Thanks though .
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:21 PM   #209
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
I'm a bit behind here again, so time to spam the thread the next couple of days ...

June

Aka the two weeks between the summer slams. Everyone was off for the first week. In the second, Girsh was the third seed at the UNICEF Open(250). He nearly met with disaster like he did last year in the first round, falling a set behind to Frenchman Patric Clerq before rallying to win in three. From there he gradually looked a little better each round before meeting top-seeded Andres Blanco in the final. In a rematch of their French Open classic just three weeks earlier, and just their second overall meeting, Blanco won 7-5, 6-4 in a match that wasn't really that close. Such is the way of grass-court tennis when break chances are often rare. Overall a solid week for him, but it almost ended quickly and badly.

Prakash Mooljee was in action as the 8th-seed at the junior Wimbledon; several of the players ranked ahead of him chose not to participate, more than usual, giving him a better position in the draw. He made smooth progress to the quarterfinals, where he lost to Jurco once again. Doubles went better as it has lately, with a run to the semis. Having played three big events in the past few weeks, Mooljee will now take almost two full months off to train.
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:35 PM   #210
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Wimbledon, Part 1

Part 1 because I realized partway through the tournament that there were going to be some momentous events that I wanted to break out into more detail.

Girish Girsh actually started out more impressively than his more accomplished countryman, and cruised through the first three rounds to his best-ever finish here without a hint of a challenge. In the fourth he met with Pierce Gaskell, and the American, a more skilled grass player, figured to have a fairly easy time with him. Girsh had other plans, snagging the first set. After they traded the next two, the match ultimately came down to a very tight fourth-set tiebreak. Gaskell ultimately prevailed there and used the momentum to seize an early break in the 5th, narrowly stopping Girsh's dreams of getting to the second week. 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 was the final. Gaskell was given everything he wanted and then some in this match; it was literally a coin-flip with how close it was(153-151 total pts; 35-34% return points won) and probably only experience got him through. A point or two goes the other way in that tiebreak and Girsh would have made it through.

Even with that though, it was the most impressive tournament I can recall in Girsh's career. He was excellent every time out over his four matches here, equaling his best result in a Slam and very nearly getting to the quarters against a significantly better opponent. He certainly looks primed for a big fall if he can keep up his recent improvements.

Meanwhile, Anil Mehul's charmed draws this year continued. His path to the semifinals looked clear of any major obstacles and he was on the opposite side from Iglar. One couldn't ask for a better situation -- it looked like a semi date with Benda was on the cards unless one of them fell prematurely. He had lapses in each of his first couple of rounds, then a bit of a testy third-rounder in which 21st-seed Mugur Kinczllers was dispatched 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. It looked like Mehul was a little off his game this week, leading to concern as he faced (10) Roger Federer(SUI) in the fourth round. Federer is about a year younger, just coming into his prime, and one of more accomplished grass-courters in the world. He can't compete from the baseline and isn't very fast, but is strong and has a world-class serve, a tough combination on grass.

It looked like a dangerous spot for Mehul, but he rose to the occasion and actually had a bit easier time with this match than the previous one, cruising through in straight sets to meet up with Marcek in the quarters. Like Iglar, Marcek pays little attention to grass and was not expected to be a serious threat here. He pushed the match to one tiebreak, which Mehul won easily and again was through in three sets.

Wimbledon is normally unpredictable, but this set up a semifinal pairing of the four top seeds in the draw: Iglar vs. Hogue on the other side, and for Mehul, it was time for Benda's Last Stand. On grass is the one surface where Mehul and Benda are pretty much evenly matched. If Benda won, he had a chance still to retain the #2 spot in the rankings this year; if not, it would likely be over soon for him. The winner would get another chance to end Iglar's reign of terror on the Czech's most vulnerable surface. Form had held so far ...
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Old 12-16-2015, 12:55 PM   #211
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
2042 Wimbledon, Part 2(Conclusion)

Surprising pretty much nobody, Iglar handled Hogue in straight sets in the first semifinal. He's lost only one set here, to Gaskell in the quarterfinals. The second was by far the most intriguing matchup. It did not disappoint the build-up and hype.

Benda won the first set, and the second went to a tense tiebreak which Mehul pretty much had to win ... and did. As often happens in those situations, it's hard for the loser to recover mentally and he seized a break early to take the third set. Another tiebreak in the fourth, but this time Benda just barely edged it, putting Mehul in the same situation for a decisive fifth set. He did not fold though, and eventually broke through for a 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 win in another epic. It was another one of those that could have gone either way easily. A slight edge in the vital moments was all that separated the two players here.

All of this set the stage for what had to be considered the most important match of Anil Mehul's career. Tennis is mostly about the grind; it is a pattern of results, not any single tournament, that usually determines things. Sometimes, however, singular opportunities present themselves and this was such a time. If Mehul lost here again, as he did in the epic 10-8 5th set against Iglar in last year's semifinals, very little would change. He'd gain a slight bit on Benda in the rankings, another loss against Iglar is nothing to be ashamed of and the #1 would be a modest favorite here of course, and in general the status quo would be continued. If he won however, the obvious immediate impact would be breaking through for his first Grand Slam title, but in addition to that he would interrupt the champion's historic stranglehold on the sport, and also move above Benda finally for the #2 spot in the rankings. At 26 and very near to if not at the peak of his powers, Mehul was not going to get a better chance than this. Iglar is nearly invincible on hardcourts and the obstacles on clay are much more numerous. It very well could be now or never.

First Set

Mehul looked to be the sharper player by a bit at the outset. He missed a break chance at 2-2, but converted a second at 3-3. Serving for the set at 5-4, he picked a bad time for a loose game and faced 15-40. After rallying to even the game, he double-faulted twice at deuce but again was able to fight off the challenge and took the set 6-4! He was very fortunate there not to blow it, and the proper result probably would have been a tiebreak when all bets would have been off. Iglar had not taken any of the four opportunities though, and Mehul was now two sets from the title.

Second Set

A double-fault from Iglar set up an early chance at 1-1, but the Czech saved it and deuce was as close as either player would get. In the eventual tiebreak, Mehul snagged a minibreak on the first point, and it was the only point either player would lose on serve in a taut affair. 7-4 the breaker went his way, and he was up 2-0!!

Third Set

Iglar was clearly the better player at the outset. Perhaps Mehul relaxed a bit, but he had a couple of loose service games. The first was at 2-all, when he saved three break points. Two more were required at 3-all, and it was obvious that the no. 1 was pressing to break through, but it didn't happen. In the following game, a frustrated Iglar allowed one opportunity and Anil grabbed it and closed out the match without much drama.

In a stunning turn of events, Anil Mehul defeats Antonin Iglar 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 and is the 2042 Wimbledon Champion!. Winning the match is a bit of a surprise, but winning in straight sets is astonishing. Over the first two sets he was indeed a little better, but in the third there's no question Iglar's level was higher. Uncharacteristically but certainly understandably the champion cracked. After all, he is human as well and it is not often he finds himself down two sets to love! Overall Mehul converted 2 of 4 break points while Iglar was 0-for-9. 107-98 was the points count.

Antonin Iglar's stranglehold is over, at least for the moment -- and Mehul can no longer be regarded, as he was before, as one of the best players to never win the Slam. He's reached the mountaintop here, and whatever else happens, that can never be taken away from him.
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Old 12-17-2015, 06:27 AM   #212
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 25) -- 14,690

The quest for the CYGS(Calendar Year Grand Slam) is delayed for another year, but Iglar is still king with a spectacular 52-3 record; he seems headed for a third straight year of single-digit losses, at the very least.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 26) -- 10,160

It's been a charmed year so far for Mehul, who ironically has gotten through luck most of the time the main benefit of being #2 before he actually reached this position; being able to avoid Iglar until the final of any tournament.

3. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 28) -- 9,850

With the first cracks in his dominance of clay the last few years showing at RG, Benda is now in the position of hanging onto his spot in the Big Three for as long as he can. That might be some time yet given the relatively poor state of things these days.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 28) -- 6,840

It's been a surprisingly consistent year for Hogue: he has five semifinals in the seven big events so far, with a quarterfinal in one more(Madrid). He's established himself as a gatekeeper of sorts -- the best of the rest, and the guy would-be challengers must surpass if they wish to assault the top.

5. David Alvarez(ESP, 29) -- 5,940

Hanging around and, for now, still with a cushion on the next generation.

6. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 28) -- 5,020

7. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 26) -- 4,565

Gaskell has been a quarterfinalist at all three Slams so far this year; he reached that stage only twice in all previous seasons combined, but has never gone further. He hasn't done as well in the Masters events though, only one quarter this year. Consistent overplaying has kept him from breaking through so far, and will probably be particularly damaging this fall.

8. Perry Mockler(USA, 26) -- 3,885

It's been some time since the U.S. placed three players in the top eight. They've surpassed Spain as the best singles nation right now.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 24) -- 3,580

The newest face to grace the first page, Thiago is the most accomplished of the Herrera wave(there's 4-5 notable ones by this point) and while Peru has a storied history, he's the first to reach the Top 10 in nearly 30 years. The last was another Herrera, Alessandro; three were Top 5 and two reached #1. That's an unlikely height for Thiago, but he's become a major force on clay.

10. Viktor Goncharenko(RUS, 29) -- 2,950

Pretty much waiting for someone to pass him at this point.

Although he recently activated again, Marsel Bahana took over a month off after RG, including skipping Wimbledon. This is really unaccountable and continues the trend the last few years of more and more top players not taking their craft seriously. Players like Mehul and Benda, far clear of the field as the clear #2 and #3, would be little better than average Top 10 players at other points in history. Right now though, many challengers have given up or just aren't pulling their weight, which is unfortunate.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:28 PM   #213
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 3rd to 2nd singles, 209th to 174th doubles. Breaking through at Wimbledon achieved a number of Mehul's outstanding career goals. Winning the World Tour Finals(and another Slam if possible of course) is still out there, but beyond that the only tangible thing left would be of course to reach #1 which is still almost certainly unrealistic. Continuing to reach as many finals as possible against Iglar and trying to close the gap if he can(currently at a still-massive 4530 pts) is really what remains for this year. He will need to play well to retain the #2 spot, with both his Masters titles from last fall yet to defend.


Girish Girsh -- 17th to 16th singles, 127th to 114th doubles. Girsh appears to finally have fully emerged from his slump, and is presently back at his career-high. In the fall, he did reasonably well last year at Paris and the USO but won only two matches combined in the three hardcourt Masters, so he should be able pick up some more ground and inch closer to the Top 10 if his recent form holds at all.

Prakash Mooljee -- 24th to 20th juniors. It looks as if around 20th is where Mooljee will probably finish, give or take. He still has several more weeks off, and many of his rivals have been more active. Overall he looks to be on a healthy pace in terms of his development, so there are no real concerns here at the moment.

Manager Ranking -- 9th to 6th, 21.4k to 23.3k points. Wimbledon was a huge boon here obviously. I'll probably be up to at least 4th, possibly even 3rd by year's end. Meanwhile oprice has set a new record again despite Mehul's heroics at nearly 61k. Only three others have hit 40k, one other at about 51k at their peaks, so he's miles ahead of everyone else.
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Old 12-17-2015, 12:35 PM   #214
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Congrats to you and Anil!
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Old 12-17-2015, 01:03 PM   #215
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Danke, good sir!

Race to the World Tour Finals

The annual post-Wimbledon tradition, wherein we look at the standings for the calendar year to this point.

IN

Antonin Iglar -- 9,030
Bjorn Benda -- 6,180
Anil Mehul -- 6,030

I'll be watching this closely not because there's any drama in terms of making the field; you can book the spots for these three already. More important is tracking the progress in terms of securing the year-end #2 and the gap with the other two members of the dominant trio.


Probable

Perry Hogue -- 4,360
David Alvarez -- 4,160
Cestmir Marcek -- 3,530
Pierce Gaskell -- 3,210


Contenders

Thiago Herrera -- 2,840
----------------------------
Perry Mockler -- 2,620


Long Shots

Marcel Bahana -- 2,320
Roger Federer -- 2,020

Federer, at the end of last year, was a challenger-level player; now he's 11th in the world. Still, he has a lot of work to do and has yet to reach the second week at a Slam. Bahana would be, at a minimum, probable for the field had he showed up for more than one of the first three Slams of the year I would think. He could still well make it, but he needs to avoid any more lapses. With all the upheaval there are a lot of new names here; Herrera has never been in serious conversation for the WTF before, Mockler as well. There are a couple of others just off the list as well.
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Old 12-17-2015, 03:16 PM   #216
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Coming Attractions

Three weeks off now for everybody, but after that it gets crazy and the break will not be as long as would have been preferred. It starts with the Olympics in New Haven, Connecticut in mid-August. Canada and Cincinatti Masters events follow in consecutive weeks, then after one week off the US Open and immediately after that, the WTC Quarterfinals. All in all, six tournament weeks out of seven, and there's now way anybody going deep into these events such as Mehul will assuredly be is going to stay fresh. Fatigue will likely create opportunities for underdogs such as Gaskell, and maybe even as far down the chain as guys like Girsh, to make a little more noise than usual. It'll be a grind of attrition more than anything.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:31 AM   #217
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So about a week before Christmas I decided to get sick(still am). Then, with the thread already behind due to that and the usual hectic nonsense of the food business heading into the holiday including particularly epic fail by a certain employee(now ex-employee) whose work naturally fell to me(who else), a West Michigan windstorm took out power for a significant part of the area for a while. We were pretty average in that we were out for all of Christmas Eve and half of Christmas -- there are some who still won't get it back till later today. Mother Nature* taking revenge on us for an absurdly mild year, including a new record high of nearly 60 on the 23rd?

*No, I don't actually believe in this concept.

In any case, all of this kept me from being able to manage players or check in on things during the climax of the late summer, the US Open. And so, it is now time for me to spam the thread. Again :P. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. With no more ado .. .

July

When last I left off, the mid-year report had just finished post-Wimbledon. This part is the easiest, because everyone was off so nothing really happened worth mentioning. At all. Heh.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:45 AM   #218
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2042 Summer Olympic Games
New Haven, Connecticut -- Hardcourt

It was just four years ago that a Sri Lankan made the singles Olympic draw for the first time; Mehul reached the third round, the round of 16 in the 64-draw format, despite being very much still a youngish 22-year-old and the clay surface at the time. Expectations are much higher here as he is in his prime. Due to the hectic schedule I've mentioned, a number of top players including Iglar and Benda chose not to participate here. That will help them in the Masters, USO, etc. to come, but how can you turn your back on your country? Those opportunities come up every year -- the Olympics are forever though and a unique honor. Girsh was here as well for his first shot at the Games.

Doubles didn't go so well, with a first-round loss as Girsh/Mehul were matched up with the 2-seeds from Sweden. This was actually not a bad thing in the overall scheme as it left more energy for singles where there was more chance to make some noise. Girish Girsh was seeded 9th, and had to play probably the toughest matchup for him in the first round. Swede Olav Birkeland, who had ended his Australian Open at the beginning of the year earlier than expected, did it again by a 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3 final. In a match where Girsh was the better player by a hair, Birkeland needed only five break chances to convert twice, while Girsh could do no better in eight opportunities. A fairly monstrous disappointment here to go out in the first round, with only two lost matches to show for this year's Olympics. This is not the 'big summer push' that he was hoping for.

Anil Mehul was the top seed and prohibitive favorite with the two other legs of the 'Big Three' sitting it out. Having come back from his latest unjustified, extended vacation, Marcel Bahana was a potential threat in the quarterfinals. The price of his inattention this year quickly came due though as Mehul dominated 6-4, 6-1. The joy of advancing to the medal round was tempered by the sight of Julian Hammerstein opposite in the semifinals. Although he's mostly sworn off singles, he was here and still in good condition. The three-year-long trend of no player winning twice in a row was kept intact as Hammerstein was the sharper man in a 6-4, 6-4 result. Seeded only 10th here, the Austrian was the one player that Mehul was not a clear favorite against, and on this day he had the better timing.

In the bronze medal match, Mehul easily dispatched Federer to at least place Sri Lanka on the podium, but this did not take away much of the sting of losing to his old rival. Hammerstein went on to outlast Gaskell in a 5-set final to take the gold and silver respectively.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:14 PM   #219
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Canada Masters

There wasn't time to reflect on the Olympic week for long. Girish Girsh had a bit more trouble than anticipated with Manfred Borrman(SWE) in his second-round match, but got through it 6-4, 7-6(1). Next up was a chance against American 8-seed Perry Mockler, but he couldn't quite get through after a good start and lost, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. Mockler got better as the match went on, and once the second-set tiebreak went against him it was pretty much over.

Anil Mehul cruised through to the quarters, where he was Mockler's next foe. The American seized on his only break chance to force a tiebreak in the first set, but it was still a fairly smooth straight-sets affair for Mehul. Benda was next, the German having the advantage in terms of rest, but it wasn't enough as Mehul kept on going, 7-5, 6-3. That left Iglar v. Mehul XX as the final, and after dropping a tough tiebreak in the opening set it was clear the upset wouldn't happen. 7-6(6), 6-2, a good event for both men but the Czech no. 1 takes the title here and Anil didn't have enough left to defend his crown from a year ago.

Cincinatti Masters

Girsh had the misfortune of having Birkeland in his draw again, this time in the second round. The Swedish hardcourt specialist has been his kryptonite this year, knocking him out both in Australia and the Olympics, but this time Girsh got the better of him, 6-4, 7-6(4). It could have gone either way again, much like before he was the superior player but only by a hair. In this case, he converted 2 of 3 break chances against 1 of 3 for Birkeland in a serve-dominated match.

No. 4 Perry Hogue awaited next. Girsh has come up just short time after time against Top-10 competition, but this time the ever-consistent veteran American didn't have quite enough. The opening set was key, with Girsh taking a tense tiebreaker, then after dropping the second, playing a decisive third well for a 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-2 victory! Hogue was the more consistent player over the course of the match, but some loose service games at the beginning of the third cost him badly and Girsh moved on to the quarterfinals, his first appearance at this stage in a big event. He had a good chance to progress further; his foe was Cestmir Marcek, not as tough an out as Hogue usually, but he was firing on all cylinders and won 7-5, 6-3, out-acing Girsh 13-7 and converting 4 of 5 break chances.

For his part, Mehul had a rough start to his third-round match with Andres Blanco, dropping the first set before coming back to win it 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The same routine played out against Bahana in the quarterfinals, and then in the semis it was rising American Radek Smitala, fresh off back-to-back upsets of Benda and Mockler, looking it to make it three straight. Those thoughts were snuffed out with a tough, focused effort by Mehul, who made it to another final 6-4, 6-4 despite 11 aces by Smitala. Iglar was there once again, and while Anil stole the first set this time he couldn't keep up the pace, losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Still, to make both finals these last couple weeks with as many matches as he's been playing is an excellent achievement.

During the same week as Cincinatti, Prakash Mooljee took his first shot at an amateur event finally, an indoor tournament in Bergen, Norway. Perhaps he waited too long to take the plunge; it was an easy run for him, blasting aside all comers to take the title in both singles and doubles.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 12-26-2015 at 04:15 PM.
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:32 PM   #220
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2042 US OPEN

Prakash Mooljee was seeded 16th, and won a couple of easy matches before running into Jurco in the third round. There he was served a fresh bagel and breadstick in another beatdown. Doubles went better, as he was once again runner-up.

Girish Girsh had an easy time of things for a couple of matches, then met 24th-seed Jens Petersen(DEN) in the third round. They'd met once in a big challenger a few years back with Girsh winning a tight 3-setter. Petersen is now 27 and pretty much at the peak of his game, but Girsh had the advantage and had to go through a couple of tough sets but advanced 6-1, 7-6(6), 7-5. He then had his fourth shot at Pierce Gaskell, all of the previous three coming in Masters or Slams also. For the third time in those four meetings, he took a set off the American but he still has yet to win after a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) defeat. The frustrating thing about this one is that he was the better player but didn't convert enough of his opportunities. Gaskell had to go through 154 points on his serve, compared to only 124 for Girsh, but the world no. 6 converted a couple more break chances and prevailed in the tiebreaker that clinched the match. Yet another one of those where Girsh was there, played well enough to win, but didn't make the breakthrough when it mattered. He matches last year's 4th-round result, still as good as he's ever done in a Slam.

Anil Mehul was looking to improve on a quarterfinal finish last year, and in the fourth round it was his turn to contend with Olav Birkeland. The Swede gave him all he wanted to handle and then some. Mehul won an epic first-set tiebreak, but still couldn't shake him completely and while he eventually won in straight sets, it was far from easy. 7-6(11), 6-4, 6-3 was the scoreline, no question the better man won but Birkeland's 17 aces made it a real fight despite the fact that he only managed to break Mehul once on the day. David Alvarez, no longer a real threat on this surface, bowed out in straight sets relatively meekly in the quarters. Then it was Bjorn Benda again in the semis; Benda had been forced to rally from two sets down against Gaskell just to get here, showing his championship experience to hold off the advance of time and the rising American one more time at least. He wasn't done either. In this case fatigue still on his side, the German pushed through in another five-setter against Mehul, 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 to reach the final, where he was unsurprisingly dumped by Iglar in straights. The semifinal was a very even match, with Benda's serve(21-13 aces) proving the difference in a paper-thin match that could have gone either way. It allows him, at least theoretically, to still have a chance at knocking Mehul out of the year-end #2 spot ...
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Old 12-26-2015, 04:56 PM   #221
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World Team Cup Quarterfinals

Matchups

The first quaterfinal looks like a travesty at first glance, with #1 Czech Republic facing off against #2 Spain. But the Spaniards are very much a paper-only #2, as we demonstrated in group play; since they didn't even win their group, they get a tough draw although it could have been easier than this.

#12 Austria against #7 Germany(on clay). Austria, without Hammerstein who has sworn off WTC play for a while now, on Benda's favorite surface? They have no chance.

#3 United States vs. #9 Mexico(indoor). The surface doesn't really matter here; Mexico doesn't have the horses. The US features Hogue(No. 4) and Gaskell(No. 6); their opponent is fortunate to be here as they don't have a Top-50 singles player.

#14 Sri Lanka vs. #19 Serbia(clay). Another talent mismatch; Serbia's singles players are 46th and 87th in the world; even on clay that's not good enough.

Monday: A. Mehul d. R. Mrakovic, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. H. Radisic, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
Wednesday: S. Kucerovic/S. Kelecevic d. G. Girsh/A. Mehul, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(6)
Thursday: A. Mehul d. H. Radisic, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0
Friday: G. Girsh d. R. Mrakovic, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1

Sri Lanka defeats Serbia, 4-1!!

A typical win for us, four easy singles win and the loss in doubles. All three of the other ties were just as one-sided; by the end of Thursday, the four semifinalists were determined. There were no surprises, with the Czech Republic defeating Spain 4-1, Germany blanking Austria 5-0, and the US 4-1 over Mexico.

We move up a spot to 14th. The semifinals in two weeks will feature #1 Czech Republic against #7 Germany, and #3 United States against us, both on ... clay. This is a definite advantage for Germany who has a real chance for the upset now over the defending champions. For us, it's a small disadvantage. Hogue isn't much of a clay-courter but neither are we; Gaskell has some skill on the dirt and will be a tougher customer. The US figures to have doubles locked up, so to win, we need Mehul to take both his matches and Girsh to upset one of the Americans, probably Hogue is the most likely. This is not an impossibility but we are definitely underdogs at this stage. Probably 2:1 in favor of the United States. We'll see how it goes.
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Old 12-26-2015, 05:16 PM   #222
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 25) -- 15,510

The latest career achievement lists have Iglar up to 8th in weeks at #1(97, 8 more than Alastra), 5th in Slam titles(9), and tied for 5th in Masters Shields with Runer(at 14). His strategy this year has to been to focus on dominating hardcourts, and he's done just that. This does leave the door somewhat open for others to prevent him from becoming just the fifth man to win three World Tour Finals however ... Iglar's record this year is a ridiculous 71-3, and he looks set to finish another historically dominant year after a small hiccup(by his standards) last season.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 26) -- 10,800

Mehul is 1-5 against Iglar this year, 60-5 against everyone else. That, and the '1' which was the Wimbledon title of course, are pretty much the story of his successful rise to best, if still very distant, challenger to Iglar's throne.

3. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 28) -- 10,180

The inspired run to the USO final and continued clay dominance showed that Benda is not done being a major force yet.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 28) -- 6,280

Hogue looks to be fading again after an outstanding first half of the year. Yet nobody is coming to take his place ... yet.

5. David Alvarez(ESP, 29) -- 5,370

6. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 26) -- 5,290

I said at the outset of the year he should be Top-5 by the end, and Gaskell is nearly there. It's only a matter of time before he replaces Hogue as the #1 American. The collapse against Benda in the USO quarterfinals was a major missed opportunity. He also lost an epic 5-setter to the German in the AO, a five-setter to Mehul at the French, and in four to Iglar at Wimbledon, all four Slam quarterfinals. You have to think he'll smash through that wall soon, he's overdue at this point.

7. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 28) -- 5,020

Still just good enough to hang around. Tick tock.

8. Perry Mockler(USA, 26) -- 4,850

Mockler has been better than I expected this year. Nowhere was this clearer than at the USO where he knocked off Hogue in straight sets, then was the only player to take a set off Iglar in the semifinals.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 25) -- 3,375

Progress really stalled for Herrera after the clay season.

10. Roger Federer(SUI, 25) -- 3,230

With Bahana floundering, Federer stepped into the opening created. I don't see him doing a whole lot more however.
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Old 12-26-2015, 05:30 PM   #223
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update


Anil Mehul -- 2nd singles(unchanged), 174th to 238th doubles. Mehul has only 7 doubles matches this year, down from 18 last year, and most of those are in the WTC. He's already on 61 wins which is two more than last year, and needs just four more to surpass the 64 from two years ago which was a personal best. With two Masters, the WTC semis at least, and the WTF yet to go he should easily make it into the 70s. Paris and the WTF are places where, if he plays his cards right, he should have a real chance to take home the title. It'll be a disappointing finish if he doesn't snag at least one, and closing the gap with Iglar means he needs to take advantage of all non-hardcourt opportunities.


Girish Girsh -- 16th to 15th singles, 114th to 159th doubles. Stagnation still here. The Olympics were disappointing but he did well, if not great, afterwards. Breaking through against the top players, esp. when he's played well enough to win, is still the goal here. He's knocked on the door but hasn't opened it yet except for the win over Hogue in Cincinatti. He should be able to improve on his Shanghai result last year(second round), but will need a strong finish between there and Paris to make any ground on the Top 10 heading into the new year.


Prakash Mooljee -- 20th to 25th juniors, first 'senior' rankings of 1828th singles, 2853rd doubles. There are three more 'A' junior tournaments left, but aside from that it's almost time for Mooljee to make the jump to the professional ranks. The Bergen result indicates that he's ready. I thought he'd finish higher in the juniors but frankly that doesn't matter much at all.


Manager Ranking -- 6th to 5th, 23.3k to 24.3k points. 4th-7th are tightly packed, only about 400 points separate them. I was 4th briefly, and will probably get back there by the end of the year. oprice's record continues to rise, up to over 63k after the USO. Insane.
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Old 12-26-2015, 05:45 PM   #224
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Updated Standings

In

Antonin Iglar -- 13,030
Anil Mehul -- 8,390
Bjorn Benda -- 8,330

Iglar has YE#1 sewn up as can obviously be seen, but the battle for #2 is very much still a thing and Mehul could easily lose it if he slips up over the final month or so. If he plays as he can in the indoor events at Paris and the WTF though, the inside track is definitely his.


Probable

Perry Hogue -- 5,130
David Alvarez -- 4,610
Cestmir Marcek -- 4,520
Pierce Gaskell -- 4,250
Perry Mockler -- 4,200


Long Shots

Thiago Herrera -- 3,275

It appears extremely unlikely that there will be any controversy this year; the field appears to be set. The final order of finish for much of the Top 8 is likely to come down to who does well at the Tour Finals.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 12-26-2015 at 05:47 PM.
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Old 12-28-2015, 07:27 PM   #225
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World Team Cup Semifinals

And then there were four. It is heady territory for Sri Lanka, having truly made it to the battle of the titans. Only the elite nations make it this far; and here we are, underdogs of course but just two ties, six match victories from a once-unreachable goal of becoming world champions. At this stage, there are few gimmes and most of the opposition are elite players. You've got to be
good to have a chance, but luck plays it's part as well.

That luck appeared to have Germany on it's side more than anyone else in their matchup with the Czech Republic . The Germans have a roster full of clay-court specialists, which is a double-edged sword but this was to be their third tie contested on the dirt in a row. On any other surface, the Czechs would have an almost guaranteed victory. For the USA and Sri Lanka, it favored the Americans somewhat but wouldn't be a major changer either way.

Monday

Antonin Iglar(CZE, 1st) vs. Harald Oncken(DEU, 29th)

Doesn't matter what the surface is here, Iglar figured to be a shoo-in. He backed that up by surrendering just three games to the German #2 as the Czech Republic took a 1-0 lead over Germany.

Perry Hogue(USA, 4th) vs. Girish Girsh(SRI, 15th)

This was the singles match where an upset was most possible for us. Girsh had beaten Hogue in Cincinatti under conditions more favorable to the American, and he had to steal one if we were to have a realistic chance. The first two sets were competitive and split, but Girsh dominated the third and went on to a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win! Hogue had 15 aces, but lost nearly half of the rest of his service points. A fine display of returning and patient baseline maneuvering here gives Girsh a second straight win in this matchup, and with a 1-0 lead we have put the pressure on the US right away.


Tuesday

Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 7th) vs. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 3rd)

Benda might be the one player Marcek has no chance against on clay. There were a couple of tight sets, but as expected the tie was leveled at 1-all with Bjorn's, 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(4) triumph in straights.

Pierce Gaskell(USA, 6th) vs. Anil Mehul(SRI, 2nd)

A commanding lead could now be had if Mehul could hold off Gaskell, far from a sure thing as he's unquestionably the Americans' best clay player. Gaskell had 17 aces, but even that was not enough to hold off a strong, focused effort. Mehul prevails 7-6(3), 6-2, 7-6(4) in a match that was competitive enough to go a while longer.


Wednesday

L. Nedved/J. Simunek(CZE, 16th/103rd) vs. H. Arendt/R. Ahlmann(DEU, 30th/80th)

Mastery of the dirt was the key here. The Germans had it, and cruised to relatively easy straight-sets win. They lead now 2-1, with the defending champions one defeat away from elimination.

O. Challenger/C. Dring(USA, 7th/13th) vs. G. Girsh/A.Mehul(SRI, 174th/234th)

This was the one matchup where the Americans held all the cards. A 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 scoreline showed that to increasingly be the case as the match went on. The lead was cut in half to 2-1, and the US stayed alive.


Thursday

Antonin Iglar(CZE, 1st) vs. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 3rd

The critical moment comes at a rematch of the RG final, in which Iglar snatched away Benda's crown. If he could repeat that performance, Marcek would be a near shoo-in on the final day against Oncken and the Czechs would escape. He took the first set, but in a reversal of the matchup at the French that would be all he would get. Benda delivered the clinching rubber here, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, and Germany moves on to the final!

Perry Hogue(USA, 4th) vs. Anil Mehul(SRI, 2nd)

Given Hogue's flagging form of late, Mehul was a substantial favorite here. He needed to take care of business, as Girsh-Gaskell would be a tough ask tomorrow. For such an occasion it was a stunningly one-sided match. Anil smashed the American who had once beaten him in six of their first seven meetings, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. It was a comprehensive and frankly humiliating display -- and Sri Lanka pulls off the upset! They will meet Germany in the WTC Final!


Friday

A bit anticlimactic now with two dead rubbers was the final day. Marcek cruised by Oncken as expected, making the final count in the first semi 3-2 in favor of Germany. Meanwhile, Gaskell and Girsh staged a true classic. 19 aces came from the Americans racquet to just 4 for Girsh(with an equal number of double faults), but despite that it was as even as could be overall. Someone had to win, and at the end it was Girsh prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-4 to put the exclamation point on a 4-1 victory! It was also a huge moment for Girish Girsh as this week he had his second and third top-10 scalps of the year, including a first win over Gaskell in five meetings, all in the past 12 months.

Final Preview

Sri Lanka moves up another couple spots to 12th, but more importantly was the all-important choice of ground for the matchup with Germany. If they got their favored clay again it would be all but hopeless; if not, I liked our chances. In the middle of December, we will meet for the year's championship ... on clay. I'd really like to know who they paid off. This is four straight ties now for them on their favored surface, and all three of the knockout rounds. My prediction is unfortunately for a 3-2 loss. We should handle Oncken twice, but we'd have to either win doubles or have somebody beat Benda in singles to have a chance. On the dirt, that's a near-impossibility. We'll give it our best of course, and Mehul did push him to five sets at the French Open, but the chances of Benda having another off day like that are not good -- and it still wasn't quite enough. It seems that the powers that be have decided to virtually gift-wrap the title to Germany this year, but we're still going to have our shot.

Coming Up

One week off, then we head to Shanghai before finishing the year with the run-up to Paris and the Tour Finals.
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Old 01-01-2016, 11:13 PM   #226
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Shanghai Masters

Girish Girsh had a couple of fairly easy matches against a qualifier and a journeyman before running into 5-seed David Alvarez, a player he should beat most of the time by this point. His recent impressive form didn't carry over though in a 7-6(1), 6-3 loss. It was pretty close, really the difference was in the key moments. Not a horrible setback but fairly disappointing, even if he did still go one round further than last year. It looked a little better when the in-form Alvarez upset Benda in the quarterfinals though ...

Anil Mehul easily dispatched Federer again in the third round, but had a tougher time than expected with Blanco after that. 7-5, 7-5 he advanced in straight sets, but it looked like the fatigue was beginning to show again. Had he not come up big in saving all six break points against him he could easily have lost. In the semis though he crushed Alvarez easily, including a first-set bagel, and once again reached the final against Iglar. After taking a long tiebreak, he didn't have quite enough left and lost one of those matches where the legend was off his game a bit vulnerable. 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-4 was the count, a good effort considering how much he's been playing but short of the mark once again and the second of his two Masters titles last year goes back to the normal owner.
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Old 01-01-2016, 11:21 PM   #227
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October/November

Mehul continues to rest at every opportunity, able to get two weeks off in a row here. Girsh however needs the matches at this point to get ready for the off-season. First up for him was the Stockhom Open(250, Indoor), where he proceeded to blast through the first three rounds without losing a game! Grimaldo was a routine win in the semis, leaving Olav Birkeland to spoil his dreams once again, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-3. This loss was particularly dispiriting since on an indoor surface Girsh should be far the better player. Once again he outplayed the Swede, but had to deal with 21 aces and did nothing with 8 break points despite winning nearly a third of his return points overall.

Back at it again the next week, he was in Valencia(500, Indoor). Here he was the third seed, meeting up with Alvarez again in the semifinals. It didn't look good at first, but Girsh rallied for a big 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) win in which he was clearly better over the last couple of sets. An important victory after disappointments the last couple of weeks. Another top-ten foe, Thiago Herrera, proved less of a problem in the final, and Girsh claims his first 500-level title! At 23 and a half, he does so just three weeks younger than Mehul got his first(and only) 500 crown, another example of the uncanny similarity of their career tracks. This win also gives him 51 singles match victories on the year, a new high for him; Mehul set his personal mark in Shanghai, so both are just adding to the best years of their careers now as the season winds down.

Next up ... the Paris Masters.
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Old 01-03-2016, 06:38 AM   #228
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Paris Masters

Girish Girsh got through his first match easily, leaving the success of the final Masters for him up to a third-round encounter with Perry Mockler. Mockler had disappointingly come back from a set down against him just a few months ago in Canada which was their first-ever meeting. Girsh settled that score here 6-4, 6-3, in a surprisingly dominant showing without a single break point allowed. Advancing to his second big quarterfinal of the year, he was sure to see it ended against Benda. He managed to push the first set to a tiebreak though, and won it surprisingly easily to upend the script. Two sets later, he'd claimed a solid but close win, a huge upset over the world no. 3 and definitely the biggest win of his career to date, 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-3! The German former no. 1 is definitely not at his best indoors but he was much the fresher player and still is more skilled and athletic even at his age. Iglar was up next in the semifinals, and while he dispatched Girsh in straight sets for the sixth time in as many meetings, it was their closest match yet. A fine way to close out the season for Girsh!

Anil Mehul basically yawned his way through the draw; he is now far better than almost all competition on this surface. T. Herrera, Alvarez, and shocking semifinalist John Condon all went down easily. Condon won only a single game after having dumped both Gaskell and Hogue in a pair of massive upsets for him -- the Phillipine star had never in his career made the quarterfinals of any big event off of clay up to this point. And so it was yet another final against Iglar. He didn't play badly at all but was the more fatigued player and his serve deserted him too often in a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 loss. New chapter, same script.
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Old 01-03-2016, 06:46 AM   #229
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Final Race Standings

Antonin Iglar -- 14,780
Anil Mehul -- 9,440
Bjorn Benda -- 8,940
Perry Hogue -- 5,700
David Alvarez -- 5,350
Cestmir Marcek -- 4,890
Pierce Gaskell -- 4,840
Perry Mockler -- 4,590

The field is split from those of Benda's generation(Hogue, Alvarez, Marcek) and Iglar's(Mehul, Gaskell, Mockler). With Bahana's disappointing often-disappearing act, Generation Flash has yet to make an appearance at the tour finals. Iglar will of course finish #1 again, but anything could happen with the players in the 4-8 spots. In between, Anil Mehul needs to win to guarantee the #2 spot at the end of the year, but in all reality finishing first in his group will almost certainly do it . That would mean Benda would, at best, go up against Iglar in the semifinals. It will be a huge upset if another Iglar-Mehul doesn't happen here, and once again Anil doesn't quite have enough time to get the rest needed to really be fresh. The Olympics this year are still having their effects felt: he's just won too much since then to get enough rest to get back to his best tennis.
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Old 01-06-2016, 02:36 AM   #230
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World Tour Finals
Helsinki, Finland


Group Stage

There was one surprise in the initial draw, with Benda being placed in the B Group along with Iglar. Mehul's foes were to be Hogue(4th), Alvarez(5th), and Gaskell(7th). As the round-robin matches played out, there were few surprises. He crushed Alvarez, got through a fairly tough one against Hogue 7-5, 6-4, and took a routine victory over Gaskell for a perfect mark. On the other side, Iglar was perfect as well and Benda beat the other two(Marcek and Mockler). None of this surprised anyone a whole lot.


Semifinals

Anil Mehul met Benda in the first match, and the year-end #2 ranking was to be finally determined. There was a slight chance that Benda could still take it, but he'd need to win the title here. Mehul dominated the first set, and was good enough to handle a tiebreak in the second for a 6-1, 7-6(3) victory. Iglar was also successful against Gaskell on the other side in straight sets.


Final

And so it was that the two titans met for the 10th time this year. Antonin Iglar was bidding to become the fourth man to win the tour finals three times; Mehul going for his first, is somewhat the better indoor player but of course Iglar's overall resume is well known and he was fresher also. As always, he had achieved his goal by giving himself a chance. And like at Wimbledon, he was rewarded here. Mehul returned exceptionally well today, and saved 8 of 9 break points in a 6-4, 6-4 victory that broke the usual mold of serve domination on the indoor courts. He broke the Czech three times; it was an uneven match with both players having loose games at times. Mehul takes a second of the five great pillars of tennis; there's no question who the best is, but he's had one heck of a year as the clear #2 now with this title. Given how many matches he's played over the last three months, it's really a pretty amazing accomplishment.


Elsewhere ...

Prakash Mooljee reached the third round in both singles and doubles at the Orange Bowl('A' Tier). Another rough draw ensured he ended his participation there.


Coming Up

In two weeks, the WTC Final awaits. My projection hasn't changed -- Germany is a considerable favorite to win a close tie on their favored clay. But we've got a chance, as happened this last week. The following week, Mooljee's final junior event at the Casablanca Cup will be played, and that will do it for 2042.
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Old 01-08-2016, 09:27 AM   #231
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2042 World Team Cup Finals
Germany vs. Sri Lanka, Clay

So leading up to this, I thought for a while about what possibilities there might be for us to come up with an upset. I didn't think of anything realistic. 3-2 Germany seemed almost certain. But you know, that's why they play the matches ...


Monday -- Bjorn Benda(3rd) vs. Girish Girsh(11th)

Benda's not losing to a second-tier player on clay. This was Germany's most favorable rubber of the whole thing. After a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 drubbing, they led 1-0.


Tuesday -- Harald Oncken(29th) vs. Anil Mehul(2nd)

This was even more one-sided, with Mehul handing out at triple-bagel. No break points faced, total points were 72-17. Yowzer. Even more one-sided than expected. 1-all.


Wednesday -- H.Arendt/R. Wagel vs. G. Girsh/A. Mehul

This was one rubber that had just the slightest smidgeon of doubt attached. We were still really up against it here, but just maybe .... nope. 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-2. Winning that tiebreak would have helped, but 19 double faults are the only reason it wasn't even worse. Once the rallies started it was no contest. 2-1 Germany.


Thursday -- Bjorn Benda(3rd) vs. Anil Mehul(2nd)

The marquee matchup, and one that would have given me a glimmer of potential hope -- Mehul did lead 2-0 at RG -- if not for the fatigue factor. Benda was also the fresher player, which meant hopeless again. He's still the world's dominant clay player. Sometimes I hate being right. 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-2. Would have been nice to put up a little more resistance after the first set, but the ending was written. With this, Germany clinches the 2042 World Team Cup Championship, and we are runners-up. Sigh.


Friday -- Harald Oncken(29th) vs. Girsh Girsh(11th)

The final-day rubber is dead. It was actually the best match of the week, closer than expected. But once again the expected result came about, Girsh prevailing 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. The blip of the second half of the match notwithstanding, he gets the win.

Germany defeats Sri Lanka, 3-2!

So we are literally one rubber short of the goal. This was just our second year in Level 1, and our first past the group stage though. Given that, it is one heck of a year. And beating the Germans on clay -- not going to happen with Benda around, unfortunately. We dip a spot to 13th, and wait to see who our opponents will be next year.

In just three weeks time, 2053 will be upon us with the first round of group play. A brief respite, and we'll be right back at it hoping to get back to this point again.
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Old 01-09-2016, 03:05 AM   #232
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WTC Playoffs

With the completion of this year's playoffs, the Level 1 field is set for next year and it's time to start the annual data dump.

** Ireland(11th) vs. Croatia(15th) -- Led by Siobhan O'Doherty(41st), the best player for either nation, Ireland is one of those marginal nations that is a little too good for Level 2, not good enough for Level 1. They went down two years ago, and lost to Mexico in an attempt to get back up last year. Croatia has been at the top level for almost 15 years straight, but they've only made it out of the group stage once in the past four years and appear to be on the decline. They had just enough to skate by here, staying up 3-2 and Ireland will have to try again.

** Italy(6th) vs. Phillipines(16th) -- This was a walk-over, as the Phillipines has yet to find a second player to go with Condon. They fall to Level 2 and it will probably be just the beginning of their decline. Italy suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to France two years ago, then was beaten by Denmark last year in what has been a long road for them to get back up to Level 1 after nearly suffering the insult of being demoted to Level 3 just five years ago. With two Top-30 players now in Mugur Kinczllers and Tobia Alberti, they are more than deserving and should be one of the better nations the next few years. Both players are shy of their 24th birthday, right in Girsh's age range, and should continue to get even somewhat better.

** Luxembourg(20th) vs. Switzerland(14th) -- Luxembourg has been on the rise the last few years, falling 3-2 to Austria in a playoff last year to prevent making it to Level 1. They've been fueled by the efforts of Mikaila Groeneveldt, but his decision to focus on doubles weakens their prospects considerably. The Swiss have recent Top-10 addition Roger Federer and fading veteran Vito Bonamoni(42nd), more than enough to get them by 4-1. After a narrow loss to Argentina last year sent them down, they bounce right back up and hope to stick around this time. It seems unlikely that Luxembourg will have enough to mount another meaningful challenge ...

** Russia(7th) vs. Sweden(21st) -- Russia is a sinking ship with the Topolski/Goncharenko pair now gone, while the Swedes are on the rise behind Olav Birkeland(18th), well familiar to us unfortunately, and Elias Trulsen(71st), a decent 23-year-old on the rise. That wasn't quite enough, with Russia winning 3-2 to stay up behind veteran Pavel Bestemianov and a youngster to watch, Afasny Bereznity(41st). Bereznity is just shy of his 21st birthday, and is making a name for himself already. Russia is not nearly what they were, but they hang around narrowly -- Sweden is more than good enough to be in the top tier, but they'll have to spend next year trying to bounce back up. I think their chances of doing so are excellent.

Italy and Switzerland move up, the Phillipines and Sweden drop down. Overall this is an improvement but Sweden is better than a number of Tier-1 nations; they will be missed.


2043 World Team Cup Preview

Sri Lanka ends 2042 at 13th, a fine rise of nine spots from 22nd. We have another favorable draw, sitting in Group 1 with Denmark(14th), Italy(6th), and Mexico(9th). Mexico is the weakest, with Denmark and Italy just good enough to sport a challenge if everything goes wrong. Italy will be up first on grass, and they are definitely the toughest opponent so we'll know where we stand right away. I expect a perfect run through group play and for us to easily take first; I can't imagine a non-disastrous scenario in which we don't advance to the knockout rounds again. The USA and Czech Republic figure to be the two nations that pose the biggest threat at the business end, unless of course Germany gets absurdly lucky again. We really should be able to handle anyone else, and anything short of making the semifinals will be a total failure. By the end of the year, Sri Lanka should crack the Top 10 for the first time.
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Old 01-09-2016, 03:30 AM   #233
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2042 Final Top Ten Rankings

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 26) -- 15,680

I ran out of superlatives to describe Iglar's play a while back. This was his best year ever, an 86-5 overall record which is slightly better than his best two years ago in which he lost six times. It's roughly the 5th-best season ever, and the only man he's looking up to in that regard is Gorritepe. He did not lose a single hardcourt match all year long. In the record-book chase, he's 7th in weeks at #1(110), 5th in Slam titles(9), tied for 5th in WTF titles(2), and 5th as well in Masters Shields(16). He's in his prime, at the peak of his powers, and he's not even going to begin to go anywhere for at least a couple of years. He's got a ways to go before he can think about cracking the money list, but that too is just a matter of time.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 26) -- 10,990

A fabulous year without question: Mehul has emerged as the only significant thorn in Iglar's side as he won Wimbledon and the Tour Finals. Those are the only two times that the Czech legend lost off of clay this year. His previous high of 64 singles victories was annihilated with a 77-13 mark this year, and the record was 75-5 against other players.

3. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 28) -- 9,440

The only significant flaw in another good year for Benda was losing the RG final to Iglar. Aside from that, he led Germany to the WTC crown and kept his clay kingdom intact. His gradual decline will continue, but it doesn't look like there anyone who can take away the #3 spot from him.

4. Perry Hogue(USA, 28) -- 5,700

It's another big gap down to here. Hogue faded the second half of the year, but his career has been full of rises and falls. It looks like he's finally done and the slide will continue, but it's not yet certain.

5. David Alvarez(ESP, 30) -- 5,550

Alvarez has done better than I thought for longer than I thought. Having said that, life on the far side of 30 is never kind to a tennis player.

6. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 26) -- 5,240

I picked Gaskell to be Top-5 by the end of the year; well, I was a little off the mark, but not much. He continues to overplay, but flattened all previous achievements in an 80-win season. Pierce is the only vaguely viable threat to Mehul and Benda, and he should bypass Hogue and Alvarez fairly easily.

7. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 28) -- 5,040

Marcek actually posted his best year this season at 61-19, just a hair better than the last two. The lack of many compelling upcoming threats has made him just good enough to forestall the advance of time, but he's no longer a thorn for the top players.

8. Perry Mockler(USA, 26) -- 4,590

Mockler could replace Hogue on the US WTC squad this season. Either way he's had himself a banner year, highlighted by his first Tour Finals and a semifinal appearance at the US Open.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 25) -- 3,445

I'm not sure what Herrera's ceiling will be. He was the surprise #2 on clay this year, bumping Alvarez out of that position, and will look to continue his assault on the top players. Results elsewhere were very underwhelming though, he's a one-trick pony at the moment.

10. Roger Federer(SUI, 26) -- 3,355

Federer did very well in the small events, but failed to make a single quarterfinal in either Masters or Slam play. Unless he does better on the bigger stages, he won't be taken seriously by the top players.

11. Girish Girsh(SRI, 23) -- 2,975

A little '+1' here to show that he's closing in on the Top 10. A big finish to the year at the Paris Masters in reaching the semifinals and knocking off Benda has him aiming for big things next year.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 01-09-2016 at 04:40 AM.
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Old 01-09-2016, 05:54 PM   #234
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Sri Lanka Annual Rankings Review

Anil Mehul -- 3rd to 2nd singles, 180th to 246th doubles. 2042 could hardly have gone better. Mehul didn't defend either of his Masters titles but upgraded to a Wimbledon and Tour Finals. There are 10 big events not played on clay; he was in the final of nine of them, winning two. The one exception was the US Open, where he lost in five sets to Benda in the semifinals. He's at his peak, and his goal for '43 is really very simple:

Do it again. It would be unrealistic to improve on this season, which will likely end up the best of his career.


Girish Girsh -- 19th to 11th singles, 85th to 247th doubles. As the year went on, Girsh had an increasingly good second half. He's still a little too inconsistent, but he pulled himself out of the funk he'd been in. Overall, he's still tracking a hair better than Mehul at the same age(he was ranked 13th). His record was 55-23, vs. 52-20 for the senior player three years ago. Girsh was just 1-6 against the top three but 7-8 against the 4th-8th place players; he's good enough to hang with that group but to get to their level you need to be a little better. He should be ready to take that step.

The minimum goal this year is to make the World Tour Finals.


Prakash Mooljee -- 11th to 27th juniors, initial senior rankings at 1828th singles, 2873rd doubles. Mooljee is ranked higher in singles after one amateur win than Manohar. He'll have to play probably three more of those but will definitely move into futures as soon as he escapes(Top 1000 ranking). At present my best projections are that he's done well as a junior and will end up roughly in Girsh's territory in terms of his achievements as a player. Too early to tell more than that. Given that he started off 'behind', i.e. a little rawer coming in, that's a fine place to be. In a couple year we'll have a lot better sense of things. Train, train, and train some more will continue to be the mantra in the meantime.


Anil Manohar -- 2351st to 2324th singles, 602nd to 574th doubles. It appears he's hit rock bottom for the time being. The trainer evaluation is up to 4.38, up 0.07. A pretty firm decision has been made to keep the 40-year-old active for two more years and then retire him to trainer duty. By that point he should be close to 4.5, and he can't realistically get a whole lot higher than that. That will leave a six-year gap for the next upcoming player behind Mooljee, which is about the right amount as 6-7 years after that, Mehul should be ready to go out as a 5-point trainer.


Manager Ranking -- 10th to 4th, 20.2k points to 25.6k. Another good year especially at the end. I expect to move up to 2nd place behind only oprice by the end of this season. And under best-case scenarios, it would take close to a decade to make up the ground to him, if it's even possible.
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Old 01-09-2016, 06:29 PM   #235
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2043 Preview

1. Antonin Iglar(92%, 10.25, +0.1)

Well that's a little scary ... Iglar's put in enough work to improve his baseline game a bit more lately. I would have said he's at his peak but apparently not quite yet. Bad news for everybody else, but I don't see how he can do much more than he's already doing.

2. Anil Mehul(92%, 9.87, -0.02)

Mehul's at the point where he's just trying to maintain his level. Despite the miniscule negative number here I think he's still getting just a hair better, but will probably begin the earliest stages of decline by the end of the year.

3. Bjorn Benda(86%, 9.81, -0.09)

For the first time we can see significant erosion in the abilites of the German former champion. I think he's still #1 on clay for another year, but after that things will probably go south for him more quickly.

4. Perry Hogue(83%, 9.47, -0.11)

Hogue outperformed his skills for the first half of this year, but he's reached the point where all the mental toughness in the world doesn't seem to be enough anymore. I expect a significant slide in '53 ... but I've underestimated him multiple times before.

5. David Alvarez(84%, 9.46, -0.17)

That's just an ugly eval there. It's been nice knowing ya, Mr. Alvarez. There are too many who have surpassed him on clay now. It wouldn't surprise if he fell out of the Tour Finals field completely.

6. Pierce Gaskell(91%, 9.73, +0.06)

Gaskell still has some life in him to be sure, although he seemed to lose focus the second half of the year. It's a travesty though if he finishes the next year lower than 4th. He's too good to be kept down any longer. This should be his best season.

7. Cestmir Marcek(87%, 9.52, -0.02)

Still fighting hard to hang on to what he's got. With Hogue and Alvarez potentially crashing, he could be relevant for at least another year.

8. Perry Mockler(90%, 9.33, ??)

Mockler snuck up on me this year. He had some good moments but I'm still not all that impressed with him. We'll see if he can hang around, but it's hard to see him moving up much.

9. Thiago Herrera(93%, 9.28, ??)

He's got the focus and strength to be a force on clay, but not the rally technique or speed to diversify. I don't see Thiago pushing his way up the charts the way Alvarez did.

10. Roger Federer(92%, 8.81, ??)

Federer has a fine serve, but frankly it's an insult to the current state of the tour that he's in the Top 10.

11. Girsh Girsh(97%, 9.75, +0.21)

There are no more legitimate excuses now; after a good training off-season Girsh should be an equal to Gaskell this year and better than anyone else outside the Top 3. If he's not pushing close to a Top 5 spot by the end of the year, it'll be a major disappointment.

12. Marcel Bahana(94%, 9.74, -0.14)

Yikes. It seems the time for him to get his act together has come and passed. Bahana can still be a factor, but doesn't appear to care enough to make it happen.

1828. Prakash Mooljee(91%, 7.27, +1.05)

A long way to climb, but off to a fine start.

2324. Anil Manohar(60%, 6.14, -0.08)

The end is visible from here.


There will probably be a couple of more surprises this year. Radek Smitala and Olav Birkeland cracked the Top 20 and may push higher; perhaps one of the youngsters will make a push. Italy's Mugur Kinczllers(23, 96%, 9.16) could make things interesting if he continues to improve but doesn't have the mental strength to really scare anyone. France's Davide Poilblan(22, ranked 21st) isn't quite ready yet, and neither seem to be any of the others. The depth at the top continues to weaken, which should open the door some for Girsh to rise. In fact, though it's some way off, I'm ready to make a bold prediction:

I'm calling Girish Girsh to be Sri Lanka's first #1 singles player. I think that sometime around 3 years from now, he will be the one who eventually takes the mantle from Antonin Iglar whenever his time comes to an end. I could be wrong, but I don't see anyone challenging in time to prevent this. Time will tell.
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Old 01-12-2016, 03:19 AM   #236
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WTC Group Phase Round One
Group I: Italy vs. Sri Lanka, Grass

Monday: G. Girsh d. M. Kinczllers, 6-2, 6-4, 6-1
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. T. Alberti, 6-0, 7-6(2), 7-6(5)
Wednesday: A.Mehul/G.Girsh d. X.Jue/A.Lepore, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
Thursday: A. Mehul d. M. Kinczllers, 6-0, 6-1, 6-4
Friday: G. Girsh d. T. Alberti, 6-4, 6-0, 6-4

Sri Lanka defeats Italy, 5-0!!

There were some tense moments on the second and third days, but when all was said and done we pulled through and smashed Italy without the loss of so much as a set. Kinczllers was low on recent matches which helped as he was rusty, but I doubt that changed things all that much. It's pleasing to crush our biggest group threat so convincingly. I'd expect more of the same basically in our remaining group ties; with two of the top five players in the world now by my evaluation, there are few who should be able to challenge us.

After the Australian Open, next up will be Mexico who beat Denmark 4-0. A win there will guarantee our spot atop Group 1. The latest rankings have us up to 12th again, just a hair behind Austria and Peru.
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Old 01-15-2016, 06:17 PM   #237
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Looks like breaks for a few days and then thread-spamming shall be the way of things this winter. Such is the nature of the busy season. Strangely, I have Fri/Sat as my days off this week, which is just bizarre. But here's what's happened recently ...

January

Mehul took a couple of weeks off to rest, Mooljee did likewise, while Girish Girsh headed to the Auckland 250 in New Zealand. He was a semifinalist last year, while Mehul won it. As the third seed, he was favored over Federer and Herrera, both of him lost disappointingly early making the path even clearer.

An interesting semifinal matchup was against Mick Elder. The old war-horse is now 31, but has stabilized with his manager sticking with the game and learning a few things it appears; he doesn't overplay his guys as much. Elder is currently ranked a very credible 25th. He pushed it to three sets but Girsh outclassed him to make the final against Gustavo Caratti(ARG). Caratti had won both previous meetings, both on clay which is his specialty, but he's a credible hard-courter as well and gave Girsh more of a fight than he wanted. In reality, the Argentine played more than well enough to take the match in what would have been a fairly seismic upset for the 7-seed, but Girsh managed to split a pair of long tiebreaks before winning the third to take the title, 7-6(8), 6-7(10), 6-3. He saved 9 of 10 break points, and needed to as his serve was constantly under pressure. Overall a good debut for both players, and I expect the 23rd-ranked challenger to move up the rankings this year a la Smitala and Birkeland last season. He's only 23 and still getting better, definitely one of the leaders of the weak Generation Flash.
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Old 01-15-2016, 06:39 PM   #238
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2043 Australian Open

Last year Mehul reached his second straight final here, while Girsh lost in the third round to Birkeland. It would be his worst Slam result of the '52 campaign, and he's hoping for better.

Both players got through their first few rounds easily; Girsh lost a tiebreak to rising American Gareth McCuskey but controlled the rest of the match, while Mehul was on cruise control. In the fourth round, he smacked down Birkeland in straight sets. Girsh Girsh, however, had a date with Bjorn Benda. At this stage in their respective careers, Girsh has reason to be optimistic on hardcourt. An opportunity here to prove last year's Paris QF win was no fluke.

Benda asserted his will right away as Girsh came out flat, and the first set was over quickly. Down a break in the second, he fought back but crumbled at the end. When he went down again in the third set, it looked over. He got back to even again at 4-4 though, and this time he wouldn't give it up, breaking again in the 12th game to take the set and stay alive. From there it was a matter of Benda's experience and big serve going up against Girsh's superior shotmaking from the baseline. He forced a 5th set fairly easily, and in the decider both players had chances early, particularly the German veteran. The tide slowly turned and things went Girsh's way at the end. He was held off for a while, but eventually pulled through 1-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 8-6. A fantastic, and potentially season-defining 'changing of the guard' moment here as he pulls off a dramatic comeback after trailing by two sets and a break to the 5-time Slam champion and former no. 1. It is just the second time in the last 5 years that Benda failed to reach the second week of a Slam(Wimbledon two years ago, l. Goncharenko was the other). And for Girsh, it is his first trip that far.

Anil Mehul had his first potential test of the tournament in the quarters, but he's dominated Pierce Gaskell, winning 10 of 11 career meetings including the past seven over a period of more than three years. Many have been in straight sets. After a quick opening-set bagel, it looked like more of the same. And then Gaskell had other ideas, quickly evening the match and then eking out the third to move one set from what would be a very disappointing defeat for Mehul. The fourth went to a tiebreak, and it was close but Anil pulled through, eventually prevailing 6-0, 2-6, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4. That was tight. Too tight, but Gaskell is the kind of player who, despite what is now an 11-1 count in the head-to-head, does have the game to beat him on the right day. Major bullet dodged. The American blasted 23 aces and Mehul only got 6 -- he was still the better player but not by much. Need to tune up that serve, that's for sure.

Girsh faced another American ... no, not Hogue, it was the continually impressing Radek Smitala. A tough four-set win later, he joined Mehul in the semis. But they were on opposite sides of the bracket. The junior player met Iglar, and when the dust cleared he'd acquitted himself credibly but still looks for his first set against the legend, losing all three frames 6-4. His countryman went up against the other Czech, Cestmir Marcek. You know, the guy who I've been saying for a year is washed up and on the decline? Yeah, that guy. In his first Slam semifinal. So what do I know? Well, I know enough that he didn't have much chance against Mehul. A let-down in the third set didn't stop that.

So guess what. It's a Slam final, which means Mehul vs. Iglar. Unless it's on clay. Third year in a row for this matchup at the Australian. This time it has a different flavor. Iglar is a tad overplayed and starting to feel the fatigue, whereas in a reversal of how last year ended up, Mehul is now fresh again, finally having caught up in rest. Did this mean he had a chance to pull the upset? Yes, but after splitting a pair of sets, the next two went to tiebreaks. Competitive ones. Both taken by the champion. 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) is the final. Well played, but he takes his 10th Slam crown and Mehul's mantra of 'make it to Iglar' is once again his result.

Girish Girsh could not have asked for a better start to the year, he's 11-1 with Iglar his only defeat and moves up to 9th now, into the Top 10 just ahead of Herrera as Federer is knocked off the first page. It's still a ways to Mockler who holds the final WTF spot and is the gatekeeper to Top-8 seeding, but the year's just started. There's plenty of time.


In other news, Prakash Mooljee rammed his way to another amateur title, though he lost in the doubles quarterfinals. He'll need to play two more, but there's no indication anyone else at this level can challenge him right now. Should be a smooth transition to futures later on in the year.

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Old 01-15-2016, 07:16 PM   #239
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World Team Cup, Group Phase, Second Round
Group 1, Mexico vs. Sri Lanka, Hardcourt

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

Sri Lanka defeats Mexico, 4-1!!

Mexico has a strong doubles team, presently they are the 7th-ranked duo in the world. But aside from that, this was a pretty easy win. It also clinched first place in the group and a spot in the knockout rounds, since Sri Lanka now has two wins. Mexico and Italy both have one each, but we've beaten both of them. So no matter what happens in what should be another easy victory against Denmark, we're through.

We've moved up to 10th now. Starting to get to some heady territory. A little behind Mexico still. We're actually not all that far behind third place, it's pretty bunched up after the Czechs and Americans at the top. Some other dominoes will fall as the year rolls on.

Coming Up ...

And now we're back up to current events. The break leading up to the IW/Miami Masters is upon us. Girsh and Mehul will both be playing a 500-level event in the interim but it will still be a month of mostly down time.

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Old 01-22-2016, 04:34 AM   #240
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February/March

As things ended up, Mehul took the whole four weeks off. Playing another event would have ended with him running the risk of being pretty tired by the end of Miami. For Girish Girsh, this was not as big an issue as he was expected to lose a round or so earlier. He headed off in early March to Memphis(500, Indoor). Seeded second behind Mockler, he was the runaway favorite here. After a bit more resistance than expected against Oncken in the semis, it was indeed Perry Mockler, last year's runner-up here, who met him in the finals. An easy win was expected, but that isn't what he got; just barely did he sneak through for his second title of the young season, 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 7-6(5). It doesn't get much closer than that! Not the most impressive display by Girsh, but it was narrowly enough to get the job done.

His goal now is to break past Mockler and into the Top 8 by the time the clay season rolls around. That's less than 200 points in the rankings away, and doable with strong efforts in the upcoming Masters events.
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Old 01-22-2016, 04:45 AM   #241
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Indian Wells Masters

Girish Girsh had a chance to show young Russian phenom Afasny Bereznity the door in the third round, and did so in rather routine fashion. That meant a matchup with Marcek, the 5-seed, and a good chance for another strong result. He looked good for the win after taking the first set by breaking in the final game, but fell apart after getting behind in the second. In the third set both players had a lot of chances, more than enough for either to take the match by the throat but neither did. Both would rue their missed opportunities, and it was one of those days that would have no real winner, merely a loser and a survivor. Eventually Girsh did get it done in a decisive breaker, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(3). He was the better player on the day, but only narrowly. Survive and advance as they say though.

Gaskell was expected to be waiting in the quarters, but he was upset by Thiago Herrera. Girsh saves all three break chances he faced in a quite one-sided straight-sets win, and all of a sudden he was in the semis ... against Iglar again. Gave him a fine first set, but after losing the tiebreak, the closest he's come against the legend, it all fell apart in the second. Still another fine run, and he moves past Mockler into a tie for 7th with the plummeting Perry Hogue.

On the other side of the draw, Anil Mehul ensured that rise with a much-tougher-than-expected three-set win over Mockler to reach the semifinals. Once there, he was stunned 7-6(8), 2-6, 6-4 by Bjorn Benda. This wasn't just because Benda is now an inferior player at this point and on hardcourt Mehul should basically own him -- in the underlying numbers he controlled the match. 92-81 in points won, 37% to 26% in total return points ... it was one-sided enough that one would expect a straight-sets win. And yet he lost, now his third out of four and second straight on hardcourt to the supposedly(and actually) declining German. He still edges the head-to-head though, 11-10. Another factor here is that Benda played a lot more coming in, Mehul is not quite up to his best tennis yet -- but if he played a warmup he would indeed risk fatigue, and there's no way Benda will be at his best for Miami now. So it's a situation with no perfect solution really.

Shockingly, Benda went on to upset Iglar, the first hardcourt loss in over a year for the #1, and take his 11th Masters Shield!! He came back from a set down to take a decisive tiebreak, 10-8 in the third set. A better final one could not ask for. It seems he's on a definite resurgence here, now definitely in striking distance to take the #2 spot back from Mehul which seemed totally safe just weeks ago. The next few months just got a lot more complicated ...


Elsewhere ...

Prakash Mooljee bashed through his third amateur tournament, once again without meaningful resistance. He needs only one more to 'graduate' to futures play.
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Old 01-24-2016, 04:17 AM   #242
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Miami Masters

Girish Girsh had the advantage of being a top-8 seed for the first time. He used it well, though a fourth-round encounter with Condon was a bit testier than expected he came through in straights for another quarterfinal. This time he had a chance to back up his earlier win at the Australian Open against Bjorn Benda. He put forth a thoroughly disappointing showing, esp. on serve, in losing 6-2, 7-6(4), dropping nearly half of his service points. Losing to Benda on hardcourt occasionally is no shame, but he expected to play better esp. with the older German more fatigued coming in.

Anil Mehul cruised through to the quarters himself ... and then was shocked by Cestmir Marcek, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. It's Mehul's worst result in a big hardcourt tournament in about two years, and he had beaten the Czech no. 2 in seven straight encounters going back almost three seasons. There are a couple of extenuating circumstances: Marcek has been on a hot streak lately(he would go on to knock off Benda and reach his second Masters final), and like the loss to Benda in Indian Wells, Mehul played more than well enough to win here. He held a 33-29% edge in return points, forcing Marcek to serve 21 more points in his games ... but dropped four of six break points and that was that.

Mehul's reputation as the undisputed #2 is reeling ... and as we shall see, so is his position in the rankings. The thing about it is, his last two losses here are both matches he should have won. In the past he's certainly had a charmed existence from time to time -- perhaps it's a moment to pay the piper here? The obvious narrative is that he's losing his grip but I still think his game is actually slightly better than last year, though the results right now are not quite following and confidence going forward is a serious issue. I think some of his best play is still yet to come, but he'll need to be tough-minded about things over the next few months to make that happen. He's taken a hit this last month, no doubt about it.

Iglar won to claim a third straight Miami title, surprising nobody of course.
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Old 01-24-2016, 04:30 AM   #243
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 26) -- 15,280

The surprisingly loss to Benda at Indian Wells is his only blemish so far this year.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 27) -- 10,330

Mehul retains the #2 spot only narrowly ahead of the stunningly charging German veteran who was said to be finished as a challenger. It is very possible, in fact even probable, that he will lose the spot now over the spring.

3. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 28) -- 10,220

Benda sits poised to snatch the #2 spot back, and his upset win at Indian Wells moved him into a tie for 9th all-time with 11 Masters Shields, likely a couple more to come in the clay season. Clearly he is not close to done yet.

4. Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 29) -- 5,570

A surprising resurgence by Marcek has the Czechs the clear favorites for the WTC at this point, and at 29 he's reached a new career apex. If he continues his current level of play, it will be tough to stop them.

5. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 26) -- 5,470

Gaskell now has a surprising challenger in Marcek for the title of 'best of the rest'. It will be interesting to see how he handles this new, unexpected reality.

6. David Alvarez(ESP, 30) -- 4,885

Steadily if slowly slipping, Alvarez will need to make considerable noise in the clay season if he wants to retain his current status.

7. Girish Girsh(SRI, 23) -- 4,610

Still a little inconsistent, Girsh is nonetheless on the rise with a fine first quarter to the year overall. Alvarez is next on his plate, but after that it will get more difficult to progress ...

8. Perry Hogue(USA, 29) -- 4,340

Right now it looks like Hogue is in the last gasps of his career, and he could be out of the Top 10 by year's end.

9. Perry Mockler(USA, 27) -- 4,200

Mockler looks ready to assume Hogue's place on the US WTC roster. He's had some very close losses to top players, but hasn't been quite good enough to break through and I'm not sure he can play any better than he has been.

10. Thiago Herrera(PER, 25) -- 3,925

Last year he looked like the #2 clay player in the world. Can he repeat that performance?
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Old 01-24-2016, 04:46 AM   #244
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Anil Mehul -- 2nd singles(unchanged), 246th to 259th doubles. The Miami and Indian Wells losses made it a disappointing start to the year by Mehul's admittedly lofty standards that leave little margin for error. The clay season is the only part of the year where's there's really room at all for improvement in the rankings, and for that to happen things will need to fall into line fairly neatly as he made at least the quarters in all three of the big events last year.


Girish Girsh -- 11th to 7th singles, 247th to 260th singles. This year was supposed to be about getting into the World Tour Finals, but that's all but assured now. The new goal at this point is to surpass Marcek and Gaskell, getting to the 'best of the rest' #4 spot. If the results so far are any indication, he has a good chance of getting there. Two titles already, along with a pair of SF and one QF in the big events. Two losses to Iglar and one to Benda. Overall, an outstanding start to the year, and more opportunities ahead.


Prakash Mooljee -- 1828th to 1071st singles, 2873rd to 2098th doubles. One more amateur awaits in a few weeks, but there have been no threats on that level and that should be the end of it. The more hazardous climb up the futures ladder will commence by the time summer arrives.


Manager Ranking -- 4th(unchanged), 25.6k to 26.1k points. The rate of gain has definitely slowed, another case of a very narrow margin. If Girsh continues to excel though, that will change.


Coming Up ...

The final group round of the WTC is underway. It's a foregone conclusion at this point in terms of Sri Lanka, but we will get to see how the knockout round draw works out -- and who makes it through from the other groups. It appears that it will be a reversal of last year, with Girsh skipping Monte Carlo while Mehul participates due to the unexpectedly early defeats the last few weeks. It's an unusually important clay season for both players.
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Old 01-25-2016, 05:48 AM   #245
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World Team Cup Group Phase Third Round
Group 1, Sri Lanka vs. Denmark, Hardcourt

Monday: A. Mehul d. C. Daamsgard, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. J. Petersen, 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-4
Wednesday: A. Mehul/G. Girsh d. E. Bengtsson/S. Binzer, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1
Thursday: A. Mehul d. J. Petersen, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1
Friday: G. Girsh d. C. Daamsgard, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0

Sri Lanka defeats Denmark, 5-0!!

Girsh's first match, against Petersen(World no. 40) was more than a bit shaky. He eventually made it through and was solid in his second match, and there was no other drama as Sri Lanka clinched first place in the group. It was enough to edge them just ahead of Mexico into 9th overall in the latest rankings.

The quarterfinal matchups are set, and -- well, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Austria has Hammerstein back and is very dangerous again, they'll meet Peru and will have the upper hand most likely. The Czech Republic should handle Italy, ditto for the US with France ... and Sri Lanka gets defending champion Germany who finished second in their own group(to Austria) after taking the title last year. Even worse, it's on clay. Again. No, this is not a joke, though I wish it was. It is literally the worst possible matchup.

The German team is the same and I don't expect that to change. There is a chance that the gradual aging process, which is on Sri Lanka's side, will move the needle enough to give us a better chance at an upset than we had in last year's final. After all, this tie won't be contested for about five months. But it's a disheartening result. Any other second-place team from the other groups, or Germany or any other surface, and it would be a near-certain win. There needs to be an investigation into the defending champions' having now a fourth straight knockout tie on their favored surface. Seriously.

At any rate, a week off and Monte Carlo resumes the regular schedule and kicks off the clay season. No time to dwell on this disgusting, unfair, unpleasantness.

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Old 01-27-2016, 04:19 AM   #246
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Monte Carlo

Anil Mehul was the only one of the top three players here, as usual. The third round was his first potential test, John Condon. Condon is about at his peak, a true clay specialist and while he's not developed his baseline game much, the focus on his serve has made it the best in the world. A tough combination, but Mehul went in having taken all six career meetings, including two years ago in the quarterfinals here, where he lost a tiebreak, then dominated the rest of the match. After winning the first set, he lost a close second and a tense third went to a tiebreak. Annoyed that it had come down to this, Mehul led 3-0 and 5-3 ... and lost the last four points to blow the match, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) the scoreline. Condon earned it too, just slightly the better player on the whole, his first win now in seven meetings. Condon proved his mettle by sneaking past Herrera and reaching the final where he lost to Marcek; the Czech claimed his second Masters, continuing what is looking like it might be a career year.

Three is a trend they say ... three disappointing tournament results in a row now. There is still time to save it, but the year is turning south quickly for Mehul.

Two weeks before the Madrid/Rome back-to-back Masters starts up.

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Old 01-27-2016, 04:51 PM   #247
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May

There's actually still a week left before Madrid, but it's a training week for everyone so there won't be anything new there. Prakash Mooljee just finished his fourth and final amateur singles title, though he did face his lone challenge in the stretch. Croatian Blajota Covanovic, a contemporary of his, pushed him to the toughest two sets he's faced at the amateur level before succumbing 7-5, 7-5. They'll probably meet again down the road.

Mooljee is now well into the Top 1000 at 908th in the singles rankings, and after another month off he'll take his first ventures into futures play as he steps up to the next rung in the professional ladder.
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Old 02-01-2016, 04:30 AM   #248
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Madrid Masters

After both of Sri Lanka's top players got through a bye and their first matches easily, Girish Girsh had a spot of trouble in dropping a set to French qualifier Hugo Dealavallade before coming through. His reward was a topsy-turvy quaterfinal in which he took a set from Iglar for the first time but still lost badly, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. But still, a quarterfinal on clay -- not bad, and he moves up to 6th ahead of the fading Alvarez.

Anil Mehul had a smoother journey than in Monte Carlo, and was surprised to see Perry Mockler in his quarterfinal matchup. Even more surprising, despite returning quite well on the day, he nearly lost before prevailing 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Cestmir Marcek was up next, looking strong this year and winner of both of their previous clay encounters ... though both were at least three years ago. This one went the distance and it was Mehul's serve that bailed him up, quite uncharacteristically. He hit 11 aces, saved all but one of a dozen break points, and got through to the final 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Then it was time to face the music against Benda, who would certainly assert himself here. The success was in getting here. Mehul played well enough to keep it close, still outplayed but kept himself in it ... and after dropping the first set managed a most improbable upset, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(5), claiming his first Masters Shield in over a year, breaking the German's four-year stranglehold on the Madrid tournament, and his first win in just the third clay meeting between the two. It also firmly established him as the world #2 again, a spot he nearly lost a few months ago. Not quite a deserved win but he did enough to give himself a chance, and then seized the opportunity. A stunning upset to be sure.


Rome Masters

Mehul was made to work in his first match by Dealavallade, who validated his good performance the previous week with a good fight before departing 7-5, 6-4. In the third round, Italian 13th-seed Mugur Kinczllers delighted the hometown partisans with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Girsh, his first in three meeting on the senior tour. Kinczllers, a dominant junior player, had dismantled him four straight times during their younger days. At this point he's probably the top generational rival with Bahana having gone the way of all flesh. He's at home, and a player on the rise, but it's still a somewhat disappointing loss.

The crowd was not enough to get him past Sri Lanka's alpha representative though. In the quarters Mehul sent him packing with the loss of just five games. Marcek again in the semis, and this one wasn't close; 2 & 2 was all the Czech no. 2 could muster. Very impressive back-to-back performances, which led up to Benda's Revenge.

The German had outlasted Iglar for the second straight time in the other semi, and was defending three straight titles here. He came out firing on all cylinders, but partly due to fatigue and partly due to perhaps a hangover from the previous week, and partly due perhaps to karma, Mehul rallied again for an inconceivable 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 win. This was even slightly more one-sided than his loss to Benda back in Indian Wells. 105-92 in total points, Benda won nearly half of his return points overall, but he had seven double faults, many of them at bad times.

I'm not sure I believe what has just happened. Anil Mehul has just won both of the mandatory clay Masters in back to back weeks over the presumptive favorite, doubling his Masters total to four Shields, reversing the narrative on his season from disappointing to even better than last year at this point, reaching a new ranking high at over 12k points, and -- incomprehensibly -- anointing himself as the clay player of the 2053 season to date. In the third set at Rome, he went down an early break but didn't allow Benda to consolidate, fought off three match points at 4-5, then broke again to take the title. He had every opportunity to lose, and his opponent every opportunity to win -- yet somehow it didn't happen.

Looking Ahead

This leaves things wide-open heading into the French Open. Who's the favorite? Bjorn Benda is still clearly the best claycourter in the world on paper, but he's now lost three straight big events on the surface, all in the final. Antonin Iglar is the defending champion. And Anil Mehul must be taken seriously as a contender after the last couple of weeks. Meanwhile last year's darling, Thiago Herrera, has bowed out quickly the last couple times out and dropped out of the Top 10.

Don't look now, but the gap between Iglar and Mehul is now just over 3000 points. That's still a lot, but if Iglar doesn't defend at the French and Mehul does at Wimbledon(two enormous ifs, but it's a scenario that's quite possible), the legend's spot at the top may become far less comfortable than presumed, and far less comfortable than it's been in years.

In a final leadup event, Girsh headed off to Nice. The French city, not the English adjective of the same name. A 250 event, and he lost in the semis to German Harald Oncken, who he'd beaten twice previously on clay. It was a close three-setter, and disappointing -- but it did set him up perfectly in terms of focus and number of matches needed. Rising French star Davide Poilblan took his first title, proceeding to bagel Oncken in the first set.

Fatigue is one thing, but the question right now is whether Girsh will bring his game to Roland Garros. And in the second week, there will another event of minor interest, as Prakash Mooljee enters his first futures event nearby ...
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Old 02-05-2016, 08:08 PM   #249
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2043 French Open

Girish Girsh had surprisingly testy first-rounder, which can happen on clay, this one against Portuguese veteran Xavier Caminha. He had to survive a tiebreak before moving on 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-3. Mehul had no such issues, and both players advanced through the next couple of rounds very easily and routinely.

Girsh met up with 9th-seeded Hogue, a phrase which by itself shows how far the American has fallen. The match did as well, with a final-set bagel ending his dismissal in straight sets. There were three epic five-setters in the round, and one of them involved Mehul. After leading by a set twice, he was shocked by Peru's Marcelo Herrera in the upset of the tournament, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. It was, as the score indicates, an up-and-down match, and a stunning one as the 15th-seeded Herrera had shown no signs previously. For the first time, Girsh advanced further than Mehul. It was also the first time Anil had failed to reach the quarterfinal stage of a Slam in exactly two years; last year he made the semis here.
It was a close match, but the proper result; he just got out-grinded. Rather shocking really considering how well he'd played coming in and the first three rounds.

Girsh went on to another meeting with Iglar, who unceremoniously dumped him aside 6-4, 6-1, 6-1, clearly reaching his best claycourt tennis at the right stage and winning over half of his return points. So that was that, but still a round further than Girsh had made it last year.

Benda went on to beat Iglar in straight sets and reached the final without losing one. On the other side, Herrera continued through, straight-setting Gaskell and nearly taking out Marcek who reached his first final, 7-5 in the fifth over the upstart Peruvian. It was a career-making event for both players. And there would be more surprises in the final. Bjorn Benda's championship mettle was on display and he needed every bit of it, rallying from a two-set deficit to take a pair of tough tiebreaks and pull out the title, 6-7(5), 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 6-2. A really tough moment for Marcek, one I can identify with as Mehul suffered a similar comeback last year here against the German. Benda was objectively probably outplayed slightly, but really turned it around after the second set and would not be denied.


In other News ...

While all of that was playing out, Prakash Mooljee was surprisingly seeded 8th in his first futures event(Tier-3), but had a tough 7-5, 6-4 match that he survived in the first round. From there it was a relative cruise, knocking off the third and second seeds en route to a final against unseeded Hungarian Laszlo Fazekas. Fazekas is one of those players who is all rally and no serve, which lended itself to a very unusual, unbalanced match. Mooljee had 22 aces, Fazekas not a one and 18 double faults ... yet he almost pulled it off, since he had the upper hand by far whenever the serve didn't decide the point. Mooljee prevailed though, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4), taking his first futures title at the first time of asking. It's just days shy of his 19th birthday, a few months ahead of Girsh and several ahead of Mehul in getting to that point. He's up now to 709th, just about exactly a 200-spot rise, and more will definitely be coming. He may in fact move up a tier but will have several weeks to consider that. So far it's nothing but smooth progress since turning pro.

Coming Up ...

Everybody is off until at least Wimbledon, starting in three weeks.
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Old 02-08-2016, 04:16 AM   #250
Brian Swartz
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Wimbledon 2043

For the first time, Anil Mehul was in the position of defending a Slam title, a unique position which gives him everything to lose and nothing to gain from a ranking point of view, and one of considerably more pressure. Certainly he's got the game to have a chance at repeating.

Both of our heroes eased into the tournament and then had their first competitive matches in the third round, with Mehul stopping Mick Elder and Girsh coming through against Agustin Herrera, both in straight sets. The next round was actually easier, with Girsh getting some more payback against former nemesis Milan Farkas, who he crushed including an opening-set bagel.

So both made it through to the quarterfinals without the loss of a set or any real challenge so far. A fantastic start. Girish Girsh met Benda who he figured to have a pretty good chance against, and it was one of those matches that absolutely didn't go according to script. It was the younger player, known as a grinder, who was the better server(20-7 in ace count) but he still was defeated in three straight 6-4 sets. Unusual, and surprising for him to be beaten in rally play, but Benda played the part of the wily veteran to perfection.

It was a disappointing loss but would later becomes less of one. It soon became clear that the German world no. 3 was really playing some of his best tennis, which there had of course been evidence again last month when he reclaimed his RG crown. As for Anil Mehul, his quarterfinal came against Pierce Gaskell, their 13th meeting though just the first on grass. This went more the expected route: the American had the better of it on serve but didn't do well in the rallies, and failed all three break chances. A close match, but still straight-sets for Mehul after a nervy tiebreak to open things.

Cestmir Marcek was the obstacle to making the final, and it should have been pretty one-sided but the Czech no. 2 has been on fire this year and this match was no exception. Straight sets again for our defending champion but at 7-6(5), 7-6, 6-4, it was no cakewalk. The other semi was where the real surprise was, Benda upsetting Iglar in three straight breakers. This is really a pretty shocking result, but continues a pattern of the world no.1 not quite living up to his lofty results last year.

This led to a final that had a quite a bit on the line. Aside from what would Benda's 7th or Mehul's 2nd overall Slam trophy, the winner would hold the #2 spot in the rankings and have the inside track on the year-end runner-up position. Both players served very well, trading close sets and then going to tight, tense tiebreaks in the next two. Break points were dead-even as well, with both converting just 2 of 10 in a serve-dominated match very appropriate to the grasscourt. Benda held a slim 26-22 edge in aces, but despite this Mehul was able to put somewhat more consistent pressure on him than he received, and pulled through narrowly, 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(7)!

Anil Mehul successfully defends his Wimbledon title, and he will no longer be known as a possible 'one-slam wonder'. His place in history, a relatively minor place but a notable one nonetheless, is secured as a player worth remembering. The list of those who have won back-to-back titles at the world's oldest and most prestigious championships is a fairly short one, and his name has now been added.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 02-08-2016 at 04:17 AM.
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