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Old 07-28-2016, 11:55 PM   #451
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
The slow one. RR1(#1). Pace drives some people nuts(1 week = 1 real-life day) but I find it works well for me since I rarely miss stuff ... only need to be able to briefly check it a couple times in a day to keep up with everything. There's another thread with lots of tips, strategy, and stuff, feel free to ask questions here or there.
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Old 07-29-2016, 12:12 AM   #452
Brian Swartz
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World Tour Finals Preview

Girsh beat Iglar in the Paris final, 7-6(1), 7-5, and now holds a strong grip on the top spot. It is his 6th Masters. It's not totally over yet though. The final Race standings:

Girish Girsh -- 11,520
Antonin Iglar -- 10,620
Gustavo Caratti -- 9,520
Anil Mehul -- 9,025
Pierce Gaskell -- 4,470
Mugur Kinczllers -- 4,385
Bjorn Benda -- 3,910
Theodore Bourdet -- 3,655

Girsh doesn't need to win the tour finals to stay at #1 through the end of the year, but he does need to make the championship match to guarantee that will happen regardless of what Iglar does. Mehul will probably need to get there himself if he wants to finish third, which is not all that important but it still gives him something to play for definitely.

** Girish Girsh is looking for his first WTF title in his fourth appearance, having lost the final the last two years. It would seem to be his time, and he certainly wouldn't do his chances of hanging onto the #1 spot for a while longer any harm by breaking through here.

** Antonin Iglar is returning for his eighth go-round. He was a finalist or champion(3 times) for five straight years, but lost in the semis last year.

** Anil Mehul has also won it three times. This is his seventh appearance.

** Gustavo Caratti is back for his second try after losing in the group stage last year. Whether he's improved enough to do better than that remains to be seen.

** Bjorn Benda has the longest active streak; this is his ninth showing although he hasn't made it out of group play the last couple times. This is very much an 'honorary send-off' for the 32-year-old, a final good-bye to his days of challenging the very best in the game.

** Pierce Gaskell is in his 5th run here, making the semifinals each time. He's always done unexpectedly well; we'll see if that pattern holds.

** Mugur Kinczllers lost in group play last year and is back again for another try. I'd expect the same result.

** Theodore Bourdet is the lone newcomer this year. Like Mehul and Girsh, he's put a lot of work on the indoor courts. If he ends up in the same group as Caratti, he could well advance to the semifinals. In either case, the top Frenchman is definitely a sleeper threat here that should not be taken lightly.

Girsh is the favorite here, with Iglar and Mehul basically co-challengers. Bourdet is the long-shot, though a lot of things would need to break his way for him to have a real chance.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-29-2016 at 12:14 AM.
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Old 08-01-2016, 08:41 AM   #453
Brian Swartz
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World Tour Finals

Girsh(1st), Caratti(3rd), Kinczllers(6th), and Bourdet(8th) were drawn into the first group; Iglar(2nd), Mehul(4th), Gaskell(5th), and Benda(7th) in the second one. This seemed to mostly be an advantage for Bourdet, but things don't always work out as planned. It was a close match, but in the key encounter between Caratti and Bourdet, the Argentine prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Both players won 84 points apiece; it's hard to get much closer than that.

Iglar and Girsh swept their matched, though Girsh dropped a set to Bourdet and the Czech was clean. Mehul, as expected, along with Caratti beat everyone else, and the big four all made it through to the semifinals. No Bourdet, and Gaskell's run of making it out of group play each time here is also over.

The first semifinal was Girish Girsh against Anil Mehul. It's not often I am shocked at a match result but that certainly was the case here. Girsh laid an egg, an absolute egg, winning just eight points off the Mehul serve in a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 defeat. This opened the door for Iglar, who beat Caratti in straight sets. In the final, Mehul lost a close first-set breaker but rallied to dominate Antonin Iglar in the second. He fell behind a break though in the third but couldn't recover, losing a close 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4 tussle between the 3-time champions. Iglar ends a perfect run here with his 4th, tying him for 3rd all-time.

A very interesting, obviously rare, and unforeseen situation arose as a result. Girsh and Iglar are now tied for the #1 ranking. I don't know why, perhaps because he had it before and hasn't been surpassed, but Girsh retains the top spot with both players at 12,120. The margin for error is now obviously nil. Mehul will finish the year 4th, but he is only 95 points behind Caratti, a difference of less than 1% of their totals. It will be most interesting to see what happens next year with these razor-thin margins; even the WTF Finals in a couple weeks could shift things significantly. None of the 'second four' did enough to change their fortunes much.
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Old 08-02-2016, 03:28 PM   #454
Brian Swartz
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During the off week following the Tour Finals, there was one event worth noting. Ritwik Dudwadkar entered his final event of the year, another tier-4 event in Auckland, New Zealand. He was seeded second and frankly annihilated the field, handing out a pair of breadsticks to the once-imposing Florentino Suarez in the final. A narrow loss in the doubles final was his only flaw on the week.

Dudwadkar will be making the jump to tier-3 soon, possibly after one more tier-4 event, that remains to be seen. His endurance has reached the point(2.5 right now) where he can play deep into both singles and doubles and still perform well. This last tournament success pushed him into the Top 200 of juniors for the first time, and he'll see a bigger bump than that of course at the end of the year when another crop of players turn pro.

World Team Cup Finals
Sri Lanka(1st) vs. France(3rd), Hardcourt

This of course was the only notable event remaining this year, as we seek to defend our title from last season. One point of interest this week is that Iglar ascended to #1 while Girsh fell to #2 in the world rankings, despite both players being tied in the points total still. My working hypothesis at the moment is that in such situations the game uses the highly sophisticated, complex, and deeply mathematical method known as 'flipping a coin' to resolve such situations. Probably as good as anything, since both players played almost 100 matches this year and there would be a clear choice if you changed the result of any one of those. It'll be interesting to see if the order switches again before the tie is broken.

Monday: G. Girsh d. D. Poilblan, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. T. Bourdet, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Wednesday: S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee d. R. Iragui/T. Rey, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5
Thursday: G. Girsh d. T. Bourdet, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Friday: A. Mehul d. D. Poilblan, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

Sri Lanka defeats France, 5-0!!

That was rather unexpectedly comprehensive. Each rubber was competitive, and yet we did not drop a single set. Mooljee was back in doubles with Kuttikad's ranking there dropping into the 400s as age appears to be taking him, and contributed to a rare doubles win for us nicely ... Ujjaval is the highest-ranking doubles player in Sri Lanka history, and still the better of the pair in that discipline. I fully expected to win this, but it was a very focused, disciplined effort, a good way to end another successful season. Back to back titles for us, and we end the year #1 in the world, with the United States close behind still as the only nation in striking distance. France is third, just ahead of Spain.

The WTC Playoffs are up next week, beginning the end-of-the-year cycle.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-02-2016 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 04:09 PM   #455
Brian Swartz
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World Team Cup Level 1 Playoffs

** Switzerland(22nd) vs. Denmark(17th) -- Aging Roger Federer(SUI, 14th) has been the standard-bearer for the Swiss in a four-year stretch in Level 1, in which they have won only one tie in group play, and that narrowly. This is their third relegation playoff in that stretch. The Danes were relegated a year ago and are looking to bounce back up after a narrow loss to Japan in the Level 2 final. With their top two players fading as well(30 and 31 years old), they simply don't have the horses and get blanked here 5-0. The Swiss stay up, and Denmark will have to try again next year though their odds are not good.

** China(33rd) vs. Peru(9th) -- Rather embarassing for Peru to even need to play here. China meanwhile is in it's sixth straight year the Level 2, and they were even lower before that. This is their first shot at promoting to the top tier, so for them this is a great opportunity. They needed an easier draw to have a chance though; the Chinese singles players are both in the 70s in ranking. Peru brushes them aside 4-1, another example of the status quo holding.

** Mexico(19th) vs. South Africa(10th) -- Both nations here have one solid singles player(in the 70s), and one not-so-solid. The difference is that Mexico has a top-flite doubles tandem, and that proved to be the difference in a 3-2 win for them. They extend one of the longer streaks in Level 1 to 16 straight years, despite having to deal with relegation playoffs three straight years and four of the last five. South Africa heads back down after just one year at the top, having edged Luxembourg twice last year to get up. I'm not sure where they go from here. The South African #2, Alex Beamer, is 32 and fading fast at 105th. Mqabukonyongolo Nkomo, winner of the longest name award, is their top player and not yet 24, so he's still getting better. I don't know if they'll have anything to put with his efforts though.

** Singapore(38th) vs. Japan(16th) -- Interesting matchup here. Singapore is like us a few years ago ... not as good, but in 2041 they ended a 20-year drought of participation in the WTC, finally getting enough notice to earn a spot in the lowest tier at Level 4. In the next two years they won just a single tie in group play, but stayed in it and earned back-to-back promotions in '43 and '44. '45 wasn't good to them, but his year they made the Level 2 semis, losing badly to Denmark, and earning a shot at the big time. Fueling all of this is Aparna Cansai, their best player by far at 47th in the world. He's basically in his prime right now and won't rise much higher; this could be as good as they get. He was able to take a singles and doubles match against the Japanese, but couldn't beat their top player Ai Sugiyama(31st), and Japan narrowly wins 3-2. It's a big moment for them as well in this matchup of Asian island nations. Japan was in level 3 just three years ago, falling 4-1 to Mexico in a playoff chance last year. This time they have made it, and we'll see what they can do with their chance. Sugiyama is getting better but Shogo Ko, their #2, is on the decline. Promising youngster Hayato Honda(154th, 20 years old) is on the rise and will soon take his spot, perhaps later this year. There could be enough between the two of them to make a competitive Level 1 entrant in a couple years. We shall see.

Japsn is up, South Africa down. One each direction seems to be the usual way of things.


2047 World Team Cup Preview

The four groups are fairly balanced this year. Sri Lanka is in Group 2, one of the tougher ones, along with #3 France, #9 Peru, and #20 Italy. Peru can be hazardous on clay and the Italians are far better than 20th in the world with Mugur Kinczllers a Top 10 mainstay the last couple of years and 19th-ranked Tobia Alberti also still near the peak of his powers. We should come through this group as the winners but none of the matchups will be completely without danger.

2047 National Rankings

1. Sri Lanka -- 2539
2. United States -- 2479
3. France -- 2172
4. Spain -- 2159
5. Argentina -- 2087
6. Czech Republic -- 2052
7. Germany -- 2031
8. Russia -- 2002
9. Peru -- 1941
10. Sweden -- 1837
10. South Africa -- 1837

It's just us and the USA at the top as we embark on an attempt to win our third straight World Championship. A packed group trails the two of us, but at a considerable distance.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-03-2016 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 08-03-2016, 04:35 PM   #456
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Swartz View Post
One point of interest this week is that Iglar ascended to #1 while Girsh fell to #2 in the world rankings, despite both players being tied in the points total still. My working hypothesis at the moment is that in such situations the game uses the highly sophisticated, complex, and deeply mathematical method known as 'flipping a coin' to resolve such situations.

In doubles (where having two players with the same score at the top is more frequent), it alternates the top player every week. I'd bet the same thing is happening here.
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:12 PM   #457
Brian Swartz
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I thought it might do that, but Iglar has now been at #1, with the points still tied, three weeks in a row. There might be some tiebreaker at work that's beyond my understanding.
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Old 08-04-2016, 06:57 PM   #458
Brian Swartz
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Aaaaaand Girsh flipped back up to #1 to start the new year, still tied. So go figure. Anyway, 2046 is here! That means it's time to spam-post once again, and look ahead to the ever-changing prospects for a new season.

Where Do I Go From Here?

I could now end this dynasty, and it would be a complete success. I've won the World Team Cup two years in a row, won the Olympics, Sri Lanka has completed the 86th to 1st in the world journey and has good prospects for staying there. I thought about setting it aside but there are a couple reasons not to. First, I'd like to see how I fare against Umbrella's Germans once they get to their best years. I also would like to see if I can get a truly great player, which probably means waiting until I have a supertrainer. Mehul is my best chance at that, after about another decade of working towards it. He has the best aging factor and endurance of any of my players, and should be able to easily become a 5+ trainer when he's done. If I can get a marginally better created player at that time, I'd be interested to see how that worked out.

So for now at least, I will keep on keeping on.
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Old 08-04-2016, 07:09 PM   #459
Brian Swartz
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1(T). Girish Girsh(SRI, 27) -- 12,120
1(T). Antonin Iglar(CZE, 30) -- 12,120

Anybody's guess who is on top from week to week, but right now it's Girsh. By the time the AO is over though, it's highly likely Iglar will have seized the reigns again. I expect a certain amount of jockeying back and forth here between these two over the next couple of years.

3. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 27) -- 9,920

The youngest member of the Big 4, Caratti has reached new heights here by edging out Mehul. I think this is probably as high as he goes, but we'll see. As the new, unquestioned King of Clay, Gustavo should remain among the best of the best for at least a couple years.

4. Anil Mehul(SRI, 30) -- 9,825

He could see a rebirth of sorts this year; I think Anil has more left than he showed last season. But this is still close to right for him. He's not good enough to be the best anymore, but still clearly among the top contenders. Another year or two, and he may slip further but I don't think that happens anytime soon. There's nobody ready to take him down any further. It's a long way to ...

5. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 30) -- 4,670

Like a resistant weed, Gaskell just won't go away.

6. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 27) -- 4,385

Kinczllers still hangs around and on his day, he can be a threat to anyone on a hardcourt surface.

7. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 32) -- 3,910

On his way down, and quickly.

8. Theodore Bourdet(FRA, 25) -- 3,855

Bourdet could take over the 'best of the rest' spot in 5th this year. He hasn't a prayer of rising above that for some time though in my opinion.

9. Elias Trulsen(SWE, 27) -- 3,495

Trulsen could have been fairly special had he not devoted too much time to doubles. Looks like he's headed that way again, so we may not see much more of him.

10. Thiago Herrera(PER, 29) -- 3,420

Slowly giving way to the youngsters.

The bottom of this list have taken some territory from those in the middle of it, but the big story continues to be the Big 4's dominance. It's the exception rather than the rule when they fail to be the last group standing in the semifinals of a big tournament. It looks like that pattern may well continue.
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Old 08-04-2016, 07:26 PM   #460
Brian Swartz
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Girish Girsh -- 3rd to 1st singles. Somewhat better than last year at 82-10, Girsh's first 80-win season and 4 wins, 2 losses better than a year ago. He's definitely past his best play now, but so is all of his competition except for Caratti, who will begin his decline soon. The conflict with Iglar and Caratti will define how much time he can spend in the top spot, and ultimately his legacy will be determined by that over the next year or two.

Anil Mehul -- 1st to 4th singles. Mehul's season ended at 73-17, his worst mark in the past five seasons. He's in the 'hanging on to what he can' part of his career now. It's quite strange to have the guy who won two Slams plummet to 4th, but he failed to reach a single Masters final and was beaten far more often than usual by inferior players. As much as it could have been a much better year, it could also have been a lot worse.

Prakash Mooljee -- 44th to 19th singles, 304th to 197th doubles. Mooljee is dead-even with where Girsh was at the same age(19th), and much better than Mehul managed(31st). He's only got three challengers, one not even listed, to replace this year. This season will be about how quickly he can rise, defined by how well he controls his encounters with players outside of the Big 4. Girsh stumbled at this stage of his career, moving only to 13th. I think Mooljee has a long-shot chance at the Tour Finals, but he needs to progress quickly.

Shreya Ujjaval -- 57th to 29th singles, 157th to 52nd doubles. Ujjaval proved that he is indeed too good not to break through, recovering nicely from a disappointing season two years ago to become the highest-ranked doubles player in Sri Lanka history! He's also become an unprecedented fourth national player to reach the elite(Top 32) status. He can still get better for probably close to another two years, and will likely flirt with the Top 10 at some stage.

Shyam Senepathy -- 166th to 85th singles. An impressive rise this year, more than I expected. I don't think Senepathy really has much more in him though, but we'll see.

Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 209th to 100th juniors. He wasn't nearly as dominant as Mooljee was at this age(2 losses compared to 7) but he's still doing pretty well. There are 15 players, including one Jakob Heinen, younger and higher-ranked ... but none of them are in the Top 50. He's about where he should be, and we'll see how the continuing gradual shift from service to skill serves him as he makes the jump to tier-3 soon.

Manager Ranking -- 2nd(unchanged), 39.9k points to 43.1k. Not nearly the jump I had last year, but more of what I'd expect. I'm now just about exactly halfway between 1st and 3rd, a major gulf in each direction.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-04-2016 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 08-04-2016, 08:15 PM   #461
Brian Swartz
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2047 Preview

1. Girish Girsh(89%, 8.75, -0.03) -- Still the best player in the world, but not the champion or hardcourt player Iglar is.

2. Antonin Iglar(82%, 8.69, -0.04) -- 30 years old, and still my odds-on favorite for the top player this coming year given his resurgence the past several months.

3. Gustavo Caratti(90%, 8.41, +0.02) -- Still well off the pace of the top players, and this is as good as the Argentine is going to get. Like many other masters of clay, he doesn't have much chance of doing enough elsewhere to challenge for the top spot.

4. Anil Mehul(83%, 8.49, -0.13) -- This shows what was clear from last year's results; Mehul's definitely lost more than a step. He's got a chance of slipping past Caratti again, but that's about it.

5. Pierce Gaskell(81%, 8.34, -0.09) -- Gaskell's ability to stay relevant after finishing last year 6th surprised me. I'll be even more so if he manages to do it again.

6. Mugur Kinczllers(87%, 8.21, -0.13) -- Like so many do too early, Kinczllers clearly put significant work into his doubles game this season. No question he's headed the wrong direction now.

7. Bjorn Benda(77%, 8.21, -0.14) -- In a move not altogether shocking, Benda was fired by oprice just recently. He held onto Iglar and hasn't hired anyone else yet, which makes me curious about his plans. Regardless, Benda is plummeting even faster than those around him.

8. Theodore Bourdet(93%, 8.18, --) -- The math suggests Bourdet was simply lucky this year. He certainly should have been able to improve at least some, and I still maintain Poilblan is a better player. But Bourdet is the one who brought the results. This year, he has the challenge of trying to stay here.

9. Elias Trulsen(89%, 8.34, --) -- Keeping the same level would ordinarily be a sign of strength with so many seeing their game decline. The question for Trulsen though is can he do anything outside of Wimbledon. His level of play was atrocious compared to his ability, and there are questions about whether he intends to go doubles. Management was horrific at times. He definitely needs, and is very capable of, a bounce-back season.

10. Thiago Herrera(83%, 8.01, -0.15) -- Not a good year for Thiago, who looks for all the world like he's headed to obscurity.

11. Davide Poilblan(90%, 8.31, -0.01) -- Poilblan did move up this year(16th last season), but not as much as his slightly younger countryman. He'll probably edge into the Top 10 now, but I don't know that there's time left for him to go much further.

12. Garreth McCuskey(90%, 8.20, -0.03) -- McCuskey has all the extras but no baseline game. Another guy who has reached his best tennis and found it wasn't good enough. Marginal Top 10 possibility this year but not going anywhere worth writing about.

13. Agustin Herrera(92%, 8.18, +0.03) -- Yet another player who could, or could not, make the first page. Herrera's near his best, and doesn't have enough to make up for his slowness.

15. Tobia Alberti(87%, 8.19) -- Alberti didn't make last year's rundown, and is currently one spot shy of his personal high of 14th. Good athleticism and mental game, just not quite got there with the dedication or technical skills.

18. Peter Sampras(92%, 7.86) -- Sampras has had some big wins, but he has little athleticism, relies too much on his serve, and has felt the call of doubles unfortunately.

19. Prakash Mooljee(98%, 8.47, +0.29) -- The contrast to the pretenders elsewhere is striking. Mooljee has become fifth at worst, and I'd say third-best in the world while still 22. A couple months ago the first faint signs that he was receding from his physical peak showed up, and now they are unmistakable. Further gains will be more difficult, but he's got time. The sooner he is able to move past the inferior players ahead of him, the better of he'll be. Only Girsh and Iglar should be considered untouchable for him now ... and even they won't be for long. The step up in competition was very apparent last year; his 51 wins were just one shy of his average for the previous three years, but he lost more(15) than in those seasons combined(10). There should be fewer players able to take him down now though.

29. Shreya Ujjaval(95%, 8.31, +0.13) -- Ujjaval does appear to be on his way to the Top 10. Mooljee he's not, and clearly surpassed by the younger player now. It'd be nice if he worked on his serve a little more, but I would expect continued progress from him esp. now that he's in a position to get better draws.

51. Luc Janin(101%, 7.92, --) -- Forgot to mention him at the start of the year. This is as of week 4, start of the Australian Open. He's just turned 20 a couple weeks ago and is about to reach the Top 50. Scary.

85. Shyam Senepathy(99%, 7.05, +0.29) -- I really think he overachieved last year. He's just not where he needs to be yet, probably ever, to push for a Top 50 spot.

100J. Ritwik Dudwadkar(75%, 4.04, +1.06) -- The fun part, when guys improve more from aging than from training.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 08-07-2016 at 11:01 PM.
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Old 08-05-2016, 04:13 PM   #462
Brian Swartz
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World Team Cup, Group Two, First Round
Peru(9th) vs. Sri Lanka(1st), Hardcourt

Monday: A. Mehul d. T. Herrera, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. A. Herrera, 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-6(8)
Wednesday: S. Ujjaval/P. Moojee d. J. Torres/E.Echiverri, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0
Thursday: G. Girsh d. T. Herrera, 7-5, 6-1, 6-2
Friday: A. Mehul d. A. Herrera, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Sri Lanka defeats Peru, 5-0!!

That was easy, though not as easy as it may have looked. Girsh had some tense moments, and was quite fortunate to get through his first match in straight sets. Peru came into the season unprepared as they did last year, and paid the price. Other favorites were not so lucky; in our group Italy upset France 3-2, putting them in a good position to advance. The world's third-ranked nation might not even get out of group play; that would be something.

Tune-ups for the AO are next on our agenda, and when the WTC continues we've got France indoors.
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Old 08-07-2016, 11:10 PM   #463
Brian Swartz
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January

Everybody got in a tournament over the next couple of weeks. Prakash Mooljee was up first, in Brisbane(250). Seeded 5th, he was upset by potential rival Tomas Niklas(35th, CZE) in the quarterfinals. The final count was 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, but Mooljee should have won this one. He was 1 of 5 on break points while losing 2 of 3 on his own serve, and in a match with relatively few chances that was the difference. Niklas is a quality player and a hardcourt expert, so he played reasonably well - just didn't come away with the win. It's a missed opportunity though for sure, and hopefully will be a rare occurrence this year.

The other three were in action the next week. Ritwik Dudwadkar got his first tier-3 juniors tournament. I was debating whether to give him one more tier-4, but there were two bigger events and three at the tier-3 level, so the top players would hopefully get spread around. Seeded 5th, he made the semifinals in both draws, giving champion Arsenio Corres(ESP), a clay-court specialist, his toughest match of the tournament in a 7-6(5), 6-4 score. A quality showing. Anytime he can hold his own in a tier-3 he'll be out there, but some weeks are less dense so he could see tier-4 action yet once or twice. We'll see what the schedule looks like for his next time out in a few weeks.
Anil Mehul and Girish Girsh both took care of business with the sixth 250-level title for each of them, in Auckland and Sydney respectively.

Coming Up ...


Mehul will go into the AO as the #3 now having moved ahead of Caratti, but unless he defends his title there that spot will be gone probably for good. He wasn't favored last year either, but the task would seem to be even more difficult this season. Girsh is still tied with Iglar for the #1 spot, a tie that is likely to be broken now. It's pretty simple: he needs to win the year's first Slam to grasp it. Anything short of that and Iglar probably will surge ahead. There could be some high drama upcoming. As for Mooljee, he's hoping for a kind draw, an upset chance, or both in order to equal last year's 4th-round finish, his best showing to date in a Slam event.
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Old 08-09-2016, 06:34 PM   #464
Brian Swartz
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2047 Australian Open

Opening Rounds

There were some big surprises right away, unusual for a Slam event. Hrant Amasian(111th) became the first Armenian player that I can recall winning a Slam match. I took a look through their history and they had a guy reach 17th in the world about 35 years ago. Nobody from that nation has ever won a big event. Amasian is 24 years old, and could be relevant in a couple of years possibly. Bjorn Benda earned the ignominy of becoming the first player I can recall seeded this high(7th) to lose in the first round. Recent upset specialist Juan de los Santos of Spain did the honors in a close four-set match. Marcelo Herrera(16th) was also knocked out and can thank his lack of preparation mostly for a defeat to recently-mentioned Cansai of Singapore.

All five Sri Lankans entered here advanced in straight sets; it was also a first in that we had four seeded players. Djurdje Moicevic of Germany was knocked out in the second round but he had a very eventful 10 sets in two days. The first round he won 9-7 in the 5th; in the second he went out 6-4 in the final stanza to Japan's Akihiro Sugiyama. Gustavo Caratti was pushed to five but made it through against American hard-court specialist Tiosav Srbulovic. Not the most American of names, but the 41st-ranked 21-year-old could be a future titan for US tennis and will bear watching. Sava Cirakovic(23rd, CRO) and Phillip Carter(25th, USA) also were extended the distance, but all of the seeds progressed through. Shyam Senepathy was the first Sri Lankan to fall, getting just three games from Girsh. Mehul had the priviledge of dispatching Canadian prodigy Luc Janin in straight sets.

Four more straight-set wins for Sri Lanka in the third round. Prakash Mooljee's path was made easier by Herrera's early exit, as they had been drawn to play at this stage. There were a number of matches going the distance here though. Federer beat Sugiyama and Bourdet beat Condon in five-setters, but the one that really got the headlines was a matchup of US players, Pierce Gaskell(5th) and Fabricio Gilardino(26th). Gaskell rallied from two sets down for a truly epic 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 15-13!! win. It was the longest match I've yet seen in this game, requiring 457 points to decide. Ultimately Gilardino's relatively unreliable serve(13 double faults) was the decider, but he was very close to knocking his country's top player out of this tournament early.

Mooljee had a big opportunity next up in the fourth round. He'd already matched his best Slam finish, which came here last year, but a potential path to the semis was there for him. To get there, he needed to take out Gustavo Caratti. On hardcourt, I had Mooljee as a modest favorite ... but he has not looked sharp so far this year. The Argentine was able to be much more consistent in the rallies and sent him to a deserved but disappointing 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(6) defeat. It was another of the kind of opportunity that Prakash needs to rise up and seize if he's going to do more than slowly ascend. Elsewhere, Shreya Ujjaval had made good use of the absence of Benda to reach this stage also, where he met with 13th-ranked Agustin Herrera. Impressively, he continued his string of straight-sets wins, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(1). Coming into this event, he had missed on several chances to get past the third round of a Slam, and here he was making his first Slam quarterfinal! Results elsewhere were more-or-less as anticiapted; it was not surprising to see Gaskell fall to T. Herrera, tired as he was from the epic a couple days ago.


Second Week

Three players for us in the quarterfinals, and it could have been four. The first matchup Sri Lanka was not involved in though, with Antonin Iglar getting his toughest test so far but still remaining perfect in a close straight-set win against Bourdet. Anil Mehul dropped T. Herrera routinely, Girish Girsh stopped the storybook tale of Ujjaval but had to earn it a bit, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. The match of the round was probably Caratti against Mugur Kinczllers. The Italian isn't what he used to be, and went out here in four sets.

Semifinals, and the big four were here again. Surprise, surprise ... all the theatrics happened early, and it was more of the same at the end. By this point, Caratti was guaranteed of taking the #3 spot back no matter what happened, but #1 was still up in the air. Mehul came up short badly against Iglar in the first match when it mattered most; 0-4 on break chances, dropped 2 of 3 on his own serve. He played well enough not to win necessarily but to have a chance at stealing the match, but went out in straight sets. In the second one, it looked for a long time like Caratti would pull off the upset. Girsh won a tiebreak, then was badly outplayed in the second and third stanzas. He rallied for a 7-6(3), 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win, but it's clear that the strong Argentine standard-bearer is still pushing upwards, hoping to catch the power pair at the top.

And so, a fitting final. Girish Girsh and Antonin Iglar meet, tied for the #1 spot and both unbeaten in the year's first month. The tie would be broken no matter what; the winner would have the next month or a little more to be pretty secure in having seized the moment. From the start, the match had a tense, strange feel to it. Usually the competitive battles are the one Girsh fades in, but he got an early break in each of the first three sets. Despite multiple chances to do so, he didn't give it back until it was 2-0 in sets, 3-1 in the third, a few holds away from victory ... Iglar got back even, then won a tiebreak and went to the lead in the fourth. Down 2-1 in that set, Girsh pushed back and won the next four games, ultimately claiming his first hardcourt Slam 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3! It was the kind of match he's lost all his career, and his second Slam(last year's Wimbledon was his first). As for Iglar, he's now lost his last six Slam finals. Shades of Lendl there. He played well enough to win this one, but was just 2 of 17 on break points.

Girsh is #1 undisputed now again. He has a lot of work to do to stay there -- he'll probably need to win both Indian Wells and Miami, as he did last year, to hold off the Czech legend. Until then though, the spot's his.

Coming Up ...

France is our opponent in the second round of WTC group play. A win would clinch a spot in the knockout rounds again, but they'll be desperate, having lost to Italy already ...
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Old 08-10-2016, 09:31 PM   #465
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World Team Cup, Group Two, Second Round
Sri Lanka(1st) vs. France(5th), Indoors

Monday: G. Girsh d. D. Poilblan, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Tuesday: T. Bourdet d. A. Mehul, 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 6-4
Wednesday: R. Iraugui/T. Rey d. S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee, 6-3, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(6)
Thursday: G. Girsh d. T. Bourdet, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2)
Friday: A. Mehul d. D. Poilblan, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4

Sri Lanka defeats France, 3-2!!

It was sure a heck of a lot tougher than last year's world championship tie. Mehul folded like a cheap tent on Tuesday, leaving all of his best tennis behind in the first set and then getting himself in good positions only to consistently choke the rest of the way. Bourdet's a quality player but I was not impressed with his showing there. A double loss put us one rubber from defeat, but Girsh took care of business both times and Mehul got the victory in Friday's decider. Wasn't pretty, but it got the job done and we're assured of a spot in the quarterfinals. France, meanwhile, is already down to 5th and now they've been knocked out of contention. A bitter pill for them, to be sure.

Italy beat Peru 4-1, so we'll face the Italians, also indoors, with the top spot in the group on the line. We've actually lost just a bit of ground to the United States in the rankings this year, though we're still #1. Any loss could bump us back down so we can't get cocky.

Coming Up ...

The usual routine for Girsh, still unbeaten this season, in the year's first big break; he's off until Indian Wells in a month. I'm toying with having Mehul play the week before and that could go either way. Dudwadkar will have an other tournament soon, and Mooljee will probably have a couple in the interim so there will still be a fair bit of action even with no major events on the schedule.
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Old 08-12-2016, 10:14 AM   #466
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For anyone looking for an interesting RR2 prospect, check out Galo la Vista, a 14yo Spaniard.
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Old 08-15-2016, 01:18 PM   #467
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February/March

It was busier than usual for this time of year. Ritwik Dudwadkar was first up, going back down a level in a light week for a tier-4 event in Algeria. He won singles easily and just scraped through for the doubles title as well. A successful week that adds a bit to his points total but not enough to keep up with the crowd of players moving up to better events. It'll be some time yet before things stabilize for him.

Prakash Mooljee entered the Delray Beach 250 the next week, I thought about the Rio 500 but the field was a little too strong there. Seeded third, he got a significant challenge with Pierce Gaskell, world no. 5, in the semifinals. It was a class Mooljee comeback as he outwilled Gaskell despite a slow start, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3). He looked to be home free for the title at that point but was surprised by Garreth McCuskey in a straight-sets final. One good win followed by disappointment.

The next week, both Mooljee and Anil Mehul headed off to Mexico for the Acapulco 500. Mooljee was stunned by homestanding Andres Guardado 6-4, 6-4 in the first round, a match that like his first this year to Niklas he controlled most of. Mooljee lost all three break points though and goes down for the fourth time this year. This was a week where he had a real chance to make up some ground on the fading veterans above him in the rankings, and this is a tough loss. He's definitely not getting the fast start this season that I'd hoped for. Mehul coasted to the final, where he edged Gaskell 7-6(12), 6-4. The American was just good enough to give himself a chance, particularly in that epic first set, but Mehul got through for his 30th career professional title, 5th in the 500s.

Coming Up ...

A lot is on the line at Indian Wells and Miami. Girsh is still undefeated but he'll need to keep that going to have any chance of staying #1; last year he won both these events while Iglar lost in the semis. Mooljee needs a strong push over these next few weeks to get into the Top 16 for the clay season, an important goal for him.
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Old 08-16-2016, 10:28 PM   #468
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Indian Wells Masters

Shyam Senepathy made a quick exit, losing to a German qualifier in three sets in his first match. The other four Sri Lankans all had a bye, and easily took care of their opponents in the second round. In fact, all of the seeds won at this stage, though there were a couple of close calls. The third round got a lot more testy, but most of the favorites still prevailed. Not all did though. Shreya Ujjaval came up short against Trulsen, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2, but it was a quality effort. Benda, McCuskey, Kinczllers, and a pair of the Herreras all were pushed hard before getting through. Fabricio Gilardino took advantage of the partisan crowd to get past Marcek, 7-6(1), 6-1, while Mooljee knocked off 14th-seeded Tobia Alberti, 6-3, 6-4, to move on as well.

In the fourth round, Anil Mehul put an abrupt ending to Prakash Mooljee's tournament, 6-0, 6-3. This was a disappointing result; Mooljee has developed enough to where he ought to be slightly favored here. Losing would be quite understandable, but not like this; he won less than half of his service points, dropping all four break points against him and all of his chances against the Mehul serve as well. He's clearly lost his confidence in being able to beat strong players at this point. Nothing to do but soldier on, but this year is not going well for him at all. Garreth McCuskey staged another three-set win, this time over Gaskell, while Benda had yet another early exit. Gustavo Caratti narrowly snuck by Federer in a tight third-set tiebreak. The old guard continues to fade away.

Girish Girsh was pushed to a third set for the first time in the quarterfinals, but continued his perfect start to the year. The match of the round was Mehul against Mugur Kinczllers; after splitting a pair of tiebreaks, Mehul edged past him in the third set, weathering 22 aces along the way. He's won 12 of 14 against the Italian, who would move up once again to a personal-best-tying 5th after the tournament despite the loss.

For what seems like the umpteenth time in a row, the Big 4 all moved into the semifinals once again. Girsh, still not quite in his best form, had just enough to get past Caratti in straight sets, while Mehul and Antonin Iglar had a classic in their 50th(no, that's not a typo) meeting. It was a tight one, and Mehul had the edge just by a hair ... but the Czech legend came up with the goods in the tiebreaks and snuck into the final narrowly, 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(3). A tough loss for Anil, as so many have been in this matchup over the years.

Girsh and Mehul squared off then in another match with the top ranking on the line. With 20 straight wins to start the year, Girsh came in as the favorite but got a rude awakening in being dismissed in straight sets. He won just nine points on Iglar's serve, and was fortunate the 6-3, 6-4 scoreline wasn't much worse. This was a shellacking. For the time being, Girsh's reign at the top is done(33 weeks). Meanwhile Iglar ties Sullivan for second all-time in Masters Shields with 32. That's not something you see happen every day. He's only about nine months younger than Gorritepe's record for the oldest man to win a Masters ... we'll see if he's still able to keep things going this time next year. For now though, at least, he's back on top.

Coming Up ...

We'll do it all over again in Miami. Prakash Mooljee has not gained any points since the start of the year, but the gap to him joining the Top 16 has narrowed to just 70 points as the aging vets ahead of him decline. More than ever, all he needs to one good tournament to make a bit of a jump ...
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:38 PM   #469
Brian Swartz
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In the 16 months I've been running this I don't think I've gone this long between updates. I'll have to skip the usual Q1 rankings update. However, the thread must at this point be spammed with the results of various tournaments covering almost two months of time in the game world.

Miami Masters

An interesting start. Shyam Senepathy split a pair of tiebreaks with Russian Efim Lipovsky, who I knew well when he was younger, before easily taking the third. Any Masters-level win is a good event for Senepathy. He took only four games from Sampras in the next round though. All of the other four got off to good starts with relatively easy wins at least in their first matches after byes on the starting day. There were three other low seeds that departed early, none of them particularly noteworthy. However, it was a bit surprising to see Bjorn Benda bow out in a tight three-setter to American Joseph Skirrow.

Shreya Ujjaval, seeded 20th, made Iglar earn his third-round advance in a good 7-5, 6-4 effort. A big match for Prakash Mooljee at this stage as well ... he knocked off Garreth McCuskey 6-3, 7-6(3), avenging the loss earlier this year. In general it was not a good round of 32 for the higher seeds; the Peruvians did particularly poorly, while a couple of US players(Gilardino and Srbulovic) got further than expected. They are playing at home, and the Americans don't have any great players right now ... but they sure have a lot of good to excellent ones dotted all over the place as threats on a bad day for the favorites.

In the fourth round, Mooljee did not do as well as Ujjaval as he was obliterated 6-3, 6-1 by Antonin Iglar. I expected him to lose, but I was hoping for more of a fight. He was not pleased to see Marcek win after losing the first set for the second straight round(over Cirakovic), and in this group of matches the top seed won all of them. Girsh beat Andronikov and Mehul stopped Trulsen, both in fairly routine two-set affairs.

The quarterfinals then featured the top seven plus Cestmir Marcek, who seemed to be forgetting that he was about to turn 33 years old. He wasn't done yet either, rallying from a set down for the third straight time, this one over Gustavo Caratti. The world no. 3 is no minor scalp, even on a hardcourt. Took a tiebreak in the last set to get there. Impressive work. Girsh easily brushed aside Gaskell, but Anil Mehul was surprised 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 by Bourdet. An even match(both players won 99 points) but once again it was a case of seizing the moment. The top Frenchman is perhaps beginning to play up to his own press.

Iglar obliterated his countryman in the first semi as expected, and Girish Girsh stopped Theodore Bourdet in a closer second one, 7-6(0), 6-4. He didn't serve well, but his worlds-best game from the baseline was more than enough. Girsh went on to score a big win over a slightly-fatigued Iglar in the final, 7-6(5), 7-6(1). Could have gone either way but it was the correct result. That brings him to 7 Masters Shields, one shy of Mehul's career total. An important win to give him a chance to take back the top spot later in the year.
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:46 PM   #470
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World Team Cup, Group 2, Third Round
Sri Lanka vs. Italy, Indoors

The first half of the WTC season comes to a close here, with the winner taking the group.

Monday: G. Girsh d. T. Alberti, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. M. Kinczllers, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2
Wednesday: S. Boccasino/A. El Brazi d. S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, 2-6, 9-7
Thursday: G. Girsh d. M. Kinczllers, 7-5, 7-5, 6-1
Friday: A. Mehul d. T. Alberti, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5

Sri Lanka defeats Italy, 4-1!!

This was closer and more dramatic than most of our ties end up being. Could have been 3-2 or we could have swept them, but in the end we get the job done and get some good experience out of it. We're still #1 of course, and most important was the quarterfinal draw for later in the year.

The USA with start against Germany, with an interesting Czech Republic-Italy matchup completing the top half. I'm pleased with being on the opposite side as the Americans. We get a potentially testy clay matchup with Spain -- we're far better than they are but the dirt surface will maximize their chances to pull the shocking upset. Assuming we get through that, it'll be Argentina or Sweden next for us. That's the final eight.
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:56 PM   #471
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Monte Carlo

Iglar wisely took the week off, but all the rest of the top players were here at the annual 'not-quite-a-masters'. That was just enough of an opening to get Mooljee seeded. Senepathy didn't make it through qualifying, so there were just the four of us. Shreya Ujjaval smashed a qualifier in the first round, and Mooljee did the same. Girsh cruised through his second-round match, while Mehul had a bit of a test from the rising Srbulovic but won in two. I was, however, fairly disgusted to see Prakash Mooljee blow an early lead and fall to the pride of Uzbekistan, Khasan Zakirov, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. He's lost all three times they've met on clay so I guess I shouldn't be that surprised ... but I still think he should have won this. A number of other seeds departed early as always happens on clay, with Kinczllers, victimized by John Condon, the most notable as he came in 4th in the draw.

In the third round, I was rather stunned to see Ujjaval easily send Gaskell packing ... he's moving up in the world again. The rest was all pretty much as expected. The quarterfinals featured three players from Sri Lanka ... on clay, not the best surface for some of us. That's quite an achievement. Ujjaval was knocked out by Girish Girsh, not at all a surprise; Mehul won another close one against Bourdet, just on a different surface than a month ago; and on the bottom of the bracket it was Caratti and Benda moving through. As usual.

The 19th meeting between Girsh and Mehul was a bit of a surprise; recently turned 31, Anil still has a few tricks left and pulled a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(2) upset. Caratti required a third-set tiebreak against Bjorn Benda, who is seemingly revitalized by this tournament back on his favorite surface.

Anil Mehul managed to make a good match of it in the final, but the expected result ensued and Gustavo Caratti claimed his third Masters shield.
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Old 08-24-2016, 10:06 PM   #472
Brian Swartz
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May

I'll use this to catchup on all the small events that happened in this period and leading up. Ritwik Dudwadkar had a couple of tournaments, both tier-3 juniors. In Tashkent, the second week of the Miami masters, he won in singles but lost in the quarters in doubles. Just a few weeks later during Monte Carlo he played again due to the schedule -- it was the best week for him to have a chance at another victory by far. He used it, smashing all comers including Ritwik Suksma in the singles final. A close runner-up finish in doubles was the only disappointment, and a very minor one. These wins have him started moving up again, into the mid-80s in the rankings. He'll be taking a good amount of time off now though.

In the professional ranks, the top event the week after Monte Carlo was the Barcelona 500. I was surprised to see Caratti enter here -- he's going to burn himself out. Mooljee was the 4th seed, and Ujjaval the 7th, so we had a significant presence as well. Naturally, Girsh and Mehul had played enough to take a couple weeks off heading into the Madrid/Rome double feature.

It was easy sailing at first, but in the third round Ujjaval was surprised by Spaniard Rui Padilla ... who we'll be seeing in the WTC quarters ... in a three-set match. The favorable crowd and clay expertise proved just enough for him. Mooljee had all he wanted in the quarterfinals against Frenchman Hugo Deallavadale, splitting two tense tiebreaks before winning the third set. That looked like the wake-up match, but he stumbled in a straight-sets defeat against Condon in the semifinals. I thought he'd go one further, and then lose to Caratti who won as the prohibitive favorite.

Coming Up ...

So that's where we are now, Madrid is actually finished and the Rome masters underway, I'll report on both of those once they are done. Mooljee is still fighting to get himself in the Top 16, Girsh is close behind Iglar in the race for #1, and Mehul is hanging around but trailing the tired Caratti for third. Prakash continues to have a disappointing year overall, while the top two players are doing about as well as I'd expect all things considered.
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Old 08-25-2016, 08:18 PM   #473
Brian Swartz
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The clay masters had some surprises in store for the tour. Here's how it went down ...

Madrid Masters

Shyam Senepathy qualified, and was blasted, winning four games against Andres Guardado. Ujjaval did better, handing out a double-bagel to his qualifier opponent in the first round, while Mooljee achieved one himself. Poilblan continues his 'meh' prime, as the only seed to lose in the first round -- three sets to Rui Padilla, a dangerous Spaniard on this surface.

There were some stunning second-round results, and three of them involved Sri Lanka players. Girsh had a boring, dominant win. The others were not bored though. Antonin Iglar got dismissed 6-2, 7-6(4) by Mooljee in just their second career meeting! Everything was on Mooljee's side here, match fitness, he's quite a bit better on clay than the Czech, but anytime you beat the world no. 1 it's a cause for celebration. We'll see if this begins a trend ... Shreya Ujjaval had an upset as well, though less surprising of one, knocking off Roger Federer who usually does poorly here, in straight sets. On the other end of the spectrum, Anil Mehul was stunned by Zakirov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. That's the second upset he's had against us in as many tournaments. Starting to not like that guy, though it's certainly been a good month for him. No two ways about the match either, he was clearly the better player on this day. The last time Mehul lost his first match in a Masters was only a year ago at Monte Carlo, but it was still a disappointment. A far cry from four years ago, when he was the champion here ...

The elder statesman was gone but we still had three left into the round of 16. It was an eventful but ultimately straightforward day with no upsets. Ujjaval was stopped by Prakash Mooljee 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, in what was rather surprisingly their first actual tournament meeting. Fairly close by the numbers, but Mooljee apparently controlled the action after dropping that first set. Girish Girsh had his first challenge as well against Condon, and was fairly fortunate to advance 6-7(1), 7-5, 6-4. Gaskell(over Cirakovic) and Kinczllers(over T. Herrera) both were pushed as well but made it through.

The quarterfinals then had seven players in the Top 10 ... and Mooljee. He wasn't finished yet, decisively dispatching Pierce Gaskell in the first match. Girsh's participation ended here though, courtesy of Agustin Herrera. He's become Peru's top player over the course of the past year, and was a finalist here last year. Something about Madrid, beyond just the clay, seems to agree with him. Benda and Caratti, to the surprise of exactly nobody, filled the other two spots.

I thought Mooljee might have a chance against Bjorn Benda despite the surface for their third career meeting. I was very wrong; he won five games. Still, a Masters semifinal! He's never gotten past the last 16 in any big event, so this is unquestionably the high water mark for him, a potential 'breakthrough' moment. It also puts him, temporarily I thought(more on this later), above Marcek and into the Top 16 for Rome(and beyond?). Doesn't erase the disappointments leading up to it, but he made himself an opportunity here by beating two of the world's top five players. The second match was much more of a surprise, as Herrera beat the tired Gustavo Caratti in a tough match that went the distance. Here was the first example of the Argentine's insistence on playing nearly everywhere during the clay season catching up to him. Little doubt he wins this if not worn out.

Benda had a shot here at becoming the world's oldest Masters champion ever, but Agustin Herrera dominated, allowing just nine points on his serve in a 6-3, 6-3 final. With none of the world's top eight making the final, quite a strange eventuality, Agustin went one better than last year and snagged his first Masters. His progression, still very much in his best years at 26, will definitely bear watching.


Rome Masters

Not far away on the same continent, the same cast of characters assembled themselves just a couple days later for the final clay tune-up. Senepathy wasn't able to qualify, but otherwhise the first day went much the same ... seeded in the last(16th) spot this time, Mooljee had another easy first-round win.

Iglar started off this week by ... losing his first match again!! This time it was Juan de los Santos doing the damage. He's made his share of upsets the last couple of years, but for the top player in the world, even though he's not much of a clay-courter, to lose his first match in back-to-back Masters .... this was stunning. By doing so, he guaranteed that Girsh would ascend to the top spot, as he'd won Rome last year. A stunning turn of events after the way he'd surged to the top spot over the last several months. Easy wins for a couple of Sri Lanka players, while Shreya Ujjaval had the misfortune of playing Mehul in his second-round match. He made it close, but was defeated 6-4, 7-6(5). Another Frenchman left early, this time Bourdet(to Sava Cirakovic, who is quietly piling up solid results).

Girsh and Mehul had easy third-round matches, while Prakash Mooljee and Gustavo Caratti both came into their encounter tired. Caratti more so, but he had enough for a 6-4, 7-5 win. I had Mooljee in doubles last week in Madrid to get some matches, not expecting him to make it to the semifinals! So losing here is not such a bad thing, as it will give him a better chance to be rested for the FO. Beating the best clay player in the world was a bit much of an ask. Match of the day was Cirakovic over Thiago Herrera; a breadstick both ways followed by a tight tiebreak to decide it.

Straightforward quarterfinals for the most part, with Cirakovic this year's surprise entrant. He went out quickly to Caratti, Benda beat Alberti. Girsh had to deal with last week's champ Agustin Herrera. Possibly because he was better prepared physically, he came through with a solid straight-sets win. Anil Mehul had a rough go against Elias Trulsen, usually a non-entity on clay, but rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory. Nice recovery for him after last week's early exit.

In the first semi, Gustavo Caratti easily handled Benda despite the fatigue issues, his 8th straight win in that matchup over the last two years, all of them coming on clay. Girish Girsh avenged his recent defeat to Mehul in two sets; the first was close, but after that it was over. In the final, the Argentine was just too spent to give Girsh a real effort. He lost all three break chances he faced, had as many double faults as aces, and in general nearly donated the championship. A rather anticlimactic end, but preparation is often half the battle. Girsh reclaims the #1 spot in style, taking his first Rome title.


Coming Up ...

Everyone has a week off going into the French Open. It looks like Mooljee will narrowly hold the 16th spot going into the second Slam of the year, though he does lose the Nice 250 title from last season. That will give him a good chance to improve on his third-round finishes there and at Wimbledon, and build some traction. The last couple weeks he appeared to really start finding his game, taking good advantage of his opportunities. If that continues better things could be ahead than we saw in the last few months before. Girsh will hang onto the top spot no matter what happens, but with Caratti definitively vulnerable right now due to overtaxing his body, he's got to be targeting making a run at the title. Mehul has a good chance to overtake the Argentine for third in the rankings if he falters as well. Ujjaval is presently at a career-high 21st and will look to keep pushing upwards as well.

I think this is the most wide-open, because of Caratti, French Open that I've yet seen. There are at least a half-dozen players that could be serious threats.
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Old 09-04-2016, 03:32 PM   #474
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A lot of catching up to do here again.

2047 Roland Garros

Once again Sri Lanka has five in the draw. Shyam Senepathy exited quickly, taking only six games in the three sets he played against Phillipe Besson, an improving 22-year-old Swiss player that could be noteworthy in a year or two. The other four were all seeded 20th or better, and got through the first round easily. A couple of seeds departed stage left; American Johnny Browne(27th), and the consistently-disappointing veteran Marcelo Herrera(24th). The next round brought more of the same. McCuskey barely survived a five-set scare, and Andre Herrera(PER) beat one of the lower seeds but that doesn't really qualify as an upset here as he was among the more dangerous floaters.

The third round started to heat things up a bit. Girsh lost a set to Khasan Zakirov, but his run would not be derailed long despite the challenger's recent surge. Shreya Ujjaval had a true epic against no. 7 Theodore Bourdet, eventually taking down the top-ranked Frenchman 4-6, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3, 10-8!! Bourdet blasted 27 aces, but Ujjaval was consistently a bit better in the rallies, and it was just barely enough for him to come back from a set down twice and outlast his opponent in a long 5th set. Garreth McCuskey survived a second straight five-setter, this one against his declining countryman Sampras. Prakash Mooljee met up with Sava Cirakovic, just two spots below him in the rankings. This figured to be a real pick-em match, but Mooljee had the better of it. Unfortunately, his best play was mostly concentrated in one set. In the last two, he narrowly came up short in a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) defeat ... despite out-pointing his foe 146-132. Yet another example this year of a match Mooljee should have won, but didn't, and he only manages to equal last season's result here. Another good match was between Agustin Herrera and Zourab Andronikov, with Herrera narrowly able to advance despite losing a pair of tiebreakers.

Girsh and Ujjaval both got back on track with straight-set wins in the fourth round. Antonin Iglar dropped a set for the first time against Cirakovic, but came through in four. Mugur Kinczllers had to go five to beat T. Herrera, and the Peruvians all dropped out when Agustin lost to Davide Poilblan. Then there was Anil Mehul going up against Benda, and getting his 29th win over the German in four sets there.

Six of the top eight then made the quarterfinals, with Ujjaval and Poilblan the party-crashers. Three Sri Lankans in the final eight; not bad. Girish Girsh ended Ujjaval's push 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-1, aided by the younger players typical over-playing. Caratti lost his first set of the tournament against Pierce Gaskell, but dismissed the American in four. Iglar came through against Kinczllers in a high-quality four-set match, and Mehul overcame an ineffective serve to save 14 of 16 BPs against Poilblan.

So once again, the Big Four form the semifinals. Yawn. Girsh played well enough to have a chance against the tiring Gustavo Caratti, but missed on all four of his break chances and bowed out 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. As for Anil Mehul, he laid a complete egg in his semifinal, getting annihilated with only six games won against Iglar. So it was that the Czech legend looked to join the annals of over-30 Slam champions ... but he didn't show up for the title match. Surprisingly, despite his fatigue, Caratti thumped him 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 for his third straight RG title ... one more Slam than Girsh has to date, by the way. I didn't think he could do it being this worn out, esp. after the results in the clay Masters, but perhaps Caratti is just that much better than everyone else on this surface. More likely, he simply found his best game when he needed it most. Either way, he did what he needed to finish another strong clay campaign.
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Old 09-04-2016, 03:43 PM   #475
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June

This year is a little different due to the schedule change, which I didn't realize until it was almost too late. The main difference is Wimbledon getting pushed back a week, meaning three grass weeks in the leadup. In the middle of that, two of the 250 events have been bumped to 500s, Halle and Queens. As it worked out, I had one player each of the interim weeks, so there was a tournament constantly going on for me.

First up, Ritwik Dudwadkar was in Tunis. He won his third straight tier-3, while coming in runner-up in doubles once again as well. None of the singles matches were particularly close. It's starting to look like he's ready for a step up, but there will be at least one, probably two more events at this level first. He's starting to gradually inch up the rankings now at 80th following this win, as things stabilize going into the second half of the year.

Then came the 500s, and Prakash Mooljee entered Halle as the 4th seed there. His goal here was to assure that he stayed ahead of the pack and in the Top 16 going into Wimbledon and the year's second half. The top four all made it to the semifinals, which was good enough to give Mooljee a bit of a bump. There he played the match of the tournament against second seed Bjorn Benda, who is under new management that is overplaying him a bit. Somebody was bound to pick him up eventually. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, Mooljee found himself headed for another tough loss, down 5-2 in the second-set breaker and two points from defeat. He proceeded to reel off five straight to take the set, and eventually the match 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3! It was a deserved win, but at only 2 of 11 on break chances it nearly got away from him. Benda served well when it mattered with 18 aces to 14 and no double faults, but needed one or two more big ones to close it out and didn't get them. After winning a long first-set tiebreak in the final, Mooljee closed out Mugur Kinczllers to claim his first 500-level title, six months ahead of Mehul and Girsh both in this milestone! A pair of wins over Top-10 opponents, and his best-ever single-week haul in terms of points. This pretty much ensures he'll stay up in the Top 16, and can set his sights higher now.

The final in-between week saw Anil Mehul head to the new 250 event in Antalya, Turkey. The last three matches were competitive, and he dropped a set to Rui Padilla(ESP) in the quarters, but Mehul claimed his expected 7th 250-level title and first on grass.
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Old 09-04-2016, 04:11 PM   #476
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2047 Wimbledon

Last chance here for everyone to get themselves positioned for the 'stretch run', with the second big break coming up afterwards. With the schedule change though it's a week shorter, which will definitely impact preparation for the hectic push leading into the USO.

Another straight-sets first-round exit for Shyam Senepathy against another unseeded Spaniard. His progression definitely appears to have stalled, just a bit later than I thought it would. Grass tends to make for long, competitive matches, and nine first-round encounters went the distance. 19th-seeded Sava Cirakovic was a surprise first-round victim, going down in four sets to Joseph Skirrow(USA), a fairly dangerous player who pops up every now and then. Thiago Herrera was barely able to get by Djurdje Moicevic, who is still forging his way, 6-4 in the 5th. Another early exit, this time in straight sets, for Marcelo Herrera, while Khasan Zakirov(22nd), also had a disappointing early end. Tobia Alberti(ITA, 14th) was the most notable of two more upset victims in the second round, and there were a couple of other close calls. Sri Lanka's quartet however kept advancing without incident.

In the third, Gustavo Caratti, who always seems to struggle here, just got by the challenge of Srbulovic in a tight four-set match. Pierce Gaskell was not so lucky, as the world no. 5 exited in a four-set loss to countryman Johnny Browne(29th). The Sri Lankan quartet continued to move on, all of them in straight sets once again. All eyes here though were on Luc Janin, as the Canadian prodigy had made the round of 32 for the first time at a Slam though just 20 years old. He was routinely dispatched by Theodore Bourdet who is well above his level at this point, but it's another forward step for the most exciting young player the sport has seen in probably a decade.

Girsh continued to cruise in the fourth round, Federer his latest victim. Caratti was knocked out though, by Davide Poilblan in four sets; he has only made the second week here once. Prakash Mooljee sensed a real opportunity now, but there would be no more easy hurdles. Theodore Bourdet was a major threat; Mooljee is a bit better overall but Bourdet has one of the best serves in the world, a major asset on the grass. Their first match was a classic, and the Frenchman managed only 13 aces and was outplayed somewhat. He still got through though, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. That fourth set was Mooljee's chance to break through, and he couldn't do it. Yet another big match in which he was the better player, but still lost. They are piling up. Five double faults were crucial here. More surprisingly was the match between the other two players: Anil Mehul and Shreya Ujjaval. Ujjaval is a fine grass player, but a comprehensive 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 dismissal of the world no. 4 was still quite shocking. It's the worst result here for four-time champ Mehul in seven years, and perhaps a sign that things have come to a head for him. A stringent battle between Mugur Kinczllers and Garreth McCuskey had three tiebreaks, and eventually ended with Kinczllers getting through in five.

Five of the top eight made the quarterfinals, with three 'surprise' entrants. Girish Girsh got his first real test against Elias Trulsen, a rematch of last year's final coming a couple rounds earlier this year. They traded tiebreaks, but then Girsh asserted himself to take care of business in four sets. Davide Poilblan took the opportunity afforded him and dismissed T. Herrera to reach his first Slam semifinal, while the last two matches both went the distance. Lots of tense moments. Theodore Bourdet joined Poilblan in the last four with a mild upset over Iglar, 6-4, 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. That match could have gone either way, as could have the last one pitting Kinczllers against Ujjaval. The Italian was able to even the match in a critical, long second-set tiebreak, and eventually managed to get through 4-6, 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Ujjaval had him on the ropes but just couldn't put him away. Much like the Mooljee loss, this one came down to the value of an elite serve. Kinczllers blasted 27 aces, while Ujjaval had to grind more and it wasn't quite enough.

The first semifinal was a strange one. Girish Girsh dominated two of the first three sets, but let his guard down every time and was fortunate to survive. The scoreline was 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-7(5), 9-7. If he was able to take either one of those tiebreak sets, this is one-sided match. In fact it ended up being very much one by the numbers(200-164 pts) yet he barely one, even with saving all 10 break chances against him. Very weird match all the way around, and he nearly gave it away to Davide Poilblan. Kinczllers cruised through against Bourdet to reach his first Slam final in the second encounter.

The final was pretty one-sided and anti-climactic. Girsh learned his lesson from the semfinals, and was pretty dominant in a 6-2, 7-6(1), 6-4 win. It's his second Wimbledon in a row, third Slam overall, and ensures he stays at #1 in the rankings.
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Old 09-04-2016, 04:19 PM   #477
Brian Swartz
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Girish Girsh(SRI, 28) -- 13,330

With two of the year's first three Slams, Girsh has fought off the challenge from Iglar for the moment at least, and reasserted himself at the top.

2. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 30) -- 11,980

Poor results in the clay Masters and an earlier-than-usual Wimbledon departure have quite possibly ended Iglar's time as a serious challenger to the #1 ranking

3. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 27) -- 9,680

Tireless, dominant on clay, weak on grass. It all adds up to Caratti staying as a solid #3, but he'll need to do better to move higher.

4. Anil Mehul(SRI, 31) -- 9,100

For now, Mehul is still hanging around as a threat to Caratti's position, and far better than the field. Cracks are forming though.

5. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 28) -- 4,990

The Wimbledon run to his first final was just enough for Kinczllers to reach 5th again.

6. Theodore Bourdet(FRA, 26) -- 4,980

An interesting ebb and flow with Kinczllers is developing. Do either of them have what it takes to push closer to Mehul in the second half?

7. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 31) -- 3,980

It looks like his time to decline may have finally come. A solid Top 5 fixture for years, Gaskell is still the top American but that may only last for months longer.

8. Davide Poilblan(FRA, 27) -- 3,570

Better late than never? With a RG quarterfinal and Wimbledon semi in his recent resume, Poilblan has finally made the jump to the first page.

9. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 33) -- 3,500

New management, and still doing just enough to be relevant.

10. Agustin Herrera(PER, 26) -- 3,495

Peru's new top player with Thiago mostly out of the picture, and he probably remains about here for a little while.

The gap to 11th is over 400 points right now, where McCuskey and Trulsen hang out. Neither of them looks a threat to jump in right now, but the younger players are starting to flex their muscles. Mooljee leads a number of players(Ujjaval, Cirakovic, Zakirov, Gilardino all in the Top 25) in his age bracket, and a year or two younger the generation after them is also starting to break through(Tristan Benitez is 26th, with Johnny Browne, Tiosav Srbulovic, and Juan de los Santos all in order behind him at 21). And then there's Luc Janin, 20 and a half and already 36th. I'll take a look at these players and their prospects in more detail at the end of the year, but right now I'd say the tour is set for the biggest wholesale changing of the guard over the next couple years that it's seen in my involvement with it. With four 30-somethigns in the Top 10 and three others in the next 11 players, along with a lot of players in their upper 20s, this whole apple cart is about to be overturned. It's only just starting.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-04-2016 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 09-04-2016, 04:33 PM   #478
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Initial, Post-Wimbledon Edition

In

Girish Girsh -- 8710
Gustavo Caratti -- 7300

After looking at the math, it's clear that Girsh basically has a lock on the top spot this year. The lead over Caratti is only modest, of course, but the Argentine hasn't shown the game to be a serious hardcourt threat -- the price of his clay dominance. And Iglar is further back than I expected. You might say that the Era of Girsh has begun. I expect it to be at least a year, quite possibly two before he's challenged again ... by a younger Sri Lankan.


Probable

Antonin Iglar -- 5180
Anil Mehul -- 4630
Mugur Kinczllers -- 3750
Theodore Bourdet -- 3400

Wimbledon basically separated Kinzllers and Bourdet from the pack. They'd have to stumble badly not to qualify now. Iglar still has some work to do, and he'd basically have to run the table now to have any chance at #1. I think that ship has sailed. Meanwhile, you can see that Mehul's lead over the rest of the field here is not nearly what it once was. It's not a foregone conclusion that he even stays at #4 through the end of the year, though he probably will have enough yet to make that happen for one more season.


Contenders

Agustin Herrera -- 2855
Bjorn Benda -- 2740
-------------------------------

I was sure Benda was done in terms of being a top-8 player, but look at this! He could very well get passed up yet, but a pair of Slam QFs and semis or better in all three clay Masters have been enough to give him a solid position at this juncture.


Long Shots

Davide Poilblan -- 2335
Pierce Gaskell -- 2330
Elias Trulsen -- 2140
Shreya Ujjaval -- 2120
Tobia Alberti -- 2105
Thiago Herrera -- 2020
Prakash Mooljee -- 2000
Roger Federer -- 1900
Garreth McCuskey -- 1830

Here is the rest of the story. Pretty clear that Gaskell is past it, as he can manage no better than this even with favorable draws ... which will go away soon if he can't find another fountain of youth. The majority of the names here, as always, are pretenders. Some have a chance though. Davide Poilblan will get favorable draws and is uniquely positioned, like the Frenchmen were last year, to make noise at Paris at the end when all the chips are down. Shreya Ujjaval has a trio of Slam quarterfinals this year ... but has done next to nothing in the Masters events. Those trends won't co-exist permanently. Prakash Mooljee will be objectively the best player in the world by the end of the year, but he's got to stop losing matches he should win. There's still time for him, but it'll take a couple big runs or consistent solid play, given the number of players he needs to pass and the sizable gap to overcome. The others are all past their best tennis and are merely the best of those who won't make it.

If I were a betting man, I'd say Ujjaval and Mooljee have their moments but come up well short(hopefully not, but that's how it looks from here). Poilblan I think will have enough to make it in over Benda, so I am predicting one switch, but this could go a lot of ways. Agustin Herrera didn't do diddly squat in the year-end hardcourts last year, and this season so far has only a QF at Indian Wells. He's 'propped up' right now by the Madrid title. There's definitely at least the two spots to be had, if anyone has the drive to go get them.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-04-2016 at 04:34 PM.
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Old 09-04-2016, 04:58 PM   #479
Brian Swartz
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Note that these are all compared to the start of the year, since I didn't do a first-quarter review.

Girish Girsh -- 1st singles(unchanged). 50 wins is a fine mark by the end of Wimbledon. Two masters and two slams have been added to his total this year, with only four defeats. He's on the decline, but is fortunate that so are all the major challengers. Bourdet is basically at his peak, but literally the rest of the top-ranking dozen players in the world are all getting worse. This is the definition of a weak era emerging, at least temporarily, and Girish is the beneficiary. The next year or two is legacy-making time for him; winning as many big titles as he can to enhance his resume. He's the top dog, period.

Anil Mehul -- 4th singles(unchanged). Mehul is still close behind Caratti for the third spot, but that won't last long. If he can't defend his US Open title a little over a month from now, and there's no evidence right now that he's got that left in him(it would be a record for oldest Slam champion by a few months if he did, and he has yet to reach the final of any big event this year save Monte Carlo*), any hope of moving up again will fade. It's time to start saying good-bye to Sri Lanka's first and so far best great player, and begin watching his sad decline.

Prakash Mooljee -- 19th to 13th singles, 197th to 202nd doubles. There seem to signs of Mooljee getting more consistent, but he needs to start winning the close matches in which he has the upper hand his fair share of the time(say, three out of four or so). When he does that, he'll start pushing upwards more consistently. Nobody close behind him is a threat, and the dozen players ahead of him are at least three years older. Lacking a bit of the endurance and longevity of his predessors, it's all the more important that Prakash seize the moment. He's just 1-4 against the Top 4 players this year(beat Iglar once), but 4-1 against those in the 5-8 range. Everyone else? 27-7. That's far too many losses against players he should be beating. He's been good enough to be a Top 5 player and soon better than that, but along with fighting up through the draws and rankings he is just missing too many opportunities.

Shreya Ujjaval -- 29th to 17th singles, 52nd to 53rd doubles. The three straight Slam quarterfinals are the big story ... esp. when Mooljee has yet to reach his first! It's not out of the question that both players could be Top 10 by the end of the year. Consistency is the issue in both cases. Ujjaval probably never goes higher than about 5th, but a year from now we could be talking about half of the Tour Finals being Sri Lanka players. No question this is the Golden Age for tennis around here, the likes of which will never be seen again.

Shyam Senepathy -- 85th to 80th singles. At one point Senepathy was up to 71st, but he appears to have stalled. Many players do at this stage; some get through it, others don't. I'm not sure how much more Senepathy has in him, but he hasn't peaked yet. I see him cracking the Top 50 at least eventually.

Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 100th to 77th juniors. 28-1 in a brilliant year so far, including a just-completed fourth tier-3 title in which he was only seeded 5th, but beat several others ranked somewhat ahead of him. Only one match was close. Dudwadkar in the second half of this season is positioning himself for his final junior year. Roughly two-thirds of those ahead of him will turn pro, and most of those who won't are ranked fairly close to him(35th or lower for the vast majority). He'll soon try to make the jump to tier-2 and push his way upwards as much as he can so that he can play in the most productive, lucrative events successfully next season.

Manager Ranking -- 2nd(unchanged), 43.1k to 44.6k points. oprice is still playing out the string with Iglar, and his total is crashing; I've almost caught him and will assuredly do so by the end of the year.
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Old 09-07-2016, 05:35 PM   #480
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July

The only event on the schedule the next couple weeks was the Washington 500. Prakash Mooljee was seeded fourth here, and hoping for a deep run to replace his Olympics total from last year and continue to move up. After a bye, he lost only two games against a qualifier, and then played ninth-seed Tioslav Srbulovic in the third round. It was an evenly played match, but Mooljee was beaten 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5. Srbulovic is also on the rise, a hardcourt specialist who is an excellent athlete, and playing in front of his home crowd. All those are fine excuses and Mooljee has no reason to panic, but it was just an extension of the disappointments this year. Once again, he was slightly the better player but went just 2 of 14 on break chances(Srbulovic was 4 of 8). And that was the match. Again. The American made it to the final before losing to Kinczllers, and I expect he'll make a significant charge with a lot of home crowds and favorable surfaces coming up.
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Old 09-07-2016, 06:06 PM   #481
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So, at the end of his descent, does Mehul turn into an uber trainer ?

(I never did grasp most of this game tbh, but that's a reasonable question if I got even one or two parts figured out right)
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Old 09-07-2016, 06:41 PM   #482
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Yeah that's the next step for him. Probably in a year or two, he'll turn his attention to doubles and working towards becoming a top trainer.
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Old 09-10-2016, 09:12 PM   #483
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Canada Masters

No showing from Senepathy this week, as he lost in qualifying. 11-seeded Elias Trulsen continued his fall, the latest to get knocked out early by Tiosav Srbulovic, straight-sets in the first round. McCuskey departed in the second round, but he wasn't the big surprise. That was reserved for Zourab Andronikov, who made Anil Mehul's first match his last here, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. The Georgian blasted 20 aces, and was a perfect 4-for-4 on break points; it was basically the best he could be expected to play. Mehul wasn't terrible, in fact you could argue he was slightly better, but fell just short. The last time he lost his first match in a Masters before this year was eight seasons ago; he's done it twice now(Madrid as well). So yeah ... not a good look. Prakash Mooljee was narrowly able to advance, ironically by the same three-set scoreline but he was the one with the comeback against Cestmir Marcek. Shouldn't have been that close, but the aging Czech was more prepared at this early stage and has always been his best on the hardcourts.

Srbulovic nabbed another pelt in the third round, taking out Bourdet. No small matter beating the world no. 6, this one in straight sets as well. Looks like he's making a serious push. There were four closely contested matches this round, and only Iglar had a glorified walk-over, losing just one game. Girsh had his first test in a pretty close against Thiago Herrera, going to 7-5 in the second set to dismiss him. Davide Poilblan rallied after a bad first set to take out Kinczllers, and Shreya Ujjaval dropped the first set in a breaker before coming back to knock out Benda. Mooljee was less fortunate, being Andronikov's next opponent. 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, another tight one and while the serve count was not as lopsided(due at least in part to Mooljee being a much faster player than Mehul at his age), the result was the same. A very tight match, evenly played, and once again the Sri Lankan competitor couldn't hang in the break points(3 of 8 compared to 4 of 6). Both of those back to back are a little hard to take, and a shot at a big quarterfinal goes by the boards for Mooljee.

Two unseeded players along with 16th-seeded Ujjaval made it to the final eight ... definitely not the usual suspects as the youth movement continues. Girsh flattened Gaskell as one might expect, Caratti dismissed Srbulovic who might have thought himself to have a chance but rather surprisingly won just eight points on the Argentine's serve. Another straight-set win by Iglar over Poilblan, and Andronikov made it three straight tight wins over Sri Lankans with a 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 6-2 win over Shreya Ujjaval, the only match in the round to go the distance. Ugh.

Top 3 ... and no. 20 for the semis. Which one of these things is not like the other ... well, it was time for order to be restored. Girish Girsh didn't have a walk but was able to take out Caratti in two long, tight sets. Iglar was pushed a bit but did the same to Andronikov, and the top two players headed to the final. Antonin Iglar looked pretty good this week and he needed this one badly ... yet failed to produce a single break chance and was trounced 6-3, 6-2. Sure looks like a statement by Girsh that his supremacy is secure from here. A 9th Masters is the most in Sri Lanka history, Mehul included(he won eight). Not bad.

I'm also interested to see how well Srbulovic and Andronikov back up their fine performances here.
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Old 09-10-2016, 09:31 PM   #484
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Cincinatti Masters

The American players figure to be even more of a pain in neck here and of course at the USO -- hopefully we wouldn't have to meet them early. Shyam Senepathy was bounced in his first qualifying match, continuing a very unimpressive year for him. There were more early first-round upsets this time around. How would Andronikov do? How does 6-3, 6-0 over no. 9 Poilblan sound? Yikes. As for Srbulovic ... well, Mooljee drew him, which was not exactly what I was looking for. Prakash took care of business though, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2, a very tough first-rounder but he won almost half of his return points, just battering the American into eventual submission. Best he's looked in a while from the baseline, though the serve wasn't that great. Then there was wild-card Robert Jerrold knocking out no. 15 Alberti, 13-11 in a third-set tiebreak. No way that happens without the crowd on his side. Garreth McCuskey needed a lot more help than that, getting dismissed easily by Tomas Niklas and only taking five games. It appears clear the McCuskey, theoretically close to his prime at least at 27, is a sinking ship at this point.

And that was just the first round. Looked like Cincy was off to a wild start. Mooljee dropped another tiebreaker in the next round to another American, Johnny Browne, but would lose just one game the rest of the way. Girsh and Mehul got through easily to get their teeth into the event, as did Ujjaval. Elsewhere though the upsets just kept on coming. Thiago Herrera outlasted Caratti who seems to have this Jekkyl & Hyde thing with hardcourt events; he pushed Girsh to his toughest match last week and now he loses to a declining player outside of the Top 10. It was very close, 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-5, but still. Another quick exit for Kinczllers, tight 3-setter here as well to US wild-card Jake Jolland. Benda was beaten by youngish Hugo Jurco, and Trulsen left early as well courtesy of yet another American WC, aging Radek Smitala. It was nearly an epidemic out there.

Third round, and only three US players left; Gaskell and two wild cards. Weird stuff. Girish Girsh tangled with Prakash Mooljee, basically the worst possible draw at this stage for both of them. Girsh won 7-5, 6-3, and demonstrated that he's still clearly superior. He really shouldn't be, but the younger player lacks the confidence right now. Close ones for the other players, Mehul over Smitala in one and Shreya Ujjaval with a very nice win for him against 5-seeded Theodore Bourdet. Jolland's ridiculous run continued with another narrow 3-set win over Agustin Herrera.

I don't know if I've ever seen a wild-card in the quarterfinals of a big event. If I have it's been a long time. He almost kept it going, splitting a pair of tiebreaks with Thiago Herrera before finally running out of gas in the third. Girsh had himself an unusually tough time with Pierce Gaskell, dropping the first set and needing a third-set breaker to send him packing. That was almost a stunning upset, despite his dominance of the middle set. Antonin Iglar was given a surprisingly hard time by unseeded Tomas Niklas, possibly his heir apparent in the Czech hierarchy, as their match went to 7-5 in the third. The final match was the second of this tournament between a pair of Sri Lanka players, with Anil Mehul just managing to rally to knock out Ujjaval, 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5. Another case of experience taking out a better, but younger, challenger.

In the semis, Girsh demolished Herrera, losing four games. Mehul held up well against Iglar through two sets which they split, but then fell apart and was bageled in the third. So, a week later, same contestants for the championship match. It may well have been the best one that Girsh and Iglar have ever played. In a best-of-three it's hard to have a tougher road than the 6-7(9), 7-5, 7-6(7) scoreline they turned in here, but again Girish Girsh came through. Quite satisfying win, and he was a hair better but only a hair. Could easily have lost it.
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Old 09-10-2016, 09:54 PM   #485
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2047 US Open

The final Slam comes with everyone in action, following a week off. The finish to the year always appears much clearer, and this is usually the last opportunity for players(looking at Mooljee here) to make a big splash.

Opening Rounds

Shyam Senepathy looked better than he has recently in a straight-sets win in the first round. Competition wasn't much but a Slam win is a Slam win -- it's just the third of his career so it's something. Elsewhere it was largely the usual first-round yawn-fest. Worth noting were 20-year-old Luc Janin getting his first seed at 31st ... that's just astonishing ... and an interesting match between low-ranking US players that went the distance, with four tiebreaks. The fifth was a bagel. No, I'm not even going to try to explain that. Naturally, the guy who bageled won the match. Last week's stunner, Jake Jolland, was the only player to knock out a seed at the first time of asking, eliminating (25)Tristan Benitez in four. Ujjaval had a tough time of it against Phillipe Besson who shows up here and there, but got through in four.

A surprising number of long matches were in store for the second round. Federer was pushed to five, and (28) Simon Davila(ESP) almost lost to an unheralded American(7-6(6) in the fifth there). Senepathy bowed out quickly to Andronikov, winning just four games. Pretty clear where he stands. Thiago Herrera, seeded 11th, was one of the big losses, a five-set match against Gineto Disanti(ARG). No, I didn't know who he was before either. Not a good sign for Herrera. Ujjaval played a familiar name, Djurdje Moicevic. An expected routine win retained only the routine aspect, as he was knocked out 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-2. A straight-sets loss in the second round is a terrible result for him at this stage.

Prakash Mooljee's first test came in the third round, where either he or Andronikov were set to have a bad day. Mooljee played well enough both on serve and return to leave little to chance, controlling the match from start to finish with a trio of 6-4 sets. Nicely done there, and he equals his best Slam result with this win. Girsh and Mehul both had routine, if competitive victories. Sava Cirakovic took a tough match over no. 9 Agustin Herrera in four sets; he's been inconsistent, but has had his moments this year. Benda's exit came at this stage as well, courtesy of the slowly rising Tomas Niklas in three close ones. Federer bowed out, and Elias Trulsen put the bow on a disappointing fall for himself with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 loss to no. 30 Agustin Herrera. Eeek. If that's all he's going to do, he should just go play doubles. Seriously.

For the second straight event, Girish Girsh and myself were displeased to see Mooljee waiting in the round of 16. Again it's Girsh controlling the match in a competitive straight-sets score, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2. It was reasonably close for a while, but he's not there yet and fails to get the fall breakthrough he needed. More on that later. Fine match between Cirakovic and Theodore Bourdet, with the Croatian getting a huge win 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(6). Pulls out the final-set breaker after losing a two-set lead. Not bad. Straight sets for Mehul as well though Davide Poilblan hung with him for a while, Janin's run finally ends courtesy of Kinczllers, and the usual suspects advance in the bottom half of the draw.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar took the big step of his first tier-2 tournament this week. In Prague, he was seeded first with many of the top players in action at the junior USO, a big reason why I chose this week. As the top seed, he bashed his way to easy titles in both singles and doubles, and shot up 30 spots in the rankings as a result. A fine week for him as he seeks to improve his stock towards the end of the year.
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Old 09-10-2016, 10:03 PM   #486
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Second Week

Six of the top eight made the quarterfinals, with rising stars Cirakovic(19th) and Niklas(27th) quite notable exceptions. The first was easy straight-setted by Girsh, while the second gave Iglar a match for the second straight tournament, but lost in four. Gustavo Caratti ended the USA's dim hopes by stopping Gaskell, but the one match really worth watching was Anil Mehul against Mugur Kinczllers. This one stood out to me even when the draw was first released. Kinczllers is typically at his best on hardcourts, though he's had a rough time of it recently, and lately you never know how much of his game Mehul will have. The Italian took a couple of close sets early, but eventually relinquished the lead. Early in the fifth he took control though, and Anil could never seriously threaten in the decider. He falls well short of defending his title though his effort in the comeback cannot be questioned. 7-5, 7-6(5), 4-6, 4-6, 6-3 was the final score. He missed some chances in the first two sets, and that was his opportunity to win this. At the end, Kinczllers was the better player.

Girish Girsh lost a set for the first time this tournament in his semi, but Kinczllers went out in four. It really wasn't even as close as that would indicate, he just lost his focus for a bit. Iglar knocking out Gustavo Caratti in straight sets surprised basically nobody. For the third time in five weeks, Antonin Iglar was the opposition for a big final. Very little changed. Iglar's serve remained his biggest weapon(23 aces to 12), but didn't give him quite enough edge to offset his declining abilities in other areas. Girsh puts an undeniable stamp on the fact that he is alone at the top of the sport now with a 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory. His fourth Slam overall but third on the year, this ends any doubt that he'll remain at the top well into next season at the very least.
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Old 09-10-2016, 10:12 PM   #487
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Girish Girsh(SRI, 28) -- 14,660

Girsh is pretty rarified air here. He's not just #1 now, but a dominant champion with a considerable cushion. He is 67-4 on the season, and hasn't loss since Roland Garros -- 24 straight in the win column. 'Weak era' or not, it's impressive stuff.

2. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 30) -- 11,180

Iglar is pretty much laminated here in the second spot. He'll eventually give way to others of course but Caratti can't win enough off of clay, at least yet, to knock him down further. It's quite clear his days at the top are now finished though. He's been amazing, a living legend, but the slow fall is now here. I don't envy him the consideration of nine straight defeats in Slam finals ... that can't be an easy thing to live with.

3. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 28) -- 9,330

The undisputed king of clay has not been able to do enough elsewhere to close the gap, and now his best play is behind him just as it is for the others.

4. Anil Mehul(SRI, 31) -- 7,130

Finally dropping away now is Mehul, as the pecking order of the big four is quite clear at this point. The questions coming into this year have emphatically resolved themselves.

5. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 28) -- 5,140

Reaching the semis at the USO rescued his fall, and gives him this spot again ... for now.

6. Theodore Bourdet(FRA, 28) -- 4,800

7. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 31) -- 3,920

Like Mehul, only capable of producing good results occasionally now.

8. Davide Poilblan(FRA, 27) -- 3,575

Consistent inconsistency is the name of Poilblan's game.

9. Agustin Herrera(PER, 26) -- 3,505

10. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 33) -- 3,350
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Old 09-10-2016, 10:34 PM   #488
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-USO Edition

In

Girish Girsh -- 12,710
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,340
Antonin Iglar -- 7,580

Girsh is the runaway #1 this year, while Iglar has joined the field yet again as anticipated. Caratti holds the second spot for now, but he can't compete with Iglar in the upcoming events and he'll soon fade to third again.


Probable

Anil Mehul -- 5360
Mugur Kinczllers -- 4870
Theodore Bourdet -- 3760

Looks like Mehul hangs onto the fourth spot through the end of the year, but it's far from certain. Kinczllers looks secure in fifth, and for the two of them it's basically just awaiting the paperwork to book their spots. Bourdet looks likely, but he's got a lot more work to do.


Contenders

Bjorn Benda -- 3250
Pierce Gaskell -- 3210
------------------------
Agustin Herrera -- 3125

A rather fascinating thing has happened here. Both Benda and Gaskell did better than expected in the last month ... Benda went out early in the big events, but won the German Open(500) ... and now we have some drama to the finish. Two old war-horses, making a final push for one last appearance.


Long Shots

Davide Poilblan -- 2705
Shreya Ujjaval -- 2705
Thiago Herrera -- 2515
Prakash Mooljee -- 2405
Tobia Alberti -- 2395
Elias Trulsen -- 2385
Roger Federer -- 2270

Everybody here really needs a big finish at this point, given that it's now pretty close to the end. Poilblan and Ujjaval esp. still have a chance though, about 500 points back and a couple of veterans and a clay specialist ahead of them that could go out early in any tournament. Mooljee's chances are more remote ... he actually lost a bit of ground on the qualifying line in the past weeks has too much ground to make up to do it with a breakthrough performance or two. That's not out of the question completely, but unquestionably time is running short. The list has thinned a bit here, and will unquestionably thin further over the next few weeks, by the end of Shanghai.
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Old 09-10-2016, 10:47 PM   #489
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Girsh Girsh -- 1st singles. If he finishes well, Girsh has a chance for a historically great season. It's already basically assured of being clearly his best. He'll seek to make hay while the sun shines, well aware that sooner or later, Mooljee is coming ...

Anil Mehul -- 4th singles. Mehul has pretty much settled in now and will hope to hold off the pack and stay fourth this year. A five-year run in which he won at least one Slam title each season has now come to an end. No finals for him either. That's as good a book-end as any. Interestingly, his winning percentage is nearly identical to last season's, he reduced the bad losses but just can't get it done against the top players any more.

Prakash Mooljee -- 13th to 12th singles, 202nd to 190th doubles. With ok results, but not as good as he is capable of, Mooljee continues to progress slowly. There's only a 200-point gap between 11th and 16th right now, and he's right in the middle of that pack. It is still very possible that he could finish as high as 10th.

Shreya Ujjaval -- 17th to 13th singles, 54th doubles(unchanged). Ujjaval had a poor USO but other than that it's been a pretty impressive year for him. 13th in the world but only 4th from his nation. Heady stuff for Sri Lanka, that!

Shyam Senepathy -- 80th singles(unchanged). Still looks pretty much like he's treading water at the moment.

Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 77th to 54th juniors. At 33-1 in singles this year, he's pretty much flattened all comers. The time has come for Dudwadkar to move up. He'll be looking to gain as much as he can in the rankings towards the end of the year, as that will position him best to play the big events next season. The importance of this is in gaining more experience from these tournaments.

Manager Ranking -- 2nd to 1st! Another goal achieved; the US Open win put me over the top. 44.6 to 46.8k points. Really the only thing left here is to reach oprice's record of 64k+ or get as close to it as I can. I'm confident I can hit over 50k but beyond that I'm less certain.


Coming Up ...

Time for the World Team Cup to get going again. We meet Spain in the quarterfinals next week.
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Old 09-12-2016, 02:08 PM   #490
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World Team Cup Quarterfinals
Sri Lanka vs. Spain, Clay

Monday: G. Girsh d. J. de los Santos, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-4
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. S. Davila, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0
Wednesday: E. Serrano/I. Malpica d. S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
Thursday: G. Girsh d. S. Davila, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1
Friday: A. Mehul d. J. de los Santos, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Sri Lanka defeats Spain, 4-1!!

Pretty solid week, more or less as expected. I thought we might lose one of the singles encounters possibly here, as it was on Spain's favored clay. We move on to face Argentina in the semifinals in a couple of weeks. If that is on clay as well we are in more serious jeopardy ... but it is indoors, so we should be fine. A 3-2 win with a doubles loss and Mehul losing to Caratti would seem to be the worst-case scenario. On the other side of the bracket, the United States will meet Italy, who narrowly upset the Czech Republic 3-2. We're still #1 overall, gaining slightly in our margin over the US, while Argentina is the top nation this year so far, pushing into a strong third position. I expect we'll put a stop to that, at least for the moment. Italy's done second-best for the top nations so far, already up six spots to 11th. Making the semis is huge for them.

Coming Up ...

Dudwadkar is back in action next week, and then the semifinals against Argentina after that.
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Old 09-14-2016, 07:57 PM   #491
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The schedule towards the end of the year is turning challenging in terms of juniors; it's a lot more difficult at this point to find top events with a 'diluted' enough field that Dudwadkar can do well in them. For that reason, he took another event on short break the next week, an indoor tier-2 in Minsk. Doubles didn't go well as he lost in the first round, despite being part of the top-seeded team. Singles was better though; Dudwadkar claimed his second straight title at this level. He moves up into the Top 50 in juniors for the first time, and this point has a projected ranking of 11th to start next season. I'd like to do better, but that's not half bad.

Then ...

World Team Cup Semifinals
Sri Lanka(1st) vs. Argentina(3rd), Indoors

Monday: G. Girsh d. T. Benitez, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
Tuesday: A. Mehul d. G. Caratti, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8)
Wednesday: V. Yumashev/G. Disanti d. S. Ujjaval/P.Moojee, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0
Thursday: G. Girsh d. G. Caratti, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Friday: A. Mehul d. T. Benitez, 6-2, 7-5, 7-6(7)

Sri Lanka defeats Argentina, 4-1!!

Even on our most beneficial surface, it was far from a walk in the park. Give Gustavo Caratti credit for playing a couple of tough rubbers, but we ultimately won all the ones we were supposed to and move into the final. Elsewhere, on clay, Italy defeated the United States in their second straight upset, 4-1. All but one of the singles tilts there were close, two went the distance. The key players on both sides are on the decline, but this time around Kinczllers was the best player. Italy is up to 7th now, and this is to my knowledge the best result they've ever achieved.

The final will be on hardcourt, where Mugur Kinczllers is still one of the best in the world. We only need to beat him once, as Alberti shouldn't be much of a threat. We should take it 3-2 or 4-1; I don't see us losing both times against their standard-bearer.
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Old 09-14-2016, 08:05 PM   #492
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Japan Open(500)

Everybody else is off for practice this week, but this is a highly important tournament for Prakash Mooljee. This is basically his last, best chance to move up more this year and possibly even get back in the Tour Finals discussion. Last year he was a quarterfinalist this year, but he's aiming higher. Unfortunately he hasn't played well in practice recently, so I'm not optimistic ...

Some good fortune as the draw laid out nearly perfectly. The other 500 this week, the China Open, had a much tougher field but for some reason Marcek bowed out here at the last minute and he was a potential threat. Additionally, Mooljee was drawn on the opposite side of probably the biggest danger, Pierce Gaskell. Mooljee is seeded second, and Ujjaval was here as well in the third spot.

There were no big surprises in the first two rounds. Ujjaval was upset in the third round, a tough three-set match against Andre Herrera. Mooljee met phenom Luc Janin at that stage but it ended up his easiest match of the tournament, as he blasted the Canadian 6-1, 6-2. A fine performance. A strange semi against Fabricio Gilardino, who is good enough to cause problems. Mooljee was by far the better player but couldn't convert(1 of 18!! break chances). Fortunately the American had similar troubles, getting stoned on all six of his opportunities, and Prakash won. That was to be the toughest obstacle as Herrera also knocked out Gaskell in his semi, but was no match in the final. Prakash Mooljee gets a much-needed second 500 crown, both of his career, and this season, which will hopefully give him some confidence going into Shanghai next week.

Beyond that, he moves onto the first page for the first time as #10 ... three Sri Lankans there now! Even more notable, in the grand scheme of things and to the average fan, is the fact that Bjorn Benda drops off for the first time. It's sort of a final good-bye to the former #1 from Germany.
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Old 09-14-2016, 08:34 PM   #493
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Pre-Shanghai Edition

** Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't calculate this again until after the Shanghai Masters. However, I'm going to be looking at it week-to-week from this point on, as I will be needing to adjust Mooljee's scheduling choices based in considerable part on how this unfolds, how much of a chance he has of getting in, etc. So I might as well share it with the thread also while I'm doing that.**

In -- the cut line is presently at 4740

Girish Girsh -- 12,710
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,290
Antonin Iglar -- 7,680
Anil Mehul -- 5410
Mugur Kinczllers -- 5120

Kinczllers and Mehul have officially qualified, reducing the number of undetermined spots to three.


Probable

Theodore Bourdet -- 3670

Bourdet is sort of in no-man's land here, and his spot could still come into question if he doesn't get one more good result.


Contenders

Agustin Herrera -- 3305
Bjorn Benda -- 3300
--------------------------------------------------------
Pierce Gaskell -- 3250


Long Shots

Prakash Mooljee -- 2860
Shreya Ujjaval -- 2750
Thiago Herrera -- 2695
Davide Poilblan -- 2505
Tobia Alberti -- 2415
Elias Trulsen -- 2385

The list has shortened by a couple of names already(McCuskey and Federer), and I expect two or three more to drop off after Shanghai. Mooljee's win in Japan essentially leapt him to the head of the class among the long-shots, just in front of Ujjaval. Make no mistake about it though, he's still a long shot. The gap he needs to make up is still considerable(440 points right now), but it was nearly cut in half. With four weeks left, he'll need to take every opportunity to have any real chance to make it. Right now though it's still three playing for two spots(Herrera, Benda, and Gaskell) until somebody demonstrates otherwhise.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-14-2016 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 09-15-2016, 09:31 PM   #494
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Shanghai Masters

Usually the last hardcourt masters event of the year is relatively predictable given the swing of events that leads into the US Open just a month prior. In this case though, there were some interesting surprises in store.

Shyam Senepathy, again, exited stage right in the first round of qualifying. There were a number of interesting first-round matches, but the only one that resulted in a seeded player losing was Federer going down to Lars Kroese, 6-3, 7-6(10). Remember Kroese's name; he's young and on the rise. I think I'll be talking more about him in the years to come. Bjorn Benda had a tough one in the first round against countryman Moicevic but came through, and A. Herrera was pushed the three sets by US qualifier Robert Jerrold. Other than that, pretty straightforward.

With the quality of play picking up, there were some good matches to watch in the second round. Agustin Herrera couldn't dodge a second bullet, becoming the first Top-10 scalp of Luc Janin, who continues to force himself into the headlines. 6-1, 6-7(8), 7-6(5) was the final, as even when Herrera got going after the slow start he couldn't quite get past the 20-year-old Canadian. Poilblan was pushed to three by a German qualifier, and a couple of tense encounters saw McCuskey just barely survive Andronikov, and Ujjaval sneak past Cirakovic. Those could have gone either way, ending in three long sets. Meanwhile, qualifier Milan Farkas, a blast from the past, outplayed Benda but the German vet still prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. I've had him dead and buried most of the year, but Benda still manages to find his way through his share of the time.

In the third round, Tiosav Srbulovic continued his late-season hardcourt push by rallying from the loss of a set to oust no. 6 Theodore Bourdet. Then, Prakash Mooljee found himself up against Gustavo Caratti. Both on paper and on the court, it had the look a match that could go either way. Mooljee is the better player on this surface by now, but how many nearly-won matches has he lost this year? It nearly happened again before he recorded a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(5) victory. A rare appearance by his serve helped immensely as he notched 21 aces. Khasan Zakirov, who has not been heard from much lately, took out Gaskell in a pair of tiebreaks to reach his first quarterfinal in a Masters or better, and Janin did so as well by eliminating Poilblan in a close match.

So both of the French players were gone, and three unseeded players reached the last eight here. Not exactly the usual way of things. An impressive start by Girsh saw him lose just two games against Srbulovic, while Mooljee was equally stunning in a 6-4, 6-2 demolition of Mugur Kinczllers, winning all seven break points against the world no. 5 on his best surface. This might be his most impressive display yet, and the opposite of his trend this year of not taking the opportunities presented. Iglar flattened Zakirov in quick fashion, and Anil Mehul was nearly a third consecutive upset victim of Janin before rallying, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. The Canadian upstart appears to be progressing faster than I would have though possible.

The fourth meeting between Girish Girsh and Mooljee went as the first three have; Girsh in straight sets, and this one wasn't even close. It seems Prakash left all of his best tennis behind in the past couple of rounds, but a pair of Top-5 wins and a second Masters semi for the year came at a much-needed time for him, providing a huge boost. Antonin Iglar figured to once again be the final opponent, but Mehul surprisingly snapped a six-match losing streak lasting over a year against him, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4!

That left a chance for history to be made. If Anil Mehul won, he would break Gorritepe's record for the oldest man to win a Masters event by nearly half a year. When Girsh came out flat, it looked like it would happen. He came back to even the match, and the third set was in doubt until the end. Mehul's bid came up short, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, but it was still a whale of a run and his first final in a big event this year.
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Old 09-15-2016, 09:42 PM   #495
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-Shanghai Edition

I had to make one significant adjustment after noticing something. It's quite a rare situation, but one playerDavide Poilblan has played a bunch of 250s and virtually no 500s this year. He's won most of them, and the game is counting them instead of taking the 'empty' 500 slots -- usually 4 500s and 2 250s is how it works out. After boosting Poilblan's total to account for this, I am left with an incredibly close race for the final spots with just three weeks to go ...


In -- the cut line is presently at 4320

Girish Girsh -- 13,710
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,310
Antonin Iglar -- 8,040
Anil Mehul -- 6,010
Mugur Kinczllers -- 5,300

Early exits by Caratti and Kinczllers have changed things a bit. It looks very likely now that Mehul, having reached the first big-event final of his season here, will hang on to the fourth spot, and Caratti looks ripe for the picking by Iglar as the season wraps up.


Probable

Theodore Bourdet -- 3760

A third-round exit for Bourdet does little more than maintain his spot. He's still over 500 points short of the qualification line.


Contenders

Bjorn Benda -- 3390
Agustin Herrera -- 3350
--------------------------------------------------------
Pierce Gaskell -- 3340
Prakash Mooljee -- 3220
Davide Poilblan -- 3195

Mooljee is now officially in the hunt after his second Masters semi of the season. It's been a heck of a two weeks and I now actually think he's going to make it, but he's still on the outside looking in for the moment. This is shaping up to be potentially the most dramatic Race I've had in all my years here. Five players going for two spots even if you don't count Bourdet, and less than 200 points separating them. In terms of strategizing for the big finish, Mooljee is going to just keep playing ... he's got to build up his form for the off-season anyway, esp. if he doesn't make the cut. Most of the others are going to take time off, which is probably a mistake but we'll see how it goes - they will be fresher for the finish at Paris, where Bourdet and Poilblan have a big advantage from the crowd.

Every match is vital from here on out ...


Long Shots

Shreya Ujjaval -- 2840
Thiago Herrera -- 2785
Elias Trulsen -- 2430
Tobia Alberti -- 2415

Due to the fact that the three main contenders(Benda, A. Herrera, Gaskell) didn't do much, nobody dropped off this week. Even Alberti, who is under new management that is apparently double-focused and didn't even enter the singles draw, is still technically hanging around. Everybody here is at least 500 points off the pace though, so they need a big push and some luck at this point.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-15-2016 at 09:44 PM.
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Old 09-16-2016, 05:26 PM   #496
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250s Week

Three events, all 250s, all indoors.

** Kremlin Cup -- Iglar is the top seed, with second-seeded Bjorn Benda the only one relevant to the race. Benda made it to the semis before losing badly to Zakirov, who did well to get to the final against the world no. 2. Unfortunately for Bjorn, this does not add anything to his total for the year -- he needed to make the final to improve.

** Stockholm Open -- Prakash Mooljee was seeded first here. Elias Trulsen dropped out in the quarters, hurting his already basically non-existent chances as the only other player here active in the Race. Guardado gave Mooljee a bit of a match in the quarters, but it was the next round where things got more interesting. 19th-ranked Sava Cirakovic is 3-0 against him, including a third-round win at RG this year in their only professional meeting. Mooljee got off to a bad start but soon rectified that in a straight-sets win. Andronikov was up next in what was an evenly-contested final. Mooljee's serve was a bit better and he played the big points a bit better to get a nice comeback win, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3. It was the only match of the tournament where either player lost a set, and a good example of Mooljee's recent turnaround; he's now consistently winning, instead of consistently losing, these kinds of matches where he is the better player but not by enough to avoid giving them chances. This is a nice boost to get the title here, where he also won last season, and should put him in the WTF field for the time being.

** European Open -- Top-seed Davide Poilblan is the only one to notice here. He cruised to the final against Tomas Niklas, where he needed a pair of tiebreak sets to narrowly claim the crown. An expected result, not least of which due to the fact that Poilblan is a skilled indoor player.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-16-2016 at 05:30 PM.
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Old 09-16-2016, 05:48 PM   #497
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Join Date: May 2006
Race to the World Tour Finals
Two Weeks Remaining


In -- the cut line is presently at 4310, dropping just 10 pts.

Girish Girsh -- 13,710
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,310
Antonin Iglar -- 8,040
Anil Mehul-- 6,010
Mugur Kinczllers -- 5,300

No change here as the top six players all took the week off, a wise decision in most cases as they'll be looking to make a bigger splash in Paris and at the Tour Finals.


Probable

Theodore Bourdet -- 3760

Bourdet could only have improved by winning one of the 250 events, and he's banking instead on a strong showing in one of the bigger tournaments next week.


Contenders

Prakash Mooljee -- 3425
Bjorn Benda -- 3390
--------------------------------------------------------
Agustin Herrera -- 3350
Pierce Gaskell -- 3340
Davide Poilblan -- 3295

Mooljee was the big winner this week as Benda didn't make it far enough to help, and Poilblan's 5th 250 title on the year didn't improve his standing as much. Overall things tightened up even further here ... I double-checked the math and there are now five players within 130 points going for the two spots, with Bourdet even not that far ahead. For the moment, Mooljee is in and Herrera out, but it's like the weather here ... wait five minutes, it could change again.


Long Shots

Shreya Ujjaval -- 2840
Thiago Herrera -- 2785
Elias Trulsen -- 2670
Tobia Alberti -- 2445

All still on life support.


Coming Up ...

I made a potentially costly clerical error next week. Girsh, Mehul, and Mooljee are the top three seeds at the Swiss Indoors ... I'd intended to have Mehul play in Vienna. This will leave the door more open for others to do well there -- Bourdet is the top seed with Gaskell, Poilblan, Benda, and Trulsen all entered as well. Both events will have a somewhat stronger field than is typical for 500 events .. only the Herreras and Ujjaval are skipping these and putting all their eggs in the Paris basket.

Probably won't mean that much in the grand scheme of things, but Mehul could have kept Vienna out of the hands of the French. Those who do well this week will have the inside track going into Paris.
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:23 PM   #498
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500s Week

** Swiss Indoors -- As mentioned this could be otherwhise termed the Sri Lanka Invitational. Girsh, Mehul, and Mooljee are the top three seeds, with none of the lower ones relevant to the Race. Federer lost a tight one in the first round to Rui Padilla, but all the other seeds made the quarters as drawn. Straight-sets matches all around there with Tioslav Srbulovic the beneficiary of Federer going down. Both semifinals were blowouts, with Mooljee taking just three games from Girsh and Srbulovic four from Mehul. This is not really unexpected as both Girsh and Mehul still are quite proficient indoors, a hold-over from when I originally planned things that way. Mooljee is higher than I'd like on the surface but it is his worst objectively. The final was a heck of a match. Girish Girsh took the first set, but Anil Mehul rallied for a 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(5) barn-burner. It looked for most of it like Girsh's 20 aces(13 for Mehul) would be enough to get him through, but Anil played like a champion in the tiebreaks to get the mild upset. It's his sixth 500 crown.

In terms of the Race, the big news here is Mooljee can replace a second-round loss at Washington a few months back with a semifinal here, so he improves his standing somewhat.

** Vienna -- The French duo of Bourdet and Poilblan were heavily favored here, being quite proficient on indoor courts. With the top five seeds all still alive in the Race though, this was an even more important event in that regard. Elias Trulsen had to go to 13-11 in a third-set tiebreak to get through his first-round match, and Poilblan lost a set before roaring back in his, but all the seeds got past their first matches intact. None of them dropped a set in the second round, leading to a 'perfect' quarterfinal setup. Trulsen was obliterated 6-2, 6-0 by Theodore Bourdet, for all intents and purposes eliminating him although I'm not sure if the math will quite do that. Pierce Gaskell lost a tough one to Tomas Niklas, who is sure finishing well this year, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. The top US player will definitely need a big run in Paris to get back in it now. Bjorn Benda nearly lost as well, but got through a third-set breaker to squeak by Condon.

Both of the favored Frenchmen took care of business in straight-set semis, Bourdet over Benda and Poilblan over Niklas. Theodore Bourdet was the better in the final, 6-3, 6-4, and definitely solidified an already strong position at a minimum. Poilblan gained a bit but not much with his run to the final ... he really need to win here as he's just replacing one of his 250 titles so it's a minor plus. Benda will get a modest boost from making the semi, and Gaskell/Trulsen don't figure to gain at all.
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Old 09-17-2016, 05:41 PM   #499
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Pre-Paris Edition


In -- the cut line is presently at 3990

Girish Girsh -- 14,010
Antonin Iglar -- 8,690
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,380
Anil Mehul-- 6,510
Mugur Kinczllers -- 5,300
Theodore Bourdet -- 4,160

Partly due to recalculation(the 500/250 issue), Iglar has taken his expected #2 spot back. Girsh has an astonishing gap at the top, and Mehul a strong grip on the #4. It looks nearly certain that this will be the final order of the top six with only the margins changing a bit. Bourdet's title in Vienna combined with earlier losses by others have him confirming his spot in the field as well.


Probable

none


Contenders

Prakash Mooljee -- 3560
Bjorn Benda -- 3390
-------------------------
Agustin Herrera -- 3350
Davide Poilblan -- 3345
Pierce Gaskell -- 3340

Mooljee solidified his hold on one of the spots but for the other one Poilblan moved closer. Something weird is going on with Herrera's ranking, I think there's a calculation bug again possibly in the game so hopefully that doesn't affect things at the end. Right now my money's on Mooljee and Poilblan, the latter needing something similar to last year's quarterfinal run in Paris. He's very capable of it, and I'd expect him to go deeper than Benda ... given a decent draw. Four players within 50 points for the final spot ... it can't get any closer than that, and Mooljee isn't out of the woods either. He needs a few wins to be sure of his spot; worst-case scenario, he'd have to make the final to be absolutely certain.


Long Shots


Shreya Ujjaval -- 2840
Thiago Herrera -- 2785
Elias Trulsen -- 2670
Tobia Alberti -- 2415

Everybody here basically has to win the title in Paris to have a chance. They have one mathematically, but not practically speaking. None has been playing well lately(Alberti hasn't even been playing at all, in singles), and none is particularly good indoors.


Coming Up ...

As usual given the closeness of the competition for the final spots, I'll be doing round-by-round updates on Paris as I'm able. As of this writing it is Sunday so qualifying is going on. Around midnight or so, most of the nine remaining hopefuls will be playing their first matches. Unlike the last couple of Masters events, Tobia Alberti did enter in singles here so he can't actually be eliminated quite yet.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 09-17-2016 at 05:42 PM.
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Old 09-17-2016, 09:42 PM   #500
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Paris Masters: First Round

Due to a quirk, Tobia Alberti was not seeded(17th, top 16 get a bye) and his first singles match in two months comes in the first round. Basically his only chance to qualify is to win the tournament and have several others lose their first match. As it happened, he drew one of the toughest matchups he could have; 20th-ranked Sava Cirakovic. Alberti was bageled in the first set and went on to lose 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. So that's that -- it was expected to happen quickly but not necessarily this fast. He's gone, and the list of players competing for the final pair of spots is cut from nine to eight; almost all of them have now learned who their first foe will be.
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