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Old 06-19-2016, 11:32 AM   #401
Brian Swartz
Pro Rookie
 
Join Date: May 2006
2046 Australian Open

Shreya Ujjaval had a somewhat unfortunate draw, going up against 16th-seeded Bourdet in the first round. It was a competitive match, but he lost in straight sets. Prakash Mooljee, on the other hand, was quite fortunate. His first opponent was Ivo Montalvo(ARG, 77th). Mooljee surrendered just six games, controlling the match easily and dominating break points(11 of 13 overall won) to crush him. Another early story was that the Peruvians came in unprepared with not nearly enough matches played. 12th-seeded Agustin Herrera was one of three seeds to lose in their opening match and by far the highest, falling to 46th-ranked Mqabukonyongolo Nkomo, South Africa's top player, in shockingly easy fashion -- 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. Thiago Herrera, the world's #9, barely outlasted Hector Deblock, 7-5 in the 5th.

In the second round, Mooljee faced 28-seed Khasan Zakirov of Uzbekistan. It was their sixth meeting, with Mooljee winning three in a row until losing in the Samarkand challenger final last year. Here he took an opening-set tiebreak and then thumped Zakirov from there out for another straight-set win and his first third-round appearance in a Slam. Thiago Herrera had no heroics this time in a close straight-set loss to Jens Petersen of Denmark, a humiliatingly early defeat for a Top-10 player. The rest pretty much went according to form, though Radek Smitala was pushed hard, going the max against Chinese wild-card Yoo-ngan Doon. Another American, 31st-seed Philip Carter, had his second five-setter in as many rounds, going to 10-8 in the decider.

Anil Mehul and Girish Girsh continued to cruise in the third round, taking out a pair of Americans in Smitala and Fabricio Gilardino. They've won all matches so far easily in straight sets as you might expect. Mooljee had Marcelo Herrera up next, the best of the Peru players remaining. He still wasn't up to full speed though, and in the biggest win of his career by far Prakash thumped him 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, moving into the fourth round! Other notable result included a extremely tight match that saw Federer survive in five over Condon, and Peter Sampras pulling off a fairly stunning upset over Trulsen in four sets.

In the fourth round, Mooljee's gravy train ended as he was Mehul's opponent. All the cliches about how the achievement was in just getting here, etc. applied to this. It was a mismatch, and although Mooljee stole a set Mehul outclassed him as expected, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, 6-2. Roger Federer had another five-setter and won again, this time coming from two sets down against fellow veteran Pierce Gaskell. Girsh had a bit closer match than in earlier rounds but still won in straight sets over Bourdet, and Caratti staged a comeback from being down two sets as well, over Marcek.

On to the second week, where it was mostly the usual suspects with Bourdet and Federer crashing the party. The Frenchman met up with Mehul and made it a match before losing in a competitive four-setter. Federer wasn't done yet, and knocked off Bjorn Benda 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Antonin Iglar and Mugur Kinczllers, both of whom sailed through to this point, had a trio of 6-4 sets, all won by Iglar. In the last match, Girsh had to survive a pair of tiebreaks to do it, but he still hasn't lost a set after defeating Caratti.

At 29 years old, Roger Federer(15th, SUI) is making his first appearance in the second week of a Slam. That's quite an unusual set of circumstances. Also interesting was that Anil Mehul, after defeating him in a pretty close straight-sets win, reached the final without having played anyone ranked higher. The second semi was the more anticipated, with the winner between Iglar and Girsh set to take the #2 ranking after the tournament. Girsh prevailed for the fourth time in their last five meetings, 6-3, 6-7(11), 6-3, 6-4, allowing only one break in five chances. The career head-to-head is still very much lopsided, but right now Girsh seems to clearly have the upper hand.

Yet another all-Sri Lanka final. Girsh would be within striking distance of the #1 ranking if he won, not to mention that whole first Slam title thing. He was a bit more tired though, while Mehul was still playing at his best in this one. That was enough, though only barely. It looked like Girsh might have it after taking the third set to seize control of the match, but Mehul finished best for a 7-5, 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory. He's now won 7 total Slams, tying him for sixth on the all-time list with a great many others, including Benda. That's also three straight on hardcourt after he had not won a single one on this surface previously. As for Girsh, he still moves past Iglar into second place, while Mooljee is up to a new high well at 33rd -- right on the edge of the challengers/elite break in the rankings.

Up Next ...

Another tournament for Dudwadkar, while the rest go up against the unprepared Peruvians in the next round of WTC group play.
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:53 PM   #402
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
World Team Cup, Group 3, Second Round
Sri Lanka(2nd) vs. Peru(8th), Clay

Monday: A. Mehul d. M. Herrera, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. T. Herrera, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1
Wednesday: S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee d. J. Torres/E. Echiverri, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Thursday: A. Mehul d. T. Herrera, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
Friday: G. Girsh d. M. Herrera, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2

Sri Lanka defeats Peru, 5-0!!

A rather resounding win as we crush Peru. The theme continues to be their lack of match readiness at the start of the season, though they are getting closer. Mooljee also gets his first WTC doubles win. Still in 2nd, in fact lost a bit of ground despite the one-sided victory as the US has not lost a rubber so far this year. All of this is just the preamble though. We have Germany on grass in our next tie a couple months from now to determine who takes this group. We'll definitely be favored again.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar entered one final tier-5 as there was an event in Colombo this week. Partly due to fatigue, he lost in the final both singles and doubles. Florentino Suarez, who I mentioned a bit ago as a very fast-rising young juniors player, beat him soundly 6-2, 6-2. To get through longer events with a lot of matches he just needs endurance to be a bit higher, but it's coming and every juniors player deals with that.

Coming Up ...

Time for the first big break of the year heading into the IW/Miami Masters. Mehul and Girsh will take the whole month off. Mooljee will be playing either a challenger or a bigger event the week before -- eyeing the Delray Beach 250 right now but it really depends on what the prospective fields look like and where he is compared to the challenger cutoff. As of right now he's 58 points below 32nd place in 33rd, but that situation changes pretty much weekly. Either way he figures to be in seeding position for Indian Wells if he has a decent result that week -- only event in the interim for him to defend is a QF result at Dallas(CH2) last year and he'll improve on that barring a disaster. Dudwadkar will take the full four weeks as well. A good solid training break here.
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Old 06-20-2016, 02:39 PM   #403
Umbrella
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: The Springs, CO
I remember seeing Suarez. He and Heinen have met a couple of times, splitting their matches. He's going to be a good one, and I'm surprised nobody has picked him up yet.
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Old 06-23-2016, 09:50 PM   #404
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
February/March

Only one tournament the final week before Indian Wells. Prakash Mooljee heads to what may or may not be his final challenger, a tier-2 in Singapore. It's a heavy week of challengers and there was only one remotely plausible challenger, 2-seed Akihiro Sugiyama(JPN, 49th) -- and Sugiyama was worn out, losing in the quarterfinals. Mooljee considered Delray Beach(250), but he would have only been the 5th-seed there so who knows what would have happened, and going to Singapore ensured he would be well set up for a chance at winning some matches in the masters events. Major on the majors. As it ended up, 7-seed Shyam Senepathy was the only competitive match at 6-3, 6-4 in the quarters. Mooljee stomped everyone else to snag his 16th challenger crown.

Mooljee moves up to 31st guaranteeing him a seed spot for his first Masters event, and everyone else will have their first tournament in about a month as well.
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Old 06-26-2016, 02:37 PM   #405
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Indian Wells Masters

Early Rounds

Shreya Ujjaval crushed a qualifier in the first round, then got flattened by Iglar in the second round. This equaled his results last year here. Can't fault him for losing to the world no. 3 of course. The 19th and 20th seeds, Condon and Smitala, were early casualties and Agustin Herrera almost joined them. Mooljee had a credible opponent in Italian Silvio Boccasino(54th) but advanced easily.

Things started to get hairy in the third round. Quite a few of the higher-ranked seeds were dismissed. Anil Mehul was almost one of them, barely surviving Peter Sampras 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(3). 18 aces from the American were almost enough to win a tight match, but Mehul escapes. A. Herrera was upended by Zourab Andronikov, the lowest seed in the field. M. Herrera(third-set breaker against Tobia Alberti(ITA, 18th), Federer(straight sets to Max Benitez(ARG, 26th)), and Bourdet(shockingly one-sided loss to Milan Farkas(CZE, 22nd)) all left early. T. Herrera and Benda had surprisingly tough 3-set victories as well. Prakash Mooljee was set to exit at this point, going up against no. 7 Mugur Kinczllers who is a Top-5 player on hardcourts. Incredibly, he pulled off one of the biggest upsets I've ever seen, a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(9) classic. Kinczllers is every bit as good from the baseline and a much better server as well as more proficient on this surface. This match should not have been close, and is a huge victory for Mooljee.

In the fourth round, a couple of easy wins for Mehul & Girsh completed their first week. Alberti continued a strong tournament by knocking out Pierce Gaskell, the 6th seed. Perry Mockler sent Benda home early in a very tight match that ended in a tiebreaker. Trulsen surprisingly lost in three to T. Herrera as well. Mooljee had another long match, this one against Cestmir Marcek(CZE, 14th). Even at 31, Marcek is the favorite here but not by nearly as much as Kinczllers was. Still, Prakash started strong and blanked the veteran Czech in a first-set tiebreak. He fended off a number of break points in the second set and led 4-1 in another breaker, just three points from the match. And then the wheels came off. He lost six straight points to drop the set, then crumbled to an 0-3 deficit in the third. At that point he regained his focus to break back once, but wouldn't have a chance to get even and loses a match he had nearly won, 6-7(0), 7-6(4), 6-4. A mixture of celebration and disappointment here as it was highly improbable for him to even get to this point, but being three points away from the second week and losing is a hard pill.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar had his second tier-4 juniors in Beijing. A harder-than-optimal practice week leading up to it caused fatigue problems, and he lost in the semis in singles, quarterfinals in doubles. He's running into the usual junior problem where often practice matches get played even at more than the 300 fatigue limit. Still got five matches in, which will allow him to take a few weeks off.


Second Week

Mehul got past Alberti in his quarterfinal, but it was a tight one with a long 12-10 tiebreak in the second set. He seems to be doing just enough to advance right now. Gustavo Caratti had his first real resistance against Mockler but made it through in three sets, while Girsh(over T. Herrera) and Iglar(against Marcek) easily advanced.

Caratti had guaranteed himself the #4 ranking, surpassing Benda by making it this far. Mehul won a first-set tiebreak but then basically collapsed, falling 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2. Overall it's been a disappointing tournament in terms of his level of play and it finally caught up to him. In the second match, Girsh's recent run of success against Iglar continued, 6-3, 7-6(4). That's four straight now, a clear trend. He won a similarly competitive final against Caratti, claiming his 4th Masters Shield without the loss of a set. He probably should have lost the final to be frank -- the Argentine played a more consistent match but had too many lapses.

We'll do it all over again now in Miami.
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:01 PM   #406
Brian Swartz
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Miami Masters

There was a fourth Sri Lankan in the main draw for the first time in any major event. Shyam Senepathy made it through qualifying -- and was summarily dismissed by Spaniard Juan de los Santos 7-6(3), 6-1 in the first round. Still, a very good result for a player well outside the Top 100. Shreya Ujjaval matched up with another rising young player in Blagota Cojanovic, winning convincingly after losing a tight tiebreak in the first set. This was just a prelude to a shocking upset of No. 8 Elias Trulsen, 6-3, 7-5, in the second round. It was a huge win for Ujjaval, by miles the best player he's defeated even if Trulsen is off to a terrible start on the year. Smitala and Gilardino both lost their first matches but nobody else in the Top 20 failed to advance. Prakash Mooljee had a straightforward win over veteran Olav Birkeland in straight sets.

Form continued to hold for the most part in the third round. Anil Mehul was pushed to three sets but dominated the two he won against (26) Roberto Martin. Ujjaval continued to impress, handing out a pair of breadsticks to unseeded Lan-Feng Chen(CHN) to reach his first round of 16 in any big event. Perry Mockler(to Sampras) and Thiago Herrera(to Alberti) were significant upset victims only on paper. Mooljee learned how far he is from being the best in suffering the consequences of an unkind draw in taking just three games from Girish Girsh.

A shocking result for Mehul in the fourth round, as he roundly outplayed Garreth McCuskey yet somehow lost 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4). For Anil to fall in the first week of a big hardcourt event is nearly unthinkable, as it is for almost any world no. 1. He had a huge edge in pressuring McCuskey on serve(115 points served to 74), won 37% of his return points to just 26% for the American, yet McCuskey converted 2 of 3 break chances and took the tiebreak at the end to pull off a collosal upset that will not soon be forgotten. Ujjaval stunningly kept right on trucking with a straight-sets dismissal of Agustin Herrera, Gustavo Caratti lost to Marcelo Herrera, and Sampras upended Gaskell in a long three-set match. Four upsets in four matches, and that was just the top half of the draw. On the bottom side, Girsh and Iglar continued to progress easily, but Bjorn Benda lost at this early stage for the second straight event, this time to Theodore Bourdet. Alberti nearly knocked out Mugur Kinczllers who barely survived his challenge in three sets.

All of this set up an extremely unconventional second week. The quarterfinals featured just three of the top eight seeds, all of them in the bottom half. In the top, McCuskey became Shreya Ujjaval's latest victim, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Rather astonishing to see the 57th-ranked Ujjaval take out a player that #1 Mehul could not. Sampras eliminated M. Herrera in another long three-set win for him. On the other side, Girsh continued to ease through flattening Bourdet, while Iglar narrowly escaped Kinczllers 5-7, 7-6(1), 7-6(3).

The semifinals were quite a pair of matches then. In the first, unseeded Shreya Ujjaval and 24th-seed Peter Sampras. I don't think I've ever seen players ranked this low make a Masters semifinal ... and to have two of them?!? Ujjaval was by this time exhausted -- he of course had not expected to make it nearly this far -- and was finally overwhelmed. Antonin Iglar nearly ended his losing streak against Girsh, but eventually succumbed 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(3). It was the only set Girish Girsh lost these past few weeks, as he easily dispatched Sampras to complete the IW/Miami double and his 5th Masters Shield.

Mehul nearly lost his #1 ranking and may yet do so in the months to come, while Ujjaval jumped more than 20 spots in the rankings to the low 30s, and Sampras' final appearance gained him several spots as well. It was a most unexpected turn of events here in Miami, and as attention turns to the clay season there are perhaps more questions than ever.
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:13 PM   #407
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Anil Mehul(SRI, 30) -- 12,240

Mehul played well enough to win easily in his loss at Miami, but he's definitely looked vulnerable and ... well, old. At the beginning of the year the question was whether Iglar could knock him off his post, but it appears his younger, oft-overlooked compatriot will be the one to do that.

2. Girish Girsh(SRI, 26) -- 12,110

Girsh is off to a fantastic start, and the wins in Indian Wells and Miami have him very close to reaching the top spot.

3. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 29) -- 8,870

It can no longer be seriously argued that Iglar's motivation is fully in the game. He's still more than a match for almost anyone but Girsh has clearly surpassed him.

4. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 26) -- 7,670

Could have gone another round or two at Miami, but Caratti continues to gradually surge. There seems little doubt that he's poised to dominate the upcoming clay campaign.

5. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 31) -- 7,140

Having now slid out of the Top 4, Benda is now fully in the not-so-graceful decline phase of his career. Just a question of how long he wants to hang on at this point.

6. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 29) -- 4,410

Still 'best of the rest', but probably not even that by the end of the year.

7. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 27) -- 3,880

Kinczllers rebounded from the stunning early loss in IW with a good run at Miami. He'll hope for more slow progress during the clay season.

8. Elias Trulsen(SWE, 26) -- 3,800

It's been a really poor year for the Swede, who I thought would be pushing the Top 5 by now. He needs to find his game soon, as he's going to start declining before long.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 28) -- 3,440

10. Marcello Herrera(PER, 28) -- 2,975

Mostly the Peruvians are hanging around here at the bottom waiting to be deposed, but Marcello's upset of Caratti in Miami showed that they can still pull a rabbit or two out of the hat.

Russia's top hope Afanasy Bereznity has completely flaked out, or rather his manager has. He hasn't been seen in action for half a year and is tumbling when it was his turn to hit the big time. It's an unfortunate loss as he would have probably been crashing the Top 10 party by now. Nobody else is quite ready to make the leap yet, though the Frenchmen Bourdet + Poilblan along with American McCuskey are creeping closer and closer.
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Old 06-27-2016, 09:28 PM   #408
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Sri Lanka Rankings Update


Anil Mehul -- 1st singles(unchanged). Four losses already this year, and Mehul appears set to surrender the top spot to Girsh. He can put a bit of a stay on that transition with a good performance at Monte Carlo in a couple of weeks.

Girish Girsh -- 3rd to 2nd singles. A brilliant 26-1 start for Girsh leaves him just shy of finally taking his turn at #1. In case of being victimized by his own success, he'll skip Monte Carlo where he is the defending champion in order to be properly prepared for the rest of the clay season. This will delay his ascencion, but it's coming -- very possibly by the end of the French Open.

Shreya Ujjaval -- 57th to 33rd singles, 125th to 71st doubles. Ujjaval finally made his breakthrough at Miami, and in incredible, dramatic fashion. He will unadvisedly be playing at Monte Carlo next. He's close to breaking into the big time now, and it'll be interesting to see how he handles it.

Prakash Mooljee -- 44th to 36th singles, 304th to 222nd doubles. The demotion to fourth among Sri Lankan players is assuredly a temporary one. He'll continue to bounce back and forth among a very tightly-packed group of players(there are six players within 75 points of Mooljee). There is no questioning the long-term trend as he continues to rise, but he needs to choose his events well and play to his ability the next couple of times out to ensure a seed at the French Open.

Shyam Senepathy -- 166th to 135th singles. Continued gradual progression. He's good enough to hit the Top 100 soon, but beyond that there are many questions.

Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 209th to 243rd juniors. The usual early-season decline in juniors as the rankings resettle, and he's had some difficulty with fatigue issues in the larger tier-4 events. I think he's close to breaking through that barrier though with continued physical development. Dudwadkar is also just beginning now to emphasize his all-court skill more and more in training, having developed his serve to an acceptable, basic level.

Manager Ranking -- 2nd(unchanged), 39.9k to 41.0k points. About 16k behind oprice, a gap that is regularly shrinking now with his players really starting to fall off.
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Old 06-28-2016, 03:26 PM   #409
Brian Swartz
Pro Rookie
 
Join Date: May 2006
World Team Cup Group 3, Third Round
Sri Lanka vs. Germany, Grass

Monday: A. Mehul d. S. Baune, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
Tuesday: B. Benda d. G. Girsh, 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5
Wednesday: H. Arendt/J. Backstadt d. S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Thursday: A. Mehul d. B. Benda, 7-5, 6-4, 7-5
Friday: G. Girsh d. S. Baune, 6-3, 6-0, 6-3

Sri Lanka defeats Germany, 3-2!!

That ... was more nerve-wracking than I'd bargained for. This was especially true in the Day 2 epic between Girsh and Benda. The German legend has always played better than he ought to be able to on grass -- he's got a good serve of course, but so do lots of players. Girsh had tons of chances to win. Up a minibreak early in fourth-set tiebreak, match points with Benda serving at 4-5 in the fifth, two chances to break back in the final game ... and still lost. 28-19 aces for Benda. Girsh was 1 of 14 on break chances while surrendering just three himself. He was the better player ... but the nearly-32 German pulled another one out of his hat. Girsh also has higher mentality by the way(3.8 to 3.6). Benda had to serve 41 more times. Just one of those days ... days that he's had many of prior to this year. On the other hand ... 371 total points. 372 xp for Girsh. Yeah, I'll take that part.

Thankfully, Mehul had better luck(5 breaks to 2 on 8 chances for each player), providing the key win as we rallied from 2-1 down to take first place in the group. The United States was even more impressive, losing not a single rubber and only four sets during their three group ties. We've got a surprisingly interesting quarterfinal opponent, taking on Sweden on grass. That's Trulsen's best surface, so it could get dicey. If we win that, we'll almost certainly get the USA in a semifinal that would be a de facto final. I like our chances to repeat as world champs but its definitely shaping up to be a rougher journey this time.

Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar ended his latest Tier-4 event in similar fashion. He didn't have any fatigue issues, but lost a pretty close semifinal in singles to a higher-ranked player and also lost at the same stage in doubles.

Coming Up ...

Mehul will play at Monte Carlo in a couple weeks, but we won't see Girsh until Madrid in a month and at least that long off for Dudwadkar as well. Mooljee is a bigger question. He'll have at least two events between now and the French Open but when and where will depend on a lot of variables. Probably a challenger will be first but if the right opportunity in a 250 comes up, he'll enter.
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Old 06-29-2016, 04:38 PM   #410
Umbrella
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: The Springs, CO
In German news, the U16 team advanced to the semi-finals of the JTC after a very tight 3-2 win over The Netherlands. A tough Spain team awaits them. Jakob Heinen has now slipped to #2 U16 in Germany, and lost his singles to #25 Guus Dircx in straight sets, but was able to win in doubles. He's hit a bit of a lull right now. After being ranked in the top 100 earlier in the year, he's slipped to #141.

Gunter Piel is advancing nicely. He got his first ever win, winning in Benicarlo a couple of weeks back. He followed it up with a semi-final finish seen below.



It was really weird. All Germans, all unseeded, and all 14 years old. The Germans will hopefully start posing a threat the Sri Lanka in a few years. With this performance, Piel should be ranked around #700 when the next rankings come out.

Last edited by Umbrella : 06-29-2016 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 06-29-2016, 11:43 PM   #411
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbrella
The Germans will hopefully start posing a threat the Sri Lanka in a few years.

Them be fightin' words! It's ON now!!

Seems likely though. You already have an advantage in getting going in the JTC, where Sri Lanka hasn't participated for a few years.
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Old 07-01-2016, 04:04 PM   #412
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Monte Carlo Not-Quite-A-Masters

Stronger field than usual here this year: Girsh was the only Top 10 player who didn't play this year. Might have been a mistake for Iglar -- usually the top 3 or so don't show up due to it resulting in being overplayed for the rest of the clay season. The big storyline was whether or not Benda or anyone could keep Gustavo Caratti from running the table on the red stuff this year(unlikely).

Shreya Ujjaval's tournament was par for the course, a fairly close first-round win and then a straight-sets loss against Tobia Alberti. The Italian 16-seed is probably Top 10 on clay so no crime to lose here. A bad first set, but he gave him a tough second which ended in a close tiebreak. Anil Mehul surprisingly went out to Spaniard Roberto Martin, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Not a good performance from Mehul. He wasn't expected to win but he was expected to take at least a couple of matches. After making the final of RG last year, he certainly didn't look the part in this case. Elias Trulsen, never a big threat on this surface, was the only other seed to lose at this stage.

There was basically nothing worth reporting in the third round as all those who should have won, did and most of them pretty easily. Things heated up quite a bit in the quarters though. Kinczllers dismissed M. Herrera in an excellent battle, prevailing 7-5 in the third; Benda needed a third-set breaker to battle past T. Herrera, though he skunked the Peruvian no. 1 with seven straight points in it; Alberti knocked out Iglar in straights after a tight first-set breaker; and Caratti had a relatively easy time of things over Marcek.

In the semifinals, Benda and Caratti both took care of business. Still looks like they are the best two in the world but it's no longer close as the Argentine looks superior and more consistent. That was validated as he triumphed 6-4, 6-4 in the final to get his best time of year started on the right foot. This is actually Gustavo's first Masters Shield, though I expect there will be more coming in the next month. It also solidified his hold on the #4 spot in the rankings, and though it was unthinkable not that long ago, if Iglar continues to struggle to an unaccountable degree he could pass him for the #3 spot by summer.


Coming Up ...

Two weeks off before Madrid. Mehul and Mooljee with both be in action next week, the others have some time off but there will be some results to report at that time.
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Old 07-02-2016, 09:50 PM   #413
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
May

The week after Monte Carlo there were a couple of events for my players. First up, Anil Mehul was in action at the Bucharest 500. He played much better this week after the MC debacle, cruising to the final where he controlled the match against ninth-ranked Thiago Herrera. The scoreline was 7-6(2), 7-6(3), but only that close due to Mehul blowing 8 of 9 break opportunities. This sets him up reasonably for the rest of the clay season, and gives him a little more breathing room in the rankings ahead of Girsh.

Also in action was Prakash Mooljee who can't quite seem to escape challengers completely. At a tier-2 event in Leon, Mexico(hardcourt), he expected Blagota Cojanovic to be the only real competition. Even that didn't pan out, as Mooljee handed him a pair of breadsticks in the final. This moves him up to 31st, equaling his career high.


Coming Up ...

The Madrid Masters is next week, Rome the week after that. Mooljee will be off both weeks for training but the other three will be active. Girsh, presently almost 1700 pts. back of Mehul in the rankings, will be looking to get close enough to give himself a chance at overtaking him when Roland Garros and Wimbledon roll around.
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Old 07-04-2016, 12:46 AM   #414
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Madrid Masters

Shreya Ujjaval stopped by for a match. That's selling him a bit short. Going up against ninth-ranked Thiago Herrera, arguably a top-5 player on the dirt, he stole a set before losing 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. Can't blame that performance -- only thing I blame is the decision for him to play here in the first place. This sort of one-and-done thing is why I wouldn't do it.

In the second round, the top unseeded player, Agustin Herrera(Peru's third-best and currently #17) sent Gaskell packing in straight sets. At the time it looked just another sign of the top American's gradual decline, but we'd hear more from Agustin later on ... Elias Trulsen bowed out in the third, narrowly to unseeded John Condon, a name not worth mentioning anymore the rest of the year but on clay he has his moments. A. Herrera took down another seed in McCuskey as well.

As usual, things started to really get interesting in the quarters. Mehul outlasted Thiago Herrera 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and Caratti shockingly dropped a set to Condon before blasting him aside 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. The bottom half was competitive as well, with Girish Girsh coming up a bit short against Benda 7-5, 7-6(0), and Agustin Herrera eliminating Antonin Iglar, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4. Already a career-making tournament for him.

The semifinals set up then as a prelude to yet another Caratti-Benda duel on clay. Gustavo held up his end by routinely dispatching Mehul, but the German fell to Herrera just as easily(6-3, 6-3 in each match). That set up the first unseeded Masters finalist I can ever recall. Agustin couldn't stop the athletic Argentine who won yet another routine straight-set win and has done nothing here to dispel the notion that he is ready to be nearly untouchable on this surface. Herrera is still the man of the hour despite the defeat however, rising from 17th to 10th with his run here. It will be interesting to see if this is the start of a trend for him -- at 25 years old, he has some time to make his mark for certain. It was a good tournament for Mehul and Girsh as well -- losing to Caratti and Benda is nothing to be ashamed of.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar proved my prediction that he's close to turning the tier-4 corner correct. Despite being quite exhausted by the end of it, he made the doubles final in Calcutta(clay) and took his first singles title at this level despite a couple of fairly close matches. Getting nine matches in a single week is huge for him, and he'll have next week completely off followed by a full month of training before he enters another tournament.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-04-2016 at 12:47 AM.
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Old 07-04-2016, 05:12 PM   #415
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Rome Masters

One and done again for Shreya Ujjaval, another fairly unkind draw as he lost in straight sets to Marcelo Herrera. Mockler bowed out in the first round and several other seeds nearly did -- Marcek, McCuskey, Trulsen, and Poilblan all narrowly avoided early exits. There were more close matches in the second round but once again the favorites moved on. Benda, Bourdet, Poilblan, McCuskey, and Gaskell all had close calls. None more so than Girish Girsh, who was fortunate not to be M. Herrera's second Sri Lankan victim in as many rounds, just escaping 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4). Both players broke twice, but Girsh only had two chances while the Peruvian had seven. Objectively, he probably should have lost this one.

Last week's darling Agustin Herrera met his end in the third round in a surprisingly one-sided loss to Kinczllers. No match at this stage went the distance, and the lone upset was Cestmir Marcek over Thiago Herrera. In the quarterfinals, Anil Mehul lost what was an even matchup going in against Mugur Kinczllers, 6-4, 6-4. He was pretty badly outplayed here, and this won't go down as one of his better weeks. Everything was straightforward elsewhere, and the rest of the draw was happy to see Caratti knock out Benda so that they wouldn't have to deal with him.

Both semifinals were quite close. Antonin Iglar edged Kinczllers 6-4 in the third, while Girsh shocked Gustavo Caratti in a comeback 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win! The Argentine was a bit tired by this point which was a factor, but it was still stunning given that he'd won the last three big tournaments on clay. The match was as even as even can be, but Girsh was bigger in the key moments as he had been in his first match of the week, and it was just enough. Unfortunately that didn't carry through to the final, where he lost 7-6(6), 7-5 to Iglar. Serving for the second set at 5-3, Girsh fell apart in a match where he was slightly favored even without considering that he'd won five straight against the Czech legend. It's Iglar's first Masters title in nearly a year, and if the sleeping giant is beginning to awake it could really complicate the rest of the year.

Coming Up ...

Mooljee will be playing his first 250-level event next week, seeking to ensure himself a seed at Roland Garros. After his loss here, Caratti does not seem like such a sure favorite anymore, and Iglar has strengthened his grip on the #3 spot considerably. Lots of questioned to be answered when the year's second Slam rolls around in a couple of weeks.
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Old 07-05-2016, 03:12 PM   #416
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Power Horse Cup

Prakash Mooljee headed to Dusseldorf, Germany for his first-ever 250 event. Fortuitiously and unusually, most of the better players in action this week packed the Nice tournament. Mooljee was seeded 2nd here, and would have been no higher than 6th there. 21st-ranked Xavier Caminha was the top seed, but a couple of clay specialists in the 3rd and 4th spots were actually the bigger threats it appeared. This was one of those weeks where things played out pretty much exactly as anticipated. All of the top four made it to the semifinals with ease. Those who have followed Prakash's career closely will recognize his opponent at that stage, Djurdje Moicevic. Moicevic isn't as strong a player as Mooljee but he excels at clay and is playing in front of home fans. It wasn't quite enough, and Mooljee won 6-3, 7-6(4), his second win in their three meetings over the past year and a half. 37th-ranked 3-seed Hugo Deallavadale of France edged Caminha in three sets to become the final hurdle. Another clay specialist, he was arguably the favorite. It was a bad serving day for Prakash, but he still did what he does more often than not, finding a way after a poor first set to rally for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory by virtue of superior baseline consistency.

This is a big win for Mooljee, and should finally and decisively put his challenger days behind him. He'll be at a career-best of roughly 27th or so next week, easily in the seeded positions for Roland Garros, and the rest of the year will be about establishing himself as well as he can in the elite ranks of the sport by replacing his challenger results with bigger tournaments. He's almost six months younger than Girsh was when taking his first 250, and nearly three years younger than Mehul managed it. Some of it was luck with the number of players electing to play in France instead, but whatever it was he'll take it. Onward and upward to greater things.


Coming Up ...

It'll be an RG debut for Mooljee, who'll turn 22 shortly after the tournament completes. Girsh has a small(very) chance to seize the #1 ranking from Mehul here, but he'd have to win the title and Anil would have to lose in the quarterfinals or earlier. The most likely scenario is that Girsh's ascencion will wait until at least after Wimbledon. Caratti is still the favorite of course, and many eyes will be on Iglar's performance, looking to see if he's ready to bounce back into the form of which he is capable.

Dudwadkar will be off be a few more weeks training.
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Old 07-08-2016, 04:13 PM   #417
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ROLAND GARROS

Opening Rounds

Shyam Senepathy didn't have to qualify to make the draw here. That might have actually been a bad thing, but it is a first as it made five Sri Lankans in the main draw. Senepathy won a total of one game against Thiago Herrera in the first round, and that was that. Things were better elsewhere, as the other four players all won their first matches. Mehul's match, against Spaniard Juan de los Santos, was a testy one as he was unexpectedly pushed to four sets before getting through. There were several entertaining five-set matches, but none involving anyone expected to be around long. All of the seeds made it through except for disintegrating American Radek Smitala.

Mehul dropped just two games in the second round, a much sharper performance. Shreya Ujjaval had a very fine win, a straight-sets elimination of (22) Robert Martin(ESP). Martin is a quality clay-court player, so this is another sign that Ujjaval is progressing upward. McCuskey and Khasan Zakirov needed five sets to advance, while Philip Carter(24th, USA) won a pair of tiebreaks against Sava Cirakovic but still lost.

Mehul played against a player I briefly managed many moons ago, 32-year-old Argentine Anton Grimaldo, in the third round. Grimaldo had gone five sets in each of his two wins so far, but was easily dismissed here. Ujjaval was on the receiving end of disappointment in a real classic, just getting edged out by Cestmir Marcek, 7-6(2), 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. It's Ujjaval's fifth trip to the third round of a Slam, but he's still winless on those occasions. Three of the opportunities have come in the past year. Portugal's Xavier Caminha is gradually getting more notice, and the world no. 20 dumped Bourdet in four sets to improve his standing. Meanwhile, Prakash Mooljee had a rough go of it against Caratti, taking just a half-dozen games. Obviously a match nobody expected him to win, but a bagel in the final set wasn't what I was looking for. McCuskey survived another tough one, and perhaps the best match of the round was Marcelo Herrera taking out 7th-ranked Mugur Kinczllers in four.

Mehul got more than he bargained for in the 32-year-old Marcek in his final match of the first week. Twice he had to rally from a set down to survive 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Should have been a little easier, but a game effort by the veteran Czech. Not a whole lot of surprises elsewhere. The Peruvian Herreras are doing as well as they ever have, taking out Gaskell and Trulsen in the fourth round, but neither of those were really surprises. Girsh, Iglar, Caratti, etc. all continue to easily progress. They haven't faced their real challenges yet.


Second Week

All four of the quarterfinal matches were interesting as things really started to heat up. Anil Mehul had a terrible first set, then controlled three straight tiebreaks to knock out Thiago Herrera. A hideous display on break points(4 of 18 vs. 6 of 9 for Thiago) threatened to ruin an otherwhise excellent match for him. Gustavo Caratti looked to be in cruise control, then lost a 2-set lead before getting past Benda in five. Bad luck for Bjorn to face him this early. Girsh dropped a first-set breaker to Agustin Herrera but was pretty much in control after that to advance in four, and Iglar came from a set down twice to derail Marcelo Herrera's bid for yet another upset, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

After all that, top four seeds made it to the semifinals. Caratti took out Mehul in four sets, in a match that was never really in doubt. More surprising was the second match, also going four sets, with Iglar controlling the whole thing and really dominating Girsh, dropping just one long tiebreak.

The final provided yet more evidence that Antonin Iglar is back on his game. Gustavo Caratti claimed his second RG crown in a row, but he really had to earn it. This one went the distance, with Caratti prevailing 7-5, 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. Iglar fired 20 aces, while stifling Caratti's serve(5 aces, 10 double faults). It wasn't enough though, and especially at the end the Argentine's superiority was fairly clear. Still a heck of a match though.

Mehul's lead shrinks a bit but he's still well in place as the #1, while Iglar has nearly closed the gap on Girsh. As the tour looks ahead to Wimbledon, less than 2000 points separate the top three.


Coming Up ...

Mehul and Girsh will have the next couple of weeks off, but Mooljee and Dudwadkar will be in action before Wimbledon. Anil will be going for what would be a record-setting 5th straight championship there, and if he fails the top ranking will be in serious jeopardy if not a memory.
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Old 07-09-2016, 07:47 PM   #418
Brian Swartz
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UNICEF Open(Netherlands, 250)

Prakash Mooljee was the fourth seed here for his second 250-level tournament in a month. Grass is one of his weakest surfaces, so really any points he picked up here would be a bonus. I wasn't going to be too disappointed as long as he at least got a few matches in and made the quarterfinals. As it ended up, he got to the semis easily where he faced Mugur Kinczllers. The 7th-ranked Italian was the top seed, and Mooljee had edged him a big upset, probably his biggest career victory a few months back at Indian Wells. He did well to nearly do it again, falling 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 despite the fact the Kinczllers has a significantly better serve. Another sign that Mooljee can hang with all but the very best, and a semifinal appearance here is a solid result, and serves the purpose of sharpening his game ahead of Wimbledon. A loss in the first qualifying round for doubles is par for the course.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar suffered a first-round doubles exit the same week at tier-4 Nonthaburi. Seeded second, he crushed all comers en route to the final(including Suksma, who took only three games from him in the semi). The top seed was a very recognizable foe, Florentino Suarez, who has beaten him before. Not this time -- Dudwakar won 6-3, 6-4, taking his second tier-4 title.


Coming Up ...

Dudwadkar is off while the other three head to Wimbledon. Aside from Mehul's quest for history, the most interesting aspect are the scenarios for the #1 ranking. Anil will retain it if he's able to defend his title again. Girsh can take the top spot for the first time by just making it a round further than Mehul, while Iglar would need to win the title and get some help in order to ascend back to the top spot. Any of the trio is very capable of winning, and it's unlikely that anyone else can get past them. The results here will shape how the Race looks afterwards, and set the stage for the second half of the season with the Olympics coming up a month later. It should be a fascinating tournament ...
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:12 AM   #419
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2046 Wimbledon

Opening Rounds

Shyam Senepathy had a golden opportunity for his first slam win. He was matched with the horribly-out-of-practice Smitala, and won the first two sets only to lose 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(3), 6-4. Sigh. It was a good start for the other four Sri Lankans though as all won in straight sets, and the seeds were perfect overall in the first round as well. In the next round, it was mostly more of the same. 30 of 32 seeds advanced. Khasan Zakirov dropped a five-setter to Italian Vito Brandini, and Shreya Ujjaval caused the second loss, against 31st-seed Blagota Cojanovic. That one also went the distance, with Ujjaval falling behind a set twice but also taking a couple of easy sets against the more inconsistent Cojanovic.

An unkind draw for the second straight Slam for Prakash Mooljee, who met up with Mehul in the third round. Not a good day for Anil on the break points which allowed it to stay pretty close for most of it, but the four-time defending champ prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Ujjaval made it six third-round defeats in six chances, including the second year in a row here, in another five-setter, narrowly falling to outstanding grass-courter Elias Trulsen, 7-5 in the final set. Bjorn Benda met an early demise in a ridiculously tight match with Marcelo Herrera in which the first four sets all went to tiebreaks. A couple of other lower-seed upsets were also notable, with Sava Cirakovic knocking out Bourdet and the perennial low-seed Zourab Andronikov ending Marcek's tournament here.

Mehul was tested again in the fourth round, taking all three sets though all were close against Federer. Trulsen knocked out Caratti in a trio of tiebreaks, and Agustin Herrera had his second straight marathon match, knocking out countryman Marcelo 11-9 in the 5th. Agustin had gone to 10-8 in the last round, bringing newfound meaning to the term 'survive and advance'. The bottom half of the draw proceeded to form, with Girsh and Iglar continuing to move on fairly easily and without drama.


Second Week

Back again for his 16th Slam quarterfinal was Pierce Gaskell. Anil Mehul won the first two sets in tiebreaks, but then a funny thing happened. He started to tire, and the American's serve started to control the match more. Overall, Gaskell blasted 26 aces to Mehul's 11, mounting a most improbable comeback upset to stop the chase for history right here, 6-7(4), 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. Mehul was still the better player and was quite upset and frustrated over converting just 1 of 10 break points, while Gaskell was 4 of 8. Anil should have won this match, but the trend towards failing in his break chances has definitely accelerated as his body slows down. This is just Gaskell's third win in 21 matches, but his second this year ...

Elsewhere, Trulsen stopped Agustin Herrera in what was the Peruvian's third straight five-set match. Perhaps all the long matches finally caught up to him, as the Swede was able to rally from a set down and avoid the upset. More straight-set success for Girsh(over Thiago Herrera) and Iglar(against Mugur Kinczllers) continued that pair on their collision course, and also guaranteed Girsh of the #1 ranking to follow the tournament. It's been a long time coming, but he's finally reached the pinnacle!

It was very much a JV semifinal in the top half, as all eyes were on the #2 and #3 in the world in the bottom half. The first slam semi for Gaskell against Elias Trulsen, and the Swede prevailed in three close stanzas to make the final. Despite being out-aced 16-10, Girish Girsh was a little more effective on return and saved 4 of 5 break opportunities against his serve to snap a two-match losing streak to surging Antonin Iglar, 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-4.

The final then pitted probably the world's foremost grass-court specialist in Trulsen, against it's overall most skilled player in Girsh. Neither had won a Slam before -- Trulsen had not even been close, making one quarterfinal and one semi previously. Girsh had been runner-up twice before, including this year's Australian Open. He would not suffer that fate today, with a solid 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 victory! I thought he had a chance coming in, but I definitely didn't expect him to take the title here without so much as dropping a set. A fitting coronation to the world's new top-ranked player, and the most prestigious Slam championship remains in Sri Lanka hands.

As for Mehul, the writing's been on the wall for months now but a clear changing of the guard if ever there was one. He's had a damn fine run, but I don't see him coming back from the first half of this year now that he's on the far side of 30 and finding himself more and more vulnerable to lower-ranked players.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:25 AM   #420
Brian Swartz
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Girish Girsh(SRI, 27) -- 12,430

Girsh made me wonder if he would ever get here at times, and it took a bit longer than expected but he's now the king of the hill. It appears the next year or so his main challenge will be fending off Iglar, but he made a good statement in that regard with his victory over the Czech legend in the Wimbledon semis.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 30) -- 10,810

The deposed four-time Wimbledon champ is still a major force on the tour, but other than the Australian Open at the start of the year he has not been able to exert his will on matches the way he used to. His final decline appears to be here at long last.

3. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 29) -- 9,890

To mount a serious challenge to Girsh for the top spot, Iglar will need to have one of his patented hard-court sweeps in the second half of the year. I think he's still capable of it.

4. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 26) -- 8,290

Long-term, Caratti is the only credible challenger to Girsh's throne as a slightly younger and much more athletic talent. Time will tell whether he can make that happen or not.

5. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 32) -- 5,150

Reduced to 'best of the rest', Benda won't even be that by the end of the year most likely. No matter how many times it happens, it's sad to see a former great fade off into the sunset.

6. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 27) -- 4,715

A little past his best play, but Kinczllers still has plenty to give.

7. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 30) -- 4,630

Now 1-15 in Slam quarterfinals, Gaskell earned a rather unlikely historical footnote for himself in the Mehul upset. He also avoids the ignominy of a perfect record of failure in those situations, one he had built over several years.

8. Elias Trulsen(SWE, 27) -- 4,020

Trulsen's run to the Wimby final has largely salvaged what was previously an extremely disappointing year. He's still young enough to move up the ladder some if he can use this as a springboard to better play.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 28) -- 3,540

10. Agustin Herrera(PER, 26) -- 3,035

His pair of marathon 5-setters made Agustin the latest in a series of yo-yo players to reach the last spot here.

There are seven players within less than 600 points of the 10th position, so the constant changing is expected to continue. It's unsure whether any of them might have the ability to stay up on the first page.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-12-2016 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 07-12-2016, 10:43 AM   #421
Brian Swartz
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update


Anil Mehul -- 1st to 2nd singles. The decline this year is punctuated by the fact that Mehul has now lost nine matches, the same amount he lost all season in both years that he finished #1. Assuming that he doesn't somehow pull a rabbit out of his hat, he has 7 Grand Slams(tied for 6th all-time with a ton of players), 8 Masters Shields(10th place has 11), 3 World Tour Finals(tied for 4th), and spent 60 weeks as the world's #1(10th is Alastra at 89 weeks). A mix of results there, but overall enough to make him worthy of an honorable mention when considering the best players in tennis's storied history.

For now, he'll keep doing whatever he can to maintain his standing. It's hard to see him dropping out of the Top 4 at worst anytime soon. Long-term though, I'll know it's time for the next phase of his career when Mooljee surpasses him in the singles rankings, which will probably be at least two years from now. At that point, Mehul will switch to a doubles focus and preparing for training duty after he retires. He still has a very significant role to play as an elite singles player right now, he's just done being the best.


Girish Girsh -- 2nd to 1st singles. Having ascended to the mountaintop with a strong 45-5 record and his first Slam title, it is Girsh's time. His attention now turns to the task of strengthening his grip and staying here as long as he can. Matches against Iglar and Caratti will be crucial going forward.


Prakash Mooljee -- 36th to 25th singles, 222nd to 249th doubles. It hasn't been a good pairs year for Mooljee who is just 1-5 in such matches, but he has made the jump to elite status permanently now. He's now got a mix of professional and challenger events in his ranking. That transition will continue and he'll move up a few spots, but there's a huge gap between the players from 10th-17th and those 20th and below, several hundred points. It's unlikely he can bridge that gap this year -- he'll probably end up around 20th and try to keep chipping away at it. There will be some interesting scheduling choices this year.


Shreya Ujjaval -- 33rd to 35th singles, 71st to 79 doubles. Ujjaval's unblemished record of failure at the third round of Slams keeps him hanging around just outside the break into the big-time.


Shyam Senepathy -- 135th to 132nd singles. Could have moved up some had he not collapsed against Smitala at Wimbledon -- that probably cost him about a dozen spots or so. Senepathy is inconsistent and a mid-level challenger player right now.


Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 243rd to 210th juniors. Dudwadkar pretty much reversed the slippage from the beginning of the year, and is right back where he was to start it. He'll need to win a couple more Tier-4s, maybe three, before moving up in competition. That will take much of the rest of the year, but he's starting to win more consistently at this level now so definitely by the end of the season if not before he should be ready to take the next jump up.


Manager Ranking -- 2nd(unchanged), 41k to 42.1 k points. Continued gradual progress. I've now got the third-highest points total ever recorded in this world, but am still well back of the top spot.
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Old 07-12-2016, 11:13 AM   #422
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
Race to the World Tour Finals

It's time once again to see who is doing work in the first half of the year, and who needs to step it up in order to qualify for the Tour Finals.

In

Girish Girsh -- 7500
Gustavo Caratti -- 6390
Anil Mehul -- 5280

Girsh definitely has the inside track on staying on top through the end of the year. It'll be interesting to see whether Caratti can come close to maintaning his pace now that the clay season is done.


Probable

Antonin Iglar -- 5770
Pierce Gaskell -- 3430

Iglar's all but there, just needs one more decent event to assure himself a spot. Gaskell has the edge at making it back, but it's far from certain in his case.


Contenders

Bjorn Benda -- 2830
Thiago Herrera -- 2730
Mugur Kinczzlers -- 2640
---------------------------
Elias Trulsen -- 2640


Much can change, but if it stays this tight we could be in for a very dramatic finish. Kinczllers and Trulsen are dead-locked for the last spot. I predict that either Benda or Herrera, probably Herrera, will drop far enough to miss the field but there's a number of ways that this could go.


Long Shots

Agustin Herrera -- 2235
Theodore Bourdet -- 1945
Davide Poilblan -- 1920
Roger Federer -- 1870
Marcelo Herrera -- 1860
Tobia Alberti -- 1815
Garreth McCuskey -- 1785
Cestmir Marcek -- 1680

Only Agustin Herrera appears to be any threat to qualify here, and it's not likely even for him. The rest are in the pretender category, expected to mostly disappear by the USO until they demonstrate otherwhise. It's a veritable horde of 'not quite good enough', most of them either stagnant or declining. Mooljee, by the way, is one of the better players who didn't make this list. He'll probably be on it next year.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-12-2016 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 07-12-2016, 12:33 PM   #423
Umbrella
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: The Springs, CO
Congrats on Wimbledon.

Heinen has stalled. JG4 tournaments are too easy for him, but he doesn't do well in JG3. He ended up slipping out of the top 3 for Germany's U16, and didn't get to participate in the U16 JTC finals. It is a little bittersweet, as Germany won, but no credit for Heinen, even though he participated in every event except the final.

Piel is continuing to impress. He won his second consecutive singles and doubles tournament. I'm trying to decide if it is time to move him up to JG4.

Last edited by Umbrella : 07-12-2016 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 07-12-2016, 01:19 PM   #424
Brian Swartz
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JG4 to JG3 is probably the toughest junior transition, aside from getting into the Top 10. My recommendation for Heinen is probably to play JG4s which will get you lots of practice weeks in between, and play JG3s only in weeks where there are a lot of big events(to dilute the top players available for them).

Piel is close -- if it was me I'd play a couple more JG5s first and get his ranking up a bit. He's got enough endurance for the jump though.
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Old 07-14-2016, 05:45 PM   #425
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August

Not a whole lot happened the month after Wimbledon, but there's a packed stretch coming up starting with the Olympics. Ritwik Dudwadkar had another tier-4 in Victoria Falls. He made the semis in doubles, and lost in the final of the singles to hometown favorite Esrom Hoaton(ZAF, 71st). Hoaton is horribly overplayed and almost two years older, but basically shouldn't be playing tournaments this small. No disgrace in a 6-3, 6-4 defeat, but it did mean that Dudwadkar basically was just treading water with this result. Another few weeks off for him, while the rest are about to get back at it.
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Old 07-15-2016, 06:16 PM   #426
Brian Swartz
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2046 Olympics - Preview
Changchun, China - Hardcourt

The Olympics are one of the few remaining holes in my 'resume'. I make a lot bigger deal out of them than most managers. From an 'objective strategy' point of view, they make the longest stretch of tournament play in the year even longer, and aren't really worth it(750 pts, to the winner, less than a Masters). Even more bizarrely, doubles doesn't garner a single ranking point!?!? Nonetheless, my primary goal has always been to take Sri Lanka to the top of the world stage. In keeping with that, the Olympics are the greatest and rarest of prizes, since it comes along once every four years; the WTC is here every year. It's important enough for me to make a rare departure from the usual obsession over making the objectively best scheduling choice.

Seems useful here to recap how things have gone in recent Olympiads:

** 2034 -- No Sri Lankans were in the field, and indeed none had yet participated, ever, to this date. This was the 12th Olympics, 44 years into the tour. It is notable because of how close it came to making history. Every Olympics up to this one had been won by a different player -- to win twice is something that is extravagantly difficult, perhaps impossible. If someone is at their peak for one Olympics, they'll be into their 30s for the next one. The only way there is any chance is for their career be timed well, so that they are before their prime for one and a little after it for the second. Of course they'd also have to be absurdly dominant to be good enough to win a big event like this during both of those phases of their career.

In '34, Eric Gorritepe came far closer than anyone ever has to getting a second gold medal here. He had won in '30, and made the championship match against second-seeded Gael Graff(ARG). Graff won the first two sets, but Gorritepe rallied to force a 5th ... narrowly losing 8-6 in the final set. As close as you come without winning, but the history books here(and in every other world I've looked at) still have nobody with two Olympic titles.

** 2038 -- At 22, Anil Mehul was the first-ever Sri Lankan to appear in the Olympic tournament. That in itself was a huge accomplishment, and he would do more than show up. He knocked off Gaskell in the first round in one of their first matches, then beat Antuofermo in a tight second-rounder to reach the third round where he lost to 11-seed Strahinja Kecic.

** 2042 -- Last time out, Mehul was the top seed but lost to Julian Hammerstein, who had just recently switched to a doubles career and was still a major force, in the semifinals. He did snatch the bronze by beating Federer in the 3rd-place match, but it was still a considerable disappointment.

** 2046 -- Iglar is once again skipping the Olympics, so Girsh and Mehul are the top-seeded players. Hammerstein is entering once again but his doubles skills have long been complete, and he's not the force from the back of the court that he once was. Italian Mugur Kinczllers is probably the biggest threat, but Girsh is the favorite here by a considerable distance.
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Old 07-15-2016, 06:31 PM   #427
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Olympic Results

So with all that in mind, here's how it played out. Shreya Ujjaval got one victory in, but was blasted by Girsh in the second round. He did form with Mooljee in a surprisingly effective doubles run, upsetting the 7th-seeded Argentinians to reach the quarterfinals. The 3rd-seeded Mexicans were far too strong though, allowing just three games.

Prakash Mooljee was seeded 15th, surprisingly, as many of those who had little to no chance for a medal opted for easy points in the Washington 500 or other events this week. Mooljee had a couple of easy wins, and then a heck of a match against Gustavo Caratti in the third round. After losing the first set, he rallied for a 3-6, 7-6(5), 8-6 victory - there are no final-set tiebreaks here. Gaskell was able to stop him 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals, but it was still a fine showing.

Anil Mehul had a bit of a third-round test from Theodore Bourdet, but got through it in straight sets. That put him up against Hammerstein again ... and he stumbled again, 6-1, 7-6(5). In 14 career meetings, he's now lost nine including the past three. It may very well be mental at this stage. The Austrian is a hard-court focused player and still very strong, but doesn't have the baseline game to make one think he'd still be better.

Girsh made it to the medal round without dropping a set. Condon and then Trulsen made things a little bit interesting, but not overly so. Gaskell was his opponent, and the American had himself one heck of a tournament. Quite probably he should have won this match, but he failed at all four break chances and Girsh took a 7-6(3), 6-4 win that could very easily have gone sideways. Hammerstein and Kinczllers, objectively the two biggest threats, met in the second match. A crushing performance by Kinczllers permitted Julian just four games, ending his bid for repeat Olympic titles.

In the final, Girsh had already guaranteed Sri Lanka of it's best medal, and needed only to take his sixth straight against the Italian challenger to win the gold. It was in doubt early as he dropped a tiebreak to start things off. Both players served well, with 39 combined aces against only 3 double faults, but Girsh had the better of it on the return overall. He stamped Sri Lanka's place in history with a 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-3 win, consistently doing just a little better in the most contested games, and adds his name to the list, now 15 players long, of those who have been Olympic champions.


Coming Up ..

A brutal stretch has only just begun. Counting the Olympic week, it will cover six tournament weeks out of seven, up through the WTC QF which follow the USO. That will only be for the Girsh & Mehul, as after considerable pondering, I've decided Mooljee will be better off taking the masters weeks to practice.
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Old 07-16-2016, 05:10 PM   #428
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Canada Masters

Only Girsh and Mehul participated here, with the rest of Sri Lanka's contingent electing to skip this event. There is one player worth noting though that Umbrella is familiar with I think. Canadian Luc Janin, the most dominant junior the sport has ever seen, was a wild card and won his first-round match against a qualifier. About a year ago, Janin set the record for youngest challenger titlist at 18 years 29 weeks. He is presently just over 19 and a half, and ranked 85th in the world. He's got very good athleticism, good though not great endurance, and a solid balance in his technical abilities. I'll definitely be watching his progress closely - well handled, he could be a monster for a while. He's almost three years younger than Mooljee, and three years older than Dudwadkar, so I can at least be thankful his career arc won't directly coincide with my players . I can't think of another notable Canadian in this world.

At any rate, the first round had a pair of surprises with middling seeds Federer and Agustin Herrera losing in third-set tiebreaks to Fabricio Gilardino and Xavier Caminha. The second round went mostly to form, with Janin bowing out to Benda, 2 & 2. Antonin Iglar was pushed far more than expected by the occasionally relevant Mockler, but prevailed in three sets, and Girsh had to go the distance against similarly inconsistent Zourab Andronikov. Bjorn Benda headed to the exits early in the third round, bounced 6-2, 7-5 courtesy of Thiago Herrera, but form held everywhere else.

Nobody lower than ninth then made the quarterfinals, another case of the cream rising to the top. Girsh easily bounced Kinczllers, who didn't give as much resistance as he had last week in China, Gustavo Caratti prevailed over Herrera in three, Mehul lost a tiebreak before ralling against Trulsen, and Iglar annihilated Gaskell. That left the top four seeds for the semifinals. Yawn :P. Girsh had another close one against Caratti, a match he could have lost but did better on the break chances for a 6-4, 7-6(5) win. The Argentine has shown himself to be increasingly dangerous recently. Anil Mehul took the first set against Iglar but couldn't hold it, falling 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3. A solid tournament for him at this stage to be sure.

Iglar had been pushed to three sets twice this tournament already, but he was ready for the final and dusted Girsh 7-5, 6-2 for his 29th Masters Shield. The Czech legend will actually lose ground in the rankings here as he defends his lone Masters from last year while Girsh had gone out in the semis the previous season, but more important is that he continues to show himself a recovering threat. Antonin has taken three out of the last four matchups, and appears to be set up well to make up significant ground this summer and fall.

Coming Up ...

We'll do it all over again next week in Cincinatti. This time though the field will be deeper, as more players elect to play instead of taking the week for practice. Mooljee and Ujjaval will be among the additional participants. This is a rare departure for me from the 'only play where you're seeded' mantra, but Mooljee would have virtually no Top 50 competition for practice which would make it a terrible week for him. Lesser of two evils as it were, and both of the lower-ranked Sri Lankans are very dangerous floaters.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-16-2016 at 05:11 PM.
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Old 07-17-2016, 06:21 PM   #429
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Cincinatti Masters

Shreya Ujjaval drew Janin, who I mentioned last time, in the first round. He roundly trounced the fast-rising Canadian, who nonetheless made it through qualifying against much more experienced and higher-ranking players. Ujjaval then got blasted himself against Benda, and that was that. As for Prakash Mooljee, he had an interesting first-round encounter with 16-seed Marcelo Herrera, who he had impressively straight-setted in the Australian Open to start this year. On the one hand it was unlucky to get a seed right away, on the other if he won it was basically a ticket to the third round before he'd have to deal with another one. This ended up being the best match, by far, of the first round. I had Mooljee as a slight-to-modest favorite here. He's better on hardcourts and pretty much equal otherwhise, and should be able to beat the clay-focused Herrera far more often than not. It could have gone either way, but Peru's no. 3 bounced him 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4. One and done for Mooljee this week meant a lot of training sessions with Anil Manohar, but it still was probably not much worse than what would have been a terrible training week.

Elsewhere in the first round, Garreth McCuskey narrowly escaped Cojanovic 7-5 in the third; Blagota is another of the players in Mooljee's class making their presence felt more consistently. Thiago Herrera was bounced in three by Sampras, and Marcek narrowly escaped another rising player, Moicevic. The second round was mostly routine, with a couple exceptions. American Fabricio Gilardino sent Poilban packing, and Elias Trulsen and Sava Cirakovic, another battle of the established player against the youngster, stole the show with a three-tiebreak affair. Unfortunately Cirakovic was skunked in the decisive breaker, but until then he played very tough.

The third round saw Bjorn Benda tumble out in a matchup of the world's best 32-year-olds against Cestmir Marcek. The Czech no. 2 has looked good the last few weeks, mounting something of a mini-renaissance to stay in the cluster of players just outside the Top 10. Meanwhile, Gilardino struck again, making Anil Mehul his next victim 6-3, 7-5. I was rather stunned by this, even with all the upsets Mehul has endured this year. He was just flat-out outplayed by an unseeded player across the board, unlike some of his earlier losses in which he arguably should have won. And he was in perfect condition. No excuses here, he just got his hat handed to him early on.

Six of the top eight made the quarters, with unseeded Gilardino and #14 Marcek looking to crash the party. Girish Girsh had his first competitive match, taking out Kinczllers 7-5, 6-4 though it wasn't really that close. Three straight weeks he's beaten the Italian. Gustavo Caratti went the distance with Trulsen to win a close one, and the bottom side of the bracket matched up players from a couple of tennis's greatest nations. The Americans were Gaskell and Gilardino, where experience was served in an opening-set bagel en route to a straight-sets win. The Czech Republic's top two met in the last match, and Marcek nearly upended the surging Antonin Iglar before falling, 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-5. It was rather astonishing how close that one was.

In contrast to their recent matches, despite feeling the fatigue, Girsh annihilated Caratti, losing only three games in the first semi. Iglar was given more of a challenge by Gaskell in a fine run for him, but also won in straight sets. That set up an identical final to last week in Canada ... and a nearly identical result; 6-4, 7-6(5), though Girsh was never really in this one despite the scoreline. Iglar has won his 30th Masters, tying him for third place on the all-time list with Martin Prieto. Aside from the quarterfinal against Marcek, he looked very strong. He's not the untouchable force he once was, but he's returned to being the best hardcourt player in the world. Girsh has a serious challenge ahead of him to hold off the Czech. The two of them have now won four each of the eight meetings this year.

Coming Up ...

Mooljee will be back out there in the largest 250 of the year, the Winston-Salem Open in Connecticut. Dudwadkar also will have another event, and then after that the US Open will commence.
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Old 07-18-2016, 10:11 AM   #430
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I'm trying something a bit different this upcoming week. I'm moving Heinen back down to JG4, while also giving Piel his JG4 debut. And they will be doubles partners together. I have no idea how this will play out.
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:39 PM   #431
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Winston-Salem

Which is in North Carolina by the way, not Connecticut like I idiotically said last time. Why, I don't really know. Anyway, Prakash Mooljee was seeded second here. Caminha was first, but lost badly in the third round to Radek Smitala, the former world no. 6 who has been working his way back into form after missing far too many tournaments and ending up useless earlier in the year. Mooljee yawned his way to the semifinal, where he had a bad serving start and had to rescue three break points in the first two games against another veteran, Sweden's Olav Birkeland. Once he'd done that, he didn't face another and went on to a competitive straight-sets win to make the final. Smitala was there waiting. The 29-year-old is further gone in tennis terms than Mehul is, and Mooljee has the superior overall game. Radek's extreme hard-court focus gave him a chance though ... and he pulled off a nail-biter of an upset, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5). Overall, the right player won. Mooljee just couldn't do quite enough, consistently enough in the rallies. Just like last week against Herrera, not a disgrace but it would have been nice to get the win here.

Ritwik Dudwadkar entered what ended up being the most packed tier-4 event he's seen all year; he was only seeded 6th in Medan. After dropping his first doubles match against the top seeds, he was promptly upended in the second round of singles, and in stunningly one-sided fashion. 6-3, 6-0, an embarrassing bagel against unseeded clay-courter Davide Checcinato of Italy. Checcinato came in 258th, not that far behind Dudwadkar, so it's really not that horrifying of a loss ... this was just a tournament that had a tier-3 quality field for whatever reason. Dudwadkar will only get a couple weeks off now, and then he'll be back out.

Coming Up ...

The USO is here now, and perhaps more so than usual, much is riding on it.
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Old 07-19-2016, 12:39 PM   #432
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Umbrella View Post
I'm trying something a bit different this upcoming week. I'm moving Heinen back down to JG4, while also giving Piel his JG4 debut. And they will be doubles partners together. I have no idea how this will play out.

The doubles experiment worked well, as they won. Piel did OK in singles, but Heinen continues to struggle against lesser opponents, losing in the quarterfinals.
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Old 07-21-2016, 03:50 PM   #433
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. Hopefully he snaps out of it soon. Sometimes that can occur when you least expect it ...


2046 US Open

Early Rounds

Early on, this was the most successful Slam event Sri Lanka has ever had. Shyam Senepathy defeated a Romanian qualifier for his first-ever Slam victory, while Ujjaval was seeded 31st and along with others moved through his first match successfully. The seeds were perfect in the first round; Theodore Bourdet was pushed to five by one of the tour's favorite spoilers this year, de los Santos, but none of them lost. Girish Girsh had a bit of a second-round hiccup, dropping a set to Manfred Borrman, but he recovered well and advanced in four. A couple of lower seeds, Condon and Farkas, departed but nobody from the Top 20. Shreya Ujjaval and Senepathy met in this round as well, with Ujjaval dominating the match with only four games lost.

A few upsets came about in the third round as often happens. Sri Lanka had two shots to get one of them. Ujjaval's latest crack at a fourth-round appearance came against Agustin Herrera. He put up a competitive effort but lost in four sets. Prakash Mooljee had another classic battle in a match I thought he had the edge in, and lost once again against Bjorn Benda, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3. Mooljee had the better of it overall, esp. after the first set, but in what was an uncharacteristic display until recently, he didn't do enough on his break chances. Benda split his(5 of 10), while Prakash was just 4 of 15. Another tough defeat with a chance to move forward. Elsewhere, Andronikov continued his recent strong play upending Marcelo Herrera in four; Sampras stopped the third member of the Peruvian trio, Thiago Herrera, in straight sets; Blagota Cojanovic got a big win, outlasting McCuskey in five; and [b]Phillip Carter[b], an American hiding in the high-20s weeds for a while now, knocked off Federer after losing the first two sets.

The fourth round had a lot less drama. There's very little to say about it as the top seven seeds all advanced. The only player to crash the party of what would otherwhise have been a perfectly top-heavy quarterfinals was Bourdet, who survived his first-round scare and beat Elias Trulsen in four stanzas.

Second Week

The storyline going into this year's final Slam was the return of Iglar and the decline of Mehul. The two were expected to switch their second and third-place spots in the rankings by the tournaments' end, with Iglar claiming his first Slam title in two years. With all the top players here, the fireworks were about to start ... but the quarters didn't cooperate. Girsh beat Kinczllers(four straight QF meetings in just over a month!!), Iglar defeated Benda, and Mehul stopped Gaskell, all in straight sets. Caratti dropped only one against party-crasher Bourdet. A boring round overall and it certainly looked like the top players had all brought something close to their best stuff.

In the semifinals, the first one between Girish Girsh and Antonin Iglar was expected to be the de facto championship match. Both players were a little worn. The Czech got off to a great start, but things got tigher towards the end. Girsh dug himself too big a hole and couldn't rally, falling 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(5). Who knows what might have happened if he started as well as he finished, but you can't spot a legend a two-set lead and hope to advance. On the other side, Gustavo Caratti was able to win just 14 total points on Mehul's serve and was routinely dispatched.

The final pitted Mehul against Iglar for the 46th time. It was their first Slam final since they met here last year, but this season the Czech was playing much better. Ironically, Anil's earlier failures may have worked in his favor as he was the fresher man. Whatever the reason, you might as well have rewatched the championship match from '45 because this one was pretty much the same. Mehul was narrowly able to get out to the early lead and prevailed in four again, 7-6(5), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. It shouldn't even have been that close, but he was just 4 of 16 on break chances. Iglar's serve(24 aces to 12) was a big weapon, but not quite big enough.

This is a big win for Mehul in two ways. It keeps him just barely in the #2 spot in the rankings, and it also is his 8th Slam overall. That breaks the logjam he was part of and puts him 6th all-time, cementing his spot as a second-tier great. After the way the last several months have gone, I didn't think he had it in him. I thought maybe ... hopefully ... he'd turn things around next year, but he brought some of the best tennis he is capable of at age 30. He's only about seven months shy of the record here(owned by Gorritepe) for the oldest man to ever win a Slam title. Heck of a tournament by Anil.
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Old 07-21-2016, 03:58 PM   #434
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Top Ten Rankings Update

1. Girish Girsh(SRI, 27) -- 13,020

Still a fairly comfortable lead, but it looks like Iglar's got his number again which makes stuff a little more tense. A little over two months for him in the top spot now.

2. Anil Mehul(SRI, 30) -- 10,615

Both Girsh and Iglar have had better seasons overall - but it's Mehul who owns 2 Slam titles this year.

3. Antonin Iglar(CZE, 29) -- 10,540

Losing again in the USO final has to be bitterly disappointing. We'll see if he has to wherewithal to rise again for Shanghai and beyond.

4. Gustavo Caratti(ARG, 27) -- 9,300

Continues to creep up and is now a legitimate part of what has to be considered the Big 4. The gap behind him is enormous, and he waits for one of the others to slip up.

5. Pierce Gaskell(USA, 30) -- 4,900

6. Mugur Kinczllers(ITA, 27) -- 4,785

Kinczllers and Gaskell continue their gradual jockey for position here. It doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things - clearly neither of them is going to threaten the top players.

7. Bjorn Benda(DEU, 32) -- 4,690

A surprise USO quarterfinal shows Benda is still just good enough to be occasionally relevant off of clay.

8. Elias Trulsen(SWE, 27) -- 3,855

Aside from the Wimbledon final, he's just sort of floating along in a disappointing year.

9. Thiago Herrera(PER, 29) -- 3,440

Still keeping his head above the packed fray behind him.

10. Garreth McCuskey(USA, 26) -- 2,985

The latest to poke his head in, McCuskey has lots of competition. Poilblan, A. Herrera, and Federer are all just 100 or so points back.
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Old 07-21-2016, 04:14 PM   #435
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Sri Lanka Rankings Update

Girish Girsh -- 1st singles(unchanged). Iglar still looms as a potential challenger to hold off. Girsh was champion or runner-up in the three remaining big events, and he'll need another performance similar to that to keep his throne most likely.

Anil Mehul -- 2nd singles(unchanged). Winning the USO was probably just a stay of execution in terms of keeping his spot here, but still a great thing. Right now his overall record is on pace to be his worst in the last six years. I'm interested to see which player finishes out the year; the one who won the AO and USO, or the one who was very vulnerable most of the rest of the campaign.

Prakash Mooljee -- 25th to 21st singles, 249th to 350th doubles. Mooljee has lost three straight matches, all of them very close, all of which I had him a slight-to-moderate favorite in. He'd have progressed a little more had he won any of them, and he probably should have won two. Hopefully this won't affect his confidence too much. Having said that, it'll take considerable work for him to ascend up the rankings. Here's how the points look:

19. Perry Mockler -- 2250
20. Xavier Caminha -- 1745
21. Prakash Mooljee -- 1725
22. Sava Cirakovic -- 1530

To get past 20th, there's a big 500-point jump there with the spots above that more closely bunched together; Mockler is only about 700 short of being in the Top 10. The task right now for Mooljee is to turn around this recent run of frustrating defeats, and edge his way closer to that 10-19 group. Catching them before the end of the year seems unlikely.

Shreya Ujjaval -- 35th to 32nd singles, 79th to 78th doubles. Ujjaval is now 0-7 in the third round of Slams, including the last three US Opens and the last three Slams of this year. That seems almost impossible unless it was intentional. I thought he'd probably get Benda this last try, and he almost did. Nonetheless, getting seeded was a big deal for him and he makes it four Sri Lankans to have reached elite status. Heady stuff for us, it's nice to have a little bit of help from one of my cast-offs.

Shyam Senepathy -- 132nd to 82nd singles! A big-time rise for the much-maligned Senepathy over the past couple of months has been punctuated by his first Slam win just achieved, and before that a couple of challenger wins and a near-miss. I don't know how much higher he'll go, I don't see him making the Top 50 or better but we'll see what happens. He's still playing too much, so that won't help.

Ritwik Dudwadkar -- 210th to 234th juniors. It's been a season of yo-yoing back and forth a bit but basically treading water at not-quite-good-enough to leave the Tier-4 juniors. Probably he won't make the jump until next year when a bunch more players 'graduate'.

Manager Ranking -- 2nd(unchanged), 42.1k to 43.9k points. The long chase continues.
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Old 07-21-2016, 04:31 PM   #436
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-USO Edition

Let's see how things have changed, and if we appear to be headed for any drama this year.

In

Girish Girsh -- 10,170
Antonin Iglar -- 9,220
Gustavo Caratti -- 8,400
Anil Mehul -- 7,865

Iglar is still very much a threat for the year-end #1 spot; if he'd won the US Open final, he would have almost equaled Girsh on the season. Mehul could still finish anywhere from 2nd-4th but I think he's probably going to end up third, with Caratti still in the fourth spot this year.


Probable

Pierce Gaskell -- 4220
Mugur Kinczllers -- 4015
Bjorn Benda -- 3770

Gaskell looks like he's headed for another year of doing just enough to comfortably get in. This is like the third year in a row of that he's had. Eventually his luck will run out, but apparently it's not yet time. Kinczllers and Benda, as expected appear to have done enough to get themselves back in the field as well.

Contenders

Elias Trulsen -- 3315
------------------------
Thiago Herrera -- 3170

Both Trulsen and Herrera are limping towards the finish line, but my money's still on the Swede who is defintely the better hardcourt player.


Long Shots

Garreth McCuskey -- 2715
Theodore Bourdet -- 2615
Agustin Herrera -- 2605

This trio doesn't need a miracle, but they'd each need to pull off a couple of upsets and a deep run at either Shanghai or Paris, possibly both. The fat lady isn't singing yet, but she's definitely warming up.
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Old 07-22-2016, 07:45 PM   #437
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WTC Quarterfinals
Sweden(??) vs. Sri Lanka(2nd), Grass

Monday: G. Girsh d. O. Birkeland, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-1
Tuesday: E. Trulsen d. A. Mehul, 7-6(6), 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4
Wednesday: A. Hjoch/P. Myhre d. S. Ujjaval/P. Mooljee, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2
Thursday: G. Girsh d. E. Trulsen, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2
Friday: A. Mehul d. O. Birkeland, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3

Sri Lanka defeats Sweden, 3-2!!

That ... was more tense than expected. The Mehul - Trulsen rubber on day two was a true epic, and put us in a hole given their strength in doubles. Even more surprising was the way Girsh rose to the occasion and dominated to even things up on day four. That basically was the one that was going to either win it or lose it for us. This was the only close quarterfinal tie, and we made it through but Trulsen gave us a big scare.

Next up in a couple weeks is the United States on an indoor court. This is #1 against #2, and we will take the top spot by the end of the year I think if we win. The surface favors us - it's hard to see them beating us here. Strangely this might have been our one scare. On the other side is Argentina against France. Both would be a little dangerous, Argentina primarily as the new Germany. If they get through and get clay in the final ... Caratti is a monster there. So it's far from over, but I continue to like our chances.


Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar was part of the winning doubles team in his latest outing, in Washington DC. He was also the toughest obstacle for the eventual champion, American Evan Boone, who beat him 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals. A good amount of matches this week and now he'll get a few off.
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Old 07-24-2016, 05:16 PM   #438
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World Team Cup Semifinals
United States(1st) vs. Sri Lanka(2nd), Indoors

Here we go, the tie that will likely make or break our year.

Monday: A. Mehul d. P. Gaskell, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
Tuesday: G. Girsh d. G. McCuskey, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1
Wednesday: C. Dring/J. Loudermilk d. S. Ujjaval/R. Kuttikad, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1
Thursday: G. Girsh d. P. Gaskell, 7-6(1), 6-2, 6-4
Friday: A. Mehul d. G. McCuskey, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3

Sri Lanka defeats the United States, 4-1!!

This was basically over after the first day. Gaskell had to go nuts for us to lose and he wasn't up to the task. Indoors is our best surface, so that was a bad bit of luck for the Americans but we would have been favored anywhere. Unfortunate to see Mooljee drop off the doubles team but pairs just haven't been his thing for his whole career for whatever reason.

Additionally, as I hoped, we have finally ascended to the top spot. Sri Lanka is now the #1-ranked tennis nation in the world!!! It's taken a long time, but my top goal for this dynasty has now been achieved. More on where I go from here at the end of the year.

Of course it isn't over yet. France edged Argentina 3-2, with a Thursday meeting between Gustavo Caratti and Davide Poilblan the key. Caratti had beaten Bourdet but needed to win both of his singles rubbers with the Argentine #2, Max Benitez, not at the same level(world no. 63 at the time). Poilblan outlasted him on the grass in an epic match, 6-4, 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. It was another one of those where the 'wrong' player won; Caratti was just 3 of 13 on break chances, consistently pushing harder in his return games but it wasn't quite enough.

France moves up a spot to third, validating my prediction of a few years back that the Bourdet/Poilblan duo would make them a force. The final will be played on hardcourt. They are very much like us, not strong in doubles but two excellent singles players. Not excellent enough though. We'll be strongly favored.

Elsewhere ...

With the Czech Republic already eliminated, Antonin Iglar won the Malaysian Open(250, Indoors). This normally wouldn't be worth discussing, but it edged him just ahead(25 points out of more than 10k each) of Mehul, who drops to third now. This will affect the draw in Shanghai and beyond significantly.
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Old 07-24-2016, 05:24 PM   #439
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October

At nearly the last minute, I changed my mind on what to do with Prakash Mooljee the week before Shanghai. He's in what I consider the toughest spot for end-of-the-year scheduling(players in the 17-32 ranking range). He can't play any of the late-season challengers, but isn't positioned to make a major run in the Masters, including Paris. That makes it hard to load up on tournaments. The change I made was deciding to begin his 'death march' of end-of-the-year tournaments now, by entering the Japan Open(500, Hard). There are five weeks left in the year for him, including this one, and he'll likely play in at least four of them depending on how things go. The schedule will constantly be in flux.

He was seeded 5th here; I was hoping for 4th but I didn't realize that Perry Mockler is now without a manager and he grabbed that spot. It wasn't a kind draw either. He got some revenge in a comeback win over Smitala in the first round, but in the quarterfinals drew Caratti, who he had upset in the Olympics. The Argentine salved some of the sting of recent defeats with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-3 win, Mooljee failing on all 5 break chances. Not an inspiring performance in what should have been a fairly even match if not slightly favorable. Continuation of a trend unfortunately, he appears to be developing the same problem against similarly skilled opponents as Girsh had at the same stage of his career. In any case, only getting three matches in here won't help much in setting himself up for the offseason.

Theodore Bourdet had himself a fine week, knocking off Kinczllers in a classic final in the China Open, and vaulting to a career-high 9th as a result. If he can make a run in Shanghai next week, he could throw a wrench into the calculus for the Tour Finals qualifying ...

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 07-24-2016 at 05:24 PM.
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Old 07-26-2016, 08:23 AM   #440
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Shanghai Masters

Three of Sri Lanka's four entrants were all drawn in the same quarter unfortunately, and all of them in the same half. It made for a quick exit for Shreya Ujjaval, who beat a wild card in the first round and then lost to Mehul in the second, 7-5, 6-2. Prakash Mooljee had a tough first-round draw, another one of those matches that could go either way against (11)Davide Poilblan(FRA). Poilblan isn't a particularly good hardcourt player and Mooljee's a better athlete, but the Frenchman does have a significant advantage on serve. I was surprised to see Mooljee come up with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win here! He then knocked out Caminha with only slightly more difficulty, but Anil Mehul dropped him in the third round, 6-2, 7-6(4). Really as good a tournament as could be expected for those two, neither is near Mehul's level quite yet.

Bjorn Benda's latest indignity was the story of the early rounds, losing to Andre Herrera in his first match, the second round. Aside from that there were no great surprises. Bourdet notably continued his good recent play, upending Gaskell in three to reach the quarterfinals, and Benda's spot was filled by Marcek. Girish Girsh had his first test there, against Mugur Kinczllers. This is the fifth straight time they've met at this stage, a strange result that has a less than 0.1% chance of occuring(1 in 4 for each time). Sometimes they've been fairly comfortable wins for Girsh, but this one took everything he could muster to escape 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(6). Mehul ended Bourdet's run, Iglar continued to cruise through, and Gustavo Caratti had a bit of a battle but beat Thiago Herrera in three.

Once again the Big 4 made it through to the semis. The 16th meeting between Girsh and Mehul was strangely the first since the AO final at the beginning of this season. Girsh took it 7-6(4), 6-4. He didn't serve well on the day but age has caught up with Mehul enough that even a 12-6 edge in the ace count wasn't enough to save him. Antonin Iglar had a surprisingly tough time with Caratti, dropping a first-set tiebreak, but got through in three. The final was very close. You could even argue that Girsh was slightly the better player this time, but Iglar came up with the big shots when he needed to to edge him 7-5, 7-5.

This week confirms Iglar in the #2 spot in the rankings, pushing Mehul closer to falling to 4th than he is to regaining that position. Girsh still has a solid lead at #1 though ... for now.
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Old 07-26-2016, 04:05 PM   #441
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-Shanghai Update

In(4485 points required to qualify)

Girish Girsh -- 10,770
Antonin Iglar -- 10,020
Gustavo Caratti -- 9,340
Anil Mehul -- 8,175

Three weeks left until the field is determined, and only the top four have yet made it. Their ordering though at the end of the year is not yet finalized. Girsh's strength on the remaining indoor events at Paris and the World Tour Finals which will be held in Russia this year gives him a clear edge at maintaining the #1 spot, but he'll need to fend off Iglar. Mehul could still hold onto the #3 against Caratti, but he'll need a quality finish to do that as well.


Probable

Pierce Gaskell -- 4,380
Mugur Kinczllers -- 4,295

These two simply need one good event or a small slip by those who are below them. Both have upwards of a 95% chance I'd say, but they are not yet assured of their place.


Contenders

Bjorn Benda -- 3,730
Theodore Bourdet -- 3,475
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Elias Trulsen -- 3,405
Thiago Herrera -- 3,270

For the first time in a few seasons, we have some serious drama on our hands here. Four men vying for the last two spots basically, and Bourdet's surge over the last couple of weeks has him narrowly in as of right now. The others have been in middling form at best lately. Bourdet is a fine indoor player and I think he'll make it; Trulsen could, but he is probably on the outside looking in and it would be a hugely disappointing turn for him to miss out now. Herrera is only narrowly hanging on to hope.

Long Shots

Garreth McCuskey -- 2,995
Davide Poilblan -- 2,745
Agustin Herrera -- 2,695

It is not yet over for these three either, though they'll need an even bigger kick than Bourdet has shown to force their way into contention.


Coming Up ...

A trio of 250-level events are up this next week, which is actually nearly concluded at this juncture. Prakash Mooljee has entered the Kremlin Cup as part of his big finish, and a number of WTF hopefuls will aim to improve or solidify their standing.
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Old 07-26-2016, 10:19 PM   #442
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World Tour Finals - The 250s

Three 250-level events are the focus will three weeks left to earn a spot. By my calculations, there were nine men left trying to make the final three spots. Prakash Mooljee and Ritwik Dudwadkar were also in action among my players, so there was a lot going on.

Five of the remaining hopefuls chose not to play this week. This was actually the right decision in most cases. All of them have a least one 250 title and many two of them, meaning that they could not strengthen their odds of qualifying and were better off staying fresh for events in the last couple of weeks. The only player who could have benefited and did not participate was Pierce Gaskell, who is knocking on the door already anyway. Kinczllers, Bourdet, and both Herreras wisely sat out the week with a full complement. Two of the four who did play could not help themselves either. Davide Poilblan won the title in Stockholm, and Garreth McCuskey lost in the semifinals. Both are long-shots though and probably have other matters on their mind. Elias Trulsen also lost in the Stockholm semifinals(to 4th-seed Sava Cirakovic), and for him this was a damaging loss. A title would have given him an additional 100 points, moving him ahead of Bourdet for the last spot, for the moment. As it was, he gained nothing. Bjorn Benda entered the Kremlin Cup even though he already has a pair of 250 titles, but for him is was perhaps just due to needing more matches. He would suffer a 7-6(5), 6-3 loss to Prakash Mooljee in the semifinals, as Mooljee avenged his defeat at the USO in their only other meeting. Mooljee beat Perry Mockler in a three-set match in the final, a nice feather in his cap as he pushes toward the end of the year. Rounding out the week's events was Ritwik Dudwadkar doing the double at tier-4 Nonthaburi in Thailand. This basically jumped him back up to where he was at the start of the year - he still needs another good result or two to justify moving up.

With all said and none, none of the nine hopefuls changed their standings. The qualifying cut line has not changed, and with two weeks left all nine are still in play. There are opportunities for everyone starting next week, with a pair of 500-level events.
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Old 07-27-2016, 05:18 PM   #443
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World Tour Finals - The 500s

The Swiss Indoors and Valencia Open, both Indoor events, have now set the stage for the final push in Paris. Qualifying is now underway and the first round will begin shortly. But first, here's how the picture has changed.

7 of the 9 remaining hopefuls played in one of the two events, with the French contingent(Theodore Bourdet and Davide Poilblan) electing to skip these events and focus on their home-country Masters. This is a catch-22 type of decision, as they both definitely needed the rest, but their eggs are now all in one basket and it certainly cost them some ground, at least temporarily. On the other hand they'll be fresher and more focused to make a deep run where it will count the most. Time will tell if this is effective or not.

Here's how the others fared:

** Pierce Gaskell was the top seed in Valencia. The critical moment was a semi-final matchup with (4)Agustin Herrera, himself a long-shot for the Tour Finals. Gaskell won in three sets before losing to surprise winner Roberto Martin(ESP) in the final. As a result, he failed to add to his total; he needed to win the title to improve.

** Agustin Herrera added 180 points to his total despite the loss, as he came in with a very weak resume in the 500 events. He still has a very long way to go and will need an improbably deep run in Paris to qualify. To have any realistic chance he really needed to win the title.

** Mugur Kinczllers(Martin) and Thiago Herrera(Sava Cirakovic) both lost in the Valencia QFs, close 3-set matches against lower-ranked opponents. Herrera added a meager 20 points by this and Kinczllers' total was unchanged.

** Bjorn Benda was seeded second at the Swiss Indoors, where three more hopefuls participated. He lost a long tiebreak in the first set against Tobia Alberti(ITA), and it eventually cost him their QF meeting in three sets. Having an open spot, he still added 90 points giving him a bit of a boost, but he's not home yet.

** Elias Trulsen, who is horribly overplayed, won just a single game against Roger Federer in bowing out of the Swiss quarterfinals. It turns out that one reason for Trulsen's disappointing year is that he's focusing a lot on doubles right now. I think this is premature, but perhaps he doesn't care that much about finishing strong in singles. Either way, it was enough to earn him an 80-point bump, and put him narrowly back in the field over Bourdet ... for the moment.

** Garreth McCuskey made the semifinals, where he ran into champion Anil Mehul. I also had Mooljee in this event - he lost to Mehul in the quarters. McCuskey gained 80 pts. here over his next-best result, not nearly as much as he needed.

After all of that, the list of qualifiers for Russia in a month's time now expanded. The minimum points required to qualify fell to 4180, meaning that Gaskell and Kinczllers are the 5th and 6th players to officially make it. The rest of the standings, with 7 still alive for the final two spots:

Bjorn Benda -- 3820
Elias Trulsen -- 3485
---------------------------------
Theodore Bourdet -- 3475
Thiago Herrera -- 3290

Garreth McCuskey -- 3075
Agustin Herrera -- 2875
Davide Poilblan -- 2745

It definitely still looks like Trulsen vs. Bourdet for that final spot, but even Benda needs to make the semifinals in Paris to guarantee he gets in without help. Everyone else would have to win, and for some that might not even be enough. With Trulsen being completely exhausted, I think he'll depart early and Bourdet will join Benda in the final field. Everyone else would need to have a big week, and I'm not convinced any of them are capable of it.

As usual, I'll be reporting round-by-round as I am able on the goings-on at Paris until the field is complete. Girsh, Mehul, and Mooljee will all be there as well, and there are significant implications for all of them in finishing their season off strong.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:12 AM   #444
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Paris Masters
Early Rounds

All of the seeded players get first-round byes here, so none of the WTF hopefuls were in action. Shreya Ujjaval and Prakash Mooljee got through their first matches in straight sets, but both are so worn out by now that they aren't going far. This is actually a good thing here, as it's their last event of the year and means they'll be set up for a good offseason of training over the next two months.

The second round got the all of the top players in action, but none of them against each other. It was just a matter of avoiding upsets before things really started to heat up. It wasn't easy for some of them. Agustin Herrera rallied from a set down against Robert Martin, last week's surprise winner, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 to keep his long-shot chances alive. Kinczllers, who is already in, was nearly stunned by Zourab Andronikov and only advanced by virtue of a razor-thin margin in a third-set tiebreak. The only real 'upset' came when Elias Trulsen lost badly, 6-1, 6-2 to qualifier Andre Herrera. With this defeat, he was eliminated from contention as, for now, Theodore Bourdet grabbed the final spot with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Sava Cirakovic.

Thiago Herrera was now the best-positioned to mount a challenge, and six players still remained in contention for the last two spots. They'd all have to make at least the semifinals to overcome Bourdet, however, and that's assuming he doesn't make it that far.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:24 AM   #445
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Paris Masters - Third Round

This is the stage where players really start getting separated out, the last chance as they go up against each other. A number of them always get eliminated here.

** Agustin Herrera matched up with Girish Girsh, objectively now the top indoor player in the world in addition to being world no. 1. Girsh won easily, 6-2, 6-2, and Herrera is out of the running.

** Garreth McCuskey had a definite opportunity to keep going against Peruvian qualifier Andre Herrera, but he lost 6-3, 6-4 and his chances were ended here as well.

** Anil Mehul moved through another match easily, dispatching qualifier Pavel Bestemianov. The aging Russian had an impressive run just to get here.

** Theodore Bourdet was involved in the day's best match against Mugur Kinczllers. Kinczllers had narrowly survived yesterday; here he narrowly didn't, with the crowd urging Bourdet past, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. This will make it that much harder for anyone to surpass him ...

** Thiago Herrera now had the best chance to play spoiler, but he was dumped out by Antonin Iglar, 6-2, 6-4.

** In couple of matches with no bearing, Federer got the upset against Gaskell, and Caratti advanced with a win over Alberti.

** Davide Poilblan's youth and favor with the crowd proved more than enough against Bjorn Benda, 6-3, 6-4. Poilblan is the lone remaining long-shot now, but he'd need to go all the way and win the title in order to have a chance at this point.


Benda is now nearly assured of the 7th spot. He will have to watch the quarterfinals now, but the only way he doesn't make the Tour Finals is if both Bourdet and Poilblan make the championship match with Poilblan winning. That is unlikely in the extreme.
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:30 AM   #446
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Paris Masters - Quarterfinals

Girish Girsh sent Andre Herrera home easily, and Anil Mehul did the same to Bourdet(6-3, 6-0). This puts Bjorn Benda officially in the field. One of the two Frenchmen will take the last spot; it'll be Bourdet unless Poilblan is the champion here. The bottom half saw Iglar predictably stomp Roger Federer, and Caratti figured to make it a perfect group of the top four in the semis once again. Davide Poilblan had other ideas though, extending the drama for at least one more day. He rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory against the Argentine. He'll need two minor miracles, first against Iglar, to complete an improbable storybook ending to his season, but he's still alive and his countryman Theodore Bourdet has to sweat at least a bit now.
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Old 07-28-2016, 02:47 PM   #447
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Paris Masters - Semifinals

Anil Mehul got off to a good start in the first semi, but Girish Girsh rallied for a three-set win. It was a similar story in the second match, with Iglar ending Davide Poilblan's bid for the tour finals 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. A game effort, but he had too much ground to make up and it will be Bourdet who represents France there for the first time in my memory at least. Girsh has a chance to all but lock down the year-end #1 spot in the final; if he loses, all bets are off.
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Old 07-28-2016, 05:44 PM   #448
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I'm sure it's been asked, but is there any way we can join you in this venture?
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:58 PM   #449
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Anybody who wants to can join the game, hire and train their own players, etc. Some have already done that but they are competing against me or in other game worlds, 'joining' me per se isn't a thing. Esp. since I've now achieved my main goals here.
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Old 07-28-2016, 11:03 PM   #450
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Which world are you in?
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