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Old 04-23-2017, 02:27 PM   #601
Brian Swartz
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Join Date: May 2006
2052 Preview

1. Mateo Kaspar(97%, 8.96, +0.26)

Past his physical peak now, but still improving and not just a little. I have no way of comparing him to Gorritepe's best years, but he's now at least where Iglar where as this peak ... and will be getting better for at least a couple of years, probably three. Dude is just plain scary.

2. Prakash Mooljee(89%, 8.71, -0.06)

The first signs of decline are now starting to show. Mooljee is still an elite player though, and he's far from done.

3. Gillo Fangio(95%, 8.73, +0.11)

Fangio's on a similar path to Kaspar, it's just slower ... and he'll also decline faster. He's got two years left before he peaks, and really should push past Mooljee this season. I think he's got more in the tank than he showed most of the year, and ending by reaching the WTF final match was a good way to boost his confidence.

4. Johnny Browne(92%, 8.61, +0.08)

On paper, this should be Browne's best year. Despite the unwise investment in doubles, Johnny is still quite a fine player and is capable of being a threat to almost anybody.

5. Luc Janin(93%, 8.70, +0.07)

There's hardly a sheet of paper's distinction between Mooljee, Fangio, and Janin for the theoretical #2 position. It'd be nice if Luc was focused and well-managed this year; there could be some real fun battles there ... and Browne isn't far behind.

6. Khasan Zakirov(88%, 8.37, -0.04)

As mentioned in the rankings update, this is where things really drop off. Zakirov is doing well, maintaining his abilities and delaying his decline effectively. I think he's got at least another year as a solid Top-10 player and WTF qualifier. The difference is in the baseline game; Khasan has the serve, but he can't compete from the back of the court.

7. Juan de los Santos(89%, 8.30, +0.03)

This is a bit of a surprise; it's rare, but not unheard-of, for players to improve at all at this point in their careers. Maybe Santos has enough to stick around a bit more.

8. Tomas Niklas(87%, 8.44, -0.04)

Niklas is still trying, and he's got enough left here to even bounce back up a couple of spots if the year goes well for him.

9. Philippe Besson(89%, 8.28, -0.15)

Besson appears to have made the doubles turn this year at some point. His spot in the Top 10 appears to be shaky at best.

10. Tiosav Srbulovic(89%, 8.33, -0.03)


There's a clear divide here: The Top 5 are around to stay and I expect them to remain the same players in whatever order. The next five though have all reached the decline phase of their careers, if just barely. There's an opportunity here for others to replace them: who will seize it?

11. Jake Jolland(92%, 8.38, +0.12)

Jolland might finally be there. He only moved up two spots from a year ago, but did good work on his technical abilities. He's the kind of player who is just good enough to briefly crack the first page: and now's the time if he's going to do it, going into probably his peak year in terms of playing level.

12. Ariel Borja(97%, 8.45, +0.13)

Borja has a little more time, but had a fantastic season, rocketing up from 26th position. He's a class above Jolland clearly, and won't be satisfied merely with cracking the Top 10. It's just the next step for him, not the final one. Doesn't quite have the baseline game to assure his ascendancy yet though; he'll need to be sharp to keep progressing.

13. Guus Dircx(99%, 8.47, +0.11)

Also up big this year(23rd last season) is an even younger threat. I think he might stall a bit here since his technique needs quite a bit of work yet, but he's exceeded my expectations every year on his ascent so far. On paper, just good enough to beat the pack and get the theoretical #6. Definitely looks headed for the Top 5 at some point.

14. Martin Zarco(97%, 8.45, +0.09)

Didn't hear a lot from Zarco this past year. He bumped up a few spots from 18th but generally hit the wall a bit. He's another guy right in the same clump. It really is remarkable how closely matched this group in the 6-14 range is here. Things are constantly changing, but right now just pick a name blindly, they are all so close. Martin's still getting better, not dramatically so, but he'll push forward eventually.

18. Milos Schmucker(96%, 8.36, +0.12)

Last year I introducted Schmucker as the last man in the Top 32, a hyper-competitive spot, but he didn't stay there to the delight of Czech fans. He'll push up a bit more, but probably needs another year.

21. Shreya Ujjaval(84%, 8.20, -0.13)

It's a little disconcerting that Team Sri Lanka relies on a guy who is this far past his best tennis. He's still got strong technique though, but has been terminated by his previous manager which won't help. His decline will continue, and perhaps even accelerate, after slipping from 13th a year ago.

23. Sigmund Kronecker(95%, 8.43, ??)

There's a lot of veterans in the teens and 20s right now, but among them is this 24-year-old German that I've mentioned a couple times, but deserves an intro in the rundown here as he's made it into the professional class. Kronecker is primarily a clay player, good from the back but in an unusual twist his serve needs work. He's a good-enough athlete to convince me that he'll take another step forward this year. Didn't get enough matches at the end of last season though, so probably not a fast start here.

26. Ruslan Strelkov(95%, 7.83, +0.10)

Russia's top hope basically treaded water in the mid-20s last season, which is not really encouraging. Bottom line is all he really has is a top-notch serve. Baseline game is still anemic and athleticism underwhelming for a top player. I don't expect much more from him, he seems to have been an early overacheiver who reached his limitations.

31. Benno Duhr(99%, 7.64, ??)

Another new player, Duhr is the best Austrian we've seen in a while. He's a little short of his 22nd birthday, but I'm far from sold on him. Needs a ton of work at the back and is here mostly because he's taken good advantage of his expertise on clay. I don't think that will carry him much further, and he could peak as low as about 20th.

33. Hsuang-tsung Teng(99%, 8.15, ??)

Please don't even ask me to pronounce that. Teng is 22, a New Zealander. A lot of work to do yet on his shots but he is excellent when it comes to strength and the mental side of the game, and has good endurance. I don't think he'll be a major star, but he's likely on his way to the Top 10 eventually. One to watch.

39. Vinnie Cone(100%, 7.78, ??)

A former junior standout, Cone is here to remind everyone that there is no end to US talent. His serve still stinks and athleticism is just passable, so he's not a major prospect. Good enough to gradually move up though and at least get into the professional ranks. After that, we'll see.

42. Ruben Piazzola(100%, 8.04, ??)

The fourth new guy this year that Dudwadkar has unsuccessfully tangled with(Duhr, Teng, Cone as well). Piazzola is about to turn 21 and a clay expert, which seems to be a good ticket to rising quickly. Aside from that, good endurance and better athleticism are the strong points for this dynamic but raw player. Not impressive mentally but could check all the other boxes. Top 10 minimum here.

63. Shyam Senepathy(90%, 7.50, +0.02)

Looks like Senepathy ultimately proved me right about him not making the Top 50 in hilarious fashion. He peaked at #51 several times, and should have made it somewhat higher. He's not going to get any better at this point.

75. Ritwik Dudwadkar(99%, 8.17, +0.44)

Dudwadkar clearly has the game to be ranked much higher. I did screw up on a couple of weeks' scheduling, including missing the final challenger week of the year, but mostly this is down to him just continuing to underachieve. Against the top challenger players, who he should be beating his fair share of the time, he continues to lose pretty much every time. Lose competitively, but still. He's going to be good, but he's also going to be less than he should be.

The peak for him was 59th this year, and he's still up about 40 spots from a year ago. Eventually he'll start beating the best of the challenger group, and when that starts happening consistently I'll push him up to the professional Top-32 ranks as soon as possible. I'm still waiting for that to happen though. It was a solid year in terms of training and he's still right on track with previous players in terms of his technical skill -- though he should be a bit ahead of them if he wasn't flaking out.

91. Alexey Nikitin(100%, 7.44, ??)

Anytime a teenager is in the Top 100 it's worth noting, and Nikitin won't turn 20 for about three months. This Ukrainian has a good mental game and is almost as strong as Borja. Solid endurance and baseline play for his age, but needs a ton of work on the serve. He'll be a factor, but what kind of one it is far too early to tell. Not over-ranked though; he deserves to be here.

125. Anil Mehul(71%, 7.70, -0.26)

This is truly unrecognizable territory for Mehul, but he had a strong year in doubles and training. He's up to #11 from just 75th a year ago and along with partner Lars Kroese made the semis of the tour finals and won the Canada Masters, along with a couple of runner-up finishes. Slam showings were not as impressive, but they've demonstrated an ability to compete with any doubles team in the world.

Mehul's still getting better on that side, at 4.4 out of a 5.0 maximum. As a trainer, he's officially reached 'supertrainer' status at 5.08, a strong +0.13 this year. This year his goal is to push even higher in the doubles rankings and finish up maxing out his training on that side. Singles are an afterthought at this point.

157(J). Sushant Chiba(69%, 3.08, +1.34)

Chiba has pushed his serve up to 1.0, and I'm pretty happy with that being a good level to train up to evenly before switching to the normal distribution between skill and serve. That switch has already begun and won't take long to finish. In the meantime, he played a couple of tier-4 events late in the year; the first one was a reach but he won the second one at the very end, then got the usual ranking boost as the 18-year-olds graduated. He'll need at least two more tier-4 titles before looking to start moving up to the tier-3 events. 28-10 for his first year, comparable to Mooljee and better than Dudwadkar managed. I'll take it.
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Old 04-26-2017, 10:36 PM   #602
Brian Swartz
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January

All in all, 2052 didn't get off to a great start for us. First up was a World Team Cup tie against 11th-ranked Ukraine. That went well enough, a 4-1 win and we almost swept them. Didn't drop a set in singles, but doubles went against us, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4. We were outplayed anyway despite the scoreline, but when you only save 3 of 12 BPs, bad things happen.

Ritwik Dudwadkar got his season started at the tier-1 Sao Paulo challenger. He's low enough in the rankings that he barely wasn't seeded, but he pulled off probably the most impressive win of his career in dismissing the top seed, Vinnie Cone(39th, USA), 6-2, 6-4. Cone beat him towards the end of last year, and Dudwadkar didn't just win this one; he demolished the American. A great sign ... a few more of those and I'd need to start pushing him up towards the Top 32!! Of course he then tripped all over himself in the follow-up semi, falling to the quite inferior countryman Shyam Senapathy, 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4). Won the points battle 112-105 but despite that and the two-tiebreak scoreline he was the one who deserve to lose. Senapathy is the kind of player he should basically never lose to at this point, such is the gap between their skills. Real Jekkyl-and-Hyde performance this week, and Ritwik needs points. He didn't get any here, merely equaling last year's showing.

Anil Mehul easily won a small doubles event the next week, whilst Prakash Mooljee was stunned in the Sydney(250) quarters by Ujjaval, 7-6(3), 6-4. Should have won, but it also shouldn't have been close enough to give him a chance.

So twice in two weeks I have disappointing results at the hand of Sri Lankans I don't manage. That's just weird. Things are looking a little uneven heading into the Australian Open.
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:09 AM   #603
Brian Swartz
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2052 Australian Open

Anil Mehul skipped the singles draw; he may play the big events from time to time if he needs the matches, but it's doubles-only for him in terms of the focus. As far as that goes Mehul/Kroese lost two sets but in different matches, outlasting 2-seeds Yumashev/Arendt in the quarterfinals and going on to claim their first Slam title as a pair!! That's another first for Anil, no other Sri Lankan has ever won a Slam doubles crown. It moves them up to being the #5 team in the world, and they should reach #3 soon. The top two teams, Trulsen/Gaskell and Yumashev/Arendt, are further ahead but the way things are going I wouldn't be surprised to see these two reach the pinnacle. That'd really be something, and it's definitely a nice boost to Mehul in his effort to work towards being a trainer to get the xp from these big-time doubles matches. He's sort of got a second career going on here.

Meanwhile all four Sri Lanka entrants cruised through their first-round matches, including Ritwik Dudwadkar who had a kind draw against one of the worst direct entries. Still, it's first win here. That's not nothing. In the second round, he faced #14 Martin Zarco, and on hardcourt I figured him to be able to play him about even. Zarco's more athletic, technical skills fairly even, but he's not much of a hardcourt player. Ritwik took the first set easily but came up just short afterwards, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 7-5. Missed opportunity a bit here, it would have been his best win by a long shot as he's never won against a Top 30 player. Very few opportunities so far at least as well. Still has the 'not quite there yet' vibe. Shyam Senapathy had arguably his best Slam ever, pushing 18-seed Milos Schmucker to a tough four sets in the second round as well. All the top seeds yawned their way through, including Mooljee and Ujjaval our two remaining competitors.

Zopp and #27 Manee Paschal, definitely on the rise after a title last week, had one of the best matches of the tournament in the third round. Paschal came up short 7-5 in the 5th but he's on his way. No real major upsets yet, with Shreya Ujjaval losing in four to Borja, and Guus Dircx learning a bit of a lesson in a somewhat early defeat to Cojanovic. In the fourth round, Tomas Niklas showed once again that he's past it, dropping a tight straight-sets match to Zopp. Borja had an upset that really wasn't against #7 Juan de los Santos, and Fangio was the first of the contenders to be challenged; he went the distance against Phillippe Besson, but the Swiss faded badly, taking only four games in the last two sets combined.

The quarterfinals brought the top six plus Borja(12th) and Zopp(15th) to the party. Kaspar dismissed the Finn with the loss of just eight games. First matchup of contenders went to Johnny Browne over Janin, 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6). The Canadian has to be shaking his head after that one, he was right there in every set. Mooljee had a third-set lapse but otherwhise cruised very easily over Khasan Zakirov. Fangio once again rallied, knocking out Ariel Borja in four after losing the first.

So, top four on to the semis. Another victory for the rankings. Browne pushed Mateo Kaspar to his first tiebreak ... then won one whole game after losing it. Ouch. Fangio pulled off a third straight comeback over Prakash Mooljee, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. Mooljee's 3 of 17 line on break points was the story here, as he was the more consistent player. It's hard to get too broken up about it though; the Italian's greatest strength is his mental game. If he can keep it close, you're usually in trouble, and that's exactly what happened here. Mooljee still leads the H2H 11-4, but he's lost the last two. So that's officially a trend ...

Kaspar swatted Gillo Fangio aside, to the surprise of precisely nobody. Didn't lose a set all tournament, was never challenged in any match, and looked supremely unworried by anything. Every time he goes out the match is on his racket and he knows it. Third Slam title. The real test for him is what happens in the spring on clay and grass. That's where he's potentially not immune.

Browne moves up to #3 ahead of Fango, Dudwadkar gets a bit of a bump and not much. Mooljee is still secure at #2 for now. Last year he won the Miami Masters, but he's probably still fairly safe until RG. If he doesn't defend there, chances are he falls further.

Elsewhere ...

Sushant Chiba won in doubles and made the final at tier-4 Auckland, losing to a guy who is ranked well into the Top 100 juniors so it's no shame. He's losing consistently to Top 200 guys in practice, so he looks over-ranked and it'll definitely be a steady diet of tier-4 events until he starts having more success. Right where he should be at this point, and working steadily on that baseline game. Everyone's gotten in a good run of matches to start the year, and they'll all have roughly a month off. Time to get some good training in, aside from next week's WTC clash with Spain.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 04-28-2017 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 05-05-2017, 08:02 PM   #604
Brian Swartz
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February/March

World Team Cup

The second round was the biggest one of group play for us, facing off against Spain on their favored clay. It was basically over by day two though. Shreya Ujjaval pulled a stunning upset in an epic over 7th-ranked Juan de los Santos, 8-6 in the 5th. The next day we took the doubles and had a 3-0 lead, getting a 4-1 win with Martin Zarco the lone victory for the Spaniards; he beat Ujjaval on Friday.

That gives Sri Lanka clear passage to the top spot in our group; we'll still have an encounter with Peru but nothing that happens there can change our position.

Everybody had the next few weeks off, and then there was some action the week before Indian Wells. Prakash Mooljee entered the 500 in Acapulco, and was shocked by Germany's Stefano Espinoza in the quarterfinals. Probably should have won the match, but no way it should have been close to begin with. Anil Mehul played the doubles in Acapulco, winning easily. Ritwik Dudwadkar entered in the Salinas tier-2 challenger, and took home both the singles and doubles championship trophies in a strong week for him; albeit against fairly weak competition.
Sushant Chiba had his latest tier-4 juniors action in Haifa, Israel, and was upset in the SFs mostly for reasons of extreme fatigue. He pushed it to hard in training the week before, and had the following week off completely. It wasn't a totally lost event at all, and he did win in doubles.

Pretty good showings all things considered.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:39 AM   #605
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Indian Wells

Anil Mehul and Lars Kroese never really looked to be on their game for the year's first Masters, and eventually it caught up to them in a tight QF loss to 3rd seeds Cordasic/Aspelin. The climb to overtake teams like them got a pause as a result. Over on the singles side, Shyam Senepathy knocked out a qualifier, but then bowed out meekly to Paschal in the second round.

Four low seeds went out at that stage, but both Ujjaval and Mooljee had an easy time of it. Home favorite Ariel Borja ended Ujjaval's push in the third round, an appropriate ending for him. Dircx, Niklas, and Besson all were upset victims that day as well: a little more carnage than we're used to seeing this early. Then it was Prakash Mooljee's turn in the 4th; Jake Jolland ended him 6-3, 6-4. Home crowd and all that, but once again it came down to the key moments: 3/4 BPs for the American, 1/8 for Mooljee. I can't remember the last time we didn't have a player in the final eight ... and Santos was gone as well.

Still had four of the top five left though. Plenty of titans remaining, and all of the top players advanced. In the first semi, Mateo Kaspar was given quite a surprise by Fangio, 7-6(5), 7-6(2). A close match featuring just two breaks in 19 chances, and the Italian got it done in the breakers. It broke a four-match streak in this matchup by the dominant Frenchman, and was his first loss of the year. The second match was a fantastic battle, with the winners the crowd as much as anyone. Khasan Zakirov made a real fight, but was stopped by Johnny Browne 7-5 in the final set. Crowd or no, Gillo Fangio would not be denied, taking a fairly narrow victory to claim his third Masters. We'll see if this is another one-off, or the start of a bigger push.
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Old 05-08-2017, 01:52 AM   #606
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Miami Masters

Lots of players were looking to bounce back a couple weeks later. The Mehul/Kroese doubles team was in much better form, smashing their way through higher-ranking teams before meeting their match in the championship final. The 6th-seeded team of Cordovez/Podkopayev had them on the run, but a rally saw Mehul through to a 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 win, narrowly taking the super tiebreak and with it a second Masters in doubles.

Senepathy lost a tight third-set breaker to qualifier Angel Jimenez(ARG), unable to duplicate his success here. There were only a couple of mild third-round upsets, a much more 'to form' path in the early going. Shreya Ujjaval played well but lost in a couple tight sets to Srbulovic. In the fourth round, Guus Dircx exited early again, to Zopp this time, and Mooljee cruised easily. A couple of great matches at the bottom of the bracket; Borja upset last week's champ Fangio in a final-set tiebreak, and Tomas Niklas rallied 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 to put off an upset bid from Besson.

7 of the top 9 players into the quarterfinals then. The first match was the shocker; Kaspar went down again, and this time much easier. It was Luc Janin, almost an afterthought these days at the very top, who blasted him aside fairly easily, saving all seven chances against his serve. It's been well over a hear since Mateo was beaten down like this -- really shocking. He's clearly in a major slump. Elsewhere, Ariel Borja beat Niklas to add another scalp to his tournament.

Both SF matches featured an American crowd favorite against a top-ranked foe. The fans went home happy; Janin bowed out meekly against Johnny Browne, 6-2, 6-3; apparently his best tennis was left in the last match. Borja took down Prakash Mooljee almost as easily. It wasn't a total shock to see Browne lose his second straight final, but the way it happened was pretty stunning. He couldn't do anything against Ariel Borja's serve, getting just 11 points on return for the whole match and failing to get a single break point. Borja emerges as the clear US #2 here, and claims his first Masters at age 23. He's definitely going to bear closer watching now.
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Old 05-08-2017, 02:10 AM   #607
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This is actually a week late ... but close enough.

Rankings Update

1. Mateo Kaspar(FRA, 23) -- 15,400

Kaspar's biggest issue right now is getting back to playing dominant tennis. He's a long ways away from being the slightest bit concerned about his lead in the rankings; nobody below him is emerging as a consistent threat anyway. It was pretty much assumed that he'd sweep the last few weeks and then we'd see what happened in the spring, the weakest part of the calendar for him. Hardcourt is supposed to be invincible, but not the last month.

2. Prakash Mooljee(SRI, 27) -- 9,250

Mooljee is still hanging on, but isn't far from slipping a spot or two. All signs still point to RG as the event where he'll sink or swim this year.

3. Johnny Browne(USA, 26) -- 8,710

Browne is knocking on the door, and has a chance to move up to #2 if he can produce any kind of clay results.

4. Gillo Fangio(ITA, 24) -- 7,800

Inconsistent, but Fangio is still gradually improving. He's got a much better clay game than Browne, and we'll see soon if he can defend last year's Madrid title.

5. Luc Janin(CAN, 25) -- 5,260

Ever the mystery, Janin's upset of Kaspar in Miami is the most impressive match played this year. His showing in the next round might be the most disappointing one. Who knows what we'll see from him.

6. Khasan Zakirov(UZB, 28) -- 4,470

7. Ariel Borja(USA, 23) -- 4,245

Borja is a credible performer on the dirt; he made the QF at RG last year but did little in the Masters. He's got a chance to add more points to his total here over the next couple of months. This is the point where greater consistency will be required.

8. Juan de los Santos(ESP, 26) -- 4,040

9. Tomas Niklas(CZE, 28) -- 3,520

10. Tiosav Srbulovic(USA, 26) -- 3,380

Nothing's really changed at the bottom here; Borja crashed the party and kicked out Dircx, who had risen briefly. He's still waiting along with Jolland just outside the Top 10. They'll be up her for an extended stay soon I think.

21. Shreya Ujjaval

Still hanging around, pretty steady at about this spot.

67. Ritwik Dudwadkar

After a QF exit in tier-2 Santiago, Dudwadkar won both titles at Marrakech. That concludes another group of events for him and he'll take almost two months off now. After that, he's pretty much done with doubles for the time being. The training over that period will help, but he's also slowly gaining momentum and can't afford to keep going deep into the doubles draw which he's doing more and more. It's time to make the switch, and hopefully a big charge up the rankings in the year's second half.

186. Anil Mehul

Mehul won't have a singles ranking at all before too much longer. He's up to #5 in doubles though, just ahead of a couple of teams. Securing that position and setting his sights on the top two pairs is on deck next.

149(J). Sushant Chiba

Chiba just finished taking both titles at the tier-4 event in Algiers. He can't get many more points at this level than he already has, but he's still getting his hat handed to him by Top 200 juniors in practice so he's not ready for a promotion yet. As soon as that changes, he'll push up to the tier-3 tournaments.
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Old 05-12-2017, 07:33 PM   #608
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April

World Team Cup

In wrapping up group play, Sri Lanka blanked Peru 5-0. Once a strong competition, the Peruvians no longer have anybody ranked higher than 75th, and they didn't win a set. On to the quarterfinals, where we'll be pretty big favorites against the Czech Republic. It's on clay, and their rising #2 player Milos Schmucker(17th) could make things interesting. Niklas is quickly falling off though. Mooljee should get his two wins, leaving us needing just one from doubles or Ujjaval. That shouldn't be too hard.

Monte Carlo

Most of the top players were in action here, and Prakash Mooljee did well. Took three sets to get through tough customers in the QFs(Zarco) and SFs(Fangio), before a close straight-set loss to Mateo Kaspar in the final. Looks like he found his game, as this is one of his worst surfaces. Definitely a big confidence-booster for the champion. In doubles, Mehul/Kroese were bounced by the 8th seeds from the Phillipines, Thomas and Chris Rhodes, in the quarterfinals. Not the result they were looking for, and they continue to bob up and down from 3rd-5th there.

Ritwik Dudwadkar took the whole month off; Sushant Chiba won both singles and doubles in tier-4 Algiers, but continues to struggle against Top-200 juniors.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:31 AM   #609
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Madrid Masters

Shyam Senepathy didn't make it through qualifying, leaving only two in the singles draw for Sri Lanka. Sadface. Mehul/Kroese made it the final, including upsetting #2 seeds Yumashev/Arendt in the semis, but won just two games against champs Cordasic/Asepin. The 3-seeds are clearly on their way up, and at our expense. Shreya Ujjaval easily beat a qualifier, and then exited 2 & 3 against Santos, so that took care of that.

On the wider scale, world. no. 3 Johnny Browne was dumped out by Spaniard Simon Davila in the second round, with Srbulovic also losing. Not a good day for the Americans, but of course clay is not typically friendly to them. The next round had a couple more upsets of sorts, Dircx over the usually reliable Khasan Zakirov, and no. 4 Fangio taking the first set and then falling apart against Martin Zarco. As one would expect, Spain is doing well here.

Still five of the top eight reached the quarters. Mateo Kaspar lost his first set at this point before knocking out Santos in three. Borja won over Jake Jolland in a US clash, Mooljee steamrolled Guus Dircx 6-0, 6-2, and Zarco continued his run with a close victory over Luc Janin. The semis were a total joke. Kaspar and Mooljee lost five games COMBINED. I'd be tempted to demand a refund if I were a fan, and many were in a foul mood after seeing Martin Zarco put up less of a fight. The final largely made up for it though. Prakash Mooljee got the upper hand this one, a tight 7-6(5), 7-6(6) win with plenty of drama. 15th Masters for him, one short of Girsh's national record.

In other news, I totally screwed up on Ritwik Dudwadkar's scheduling and had him play both singles and doubles in Tier-1 Bordeaux. He won doubles as a qualifier, and lost yet another tight singles match he should have won. Top-seeded Angel Zaferia(ARG) was the conqueror this time, 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-3. As a result of this, he'll have to take the next couple of weeks off.
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Old 05-19-2017, 12:44 AM   #610
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Rome Masters

Senepathy got a wild card here ... and was dismissed by #15 Andres Guardado, taking three games. So much for that. The doubles weren't as kind, with Mehul/Kroese getting upset in a super TB in the quarterfinals, 10-5. Consistently getting to at least the semis is important for them, so this was a setback even if clay isn't their forte. And Ujjaval didn't even show up ... mumblegrumble.

Lots of casualties early on. Browne once again lost his first match, this time to a qualifier!! Luc Janin did as well, and that's far less justifiable as he's a good clay player. Tight match there against Sigmund Kronecker. A couple other seeds were out by the end of round two as well. In the third, Kronecker claimed another scalp(#16 Milos Schmucker), and Kakirov lost again with Tomas Niklas doing the honors in a tight match that went the distance. Most stunningly, Juan de los Santos exited courtesy of youngster Benno Duhr(AUT), 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Heck of a match, and the 22-year-old Duhr is climbing ...

Only half of the top eight made the quarters, and a pair of unseeded players were here as well. For those at least, it was a potentially career-defining opportunity. The powers that be re-established themselves though, with the top-ranked players advancing easily in every match. The semifinals were more competitive though. Gillo Fangio pushed Kaspar to three before falling apart in that final set. For the second straight week, Martin Zarco lost to Mooljee, but this one was 6-3, 6-4 ... a lot closer. Three clay masters, and the same final matchup each time. It's officially a trend. It was no contest, with Mateo Kaspar saving all four break points against and winning 6-2, 6-3. That gives him the momentum heading into Roland Garros.

Sushant Chiba tallied another singles/doubles title pair in tier-4 Harare(Zimbabwe). Not much drama for him at this level, and he's gradually getting a bit more competitive against players in his own ranking range.
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Old 05-21-2017, 12:13 PM   #611
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2052 Roland Garros

Tough result here for 4th-seeded Mehul/Kroese, who were upset in the third round. It's the same showing as a year ago, but disappointing as this was an opportunity to make up some ground. The top three teams are pulling away from them a bit here, and more consistency is needed in order to challenge them. Mehul played singles as well, qualified and won in the first round over (25)Davide Poilblan, but lost to American Roger Calzada in a second-round match that went the distance. Very mixed results there. Shyam Senepathy also had a good draw, won easily, but then was stomped by Mooljee in the second round. That left just the usual two participants. Poilblan was the highest-ranking player to exit in the first two rounds.

In the third, four different matches went the distance and most of them were high-quality. Shreya Ujjaval had the chance for one of the bigger wins of his career against Juan de los Santos, leading by two sets before the Spaniard rallied to take the last three. Tough loss there. Youngsters Manee Paschal(Mooljee) and Ruben Piazzola(Guardado) had their runs ended here. Guus Dircx(Cojanovic[/b] and Gillo Fangio(Kronecker) both were lucky to advance, 7-5 in the 5th for both of them; Zakirov also narrowly survived. For all of that, on this day higher-seeded players were 15-1. Jake Jolland was beaten surpringly easily by the young Russian Ruslan Strelkov, and that was it. That was a shocking result, but the only one.

The pattern continued as Prakash Mooljee won his sixth straight over Niklas and 22nd in 24 meetings, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Bit of a throwback match to an era now in the rearview mirror when they, not the French prodigy, ruled the sport. Guus Dircx knocked off #5 Ariel Borja in three close sets, but that wasn't much of an upset. The best match was Zarco over Khasan Zakirov, four sets and the last three via tiebreak. All Top-10 players in the quarterfinals, so form was definitely continuing to hold here. Kaspar beat Luc Janin easily, and Santos stopped Johnny Browne. A much better showing here for the world no. 3, and Browne's first time past the third round at his worst Slam. Mooljee dropped his first set of the tournament, then rallied to allow just three games over the final two sets. He gets past Guus Dircx in four. Fangio keeps moving despite the early stumble, as once again Zarco is part of the best match. That also went four, with the Spaniard on the losing end this time.

In the semifinals, Mateo Kaspar continued to be in devastating form. Just four games allowed to Santos; he hasn't come close to losing a set. Gillo Fangio gave a strong effort but lost to Mooljee 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4. Uncharacteristically, the Italian was 0-5 on BPs, but he was outmanned here on clay. The final was very tight for half a match, but Kaspar pulled away to claim his first RG crown, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. It was another classic case of being better in the big moments; both players had 13 BPs, but the conversion count was 8-3. The last good chance for a Slam title of Mooljee's career most likely, and Mateo's emergence as the best player in the world even on a weak surface is both impressive and scary.

Ritwik Dudwadkar won at tier-2 Nantes, highlighted by a convincing win over Ivan Coria, 6-3, 6-2. Earlier this year he lost to the Argentine who floats around #50 in the rankings.
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Old 05-22-2017, 09:00 PM   #612
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June

There wasn't a whole lot going on during the break. Mooljee had enough matches to take the whole period off. Anil Mehul played doubles in Halle(500). Kroese wasn't there, and he ended up losing in the semis. This is one of those things that I'd do differently if I had it to do over again. Mehul's practice sessions are not as productive because he's better than most players at his ranking in singles due to playing mostly doubles in actual tournaments and the singles ranking sliding. I need to get him out there for some more events in singles when I can, but it's tough to balance that with keeping him fresh for the big doubles events. Could always just switch over practicing to doubles, but that wouldn't give him enough work and he doesn't have the endurance to do both. So I'm learning about how to best handle something new as I work my way through it.

Dudwadkar was also out of action. Sushant Chiba had a good showing at a tier-4 in Auckland, winning in singles and taking runner-up in doubles. Enough to at least maintain his status.
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Old 05-25-2017, 02:20 AM   #613
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2052 Wimbledon

It was not an easy road, but Mehul/Kroese had themselves a great run here. After a couple of competitive matches, they reached the final without having actually lost a set. Cordasic/Aspelin, the #2 team in the world, waited but they could not stop the express, falling in four. After a third-round loss last year, this gives Mehul a second doubles Slam in his trophy case, and vaults the duo to the #3 spot, within striking distance of the top teams.

Shyam Senepathy had an interesting first-round match in singles, losing in a competitive three sets to (30)Olaf Bergman of Norway. Argentina's Tristan Benitez was the only seed to stumble at the first hurdle, after a fairly epic four-set struggle against Ireland's Deji Ekoku. The strange thing here is that it was Ekoku's first-ever Wimbledon victory ... at 32 years old! (19)Hsuang-tsung Teng(NZL) exited in a five-set loss to Swede Valentin Rosenberg in the second round, while everyone else made it through. Teng is a pretty fast-rising 22-year-old player, but he hit a road bump in this one.

In the third, Sava Cirakovic pulled off another magic act in outlasting Borja 3-6, 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(8), 7-5, a match in which the world #5 had several match points to advance but could not convert any of them. Usually a reliable grass performer(4th round last year), he figured to have a deep run here. The drama didn't end there, with Blagota Cojanovic stopping no. 4 Gillo Fangio, 11-9 in the 5th! Two of the Top 5 in the world gone by the end of the third round: the field was open for some unusual surprises going forward. There weren't any huge shockers in the round of 16 though. Luc Janin survived a second straight close four-set match to keep on moving.

The quarterfinals had six players more or less expected to make it, along with (18)Andres Guardado(MEX) and (17)Sigmund Kronecker(DEU), who were definite surprises. Both gave it a worth effort; Guardado was the first one to give Mooljee a real match, pushing it the distance before Prakash won the final set 6-3. Closer than it should have been. Kronecker pushed Janin to a third straight four-set result. Meanwhile, Mateo Kaspar also ran into some trouble, with Guus Dircx winning a couple sets to make that one go the distance. A semifinalist a year ago, he showed it was not a fluke. All of the favorites ultimately came through, and the top three were still around.

The first semifinal is one that defending champion Johnny Browne will not soon forget. After taking the first two sets, he watched Kaspar rally for a 1-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 8-6 win. Browne had the most aces and won seven more points, but after the first set he was just a bit on the short end and couldn't get over the finish line. In the second, Mooljee stopped Janin in straight sets(two via tiebreak). So the final was the same as just about every other big match the last few months. Once again Mateo Kaspar dropped the first two sets, but once again he came back to win it. Reminiscent of Browne's first Slam title two years ago at the USO, he takes three straight 5-setters, the last two rallying from 2-0 down in sets, and claims his first Wimbledon title. It was a deserved win, but you can only shake your head here. Mooljee was very close to that 9th slam, but like Browne couldn't finish off the champion.

Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar claimed his first 'plus' challenger title, blasting aside Coria easily to finish off a fine run at Braunschweig. He's looking better all the time, finally able to dominate the weaker competition around him.
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Old 05-25-2017, 02:21 AM   #614
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Top Players Rankings Update

1. Mateo Kaspar(FRA, 23) -- 17,240

Kaspar has rebounded very convincingly from his hiccup in the early hardcourt Masters, and now established himself as the clear, overwhelming favorite on any match, anywhere, any time, any opponent, any surface, any anything. He is an emperor among insects.

2. Prakash Mooljee(SRI, 28) -- 10,630

Mooljee continues to be by far the best of those insects. Every tournament Mateo won this spring, he beat Prakash in the final of. And in Madrid, there was even the upset. Consistency has him doing the very best he can be expected to, and surprisingly nobody has risen to approach him.

3. Johnny Browne(USA, 26) -- 7,250

Failure to defend his Wimbledon title, though of course he didn't play badly, has virtually assured that Browne will never rise higher than third.

4. Gillo Fangio(ITA, 24) -- 7,190

Definitely a missed Wimbledon opportunity. Fangio will probably still pass Browne soon, but anything short of #2 by year's end has to be a disappointment for him, and the only way that happens now is a very big finish.

5. Luc Janin(CAN, 25) -- 4,490

The schedule has been managed much better this year, but strangely consistent results still have not come. Janin's a mile way from threatening the top 4.

6. Ariel Borja(USA, 23) -- 4,380

Another guy looking forward to the summer and fall, hoping to erase the bad memory of what just transpired.

7. Khasan Zakirov(UZB, 29) -- 3,815

The same steady performer as ever. Zakirov is a sort of bellweather, a rite of passage for up-and-comers.

8. Juan de los Santos(ESP, 26) -- 3,710

Santos seems destined to always be mentioned as a competitor to Zakirov. Both are steady Top 10 players; never better than that, but rarely worse.

9. Martin Zarco(ESP, 23) -- 3,635

Very soon Spain will have a new standard-bearer. Zarco reached the quarterfinals or semis of all four big clay events. He's particularly inept on hardcourts, but has little to defend there.

10. Tomas Niklas(CZE, 28) -- 3,460

An old friend pops up for a bit just to say hello.

11. Tiosav Srbulovic(USA, 26) -- 3,425

12. Guus Dircx(NLD, 22) -- 3,360

Dircx left a round earlier at Wimbledon this year so he slips a bit. And time of course is on his side. Overall his showing in big events is little different than last year; the late-season Masters in particular are an opportunity for him to step up and get back into the Top 10.

After this there is a bit of a gap.

14. Sigmund Kronecker(DEU, 24) -- 2,935

I've mentioned this still-improving German a few times; he's already up several positions this year. A clay specialist, Kronecker probably holds outside the Top 10 until next year but he's definitely becoming more of a force.'

21. Shreya Ujjaval(SRI, 29) -- 1,725

Holding steady. He's had no big runs and no major disappointments. Does what's expected of him.

24. Davide Poilblan(FRA, 32) -- 1,570

Poilblan deserves credit for his longevity; there is nobody else at 30 or above right now in the Top 32.

48. Shyam Senepathy(SRI, 28) -- 920

Look what we have here. After I concluded to start the year that he'd never make it, Senepathy finally cracks the Top 50. Good for him.

55. Ritwik Dudwadkar(SRI, 22) -- 807

A career high, and he's got opportunities in front of him. Another 'plus' challenger next week, a pair of tier-1s when the next set of Masters roll around ... if he's in form for the next month or so Dudwadkar will surge into the Top 50. He stands at 10 Challenger-level titles and will need to add quite a few more by year's end to push into the Top-32. He really should make it, but I've learned not to expect too much from him.

146(J). Sushant Chiba

Holding pretty steady, and starting to hold his own against Top 200 juniors as well. I think there's a good spot in the schedule for his first tier-3 in a couple of weeks, and he's just now got his skill/service balance to where it needs to be going forward as well. I like the synergy of how that whole training process has worked out the first year and a half for him. I think I've found the blueprint I want to follow, even though Chiba's cement feet do still limit him. Either way, he will gain very little from further tier-4 events. It's time to see if he's ready to move up.

1(Mgr). 35.6k pts. Still a few thousand up on Kaspar's manager, though that will eventually change. Really need Dudwadkar to start pulling his weight so that I can at least keep treading water.
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Old 05-25-2017, 02:24 AM   #615
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-Wimbledon Edition

There's obviously no question who #1 is, but I always find it somewhat surprising to see who rises to the top in the Race. Usually the clay players do pretty well at this early juncture, and then fade. Let's see how it's shaking out this year.

In

Mateo Kaspar -- 9,990
Prakash Mooljee -- 6,455

No auto-bid for Mooljee as Kaspar has swept all the Slams, but he's been consistent enough that his spot is already assured. Everyone else isn't there yet.


Probable

Gillo Fangio -- 4980
Johnny Browne -- 3980
Martin Zarco -- 3445
Ariel Borja -- 3370
Luc Janin -- 3360

Despite not having a fantastic year so far, Fangio clearly has a good grip on the #3 spot. Browne definitely has the inside track on hanging onto fourth, esp. when you consider the homecrowd advantage in the US events and his hardcourt proficiency. After that, the second half of the spots are very much still up in the air. It's a surprise to see Zarco this high ... but can he do anything in the second half? That's very much an open question.

Contenders

Khasan Zakirov -- 2850
--------------------------
Juan de los Santos -- 2660
Guus Dircx -- 2625

Right now we'd end up with one of these two veterans not getting in; Santos is odd man out right now after qualifying the past two years. He and Dircx have the same problem; clay is, relatively speaking, their best surface. Making up ground against players more proficient on hardcourt will be tough. But for now at least, they are right there ...


Long Shots

Sigmund Kronecker -- 2340
Andres Guardado -- 2225
Tomas Nicklas -- 2015
Tiosav Srbulovic -- 2015
Phillippe Besson -- 2005
Kire Zopp -- 1910
Milos Schmucker -- 1870
Jake Jolland -- 1825

So who really has a chance from this group? I'd have said Jolland before the season but other than a couple of decent moments it's really been a rough year for him. Doesn't look like he has what it takes, and he's got a big mountain to climb. Kronecker has the same problem as Santos/Dircx, being a clay player. Zopp is clearly not the guy he was a year or two ago, and even then he was never good enough to make it. Guardado has the best chance, but not much of one; he hasn't done enough since winning the Acapulco 500 early in the year.


Outlook


Looks to me like one of the clay specialists, Zarco/Santos/Dircx, is in and the other two out. Zarco has enough of a lead that he's probably the guy, though he could still plummet. I don't see anyone else likely to make a serious run at it.
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Old 05-25-2017, 05:16 PM   #616
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July

Mooljee and Mehul both had the next few weeks off. Ritwik Dudwadkar entered the Top 50 at 48th after taking another CH+ title in Sopot(Poland). There were a couple of big events this week, diluting the field, and he was not remotely challenged. Sushant Chiba went to his first tier-3 juniors, and had some tough matches with a lot of players around his level in the field. He ended up winning doubles but losing in the SF of singles, mostly due to fatigue. I'm thinking it'll be a mix of tier-3 and tier-4 events for him at the moment, but it was a good tournament in terms of getting some quality competition.
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Old 05-28-2017, 11:45 PM   #617
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Canada Masters

It was a good week for Mehul/Kroese as the third seeds found their way through tough matches in the last three rounds to defend their title here. The world's #1 team, Gaskell/Trulsen, was the foe in the semifinals. After dropping the first set, it took a tense tiebreak and a good showing in a 10-5 super TB to defeat them. 7-5, 7-5 was the scoreline of a close championship match against 5th-seeded Corovez/Pokdopayev. It was a good example of the tough sledding that they will need to do to reach the pinnacle.

Shyam Senepathy was given a wild-card here, and responded by losing to a qualifier. It was close, but still. Way to not go. Shreya Ujjaval won a tight one over Agustin Herrera, then surprisingly crushed Jolland in the next round. He was up 6-2 over Janin in the third round before the Canadian rallied to beat him. Definitely a good week for our #2. The third round was giant-killing time elsewhere. Fangio dropped out to Phillipe Besson who is making another push, and Prakash Mooljee was stunned by Niklas, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4. After three straight years in the final here, he just got outplayed here in a close match.

That left a fairly diluted business end of the tournament. Tomas Niklas kept on going with a tight win over Srbulovic, Luc Janin narrowly beat Besson, and favorites Browne and Kaspar won routinely. The semis went about as you'd expect, with neither underdog taking more than six games. Johnny Browne got off to a poor start in the final, and Mateo Kaspar wins again, 6-0, 6-4. It was notably the best showing for Niklas in almost a year(last SF was at Shanghai at the end of '51) and for the moment, it boosted him back into the Top 10.
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Old 05-28-2017, 11:59 PM   #618
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Cincinatti Masters

Mehul/Kroese had a bad hangover here, losing in their very first match. Unseeded Ukrainians Buynov/Bezhin knocked them off in an epic, 7-6(6), 1-6, 15-13. Two tiebreaks that they were right there for, multiple match points, and they were slightly the better team(80-76 in points) but couldn't finish. This is exactly the kind of defeat that almost erases what they did in Canada, and will make it really tough to reach the top.

Shyam Senepathy qualified this time, and faced another qualifier, losing 6-3, 7-5 to Argentinian Yuri Podkopayev, a top-10 doubles player not known for his singles prowess. It was nearly a repeat for Ujjaval as well; he had a good, decisive first-round win and then lost to Luc Janin again, giving him a run for his money but once again coming up short. No blame here. Meanwhile Besson was not as impressive, with the 15-seed going out in the second round to rising New Zealander Hsuang-tsung Teng, 7-5 in the decider. By the end of the third round there were more high-profile exits. Gillo Fangio fell again, this time to Dircx. Blagota Cojanovic won in two tiebreaks over Niklas, a round after taking out Santos. Two Top 10 scalps already this week for him. Janin departed courtesy of Manee Paschal(PHI).

The quarters featured then a clear division, with the world's top 3 along with two unseeded players and 7, 9, and 12 in the middle of all of that. Kaspar demolished Khasan Zakirov, Cojanovic's run ended courtesy of Guus Dircx, and Browne destroyed Martin Zarco. Paschal gave Mooljee more fun than he wanted, but ultimately he couldn't threaten Prakash's serve and it ended in straight sets. The semis were a bloodbath this week as well, with Dircx and Prakash Mooljee unable to compete. With his home crowd behind him, Johnny Browne surged to the final and defeated Kaspar for the first time in over a year, 7-6(3), 7-6(3). It's the first Master's title of the US #1, although he has the two Slams. At 27 and in his prime, he may not get many more options. Definitely looking a real threat heading to the US Open.

Elsewhere ...

Ritwik Dudwadkar easily won the title in tier-1 Beijing, then turned around to enter San Marino. There he faced basically an equal in the final, first time he's been in that situation in a while. And he did what he does in those circumstances ... lose. Top-seed Andres Varas dominated in a 6-4, 6-4 match that wasn't that close. He may have been a slight favorite overall, but at least a more competitive result was hoped for.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:11 PM   #619
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2052 US Open

All things considered, doubles went pretty well for (3)Mehul/Kroese. It was an easy road to the semifinals, where the top four seeds were all represented. There they lost to newly minted #1s Cordasic/Aspelin, 6-2, 6-3. Those two are a dedicated doubles team almost in their prime; they may not be surpassable. Certainly they are opening up a bit of a gap here.

Shyam Senepathy had a nice opportunity and once again tripped up, losing to Ardant in a 5th-set tiebreaker after winning the first two sets. A fine match, but not the result he was looking for. A second straight first-round Slam exit after winning his first match three times in a row prior to that. Davide Poilblan almost lost his first, beating young up-and-comer Claudo Fandino 7-5 in the fifth. Jurco rallied from two sets down to beat (31) Alexander Maliagros, a poor showing for the Greek after a couple of third-round performances earlier in the season. 31-year-old Agustin Herrera took out (21) Benno Duhr, the highest-ranking loser; he's put no effort into hardcourts, and that's pretty much fatal. One more low seed, (27) Joseph Boller of Germany, lost in the second round. It was otherwhise very routine.

The third round found things to be a little more interesting. Shreya Ujjaval kept going with a surprise upset of Jolland in four sets. The overworked Ariel Borja bowed out meekly to Besson, and Swede Valetine Rosenberg, 22 years old and seeded for the first time in a Slam, kept on trucking with a straight-sets elimination of Guardado. Schmucker easily dismissed (7)Khasan Zakirov in a match that was definitely youth over experience. The best action of the day was seen between (15)Kire Zopp and (28)Ruslan Strelkov, with Zopp winning 7-5 in the 5th after a long struggle. (5)Luc Janin was next on the hit parade in the fourth round, a straight-sets loss to Kronecker. Milos Schmucker kept moving with a win over Dircx, and Phillippe Besson found the crowd a tougher foe than Srbulovic, eventually winning after that match went the distance. Ujjaval ran up against Kaspar, and was crushed 6-3, 6-1, 6-0. Ouch.

Five of the top eight were through to the quarterfinals, with the other three not so accustomed to these surroundings. Schmucker had never reached this stage before, and Prakash Mooljee dismissed him easily. Still a personal best, and we'll see how far the still-rising Czech can go. Phillipe Besson hasn't made it this far in almost two years, and he was easily handled by Kaspar. Sigmund Kronecker is the third, and he may be a regular; already up to #13 coming in, he made this his second Slam in a row where he's reached the final eight. Johnny Browne was made to work a bit, but still took care of things in straight sets. In the only match between players expected to be here, Fangio knocked out Martin Zarco. No match went longer than the minimum.

With all the top four players here for the semis, Mateo Kaspar stomped Browne pretty easily. There would be no repeat of his magical run of a couple years ago. The second match was well worth the price of admission though. Gillo Fangio found it more difficult than his win over Mooljee at the same stage last year, but got his 5th win against 13 losses in their matchup all the same. 7-6(3), 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 was the final. Definitely Prakash had his chances, especially in that fourth-set tiebreak which could have won it for him. By the numbers it was an even as could be. He almost had twice the break chances, but both players converted four times and he couldn't get it done in the breakers. Fangio's mental game really came through here. It served him well also in the final against Kaspar, where he put up more resistance than expected. Rallying from a two-set deficit in a match where the champion didn't have his best game, he had a chance to pull off a huge comeback and claim his first Slam crown. Unfortunately he ran out of gas in the 5th, and Kaspar became the first player since Gorritepe to pull of the Calendar Slam(winning all four Slams in a calendar year). Three is downright common, but all of them at once is a rare thing. Too many things can go wrong on clay and grass for the dominant hardcourters. Another feather of a growing number in his cap.

Ritwik Dudwadkar easily won the biggest challenger available in the meantime, a tier-2 in Como.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 05-30-2017 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:42 PM   #620
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Rankings Update

1. Mateo Kaspar(23, FRA) -- 16,840

Kaspar has slipped multiple times in the Masters this year, but the Calendar Slam is nothing to sneeze at. He'll start showing up on the all-time leaderboards next year.

2. Prakash Mooljee(28, SRI) -- 9,880

Holding steady or maybe slipping just a bit, but still staying as the top challenger by virtue of his consistency.

3. Gillo Fangio(24, ITA) -- 7,450

A 'not-quite' ending to the USO, but still a nice run that essentially erased poor early losses in Canada and Cincinatti. It's still always a question of which guy shows up, but he's edged ahead of Browne for now.

4. Johnny Browne(27, USA) -- 7,310

An excellent last couple of months as usual, including the title in Cincinatti.

5. Luc Janin(25, CAN) -- 4,740

Janin and his doubles partner Borja are basically shooting their singles careers in the foot by teaming up. Still good enough to beat most top players of course.

6. Martin Zarco(23, ESP) -- 4,010

Zarco's emergence has made the Top 10 even younger. He's poised to be the best Spaniard the tour has seen in about a decade, maybe longer.

7. Ariel Borja(23, USA) -- 3,910

Another mismanaged flash-in-the-pan, unfortunately.

8. Khasan Zakirov(29, UZB) -- 3,700

Now that Zarco has gone by, one wonders who will be next. Kakirov's fall appears to be here.

9. Tomas Niklas(28, CZE) -- 3,550

After an quite unexpected run to the Cincy semis, Niklas is back in the news for the moment. Like a weed, he just keeps returning.

10. Juan de los Santos(27, ESP) -- 3,530

It's been many moons since there were two Spaniards on the first page. It's a short-term thing, but still cool to see.

11. Guus Dircx(22, NLD) -- 3,290

Not good enough yet to stick permanently it seems. It's only a matter of time though until he can consistently put Niklas, Zakirov, etc. behind him.

12. Sigmund Kronecker(25, DEU) -- 3,230

Back-to-back QF appearances in Wimbledon and the US Open have forced us to recognize the German no. 1 as a legitimate member of the noteworthy elite. The amazing thing about this is that his hardcourt game sucks. Definitely a guy that should make serious waves on clay the next few years.

13. Tiosav Srbulovic(26, USA) -- 3,175

Srbulovic is fading, and at the point where it's no longer a surprise really when he loses to weaker competition. Soon, maybe even already, he won't be worth mentioning.

3(D). Anil Mehul

While Cordasic/Aspelin have seized control of the top spot, he's now in position on the second-best doubles team in the world. This would appear to be his peak, but it's a darn good one. Singles ranking is low enough(318th) that he's playing futures at least for the moment, and finding him enough matches to get it back up a bit is still a goal. The doubles success makes that tough a lot of the time.

21. Shreya Ujjaval

Continues to be remarkably consistent. Ranking hasn't moved more than a spot or two either way in at least a year.

40. Ritwik Dudwadkar

A noteworthy moment here as he moves up to become our #3 singles after Mooljee and Ujjaval, and also has replaced the latter as our second doubles player in WTC play with Mehul. This will be good for him in terms of development, not so good in his push to rack up challenger points as quickly as possible to join the top. Still he's making a good push in that regard. There's a big break points-wise right at #32; 32nd-ranked Rosenberg has 1338, 33rd is Alenichev, who Dudwadkar has beaten multiple times, at 1190. He's got 1017, and is getting close. Should be a seed at the AO next year if he finishes strong.

54. Shyam Senepathy

Sliding a bit again after peaking at 47th just a few weeks ago. Playing all the big events this year has done nothing other than limit the amount of successful challengers he can count. It's a new way to shoot yourself in the foot, really.

149(J). Sushant Chiba

Holding pretty steady, was up a little more a few weeks ago. He didn't lose any points, just got passed. Right now he's on the border between being a tier-4 and tier-3 player, and is ranked right where he should be. I don't expect much progress until the calendar flips over to a new year, but he'll still be looking for reasonable opportunities if a diluted tier-3 event can be found. Fatigue at the end of a long tournament is still an issue as well. Right where I want him at the moment.

1(Mgr). 35.2k points, down just a few hundred. Pretty stable in this range.
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Old 05-30-2017, 08:43 PM   #621
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-USO Edition

In

Mateo Kaspar -- 13,590
Prakash Mooljee -- 7,625
Johnny Browne -- 6,350
Gillo Fangio -- 6,160

Half the field is complete. I don't know who ends up at #3, but both Browne and Fangio have done more than enough to assure themselves of a spot.

Probable

Luc Janin -- 4080
Martin Zarco -- 4030
Ariel Borja -- 3630

Janin and Zarco can be pretty confident, but Borja's poor summer(to put it mildly) means he still has a lot of work to do.


Contenders

Sigmund Kronecker -- 3295
-------------------------
Khasan Zakirov -- 3170
Guus Dircx-- 3155

We're set up for a dramatic finish if this holds! Kronecker is the real shocker here. He was 21st last year, but already holds a trio of 500-level titles this season. If he can avoid an upset at the last two Masters, he could take the last spot. You never know what Dircx is going to do, and I think Zakirov still has enough to make a push somewhere.


Long Shots

Juan de los Santos -- 2940
Tiosav Srbulovic -- 2875
Phillipe Besson -- 2680
Tomas Niklas -- 2600
Andres Guardado -- 2530
Kire Zopp -- 2365
Milos Schmucker -- 2295
Jake Jolland -- 2240

Usually this has thinned out more by now, but the teens in the rankings are really competitive, as you can see. It's unlikely, but either Santos or Srbulovic needs but one good tournament to get right back in it. If Niklas can catch lightning in a bottle again, he could still have something to say as well.

Still a lot of guys with a lot of significant tennis to play this year.
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Old 06-03-2017, 07:00 PM   #622
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September

The main thing after the USO is progressing through the knockout rounds of the World Team Cup. First up were the very competitive quarterfinals, with only one tie that didn't go 3-2. That was our 4-1 victory over the Czech Republic, in which a final-day defeat to Milos Schmucker by Ujjaval was the only blemish. He had a surprising four-set upset of Niklas earlier, so we'll call it even. From there we moved on to face Germany indoors in the semifinals. Prakash Mooljee did his job again with two more wins, but we got smacked in doubles, and Shreya Ujjaval won just a single set in each of his matches. Germany pulls off the 3-2 upset, courtesy of established journeyman Espinova and the still-rising star Sigmund Kronecker, Nos. 23 and 12 in the world rankings respectively.

They'll move to face the United States, the only real elite nation left. We've got one top singles(Mooljee) and one top doubles(Dudwadkar) players, but not enough support for them. We'll retain the #1 overall ranking, but won't keep it most likely if we can't bounce back next year.

Ritwik Dudwadkar had one more 'plus' challenger to play before the next big event, and easily won in Mons(indoors), smashing Alenichev in the final. He's up to 35th now, and slowly closing in. Sushant Chiba lost in the final of tier-4 Washington in both brackets, another tournament where fatigue caught up with him. Anil Mehul played and easily won another tier-1 futures tournament in singles, pushing himself back up to about 280th or so.
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Old 06-04-2017, 09:47 AM   #623
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Shanghai Masters

Shyam Senepathy lost in the final qualifying round, so he was out before things properly began. Mehul/Kroese got through to the semis pretty easily, where they outlasted #3 seeds Yumashev/Arendt in a 10-6 super TB. Played well in the final also, and lost a match to Aspelin/Cordasic that they probably should have won, 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-4. Still a good week, and they've got a solid grip on the #2 team spot now.

6th-ranked Martin Zarco was the first top seed to exit in the second round, proving his hardcourt weakness in a loss to Strelkov. Besson and Guardado were also out by that point, and Shreya Ujjaval dropped a 7-6(5), 6-2 decision to Stronecker. Probably the most surprising thing that happened was Kaspar losing a set to a qualifier before restoring order. There were a lot of three-set matches in the next round. Zakirov over Tiosav Srbulovic was the best, and Mooljee got a challenge from Juan de los Santos before coming through. Johnny Browne was Kronecker's latest victim, an early exit for him.

The quarterfinals had a few surprises, but nobody lower than 11th so no huge ones. The top three all won in straight sets, with the final match going to Niklas in a three-setter over Sigmund Kronecker. It went to a tiebreak in the decider and could have gone either way. The semifinals were predictable as well; Kaspar over Gillo Fangio and Mooljee over Tomas Niklas, both not close matches. Mateo Kaspar took the title 7-5, 6-3, in a week that other than a few things in the early rounds held nothing out of the ordinary.
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Old 06-04-2017, 10:08 AM   #624
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Post-Shanghai Edition

This comes a week late, so there are only a couple of 500s to play before Paris.

In -- 4550 to qualify

Mateo Kaspar -- 14,490
Prakash Mooljee -- 8,225
Gillo Fangio -- 7,040
Johnny Browne -- 7,040

Browne won the China Open(500) just before Shanghai, so the battle for #3 looks like it'll go down to the wire here. Mooljee hasn't quite secured the #2 yet either.

Probable

Martin Zarco -- 4355
Luc Janin -- 4260
Ariel Borja -- 4070

Barring a disaster in Paris, these will all be in as well.


Contenders

Khasan Zakirov -- 3550
------------------------
Sigmund Kronecker -- 3520
Guus Dircx -- 3445


Three players fighting for one spot, but with an unfortunate twist. Kronecker's calculation is bugged; he's had about 200 fewer points in the rankings than he should for some time now. This comes up from time to time, sporadically and fairly rarely. He could miss his chance even if he makes it.


Long Shots

Tomas Niklas -- 3095
Juan de los Santos -- 3030
Tiosav Srbulovic -- 2965

Even a good run in Shanghai could not save Tomas Niklas. He's still got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to make up the gap.

It's looking like Khasan Zakirov may just barely hold on to stay in the field for another year.
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Old 06-05-2017, 09:57 AM   #625
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500s Week

Zarco and Zakirov both made it to the semis at Vienna, while Dircx made the final in the much weaker Swiss Indoors field ... where he was upset for Phillipe Besson. Santos also played, but lost in the second round. Dircx was the big winner here, Kronecker the loser as he was idle, as were about half of the remaining hopefuls. Meanwhile, Prakash Mooljee got his second win this year over Kaspar and first ever indoors in four attempts, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(2) in the Vienna final. Of course I would have played the other event if I knew he was going to enter here. Elsewhere, Sushant Chiba added dual titles in Jakarta tier-4. The week couldn't have gone better for us.

Updated Race Standings
Pre-Paris

Martin Zarco -- 4355
----------------------------(4270 to Qualify)
Luc Janin -- 4260
Ariel Borja -- 3910
Guus Dircx -- 3655
---------------------------------
Sigmund Kronecker -- 3525
Khasan Zakirov -- 3520
Philippe Besson -- 3135
Tomas Niklas -- 3050
Tiosav Srbulovic -- 2965

Zarco is now in, and Janin will be as soon as he shows up for his first match in Paris. Dircx now holds the keys to the last spot, but still needs to finish well.
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Old 06-07-2017, 04:24 PM   #626
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Paris Masters

Mehul/Kroese had themselves another good, competitive run. Podkopayev/Cordovez pushed them to 7-5, 7-5 in the quarters, and it took a 10-6 super TB to knock out 4th seeds Gaskell/Trulsen, the former #1s, in the semifinals. In the finals they upset Aspelin/Cordasic to take the title, 6-3, 7-6(4)! A great display of returning was the key as they won half the points against the top-ranked duo's serve. It's Mehul's 4th doubles Masters, and essentially assures their #2 spot at year's end.

On the other side of things, Shyam Senepathy had a good week, qualifying and winning in the first round before bowing out to Guardado in the second. Race hopefuls Besson(l. Espinoza, 6-4, 6-4) and Srbulovic(l. (Q) Muhammad Bedriddin, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4) bowed out at the first hurdle, but most advanced.

Third Round -- Here's where the better players started squaring off. Sigmund Kronecker stayed very much in it with a 6-3, 6-4 upset of Luc Janin, but Guus Dircx refused to give up his spot, knocking out Borja 6-4, 7-5. The American was still in jeopardy of potentially losing his spot in the tour finals at this point. The favorites won everywhere else, including Zakirov staying in the fight by defeating Juan de los Santos easily.

The three fighting for that final spot, unless a couple of them could advance to the final and surpass Borja, all impressively made it to the quarterfinals. It was all Top 10 players left here. This is where the train stopped for them though. Kronecker was easily tossed aside by Mateo Kaspar, Dircx lost to Gillo Fangio 6-2, 7-6(6), and Khasan Zakirov was dropped 6-4, 7-5 in a close one against Browne. Mooljee also won a competitive match over Zarco. All of this meant Borja and Dircx were in, Kronecker and Zakirov out. They played well here but did no better than the 22-year-old from the Netherlands, who becomes the third neophyte this year along with Zarco and Borja. Niklas, Santos, and Zakirov are all out from last year's field. A changing of the guard at the bottom with the Top 5 same as they were a year ago. 5 of the Top 8 are now 24 or younger; a 6th, Janin, is just 25. It's definitely a young group that has the potential to largely stay in place for quite a while. #2 Mooljee(28) and #4 Browne(27) aren't that old but ancient by comparison.

The semifinals here were both very close. Fangio gave the #1 a big run before losing in a pair of tiebreaks, and it took a third-set breaker for Mooljee to stop Johnny Browne, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3). The final ... not so much. Mateo Kaspar crushed Mooljee, grabbing his 5th Masters of the year. A surprisingly low number actually, considering he had 7 a year ago and won all the Slams.

Ritwik Dudwadkar won his fourth straight challenger, a tier-2 in Sao Leopoldo. He'll end the year with a pair of back-to-back 'CH+' tournaments that will both be indoors and packed with top challenger competition. If he does well there, he'll definitely be seeded at the AO next year.
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Old 06-13-2017, 04:21 PM   #627
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World Tour Finals

This year the festivities were held in France, which basically eliminated any real suspense over who would win on the singles side. In doubles, Mehul/Kroese had themselves a disastrous time. They were expecting to upgrade a round on last year's semifinal showing, but instead lost to Disante/Escavias in their first match, then started strong against 3rd-seeds Yumashev/Arendt before eventually losing 2-6, 7-5, 11-9. In the tiebreak they fell behind early, rallied, saved a couple match points and failed to convert one of their one before finally losing. They would win their final round-robin opportunity but still finished third. They maintain their spot as the #2 team in the world at year's end, but just barely.

On the singles side, it was no surprise to see Kaspar, Fangio, and Mooljee all easily get through round-robin play. The surprise was Guus Dircx, who continued a late-season charge by posting three-set victories over Browne and Borja. Both could have gone the other way, but he joined the final foursome by outlasting both of them. He was beating 6-3, 6-4 by Kaspar at that stage, with Prakash Mooljee wearing down Fangio 7-6(6), 6-1. The first set was fantastic; the Italian went down a break twice only to equalize, and the tiebreak was very tight and went back and forth. He ran out of gas after that. This was a big match for both players, the rubber match on the year if you will with the year's matchups split at 2 each coming in. For now, Mooljee is clearly still the #2.

Mateo Kaspar won a dominant final, 6-2, 6-2, his third straight here. Mooljee hadn't reached the title match in either of the others, so it was nice for him to get back to it.

Elsewhere ...

It wasn't the finish Ritwik Dudwadkar hoped for to end the year. In Sao Paolo he lost a tight semifinal to American Matthew Panter, 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-5. It figured to be a very even matchup despite Panter being ranked in the 60s; Dudwakar was somewhat better but was just 2 of 15 on break points. He played well enough to win against a quality opponent, so you can't be too disappointed. The next week, the final challenger of the year, was another story. Another US player, Vinnie Cone, knocked him out in the second round and there's just no excuse for that one. It was an even match that went against him 7-5 in the third ... but Cone is not somebody who should be able to challenge him. Lots of players around him rose and fell, but the bottom line is that he winds up just short of his ranking goal. He'll have one more chance at the beginning of next year to put himself in a seeded position.
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Old 06-13-2017, 04:44 PM   #628
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December

We were done except for a couple of small events. Sushant Chiba played one final tier-4 to max himself out on points for those, heading to Malta and taking home the singles title with a narrow loss in the doubles final. Anil Mehul needed a few more matches, so he headed to Brazil and won a tier-2 futures, continuing the process of boosting his singles ranking back up whenever he has a chance.

WTC Finals

Germany put up a respectable fight, but they couldn't compete with the fact that the United States has two of the Top 8 singles players. USA wins 3-2, with a four-set win by Ariel Borja over Stefano Espinoza on the final day deciding it. Borja also beat Kronecker earlier in the week; he's definitely the MVP for the new world champions.

WTC Playoffs

** Mexico vs. Uzbekistan -- A matchup of two teams trying to stay up, and Mexico narrowly wins it 3-2. Uzbekistan falls despite having a top player in Khasan Zakirov(9th), but the rest of their team is a joke. He didn't lose a set, but nobody else won one. You need more than one player.

** Peru vs. Slovak Republic -- Another showing between two nations who are at the top, but basically never win up here. The Slovak Republic takes this one, also 3-2. They don't have a single Top 100 singles player, which shows you how weak these two are. The Herreras aren't what they used to be on the other side: Peru's 11-year stretch in Level 1 has ended, a pretty impressive streak.

** Russia vs. Norway -- These two faced off in the Level 2 semis this season, with the Norwegians getting a 3-2 win. In the rematch though, Russia prevailed by that same score, and they get the last laugh. After struggling in the second tier for the last four years, they are back to the promised land with two quality players in Ruslan Strelkov(26th) and Alexey Alenichev(36th). Neither looks to have elite potential, but both are still fairly young and they should be good enough to make this a respectable Level 1 nation for several years.

** Sweden vs. Finland -- Another repeat matchup: Sweden beat Finland in the Level 2 semis this year before losing to Norway in the final. This time the playoff result was the same; another 3-2 victory for the Swedes, who bounce back up after getting relegated last year. Both have one quality singles player: young Valentin Rosenberg(30th) for Sweden, declining Kire Zopp(17th) for Finland. The Swedes have a top doubles performer in Elias Trulsen though, and that's the difference between them.

Sweden and Russia up, Uzbekistan and Peru down. Overall a good trade although Zakirov will be missed.

2052 Final WTC Rankings

1. Sri Lanka -- 2661
2. United States -- 2572
3. Germany -- 2173
4. Spain -- 2171
5. France -- 2127
6. Argentina -- 2103
7. Croatia -- 2046
8. Sweden -- 1972
9. Italy -- 1954
10. Czech Republic -- 1889

Honorable mention to Great Britain, who promoted from Level 3 to Level 2, cutting their ranking in half from 26th to 13th. As for Sri Lanka, we're right back where we were the last time we didn't win the world championship three years ago. Still #1 overall as we have been for nearly a decade, but the USA is right on our heels and if this year repeats itself, they'll take the top spot away from us. A number of European nations fighting for third with Argentina, but none of them have been consistent. They'll have one good year, then lose in the quarterfinals the next couple. It's us and the Americans, and then everyone else.

2063 WTC Preview

The key is Dudwadkar. Mooljee is still good enough to beat anyone they can throw at us, and Mehul will ensure we're at least competitive against most doubles opposition. We need a good #2 singles and Ujjaval isn't that anymore. By the end of next year, it's probably not his job -- and Ritwik's tendency to go hiding against quality foes is not encouraging. I don't think our supremacy has ever been more at risk since it was first achieved.

We've been drawn in a fairly easy group this time, Group 3. #6 Argentina, #7 Croatia, #31 Mexico. Despite their rankings, none are pushovers, but none have any elite players either. All have somebody in the 15-30 range; they're pretty good, but not good enough to beat us.
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Old 06-13-2017, 05:09 PM   #629
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2052 Final Rankings

1. Mateo Kaspar(FRA, 24) -- 16,490

A rough start by his standards, but still went 90-5, a bit worse than the year before, but won all four Slams, the WTF, and 5 Masters. He's the 7th man to win the Tour Finals three times, and will start appearing on the other all-time leaders short lists by the end of next year. He'll still improve for at least two more seasons, and it's hard to see him not being the world's best player for at least four more, maybe 5+. His main competition is history, and Gorritepe. It's a major upset if he finishes his career worse than the #2 player ever.

2. Prakash Mooljee(SRI, 28) -- 10,230

I've said it a couple times already, but it's worth repeating: the watchword for Mooljee this year was consistency. Well past his best tennis now, he easily held off younger and at least equally skilled players as a clear and respectable #2. This should solidify his legacy as a second-tier all-time great. He remains #2 on Sri Lanka's all-time list ahead of Girsh and behidn Mehul; I don't see that changing and rightfully so due to Anil's position as the pioneering patriarch of our national rise, and also his current achievements in doubles. Mooljee turned in a 75-15 mark this season, down from 82-12 last year but he did enough to maintain his status.

3. Gillo Fangio(ITA, 25) -- 7,800

At a time in his career when he should be accelerating, Fangio slipped a bit to 69-19, winning only Indian Wells among the big events though he did have two Slam finals as well. He seems destined to be one of the best players who will never reach the #1 spot due to Kaspar, but it's past time for him to mount at least a serious challenge to Mooljee for that #2 spot.

4. Johnny Browne(USA, 27) -- 7,200

Browne won his first Masters this year in Cincinatti, but unlike the previous two seasons he didn't claim any Slams. He's the final member of a very clearly-defined Top 4, and is always dangerous on the American hardcourts.

5. Luc Janin(CAN, 25) -- 4,490

The Janin/Borja doubles duo essentially ensured the Canadian would never reach his singles potential. He actually did better this year at not overplaying for the most part, but it didn't seem to matter. He's an afterthought, but reached the QFs of big events nine times(no finals). A gatekeeper between the pretenders and contenders essentially.

6. Ariel Borja(USA, 24) -- 4,300

Also a disappointment this year, and for the same reason. Doubles play wore him out just enough to take the edge off.

7. Guus Dircx(NLD, 22) -- 4,235

Dircx is the flavor of the month, but he hasn't stalled for more than a few months at any point since turning pro, and is threatening to take over the #5 spot before he reaches his 23rd birthday. This is where Janin hit the wall -- will Dircx surge past him and achieve greater heights as the next meteoric young star du jour?

8. Martin Zarco(ESP, 24) -- 4,205

The best player Spain has produced in a decade, Zarco reached his peak this year with SF showings in Rome and Madrid. He's going to be a major factor on clay for the next several years. With less than 300 points separating 5th-8th, anything could happen in this foursome over the next few months. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter where they land though, unless somebody falls off or really excels and starts making up group on the Top 4.

9. Khasan Zakirov(UZB, 29) -- 3,700

I expect a significant drop this year for Zakirov. He made a lot of big QFs this year by doing what he's done the last several years; taking care of business against inferior players. He's no longer any danger to the top guys though, and seeding will now have him exiting a round earlier on a regular basis.

10. Sigmund Kronecker(DEU, 25) -- 3,455

A bit of a late-bloomer, Kronecker announced himself in a big way this year. Along with some good smaller events, he had 3 Masters QFs and two in the Slams. Time to see if he can back that up and keep pushing forward. The best German player since Bjorn Benda I think.

There's nobody within almost 1000 points who isn't on the downside of their career or at least peaked. 7 of the Top 10 are 25 or younger; it should be a stable and overall strengthening group. From here to the mid-20s, there's a lot 27-28 year-olds who are unlikely to make a major push, which may well allow even Zakirov to stick. All of this signals to me that when Mooljee does start slipping, he could fall down the rankings very quickly.

Last edited by Brian Swartz : 06-13-2017 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 06-13-2017, 05:26 PM   #630
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Generational Overview

** Poilblan(1) -- Davide Poilblan(25th) hasn't been relevant for years, but he's still hanging on. He's the oldest Top32 player by better than two and a half years. That's worth a respectful round of applause for his dedication and longevity.

** Over-the-Hill Gang(7) -- Prakash Mooljee(2nd) is of course the head of this group, who are all in the 28-30 age bracket. Other members are Zakirov(9th), Niklas(12th), Cojanovic(20th), Ujjaval(21st), Benitez(23rd), and Cirakovic(31st). They still have sizable presence, but in a year or two at most that won't be the case.

** Solid & Steady(10) -- Johnny Browne(4th) is the top player in a group from 26-27 that are pretty much at the peak of their powers, unable to compete for the most part with Kaspar & Co. but acting as gatekeepers at various points. Besson(11th), Srbulovic(13th), Santos(14th), Guardado(15th), Zopp(17th), Jolland(18th), Espinoza(22nd), Boller(28th), Paschal(32nd). Particularly noteworthy is the group in the teens, essentially providing a 'buffer' to separate the rising stars in the Top 10 from the rest of the pack. Browne's the only one who has won anything big, but at various points most of these were relevant around the margins for a number of years, and their numbers really improved the depth of the game.

** The King & His Subjects(9) -- Here we're talking about legend-in-the-making Mateo Kaspar of course. He has a loaded 'court', which he stands head-and-shoulders above; 24-25 at this point and still improving, all of them. Fangio(3rd), Janin(5th), Borja(6th), Zarco(8th), Kronecker(10th), Schmucker(16th), Strelkov(26th), and Maliagros(27th). What strikes me is how top-heavy this generation is this soon.

** Young Guns(5) -- Otherwhise known Dircx's Unlucky Dudes. These have the unfortunate 'honor' of fighting a basically hopeless battle to dethrone the French potentate. Dircx(7th) has others coming with him at a distance, aged 21-23: Teng(19th), Duhr(24th), Piazzola(29th), Rosenberg(30th). There are four others just outside the Top 32, including Ritwik Dudwadkar. It's a decent group, a few including Dircx more than decent, but I don't think Kaspar fades enough during the span of their careers to allow them to knock him off. That will probably come from the next generation, which has not yet appeared.
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Old 06-13-2017, 07:20 PM   #631
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2053 Preview

Manager Ranking: 1st(unchanged), 34.3k points, almost exactly the same as last year's total. Hugoboy continues to gain slowly in second, while Nevstar keeps switching places in 3rd and 4th with one of the other managers.

Anil Mehul(69%, 7.47, -0.23)

Decided to put this at the top since it doesn't really make sense at the end of the singles rundown, being a doubles guy now. He's #3 there, which looks to be his peak. Singles is at 232nd, bouncing back a little, and eventually he'll get back into the challenger range somewhere. Right now he'd be a typical journeyman in the 50-100 range I think. Doubles training is nearly complete at 98/100, putting his trainer eval at 5.16(+0.08 this year). Four years of work left there, and it's definitely slowing down. I still think he reaches at least 5.3, maybe 5.4 at best. Hoping to make that, but we'll see.

1. Mateo Kaspar(96%, 9.13, +0.17)

Best I've ever seen. Strong, mentally tough, technically as good as anyone in the game both on serve and from the baseline. One runs out of superlatives at times.

2. Prakash Mooljee(87%, 8.67, -0.04)

Still holding on well for his age(28 and a half).

3. Gillo Fangio(94%, 8.79, +0.06)

Not the best improvement this year, but still going upwards and he should have enough to challenge for the #2. Consistency is the key.

4. Johnny Browne(90%, 8.62, +0.01)

Still basically at his peak, Browne appears to have 'gone doubles' a little early here. If so, we could see him fade. I say 'early', but it might not be when you consider the odds of competing with Kaspar for titles.

5. Luc Janin(90%, 8.51, -0.19)

Athleticism is fading fast of course, but that's not good enough reason for this kind of decline. Looks like he peaked a year ago. If attention is not paid he'd could plummet.

6. Ariel Borja(96%, 8.34, -0.11)

Same manager as Janin. Notice a pattern here? Inexcusable for a player so near his athletic prime. Borja is immensely strong but hasn't developed the baseline game to take advantage of that enough.

7. Guus Dircx(97%, 8.60, +0.13)

Starting to slow down athletically but still excellent, Dircx's technique is getting more respectable and he's up from 13th. I seem him snagging the #5 spot this year in a more modest move, and probably breaking into the Top 4 the year afterwards. I don't think his shotmaking is good enough to allow him to do that this season.

8. Martin Zarco(96%, 8.58, +0.13)

I think Zarco will have a much better career than Dircx when all is said and done. Two reasons for that; he's built for the long haul, and he has as much a chance as anyone(not much) to be a fly in Kaspar's ointment with his prowess on clay. You can see the depth of the top players, even though still improving, here though; a lot will depend on the draws but I think Zarco is clearly the #2 in the world on clay right now.

9. Khasan Zakirov(85%, 8.34, -0.03)

Still fighting gamely with an elite serve and good athleticism, it isn't so much that Zakirov has lost that much; he's simply been surpassed by better players.

10. Sigmund Kronecker(93%, 8.57, +0.14)

Kronecker was first mentioned in this rundown a year ago, when he was ranked just 23rd and coming off a poorly-scheduled off-season. He spent some wasted time on doubles probably earlier in his career which could have delayed his development; all indications are he's doing his best to make up for it, and he's particularly balanced out a situation in which his serve was a weaknesses a year ago. Not anymore; he's ready to make the tour finals this year at either Borja or Janin's expense.

16. Milos Schmucker(94%, 8.53, +0.17)

I'm wrong fairly often but I must say I hit the nail on the head with this guy last year. He was 18th at the time: 'push up a bit more, but he probably needs another year'. That's exactly what happened as Milos gained just two positions. It's a big gain though, putting him into the next circle as a guy who'll be seeded everywhere. More importantly, he's got enough technique to much more appropriately complement a strong mental game and adequate athleticism now. I expect him to push past the veterans in the lower teens this year. He's Top 10 quality now, but I don't know that he gets there merely because of how deep that group is at the moment. Should be knocking on the door by year's end however.

19. Hsuang-tsung Teng(97%, 8.28, +0.13)

The pride of New Zealand made a good move up from 33rd a year ago, but his technique is still lacking quite a bit. A lot like Schmucker last year, he needs to keep working before his strength and mental toughness can really put him over the top against the vets ahead of him. Good endurance is another factor in his favor in making the needed progress.

21. Shreya Ujjaval(82%, 8.01, -0.19)

30 years old, and basically in the same spot he was when he was 28. It appears he's finally making the turn to doubles, which makes replacing him on the national team as #2 singles all the more important.

24. Benno Duhr(97%, 7.81, +0.17)

A modest gain from 31st a year ago. Average athleticism and a baseline game that is very lacking mean his upside is limited.

26. Ruslan Strelkov(93%, 7.89, +0.06)

Same spot he was in last year; Strelkov looks like he's going to spend his career in the 20s. Elite serve and endurance but not much to go with it. Definitely a guy who could have been better than he has ended up.

27. Alexandros Maliagros(93%, 7.95, ??)

It's time to get to know Greece's top dog. A bushy-haired man, Maliagros has excellent athleticism but the usual diseases of too much work on doubles, not enough on his rally game, and the mental aspect is weak with him also. Not a guy who'll rise enough to worry about IMO.

29. Ruben Piazzola(99%, 8.12, +0.08)

The youngest player in the Top 32, Piazzola has a bright future and is up from 42nd a year ago. Athleticism and endurance he has, and the serve is looking good for his age(turns 22 shortly). All depends on how much he can improve his skill. Last year I pegged him as a future Top-10 guy, and nothing's happened to change my mind.

30. Valentin Rosenberg(98%, 8.11, ??)

Another new guy, Rosenberg made a big move from I think somewhere around 70th or so last year; I know for sure he wasn't Top 50 but that's about it. He checks all the boxes except for baseline play, a typical pattern. Still 22, Valentin appears to be very comparable to Piazzola. Maybe a poor man's version to an extent but he's definitely one to watch as a probably Top 10 in the future.

33. Ritwik Dudwadkar(98%, 8.45, +0.28)

A lot of things can happen both ways, but right now Dudwadkar is just 23 ranking points out of being seeded at the Australian Open. Best case would be for him to take care of that at a tier-1 challenger next week; if not I'll have to decide whether to enter him in a 250 to try and get enough points. Regardless, it's time for him to make the jump to being a true professional here. He began physical decline a couple of months ago, and objectively a reasonable goal for him would be Top 16 this year. That will require him to play roughly up to his abilities though, and that's something he's never consistently done. It's all about the focus for Dudwadkar. Up from 75th a year ago, but it was late for him to make that push.

34. Alexey Alenichev(99%, 7.52, ??)

Good serve, meh everywhere else for this 22-year-old Russian. He seems to have stagnated, but he's good enough to gradually improve -- not good enough to impress anyone.

38. Xavier Dorso(98%, 7.92, ??)

Also 22, this Frenchman stands out for two reasons: highly talented(5.0), and a rarity in having a proper training ratio(not overtraining serve at the expense of skill). Athleticism, endurance, mental game are all decent but not better so he's not a major threat, but good enough to make at least some noise. That's particularly true if he continues to be well-handled.

39. Gregory Mackenzie(99%, 7.96, ??)

The latest American to come through the ranks. Good, but poor endurance and questionable baseline development. Still only 21 though, so there is some time.

44. Shyam Senepathy(87%, 7.52, +0.02)

A career-best ranking despite being past his peak significantly here. We may not be what we once were, but four Top-50 players isn't too shabby either.

61. Alexei Nikitin(100%, 7.88, +0.44)

Last year Nitikin was noted as the only Top-100 teen; he's still the best player his age, up 30 spots from 91st. Still really good for his age, immensely strong, good mental game, and serve is still a disaster. He's a comer, it's just going to take another couple of years.

No Top-100 teenagers this year.

65(J). Sushant Chiba(77%, 4.18, +1.10)

My strong-willed but cement-footed junior continues to progress. He'll be looking to establish himself at tier-3 this year; usually I start with hopes of pushing higher but am never really able to compete against the 18-year-olds in the top events. There are only four players younger and higher-ranked, and only one of them is significantly higher. Chiba's doing fine, and as usual we'll just see how things settle out in a few months.
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Old 06-17-2017, 11:54 PM   #632
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January

World Team Cup

#6 Argentina was up first, on paper our toughest group opponent. We skunked them 5-0, ending that discussion quickly. Doubles was the closest, with Mehul/Dudwadkar taking that rubber in a big comeback against a couple of excellent doubles players. 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 was the count. When you lose two sets that badly, it's pretty much over 99+% of the time. In the first three singles matches we didn't drop a set, so this was the only real drama.

The next week, I screwed up and thought I'd entered tournaments that I apparently didn't. That left everyone needing some extra training from Anil Manohar, but more urgently dropped Dudwadkar from 32nd to 33rd with only one week left before Australia. All of my senior players were in action that week. Anil Mehul just needed matches so he bashed his way to an easy win in a tier-2 futures; almost back up to Challenger status in singles now. Prakash Mooljee headed to Auckland 250, where it was an easy road before running into 6-seed Hsuang-tsung Teng in the final. He eventually won that, 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-3, but it was anything but easy. Naturally another ranking snafu strikes, which seems to happen at this point in the year, so from that standpoint the title did him no good. It was his 9th 250-level title for those of you(nobody) scoring at home, one short of Mehul's national record. Most critically, Ritwik Dudwadkar entered his first 250 in Sydney, needing enough points to get himself a seed next week. He was 6th here, and got a couple of qualifiers early on, dropping just three games in the first two rounds combined. So far so good, but the road then left #5 Luc Janin in his path in the quarterfinals. Their first meeting was a stunner, with Dudwadkar pulling off by a mile the best win of his career, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1! Overall he was clearly the better player, esp. in the final set. Next up was Jake Jolland, a very even matchup at this point of their careers. It was a hell of a match, but Ritwik pulled it out again, 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(6)!! Definitely got his comeuppance against Fangio who blasted him in the final, but it was still a great pair of wins against higher-ranking players, and beating the No. 5 in Janin is nothing to shake a stick at. Definitely also made him safe in the rankings as the final here is worth 150 points, his best single result to date. Even more importantly, he seemed to be playing up to his abilities this week -- that's rare in his track record, and a very encouraging sign. If I had the first foggy notion this was coming, he wouldn't have entered doubles here as well to get more matches.

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Old 06-25-2017, 04:47 PM   #633
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2053 Australian Open

Form held on the doubles side. Mehul/Kroese, seeded #2, beat the 3-seeds in a close semifinal but lost after taking the first set to top-ranked Aspelin/Cordasic. I imagine we'll see a lot of that this year.

On the singles side there was high drama for Sri Lanka right away. Shyam Senepathy had the most epic match and arguably his biggest moment as a pro ever in the first round. Young 28th-seed Ruben Piazzola was the opponent for a match that seemed like it would never end. Unexpectedly Senepathy pulled off a marathon upset, 7-6(5), 3-6, 5-7, 7-6(4), 13-11. He could have lost it at so many moments. 447 points were played, and other matches delayed waiting for it to finish. Meanwhile, Ujjaval dropped a pair of 6-2 sets against a qualifier before rallying to avoid disaster in his match. When it was all over, we had four players in the second round. That's a job well done; it's been a while since that happened in a Slam.

Shreya Ujjaval's reprieve didn't last long; he was dumped in the next match by American Dick Blake. So much you can do with that name ... Blake is a meteoric 20-year-old who is making his push to do something with his career. Senepathy also lost in four, to journeyman Muhammad Bedriddin of Germany. A fair number of lower seeds also were gone by now. There were some tough third-round matches but form mostly held. Ritwik Dudwadkar had an interesting potential opportunity, with #10 Sigmund Kronecker awaiting. Kronecker is notoriously poor on hardcourts, which made this an even match at worst. Dudwadkar didn't play great, but just well enough to steal a match that went the distance with good play on break opportunities. 6-7(2), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 was the scoreline, and for the second straight event a big win over a Top-10 player to give him his best result ever. Meanwhile the top players kept right on rolling.

The top half of draw still held no surprises, as all the favored seeds kept pressing on. There were a couple on the bottom though. Janin lost to Hsuang-tsung Teng in four sets; my prediction that Teng would need another year of seasoning just might need a little revision. Meanwhile Ariel Borja narrowly escaped Cojanovic, who has turned back the clock with a nice run here. 9-7 in the 5th in that one. Guess who Dudwadkar went up against? That's right, it was Fangio again. 3, 2, and 1. Hasta la bye bye.

The quarterfinals had 7 of the top 8, plus Teng. He pushed Prakash Mooljee a bit, but after a pair of tiebreaks went our way it was still a straight-set result. Ever the dominant force, Kaspar lost just three games total to Martin Zarco in a humiliating beat-down, while Gillo Fangio made short work of Dircx. An All-American matchup proved the best entertainment, withi Johnny Browne coming up short against his younger countryman Borja, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2.

Mateo Kaspar lost his first set of the tournament against Fangio in the semifinals ... but only one. A credible effort including 15 aces for the Italian, but overmatched again. Straights once again for Mooljee over Ariel Borja, and he goes into the final unblemished. Put up a decent fight to. And lost of course. 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-3. Nearly got a set off the legend, but the gap grows ever wider. Kaspar's 7th Slam puts him in a big tie for 8th all-time, which he'll doubtlessly break later this year.

With Mooljee in the final and Dudwadkar reaching the 4th round, I couldn't ask for more here.
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Old 06-27-2017, 01:38 AM   #634
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February/March

World Team Cup

The second round of group play was a little more tense than hoped. Blagota Cojanovic beat Ujjaval on Monday, then doubles went against us. Mehul/Dudwadkar put up a fight against a pair that included Radule Cordasic, part of the top doubles team in the world, but fell apart in a 6-1 5th set. At that point we trailed 2-1 against Croatia. Mooljee predictably handled his end, so it came down to a decisive Friday match. Shreya Ujjaval stopped Sara Cirakovic 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in what was far from an easy victory. That completes a 3-2 win, and we'll make it through to the knockout rounds once again. It wasn't a walk though, that's for sure.

After that it was time off for everyone the next three weeks, then back out there for warm-up events heading into the IW/Miami double. Sushant Chiba got his second tier-3 juniors title in as many attempts this year in Lille, France. He was bounced in semis of doubles though. Doing well at roughly maintaining his status in the rankings with these victories. Anil Mehul won a grass-court tier-1 futures in Ireland, and that should be his last of those at least for now; he pushes inside the Top 200 and at least for the moment is back in challengers territory as a singles competitor. Ritwik Dudwadkar headed to the Brasil Open(250), where he lost in the semis to top-seeded clay veteran de los Santos, 7-5, 6-2. Did pretty much what was expected of him here, although I thought he'd be a little closer to winning this one. No big upset, but he didn't lay an egg either. Prakash Mooljee entered Dubai(500), and was a comeback victim in the final against Gillo Fangio, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Overall pretty much an as-expected group of results during this stretch.

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Old 07-02-2017, 05:00 PM   #635
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I had the next update here about done a few days ago, accidentally erased it, and then had the usual rage-quit not wanting to rewrite it followed by procrastination. Time to catch up again.

Indian Wells Masters

A tough road for Mehul/Kroese here, but ultimately a successful one. They narrowly escaped the Phillipino Rhodes brothers 11-9 in a tight super-TB in the quarterfinals. The rising Srbulovic/Zopp team also pushed them the distance but couldn't prevail, and (2)Yumashev/Arendt took the first set to a close breaker before eventually falling. The doubles scene remains competitive, and Mehul's duo has slipped to third overall but they are close behind.

Shyam Senepathy started out with a close win over a qualifier, then went away with a pair of breadsticks against Niklas. I don't remember if I reported this before, but the manager for Shreya Ujjaval has disappeared, so he's fading from the scene prematurely and did not show up. The Americans looked good in front of their home fans, with three of four early upsets credited to them: Cone, Blake, and Bayliss. All solid but not spectacular players who got the better of fairly low seeds in the second round. Dudwadkar met another one, Roger Calzada, and dropped a set before dominating the third to move on. He was seeded 20th here, several spots up from his ranking as there were a lot of mid-level absences.

In the third, there weren't a lot more surprises. Guardado and Janin both had close calls but made it through. Ritwik Dudwadkar went up against Fangio again and managed to take a set this time -- but he was dominated in the other two. Not a surprise there. Vinnie Cone kept on trucking by eliminating Kronecker. By contrast, the round of 16 was utter chaos. At least, that was the case on the bottom half of the draw, and it could been on the top. Dircx traded tiebreaks with Hsuang-tsung Teng before closing out a matchup of rising stars with a strong finish. Cone's run ended at the hands of the master Kaspar, while Browne and Borja kept going barely. It seems only the crowd saved them. In the other half, Prakash Mooljee was stunned again by Tomas Niklas who seems to have found a fountain of youth, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Cojanovic over Zarco, Guardado over Gillo Fangio in a 9-7 deciding tiebreak, and Luc Janin was a comeback victim of Jolland.

All in all, Niklas was the top seed on the bottom at 11th going into the quarterfinals, while on the upper half everyone was here who was supposed to be. Strange situation. Mateo Kaspar blitzed Dircx, and in a 4-5 matchup of US players Johnny Browne showed he has the upper hand still over Borja. Close matches down below as well with Niklas and Jake Jolland getting through in straight sets. Naturally Kaspar pushed through again in the semis, though Browne at least made him work a bit. Niklas-Jolland was a real barn-burner, but the veteran Czech eventually prevailed 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. That put him in his first Masters or better final in about two and a half years. He gave the legend as good of resistance as he had all tournament, which isn't saying much: 6-3, 6-4. Tomas moves back into the Top 10, and the margin at the top is growing to obscene, historic levels.
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Old 07-02-2017, 05:12 PM   #636
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Miami Masters

Mehul/Kroese really hit their stride here and were never really challenged, snagging a second straight Masters. Surprise finalists Alberti/Boccasino practically were a walkover, 6-3, 6-1 in the title match. Good month here for the doubles results.

Still no Ujjaval on the singles side. Shyam Senepathy got through a first-round encounter again, and then took a whole three games from Mooljee. A second straight early loss for young Austrian hopeful (23)Benno Duhr has him declining a bit. The US contingent didn't start as strong this week, for whatever reason. Ritwik Dudwadkar had an easy win and then a first-ever introduction to what historically great tennis looks like. Kaspar beat him 6-4, 6-1, a rather predictable outcome. He didn't get any breaks with the seeding here or in IW, but that's not his fault. Ukrainian Alexey Nikitin, who we've featured as an up-and-comer, made the third round and took a set from Jolland before losing. Not bad for a guy celebrating his 21st birthday. Borja had a couple close calls early, but kept on moving.

Tomas Niklas made another good run, and almost took out Fangio before losing in a fourth-round deciding tiebreak. A rough first set against Andres Guardado put Mooljee in a bind, but he finished 6-2, 6-1 to take care of business. Janin struggled but advanced also. Oh, how a week or two can change things. The quarterfinals featured the Top 8 seeds. Nobody left early. Bad luck for Guus Dircx, who loses again in a one-sided defeat to Kaspar. Zarco lost quickly to Gillo Fangio, Luc Janin pushed Mooljee to a second straight third set before quickly fading, and in a real epic Ariel Borja surprised Browne this time around, 7-6(4), 5-7, 7-6(4). In three-set matches that's just about as good as it gets.

Mateo Kaspar handled Fangio for 8th straight time in the first semi, 6-2, 6-4. Prakash Mooljee and Borja played a tight second match. Prakash was the more consistent player but only 2 of 10 on break points, and loses a close one. Ariel Borja was run over in the final by Kaspar, who remains unbeaten this year.
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Old 07-03-2017, 09:13 PM   #637
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April

No rankings update as I didn't take note of it at the time.

World Team Cup

With Ujjaval a dead man walking, Mexico was more of a challenge than they would normally be. They couldn't beat Mooljee and we cruised in doubles as well, claiming a perfect record in Group 3 with a 3-2 win here. We'll be indoors for the quarterfinals against #3 Spain. Tough matchup, but off clay I think we've got it. France in the semis(always dangerous because of Kaspar) and the US in the finals is likely our path. Winnable, but far from easy.

Same week, Sushant Chiba headed to Seoul and continued his tier-3 winning ways. Another singles title and runner-up in doubles here. Looking reasonably good.

Monte Carlo

Disaster for Mehul/Kroese who lost in their first match to the still-unseeded Kire/Zopp, straight sets in the second round. For whatever reason, Shyam Senepathy was given a wild-card and had a fine match in the first round, defeating a Hungarian foe 7-5 in a final-set tiebreak. Janin was up next and surrendered just three games, a movie we've seen before. Dudwadkar would not have been seeded and chose not to participate. The hype around Alexey Nikitin grew with a tight 7-6(8), 7-6(4) upset of Guardado for him; he had to qualify here but definitely proved himself. Mooljee easily took care of the young Ukranian in the next round, but it was still a run worth noticing.

Top 8 seeds all made it to the quarterfinals, most of them with ease. The only close match was a topsy-turvy 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-1 win by Zarco over Guus Dircx. Form continued to hold. In the semis, Martin Zarco was blasted aside by Kaspar, while Prakash Mooljee and Fangio had their second meeting of the year. Mooljee had his chances to win this one, with match points late in the third set, but he fell again 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(2). As is usually the case when he's on the short end of these, the Italian pulled out all the stops in the big moments when he needed to. Played a quality final too but the Mateo Kaspar train kept on chugging, 6-4, 6-4. Gillo Fangio is now 2-for-2 on the year against Mooljee, and if that keeps up he will eventually pass him by.

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Old 07-06-2017, 12:13 AM   #638
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Estoril Open

The week before the clay season really heats up, Ritwik Dudwadkar entered both singles and doubles in this 250-level event in Portugal. Relative to the rest of the tour, clay is his strongest surface, particularly since his skillset due to his footspeed and unimpressive power makes him a natural grinder. Dudwadkar smashed his way through easily as the top seed to his second 250 final of the year, where he faced Argentine 2-seed Andres Varas. Varas has the #3 or #4 manager around, Nevstar, who has made a couple appearances here in this thread. I expected a very competitive match. Dudwadkar dominated early and in the second-set tiebreak, winning 6-0, 7-6(0). Jumping ahead a bit, Varas would go on to win a warm-up 250 before Roland Garros; he's a quality clay player so this was another good result. Ritwik's first professional-level title as well -- one week under a year later than Mooljee achieved it. That comparison is not mere idle chatter; he's fallen just a hair behind Prakash's training pace, largely due to spending the extra year in the challenger ranks. Dudwadkar is here now though, and appears to be making the most of things so far this year. It's past time, and a welcome sight.

Madrid Masters

Mehul/Kroese showed solid form until running into #1s Aspelin/Cordasic, who beat them 11-9 in a SF super-TB that could have gone either way. Shyam Senepathy qualified, but lost quickly to German Joseph Boller, a solid clay player. Ritwik Dudwadkar isn't quite high enough to be seeded at the smaller Masters(Top 16) yet, and his first matchup was (14)Andres Guardado. Unlike most players in the Spanish-speaking world, the Mexican is not a strong player on clay and this is exactly the kind of matchup that could present an opportunity. Dudwadkar won a solid straight-sets victory, yet another one against a player ranked above him.

Guardado was the only seed to lose in the first round(half have byes). His budding rival and fellow rising young gun Ruben Piazzola of Chile knocked out another one in the second round, Besson. Piazzola is an extreme clay-court guy, so this is his time of year to make a move. Meanwhile Dudwadkar had an easy match against a qualifier. In the third round, an unfortunate all-Sri Lanka matchup with Mooljee easily dumping Dudwadkar in their first-ever matchup, 6-1, 6-4. I thought it would be a little closer, but Prakash still has a considerable technical edge. Piazzola kept right on moving with a three-set upset of #4 Johnny Browne. Browne has clearly slipped below the level of the Mooljee or Fangio, but beating the top American and world no. 4 is still a thing to be noticed.

The Chilean was the only player not seeded 9th or better to reach the quarterfinals. And he wasn't done, thumping aside Guus Dircx, 6-3, 6-2. That might be an even more impressive win. Mateo Kaspar is at perhaps his most vulnerable here, and he lost a set for the first time since I can't remember when, surviving Sigmund Kronecker 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4. Fangio crushed Borja, and Prakash Mooljee had himself a rather epic confrontation with Zarco. The standard-bearer for Spain came out on top, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5. A close one, but it was the proper result; he was better on this day.

Kaspar dropped a set again in the semis, then rallied to beat Gillo Fangio once again, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Clearly he doesn't rule here like he does on the hardcourts. Martin Zarco had more than enough to end Piazzola's run, but it was definitely an announcement: Ruben is here to stay as a player not to be ignored on clay. Zarco couldn't provide a whole lot of resistance in the final though, and Kaspar's perfect season continues, 6-3, 6-4.
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Old 07-06-2017, 12:29 AM   #639
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Rome Masters

Mehul/Kroese had themselves one heck of an exciting tournament, with super tiebreak after super tiebreak. After an easy first couple of rounds, they got by rising Argentinians Escavias/Disanti, the #5 duo, 10-8 in a tight finish. Then Ukranians Buynov/Bezhin, who had just upset the top seeds, took it to 11-9 before falling. #4 seeds Cordovez/Podkopayev awaited in the final, and they looked bad in the first set but rallied in a hurry. The tiebreak there went a bit further even to 12-10 ... and this time we ended up on the short end of the stick. Tough result but also fortunate to even get here the way things worked out. There's no telling what's going to happen in a super-competitive doubles tour right now. It's very exciting.

Shyam Senepathy got a wild-card here because reasons I guess, and dropped out right away to young Frenchman Xavier Dorso, 6-2, 7-5. Dorso is one of the best challenger-level players around right now and only 22 -- to some degree at least his name will be mentioned more in the years to come. Incredibly, Dudwadkar was matched up with Guardado again in his first match ... and won it in more one-sided fashion, showing last week wasn't a fluke. An easy win over Panter, an American he has been increasingly successful against over the past year, followed. Last week's finalist (6)Martin Zarco was stunned by Cirakovic in three sets, with Browne and Niklas nearly losing as well. The second round here was not friendly. Dorso knocked out Besson, and Ruben Piazzola upset the ever-foolishly overplaying Janin. A couple other seeds struggled but survived. Those who didn't were uncommon actually.

On to the third, where Browne exited to Kronecker; this isn't really much of an upset given the top German is at his best in the dirt. Sava Cirakovic is having one of those runs that he's always been capable of but never succeeded in pulling off consistently. He eliminated Santos, the #2 Spaniard, in a pair of close tiebreaks. #7 Ariel Borja also had a bad day, with Dudwadkar managing to take down yet another Top-10 foe, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4! That left both him and Piazzola as unseeded quarterfinalists. Youth is being served here a bit. Cirakovic made it three, though he's an older player.

All of them exited at that point though. Mateo Kaspar stopped Dircx in a reasonably competitive match, Piazzola was only able to pull off one quality set against Kronecker, and Dudwadkar met up with Prakash Mooljee again -- and was limited to just five games again. And Cirakovic? A pair of breadsticks against Fangio. Unexpectedly, both semifinals were actually worth watching. Kaspar had all he wanted against Sigmund Kronecker, but got through it 7-6(4), 7-6(1). Then for the third time in as many encounters this season, Gillo Fangio stopped Mooljee 6-2, 7-5. Fangio gave the #1 a real run for the title in the first set, but fell a bit short in the tiebreak and then collapsed afterwards. It's been over a year now since the Italian beat him, 11 matches in a row. That's domination.

Clay may not be his forte, but the smart money is still on Kaspar to repeat at Roland Garros, which is up next.

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Old 07-07-2017, 11:51 PM   #640
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2053 Roland Garros

The top four doubles pairs all made it to the semis, and once again all the matches were highly competitive. After two straight 3rd-round exits here, Mehul/Kroese took down all comers to claim their first RG crown, and Mehul's third doubles Slam! It was more than that, as they ascended, at least momentarily, to the #1 spot in the rankings!! Quite a week to remember. 37 years old and the top doubles player in the world. All of this high-level action is doing more than giving Mehul a second career: it's also helping him work more towards becoming a better trainer, and making me rethink some plans.

On the other side, Shyam Senepathy was matched up against (13)Milos Schmucker, an unfavorable first round. Quick straight-sets loss, and we were down to the two premium players. None of the seeds even came close to losing in their opening matches. Three fell in the second, including Guardado once again with an early exit. Luc Janin was almost a fourth, rallying for an entertaining if not particulary high-quality 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 7-6(0), 7-5 over an unknown Italian opponent.

Janin would lose in four to Benno Duhr in the next round; good win for Duhr, who is finally getting himself in playing shape. Ruben Piazzola had a very disappointing loss to Besson, leading by two sets before giving in. Big missed opportunity, and his serve just totally fell apart. A couple of other long matches saw the higher-seeded players narrowly survive; Teng over Rosenberg, and Borja over Dorso, both going the distance. Aside from Duhr though, only one low seed actually won. That was Ritwik Dudwadkar, who stopped Niklas 6-2, 6-4, 7-5. When the draw came out, it was clear that this was the potential match that would make or break his tournament. Getting into the final 16 for the second Slam in a row was a good accomplishment, and of course another Top-10 win. A couple more five-setters were on top for the fourth round, with opposing results. Ariel Borja was in full control early, then collapsed to allow (28)Tristan Benitez the comeback win. The other was a knock-out, drag-out battle between good clay players in which Sigmund Kronecker said out with the old, in with the new; Juan de los Santos goes down 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. And then there was the real stunner, courtesy of Dudwadkar once again. Going up against #6 Martin Zarco, a superior athlete and clay expert, I didn't give him much of a chance. In a chaotic match featuring 17 breaks of serve, Ritwik battled through to a tough four-set win, establishing himself as a serious clay threat. This might be the best win of his career to date, a significant upset.

Six of the Top 8 into the quarterfinals, with Dudwadkar and Benitez. Both of them left here: Johnny Browne took care of the upstart Argentine, and Prakash Mooljee counted himself fortunate to escape with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Dudwadkar. Unlike their other meetings in recent weeks, this one was decided only by experience. The still young-ish Ritwik converted only 5 of 21 break chances, compared to 7 of 15, and that was the match. Fangio had a long, tough win over Kronecker in an expected result ... and then came one that would stun the tennis world. Mateo Kaspar's cruise through the draw came to a halt at the hands of Guus Dircx, 7-5, 7-6(6), 7-5. Straight sets, no less. First win in 12 meetings for the meteoric dutch star, and Kaspar's first loss of the year. He'd won reasonably easily in Rome just a few weeks back, and looked a serious threat to run the table. The last time he lost anywhere was in Vienna to Mooljee near the end of last year, seven months ago.

Dircx wasn't done either. He beat Gillo Fangio downright routinely, while Mooljee dominated Johnny Browne in the other semifinal. 6-2, 6-0, 6-2. Egads. Only 11 points lost on his serve, no break points faced. You just don't see that kind of scoreline at this point in a Slam, esp. here where the serve is muted. Clearly both players were playing well heading into the final, and a chance for Prakash to add to his legacy. Guus Dircx would have none of it though, claiming his first Slam title 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. It's a frankly astonishing run for him, beating the top three players in the world back-to-back-to-back, and losing just one set in the process. Other than Browne's USO run a couple years ago, I can't think of another champion that's been even close to being more surprising or unexpectedly impressive. He narrowly moves above the American to #4 overall. And I do mean narrowly ... by 10 points out of more than 6k each.

It was definitely a tournament to remember, and there are a lot of things to resolve for the top players as they look across the channel to the grass-court season.
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Old 07-12-2017, 07:00 PM   #641
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July

I had a couple of fairly tough choices during the 'Channel Break'. Prakash Mooljee had just enough matches to take the whole thing off, while I sent Ritwik Dudwadkar off to the 250 in Eastbourne. He was starting to knock on the door of getting into the next 'circle', the Top 16. Lots of ebb and flow among the players around him during these weeks. He needed at least make the finals if not win, but lost a close one to Johnny Browne in the semis there, 6-3, 7-6(4). Browne is a couple years removed from his lone Wimbeldon title, but is still definitely a strong player on grass. For Dudwadkar, it's clearly his worst surface. Mehul also took the period off. Sushant Chiba found an opportunity and played his first tier-2 juniors event in Castricum(Netherlands). It was the week of the junior Wimbledon tournament, and there was only one high-ranking player who was worn out and lost early. Chiba won in both singles and doubles, rocketing himself almost 30 spots up to 39th.
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Old 07-12-2017, 07:15 PM   #642
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2053 Wimbledon

A pretty straightforward tournament for Mehul/Kroese, the defending champions here. They didn't lose a set en route to the final. There it was Aspelin/Cordasic, the usual suspects. A crushing 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 loss resulted, hardly the competitive battle expected. The 2-seeds had narrowly survived their semi in five, but this was a different story. At least for the moment, the order switches at the top and we're down to the #2 spot.

Shyam Senepathy had a very easy first-round win, then got as close as he has to another victory in a long time. (18)Juan de los Santos stopped him, but had to work for a 7-5, 7-6(4), 7-5 decision. Ritwik Dudwadkar was seeded 17th ... just one spot below a more favorable draw. Panter and Boller, a couple of the lower seeds, were knocked out in the first round. Two more joined in the second, but none of significance. In the third there was one minor upset, if you can call it that: Ruben Piazzola knocked out Espinoza in four sets. Dudwadkar had a chance to eliminate Martin Zarco again, but lost 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. I thought it would be a closer match, but he clearly didn't have the confidence or whatever it was today; 0-for-5 on break chances.

A lot of competitive but unsurprising results in the fourth round; four-set matches were very common to see. Guardado pushed Sigmund Kronecker the distance and had a chance to win in a close fourth-set tiebreak, but couldn't finish. Zarco and Luc Janin also went five, with the Spaniard prevailing. Milos Schmucker pulled off the only upset, eliminating Borja in a straight-set match. Prakash Mooljee had his first bit of trouble, but ended Piazzola's push here in four.

Seven of the top eight into the quarterfinals, and it would get even more boring as all of the top four won. Only Johnny Browne even had to really work for it, surviving another epic by Kronecker in a TB-riddled 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-3 count. The semis were closer, but also pretty predictable. Gillo Fangio took a set, then surrendered to Kaspar in four. Browne lost to Mooljee by the same margin. Mateo Kaspar claims another title here, having lost a couple sets but never really pushed. In the final, Mooljee went meekly except for the second set, 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3. The 8th Slam for Kaspar ties him for 6th all-time; Mooljee and Mehul share that number with him, for the moment.
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Old 07-12-2017, 07:35 PM   #643
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Rankings Update

1. Mateo Kaspar(FRA, 24) -- 17,560

Before the RG stumble, Kaspar looked invincible. As it is, he's 59-1 and it's hard to see him losing a hardcourt match. For all it matters he might as well have a million points. Nobody's challenging him.

2. Prakash Mooljee(SRI, 29) -- 9,620

Mooljee's grip on the #2 has been slowly slipping all year. He still benefits from not having to play Kaspar before the final of any tournament, and his winning pct is right on par with last year's at 83%. But somebody is coming ...

3. Gillo Fangio(ITA, 25) -- 8,470

Just over 1k behind is Fangio. He's actually one match better on the year than Mooljee at 47-8, and has mostly eliminated the puzzling early upsets that plagued him last year. He's also 3-0 in their personal H2H which plays no small part in closing the gap. It's looking more and more likely that the Italian will claim the #2 spot by year's end.

4. Johnny Browne(USA, 27) -- 7,290

Immediately after dropping just behind Dircx, the top American won back-to-back grass titles in Queen's and Eastbourne, then took care of business in reaching the Wimbledon semis. Back in the top 4 for now, and could stay there a while longer with the fan-friendly surroundings on the US hardcourt swing next up.

5. Guus Dircx(NLD, 23) -- 6,730

Dircs is back in 5th, but continues to make the QFs everywhere and probe for an opportunity to pick up ground. It's only a matter of time. He had a decent chance against Fangio in Wimbledon, but came up a little short. Guus has opened a big gap on the rest of the field now. It's basically Kaspar, 2-5 here, and then the rest as far as the divisions go.

6. Martin Zarco(ESP, 24) -- 4,530

The stunning early RG loss to Dudwadkar was a big blow to the clay-focused Zarco. As weak as he is on the hardcourts, there's no way he moves any higher this year.

7. Ariel Borja(USA, 24) -- 4,235

Borja's choice of tournaments continues to befuddle. He'll probably push back up to 6th though with opportunities awaiting over the summer.

8. Sigmund Kronecker(DEU, 25) -- 3,985

Steady, but not good enough to do anything really spectacular. Really in the same boat of 'push harder next year' that Zarco is, having passed the best chances of the season now.

9. Tomas Niklas(CZE, 29) -- 3,210

Just won't go away.

10. Luc Janin(CAN, 26) -- 3,050

And the opposite here. Now on the downside, with 2 Masters titles and 3 Slam SFs his best showings. Could have been much more.

17. Ritwik Dudwadkar(SRI, 23) -- 2,260

Dudwadkar needs one more big result to really get to the next level here. It's going to be hard to make further progress as this is the point last year when he really started racking up Challenger results, and all of those points need to be replaced. 5 titles and a final over the next three months. There could be a lot of treading water just below the seeding cutoff coming up.

231. Anil Mehul(SRI, 37)

Dropped back into futures territory after losing his best result from a year ago in singles(RG). Doubles picture changes every week, and they are close enough behind Aspelin/Cordasic that the end of every big tournament could have them switching. Top spot usually goes to whoever won the last time out.

43(J). Sushant Chiba(SRI, 17)

Chiba is definitely playing better players than himself in practice at this level; he can handle guys around 70-80 but is overranked here. He'll probably hang about here for the rest of the year. Only one more tier-3 win would really help, and not good enough to play in most of the bigger tournaments. He'll just have to do whatever he can, and then see what happens next year when most of those above him graduate to the pro tour.
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Old 07-12-2017, 08:03 PM   #644
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Race to the World Tour Finals
Initial post-Wimbledon Standings

In(6k+, or Slam Champions)

Mateo Kaspar -- 10,410
Prakash Mooljee -- 6,000
Guus Dircx -- 4,970

Dircx has been the picture of consistency, which will soon start to be rewarded at a higher level I expect.


Probable

Gillo Fangio -- 5220
Johnny Browne -- 4110
Martin Zarco -- 3770

Fangio still has some ground to make up on Mooljee despite a good year overall. Browne meanwhile was great in the summer last year, and can kiss the Top 4 good-bye if he can't repeat that which seems quite unlikely. Even Zarco seems pretty safe right now.


Contenders

Ariel Borja -- 3200
Sigmund Kronecker -- 3110


Long Shots

Jake Jolland -- 2250
Tomas Niklas -- 2140

Niklas' 9th position in the overall rankings is a mirage; he finished well last year and has racked up some solid points in smaller events this season. Aside from the IW final, he's done little of consequence and I don't think he's a serious threat to get back into things. Janin(10th) is doing even worse and didn't even make this list. To call both of them vulnerable where they are is a gross understatement.

It seems there is something weird going on with almost everybody outside of the Top 8. Schmucker could be at least a minor factor but skipped a couple of Masters earlier this year. There's nobody at all in position to remotely challenge Borja and Kronecker. What you see is what you get here. Gotta be the strangest, most top-heavy list I've ever seen.
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Old 07-17-2017, 06:07 PM   #645
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July

Ever since Wimbledon was moved a week later, this has pretty much become a mandatory rest period. That's how it was for Mooljee and Mehul this year. Ritwik Dudwadkar played in the Kitzbuhel Cup(Clay, 250, Austria), looking for another big result to help him get over the hump. He didn't quite get it, losing 7-6(5), 6-3 in the final to Andres Varas, who he'd beaten earlier in the year. Sushant Chiba added another win and a doubles runner-up in Jihac, giving him a full set of tier-3 results and keeping him around 40th.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:19 PM   #646
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It's time -- actually well past time -- for a summary/catch-up update. A new year is upon the tour, and yet my last report is about four months previous to that.

Synopsis

The short version is what I'm sure you'd expect: Mateo Kaspar won Cincinatti. And the US Open. And ... everything else from there to the end. 31-match winning streak to conclude the season. More about his accomplishments in the year-end update, but this was a year to be remembered for him. Before Cincy though, and just after the latest reports here, there was the Canada Masters. And he didn't win that, losing to Fangio in the semifinals. On the other side of things, Ritwik Dudwadkar had a breakout week, defeating #8 Kronecker and #4 Browne easily, then getting his first victory ever over Prakash Mooljee in the semis(6-4, 6-4, in their 4th meeting). My top player would get him back later in the year. In the final, perhaps an even more stunning result as he outlasted Gillo Fangio 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in an epic title match to claim his first Masters title!

This vaulted Ritwik to #9 in the rankings, as he basically bypassed most of the 'teens' entirely, and gained about half of the distance he was lagging behind his predecessors in terms of ascending at this point in his career. Unfortunately he wouldn't be able to push any further. Dircx beat him in the third round at Canada, he was unfortunate to face Kaspar in the USO 4th round(winning just five games), and he would only have one more big run. That was at Shanghai, where he took down Browne again, then Guus Dircx in an epic QF, before Mooljee re-established the pecking order 7-5, 6-4 in the semis. He's particularly unsuited to indoor play as a grinder, and couldn't do much more at the end of hte year.

As for Prakash, the inevitable finally occurred for him with an early Paris exit and resulting slide afterwards to third. He got his only win this season over Fangio in the WTF semis(after five defeats), but it was merely enough to keep him close. The Race never heated up: it might have gotten interesting if Dudwadkar had won that Shanghai semi, but the gap was just too large as anticipated.

Anil Mehul/Lars Kroese were the top doubles team until the WTF, where they did better than last year in making the SF. Unfortunately they lost to Aspelin/Coradasic there, and the two pairs are separated by just over 100 points in a super-tight finish. Third place is nearly 3k back, so it's definitely between these two for the time being. Sushant Chiba didn't finish well but had some success in tier-1 and tier-2 juniors events before the end of the year. It appears to be a weak field right now which could help him next season; he looks to be ranked a little better than most of my players have been despite the speed issues. Could be an interesting final year in the lower tour for him.

World Team Cup

The most nerve-wracking tournament I've ever experienced in the WTC wrapped up with another tight one, this time involving Germany. As expected, #14 Stefano Espinoza wasn't much of a threat, winning just one set. A disappointing showing by Dudwadkar against Sigmund Kronecker though ended in a 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-2 defeat, evening the match. The doubles went the distance and then some, with Arendt/Olejarz eventually taking a high-quality match that was the highlight of the week, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 8-6. A fine comeback attempt by our boys but it just wasn't enough. That put us down 2-1 and needing both of the reverse singles to claim the title. That's just what we got, in pretty dominating style: both were decided in three sets.

A third straight 3-2 decision after knockout wins over Spain and France. We're back in the winner's circle for our third in four years. Since our first title in '55, we've yet to be deprived in consecutive seasons. Tough for Germany, as they lose narrowly in the final for the second straight season(USA last year).
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:40 PM   #647
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WTC Playoffs

** Bulgaria vs. Sweden -- Who? Bulgaria?? They didn't even appear in the WTC for more than four decades(sound familiar?) and only got up to Level 2 a few years ago. This was their first chance at making the big time, and they smacked Sweden 4-1 to get through! Pretty impressive since they haven't got a single Top 50 singles player, but Sweden doesn't have much either and continues their yo-yo between the first and second tiers. It's always cool to see history being made. Bulgaria, tennis powerhouse? Nah. But still interesting.

** Chile vs. Russia -- Both nations are good enough to be in the top-flight, sporting a pair of Top 50 singles players. Ruslan Strelkov didn't pull his own weight here though, and Chile completes an undefeated year in Level 2 by bouncing the Russians 4-1. Despite a lousy season(4-1 losses in all four competitive ties), they'll be back. Too good not to be with #23 Strelkov and #40 Alenichev. Meanwhile the Chileans end a few years of struggle in their second attempt to get up, mostly due to Ruben Piazzola(17th) starting to really become a force. This isn't quite a Bulgaria story, but it's their first time up here since 2035, 19 years ago.

** Norway vs. Hungary -- Norway has a good player(#28 Olaf Bergman). Hungary doesn't. That's pretty much the story here in a 4-1 decision. Norway was in the bottom tier as recently as 2040, and while they have a long history this is another first-time nation to Level 1. Two in a single year? Incredible!! Meanwhile Hungary is also a great story, as they were looking for their third straight promotion. This is the first time the door has been shut on their meteoric rise. Starting three years ago in '51 at Level 4, they had won 16 consecutive ties until a loss to Chile in the L2 SF, then this setback. That's the life work of Jeno Maitra(64th), the best Hungarian player in about 40 years. He's past his prime though, and it appears they've reached their ceiling.

** Slovak Republic vs. Argentina -- Argentina. The #7 nation in the world suffers the indignity of a relegation playoff ... and promptly skunks the Slovaks 5-nil. The recently defeated gets a long-overdue demotion. The last three years they've won favorable matchups in the playoffs while a set record 2-43 in group play. That's ... not impressive. Argentina meanwhile, was in our group and a surprise loss to Croatia put them here. They're a Top 10, maybe Top 5 nation right now though. They're not going anywhere, as demonstrated.

Slovak Republic, Russia, and Sweden down; Bulgaria, Norway, and Chile up. First two are here for the first time, and Chile brings the rising Piazzola with them. Definitely a more eventful, and historic, playoffs than we normally see.

2053 Final WTC Rankings

1. Sri Lanka -- 2751
2. United States -- 2414
3. Germany -- 2264
4. Spain -- 2193
5. Czech Republic -- 2139
6. France -- 2007
7. Argentina -- 2004
8. Croatia -- 1890
9. Italy -- 1884
10. Ukraine -- 1876

Pretty big gap after Argentina. Our title and an early US loss(SF to Germany) has us back to a massive lead that we don't really have to worry about. While you can no longer say we are clearly the best, we're still one of the best and the most consistent. Neither Kaspar or Fangio have a good-enough sidekick to make their nations major threats, thankfully.
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Old 08-04-2017, 10:05 PM   #648
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2054 Top Rankings

1. Mateo Kaspar(FRA, 25) -- 17,120

Kaspar amassed a 93-2 singles record in '53. 93-2. That ties Eric Gorritepe for the second-best season ever. Nobody else is worth mentioning. Due to his early RG loss, I would put this year at 'only' the third-best ever recorded, and the best by anyone other than the unquestioned GOAT. He's making his way up the leaderboards in total Slams(9, 6th), weeks at #1(133, T-8th), WTF won(4, T-3rd), and Masters(21, 6th). Right now he's not quite a top-tier all-time great, but he's established himself above the other second-tier guys(such as my players). And there's lots and lots of time left.

2. Gillo Fangio(ITA, 26) -- 9,440

Took a little longer than expected, but the pride of Italy has settled into his rightful spot as the top opposition. His 79-15 mark is a career-best, and this could be objectively his best year coming up. I expect a significant berth to develop below him, and he'll get a little closer to Kaspar but no way is he challenging the King.

3. Prakash Mooljee(SRI, 29) -- 9,120

Made the finals at four of the five big events and also Shanghai, but no major titles. It'll hard to duplicate even that performance now that he can't count on avoiding Kaspar until the championship match. Still good enough to definitely hang in the Top 4.

4. Guus Dircx(NLD, 23) -- 7,070

How's this for consistency: Dircx made the quarterfinals, no early and no later, for the first eight Masters this year. And then ensured he'd snag the #4 spot by reaching the final in Paris. The RG champ didn't do that great at the other Slams, but his rise should continue.

5. Johnny Browne(USA, 28) -- 5,950

Browne is headed the other direction. His 2 Slam titles show he was once a guy who could hang with the best in the world. Those days are a couple of years removed now.

6. Martin Zarco(ESP, 25) -- 5,410

Gets a little better each year, and had an impressive 79 wins this time around. If he can avoid early losses like he had this year in Rome and RG, he could threaten the Top 4.

7. Ariel Borja(USA, 25) -- 4,315

Continues to be a somewhat-underachieving player. Bit of a gatekeeper to the top contenders.

8. Sigmund Kronecker(DEU, 26) -- 4,050

Gunning for that 'clay assassin' position but so far Zarco's better at it. Best German player since Benda.

9. Ritwik Dudwadkar(SRI, 23) -- 3,590

The moment I have long feared is now here. Dudwadkar will move into the Top 8 at least and make the WTF this year, but he's going to be beating his head against the Kaspar/Fangio/Dircx wall for years. Have yourself a ball, buddy. He'll eventually win some of those battles; he got each of the last two guys at least once this season. With clay proficients Zarco and Kronecker clogging up that option for making progress, it's going to be interesting to see how quickly he's able to progress. Most of the players ahead of him can cause problems for him in the right conditions: even those who are objectively inferior.

10. Jake Jolland(USA, 27) -- 3,525

The Americans are doing something right: three of them in the Top 10.

Niklas is next, almost 400 points further down. This is the first page for the time being, with several guys in their prime serving as guardians after that. Nobody else is close to proving they are ready to break through them ... yet.

4(D). Anil Mehul(SRI, 37)

Two years older than anyone else even close to being a doubles contender, I wonder how long Anil can hang on. For now though, he's enjoying the ride. 249th in singles and recent results suggest he's no longer even of challenger-quality there.

5(J). Sushant Chiba(SRI, 17)

I don't think I've ever had a juniors player up this high. He's not going to stay there I don't think, but should be able to play some big events and take his chances. Current #1 Pavel Kutuzov has assented to be his doubles partner. That won't hurt.

1(M). Me. Right at 35k points with Nevstar slowly gaining, 3k+ behind. My total slightly recovered with a gain of about 700 pts. this year. Probably will continue to slowly rise as long as Dudwadkar and Mooljee can both hang near the top ... but that's going to be short-lived.
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Old 08-04-2017, 10:20 PM   #649
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Generational Overview

** Poilblan(1). Still a group unto himself, Davide Poilblan(30th) is 33 years old and trucking along. Very impressivve.

** Over-the-Hill Gang(5). 29-31 years of age, headed of course by my own Prakash Mooljee(3rd). Niklas(11th), Cojanovic(21st), Benitez(22nd), and Zakirov(28th). Lost a couple members this year, and the others are less relevant than they were. Slowly fading away.

** Starting to Fade(7). 27-28. Johnny Browne(5th) is still atop this group that is as the title suggests beginning to realize that their best is behind them. Jolland(10th), Santos(13th), Espinoza(14th), Guardado(15th), Besson(20th), and Bergman(27th). Three members of this group were lost; they are fading in more ways than one.

** The King & His Subjects(9). 25-26 and basically just coming into their prime or about to. Mateo Kaspar(1st) needs no introduction. Fangio(2nd) doesn't either. There's also Zarco(6th), Borja(7th), Kronecker(8th), Schmucker(12th), Janin(16th), Varas(19th), and Strelkov(24th). Even with Luc Janin flaking out and underachieving, there's obvioiusly a ton of punch here. Over half the WTF field came from the current ruling class. A couple players were exchanged but the overall numbers didn't change.

** Knocking on the Door(9). Called these guys, 23-24, the 'Young Guns' last year but they've really out grown that. Led by Guus Dircx(4th), they are now making their mark. Dudwadkar(9th), Pizzola(17th and about to turn 23), Teng(18th), Panter(23rd), Dorso(25th), Rosenburg(26th), Duhr(31st), Cone(32nd). Most of them have a ways to go yet, but more and more of them are pushing their way up: almost twice as many as a year ago.

** Early Arrivals(1). Only one guy here that is younger: American Dick Blake(29th) is 21. So far he's the figurehead of the 'on-deck' up-and-comers.
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Old 08-05-2017, 07:20 AM   #650
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2054 Preview

1. Mateo Kaspar(94%, 9.14, +0.01)

First time I haven't seen a ridiculous level of improvement from him. But he's still a year or two away from peaking. Skill/service is at a silly 5.2/4.3, better than I've ever achieved. Still strong physically and mentally. A legend.

2. Gillo Fangio(91%, 8.85, +0.06)

At or close to his peak, and continuing the gradual growth in his game. His outstanding mental toughness means a close match is almost always a lost match against him.

3. Prakash Mooljee(85%, 8.64, -0.03)

Continuing to bravely fight off the advance of time. He's doing that pretty well, and the consistency in recent years bodes well for his chances of holding this spot.

4. Guus Dircx(95%, 8.75, +0.15)

Surprisingly robust improvement, and he's got a good shot at snagging the #3. Up from 7th a year ago, and the technical skills are approaching elite status though they aren't quite there yet. He's excellent everywhere else, and it's easy to see how he caused everyone fits at RG this year. There's no big weaknesses in his game anymore, and he covers the court well.

5. Johnny Browne(88%, 8.58, -0.04)

The serve and obscenely impregnable mental game are still there, but Browne looks like he's gone doubles now. Either way, he's ranked about where he should be, having slipped just a bit below the Top 4.

6. Martin Zarco(94%, 8.73, +0.15)

Another guy who really put in the work this year to support an exceptionally strong mental game. This is not a generation of midgets between the ears: smart, unflappable players are the norm out there. Up a couple spots from #8 a year ago and that should continue ... but can he push higher than 5th? Doubtful. Really needs to dominate on clay. Very good for a guy who doesn't even look to be in the Top 4.

7. Ariel Borja(94%, 8.30, -0.04)

A second straight year of decline when he should be improving. This is what it looks like when you don't put in the work. His physical strength, once a potentially fascinating asset, is becoming less compelling all the time.

8. Sigmund Kronecker(91%, 8.51, -0.06)

A surprising number to see here, but Kronecker looks like a guy who has turned his attention at least somewhat to doubles. It'll be interesting to see if he sticks. Certainly doesn't look like he can crack the players in front of him.

9. Ritwik Dudwadkar(96%, 8.59, +0.14)

From 33rd to 9th is a rather dramatic rise, even if some of it was overdue. Baseline game is there, serve is getting close, but when you look at his development frankly Zarco and Dircx were more impressive. Objectively he's right there with Browne for the 6th overall position, without even considering seeding advantages. 7th or 8th next year seems most likely. There's just too much quality in front of him. Definitely gotta keep working. I've never faced this kind of challenge with any other player. Still haven't decided if I actually like it or not.

10. Jake Jolland(87%, 8.19, ??)

Jolland's definitely one of the biggest surprises: I didn't even think he was worth calculating last year, as he looked to be fading. Proved me wrong a bit there. Still hard to see him as anything other than an aberration. Clearly he's not heading up at his age and ability.

12. Milos Schmucker(93%, 8.56, +0.03)

Schmucker should be the guy that pushes Jolland out of the way. I said last year he'd be knocking on the door of the Top 10, and here he is basically doing that, up 4 spots from 16th. A stall in his steady improvement up to this point does give me some pause -- but he's still better-positioned and more-deserving than anyone else.

17. Ruben Piazzola(97%, 8.29, +0.17)

Up from 29th a year ago, this Chilean dynamo was tracking right along with Dudwadkar until I reached out and stole the Canada crown. He's got everything he needs but baseline technique. Should a see a continued push towards, but not into, the Top 10.

18. Hsuang-tsung Teng(95%, 8.48, +0.20)

A big story a year ago, New Zealand's hope got off to a big start and then sort of sputtered. Surprising, seeing how much better his game has become. Definitely expecting a renewed push this season for Teng.

23. Matthew Panter(96%, 8.24, ??)

Time to meet another American. They seem to spring up everywhere, like weeds. This one is another guy with good mental habits, athleticism isn't impressive though and technique not there yet. He's quality, but nothing to really make him stand out in this crowd.

25. Xavier Dorso(97%, 7.97, +0.05)

Last year I noted how this product of France(38th at the time) has a very high facility for tennis and was being trained properly. Well this year he went off into left field and focused on the serve too much. Definitely didn't see the improvement he needed to in order to overcome very average athletic ability. So he'll be around, but nothing to be concerned with.

26. Valentin Rosenberg(96%, 8.11, --)

30th to 26th isn't anything to get excited about. Neither is wasting your physical gifts by apparently ignoring baseline technique. Have another yawn.

29. Dick Blake(99%, 8.10, ??)

I didn't think enough of Blake to rate him last year, but I've thought better of that since noting he's the youngest Top-32 player by about 18 months, made the 4th round of the USO and SF at the recent Swiss Indoors(500), among other achievements. Clearly attention should be paid. He looks good for his age, speed and mentality being his strong points. Also is more dedicated than most. Dick definitely looks to be the young American to be watching, and I expect him to reach around 5th or so eventually.

31. Benno Duhr(96%, 7.84, +0.03)

Duhr badly overplayed last year and also put some work into doubles perhaps. As a result he didn't grow much, and actually regressed from 24th.

32. Vinnie Cone(96%, 8.01, ??)

Cone is yet another US player. Pretty solid across the board and not spectacular in any one area. I don't see him as a Top-10 guy.

38. Alexey Nikitin(99%, 8.22, +0.38)

Blake leaped past him as the best young player this year, but only in the rankings. Nikitin is up from 61st so he didn't stop progressing in terms of abilities or results. Serve still needs a ton of work, but he should be able to shoot up to at least a Top-20 spot this year. If he keeps putting in these kind of gains, Ukraine's really going to like what he becomes soon.

There are more young names coming, but no teenagers in the Top 100. Nikitin is the only guy to make that in at least a three-year stretch.

Anil Mehul(67%, 7.29, -0.18)

Mehul is maxed-out in doubles now and back to training skill as the only thing left he can improve. I'm going to be tracking closely how much xp he gains this year as I start thinking about exactly how long I want to keep working on him. He's at 5.20(+0.04) right now ... the rate of improvement has really slowed down to a crawl at this point.

5(J). Sushant Chiba(85%, 5.21, +1.03)

Looking solid into the final year of preparation before his climb into the senior ranks commences.
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