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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Serving Out of Turn - US Open Edition

It's a really busy week, and I have started work on some detailed blog post about my annual (or as annual as I can make it) trek to the qualifying rounds for the US Open tennis tournament which begins on Monday.

However, since I'm not sure when I will finish those posts, I am going to jump the gun and offer now, before the tournament starts, some thoughts on how the 2013 Men's Qualifier crop might fare.  I'll be a little broad, looking at some players I've seen in years past as well as the ones who made it in this year.

And right at the top half of the draw, we have Ricardas Berankis from  Lithuania, who made it into the main draw this year but played disappointingly in the qualifying last year, playing Novak Djokovic, the #1 men's tennis player.  Um, if Berankis wins, that would qualify as an upset.

Donald Young had to make it through the qualifying this year.  He has had a long career that might be as interesting for things off the court as on.  It's hard to believe he's only 24 because he's been talked about in US tennis as a prodigy for close to ten years, and he had a decent year in 2012 rising to top 40, but then 2013 has been abysmal.  His relationship with the US Tennis Association over the years has been charged and awkward, with disagreements about coaching tactics.  I've been hearing about him so long that I've perhaps become a little too hard on the idea that he will ever amount to anything.  But on Friday, there were lines of people waiting to get in to the absolutely packed Court 11, one of the biggest typically used for qualifying rounds.  He has a winnable first round match, against Martin Klizan from Serbia, who is also 24 and currently in the Top 50, but nobody's idea currently of a major threat.  If he wins that, he has a potentially winnable 2nd round match.  But he could face Andy Murray in the third round.

Moving down a bit, we've got James Blake from the US playing qualifier Ivo Karlovic.  Blake was one of the top players in the US, is 33, is struggling to come back after injury and decline in the rankings, has to be playing now for real love of the game.  He'll be a clear favorite of the crowd.  But it's hard to root against Karlovic, who is 34, also struggling to come back after a lot of injuries, and has been in the top 10.  Karlovic is 6'8" and was one of the first really big tall giant types to come into the men's game. He has a huge serve.  But he's never had a truly great game outside of his ability to serve.  How do you pick this one?  

Marcos Baghdatis, whom I discovered in the qualifying many years ago when he beat Jeff Salzenstein on Court 7 in a match I wanted Salzenstein to win, goes up against a 2013 qualifier, Go Soeda.  I have to think Baghdatis will win, though the US Open has been his worst grand slam, never even into the 3rd round in spite of being a finalist, semi-finalist, and into the 4th round at the other three grand slams.

Also hanging around in the top half is Denis Kudla, whom I saw last year and believe has potential.  He has a winnable match against a Czech ranked #78.

There are only five qualifiers of 16 in the top half, though I've been going to the qualifying long enough that there are plenty of players, beginning with Andy Murray, whom I've watched in the qualifying in prior years.

Which means there are 11 qualifiers, plus a lucky loser, hanging out in the bottom half.

There is one Q/Q match, where two qualifiers are playing against one another.  The heavy-serving Albano Olivetti of France, whom I saw, certainly has a shot against fellow Frenchman Stephane Robert.  The winner will most likely face Richard Gasquet, the #8 seed and a fellow Frenchman and another player I've seen in qualifying, watching him get disqualified from a match for hitting a lines judge with his ball or racket (memory; the details fade with time!).

Phillip Petzschner has a definite chance against an up-and-coming American, Jack Sock, and most likely faces Jerzy Janowicz in the 2nd round.  Janowicz is the #14 seed, and a player I spotted in qualifying three years ago and predicted good things for.  He made his major breakthrough last fall.  So I like Janowicz, but I still don't think of him as a sure bet to win any/every given match he plays.  Should he be upset by another qualifier, Argentine Maximo Gonzalez, in the first round, then either Sock or Petzschner has quite the opportunity for advancement in this year's Open.

Nick Kyrgios, an Australian of Greek ancestry, and very highly touted, gets to face #4 seed David Ferrer.  I can't really see Ferrer losing that match.

Frank Dancevic has an opportunity.  The 26-year-old Dutchman Robin Haase is ranked in the 60s, peaked in the 30s.  Dancevic peaked in the 60s and is currently ranked in the 150s and is three years older.  I'll be pulling for Dancevic personally, just because I first spotted him in the qualifying years ago, and I have kind of a soft spot.  

Way down at the bottom half of the draw...

Ryan Harrison, whom I've seen play with guts, heart, skill, passion, in the qualifying in years past,  has shown other sides of his personality elsewhere.  Tantrums, petulance, etc.  He also has the absolute worst luck of any player I have ever followed.  He manages to draw Top 10 players as opponents in early rounds of even the most obscure tournaments way more than chance would have it.  So, of course, he gets to play Rafael Nadal in the first round.  All I can say, if Harrison pulls the upset, is that I'd say it's less unlikely than whomever it is Nadal lost to in Wimbledon.

Interestingly enough, Nadal can run through the entire section of his draw taking out players I've liked in qualifying over the years.  Harrison in the first round.  Then Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who had a breakthrough in this year's major men's tournament in Canada and will I hope prove to be "for real' outside of his home soil, and then possibly Rhyne Williams, who got a main draw wildcard this year but last year came through the qualifying, upsetting none other than Vasek Pospisil in the first round.  Won't that make for a strange year, if they have a rematch in this year's 3rd round.

So of the qualifiers I saw in 2013, I'd say that Phillip Petzschner and Alberto Olivetti have the best chance of making it to the 3rd round. 

I should fill this post with wonderful links to all of the earlier posts I've done dating back to 2008 that talk about some of these players, but I just don't have the hours in the day. 
But this here -- yes, HERE, is a link to all of my posts that have a Tennis label, and you can scroll down quickly enough to check for my insights from years past.

I've seen at least 30 of the players in this year's main draw playing in qualifying.

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