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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sandgren Wins Champaign Challenger; Escobedo, Rublev into Futures Finals; Bruguera Sr. Looks to Develop Players in Hong Kong

Tennys Sandgren reached his first Challenger final in Champaign, Illinois yesterday, and he didn't stop there. The 22-year-old former Tennessee Volunteer, completing his second full year on the professional circuit, defeated No. 7 seed Sam Groth of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in this afternoon's singles final to pick up his first Challenger title at the $50,000 tournament.

The 2007 Kalamazoo 16s champion reached the semifinals of the Knoxville Challenger last week, losing to champion Tim Smyczek and although he wasn't seeded in Champaign, he was certainly one of the most in-form players coming into the tournament, taking advantage of all the early round upsets.  With his win, Sandgren is projected to reach a career-high ATP ranking inside the Top 200, and is likely to among those selected to compete in the USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament next month in Atlanta.  According to Mike Cation, who did a stellar job on the USTA live stream commentary, Sandgren has been working with Billy Heiser, the former Illinois player who was a junior development coach for a short time, but is now a pro tour coach. Heiser has been traveling with Tim Smyczek and also is working with Dennis Nevolo, who reached the semifinals of the Champaign Challenger.

2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn made the semifinals of the Yokohama, Japan Challenger tournament this week, and after winning a Challenger in Korea and reaching the final of one in Australia before that, he is projected to move into the ATP Top 100 and will be straight into the Australian Open.

Make sure you go to the Challenger Tennis blog on Monday for a full list of all those who have reached their career-high in the ATP rankings (between 60 and 300, that is).

2012 Orange Bowl 16s champion Andrey Rublev of Russia defeated Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the $10,000 Bradenton Futures, and will make his second attempt at a Futures title Sunday against 19-year-old Martins Podzus of Latvia. Podzus advanced to his first Futures final when Greg Ouellette (Florida) retired trailing 6-3, 5-3.

In the $10,000 Futures in Mexico, 17-year-old Ernesto Escobedo reached his second Futures final today, defeating qualifier Kyle McMorrow(Washington) 6-4, 7-6(4). The unseeded Californian has not lost a set in his four wins, and will take on No. 2 seed Nick Meister(UCLA), who defeated Mexico's Mauricio Astorga 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the semifinals. Meister defeated Escobedo in three sets the only time they've met, in the first round of the Costa Mesa Futures back in March.

In Colombia, Ted Angelinos(Virginia) won his third Futures title of the year(he's reached eight finals), taking the championship as the No. 1 seed by defeating No. 2 seed Luis David Martinez of Venezuela 7-6(5), 7-6(4).

In notable junior results in Challengers this week, Wimbledon boys champion Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Ecuador Challenger, losing in three sets to the top seeds, while US Open boys champion Borna Coric of Croatia and French Open boys champion Christian Garin of Chile reached the quarterfinals in Japan and Peru.

Australian and US Open girls champion Ana Konjuh reached the semifinals of the $75,000 Challenger in Dubai.

I ran across this article in the South China Morning Post earlier this week, and thought those of you with an interest in player development might find it worthwhile. Sergei Bruguera, Sr. is scouting in Hong Kong for a possible academy site, and he had some thought-provoking comments about the importance of local tournaments and the clay surface in developing talent. One thing he said that I find odd is in this section:

He was in China nine years ago at the invitation of the Chinese Tennis Federation and at the time saw “five or six” youngsters who had the potential to go all the way. “What happened? I don’t know. It is amazing that today these players are nowhere.
I was in Guangdong nine years ago for two weeks and was impressed with what I saw. But there have been no results. I hope I can help in this process to uncover a star from China, or even Hong Kong,” said the Spaniard. Bruguera is a firm advocate of the Spanish system where mind matters more than a power game. Having all the shots in the book is of no use, he says, if one cannot think how to win a point and have a feel for the game.
Every tournament I attend I see youngsters with the potential to "go all the way" (whatever that means). But to expect them to all succeed is delusional. Unfortunately, I guess, tennis is a zero sum game. If you consider going all the way as Top 100, which I think is fair, there are only 100 places in it. That pie doesn't get bigger as the talent pool grows. China will certainly get its Top 100 man some day, but to expect five or six by now? That seems optimistic in the extreme given the global nature of the game today.