Monday, January 18, 2021

First 2021 ITF Grade 1 Underway in Ukraine; Top Seeds Brantmeier, Belday Advance at Grade 5 in New Jersey; Rune Aims for "Maximum Effort" in 2021

The first ITF Grade 1 tournament of 2021 is underway this week in Ukraine, after those usually held in Costa Rica and Australia were canceled or postponed this year due to the pandemic. The Grade 1 in Ukraine, which was a Grade 1 for the first time last year, features just three Top 100 boys, but 10 Top 100 girls. (At the time of the acceptances for the tournament, in December, the 2002 birth years had not yet been dropped from the rankings).

The top two seeds in the boys draw are from Poland: Maks Kasnikowski, now 11 in the ITF rankings but 43 at the time of acceptances, and Aleksander Orlikowski, now 23 in the rankings, but 61 when the acceptances were posted. Both won their first round matches today in straight sets.

Diane Shnaider of Russia is the top seed in the girls draw, with Natalia Szabanin of Hungary seeded No. 2. While neither of the top two boys played the Orange Bowl last month, both girls did. Today, Shnaider dropped the first set against wild card Mariya Dolzhenko of Ukraine, but rebounded for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory. Szabanin's first round match is on Tuesday's schedule.

The only American in either draw is Isabelle Kouzmanov, who won her first round match today, and will face Shnaider in the second round.

The first round of the Grade 5 in Medford New Jersey is in progress, with several girls matches still on court, but top seeds Reese Brantmeier and Rohan Belday are through to the second round. Brantmeier, who lost in the Connecticut Grade 5 semifinals last week, defeated Lamija Avdic 6-1, 6-0, and the 14-year-old Belday, who lost in the second round at last week's Grade 5, defeated Donovan Spigner 6-4, 6-3.

Girls No. 2 seed Brooklyn Olson defeated Annette Robinson 6-0, 6-0 and boys No. 2 seed Nicholas Godsick beat wild card Tanner Povey 6-2, 6-3.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that 2019 French Open boys champion Holger Rune of Denmark had reached the final of the $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour men's tournament in Spain, but it wasn't until today that I saw this blog post from him on the ITF website. Rune, who has been writing occasional posts for the ITF, mentions his training early this year with Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Mouratoglou Academy in France and his determination to get out of the lower level events and into Challengers. He states his goal for this year as winning a Challenger, which is ambitious for a teenager, but as Carlos Alcaraz and Lorenzo Musetti have proven, not impossible.

He mentions a less committed goal of learning French, but what struck me most in the post was his admission that he could improve his effort.

I saw some statistics recently on a player e-mail from the ITF which showed my win-loss percentage in 2020. I know there were times I did not put maximum effort into matches last year, so it was no surprise that I wasn’t satisfied with the figure.

However, I was really upset with myself when I saw those numbers in the e-mail. It’s too sloppy and I know I should have done better in about 10 matches.

I have been through them all again in my head and that 65 per cent win ratio should have been around 80, so a major goal for 2021 is to raise my statistics so they match my actual level of tennis.

I have spoken to a lot of young tennis players in the past 15 years, and I can't recall more than a couple who even hinted at needing to improve in that department. Admitting that, and putting it out there for the public to judge his progress, speaks to his confidence that he can hold himself to a higher standard.
I was not sure whether I should mention this in my blog because when I say things out loud, it’s a commitment and, for me, a serious matter.
The above quote was Rune's admission regarding learning French; it's clear that he has not hesitation in pledging "out loud" a more consistent effort in all matches.