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August 5, 2013 Article

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Watch-List Watching At Citi Open 2013
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

At 500 ATP ranking points to the winner, the men's tournament at Citi Open 2013 here in Washington stood among the world's twenty most important. Emerging as the male champion after two days of qualifying-round and seven days of main-tour action, was Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, 24, who defeated five opponents while losing only one set, against runner-up John Isner on final-round Sunday, August 4. A tournament highlight was the run to the semis of veteran Tommy Haas, 35, whose skill and stamina has returned him to the upper rungs of this much-younger-man's game. The female champion was Magdalena Rybarikova, who beat five difficult opponents, three in split-setters, including top-seeded Angelique Kerber and the tournament runner-up Andrea Petkovic.
 
The tournament's hard courts were generally deemed fast, thus helping players prepare for similar surfaces at richer events just ahead -- in Canada, Cincinnati, and at U.S. Open. Attendance here was reasonably good, the temperatures not excessive, the humidity high amid frequent threats of rain.
 
Because last year's Citi coincided with tennis at the Olympics, most top players missed the tournament here. Thus last year's field here included a strong representation of young and rising talent, especially on the women's side. Several relatively young and unknown players achieved good success here, and some returned again this year, showing their added growth, training, and match experience. Some of these have appeared on Tennis Server's watch lists of risers, calculated at the end of each trimester of the tennis year. Thus I tried to focus my current match-watching on those players watch-listed of late, especially those returning from last year's Citi. Offered here are observations and thoughts on these young risers as they passed in review here.
 
RISING WOMEN AT THE CITI
 
My primary targets were the dozen or so female entrants under the age of 21. Despite this limiting of choices, there still remained dilemmas in deciding which matches to watch, especially early in the tournament when many matches were simultaneous. Misfortune came early, when American Sloane Stephens, 20, the highest-seeded under-21 player here, lost in the first round to Russian player Olga Puchkova, 25. (Last year Sloane won my unofficial tournament-within-a-tournament for young risers here.) I did not watch Sloane in her dismal loss to Puchkova, but afterwards neither Sloane nor anyone else could satisfactorily explain her sub-par performance. Meanwhile Puchkova would have a later role in our saga here.
 
Jana Cepelova and Kiki Bertens
 
Another returnee was Jana Cepelova, 20, from Slovak Republic, who made a strong run here last year as an almost-unknown. Now, Jana in the first round faced another of our target risers, Kiki Bertens, 19, from the Netherlands, who had spent a year on our 12-month watch-list announced in July 2012. The two were very different in physical appearance. Jana was still wiry and smallish though she had clearly grown in stature and strength from last year. In contrast Kiki was six feet tall and strongly built, capable of crushing serves and ground strokes that seemed perhaps capable of overwhelming Jana. But it soon became clear that Jana's severe forehands and backhands, delivered low over the net and with considerable topspin -- engineered using a turned-down racket face -- were just as furious as Kiki's and stayed inside the lines more consistently.
 
Kiki's main edge was in the serving and serve-returning, seen especially in Kiki's winning of the second set at love behind some big returns of Jana's softish serves. But both the first and third sets took another pattern. In both, Jana won an early serving break, Kiki equalized later in the set, but Jana found her best artillery to pull ahead at the finish. The final outcome might have gone either way, but it was Jana who produced her best when it meant most.
 
Jana would be eliminated in the next round after reaching score five-games-all in the third set against last year's champ here, Magdalena Rybarikova, 24. (Magdalena in the first round had knocked out Christina McHale, 21, behind better quickness in reaction and movement, a surprisingly well-paced first serve, an impenetrable and accurate sliced backhand, and excellent variety including superior skill at net. She would go on to win the tournament for the second year in a row.)
 
Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard
 
The top American teenager here was Madison Keys, 18, height 5-10. Madison's first-round opponent was Michelle Larcher de Brito, 20, several inches shorter. Michelle had risen from the qualifiers showing plenty of accuracy, good movement, and determination in defeating two larger but less-experienced opponents. But Madison brought Michelle's same qualities along with superior rocketry in stroking and, especially, in serving. I greatly admired Madison's serving technique -- her moderately high toss, high trophy position, nice sweeping action through the backswing, full coordination through the striking point. It seemed to add up to an easy win for Madison, but Michelle kept it close until the final moments.
 
Tuesday late afternoon brought out Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, now 19, another stand-out here among last year's youth brigade. Eugenie still seemed young but now taller and heavier-built, though her listed height of 5-10 seemed generous. But now her main-draw opponent was a big-time striker -- the Moscow-born lefty, Ekaterina Makarova, 25, rangy at 5-11, ranked world #19 earlier this year, who had split sets in losing to Kvitova at Wimbledon in her last previous match.
 
Nor had Eugenie competed since Wimbledon, but there was no rust to be seen in Eugenie's start. Hitting everything solidly, getting to her opponent's best offerings, seldom missing, Eugenie won four of the first five games and held several break points to reach score 5-1. But already it was evident that her previously erratic opponent was improving. Ekterina was now stepping up the pressure, finding her own zone, forcing weaker returns from Eugenie.
 
The turnaround soon became complete. Makarova saved the break points to capture that sixth game and would go on to sweep the rest of the first set and most of the next. Eugenie ended up badly beaten by a better opponent. Eugenie's game was hardly soft, but despite her marvelous start, Eugenie's weaponry could not stand up against the heavier arsenal of an experienced and talented pro at her prime age.
 
Madison Keys lost her second match, defeated by a more experienced opponent, Niculescu, in a third-set tiebreaker.
 
Jessica Pegula
 
Emerging early in the week was American Jessica Pegula, 19. Jessica swept easily through her qualifying-round matches, showing a strong ground-stroke-based game featuring an outstanding backhand two-hander, almost always blistered cross-court. For the first round of the main draw she drew a prime opponent -- Andrea Petkovic, 25, a former world #9 now trying to regain elite status after injury-related absence. Andrea at 5-11 looked more athletic than I expected.
 
Jessica had the advantage of playing the qualifying-round tune-ups, while Andrea had not played on hard surface since March. Perhaps seeking to adjust to conditions or perhaps wary of re-injury, Andrea played carefully at the outset. But that was good enough for Andrea to win the first set by good margin, as Jessica seemed uncomfortable, unable to produce the juice needed to bother her opponent.
 
But it was a different Jessica in the second set following a coaching visit. Now it was the same Jessica seen two days earlier -- striking freely to deliver a blaze of rockets to the sides that Petkovic had trouble dousing, all relatively free of error. The ferocity of her power approached the quality of Cepelova's seen a few hours earlier, and coupled with a firmer serve, Jessica seemed stronger than Jana had been. The score mounted to five games all, Andrea barely weathering the fury. But matters then abruptly changed upon disappearance of Jessica's serving ability. In a game marked early by two close double-faults, at match point Jessica contributed a third, this one not close.
 
The 17-and-Unders
 
It gradually became clear that among the contingent aged 17 and under, these younger starlets had not yet developed mature games. A common deficiency more than occasionally followed some unusually forceful stroking where the attacking player advanced into forecourt. Far too often, what happened next was a horrible dump of a relatively easy volleying or overhead opportunity.
 
American Louisa Chirico, 17, born in Morristown, New Jersey, had reached the semis at both Garros and Wimbledon Juniors this year. Tall and with a fine tennis physique, she faced Michelle Larcher de Brito in the qualifiers here. Louisa used her superior height and a well-shaped serving technique to keep things close. But it became clear that Michelle was the more highly trained and better player, especially in her quicker shot preparation and court movement. Louisa struck more than a few outright winners using a large backswing to attack Michelle's second serves. But there were many more similar tries that found only the net or landed outside the lines. Their exchanges were aggressive, but Michelle was better in answering them with better control.
 
Also tall but less heavily built was Victoria Duval, 17, born in Miami of Haitian parents. Playing firmly and aggressively with good determination although without the serving power of Chirico, Victoria advanced in straight sets to the second round of the qualifiers. Her next opponent was Larcher de Brito, who again showed her ability to move to the ball quickly and punish it to the sides and corners, delivering many attacks of Duval's softish serves. Michelle thus won the first set and took an early lead in the second.
 
But Victoria now stepped up her pace, especially from her backhand side. Now there came many severe rallies, both players moving the other to the corners, often in backhand-to-backhand rocketry, each pounding the other in search of weak replies. Victoria's serve now became moderately forcing, supporting her improved ground strokes as Victoria captured the second set. Michelle now fumed often at her own sloppiness, willing herself to play better.
 
It seemed to work. Meanwhile Victoria again lapsed into softer play and, more seriously, began contributing too many forehand errors. It ended in a split-set win for Larcher de Brito. Still, it seemed clear that Victoria had shown potential to climb in the rankings if her body allowed and her will to work hard stayed strong.
 
Another 17-year-old, American Taylor Townsend, had been placed directly in the main draw. Her opponent, Monica Niculescu, 25, of Romania, was able to withstand Taylor's powerful weaponry with few errors, sometimes answering with her own power but more often mixing in sliced backhands and forehands, lengthening the exchanges. Taylor lost many points with bad errors in forecourt, and showed need for practice in overheads, down-the-line backhands, and precision in serving. I hope she will grow some in height and be able to slim down.
 
One other newcomer merits mention. Usue Arconada, age 14 and height 5-2, raised eyebrows with her good rallying ability and remarkable power for her age and size, but was otherwise helpless in the second round of the qualifiers, losing to American Alexandra Mueller.
 
Coco Vandeweghe
 
One year ago, Coco Vandeweghe, then 20, had been prominent among the game's risers. Along with her excellent size and strength, she brought to Citi Open 2012 a capability for severe power in serving and stroking plus a resolve to rely almost entirely on all-out power, apparently in awareness of her disadvantage in quickness and movement against topmost players.
 
Coco did not play here this year, instead entering the richer event in Carlsbad, California. By chance, at home late Thursday night, on Tennis Channel I found Coco playing against Ana Ivanovic in the second round at Carlsbad. Ana is a former world #1 and still just age 25, was herself no soft hitter. Coco looked about the same in size and power as last year. She outhit Ivanovic much of the way, keeping the ball in the court most of the time and scorching enough winners to the sides to keep matters close. After losing their first-set tiebreaker Coco became visibly unhappy and perhaps angry, falling behind quickly in the second set. Although her negativity improved, she never threatened thereafter. Still, it appeared that Coco's bid for stardom was advancing with her improved striking.
 
Paula Ormaechea
 
The only member of our coterie reaching the tournament quarter-finals here was Paula Ormaechea, 20, from Argentina.
 
I watched Paula briefly in her demolition of an unfortunate first-round opponent. She next faced Olga Puchkova, the winner over Stephens earlier. Paula was the shorter of the two, wiry, with good quickness. Olga was the heavier in the shoulders and hips, commanding the easier power. Both were skilled in baseline tennis, driving firmly generally cross-court, and both handled easily her opponent's power. When one of them occasionally tried to force the action, the result was usually failure. Most points were decided by unforced errors.
 
Olga won the first set. Paula won the second and moved ahead 4-1 in the third. The match then ended suddenly when after the completion of a point Olga, in frustration, smacked a ball to the side that accidentally hit the seated linesperson. Olga apologized for the unintended result of her action but was defaulted from the match and disqualified from the tournament.
 
Ormaechea's quarter-final opponent was Andrea Petkovic, who after beating Pegula had defeated Mona Barthel, 23, once a rising player but now, like Petkovic, down in the rankings after injuries. Andrea won that match comfortably, following her earlier pattern, playing well within herself, allowing her opponent to take risks more frequently and make the more frequent errors. Now, she and Paula opened Friday's action in 80-degree sunshine on Grandstand Court #1. I watched from my usual perch, equipped with sunscreen and notebook.
 
Andrea was clearly the taller, rangier, and more powerful in physique. Indeed her advantage in handling hard-to-reach serves, whether wide or high-bouncing, would be an important edge in the showdown that ensued. Andrea's tendency to hold back her forceful play in the early going, however, was not successful this day. Instead, from the start it was Paula crushing the ball with every blow, taking command of the sides and corners. It was a Paula not seen against Puchkova, striking with amazing accuracy, sometimes delivering three and four consecutive sizzlers to the edges that the excellent defensive talents of Andrea could ultimately not withstand. Twice I drew a star in my notebook after backhand down-the-line rockets from Paula that Andrea, drawn inside baseline, could only admire. The first set was Paula's.
 
I drew one other star during the affair -- early in set two following a remarkably accurate drop shot by Paula from the baseline that defeated a sequence of heavier blows delivered by Andrea. It was the first dropper tried by Paula, and perhaps it was a mixed gain, as she tried five or six more of them thereafter, losing the point in every case. Meanwhile Paula was now having trouble delivering her thunder in the face of Andrea's slightly more forceful striking. Andrea was now often the dominator during points, obtaining weak replies from Paula that Andrea could attack severely. It stayed that way to the end, Paula's first-set magnificent now gone.
 
Tournament-within-a-Tournament
 
Will any of our youthful heroines seen here one day attain, say, the world's first ten?
 
Clearly, for realistic chance, each of them needs further heavy training, practice, and competition along with further physical growth and strength. All lost here to older players who are at or approaching prime age following many years of training and experience. The gap between starlet and star sometimes seemed narrow but in reality is not readily breached.
 
By reaching the quarters, Paula Ormaechea became the winner of our imaginary tournament-within-a-tournament. She validated this designation by her power, determination, and boldness shown in her several matches, though her edge over our other protagonists was small. We here subjectively rank the best of them in their likelihood of future rise, as judged by watching them at Citi Open 2013:
 
1. Ormaechea
2. Keys
3. Pegula
4. Cepelova
5. Bouchard
 
Early tests came even before the last ball was struck at the Citi -- in the qualifying rounds for the next week's higher-level tournament in Toronto. Jana Cepelova won both her qualifying matches. Madison Keys won her first match but then withdrew from the tournament with shoulder trouble. Jessica Pegula lost her first match. Paula Ormaechea first defeated Michelle Larcher de Brito and then lost to Kiki Bertens in three sets. Kiki thus joined Cepelova in reaching the main draw. Eugenie Bouchard received a wild-card entry to the main draw.
 
NEW WATCH LIST -- THE WOMEN
 
The Second Trimester of tennis year 2013 ended on July 21, ending the life of our 12-month watch list chosen last summer, now replaced by a new list given here.
 
Only one new selectee has passed the age of 21, and two are extremely young, not yet 17. The calculations for the first time include results from the top junior girls' events, recognizing that the most talented girls are generally ready for main-tour play at earlier age than the top males.
 
(As usual, our computer's selections are based on each player's performance during the just-ended trimester compared with her previous best-12-month performance, along with adjustments for age, height, and regression toward her previous historical best. The list is intended to predict the strongest risers over the next twelve months. Also shown below are each player's official rank on July 21 and predicted target rank for twelve months ahead.)
 
Ana Konjuh, age 15 (Croatia). The credentials of this 15-year-old from Croatia are impressive. So far in 2013, Ana won the Australian Open Juniors (under 18), reached the semis at Garros Juniors, reached the semis at Wimbledon Juniors, and won the Grade A juniors event in Osaka. Meanwhile she occasionally competed in ITF Pro Circuit events, winning the tournament at Montpellier, France, and reaching the final at Maribon, Slovenia, where she forced Polona Hercog to three sets. She played Fed Cup singles for Croatia in February, defeating Urszula Radwanska. Blue-eyed Ana is built for power and plays aggressively, delivering a severe backhand two-hander. In the Australian final, she won 8 points at net against her opponent's 3. Her first serve averaged 97 mph and landed in court at 67%. Official rank #333. Predicted target #88.
 
Belinda Bencic, 16 (Switzerland). Belinda achieved a spectacular run during Second Trimester, capturing the Italian Open Juniors in May, the Garros Juniors in June, and the Wimbledon Juniors in July, defeating past rival Taylor Townsend in the Wimbledon final. Bencic has long trained at a tennis academy in Zurich run by the mother of Martina Hingis. Since Wimbledon Belinda has reached the semis in two consecutive ITF Pro Circuit tournaments and, in her only main-tour action of the trimester, she won a set but then lost in the first round in Bastad, Sweden. Official rank #332. Predicted target #125.
 
Elizaveta Kulichkova, 17 (Russia). An encouraging past career in top junior competition along with growing experience in ITF Pro Circuit play point to future rise for this newest Russkaya. Her recent laurels include winning the ITF tournament in Istanbul in July, a quarter-final finish at Garros Juniors (where she defeated active watch-list member Siniakova), reaching the semis at the Grade A event in Milan, and a close ITF final-round loss in Istanbul in April to Donna Vekic (another watch-list member). Official rank #357. Predicted target #122.
 
Ons Jabeur, 18 (Tunisia). After winning two grass-court ITF events in Japan, Jabeur lost in the first round of qualifiers at Wimbledon. Earlier in the year there were encouraging three-set losses to Meusburgerand Cirstea. In main-tour action in July, she defeated her first-round opponent. Official rank #204. Predicted target #62.
 
An-Sophie Mestach, 19, height 5-7 (Belgium). During Second Trimester 2013 An-Sophie won an ITF Pro Circuit hard-court tournament in Japan and scored well in ITF grass-court events in Japan and Britain. In main-tour action, she advanced through the qualifiers at 's-Hertogenbosch and won two qualifying matches at Wimbledon. Both losses came in three-setters against opponents ranked in the world's top 120. Official rank #163. Predicted target #64.
 
Anna Schmiedlova, 19, 5-9 (Slovenia). During the recent trimester Anna successfully advanced by winning three qualifying-round matches at both Garros and Wimbledon. In the main draw at Garros she then defeated top-50 player Wickmayer. She also showed good success in ITF Pro Circuit, winning the tournament at Cittaveccia, Italy, winning three matches to reach the semis at Torun, Poland, and winning four matches to reach the final at Biarritz, France. Official rank #99. Predicted target #37.
 
Simona Halep, 21, 5-6 (Romania). It was a superb Second Trimester for Simona, who achieved the third-best success among all women during the period. She won tournaments at Nurnberg on clay, at 's-Hertogenbosch on grass, and at Budapest on clay. She also had a fine run at Italian Open, where she emerged from the qualifiers to reach the semi-finals, defeating Jankovic, A. Radwanska, and Vinci. Her career W-L record in Slams is an unimpressive 8-13, including first-round losses in her last five tries. Official rank #22. Predicted target #7.
 
Watching the Old Lists
 
How well did the seven members of Watch List V, which expired on July 21, succeed in improving their ranking and in surpassing their predicted targets?
 
All but one improved their ranking, and two of them -- Sara Errani and Sloane Stephens -- surpassed their targets. Given here are final data from the now-expired list. Shown are the official rankings and predicted targets at the time of selection. Also shown are the official rankings upon the list's expiration.
 
-- Sara Errani, rank then #9, target #8, rank now #6
-- Sloane Stephens, rank then #52, target #27, rank now #15
-- Alison Van Uytvanck, rank then #255, target #95, rank now #171
-- Varvara Lepchenko, rank then #41, target #24,rank now #40
-- Urszula Radwanska, rank then #44, target #19, rank now #42
-- Kiki Bertens, rank then #77, target #52, rank now #67
-- Camila Giorgi, rank then #91, target #52, rank now #122
 
Meanwhile List VI, selected at year's end 2012, is now two trimesters old. Its members seem on track to become our most successful class to date, as all have better rankings than when selected and all but one have for the moment surpassed their target levels. (Their order in how well they have met their targets to date is as follows: Mallory Burdette, Eugenie Bouchard, Kristina Mladenovic, Madison Keys, Donna Vekic, Annika Beck, and Laura Robson.) Likewise all members of List VII, selected in April 2013, now rank higher than when selected, though only two members -- Siniakova and Keys -- have for the moment attained their targets.
 
MALE RISERS AT CITI OPEN
 
Rhyne Williams and Steve Johnson
 
Entered in the men's qualifying draw at the Citi was Rhyne Williams, 22, a member of our 12-month watch list posted in early April 2013. Here, Rhyne began by defeating Rob Ginepri in the qualifiers on Saturday. His next opponent was Samuel Groth -- a powerful 200-pounder from Australia, currently ranked #227, renowned for extreme serving speeds that are very effective on fast courts.
 
It was a disappointing day for Rhyne. The former University of Tennessee star, wearing Volunteer Orange, never solved Samuel's power serving. There were also troubles in Rhyne's serving games, where Sam proved able to blister an occasional serve-return winner, come to net behind strong approach shots, and end points with wicked rockets to the sides. Rhyne won the second set in a tiebreaker but was otherwise in constant trouble.
 
Although Rhyne lost in the qualfiers, because of a withdrawal Rhyne became a "lucky loser" in the main draw. His Monday opponent was the very opposite of Groth -- Somdev Devvarman, whose fluid, highly controlled shots must have seemed like candy for Rhyne after fighting off Groth's thunderbolts. Rhyne led early, then held his own until again broken late in the first set. Rhyne responded by severely punishing his racket and then losing almost every game thereafter.
 
Sam Groth did better, defeating riser candidate Denis Kudla in the first round of the main draw. He then lost to Milos Raonic by margin of one serving break in both sets.
 
Entered directly into the main draw was another recent American college player, Steve Johnson, 23, whom we watch-listed last December. Steve's first-round opponent on Monday was Radek Stepanek, a veteran warrior who again showed the superb attacking skills and excellent supporting skills that had won Radek the crown here in Washington two summers ago. Steve's bigger serve and first-strike instincts worked well much of the time, but Radek stepped up his serving to win the first-set tiebreaker and remained in control thereafter.
 
Jack Sock and James Duckworth
 
More promising were the performances of two younger candidates, much alike in their strengths and styles of play, one from America and one from Australia.
 
The American was Jack Sock, 20, height 6-1, whose powerful serving and forehand work demolished the European Igor Sijsling. Jack is hardly a picture-form player, but with his slap-like forehand he obtains powerful wrist action and excellent velocity. But even more impressive was Jack's consistent accuracy in challenging situations -- low-bouncing shots, replies to Igor's attacking pressure, stretched serve-returns, cat-and-mouse action near net. Jack had been watch-listed here at the end of 2011 and again at the end of 2012. His future seems decidedly bright.
 
Less expected was the strong performance of James Duckworth, 21, from Australia. Against one of the tournament favorites here, Kevin Anderson, James showed remarkably similar talents to Sock's, except perhaps in higher degree. Strong at 6-0 and a muscular 181 pounds, against Anderson James exuded determination and will, handling well the potent serving and also the attacking advances of his opponent. James's serving and stroking were full-throated, and he kept the ball in the court very well amid his forceful play. Duckworth and Anderson stayed even in the third set, dark storm clouds looming in the fading daylight. The scoreboard read 30-all at 4-4, Anderson serving, when two Anderson serving rockets saved the game for Kevin. The rainfall began at that moment, stopping play for Wednesday.
 
Anderson would close out matters quickly the next day. Kevin, a tall South African who played for University of Illinois, would next go on to defeat Mardy Fish and then to play incredibly powerfully and well in challenging the tournament's eventual champ, del Potro, in two sets of sizzling Friday-evening tennis.
 
That Sock and Duckworth have high futures in pro tennis seems assured. They will probably meet each other soon in some important arena elsewhere. It should be a memorable first main-tour meeting.
 
Grigor Dimitrov
 
Grigor Dimitrov, 22 at height 6-2, from Bulgaria, has already achieved stardom, having attained our watch list in April 2013, then defeating Djokovic at Madrid in May, and reaching world rank #30 in July. Now at Citi Open he defeated Malisse and higher-seeded Querrey in straight sets, then lost in the quarters to amazing Tommy Haas in two tiebreak sets. Although I did not watch his matches, this latest validation of his widely acknowledged riser status requires notice.
 
A NEW MEN'S WATCH LIST
 
Our new male risers, selected July 21, are all in their early twenties. Several selections rested mainly on good success in Challenger tournaments. The seven represent seven different countries, all but one in Europe.
 
Jiri Vesely, 20, height 6-6 (Czech Republic). During Second Trimester Jiri won two European clay-court Challenger tournaments and reached the final round in two others. His first-ever main-tour main-draw action came at Garros 2013, where he advanced through the qualifying rounds before losing to Kohlschreiber in four sets. Against Kohlschreiber, Jiri's lefty first serve measured at 120 mph average and 136 mph maximum. He also led in points won at net, 21-16. In 2011 Jiri won the Australian Open Juniors and was runner-up at U.S. Open Juniors. Official ranking #98. Predicted target #53.
 
Henri Laaksonen, 21, 6-1 (Switzerland). Born in Finland, Henri moved to Switzerland for tennis training in 2009 and now identifies himself with that nation. Following a moderately successful junior career, Henri has risen consistently in the rankings. Improved results primarily on clay and in Challengers account for a recent acceleration. Official rank #187. Predicted target #149.
 
Pablo Carreno Busta, 22, 6-2 (Spain). Following back surgery in 2012 Pablo has repaired his official ranking to a level now surpassing his pre-surgery best rank of #133. During Second Trimester 2013 he scored many match wins, all on clay, triumphing in the Challenger tournament at Tangiers and, in main-draw play, defeating Fognini , Goffin, Benneteaiu, Andujar, and Haase, all ranked in the world top hundred. He also won his qualifying-round matches at Garros in his first-ever Slam try, then lost to Federer in the main draw. Official rank #115. Predicted target #59.
 
Federico Delbonis, 22, 6-3 (Argentina). Federico now reappears on a second consecutive watch list, mainly owed to his strong results at German Open in July, where he rose from the qualifying rounds to defeat five main-draw opponents including Federer and two others in the top fifty. He lost in a three-set final to Fognini. At Hamburg Federico displayed a powerful baseline game along with a clear propensity for back court, though he closed out his upset of Federer with two splendid drop-volley winners. Official rank #65, Predicted target #39.
 
Jerzy Janowicz, 22, 6-8 (Poland). Born in and a resident of Lodz, Jerzy appeared on our watch list of summer 2012, reflecting his strong recent results in Challengers and two wins in main-draw action at Wimbledon. A few months later, his electrifying performance at Paris Indoors dazzled the tennis world and led to his selection for a second time here. Now, from his exceptional run at Wimbledon 2013, where he reached the final four, along with two wins at Garros and three at Italian Open, his accelerating rise produces yet another watch-list selection. Powerful, athletic, and tennis-talented, Jerzy's further rise seems assured. Official rank #17, Predicted target #11.
 
Andrej Martin, 23, 5-11 (Slovak Republic). Bratislava-born Andrej's record in Challengers has moved sharply upward during Second Trimester 2013, lifted by triumphs at Mexico City and San Benedetto (Italy) along with a final-round finish at Milan. Mexico City was played on hard courts, the others on clay. These three outcomes largely explain his #65 ranking for Second Trimester, which compared against his previous 12-month best of #160 places him well inside our selected group. Official rank #126. Predicted target #89.
 
Fabio Fognini, 26, 5-10 (Italy). This tennis artist brings dazzling court movement and shot-making ability along with a light-mannered swagger on court that appeals to galleries everywhere. Fabio appeared on our summer watch list two years ago but failed to raise his ranking during the ensuing year. He now reappears, having reached the fourth round at Garros 2013, where he lost to Nadal in three close sets, and won main-tour tournaments in Stuttgart and Hamburg. Clay remains his best surface. Official rank #19. Predicted target #14.
 
Closure -- Watch List V.
 
Three members of the just-expired list V -- Roberto Bautista-Agut, Benoit Paire, and Jerzy Janowicz -- succeeded in surpassing their target levels during their 12-month tenures. One other member's ranking improved but not enough to reach his target. Retreating backward were the other three including Brian Baker, who was sidelined by serious injury.
 
-- Benoit Paire, rank then #50, target #39, rank now #28
-- Jerzy Janowicz, rank then #82, target #46, rank now #17
-- Roberto Bautista-Agut, rank then #123, target #79, rank now #49
-- Guillaume Rufin, rank then #133, target #85, rank now #111
-- Ryan Harrison, then #52. target #39, rank now #132
-- David Goffin, then #63, target #58, rank now #105
-- Brian Baker, then #79, target #67, rank now #477
 
Meanwhile our Watch List VI has completed two-thirds of its intended span. All seven listees have improved their ranking since selection, and two have, at least for the moment, equaled their targets -- Janowicz and Zemlja. Finally, the list selected in April 2013 showed improved rankings for four of its seven members after one trimester of tenure. Two members scored recent wins over Big Four megastars -- Dimitrov over Djokovic at Madrid, Delbonis over Federer at German Open.
 
Applause is owed to those responsible for the existence and the staging of Citi Open, a healthy event strengthening the pro tours and therefore tennis at all levels, locally and worldwide. The improving playing level of the pro stars can be detected with each year here. How far can it go?
 
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
 

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014


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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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