Monday, October 27, 2014

USTAPCAOWCC: What's at stake for 11 men

And this week, the men.

A week after the women started their USTA Pro Circuit Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, the men begin theirs. Unlike the women's events, which like the Australian Open are on outdoor hard courts, the three men's tournaments are indoor: Charlottesville, Knoxville, and Champaign.

Several notable players who are not participating in the USTAPCAOWCC include Bradley Klahn, Austin Krajicek, Jarmere Jenkins, Bjorn Fratangelo, and (at least for Charlottesville) Jared Donaldson. Also not included in this overview are Charlottesville WC recipient Kozlov (who, for the record, is ranked #444 and has 4 points to defend this fall) or any of the guys playing qualies this week (Giron, King, King...).

Point distribution for the men's events (identical to the women's with the exception of 7 for second round finishes vs 8 for the women):

W: 80
F: 48
SF: 29
QF: 15
2R: 7
1R: 1

And here's what's at stake:

Tim Smyczek
Ranking: 97
C'ville seed & opponent: #2, to face Liam Broady (GBR)
Points to defend this fall: 80
What's at stake: Tim will likely need to win one of these three tournaments, or reach at least two finals (or a final and two semifinals), to stay in or near the Top 100 and get direct entry into the Australian Open.  Which would take him out of the running in the USTAPCAOWCC. If he doesn't defend anything, it's not the end of the world: he'll still likely be Top 120, with a seed (and possibly a Top 16 seed at that) in Melbourne.

Michael Russell
Ranking: 129
C'ville seed & opponent: #4, to face Marcelo Arevalo (ESA)
Points to defend this fall: 105
What's at stake: Russell won Charlottesville last year thanks to an epic match in the final against Peter Polansky.  Now, of course, those points are coming off.  And the 36-year-old has retired in his last two matches.  Russell is still fine for a Top 200 finish to the year, and entry into qualies in Melbourne - if his body can hold up.

Denis Kudla
Ranking: 133
C'ville seed & opponent: #3, to face Wayne Odesnik (USA)
Points to defend this fall: 0
What's at stake: It's been an uneven return from mono for the tenacious Virginian. A quarterfinal in Sacramento was followed by a rolled ankle at the end of a tight first round loss to Jordan Thompson in Tiburon.  Hopefully he's rested and ready for some wins (and to stockpile some points). The points to defend will start coming fast and furious in early 2015.

Rajeev Ram
Ranking: 140
C'ville seed & opponent: #7, to face Qualifier
Points to defend this fall: 9
What's at stake: Ram continues to carve out a nice career for himself, his serve and volley game good enough to stay in the singles Top 200 at age 30 while he excels in doubles.  A few match wins during this swing would position himself for a seed at the Australian Open qualies.  A tournament win and it might be time for him to set his sights on the Top 100 yet again.

Wayne Odesnik
Ranking: 170
C'ville opponent: Denis Kudla [3] (USA)
Points to defend this fall: 8
What's at stake: He won the USTAPCUSOWCC this summer when nobody wanted him to. Then during the California swing he had two retirements and a shock upset loss to Wolmarans, whom he led by a mile until choking away the second set.  This guy is definitely an enigma ... one who will likely to continue to be in the American tennis mix for the foreseeable future.

Chase Buchanan
Ranking: 184
C'ville opponent: Gianni Mina (FRA)
Points to defend this fall: 24
What's at stake: Buchanan has had some truly up and down results since busting into the Top 200 earlier this year.  His last match, a double bagel at the hands of John Millman in Tiburon, was, we hope, an anomaly.  But even if he can't win a match this month, he will finish 2014 with his best year-end ranking by far, and should be fine for direct entry into the Australian Open qualies.

Alex Kuznetsov
Ranking: 192
C'ville opponent: Robby Ginepri (USA)
Points to defend this fall: 15
What's at stake: This guy has won only one match since early August, and that was a 7-5 in the third grind against a newly returned Denis Kudla.  He hasn't reached a challenger quarterfinal since April. It's rough times for Mr. Kuznetsov, who may be at another career crossroads. It won't take more than a win or two to keep him in the Top 200 ... but even that's no guarantee.

Rhyne Williams
Ranking: 195
C'ville opponent: Frank Dancevic [8] (CAN)
Points to defend this fall: 33
What's at stake: A year that started so promisingly turned into a pretty big disappointment, but now could be his time to shine.  Because he has three zeros included in his points accumulation, even second-round appearances will help him stay in the Top 200.  Of course he'd like to start this swing by repeating his semifinal result from Charlottesville 2013.

Ryan Harrison
Ranking: 196
C'ville opponent: Mitchell Frank (USA)
Points to defend this fall: 7
What's at stake: Look, it's Ryan Harrison. Everything's always at stake. Points, pride, respect, self-respect, self-belief, racquets, our patience. And the narrative ... always the narrative. A victim of his own early success? Fool's gold for a nation longing for men's tennis heroes? Luckless in draws? Coddled by enablers? Needs to grow up oh wait he's 22 it's too late to grow up? Whatever your take, there's perhaps nobody in the USTAPCAOWCC who could use a magical run more than this guy. But even if he doesn't, he won't fall far. Yet.

Robby Ginepri
Ranking: 214
C'ville opponent: Alex Kuznetsov (USA)
Points to defend this fall: 0
What's at stake: Ginepri, 32, is on a four-match losing streak. His physical well-being, and longevity in professional tennis, is an object of constant speculation. He clearly still has the desire to be out there, and the shots, and plenty of his chronological peers are taking up what seems like permanent residence in the Top 100. So why not Robby? This swing could tell us a lot about what's realistic to expect moving forward.

Tennys Sandgren
Ranking: 342
C'ville opponent: James McGee (IRL)
Points to defend this fall: 117 (of 130 total)
What's at stake: Staying in the Top 800. Wow.

That injury took a hell of a lot of wind out of Sandgren's sails. And he's had some exasperatingly close defeats since his return. And now the final bill is coming due. Second round Charlottesville, semifinal Knoxville, championship in Champaign. He'll still have his protected ranking to be able to play some events in January, including qualies for the Australian Open. But yeah - he just needs points any way he can get them these days.  He, by far, has the most at stake this month.

Do you have a pick to win the USTAPCAOWCC? Let us know in comments!

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