Five American Teens Playing This Week In Memphis – Passing Shots with Kevin Craig

by Kevin Craig



  • Victor Estrella Burgos became just the seventh player on the ATP to win a title after turning 35 years old since 1980 as he won his second title in Quito in a row this week. Jaime Fillol, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Fabrice Santoro, Tommy Haas, and Ivo Karlovic were the previous six to do so.
  • Dustin Brown reached his first career ATP semifinal in Montpellier this week after going 0-8 in ATP quarterfinal matches to start off his career.
  • Paolo Lorenzi earned his first Top 20 win in a completed match in Quito this week after defeating Bernard Tomic. Lorenzi was previously 0-22 against Top 20 opponents.
  • In Memphis this week, five American teens are playing in an ATP main draw for the first time since the 2006 US Open. Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, and Taylor Fritz received wild cards and were joined by Michael Mmoh and Jared Donaldson via qualifying.
  • Alex Zverev became only the second player on the ATP this season to reach the semifinals of both the singles and doubles at the same event. In Montpellier, he made the semifinals in singles before losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu, while also making the final of the doubles event with his brother Mischz Zverev, losing out to Mate Pavic and Michael Venus. Benoit Paire was the previous player to make the semifinals of both the singles and doubles at the same event, doing so in Chennai in the first week of the year.
  • Kyle Edmund and Daniel Evans played in only the second all-British challenger final, the first of which that took place outside of Great Britain. The previous all-British challenger final took place in Nottingham in 2005 with Alex Bogdanovic beating Mark Hilton. Edmund won the final with Evans in straight sets,
  • 19 year old Blake Mott of Australia won his first challenger title this week after only having three previous challenger main draw wins and being ranked outside of the Top 700.

The Forever Men

Last Sunday afternoon, Milos Raonic became the first man to win three consecutive titles at the SAP Open, at precisely the same moment he became the last man to win one at all. This edition of the San Jose was the last, bringing the rich history of professional tennis in northern California to a close. Raonic will therefore reign as defending champion approximately forever.

It can be a tricky matter to define precisely when a tournament actually expires, or even if it has. There are technical points to be made about licences and ownership, such that it is theoretically possible for an event to survive across endless variations of geography, surface and draw. Has Los Angeles really gone, or has it just moved to Bogota, simultaneously shifting continent and soaring into low orbit? What about the Memphis 500 event, which will relocate to Rio? What, if anything, about that tournament will truly endure?

Such discussions are apt to grow philosophical, as we’re compelled to wonder at the ineradicable essence of a tennis tournament, such that it can retain its identity when everything important about it has ostensibly changed. Apparently these things have ineffable souls, or at least durable traditions that might be strung out indefinitely.

On the other hand, aficionados of professional tennis in southern California are in no doubt that the LA tournament has ascended, not to Columbia, but to that great tennis boneyard in the sky. They might well be insulted if the next champion in Bogota was appended to the long and illustrious list of past LA champions, which includes Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe. The fans often know when a tournament has really perished, just as they know when it is being artificially sustained on life support.

Indeed, reading down the past champion’s lists for many of these cancelled events is bittersweet, evoking sepia-tinted glories, now fading irrecoverably with the tournament’s passing. While some were new ventures that evidently didn’t pan out, many more were decades old, and the winner’s list tells a salutary tale of prestige giving way, gradually or suddenly, to irrelevance. You can understand what is lost, even as you can see why it had to go.

Sometimes what is lost is an invaluable start. It is fascinating to note that each of the Big Four won his first title at a tournament that has since been cancelled: Roger Federer (Milan 2001), Rafael Nadal (Sopot 2004), Novak Djokovic (Amersfoort 2006), and Andy Murray (San Jose 2006).*

In any case, today I’m going to look at those men currently active on the ATP tour who won the ultimate edition of a tournament, whose names will remain the last one on the trophy. I won’t pretend that great insight will be thereby gleaned – perhaps a pattern will emerge – but sometimes it is enough merely to catalogue such things as they pass. There is a sense in which such compilations are subjective; I think I could mount a good argument why the tournament in Sao Paulo is the basically same one that was in Costa do Sauipe, while disputing the idea that Brisbane is a continuation of Adelaide, but I understand that others may not feel the same way. (I do encourage anyone who spots glaring factual inaccuracies to let me know.)

Milos Raonic (San Jose 2013)

The Canadian is only man on this list who goes out as back-to-back-to-back champion. He has won three San Jose titles in a row without dropping a set, in the process breaking records and Fernando Verdasco’s mind. It’s interesting to think how different it might have been had Gael Monfils contested their semifinal in 2011. He didn’t, Raonic gained free passage to the final, and the rest is history, in every sense. It’s even more interesting to think what the tournament’s disappearance will mean for Raonic from here. San Jose accounts for 75% of his career titles.

Sam Querrey (Los Angeles 2012 and Las Vegas 2008)

Querrey is one of two men who merit inclusion on this list twice. He is the forever champion in Los Angeles, which he won a total of three times. Indeed, one report archly implied that his dominance was part of the reason the event was consigned to oblivion (or Columbia). He was also the last man to win the ill-fated Las Vegas event, which is where the Scottsdale tourney went to undergo palliative care.

Andreas Seppi (Belgrade 2012)

When the old Dutch Open was sold to the Djokovic family, they probably dreamed it would last longer in their home city than five years. Alas, the event more or less lived and died according to the presence of the family’s most famed member, which is a parlous situation for any tournament. Nonetheless, Seppi was a worthy final winner.

Kevin Anderson (Johannesburg 2011)

At the time, I joked that Joburg’s days were numbered when Feliciano Lopez was marketed as the star attraction in 2011. Initially things seemed okay, with players such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer lured to South Africa, presumably with their consent. But geography and scheduling proved a fatal cocktail. Staged the week after the Australian Open, at the far end of the earth, it just couldn’t work. It was, nonetheless, Anderson’s first title. It also boasted a truly ludicrous trophy, as so many do.

Nikolay Davydenko (Pörtschach 2008 and Warsaw 2008)

Davydenko is the other twice-tainted forever man. He remains the eternal champion in both Pörtschach and in Warsaw (which were to St Poeten and Sopot what Las Vegas was to Scottsdale: a nice spot for the tournament to sit with a rug over its knees as it quickly slid into its eternal goodnight). Both of these events were staged for the last time in 2008, which was something of a watershed year as far as these matters go. If the prevailing trend is for the United States to shed tournaments, five years ago Europe was suffering a similar affliction. It is curious that almost alone among this list, Davydenko is rare for being a player who was at the top of the game when he won these tournaments (ranked world No.4), although this says more about how modest his profile was even in his hey-day.

Ivo Karlovic (Nottingham 2008)

In 1998, the towering Croat became the two-time defending champion in Nottingham, which used to be the Wimbledon warm-up that almost no one played. On this surface, facing a weak field with his serve, Karlovic had no trouble making hay from the emerald sward. Nottingham was replaced (but not relocated) on the calendar by Eastbourne, which became a dual-gender event. The current Nottingham Challenger is a totally new tournament.

Michael Llodra (Adelaide 2008)

The French net-rusher was the last man ever to win the ATP event in Adelaide, also in 2008. The technical argument is that this tournament was moved to Brisbane, and combined with the existing WTA event. Technically this may be true, but really the Brisbane International is nothing like the old warhorse at Memorial Drive, where Lleyton Hewitt famously won his first career title as a 16 year old.

Richard Gasquet (Mumbai 2007)

The tournament that finally found peace in Mumbai had led a troubled journey through what some Australians quaintly persist in calling the Far East, beginning in Shanghai, moving briefly to Ho Chi Minh City, and finally gasping its last in Mumbai. After Gasquet won the final instalment, it was supposed to move to Bangalore, but security concerns cancelled the event the following year, and after that everyone seemed to lose interest. It was replaced by Kuala Lumpur, meaning that India, the second largest country in the Asia, lacks a tournament within the now-unified Asian Swing.

Filippo Volandri (Palermo 2006)

I confess I don’t know too much about this one, although I’d suggest that the days were numbered on any tournament whose final featured Volandri three years in a row.

Robin Soderling (Milan 2005)

The Milan Indoors was one of those tournaments with a tremendous history and a champion’s list that scans like a who’s who of the Open Era (McEnroe and Becker won four times each. Lendl, Borg, Edberg, and Vilas also hoisted the trophy). Roger Federer won his first title here in 2001. Nonetheless, the entry list had thinned calamitously by the time Soderling won in 2005, years before the Swede found his place in the loftier echelons of the sport. At the time he was just another in a lengthening line of journeyman champions, a line that leads smaller regional tournaments inevitably to the scrapheap.

*Amersfoort later moved to Belgrade, which has also been cancelled.

Canadian Tennis Roots Run Deeper than Raonic

It would seem that the emergence of Milos Raonic as a bona fide rising star on the ATP World Tour has inspired success from his fellow Canadian tennis compatriots at all levels of the game and this was put on full display last week.

While Raonic was trying to win his second consecutive title in Memphis, Canadians were collecting hardware all over the world. After losing  the 2011 final to Andy Roddick, Raonic once again the runner-up in Memphis, falling to Jurgen Melzer in the championship match on Sunday, one week after repeating in San Jose. This run has propelled him to a career-high ranking of no. 24.

Prior to Raonic stepping on court for the singles final, Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi successfully defended their Memphis doubles title thanks to a 4-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. The victory is the pair’s second title of 2012 and the fourth trophy triumph for Nestor in Memphis. The Canadian tennis legend also captures doubles title no. 77 in his illustrious career.

Meanwhile, on the ITF Pro Circuit, Steven Diez and Peter Polansky both won their first Futures titles of the year. Diez won the $10,000 Murcia Futures event in Spain, defeating Pedro Sousa of Portugal 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. For his part, Polansky was crowned champion of the $15,000 Brownsville Futures in Texas thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Great Britain’s Daniel Cox on the title match. Polansky lost 18 games in five matches.

Sixteen-year-old Erin Routliffe, whose style of play is drawing comparisons to her compatriot Rebecca Marino, left Canada at the beginning of the month for a four-week South American clay court swing ranked no. 450 on the ITF junior rankings. She returns Monday ranked inside the Top 100 following a successful four tournament run. Routliffe played four Grade 2 events, reaching the semifinals in Peru, the quarter-finals in Bolivia, the final in Chile and concluding the run with another championship match appearance on Saturday at the Argentina Cup. This means there are now four Canadian girls ranked inside the Top 100 on the ITF world junior rankings.

Not to be outdone, Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime became the first Canadian boy  to capture the Open Super 12 in Auray, France, one of the most prestigious U12 events on the tennis calendar.

While Raonic is getting all of the attention, the impact of his new status within the sport is being felt everywhere in the tennis world and especially in Canada. Just ask any player who represents the Maple Leaf when they walk on the court.

Top 20 Tennis Gifs of 2011

There have been a lot of 2011 lists made this month that perfectly sum up the tennis season, shine light on the best and worst matches and spark intellectual debate amongst tennis fans. This is not one of those lists.

Rather I have spent the past week scouring the depths of Tumblr and Tennis Forum, polling on Twitter, and racking my brain to come up with the first (that I’m aware of) all-tennis-gif list! The only rules I set for myself was that it had to be a gif from the 2011 season, and that it couldn’t contain words (an arbitrary rule I admit, but it helped narrow things down).

So sit back, close out some of your other tabs and programs (this is very image heavy- 20 gifs!) and enjoy this unique look back at the 2011 season.

20. Victorious Vika







The always understated Viktoria Azarenka came out of her shell to celebrate a victory at Wimbledon.

(via tennisgifs)

19. Best Shot Ever

Mr. Modesty Andy Roddick reacted to his infamous Championship point at Memphis in February.

(via ballinz)

18. Vegemite Vera

Vera Zvonareva’s poker face was as good as ever as she tried some vegemite at the Australian Open.

(via tennisgifs)

17. Ferrer Shrugs

No big deal, David Ferrer. You just beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-1 at the World Tour Finals.

(via nidssserz)

16. Bouncing Bartoli

Thirsty girl! Only Marion Bartoli (at the Australian Open) could make sitting look so exhausting and mesmerizing.

(via @CWTennis)

 15. Dancing Frenchies

The world is just a better place when Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are dancing in it. Together.

(via ballinz)

 14. The Miracle

In February’s Fed Cup tie, Russian teammates Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova shared a laugh. Then my heart exploded.

(via tennisgifs)

13. Dynamite Dani

Daniela Hantuchova upset World #1 Caroline Wozniacki at the French Open, then unleashed her inner dork.

(via tennisgifs)

12. Murray’s Shower Surprise

“Like” it or not, Andy Murray caused quite a splash in his Head Racket commercial, released earlier this year.

(via tennisgifs)

 11. Hungry Fer







If you can’t play tennis, might as well eat a burger. Isn’t that the saying? (Fernando Verdasco at the tie in Austin, Texas)

(via nidssserz)

 10. The Petko Dance (+1)








Andrea Petkovic lost the China Open Final, then danced with winner Agnieszka Radwanska. She’s cooler than you are.

(via tennisgifs)

9. Jo’s Head Bop

In the Valencia final Juan Martin Del Potro did what we’ve all wanted to do for some time and knocked Tsonga in the head.

(via ballinz)

8. Sabine Celebrates

If you don’t feel warm fuzzies watching Sabine Lisicki react to her win over Li Na at Wimbledon, you officially don’t have a soul.

(via tennisgifs)

7. The Djoker Returns

Work it! Thanks to a rain delay at Wimbledon Novak Djokovic found some time for fun in the midst of all that winning.

(via tennisgifs)

6. Federer’s Finger

Roger Federer upset the world #1, ended the winning treak, and then wagged his finger. I’m not sure which was more noteworthy.


5. Gilles and Son

He won the Hamburg title and then gave the cutest high-five ever. It was a good few minutes for Gilles Simon.

(via ballinz)

4. The Kiss That Missed

Grigor Dimitrov missed his shots on the court and (incredibly awkwardly) at the net in his loss to Gael Monfils at the U.S. Open.

(via nidssserz)

3. Slip, Slide, and Catch

Only Rafael Nadal could make falling look this cool. It’s really just ridiculous.

(via yardmansalsa)

2. Settle Down

David Ferrer gets excited, Feliciano Lopez calms him down, and the guy in the background remains creepy. A Davis Cup classic.

(via cuhrayzay)

1. The Disappearing Racket

At first it was there, and then it wasn’t.  Radwanska’s Australian Open racket mishap still can’t be beaten- it was by far the best gif moment of the year.

(via tennisgifs)


So, there’s my list.  What are your favorites? What did I miss? What shouldn’t be here? Sound off in the comments or send me a tweet.  And most of all tennis fans and friends, have a Happy New Year!











After the failed Aussie Open 2010 campaign, Maria Sharapova is back on the courts and this time she is in Memphis.  I am wondering if her self confidence is back up. Getting routed so early in Australia can’t be good for it.  If she hasn’t lost any self confidence then hey, she might very well win the Memphis tournament. Ofcourse she has to get past by US Open 2010 revelation, Melanie Oudin. Oudin did some good business last week in Paris. I am seriously hoping to see some good tennis from both in Memphis.

Anyway, I got a whole bunch of contacts on my Facebook and one of them is Maria Sharapova.  She uploaded a few photos of herself attending the Memphis draw.  Enjoy the pics, they are certainly exclusive!

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