Feb/19

23

The Albot Zone In Delray Beach

By Scoop Malinowski

The first time I remember seeing Radu Albot was at the US Open qualifying rounds about four or five years ago. Then one of the members of my club, a woman, mentioned that she liked how he played.

There was something about this regular looking player from, of all places, Moldova, that stood out. There was nothing spectacular about his game or electric about his on court demeanor but still somehow, someway he stood out and he made you pay attention.

Since then, he’s established himself as a top 100 range ATP player with a career high ranking of 79, a US Open doubles semifinal, a semi in Moselle, a third round at Wimbledon.

Good results like those set the stage for a big breakout result, which has come this week in Delray Beach. Albot has stormed through the draw, slaying Ivo Karlovic, Nick Kyrgios, Steve Johnson and tonight came the performance that will send shockwaves through the ATP.

In tonight’s semi vs Mackenzie McDonald, fresh off a 76 in the third upset of top seed Juan Martin Del Potro, Albot lost the first 6-3. But then he rebounded somehow, someway and played two of the most perfect sets you will ever see in professional tennis. Albot actually double-bageled the red hot McDonald and is now in his first ATP final, where he will meet England’s Dan Evans.

Albot was absolutely spectacular tonight, he didn’t miss anything, unleashing aces, baseline rockets and some deft volleys. It was a player “in the zone”, where everything is working, every idea succeeds, and the opponent is left looking like he just woke up after he got knocked out cold in a world title boxing match. McDonald was totally helpless to thwart the Albot onslaught. The man who just beat Del Potro couldn’t even win a game from Albot in the second and third sets.

How did this happen? Brilliant tennis can awaken in any player at any time. One shot, one point can be the spark. Or maybe perhaps it was a Biofile I did with Radu after he beat Karlovic that sparked something? Who knows. But something has changed this week, an outsider on the ATP Tour is on the verge of becoming a champion. I conversed for a few minutes with his girlfriend Doina the day before the showdown with Kyrgios. She said Radu won the first set from Nick at US Open and how Radu likes her to cheer for him because it helps his play, which I joked she should cheer as loud as Serena screams, and maybe he will win the title.

Now he’s two sets away from his first title.

Albot is an interesting story. He comes from Moldova, a small Soviet Union nation, near Russia and Romania. Though he’s such a major sports figure from Moldova, he only gets minimal press coverage, which focuses mainly on his results and how much money he earns. Albot enjoyed doing the Biofile and even said after that he thought it was a very interesting interview.

He said his tennis inspirations were David Ferrer, as one might expect, the ultimate undersized underdog warrior in today’s ATP, and also Marat Safin and Sebastian Grosjean, another smaller sized baseliner with a flamboyant game.

Albot is a warrior – he won a Davis Cup match vs Portugal’s Joao Sousa in 2013, which went to 11-9 in the fifth set. That match lasted 5 1/2 hours. And this week he beat Johnson, Kyrgios and McDonald all in three setters. He beat the always tricky Karlovic this week and last week in New York.

Tonight Albot looked like a top ten player, a guy who can continue to evolve into a David Ferrer, David Goffin type baseline machine.

After what I saw Albot do on the court this week in Delray Beach, I think it’s possible this is only the beginning and he’s going to become an important player in the ATP World Tour, with plenty more stunning performances to come in the future.

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40 comments

  • Dan Markowitz · February 24, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Geez, I’ve been ensconced in West Orange, New Jersey all weekend long so I didn’t see Albot double-bageled Mac Mac. That is sick. (My son, Callum, actually reached the semis of top-32 Eastern 14’s tournament, taking down the 5th seed and the boy who beat the #1 seed, and then today when I had to work, got crunched 2 and 1–see how important daddy is in getting you warmed up for a big match and how much energy I give you during matches? Nah, he doesn’t see it. Still, Cal was the only 12 year old who reached the quarters and then semis).

    Those crickets you hear are because of the Delray finals between Albot and Dan Evans. That’s not what the Delray organizers had in mind I’m sure. Scoop, if I fly down there right now do you think they’ll let me play you as an undercard?

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 24, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Dan, Albot is the type of player you can’t just watch a few points and try to interpret his level by seeing his scorelines, you have to watch his matches and several of his matches to understand what a special unique warrior he is. I’m actually glad Evans made the final, it’s always great to see two lower level guys getting the chance to win their first ATP title. Isner, what can I say, we all like him a lot but we’ve seen a lot of his matches and we know how they go. I’m really looking forward to see Evans vs Albot and I think it will be an excellent, dramatic final. I prefer this final over McDonald vs Isner that’s for sure.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 24, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Albot wins an epic thriller in the Delray Beach final, one of the best finals you will ever seen. Astounding tennis by both players for all three sets, and they saved their best for the end. Albot was up 4-2 with a BP for 5-2 but Evans surged back and lead 5-4. The tennis was incredible, Albot and Evans hitting pinpoint shots and making some of the best shots of their careers. Albot hit a volley I will never forget, coming in, sidestepping then hitting an inside out forehand touch drop volley winner off a heavy shot. Just over and over these two traded genius shots, Evans had three championship points at the end, two had sthotspot replays, one nipped the line the other was out. Albot finally won on his first MP when Evans double faulted down the tee. Incredible match, two titans grinding it out from the baseline and both coming in and knocking off volley winners. No way McDonald vs Isner could have been half as good as what these two champions performed today. One of the best finals you will ever see. Tennis at it’s best. Albot has stepped up and proven he’s something special, a total warrior who could keep going to the top 20 or even 10. Evans also has a huge upside if he can keep up this level and this intensity. Two unknown journeyman just stepped up this week in Delray and showed they can become elite ATP players. Thank you again Delray for another fantastic tournament as always, well except for the year Raonic defaulted the final to Sock.

  • Doug Day · February 25, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Help.When replay of Delray final? Coverage ran out w rain delay. What a war!

  • jg · February 25, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Cressy to play Daniel Evans in the Indian Wells Challenger this week, I’m looking for the Cressy upset.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 25, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    This will be a big challenge for Cressy but he will be UP for this match. I think he will upset Evans who will struggle to get up after losing the toughest match of his career. Cressy will have the big spark and Evans will be flat. Cressy in three.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 26, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Harry gave Wawa a run for his money losing in Acapulco 4 and 6. Pretty cool that Vekic and Wawa were playing at the same time. Venic has had a pretty stunning turnaround to the point where she’s a real good and pretty exciting player as she goes for her shots.

    Noah Rubin is just down in the dumps. Amazing that Rubin and Kozlov, once junior Wimbledon finalists, are now both floundering. Rubin lost first round of Indy Wells Challenger to C Harry and now sits at #152.

  • catherine · February 26, 2019 at 2:20 am

    On the subject of I W Challengers I notice Cori Gauff (lost to Bacszinsky) has now been re-christened ‘Coco’ in various places. I’m sure she’d prefer her own name. We’ve got enough Cocos 🙂

    Vekic has flourished with Torben Beltz’s coaching. Angie might want him back the ways things are going there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 26, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Coco goes by Coco for years now, when i first saw her in the Eddie Herr 12s final about four years ago, her family cheered her on by calling her Coco…”Cmon Coco!’ I still remember I guess it was her grandma yelling Cmon Coco over and over and over through the match, it was almost intimidating and distracting to the opponent Noa Krznaric of Croatia who won the final but is now struggling. I remember the loud yelling by grandma stopped at some point in the match, either they muzzled her or sent her away. Never forget those constant yells “Cmon COCO!” So I guess she prefers Coco over Cori.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 26, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Rubin is definitely in a stagnation period or a slump, whatever you call it, but he can snap out of it with a new coach or a sudden big win. He’s quick and consistent but it looks like he needs a weapon. No reason he can’t be inspired by Albot who was far lower ranked at age 21 than Rubin is now.

  • catherine · February 26, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Scoop – does the real Coco know her name’s been hijacked ? Just imagine Coco playing Coco 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 26, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Catherine, rumor has it Coco Vandy may change her name to Locococo this year. 🙂 That would fix that potential name mayhem.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 26, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Vandeweghe might be the only player on both tours who is losing badly and has still kept her coach. I mean in 2017 she got two slams semis and a quarters and since then she’s out in the first or second round of slams. Maybe Vandeweghe and Osaka have started have started a new trend with players-coaches, if you lose you keep your coach, if you win you fire him.

  • Dan Markowitz · February 26, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Are you feeling it for Monfils? The guy wins Rotterdam knocking out Wawa in the finals and then comes back today in Dubai and takes out Cilic 6-0 in third set. The Frenchman is 32, but looking stronger than ever.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 26, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    Pat Cash is great company and a brilliant tennis mind, tons of stories, maybe there is something more going on there, who knows? It does defy logic that a woman player keeps the same coach through a long stretch of underachieving and poor results. Maybe she is injured.

  • catherine · February 27, 2019 at 1:51 am

    Scoop – Coco V has had a foot injury on and off for a while. The last full tournament she played was USO when she won the doubles with Barty. I think of her as a kind of part-time player these days.

    Among Acapulco results I noticed Azarenka bt Collins 6-1 6-2.

  • catherine · February 27, 2019 at 2:12 am

    Vika looked very sharp in that match – hitting the ball well and not missing much.

    (The WTA have started putting some matches full length on Youtube which is useful.)

  • catherine · February 27, 2019 at 5:34 am

    Collins threw her racquet – I forgot to note that. Vika has many fans judging by twitter responses.

  • Hartt · February 27, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Bianca Andreescu won her first round match in Acapulco against a Swiss player, Jil Teichmann. She will face Dr. Buz (Mihaela Buzarnescu) next.

    I’ve been joking about the two eighteen-year-olds, Bianca and Felix, needing to keep up with each other in the rankings, but they are staying close. Felix is No. 60 and now Bianca is No. 69 in the live rankings.

    Felix will play Cuevas in his first round in Sao Paulo. I imagine the vet will want revenge over the youngster after his loss to Felix in Rio.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 27, 2019 at 8:20 am

    Azarenka demolishes Collins, maybe they know each other from IMG Academy where both train.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 27, 2019 at 8:22 am

    It’s funny how these young guns vs veteran rematches happen, remember young Sampras vs vet Mayotte many times, young Hewitt vs old Woodforde four times in one year. Verdasco vs young Raonic a few times, etc. Great how these draws naturally set up these interesting young gunvs vs wily vet matchups. Looking forward to see Cuevas vs Felix again.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 27, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Collins is now a star. Thus she has a big X on her back and all the players want to measure their value against her. It’s only going to get tougher for her as she gets closer to the top.

  • Chazz · February 27, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    She’s not consistent enough to be top 10. That’s why she’s top 30 at this point. Look at her results from last year, all over the map. Some great wins and deep runs, some head scratching lopsided losses.

    Comparatively, Nishikori, a model of consistency, surprisingly lost in Dubai to #77 Hurkacz. He never loses to someone that low.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 27, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Kei almost lost to the other young Pole in AO Kamil Machrzyk who cramped up and had to retire. But yes, Kei is super consistent. Most of the top 40 WTA players are inconsistent. Some more than others. I think Collins does her best in bigger events on big stage courts. I would guess she has one eye on IW and Miami already – a lot of points to defend. Maybe she subconsciously tanked to Vika. Anything is possible in WTA. Looking forward to Felix vs Cuevas rematch now.

  • Hartt · February 27, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    I couldn’t watch the match, but did see that Felix beat Cuevas in 3 sets. Felix moved up a couple spots to No. 58 in the live rankings.

  • catherine · February 28, 2019 at 2:03 am

    Kyrgios bt Nadal 3 sets in Acapulco – that’s something worth discussing.

    Collins isn’t a ‘star’ – and I doubt many top players measure themselves against her. Azarenka made her look very ordinary on court, as well as bad tempered and ungracious. And if she’s got her eye on IW and Miami she should get some match practice in. Chazz is right on this – no consistancy. If you want to reach the top you can’t spread yourself thin – concentrate on the job. Hartt will be pleased to see Bianca progressing – bt Dr Buz. Sloane lost again. Puig and Boulter both retired – is it the heat ?

  • Hartt · February 28, 2019 at 7:54 am

    I wasn’t able to watch Bianca’s match, but was very pleased to see that she won. I read that she was injured, hope it isn’t anything serious. She has ongoing back problems, so that is always a concern. But the youngster is a fighter and will always try her very best.

  • Hartt · February 28, 2019 at 8:04 am

    Tsitsipas had a big increase in followers in social media, and realised all that attention could be a problem.

    “I was just sick and tired of all those messages, all those people talking about me. All the notifications I was receiving, like, I felt my brain blocked. I felt like I couldn’t process all of that information coming to me,” he said.
    “I said that it’s enough, I had enough of that. Do it like the old way. Do it like players used to play, 30 years ago, with no phones. I think they were pretty okay,” he smiled.
    “Yeah, instead of that I started having nice conversations with my friends who happened to be there, going for some good lunch, dinner with them, discussing about different interesting topics instead of being on my phone.
    “I think I was more social that week than ever.”

    He thought getting away from social media may have contributed to his winning Marseille, and said he will continue staying away from it. (Ubitennis.net)

    I hope more players follow his lead.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 8:34 am

    Yes, Felix is making his big move now, outsmarting a desperate Cuevas two weeks in a row are major wins and the kind of wins that make Felix a darkhorse for Roland Garros if he can keep this momentum and positive progress going, it will do wonders for his confidence. I like how Jimmy Arias commented that he talked to a hitting partner at a recent tournament who also hit with Shap, Felix and Tsi and another player I think and he said Felix’s ball was the heaviest.

  • catherine · February 28, 2019 at 9:10 am

    Hartt – you beat me to this one re social media. Tsitsipas made a very good decision and I hope he sticks to it. Imagine, thousands of mostly stupid people yelling at you all the time, day in day out. Some players would be texting and IGing during their matches if they were allowed to.They have no idea what it’s doing to their heads.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Tsitsipas had a couple of mishaps with social media, one he copied a famous quote and used it as if he said it, then someone found the exact quote he copied. Then the whole mishap with the private interaction with Osaka which he made public or claimed to have been hacked. Now he’s blaming too many notifications and distractions from direct messages, etc. Good idea to focus more on tennis than promoting himself via social media. His results count most. The popularity will come.

  • Hartt · February 28, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Felix has such a well-rounded game. He can serve well, and although his FH is better than his BH, both are good strokes. He can finish points at the net, and that aspect of his game should get even better. He is so athletic, and moves extremely well. It seems like he can get to just about any ball. He is generally composed on the court, so I was surprised at how extremely nervous he was in the Rio final. But I suppose that is such a big occasion, his first ATP final. He should do better in his next final.

    Felix can be mentally tough. I’ve seen him make some big comebacks in Challenger tourneys. Now that he can enter more main tour tournaments. his ranking should go up quickly. He doesn’t have a lot of points to defend in the next few weeks. I am really looking forward to the opportunity to see more of his matches.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Hartt, He looks great to my eyes, I can see him doing major damage in Paris. he can take down a big name. He has finally hit his stride, will not be shocked if he really shoots up fast now. Felix paid his dues, he did his suffering, it’s his time right now.

  • Chazz · February 28, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t know enough about his history, but beating the #2 seed Fognini in Rio seems like it was the signature win that you could maybe look back and say that propelled him to a higher level. That one really caught my attention. Fognini is really consistent and usually only loses to someone in the top 50.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 28, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    Yes the win over Fog is overshadowed, Fog is tough to beat on clay. That may have been the tipping point from middle of the pack prospect to breakout to the elite.

  • Hartt · February 28, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Felix won against Ramos Vinolas today, another tough clay court specialist.

    I imagine he will want to play some of the clay Masters tourneys, playing the qualies if he doesn’t make the main draw.

  • catherine · March 1, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Jermaine Jenkins Osaka’s new coach. Naomi moving closer to Serena-in-waiting ?

    No news on Sascha’s plans – is he being ostracised by WTA ?

  • catherine · March 1, 2019 at 2:19 am

    Unless Bajin finds a job soon it’s going to look as though he’s lost his livelihood on the basis solely of Naomi’s comments and gossip. Condemned without a trial ? Hasn’t committed any crime as far as we know. Until something is proved I admit to feeling a bit sorry for him.

    Meanwhile Naomi floats away on a cloud of innocence.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2019 at 6:25 am

    It’s about time Bajin stepped up and said something. He’s been cast as the villain. Maybe he did something wrong and Osaka did the right thing? To say in hiding without saying his side of the story is not a good look for him. Set the record straight Big Sascha!

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 1, 2019 at 6:26 am

    I can see the Roland Garros crowds treating Felix like Yannick Noah Jr and carrying him to the final. maybe even this year or 2022 by the latest.

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