Tennis Prose



Amazed by Soonwoo Kwon

Kwon at 2019 US Open qualifying.

First time seeing Soonwoo Kwon play on TV but what a sensational first impression by this tenacious and talented Korean.

Kwon, attired in Fila from head to toe, dismanted a healthy and motivated Milos Raonic 76 67 64 at the New York Open. It is a shocking upset by this unknown world no. 84.

Most impressive was his solid game and emotional intensity. The five-foot-eleven, 22 year old has a good serve and deadly accuracy and consistency from the baseline and a capacity to end points with winners on either wing. After every big point Kwon will yell CMON and or fist pump, but in a composed, veteran, mature fashion. Kwon clearly believes in himself and he means business. He is not on the ATP Tour to pay homage to the legends, he’s here to knock them off.

Last night before a sparse but intrigued crowd, Kwon’s last three service games were easy holds, both at love and then the final game, he netted a forehand on the first point off a wide serve. Then he closed it out winning four points in a row. There was no hint of a choke by the Korean. Raonic was even grunting at the end – a rarity for him – trying to hang in there with Kwon on the baseline rallies but he could not do it. An urgent, desperate Raonic gave it all he had, loping and striding all over the court chasing down Kwon’s shots but it was a futile effort.

The sky is the limit for Kwon. He can beat just about anyone. He has the right attitude to slay any giant and not give too much respect. Raonic has to be in a state of shock by what Kwon did to him last night. And let me tell you now, Kwon has only just begun. Be sure of that. Players with his consistency, firepower, cool under pressure and emotional adrenaline are nightmares to play. He will only get better.

I first saw Kwon play at US Open last year in qualies, he beat JC Aragone 64 16 64 in the first round of qualies. His roaring and yelling CMON, his unusual intensity, made him stand out. He then beat Oscar Otte in two sets and Steven Diez in three 46 63 63 to make the US Open main draw, but he ran out of gas and had to retire to Hugo Dellien 36 46 62 23 (retired).

This year he lost in five sets in AO to Nikolaz Basilashvili.

Kwon qualified at Wimbledon last year for his first Grand Slam main draw, beating Polmans, Brands and Domingues, but lost in the first round to Khachanov 67 46 64 57.

So Kown is still looking for his first Grand Slam main draw win.

Kwon broke into the top 100 last year in Los Cabos where he qualified and lost to world no. 24 Pella in three sets in the quarterfinals.



  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Nice win by Bertens. In this topsy-turvy WTA world, I think Bertens can win a slam.

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Andrew, maybe Rotterdam isn’t a Slam but it is hardly obscure. It is an old, established tournament that has had some stars, such as Federer, winning it in the past.

    Richard Krajicek, talking to Felix during the ceremony, said that not only is FAA even younger (by a few days) than Federer was when Fed first reached the final there, but Fed did not win either. However, he went on to win the title several times during his career.

    Krajicek has an eye for young talent. He gave FAA a WC to the tourney 2 years ago, so it was Felix’s first official ATP match. This year it was young Jannik Sinner who got a WC.

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Hartt, for any player winning it, a memorable title. Brad Gilbert won Rotterdam back in the day. But…as far as the tennis world goes…

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    I can see some 250 tourneys being obscure, but not a 500 with a very strong field.

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    This year Rotterdam had 8 players in the top 16, with the top seeds being Medvedev and Tsitsipas. Previous winners include Federer (at least 3 times), Tsonga, Wawrinka, Berdych and Del Potro.

  • Harold · February 16, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    Hartt, T-P is the home of American 250’s and Challengers, and sometimes practice sets(jk)..

    Krackerjack has been running a great tournament for years, probably killed the little US hold on Feb, Philadelphia and Memphis tournaments

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Rotterdam is an indoor tournament with champions that include Brad Gilbert as well as Federer 😉 It’s a decent tournament, probably on the level of Delray. I’ve watched a lot of Jacob Hlasek in my life and he did fantastic work in Rotterdam 🙂

    My point is Scoop’s point, that Monfils does fabulous work at tournaments such as Rotterdam, away from the limelight. Felix Auger-A did a great job to make the final against a good roster of players, he is now above .500 for the year on the win-loss column!

    I have enjoyed watching Rotterdam for many years.

    For what it’s worth Brad Gilbert was one of my favorite players many years back. He would do well at the best of three tournaments and get undone by the likes of basically anyone at the best of five set slams. I like a lot of “obscure” ATP events, though have never been able to catch many of the South American events (those probably can be counted as “super obscure”).

    I’d put Delray in the obscure category. Sampras had his breakout party at an obscure tournament – Philadelphia. On the women’s side of the house the obscure favorite, or one of them, would be Amelia Island (it’s green clay!).

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    Another example, who loves the Sweden/Stockholm Open tournament in the autumn? James Blake won that one off the grid, Sock made a few finals, Shapovalov won it (then followed it up with a sweet run to the Paris indoor Masters final). Not the biggest or best tournament, but a regular ATP tournament with a good field, on a surface players used but that doesn’t help or hurt them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 16, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Brad Gilbert – missed his pro career as a player. But his book is one of my all time favorites (Winning Ugly). Have a great relation with BG for interviews, but we had a disagreement in our last interaction about four years ago. I defended Nick Kyrgios and compared him to Ali, his flash and controversial colorful nature. I stand by it, Kyrgios has Ali flare and charisma. BG saw me at US Open and quipped that my Nick/Ali tweet “disheveled” him. But I think I was proven right, Nick has some Ali in him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 16, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Good golly Edmund vs Seppi has to be a nightmare final for the tournament directors and sponsors. Two plain vanilla players with predictable baseline games and even more vanilla on court personalities. Hope they manage to play an electric final.

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Andrew, there is no way you can compare Rotterdam and Delray Beach. Rotterdam is a 500 and Delray a 250. Rotterdam had 8 players in the top 16, the highest ranked player in Delray is Kyrgios, ranked No.20, and then Milos at No.32. You can say that Delray is obscure, as well as tourneys like Stockholm, but certainly not Rotterdam.

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Rubin defeated Istomin in the Delray qualies to make it to the main draw.

    In New York Edmund had an easy win over Seppi to get his 2nd career title. The other was Antwerp in 2018.

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Huh? I certainly can compare Rotterdam with other tournaments. It is an indoors tournament that is comparable at the very least with other regularly sanctioned indoor ATP tournaments – put that field out-doors and it’s different as well. Delray is pretty hard – it regularly fielded Hewitt, Malisse, Roddick, Rios, Agassi, etc – all of who made grand slam finals.

    Some years tournaments have stronger and sometimes weaker draws. I don’t see why I need to restrict any comparisons at all – I could compare Rotterdam to a WTA event as well, why limit the comparisons if, in the end, it’s a scratch anyways?

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Here’s an example – Tsitsipas and his outstanding 2019 end of season. All of that took place indoors, including a semifinal at the Shanghai Masters against Medvedev and his delightful ATP finals win over Thiem. How relevant is the Shanghai Masters? Isn’t it somewhat of an add-on to the regular season, which ends when the last ball is struck in NYC in early September? The sport moves to many somewhat empty indoors stadiums across Europe and Asia, where players compete fiercely for points and prize money, but it doesn’t have all too much of a bearing on even the early part of the next season in 2020. Could even call Shanghai a pointless, even obscure masters event – why not? What’s its role in the tennis season? A stepping stone to something, or a way for players to keep their form or maybe chase a high year end ranking?

    To their credit players keep on playing their hearts out or racking up appearance fees. If someone wins their first tour title between September and December every year it’s definitely a fantastic result. But it is somewhat of a throwaway season – a gift to players and their wallets, but a series of events that don’t have the same weight.

    Sadly I have to even admit that the “real” season before the next “real” season begins when the first ball is struck at Indian Wells. That “real” season lasts two tournaments – Indian Wells and Miami, before it resume again sometime after the clay season is well underway – maybe in Monte Carlo? Those fields are big and bold and tough. I can’t compare anything right now with those events, but I can compare with Delray, which usually features a tough field.

    An asterisk for sure this summer will be in the events scheduled around the Olympics. Those will feature depleted draws. More players should have a good shot at winning those events, only because they don’t have to face the kinds of players they’d normally see first round – they’ll probably do a little bit better than normal.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 16, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Malisse never made a major final Andrew but he did a semi at Wimbledon I think. You forgot to mention Del Potro playing Delray. Delray always pulls in some marquee stars. Delpo pulled out this year now it’s Nick as the headlining top seed. I think Nick will draw big crowds, he’s well liked in Delray, kids love him and adults are warming to him too as Citi Open showed last year. Rotterdam has a nice history of big name champions but I would rate Delray just about equal in prestige to Rotterdam. Very close.

  • Andrew Miller · February 16, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    I don’t know how players see the tournaments – I don’t think they all blur together, but I’m also not sure if they rank them themselves outside of the slams. I think the tournaments take on special importance to them based on how well they do (unless it’s Alex Zverev…in which case it’s how much appearance money they give him!).

    Delray has had some strong draws. I used to think of it as a place where you could catch players on the rise. Yes, Malisse, slam SF at Wimbledon against Nalbandian I think? odd match! Again I base this on watching Rotterdam across the years, not on this year’s draw. It’s awful hard for an indoor tournament to gain traction as a marquee event and it doesn’t matter. I am sure one reason it gets a healthy draw or more than healthy draw is (apart from the money) it’s a quick flight from Monte Carlo…the home of Canada’s best players!

    (Noticed Felix AA lives in Monte Carlo too? I’d guess down the street from Milos Raonic!)

  • Hartt · February 16, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    Andrew, you know what I meant, that Rotterdam and Delray Beach aren’t on the same level, certainly not this season. To claim that they are shows some American bias.

    The financial commitment alone is dramatically different. Delray’s commitment is $673,655 and Rotterdam’s is $2,335,603.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 16, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    Netherlands is a strong tennis nation with a lot of history and it has produced some great champions and players in singles and doubles though in recent years there is a Dutch drought as Haase and De Bakker didn’t do as well as hoped. The Rotterdam arena looks historic, it looks like a nice event. Richard Krajicek gets the big names. Though I can’t remember any memorable classic Rotterdam finals like I do Delray.

  • Andrew Miller · February 17, 2020 at 1:14 am

    Haase, De Bakker, are no Bertens 😉

  • Andrew Miller · February 17, 2020 at 1:15 am

    Hartt, it’s like winning Acapulco.

  • catherine · February 17, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Early from Dubai – Kiki M bts Hercog SS; Cirstea bts CSN in 3; Brady bts Hsieh in 2. Looks as if Su-Wei isn’t able to challenge in singles now.

  • catherine · February 17, 2020 at 6:11 am

    PS – this is still the qualifying.

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 17, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Hsie h may be at the end in singles unfortunately. Miracle she lasted this long.

  • catherine · February 17, 2020 at 8:15 am

    Anisimova loses to Strycova in 3 – I wonder if there was coaching from the stands ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · February 17, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Anisimova could Vaidisova her career.

  • Andrew Miller · February 17, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Drummondville: A lot of WC for Canadians. Guys with rankings of 1565 TIE! Are these juniors good?

  • Andrew Miller · February 17, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Poor Anisimova. Hope she recovers her joy for playing. A little hard to see her enthusiasm for the sport come back any time soon.

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