Men’s Qualy’s Draw at Aussie O Features Many Veteran Players

It’s not only Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jo-Willy Tsonga, Feliciano Lopez and John Isner playing many years into their 30’s at this year’s Aussie O. Even the Men’s Qualifying Tournament which starts tomorrow features many veteran male players. There’s Nicolas Mahut of France, a grizzled 37, Dudi Sela at 34, Dustin Brown, the Jamaican-German is now 35, Go Soeda, the Japanese is 35, Donald Young and Martin Klizan are both 30, Sergiy Stakhovsky is 34, and Ernests Gulbis is 31. Perhaps, the most interesting matchups are Gulbis, who won six matches in 2019, going against the 6-7 Maxime Cressey, the 22-year-old Californian-Frenchman, who employs a serve-n-volley game which could work well on the fast courts of Melbourne.

Then Bernard Tomic, the 27-year-old embattled Australian who has slipped in the rankings to no. 182, takes on Denis Kudla, also 27 and now no. 115. A host of young Americans have made the day-long trip to Melbourne to try and qualify, including Noah Rubin, Ernests Escobedo, Christopher Eubanks and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, who got in with a no. 253 ranking. The two oldest qualifiers are Mahut, one of my favorite players and still a top doubles player and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who are 37 and 36 respectively. Both are still extremely fit and competitive.

Interesting to note are the absentees from the draw including Jack Sock, Michael Mmoh and of course, much-missed David Ferrer.

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  • jg · January 13, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    is JJ Wolf in the qualifying or main draw, he just won a challenger in Australia yesterday and its his second challenger title in a row. you would think he wouldn’t just go to Australia to play in a challenger.

    What about Tiafoe losing 2 first rounds in a row, yesterday to Ymer, he better get his act together fast or he may be the next Jack Sock (without the doubles success)

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Dan’s spot on on the Aussie qualies draw. It’s as if past Australian draws have been replenished by many new players, and the players they replaced are “back” in the qualies. Good luck because that qualies draw is just ROUGH!

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Tiafoe has sputtered for a while! Ymer the younger has seemed much better than his ranking and is very good, but I agree that Tiafoe has taken many steps backwards – wins second set the other day and loses the final set with only a game! Last year he made the QF of the Australian. That was already tough to replicate, but given his form I think it’s a stretch – he’s essentially going into the Aussie “cold”.

    Ymer came into the match with some qualies wins to make the Auckland main draw, so that would have helped him. Add to that Ymer lost to Tiafoe in Milan at the next gen finals, so would have been looking to get Tiafoe back for the loss. It’s nonetheless a bad result for Tiafoe.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    Wolf is in the qualis, Jg. He’s a Czech named Zdenek Kolar in the first round. Tiafoe has always left a bad taste in my mouth since he was 10 when i played him at the JTCC in Maryland and I was beating him in a tie-breaker and he started getting a little surly with me. Frances basically said I was pushing.

    No, I never liked it that he skipped out on his long-time coach to go under the wing of the USTA. I thought he should’ve in some way continued to work with the coaches who had obviously sacrificed a lot of their time and effort in developing his game. It’s almost like Tiafoe has some Sock in him; it’s like he feels entitled to be a top player because the USTA knighted him as “The One,” and then he’s played on Laver’s Cup teams. i don’t see the same “The One” syndrome with Fritz who has equally been knighted as the next great male American player. Although, while Fritz isn’t playing as poorly as Tiafoe of late, he’s not burning up the court either.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    True, Tiafoe and Fritz have played lower level ball as of late. Paul and Opelka have been hitting a better ball. And at #20 in the world and age 34 John Isner remains the U.S. top men’s player. Not what anyone expected.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 13, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    Has there been any word from the Sock camp as to what he’s doing and why he’s not playing in the Qualis? Did I miss it? Is Sock somehow in the Main Draw Singles of the AO?

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Nike put “ Quarterfinal” on Tiafoe’s sneakers. What a joke! Bad Aussie and he’ll be on the WC , quailes express. Fritz too. Opelka is on a bluff too. Better athlete than Isner, His coaches should have him ready to explode on tour with a big game, don’t see him imposing a big game on anybody. Lots of bad losses.. They’ll all get WC for IW, and Miami..

    Sock would have had to get a WC into quailes. No ranking. Ryan Harry is also outside looking in..Probably some WC’s come their way when the tour returns to the States

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Sock has no ranking. Needs WC into anything, even Futures.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Heat is on Isner though, he has to protect Miami final points.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Sock wedding plans: undefeated. Seems his engagement has gotten the lionshare of his focus, which makes sense but he’s going to want to earn the bread! Apparently he doesn’t have a dubs partner either for the Aussie and no announcements so this looks like he’s not going to be there.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    This is not good news for Tiafoe, to come out of the gates poorly. James Blake said he was going to work with Tiafoe in Los Angeles over the break. If they did and the influence of Blake could not jumpstart Tiafoe, you wonder what will? His buddy coach who never had an ATP point should be demoted to caddy duties.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Agree with Harold. Despite a strong 1st half of 2019 (at least through the grass season), Fritz has so many early round losses since then – he’s vulnerable. Opelka seems to be knocking on the door – at least he’s losing in contested matches.

    Yeah this looks grim. Usually the U.S. boys get a boost in Australia, or in the pre-Australian tournaments. They look like they arent’ this time around, which puts a lot of pressure on players as they head state-side with their rankings heading in the wrong direction. Hopefully they show “some” fight in Australia.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    Not a good source for U.S. men’s tennis but amusing nonetheless. I like what Michael Chang said, basically: “not like us but…”


  • Dan Markowitz · January 13, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    Robbie Koenig on Tennis Channel said he wondered why Tiafoe didn’t serve and volley more to Ymer’s forehand because the Swede chipped his returned and sliced it so much.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Pretty bad day for US men but I still like the potential for Fritz, Opelka this year. I see both winning titles and making waves at a major. They are both at career high rankings and will go higher. Isner, Querrey and Johnson will most likely fade down the rankings. Tiafoe is a question mark. I think he should have a career best year this year. Curious to see how Escobedo, Kozlov, Donaldson, Harrison, Cressy do. Donaldson has pulled out of AO.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Boy oh boy, the young American must be equally as bored and tired of answering these same questions as the old great Americans are. The USTA should ban all media from ever asking about it again. Might see a slew of fresh new stories and features.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Sloppy start for Sock, his career should be top priority. Should be out there in Futures grinding it out for points. Hope he’s not waiting for wildcard handouts. He should not get or want any. He should work his way back the hard way, no freebies. That would send a stern message.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    Escobedo was closing in and still competes well. Hasn’t seen the top 100 for over two years. Credits Gambill with his game’s recovery since last summer, though his ranking is still on life support. I liked what I saw from Escobedo when I saw him – complete game. Maybe a half-step slow, but not anything that can’t be corrected with a little more emphasis on footwork and more consistency.

    I like Escobedo a lot and would love to see him do well and have a solid career year.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    Scoop, as much as agree on Sock, his fiance has won the match. I’m afraid that Sock the coach potato won’t last very long – I hope he gets back to what he did well.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    I like Escobedo’s game and weapons very much, but something about his head is not there. He just does not have that x factor, that burning desire and drive, that freakish competitive fire, that the top players exude. Can’t buy that or teach that. Lan won Coffee Bowl and is now 98 in the world, she has that drive and focus and burning desire.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    Andrew, you seem to be calling Jack Sock the John Daly of tennis. Agree with that comparison. Sock just needs to eat two more pizza slices and an extra bowl of ice cream each night.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 13, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    What is Donaldson out with? Is it still his knee? YOu’ve got to wonder if JD played way too much tennis at way too high an intensity when he was like 14 and 15 in Argentina. He might have just put his body into exhaustion.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    At least Escobedo hired a good coach in Gambill. He needed a pro in his ear or recognized he needed this – so both Donaldson and Escobedo have Gambill as coach (I think that’s what the reporting has indicated). I saw a little bit of wobbling in the Escobedo resolve, could be the case he doesn’t believe enough in his game, so that could mean he’s not grooved enough yet to pull out all the stops day after day. Might need some time with the Nadals 🙂

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Sock as Daly? That’s a fine comparison. I am sorry if Sock may read these comments and laugh. I don’t think he’d be proud of himself to throw the towel, hopefully he hasn’t. He has at least committed to some future tournaments using his protected ranking, or at least Delray. Maybe he’ll surprise everyone and return with a game that’s ready to rumble.

    Odds of that are what, pretty low.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Re-emphasizing, AO qualies draw = TOUGH. Especially tough this year. Players are proud for making the tournament in any year and should be especially proud if they make it this year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Unfortunately Sock has no ranking to protect. He’s got zero points. His 2019 was that bad. He did not win one singles match aside from the Laver Cup Fog win which could have been a tank to keep the team scoreline even instead of 2-0.

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Just read Sock does have a protected ranking and will be in the draw at Delray…probably use it for IW and Miami

  • jg · January 13, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    what Dan pointed about what the commentator said about Tiafoe not coming in on his serve is coaching ( at least in part), a good coach would have prepared him in advance to do that. You have to wonder if there is any strategy there or real coaching.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Tiafoe’s intelligence is suspect. Having a buddy as coach for a key year, weak move. Rejecting his friend Ryan Harrison’s wedding invite because he didn’t fancy being around so many white people is also bone headed. Hope Tiafoe can get it together, he has top 20 potential or better.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Harold, Sock has no ranking now in singles. Nothing. Zero. In doubles, he is 118. How do you protect a nothing ranking? Maybe Delray has promised to give him a wildcard in disguise of a “protected ranking.” https://www.atptour.com/en/players/jack-sock/sm25/rankings-history

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    It’s an injury thing. If you’re out a certain amount of time…they count your ranking when you got hurt. You get some automatic entries.

    C C Bellis is on tv right now using a protected ranking

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    Yes protected ranking. Only get a few tournaments with it I think.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    I believe he used all those up and lost every match last summer and fall.

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Shocked you never heard of protected rankings..Seles came back on a protected ranking. Delpo, Raonic, Murray have used protected rankings..tons of players

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    Board too harsh on players. The Ymer loss wasn’t that bad and Ymer got him back for the next gen finals loss he suffered to Tiafoe. Tiafoe often shows some sound strategy but not as consistently as he’d need. In general the coaching move hasn’t been good, and I’d guess it was made for many reasons. Tiafoe I don’t think listens to his coach because his coach needs him more than Tiafoe needs his coach. Pretty soon they’ll be at one year so that may be it.

    I don’t think Tiafoe has lost much time, only that his results last year post Australian Open should have been a level better. We know this because people that were his peers have moved a level higher and Tiafoe has remained around the same.

    As for all the other stuff I am trying to write it all off as young men making poor choices, even Sock to some extent. But Sock has his reasons and he has always made his choices. And being out of shape is a choice, too.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 13, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    I think Sock has a chance–not a very good one, but a chance–of getting back into the Top 100. Harry I think has less of a chance. I mean Harry hasn’t won a match since July when he beat Troicki in Atlanta and then before that, in April when he beat Karlovic. He was downright nasty–as in bad–against Koepfer in the USO Qualis losing in breadsticks. At one point in that match, he got combustible mad when a guy sitting next to me near the court accidentally cheered before the point actually ended. It was a bad move, but there was no way Harry was coming back deep and down in the second set like he was. I think Harry realistically should have a shrink instead of a coach travel with him. Or maybe have Spadea travel with him and have Vince rap to him day and night to loosen himself up.

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Tiafoe has to back up QF points in Aus Open. He loses early he’ll fall to the 60’s. He’ll pull a Sandgren

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Sports psychologist would be good for these guys. Helps De Minaur and Kyrgios a lot, as both have sports psychologists. Used to be huge in the U.S. but guess that has gone out the window. De Minaur has absolutely benefitted from it, apparently he was very hard on himself and took losses very personally. With the psychologist on board he has improved year over year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 13, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    I think sock already drained his protected ranking benefits last summer and fall. ATP site says nothing about any PR on Socks bio.

  • Harold · January 13, 2020 at 9:10 pm

  • Hartt · January 13, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    I think a large number of players use sports psychologists now. I don’t know about American players, but Bianca, Anderson, and Medvedev are among those who have said they have one.

  • Andrew Miller · January 13, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    Tiafoe looked good for two sets then his level dropped a level and Ymer was more confidant in third set. I think Tiafoe definitely needs the mentality to keep the pressure on in the final set, Tiafoe made a few errors here and there and didn’t recover, I imagine he was harsh on himself and wasn’t able to claw his way back in.

    Ymer did what he was supposed to do and broke the match wide open after losing the second set close. And again he had extra motivation, having lost to Tiafoe in November I think in Milan.

    I think everything said here is pretty close, that Tiafoe has a lot of range and versatility, that he doesn’t use enough deliberate strategy down the stretch (some “set plays” as the Bryans and Navratilova advocate in their commercials). He may want to come in a little more as I think Harold said? He will get passed more but it may be worth it ultimately.

    Ymer I think has some similar issues to Tiafoe, but as he became more confidant he had another level in him I didn’t think he had and it was pretty high. These guys will need to play around 75 to 80 percent of that level with better placement on serve and more set plays to win more early round matches.

  • Dan Markowitz · January 14, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Kudla took out Tomic in straights. The old guys are doing well. Lorenzi at 38 wins; Stakhovsky and Rasol. DY went down 6-1 in third set to Jason Jung.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 9:50 am

    Young is now a sub journeyman. Tomic is ready for Dan’s fork and an Aretha Franklin serenade.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 10:29 am

    DY: best move. b/c fires ravaging country, air quality at Australian is awful. What a mess. From the Guardian: “Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupović has been forced to retire during her qualifying match at the Australian Open after suffering from severe coughing fits. The poor air quality in Melbourne already delayed the start of the qualifying rounds as smoke from surrounding bushfires smothered the city. Jakupović claimed the first set 6-4 against Swiss player Stefanie Vögele and looked likely to secure the second but collapsed on court before retiring”

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 10:50 am

    How was Voegele with the coughing and fire? Was she unaffected? This has to be a first in history that smoke has caused a player to retire. Couldn’t she just wear one of those surgical masks? Or that funky heavy breathing apparatus thing I saw some players using a few years ago?

  • Jeff · January 14, 2020 at 11:02 am

    A clown like Sock shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a main draw. He needs matches and can get that on the Challenger circuit. I understand tournaments think he is a “draw” – probably because he is a bro of Kyrgios – but it is terrible advice to play in a main draw.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 14, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Jeff, it was revealed that Kyrgios had a fight with Sock at 2018 Laver Cup. Kyrgios also had some kind of confrontation with Dimitrov.

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Wake up. Conditions ravaging players. Svitolina comes out fiercely. Morgado calls out the Australian. Quote from random twitter: “It’s more than one player. Both players in the Bouchard match were struggling badly. Liam Broady said he was having trouble breathing. Tomic said the same. Schoolkate struggled too”

  • Andrew Miller · January 14, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Scoop, unprecedented. They will need to postpone the tournament! There’s no way players can do this – this is harm for harm’s sake. As a know-nothing fan I advocate postponing the Australian or moving it to another country (and for purposes of ticket holders and compensation, just refund people their money). They can’t do this.

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