HOUSTON, TEXAS. November 17, 2018 – The men’s draw for Oracle Challenger Series Houston started with an impressive 17 Americans – players ranging from seasoned players like Tennys Sandgren to newcomers to the tour like Harrison Adams, and everyone in between. This week, which has already seen eight all-American men’s matchups is about to see one more as Oracle Challenger Series veteran Bradley Klahn faces off against one of the Tour’s newest members, Roy Smith.
Klahn is no stranger to the ATP Challenger Tour and has seen great success at Oracle Challenger Series events in particular, making the finals in Newport Beach and receiving one of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open wild cards. The California native’s winning streak continued today as he eliminated German Dominik Koepfer in two sets: 63 64. Klahn is currently ranked inside the top 100 at World No. 97 and looks to gain even more points, as well as a healthy lead in the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard.
Klahn’s opponent on Sunday is 19-year-old Baylor University sophomore and tournament wild card, Roy Smith. Smith has been surprising fans and players alike this week, with his strong serve and his impressive on court power. New to the Challenger Tour, Smith celebrated his first ever Tour win at the beginning of this week and very well may celebrate his first championship by the end. The New Haven, CT native and World No. 870 battled past Darian King, Harrison Adams and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski to reach the semifinals today, where he won in a walkover (his opponent Kamil Majchrzak retired in the middle of the second set, 64 23). Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, this event is sure to have a profound impact on Smith’s ATP rankings.
By reaching the Houston event finals, both Klahn and Smith are currently tied in first place with Chicago finalist Reilly Opelka in the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard, with the winner of tomorrow’s men’s finals match one of them will pull ahead in the race to the BNP Paribas Open.
Tiafoe fights Dimitrov for AO Quarterfinals
By Editorial Team
Frances Tiafoe battled his way into the round of 16 after defeating an ailing Kevin Anderson in four sets and edging out Andrea Seppi in strong fashion at the 2019 Australian Open. Frances was able to dig deep in his first round match against Kevin, and that confidence carried over into the second round giving him the edge to pull out a five set victory against Andreas 6-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Frances’ road to the second week of play does not get any easier as he now faces the well rested and fine tuned 20th seed, Grigor Dimitrov. The last time these two met it was a grind to the finish as Grigor was able to hold off Frances 7-6 in the third set in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Canada round of 16.
Frances’ game matches up well against Grigor, but he’ll have to match his intensity to continue to pull out consecutive wins over top 20 players. If Frances is able to maintain this high level of play and swing with confidence from both sides of the court anything is possible. For Frances its about maintaining his energy and keeping up his positive momentum as Grigor tries to sprint out to a big lead early in the match. Mental toughness will be the key against the battle tested 20th seed.
Last season ended on a sour note for Frances as he failed to win big matches following a disappointing early round US Open loss. It now seems as if he transitioned coaches and has brought on more close knit family into his camp enabling him to feel more comfortable and play freely. With a few more top wins in January, Frances will be able to get better draws, go on deeper runs in major events and ultimately propel himself into the top 20 this season.
AO Women’s draw favors top seeds
By Editorial Team
With Serena winning comfortably today over Tatjana Maria 6-0, 6-2 the draw has become more top heavy than expected. Serena is also the favorite against Eugenie Bouchard on Wednesday who has been on a winning streak with good results over the last 5 months. Her older sister Venus was able to escape an early upset today by being patient with the talented veteran Mihaela Buzarnescu to cross the finish line 6-2 in the third and final set.
Madison Keys took out the young Australian upstart Destanee Aiava 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of play and now faces Anastasia Potapova on Wednesday for a spot in the round of 32. Madison is in top form and should be able to take advantage of her weaker section of the draw.
Its clear skies and smooth sailing for Osaka and Stephens as they both were able to move past their opponents in a graceful fashion. They both play lesser know and lower ranked players as they are blessed with favorable draws.
However, Sachia Vickery has yet another challenge after defeating Ysaline Bonaventure yesterday 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Sachia appears to have overcome her negative self-talk and willing herself into winning tennis this year as she showed a ton of patience and determination in getting past her first round hurdle. Now she must pull herself together once again to battle top American Danielle Collins in what could be competitive match assuming Sachia is able to hold up physically in the extremely hot conditions. Sore knees have also been a major issue for Sachia, but there have not been any signs of injury thus far in the AO.
Monfils and Tiafoe take center stage at AO
By Jason Barron
Frances Tiafoe will have a tough task ahead of him playing in the Australian Open against Kevin Anderson. They played each other 3 times in 2018, with Anderson winning all 3. But, Tiafoe did take a set off him twice before. This will be the first best of 5 match that they have played, and a longer match could favor Tiafoe if he can outlast Anderson. Tiafoe has competed well against the 6th ranked Anderson in the past and should believe he has a chance going into the match.
The key will be to cut off the angles and attack on 2nd serves. Tiafoe can’t give Anderson a lot of time and space to whip in his serves or powerful groundstrokes. Tiafoe needs to make Anderson uncomfortable by moving him around the court and having him come to the net. If Tiafoe can utilize his speed and hit the corners he could counter Anderson’s big serves with superior all-around play. This would be a huge win for Tiafoe and get him get off to a great start in 2019.
Gael Monfils will face Taylor Fritz in his 2nd match at the Australian Open. They have never played each other, but Monfils should get the win. Monfils has the advantage in experience, ability, and court movement. Fritz is a better server and could possibly overpower Monfils in rallies. Monfils will need to dictate the points and use his court movement to take advantage of a slower Fritz. Monfils has shown the ability in the past to beat big servers like Kevin Anderson and John Isner.
Fritz is a level below those players and Monfils should be able to take advantage and make him uncomfortable. If Monfils does beat Fritz he would likely face Roger Federer in his next match. That will be a monumental task to overcome, but it is sure to be an entertaining match with the creativity of both Monfils and Federer on display.
Both the Tiafoe-Anderson and Monfils-Fritz matches will be played on Tuesday, January 15th. Tune in on ESPN for continuing coverage of the Australian Open.
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