News from the National Bank Challenger, July 9-17 at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club. Visit the tournament website: https://winnipeg.challengerbanquenationale.com/
Failla Upsets Top Seed
Playing the highest-ranked opponent she’s ever faced, Jessica Failla of Ramona, California beat Julia Glushko of Israel 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on Stadium Court in first-round action Monday at the National Bank Challenger. Glushko, ranked No. 131 in the world, was the No. 1 seed in the women’s singles draw.
“I think for me it was just to not be intimidated by her results or ranking and just believe in my game and everything I’ve been working on,” said Failla, who reached the final of a $10,000 tournament in Victoria in June.
Failla, 19, just completed her freshman year at the University of Southern California. Both her parents played professional tennis.
“They coached me and they’re my biggest influence,” Failla said. “I know they were watching the live scoring (of the match) the entire time. I couldn’t be out here without their support and I know how bad they wish they could be here.”
Tim Smyczek would like more opportunities like he had in 2015 at Rod Laver Arena when he took Rafael Nadal to five sets at the Australian Open (Nadal won the second-round match 6-2, 3-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5). Smyczek, ranked No. 120 in the world after reaching a career-high ranking of No. 68 last year, is looking to earn enough ATP points to gain direct entry into the Grand Slam tournaments.
He got off to a good start in Winnipeg on Monday, beating Manitoba’s top ranked player Kevin Kylar 6-1, 6-1 on Stadium Court at the National Bank Challenger.
Kylar said Smyczek “didn’t really give me too many errors. He took the ball early, moved it around a lot, so it was tough to hurt him. I didn’t get too many balls that I could attack.”
Smyczek’s results in 2016 include reaching the quarterfinals at both Delray Beach (lost to Sam Querrey 6-7, 7-6, 6-4) and the Fayez Sarofim & Co US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston (lost to Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-3). At the Miami Open, Smyczek beat John Isner 6-2, 2-6, 7-6 before falling to Nick Kyrgios in the round of 32.
“He was the highest ranked player I’ve ever beaten,” Smyczek said of his win over Isner. “On top of that, he’s been the No. 1 American for a long time now. It was a nice win to get.”
Smyczek’s most memorable match is still his five-setter with Nadal in Australia.
“I remember walking off the court and having still a lot of adrenaline and I felt I could have kept playing for a while,” said Smyczek. “That was definitely the highlight of my career. It was really special to play on that stage against one of the greatest champions our sport’s ever seen.”
Smyczek took up tennis at age three in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“My brother is four years older than I am and I just followed him around and weaseled my way into his lessons,” recalled Smyczek, who at 17 moved to Tampa, Florida to train at Saddlebrook Resort.
He said it was key for him to pursue other interests outside of tennis growing up, such as golf, soccer and basketball.
“What was important for me in my development was that my parents never pushed me to play or practice,” Smyczek said.
Before coming to Winnipeg, Smyczek spoke to a group of students at a Summit Educational Association summer program for underprivileged kids in Milwaukee about his journey as a professional athlete.
“It’s a tutoring program that my uncle runs,” said Smyczek. “We’ve held a couple of (tennis) exhibitions events for them. It’s definitely a cause I believe in.”
Winnipeg’s Kevin Kylar partnered with Calary’s Joshua Peck in men’s doubles at the National Bank Challenger, and the duo was defeated by the Australian team of Jarryd Chaplin/Benjamin Mitchell 6-2, 6-0 on Monday afternoon.
The tournament completes a busy stretch of tennis for Kylar. After playing two events in Bulgaria in May, the 21-year-old travelled to Richmond and Kelowna for tournaments in June. Last week he played in Saskatoon.
Kylar lost to Philip Bester of BC in the main draw first round at both the Canada F3 Futures in Richmond and the Canada F4 Futures in Kelowna: Bester beat Kylar 6-2, 6-1 in Richmond and 6-1, 6-3 in Kelowna.
At the Canada F5 Futures in Saskatoon, Kylar picked up his first ATP point of 2016 with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Andrew Dottino of the United States.
Kylar earned his first-ever ATP point at the 2014 Manshield Tennis Futures at Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club, beating Tony Larson of Minneapolis in the main draw first round.
“I picked up my first (ATP) point here and I won a Manitoba Open (2011) here too – a lot of good memories here,” Kylar said of WLTC.
Japan’s Go Soeda, No. 5 seed in men’s singles at the National Bank Challenger, saved two match points in his 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) win over American Tennys Sandgren on Stadium Court.
Soeda led 4-2 in the final-set tiebreaker before falling behind 6-4. At 6-6, Sandgren had Soeda running side to side but Soeda used great defensive skills to stay in the rally and eventually ended the point with a backhand winner down the line.
“I like that shot,” Soeda said of his backhand winner. “I was trying that shot, so it was the best timing.”
Soeda was won 17 Challenger circuit singles titles since 2007 and has represented Japan in Davis Cup since 2005. Against Canada in 2015 in Vancouver, Soeda lost to Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the deciding match to give the home side a 3-2 victory.
A Grand Slam match that stands out for Soeda was playing Richard Gasquet on court No. 1 at Wimbledon in 2013; Gasquet won the second-round contest 6-0, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3.
“It’s the biggest event for me,” Soeda said of Wimbledon.