by Michael Augsberger, The Tennis Curator editor
Desmond Ayaaba had a big opener. Photo by Niko Ziakas
Teen World Open 2022 surprised in a lot of places on opening day, but not when it came to the overall favorite.
Simon Myslivec, one of the Czech Republic's top juniors who committed to Florida Atlantic this month, took care of business in what some called the group of death today, defeating the top unseeded player here, Ramy El Shoubaki (MAR), 6-3, 6-2.
"It's all about mentality, if you think you're the worse player, you'll probably lose. I know I can win when I have a good day," the Czech said. He had a good day, though he didn't feel he played particularly well. "Both guys made mistakes from the baseline, Graham going too early trying to end the point on the third or fourth shot, not wanting to be patient. I knew Ramy was a little rusty too."
"It's been a long time since I've been able to practice on a daily basis," the Moroccan said. Two weeks of rain washed out his local courts around Rabat. "It takes a lot longer for clay to dry up after a monsoon than hard courts."
"He was sharing that with me this week in practice," Myslivec said. The players have been training together and rooming at the accommodations as part of their scholarships since Saturday.
With his father in the stands, El Shoubaki broke early but could not consolidate it. "He read the game very well," he said, "saw that I wasn't regular on my backhand and played most of the balls there."
Myslivec followed the TV court win by cruising against tall American Graham Bourne who seemed, to scouts in attendance, to play up to the higher level.
"Serve and volley from him was so good so because he's tall and can hit a winner from his forehand. His flat shots, for me it was good. I like when people play flat because then I can hit more spin. He just made too many mistakes early in rallies."
Myslivec has virtually secured the group with his two wins, though Tuesday's last group stage match is not a complete dead rubber. Then the quarters beckon. Who can take down the top-ranked player at the Naples event?
"I was in control today. I've been practicing with Wian [Roothman], and I thought he'd be there. But hard is better for me. Desmond [Ayaaba] is more of a clay player than I am, so I'm watching him."
Woo claimed a big upset over Andrade, with both battling injury into a third-set tiebreak. Photo by Niko Ziakas
However, It was a day of upsets, too. Jose Andrade was firmly in control against Emilio Sanchez Academy visitor Woo Hyeon Jung until a blister seared his hand in the second set. It went all the way to a tiebreak in the third, both players fighting to stay upright---Woo had slipped on the clay and tweaked his knee. He took the tiebreak anyway, 7-4, to carve open Group B for the taking.
"Backhand in the second set, it was the clay and not the corner line like you'd think," Woo said. "I won't be one-hundred percent later because of that." The Chuncheon-si, South Korea native will spend five more days training at the Academy, adhering to the boarders' usual schedule of 6:15 breakfast and two training sessions.
Most of the upsets, like Andrade's, had been foretold by the omen of injury. Though he battled to 3-2 scores in each first set, Rushil Khosla's tournament dreams may be dashed after two retirements. He'd have to defeat a resurgent Nsahno Ndonfack, who took a hotly contested second match against Gianluca Galasso, and hope for Galasso to beat Heyang Li and a myriad of tiebreakers to fall his way.
That's if he's healthy. For Rushil it was tennis elbow. Also succumbing to injury was Wian Roothman, the South African whose could not follow his headline first match because of leg problems. "I just think the clay, sliding, gave my feet too many problems as I don't often play on it," Roothman said. Already eliminated, he'll face American Michael Gurgenidze tomorrow for third place in the group.
Simon Myslivec - Czech Republic
Ramy El Shoubaki - Morocco
Graham Bourne - United States
Aryan Bonigala - United States
It's gone pretty much according to plan, though the timing of the matches means that El Shabouki still needs to perform tomorrow against Bourne. Everyone circled that match to decide Group A's second spot when the draws came out yesterday. It's come to fruition. The winner qualifies and has an improbable chance at winning the group.
Because of that, Bonigala is out at 0-2. It's not a complete dead rubber---Myslivec has to avoid embarrassment and a lopsided score in the other match, and he'll win the group.
More intriguing than the immediate permutations is the way it's shaping up for the quarterfinals. After Ayaaba's win over Roothman, it looked like a Roothman-Myslivec semi could be on offer. With Roothman gone, Ling and Ayaaba may be the frontrunners to challenge the Czech. If they win their groups, they'd potentially face him in the final.
Jack Ling - United States
Noah Kohn - United States
Jose Andrade - Ecuador
Woo Hyeon Jung - Korea Republic
Ling (2-0) and Woo (1-1) meet tomorrow after Woo's big upset today on which he could not capitalize later against Kohn. Vegas says that Ling is favored, and he's playing like it. That would leave the door open, astonishingly, for Andrade to slip through to the quarters despite two losses today.
That's if he can nurse the blister on his hand that plagued him after a 6-1 opening set against Woo. He'll also have to defeat Kohn convincingly. In that scenario, three players would be tied at 1-2.
However, it would also likely come down to set difference and perhaps head-to-head results, since Andrade's retirement throws off the balance of the game difference tiebreaker.
For Kohn and Woo, it's simpler but not by all that much. With a win and the other's loss, the winner is in. But if both win, Kohn's set difference is one better than the Korean's. Kohn would be in with a sweep. If he drops a set, he'd need Woo to do so also.
Rushil Khosla - India (top of page)
Gianluca Galasso - United States
Heyang Li - United States
Nsahno Ndonfack - Cameroon
This group has so much to offer, if Khosla is healthy. Even if not, it's all there for the taking for three of them.
Khosla is not mathematically out, but he's got only the Lloyd Christmas chance. He'd need to win and hope for a three-way tie at 1-2---which is not only possible, but perhaps
Li commands the group at 2-0. If he wins, he wins the group. If he loses, it depends if Ndonfack wins.
Ndonfack and Galasso also control their own destiny to an extent. A three-way tie at 2-1 is also possible, and it would come down to first set difference, then sets won.
Wian Roothman - South Africa
Desmond Ayaaba - Ghana
William Freshwater - United States
Michael Gurgenidze - United States
The situation is simple: Ghana's Ayaaba, who upset Roothman and defeated Gurgenidze today, will play Freshwater. The winner takes the group---very important indeed to pave the smoothest road to the final and avoid some of the heaviest hitters.
Freshwater earned the qualification to the quarters by winning in straight sets over Gurgenidze and then outlasting Roothman, whose three sets against Ayaaba weakened his legs, had to bow out.
Roothman takes on Gurgenidze to determine third place.
Full Scores - Monday, Dec 19
Schedule of Play - Tuesday, Dec 20
Court 2 (TV): Ramy El Shoubaki (MAR) v Graham Bourne USA
Court 3: Desmond Ayaaba GHA v William Freshwater USA
Court 4: Gianluca Galasso USA v Nsahno Ndonfack CMR
Court 5: Jose Andrade ECU v Noah Kohn USA
Court 6: Jack Ling USA v Woo Hyeon Jung KOR
Court 8: Simon Myslivec CZE v Aryan Bonigala USA
Court 14: Rushil Khosla IND v Heyang Li USA
Court 15: Michael Gurgenidze USA v Wian Roothman RSA
Potential Quarterfinals Window