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Du Maurier Open, Qualifying, Day 2: Doubles specialists shine in singles
by Ed Toombs

Sunday, Aug. 1, 1999

Doubles specialists ruled at the DuMaurier Open today. On a sunny but comfortable day in Montreal, seven players won their final qualifying match to advance to the main draw. Five of the seven are doubles specialists whose singles results have been disappointing of late. The other two qualifiers are big young guys with massive serves: Max Mirnyi (who is making a name for himself on tour) and Jan Boruszewski (completely unknown on tour).

Before we get deeper into the qualifying matches, there was lots of other action around the grounds. Michael Chang may be slumping, but he still drew good crowds for two practice sessions with Jan Siemerink and coach/brother Carl. Then, to close out the day, some of the players from the main draw entertained the fans on Centre Court with a series of practice matches. For the record, Patrick Rafter looked very crisp in beating Todd Martin 6-3; Richard Krajicek dominated Jiri Novak 6-4; and Canadian wild card Frederic Niemeyer upset Nicolas Kiefer 6-4. Kiefer didn't seem overly disturbed....

Back to qualifying, here are the seven qualifiers along with the first round opponents they drew:

1. Jan Boruszewski (Ger, 535) -- def. Srinath Prahlad (Ind), 6-2, 6-2
Will play Laurence Tieleman

I saw this match, and Boruszewski is a pretty dangerous player! A big guy: the ATP does not list his height, but when he walked by me I was looking way up! I'd guess 6'5". This 21-year-old German hits big first and second serves, and plays serve-volley systematically. He just simply smothered the Indian baseliner Prahlad, who was error-prone and never really got into the match.

Boruszewski's best result previously to this week was on the Futures circuit, when he won a title in Eastbourne earlier this year, beating Annabel Ellwood's brother Ben in the final. Jan has never played any events on the main tour, and has only one appearance in a Challenger to his credit. But he seems to have a lot of promise and will make his debut in the "big show" this week, against Laurence Tieleman of Italy. By the way, Boruszewski also qualified for the doubles partner, where his partner is.... an Indian, Fazaluddin Syed!

I had a chance to chat with the loser, Srinath Prahlad, after the match. He was very disappointed with his performance. Against a big server like Boruszewski the returns were the key: he struggled with them all match, and committed a number of unforced errors from the baseline as well.

Prahlad is a latecomer to the tour, having seriously attacked pro tennis only two years ago at age 23. He had wanted to finish his studies, and also had difficulty finding financial backing in India. Srinath now has an agent and sponsorship, though, and the results are starting to come: his current 331 ranking is a career high, and he hopes to keep moving on up. "I'd like to get to the 180 to 200 area before the end of December," commented Prahlad. "That's why I was very disappointed at the way I played today, it was a great chance for me. But I was sick with a stomach infection recently, and it was my first tournament in six weeks. He was a tough guy to play with the big serve, and I never got into the match. I never returned well, and the wind was a problem, I'm not used to playing in the wind." Prahlad intends to attempt qualifying for Indianapolis and the US Open this summer, and will play the Asian fall circuit.

Yesterday's first round qualifying match against his compatriot and friend Fazaluddin Syed was a strange experience for Srinath. "We were both very nervous at the beginning. It's hard playing such a good friend because it's always playing on your mind. But you sure don't want to lose to him either!"

I had to ask Prahlad about his baseline style, which is a bit atypical for Indian players. He explained that he grew up in Mysore, in the south of India, where almost all the courts are clay. He considers clay and slow hard courts to be his best surfaces.

Srinath is a nice chap, and we wish him well.

2. Max Mirnyi (Blr, 120) -- def. Steve Campbell, 6-4, 6-2
will play Wayne Black

Mad Max from Minsk was very impressive this weekend, and will be a dangerous opponent for anyone here.

3. Mark Knowles (Bah, 280) -- def. Axel Pretzsch, 6-4, 6-3
will play Sébastien Grosjean

Nice to see Knowles playing good singles again. Mark is a former top-100 player, but has seen his ranking slide because of injuries and concentration on his doubles career. He and Canadian Daniel Nestor are seeded second in the doubles field here.

4. Richey Reneberg (USA, 244) -- def. Lars Burgsmuller, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
Will play Todd Woodbridge

This was the other match I saw, and it proved to be a good choice. Like Knowles, the 33-year-old Reneberg is a doubles specialist down on his singles luck. Richey has been ranked as high as 20 in singles, and was a fixture in the top 100 for 10 years until last year, when his slide into the triple digits began.

I was also curious to see Lars Burgsmuller, who was the third highest ranked player in the qualifying draw and whose name pops up in tournament draws from time to time. For some reason I thought someone with a name like Lars Burgsmuller would resemble the Incredible Hulk, but to my surprise he is a slightly built young man, at 6'0", 160 pounds. He has a two-handed backhand, and a good topspin forehand which he likes to hit as often as possible.

The taciturn Burgsmuller dominated the first set, which featured mainly baseline rallies. Lars has a potent first serve which gave Richey some early trouble, and was controlling play with his forehand. In the second set Reneberg started reading his opponent's serve better, and getting deeper penetration with his baseline drives, keeping Burgsmuller on his heels.

With the match even, the third set was tense and well-played. Burgsmuller jumped to a 2-0 lead, but lost the advantage when he developed a case of doublefaultitis, allowing Reneberg to pull even at 2-2. Burgsmuller seemed to tire in the late stages of the deciding set, and played a brutal service game to be broken at 5-5. Serving for the match, the American veteran made no mistake, holding at love to seal a well-earned berth in the main draw, where he will meet fellow qualifier Woodbridge.

5. Todd Woodbridge (Aus, 154) -- def. Oren Motevassel, 6-1, 6-4
Will play Richey Reneberg

Woodbridge has slipped badly this year, and it's amazing to think he was a finalist in this tournament three years ago. Maybe he's on his way back. As for the Woodies, the once-dominant Woodbridge/Woodforde tandem has some things to prove here: they are seeded only 7th in doubles. I had to pinch myself when I saw that....

6. Alex O'Brien (USA, 156) -- def. David Caldwell, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
Will play Gianluca Pozzi

O'Brien had second-set lapses in both his matches this weekend, but made it through. Alex has a winnable first-rounder on his plate, as he will take on the ageless Gianluca Pozzi.

7. Kevin Ullyett (RSA, 242) -- def. Michael Joyce, 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-1
Will play Chris Woodruff

Ullyett is a top-fifty doubles player who was ranked 574 in June, when he came out of nowhere to reach the Nottingham finals on grass. That was the only singles event Kevin played this year on the main tour, until now.