July 30, 2021

THE ONLY TENNIS SITE

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For a first-round match in a $25K, it’s … something

Kuznetsov

With his ranking down below No. 250 after a sub-par season, Canadian Peter Polansky – known to diehards as the “Luckiest Loser” because of the number of times he lost in the final round of Grand Slam qualifying but managed to get in – didn’t get into Wimbledon qualifying.

But with the North American hard-court season coming up, he was obviously looking for tournaments to compete in to get ready.

Options? Extremely limited.

There are no Challengers on hard court this week. There isn’t a single tournament of any kind in North America.

And on the ITF Tour, there are only two tournaments at the $25,000 level that aren’t on clay.

One is in France, and the other in Kazakhstan. Given Polansky is 0-5 on clay in 2021 (5-13 overall), he was going to look for a hard court.

And so the 33-year-old, who’s been a pro since 2007, headed to Nur-Sultan to play one of the few iTF-level tournaments he’s competed in outside of Canada (with a few exceptions) since 2012.

He’s the No. 1 seed, obviously.

RG 2021 - Polansky in qualifying

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Draw gods unkind to Polansky

Among the barely-ranked and the local Kazakhs, there was one recognizable name: former world No. 39 Andrey Kuznetsov.

So who does he draw in the first round?

Kuznetsov.

It’s as though the draw gods gaveth at majors, and now taketh away at the second-lowest tier of pro tennis.

To give you an idea of how bad his luck was, the winner of the match will play either 21-year-old Yan Bondarevskiy of Russia (ranked No. 607) or a qualifier.

The top-ranked qualifier is American Alafia Ayeni, ranked No. 884.

Kuznetsov
A buff Kuznetsov at the 2016 US Open.

Kuznetsov coming back from zero

Kuznetsov, the 2009 junior Wimbledon champion, reached his career high of No. 39 back in 2016.

But from Jan. 2018 until he returned in Aug. 2020, Kuznetsov was off the Tour.

A congenital hip issue, which he’d managed throughout his career, finally got to the point where it painfully affected even his off-court life.

He had to start from scratch, with a special ranking of No. 130 that got him into a few tournaments, including the main draw of last year’s US Open because of all the withdrawals.

Kuznetsov defeated American Sam Querrey in straight sets in the first round.

In the Roland Garros qualifying, he defeated quality player Taro Daniel in the second round and lost to Jack Sock in the final round.

He was a nominee for “ATP Comeback player of the Year” for 2020, even if he was still outside the top 500. But now the work of grinding begins.

From no ranking, he’s now just inside the top 400.

You look at these two, and you get a sense of how stubborn you have to be to keep doing what they do.