Wednesday, 24 May 2017

2017 Nationals - Men's Singles Preview

With doubles now over, the focus turns to singles. Here are my predictions/picks for the singles draw with odds for those who might find them interesting.

1:2 Mike Green (1) – The obvious odds favourite must be Green, even after the misstep at the first selection event of the season where he lost to James Landeryou in the semi-finals. He rebounded in solid fashion at the second selection event, barely breaking a sweat until the final where he defeated #2 seed Samuel Murray in two games. Expect Green to continue his solid play and secure his 11th national singles title.

3:2 Samuel Murray (2) – I struggled a bit with the odds on Sam to be honest as there are a lot of things giving him an advantage leading up to this National Championships, not the least of which is possession of home-court advantage at Sani Sport. He has also been playing the IRT consistently this season, securing his highest ranking to date of #13, and the on-court reps are paying off with solid wins over me this season and a tight 2-game loss to Green at the last selection event. Playing at home could provide that little extra advantage he needs to conquer Green and secure his first national singles title, but with Green’s impressive record at national championships, I had give him the edge as favourite.

2:1 Tim Landeryou (3) – As much as I’d like to say: “This is my year and I’m taking that title!” the reality so far this season has been much more humbling. Losses to Samuel earlier in the year were one-sided and highlighted the need for me to get more competitive matches into my schedule that became hard to fit in. Do I have a chance of winning? Of course, better I would argue than anyone outside the top 3, but it will require digging up my a-game, which has eluded me since last February. It’s not in me to give up though, so look for a battle in the semis against Samuel, and in the final against Mike if I make it that far.

5:1 James Landeryou (4) – It feels great to be able to include James in this list. It’s been awhile since he’s shown the ability to beat players at the top, but he made a splash early in the season with a 2nd place finish at the first selection event, on the back of a superbly impressive win over Green in the semis. His inexperience in event finals showed the next day however, as he lost to Murray without much resistance. The event showed that he still has the ability to compete with the top players and as the only player to beat Green this season within the country, deserves to be considered near the top of this list.

8:1 Lee Connell/Pedro Castro (5/6) – Both players have had inconsistent seasons, but shown flashes of brilliance to keep themselves just outside the top tier of players at this year’s nationals. Connell notched two victories over James Landeryou in the latter part of the season, and had his best national event in several years, finishing 5th in Calgary and putting up a valiant effort against Green in the quarter-finals. Castro had slightly better results than Connell throughout the season, but has a tougher draw at this year’s nationals. He will have to go through Tim Landeryou and Sam Murray just to make the final, and hasn’t beaten either of them in several years. The likelihood of either player winning the event is low, but both have the potential to cause a stir in the quarters and potentially the semis.

10:1 Nathaniel Husulak/Tommy Murray/Nicolas Bousquet
Outside chances exist for Husulak, Murray, and Bousquet to take this year’s title, but they are certainly long shots. None have recorded wins over the top 3 in the last few years, and most have losing records with the players ahead of them on the rankings. It would take some serious celestial alignment for one of these athletes to take the title this year but their results warrant inclusion in the conversation.

It would certainly make a more interesting read to produce bold predictions outside the seedings, but with a smaller draw and less contentious match ups early in the event, I regret to say the forecast will not contain many surprises…

First/Second Round: As mentioned earlier, the draw is quite small this year. With only 17 players there is just one first round match, between junior national team member Simon Comeau and former junior national champion Jeremy Renaud. While Renaud hasn’t been active on the national scene in several years, his experience and talent should allow him to take the match and move forward into the round of 16. Unfortunately, his success will likely end there where he faces defending national champion Mike Green. The round of 16 contains several other matches with similar levels of contention, but there are a few that offer some intrigue.

The Murray/Husulak matchup should be the closest, both on paper and for those who know the players personally. They have gone tiebreaker in almost every head to head they’ve played in the last two years, both perennially finish in the top 8 and inevitably meet somewhere in that bracket. While it’s unfortunate they will be squaring off in the second round of this event, it will certainly delight the fans to have such a contentious match take place early in the event. Husulak had a strong showing earlier this month at the Saskatchewan provincial championships and seems to be peaking at the right time, but this is Murray’s home club and the slower courts will affect Husulak’s ability to utilize his power game. This will be a tight battle, but I think the slight advantage goes to Murray. Look for him to take this match in a tiebreaker.

The Castro/Webb, Guillemette/Landeryou, and Bousquet/Prentice matchups have potential to be contentious, but I would have a hard time making a case for one of the lower seeds to take the match. Webb has been training with Green leading up to this event, which must have had a positive impact on his game, but he’s been untested in tournaments recently and hasn’t played Castro in a national event. His style will test Castro’s conditioning, but home court advantage and having this match early in the event will both work in Castro’s favour. Look for him to take the match in two close games, although potential is there for a tiebreaker. Guillemette/Landeryou provides some intrigue, but with Landeryou taking their last few meetings, expect things to hold true in this match as well. A similar conclusion could be drawn for the Bousquet/Prentice match, due to the win/loss record stacked in Bousquet’s favour, but Prentice has stepped his game up this season, and recorded wins over Lee Connell and Nathaniel Husulak. While the Frenchman is still considered the favourite to win, it would not be surprising to see this match end in a tight two games or potentially a tiebreaker.

Look for a brief recap of results tonight and updated predictions for Thursday if applicable. I will also include predictions/odds for the women’s side. 

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