With the ATP Tour season now done, it’s time to reflect on those heroic, mostly un-sung draw fillers, known as qualifiers.
Known for their ability to be scheduled at unsociable hours on court three, and many other attributes, their place in the draw is an excitingly randomly democratic experiment.
Looking over the season of course, praising the most consistent qualifier is a slightly odd process, as you would hope players who can consistently master winning in the echoing indoor or often neglected outside courts can also show the necessary skills to win enough main draw matches to make the business no longer necessary.
But there is one man who has been more successful than anyone else in 2013 at qualifying, and perhaps it’s not surprising it’s a man who you would normally assume is a regular in your work a day ATP draw.
Santiago Giraldo of Colombia was the only player to make it into 6 events through the quaifying route, more than any other man could manage, and is therefore this year’s king of qualifying. Four of those events tournaments were Masters, Madrid, Rome, Shanghai and Paris.
WHO LOVES THE Q
Six: Santiago Giraldo
Five: Benjamin Becker, Daniel Brands, Somdev Devvarman, Ernests Gulbis, Jan Hajek, Jan Hernych, Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, Michael Przysiezny, Julian Reister, Tim Smyczek, Dmitry Tursunov
Four: Pablo Carreno-Busta, Marc Gicquel, Ryan Harrison, Denis Kudla, Dusan Lajovic, Rajeev Ram, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Diego Schwartzman, Go Soeda, Mischa Zverev
OLD HANDS MAKING LIGHT WORK
The most noticeable trend is to see experienced players largely dominate when it comes to this list, though in a sense it’s no surprise as the top 100 ages and youth is kept at bay.
The names who qualified five times include those who have arguably spent time underachieving given the tools they have, such as Daniel Brands and Ernests Gulbis, who took down Delray Beach after playing three qualifying rounds to go with his 5 in the main draw.
Others, such as Somdev Devvarman and Dmitry Tursunov were older hands showing their true potential after injuries. Veteran Jan Hernych enjoyed the brief grass court season especially. while there was progress into the top 100 for Tim Smyczek and surprisingly Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, who has barely played since the US Open and remains frustratingly unable to just push into the to 100.
Among the four time qualifiers, Pablo Carreno-Busta (22), Dusan Lajovic (23) and Diego Schwartzman (21) were the fresher faces, although Carreno-Busta is no doubt exhausted after his sheer number of matches during 2013..
AND WHAT OF LAST YEAR?
2012’s King of Qualifying was, with eight Qs, Federico Delbonis, who is currently ranked 56 in the world. His upward trend was thanks to qualifying for Hamburg, and reaching the final, including his memorable win over Roger Federer. Roberto Bautista-Agut and Tim Smyczek also showed progress hinted at by their qualifying consistency.
But for others, like Ruben Bemelmans, and Andrey Kuznetsov, it was more a year of stagnation.