Fritz Quest for Three-Peat, Next Gen Stars Provide Intrigue in Newport Beach Men’s Draw

Oracle Challenger Series
Jan 26, 2020

It’s a new year and the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach presented by RBC Wealth Management has stormed into the beautiful Newport Beach Tennis Club to kick off the action in 2020. The men’s field is absolutely loaded with young talent, accomplished stalwarts and hometown heroes.

First Quarter

The field is headlined by two-time defending champion, top seed and Southern California native Taylor Fritz, who has taken a wildcard after defeating former US Open and Wimbledon Finalist Kevin Anderson in the second round of the Australian Open less than a week ago.

His projected quarterfinal opponent is no stranger to the big stages – Italian Andreas Seppi looms as the No. 5 seed. He has achieved a career-high ATP ranking of No.18 and has reached six Grand Slam Rounds of 16 – most recently at the 2018 Australian Open.

However, that mouth-watering matchup is not set in stone as a handful of dark horses loom in their section looking to play spoiler. Brandon Nakashima, the 18-year-old who turned professional during the offseason after a successful Freshman campaign at the University of Virginia, is fresh off of a title last week at the Oracle Pro Series in his hometown of Rancho Santa Fe.

Others to keep an eye on in this section include Mackenzie McDonald as he continues his comeback from injury as the No.9 seed and Mitchell Krueger, who rounds out the quarter as the No.13 seed.

Second Quarter

Another young gun who is a threat for the title is 20-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic. The Serbian capped his 2019 with a run to the semifinals at the Next Gen ATP Finals and opened his 2020 season with a semifinal appearance at the ATP 250 in Doha. He sits near his career-high ranking of No.47 and is steadily rising thanks to wins over players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime. At Newport Beach in 2019, he fell to Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals and is sure to be seeking revenge.

His toughest test before that meeting could come from No.8 seed Jason Jung. Representing Taipei, Jung played collegiately at the University of Michigan before turning professional. He owns four ATP Challenger titles, all on hardcourts, and is a threat to anyone he faces.

Another threat comes from Ryan Harrison, whose 2019 injury-marred season is certainly not a reflection on the 27-year-old’s immense talent. He’s reached a career-high of No.40 and has an ATP title to his name, so despite the fact that he is unseeded, Harrison can do some major damage.

Third Quarter

Leading the charge in the bottom half of the men’s draw is 2019 Houston Champion and current Road to Indian Wells leaderboard front-runner Marcos Giron. The No.7 overall seed will have to upend a number of legitimate title contenders if he hopes to contest a second-consecutive Series championship.

2018 Houston champion and No.10 seed Bradley Klahn looms as a potential third round matchup for Giron – which could be followed up with a showdown against Southern California native and former World No.21 Steve Johnson. Johnson, a four-time ATP Tour Titleist and USC Trojan legend, makes his Series debut this week.

Another sneaky competitor in the quarter is recent Oracle Pro Series Ann Arbor champion and 21-year-old Ulises Blanch – who will be making his fifth Series appearance.

Fourth Quarter

Completing the men’s draw is arguably the deepest quarter from top to bottom – which features 2019 Newport Beach Finalist and No.6 seed Brayden Schnur – who may be challenged by Series veteran and No.11 seed Emilio Gomez in the third round.

2019 Chicago champion and ATP Tour veteran Denis Istomin and No.2 seeded wild card Frances Tiafoe look ripe for a third-round showdown, which will be a battle of contrasting styles.  Tiafoe, who made the quarterfinals of the 2019 Australian Open and boasts a career-high ranking of No.29, returns to Southern California two years after making his Series debut at the Newport Beach Tennis Club.

Other notable competitors in the quarter include University of Virginia products Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Collin Altamirano – as well as gritty Americans Sekou Bangoura and Maxime Cressy.