Niklas Jager’s sponsor contract ran out, and he signed a new one -- $866 a week(15% taxes) with StarFlip Coffee, a big increase over the $154/wk. he got from MalBaret. There’s a $7,000 bonus for a QF appearance in any IS event, but I don’t see that happening. During the African futures swing, he got some focused training time in, and had high hopes coming into the last couple of events of the year ….
Spain F3(Indoor Hard)
Q1 v. Shannon Nettle(AUS) – W 6-1, 6-4
A noteworthy win as he would have struggled against this quality of opponent a few months ago … and because for the first time Jager went through the entire match without facing a single break point. In fact, he lost only a single point on his serve the entire way, and it would have been much more lopsided if he’d done better on his break chances than 4 out of 22.
Q2 v. (2) Mark Draper(AUS) – W 6-1, 6-0
Q3 v. Brent Haygarth(ZAF) – L 4-6, 6-4, 4-6
Haygarth is no pushover – a very consistent server with a good return and net game, and solid mental capabilities. It was a battle the whole way, but Niklas missed a chance to break at 4-4 in the third, then lost his serve quickly to end the match. It was extremely even, but just a hair short. The difference was the South African’s ability to pounce on Jager’s second serves with his return game.
Q1 v. Bobby Kokavec(CAN) – W 6-2, 6-0
Q2 v. Carl Limberger(AUS) – W 6-3, 6-3
Q3 v. Vaja Uzakov(AZB) – W 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
A very uneventful trip through the qualifying draw this time, with no real quality opponents, until a collapse late in the second set against Uzakov. Vaja was sharp if an inferior player, and Jager lost his serve three straight times after leading early. He had a good third set to finally put him away though, and move on to the main draw.
R1 v. Zach Fleishman(USA) – W 6-2, 6-2
Fleishman has more power and accuracy off the baseline, particularly from the forehand side, and a more accurate serve. Jager is better mentally and in his basic physical condition, and has a more versatile game, so this shaped up to be likely a pretty even match. The American came in a little tired(81% form), and Niklas jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead. Winning here wasn’t a shock, but it’s suprising how one-sided it was.
R2 v. (6) Jonathan Marray(GBR) – W 7-5, 6-2
A third second-round appearance, and this looked like a very even match in most respects. Marray is a very good tactician, but not as mentally or physically tough, and if anything Niklas has a slight edge in the quality of his strokes. He should be able to win this with a strong effort. After both players held to 5-5, Jager dominated the rest of the match to earn his first-ever QF appearance!
QF v. Jim Thomas(USA) -- W 5-7, 6-1, 6-2
A confident player with a strong return game, Thomas doesn’t have the overall package to challenge Jager. He was tougher than expected in taking the first set, but it was all Jager in the second to even it up, and after a rough start the third set wasn’t much different.
SF v. Mark Nielsen(NZL) – W 7-5, 6-3
I would have expected Niklas to fade pretty quickly against Nielsen’s strong baseline game, but after falling behind 5-1 in the first he rallied impressively, winning six straight games to take the set! Once again he fell behind, dropping the first three games of the second, then never dropped another one in recording a very fine upset … and a very valuable one as well, putting him in the final! He harassed the New Zealander’s serve well all match long, earning a 28-9 edge in break chances.
F v. Feliciano Lopez(ESP) – W 6-1, 6-2
A dominant finish here to a breakthrough tournament to end the year! Niklas never lost his serve, putting 79% of his first serves in play, and taking just over an hour to dispatch his Spanish opponent. He earns 18 points here, increasing his total from 2 to 20! His ranking shoots up almost two hundred places to 526 as a result.
2000 MASTERS CUP
The Americans were knocked out during the round-robin stage, and fans were treated to a great match in the final between Marat Safin and Gustavo Kuerten. Four of the five sets were extremely competitive, with three tiebreaks, but eventually the Russian came through on top with a tiebreak win in the final set. A very strong year has Safin in the #3 spot, and in position to challenge Sampras and Kuerten for the top spot in the early going next year.
ATP TOP TEN
1. Pete Sampras(USA) 5525
2. Gustavo Kuerten(BRA) 5415
3. Marat Safin(RUS) 5020
4. Yevgeny Kafelnikov(RUS) 3515
5. Andre Agassi(USA) 3465
6. Alex Corretja(ESP) 2960
7. Magnus Norman(SWE) 2910
8. Thomas Enqvist(SWE) 2875
9. Franco Squillari(ARG) 2525
10. Juan-Carlos Ferrero(ESP) 2485
The picture is not rosy for the Germans: Tommy Haas(21st) and Nicolas Kiefer(22nd) both tumbled considerably this year. Two losses by Kiefer against the Netherlands(L 3-2) kept them from qualifying for the Davis Cup World Group.
Match Record: 26-19
Entry Ranking: 908 start, 531 end
Prize Money: $2,923($1,800 from the season-ending win at Spain F4)