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Mark Fischl’s 2015-16 Men’s Predictions
October 8, 2015
The upcoming season on the men’s side is filled with questions – the biggest one being, can the previously unbeatable duo of Johan du Randt and Mark Parsons regain the national championship they lost in Chicago to Drew Broderick and Jared Palmer?
Can these two teams continue to dominate the tour? Is there another team out there that could break their stranglehold? Will the new Grand Prix Series be a success?
This season promises to be one of transition that will answer all these questions and more.
Back With a Vengeance
Coming into the 2015 Nationals in Chicago, du Randt and Parsons had lost just one seemingly inconsequential match as a team. Very few people thought they could be beaten, but Drew Broderick was one who did.
Maybe the strongest mental player in the game, Broderick and Jared Palmer had a plan, a plan to allow du Randt and Parsons to beat themselves. Taking advantage of the warm conditions, Drew and Jared volleyed everything – as Palmer has emerged as the best volleyer in the game.
They were also incredibly disciplined from the backcourt, which is another Broderick trademark. Combine those two things with du Randt-Parsons’ refusal to adjust their own game, and a new national champion was crowned. In the Glen View Club locker room after the match, Mark asked Johan if this would destroy them or make them better. Johan’s response left no doubt that they are coming back with a vengeance to regain their title.
Not Enough Weapons
Before we talk about who’s going to win at the Country Club of Darien, let’s look at the rest of the top teams.
Flip Goodspeed and Rob Bakker repeated their performance from Pittsburgh by making the semis for the second consecutive season. For the 54-year-old Goodspeed to make the national semi-finals two years in a row is nothing short of remarkable.
Flip’s main offense is his blitzing, a skill that was a major part of his long dominance with Scott Mansager, but in the modern game more weapons are required to win the big titles. Rob’s forehand is outstanding, but teams know that if they stay away from it they won’t get hurt.
Unfortunately for this pair, the gap between them and the top two teams appears to be too wide to overcome.
Fighting for Third
Similarly, other than Sebastian Bredberg and Martin Bostrom’s win over Broderick-Palmer at Sound Shore, virtually no one threatened the top two teams. Marco Grangeiro and George Wilkinson took a set off of du Randt-Parsons at Sound Shore, but lost in three.
Marco’s movement and George’s cerebral play and huge forehand make them a team to be reckoned with, but they were spanked twice by Broderick-Palmer and, despite an excellent season last year, don’t appear to be in the same zip code as the big dogs.
Lubow-Derose. McKnight-Rose. Mavrin-Misitrano. Bancila-Uihlein. All terrific teams. All fighting for third place.
Playing with three different partners last season, Juan Arraya made the semis or better in every event he played. At Sound Shore, he and Mike Cochrane were a couple of games away from beating du Randt-Parsons. At Short Hills, Arraya and Max LePivert held a 5-2 lead in the third set before losing to the future national champs.
Juan doesn’t generate the pace that Johan does, nor does he move quite as well (no one does, for that matter), but his ability to end points is unparalleled. Whether it is the overhead or the huge backhand cuts that bounce back over the net, Juan is the premier finisher of points in the game.
Another Surprise Ending
Playing with the talented Frenchman this season, Arraya-LePivert are the only team I see that possess the weapons necessary to beat the two top teams. At his best, Arraya has the biggest arsenal of shots in the game.
Can Juan control his emotions on the court has always been the question. LePivert has shown myriad skills but to challenge for the top spot, both his forehand return and his serve must improve. Given the level of improvement LePivert has shown, I see this team continuing its rise and ultimately taking the gold medal in March in Connecticut.