With nine Australian Open titles to Novak Djokovic’s name, few tennis fans would bet against the World No. 1 winning at Melbourne Park. But that’s exactly what one American tennis fan did during the ATP Cup Bracket Challenge, and it’s earned him the VIP trip of a lifetime.
Jon Spencer Stewart from Arlington, Texas, correctly chose Russia, Italy, Spain and Germany as his four group leaders, picked both semi-final winners and named Team Russia as the ultimate ATP Cup champion.
Now, Stewart will be packing his bags to see the 2022 ATP Cup in person as the Bracket Challenge grand prize winner. In addition to a VIP trip for two to Australia to watch the semi-finals and final of next year’s tournament, Stewart has won a backstage tour and a meet-and-greet with an ATP Tour player.
“It’s unbelievable. I remember filling that out and almost forgetting about it, but I thought, ‘You know, I probably did really good on that.’ And then suddenly I got the email!” Stewart told ATPTour.com. “I don’t watch tennis all the time taking detailed notes, I pretty much went with my gut. I can’t explain it… I just thought the Russians would be the better team instead of Serbia. I had a premonition.”
Stewart’s ‘premonition’ was backed by a bit of scouting as he followed the abbreviated 2020 season. He kept a particularly keen eye on Italians like Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, and enjoyed the back-court play of the Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev-led Russians.
He even got an early look at Aslan Karatsev long before he made waves at this year’s Australian Open as a qualifier. In fact, seeing the 27-year-old’s name alongside Medvedev and Rublev’s sealed Stewart’s winning pick for Team Russia.
“I think I was watching [Prague] where I first saw Aslan Karatsev,” he recalled. “I don’t think they played him in the ATP Cup, but I saw him in [Team Russia’s] line-up. I was very impressed with him. I thought, ‘This guy’s great, but he can never win.’ And then he blew everybody away at the Australian Open.”
But only one friend or family member will be coming along with him, meaning Stewart has one last important pick to make as the ATP Cup Bracket Challenge winner.
“I’ve never been to Australia, and I’ve always dreamed of going there… Deciding who to bring with me, that’s the tough part,” Stewart joked.
* All photographs courtesy of Jon Spencer Stewart. Photo credit: James Lavine