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Canadian Headed To London As Winner Of Draw Challenge Circuit

Toronto, Canada

Johnston© Martin Johnston

It began as a friendly competition with his wife, but Martin Johnston has earned more than just bragging rights after winning the 2009 ATP World Tour Draw Challenge Circuit. The Toronto-based Johnston has been awarded a VIP trip for two to the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London as the first place finisher in the season-long game.

Johnston, who beat out nearly 40,000 competitors, pinpointed the key ingredient to his success. “I made use of all the available data on the ATP web site,” he said, “especially in relation to players’ rankings, records against each other as individuals and on the relevant surface. It certainly seemed to pay off in the long term. I would pay attention to web stories, illnesses, injuries coming up – that can often be a little heads-up that someone might not be on their best form.”

The Canadian made a strong start to the circuit, ranking in the Top 10 following the season’s first two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, but saw his standing slide after pegging eventual finalist Novak Djokovic for an early exit in Monte Carlo.

Register now to play the 2010 Draw Challenge Circuit

“I thought at that point I might have completely blown it,” he said. “I pretty much thought through the middle of the summer that this was going to be another year where I wouldn’t suck, but wouldn’t place. It was all really towards the end that it started coming together for me.”

Hovering around the Top 10 following the summer circuit, Johnston made sure to avoid any risky picks leading up to the final tournament of the season, the BNP Paribas Masters. “I didn’t want to do anything stupid to take myself completely out of the running, hoping that when the last tournament rolled around in Paris I might be in a position to go all or nothing,” he explained. “That’s exactly what happened.”

Instead of choosing whom he thought would most likely win, Johnston studied who the other Top 10 contenders liked to pick in the past and decided to go with Djokovic. This time, the Serb’s success resulted in Johnston’s victory. “It worked out perfectly,” he said.

Johnston, who does volunteer work with the Alliance Hospice, Hospice Thornhill and the Toronto Ambassador Program, is looking ahead to seeing his favourite players – Nikolay Davydenko and Andy Roddick – in November at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. “They’re both overlooked so often despite incredible consistency,” he said.

But his wife may prevent him from sitting courtside when her favourite player, Roger Federer, is on court. “She's a Federer fan through and through,” said Johnston. “I've actually been banned by my wife from watching him whenever it's live on the television because everytime I sit there and watch Federer, he loses.”

Johnston, who says he has “every intention of winning the Challenge two years in a row”, also shared his predictions for the current season: “I think 2010 is shaping up to be the big breakout year for (Marin) Cilic and to a lesser extent (John) Isner – the former is now showing the mental strength to be right at the top and the latter has hugely improved his return game to go with that enormous serve. I expect to see Marin in London in November and for John to be solidly placed in the Top 20.”

The 2010 ATP World Tour Draw Challenge Circuit will start with the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where main draw action gets underway Thursday, 11 March.

Johnston shares his winning strategy:
1. Make sure you know when the draw will open & close for picks and have a computer available!  Missing a single entry basically means you're done for the overall challenge - "If y'all ain't in it, y'all cain't win it!"
2. Pay attention to injuries & illnesses.  A high seed dropping out early or being replaced with a Lucky Loser can cripple your draw
3. Know whose ranking is heavily weighted toward certain surfaces or conditions and pick accordingly
4. Know who has issues with certain players.  Ranking is irrelevant in some situations - like Safin's mental block about Santoro, a player he should on paper have soundly thrashed every time! 
5. Be very, very lucky ;-)

Register now to play the 2010 Draw Challenge Circuit

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