Wednesday, April 23, 2014

USA Teams for Upcoming ITF World Junior Tennis and Junior Davis and Fed Cups Qualifying; Garage Sale Trophy Revives a Legacy

USTA coaches Jamea Jackson and Kathy Rinaldi will coach the US girls teams

These are the players who will be representing the United States next month in Montreal at the North/Central America and Caribbean qualifying for the ITF's World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition and the ITF's Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup for juniors 16-and-under.

World Junior Tennis (the two teams qualifying play in Prostejov, Czech Republic, August 4-9, 2014)

Boys:
Andrew Fenty
Keenan Mayo
Steven Sun
USTA Coach: Jay Devashetty

Girls:
Elysia Bolton
Claire Liu
Rachel Lim
USTA Coach: Jamea Jackson

Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup (only one team will advance to the finals in San Luis Potosi Mexico Sept. 23-28, with Mexico automatically qualifying)

Boys:
William Blumberg
John McNally
Nathan Ponwith
USTA Coach: Erik Kortland

Girls:
Usue Arconada
Sofia Kenin
Raveena Kingsley
USTA Coach: Kathy Rinaldi

Both qualifying tournaments are in Montreal, May 8-10.  For a complete list of all qualifying tournaments around the world, see this PDF from the ITF. 

This Doug Robson article from yesterday's USA Today is only distantly related to junior and college tennis, but it is a great story, with my friend and Easter Bowl media liaison Steve Pratt playing a prominent role.  Joe Hunt, who was killed in World War II, won the National junior 15s in 1934 and the National 18s in 1937, before the competition moved to Kalamazoo in 1943. He also won the Intercollegiate tennis championship--the NCAA records say at Navy in 1941, not 1938 as the article states--and the US singles title in 1943 at Forest Hills.  An Ojai trophy purchased at a garage sale in Beverly Hills started Pratt in pursuit of its history and he ended up eventually connecting with Hunt's great nephew, who was trying to revive his great uncle's legacy on his own. 

On Thursday, at Ojai, where Pratt also works as media liaison, the trophy will be presented to the nephew and his family in a ceremony honoring Hunt. I hope the International Tennis Hall of Fame extends them an invitation to attend this year's ceremony, since none of the family knew about Hunt's induction back in 1966.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

UCLA Women, Southern Cal Men Take Top Spots in ITA Rankings; Loeb in College Spotlight; New Academy in Charleston SC; Do British Players Need to be Hungrier?

As expected after the Southern Cal men's win over UCLA and the Duke women's two losses, the new ITA rankings have two new No. 1 teams. Southern Cal has moved past Ohio State and is now the top-ranked men's team, while UCLA has moved into the women's top spot, with Duke falling to No. 6.

The men's rankings didn't change much except for that shuffle, with Texas A&M moving from 11 to 8 by virtue of their SEC conference tournament title. In the always important area around No. 16, on or above which a team will host an NCAA regional, Clemson has moved up to 16, with Cal, who lost to Stanford over the weekend, dropping to 19.

The men's Top 10:

1. Southern Cal
2. Ohio State
3. Oklahoma
4. Virginia
5. UCLA
6. Baylor
7. Texas
8. Texas A&M
9. North Carolina
10. Georgia

For the Texas College Tennis blog's rankings, click here.

In the women's rankings, Georgia moved from No. 6 to No. 2 after winning the SEC team tournament, and Cal moved from 10 to 4 after beating Stanford. The Clemson women, who beat both Duke and North Carolina over the weekend, moved into a hosting position, going from 17 to 12.

The women's Top Ten:

1. UCLA
2. Georgia
3. Alabama
4. Cal
5. Texas A&M
6. Duke
7. Virginia
8. Florida
9. Stanford
10. Vanderbilt

These are the last ITA rankings released before the NCAA selection show, which is scheduled for April 29, at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time for the men and 5:30 p.m. EDT for the women, on ncaa.com. The rankings provided to the NCAA committee will be released by the ITA on May 1.


In the individual rankings, Jamie Loeb of North Carolina and Clay Thompson of UCLA continue to hold down the No. 1 positions. Loeb is the subject of the USTA's College Spotlight, where she answers questions about her decision to go to college, her expectations prior to joining the Tar Heels and her goals for this year, which include NCAA titles, both team and individual.

The women's Top Ten in singles:

1. Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
2. Robin Anderson, UCLA
3. Kristie Ahn, Stanford
4. Julia Elbaba, Virginia
5. Hayley Carter, North Carolina
6. Lauren Herring, Georgia
7. Beatrice Capra, Duke
8. Cristina Stancu, Texas A&M
9. Jenny Jullien, Saint Mary's
10.Emina Bektas, Michigan

The men's Top Ten in singles:

1. Clay Thompson, UCLA
2. Julian Lenz, Baylor
3. Marcos Giron, UCLA
4. Mitchell Frank, Virginia
5. Guillermo Alcorta, Oklahoma
6. Axel Alvarez, Oklahoma
7. Peter Kobelt, Ohio State
8. Jared Hiltzik, Illinois
9. Nik Scholtz, Ole Miss
10. Ray Sarmiento, Southern Cal

Sarmiento and Yannick Hanfmann have taken over the No. 1 spot in men's doubles, with UCLA's Jennifer Brady and Robin Anderson retaining the top ranking in women's doubles.

Complete rankings can be found at the ITA website.

I received a press release today announcing a new tennis academy for the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina. Beginning July 1, Jeff Wilson and Bryan Minton's MWTennis will take over for Instinctive Tennis Academy, offering beginner, after-school, adult and high performance tennis, as well as fitness and nutrition instruction. In addition, Michael Joyce, who was Maria Sharapova's coach for seven years and has been recently working with Jessica Pegula, will become Director of Professional Tennis at the academy. The complete release can be found here.

The LTA's Michael Downey, recently hired to head the British tennis federation after working for many years at TennisCanada, spoke about the need for more urgency from Great Britain's coaches and players according to this article from the Daily Mail.

"'Does the average coach know what it takes? Does the average prospect know what it really takes?' he asked. 'We need to make them hungrier. We are competing with countries where it’s about getting to a better life, and that provides a different level of fight, but we do have a lot of talent out there. We have to let the talent exceed expectations."

Can you make someone hungrier? To me that seems more an internal engine than an external one, but it will be interesting to see what form the LTA's attempts to do it take.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Bowl Recap; Teens Have Big Weekends on Pro Circuit; Kosakowski, Min Lead Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge After Week One; ITF Junior Update

My Easter Bowl recap is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. It's overview of a very busy week at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and I hope to have the slideshow and videos from that tournament available by this weekend.


Croatia's Donna Vekic, who turns 18 in June, had already appeared in two WTA finals prior to yesterday, when she won the WTA event in Kuala Lampur, beating top seed and Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 5-7, 7-5 7-6(4).  It was Vekic's first Top 10 win, and she is the first 17-year-old to win a WTA title since Vania King won in Bangkok in 2006.  For more on Vekic's title, see this article from the WTA website.

On the Pro Circuit in the US, teens Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Grace Min of the US collected titles.  The unseeded Kyrgios, who will be 19 next week, hadn't played in a couple of months due to an elbow injury, but he collected his second career Challenger title at the $100,000 tournament in Sarasota. Kyrgios beat unseeded Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 7-6(10), 6-4 in the final, returning him to the ATP Top 200, the only teenager in that group.

Kyrgios defeated wild card Dan Kosakowski(UCLA) in the semifinals 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, but Kosakowski was the only US player (not already in the main draw of the French Open) to earn points in the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge.  He leads the race, which includes this week's $50,000 Challenger in Savannah and next week's $50,000 Challenger in Tallahassee. A French Open wild card will go to the American with the best two results in terms of ATP points in the three Challengers. Kosakowski received a special exemption into the main draw in Savannah this week, and he will play Jarmere Jenkins(Virginia) in the first round.

Grace Min leads the women's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge after winning the $50,000 title in Dothan, Alabama yesterday.  The unseeded Min, who will be 20 next month, defeated No. 8 seed Vicky Duval 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  Min picked up 80 points, while Duval now has 48.  A total of 13 US players earned points in Dothan; the next two events are the $50,000 tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia this week, and the $50,000 tournament in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida next week.

The Har-Tru Challenge points tables can be found here.

Another notable result from last week came from Uzbekistan, where 16-year-old Roman Safiullin of Russia captured his first Futures title. Safiullin, a wild card who had no ATP points, had played only three Futures before last week, losing in qualifying in all three. He defeated top seed Dennys Molchanov of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4 in the second round, and in the final, downed unseeded 19-year-old Temur Ismailov of Uzbekistan 2-6, 7-5, 6-1.

In the ITF Juniors, Caroline Turner, who lost in the first round of the Easter Bowl to eventual champion CiCi Bellis, won her first title last week at the Grade 4 in Barbados. Second seed Turner, who has committed to Auburn for 2015, beat top seed Sabrina Faybyshev of the US 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final.  Qualifier Emanuel Llamas of the US won his first ITF title in Barbados, beating top seed Rasheed Carey of the Bahamas 6-3, 7-6(2) in the final.

Johnnise Renaud, who also lost in the first round of the Easter Bowl, won the Grade 4 in Guadeloupe as the top seed. Renaud beat No. 3 seed Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico 6-2, 6-1 in the final.  Reigning Eddie Herr 14s champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia swept the boys titles, partnering Gabriel Pilones of the US for the doubles championship.

Several other exceptionally young players had impressive results in ITF tournaments last week.  Thirteen-year-old Destanee Aiava of Australia claimed her third ITF title since February, with the No. 1 seed cruising past No. 2 seed Maddison Inglis of Australia 6-0, 6-2 in the final of the Grade 4 in Australia.

Eddie Herr 12s champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who just turned 13 in March and only then became eligible for ITF junior play, won the first ITF she entered, the Grade 4 in Israel. A qualifier, Potapova won all of her matches in straight sets, a total of eight matches in all.

Fourteen-year-old Anastasia Mikheeva of Great Britain won the Grade 4 in Nottingham, England.

At the Grade B1 Asian Closed in India, 16s Orange Bowl champion Yunseong Chung of Korea won the boys title, with the No. 3 seed defeating top seed Duck Hee Lee of Korea 7-6(1), 7-6(3). Top seed Kamonwan Buayam of Thailand won the girls title, defeating No. 4 seed Tamachan Momkoonthod, also of Thailand, 7-6(2), 6-3 in the championship match.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Georgia Women, Texas A&M Men Win SEC Tournament Titles; Cal Women Claim First Pac-12 Championship; Major Conferences Complete Regular Season

The Georgia women and Texas A&M won SEC tournament titles today, claiming that conference's automatic bids to the NCAA tournament, which begins with regional action three weekends from now.

Georgia, the No. 3 seed, avenged last week's 4-3 loss to No. 1 seed Alabama in Athens, a loss that cost the Bulldogs a tie for the SEC regular season championship, which Alabama won. Today in Missouri, sixth-ranked Georgia won 4-0 over third-ranked Alabama, with Silvia Garcia, Maho Kowase and Lily Kimbell adding singles points, all with straight-set wins, after Georgia had taken the doubles point.

In the men's SEC tournament final today in Nashville, Texas A&M beat No. 4 seed Florida 4-2. A&M had also lost a chance to tie for the SEC regular season title with a surprising loss to Ole Miss last weekend, leaving Georgia alone at the top. But in the tournament, No. 2 seed Texas A&M regrouped, and after Georgia was upset by Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, the Aggies were the favorites, and they beat South Carolina and Kentucky 4-1 en route to the final.  Against Florida, Texas A&M took the doubles point and got singles wins from Shane Vinsant, Jackson Withrow and Jordan Szabo earn the victory.

Cal coach Amanda Augustus was on the court in 1999,
 the last time the Bears won at Stanford
The women's Pac-12 bid was decided on Saturday, with Cal winning its first Pac-12 title, which is a bit hard to believe, since the Bears made the NCAA finals in both 2008 and 2009.  Cal defeated Stanford 6-1 in Palo Alto, and after the Bears win over UCLA in Berkeley the previous week, they finished the Pac-12 regular season with a perfect 10-0 mark.  The men play a team tournament next week in Ojai, but the Pac-12 women do not, opting for an individual tournament instead.

Things were not so neat in the ACC, where Clemson's wins over Duke and UNC over the weekend, and Miami's defeat of Virginia today left the women's regular season conference in a four-way tie between North Carolina, Miami, Clemson and Virginia, all with 12-2 records in conference play. Top-ranked Duke's 4-3 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday kept it from being a five-way tie at the top.

Virginia won the ACC men's regular season title, with the Cavaliers completing their eighth consecutive undefeated conference season with a 7-0 win over Virginia Tech.

In the Big Ten, the Michigan women won the regular season title, finishing undefeated in conference play with a 7-0 win at Purdue today, and will head into the conference tournament next week at Northwestern as the No. 1 seed.

The top-ranked Ohio State men completed their ninth straight undefeated conference regular season with a 6-1 win over Nebraska today in Columbus, and have extended their record for consecutive home wins in any NCAA sport to 189.  They will travel to East Lansing for the Big Ten tournament next weekend, and I will be covering that final for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

In the Big 12, the Baylor women claimed the regular season conference title, beating Texas 4-3 Friday night to finish 9-0. The men's regular season Big 12 title will be shared by Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor, who all went 4-1 in conference play, with all their losses to each other.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

International Spring Championships Slideshow, Videos

My recap of this year's ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson ran last week at the Tennis Recruiting Network, but due to the back-to-back scheduling of it and the Easter Bowl, I wasn't able to put together the slideshow or process the videos until this week.

In addition to the slideshow of the singles semifinalists and doubles finalists, short videos of the champions are available to watch here. For videos of the finalists, click on their names below the embedded videos to go to the tenniskalamazoo YouTube Channel.








Francis Tiafoe

Raveena Kingsley

Patrick Kypson

Kalani Soli

Friday, April 18, 2014

USC Defeats UCLA, Vanderbilt Tops Georgia; Five Questions with Steve Johnson; USTA's College Information Session in Athens

The Pac-12 men's regular season conference title was on the line today at the University of Southern California, with UCLA visiting Marks Stadium, and the Trojans won it, beating the Bruins 4-2.

In their third meeting of the year--USC won in the semifinals of the Team Indoor, and UCLA taking the match in Westwood back in February--UCLA won the doubles point, taking advantage of the return to the lineup of Adrien Puget. He and Mackenzie McDonald clinched the doubles point for UCLA with an 8-4 win over Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome at line 3, but Puget did not play singles.

In singles, which featured 10 ranked players of the 12 on the court, one of the unranked ones, Johnson, got the Trojans' first point, beating Karue Sell 6-1, 7-5 at line 5.  Yannick Hanfmann made it 2-1 USC with his 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 1 ranked Clay Thompson at line 1, but UCLA pulled even with Marcos Giron's 7-5, 6-3 win over Raymond Sarmiento. The remaining three matches all went to a third set, with UCLA's three freshmen on the court. Gage Brymer fell to de Vroome 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 at line 4 to make it 3-2, and McDonald lost to Roberto Quiroz 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 at line 3.  Joe DiGiulio and Michael Grant were at 4-4 in the third when Quiroz clinched.

The match was televised by the Pac-12 Network, and the final point can be viewed here.  Unlike most match points, it was a long and tense one, but the celebration after it was over was the usual dog pile.

The next likely encounter between the two teams will be next weekend at Ojai, in the finals of the Pac-12 men's team tournament.

An article and the complete box score are available at the Southern Cal website.

At the men's SEC conference championships in Nashville, host Vanderbilt upset top seed and regular season conference champions Georgia 4-2. Vanderbilt, the No. 8 seed, won the doubles point and collected wins from Ryan Smith at 6, Gonzales Austin at 2, and Rhys Johnson at 4.  Georgia's points came from Austin Smith at 1 and Nick Wood at 5.  The complete box score is here.   A post-match video interview with Vanderbilt coach Ian Duvenhage is available here.

The women's SEC conference championships are in Columbia, Missouri, and so far, favorites have prevailed, with No. 1 seed Alabama, No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Georgia advancing to the semifinals. Florida, seeded 4, and Texas A&M, seeded 5, are just starting their quarterfinal match.

ESPN's Greg Garber talked with Steve Johnson, who is currently home in Orange County, resting, practicing and no doubt attending today's match with UCLA, before heading to Europe, and the French Open, next month.

The USTA's 2012 College Information Session during NCAAs in Athens, Georgia

Two years ago at the NCAAs in Athens, Johnson's father, Steve Sr., was part of the panel at the USTA's College Information Seminar. The Southern section and the USTA will again be providing a similar session at this year's NCAAs in Athens, although it will include different panelists.  Scheduled for Sunday, May 18th at 10:00 a.m., the cost to attend is $10, and includes tickets to the men's quarterfinal matches. For more details, see this flyer.