Saturday, July 31, 2021

Shelton, Loeb and Nakashima Move into Finals; Third Straight Title for Quevedo at Bogota J3, Slama Wins J3 in Paraguay; Olympic Bronze for Stefani and Peers; WTA Qualifying Victories for Krueger and Montgomery

Many of the top contenders for the Kalamazoo 18s title play the USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in the Midwest as warmups for the Nationals, with similar surface, similar weather and a guarantee of a high quality match or two the attraction for those who have a chance to play qualifying, or even receive a main draw wild card. 

I don't, however, remember anyone coming into Kalamazoo immediately after winning one of these pro tournaments, which is what 18-year-old Ben Shelton now has an opportunity to do with a win in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois. Wild card Shelton, the rising sophomore at Florida, has yet to drop a set in Champaign, and today he defeated top seed and ATP No. 360 Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals. Shelton, who finished fourth in the 16s division in Kalamazoo in 2019, will face No. 5 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands for the title. Brouwer defeated unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in today's semifinals.

Regardless of the outcome in Sunday's singles final, Shelton has his first ITF men's World Tennis Tour title, after he and Eliot Spizzirri(Texas) won the doubles championship this afternoon. The wild cards defeated No. 2 seeds Yunseong Chung of Korea and Rio Noguchi of Japan 6-4, 6-0 in the final and they didn't come close to losing a set during the week.

Jamie Loeb July 2020
photo credit: Scott Gerber

Jamie Loeb will be back in the Top 200 after reaching the biggest final of her career this week at the WTA 125 in Charleston South Carolina. The 26-year-old from New York, who won the NCAA singles title in 2015 as a sophomore at North Carolina, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-2 in today's semifinal. She will face No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko, who beat No. 2 seed Lauren Davis 7-5, 6-3. Loeb was coming off a rough stretch on European clay after Wimbledon qualifying, winning just one qualifying match in four tournaments, so the Har-Tru of Charleston must have been more to her liking. Her previous best result was an appearance in the final of the Midland $100K in 2018, where she beat both Sofia Kenin and Jennifer Brady, losing to Madison Brengle in the final.

En-Shuo Liang of Taiwan and Rebecca Marino of Canada won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Erin Routliffe(Alabama) of New Zealand and Aldila Sutjiadi(Kentucky) of Indonesia 5-7, 7-5, 10-7.

Brandon Nakashima has been on a roll the past two weeks, reaching his first final at last week's ATP 250 in Los Cabos and his second this week at the 250 in Atlanta. Today Nakashima defeated Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to set up an all-US final against the winner of tonight's match between John Isner and Taylor Fritz. It was just two years ago that Nakashima was preparing to play the Kalamazoo 18s as the top seed; he lost in the semifinals to champion Zachary Svajda 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Kaitlin Quevedo has been on a tear since capturing the USTA Girls 16s Clay Court singles championship two weeks ago in Huntsville Alabama. Last week the 15-year-old Floridian won her first ITF Junior Circuit title at the J5 in Medellin Colombia to run her winning streak to 13; she added five more wins to that this week, with the title at the J3 in Bogota Colombia. Unseeded, she again didn't drop a set all week, defeating top seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Quevedo is showing as withdrawn from the USTA Nationals in San Diego next month.

At this week's J3 in Paraguay, 15-year-old Mia Slama won an all-American final, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 8 seed Tatum Evans 6-3, 6-4. It's Slama's fifth ITF junior singles title, with her previous four coming at the J4 and J5 levels.

Jonah Braswell, the 2020 16s Orange Bowl champion, is not playing Kalamazoo, but was in Germany for a J4 this week. Although he lost in the first round as the No. 2 seed, he did win the doubles title, partnering with Massimo Giunta of Italy. The No. 4 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Cesar Bouchelaghem and Tiago Pires of France 3-6, 6-1, 11-9 in the final.

I wrote about Michael Venus getting a bronze medal yesterday in men's doubles at the Tokyo Olympics and two more former collegians also took third, with John Peers(Baylor), playing with Ashleigh Barty, taking the bronze in mixed for Australia and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) taking bronze for Brazil in the women's doubles with partner Laura Pigossi. It's Brazil's first tennis medal.

Qualifying for next week's WTA 500 in San Jose began today, and two of the junior contenders warming up there in the qualifying won their matches today. Wild card Ashlyn Krueger defeated WTA 183 and No. 7 seed Valeria Savinykh of Russia 6-1, 7-6(2) and wild card Robin Montgomery defeated No. 5 seed Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-4, 6-0. Krueger faces Na-Lae Han of Korea for a place in the main draw; Montgomery's opponent is the winner of tonight's match between Ana Konjuh of Croatia and Eri Hozumi of Japan.

Friday, July 30, 2021

My Kalamazoo and San Diego Preview on Cracked Racquets Podcast; Nakashima, Loeb and Shelton Reach Semifinals in Atlanta, Charleston and Champaign

Cracked Racquet's Alex Gruskin and I hadn't talked since the NCAAs back in May, but we got together this morning to preview the USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego and Kalamazoo. Although neither the seeds nor the draws are out yet, we highlighted those we thought could contend for the US Open main draw wild cards that are the carrots for most of the top players entering these events. With defending champion Zachary Svajda returning, there isn't much doubt who will be the top seed for the boys, but the girls top seed isn't as clear cut. We speculate on the chances of the two NCAA team champions who received wild cards, Kylie Collins of Texas and Ben Shelton of Florida, and make our predictions.

We also talked about the prospects for American tennis in the coming decade and what the USTA considers as success when it comes to the performance of Americans. The podcast can be found here, or search for Great Shot podcast wherever you get your podcasts. 

Shelton will be coming into Kalamazoo with some impressive results in this week's $25,000 tournament on the USTA Pro Circuit in Champaign. The 18-year-old wild card defeated 2019 NCAA champion Paul Jubb(South Carolina) of Great Britain 6-1, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals, while also reaching the doubles final with Texas rising sophomore Eliot Spizzirri. Shelton will face Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan in the singles semifinals, while he and Spizzirri will take on No. 2 seeds Yunseong Chung of Korean and Rio Noguchi of Japan in the doubles final. 

Brandon Nakashima continues to post wins at the ATP 250 level, beating Jordan Thompson of Australia, whom he defeated last week in Los Cabos, again today in Atlanta. Nakashima did not need a third set tiebreaker this time, earning a 7-6(5), 7-5 win that should put him into the ATP Top 100 for the first time. Nakashima will play Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in the semifinals, after Ruusuvuori beat No. 3 seed Cameron Norrie(TCU) of Great Britain 7-6(1), 6-3.  Taylor Fritz[5] defeated Reilly Opelka[4] 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4) to advance to the semifinals, where he'll meet the winner of tonight's match between No. 6 seed John Isner(Georgia) and qualifier Christopher O'Connell of Australia.

At the WTA 125 in Charleston South Carolina, Jamie Loeb(UNC) is through to the semifinals after defeating En-Shou Liang of Taiwan 6-3, 6-3. She will play Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine, who prevented an all-US semifinal slate with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Emma Navarro(Virginia). No. 2 seed Lauren Davis beat Maria Mateas 6-3, 7-5 and will play No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Hanna Chang. 

There were no Olympic medals in tennis for the United States this year in Tokyo, but Michael Venus, the former LSU star, earned a bronze medal for New Zealand when he and Marcus Daniell defeated Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren 7-6(3), 6-2. It's the first tennis medal for that country. John Peers(Baylor) of Australia and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) of Brazil are playing in the mixed and women's doubles bronze medal matches.

The main draw for next week's ATP Citi Open in Washington DC was released today, with Jenson Brooksby added as a wild card, after the tournament previous awarded wild cards to top seed Rafael Nadal, Feliciano Lopez, Jack Sock and Nakashima. Brooksby will play Kevin Anderson in a rematch of the ATP Hall of Fame Open earlier this month. Unlike Atlanta, which is a 32-draw with four byes, Washington, a 500 level event, is a 64-draw with 16 byes.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Nakashima Defeats Top Seed Raonic to Reach Atlanta Quarterfinals; Mateas Joins Five Other Americans in Charleston WTA 125 Quarterfinals; Exsted and An Win Les Petits As USA Playoffs; New Endorsement for Montgomery

Brandon Nakashima decided to take advantage of his special exemption into the Truist Atlanta Open this week after reaching his first ATP final last week in Los Cabos, when he had to be tempted to take the week off to recover.  But there's a case to be made for momentum as well, and in Atlanta Nakashima got by wild card Trent Bryde(Georgia) 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4 in the first round to earn a shot at top seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who took a wild card this week to play in his first event since March. The former Virginia star, who turns 20 on Tuesday, took advantage of Raonic's rust to post a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(4) win late last night, which put him in his third career ATP quarterfinal. He will play Jordan Thompson of Australia on Friday. For more on Nakashima's big win, his first over a Top 30 player, see this ATP article.

The ATP Citi Open in Washington DC announced three of its wild cards for next week's tournament, with Nakashima, Denis Kudla and Feliciano Lopez of Spain receiving entry into the main draw.

At the WTA 125 in Charleston South Carolina, Maria Mateas, the former Duke star, advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating Aldila Sutjiadi(Kentucky) of Indonesia 7-6(5), 6-4. Mateas will face No. 2 seed Lauren Davis in the Friday's quarterfinals. An American finalist is assured, with the other quarterfinal in the bottom half featuring No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko and Hanna Chang. In the top half, Jamie Loeb(UNC) will face En-Shou Liang of Taiwan, and Emma Navarro(Virginia) will take on Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine. Davis and Lepchenko are the only seeds remaining.

At the $25,000 USTA men's tournament in Champaign, 18-year-old wild card Ben Shelton(Florida) advanced to his first quarterfinal on the Pro Circuit, defeating Christian Langmo(Miami) 6-4, 6-4. Shelton will face No. 8 seed and 2019 NCAA singles champion Paul Jubb(South Carolina) of Great Britain, who defeated qualifier Peter Bertran(South Florida) of the Dominican Republic 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-3. Shelton and Eliot Spizzirri(Texas) also advanced to the semifinals in doubles with a win today.

The Les Petits As USA playoffs concluded today in Boca Raton Florida, with Max Exsted and Claire An taking the titles. Exsted defeated Jacob Olar 6-4, 6-2 and An downed Emily Deming 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. All four finalists had already earned main draw entry into the prestigious 14U tournament in Tarbes France in September. The third place matches decided who would get the third main draw spot reserved for US players, with Dali Blanch defeating Matisse Farzam 6-4, 6-2 and Riley Crowder beating Sasha Kilgour 6-2, 7-5. Farzam and Kilgour will receive spots in the qualifying draw.

The last chance for a US medal in tennis at the Tokyo Olympics is up to Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), who will play in the bronze medal match in men's doubles. After losing to top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Thursday, Krajicek and Sandgren will play Michael Venus(LSU) and Marcus Daniell of New Zealand Friday.

Robin Montgomery, who signed with IMG last summer, has signed an endorsement contract with Fila. The 16-year-old has worn Fila throughout her junior career, with the Junior Tennis Champions Center, where she trains, affiliated with the sportswear company. For more on Fila's addition of Montgomery to their sponsored professional athletes, see this Tennis Connected article.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Navarro Reaches Quarterfinals at WTA 125 in Charleston; New WTA Tournament in Chicago; Sandgren and Krajicek Advance to Olympic Men's Doubles Semifinals; Shelton Defeats No. 3 Seed in Champaign; US Competitors Decided for September's Les Petits As

Since winning the NCAA singles title as a freshman at Virginia back in May, Emma Navarro has reached two quarterfinals at $60,000 women's ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments. Today she added a quarterfinal at a WTA 125 event, held in her hometown of Charleston South Carolina, with the 20-year-old defeating Alexa Glatch 6-3, 6-3 in second round. She also advanced to the quarterfinals in doubles with partner Sophie Chang, beating Sachia Vickery and Madison Brengle 2-6, 6-2, 10-4.

Katrina Scott, who took out top seed Madison Brengle yesterday, lost to Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) in today's second round 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

The WTA posted its calendar for the remainder of 2021 today, and included is a new 500 level tournament for Chicago in September. With a 125 in Chicago August 16-22 and a 250 there the following week, that's a lot of tennis for the Windy City after having nothing there for many years.

The ATP announced the new dates for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and a couple of cancellations on its fall schedule earlier this month.

The hopes for US medal in tennis at the Tokyo Olympics rest with two former collegians, with 2011 NCAA doubles champion Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) advancing to the men's doubles semifinals with a 6-3, 7-6(4) decision over Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Their semifinal opponent will be top seeds Nikola Mectic and Mate Pavic of Croatia, who have dominated the ATP doubles circuit this year with eight titles, including Wimbledon. 

The other male with college ties still in contention for a medal is former LSU star Michael Venus of New Zealand, who is playing with Marcus Daniell. The pair defeated No. 3 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah(USC) of Colombia 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 in the quarterfinals, and will face Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig of Croatia for a place in the gold medal match.

In the women's doubles, former Pepperdine star Luisa Stefani of Brazil is through to the semifinals, with her partner Lisa Pigossi. Stefani and Pigossi, who beat the No. 7 seeds in the first round, took out No. 4 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jessica Pegula 1-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the quarterfinals.

The men's singles draw is here, the women's singles draw is here, and the mixed draw is here

It's always interesting to monitor the USTA Pro Circuit events in the weeks before Kalamazoo to see who is preparing for the National 18s by competing against top collegians and pros. Last week at the Edwardsville $15K, Victor Lilov and Bruno Kuzuhara each won a match; this week at the $25,000 Champaign tournament, Ben Shelton has moved into the round of 16, beating No. 3 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 7-5, 6-0. 

There was a rain delay at the Les Petit As USA playoffs in Boca Raton today, but they did complete their schedule of quarterfinals and semifinals, so those who will travel to Tarbes France for September's prestigious 14U tournament have been decided. With just three places in the main draw reserved for US players, the loser of the third place match will be in qualifying, not the main draw, but they are part of the traveling team.

The boys who won their quarterfinal matches today are Darwin Blanch[1], Matisse Farzam[2], Max Exsted[3] and Jacob Olar.

Exsted beat Blanch 6-2, 7-6(1) to advance to the final against Olar, who defeated Farzam 6-3, 6-1. Farzam and Blanch will play for that third main draw spot Thursday.

The girls who won their quarterfinal matches today are Riley Crowder, Emily Deming[4], Sasha Kilgour and Claire An.

Deming defeated Crowder 6-2, 6-2 to secure her place in the main draw; An downed Kilgour 6-0, 6-0, with Crowder and Kilgour playing for the third spot in the main draw for the girls.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Scott Ousts Top Seed Brengle at WTA 125 in Charleston; Qualifying Complete at Champaign $25K; Les Petits As USA Playoffs Move to Quarterfinals; US Olympic Tennis Medal Chances Down to Doubles

The WTA 125 tournament in Charleston South Carolina completed its first round today in spite of a lengthy rain delay and the day ended with a bang, when 17-year-old Katrina Scott defeated top seed Madison Brengle 6-0, 6-3. Scott, currently at a career-high WTA ranking of 384, earned her first WTA Top 100 win against No. 75 Brengle, and will face 2015 NCAA singles champion Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) in the round of 16 Wednesday.

Virginia rising sophomore Emma Navarro, the reigning NCAA singles champion, also advanced today, defeating No. 6 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 7-6(5), 6-0. Navarro will play Alexa Glatch in the second round Wednesday.

The qualifying concluded today at the $25,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign, with five Americans advancing to the main draw: Billy Griffith(Cal), Lucas Horve(Illinois), Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State), Eliot Spizzirri(Texas) and Alfredo Perez(Florida). Wild cards went to Hunter Heck(Illinois), Ben Shelton(Florida), Olivier Stuart(Illinois) of France and Siphosothando Montsi(Illinois) of South Africa.

Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan is the No. 1 seed, with Sekou Bangoura seeded No. 2.

The round robin stage of the Les Petits As USA Playoffs are complete with eight boys and eight girls advancing to the the knockout stage of the competition in Boca Raton Florida. 

The boys who won their groups are: Darwin Blanch, Matisse Farzam, Max Exsted and Maximus Dussault. Those who finished in second place, who also advanced to the quarterfinals are: Calvin Baierl, Nicholas Patrick, Jacob Olar and Oliver Narbut.

The girls who won their groups are: Akasha Urhobo, Iva Jovic, Maya Iyengar and Emily Deming. The second-place finishers who advanced are: Riley Crowder, Elena Zhao, Sasha Kilgour and Claire An.

Two matches will be played on Wednesday, with the finalists earning main draw entry in September's Les Petits As competition. The third place winner will also get in the main draw, with the fourth place finisher getting a qualifying spot.

The draws and the order of play for Wednesday can be found here.

The first round of the ATP Lexington Challenger has a few more matches yet to play this evening, but top seed Jenson Brooksby is through to the second round with a 6-3, 6-3 win over University of Kentucky rising junior Liam Draxl, who received a wild card.  Wild cards Stefan Dostanic(USC) and Govind Nanda(UCLA) also lost their first round matches. No. 2 seed Alex Bolt withdrew, so No. 3 seed Maxime Cressy(UCLA) is the highest seed in the bottom half, although Cary champion Mitchell Krueger, who is unseeded this week, is also in the bottom half.

The last two Americans in Olympic singles lost Tuesday, with Marcos Giron(UCLA) going out to Kei Nishikori of Japan 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1 and Francis Tiafoe losing to No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-3, 6-4. 

That leaves doubles as the only option for a US medal, with Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) and Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) through to the quarterfinals in the men's doubles and No. 4 seeds Jessica Pegula and Bethanie Mattek-Sands into the women's doubles quarterfinals.

The mixed doubles draw is now out, with Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and defending champion Bethanie-Mattek Sands the No. 3 seeds. They will play their first match Wednesday.

The women's singles draw is here; the men's singles draw is here.

Monday, July 26, 2021

USTA National Hard Courts Wild Cards; Ruzic and Bielinskyi Win ITF B1 European Championships; Unseeded Champions at Tennis Europe 14s

The wild cards for the upcoming USTA National Championships have been named, with the lists below. All the listed players may not have formally accepted the wild cards, but they have been offered a place in the main draw.

Boys 18s
Ben Shelton
Zachary Svajda
Quinn Vandecasteele
Connor Krug
Tauheed Browning
Ellis Short
Yannik Rahman
Evan Wen

Girls 18s
Kylie Collins
Rachel Gailis
Qavia Lopez
Gabby Price
Ava Krug
Natalie Block

Boys 16s
Kaylan Bigun
Meecah Bigun
Mason Nguyen
Matthew Staton
Maxim Michaels

Girls 16s
Maya Iyengar
Alexia Harmon
Cleo Hutchinson

Boys 14s
Carel Ngounoue
Ilija Palavestra
James Weber
Jack Lindstrom
Vishal Potharaju

Girls 14s
Marcella Roversi
Ishika Khune

Boys 12s
Abel Jackson
Shaan Majeed
Ryan Roedl

Girls 12s
Harper Stone
Ariana Ikwueme
Gabby Slovak
Bella Arwood

The wild cards for the US Open granted for National results are as follows (with ITF age-eligibility a prerequisite):

18s singles champions:
US Open main draw wild card
US Open Junior Championships main draw

18s singles finalists:
US Open qualifying wild card
US Open Junior Championships main draw

18s doubles champions:
US Open main draw (must play with same partner) 
US Open Junior Championships main draw(must play with same partner)

18s third place:
US Open Junior Championships main draw

16s champions:
US Open Junior Championships main draw

18s 4th and 5th place:
US Open Junior Championships qualifying draw

Note that with the US Open Junior draws reduced to 48 main and 24 qualifying, there are just six main draw wild cards and four qualifying wild cards to be distributed this year. Two of the main draw wild cards are already spoken for, going to Clay Court 18s champions Amelia Honer and Ryan Colby.

14s champions Nikola Djosic(SUI) and Tereza Valentova(CZE)
photo credit: Richard van Loon

The European Championships for the Tennis Europe 14s and the ITF B1 concluded on Sunday, with two unseeded players taking the titles in the younger age division.

Nikola Djosic of Switzerland defeated No. 5 seed Jan Kumstat of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-3 in the boys final, with that middle set the only one he lost in seven matches. Kumstat did take the doubles title, with Maxim Mrva; the top seeds defeated No. 6 seeds Justin Engel and Max Schoenhaus of Germany 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Tereza Valentov of the Czech Republic won the girls title, beating top seed Alina Korneeva of Russia 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the final. Valentova also won the doubles title, with Marie Slamenik; the No. 3 seeds defeated top seeds Rositsa Dencheva and Yoana Konstantinova of Bulgaria  6-3, 7-6(3) in the final.

A slideshow of the final day of the 14s is available at Richard van Loon's Toptennis.photos.  

The full draws are available here.

The ITF JB1 Closed in Klosters Switzerland also produced an unexpected champion, with the girls winner ITF No. 173 Antonia Ruzic of Croatia. Ruzic, 18, had not played a junior event since March of 2020, but she beat both No. 3 seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic and 2020 French Open girls champion and top seed Elsa Jacquemot oF France to reach the final. There she encountered ITF No. 99 Alina Granwehr of Switzerland, who had beaten 2021 French Open girls champion and No. 4 seed Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals. Ruzic took the championship match by a 7-5, 2-0 retired score and moved to No. 84 in this week's ITF Junior rankings.

No. 3 seeds Mara Guth and Julia Middendorf of Germany won the girls doubles title, beating top seeds Noskova and Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 in the final.

The boys European B1 champion is No. 2 seed Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine, who defeated No. 8 seed Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria 7-5, 6-3 in the final. Bielinskyi, 17, moved into the Top 10 in the ITF junior rankings with the title.

The boys doubles title went to No. 6 seeds Adam Jurajda and Daniel Siniakov of the Czech Republic, who defeated unseeded Jerome Kym and Jan Sebesta of Switzerland 5-7, 6-3, 11-9 in the final.