Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oklahoma Men, North Carolina Women Top This Week's Rankings; Hauger Lone American Left at Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl; Eubanks, Amritraj Interviews; BNP Paribas Challenge

The Oklahoma Sooners are back at No. 1
The new team rankings were released today by the ITA, with the Oklahoma men returning to the top spot and the North Carolina women retaining their No. 1 ranking.

Oklahoma benefited from previous No. 1 Southern Cal's Saturday loss to Tulsa, returning to the No. 1 ranking they relinquished with their own surprising loss to Texas A&M on February 20th. The Sooners have another big non-conference road match on Friday against No. 8 Ohio State. Should Oklahoma win that match, it will snap the Buckeyes' NCAA record (for all sports) 200-match home winning streak.

The men's Top 10 this week:
1. Oklahoma
2. Duke
3. Illinois
4. Georgia
5. Baylor
6. Southern Cal
7. Texas
8. Ohio State
9. Mississippi
10. Texas A&M

If you would like more detail on how the men's rankings work on a week to week basis, see this post from the College Tennis Today blog.

Like Oklahoma, North Carolina took over the top spot after winning the Team Indoor, but the Tar Heels have kept their No. 1 ranking, going 4-0 since then.  Georgia dropped from No. 2 to 6 despite going 3-0 since the Team Indoor finals loss to North Carolina, but they have a chance to pick up a big road win this Friday at No. 9 Alabama. Oklahoma State vaulted into No. 8, the program's highest ranking ever.

The women's Top 10 this week:
1. North Carolina
2. Florida
3. Southern Cal
4. Baylor
5. Virginia
6. Georgia
7. Cal
8. Oklahoma State
9. Alabama
10. Stanford

There were no individual rankings released this week. For the complete team rankings, see the ITA website.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, 19 American juniors were in the draws of the ITF Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, but after two rounds of singles, just one, No. 10 seed Olivia Hauger, remains.  Last week's Grade 2 champion Nathan Ponwith, seeded 15th this week, lost to Maxime Mora of France, with No. 8 seed Sameer Kumar and No. 5 seed Emil Reinberg also unable to win a match, having had byes in the first round.  Two girls seeds--No. 16 Ndindi Mwaruka and No. 11 Gabby Pollner also went out in their opening matches.

The news is better in the doubles draw, where three boys teams have reached the quarterfinals, including Sam Riffice and Vasil Kirkov, who beat No. 2 seeds Bogdan Bobrov of Russia and Felipe Cunha Silva of Portugal in the second round.

The ITF Junior website is not being updated, but results can be found at the COSAT website, with links to pdf draws at the bottom of this page.

Two interviews of interest were posted today.  Jonathan Kelley of the On the Rise blog met USTA National Collegiate Coach Stephen Amritraj last month in Chicago at the Team Indoor, with Amritraj agreeing to an email interview, which can be found here.

Lisa Stone of the Parenting Aces blog spoke to five-star recruit Christopher Eubanks, a freshman who plays No. 2 at Georgia Tech, about adjusting to college tennis in this interview for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The BNP Paribas Challenge at Indian Wells, which earns the winner a qualifying wild card, began yesterday, with Chase Buchanan, the top seed in the men's draw, winning two matches Monday without dropping a game. Melanie Oudin, the top seed in the women's draw, gave a walkover to her opponent as did Ellie Halbauer(12), Jacqueline Cako(13), Alexa Glatch(11), Laura Gulbe(16) and Jessica Failla(19). The tournament has always been plagued by no shows and walkovers, which I guess is always going to happen when there are no points and no money to be gained be competing in it, unless of course, you win it.

The draws, which haven't been updated with Tuesday's results yet, are available here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bellis Wins $25,000 Pro Circuit Tournament in Rancho Santa Fe; Grade 1 in Uruguay Underway; Tennis Recruiting Reveals Stars for Spring; Free Admission to Family Circle Cup for Juniors

Postponed from Sunday due to rain, the final of the $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe women's tournament was played today, with No. 6 seed CiCi Bellis beating No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez 6-2, 6-0 to win her third Pro Circuit title at that prize money level.

Bellis, who turns 16 next month, is now 3-0 in Pro Circuit finals, and it occurred to me that she rarely loses a final if she gets there.  I looked at her record in pro and junior events in 2014, and my instinct was correct.  She reached eight finals last year, at ITF Junior Grade 1s or above and the two $25,000 Pro Circuit events, and she won seven of them, with the only loss to Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the Grade 1 in Santa Croce, Italy.

She is now approaching the WTA Top 200, which is around the cutoff for the women's qualifying at Roland Garros, and with just two points to defend between now and September, she is likely to make at least the qualifying draw of the other two slams this year. (A wild card into the US Open main draw seems likely given her performance there last year).  Bellis is blogging for the ITF junior website, with the focal point of part 2 on her love of team competition.

Sanchez also had a good week, and she too is moving up in the rankings to that magical place that assures entry into slam qualifying.

Nineteen US juniors are in the main draw of this week's Grade 1 in Uruguay, ten boys and nine girls.

The boys are Sam Riffice, Trent Bryde, Emil Reinberg(5) Nathan Ponwith(15), Vasil Kirkov, Sameer Kumar(8), Sami Kirberg, Anudeep Kodali, qualifier Jakub Wojcik and Liam Caruana.  The top seed in the draw is Bogdan Bobrov of Russia.

The US girls are: Ndindi Mwaruka(16), Andrea Kevakian, qualifier Luciana Rabines, Abigail Desiatnikov, Olivia Hauger(10), Gabby Pollner(11), Anna Dollar, qualifier Jaclyn Switkes and Ally Miller-Krasilnikov.  The top seed in the draw is Great Britain's Maia Lumsden.

Anyone who is desperate for a sign of spring can find one today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, when they announced their most recent star prospects rankings. While other rankings are updated there weekly, the star ratings change only twice a year and determine who is considered a blue chip, 5-star, etc.

I received an email today from the WTA Family Circle Cup announcing free admission to all juniors 15 and under and a tennis lesson to go along with it during the tournament April 4-12. This is a great initiative, so if you can, take the opportunity to show a young tennis player, or one who wants to be, the top level of the sport.  The complete release:

Tournament partnering with SunTrust and MW Tennis to offer free junior tickets 
to the Family Circle Cup along with a free lesson

Social Media: The @FamilyCircleCup is partnering w/ @SunTrust to offer kids 15 & under free admission all week to the tournament, April 4-12.

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. – The Family Circle Cup tennis tournament has made its 2015 mission to grow the game of tennis, starting with its junior fans. In partnership with SunTrust, kids 15 and under will receive free admission all week to the Family Circle Cup, April 4 – 12, 2015, in Charleston, SC on Daniel Island. In addition every junior that takes advantage of the free ticket will be provided one free lesson from MWTennis during the year at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

“It’s important for our tournament to create a program to inspire juniors to get out and play the game of tennis, and to expand that relationship beyond the nine days of the tournament,” said Bob Moran, Family Circle Cup Tournament Director. “We want the Family Circle Cup and the Family Circle Tennis Center to become a vehicle for kids to fall in love with the sport all yearlong.  SunTrust continues to be a fantastic partner to the Family Circle Cup and the Charleston community.  This gesture shows how committed they are to making a difference.”

“At SunTrust, we are proud of our partnership with the Family Circle Cup for eight years,” said Mark Lattanzio, SunTrust’s Charleston Region President. “This youth outreach initiative to expand tennis participation in the Lowcountry is important as a way to help encourage the health and well-being of the future generations of our community.  Not only will the junior players have a chance to enjoy and learn about tennis at the tournament, but the financial support to them is impactful.” 

Free junior tickets can be redeemed via or at the Box Office. To sign-up for a free lesson with MWTennis, visit the academy’s booth on-site during the tournament.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saving Time in Sports; It May Be March, but Indoor Tennis Continues; Cal Women Down Stanford in Palo Alto; Johns Hopkins Threepeats at Team Indoor Championships

In today's New York Times, Christopher Clarey looks into the current push to speed up games in various sports.  The decision to play no-ad in Division I tennis isn't mentioned, but the recently introduced Fast4 format for tennis is, along with other initiatives to keep the broadcast window predictable and younger fans engaged.

Rain in San Diego has delayed the singles final of the women's $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe. No. 6 seed CiCi Bellis and No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez have been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday.  The doubles final was completed Saturday night, with top seeds Samantha Crawford and Asia Muhammad beating No. 3 seeds Ipek Soylu of Turkey and Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-0, 6-3.

The completion of the Division I Team Indoor Championships usually signals the start of outdoor tennis for the southern half of the country, but this long, cold winner has seen the indoor season extended almost everywhere.

The Virginia and Wake Forest men went to Texas for non conference matches today, but if they were hoping for nice weather, they didn't get it, nor did either pick up a win.

For the second time in two weeks, Virginia, now No. 11, lost to No. 5 Baylor indoors 5-2.  Virginia played without top-ranked Thai Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard. Baylor won the doubles point and got singles wins from Julian Lenz at 1, Vince Schneider at 4, Mate Zsiga at 5 and Felipe Rios at 6.  Mitchell Frank and Collin Altamirano collected Virginia's two victories.  For complete results, see the Baylor release.

No. 12 Wake Forest traveled to No. 6 Texas, and in a match also played indoors, the Longhorns prevailed 4-3.  Noah Rubin did not play for the Demon Deacons.  Texas senior Soren Hess-Olesen is establishing himself as a favorite for the NCAA championships in May, keeping his dual match record perfect with a 6-3 6-2 win over Romain Bogaerts at line 1.

At Texas A&M, where there is no indoor facility, the conference match between the Aggies and Tennessee was suspended and will be resumed Monday morning. Texas A&M won the doubles point and most of the singles matches were early in the second set when play was called for the day.

No. 10 Ole Miss defeated No. 16 Vanderbilt 4-0 indoors in the three-court facility in Oxford. Nik Scholtz, currently ranked an inaccurate 60, defeated No. 9 Gonzales Austin 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 to clinch for the Rebels.

No. 51 Tulsa kept the momentum from their shock upset of No. 1 Southern Cal on Saturday going, beating No. 53 Pepperdine 4-3.

See College Tennis Today for more on today's men's action.

Of the several Top 20 matches today on the women's side, one was a Top 10 contest, with No. 8 Cal defeating No. 7 Stanford 4-3 in Palo Alto.  The Bears, still playing without NCAA finalist Lynn Chi in the singles lineup, won the doubles point and got wins from Zsofi Susanyi at 4, Klara Fabikova at 2 and in the clincher, Cecilia Estlander at 6 for the victory.

No. 13 Vanderbilt defeated No. 15 Ole Miss 6-1 in Nashville, and No. 20 Miami blanked No. 14 Clemson 7-0  in Coral Gables.  In Columbus, No. 6 Baylor got a road win, beating No. 19 Ohio State 4-0.

No. 2 Georgia defeated unranked Texas A&M 5-2 indoors in Athens. The Aggies have yet to post a ranked win, but are likely to make their way back up in the rankings now that they've begun their conference schedule.

No. 3 Florida extended its home winning streak to 139 with a 4-1 win over No. 9 Alabama Friday night, then reached 140 with a 5-0 win over Auburn today.

At the Division III Women's Team Indoor Championships hosted by DePauw, top seed Johns Hopkins captured its third consecutive title, defeating No. 2 seed Carnegie Mellon 5-2.  Jody Law clinched all three victories this weekend for Johns Hopkins.  For the ITA recap of the final, click here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Part Two of My Conversation with Michael Joyce; Tulsa Shocks Top-ranked Southern Cal; Ponwith Takes Grade 2 Title in Argentina; Bellis and Sanchez Reach $25K Final

Part Two of my conversation with coach Michael Joyce is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Joyce discusses his view of the USTA's role in player development, explains how his father taught him to think like a coach, and how he grew to appreciate David Foster Wallace's famous magazine article about him.

A huge upset in college tennis today, with the top-ranked Southern California men falling to No. 51 Tulsa 4-3 in Los Angeles. The Trojans won the doubles point, but playing without Eric Johnson and Nick Crystal, they could only muster two singles wins. Jonny Wang, playing at line 3, won over Tulsa's Juan Matias Gonzalez, but at No. 1  Yannick Hanfmann lost to Or Ram-Harel and at No. 2 Roberto Quiroz lost to Alejandro Espejo, both in straight sets. Rob Bellamy and Connor Farren, playing No. 5 and No. 6 for USC, both lost in third set tiebreakers to Carlos Bautista and Mitchell Pritchard respectively, which secured the Tulsa upset. Max de Vroome won his match at No. 4 to give USC its third point after the match was clinched.   College Tennis Today has the singles scores posted. (there is some question about who was playing whom, but CTT has clarified that in his recap).

At the ITF Grade 2 in Argentina, No. 6 seed Nathan Ponwith added a singles title to his doubles championship, defeating top seed Ulises Blanch 6-3, 6-4 in an all-American final.  Ponwith, whose other two ITF junior titles were at the Grade 4 level, didn't lose a set in the tournament.  Girls top seed Julieta Estable of Argentina took the girls singles title, beating No. 4 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada 6-3, 6-1.

Next week is a big one on the ITF Junior Circuit, with three Grade 1s-- in Russia, Paraguay and Thailand. The US juniors have all opted for the Paraguay Grade 1.

At the Grade 4 in El Salvador, Canadians swept the singles titles. Fourteen-year-old Nicaise Muamba, the No. 14 seed, beat No. 4 seed Salvador Mijares of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the boys final. The girls title went to 14-year-old Brindtha Ramasamy, who beat No. 2 seed Alexia Coutino Castillo of Mexico 6-2, 6-3.

Ally Miller-Krasilnikov won the doubles title with Camila Ramazzini of Guatemala. The top seeds beat No. 4 seeds Ramasamy and Tiffany Lagarde 6-4, 7-5 in the final. Muamba won the doubles title with compatriot Dan Martin.

In the Norway Grade 4, qualifier Roscoe Bellamy suffered his first loss in eight matches in the final, falling to unseeded Maxence Broville of France 7-6(5), 6-2.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California, two Americans will meet for the title on Sunday.  Unseeded 15-year-old CiCi Bellis defeated 18-year-old Ipek Soylu of Turkey 6-2, 6-4 to advanced to her third $25,000 level final, but first this year.  No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez, ten years older than Bellis, reached a $50,000 final and a $25,000 last year, but hasn't won a singles title since 2012, her first full year on tour after graduating from Southern Cal. Today she defeated Sanaz Marand 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the final.  Bellis has won the title in each of her two previous appearances in a final.

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Conversation with Michael Joyce; All-American Final in Argentina Grade 2; Bellis into $25K Semis; Women's D-III Team Indoor Championships Underway

It's been a brutal winter here in Michigan, but I am so glad I stuck with my plan to go to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, despite yet another snowstorm. I had an opportunity to talk at length with Sachia Vickery, Sara Daavettila, Lauren Embree, Caroline Dolehide, but my longest conversation was with Michael Joyce, the former Kalamazoo 18s champion, who coached Maria Sharapova and is now working with Jessica Pegula.   I know very little about coaching at the ATP/WTA Tour level, so I had a lot of questions, which Joyce invariably answered candidly and in detail. In Part 1 of my interview with Joyce for the Tennis Recruiting Network, we talked about how he began working with Sharapova, what he felt when they ended their collaboration, and his decision to continue coaching, this time with Pegula. He also makes interesting points about the role a coach and lessons have in developing a good player.  Part 2 will appear Saturday, with Joyce addressing the USTA, its place in American tennis, his father's influence and the famous Esquire magazine article about him by David Foster Wallace.

Ryan Harrison scored another big upset last night in Acapulco, beating Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 4-6, 7-6(0), 7-6(4), despite never breaking the No. 6 seed's serve.  Ravi Ubha talked with Harrison recently for this revealing article about his struggles the past several years and his optimism now after reuniting with Grant Doyle as his coach.

At the ITF Grade 2 in Argentina, it will be top seed Ulises Blanch facing No. 5 seed Nathan Ponwith in the all-American boys final.  Blanch defeated No. 8 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia 7-6(2), 7-5 in today's semifinals, and Ponwith beat No. 2 seed Manuel Pena Lopez of Argentina 6-2, 7-5.  Ponwith has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

In the girls final, Orange Bowl 16s champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who won the Grade 2 in Bolivia earlier this month, will play Julieta Estable of Argentina.  The top-seeded Estable came back to defeat No. 11 seed Sofia Sewing 1-6, 7-5, 7-5, while No. 4 seed Andreescu beat No. 2 seed Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan 2-6, 6-1, 7-5.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Oslo, qualifier Roscoe Bellamy defeated Sebastian Mermersky 7-6(12), 7-5 to reach the final, where he'll play fellow 15-year-old Maxwell Broville of France, who is unseeded.

CiCi Bellis has reached the semifinals of the $25,000 women's tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, where she'll play 18-year-old Ipek Soylu of Turkey. Bellis, seeded sixth, advanced when top seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain retired trailing 5-3 in the first set.  Soylu defeated No. 3 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 7-5, 4-6, 6-2. Soylu is one of those players who seems to perform better in professional events than in the juniors. She has a 299 WTA ranking, but won only one match in the two junior slams she played last year. This year she has already posted 13 wins (including qualifying) in the five $25,000 tournaments she's played.

Maria Sanchez and Sanaz Marand will meet in the other semifinal, after both won tough quarterfinals today.  Sanchez, seeded fourth, outlasted Mayo Hibi of Japan 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-0, while Marand, a finalist last week in Surprise, beat Bernarda Pera 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(5).

At the men's Futures in Sunrise, Jean-Yves Aubone is the sole American to reach the semifinals. The unseeded Aubone defeated Dennis Uspensky 6-4, 6-3 and will play No. 7 seed Thales Turini of Brazil Saturday.  It was an all-Brazil doubles final today, with Rafael Matos and Joao Menezes defeating Turini and Bruno Sant'anna 7-5, 2-6, 10-5.

The Division III Women's Team Indoor Championships hosted by Depauw are underway, with Johns Hopkins the top seed and two-time defending champion. No. 2 seed Carnegie Mellon, No. 3 seed Washington-St. Louis and No. 5 seed University of Chicago have reached the semifinals after today's first round.   The Tennis Recruiting Network's preview is available here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes From All Over

It's time to turn the focus back to juniors today, with a grab bag of items of note.

Eighteen-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia, a lucky loser in the ATP tournament in Dubai, already has claimed a win over Rafael Nadal, beating him last fall. Today Coric cruised past No. 3 seed Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3 to reach the semifinals, where he'll get his shot at a third member of the Big 4, No. 2 seed Roger Federer. The ATP's account of the match is here.

Yesterday qualifier Ryan Harrison got his first win over a Top 10 player, beating defending champion and No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria at the ATP event in Acapulco 7-5, 4-6, 6-0. Harrison was 0-22 against Top 10 players prior to that win.  For more, see this ATP article.

Tiafoe and Kozlov are practice partners for the US Davis Cup team
The United States Davis Cup team for the tie with Great Britain was named on Tuesday. John Isner, the Bryan twins and Donald Young will take on Andy Murray, Jamie Murray, James Ward and Dominic Inglot in Glasgow, Scotland next weekend.  Stefan Kozlov and Francis Tiafoe will serve as the team's practice partners.  More on the tie and the team can be found at

In ITF junior play, three Americans have reached the semifinals at the Grade 2 in Argentina, Ulises Blanch, Nathan Ponwith and Sofia Sewing.
Blanch, the top seed, will play No. 8 seed Alex Di Minaur of Australia and Ponwith, the No. 6 seed will play No. 2 seed Manuel Pena Lopez of Argentina.  Ponwith and Liam Caruana will meet Blanch and Pena Lopez in the doubles final. Sewing, a qualifier again this week, but seeded No. 11, will play top seed Julieta Estable of Argentina in the semifinals.

At the Grade 4 in El Salvador, Chase Colton(15) and Ally Miller Krasilnikov(1) have reached the semifinals, with Miller also through to the doubles final.

An American finalist is assured at the Grade 4 in Norway, with qualifier Roscoe Bellamy, who turned 15 last month, facing No. 7 seed Sebastian Mermersky, who will be 16 in April in the semifinals. In just the second ITF main draw Bellamy has played, he defeated the No. 2 seed in the opening round and the No. 8 seed in today's quarterfinals. Mermersky is the only seeded player remaining in the boys draw.

In the Pro Circuit event in Sunrise, Florida, 18-year-old wild card Dennis Uspensky reached his first career Futures quarterfinal, defeating Wil Spencer(Georgia) 6-2, 6-4.  Uspensky had lost his second round match in his previous three Futures, but he has been winning a lot of qualifying matches, and today he broke through to the final eight.  He will play former Florida State star Jean-Yves Aubone on Friday.  No. 3 seed Connor Smith is the only other American in the quarterfinals. He will play former Clemson star Yannick Madden of Germany, the No. 6 seed.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament Rancho Santa Fe, Maria Sanchez, Bernarda Pera and last week's finalist Sanaz Marand all advanced to the quarterfinals.  The match between CiCi Bellis and Usue Arconada was still in progress, but I will update later and tweet the result when I have it. (UPDATE: Bellis won 6-4, 6-4).

Draws for the BNP Paribas Open pre-qualifying tournament in Indian Wells have been released, with Chase Buchanan and Melanie Oudin the top seeds. This tournament, which starts Monday, gives the winner a spot in the qualifying draw.

The BNP Paribas Showdown, an exhibition in New York next month featuring Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov, will also showcase the talents of two young Americans. Ten-year-old Cori Gauff and 11-year-old Gabby Price have been invited to be a part of the festivities.  Last year Francis Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka were the featured juniors. For more on Gauff and Price, see this release.

Rosemary Campanella, a high school freshman in Maine, is seeking signatures for her petition to correct an inequity in playing status for those student-athletes who do not have a tennis team of their own to compete on.  You can read her explanation here and sign the petition to support her, with a meeting to address the issue coming up March 5th.