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Monday, August 20, 2018

Qualifier Heck Beats No. 2 Seed, Broadus Ousts No. 6 Seed in First Round Action Monday at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Forty Americans in US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2018--
College Park MD--

Only five seeds were eliminated Monday in the first round of the Prince George's County International Hard Court ITF Grade 1, but three of them were Top 8 seeds.  Qualifier Hunter Heck pulled off the biggest upset, beating No. 2 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina 7-5, 6-2, calling it "definitely" the best win of his career.

Heck was thrilled with his level of play throughout his contest with the 10th ranked player in the ITF World Junior rankings.

"I was doing everything well, everything was going my way," said the 16-year-old from Minnesota, who is ranked 424. "Shots were not going his way, I got a couple lucky bounces, lucky net cords, everything went my way today."

Winning two matches in qualifying on the Junior Tennis Champion Center courts over the weekend gave Heck an advantage.

"I think it helped, getting a couple of matches under my belt, getting the feel of the court, the facility," Heck said. "He didn't; it was his first match, and I'm just really happy."

Heck believes that Diaz Acosta, a left-hander, was not as comfortable on the hard courts as on the red clay.

"He was definitely a clay courter, the spin on his balls, the way he played, everything pointed to clay," Heck said.

Heck said he "definitely was feeling the nerves" when it came time to serve out the first set, after getting a break to go up 6-5.

"But I served well the whole match, so I'm proud of the way I served."

Savannah Broadus, who defeated No. 6 seed Ana Makatsaria of Georgia 6-3, 6-4, was also confident in her ability to serve out the match.

At 2-2 in the second set, Broadus got the break, then salvaged two more holds in close, tough games to give herself a chance to serve out the match.

"I always like serving out matches," said the 15-year-old from Texas, who reached the round of 16 in the USTA National 18s earlier this month and advanced to the semifinals of a $15,000 ITF Pro Circuit tournament in July. "I'm very comfortable with my serve and I love serving. And I know I can set up my forehand with my serve. So I just felt calm, and knew I could close it out."

Broadus started with an ace, the first of three first serves she made in the last game, and she held at love to finish it.

Broadus said her success this summer helped her in Monday's first round against a Top 35 opponent.

"It gave me confidence for today," said Broadus, ranked 118. "My past wins have made me more comfortable with my game style. Now when I go out on court I know how I want to play and I just feel better about myself when I walk out on court."

The third Top Eight seed to exit on Monday was No. 7 seed Ray Ho of Taiwan, who lost to lucky loser Ilya Tiraspolsky of Canada 6-4, 6-3.

No. 13 seed Kamilla Bartone of Latvia, who didn't enter the tournament and was forced to go through qualifying as an onsite alternate, lost to Kylie Collins 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and No. 10 seed Andrew Fenty also lost in three sets, falling to Cezar Cretu of Romania 6-2, 0-6, 6-3.

Top seeds Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Alexa Noel got through in straight sets, but did not have easy first round matches.  Mejia, the defending champion, trailed most of the first set to 14-year-old qualifier Jack Anthrop, and Anthrop served for the first set at 5-4, but Mejia broke back, then dominated the tiebreaker to set the tone for the second set in his 7-6(1), 6-0 victory.

Noel couldn't serve out her match with Martina Biagianti of Italy at 5-2 in the second set, but she did hang on for a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

No. 3 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine struggled with qualifier Elvina Kalieva, and saw a 4-1 third set lead nearly evaporate, but Bilokin saved a pair of break points to hold for 5-3, then broke the 15-year-old Kalieva to secure her 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

No. 2 seed Lea Ma had one of the easiest wins of the seeded girls, taking out Celestine Avomo Ella of Gabon 6-2, 6-0.

Doubles are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with Argentina's Diaz Acosta and Juan Cerundolo the top boys seeds and Bilokin and Noel the top girls seeds.

Tuesday's order of play and complete draws can be found at the tournament website.

Qualifying begins for the US Open Tuesday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with 23 of the 40 Americans in the men's and women's qualifying draws on the schedule.  Below are the Americans in the qualifying draws, with an asterisk denoting those playing first round matches Tuesday.

Kristie Ahn*
Sophie Chang*
Allie Kiick*
Nicole Gibbs[10]*
Coco Gauff
Varvara Lepchenko[13]*
Katerina Stewart*
Gail Brodsky*
Danielle Lao
Lauren Davis
Jessica Pegula*
Kayla Day*
Caty McNally*
Jamie Loeb*
Vicky Duval*
Ann Li*
Madison Brengle[3]
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Grace Min
Ashley Kratzer
Irina Falconi
Francesca Di Lorenzo*

Ernesto Escobedo
Brandon Nakashima
Bjorn Fratangelo*
Evan King*
Martin Redlicki
Reilly Opelka
Christian Harrison*
JC Aragone*
Tom Fawcett*
Chris Eubanks
Collin Altamirano
Mitchell Krueger
Thai Kwiatkowski
Donald Young*
Dennis Novikov*
Sebastian Korda*
Kevin King*
Ulises Blanch

*Tuesday first round match

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Defending Champion Nicolas Mejia, Alexa Noel Top Seeds at ITF Grade 1 in College Park; Bangoura Wins Boston Futures Title; Olmos and Krawczyk Claim Vancouver $100K Doubles Title

2017 finalist Axel Geller and champion Nicolas Mejia

Colombia's Nicolas Mejia, who swept the titles last year the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court tournament in College Park Maryland, is back to defend his titles. Ranked No. 4 in the world junior rankings and the No. 1 seed for the tournament, Mejia will face qualifier Jack Anthrop in Monday's first round singles action.  No. 2 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Brazil, who is No. 10 in the world junior rankings, also faces an American qualifier in Hunter Heck.  The top seeded American is No. 6 Drew Baird, who will play Daniil Glinka of Estonia in the last series of matches Monday afternoon.

Three American girls are among the top eight seeds, including the top two seeds: Alexa Noel and Lea Ma.  Noel, No. 5 in the world junior rankings, will face Martina Biagianti of Italy to open play on Monday, with Ma to follow her on court at the Junior Tennis Champions Center against Celestine Avomo Ella of Gabon.  The other American seeded in the Top 8, No. 5 Katie Volynets, plays Federica Rossi of Italy in Monday's first round.

This year the tournament's second site will not be the University of Maryland, as in the past, but the Greenbelt Community Center, where four courts will be used for 20 matches.

For Monday's order of play, completed qualifying draws and singles main draws, see the tournament's website.  I will be providing onsite coverage beginning tomorrow.

At the $25,000 Futures in Boston, No. 3 seed Sekou Bangoura won his third Futures singles title of the year, beating top seed Antoine Hoang of France 7-5, 6-2.  The former Florida star, now 26 years old, has also won two Futures doubles titles this year. His win today is his first title in the United States since 2016.

The $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Vancouver is still not complete, with Great Britain's Heather Watson facing qualifier Misaki Doi of Japan in tonight's final, but the doubles final was last night, with Giuliana Olmos(USC) of Mexico and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) winning the title. Olmos and Kawczyk, the No. 2 seeds, defeated unseeded Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine and Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-2, 7-5 in the championship match.  Last year the pair won five titles together, four at the $15-25,000 levels, one a $60K; this is their biggest title as a team, although Krawczyk did win a WTA doubles title last month with former Alabama star Alexa Guarachi.

Unseeded Dan Evans of Great Britain won the men's singles title, beating No. 4 seed Jason Kubler of Australia 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) in just under three hours.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

American Juniors Win Titles on Four Continents This Week; NCAA Doubles Champions Redlicki and Zhu Claim Boston Futures Title

The ITF Junior Circuit featured 15 tournaments on its schedule this week, with the Grade B2 Oceania Closed providing the most points.  Restricted to those from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Island, that tournament didn't have any Americans (Top seed Rinky Hijikata and No. 3 seed Amber Marshall of Australia won the singles titles), but they were represented in many of the other tournaments, and picked up titles on four continents.

Sasha Wood won her fourth ITF junior doubles title of the summer, with her third different partner at the ITF Grade 3 in Zimbabwe.  The 16-year-old from Massachusetts, who reached the singles semifinals, partnered with Weronika Baszak of Poland this week. The top seeds defeated unseeded Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand and Delien Kleinhans of South Africa 6-0, 6-4 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Monterrey Mexico, Jenna Defalco won an all-US girls singles final.  The 15-year-old, seeded No. 10, defeated No. 5 seed Elizabeth Stevens 6-2, 6-2 in the final for her second singles title, both coming this summer.  Stevens, partnering with Russian Anfisa Danilchenko, won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds Rut Galindo of Guatemala and Lizette Reding of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Unseeded Benjamin Kittay lost in the boys singles finals, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to No. 16 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil.  Jackson Ross, playing with Guillermo Castaneda of Mexico and seeded No. 6, fell in the boys doubles final to top seeds Alan Magadan and Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 6-4, 4-6, 10-8.

The ITF Grade 5 in Romania produced an American champion in 16-year-old Andrew Puscas, who won his first ITF junior singles title with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Dragos Popeanga of Romania. The unseeded Puscas has only played in Europe junior events, with no results in the US.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Peru, Jennifer Kida won the doubles title, with partner Pilar Traiber of Argentina. The No. 2 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Fiona Pepper and Daniela Ramos of Peru 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  Ryan Johnson, seeded No. 3 with partner Carlos Aguiar of Chile, lost 6-1, 6-2  in the boys doubles final to top seeds Oscar Mendoza Govea of Ecuador and Esteban Penagos of Colombia.

The final round of qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, which I'll be covering beginning Monday, is scheduled for Sunday morning at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.  Draws, Sunday's order of play and a photo gallery are available at the tournament website.

At the only USTA Pro Circuit event this week, the $25,000 Futures in Boston, American Sekou Bangoura(Florida) has advanced to the final. The No. 3 seed defeated No. 2 seed Andrew Harris(Oklahoma) of Australia 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in today's semifinal, and will face top seed Antoine Hoang of France for the title. Hoang beat No. 7 seed Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) of Colombia 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.

The doubles title went to 2018 NCAA champions Evan Zhu and Martin Redlicki. The UCLA Bruins defeated Paul Oosterbaan(Georgia) and Felix Corwin(Minnesota) 7-5, 6-7(13), 10-1 in the final between two unseeded teams. Redlicki has won three other Futures doubles titles with former teammates Karue Sell and Mackenzie McDonald; Zhu has one other Futures title, with Finland's Harri Heliovaara. Zhu beat partner Redlicki in the second round singles earlier in the week and also took out No. 4 seed and 2015 NCAA singles champion Ryan Shane.

Friday, August 17, 2018

My Recap of Brooksby's Kalamazoo Title, Videos; ITF International Hard Court Grade 1 Wild Cards; Osuigwe Advances in WTA Connecticut Open Qualifying

My account of Jenson Brooksby's Kalamazoo 18s championship is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Short videos of the two finalists are available below.  A replay of my streaming of the complete championship match can be found here.

I will be covering, for the fifth year, the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships next week at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland.

Those receiving main draw wild cards are:

Aidan Mayo
Adam Neff
Muhammad Dossani
Alex Kiefer
Finn Garner
Trinity Grear
Saud Alhaqbani
Keshav Chopra

Mackenzie Clark
Robin Montgomery
Katrina Scott
Daniella Benabraham
Reese Brantmeier
Ayana Akli
Hailey Baptiste
Aleksandra Karamyshev

Qualifying begins on Saturday, with main draw action starting at two sites on Monday. The order of play for Saturday is available here.

At the WTA Premier Connecticut Open qualifying, USTA National 18s Champion Whitney Osuigwe won her first match, beating fellow US wild card Asia Muhammad 6-3, 6-3.  (Read the Tennis Recruiting Network's recap of Osuigwe's two titles in San Diego here). She will face Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in Saturday's second round of qualifying.  Sonya Kenin is the only other American to win a first round qualifying match today.

The Tennis Australia women's wild card into the US Open is being decided by a eight-player tournament at the Connecticut Open this weekend.  Ellen Perez, the former Georgia star, won not only her first round qualifying match today, but her first match in the wild card playoff, giving her two matches again on Saturday.  Vanderbilt graduate Astra Sharma is also through to the semifinals. For today's results, see the Tennis Australia tweet below.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My Recap of Damm's Historic Kalamazoo 16s Title, Videos; US Open Junior Qualifying Moving From Flushing Meadows; Huge Changes Coming for 2019 Davis Cup

The Tennis Recruiting Network has been providing coverage of last week's USTA National Championships the past three days, and my account of Martin Damm's title in the Kalamazoo 16s is available now. Although it didn't occur to me on Sunday, a friend asked me Monday if Damm was the youngest player to win the Kalamazoo 16s title, and a couple of hours of research later, I was able to answer that question in the affirmative.  Damm, who will turn 15 on September 30th, takes the record from Aaron Krickstein, who turned 15 during the tournament when he won it in 1982. Although the tournament is 76 years old, the record goes back only until 1963, when the age division was changed from 15 to 16.

Below are short videos from the final.  The complete match can be viewed here.

The USTA announced today that the US Open Junior Qualifying will be held at the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx. In the 13 years I've been covering the US Open Junior Championships, the qualifying has been held on the practice courts in Corona Park just outside the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  This has obvious advantages logistically for the staff and umpires, not to mention the college coaches that flock to the tournament. The ability to watch qualifying and to attend a pro match on the same day--Peter Smith, Manny Diaz and David Roditi would be just a few of those likely to do so--was a huge positive of the arrangement that was in place so many years.  Below is the release from the USTA:

FLUSHING, N.Y., Aug. 16, 2018 – The USTA today announced that the US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament, during which 64 of the world’s top 18-and-under boys and girls tennis players will compete for a chance to play in the US Open Junior Championships, will be held at The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx August 31-September 1.

The main draw of the US Open Junior Championships runs September 2-9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., and will feature tomorrow’s stars from around the world. Four US Open junior singles champions – Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport and Stefan Edberg – have gone on to win the US Open singles title, as did junior finalists Roger Federer, Boris Becker, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Martina Hingis.

The US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament features 32-player singles draws for boys and girls, with eight players on each side advancing to the main draw. The 2018 Boys’ and Girls’ Qualifying fields feature mostly players ranked in the Top 100 of the world junior rankings.

“The US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament features some of the best junior tennis players in the world, and the Cary Leeds Center is a world-class tennis facility,” said US Open Junior Tournament Director Lew Brewer. “Not only does it make a great host for the Qualifying Tournament, but it allows us to offer all of our main-draw juniors more practice time than ever before.”

In June 2015, the $26.5 million Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning opened its doors as the flagship home of New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) in the heart of the Bronx. In April 2017, the Cary Leeds Center completed its final phase of construction with the opening of the Pershing Square Stadium, the Victor Kiam Stadium, and the Dalia and Larry Leeds Viewing Bridge. The Cary Leeds Center provides more than 6,000 hours of free tennis court time annually to the community’s under-resourced youth.

“NYJTL believes that life skills gained through tennis and education are the catalyst for long-term achievement and sees the opportunity to work with the USTA in hosting the US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament as a way to introduce tennis and inspire the next generation,” said George Guimaraes, NYJTL CEO & President. 

The ITF's General Meeting today in Orlando was highlighted with a vote on a huge change in Davis Cup, beginning in 2019.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the week-long team competition, slated for November, is quite similar to what the ITF has used for its ITF World Junior Tennis and Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competitions for many years now. Having attended Davis Cup ties several times, I have mixed feelings about such a drastic change, but I do think it has the potential to raise the competition's profile. 

Steve Tignor at tennis.com has delineated the pros and cons of the new format, and after laying out what's gained and what's lost, it appears he would have voted no, if he had a vote. 

For more from the ITF on the calendar and format, see this article on today's vote, and these frequently asked questions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

US Open Junior Championships Wild Cards; Boston Hosts Only USTA Pro Circuit Event This Week

The majority of the wild cards have been determined for the US Open Junior Championships, which begin on Sunday September 2 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  Below are the current lists, subject to change with the withdrawal deadline not until next Tuesday. The criteria for several of the wild cards, which is set out before the year begins, is explained in the parentheses. I'm a little surprised that ITF World Junior Tennis champions Victor Lilov, Bruno Kuzuhara and Evan Wen did not get qualifying wild cards, while all the US girls on the third place WJT team did.

Boys Main Draw:
Jenson Brooksby (Easter Bowl, Kalamazoo 18s champion)
Martin Damm (Kalamazoo 16s champion)
Stefan Dostanic (third place Kalamazoo 18s)
Neel Rajesh (Clay Court 18s champion)
Toby Kodat
Govind Nanda
French junior (Reciprocal)

Girls Main Draw:
Emma Navarro (Clay Court 18s champion)
Fiona Crawley (San Diego 16s champion)
Hailey Baptiste
Elysia Bolton
Salma Ewing
Abigail Forbes
Vanessa Ong

Boys Qualifying:
Eric Hahn (Kalamazoo 18s 5th place)
Zane Khan
Eliot Spizzirri
William Woodall
Hikaru Shiraishi(Japan)

Girls Qualifying:
Robin Montgomery
Katrina Scott
Reese Brantmeier
Alexandra Yepifanova
Savannah Broadus
Kisa Yoshioka(Japan)

The only USTA Pro Circuit event this week is a $25,000 Men's Futures tournament in Boston.

Seven Americans are through to Thursday's second round: Evan Zhu, wild card Martin Redlicki (UCLA's 2018 NCAA doubles champions, who play each other for a place in the quarterfinals), Strong Kirchheimer[8](Northwestern), Felix Corwin(Minnesota), Sekou Bangoura[3](Florida), Alexios Halebian and Vasil Kirkov.

The USTA announced today that Chris Eubanks had moved into the US Open men's qualifying on his own ranking, so his qualifying wild card will go to Thai Kwiatkowski.  That gives the 2017 NCAA team champions Virginia three players in USO qualifying: Kwiatkowski, Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone.

Aragone is currently competing at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Vancouver, and is the only American to advance to the third round. He defeated No. 6 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 7-6(4), 7-6(3) today.