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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eubanks, Di Lorenzo Advance to Pro Circuit Finals for Second Straight Week; Graham Aims for Title in Canada; Goetz and Nefve Win Doubles Championship at Berlin Grade 1

Georgia Tech's Christopher Eubanks and Ohio State's Francesca Di Lorenzo will play their second singles finals in the past eight days on Sunday after picking up victories today at $25,000 events in Winston-Salem North Carolina and Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Eubanks is a rising senior who won the singles title at last week's $25,000 Winston-Salem Futures in a third set tiebreaker against Georgia Tech alum and volunteer assistant coach Kevin King. Today the pair of unseeded Yellow Jackets, who won the doubles title on Friday, met in the semifinals with Eubanks again coming out the winner by virtue of a third set tiebreaker, beating King 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(2).  Eubanks will play unseeded Tommy Paul in Sunday's final, after Paul took out top seed Austin Krajicek 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Paul, who just turned 20, and Eubanks, who just turned 21, met in the first round of qualifying at the BB&T Open in Atlanta last year, with Eubanks winning 6-2, 7-5.


Di Lorenzo, 19, dropped the Sumter South Carolina final last week to Ashley Lahey, an unseeded wild card, who is on the opposite end of the pro experience spectrum of Di Lorenzo's opponent on Sunday, top seed Nicole Gibbs.  No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to that meeting with a third consecutive win over No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa, this time by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  Gibbs, 24, took a wild card to play in Baton Rouge after injuries and slump had left her winless on the WTA tour since reaching the third round at the Australian Open.  Gibbs trailed Vicky Duval 3-1 and 4-2 in the final set of their semifinal match today, but fought back to secure a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory and set up her first meeting with Di Lorenzo.

The doubles title in Baton Rouge went to Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani of Brazil and Georgia's Ellen Perez of Australia, who beat Di Lorenzo and Virginia alum Julia Elbaba 6-3, 6-4.

A third all-American final will take place on Sunday in British Columbia, where unseeded Alexa Graham, a rising sophomore at North Carolina, will face No. 2 seed Tori Kinard at the $15,000 event in Canada.  Graham, who turns 19 next month, defeated Virginia rising sophomore Rosie Johanson of Canada 7-6(3), 6-4 in the semifinals, while Kinard, 29, outlasted recent Penn graduate Kana Daniel 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1).  It's Graham's third Pro Circuit final, with one win and one loss in championship matches at $10,000 events back in 2015.

This week's Grade 1 in Berlin Germany was disappointing for the 11 Americans in the singles draws, with none of them advancing past the second round.  But the US did manage a title, with the unseeded team of Ryan Goetz and Axel Nefve beating top seeds Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France and Naoki Tajima of Japan 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-5.

The boys singles final will feature No. 2 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany, who won last week's title in Offenbach, and unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania.  The girls finals will also feature a German, No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier, against No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine.

At the WTA's Mallorca Open, CiCi Bellis's opportunity to play in her first WTA final was denied by Julia Goerges of Germany, who rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Goerges will face No. 2 seed  Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in
the final. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Duo Commits to Princeton; Americans Dominate USTA Pro Circuit $25K Semifinals; Bellis Reaches Mallorca Semifinals; K-College Conference Winning Streak Ends Due to NCAA Violations

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network looks at Kalamazoo area blue chip Bill Duo's choice of Princeton for 2018.  Duo, a rising senior at Portage Central High School, is the latest in a long line of Kalamazoo area juniors who have been coached by Tom Walker. Unfortunately for Kalamazoo tennis, Walker moved to a new position at Court One in Lansing several years ago, so Duo has been making that 75-minute commute three or four times a week.  I spoke to both of them at the West Michigan qualifier earlier this month at Western Michigan University about the recruiting process, how they began working together and why they've continued, even with the extra burden of that distance.

All four semifinalists at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures are Americans, with last week's winner and finalist Christopher Eubanks and Kevin King meeting again a round earlier after victories today. Eubanks beat qualifier Riley Smith 7-6(2), 6-4 and King eliminated qualifier Henry Craig 6-2, 6-4.  The other semifinal will feature Tommy Paul, who beat Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-3 and top seed Austin Krajicek, who defeated No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Eubanks and King lost in last week's doubles final, but this week they came away with the winners' trophies when the No. 4 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Dominik Koepfer of Germany and Luis Martinez of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match.  It's the first pro doubles title for Eubanks, while King now can claim 11 Futures and Challenger doubles titles.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Baton Rouge are Americans, with No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa the only international.  Simmonds, who beat qualifier Quinn Gleason 6-4, 6-1, will play No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo, who defeated wild card Ashley Kratzer 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kratzer served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Di Lorenzo was able to break hold and break to force a third set in the nearly three-hour contest. Di Lorenzo beat Simmonds last week in three sets en route to the Sumter final and has another win over Simmonds in Macon last year.

The other semifinal will feature top seed Nicole Gibbs against Vicky Duval.  Gibbs ended the run of last week's champion Ashley Lahey, beating the 17-year-old 7-6(0), 6-1, while Duval, playing in just her third tournament since last year's Wimbledon, defeated Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-1. Gibbs and Duval have split their two previous meetings, with Duval winning in Wimbledon qualifying back in 2014 and Gibbs winning in Vancouver qualifying way back in 2012, when Gibbs was still at Stanford.

The results for Americans at this week's $15,000 Futures in Rochester New York couldn't have been any worse.  It began with No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian giving a walkover to qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada. NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski[5] was beaten by No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-3, 6-1, Cameron Silverman went out to No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-2, 6-2 and qualifier Alex Knight retired trailing top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 4-0.   The doubles title also eluded the US team, with Kwiatkowski and Virginia teammate Luca Corinteli falling to Torpegaard and Ohio State teammate Huge Di Feo 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in British Columbia, North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham has advanced to the semifinals after beating top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-4, 6-0. She will play unseeded Canadian Rosie Johanson, who is a rising sophomore at Virginia.

CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA semifinal (not counting the 125 level WTA tournament she won last November in Honolulu) at the Mallorca Open, an international level tournament.  Bellis, playing in her first WTA tournament on grass, defeated Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals and will face unseeded Julia Goerges of Germany in Saturday's semifinals.  For more details on Bellis' win today and comments from the 18-year-old, see this article from the WTA website.

Kalamazoo College's men's tennis team had a streak of conference championships that extended to a remarkable 79 years, but that's over now after the MIAA vacated previous titles and banned the school from participating in the 2018 conference championships due to NCAA violations.  The violations involve the school's process of rewarding of financial aid and are not specific to any particular sport, but because they have the most noteworthy accomplishment ending with this decision, men's tennis will feel the sanctions more keenly than some of the other programs.  For more details on the violations and sanctions, see this Kalamazoo Gazette article, which also provides the first public mention that athletic director Kristen Smith will be leaving her position.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Qualifiers Advance to Quarterfinals in Three USTA Pro Circuit Events; Potapova Out of Wimbledon Juniors; Hodge Out at Georgia

All three USTA Pro Circuit events this week will still have their No. 1 seeds in action after today's matches, but the No. 2 seeds have all been eliminated, and qualifiers have picked up some big wins.

At the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina, only two seeds remain: No. 1 seed Austin Krajicek and No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand, who will play Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Last week's champion Christopher Eubanks, the rising Georgia Tech senior, continued his run with a  7-6(3), 7-5 win over 2012 NCAA finalist Eric Quigley and will meet USC rising sophomore Riley Smith, son of USC coach Peter Smith. Smith, a qualifier who beat No. 4 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada in the first round, took out North Carolina graduate Ronnie Schneider 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Futures quarterfinal.  Tommy Paul beat No. 5 seed Philip Bester of Canada 6-2, 6-2 and will play Wil Spencer, who advanced via a walkover from qualifier Brandon Holt.  The other quarterfinal will feature last week's finalist Kevin King(Georgia Tech) and qualifier Henry Craig.  Craig beat 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-6(3), 6-3 today, with Shane having beaten No. 2 seed Alex Sarkissian, the 2014 NCAA finalist, in two tiebreakers.  It's the 22-year-old Denver graduate's second career Futures quarterfinal.

University of Michigan rising senior Alex Knight earned his first ATP point yesterday at the $15,000 Rochester Futures with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, but the 20-year-old qualifier didn't stop there. Today Knight defeated Ohio State recruit John McNally 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the rising Ohio State senior.

Knight is one of two qualifiers into the quarterfinals in Rochester, with former Indiana standout Samuel Monette of Canada joining him by virtue of a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Dennis Nevolo.  Monette will face No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian.

NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, seeded fifth, needed over three hours to get by Alex Rybakov, last week's champion in Buffalo, 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 6-2 in yesterday's first round. Today the recent Virginia graduate defeated qualifier Sasha Gozun, a recent South Florida graduate, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan.

Former Elon star Cameron Silverman advanced to his second straight Futures quarterfinal with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Adam El Mihdawy.  Silverman meets No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile next.

The only qualifier still remaining at the $25,000 women's tournament in Baton Rouge is former Notre Dame star Quinn Gleason.  The 22-year-old Gleason beat No. 2 seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the first round yesterday and today she took out fellow qualifier Raveena Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(8).  Gleason will play No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa next.

Top seed Nicole Gibbs faces last week's Sumter champion Ashley Lahey in one of the top half quarterfinals. In the other, Julia Elbaba plays Vicky Duval.  In the other bottom half quarterfinal, wild card Ashley Kratzer will face last week's Sumter finalist, No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo.

Yesterday 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova of Russia received a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon and the 2016 Wimbledon girls champion also withdrew from this year's junior championships.  She joins Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu of Canada as prominent junior girls who have withdrawn since the initial acceptance list was posted.  By not defending her title, Potapova will relinquish her No. 1 ranking.

The Macon Telegraph is reporting that Georgia men's assistant Bo Hodge, who was suspended during an ongoing police investigation into missing drugs, will not return to the team.  The article says the University has posted the assistant coach's position as of this morning. The article makes no mention of the status of women's associate head coach Drake Bernstein, who was also suspended last month for reasons yet to be publicly acknowledged by the school.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shapovalov and Norrie Awarded Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards; Bellis Reaches WTA Mallorca Quarterfinals; Gooch, Morton Win WCs for Citi Open Qualifying: USTA Hires New Director of Performance


2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov 
Wimbledon announced its first wild cards today, with both 2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov of Canada and TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain selected to compete in the main draw. Ranked in the ATP Top 200, Shapovalov is already in qualifying, which is the usual wild card given to the previous year's junior champion.

The men's main draw wild cards:
Tommy Haas(GER)
Denis Shapovalov(CAN)
Cameron Norrie(GBR)
Brydan Klein(GBR)
James Ward(GBR)

The other three wild cards will be announced later this week, with qualifying set to begin next week.

The women's main draw wild cards:
Katie Boulter(GBR)
Naomi Broady(GBR)
Heather Watson(GBR)
Laura Robson(GBR)
Zarina Diyas(KAZ)

Again, three more wild cards are likely to be distributed after this week's tournament results.

The men's qualifying wild cards include two former Texas Longhorns, Ed Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.

The men's qualifying wild cards:
Liam Broady(GBR)
Ed Corrie(GBR)
Lloyd Glasspool(GBR)
Jay Clarke(GBR)
Marcus Willis(GBR)

Two more will be announced and the final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

The women's qualifying wild cards:
Freya Christie(GBR)
Harriet Dart(GBR)
Katy Dunne(GBR)
Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Katie Swan(GBR)
Gabriella Taylor(GBR)

Final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

Potapova received her wild card as the previous year's junior champion. Swan, now 18, received a main draw wild card last year and a qualifying wild card in 2015.  Click on the link in the first sentence to see the doubles wild cards.

Today at the WTA event in Mallorca Spain, CiCi Bellis reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Mona Barthel, the 18-year-old's third quarterfinal appearance in 2017.  She will play unseeded Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic for her first WTA semifinal appearance.

The Citi Open, a combined ATP/WTA event scheduled for next month in Washington DC, held a wild card tournament this week, with former Elon standout Damon Gooch of South Africa and former Virginia star Skyler Morton earning qualifying wild cards.  Both were top seeds, with Gooch defeating 17-year-old Andrew Fenty, the No. 2 seed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and Morton beating No. 2 seed and current Virginia rising senior Cassie Mercer 7-6(6), 6-2 in the finals.  For more on the finals, see this Washington Post article.  For the complete results, see the TennisLink site. 

The USTA today announced the hiring of Brent Salazar as Director of Performance.  Salazar, who played college tennis at New Mexico, has been an assistant strength coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and last year was head of strength and conditioning for the Minnesota Vikings. Salazar will be based at the USTA's new National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.  The complete release can be found here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Again This Week; Another ITF Grade 1 in Germany; Bellis, Kozlov Post WTA, ATP Wins on Grass

This week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are very much like last week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, with only one of the three this week moving to a different state.

Winston-Salem North Carolina is the site of a second consecutive $25,000 Futures, with last week's champion, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, earning another win in today's first round, beating wild card Jonathan Ho, a Wake Forest alum, 6-4, 6-2.  The other three wild cards, all American juniors, also went out in the opening round, with Gianni Ross falling to top seed Austin Krajicek, Trent Bryde losing to Jose Statham[8] of New Zealand and Alexandre Rotsaert beaten by Tommy Paul, all in straight sets.


A notable first round winner today is Deiton Baughman, who spent the past collegiate season as a volunteer assistant at USC.  Once ranked as high as 341, the 21-year-old from California started his professional competition for 2017 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Harrison Adams(Texas A&M).  He and Ho also won their first round doubles matches, beating top seeds Krajicek and Jackson Withrow 7-6(6), 5-7, 10-7.

The other Futures this week moved an hour east from last week's $15,000 tournament in Buffalo, to Rochester New York.  Top seed is Ohio State senior Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, with wild cards going to John Speicher, Jenson Brooksby, Roy Smith and Josh Silverstein, none of whom played in today's opening round action.  John McNally, who is no longer eligible for ITF junior events but can still compete this year in Kalamazoo, received entry via his year-end Top 20 ITF junior ranking and won his first round match today.

The women moved from Sumter South Carolina to Baton Rouge Louisiana for their second straight $25,000 tournament, with Sumter champion Ashley Lahey receiving a special exemption into the main draw.  The surprise top seed is Nicole Gibbs, whose only two wins this year were at the Australian Open.  Gibbs, who had been out for all of April with an injury and decided not to play the grass season, has not played a $25,000 level event since March of 2014.  In addition to Gibbs, wild cards were given to Ryann Foster, a senior at LSU, and Ashley Kratzer.

The second consecutive Grade 1 in Germany, this one in Berlin, will have a different girls champion, with last week's winner, Victoria Flores, falling in her first round match today.  Flores, the No. 12 seed, was beaten by German wild card Anica Stabel 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.  Katya Townsend and Lea Ma also lost their first round matches today, while Alexa Noel, Elli Mandlik and Hurricane Tyra Black advanced to the second round.  Xiyu Wang of China, the top seed, was upset in her first round match by Melis Yasar of Sweden.

Five US boys--Boris Kozlov, Axel Nefve, Ryan Goetz, Tristan Boyer and Christian Alshon--were in the main draw and none advanced to the second round.  Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France is the top boys seed, with last week's champion Rudolf Molleker of Germany the No. 2 seed.

Stefan Kozlov has five wins in ATP main draws in his career and all five have come on grass.  Today the 19-year-old qualifier, who reached the final of the 2014 Wimbledon Junior Championships, earned his first ATP win at the 500 level, by defeating Steve Johnson 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 at London's Queens Club tournament.  Next for Kozlov will be Marin Cilic, who beat John Isner 7-5, 6-3.

Eighteen-year-old CiCi Bellis picked up her first WTA win on grass today at the International-level tournament in Mallorca. Bellis defeated No. 4 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 7-5 and will face Germany's Mona Barthel in the second round.

At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit grass tournament in Ilkley Great Britain, 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide and former USC star Maria Sanchez won three qualifying matches and will begin main draw play on Wednesday, with Dolehide taking on Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium and Sanchez facing Xinyun Han of China.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Balance High School Championships Move to Ojai; HBO Real Sports Features Frances Tiafoe; ITA Summer Circuit Begins Friday


Now in its fourth year, the New Balance High School Championships will be held at a new venue, the Weil Academy in Ojai California.  After three years in Boston, the world headquarters of the athletic shoe company, the tournament for those who play high school tennis will now be close to the high school tennis hotbed of Southern California. One of the pioneers of using UTR ratings for entry into junior tournaments, the High School Championships have settled into a prominent place on the junior competitive calendar, with this year's tournament scheduled for July 24-27.  A compass draw ensures four matches for all 64 players selected in each boys and girls draw, and there is also a mixed doubles competition being added this year.

Registration, which closes on June 30, 2017, is available through the TennisLink site.  For more on the tournament, see this preview from the UTR blog.

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 20, at 10:00 PM EDT, 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe will be featured in a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Mary Carillo will be exploring the 19-year-old's rise from a young spectator of lessons at the Junior Tennis Champions Center to his current place in the ATP Top 100.

I had an opportunity to view a preview of the piece, and it emphasizes just how unlikely that rise has been, with his father's maintenance job at the JTCC leading Frances (and twin brother Franklin) into tennis. JTCC's Frank Salazar describes Frances' fascination with the sport from the beginning, and Carillo details how this affinity for tennis never wavered. The life his parents led in Sierra Leone and the reasons they immigrated to the United States is also explored. HBO provided this YouTube trailer in advance of tomorrow night's show.


The first series of tournaments of the ITA Summer Circuit begin on Friday, with events continuing throughout July and culminating in the National finals August 12-15 at TCU.  These tournaments are an opportunity for junior and college players to compete in three- or four-day events on college campuses, with several of this year's tournaments part of a pilot program to incorporate Universal Tennis Ratings. For a list of tournaments around the country, see this page from the ITA.