Friday, October 23, 2020

Qualifier Charney, Unseeded Perego Win Atlanta Grade 4 Titles; Montgomery Claims $25K Doubles Title in France; Bellis, Lepchenko Reach Macon $80K Semis; Brady Advances in Czech Republic

Champions were crowned today at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, the first ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States in 2020. Seventeen-year-old qualifier Emma Charney won the girls singles title, defeating wild card Ashlyn Krueger 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 for her first ITF Junior Circuit title in her fourth tournament played. Charney, a blue chip from South Carolina, had lost to Krueger at last year's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Kentucky last fall. She won eight matches, including qualifying, and lost a set for the first time today.

Unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy won the boys singles title, when No. 3 seed Aidan Kim retired trailing 6-1, 2-0. It was the first ITF Junior Circuit singles title for the 17-year-old. 

As in singles, the doubles champions were unseeded. Julia Fliegner and Elisabeth Jones defeated the unseeded team of Krueger and Marcela Lopez 6-4, 7-5 in the girls final. Braden Shick and Maxwell Smith won the boys title with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over No. 7 seeds Stian Klaassan of the Netherlands and Lucas Brown.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman lost her quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 6-2, 6-4. Coleman and Madison Sieg, who are the top seeds in doubles, have advanced to the semifinals.

Robin Montgomery, playing in her second consecutive quarterfinal at a $25K in France, lost to No. 2 seed and current WTA No. 124 Oceane Dodin of France 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2. But the 16-year-old did pick up her first ITF World Tennis Tour doubles title, with 18-year-old Selena Janicijevic of France, when they received a walkover in the final from the British team of Harriet Dart and Sarah Beth Grey, the No. 2 seeds. Montgomery and Janicijevic defeated the No. 3 seeds in the quarterfinals and top seeds Robin Anderson and Jessika Ponchet of France, who had won the doubles title at last week's $25K, in the semifinals before benefitting from the walkover. 

At the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, wild card Cici Bellis and qualifier Varvara Lepchenko set up a semifinal meeting Saturday with contrasting quarterfinal victories. Bellis rolled past Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-3, winning the first nine games of the match with some outstanding tennis. She cooled off a bit in the second set, but has been impressive in her three wins so far, all in straight sets. After her first round win went more than three and a half hours, Lepchenko had another marathon victory today, with the qualifier defeating Sachia Vickery 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes.  Bellis and Lepchenko have split two previous meetings, with the last one, in November of 2019 at the Houston WTA 125, going to a third set tiebreaker. 

The other semifinal features 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the No. 6 seed, against qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. Kostyuk breezed past top seed Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1, while Frech defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-3.

Replays of the Kostyuk and Bellis wins, among other previous matches, are available here, with live streaming at the same site this weekend.

Jennifer Brady(UCLA) continued her impressive hard court play since the restart, advancing to her fourth WTA semifinal of the year today with a come-from-behind win over qualifier Veronika Kudermetova of Russia at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic.  Brady, who beat Kudermetova 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, will face No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who had a spectacularly improbable win over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain this evening. Sabalenka trailed 6-0, 4-0 before winning 12 straight games for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. 

Marcos Giron(UCLA) lost his first ever ATP quarterfinal match today at the European Open in Belgium, falling to No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia 6-3, 6-0. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Giron Earns First ATP Top 20 Win, Brady Advances in Ostrava; Montgomery Reaches $25K Quarterfinal; Finals Friday at Atlanta Grade 4; Coleman Claims Bulgaria Grade 1 Quarterfinal Berth

2014 NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron has achieved a handful of career firsts since the restart, including his first main draw grand slam win (US Open), his first French Open main draw win, and his first appearance in the ATP Top 100. Tonight at the ATP 250 European Open in Belgium, the 27-year-old former UCLA Bruin added two more accomplishments, earning his first ATP Top 20 victory and reaching his first ATP quarterfinal. Giron took advantage of the inconsistency and poor serving of top seed and ATP No. 14 David Goffin in Goffin's home country, posting a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Giron played nearly flawless tennis in the opening set, building a 5-1 lead before Goffin began to show some signs of life. 

The second set was more competitive, but it was Giron who was able to prevail on the important points, saving eight of ten break points. After Goffin took a 5-4 lead in the second set, Giron took charge, winning 12 of the next 15 to earn his place in the quarterfinals. Giron will play No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who was his previous best win prior to tonight, with Giron defeating the then 24th-ranked De Minaur in the second round at Indian Wells last year 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

For more on Giron's win, see this article from the ATP website.

Giron wasn't the only former UCLA star to pick up a win today in Europe; Jennifer Brady came from 2-5 down in the first set at the WTA Premier in the Czech Republic, defeating qualifier Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-5, 6-2. Brady will face another qualifier, Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 today.

Robin Montgomery has advanced to the quarterfinals of a $25,000 event in France for the second consecutive week. The 16-year-old left-hander once again drew Robin Anderson in the first round, and once again got the win over the only other American in the Reims draw. Today Montgomery defeated Olga Danilovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 to earn a quarterfinal meeting with No. 2 seed Oceane Dodin of France. 

The finals are set at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, with wild card Ashlyn Krueger facing qualifier Emma Charney in the girls final, and No. 3 seed Aidan Kim playing Giulio Perego of Italy in the boys final. Krueger defeated Gracie Epps 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while Charney took out Grace O'Donnell 6-2, 6-0. Charney, 17, has already won seven matches this week and has yet to drop a set.  The 15-year-old Kim defeated Ellis Short 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Perego, 17, downed last year's finalist Nishesh Basavareddy, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  

Krueger, 16, has also advanced to the girls doubles final with partner Marcela Lopez.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman advanced to the quarterfinals, beating Lucie Nguyen Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Coleman faces top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who took a late wild card into qualifying, on Friday. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Top Seed Mi Out in Quarterfinals at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Moves On at Macon $80K; Fritz Defeats Opelka in Belgium; Cooksey Wins Fourth State Singles Title

With the draws consisting of only 32 players, the semifinals of the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4 in Atlanta are Thursday, a day earlier than usual when the draws are usually twice as large. Boys top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay lost yesterday, and in today's quarterfinals, girls top seed Lan Mi of China exited, with unseeded Gracie Epps advancing when Mi retired at 4-6, 7-6(6). Epps, who will be 16 next week, will face wild card Ashlyn Krueger in the semifinals. Krueger, who won the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles last year, beat qualifier Salma Farhat 6-2, 6-0.

The other girls semifinal will feature qualifier Emma Charney against unseeded Grace O'Donnell. Charney defeated Aubrey Nisbet 6-4, 6-1, while O'Donnell advanced when Ava Hrastar retired trailing 5-1. 

No. 2 seed Nishesh Basavareddy, who reached the final last year in Atlanta, defeated wild card Jelani Sarr 6-1, 6-4 and will play unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy. Perego beat No. 4 seed Azuma Visaya 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Unseeded Ellis Short, who beat top seed Vallejo yesterday, picked up another win today, beating Canadian Jayden Templemen 6-4, 7-6(4). Short will take on No. 3 seed Aidan Kim, who defeated Ryan Colby 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman won her first round match, but she is the only American still alive in singles. No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, Jenna DeFalco and Isabelle Kouzmanov all lost in the first round, while boys No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara lost in the second round today. 

A couple of first round matches are still underway tonight at the $80,000 women's tournament in Macon Georgia, but at least eight US women will advance to Thursday's second round. Qualifiers Varvara Lepchenko and Katie Volynets both picked up wins today, with Lepchenko outlasting No. 2 seed Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(6) in over three and a half hours, and Volynets defeating Caroline Dolehide 7-6(3), 6-3 in just over two hours. No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn(Stanford), No. 5 seed Ann Li, Cici Bellis, Sachia Vickery and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) also posted first round wins today. 

Live streaming is up and running at usta.com, with Ken Thomas of RadioTennis.com on the call. 

Taylor Fritz ran his record against friend Reilly Opelka to 5-1 today in the first round of the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Fritz, the No. 7 seed, was outaced 19-10, but he never faced a break point in his 7-6(5), 6-1 victory. Fritz plays Lloyd Harris of South Africa next; qualifier Marcos Giron(UCLA) takes on top seed David Goffin of Belgium.

I normally am not able to follow high school tennis around the country, but because I wrote an article about William Cooksey's commitment to the University of Michigan this spring, and because I follow high school tennis here in my home state of Michigan, I did want to note that Cooksey won his fourth consecutive state singles title in Division IV today, a week after his Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett team won the Division IV title. It was touch and go throughout the summer and early fall as to whether the high school season would even be possible, but the MHSAA made some changes, decentralizing the team events and holding a separate individual tournament to keep the number of competitors at each site to a minimum. The girls, who play in the spring here in Michigan, were not as fortunate, as their season was, of course, canceled.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Top Seed Blanch Falls in First Round at Bulgaria Grade 1; Quarterfinals Set at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Beats Bouchard to Qualify for Macon $80K; ITA Fall Circuit Week Five Winners

The opening day of boys singles at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria saw top seed Dali Blanch exit in the first round, with fellow 17-year-old Jack Pinnington-Jones of Great Britain taking out the American by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 score. Blanch was coming off a title at the Grade 3 in Romania last week, but Pinnington-Jones has also picked up a title since the restart, claiming the Grade 2 in the Czech Republic last month. 

Blanch was the only seeded boy to fall in the opening round. The other American boy entered, No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, won his first round match over Szymon Kielan of Poland 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-0. 

The girls qualifying concluded today, with their first round matches scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Qavia Lopez lost to wild card entry Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 7-5, 6-3, leaving four American girls in the main draw. Australian Open girls champion Jimenez Kasintseva, currently No. 3 in the ITF Junior rankings, is the top seed in the event, after taking a late wild card into qualifying. The American girls in the draw are Jenna De Falco, Isabelle Kouzmanov, Madison Sieg, the  No. 4 seed, and Ellie Coleman, the No. 5 seed.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, Princeton recruit Ellis Short defeated top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5) to advance to the quarterfinals. The No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds--Nishesh Basavareddy, Aidan Kim and Azuma Visaya--are among the six Americans still in contention for the boys singles title. 

In the girls draw, the only seed remaining is No. 1 Lan Mi of China, with the other quarterfinalists all from the United States, including qualifiers Salma Farhat and Emma Charney. No. 2 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland lost yesterday to qualifier Ann Guerry, who was beaten by Georgia Tech freshman Ava Hrastar today. Aubrey Nisbet defeated No. 3 seed Gabriella Proudfoot of South Africa 6-2, 6-4 in today's second round action.

Two Americans advanced to the main draw of the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, with Varvara Lepchenko defeating Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-2, 6-3 and 18-year-old Katie Volynets prevailing when top qualifying seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada retired trailing 6-4, 3-0. Bouchard led 3-1 in the first set, but Volynets broke right back, then went on to break at love at 4-all and hold at love for the set, winning 13 straight points at one stage. After a lengthy medical time out after dropping serve for a second time in the second set, Bouchard retired. Volynets will play Caroline Dolehide in the first round Wednesday.

At the WTA Premier event in the Czech Republic, Coco Gauff defeated wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the second round. Gauff defeated Sabalenka in Lexington back in August 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

The ITA Tour: Fall Circuit by UTR in now at the halfway point after this past weekend's events. Participation seems to be dropping, with draws not filling in most places; some of the tournaments held round robins with their small fields, and if I wasn't able to determine who had won those, I did not include them in the winners below. The ITA has a recap of how the Top 5 UTRs fared in Week Five here.

ITF Fall Circuit Week Five Winners:

Bellevue: Men, Clement Chidekh; Women, Alina Zolotareva

Hilton Head: Men, Connor Thomson; Women, Allie Gretkowski

West Palm Beach: Men, Connor Laymon; Women, Anna Baranovski

Minneapolis: Women, Veronica Rodriguez

Lakeland: Men, Julian Cuartas; Women, Olivia Bryant

Walled Lake: Men, Addison Cazier

Peachtree Corners: Men, Jake Beasley; Women, Maggie Pate

Deerfield: Men, Alex Bancila; Women, Alexandra Benedetto

N Richland Hills: Men, Angel Diaz; Women, Lucia Natal Gomez

Grand Junction: Men, Billy McDermott; Women, Brooklyn Ross

Spring: Men, Gabriel Evans; Women, Rhiann Newborn

Monday, October 19, 2020

Qualifying Underway at Macon $80K; 2021 Dow Tennis Classic Moved to November; Gauff Among Ten Americans Competing in WTA, ATP Events in Europe

The first ITF World Tennis Tour matches in the United States in over seven months were played today, at the women's $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia. The first round of qualifying is complete, with the second and final round of qualifying set for Tuesday. Eight players will qualify, with main draw singles beginning on Wednesday. Misaki Doi of Japan is the top seed, with wild cards going to Emma Navarro(Virginia), Lulu Sun of Switzerland, Cici Bellis and Katerina Stewart.

In today's first round of qualifying, Americans Asia Muhammad, Varvara Lepchenko, Claire Liu, Katie Volynets and Kayla Day advanced to the final round. Day, who received a wild card into qualifying got a big win, beating Mayar Sherif(Pepperdine) of Egypt, currently 163 in the WTA rankings and the No. 4 seed in qualifying 7-6(3), 7-5. It's the 21-year-old Day's best win by ranking since she defeated No. 158 Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands back in April of 2019. 

Free live streaming of the Macon tournament is expected to begin Tuesday at usta.com.

One of the Pro Circuit tournaments I've attending regularly over the years is the Women's $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland Michigan. Driving there--it's about three hours from where I live in Kalamazoo--is almost always an adventure, with the weather at its worst here at the end of January. Yet I've kept going back, not only to watch great tennis and catch up with the juniors and former college players I covered earlier in their careers, but because the tournament is so well run and has so much support from the community, which really appreciates having world class athletes competing in their small city.

If I go to Midland in 2021, it's unlikely I'll encounter a blizzard, as the tournament announced today that it would be moving to November 1-7, some nine months after its usual date.  For more on the move, see this article from the Midland Daily News

The ATP and WTA action this week is again in Europe, with the women competing in a Premier level event in Ostrava Czech Republic, and the men competing in two 250s, in Antwerp Belgium and Cologne Germany. 

Coco Gauff, who did not initially enter the Ostrava tournament, but would have been in qualifying anyway, received a wild card into qualifying and made it into the main draw with wins over Jana Cepelova and Irina-Camelia Begu. She will face wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the first round Tuesday. Other Americans in the main draw are Jennifer Brady(UCLA), who plays Dayana Yastremska Tuesday, and Amanda Anisimova, who plays No. 7 seed Elise Mertens on Wednesday.

In Antwerp, No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz will play good friend Reilly Opelka in the opening round Wednesday. Frances Tiafoe won his first round match today, beating No. 6 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6(6). Tommy Paul lost his first round match to Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-2. A fifth American man, Marcos Giron(UCLA), will also compete in the main draw after qualifying today. Giron plays 17-year-old wild card Luca Nardi of Italy in a first round match Tuesday.

Just two Americans are in Cologne: Steve Johnson(USC) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee). Johnson got his first win over Marin Cilic in six attempts today in the first round, with a 7-6(3), 6-4 decision over the No. 9 seed. For more from Johnson on his win today, see this article from the ATP. Sandgren will play qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the first round Tuesday.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Blanch, Banerjee and Loudon Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles; Genovese, Simkiss Champions at ITA Cup; Alcaraz Claims Third Challenger Title to Join Elite Group

Last week all the titles won by American juniors were in doubles; this week's titles were all in singles, with Dali Blanch, Samir Banerjee and Sage Loudon collecting winner's trophies on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Seventeen-year-olds Blanch and Banerjee won Grade 3 events, with  Blanch getting the win in Romania, while Banerjee won his title in Turkey.

Blanch, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Ilya Snitari of Moldova 7-5, 6-2 in the final to earn his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title in nearly two years. 

Banerjee, who won the doubles title at a Grade 5 last week in Istanbul but didn't play singles in that tournament, picked up a title for the third straight week after winning a Grade 4 in Macedonia two weeks ago. Banerjee, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Stefan Popovich of Serbia 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Banerjee beat doubles partner Ekansh Kumar in the semifinals by the same score. 

At the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, blue chip freshman Sage Loudon won the girls singles title, a week after she had captured the doubles title in the same location. Loudon, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Leah Kuruvilla, also of the United States, 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

A Grade 1 in Bulgaria has drawn strong fields this week, including Blanch, who will be one of the top seeds. I'm not sure if this tournament is providing Level 1 points or whether it is capped at Level 3 points; some language I've read recently suggests that the ITF may have revised its stance on Grade 3 points being the maximum. In any case, US boys in the acceptances are Blanch, Bruno Kuzuhara and Benjamin Kittay (note: Kittay is in the $10K UTR Vero Beach draw, so presumably is a late withdrawal from this event). The US girls accepted to the main draw are Madison Sieg, Ellie Coleman, Jenna De Falco and Isabelle Kouzmanov. Qualifying, which began today with boys matches, continues Monday. US girls in the qualifying draw are Clervie Ngounoue and Qavia Lopez.  The big surprise is at the top of the qualifying draw, with Australian Open champion and former World No. 1 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra taking a wild card. She is in the same quarter as Lopez.

The ITA Cup, the fall competition that usually encompasses the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College divisions was confined to NAIA only this year, due to all the Covid-19 related cancellations of regional competitions and other qualifying events. Held at Rome Georgia, the competition featured singles and doubles, with the latter a rare occurrence these days due to safety concerns. Women's top seed Maria Genovese of Georgia Gwinnett won the singles title, beating unseeded Lailaa Bashir of Xavier of Louisiana 6-2, 7-6(0) in the final. Unseeded Luke Simkiss of Keiser is the men's singles champion after a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Valentino Caratini of Georgia Gwinnett. 

In women's doubles, Bashir and her partner Angela Charles-Alfred defended their title, with the top seeds beating Genovese and her partner Eva Siska, the No. 2 seeds, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. No. 3 seeds Christopher Papa and Ivan Smith of San Diego Christian won the men's doubles title, beating unseeded Stefano Di Aloy and Martin Carrizo of Indian Wesleyan 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. 

Draws from this weekend's competition are available here, under the Events tab.

Seventeen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain won his second consecutive ATP Challenger title today in his home country and his third since the restart. By earning three Challenger titles before age 17, he joins an impressive list, joining Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Richard Gasquet and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The unseeded Alcaraz, who defeated top seed Pedro Martinez of Spain 7-6(6), 6-3 in today's final, is the second-youngest on that list, older than only Gasquet, who was 16 years and ten months old when he claimed his third in 2003. Alcaraz, who is 20-3 on the Challenger level since the restart, has improved his ATP ranking from 310 to 136 during that time. For more on Alcaraz's title, see this article from the ATP website.