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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Potapova, Watanuki Win ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup Titles; Bellis Beats Andreescu in $50K Final; Giron, Koepfer Claim Futures Titles; Ymers Capture Stockholm Doubles Crown

No. 2 seed Yosuke Watanuki of Japan and No. 1 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia won singles titles Sunday at the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan. Watanuki avenged his recent US Open boys semifinal loss to top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, coming back to post a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. The 18-year-old, who has won two Futures titles this year, both in Japan, adds a second Grade A title to his junior resume, having won the Grade A in Brazil this spring.

Potapova defeated No. 4 seed and defending champion Mai Hontama of Japan 6-2, 6-4 in the final, and with her title, the 15-year-old Wimbledon girls champion should reclaim her No. 1 spot in the ITF junior world rankings from Kayla Day when the new rankings come out on Monday.

Kecmanovic did take home a winner's trophy in doubles, with he and Ergi Kirkin of Turkey, the No. 2 seeds, beating top seeds Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 10-2.  Potapova fell short of sweeping the titles in Osaka. The top-seeded team of Potapova and Emily Appleton of Great Britain lost to No. 4 seeds Yang Lee of Taiwan and Xiyu Wang of China 6-4, 7-5.

For more on the Osaka Mayor's Cup, see the ITF junior website.

Seventeen-year-old CiCi Bellis won her first event as a professional today and her first at the $50,000 level, defeating 16-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final at Saguenay, Canada.  Bellis, who has said improving her serve is a goal, has to be happy with her numbers in that part of the game today.  She had seven aces, just two double faults and got 72.5% of her first serves in play.  Andreescu, who had such a grueling semifinal win over Jennifer Brady on Saturday, managed to earn just one break point, which she converted early in the first set, but she couldn't pressure Bellis, who had a walkover on Saturday, after that.

Bellis will move up to around 102 in the WTA rankings with the title, meaning she is likely to receive direct entry into the main draw of the 2017 Australian Open.

At the $25,000 Futures in Berkeley, California, former UCLA Bruin Marcos Giron won his first Futures title since March of 2014, two months before he claimed the NCAA singles title.  Giron, who had surgery on both hips this winter, defeated wild card Andre Goransson of Sweden 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4, the third straight match he had come back from dropping the first set.  Goransson, a senior at Cal, served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, but never got to a match point in that game or in the tiebreaker, although he was up 5-4 in tiebreaker before Giron won the last three points. At 4-4 in the third set, Giron saved a break point and then broke Goransson, who had never won more than one match in a Futures tournament until this week.

At the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen, Texas, unseeded Dominik Koepfer, the former Tulane star, won his first Futures singles title, defeating No. 6 seed Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4.  Since completing his eligibility in May, the 22-year-old German had reached three Futures quarterfinals and one semifinal, all in the US, before this week.

The doubles title in Harlingen went to top seeds Evan King and Bambridge, who defeated juniors Evan Zhu and John McNally 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

Unseeded Sam Groth of Australia won the $50,000+H ATP Challenger in Las Vegas, defeating No. 4 seed Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 in today's final.  Top seeds Matt Reid of Australia and Brian Baker won the doubles title, beating unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo and Denis Kudla 6-1, 7-5.

At the ATP 250 in Stockholm, Sweden, Jack Sock fell to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the final 7-5, 6-1. Brothers Mikael and Elias Ymer, 18 and 20 years old continued their dream run at their home ATP event, winning the doubles title with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 victory over Michael Venus of New Zealand and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bellis and Andreescu Meet in Saguenay $50K All-Teen Final; Goransson and Giron Face Off for Berkeley Futures Title; Remaining DI ITA Regionals Heating Up

Seventeen-year-old CiCi Bellis and 16-year-old Bianca Andreescu have reached the final of the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Saguenay, Canada by starkly different methods.

Top seed Bellis didn't have to play a point in advancing, with No. 4 seed Sachia Vickery giving her a walkover into the final.  Andreescu, facing No. 2 seed Jennifer Brady, went two hours and 34 minutes before coming out with a 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(5) decision. With Andreescu serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, Brady saved four match points in a marathon game before finally breaking back.  Brady saved another match point at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, but Andreescu finally converted it for the victory.

Andreescu wasn't as fortunate in the doubles final, although she and fellow Canadian junior Charlotte Robillard-Millette put up a serious fight against top seeds Elena Bogdan and Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania before falling 6-4, 6-7(4), 10-6.

The success of current college players in pro events continued today at the $25,000 Berkeley Futures, with Cal senior Andre Goransson of Sweden blowing past No. 6 seed Lucas Gomez of Mexico 6-1, 6-0 in just over an hour to reach the final.  Wild card Goransson, who won the ITA Northwest Regional on Monday, has yet to lose a set in his four wins, beating three seeds, with all three losing a set to Goransson 6-0.

On the other extreme is Goransson's opponent in the final, 2014 NCAA champion Marcos Giron, who has now won two consecutive matches after dropping the first set 6-1.  Giron's 1-6, 6-3, 7-5  semifinal win over top seed and former ATP Top 100 player Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium is Giron's best win since returning from hip surgery this fall, although just a year ago, prior to his two hip surgeries, he defeated Australian John Millman, ranked 74 at the time, in the second round of a Challenger in Australia.

Like Andreescu, Goransson fell short in the doubles final, with top seeds Connor Smith and Rhyne Williams defeating alternates Goransson and partner Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-3.

At the $25,000 Harlingen Futures, former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany has reached his first Futures final, beating Texas-Arlington sophomore  Guanarteme Nuez Delgado of Spain 6-3, 6-0 in today's semifinals.  Koepfer will face No. 6 seed Luke Bambridge of Great Britain for the title, after Bambridge defeated No. 8 seed Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe 6-3, 6-4.

The $50,0000+Hospitality Las Vegas ATP Challenger final will have No. 4 seed Santiago Giraldo of Colombia playing Sam Groth of Australia. Giraldo needed nearly three hours to top No. 8 seed Marco Trungelliti of Italy 7-5, 6-7(2), 7-6(5), while Groth eliminated Sekou Bangoura 7-6(5), 6-4.  The Sunday doubles final will have top seeds Matt Reid of Australia and Brian Baker facing unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo and Denis Kudla.

Speaking of doubles finals, the Stockholm ATP event has gotten a big local boost by the run of the young Ymer brothers, wild cards who have made it to the doubles final.  Twenty-year-old Elias and 18-year-old Mikael will play Michael Venus of New Zealand and Mate Pavic of Croatia in the final Sunday.  Jack Sock and Juan Martin del Potro have advanced to the singles final, with Sock reaching the final there for the second straight year.

Eight of the ITA Division I Regionals were played last week, with 12 more this week. All are scheduled to be completed by Tuesday and I will post all singles final results then.  Bobby Knight is following this weekend's action closely, so visit College Tennis Today for daily updates.

Friday, October 21, 2016

My Article on Bolton's Commitment to UCLA; Top Seeds Potapova, Kecmanovic Reach Osaka Semifinals; Andreescu Joins Three Americans in $50K Semis in Canada

While I was in Tulsa for the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, I had an opportunity to talk with quarterfinalist Elysia Bolton about her recent commitment to UCLA in this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Bolton, a 16-year-old blue chip, is not entering college until September of 2018, but said getting that decision made helps free her to concentrate on her tennis in the next two years.

The singles semifinals and doubles finals of the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup will be played overnight in Japan, with top girls seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia and top boys seed Miomir Kecmanovic still on course for a title in both singles and doubles.   No. 2 seed Xiyu Wang of China, who had beaten Potapova this summer, is out however, losing to No. 5 seed Ayumi Miyamoto of Japan. Miyamoto plays defending champion Mai Hontama of Japan, the No. 4 seed, while Potapova faces No. 13 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan.  Kecmanovic defeated No. 6 seed Liam Caruana of Italy, who went from Tulsa one week to Osaka the next, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will play No. 10 seed Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan in the semifinals. No. 2 seed Yosuke Watanuki of Japan and No. 3 seed Nicola Kuhn of Germany will face off in the other boys semifinal.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who has already won a $25,000 Women's ITF tournament in the past three months, has reached the semifinals of this week's $50,000 tournament in Saguenay, Canada.  Andreescu, currently No. 7 in the ITF Junior rankings, defeated Harriet Dart of Great Britain 7-6(4), 6-4 to advance to the semifinals, joining three seeded Americans.   No. 2 seed Jennifer Brady eliminated Canadian teen qualifier Charlotte Robillard-Millette 6-3, 7-6(5) and will face Andreescu in the semifinals.  The other semifinal features top seed CiCi Bellis against  No. 4 seed Sachia Vickery.  Bellis downed Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada 6-2, 6-4, while Vickery defeated Maria Sanchez  6-1, 7-6(0).

Just one American remains at the $50,000 ATP Challenger this week in Las Vegas: unseeded Sekou Bangoura. Bangoura defeated Bryden Klein of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and will face Sam Groth of Australia in the semifinals. Groth took out Tennys Sandgren 7-6(2), 7-5. 

All three American men in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen, Texas lost today.  One of the semifinals will have No. 6 Luke Bambridge of Great Britain facing No. 8 seed and former Florida State star Benjamin Lock of South Africa. The other semifinal is between former and current college players. Tulane alum Dominik Koepfer of Germany will play University of Texas-Arlington sophomore Guanarteme Nuez Delgado of Spain, a qualifier. The 19-year-old Nuez had no ATP ranking and had not won a main draw Futures match until this week; he lost to Koepfer in the second round qualifying last week in Houston.

Eighteen-year-olds John McNally and Evan Zhu have reached the doubles final in Harlingen, with the unseeded pair facing top seeds Bambridge and Evan King.

At the $25,000 Futures in Berkeley, California, 2014 NCAA champion Marcos Giron defeated Rhyne Williams to reach the semifinals, where he will face top seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium.  Wild card Andre Goransson of Cal continued his fine play; after winning the ITA Northwest Regional title on Monday, the senior from Sweden, who hadn't won a Futures match since 2012, has won three, all in straight sets, beating two seeds in the process. He will play No. 6 seed Lucas Gomez of Mexico in the semifinals.  Goransson has also reached the doubles final with Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands.  The pair, who received entry as alternates, will face top seeds Williams and Connor Smith on Saturday

Thursday, October 20, 2016

ITF No. 1s Tsitsipas and Day Lead ITF Abierto Juvenil Grade A Acceptances; Torpegaard Reaches Quarterfinals at Las Vegas Challenger

The acceptance lists are out for the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano in Mexico City November 14-20, with both ITF junior No. 1s leading the fields.

Boys No. 1 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece has no points to defend there, so he is looking to pad his lead in the race for the title of ITF World Junior Champion in 2016. He currently leads Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada by over 130 points, with the 16-year-old Auger-Aliassime not expected to play any more junior tournaments this year, and perhaps ever.  No. 3 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia is playing the Grade A Mayor's Osaka Cup this week and has reached the quarterfinals, but Orange Bowl champion is not entered in Mexico.  Although still eligible, last year's champion Genaro Olivieri of Argentina is not entered.

Girls No. 1 Kayla Day told me in Tulsa that she is hoping to finish 2016 as World Junior Champion, and she also does not have any points to defend (except in doubles) there.  She does however have points to defend the following week as the Grade 1 Yucatan champion and she is not playing there. Anastasia Potapova of Russia could take over as girls No. 1 by winning in Osaka this week, and she too is entered in Mexico City.   No. 3 Olesya Pervushina of Russia has entered, and No. 4 Amanda Anisimova will return to defend her title.

In all, seven of the ITF Top 10 girls are entered, including Americans Claire Liu and Usue Arconada.  The boys field has only two ITF Top 10 players entered in Tsitsipas and French Open boys champion Geoffrey Blancaneaux of France.

The US girls who received direct acceptance in additional to Day, Anisimova, Arconada and Liu are:
Taylor Johnson
Caty McNally
Ellie Douglas
Maria Mateas
Natasha Subhash
Morgan Coppoc
Sofia Sewing
Carson Branstine
Hurrican Tyra Black
Victoria Emma
Dalayna Hewitt
Elysia Bolton
Hailey Baptiste

That gives the US 17 of the 46 direct entries, with Ann Li and Alana Smith the second and third players out of the main draw.

As has been the case most of the year, US boys are not as prominent as the US girls at the major junior events.  There are nine US boys among the 46 acceptances:

Trent Bryde
Patrick Kypson
Alexandre Rotsaert
Brian Cernoch
Alafia Ayeni
Kyrylo Tsygura
Danny Thomas
Sebastian Korda
Govind Nanda

Andrew Fenty is second out of the main draw.

Many of the same top US boys who did not play the Pan American Closed Grade B1 in Tulsa are not in the field, with Sam Riffice, Oliver Crawford and Gianni Ross all withdrawing and Vasil Kirkov not entering. There is a USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Pensacola, Florida that week, so perhaps they will be competing there instead.

At the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Saguenay Canada, two Canadian juniors and four Americans have reached the quarterfinals. Bianca Andreescu will face Harriet Dart of Great Britain and qualifier Charlotte Robillard-Millette meets No. 2 seed Jennifer Brady for a place in the semifinals.  No. 4 seed Sachia Vickery survived a tough match with a third Canadian teen, Katherine Sebov, and will play Maria Sanchez in the quarterfinals.  Top seed CiCi Bellis faces Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada next.

The $50,000 ATP Challenger in Las Vegas has lost all but two of its seeds for Friday's quarterfinals.  Wild card Mikael Torpegaard, the Ohio State junior, advanced to the final eight with a 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Austin Krajicek today. Just two Americans are through to the quarterfinals: Sekou Bangoura and Tennys Sandgren, both unseeded.

At the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen, Texas, qualifier AJ Catanzariti, a junior at Texas A&M, has made his first Futures quarterfinal, beating former Baylor All-American Julian Lenz of Germany 6-2, 6-2 in today's second round.  Unseeded Jared Hiltzik(Illinois) and Wil Spencer(Georgia) are the other Americans in the quarterfinals.

The $25,000 Futures in Berkeley, California has been a good one for Cal wild cards, with seniors Andre Goransson of Sweden and Florian Lakat of France both reaching the quarterfinals. Three unseeded Americans--Marcos Giron, John Lamble and Rhyne Williams--have also advanced to the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships Recap, Slideshow, Videos

My recap of last week's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships is now available at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The slideshow of singles quarterfinals and doubles semifinalists is below.  The Google photo album of the slides is available here.  Short YouTube videos of selected points in the boys and girls finals, which are played simultaneously, are embedded below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ITF Announces New Date, Significant Change to Junior Masters; 2015 Wimbledon Junior Finalists Get First Tour Wins; Exploring the Cost of Junior Tennis; Three More Regional Champions

The ITF announced today that its Junior Masters, held the past two Aprils in China, will be moved to October for 2017.  The date change is perhaps less significant than the news that the ITF will now be awarding ranking points for participation in the event, although the article does not give any details on the number of points allotted for this competition, which is for the top eight boys and the top eight girls by ITF junior ranking. Certainly those details will be included in the 2017 ITF Junior Regulations, which typically are released in February.

In its first two years of existence, the Masters did not award ranking points, and entries were based on the ranking of the previous year-end, meaning that players who were too old to play junior events in April could still participate.  That will no longer be the case with the October date, with the ranking cutoff date after the US Open Junior Championships.  The ITF has provided all expenses-paid trips for the participants and a private coach as well as travel grants in the previous years, which, along with wild cards into pro events, were the only incentives for juniors to participate.  All 16 players were guaranteed $7,000 in travel grants, with the champions receiving $15,000 travel grants, and it appears there is no change in that financial commitment.

Although I may be reading too much into this, there is a mention that the 2017 tournament is in the third year of the three-year contract with the Chinese Tennis Association and the Chengdu Sport Bureau. This is probably just boilerplate press release language, but it does raise the possibility that the event could move from China to another country for 2018 and beyond. In 2017, I believe the event will come right after the Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan, which will no doubt help strengthen that Grade A tournament's field, traditionally the weakest of the ITF's Grade A's.

The release contains an explanation for the changes by ITF President
David Haggerty:

"Following the success of the first two ITF Junior Masters, we are pleased to be able to raise the status of this competition within the ITF junior calendar. The ITF is committed to helping the top junior players with their transition into the professional ranks. We felt that by changing the timing of the event to later in the calendar year, it would be more appropriate for the top ranked junior players and there is the added importance of junior world ranking points.”

Much like the WTA and ATP, the ITF has instituted a Masters race tracking function and currently Alex Brown and Lukas Greif are No. 1 and No. 2 in the boys race after their Tulsa results and Kayla Day and Sofia Sewing are No. 1 and No. 2 in the girls race. Sewing swept the Grade 2 titles in Canada at the end of September and Day won the Pan American Closed B1 on Saturday.

Eighteen-year-old Anna Blinkova of Russia, the 2015 Wimbledon girls finalist, won the 2016 ITF Junior Masters in April and today she picked up her first WTA victory in the first round of the WTA Premier Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Blinkova, who did not receive a wild card, but earned her place via qualifying, defeated WTA No. 31 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(10), saving five match points.

The boys 2015 Wimbledon finalist, Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who had been out most of the year with a hip injury, earned his first ATP main draw victory, beating Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-2, 6-1 in the first round in Stockholm.  The 18-year-old wild card will play No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the second round Wednesday.  According to the ATP's Josh Meiseles, Ymer is the ninth 18-and-under player to win an ATP match in 2016, joining Americans Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Reilly Opelka and Stefan Kozlov, Russian Andrey Rublev, German Alexander Zverev and Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

CNN posted an article on the financial commitment required to develop a tennis player, with insights from WTA pros Madison Keys, Simona Halep as well as Rafael Nadal, who has just opened his own academy, Nick Bollettieri and Patrick Mouratoglou, who have been in the academy business much longer.  I was struck by the $306,000 price tag cited for a decade or more of junior development, which seems on the low side to me, if coaching, court time and travel are included in that number.

Three more ITA Division I Regional Championships were completed today, with the winners earning main draw berths in the National Indoors next month in New York.

ATLANTIC: Marie Faure(5) William and Mary def. Derya Turhan(5), Marshall 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6)

CAROLINA: Skander Mansouri(1), Wake Forest def. Gabriel Friedrich(4) South Carolina 6-4, 6-4

ATLANTIC: JC Aragone(2), Virginia def. Jacob Dunbar(6), Richmond 6-1, 6-4