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Friday, February 3, 2023

January Aces; All-USA Finals at ITF J300 in Ecuador; Stearns and Di Lorenzo Reach Rome $60K Semifinals; Kentucky Men Take Down No. 1 Virginia 4-3; Michigan Men Beat Baylor

My monthly column at Tennis Recruiting Network features 18 top performances in January, with many of them college related. Two current collegians won Pro Circuit titles last month, as did three NCAA champions, and juniors made waves in Australia, New Zealand, France and Costa Rica. Two of the Aces in the article have continued their winning streaks this week and are featured below.

Saturday's finals at the ITF J300 in Ecuador will be all-USA contests, with Iva Jovic and Kaitlin Quevedo meeting for the first time in ITF Junior Circuit play and Kaylan Bigun and Alexander Razeghi facing off for a first J300 singles title.

The 15-year-old Jovic defeated top seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 in today's semifinals. The No. 3 seed will be aiming for her second consecutive J300 title after winning the Costa Rica tournament last Saturday.

No. 2 seed Quevedo defeated No. 4 seed Mia Slama 6-0, 6-4 in the semifinals, and the 16-year-old from Florida will also be playing for her second J300 title, after her first came last November in Guadalajara. 

Top seed Bigun defeated No. 8 seed Roy Horovitz 6-1, 6-2 and No. 7 seed Razeghi got past Darwin Blanch 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in a battle of the last two Kalamazoo 16s champions. Bigun and Razeghi, both 16, are playing for the first time on the ITF Junior Circuit.

The only non-American champion in the four draws is TCU signee Duncan Chan of Canada, who partnered with Blanch to take the doubles titles today. The unseeded pair defeated No. 4 seeds Luca Pow and Henry Searle of Great Britain 7-6(7), 6-1.

The girls doubles championship went to unseeded Piper Charney and Valeria Ray, who beat No. 2 seeds Isabelle Lacy and
Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain 6-2, 6-2 in today's final.

Lulu Sun at 2021 NCAA Championships

At the $60,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Rome Georgia, three unseeded players and a qualifier have advanced to Saturday's semifinals, one of which will feature two former teammates at Texas. Peyton Stearns defeated qualifier Johanne Svendsen of Denmark 6-2, 6-3 to set up a second meeting this year against former teammate Lulu Sun of Switzerland. Sun, who played at line 3 on the 2021 Texas Longhorn team that won the team title and Stearns, who played at line 1 both in 2021 and 2022, played in the first round of the $25K in Naples last month, with Stearns posting a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Sun advanced to her first semifinal at a $60K with today's 6-4, 6-2 win over Andrea Lazaro Garcia(Florida International) of Spain.

Francesa Di Lorenzo advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, with the former Ohio State All-American set to face qualifier Gabriela Knutson of the Czech Republic. The 25-year-old Knutson, who defeated Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 today, did not play competitively from 2016-2021 and went 14-11 on the ITF women's Pro Circuit last year, has reached the first $60K of her career.

Ken Thomas is providing coverage throughout the Rome tournament at radiotennis.com.

The top-ranked Virginia men suffered their first loss of the season this evening in Charlottesville, with No. 5 Kentucky taking a 4-3 decision in the rematch of the NCAA Division I men's team championship last May.  

Unfortunately neither team had their expected lineup available to compete, with both No. 1s not playing: Kentucky's Liam Draxl and Virginia's Chris Rodesch. Virginia also did not play Bar Botzer, who was at line 5 two weeks ago against Baylor.

Kentucky won the doubles point, which didn't happen often against the top teams last year, then went up 2-0 when Charlelie Cosnet defeated Alex Kiefer 7-6(5), 6-3 at line 5. Virginia got on the board with Inaki Montes defeating Alafia Ayeni 6-4, 7-6(6) at line one, then drew even with Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg's 7-5, 6-4 win over Joshua Lapadat at line 2. Douglas Yaffa made it 3-2 Virginia with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over JJ Mercer at line 6, but Jaden Weekes of Kentucky also got a comeback win at line 4, beating Mans Dahlberg 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. 

At 3-3 the last match to be decided was at line 3, with Kentucky's Taha Baadi holding steady throughout the late stages of his match with Ryan Goetz. Baadi, down 3-1 in the third, had to hold serve at 4-5 and 5-6 to extend the match and in the tiebreaker that decided it, Baadi got out to a big lead and held on, taking a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) win.

The box score is available here.

In another Top 10-ish men's battle tonight in Waco, No. 4 Michigan defeated No. 11 Baylor 4-1. The Wolverines took the doubles point and got wins from Gavin Young at line 4, Patrick Maloney at line 2 and Andrew Fenty at line 3. Zsombor Velcz picked up the point for the Bears at line 5. 

The box score is here. The final score was 5-2, with the remaining two matches after clinched played to completion.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Seven Americans Reach Semifinals at ITF J300 in Ecuador; Stearns Advances to Quarterfinals at Rome $60K; Michelsen Makes Doubles Semifinals at Cleveland Challenger; Florida, TCU Men Earn Top 20 Wins

With Americans comprising 12 of the 16 quarterfinalists at the ITF J300 in Ecuador, the fact that seven of the eight semifinalists are from the United States isn't exactly a surprise, but there is now a guarantee that an American boy will claim his first J300 title.
Top seed Kaylan Bigun, who defeated qualifier Cooper Woestendick 6-3, 6-1 in today's quarterfinals, will face No. 8 seed Roy Horovitz, who beat Luca Miremont of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.  In the bottom half, unseeded Darwin Blanch, a 7-6(2), 3-6, 2-1 ret. winner over No. 4 seed Meecah Bigun, will play No. 7 seed Alexander Razeghi, who beat unseeded Phoenix Weir of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3. The Blanch-Razeghi match will be a first meeting between the last two Kalamazoo 16s champions.

The only international player remaining is girls top seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru, who will play last week's champion at the J300 in Costa Rica, No. 3 seed Iva Jovic. Perez Alarcon advanced when No. 6 seed Valeria Ray retired trailing 7-6(6), 2-1. Jovic, the No. 3 seed, repeated her win in the final in Costa Rica, again beating unseeded Mika Buchnik of Israel, this time by a 6-4, 6-1 score, in today's quarterfinals. 

No. 4 seed Mia Slama got past unseeded 14-year-old Tyra Grant 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 to set up a meeting with No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo, who beat unseeded Piper Charney 6-3, 6-2. 

Although they lost in singles, Charney and Ray will be playing in the doubles final, with the unseeded pair facing No. 2 seeds Isabelle Lacy and Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain.

In the boys doubles final, the unseeded team of Blanch and Canada's Duncan Chan will take on No. 4 seeds Henry Searle and Luca Pow of Great Britain.

Friday's quarterfinals at the $60,000 women's USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Rome Georgia will feature just one seed, No. 8 Marcela Zacarias of Mexico. Zacarias will play Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State), who had beaten No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik in the opening round. Di Lorenzo beat Hina Inoue 6-2, 6-3 today. 

The No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 seeds lost today, with Lulu Sun(Texas) of Switzerland beating No. 3 Ann Li 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; No. 4 seed Ashlyn Krueger lost to qualifier Gabriela Knutson of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-5; No. 5 seed and 2022 ITF World Junior champion Petra Marcinko was beaten by Andrea Lazaro Garcia(Florida International) of Spain 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and No. 6 seed Robin Anderson(UCLA) lost to 2022 NCAA singles champion Peyton Stearns 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in three hours and 34 minutes.

Qualifier Johanne Svendsen of Denmark beat wild card Liv Hovde 7-6(4), 6-4 and will face Stearns next; Sun and Lazaro Garcia are the other quarterfinal in the top half. Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine), who beat Robin Montgomery 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 will face Knutson, while Zarcarias and Di Lorenzo meet in the bottom quarter.

Former Texas Longhorn Stearns, who won the $25K last week in Orlando, has received a wild card into the new WTA 250 in Austin Texas, which begins at the end of the month.

The quarterfinals are set at the ATP Cleveland Challenger 75 with five Americans in the final eight. Two of the matches Friday will be all-US contests, with Steve Johnson[3](USC) playing Aleks Kovacevic[5](Illinois) and Zachary Svajda facing Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee). Svajda defeated wild card Alex Michelsen 7-5, 6-3 in a match that featured nine service breaks; Sandgren got past No. 7 seed Brandon Holt 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov defeated qualifier Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China, who beat Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) 7-6(9), 7-6(1).

In the top quarter, No. 1 seed Emilio Gomez(USC) of Ecuador will face No. 8 seed Gabriel Diallo(Kentucky) of Canada.

Although Georgia signee Michelsen lost in his attempt at his first Challenger quarterfinal, the Wimbledon boys doubles champion moved into the semifinals in doubles, with partner Nick Chappell(TCU). After beating No. 3 seeds Will Blumberg(North Carolina) and Keegan Smith(UCLA) in the first round, Michelsen and Chappell took out veterans Bradley Klahn(Stanford) and Evan King(Michigan) today, setting up a semifinal meeting with top seeds Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Mexico's Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian).

The ATP provided this feature on Michelsen after his win over No. 4 seed Jack Sock on Tuesday.

Two notable results tonight in men's Division I action, with No. 3 seed TCU going to Knoxville and beating No. 10 Tennessee 4-1. Even without Jack Pinnington Jones, the 2022 National Indoor Champions are looking like top contenders for national championships again this year.

At the College Match Day tonight in Lake Nona, No. 15 Florida beat No. 12 Florida State 4-2 in a tense and well-played match that was streamed live on ESPN Plus. It's been some time since I watched a College Match Day, the numbers of which have definitely decreased since the pandemic, and I was impressed by the production values. Irina Falconi, a former Georgia Tech All-American, provided top-notch color commentary and between the singles and doubles, Ben Shelton dropped by to discuss his recent success and what college tennis has meant, and still means to him. 

The Gators took the doubles point, then got singles wins from freshman Togan Tokac at line 6, sophomore Nate Bonetto at line 3 and the clinch from freshman Jonah Braswell at line 4. Florida State's points came from Antoine Cornut Chauvinc at line 1 and Joshua Dous-Karpenschif at line 5. 

Right now the only other College Match Day on the schedule is the February 18 contest between Navy and Air Force, with both the men's and women's teams competing in Lake Nona. 

I hope more will be added, especially if they can be streamed, as it really does help bring college tennis to a wider audience.

Friday's big match will be a rematch of the 2022 NCAA team final, with No. 5 Kentucky playing No. 1 Virginia in Charlottesville at 5 p.m.  Links to live streaming and live scoring are here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

A Dozen Americans Reach Quarterfinals at ITF J300 in Ecuador; Hovde Beats Top Seed Udvardy at Rome $60K; No. 2 UNC Women Get Past No. 5 Georgia; Vanderbilt Women Make Big Jump in Latest ITA Coaches Poll

The quarterfinals are set at the ITF J300 in Ecuador, and with six US boys and six US girls advancing four of the quarterfinals will be all-American affairs.

Top seed Kaylan Bigun will face qualifier Cooper Woestendick and No. 4 seed Meecah Bigun plays reigning Kalamazoo 16s champion Darwin Blanch. Costa Rica J300 finalist Roy Horovitz, the No. 8 seed, defeated Henry Searle of Great Britain for the second time in two weeks today 6-2, 0-6, 6-2; He beat Searle in the semifinals in Costa Rica. Searle ended the winning streak of Costa Rica champion Thijs Boogaard of the Netherlands in the first round yesterday. Horovitz will play unseeded Luca Miremont of Argentina in the quarterfinals, while No. 7 seed Alexander Razeghi will meet unseeded Phoenix Weir of Great Britain.

In the girls quarterfinals, the two all-US finals are both in the bottom half, so an American finalist is assured. Tyra Grant will play No. 4 seed Mia Slama and Piper Charney will face No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo.

No. 6 seed Valeria Ray plays top seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru and No. 3 seed and Costa Rica champion Iva Jovic faces unseeded Mika Buchnik of Israel, whom she beat in last week's final. 

Both top seeds have been eliminated by the conclusion of the first round at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit women's tournament in Rome Georgia. A day after Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) defeated No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik, wild card Liv Hovde took out top seed Panna Udvardy of Hungary 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

The 17-year-old Hovde, currently 423 in the WTA rankings, had never faced a Top 100 player prior to today's match with No. 95 Udvardy. But the reigning Wimbledon girls champion did play Udvardy's younger sister Luca in that Wimbledon final and will play 18-year-old qualifier Johanne Svendsen of Denmark Thursday with another grass court connection there. Hovde defeated Svendsen 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the ITF Junior J300 in Roehampton the week prior to the Wimbledon Junior Championships.

Ken Thomas is providing commentary all week in Rome at Radiotennis.com.

The North Carolina women shutout Maryland and Charlotte during Kickoff Weekend, but this evening they faced another level of competition with No. 5 Georgia coming to Chapel Hill. The second-ranked Tar Heels won the doubles point, with Fiona Crawley and Carson Tanguilig coming from 5-3 down to take the No. 2 line 7-5 over Meg Kowalski and Mell Reasco. Georgia's Guillermina Grant and Mai Nirundorn had already beaten Reese Brantmeier and Elizabeth Scotty 6-3 at line 1, and North Carolina's Abbey Forbes and Reilly Tran had earned a 6-4 win over Anastasiia Lopata and Ania Hertel at line 3.

The singles all swung in North Carolina's favor to start, with five first sets, but Georgia fought back to force third sets in four of them. Tanguilig's 6-4, 6-2 win over Reasco at line 3 made it 2-0, but it was a long time before UNC's third point came, with Forbes beating Kowalski 7-6(5), 6-4. Dasha Vidmanova had put Georgia on the board with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Brantmeier at line 2, with the other three matches all in third sets. Scotty defeated Hertel 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 at line 5 to clinch it for the Tar Heels, but Georgia's Lea Ma defeated Crawley at line 1, as they played out the remaining singles matches. Tran beat Lopata at line 6 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to make the final score North Carolina 5-2, but there's no question Georgia has put the rest of the teams in the SEC and those traveling to Seattle for the National Team Indoors on notice.

The box score is available here.

The Division I post-Kickoff Weekend rankings are out, and most of the changes were in the women's poll, with the four host teams who lost dropping.

Vanderbilt, who took down NC State in Raleigh, moved into the Top 10 from 21 previously, while the Wolfpack fell from No. 3 to No. 10. Miami, who lost at home to Iowa State, drops from 10 to 16; Cal, who lost to San Diego, falls from 11 to 20 and Oklahoma State, who lost to Michigan, goes from 14 to 19.

The unprecedented Kickoff Weekend for men, in which none of the hosts lost for the first time since the format was introduced in 2009, left the rankings mostly unchanged. Florida State, who lost to Baylor in Baylor, fell from 10 to 12, with Tennessee moving back into the Top 10. 

The complete polls can be found by clicking on the headers. First place votes are in parentheses.

ITA Division I Men's Team Top 10, February 1

1. Virginia(12)
2. Ohio State
3. TCU
4. Michigan
5. Kentucky
6. Texas
7. Southern California
8. South Carolina
9. Wake Forest
10. Tennessee

ITA Women's Division I Team Top 10

1. Texas(8)
2. North Carolina(4)
3. Texas A&M
4. Duke
5. Georgia
6. Stanford
7. Virginia
8. Pepperdine
9. Vanderbilt
10. NC State

In other college news, Universal Tennis announced the UTR College Match Challenge for January 2024 in Australia. According to the release:
the best of U.S. college tennis will be on display with Division I men's and women's college teams traveling to Australia in January to contest NCAA regular-season matchups on Aussie soil.
More details on the event will be released at a later date, but it's encouraging to see Universal Tennis continuing to support college tennis in high visibility initiatives after their partnership with the ITA ended.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Searle Ends Boogaard's ITF Junior Winning Streak at J300 in Ecuador; Michelsen Defeats Sock at Cleveland Challenger; Daavettila, Wolff Among Qualifiers at Rome $60K, Di Lorenzo Beats Mandlik

One of the longest ITF Junior Circuit winning streaks of the past twenty years came to an end today at the ITF J300 in Salinas Ecuador, with Henry Searle of Great Britain defeating Thijs Boogaard of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-0. Boogaard, who won last week's J300 in Costa Rica to extend his winning streak to 30 there, and received a special exemption into this week's main draw, but the 16-year-old Searle made sure the 14-year-old would not claim his seventh straight title on the circuit.

The ITF tweeted this list of the longest junior winning streaks today before Boogaard's loss.

Half of the boys in Wednesday's round of 16 are Americans: Kaylan Bigun[1], Cooper Woestendick[Q], Quang Duong, Stiles Brockett[Q], Roy Horovitz[8], Darwin Blanch, Meecah Bigun[4] and Alexander Razeghi[7].

Seven of the 16 girls in the second round are from the US: Shannon Lam[Q], Valeria Ray[6], Costa Rica champion Iva Jovic[3], Tyra Grant[SE], Mia Slama[4], Piper Charney and Kaitlin Quevedo[2].

The first ATP Challenger of the year in the United States is underway in Cleveland, with just one major upset in first round play.

Eighteen-year-old Alex Michelsen, who won the $15,000 tournament in Edmond Oklahoma Sunday, received a wild card into this week's Cleveland Challenger 75 and proceeded to defeat No. 4 seed Jack Sock 7-6(3), 6-4 in a first round match this evening. Sock served for the first set at 5-4, but was broken at 15-40, and Michelsen played much more aggressively in the tiebreaker. 

Michelsen, who has signed with the University of Georgia this fall, went up a break early in the second set, gave it right back, but got his third break of the match to go up 5-4 and closed it. Michelsen's willingness to come forward was the difference in the match; he rarely missed an opportunity to finish at the net when he had hit a damaging ground stroke. 

Michelsen now has two main draw victories in Challengers; to earn his third he'll need to beat two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion and fellow Southern Californian Zachary Svajda. Svajda beat former Princeton star Matija Pecotic, a qualifier, 6-1, 6-2 in their first round match today. 

Another notable result for a wild card came from TCU freshman Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain, who advanced when Ernesto Escobedo of Mexico retired trailing 6-2, 3-1. Pinnington Jones is on the Horned Frogs roster, but questions about his eligibility remain and he has yet to see any collegiate action this year.

Canadian Gabe Diallo, the former Kentucky All-American who turned pro late last year, is the No. 8 seed this week in Cleveland and he defeated Alafia Ayeni, a graduate transfer joining Kentucky this year after graduating from Cornell, 6-1, 6-1 in the first round. 

Emilio Gomez(USC) of Ecuador and Yibing Wu of China are the top two seeds and both won their first round matches. Gomez defeated Zeke Clark 7-5, 6-2 and Wu beat 19-year-old qualifier Aidan Mayo 6-1, 0-6, 6-4. 

The third wild card was given to Stefan Kozlov, who is the No. 6 seed.

Free live streaming is available at the ATP Challenger website.

The women's USTA Pro Circuit schedule this week features just one tournament, the $60,000 event in Rome Georgia. Qualifying concluded today, with two Americans, both former collegians, among the eight qualifiers. Former North Carolina All-American Sara Daavettila defeated University of Southern California freshman and No. 4 seed Madison Sieg 6-4, 6-4 and Vivian Wolff defeated No. 7 seed Katarina Jokic of Serbia 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. (That reminds me I need to point out they are now playing out the third set in qualifying in all ITF tournaments at the $40K level and above; the $15Ks and $25Ks are still using a match tiebreaker for a third set in qualifying). Jokic and Wolff, who at the time represented Germany, were teammates at the University of Georgia before Wolff transferred to UCLA in 2020.

Four main draw matches were played today with former Ohio State All-American Francesca Di Lorenzo taking out No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik 7-6(3), 7-6(5). Ashlyn Krueger, the No. 4 seed, No. 8 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico and Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) are the other three advancing to the second round.

Wild cards were given to Liv Hovde, who plays top seed Panna Udvardy of Hungary in the first round Wednesday, Victoria Hu(Princeton), who retired today against Krueger, Dalayna Hewitt and Maria Mateas(Duke). 

Canadian Kayla Cross, who has signed with Vanderbilt for this fall, also qualified, beating former Georgia standout Kennedy Shaffer 6-3, 2-6, 6-1. 

Former Old Dominion All-American Yuliia Starodubtseva of Ukraine earned her wild card into qualifying by winning last week's UTR Pro Tennis Tour event in Atlanta. Starodubtseva, who currently does not have a WTA ranking, qualified for the main draw with a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4 win over Maria Kononova(North Texas) of Russia.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Texas A&M Women, Georgia and Stanford Men Round out D-I Team Indoor Fields; Georgia Tops Men's Recruiting Class Rankings; Leach and Bittner Win ITF J100 Titles in New Zealand; Junior Orange Bowl Videos

The last three regional finals to determine the Division I National Team Indoor fields concluded today, with no surprises. The top-seeded Texas A&M women defeated No. 2 Florida 4-2 at Baylor's indoor facility (due to inclement weather) to advance to the women's Team Indoor, which begins February 10th in Seattle. Host Washington gets automatic entry into the event; the other 14 teams are North Carolina, Texas, Duke, Georgia, Stanford, Virginia, Pepperdine, Ohio State, Auburn, Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa State, Vanderbilt and San Diego.

In the men's two regional finals, top-seeded Stanford lost the doubles point for the second straight day, but came back to beat No. 3 seed Texas A&M 4-1. Top seed Georgia rounds out the men's Team Indoor field after beating No. 2 seed Louisville 4-1. The men's Team Indoor is scheduled to begin February 17 in Chicago, with the University of Illinois as the host. The other 13 men's teams qualifying are Virginia, Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, TCU, Southern California, Florida, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor, South Carolina and Tennessee.

All 15 hosts won their regional on the men's side, while just 11 of the 15 women's hosts advanced.

For all the results of the Kickoff Weekend, see SLAM tennis.

The first men's recruiting class rankings for the Class of 2023 were published today at Tennis Recruiting Network, with Georgia in the top spot, followed by Stanford, Kentucky, Harvard and South Carolina. The Power Five and the Ivy League conferences dominate, securing 23 of the 25 spots, which has been the case throughout the 18 years TRN has been conducting this poll. As a voter in every one of these (there are two a year, with the next one coming out in May), believe me when I say no one knows whose class will ultimately turn out the best; this is just an educated guess by those who follow college tennis on who is attracting the best talent right now.

The ITF Junior Circuit produced three American champions in doubles and three in singles. Three were in big events I followed throughout last week, with Learner Tien and Cooper Williams capturing the Australian Open boys doubles title, and Iva Jovic winning the singles and, with Tyra Grant, the doubles titles at the Costa Rica J300

The other three came at the J100 (formerly grade 3) ITF tournament in New Zealand, where Jagger Leach won his third straight, and biggest, singles title and Allie Bittner claimed both the singles and doubles titles in Auckland.

The third-seeded Leach, the 15-year-old son of Jon Leach and Lindsay Davenport, did drop his first set during his trip to New Zealand, in the semifinals, but in the final beat No. 5 seed Jake Dembo of Australia 6-0, 6-0. Leach won two J60s, in Christchurch and Wellington the previous two weeks.

The 16-year-old Bittner lost in the final at the middle of the three tournaments, then came back to earn her second singles title and first doubles title of the New Zealand swing last week. Bittner, seeded No. 8, defeated top seed Renee Zhang of New Zealand 7-6(5), 6-1 in the semifinals and No. 6 seed Aishi Das of New Zealand 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Bittner and her partner I Wen Wan of Taiwan, seeded No. 4, defeated top seeds Zhang and Maria Galatescu of New Zealand 2-6, 6-2, 10-6 in the final.

Leach is up to 184 in the ITF junior rankings now, after starting the year at 647.  Bittner has gone from 1232 in the ITF junior rankings at the start of the year to 284 now.

The last of the videos from December's Florida junior swing are up now at the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel. Four videos, of the finals of both 14s and of the champions of the 12s, are embedded below. The video of Yeri Hong, the girls 12s finalist, is here; the video of Tabb Tuck, the boys 12s finalist, is here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Stearns, Michelsen and Ponwith Claim Pro Circuit Titles; Ceban and Pushkareva Win Les Petits As Championships; Horovitz Falls to Streaking Boogaard in Costa Rica Final; D-I Women's Team Indoor Field Includes Several Surprises

Americans won singles championships at all three of this week's USTA Pro Circuit events, which isn't surprising, given that five of the six finalists were from the United States.

2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Robin Montgomery 6-2, 6-0 in just 51 minutes at the $25,000 tournament at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida. The former Texas Longhorn, who didn't drop a set all week, has lost only two matches this year, both to Emma Navarro, Virginia's 2021 NCAA champion. Now 11-2 this year, Stearns has her fourth $25K title, and will be well inside the WTA Top 200 for the first time in her career, in just eight months as a pro.

At the men's $25,000 tournament in Wesley Chapel Florida, former Arizona State star Nathan Ponwith won the second singles title of his career and the first since 2019 with a 6-3, 6-2 decision over No. 8 seed Christian Langmo(Miami). The unseeded 24-year-old lost his opening set to 16-year-old wild card Abishek Thorat 6-1, but really found his stride in the last two matches, beating No. 3 seed Zachary Svajda 6-2, 6-3 in 65 minutes in the semifinals and needing only 71 minutes to claim the title today.

Eighteen-year-old Alex Michelsen also won his second Pro Circuit singles title today, but unlike Ponwith, it's been only two months since his first one, at a $15K tournament in East Lansing Michigan. Michelsen, the No. 4 seed, defeated unseeded Lucas Renard of Sweden 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-1 to earn the title at the $15,000 tournament in Edmond Oklahoma. The first two sets took nearly two hours to complete, but the University of Georgia recruit blitzed through the third set in just 24 minutes. Michelsen, who received a main draw wild card into next week's Cleveland Challenger, will move into the ATP Top 500 for the first time when these points are added.

Former North Carolina teammates Mac Kiger and Canada's Benjamin Sigouin won the doubles title in Edmond, with the top seeds defeating the unseeded team of Collin Altamirano(Virginia) and Adrian Boitan(Baylor) 7-6(7), 6-4 in Saturday evening's final.

Anna Pushkareva of Russia and Mark Ceban of Great Britain won the Les Petits As U14 championships today in Tarbes France. 

Pushkareva, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Giulia Popa of Romania 6-3, 6-4, becoming the tenth Russian girls champion at the event, which began in 1983.

The third-seeded Ceban, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over No. 6 seed Daniel Jade of Lebanon, is just the second British boys to claim the title. Ceban, who also won the Bolton tournament last week, is the first boys champion from Great Britain since Matthew Smith in 1998.

Last year's Les Petits As boys champion Thijs Boogaard has gone on an astounding run on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the 14-year-old from the Netherlands winning his sixth consecutive title last night at the J300 Copa del Cafe in Costa Rica. Wild card Boogaard, who won a J200 two weeks ago in Europe, defeated No. 5 seed Roy Horovitz of the United States 6-4, 6-4 to extend his winning streak on the ITF Junior Circuit to 30 matches. 

I don't remember anyone going on a run like that, starting at the lowest levels of the ITF Junior Circuit and winning title after title despite stepping up to a higher level each time (he did win two J4s, now known as J60s, during that stretch). Boogaard will move into the Top 50 now, and is likely to receive direct entry into all the junior slams this summer.  He received a special exemption into the main draw at the J300 this coming week in Ecuador

All but three of the participants in the ITA Division I Team Indoor Championships have been determined after a busy Sunday of action across the country. 

Four No. 1 women's seeds hosting regionals were eliminated, with Miami, Oklahoma State and North Carolina State joining Cal, who lost in the first round yesterday, on the sidelines.

Miami and NC State both lost tough 4-3 decisions to Iowa State and Vanderbilt respectively; Michigan defeated Oklahoma State 4-2.

The weather finally cleared in College Station long enough for the first round matches to be played this evening, and host Texas A&M and No. 2 seed Florida will play Monday for the final spot in the women's Team Indoor field.

The men have yet to lose a No. 1 seed (Georgia and Stanford are the last chances for that), and today's finals were all 4-0 decisions for the hosts, except North Carolina, who dropped one point to Harvard.

SLAM Tennis has all the results and links to box scores, and Cracked Racquets will have coverage of Monday's final day of 
action on their YouTube channel.

Finals Sunday:
Virginia[1] d. Princeton[3] 4-0
North Carolina[1] d. Harvard[2] 4-1
Ohio State[1] d. Oregon[3] 4-0
Michigan[1] d. Northwestern[2] 4-0
Texas[1] d. Arizona[2] 4-0
South Carolina[1] d. NC State[2] 4-0
Southern California[1] d. UCLA[3] 4-0
TCU[1] d. Texas Tech[3] 4-0

Finals Monday:
Georgia[1] v Louisville[2]
Stanford[1] v Texas A&M[3]

Finals Saturday:
Tennessee[1] d. Oklahoma[2] 4-3
Florida[1] d. Mississippi State[3] 4-2
Wake Forest[1] d. Middle Tennessee[2] 4-2
Kentucky[1] d. Notre Dame[2] 4-1
Baylor[1] d. Florida State[3] 4-2

Finals Sunday:
Duke[1] d. Wisconsin[3] 4-1
Vanderbilt[2] d. NC State[1] 4-3
Iowa State[3] d. Miami[1] 4-3
Michigan[2] d. Oklahoma State[1] 4-2
Oklahoma[1] d. Texas Tech[2] 4-0
Pepperdine[1] d. Memphis[2] 4-0
Auburn[1] d. Central Florida[3] 4-1

Final Monday:
Texas A&M[1] v Florida[2]

Finals Saturday:
Texas[1] d. Baylor[2] 4-0
Virginia[1] d, South Carolina[2] 4-1
Georgia[1] d. Notre Dame[3] 4-1
Stanford[1] d. Florida State[2] 4-0
North Carolina[1] d. Charlotte[3] 4-0
San Diego[3] d. Cal[1] 4-1 
Ohio State[1] d. Tennessee[3] 4-2