Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Teens Bernard, Chervinsky, Vassel and Dellabarca Win ITA Summer Circuit Titles; More on Cuts to D-I Olympic Sports; ATP Announces Ranking Changes

Two more ITA Summer Circuit events were held over the weekend, and all four winners of the top flights are junior players. 

At the tournament in Lakeland Florida, No. 3 seed Alexander Bernard, the reigning Kalamazoo 16s champion, defeated No. 4 seed Maxwell Giddens, a rising freshman at Auburn, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Bernard, a blue chip rising junior who turns 17 next month, defeated top seed Noah Schachter, a rising junior at Texas A&M, 7-5, 7-6(4) in the semifinals, while Giddens took out No. 2 seed Stefan Storch, a rising sophomore at Texas A&M, 6-1, 6-2 in the other semifinal.

The girls final, also between the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, was yet another battle between friends Madison Sieg and Elaine Chervinsky, who met in the Eddie Herr 16s final in 2018. No. 3 seed Chervinsky, a blue chip who has committed to Virginia for 2021, defeated blue chip rising junior Sieg, the 2018 Orange Bowl 16s champion, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.  Chervinsky beat top seed Gianna Pielet 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals, while Sieg defeated No. 2 seed Emma Shelton 6-3, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

At the Ojai tournament, four-star rising senior Jake Vassel, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Noah Laber, a four star rising freshman at Middlebury, 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Top seed Alexey Aleshchev, who won the previous ITA Summer Circuit tournament in Ojai the week before, retired after dropping the first set in the quarterfinals. No. 2 seed Brandon Lam lost in the quarterfinals.

Five-star rising junior Calissa Dellabarca won the girls title, with the No. 4 seed defeating Purdue rising senior Seira Shimuzu, the No. 8 seed, 6-1, 7-6(2). Top seed Emilee Duong lost in the quarterfinals; No. 2 seed Velizara Fileva lost in the first round.

The ITA Summer Circuit really gets going this weekend, with seven different events on the schedule. The tournament at the USTA National Campus has a waiting list for its 32 spots, and the tournament in Indianapolis has over 170 entries for both men and women.

ESPN published an article today about the struggle of Olympic sports in the current college financial environment. While tennis is not the focus, its problems are addressed by Florida women's head coach Roland Thornqvist, who cites television as the answer. The athletic director at Texas mentions tennis student-athletes missing class while playing pro tournaments in the fall, which can only be viewed as a criticism of that now common practice.

The Associated Press published an article yesterday about the problems of tennis in particular, with comments from the USTA's Tim Cass, ITA CEO Tim Russell and former Stanford coach Dick Gould.

Yesterday the ATP announced how it would handle its rankings given the five-month hiatus that we are still in. Basically, the rankings will cover 22 months and the best 18 tournaments over that period will be counted. If you play the same tournament twice, only the highest points from that tournament will count, not both. For more, plus a link to the frequently asked questions, see this ATP article.

Monday, July 6, 2020

USTA Cancels All ITF World Tour August Events in US; Striplin Lynch Named Head Coach at Clemson, Vanderbilt's Announcement on Tsoubanos, Atawo Hired at Auburn, More College News; Tiafoe Out of World Team Tennis

Late this afternoon, the USTA sent out a brief statement canceling all five ITF World Tennis Tour events scheduled for August in the US.

July 6, 2020

ITF World Tennis Tour Cancellations
Due to the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has cancelled all five ITF World Tennis Tour events taking place in the U.S. in August. This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of all those involved with these events.
  • The events include:
    • Week of August 3
      • Lexington, Ky. – Women’s Event
    • Week of August 10
      • Landisville, Pa. – Women’s Event
    • Week of August 17
      • Concord, Mass. – Women’s Event
      • Decatur, Ill. – Men’s Event
      • Memphis, Tenn. – Men’s Event
This is crushing news for US players who hoped to start earning points and money next month, and with health and safety given as the reason, it obviously doesn't bode well for the USTA 18s and 16s Nationals scheduled for August 8-16, nor for the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland at the end of the month, although I have seen nothing official on those tournaments.

Clemson announced today that Christy Striplin Lynch has been named head coach of the women's program. Striplin Lynch, who played at Georgia Tech and was assistant/associate head coach there the past six years, replaces Nancy Harris, who retired after 26 years leading the Tigers.

More than a week ago, word leaked of Aleke Tsoubanos, the longtime women's associate head coach at Vanderbilt, taking over for Geoff Macdonald and that was confirmed today, with the school announcing that Tsoubanos would move up to head coach. Macdonald, who is in his early 60s and was head coach at Vanderbilt for 26 years, is staying on the assistant coach. I'm sure someone with more years following college tennis remembers a comparable switch, but I certainly don't recall one in the past 15 years. But from the quotes in the article, everyone seems happy with this transition, which could become an option for others going forward.

Raquel Atawo, who competed at Cal and on the WTA tour as Raquel Kops-Jones, has been named to the position of women's assistant coach at Auburn. Atawo, who won the NCAA doubles title in 2003 and was the ITA Player of the Year in 2004, holds 18 doubles titles on the WTA Tour and reached a high of No. 10 in the WTA doubles rankings in 2015. She served as women's volunteer assistant at Cal last year.

In other Division I men's coaching news, Jeff Wilson has been named men's head coach at University of the Pacific in Stockton California. Wilson was the assistant men's coach at Dartmouth last season, and had previously coached in the women's programs at Duke and Georgia Tech.

The University of South Florida has announced the transfer of twins Harry and Grey Cacciatore, who just completed their sophomore year at the University of Florida.

Georgia Tech has announced the signing of ITF Top 100 junior Chen Dong of Australia.

Oren Vassar, who spent two seasons at William and Mary, has transferred to Miami.

The Minnesota women have signed Zeyneb Sarioglan of Turkey.

Today's World Team Tennis announcement stated "Washington Kastles player Frances Tiafoe, having tested positive for COVID-19 within the advance travel testing window, is ineligible to compete in the 2020 World Team Tennis season.” The WTT season begins on Sunday, July 12th.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Paul and Fritz, Subs King and Eubanks Lead Team Stars to All-American Team Cup Victory; Rogers Goes Undefeated in Kentucky Exhibition; Fery Captures LTA British Tour Title

Two former Georgia Tech standouts picked up big wins today for Team Stars, Taylor Fritz continued the Stars comeback and Tommy Paul took the deciding tiebreaker to earn a 13-12 victory over Team Stripes in the DraftKings All-American Team Cup Sunday in suburban Atlanta.

Chris Eubanks was called into service when Frances Tiafoe left the competition after testing positive for Covid-19 Friday after the first day of matches. Eubanks defeated Tennys Sandgren on Saturday, then returned today to beat John Isner 7-5, 4-6, 10-6. Kevin King, who was subbing for an injured Reilly Opelka, had beaten Sam Querrey 3-6, 7-6(2) 10-5 in Sunday's first match. With a win now worth three points, after earning just one point on Friday and two on Saturday, the match was now tied at 9-9, and the Stars took a 12-9 lead when Fritz beat Sandgren 4-6, 6-3, 10-7, but Steve Johnson forced a deciding tiebreaker when he beat Paul 7-6(2), 6-4 in the evening match.

In the event of a tie after three days of singles, the two players in the final match were to play a standard tiebreaker to decide which team was the winner, and Paul captured that 7-3. I think a doubles match might have been a more interesting method of breaking the tie, but it was an entertaining day, despite the anxiety that Tiafoe's test had injected into it yesterday.

Tiafoe is scheduled to compete for the Washington Kastles next Sunday in World Team Tennis, but I would not expect him to be able to fulfill that obligation now.  Others from this Atlanta event heading to The Greenbrier Resort are Fritz, Sandgren, Querrey and Johnson.
Shelby Rogers, photo courtesy Scott Gerber, Ohio Tennis Zone
The Young Kings Scholarship tournament this weekend in Nicholasville Kentucky concluded today, with only two matches completed, but Shelby Rogers finished the weekend undefeated, the only player to do so. Rogers defeated Jamie Loeb and Jessica Pegula in straights sets on Friday and Saturday, and today the 27-year-old, currently 113 in the WTA rankings, ran out to a 5-0 lead on Marine Partaud of France before Partaud retired in the day's last match. Leylah Fernandez gave CiCi Bellis a walkover in their match today; Genie Bouchard beat Loeb 6-4, 6-4 and Pegula beat the previously undefeated Caty McNally 7-5, 6-3.
Pegula, McNally and Bouchard now have until next Sunday to get ready for the start of their World Team Tennis seasons.

Last week's men's Battle of the Brits brought tennis back to Great Britain, with Dan Evans taking the title at that national competition. It was technically an exhibition, with no points at stake, but as we've seen throughout the world, players are looking for opportunities to prepare for the resumption of the ATP, WTA and ITF Tours next month.

This month, which of course in a normal year is devoted to primarily to Wimbledon, the LTA has organized a British Tour, four weeks of competition for men and women, most of whom are regulars on the ITF Circuit, although Cam Norrie is scheduled to compete in Week 2. Prize money is offered, free live streaming is available and it looks like a well-thought-out system to assist British players in dealing with the financial fallout of the past several months.

In the finals of the first week's tournament today, two teenagers who would no doubt be competing at Wimbledon in a normal year, Arthur Fery and Emma Raducanu, collected the titles. Raducanu, 17, defeated Jodie Burrage 6-4, 2-6, 10-4 in the women's final, and Fery, also 17, defeated TCU rising senior Alastair Gray 7-6(5), 6-4. Fery is scheduled to join the team at Stanford this fall. For more on the first week of competition, see this LTA article.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Tiafoe Tests Positive for Covid-19; Eubanks, King Called in as Subs in DraftKings Event; Ma Commits to Stanford; McNally Wins Again in Kentucky

Frances Tiafoe played, and won, his first match of the DraftKings All-American Team Cup Friday, beating Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-6(5), but this morning the 22-year-old American announced he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. Tiafoe had taken a medical timeout in his match with Querrey, but because he had tested negative in Florida prior to arriving in Peachtree City Georgia, he did not think the virus was responsible for his fatigue. I am not clear on why each player wasn't tested the minute he arrived in Georgia, and I had seen a photo of Reilly Opelka undergoing a test recently, so I assumed all eight players were tested, but the announcement from the tournament says only "Like all the players, Tiafoe was tested prior to or upon arrival in Atlanta and has passed daily temperature tests."

The tournament, which is allowing socially distancing fans, has continued despite Tiafoe's positive test, with substitutes from nearby Georgia Tech have been called in to play in place of Tiafoe and Opelka, with Opelka bowing out of his Saturday matches with what is being described as an injury.
Eubanks played the Kalamazoo Opening Night Exhibition in 2018
Chris Eubanks, subbing for Tiafoe, defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 7-6(5) this afternoon, while Kevin King, subbing for Opelka, lost to John Isner 6-1, 6-3.

After the women's event in Charleston went off without incident last weekend, there was hope that this men's event could provide additional optimism for next month's return of the ATP/WTA in the United States. But with no indication that the virus is in any way controlled in this country in the past week or two, and now this, the outlook for the return of professional tennis is getting murky. World Team Tennis begins a week from tomorrow at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and the first week of that competition may prove to be a make-or-break situation for other events in the United States.

Parsa Nemati posted one of his biggest bombs of the year yesterday, with Connie Ma, No. 1 in the Tennis Recruiting Class of 2021, committing to Stanford. Ma, who is from Northern California and has always prioritized school over tennis tournaments, is entered in the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego next month. 
Eighteen-year-old Caty McNally has won both of the singles matches she has played at the Young Kings Scholarship tournament in Nicholasville Kentucky this weekend. McNally saved three match points in her 4-6, 7-5 10-7 win over CiCi Bellis Friday, and today she breezed past Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-2, 6-2. Shelby Rogers is also 2-0 in singles, having beaten Jamie Loeb Friday and Jessica Pegula today. For scores from the past two days, click here.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Aces From Previous Junes Include Isner, Anderson, Barty; Two ATP Challengers in Orlando Added to Schedule; Reviewing ITF Men's and Women's US Calendars for Remainder of 2020

For the third straight month, I've had to go back into the archives to come up with a way to extend the streak of my monthly Aces column for Tennis Recruiting Network. Thirteen years ago, I began featuring the top accomplishments of junior and college players each month; for this edition, I found 14 competitors from 2007-2016 who went on to reach the ATP or WTA Top 50, beginning with two of most accomplished collegiate players this century: Kevin Anderson and John Isner. Also featured is current WTA No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who won the French Open last year, but excelled on grass back in 2012.

The ATP has announced a provisional Challenger calendar for August and September, with 11 tournaments now on the schedule between August 17 and September 7. Two Challenger 125s have been added in the United States, coinciding with the Western and Southern Open and the first week of the US Open, with the USTA's National Campus hosting the back-to-back events beginning August 24th. The other nine Challengers during that four-week stretch are in Europe: four in the Czech Republic, four in Italy and one in France. There will be 16-player qualifying and 32-player main draws, a change from the recent 4-player qualifying draws and the 48-player main draws that have been in place since 2019 for ATP Challengers.

I went through the ITF World Tennis Tour calendars for men and women today, and although I assume there will be changes in the weeks to come, here is what the rest of the year looks like for WTT/USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in the United States, not including Challengers:

ITF World Tennis Tour Men’s Events

as of 7/3/20, in United States

Decatur IL M25, moved from Aug 3
Memphis TN M25, moved from Aug 10

Champaign IL M25 (previously M15)

Fayetteville AR M15

28-Oct 4 
Harlingen TX M25

Norman OK M25
Ithaca NY M15

Wichita KS M25 (moved from June)
Tallahassee FL M15

26-Nov 1
Fountain Valley CA M15

Ithaca NY M15
Fayetteville AR M15

Shreveport LA M15

Austin TX M15

East Lansing MI M15 (moved from previous week)

ITF World Tennis Tour Women’s Events

as of 7/3/20, in United States

Lexington KY W100 (was W60)

Landisville PA W100

Lubbock TX W15

28-Oct 4
Templeton CA W60

Las Vegas NV W80

Hilton Head SC W15

Florence SC W25

Macon GA W80

Fountain Valley CA W15

26-Nov 1
Tyler TX W80

Austin TX W15

Malibu CA W60

Norman OK W15 (moved from two weeks earlier)

The bread and butter of the USTA Pro Circuit, the $25,000-level events, have nearly disappeared, with the women especially hit hard in this category, with just one currently on the schedule for the rest of the year. Four originally on the schedule for September and early October are gone, with Florence the only one remaining.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Megargee, Frosch Win Titles at 16s American Clay Court Nationals; UTR One-Day Tournaments Set for National Campus; Eight Top WTA Players Begin Play Friday at Young Kings Scholarship Exhibition in Kentucky

Owen Megargee, photo courtesy Tennis on Main
Champions in the 16s American Clay Court Nationals were crowned today at The Greenbrier resort, with rising sophomore and five-star recruit Owen Megargee taking the boys title and rising eight-grader and five-star recruit Laima Frosch claiming the girls title. Megargee, who came into the tournament with the highest UTR, defeated Chase Robinson, who had the second highest UTR in the field, 7-5, 2-6, 6-0 in the singles final, after they had won the doubles title earlier as a team. Frosch, who had the highest UTR in the girls draw, defeated Mia Robinson, Chase Robinson's sister, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 in the girls final, adding to her doubles title earlier.
Laima Frosch, photo courtesy Tennis on Main

Boys Singles:
1st: Owen Megargee
2nd: Chase Robinson
3rd: Ryan Mudre
4th: Bryson Cook

Girls Singles:
1st: Laima Frosch
2nd: Mia Robinson
3rd: Natalie Oliver
4th: Kiersten Tambe

Boys Doubles: Owen Megargee and Chase Robinson 
Girls Doubles: Laima Frosch and Natalie Oliver

The American Clay Court Nationals for the 12s and 14s are later this month at Centercourt in Chatham New Jersey. The 14s are July 10-12 and the 12s are July 17-19, with entries open through July 3 (tomorrow) for the 14s and July 10 for the 12s.

The USTA has announced several UTR events for the July 28-31 at the National Campus in Lake Nona, with a very attractive entrance fee of $0 for UTR members and $10 for non-UTR members. The All-American Match Play events, for players in the high school classes of 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024, are one-day only, depending on gender and UTR rating, with two matches scheduled for each competitor. Training with USTA pros prior to the start of the late afternoon matches is available for a $40 fee. For more information, and a link to registration, see this USTA article.

Yesterday I mentioned the men's DraftKings All-American Team Cup getting underway in Georgia tomorrow, while up Interstate 75, eight accomplished women will be playing in the Young Kings Scholarship  Tournament in Nicholasville Kentucky.  Eugenie Bouchard will take on Jamie Loeb at 10 a.m. Friday, followed by Leylah Fernandez against CiCi Bellis, then Caty McNally versus Jessica Pegula, with Marine Partaud and Shelby Rogers completing the day's singles matches (NOTE: All these matches have been reconfigured as of 9 am July 3; it's Pegula v Bouchard; Bellis v McNally; Loeb v Rogers; Partuad v Fernandez). Streaming and live scoring is available through the TennisOne app, and Cracked Racquets will be providing commentary.