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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Grant and Leach Celebrate Junior Davis Cup and Junior Billie Jean King Cup Selections with Third Round Victories at ITF J300 Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Houston Texas--

On Tuesday, the International Tennis Federation announced the teams for the 2023 Junior Davis Cup and Junior Billie Jean King Cup in Spain later this fall; on Wednesday two of the players named to the United States teams who recorded victories at the ITF J300 Pan American Closed at the Giammalva Racquet Club expressed their excitement in representing the United States in the ITF's competition.

Top seed Tyra Grant is only 15, so she will be a year younger than most of the competitors representing their countries in Cordoba for the 16 and under team competition. Due to injury, Grant was unable to compete in the ITF's 14 and under World Junior Tennis competition last year, so she is especially eager to be a part of the team this year, along with Iva Jovic and Alanis Hamilton.

"I really like playing team competitions, you can really bring your energy out there," said Grant, who played Tennis Europe tournaments when she was younger but has never been to Spain. "It's all about having fun and showing your best tennis. Last year I played 14s and I should have played in the Czech Republic, but I got injured, so I just played the qualies in Mexico. I'm really, really looking forward to it. It's going to be so much fun, I can't wait."

In previous years the boys and girls competitions were held at the same venues on the same dates, but this year, the boys will play first in Cordoba, October 30-November 5, and the girls will follow November 6-12.

"We're playing a different week from the boys, but we'll be there the week before, so we'll be able to cheer them anyway," Grant said. 

Grant injured her knee in a first round victory at Wimbledon Junior Championships this year, and is just getting back to competition, with a 7-5, 6-3 first round loss to No. 6 seed Ena Koike of Japan in the US Open Junior Championships her first match since Wimbledon.

"It was a bone bruise, maybe a fracture, but we're happy it healed quickly," Grant said. "I wasn't ready probably to compete yet at the US Open, but I felt like, it's a slam, I'm not going to skip it. It didn't work out the way I wanted it to because I had a tough draw and she was a really good player. I didn't play my best, but I'm happy I got to play and had no pain."

Grant defeated No. 16 seed Riley Crowder 6-2, 6-3 in today's third round, a scoreline that she said didn't indicate the quality of the match.

"Riley's one of my closest friends," Grant said. "It was 6-2, 6-3 and I was up 5-1 in the second, but the match was really close. I had to play really well to bring it home. I'm really happy I got another match under my belt, and that's just more experience, you know."

Grant will play wild card Alexis Nguyen in Thursday's quarterfinals, after Nguyen fought back to defeat No. 11 seed Shannon Lam 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the last girls match to be completed Wednesday. Grant and Nguyen played this spring on clay at the ITF J100 in Delray Beach with Grant taking the second round match 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Leach, the No. 7 seed, found himself in a third set after relinquishing control of second to unseeded Xavier Cavelo, but saved himself from drama in the third set of his 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-0 victory.

"Toward the end of the first set, he was dictating play, he was just making a few more errors," Leach said. "I thought that might be a winning solution if he was missing a few more balls. But toward the end of the second, he started to find his groove, hit a lot of big winners and I said, ok, I need to be the one dictating play in this third set. I need to be pushing him, he can't be pushing me around. So every point I focused on moving him around the court and building points and that seemed to work really well in the third set."

The 16-year-old Leach, who will be playing his first J300 quarterfinal against No. 16 seed Rafael Botran Neutze of Guatemala, said he never dreamed that at the start of 2023 he would compete for the United States in Junior Davis Cup, with Darwin Blanch and Maxwell Exsted the other two members of the team.

"It's one of the biggest honors," Leach said. "Before the year started I couldn't even imagine that goal, and now I've achieved a goal I didn't even think about. I'm so happy to be able represent my country, and I believe we can do really well there. I'm so excited for the opportunity."

Leach has followed in the footsteps of both his parents, who played in the competition when it was known as the World Youth Cup.

Leach's mother Lindsay Davenport said she remembers losing in to Paraguay on the Barcelona clay, while Leach's father Jon was on the team that reached the finals in Australia.

"I've heard stories about it since I was seven or eight years old," Leach said. "They would always talk about it. My dad and his team lost in the finals and he's still bummed about it, 'aw man we could have had it'. I'm so excited to be the third family member to play it."

The complete list of competitors for each of the 16 teams are available at the ITF website. The girls teams announcement is here; the boys teams announcement is here.

Unlike Grant, Leach and Hamilton, a fourth USA team member playing here in Houston wasn't able to advance to the quarterfinals. No. 4 seed Exsted lost to No. 13 seed Kuang Qing Xu of Canada 7-6(5), 6-4. The first set, 90 minutes in length, was followed by a quick 4-1 lead for Exsted in the second, but Xu roared back to take the last five games and the match. Xu will face unseeded Jordan Reznick, who defeated No. 8 seed Stiles Brockett 6-1, 6-4.

Top seed Alex Frusina defeated No. 15 seed Maximus Dussault 6-2, 6-3 and will play No. 10 seed Matthias Uwe Kask of Canada, after Kask posted a marathon of a win, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over unseeded Matisse Farzam; No. 2 seed Alex Razeghi took out No. 14 seed Kase Schinnerer 7-6(4), 6-2 and will play wild card Ian Mayew, who beat No. 6 seed Nikita Filin 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(7) in three hours and 15 minutes.  Filin had a match point at 6-3, 5-3 but missed a volley and didn't get another until 6-5 and 7-6 in the final set tiebreaker. Mayew saved both with volley winners, and after forcing an error to go up 8-7, Mayew converted his first match point when Filin's forehand approach flew long.

Girls No. 2 seed Maya Joint eliminated wild card Anita Tu 6-2, 6-4 and will play unseeded Tianmei Wang, who beat qualifier Hadley Appling, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 10 seed Aspen Schuman defeated No. 6 seed Katie Rolls 6-1, 6-2 and will take on unseeded Monika Ekstrand, who ran her ITF Junior Circuit winning streak to ten matches with a 6-1, 6-2 win over qualifier Kori Montoya.

No. 12 seed Victoria Osuigwe defeated No. 7 seed Kate Fakih 6-3, 6-4 and will play No. 4 seed Hamilton, who won the rematch of this spring's Easter Bowl Girls 16s final 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 over No. 14 seed and doubles partner Claire An.  An had beaten Hamilton in three long sets to take the Easter Bowl title and today's match was equally as taxing for both; they later teamed up to take their doubles match and advance to Thursday's quarterfinals.

The seeded doubles teams took the court today for the first time and just one Top 4 seed fell, with Noah Johnston and Benjamin Willwerth defeating No. 3 seeds Rohan Belday and Matthew Forbes 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-5.  Boys top seeds Exsted and Cooper Woestendick and No. 2 seeds Brockett and Filin won in match tiebreakers. Girls top seeds Ariana Pursoo and Joint and Kaitlyn Rolls and Schuman won in straight sets.

All eight quarterfinals in singles are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, with doubles quarterfinals set to begin not before 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Eleven Seeds, Including Both No. 3s, Fall in ITF J300 Pan American Closed Second Round Tuesday; US Open Junior Championships Photo Gallery at Tennis Recruiting Network

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Houston Texas--

Nearly all of the top seeds were challenged in their first matches Tuesday in the second round of the ITF J300 Pan American Closed at the Giammalva Racquet Club in Houston, and 11 of them failed to advance, including both No. 3 seeds.

Monika Ekstrand, who won the J200 last week in Montreal Canada, extended her winning streak to nine matches today, beating No. 3 seed Ariana Pursoo 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Ekstrand had never played Pursoo before, but the 16-year-old found ways to adjust after dropping the first set to the University of Texas recruit.

“I didn’t come into the match with the best rhythm and she hit the ball hard and I wasn’t used to it as much," said Ekstrand, who lives in Delray Beach Florida. "I got used to her ball and where to stand on the returns and found a rhythm, but a lot of it was just believing I could win, that I could beat her, especially going into the second set."

Ekstrand, who broke Pursoo serving at 4-5 in both the second and third sets, said her recent success can be attributed more to her mental approach than anything specific in her game.

“I think my mentality clicked, that I could go out and play my game and don’t have to do more to beat an opponent, that I can figure it out," Ekstrand said.

The final in Montreal was on Friday, so Ekstrand had two days before she was due on court in Houston, but the 90 degree heat in Texas did require some getting used to.

“Going from Canada to here was difficult because of the weather change,” said Ekstand. “There it was like 60 degrees, so my fitness has been helping me in believing that I can figure it out.”

Ekstand will face qualifier Kori Montoya in the third round, after Montoya defeated No. 15 seed Taylor Goetz 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5) in a contentious match that lasted nearly four hours. Montoya led 5-2 in the third set before Goetz mounted her comeback, and Goetz led 5-3 in the final tiebreaker, but Montoya won the final four points to secure the win.

Five of the six seeds who lost were in the bottom half with Ekstrand and Montoya. Wild card Anita Tu defeated No. 13 seed Jessica Bernales 7-6(7), 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 2 seed Maya Joint of Australia, who won a long, tough battle with Nadia Lagaev of Canada 7-6(4), 7-5. The other two unseeded players in the bottom half are qualifier Hadley Appling, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 winner over No. 9 seed Olivia Center, and Tianmei Wang, who beat No. 5 seed Mia Slama 7-5, 6-3. Wild card Alexis Nguyen took out No. 8 seed Maya Iyengar 7-6(1), 6-4 in the only upset in the top half.

Wang, who hadn’t dropped a game in her first round win Monday over Mexico’s Natalia Fantini, knew she would need her patented patience when it came to facing Slama.

“That’s what I do,” said Wang, a 16-year-old from San Marino California. “I don’t think I’m ever impatient. I just grind a lot.”

Grinding with Slama can be a challenge, with Slama’s array of slices, angles and drop shots.

“In the first set, she was slicing a lot on her forehand, hitting a lot of drop shots, so I tried to avoid hitting to her forehand,” Wang said. “If I did hit it to her forehand I tried to get it deeper and spinny-er so she couldn’t slice it so easily. But I’d seen her play before, so I was prepared for the slices and the drop shots.”

Wang said the courts at the Giammalva Racquet Club are perfect for her, and her recent commitment to improving her fitness has helped her negotiate the heat this week.

“It’s the perfect speed for me to take the ball early,” Wang said. “The heat has made me tired during the match, but I’ve been doing a lot fitness recently, like six hours a week, so I think my endurance is a lot better than before.

Girls top seed Tyra Grant was one of the few seeds who posted a routine win Tuesday, beating qualifier Georgia Crankford 6-0, 6-3, but boys top seed Alex Frusina needed two hours to close out Abishek Thorat 7-6(8), 6-2.

Frusina, who has seen his ITF ranking go from 65 to a career-high 24 in the past month, decided to play the Pan American Closed, not with a view to next year, when he will no longer be eligible for ITF junior events, but for the opportunity to compete at a major tournament where he grew up.

“I originally wasn’t planning to play this tournament if it was still in Kentucky,” said Frusina, who turns 18 in December. “But this made a lot of sense for me, because I live about 30 minutes away and it’s really nice to come back.”

Frusina trained at the Giammalva Racquet Club from age 9 to 12, so he was eager to return, although admitted that comes with distractions.

“It’s fun, and there are extra challenges I think on top of it,” said Frusina, who is still undecided on where he will be playing college tennis a year from now. “But at the end of the day I’m excited to be here, and just doing my best to keep it going.”

Another nearly local player is Humble’s Alexander Razeghi, the No. 2 seed, who was able to advance with a 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Gabriel Porras of Guatemala. No. 4 seed Maxwell Exsted needed three sets, but did move into the third round, beating Benjamin Willwerth 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. No. 3 seed Cooper Woestendick and No. 5 seed Matthew Forbes were ousted, with Junghee You of Canada saving a match point in his 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win over Woestendick and Matisse Farzam defeating Forbes 6-0, 6-4.

Woestendick broke You at 4-all in the third set and got to 40-30 in his attempt to serve out the match, but You forced an error to save the match point and took the final three games, completely eliminating any mistakes in that crucial stretch.

Wild card Ian Mayew defeated No. 9 seed Cesar Cruz of El Salvador 6-2, 6-3; Jordan Resnik beat No. 11 seed Calvin Baierl 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 and Xavier Calvelo defeated No. 12 seed Francesco Cordova 6-4, 7-6(5).

The first round of doubles was played this afternoon, with the seeded teams playing their first matches in the second round Wednesday.

The 42 Americans who competed in the main draws of the US Open Junior Championships earlier this month are featured in today's Tennis Recruiting Network's photo gallery. All photos were taken by Paul Ballard for Zootennis.com. My recap of the tournament, published last Friday, is here.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Wild Cards Advance at ITF Pan American Closed J300; ITA and ITF Announce Accelerator Program for Collegiate Women; Columbus Challenger Underway with Five Buckeyes in Main Draw

The first round of singles at the ITF J300 Pan American Closed is in the books, and I'll be onsite Tuesday for my coverage, with the seeds taking the courts for the first time.

In today's first round, four of the six boys wild cards posted victories, as did three of the five girls wilds cards.  Local wild card Mahir Khurana, 17, got a victory in his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament, beating fellow Texan Jacob Golden, a qualifier, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Mark Krupkin beat fellow wild card Cal Riggs 6-1, 6-2; Ian Mayew defeated Dominick Mosejczuk 6-4, 6-0 and Andre Alcantara downed Diego Herrera of Mexico  6-1, 6-4.

The girls wild cards picking up wins today are Alexis Nguyen, the 2022 16s Orange Bowl champion, who defeated Gianna Oboniye of Canada 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1. Seventeen-year-old Tianna Rangan of nearby Sugarland Texas, who hasn't played an ITF all year, beat Mariya Dobreva of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, and Anita Tu, the USTA 16s finalist last month in San Diego, defeated Kenzie Nguyen 6-2, 6-4.

In addition to the second round of singles tomorrow, the first round of doubles is also on the schedule, but no seeds will play until Wednesday.  Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick are the top seeds in the boys draw, with Maya Joint(AUS) and Ariana Pursoo the No. 1 seeds in the girls draw.

The ITF today announced its women's version of the Accelerator Program for Division I collegiate women, providing wild cards for the top women in several ITF Women's World Tennis Tour. The men's program, which was announced in January, has already been utilized this summer; this announcement, although retroactive to include the top five women of the 2022-23 season and the 2023 NCAA winner and finalist, starts now.

This program is much less robust that what the ATP has offered the men, which is geared at the Top 20 in the ITA rankings and is for up to eight Challenger main draw wild cards(Top 10) or eight Challenger qualifying wild cards(11-20).

For the women, the wild cards are for ITF 60K, 40K or 25K tournaments as follows:

Players returning to College in the autumn receive three main draw places to be used before the end of 2023, while those who have left College receive five main draw places to be used before the end of June 2024. Players can choose places at one W60 tournament, up to two W40 tournaments and up to two W25 tournaments. 

Obviously, with the exception of the one $60K, these are lower level events than the men's Challengers, are five, not eight wild cards, are are limited to the five to seven women, rather than 10 to 20.

I don't understand why qualifying wild cards into the 60 and 80Ks on the schedule this fall in the United States aren't part of this package, which would seem like an obvious way to expand opportunities for women.

The women qualifying for the wild cards are Fiona Crawley (North Carolina), Mary Stoiana (Texas A&M), Lea Ma (Georgia), Diana Shnaider (NC State), Maddy Sieg (USC), Fangran Tian (UCLA), and Layne Sleeth (Oklahoma). Shnaider, currently 83 in the WTA rankings, is unlikely to need any of these wild cards.

I do hope this is just the beginning, and it is, of course, better than nothing, but it's disappointing to see the women having to settle for less than the men have received via their Accelerator Program.

The ITF release for this program can be found here.

Qualifying concluded today for the ATP Challenger 75 in Columbus, with Ohio State sophomore Jack Anthrop, the 2021 ITF Pan American champion, among those reaching the main draw.  Wild card Anthrop defeated No. 5 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in yesterday's first round and and No. 12 seed Radu Papoe of Romania, a junior at Cornell, 7-5, 6-4 today.

The other qualifiers are Bernard Tomic(Australia), James Trotter(Ohio State) of Japan, Federico Agustin Gomez(Louisville) of Argentina, Aidan Mayo, and Strong Kirchheimer. 

The top seed is Enzo Couacaud of France; wild cards went to three Ohio State players: Cannon Kingsley, Justin Boulais of Canada and JJ Tracy. Boulais and Tracy play each other.  Nishesh Basavareddy(Stanford), who has returned from Croatia, where he was the hitting partner for the US Davis Cup team, is also in the draw, presumably with one of the slots from the Accelerator Program as is NCAA champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia).

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Frusina, Grant Top Seeds at ITF J300 Pan American Closed; First WTA Title for Krueger; Svajda, Cressy Win Challengers; Draxl Claims Champaign $15K Title

The ITF J300 Pan American Closed begins Monday in Houston, with 32 matches, all between unseeded players, on the schedule. The seeds begin play on Tuesday against Monday's winners. 

Boys ITF Pan Am J300 seeds:
1. Alexander Frusina
2. Alexander Razeghi
3. Cooper Woestendick
4. Maxwell Exsted
5. Matthew Forbes
6. Nikia Filin
7. Jagger Leach
8. Stiles Brockett
9. Cesar Cruz (ESA)
10. Matthias Uwe Kask(CAN)
11. Calvin Baierl
12. Francesco Cordova
13. Kuang Qing Xu(CAN)
14. Kase Schinnerer
15. Maximus Dussault
16. Rafael Botran Neutze(GUA)

Girls Pan Am J300 seeds:
1. Tyra Grant
2. Maya Joint(AUS)
3. Ariana Pursoo
4. Alanis Hamilton
5. Mia Slama
6. Kaitlyn Rolls
7. Kate Fakih
8. Maya Iyengar
9. Olivia Center
10. Aspen Schuman
11. Shannon Lam
12. Victoria Osuigwe
13. Jessica Bernales
14. Claire An
15. Taylor Goetz
16. Riley Crowder

Usually a more robust group of juniors from Canada travels to the United States for this tournament--three of the last four boys finalists have been Canadian--but not this year. I'll begin my onsite coverage from the event on Tuesday.

Three Americans captured titles Sunday on the WTA and ATP Challenger tours.

Nineteen-year-old Ashlyn Krueger, the 2021 USTA National 18s singles and doubles champion, won her first WTA title in Osaka Japan, defeating top seed Lin Zhu of China 6-3, 7-6(5). Zhu, No. 35 in the WTA rankings, is the third best win by ranking for the  unseeded Krueger. She defeated then No. 19 Victoria Azarenka this summer on grass in s' Hertogenbosch and last fall beat No. 31 Aliaksandra Sasnovich in San Diego. Krueger, who won a WTA 125 on grass this summer, had not had much success on the hard courts in the United States since, unable to qualify in Washington or Montreal, but she looked very good in her 7-5, 6-4 first round loss to No. 31 seed Marie Bouzkova at the US Open, and she didn't lose a set in Osaka.

Now up to 73 in the WTA rankings, breaking into the Top 100 for the first time, Krueger is now one of five teenagers in the Top 100: Coco Gauff, Mirra Andreeva, Linda Noskova and Diana Shnaider. 

No. 8 seed Zachary Svajda overcame a two-hour rain delay at the start of the Atlantic Tire Championships Challenger 75 championship match today in Cary North Carolina to defeat top seed Rinky Hijikata(North Carolina) of Australia 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1. Because the match was moved indoors, there was no live stream of the final, which is a shame, because the first two sets, which took two hours and 15 minutes, must have been full of drama.

The 20-year-old Svajda now has two ATP Challenger titles and is at a career-high of 168 in the ATP Live Rankings.

Maxime Cressy(UCLA) has had a rough year, going 9-20 on the ATP Tour and falling out of the Top 100. But he's back on the Challenger Tour, where he started his rise, winning the Rennes Challenger 100 today with a 6-3, 2-0 retired decision over No. 8 seed Benjamin Bonzi of France. Unseeded, Cressy won all six tiebreakers he played, and he is now up to 104 in the ATP live rankings.

Former University of Kentucky All-American Liam Draxl won his third career ITF/USTA Pro Circuit title, all at the $15K level, today in Champaign Illinois. The 21-year-old Canadian, seeded No. 1, defeated unseeded Will Grant(Florida) 6-1, 6-3 in today's final for his first singles title since 2021. 

Draxl should move to around 480 in the ATP rankings when the points are added a week from Monday, which would be a new career-high for him.

Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic denied American champions in both the singles and doubles finals Saturday night at the Cymbiotika San Diego Open. In the singles final, the No. 4 seed beat fellow wild card Sofia Kenin 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. In the doubles final that followed, Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the top seeds, beat wild cards Danielle Collins(Virginia) and Coco Vandeweghe, playing her last WTA event, 6-1, 6-4.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Rain Disrupts First Day of Qualifying at ITF Pan American J300 Closed; Zvajda and Hijikata Advance to Cary Challenger Final; Grant, Draxl Meet for Champaign $15K Title; USA Out of Davis Cup

Qualifying for the ITF Pan American Closed J300 began today in Houston, and I'll be covering the event in person for the 17th consecutive year(2020 was canceled) beginning Tuesday. The tournament, which is two to three weeks earlier than usual, was in Tulsa, right after the ITA Men's All-American Championships, through 2017. It has been unable to find a permanent home since then, with University of North Carolina-Charlotte hosting in 2018, and Lexington Kentucky's Top Seed Tennis Club staging the event in 2019, 2021 and 2022. This year's tournament was initially announced as being in Memphis, where a new facility for the University of Memphis teams is under construction, but several months ago the site was switched to the Giammalva Racquet Club in Spring Texas. 

Due to the time of year, early in the school year, the qualifying draws rarely fill, but this year the boys came close, with first round byes for only the top 8 seeds in the 48-player qualifying draw. The girls qualifying is much more typical, with 19 byes. 

Rain ended play this afternoon, with all five first round qualifying matches in the girls draw completed, along with all 16 boys first round qualifying matches also finished. That means two qualifying matches on Sunday for the winners, although most of the boys second round qualifying matches have completed the first set. As was the case last month in College Park, a 48-player main draw doesn't allow a rest day for qualifiers, so the plan is always to play the two matches on the first day of qualifying, not the second. But the weather did not cooperate this week; we'll see if anyone can duplicate the College Park run of Aspen Schuman, who made the final as a qualifier. She will be seeded this tournament, so won't play until Tuesday.

Two of the top US boys withdrew recently: Kaylan Bigun and Roy Horovitz. Notable girls withdrawing are Kaitlin Quevedo, Iva Jovic and defending champion Tatum Evans.

Two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda won his first Challenger title not quite a year ago, beating Ben Shelton in the final in Tiburon. The 20-year-old from San Diego will have an opportunity to take on another former collegian who is working his way up the ATP rankings for his second Challenger title, this one the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary North Carolina. Top seed Rinky Hijikata, the former North Carolina All-American, defeated Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M) 6-4, 6-2 in today's semifinals, with No. 8 seed Svajda getting a second consecutive win over No. 2 seed Alex Michelsen 6-4, 7-5. Michelsen and Svajda had trouble holding serve throughout, with ten breaks in the 22 games played, but when it came time to close it out, Svajda held at love. 

Svajda and Hijikata met two years ago at the Cary Challenger, when Hijikata had just left North Carolina to begin his pro career, with Svajda winning 7-5, 6-3. By reaching the final, Svajda is up to a career-high of 173 in the ATP rankings, while the 22-year-old Hijikata is up to 72, his career high.

Hijikata geared up for singles final by taking the doubles championship this evening. Hijikata and Australia's Andrew Harris(Oklahoma), the top seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Will Blumberg and Venezuela's Luis David Martinez 6-4, 3-6, 10-6. It's second biggest title on Hijikata's doubles resume; he won the Australian Open men's doubles title with Jason Kubler in January. Harris will break into the ATP Top 100 in doubles with his third Challenger title, with three different partners, this year.

At the $15,000 men's USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign Illinois, top seed Liam Draxl of Canada will face unseeded Will Grant for the singles title. Draxl, the former Kentucky All-American, defeated No. 4 seed Shunsuke Mitsui(Tennessee) of Japan 6-2, 6-2, while Grant, who didn't crack the starting lineup in singles for the Gators until last year, when he played No. 2, defeated No. 2 seed Zeke Clark(Illinois) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Grant and Axel Nefve(Notre Dame/Florida), who played line 1 doubles for Florida last year, won the doubles title today, beating Clark and Kenta Miyoshi(Illinois) of Japan 6-2, 5-7, 10-5. It's Grant's second ITF Men's World Tennis Tour doubles title and the first for Nefve.

A disappointing debut as Davis Cup captain for Bob Bryan this week in Croatia, with the United States losing to Finland 3-0 to fail to advance out of the round robin group stage into November's quarterfinals. The two highest ranked players in the group, which also included the Netherlands and Croatia, were Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul, who went 0-4 in singles. Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) won the only singles match for the USA, against Croatia, and today couldn't convert two match points in a 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(7) loss to ATP 125 Otto Virtanen.

Canada continued its Davis Cup defense in style, winning their group with a 3-0 record after beating Chile 3-0 today. Former NC State All-American Alexis Galarneau went 5-0 in Canada's three matches; for more on his heroics, see this article from the Davis Cup website.

Friday, September 15, 2023

My US Open Junior Championships Recap; Qualifier Ekstrand Wins First ITF Junior Circuit TItle at Montreal J200; Svajda vs Michelsen Part III in Cary Challenger Semifinals; Krueger Reaches WTA 250 Semifinal in Japan

My recap of last week's hot and delay-filled US Open Junior Championships is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, so if you weren't able to follow my daily onsite coverage, often late into the night, this is an opportunity to get an overview of the titles for 17-year-old Joao Fonseca of Brazil and Stanford freshman Katherine Hui, who received a wild card into the event. I've read that she's the first wild card to win the US Open girls title, and it very well might be true, but I'm not sure where that information came from, as neither the ITF or the USTA (who has access all past draws) produced any notes for the US Open Junior Championships again this year.  Look for my photo gallery from the US Open later this month at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The ITF J200 in Montreal Canada concluded today with 16-year-old Monika Ekstrand claiming her first title on the Junior Circuit. Ekstrand, who is now working with former USTA National Coach Stanford Boster, qualified for the main draw, then won five matches, four against fellow Americans, to earn her first title. She defeated No. 5 seed Claire An, the reigning Easter Bowl 16s champion, 6-1, 6-0 in today's final.  A semifinalist at last year's Orange Bowl 16s, Ekstrand will move into the ITF Top 200 for the first time with the title.

Top seed Abel Forger of the Netherlands won the boys title, beating No. 5 seed Nikita Filin 6-4, 6-1 in the final. No. 2  seeds Cooper Woestendick and Andrew Delgado won the boys doubles title, beating unseeded Kase Schinnerer and Mexico's Santiago Padilla Cote 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the final. No. 4 seeds Riley Crowder and Maya Dutta won the girls doubles championship, defeated No. 2 seeds An and Shannon Lam 6-3, 3-6, 10-2 in the final.

Three of the four semifinalists at the Atlantic Tire Championships ATP Challenger in Cary North Carolina have been decided, and three will be Americans, joining top seed Rinky Hijikata of Australia, the former All-American at North Carolina. Hijikata, who beat TCU junior Pedro Vives of Spain, a qualifier, 6-1, 7-5 in today's quarterfinals, broke into the ATP Top 100 for this first time this week, after reaching the fourth round of the US Open as the recipient of Australia's reciprocal wild card. Hijikata will play the winner of the night match between No. 6 seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) and Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M).

It the bottom half, it will be Part Three of the 2023 USTA Pro Circuit battles between two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda, the No. 8 seed, and No. 2 seed Alex Michelsen. Michelsen, who turned 19 late last month, defeated 32-year-old Guido Andreozzi of Argentina, the No. 7 seed, 6-1, 7-6(3), while Svajda got by Toby Samuel(South Carolina) of Great Britain 7-5, 5-7, 6-1. 

Michelsen won the first meeting this year with Zvajda at January's rain-plagued USTA Pro Circuit men's $25,000 tournament in Malibu, taking that semifinal contest 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. A few weeks later, Svajda beat Michelsen 7-5, 6-3 in the second round of the ATP Challenger 75 in Cleveland; their paths have not crossed since then. 

2021 USTA National 18s champion Ashlyn Krueger has advanced to her first WTA semifinal at this week's 250 tournament in Osaka Japan. Krueger, 19, defeated Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and will face unseeded Mai Hontama of Japan for a spot in the final. Krueger is currently 100 in the WTA live rankings, a new career high for her.

There will be an American in the final of the WTA 500 in San Diego, with qualifier Emma Navarro(Virginia) facing Sofia Kenin in tonight's semifinal. The winner of that match will play No. 4 seed Barbora Krejickova of the Czech Republic in Saturday's final; she defeated Danielle Collins(Virginia) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 this afternoon. Navarro earned her first WTA Top 10 win last night, beating No. 9 Maria Sakkari of Greece, the No. 3 seed, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(4).