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Monday, September 16, 2019

New ITF Grade A in South Africa Underway; Only Doubles Titles for US Juniors Last Week on ITF Junior Circuit; Ohio State Freshmen Earn First Round Wins at Columbus Challenger

The number of ITF Junior Circuit Grade A tournaments had been stable at five (not counting the junior slams and the every-four-years Youth Olympics) as long as I've been covering junior tennis, but this year, a sixth tournament at that level was added, in Cape Town South Africa. Given that it's the first rendition of the event, the  time of year and the distance from Europe and the Americas, it's not surprising that the fields are weak, with no qualifying at all, for boys or girls, and byes in the first round for several top seeds.

Just one American boy, Milledge Cossu, made the trip, but five US girls did, and all have advanced to the second round of 64-player draws. The US girls competing are No. 8 seed Elvina Kalieva, No. 11 seed Lauren Cooper, No. 14 seed Dakota Fordham, No. 15 seed Rebecca Lynn and Violeta Martinez. The top girls seed is Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, No. 29 in the ITF junior rankings; the top boys seed is Arthur Cazaux of France, No. 49 in the ITF junior rankings.

Most Americans playing this week are at the Grade 2 in Montreal Canada. Skyler Grishuk was the top seed, but she was defeated in today's first round by 15-year-old Canadian Mia Kupres 6-4, 6-3. Fourteen-year-old Qavia Lopez defeated No. 3 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico 6-0, 1-6, 6-3. No. 2 seed Jada Bui, who reached the semifinals of the Grade 1 in Canada prior to the US Open, did advance to the second round, beating Rachel Gailis 7-6(3), 7-6(2).  The boys top seed is Andrew Dale, who won his opening round match over Peter Alam of Great Britain 7-6(7), 6-1.

The only titles Americans won last week on the ITF Junior Circuit came in doubles. At the Grade 4 in Togo, 13-year-old Clervie Ngounoue won her second straight doubles title, again with Linda Eloundou Nga of Cameroon, with unseeded pair beating No. 4 seeds Carmine Becoude of Benin and Manuella Eloundou Nga of Cameroon 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Ngounoue, who won the Grade 5 singles title last week, lost in the semifinals this week to top seed and eventual champion Vipasha Mehra of India.

At the Grade 5 in Honduras, No. 4 seeds Andrea Le and Teja Tirunelveli took the girls doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Isabella Rivera Ortiz and Maria Camila Torres Murcia of Colombia 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. It's the first ITF title for both Le and Tirunelveli.

At the Grade 5 in Montreal, No. 4 seeds Aubrey Nisbet, the reigning 16s USTA Clay Court champion, and Sophie Williams won the girls doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Hana Gamracy of Canada and Jade Marie of France 6-3, 6-1 in the final.

At the ATP 90 Challenger this week in Columbus, two Ohio State freshman wild cards picked up first round wins today.  US Open semifinalist Cannon Kingsley defeated Evan Song 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 and 17-year-old Justin Boulais, whose sister Isabelle was a star for the Buckeye women last year as a freshman, defeated Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) 7-6(4), 7-6(6). Boulais reached the round of 16 at the Winnipeg Challenger earlier this summer as a wild card. Sophomore James Trotter also won his first round match today. Former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador is the top seed, with former Ohio State All-American Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark seeded No. 2.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ong, Geller, Talaba Win USTA Pro Circuit Titles; Cal's Kikuchi Claims Napa Classic Solinco Shoot Out; Johnson Beats Kozlov for Kunal Patel San Francisco Title

Qualifier Vanessa Ong won her first Pro Circuit title today in Lawrence Kansas, beating No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova 6-0, 7-5 at the $15,000 event. Ong, a 17-year-old from Oklahoma who committed to UCLA this summer, had not gotten beyond the quarterfinals at any pro event before this week, although she has been plagued by injuries in the past two years, limiting her competitive matches.

Stanford junior Axel Geller won his second title in the past four months, and his third overall, at the $15,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois today, beating Tennessee junior Adam Walton of Australia 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Both players had ace counts in double digits, with No. 4 seed Geller hitting 13 and Walton, a qualifier, 12. Geller, who has won three doubles titles this summer, won both singles and doubles titles at one of the Cancun $15Ks back in June.

At the $25,000 women's event in Redding California, former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba beat 18-year-old Alycia Parks 6-1, 6-1 for her first singles title of the year.  The 24-year-old from Romania, seeded No. 3, dropped only one set in her five victories.

The singles title at the ATP 80 Challenger in Cary North Carolina went to top seed Andreas Seppi of Italy, who beat No. 11 seed Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3.  Mmoh did pick up a title however after the singles final, winning the doubles championship with Sekou Bangoura. The unseeded pair defeated Treat Huey(Virginia) of the Philippines and JP Smith(Tennessee) of Australia, also unseeded, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. It's the first Challenger doubles title for both Mmoh and Bangoura.

At the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic, Cal sophomore Yuta Kikuchi won the Solinco Shoot Out, which provides a Pro Circuit main draw wild card to the player who wins his round robin group, then survives an eight-player series of tiebreakers that concludes the tournament. Seventeen-year-old Stefan Leustian was the only member of the USTA junior team to advance out of the round robin stage.  Kalamazoo 18s semifinalist and Harvard freshman Ronan Jachuck made the final of the Shoot Out, losing to Kikuchi 10-8.

Complete results from all three days of competition can be found here.

The finals of the Kunal Patel San Francisco Championships were held this afternoon at the Berkeley Tennis Club, with Steve Johnson capturing the title and the $50,000 first prize with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Stefan Kozlov. Kozlov, who receives $20,000 as the runner-up, had upset Sam Querrey in the semifinals 6-4, 7-5, while Johnson had beaten longtime junior and college rival Bradley Klahn 6-4, 7-6(6) in the other semifinal.

Complete draws can be found at the UTR tournament page.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ong Reaches Lawrence $15K Final; Svajda Claims First Pro Title in Champaign; Da Silva Named Head Coach At Louisville; Other College Notes

Vanessa Ong, who announced her commitment to UCLA for 2020 last month, will play for her first USTA Pro Circuit singles title tomorrow at the $15,000 tournament in Lawrence Kansas. Ong, who has already won six matches, including two in qualifying, this week, advanced to her first pro singles final when fellow 17-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon retired after dropping the first set 6-4. Ong will play No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova, who beat No. 4 seed Vladica Babic(Oklahoma State) of Montenegro 6-2, 6-3. Nefedova and Ong met two years ago in qualifying at a $25K in Naples Florida, with Nefedova winning 7-6(6), 6-4.

Kansas sophomore Malkia Ngounoue, older sister of Clervie, and fellow Jayhawk Maria Toran Ribes of Spain won the doubles title in Lawrence, with the wild card team defeating Oklahoma State's Ayumi Miyamoto of Japan and Bunyawi Thamchaiwat of Thailand 4-6, 6-2, 10-6 in the final.

Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda picked up his first Pro Circuit title last night at the $15,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois, taking the doubles title with Iowa's Kareem Al Allaf of Syria. The wild card team defeated the unseeded Brazilian team of Alex Blumbenberg and Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida 7-5, 7-6(3).

Sunday's singles final in Champaign will feature No. 4 seed Axel Geller against qualifier Adam Walton of Australia. Geller, a junior at Stanford, took out NCAA semifinalist Aleks Kovacevic (Illinois) 6-4, 6-4, while Walton, a junior at Tennessee beat Pucincelli di Almeida 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Geller has won two singles titles on the Pro Circuit, with Walton reaching a final for the first time in his career.

At the $25,000 in Redding California, both singles semifinals are later tonight, but the doubles championship has been decided, with No. 2 seeds Emina Bektas(Michigan) and Great Britain's Tara Moore winning it. Bektas and Moore defeated No. 3 seeds Catherine Harrison(UCLA) and New Zealand's Paige Hourigan(Georgia Tech) 6-3, 6-1 in today's final.

At the ATP 80 Challenger in Cary North Carolina, Michael Mmoh has advanced to the singles and doubles final. Mmoh, the No. 11 seed, defeated unseeded JC Aragone(Virginia) 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. He will play top seed Andreas Seppi of Italy, who beat No. 5 seed Enzo Couacaud of France 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 in the other semifinal. Mmoh and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) advanced to the doubles final with a walkover from Tommy Paul and Korey Lovett(UCF). They will play Treat Huey(Virginia) of the Philippines and JP Smith(Tennessee) of Australia in the final, with both team unseeded.

Louisville has named a new head coach to replace Rex Ecarma, who was terminated last month based on the results of an independent investigation conducted by the university. Rodrigo da Silva, who was an assistant under Ecarma from 2009-2014, was head coach of the University of Texas San Antonio from 2016-2019. See the Louisville website for more on da Silva's resume.

Tennis.com has posted an article today discussing the pros and cons of college tennis, featuring interviews with Marcos Giron, Nicole Gibbs and Noah Rubin.

French Open doubles champion Andreas Mies was recognized at an Auburn football game last Saturday, and the ATP posed this article about what that means to the former Tiger.

Former Stanford standout Michael Genender now works in finance in New York, but he hasn't put away the racquets entirely. The 22-year-old Californian had an opportunity to serve as a hitting partner at the US Open with finalist Daniil Medvedev and champion Bianca Andreescu and spoke to CNN about the experience in this article.

Friday, September 13, 2019

My US Open Junior Championships Recap; 17-year-olds Chavatipon and Ong to Meet in Lawrence $15K Semis; ITF Grade B1 Pan Am Closed Acceptances; ITA All-American Entry Lists Released

The 2019 US Open Junior Championships got off to a bad start with the boys seeding error and then had two days of rain, which made for a exhausting weekend for the players, but two worthy singles champions were crowned on Sunday, with Maria Camilia Osorio Serrano making history as the first Colombian to win a junior slam singles title. Jonas Forejtek was the first Czech boy to win a junior slam singles title since Jiri Vesely won the Australian Open in 2011. For my recap of their wins, as well as the doubles championship won by Tyler Zink and Eliot Spizzirri, check out this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

One of the semifinals of the $15,000 women's tournament in Lawrence Kansas will feature two 17-year-olds, with Charlotte Chavatipon defeating top seed Dasha Ivanova 6-2, 7-5 and Vanessa Ong beating fellow qualifier Elizabeth Scotty 6-2, 6-1. Chavatipon will be looking for her second appearance in a $15K final with a win tomorrow; Ong has posted her best result on the Pro Circuit this week, with her previous best a quarterfinal.  The other semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova and No. 4 seed Vladica Babic(Oklahoma State) of Montenegro.

Eighteen-year-old Alycia Parks is into the semifinals of the $25,000 tournament in Redding California after beating qualifier Maria Mateas(Duke) last night and qualifier Elysia Bolton(UCLA) today. She will play the winner of the night match between lucky loser Ellie Douglas(TCU) and top seed Katherine Sebov of Canada. The other semifinal will feature No. 3 seed Gabriela Talaba(Texas Tech) of Romania and wild card Jada Hart, a senior at UCLA.

Stanford junior Axel Geller of Argentina beat Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 and will play unseeded Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic, who beat Kentucky freshman Liam Draxl of Canada 7-5, 7-5 in today's quarterfinals at the $15,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois, in Saturday's semifinals.  Eighteen-year-old Brazilian Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida continued his impressive run, beating No. 7 seed Zeke Clark 7-6(5), 6-1 and will face Tennessee junior Adam Walton of Australia, a qualifier, in the other semifinal. Walton defeated Tom Fawcett(Stanford) 6-2, 6-2.

The acceptances are out for next month's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, which is now an indoor tournament located in Nicholasville Kentucky, outside of Lexington. The boys field is not strong, with only one Top 100 player, Dali Blanch, entered, although Kalamazoo 16s champion and finalist Alexander Bernard and Aidan Mayo are in the field, as is Cash Hanzlik.  The girls field has eight Top 100 players, led by Hurricane Tyra Black, US Open finalist Alexandra Yepifanova (who said she may or may not play this event), last year's finalist Samantha Broadus, Robin Montgomery, Chavatipon, Charlotte Owensby, Emma Jackson and Kailey Evans. Ong has also entered.

The first major of the Division I season is next month in Tulsa, with both the men and the women in the same city for the first time. The men's selections have been revealed, with US Open boys semifinalist Cannon Kingsley, a freshman at Ohio State, receiving a main draw wild card. The women's main draw, which used to be 32, now appears to be 48, although I don't see any incoming freshman on their entry list, so that may be why only 46 names appear on the entry list right now.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Cal Men Defeat US Junior Team 8-4 as Both Prepare for Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic; Douglas and Bolton Reach Quarterfinals in Redding $25K

The instances of a USTA-sponsored junior team playing against a Division I college team have diminished over the years, but the annual meeting between the Cal men and junior boys prior to the Napa Valley Tennis Classic continued yesterday, with Cal earning an 8-4 win, with the difference in the Bears sweep of all four doubles matches. Cash Hanzlik continues his outstanding play over the past few months with a win over Kikuchi, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season.

DOUBLES:
1. Jack Molloy and Yuta Kikuchi[CAL] d. Cash Hanzlik and Logan Zapp 7-5
2. Paul Barretto and Jacob Brumm[CAL] d. Aryan Chaudhary and Stefan Leustian 7-5
3. Bjorn Hoffmann and Can Kaya[CAL] d. Samir Banerjee and Luke Casper 6-4
4. Dominic Baretto and Thomas Wright[CAL] d. Hugo Hashimoto and Jack Anthrop 7-5

SINGLES:
1. Hanzlik[USTA] d. Kikuchi 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3
2. Paul Barretto[CAL] d. Leustian 6-1, 6-2
3. Kent Hunter[CAL] d. Zapp 7-6(3), 6-3
4. Casper[USTA] d. Hoffman 3-6, 7-5, 6-4
5. Anthrop[USTA] d. Brumm 7-6(4), 6-4
6. Chaudhary[USTA] d. Dominic Barretto 7-6, 6-4
7. Mert Zincirli[CAL] d. Banerjee 6-4, 6-4
8. Kaya[CAL] d. Hashimoto 6-4, 6-4

For more on this weekend's Audi Napa Valley Classic, see this preview from Cal.

Wild card Brandon Nakashima lost his round of 16 match to No. 2 seed Tommy Paul today at the ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina 7-6(0), 6-4. Paul will play No. 11 seed Michael Mmoh in the quarterfinals and Ulises Blanch will face JC Aragone in the all-US bottom half. The winner of tonight's match between No. 10 seed Noah Rubin and No. 8 seed Chris Eubanks will be the only American in the top half.

One second round match is still going at the women's $25,000 tournament in Redding California, but TCU sophomore Ellie Douglas, a lucky loser, and UCLA sophomore Elysia Bolton, a qualifier, have both advanced to the quarterfinals. Douglas moved on when Alexa Glatch retired at 6-5 in the first set. Bolton defeated No. 4 seed Hanna Chang 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-0. UCLA senior Jada Hart, a wild card, will play former UCLA star Pam Montez after Hart beat No. 5 seed Bianca Turati(Texas) of Italy 6-2, 6-1 and Montez defeated Ashley Kratzer 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 in a three-hour marathon.

At the $15,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois, Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda, a wild card, defeated No. 6 seed Austin Rapp(UCLA) 6-2, 6-2 and will play Stanford junior Axel Geller of Argentina, the No. 4 seed, in the quarterfinals.  NCAA semifinalist Aleks Kovacevic of Illinois won his second consecutive match in a third set tiebreaker, beating Emilio Nava 4-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(1). He will face Kentucky freshman Liam Draxl of Canada, who beat No. 2 seed Andrew Watson of Great Britain 6-2, 7-5.

Eighteen-year-old qualifier Elizabeth Scotty and 17-year-olds Charlotte Chavatipon and qualifier Vanessa Ong have advanced to the quarterfinals of the $15,000 tournament in Lawrence Kansas.  Scotty defeated No. 5 seed Anna Turati(Texas) of Italy 6-2, 6-0, Chavatipon beat qualifier Jessica Failla(Pepperdine) 6-2, 7-6(6) and Ong took out No. 3 seed Michaela Bayerlova(Washington State) of the Czech Republic 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(5) in a match that took three hours and 26 minutes to complete.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Nakashima Advances to Round of 16 at Cary Challenger; Teen Qualifiers Advance at Redding $25K; Nava, Svajda Win at Champaign $15K

The USTA Pro Circuit is back in full force this week after a lull around the US Open, with $15,000 events for men and women, a $25K for women in Redding California, and the ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina.

As I tweeted after he lost his US Open Junior Championships semifinal match to eventual champion Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, Brandon Nakashima received a wild card into the Cary Challenger and he has made good use of it. The 18-year-old from San Diego picked up his first Challenger-level win yesterday, beating North Carolina State junior Tadas Babelis of Lithuania, also a wild card, 6-3, 6-2 in just under an hour. Today the University of Virginia sophomore earned his best win by ATP ranking, beating No. 13 seed Thai Kwiatkowski, the 2017 NCAA singles champion as a senior at Virginia, 7-6(4), 6-4. Nakashima's win over Kwiatkowski, at ATP 206, is better than his win in the first round of US Open qualifying last year, where he beat No. 250 Ante Pavic of Croatia. Nakashima will compete against an ATP Top 100 player for the second time on Friday when he takes on No. 92 Tommy Paul, who won the New Haven Challenger last week and is seeded No. 2 in this tournament. Nakashima lost to No. 75 Vasek Pospisil of Canada last year in Indian Wells qualifying.

The other wild cards also went to collegiate players, but Benjamin Sigouin of Canada(North Carolina), Alex Rybakov(TCU) and Omni Kumar(Duke) all fell in the first round.

In Redding, several teenagers have posted impressive results, with the youngest being 16-year-old Kimmi Hance. Hance, who started qualifying by beating her older sister Kenadi, a recent Washington graduate, defeated former USC star Zoe Scandalis to qualify for the main draw. Today, Hance beat No. 8 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan(Penn) 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 for her first main draw win at the $25,000 level. Qualifier Elysia Bolton, a sophomore at UCLA, TCU sophomore Ellie Douglas, a lucky loser, 18-year-old Alycia Parks and 17-year-old qualifier Peyton Stearns are the other teens advancing to the second round.  Canadian Katherine Sebov is the top seed, with No. 2 seed Catherine Harrison(UCLA) falling to 2017 USTA National 18s champion Ashley Kratzer in the first round today.

At the men's $15,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois, 18-year-old Brazilian Matheus Pucnielli de Almeida took out top seed Takuto Niki of Japan 6-1, 7-5 in today's first round, and although that was the most notable win by a teenager, it was hardly the only one. Sixteen-year-old wild card Zachary Svajda, the reigning Kalamazoo champion, beat Florida freshman Will Grant; 17-year-old qualifier Gabriel Diallo of Canada, a freshman at Kentucky, won his first round match; 17-year-old Liam Draxl, another Canadian who is a freshman at Kentucky advanced; 19-year-old qualifier Alexandre Rotsaert beat wild card Vik Budic(Illinois) and Emilio Nava, fresh from his loss in the US Open boys final Sunday, beat AJ Catanzariti(Texas A&M).

The women's $15,000 event in Lawrence Kansas has also produced first round wins for several teenagers including Nebraska freshman Isabel Adrover Gallego of Spain, a qualifier; 17-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon, UCLA recruit Vanessa Ong, a 17-year-old qualifier; 18-year-olds Dalayna Hewitt and qualifier Elizabeth Scotty and Kansas freshman Carmen Manu of Romania, a qualifier. Americans Dasha Ivanova and Anastasia Nefedova are the top seeds.