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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Seventeen of 36 Americans on Monday's US Open Qualifying Schedule; Qualifying Complete at ITF Grade 1 in College Park; Keys Claims Cincinnati Title

Qualifying for the US Open begins Monday, which is a first for the tournament, which has been Tuesday-Friday in past years. This year's Monday-Friday schedule should make for shorter days, which had extended past 10 p.m. on occasion. A total of 36 Americans, 18 of them wild card recipients, will play for a US Open main draw berth, with 17 of them scheduled to play on Monday.

The 16 US men participating in qualifying:
Michael Mmoh*
Sebastian Korda[WC]*
JC Aragone[WC]*
Govind Nanda[WC]*
Mitchell Krueger
Stefan Kozlov[WC]
Thai Kwiatkowski*
Alex Rybakov[WC]*
Sam Riffice[WC]*
Tommy Paul[10]*
Jenson Brooksby[WC]*
Ryan Harrison*
Maxime Cressy[WC]*
JJ Wolf[WC]
Noah Rubin
Donald Young

*On Monday's schedule

The 20 US women participating in qualifying:
Emma Navarro[WC]*
Christina McHale[4]
Robin Anderson
Nicole Gibbs[24]
Danielle Lao
{Shelby Rogers[WC]
{Caroline Dolehide[WC]
Sachia Vickery
Bethanie Mattek-Sands[WC]
Vicky Duval[WC]
Reese Brantmeier[WC]*
Hailey Baptiste[WC]
Jamie Loeb[WC]
Varvara Lepchenko[11]
Allie Kiick*
Taylor Townsend[13]*
Ann Li*
Usue Arconada*
Asia Muhammad
Katrina Scott[WC]

*On Monday's schedule
{{ Play each other in first round

Emma Navarro, who received her wild card for reaching the final last week at the USTA National 18s Championships in San Diego, drew top seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. Govind Nanda, who received his wild card for reaching the 18s final last week in Kalamazoo, drew ATP No. 163 Oscar Otte of Germany.

Qualifying concluded today at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, and I'll be providing coverage of the tournament for the sixth straight year beginning at 9 a.m. Monday at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. The top girls seed is Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who lost in the final of a $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Kenya today, but is still in the draw as of this evening. Top seed in the boys draw is Flavio Cobolli of Italy, who is draw to play Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda. I didn't ask Svajda specifically if he was going to play this tournament after he won Kalamazoo last week, but I was under the impression he was not planning to play again before the US Open. I'll know soon enough, with that match first on the JTCC's stadium court. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s tomorrow, so the implementation of the ITF's junior heat rule is a real possibility.

The boys qualifiers:
Bruno Krenn(USA)
Azuma Visaya(USA)
Ozan Colak(USA)
Braden Shick(USA)
Evan Wen(USA)
Michael Zheng(USA)
Tauheed Browning(USA)
Derek Raskopf(USA)

The girls qualifiers:
Nicole Hammond(USA)
Sydni Ratliff(USA)
Meera Jesudason(USA)
Ruth Marsh(USA)
Isabelle Kouzmanov(USA)
Taylor Cataldi(USA)
Neha Velaga(USA)
Muskan Mahajan(USA)

For Monday's order of play and the draws, see the tournament website.

Madison Keys won the biggest tournament of her career today at the WTA Premier event in Cincinnati. The 24-year-old defeated wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-5, 7-6(5) after trailing 5-3 in both sets in this afternoon's final, and will move back into the Top 10 on Monday. For more on the Cincinnati final, see this article from the WTA website.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dolehide Wins Concord $60K; Cid Downs Blanch in Memphis Final; Kittay and Wood Claim ITF Grade 4 Titles in Mexico; Keys Tops Kenin in Cincinnati

Caroline Dolehide won the singles title at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Concord Massachusetts, beating Ann Li 6-3, 7-5 in this afternoon's final. It's the second $60K title of Dolehide's career, and it moves her back near the WTA Top 200. The 20-year-old from Chicago was as high as 102 last summer.

The wild card team of Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes, teammates for the past three years at USC, won their first title in just their second tournament as a team, beating unseeded Ellie Halbauer and Ingrid Neel(Florida) today 7-6(3), 4-6, 17-15 in just under two hours.

At the $25,000 men's tournament in Memphis, former University of South Florida All-American Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic took the singles title, with the top seed saving two match points to defeat No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8).

Two American juniors, both seeded No. 2, claimed the singles titles at the ITF Grade 4 in Monterrey Mexico, with Benjamin Kittay and Sasha Wood prevailing in straight sets.  Kittay, who won the Kalamazoo 16s doubles title last Saturday with Hugo Hashimoto and is scheduled to compete in this coming week's ITF Grade 1 in College Park, defeated No. 6 seed Mario Duron Garza of Mexico 6-2, 6-4 for his first Grade 4 singles title. Kittay was a finalist last year in Monterrey.

Wood defeated No. 3 seed Sofia Caezas Dominguez of Venezuela 6-2, 6-1 in the final for her fourth singles title and second at the Grade 4 level.

Madison Keys ended the run of Sonya Kenin this afternoon in Cincinnati, with the No. 16 seed winning 7-5, 6-4. Keys will play Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, a wild card, for the title Sunday.

Sunday is the final day of qualifying for the new WTA International tournament next week in the Bronx, and Elli Mandlik has won two matches in the past two days to advance to the final round. Mandlik, 18, defeated Jennifer Elie 6-4, 6-4 yesterday and beat YingYing Duan of China 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 today. She will face No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France for a place in the main draw, and it will be Mandlik's first match against a WTA Top 100 opponent, with Ferro ranked 71.

The final round of qualifying is set for Sunday morning at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland.  Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who is entered and would be the No. 1 girls seed, is currently playing in a $15K in Nairobi, where she has reached the final.  All first round matches in College Park are scheduled to be played on Monday, so it seems unlikely that she will be able to get here in time.

Friday, August 16, 2019

My Recap of Kalamazoo 18s Championships; Dolehide, Li and Blanch Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Ecarma Out at Louisville; Kenin Advances to Second Straight WTA Premier Semifinal; College Park ITF Grade 1 Wild Cards

The final two articles on last week's USTA National Championships were posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I covered Zachary Svajda's victory over Govind Nanda in the best-of-five boys 18s final in Kalamazoo and Rhiannon Potkey has the details on Katie Volynet's win over Emma Navarro in the girls 18s championship match in San Diego. Both articles also include coverage of the double finals, with Martin Damm and Toby Kodat and Abigail Forbes and Alexa Noel earning US Open main draw wild cards with their victories.

The two USTA Pro Circuit events this week in the United States end on Saturday rather than the customary Sunday finish, and three Americans will be vying for titles.  Wild card Caroline Dolehide, who won the silver medal in singles and gold medal in doubles at the Pan Am Games earlier this month, advanced to the final of the $60,000 tournament in Concord Massachusetts, beating qualifier Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-6(2), 6-4.  She will face Ann Li, also unseeded this week, who advanced to her second straight $60K final with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Usue Arconada.

At the $25,000 men's tournament in Memphis, Ulises Blanch has reached the final, where he'll face top seed Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic. Blanch, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) 6-3, 6-2, while Cid, the former All-American at the University of South Florida, got by No. 7 seed Daniel Nguyen(USC) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

No. 2 seeds Ian Dempster(NC State/Wake Forest) and Korey Lovett(Alabama/Central Florida) won the doubles title in Memphis, beating No. 4 seeds Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) and Alexander Cozbinov(UNLV) of Moldova 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

The University of Louisville has fired men's head coach Rex Ecarma, two months after placing him on leave while an investigation was in progress. Ecarma, the head coach at Louisville for 29 years, was under scrutiny for his "treatment of student-athletes," according to the suspension letter that was obtained by the Louisville Courier-Journal. This article from WDRB, quoting a Louisville press release, says Ecarma will be paid according to his contract, which runs through 2023.

Sonya Kenin has beaten her second WTA No. 1 in two weeks, advancing to Saturday's semifinals in Cincinnati when Naomi Osaka retired trailing 6-4, 1-6, 2-0. Kenin had beaten Ashleigh Barty last week in Toronto, which allowed Osaka to reclaim the No. 1 position. Regardless of how she fares in the semifinals against either Venus Williams or Madison Keys, Kenin will make her WTA Top 20 debut on Monday.

I'll again be covering the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Junior Tennis Championships in College Park Maryland beginning Monday with the start of the main draw. Qualifying begins Saturday with two rounds and will finish on Sunday with one round. The order of play and the draws are available here.

The wild cards have been distributed as follows:
Muhammad Dossani
Ekansh Kumar
Samir Banerjee
Trinity Greer
Hayden Postin
Hugo Hashimoto
Luke Casper
Cash Hanzlik

Elise Wagle
Carson Tanguilig
Nishitha Saravanan
Clervie Ngounoue
Ashlyn Krueger
Tsehay Driscoll
Alison Bach
Noa Boyd

Thursday, August 15, 2019

My Recap of Kalamazoo 16s National Championships; Masi Named to Replace Peter Smith at USC; ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Moves Indoors; New Athletic Complex in Carson to Feature 52 Tennis Courts

Beginning with the 12s on Tuesday, the Tennis Recruiting Network has been providing recaps of the USTA National Championships, held last week in five different cities.  The article on the girls 12s final in Alpharetta Georgia, which saw Claire An defeat Bella Payne is here. For more on the boys 12s final in Mobile Alabama between Maxwell Exsted and Abhinav Chunduru click here.

The boys 14s, also in Mobile, concluded with Cooper Williams beating Nicholas Godsick, and Theadora Rabman defeated Brooklyn Olson in the girls 14s final in Rome Georgia.

My article on Alex Bernard's win over Aidan Mayo for the Kalamazoo 16s title was posted today, as was Rhiannon Potkey's look at Reese Brantmeier's victory in the 16s final over Valencia Xu in San Diego. My recap also features comments from 16s doubles champions Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay. The 18s article will go up on Friday.

The news broke last weekend that Brett Masi would be leaving Texas Tech and returning to USC to replace Peter Smith and USC made it official today with this announcement.  Masi, who was an assistant to Smith at USC from 2005-2009, left after their 2009 NCAA team title to take the head coaching job at University of San Diego. He was there from 2010-2015 before taking the head coaching job at Texas Tech, where he has been the past four years. USC announced Smith's retirement on July 19th. The release does not say whether current associate head coach Kris Kwinta will remain.

After many years in Tulsa, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed left Oklahoma in 2018, with the tournament held in Charlotte, North Carolina last October. Although the University of North Carolina-Charlotte has a beautiful facility, the lack of indoor courts and outdoor lights made it a difficult week, with Hurricane Michael playing a large role in that frustration. This year the event is moving to Nicholasville Kentucky, outside of Lexington, and will be played on 12 indoor courts at Top Seed Tennis, a private club. Qualifying is scheduled for October 5-6, with main draw running from October 7-12.  The deadline for entry is September 10, and due to the time of year and the closed nature of the tournament, the qualifying rarely fills, so those interested in getting started in ITF tournaments should consider entering.

In February, the USTA announced its foundation as a partner in the construction of the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus in Carson California. With approval from the Los Angeles County board, construction is expected to begin this winter, and when complete, will feature 52 tennis courts and five soccer fields as well as academic facilities. USTA Player Development-West, currently just a short distance away, and the USTA Southern California section are expected to move to the facility upon its completion.  The USTA's initial release is here and a recent press release from the County of Los Angeles is here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UTR's San Francisco $120,000 Event Offers Prize Money for Top College, Junior Finishers, in Addition to $50K to Overall Winner; Svajda Among Youngest Men's Competitors Ever at US Open

Last week UTR announced a new men's tournament, the Kunal Patel San Francisco Open, which will feature a total of $120,000 in prize money. The competition begins with a staggered entry qualifying tournament at the Fremont Tennis Club from August 31 through September 2, with the two finalists, as well as two wild cards, receiving entry into the main tournament, which is scheduled for September 12-15 at the Berkeley Tennis Club. Players will be selected based on their Universal Tennis Ratings.

ATP pros Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn are expected to compete in the Berkeley portion of the tournament, with the players with the eight best UTRs among the entrants bypassing the qualifying round. The winner receives $50,000 and the finalist $20,000, but what makes this tournament unique is prize money for a variety of top finishers, not just those who compete against the pros in that part of the event.

The top 2 players advancing the furthest in the qualifying tournament in the following categories will have a final playoff on Sunday, September 15th to earn the following prize money/expense reimbursement:
  • 40 & Over: Winner $2,000, Finalist $1,000  
  • College: Winner $3,000, Finalist $1,000
  • 18 & Under: Winner $3,000, Finalist $1,000
  • 14 & Under: Winner $500, Finalist $250
This is a great opportunity to play a certified UTR event and earn money while doing so, without actually needing to win a tournament to receive it.

College players would be able to retain their amateur status as long as they use their winnings to offset expenses, while the juniors are allowed to accept up to $10,000 a year without affecting their amateur status.

To enter, and for more details, see the UTR event page, with the deadline for entry August 25th.

Randy Walker at World Tennis has delved into the US Open archives to see where 16-year-old Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda lands among the youngest participants in the main draw of the men's singles in New York.  Svajda is the youngest player since Donald Young in 2005 (the article says 2007, which is incorrect), with Young turning 16 the month before. Svajda turns 17 in November.

1988 Kalamazoo champion Tommy Ho is the youngest man to play at the Open in the Open era, at age 15. I believe Ho is also the last player to win Kalamazoo in his debut here, which is what Svajda did this year.

I'm occasionally asked who was the most impressive Kalamazoo champion I've seen in my 40 plus years of watching the finals, and I would have to go with 1983 champion Aaron Krickstein, who won Kalamazoo just days after turning 16, and went on to make the fourth round of the US Open just a few weeks later. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Gauff Accepts US Open Wild Card; Men's USO Wild Cards Also Announced; Sheehy, Rogers Capture ITA Summer Circuit National Titles

The US Open men's and women's wild cards were announced today, ending the suspense as to Coco Gauff's status. Although she has used all her allotted WTA wild cards until next year, the 15-year-old was given a main draw US Open women's singles wild card by the USTA, which is not bound by the WTA's age eligibility restrictions. According to the WTA rules, participating in the main draw of the US Open as a wild card (rather than getting there via qualifying), Gauff will not earn any WTA ranking points regardless of her results:

Ranking Point Penalty: In the event a player plays in a Tournament that exceeds the number or level permitted to be played under the AER or enters a Tournament that in any way conflicts with the AER or Player Development Programs, that Tournament will not be counted for ranking points for that player.

The two American women who earned their wild cards via competition are 17-year-old Katie Volynets, the 18s National Champion, and 27-year-old Kristie Ahn, who won the USTA Wild Card Challenge. The two women's reciprocal wild cards with France and Australia were given by those federations to 17-year-old Diane Parry and former women's singles champion Samantha Stosur.  That leaves four additional main draw wild cards and those went to 17-year-olds Whitney Osuigwe and Caty McNally, former Ohio State star Francesca Di Lorenzo, 22, and Gauff.

Women's qualifying wild cards were given to Hailey Baptiste, 17; Reese Brantmeier, 14; Caroline Dolehide, 20; Vicky Duval, 23; Jamie Loeb, 24; Bethanie Mattek-Sands; Emma Navarro, 18; Shelby Rogers, 26; and Katrina Scott, 15. Loeb is the only college player of the nine; I'm a bit surprised by National 16s champion Brantmeier's wild card over say Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga, who has gone 9-5 in Pro Circuit events since graduating in May, and reached the semifinals of the $60,000 event in Landisville Pennsylvania last week.

The men's main draw wild cards are a much older group, with the exception of USTA National 18s champion Zachary Svajda, who is 16. Ernesto Escobedo, 23, won the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, and the French reciprocal wild card was given to 23-year-old Antoine Hoang. The Australian reciprocal wild card has yet to be announced.

Four 26-year-old Americans received wild cards: Jack Sock, Marcos Giron, Bjorn Fratangelo and Denis Kudla. Later in the day, Kudla moved into the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew, with 23-year-old Chris Eubanks receiving Kudla's wild card.

The first question many tennis fans on twitter posed after the announcement was why 22-year-old Tommy Paul didn't receive a main draw wild card. It was a bit of a surprise that he didn't get a wild card into Cincinnati qualifying, and a big surprise that he didn't get Kudla's wild card, as he is currently ranked at 112, higher than Fratangelo, Sock, Giron and Eubanks.

Paul finished second to Escobedo in the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, primarily due to his run at the Rogers Cup last week, where he qualified and won his first round before losing to No. 7 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy. These results are remarkably similar to Di Lorenzo's, who finished second to Ahn in the Wild Card Challenge after qualifying at the Rogers Cup and winning her first round before falling to No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. With Di Lorenzo receiving a main draw wild card, the fact that Paul did not get one is puzzling.

Christina McHale also has a case, with her current WTA ranking of 102 higher than any of the players who did receive a main draw wild card.

The men's qualifying wild cards were given to: JC Aragone, 24; Jenson Brooksby, 18; Maxime Cressy, 22; Sebastian Korda, 19; Stefan Kozlov, 21; Govind Nanda 18; Sam Riffice, 20; Alex Rybakov, 22 and JJ Wolf, 20. Kozlov won his wild card in a playoff held at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.

Wild card distribution is tricky business and no player is entitled to one, unless they win it in a designated tournament or series of events. But the USTA should be trying to select the most deserving players, all other things being equal, and something seems off in their evaluation process this year.

The ITA Summer Circuit National Championships concluded today in Fort Worth Texas, with Abilene Christian rising senior Jonathan Sheehy and North Carolina State rising senior Anna Rogers claiming the titles, along with $3,000 in prize money and a wild card into October's ITA All-American Championships.  No. 15 seed Sheehy defeated Stanford rising sophomore Sangeet Sridhar, seeded ninth, 7-5, 6-2 in the singles championship match, and also won the doubles title, with partner Parker Wynn of Texas Tech. No. 5 seeds Sheehy and Wynn defeated Tennessee's Adam Walton and Andrew Rogers, the No. 6 seeds, 8-5 in the final.

Top seed Rogers, who finished the season No. 13 in the ITA National rankings, defeated unseeded Taylor Melville, a rising sophomore at Denver, 6-4, 7-6(7) for the title.  Elise Van Heuvelen, a senior at Iowa, and Yun Chen Hsieh, a freshman at Iowa State, won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair beating Texas A&M's Jayci Goldsmith and Tatiana Makarova, seeded No. 3, 8-7(8).

For more on the men's finals, see this article; for more on the women's finals, see this article.