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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Top 16s Seeds Wolf and Van Emburgh Survive Close Calls in Kalamazoo Second Round; Di Lorenzo Wins Austin $10K; ITF World Junior Tennis Competition Starts Monday

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Kalamazoo, MI--

JJ Wolf and Jake Van Emburgh, the top two seeds in the 16s, staved off major upsets Sunday in the second round of the USTA Boys Nationals at Stowe Stadium, with Wolf defeating Drew Baird 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 and Van Emburgh beating Lucas Biondi 4-6, 6-3 7-6(0).

Although the temperature reached 90 degrees and the winds gusted over 25 mph later in the afternoon, the swirling breeze was mostly just a nuisance when Wolf and Van Emburgh took on Baird and Biondi on show courts 2 and 3.

Wolf saved a break point at 4-4 in the third with a good first serve, then held with a world class down the line backhand winner, putting the pressure squarely back on Baird.  Serving at 4-5, Baird couldn't find his first serve, and a couple of errors made it 30-all. A big Wolf forehand into the corner forced an error from Baird to set up match point, and when Baird missed a short forehand putaway wide, Wolf had the victory.

"I knew I was going to have to fight," said Wolf, a 16-year-old from Cincinnati. "He was such a good player, I knew it could go either way. He hit the ball really cleanly, so it was tough on the faster courts of Kalamazoo."

Wolf said he worked out his nerves after the first set, but soon discovered attacking his 14-year-old opponent's one-handed backhand was not productive.

"I tried to go there, but he stepped up and hit it pretty well," said Wolf, who won the 16s Winter Nationals in January. "So I wasn't going to go out of my way to hit it to his backhand. I just hit my crosscourt shots and did what I could."


As precarious a position as Wolf was in, his doubles partner Van Emburgh was in even more danger. Down 3-1 in the final set, he won four straight games to serve for the match, but then double faulted at 30-40 to make it 5-5.  Biondi, who hadn't held serve since the first game of the set, held at 15 to make it 6-5 and Van Emburgh needed his second hold of the set just to force a tiebreaker.

After Biondi missed a forehand in the first point of the game, Van Emburgh finally found the rhythm on his serve, hitting three consecutive aces to send the match into a tiebreaker.  Biondi, a 16-year-old from New York, netted a forehand on the first point and Van Emburgh took it from there, with a combination of his winners, including another ace, and Biondi's errors giving him the next six points as well.

"Those aces definitely gave me a huge jump into the tiebreak," said Van Emburgh, who has recently relocated to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where his father has taken a coaching position. "I had some doubts there at the end when I couldn't hold my serve serving for the match, and I thought here we go. But then I found it, and once I got up 3-0 in the breaker, I was, okay, I've got this match, this is my match."

Van Emburgh said he felt nauseous throughout the match and also turned his ankle, which required a medical timeout for taping by the trainer.

"I don't know what was wrong," Van Emburgh said of his queasy feeling throughout the match. "I never get tired, or sick so it was like a first thing for me. I felt really crappy the whole time. So I was lucky to be able to hang in there and fight my way through."

Van Emburgh, who turns 17 next month, was confident his doubles partner would do the same, when he looked over to see Wolf trailing in his match.

"I was surprised when he lost the first set, but I knew he wasn't going to lose the match," said Van Emburgh. "It's just how he is."

Although the top two seeds survived, nine seeded 16s players did not. No. 13 seed Andrew Fenty lost to William Grattan-Smith 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, No. 17 seed Kevin Ma was beaten by Jeremy Yuan 6-3, 6-1 and No. 18 seed Robert Maciag was defeated by Andrew Ton 6-4, 6-4. No. 19 seed Abhijeet Joshi was defeated by Sean Hill 7-5, 7-6(1), No. 20 seed William Peters lost to Caleb Chakravarthi 6-4, 6-4 and No. 21 seed Jaycer Lyeons was beaten by Matthew Rodriguez 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. No. 29 seed John Speicher lost to Arjith Jayaraman 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, No. 30 seed Ajai Shekhera was defeated by Bryce Pereira 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and No. 32 seed Cotter Wilson lost to Keenan Mayo 6-3, 6-4.

The second round of 16s doubles saw top seed Van Emburgh and Wolf and No. 2 seeds Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson advance in straight sets.

The only 18s action on Sunday was the third round of doubles, with the top three seeded teams of Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, and Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm all advancing in straight sets at the windswept courts at Western Michigan University.

Complete results and draws are at ustaboys.com.

Monday will feature third round singles play for both divisions, with the 16s beginning at 8 a.m. and the 18s starting at 12:30 p.m.

Eighteen-year-old wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo, who will start this fall at Ohio State, won the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Austin, Texas, beating Lauren Herring, the recent Georgia grad, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 in Sunday's final.  Di Lorenzo is scheduled to play in the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego on Monday at 10 a.m.

Evan King won the $15,000 Futures in Edwardsville, beating Clay Thompson 6-4, 6-3.  Bobby Knight has full coverage of the former Michigan Wolverine's win over the former UCLA Bruin at College Tennis Today.

The ITF's 14-and-under World Junior Tennis Championships get underway on Monday in the Czech Republic with the Russian girls and Korean boys the top seeds.  The USA teams (the players representing the US are here) are both No. 1 in their round robin groups, meaning they are expected to advance to the semifinals.  The ITF Junior website article about the draw is here.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Top Kalamazoo 18s Seeds Survive After Anxious Moments; Wiersholm Defeats No. 8 Seed Blumberg, Stalder Ousts Riffice

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Not much came easy for the top seeds as they took to the Stowe Stadium courts for the first time in round two of the USTA Boys 18s Nationals.


Although No. 1 seed Frances Tiafoe picked up a routine 6-1, 6-3 win over Billy Rowe, No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz was just two points into his match with Alex Ross when something went awry with his knee.

"I don't know what shot I did it on," said Fritz, who won the match 6-1, 6-2. "It was one of two shots. One shot I jumped up and back for a deep forehand, so I could have landed funny on it, and then later on that point I went up and stop-started on that knee, so that might be what did it. I think I just jammed my knee in. I felt this weird pain on the next shot I hit on that point, it was bad actually. It was so painful when I went to serve, so I asked for a medical timeout."

The trainer wrapped the knee, and Fritz won that game and the next two, without being able to use his normal service motion.

"When I got back on, I still couldn't put any weight on it," Fritz said. "Any bending and pushing hurt. With the pain I was having, there was no chance I could play, but I was winning, so I kept playing. He was missing a lot of first serves, so I could move around his second serve and go for a winner. In the second set, he made more first serves and in the second set it started feeling better and better. I still couldn't do my full serve. But I'm not too worried about it."

No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh, who won a Futures title last week in Illinois, had his hands full with Sam Turchetta, but Turchetta blinked in the first set tiebreaker and Mmoh took advantage, closing out the match 7-6(0), 6-3. Nick Bollettieri, who is an honorary referee at the tournament, has mentored Mmoh throughout his five years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, and watched Mmoh's performance while enjoying a picture-perfect midsummer day in Kalamazoo.

Wimbledon champion Reilly Opelka, the No. 6 seed, also had some nervous moments in the first set, falling behind Paul Barretto 3-1 before recovering for a 7-6(6), 6-3 win. No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov also was down early against Aron Pierce, with Pierce having four set points serving at 5-4, but Rybakov saved them all, won the subsequent tiebreaker and went on to a 7-6(4), 6-1 win.

No. 4 seed Tommy Paul needed only one set, which he won 6-2, to advance to the third round, with Lane Leschly retiring with a leg injury.  No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov was tested by Ole Miss rising sophomore Grey Hamilton, but last year's semifinalist hit some clutch backhand winners late to take a 6-4, 6-4 decision.


No. 8 seed William Blumberg was the only top 8 seed failing to advance, with Henrik Wiersholm defeating him 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.  Wiersholm trailed 4-2 in the final set, but played error-free tennis in the final four games to get the win. A stunning running forehand winner at 4-all in the third got him the break, and he had no difficulty serving it out.

"It really came down to a couple of points here and there," said Wiersholm, the 2012 16s champion. "There was one point where I just hit a great passing shot. He should have won that. If he wins that point, you're probably talking to Will right now, to be honest."

Wiersholm knew Blumberg had been ill and pulled out of doubles on Friday, but thought that may not have been an advantage for him.

"He has a sinus infection, so he was breathing heavy at points, but I think that made him actually go after his shots more," said Wiersholm. "And when Will's going after his shots, he's really tough to play, because he has such good timing. The first set was kind of a blur. He was teeing off, I was hitting a little bit short and he was playing good ball. Fast tennis and 6-1 just like that. I told myself you have to recognize he's firing on all cylinders and you have to step it up now, hitting the ball deeper, moving him up and back and I was able to do that in the second set."

Wiersholm, who was seeded No. 12 last year, but is unseeded this year after a year at the University of Virginia, was philosophical about that position. And in teammate Collin Altamirano, who won the tournament unseeded in 2013, he has a blueprint if he needs one to inspire him.

"Collin is a great example of how seeding doesn't really matter," Wiersholm said. "If you want to win the tournament, which is the goal of all these players here, you have to beat everybody. So if I have to start early--first round was just as tough as this one, I played another great player--so be it. Just get after it."

Blumberg was the highest seed to fall in the second round, but far from the only one.


At a match played late in the afternoon at Western Michigan University, Reese Stalder defeated No. 9 seed and Clay Court champion Sam Riffice 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(6). According to those at the match, the last twenty minutes of the match featured great tennis and great sportsmanship by both players, with both playing to win until Stalder collected the final point of the match.

No. 15 seed Eric Rutledge lost to Michael Genender 6-2, 6-1, No. 16 seed Zeke Clark lost to Logan Smith 6-3, 6-4 and 2014 16s finalist Connor Hance, the No. 21 seed this year in 18s, lost to Grayson Broadus 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.  No. 26 seed Kalman Boyd lost to Jack Turchetta 6-4, 7-5, No. 27 seed Andrew Heller was beaten by Vincent Lin 6-2, 6-2 and No. 32 seed Matthew Gamble lost to Ryan Dickerson 7-5, 6-4.

First round action in the boys 16s began Saturday, with all seeded players and doubles teams starting their tournament on Sunday. The boys 18s have only the third round of doubles on Sunday.

Complete draws with results can be found at ustaboys.com

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Kalamazoo Preview; Former Champion Wiersholm Overcomes Tough Challenge in Opening Round at Kalamazoo; Clay Champions Riffice and Kirkov Fall in Doubles


©Colette Lewis--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Seeded players in the 18s all received byes in the first round, meaning their opening matches will be Saturday, and obviously the focus is on them in my Kalamazoo preview for the Tennis Recruiting Network. But a former champion will always receive attention at Kalamazoo, and 2012 16s winner Henrik Wiersholm fought his way past Alex Knight 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one of the featured matches at Stowe Stadium.

Both Wiersholm and Knight have completed their freshman years in college, with Wiersholm at Virginia and Knight at Michigan, and Wiersholm anticipated he would have his hands full against the left-hander from Florida.

"He plays at Michigan and I knew they had a pretty good program over there, so I knew it was going to be a tough match," said Wiersholm. "It wasn't going to be junior tennis, because he goes to college, he knows how to play. I knew it was going to be long points, move the ball around. In the first set, I came out pretty nervous, honestly. I was playing tight, not looking for the ball and he capitalized on that. In the second set, I was just telling myself, yeah, it's Kalamazoo, but you've played this tournament for the fourth time, so what are you doing playing tight? Just go out and play."

In the third set, Knight's service game at 2-2 went to ten deuces and he saved eight break points before holding with an ace.  And although Wiersholm lost the game, he held easily and then broke Knight for a 4-3 lead in a game almost as short as Knight's previous service game was long.

"I think that took a little bit out of him," said Wiersholm. "I don't how many minutes it was, so long, so many deuces. I had a lot of chances but I knew if I put him in a position like that, the next game I could capitalize because he'd be thinking like, wow, that last service game was tough, this one is going to be tough. And so I went after a couple of returns in that game and was able to get the break."

One of the characteristics of Kalamazoo that sets it apart from other junior events is its ability to draw players back from college, Pro Circuit and ITF junior circuit events. 

Stefan Kozlov, who has not played a junior event since last December and accompanied his friend Wiersholm to his press conference in the Tower, explained.

"This tournament is like nothing else," said Kozlov, 17. "Everyone you see, it seems like you haven't seen in years. It's crazy. You see everyone and you've got to talk to them, you've got to plan an extra 30 minutes just for that. Even at junior slams, it's not like this."

Wiersholm agreed.

"It's all the U.S. players, we're all best buds, and a lot of these guys I haven't seen in a year. I walked out to practice yesterday, and like for an hour, everyone was like, ooo, whaah," said Wiersholm, imitating good friends greeting each other after a long absence. "It's insane."

Wiersholm will play No. 8 seed William Blumberg in the second round Saturday. 

"I'm excited," Wiersholm said. "Will's a damn good player."

Blumberg may not be in top physical condition however, as he withdrew from doubles with an illness. His partner Nathan Ponwith did find another player whose partner had also withdrawn, Adrian Chamdani, and they advanced to the third round with a straight-set victory.

No. 5 seeds Sam Riffice and Vasil Kirkov did not survive their first contest however.  The Clay Court champions fell to Alex Diaz and Zach Jennings 6-2, 6-3.

The only other seeded team to lose was No. 14 Jordan Benjamin and Matthew Gamble, who were beaten by Billy Rowe and Reese Stalder 6-1, 1-6, 10-7.

Top seeds Frances Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh, No. 2 seeds Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka and No. 3 seeds Tommy Paul and Wiersholm all advanced in straight sets.

The 16s division begins play on Saturday with unseeded players taking the courts in the first round and the opening round of doubles to follow in the afternoon.  Jake Van Emburgh and JJ Wolf are the top seeds in doubles, with Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson the No. 2 seeds.  The complete draw for the 16s doubles can be found at ustaboys.com.

Live streaming can be found for one of the show courts can be found here throughout the tournament.

The opening ceremonies, featuring an exhibition with 1995 18s champion Justin Gimelstob, are scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Stowe Stadium.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tiafoe and Mmoh Top Seeds in Kalamazoo Doubles; Southern Cal Girls Take 18s National Team Title


The doubles draws have been posted for the Kalamazoo 18s, with two rounds scheduled for Friday. As in the singles, a main draw US Open wild card goes to the winners. Last year's defending champion Stefan Kozlov, who partnered Noah Rubin, is not entered in doubles this year.

The 18s doubles seeds:
1 Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe
2 Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka
3 Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm
4 William Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith
5 Vasil Kirkov and Sam Riffice
6 Joshua Sheehy and Parker Wynn
7 Brandon Holt and Riley Smith
8 Zeke Clark and William Genesen
9 Eduardo Nava and Alex Rybakov
10 Spencer Furman and Eric Rutledge
11 Lane Leschly and Alex Ross
12 Oliver Crawford and Johnathan Small
13 Joseph Haig and William Sharton
14 Jordan Benjamin and Matthew Gamble
15 Martin Joyce and Gianni Ross
16 Liam Caruana and Sameer Kumar

The seeded teams receive a bye in the first round, so will play only one doubles match on Friday.

The 16s begin singles play on Saturday and their doubles draw will come out on Friday afternoon.

The match times for singles and doubles are now posted at ustaboys.com. Click the Match Times button at the top of the home page for a printable pdf.

The Southern Cal girls won the USTA Girls 18 National Team Championship, beating the Southern section's team 6-1 yesterday in Claremont, California.  The Southern Cal section had won the boys version of the tournament in Champaign on Tuesday.

Below are the results from the final:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kalamazoo Draws Posted; Black Top Seed in San Diego, Seeds in 12s and 14s Posted; Ryan Shane Feature

The draws for the Kalamazoo tournament, which starts on Friday, are now available at ustaboys.com.  With such a strong group of seeds there was always going to be some tough, tough quarterfinals, and No. 2 Fritz versus No. 5 Mmoh and No. 1 Tiafoe versus No. 6 Opelka are certainly two of them, provided they all make it that far, of course.

Last year the top eight seeds in the 18s all reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1976. Could it happen two years in a row after a nearly 40-year gap?

The draws for the other age groups are not yet posted--I'm told the San Diego draws will be out Thursday--but the seeds have all been announced.  Below are the Top 16 seeds in the 12s, 14s, and the girls 16s and 18s.  The 17-32 seeds are available via a link back to the TennisLink site. All 32 of the Kalamazoo 16s and 18s seeds are here.


Girls 18s:
1  Tornado Alicia Black
2  Usue Arconada
3  Sofia Kenin
4  Michaela Gordon
5  Raveena Kingsley
6  Francesca Dilorenzo
7  Ingrid Neel
8  Claire Liu
9  Kayla Day
10  Alexandra Sanford
11  Alexa Graham
12  Ellyse Hamlin
13  Ena Shibahara
14  Rebecca Weissmann
15  Mia Horvit
16  Kelly Chen

Girls 16s
1  Natasha Subhash
2  Victoria Flores
3  Hannah Lairmore
4  Nicole Mossmer
5  Elysia Bolton
6  Clarissa Hand
7  Taylor Johnson
8  Anna Brylin
9  Carson Branstine
10  Hannah Zhao
11  Victoria Emma
12  Caroline Dunleavy
13  Meg Kowalski
14  Ally Bojczuk
15  Whitney Osuigwe
16  Sydney Jones

Girls 14s
1  Alexa Noel
2  Katie Volynets
3  Victoria Hu
4  Lea Ma
5  Angelica Blake
6  Reilly Tran
7  Kacie Harvey
8  Chloe Beck
9  Maggie Cubitt
10  Emma Navarro
11  Naomi Cheong
12  Hailey Baptiste
13  Addison Guevara
14  Gabriella Price
15  Cori Gauff
16  Lauren Stein

Girls 12s
1  Brooke Theis
2  Kenadee Semenik
3  Jenna DeFalco
4  Emma Jackson
5  Rachel Arbitman
6  Bridget Stammel
7  Sydni Ratliff
8  Maria Rizzolo
9  Tyra Richardson
10  Tara Malik
11  Hibah Shaikh
12  Madison Sieg
13  Elise Wagle
14  Ellie Pittman
15  Carrie Beckman
16  Katrina Scott

Boys 14s
1  William Grant
2  Cannon Kingsley
3  Daniel Sharygin
4  Nathan Han
5  Ronan Jachuck
6  Connor Nisbet
7  Harry Yang
8  Stefan Leustian
9  Evin McDonald
10  Leighton Allen
11  Hunter Heck
12  Andrew Dale
13  Nicholas Garcia
14  Spencer Gray
15  Richard Bell
16  Thomas Yu

Boys 12s
1  Hugo Hashimoto
2  Karl Lee
3  Saud Alhogbani
4  Phillip Deaton
5  Benjamin Kittay
6  Griffin Daehnke
7  Samuel Landau
8  Eric Perkowski
9  Daniel Dunac
10  Nishesh Basavareddy
11  James Delgado
12  Sam Reichbach
13  Andrew Chang
14  Tonmye Nirundorn
15  Gavin Young

16  Teddy Truwit

NCAA champion Ryan Shane of Virginia is back competing after an injury layoff following his title in Waco in May.  After going 1-1 in the Lexington Challenger qualifying, Shane will be in action this weekend at the qualifying for the ATP event in Washington DC.  In anticipation of that, Kelyn Soong wrote this feature on Shane for the Washington Post, which contains some interesting background on how Ryan and older brother Justin started playing the sport.

In other University of Virginia news, assistant men's coach Dustin Taylor will be accompanying the USTA Collegiate Team to Italy for two $15,000 Futures events there beginning next week. 

The Aptos Challenger, a $100,000 event that begins in two weeks, could decide the US Open men's Wild Card Challenge. Here's a preview from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

All Top 10 ITF Boys and Girls Entered in US Open Juniors; Southern Cal Wins USTA Boys 18 Team Championship; Donaldson, Kudla Advance in Atlanta

The acceptances for the US Open Junior Championships were released today, and all players in the ITF top 10, and all but one of the top 15, girls No. 15 Julieta Estable, have entered.

Nine US girls have received direct entry: Usue Arconada, Sonya Kenin, Michaela Gordon, Raveena Kingsley, Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ingrid Neel, Claire Liu, CiCi Bellis and Katerina Stewart.  Kayla Day is the first alternate, with an ITF ranking of 56.  Alexandra Sanford and Tornado Alicia Black, the 2013 US girls finalist, are in qualifying Stewart, a semifinalist in New York last year, received entry based on her WTA ranking, currently 158.  Magdalena Frech of Poland, 378 in the WTA rankings, also received her entry by that method.

Caroline Dolhide, ranked No. 16 and a semifinalist last year after advancing through qualifying, has not entered and is not playing the G18s Nationals in San Diego either. She played earlier this month at Wimbledon and reached the third round there.

Seven US boys have received direct entry: Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh, Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg, Tommy Paul, Nathan Ponwith and Ulises Blanch.  Sam Riffice has already assured himself of a wild card into the main draw by winning the 18s Clay Courts.

The cutoff for the boys is 45, extremely high for the US Open, but not unusual for the French.  Five players received entry via their ATP rankings, with South Africa's Lloyd Harris (609), Argentina's Juan Pablo Fichovich(706) and two Spanish 18-year-olds: European Championships finalist Bernabe Zapata Miralles(708) and Pedro Martinez Portero(691).  The fifth is 14-year-old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime, who became the youngest player ever to reach the quarterfinals of an ATP Challenger last week in Granby. Those results moved his ATP ranking up to 749, which is one spot better than necessary for main draw acceptance.  It will be his first junior slam
appearance.

The USTA Boys 18 Team Championships finals were today in Champaign-Urbana, with the Southern California section defeating the Eastern section 5-2.  Eastern's No. 1 player William Blumberg won all his matches during the tournament, including today's over Austin Rapp, but it wasn't enough to counter the depth of coach Barry Horowitz's team.  The results of today's final are below:














The girls 18 final Wednesday gives Southern Cal an opportunity for a sweep of the USTA Team championships. They will play defending champion Southern for the title. The TennisLink site for the girls competition has all the results.

At the ATP event in Atlanta, Jared Donaldson defeated fellow qualifier Somdev Devvarman 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the second round, where he will play No. 7 seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.  Another US qualifier, Denis Kudla, outlasted wild card Ryan Harrison 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) to set up a second round metting with No. 3 seed Jack Sock. Sock and Kudla have played five times, including, of course, in the US Open boys final in 2010, with Sock winning three, but Kudla has won their last two meetings, though those were in 2012.

No. 6 seed Steve Johnson advanced with a 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-2 win over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia. Qualifier Austin Krajicek fell to No. 5 seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, and Frances Tiafoe saw his attempt at a first ATP-level win thwarted by Australia's Sam Groth 7-6(3), 6-4.   Mardy Fish and Donald Young both suffered straight-set losses.

Georgia Tech rising sophomore Christopher Eubanks, who received a wild card, plays his first round match against Czech Radek Stepanek on Wednesday.  For more on Eubanks, and his friendship with Donald Young, see this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.