Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bellis Wins Macon $80K Title; Coleman and Sieg Take Grade 1 Doubles Championship in Bulgaria; Orlando Grade 4 Starts Monday; More ATP Doubles Titles for Former Collegians

With nearly four years between titles, Cici Bellis knows that winning one is difficult, with injuries and bad luck often creating insurmountable roadblocks. Today at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, Bellis saw her opponent come up against one of those roadblocks, when 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk was forced to retire with cramps in the first game of the third set, giving Bellis a 6-4, 6-7(4) victory.

The first two sets took over two hours to play, with the grueling baseline rallies favoring neither player. Bellis broke at love at 4-all and was able to serve out the set, hitting a terrific crosscourt forehand pass on the run at 30-15 to give herself some breathing room.

Kostyuk, the No. 6 seed, took a 4-1 lead in the second set, only to see Bellis come roaring back to win five of the next six games. But she couldn't serve out the match at 6-5, and in the tiebreaker, Kostyuk stepped up her game, making no errors, while Bellis was less consistent.

The first game of the third set was another tense one, with Bellis saving two break points from 15-40 down, before earning two game points. Bellis couldn't convert the first and it was after she had earned the second that Kostyuk began to cramp, eventually crumpling to the court. She received medical attention, but was in no condition to continue, and, for the second consecutive day, Bellis had won via a walkover.

The Macon title is the first for Bellis since she won the WTA 125 in Hawaii back in 2016, and with the title, she should move up to around 142 in the WTA rankings after starting the week at 173. I assume she will get a special exemption into the main draw at the $80K in Tyler Texas, where qualifying begins Monday.

Sieg and Coleman win doubles title in Bulgaria
(contributed photo)

At the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria, Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg won the girls doubles title. The top seeds, who will now head back to the United States after competing in Europe for the past two months, defeated the unseeded team of Anaelle LeClercq of France and Radka Zelnickova of of Slovakia 7-5, 4-6, 10-6. 

In the girls singles final, top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra defeated No. 7 seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium 6-2, 6-1. Jimenez Kasintseva took a wild card into qualifying as a late entrant and won eight matches to claim her first Grade 1 title. 

The ITF Grade 4 in Orlando begins on Monday, with Alexis Blokhina and Ava Krug the top two girls seeds. Blokhina and Krug did not play the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta last week. The boys top two seeds are the same as in Atlanta: No. 1 Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay and No. 2 Nishesh Basavareddy. 

The boys qualifiers, all from the US, are Alexander Razeghi, Jackson Armistead, Niles Rachal and Joseph Phillips. The girls qualifiers are Mary Stoiana, Tsehay Driscoll, Sarah Hamner of the US and Sarah L'allier of Canada. Girls singles wild cards were given to Katherine Hui, Ria Bhakta, Ashlyn Krueger and Sophie Llewellyn, all of the United States.  The boys wild cards went to Jonah Braswell, Kian Vakili, Nicholas Godsick and John Kim, all from the US.

The ATP doubles tour has been fertile ground recently for former collegians, and at the two 250 events this week, three of the four doubles champions played college tennis.

Michael Venus(LSU) and John Peers(Baylor) won their third title in this abbreviated year, their first as a team, taking the championship at the European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Venus and Peers, the No. 2 seeds, defeated the unseeded team of Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Venus and Peers did not drop a set all week. For more on their title, see this article from the ATP website.

At the ATP event in Cologne Germany, Ben McLachlan of Japan and Raven Klaasen of South Africa won the title in their first tournament as a team. The unseeded pair did not drop a set all week, beating No. 3 seeds and two-time French Open champions Andreas Mies(Auburn) and Kevin Krawietz of Germany 6-2, 6-4 in the final. McLachlan, who now has six ATP doubles titles, played college tennis at Cal. For more on their win, see this article from the ATP website.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bellis Reaches Macon $80K Final Versus Kostyuk; Brady Falls in WTA Ostrava Semis; Pinnington Jones Wins ITF Grade 1 Title in Bulgaria; Qualifying Underway at Grade 4 in Orlando

Cici Bellis this summer at Lexington Exhibition
©Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com

Cici Bellis last reached a singles final way back in November of 2016, when she won her biggest title at the WTA 125 in Honolulu. The 21-year-old, who was out most of 2018 and 2019 with multiple wrist and elbow surgeries, earned the opportunity to raise the winner's trophy again today at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, advancing to the final with a 6-3, 1-0 ret. win over qualifier Varvara Lepchenko.

Bellis, a wild card who has looked dialed in throughout the week, wasn't quite as sharp today, but Lepchenko was noticeably off her game. The 34-year-old had to win three matches just to get into the main draw, and once there she had two three-hour-plus victories, including yesterday's quarterfinal over Sachia Vickery. After Bellis closed out the first set, Lepchenko took a medical timeout, but she didn't look physically able to move from side to side in the first two games, and after eight points were played in the second set, she retired.

Bellis will face 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Belarus, who ended the run of qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland in today's other semifinal 6-3, 6-2. The sixth-seeded Kostyuk, who made a huge breakthrough at the Australian Open in 2018, qualifying and reaching the third round, had a few injury issues of her own and couldn't consistently locate that early form, but she is currently at her career-high of 113 and gave eventual champion Naomi Osaka all she could handle in the third round at this year's US Open. Like Bellis, Kostyuk has not dropped a set all week, so their first meeting should be an interesting one.

The final is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, with live streaming available here

The doubles championship was decided this afternoon, with Frech and her partner Katarzyna Kawa, also of Poland, defeating Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-1 in the final. 

Jennifer Brady's run at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic ended today against No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, with Sabalenka just too powerful and to consistent today in her 6-4, 6-4 win. Sabalenka will play Victoria Azarenka in the first WTA final between two players from Belarus, after Azarenka defeated Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-3. 

The boys finals were played today at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria, with unseeded 17-year-old Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain defeating unseeded Pierre Yves Bailly of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 for his first ITF Grade 1 title.  In the doubles final, Peter Fajta and Zsombor Velcz of Hungary beat Pinnington Jones and Angel Guerrero Melgar of Spain 6-1, 7-6(2) in a battle of unseeded teams.

Top seeds Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg are through to Sunday's girls doubles final after defeating Sofia Costoulas of Belgium and Fatima Keita of Romania 6-2, 6-4 in today's semifinal. They will play the unseeded team of Anaelle LeClercq of France and Radka Zelnickova of of Slovakia for the title. 

The girls singles final will feature Costoulas, seeded No. 7, and top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra.

Qualifying began today at the ITF Grade 4 in Orlando, which was moved from Lexington South Carolina to the USTA National Campus last month. As with the Grade 4 just completed in Atlanta, the qualifying draws were full and it takes three wins to advance to the main draw, which has just 32 spots. All first round and most second round qualifying results are posted now at the ITF Junior Circuit website

Friday, October 23, 2020

Qualifier Charney, Unseeded Perego Win Atlanta Grade 4 Titles; Montgomery Claims $25K Doubles Title in France; Bellis, Lepchenko Reach Macon $80K Semis; Brady Advances in Czech Republic

Champions were crowned today at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, the first ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States in 2020. Seventeen-year-old qualifier Emma Charney won the girls singles title, defeating wild card Ashlyn Krueger 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 for her first ITF Junior Circuit title in her fourth tournament played. Charney, a blue chip from South Carolina, had lost to Krueger at last year's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Kentucky last fall. She won eight matches, including qualifying, and lost a set for the first time today.

Unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy won the boys singles title, when No. 3 seed Aidan Kim retired trailing 6-1, 2-0. It was the first ITF Junior Circuit singles title for the 17-year-old. 

As in singles, the doubles champions were unseeded. Julia Fliegner and Elisabeth Jones defeated the unseeded team of Krueger and Marcela Lopez 6-4, 7-5 in the girls final. Braden Shick and Maxwell Smith won the boys title with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over No. 7 seeds Stian Klaassan of the Netherlands and Lucas Brown.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman lost her quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 6-2, 6-4. Coleman and Madison Sieg, who are the top seeds in doubles, have advanced to the semifinals.

Robin Montgomery, playing in her second consecutive quarterfinal at a $25K in France, lost to No. 2 seed and current WTA No. 124 Oceane Dodin of France 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2. But the 16-year-old did pick up her first ITF World Tennis Tour doubles title, with 18-year-old Selena Janicijevic of France, when they received a walkover in the final from the British team of Harriet Dart and Sarah Beth Grey, the No. 2 seeds. Montgomery and Janicijevic defeated the No. 3 seeds in the quarterfinals and top seeds Robin Anderson and Jessika Ponchet of France, who had won the doubles title at last week's $25K, in the semifinals before benefitting from the walkover. 

At the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, wild card Cici Bellis and qualifier Varvara Lepchenko set up a semifinal meeting Saturday with contrasting quarterfinal victories. Bellis rolled past Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-3, winning the first nine games of the match with some outstanding tennis. She cooled off a bit in the second set, but has been impressive in her three wins so far, all in straight sets. After her first round win went more than three and a half hours, Lepchenko had another marathon victory today, with the qualifier defeating Sachia Vickery 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes.  Bellis and Lepchenko have split two previous meetings, with the last one, in November of 2019 at the Houston WTA 125, going to a third set tiebreaker. 

The other semifinal features 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the No. 6 seed, against qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. Kostyuk breezed past top seed Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1, while Frech defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-3.

Replays of the Kostyuk and Bellis wins, among other previous matches, are available here, with live streaming at the same site this weekend.

Jennifer Brady(UCLA) continued her impressive hard court play since the restart, advancing to her fourth WTA semifinal of the year today with a come-from-behind win over qualifier Veronika Kudermetova of Russia at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic.  Brady, who beat Kudermetova 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, will face No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who had a spectacularly improbable win over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain this evening. Sabalenka trailed 6-0, 4-0 before winning 12 straight games for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. 

Marcos Giron(UCLA) lost his first ever ATP quarterfinal match today at the European Open in Belgium, falling to No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia 6-3, 6-0. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Giron Earns First ATP Top 20 Win, Brady Advances in Ostrava; Montgomery Reaches $25K Quarterfinal; Finals Friday at Atlanta Grade 4; Coleman Claims Bulgaria Grade 1 Quarterfinal Berth

2014 NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron has achieved a handful of career firsts since the restart, including his first main draw grand slam win (US Open), his first French Open main draw win, and his first appearance in the ATP Top 100. Tonight at the ATP 250 European Open in Belgium, the 27-year-old former UCLA Bruin added two more accomplishments, earning his first ATP Top 20 victory and reaching his first ATP quarterfinal. Giron took advantage of the inconsistency and poor serving of top seed and ATP No. 14 David Goffin in Goffin's home country, posting a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Giron played nearly flawless tennis in the opening set, building a 5-1 lead before Goffin began to show some signs of life. 

The second set was more competitive, but it was Giron who was able to prevail on the important points, saving eight of ten break points. After Goffin took a 5-4 lead in the second set, Giron took charge, winning 12 of the next 15 to earn his place in the quarterfinals. Giron will play No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who was his previous best win prior to tonight, with Giron defeating the then 24th-ranked De Minaur in the second round at Indian Wells last year 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

For more on Giron's win, see this article from the ATP website.

Giron wasn't the only former UCLA star to pick up a win today in Europe; Jennifer Brady came from 2-5 down in the first set at the WTA Premier in the Czech Republic, defeating qualifier Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-5, 6-2. Brady will face another qualifier, Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 today.

Robin Montgomery has advanced to the quarterfinals of a $25,000 event in France for the second consecutive week. The 16-year-old left-hander once again drew Robin Anderson in the first round, and once again got the win over the only other American in the Reims draw. Today Montgomery defeated Olga Danilovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 to earn a quarterfinal meeting with No. 2 seed Oceane Dodin of France. 

The finals are set at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, with wild card Ashlyn Krueger facing qualifier Emma Charney in the girls final, and No. 3 seed Aidan Kim playing Giulio Perego of Italy in the boys final. Krueger defeated Gracie Epps 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while Charney took out Grace O'Donnell 6-2, 6-0. Charney, 17, has already won seven matches this week and has yet to drop a set.  The 15-year-old Kim defeated Ellis Short 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Perego, 17, downed last year's finalist Nishesh Basavareddy, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  

Krueger, 16, has also advanced to the girls doubles final with partner Marcela Lopez.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman advanced to the quarterfinals, beating Lucie Nguyen Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Coleman faces top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who took a late wild card into qualifying, on Friday. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Top Seed Mi Out in Quarterfinals at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Moves On at Macon $80K; Fritz Defeats Opelka in Belgium; Cooksey Wins Fourth State Singles Title

With the draws consisting of only 32 players, the semifinals of the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4 in Atlanta are Thursday, a day earlier than usual when the draws are usually twice as large. Boys top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay lost yesterday, and in today's quarterfinals, girls top seed Lan Mi of China exited, with unseeded Gracie Epps advancing when Mi retired at 4-6, 7-6(6). Epps, who will be 16 next week, will face wild card Ashlyn Krueger in the semifinals. Krueger, who won the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles last year, beat qualifier Salma Farhat 6-2, 6-0.

The other girls semifinal will feature qualifier Emma Charney against unseeded Grace O'Donnell. Charney defeated Aubrey Nisbet 6-4, 6-1, while O'Donnell advanced when Ava Hrastar retired trailing 5-1. 

No. 2 seed Nishesh Basavareddy, who reached the final last year in Atlanta, defeated wild card Jelani Sarr 6-1, 6-4 and will play unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy. Perego beat No. 4 seed Azuma Visaya 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Unseeded Ellis Short, who beat top seed Vallejo yesterday, picked up another win today, beating Canadian Jayden Templemen 6-4, 7-6(4). Short will take on No. 3 seed Aidan Kim, who defeated Ryan Colby 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman won her first round match, but she is the only American still alive in singles. No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, Jenna DeFalco and Isabelle Kouzmanov all lost in the first round, while boys No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara lost in the second round today. 

A couple of first round matches are still underway tonight at the $80,000 women's tournament in Macon Georgia, but at least eight US women will advance to Thursday's second round. Qualifiers Varvara Lepchenko and Katie Volynets both picked up wins today, with Lepchenko outlasting No. 2 seed Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(6) in over three and a half hours, and Volynets defeating Caroline Dolehide 7-6(3), 6-3 in just over two hours. No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn(Stanford), No. 5 seed Ann Li, Cici Bellis, Sachia Vickery and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) also posted first round wins today. 

Live streaming is up and running at usta.com, with Ken Thomas of RadioTennis.com on the call. 

Taylor Fritz ran his record against friend Reilly Opelka to 5-1 today in the first round of the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Fritz, the No. 7 seed, was outaced 19-10, but he never faced a break point in his 7-6(5), 6-1 victory. Fritz plays Lloyd Harris of South Africa next; qualifier Marcos Giron(UCLA) takes on top seed David Goffin of Belgium.

I normally am not able to follow high school tennis around the country, but because I wrote an article about William Cooksey's commitment to the University of Michigan this spring, and because I follow high school tennis here in my home state of Michigan, I did want to note that Cooksey won his fourth consecutive state singles title in Division IV today, a week after his Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett team won the Division IV title. It was touch and go throughout the summer and early fall as to whether the high school season would even be possible, but the MHSAA made some changes, decentralizing the team events and holding a separate individual tournament to keep the number of competitors at each site to a minimum. The girls, who play in the spring here in Michigan, were not as fortunate, as their season was, of course, canceled.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Top Seed Blanch Falls in First Round at Bulgaria Grade 1; Quarterfinals Set at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Beats Bouchard to Qualify for Macon $80K; ITA Fall Circuit Week Five Winners

The opening day of boys singles at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria saw top seed Dali Blanch exit in the first round, with fellow 17-year-old Jack Pinnington-Jones of Great Britain taking out the American by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 score. Blanch was coming off a title at the Grade 3 in Romania last week, but Pinnington-Jones has also picked up a title since the restart, claiming the Grade 2 in the Czech Republic last month. 

Blanch was the only seeded boy to fall in the opening round. The other American boy entered, No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, won his first round match over Szymon Kielan of Poland 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-0. 

The girls qualifying concluded today, with their first round matches scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Qavia Lopez lost to wild card entry Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 7-5, 6-3, leaving four American girls in the main draw. Australian Open girls champion Jimenez Kasintseva, currently No. 3 in the ITF Junior rankings, is the top seed in the event, after taking a late wild card into qualifying. The American girls in the draw are Jenna De Falco, Isabelle Kouzmanov, Madison Sieg, the  No. 4 seed, and Ellie Coleman, the No. 5 seed.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, Princeton recruit Ellis Short defeated top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5) to advance to the quarterfinals. The No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds--Nishesh Basavareddy, Aidan Kim and Azuma Visaya--are among the six Americans still in contention for the boys singles title. 

In the girls draw, the only seed remaining is No. 1 Lan Mi of China, with the other quarterfinalists all from the United States, including qualifiers Salma Farhat and Emma Charney. No. 2 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland lost yesterday to qualifier Ann Guerry, who was beaten by Georgia Tech freshman Ava Hrastar today. Aubrey Nisbet defeated No. 3 seed Gabriella Proudfoot of South Africa 6-2, 6-4 in today's second round action.

Two Americans advanced to the main draw of the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, with Varvara Lepchenko defeating Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-2, 6-3 and 18-year-old Katie Volynets prevailing when top qualifying seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada retired trailing 6-4, 3-0. Bouchard led 3-1 in the first set, but Volynets broke right back, then went on to break at love at 4-all and hold at love for the set, winning 13 straight points at one stage. After a lengthy medical time out after dropping serve for a second time in the second set, Bouchard retired. Volynets will play Caroline Dolehide in the first round Wednesday.

At the WTA Premier event in the Czech Republic, Coco Gauff defeated wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the second round. Gauff defeated Sabalenka in Lexington back in August 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

The ITA Tour: Fall Circuit by UTR in now at the halfway point after this past weekend's events. Participation seems to be dropping, with draws not filling in most places; some of the tournaments held round robins with their small fields, and if I wasn't able to determine who had won those, I did not include them in the winners below. The ITA has a recap of how the Top 5 UTRs fared in Week Five here.

ITF Fall Circuit Week Five Winners:

Bellevue: Men, Clement Chidekh; Women, Alina Zolotareva

Hilton Head: Men, Connor Thomson; Women, Allie Gretkowski

West Palm Beach: Men, Connor Laymon; Women, Anna Baranovski

Minneapolis: Women, Veronica Rodriguez

Lakeland: Men, Julian Cuartas; Women, Olivia Bryant

Walled Lake: Men, Addison Cazier

Peachtree Corners: Men, Jake Beasley; Women, Maggie Pate

Deerfield: Men, Alex Bancila; Women, Alexandra Benedetto

N Richland Hills: Men, Angel Diaz; Women, Lucia Natal Gomez

Grand Junction: Men, Billy McDermott; Women, Brooklyn Ross

Spring: Men, Gabriel Evans; Women, Rhiann Newborn