Friday, August 14, 2020

Gauff, Brady, Rogers Advance to WTA Top Seed Open Semifinals; Defending Champion Andreescu Withdraws from US Open; Klahn, Kudla Lead Field at Lotto Elite Exhibition

Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff advanced to her second career WTA semifinal tonight at the WTA International Top Seed Open in Lexington Kentucky, beating No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Trailing 6-4, 4-2, Gauff began to figure out the variety in Jabeur's game, and by the third set, Gauff was fresher and more confident. It also helped that Jabeur's serve deserted her entirely; she made only 10 percent of her first serves in the final set, while Gauff's first serve percentage was 72 percent. Gauff will play fellow unseeded American Jennifer Brady, whose quick 6-1, 6-2 victory over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic wasn't included in Tennis Channel's coverage after being relocated due to a rain delay. But by all accounts it was a dominant performance by the former UCLA star to put her in a fourth WTA semifinal. She has yet to advance to a WTA final, while Gauff will be looking for her second trip to a final. It will be their first meeting.

Shelby Rogers July 2020
photo ©Scott Gerber OhioTennisZone.com

Wild card Shelby Rogers, ranked 116, defeated top seed Serena Williams today 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) to advance to the other semifinal. After a lengthy rain delay before the match got underway, Rogers lost the opening set in 26 minutes, but she hung tough in the second and third sets to earn a victory over Williams in their first meeting, despite a first-serve percentage of just 45. Rogers, who will now move back into the WTA Top 100, faces unseeded Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in Saturday's first semifinal. Teichmann defeated Cici Bellis 6-2, 6-4 in the day's first quarterfinal. 

After I posted on Thursday the USTA announced that defending champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada had withdrawn from the US Open, which put Olga Govortosva of Belarus in the main draw. The 20-year-old Andreescu, who has had injury issues throughout the past five years,  has not played in 2020. The women's wild card situation does not change until Usue Arconada moves into the main draw; she is currently four spots out. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ann Li and Caroline Dolehide have already gone from wild card recipients to entrants based on their own rankings.

The latest US Open women's entry list is here.

I stumbled across information about a money tournament this weekend in Pennsylvania, which will be serving as a tuneup for several American men playing in the US Open. The Lotto Elite Pro Tennis Challenge will feature eight Americans, including three who are in the main draw of the US Open: Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla, and wild card Thai Kwiatkowski. Others expected compete are Alex Lawson, Nicholas Bybel, Chad Kissell and Roy Smith, with an eighth to be announced. A YouTube video explains the format for the two-day event, which is two round robin groups, with the top two finishers advancing to Sunday's semifinals and final. The round robin format is Fast 4, but regular scoring with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a full third set is the format for Sunday's matches. Spectators at the private court are limited to ten, and tickets are not cheap, with prices for one day $200 and both days $350. The tournament's champion receives $4000, with the finalist earning $1000. 

For more on the event, see this YouTube video, or read this article from the Reading Eagle. The video mentions that live streaming will be available.

If you checked out Tennis Recruiting Network this morning, you would have seen my article on Lauren Anzalotta's commitment to Oklahoma State. However, due to the fact that she has not yet been cleared by the school in regards to her eligibility, that article was removed as of this afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

USTA Cancels September Pro Circuit Tournaments and National Level 3 Junior Events; ITA's Plans for Fall Tennis Don't Include All-American Championships; Ferro Out of US Open, Liu Receives Wild Card

The USTA announced today that the five ITF World Tennis Tour Pro Circuit events scheduled for September in the United States have been canceled.


Due to the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has cancelled all ITF World Tennis Tour and ATP Challenger events taking place in the U.S. in September. This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of all those involved with these events. Although detailed health and safety protocols had been planned, without the creation of a controlled environment that includes a comprehensive and contained lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and medical testing program in place, as will be the case for the Western & Southern Open and US Open, proper risk mitigation would not be possible – and in the case of these events, this type of environment would logistically and financially be difficult to create.

The events include:

Week of Sept. 14

Cary, N.C. – ATP Challenger 80

Champaign, Ill. – M15

Week of Sept. 21

Columbus, Ohio – ATP Challenger 80

Fayetteville, Ark. – M15

Lubbock, Texas – W15

The USTA also confirmed that the National Level 3 junior events scheduled for September 12-14 at 15 sites across the country have been canceled.

Due to the situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has canceled the September National Level 3 events. The decision to cancel was made to ensure the health and safety of all those involved as the interstate travel required for these tournaments carries an increased risk. In addition, the different regulations, restrictions and quarantine periods, dependent upon the localities involved, both at the site of the event and in the participants’ home states were considered. 

More information regarding the USTA National Junior Tournament Schedule as well as an update on local play opportunities is forthcoming.

The news from Division I college tennis is a bit more positive. Although the ITA announced that its All-American Championships will not be held in October due to the American Athletic Conference's cancellation of fall sports, other fall competition is planned. The All-Americans, one of three collegiate majors and the first of two held in the fall, is hosted by Tulsa, which is an AAC conference member.

The Oracle Masters, which is not a considered a major, but has also been played in the fall for the past several years, is continuing, but is changing to a competition resembling the recently completed ITA National Summer Championships, which featured junior players, college players and professional players as competitors:

The Oracle ITA Masters will be changed from the traditional format that has in recent years selected players based upon conference representation to an open, prize-money event for both genders with plans to feature top American juniors, top college players, and American professionals. Additional details concerning the location and selection process will be forthcoming.

The ITA closes its schedule update with word that information on Division II, Division III, NAIA and JUCO Regionals and the ITA Cup, the fall championships for those divisions next Wednesday. Information on the ITA National Fall Championships, the other fall major for Division I players, is promised "at a later date."

The list of WTA Top 100 women withdrawing from the US Open gets longer nearly every day, with word coming today that Palermo champion Fiona Ferro of France will not be playing in New York. That moves Caroline Dolehide, ranked 138, into the main draw, and frees up Dolehide's wild card. That will go to 20-year-old Claire Liu, who is currently ranked 236. The next wild card recipient that could get in with additional withdrawals is Usue Arconada, who is now five spots out of the main draw.  The updated women's US open entry list is here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Gauff Defeats No. 2 Seed Sabalenka to Reach WTA Lexington Quarterfinals; Kuznetsova Withdraws from US Open; Vukic Wins UTR Pro Series Event in Australia; NCAA Extends Dead Period Again

Coco Gauff wasn't happy with her serving performance today at the WTA International tournament in Lexington Kentucky, but the 16-year-old still managed to advanced to the Top Seed Open quarterfinals, beating No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4. 

Gauff, who had eight double faults in the match, led 5-2 in the first set, lost four straight games, but broke Sabalenka serving for the set at 6-5, and held on in the tiebreaker after building a 5-0 lead. She went down 5-2 in the second set, got back on serve, but was broken at love at 4-5 to send the match into a third set. 

Gauff squandered leads in the third set, but she broke the WTA's 11th-ranked player at 4-all, with her outstanding defense forcing the big-hitting 22-year-old to go for too much. In a match with 14 breaks of serve, it was far from certain that Gauff would be able to close out the match, but, in what is becoming her signature, she bore down when she had to, got first serves in and held at 15 for the victory, her second WTA quarterfinal in her brief career. Gauff, who now has three WTA Top 20 wins, will play No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in Friday's quarterfinals.

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady also defeated a seed today to advance to the quarterfinals, beating No. 6 seed Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-3. Brady will face unseeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in Friday's quarterfinals. It is Brady's sixth quarterfinal at the WTA level.

Thursday's second round matches include top seed Serena Williams against sister Venus; CiCi Bellis versus Jessica Pegula, No. 5 seed Yulia Puntintseva of Kazakhstan versus Jil Teichmann of Switzerland and wild card Shelby Rogers against 17-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada. 

Another official announcement from the USTA today regarding the upcoming US Open, with 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia withdrawing from the event. Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic moves into the main draw, leaving Caroline Dolehide, who has been announced as a wild card recipient earlier, next into the main draw.

The updated women's US Open entry list is available here.

The UTR Pro Series continues in Australia, and former University of Illinois star Aleks Vukic won his second title on the circuit today in Sydney. The 24-year-old Vukic, the top seed, defeated Nikita Volonski 6-2, 6-2 in the men's single final to extend his winning streak to seven. Twenty-year-old Destanee Aiava also earned a second consecutive title in Sydney, and her third in the UTR Pro Series, beating Alexandra Bozovic 7-6(6), 5-7, 11-9 in the women's final. For more, see this article from Tennis Australia.

The NCAA announced yet another extension of the recruiting dead period, which now goes through September 30th. No in person recruiting or campus visits are allowed in any sport. The Division I Council made additional minimum recommendations for student-athletes competing in fall sports, but the official announcement of the new rules has been delayed until August 21.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Texas A&M's Habib and Pepperdine's Failla Claim ITA National Summer Championships; Yepifanova, Mejia Win $10K Battle of Boca; Gauff, Fernandez Move On at WTA Top Seed Open


ITA Summer Champions Hady Habib and Jessica Failla
photo credits, Jacob Dye, ITA

The two top seeds claimed the titles today at the annual ITA National Summer Championships, with Hady Habib of Texas A&M prevailing on his home courts and Pepperdine's Jessica Failla crowned the women's champion.

Both matches were held at the same time this morning in College Station, so I was flipping back and forth between the two, and without any scoring graphics, I admit to having a hard time following closely. I thought that Habib's victory over defending champion and No. 7 seed Jonathan Sheehy was 6-1, 6-4, but the ITA recap and the UTR website gives the final score as 6-1, 6-3.  I thought Sheehy, a graduate student at Oklahoma, had saved three break points at 3-all in the third to hold, but was unable to do the same at 4-all, giving Habib, a rising senior, a chance to serve it out. He was able to convert his first match point at 40-30, crushing a forehand winner, to earn the title and $2500.

Usually the winner of the Summer Nationals receives a wild card into the ITA All-American Championships, held in October, but with all the fall sports being canceled across the country now, that event is by no means assured, as the lack of any mention of it in the ITA recap implies.

The women's final took a bit longer, but was more lopsided score-wise, with Failla, a fifth year senior, defeating No. 6 seed Solymar Colling, a redshirt sophomore at San Diego 6-2, 6-1. Failla also earned $2500, with Sheehy and Colling taking home $1250 for reaching the finals. There were no doubles played this year due to the pandemic.

The $10,000 Battle of Boca, a UTR Open event, was supposed to finish today, but the finals were actually played Monday, with No. 2 seed Alexandra Yepifanova taking the women's title, and No. 4 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia earning the men's championship. 

Yepifanova, a rising senior who has committed to Stanford, defeated top seed and former Georgia star Maria Carle of Argentina 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Yepifanova lost only 13 games in her five victories.

The 20-year-old Mejia defeated 18-year-old Emilio Nava, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 6-4 in the men's final. Nava had defeated top seed Adrian Andreev in the quarterfinals and Zane Khan in the semifinals. Khan, the No. 8 seed, had avenged his 2018 Kalamazoo 16s final loss to Martin Damm, the No. 9 seed, in the round of 16. Another notable result saw Ben Shelton, who will start at Florida this fall, defeating 2019 Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, the No. 6 seed, 6-3, 7-6(2) in the second round.

Shelton lost in the third round in singles, but partnered with his sister Emma to claim the mixed doubles title. The Sheltons, seeded No. 6, defeated No. 7 seeds Yepifanova and Nathan Han 6-3.

The prize money distribution for the event was not disclosed.

The first round is complete at the WTA Top Seed Open in Lexington Kentucky, with two teenagers among the 16 players to advance.

Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff may have been generous in grading her performance today, giving it an A, but she did pick up her first WTA win since January, beating qualifier Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 7-5. 

Seventeen-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada, who won two qualifying matches the past two days, ousted No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3 in the final match of the first round. 

Cici Bellis was scheduled to play No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova, but Anisimova withdrew with an injury and Francesca Di Lorenzo got in as a lucky loser. Bellis converted 5 of her 6 break points, while Di Lorenzo was 1 of 8 and won only one point on her second serve, giving Bellis a straightforward 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Top seed Serena Williams and older sister Venus won their opening round matches today; the pair will play against each other for the 31st time on Thursday. The other American to advance to the second round today, joining yesterday's winners Jessica Pegula and Jennifer Brady, is wild card Shelby Rogers.

Today's scores are here, and Wednesday's order of play is here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Top Seeds Habib and Failla Advance to ITA Summer Nationals Finals; Brady Claims First WTA Victory Since February in Kentucky; Baptiste Awarded US Open Wild Card

After an ITA Summer Circuit that featured many a junior champion, the ITA National Summer Championships have come down to four collegians, including both top seeds and the defending champion.

After the quarterfinals and semifinals were played today at the George Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A&M, top seeds Jessica Failla of Pepperdine and Hady Habib of Texas A&M advanced to Tuesday morning's final. Failla, who is returning for a fifth year, dropped a set in the second round, but she has been dominant since, picking up wins today over Leyden Games and Maria Kononova.  She will face No. 6 seed Solymar Colling, a red shirt sophomore at San Diego, who reached the final with a straight-set quarterfinal win over No. 3 seed Rhiann Newborn and a 3-6, 7-6(0), 13-11 win over No. 2 seed Adriana Reami(North Carolina State).  

Top seed Habib, a rising senior, has won all five of his matches in straight sets, beating teammate Noah Schachter, the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals and No. 5 seed Zeke Clark(Illinois) in the semifinals. Habib will take on the defending champion, No. 7 seed Jonathan Sheehy, who is transferring as a graduate student from Abilene Christian to Oklahoma for the 2020-21 season. Sheehy took out No. 2 seed and ATP professional Austin Krajicek in the quarterfinals and beat No. 13 seed Andrew Rogers(Tennessee) in three sets in the semifinals. 

The finals, which provide $2500 in prize money for the winners and $1250 for the runners-up, are scheduled for 9 a.m. Central time Tuesday, and can be viewed via Playsight. For more on today's action, see the ITA recap.

Rain in the Lexington Kentucky area set the WTA Top Seed Open schedule back considerably, with some matches in the final round of qualifying moving indoors.  Three Americans qualified for the main draw: top seed Kristie Ahn, who beat Jovana Jovic of Serbia 2-6, 6-4, 6-2; Caroline Dolehide, who defeated wild card Jamie Loeb 6-2, 7-5 and wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who downed Robin Anderson 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. 

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady, who has been active in exhibition events and World Team Tennis during the shutdown, picked up her first win since late February, beating Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour. Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, who won the 2014 US Open girls title, beat No. 3 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4.  

All of today's results are available here.

The other WTA International event on this week's calendar is in Prague, and rain was also a problem there, with play canceled for the day with only one main draw match completed. Qualifying is also not quite finished but former Pepperdine All-American Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz of Egypt is into the main draw after a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Switzerland's Leonie Kung in the final round of qualifying. Abdelaziz won a $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour title in Turkey right before the pandemic closed down the circuit.

Another official announcement from the USTA regarding two withdrawals from the women's field provides another wild card opportunity for an American, with Ann Li getting in on her own ranking. Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic and 2018 US Open girls champion Xiyu Wang of China withdrew, with Li and Australian Priscilla Hon moving into the main draw. Li's wild card was awarded to 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste, who lost yesterday in the first round of qualifying at the Top Seed Open.

Caroline Dolehide, who received a wild card earlier, is just two out, so another women's wild card should be available in the next week or so.

The updated US Open women's entry list is here.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Zink Wins $25,000 Metzger Open Title; Seven Americans Advance to WTA Lexington's Final Round of Qualifying; Krueger Given Murray's USO Wild Card; Quarterfinals Set at ITA Summer Nationals

The opportunities to earn $6,000 playing tennis this summer have been severely limited by the pandemic, but University of Georgia rising sophomore Tyler Zink earned that amount today by winning the men's singles title at the UTR Metzger Clay Court Open in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Zink, who was born in Lancaster Pennsylvania and grew up there before moving to the IMG Academy as a teenager, was the No. 4 seed at the event. He defeated No. 7 seed Chad Kissell, who is from Latrobe Pennsylvania and a 2019 Valparaiso graduate, 6-3, 6-4 in today's final.  Kissell, who earned $4000, is the younger brother of Michaela and Joelle Kissell, who were collegiate stars at Marshall and North Carolina State, respectively.

The doubles title went to former LSU stars Boris Arias and Justin Butsch, the top seeds, who defeated unseeded Colin Sinclair and Vladislav Melnic, former and current Cornell players, 6-7(4), 6-2, 10-5. 

The complete draws can be found at the tournament website.  The singles final is available on YouTube

The first round of qualifying has concluded at the WTA International Top Seed Open in Nicholasville Kentucky, with seven Americans advancing to Monday's final round. Top seed Kristie Ahn squeezed past former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5, but No. 2 seed Margarita Gasparyan of Russia lost to wild card Jamie Loeb 7-6(5), 6-4. Francesca Di Lorenzo[5] saved a match point in her three-hour, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5) win over Claire Liu. The other four Americans in the final round of qualifying are Caroline Dolehide[7] (who plays Loeb for a place in the main draw), Usue Arconada, Robin Anderson and wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Main draw matches begin on Monday, although top seed Serena Williams and No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova are not on the schedule. No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka will take on Madison Brengle and No. 3 seed Johanna Konta will play Marie Bouzkova in two of the six main draw matches on Monday's schedule.  Wild cards were given to Caty McNally, Vera Zvonareva and Shelby Rogers. Coco Gauff will play a qualifier in the first round and if she advances, will meet the Sabalenka-Brengle winner.

The singles main draw is here, the doubles draw is here, and the qualifying draw is here.

The first official change in the US Open men's draw was announced today, with Alexei Popyrin of Australia withdrawing. That puts Andy Murray into the main draw on his own ranking, freeing up a wild card that was given to Mitchell Krueger. To see who is next in line for the main draw, see this entry list

The quarterfinals are set for the ITA National Summer Championships after two rounds of singles play today in College Station.  The top two seeds in the men's draw, Hady Habib(Texas A&M) and Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) are through to the quarterfinals, but No. 3 seed Alex Brown(Illinois) went out to No. 12 seed JC Roddick and No. 4 seed Vazha Shubladze(Georgia State) lost to No. 13 seed Andrew Rogers(Tennessee).

In the women's draw, the top three seeds: Jessica Failla(Pepperdine), Adriana Reami(NC State) and Rhiann Newborn(Baylor), have advanced to the quarterfinals, along with three unseeded players: Leyden Games, Maria Kononova, and Mika Ikemori.

For more on today's results, see this ITA recap.