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Friday, April 19, 2019

Dostanic's Commitment to USC Goes Back Years; NCAA Recruiting Rules Change Again; Perkins Jasper to Leave ITA for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps; Korda Falls to Giron at Sarasota Challenger; US Open Qualifying Extended to Five Days

While I was covering the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, I had an opportunity to sit down with blue chip Stefan Dostanic, who will be joining the USC Trojans this fall. The 2017 Kalamazoo 16s finalist and 2018 Kalamazoo 18s semifinalist has two more years of eligibility for the 18s Nationals, as he does not turn 19 until November of 2020. I was curious why he decided to attend USC, particularly what was behind his early verbal commitment. He explained how a friendship with Peter Smith's son Colter played a role, and also emphasized his certainty that his game would improve under Smith's guidance.  My article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is here.

Dostanic was recruited under the old rules, but the NCAA has, after just one year, made another change to dates in an effort to stem early recruiting. With an effective date of May 1, 2019, communication to or from a coach to a prospective student-athlete can begin June 15th, after the sophomore year of high school, and allows visits beginning August 1 before the junior year of high school. Previously both those dates were September 1 before the junior year. See this NCAA.org article for more on this change.

Erica Perkins Jasper, the Chief Operation Officer at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, has accepted the position of Director of Athletics at Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Jasper was on the USTA's Player Development staff prior to becoming the women's head tennis coach at New Mexico, and she joined the ITA in 2015. Although she will certainly continue to be involved in college tennis, with CMS regularly in the hunt for an NCAA title, obviously her focus will no longer be on the national level, and that will leave a void hard to fill. For more on Jasper's new position, which begins on June 1, see the CMS athletics website.

Three Americans have advanced to the semifinals of the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, with No. 11 seed Marcos Giron and No. 2 Tennys Sandgren scheduled to play for a place in the final Saturday. Former UCLA Bruin Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion, defeated wild card Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-4, while former Tennessee Volunteer Sandgren, a 2011 NCAA semifinalist, defeated No. 8 seed Peter Polansky 7-6(4), 6-3.

In the top half, Tommy Paul, the No. 15 seed, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 5 seed Paolo Lorenzi of Italy. Paul will face unseeded Andrea Collarini of Argentina.

The USTA announced yesterday that US Open qualifying will begin on Monday and extend through Friday this year, rather than the previous Tuesday through Friday schedule of past years. The first two days often saw matches going past 9 p.m., so this change should help with that issue. US Open qualifying continues to be free to the public.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Arias Takes Over as Director of Tennis at IMG, Harrison Promoted to Director of Tennis Operations; Korda Advances to Quarterfinals at Sarasota Challenger

The IMG Academy announced today that former Top 5 ATP pro Jimmy Arias has been named Director of Tennis at the Bradenton Florida facility, replacing Rohan Goetzke, who took that position in 2012.  The IMG release states that Goetzke has "moved on to pursue other opportunities in tennis."

Arias, one of the first players to attend the academy when it was owned by Nick Bollettieri, had been named to the post of Director of Player Development there just a few months ago, in November of 2018.

IMG also announced that Pat Harrison, the father of Ryan and Christian Harrison, will become Director of Tennis Operations. Harrison, who has been a coach at the Academy since 2008, has been working with Danielle Collins and Madison Brengle, as well as Michael Venus, his son Christian and many, many other top level players who populate the academy during the off-season.

2018 Australian Open boys champion Sebastian Korda continues to shine at this week's ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, reaching the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over former Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia. Korda, who trains at IMG, received a wild card into the event and has now won three matches, his first three on the Challenger level.  Korda will play No. 11 seed Marcos Giron(UCLA), who defeated No. 6 seed Henri Laaksonen 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3 earlier today.

Jenson Brooksby came up just short in his quest to match Korda, falling to No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6). Brooksby was twice up a break in the final set, but Polansky broke back immediately both times. The 30-year-old Canadian then went up 6-2 in the final set tiebreaker, only to see Brooksby save all four of those match points, but the Kalamazoo 18s champion lost the fifth.

Other Americans advancing to the quarterfinals in Sarasota are No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), who beat Guilherme Clezar of Brazil 7-6(5), 6-2.  No. 15 seed Tommy Paul, playing in just his second tournament since January, defeated last week's ATP Houston semifinalist Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.  Paul is the only American in the top half.  Live streaming is available, with Mike Cation doing the commentary, here.

Usue Arconada and Lauren Davis have advanced to the quarterfinals at the $80,000 women's ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Dothan Alabama.  Wild card Arconada defeated No. 8 seed Claire Liu 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) in a three-hour battle. Davis, the No. 6 seed, beat Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-3, 6-2. Arconada faces Gabby Ruse of Romania in the quarterfinals, while Davis plays unseeded Sofya Zhuk of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Madison Brengle in the first round.  Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) is the third American into the quarterfinals, beating Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria, who took out top seed Taylor Townsend in the first round, 6-2, 7-6(3) tonight.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

USTA Announces Junior Davis and Fed Cup, World Junior Tennis Teams for Upcoming Qualifying; USTA/Tennis Channel Rankings Mostly Unchanged; Brooksby, Korda Move into Third Round at Sarasota Challenger

The USTA announced today the teams that will represent the United States in the North American qualifying for the ITF's Junior Davis Cup, Junior Fed Cup and World Junior Tennis to be held April 25-27 in Montreal Canada.

World Junior Tennis (14-and-under) Girls:
Tsehay Driscoll
Qavia Lopez
Clervie Ngounoue
Captain: Maureen Diaz

World Junior Tennis Boys:
Kyle Kang
Learner Tien
Cooper Williams
Captain: Jon Glover

Junior Fed Cup (16-and-under):
Ellie Coleman
Robin Montgomery
Charlotte Owensby
Captain: Erik Kortland

Junior Davis Cup:
Alexander Bernard
Dali Blanch
Martin Damm
Captain: Phillippe Oudshoorn

Because the United States is hosting the Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup competitions at Lake Nona September 25-30 2019, the US teams are assured a place in the final 16, but are playing the regional qualifying for seeding purposes.

The World Junior Tennis event always conflicts with the USTA National Championships in August, and it will again this year, taking place once again in Prostejov, Czech Republic August 5-10, 2019.

This week's Tennis Channel/USTA Division I team poll is out, with few changes. As with the ITA rankings, the Ohio State men and Georgia women are No. 1. Below are the Top 16 teams, with the complete list of each Top 25 available at usta.com.

Men’s USTA/Tennis Channel Top 16 Rankings, April 17, 2019
1. Ohio State (1)
2. Wake Forest (2)
3. Texas (3)
4. Florida (4)
5. Virginia (5)
6. UCLA (8)
7. North Carolina (7)
8. TCU (9)
9. Mississippi State (T10)
10. Baylor (6)
11. USC (T10)
12. Columbia (12)
13. Texas A&M (13)
14. Stanford (15)
15. Illinois (14)
16. Tennessee (16)

Women’s USTA/Tennis Channel Top 16 Rankings, April 17, 2019
1. Georgia (1)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Duke (4)
5. Pepperdine (5)
6. South Carolina (6)
7. Texas (7)
8. Vanderbilt (8)
9. Ohio State (11)
10. Oklahoma State (12)
11. Michigan (9)
12. Florida State (13)
13. UCLA (10)
14. NC State (14)
15. Washington (15)
16. Kansas (16)

Neither Jenson Brooksby or Sebastian Korda had won a match at the ATP Challenger main draw level before this week, but both 18-year-old wild cards now have two after posting ATP Top 200 wins today at the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota.

Brooksby, the reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion, defeated Jared Hiltzik(Illinois) in the first round Monday and today took out ATP 163 and No. 10 seed Marc Polmans of Australia 6-3, 6-0. Korda defeated Ulises Blanch 7-6(7), 6-3 in the first round yesterday and today defeated ATP 187 and No. 14 seed James Ward of Great Britain 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1. Both of today's wins are the best, ranking-wise, of their careers.

Brooksby will face No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada in the round of 16, while Korda's third round opponent is former Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia, who received entry as an alternate when Casper Ruud withdrew after making the ATP Houston final last week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ohio State Men, Georgia Women Return to Top of ITA Rankings; Wolf and Jokic Remain No. 1 in Singles; SLAM Tennis Reveals Division I Conference Tournament Projections for Wednesday's Matches

The weekly ITA Division I team rankings are out, and once again, the No. 1 teams have changed. Bumped by Texas last week, the Ohio State men return to the top spot, as do the Georgia women, who lost their No. 1 ranking last week to North Carolina, despite a direct head-to-head win over the Tar Heels in February's Team Indoor Championships. Because we are getting close to the cutoff for hosting regionals in next month's NCAA tournament, I'm expanding this to the Top 16 from the usual Top 10. Full lists can be found by clicking on the headings.

The ITA Men's Division I Top 16, April 16, 2019
(previous week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Ohio State (2)
2. Texas (1)
3. Florida (3)
4. Wake Forest (4)
5. Virginia (5)
6. Mississippi State (7)
7. TCU (10)
8. Baylor (6)
9. North Carolina (9)
10. USC (11)
11. Texas A&M (8)
12. Stanford (12)
13. Tennessee (15)
14. UCLA (13)
15. Illinois (14)
16. Columbia (16)

The ITA Women's Division I Top 16, April 16, 2019:
1. Georgia (2)
2. North Carolina (1)
3. Duke (4)
4. Stanford (3)
5. South Carolina (5)
6. Pepperdine (8)
7. Texas (6)
8. Vanderbilt (7)
9. NC State (9)
10. UCLA (10)
11. Florida State (12)
13. Washington (15)
14. California (17)
15. USC (13)
16. Michigan (14)

The individual rankings have had less volatility than the team rankings this year, with Ohio State's JJ Wolf and Georgia's Katarina Jokic staying No. 1 in singles again this week.

JJ Wolf, photo courtesy Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com

ITA Men's Division I Top 10 singles, April 16, 2019:

1. JJ Wolf, Ohio State (1)
2. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (2)
3. Alex Rybakov, TCU (4)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest (3)
5. Carl Soderlund, Virginia (5)
6. Paul Jubb, South Carolina (9)
7. Yuya Ito, Texas (7)
8. Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois (6)
9. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas(8)
10. Brandon Holt, USC (12)

ITA Men's Division I Top 5 doubles, April 16, 2019:

1. Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck, Baylor (1)
2. Henry Patten and Oli Nolan, UNC-Asheville (2)
3. Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic, Mississippi St (3)
4. Parker Wynn and Bjorn Thomson, Texas Tech (7)
5. Maxime Cressy and Keegan Smith, UCLA (4)

Katarina Jokic, photo courtesy ITA
ITA Women's Division I Top 10 singles, April 16, 2019:

1. Katarina Jokic, Georgia (1)
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (2)
3. Kate Fahey, Michigan (3)
4. Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina (4)
5. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (7)
6. Makenna Jones, North Carolina (5)
7. Alexa Graham, North Carolina (6)
T8. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech (14)
T8. Eden Richardson, LSU (9)
10. Anna Rogers, North Carolina State (8)

ITA Women's Division I Top 5 doubles, April 16 2019:

1. Mia Horvit and Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina
2. Lauryn John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh, Arizona State
3. Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia, Kansas
4. Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes, USC
5. Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova, Pepperdine

Although some conference tournaments started before today, the competitions that decide the who gets automatic bids to the NCAA tournament begin in earnest on Wednesday, with the SEC and the ACC both having early round matches.

Tennis Recruiting Network's SLAM tennis is tracking the conference tournaments, and you can see projections now and scores later from all the matches on their Championship Central page. They also provide a Bracketology feature, projecting which schools will receive invitations to the NCAA tournament, which teams are on the bubble and even what the draw might look like.

Bobby Knight will also be following the results this weekend at College Tennis Today, and College Tennis Ranks is also a place to dive deeply into the projected rankings and selections for the Division I NCAA tournament.

With the NCAA Division I tournament hosted this year at the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona, usta.com has undertaken a series looking at several of the teams expecting to be contend for the titles next month.

Today's article focuses on the Vanderbilt women, last year's finalists. They have also highlighted the Stanford women, the Duke women, the Michigan women, the North Carolina women and the Virginia men.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Zane Khan Qualifies for Sarasota Challenger; Alabama, Florida Host ITF World Tennis Tour Events Again This Week; More ITF World Tennis Tour Adjustments Coming?

Orange Bowl finalist Zane Khan won his qualifying match today at the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, with the 17-year-old wild card defeating ATP No. 369 Benjamin Hassan of Germany 6-3, 6-2.  Khan will face unseeded Daniel Galan of Colombia, a semifinalist at last week's ATP 250 in Houston, in the first round Tuesday.

Khan is one of 20 American men in the Sarasota main draw this week, with Tennys Sandgren the No. 2 seed and Bradley Klahn the No. 3 seed (Hugo Dellien of Bolivia is the top seed.) Wild cards went to Noah Rubin[9], Sebastian Korda, last week's runnerup at the Sunrise $15K, Jared Hiltzik and Jenson Brooksby. Brooksby and Hiltzik played each other today, with the reigning Kalamazoo champion picking up his first Challenger-level by a 6-1, 6-2 score.

This is also the second week of the men's USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge, with little happening in the first week. No American men played in the two clay Challengers or the ATP in Morocco last week, and only Ryan Harrison, now 109 in the ATP rankings, picked up any points at the ATP in Houston, with a first round win. Sam Querrey made the semifinals in Houston, but he is not likely to need the French Open wild card.

This week most of the Americans are in Sarasota, although a few are playing at the ATP 80 Challenger in Mexico: Evan King, Kevin King (who played each other in the first round today, with Kevin King winning), Ernesto Escobedo and 17-year-old wild card Emilio Nava.

With Fed Cup taking place this week, there are no WTA events, and the biggest tournament on the schedule is the $80,000 tournament in Dothan Alabama, which kicks off the women's USTA French Open Wild Card Challenge.

Taylor Townsend and Madison Brengle are the top two seeds in Dothan, among the 11 Americans in the main draw prior to the completion of qualifying.  There will be at least one more, with Ingrid Neel(Florida) and Hanna Chang meeting in the final round of qualifying Tuesday, with Katie Volynets and Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) also able to advance to the main draw with a win Tuesday.

The main draw wild cards were given to Alexa Guarachi, a former University of Alabama star, Usue Arconada, Sophie Chang and Louisa Chirico. Bogota finalist Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia is also in the draw this week and is the No. 4 seed.

The ITF World Tennis Tour continues on the Florida clay this week in Orange Park, where Bastian Malla of Chile is the top seed at the $15,000 tournament. Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) is the No. 2 seed. Wild cards were given to Junior Ore(Texas A&M), Emmett Ward, Logan Zapp and Easter Bowl champion Ronald Hohmann.

For many years, Egypt and Turkey have had a series of low level ITF Pro Circuit events, with tournament after tournament in the same location in those countries, presumably so players don't have to travel so much. Cancun Mexico may not be in that mode quite yet, but that popular resort city will be hosting three combined men's and women's $15,000 events this month, and they have attracted a handful of Americans in these first two weeks. Tom Fawcett[3](Stanford) and Evan Zhu[7](UCLA) are the seeded American men this week in Cancun, with Pamela Montez[3](UCLA) and Sabastiani Leon[7] the two seeded American women this week in Cancun.

Last week the Telegraph detailed Tennis Europe's objections to the ITF's new World Tennis Tour and this article floats the possibility that the ATP will once again grant ATP points to players at the WTT level if the ITF agrees to several changes, including larger qualifying draws. Recently the ITF expanded the qualifying from 24 to 32, with 48 the latest number suggested.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Anisimova Defeats Sharma to Claim First WTA Title; Arconada Earns His First Title in Cancun; Carton Takes ITF Grade 4 in Trinidad; Baylor Falls to Texas Tech; Georgia Women, Florida Men Win SEC Regular Season Titles, Michigan Women Also Finish Conference Play Undefeated

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Anisimova came from behind once again today at the WTA's Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota Colombia to claim her first WTA title in her second final.

No. 6 seed Anisimova, the 2017 US Open girls champion, defeated recent Vanderbilt graduate Astra Sharma of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in today's final, becoming the youngest American to win a WTA tour title since Serena Williams in 1999. Anisimova, who won four of her five matches in three sets, with three of those from a set down, will now move to a career-high of 54 in the WTA rankings.

Sharma, who had a set and a break lead before Anisimova's comeback, will be at 102 in the WTA rankings after her run the week.

See the WTA website for this article on Anisimova's title, her thoughts on Sharma's game and her plans for the upcoming clay season. Throughout her junior career, Anisimova had great success on the South American, Mexican and European clay, so it's no surprise to hear her call it her "favorite surface."

Wimbledon girls champion Iga Swiatek of Poland could not join Anisimova in the winner's circle today, with the 17-year-old losing to Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA International in Switzerland. 

Jordi Arconada, the recent Texas A&M graduate, won his first ITF World Tennis Tour singles title today at the $15,000 event in Cancun Mexico. Arconada, who was unseeded, defeated No. 5 seed Nicolas Alvarez(Duke) of Peru 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Arconada beat four seeds and didn't drop a set all week to add a singles title to his four doubles title on the ITF Pro Circuit.

The other two Americans in singles finals today were beaten, with No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda falling to unseeded Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the Sunrise Florida $15K and No. 2 seed Caroline Dolehide losing to No. 7 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3 at the $25K in Pelham Alabama.

The ITF Junior Circuit left the United States this week, but Americans still competed in several tournaments, earning a total of four titles. Unseeded 15-year-old Nevena Carton won her first ITF Junior Circuit title at the Grade 4 in Trinidad and Tobago, beating No. 3 seed Jackeline Lopez 6-0, 6-1 in the all-American girls singles final. Unseeded Victor Lilov lost in the boys singles final to top seed Angel Diaz Jalil of Ecudor 6-2, 7-6(1).  Unseeded Jameson Corsillo and Andrew Pereverzev beat No. 3 seeds Lilov and Canada's Christopher Heck 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles final.  The girls doubles title went to Elan Mnatsakanov and Jamilah Snells, who beat Cecilia Alcobe Garibay and Great Britain's Jasmine Conway 7-5, 4-6, 10-7 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 3 in Canada, unseeded Matthew Che and James Tracy won the boys doubles title, beating top seeds Blaise Bicknell and Great Britain's Blu Baker 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

The No. 6 Baylor men lost 4-3 today to No. 23 Texas Tech in Lubbock to conclude the Big 12 regular season. The conference tournament begins Friday in Kansas.

The SEC produced two undefeated regular season champions, with the Florida men and the Georgia women both sweeping all of their conference matches. No. 3 Florida defeated No. 18 South Carolina 6-1 to win their first SEC title outright in 16 years. No. 2 Georgia beat No. 7 Vanderbilt 4-1 to deny South Carolina any share of the regular season title and joined the 2002 team in going undefeated throughout the regular season.

The Ohio State men defeated Illinois 4-2 today in Champaign in the match that will probably decide the Big Ten title, but the men's Big Ten regular season extends through next weekend, so nothing is official there.

The Michigan women won 5-1 at Maryland and clinched their regular season title, going 11-0 in conference play.