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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Georgia Tech Wins Two Matches vs. USTA National Team; Vania King Replaces Serena Williams in Fed Cup; Cavaliers Fill Draws at Challenger

The Georgia Tech women's team took two singles matches from the USTA girls national team on Saturday afternoon, the only two singles matches the USTA girls lost in their three-campus swing this week. All-American champion Irina Falconi downed Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 and sophomore Lynn Blau defeated Kyle McPhillips 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 at No. 3 to give the Yellow Jackets a split of the four singles matches that were played. Lauren Herring defeated Sasha Krupina 6-4, 7-5 at No. 2 singles and Breaunna Addison earned a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Hilary Davis at No. 4, giving the national team an 11-2 singles record. This is quite a contrast to the only other USTA girls national team result earlier this year, when the University of Miami team posted a convincing victory over the younger girls. National coach Jean Desdunes said at the time of the Miami match that he thought "they'll be better next time, because I think they'll know what to expect. It will be interesting to see what they'll do the next time they get an opportunity like that."

It certainly appears that they learned from that experience.

In the two doubles matches, the USTA teams swept both matches, with Herring and Grace Min defeating Falconi and Krupina 8-5 and Monica Turewicz and Chanelle Van Nguyen beating Blau and Davis 8-6.

For a recap of the match and comments from Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton, see the Georgia Tech website.

Although earlier this month Serena Williams had stated that she would play Fed Cup unless she was in a wheelchair, she informed the USTA today that she would not be participating. No reason is given in this brief announcement from the USTA. Vania King, who just returned to California from Asia according to her blog post entitled "I'm finally home", won't be for long, as she was named to take Williams's place.

There is no men's Pro Circuit event this week in the United States, but there are two new venues next week, a Futures in Birmingham, Alabama and a Challenger in Charlottesville, Virginia. Qualifying is underway in both, and in today's opening round in Charlottesville, nearly half of the 32-draw is current or former Cavaliers. Although the draw hasn't yet been updated, the order of play for Sunday indicates that Virginia freshman Jarmere Jenkins defeated top qualifying seed Jamie Baker, and Virginia junior Sanam Singh beat No. 3 seed Ricardas Berankis. See the ATP challenger page for the draws. For more on the tournament, see this article from the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fields Complete for Thursday's Start to ITA Indoor; Lucero Compares College Tennis Competition with ITF Futures


The ITA today released the complete 32-player fields for both men and women (and 16 doubles teams each) at the Indoor Championships at Yale University next week. Since I detailed the regional winners back on Tuesday in this post, (Corrie beat Carvalho to win in Texas), I'll just go down the list of at-large bids, in the order of their preseason ranking, starting with the men. Only those who reached the quarterfinals of the regionals were eligible for at-large bids.

Guillermo Gomez, Georgia Tech
Dimitar Kutrovsky, Texas
Sanam Singh, Virginia
Michael Shabaz, Virginia
Alex Lacroix, Florida
Dennis Nevolo, Illinois
Jordan Rux, Baylor
Diego Cubas, South Carolina
Austin Krajicek, Texas A&M
Marek Michalicka, Wisconsin
Javier Garrapiz, Georgia
Jason Jung, Michigan

The ITA wild card went to Raony Carvalho of Texas Tech, and the two Yale wild cards went to freshmen Marc Powers and John Huang.

Women receiving the at-large bids are:

Hillary Barte, Stanford
Laura Vallverdu, Miami
Yasmin Schnack, UCLA
Sanaz Marand, UNC
Reka Zsilinszka, Duke
Marina Cossou, Cal
Kristy Frilling, Notre Dame
Lenka Broosova, Baylor
Noemie Scharle, Florida State
Kristie Boxx, Ole Miss
Mari Andersson, Cal
Katie Rybakova, Florida State

Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State received the ITA wild card. The Yale wild cards are Stephanie Kent and Jessica Rhee. Kelcy McKenna of Arizona State met the criteria for an at-large bid, but is not in the field, perhaps due to the $50,000 Pro Circuit women's event in Phoenix, where qualifying begins next weekend.

There are two schools with three players in the field: Virginia on the men's side and Cal on the women's.

In the doubles, because there are only 16 spots and 12 regional winners, there is only one at-large bid available, although I believe there were actually two for the men. JP Smith and Boris Conkic of Tennessee earned a spot by winning the All-American, but they did not play together in the regional, and Conkic and Rhyne Williams won there, over Sandgren and Smith. Sandgren and Smith are the top ranked team in the preseason rankings, so they got an at-large, and with the A-A spot available, Mortiz Baumann and Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin, the next highest ranked team not already in, received entry.

There was one at-large bid in women's doubles, and it went to NCAA champions Andersson and Jana Juricova of Cal.

For the complete list of participants, see the ITA tournament home page.

Over at Tennis Recruiting Network, colleague Marc Lucero has crunched some numbers regarding the fields of the recently completed All-American tournaments and the ITF Futures events being played during that time to try to determine strength of competition in college. Although I don't attend a lot of Futures events, I do go to at least one every year, and from that I've always judged the competition level to be very similar to what I see at the Indoors or NCAAs, or All-American. Thanks to Marc, there's actually some research to back that up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Capra and Gibbs Invited to Join Fed Cup; USTA Girls Sweep Alabama Wednesday, Beat Georgia Thursday

My article today for the Tennis Recruiting Network is one that was brought back a lot of memories for me. One of the first professional pieces I ever wrote was for tennis.com, when tenniswire.org's Liza Horan was the editor there, and it was about Scoville Jenkins and Scott Oudsema serving as hitting partners for the U.S. Davis Cup semifinal tie with Belarus back in September of 2004.

I learned in Tulsa that Beatrice Capra and Nicole Gibbs would be serving as future fed cuppers, as the junior girls are known, for next week's Fed Cup final between the U.S. and Italy, and it was obvious how excited they both were to be part of the team. Although when I interviewed them the team hadn't yet been announced, they were both adamant that Melanie Oudin, less than a year older than Capra and less than two years older than Gibbs, belonged on the team. Although Oudin did not play well in Asia after her U.S. Open breakthrough and was sick and unable to play in Luxembourg recently, she was named to the team, along with Alexa Glatch, the hero of the semifinal against the Czech Republic, Liezel Huber and Serena Williams. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez was asked about Oudin's expected contribution to the team in a conference call yesterday, and she said:

And you know I always tell my team members there’s two things you can control, very few in tennis but a couple you can, and one of them is what kind of shape you’re in. That’s in your control to be as fit as possible. But the other thing is attitude. And no matter how tough it is or whether she’s down, you would never know. And a lot of the times at the U.S. Open and at Wimbledon, when she beat Jankovic ((inaudible)) 16, she lost the first set and you would never know you know. She plays each point like it’s the first point of the match or the last point and plugs away. So those are just characteristics that are extremely positive at any level, but particularly in a team event.

Capra and Gibbs, who are tough competitors in their own right, will get the opportunity to see the strides Oudin has made just a year removed from junior tennis, and with Serena Williams on the team, will get an up-close view of her fierce competitiveness.

For the complete transcript of the Fernandez call, which does not mention Capra and Gibbs, but does have much more on Oudin, Glatch and Huber, see globalvillagetennisnews.com.

The USTA girls National team shut out the University of Alabama team Wednesday night and nearly did the same to the University of Georgia women tonight.

Alabama could not field a full team, forfeiting one doubles match and at No. 6 singles (for an account of the match, with scores, click here). Georgia, a semifinalist at the NCAAs last spring, have only six players on their roster and only four players were available for this evening's match. Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist won 8-2 at No. 1 doubles over Lauren Herring and Grace Min, but Breaunna Addison and Lauren Davis took a 9-8(4) decision over Cameron Ellis and Naoko Ueshima. Kyle McPhillips defeated Ueshima 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4 singles, Chanelle Van Nguyen got by Gilchrist 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, Monica Turewicz came back to down Ellis 1-6, 6-3 6-1 at No. 3 and Davis beat the nation's second ranked college player Gullickson 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(4) at No. 1.

On Saturday, the third and final dual match will be against Georgia Tech, who does have seven players on its roster, but Amanada McDowell did not play singles at the All-American, nor did she play in the regional last week, and Irina Falconi is competing in the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Puerto Rico (she lost to Alison Riske today however, so she may be back in time to play). So far the USTA girls are 9-0 in singles; it will be interesting to see if the Yellow Jackets can halt that streak.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sarmiento Commits to University of Southern California


When I saw Raymond Sarmiento in Tulsa, I asked him if had made any decision on college, and he assured me he hadn't but that I would be one of the first to know. True to his word, he emailed me late last night with the news that he had committed to the University of Southern California and I spoke with him by phone a couple of hours ago to get a few more details on his choice.

I did a profile of Sarmiento early this summer for The Tennis Recruiting Network, and at that time he hadn't narrowed down his choices, although he told me today that they basically were USC, Texas and Michigan. He visited Texas, and with USC not that far from his home in Fontana, went on two unofficials there, one of them during the Ring Ceremony, when the Trojans received their NCAA National Team Championship rings. But he says it wasn't the prospect of winning another national title that nudged him toward USC.

"I didn't consider it that much, their NCAA championships," he said. "I thought about the team, the coaches, how it was close to home. Not too far, and not too close."

But aside from those tangibles, Sarmiento said that he "just had a feeling" about USC. "USC was just a part of me, I guess. It was just me."

Sarmiento would like to play professional tennis after college and thinks playing at USC can help him reach that goal. As for his academic interests, Sarmiento mentioned the business and art schools at USC and also is considering sports management as a possible major.

The 2009 International Grass Court champion and U.S. Open Junior quarterfinalist is hoping to play the upcoming Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl tournaments--"it depends on my schoolwork, but I'm planning to," he said.

After two years at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Sarmiento, the third ranked blue chip on the Tennis Recruiting Network and 39th ranked boy in the ITF World Junior rankings, is now training at the West Coast Training Center in Carson and at The Academy at Sunset Hills in Thousand Oaks, Calif. For more on that newly created Academy, see this article in the Ventura County Star.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Regionals (Nearly) Complete; ITA Indoor Fields Begin to Take Shape


With the exception the men's Texas regional, the completion of which has been delayed by rain in College Station, the regional men's and women's winners have been crowned. The 12 regional champions receive direct entry into the upcoming ITA Indoor, which begins a week from Thursday at Yale.

There were plenty of surprises especially in the men's results, where only two No. 1 seeds lived up to their preseason ranking: Clay Donato of North Carolina and Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State. (Sanam Singh of Virginia still has a chance to make that three, but he will get an at-large bid regardless of the outcome, so teammate Jarmere Jenkins is the likely winner of that match). A majority of the top seeds did not reach the regional quarterfinals, and according to the ITA selection rules, are ineligible for at-large bids. These players are Alex Clayton (Stanford), Justin Kronauge (Ohio State), Nate Schnugg (Georgia)(who suffered a knee injury in the regionals, had surgery, and is expected back for the dual season), Austen Childs (Louisville), David Simson (Denver), Jonathan Wong (Columbia), Saketh Myneni (Alabama) and Dean Jackson (San Diego).

Here is the complete list of regional winners with their regional seedings in parentheses:

Northwest: Bradley Klahn (2) Stanford
Southwest: Amit Inbar (9) UCLA)
Mountain: Vincente Joli (12) Boise St.
Texas: Raony Carvalho (3) Texas Tech or Ed Corrie (5) Texas (TBD Wednesday)
Central: Oleksandr Nedovyesov (1) Oklahoma St.
Midwest: Moritz Baumann (2) Wisconsin
Northeast: Sven Vloedgraven (4) Binghampton
Ohio Valley: Eric Quigley (7) Kentucky
Atlantic: Sanam Singh (1) or Jarmere Jenkins (16) Virginia
Carolina: Clay Donato (1) North Carolina
Southern: Tim Puetz (2) Auburn
Southeast: Clint Bowles (5) Florida State

The players who have already earned spots are:
JP Smith Tennessee (All-American)
Andrei Daescu Oklahoma (All-American)
Steve Johnson Southern Cal (All-American)
Robert Farah Southern Cal (All-American)
Damian Hume Collin County Community College (small college super bowl winner)

There are two host wild cards, from Yale; an ITA wild card and 12 at-large selections, which will be taken from the preseason rankings, provided the ranked player reached the regional quarterfinals.

On the women's side of things, results were more consistent with the preseason rankings. Four top seeds won their regions, and only Denise Dy of Washington, a nine seed from the Northwest region, and freshman Allie Will of Florida, the sixth seed from Florida, were winners not seeded 1, 2, or 3. The women's No. 1 regional seeds not eligible for at-large bids are Lauren Embree of Florida, Michaela Kissell of Marshall and Molly Scott of Dartmouth.

Here is the complete list of the women's winners with their regional seedings in parentheses:

Northwest: Denise Dy (9) Washington
Southwest: Maria Sanchez (3) Southern Cal
Mountain: Pichittra Thongdach (1) Boise St.
Texas: Aeriel Ellis (3) Texas
Central: Ana-Maria Constantinescu (3) Oklahoma
Midwest: Maria Mosolova (1) Northwestern
Northeast: Holly Cao (2) Harvard
Ohio Valley: Caitlyn Whoriskey (1) Tennessee
Atlantic: Nadine Fahoum (3) Old Dominion
Carolina: Josipa Bek (2) Clemson
Southern: Fani Chifchieva (1) Auburn
Southeast: Allie Will (6) Florida

Again there are two host wild cards from Yale, an ITA wild card and 12 at-large selections yet to be decided. The five women already with places in the draw prior to the regionals are:

Irina Falconi Georgia Tech (All-American)
Chelsey Gullickson Georgia (All-American)
Venise Chan Washington (All-American)
Jana Juricova Cal (All-American)
Sona Novakova Armstrong Atlantic (small college super bowl winner)

For links to the regional draws, see the ITA regional home page.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pollard Wins Australian Election; Mladenovic, Kubler Win in Osaka; Harman Suggests College Tennis as Development Step

Australian Open tournament director and Tennis Australia Player Development head Craig Tiley was the first to announce the news last night that TA's president Geoff Pollard had been re-elected, fighting off a challenge from former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee. In a tweet, Tiley said: "Well done Geoff. Congratulations on your re-election this morning."

Other Australians were not as happy with the election results. Lleyton Hewitt, who had sided with McNamee's campaign to oust Pollard after twenty years in the position, had plenty to say both before the election and after. In this story in The Age, Hewitt wants to know if Pollard's own vote was needed to keep him in office, a vote that would have been necessary if the other 16 votes were split. Why this matters to Hewitt, I'm not sure, but perhaps the information would be useful if he supports another candidate next election. Linda Pearce, a respected Australian tennis writer, has her own doubts about the means Pollard used to assure what he says is his final year on the job, if I'm reading between the lines in this article.

What this means for Steve Wood and Craig Tiley is less clear. Wood just received a contract extension from the board, which was much criticized for its timing, and Wood was the CEO when McNamee resigned as Australian Open tournament director. If McNamee were to run again, presumably against a Pollard protege, this divisive scenario could be repeated, and it's difficult to see how Australian tennis fortunes would be improved by that.

With all this attention on the election, Australian Jason Kubler's win in Osaka has been overlooked, but after his performance in the Junior Davis Cup earlier this month and his win Sunday in a Grade A, there is reason for optimism. Todd Woodbridge, the new head of men's tennis, is quoted in this Canberra Times article as saying the country's 15- and 16-year-old boys are the best block since the 80s. The 16-year-old Kubler, seeded 11th, downed eighth seed Hiroyasu Ehara of Japan, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 and is now the youngest boy in the ITF Top 40. For more on Kubler, see this blog entry by Andy Yanne.

Kristina Mladenovic of France, the world's top-ranked junior for most of the year since winning the French girls title, solidified her position by winning both the singles and doubles in Osaka. The top seed defeated her doubles partner Timea Babos of Hungary in the final, 7-6(5), 6-3. For more on the Osaka Mayor's Cup, see the ITF junior website.

The London Times columnist and tennis reporter Neil Harman has been championing college tennis with regularity in his recently weekly "Net Posts," and today uses former Virginia Cavalier Dominic Inglot as an example of the effectiveness of that development path. Inglot, from Middlesex, England, has won six Futures doubles titles since capturing the NCAA championship with Michael Shabaz in May.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

USTA Junior Girls Team Set for Three College Matches This Week; El Paso, Mansfield Winners; Harrison Blogs from Macau

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USTA Girls National Team, clockwise from top: Lauren Davis, Grace Min, Breaunna Addison, Chanelle Van Nguyen, Monica Turewicz, Lauren Herring. Center: Kyle McPhillips (photos copyright 2009 zootennis.com)

A USTA national team of juniors will test their skills against three Division I women's college teams this week, a continuation of a program implemented earlier this year. In February, a USTA boys national team defeated the University of Miami men's team, and the University of Miami's women's team downed a USTA girls team. In late March, a USTA boys team played at USC, with the future NCAA champions winning the match. My story for SMASH magazine on that match can be found here.

The girls will be taking on the University of Alabama on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, the University of Georgia on Thursday in Athens and Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday. Jean Desdunes and Lori McNeil will be coaching the USTA team.

In the ITF Grade 5 in El Paso, 14-year-old Hayley Carter of South Carolina won the girls event as an unseeded wild card, claiming all of her victories in straight sets, including the final over wild card Spencer Liang. Carter is the reigning USTA 14s champion. Sixteen-year-old Eric Johnson of California, the seventh seed, won his second ITF singles title, defeating No. 2 seed Kyohhei Kamono of Japan in three sets. Niko Madregallejo and Mackenzie McDonald took the boys doubles title, and Juliana Gajic of Canada teamed with Alexandra Leatu to win the girls doubles championship. For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Although the Pro Circuit draws have not been updated, Texas College Tennis is reporting via Twitter that Arnau Brugues, the former Tulsa All-American, won the singles, with Philip Bester and Jonathan Eysseric taking the doubles title. Donald Young won the Calabasas challenger. To read more about that, see this Steve Pratt story on Tennis Week.

Ryan Harrison is probably on his way back to Florida now after his whirlwind tour of Macau (there's no agreement on the spelling, so I'm going with the AP), but he filed two very long and interesting blog posts about his time on the Chinese resort island. The exhibition between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi was the main attraction, with Harrison and Yuki Bhambri serving as undercard and doubles partners for the two legendary U.S. stars. Harrison was able to talk with both players, appreciating the opportunity to get the advice of two of tennis's greatest champions. The first blog report, complete with photos, is here, the second can be found here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Coaches Q and A: What are some mental exercises to prevent me from choking when I am ahead?


In this month's installment of coaches Q and A, Andy Brandi of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida offers some tips to assist in closing out matches when in the lead.

We are all faced with the demons that arise when closing matches. It affects everyone at every level of the game. Choking happens when we lose perspective during a match and we focus on the wrong things. Instead of thinking of what we did to get to that point of leading the match, we turn our thoughts to what to do to not lose the match. Choking happens in all aspects of life and it is about how you confront fear!

Different things work for different players:

The great Harry Hopman use to tell his players to take two deep breaths and go for the lines.

My partner Harold Solomon used to tell himself to hit the ball.

Some people try to concentrate on their breathing to relax themselves.

Others try to smile and relax the facial muscles.

Because when we are choking we do not move our feet, thinking about using aggressive footwork might do the trick.

Be positive and reassuring!

The bottom line is to focus on playing one point at a time. Do not focus on the finish line, but what is in front of us.

Refuse to panic.

Don't play to the score.

Don't make a point larger than life. After all, every point counts the same.

Don't think about the outcome.

It is all about conquering fear.

Try some of the suggestions above and see what works for you. Everyone is different and if I had the formula for conquering choking in a a competitive situation, I would be a billionaire! Best of luck!

For the complete archives of the Coaches Q and A feature, see the category link in the left sidebar.

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kozlov Takes Nike International Masters 12s Title; NCAA Rule Change May Impact Tennis; Osaka Grade A Semifinals Set; Radiotennis.com in Mansfield, TX


The Nike Junior Tour's International Masters competition in the Dominican Republic finished on Monday, with Florida's Stefan Kozlov taking the 12s title. The 11-year-old from Pembroke Pines, seeded fourth, finished atop the 25-player field by defeating No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia in the final 6-2, 6-1. Unseeded thirteen-year-old Alexandria Stiteler of Bradenton reached the semifinals of the 14s division, as did her fellow 2008 Junior Orange Bowl finalist Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands. De Vroome, the second seed, lost to unseeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, who defeated top seed Darva Lebesheva of Belarus 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4. In the boys 14s, Wisconsin's Elliot Sprecher upset top seed and 2008 Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion Hyeon Chung of Korea, but lost in the quarterfinals. The USTA Northern section spoke with Sprecher about his experience in this article. Spain's Carlos Benito took the boys 14s title. In the girls 12s, No. 4 seed Carolyn Xie of California fell in the quarterfinals. Eighth seed Anastasiya Komardina of Russia won the title.

For complete results, see the Nike Junior Tour website.

Earlier this week, espn.com had this detailed article about a proposed change in NCAA rules that would no longer prohibit prospective student-athletes from playing on teams with "professionals." This is the regulation that keeps amateurs from playing World Team Tennis except as part of an all-amateur team, and that has made the club teams of Europe problematical for teenagers who may wish to play college tennis in the U.S. Although the example in the article is volleyball, it sounds very similar to what tennis experiences. I'm a little surprised there hasn't been any resistance to the change from tennis coaches, given that a proposal allowing $10,000 of winnings for amateurs was tabled, but the article says that only hockey is not on board.

The Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup is winding down in Japan, with top seed Kristina Mladenovic and No. 2 seed Timea Babos still in the running for the title. France's Mladenovic plays No. 9 seed Tamara Curovic of Serbia in one semifinal, while Hungary's Babos takes on No. 10 seed Sachie Ishizu of Japan. The boys draw has been much less predictable; top seed Daniel Berta of Sweden lost early and the highest seed remaining in the semifinals is No. 8 seed Hiroyasu Ehara of Japan, who plays unseeded Jea Moon Lee of Korea in one semifinal. Ninth seed Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan meets Australian Junior Davis Cup star and No. 11 seed Jason Kubler in the other semifinal. For more on the week's action, see the ITF junior website.

Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com is in Mansfield, Texas for the $15,000 Pro Circuit Men's event there. He will be webstreaming play by play from there Saturday and Sunday, at no charge. Free registration is all that's required to listen via your computer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pan-American Closed Recap, Slideshow and Videos

I'm wrapping up the Tulsa ITF B1 Pan-American Closed today with my review article for the Tennis Recruiting Network, the slideshow and videos of champions Sekou Bangoura, Jr. and Eugenie Bouchard. Additional videos of finalists Ester Goldfeld and Mitchell Frank can be seen on the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel.






Wednesday, October 21, 2009

U.S. Little Mo Championships; Harrison & Bhambri vs. Agassi & Sampras; Williams Update; UAE Turns to Spain for Development

The National Little Mo Championships, for players 8 through 11, finished on Monday. The boys' winners, with age group in parentheses, are: Scott Sculley(8), Perry Gregg(9), Alexander Rushin(10) and Titus Strom(11). Gregg was the only repeat winner; he won the 8-year-old division last year. The girls champions are: Elizabeth Scotty(8), Claire Liu(9), Michaela Gordon(10) and Elizabeth Porter(11).

Murphy Jensen was a guest at the event, held at the Austin Tennis Academy. For his speech to the competitors, see this YouTube clip. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site. The International Little Mo tournament is scheduled for December 15-19 at the Club Med Sandpiper in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.

When I spoke with Ryan Harrison in Tulsa, he was excited about playing in the Venetian Macao Tennis Showdown in Macau, which he has had described to him (he's never been there) as the Las Vegas of Southeast Asia. Harrison and fellow Bollettieri student Yuki Bhambri are part of Sunday's exhibition featuring Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras as the main event. For an interview with Harrison and Bhambri, click here.

Rhyne Williams, who recently began his freshman season with the Tennessee Volunteers, did not play in the All-American qualifying, but he has had a successful start to his collegiate career. The Volunteers' website had this question and answer session with Williams, who will be playing in the Ohio Vally regional qualifying, which begins Thursday.

And in player development news, the United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with the Spanish Federation to assist with training, including sending players to Madrid, according to this article in The National. There's quite a few interesting aspects to this story, the most glaring being Rafael Nadal's omission from the list of the current top Spanish players developed by the federation. Although everyone is quite familiar with the background of Nadal's coaching, with his uncle Toni playing a major role, it is rare for a federation to take no credit for a Grand Slam winner, even if its main contribution was administering tournaments and doling out the occasional wild card.

Both UAE and the Spanish federation are taking pains to downplay expectations from this agreement. The United Arab Emirates's stated goal is to have a player reach the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships (there is no reference to gender in the article; am I naive to assume both men and women will train in Spain?). The head of the Madrid Tennis Federation, Juan Luis Rascon, is not making any promises.

“If we are honest, we could not say that ‘Within six years we will have this many UAE players this high in the world’, because there are other countries with an amazing network of talent.

“For example, in France, they have top players, but have not had a grand slam winner for a long time. What we can promise is a lot of hard work – then let’s see what happens.”
Because Rascon does not appear to include Amelie Mauresmo's two Grand Slam titles, I'm beginning to doubt my assumption that this is a unisex development program, but it does appear that the Spanish are fully aware that it takes more than a system to produce a superstar.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Australia Looks for Athletes; USTA Names US Collegiate Team for International Event; Q&A with Evan Zeder; Watson's Decision

Despite Lleyton Hewitt's doubts (he recently endorsed Paul McNamee for the TA presidency, criticizing the current Geoff Pollard/Steve Wood/Craig Tiley administration), player development continues in Australia, and this story from Linda Pearce cites the "draft camp" that is underway to award scholarships for Tennis Australia training. Pearce writes:

The draft camp is about casting the net and identifying the best prospects. Tennis Australia's new head of men's tennis, Todd Woodbridge, concedes the transition from junior promise to senior success has been an issue. This, he hopes, will help.

"It's about being as professional as we possibly can," Woodbridge says. "The game of tennis has become incredibly athletic, so you've got to focus on that side of it and you've got to focus on the skills side as well, on who's got the ability to go out and actually just win a match, and not necessarily look the best."

The USTA has announced the six players who will compete for the United States in the Master U BNP Paribas International Collegiate Competition in December in France. They are: Austin Krajicek of Texas A & M, Steven Johnson of Southern California, Eric Quigley of Kentucky, Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech, Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame, and Caitlyn Whoriskey of Tennessee. For the complete release, click here.

The USTA collegiate Q and A series is gearing up again; today's conversation features clothing startup Athletic DNA's Evan Zeder, a member of Illinois's 2003 NCAA championship team.

2009 US Open girls champion Heather Watson was in London recently between competing in the $50,000 ITF Women's circuit in Barnstaple as a wild card and playing qualifying in the $25,000 this week in Glasgow, and during that time, she's done quite a few interviews. This one, by Donald McRae of the Guardian does a good job of capturing her ebullient personality and the timetable she had set for deciding between college and professional tennis.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pro Circuit Update; ITA Small College Championships & Regionals


While I was in Tulsa covering the All-American and the Pan-American, there was plenty happening on the USTA Pro Circuit elsewhere. Ten days ago, Alison Riske defeated 17-year-old Christina McHale, saving six match points in the process, to take the title in the $50,000 tournament in Troy, Ala. With the points earned there, and with her first round victory in Kansas City's $50,000 event last week, McHale is now at a career-high ranking of 210. The 19-year-old Riske is just a few spots behind, and is also at a career high of 235.

Beatrice Capra won her first Pro Circuit singles title at the $10,000 tournament in Williamsburg, Va. prior to traveling to Tulsa for the ITF Junior B1, the Pan-American Closed. Quite a few players who might have competed in Tulsa were instead at the new $10,000 event in Cleveland, Ohio. Fifteen-year-old Kyle McPhillips made the singles final as a wild card, defeating No. 5 seed Grace Min, No. 3 seed Taka Bertrand and No. 2 seed Diana Nakic before losing to unseeded Jamie Hampton in the final. Min and Hampton won the doubles title, defeating McPhillips and her partner Lauren Davis in the semis and Bertrand and her partner Liz Lumpkin in the final.

Recent TCU graduate McCall Harkins won the ITF Women's Circuit's $10,000 event in Mexico last week.

The $15,000 Futures tournament in Austin, Texas was a nice showcase for Longhorn senior Dimitar Kutrovsky, a wild card who reached the final with wins over No. 5 seed Nick Monroe, top seed Victor Estrella, and 17-year-old Jack Sock, who made the semifinals. Sock, a wild card, defeated No. 4 seed Matej Bocko in the first round and No. 8 seed Dennis Zivkovic in the quarterfinals before falling to Kutrovsky. Michael McClune, the No. 2 seed, won the tournament, his second Futures win in as many months. Cory Parr won yet another Futures doubles title, this time with former Aggie Conor Pollock. In the Tiburon Challenger in California, former Minnesota star Harsh Mankad, the ITA Indoor champion in 2001, and former Virginia star Treat Huey, who won the ITA Indoor doubles title in 2007, took their second challenger-level doubles championship.

The Texas College Tennis Blog is following the many Texas collegians in these local events, including this week's Pro Circuit tournament in Mansfield. Fifteen-year-old Mitchell Kreuger has qualified for the main draw, where he'll play A&M's Austin Krajicek in the first round. Sock is in on a special exemption, Raymond Sarmiento and Pan-American champion Sekou Bangoura Jr. received wild cards, and Jordan Cox and Bob van Overbeek, who has committed to Florida, qualified.

The Calabasas Challenger this week features collegiate rivals Bradley Klahn of Stanford and Steve Johnson of USC, both of whom received wild cards. Klahn has advanced to the second round with a three-set win over former Trojan Gary Sacks.

See the usta.com ProCircuit results page for complete draws and results.

The national small college "super bowl" champions were crowned yesterday, with South African Damian Hume of Collin County (Texas) CC, the Junior/Community College champion, winning the ITA Indoor berth. Sona Novakova of Armstrong Atlantic won the women's overall title.

Retaining the wild card for the small college champion is about the only qualification that remained intact for the ITA Indoor. Instead of inviting all the quarterfinalists from the All-American, it is now the semifinalists, and with the expanded regions, now at 12, only the regional winner receives an automatic bid. There is no wild card for the consolation winner at the All-American, as had been the case previously. There are now two wild cards for the host school (I'm not sure how this will work when the USTABJK National Tennis Center hosts beginning next year), an ITA wild card and 12 at-large bids. For the method of selecting at-large entries, see the D1 Coaches Meeting Materials document on the ITA website.

A few regionals have been completed. Mortiz Baumann of Wisconsin won the Midwest Regional title, defeating Notre Dame's Casey Watt in the final. Illinois's Marek Czerwinski and Dennis Nevolo won the doubles. North Carolina's Clay Donato won the Carolina Region in singles, with Duke's Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha taking the doubles. In the Southwest, Robert Farah and Steve Johnson won the doubles; the singles title is between UCLA's Amit Inbar and Pepperdine's Alex Llompart and will be played on Tuesday. In the Northeast region, Harvard's Alistair Felton and Andy Nguyen won the doubles, with the singles semis and finals on Tuesday.

On the women's side, Boise State's Pichittra Thongdach won the Mountain regional in singles, with BYU's McCall Jones and Megan Price taking the doubles.

Most of the regionals are taking place this coming weekend.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

All-American Slideshow, Wrap-Up

I'm returning to Michigan today (although with the cold and cloudy weather in Tulsa, I feel as if I never left), so it's time to begin looking back at the two tournaments held at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center the past ten days. First, I'm wrapping up the Men's D'Novo ITA All-American, with this slideshow and Thursday's recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network. The ITF Pan-American Closed slideshow will be posted next week.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bouchard Survives Goldfeld's Comeback to Win Girls Pan-American Championship; Bangoura Defeats Frank in Boys Final


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

With her right knee taped, her left thigh wrapped, and suffering from a runny nose and cough, Eugenie Bouchard had more than enough reasons to concede Saturday's Pan-American Closed girls championship.

Ester Goldfeld had come back from 5-1 down in the third set to force a tiebreaker, saving two match points when serving at 3-5, and over three hours into their match, nothing had been decided. Bouchard may have been dismayed on the inside, but outwardly there was no sign of frustration, as she kept bouncing between points and swinging away. All that positive energy paid off, when by a razor-thin margin Bouchard claimed her first Grade 1 title, taking a 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) decison on yet another cold and breezy day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

"I stayed positive and that really helped me, especially in the tiebreaker," said the 15-year-old Canadian. "I can't keep thinking about what could have happened, what did happen, how I was ahead, all that stuff. I had to stay positive, and I did that."

Bouchard had become accustomed to long dramatic matches, having played four of them prior to the final, coming from a set down in two of them. Although Bouchard was up 4-1 in the opening set, Goldfeld fought back, a scenario that would play out in each of the three sets. Goldfeld saved a set point serving at 5-6 and again at 6-7 in the tiebreaker, closing out the 90 minute set with two forehand winners sandwiched around a service winner.

In the second set Bouchard was again unable to put away Goldfeld, failing to capitalize on a a set point serving at 5-2, but she took the set by breaking Goldfeld with a forehand pass at 3-5, 30-40. After two and a half hours, the match was even.

In the third set, Bouchard took a 5-1 lead, as the 16-year-old Goldfeld made error after error, failing to reach a game point on any of her first three service games. But at that stage of match, Goldfeld decided she needed to change her outlook.

"At 1-5, I just told myself I didn't care, and all of a sudden, I started coming back, went with the flow," said Goldfeld. "I just started to get a couple of more balls in, and she started tightening up. I saw that and took advantage of it."

An indication of Goldfeld's more relaxed play came on the first match point, when serving at 2-5, ad out, Goldfeld tried a drop shot. It was a good one, and although Bouchard got to it, she steered her response into the doubles alley. Goldfeld's backhand came to her assitance on the second match point, with a clean down the line winner, and she got back on serve by breaking Bouchard in the next game. A rare love hold for Goldfeld made it 5-5, and in her next service game Bouchard was down 30-40, facing the prospect of dropping her fifth straight game. She saved that break point with a forehand winner, and two backhand errors by Goldfeld put Bouchard in the lead again. Goldfeld kept her nerve serving at 5-6, sending the match into the deciding tiebreaker with a backhand winner at 40-15.

Bouchard took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, but given Bouchard's history with leads, Goldfeld had no reason for concern. Bouchard gave the two minibreaks right back, but took a 4-2 lead with a backhand winner. After Goldfeld pounded a forehand winner to make it 4-3, Bouchard hit a forehand winner down the line, with the determination to stay aggressive evident in her every swing. After her backhand error made it 6-3 for Bouchard, Goldfeld saved her third match point by finishing a long rally with a forehand putaway at the net. On match point number four, another long and tense rally ended it, when Bouchard made a difficult putaway on a defensive floater. She let out a high-pitched scream and bounded toward the net, to shake the hand of a disappointed Goldfeld.

"There are a lot of positives that I can take from this tournament," Goldfeld said, after she had taken several minutes to compose herself. "I did better than I did here last year, and I didn't break any racquets," she said with a laugh. "I've been trying really hard the last couple of months to control my emotions and stay stable."

Despite her cold and her hamstring strain, Bouchard was feeling only happiness after the match.

"I feel great now," she said. "I don't feel any injuries, I feel perfect. I'm just so happy all the hard work paid off."



The boys final had the ingredients for a lengthy match as well, with two of the most consistent juniors on the circuit, No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank and No. 9 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr., facing off.

There were certainly numerous long rallies throughout the contest, but it was Bangoura who was the steadier player, and he emerged with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

One break decided the first set, with Bangoura breaking at 3-3. In the second set, the 17-year-old Floridian twice was up a break, only to give it right back. With Frank serving at 3-3 40-0, he generously conceded a point to Bangoura that the chair had called out, and Bangoura went on to win the game.

"I hit a second serve return--I thought it was in--and he gave it to me," Bangoura said. "If I had missed that shot, we still could have been out there."

Bangoura held in the next game, after just one deuce, and it looked as if he would be forced to serve it out when Frank took a 40-0 lead again. But Bangoura worked his way back into the game, denied Frank his fourth game point, and on his third opportunity, stroked a forehand pass to earn his first Grade 1 victory.

"It felt like it was my time," Bangoura said. "The indoor (matches), it was such a long grind, I was hoping maybe I deserve this. I'll just go out and fight and see what happens."

Frank, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Friday, was pleased with his tournament, if not his form in the final.

"He played really well, and I didn't play near my best," said the Virginian, who won the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in April. "I had opportunities and just didn't take advantage of them. The whole tournament I wasn't feeling perfect, not a hundred percent, but to get to the finals not playing a hundred percent, that's one of the most important things to taking it to the next level, to be able win when you're not at your best. If you would have told me last weekend I was going to make the finals, I'd be pretty happy. But Sekou deserved it. Congratulations to him."

The girls doubles final ended after just one point, when an ill Beatrice Capra and her partner Alexandra Cercone retired. Capra became sick during the night on Friday, and was in no condition to compete, giving the title to Gabriela Dabrowski and Nicole Gibbs.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frank & Bangoura Meet for Boys Title; Goldfeld & Bouchard in Girls Final at Pan-American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

The sun finally made an appearance at the Pan-American Closed for Friday's semifinals, and it shone on two contrasting story lines. Ester Goldfeld and Mitchell Frank advanced to the finals with the loss of one game each, while Eugenie Bouchard and Sekou Bangoura Jr. navigated their way through three-hour ordeals.


BangouraFranksemis

Bangoura's 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 win over fourth seed Raymond Sarmiento was marred by officiating that had both boys frustrated and on the verge of meltdowns. At one stage the boys were relying on each other rather than on the chair and linespeople, with Bangoura agreeing to play a let on a winner by Sarmiento that was called out by a line judge. As the line calling errors mounted, the players lost all confidence in the officials, and few points were decided without disagreement on a call.

"It was unreal. I don't even know what to say," said Bangoura, seeded ninth. "I'd be wanting to just blow up right there, but I said to myself the match would be over, you'd lose for sure. So keep going, just keep going. I got lucky I guess."

The key stage in the match was in the third game of the final set. Sarmiento took a 2-0 lead, as he had in the opening two sets, but couldn't make it 3-0, wasting six game points in the eight-deuce game. There was controversy on nearly every point; the chair called the score wrong three or four times and once Sarmiento dropped that game, he was unable to recover. He called a trainer for treatment on his right leg after being broken for the second time in the third set, and limped a bit in the remaining games, all of which he lost.

"At the end there he mentally checked out I think," said Bangoura. "I thought he was moving well, that's why I was surprised when he called the trainer. I don't know for sure, but it seemed like he mentally checked out. It was just one call after another after another and not just against him but against me too, but that affects him too."

Asked why he thought he won the three-hour match, Bangoura responded, "It's always been my nature to stay cool. I just wanted it. I wanted the match, so I just kept telling myself keep going no matter what the calls were, just try to stay cool and put the ball back in the court."

Bangoura is expecting another lengthy match on Saturday against Frank.

"He doesn't miss at all," said Bangoura, who also lists consistency as one of his own strengths. "I'll be a tough match, a long one."

Frank, who defeated unseeded Nick Chappell 6-0, 6-1 in a match that took an hour and twenty minutes to complete, agreed that the final could be a marathon.

"He's always tough, no matter the situation. He's very consistent and he doesn't miss much," said Frank, who celebrated his 17th birthday Friday. "It should be a good battle."


GoldfeldBouchardsemis


Goldfeld's 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Katarena Paliivets of Canada was as easy as the score indicates. Paliivets rarely was able to get a lead in a game, and in less than 45 minutes the No. 7 seed was in the final.

Bouchard took just shy of three hours to down No. 5 seed Monica Puig 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, but the 15-year-old Canadian had plenty of experience with three-setters throughout the week.

"It was my fourth of this tournament," said Bouchard, who recently returned from Mexico after competing on the Canadian Junior Fed Cup team. "Definitely I feel more confident and I believe in myself, so even if I'm down, or I lose a set, I know I can do it, pull it out in the end."

In the opening set, Bouchard was serving for the first set at 5-1, but Puig, who competes for Puerto Rico, began to find her rhythm off the ground to bring it all the way back to 5-4. She dropped her serve to give Bouchard the first set, and then took a 5-0 lead in the second set, only to see Bouchard win three straight games, but drop serve at 3-5.

The third set didn't feature any big leads, but Puig began to double fault with regularity in her service games, and Bouchard was able to force errors from Puig's forehand when she could get Puig on the run. On match point, the 16-year-old from Miami double faulted, the second consecutive match that Bouchard had won in that anticlimatic fashion.

Goldfeld defeated Bouchard in the first round at last year's International Grass Courts, but both are playing in their first Grade 1 final.

"I'm sure she'd confident, like I am," said Bouchard, who has trained with Goldfeld at Nick Saviano's Academy in Florida. "I'm excited to go out there, and we'll see what happens."

The boys doubles semifinals and finals were both played on Saturday, with the final taking place under the lights at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. No. 4 seeds Brandon Burke of Jamaica and Darian King of Barbados claimed the championship with a 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-8 win over No. 8 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant.

Burke and King took a 7-1 lead in the deciding match tiebreaker, only to see the Americans win 7 of the next 8 points to make it 8-8. Egger missed a volley to give Burke and King a match point, and they converted it, with Burke slashing a winner up the middle for the victory.

It was the fifth doubles win of the year for the pair, and their experience as a team helped them through those tense moments according to King.

"It comes from all the practice matches we play, all the matches in total," said King. "We play a lot together so we are really accustomed to each other's games. The momentum started to go their way a little when it came back to 7-6 and then 8-all, so I'm glad we came through with the victory."

The girls doubles final on Saturday will feature the top two seeds. Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Nicole Gibbs, the No. 2 seeds, will play top seeds Beatrice Capra and Alexandra Cercone.

Dabrowski and Gibbs earned a rare straight-set win in the semifinal, defeating unseeded Elisabeth Abanda and Elianne Douglas-Miron of Canada 6-3, 6-2. There was only one deuce/deciding point in the 16 games played, another rarity in the no-ad, match tiebreaker format.

Capra and Cercone trailed 6-2 in their match tiebreaker before winning the final eight points against No. 7 seeds Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring. Capra and Cercone won 4-6, 6-1, 10-8.

For draws and results, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bangoura Defeats Top Seed Kudla as Pan-American Finally Goes Outdoors


©Colette Lewis 2009--

The drizzle and rain of the past three days finally subsided, allowing all of Thursday's matches to be played outdoors at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa. It was cold and cloudy, but Sekou Bangoura Jr. pronounced it a "good day", as the No. 9 seed ousted top seed Denis Kudla 7-6(6), 6-3 in the boys quarterfinals.

Kudla was serving for the first set at 5-3 but Bangoura broke twice in succession, only to lose his serve up 6-5.

"It was a weird set," said the 17-year-old Floridian. "I went up a break, then he went up a break, then in the tiebreak, I went up 4-1 and he brought it back and it was 8-6. It was just a momentum changing match, one after another."

Usually calm and unemotional on court, Bangoura gave an emphatic first pump and "c'mon" when he converted his third set point to win the tiebreaker. He had lost to Kudla the last three times they had played, so was obviously eager to end that streak, sensing that Kudla was not at his best.

"I just wanted to go out and grind my way through it," Bangoura said, although with his relaxed and fluid strokes, that verb doesn't seem apt. "Keep the ball in play and look for my opportunities. On these courts, the ball doesn't bounce very high and I hit really flat, so I would be on the run and hit a flat ball and it would kind of skid, and he'd make an error. In some instances, I got pretty lucky."

Bangoura admitted that he was having trouble with his serve throughout the match, so he was a bit nervous when serving for it at 5-3 in the second. Down 0-30, he won the next three points with help from his first serve, but hit a backhand into the net on his first match point. A long forehand gave Kudla a break point, but Bangoura saved that with a sharply angled cross court forehand winner after a long rally. Two Kudla forehand errors later, Bangoura had sealed the victory.

Bangoura's semifinal opponent is No. 4 seed Raymond Sarmiento, who continued his cruise through the draw with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Dennis Novikov. In the other semifinal, also between two Americans, No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank will face unseeded Nick Chappell.

Chappell reached his second consecutive Grade 1 semifinal with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 5 seed Junior Ore, and the Indiana junior has yet to lose a set in the tournament. Frank, a junior from Virginia, is also 8 for 8 in sets this week, although he did need tiebreakers in Wednesday's third round and in today's quarterfinal, where he came back from 4-1 down in the opening set for a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over No. 7 seed Bob van Overbeek.

In the girls quarterfinals, every match featured a seeded player against an unseeded player, and in all four instances, the favorite prevailed.

Number seven seed Ester Goldfeld, the sole American remaining in the girls singles, defeated Blair Shankle 6-4, 6-3. Shankle had upset No. 2 seed Madison Keys in the second round on Wednesday. Goldfeld will face No. 4 seed Katarena Paliivets of Canada, who ended the run of Oklahoma's Mia Lancaster 6-2, 6-3.

Puerto Rico's Monica Puig, seeded fifth, defeated Kaitlin Ray 6-3, 6-4 in a match that featured lengthy point after lengthy point, and was much tighter than the score indicates. Number eight seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada beat Rachel Kahan 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3. Kahan, who had taken out top seed Beatrice Capra in third round play Wednesday, was two points from victory serving at 5-4 30-15 in the second set, but two double faults in that game proved her undoing. Bouchard picked up her game late in the tiebreaker, staying in points longer, and Kahan made more ground stroke errors than she had against Capra.

At 3-3 in the third set, Kahan's serve continued to give her trouble, and as the double faults piled up, Bouchard had only to hold her serve once to record the win.

The doubles semfinalists were determined Thursday afternoon, with six of the eight matches decided by match tiebreakers.

No. 2 boys seeds Kudla and Ore lost to No. 6 seeds Nikolai Haessig and Edward Nguyen of Canada 6-3, 1-6, 10-5. The Canadians will face No. 8 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant, who defeated No. 3 seeds Pavel Krainik and Dennis Novikov 4-6, 6-3, 10-7. No. 4 seeds Brandon Burke and Darian King beat unseeded Damien David and Samuel Monette 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-7 to move to the semifinals against unseeded Alexis Carlos and Marco Aurei Nunez. Carlos and Nunez defeated unseeded Chase Curry and Jeffrey Offerdahl 6-4, 6-3.

The TennisLink website hasn't updated the scores, so I won't give them for the girls, but No. 7 seeds Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring were the only team to advance to the semifinals in straight sets. Bolender and Herring defeated No. 4 seeds Bouchard and Monica Turewicz in their second match of the day. They will play top seeds Beatrice Capra and Alexandra Cercone, who dropped the first set, but came back to win the match tiebreaker against No. 8 seeds Khristina Blajkevitch and Kate Fuller.

Unseeded Elizabeth Abanda and Elianne Douglas-Miron won a match tiebreaker from No. 6 seeds Fausthyara Pietersz and Sachia Vickery to earn a semifinal contest with No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Nicole Gibbs. Dabrowski and Gibbs were down 6-2 in the match tiebreaker against Goldfeld and Annie Mulholland, seeded fifth, but won the final eight points to end the match.

For draws, see the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Two Girls Seeds Fall as Rain and Indoor Tennis Continue at Pan-American


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

It was the girls who provided the upsets and drama at the ITF Pan-American B1 Wednesday, and again it was indoors at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, with drizzle and cool temperatures continuing in the Tulsa area.

Second seed Madison Keys was defeated in a second round match by unseeded Blair Shankle 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and in marathon third round contest, unseeded Rachel Kahan beat top seed and defending champion Beatrice Capra 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Keys got off to a slow start against Shankle, dropping her serve twice to go down 3-0 in the 8 a.m. match. Shankle, who at age 15 was the senior player on the court, returned well and stayed steady in the face of Key's superior power.

"I just tried to get in position and get as many serves back and make her play the point," said the freshman from Texas. "I didn't want to give her free points all the time. I thought I played pretty well, pretty consistently most of the time and I served well when I needed to."

Keys seemed to find her form in the second set, but the 14-year-old, playing her second competitive match since May due to illness, couldn't shake Shankle. Serving at 4-5 in the third set, Keys double faulted and made two unforced errors to give Shankle three chances to grab the win. A netted pass attempt and a let cord in Keys' favor made it 30-40, but Shankle's sliced backhand, short and perfectly angled, ended it. Shankle went on to win her third round match against Jessica Wacnik 6-3, 6-1 to reach her first Grade 1 quarterfinal. She will play No. 7 seed Ester Goldfeld, who beat Vicky Duval and No. 12 seed Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada in her two matches Wednesday.

Capra knew she was in for a long afternoon when Kahan, a senior from Connecticut, jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, with Kahan's pace and depth keeping the top seed in a defensive position. Capra won the final five games of the first set, when Kahan began to make errors and Capra started to eliminate hers.

In the second set, Kahan quickly found her rhythm again, keeping Capra under pressure by taking the ball early and putting away short balls so quickly that Capra couldn't use her patented defensive skills. Kahan got an early break and a late one to take the set, giving her the advantage of serving to open the third set.

After two and a half hours the match was still all even, with nearly every game going to deuce. Serving at 3-3, Kahan saved two break points, but in the next game Capra failed to convert a game point. Two futile drop shot attempts and a tired looking backhand wide gave Kahan the opportunity to serve out the match, and she did so quickly, ending the three hour and twenty minute match on her first chance.

Capra was playing her second match of the day, having defeated Breaunna Addison 6-4, 6-3 in the morning, while Kahan played her second round match on Tuesday, but Kahan did not detect any fatigue in her opponent.


"She played fine," said Kahan, when asked if she felt she had an advantage in playing just one match. "Advantage, I don't know. I had trouble warming up, because of the situation, so it works both ways. But it was a good match. I played really well--I needed to to win. She's a really good player."

Kahan's opponent in the quarterfinals, eighth seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, also played two matches on Wednesday. She defeated Hai-Li Kong 7-5, 6-4, then won a contentious match with No. 9 seed Sachia Vickery 6-0, 5-7, 7-5. There were line calls disputed regularly, a roving official near the court at all times, vocal objections from Vickery's coach on her being overruled and, at the match's end, Vickery's refusal to approach the net for the customary handshake. It was not junior tennis's finest hour.

In addition to Kahan and Shankle, two other unseeded girls have reached the quarterfinals. Oklahoma's Mia Lancaster, a qualifier, defeated Jacqueline Crawford 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4, for her third straight three-set win and will play Katarena Paliivets of Canada, who is the highest seed remaining at No. 4. Wild card Kaitlin Ray reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 7-6(5) win over No. 14 seed Marianne Jodoin of Canada. Her opponent will be Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, who beat Elisabeth Abanda of Canada 6-3, 6-3.

By contrast, there is only one unseeded boy in the quarterfinals, Nick Chappell, who earned his quarterfinal berth with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 14 seed Campbell Johnson. Chappell will play another left-hander, No. 5 seed Junior Ore, who beat unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo 6-4, 7-6(7).

Top seed Denis Kudla continues to breeze through the draw, beating No. 13 seed Nikolai Haessig of Canada 6-2, 6-1. He will meet No. 9 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr., who posted a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over unseeded Emmett Egger. No. 4 seed Raymond Sarmiento used one break in each set to overcome unseeded Dane Webb 6-4, 6-4 and will face No. 6 seed Dennis Novikov, who beat No. 10 seed Darian King 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank got by unseeded Zachary Leslie 7-6(3), 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal contest with No. 7 seed Bob van Overbeek. Van Overbeek defeated unseeded Shane Vinsant 7-6(7), 6-4.

For complete results, including doubles, see the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

All Tennis Indoors at Pan-American ITF Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

A constant steady drizzle kept any matches from being played outdoors Tuesday, but the boys draw has managed to keep on schedule in singles, with two rounds now complete. Unlike Monday, when No. 2 seed Julen Uriguen was upset by Cale Hammond and four other seeds lost, Tuesday's contests went more to form. Number 11 seed Pavel Krainik of Canada was the only seed to lose, falling 6-3, 6-0 to Bjorn Fratangelo, and top seed Denis Kudla, No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank and No. 4 seed Raymond Sarmiento all advanced in straight sets. Hammond could not sustain his level from Monday evening, losing to Nick Chappell 6-4, 6-2.

Chappell's opponent in Wednesday's third round will be No. 14 seed and 2008 Pan-American quarterfinalist Campbell Johnson, who survived a bout of cramps to defeat Samuel Monette of Canada 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4). Monette served for the match at 5-4, but Johnson survived that, and down 2-1 in the tiebreaker, the Californian called for a trainer due to cramping. Down 4-2 at the changeover, Campbell continued to stretch and flex between points, but knowing that the end of the match was near, he played on. Monette, a 15-year-old left-hander, found the going difficult after that, and with a combination of Monette's errors and Johnson's winners the final five points of the match went to Johnson.

There were only three other three-setters in the boys draw, with No. 13 seed Nikolai Haessig of Canada coming from behind to down Mitchell Krueger 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 and No. 9 seed Sekou Bangoura overcoming Connor Farren 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. Dane Webb defeated Alexander Petrone 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 in a battle of unseeded boys.

The girls first round was not finished on Monday, so top seed Beatrice Capra and No. 2 seed Madison Keys played their opening matches today. Capra had no trouble with wild card Deborah Suarez, winning 6-1, 6-0, and Keys, playing her first competitive match since May, defeated Whitney Kay 6-1, 7-5.

In second round action, Edmond Oklahoma's Mia Lancaster upset No. 6 seed Alexandra Cercone 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4. Lancaster broke Cercone at 3-4 after four deuces, but she was unable to finish the match on her own serve. Although Lancaster often approached the net and put away short balls, and hit with pace and depth, it was a moonball that ended the match. With Cercone serving at 3-4, Lancaster hit a ball so high and so deep that it bounced out of Cercone's reach after she had gone all the way to the back wall to retrieve it.

Elisabeth Abanda of Canada defeated No. 10 see Noel Scott 7-5, 6-1 and Annie Mulholland eliminated No. 16 seed Kerrie Cartwright of the Bahamas 6-4, 7-6(5) in second round action. No. 11 seed Brooke Bolender lost to last week's finalist in the Atlanta ITF, Jacqueline Crawford, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 in a first round match.

The top seeds have already been eliminated in the boys doubles. Raymond Sarmiento and Julen Uriguen were defeated by Eric Johnson and Michael Zhu 6-3, 1-6, 10-4.

For draws and results, see the TennisLink site.

Clayton Commits to Duke


©Colette Lewis 2009--

This is a special post--the 2000th in the nearly five years of zootennis.com, and being this time of year, it's fitting that it's an announcement of Mary Clayton's commitment to Duke University.

Joining the NCAA team champions in January, Clayton, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., considered Northwestern and Vanderbilt before making her decision to become a Blue Devil late last month.

During her visit to Durham, Clayton observed practice, met with the coaches and took a full campus tour. She went to two classes--music and economics--and talked with several of the players on the team that she had known from junior tennis: Liz Plotkin, Ellah Nze and Reka Zsilinszka.

"I fell in love with campus," Clayton told me this afternoon. "I felt like I was in a fairy tale. I'm really fond of the coaches and the team, and I felt I fit best there."

Clayton, who trains at Saviano's Tennis Academy in Sunrise, is graduating from Edison Academic Center in December. She knew that she wanted to begin at Duke right away, and having lost two seniors to graduation and Mallory Cecil to the professional ranks, the team had positions to fill for the upcoming dual season.

Although Clayton did admit that the Blue Devils' success in May was a factor, she had been considering Duke before the won the NCAA title in College Station.

"It did show that it was a solid team with great coaches," she said.

Clayton is interested in pursuing either political science or psychology, and her tennis goals include another team title for Duke and a chance to match Cecil's individual title.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hammond Upsets No. 2 Seed Uriguen as Drizzle Plagues Pan-American First Round


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

It was another damp and gloomy day in Tulsa, but from the indoor courts of the Michael D. Case Tennis Center Cale Hammond's hometown looked pretty good. Much to the delight of a couple dozen friends and family members, Hammond saved a match point against No. 2 seed Julen Uriguen of Guatemala and went on to a dramatic 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 victory.

The boys draw was played entirely indoors on five courts, so by the time Hammond and Uriguen took the court nearly eight hours worth of tennis had already been played. Hammond opened the match serving well, and aggressively finished points, but he admitted that he made a mental error in the second set.

"I was on a roll, I did everything right," said Hammond, who trains at the Junior Champions Tennis Center in College Park, Md. "After I won that set, he took his time and regrouped, and then played a lot more solid. I think I got a little more confident than I should have been because I'm not as good as he is off the ground, but winning that set made me think I was. I changed my game style from the first set to the second set. I didn't come in as much in the second set, and I stayed back and tried to hit forehands with him. He has the best forehand in the world in juniors, so that was a bad idea."

In the third set, Hammond was down a break, and when serving at 3-5, was down a match point at 30-40, but again his serve got him out of trouble.

"I hit a big serve and an overhead to win that point," Hammond said. "I kept serving and volleying and it kept working, and I kept pressuring his backhand."

Serving for the match at 5-4, Uriguen threw in two double faults, and also double faulted when serving to force a tiebreaker.

"It looked like he sort of checked out," Hammond said. "It didn't look like he was trying that hard on those (second) serves, and that helped me a lot, gave me free points. I had to work really hard for almost every point, finish it at the net, hit a million backhands to his backhand slice."

With that final break, Hammond's cheering section applauded loudly, while Uriguen took his frustration out on not one but two racquets, smashing them on the courts near his bag and chair.

Hammond, who agreed that playing indoors was an advantage for him, was not really looking ahead to the next round, where he'll play Nick Chappell.

"I wish I could just stop the tournament right now," Hammond said, wishing for more time to savor his win over the world's 19th-ranked junior.

Aside from Uriguen, four other seeds fell in the first round. Emmett Egger beat No. 8 seed Alexis Carlos of Mexico, Alexander Petrone defeated No. 16 seed Gabriel Flores Ruiz, Dan McCall downed No. 12 seed Brandon Burke and Zach Leslie defeated No. 15 seed Rodney Carey.

In a match featuring the last two 16s National Champions, Clay Court winner Bjorn Fratangelo defeated Kalamazoo winner Gonzales Austin 6-2, 6-4 (the TennisLink site is currently showing the wrong winner).



The girls first round saw some matches completed outdoors, but as of 9 p.m., there were several matches, including those featuring top seed Beatrice Capra and No. 2 seed Madison Keys, that had not yet begun indoors.

The biggest surprise of the girls matches that were completed was No. 3 seed Nicole Gibbs's loss to wild card Kaitlyn Ray 6-2, 6-4. No. 15 seed Khristina Blajkevitch of Canada was beaten by Rachel Kahan 6-2, 6-2.

More rain is in the forecast for Tuesday, with indoor tennis again likely for the second round of singles.

For results, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tennessee's Smith Claims Two Championships at ITA D'Novo All-American


©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa OK--

Of the two unusual occurrences Sunday in Tulsa, JP Smith's pair of titles were certainly viewed more positively by the spectators than temperatures that failed to reach the 50 degree mark, nearly 30 degrees below normal for this time of year in Oklahoma.

Under gloomy skies, in front of only a few shivering fans, the Tennessee junior collected his school's first All-American singles title with a 7-6(7), 6-3 victory over Oklahoma's Andrei Daescu, then won two doubles matches with teammate Boris Conkic to join Harvard's James Blake and Mississippi State's Daniel Courcol as the only players to sweep the All-American titles.




In the singles final, played prior to the doubles semifinals and finals, Smith, the No. 2 seed, and the unseeded Daescu started nervously in the first few games. Although there were six breaks of serve in the first set, midway through its 80 minutes the level of play rose noticeably, with lengthy points more often ending with winners than errors.

At 5-5 in the first, Daescu was broken when Smith stroked a backhand pass at 30-40, but Smith was unable to serve out the set, double faulting at 6-5, 30-40 to settle for a tiebreaker. Daescu took a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker with a deft drop shot winner, but he said later that he thought the next point cost him the match.

"The momentum was with me after I broke him at 6-5," said Daescu, who had won all five of the tiebreakers he played in his previous matches. "I played well in the first couple of points in the tiebreaker but I interrupted that momentum when I double faulted at 5-3. To be honest, right now I feel like that cost me the whole match."

Smith had set points at 6-5 and 7-6, but Daescu's two clutch backhand winners kept him alive. On the third, at 8-7, Smith was able to force an overhead error on his lob, a tactic that proved successful against Daescu, who approached the net often to finish points. It was a long, tense set, and perhaps unsurprising that Smith would lose the opening game of the second set and fall behind 2-0.

"I got down an early break like I did yesterday in the second set against Farah," the Australian said, referring to his semifinal match with the third seed from Southern California. "I knew I had to compete well to win, so I forgot about it and just moved on, and played a really good second set."

Serving at 3-4, Daescu saved one break point, but sent a forehand feet long on the second, and suddenly Smith was serving for the match. Unlike the nervous game he played when serving for the first set, the 2008 NCAA finalist hit four first serves to close out what was certainly the match's shortest game.

"I connected on four serves in a row," Smith said. "I don't think I've done that all tournament. But it's good to save it for the end."

Daescu was gracious in defeat.

"He's definitely a smart player, really good touch, good serve, a lefty--it's hard to play against lefties," the senior from Romania said. "Overall he's very solid, doesn't give away free points. He plays the important points well. He didn't win today because he was luckier than me, he won because he was better."



Smith had no time to enjoy his victory, because minutes after the presentation and photographs he was back on the court for the doubles semifinal. He and Conkic downed No. 3 seeds Mortiz Baumann and Marek Michalicka of Wisconsin 8-3, and in the interest of making their 4:30 flight back to Knoxville, took only a brief rest before the final against Oklahoma State's Aleksey Bessonov and Oleksandr Nedovyesov, who were also unseeded.

Smith and Conkic had not played together before--Smith had reached the NCAA doubles final in May with Davey Sandgren--but aside from perhaps more calls of "yours" and "mine" than usual, there was no sign of unfamiliarity.

"We only had a couple of practices together before this tournament, but we've known each other for two years, so I guess we know what our strengths are, and we used them well in this tournament," said Conkic, a junior from Serbia who is also left-handed.

"It's really different, a different combination, but he plays well and we complement each other well, so it was good," Smith said.

The Volunteers were ahead throughout the pro set, although the Oklahoma State pair had gotten it back on serve with a break of Smith at 3-1, only to see Nedovyesov drop his serve in the next game. Leading 6-4, Conkic survived a break point for 7-4, and on their second match point with Bessonov serving, they secured Tennessee's second All-American doubles title. In 1986, Shelby Cannon and Byron Talbot won the school's first.

"To have two guys, to win both singles and doubles, it's really special," said associate head coach Chris Woodruff. "Hopefully we'll have this feeling at the end of May."

After 11 matches in four days, Smith admitted to some exhaustion, and although he has an 8 a.m. American history class on Monday morning awaiting him, his first thought was of rest and food.

"It won't be long before I have to get up and go back to school tomorrow, but other than that, it's been good," said Smith, who is the first to sweep both titles since Blake in 1998. "I don't know what to say right now. Get something to eat and to sleep, and I'll be good."

In consolation singles, SMU's Robin Fahgen defeated Dimitar Kutrovsky of Texas 6-2, 7-5. Fahgen, a senior from Sweden, did not lose a set in his five consolation wins.

For complete draws, see the ITA tournament site.




In the Women's ITA Riviera All-American, No. 8 seed Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech downed No. 2 seed Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia 6-2, 6-1 to add a singles title to the doubles championships she won there last year. Tennessee captured its third All-American title of the day when 2009 NCAA semifinalists Natalie Pluskota and Caitlyn Whoriskey defeated Lauren Embree and Allie Will 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.

For complete draws, see the ITA tournament site.