Harrison vs Sweeting; Capra vs. McHale in USTA French WC Finals; Q and A with Patrick McEnroe; Naples ITF; Kudla Update
Two wild cards into the French Open will be decided on Thursday in Boca Raton, with the finals of the USTA's tournament for the reciprocal main draw wild card scheduled for 10 a.m. and noon. Top seed Christina McHale, who won the 2009 Australian Open wild card tournament, will face No. 7 seed Beatrice Capra in the women's morning final, with No. 2 seed Ryan Sweeting playing No. 6 seed Ryan Harrison, who won the USTA's 2010 Australian Open wild card. McHale beat Asia Muhammad 6-4, 6-0 and Capra beat Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3 in today's semifinals. According to Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald, Harrison was down a set and 4-1 before coming back for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over top seed Jesse Levine. Sweeting defeated No. 4 seed Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 7-5. Capra, who turned 18 earlier this month, is certainly the least experienced of the four, but she has been playing well lately and is very good on clay.
These wild card tournaments have previously been conducted in a round robin format, but I think the switch to eight-player fields with single elimination, which I believe is permanent, is more straightforward and therefore preferable. The men's final will be best of five, the women's best of three. Neither will play a third set tiebreaker, to mirror the French Open format.
Sports Business Journal published an interview today with USTA Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe. He talks about his upcoming book, juggling broadcasting and administration, player development goals, Davis Cup, the long season and what players would be good in the booth. Thanks to Global Village Tennis News for the link.
A new ITF Grade 4 event on clay is underway in Naples, Fla., the first of three in the state the next three weeks. Some of the U.S. boys who might have competed were playing for a spot in the French wild card tournament in Boca Raton this week, which may be one of the reasons that only one American player, Hunter Callahan, has reached the quarterfinals. There are five South American players and one from Europe and Asia in the final eight. The girls are doing much better, with seven of the eight quarterfinalists from the U.S.--Mara Schmidt, Aria Lambert, Brooke Bolender, Deborah Suarez, Kaitlin Ray, Lauren Herring and 13-year-old Liz Jeukeng. For complete draws, see the ITF Junior website.
The men's Pro Circuit is now in the midst of its three-week stretch of Florida clay tournaments, with the first this week in Vero Beach. Wild card Nick Chappell and Junior Exempt Mitchell Frank both lost in the first round, but wild card Denis Kudla beat No. 7 seed Phillip Bester of Canada to advance to the second round. Kudla has not played a junior event since winning the Grade A Casablanca Cup in early January. He has been playing Futures instead, and the victory over Bester is his second main draw win in five Future tournaments this year. Kudla is the subject of this feature in the TC Palm, which refers to him as the world 16-and-under champion. There really isn't such a title, but playing No. 1 on the Junior Davis Cup winning team and taking the 16s Orange Bowl championship in 2008 certainly gives him credentials for that unofficial title. Kudla says he hopes to take his ranking from its current 999 up to the 200-300 range by the end of the year.
The conversation between Kudla and his coach Frank Salazar referred to in the article could not have occurred at last year's US Open juniors, because in 2009, Kudla reached the quarterfinals. It was probably in 2008, when he did lose in the first round.