Monday, November 8, 2010

Tennis Beyond New York

With the completion of the USTA/ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Championships yesterday, college tennis moves off the radar until January. But that doesn't mean college tennis players won't be competing.

Last week the big news on the Pro Circuit was Virginia's Michael Shabaz, who as a qualifier reached the final of the $50,000 Challenger in Charlottesville. According to University of Virginia's SID for men's tennis, who doubtless spent many hours unearthing the fact, Shabaz in the first active collegiate man to reach a Challenger final since Georgia's Al Parker did it in Raleigh in 1987. (NOTE: I've since heard that Jesse Witten reached the final in a Lexington Challenger prior to his senior year in 2004) Shabaz lost to Robert Kendrick 6-2, 6-3 in Sunday's final. For more on the final, see this article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

There's a chance lightning could strike twice, as this week there are several active college players in the $50,000 Knoxville Challenger draw, including National Indoor Champion Rhyne Williams. Williams is joined as a main draw wild card by teammates JP Smith and Boris Conkic. Eric Quigley of Kentucky also received a main draw wild card. Shabaz received a wild card into qualifying in Charlottesvile, meaning he won seven straight matches, but none of the Tennessee wild cards managed to qualify. Eighteen-year-old Yuki Bhambri of India did earn a spot in the main draw, which begins Tuesday. Conkic will play No. 7 seed Carsten Ball of Australia on Tuesday; Williams and Smith will play their opening round matches on Wednesday.

In the $50,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Grapevine, Texas, top seed Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. took the singles title with a 7-6(1), 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Jamie Hampton, also of the U.S. Americans Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington won the doubles title. At the men's $10,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Niceville, Fla., Denis Kudla reached the singles semifinals with a win over doubles partner Andrea Collarini. Hungary's Adam Kellner, the No. 7 seed, won the singles title with a 6-3, 7-6(3) win over top seed James Lemke of Australia. Top seeds Collarini and Kudla reached the doubles final before dropping a 7-6(4), 6-2 decision to former Ole Miss teammates Robbye Poole and Erling Tveit.

Heather Watson, 18, claimed the title of the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Toronto, defeating Alize Lim of France 6-3, 6-3. Watson, the No. 7 seed, beat Sloane Stephens in the semifinals, while Lim put an end to Rebecca Marino's fantastic fall run in that same round. Alison Riske, another streaking young player, lost in the second round to Lauren Albanese. Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman of Canada won the doubles title. For complete results, see the ITF women's circuit site.

At the Lexington, SC ITF Grade 4 event, Alex Petrone and Skylar Morton won the singles titles. The top-seeded Petrone, who recently announced his commitment to the University of Michigan, defeated unseeded Austin Ansari 6-0, 6-1. Morton, the 13th seed, beat tenth seed Hannah King 6-4, 6-0. Tyler Gardiner and Harrison Richmond won the boys doubles, with Gabrielle Andrews and Taylor Townsend taking the girls doubles title. This week the U.S. ITF tour heads south to Boca Raton, for the Evert ITF, also a grade 4. Because of the location, this is always one of the strongest fields outside the Grade 1s, as evidenced by the sheer numbers of those attempting to qualify.

The Asian/Oceania B1 Closed winners last week were So Ra Lee of Korea and Andrew Whittington of Australia.

For the Lexington and Asia Closed results and Evert draws, see the ITF junior site.

The Pro Circuit Futures event this week is in Pensacola, where the qualifying is complete. There will be a rematch of the U.S. Open boys final in the first round, with Denis Kudla trying to avenge his loss there to Jack Sock. Mitchell Frank and Gonzales Austin qualified, while Thai Kwiatkowski and Alexios Halebian received main draw wild cards. Jordan Cox and Andrea Collarini are also in the draw.

The women are closing out the Pro Circuit year at the $75,000 event in Phoenix, which is loaded with young stars, including top seed Melanie Oudin, who had one of her best wins of the year Sunday in Fed Cup competition against French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy. Wild cards are Lauren Albanese, Madison Keys, Julia Boserup and Arizona State's Kelcy McKenna. Beatrice Capra again withdrew. I understand she has an ankle injury.

For all the draws and results, see the usta.com Pro Circuit page.