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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alabama Tornado Update; The Ojai Underway; Frank, Fratangelo, Kosakowski Advance to Quarterfinals at Vero Beach Futures

As most of you have certainly heard by now, Tuscaloosa, Alabama was one of the cities hardest hit by yesterday's tornadoes. The University of Alabama has suspended normal operations, sent students home and delayed graduation ceremonies until August. The athletic department has provided statements from the coaches of all the athletic programs, including men's and women's tennis, on their website. It's difficult to find words appropriate to express the sadness surrounding such a devastating event. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who have suffered during this tragedy.

The 111th Ojai tournament is underway in California, and despite a firm commitment to attend someday, I am again not there. The first two rounds of the men's Open and the Pac-10 men's and women's singles are scheduled for today. USC's Steve Johnson(1) and Bradley Klahn(2) are through to the second round, as is top seed Maria Sanchez of USC, but No. 2 seed Venise Chan of Washington lost her first round match to Cal-Berkeley's Anett Schutting.

In the men's Open, top seeds Gary Sacks and Nima Roshan won their opening round matches, as did ISC and Easter Bowl champion Marcos Giron, who is a No. 5 seed.
For all the draws, see the tournament website, which provides links to the various TennisLink pages.

Steve Johnson is a very popular interview these days, a testament to his Southern California roots and No. 1 ranking. Rhiannon Potkey wrote this story on Johnson in advance of The Ojai for the Ventura County Star, which mentions his plan to take the fall off to play professional events as an amateur before deciding whether he will return to USC for his senior year. The Orange County Register also provides additional insight into Johnson's ambition to play professionally in this article.

UCLA freshman Dan Kosakowski, who is also rumored to be contemplating a professional career after the completion of this season, is not playing the Pac-10 in Ojai, but rather the Pro Circuit Futures in Vero Beach. Today he beat top seed Artem Sitak of New Zealand 6-3, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals, where he'll meet former TCU star Kriegler Brink, a wild card who is teaching in Vero Beach. Randy Walker has an interesting article on Brink's first round win over Dennis Novikov at World Tennis Magazine. Brink has no illusions about a career as a touring professional.

“This is great playing here in Vero in front of a supportive crowd and it’s a nice place, but I don’t want to go to Mexico or some place where I don’t know anyone and do that for two or three years,” said Brink. “There are thousands of players just like me.”

Most of them don't have the option of Harvard Law, as Blake Strode does, but he doesn't seem too eager to give up on the life of an itinerant tennis player just yet. In this article in TCPalm.com, Strode says he has a spot at law school reserved for 2012.

"We'll see what happens next year. I'll probably be going to law school, but you never know. If I move up, I might just stick with tennis."

Mitchell Frank was finally tested in a match today, with the University of Virginia recruit splitting sets with former Oklahoma standout Andrei Daescu
6-3, 6-7(7). Daescu was down 4-0 in the final set when he retired. Frank plays No. 2 seed Matteo Marrai of Italy in the quarterfinals. Wild card Bjorn Fratangelo took out No. 6 seed Olivier Sajous of Haiti 6-1, 6-1, demonstrating again just how comfortable he is on green clay. The two-time national clay court champion will play No. 4 seed Daniel Garza of Mexico on Friday. Garza beat qualifier Austin Smith 6-0, 6-1.

For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.