All-Teen Finals in Alabama and Puerto Rico Pro Circuit Events; Gibbs Feature; Golf Relaxes Rules for Amateurs
The finals are set at the two Pro Circuit events this week--the men's $10,000 Futures in Birmingham Ala. and the women's $25,000 Challenger in Puerto Rico--with none of the four finalists over the age of 18.
In Alabama, where there was only one seed left after the second round, 18-year-old Jason Kubler of Australia will play 16-year-old qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan for the title. It is extremely rare for a player without an ATP ranking to reach a final, even at the lowest level, which is what this Futures is. Nishioka is playing only his second Futures event, with his first last week in Austin, and with his four qualifying wins, he has already won eight matches in a row, all but one in straight sets. Today, he defeated top seed and ATP No. 305 Nicolas Devilder of France 6-2, 6-3.
Kubler's only junior tournament this year was Wimbledon, where he reached the semifinals, and he has reached a Futures final back in Australia in 2010, but he has yet to win one. He does have an ATP ranking of 761 however, and he was out with an injury earlier this year, so the former top-ranked ITF junior's appearance in the final is less surprising.
In Puerto Rico, 18-year-old Monica Puig, fresh from her silver medal at the Pan American games last week, is in the final at the $25,000 Bayamon tournament against another 18-year-old, Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Puig, the No. 8 seed, represents Puerto Rico, although she lives in Miami. She defeated No. 7 seed Olga Puchkova of Russia 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-4 in today's semifinal. Larcher de Briton, the No. 3 seed, beat unseeded 32-year-old Catalina Castano of Colombia 6-4, 6-2 today. Castano had upset top seed Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, another 18-year-old, in the quarterfinals.
The unseeded American team of Allie Kiick and Vicky Duval reached the doubles final, but lost to No. 3 seeds Chanel Simmonds of South Africa and Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-1 today.
Complete draws can be found at the Pro Circuit results page at usta.com.
The Stanford Daily published an interview this week with Northwest regional champion Nicole Gibbs, and it's a fascinating read. I knew that Gibbs had lost in the finals of the 18s Nationals the past two years, but I had no idea she hadn't won a tournament in years. She talks about finally winning, her life as a student-athlete at Stanford, how she hated tennis early on, the different mindset required in college tennis, and her intention to play professionally.
This New York Times article explains rule changes by golf's sanctioning bodies to allievate some of the pressure on amateur players. This includes agreeing to representation by agents prior to turning professional and receiving living expenses from national governing bodies to ease the pressure to turn pro. The article doesn't mention the NCAA in any of this, but signing with an agent means the immediate and irreversible loss of amateur status in the NCAA's eyes, so these regulations are obviously at odds with NCAA rules. Whether this change will put any pressure on the NCAA to make changes on their end is certainly open to debate, and this is the only area where this may eventually affect tennis. The ITF, the international governing body of tennis, makes no distinction between amateurs and professionals, whether at junior or senior levels (although they do prohibit prize money at junior events); that is a division that exists only in golf, which still has major events confined to amateurs.
The NCAA did adopt several changes last week, including a permission for up to $2,000 in additional student-athlete aid for those on full scholarships or those in equivalency sports (like men's tennis) who have other financial aid that amounts to a full ride. Whether schools and conferences will be willing to adopt this rule for non-revenue sports remains to be seen. Another major change allows for scholarships to be granted for more than one year, up to the number of years of eligibility. For a complete review of the changes, see ncaa.org.