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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mestach Out of Florida Tourneys; Levine, Johnson & Krajicek Win at Knoxville 50K; Shane & Slupska Win Vitale/Lakewood Clay Classic

For those of you who missed my tweet Friday, An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium has withdrawn from both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl and year-end drama around the ITF World Junior Champions race has gone with her. Irina Khromacheva of Russia, whom Mestach has an opportunity to catch with good performances in the final two tournaments, and Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, neither of whom are playing the Florida events, will almost certainly finish at No. 1. I certainly would enjoy covering a bona fide battle for the top junior spot, but it seems less and less important to the juniors themselves, so other stories will need to fill that gap. And they will.

The Knoxville Challenger finished today, with former Florida Gator Jesse Levine continuing his outstanding fall by taking the singles title 6-2, 6-3 over qualifier Brian Baker, who won seven matches just to reach the final. Levine received a special exemption into the Champaign Illinois Challenger this week. Baker received one of the main draw wild cards, with the others going to Dennis Nevolo, Roy Kalmanovich and Steve Johnson.

Johnson and 2011 NCAA doubles champion Austin Krajicek won the doubles title, beating unseeded Adam Hubbell of Australia and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark 3-6, 6-4, 13-11. According to Tennessee's SID Amanda Pruitt, who was watching with interest due to Hubbell's status as a former Vol, Krajicek and Johnson saved three match points in the final tiebreaker. Krajicek has won a Futures title this year with fellow A&M alum Jeff Dadamo, but this is his first Challenger title. Johnson, who reached the quarterfinals of the ATP 1000 Masters in Cincinnati in August, had one other previous Challenger doubles finals appearance, with Sam Querrey in Tiburon last month, but this is his first Challenger title, bringing his ATP doubles ranking up to 190.

Rajeev Ram, who played his college tennis at Illinois, won his second straight Challenger on the indoor carpets of Europe, beating Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(6). Ram played six tiebreakers over the course of the tournament, winning three, and obviously the most important one. For complete results, see the ATP Challenger home page.

At the men's Pensacola Futures, third seed Benjamin Balleret of Monaco beat unseeded qualifier Maverick Banes of Australia in three sets, although the score given--6-1 6-7(2) 6-4(4)--obviously is incorrect. Former Florida State standout Maciek Sykut of the US teamed with Canadian Kamil Pajkowski this week, and the top seeds took the doubles titles with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 3 seeds Chris Letcher and Brendan Moore of Australia.

The champion of the $75,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Phoenix is unseeded Sessil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan, who defeated 18-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, also unseeded, 6-1, 7-5 in the final. Karatantcheva beat 16-year-old Madison Keys in the semifinals. The doubles title went to No. 4 seeds Jamie Hampton of the US and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat former college All-Americans Maria Sanchez of USC and Yasmin Schnack of UCLA, who were unseeded, 3-6, 6-3, 10-6.

That completes the US Pro Circuit season for the women this year, but there is one more Futures event for the men this week, in Amelia Island, where the final round of qualifying takes place Monday. French Open boys champion Bjorn Fratangelo, who has not played since the US Open Juniors in September, will play Pedro Graber-Anguita of Chile for a spot in the main draw. Christian Harrison and Florida's Spencer Newman will also meet with a place in the main draw on the line on Monday.

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

In other ITF Pro Circuit results of interest, 15-year-old Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador won her first title, at the $10,000 event in Brazil. The wild card beat No. 6 seed Gabriela Ce of Brazil 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Sixteen-year-old Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria won the singles and doubles at the $10,000 tournament in Tunisia, and 17-year-old Natalija Kostic of Serbia won her third $10,000 tournament of the fall, in Turkey.

Winning a Futures event before age 18 is much less common for the boys, but this week Thiago Montiero of Brazil did it in his home country. The 17-year-old picked up his first pro title with a 7-6(2), 6-4 win over compatriot Alexandre Schnitman in the final.

Former Alabama standout Saketh Myneni won the $10,000 Futures this week in Chennai India as a wild card. The ITF website hasn't been updated, but that's the word from this preview of this week's Futures event in India.

In college tennis, basketball announcer Dick Vitale sponsored the Lakewood Tennis Classic in the Bradenton/Sarasota area, and although it is not the "only college tournament played on clay" as it claims, it did have a good field for the second year of the tournament. Virginia's Justin Shane, the No. 4 seed, won the men's singles title over Oklahoma State's Vlad Bondarenko 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 and Mariya Slupska of Memphis beat teammate Courtney Collins, the No. 2 seed, 6-3, 6-2 for the women's singles title. The Memphis women have put up some excellent results this fall and are certainly a team to watch in the dual match season. Shane and teammate Philippe Oudshoorn won the men's doubles title.

Complete draws are available thanks to the Tennessee Lady Vols. Their team of Brynn Boren and Sarah Toti won the women's doubles title.