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Friday, April 27, 2012

Baker, Strode and Sweeting Down to the Wire for USTA's French Open Wild Card; Big Ten, Mountain West Conference Awards; US ITF Clay Circuit Begins in Daytona

The men's wild card for Roland Garros that the USTA receives in a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation will be decided in Savannah, possibly tomorrow. Still in the running are the three Americans in the semifinals: Blake Strode, Brian Baker and Ryan Sweeting. Strode, the 2009 NCAA semifinalist while at Arkansas, and Baker, who reached the Roland Garros boys final in 2003, are both qualifiers, while Sweeting is the No. 7 seed. Sweeting, who plays unseeded Augustin Gensse of France in one semifinal, needs to win the tournament to claim the wild card, while the winner of the Baker - Strode match tomorrow will get it if Sweeting loses to Gensse. This is all based on the calculations made by Steve at ShankTennis, and I thank him for doing the math. (I believe he has erred in the headings, with the Sarasota numbers the lower ones and the Savannah numbers the higher ones.)  Certainly a reason to follow the live scoring tomorrow, which I will undoubtedly be doing with temperatures expected to stay in the 40s all day here in Michigan.

The women's wild card is based on the best two of three tournaments, not just the two the men's wild card is based on, with this week's $50,000 in Charlottesville being the middle one. Rain washed out singles play on Thursday, so two rounds were played today, and Julia Cohen has put herself in an excellent position by reaching the semifinals for the second week in a row. She plays Melanie Oudin in one semifinal, while doubles partners CoCo Vandeweghe and Irina Falconi meet in the other. Falconi, the No. 2 seed, is the only seeded player remaining.

The Har-Tru company, which mines and distributes the green clay surface used nearly everywhere in the United States, is based in Charlottesville, and they sponsor many tennis-related events there. This week they are doing brief video interviews with some of the players, including Carly Gullickson and Irina Falconi, which can be found on their Facebook page.

Complete tournament results are available at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

The Big Ten and Mountain West announced their conference awards at banquets prior to their tournaments last night, and they are as follows:

Big Ten men:
Player of the Year: Evan King, Michigan
Freshman of the Year: Leandro Toledo, Minnesota
Coach of the Year Ty Tucker, Ohio State

Big Ten women:
Player of the Year: Mary Weatherholt, Nebraska
Freshman of the Year: Emina Bektas, Michigan
Co-Coach of the Year: Ronni Bernstein, Michigan
Co-Coach of the Year: Scott Jacobson, Nebraska

Mountain West men:
Player of the Year: Javier Pulga, San Diego State
Freshman of the Year: Nick Chappell, TCU

Mountain West women: 
Player of the Year: Lucia Batta, UNLV
Freshman of the Year: Stefanie Tan, TCU

The three-week ITF junior clay swing in Florida gets underway tomorrow in Daytona Beach, followed by tournaments in Plantation and Delray Beach. They are all Grade 4s.  But if you look on the USTA's Junior ITF schedule page you will see the International Hard Court tournament has moved this year and been upgraded from a Grade 4 to a Grade 2, which it was until 2010. It will now be held at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. August 20-25, and as a Grade 2, will offer hospitality to those in the main draw, a welcome change from the downgrading of tournaments we've since the ITF banned private housing as hospitality. I expect it will be especially popular with East Coast juniors who might not otherwise play any other ITF save the Grass Courts.