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Monday, June 11, 2012

Britton Wins First Pro Singles Title; ITF Grass Courts Underway in Philadelphia; Min vs. Robson in Rainy England

2009 NCAA champion Devin Britton won his first professional singles title yesterday at the $15,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Sacramento, saving two match points in his 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over wild card Jeff Dadamo. Dadamo is also an NCAA champion, having won the doubles title last year for Texas A&M with Austin Krajicek.

Britton, who played just one dual match season for Ole Miss before winning the NCAA singles title that May, was the youngest men's champion ever, but that didn't translate to immediate success among professionals. Now 21, Britton has won eight doubles titles in Futures, but a singles title had eluded him until now.  He has a blog that he's been updating regularly since April, and in his most recent post he credits Lebron James as inspiration for his run this week.

The Northern Cal Tennis Czar blog has a thorough account of the match, with analysis by both winner and loser, but one of the match points Britton saved sounds like a classic.

On Dadamo's first match point, with Britton serving at 4-5 in the second set, Britton flicked a forehand half volley for a winner. 

   "I serve-and-volleyed on my second serve, and he hit a low slice behind me," said Britton, who lost to Roger Federer 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open in Arthur Ashe Stadium. "I was lucky to pick it up, and I put it in an awkward place for him."

Said Dadamo, who earned $1,350 and also was seeking his first pro singles crown: "Would he make that half volley nine out of 10 times? It doesn't matter -- he made it today."

In his run to the 2008 US Open boys final as a qualifier, and then again at the NCAAs in College Station in 2009, I saw him make many of those half volleys, and although I'm sure he's missed many of them too, I would put his odds of success at better than 1 of 10. 

The doubles title at the $15,000 tournament went to Philip Simmonds and Vahid Mirzadeh, the No. 4 seeds, who defeated recent UCLA grad Nick Meister and former Cal Bear Pedro Zerbini of Brazil, who were unseeded,  6-4, 3-6, 11-9 in the final.

At the women's $25,000 Pro Circuit event in El Paso, Canadian Marie Eve Pelletier of Canada, seeded No. 3, beat No. 2 seed Ashley Weinhold  7-5, 6-4 to take the singles title.  Weinhold did come away with a title however, teaming with former North Carolina All-American Sanaz Marand to win the doubles, 6-4, 6-3 over Fatma Al Nabhani of Oman and Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran of Bolivia. Neither team was seeded.   

This week, the men are at another $15,000 Futures, in Chico, Calif., and the women are in Delaware for a $10,000 event.

Qualifying for both events is complete, with University of Texas's Liz Begley and juniors Rachel Pierson and Jillian Rooney qualifying for the main draw in Delaware and Cal players Nick Andrews and Ben McLachlan, along with Washington's Kyle McMorrow, among those qualifying for the main draw in Chico.

The ITF Junior Circuit in the United States has a one-week grass court season, and it's this week, at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I covered the event for many years, but now that it's gone down to a Grade 4, it doesn't attract the depth of field it once did.  I'm not familiar with either of the top seeds who are Toby Mitchell of Great Britain and Madrie Le Roux of South Africa, but seeding has always seemed mostly irrelevant when dealing with the unique playing surface that is grass. Jamie Loeb, Mia King, Peggy Porter, Rasheeda McAdoo and Lexi Borr are among the high profile junior girls taking a shot at the surface, which unlike Wimbledon, does not encourage or reward patience in long baseline rallies.

Henrik Wiersholm, Justin Butsch, Henry Craig, Dan Kerznerman and Josh Hagar are a few of the US boys to watch this week. Easter Bowl 14s champion William Blumberg qualified for the main draw.

Draws and results are available at the ITF junior website.

The weather in Europe has been uniformly bad for days now, with the brief grass court season even shorter now, as both the ATP and WTA events in Great Britain were total washouts today.

Grace Min, who won two consecutive clay events here in the US before traveling to Europe for the grass court season, extended her winning streak to 12 with two victories in qualifying for the WTA event in Birmingham this week. US Open girls champion Min is scheduled to play Great Britain's Laura Robson, a former Wimbledon girls champion who is also 18 years old, in the first round Tuesday.

Great Britain's top-ranked junior Liam Broady has received a wild card into the ATP Queen's Club event and is scheduled to play Gilles Muller in the first round. For more on Broady's thoughts about his ATP debut, see this article from BBC Sports.