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Friday, September 28, 2012

US Girls Meet Russia Sunday for Junior Fed Cup Title, Boys Fall to Australia in Semis; ITA All-American PreQualifying Begins Saturday; Osaka Sisters Meet in Amelia Island Semis

The top-seeded US girls team of Taylor Townsend, Louisa Chirico and Gabby Andrews reached Sunday's ITF Junior Fed Cup final in Barcelona, beating No. 3 seed Brazil 2-0 today.

I didn't know the weather could be cold and wet in Spain this time of year, but according to Sandy Harwitt's story for the ITF junior website, those were the conditions for today's semifinals, which were disrupted by rain for a couple of hours in the early afternoon.

The US girls got off to their usual excellent start, with Louisa Chirico, now 4-0 this week at No. 2 singles, beating Carolina Meligeni Alves of Brazil 6-3, 6-0 before the rain set in.  Chirico did not lose a set in any of her four wins during the week. Taylor Townsend, playing No. 1 singles all week, has had more challenging matches, losing her first set of the tournament to Sara Sorribes of Spain, then dropping the opening set against Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil today. The live scoring listed Townsend as retired at 6-6 in the first set, which suggested an ankle turn or another such mishap, but it turned out to be a mistake, with Townsend still on the court at the time. She came back to take the match 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 6-1 to give the US an insurmountable 2-0 lead, so the doubles were not played.

The US girls will play No. 2 seed Russia, who beat No. 6 Australia Friday by a 2-0 score.  Daria Kasatkina beat Zoe Hives 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles and Elizaveta Kulichkova took out Isabelle Wallace at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-3. The 15-year-old Kasatkina did not play No. 2 singles in Russia's first match with Germany, but she has been in the other three ties, and has had impressive wins the past three days, so something's got to give when she meets Chirico.  Townsend, the ITF No.1, and Kulichkova, No. 7 in the current rankings, have never met.

The top-seeded US boys will play France on Sunday for third place, after dropping a 2-0 decision to No. 3 Australia on Friday.  Stefan Kozlov, playing No. 2 singles, lost for the first time this week, falling to  Harry Bourchier 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, and Noah Rubin dropped a 6-3, 6-2 decision at No. 1 singles to Thanasi Kokkinakis.

The No. 2 seeded Italian team of Gianluigi Quinzi and Filippo Baldi are looking very strong after a 2-0 win over France, although Quinzi was taken to three sets by Johan Sebastien Tatlot at No. 1 singles.

There will be matches played on Saturday for positions in the middle. With the top four and the bottom four in action on Sunday.

For more, see the ITF website, and Sandy Harwitt's Tennishorts.com

The Division I ITA All-American tournaments, the college season's first majors, get underway with the men playing in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the women in Pacific Palisades, California.  The pre-qualifying begins on Saturday, with 64 women and 164 men needing to post three victories just to reach the  qualifying stage, which begins on Monday.  Hunter Callahan of Ohio State was the top seed in pre-qualifying for the men, but his opponent, Richard del Nunzio, (who I had thought had committed to Fresno State but instead is listed as at Oklahoma State, where former Fresno head coach Jay Udwadia is now in his first year leading the Cowboys), got a walkover into the next round, so Callahan probably moved into the qualifying. Tamas Batyi of UNLV and Justin Shane of Virginia are the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in pre-qualifying in Tulsa.  Complete draws can be found at the ITA website's tournament page.

The draws are smaller in the women's event, with only 32 players in the main draw, compared to 64 for the men.  In the pre-qualifying, the top two seeds are absent, with Illinois' Allison Falkin and UCLA's Chanelle Van Nguyen the highest seeds still in the pre-qualifying draw.  As usual, there are some very high profile freshmen in the pre-qualifying, including Virginia's Julia Elbaba and Stephanie Nauta, Florida's Danielle Collins and UCLA's Kyle McPhillips. The complete draws can be found at the ITA website's tournament page.

Today in Amelia Island, the Osaka sisters continued their charmed and surprising run, reaching the semifinals at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event, and because they play each other, assuring an Osaka in the final.  Mari, 16, beat qualifier Kelsey Laurente 7-5, 0-6, 6-4 in today's quarterfinal, while Naomi, 14, defeated Federica Grazioso of Italy 6-4, 7-6(5).  Jamie Loeb beat Maria Shishkina 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals against the only seed remaining, No. Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran of Bolivia. Alvarez-Teran downed Katerina Stewart 6-1, 6-4, and has not lost a set this week.