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Monday, October 1, 2012

Smith, Blumberg Win Waco ITF Titles, Valdes Sweeps in Dominican Republic ITF; Australian Open Wild Card Tournament Set for December 14-16 in Atlanta



The rain in Texas over the weekend stopped long enough to allow champions to be crowned at the ITF Grade 5 in Waco, with 15-year-old Maria Smith and 14-year-old William Blumberg claiming their first ITF titles.

As is often the case in the lower-graded ITF tournaments, the seedings didn't mean much, and in the boys draw, only one seed made it past the third round. Easter Bowl 14s champion Blumberg, playing in only his third ITF event, was not seeded, but lost only one set, in his first round match. Blumberg, a member of the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under championship team, beat 17-year-old John Mee of Dallas in the final 6-4, 6-4. Mee was also unseeded, and he was playing in only his second ITF event.

Unseeded Carlos Di Laura and Juan Moreiras of the US won the doubles, beating No. 3 seed Mac Roy and Aron Pierce, also of the US, 5-7, 7-6(4), 11-9.

Maria Smith, also unseeded, breezed through her first five matches, but earned her title with a tough 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4 win over No. 14 seed Gabrielle Smith in the final. Smith actually lost more games in the final than she had in her previous five matches combined, 12 to 11.

Future University of Southern California teammates Zoe Katz and Madison Westby won the doubles title, with a 6-7(2), 6-2, 10-6 victory over No. 1 seeds Jessica Cortes of Mexico and Elysse Graci of the US.  Katz and Westby were unseeded, meaning all four titles were won by unseeded players or teams.

In the ITF Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, 16-year-old Rianna Valdes picked up her first ITF singles title, with some eyebrow-raising score lines. In her first four wins, No. 2 seed Valdes didn't lose more than one game in any set until the final, and her win over Ellyse Hamlin in the championship match was 6-4, 6-1, giving her nine of ten sets won by the score of 6-1 or 6-0.  Valdes also took the doubles title, playing with Puerto Rico's Yolimar Ogando. The top seeds beat No. 2 seeds Lauren Proctor of the US and Sofia Santa Maria of Puerto Rico 6-7(3), 6-3, 10-3.

This week, the US ITF Junior circuit moves to Wichita Falls, Texas for the Grade 4 there. The draws are posted now at TennisLink.

On the Pro Circuit this week, the women are at a $10,000 event in Gainesville, Florida and the men are at the $100,000 tournament in Sacramento.  Live streaming is available for the Sacramento tournament via the USTA's Pro Circuit page.

After the success of the USTA's newly implemented method of determining slam wild cards by points accumulated during designated Pro Circuit events, I wasn't sure how the 2013 Australian Open reciprocal wild card would be decided. But perhaps due to the time of year, when the pro tours take their very brief break, it wasn't feasible to employ the system used this year for the French wild card and one of the US wild cards, so there will be a tournament for it, as there has been for several years. It will again be held at what was formerly known as the Racquet Club of the South, now known as Life Time Fitness, in Norcross, Georgia, December 14-16.  For more information, see the tournament website.

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