Friday, August 31, 2012

Novikov Loses Tight Battle with No. 31 Seed Benneteau; Johnson Reaches Third Round; Nine US Players in Final Round of Junior Qualifying


©Colette Lewis 2012--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Dennis Novikov wasn't expecting his second round US Open main draw match against No. 31 seed Julien Benneteau of France would one of the night variety that New York is famous for. Scheduled for the third match on Court 11 in the day session, Novikov had to wait so long for Lleyton Hewitt to finish his four and a half hour win over Gilles Muller that he was forced to warm up a second time. But the long wait was no problem for the 18-year-old Kalamazoo champion, as he took the first set before ultimately falling 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(1), 7-5.

With few other matches still in progress as the day session drew to a close, plenty of fans stopped by to assess whether a UCLA sophomore could hang with a seeded veteran on one of the sports biggest stages. No matter whether they stayed for a few games or for the final two sets, as I did, they saw convincing evidence that Novikov was up to the task.

After Benneteau had taken the second set, both players held serve in the third until 4-4. The 30-year-old Benneteau, who felt victimized by several overruled line calls,  also seemed frustrated that he couldn't shake his younger opponent. At 4-all, he double faulted three times, and needed to save four break points, but as shaky as his second serve was on occasion, his first serve bailed him out often.  Novikov saved a break point himself in the next game with a good first serve, but in that subsequent tiebreaker, he couldn't buy a first serve, while Benneteau served well and hit winners when he wasn't hitting aces.

Novikov was broken to start the fourth set, looking discouraged and confused by the previous five minutes, and Benneteau kept his form taking a 3-1 lead.  Novikov got the break back with Benneteau serving at 3-2, needing six break points to get it. Every time Novikov got the ad, Benneteau would come up with a big serve, but on the sixth, Benneteau finally missed his first serve and Novikov crushed a backhand winner.

"I had a lot of break opportunities throughout the whole match," said Novikov. "It wasn't like I missed an easy ball or something, just gave it way. He usually came up with a big serve or a good serve and follow it up with another shot."

At 4-4, Novikov, who had 14 aces including one clocked at 135 mph, saved a break point with a service winner, and finished the game with an 124-mph ace. Benneteau had only a small cheering section, nothing like the number supporting Novikov with chants of Dennis, Dennis and USA, USA, and they were relieved when he held for 5-5. Novikov, still serving big, including a 132 mph ace, took a 40-15 lead, but Benneteau kept the pressure on, forcing a couple of forehand errors to earn a break point. Novikov saved one with a service winner, but his normally reliable backhand produced two consecutive errors and Benneteau had the lead.

Benneteau made all his first serves in the final game, and when he stroked a forehand winner at 40-0, he raised both arms in the air and let out a loud roar of happiness and relief. He will play No. 2 seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round.

Novikov, who signed into the tournament as an amateur and will not be accepting any prize money, says he isn't surprised by his results this week.

"I always felt I could compete at a high level, it was just maintaining it for more than two, three matches," he said. "I've always had good wins, but I needed to do it throughout a whole tournament or multiple days in a row. So I felt this summer that I could do that."

As for what Benneteau could do that he couldn't, Novikov had a ready assessment.

"I think he moved better than me," Novikov said. "I definitely have to improve my movement. But I felt I hit the ball bigger than him, served bigger than him. His movement was definitely better than mine and that's where he outplayed me. I concentrate on strengths, to keep them my strengths, but I also have to improve my weaknesses."

Novikov isn't done competing in New York just yet however.

"I liked the tournament overall. It was a great experience for me. I still have doubles tomorrow (with Michael Redlicki), so hopefully I can prolong the experience."

Earlier in the day, NCAA champion Steve Johnson reached the third round, beating Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4. He will play No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet of France, who defeated Bradley Klahn 6-3, 6-3, 6-1.  Mallory Burdette's run came to an end, when she lost to No. 3 seed Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1.

The day's results can be found at the tournament website.

In US Open junior qualifying, three of the 11 boys made it through to the second and final round, all of them wild cards. Fourteen-year-olds Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe won, as did Mitch Stewart, the Kalamazoo 16s semifinalist.

Six of the 12 US girls in action won their first round qualifying matches Friday, including wild cards Nicole Frenkel, Louisa Chirico, Rasheeda McAdoo and Emma Higuchi.  Higuchi had an impressive 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands, who was ranked No. 7 in the ITF juniors at the beginning of this year.  Denise Starr(16) and Tornado Black(11) also advanced to the final round of qualifying.

For complete results, see the ITF junior website.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roddick Retires; My US Open Junior Preview; Junior Qualifying Begins Friday

Andy Roddick, with Kelly Jones and Mardy Fish at 2004 Davis Cup tie with Belarus

The big news in tennis today didn't happen on the courts at Flushing Meadows but in Interview Room 1, where Andy Roddick announced his retirement at the end of this year's US Open. Roddick has been American men's tennis for a decade now, and he leaves big shoes for someone to fill. Many talented writers will provide their perspective on Roddick's career and impact after this announcement. Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim was the first, and I think his piece on Roddick strikes just the right note of honesty and appreciation. It's hard to imagine the American tennis landscape without Andy Roddick, but he's the best judge of the right time to walk into the sunset.

I head for New York on Friday, and beginning Sunday, I'll be covering the US Open Junior Championships for the ninth consecutive year. My preview of the tournament was posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Tomorrow night, I'll try to catch a little of Andy Roddick's match with Australian teenager Bernard Tomic, which could, of course, be Roddick's final match.

Whether I'll be able to see any of Dennis Novikov's second round match with Julien Benneteau of France depends on the airlines and the matches before his, but it's unlikely I'll be able to see any of Steve Johnson, Mallory Burdette or Bradley Klahn as they try to advance over Ernests Gulbis, Maria Sharapova and Richard Gasquet, respectively. All three, as well as Novikov, are on televised courts.

In today's action, Jack Sock avenged his recent loss to Flavio Cipolla in the first round of the Los Angeles ATP event, beating the Italian 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to a third round meeting with No. 11 seed Nicolas Almagro of Spain. Sloane Stephens overcame a rough patch at the end of the first set to defeat qualifier Tatjana Malek of Germany 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, and she will face No. 12 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in the third round.

Sock and Melanie Oudin began defending their mixed doubles title tonight, and they saved four match points in their 4-6, 6-3, 15-13 win over No. 5 seeds Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

The qualifying for the US Open juniors begins on 10 a.m. Friday on the practice courts outside the East gate. 

There are 23 Americans, 11 boys and 12 girls, in the two draws of 32.  The boys are Trey Strobel, Connor Farren(2), Luca Corinteli, Dan Kerznerman, Austin Siegel(6), Jordan Daigle(16) and wild cards George Goldhoff, Mitch Stewart, Michael Mmoh, William Blumberg and Francis Tiafoe. Martin Redlicki and Jared Donaldson, two of the previously announced qualifying wild cards, are not in the draw, but they may have received main draw wild cards, with only six of those eight having been announced initially.

The girls are Denise Starr(16), Kelsey Laurente(7), Katrine Steffensen(8), Tornado Black(11), Johnnise Renaud, Rima Asatrian, June Lee and wild cards Nicole Frenkel, Katerina Stewart, Emma Higuchi, Rasheeda McAdoo and Louisa Chirico. McAdoo was apparently given the wild card initially given to Black before she moved directly into the qualifying draw.

The draws can be found at the ITF junior website.  The order of play is part of the US Open schedule, and I expect there will be live scoring as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Burdette into Third Round at US Open, Johnson and Klahn Get Victories, and Kalamazoo Champions Novikov and Redlicki Earn Doubles Win


Wednesday was a very good day for college tennis at the US Open, highlighted by Mallory Burdette's 6-2, 6-4 second round win over Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.

I was able to watch the match via the usopen.org livestream, and the first set was all Burdette. Hradecka, ranked No. 69, but more known for her doubles play, didn't play well and Burdette didn't drop a point on serve in the first set. The second set was definitely more competitive and up a break 1-0 in the set, Burdette had to save three break points to keep her lead. Hradecka cut down on her unforced errors, but she couldn't come up with a really big shot when she needed it. Hradecka had three more break points with Burdette serving at 3-2 in the second, but didn't convert, and Burdette didn't give her another one. After Hradecka held at love, Burdette stepped to the line to serve it out, took a 30-0 lead, but then committed her first double fault of the match.  When she sent a forehand long, it looked as though nerves might be getting the best of her, but Hradecka's return went long to give Burdette her first match point. A net cord denied her, but she hit a world class forehand on the next point for match point No. 2. A good first serve forced a long return from Hradecka and the Stanford senior had reached the third round in her US Open debut.

Burdette was asked in the press conference after the match what she felt she did well.

"I think one of the biggest things I did well today was just managing my nerves, managing my thoughts out there. Yeah, every point I stuck to my rituals in between points and was just really focused on trying to be aggressive and playing my game style."

Burdette gave her developmental coach Nick Saviano a lot of credit for that game style.

"He's been working with me since I was 12 years old. He didn't care whether I played pro tennis or college tennis. He saw in me that I was an aggressive‑type of person when I got out there on the court and that that type of game style fit with my personality, and so he always pushed me to be more aggressive, to make use of my volleys, and be very comfortable putting away overheads and things like that.

That's just been a huge part of my game ever since I started working with him. Yeah, I love playing tennis that way. That's the way I like to play."

Burdette, who will not collect the $65,000 that goes to players who make the third round, as she signed in as an amateur, now gets No. 3 seed Maria Sharipova in her next match, and she sounded excited about the possibility.

"It's going to be quite an experience. I've always looked up to Maria. I remember sitting with my coach, Nick, when she won her first Wimbledon title and talking about her game and the way that she plays.I would certainly love to play more like her. It's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to it."

Burdette and teammate Nicole Gibbs, who received a wild card after winning the NCAA doubles title, were not able to play their first round match against the Williams sisters due to an injury to Gibbs.

Two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson picked up his first grand slam singles win today, defeating former Illinois star Rajeev Ram 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. This match was not on a televised court, but from following it on live scoring, I can tell you Johnson saved three set points serving at 5-6 in the second set, before converting on his first in the tiebreaker.  Ram had his opportunities in the match, but converted only 1 of his 12 break points.  Johnson will play Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who came from behind to oust No. 21 seed Tommy Haas 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in just under four hours.

Novikov and Redlicki with Kalamazoo Doubles Trophy
 UCLA sophomore Dennis Novikov is having a memorable first year in the main draw of the Open. Today he and partner Michael Redlicki, the Kalamazoo doubles champions, saved four match points in the third set tiebreaker to beat fellow wild cards Michael Russell and Bobby Reynolds 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(7). Novikov and Redlicki trailed 6-3 in the tiebreaker, then 7-6, but managed to come away with the rare win for the junior champions.

In a day session match that finished at nearly 10 p.m, qualifier Bradley Klahn earned his first grand slam victory, defeating Austria's Jurgen Melzer 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. The match, which was on televised court 17, started in daylight and ended three hours and thirty-four minutes later.

Klahn was behind 2-0 in each of the first three sets, but he never looked shaken or lacking in confidence as he came back to win the second and third sets.  In the fourth set, the 2012 Stanford graduate trailed 5-2, got the break back and made it 5-5, but lost his serve at love at 5-6, in one of the few poor games he had played since the opening set. Never having played five sets before--in his only previous US Open appearance in 2010, he lost in four sets to Sam Querrey--Klahn might have been discouraged by letting his chance at a tiebreaker to decide the fourth set get away, but he didn't show it.  After four straight holds in the fifth set, Melzer, the 36th-ranked player on the ATP Tour, was broken when his forehand approach went long, and Klahn consolidated with a hold at love. Melzer didn't get a look at a single break point in the fifth set, with Klahn hitting five aces, and Klahn closed out the match with more good serving, falling to his knees when he had claimed the final point.

Klahn will play No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet of France in the second round. If both he and Johnson win their second round matches, they will play each other, a rematch of the 2012 NCAA semifinal, as well as countless other junior and college matches the longtime friends and current roommates have played.

For complete draws and Thursday's schedule, see the tournament website.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kalamazoo Champion Novikov Wins at US Open; Williams Loses to Roddick; Stephens Upsets Schiavone, Sock and Johnson Shock Top Doubles Seeds



Between 1995 and 2011, a period of 15 years, the Kalamazoo 18s champion had not won a first round match at the US Open after receiving entry with a wild card. Jack Sock broke that streak last year, and today Dennis Novikov extended the winning streak to two years, beating 86th-ranked Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-2, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3.

Sock had had the advantage of a previous first round US Open match as the 2010 Kalamazoo winner, but while Novikov had played the US Open Juniors, he was making his men's main draw debut today.

The second set tiebreaker appeared to be one of the key stages of the match (it was not on a televised court, so I can only comment based on watching live scoring). Novikov took a 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but lost five consecutive points. He managed to win the next two from the 6-foot-8 21-year-old however, to take a two-set lead. Novikov dropped the next set quickly and was down 3-1 in the fourth before winning the final five games, holding at love to post the victory.

Novikov had 25 aces, eight of them in the fourth set, while Janowicz, who reached the third round at Wimbledon this year, had four aces but five double faults in that final set.

Visiting on the ESPN2 set after his win, Novikov was asked if he went into the match thinking he could beat Janowicz or thinking he wanted to have a good showing.

"I went into saying that I wanted to play well," said Novikov, who is credited with 25 winners and only 6 unforced errors in the match stats. "But I knew that if I played well, I could beat him."

Novikov, who plays his first round doubles match with Michael Redlicki against Bobby Reynolds and Mike Russell on Wednesday, will play No. 31 seed Julien Benneteau of France in the second round, probably Thursday.

Earlier in the day, qualifier Rhyne Williams faced Andy Roddick and Roddick brought his trademark serve to Arthur Ashe Stadium. Williams held his own until serving at 3-4, but a couple of sloppy games on his serve saw him lose five straight games, and he couldn't recover from that. Roddick hit a serve 141, had 20 aces, and faced only two break points in the match. Williams certainly didn't play poorly, but Roddick just didn't let him into the match.

Roddick said this about the former Tennessee Volunteer and 2011 NCAA finalist:

" Yeah, I mean, he has a good base. I mean, he can create something. Now it's just a matter of ‑‑ he's got to be a little bit quicker. I have dealt with an average backhand for many years and have had to kind of learn to get around it a little bit and become a better mover later on, you know, in my career.

So there is plenty of things. I think if you can win free points off your serve it's a good start."


Williams did hit a 131 mph serve and had seven aces, so I think Roddick was implying that Williams' style is similar to his. Darren Cahill was not impressed with Williams' slice backhand and suggested that as a an area of improvement.

Sloane Stephens has been identified as a rising star for over a year now, and today the 19-year-old had another big win, defeating No. 22 seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3, 6-4. Stephens has had some difficulty closing out matches recently--she had a 3-0 third set lead over Marion Bartoli at New Haven before losing the match's final six games, but she served it out tonight, hitting a flashy forehand winner down the line for the win.  She will play the winner of the match between Akgul Amanmuradova and qualifier Tatjana Malek.

Several other big upsets came in the men's doubles, all of them by wild card teams from the US.  Ryan and Christian Harrison, a wild card team, beat No. 4 seeds and 2011 US Open finalists Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(7). Nicholas Monroe and Donald Young defeated No. 7 seeds Michael Llodra of France and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 and later in the evening, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock ousted top seeds Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.

For complete draws and tomorrow's schedule, which includes the remainder of the men's singles first round as well as women's second round, see the tournament website.




Monday, August 27, 2012

Burdette Wins Open Debut, Duval Gets Ashe Experience, Sock Upsets Mayer

The first few days of any slam are tough to get a handle on, and even with a two-hour rain delay at Flushing Meadows, I seemed to be constantly juggling the TV, the live stream on usopen.org, and the live scoring.

Most of the matches I was interested in watching weren't on the televised courts, so I actually only saw two matches in their entirety today: Two-time Kalamazoo champion Jack Sock's 6-3, 6-2, 3-2 ret. win over No. 22 seed Florian Mayer of Germany and Vicky Duval's 6-3, 6-1 loss to No. 23 seed and three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters tonight.

Sock, playing on the grandstand, dominated from the start, and when he did get in trouble he was able to serve his way out of it. Mayer was obviously in some sort of pain, calling for a trainer after the second set and according to some accounts unable to move to his right, and once he was broken at love serving at 2-2, hitting three consecutive unforced errors, he approached the net to shake hands and retire.

In the post-match interview, Sock was asked to rate his serve.


Q. On a scale of 1 to 10, how good was your serve today, knowing what you can do on a good day?

JACK SOCK: I think my second serve was a 9.63. I think my first serve was pretty good. I mean, when I missed the first serve, I think my second serve really helped me. I was able to start off the point ahead even with the second serve.

When I think I was down a game, my serve was a 10 coming up big on some points where I was down or some games where I was down.


Brad Gilbert, never one to underestimate a player's potential, talked of Top 10 for Sock and said he expected him to be Top 50 by this time next year.  Now ranked 243, Sock has a long way to go to reach that, but he now has his first Top 25 win, and according to Greg Sharko of the ATP, he is only the third player in the last 20 years ranked over 200 to beat a Top 25 player at the US Open. Sock plays Flavio Cippola of Italy, ranked 87th, in the second round.

Denis Kudla, the 2010 runner-up to Sock in the US Open Junior Championships, fell short of the upset, losing to No. 24 seed Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2).

Duval, whose little girl voice masks a steely competitive mindset, was able to comeback from 2-0 down in the opening set against Clijsters, break the retiring Belgian and hold for a 3-2 lead, but she was able to win only one game after that. Clijsters was not sharp in the first set, but she began to hit with pace and depth in the second, and Duval found the games going by quickly. She said afterward that she learned she needed to get stronger on her serve, but she thought it a great experience, and was especially appreciative of the crowd's support. Gilbert asked her what she thought when she saw the draw, and Duval answered she considered herself "the luckiest 16-year-old in the world."

She will play the juniors next week, in front of decidedly fewer fans, but she may have gained a few spectators based on her performance tonight.

Most of the US qualifiers and wild cards lost today. In addition to Duval, wild cards Julia Cohen, Melanie Oudin and Nicole Gibbs all dropped their first round matches in straight sets.  Qualifier Samantha Crawford fell to Laura Robson of Great Britain 6-3, 7-6(6).

One bright spot was wild card Mallory Burdette, who defeated Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3. Burdette, making her grand slam singles debut (she's been in the doubles draw twice), was actually ranked higher than her opponent, 252 to 308. Bacsinszky received direct entry based on a protected ranking.  Next up for Burdette is unseeded Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic, who beat No. 27 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain today.

Tim Smyczek won a marathon against fellow qualifier Bobby Reynolds 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to join American veterans James Blake and Mardy Fish in the second round. Varvara Lepchenko, the No. 31 seed, was the only US woman other than Burdette to win today.

Tomorrow's schedule features qualifier Rhyne Williams against Andy Roddick in a day match second on Arthur Ashe. Kalamazoo champion Dennis Novikov did not draw quite as high profile an opponent or court. He plays Poland's Jerzy Janowicz on Court 10, third match on.

Also playing Tuesday are Sloane Stephens, Christina McHale, Jesse Levine, Irina Falconi, Sam Querrey, Vania King, CoCo Vandeweghe, who plays Serena Williams in the night match, and Venus Williams, who faces wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

For more on today's action, see the tournament website.

Stanford's Dick Gould on NCAA Move from Sweet 16 to Final Four


Last week Michigan's Bruce Berque sent me an email, which I posted here, detailing his objections to the changes in the warmups and changeover times that the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee has proposed.

I had heard through the grapevine that Stanford's legendary coach Dick Gould, now Director of Tennis there, had produced a paper citing the concerns he has about changing the format from the current Sweet 16 to the Super Regional/Final Four model that has been recommended by the committee. I emailed Gould asking him about it, and he sent me the document below, which I believe needs wider circulation than it has received.


POSITION  PAPER – NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS FORMAT PROPOSAL
By Dick Gould, Stanford University (8/22/12)
PREFACE – This “Position Paper” is entirely personal and may or may not reflect the feelings of Stanford University and our athletic administration or even our coaches. It is based on the experience of hosting the NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2011, both of which attracted crowds unsurpassed in the history of the Championships, with the exception of the University of Georgia on occasion. Some observations/reactions to the “Format Proposal” follow:
1)    SYNERGY – Having 32 teams at one site can cause some logistical challenges early on, (not insurmountable), BUT the synergy created by having this many competitors on site simultaneously is tremendous, and adds to the over-all “student-athlete experience.”      

2)    BUDGET

a)      Based on the 2011 Championships, the loss of spectators for the Rounds of 16 & 32 totaled over 5,000, and for the Final Rounds on Sunday-Monday of a 3-day weekend another 2,500. This represents a loss of 38% of ticket revenue (over $75,000). We did NOT make budget in 2011, and shortening the days of the event (ticket sales) would only exasperate this problem!

b)    Granted, some of this would be made up by decreased expenses, but NOT proportionate to the Ticket Revenue loss, including the loss of two weekend playing days for the Individual Championships.

c)     There is a significantly lesser chance of the Host School making it to the semi-finals. The Round of 16 almost ensures that the Host men and/or women will be represented. This is critical for ticket sales and for momentum for the remainder of the Championships, almost regardless of how any home team would do after the Round of 16 or Quarter-finals.
-        Initial press coverage is also based largely on “local” participation early on.

d)    Expenses for Promotions and Marketing are more effectively spread over the days of a longer event – Press momentum has more time to build.

e)     Based on the above, I personally would be VERY reluctant to submit a bid to host the Championships. (Please note that both for the 2006 and 2011 events, I was able to raise almost $1,000,000 for each Championships for things that would enhance the student-athlete experience (up-graded meals, enhanced player lounge,  local advertising presence, an intercollegiate historical “Walkway of Champions” celebrating the rich history of collegiate tennis at the entrance to the event, Tech Improvements, and on and on. This was IN ADDITION to the normal NCAA Budget of our Athletic Department, which actually was in the Red).

 
3)    GENERAL COMMENTS/REACTIONS TO PROPOSALS

a)     ADDED WEEKEND OF PLAY  (Rounds of 16 and Quarter-finals)

·      This does not significantly decrease the number of days for the final 4 rounds of the Championships.
-       It adds at least one additional day of travel for most teams and does not decrease the need of a day of practice prior to competition.
-       It will be more difficult and costly for parents/friends/boosters to plan for travel – potentially two different sites less than 5 days in advance.
-       85% (based on a survey several years ago) of the schools in the country are on summer vacation, so the vast majority of participants are not missing more school.
-       Our national junior boys championships require 12 days (girls – 10 days) at one site for competition for the finalists, plus practice days.
-       For players who lose in the Round of 16 and must stay til the individual event begins, they must stay somewhere (85% of schools are out of session), and traveling back and forth is disruptive and not cheap. More practice sites can be made available IF it is deemed relevant.
·      Disrupts many existing Conference Championships

b)    DOES NOT PROVIDE MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO HOST

·      Top 16 seeds have the opportunity to host the Round of 64 and 32.
-       90% of these teams advance to the Round of 16, which as top seeds, they would also host.
-       Therefore this proposal does not significantly increase hosting opportunities the Championships

c)     PRACTICE DAY AT FINAL SITE

·      With the opportunity to practice only on Friday prior to the Championships, teams from other areas are placed at an extreme disadvantage, especially for the western schools coming East.
-       Three hour time-difference going East is gigantic if playing after a single day of on-site practice.
-       Acclimatization (heat/humidity) is impossible with only one day of practice. Health and Welfare of the athlete should be a concern!

 d)    DAY OF SEMI-FINALS

·      Four matches must be played. Will two adjacent sites be used simultaneously? -     If so, match play facility requirements are not reduced, and thus neither is
      the opportunity to host.
-       If not, play will finish late and maybe under lights, for which no practice has been allowed.

e)     TELEVISION

·      What does the change in the Championships format have to do with ESPN and television?
-       The heavy cost of TV is in the set-up, not an extra hour of competition. If showing the match were delayed by one hour, the match highlights could be edited into a two-hour show.
-       GOOD streaming is the future of college tennis, NOT TV!!! Plus, access is international.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Loeb, Montgomery Sweep ITF Grade 2 International Hard Courts; Grade 1 Canadian Open Underway; Carleton Wins Winnipeg Futures; Battistone and Melichar Win USO Mixed WC

Before I continue on the path of devoting this website and most of my waking hours to the US Open it would probably be a good idea to look around at what's happened this week away from Flushing Meadows.



At the ITF Grade 2 tournament in College Park, Maryland, Jamie Loeb prepared for her main draw debut at the US Open juniors by sweeping both titles, just as she had done at the Grass Courts back in June. In fact, her ITF junior winning streak in singles is now at 17, and in those 17 wins she has yet to drop a set. Her doubles streak is at 13, with 8 of those pairing with Alexandra Morozova and this week's five wins with Mia King.  Loeb, who was unseeded, beat five seeds this week, including No. 1 seed Ching-Wen Hsu of Taiwan in the final by a 6-4, 6-4 score.  Loeb and King, also unseeded in doubles, beat No. 5 seeds Morozova of the US and Hsu 7-5, 6-3 in the final.


Top seed Wayne Montgomery of South Africa also won both titles, beating No. 9 seed Martin Redlicki of the US in the final 6-4, 6-4. Redlicki had beaten No. 2 seed Thai Kwiatkowski 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.  Montgomery and his partner Matthew Rossouw, also of South Africa, the top seeds, beat Luca Corinteli and Kwiatkowski, the No. 2 seeds, 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

For complete results, see the ITF junior website.  And thanks again to Tennis East Coast for providing the Jamie Loeb photo. You can read his account of the drama in one match he witnessed at the tournament here.

By reaching the final, Martin Redlicki saved himself from having to qualify at the ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open, which began today.  Redlicki received one of the special exemptions into the main draw, as did Caroline Doyle and Peggy Porter, who were in the doubles semifinals, with Doyle also in the singles semifinals. Doyle won her first round match today, while Porter lost hers.

The qualifying draws were not full, and several juniors from the US that I'm not familiar with made it through qualifying. Most did not survive today's first round matches, however.

Qualifiers from the US who lost today in the first round include Daniel Shebshayevich, Dylan Nunez, Nicolas Jarry and lucky loser Drew Halbauer on the boys side. Among the girls, Stephanie Nemtsova and lucky loser Julia Goldberg also lost their opening match in the main draw. Qualifier Ellie Halbauer picked up a good win however, beating 16s Orange Bowl champion Erin Routliffe of Canada, who just missed being seeded with her ITF junior ranking of 42.  Halbauer, 15, beat Routliffe 6-2, 6-7(1), 6-4. 

Others Americans competing in the main draw include, qualifier June Lee, No. 7 seed Christina Makarova, Katrine Steffensen and No. 10 seed Kyle McPhillips and on the boys side, Connor Farren. The seeds begin play on Monday, with Wimbledon boys champion Filip Peliwo of Canada and Antonia Lottner of Germany the top seeds.

The tournament website posts results throughout the day, and the printable ITF draws can also be found there.

Peliwo had to head east from Winnipeg in a hurry after reaching the semifinals of the $15,000 Futures tournament there this week (and the finals of doubles where he and his partner lost 20-18 in the Super tiebreaker). The No. 5 seed, Peliwo lost Saturday to No. 2 seed Ante Pavic of Croatia, who today fell to former Duke All-American Reid Carleton, the No. 7 seed 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. It is Carleton's first ITF Men's Circuit victory since graduating from Duke in 2011.

At the Maureen Connolly Trophy competition in New Haven, the Great Britain girls junior team defeated the United States 8-4. The teams had been tied 3-3 going into the second and final day. Judy Murray has more on the competition at the LTA website.

Finally, the US Open mixed doubles wild card was decided yesterday with No. 2 seeds Nicole Melichar and Brian Battistone defeating top seeds Hilary Barte and Nick Meister 6-4, 6-3.  A detailed account of the final match can be found at usopen.org.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sean Hannity Asks USTA to be Responsive to Membership Regarding Junior Competition Changes, Believes 80 Percent Against New Competitive Structure



I'm starting this post with an apology. I teased this impromptu interview with Sean Hannity two weeks ago on twitter, and have not posted it until now, primarily due to the NCAA controversy that erupted shortly after Kalamazoo ended.

Hannity was in Kalamazoo briefly to watch the semifinal match between Noah Rubin, who is a family friend, and Dennis Novikov. Photographer Bill Kallenberg brought him up to the Tower for an introduction, and Pam Shebest of the Kalamazoo Gazette and I had an opportunity to ask him about the USTA Junior Competition changes slated to begin next year and in 2014. For all his posts on this topic, go to his website, hannity.com and type USTA in the search box in the top right corner.

Lisa Stone at the Parenting Aces blog recently spoke with USTA Director of Junior Competition Lew Brewer about the changes, and that interview can be found here.  There is an online petition available asking for repeal of the USTA changes and sectional meetings to discuss alternatives.

The New York Times published a story today on the debate surrounding current USTA Player Development, with John McEnroe, Tim Mayotte, Wayne Bryan, Patrick McEnroe and Jose Higueras all quoted. Hannity is mentioned briefly as well.

Hannity's answer to the question Shebest asked about his opinion of the junior competition changes is below, in its entirety.


Q: What is your feeling about the junior competition changes?

I’ve spoken out about them. I actually support the idea of finding the great American stars. I have a 10-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, and it seems to me that while they’re finding them, the USTA should do everything to nurture that and support it and help it along the way. But 99.9 percent of the kids are not going to be pros. But there’s fifteen, twenty thousand kids in any given year, five thousand new ones every year, that play college tennis. That’s a lot of college opportunities.

For example, reducing this tournament draw I think is a big mistake.(It goes to 128 from 192 in 2013).

What are the parents, the ones I speak to when I’m out with my kids at these tournaments looking for? We want to keep our kids out of trouble, it’s a pretty tough world. They learn a lot of life lessons—they learn about winning and losing; that the harder you work the better you’re going to do; they learn that sometimes life isn’t fair. Those are really good life lessons.

There are a lot of college scholarships, and I’d like to see them go to American kids, more and more of which are not.

I just don’t understand it. Nobody gets hurt if you keep it the way it is, nobody. Not one kid gets hurt. But a lot of kids get hurt when they change it. It’s a 75 percent reduction if you look at it between 2010 and 2014 and I haven’t gotten an explanation except some people can’t afford to travel. And as I suggested in one of my letters, that is a real concern.

So let’s get JetBlue as the official sponsor of United States Tennis Association Junior Tennis, Marriott as the official hotel, Hertz as the official rental car and why don’t we add five dollars, ten dollars a tournament so everyone gets to help out and support all of our kids?

Because it’s not about one kid. It’s about a sport we all love combined. 

And I think they’re making a big mistake. I also think they are going against their very own mission statement to increase participation and the love of this sport. By excluding kids and taking away their opportunities, we’re making a big mistake.

When you look back at when they pulled the 12s Nationals, it took them ten years to correct that mistake.

There was a girl who spoke up at the Girls 14s in Georgia, there were a lot of the USTA officials and I think Patrick McEnroe was there, and she is heading into her pre-college years now and she said, wait a minute, I’ve worked hard and my parents have sacrificed a lot so I can play tennis at a high level and you’re taking these opportunities just before I’m getting ready to go to college.

I think it’s really unfortunate, and my hope is that they’ll open their minds. I have offered to help fund an objective poll of the people this will impact--Gallup,

Pew, any legitimate polling organization. Let’s poll the people who are going to be impacted by this. I predict a minimum of 80/20 against the changes. And so far I have not gotten an answer that they would support that.

One thing that I’m surprised at is that everybody’s a little intimidated by the USTA. They feel the wild cards are going to be taken away, their chance to go to one of the training centers is going to be taken away. Tournament directors fear their tournaments are going to be taken away.

Here’s the question they’ve got to decide. Are they here to serve the desires of their membership or are they here to dictate what their members are going to get whether they like it or not?

For me it’s pretty clear cut. The USTA is supposed to serve its members. The argument that Dr. (Timothy) Russell, (chair of the USTA’s Junior Competition committee) made to me was too bad, basically. Too bad for a 12-year-old who can’t get into a tournament? If you go through the waiting lists at tournaments, a lot of kids want to participate. They’re going to be away from home, they like to be in hotels, be around their friends. They’re developing healthy lifestyles, they’re learning all the good lessons tennis teaches them, so (the changes) make no sense to me whatsoever.


This is not something I actually wanted to get into, I just want you to know. I’ve got a pretty busy job trying to defeat Obama. But I’m hopeful; the response from college coaches and tournament directors and players, top players, has been overwhelmingly supportive. As a matter of fact, not one person has come up to me and said they disagree with me. So that’s a good sign. But I think it’s going to take a lot of people speaking out and saying, wait a minute, this is not what’s good, what’s in the best interest of our kids.

Nobody gets hurt if you don’t change it. A lot of kids get hurt, a lot of opportunities are gone (if it is changed). I’m only in Kalamazoo for a short time, but look at what this tournament means to these kids. And all these college coaches, I just talked to the Columbia coach and I know Dwayne Hultquist of Florida State is here, and all these really good coaches are here to see these kids. Maybe they see someone who is not quite the highest ranked, maybe had an injury a year ago, who performs well. You always have one or two kids, unseeded, who come out of nowhere and do pretty well.

I’m hopeful they’ll be responsive to their membership, because if they’re responsive to their membership, they won’t follow through with these changes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My Look Back at Junior Davis Cup; Crawford, Williams, Klahn, Reynolds and Smyczek Qualify for US Open Main Draw

In addition to following the US Open qualifying, I spent a good part of this week writing a Tennis Recruiting Network article on the late, lamented Junior Davis Cup. As I explain in the article, the Junior Davis Cup was once considered the pinnacle of achievement for an American junior, and I have yet to talk to anyone in the junior tennis world who doesn't recall it fondly and regret its demise. It was great fun to do the research, peruse the old programs and the folders of black and white photographs at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championship office, and talk to those who were a part of it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much I as enjoyed writing it.


Today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, five American qualified for the main draw, including three former college players and one junior.

The junior is Samantha Crawford, the 17-year-old from Georgia, who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton facility. Crawford defeated 29-year-old WTA veteran Eleni Danilidou of Greece, currently ranked 108 by a score of 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, and because it wasn't televised, I don't have much more to offer than that. She did convert her first match point with Danilidou serving at 4-5, they same route she took to close out Marie-Eve Pelletier of Canada in the second round. In another similarity to Thursday's match, Crawford came out way ahead in the winner department, hitting 46 winners to Danilidou's 7. Crawford also committed 48 unforced errors, which is a lot, but she had a much better ratio than Danilidou, who had 21.

Crawford will face fellow teenager Laura Robson of Great Britain in the opening round.

The college players are Bradley Klahn, the 2010 NCAA champion, and Rhyne Williams, the 2011 NCAA finalist. Neither lost a set in their three qualifying wins, with Klahn defeating ATP No. 113 Florent Serra of France 6-4, 6-4 and Williams outclassing Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-3, 6-2. Williams' match was televised, and he looked in control throughout, although it was true that mostly he just had to wait until Gojowczyk made an error or missed a first serve. Williams did come up with a couple of spectacular passing shots, and he never looked nervous, at least until he double faulted on his first match point. But he regrouped, and two unforced Gojowczyk errors later, he had reached his first grand slam main draw.  Klahn in making his second appearance, having received a wild card in 2010 as the NCAA champion.

In the main draw, Williams will face former US Open champion Andy Roddick, seeded No. 20 this year, in the opening round, while Klahn's opponent is fellow left-hander Jurgen Melzer of Austria.

The other American qualifier with college ties is Bobby Reynolds, the 30-year-old veteran who had a distinguished career at Vanderbilt. Seeded 30th, Reynolds, playing in front of a large crowd on Court 11, beat unseeded Sergio Gutierrez-Ferrol of Spain 7-6(5), 6-3. Gutierrez-Ferrol had dropped the first set in his previous two wins, but he seemed bothered by the raucous fans, talking and gesturing to them late in the first set, and he showed little interest in competing throughout most of the second set.

The fourth and final American men's qualifier is Tim Smyczek, who outlasted No. 3 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4.
Smyczek and Reynolds will play each other in the main draw.

With five qualifiers, the United States has the most of any country, with Russia and Germany having the next highest number with three. Last year, only one American, Michael Yani, made it through qualifying.

For both main and qualifying draws, see the tournament website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eight Americans Reach Friday's Final Round of Qualifying at US Open; US and GB Split Maureen Connolly Trophy Matches

The second round of qualifying at the US Open began dismally for the American contingent with five women losing in the early matches before Maria Sanchez earned a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Cristina Mitu of Romania. Sanchez will play No. 18 seed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the final round of qualifying Friday.

Later in the afternoon, wild card Samantha Crawford picked up a big win, defeating Marie-Eve Pelletier of Canada 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. I was able to watch as much of the match as they showed on the CBS Sports Network, and Crawford played extremely well, able to hit winners pretty much at will, as she's always in the juniors. (They didn't show the second set, where by all accounts she played poorly). Down 4-2 in the final set, Crawford kept firing, got the break back, held and then forced an error with Pelletier serving at 4-5 30-40 to earn the win.

I've been critical of some of inaccurate information being disseminated on the qualifying television broadcasts, but they didn't ignore Pelletier's 6-0, 6-1 win over Crawford in the second round of the El Paso $25,000 Pro Circuit event back in June. I'm sure she didn't hit 47 winners that day as she did today, but it is true that result probably did more harm to Pelletier than it did to Crawford today.

Alex Glatch, the No. 31 seed, is the third US woman through to the final round of qualifying. She defeated Stephanie Vogt of Lichtenstein 6-4, 6-2 tonight.

Bobby Reynolds, the No. 30 seed in qualifying, leads the five American men who reached Friday's final round. Reynolds defeated James Duckworth of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and will face unseeded Sergio Gutierrez-Ferrol of Spain.

Tim Smyczek took out No. 21 seed Dustin Brown of Germany 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania on Court 17, in the 5 to 7 p.m. televised time slot.

The other three US men posting victories today were all wild cards with college experience. 2011 NCAA finalist Rhyne Williams beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 7-6(5), 6-2 and 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn defeated Marco Trungelliti of Argentina 6-4, 7-6(2). Williams will need to defeat unseeded Peter Gojowczyk of Germany to advance to the main draw; Klahn's final hurdle is No. 9 seed Florent Serra of France. Williams is scheduled for TV Court 11 for the day's first televised window at 11 a.m.



The most dramatic victory was recorded by former UCLA Bruin Dan Kosakowski, who beat No. 2 seed Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7). Kosakowski saved a match point in the tiebreaker, with the big crowd on Court 17 pushing him to the win. The match took nearly three hours, with the final set going 85 minutes, so Kosakowski's fitness level, which looked excellent during the match, will be tested Friday. Fortunately for him, his opponent, Hiroki Moriya of Japan, also had a lengthy three-setter, with Moriya needing over two hours to upset No. 20 seed Wayne Odesnik 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

The main draws were released earlier today, with Kalamazoo champion Dennis Novikov playing Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in the first round, while San Diego champion Vicky Duval drew No. 23 seed and former champion Kim Clijsters of Belgium for her US Open main draw debut.  NCAA men's champion Steve Johnson will play fellow American Rajeev Ram, and NCAA women's champion Nicole Gibbs takes on Alize Cornet of France in the first round.

The draws are at the tournament website.

Up in New Haven, Conn., the annual Maureen Connolly Trophy competition is underway, with the United States girls taking on a team from Great Britain.

Jennifer Brady and Vicky Duval of the US picked up singles wins over Katy Dunne and Katie Boulter respectively, while Harriet Dart and Anna Brogan of Great Britain defeated Nicole Frenkel and Katerina Stewart. The two doubles matches were also split, with Boulter and Dunne beating Frenkel and Stewart and Tornado Black and Brady defeating Brogan and Dart.

Judy Murray is coaching and blogging about the competition at the LTA website.


Michigan's Bruce Berque Makes Case Against NCAA D-I Changes Eliminating Warmups and Shortening Changeovers



I received this email from University of Michigan men's head coach Bruce Berque last night.

Hi Colette,
I am writing to you with my thoughts on the ongoing issue of the NCAA proposals for dual match format change at the NCAA Championships.  Please feel free to share this with your readers.  While the recent news that two significant proposals are now off the board is very welcome, I have to say that our players and I are still far from satisfied. It appears to me that it may have been assumed that the other three dual match format proposals were acceptable to players and coaches, since there was not a dramatic outcry about them. While it would not surprise me if some players and coaches are ok with the remaining three proposals, I am confident that many simply are not.  While the proposals may seem relatively harmless at first, it is very important that we analyze the potential unintended consequences before we go forward with the changes.

For me, the most troubling of the three remaining proposals is the removal of a warm-up before singles. This could be a competitive disadvantage to the player who is first off the doubles court and faces an opponent who is last off the doubles court. The player who is first off could potentially "sit" for 30 minutes, and then have to face a fresh opponent. Clearly this would create a situation that is both unfair and unsafe to the player who is expected to serve at full speed with a cold arm. In my opinion this would be the equivalent of asking a baseball pitcher to throw at full speed with no warm up pitches after a long inning sitting in the dugout!  For the record, I would also like to see the 3 minute warm up with the opponent be maintained for doubles.  I don't see this to be an inconvenience for fans, as it is quite common for them to come a bit late anyway.

Taken together the remaining two proposals (shortened intermission and changeovers) create a situation in which players will be extremely challenged to hydrate, eat, receive coaching, and use the bathroom in the allotted time.  A five minute intermission makes it almost impossible for players to leave the court, use the bathroom, eat and drink something, visit with a trainer (sometimes to decide if they are fit to stay in the lineup), and return to court without being penalized. Of course, any type of team meeting would be impossible unless all of the above activities are removed as options.   I also think it is a mistake to assume that a 60 second changeover provides players with 60 seconds of rest.  By the time a player gets to the bench there could easily be just 50 seconds left on the clock.  "Time" is then called by the official (indicating that it is time to leave the bench and prepare for play) with 30 seconds remaining. That gives the player about 20 seconds to catch his breath, receive coaching, eat, drink, and towel off.  Good luck players!  And remember to grip all your rackets before you get to the court!

In a sport with no substitutions, no bathroom breaks, just one injury timeout, and a high incidence of match outcome impacting cramping, I just don't see the risk/reward balance tipping towards the reward.
 Asking our players to rush around, and compromise their health and enjoyment of the game to shave minutes off a dual match seems absurd!  What are we doing this for? And where is the data to support the premise that shortening matches will increase TV exposure and attendance? Wouldn't it make sense to have a statistic indicating the average length of a dual match before we make radical changes based on the premise that the matches are too long.  I also agree with you that the match times the NCAA referred to in their release are way off from the norm.

Are we really expected to believe that these changes will improve the student athlete experience?  What do the student athletes think?  I also believe that the change to a final four final site, as opposed to a sweet 16 final site, will make the perceived need to shorten dual matches at the championship site irrelevant. In closing, I want to express my concern that these proposals were made with a questionable premise, questionable assumptions, and a complete lack of systematic input from players and coaches.

I do plan on sharing this e-mail with each member of the NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet.  I am happy to share the complete list of Cabinet member names and e-mail addresses to any Division I coach who wishes to join me in expressing his/her thoughts before a decision is made as to whether to institute the remaining NCAA Tennis Committee proposals.  Division I players who would like to reach out to the cabinet can send a direct facebook message to either Evan King or Bob van Overbeek to request the full cabinet list.

Thanks for your time Colette!

Sincerely,
Bruce Berque
University of Michigan