Molnar Wins $10K in Martinique; US Pro Circuit Kicks Off in Florida; Keys Downs Safarova; A Brief History of USTA Junior Competition
The ITF circuit was very quiet last week, with no men's futures anywhere in the world and only two women's events, both of them with $10,000 in total prize money. As I mentioned on twitter, the Martinique tournament didn't have any qualifying, and the draw didn't fill, no doubt due to the time of year and the expense of getting to the Caribbean island, but it was a title, there for the taking.
Sixteen-year-old Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands was in the draw as the No. 2 seed, as was No. 8 seed Denise Starr of the US, one of the few top seniors in the class of 2013 who has not yet announced her college commitment. Starr reached the semifinals while de Vroome lost to Sonja Molnar of Canada in the quarterfinals 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2). The 22-year-old Molnar, a recent graduate after an all-Big Ten career at the University of Iowa (her profile from hawkeyesports.com is here) went on to win the tournament, defeating top seed and WTA No. 505 Sherazad Benamar of France 6-2, 6-0 this morning in a rain-delayed final. The two are scheduled to play in the first round at this week's $10,000 tournament in St. Martin. Molnar is unseeded this week after being No. 7 last week in Martinique, while Benamar is the No. 2 seed this week.
The US Pro Circuit is underway in Florida, with the men's event in Plantation a $10,000 prize money tournament and the women's in Innisbrook paying out $25,000 in prize money.
The men's qualifying draw was 128, and it was full, with four victories necessary to advance to the main draw. In today's final round of qualifying, Mitchell Krueger played Australian Jason Kubler, the No. 1 seed in qualifying who is again skipping the Australian hard court summer for the Har-Tru of the US Futures, and lost 6-3, 7-6(5). Other notable qualifiers include Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, former UNC All-American Jose Hernandez of the Domincan Republic, Spencer Papa of the US, who beat Liam Broady of Great Britain today and Californian Collin Altamirano, a junior in high school. (His Tennis Recruiting profile is here.)
The most noteworthy qualifying match wasn't in today's final round, but rather yesterday, when Benjamin Balleret of Monaco beat countryman Guillaume Couillard 76(34), 6-1. USA Today's story on the possibility that this was the longest tiebreaker in professional tennis can be found here. The longest tiebreaker I can remember personally witnessing was in a 2007 16s doubles quarterfinal match here in Kalamazoo, which ended with Ryan Noble and Bo Seal taking the first set over Lawrence Formentera and John Huang 23-21. They too went on to a less dramatic set, winning the second 6-3.
The qualifying for the women's event in Innisbrook will not finish until Monday, but the main draw is out. I was hoping that Taylor Townsend and Samantha Crawford would be in it, but neither are, and both have also withdrawn from the $25,000 tournament next week in Port Saint Lucie.
Juniors Katerina Stewart of the US, Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland have reached the final round of qualifying in Innisbrook, as have Florida Gators Allie Will (not returning to UF) and Lauren Embree (in her senior year in Gainesville). Former North Carolina Tar Heel Sanaz Marand is also in the final round of qualifying.
Madison Keys, who will be 18 next month, recorded the first Top 20 win of her young career in Sydney, defeating Czech Lucie Safarova, the No. 7 seed, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round. Keys qualified for Sydney with wins over Melinda Czink, Johanna Larsson and Misaki Doi, all in straight sets. At the 2011 US Open, Keys had lost to Safarova in the second round, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
As a prelude to Sunday's USTA Listening Meeting on the junior competition changes in Atlanta, Parenting Aces has posted a brief history of the major revisions in the USTA's junior tournament structure, written by Robert Sasseville, a respected junior tournament director from the Southern section. It's enlightening to say the least, even for those of us who have lived through it, to read a concise cause-and-effect synopsis of what changes led to what consequences.