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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

North Carolina Women, Virginia Men Remain No. 1 in First ITA Computer Rankings; Omaha as Permanent NCAA Tournament Site?; Blake on Playing College Tennis

The season's first computer-generated ITA Division I rankings came out  today and there were no changes at the top, with the North Carolina women holding a substantial lead over new No. 2 Duke, and the Virginia men keeping well ahead of No. 2 USC and No. 3 UCLA, both of whom retained their positions.

The margin separating the Trojans and the Bruins is .27 of a point, which is an accurate depiction of just how closely matched the two teams are, with each winning a dual from the other by taking a third-set tiebreaker in the last match on.  Ohio State fell from 4 to 7, with Duke moving up to the No. 4 spot.

The men's Top 10:
1. Virginia
2. USC
4. Duke
5. Oklahoma
6. Kentucky
7. Ohio State
8. Tennessee
9. Georgia
10. Mississippi State

The women's Top 10:
1. North Carolina
2. Duke
4. Florida
5. Alabama
6. Texas A&M
7. Georgia
8. Northwestern
9. Cal
10. Nebraska

It's too early to make any statements about the quality of the teams or of the rankings, but it is strange to see all four Stanford and Baylor teams so far down the lists. The Stanford women are 26th and the Stanford men are 41st.  The Baylor women are 24th and the Baylor men are 26th.  The Auburn women made a huge leap from 59 to 17 after a win over Texas Tech, and it's the first time since 1996 that they've been in the Top 25.  Cornell was the big mover on the men's side, going from 63 to 24, despite not playing last week.

There's a new No. 1 in the women's rankings, but hardly a surprising one, with Florida's Lauren Embree taking the top spot, just edging out Robin Anderson of UCLA. Alex Domijan of Virginia remains No. 1 in the men's rankings by a wide margin over Peter Kobelt of Ohio State. And yes, the top two players in the country play No. 2 in their teams' lineups.  It should be noted that the Buckeye No. 1 Blaz Rola, who took the fall off, has gone from no ranking to No. 17 this week. The top doubles teams are USC's Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian and Auburn's Daniel Cochrane and Andreas Mies.

The women's singles Top 10:
1. Lauren Embree, Florida
2. Robin Anderson, UCLA
3. Sabrina Santamaria, USC
4. Gina Suarez-Malaguti, North Carolina
5. Zsofi Susanyi, Cal
6. Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar, Texas A&M
7. Danielle Lao, USC
8. Anett Schutting, Cal
9. Lauren Herring, Georgia
10. Julia Elbaba, Virginia

The men's singles Top 10:
1. Alex Domijan, Virginia
2. Peter Kobelt, Ohio State
3. Jarmere Jenkins, Virginia
4. Emilio Gomez, USC
5. Jonas Lutjen, Ole Miss
6. Matija Pecotic, Princeton
7. Sebastian Fanselow, Pepperdine
8. Mac Styslinger, Virginia
9. Henrique Cunha, Duke
10. Marcos Giron, UCLA

The complete rankings can be found at the ITA website.

An article last week in the Omaha World Herald brings out in the open a rumor that has been circulating for months in college tennis circles: the city is interested in becoming a permanent host for the NCAA Division I men's and women's tennis tournaments. The Omaha Multi-Sport Complex organization is building an Olympic-sized swimming pool and included in the plans are a tennis facility with 18-24 outdoor and 6-12 indoor courts.

This project is obviously in its early stages, with the site not even selected yet, and there is no commitment from the NCAA, who currently takes bids for the tournament and selects a host school.  The mention of the Indoor tournaments is a bit confused, because the NCAA is not involved at all in those tournaments; they are administered by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. They would certainly need 12 indoor courts to host the Division I tournaments, which feature 16 teams over four days.

I've never been to Omaha, which is the longtime site of the NCAA College World Series, so I don't have an opinion on its suitability for tennis. I do know the move of the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships to the Bille Jean King Tennis Center in New York has been popular with players and coaches, with both the facility and its proximity to all the attractions of New York, including the airport, a big part of its appeal.  Omaha would have to come up with its own reasons for being a desirable destination, but they've proven to be able to do that with college baseball.

Sandra Harwitt is covering the Delray Beach ATP event, and she spoke to James Blake after his loss to Ernests Gulbis today for TenniShorts.com. He gives advice about playing college tennis, and although I don't agree with him that if you dominate college tennis you wouldn't be dominating in Futures--I think the levels are similar--he does offer some practical advice about making the decision based on his experience and the experience of his ATP contemporaries.


Noddy said...

Geez, I don't get why you'd mention disagreeing with Blake when it seems incredibly obvious based on everything he said right up until that point and right after it that he meant to say (unless it was a misquote) if you didn't dominate in college you'd have been losing matches on the Futures tour and wasn't making some issue about the level on the college tour and the pro tour.

Smart Decision said...

James is very accurate by saying that if it is obvious to turn pro then do it but if you have any doubt then go to college.

So many juniors turn pro and have a false idea where there game is. Roddick and Querrey proved it on the Challenger and ATP level before turning pro. Winning on the Future level is not a barometer to turn pro instead of going to college. Win on the Challenger Tour first.

Barry Buss said...

The sentence being debated in the Blake interview is a mess. It makes sense if it said "If you didn't dominate in college"...He's a well spoken guy and she's a solid journalist, so its likely an innocent of omission of 'didn't', which makes more sense. And if you take out the double negatives, Collette is correct. Those who dominate in college would be and have proven over the years to be very successful on the Futures tour

Athens said...

Those who dominate in college do well on the Challenger level and are better than the futures level.

Look at the recent results: Players like Isner, Devvarman, Anderson, Farah and Johnson were dominant in college.

Each guy won a challenger within a few months of leaving college.

I'm not event counting Levine, who was dominant the one year he played.

After leaving school, all these guys quickly moved beyond futures and into the challenger level.

And, like every one before me has said, clearly the Blake quote is a typo.

Colette Lewis said...

I checked with Sandy. The Blake quote is verbatim, not a typo.

Dunboyne said...

Regarding the Blake quote, I think you have to read that particular sentence in context with his previous points. He was referring to a player who went to college for a year, not four years. When I read it like that, I agree with him. A player who dominates for only one year in college (or less, thinking of Devin Britton and Mallory Cecil) might have had a tough time in Futures if they had skipped that year of college. Blake says "there's a good chance" that the player would struggle. He's absolutely right.

Britton and Cecil certainly didn't dominate after their one year in college. As for their confidence, who knows, but I can imagine it went from an all-time high to the doldrums in a rather short time. And don't forget, these were players who went to college for a year/semester. Had they skipped college altogether, they may have fared even worse in the pros.

I think James is actually being overly-cautious in his statement. It's clear in the cases of Britton and Cecil: they almost certainly would have fared worse.

Wildcard King said...


Jack Sock gets a wildcard!!

Is there a limit on how many wildcards a player can get a year?

So far this year - 3 Main draw singles / 2 main draw doubles / 1 qualifying singles wildcard.

Will be 6 wildcards in 7 tournaments played and it is only February.

Dunboyne said...

By the way, we should never ever question a man who attended Harvard.

Unless his name is Eliot Spitzer. LOL

Bush said...

Or, much worse, George W. Bush

Athens said...

If the quote is correct, then it's a factually inaccurate statement.

Look at the evidence:

John Isner left school in 2007. He won a Challenger (Lexington) in July. He got to the finals of DC (a 500) in August and won two rounds at the US Open. He played one Futures after college and won it.

Kevin Anderson left after his Jr. year in 2007. He won a Challenger in September. He played 2 Futures after college. He won 1 and lost the other in the finals.

Somdev Devvarman graduated in 2008. He won a Challenger in July, the same Lexington event that Isner won the year before. He reached the quarters of the DC (500) event. He crushed people in the only 2 futures events that he played and won post-college, Rochester and Pittsburgh.

Robert Farah left school in 2010 with basically no ranking. He won the very first Challenger event he played in July. Also, Farah immediately won 2 futures in June and played another futures in which he retired during a 3rd set.

Steve Johnson finished school last year and won a Challenger event in August. He didn't play any Futures events after college because he was well beyond that level. You could argue that Johnson was "pro ready" after his junior year. In that case, he played 3 Futures he lost in the finals of one Futures and won the other 2 he played.

Let's add up the Futures results of Dominant college players who turned pro

Isner 1 win no losses
Anderson 2 wins, one loss
Devvarman 2 wins, no losses
Farah 2 wins, one retirement
Johnson 2 wins, one loss

They won a combined 9 events out of 12. The only 2 match losses were in the Finals and there was one retirement.

That's about as dominant as you can be at a level of play, which is why all these guys were immediately successful at the Challenger level and have not looked back since.

These are the facts.

brent said...

Klahn too-he graduated from college and now is ranked around 220 in the world.

Athens said...

Good point. Interestingly enough, Klahn never played a Futures after either his Junior or Senior seasons. He didn't need to. He went straight to Challengers (& ATP events). The only reason I didn't put him down as dominant was the injury as a Senior.

Britton was not dominant at all in college. He didn't even play #1 for Ole Miss. He had a good year and played a great NCAA tournament.
He was ranked #30 coming into the NCAAs and was only #19 at season's end. It was somewhat similar to the year Klahn won the NCAAs. Klahn had a great tournament, but he was not dominant during the season. As a result, Klahn came back to school to develop more.

I bet if you asked Britton, he would say he could have used another year of college. However, he couldn't turn down the money that was offered. Few guys start their careers with that kind of cushion.

Dunboyne said...

Whether Britton or Cecil "dominated" or merely "did well" is not the point.

Blake is referring to guys who spend a year at college and do well. Not 3 or 4 years.

Can you name many guys who "dominated" or "did well" in college in their freshman year, turned pro, then dominated Futures/Challengers? If you can't, then Blake is correct.

captain obvious said...

i believe you can argue that there is a difference between playing futures straightaway out of high school versus playing futures after season(s) of college tennis where you are winning the majority of matches and gaining confidence. Going right into futures there is a risk of not getting enough matches early on, maybe a couple tough draws or unlucky breaks, and when this happens things can quickly spiral, regardless of how good the player is. So I think James is right.

College is great for getting these guys a bunch of matches with guys right at their level or a little worse and getting used to really competing and finding ways to win. Winning begets more winning.

Nails said...

@Dunboyne...Jesse Levine

Athens said...


I think most everyone here agrees that if it is not a clear cut decision to turn pro (of which there are not many instances), nearly all players would benefit from at least one spring season.

I think we can also agree the Blake statement could be better worded, especially his use of the word dominate.

If you dominate in college regardless of year, you are playing above futures level. There are not that many people who actually dominate in college. And, by dominate I mean you are able to go on 10-15+ dual match win streaks or you primarily only lose to players who are clearly headed to the pros. And, of course, you have to play #1 for your team and have that target on your back.

Also, it's not a clear cut decision for a player to turn pro (which is why that player went to college), it is highly unlikely you are going to dominate as a Freshman.

As mentioned by Nails, Levine did. I believe his only loss during the Spring was in the NCAA singles (an event that included Anderson, Isner and Devvarman). Levine was clearly ready to move on and after the NCAAs, he went straight to Challengers and ATP events, SKIPPING futures.

It would have been interesting to see how a Krueger or Fratangelo would have done playing a spring college schedule against a Rola, Cunha, Jenkins or Domijan.

Though in the real world, I certainly understand a Britton or Krueger signing with a top agency when the opportunity presents itself. Not everyone faces that decision.

While a dominant college player, should be successful at the Challenger level, just because a player wasn't dominant in college, it doesn't mean they aren't ready to turn pro. It's just not as clear cut a decision. Players like a Rhyne Williams made the right choice. It just took a little longer to transition to the Challenger level of play.

out in delray said...

Berankis beats Sock in 2nd round in DELRay BEACH, 3-6,6-4,6-1

Dunboyne said...

Blake's definition of "dominate" is probably different than yours, but I agree with your points. Levine is only one case, though. The odds are that it isn't going to happen like that for many players, and I think that's what Blake means.

@captain obvious
That's a good way to rephrase what Blake is likely saying.