April Aces; US Girls Fall to Canada in 14-and-under WJT Qualifying; Krueger Reaches Semifinals in Vero Beach Futures
April was a busy month as usual on the junior tennis circuit, especially here in the United States, where two ITF Grade 1s and the USTA Spring Nationals for the 12s, 14s and 16s get most of the attention. That continues in my monthly Aces column for the Tennis Recruiting Network, although I did manage to find space for four teenagers, all still eligible for ITF junior competition, who won ITF Men's and Women's Circuit events last month.
Saturday concludes the North/Central America and Caribbean qualifying for the ITF Junior Team Events in August and September, with the United States in good shape to once again send all four teams to the world finals. The Montreal competition hasn't been without drama however, and on Thursday the US Junior Davis Cup team (for 16-and-under players) took on Canada, who was expected to be their toughest competition for the one qualifying spot up for grabs. Francis Tiafoe, playing No. 2 singles for the US, lost the first set to Canada's Raheel Manji but eventually posted a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 win. This proved more important than he knew, as Stefan Kozlov, playing No. 1 singles, was shocked by Alejandro Tabilo, who at 326 has an ITF ranking 307 spots below Kozlov's. Kozlov and Henrik Wiersholm then had to win the doubles point to assure the US of a spot in San Luis Potosi this September, and they did, beating Tabilo and Manji 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.
Only one team can go from the four-team competition in Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup, because Mexico is already assured a spot as hosts. In its wisdom, the ITF has never found a way around this injustice and Mexico is playing as a lame duck, with nothing on the line for it, knowing they've already qualified. If the ITF wants to award a wild card for the host, then just send another team to the regional qualifying, whose results actually matter to them. The US defeated Mexico 3-0 today, and unless they lose to the Dominican Republic Saturday, which is highly unlikely, they will qualify.
The US Junior Fed Cup team is 2-0, but they have yet to face Canada in the match that will decide that qualifier. Nicole Frenkel, Katerina Stewart and Jessica Ho have beaten Mexico and Cuba 3-0, and Canada has also posted shutouts over those two teams, so Saturday's match will decide who gets the one girls' spot in the world finals.
The 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition is held in the Czech Republic, so two of the four teams will qualify, and its a good thing for the US girls, who lost to Canada today 2-1. Michaela Gordon, the ITF Easter Bowl semifinalist, was blown out by Canada's Vanessa Wong 6-0, 6-1 in just over an hour at No. 2 singles. CiCi Bellis tied it up with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Katherine Sebov at No. 1, but Bellis and Claire Liu lost the doubles match to Sebov and Wong 6-4, 6-3. If the US can beat Guatemala Saturday, which won only three games in three matches against Canada on Thursday, they should advance to the Czech Republic.
The US boys 14-and-under team will face Canada for the top spot in the round robin group, but have already qualified regardless of the outcome, with Mexico and Guatemala both 0-2. Sam Riffice, Gianni Ross and Patrick Kypson have all contributed to the team's two 3-0 wins.
For complete results and draws, see the ITF junior website.
Rain in northeast Florida has caused delays in the ITF Grade 4 tournament in Daytona Beach, with the tournament announcing a move to the Evert Academy in Boca Raton for the last three days of matches. The singles quarterfinals, originally scheduled for Thursday, are to be played yet tonight (update: now two rounds of singles will be played Saturday instead of one tonight), with the doubles semifinals moved to Saturday. The draws and move announcement are here.
Vero Beach, a bit farther south, is hosting the $10,000 Pro Circuit men's Futures, and they did play today, with three teenagers reaching the semifinals. Eighteen-year-old Kyle Edmund of Great Britain, the No. 7 seed, will play 17-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, the No. 8 seed, in the top half's semifinal. Unseeded 19-year-old Mitchell Krueger will play veteran Carsten Ball of Australia, also unseeded, in the other semifinal. Ball, who reached a ranking of 108 in 2010, is now ranked 765. It is Krueger's second Futures semifinal; the first was in Birmingham, Ala. last fall, also on clay.
Today in the $50,000 tournament at Indian Harbour Beach, Alison Riske defeated Madison Brengle 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to keep her hopes alive for the USTA French Open wild card. Riske must win the tournament to unseat Shelby Rogers, who won Charlottesville last week. She plays unseeded Dia Evitmova of Bulgaria in one semifinal, while 16-year-old qualifier Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will face unseeded 33-year-old Petra Rampre of Slovenia in the other.
At the Tallahassee $50,000 Challenger, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany has reached the final and will face the winner of tonight match between No. 2 seed Ryan Harrison and No. 7 seed Denis Kudla.