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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jenkins Wins First Pro Title at Rochester Futures; Three Pro Circuit Events This Week; Lucas Gomez's Sad Past

A month after finishing as the singles finalist and doubles champion at the NCAA Individual Championships, Jarmere Jenkins has claimed his first title as a professional, beating former University of Virginia teammate Michael Shabaz 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 in the $10,000 Rochester Futures final.  Jenkins, who received entry based on a special exemption after reaching the finals in the Amelia Island Futures last week, was unseeded, while Shabaz was the No. 8 seed.  Jenkins had avenged his Amelia Island finals loss to UCLA's Dennis Novikov this week in the quarterfinals, then beat top seed Chase Buchanan in the semifinals before taking on Shabaz.  Jenkins received a wild card into this week's $50,000 Challenger in Winnetka, Illinois.  Alex Bogomolov, now playing under the Russian flag, is the top seed there, with Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and Tim Smyczek the rest of the top four seeds.

Buchanan and partner Fernando Romboli of Brazil, the No. 3 seeds, won the doubles title in Rochester, defeating unseeded UCLA teammates Novikov and Marcos Giron 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

There was no women's Pro Circuit event this past week, but qualifying is underway for this coming week's $50,00 Challenger in Sacramento, where former Southern Cal star Maria Sanchez is the top seed and will play wild card Lauren Embree in the first round.  The final round of qualifying is Monday, with several college stars still alive, including Nebraska's Mary Weatherholt, UCLA's Robin Anderson and Clemson's Liz Jeukeng.  Jacqueline Cako, the No. 3 seed in qualifying, lost to 16-year-old Elizabeth Profit, who has not played any junior events this year, only Pro Circuit qualifying.  There are five main draw matches on Monday's schedule, with several intriguing matchups.  Ashley Weinhold and Sanaz Marand, good friends and doubles partners in their Texas junior days, meet, as do two 17-year-olds with nearly identical WTA rankings: Mayo Hibi and Vicky Duval.  Allie Kiick, out of action the past two months, will play the University of Florida's Brianna Morgan, who would have been a teammate of Kiick's had she not decided to forego college for the pros.

The men also have a $10,000 Futures this week in Pittsburgh in addition to the Winnetka Challenger, with former Virginia star Sanam Singh the top seed.  Because of Winnetka and the five other Challengers around the world, the Pittsburgh Futures field is not  strong, with an ATP ranking of 1500 sufficient for a place in the main draw.

For more on the Challengers this week, see the Foot Soldiers of Tennis blog.  And for a thorough rundown on the financial challenges of a professional outside the Top 100, see this blog from former NC State No. 1 James McGee of Ireland.

John Martin, writing for the New York Times Straight Sets blog at Wimbledon, posted this article yesterday about junior Lucas Gomez of Mexico, whose father was killed by a gunman when Gomez was 10 years old. Gomez, already a tennis player, witnessed his father's death, yet continued his climb into the ranks of the elite players in his country and the world.  Gomez is mature enough to understand what his father's pushing him into tennis gave him, that it led him to Wimbledon, yet there has to be sadness there too. It's simply heart-wrenching when he says, "That’s definitely the thing that gives me the most satisfaction, is that hopefully my dad, he’s watching or he knows what I’m doing. I can just imagine how he would feel."