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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kenin Top Seed at ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador; Teens Impress at Palm Coast Futures; Makarova Commits to Duke; Finishing a Match When Hurt

The ITF Junior Circuit features only one Grade 1 this week, in Ecuador, and a large contingent from the United States is participating.

Fifteen-year-old Sonya Kenin in the girls top seed. This is Kenin's first junior action since she reached the semifinals of the Orange Bowl in December.  In addition to Kenin, No. 8 seed Dasha Ivanova and No. 9 seed Usue Arconada have also reached the third round. No. 10 seed Madison Bourguignon, No. 16 seed Nicole Frenkel and Sofia Sewing lost in today's second round, as did qualifier Ndindi Mwaruka, who was known until this year as Ndindi Ndunda.

Unseeded Logan Smith, who reached the final of last week's Copa Barranquilla in Colombia, has reached the third round, beating No. 7 seed Alexander Sendegeya of Great Britain 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, joining No. 9 seed Henrik Wiersholm and No. 6 seed Alex Rybakov in the final 16. Wiersholm faces No. 8 seed Jordi Arconada, who lives and trains in the US but represents Argentina, next.

Several US boys stayed in Florida, rather than travel to the ITFs in South America, and have had success in the last Futures of the month, the $10,000 tournament in Palm Coast.  Eddie Herr 16s champion Alfredo Perez, Orange Bowl champion Francis Tiafoe, Nathan Ponwith and Martin Redlicki all qualified, with all but Redlicki winning four matches to do so.  Wild cards went to teens Dennis Uspensky, Deiton Baughman and Taylor Fritz, and Fritz collected his first ATP point today, defeating former University of North Florida standout Moritz Buerchner of Germany 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.  Uspensky and Baughman lost their first round matches.  Ponwith, 15,  and Perez, 16, play each other in first round play Wednesday, with the winner picking up his first ATP point. Seventeen-year-old Ernesto Escobedo received direct entry and will play No. 3 seed Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic in his opening round match.

The Tennis Recruiting Network continues to post commitment articles, with Marcia Frost's piece on Christina Makarova's decision to sign with Duke featured today.

Much has been written and said about Stan Wawrinka's surprise win over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open men's final on Sunday, but this piece by Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite sportswriters, but one who writes only occasionally about tennis, was a thoughtful look at the dynamics of playing injured. There's no right or wrong answer on the vexing question of finishing a match versus retiring, with each case unique to the injury and the player who has it, but in a grand slam final, I believe Nadal made the correct choice in playing on.  Please read the entire article if you have time, but if you don't, read these last few paragraphs:

And I think Nadal didn’t want to retire, didn’t want to give in, because he wanted Wawrinka to WIN his championship, to face his demons and, if he could, overcome them. I think Nadal — perhaps without even thinking about it — thought Wawrinka deserved the chance to defeat a worthy opponent. So he tried to be as worthy as he could. He shook Wawrinka’s spirit in that third set. He got into Wawrinka’s head. He won the set though he could barely move at all. It was now up to Wawrinka to settle himself and finish the job.

Wawrinka did finish the job in the fourth set. He was shaky for much of the set and Nadal still showed an uncanny talent for anticipating where the ball would be hit and for testing Wawrinka’s nerves. We’ll never know for sure if Wawrinka could have put away a healthy Rafa Nadal, but that’s playing what-if history. And it’s beside the point.

When Wawrinka did win, he did not celebrate much out of deference to his friend Nadal. Instead he leaned over the net to check on Nadal’s health. And while we could not precisely hear what Nadal said at that moment, you could tell that he was saying: “I’m fine. Enjoy your moment. You won.”

And then afterward: “Stan, he really deserved to win that title. I’m happy for him. He’s a great guy, a good friend of mine.”

He did deserve it. Nadal made sure of it. That’s the beautiful gift Rafa Nadal gave Stan Wawrinka in Melbourne. He played through pain and put up a fight and made his friend Stan Wawrinka win it.