My recap of the USTA Team Championships held last week in Mobile is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. The tournament, and more particularly the gold balls given for winning it, has drawn some interesting comments on this site, which I won't address specifically. But I do think the tournament can be improved, and for me, the most important change is to get rid of the sets-won and games-won tiebreakers, which are decidedly not in keeping with the USTA's goal to provide a team experience similar to that the juniors will likely encounter in college. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, with a super tiebreaker doubles match to decide the winner if it's 6-6 or an odd number of doubles matches, which would require each age division sitting out just one day. Not including the 12s age division at all would also be a more drastic change that would lead to a more manageable tournament.
It's impossible to imagine a better facility and more dedicated tournament directors, and still, even with perfect weather, the first day extended until 9 p.m. Except in the main draw, perhaps third-set match tiebreakers should be used if players split sets, especially if the team match has already been decided. I'm sure the format and the schedule will be looked at carefully before next year's tournament, but while I would have preferred the USTA Spring Nationals schedule remain as it was the past nine years, it's obvious that many of the participants and the coaches enjoyed the team experience this new tournament provided.
My next live coverage will be from the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, which begins a week from Monday. The wild cards for that tournament were announced last week. They are:
Francesca Di Lorenzo
Qualifying Wild Cards
For more on the tournament, including the complete list of 16s entry, see the tournament's webpage at usta.com.
Three of the four semifinalists at this week's $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Innisbrook, Florida are Americans, with Grace Min, Louisa Chirico and Nicole Gibbs picking up victories today.
The 17-year-old qualifier Chirico recovered from a miserable start to defeat 19-year-old Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 0-6, 6-2, 6-1. Putintseva's current WTA ranking is 154, Chirico's is 350. Chirico will play 2012 and 2013 NCAA champion Gibbs in the semifinal, who also came back from a set down to advance. The unseeded Gibbs defeated qualifier Ling Zhang of Hong Kong 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
2011 US Open girls champion Grace Min put an end to the impressive run of Katerina Stewart, defeating 16-year-old wild card 6-2, 6-4. Min will play Italian qualifier Gioia Barbieri in the semifinals. There were nine women in the WTA Top 150 in the main draw--none reached the quarterfinals.
Barbieri is also the only international player in the doubles final. She and Julia Cohen will play Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery in a battle on unseeded teams.
Jared Donaldson has continued to put up good results in $10,000 Futures in Turkey. The 17-year-old was a finalist last week, receiving a special exemption into this week's main draw, and today he avenged that loss, beating No. 3 seed Jordi Samper-Montana of Spain 6-4, 7-6(5). He will play No. 2 seed Jan Mertl, a 32-year-old from the Czech Republic, Saturday to attempt to reach his second consecutive Futures final.