ITF Announces Masters Events for Top Eight Juniors; The Wild Card Dilemma; Clemson Women Beat Top-Ranked Duke
The ITF today announced a Junior Masters event, scheduled in April 2015, for the top eight boys and top eight girls in the ITF Junior World rankings at the end of this year.
Since the demise of the Sunshine Cup in 2002, which was an 18-and-under team event, the ITF has not had any special events for that age group. Rumors were circulating that this Masters event might be held during the second week of the Sony Open in Miami or the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, but today's announcement means that will not happen, at least until 2018, with Chengdu, China signing a three-year contract to host the event.
Instead of a round robin format as is used in the ATP and WTA year-end events, this tournament will feature single elimination, but three matches are guaranteed, so every player will end the tournament with a position--first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth.
Stefan Kozlov and Ziyue Sun of China are quoted in the release, as is ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti.
This is now the second major junior event introduced this century in Asia. The Youth Olympic Games were held in Singapore in August of 2010 and this year are in Nanjing in August. The ITF is obviously making an effort to grow the game there with these events. It will be interesting to see who will travel to Nanjing this August--the first YOG had a good field, but not a great one. The fields at the Orange Bowl have rarely included the top 18-year-olds recently; perhaps this carrot will help bolster that event and the Mexican Grade A, which was moved from the beginning of the calendar year to the middle of November.
Forbes magazine's Miguel Morales provides this in-depth look at the considerations, conflicts and politics associated with wild cards. I don't have the strong feelings on this topic that many people do--I think wild cards have their place and often serve the greater interests of the sport--but I do believe there's a distinction between winning a wild card in a tournament, like the USTA Har-Tru wild card challenge, Kalamazoo, or the NCAAs, and being awarded one at the last minute when no big name requests one. This article has input from a tournament director, agents, Robert Lansdorp, and the USTA, and is helpful in sorting out who controls wild cards, who gets wild cards and why. A couple of quibbles: the Australian Open does have a regional wild card tournament for Asian players which is not mentioned, and Wimbledon does not trade wild cards, as is implied in the paragraph quoting Jose Higueras.
The consensus that this year's NCAA titles are up for grabs gained even more traction today, when the 17th-ranked Clemson women beat No. 1 Duke 4-3 in Clemson, Clemson's first win ever over a top-ranked team.
Sophomore Joana Eidukonyte, who was on the roster at the Team Indoor but did not play in Clemson's three matches in Charlottesville, saved two match points in the second set against Marianne Jodoin at line 6 and went on to clinch the match 6-7, 7-5, 6-0. The Tigers won the doubles point, and also earned points from Yana Koroleva's 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 win over Trice Capra at line 1, and Romy Koelzer's 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 victory over Chalena Scholl at line 2.
For more on the match, see the Clemson website. North Carolina and Virginia now are in the best position to win the ACC title, with each having just one loss. North Carolina travels to Clemson for its final conference match, and Virginia is at Florida State and Miami this weekend.
In a match between two Top 10 men's teams last night in the Big 12, No. 6 Baylor defeated No. 7 Texas 5-2 in Waco.