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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ohio State Men, Duke Women Maintain Top Spots in ITA Rankings; Steve Johnson Feature; Har-Tru Pro Circuit French Open Wild Card Challenge Underway

I've missed a lot in college tennis during my past two weeks in California, but nothing has changed at the top of the rankings in either singles or doubles.

The Duke women continue to hold the No. 1 spot, with their final regular season conference matches on the road this week against No. 17 Clemson and No. 27 Georgia Tech, with the ACC tournament following on April 24-27.  Alabama was the big mover this week, with the Crimson Tide rising to No. 3, the highest ranking ever for the program, after beating Georgia in Athens on Friday 4-3. With their win over Tennessee in Knoxville on Sunday, Alabama clinched the SEC conference title for the first time.  Florida, who lost to Alabama 4-3 last month in the doubles-last tiebreak shootout, also made a big jump this week, going from 11 to 4.  Vanderbilt fell out of the Top 10, dropping from 5 to 11, and Virginia fell from 4 to 9.

The women's Top 10:
1. Duke
3. Alabama
4. Florida
5. Stanford
6. Georgia
7. North Carolina
8. Texas A&M
9. Virginia
10. Cal

Despite their 4-1 loss to No. 14 Kentucky in Lexington last Wednesday, the Ohio State Buckeyes retained their No. 1 ranking, and will look to extend their NCAA-record home winning streak, now at 187 matches, against Iowa and No. 63 Nebraska this weekend before the Big Ten tournament the following weekend.  The big match between UCLA and Southern California is at USC Friday, and a win could push either team past Ohio State into the top spot.  The two Los Angeles teams are also expected to meet in the final of the Pac-12 conference championships, held (for the men only, the women do not have a conference team tournament), in Ojai the following week.  The men's SEC conference championships are at Vanderbilt, beginning this Wednesday.  The women's SEC championships are at Missouri, also beginning tomorrow.

The men's Top 10:
1. Ohio State
2. Oklahoma
3. Southern California
4. Virginia
6. Baylor
7. Texas
8. North Carolina
9. Georgia
10. Illinois

There were also no changes in the individual rankings, which now come out weekly, with Jamie Loeb of North Carolina and Clay Thompson of UCLA still No. 1 in singles.  The Tennessee team of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese stay No. 1 in men's doubles and Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady of UCLA continue to be No. 1 in women's doubles.

In Division III, Williams has taken over the women's top spot, while Claremont-Mudd-Scripps stay at No. 1 in the men's rankings.

The complete rankings can be found at the ITA website.

The Texas College Tennis blog's men's rankings are here.

In the past few weeks, the top three American men in the ATP rankings are four-year college players: John Isner(11), Bradley Klahn(65) and Steve Johnson(68). Johnson has had a remarkable three months in 2014--he was ranked 160 to start the year--and with so few American men to focus on, Johnson was bound to begin getting more attention. After Johnson reached the second round at the ATP Clay Courts in Houston, he spoke with the Tennis Channel's Steve Flink.  Johnson discusses his decision to stay in school, his relationship with USTA coach Craig Boynton, and the state of his backhand in this article at tennischannel.com.

Johnson is taking a break from tournaments before heading to Europe and because he has secured a spot in the main draw of the French Open, he is not playing the three Challengers that are part of the USTA Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge.  Last year, Alex Kuznetsov won a wild card into the French Open via this method, as did Shelby Rogers.

Below are the tournaments that make up the Wild Card Challenge, with the best two results, in ATP/WTA points, added together to determine the winners.

USTA Pro Circuit Men’s Events:
  • $100,000 Sarasota (Fla.) Open (week of April 14)
  • $50,000 Savannah (Ga.) Challenger (week of April 21)
  • $50,000 USTA Tallahassee (Fla.) Challenger (week of April 28)
USTA Pro Circuit Women’s Events:
  • $50,000 Dothan (Ala.) (week of April 14)
  • $50,000 Charlottesville, Va. (week of April 21)
  • $50,000 Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. (week of April 28)
At the Sarasota Challenger this week, most of the American men have already lost, but Daniel Kosakowski(UCLA) and Donald Young did advance to the second round.

In Dothan, Alabama, American women were more successful.  Wild card Louisa Chirico, Melanie Oudin and Allie Kiick all won their opening matches today, with eight more, including Rogers, seeded No. 2, schedule for first round matches on Wednesday.  Florida recruit Peggy Porter and Danielle Lao(USC) qualified, with Taylor Townsend receiving a wild card. Porter will play Vicky Duval, the No. 8 seed, Wednesday, and the match should be streamed through the USTA's Pro Circuit page.