Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Preview of American Collegiate Invitational at 2014 US Open; Duval, Keys, Sock & Kudla Among US Winners at Wimbledon; Two US Juniors Reach Roehampton ITF Grade 1 Quarterfinals; Lucky Losers and Bad Draws

A new tournament spotlighting American collegiate players will be introduced this year at the US Open, and I had the opportunity to write about it for the Tennis Recruiting Network after speaking with Tournament Director Bill Mountford, as well as chairman, president and CEO of the USTA Dave Haggerty.  The tournament will certainly raise the visibility of American collegiate players, who, except for the NCAA champions, aren't much in evidence at the US Open.

The results have been mixed for US players at Wimbledon, especially on the men's side, but four men advanced today--qualifier Denis Kudla, Jack Sock, Sam Querrey and No. 9 seed John Isner.  Kudla defeated fellow qualifier Marsel Ilhan of Turkey 7-6(3), 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, Sock beat qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4 and Querrey resumed serving for his darkness-suspended match against Bradley Klahn, closing out a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 victory. The University of Georgia's Isner, who defeated wild card Dan Smethurst of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in today's first round, was asked about the college tennis pathway in his post-match interview, an excerpt from which is below:

Q.  Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm going to flog it a little bit.  Four of the top seven Americans have some college experience.  Can you talk about that for a minute?  Do you think that's a more viable path to the pros now?
            JOHN ISNER:  Yeah, I think so, especially because given the landscape of men's professional tennis, how there are very few teenagers lighting it up.

You see guys coming into their own at 25, 26.  Wasn't like that 10, 15, 20 years ago.  College was perfect for me, and seems like it's working for a lot of other players as well.

Mainly because you have to be very mature at this level in order win matches and get consistent on tour.  I think a lot of the college guys are showing that.

Q.  Do you think you're going to see guys look at that as an example in the years ahead and say, That could work for me?

            JOHN ISNER:  I think so, especially American guys.  When you go to college and you're winning a lot of matches, that gives you a lot of confidence.  Even though it's at the college level.

So we're seeing it now, and I think we'll still see is quite a bit in the future.

Q.  You're an exception as someone that's been to college and in the top 10.  Do you think it's still the path for really top prospects, a straight jump to the pros or...
            JOHN ISNER:  Yeah, I mean, I am not ‑‑ I kind of went against the grain there going to college for four years and making the top 10.  You probably won't see that that often.

I think especially for American players coming up, I think college is a good choice.  Maybe the very minimum for one or two years.  For other guys around the world, could be very different.  Maybe they're already more mature at 18 and can hang with these guys at an earlier age.

I think for Americans especially going to college is a good way.

In other college news, Martin Redlicki, who originally signed an National Letter of Intent to attend Duke before his brother Michael was suspended from the team this spring, has been released from his commitment to Duke and will play for the UCLA Bruins this fall.

On the women's side at Wimbledon, both Alison Riske and Vicky Duval defeated seeds in Tuesday's first round, with Riske downing No. 26 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 4-6, 7-5. 6-1 and Duval eliminating No. 29 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.  Eastbourne champion Madison Keys defeated Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-3, 6-3, her first win over Puig in three attempts, and Serena Williams and Varvara Lepchenko joined Monday first-round winners Lauren Davis, CoCo Vandeweghe and Venus Williams(30) in the second round. Wild card Taylor Townsend, who did not play a grass warmup tournament, lost to No. 31 seed Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-2.

2013 NCAA champion from Ohio State Blaz Rola of Slovenia plays defending champion Andy Murray on Court 1 on Wednesday.

For complete draws, see the Wimbledon website.

At the Grade 1 ITF junior tournament in Roehampton, two US players have made it to the quarterfinals--top seed CiCi Bellis and unseeded Taylor Fritz.  Bellis beat No. 13 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-2, 6-2, while Fritz picked up his best career result in ITF junior play, defeating world No. 4 and Roehampton No. 3 seed Jaume Munar of Spain 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.  Fritz and Logan Smith also advanced to the doubles quarterfinals, the only US team to do so.  The draws and Wednesday's order of play can be found at the LTA website.

Ben Rothenburg of the New York Times published an informative article on how the lucky loser designation is arrived at--which is different depending on whether the qualifier lost in a standard WTA or ATP event and a slam--and why that policy was instituted. As it applies to the USTA summer gold ball nationals, which have qualifying the first time this year, the procedure requires using the ATP/WTA highest ranking procedure, not the ITF Grand Slam lottery.

And for those who have had a gut feeling that Christina McHale is getting easy draws and Ryan Harrison difficult draws in majors, Carl Bialik, writing for the Fivethirtyeight blog, confirms those suspicions with some actual data.