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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Seeds Breeze on Opening Day of USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts Championships; Pro Circuit Update

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Memphis, TN--

July in Memphis.  Heat? Check. Humidity? Of course. Afternoon thunderstorm? Yes ma'am.  Upsets in the first round of the Girls 18s Clay Courts? Nope, didn't happen.

As common as the first three items are, the fourth is unusual. 31 of the 32 seeds in the 128-player singles draw won their first round matches (one seed was still in action at this writing), certainly a first in my seven years covering the tournament.

Top seed Francesca DiLorenzo made quick work of her 8 am opponent Peyton Gollhofer, winning 6-0, 6-1 before the heat and humidity really kicked in at the Racquet Club of Memphis.  Not to be outdone, No. 5 seed Katerina Stewart took even less time in her match, which followed DiLorenzo's on Court 5, beating Kristy Jorgensen 6-0, 6-0.

Stewart last lost a match back in March, to Grace Min, and since then has won 27 straight matches in junior and pro circuit competition.  She won the 16s Easter Bowl, a National Selection 18s tournament in Florida, the Florida Closed 18s and two straight $10,000 Pro Circuit events.

Switching back and forth between junior and pro events requires some mental adjustments, according to the Coral Gables Florida resident.

"Coming back to the juniors, you really have to focus," said Stewart, who turns 17 on Thursday. "You don't want your level to drop down. You have to really focus on your game plan and make sure you don't take any of these players for granted, because you never know."

The two Pro Circuit events she won last month were on the the same Har-Tru surface at this tournament, which Stewart acknowledges as a great one for her game.

"It gives me a lot of time and give my ball a little more bite," said Stewart, who is currently 547 in the WTA rankings. "My topspin works really well on this surface. I grew up on this surface, I've been training my whole life on clay, so that's what I'm used to."

Stewart is in the tournament to win it, and the US Open junior championships main draw wild card that goes to the champion. She recognizes that losing a match now and then isn't a bad thing, but prefers the alternative.

"You get your best wins after failures, it teaches you a lesson," said Stewart. "But if you work hard enough, you don't need those failures. I hate losing, but it's true, you do need to learn from your mistakes. I'd just rather not make those mistakes right now. I'm really confident, playing really well right now, so hopefully I can get through this tournament."

No. 2 seed Andie Daniell, was one of the last to go on court, but she beat the rain with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Emily Kolbow.  No. 3 seed Alexis Nelson defeated Chloe Gullickson 6-4, 6-2 and No. 4 seed Jessie Aney downed Christina Zordani 6-2, 6-2.

In addition to the seeds, the qualifiers also had a good day, with four of the eight winning their opening matches: Erica Susi, Ally Miller Krasilnikov, Kenya Williams and Meible Chi.

Two rounds of doubles were initially on the schedule, but due to the nearly three-hour rain delay, the second round was postponed.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

The $50,000 Sacramento Challenger didn't produce any US winners, with top seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia beating No. 7 seed Julia Boserup in the final 6-2, 7-5 for the singles title.  Storm Sanders of Australia and Daria Gavrilova of Russia won the doubles, beating USC alum Maria Sanchez and current USC standout Zoe Scandalis 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Neither team was seeded.  

Two US players did capture titles this weekend, with 19-year-old Jan Abaza sweeping the singles and doubles at the $10,000 ITF women's circuit tournament in Egypt and 20-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo taking both singles and doubles titles at the $15,000 Futures in Italy. It is Fratangelo's second Futures title this year and fifth of his career. Abaza's singles title is her second in three weeks and she's also won two straight doubles titles in Egypt.

At the $10,000 Hong Kong Futures, former Ohio State Buckeyes Devin McCarthy and Peter Kobelt won their third straight title at the Futures level. Sixteen-year-old Duck Hee Lee of Korea won the singles title, his first.

Former Duke All-American Henrique Cunha of Brazil won his second Futures title of the year at the $10,000 tournament in Venezuela.

This week's women's Pro Circuit event is a $50,000 event in Carson, California, with qualifying beginning today.

The men, who had no US Pro Circuit events last week, have two this week, the $10,000 Futures in Tulsa and the $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton New York.  Both Carson and Binghamton are part of the