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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Black, Bellis Advance at Florence $25K; Collins in College Spotlight; LTA's Downey Assembles Tough Love Team; National Junior Tennis League Championships Begin Friday

Sixteen-year-old Tornado Alicia Black, competing for the first time since helping the US girls win the ITF's Junior Fed Cup last month, posted the best win of her career today at the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Florence, South Carolina.

Black, who received entry via a junior exemption for finishing in the ITF junior top 10 last year, drew No. 1 seed and wild card Anna Tatishvili, ranked 99 by the WTA.  As the No. 1 seed in the $75,000 Albuquerque tournament last month, Tatishvili had beaten Black 6-2, 6-3 in the second round, but Black turned the tables today, taking out Tatishvili by the same score.  Black will play qualifier Despina Papamichail of Greece in the second round Thursday.

Last week's Rock Hill champion CiCi Bellis, also a member of the US Junior Fed Cup championship team, defeated Katerina Stewart for the second time in two weeks, although this time in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.  Bellis will play No. 5 seed Miharu Imanishi of Japan Thursday. 

Claire Liu, who qualified with three wins and without a day off from her six days of play as a finalist at the ITF Pan American Closed, fell just short of her first Pro Circuit victory against qualifier Jan Abaza.  The 14-year-old, who had qualifying wins over Stephanie Luk, Jamie Loeb and Kennedy Shaffer in her first pro-level tournament, came back to force a third set and actually led 4-2 in the final set, but fell 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(5).

Qualifier Samantha Harris, the Duke freshman, also picked up a big win, beating No. 3 seed and WTA No. 134 Sharon Fichman of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

At the $15,000 Futures tournament in Mansfield, Texas, TCU freshman Cameron Norrie, a qualifier, won his first round match over Pavel Krainik of Canada.  Wild card Michael Mmoh defeated Evan King (Michigan) yesterday in a first round match. Eighteen-year-old Naoki Nakagawa advanced to the second round, as did Virginia senior Mitchell Frank.  Oklahoma sophomore Andrew Harris also reached the second round with a win on Tuesday.

NCAA champion Danielle Collins of Virginia is featured in the USTA's College Spotlight. Collins talks about her wrist surgery, her transfer from Florida after her freshman year and playing Simona Halep at the US Open.

The Telegraph's Simon Briggs provides this detailed look at the changes coming for the LTA under new chief executive Michael Downey, formerly of Tennis Canada.  The "ferocious" training sessions conducted by new performance chief Bob Brett may send a message, but asking children to train like professionals has its own consequences, not all of them good.  If you believe the lack of "hunger in paradise" is what ails British tennis, this tough love approach may help. If you think, as I do, that the problem is much more complicated than that, you might want a bit more recognition of that from the leadership there.

The National Junior Tennis League Championships begin Friday in Cayce, South Carolina.  The USTA's release on the competition is below:


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., October 14, 2014 – The United States Tennis Association (USTA) today announced the 2014 USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships will be played on October 16-19 for the 14 and Under division and October 23-26 for the 18 and Under division. The tournament, which will be held at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center in Cayce, S.C., will feature the top 64 teams from across the U.S., totaling more than 500 participants.

The National Championships feature teams that have advanced from the Section level to compete for the title. Each year the USTA crowns a national champion in two age divisions (14U and 18U) in both Intermediate and Advanced play divisions.

“The National Championships are the culmination of the Junior Team Tennis season and bring together the best teams from the 17 sections,” said Craig Jones, Director, USTA Junior Play. “Not only is the level of competition incredible, but the kids are treated like royalty throughout the event with free meals, player parties and that famous "Southern Hospitality."

This is the third year that the Cayce Tennis Center will host to the USTA Junior Team Tennis National Championships. In addition, a second tennis facility, the Lexington County Tennis Complex, also will be utilized to serve the hundreds of players competing each weekend.

“We are thrilled to have so many young people and their families coming to our international award-winning tennis and fitness facility in the City of Cayce again this year,” said Cayce Mayor Elise Partin. “Many of our Cayce residents and residents across the Midlands enjoy this facility, and we couldn’t be more pleased to share it with other families across the nation for these upcoming USTA events.”

Established in 1991, USTA Junior Team Tennis provides youth with all of the health and social benefits of tennis in a co-ed, fun and competitive team environment, and allows participants to compete with and against individuals of similar skill and age levels.

With more than 99,000 players competing nationwide, USTA Junior Team Tennis brings players together to enjoy camaraderie and teamwork, providing a  fun environment for kids to learn that succeeding is really more about how they play the game—win or lose.

Visit the USTA Junior Team Tennis website at ustajtt.com for complete results, stories and photos.