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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kudla Loses Match, but Claims Australian Open Wild Card; Wil Spencer Returns to Competitive Tennis with Two Futures Wins; ITF Announces Travel Grants for Junior Masters

Thursday finished better than it started for Denis Kudla at the Champaign Challenger.  Kudla, the No. 5 seed, failed to convert six match points in the second set against qualifier Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and lost 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-2, taking the USTA's Australian Open wild card out of his own hands.  Instead, his fate would rest with Marcos Giron, who could win the wild card by reaching the final.  Giron was facing ATP No. 51 and Knoxville Challenger champion Adrian Mannarino of France however in the last quarterfinal match of the day, and Mannarino, the top seed, cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory.  That left Kudla with the most points, by virtue of a Charlottesville semifinal and two quarterfinals (only one counts) in the three designated tournaments. He receives the USTA's reciprocal Australian wild card, joining Irina Falconi, who won hers last week.

For the third week in a row, there will be not be an American in the Challenger final.  Mannarino will play No. 3 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia, who defeated No. 8 seed Frank Dancevic of Canada 7-6(3), 7-5 in one semifinal, and Nielsen will play No. 2 seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia in the other.

For the second week in a row, the hometown college doubles pairing is making a run, with Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski of Illinois reaching the semifinals with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 10-5 victory over No. 2 seeds Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Roberto Maytin of Venezuela.  Guignon and Kopinski, who were finalists at last week's National Indoor Championships, will face unseeded Gastao Elias of Portugal and Sean Thornley of Great Britain, the team that Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese of Tennessee beat in the Knoxville Challenger final on Sunday. Juan Spir and Kevin King, the No. 3 seeds, will face unseeded Dancevic and Adil Shamasdin of Canada in the other doubles semifinal.

I mentioned earlier in the week that former Georgia All-American Wil Spencer had received a wild card into the Niceville Futures this week, and he has taken full advantage of it.  On Tuesday, he defeated No. 2 seed Peter Heller of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in his first sanctioned match in over two and half years and today he defeated qualifier Christopher Helliar of Great Britain 7-6(6), 6-0.  For a detailed account of Spencer's victory on Tuesday, see this article from the Northwest Florida Daily News.  In it, Spencer, who has been working at a club in North Carolina, is quoted as saying, “This is huge. I’ve always had that itch to get back, and this only reinforces that. I’m back.”

Spencer, now 25, will play 17-year-old Reilly Opelka in the quarterfinals, after Opelka, for the second week in a row, defeated friend Alex Rybakov in the second round.  This time the score was 7-6(3), 6-0.  Tommy Paul has reached his third career Futures quarterfinal, defeating former Mississippi State player James Chaudry 6-3, 6-1 today.  He will play No. 5 seed Catalin Gard in his attempt to reach his first Futures semifinal.  Gard, the former Ole Miss star, is now playing under the USA flag according to the ITF, although the ATP still shows his country as Romania. Ty Trombetta and Jean Yves Aubone(3) are the other Americans in the quarterfinals.  Aubone and current Florida State junior Benjamin Lock will play for the doubles title on Friday, with the unseeded pair taking on Randy Blanco of Cuba and Jun Nan Tao of China, also unseeded.

The ITF announced today that it would be distributing $160,000 of travel grants in conjunction with the first annual ITF Junior Masters this April in China.  The Masters tournament, modeled on the year-end finales on the WTA and ATP tours, will feature the top eight boys and the top eight girls in the 2014 final rankings. Unlike the ATP and WTA however, the tournament will not use a round robin format, but everyone will play three matches to determine their place--and their travel grants.  All players will receive a minimum of $7000, and champions will receive $15,000. These grants should not affect their college eligibility however, as they are awarded by a federation and are not prize money per se.  According to this ITF article, wild cards to pro events will also be included, although at what level is currently undetermined.


Steve Boussom said...


My son and I were at a tournament last week and another parent informed that USTA was looking to go back to 192 draws for Clays and Hard Courts for 2015. I also received a survey about this from our section about an up or down vote. I was in favor of 192 just because the 64 qualifier seemed silly. If one qualifies for the ZOO, then let them fully enjoy it. Please share your thoughts.

Colette Lewis said...

I've heard that rumor too, and would welcome the change back to 192, but I am going to wait for official word from the USTA before I comment further.

Shawn said...

Colette, it's very important that if the change goes through that it has the many ways into Kalamzoo, not just through the sectional ranking.