My Interview with Blaz Rola; Mmoh, Blumberg Reach ITF Grade A Quarterfinals; Paul, Giron and Dome Advance to Futures Quarterfinals
Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with 2013 NCAA champion Blaz Rola, who was playing in the Champaign Challenger. I had not spoken to Rola since May of 2013, when he won the singles title at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Center at the University of Illinois, so I was eager to hear about his 18 months as a professional, and this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is the result.
He was looking forward to his trip to Sao Paolo Brazil for the ATP Challenger Finals, an eight-player year-end event. The tournament, which is similar to the ATP World Tour final in format, has two round robin groups, with the top two finishers in each moving into the knockout semifinals. Rola, the No. 4 seed, has won his first two matches, beating No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 today to move to the top of the group. I'm no expert on round robin math, but I do know if Rola beats wild card Guilherme Clezar of Brazil, he will advance to the semifinals.
Josh Meiseles of the ATP also interviewed Rola in advance of the Challenger Tour Finals. Although there is some overlap in our interviews, I think you'll find both interesting.
The quarterfinals are set at the ITF Grade A in Mexico, with only two of the 34 US juniors in the main draw still remaining. No. 3 seed Michael Mmoh beat unseeded Nathan Ponwith 6-4, 6-1, and No. 12 seed William Blumberg defeated unseeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. Blumberg earns a meeting with top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who downed Liam Caruana 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, with Rublev looking to beat an American for the third consecutive day. Mmoh will play No. 10 seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary, who defeated No. 8 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-4.
All four US girls remaining lost in straight sets. No. 12 seed Michaela Gordon was defeated by No. 6 seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 6-1, 6-0 and No. 4 seed Usue Arconada went out to No. 16 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 6-2, 7-6(0). Qualifier Alexandra Sanford fell to No. 5 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-4, 7-5 and unseeded Raquel Pedraza was beaten by No. 10 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary 6-0, 6-1.
Rain kept the quarterfinals in doubles from finishing. Updated draws and Friday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.
Tommy Paul, who is entered in the Eddie Herr, has been playing Futures since the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, and after reaching the semifinals last week in Niceville, he has advanced to the quarterfinals at the $10,000 Futures tournament in Pensacola. Paul, who has reached four Futures quarterfinals this year, beat top seed Peter Heller of Germany 6-2, 6-4 in today's second round and will play fellow 17-year-old Theo Fournerie of France, the No. 6 seed, on Friday. Fournerie has only played one important junior tournament in each of the past two years--Roland Garros--and he lost in the first round both times. He has reached one Futures final and two semifinals this year.
Four former collegians have also advanced to the quarterfinals: Virginia's Justin Shane and Michael Shabaz, Virginia Tech's Patrick Daciek, a qualifier, and Cal's Ben McLachlan. McLachlan and Shane are into the doubles final, where they will play current Mississippi State teammates Julian Cash and Florian Lakat.
At the $15,000 Futures in Mexico, Californians Andre Dome and Marcos Giron set up a quarterfinal meeting with wins today. Former Cal Poly All-American Dome defeated top seed Agustin Velotti of Argentina 6-3, 7-6(4), while Giron topped former University of Washington standout and fellow Thousand Oaks, California resident Kyle McMorrow 6-2, 6-3. Two more Southern Californians, Oscar Fabian Matthews (UC-Irvine) and Daniel Nguyen(USC), had advanced to the quarterfinals with wins Wednesday. Matthews advanced with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6) win over No. 2 seed Dimitar Kutrovsky of Bulgaria, who only a week earlier was serving for the match against ATP Top 50 player Adrian Mannarino of France at the Champaign Challenger.