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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Anisimova, McNally, Matusevich Reach Teen Tennis Finals; Tiafoe, Paul Make Weston Quarterfinals; Hong, Sebov Win Traralgon Grade 1 Titles; Fritz Feature

There's so much going on right now in tennis, in some wildly divergent time zones, it's hard to know where to begin.

I'll start in Bolton, England, where two American girls and one boy have reached the final of the big 14-and-under Nike Junior International Teen Tennis tournament.  No. 8 seed Amanda Anisimova defeated No. 14 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-2 in the all-American semifinal and will meet fellow 13-year-old Caty McNally in the final. McNally, the No. 2 seed, defeated French qualifier Loudmilla Bencheikh 6-1, 6-1.  Later in the day, McNally and Anisimova teamed up for the girls doubles title, defeating unseeded Sonay Kartal and Mae McCutcheon of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1 in the final.

In the boys semifinal, No. 10 seed Lodewijk Weststrate of the Netherlands prevented an all-American boys final, defeating No. 12 seed Nathan Han 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Weststrate will play unseeded wild card Anton Matusevich of the US in the final, after Matusevich defeated No. 2 seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria 7-6(10), 6-2.   Han lost again to Weststrate in the boys doubles final, when No. 2 seeds Weststrate and partner Nini Dica of Romania beat No. 4 seeds Han and Govind Nanda 6-1, 6-3.

Complete draws are at the Tennis Europe tournament site.

In Melbourne, nine Americans--seven women and two men--have reached the third round of the Australian Open. Steve Johnson and John Isner are the men and the women are Venus and Serena Williams, Madison Keys, Madison Brengle, CoCo Vendeweghe, Varvara Lepchenko and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who plays Simona Halep tonight. For more on the US players in the third round, see Courtney Nguyen's article for Sports Illustrated.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Traralgon, Australia, Seong Chan Hong of Korea and Katherine Sebov of Canada won the singles titles Thursday.  The unseeded Sebov defeated No. 5 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia 7-5, 6-2, to claim her first Grade 1 title.  Hong, the No. 6 seed, defeated Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to win his first Grade 1 title since 2012.  Van Rijthoven did capture the doubles title, with he and Akira Santillan of Australia, the No. 4 seeds, defeating unseeded Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland and Andrea Pellegrino of Italy 6-3, 5-7, 10-5.  No. 6 seeds Vera Lapko of Belarus and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia won the girls doubles championship, beating unseeded Olga Fridman of Ukraine and Eline Nepliy of Russia 7-5, 7-5.

The Australian Open junior draws should be out later tonight, with play beginning on Saturday (Friday night in the US) and I will have a preview available Friday morning for the Tennis Recruiting Network. I did learn that Taylor Fritz is expected to play, with shoulder pain the reason for his walkover in the Traralgon quarterfinals. Speaking of Fritz, the San Diego Union-Tribune featured the 17-year-old South Californian in this article, revealing he has narrowed his choice of colleges to Southern Cal or UCLA. Fritz plans to make his decision by this summer, and hope to finish school a semester early and start in January of next year.  Fritz's father Guy provides some sound reasons for believing his son should spend some time in college before going out on the tour.

At the $10,000 Weston Futures, 17-year-olds Francis Tiafoe and Tommy Paul picked up wins today and will play each other for a place in the semifinals.  Tiafoe, a wild card, beat No. 8 seed Facundo Mena of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, while Paul, a lucky loser, ousted top seed Christian Lindell of Sweden 6-4, 6-4.  Paul and Tiafoe last met in the 2013 Kalamazoo 16s semifinals, with Paul winning 6-2, 6-4.  Former Florida star Greg Ouellette is the other US player in the quarterfinals, after he defeated Alex Rybakov 7-6(5), 6-3, and he will play No. 2 seed Darian King of Barbados on Friday.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Daytona Beach, Samantha Crawford is the only American in the quarterfinals, after losses today by Sachia Vickery(3), Maria Sanchez(8) and qualifier Lauren Embree.

I'll close with some sad news from the college tennis world--yesterday's passing of former Division III Gustavus Adolphus coach Steve Wilkinson, the all-time leader in men's college tennis victories. Wilkinson, who coached at Gustavus Adolphus for 39 years and won 929 matches, was one of the most respected and influential coaches in the sport throughout his career.  For more on his playing and coaching accomplishments and his legacy, see the school's website.