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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tiafoe, Liu Win Pro Circuit Titles; Arconada Claims Grade A Singles Championship in Brazil; Oklahoma Tops Baylor for BNP Collegiate Challenge Title; Miami Open Draws

Because Francis Tiafoe has been playing in Bakersfield, California, and often in night matches, he hasn't been mentioned much here this week, but after his 6-1, 6-2 destruction of Maxime Tabatruong of France in the $15,000 Futures final today, he's earned the spotlight.

A wild card, the 17-year-old from Maryland beat former college players Raymond Sarmiento(USC) and Andre Dome(Cal Poly) in three setters in the first two rounds, then took out No. 3 seed Darian King of Barbados in the quarterfinals and former Southern Cal star Emilio Gomez, the No. 8 seed, in the semifinals.  Against Tabatruong, who played at UCLA, Tiafoe dominated, facing only one break point, which he lost. It was over in less than an hour, his first Futures title secure. He is 18-4 in professional events this year(including qualifying), with three Futures losses to Benjamin Balleret of Monaco and a loss to Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in Memphis qualifying.

He received a special exemption into the $15,000 Futures tournament in Calabasas this week, as did Tabatruong.  Wild cards went to Taylor Fritz, Clay Thompson, who won the wild card tournament and Tommy Paul. A three-star high school sophomore, Keanu Ellen of Hawaii, received the fourth main draw wild card.

In the Bakersfield doubles final, No. 2 seeds King and Sekou Bangoura defeated top seeds Mitchell Krueger and Connor Smith 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.

Claire Liu earned her first main draw win in professional tournament this week and the 14-year-old just kept on going, taking four more and the title at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Orlando.  Liu had qualified for two $25,000 events, last fall in Florence and last month in Surprise, so this run is not a shocker, but she did not lose a set in the tournament, beating even top seed and WTA 241 Irina Khromacheva of Russia in straight sets.

In today's final, against 16-year-old qualifier Fanni Stollar of Hungary, Liu was equally impressive, taking a 6-1, 6-3 decision. After not facing a break point in the opening set, Liu was broken to start the second, but she immediately broke back, collected another break in the sixth game and secured the title.

According to USTA Player Development, Liu, who trains at the Carson Headquarters, is the youngest women's Pro Circuit winner at 14 years and 10 months, since Anna Kournikova in 1996.

It's not often a Grade A title gets third billing, but on such a spectacular day for young US players, Usue Arconada's win at the Campeonato Internacional in Porto Alegre, Brazil shouldn't be overlooked.

The third-seeded Arconada, who won the Banana Bowl last week, defeated top seed Julieta Estable of Argentina 6-2, 6-4 to claim her first Grade A title.

Estable had all kinds of trouble with her serve, failing to earn a game point on it in the first set, with both her games coming while returning.  She broke Arconada to start the second set, but was broken for the fifth straight time in the next game. It wasn't until the sixth game of the second set when she had a game point on her own serve to get to within 4-2, but that was her only service hold in the match, which ended with four consecutive breaks.

The 16-year-old Arconada, who, like Tiafoe, trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, is 15-1 this year in Grade 1 and Grade A ITF junior events and she also has a $10,000 title to her credit this year.

Top seed Orlando Luz of Brazil defended his title, defeating No. 6 seed William Blumberg 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  Blumberg's serve, usually an important tool for him, was unable to produce any free points or even set up any points, and he did not take advantage of the early opportunities Luz gave him to break.  Down an early break in the second set, Blumberg got it back and had a 4-3 lead, but two backhand errors in his next service game gave Luz a chance to serve out the match, and he did, at love.

In the final of the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge in Indian Wells, No. 1 Oklahoma defeated No. 3 Baylor for the second time in a month, this time by a 4-1 score.  Once Baylor lost the doubles point, it was going to be rough sledding for them, and Oklahoma proved too good in singles, with only Julian Lenz, at No. 1, able to earn a point for the Bears.

In another big men's match today, No. 6 Duke came from behind to defeat No. 12 Wake Forest 4-3, with Nicolas Alvarez clinching it by virtue of a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Noah Rubin at No. 1.

The No. 24 Duke women also claimed an important win at home today, defeating No. 8 Virginia 4-3.

Both men's and women's qualifying for the Miami Open begins Monday, with Michael Mmoh taking on Alejandro Falla of Colombia at 10 a.m.  The complete order of play is here.  The women's draw has been released, and CiCi Bellis has drawn fellow teen wild card Indy de Vroome as her first round opponent.  Draws are available here.


Nepotism is alive and well within the USTA said...

A 3 star sophomore in high school got a main draw wild card into a mens future? My son is a senior in high school and a blue chip and can't even get a wild card into a qualifier. Colette, tell me this is a bad April fools joke?

Alex said...

Nepotism---It's about who you know! You should know that bad now.