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Monday, May 11, 2015

Pro Circuit Update; Haggerty Running for ITF President; Wild Card Winners Tiafoe, Chirico Discuss Playing French Open

I promised an update on Pro Circuit events, so with college tennis quiet for a few days, I'll start with the US and work my way to the other corners of the world for last week's notable results, as well as what's going on this week in the US.

As I mentioned yesterday, Katerina Stewart won the Indian Harbour Beach singles title, adding a $50,000 title to the $10,000 title she won in Gainesville and the $25,000 title she won in Palm Harbor, both in March. She defeated Louisa Chirico, who had already clinched the USTA's French Open wild card via a tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Maria Sanchez won her third straight doubles title (Dothan, Charlottesville), with her third different partner; this week it was Taylor Townsend. Sanchez, now ranked No. 90 in the WTA doubles rankings, and Townsend, the top seeds, defeated unseeded Angelina Gabueva of Russia and Alexandra Stevenson 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

This week's women's Pro Circuit event is a $25,000 tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Florencia Molinero of Argentina is the top seed, Allie Kiick, who finished third in the French Open wild card race, is the No. 2 seed.  Wild cards went to Nicole Frenkel and Kylie McKenzie(who play each other in the first round), Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ingrid Neel. Qualifying will be completed on Tuesday.

In last week's $10,000 Futures in Orange Park, Florida, No. 2 seed Darian King of Barbados beat No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 in the final.

King is the top seed in this week's $10,000 Futures in Tampa, with juniors Walker Duncan and Stephen Madonia among those who qualified today.  Wild cards were awarded to Rhyne Williams, who is the No. 2 seed, Dominic Cotrone, Dennis Uspensky and 16-year-old Noah Makarome, who is making his main draw debut in a Futures.

I had mentioned last week that Wake Forest is hosting a non-Pro Circuit $15,000 Futures early next month, but I should add that the University of Virginia also has a similar $15,000 Futures tournament scheduled for the following week The entry deadline for the Virginia tournament is May 21st.

South of the border, 2014 NCAA singles finalist Alex Sarkissian (Pepperdine) won his second $15,000 Futures title in the past month, this time in Queretaro Mexico.  The No. 2 seed, who won all his matches in straight sets, defeated unseeded Manuel Sanchez of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in the final.  Sarkissian is 27-8 this year, with two final and two semifinal appearances in Futures tournaments.

Nadia Gilchrist after her win (photo via twitter)

Former University of Georgia All-American Nadja Gilchrist won her first singles title on the women's professional circuit at the 14th $10,000 tournament this year in Sharm El Sheikh Egypt.  The 24-year-old, seeded third, defeated top seed Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the final, after trailing 3-0 in the third set

Hyeon Chung of Korea won another Challenger title, with the 18-year-old fourth seed beating No. 7 seed Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in the $100,000 tournament in Busan, Korea. He is now at a career-high of ATP ranking of 69, one of three teens in the Top 100 (Kokkinakis, Coric).

Former Princeton All-American Matija Pecotic of Croatia swept the titles at the $15,000 Futures in Nigeria, after winning the previous week's Futures tournament there as well. This week, as the fifth seed, Pecotic defeated No. 4 seed Eric Quigley 7-5, 6-3 in the singles final, then partnered former University of Washington standout Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan of India for the doubles title. The No. 3 seeds beating the top-seeded South African pair of Tucker Vorster(Ole Miss) and Keith-Patrick Crowley(Miami) 6-4, 3-6, 10-4 in the final.

Christopher Clarey of the New York Times spoke last week with former USTA president and chairman Dave Haggerty, who has announced he is running for the presidency of the International Tennis Federation. Seventy-three-year-old Italian Francesco Ricci Bitti announced he would not seek a fifth term in 2015, having led the organization since 1999 (not 1989, as the article states). The three other candidates Clarey names as Haggerty's competition for the post are from Spain, India and Switzerland.

I participated in a USTA conference call with French Open reciprocal wild card winners Frances Tiafoe and Louisa Chirico this afternoon, with both teenagers eager to make their major debuts later this month at Roland Garros.

I asked Tiafoe about the recent disclosure that he was now being coached by Jose Higueras of the USTA, and he confirmed that he had worked with Higueras for the first time (not ever, but in this arrangement) today.

"I think it was a smart move for me," the 17-year-old from Maryland said. "He's coached a lot of great players in the past. He's also a great player himself. I thought I needed some extra information."

Tiafoe also said he doesn't know if he'll play Kalamazoo. I think that's unlikely given his success at the Challenger level, but he didn't completely rule it out either, saying, "That's a tough question, Colette. I know you love the tournament more than anything. I know you're there every year. I'm still up in the air whether I'll be taking a flight to Kalamazoo in the future."

Chirico spoke about her love of clay and how it fits her game, saying she grew up in New York playing on it outdoors in the summer

"I play a little bit heavier than some of the girls who play flat," said the 18-year-old.  "It suits my game. I guess I've always just loved it. I move pretty well on it."

Tom Tebbutt of Tennis Canada asked both Tiafoe and Chirico which players they would most like to play at the French, and which they would least like to play.

"That is tough," Chirico said.  "This is maybe a weird answer, but I would actually like the opportunity to play Serena, just because you never know. I think she's obviously one of the best around right now. It would be such a great opportunity to play her just to see what the level is like, how she competes and plays. It would be such an honor to play against her. 

I don't really have an answer for a least favorite. That's pretty difficult to answer. There's no one that I would, you know, not want to play."

Tiafoe came up with one of each.

"I mean, for me, everyone's good. For me, my most favorite would be to play Monfils. That would be really fun. He'll get the crowd into it. I'll try to get the crowd into it. You know what I mean? I think it will be really fun.

"My least favorite player, who wants to play Nadal at the French Open? I mean, if I did play him, I obviously like him, but I think there's better people to play than him in Paris."

The complete transcript of the conference call is available here.