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Saturday, May 2, 2015

USA Takes First in All Four ITF Team Competitions; Stewart, Kiick in Charlottesville Final; Tiafoe Loses to Arguello in Tallahassee

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Boca Raton, FL--

Two of the matches between the USA and Canada were decided by the doubles, making the third and final day of the ITF's North/Central American Qualifying for Junior Davis and Fed Cups and World Junior Tennis competition the most dramatic, but when the Har-Tru dust had settled, the USA prevailed, finishing first in all four events.

The most dominant team of the competition was the US girls 14-and-under team, with Amanda Anisimova, Caty McNally and Hurricane Tyra Black losing only 22 games total in their nine matches, with 12 of those lost games coming in Thursday's first round against Canada.  On Saturday, Black won 6-0, 6-0 over Maria Gabriela Rivera of Guatemala at No. 2 singles and Anisimova beat Rut Galindo 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, with McNally and Anisimova winning the dead rubber in doubles 6-0, 6-2.

Coach Kathy Rinaldi knew she had a good team coming into the competition, but with the 13- and 14- year-olds competing in a team event for their country for the first time, nothing is routine.

"Caty came in with having a great Easter Bowl, Tyra came in winning some ITFs and Amanda has had some good results as well, and they all play really good doubles," Rinaldi said. "We've had some tough matches in the past with these countries in the qualifying, and when you're representing your country, representing your team, it's a much bigger deal and sometimes the nerves come out. But the girls worked hard, they had fun."

As for selecting which girls would play in such an accomplished trio, Rinaldi admitted it was a balancing act, but the team success comes first.

"Before we start we always sit down and tell them this is a team event, we're playing for the US, we're not playing for ourselves first," Rinaldi said. "It's all about the team and what's best for it. Everybody has a clear understanding of that, and we're open about it. They were very mature, though, which made it a lot easier on me."

The final standings of the Girls 14U World Junior Tennis qualifying:

USA 3-0*
Canada 2-1*
Guatemala 1-2
Mexico 0-3

*earn place in 16-team world finals in August in the Czech Republic

The US boys also finished in first place in their competition, beating Canada 2-1.  Brandon Nakashima put the US up 1-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Alex-Antoine Marquis 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, but Luka Vukovic defeated Adam Neff 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, meaning the doubles match would decide the winner.  Govind Nanda and Neff never let Vukovic and Marquis into the match, taking it 6-1, 6-1, despite playing together for the first time in the tournament today.

"To be honest, I was a little concerned about it," said coach Eric Nunez. "We practiced doubles a good bit three days before the event, and that was my number one team that I wanted to put in, but that said, they weren't able to play together. But  I really trusted that they would come up with the goods, and they did."

The final standings of the Boys 14U World Junior Tennis qualifying:
1. USA 3-0*
2. Canada 2-1*
3. Mexico 1-2
3. Guatemala 0-3

*earn place in 16-team world finals in August in the Czech Republic

Paul, Fritz and Opelka supporting Ross and Riffice Saturday
The top spot in the Junior Davis Cup standings also came down to a doubles point, and again it was an emphatic win by the US team deciding it.  Sam Riffice and Vasil Kirkov defeated Canada's Denis Shapovalov and Benjamin Sigouin 6-3, 6-1.  After a competitive first set, with just one break of serve and Riffice coming back from 0-40 down serving for the set at 5-3, Riffice and Kirkov didn't look back, cruising in the second set.

"I challenged them to play their best," said coach Sylvain Guichard, "and they actually did. Those two guys, I've seen them play lots of doubles, but that was the best. We had a little plan, they were very energized, and I couldn't be prouder of them."

Canada had taken a 1-0 lead with Sigouin defeating Gianni Ross at No. 2 singles  7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2. But Riffice denied the Canadians any hope for a sweep with a comprehensive 6-0, 6-2 win over Shapovalov.

"Gianni didn't play great, but he fought really hard," said Guichard. "After Gianni's loss Sam responded, and he exceeded my expectations. It was really impressive."

The final standings of the Junior Davis Cup qualifying:
1. USA 3-0*
2. Canada 2-1*
3. Mexico 1-2
4. Aruba 0-3

*earn place in 16-team world finals in Madrid in September

The Junior Fed Cup match between the US and Canada also started with a marathon match at No. 2 singles. Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada saved match points in the second set, but Michaela Gordon came away with the victory 6-4, 5-7 7-5. Gordon served for the match at 5-2 and 5-4, but on her third attempt to serve out the match in the third set, more than three hours after it started, she succeeded.

"I was proud of Michaela," said coach Adam Peterson. "She navigated, fought some nerves at critical points and was aggressive when she really had to be in the third set."

CiCi Bellis then defeated Katherine Sebov 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles to give the US the victory, and finished the sweep with a 6-3, 6-4 win in doubles with Kayla Day over Sebov and Vanessa Wong.

Bellis may not be available to compete with the US team in Madrid in September, with her current WTA ranking of 173 giving her options for playing in Pro Circuit events, but Peterson was delighted she joined the team for this tournament.

"We're fortunate to have her on the team," Peterson said. "It seemed to fit her schedule for needing match play. She's limited by how many tournaments she can play, so any time she's ready to go in one of these, she's a star.  She gets the team atmosphere, she's a great teammate, and I'd take her into battle any time."

The final standings of the Junior Fed Cup qualifying:
1. USA 3-0*
2. Canada 2-1*
3. Mexico 1-2
4. Domincan Republic 0-3

*earn place in 16-team world finals in Madrid in September

For complete results of all matches played in the three-day event, see the ITF tournament website.

At the Tallahassee Challenger today, Frances Tiafoe's run came to an end in the final against No. 5 seed Facundo Arguello of Argentina. Trailing 4-0 in the third set, Tiafoe brought it back to 4-all, but was broken, and Arguello managed a hold for a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.  Dennis Novikov, playing with Julio Peralta of Chile, won the doubles title, with the unseeded team beating Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh of India, also unseeded, 6-2, 6-4.

For the second week in a row, the final of a women's $50,000 Pro Circuit event will feature two US women, with Katerina Stewart, the Dothan finalist last week, playing Allie Kiick.  Stewart defeated Florencia Molinero of Argentina 6-2, 6-3 and Kiick beat Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine 6-4, 6-0.  The third and final tournament in the USTA's Har-Tru Challenge for the French wild card is next week in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida.

Wil Spencer has reached the final of the $10,000 Futures in Vero Beach, Florida. The unseeded former Georgia Bulldog defeated No. 4 seed Maximilano Estevez of Argentina 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 and will face No. 3 seed Facundo Mena, also from Argentina, for the title Sunday. Mena beat No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-0 in today's semifinals.