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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pro Circuit Update; My Guest Appearance on No Challenges Remaining Podcast

My usual routine in following Pro Circuit tournaments gets disrupted during Kalamazoo, or any junior tournament I'm covering live, actually, so this post will be my attempt to catch up on the results from last week on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Only two tournaments were played last week in the US, with a $10,000 event for women in Fort Worth, Texas and a $15,000 Futures tournament for men in Decatur, Illinois.  Neither produced an American singles champion, but two college players, Vanderbilt rising senior Frances Altick and former Georgia Tech star Kevin King, reached the finals, and both doubles champions were Americans with college ties.

Both Altick and the eventual champion Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway were qualifiers, with the 22-year-old Eikeri winning three qualifying matches, and Altick, because she was unseeded, four.  In the heat of Texas in August, that's a tough route, with Eikeri helping herself by winning all her matches in straight sets, although she did not face a seed in the main draw.  Altick needed three sets in her final round qualifying match and was into a third set in the quarterfinals against No. 4 seed Zoe Hives of Australia when Hives retired. She defeated the No. 5, No. 4 and No. 6 seeds en route to the final.  Eikeri took the final by a 6-3, 6-1 score.

The 21-year-old Altick has gone 19-5 this summer, including qualifying, in USTA Pro Circuit events and will debut in the WTA rankings next week.

Two other current Division I players claimed the doubles title, with Cal's Maegan Manasse and Florida's Josie Kuhlman teaming for a 6-4, 6-4 win over incoming Duke freshman Jessica Ho and Giuliana Olmos, the Southern Cal rising senior. Both teams were unseeded.

In Decatur, No. 5 seed Kevin King fell short in the singles final, losing to top seed Luke Saville of Australia 6-4, 6-4, but he claimed the doubles title with Evan King, the former Michigan All-American. The No. 4 seeds breezed through the draw without dropping a set, beating No. 3 seeds Tom Jomby(Kentucky) and Gregoire Barrere of France 6-0, 6-2.

Jonathan Kelley of On The Rise was in Decatur prior to making his way to the Nats at the Zoo and asked many of the Americans competing there for their memories of Kalamazoo in this video production.

This week has three USTA Pro Circuit events on the schedule. The women are in Landisville, Pennsylvania for a $25,000 event, which features the return of Vicky Duval to competition after more than a year away after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Ben Rothenberg provides an update on Duval's recovery and plans for the rest of this summer for the New York Times.

Qualifying for the tournament was completed today, with Robin Anderson(UCLA), Aleksandra Mally(Louisville), Ema Burgic Bucko(Baylor) and teens Sophie Chang and Nicole Frenkel among those earning places in the main draw.

Duval, who received a wild card, is scheduled to play Chang in the first round on Wednesday.

The men have the $100,000 Challenger in Aptos that will decide the USTA's US Open wild card challenge, with Bjorn Fratangelo, who won his first round match, leading that race.  Taylor Fritz received a wild card and served for the match at 5-4 in the second set of his first round match against qualifier Mischa Zverev today, but lost 6-7(1), 7-5, 6-3. Jared Donaldson and Mitchell Krueger also received wild cards, with Donaldson winning his first round match and Krueger losing his. Live streaming of the tournament can be found here.

Three of the top seven seeds in Kalamazoo are in the main draw of the $15,000 Champaign, Illinois Futures tournament this week, and two of them won their matches today.  Alex Rybakov defeated Jared Hiltzik 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 and Tommy Paul, the No. 6 seed, beat wild card Ryan Shane, the NCAA champion from Virginia, 6-4, 6-3.  Reilly Opelka, who received a wild card, will play NCAA semifinalist Quentin Monaghan of Notre Dame, who came through qualifying, in a first round match Wednesday.

The recent success of American junior boys has not gone unnoticed by the tennis media, and with the field in this year's Kalamazoo one of the most accomplished ever, I was invited to join Courtney Nguyen (formerly of Sports Illustrated and now with the WTA) and Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times as a guest on their weekly podcast, No Challenges Remaining.  I was thrilled to be asked, as I listen to their thoughts on pro tennis every week, but I had no idea we would end up talking about junior and college tennis for more than an hour. The time flew by and I enjoyed answering their questions and getting their opinions on the issues surrounding the level of tennis that I cover.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download it via iTunes.

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