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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fritz, Mmoh and Tiafoe Win Opening Round Matches at Las Vegas Challenger; Kenin Qualifies at Florence $25K; Arango, Arconada Win Openers in Colombia $25K

Those who believed this year's Kalamazoo 18s field was among the best ever received additional validation today at the $50,000 Las Vegas Challenger, with 17-year-olds Taylor Fritz (Kalamazoo semifinalist), Michael Mmoh(Kalamazoo quarterfinalist) and Frances Tiafoe (Kalamazoo champion) all posting first round wins.

Mmoh, who won the $15,000 Houston Futures last week, received a wild card and maximized his opportunity, beating No. 3 seed Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-3 for his first Challenger-level win.  Harrison, at 104, is the highest-ranked player Mmoh has beaten. Mmoh will face 32-year-old Giovanni Lapentti of Ecuador in the second round. Interesting that Mmoh was able to retain his No. 2 ITF Junior ranking even though he didn't defend his two titles at last week's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa.

The ITF's No. 1 junior, Taylor Fritz, continued his impressive run, hitting 13 aces in his 6-3, 6-2 win over Nicolas Barrientos of Colombia. Fritz, who now has a 17-match winning streak, has gotten a special exemption into both last week's Fairfield Challenger and this week's Challenger in Las Vegas.  He will play unseeded Grega Zemlja of Slovenia, who prevented a third straight Dustin Brown-Fritz match by defeating the fourth-seeded German 7-5(5), 1-6, 6-3.

Fritz spoke with the ATP's Josh Meiseles about the change in his schedule now that he's winning Challengers and what it means to be among such a successful group of young Americans.

Tiafoe, in the draw on his own ranking, had the most difficulty advancing to the second round, defeating qualifier Dennis Nevolo, the former Illinois All-American, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(6). He will next play No. 5 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia, who beat Tiafoe in the first round of the Tiburon Challenger late last month.

The top seed, former Texas A&M All-American Austin Krajicek, advanced to the second round with a win today, as did qualifier Eric Quigley, the 2012 NCAA singles finalist from Kentucky.  Jared Donaldson(6), Dennis Novikov(8) and Tim Smyczek(2) won their opening round matches yesterday.

The lone USTA Pro Circuit event this week (Las Vegas is not one) is the women's $25,000 event Florence, South Carolina, where qualifying was completed today.   Sonya Kenin, the USTA National 18s champion and US Open girls finalist, was initially listed as receiving a wild card into the main draw, but for whatever reason, she played qualifying instead and won her three matches.  The final one today was against fellow 16-year-old Michaela Gordon, and for the third time in four meetings, Kenin prevailed, beating Gordon 6-4, 6-3. Other Americans qualifying are Chiara Scholl, Virginia recruit Sophie Chang and Duke freshman Kaitlyn McCarthy.  Kenin will play Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway on Wednesday. Julia Glushko of Israel is the top seed.

Although the prize money is twice as much, the ITF Women's Circuit event in Saguenay, Canada had a similar ranking cutoff to that of Florence.  Only four qualifiers make the main draw however, with Fanni Stollar of Hungary, Mari Osaka of Japan, Ashley Weinhold and Nadja Gilchrist(University of Georgia0 advancing.  Stollar, Weinhold and Gilchrist all won their first round matches, as did Stanford junior Carol Zhao of Canada. The 16-year-old Stollar was drawn to face top seed Romina Oprandi of Switzerland, but Oprandi withdrew, so Stollar played lucky loser Karman Thandi of India, who is just 17, winning in three sets. Gilchrist defeated No. 8 seed Kristie Ahn and Weinhold beat Marie Benoit of Belgium.

No. 2 seed Jessica Pegula and No. 5 seed Samantha Crawford also advanced to the second round, with Pegula beating Antonia Lottner of Germany 6-4, 6-4 and Crawford defeating Melanie Oudin 6-1, 6-4.

In first round matches on Wednesday, 18-year-old Ellie Halbauer will face 16-year-old Canadian wild card Charlotte Robillard-Millette. No. 6 seed Maria Sanchez(Southern Cal) is also on Wednesday's schedule.

At the $25,000 + hospitality ITF Women's Circuit event in Colombia, which didn't even require a WTA ranking to get into the qualifying, Usue Arconada advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Alexandra Riley. She will play No. 3 seed Andrea Gamiz of Venezuela, who reached the final of last week's $25,000 tournament in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  Lauren Albanese (7) and former Alabama All-American Alexa Guarachi (6), now playing for Chile, also advanced to the second round.  Fourteen-year-old wild card Emiliana Arango of Colombia picked up her first win on the ITF Women's Pro Circuit, beating qualifier Flavia Guimaraes Bueno of Brazil 6-4, 6-1.   Nineteen-year-old Barbara Haas of Austria is the top seed.