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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Upcoming Challengers to Decide USTA's Australian Open Wild Card; Zhao, Arconada Reach ITF Pro Circuit Quarterfinals

Up until 2014, the USTA distributed its reciprocal Australian Open wild card at invitational tournament in Atlanta, usually in December. Although that tournament was popular with local fans, the fact that only eight men and eight women were able to compete for the wild card was a drawback.  So last year the wild card was decided by point totals in Pro Circuit Challengers, as the reciprocal French Open wild card and one of the eight US Open wild cards have been decided since 2012.

The Challengers deciding this year's Australian Open wild card are all $50,000 events. For the men, the tournaments are the same three events as last year: Charlottesville, Knoxville and Champaign, the weeks of November 2, November 9 and November 16. The women will start in Macon next week, as they did last year, but the next two tournaments on the schedule are in new locations. Baylor's Hurd Tennis Center will host the tournament in Waco the week of November 2nd, and the Wild Card Challenge will conclude the following week, one week before the men, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

As has been the case throughout these Challenges, the best two results in the three tournaments will decide the winner.  Last year's winners Irina Falconi and Denis Kudla have moved their WTA and ATP rankings into the 60s now, so they will not be participating.

In the non-USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Las Vegas today, No. 6 seed Jared Donaldson outlasted qualifier Eric Quigley 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4) to reach the quarterfinals of the $50,000 event, where he'll play Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia, who took out No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek 7-6(5), 6-4. Top seed Austin Krajicek beat Marek Michalicka of the Czech Republic 7-5, 7-5 and the 2008 Kalamazoo 18s champion will play 2012 Kalamazoo 18s champion Dennis Novikov, the No. 8 seed in Friday's quarterfinals. Novikov defeated Dan Evans of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(2).

Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe, the three 17-year-old Americans, are in action on Thursday. There is live streaming of the event, but this week the excellent Mike Cation is not doing commentary, and I don't believe anyone else is stepping in from the matches I've streamed.

Usue Arconada has reached the quarterfinals of the $25,000+H ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Colombia with a win over No. 3 seed Andrea Gamiz of Venezuela. She defeated Gamiz, who reached the final of the $25,000 Rock Hill SC tournament last week, 6-2, 7-6(5). Arconada, currently 481 in the WTA rankings, plays unseeded Maria-Fernanda Alvarez-Teran of Bolivia next. No. 7 seed Lauren Albanese also has advanced to the quarterfinals.

At the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Saguenay, Canada, Stanford junior Carol Zhao, ranked No. 1 in the preseason collegiate rankings, has advanced to the quarterfinals, beating No. 7 seed and recent two-time USTA Pro Circuit champion Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands 1-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(4).  She will play unseeded Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland next.  Sixteen-year-old wild card Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Ellie Halbauer.

At the $25,000 women's tournament in Florence, only first round matches were played today, with qualifiers Kaitlyn McCarthy, Sophie Chang and Sonya Kenin moving into Thursday's second round, along with Robin Anderson and No. 3 seed Grace Min.

And because I suspect I will not have room to feature them in the upcoming aces, congratulations to Lloyd Glasspool (Texas '15), who won his first Pro Circuit singles title last week in Greece and took the doubles title, his third, as well; Tom Jomby (Kentucky '14) getting his third Futures singles title, in Israel; and Saketh Myeni (Alabama '10) claiming his second Challenger title, this one in Vietnam.