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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gibbs, Smyczek, Harrison and Fritz Qualify for Australian Open; Valkusz Retires at Traralgon Grade 1; Paul, Mmoh Reach Futures Finals; Bolton Draws

This is a quiet day in Melbourne, with qualifying completed yesterday and the main draw (top half) getting underway tomorrow.  Four of the eight Americans in the final round of qualifying advanced to the main draw, with only Nicole Gibbs getting there via a straight-set win.

Gibbs, the No. 2 seed in qualifying, trailed former ITF world junior No. 1 Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 3-0 in the second set, but won the last six games of the match to post a 6-3, 6-3 victory. She will play Klara Koukalova of the Czech Republic on opening day. (Reference to what day it is are tough with Australia being on the other side of the International Date Line, but play begins here in the US Sunday night, or Monday in Australia.)

Julia Boserup and Sachia Vickery both lost in three sets, with Boserup falling to No. 5 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 15 seed Vickery losing to No. 7 seed Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Tim Smyczek, the No. 3 seed in qualifying, was down a break to No. 29 Kenny De Schepper of France, but came through with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. He will play Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain on Tuesday.

Taylor Fritz's match with Mischa Zverev of Germany, streamed and shown on Tennis Channel, looked to be over when the 18-year-old fell behind 4-0 in the third set, but Fritz won the final six games of the match for a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory and a place in the main draw of a slam for the first time in his career.  Zverev had beaten Fritz in three sets in the first round of the Aptos Challenger last August. Fritz spoke to the ATP about the roller coaster final set for this article.  His first round opponent, on Tuesday, is Jack Sock, the 25th seed, who retired to Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the final of the ATP event in Auckland with an illness.

As dramatic as Fritz's late surge was, Ryan Harrison may have topped it, saving four match points in beating former Oklahoma State star Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan 6-7(8), 7-6(6), 6-3.  Harrison will play Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia Tuesday.

Bjorn Fratangelo(17) lost to Dan Evans 7-5, 4-6, 6-0 but got into the main draw as a lucky loser, the only lucky loser in either the men's or women's draws so far. Fratangelo will face qualifier Stephane Robert of France Tuesday.

Dennis Novikov(32), lost to No. 12 seed Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Monday's complete order of play, which includes wild card Noah Rubin among the 12 Americans in action, is available at the tournament website.

Ulises Blanch(9), Zeke Clark and Abi Altick won their opening round matches at the Traralgon Grade 1 in Australia Saturday, but the big news was the retirement of top seed and World No. 1 Mate Valkusz of Hungary.  Valkusz won the first set from Jack Mingjie Lin of Canada 7-5 and was up 1-0 in the second set when he retired, which sounds as if his Australian Open junior campaign may be affected.  No. 15 seed Maria Mateas, the fourth American in the tournament, lost to Greece's Eleni Christofi 6-4, 6-3.

Two American 18-year-olds will play two former Pac-12 stars in Futures finals on Sunday.

Michael Mmoh will go for his fourth career Futures title at the Long Beach $25,000 tournament against Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, who will be seeking his third Futures title. The unseeded Hanfmann, who played No. 1 the past two years at USC, defeated No. 3 seed Eric Quigley 6-2, 6-2, while Mmoh came back from a slow start to beat No. 8 seed Dan Smethurst of Great Britain 7-5, 6-4.

Top seeds David O'Hare of Ireland and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain won the doubles title. The former Memphis pair defeated No. 3 seeds Evan King and Raymond Sarmiento, champions last week in Los Angeles, 6-3, 7-6(4) for their eighth Futures title as a team.

At the $10,000 Futures in Plantation, both Tommy Paul, the top seed, and Adrien Puget of France, the No. 2 seed, won two matches today to reach the final.  Paul defeated Jaume Pla Malfieto of Spain 6-3, 6-3 in the rain-delayed quarterfinal and No. 7 seed Young Seok Kim of Korea 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals. Puget, the former UCLA Bruin, ended the run of Florida freshman Alfredo Perez, a qualifier, 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, and breezed past No. 6 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals.

In the doubles final, Denis Bejtuhlahi and Nikola Cacic of Serbia defeated Nick Chappell(TCU) and Raleigh Smith(Northwestern) 3-6, 6-3, 10-7 in a battle of unseeded teams.

Both Americans lost in the semifinals of the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Daytona Beach. No. 2 seed Grace Min led No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 5-2 in the final set, but Jabeur won the last five games for a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.  Unseeded 17-year-old Olga Fridman of Ukraine beat No. 6 seed Asia Muhammad 6-3, 6-2 to reach the final. In the doubles final, No. 4 seeds Natela Dzalamidze and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia defeated No. 3 seeds Sharon Fichman and Carol Zhao of Canada 6-4, 6-3 for the title.

The draws for the Nike International Teen Tennis 14U tournament in Bolton, England have been released, with two US boys and two US girls seeded.  Stefan Leustian is No. 6, Nicholas Garcia is No. 14, Alexa Noel is No. 5 and Gabby Price is No. 13.  Borna Devald of Croatia, the 2014 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion, is the boys top seed, with Himari Sato of Japan, the 2014 Eddie Herr 12s champion, the top girls seed. Draws can be found at the Tennis Europe tournament page.

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