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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Leustian, Kostyuk Win Les Petits As Titles; Cheong Claims ITF Grade 4 Championship in New Zealand; Shapovalov Captures Weston Futures Title; Kinglsey Falls in Maui Final

Stefan Leustian completed his impressive run at the Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France today, defeating Borna Devald of Croatia 6-2, 6-1 in the final.  After a week of watching matches via the tournament's YouTube channel, I had to follow via the live scoring, with the finals  not streamed,due to a local TV tape-delayed broadcast.

Leustian, a 14-year-old Northern Californian, was the No. 8 seed, after he had reached the quarterfinals of the Nike International Teen Tennis tournament the previous week in Bolton. Devald, who was the top seed in Bolton, was the No. 4 seed this week in Tarbes. Ilya Snitnari, the No. 3 seed, lost in the first round while Devald defeated No. 2 seed Dawid Taczala of Poland in the semifinal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).  The top seed, Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic, also lost in a third set tiebreaker, to No. 6 seed and Bolton champion Harold Mayot of France in the quarterfinals, and Leustian beat Mayot 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinal. (Replays of Center Court matches, including the finals, can be viewed on YouTube).

Leustian lost the first six points of the match, losing his serve at love, but he got the break back immediately and never trailed after that. Devald, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title in 2014, was broken to end the first set, and he was not able to challenge Leustian's serve in the second set. After breaking for a 5-1 lead in the second set Leustian served out the championship with a love hold.

Leustian joins Henrik Wiersholm (2011) and Frances Tiafoe (2012) as recent American Les Petits As boys champions.

Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine won the girls title, her third major international 14s title in the past two months.  No. 3 seed Kostyuk, who won the Eddie Herr and the Junior Orange Bowl in December,  defeated No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1. Hindova had beaten top seed Daria Snigur of Ukraine in the quarterfinals, while No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan had eliminated No. 2 seed Daria Frayman of Russia, also in the quarterfinals.

Complete draws can be found at the Tennis Europe tournament page.

While Kostyuk was winning her title in France, Naomi Cheong, who lost to Kostyuk in the Junior Orange Bowl final, was collecting an ITF title in Christchurch New Zealand.  Cheong, who did not qualify for the USTA's 14U team for the two events in Europe, losing in the round robin portion of the selection tournament, won the ITF Grade 4 title by defeating another American, 17-year-old Taylor Bridges, 7-6(5), 6-4. The 13-year-old, who won two Grade 5 events prior to the Junior Orange Bowl, had reached the final of the previous week's Grade 4 tournament in New Zealand and is now 23-3 in ITF tournaments since she began playing them last September.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Canadian Denis Shapovalov was qualifying regularly for Futures tournaments, but the main draw wins that could move his ranking up enough to avoid qualifying were tough to come by.  That changed this week at the Weston Futures in Florida, with the 16-year-old left-hander winning his first title on the professional circuit as a qualifier.  Shapovalov defeated unseeded 22-year-old Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final.  Wild cards Hunter Reese, the 2014 NCAA doubles champion at Tennessee, and Junior Ore, the former Texas A&M standout, won the doubles title in Weston, beating No. 3 seeds Isak Arvidsson of Sweden and Kaichi Uchida of Japan 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-8.

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia won her second title of January's Florida clay court swing, with the No. 6 seed winning the championship at the $25,000 tournament in Sunrise.  Jabeur downed top seed Anna Tatishvili 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

At the $50,000 women's tournament in Maui, top seed Christina McHale managed to scrape past unseeded Raveena Kingsley 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.  The 17-year-old Kingsley, who had already beaten four WTA Top 200 players this week, led 4-1 in the final set, but McHale got the break back, broke at 4-all and saved two break points in the final game to pull out the victory. Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez, the No. 1 seeds, won the doubles title, beating unseeded Taylor Townsend and Jessica Pegula 6-2, 3-6, 10-6 in the final.

Unseeded Di Wu of China took the $50,000 Maui ATP Challenger title, beating top seed Kyle Edmund 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

I am in Midland, Michigan for two days to cover the women's $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, where qualifying began today.  Top qualifying seed Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic and No. 8 seed Jamie Loeb were two of four players who advanced by 6-0, 6-0 scores.  Seventeen-year-olds Ingrid Neel and Alexandra Sanford advanced and will play each other on Monday, with Michael Gordon, Sophie Chang, Isabelle Boulais of Canada and Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia the other teens to reach the second round of qualifying.

The men's ATP Challenger this week is the $100,000 tournament in Dallas, with the final round of qualifying set for Monday.  Frances Tiafoe has drawn top seed Sam Groth of Australia in the first round; Ernesto Escobedo, Jared Donaldson and Andrey Rublev of Russia are the other teenagers in the main draw.

The final round of qualifying is set for the $10,000 Futures in Palm Coast, Florida, with Oliver Crawford, Gianni Ross and Patrick Kypson the young teens who have won three matches over the weekend and need one more qualifying win to play in the main draw.