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Friday, January 15, 2016

My Annual Intriguing Questions Column; Eight Americans in Final Round of Australian Open Qualifying; Mmoh Reaches Long Beach Semis; Traralgon Grade 1 Underway

Because there's really no offseason in junior tennis, I don't do much looking back at the previous year (On The Rise Tennis has done recent posts on the second half of last year in American tennis), but for 11 years now I've written an Intriguing Questions post for the Tennis Recruiting Network. As always, the ITF, USTA and NCAA are featured, with their decisions affecting so much of the tennis competition in this country.

I mentioned in last night's post that five American men are in the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open, with three American women joining them. Nicole Gibbs, Julia Boserup and Sachia Vickery can earn places in the draw with wins tonight.  Gibbs plays Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, Boserup faces SEVASTOVA, Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia and Vickery takes on Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic. In the men's final round of qualifying, Bjorn Fratangelo plays Great Britain's Dan Evans, Tim Smyczek faces France's Kenny De Schepper, Taylor Fritz plays Mischa Zverev of Germany, Dennis Novikov meets Yuichi Sugita of Japan and Ryan Harrison plays Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan.

Live scoring can be found at the Australian Open website.

Rain in Florida prevented any matches from being played at the Plantation $10,000 Futures, and there is still a second round match that hasn't been completed, but the semifinals are set for the $25,000 Daytona Beach women's event and the $25,000 men's Long Beach Futures.

Grace Min, the No. 2 seed, defeated 16-year-old CiCi Bellis 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Bellis, seeded fifth, trailed 5-1 in the second set, came all the way back to 4-5 on serve, but was broken for the set.  Min was broken to start the third set, but she didn't drop her serve the rest of the way, while Bellis held only once.  Min will play No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who beat No. 7 seed Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 6-1, 6-2. Seventeen-year-old Olga Fridman, who is unseeded, will play No. 6 seed Asia Muhammad in the other semifinal.  Fridman beat Elitsa Kostova of Bulgari 6-1, 6-2, while Muhammad came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine.

In California, Michael Mmoh and Deiton Baughman had a lengthy quarterfinal encounter, with Mmoh defeating the No. 5 seed 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.  Mmoh, 18, got the last break of the third set in the third game for a 2-1 lead but Baughman, 19, had plenty of chances, six to be exact, to get the break back, but was unable to do it.  Mmoh fell behind 15-40 serving at 4-3 and at 5-4 in the final, but survived, despite 10 double faults in the match and only 52% first serves. He is now 4-0 against Baughman.

Mmoh will play No. 8 seed Dan Smethurst of Great Britain, who defeated Sebastian Fanselow of Germany 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.  The other semifinal will feature No. 3 seed Eric Quigley, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 7 seed Evan King, and recent USC No. 1 Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, who defeated No. 6 seed Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 6-4.

The main draw of the Grade 1 warmup in Australia, at Traralgon, is underway, with four Americans, Ulises Blanch, Zeke Clark, Maria Mateas and Helen Altick, competing.  Orange Bowl champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada is the top girls seed and ITF World No. 1 Mate Valkusz of Hungary is the top boys seed.  The Tennis Australia tournament website has in years past posted results during the day.