Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, February 19, 2016

Alyvia Jones Profile; Pro Tennis in Florida; Kenin, Bellis, Loeb and Scholl in Surprise $25K Semifinals; Men's Division III Team Indoor Underway, Top Seeds Already Out

When I was Midland for the Dow Corning Classic two weeks ago, I spoke with 15-year-old blue chip Alyvia Jones about growing up there and her path to becoming one of the top juniors in her age group. That article appeared today on the Tennis Recruiting Network.

It was a busy day in Florida for me. It started in Plantation, where both the quarterfinals of this week's $10,000 men's Futures and the first round of qualifying for next week's $10,000 Futures were taking place at the Veltri Tennis Center.

Stefan Kozlov was the only American in the quarterfinals, after he had won a four hour and nine minute match on Thursday against Agustin Velotti of Argentina 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(5). Down 4-0 in the final set, Kozlov had four match points with Velotti serving at 4-5, but didn't convert, and had three more at 6-3 in the tiebreaker, the last of which he won.

Today against No. 3 seed Victor Hanescu who was once No. 26 in the ATP rankings, No. 5 seed Kozlov was the victim of a comeback, this one in the second set, losing to the 34-year-old Romanian 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4.  Hanescu was down 5-1 in the second set ,and the 18-year-old from nearby Pembroke Pines had a match point at 5-2, 40-30, but he double faulted. Two errors and another double fault gave Hanescu the game, and in his next opportunity to serve out the match, Kozlov was unable to stem the tide of unforced errors that had started to swamp his game.

Hanescu played well, but not spectacularly, during this stretch, demonstrating the patience and composure of a veteran professional. Kozlov, who did not appear tired from his previous match, still had a chance to get out of the match in two sets, and led 2-1 in the tiebreaker, but one error after another gave Hanescu the final six points of the game, and the set.

I was unable to stay for the third set, but Hanescu won the only break point Kozlov gave him, while not facing one himself.

Hanescu will play No. 6 seed Facundo Mena of Argentina in one semifinal Saturday. The other semifinal will feature unseeded Kaichi Uchida of Japan against No. 7 seed Juan Carlos Saez of Chile.

I missed the final set of the Kozlov - Hanescu match due to an appointment I had in Delray Beach with USTA General Manager of Player Development Martin Blackman. I was able to interview Blackman for an article I'll be writing for Tennis Recruiting Network in the next few weeks between tennis matches.  I don't often watch many ATP or WTA level matches live, so it was a treat to catch the final set of Rajeev Ram's 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Benjamin Becker. Ram made every first serve, six out of six, in the final game, an impressive way to finish a match at any level.  He will play No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in Saturday's semifinal.  The next match featured two players I knew and followed from their junior days, with Sam Querrey defeating Tim Smyczek 6-7(1), 7-6(4), 6-4.  Querrey will play Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the other semifinal, after del Potro finished Friday's night session with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Jeremy Chardy of France. Del Potro is returning to competitive play this week after nearly a year's absence due to numerous wrist surgeries.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Surprise, Arizona, the semifinalists are all Americans: unseeded Sonya Kenin, Jamie Loeb, Chiara Scholl and No. 8 seed CiCi Bellis.

Kenin defeated qualifier Kayla Day 6-2, 6-3 for her second quarterfinal win over the 16-year-old Californian in a $25,000 Pro Circuit event this year.  Kenin will play Loeb, who beat Canadian qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak, once No. 21 in the WTA rankings, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.  Scholl, a qualifier, defeated Basak Eraydin of Turkey 0-6, 7-5, 6-0 to advance against Bellis, who won over Danielle Lao, who retired trailing 6-0, 1-0.

In college tennis, the Division III Men's Team Indoor is underway at Case Western, and the first day produced two major surprises with top seed Washington University St. Louis losing to the eighth-seeded hosts 6-3 and No. 2 seed Pomona-Pitzer  knocked out in the opening round 5-4 by Carnegie Mellon, the No. 7 seed.  For much more on today's upsets, see the Division 3 Tennis Blog.