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Friday, February 5, 2016

January Aces; Anderson, Falconi End Qualifiers Runs in Midland; Top Seeds Breeze into Quarterfinals at ITA Women's Team Indoor, but Three Unseeded Teams Also Advance

My review of 15 of last month's top performances went up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. And for a review of the Winter National Champions, who are not included in my January Aces, check out this post.

The semifinals are set at the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, with three Americans reaching the final four.  Friday's quarterfinals were the end of the road for two qualifiers, with 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford and 20-year-old Jamie Loeb falling in three sets in their sixth match in six days.

Wild card Robin Anderson defeated Sanford 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4, with the match featuring high level offense, superb defense and many twists and turns.

Sanford trailed most of the first set and saved a set point at 5-3 in the first set with one of her many lethal forehand winners. The North Carolina recruit held, then broke again, with Anderson's backhand letting her down in that game. Sanford served out the set and when she broke Anderson to open the second set, Anderson could have gotten discouraged. She didn't. The 22-year-old from New Jersey stayed calm, got the break back for 3-3 and kept the pressure on Sanford's service games.

In the tiebreaker, Sanford took a 3-0 lead, but her unforced errors allowed Anderson to get back even and two unforced errors on the forehand side on the final two points of the tiebreaker were the difference.

The third set featured no breaks, although Anderson was having a much easier time holding. Sanford saved six break points, but her first serve just wasn't helping her, and she served only 52% in the match. Sanford's second serve was impressive--she hit 66 of them and made 63--but she was unable to be as aggressive off the first ball as she would have liked when defending her second serve so much.  At 4-all, having saved two break points, Sanford surrendered on the third, with a forehand long giving Anderson a chance to serve out the match.

Anderson was getting more than 80% of her first serves in during the final set (she finished at 71% for the match), but the final game, predictably, was her toughest test.  At 30-30, Sanford blasted a forehand winner to earn her first break point of the set. Anderson saved it, coming forward for a forehand volley winner. She hit a backhand volley winner to earn match point, and she converted it when Sanford netted a backhand.

At two hours and 52 minutes, the match was certainly a grind, but the level of shot-making by both women, and their mental toughness, made for some serious entertainment.

Anderson will play No. 3 seed Irina Falconi in the semifinals Saturday. In the featured night match, Falconi defeated Loeb 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.  Loeb came out blazing, making few errors and aiming for the lines, while Falconi was having difficulty getting into any rhythm and fell behind 3-1.  But the 25-year-old saved a break point to hold for 3-2, then broke Loeb, who double faulted twice in the game.  But Falconi still was struggling with unforced errors and at 4-4 she was broken. Loeb couldn't serve out the set the first time, but she broke Falconi again for a 6-5 lead and did finish it on her second chance.

Falconi went down 2-0 in the second set, but began to play better, while Loeb's level dropped. Loeb won only one of the next seven games, and that was a break of serve, not a hold.

Falconi began the third set with a break, but Loeb broke back immediately. Whether it was fatigue or just the improved play of Falconi, who was hanging in the rallies much longer than she had in the first half of the match, Loeb missed shots she was making in the first set, and Falconi took the final three games and the match.

In the top half of the draw, Naomi Broady defeated top seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3 and will play Shelby Rogers, a 6-1, 7-6(4) winner over Mayo Hibi of Japan.

In the final match of the night session, CiCi Bellis and Ingrid Neel defeated top seeds Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the doubles semifinals. They will play No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend on Saturday.

Draws and a link to the live streaming are available at the tournament website.

Jonathan Kelley is covering the ITA Women's National Team Indoor for Zootennis.com, and this is his report from the first day of action in Madison:

Top seeds sail through ITA Women's Team Indoor first round
by Jonathan Kelley
Madison, Wisconsin--

Things went according to form for the top seeds, but upsets were the rule of the day for the rest on day 1 of the 2016 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.

The top four seeds all had shut-outs. Defending ITA Indoor champion, #3 seed North Carolina opened the day's action with a 4-0 win over Alabama, without dropping more than 4 games in any of the 10 completed sets. #4 California blanked host Wisconsin in similarly dominant fashion (with the exception of line 1, where #66 Lauren Chypyha took the first set from #5 Maegan Manasse 7-5).

Things were a bit tighter for #2 seed Georgia against Texas Tech. After securing the doubles point, the Bulldogs got a quick win at 2 singles, with #22-ranked Caroline Brinson's 6-0 6-0 victory over Lynn Kiro. Georgia closed with two wins by sophomores: #12 Ellen Perez d. #77 Gabriela Talaba 6-1 6-2 at #1 and #109 Kennedy Shaffer d. Sabrina Federici 6-2 6-3 at #4. Significantly, Texas Tech did win two sets, both by freshmen in unfinished matches: Alex Valenstein was up 6-4 4-1 against Mariana Gould at #5 while Felicity Maltby led Laura Patterson 6-2 5-5 at #6.

Defending NCAA national champion Vanderbilt and top seed also pitched a shut-out, but that didn't tell the full story. After splitting breadstick matches at #1 doubles (won by Vanderbilt) and #3 doubles (won by Duke), it came down to #2, where Astra Sharma was serving down 4-5 0-40 -- four match points. Sharma, the hero of Vanderbilt's championship run last spring in Waco, kept her cool and her partner Ellie Yates cleaned up at the net, and they held. After two more holds of serve, Vanderbilt ran away with the tiebreaker, 7-1.

"I just really wanted to take it one point at a time, and set up my partner," said Sharma.  "We'd been winning most of those [close] games before, so I was strangely a bit confident that if we played the right ball we could get back into it."

The doubles point may have made the difference in the match. Sharma at #2 singles and Sydney Campbell at the top of the lineup each had solid wins, but Vandy's Georgina Sellyn and Duke's Ellyse Hamlin had split sets at #5, while senior Yates was locked in a battle against freshman Jessica Ho at #6. It all came down to lines #3 and #4. On 3, Vandy senior Frances Altick had saved 3 match points against Chalena Scholl but was down 3 more match points serving at 4-5 in the second set. But as she was gathering balls to serve, her teammate Courtney Colton closed out Samantha Harris on the adjacent court, 6-4 , 6-4. 

Vanderbilt head coach Geoff MacDonald said it was an "incredibly close match against a great Duke team. That's a 4-3 either way match played out. It broke our way with some of the really close results, but that's a fantastic team, and we feel like it's a really good win."

Asked to reflect on his team's first NCAA title, MacDonald said, "I felt privileged to be part of it. It was the longest peak experience of my life, and to do it with those kids was one of the highlights of my life."

Unseeded teams prevail

Three of the four lower seeds lost today in close matches.

The best finish of the day belonged to Louisiana State University, coached in tandem by Julia Sell and former Monica Seles and John Isner coach Mike Sell. The only 4-3 match of the day, LSU came back from 2-3 but was up a set in its last two matches. After #23 Joana Vale Costa finished off her match against #27 Katarina Adamovic 7-5 6-4, the match came down to #6 singles, where senior Ella Taylor beat Oklahoma State University's Carla Tur Mari 7-5 7-5.

Taylor, from Guernsey (the same island that Heather Watson hails from), didn't realize for most of the match that she was in clinching position. "I actually had it wrong, for a lot of that match," she said. "I thought that a few of my teammates that lost had won, so I was pretty calm the whole match, until obviously everybody was on my court so I kind of gathered it was down to me. But I've been in that situation before so I just tried to focus really hard, play my game, take the support from my team." She was especially pleased because her coaches had agreed to take the team to Texas de Brazil if they won their first round.

The most intense moments of the day came between two of the Cinderella teams.  Fresno State and #8 seed Ohio State are both making their ITA Team Indoor National Championship debuts this week, and their doubles point was an incredible introduction to the event.

After freshman sensation Francesca Di Lorenzo and partner Olivia Sneed won 6-4 at #3, attention shifted to the other two courts, where the Fresno State's British senior twins Anneka and Sophie Watts were match point up at #2 while simultaneously, Egyptian sisters Mayar and Rana Sherif Ahmed were match point down in a tiebreak at #1. The Wattses, who had serve for it at 5-4, won a deciding point at 6-5 to clinch the victory; while the Sherif Ahmeds, who had already saved 5 match points prior to the tiebreaker, went down 3-6 but rallied to 6-6. They then went down 2 more match points at 6-7 and 8-9 but held on for the emotional win.

Bulldog coach Ryan Stotland speculated that the win might have been too emotional. The Buckeyes stormed out of the gate in singles, dropping just 10 combined games in their singles matches at #1 (Di Lorenzo), #5 (Femy Angeles Paz), and #6 (Sneed), leaving them just one win short. That was taken care of at #3 by Anna Sanford, who beat the elder Sherif Ahmad, Rana, 7-6 6-1. (Sanford's sister Alexandra had a breakout week by qualifying for the $100,000 ITF tournament in Midland, Michigan. Unfortunately, I had to break the news to her that her sister lost her quarterfinal match to Robin Anderson a couple of hours beforehand.)

The University of Michigan beat #7 seed University of Miami 4-2. Senior Ronit Yurovsky clinched the match with an impressive 4-6 6-3 6-4 comeback win over #7 ranked Sinead Lohan. Yurovsky served for the match at 5-3 in the third, and had 40-30, but lost the first point and on deciding point double faulted. When asked what was going through her mind, the Pennsylvanian laughed and said, "I can't really say." She added that she was a little nervous toward the end, but credited assistant coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch with helping her refocus and break Lohan for the win.

In the final match of the day, the University of Virginia, which had suspended several players for last week's loss to South Carolina, overcame Texas A&M 4-1. It was an emotional win for UVA, which two weeks ago suspended five players for misconduct. On Monday, however, some of the players were reinstated and made the trip to Madison. One of those players, freshman Meghan Kelley, clinched the win with a 7-5 6-1 win over fellow freshman Domenica Gonzalez at #5 singles.

"I came out a little slow in the first set," said Kelley. She was on fire, I got down 4-1 quickly. Then [head coach] Mark [Guilbeau] helped me out a lot," in particular by targeting her opponent's backhand and encouraging her to serve bigger.  She added, "My teammates were cheering and really helped me out, and I kind of caught my stride. I came back, won the set 7-5, and hung in there, really stuck to my game plan and won 6-2 in the second set."

I spoke with Guilbeau after the match. I will post the interview on my blog, On the Rise (a tennis blog), on Saturday morning.

Complete box scores are below:
February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, Alabama 0
1. #6 Hayley Carter (NC) def. #63 Erin Routliffe (UA) 6-1, 6-3
2. #88 Whitney Kay (NC) vs. #41 Andie Daniell (UA) 6-2, 3-4, unfinished
3. Kate Vialle (NC) vs. Joanna Nena Savva (UA) 6-4, 3-2, unfinished
4. #68 Jessie Aney (NC) def. Danielle Spielmann (UA) 6-0, 6-3
5. Marika Akkerman (NC) vs. Natalia Maynetto (UA) 6-6, unfinished
6. #112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Aryn Greene (UA) 6-2, 6-2
1. #2 Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) def. #48 Erin Routliffe/Andie Daniell (UA) 6-2
2. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) def. Danielle Spielmann/Joanna Nena Savva (UA) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) vs. Bennett Dunn/Aryn Greene (UA) 5-3, unfinished
Match Notes:
Alabama 2-0; National ranking #13
North Carolina 7-0; National ranking #5
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (4,6,1)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
LSU 4, No. 6 seed Oklahoma State 3
1. #23 Joana Vale Costa (LSU) def. #27 Katarina Adamovic (OKST) 7-5, 6-4
2. #38 Vladica Babic (OKST) def. #52 Jessica Golovin (LSU) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. #46 Viktoriya Lushkova (OKST) def. #93 Skylar Kuykendall (LSU) 6-3, 6-4
4. Ryann Foster (LSU) def. #89 Kelsey Laurente (OKST) 6-1, 6-3
5. Abigail Owens (LSU) def. Katarina Stresnakova (OKST) 6-1, 7-6 (7-3)
6. Ella Taylor (LSU) def. Carla Tur Mari (OKST) 7-5, 7-5
1. #9 Kelsey Laurente/Maria Alvarez (OKST) vs. Joana Vale Costa/Ryann Foster (LSU) 4-4, unfinished
2. #23 Viktoriya Lushkova/Carla Tur Mari (OKST) def. Skylar Kuykendall/Abigail Owens (LSU) 6-1
3. Katarina Adamovic/Vladica Babic (OKST) def. Skylar Holloway/Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-3
Match Notes:
LSU 6-0; National ranking #18
Oklahoma State 6-1; National ranking #10
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (4,3,5,2,1,6)
2016 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship - First Round

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 2 seed Georgia 4, Texas Tech 0
1. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) def. #77 Gabriela Talaba (TT) 6-1, 6-2
2. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Lynn Kiro (TT) 6-0, 6-0
3. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) vs. Sarah Dvorak (TT) 6-2, 2-5, unfinished
4. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Sabrina Federici (TT) 6-2, 6-3
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) vs. Alex Valenstein (TT) 4-6, 1-4, unfinished
6. Laura Patterson (UGA) vs. Felicity Maltby (TT) 2-6, 5-5, unfinished
1. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) vs. Lynn Kiro/Gabriela Talaba (TT) 6-5, unfinished
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Sarah Dvorak/Alex Valenstein (TT) 6-3
3. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Sabrina Federici/Felicity Maltby (TT) 6-4
Match Notes:
Texas Tech 4-1; National ranking #17
Georgia 4-0; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (2,1,4)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
Michigan 4, No. 7 seed Miami 2
1. #17 Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) def. #7 Sinead Lohan (UM) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2. #19 Brienne Minor (MICH) def. #9 Stephanie Wagner (UM) 6-2, 6-4
3. #107 Kate Fahey (MICH) def. Clementina Riobueno (UM) 7-5, 6-3
4. #80 Wendy Zhang (UM) vs. Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) 4-6, 6-4, 1-3, unfinished
5. Clara Tanielian (UM) def. Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-4, 6-2
6. Silvia Fuentes (UM) def. Teona Velehorschi (MICH) 6-2, 6-1
1. Brienne Minor/Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) def. Stephanie Wagner/Wendy Zhang (UM) 6-1
2. Kate Fahey/Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) def. Sinead Lohan/Ana Madcur (UM) 6-2
3. Silvia Fuentes/Clementina Riobueno (UM) def. Alex Najarian/Sara Remynse (MICH) 6-0
Match Notes:
Michigan 3-1; National ranking #12
Miami 3-1; National ranking #11
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,5,2,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 1 seed Vanderbilt 4, Duke 0
1. #24 Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #28 Beatrice Capra (DU) 6-3, 6-1
2. #15 Astra Sharma (VANDY) def. #29 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 6-4, 6-2
3. #79 Chalena Scholl (DU) vs. #33 Frances Altick (VANDY) 6-3, 5-3, unfinished
4. Courtney Colton (VANDY) def. Samantha Harris (DU) 6-4, 6-4
5. #70 Ellyse Hamlin (DU) vs. Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 2-6, 6-4, 0-1, unfinished
6. Jessica Ho (DU) vs. Ellie Yates (VANDY) 4-6, 4-4, unfinished
1. #11 Courtney Colton/Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #26 Beatrice Capra/Ellyse Hamlin (DU) 6-1
2. Astra Sharma/Ellie Yates (VANDY) def. Samantha Harris/Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 7-6 (7-1)
3. Chalena Scholl/Alyssa Smith (DU) def. Frances Altick/Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 6-1
Match Notes:
Vanderbilt 3-0; National ranking #1
Duke 4-0; National ranking #14
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,1,4)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 8 seed Ohio State 4, Fresno State 2
1. Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Mayar Sherif Ahmed (FRST) 6-2, 6-1
2. Sophie Watts (FRST) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 6-3, 6-3
3. Anna Sanford (OSU) def. Rana Sherif Ahmed (FRST) 7-6 (7-2), 6-1
4. Galia Bykova (FRST) vs. Miho Kowase (OSU) 2-6, 4-5, unfinished
5. Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) def. Emma Wilson (FRST) 6-3, 6-0
6. Olivia Sneed (OSU) def. Anneka Watts (FRST) 6-2, 6-2
1. Mayar Sherif Ahmed/Rana Sherif Ahmed (FRST) def. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) 7-6 (11-9)
2. #58 Sophie Watts/Anneka Watts (FRST) def. Gabriella De Santis/Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) 7-5
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Sofya Maylsheva/Olivia Noble (FRST) 6-4
Match Notes:
Ohio State 5-0; National ranking #16
Fresno State 2-1; National ranking #30
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,6,1,2,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 4 seed California 4, Wisconsin 0
1. #66 Lauren Chypyha (WIS) vs. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 7-5, 1-1, unfinished
2. Ekaterina Stepanova (WIS) vs. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) 0-6, 5-4, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Kendall Kirsch (WIS) 6-3, 6-1
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Maria Avgerinos (WIS) 6-1, 6-1
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Sydney Rider (WIS) 6-1, 6-1
6. Lauren Burich (WIS) vs. Karla Popovic (CAL) 1-6, 1-4, unfinished
1. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) def. Lauren Chypyha/Kendall Kirsch (WIS) 6-2
2. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Sydney Rider/Ekaterina Stepanova (WIS) 6-3
3. Lauren Burich/Kelsey Grambeau (WIS) vs. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) 3-5, unfinished
Match Notes:
California 2-0; National ranking #6
Wisconsin 2-0
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (4,5,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
Virginia 4, No. 5 seed Texas A&M 1
1. #4 Danielle Collins (VA) vs. #53 Saska Gavrilovska (A&M) 1-6, 7-5, 1-0, unfinished
2. #8 Julia Elbaba (VA) def. #58 Rachel Pierson (A&M) 6-2, 6-4
3. #30 Stephanie Nauta (VA) def. #106 Rutuja Bhosale (A&M) 6-4, 6-1
4. Eva Paalma (A&M) def. Victoria Olivarez (VA) 6-3, 6-3
5. Meghan Kelley (VA) def. Domenica Gonzalez (A&M) 7-5, 6-2
6. Erica Susi (VA) vs. Ines Deheza (A&M) 7-6 (7-4), 1-3, unfinished
1. #19 Danielle Collins/Meghan Kelley (VA) def. Rachel Pierson/Eva Paalma (A&M) 6-3
2. Julia Elbaba/Stephanie Nauta (VA) def. Rutuja Bhosale/Anna Mamalat (A&M) 7-6 (7-5)
3. Saska Gavrilovska/Domenica Gonzalez (A&M) def. Victoria Olivarez/Taylor Wingo (VA) 6-4
Match Notes:
Texas A&M 3-1; National ranking #9
Virginia 3-1; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,4,3,5)


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