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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Teens Bellis, Kingsley and Sanford Reach Midland $100K Second Round, Tiafoe Advances to Dallas Quarterfinals; Women's DI Team Indoor Draws; Tiley to Return to Illinois?

I returned to Kalamazoo from Midland late last night (and a slushy, ugly drive it was) but was happy to have stayed for the match between No. 2 seed and defending champion Tatjana Maria of Germany and 16-year-old CiCi Bellis, which Bellis won 7-5, 6-3, posting her first Top 100 win since beating No. 32 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan last March in Miami.

I won't go into detail about the match itself (for that see Jonathan Kelley's account at On The Rise Tennis), but I did talk to Bellis briefly after the match, specifically to ask about the atmosphere at the Great Midland Tennis Center.  In the four times I've been there for the Dow Corning Tennis Classic, I've always been impressed by the crowds, and last night was no exception, despite some less than ideal weather conditions. I asked Bellis, who is playing Midland for the first time, if the atmosphere reminded her of the US Open, which features a similar commitment to tennis as entertainment, with changeover music, dramatic entrances, ace counters and post-match interviews. (Bellis disclosed she does have her driver's license and a Ferrari is her dream car.)

"What it really reminds me of is Les Petits As," said Bellis, who won the 14U event in Tarbes in 2013. "It looks exactly the same. When I first walked out, I was about to text one of my friends (Stefan Leustian, who won the boys title on Sunday) and tell him it was just like it. I felt like I'd played here a thousand times."

Bellis will play wild card Robin Anderson, who ended the run of 16-year-old qualifier Michaela Gordon with a 6-1, 6-3 victory today.

Gordon was the only qualifier not to advance to the second round. Lauren Albanese defeated Bernarda Pera 7-5, 7-6(3), NCAA champion Jamie Loeb took out Julia Boserup 6-3, 6-2 and 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford defeated Jennifer Brady 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.  Sanford has no WTA ranking at all, with today's match her first in the main draw of any Pro Circuit event, including at the $10,000 and $25,000 levels.

Sanford will play Alexa Glatch, who beat No. 7 seed Samantha Crawford 6-3, 6-2.  Albanese will take on No. 3 seed Irina Falconi and Loeb will face No. 5 seed Lauren Davis.

Seventeen-year-old Raveena Kingsley received entry via a special exemption after she reached the final of the $50,000 tournament in Maui last week, and the 24-hour trip to Midland proved worthwhile, as she defeated No. 4 seed Anna Tatishvili 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(4). Check Kelley's site later for more on today's action in Midland.

Draws, Thursday's order of play and a link to the live stream can be found at the tournament website.

Late last night, 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe defeated top seed and ATP No. 67 Sam Groth of Australia 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Dallas.  The Kalamazoo 18s champion did not face a break point in taking down one of the tour's top servers. This afternoon Tiafoe defeated qualifier Mikhail Vaks of Russia 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals where he will play No. 6 seed Tatsuma Ito of Japan. Tiafoe lost to Ito in the first round of US Open qualifying in 2014 by a 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3 score.

The ITA Women's Team Indoor begins Friday in Madison Wisconsin, and Jonathan Kelley will trek from Midland to Madison on Thursday in order to provide onsite coverage this weekend for Zootennis.com.  The lineups for each of the 16 participants are here. One of the questions that will be answered Friday night is whether the University of Virginia will be playing short-handed, as they did in a 4-3 loss to South Carolina, after five players on the team were suspended indefinitely last weekend.

Friday's first round schedule:
No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. LSU, 9 a.m. CT
No. 3 North Carolina vs. Alabama, 9 a.m. CT
No. 7 Miami (FL) vs. Michigan, 12 p.m. CT

No. 2 Georgia vs. Texas Tech, 12 p.m. CT 
No. 1 Vanderbilt vs. Duke, 3:30 p.m. CT
No. 8 Ohio State vs. Fresno State, 3:30 p.m. CT
No. 4 Cal vs. Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m. CT
No. 5 Texas A&M vs. Virginia, 6:30 p.m. CT

See the ITA's tournament page for more information.

The Chicago Tribune reported today that former University of Illinois men's tennis coach and current Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley is among seven candidates being interviewed for the position of Athletic Director at Illinois.  

The voice of the USTA Challenger live streaming, Mike Cation, who has longstanding ties to Tiley and the University's Athletic Department, disputed the Tribune's account, tweeting: For the record, Craig Tiley has NOT interviewed for the Illinois AD job. The Tribune report yesterday was inaccurate in that regard.

Cation also said he's been answering questions regarding this possibility for two weeks now, and that is certain to continue until Illinois announces its decision.

Rajeev Ram, who played for Tiley in 2003, the year they won their NCAA team title, was asked about it in Quito Ecuador, where he is competing in the ATP 250 event there this week.

"I think it would be great," Ram told the ATP representative in Quito. "He's been successful in pretty much any job he's done, starting with being the coach of Illinois and what he's done with Australian tennis and now as the tournament director of the Australian Open. It's leaps and bounds better than what it was before, and it's kind of the pioneer when it comes to grand slams making it better for us, as players.

"I have no doubt that if he would be the AD at Illinois, it would be great for the school, and as an alum, I would think that that's great.

Ram was asked what he's seen from Tiley in his current role that would translate to this prospective one.

"Innovative thinking," Ram responded. "Ways to make things better that maybe people don't always think of. The way that the site has grown, the way they've really, really done a good job taking care of the players. And also Australian tennis in general; the men's side I can speak for more so, has picked up in the last five, ten years and I think you're going to see it keep going forward. I don't think there's many negatives to what's happened over there. They were the leaders in the prize money increase we got from the grand slams and they stepped up and took the initiative; the list goes on quite a ways of little things. I just think there's little creative things that he's been able to do to make it better for us."


Can't listen either said...

Mike Cation obviously has never been an accomplished tennis player and it shows in his broadcasting. Wish someone that understands the game, the challenge of higher level tennis, and the players was doing the broadcasting. He is painful to listen to.

"MUTE" said...

Mike Cation was interviewed by The News-Gazette, in Jan 2015, and this is what he had to say when asked, "Are you an Athlete Too ?"…"That's a stretch. I played tennis in high school, was recruited by a few Division III schools, but had blown out my shoulder twice and didn't want to do it. I still play occasionally and try to run three times a week. I've done 15 half-marathons over the last eight years, but a hamstring injury has slowed me down of late." That Explains it, Mike…THX :((

Should be inside job said...

Agree with posters, he reminds me of the really bad high school coach that thinks middle or high school is the pinnacle of the sport, and if you make it there you can make it anywhere in tennis. Just not knowledgeable and his opinions of the players have no basis. They really can't find an x-tennis player that needs a job and has a good voice? Aren't there a lot of them out there?

Alex Ho said...

I would bet that 75% of posters on this site were never a good enough player to play on decent high school team or get recruited by D3 school.

CTF said...

Probably way more than 75%. But posters here are not being paid to to talk about tennis. Even a high school football game in a small town has a volunteer in the booth that knows the game. USTA could do better. When trying to attract more interest in the sport, everything matters. Many of the college broadcasts are phenomenal.

Like Mike said...

Colette, this type of trolling negative banter detracts from your site. Mike C. is doing a great job. His job is not easy. The travel demands are difficult and he is alone in the booth for eight to ten hours a day. He loves tennis and that comes through in his broadcasts. Since when does being successful in one's chosen sport determine the quality of a broadcaster? I don't remember Jim Nantz ever having a football career. Besides, it's not like Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe are Vin Scully and Al Michaels (both unsuccessful athletes). If I have to hear "eye dropper!" "line clipper!" or another one of Gilbert's lame attempts at a "clever" nickname I might just mute my TV. Who exactly do you expect the USTA Pro Circuit to hire? Ted Robinson? Dick Endberg? I'd much rather listen to Mike. He's know's the territory and for being alone in the booth without the resources of ESPN or Tennis Channel he's doing an outstanding job. Keep up the good work Mike.

Colette Lewis said...

I am also a big fan of Mike Cation. He has a tremendous work ethic and dedication to the sport, and I also feel his commentary is tactfu, professionall and objective.
All that said, there is hardly anything more personal than one's taste in sports commentary, as Like Mike demonstrates in his criticism of Gilbert and McEnroe. Some prefer more technical, been-there commentary, others like to be entertained, still others like their tennis commentary sparse and quiet. No one can please everyone, although I guess Darren Cahill is the tennis commentator I've heard the least negative feedback about.
At any rate, people are entitled to their opinions and having one and voicing it does not make one a troll, although civility and coherence are always welcome.

Mike said...

Hey all-
This is, indeed, Mike Cation. A friend sent me this link, so I figured I'd comment.
I appreciate the feedback, both negative and positive. What can I say, I do the best that I can each week.
For the negative posters, please feel free to get in touch with me, and tell me what you think I could do better. You're 100% correct, I haven't played at the highest level. I can't go back and correct that. I can tell you, however, that each week, I sit with coaches and players at our events, and do my best to learn and listen. Much of what I try to do and incorporate during the weeks is based off of what they tell me they're looking for from their players, and looking for in their games.

Being a broadcaster isn't always the most pleasant thing, mostly because as Colette says, personal tastes tend to vary greatly. On top of that, people tend to either love, or hate. I get that. But again, if you hate what I do, but also feel that there's something constructive that you could mention to me, I'd love to hear it. Honestly. Some things I might try to incorporate, obviously some others I wouldn't. But I am always, always trying to learn, improve, and I work hard to try and get better each broadcast.

If you want to reach out, I can be found at mikectennis on twitter, or mike.cation@gmail.com.


College Fan said...

Keep up the good work Mike

MK said...


You are doing a fantastic job in the booth. We all know it's a thankless job. Hope you got to eat great BBQ during the Dallas Challenger.

Brent said...

Very classy response, Mike. I appreciate what you do. Will be interesting to see if anyone has the courage to email you.