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:
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."