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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Eight Americans Reach Third Round at Grade A Porto Alegre; Tiafoe Beats Becker in Irving Challenger; Miami Women Top No. 2 Ohio State; Kruger Sisters Find Solace in Tennis

Thursday's third round of the ITF Grade A in Porto Alegre Brazil will have three US boys and five US girls in competition for a quarterfinal spot.  Three of the US girls are seeded: No. 1 seed and defending champion Usue Arconada, No. 3 seed Amanda Anisimova and No. 5 seed Maria Mateas.  Unseeded 14-year-olds Natasha Subhash and Caty McNally also reached the third round, with Subhash defeating No. 4 seed Mai Hontama of Japan 7-6(4), 6-2 for her third win at the Grade A level and McNally beating No. 7 seed Maria Carle of Argentina 6-4, 7-6(6) for her second Grade A victory.

US girls went 5-3 in today's second round, but the boys had much less success, going 3-6.  Unseeded John McNally beat No. 4 seed Toru Horie of Japan and unseeded Vasil Kirkov advanced to his first Grade A third round with a win over No. 6 seed Manuel Pena Lopez of Argentina. Banana Bowl champion Ulises Blanch, the No. 2 seed, also advanced to the third round. The other two US boys seeds, No. 12 seed Zeke Clark and No. 7 seed Nathan Ponwith lost today.

At the $125,000 +hospitality ATP Challenger in Irving Texas, Frances Tiafoe defeated Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 6-4 to advance to a second round meeting with lucky loser Giovanni Lapentti of Ecuador. Top seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 38 by the ATP, withdrew with illness, so New Zealand's Michael Venus got a place in the draw and won his first round match over Marco Cecchinato of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.  The former LSU star will play Jared Donaldson on Thursday, with Donaldson the only other American, aside from Tiafoe, in the draw.  TCU sophomore Cameron Norrie of New Zealand, who qualified, lost his match to No. 2 seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 6-3.

In college matches of note today, the 12th-ranked Miami women hosted No. 2 Ohio State, lost the doubles point, but came back to record a 4-2 win.  The Hurricanes got wins from Stephanie Wagner at No. 1 (over Francesca Di Lorenzo), Sinead Lohan at No. 2, Silvia Fuentes at No. 4 and Ana Madcur at No. 6, with both Wagner and Madcur coming from a set down.

The Southern Cal women, who started the year at No. 2 and fell out of the rankings altogether by the end of February, are currently ranked 48, but that will go up next week after they defeated No. 16 Oklahoma State today 5-2. USC took the doubles point and got three wins from the bottom of their order, with Rianna Valdes at 6, Jessica Failla at 5 and Gabby Smith at 4 earning victories.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim has written an article about the Kruger sisters, two young South African players who are currently training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. I had seen Zoe and Isabella at the Eddie Herr last year, working out with Eugenie Bouchard's coach Thomas Hogstedt, but I had no idea that their late father was a famous rugby player ( as seen in the movie Invictus). A few years after Ruben Kruger died of a brain tumor in 2010, the girls were discovered by Hogstedt and early in 2014, they moved to IMG to pursue tennis seriously.  Zoe, at 13, has just begun to play ITF tournaments--she is 2-2 this year in a South American Grade 1 and Grade 2--while Isabella, 10, has yet to win a match in four tries in the 12s division of the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl the past two years.