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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kozlov, Tiafoe Reach Tallahassee Challenger Quarterfinals; Ross, Kirkov Advance at Vero Beach Futures; Carter, Austin Win ACC, SEC POY Awards

Stefan Kozlov continued his outstanding play this month at the $50,000 Tallahassee Challenger, beating No. 2 seed Gerald Melzer of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 today to reach the quarterfinals of the $50,000 event. Kozlov, who reached the $100,000 Guadeloupe Challenger final at the beginning of the month, and won the $25,000 Futures in Little Rock the following week, took last week off, but was right back in qualifying for Tallahassee. The 18-year-old will break into the ATP Top 200 with this week's results, and has also been accepted into the French Open qualifying next month.  He will play fellow qualifier James McGee of Ireland in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Frances Tiafoe is no longer required to qualify for Challenger events, but he is defending finalist points from last year at Tallahassee, where he lost to Facundo Arguello of Argentina 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.  As luck would have it, he drew Arguello in the first round this year, getting his revenge with a 6-3, 6-3 win yesterday over the No. 6 seed. Today Tiafoe defeated Mitchell Krueger 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals, where he'll meet top seed Donald Young for the first time. An American finalist is certain in Tallahassee, with Ryan Harrison also advancing in the top half, to play the winner of tonight's match, currently in a rain delay, between Brian Baker and Noah Rubin. Kozlov is the sole American in the bottom half.

Two 17-year-olds have picked up their second ATP points at the $10,000 Vero Beach Futures, now sponsored by Mardy Fish's Children's Foundation.  Yesterday, lucky loser Vasil Kirkov advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over Alejandro Mendoza of Bolivia; Kirkov had previous collected his first point in January at the Weston Futures. Today, wild card Gianni Ross got his second point by beating former Illinois star Dennis Nevolo, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 6-3.  Ross's first ATP point came last November in the Pensacola Futures. You can read about Kirkov, Ross and other players with local ties to event at the Tennis Vero Beach website.  For more on Ross and his plans for the summer, see this recent article from the Chicago Tribune.

The first round is nearly complete at the women's $50,000 tournament in Charlottesville, Virginia, with no fewer than 11 US women into Thursday's second round.  Qualifier Raveena Kingsley and wild card Danielle Collins were on serve at 3-4 in the first set when rain interrupted the match.  On Tuesday, Kayla Day got her first win at the $50,000 level, beating former USC star Maria Sanchez 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, a match that was over three hours in duration. Day will play former UCLA Bruin Jennifer Brady next, who took out top seed Shelby Rogers 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

The year end conference awards are beginning to be released. The ACC women's awards were announced last week, with Hayley Carter of North Carolina the Player of the Year, Ayan Broomfield of Clemson the Freshman of the Year and Rodney Harmon of Georgia Tech the Coach of the Year.  The all-ACC teams can be found here.

The SEC announced its women's awards today, with Florida's Brooke Austin named Player of the Year, Alabama's Andie Daniell named Freshman of the Year and Florida's Roland Thornqvist named Coach of the Year. Austin was also SEC Player of the Year last year. The all-SEC teams can be found here.

The Ivy League's women's awards were also announced today. Columbia's  Kanika Vaidya is Player of the Year, Erica Oosterhout of Harvard is Rookie of the Year and Princeton's Laura Granville is Coach of the Year.  The all-Ivy teams can be found here.

The Ivy League does not have a conference tournament, so the Princeton women and Columbia men will advance to the NCAAs as regular season champions.

The Tulsa women and South Florida men won the American Athletic Conference tournaments last weekend.

The final conference tournaments, including those of the Big 12 and Big Ten, are this weekend.  Ohio State's men and women both won outright regular season championships last week, with the men going through the conference season without dropping a point in their 11 matches. I would have expected this to be Ohio State's first women's conference title, but that's not really the case, according to this article, as they won the regular season title back in 2000.

The Oklahoma State women won the regular season conference title in the Big 12, going undefeated, with TCU and Texas Tech sharing the men's regular season conference title after Tech beat TCU in the final match.

Check out the ITA Conference Central page for other conference tournament winners and links.