Teens Kecmanovic, Shapovalov in Futures Final; Fratangelo, Donaldson, Escobedo, Townsend in $50K Championship Matches; SEC, ACC Conference Finals Set; Ojai Finals
Last month in California, an all-teenager $25,000 Futures final saw 18-year-old Michael Mmoh defeat 17-year-old Casper Ruud for the title. Sunday in Florida, an even younger pair will compete for the championship, this at the $10,000 Futures in Orange Park, when 16-year-old Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia plays 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Canada.
Kecmanovic, who received entry via a junior exemption, defeated former Virginia Tech standout Patrick Daciek 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Futures final, while Shapovalov, the No. 5 seed, was even more impressive in a 51-minute 6-0, 6-2 drubbing of fellow left-hander Alexios Halebian. Shapovalov, who won his first two Futures titles--in January and two weeks ago--as a qualifier, will have the edge in experience and ranking, but Kecmanovic defeated Shapovalov last year in the third round of the ITF Grade A in Brazil by a 6-2, 6-3 score.
Four young Americans have reached the finals of three different $50,000 events this week. In the Savannah Challenger, rain on Friday required 22-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo to play two matches today, but he won both. In the quarterfinals against Frances Tiafoe, the No. 6 seed broke with Tiafoe serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set and went on to post a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory. In the semifinal against top seed Denis Kudla, Fratangelo needed just over an hour to earn his 6-2, 6-2 win. Nineteen-year-old Jared Donaldson, who had advanced to the semifinals before the rain came on Friday, advanced to his third career Challenger final with a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Donald Young. Fratangelo, who will be competing in his fourth Challenger final, has beaten Donaldson both times they've played at that level. The match obviously has major implications for the USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge, with the last tournament in the series next week in Tallahassee.
Twenty-year-old Taylor Townsend, who won the women's French Open wild card in 2014 by winning the second and third of the three events, will have the lead after the first one this year. Townsend, a qualifier, beat Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the final of the $50,000 tournament in Dothan, Alabama, where she'll meet No. 2 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden. Peterson defeated No. 4 seed Jessica Pegula 6-1, 7-6(2) in the other semifinal. Townsend will also play for the doubles title on Sunday. She and Asia Muhammad, who have won three titles together since February and are the top seeds, will face unseeded Keri Wong (Clemson) and Caitlin Whoriskey(Tennessee) in the final.
At the $50,000 +hospitality Challenger in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 19-year-old Ernesto Escobedo earned his first berth in a Challenger final. Escobedo defeated No. 7 seed Christian Lindell of Sweden 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in today's semifinal and will play No. 5 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile for the championship. Regardless of the outcome, Escobedo will break into the ATP Top 300 for the first time. He also received a special exemption into the Tallahassee Challenger, where he has drawn top seed Young.
The ACC and SEC conference finals are set for Sunday. In the SEC, it will be Georgia vs Florida in both the women's and men's championship matches. In the women's tournament, at LSU, No. 3 seed Georgia beat No. 2 seed Vanderbilt 4-0, while top seed Florida, playing without Belinda Woolcock at line 2, beat No. 4 seed Auburn 4-2. Florida beat Georgia 4-0 a week ago Friday in Athens to claim the regular season conference title.
Florida will be the underdogs against Georgia in the men's final in Columbia, South Carolina. Top seed Georgia beat No. 4 seed Mississippi State 4-1, while No. 2 seed Florida blanked No. 3 seed Texas A&M. Georgia beat Florida 5-2 in Athens earlier this month.
The SEC finals will be available on the SEC Network on ESPN via Watch ESPN.
Two of the ACC semifinals, one women's and one men's, were streamed today on ESPN 3, with North Carolina splitting the decisions in Cary, NC. The top-seeded women defeated No. 5 seed Virginia 4-1 in less than two hours, but the fourth-seeded men, up 3-0 on No. 1 Virginia, fell 4-3 in a match delayed nearly three hours by rain. North Carolina, who had beaten Virginia twice this season, was up 2-0 when the rain began, with the doubles point and Brayden Schnurr's 6-0, 6-4 win over Ryan Shane at line 1. After the rain delay, which pushed back the restart of the match to 6:30 p.m, Ronnie Schneider made it 3-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Collin Altamirano at line 2, but that was it for the Tar Heels, with Luca Corinteli at 6, Thai Kwiatkowski at 3, JC Aragone at 4 and Henrik Wiersholm at 5 winning in that order, with the last three matches decided in third sets.
Virginia will play No. 2 seed Wake Forest in the final Sunday, after Wake defeated No. 6 seed Virginia Tech 4-2 in the other semifinal, which also had the same rain delay.
The North Carolina women will play No. 2 seed Miami, who beat No. 3 seed Georgia Tech 4-2. The two teams played indoors at Chapel Hill back in February, with the Tar Heels earning a 4-3 victory.
The Pac-12 men's title will be decided tonight in Ojai, with top seed UCLA facing No. 3 seed Cal, who beat USC 4-1 on Friday.
The women do not play a team tournament, with their Ojai experience an individual event. Catherine Harrison of UCLA and Maegan Manasse of Cal will meet in the singles final on Sunday.
Three juniors have reached the finals of Ojai's Open Division, including women's defending champion Ena Shibahara. Shibahara, the No. 4 seed, will play No. 3 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada in Sunday morning's final. Shibahara advanced when Hanna Chang retired down 6-2, 1-0 in today's semifinal, while Sebov made the final when top seed Lauren Embree retired with an injury at 3-2 in the first set.
The men's final will feature two Southern Californians, top seed Deiton Baughman and No. 5 seed Brandon Holt. Baughman defeated No. 4 seed Haythem Abid, the former UCLA Bruin, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, while Holt beat No. 2 seed Clay Thompson, another former Bruin, 6-3, 6-3.
The Ventura County Star's Rhiannon Potkey always does a great job covering the event, so check out her coverage here.