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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tiafoe and Escobedo in Lexington Challenger Final; Kenin Clinches US Open Wild Card; Kratzer, Sandgren Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Lahey Advances to ITF Grade 2 Final

Eighteen-year-old Frances Tiafoe and 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo advanced to Sunday's final of the $50,000 Lexington Challenger with three-set wins today, with both young Americans looking for their first Challenger title.  The unseeded Escobedo, who reached his first Challenger final in Brazil in April, defeated Andrew Whittington of Australia 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-1, while No. 7 seed Tiafoe survived a mid-match rain delay to beat Brian Baker 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  Tiafoe, who has played in four Challenger finals prior to this one, lost his most recent final earlier this month in Winnetka.

The winner of Sunday's championship match will take the lead in the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, with one more tournament to go, the $100,000 event in Aptos in two weeks.

While the men's US Open wild card is a long way from being decided, the women's belongs to 17-year-old Sonya Kenin, who clinched it with Jamie Loeb's 7-6(1), 6-1 semifinal loss today to Arina Rodionova of Australia at the $50,000 Lexington tournament.  Loeb needed to win the title to overtake Kenin, who won last week's $50,000 tournament in Sacramento.  Kenin will be making her second consecutive main draw appearance at the US Open, with the first via a wild card she received for winning last year's USTA 18s Nationals.  Kenin was entered in San Diego this year, but I suspect she will withdraw now.

Rodionova will play Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands in Sunday's singles final. No. 3 seeds Hiroko Kuwata of Japan and Lin Zhu of China won the doubles title, beating unseeded Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller 6-0, 7-5.

Speaking of the Nationals, the wild card tournament concluded today in Arlington, Texas, with Cal rising sophomore Olivia Hauger and North Carolina rising sophomore Anudeep Kodali earning their places in the San Diego and Kalamazoo main draws.

At the $25,000 Futures in Edwardsville, Illinois, No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren defeated No. 3 seed Evan King 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 to reach the final, where he will meet No. 8 seed Marc Polmans.  Polmans advanced with a 6-4, 6-2 win over fellow Australian and 2014 US Open boys champion Omar Jasika, the No. 4 seed.

At the $10,000 women's tournament in Austin, Texas, 17-year-old Ashley Kratzer reached her first Pro Circuit final, beating wild card Josie Kuhlman 6-2, 6-3.  The Californian, who hasn't played a junior tournament in years, will face top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, who defeated qualifier Ronit Yurovsky 6-1, 6-3.

The doubles title went to unseeded Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine) and Catherine Harrison(UCLA) who beat unseeded Madison Harrison(Mississippi State) and Stephanie Nauta(Virginia) 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

The most significant ITF junior tournament this week is the Grade 2 in Switzerland, where 16-year-old Ashley Lahey advanced to the final.  No. 4 seed Lahey, a Pepperdine recruit, will face top seed Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland for the championship.  Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's match, Lahey will enter the ITF Top 100 for the first time thanks to her excellent results on European clay this summer.