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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day Defeats Collins for Macon $50K Title; Charlottesville Challenger Kicks Off Men's USTA Australian Open Wild Card Race; Ayeni Wins Singles Title at ITF Grade 2 in Japan

Seventeen-year-old Kayla Day won her first title on the professional circuit today, and, while that is always an important occasion, there were other reasons that added to its significance.  Day's 6-1, 6-3 win over qualifier Danielle Collins in the championship match of the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Macon means she will most likely make the qualifying draw of the Australian Open, with her ranking moving to around 207, after ending 2015 at 988. She also takes the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge for the main draw wild card next January in Melbourne, although two more tournaments, in Scottsdale and Waco, give other Americans an opportunity to catch her.

Day, who dropped only one set in the tournament, was simply too solid for Collins today.  Collins was coming off a near-perfect performance in the semifinals against No. 3 seed and defending champion Rebecca Peterson and the odds were against her playing that well for a second straight day and she didn't.  The shots that were hitting the lines yesterday were an inch or two out today, and Day was not giving Collins any cheap points. Collins didn't serve particularly well, but Day's returns often neutralized a good first serve, and Day did a much better job of holding her court position near the baseline.

Collins went down early in the first set and was unable to recover, but she went up a break early in the second set, only to give it right back. Collins tried drop shots, moon balls, and anything else she could think of to disrupt Day, but Day adjusted each time.  A poor game at 4-2, when Day double faulted twice, gave Collins a chance to get back in the match, but she failed to convert a game point for 4-4 and was broken. Serving for the match, Day went up 30-0 but Collins won the next two points, one on a double fault. At 30-all, Day hit a good first serve that Collins couldn't get back in play to earn a match point, and she converted it with a forehand winner when Collins' weak return of another good first serve landed short.

Despite the loss, it was a great week for Collins, who won seven matches to reach her first $50,000 final and brought her ranking to just outside the WTA Top 300. Hopefully the two-time NCAA champion will receive a wild card or special exemption into the main draw in Scottsdale, where the qualifying began today.

The final is available for replay here.  For quotes from both finalists after the match, see this article from the Macon's The Telegraph.

In the doubles final prior to the singles championship, top seeds Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands and Taylor Townsend took the champions' trophy, defeating unseeded Sabrina Santamaria and Keri Wong 3-6, 6-2, 10-6.  It's Townsend's sixth doubles title of the year but the first without Asia Muhammad, who won her eighth doubles title of the year this week in Australia, partnering Arina Rodionova of Australia. Muhammad also made the singles final of the $50,000 tournament in Bendigo.

At the $25,000 Futures in Burlingame, California, top seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium defeated No. 2 seed Sam Barry of Ireland 6-1 6-2 for the title.

Stefan Kozlov, seeded fifth, lost in the final of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in China. The 18-year-old fell to top seed Rendy Lu of Taiwan 6-0, 6-1.

Main draw matches in the $50,000 ATP Charlottesville Challenger, the first tournament in the men's USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, begin Monday.  The final round of qualifying will kick off the day's action, with four current college players--Illinois' Aron Hiltzik, Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos and Virginia's Thai Kwiatkowski and JC Aragone--just one win from the main draw.

Frances Tiafoe and Jared Donaldson are the top two seeds; wild cards were given to Virginia graduate Ryan Shane, current Cavalier players Alexander Ritschard and Carl Soderlund, and Mackenzie McDonald. Shane plays Tiafoe and Ritschard drew Donaldson.

Seventeen-year-old Alafia Ayeni won his second career ITF title Sunday at the Grade 2 tournament in Japan.  The No. 9 seed, whose previous title came at a Grade 4 in the Dominican Republic last year, defeated No. 3 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan in the final, by the unlikely score of 6-7(8), 7-6(1), 7-6(6). No. 3 seed Mahak Jain of India won the girls title, defeating top seed Yuki Naito of Japan 0-6, 6-1, 6-2.