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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Rubin, Tiafoe Face Off in Stockton Challenger Final; Shibahara and Di Lorenzo Meet for Women's All-American Title; Men's Top Seeds Out in Tulsa; Lyeons and Ewing Crowned Champions at WIchita Falls ITF

The all-US, all-21-and-under semifinals at the $100,000 Stockton, California Challenger produced straight-sets victories for Noah Rubin and Frances Tiafoe Saturday. The 20-year-old Rubin defeated 18-year-old Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-3 to advance to his first Challenger final since he won Charlottesville last November. The 18-year-old Tiafoe avenged his loss to 21-year-old Mackenzie McDonald last week in the Tiburon Challenger quarterfinals, beating the NCAA champion 7-6(4), 6-3 to reach his fifth Challenger final of the year.

Rubin and Tiafoe have not played as professionals, but they have played in juniors three times, with Rubin winning all three. The first was back in 2012, when Tiafoe was just 14 in the third round at the ITF Pan American Closed.  The other two were in 2014, at Wimbledon Juniors and Kalamazoo, in the third round and the quarterfinals respectively.  Rubin went on to win all three of those tournaments.

The final is set for the Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades, California with pre-qualifier Ena Shibahara of UCLA facing No. 3 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State.

Freshman Shibahara, who won six match just to reach the main draw, now has 10 wins in eight days. In today's semifinal, the US Open girls doubles champion defeated unseeded Astra Sharma of Vanderbilt 6-3, 6-1.  Di Lorenzo, a sophomore who is the reigning Indoor champion, took down top seed and 2016 NCAA finalist Hayley Carter of North Carolina 7-6(3), 6-2 to advance to the final.

Carter can still collect a title however, as she and Jessie Aney reached the doubles final.  The unseeded pair will face Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani and Apichaya Runglerdkriangkra in Sunday's championship match.

The Saint Francis Health System ITA Men's All-American Championships played their third round and quarterfinal matches today, with both No. 1 seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State and No. 2 seed and defending champion Thai Kwiatkowski of Virginia eliminated. Torpegaard lost in the quarterfinals to No. 6 seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest 6-2 6-4, while Kwiatkowski was defeated by 9-16 seed Florian Lakat of Cal 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the round of 16.

Sophomore Chrysochos, the only seed remaining, will play sophomore Alfredo Perez of Florida in the semifinals, after Perez defeated No. 3 seed Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.  The other semifinal will feature Ohio State's Hugo Di Feo against Texas freshman pre-qualifier Christian Sigsgaard, who has now won 11 matches in eight days after beating 9-16 seed Lakat  6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.  While it is not unusual for a pre-qualifier to reach the final in the Women's All-American, with that now having happened in three of the past five years, it is extremely rare in the Men's All-American. I can't remember it happening in the nine years I covered the event.  Buckeye junior Di Feo, who is 33 in the ITA preseason rankings, defeated No. 5 seed Skander Mansouri of Wake Forest in the round of 16 and No. 4 seed Tom Fawcett of Stanford 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, coming back from 3-0 down in the final set.

Two doubles teams that qualified will play in one men's semifinal with Purdue's Gergely Madarasz and Ricardo Medinilla taking on North Florida's Jack Findel-Hawkins and Lasse Muscheites. In the bottom half semifinal, No. 3 seeds Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim of Wake Forest will face No. 2 seeds Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat of Cal.

At the $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Mexico City, former University of Michigan star Emina Bektas has reached the final.  The No. 5 seed defeated No. 2 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in today's semifinal and will play No. 2 seed Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico in Sunday's final. Bektas has one title regardless of Sunday's outcome as she and former Boston College standout Jessica Wacnik won the doubles title.  The top seeds defeated Alexia Coutino Castillo and Rodriguez, the No. 4 seeds, 6-3, 6-4 in today's final. It is Bektas's fifth doubles title this year, all with different partners, with three of those titles coming in the past four weeks.

No. 1 and No. 2 will meet for the singles title at the $25,000 Redding, California Women's Pro Circuit event, with Sachia Vickery taking on Francoise Abanda. Vickery advanced to the final when qualifier Katie Boulter of Great Britain retired trailing 6-1, 1-0, while Abanda needed two and a half hours to get past Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(3).

In ITF Junior Circuit action, Jaycer Lyeons and Salma Ewing won the Grade 4 titles in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Ewing, the No. 10 seed, defeated No. 12 seed McCartney Kessler 6-3 6-2, the 16-year-old's first ITF singles title.  The unseeded Lyeons defeated No. 13 seed Christian Alshon 6-4, 6-4, giving the 15-year-old his first ITF singles title.

Alshon did get the better of Lyeons in doubles, with he and Boris Kozlov, seeded No. 6, taking out unseeded Lyeons and Christopher Muniz 6-1, 5-7, 10-5.

The girls doubles title went to unseeded Janice Shin and Elizabeth Tedford, who beat No. 6 seeds Taylor Bridges and Sydney Jones 6-2, 7-5 in the final.

Qualifying will be completed for the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa on Sunday, with the usual sparse qualifying draws there meaning that some players will need to win only one match to reach the main draw, which begins on Monday. I will be providing on-site coverage beginning then.