Branstine Defeats Potapova in Abierto Juvenil Grade A in Mexico; Champaign Challenger Underway; Qualifying Complete at Pensacola Futures
The first day of play at the ITA Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico started off with a bang when top seed and ITF world No. 1 Anastasia Potapova of Russia fell to Carson Branstine 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. The 16-year-old Branstine, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships in September, was one of the toughest opponents, by ITF ranking, that the 15-year-old Wimbledon girls champion could have drawn. Only two girls with rankings better than Branstine's 80 were not seeded. I did not watch the entire match, which is available on replay here, but I did view the last few games, and serving and returning were key to Branstine's win.
At 3-4 in the third set, Branstine (who is soon going to compete for Canada, although she is still showing as USA now) saved four break points, with Potapova not getting the ball in play on any of the four points. She had no chance on two, with Branstine hitting aces, but she made errors on two second serve returns on the other two, and Branstine went on to hold. Potapova did come back from 0-30 in the next game to take a 5-4 lead, but Branstine won a deuce game to make it 5-5. Potapova saved two break points, coming back from 15-40 down, but Branstine hit a huge forehand return winner to get a third break point and converted it when Potapova's backhand went long.
Serving for the match, Branstine netted a forehand to go down 15-30, but hit a good first serve to make it 30-30. Potapova, usually so reliable on returns, especially with her backhand, missed yet another second serve return, and Branstine made good on her first match point, with Potapova's forehand sailing long.
World No. 2 Kayla Day, who, like Potapova, is in the running for the junior year-end No. 1, also had a tough draw, with No. 82 Shelly Krolitzky of Israel. Day prevailed 7-6(4), 6-0 and is now in a position to pick up ground on Potapova. Neither have any points from last year's Abierto Juvenil in their results, except a semifinal showing in doubles for Day. However, Day has withdrawn from next week's Grade 1 in Yucatan, where she is defending champion, so she will need to make up those points this week if she is to keep the pressure on Potapova at the Orange Bowl.
Other US winners today were Elli Mandlik, Nicole Mossmer and No. 11 seed Ellie Douglas for the girls, and Sebastian Korda, Andrew Fenty and No. 12 seed Trent Bryde for the boys.
Replays of today's first round matches can be found here. The tournament website has links to draws, the order of play, live scoring and live streams.
I will be making my annual trip to Champaign for its $50,000 men's Challenger tomorrow, just for a day or two, but there will be lots in action in that time. The qualifying was completed today, with Great Britain's Daniel Cox plus Marcos Giron, Ryan Shane and Bradley Klahn--all three of whom are former NCAA singles champions--advancing to the main draw. (Giron actually won his final round qualifying match on Sunday). Klahn hadn't played in 21 months until this week, so I will definitely make a point to talk with him. He plays No. 5 seed Sam Groth of Australia tomorrow.
Those picking up first round wins today include wild cards Jared Hiltzik and Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks, with Eubanks defeating No. 7 seed Noah Rubin 7-6(5), 6-3. Rubin, who won the USTA's Australian Open wild card challenge last year, was officially eliminated from this year's competition with his loss. The current men's standings for the AO wild card race can be found here.
Also advancing to the second round are Tennys Sandgren, Mitchell Krueger (who defeated Ohio State's Mikael Torpegaard) and defending champion Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, the No. 2 seed.
Qualifying is also complete at the $10,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, with all eight qualifiers either future, current or former collegians.
Oliver Crawford(Florida) and Canada's Jack Mingjie Lin(Columbia) are 2017 recruits, Andrew Watson(Memphis), Peter Bertran(South Florida), Elijah Melendez(Georgia Tech), Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic(Mississippi State) are currently on rosters and Robert Galloway is a 2015 graduate of Wofford.
The top seed is Maxime Chazal of France, with Niceville Futures champion Gianni Mina of France the No. 2 seed. Wild cards went to Patrick Kypson and Gianni Ross, who play each other, Zandrix Acob and South African Warren Kuhn, of the University of West Florida.
I also neglected to mention, in my recap yesterday of last week's Pro Circuit events, that 2015 NCAA singles champion Jamie Loeb had reached the doubles final of the $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Tokyo. She and An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium lost to the Japanese team of Rika Fujiwara and 15-year-old Yuki Naito 6-4, 6-7(12), 10-8 in the final.