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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Leustian, Kostyuk Win Les Petits As Titles; Cheong Claims ITF Grade 4 Championship in New Zealand; Shapovalov Captures Weston Futures Title; Kinglsey Falls in Maui Final


Stefan Leustian completed his impressive run at the Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France today, defeating Borna Devald of Croatia 6-2, 6-1 in the final.  After a week of watching matches via the tournament's YouTube channel, I had to follow via the live scoring, with the finals  not streamed,due to a local TV tape-delayed broadcast.

Leustian, a 14-year-old Northern Californian, was the No. 8 seed, after he had reached the quarterfinals of the Nike International Teen Tennis tournament the previous week in Bolton. Devald, who was the top seed in Bolton, was the No. 4 seed this week in Tarbes. Ilya Snitnari, the No. 3 seed, lost in the first round while Devald defeated No. 2 seed Dawid Taczala of Poland in the semifinal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).  The top seed, Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic, also lost in a third set tiebreaker, to No. 6 seed and Bolton champion Harold Mayot of France in the quarterfinals, and Leustian beat Mayot 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinal. (Replays of Center Court matches, including the finals, can be viewed on YouTube).

Leustian lost the first six points of the match, losing his serve at love, but he got the break back immediately and never trailed after that. Devald, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title in 2014, was broken to end the first set, and he was not able to challenge Leustian's serve in the second set. After breaking for a 5-1 lead in the second set Leustian served out the championship with a love hold.

Leustian joins Henrik Wiersholm (2011) and Frances Tiafoe (2012) as recent American Les Petits As boys champions.

Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine won the girls title, her third major international 14s title in the past two months.  No. 3 seed Kostyuk, who won the Eddie Herr and the Junior Orange Bowl in December,  defeated No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1. Hindova had beaten top seed Daria Snigur of Ukraine in the quarterfinals, while No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan had eliminated No. 2 seed Daria Frayman of Russia, also in the quarterfinals.

Complete draws can be found at the Tennis Europe tournament page.

While Kostyuk was winning her title in France, Naomi Cheong, who lost to Kostyuk in the Junior Orange Bowl final, was collecting an ITF title in Christchurch New Zealand.  Cheong, who did not qualify for the USTA's 14U team for the two events in Europe, losing in the round robin portion of the selection tournament, won the ITF Grade 4 title by defeating another American, 17-year-old Taylor Bridges, 7-6(5), 6-4. The 13-year-old, who won two Grade 5 events prior to the Junior Orange Bowl, had reached the final of the previous week's Grade 4 tournament in New Zealand and is now 23-3 in ITF tournaments since she began playing them last September.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Canadian Denis Shapovalov was qualifying regularly for Futures tournaments, but the main draw wins that could move his ranking up enough to avoid qualifying were tough to come by.  That changed this week at the Weston Futures in Florida, with the 16-year-old left-hander winning his first title on the professional circuit as a qualifier.  Shapovalov defeated unseeded 22-year-old Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final.  Wild cards Hunter Reese, the 2014 NCAA doubles champion at Tennessee, and Junior Ore, the former Texas A&M standout, won the doubles title in Weston, beating No. 3 seeds Isak Arvidsson of Sweden and Kaichi Uchida of Japan 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-8.

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia won her second title of January's Florida clay court swing, with the No. 6 seed winning the championship at the $25,000 tournament in Sunrise.  Jabeur downed top seed Anna Tatishvili 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

At the $50,000 women's tournament in Maui, top seed Christina McHale managed to scrape past unseeded Raveena Kingsley 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.  The 17-year-old Kingsley, who had already beaten four WTA Top 200 players this week, led 4-1 in the final set, but McHale got the break back, broke at 4-all and saved two break points in the final game to pull out the victory. Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez, the No. 1 seeds, won the doubles title, beating unseeded Taylor Townsend and Jessica Pegula 6-2, 3-6, 10-6 in the final.

Unseeded Di Wu of China took the $50,000 Maui ATP Challenger title, beating top seed Kyle Edmund 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

I am in Midland, Michigan for two days to cover the women's $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, where qualifying began today.  Top qualifying seed Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic and No. 8 seed Jamie Loeb were two of four players who advanced by 6-0, 6-0 scores.  Seventeen-year-olds Ingrid Neel and Alexandra Sanford advanced and will play each other on Monday, with Michael Gordon, Sophie Chang, Isabelle Boulais of Canada and Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia the other teens to reach the second round of qualifying.

The men's ATP Challenger this week is the $100,000 tournament in Dallas, with the final round of qualifying set for Monday.  Frances Tiafoe has drawn top seed Sam Groth of Australia in the first round; Ernesto Escobedo, Jared Donaldson and Andrey Rublev of Russia are the other teenagers in the main draw.

The final round of qualifying is set for the $10,000 Futures in Palm Coast, Florida, with Oliver Crawford, Gianni Ross and Patrick Kypson the young teens who have won three matches over the weekend and need one more qualifying win to play in the main draw.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lapko, Anderson Win Australian Open Junior Titles; Leustian Reaches Les Petits As Final; Kingsley Faces McHale in Maui $50K Final; Midland Qualifying Draw Out

Vera Lapko of Belarus denied Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia a second straight Australian Open girls title Saturday in Melbourne, claiming a 6-3, 6-4 victory, while unseeded wild card Oliver Anderson continued the Australian boys domination of the event with his 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win over No. 7 seed Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan.


The girls final was the rubber match between the two friends and occasional doubles partners, who had split their two contests in 2015. The fifth-seeded Lapko, playing in her first junior slam singles final, showed no sign of nerves and was hitting her groundstrokes big and deep, keeping No. 2 seed Mihalikova defending.  Leading 4-3 in the first, Lapko got a break and it was then the 17-year-old began to show her first sign of nerves. Up 40-0, she made three errors but her served bailed her out, helping her convert her fifth set point.

Mihalikova went up 4-1 but Lapko did not seemed fazed by the deficit, which was just one break. She kept going for the lines and did not lose confidence or focus after the occasional miss. Mihalikova had four game points for a 5-3 lead in the second, but Lapko broke and held easily. Mihalikova's serve, usually one of her strengths, went off in the next game, with two consecutive double faults putting her in difficulty and she was broken.

Lapko didn't start well in the final game, and had to save a break point, but she got to match point, only to net a backhand. Match point No. 2 again produced an error, but at deuce she hit a slice forehand cross court winner that demonstrated instincts and touch her powerful game usually doesn't require. She converted match point No. 3 on Mihalikova's forehand error joining Victoria Azarenka as the only girls Australian Open champions from Belarus.

Lapko, who won the Grade 1 in Traralgon the previous week, is now 12-0 in 2016, and will join Azarenka in Quebec for the Fed Cup tie with Canada next weekend.

A video interview with Lapko is here and a transcribed interview is here.

Mihalikova did leave Melbourne with a title however, taking the girls doubles championship with Anna Kalinskaya of Russia. The No. 2 seeds defeated Dayana Yastremska and Anastasia Zarytska of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in the final.

                                           Champion Oliver Anderson

The boys final was as uneven as the scoreline would indicate.  Karimov looked the more nervous of the first-time junior slam finalists, missing often, while Anderson kept the rallies going long enough to induce 13 unforced errors. He didn't face a break point in the opening set, but looked like a completely different player to start the second. Anderson was broken in the second game and lost 11 straight points during one stretch, making error after error while Karimov found his rhythm and started eliminating his mistakes.

Treatment on his thigh during the set break seemed to help Anderson and he returned to his first set form after saving a break point in the opening game.  Anderson broke in the second game and again in the sixth, with Karimov also back to the erratic play he had shown in the first set.

Anderson is the fifth Australian boy in the past ten years to take the title, joining Brydan Klein(2007), Bernard Tomic(2008), Luke Saville(2012) and Nick Kyrgios(2013) on the long list of Australian boys champions.

That success has been even more notable in doubles, where at least one Australian boy has been a champion four straight years.  This year, the all-Australian team of Alex De Minaur and Blake Ellis, who were unseeded, saved a match point to claim the title 3-6, 7-5, 12-10 over No. 8 seeds Lukas Klein of Slovakia and Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic.

A transcript of Anderson's interview is here, with the video interview here.

The ITF website article on the finals is here.

The finals of Les Petits As are set for Sunday, with American Stefan Leustian, the No. 8 seed, reaching the boys final against Croatia's Borna Devald, the No. 4 seed.  Leustian could have been discouraged after getting broken in the third set of his semifinal with No. 6 seed Harold Mayot of France.  Mayot had a huge crowd supporting him, and he had beaten Leustian last week in the quarterfinals of the Nike Junior International Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton.  But trailing 2-1 in the third set, Leustian summoned his best tennis, winning the final five games to post a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory. Mayot, who had taken out top seed Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic in a third set tiebreaker in the quarterfinals Friday, looked to be fatigued as the match entered the final set.

Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine will try to duplicate the 2014-5 feat of Anastasia Potapova of Russia who in the space of two months won the Eddie Herr 14s, the Junior Orange Bowl 14s and Les Petits As.  The third-seeded Kostyuk breezed past No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan 6-3, 6-2 and will face No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic in Sunday's final. Hindova beat unseeded Ariana Arseneault of Canada 3-6 6-3, 7-5 in the other girls semifinal.

In the doubles finals, unseeded Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Rottoli of Italy beat top seeds Viktor Jovic of Serbia and Dawid Taczala of Poland 6-2, 6-3 to take the boys championship.  Top seeds Kostyuk and Kamilla Bartone of Latvia won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Holly Fischer and Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-2, 6-1.

The finals will be streamed on the tournament's YouTube Channel Sunday morning, beginning with the girls final at 8 a.m. EST, followed by the boys final. (CORRECTION: THERE IS NO STREAM FOR THE FINALS).

Raveena Kingsley's run through the draw continued at the $50,000 Pro Circuit event in Maui, with the 17-year-old taking out yet another seed in today's semifinal.  Kingsley, ranked 602, defeated No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), her fourth win over a Top 200 player this week.  Kingsley served for the match at 5-3 and was up 30-0, but Pegula broke and held. After two tense service holds, a tiebreaker would decide the winner, and when Pegula sent a backhand long serving at 5-4 in the tiebreaker, Kingsley had two match points. Pegula saved the first on her serve, but the second, with Kingsley serving saw Pegula net a forehand return to put Kingsley in her first Pro Circuit final.  After all the Top 200 players, Kingsley will get her biggest challenge in the final, where she'll face No. 65 Christina McHale. McHale, the top seed, survived a tough match with No. 3 seed Naomi Broady of Great Britain, coming though with a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.

The men's $50,000 Challenger final will not include any Americans, after wild card Noah Rubin lost to Di Wu of China 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinal.  Frances Tiafoe lost to No. 3 seed James Duckworth in the quarterfinals late Friday, with Duckworth then withdrawing today, giving top seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain a walkover into the final against the unseeded Wu.

Unseeded Jason Jung of Taiwan and Dennis Novikov won the men's doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Frank Moser of Germany and Alex Bolt of Australia 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

The rain finally subsided in Florida and the finals are set for the two Pro Circuit events there.  At the $10,000 Futures in Weston, 16-year-old qualifier Denis Shapovalov, playing in his first final, will meet unseeded Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil for the title.

At the $25,000 women's tournament in Sunrise, top seed Anna Tatishvili will face No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.  Jabeur ended 18-year-old wild card Ellie Halbauer's run with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the semifinals.

I'll be at the Midland $100,000 women's Pro Circuit event on Monday for the second round of qualifying.  Qualifying starts on Sunday, with Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic the top seed. Eighteen Americans, many of the teenagers, will compete in the qualifying.

Friday, January 29, 2016

My Interview with Andy Brandi; Mihalikova, Lapko in Australian Girls Final, Karimov, Anderson Meet for Boys Title; Leustian Reaches Les Petits As Semifinals; Kingsley, Rubin Advance to Maui Semifinals

Last month at the Junior Orange Bowl, I spoke with USTA National Coach Andy Brandi about his work with 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old boys. We discussed talent identification, the two shots most young players need to work on, the value of international competition and the biggest mistake US juniors make while during the development years. My conversations with coaches are always among the highlights of my year, and this one, for the Tennis Recruiting Network, is no exception.

The finals of the Australian Open Junior Championships are set after a difficult semifinal day due to more rain in Melbourne.  The doubles finals were postponed until today, and the match between No. 7 seed Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan and No. 6 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia was moved from outdoors to inside HiSense Arena to finish, a change that Karimov said helped him secure his 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.  Karimov, a semifinalist last year in Melbourne will be playing in his first junior slam final, as will his opponent, unseeded wild card Oliver Anderson of Australia.  Anderson, who defeated No. 5 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 6-3, 7-5, will attempt to become the fifth Australian boys champion in the last 10 years, while Karimov would be the first boy from his country to take a junior slam title.

Mihalikova(left) and Lapko in Wimbledon girls doubles final
Vera Lapko of Belarus will also be making her first appearance in a junior slam singles final after defeating Australian qualifier Sara Tomic 6-2, 6-3. The fifth-seeded Lapko will face her friend and occasional doubles partner Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, who has reached the Australian Open final for a second straight year. The last girl to win back-to-back junior titles at the same slam was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in 2006-7, also in Australia. To get that chance Mihalikova, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 9 seed Rebeka Masarova 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals. The two 17-year-olds have split their two ITF Junior meetings, with Lapko winning at Wimbledon last July 6-2, 7-5 and Mihalikova taking a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory in the semifinals at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland last August.  Lapko and Mihalikova reached the Wimbledon girls doubles final last year.

The junior finals will be played on Rod Laver arena starting tonight at 9 p.m. with the girls, followed by the boys and will be streamed. The doubles finals will be played on Court 7, weather permitting. Complete junior draws are available at the Australian Open website.

No. 3 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine reached the semifinals of Les Petits As with a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 12 seed Vanessa Ong. Kostyuk is now the highest seed remaining, with top seed Daria Snigur of Ukraine losing to No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic 7-6(7), 6-3. Ong, who needed more than three hours to win her third round match on Friday, had all sorts of trouble with her first serve throughout the match with Kostyuk. Kostyuk will play No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan, who took out No. 2 seed Daria Frayman of Russia 6-3, 6-4.  Hindova faces the only unseeded player in either draw, Ariana Arseneault of Canada. Arseneault downed No. 9 seed Romana Cisovska of Slovakia 7-5, 7-6(6).

Stefan Leustian advanced to the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 7-6(3) win over No. 13 seed Mortiz Stoeger of Germany. Leustian's opponent will be No. 6 seed Harold Mayot, the Nike International Teen Tennis champion, who took out top seed Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5).  Leustian and Mayot played in the quarterfinals last week in Bolton, with Mayot winning 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.  The other boys semifinal features No. 4 seed Borna Devald of Croatia and No. 2 seed Dawid Taczala of Poland.

Leustian and Faris Khan lost in the doubles semifinals to top seeds Taczala and Viktor Jovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-1.

A live stream of the semifinals is available on the tournament's YouTube channel.

At the USTA Pro Circuit's $50,000 tournaments in Maui, two teens have advanced to the semifinals in early action Friday. Raveena Kingsley continued her impressive run, beating No. 2 seed Samantha Crawford 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Next up for the 17-year-old is No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula, who defeated Maria Sanchez 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.  Draws for the women's event are here.

Noah Rubin won the battle of the 19-year-olds, with the wild card beating qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.  Frances Tiafoe will try to join Rubin in the semifinals when he faces No. 3 seed James Duckworth later tonight. The singles draw for the men is here.

Live streaming for both men and women is available at the USTA Pro Circuit site.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Three Australians Reach Semifinals in AO Junior Championships; Leustian, Ong Advance to Les Petits As Quarterfinals; Kingsley, Tiafoe Reach Quarterfinals in Maui $50Ks

The semifinals are set for the Australian Open Junior Championships, with three from the host country still in contention for the singles titles.

Qualifier Sara Tomic was the first to advance, avoiding the rain delay that kept the other three first-on quarterfinals from finishing. Tomic defeated Australian qualifier Baijing Lin of Australia 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 and will play No. 5 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus in Friday's semifinals. Lapko, who also reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last year, took out No. 4 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.

Defending champion Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia extending her winning streak in Melbourne to ten matches, beating No. 8 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-1, 6-3.  She will play No. 9 seed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland, who advanced over No. 16 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine by a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 score.

The last of the top four boys seeds was eliminated on Thursday, when No. 6 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia took out No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-0. De Minaur will play 2015 semifinalist Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan, the No. 7 seed.

An all-Australian boys final is possible, with wild card Oliver Anderson still alive in the top half. Anderson defeated wild card Max Purcell 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 5 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea for a spot in the final.

The doubles finals are being played Friday (later tonight in the United States) with two of the singles semifinalists going for titles.

De Minaur and Blake Ellis, also of Australia, who are unseeded, face No. 8 seeds Lukas Klein of Slovakia and Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic.

In the girls doubles final, No. 6 seeds Yastremska and Anastasia Zarytska, also of Ukraine, will play No. 2 seeds Kalinskaya and Mihalikova, who won the Grade 1 title together in College Park Maryland last summer. Kalinskaya and Mihalikova have yet to lose a set this week.

Draws are available at the Australian Open website.  For more on the quarterfinals, see this article from the AO website, and this one from the ITF website.

At Les Petits As, Vanessa Ong and Stefan Leustian advanced to the quarterfinals, with Leustian also reaching the semifinals in doubles.

Leustian, the No. 8 seed, defeated unseeded Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune of Denmark 6-3, 6-3 and will play No. 13 seed Mortiz Stoeger of Germany in Thursday's quarterfinals, most of which will be streamed at on the tournament's YouTube channel.

Ong, the No. 12 seed, had a much tougher time getting by No. 8 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, needing over three hours and six match points to complete her comeback and post a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.  Ong, who did not play the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl, will face No. 3 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, who won both those titles, in the quarterfinals.

Ong and Alexa Noel lost in the quarterfinals of doubles, as did Nicholas Garcia and Zane Khan, but Faris Khan and Leustian have reached the doubles semifinals, which are scheduled for later on Friday.

Rain washed out play again today in Florida, at the men's $10,000 Futures in Weston and the women's $25,000 tournament in Sunrise.

The quarterfinals are set at both the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Maui however, with Frances Tiafoe, Ernesto Escobedo and Noah Rubin advancing in men's play, and Raveena Kingsley on the women's side.

Tiafoe defeated Dennis Novikov 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday and will play No. 3 seed James Duckworth of Australia in the quarterfinals. Duckworth beat Taylor Fritz 6-3, 7-6(5) on Wednesday.  Rubin got by Mitchell Krueger 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and will play qualifier Escobedo, who beat Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-2 to continue his run.  Michael Mmoh, the second teen qualifier, lost to top seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-1, 6-0 today.

Kingsley, ranked 602, picked up her second straight WTA Top 200 win, beating No. 8 seed Miyu Kato of Japan 6-0, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal against No. 2 seed Samantha Crawford.  Other Americans to advance to the quarterfinals include Maria Sanchez, Jessica Pegula(5), Jacqueline Cako and top seed Christina McHale.

At the Grade 1 in Ecuador, Taylor Johnson fell in the quarterfinals to No. 7 seed Tatiana Pieri of Italy 6-4, 7-6(3), but she will get another crack at her in the doubles final.  Johnson and Morgan Coppoc, the No. 8 seeds, will play No. 2 seeds Pieri and Federica Bilardi, also from Italy, in the championship match.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Tournament for College Players to Award WTA Main Draw Wild Card in Charleston; Top Seeds Out in Australian Open Juniors; Ong, Leustian Reach Last 16 in Tarbes; ITA Rankings Change Little

There's some exciting news for college tennis today. The WTA's Volvo Car Open, known for many years as the Family Circle Cup, is sponsoring a tournament for college players that will result in a main draw wild card for the Charleston, South Carolina, event April 4th through the 10th. The wild card tournament, called the Shape Magazine Invitational, will be held March 1st through the 3rd, and feature four round robin groups of four players, with the four group winners advancing to the semifinals.

The winner will receive a main draw wild card into the WTA Premier event, with the finalist receiving a qualifying wild card.  According to the release (the full release can be found here), women eligible "must be affiliated with a NCAA school, either as a current player, past player (within the last three semesters), or with a signed letter of intent or verbal agreement for Fall 2016."  The format for group play will feature a tiebreaker in lieu of a third set, with the semifinals and finals the best of three tiebreak sets. There is no mention of no-ad, so I assume it is not being used. Schools mentioned in the release are Georgia, Alabama, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, South Carolina, Duke and College of Charleston, but no player names are given. I will post the names when I receive them.

As of January 28, here are the participants:
Chloe Gullickson, Virginia fall 2016
Lauren Herring, Georgia, 2015
Frances Altick, Vanderbilt senior
Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt junior
Jamie Loeb, North Carolina 2015
Makenna Jones, Alabama fall 2016
Liz Fieldsend, College of Charleston junior
Kaitlyn McCarthy, Duke freshman
Beatrice Capra, Duke senior
Caroline Dailey, South Carolina junior
Paige Cline, South Carolina freshman
Alexa Graham, North Carolina fall 2016

The quarterfinals at the Australian Open Junior Championships are set, with the surprises absent in the first four days coming all at once in Wednesday's third round.

Bianca Vanessa Andreescu of Canada, the top seed, withdrew with a foot injury prior to her match with wild card Baijing Lin of Australia. Lin and qualifier Sara Tomic of Australian will meet for a place in the semifinals. The remaining girls matches went according to seed. No. 4 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia will play No. 5 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus; No. 9 seed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland faces No. 16 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine; and No. 8 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia plays defending champion and No. 2 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia.

The 1, 2 and 4 seeds exited from the boys draw Wednesday. Perhaps the least surprising was wild card Oliver Anderson's 6-4, 6-3 win over top seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary.  Anderson had qualified for the ATP event in Brisbane with wins over Tim Smyczek and Dennis Novikov and won a round in the Australian Open men's qualifying, so he is obviously playing some great tennis right now.  That goes for his fellow wild card Max Purcell, who has not lost a set in reaching the quarterfinals. Like the Australian girls, they play each other for a place in the semifinals.

No. 15 seed Kenneth Raisma of Estonia quickly dispatched No. 4 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 6-3, 6-1 and will play No. 5 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea in the quarterfinals.  In the one quarter that has gone according to seed, No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece will face No. 6 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia. Tsitsipas did not face a break point in his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Liam Caruana, the last American in the tournament.

Last year's semifinalist Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan is closing in on another appearance in the last four, but he will need to get past No. 13 seed Yosuke Watanuki of Japan, who outlasted No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 4-6, 6-2, 8-6.  Watanuki, who was hitting some amazing backhands throughout the match, served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5 before finally holding after breaking Kecmanovic for a third straight time.

Complete draws can be found at the Australian Open website.

At the Grade 1 in Ecuador, Taylor Johnson has reached the quarterfinals, beating fellow American Amanda Meyer 6-1, 7-6(3) in today's third round. Johnson is the only US junior still alive in singles.

Two Americans have advanced to the round of 16 at Les Petits As: No. 12 seed Vanessa Ong and No. 8 seed Stefan Leustian.  Ong defeated Lissi Kubre of Estonia 6-3, 6-4, and Leustian downed Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard of France 6-2, 6-4.  Nicolas Garcia and Victoria Hu both lost in today's second round.  Ong and Alexa Noel have advanced to the doubles quarterfinals, as have Garcia and Zane Khan and Leustian and Faris Khan.

The ITA ranking were released today, with one team, the UCLA women, falling out of the Top 10, and the Oklahoma State women moving into the Top 10.  The complete rankings can be found by clicking on the links below.

MEN:
Jan 27                                            Jan 20
1
    Virginia
                          1
2
    Oklahoma
                          2
3
    TCU
                          3
4
    Texas A&M
                          5
5
    Baylor      
                          4
6
    Georgia
                          6
7
    Illinois
                          7
8-T
    USC
                          8
8-T
    Ohio State
                          9
10
    North Carolina
                         10

WOMEN:
Jan 27                                            Jan 20
1
    Vanderbilt
                          1
2
    Georgia
                          4
3
    Florida
                          3
4
    USC
                          2
5
    North Carolina
                          5
6
    California
                          6
7
    Virginia
                          8
8
    Stanford
                          7
9
    Texas A&M 
                         10
10
    Oklahoma State
                         11

The Tennis Recruiting Network's men's recruiting class January rankings are out, with Georgia unanimously selected as No. 1.

The Top 10:
Georgia
USC
Duke
Illinois
Notre Dame
Columbia
South Florida
California
Harvard
Penn State

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

US Teens Impress on Pro Circuit; Caruana Only American Junior Left in Australia; Johnson Negotiates Tough Turnaround in Ecuador Grade 1

There are four Pro Circuit events this week in the United States, with two in Florida and two on the island of Maui in Hawaii.

The men's Futures this week is a $10,000 tournament in Weston, where, because of rain late last week, qualifying just finished today. Americans qualifying are Hunter Callahan(Ohio State), Nick Chappell(TCU) and Junior Ore(Texas A&M). Denis Shapovalov, the 16-year-old Canadian also qualified and will face Ore in the first round. Shapovalov has qualified for the last five Futures he's played, but the main draw wins he needs to improve his ATP ranking enough to bypass qualifying are proving harder to come by.  Sixteen-year-olds Vasil Kirkov and Sam Riffice both received wild cards into the main draw. Riffice plays qualifier Jaume Pla Malfeito of Spain Wednesday, while Kirkov picked up his first ATP point, beating 26-year-old Thales Turini of Brazil 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) after Turini served for the match at 6-5 in the third.

The women's Florida tournament is in Sunrise and offers $25,000 in prize money.  Caroline Dolehide, Nicole Frenkel and Chiara Scholl are the American qualifiers. Jamie Loeb, Ellie Halbauer, Sofia Sewing and Anna Tatishvili received wild cards, with Tatishvili, the No. 1 seed, drawn to face last week's champion Sonya Kenin. Halbauer won her first round match today; Katerina Stewart, the No. 2 seed, was beaten by Canadian teenager Francoise Abanda in first round play Tuesday.

Play is still going on Tuesday in Maui, where both men and women have $50,000 tournaments.  Michael Mmoh and Ernesto Escobedo both qualified, putting the total of US teens in the main draw at seven. Francis Tiafoe and wild card Noah Rubin won their first round matches Monday. Taylor Fritz won his first round match today while Escobedo beat No. 7 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia 7-5, 7-6(2). Wild card Stefan Kozlov lost to qualifier Nick Meister 6-3, 6-1. Defending champion Jared Donaldson, the No. 6 seed, is the seventh American teen competing in Maui.


Sixteen-year-old Ashley Kratzer was the only American to qualify for the women's main draw, but is hardly the only junior participating, with Claire Liu, wild card Michaela Gordon and Raveena Kingsley also in the field. Liu and Gordon lost their opening round matches, but Kingsley picked up an excellent win, beating Julia Boserup, WTA 198, 6-2, 6-0.

The Australian Open Junior Championships have gone mostly to form this week, with seven of the top eight boys seeds and six of the top eight girls seeds (including No. 9 seed in this number due to No. 7 withdrawing) through to the third round.  Ulises Blanch, the No. 8 seed, was beaten by Australian wild card Max Purcell, who served 13 aces and no double faults en route to his 7-5, 7-6(6) victory.  With the second round losses in doubles of Blanch(with Moroni of Italy), Zeke Clark(with Sumizawa of Japan) and Maria Mateas(with Anastasia Potapova of Russia), Liam Caruana, who plays his third round singles match later this evening, is the last US player still in the hunt for a title.

At this week's Grade 1 in Ecuador, Taylor Johnson won her first round match, the day after she had taken the title late Sunday in the Grade 1 in Colombia. Because she was not seeded or drawn against a seed, Johnson did not get a bye, but she defeated Juliana Valero of Colombia 6-4, 6-2 Monday evening.  Two other US girls won their opening matches: qualifier Jada Robinson and Amanda Meyer. Seeds Abigail Desiatnikov(8) and Morgan Coppoc(6) received first round byes.

In boys action, qualifier Gui Gomez is the only American still in singles. No. 14 seed Alexandre Rotsaert lost his first match (in the second round), with Sangeet Sridhar going out in the first round.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Caruana Reaches Third Round at Australian Open Juniors; Four Americans Qualify for ITF Masters Tournament; Fields Set for ITA Team Indoor Championships; Les Petits As Update


Liam Caruana was the last direct entry into the Australian Open Junior Championships, but he advanced to Wednesday's third round with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian Blake Ellis. Ellis had reached the final at last week's Grade 1 in Traralgon.  Caruana will play No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the third round.

Caruana is one of two American juniors still in singles, with the other, No. 8 seed Ulises Blanch, scheduled to play his second round match tonight against Australian wild card Max Purcell.

Caruana lost his first round doubles match, but the three other American juniors advanced to the second round. Blanch and Gian Marco Moroni of Italy, the No. 5 seeds, beat Chien-hsun Lo of Taiwan and Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 7-6(8), 6-3; Maria Mateas and Anastasia Potapova of Russia, the No. 4 seeds, beat Lara Salden of Belgium and Phillis Vanenburg of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-2, and Zeke (now back to Ezekiel in the draw) Clark and his partner Daisuke Sumizawa of Japan upset No. 2 seeds Tsitsipas and Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan 6-4, 3-6, 10-6.

The only seed to lose in singles on Monday was No. 14 seed Lucie Kankova of the Czech Republic, who was beaten by wild card Baijing Lin of Australia 6-4, 7-6(4).

Draws are available at the Australian Open website.  All matches continue to be streamed in the United States via WatchESPN.

The ITF announced the fields for the April ITF Masters Tournament in China, with four Americans among the 16 players invited to compete in the event's second staging.  William Blumberg, who has not played since the US Open juniors, Sonya Kenin, Kayla Day and Usue Arconada will travel to China for the April 8-10 event, forgoing the Easter Bowl Grade B1 which is that same week.

The other participants are:
Dalma Galfi (HUN)
Katie Swan (GBR)
Anna Blinkova (RUS)
Tereza Mihalikova (SVK)            
Charlotte Robillard-Millette (CAN)

Casper Ruud (NOR)
Mate Valkusz (HUN)
Hong Seong Chan (KOR)
Marcelo Barrios Vera (CHI)
Orlando Luz (BRA)
Miomir Kecmanovic (SRB)
Alvaro Lopez San Martin (ESP)

Two of the boys--Hong and Lopez San Martin--turn 19 this year, but are eligible for this competition based on their Top 10 finish to 2015. 

The ITF announced last month the travel grant amounts all participants will receive, which I believe are unchanged from last year. None of the players competing this year played in last year's event.

The fields for the ITA Team Indoor Championships were set after action concluded today at three men's sites. The results of the finals are below.

USC(1) def. Tulane(2) 4-3
Illinois(1) def. Northwestern(2) 4-0
San Diego(2) def. Duke(1) 4-2
North Carolina(1) def. North Carolina St(3) 4-2
Ohio State(1) def. Denver(3) 4-0
UCLA(1) def. Georgia Tech(3) 4-0
Oklahoma(1) def. Troy(3) 4-0
Texas Tech(3) def. Florida(4) 4-3
South Florida(1) def. LSU(3) 4-0
Columbia(1) def. Stanford(2) 4-3
TCU(1) def. Oklahoma State(2) 4-3
Wake Forest(1) def. Tennessee(2) 4-0
Texas A&M(1) def. Boise State(3) 4-0
Baylor(1) def. Oregon(2) 4-2
Georgia(1) def. Memphis(3) 4-1

Virginia advances automatically as host.

Miami(1) def. Auburn(2) 4-2
Oklahoma State(1) def. Northwestern(2) 4-0
Cal(1) def. Washington(3) 4-0
Vanderbilt(1) def. Brown(3) 4-0
Alabama(1) def. Texas(2) 4-3
Georgia(1) def. Old Dominion(2) 4-0
Texas Tech(1) def. Illinois(3) 4-1
Michigan(1) def. Kentucky(2) 4-3
LSU(2) def. Georgia Tech(1) 4-2
Texas A&M(1) def. Wichita State(2) 4-3
Ohio State(2) def. TCU(1) 4-0
Virginia(1) def. Columbia(2) 6-1
North Carolina(1) def. Tulsa(2) 4-0
Duke(1) def. Mississippi State(2) 4-1
Fresno State(3) def. UCLA(1) 4-3

Wisconsin advances automatically as host.

For the ITA release, click here.  Bobby Knight has much more at College Tennis Today.

In first round action at Les Petits As, four of the eight US players lost in the opening round. Zane Khan lost to No. 4 seed Borna Devald of Croatia 6-4, 6-2 and No. 15 seed Faris Khan fell to Lukas Palovic of Slovakia 6-2, 7-5.  

Teen Tennis champion Alexa Noel, the No. 4 seed, was beaten by Sofiya Chekhlystova of Estonia 7-5, 6-3, but the score doesn't convey the struggle that was the final game. That game, which I watched on the tournament's YouTube channel, took 29 minutes to complete. There were no ballrunners, not many first serves and some moonball rallies, but that's still a remarkable length of time.  There were 11 deuces in all, with Noel saving seven match points while serving to stay in the match, losing the eighth.  Both girls will undoubtedly put that one on their memorable games list as they continue their junior tennis careers.

In other US girls action, No. 12 seed Vanessa Ong beat Marta Custic of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Victoria Hu came back for a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-0 win over Katriin Saar of Estonia. For the second week in a row, Gabby Price lost to Himari Sato of Japan, this time by a 6-2, 6-1 score to the No. 7 seed.

One US boy did win, with Nicholas Garcia getting his first victory of the trip, beating No. 14 seed Maks Kasnikowski of Poland 6-1, 6-1. Stefan Leustian, the No. 8 seed, plays on Tuesday. 

Draws are available at the tournament website.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kenin, Paul Win Pro Circuit Titles; Johnson Captures Copa Barranquilla Championship; Blanch into Australian Open Second Round; Les Petits As Starts Monday

Sonya Kenin won her first title on the Pro Circuit today, with the 17-year-old from Pembroke Pines Florida defeating unseeded Jesika Maleckova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2 at the Wesley Chapel Florida $25,000 tournament. Kenin, whose previous best showing on the Pro Circuit was as a finalist at a $10,000 tournament last spring, began her march to the title last Saturday. Nine days and eight wins, including over No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and top seed Shelby Rogers, later, Kenin was the champion, and she closed out Maleckova in just over an hour Sunday afternoon.

Tommy Paul won his second consecutive $10,000 Futures title and the fourth of his career, with the top-seeded 18-year-old defeating Adrien Puget of France, the No. 3 seed,  6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in Sunrise. Paul trailed 4-2 in the opening set, but won the final four games. In the second set, the 24-year-old Puget, a former UCLA Bruin, got the only break and made it hold up.  In the third set, Paul led 3-1 and 4-2, but had to survive a seven-deuce game in his attempt to serve it out, finally converting on his fifth match point.

Johnson, left, and Viviani (photo via Twitter)
At the Copa Barranquilla in Colombia, 15-year-old Taylor Johnson claimed her first Grade 1 title, beating qualifier Maria Viviani of Italy 6-1 6-3 in tonight's final.  Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina, the No. 11 seed, won the boys title, beating No. 16 seed Juan Martin Jalif, also of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.  Jalif had defeated No. 14 seed Alexandre Rotsaert 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals.

The girls doubles championship went to No. 4 seeds Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden and Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico, who beat No. 6 seeds Morgan Coppoc and Victoria Emma 6-0, 6-4, in the final.  No. 5 seeds Andres Andrade of Ecuador and Duarte Vale of Portugal won the boys doubles title, beating unseeded Filip Malbasic of Sweden and Sangeet Sridhar 7-6(4), 0-6, 10-5.

The completion of the first round of the Australian Open junior championships saw No. 8 seed Ulises Blanch advance, beating Kacper Zuk of Poland 7-6(6), 6-4.  He spoke to Stuart Fraser, writing for the ITF junior website, about his excellent start to 2016.  Fraser also has comments from Ludmilla Samsonova of Italy, who pulled off the upset of the tournament so far, beating No. 3 seed Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-4.  Maria Mateas lost to Australian wild card Petra Hule 6-1, 6-4.  Liam Caruana plays his second round match later tonight. Blanch, Mateas, Caruana and Zeke Clark will all play their first round double matches overnight.

Complete draws are here.

Les Petits As begins Monday in Tarbes France with the draws now available. Faris Khan, Zane Khan, Nicholas Garcia and Stefan Leustian are the US boys in the draw, with Leustian seeded eighth and Faris Khan 15th. Dalibor Zvrcina of the Czech Republic is the top boys seed.

The US girls competing are Alexa Noel, Vanessa Ong, Victoria Hu and Gabriela Price.  Noel, the Teen Tennis champion, is the No. 4 seed and Ong is No. 12.  Daria Snigur of Ukraine is the No. 1 seed in the girls draw, and will play Eddie Herr 12s champion and Junior Orange Bowl finalist Noa Krznaric of Croatia, a wild card, in the first round.  Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl champion Marta Kostyuk, also of Ukraine, is the No. 3 seed.  Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion Daria Lopatetskaya, also from Ukraine, qualified for the main draw.

Draws can be found at the tournament website, which also has live scoring.


 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kenin, Paul Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Rotsaert, Johnson into Barranquilla G1 Semis; Caruana Wins Opener in Australia

Sonya Kenin decided not to compete in the Australian Open Junior Championships this, opting instead to stay in Florida and play in the $25,000 tournaments there.

That choice has turned out well, with the 2015 USTA National 18s champion picking up the best win of her career today, beating WTA No. 154 and top seed Shelby Rogers 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Wesley Chapel.

Kenin, who lost in the second round of qualifying last week in Daytona Beach, made it through qualifying in Wesley Chapel and defeated No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who won Daytona Beach, in the second round. The 17-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Florida will be going for her first title on the professional level Sunday against unseeded Jesika Maleckova of the Czech Republic, who beat No. 2 seed Katerina Stewart 6-2, 6-3. Kenin's only previous Pro Circuit final was at last year's $10,000 tournament in Gainesville, where she lost to Stewart.

Another Florida teenager, Ingrid Neel, won the doubles title, her first at the $25,000 level, partnering Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia. The unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Natela Dzalamidze and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 4-6, 7-6(4), 10-6 in the final.

Tommy Paul and Adrien Puget will meet again in the final of the $10,000 Sunrise Futures after both recorded two wins today. Top seed Paul, who defeated Puget 7-6(4), 6-0 last week in the Plantation Futures final, downed No. 6 seed Tigre Hank of Mexico 7-6(9), 6-2 in the quarterfinals and Peter Nagy of Hungary 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. Puget, seeded third this week, defeated Gianni Mina of France 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(1) in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Sekou Bangoura 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Paul will be heading to the $50,000 Challenger in Colombia after Sunday's final, having received a main draw wild card.

In the ITF junior tournament in Colombia, Taylor Johnson and Alexandre Rotsaert have both reached their first Grade 1 semifinals at the Copa Barranquilla. The 16-year-old Rotsaert, the No. 14 seed, defeated No. 10 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal 6-4, 7-6(6), and the 15-year-old Johnson, who is unseeded, beat wild card Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia 7-6(4), 6-1.  Top girls seed Olesya Pervushina of Russia was beaten by unseeded Shelly Krolitzky of Israel 0-6, 6-4, 6-2. Krolitzky is Johnson's semifinal opponent.


The first day of the Australian Open junior championships didn't produce many surprises. In the 16 girls matches, four seeds went out, but only two played, as Australians Kimberly Birrell(7) and Priscilla Hon(11) withdrew before play began.  Australian qualifier Sara Tomic joined brother Bernard in the winners circle Saturday, beat No. 6 seed Wushuang Zheng of China 7-5, 7-5.  No. 13 seed Mai Hontama of Japan lost to Lara Salden of Belgium 6-3, 6-2.  Top seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada and No. 2 seed and defending champion Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia advanced in straight sets.

In the 16 boys matches, two seeds were eliminated. No. 9 seed Jay Clarke of Great Britain was beaten by Mattias Siimar of Estonia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and No. 16 seed Yibing Wu of China fell to Traralgon finalist Blake Ellis of Australia 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.  No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia won in straight sets, with top seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary opening play tonight.

Liam Caruana made a successful junior slam debut, beating qualifier Rio Noguchi of Japan 6-1, 7-6(2). Caruana will play Ellis next.  Qualifier Zeke Clark lost to Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-3.  Maria Mateas and Ulises Blanch(8) take the court for their first round matches tonight.

All four Americans are entered in doubles, although none are on the schedule for Sunday.  Mateas is playing with Russian Anastasia Potapova and they are seeded fourth.  Andreescu and Charlotte Robillard-Millette are the top seeds.  In the boys doubles, Blanch is playing with Gian Marco Moroni of Italy and they are seeded fifth. Valkusz and Yunseong Chung of Korea are the top boys seeds. Caruana is partnering Andres Ciurletti of Italy and Clark is playing with fellow qualifier Daisuke Sumizawa of Japan.

My preview of the Australian Open junior championships is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network, where they have also published their predictions for the tournament.

The ITF report on the first day of the junior championships is here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Australian Open Junior Preview; Noel Wins Nike Teen Tennis Title; ITA Kickoff Weekend Underway; Rotsaert, Johnson in Colombia G1 Quarterfinals; Kenin Advances to Wesley Chapel $25K Semis

My preview of the Australian Open Junior Championships, which begin Saturday (tonight in the US) is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Two American boys will be making their junior slam main draw debuts tonight in Melbourne, with qualifier Zeke (he's back to Zeke in Australia, after having been formalized as Ezekiel recently by the ITF) Clark taking on No. 7 seed Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan, a semifinalist last year, and Liam Caruana playing qualifier Rio Noguchi of Japan. The other two US players competing, Traralgon champion Ulises Blanch, and Maria Mateas, will open play Sunday.

Top seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada plays a lucky loser, Satoko Sueno of Japan tonight; boys top seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary is not scheduled.

All courts are showing as being streamed at WatchESPN, even those with junior matches only, so check out that option at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Lauren Davis lost to Maria Sharapova in three sets, leaving Serena Williams the only US player still alive in singles in the top half of either draw.  John Isner(10), Steve Johnson(31) Madison Keys(15), Vavara Lepchenko and Madison Brengle will try to join Williams in the second week with wins tonight.

Draws are available at the Australian Open website.

Another big junior event, this one for 14-and-under players, concluded today in Bolton, England, with Alexa Noel, the No. 5 seed, taking the Nike International Teen Tennis girls singles title.  Noel avenged her lost to Qinwen Zheng of China at the Junior Orange Bowl last month, claiming a 6-0, 2-6, 7-5 victory.  Noel and Vanessa Ong also won the doubles title, with Victoria Hu claiming the consolation tournament.

Harold Mayot of France, the No. 2 seed, defeated top seed Borna Devald of Croatia 6-2, 6-3 to sweep the boys titles.

Next up is Les Petits As, where the fields are usually stronger than those in Bolton. Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl champion Marta Kostyuk is scheduled to compete there. Qualifying begins in Tarbes on Saturday.

In college tennis, the Division I ITA Kickoff Weekend is underway, although weather issues have delayed the start of several of the 16 four-team tournaments. Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today is providing previews for the men's sites, the winners of which will go on to the ITA Indoor Team Championships in Charlottesville Virginia in February.  Joey Dillon has prepared a preview of the women's regionals, also at College Tennis Today. The women will play their Team Indoor Championships at the University of Wisconsin this year.

In other college tennis news, this article from the Palo Alto newspaper states that junior Carol Zhao will not be competing for the Cardinal until March, and is likely to turn pro after that. She has not played a college match, that I'm aware of, since the NCAA women's singles final back in May.

Taylor Johnson and Alexandre Rotsaert have reached the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 Barranquilla Cup in Colombia.  Johnson, who is unseeded, has beaten No. 5 seed Emiliana Arango of Colombia and No. 10 seed Yang Lee of Taiwan to reach today's quarterfinals. Rotsaert, the No. 14 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Lucas Koelle of Brazil 7-6(0), 7-6(1) in Thursday's third round.


Qualifier Sonya Kenin has advanced to the semifinals of the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Wesley Chapel Florida, defeating wild card Kayla Day 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2. Kenin, in her first semifinal at the $25K level, will play top seed Shelby Rogers, who beat Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-5 today.  Kat Stewart, the No. 2 seed, will play unseeded Jesika Maleckova of the Czech Republic in the other semifinal.

Rain the Miami area washed out all quarterfinal matches at the $10,000 Sunrise men's Futures tournament, so two matches will be played on Saturday.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Blanch Wins Traralgon Grade 1 Title; Clark Qualifies for Australian Open; Noel Reaches Bolton Final; Day and Kenin to Meet in Wesley Chapel $25K Quarterfinals

Ulises Blanch warmed up for the Australian Open Junior Championships by winning his first Grade 1 title in Traralgon. Now 11-1 on the year after reaching the Grade 1 Coffee Bowl final earlier this month, the ninth-seeded Blanch defeated wild card Blake Ellis of Australian 6-1, 6-4 in Thursday's final.

Vera Lapko of Belarus won the girls title, with the No. 4 seed downing No. 3 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Two unseeded teams won the doubles titles, with Piotr Matuszewski and Kacper Zuk of Poland beating Elliot Benchetrit and Evan Furness of France 6-4, 6-4 for the boys championship, and Nina Kruijer of the Netherlands and Ioana Minca of Romania winning the girls title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over twins Lee and Zani Barnard of South Africa.

Zeke Clark will play in his first junior slam main draw, after the top seed in qualifying beat No. 12 seed Jie Cui of China 6-2, 6-1.  Olga Danilovic of Serbia, who upset defending champion Sonya Kenin at the Orange Bowl this year, was the No. 1 girls seeds in qualifying and she also got through.  Abi Altick, the No. 5 seed in qualifying, lost to No. 15 seed Georgia Drummy of Ireland 6-2, 7-6(2) to fall short of the main draw. Complete draws for qualifying are available here.

Day Four of the Australian Open saw five Americans advance to the third round, joining Serena Williams and Lauren Davis, who play their third round matches Friday.  Madison Keys(15), John Isner(10), Steve Johnson(31), Varvara Lepchenko and Maidson Brengle will play their third round matches Saturday.


At the Nike International Teen Tennis 14-and-under event in Bolton, England, No. 5 seed Alexa Noel has advanced to the final, beating unseeded Vanessa Ong 1-6, 6-0, 7-5 in today's semifinal.  Noel will play No. 3 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who took out top seed Himari Sato of Japan 6-4, 7-6(5).  Zheng defeated Noel 6-4, 6-3 in the consolation draw of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last month.  Noel has already earned one Teen Tennis title, in doubles, partnering Ong to a 6-0, 7-5 win over unseeded Canadians Ariana Arseneault and Sofiya Babych in the finals as the No. 4 seeds.

The boys final will feature the top two seeds, with No. 1 Borna Devald of Croatia against No. 2 seed Harold Mayot of France. Devald defeated Faris Khan 6-3, 6-1 in today's semifinals, while Mayot downed No. 3 seed Alexander Gaponenko of Israel 6-4, 6-2.  No. 4 seeds Mayot and partner Lilian Marmousez, also of France, beat top seeds Devald and Mortiz Stoeger of Germany 7-5, 6-3 to claim the boys doubles championship.

The quarterfinals are set at the two Pro Circuit events in Florida.  At the $25,000 women's tournament in Wesley Chapel, 16-year-old wild card Kayla Day will play 17-year-old qualifier Sonya Kenin for a place in the semifinals, which will be a first at the $25,000 level for both players. Day's 6-2, 6-2 win over Lauren Embree today put her in the quarterfinals of a Pro Circuit event for the first time, while Kenin's 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, last week's $25K champion, puts her into the quarterfinals of a $25,000 tournament for the second time.  Kenin and Day have played twice, but way back in the 14s age division in 2012, with Kenin taking both. Other US players into the quarterfinals are the top three seeds, Shelby Rogers, Kat Stewart and Kristie Ahn.

Three Americans remain in the draw of the $10,000 Futures in Sunrise: top seed Tommy Paul, No. 2 seed Sekou Bangoura, and No. 8 seed Wil Spencer.  Bangoura and Spencer will play in Friday's quarterfinals; Paul faces No. 6 seed Tigre Hank. Sixteen-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who lost to Spencer today in singles, will contest the doubles final on Friday. The US Open boys doubles champion, playing with former Texas A&M-Corpus Christi standout Peter Nagy of Hungary, will meet No. 2 seeds Isak Arvidsson of Sweden and Kaichi Uchida of Japan in the final.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Blanch Reaches Traralgon Grade 1 Final; Altick, Clark Advance in Australian Open Junior Qualifying; Khan, Noel and Ong in Bolton Semifinals; Little Change in ITA Team Rankings

Ulises Blanch has advanced to his second Grade 1 final of the month, with the No. 9 seed defeating No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals at Traralgon.  It's the second consecutive match that Blanch has won from a set down. He will face Australian wild card Blake Ellis, who took out Orange Bowl champion and No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4. Blanch, who reached the Coffee Bowl final earlier this month, is looking for his first Grade 1 title in his third appearance.  Ellis has played in a Grade 1 just twice, both times at this tournament, while playing mostly Futures with a few lower level ITF junior events thrown in.

The girls final will feature No. 3 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia against No. 4 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus.

Live scoring is here, with complete draws at the ITF junior website.

In Australian Open qualifying, which is held at the same venue in Traralgon, Abi Altick and Zeke Clark have both advanced to the final round.  Altick, the No. 5 seed, defeated Jessica Saviacic of Australia 6-3, 6-2 and Clark, the No. 1 seed, downed Australian Bernard Nkomba 6-2, 6-2.  The final round of qualifying is Thursday(tonight in the US), with the juniors beginning play in Melbourne on Saturday. I will have a preview coming out for the Tennis Recruiting Network Friday morning.

Live scoring for the qualifying in available here. I believe this is new this year, which means Australia now joins the US Open as the only junior slams with live scoring for qualifying.

Day Three at the men's and women's Australian Open was not kind to Americans, with Austin Krajicek, Nicole Gibbs, Noah Rubin, Irina Falconi and Denis Kudla all bowing out.  Lauren Davis and top seed Serena Williams were the lone US players to advance to the third round. Day four will see nine Americans in action: Madison Keys(15), John Isner(10), Jack Sock(25), Steve Johnson(31), Rajeev Ram, Vania King, Varvara Lepchenko, Tim Smyczek and Madison Brengle.

On the other side of the world, in Bolton, England, three Americans have advanced to the semifinals of the 14-and-under Nike International Teen Tennis tournament.  No. 5 seed Alexa Noel defeated No. 15 seed Holly Fischer of Great Britain 6-3, 7-5, while unseeded Vanessa Ong continued her march through the draw with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain. Noel and Ong will meet in the semifinals, assuring an American finalist. They also have reached Thursday's doubles final, where the No. 4 seeds will face the unseeded Canadian team of Ariana Arseneault and Sofiya Babych. The other semifinal will be top seed Himari Sato of Japan against No. 3 seed Qinwen Zheng of China.


Unseeded Faris Khan will take on top seed Boris Devald of Croatia in the semifinals after beating unseeded Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan 6-2, 6-2. The other boys semifinal will be between No. 2 seed Harold Mayot of France and No. 3 seed Alexander Gaponenko of Israel.

The ITA Team rankings were released today, with some switching around, but all the same teams. The complete rankings can be found by clicking on the links below.

MEN:
Jan 20                                           Jan 5
1
    Virginia
                          1
2
    Oklahoma
                          2
3
    TCU
                          3
4
    Baylor
                          4
5
    Texas A&M     
                          5
6
    Georgia
                          7
7
    Illinois
                          6
8
    USC
                          8
9
    Ohio State
                         10
10
    North Carolina
                          9

WOMEN:
Jan 20                                           Jan 5
1
    Vanderbilt
                          1
2
    USC
                          2
3
    Florida
                          3
4
    Georgia
                         T-4
5
    North Carolina
                         T-4
6
    California
                          6
7
    Stanford
                          8
8
    Virginia
                          7
9
    UCLA
                          9
10
    Texas A&M
                         10

Bobby Knight has more on the rankings at College Tennis Today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Australian Open Junior Wild Cards, Qualifying Draws; Sixteen Americans Reach Australian Open Second Round; Blanch in G1 Traralgon Semis; Bolton, Pro Circuit Update

The wild cards for the Australian Open Junior Championships, which begin Saturday (Friday night here in the US) have been announced. All are Australian, except for the two winners of the Asian Wild Card playoffs.

Boys:
Moerani Bouzige
Oliver Anderson
Blake Ellis
Max Purcell
Scott Jones
Richard Yang
Adam Walton
Tao Mu (CHN)


Girls:
Michaela Haet
Violet Apisah
Petra Hule
Kaitlin Staines
Aleksa Cveticanin
Jeanette Lin
Renee McBryde
Xiyu Wang (CHN)

Qualifying for the Australian Open Junior Championships begins Wednesday(tonight in the US), with two US boys and one US girl competing for a place in the main draw.  Zeke Clark is the top seed in qualifying, meaning he just missed direct entry. Lane Leschly was the third alternate but made the trip and got into qualifying.  Six Top 100 players are in the boys qualifying, but it appears, with no wild cards, that everyone who signed in got in.  Four Top 100 girls are in qualifying, but there was a cutoff (very unusual for a girls draw to be stronger than a boys), at 796, and wild cards used, including one for Sara Tomic, Bernard's younger sister.  The qualifying draws can be found at the top right hand corner of the ITF Junior website.

Nineteen Americans were in action on Day Two of the Australian Open, with nine advancing to the second round.  Madison Keys(15) defeated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 7-6(5), 6-1, John Isner(10) took out Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-3, 7-6(7), 6-3 and Steve Johnson(31) beat Aljaz Bedene of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3). Jack Sock(25) and qualifier Taylor Fritz went five sets before Sock emerged with a 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.  The Australian Open website has this account of the match, while Jonathan Kelley explores the ramifications of all the drama it contained (along with the other Day Two matches involving US players) at On The Rise Tennis.

Other US players getting victories included Rajeev Ram, who won the Illinois-alumni battle when No. 11 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa retired at 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-0. Vania King beat Mona Barthel of Germany 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, Varvara Lepchenko took out No. 31 seed Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3, and Madison Brengle beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-4.  Tim Smyczek was the only US qualifier/lucky loser to advance, beating Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

US players losing in the first round: Venus Williams(8), Donald Young, Brian Baker(but great, competitive effort in his first match in two years), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Vicky Duval, Samantha Crawford, Bjorn Fratangelo, Ryan Harrison, Fritz and Vandeweghe.

Seven Americans are in second round singles action tonight: Austin Krajicek, Nicole Gibbs, Serena Williams(1), Noah Rubin, Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi and Denis Kudla. 


At the Grade 1 in Traralgon, No. 9 seed Ulises Blanch has advanced to the semifinals, defeating unseeded Louis Tessa of France Tuesday  3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Blanch will face No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece tonight for a place in a Grade 1 final for the second time this year. The other boys semifinal features No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia against unseeded Australian qualifier Blake Ellis.  The girls semifinals have unseeded Eva Guerrero Alvarez of Spain against No. 3 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and No. 4 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus against No. 12 seed Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine. Live scoring is available here.

At the Nike International Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Bolton, four US players have advanced to the quarterfinals: No. 6 seed Stefan Leustian and Faris Khan in the boys draw, and No. 5 seed Alexa Noel and Vanessa Ong in the girls draw.  Noel and Ong have also advanced to the doubles semifinals. Complete results can be found at the Tennis Europe tournament website.

At the $10,000 Men's Pro Circuit Futures in Sunrise, Florida, qualifying is now complete after rain over the weekend pushed it back a day. Sixteen-year-olds Sam Riffice and Denis Shapovalov of Canada are among the eight qualifiers. Tommy Paul and Sekou Bangoura, who received a wild card, are the top two seeds. Sixteen-year-old Vasil Kirkov, Cornell recruit Pietro Rimondini and former North Carolina State star Robbie Mudge received wild cards; all were beaten today, with Bangoura beating Rimondini 6-4, 7-5. 

Qualifying was completed on schedule today at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Wesley Chapel, Florida, with Sonya Kenin and Nicole Frenkel winning three-hour matches--Kenin over Ellie Halbauer and Frenkel over Taylor Townsend--to reach the main draw.  Stanford junior Carol Zhao of Canada and 16-year-old Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, a recent ITF World No. 1, also reached the main draw with wins. Vondrousova will play top seed Shelby Rogers; Kat Stewart, the No. 2 seed, will face fellow 18-year-old Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia.  Kayla Day, Lauren Embree and Pepperdine freshman Luisa Stefani of Brazil received wild cards.