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Friday, May 5, 2017

April Aces; Sandgren Claims French Open Wild Card; Guilbeau Out at Virginia; Bolton Advances to G1 Final; Liu, Collins Reach Semis at Charleston $60K

My monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network tends to focus on juniors winning important ITF or USTA events or claiming trophies on the ITF Pro Circuit. This month much of the focus is on former collegians, who picked up titles all over the United States and Europe.

Tennys Sandgren is another former collegian who had a great April. The former Tennessee Volunteer qualified for his first ATP tournament in Houston, then went on to reach the final of the Tallahassee Challenger last week. That put him in the lead in the race for the USTA's French Open wild card, and today he claimed it, beating No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(4), while Tommy Paul eliminated Dennis Novikov 6-2, 6-4 at the $75,000 Savannah Challenger.  Novikov was the last player in the draw with an opportunity to catch Sandgren, with wild card Paul unable to earn enough points this week, even with a title. Paul and No. 5 seed Sandgren will play in the semifinals Saturday. Unseeded James McGee of Ireland and Joao Pedro Sorgi of Brazil are playing in the other semifinal.

Sandgren will be making his main draw debut at a slam later this month in Paris. He joins nine other Americans in the Roland Garros main draw: Jack Sock, John Isner, Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, Ryan Harrison, Ernesto Escobedo, Jared Donaldson, and Frances Tiafoe.

Another major program cut ties with its current coach today, with women's coach Mark Guilbeau resigning at the University of Virginia after 12 seasons. Although today's release uses "resigned" , the school is buying out the final year of his contract, which makes clear that the decision was theirs. Virginia did not make the NCAA tournament this year, finishing at 11-13, and the women's program has not been able to match the success of the men's, but a record of 201-117, two recent ACC championships and two recent NCAA quarterfinals doesn't exactly scream for a change.  So with Brian Boland's previously announced departure, Virginia will be conducting two national searches for tennis coaches.

Elysia Bolton has reached her first Grade 1 final, after beating top seed Sofya Lansere of Russia 6-4, 6-2 in Morocco. The 17-year-old New Yorker will play No. 13 seed Yasmine Monsouri of France in Saturday's final. Regardless of the outcome of the final, Bolton has substantially improved her chances of making the main draw of the French Open Junior Championships with her results this week. The acceptances are expected to be announced next week.

Lea Ma won the girls doubles title with Qinwen Zheng of China. The unseeded pair defeated No. 5 seeds Weronika Falkowska of Poland and Gergana Topalova of Bulgaria 7-6(4), 6-1 in the final.

Sixteen-year-old Claire Liu advanced to her first USTA Pro Circuit semifinal above the $10,000 level today, beating No. 6 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada 6-1, 6-1 at the $60,000 tournament in Charleston South Carolina.  Liu will face top seed Madison Brengle, who lost only one game to qualifier Lauren Embree.  Danielle Collins avenged a previous loss to Kayla Day, beating the third seed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with 2015 Wimbledon girls champion Sofya Zhuk of Russia. Collins defeated Zhuk in the first round of the $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe in February.

All Americans were eliminated today in the quarterfinals of the $15,000 Futures in Tampa, with lucky loser Isaiah Strode, No. 6 seed Dennis Nevolo and No. 7 seed Connor Smith all losing two hour plus matches. Smith and Rhyne Williams, the top seeds in doubles, lost in the final to the unseeded team of USF senior Alexandru Gozun and USF freshman Alberto Barroso Campos 6-2, 6-4.