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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fritz Qualifies at Wimbledon; Ahn, Falconi and Muhammad Reach Final Round Qualifying; USTA's US Open Challenge to Include ATP/WTA Events for Men and Women; Hunt Hired to Replace Hodge at Georgia; Suarez-Malaguti Joins O'Leary at Virginia

I spent the morning covering the four finals at the Midwest Closed, where Bill Duo, Emma Jackson, Saiprakash Goli and Sydni Ratliff collected titles. Complete coverage, including interviews with all four champions, will be available Monday at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The Wimbledon's men's qualifying is nearly complete, with 15 of the 16 final round qualifying matches finishing today in Roehampton.  Thirteen US men started competition Monday with designs on a place in the main draw, but only Taylor Fritz managed to record the three wins necessary to get there.  Fritz[21] defeated No. 21 seed Vincent Millot of France 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in today's final round qualifying match.  Denis Kudla and Dennis Novikov fell at the final hurdle, with Kudla failing to convert two match points in a 4-6, 2-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), 6-0 loss to Andrew Whittington of Australia and Novikov losing to Chile's Nicolas Jarry 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Both Whittington, 23,  and Jarry, 21, will be making their Wimbledon main draw debuts.

In addition to Fritz, two other teenagers have qualified with 19-year-old Andrey Rublev[5] of Russia and 18-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece making their first appearances in the Wimbledon main draw. Fritz was a direct entry at Wimbledon last year.

The women's final round of qualifying is scheduled for Friday, with three American women vying for one of 12 places in the women's main draw.  In second round action today, Kristie Ahn[6] defeated Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3; Asia Muhammad[17] topped Miyu Kato of Japan 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 and Irina Falconi beat Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-3.  Ahn will face 19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the No. 13 seed, who beat Jamie Loeb in today's second round. Muhammad's next opponent is No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Falconi will take on No. 8 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia.

2016 Wimbledon girls champion Anastasia Potapova also advanced to to the final round of qualifying with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey.  Bianca Andreescu of Canada, Anna Blinkova of Russia, Destanee Aiava of Australia and Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia are other teens who will play in the final round of qualifying on Friday.

The USTA announced the tournaments that will be in the mix for its sixth annual US Open Wild Card Challenge this summer.  As with the French Open wild card Challenge, the men's events include many ATP and ATP Challenger events around the globe, with 16 different tournaments during the five weeks beginning July 10th.  The best three results from any of the five events listed below will decide one of the USTA's US Open wild cards.

Week of July 10: $75,000 Winnetka, IL; $75,000 Winnipeg, Canada
Week of July 17: $125,000 Astana, KAZ; $75,000 Gatineau, Canada
Week of July 24: Atlanta ATP World Tour 250; $100,000 Granby, Canada; $75,000 Binghamton, NY
Week of July 31: Washington, D.C. ATP World Tour 500; Los Cabos ATP World Tour 250; $125,000 Chengdu, CHN; €85K+H Segovia, ESP; $75,000 Lexington, KY
Week of Aug. 7: Montreal ATP World Tour Masters 1000; $150,000 Jinan, CHN; $100,000 Aptos, CA; €43K+H Portoroz, SLO

The women's US Open Wild Card Challenge runs only three weeks, from beginning July 17, but for the first time, it will include two WTA events: the Stanford Premier event and the Citi Open International event, both of which are held in the third week. The best two results during that three-week span will earn the winner a US Open wild card.

Week of July 17: $60,000 Stockton, CA (main-draw points only)
Week of July 24: $60,000 Sacramento, CA (main-draw points only)
Week of July 31: $60,000 Lexington, KY (main-draw points only); Washington, D.C. WTA International Event (qualifying and main-draw points); Stanford WTA Premier Event (qualifying and main-draw points)

For more, including the past winners of the Wild Card Challenge, see this usta.com article.

A couple of high profile assistant coaching positions were filled today, with Jamie Hunt returning to his alma mater as associate head coach for the Georgia men.  Hunt, who has been at Vanderbilt as the men's assistant/associate head coach for the past seven years, replaces Bo Hodge, who was the associate head coach for the past two years. Hodge was suspended last month while a police investigation continues into missing prescription drugs reported by the men's program.

Sara O'Leary, who was named the new women's head coach at Virginia two weeks ago, has hired Gina Suarez-Malaguti as her assistant, it was announced today. Suarez-Malaguti, who has been an assistant at North Carolina State's women's program for the past three years, played for North Carolina when O'Leary (then Anundsen) was an assistant there, and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2013.