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Monday, September 11, 2017

October's ITF Junior Masters Qualifying Positions Set; Features on Young American Women Osuigwe, Black, Gauff; College Tennis Gets Boost from Anderson

The ITF Junior Masters event moved to a new spot on the junior calendar this year, going from spring to fall. Today's rankings determine the cutoff for the eight players who will compete in Chengdu, China October 25th-29th, with travel grants for as much as $15,000 awarded depending on the player's results in the round robin event.  Below are the top 10 boys and top 10 girls, with the top eight invited, although not all those eligible will make the trip. Anisimova, for one, has said that Junior Fed Cup later this month is her last junior event. Osuigwe, Wu and Geller have committed to play, with the entire confirmed field to be announced later.

Junior Masters final standings for boys:
1 Yibing Wu, China
2 Axel Geller, Argentina
3 Miomir Kecmanovic, Serbia
4 Zsombor Piros, Hungary
5 Alexei Popyrin, Australia
6 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Spain
7 Yu Hsiou Hsu, Taiwan
8 Jurij Rodionov, Austria
9 Marko Miladinovic, Serbia
10 Yuta Shimizu, Japan

Junior Masters final standings for girls:
1 Claire Liu, United States
2 Whitney Osuigwe, United States
3 Marta Kostyuk, Ukraine
4 Amanda Anisimova, United States
5 Elena Rybakina, Russia
6 Carson Branstine, Canada
7 Olga Danilovic, Serbia
8 Kaja Juvan, Slovenia
9 Sofia Sewing, United States
10 Xin Yu Wang, China

During the second week of the US Open, US women's tennis was a hot topic in the media center. Most of the attention was on the all-US women's semifinals, but it extended to the juniors as well.

Gerald Marzorati of The New Yorker, spoke with 15-year-old Whitney Osuigwe about her career and ambitions. (A clarification is in order in his description of Liu, however. She did skip the US Open juniors, but not to enter the US Open women's event. She was given a wild card into qualifying and won three matches to earn her place in the main draw).

Of course that article was written before 13-year-old Coco Gauff became the youngest girl to ever reach the US Open junior final. Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times looked at the dilemma Gauff is facing due to the WTA's age restrictions, which will keep Gauff from professional events until next March, when she turns 14, and limit the number of events she can play every year until she reaches the age of 18.  It also should be noted that the ITF has limits on the number of tournaments juniors can play. Gauff, at 13, is limited to 10 tournaments (she has played four), although she will be allowed four more if she reaches the ITF Junior Top 50, and she is at 67 as of today.

I get quite a few questions about the whereabouts of Tornado Alicia Black, who made the final of the US Open Juniors back in 2013 as a 15-year-old. The last time I saw her was at the Junior Orange Bowl last December, when she told me she was coaching but hoped to recover from a hip injury and return to competition this spring.  She played one doubles match at a $15,000 Pro Circuit event in March, but hasn't played since and when I asked younger sister Hurricane Tyra about her progress, she said Alicia continued to struggle with the injury.  The New York Times' David Waldstein dug much deeper, and wrote this article on Black's need for a hip operation, which as the family breadwinner, she cannot afford.

CNN's Danielle Rossingh followed up with an article about the GoFundMe account Black has set up to pay for the surgery and recovery.

Kevin Anderson in US Open final (courtesy USTA)
College tennis also got some attention at the US Open in the second week, due to former University of Illinois star Kevin Anderson's trip to the men's final.  ESPN's Arash Markazi wrote about college as a development path with comments from Anderson and Craig Tiley, who recruited the South African to Champaign. The New York Times' Waldstein talked to John McEnroe, Francesca Di Lorenzo and Jennifer Brady about how their college experience helped them mature and prepared them for a pro career (Di Lorenzo has yet to decide whether she'll return to Ohio State this January).