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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Baird Surprises Top Seed Korda to Claim Grade A in Mexico City; Collins Wins $25K in Norman; American Juniors Capture ITF Titles in El Salvador, Antigua and Philippines

Yesterday unseeded Alexa Noel upset No. 1 seed Whitney Osuigwe to earn the girls singles trophy at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City. Today, unseeded Drew Baird pulled off a similar surprise, beating top seed Sebastian Korda 76(4), 3-6, 6-0.

The 17-year-old Baird, playing in his first Grade A event, got the first break of the final at 4-3, but Korda got the break right back. After four holds, the tiebreaker was similarly close, with Korda twice taking a mini-break lead.  But leading 4-3, Korda began to spray balls, especially on his backhand side, and Baird won the final four points of the set, closing it out with a good serve on his first set.

Korda fought back in the second set, coming forward more often, but after nearly and hour and a half of play, the 17-year-old began to show signs of an injury and quickly went down two breaks, 3-0, in the third set.  After a lengthy off-court medical timeout, Korda returned, but Baird did not let the injury affect him, efficiently finishing off his IMG Academy training partner.

Neither Osuigwe nor Korda are playing next week's Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, but both Baird and Noel are in the singles draws, with both unseeded.  There are 22 US boys and 21 US girls in the 64-player draws.  Maria Carle of Argentina is the top seed in the girls draw and Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan is the top seed in the boys draw. 

Two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins won her second $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit title of 2017 today in Norman Oklahoma.  The University of Virginia graduate, seeded No. 3, defeated No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.  Collins, who has reached five finals on the USTA Pro Circuit this year, is playing in the WTA $125K event this coming week in Hawaii, as is Vickery.  Stanford freshman Michaela Gordon has received a wild card. The complete player list is here.

Former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador won the $15,000 Futures title in Pensacola Florida, with the No. 3 seed defeating No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.  It's Gomez's first Futures title since 2015.
Top seeds Hunter and Yates Johnson(SMU) won their fifth title as a team and second this year, beating No. 2 seeds Junior Ore and Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) 6-3, 6-3.

All the action for US juniors wasn't just in Mexico, with four Americans winning ITF Grade 4 and 5 singles titles.  At the Grade 4 in the Philippines, 16-year-old Nicole Hammond won her first ITF junior singles title, beating Elizabeth Stevens 6-1, 6-4 in the all-USA final. Neither was seeded.  Hammond and Stevens won the doubles title too, with the unseeded pair defeating Jingyi Li and Fangran Tian of China 6-3 6-4 in the final.

At the Grade 5 in El Salvador, No. 2 seed Midori Castillo Meza beat top seed Kennedy Bridgforth 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in another all-USA final. The 14-year-old Castillo Meza won Grade 5 in Costa Rica last week. Jackson Ross teamed with Alfredo Casso of Mexico to take the boys doubles title.

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Brachman, who just began competing on the ITF Junior Circuit this fall, won his first titles at the Grade 5 in Antigua. The unseeded Brachman defeated top seed Jeffrey Fradkin 6-3, 6-2 in yet another all-USA singles final, then paired with Fradkin to take the doubles title as well. The unseeded Brachman and Fradkin beat Canada's Christopher Heck of Canada and Tom LeBlanc Claverie, the No. 2 seed, 7-6(0), 6-3 in the final. 

Fifteen-year-old Hibah Shaikh won the girls singles title in her ITF Junior Circuit debut, beating top seed Alexandra Anttila of Finland 6-3, 6-1 in the final. The two singles finalists then paired up for the doubles title, defeating No. 1 seeds Sydney Clarke of the Bahamas and Tangia Riley-Codrington of Barbados 6-0, 6-3 in the final.