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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Smyczek Clinches Australian Open Wild Card; Liu Makes Norman $25K Quarterfinals; Grant Reaches Pensacola Futures Quarterfinal; Sock Moves on at World Tour Finals; Osuigwe, Noel Advance to Grade A Semifinals in Mexico


Tim Smyczek earned his way into the Australian Open main draw today at the $75,000 Champaign Challenger, defeating top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4.  Smyczek, the No. 7 seed, won the Charlottesville Challenger two weeks ago to take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge and once he advanced to the semifinals this week, no one else still playing in Champaign could catch him.  The 29-year-old from Wisconsin had played the main draw in Australia four years running from 2013-2016, but this year he lost in the final round of qualifying to Frances Tiafoe.

In the Champaign semifinals, Smyczek will play No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie, who beat Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 6-0.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, who was eliminated from the wild card race today, could still qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open if he wins the tournament. For the second time this week, Fratangelo was on the brink of defeat, but recovered, beating Knoxville champion Filip Peliwo of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).  Today Fratangelo trailed 4-6, 2-4 0-40, although he was not quite as far down as he was in the first round against Sebastian Fanselow, when he trailed by a set and two breaks before winning in three.  Fratangelo will face No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, who reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 3-0 retired victory over No. 8 seed Tommy Paul.  Paul had treatment for a back problem and retired after Fritz earned a second break of serve.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma, Wimbledon girls champion Claire Liu, who has not played since September, has reached the quarterfinals, where she'll face top seed Sonya Kenin.  Liu defeated Connie Hsu of Taiwan 6-1, 6-4, while Kenin dismissed Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2, 6-3. Liu and Kenin have played four times on the ITF Circuits, with Kenin winning the two junior matches and Liu winning the two pro matches, with the most recent win coming this spring at a $25,000 tournament in Florida.  Other US players to advance to the quarterfinals are Danielle Collins[3], Maria Sanchez, Chiara Scholl and Sachia Vickery[2].

The Futures event this week is again a $15,000 tournament, this time in Pensacola Florida.  Sixteen-year-old Will Grant earned his first ATP point with a win over fellow wild card Collin Johns in a first round match on Tuesday, then got two more points today via a victory over top seed Sekou Bangoura.  Bangoura retired in the match trailing 7-5, 2-1.  Other Americans reaching the quarterfinals are wild card Jonathan Chang and No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch.  Florida freshman Duarte Vale of Portugal, a qualifier, beat No. 2 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-0.  ITA Fall National champion Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, the No. 4 seed, has also advanced to the quarterfinals, beating last week's Futures champion Patrick Kypson 6-4, 6-2 today.

At the ATP World Tour Finals in London today, Jack Sock, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to advance out of his round robin group and into the semifinals, where he'll play No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.  The other semifinal will feature top seed Roger Federer and the winner of the Dominic Thiem-David Goffin match on Friday. For more on Sock's win today, see the ATP website's article.

The girls semifinals are set at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with Americans Whitney Osuigwe and Alexa Noel into the final four.  Top seed Osuigwe had to come from behind to beat unseeded Peyton Stearns, but posted a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory and will face No. 5 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland.  The unseeded Noel, who like Osuigwe is 15 years old, has yet to lose a set this week, beating Diae El Jardi of Morocco 6-4, 6-4 in today's quarterfinal.  Noel will face another surprise semifinalist in 17-year-old Andreea Prisacariu of Romania, who beat No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer 6-0, 6-2.

Two American boys have advanced to the quarterfinals in Mexico City, top seed Sebastian Korda and unseeded Drew Baird.  Korda defeated wild card Eliot Spizzirri 6-2, 6-0 in today's third round and will play No. 8 seed Stefan Palosi of Romania, who beat qualifier Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-2. Baird downed wild card Alan Magadan of Mexico 6-2, 6-3 and will face No. 9 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals.

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