Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Seeds Ousted at Evert ITF Grade 4; Geller Moves to No. 1 in ITF Junior Rankings; Withdrawals Deplete Mexico Grade A Girls Field; Next Gen Finals Underway in Milan

This week's ITF Grade 4 at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton Florida is the third of three hard court tournaments before the ITF Junior Circuit shifts to clay in Mexico and Florida for the remainder of 2017.  In today's second round, both top seeds--2017 USTA 16s champion Angelica Blake and 2016 Les Petits As champion Stefan Leustian--were eliminated.

Blake lost to 16-year-old Anika Yarlagadda 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 and Leustian was beaten by 17-year-old Robert Hammond 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in Hammond's first competition since May.

The No. 2 seeds are also both gone.  Nicholas Ionel of Romania lost in the first round on Monday, and girls No. 2 seed Jennifer Gadalov was beaten by Wu Mei Xu of China in today's second round.  Last week's champions in South Carolina, Emma Navarro[12] and JanMagnus Johnson[10], advanced to Wednesday's third round.

This week's ITF Junior ranking release saw Stanford freshman Axel Geller of Argentina take over the No. 1 spot from US Open boys champion Wu Yibing of China.  None of the top 5 boys in the rankings are entered in the final four major junior tournaments of the year, so Geller definitely has an excellent chance of finishing the year as ITF World Junior champion, since he is not defending any points the rest of the year.  Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic, last year's World Junior Champion, played all four of the season-ending tournaments and won three of them to earn the ITF award, but that kind of a run won't be happening this year.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I can't recall any player ranked No. 1 by the ITF who went on to play college tennis. Ryan Sweeting, who won the US Open boys title in 2005 and went on to play briefly at Florida, reached No. 2 that year, but none of the players, boys or girls, who ended the year as No. 1 since the ITF began the award in 1978 went to college.

The Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City is next week, but the fields have been dwindling since the acceptances were first announced several weeks ago.  Top Americans Taylor Johnson, Sofia Sewing and Hurricane Tyra Black have withdrawn, and the main draw ranking cutoff, initially at 196, is now at 550.  Sebastian Korda, who is playing the Niceville Futures this week in Florida is still entered, but the boys cutoff, initially 256, is now at 452.

The ATP's NextGen Finals have begun in Milan, with the first matches in the round robin portion of the tournament complete.  Hyeon Chung of Korea defeated Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Andrey Rublev of Russia defeated Italian wild card Gianluigi Quinzi, Borna Coric of Croatia defeated Jared Donaldson and Daniil Medvedev defeated Karen Khachanov in an all-Russia match.  The tournament is not only a showcase for the best 21-and-under players, but something of a laboratory, with a long list of experiments.  These are the innovations being tested in this week's matches:

  1. Best of five sets, with number of games to win not 6, but 4
  2. Tiebreaker not at 6-all, but at 3-all
  3. No-ad, with server's choice, not receiver's
  4. Lets played on serves
  5. 25-second serve clock
  6. Maximum of one medical timeout per player per match
  7. Chair umpire but no lines people, Hawkeye used for all calls
  8. Coaching allowed via headset at end of each set
  9. Match begins 5 minutes after second player comes on court for warmup
  10. Fans are allowed to move around during play, if not behind the baseline

I don't like 1, 2, or 3, and I think Hawkeye for all lines is not economically feasible, and probably not desirable either.  The rest of the innovations are fine by me, but rather than polling fans or medium on these changes, I am much more interested in what all pro players think of the changes.

Highlights of today's matches can be found at the ATP website.