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Friday, October 19, 2018

Pan American Closed Recap, Videos; Wimbledon Introduces Final Set Tiebreaker; Volynets, Mateas, Crawford, Arconada Reach $25K Semifnals

Last week's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed encountered one problem after another, including rain on four of the tournament's six days, but the singles did get played, and I recount the first Grade 1 titles for Elli Mandlik and Govind Nanda in this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Videos of the two champions are below. It's the first time I've ever taken videos of a final when there was no chair umpire to call the score, so I apologize if it's not clear who won the points. One of the advantages of the courts at the University of Tulsa, where this tournament took place for many years, is the ability to sit behind the courts and get the overall sense of a point. That is not possible here, or at most other tournaments I attend.

For the videos of finalists Savannah Broadus and Eliot Spizzirri, click on their names to go to the TennisKalamazoo YouTube channel.

Wimbledon announced today that it will be eliminating the advantage set in 2019, with a tiebreaker at 12-12 ending all final sets. This includes both the singles and doubles in the Junior Championships, as well as men's and women's singles and doubles and the mixed doubles. Although junior matches beyond 12-12 in the third set are rare, they do happen occasionally, with one such match in last year's boys semifinal, which ended with Jack Draper of Great Britain beating Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 19-17.  The Australian Open and French Open have been using third set tiebreakers for juniors for some time, but the men and women still play out the final set until someone has a two-game advantage. It isn't known if those tournaments will change to a tiebreaker in 2019 now that Wimbledon has.

At the ITF Grade A in Osaka Japan, Robin Montgomery lost 6-0, 6-0 to top seed Clara Tauson, leaving no Americans remaining in either singles or doubles draws.  Tauson will face No. 9 seed Sohyun Park of Korea, while No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China will play No. 7 seed Daria Snigur of Ukraine.  Three of the top four seeds have reached the boys semifinals, with No. 1 Valentin Royer of France playing unseeded Keisuke Saitoh of Japan and No. 2 seed Bu Yunchaokete of China taking on No. 4 seed Gauthier Onclin of Belgium.

Four Americans have advanced to the semifinals of the two USTA Pro Circuit events this week, with three of them teenagers.

Sixteen-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets, who has just been playing Pro Circuit tournaments and has no WTA ranking, defeated No. 6 seed Sherazad Reix of France 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in exactly three hours to advance to the semifinals of the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Florence South Carolina. Volynets will face unseeded Mari Osaka of Japan on Saturday.   Duke freshman Maria Mateas, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Francoise Abanda 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 and will face another Canadian, No. 3 seed Bianca Andreescu, in the semifinals.

At the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen Texas, an American finalist is guaranteed, with Florida sophomore Oliver Crawford, 19, taking on recent Texas A&M grad Jordi Arconada in Saturday's semifinals.  Arconada beat former teammate and Aggie sophomore Juan Carlos Aguilar of Bolivia 6-2, 6-4, while wild card Crawford outlasted qualifier Maxime Cressy of France, a UCLA senior, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.  It's Arconada's fifth Futures semifinal since finishing up at Texas A&M in May; Crawford will be playing in the first Futures semifinal of his career. The other semifinal will feature top seed Denis Yevseyev of Kazakhstan against qualifier and recent Memphis standout Andrew Watson of Great Britain.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Montgomery Reaches Quarterfinals at Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup; Nakashima Prepares for ITF Junior Masters; Volynets, Crawford Move on at USTA Pro Circuit $25Ks

Fourteen-year-old Robin Montgomery advanced to the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup, beating No. 10 seed Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-4, 6-1. In the second round, Montgomery had defeated No. 6 seed Mananchaya Sawangkaew of Thailand 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3. She faces top seed Clara Tauson of Denmark next.

Montgomery is the only American remaining in singles or doubles, with No. 3 seed Gabby Price losing in the second round. No. 12 seed Zane Khan lost in the third round, to unseeded Keisuke Saitoh of Japan, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Khan and Price were the only Americans in the field who were not part of the Junior Tennis Champions Center. It turns out that the College Park Maryland Academy went to Japan early to participate in the International Club Junior Challenge Worldwide Finals, a competition between Academies representing individual countries. The JTCC team of Montgomery, Ayana Akil, Trinity Grear and Muhammad Dossani won the overall title, beating teams from Japan, India, Italy, South Africa and Uruguay. Their success continued this week in Osaka, with Akil, Grear and Dossani qualifying and Akil and Dossani both winning two main draw matches.  For more on the JTCC's title, including photos, see this article.

Next week's ITF Junior Masters in China has only one American participating, Brandon Nakashima.  The ITF Junior Circuit website has been posting features about each of the eight boys and eight girls participating, with today's article about Nakashima.  For articles on other players, click on the links below (eight have not yet been featured).

The girls field:
Xiyu Wang, China
Xinyu Wang, China
En Shuo Liang, Taiwan
Maria Osorio Serrano, Colombia
Clara Burel, France
Clara Tauson, Denmark
Eleonara Molinaro, Luxembourg
Leylah Fernandez, Canada

The boys field:
Chun Hsin Tseng, Taiwan
Sebastian Baez, Argentina
Hugo Gaston, France
Lorenzo Musetti, Italy
Nicolas Mejia, Colombia
Adrian Andreev, Bulgaria
Brandon Nakashima, USA
Tao Mu, China (wild card)

Sixteen-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets and University of Florida sophomore Oliver Crawford are among the Americans advancing to the quarterfinals of the two USTA Pro Circuit events this week.

Volynets defeated wild card Emina Bektas (Michigan) 6-2, 6-3 today at the $25,000 tournament in Florence South Carolina to advance to her first Pro Circuit quarterfinal. She will play No. 6 seed Sherazad Reix of France on Friday.  Other Americans advancing to the quarterfinals are Robin Anderson(UCLA) and Duke freshman Maria Mateas. Anderson defeated qualifier Hanna Chang 7-6(4), 6-3 and Mateas defeated University of Texas junior Bianca Turati of Italy 6-4, 6-4.  Both will play seeded Canadians next, with Anderson taking on No. 3 Bianca Andreescu and Mateas facing No. 2 Francoise Abanda.

At the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen Texas, wild card Crawford defeated No. 2 seed Ronnie Schneider(UNC) 6-3, 6-3 to reach his second career Futures quarterfinal.  Crawford will face UCLA senior Maxime Cressy, who beat fellow French qualifier Valentin Vacherot(Texas A&M) 6-4, 6-4.  The only other American to advance to the quarterfinals is unseeded Jordi Arconada, who will face former Texas A&M teammate Juan Carlos Aguilar of Bolivia, now a sophomore on the Aggie team, next.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Drummy Prepares to Join Vanderbilt in January; Volynets Advances at Florence $25K; Four Americans Teens Reach Second Round at Harlingen Futures

The Tennis Recruiting Network has begun its Countdown to Signing Day, and my contribution this week is the commitment to Vanderbilt of Ireland's Georgia Drummy.  The 18-year-old left-hander, who has been at the Evert Tennis Academy for more than two years, is finishing high school this semester and joining the Commodores for the dual match season, which begins in January.  Currently at a career-high of 35 in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings, Drummy has had the good fortune to receive input from Chris Evert while at the Academy, and Drummy told me what piece of advice resonated with her the most now that she had reached the top level of junior competition.

The USTA Pro Circuit has only two $25,000 tournaments on this week's schedule, with the women in Florence South Carolina and the men in Harlingen Texas. 

Sixteen-year-old Katie Volynets qualified for the Florence event on Tuesday, beating Mississippi's 2018 NCAA singles champion Arianne Hartono of the Netherlands 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 in the final round of qualifying. In today's first round, Volynets defeated former Florida star Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-3 and will face wild card Emina Bektas(Michigan) Thursday.  Bektas advanced when top seed Kristie Ahn retired trailing 7-5, 2-3. 

Other American women advancing to the second round include No. 5 seed Kayla Day, Robin Anderson(UCLA), qualifiers Hanna Chang and Louisa Chirico, No. 8 seed Maria Mateas(Duke) and Anastasia Nefedova.  Chirico defeated 16-year-old qualifier Hailey Baptiste 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(4), after Baptiste served for the match at 5-4 in the third.

In Harlingen, qualifying was completed on Monday, with Jonathan Chang(Rice) and Georgia recruit Trent Bryde the only two Americans reaching the main draw via that route. Bryde won his first round match on Tuesday, beating fellow qualifier Jacob Eskeland of Norway 7-6(3), 6-3. Other Americans teens winning first round matches are Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M), who beat No. 8 seed Joao Pedro Sorgi of Brazil 6-3, 6-1, and two wild cards, Axel Nefve, the Notre Dame freshman, and Oliver Crawford, the Florida sophomore. Crawford will face No. 2 seed Ronnie Schneider(UNC) on Thursday. The sixth American advancing to the second round is Jordi Arconada, who beat No. 4 seed Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-1. Arconada(Texas A&M) also defeated Korda last week in the Houston Futures' second round by a 6-1, 6-3 score.

The $75,000+H ATP Challenger in Calgary Canada had five Americans in the main draw, but only one remains: Collin Altamirano. Altamirano(Virginia) defeated No. 7 seed Jay Clarke of Great Britain 7-5, 6-0 in the first round and will play Filip Peliwo of Canada later tonight for a place in the quarterfinals. Wake Forest junior and NCAA singles finalist Borna Gojo of Croatia defeated No. 3 seed Jason Jung(Michigan) of Taiwan 7-6(2), 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals, where he'll meet the Altamirano-Peliwo winner.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Small College Champions Earn Berths in ITA National Fall Championships; Six Americans Advance at Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup

The ITA Cup concluded over the weekend in Rome Georgia, with eight singles champions from NAIA, Division II, Division III, and JUCO divisions advancing to next month's major, the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise Arizona. The competition gives the winners an opportunity to play against the best players in Division I, and since the tournament moved outdoors and expanded to 64 draws there is no longer just one Small College Super Bowl Champion, as was the case in the past. The divisions' doubles winners are required to play off for the only spot reserved for a non-Division I team.

The results are below:

MS: Federico Herrera Duran(Georgia Gwinnett) def. Mika Kosonen(Georgia Gwinnett) 6-4, 6-2
MD: Ayed Zatar and Valentino Caratini(Georgia Gwinnett) def. Federico Herrera Dran and Rafael Coutinho(Georgia Gwinnett) 7-6(8), 6-3
WS: Madeline Bosnjak(Georgie Gwinnett) def. Anais Gabriel(Keiser) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
WD: Nadine Geschke and Sarah Urbanek(San Diego Christian) def. Peeraya Charoensirisutthikul and Rebecca Piils(Brenau) 6-4, 6-4

Division III:
MS: Boris Sorkin(Tufts) def. Chad Leduff (UC-Santa Cruz) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
MD: Jonathan Jemison and Adrien Bouchet(Emory) def. Yangeng Jian and Justin Wang(Bowdoin) 6-3, 6-3
WS: Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico(Emory) def. Lauren O’Malley(John Carroll) 6-4, 6-1
WD: Caroline Cox and Catherine Allen(CMS) def. Danna Taylor and Melissa Strome(Carnegie Mellon) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Division II:
MS: Kiranpal Pannu(Columbus St) def. Pierre Montrieul(Barry) 6-2, 7-6(4)
MD: Zach Whaanga and Alvaro Regalado(Columbus St) def. Filip Kesina and Jakob Schnaitter(Azusa Pacific) 7-5, 0-6, 6-2
WS: Berta Bonardi(West Florida) def. Isabella Dunlap(Central Oklahoma) 6-4, 6-1
WD: Zuza Maciejewska and Verena Schmid(Barry) def. Beatriz Lopez and Marleen Tilgner(Columbus St) 6-1, 6-2

MS: Nicolas Rousset(Seward County CC) def. Alex Parker(Tyler JC) 6-4, 6-1
MD: Gabriel Nery and Sander Jans(Seward County CC) def. Sergio Ingles and Matthew Carroll(ASA Miami) 6-3 6-4
WS: Maria Genovese (Tyler JC) def. Molly Helgesson(ASA Miami) 6-1, 6-0
WD: Maria Genovese and Anna Brogan(Tyler JC) def. Michaela Krauskova and Tatiana Simova(ASA Miami)

Doubles Overall Championships:
Ayed Zatar and Valentino Caratini(Georgia Gwinnett) def. Zach Whaanga and Alvaro Regalado(Columbus St) 7-6(3), 6-1
Maria Genovese and Anna Brogan(Tyler JC) def. Zuza Maciejewska and Verena Schmid(Barry) 6-1, 7-5.

The ITA's Fall Championships tournament page has a link to the list of all players who have qualified so far for the event, but it does not yet include the Division I regional champions.

Although some Regionals have concluded, many begin later this week. See the ITA Regionals tournament page for schedules and sites. Below are the Regional results that I've been able to find; several schools have claimed their first Regional championships.

S: Emmanuel Coste(Oregon) def. William Genesen(Stanford) 6-3, 6-1
D: Joshua Charlton and Thomas Laurent(Oregon) def. Jack Davis and Piers Foley(Washington) 6-2, 6-7(6), 10-8

Ohio Valley:
S:Timo Stodder(Tennessee) def. Gonzalo Morell(Middle Tenn) 6-1, 6-3
D: Hendrik Inno and Marko Ilic(Belmont) def. Timo Stodder and Preston Touliatos(Tennessee) 6-4, 6-4

S:David Volfson(Cornell) def. Charles Broom(Dartmouth) 7-5, 6-3
D: Jack Lin and William Matheson(Columbia) def. Daniel Soyfer and David Volfson(Cornell) 6-0, 6-2

S:Paul Jubb(South Carolina) def. Bar Botzer(Wake Forest) 7-6(2), 6-2
D: Oli Nolan and Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) def. Bo Boyden and Anu Kodali(North Carolina) 6-2, 3-6, 10-8

S: Stephanie Schrage(Princeton) def. Iuliia Bryzgalova(Penn), walkover
D: Sofya Golubovskaya and Sofya Treshcheva(Syracuse) def. Marija Curnic and Marta Kowalska(Penn) 6-2, 6-3

Ohio Valley:
S: Amanda Meyer(Vanderbilt) def. Emily Smith(Vanderbilt) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
D: Summer Dvorak and Christina Rosca(Vanderbilt) def. Viktoriya Dzyuba and Kateryna Popova(Lipscomb) 6-7(5), 6-0, 10-3

S: Chiara Tomasetti(Northern Arizona) def. Arisha Ladhanti(Denver) 6-3, 6-1
D:  TJ Fumagalli and Kristin Kerrigan(Air Force) def. Arisha Ladhani and Toni Nelson(Denver) 6-2, 4-6, 10-7

S: Eden Richardson(LSU) def. Tea Jandric(Ole Miss) 6-0, 1-6, 6-2
D: Jessica Golovin and Eden Richardson(LSU) def. Alexa Bortles and Isolde de Jong(Ole Miss) 6-3, 4-6, 10-7

The first round of the ITF Grade A Osaka Cup is complete, with two US boys and all four US girls into the round of 32.  Robin Montgomery won on Monday; on Tuesday she was joined by No. 3 seed Gabby Price, Sasha Wood and qualifier Ayana Akli.  Akli defeated ITF No. 60 and No. 5 seed Himari Sato of Japan 6-4, 6-3, for her first victory in a Grade A and just her second ITF Junior Circuit win. The only other ITF Junior tournament the 17-year-old Maryland recruit has played was August's Grade 1 in College Park, where she lost in the second round to eventual champion Katie Volynets.

The US boys remaining are No. 12 seed Zane Khan, who won on Monday, and 16-year-old qualifier Muhammad Dossani, who won his first ITF Junior Circuit match above a Grade 4 with a 6-4 6-2 victory over qualifier Daisuke Inagawa of Japan.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup Underway in Japan; Houghton's ITF Junior Debut Results in Two Titles; Nine Other Americans Claim Championships on ITF Junior Circuit

The ITF Grade A tournaments are coming in bunches now, with the Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan underway now, just a week after the Youth Olympic Games. The ITF Grade A in Mexico has moved from Mexico City to Yucatan this year, and is scheduled for November 19-25, with the Orange Bowl ending the ITF Junior Circuit season December 3-9.

As is usually the case with this Grade A, Americans are scarce.  Gabby Price took a wild card into Osaka and is the No. 3 seed, with Robin Montgomery, Sasha Wood and qualifier Ayana Akli the US girls in the main draw. Montgomery, who turned 14 last month, has already won her first round match, her first win at a Grade A.

Four US boys are also in the main draw, including No. 12 seed Zane Khan, who is through to the second round. Murphy Cassone, who played at the Pan American Closed last week in Charlotte, lost his first round match, while Trinity Grear and Muhammad Dossani earned their spots through qualifying.

Grear drew top seed Valentin Royer of France. Clara Tauson of Denmark, who was initially scheduled to compete in the Youth Olympics but withdrew, is the top seed in the girls draw.

Americans won both titles at the Pan American Closed last week, but Govind Nanda and Elli Mandlik were joined by nine other US juniors who collected winner's trophies over the weekend.

Sixteen-year-old India Houghton made her ITF Junior Circuit debut last week at the Grade 5 in Vancouver Canada and swept both titles. After winning two qualifying matches 6-0, 6-0, Houghton lost only five games in her next three wins, before needing three sets to beat the No. 7 seed in the semifinals. In the final, Houghton took on doubles partner and top seed Leena Bennetto of Canada and squeezed out a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) victory.  Bennetto and Houghton were not seeded in doubles but won the title with a 3-6, 6-1, 10-7 victory over No. 2 seeds Alexandra Nielsen and Chae Eun Yoo of Canada.

Cash Hanzlik lost in the finals of both the boys singles and doubles.

At the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, 17-year-old Randy Wilson, seeded No. 3, won his first ITF Junior circuit title with a 7-6(6), 6-2 win over No. 6 seed Joaquin Caballer of Spain. All six of Wilson's victories came in straight sets. Sisters Kiana and Maria Rizzolo won the girls doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Sofia Cabezas Dominguez of Venezuela and Laura Quezada Martinez of the Dominican Republic 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.

The Grade 5 in Curacao produced American winners in three categories, with 15-year-old Alexandra Centra capturing her first ITF Junior Circuit title in the girls singles.  Centra, the No. 3 seed, defeated unseeded Xintong Zhou of China 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Artemis Pados and Adele Fernandez LeCaroz of Puerto Rico won the girls doubles when No. 2 seeds Shirley Liang of Canada and Aleksa Marquez of Peru retired in the final.

The boys doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Benjamin Kittay and Milledge Cossu, although they needed to win only one full match to claim the title. Their semifinal and final opponents both retired.  Kittay, the No. 2 seed, reached the singles final, losing to No. 3 seed Derrick Chen of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3.

Fifteen-year-old Michelle Tikhonko continued her winning streak in doubles at the Grade 5 in the Netherlands. After winning two titles with two different partners in Montenegro, Tikhonko made it three titles in three weeks, this time with Zuzanna Kubacha of Poland. The unseeded pair beat top seeds Zoe Billon of France and Melissa Boyden of the Netherlands 6-4, 7-6(2) in the championship match.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Juvan Claims ITF Youth Olympic Gold Medal in Girls Singles; Hiltzik, Fratangelo Win Futures, Challenger Titles

Kaja Juvan of Slovenia won the ITF Youth Olympic Games gold medal today in girls singles, defeating Clara Burel of France 7-5, 6-4.  The 17-year-old, who last played a junior event nearly a year ago when she finished as runner-up in the ITF Junior Masters, had already claimed a gold medal in doubles Saturday with Iga Swiatek of Poland. Juvan is the first player to win two gold medals in a Youth Olympic Games event, which have been held every four years since the inaugural edition in 2010.  Hugo Gaston of France, who won the boys singles gold medal and bronze medals in the mixed and boys doubles, is the first player to win three medals in the event.

The boys doubles gold medal went to home favorites and top seeds Sebastian Baez and Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina, who beat unseeded Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Rinky Hijikata of Australia 6-4, 6-4. 

The mixed doubles gold medal went to the Japanese pair of Yuki Naito and Naoki Tajima, who beat Nicolas Mejia and Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

The final medal list:

Boys singles:
Gold: Hugo Gaston, France
Silver: Facundo Diaz Acosta, Argentina
Bronze: Gilbert Soares Klier Junior, Brazil

Girls singles:
Gold: Kaja Juvan, Slovenia
Silver: Clara Burel, France
Bronze: Maria Osorio Serrano, Colombia

Boys doubles:
Gold: Sebastian Baez and Facundo Diaz Acosts, Argentina
Silver: Adrian Andreev, Bulgaria and Rinky Hijikata, Australian
Bronze: Hugo Gaston and Clement Tabur, France

Girls doubles:
Gold: Kaja Juvan, Slovenia and Iga Swiatek, Poland
Silver: Yuki Naito and Naho Sato, Japan
Bronze: Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang, China

Mixed doubles:
Gold: Yuki Naito and Naoki Tajima, Japan
Silver: Nicolas Mejia and Maria Osorio Serrano, Colombia
Bronze: Clara Burel and Hugo Gaston, France

The two USTA men's Pro Circuit events concluded today, with Americans taking both titles.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Fairfield California, unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo defeated No. 8 seed Alex Bolt of Australia 6-4, 6-3 to claim his first Challenger title since April of 2016.  The 25-year-old Fratangelo, who didn't drop a set all week and beat top seed Jordan Thompson of Australia in the quarterfinals, is now 3-4 in Challenger finals.

The doubles final in Fairfield was rare in that it did not feature any former collegians. Top seeds Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia defeated unseeded Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-0, 7-6(9) in the final.

At the $25,000 Futures in Houston, No. 2 seed Jared Hiltzik(Illinois) defeated top seed Ronnie Schneider(North Carolina) 6-4, 6-7(7), 7-5 to earn his second career singles title on the pro tour.  Schneider and Hiltzik, both 24 years old, were rivals throughout their junior years in the Midwest section; here's my recap of their 2012 final at the USTA Spring National Championships in Mobile, which Schneider won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

UCLA senior Maxime Cressy of France and Nick Meister, a former Bruin, won the doubles title in Houston, with the No. 4 seeds beating No. 2 seeds John-Paul Fruttero(Cal) and Portugal's Bernardo Saraiva(San Francisco) 7-5, 6-3 in the final.  It's Cressy's fifth Futures doubles title this year, while Meister, who was out for 18 months with an injury before returning at the end of June, has now won two Futures doubles titles this fall.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Nanda and Mandlik Perform Double Duty to Claim ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Titles; France's Gaston Wins Youth Olympic Games Boys Singles Gold

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte NC--

The No. 2 seeds emerged as champions at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Saturday, with both Govind Nanda and Elli Mandlik collecting two straight-sets victories to take home their first Grade 1 titles.

Nanda defeated unseeded Andres Martin 6-2, 7-6(2) in the semifinals and No. 3 seed Eliot Spizzirri 6-2, 6-1 in the final, while Mandlik took out No. 3 seed Chloe Beck 6-3, 6-4 in their semifinal and beat No. 11 seed Savannah Broadus 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

A week that began with rain and included the washout of two entire days ended with sunny skies and cool temperatures at the Jeff Adams Tennis Center, a public facility that served as the site on the final day,
due to football homecoming at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the tournament's host.

With all the disruptions throughout the week, doubles were cancelled, and  four rounds of boys singles and five rounds of girls singles were completed in the final two days, with match tiebreakers played for a third set Friday and Saturday.

Mandlik played three matches on Friday, earning her place in Saturday's semifinal with a 6-3, 4-6, 10-7 victory over No. 7 seed Vanessa Ong.  Nanda and Martin had the option to play their semifinal match on Friday, after playing only two matches earlier in the day, but they decided to wait until Saturday morning.

That proved an advantage when it became clear that the Jeff Adams courts were significantly faster than those at UNC-Charlotte. Spizzirri had played his semifinal against Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico on Friday at UNCC, so he did not have a match under his belt as Nanda did.

"These courts are really, really fast and playing a match on it before definitely helped me a lot," said Nanda, a 17-year-old from Cerritos, California. "I could tell he was struggling with that, catching a lot of balls late, not getting to a lot of balls that he would usually get to."

"The courts were pretty fast and a little bit of a change from the rest of the week," said Spizzirri, a 16-year-old from Greenwich Connecticut. "We were playing on slower courts before, and his game is suited pretty well for this. When he's timing the ball well, he's just cracking backhand winners left and right, so it's tough to get the ball out in front on these fast courts, when he's hitting so low and flat. He played really well."

The final was close for the first four games, but after Nanda broke for a 3-2 lead, he stayed in the zone, finishing a long week with a 55-minute victory.

"Early on in the match it was pretty tight," Nanda said. "But I think after I got that break, I just broke free a little bit. I started playing a little better and he started playing a little worse."

Nanda did not have an opportunity to defend his 2017 Pan American Closed doubles title, so he was grateful to have the champion's singles points to help with his 2019 junior ranking.

"I'm not going to be able to play juniors at the start [of 2019]," said Nanda, who is joining the UCLA Bruins in January. "So this is pretty big for me. Hopefully I can keep it going through Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl."

Spizzirri, who is also playing Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl with an eye toward improving his ranking enough to qualify for the junior slams, admitted that the week was unlike any he had encountered.

"It's been pretty chaotic," Spizzirri said. "I haven't had a tournament that's gone like this in forever; this is the first one I think. The change of sites, the hurricane, finding indoor places 45 minutes away, it was kind of hectic. But we've worked through it. Obviously, it's not the best thing that we had to play on different courts for the finals, but it happens, and you've just got to deal with it."

Mandlik said she tried to get a feel for the courts while warming up
with her brother Mark, but she still needed more time to adjust before she could feel comfortable in her semifinal with Beck.

"I couldn't see the ball too good because of the shadows from the trees," said Mandlik, the daughter of four-time slam winner Hana Mandlikova. "And because it was a different court, I didn't feel the ball like I did at the other site. I warmed up with my brother before the match and I didn't get it yet. And then I went on the court and it took me like three games to finally feel it."

Broadus came back from 4-0 down in the second set to defeat No. 9 seed Kylie Collins, an experience the 16-year-old from Carrollton Texas found draining in several ways.

"It was tough," Broadus said of playing the semifinals and finals back-to-back. "My semi was physically and mentally challenging, because I was playing a good friend of mine. I had never done [back-to-back] before, so it was tough, but I'll learn from my experience. I think I'll be prepared if it happens again."

In the final, Broadus could not find the free swinging power that she had used to win the final six games of her match against Collins, with Mandlik determined to keep Broadus off balance.

"I watched her during the tournament," said Mandlik, who had never played Broadus before. "I know she's a big hitter. I tried to put space over the net, so it wasn't in her strike zone, so she doesn't hit the ball flat and blow me off the court."

Mandlik took a 5-2 lead in the second set, but she couldn't get to match point serving for it. At 5-3, Broadus had three game points to put the pressure back on Mandlik, but she had trouble getting a first serve in, and Mandlik converted her first match point when Broadus sent a forehand long.

Mandlik, No. 47 in the ITF Junior rankings prior to this week's title, is eager to secure her place in the junior slams next summer.

"I wanted next year to be safe to play all the grand slams," said the Bradenton Florida resident, who probably won't play Australia, but would like to play the other three. "So I'm playing the Grade A on clay in Yucatan, then Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl."

As for all the twists and turns of the week, Mandlik could look back on them without frustration.

"It turned out good," Mandlik said. "But I thought it was going to be worse. Yesterday was three matches and my legs and body were hurting. I almost lost in the quarters, I was in the tiebreaker, but I thought I played good both matches today."

Broadus agreed.

"She played really well," said Broadus, who is also playing all three clay tournaments to end the ITF Junior Circuit season. "I made a lot of errors, I could have made more balls, but she definitely played really well."

At the ITF Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France disappointed the home crowd by defeating No. 8 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina 6-4, 7-5 for the gold medal.  The gold medal in girls doubles went to No. 2 seeds Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Iga Swiatek of Poland, who defeated No. 4 seeds Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan 6-7(5), 7-5, 10-4.  Juvan will play for the singles gold on Sunday against Clara Burel of France.  The boys doubles final between Diaz Acosta and Sebastian Baez and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Rinky Hijikata of Australia is also Sunday, as is the mixed doubles final between Naoki Tajima and Naito of Japan and Maria Osorio Serrano and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Long Day at Pan American Closed Ends with Girls Semifinalists Set; Spizzirri Reaches Boys Final; Juvan and Burel Vie for Youth Olympic Games Gold; Kinnear, Rinaldi Take Over as Head of Men's and Women's Tennis at USTA

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte NC--

Friday dawned clear and cool, perfect conditions for an ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed schedule that required several competitors to play three singles matches.

No. 3 seed Eliot Spizzirri was one of those who opted to play three matches, and he now finds himself in his first Grade 1 final, awaiting his opponent.

The boys had completed their second round of singles prior to the two-days of rain that kept any matches from being played Wednesday and Thursday. That meant only two matches were absolutely necessary to get the boys to the semifinals, but Spizzirri and No. 11 seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico agreed to play a third match.  Spizzirri had already beaten No. 16 seed Alexander Bernard 6-3, 6-2 and No. 5 seed Liam Draxl of Canada 6-3, 6-3, avoiding the match tiebreakers that constituted the third set. Sepulveda had beaten wild card Joshua Lapadat in straight sets Friday morning, but his 6-3, 5-7, 10-6 win over top seed Tyler Zink in the quarterfinals was a real battle, so it was surprising that he agreed to a third match. He may regret that decision now, with Spizzirri dominating in a 6-2, 6-1 semifinal victory.

"Three matches is a lot for me," said the 16-year-old from Connecticut. "My back's been hurting a little bit for the past couple of weeks, but I've been managing it pretty well and I'm going into the final feeling pretty good about my back."

Spizzirri said that he's noticed that his back issues have actually had a positive impact on his serving.

"I've definitely been working on my serve and my return a lot," said Spizzirri, who earned a substantial number of free points on his serve against Sepulveda. "Actually, it's kind of crazy, because my back is affecting my serve a little bit, but I'm actually managing to serve bigger, even with this injury. I don't really understand it; maybe it's because I'm not trying to force it too much. But I'm serving really well and with confidence."

Spizzirri will face the winner of Saturday morning's semifinal match between unseeded Andres Martin and No. 2 seed Govind Nanda, who agreed that two matches was enough for Friday.  Nanda defeated No. 15 seed Daniel Salazar of Colombia 6-3, 6-1 and No. 9 seed Alex Lee 7-5, 6-3.  Martin took out No. 4 seed Taha Baadi of Canada 6-1, 6-4 and then beat No. 6 seed Ronan Jachuck 6-7(2), 6-4, 10-4 in the quarterfinals.

The win over Baadi was particularly satisfying for Martin, who had falled to Baadi in the quarterfinals of the Grade 2 last month in Montreal.

"From that match, I was, OK, I understand how to play him this time," said Martin, a 17-year-old Georgia Tech recruit. "I worked on my backhand, because it was struggling in that tournament. I worked on going line and cross court, hitting my spots, and that actually helped me today, in both matches, so I'm happy for that."

Martin said he spent most of the two rain days playing video games.

"We were just playing video games the whole time," Martin said. "A little bit of Fortnite, and this game called Mario Party. I've done a little bit of studying--I've been taking my calculus test for three days now in my online schooling."

Martin and Nanda played in the second round of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships back in April, with Nanda earning a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The girls, who did not complete their second round on Tuesday, faced the prospect of three matches on Friday just to reach the semifinals and two of the semifinalists negotiated all three.  No. 3 seed Chloe Beck defeated unseeded Alexandra Yepifanova 6-2, 4-6, 10-4; No. 16 seed Hina Inoue 6-1, 6-4; and unseeded Canadian Ariana Arseneault, the only non-American in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-0.  She will play No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik in the semifinals, after Mandlik earned wins of Daria Tomashevskaya of Canada 6-3, 6-0; Elvina Kalieva 6-3, 6-3 and No. 7 seed Vanessa Ong 6-3, 4-6, 10-7. 

The two girls semifinalists in the top half only needed to play two matches to advance, with No. 11 seed Savannah Broadus defeating Jaedan Brown 6-2, 6-4 in the second round and No. 6 seed Kacie Harvey 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 in the third round. Broadus's day ended there, when Emma Navarro, the No. 4 seed, withdrew with an injury an defeating Emma Jackson 6-2, 7-5 in the third round.
Like Navarro, No. 9 seed Kylie Collins had finished her second round match on Tuesday before all the rain. She defeated No. 8 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico 6-4, 6-4 in the third round, and then took out top seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

Collins, 15, had lost to Black in the quarterfinals of the International Spring Championships and fell behind 3-1 in the first set, but took the next five games to secure the lead.

"I think my footwork was a little slow, but my game plan was there," Collins said. "I just had to pick that up, stay more controlled. I think I was a little bit wild. I stuck to my game plan, played with controlled aggression."

Collins knew that Black's formidable defense can lead to frustration, but she told herself not to assume she had hit a winner.

"I knew from the last time, if I hit a winner, it was going to come back, so I was always ready for the next shot," Collins said. "If the ball was sitting up, I wouldn't always go for a winner, but just open up the court more for the next ball. I was always expecting one or two more balls when I thought it would be a winner."

Collins and Broadus have played doubles together, and hit indoors together during the two rain days, but Collins had to go way back in her memory bank to retrieve a singles match between them.

"Last time I played her was like Little Mo's in Austin," Collins said. "Ten years ago or something, it was a while ago."

Beck and Mandlik haven't played on the ITF Junior Circuit, but Mandlik does have a win over Beck in the USTA 14s Clay Courts four years ago.

Due to the UNC Charlotte football homecoming, the five matches Saturday will be played at the Jeff Adams Tennis Center in Charlotte.

At the ITF Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, No. 4 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and No. 7 seed Clara Burel of France have advanced to the gold medal match. Juvan defeated No. 5 seed Xinyu Wang of China 6-0, 7-5, while Burel downed No. 6 seed Maria Osoria Serrano of Colombia for the second time in two months 6-4, 7-5.  Juvan and Burel will play on Sunday; Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina and Hugo Gaston of France will play for the boys gold medal Saturday.

The boys doubles final is set, with top seeds Sebastian Baez and Diaz Acosta of Argentina taking on Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Rinky Hijikata of Australia.

The girls doubles final between Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan and Juvan and Poland's Iga Swiatek will take place on Saturday.
The USTA announced several major changes in Player Development, with Ola Malmqvist, head of women's tennis, leaving that position to become Director of Coaching.  Former Team USA lead National Coach Kathy Rinaldi will take Malmqvist's position, while retaining her Fed Cup Captaincy.  Kent Kinnear, who has been the USTA's Director of Player ID and Development for six years, and a National Coach prior to that, will take over as head of men's tennis. That position, held for many years by Jay Berger, was occupied by former University of Virginia coach  Brian Boland between June of last year and May of this year.

For quotes from Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman, Rinaldi and Kinnear, see this article from the USTA. For more on Kinnear's previous position at the USTA, see this Tennis Recruiting Network article of mine from early this year.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tropical Storm Michael Washes Out Another Day of Play at Pan American Closed; Diaz Acosta and Gaston to Meet for Olympic Gold; Wolf Reaches First Challenger Quarterfinal

©Colette Lewis 2018--
 Charlotte NC--

For the second consecutive day, no tennis was played at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, this time due to Tropical Storm Michael. With the Charlotte area under a tropical storm warning, the decision was made early Thursday morning to cancel play for the day. The rain and wind continued for most of the day, but the skies cleared around 5 p.m. and are expected to remain clear for the next several days. With only two days remaining to complete the tournament, the doubles competition was cancelled, with only one of the 31 matches in those two draws played to completion before rain washed out play Tuesday afternoon.  The format for singles for the remainder of the tournament will be two sets with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set, which was the format for the girls second round, but not the boys, who finished their second round under standard best-of-three scoring.

Because I had no live tennis to watch today, I focused instead on the live stream of the ITF Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires Argentina. The girls quarterfinal match between No. 6 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia and unseeded Yuki Naito of Japan was first up, and after a tight first set, Osorio Serrano took control, posting a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Osorio Serrano will face No. 7 seed Clara Burel in the semifinals, after Burel surprised No. 3 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-2. Swiatek had beaten Burel in the round of 16 in both the French Open and Wimbledon this year, in straight sets, so the scoreline, if not the result, was certainly unexpected. Burel and Osorio Serrano met in the semifinals of the US Open last month, with Burel winning 7-6 in the third, so that could be a good one.  The other girls semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia versus No. 5 seed Xinyu Wang of China. Juvan defeated Wang en route to last year's title at the ITF Junior Masters.

The boys semifinal match streamed today saw Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina, the No. 8 seed, defeat Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, the No. 6 seed 6-4, 6-1. Diaz Acosta will face No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France for the gold medal on Saturday, with Gaston defeating No. 7 seed Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil by the same score.

No boys or girls doubles were played today, but eight second round mixed doubles matches moved that draw into the quarterfinals.

The live stream is available here.

The USTA Pro Circuit events this week are both men's tournaments, with a $25,000 Futures in Houston and a $100,000 ATP Challenger in Fairfield California.

In Houston, five of the eight quarterfinalists are Americans, including the top two seeds: Ronnie Schneider(UNC) and Jared Hiltzik(Illinois).  Schneider will play UCLA junior Evan Zhu; Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M) will play Ryan Peniston(Memphis) of Great Britain; Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) will face No. 5 seed Maxime Tchoutakian(Baylor) of France and Hiltzik will face No. 7 seed Peter Bothwell of Ireland. No. 4 seeds Maxime Cressy and Nick Meister(UCLA) play No. 2 seeds John Paul Fruttero(Cal) and Portugal's Bernardo Saraiva(San Francisco) in the doubles final.

In Fairfield, two Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals: Bjorn Fratangelo and Ohio State junior JJ Wolf.  Wolf, who received a wild card, won the ITA All-American Championships singles title on Monday, then flew to California for his first round match on Wednesday. He beat qualifier Evan King, then came back today to take out No. 3 seed Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-2. It's Wolf's first Challenger quarterfinal, although he already has a ATP Top 100 win earlier this summer, over Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia in the qualifying of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Wolf will face No. 5 seed Adrian Menendez Maceiras of Spain, while Fratangelo plays either top seed Jordan Thompson of Australia or Maxime Janvier of France, who play later tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday Complete Rainout at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Top Seeds Tseng, Baez Lose in ITF Youth Olympic Quarterfinals; USA's Les Petits As Playoffs Conclude in New Jersey

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte NC--

Play in Wednesday's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed never began, with rain starting prior to daylight and continuing all day. Thursday's forecast is no better, with 100 percent chance of rain as Hurricane Michael moves through the area. On the bright side, the forecast for Friday and Saturday is excellent, with no chance of rain either day, but with the girls second round of singles yet to be completed and doubles barely begun, indoor play is being arranged for Thursday, although only two courts are available. In any case, I'll be at the Lake Norman Tennis Center to see whatever matches are scheduled to be played there; the actual schedule will be posted very early Thursday morning at the ITF Junior website.

Rain hasn't been any problem in Buenos Aires, where the ITF Youth Olympic Games are taking place this week. After a relatively predictable first few rounds, upsets surfaced in today's quarterfinals, with No. 8 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina defeating top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan 6-2, 6-4 and No. 7 seed Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil beating No. 2 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-4, 6-4. In the boys singles medal round, Diaz Acosta will play No. 6 seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria in one semifinal, with Soares Klier taking on No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France.

The girls lost their top two singles seeds in the first round, but the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds have advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals. In the top half, unseeded Yuki Naito of Japan will play No. 6 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia and No. 3 seed and Wimbledon girls champion Iga Swiatek of Poland will face Australian and US Open finalist Clara Burel of France, the No. 7 seed. In the bottom half, No. 4 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia will play unseeded Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia and No. 5 seed Xinyu Wang of China will meet unseeded Daniela Vismane of Latvia.

The girls doubles final is set with the fourth-seeded team of Naito and Naho Sato of Japan facing No. 2 seeds Juvan and Swiatek for the gold medal.

The boys doubles semifinals will feature top seeds Diaz Acosta and Baez against the unseeded Czech team of Ondrej Styler and Dalibor Svrcina in the top half and No. 3 seeds Gaston and Clement Tabur of France against unseeded Andreev and Rinky Hijikata of Australia.

The Les Petits As USA Playoffs concluded today at the Brunswick Hills Tennis Center in New Jersey, with the US teams selected for the trip to the prestigious 14-and-under tournament in Tarbes France next January.  Below are the photos posted on Twitter by the Les Petits As tournament.  The results of today's finals are not listed, but here are the draws prior to today's matches: Girls and Boys. More information on all the players participating and the round robin results is at the tournament website.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Rain Again Stymies ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Boys Singles Quarterfinals, Girls Doubles Semifinals Set at Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte NC--

With no lights and no indoor facility at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the first few days of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed needed good weather to stay on schedule.  Mother Nature did not cooperate, and as of sunset Tuesday, the girls first round of singles is not finished and just one doubles match has been decided.

After light rain hit yesterday afternoon, 15 girls first round singles matches were still in progress, with a few not even begun. Tuesday dawned overcast but dry, and the boys did finish their second round matches, but the girls were again disrupted, with rain arriving before 1 p.m.

One girl who had a typical experience was 13-year-old wild card Eleana Yu, who trailed Jennifer Gadalov 3-1 in the first set when play was called for the day on Monday.  Gadalov closed out the set 6-2 when their match resumed at 10 a.m. Tuesday, but Yu said she felt she was beginning to implement her game plan.

"I knew I had the right plan throughout the match," said USTA National 14s champion, playing in just her third ITF Junior Circuit event. "In the first set, I wasn't executing it very well. The rain delay I think helped me a lot to refocus my mind, even thought when I first got out there I lost the first set. It helped me a lot there in the second and mostly the third set."

Yu led 2-6, 6-1, 5-2 when Tuesday's heavier rains arrived, and just as the courts dried and Yu and Gadalov prepared to resume their match around 3 p.m, another rain shower popped up, delaying it another two-plus hours.

But when play finally resumed, Yu was able to close out the match with no drama.

"I was definitely prepared for anything to happen, said the Mason Ohio resident. "I was just trying to refocus my mind, tell myself it was a new start, because anything could happen from there. I was glad it took only one game, but I was prepared to play more."

Yu said nerves played a role in her shaky start Monday.

"I was definitely very nervous, I don't even know why," Yu said. "I couldn't swing through the ball and I made lots of unforced errors. Once I got in a rhythm in the second and third set, I was able to swing through the ball, attack and take control of the points."

Yu will face No. 7 seed Vanessa Ong in the second round, although rain is even more likely on Wednesday and Thursday.

The one girls first round match yet to be completed is between wild cards Allie Gretkowski and Marina Stakusic of Canada. Gretkowski served for the match twice in the second set leading 7-5, 5-4 and 6-5, but Stakusic won the tiebreaker and the match was called for darkness.

Three girls second round matches were completed in the final hour of light available, with No. 9 seed Kylie Collins, No. 4 seed Emma Navarro and unseeded Elaine Chervinsky winning in straight sets. The girls second round is being played with a match tiebreaker in a lieu of a third set. Even shorter scoring will be implemented in future rounds if the rain arrives as predicted, with no indoor play anticipated.

The boys second round was uneventful, with top seeds Tyler Zink and Govind Nanda getting through in straight sets after tough three-setters on Monday.  Zink defeated Tom LeBlanc Claverie of France 6-1, 6-1 and Nanda got by Marko Stakusic of Canada 7-6(1), 6-2. The only two seeds to fall in today's second round were No. 7 seed Blaise Bicknell and No. 14 seed Phillip Jordan.  Fifteen-year-old Joshua Lapadat of Canada defeated Bicknell 6-4, 6-3 and Andres Martin defeated doubles partner Jordan 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2.

The boys singles quarterfinals and girls doubles semifinals are set at the ITF Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, with none of the four Americans participating remaining in any of the five draws, including mixed doubles.

Top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan will play No. 8 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina; unseeded Filip Jianu of Romania will play No. 6 seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria; unseeded Daniel Michalski of Poland will play No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France, and No. 7 seed Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil will play No. 2 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina. Drew Baird, the only American to win a match in Buenos Aires, lost to Soares Klier 7-6(7), 6-4 in today's second round.

The medal round of the girls doubles will feature top seeds Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang of China against No. 4 seeds Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan and unseeded Maria Carle of Argentina and Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia against No. 2 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Iga Swiatek of Poland.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Top Seeds Advance at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Wolf Claims Ohio State's First ITA All-American Singles Title; Wang, Liang Lose in First Round of ITF Youth Olympics

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte, NC--

The opening day of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed ended with nearly half the girls first round unfinished, but the top two seeds in both the boys and girls draws advanced to Tuesday's second round.

No. 1 seed Hurricane Tyra Black defeated Ellie Coleman 6-4, 6-1 and No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik beat Michelle Sorokko 7-5, 6-0, but the top seeds in the boys draw both needed three sets.  Top seed Tyler Zink squeezed past Mark Mandlik, Elli's twin brother, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, while No. 2 seed Govind Nanda recovered for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over qualifier Max Fardanesh.

Only two boys seeds failed to reach the second round, with No. 12 seed Brandon Perez of Venezuela retiring trailing Keshav Chopra 4-6, 7-6(8), 2-0, and No. 10 seed Andrew Dale falling to Matthew Che 7-6(4), 6-4.

As with many of the boys matches, Dale and Che played lengthy points and games, with their straight-set match taking over three hours to complete in the hot and humid conditions.

"It was tough conditions today, it was pretty hot. It was only two sets, but it felt like three sets," said Che, a 17-year-old from New Jersey, who trains at Smith Stearns Academy. "If anything, it felt like four sets."

Che had a point to go up 5-3 in the second set, but Dale ended up getting back on serve, only to drop serve in the next game.

"The second set was pretty different [from the first]," Che said. "There were a lot of breaks. Not really men's tennis, but it happens. I told myself I just need to break and hold once. Since I'd broken him multiple times in the set, I knew I could do it again."

Serving for the match at 5-4, Che had a match point at 40-30, but he sent a forehand well long and hit another errant forehand on the next point to give Dale a break point. But some good defense got Che back in control of that break point after Dale had what seemed to be an easy putaway, and when Dale hit a defensive lob long, the game was back to deuce. Che hit a backhand volley winner on the next point to earn his second match point, and he slammed a forehand winner for the win, letting out a big roar when he closed it out.

"Andrew is a great player, and I've known him for a while," Che said. "I played him back in the 12s or 14s. It was a super tough. I was excited because I was really tired and really did not want it to go three sets, or even 5-all. I wanted to finish there, and I was happy I did."

The girls were unable to finish their first round, with a light rain dampening the courts around 5:45 p.m. The 12-court facility at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte does not have lights, so several matches would probably not have been completed anyway, given the length of the boys matches earlier in the day. That left the girls draw with only 17 finished matches, but even with that, three seeds were eliminated including No. 15 seed Jada Bui of Canada, No. 12 seed Skyler Grishuk and No. 5 seed Natasha Subhash.  Emma Jackson defaeted Bui 6-3, 6-3; Elaine Chervinksy downed Grishuk 6-2, 6-3 and Ariana Arseneault of Canada beat Subhash 6-3, 6-4.

No. 4 seed Emma Navarro, who wasn't eliminated from the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Charleston South Carolina until Saturday's semifinals, had just one day off before getting back on the court, in an entirely different competitive environment.

"It's tough coming off a $25K, where I don't have as much pressure," said Navarro, who beat qualifier Jenna Thompson 6-4, 6-1 today. "Here I'm the four seed, I'm expected to do well, it's tough. But my coach does a good job of keeping me grounded and getting me ready to play. I was a little tight at the beginning, coming off a really good tournament and the first match of the tournament is always kind of tight. So I was just working my way into the match, and in the second set I loosened up a bit and played well."

Navarro said she was debating pulling out of this week's tournament, but she realizes how important a good showing here is to getting into the junior slams next year.

"I'm trying to get into the slams, so I wanted to play to hopefully get some good points and play some good matches," said the 17-year-old from Charleston South Carolina.

The remaining girls first round matches will go on after the boys second round, which begins at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday.  The doubles first round is also scheduled for Tuesday, although boys top seeds Zink and Nanda have a bye. The girls top seeds are also the No. 1 and No. 2 singles seeds: Black and Mandlik.

The order of play, the doubles draws and all today's singles results can be found at the ITF Junior website.

The ITA Men's All-American Championships concluded today in Tulsa, with Ohio State's JJ Wolf, a 9-16 seed, defeating top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State 6-0, 7-6(3) to earn the Buckeyes first All-American singles title. For more on Wolf's win, see the Ohio State website.

The Baylor team of Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck won the doubles title, preventing a sweep by Ohio State with a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 10-4 win over Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt.  Lah and Bendeck, who were qualifiers into the main draw, are the first team from Baylor to win an All-American doubles title.

Christian Sigsgaard of Texas won the consolation tournament for those who lost in the first round, beating John McNally of Ohio State 6-1, 6-2.

The ITA article on the finals is available here.

The ITF Youth Olympic Games produced a couple of surprising results today in Buenos Aires, with US Open girls champion Xiyu Wang of China, the top seed, and Australian Open girls champion En-Shuo Liang of Taiwan, the No. 2 seed, losing their opening round matches. Yuki Naito of Japan defeated Wang 7-6(3), 7-5 and Daniela Vismane of Latvia defeated Liang 7-5, 6-2.

Both American girls lost their opening round matches. Lea Ma fell to Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 and No. 8 seed Alexa Noel was beaten by Diane Parry of France 7-6(4), 6-3.

In boys doubles, Drew Baird and Tristan Boyer lost their first round match to No. 2 seeds Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil 6-3, 7-6(6).

Baird is on Tuesday's schedule for his second round singles match against Soares Klier and all four Americans will be playing in the first round of mixed doubles.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Qualifier Whittle of Gonzaga Wins ITA All-American Title; Borges, Wolf Reach Mens A-A Final; Youth Olympic Games Underway; Rizzolo, Kuzuhara Claim ITF G5 Titles; Pan American Closed Begins Monday

Qualifier Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga is the 2018 ITA Women's All-American champion after she defeated Duke freshman Maria Mateas 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 today at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Steve Pratt has all the details of Whittle's improbable run to the title in this article for the ITA website.

The women's doubles title went to unseeded Nina Khmelnitckaia and Janet Koch of Kansas, who beat Kimberly Yee and Caroline Lampl of Stanford, also unseeded, 6-3, 6-2 in today's final.

Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami, who was the No. 2 seed in the tournament, won the consolation draw for those who lost in the first round. She defeated Wisconsin's Sara Castellano 6-4, 6-1.

The singles and doubles finals of the ITA Men's All-American Championships will be Monday, with top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State taking on JJ Wolf of Ohio State for the singles title. Borges saved two match points in his 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(4) semifinal win over unseeded Alex Brown of Illinois. Wolf, a 9-16 seed, defeated unseeded Emil Reinberg of Georgia 6-0, 7-6(5) in the other semifinal. Matches the past two days have been played indoors due to rain in Tulsa.

The doubles final will feature the Ohio State team of Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt, who got into the draw as lucky losers after falling in qualifying. They will face Baylor's Jimmy Bendeck and Sven Lah, who got into the main draw through qualifying.

John McNally of Ohio State and Christian Sigsgaard of Texas are in the men's consolation final. The ITA recap of today's action in Tulsa is here.

The ITF Youth Olympic Games got underway today in Buenos Aires with the boys singles first round and the girls doubles first round.  The American boys went 1-1, with Drew Baird winning over Patrick Sydow of Aruba 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 but Tristan Boyer losing to Yanki Erel of Turkey 6-3, 7-6(9).  Top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan and No. 2 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina won in straight sets.

In girls doubles, the two American girls in the tournament, Alexa Noel and Lea Ma, lost their first round match to Selma Cadar of Romania and Lulu Sun of Switzerland 6-4, 6-1.

The girls singles, which begins Monday, boasts three of the past four junior slam champion, with Xiyu Wang of China (US Open), En Shuo Liang of Taiwan (Australia Open) and Iga Swiatek of Poland (Wimbledon) in the field, along with Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, who has a WTA ranking of 197. Swiatek(179) and Wang(182) also have Top 200 WTA rankings.

The draws and order of play are available at the ITF Youth Olympics website.

The singles finals were played at the USTA Pro Circuit events today, with former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba winning the $25,000 tournament in Charleston South Carolina. The Romanian defeated No. 4 seed Ellie Halbauer 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 in just under three hours to earn her third Pro Circuit singles title, but the first at the $25,000 level.

At the $60,000 women's tournament in Stockton California, top seed Madison Brengle defeated former Southern Cal star Danielle Lao 7-5, 7-6(10) for her third ITF Pro Circuit title of the year. Brengle had dropped out of the Top 100 this summer, but after last week's semifinal and this week's title, she is back there now.

In the doubles final played today, Hayley Carter(North Carolina) and Ena Shibahara(UCLA) defeated Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) of Brazil 7-5, 5-7, 10-7 for their third Pro Circuit title as a team this year.  Gleason and Stefani finish one win short of a title for the second straight week.

At the ATP $100,000 Men's Challenger in Stockton, No. 4 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa defeated No. 8 seed Marc Polmans of Australia 6-2, 6-2 for the title.

I covered the Corpus Christi ITF Grade 4 results in yesterday's post, but Jacob Bullard and Madison Sieg were not the only Americans to pick up titles on the ITF Junior Circuit this weekend. At the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, Americans swept the singles titles, with Bruno Kuzuhara and Maria Rizzolo earning their first ITF Junior Circuit titles. The unseeded Kuzuhara, just 14, had not won a main draw match in ITF Junior Circuit play until this week, but he dropped only one set all week, in the final against No. 5 seed Alexander Zederbauer Lapentti of Ecuador, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.  The 15-year-old Rizzolo, also unseeded, defeated No. 2 seed Melody Hefti of Switzerland 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the final.

At the Grade 5 in Montenegro, Michelle Tikhonko partnered with Vanessa Popa Teiusanu of Romania to win the doubles title. The No. 3 seeds defeated Nadezda Khalturina of Russia and Andjela Lopicic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Tikhonko also won the doubles title in last week's Grade 5 in Montenegro with a different partner.

I will begin my onsite coverage of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Charlotte North Carolina beginning tomorrow, with qualifying having been completed today.

The boys top 8 seeds:
1. Tyler Zink, USA
2. Govind Nanda, USA
3. Eliot Spizzirri, USA
4. Taha Baadi, CAN
5. Liam Draxl, CAN
6. Ronan Jachuck, USA
7. Blaise Bicknell, USA
8. Alan Magadan, MEX

The girls top 8 seeds:
1. Hurricane Tyra Black, USA
2. Elli Mandlik, USA
3. Chloe Beck, USA
4. Emma Navarro, USA
5. Natasha Subhash, USA
6. Kacie Harvey, USA
7. Vanessa Ong, USA
8. Lauren Anzalotta, PUR

There are several blue chips who just missed being seeded. Siem Woldeab will take on Baadi in one of the best boys first-rounders, and unseeded Emma Jackson, who had such an impressive US Open this year, will face No. 15 seed Jada Bui of Canada. Abigail Forbes is another top player who, like Woldeab, just missed being seeded. She will play Victoria Hu in the first round.

The order of play for Monday is available at the ITF Junior Circuit tournament page.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Mateas, Whittle Reach ITA Women's All-American Final; Semis Set at Men's All-American in Tulsa; Bullard and Sieg Take Corpus Christi ITF Grade 4 Titles

Unseeded freshman Maria Mateas of Duke and qualifier Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga will meet for the ITA Women's All-American Championships title Sunday at the Riviera Country Club. Mateas, who received a wild card into the event as the preseason freshman of the year, defeated top seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina 6-1, 6-4. Whittle, a senior at Gonzaga, defeated defending champion Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to become the first player from her school ever to make an ITA major final.

After the round of 16 and the quarterfinal round on Saturday, the semifinals are set for the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa Sunday, with two seeded players and two unseeded players reaching the final four.  No. 1 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State will play Illinois sophomore Alex Brown and Emil Reinberg of Georgia will take on JJ Wolf of Ohio State, a 9-16 seed.  For more on all of today's action, see this recap from the ITA.

The ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi concluded today, with Jacob Bullard and Madison Sieg capturing the singles title.  Bullard, a 17-year-old from Southern California who has committed to Texas, qualified and won a round at the Futures in California last week, so he has been playing well. Unseeded this week, he defeated five seeds, including No. 7 seed Hunter Heck 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 in today's final for his first ITF junior circuit title, and will come into the Grade B1 Pan American Closed next week with confidence.

Heck did win the doubles title, with JC Roddick, the nephew of Andy Roddick. The No. 5 seeds defeated unseeded Maxwell Giddens and Welsh Hotard 4-6, 7-6(4), 10-8 in the final.

The 15-year-old Sieg, seeded No. 4, defeated top seed Kailey Evans in the semifinals and No. 3 seed Ellie Coleman 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in today's final. Sieg, who won a Grade 5 last year, is also scheduled to compete in the Grade B1 Pan American Closed next week.

The girls doubles title went to No. 7 seeds Carson Tanguilig and Elise Wagle, who beat No. 2 seeds Carmen Corley and Jenna DeFalco 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-5 in the final.

In the USTA Pro Circuit events, both US teenagers fell in the semifinals at the $25,000 Women's tournament in Charleston, with Hailey Baptiste losing to former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania 6-2, 6-2 and Emma Navarro dropping a 7-6(2), 6-2 decision to No. 4 seed Ellie Halbauer.  Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller won the doubles title, with the top seeds beating No. 4 seeds Talaba and Connie Hsu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

It will be an all-American final at the $60,000 Women's tournament in Stockton, with top seed Madison Brengle facing unseeded Danielle Lao. Brengle defeated No. 3 seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia 6-1, 6-1, while former USC star Lao downed No. 2 seed Jessica Pegula 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

The final at the men's ATP Challenger in Stockton will feature No. 4 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa against No. 8 seed Marc Polmans of Australia. 

Former Wake Forest star Noah Rubin won his first professional doubles title today in Stockton, with Darian King of Barbados. The unseeded pair defeated top seeds Sanchai Ratiwatana of Thailand and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia 6-3, 6-4 in today's final.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Navarro, Baptiste Reach Charleston $25K Semifinals; ITF B1 Pan American Closed Qualifying Begins Saturday; Semifinals Set at Women's ITA All-American Championships

Teenagers Emma Navarro and Hailey Baptiste continued their impressive showings at the $25,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Charleston South Carolina, with both taking quarterfinal victories in straight sets.

Navarro, a 17-year-old wild card from Charleston, defeated No. 5 seed Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan, a former Florida standout, 7-5, 6-3 and will face No. 4 seed Ellie Halbauer, another young American with roots in the area, in the semifinals.  Halbauer defeated former Georgia star Nadja Gilchrist 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Baptiste, 16, has been rolling through opponents this week, and she made her first Pro Circuit semifinal with a 6-3, 6-0 win over recent Georgia graduate and qualifier Kennedy Shaffer. Baptiste will play former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania, who beat top seed Sherazad Reix of France 6-0, 6-1.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Stockton are Americans, with No. 1 seed Madison Brengle, No. 2 seed Jessica Pegula and Danielle Lao(USC) advancing with wins today.  Lao defeated Whitney Osuigwe 6-2, 6-0 and Brengle defeated Ann Li 6-2, 6-1.  Pegula and Lao will play Saturday, with Brengle taking on No. 3 seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia.

The two Americans remaining at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton lost today, with No. 6 seed Noah Rubin falling to top seed Jordan Thompson 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-3 and Chris Eubanks dropping a 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3 decision to No. 4 seed Lloyd Harris.

Qualifying begins Saturday in Charlotte for the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, which I'll be covering on site beginning with main draw matches on Monday.  As is usually the case, the qualifying draws are not filled, with just 31 players in the boys qualifying draw and 32 players in the girls qualifying draw.  Sophia Hatton is the top seed in the girls qualifying. Matthew Che, who has the only bye in the first round, is the No. 1 seed in the boys qualifying.

After two rounds of play today, the semifinals are set for the ITA Women's Riviera All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades California, with 2017 champion Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt still in the running for a second title. Contreras, the No. 6 seed, will face qualifier Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga in one semifinal, with top seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina taking on Duke's Maria Mateas, the top-ranked newcomer of the season, in the other semifinal.  Comments from both Whittle and Mateas can be found in this ITA recap from Steve Pratt.

Because the Men's ITA All-American Championships field is twice the size of the women's, the men will double up on Saturday, with the round of 16 and the quarterfinals taking place then.  Only four seeds remain in the men's draw, while three qualifiers and a lucky loser have advanced to the round of 16.  Baylor's Will Little will play Ohio State's Kyle Seelig in a battle of qualifiers, while Sven Lah of Baylor, the lucky loser, takes on Georgia's Emil Reinberg.  Wake Forest's Bar Botzer defeated No. 2 seed Mazen Osama of Alabama 6-0, 6-7(9), 6-3 to become the third qualifier in the round of 16. Botzer will face Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame a 9-16 seed next. The other seeds advancing are top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, No. 6 seed Thomas Laurent of Oregon and JJ Wolf of Ohio State, a 9-16 seed. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Baptiste, Navarro Reach Quarterfinals in Charleston $25K; Osuigwe, Li Advance at Stockton $60K; USTA Announces Australian Open Wild Card Dates; Top Seeds Move on at ITA All-American Championships

Four juniors have reached the quarterfinals at this week's USTA women's Pro Circuit events, with Whitney Osuigwe and Ann Li advancing at the $60,000 tournament in Stockton California and Emma Navarro and Hailey Baptiste moving on at the $25,000 tournament in Charleston South Carolina.

2017 ITF World Junior Champion Osuigwe defeated No. 6 seed Jamie Loeb 6-3, 6-1 and 2017 Wimbledon girls finalist Ann Li advanced to the second round when Jovana Jaksic of Serbia retired trailing 4-1 in the opening set, then beat No. 8 seed Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in her second match of the day.  Li will face top seed Madison Brengle next, with Osuigwe taking on Danielle Lao(USC), who beat No. 4 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3.

Duke recruit Navarro, playing in her hometown of Charleston as a wild card, defeated Victoria Muntean of France 7-6(3), 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals of a $25,000 level event for the first time. The 17-year-old, who is scheduled to compete in the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed next week in Charlotte, will face No. 5 seed Anna Danilina(Florida) of Kazakhstan Friday.  Baptiste, 16, is now in her fourth quarterfinal of a $25,000 event, all since May, but she has yet to make a semifinal. Baptiste defeated No. 3 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-1, 6-1 in today's second round. She will meet Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia), who beat fellow qualifier Natasha Subhash(Virginia recruit) 6-1, 6-4.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton, Noah Rubin[6](Wake Forest) and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech) advanced to the quarterfinals. Rubin defeated qualifier Will Blumberg 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and Eubanks finished a rain-delayed match from Wednesday, beating No. 5 seed Casper Ruud of Norway 6-1, 7-6(8).  Rubin plays top seed Jordan Thompson of Australia next, with Eubanks taking on No. 4 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa.

The USTA announced the tournaments that will make up the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with the first one the week of October 22nd, with the women's $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia.

From the USTA release:

The men’s wild card will go to the American with the highest cumulative total of ATP singles ranking points earned from their best two results during the three-week men’s window, including results from any professional hard-court event at the ATP Challenger level and above around the world.

The women’s wild card will be awarded to the American with the highest cumulative total of WTA singles ranking points earned from their best three results during those four weeks, at three $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit women’s events (main draw points only) and one WTA $125,000 event (main draw and qualifying points).

Only Americans who do not earn direct entry into the Australian Open are eligible. In the event of a tie, the player with the best ATP or best WTA singles ranking on Nov. 19 will be awarded the wild card.

All USTA Pro Circuit tournaments will be streamed live on www.procircuit.usta.com. The Challenge will consist of the following events:

Men’s Events
  • Week of October 29: ATP Masters 1000 (Paris); USTA Pro Circuit $75,000 Challenger (Charlottesville, Va.); ATP $75,000 Challengers (Canberra, Australia; Shenzhen, China)
  • Week of November 5: ATP €106,000 Challenger (Bratislava, Slovakia); ATP €85,000 Challenger (Mouilleron-le-Captif, France); USTA Pro Circuit $75,000 Challenger (Knoxville, Tenn.)
  • Week of November 12: ATP $150,000 Challengers (Houston; Bangalore, India); USTA Pro Circuit $75,000 Challenger (Champaign, Ill.); ATP $50,000 Challenger (Kobe, Japan)
Women’s Events
  • Week of October 22: USTA Pro Circuit $80,000 Event (Macon, Ga.)
  • Week of October 29: USTA Pro Circuit $80,000 Event (Tyler, Texas)
  • Week of November 5: USTA Pro Circuit $80,000 Event (Las Vegas)
  • Week of November 12: WTA $125,000 Series Event (Houston, Texas)

I've been having difficulty getting results from the first round of the Men's All-American Championships on the ITA website, but from what I've gathered on twitter, top seeds Nuno Borges of Mississippi State and Mazen Osama of Alabama have both advanced to the second round with straight-sets wins.

The Women's All-American Championships first round is also complete in Pacific Palisades, with three of the eight seeds eliminated, including No. 2 seed Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami, the recent Oracle Masters champion. Pre-qualifier Katarina Stresnakova of Oklahoma State defeated Perez-Somarriba 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-3.  Top seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina survived a battle with Jada Hart of UCLA, getting through by a score of 6-0, 4-6, 6-4.  No. 7 seed Stacey Fung of Washington was beaten by Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga 7-6(3), 6-1, and No. 8 seed Michaela Gordon of Stanford lost to qualifier Alexa Graham of North Carolina 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. 

The results of the women's first round are here.