Sunday, March 18, 2018

Miami Open Women's Qualifying Begins Monday; Stewart Wins Tampa $15K; Kudla Takes Drummondville Challenger Title; Division I Upsets Continue

The women's qualifying draw is out for the Miami Open, with matches beginning at 10 a.m. Monday. Former two-time NCAA champions Nicole Gibbs and Danielle Collins are in the draw, as is Wimbledon girls finalist Ann Li, who plays 2015 USTA 18s champion Sonya Kenin.  Kristie Ahn, Taylor Townsend, Alison Riske, Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery are the other Americans in the qualifying draw.

The women's main draw was also revealed today, with 16-year-old wild card Amanda Anisimova drawing Qiang Wang of China and wild cards Claire Liu and Whitney Osuigwe meeting in a rematch of the 2017 French Open girls final.

Madison Keys[14], Sloane Stephens[13], Venus Williams[8] and CoCo Vandeweghe[16] are the seeded American women with byes.  Serena Williams, who is unseeded in her second tournament back after having a baby, has drawn Naomi Osaka of Japan in the first round. Osaka won the BNP Parbias Open today in Indian Wells, beating fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-2.  Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in a thrilling men's final, 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) to claim his first ATP Masters title.  Jack Sock and John Isner won the men's doubles title Saturday night, beating the Bryan brothers 7-6(4), 7-6(2).

In other tournament finals in North America, Katerina Stewart won her first title of 2018 at the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tampa Florida. The No. 2 seed, now 20 years old, defeated No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-0 in the final. It's Stewart's tenth career title; nine have come on clay.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Drummondville Canada, Denis Kudla picked up his first Challenger title since 2015.  Kudla, the No. 5 seed, beat unseeded Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-0, 7-5 and will move back into the ATP Top 150 with the title.

The champion at the $150,000 ATP Challenger in Irving Texas is Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, who beat Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in today's final.

At the $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Mexico, 2014 US Open girls champion Maria Bouzkova of the Czech Republic won the singles title.  The 19-year-old, seeded No. 3, beat unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, the 2007 US Open girls champion, 6-4, 6-0.  Former Alabama stars Alexa Guarachi Matheson of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Desirae Krawczyk (Arizona State) and Mexico's Giuliana Olmos(USC) 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.

I neglected to mention last week's sweep of ITF Women's Circuit titles by Ellie Halbauer, who began playing again in late January after months off due to injury. The 20-year-old Halbauer, the No. 8 seed, beat No. 3 seed Lucrezia Stefanini of Italy 6-3, 6-3 in the $15,000 Tunisia tournament's singles final and partnered with Julia Stamatova of Bulgaria for the doubles title.

The $25,000 Bakersfield Futures finished today, with top seed Mathias Bourgue of France beating No. 3 seed Jan Choinski of Germany 6-2, 6-3 for the singles title.  The doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Bernardo Saraiva(San Francisco) of Portugal and Sem Verbeek(Pacific) of the Netherlands beating top seeds Boris Arias(LSU) and Federico Zeballos of Bolivia 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final.

It was an eventful weekend in Division I college tennis, with the parity that's been evident throughout the season continuing.

The Arkansas men, ranked 49th, beat No. 14 Georgia 4-3, coming from 3-1 down in Fayetteville and unranked Virginia (can't say I've typed that before) beat No. 18 Notre Dame 5-2 in Charlottesville. TCU, currently ranked 32, blanked No. 9 Columbia in Fort Worth, earning its third straight Top 20 win.

No. 3 seed Cal won the men's Oracle Collegiate Challenge, which takes place at Indian Wells on the final weekend of the BNP Paribas Open. The Bears, ranked 39th, defeated Purdue, Baylor and Arizona State for the title.

Top-ranked Wake Forest took down No. 11 USC at home 4-1, with the Trojans not having Brandon Holt or Daniel Cukierman, their top two players, in the lineup due to injury.

In women's action, No. 10 South Carolina beat No. 8 Georgia 4-1 in Athens despite losing the doubles point. South Carolina got wins in the straight-sets wins at the top three singles positions and at No. 6.  Georgia had beaten No. 18 Florida 4-1 on Friday.  Unranked Mississippi State followed up its 4-3 victory Thursday over No. 2 Vanderbilt with a 4-0 win over No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday.  South Carolina is the only women's team still undefeated in SEC play, so they are in the driver's seat, although as Mississippi State has shown, there are few easy wins in the conference.

The top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels were taken to the limit by No. 22 Florida State today in Tallahassee, but UNC's Alexa Graham won in a third set at No. 4 singles, the only match to go three sets, to get the 4-3 victory.