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Saturday, March 3, 2018

USTA Spring Team Nationals Begin Sunday; Emory and Pomona-Pitzer Meet for Women's Division III Team Championship; Kirchheimer Reaches First Futures Final in Canada; BNP Paribas Wild Cards Announced



I'll be covering my fifth USTA Spring Team National Championships beginning Sunday here in Mobile Alabama, with 16 boys teams and 16s girls teams vying for the titles in a Division I college tennis format.  The teams are chosen via the waterfall method, which assigns players in the 14s, 16s and 18s divisions by USTA rankings, with the goal of making the teams as even as possible. It's more complicated than this, but if a team receives a top-ranked player in one age division, they will receive the player with the lowest ranking in another division.  In the four years I've been covering the event, most matches are close, so the draw does not  have the same drama as in most tournaments.

Although the weather is expected to be good for the first two days,  rain is forecast for Tuesday, so the girls will play a complete match and then the singles of the quarterfinal match Sunday, while the boys will play a complete match and the doubles of the quarterfinal match, with that likely to flip on Monday, pending an updated weather forecast.

A complete list of players and their teams is available here.  Notable boys 18s players include Ryan Goetz and Noah Schachter, with Les Petits As champion Victor Lilov competing in the 16s.  USTA Winter National champion Fiona Crawley and Sedona Gallagher head the girls 18s, with 16s Winter National champion Gianna Pielet playing the 18s in this tournament.  Winter National 12s champion Stephanie Yakoff is playing in the 14s division.

The 12s have their own National Team tournament at the same time in Tucson.

The finals are set in the ITA Women's Division III Team Indoor Championships, and its a repeat of the 2017 final, with Emory taking on Pomona-Pitzer.  Emory, the top seed, defeated No. 4 seed Carnegie Mellon 6-3, while No. 2 seed Pomona-Pitzer downed the University of Chicago, seeded No. 3, by the same score.  Last year's title went to Emory in a tense 5-4 contest. Live scoring and streaming is available
on the ITA tournament page.

Former Northwestern standout Strong Kirchheimer has reached the final of this week's $25,000 Futures in Gatineau Canada. The 22-year-old, who is in his first full year on the Pro Circuit, had reached three Futures semifinals in the months since his graduation, but his 6-3, 6-1 victory over fellow qualifier Florian Lakat of France gave him his first appearance in a final.  The 22-year-old Lakat, a Cal alum, is also in his first full year on the Pro Circuit. Kirchheimer will face 19-year-old Ugo Humbert of France, the No. 6 seed, for the title. 

Lakat did get a title this week however, partnering with Ronnie Schneider for the doubles championship.  Lakat and Schneider, the No. 4 seeds, beat unseeded Deiton Baughman and JC Aragone 2-6, 7-6(6), 10-7 in the final.

All Americans are out of this week's Oracle Challenger Series in Indian Wells, with Taylor Fritz falling to Darian King of Barbados 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 in the ATP Challenger semifinal, and Amanda Anisimova going out to qualifier Sara Errani of Italy 6-4, 6-2 in today's WTA 125 semifinal. King will play Martin Klizan of Slovakia in the final, while Errani will face No. 4 seed Katerina Bondarenko of Ukraine. Unseeded Taylor Townsend and Yanina Wickmeyer of Belgium won the women's doubles title, beating No. 3 seeds Jennifer Brady and Vania King 6-4, 6-4.

The BNP Paribas Open announced all of its main draw wild cards, with Bradley Klahn and Reilly Opelka getting the two Oracle wild cards for US players with their results in the two Oracle Challenger events.  Taylor Fritz, who would have received one, got in on his own ranking. Other men's main draw wild cards went to Tennys Sandgren, Ernesto Escobedo and Australian Alex de Minaur.

The women's main draw wild cards were given to 2017 Wimbledon girls champion Claire Liu and 2016 US Open girls champion Kayla Day, with Caroline Dolehide, Amanda Anisimova and Danielle Collins receiving wild cards based on their results in the Oracle Challenger series. Sofya Zhuk of Russia, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus also were given main draw wild cards.

Qualifying wild cards in the men's draw went to Marcos Giron, Noah Rubin, Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis and Evan Song, who won the pre-qualifying event.  There is one other men's qualifying wild card to be awarded.

Qualifying wild cards in the women's draw went to Louisa Chirico, Allie Kiick, Ann Li and pre-qualifying winner Ashley Kratzer, the reigning National 18s champion.  Veterans Sabine Lisicki of Germany and Roberta Vinci of Italy also received qualifying wild cards.

Qualifying begins Monday for the women and Tuesday for the men.

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