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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Eubanks Reaches First Challenger Final; Townsend Plays for Title at Dothan $80K; Andreach, Berdusco Win ITF Junior Titles in Caribbean; Duke Women Top No. 1 North Carolina

Christopher Eubanks, who turned pro last fall after his junior year at Georgia Tech, has reached his first Challenger final at the $50,000+H tournament in Guadalajara Mexico. Eubanks, unseeded and ranked 290, defeated unseeded Pedja Krstin of Serbia 6-2, 7-6(5) in this afternoon's semifinal, which had an odd ending. After Krstin double faulted at 5-all in the tiebreaker, Eubanks had a serve to win it. He hit a good first serve, but the racquet slipped completely out of his hand, leaving him unable to defend any subsequent shot. Fortunately for him Krstin barely got a racquet on it, so Eubanks earned the point and the match.  The 21-year-old from Atlanta will face No. 6 seed and former Tulsa star Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador, who advanced to the final when former UNC standout Brayden Schnur of Canada retired trailing 6-3, 2-0.  Arevalo won a Challenger earlier this month, also in Mexico.

Taylor Townsend, the No. 4 seed, has advanced to the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama and with that result, has taken over the lead in the USTA's Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge. Townsend came back to defeat unseeded Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in today's semifinal and will face No. 5 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, who beat qualifier Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2, 6-0.  Townsend, who reached the semifinals last week at Indian Harbour Beach, now has 99 points, with Caroline Dolehide, who is not playing this week, at 80 after winning the $60,000 event last week.

The doubles title went to Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, who defeated No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) and Sonya Kenin 6-4, 2-6, 11-9. The former University of Alabama stars now have four pro titles together, three this year. This is the biggest, with the others at the $25,000 and $60,000 levels.

At the $100,000 Sarasota Challenger, Reilly Opelka retired trailing Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 5-2 in the first set to end American hopes for a title. Bagnis will face Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, who beat Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.  The doubles final will feature three Americans, with Evan King(Michigan) and Hunter Reese(Tennessee) facing off against Christian Harrison and Canadian Peter Polansky.  I believe Opelka has taken over the lead of the men's Roland Garros Challenge from Denis Kudla, but with so many tournaments a part of the men's race, it's difficult to keep track.

On the ITF junior circuit, 15-year-old Julia Andreach swept the titles at the Grade 4 in Barbados, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 3 seed Sydney Clarke of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-0 in the final. It was the second Grade 4 singles title for Andreach, who did not drop a set all week. No. 2 seeds Andreach and Payton Saca won the doubles title via walkover from top seeds Nicole Kiefer and Canada's Maria Tanasescu.  Vikash Singh of India swept the boys titles, with the No. 2 seed taking out top seed William Woodall 6-2, 6-1 in the singles final and partnering with Canadian Cleeve Harper for the doubles title. The top seeds defeated Blu Baker of Great Britain and John Bernard, the No. 2 seeds, 6-3, 6-7(3), 10-3 in the final.

Seventeen-year-old Russell Berdusco won his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title at the Grade 5 in Guadeloupe. The No. 6 seed, who lost the first set he played in the tournament, but not another one, beat top seed Tom Leblanc Claverie of France 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

It's a busy week in college tennis, with most conferences wrapping up regular season play before next week's conference tournaments. In women's action, No. 4 Duke took out No. 1 North Carolina last night in Durham 5-2, with Hannah Zhao's 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Marika Akkerman at line 6 clinching the match for the Blue Devils. Sara Daavettila did not play for the Tar Heels. Duke can claim sole possession of the ACC regular season title with a win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.

The SEC women's conference tournament final is scheduled for Sunday, with a rematch of last week's regular season decider between Vanderbilt and Florida on tap.  Top SEC tournament seed Vanderbilt won last week's match in Gainesville 4-3, playing without senior Astra Sharma, who is now back in the lineup.  No. 2 seed Florida defeated surprise semifinalist Arkansas 4-2 today, while Vanderbilt took out No. 5 seed Ole Miss 4-1.