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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Vanderbilt Women, Texas A&M Men Take SEC Titles; Kiick and Dolehide in Pro Circuit Finals; Sandgren and Johnson Meet for ATP Houston Title; US Juniors Claim Five ITF Grade 4 Championships

The Southeastern Conference crowned its regular season champions this weekend, with the Texas A&M men defeating Mississippi State 5-2 last night in College Station and the Vanderbilt women topping Florida 4-3 this afternoon.

The Aggies, ranked No. 5, got the clinching win over the 7th ranked Bulldogs from freshman Juan Carlos Aguilar to earn their second consecutive SEC regular season title.

Third-ranked Vanderbilt had a considerably tougher time in Gainesville, trailing 3-1 and playing without Astra Sharma, but junior Summer Dvorak came from 4-1 (two breaks down) in the third set of the deciding match at line 5 to lead the Commodores to their second straight SEC regular season title.

In another Top-10 clash today, the third-ranked Ohio State men beat No. 6 Illinois 4-0, with Martin Joyce clinching for the Buckeyes at line 6. The win puts Ohio alone in first place in the Big Ten, but the regular conference season still has three more matches scheduled.

In USTA Pro Circuit play, two American women have advanced to the finals, with No. 7 seed Caroline Dolehide advancing at the $60,000 tournament in Indian Harbour Beach Florida via a walkover from top seed Madison Brengle.  Taylor Townsend, the No. 4 seed, lost to unseeded Irina Bara of Romania 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-5. Townsend was up a break in all three sets, but Bara came back every time in the three hour and 27 minute marathon. Bara and Dolehide will each be looking for her first singles title above the $25,000 level.  Townsend gave a walkover in her doubles semifinal, but Bara played two doubles matches after that grueling singles contest. She and Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain, the top seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Maria Sanchez and Jessica Pegula 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

Allie Kiick has reached her first final since returning to the tour last summer following skin cancer and multiple knee surgeries. The 22-year-old Kiick, who is unseeded, defeated Alexa Guarachi of Chile 6-4, 6-3 and will face 16-year-old qualifier Iga Swiatek of Poland in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Pelham Alabama. Swiatek downed Florida Atlantic sophomore Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain 6-2, 6-1.

The final of the $25,000 men's Futures in Little Rock Arkansas will not feature any Americans, with Henry Craig giving a walkover to No. 5 seed Nik Scholtz of South Africa in his postponed quarterfinal match and Scholtz going on to defeat wild card Harrison Adams 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals. Karue Sell of Brazil defeated qualifier Sam Riffice 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to advance to his second Futures final of the year.  Collin Altamirano and Vasil Kirkov were the doubles winners via walkover from Craig and his partner Miles Seemann.

Tennys Sandgren and Steve Johnson will meet for the ATP US Men's Clay Court Championship title Sunday in Houston.  Sandgren defeated Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6(2), 7-6(4) to reach his first ATP final; defending champion Johnson outlasted Taylor Fritz 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2 to return to the final. Jonathan Kelley's research shows tomorrow's final will be the first collegiate ATP final between Americans since 1994, when Brad Gilbert and Jared Palmer met Todd Martin in separate finals.  Sandgren will move into the ATP Top 50 for the first time after his win today.

Americans won three of four singles titles at North American ITF Grade 4s this week.  In Trinidad & Tobago, top seeds Blaise Bicknell and Sasha Wood won a total of three titles, with Bicknell defeating No. 7 seed Andrew Mariados 6-4, 6-3 for the singles title and Wood sweeping the singles and doubles titles. Wood and No. 2 seed Sofia Camila Rojas, the top seeds, took the doubles title Friday 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 over No. 2 seeds Jackeline Lopez and Remika Ohashi of Japan.  Today, Wood defeated No. 2 seed Rojas in the singles final 6-0, 6-1. It's the third ITF Junior Circuit singles title for the 16-year-old Bicknell and the second for the 16-year-old Wood.

Like Wood, Anika Yarlagadda won both singles and doubles this week, sweeping the titles in Burlington Ontario.  Also like Wood, Yarlagadda won the doubles title with her singles final opponent, Sophie Hatton. Top seeds Hatton and Yarlagadda beat No. 5 seeds Jenna DeFalco and Katja Jules Viberg of Canada 6-3, 6-0 in the doubles final.  In the singles final, North Carolina recruit Yarlagadda defeated No. 6 seed Hatton 6-2, 6-1 for her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title.

In the boys singles final, No. 14 seed Luka Vukovic of Canada beat Daniel Milavsky 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.  No. 5 seeds Coy Simon and Zion Heaven lost in the doubles final to unseeded Canadians Samuel Paquette and Sash Trkulja 6-4, 6-3.