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Friday, June 8, 2018

My Article on Amber O'Dell's Commitment to Virginia; McNally and Gauff to Play for French Open Girls Titles; Three Americans Advance to Bethany Beach $25K Semifinals

Last month at the USTA Level 2 in Grand Rapids, I had an opportunity to talk with blue chip Amber O'Dell about her commitment to the University of Virginia for the Tennis Recruiting Network. I have done scores of commitment articles over the years, but this was the first time that I had spoken to a recruit who had verbally committed to a coaching staff that was no longer leading the program by the time she entered her senior year of high school. O'Dell and her mother recount the unsettling weeks before new coaches were hired and her relief when she was able to again look ahead to playing for the Cavaliers this fall.

For the fourth time in the last five junior slams, two American girls will play for the title, after Coco Gauff and Caty McNally won their semifinal matches today at the French Open Junior Championships. Gauff, the No. 16 seed, defeated No. 15 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-4, 6-3 to advance to her second junior slam final in three attempts. Now 14 years old, Gauff, who was only 13 when she lost to Amanda Anisimova last September at the US Open, has not dropped a set this week.

McNally, who is unseeded, saved a match point in her 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 win over doubles partner Iga Swiatek of Poland. McNally was up a break in all three sets and served for the second set at 5-3, but couldn't convert her set point and was forced to a tiebreaker. Down 4-2 at the first change of ends, McNally got the mini break back for 3-4 and saved the match point serving at 5-6. There were no breaks in the third set until Swiatek was broken at 3-all, but McNally gave the break right back for 4-all. Swiatek lost her serve again in the next game, and this time McNally held, converting on her first match point at 40-15. 

McNally has also reached the doubles final with Swiatek. It will be the third time McNally has reached a junior slam doubles final, having lost in the Wimbledon girls final in 2016 and 2017.  McNally and Swiatek, who are unseeded, defeated wild cards Julie Belgraver and Loudmilla Bencheikh of France 6-3, 7-5 in today's semifinal and will face No. 3 seed Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan. Naito and Sato defeated top seeds Eleonora Molinaro of Luxembourg and Clara Tauson of Denmark 6-3, 1-6, 10-8. 

The boys final will feature top seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina and No. 4 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan.  Baez had a surprisingly easy 6-2-, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, with Tseng defeating No. 2 seed Sebastian Korda 6-2, 7-5. Tseng, who had lost to Korda in the Australian Open final, broke Korda, who was up 40-0, to take a 6-5 lead in the second set and then saved three break points in the final game to avoid a tiebreaker and claim the straight-sets win.  Tseng and Baez have not played on the ITF Junior Circuit, but back in 2014 they met in the quarterfinals of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, with Baez winning 6-0, 6-4.

Tseng will also play in the doubles final with partner Ray Ho of Taiwan. The No. 5 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Hugo Gaston and Clement Tabur of France 6-0, 5-7, 10-5. They will play unseeded Ondrej Styler of the Czech Republic and Naoki Tajima of Japan after they defeated top seeds Seyboth Wild and Baez 6-2, 6-1.

All four finals are scheduled for Saturday, on Court 1, in order of boys singles, girls singles, boys doubles, girls doubles.

The semifinals are set at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Bethany Beach Delaware, with three Americans moving into the final four.

Top seed Grace Min needed over three hours, but she got by No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-3 and will face qualifier Gabriela Talaba of Romania, who just completed her eligibility at Texas Tech. Talaba defeated Raveena Kingsley 6-3, 6-4.  No. 3 seed Katerina Stewart downed No. 6 seed Robin Anderson(UCLA) 6-0, 7-5 and No. 2 seed Ashley Kratzer beat No. 5 seed Usue Arconada 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.  Min will play Talaba and Stewart will play Kratzer in Saturday's semifinals.

Tomorrow's doubles final is between two all-American teams with college backgrounds, with the unseeded team of Anderson and former Cal star Maegan Manasse facing No. 2 seeds Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Sanaz Marand(UNC).

Oracle College Tennis award winner Francesca Di Lorenzo (Ohio State) has advanced to the semifinals of the $60,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Italy, and Alison Riske has reached the semifinals of the $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in England.