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Monday, July 16, 2018

Kodat, Vallabhaneni, Bicknell and Wiersholm Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles; Gauff Moves to Top Spot in ITF Junior Rankings; Altamirano, Pegula Take Early Lead in US Open Wild Card Race; Liu, Aragone Qualify for WTA and ATP Events

While the tennis world focused on Wimbledon, and I turned all my attention to the juniors there, Americans juniors continued to win ITF Junior Circuit titles in smaller tournaments around the world.

Fifteen-year-old Toby Kodat, who claimed a Grade 2 title in May, won his second ITF singles title at the Grade 3 in Ukraine last week. Seeded No. 3, Kodat defeated No. 2 seed Bora Sengul of Turkey 6-1, 7-5 in final and made his ITF Junior Top 100 debut today. Kodat is one of only two boys born in 2003 in the Top 100.

Sixteen-year-old Niroop Vallabhaneni also won a Grade 3 last week, in Vancouver Canada, his first ITF junior singles title. Vallabhaneni, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Sebastian Gima of Romania in the semifinals and top seed Taha Baadi of Canada in the final, the latter by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  Vallabhaneni didn't lose more than three games in any set in his run to the title.

No. 4 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico won the girls singles title, beating No. 3 seed Savannah Broadus 6-4, 6-4 in the final.  Broadus and Elaine Chervinsky won the girls doubles title, beating Isaella Barrera Aguirre and Sofia Rojas 7-5, 6-1 in the all-US final.

Another Grade 3 tournament, in Romania, produced another girls doubles championship for the US, with top seeds Kacie Harvey and Vanessa Ong claiming the title with a 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over No. 2 seeds Jade Bornay and Mylene Halemai of France. Harvey also reached the semifinals in singles as the No. 4 seed.

Americans won three of the four titles at the Grade 4 in Jamaica, with 16-year-old Blaise Bicknell taking the boys singles, his second ITF singles title of the year and fourth overall.  Unseeded Roger Chou and Joshua Miller won the boys doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Russell Berdusco and Quinn McLeod 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Top seeds Hina Inoue and Japan's Remika Ohashi won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Najah Dawson and Maya Pitts 6-3, 6-3 in the championship match.

And at the Grade 5 in Iceland, 14-year-old Katja Wiersholm won her first ITF title, with the No. 5 seed defeating top seed Dakota Fordham 6-2, 6-3 in the all-US girls final.

The ITF junior rankings usually change, often dramatically, in the week following a junior slam and that was true today, when Wimbledon girls champion Iga Swiatek of Poland moved into the Top 10 from her previous ranking in the 70s and French Open champion Coco Gauff took over the No. 1 ranking from Whitney Osuigwe, who had held that position since last October.

Wimbledon boys champion Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan padded his lead, and is now more than 1000 points ahead of No. 2 Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

Collin Altamirano and Jessica Pegula have taken the early lead in the USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge, with Pegula making the final of the first women's tournament in the Challenge, the $60,000 event in Honolulu.  Altamirano took the men's lead with a semifinal showing at the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Winnetka.

For the complete list of tournaments included in the Wild Card Challenge, and the current standing, see this usta.com article.

2017 Wimbledon girls champion Claire Liu has advanced to the main draw of the WTA International in Bucharest with three qualifying wins. The 18-year-old Californian, who is up to a career-high WTA ranking of 170 after qualifying and winning a round at Wimbledon, defeated No. 4 seed Paul Badosa Gibert of Spain 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying today. She will face wild card Andreea Rosca of Romania in the first round of the main draw Tuesday.

The last tournament of the grass season is this week in Newport Rhode Island, with former Virginia standout JC Aragone getting through qualifying to reach the main draw of the ATP's Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open. Aragone defeated No. 2 seed and ATP No. 163 Matthias Bachinger of Germany 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-0 in the final round of qualifying and will play ATP veteran Marcel Granollers of Spain in the opening round Tuesday.