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Monday, August 20, 2018

Qualifier Heck Beats No. 2 Seed, Broadus Ousts No. 6 Seed in First Round Action Monday at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Forty Americans in US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2018--
College Park MD--

Only five seeds were eliminated Monday in the first round of the Prince George's County International Hard Court ITF Grade 1, but three of them were Top 8 seeds.  Qualifier Hunter Heck pulled off the biggest upset, beating No. 2 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina 7-5, 6-2, calling it "definitely" the best win of his career.

Heck was thrilled with his level of play throughout his contest with the 10th ranked player in the ITF World Junior rankings.

"I was doing everything well, everything was going my way," said the 16-year-old from Minnesota, who is ranked 424. "Shots were not going his way, I got a couple lucky bounces, lucky net cords, everything went my way today."

Winning two matches in qualifying on the Junior Tennis Champion Center courts over the weekend gave Heck an advantage.

"I think it helped, getting a couple of matches under my belt, getting the feel of the court, the facility," Heck said. "He didn't; it was his first match, and I'm just really happy."

Heck believes that Diaz Acosta, a left-hander, was not as comfortable on the hard courts as on the red clay.

"He was definitely a clay courter, the spin on his balls, the way he played, everything pointed to clay," Heck said.

Heck said he "definitely was feeling the nerves" when it came time to serve out the first set, after getting a break to go up 6-5.

"But I served well the whole match, so I'm proud of the way I served."

Savannah Broadus, who defeated No. 6 seed Ana Makatsaria of Georgia 6-3, 6-4, was also confident in her ability to serve out the match.

At 2-2 in the second set, Broadus got the break, then salvaged two more holds in close, tough games to give herself a chance to serve out the match.

"I always like serving out matches," said the 15-year-old from Texas, who reached the round of 16 in the USTA National 18s earlier this month and advanced to the semifinals of a $15,000 ITF Pro Circuit tournament in July. "I'm very comfortable with my serve and I love serving. And I know I can set up my forehand with my serve. So I just felt calm, and knew I could close it out."

Broadus started with an ace, the first of three first serves she made in the last game, and she held at love to finish it.

Broadus said her success this summer helped her in Monday's first round against a Top 35 opponent.

"It gave me confidence for today," said Broadus, ranked 118. "My past wins have made me more comfortable with my game style. Now when I go out on court I know how I want to play and I just feel better about myself when I walk out on court."

The third Top Eight seed to exit on Monday was No. 7 seed Ray Ho of Taiwan, who lost to lucky loser Ilya Tiraspolsky of Canada 6-4, 6-3.

No. 13 seed Kamilla Bartone of Latvia, who didn't enter the tournament and was forced to go through qualifying as an onsite alternate, lost to Kylie Collins 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and No. 10 seed Andrew Fenty also lost in three sets, falling to Cezar Cretu of Romania 6-2, 0-6, 6-3.

Top seeds Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Alexa Noel got through in straight sets, but did not have easy first round matches.  Mejia, the defending champion, trailed most of the first set to 14-year-old qualifier Jack Anthrop, and Anthrop served for the first set at 5-4, but Mejia broke back, then dominated the tiebreaker to set the tone for the second set in his 7-6(1), 6-0 victory.

Noel couldn't serve out her match with Martina Biagianti of Italy at 5-2 in the second set, but she did hang on for a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

No. 3 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine struggled with qualifier Elvina Kalieva, and saw a 4-1 third set lead nearly evaporate, but Bilokin saved a pair of break points to hold for 5-3, then broke the 15-year-old Kalieva to secure her 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

No. 2 seed Lea Ma had one of the easiest wins of the seeded girls, taking out Celestine Avomo Ella of Gabon 6-2, 6-0.

Doubles are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with Argentina's Diaz Acosta and Juan Cerundolo the top boys seeds and Bilokin and Noel the top girls seeds.

Tuesday's order of play and complete draws can be found at the tournament website.

Qualifying begins for the US Open Tuesday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with 23 of the 40 Americans in the men's and women's qualifying draws on the schedule.  Below are the Americans in the qualifying draws, with an asterisk denoting those playing first round matches Tuesday.

Kristie Ahn*
Sophie Chang*
Allie Kiick*
Nicole Gibbs[10]*
Coco Gauff
Varvara Lepchenko[13]*
Katerina Stewart*
Gail Brodsky*
Danielle Lao
Lauren Davis
Jessica Pegula*
Kayla Day*
Caty McNally*
Jamie Loeb*
Vicky Duval*
Ann Li*
Madison Brengle[3]
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Grace Min
Ashley Kratzer
Irina Falconi
Francesca Di Lorenzo*

Ernesto Escobedo
Brandon Nakashima
Bjorn Fratangelo*
Evan King*
Martin Redlicki
Reilly Opelka
Christian Harrison*
JC Aragone*
Tom Fawcett*
Chris Eubanks
Collin Altamirano
Mitchell Krueger
Thai Kwiatkowski
Donald Young*
Dennis Novikov*
Sebastian Korda*
Kevin King*
Ulises Blanch

*Tuesday first round match

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Defending Champion Nicolas Mejia, Alexa Noel Top Seeds at ITF Grade 1 in College Park; Bangoura Wins Boston Futures Title; Olmos and Krawczyk Claim Vancouver $100K Doubles Title

2017 finalist Axel Geller and champion Nicolas Mejia

Colombia's Nicolas Mejia, who swept the titles last year the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court tournament in College Park Maryland, is back to defend his titles. Ranked No. 4 in the world junior rankings and the No. 1 seed for the tournament, Mejia will face qualifier Jack Anthrop in Monday's first round singles action.  No. 2 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Brazil, who is No. 10 in the world junior rankings, also faces an American qualifier in Hunter Heck.  The top seeded American is No. 6 Drew Baird, who will play Daniil Glinka of Estonia in the last series of matches Monday afternoon.

Three American girls are among the top eight seeds, including the top two seeds: Alexa Noel and Lea Ma.  Noel, No. 5 in the world junior rankings, will face Martina Biagianti of Italy to open play on Monday, with Ma to follow her on court at the Junior Tennis Champions Center against Celestine Avomo Ella of Gabon.  The other American seeded in the Top 8, No. 5 Katie Volynets, plays Federica Rossi of Italy in Monday's first round.

This year the tournament's second site will not be the University of Maryland, as in the past, but the Greenbelt Community Center, where four courts will be used for 20 matches.

For Monday's order of play, completed qualifying draws and singles main draws, see the tournament's website.  I will be providing onsite coverage beginning tomorrow.

At the $25,000 Futures in Boston, No. 3 seed Sekou Bangoura won his third Futures singles title of the year, beating top seed Antoine Hoang of France 7-5, 6-2.  The former Florida star, now 26 years old, has also won two Futures doubles titles this year. His win today is his first title in the United States since 2016.

The $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Vancouver is still not complete, with Great Britain's Heather Watson facing qualifier Misaki Doi of Japan in tonight's final, but the doubles final was last night, with Giuliana Olmos(USC) of Mexico and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) winning the title. Olmos and Kawczyk, the No. 2 seeds, defeated unseeded Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine and Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands 6-2, 7-5 in the championship match.  Last year the pair won five titles together, four at the $15-25,000 levels, one a $60K; this is their biggest title as a team, although Krawczyk did win a WTA doubles title last month with former Alabama star Alexa Guarachi.

Unseeded Dan Evans of Great Britain won the men's singles title, beating No. 4 seed Jason Kubler of Australia 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) in just under three hours.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

American Juniors Win Titles on Four Continents This Week; NCAA Doubles Champions Redlicki and Zhu Claim Boston Futures Title

The ITF Junior Circuit featured 15 tournaments on its schedule this week, with the Grade B2 Oceania Closed providing the most points.  Restricted to those from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Island, that tournament didn't have any Americans (Top seed Rinky Hijikata and No. 3 seed Amber Marshall of Australia won the singles titles), but they were represented in many of the other tournaments, and picked up titles on four continents.

Sasha Wood won her fourth ITF junior doubles title of the summer, with her third different partner at the ITF Grade 3 in Zimbabwe.  The 16-year-old from Massachusetts, who reached the singles semifinals, partnered with Weronika Baszak of Poland this week. The top seeds defeated unseeded Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand and Delien Kleinhans of South Africa 6-0, 6-4 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Monterrey Mexico, Jenna Defalco won an all-US girls singles final.  The 15-year-old, seeded No. 10, defeated No. 5 seed Elizabeth Stevens 6-2, 6-2 in the final for her second singles title, both coming this summer.  Stevens, partnering with Russian Anfisa Danilchenko, won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds Rut Galindo of Guatemala and Lizette Reding of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Unseeded Benjamin Kittay lost in the boys singles finals, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to No. 16 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil.  Jackson Ross, playing with Guillermo Castaneda of Mexico and seeded No. 6, fell in the boys doubles final to top seeds Alan Magadan and Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 6-4, 4-6, 10-8.

The ITF Grade 5 in Romania produced an American champion in 16-year-old Andrew Puscas, who won his first ITF junior singles title with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Dragos Popeanga of Romania. The unseeded Puscas has only played in Europe junior events, with no results in the US.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Peru, Jennifer Kida won the doubles title, with partner Pilar Traiber of Argentina. The No. 2 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Fiona Pepper and Daniela Ramos of Peru 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  Ryan Johnson, seeded No. 3 with partner Carlos Aguiar of Chile, lost 6-1, 6-2  in the boys doubles final to top seeds Oscar Mendoza Govea of Ecuador and Esteban Penagos of Colombia.

The final round of qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, which I'll be covering beginning Monday, is scheduled for Sunday morning at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.  Draws, Sunday's order of play and a photo gallery are available at the tournament website.

At the only USTA Pro Circuit event this week, the $25,000 Futures in Boston, American Sekou Bangoura(Florida) has advanced to the final. The No. 3 seed defeated No. 2 seed Andrew Harris(Oklahoma) of Australia 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in today's semifinal, and will face top seed Antoine Hoang of France for the title. Hoang beat No. 7 seed Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) of Colombia 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.

The doubles title went to 2018 NCAA champions Evan Zhu and Martin Redlicki. The UCLA Bruins defeated Paul Oosterbaan(Georgia) and Felix Corwin(Minnesota) 7-5, 6-7(13), 10-1 in the final between two unseeded teams. Redlicki has won three other Futures doubles titles with former teammates Karue Sell and Mackenzie McDonald; Zhu has one other Futures title, with Finland's Harri Heliovaara. Zhu beat partner Redlicki in the second round singles earlier in the week and also took out No. 4 seed and 2015 NCAA singles champion Ryan Shane.

Friday, August 17, 2018

My Recap of Brooksby's Kalamazoo Title, Videos; ITF International Hard Court Grade 1 Wild Cards; Osuigwe Advances in WTA Connecticut Open Qualifying

My account of Jenson Brooksby's Kalamazoo 18s championship is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Short videos of the two finalists are available below.  A replay of my streaming of the complete championship match can be found here.

I will be covering, for the fifth year, the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships next week at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland.

Those receiving main draw wild cards are:

Aidan Mayo
Adam Neff
Muhammad Dossani
Alex Kiefer
Finn Garner
Trinity Grear
Saud Alhaqbani
Keshav Chopra

Mackenzie Clark
Robin Montgomery
Katrina Scott
Daniella Benabraham
Reese Brantmeier
Ayana Akli
Hailey Baptiste
Aleksandra Karamyshev

Qualifying begins on Saturday, with main draw action starting at two sites on Monday. The order of play for Saturday is available here.

At the WTA Premier Connecticut Open qualifying, USTA National 18s Champion Whitney Osuigwe won her first match, beating fellow US wild card Asia Muhammad 6-3, 6-3.  (Read the Tennis Recruiting Network's recap of Osuigwe's two titles in San Diego here). She will face Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in Saturday's second round of qualifying.  Sonya Kenin is the only other American to win a first round qualifying match today.

The Tennis Australia women's wild card into the US Open is being decided by a eight-player tournament at the Connecticut Open this weekend.  Ellen Perez, the former Georgia star, won not only her first round qualifying match today, but her first match in the wild card playoff, giving her two matches again on Saturday.  Vanderbilt graduate Astra Sharma is also through to the semifinals. For today's results, see the Tennis Australia tweet below.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My Recap of Damm's Historic Kalamazoo 16s Title, Videos; US Open Junior Qualifying Moving From Flushing Meadows; Huge Changes Coming for 2019 Davis Cup

The Tennis Recruiting Network has been providing coverage of last week's USTA National Championships the past three days, and my account of Martin Damm's title in the Kalamazoo 16s is available now. Although it didn't occur to me on Sunday, a friend asked me Monday if Damm was the youngest player to win the Kalamazoo 16s title, and a couple of hours of research later, I was able to answer that question in the affirmative.  Damm, who will turn 15 on September 30th, takes the record from Aaron Krickstein, who turned 15 during the tournament when he won it in 1982. Although the tournament is 76 years old, the record goes back only until 1963, when the age division was changed from 15 to 16.

Below are short videos from the final.  The complete match can be viewed here.

The USTA announced today that the US Open Junior Qualifying will be held at the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx. In the 13 years I've been covering the US Open Junior Championships, the qualifying has been held on the practice courts in Corona Park just outside the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  This has obvious advantages logistically for the staff and umpires, not to mention the college coaches that flock to the tournament. The ability to watch qualifying and to attend a pro match on the same day--Peter Smith, Manny Diaz and David Roditi would be just a few of those likely to do so--was a huge positive of the arrangement that was in place so many years.  Below is the release from the USTA:

FLUSHING, N.Y., Aug. 16, 2018 – The USTA today announced that the US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament, during which 64 of the world’s top 18-and-under boys and girls tennis players will compete for a chance to play in the US Open Junior Championships, will be held at The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx August 31-September 1.

The main draw of the US Open Junior Championships runs September 2-9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., and will feature tomorrow’s stars from around the world. Four US Open junior singles champions – Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Lindsay Davenport and Stefan Edberg – have gone on to win the US Open singles title, as did junior finalists Roger Federer, Boris Becker, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Martina Hingis.

The US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament features 32-player singles draws for boys and girls, with eight players on each side advancing to the main draw. The 2018 Boys’ and Girls’ Qualifying fields feature mostly players ranked in the Top 100 of the world junior rankings.

“The US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament features some of the best junior tennis players in the world, and the Cary Leeds Center is a world-class tennis facility,” said US Open Junior Tournament Director Lew Brewer. “Not only does it make a great host for the Qualifying Tournament, but it allows us to offer all of our main-draw juniors more practice time than ever before.”

In June 2015, the $26.5 million Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning opened its doors as the flagship home of New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) in the heart of the Bronx. In April 2017, the Cary Leeds Center completed its final phase of construction with the opening of the Pershing Square Stadium, the Victor Kiam Stadium, and the Dalia and Larry Leeds Viewing Bridge. The Cary Leeds Center provides more than 6,000 hours of free tennis court time annually to the community’s under-resourced youth.

“NYJTL believes that life skills gained through tennis and education are the catalyst for long-term achievement and sees the opportunity to work with the USTA in hosting the US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament as a way to introduce tennis and inspire the next generation,” said George Guimaraes, NYJTL CEO & President. 

The ITF's General Meeting today in Orlando was highlighted with a vote on a huge change in Davis Cup, beginning in 2019.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the week-long team competition, slated for November, is quite similar to what the ITF has used for its ITF World Junior Tennis and Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competitions for many years now. Having attended Davis Cup ties several times, I have mixed feelings about such a drastic change, but I do think it has the potential to raise the competition's profile. 

Steve Tignor at tennis.com has delineated the pros and cons of the new format, and after laying out what's gained and what's lost, it appears he would have voted no, if he had a vote. 

For more from the ITF on the calendar and format, see this article on today's vote, and these frequently asked questions.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

US Open Junior Championships Wild Cards; Boston Hosts Only USTA Pro Circuit Event This Week

The majority of the wild cards have been determined for the US Open Junior Championships, which begin on Sunday September 2 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  Below are the current lists, subject to change with the withdrawal deadline not until next Tuesday. The criteria for several of the wild cards, which is set out before the year begins, is explained in the parentheses. I'm a little surprised that ITF World Junior Tennis champions Victor Lilov, Bruno Kuzuhara and Evan Wen did not get qualifying wild cards, while all the US girls on the third place WJT team did.

Boys Main Draw:
Jenson Brooksby (Easter Bowl, Kalamazoo 18s champion)
Martin Damm (Kalamazoo 16s champion)
Stefan Dostanic (third place Kalamazoo 18s)
Neel Rajesh (Clay Court 18s champion)
Toby Kodat
Govind Nanda
French junior (Reciprocal)

Girls Main Draw:
Emma Navarro (Clay Court 18s champion)
Fiona Crawley (San Diego 16s champion)
Hailey Baptiste
Elysia Bolton
Salma Ewing
Abigail Forbes
Vanessa Ong

Boys Qualifying:
Eric Hahn (Kalamazoo 18s 5th place)
Zane Khan
Eliot Spizzirri
William Woodall
Hikaru Shiraishi(Japan)

Girls Qualifying:
Robin Montgomery
Katrina Scott
Reese Brantmeier
Alexandra Yepifanova
Savannah Broadus
Kisa Yoshioka(Japan)

The only USTA Pro Circuit event this week is a $25,000 Men's Futures tournament in Boston.

Seven Americans are through to Thursday's second round: Evan Zhu, wild card Martin Redlicki (UCLA's 2018 NCAA doubles champions, who play each other for a place in the quarterfinals), Strong Kirchheimer[8](Northwestern), Felix Corwin(Minnesota), Sekou Bangoura[3](Florida), Alexios Halebian and Vasil Kirkov.

The USTA announced today that Chris Eubanks had moved into the US Open men's qualifying on his own ranking, so his qualifying wild card will go to Thai Kwiatkowski.  That gives the 2017 NCAA team champions Virginia three players in USO qualifying: Kwiatkowski, Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone.

Aragone is currently competing at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Vancouver, and is the only American to advance to the third round. He defeated No. 6 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 7-6(4), 7-6(3) today.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

US Open Main Draw, Qualifying Wild Cards Announced; ITF Youth Olympic Game Entries; Van Emburgh, Castellano Win ITA Summer Nationals

The USTA announced the wild cards for the last slam of the season today, with former champions Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia two of the seven non-Americans to receive main draw wild cards.

Women's Main Draw Wild Cards:
Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia)
Victoria Azarenka (Belarus)
Harmony Tan (French reciprocal)
Whitney Osuigwe
Amanda Anisimova
Claire Liu
Asia Muhammad
TBD (Australian reciprocal)

Men's Main Draw Wild Cards:
Stan Wawrinka(Switzerland)
Bradley Klahn
Michael Mmoh
Noah Rubin
Tim Smyczek
Jenson Brooksby
Corentin Moutet (French reciprocal)
Jason Kubler (Australian reciprocal)

Women's Qualifying Wild Cards:
Kayla Day
Coco Gauff
Caty McNally
Ann Li
Ashley Kratzer
Danielle Lao
Gail Brodsky
Jessica Pegula
Bethanie Mattek-Sands

Men's Qualifying Wild Cards:
Brandon Nakashima
Sebastian Korda
Tom Fawcett
Chris Eubanks
Ulises Blanch
Martin Redlicki
JC Aragone
Dennis Novikov

Parsa Nemati is reporting that Donald Young, who was given a qualifying wild card, has moved into the qualifying on his own ranking, so his wild card will go to Collin Altamirano.

It was once customary to announce the US Open Junior wild cards this week, but that did not happen last year, and it was the following week before those were revealed.

Last Friday the ITF announced the entries for the Youth Olympic Games tennis competition, which will take place in Buenos Aires Argentina in October. Americans on the entry lists are Tristan Boyer, Drew Baird, Alexa Noel and Lea Ma.  Wimbledon junior champions Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan and Iga Swiatek of Poland are among the many top ITF juniors on the entry lists.

The Oracle ITA Summer National Championships were completed today at TCU, with Oklahoma rising sophomore Jake Van Emburgh and Wisconsin rising senior Sara Castellano taking the singles titles.  Van Emburgh defeated Alabama's Edson Ortiz 7-6(4), 7-6(6) to claim $3000 in prize money and a wild card into the main draw of the All-American Championships in Tulsa in October. Castellano defeated Victoria Emma of Florida 6-1, 6-4 in the women's final and she too receives $3000 and a wild card into the main draw of the Riviera All-American Championships.

Alex Rybakov and Max Kurzban of TCU won the men's doubles title and Nina Khmelnitckaia and Janet Koch of Kansas won the women's doubles title.  For more on today's finals, see this ITA article.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Geller Takes Futures Title in Edwardsville; Muhammad Claims US Open Wild Card; Two Doubles Titles for Americans on ITF Junior Circuit

I don't have the time to devote to the Pro Circuit results during Kalamazoo, but today I can look back at last week's results, which included the first title on the ITF Men's Circuit for ITF World Junior champion Axel Geller of Argentina, who is a rising sophomore at Stanford.

For the second week in a row, Geller, 19, and Sebastian Korda, 18, met in the late stages of a $25,000 Futures.  Geller had lost to Korda 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals of the Decatur Illinois Futures, but when they met in the final in Edwardsville Illinois this week, it was Geller who prevailed, beating Korda 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(0) in the final. Neither player was seeded, and in fact, no seed reached the semifinals. Korda, who decided not to play Kalamazoo this year, reached two finals and a semifinal in the past three weeks of $25,000 Futures, and is nearing the ATP Top 500.

The double final in Edwardsville also was without seeds, with Liam Caruana(Texas) of Italy and Nicolas Alvarez(Duke) of Peru defeating Nick Meister(UCLA) and Evan Zhu(UCLA) 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 10-7 in the final.

Asia Muhammad won the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge despite not playing at the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Landisville Pennsylvania.  Kristie Ahn(Stanford) had a chance to take the wild card with the title in Landisville, but retired in the final to No. 3 seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 1-0. From the USTA's announcement:

Muhammad won the US Open Wild Card Challenge, which awards one American man and woman a wild card into the Open based on their performance at select hard-court events over a five-week period.

Muhammad claimed her spot atop the Challenge standings by winning the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Lexington, Ky., last week and reaching the quarterfinals of another $60,000 event in Honolulu in July. She clinched the Challenge when Kristie Ahn retired during the singles final of the $60,000 event in Landisville, Pa., on Sunday, and therefore couldn't tie her in the Challenge points standings. Muhammad and Gail Brodsky are still tied atop the standings with 95 points each, but Muhammad will get the wild card based on having a higher singles ranking on Monday.

A 27-year old from Las Vegas, Muhammad is currently ranked No. 217 in singles and No. 98 in doubles. Her only singles main draw appearance in New York came in 2008, but she reached the doubles quarterfinals with Taylor Townsend in 2016.

Bradley Klahn won the men's US Open wild card last week.

The doubles title in Landisville went to the top seeded Australian team of Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Arina Rodionova, who beat Pei Hsuan Chen and Fang-Hsein Wu of Taiwan 6-0, 6-2 in the final.

No Americans reached the finals of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Aptos California, with Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia sweeping the singles and doubles titles.  Kokkinakis, the No. 4 seed, beat unseeded Lloyd Harris of South Africa 6-2, 6-3 in the singles final. Kokkinakis and Matt Reid, who were unseeded, won the doubles title, beating top seeds Joe Salisbury(Memphis) and Jonny O'Mara of Great Britain 6-2, 4-6, 10-8 in the championship match.

Few Americans were active on the ITF Junior Circuit last week, with the USTA National Championships on the schedule (see the Honor Roll at left for all the USTA National singles and doubles champions), but three did take home doubles titles.  Sasha Wood and her partner Lara Van Der Merwe of South Africa, the No. 2 seeds, claimed the doubles championship at the ITF Grade 4 in Zimbabwe, beating top seeds Hania Abouelsaad and Amira Badawi of Egypt 4-6, 7-5, 10-2 in the final. At the ITF Grade 5 in St. Lucia, Zeba Jamal and Anjali Mogili, the No. 3 seeds, won the doubles title with a 6-1, 6-0 decision over No. 2 seeds Sydney Clarke of the Bahamas and Tangia Riley-Codrington of Barbados.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Brooksby Claims USTA National 18s Title and US Open Wild Card, Damm Wins 16s in his Kalamazoo Debut; Osuigwe Earns 18s Championship in San Diego

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

A Kalamazoo veteran and a Kalamazoo rookie won USTA National Championships Sunday at Stowe Stadium, with 2016 16s finalist Jenson Brooksby claiming the 18s title with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win over Brandon Nakashima and Martin Damm earning the 16s singles championship with a 6-2, 7-6(7) win over Zane Khan in his debut.

Damm, the No. 15 seed, came out firing to start the 16s final shortly before noon on a warm and sunny day at the Kalamazoo College courts.  Using his big lefty serve, which clocked 120 mph on the radar gun several times, Damm took a quick 3-0 lead, while Khan, the No. 4 seed, was not consistent enough to apply any pressure of his own.

"I wasn't too nervous," said the 6-foot-6-1/2 inch 14-year-old. "Zane is a very intimidating player....he hits the ball as hard as he can, he stands on the baseline on my first serve, which I'm not used to. I had to stay with him, because if he got away, I'd have a really hard time getting back in it."

After Damm closed out the first set with his second break, he had little trouble holding serve in the first half of the second set, but Khan had begun to serve better himself. At 3-all, Damm had to save two break points, the first he had faced since the first game, but he got a break, after Khan had been up 40-15 in the next game, giving Damm the chance to serve out the match. Up 40-0, Damm let three match points slip away, with Khan needing to hit only one winner in that stretch.

"I thought until 6-2, 5-3, I don't think I could have played better," said Damm, who lives in Bradenton and trains at the IMG Academy. "Zane's been killing every single person he's faced, so I knew I had to be on my A game and when it came that game, I felt calm. I went for a second serve ace, because I wanted to end it, which was really dumb. I went for dumb shots, because I was nervous."

Khan saved two more match points serving in the next game, with Damm missing a forehand and Khan hitting an ace on the fifth match point, a call Damm did not agree with.

Two more holds sent the match to a tiebreaker, and Damm saved a set point at 5-6 in the tiebreaker with a 123 mph ace. He hit a backhand volley winner for his sixth match point, but missed a return long, but he earned his seventh and last match point with a forehand on the baseline that forced an error from Khan, the first loss of serve by either play in the tiebreaker.

This time Damm didn't falter, hitting an ace and immediately falling to the ground in celebration.

"I was happy I was finally there," said Damm, who turns 15 next month. "It was a crazy last 15, 20 minutes. I felt like I was calmer in those bigger points, that I didn't panic. He was going for shots at deuce, 30-all that maybe he shouldn't have gone for, and I just stayed composed."

Khan was not happy with his play throughout the match.

"A little bit of it had to do with nerves, but I was playing bad," said the 16-year-old Khan, who like Damm, received a wild card into the tournament.  "My feet were bothering me a lot, and my shoulder, but he deserves the win. I need to work harder, improve, because my level's not there and I have a lot of things to work on."

Damm is looking forward to playing in his first junior slam next month at the US Open, with the wild card he receives from winning the 16s title.

"Our main draw is during the second week, so I'm going to be around the best players in the world, and my dad won that tournament," Damm said of his father Martin, who won the 2006 US Open doubles title with Leander Paes of India. "It's all going to be special for sure. Hopefully I can do well, play like I did in this final, if not better."

Khan is scheduled to complete at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park week after next, but said he will take a few days off and see how the blisters on his foot feel before deciding whether to play there.

In the 18s final, Brooksby came into the final with a recent win over Nakashima, having beaten him en route to the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl title.  But the 17-year-old from Sacramento had to fight off four break points in his first two service games to hold on to his 3-1 lead.

"He held serve and had two break points right away," said Brooksby. "That could have been a tough situation to get out of. Repeatedly, he had a lot of break chances, but I was able to fight my way out of those with good serves."

Serving for the set at 5-4, Brooksby was down 15-40, but hit a lob winner and a good first serve to get back to deuce and eventually held when Nakashima hit a forehand long.

Brooksby got an early break in the second set, but gave it right back, the only time he lost serve in the match.  Brooksby broke Nakashima again to go up 3-2, saved yet another break point serving at 4-3, and closed out the second set,with his third break of Nakashima in the set.

"He definitely played pretty well on those critical points in the first set," said the 17-year-old Nakashima, who won the Kalamazoo 16s title last year. "I had a lot of opportunities to break him back, but I just couldn't close out those points. There were quite a few in the second set too, where I had chances to break back, but I just couldn't convert."

Brooksby again got an early break in the third set, and this time he did not give Nakashima any opportunities to mount a comeback, although he did fall behind 15-40 serving for the match at 5-1.  At 30-40, Brooksby hit a drop shot winner, then a forehand winner gave him his first match point, which he converted when Nakashima's forehand went wide.

Brooksby has now won five straight sets from Nakashima since April, and believes his own disciplined play is responsible for his success against Nakashima.

"I can't really give details, but I feel like I can move him around," said Brooksby, who has verbally committed to TCU for 2019. "I feel I have discipline on every point, which is helpful, because he is a disciplined player as well. I was confident in my play and I was dictating play better and [I] focused."

"He makes a lot balls and doesn't give you too much," said San Diego resident Nakashima, who receives a men's qualifying wild card as the runner-up. "Against him, you have to play solid; he's always going to play pretty well. He doesn't give you free points, gets a lot of balls back in play, making you work for each point."

Brooksby has trained with Joseph Gilbert at the JMG Tennis Academy in the Sacramento area throughout his junior career, and Gilbert has seen the growth, both physical and mental, in his game since his loss in the 2016 16s final.

"The biggest thing is he's gotten more physical," said Gilbert, who continues to coach Collin Altamirano, who won the Kalamazoo 18s title in 2013. "In the last six months he's put on quite a few inches, he's almost up to 6' 2", which is a huge difference. It helps him with the physicality. And he was definitely more comfortable here, comfortable with the crowds, the scene. He likes playing in front of the crowd; it fires him up and excites him."

"The crowds every match are unbelievable, that's by far the best thing about [Kalamazoo]," Brooksby said. "And ball kids on all these front three courts. The atmosphere I feel is the best of any junior tournament, clearly."

Next up for Brooksby is the US Open main draw, and a chance to play a top professional.

"I'd love playing against one of the best guys in the world, or someone pretty good as well, like 50, whatever," said Brooksby, who said if he had to choose a favorite player he might encounter in New York, it would be Rafael Nadal. "They are all very good and that would be amazing. There's a little bit of pressure at this tournament, especially in the early rounds, but there it's so exciting, there's absolutely no pressure on me there. I just hope I can show them what I can do, be totally loose."

After he makes his US Open main draw debut, Brooksby will stick around for his junior slam debut the second week.

"I'm extremely excited to play at the US Open, come cheer me on if you can," Brooksby said.

Stefan Dostanic, seeded No. 26, finished in third place in the 18s via a walkover from Drew Baird, the No. 6 seed. Dostanic receives a main draw wild card into the US Open Juniors finishing third, and said he plans to play in New York next month, his first junior slam.

In the 16s division, Alexander Kiefer, the No. 45 seed, won the bronze ball, when No. 1 seed Keshav Chopra was unable to play in the third place match due to illness.

The consolation finals, for fifth and sixth place, were also played Sunday, with No. 3 seed Alex Lee beating No. 10 seed Spencer Brachman 2-6, 7-6(5), 10-7 in the 16s division Feed-In final.  Eric Hahn, the No. 50 seed, took fifth place in the 18s Feed-In tournament, beating No. 34 seed Noah Schachter 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

Two of the tournament's sportsmanship awards were presented Sunday, with Hahn receiving the Dr. Allen B. Stowe Award for 18s and Ryan Fishback receiving the Bobby Kaplan Award for the 16s. Earlier in the week, Boris Kozlov was named the recipient of the Wes Richards Sportsmanship Award for Feed-Ins.

For more from the Kalamazoo winners, see the tournament's Youtube Channel.

At the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe defeated top seed Kayla Day 7-5, 6-3 to claim the US Open women's main draw wild card. The 16-year-old Osuigwe, who lost in the semifinals last year, came from 5-1 down in the first set then took a 4-2 lead in the second before closing out the 2016 National 18s champion.  Osuigwe and Caty McNally, the top seeds in doubles, defeated Peyton Stearns and Elli Mandlik, the No. 7 seeds, in this evening's 18s doubles final, 6-4, 6-3.  Osuigwe and McNally will receive a wild card into the US Open women's doubles main draw.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Nakashima and Brooksby to Meet for Kalamazoo 18s Title; Khan and Damm in 16s Final; Thomas Repeats in 18s as Doubles Champions Crowned; US Boys Win ITF 14U Team Event

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

Last year's 16 champion Brandon Nakashima will look to earn his second consecutive title Sunday at the USTA Boys 16s and 18s National Championships after a tough three-set semifinal victory over Stefan Dostanic at Stowe Stadium.  Standing in his way is Jenson Brooksby, another player making his second appearance in a Kalamazoo singles final, with 2016 16s finalist advancing with a convincing win over Drew Baird.

Nakashima, the No. 3 seed, and Dostanic, seeded No. 26, met in the 16s final last year, with Nakashima dropping only one game, but Dostanic mounted a stirring comeback after trailing 6-2, 3-0 in today's semifinal, only to see Nakashima rebound for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

"He's definitely gotten a lot better," said Nakashima, who also beat Dostanic in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in April and had never dropped a set to the 16-year-old from Irvine California before. "He's definitely more consistent at the baseline and the serve has gotten a lot better. He played really well in that second set and I kind of let up a little bit, lost some energy."

After a mandatory 10-minute break after the second set, with Nakashima getting advice from his coach on Dostanic's serving tendencies, he was able to get a break of serve in the sixth game.
Dostanic went down 0-40, won four straight points, but couldn't shake the always composed Nakashima, who won the game on his sixth break point to take a 4-2 lead.

"I tried not to show too much emotion at that point, just try to stay calm," said Nakashima, a San Diego resident, who turned 17 last Sunday. "I knew I was going to get more opportunities if I kept playing well, playing the points right, on his serve. I just tried to stay solid mentally. The next game was crucial, holding pretty easily, and then playing well the last game."

Nakashima is the first player since Sam Querrey to reach the 18s final the year after winning the 16s title and he has a chance to become the first player since Paul Goldstein to win the 16s and 18s titles in back-to-back years. Regardless of Sunday's outcome, Nakashima knows he will be going to New York either to play in the men's qualifying as the 18s finalist, or the men's main draw, as the champion.

"Before the tournament I knew the two finalists get to play in the men's singles, but I wasn't really thinking about it during the tournament," Nakashima said. "I'm definitely a little more relaxed now, knowing I'm getting into the men's either way now, but I really want to get into the main draw, so I just have to stay focused tomorrow."

Nakashima will face Brooksby, who defeated Nakashima 6-2, 6-3 in the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl quarterfinals back in March.

"I have confidence from playing him in the Easter Bowl," Brooksby said. "He's obviously a good player, but I feel my game, if I stay disciplined the whole match, things will hopefully go well."

Brooksby, the No. 4 seed, needed only 45 minutes to defeat No. 6 seed Baird, who looked a step slow after three consecutive three-set wins coming into the semifinals.

"It seemed like [Baird was tired] from the start," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento. "I could tell, you know he's had multiple three-setters. I wasn't focused on that, I was focused on each game, but I could see it, yeah."

Brooksby, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, didn't shy away from talking about the US Open main draw wild card on the line in Sunday's final.

"I like to know the final result and I don't want to hide from it," Brooksby said. "I'm not focusing on it, but you know in the back of your head that it's there. Focus on each match and that's the best way you'll be able to get there."

Although the prize in the 16s final is not on the same level, a wild card into the US Open Junior Championship definitely was a lure for 16s finalists Zane Khan and Martin Damm, both of whom received wild cards into Kalamazoo.

"Getting an opportunity to play at the US Open at this age is unbelievable," said the 14-year-old Damm, who beat No. 45 seed Alex Keifer 7-6(5), 6-2 in Saturday's semifinals. "But I also, [this week has served to] just to get matches under my belt, to learn how to win matches I'm supposed to win, get used to those five, six matches a week."

Damm said Kiefer was the better player in the first set.

"I saved four break points in one game and I didn't get any break points on his serve the whole first set," said Damm, a left-hander who turns 15 next month. "I was up 15-30 in every game, but I never got a break point. And in the breaker, I was up 3-0, then went down 3-4 and then I hit two really good serves to go 5-4."

Damm earned two set points with a mini-break, but Kiefer saved the first with a cross court forehand winner. Damm didn't get a first serve in on his second set point, but was able to secure the set when he hit a good drop shot, a decision he wasn't entirely convinced was appropriate for the situation.

"I panicked a little bit and I went to my drop shot, which thankfully, it worked," said Damm, who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton. "But I was happy to get that first set, I got energy from that in the second. I kind of stole that first set from him, and then was able to go for my shots."

Khan was going from his shots from the beginning, winning the first 10 games from top seed Keshav Chopra before posting a 6-0, 6-2 victory.

"It looked like in the beginning he was missing a little too much," said Khan, a 16-year-old from Texas who trains in Spain. "I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I was hitting my shots and doing everything right."

Khan said he was able to maintain concentration despite the score, and even after taking the first set 6-0, he was still urging himself on after a winner or chastising himself after an unforced error.

"Throughout I was pretty focused," Khan said. "Maybe I lost my focus a little bit; that's why I lost those two games in the second."

Khan and Damm have never played, but Khan knows what to expect.

"He's a big guy and he plays really aggressive, big serve," Khan said. "I think I still need to take my chances and try to neutralize the serve and if he leaves some short balls, try to move him. He's a big guy, I don't think he moves too well, so that's what I have to do."

Khan, who has an ITF ranking of 108, but is well out of qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships, said that getting the wild card that goes with the 16s title adds to the significance of Sunday's final.

"There is pressure, like there is every match," said Khan, who has not lost more than four games in any set in his six victories this week. "But I'm just thinking about what I need to do, and thinking about it point by point."

The 16s final will begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by the 18s singles final, which is best-of-five sets, not before 1:30 p.m.

The doubles championships were decided Saturday afternoon, with DJ Thomas repeating as 18s champion, this time with Patrick Kypson. The No. 1 seeds dominated No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda 6-1, 6-3 to earn a wild card into the US Open men's doubles main draw.

Kypson and Thomas, who were the top two seeds in singles, used the doubles competition to overcome their disappointment at going out in the fifth round of singles.

"Usually, at least for me, doubles is second," said Kypson, an 18-year-old from Raleigh North Carolina. "But when you're out of singles, I'm a competitor, he's a competitor, so we both wanted to win doubles. It was motivation for sure."

Thomas, who won the title with Vasil Kirkov last year, had agreed to play with 2016 16s singles champion Lukas Greif back in November, but when Greif was unable to play due to injury, Kypson began his campaign.

"I had to beg him," said Kypson, who lost in last year's doubles final playing with Oliver Crawford. "I had to beg and plead, sent him a couple of Facebook messages, got on my knees and prayed a little bit."

Thomas and Kypson saved three match points in their quarterfinal win over Axel Nefve and Emilio Nava, a victory that changed their mindset.

"I was thinking about that a little bit in the second set," said Thomas, an 18-year-old from Columbus Ohio. "I was thinking how far we've come and how well we're playing. I think [after that quarterfinal win] we started to find our rhythm and I know I started to play more of my game in doubles, and I feel like Patrick did the same."

Kypson and Thomas took 3-1 leads in both sets, which they said was important to their success.

"We started strong," said Thomas. "The first game was a little bit tight, but we pounced on them early and I think that helped us a lot. They're a good doubles team, but I think we really matched up well today."

"We knew these guys were pretty dangerous and we knew we had to really step up and play, and we did that today," Kypson said. "We were hitting returns really well and serving well, so it was good."

Thomas is the first player two win back-to-back 18s doubles titles since Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke won the championships in 2001 and 2002, while Kypson is the first player to win the 16s and 18s singles titles and a 18s doubles title since Paul Goldstein in 1994.

They head to the Open with the experience from last year's appearance providing motivation to return.

"I'm excited," said Thomas. "I always love going to New York. It's a special tournament and one of my favorites."

"It's a pretty cool place to be," Kypson said. "I think to see the top players, figure out what they do, how we can get to that level, whether in singles or doubles, with the doubles game helping the singles game a lot. We're both trying to be there, in two or three years, playing at the professional level, so for sure, it's another motivation."

The 16s doubles title went to No. 7 seeds Alex Lee and Niroop Vallabhaneni, who beat top seeds Chopra and Max McKennon 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Lee was scheduled to play with Stefan Leustian, who withdrew a week prior to the tournament, so he needed a new partner and Vallabhaneni stepped in.

"I didn't know if I was going to get in," said Vallabhaneni, a 16-year-old from Arizona, who received a wild card shortly before the tournament started. "It kind of worked out, I guess."

Despite the fact that they hadn't played together in years, Vallabhaneni said they were able to work together, especially after their quarterfinal win over No. 2 seeds Alex Bernard and Logan Zapp.

"We had both lost singles that day and were both not feeling that well," Vallabhaneni said. "We lost the first set 6-2, but we started playing really well in the second set, got a rhythm and in the third set, won the tiebreaker."

"At that point, everything changed," said Lee, a 16-year-old from Illinois. "Our mindsets changed, going for it, being more positive, looking to do more at the net."

The pair faced another challenge in the final, with Chopra suffering from an illness that had him leave the court after the first set, and during the second set, vomiting during changeovers, but still managing to complete the match.

The crowd, sympathetic to Chopra's plight, gave what encouragement it could, but Lee and Vallabhaneni were able to block out the distractions to seal the title.
"It threw us off a little bit," admitted Lee. "In the third set, we focused a little more and got the job done."

The third place match in 16s doubles went to No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab, who defeated unseeded Ben Shelton and Quinn Snyder 6-4, 6-4.

Third place in the 18s doubles went to No. 4 seed Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink, via walkover from No. 10 seeds Will Grant and Tristan Boyer.

The girls 16s national champion was crowned this afternoon in San Diego, with Fiona Crawley, the No. 3 seed, defeating No. 4 seed Allura Zamarripa 6-4, 6-0.  Crawley will receive a wild card into the US Open Junior Championships next month.

Top seed Kayla Day and No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe will meet for the girls 18s title on Sunday, after Day defeated No. 4 seed Salma Ewing 7-5, 6-4 and Osuigwe got by No. 3 seed Coco Gauff 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4.

The final will be on Tennis Channel Sunday at 1 p.m. PDT.

National champions were crowned in the other age divisions today, with the singles results below. Tennis Recruiting Network will be providing recaps throughout next week.

Natalia Perez[4] def. Brooklyn Olson[2] 1-6, 6-4, 6-3

Eleana Yu[1] def. (8) Clervie Ngounoue[8] 6-3, 6-2

Rudy Quan[1] def. (5) Dylan Charlap[5] 6-2, 6-1

Juncheng (Jerry) Shang[33] d. Nicholas Heng[1] 6-3, 6-4

The second-seeded US boys team won the ITF's World Junior Tennis Competition for 14-and-under players, beating the Czech Republic 3-0 in the championship match today in the Czech Republic. Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov went undefeated in singles play throughout the week, with Evan Wen anchoring the doubles lineup, also went undefeated in doubles to dominate the competiton.  The US girls, also seeded No. 2, finished third, beating Turkey 3-0 in the third place match. Russia, the No. 3 seeds, who beat the US in the semifinals, won the title, beating top seeds Czech Republic 2-1.  For more on today's finals, see the ITF junior website.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Baird Saves Five Match Points to Reach Kalamazoo 18s Semifinals; Rematch of Last Year's 16s Final Set; US Boys Reach ITF World Junior Tennis Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

Kevin Zhu lived by the sword Thursday and died by the sword Friday at the 18s Nationals. The No. 9 seed saved three match points in his upset of top seed and defending champion Patrick Kypson in the round of 16, but in today's quarterfinal match with No. 6 seed Drew Baird, it was Zhu's opponent who faced down defeat, saving five match points to claim a 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-2 victory.

Baird, who turns 18 later this month, was serving at 3-5 in the second set, when he faced his first two match points. At 30-40, he executed a drop shot perfectly, but a point later he had to come up with another save, this time electing to serve and volley.

"He wasn't going to expecting that one," Baird said. "If I were him, I wouldn't expect my opponent to serve and volley down match point in the quarterfinals of Kalamazoo. So maybe it would be a good idea to do it, I don't know. I tried it, and it worked."

Zhu had a third match point serving at 5-4, but Baird went big on a forehand, hitting a clean winner, and won the next two points to pull even.

More challenges remained for Baird however.

Up 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, Baird lost those two set points, and after the second, tossed his racquet, which earned him a point penalty, giving Zhu a fourth match point.  Baird didn't have to do much to save it, with Zhu hitting a backhand way long, but not getting emotional after the code violation may have had something to do with how the final few points of the tiebreaker.

"I didn't really even get mad," Baird said. "I thought it was funny....It was a mistake, I shouldn't have done it, but I kind of forgot about it pretty quick and used it as motivation, I guess."

The next, and last, match point Baird faced was on his serve at 7-8, but he saved it with a good first serve and another excellent first serve gave him a set point. Zhu made another error, fitting a forehand well long and Baird had escaped with the set, after 75 minutes of play.

"I knew if I could be resilient enough that I'd been in enough situations like this, that if I could win that second set, just get through a couple of points here and there, he would start getting tired and I could get into the match," said Baird, No. 20 in the ITF World Junior rankings.

Zhu went down a break in the third set and called a medical time out, which didn't surprise Baird.

"I could kind of tell in the second set that he wasn't ready to go for another two hours, so that's why I just kept trying," said Baird. "Even though I wasn't playing well in the second or first, my goal was to stay in it long enough. I dug my way into his head a little bit and he wasn't ready to go for that long."

Baird, who had played two three-setters coming into today's quarterfinal, had no physical problems after playing long matches in the midday heat.

"I train in Florida; it's not that bad here," said Baird, who is student at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I feel fine now."

Baird's semifinal opponent will be No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby, who beat No. 25 seed Jacob Bullard 6-3, 6-1, to claim his fifth straight-sets victory.

"I feel like my first two matches were close, but I feel like I'm playing better my last couple matches here," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento. "I'm happy with my play going into the next match."

Brooksby, who reached the 16s final two years ago, is comfortable on the Stowe Stadium courts.

"I love it here," Brooksby said. "The big crowds, the good matches. I've been here a couple of years now, so I feel I know it well. I'm not nervous, I'm just excited. The first year, I was definitely nervous in the final, but I'm not as nervous now."

The other 18s semifinal will be a rematch of last year's 16 final, with champion Brandon Nakashima taking on finalist Stefan Dostanic. No. 3 seed Nakashima advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 5 seed Tristan Boyer.  Nakashima had beaten Boyer 6-0, 6-0 in the final of the Grade 1 ITF International Spring Championships in Carson, but Boyer played at a much higher level in today's match.

"He definitely played a lot better today than last time," said Nakashima, who has now won 12 straight matches at Kalamazoo. "He was making a lot more balls. I just had to keep playing my game, being consistent.  It was probably not my best serving day, I wasn't making a lot of first serves, but I just kept grinding to get out of those service games."

Up two breaks in the first set, Nakashima served for the set at 5-2, but was broken at love. Boyer held to force Nakashima to serve for it a second time, and despite going down 15-30, he finished the set with a good first serve.

In the second set, Boyer and Nakashima traded breaks in the fifth and sixth games, but Boyer played another poor service game to go down a break for a the second time, and that was enough for Nakashima.

"My baseline game was pretty solid today, so I was able to get out of those games," said the 17-year-old from San Diego.

Nakashima, who dropped his only set this week in the third round, believes Kalamazoo brings out the best in his game.

"I just love playing here," said Nakashima. "The atmosphere is incredible and I always play my best here. Hard courts suit my game pretty well, it's what I practice on, and I just want to keep it solid and win the title."

Dostanic, who took out No. 2 seed DJ Thomas in Thursday's round of 16, defeated No. 27 seed Andrew Zhang 6-3, 6-1 for his fifth consecutive two-set victory here in Kalamazoo.  Dostanic has yet to win a set from Nakashima however, with his last loss to his Southern California rival coming back in April, in the semifinals of the Carson ITF 6-2, 6-3.

The schedule for Saturday has the 16s semifinals beginning at 9:30 a.m., with No. 1 seed Keshav Chopra against No. 4 seed Zane Khan and No. 45 seed Alex Kiefer facing No. 15 seed Martin Damm, with the 18s semifinals to follow.

The doubles finals are set for Saturday afternoon, with top seeds DJ Thomas and Patrick Kypson facing No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda.  Hilderbrand and Nanda defeated No. 4 seeds Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink 6-3, 6-4, while Thomas and Kypson beat No. 10 seeds Will Grant and Boyer 7-5, 6-0. The winning team will receive a wild card into the US Open men's doubles main draw.

The 16s doubles final, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., will feature No. 7 seeds Alex Lee and Niroop Vallabhaneni and top seeds Max McKennon and Chopra, who saved three match points in their 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab. Lee and Vallabhaneni defeated unseeded Ben Shelton and Quinn Snyder 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

At the girls 18s, the top four seeds have advanced to Saturday's semifinals.  Kayla Day[1] will play Salma Ewing[4] and Coco Gauff[3] will take on Whitney Osuigwe[2].

The girls 16s final is Saturday, with No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley reaching the championship match.  She will play No. 4 seed Allura Zamarippa, who beat top seed Gianna Pielet 6-4, 7-6(4). 

At the boys 12s, it's Rudy Quan[1] vs Dylan Charlap[5] for the boys gold ball in singles.

At the boys 14s, Nicholas Heng[1]will face Juncheng (Jerry) Shang[33] in the final.

At the girls 12s, Brooklyn Olson[2] and Natalia Perez[4] are in the singles final.

At the girls 14s, Eleana Yu[1] and Clervie Ngounoue will play for the singles gold ball.

At the ITF World Junior Tennis team event in the Czech Republic, the US boys team, seeded No. 2, has advanced to the final against the Czech Republic, after beating Paraguay 2-0, with Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov getting singles wins. The US girls team, who won the title in 2017, lost to No. 3 seeds Russia 2-0, with Robin Montgomery and Katrina Scott losing their singles matches. The US girls will play Turkey for third play on Saturday.  For more on the semifinals, see this article from the ITF website.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Kypson and Thomas Ousted in Historically Bad Day for Top 18s Seeds at Kalamazoo Nationals; Semifinals Set in 16s Division

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

Thursday was an historically crazy day in the 18s Division at the Kalamazoo Nationals, with the top two seeds exiting prior to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1993.

Kevin Zhu earned the win of his career Thursday afternoon, saving three match points en route to defeating top seed and defending champion Patrick Kypson 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), ending Kypson's quest for a third Kalamazoo title.  Less than an hour later, No. 2 seed DJ Thomas also lost, with 2017 16s finalist Stefan Dostanic posting a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Zhu trailed Kypson 6-2, 3-0, but sensed that Kypson was beginning to tire in the hot and humid conditions that followed the three-hour rain from a morning shower.

"Once I saw him try to shorten up the points, I just tried to make more balls and make the match physical," said the No. 9 seed, who turns 18 later this month. "At the beginning of the match, I was kind of nervous, because I wanted to prove myself, didn't want to lose badly against such a great player."

After getting broken at 3-all in the third set, Zhu gave Kypson an opening, but Kypson gave the break right back and Zhu held easily to take a 5-4 lead. With Kypson serving to stay in the match, Zhu earned a match point with a forehand winner that caught both the baseline and the sideline, but Kypson saved it with a backhand volley winner. After two medical timeouts earlier in the set, Kypson obviously was struggling physically, and the next game was more of the same. With Zhu serving at 5-all, eight deuces were played before Kypson finally converted his seventh break point.  Kypson took two more medical timeouts, one just prior to that 11th game, and another after the sixth deuce, when he had an ad.  Zhu was not irritated however, instead viewing those timeouts as an opportunity to rest.

"It was a pretty long game, so I guess he and I were tired," said the Houston resident, who will be starting at Penn this fall. "When he took those medicals, I didn't care, because I was so happy I could sit down for a few minutes. But when he took the second one, I was kind of like, why? Why not just finish it, but I didn't think anything else besides that."

After Zhu lost that game, he took a medical timeout, but that didn't stop Kypson momentum. He used his drop shot to win two points, the second of which gave him a 40-0 lead, but a poorly executed drop shot allowed Zhu to escape the first match point. Zhu hit a return winner off a second serve to save match point No. 2 and then hit a forehand that forced an error from Kypson to get to deuce. After a Kypson error, he again failed to get a first serve in and Zhu hit a forehand return winner off the second serve to send the match to a deciding tiebreaker.

After each lost their first service points, there were no mini breaks until 5-all, when Zhu hit a forehand winner to earn a match point at 6-5.  After his first serve had basically deserted him in the 5-all game, Zhu got one in on match point, and closed out the defending champion with a forehand passing shot winner.

"I was so happy [to make a first serve]," Zhu said, "but then he hit such a great return, I just tried to stay in the point after that. I'm not sure why he came in, and I didn't know if he'd react in time, but I kept going cross court on my forehand passes before and so I just changed it up, hoping it would work and it did."

Kypson is the first No. 1 seed to fall prior to the quarterfinals since Alex Domijan went out to Kevin King in the fourth round in 2009.

Zhu will face No. 6 seed Drew Baird in Friday's quarterfinals, with Baird defeating No. 16 seed Keenan Mayo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will feature No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby and No. 25 seed Jacob Bullard.  Brooksby defeated No. 12 seed Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-1 and Bullard took out No. 13 seed Emilio Nava 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Brandon Nakashima, the 2017 16s champion, ran his Kalamazoo winning streak to 11 matches, defeating No. 50 seed Eric Hahn 6-3, 6-1.  Nakashima will face fellow Southern Californian Tristan Boyer, the No. 5 seed, who beat No. 18 seed Steven Forman 6-0, 6-4.  Boyer and Nakashima last met in the final of April's ITF Grade 1 in Carson, with Nakashima winning 6-0, 6-0.

Another Southern Californian with Kalamazoo bona fides is Dostanic, who said his game was at a higher level against Thomas than when he defeated No. 15 seed  Nanda on Wednesday.

"I'd say I played even better," said the 16-year-old from Irvine California. "Danny's such a great player, I played so well today."

Dostanic took the first set with a break with Thomas serving at 4-5, and then took a 4-1 lead in the second set.  Thomas got the second set back on serve, but Dostanic broke right back and served out the match.

"I think I was serving very well and I was hitting my forehand very well," said Dostanic, who has committed to USC for next fall. "I was mixing it up a lot, going down the line, going cross court and I was able to hit a lot of winners off of that. He was having a tough time getting my serve back."

Despite Dostanic's experience playing in front of a large Kalamazoo crowd last year, he said the nerves were still there, and even with that 5-3 lead, he couldn't really relax.

"Against such tough players, you should never relax," Dostanic said. "They'll take advantage of every opportunity they get. Maybe I slightly relaxed, but I think Danny lifted his level in that [4-2] game. I was able to regroup, go back to what I was doing and to execute very well."

Dostanic will take on the home state's Andrew Zhang, the No. 47 seed, who defeated No. 37 seed Marcus Ferreira 6-2, 6-4.  The two have never played, but they did warm up with each other Thursday morning.

"I'm sure he's a great player, just to be in the quarters of Kalamazoo is a big honor."

Thomas is the first No. 2 seed in 18s to lose before the quarterfinals since 1998, when Matias Boeker lost to No. 15 seed Mardy Fish in the round of 16.

The 18s quarterfinals in singles are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, with the semifinals in doubles at 3:30 p.m.

The 16s quarterfinals were completed today, with top seed Keshav Chopra advancing to a Saturday semifinal meeting with No. 4 seed Zane Khan and double digit seeds and wild cards Alexander Kiefer and Martin Damm again taking out favored players.

Kiefer, seeded No. 45 outlasted No. 3 seed Alex Lee 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 surviving a nearly three-hour battle in the midday heat.  Damm, the No. 15 seed, won his second consecutive three-setter, beating No. 7 seed Ryan Fishback 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2.

Chopra, who come from a set down in his previous three wins, didn't continue that trend today, advancing to the semifinals when No. 13 seed Andrew Dale retired down 6-4, 2-1.  Khan, who has yet to lose more than four games in a set, defeated fellow wild card Niroop Vallabhaneni, the No. 31 seed, 6-2, 6-4.

Khan, who now trains in Spain, said his improvement over the past year is due to a stretch of good health and working hard on the red clay.

"Coming back from a lot of injuries is really tough at first," said Khan, who trains at the 4 Slam Tennis Academy in Barcelona. "I broke my foot in Carson (in 2017) and then I've been dealing with knee pain, growing pains. I've been back playing since last fall, and I think I have really improved a lot."

Khan, who trains with Vallabhaneni, admitted that his friend was not at his best in the first set.

"He wasn't playing too well," said Khan. "He plays much better than he played today. He's improved a lot since he went to Spain as well."

After leading 4-1, Khan saw his lead dwindle to 4-3 and Vallabhaneni pressed him during that game.

"That was really important to get that game," Khan said. "Otherwise it would have been a much longer match and you never know what might happen. But when I got that game, his energy dropped a little bit, because that was his chance."

The 16s doubles quarterfinals were played Thursday evening, with all four going to match tiebreakers.  Top seeds Chopra and Max McKennon defeated No. 5 seeds Michael Andre and Daniel Milavsky 4-6, 6-1, 10-7 and will face No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab, who beat No. 27 seed Ashe Ray and Maxwell Smith 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. Unseeded Ben Shelton, the son of Florida men's coach Bryan Shelton, and Quinn Snyder advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-1 win over Jack Anthrop and JC Roddick, the nephew of Andy Roddick.  Shelton and Quinn will play No. 7 seeds Lee and Vallabhaneni after Lee and Vallabhaneni defeated No. 2 seeds Alex Bernard and Logan Zapp 2-6, 6-1, 10-6.

The 16s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Friday afternoon.

For complete draws, including feed-in consolation draws, see ustaboys.com.

At the girls Nationals in San Diego, the semifinals are set for Friday in the 16s division, with No. 1 seed Gianna Pielet taking on No. 4 seed Allura Zamarippa and No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley facing No. 17 seed Misa Malkin.

The quarterfinals in the 18s will feature top seed Kayla Day against No. 17 seed Vanessa Ong, who beat No. 5 seed Caty McNally 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-3 in today's round of 16.  No. 4 seed Salma Ewing plays No. 15 seed Kacie Harvey, No. 12 seed Natasha Subhash play No. 3 seed Coco Gauff and No. 9 seed Katie Volynets faces No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe.

At the girls 14s, the semifinals will feature top seed Elena Yu against No. 6 seed Stefanie Yakoff and No. 3 seed Lan Mi against No. 8 seed Clervie Ngounoue.

The girls 12s semifinals feature the top 4 seeds, with No. 1 Alexia Harmon against No. 4 Natalia Perez and No. 3 Elizabeth Dunac against No. 2 seed Brooklyn Olson.

At the boys 14s, No. 1 seed Nicholas Heng will play No. 17 seed John Lasanajak in one semifinal and No. 33 seed Juncheng "Jerry" Shang will play No. 17 seed Grant Lothringer.  Shang is the reigning Eddie Herr 12s champion.

The boys 12s semifinals feature No. 1 seed Rudy Quan and No. 3 seed Alexander Razeghi in the top half and No. 5 seed Dylan Charlap and No. 2 seed Andrew Salu in the bottom half.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Damm Defeats No. 2 Seed McKennon to Reach Kalamazoo 16s Quarterfinals; Top Six Seeds in 18s Advance to Round of 16; Semis Set in 18s Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2018
Kalamazoo MI--

Fourteen-year-old Martin Damm usually spends his summer in the Czech Republic, the home country of his parents.  This year, the Bradenton Florida resident requested a wild card into the USTA Nationals in Kalamazoo and in his debut has advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-0 win over No. 2 seed Max McKennon.

Damm, whose father Martin won 40 ATP doubles titles and the 2006 US Open with Leander Paes, said Kalamazoo offered an opportunity to get some matches after winning just two matches in ITF Junior Circuit events last month in the Czech Republic.

"I came hoping to get a couple of matches under my belt, since I wasn't able to do that in ITFs this year so far," Damm said. "I came here to win a couple matches, and now that I'm in the quarterfinals, have won four matches, I think my confidence is where it has to be and hopefully I can play my best tennis in the next couple of matches."

Damm saved set points with McKennon serving at 5-4 40-15 in the first set, and getting his first break there, winning the tiebreaker and then starting out the second set with a break boosted his confidence, despite his loss of the second set.

"He was still battling and he was better than me in the second set," Damm said of his fellow left-hander. "At the beginning of the third set he played the first three points on my serve really well and I went down 0-40 but I ended up winning that, won a tough game to break him, and then at 2-0 he had three break points. I think that game was the one that decided it all, when I went up 3-0."

Damm will face No. 7 seed Ryan Fishback in Thursday's quarterfinals, a player he doesn't know.

"I don't know 80 percent of the guys here," Damm said. "I know the kids from USTA and some of the kids from Florida, but everyone's good here, so I have to go out and play my best. I knew some of the top guys, knew I could hang with them on my better days."

Top seed Keshav Chopra dropped the opening set of his match for the third consecutive day, but he got through once again, beating No. 9 seed Marcus McDaniel 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.  Chopra will face No. 13 seed Andrew Dale, who reached the quarterfinals for the second straight year with a 7-6(4), 6-2 win over No. 26 seed Aidan Mayo. The first set of that match was an hour and 45 minutes long. No. 4 seed Zane Khan continued his march through the draw, defeating No. 12 seed Alexander Bernard 6-1, 6-4.  Khan faces No. 31 seed Niroop Vallabhaneni, who took out No. 8 seed Aryan Chaudhary 6-1, 6-4. The fourth quarterfinal will feature No. 45 seed Alexander Kiefer, another wild card, against No. 3 seed Alex Lee. For the third straight day, Kiefer defeated a player seeded above him, taking down No. 10 seed Spencer Brachman 7-5, 6-4.  Lee beat No. 14 seed David Lins 6-0, 7-6(2) to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

Thursday's schedule will feature the 16s quarterfinals in both singles and doubles after the fourth round of 16s doubles were completed Wednesday afternoon.

Top seeds Chopra and McKennon will face No. 5 seeds Michael Andre and Daniel Milavsky and No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab will play No. 27 seeds Ashe Ray and Maxwell Smith in the other quarterfinal in the top half.  The only unseeded team in the quarterfinals is Ben Shelton and Quinn Snyder who take on Jack Anthrop and JC Roddick, the No. 29 seeds.  No. 2 seeds Bernard and Logan Zapp will face No. 7 seeds Lee and Vallabhaneni in the fourth quarterfinal.

The top six seeds in the 18s division have advanced to Thursday's fifth round, with only one dropping a set.  Top seed Patrick Kypson beat No. 17 seed William Woodall 6-1, 6-1, No. 2 seed DJ Thomas survived a tough first set to take out No. 30 seed Alexandre Rotsaert 7-6(5), 6-3, and No. 3 seed Brandon Nakashima beat No. 32 seed Austen Huang 6-1, 6-3.  Fourth seed Jenson Brooksby had no trouble with the grand nephew of  the legendary Pancho Segura, beating No. 38 seed Matthew Segura 6-0, 6-1.  Fifth seed Tristan Boyer defeated No. 22 seed Andres Martin 7-6(1), 6-2 and No. 6 seed Drew Baird beat No. 28 seed Jake Sands 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

Two Top 16 seeds fell today, with Steven Forman, the No. 18 seed, beating No. 10 seed Trey Hilderbrand 6-2, 7-5 to run his junior winning streak to 37. No. 26 seed Stefan Dostanic, the 16s finalist last year in Kalamazoo, took out No. 14 seed Govind Nanda 7-5, 6-3, the second time in the past four months come out on top in a major event against Nanda, also getting a straight-sets victory in the quarterfinals of the International Spring Championships in April.

"I felt good going into the match, knowing that if I played my really good game, I can beat him," said Dostanic, a 16-year-old from Southern California. "But you always expect a tough match from Govind. The guy makes so many balls and he really makes you win every point, he doesn't give you any points. But I really played one of my best games and I was able to attack very well and finish off points at the net. It was just a couple of points late in the first set and the second set helped me win the match."

Dostanic, who said he has good memories from last year's trip to the final, where he lost to Brandon Nakashima, needed six match points to close out the win.

"He really made me earn it, he really gives you nothing and you have to come up with great winners and great shots against him and I think I did that very well," Dostanic said.

Dostanic will face Thomas for the first time in the round of 16 Thursday.

The Dinner at the Nats crowd Wednesday night watched the top two teams in 18s doubles squeeze out quarterfinal wins, with Nanda and Hilderbrand, the No. 2 seeds coming back to beat No. 8 seeds Ryan Goetz and Nakashima 6-7(9), 6-2, 10-3.  Top seeds Thomas and Kypson closed out the night slightly before 9 p.m. by saving three match points to get by No. 5 seeds Emilio Nava and Axel Nefve 6-7(5), 6-4, 11-9.  Trailing 9-6 in the match tiebreaker Thomas saved two match points on his serve with a forehand volley winner and a good first serve. With Nefve, who had won his four previous service points, serving at 9-8, Thomas made a great reflex volley that forced an error from Nava. On the next point, Nava missed a volley to give Kypson a chance to serve it out, and he did, with Thomas putting away a weak reply from a good first serve to end it.

Thomas and Kypson will face No. 10 seeds Boyer and Will Grant, who took out No. 3 seeds and Clay Court champions Robert Cash and JJ Mercer 4-6, 6-4, 10-6.  Hilderbrand and Nanda will play No. 4 seeds Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink, who beat No. 16 seeds Brooksby and Huang 6-3, 6-2.  Thomas won the 18s title last year; Grant and Zink were the 16s doubles champions. The 18s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Friday.

At the girls 16s and 18s Nationals in San Diego, the quarterfinals in the 16s and the fifth round in the 18s are set for Thursday.  Top 18s seed Kayla Day is joined in the round of 16 by No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe, No. 3 seed Coco Gauff and No. 4 seed Salma Ewing. 

Top 16s seed Gianna Pielet is through to the quarterfinals, but as in the boys 16s, the No. 2 seed was eliminated today, with Valencia Xu falling to a No. 17 seed, Misa Malkin, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.  See the TennisLink website for the draws and results from Wednesday.

At the girls 14s, top seed Elena Yu and No. 2 seed Priya Nelson have reached the quarterfinals. At the girls 12s, top seed Alexia Harmon and No. 2 seed Brooklyn Olson are also through to the quarterfinals.

The top two seeds in the boys 12s and 14s have also moved into the quarterfinals in Mobile: Rudy Quan and Andrew Salu in the 12s and Nicholas Heng and John Kim in the 14s.