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Monday, September 10, 2018

Grade B1 Pan Am Closed Moving to Charlotte NC; Ayeni Wins First Pro Title at Canadian Futures; Blanch Wins ITF Grade 4 in Chile; Opelka Falls in Oracle Challenger Final

The 2018 US Open Junior Championships are over, and I'm back home in Kalamazoo, but I'm not done with the Open just yet. I spoke with Tournament Director Lew Brewer about the extreme heat rule this past weekend, and I'll have a complete report on that, as well as comments from juniors about that and the other rules that are either new to junior tennis or unique to the US Open Junior Championships.  So stay tuned for that, as well as my recap of the event for the Tennis Recruiting Network later this week.

I also spoke to Brewer briefly about the move of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed from Tulsa to Charlotte North Carolina for this year.  The tournament's main site will be the University of North Carolina-Charlotte courts, but the tournament referee, Steve Reitman, and tournament director, Rick Workman, who have been in those positions while the tournament was in Tulsa for several years, continue in those capacities at the new site. The entry deadline is tomorrow, September 11th, and for those who want to begin playing the ITF Junior Circuit, the qualifying, which rarely fills up, is a great place to start.

While I was immersed in the competition in New York, I wasn't able to track the other junior and Pro Circuit events as I normally would. US titles on the ITF Junior Circuit were sparse in the first two weekends of September, but Dali Blanch, the younger brother of Ulises Blanch, won his first ITF Pro Circuit title at the Grade 4 in Chile.  The 15-year-old, who like Ulises, has based his training and competition in South America, was the No. 16 seed in the 48-player draw. He defeated No. 5 seed Amador Salazar of Chile 7-5, 6-1 in the final.

Quite a few former collegians won ITF Pro Circuit titles this month, and I'll be featuring them in my September Aces column, but I believe only one active collegian won a title this past weekend--Cornell sophomore Alafia Ayeni.  Ayeni, who turned 19 last month, won the $25,000 Futures in Niagara Falls Canada after coming through qualifying. He won eight matches in those nine days, beating top seed Evan Song, No. 6 seed Pavel Krainik of Canada and No. 4 seed Alejandro Gomez of Colombia. In the first pro final for both, Ayeni faced fellow qualifier Felix Corwin, a recent Minnesota graduate, taking a 6-3, 6-3 decision. 

Samuel Shropshire(Northwestern) and Charlie Emhardt(Valparaiso) won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating No. 3 seeds and former Texas A&M Aggies Harrison Adams and Junior Ore 7-5, 1-6, 10-3. It's the first Pro Circuit Futures title for Emhardt and the second for Shropshire.

The Oracle Challenger Series made its debut in Chicago last week, with a combined men's and women's event, both with $150,000 in prize money.  No. 2 seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan won the men's title, defeating unseeded Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-2 in the final.  Luke Bambridge and Neal Skupski of Great Britain won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds defeating top seeds Leander Paes of India and Miguel Reyes-Varela (Texas) of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  The champion of the women's event, a WTA 125 level, is No. 2 seed Petra Martic of Croatia, who beat unseeded Mona Barthel of Germany 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Barthel and Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic won the doubles title, beating Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez(USC) 6-3, 6-2 in the final.  Jonathan Kelley covered the tournament for Tennis Panorama, and his article on the finals can be found here. Kelley also spoke with Opelka about the illness that kept him out of action between Wimbledon and the US Open in this article.