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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Osuigwe, Shane and Kwiatkowski Get Big Wins in Challengers; Georgia's Jokic, Wake Forest's Chrysochos Top ITA Rankings as Fall Season Comes to a Close

Whitney Osuigwe took a big step toward an Australian Open main draw wild card today, beating No. 6 seed Varvara Lepchenko 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the WTA 125 Series Oracle Challenger in Houston. The 16-year-old from Bradenton Florida now leads in the USTA's AO Wild Card Challenge, with Lepchenko, her closest rival, now falling to second place, with this the last tournament counting in the race. Osuigwe, the reigning ITF World Junior Champion, was down a break early in the second set, but her forehand proved too much for Lepchenko, who has been as high as 19 in the WTA rankings. Osuigwe, who should move into the WTA Top 200 after this week, will face the winner of Thursday's match between top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and wild card Peng Shuai of China. No. 4 seed Jessica Pegula, who has a chance to make the Australian Open on her own ranking, also advanced to the quarterfinals with a win today.

Wednesday was a good day for former NCAA singles champions from the University of Virginia, with 2015 champion Ryan Shane reaching the quarterfinals at the $75,000 Challenger tournament in Champaign and 2017 champion Thai Kwiatkowski advancing to the quarterfinals of the $150,000+H Oracle Challenger in Houston.

Shane, a qualifier, picked up his first ATP Top 100 win today and he did it in style. The 24-year-old beat top seed and ATP No. 94 Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and nine minutes, and will play another former college star in the quarterfinals: No. 8 seed JP Smith of Australia, a former Tennessee All-American.

Kwiatkowski has posted impressive wins this fall, with his 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed and ATP No. 115 Paolo Lorenzi of Italy his fourth over a player in the ATP Top 120. Now at a ATP career high of 310, Kwiatkowski will play Baylor sophomore Roy Smith in the quarterfinals. Wild card Smith, now coached by Kwiatkowski's former coach at Virginia Brian Boland, defeated qualifier Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) 6-3, 6-4 in the second round today.

Today is the first day schools can sign a 2019 recruit to a National Letter of Intent, and a few schools have provided announcements, but I'm going to wait until tomorrow, when more releases will be posted.

There's plenty of news in Division I college tennis today however, with the updated fall rankings.  The two winners of the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships sit atop the rankings, which usually shuffle dramatically from the only other fall rankings, released in September, before play begins. Chrysochos is where he started the fall, at No. 1, but several of those in the Top 10 in the preseason rankings are not ranked, including USC's Brandon Holt, Mississippi States's Giovanni Oradini, Vanderbilt's Cameron Klinger and Virginia's Carl Soderlund.

For the full ranking lists on the ITA website, click on the headings.

Men’s Singles Top 10, November 14, 2018 (preseason rank in parentheses)

1. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest (1)
2. Jan Zielinski, Georgia (22)
3. JJ Wolf, Ohio State (17)
4. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas (54)
5. Thomas Laurent, Oregon (8)
6. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, UC Santa Barbara (32)
7. Paul Jubb, South Carolina (27)
8. Daniel Cukierman, USC (31)
9. Oliver Crawford, Florida (20)
10. Alex Brown, Illinois (50)

Men’s Doubles Top 10

1. Constant De la Bassetiere and Gabriel Nemeth, Penn State (NR)
2. Henry Patten and Oli Nolan, UNC-Asheville (NR)
3. Jimmy Bendeck and Sven Lah, Baylor (NR)
4. Jack Mingjie Lin and William Matheson, Columbia (8)
5. Fabian Fallert and Finn Reynolds, Ole Miss (43)
6. Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt, Ohio State (NR)
7. Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini, Mississippi State (7)
8. Andy Andrade and Oliver Crawford, Florida (44)
9. Hunter Tubert and Martin Joyce, Ohio State (29)
10. Johannes Ingildsen and Brian Berdusco, Florida (24)

Bianca Turati of Texas was the top-ranked woman in the preseason, but she hasn't played college events this fall, so she is out of the rankings now. Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine has fallen from No. 4 to 106, and Michaela Gordon from 10 to 103. 

Women’s Singles Top 10, November 14, 2018 (preseason rank in parentheses)

1. Katarina Jokic, Georgia (8)
2. Makenna Jones, North Carolina (2)
3. Kate Fahey, Michigan (18)
4. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina (27)
5. Sophie Whittle, Gonzaga (35)
6. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (7)
7. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (3)
8. Maria Mateas, Duke (NR)
9. Ida Jarlskog, Florida (65)
10. Meible Chi, Duke (10)

Women’s Doubles Top 10

1. Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova, Pepperdine (26)
2. Cameron Morra and Makenna Jones, North Carolina (NR)
3. Fernanda Navarro and Marie Leduc, Clemson (16)
4. Martina Okalova and Vera Ploner, Tulsa (NR)
5. Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia, Kansas (NR)
6. Gabby Andrews and Ayan Broomfield, UCLA (64)
7. Kimberly Yee and Caroline Lampl, Stanford (17)
8. Lauryn John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh, Arizona State (8)
9. Jessica Golovin and Eden Richardson, LSU (7)
10. Sofia Munera and Meghan Kelley, Virginia (NR)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sieg Ousts Top Seed Zheng in Mexico Grade 1 First Round; Two Women's, Four Men's USTA Pro Circuit Events This Week

The first round of singles is complete at the ITF Grade 1 in Campeche Mexico, and the No. 1 seed in the girls draw is out.  Fifteen-year-old Madison Sieg, who reached the semifinals at last week's Grade 4 in Boca Raton, took out top seed and ITF Junior No. 16 Qinwen Zheng of China, 7-5, 6-2 today.  Sieg was one of 12 US girls to advance to the second round, but the only one to beat a seed. Seven of the 10 US boys moved into the second round, with Alex Lee beating No. 10 seed Ki Lung Ng of Hong Kong, Adam Neff defeating No. 11 seed Peter Makk of Hungary, and Ronan Jachuck beating No. 16 seed Nini Dica of Romania.

There are four men's tournaments in the United States this week, a crammed week on the calendar not likely to be duplicated in 2019, with the advent of the ITF World Tennis Tour.  The most significant tournament, in terms of points and prize money, is in Houston, with Oracle sponsoring a $150,000+H Challenger.  Weather is generally not a problem there this time of year, but it's been rainy and cold so far this week, unpleasant for players, officials and fans (if any). All four qualifiers are from the college ranks, with current North Carolina State junior Alexis Galarneau and former collegians Harrison Adams(Texas A&M), Michael Redlicki(Arkansas) and Julian Lenz(Baylor) reaching the main draw. All but Lenz won their first round matches too, with Adams taking out No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek.  Adams will face Baylor sophomore Roy Smith, who received a wild card into the main draw and used it to earn his first Challenger-level victory with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4) win today over Darian King of Barbados.  Top seed Tennys Sandgren lost his opening match to Kamil Majchrzak of Poland 6-2, 7-5. 

The other ATP Challenger this week is a $75,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois. I usually attend this for a couple of days every year, but bad weather led to me to cancel my plans, so I'll be following it mostly by watching the live stream and listening to the Fighting Illini's own Mike Cation doing the commentary. Tommy Paul defeated No. 2 seed Ugo Humbert of France, one of two Top 100 players in the field, yesterday.  Qualifiers were also three former and one current collegians: Mikael Torpegaard(Ohio State), Ryan Shane(Virginia), Ruan Roelofse(Illinois) and Keenan Mayo, a freshman at Illinois.  Shane defeated Mayo tonight, 6-3, 6-4, while Cornell sophomore Alafia Ayeni, who lost to Shane in the last round of the qualifying, got in as a lucky loser and beat Roelofse by the same score earlier today.  Knoxville champion Reilly Opelka[4], Chris Eubanks[7](Georgia Tech), Jared Hiltzik(Illinois), and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) have also advanced to the second round.

Two Futures events are taking place this week, with a $25,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma and a $15,000 tournament in Pensacola.  The Norman tournament has plenty of representation from the Sooners team, with sophomore Jake Van Emburgh, senior Aleksandre Bakshi, senior Ferran Calvo and senior Spencer Papa getting wild cards, while freshman Mason Beiler made it through qualifying. Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands is the top seed.

Rain in Pensacola has kept the qualifying from being completed, with those seven matches(one qualifying final was decided by walkover) scheduled to be played on Wednesday as well as all first round matches. Fabrizio Ornago of Italy is the top seed, with Mississippi State senior Nuno Borges is seeded No. 2. 

The two women's tournaments are being held in conjunction with the men's in Houston and Norman.

The Houston tournament is a WTA 125 level event, but the prize money is the same as the men's: $150,000. Top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who won the Las Vegas $80,000 tournament title last week, got a scare today from Allie Kiick, but managed to survive by a 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-0 score. 

Qualifier Whitney Osuigwe won her first round match today, beating Naomi Broady of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3, and will face No. 6 seed Varvara Lepchenko in the second round. That match could decide the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card, with Lepchenko and Osuigwe now tied in the standings, but Nicole Gibbs, who is in fourth place currently, won her first round match today and still in contention. Other Americans advancing to the second round are lucky loser Jacqueline Cako(Arizona State) and Lauren Davis.

Juniors Ellie Douglas, Dalayna Hewitt and Katie Volynets qualified into the women's $25,000 tournament in Norman, with Pamela Montez(UCLA), Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech) and Monica Robinson(Notre Dame) the other American qualifiers. Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu is the top seed, with three wild cards going to Oklahoma Sooners: sophomore Martina Capurro, junior Oleksandra Korashvili and sophomore Camila Romero. Recent OU graduate Lily Miyazaki received the fourth wild card.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Kalamazoo 16s Champion Damm, Finalist Khan Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles, Pielet, Krug Earn First ITF Titles; Grade 1 Underway in Campeche Mexico; Sock Claims USTA's Australian Open Wild Card

Kalamazoo 16s champion Martin Damm won his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title last week at the Grade 4 at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, while his opponent in the Kalamazoo final, Zane Khan, won his fourth ITF Junior Circuit singles final at the Grade 2 Inka Bowl in Peru.

The 15-year-old Damm, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 9 seed Leighton Allen, a Texas recruit, 7-6(5), 6-2 in the final, after beating No. 2 seed Keshav Chopra 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals.

Sixteen-year-old Gianna Pielet, playing in her first ITF Junior Circuit tournament, came through qualifying in Boca Raton, posting nine wins in the tournament, all in straight sets.  After beating No. 2 seed Madison Sieg 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals, Pielet defeated No. 5 seed Elaine Chervinsky 7-6(5), 6-4 in the championship match.  Chervinksy, who turns 15 Saturday, beat top seed Elvina Kalieva 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Both singles finalists won doubles titles, with top seeds Allen and Chopra beating No. 5 seeds Jeremie Casabon and Venezuela's Lorenzo Claverie 7-5, 6-2 for the boys championship.  Top seeds Chervinsky and Sieg defeated No. 7 seeds Julia Andreach and Rosie Garcia Gross 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 for the girls doubles title.

In Peru, No. 2 seed Khan defeated reigning Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-3 in the final.  With the title the 16-year-old Khan is up to 77 in the ITF junior rankings, the first time he has reached the Top 100.

Kacie Harvey won the doubles title in Peru, with Giulia Morlet of France. The top seeds defeated No. 5 seeds Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine and Ekaterina Vinnik of Russia 6-2, 7-6(4) in the final.

Top  seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland won the singles title, beating No. 13 seed Petrenko 6-0, 6-2 in the final.

In addition to Damm and Pielet, another American junior claimed a first ITF Junior Circuit title: 13-year-old Ava Krug, the granddaughter of ESPN commentator Dick Vitale. Krug, the No. 4 seed, won the girls singles title at the Grade 5 in Anguilla, beating fellow American Sifa Butcher, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Krug's older brother Jake, the No. 7 seed, lost in the boys singles final to No. 5 seed Casper Christensen of Norway 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Butcher won the girls doubles title, with Elan Mnatsakanov; the top seeds defeated Krug and her partner Leonie Hoppe of Germany 6-2 ,7-5 in the final.

At the Grade 5 in Canada last week, two Americans won doubles titles. Daniel Milavsky and Canadian Nick Lagaev, the top seeds, took the boys championship, with Lagaev beating Milavsky in the singles final.

Top seeds Maryam Ahmad and Canadian Oleksandra Gorchanyuk won the girls doubles title via a walkover.

This week's Grade 1 in Campeche Mexico has drawn a total of 27 Americans, with 10 boys and 17 girls starting the tournament in the main draw.

The US boys: Tyler Zink[3], Eliot Spizzirri[7], Alex Lee, Cezar Rata[Q], Mark Mandlik, Alex Bernard, Alex Bancila, Adam Neff, Ronan Jachuck and Murphy Cassone.

The US girls: Hurricane Tyra Black[4], Kylie Collins[13], Madison Sieg, Sophia Hatton, Jennifer Gadalov, Sara Seivane Torres, Charlotte Owensby, Alexandra Yepifanova, Hibah Shaikh, Jenna Defalco, Daniella Benabraham, Robin Montgomery, Elizabeth Stevens, Rossie Garcia Gross, Zoe Hitt, Jenna Dean and Charlotte Chavatipon.

The boys top seed is Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain; the girls top seed in Qinwen Zheng of China.

The USTA announced today that Jack Sock has won the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, after Bjorn Fratangelo's loss in the Knoxville final kept him from having a mathematical chance to overtake Sock with a title in this week's Challenger in Houston. Sock may still get into the Australian Open on his own ranking, now at 106, so who finishes second is important and that will be decided this week in Houston, Champaign and Bangalore India.  Varvara Lepchenko leads the women's race, but that wild card is still very much up for grabs, with Whitney Osuigwe just one point behind Lepchenko, and three of the top four playing the WTA 125 in Houston this week.  For links to the current standings, see this article at usta.com.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Chrysochos Claims Another ITA Major Title, Jokic Earns Her First at ITA Fall Championships; Opelka, Mejia, Bencic Win Pro Circuit Titles; US Fed Cup Team Loses to Czech Republic

Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos
photo courtesy ITA
Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest is developing quite a Division I collegiate resume. The senior from Cyprus defeated Daniel Cukierman of USC 6-4, 7-5 today in the final of the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships to earn his sixth major title, team and individual, in his collegiate career.  Chrysochos, who won the doubles title at the Fall Championships last year, and the All-American singles title back in 2016, added this year's Fall singles title to the NCAA singles championship he won back in May. Wake Forest's titles at the Team Indoor and NCAA Team Championships this year give him four majors in this calendar year alone, and he gave some indication what his opponents have been up against in today's final.

The top-seeded Chrysochos trailed 5-1 in the second set, and was down 0-40 serving at 2-5, but he saved all four set points in that eighth game after saving one on a deciding point with No. 6 seed Cukierman serving at 5-1. After breaking Cukierman at love to get back on serve at 4-5, Chrysochos went down 30-40, but saved two more set points to put his total at seven.  Cukierman, who countered Chrysochos' impressive baseline game by moving forward frequently, wasn't able to come up with any answers once Chrysochos found his form and he was broken for a third straight time to give Chrysochos the opportunity to serve out the match. He had no trouble doing so, dictating with his forehand to close out the championships on his first match point.

The women's title went to University of Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic, the No. 9 seed, who beat No. 11 seed Kate Fahey of Michigan 6-3, 7-5.  Jokic trailed 3-0 in the second set, got back even, then broke for 5-4, but she was unable to close out the match on her first opportunity. She broke Fahey again to take a 6-5 lead, but again fell behind 15-40 in her second opportunity to serve it out. This time she recovered, forcing a deciding point, and Fahey hit a forehand long to give Jokic the title. Jokic won all six of her matches this week in straight sets.

With their titles,  Chrysochos and Jokic have earned main draw wild cards into an Oracle Challenger Series tournament next year. The singles finals will be re-aired on ESPNU on Tuesday, November 13 at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Clemson's Marie-Alexandre Leduc and Fernanda Navarro won the women's doubles title, beating Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova 7-6(5), 6-2. University of North Carolina-Asheville's Oli Nolan and Henry Patten defeated Bjorn Thomson and Parker Wynn of Texas Tech 6-2, 6-1 to claim the men's title.

Emily Arbuthnott of Stanford won the women’s consolation singles competition for those losing in the first round, defeating Michigan’s Chiara Lommer 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame won the men’s consolation singles title by beating Sameer Kumar of Stanford 6-4, 6-1.

Meghan Kelley and Sofia Munero Sanchez of Virginia won the women’s consolation doubles final, defeating Vera Ploner and Martina Okalova of Tulsa 7-6(4), 6-2.

Penn State’s Constant De La Bassetiere and Gabriel Nemeth won the men’s doubles consolation final, beating Loic Cloes and Clement Marzol of South Alabama 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-7. 

No. 8 seed Reilly Opelka won his second ATP Challenger title of the year and the third of his career today at the $75,000 tournament in Knoxville Tennessee, beating unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2).

Toshihide Matsui(BYU-Hawaii) of Japan and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark, finalists last week in Charlottesville, captured the doubles title this week in Knoxville. The unseeded pair defeated former Tennessee Volunteers Tennys Sandgren and Hunter Reese, also unseeded, 7-6(6), 7-5 in the final.

No. 8 seed Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) fell in the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Las Vegas, with top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland earning a 7-5, 6-1 victory.

Eighteen-year-old Nicolas Mejia of Colombia won his first ITF Men's Pro Circuit title today at the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida. The unseeded IMG Academy student defeated No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) 6-4, 6-4 in a two-hour-plus final.

The US Fed Cup team lost to the Czech Republic in the second day of the final in Prague. After Barbora Strycova had beaten Sonya Kenin 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-4 and Katerina Siniakova had defeated Alison Riske 6-3, 7-6(2) on Saturday, the US needed the final three matches to pull out the win. Kenin was close to sending it to a fourth match, coming back several times in a nearly four-hour battle with Siniakova, but Kenin did not convert her two match points late in the third set, and Siniakova claimed a 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 victory to give the Czech an insurmountable 3-0 lead. The remaining two matches were not played. For more on Sunday's deciding match, see this article from the Fed Cup website.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

McNally Claims First Pro Singles Title; Fahey and Jokic Reach ITA Fall Nationals Women's Final, Chrysochos and Cukierman Vie for Men's Title; Gibbs, Opelka, Fratangelo and Kirchheimer Advance to Pro Circuit Finals; Tsitsipas Champion at ATP Next Gen Finals

Sixteen-year-old qualifier Caty McNally won her eighth match in the past eight days at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Lawrence Kansas, beating lucky loser Catherine Harrison 6-2, 6-2 in today's final for her first singles title at the pro level.  McNally needed exactly an hour to get past the former UCLA Bruin, who also played a match every day since last Saturday. Unlike Harrison, who had fashioned two comebacks to win three-setters in the quarterfinals and semifinals, McNally won all eight of her matches in straight sets. She is listed in the qualifying for the $25,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma next week, and with that not starting until tomorrow, special exempts may not be offered.

The finals are set for the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise Arizona, with men's top seed Petros Chrysochos advancing to the championship match for the second consecutive year. The Wake Forest senior defeated No. 5 seed Thomas Laurent of Oregon 6-1, 6-2 to set up a clash with No. 6 seed Daniel Cukierman of USC, who had a considerably tougher semifinal. Cukierman, a sophomore, defeated No. 8 seed Nicolas Moreno de Albano of UC-Santa Barbara 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first ITA major final.

The women's final will feature No. 11 seed Kate Fahey of Michigan against No. 10 seed Katarina Jokic of Georgia. Fahey, a senior, dropped her first set of the tournament in today's semifinal against No. 10 seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina, but came through on a deciding point with Jones serving at 4-5 in the third set for a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win. Jokic, a sophomore, breezed past unseeded Christina Rosca of Vanderbilt 6-1, 6-0 for her fifth consecutive straight-sets victory.

The women's final is scheduled to be shown on ESPN3 and the ESPN app on Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m Eastern, although the ESPN schedule is showing a 2 p.m. start. The men's final will follow.

The doubles finals are also set, with all four teams in the men's and women's championship matches unseeded.

Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova of Pepperdine will face Marie-Alexandre Leduc and Fernanda Navarro of Clemson for the women's title, while Oli Nolan and Henry Patten of UNC Asheville meet Bjorn Thomson and Parker Wynn of Texas Tech for the men's title.

An all-American final is on deck Sunday at the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee, with No. 8 seed Reilly Opelka taking on unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo.  Opelka hit 18 aces in defeating unseeded Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4; Fratangelo downed Chris Eubanks 7-6(4), 6-4 to reach his eighth Challenger final. The 25-year-old, who won the French Open boys championship back in 2011, keeps his quest for the USTA's Australian Open wild card alive with a title, as he is entered in the Oracle Houston Challenger next week.  Opelka is not.

Photo credit-Tracey Lee
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) will meet in Sunday's final at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Las Vegas after each picked up straight-sets wins in today's semifinals. Bencic, the top seed, defeated unseeded Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-1, 6-4, while No. 8 seed Gibbs downed qualifier Giuliana Olmos(USC) 6-2, 6-4. Gibbs is also in the running for the USTA's Australian Open wild card, with next week's WTA 125 in Houston likely to decide the winner. For more on today's semifinals, see tournament press aide Steve Pratt's recap here.

At the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer will attempt to complete the task he fell short of last week, when he lost in the Futures final in Birmingham. Kirchheimer defeated No. 4 seed Justin Butsch(LSU) 6-1, 6-3 after completing his quarterfinal win, interrupted by rain Friday, this morning. The 23-year-old former Northwestern star will play unseeded 18-year-old Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, who has not lost a set all week. Mejia defeated top seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 6-2, 6-4 this afternoon. Both Kirchheimer and Mejia are looking for the first Pro Circuit title of their careers.

The doubles title in Niceville went to Trevor Johnson(TCU) and Patrick Kawka(BYU), with the unseeded pair beating No. 2 seeds Butsch and Julian Bradley(North Florida) of Ireland 7-6(5), 6-4 in the final. It's Johnson's first Pro Circuit title; Kawka has earned one other Pro Circuit doubles title.

Twenty-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece won the ATP's Next Gen Finals competition, beating 19-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia  2-4, 4-1, 4-3(3), 4-3(3) in today's championship match. Tsitsipas, currently at a career-high of No. 15 in the ATP rankings, did not lose a match all week.  For more on today's final in Milan, see this article from the ATP.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Chinese Coaches Add to Knowledge at Arizona State; McNally Through to Lawrence $25K Final; Semifinals Set at ITA Fall Championships; DeMinaur and Tsitsipas Face Off in ATP Next Gen Final

Much of what I've written for the Tennis Recruiting Network this fall has been tournament recaps and college commitment announcements, but today's article is definitely a change of pace. When chatting with Arizona State's women's head coach Sheila McInerney this year at the US Open Junior Championships, the conversation turned to the rise of the Chinese juniors the past few years, and she mentioned that ASU would be hosting 25 Chinese tennis coaches during the fall semester. When I started doing interviews for the article, I began to understand why both the Chinese version of the NCAA and Arizona State and the Pac-12 would want to participate in this type of program, and what the commitment to improvement in coaching might mean for Chinese tennis.  Please take a few moments to read how Arizona State is spreading its expertise in tennis coaching to those outside its normal comfort zone.

Sixteen-year-old qualifier Caty McNally has advanced to the final of the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Lawrence Kansas, defeating unseeded Romy Koelzer(Clemson) of Germany 6-3, 6-3. Lucky loser Catherine Harrison, the former UCLA star, came from two breaks down in the final set to defeat current UCLA star Ena Shibahara 0-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in the other semifinal. Harrison, 24, reached a $10,000 Pro Circuit final way back in 2010, and McNally is in her first Pro Circuit singles final, so the winner of tomorrow's championship match will earn her first Pro Circuit singles title.

Shibahara finished her tournament with a doubles title, with former Oklahoma State star Vladica Babic of Montenegro.  Although I don't believe they had played together prior to this week, their success is not a surprise, with Shibahara the 2016 US Open girls doubles champion and Babic a finalist at this year's NCAA championships.  Shibahara and Babic defeated Anna Danilina(Florida) of Kazakhstan and Ksenia Laskutova(Tulsa) of Russia 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Neither team was seeded.

Today was a busy day at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise Arizona, with the round of 16 and quarterfinals played in both the men's and women's singles draws.  The men's draw has four single-digit seeds advancing to Saturday's semifinals, including top seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest, but the highest seed remaining in the women's semifinals is No. 9 Katarina Jokic of Georgia.

Jokic beat No. 6 seed Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine 6-1, 7-6(1) in the third round and advanced to the semifinals when top seed Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt retired down 6-0, 2-1 in the second match of the day.  Jokic will face unseeded Christina Rosca of Vanderbilt, who beat No. 12 seed Andie Daniell of Alabama 6-2, 6-2  and unseeded Eden Richardson of LSU 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.  No. 11 seed Kate Fahey of Michigan will face No. 10 seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina in the other semifinal after Fahey beat No. 3 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Pepperdine 7-5, 6-4 and Jones downed No. 13 seed Elysia Bolton of UCLA 6-2, 6-3. Bolton had beaten No. 2 seed Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami in the third round.

Chrysochos, the reigning NCAA singles champion, earned straight-sets wins over unseeded David Volfson of Cornell and Jason Kros of Virginia Tech to advance to the semifinals, where he'll meet No. 5 seed Thomas Laurent of Oregon. The other semifinal will feature No. 6 seed Daniel Cukierman of USC against No. 8 seed Nicolas Moreno de Alboran of UC-Santa Barbara.  Cukierman beat No. 3 seed Paul Jubb of South Carolina 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 in the quarterfinals, while Moreno de Alboran eliminated No. 2 seed Christian Sigsgaard of Texas 6-3, 6-4.

Links to live streaming and live scoring can be found at the ITA tournament page.

The championship match of the ATP's Next Gen Finals is Saturday, with Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece facing Alex De Minaur of Australia. The 20-year-old Tsitsipas has the highest ATP ranking among the tournament eight participants at 15; De Minaur, age 19, has the second highest ranking at 31, and neither has lost a match this week. US participants Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz did not advance out of their respective round robin groups. For more on today's semifinals, see this article from the ATP. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

McNally Beats Top Seed Andreescu, Reaches Semifinals at Lawrence $25K; Rola Ousts Sandgren at Knoxville Challenger; Top Seeds Move into Third Round at ITA Fall Championships

Caty McNally has had impressive results on the Pro Circuit since claiming the US Open girls doubles title in September, winning the doubles title at the $80K in Macon Georgia, reaching the singles quarterfinals at the $80K in Tyler Texas last week, and with her victory today, advancing to the semifinals of the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Lawrence Kansas.

McNally, who turns 17 later this month, earned her first WTA Top 200 win last week in Tyler with a first round win over Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay. Today she defeated WTA No. 178 and top seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, 6-1, 6-2 to claim her second Top 200 win, and as a qualifier, McNally has already posted six victories this week. She will face former Clemson Tiger Romy Koelzer of Germany, a 27-year-old ranked 467, in the semifinals. Koelzer defeated qualifier Emma Navarro 7-5, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals.  The other semifinal features lucky loser Catherine Harrison(UCLA) against current UCLA star Ena Shibahara. Harrison came back from 6-1, 4-1 down to beat 16-year-old qualifier Katie Volynets 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Shibahara, who is taking the fall off to play Pro Circuit events, is also a qualifier. She defeated Connie Hsu(Penn) of Taiwan 6-4, 6-2.

The top seed at the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville also was eliminated today, with 2013 Ohio State NCAA singles champion Blaz Rola of Slovenia beating former Tennessee star Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4.  Only three seeds have advanced to Friday's quarterfinals: No. 4 seed Michael Mmoh, No. 8 seed Reilly Opelka and No. 5 seed Tim Smyczek. Mmoh and Opelka will renew their lengthy rivalry in the quarterfinals, with Opelka having won 5 and lost 3 of those meetings, winning the last three, all at the Challenger level. (Mmoh has a win over Opelka at Kalamazoo that is not in the records above).  Smyczek will also face another American, Bjorn Fratangelo, while the fifth American in the quarterfinals, former Georgia Tech standout Chris Eubanks, will play Evgeny Karlovskiy of Russia. Eubanks defeated No. 7 seed and Charlottesville Challenger finalist Peter Polansky of Canada 6-3, 6-4 in 49 minutes, hitting 21 aces. Opelka had 23 aces in his 7-6(10), 7-6(6) win over qualifier Michael Redlicki(Arkansas).

Danielle Lao(USC) and No. 8 seed Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) will meet in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Las Vegas after Lao beat No. 2 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 and Gibbs defeated Grace Min 6-2, 7-5. Wild card Louisa Chirico can join them in the quarterfinals if she wins her night match against Kurumi Nara of Japan.

At the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, four Americans have reached the quarterfinals: No. 6 seed Trevor Johnson(TCU), No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern), No. 8 seed and Georgia recruit Trent Bryde and No. 4 seed Justin Butsch(LSU).

The second round of singles is complete at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships, with the top three seeds in both the men's and women's draws recording wins today.  Women's top seed Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt needed three sets, but got by Ida Jarlskog of Florida 6-1, 0-6, 6-4. No. 2 seed Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami and No. 3 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Pepperdine both won in straight sets.  After three women's seeds lost yesterday, two more were beaten today, with Duke's Kelly Chen, the No. 5 seed, falling to Christina Rosca of Vanderbilt 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 16 seed Lisa Marie Rioux of Oklahoma State losing to Meghan Kelley of Virginia 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

As with the women, the men's top seed was also taken to a third set today. Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos defeated Andy Andrade of Florida 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. For the second day in a row, No. 3 seed Paul Jubb of South Carolina recovered from dropping the first set, with the score of his win over Gonzalo Morell Raschiatore of Middle Tennessee State 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.  No. 2 seed Christian Sigsgaard of Texas beat Mitch Harper of Virginia Tech 7-5, 6-2.

Seven of the top eight men's seeds remain after the second round, but only No. 10 seed John McNally of Ohio State is still alive among those ranked 9-16. No. 11 seed Jan Zielinski of Georgia lost to Kyle Seelig of Ohio State 6-1, 6-3; No. 12 seed Laurens Verboven of USC lost to Johannes Schretter of Baylor 6-4, 6-1; and No. 15 seed Aleks Kovacevic of Illinois lost to Luis Erlenbusch of Tulane 6-2, 7-6(5).

The second round of women's doubles is still in progress, but after two rounds of men's doubles, only one seeded team remains: Mississippi State's Giovanni Oradini and Niclas Braun, the No. 5 seeds.

Live scoring can be found here, and two courts are streamed here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

No. 4 Seeds Fall at ITA National Fall Championships; Orange Bowl 16s Acceptances; Tennis Channel to Again Broadcast 2019 College Match Days; Leo Borg Profile

The first round of singles is complete at the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Surprise Arizona, with 5 of the 16 men's singles seeds and three of the 16 women's singles seeds failing to advance.

Both No. 4 seeds were eliminated, with ITA Riviera All-American champion Sophie Whittle losing to Jessica Failla of Pepperdine 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Failla, who spent two years at USC, played only two matches last fall and none in the dual match season after transferring to Pepperdine, but she will be a valuable addition to the Waves this season.

In the men's draw, USC's Brandon Holt lost to Harrison Scott of Texas 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

Both seeded Stanford women fell in the first round, with No. 8 Melissa Lord losing to Marta Gonzalez of Georgia 6-4, 6-2, and No. 14 seed Michaela Gordon losing to Silvia Ambrosio of Purdue 6-3, 6-2. 

Top seed Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt, No. 2 seed Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami and No. 3 seed Evgenyia Levashova of Pepperdine all advanced in straight sets.

In addition to Holt, No. 9 seed Emil Reinberg of Georgia, No. 13 seed Aziz Kijametovic of Old Dominion, No. 14 seed Jake Van Emburgh and No. 16 seed Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame were ousted.  Reinberg lost to Jason Kros of Virginia Tech 7-6(8), 6-3; Kijametovic lost to Will Little of Baylor 6-3, 6-2; Van Emburgh lost to Niclas Braun of Mississippi State 6-3, 6-4; and Lebedev lost to David Wolfson of Cornell 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Top seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest and No. 2 seed Christian Sigsgaard of Texas won their matches in straight sets, while No. 3 seed Paul Jubb of South Carolina came from a set down to advance.

Although men's first round doubles is still ongoing, the opening round of women's doubles is complete, with top seeds Michaela Gordon and Emily Arbuthnott of Stanford falling to UCLA's Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart 6-4, 6-2.  No. 5 seeds Nina Khmelnitchkaia and Janet Koch of Kansas and No. 7 seeds Sofia Blanco and Lisa Marie Rioux of Oklahoma State also lost their opening matches.

Top men's seeds Jack Mingjie Lin and Will Matheson of Columbia also lost in the first round, to Vinny Gillespie and Barny Thorold of Drake, by a score of  6-3, 7-6(7).

Play continues Thursday with the second round in singles and doubles. Live scores can be found here.

The USTA released the Orange Bowl acceptances for the 16s divisions this week, with Americans Alex Bernard and Kailey Evans topping the lists. Although no ITF Junior Circuit ranking points are on the line, the younger age division is given equal treatment throughout the tournament, with the only difference being that the tournament starts and ends one day earlier than the 18s.  For the complete lists and  more information on the tournaments, see the USTA's Orange Bowl tournament page.

The USTA has listed the dates for its College Match Days in Lake Nona this winter, with five dual match dates, including one, February 16th, that features both the men's and women's teams of the Army and Air Force. The Tennis Channel will be broadcasting these events live. Information on tickets, which are free, will be available at this USTA webpage as the dates get closer.
The New York Times has published a feature on Leo Borg, the son of tennis great Bjorn Borg. Leo, 15, is currently playing the ITF Junior Circuit, with his ranking around 450. He played the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last year, reaching the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Shintaro Mochizuki, and watching him for the first time, I was struck by how much his game, especially his backhand, resembled his father's. The article emphasizes his mother's reluctance to have him pursue tennis, given all the scrutiny that path would subject him to.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Oracle ITA National Fall Championships Begin Wednesday with Wake Forest's Chrysochos and Vanderbilt's Contreras Top Seeds; Four USTA Pro Circuit Events Underway

After making its debut last year, the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships begin on Wednesday, at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Club in Surprise Arizona.  Before last year, this weekend was devoted to the ITA's Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, but this tournament now takes the place of that fall major on the calendar, with an expanded draw of 64, with doubles draws now 32.

Last year's women's champion, Andrea Lazaro of Florida International, has graduated, while the men's champion Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, now a senior, is not entered. Even if he hadn't made the final last year, NCAA champion Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest would be the favorite, and he is the top seed.  The top seed in the women's draw is Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt, who reached the semifinals last year.

The ITA announced last week that this year's winners will receive a wild card into an unspecified Oracle Challenger in 2019.

Singles begin at 8 a.m. local time (10 a.m. eastern) and live scoring is available via TennisTicker

Below are the singles and doubles seeds, and it's great to see them enumerated 1-16 rather than that confusing 5-8 and 9-16 method used at All-Americans and NCAAs.

Men’s Singles:
1. Petros Chysochos, Wake Forest
2. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas
3. Paul Jubb, South Carolina
4. Brandon Holt, USC
5. Thomas Laurent, Oregon
6. Daniel Cukierman, USC
7. Yuya Ito, Texas
8. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, UC-Santa Barbara
9. Emil Reinberg, Georgia
10. John McNally, Ohio State
11. Jan Zielinski, Georgia
12. Laurens Verboven, USC
13. Aziz Kijametovic, Old Dominion
14. Jake Van Emburgh, Oklahoma
15. Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois
16. Alex Lebedev, Notre Dame

Men’s Doubles
1. Jack Mingjie Lin and Will Matheson, Columbia
2. Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck, Baylor
3. Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt, Ohio State
4. Martin Joyce and Hunter Tubert, Ohio State
5. Giovanni Oradini and Niclas Braun, Mississippi State
6. Loic Cloes and Clement Marzol, South Alabama
7. August Holmgren and Joel Gamerov, San Diego
8. Christian Sigsgaard and Harrison Scott, Texas

Women’s Singles:
1. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
3. Evgeniya Levashova, Pepperdine
4. Sophie Whittle, Gonzaga
5. Kelly Chen, Duke
6. Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine
7. Meible Chi, Duke
8. Melissa Lord, Stanford
9. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
10. Makenna Jones, North Carolina
11. Kate Fahey, Michigan
12. Andie Daniell, Alabama
13. Elysia Bolton, UCLA
14. Michaela Gordon, Stanford
15. Alexa Graham, North Carolina
16. Lisa Marie Rioux, Oklahoma State

Women’s Doubles:
1. Michaela Gordon and Emily Arbuthnott, Stanford
2. Makenna Jones and Cameron Morra, North Carolina
3. Kimberly Yee and Caroline Lampl, Stanford
4. Eden Richardson and Jessica Golovin, LSU
5. Nina Khmelnitckaia and Janet Koch, Kansas
6. Ayan Broomfield and Gabby Andrews, UCLA
7. Sofia Blanco and Lisa Marie Rioux, Oklahoma State
8. Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes, USC

Links to draws can be found at the ITA tournament page. The ITA's preview is available here.

In addition to the ITA major this week, four USTA Pro Circuit events are on the schedule.

Rain disrupted the first day of main draw competition at the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, with the first round of doubles scheduled to be played indoors.  The top seeds are the same as at last week's Birmingham Futures: Fabrizio Ornago of Italy and former Northwestern standout Strong Kirchheimer.  Ohio State recruit Cannon Kingsley qualified and wild cards went to Logan Zapp, Harvard recruit Ronan Jachuck, Georgia recruit Tyler Zink and Agustin Savarino of Argentina. Kingsley and Zink are scheduled to meet in the first round.

Qualifying ended Monday at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Lawrence Kansas, with five of the eight qualifiers juniors: Caty McNally, Katie Volynets, Emma Jackson, Emma Navarro and Peyton Stearns.  Current collegians Ena Shibahara(UCLA) and Michaela Bayerlova(Washington State) qualified, as did Jessica Ho(Duke).

In first round action today, Navarro, Shibahara, McNally and Volynets all won their matches. Bianca Andreescu of Canada and Dalma Galfi of Hungary are the top two seeds. Wild card recipients, none of whom advanced to the second round, were junior Reilly Tran and University of Kansas players Anastasia Rychagova and Sofia Smagina of Russia and Malkia Ngounoue.

The two US tournaments on the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge circuit are the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee and the $80,000 Women's ITF event in Las Vegas.

Qualifying concluded today in both, with Americans Evan Song and Michael Redlicki(Arkansas) joining Mikael Ymer of Sweden and former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador as qualifiers. Tennys Sandgren is back in home this week as the No. 1 seed, with the former Volunteer scheduled to face Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland in the first round. Marcel Granollers of Spain is the No. 2 seed, with Bradley Klahn(Stanford) No. 3.  Klahn defeated JC Aragone(Virginia) 6-2, 7-6(7) in a first round match today, and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech) beat wild card JJ Wolf(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-4.

In Las Vegas, the four qualifiers are Maria Sanchez(USC), Jennifer Elie, Giuliana Olmos(USC) of Mexico and Hanna Chang. Wild cards went to Maria Mateas(Duke), Kayla Day and Louisa Chirico. As she was last week in Tyler, Switzerland's Belinda Bencic is the top seed, with Great Britain's Heather Watson the No. 2 seed.

In first round action, No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko lost to Kurumi Nara of Japan 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, so she will not gain any ground on Whitney Osuigwe in the Australian Open Wild Card Challenge. Osuigwe is scheduled to compete next week at the Oracle Challenger in Houston, but is not playing this week due to the WTA age restrictions. Lepchenko and Osuigwe are currently tied in the standings. Links to the men's and women's current standings can be found here.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Anthrop, Kalieva, Benabraham and Daehnke Claim ITF Junior Circuit Singles Titles; Master'U Teams Announced; Dick Vitale's Guest Appearance in Lake Nona

Two 15-year-olds earned singles titles at the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4 in South Carolina Saturday, although Jack Anthrop wasn't 15 at the time, with his birthday today.

Anthrop, the No. 16 seed, didn't drop a set in his six victories, beating No. 8 seed Spencer Whitaker 7-5, 6-0 in the final for his first ITF title in his third singles final on the circuit this year.

Elvina Kalieva, the top seed in the girls draw, won the second singles title of her career, beating No. 8 seed Katrina Scott 7-5, 6-1. 2017 Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion Kalieva, who won the Grade 4 in Newport Beach back in March, has now broken into the ITF Junior Top 200.

Top seeds Cleeve Harper of Canada and Phillip Jordan took the boys doubles title, beating No. 4 seed Quinn McLeod and Colombia's Daniel Salazar 6-0, 6-1 in the final.  The girls doubles title went to No. 8 seeds Julia Andreach and Rosie Garcia Gross, who beat unseeded Allie Gretkowski and Ruth Marsh 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the final.

Americans swept the singles titles at the Grade 5 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with Daniella Benabraham adding to her winning streak after earning a title at the Grade 5 last week in Barbados. The 14-year-old New Yorker defeated No. 4 seed Hannah Chambers of Barbados 7-5, 6-2 in the final for her third career title, all coming in Grade 5s.

Sixteen-year-old Californian Griffin Daehnke claimed his first ITF Junior Circuit title as a qualifier, beating four seeds in his five wins, including the No. 2 seed in the semifinals. In the final, Daehnke prevailed when top seed Luka Petrovic of Great Britain retired trailing 6-2, 4-0.

Katherine Teng made it three titles for Americans in St. Vincent, taking the doubles title with Adele Fernandez Lecaroz of Puerto Rico. The top seeds defeated Chambers and Chloe Weekes of Barbados, the No. 2 seeds, 6-1, 7-6(4) in the final.

At the Grade 5 in the United Arab Emirates, Rutuja Chaphalkar won the doubles title, with Priyanshi Bhandari of India. The No. 3 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Caroline Cook of the US and Vipasha Mehra of India 6-3, 7-5 in the final.  Chaphalkar also reached the singles final as the No. 3 seed, losing to No. 7 seed Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3.

This week the hard court portion of the ITF Junior Circuit in the US concludes at the Grade 4 in Boca Raton, with Kalieva and Salazar the top seeds.

A contingent of Americans have made the trip to Peru for this week's Grade 2 Inka Bowl, played on clay. Kacie Harvey, seeded No. 4, leads the US girls, with Zane Khan, the No. 2 seed, the top American boy.

The USTA announced the teams for Master 'U BNP Paribas, the annual collegiate international team competition that begins late this month in France. Representing the United States, which will be trying to recapture the title it lost last year to Great Britain, are: Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine), Maria Mateas(Duke), Jada Hart(UCLA), Brandon Holt(USC), Oliver Crawford(Florida) and Emil Reinberg(Georgia).  Holt and Lahey were on the team last year; coaches will be Greg Patton, formerly of Boise State, and current women's head coach at Cal, Amanda Augustus, both of whom have led the team often over the years.  For more on this year's edition of the competition, see this article at usta.com.

The college baskeball season begins tomorrow, so it's a perfect time to feature ESPN announcer Dick Vitale. Vitale, who sponsors a collegiate clay court tournament in his hometown of Lakewood Ranch Florida every fall, is also the proud grandfather of four national level juniors: Sydney Sforzo and Jake, Connor and Ava Krug.  Andy Gladstone of USTA Florida sent me this link to a Lunch and Learn he and Vitale did  at the Lake Nona Campus last week. Check out the video of the discussion here.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Osuigwe, Paul Earn Biggest Pro Titles in Tyler and Charlottesville; Fritz, Tiafoe Begin ATP Next Gen Finals Play in Milan on Tuesday

Americans batted .500 in North American singles finals today, with former French Open Junior champions Whitney Osuigwe and Tommy Paul coming out on top, while Strong Kirchheimer and Charlotte Chavatipon fell short in their quests for their first titles at $15,000 events.

The 16-year-old Osuigwe, who received entry into the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas this week via an ITF junior exemption, continued her stellar play, beating unseeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match. Osuigwe, the ITF's 2017 World Junior Champion and USTA's 18s National Champion, who won the French Open girls title last year, had reached only one Pro Circuit singles final before today, at a $25,000 event in Florida in January, but she showed maturity beyond her years in her victory today.

In the opening set, Osuigwe needed five set points to close out the 22-year-old left-hander, but held on to finally secure the set. It seemed as if Haddad Maia was finding her range in the late stages of the first and early in the second set, but Osuigwe managed to break in the third game of the second set, a lead she hung on to until Haddad Maia broke to level the set at 4-all.

Haddad Maia went down 0-40 in the next game, but for the second time in the set she brought it back to deuce. At 1-3, she managed to hold from that position, but this time she could not convert her game point after winning four consecutive points and Osuigwe broke on her fourth opportunity when Haddad Maia sent a forehand long.

Serving to win your first Pro title isn't an easy position to be in, and Osuigwe missed a couple of forehands to go down 15-30, but Haddad Maia wasn't able to capitalize on Osuigwe's errors, missing a forehand and a backhand long to give Osuigwe a match point.  After a short rally, Haddad Maia netted a backhand to give Osuigwe the title, her first in singles after having won two Pro Circuit doubles titles earlier this year.

Osuigwe and Macon champion Varvara Lepchenko are now tied in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge with two weeks to go. Even if she does not win the wild card, Osuigwe, who moves to around 226 in the WTA rankings with this title, should have no trouble getting into the women's qualifying at the Australian Open.

Tommy Paul won the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville Virginia, beating No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 6-2, 6-2 in the final. It was the first career Challenger title for the 21-year-old Paul, who reached the main draw as a lucky loser after falling 6-4 in the third to Wake Forest senior and NCAA champion Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus in the final round of qualifying. Paul, who has won six Futures titles, didn't drop a set in the main draw this week, and although short of his career high ATP ranking of 149, he is now around 222 and should be in the Australian Open men's qualifying, even if he does not win the USTA's Wild Card Challenge.

In the doubles final in Charlottesville, unseeded Harri Heliovaara of Finland and Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland beat No. 4 seeds Toshihide Matsui(BYU-Hawaii) of Japan and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark 6-3, 6-4.

At the $60,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Toronto, Maria Sanchez(USC) won her fourth doubles title of the year, partnering with Sharon Fichman of Canada. The unseeded Sanchez and Fichman, who lost last week in the final of the $60,000 tournament in Saguenay Canada, beat unseeded Maja Chwalinska of Poland and Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-0, 6-4 in the championship match. Sanchez, 28, now has 24 Pro Circuit doubles titles on her resume.

Unseeded Quirine Lemoine of the Netherlands won the singles title in Toronto, beating top seed Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

Hong Kong's Eudice Chong, the four-time NCAA Division III singles champion at Wesleyan, won the doubles title at the $60,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in China, partnering with Qiu Yu Ye of China. The unseeded pair beat China's Jia-Qi Kang and Korea's So-Ra Lee, also unseeded, 7-5, 6-3 in the championship match. It's 2018 graduate Chong's first title above the $15,000 level on the Pro Circuit.

At the ATP Masters in Paris, Rajeev Ram(Illinois) won the doubles title, his third of the year, this time with Marcel Granollers of Spain. Ram and Granollers defeated Jean-Julien Rojer(UCLA) of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match.

In Birmingham, at the $15,000 Futures there, No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) fell short in his bid for a first pro title, falling to No. 6 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela 7-6(6), 6-4.

And at the $15,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Mexico City, University of Kansas senior Anastasia Rychagova of Russia, a qualifier, won her first Pro Circuit title, beating 16-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon 6-3, 7-5.

The ATP's Next Gen tournament begins on Tuesday in Milan Italy, with Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz in the 8-player field. Tiafoe is in the round robin group with Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Jaume Munar of Spain. Fritz's round robin group includes Alex de Minaur of Australia, Andrey Rublev of Russia and Liam Caruana of Italy.  Caruana, who played briefly for the University of Texas, won an Italians-only wild card tournament over the weekend to earn his place in the draw.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Osuigwe Saves Match Point, Defeats Top Seed Bencic to Advance to Tyler $80K Final; Paul, Kirchheimer, Chavatipon Reach Pro Circuit Finals

Whitney Osuigwe's WTA ranking was up to a career-high of 309 this week after reaching the second round of the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Macon last week. The 16-year-old from Bradenton Florida, who started the year outside the WTA Top 1000 (but as the ITF World Junior No. 1), has made steady progress since leaving junior tennis after winning the USTA 18s National Championships in August, but today she had a breakthrough, getting her first WTA Top 100 win by saving a match point in a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(3) victory over top seed and WTA No. 39 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland at the $80,000 tournament in Tyler Texas.

Osuigwe had already shown her resilience earlier this week, coming from a set down against both Karumi Nara of Japan and, in Friday's quarterfinals, against good friend Caty McNally. She trailed Bencic 5-3 in the third set, but broke Bencic serving for the match at 5-4, only to get broken in the next game to give the 21-year-old former WTA Top 10 player another chance to serve for the match. Unlike at 5-4, Bencic did get to match point at 6-5, 40-30, but she hit a backhand wide. Two more Bencic errors and a tiebreaker would decide the match. It was 3-3 at the first change of ends, but Bencic made a regrettable error on an easy sitter at the net, then missed a backhand wide and netted a forehand pass to give Osuigwe three match points. Osuigwe only needed the first, with her backhand forcing a Bencic error to put her in the second Pro Circuit final of her career.

After losing to Bencic in three sets in the WTA New Haven qualifying back in August, Osuigwe was not going to be intimidated today, and she now is getting to the area in the WTA rankings where she can think about Australian Open qualifying. She is also eligible for the USTA's Australian Open reciprocal wild card and will tie Varvara Lepchenko for the lead in the race if she wins Sunday against unseeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, who beat Danielle Lao(USC) 6-2 6-3 today. Because of her age, Osuigwe has to be careful about running up against the WTA age restrictions, which limit her to a total of 12 pro tournaments before her 17th birthday in April of 2019, although she has earned merited increases of at least three more tournaments due to her performance on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Nicole Gibbs and Asia Muhammad won the doubles title in Tyler, with the No. 4 seeds beating top seeds Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) and Mexico's Giuliana Olmos(USC) 3-6, 6-3, 14-12 in today's final.

In addition to Osuigwe, three other Americans will play for titles Sunday in North America.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville Virginia, lucky loser Tommy Paul, who lost to Wake Forest senior and 2018 NCAA singles champion Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus in the final round of qualifying, continued to take advantage of his second chance. The 21-year-old American defeated top seed Bradley Klahn 6-3, 6-3, Paul's fourth consecutive straight-sets win. He will play No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada, who beat wild card Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) 6-2, 7-6(4).

At the $15,000 Futures in Birmingham Alabama, former Northwestern star Strong Kirchheimer will play for his first Pro Circuit title after the No. 2 seed defeated No. 6 seed Justin Butsch(LSU) 6-4, 6-3. Kirchheimer will face No. 5 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela, who beat University of Tennessee senior Timo Stodder of Germany 6-4 6-4. Kirchheimer won his previous meeting with Rodriguez-Pace in three sets back in January.

Stodder did get the first Pro Circuit title of his career however in doubles. Stodder and teammate Preston Touliatos, who received a wild card entry into the event, beat No. 4 seeds Korey Lovett(UCF) and Robert Kelly(UNC) 6-4, 6-3 in the final, their fourth consecutive straight-sets victory.

And a second American 16-year-old, Charlotte Chavatipon, will play for her first title Sunday at the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Mexico City.  Chavatipon defeated No. 3 seed Melissa Morales of Guatemala 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the final, where she'll face University of Kansas senior Anastasia Rychagova of Russia. Rychagova, a qualifier, defeated No. 4 seed Alice Garcia of Brazil 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in today's semifinal.

Rychagova, who will seek her first Pro Circuit singles title Sunday, won her first career title today in doubles, partnering with Baylor junior Jessica Hinojosa Gomez of Mexico. The wild cards defeated Maria Carvajal Altamirano of Mexico and Raphaelle Lacasse of Canada 6-1, 6-4 in the championship match.

Friday, November 2, 2018

October Aces; Osuigwe Outlasts McNally to Reach Tyler $80K Semifinals; Sock Takes Lead in USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge; Chavatipon Advances to Semis at $15K in Mexico

Last month was exceptionally busy, with the ITF Youth Olympics, held only once every four years, adding to the many important junior tournaments held during October. ITA's Division I had its All-American Championships and the three Futures in Texas were all won by young Americans, so my monthly feature for the Tennis Recruiting Network highlights a total of 19s players.

The highlight of today's matches for those of us focused on junior tennis was Caty McNally versus Whitney Osuigwe in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas. The frequent doubles partners, both 16 years old, had split their two meetings on the ITF Junior Circuit the past two years, with McNally winning their most recent contest at the Grade 1 in Roehampton this summer. McNally, a wild card, started the late afternoon match better, taking the first set, but Osuigwe, who received a junior exemption for entry, fought back to earn a 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3 win.  McNally will no doubt regret failing to convert six break points with Osuigwe serving at 4-4 and 5-5; winning any one of those six points would have given her an opportunity to serve for the match.  McNally, who saved a set point serving at 4-5, took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but Osuigwe won the final six points of the set.  Osuigwe went up two breaks and served for the match at 5-2 in the third, but she didn't get to a match point until the next game, converting her second match point when McNally double faulted.

Osuigwe will now face top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who had to mount a comeback of her own again today against Kayla Day, earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory.  The other semifinal will feature unseeded Danielle Lao, the former USC star, and the winner of the night match between unseeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria. Lao beat Lauren Davis 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

The USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge will have an unexpected leader on Monday: Jack Sock. Sock, who was ranked No. 8 to start the year, has struggled in singles, winning just nine ATP matches, with two of them coming this week at ATP Paris Masters. Sock was defending his title there, as well as a semifinal appearance at the ATP Finals, but now that he is out of both, he will fall out of the Top 100 and may not make the main draw cut at the Australian Open. He can win the USTA's Australian Open reciprocal wild card however, if he needs it, because last year the USTA began allowing points earned from any ATP tournament or Challenger held on hard courts in the designated period to count towards the Challenge. Sock picked up 180 points for his two wins in Paris this week, giving him a substantial lead, and forcing any other American man to win this week in Charlottesville or next week in Knoxville AND win the $150K Houston Challenger to pass him, obviously a tall order.

Three Americans are still in the running for the first leg of that daunting double though, with wild card Thai Kwiatkowski, lucky loser Tommy Paul and top seed Bradley Klahn all reaching the semifinals of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville. Kwiatkowski, the 2017 NCAA singles champion while at Virginia, beat No. 2 seed Michael Mmoh 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first career Challenger semifinal.  He will play the only non-American left, No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada.  Stanford's 2010 NCAA singles champion Klahn, who may not need the Australia Open wild card as he is hovering around 100 in the rankings, beat Bjorn Fratangelo 6-3, 6-3.  He will play Paul, who beat No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 Futures in Birmingham Alabama, the semifinals are set, after rain on Thursday kept the round of 16 from being completed. No. 6 seed and former LSU standout Justin Butsch, who reached a Futures final in September, will play No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern), while University of Tennessee senior Timo Stodder of Germany, a qualifier, will face No. 5 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela.

Sixteen-year-old Californian Charlotte Chavatipon, who won her main draw match in a Pro Circuit event back in June, has advanced to the semifinals of this week's $15,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Mexico City. Chavatipon, who does not have a WTA ranking, has beaten No. 2 seed Shelby Talcott(Iowa), Vanderbilt recruit Dasha Kourkina and today, Maria Carvajal Altamirano of Mexico, all in straight sets. Also into the semifinals is qualifier Anastasia Rychagova of Russia, a senior at Kansas who is No. 6 in the ITA preseason rankings. She beat top seed Kirsten-Andrea Weedon of Guatemala 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4 in today's quarterfinals.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

UTR's California Championships in December to Feature Chance to Play Johnson, Querrey, Fritz; McNally, Osuigwe Advance to Face Each Other in Tyler Texas $80K Quarterfinals

A new tournament is coming to Southern California next month, with UTR holding its first California Championships at the Jack Kramer Club in Rancho Palos Verdes December 15-22.  The tournament, open to anyone with a UTR ranking, will provide players with an opportunity to continue progressing through rounds with top ATP Southern California-based touring pros and former professionals--Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Taylor Fritz, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas-- awaiting them at the late stages of the tournament.

I spoke yesterday with UTR's Chief Tennis Officer Stephen Amritraj about this new tournament, which he admits he is "really excited" about.

"With UTR we are able to create a tournament with a French-style, staggered entry draw," Amritraj said. "I think these are the coolest things, but to this point, we've never had the capability to get top guys who have bought into the system, because they're playing ATPs or WTAs or Challengers, or whatever it is."

Amritraj, who grew in Southern California, said the pros who now live and train in that area were the impetus behind the California Championships.

"It actually started when at Carson [the USTA Training Center-West] they were talking about who is The Guy," Amritraj said. "So we're going to try to settle it. It's headlined by Sam, Stevie, Taylor Fritz, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas, Bradley Klahn and Reilly Opelka and basically what we're going to do is open this to the Top 454 who enter on UTR, based on their UTR. We're going to have a staggered entry draw, and those guys will start in the round of 16 or quarterfinals based on their UTRs. People will basically begin playing in starting wherever they are, as a boys 14s player or a 12 players. The lower end will start on Saturday; an older junior, promising junior or college player or Future or Challenger player will start later. It's something I'm really excited about, because once you get those top-end guys, now all of sudden you're able to get Challenger guys and you'll get good juniors who are excited to play, good college players who are excited to play."

If playing top 50 ATP Pros isn't enough of an incentive, $30,000 of prize money, with $12,000 going to the winner, is also available.

"We're putting 30 grand into the pot, and that's driving some people," Amritraj said. "And it's really good for the pros to get some matches before Australia. We wanted to bring this to the community and you couldn't rate juniors, college, adult and actual pros of all different levels, at all different points, without subjectivity until now. So that's a unique opportunity here and something we hope to do more."

Tracy Austin is serving as Honorary Tournament Chair and a Sportsmanship Award in her name will be presented at the event.

The entry fee is $40, with the entry deadline December 6. See the tournament page at myutr.com to register.

For today's UTR press release, with comments from Austin, Johnson, Querrey, Fish and Amritraj, click here.

Two 16-year-olds have advanced at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas, with frequent doubles partners Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe, both unseeded, winning second round matches today to set up a quarterfinal showdown.

Wild card McNally, who beat Macon $80K finalist Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-0, 6-2 yesterday in the first round, lost only one more game today, defeating Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 6-2, 6-1. Osuigwe, entering via a junior exemption, won two three-set matches, beating wild card Sophie Chang 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in the first round, and Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2 in today's second round.  McNally and Osuigwe have played twice on the ITF Junior Circuit, with McNally winning this year in the Roehampton Grade 1 semifinals and Osuigwe winning last year in the Roland Garros quarterfinals.

Kayla Day also advanced, beating No. 8 seed Christina McHale 6-4, 7-6(3). Day will face top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who beat Macon champion Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-5.

In another all-US quarterfinal, Lauren Davis will face Danielle Lao(USC) after Davis took out No. 2 seed Madison Brengle 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 and Lao downed No. 6 seed Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) 6-2, 6-3.

Claire Liu[5] is a fourth US teen who could reach the quarterfinals; she is playing Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria this evening.

At the $60,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Toronto, Robin Anderson(UCLA) has reached the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Usue Arconada and will face No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada.

Three more Americans advanced to the quarterfinals of the $75,000 Charlottesville Challenger today: lucky loser Tommy Paul, wild card Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) and No. 2 seed Michael Mmoh. Paul beat Kamil Majchrzak of Poland 6-2, 6-1; Kwiatkowski defeated No. 5 seed Tim Smyczek 6-2, 5-7, 6-2; Mmoh downed Evgeny Karlovskiy of Russia 6-2, 7-5. Mmoh and Kwiatkowski will face off on Thursday, as will the other two Americans who advanced to the quarterfinals yesterday: top seed Bradley Klahn and Bjorn Fratangelo. Qualifier Marcos Giron could join them if he wins his second round match tonight against No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. The winner of that match plays Paul on Friday.

Live streaming, with Mike Cation on the call, is available via the USTA's Pro Circuit page.