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Friday, November 16, 2018

Shane, Opelka Meet for Champaign Challenger Title; Baylor Soph Smith Makes Houston Challenger Semis; Volynets Advances at Norman $25K

2015 NCAA singles champion Ryan Shane had never reached an ATP Challenger quarterfinal before this week, but he has advanced to the final at the $75,000 Champaign Challenger with another routine victory in today's semifinals. The 24-year-old University of Virginia graduate won two three-set qualifying matches to reach the main draw, but since then he has been cruising. He got his first Top 100 win over top seed Marcel Granollers of Spain in the second round 6-3, 6-4, beat No. 8 seed JP Smith(Tennessee) of Australia 7-5, 6-1 in the quarterfinals and today needed only 54 minutes to take out 2013 NCAA singles champion Blaz Rola(Ohio State) of Slovenia 6-4, 6-3.

Shane will face last week's champion at the Knoxville Challenger, Reilly Opelka, who won the battle of 21-year-old friends and training partners with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Tommy Paul in their first meeting as professionals.  Opelka broke Paul on his only break point in the second set, at 4-5, 30-40 to pull even. In the second set, Opelka saved two break points and Paul three with the fourth against Paul a match point at 4-5 30-40.  Below is the video of that point, the best of the match, which Paul saved with an amazing pass, but he lost the next point to give Opelka a second match point, which Opelka converted for his ninth straight Challenger victory.

If Opelka wins the title Saturday, he will move into the ATP Top 100, so would almost certainly not need the Australian Open Wild Card the USTA is handing out after this week's results. He has already moved ahead (as of next week's rankings) of Jack Sock, who earned the USTA's Australian Wild Card, if he needs it, with two wins at the Paris Masters.

Another American who has earned his way into the Australian Open with a good run this fall is 2019 NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn(Stanford). Klahn has returned to the Top 100 and today reached the semifinals of the $150,000+H Oracle Challenger in Houston, beating Evan Song 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.  Klahn, seeded No. 2, will face former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany, seeded No. 8, in the semifinals, after Koepfer beat No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-1, 6-4.

The surprise semifinalist in Houston is wild card Roy Smith.  The 20-year-old Baylor sophomore has won two of his three matches in third set tiebreakers, including today's  4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(1) quarterfinal victory over 2017 NCAA singles champion Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia). Smith will face 2013 Eddie Herr ITF champion Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, who is unseeded, in the semifinals.

At the $25,000 Futures in Norman Oklahoma, No. 3 seed Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) has reached the semifinals, where he'll face top seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands.

At the $15,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, which has been plagued by rain, unseeded Isaiah Strode is the only American to advance to the semifinals. Strode defeated top seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 7-6(4), 7-5 in today's second round match and beat qualifier Rowland Phillips of Jamaica 6-2, 6-4 in tonight's quarterfinal.

In women's Pro Circuit action today, Whitney Osuigwe lost to wild card Peng Shuai of China 6-2, 7-6(3) at the WTA 125 in Houston, but she is still in the running for the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card, which will be decided this week. Jessica Pegula[4] won her match over Fanny Stollar[5] of Hungary 6-3, 6-3 today and qualifier Lauren Davis beat lucky loser Katherine Sebov of Canada 6-1, 6-3, so they both still have a chance to pass Osuigwe, if they go on to win the title. Pegula would be close to direct entry on her own ranking if she wins, so second place is important in this race too.

And finally, at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman, Katie Volynets had, for the second week in a row, advanced to the quarterfinals coming through qualifying.  The 16-year-old from California defeated No. 4 seed Miharu Imanishi of Japan 6-3, 7-6(2) in today's quarterfinals and will face another 16-year-old, ITF Junior Masters finalist Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia. Osorio Serrano, who is unseeded, defeated No. 7 seed Mai Hontama of Japan 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.  Osorio Serrano and Volynets have met once in ITF Junior Circuit play, with Osorio Serrano winning in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl 6-3, 7-6(4) back in February.