Monday, January 28, 2019

Baptiste Wins Plantation $25K; Coleman Falls Just Short in Dow Tennis Classic Qualifying; North Carolina State Beats Florida to Advance to Women's Team Indoor Championships; Duke Tops 2019 Recruiting Class Rankings

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Midland MI--

I spent the day at the Dow Tennis Classic in cold and snowy Midland Michigan, but before I get to the action in the first round of qualifying there, it's time to wrap up the matches that were extended to Monday due to rain in Florida over the weekend.

Seventeen-year-old qualifier Hailey Baptiste won her first professional level title today at the ITF's World Tennis Tour $25,000 tournament in Plantation Florida, but it certainly wasn't easy. The unseeded Washington DC resident needed three hours and 32 minutes to complete a 7-5, 6-7(6), 6-2 victory over No. 5 seed Anna Bondar of Hungary, who won the first WTT event of the year at Daytona Beach the previous week.  Baptiste, who lost in the first round of singles qualifying at Daytona Beach, but reached the doubles final there, will move into the top 350 of the WTA rankings with the title.

The final at the $25,000 men's WTT event in Palm Coast was also three sets, although Nicolas Alvarez of Peru managed to complete his win over No. 3 seed Sekou Bangoura in just under two and a half hours. The 22-year-old former Duke star beat the former Florida standout 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-4 for his second career ITF singles title.

With the new ITF World Tennis Tour cutting out a round of qualifying, and those matches shortened with a match tiebreaker for a third set, the first round was completed at the Greater Midland Tennis Center in under six hours. Four of the 12 seeds were beaten, with Emina Bektas(Michigan) taking out No. 7 seed Mari Osaka of Japan (older sister of Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka) 6-1, 6-4 and Ana Sanchez of Mexico advancing when No. 12 seed Ellie Halbauer retired trailing 3-1 in the first set.  Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan beat No. 10 seed Sophie Chang 6-4, 6-2 and Quinn Gleason defeated No. 9 seed Katharina Gerlach of Germany 2-6, 6-2, 10-7.
With temperatures in the single digits and wind chills below zero, the prospect of getting in the car and driving to see a tennis match was not enticing, but quite a few fans made the effort to see local wild card Ellie Coleman take on No. 3 seed Jovana Jaksic of Serbia, who at 25, is ten years older than Coleman. They were rewarded for their determination, with Coleman staying with the former WTA No. 102 all the way through before Jaksic pulled out a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory.

Jaksic didn't seem warmed up at the beginning of the match, with a plenty of unforced errors enabling Coleman to jump out to a 3-1 lead. Coleman, who had played qualifying last year, losing in the first round to Hanyu Guo of China, said she was more comfortable today.

"Last year, being my first time, I was a little bit shell shocked, and I kind of let the pressure get to me," said Coleman, who lost to Guo 7-6(4), 6-2. "I was able to learn from that, take it into this year and realize that anyone watching is just there to see a good match, they really don't care about the result. So I was able to focus more on my game, what I was doing on the court than any of the outside stuff."

Jaksic broke back for 3-3 and began to play much better, although she did need to save two break points serving at 3-4. Coleman earned a set point with Jaksic serving at 4-5, but her forehand into the corner forced an error from Coleman and she held.

"It was a missed opportunity," Coleman said. "I think I just need to step up a little bit more on those points and convert."

In the tiebreaker, Coleman made a backhand error to lose the first point and Jaksic made that mini-break stand up, serving well throughout the tiebreaker and closing out the 72-minute set with yet another good first serve. Jaksic immediately dropped serve in the first game of the second set, but again, she got the break back, took the lead at 3-2 and continued to serve well in her subsequent games. Coleman hit three aces to make it 4-4, but her serve suddenly went off in the 4-5 game, with three double faults stymieing her chance to hold and she was broken to end the match.

Coleman, who just returned from a trip to two major junior events in Costa Rica and Colombia, said the differences in the skills of the girls she played there and Jaksic were minimal.

"I don't think there was anything specifically, ball placement wise," Coleman said when asked to compare the two. "The only thing I would say is, bigger, stronger, hitting the ball a little bit hard, more experience in those tight points. That would be the biggest thing."

Coleman, who used to train at the Greater Midland Tennis Center, but moved to Lansing and now Grand Rapids to stay with her coach Mike Flowers, realizes how fortunate she is to have a chance to play in such an important tournament.

"I'm very grateful for [tournament director] Scott [Mitchell] giving me the opportunity to play, and play in front of a home crowd," Coleman said. "Big thanks to everyone who came out to support. It always feels nice to have people behind me."

After qualifying is complete Tuesday morning, main draw matches will begin, with 14-year-old wild card Coco Gauff taking on 2017 USTA National 18s champion Ashley Kratzer, also a wild card recipient. Gauff played the women's qualifying at the US Open last year, but this will be her first main draw match above the $25K level.

For draws and the complete order of play, see the tournament website, dowtennisclassic.com

The match deciding the final team to advance to the ITA Women's Team Indoor next month was played at Florida today due to rain yesterday, and the 11th-ranked Gators fell to North Carolina State 4-3. The Wolfpack will be playing in the National Team Indoor for the first time in program history.

Below are the teams in advancing, with complete draws and results available at Slam Tennis.

ITA Kick-off Weekend

Men's National Indoor participants (hosted by Illinois):Wake Forest*[1]
Notre Dame[17]
Mississippi State*[3]
North Carolina*[6]
Ohio State*[2]

Women's National Indoor participants (hosted by Washington):
Ohio State
Oklahoma State*[10]
North Carolina*[3]
South Carolina*[14]
NC State

*regional Kick-off host

The Tennis Recruiting Network revealed its first 2019 Recruiting Class rankings, with Duke coming in at No. 1, followed by Texas, Ohio State, Georgia and Oklahoma. I am one of 20 contributors who participate in these rankings.  For the full list, click here. The women's rankings will be out next week.