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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Wolf Claims Columbus Challenger Title; 18 Americans Kick Off Australian Open Monday; Grishuk Wins Grade 3 in Japan; Four US Boys Reach Traralgon Grade 1 Quarterfinals; Ngounoue Only US Seed at Bolton U14 Event

JJ Wolf, photo courtesy Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com
JJ Wolf got the better of former Ohio State teammate Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark Sunday afternoon, with the Buckeye junior coming back for a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 victory in the final of the ATP 80 Challenger in Columbus.

Wolf, who like Torpegaard received a wild card into the main draw, didn't serve well in the opening set, a contrast from his previous matches, where that had been a strength. Torpegaard, who graduated last year, served for the first set at 5-3, but wasn't able to close it out until the tiebreaker.

Wolf got the only two breaks in the last two sets, going up 3-1 in the second and never facing a break point after that. His serving did improve--he had 2 aces and 4 double faults at one stage, before ending with 7 and 5--but it was his forehand that was the difference today. Even when well behind the baseline, or on the run, Wolf was able to hit clean winners from that side and he never hesitated to go for it, no matter what the game score was.

In the third set, Wolf got his break to go up 4-2. He had to save a break point at 4-3, and wasn't able to convert the three match points he held when Torpegaard served at 3-5, but he closed out his first Challenger title on his fourth match point, winning the final four points of the game.

The 20-year-old from Ohio will now move into the ATP Top 300 for the first time, while Torpegaard will also move into the Top 300 with his appearance in the final.

The main draw of the Australian Open starts tonight in the US (Monday in Melbourne) with 18 Americans on the schedule. Unlike the qualifying draws, which were quite favorable to Americans and featured no first rounds that were US vs US, that's not the case in the main draw. Reilly Opelka and John Isner will meet in the men's first round, as will Sloane Stephens and Taylor Townsend.

Monday's first round matches featuring Americans:
Andrey Rublev(RUS) v Mackenzie McDonald
Michael Mmoh v Radu Albot(MDA)
Yoshihito Nishioka(JPN) v Tennys Sandgren
Cameron Norrie(GBR) v Taylor Fritz
Frances Tiafoe v Prajnesh Gunneswaran[Q](IND)
Andreas Seppi(ITA) v Steve Johnson[31]
Reilly Opelka v John Isner[9]
Marc Polmans[WC](AUS) v Denis Kudla
Chris Eubanks[Q] v Nikoloz Basilashvili[19](GEO)

Monica Niculescu(ROU) v Amanda Anisimova
Sloane Stephens[5] v Taylor Townsend
Alison Riske v Kiki Bertens[9](NED)
Julia Goerges[14](GER) v Danielle Collins
Ysaline Bonaventure[Q](BEL) v Sachia Vickery
Bethanie Mattek-Sands v Zoe Hives[WC](AUS)
Beatriz Haddad Maia[Q](BRA) v Bernarda Pera

In ITF Junior Circuit play, Skyler Grishuk won the Grade 3 tournament this week in Japan, which I was surprised to learn, was outdoors. The 16-year-old Grishuk, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Remika Ohashi of Japan 6-3, 6-2 in the final, after beating unseeded Rebecca Lynn 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals. Grishuk, who is entered in qualifying at the Australian Open Junior Championships, has now won four ITF Junior titles, a Grade 4, two Grade 3s and a Grade 2. Lynn is listed as the 30th alternate for the Australian Open Junior qualifying.

At the Grade 1 in Traralgon, two surprises in the boys draw.  Liam Draxl of Canada, who has signed with Kentucky for this fall, beat top seed and US Open finalist Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 6-3, 6-0 in the third round, and No. 16 seed Eliot Spizzirri took out No. 3 seed and Orange Bowl champion Otto Virtanen of Finland 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Spizzirri will face unseeded Zane Khan next, while No. 9 seed Cannon Kingsley has also reached the quarterfinals.

The first round of the Tennis Europe Category 1 event in Bolton is complete, with six Americans making the trip to England for the tournament. Only one of them is seeded, Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion and Eddie Herr 14s finalist Clervie Ngounoue, who is No. 8, and, like all seeds in the 64-player draw, received a bye.  The only other US girl in the field is Katherine Hui, who won her first round match today.  The four US boys who qualified for Les Petits As in the tournament's US event last October all are in Bolton, with Joseph Phillips, Kyle Kang and Learner Tien posting wins today. Cooper Williams lost his first round match.  The USTA did not send coaches to Europe for these two events this year.

The top boys seeds are Alexander Blockx of Belgium and Luca Pow of Great Britain.  The top girls seeds are Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra and Junior Orange Bowl 14s finalist Victoria Mboko of Canada.

Live scoring is available at Tennis Ticker.