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Monday, March 11, 2019

Update on ITF World Tennis Tour; No. 1 Ohio State Falls to No. 28 Texas A&M; Peter Bodo on UTR; Noah Rubin's New Project; Former ITF Junior Champion Kecmanovic Makes Round of 16 at BNP Paribas Open

The complaints about the ITF World Tennis Tour have already resulted in one change just three months into the new system, with qualifying draws at 15K and 25K events going from 24 to 32 beginning in April. Less than a week later, the ITF issued another statement, acknowledging the unpopularity of the changes, but defending their vision for the new tour and offering nothing specific to remedy the concerns.

Lisa Stone at Parenting Aces has been following the WTT developments closely, and she has put together a page with links to articles for those impacted by or interested in the many changes the ITF has implemented. Lisa has also spoken about the issues with former college players Jared Hiltzik(illinois) and Shelby Talcott(Iowa) on her podcast.  Geoff Grant, who as a guest on Sports Illustrated/Tennis Channel's Jon Wertheim's podcast brought the issue to the forefront late last year, has also recently written a letter to the USTA board urging them to take action. The USTA's Milly Huss was in Mobile for a day and a half to answer questions about the World Tennis Tour and to distribute the schedule for the National Closed and National Open events the USTA has added to distribute 15K wild cards this year. The USTA has also published a comprehensive list with all the 2019 wild card linkages, for American juniors, college players and others interested in pursuing professional tennis.  The USTA website is not always easy to navigate, but it you are looking for advice on how to negotiate the requirements for playing ITF events, this page is a good place to start.

A big upset in College Station tonight, with men's National Indoor champion and No. 1 ranked Ohio State falling to No. 28 Texas A&M.  Playing without No. 1 JJ Wolf, who is competing at the ATP Challenger in Drummondville Canada this week, the Buckeyes claimed the doubles point, but could not take one in singles before the clinch. The Aggies got wins from Noah Schachter at line 5, Valentin Vacherot at 3, Hady Habib at 2 and, with the clincher, Barnaby Smith at line 4.

As someone who has been following the growth of UTR for many years now, I often forget that others may not have the same level of familiarity with what it is and how it works. Recently Peter Bodo of tennis.com provided a valuable overview of UTR's origins, structure and goals. There is no question that UTR has made itself indispensable to college tennis recruiting, and that nearly all juniors can cite their rating down to the one/hundredth of a point, so if you aren't quite clear on what being a 12.44 means, Bodo provides a good introduction.

Not all ideas have to be quite as big as introducing a new way to rate the ability of every tennis player. 2015 NCAA singles finalist and current ATP pro Noah Rubin recently has begun a new social media campaign on Instagram that does nothing more than offer fellow professional players an opportunity to discuss personal issues that would not normally come up in a press conference. Although that sounds simple enough, it requires great empathy, trust, and tact to pull off. Rubin and his team have done that, creating a way for players to connect with fans as people, not just competitors.  See this article from Sports Illustrated for more on Rubin's project.

2016 ITF World Junior champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia received entry into the BNP Paribas Open as a lucky loser but the 19-year-old now finds himself in the round of 16 after defeating No. 30 seed Laslo Djere, also of Serbia, 6-2, 7-6(3).  Because he went in for Kevin Anderson, who was seeded, Kecmanovic received a first round bye, so this is his second win in the main draw. Kecmanovic lost to Marcos Giron in a third set tiebreaker in the final round of qualifying, but Giron got a slightly tougher draw. After beating Jeremy Chardy and No. 23 seed Alex De Minaur in the first two rounds, Giron played No. 13 seed Milos Raonic today, and lost in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Jennifer Brady lost to Ashleigh Barty[12] last night, leaving only Venus Williams and Danielle Collins (who plays top seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka later tonight) as the only American women still in the draw. Eighteen-year-old Bianca Andreescu continues her red-hot start to 2019, with the wild card having advanced to the round of 16.

With Giron's loss, the only American man still in contention for the singles title is No. 8 seed John Isner. Isner faces No. 32 seed Guido Pella of Argentina on Tuesday.


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