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Friday, April 19, 2019

Dostanic's Commitment to USC Goes Back Years; NCAA Recruiting Rules Change Again; Perkins Jasper to Leave ITA for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps; Korda Falls to Giron at Sarasota Challenger; US Open Qualifying Extended to Five Days

While I was covering the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, I had an opportunity to sit down with blue chip Stefan Dostanic, who will be joining the USC Trojans this fall. The 2017 Kalamazoo 16s finalist and 2018 Kalamazoo 18s semifinalist has two more years of eligibility for the 18s Nationals, as he does not turn 19 until November of 2020. I was curious why he decided to attend USC, particularly what was behind his early verbal commitment. He explained how a friendship with Peter Smith's son Colter played a role, and also emphasized his certainty that his game would improve under Smith's guidance.  My article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is here.

Dostanic was recruited under the old rules, but the NCAA has, after just one year, made another change to dates in an effort to stem early recruiting. With an effective date of May 1, 2019, communication to or from a coach to a prospective student-athlete can begin June 15th, after the sophomore year of high school, and allows visits beginning August 1 before the junior year of high school. Previously both those dates were September 1 before the junior year. See this NCAA.org article for more on this change.

Erica Perkins Jasper, the Chief Operation Officer at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, has accepted the position of Director of Athletics at Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Jasper was on the USTA's Player Development staff prior to becoming the women's head tennis coach at New Mexico, and she joined the ITA in 2015. Although she will certainly continue to be involved in college tennis, with CMS regularly in the hunt for an NCAA title, obviously her focus will no longer be on the national level, and that will leave a void hard to fill. For more on Jasper's new position, which begins on June 1, see the CMS athletics website.

Three Americans have advanced to the semifinals of the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, with No. 11 seed Marcos Giron and No. 2 Tennys Sandgren scheduled to play for a place in the final Saturday. Former UCLA Bruin Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion, defeated wild card Sebastian Korda 6-1, 6-4, while former Tennessee Volunteer Sandgren, a 2011 NCAA semifinalist, defeated No. 8 seed Peter Polansky 7-6(4), 6-3.

In the top half, Tommy Paul, the No. 15 seed, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 5 seed Paolo Lorenzi of Italy. Paul will face unseeded Andrea Collarini of Argentina.

The USTA announced yesterday that US Open qualifying will begin on Monday and extend through Friday this year, rather than the previous Tuesday through Friday schedule of past years. The first two days often saw matches going past 9 p.m., so this change should help with that issue. US Open qualifying continues to be free to the public.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Arias Takes Over as Director of Tennis at IMG, Harrison Promoted to Director of Tennis Operations; Korda Advances to Quarterfinals at Sarasota Challenger

The IMG Academy announced today that former Top 5 ATP pro Jimmy Arias has been named Director of Tennis at the Bradenton Florida facility, replacing Rohan Goetzke, who took that position in 2012.  The IMG release states that Goetzke has "moved on to pursue other opportunities in tennis."

Arias, one of the first players to attend the academy when it was owned by Nick Bollettieri, had been named to the post of Director of Player Development there just a few months ago, in November of 2018.

IMG also announced that Pat Harrison, the father of Ryan and Christian Harrison, will become Director of Tennis Operations. Harrison, who has been a coach at the Academy since 2008, has been working with Danielle Collins and Madison Brengle, as well as Michael Venus, his son Christian and many, many other top level players who populate the academy during the off-season.

2018 Australian Open boys champion Sebastian Korda continues to shine at this week's ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, reaching the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over former Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia. Korda, who trains at IMG, received a wild card into the event and has now won three matches, his first three on the Challenger level.  Korda will play No. 11 seed Marcos Giron(UCLA), who defeated No. 6 seed Henri Laaksonen 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-3 earlier today.

Jenson Brooksby came up just short in his quest to match Korda, falling to No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6). Brooksby was twice up a break in the final set, but Polansky broke back immediately both times. The 30-year-old Canadian then went up 6-2 in the final set tiebreaker, only to see Brooksby save all four of those match points, but the Kalamazoo 18s champion lost the fifth.

Other Americans advancing to the quarterfinals in Sarasota are No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), who beat Guilherme Clezar of Brazil 7-6(5), 6-2.  No. 15 seed Tommy Paul, playing in just his second tournament since January, defeated last week's ATP Houston semifinalist Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.  Paul is the only American in the top half.  Live streaming is available, with Mike Cation doing the commentary, here.

Usue Arconada and Lauren Davis have advanced to the quarterfinals at the $80,000 women's ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Dothan Alabama.  Wild card Arconada defeated No. 8 seed Claire Liu 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1) in a three-hour battle. Davis, the No. 6 seed, beat Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-3, 6-2. Arconada faces Gabby Ruse of Romania in the quarterfinals, while Davis plays unseeded Sofya Zhuk of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Madison Brengle in the first round.  Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) is the third American into the quarterfinals, beating Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria, who took out top seed Taylor Townsend in the first round, 6-2, 7-6(3) tonight.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

USTA Announces Junior Davis and Fed Cup, World Junior Tennis Teams for Upcoming Qualifying; USTA/Tennis Channel Rankings Mostly Unchanged; Brooksby, Korda Move into Third Round at Sarasota Challenger

The USTA announced today the teams that will represent the United States in the North American qualifying for the ITF's Junior Davis Cup, Junior Fed Cup and World Junior Tennis to be held April 25-27 in Montreal Canada.

World Junior Tennis (14-and-under) Girls:
Tsehay Driscoll
Qavia Lopez
Clervie Ngounoue
Captain: Maureen Diaz

World Junior Tennis Boys:
Kyle Kang
Learner Tien
Cooper Williams
Captain: Jon Glover

Junior Fed Cup (16-and-under):
Ellie Coleman
Robin Montgomery
Charlotte Owensby
Captain: Erik Kortland

Junior Davis Cup:
Alexander Bernard
Dali Blanch
Martin Damm
Captain: Phillippe Oudshoorn

Because the United States is hosting the Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup competitions at Lake Nona September 25-30 2019, the US teams are assured a place in the final 16, but are playing the regional qualifying for seeding purposes.

The World Junior Tennis event always conflicts with the USTA National Championships in August, and it will again this year, taking place once again in Prostejov, Czech Republic August 5-10, 2019.

This week's Tennis Channel/USTA Division I team poll is out, with few changes. As with the ITA rankings, the Ohio State men and Georgia women are No. 1. Below are the Top 16 teams, with the complete list of each Top 25 available at usta.com.

Men’s USTA/Tennis Channel Top 16 Rankings, April 17, 2019
1. Ohio State (1)
2. Wake Forest (2)
3. Texas (3)
4. Florida (4)
5. Virginia (5)
6. UCLA (8)
7. North Carolina (7)
8. TCU (9)
9. Mississippi State (T10)
10. Baylor (6)
11. USC (T10)
12. Columbia (12)
13. Texas A&M (13)
14. Stanford (15)
15. Illinois (14)
16. Tennessee (16)

Women’s USTA/Tennis Channel Top 16 Rankings, April 17, 2019
1. Georgia (1)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Duke (4)
5. Pepperdine (5)
6. South Carolina (6)
7. Texas (7)
8. Vanderbilt (8)
9. Ohio State (11)
10. Oklahoma State (12)
11. Michigan (9)
12. Florida State (13)
13. UCLA (10)
14. NC State (14)
15. Washington (15)
16. Kansas (16)

Neither Jenson Brooksby or Sebastian Korda had won a match at the ATP Challenger main draw level before this week, but both 18-year-old wild cards now have two after posting ATP Top 200 wins today at the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota.

Brooksby, the reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion, defeated Jared Hiltzik(Illinois) in the first round Monday and today took out ATP 163 and No. 10 seed Marc Polmans of Australia 6-3, 6-0. Korda defeated Ulises Blanch 7-6(7), 6-3 in the first round yesterday and today defeated ATP 187 and No. 14 seed James Ward of Great Britain 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1. Both of today's wins are the best, ranking-wise, of their careers.

Brooksby will face No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada in the round of 16, while Korda's third round opponent is former Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia, who received entry as an alternate when Casper Ruud withdrew after making the ATP Houston final last week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ohio State Men, Georgia Women Return to Top of ITA Rankings; Wolf and Jokic Remain No. 1 in Singles; SLAM Tennis Reveals Division I Conference Tournament Projections for Wednesday's Matches

The weekly ITA Division I team rankings are out, and once again, the No. 1 teams have changed. Bumped by Texas last week, the Ohio State men return to the top spot, as do the Georgia women, who lost their No. 1 ranking last week to North Carolina, despite a direct head-to-head win over the Tar Heels in February's Team Indoor Championships. Because we are getting close to the cutoff for hosting regionals in next month's NCAA tournament, I'm expanding this to the Top 16 from the usual Top 10. Full lists can be found by clicking on the headings.

The ITA Men's Division I Top 16, April 16, 2019
(previous week's rankings in parentheses):

1. Ohio State (2)
2. Texas (1)
3. Florida (3)
4. Wake Forest (4)
5. Virginia (5)
6. Mississippi State (7)
7. TCU (10)
8. Baylor (6)
9. North Carolina (9)
10. USC (11)
11. Texas A&M (8)
12. Stanford (12)
13. Tennessee (15)
14. UCLA (13)
15. Illinois (14)
16. Columbia (16)

The ITA Women's Division I Top 16, April 16, 2019:
1. Georgia (2)
2. North Carolina (1)
3. Duke (4)
4. Stanford (3)
5. South Carolina (5)
6. Pepperdine (8)
7. Texas (6)
8. Vanderbilt (7)
9. NC State (9)
10. UCLA (10)
11. Florida State (12)
13. Washington (15)
14. California (17)
15. USC (13)
16. Michigan (14)

The individual rankings have had less volatility than the team rankings this year, with Ohio State's JJ Wolf and Georgia's Katarina Jokic staying No. 1 in singles again this week.

JJ Wolf, photo courtesy Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com

ITA Men's Division I Top 10 singles, April 16, 2019:

1. JJ Wolf, Ohio State (1)
2. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (2)
3. Alex Rybakov, TCU (4)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest (3)
5. Carl Soderlund, Virginia (5)
6. Paul Jubb, South Carolina (9)
7. Yuya Ito, Texas (7)
8. Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois (6)
9. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas(8)
10. Brandon Holt, USC (12)

ITA Men's Division I Top 5 doubles, April 16, 2019:

1. Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck, Baylor (1)
2. Henry Patten and Oli Nolan, UNC-Asheville (2)
3. Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic, Mississippi St (3)
4. Parker Wynn and Bjorn Thomson, Texas Tech (7)
5. Maxime Cressy and Keegan Smith, UCLA (4)

Katarina Jokic, photo courtesy ITA
ITA Women's Division I Top 10 singles, April 16, 2019:

1. Katarina Jokic, Georgia (1)
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (2)
3. Kate Fahey, Michigan (3)
4. Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina (4)
5. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (7)
6. Makenna Jones, North Carolina (5)
7. Alexa Graham, North Carolina (6)
T8. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech (14)
T8. Eden Richardson, LSU (9)
10. Anna Rogers, North Carolina State (8)

ITA Women's Division I Top 5 doubles, April 16 2019:

1. Mia Horvit and Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina
2. Lauryn John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh, Arizona State
3. Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia, Kansas
4. Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes, USC
5. Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova, Pepperdine

Although some conference tournaments started before today, the competitions that decide the who gets automatic bids to the NCAA tournament begin in earnest on Wednesday, with the SEC and the ACC both having early round matches.

Tennis Recruiting Network's SLAM tennis is tracking the conference tournaments, and you can see projections now and scores later from all the matches on their Championship Central page. They also provide a Bracketology feature, projecting which schools will receive invitations to the NCAA tournament, which teams are on the bubble and even what the draw might look like.

Bobby Knight will also be following the results this weekend at College Tennis Today, and College Tennis Ranks is also a place to dive deeply into the projected rankings and selections for the Division I NCAA tournament.

With the NCAA Division I tournament hosted this year at the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona, usta.com has undertaken a series looking at several of the teams expecting to be contend for the titles next month.

Today's article focuses on the Vanderbilt women, last year's finalists. They have also highlighted the Stanford women, the Duke women, the Michigan women, the North Carolina women and the Virginia men.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Zane Khan Qualifies for Sarasota Challenger; Alabama, Florida Host ITF World Tennis Tour Events Again This Week; More ITF World Tennis Tour Adjustments Coming?

Orange Bowl finalist Zane Khan won his qualifying match today at the ATP 100 Challenger in Sarasota Florida, with the 17-year-old wild card defeating ATP No. 369 Benjamin Hassan of Germany 6-3, 6-2.  Khan will face unseeded Daniel Galan of Colombia, a semifinalist at last week's ATP 250 in Houston, in the first round Tuesday.

Khan is one of 20 American men in the Sarasota main draw this week, with Tennys Sandgren the No. 2 seed and Bradley Klahn the No. 3 seed (Hugo Dellien of Bolivia is the top seed.) Wild cards went to Noah Rubin[9], Sebastian Korda, last week's runnerup at the Sunrise $15K, Jared Hiltzik and Jenson Brooksby. Brooksby and Hiltzik played each other today, with the reigning Kalamazoo champion picking up his first Challenger-level by a 6-1, 6-2 score.

This is also the second week of the men's USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge, with little happening in the first week. No American men played in the two clay Challengers or the ATP in Morocco last week, and only Ryan Harrison, now 109 in the ATP rankings, picked up any points at the ATP in Houston, with a first round win. Sam Querrey made the semifinals in Houston, but he is not likely to need the French Open wild card.

This week most of the Americans are in Sarasota, although a few are playing at the ATP 80 Challenger in Mexico: Evan King, Kevin King (who played each other in the first round today, with Kevin King winning), Ernesto Escobedo and 17-year-old wild card Emilio Nava.

With Fed Cup taking place this week, there are no WTA events, and the biggest tournament on the schedule is the $80,000 tournament in Dothan Alabama, which kicks off the women's USTA French Open Wild Card Challenge.

Taylor Townsend and Madison Brengle are the top two seeds in Dothan, among the 11 Americans in the main draw prior to the completion of qualifying.  There will be at least one more, with Ingrid Neel(Florida) and Hanna Chang meeting in the final round of qualifying Tuesday, with Katie Volynets and Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) also able to advance to the main draw with a win Tuesday.

The main draw wild cards were given to Alexa Guarachi, a former University of Alabama star, Usue Arconada, Sophie Chang and Louisa Chirico. Bogota finalist Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia is also in the draw this week and is the No. 4 seed.

The ITF World Tennis Tour continues on the Florida clay this week in Orange Park, where Bastian Malla of Chile is the top seed at the $15,000 tournament. Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) is the No. 2 seed. Wild cards were given to Junior Ore(Texas A&M), Emmett Ward, Logan Zapp and Easter Bowl champion Ronald Hohmann.

For many years, Egypt and Turkey have had a series of low level ITF Pro Circuit events, with tournament after tournament in the same location in those countries, presumably so players don't have to travel so much. Cancun Mexico may not be in that mode quite yet, but that popular resort city will be hosting three combined men's and women's $15,000 events this month, and they have attracted a handful of Americans in these first two weeks. Tom Fawcett[3](Stanford) and Evan Zhu[7](UCLA) are the seeded American men this week in Cancun, with Pamela Montez[3](UCLA) and Sabastiani Leon[7] the two seeded American women this week in Cancun.

Last week the Telegraph detailed Tennis Europe's objections to the ITF's new World Tennis Tour and this article floats the possibility that the ATP will once again grant ATP points to players at the WTT level if the ITF agrees to several changes, including larger qualifying draws. Recently the ITF expanded the qualifying from 24 to 32, with 48 the latest number suggested.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Anisimova Defeats Sharma to Claim First WTA Title; Arconada Earns His First Title in Cancun; Carton Takes ITF Grade 4 in Trinidad; Baylor Falls to Texas Tech; Georgia Women, Florida Men Win SEC Regular Season Titles, Michigan Women Also Finish Conference Play Undefeated

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Anisimova came from behind once again today at the WTA's Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota Colombia to claim her first WTA title in her second final.

No. 6 seed Anisimova, the 2017 US Open girls champion, defeated recent Vanderbilt graduate Astra Sharma of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in today's final, becoming the youngest American to win a WTA tour title since Serena Williams in 1999. Anisimova, who won four of her five matches in three sets, with three of those from a set down, will now move to a career-high of 54 in the WTA rankings.

Sharma, who had a set and a break lead before Anisimova's comeback, will be at 102 in the WTA rankings after her run the week.

See the WTA website for this article on Anisimova's title, her thoughts on Sharma's game and her plans for the upcoming clay season. Throughout her junior career, Anisimova had great success on the South American, Mexican and European clay, so it's no surprise to hear her call it her "favorite surface."

Wimbledon girls champion Iga Swiatek of Poland could not join Anisimova in the winner's circle today, with the 17-year-old losing to Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA International in Switzerland. 

Jordi Arconada, the recent Texas A&M graduate, won his first ITF World Tennis Tour singles title today at the $15,000 event in Cancun Mexico. Arconada, who was unseeded, defeated No. 5 seed Nicolas Alvarez(Duke) of Peru 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Arconada beat four seeds and didn't drop a set all week to add a singles title to his four doubles title on the ITF Pro Circuit.

The other two Americans in singles finals today were beaten, with No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda falling to unseeded Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the Sunrise Florida $15K and No. 2 seed Caroline Dolehide losing to No. 7 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3 at the $25K in Pelham Alabama.

The ITF Junior Circuit left the United States this week, but Americans still competed in several tournaments, earning a total of four titles. Unseeded 15-year-old Nevena Carton won her first ITF Junior Circuit title at the Grade 4 in Trinidad and Tobago, beating No. 3 seed Jackeline Lopez 6-0, 6-1 in the all-American girls singles final. Unseeded Victor Lilov lost in the boys singles final to top seed Angel Diaz Jalil of Ecudor 6-2, 7-6(1).  Unseeded Jameson Corsillo and Andrew Pereverzev beat No. 3 seeds Lilov and Canada's Christopher Heck 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles final.  The girls doubles title went to Elan Mnatsakanov and Jamilah Snells, who beat Cecilia Alcobe Garibay and Great Britain's Jasmine Conway 7-5, 4-6, 10-7 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 3 in Canada, unseeded Matthew Che and James Tracy won the boys doubles title, beating top seeds Blaise Bicknell and Great Britain's Blu Baker 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

The No. 6 Baylor men lost 4-3 today to No. 23 Texas Tech in Lubbock to conclude the Big 12 regular season. The conference tournament begins Friday in Kansas.

The SEC produced two undefeated regular season champions, with the Florida men and the Georgia women both sweeping all of their conference matches. No. 3 Florida defeated No. 18 South Carolina 6-1 to win their first SEC title outright in 16 years. No. 2 Georgia beat No. 7 Vanderbilt 4-1 to deny South Carolina any share of the regular season title and joined the 2002 team in going undefeated throughout the regular season.

The Ohio State men defeated Illinois 4-2 today in Champaign in the match that will probably decide the Big Ten title, but the men's Big Ten regular season extends through next weekend, so nothing is official there.

The Michigan women won 5-1 at Maryland and clinched their regular season title, going 11-0 in conference play.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Sharma, Anisimova Play for WTA Bogota Title Sunday; Swiatek Through to WTA Lugano Final; Dolehide, Korda, Arconada Play for ITF World Tennis Tour Titles

Either Astra Sharma or Amanda Anisimova will win her first WTA Tour title Sunday after the pair advanced to the final with wins Saturday at the Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota Colombia. The 17-year-old Anisimova will be playing in her second WTA tour final, having lost in the final of the Hiroshima Japan International last September. She defeated qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 in over two-and-a-half hours. The 23-year-old Sharma, who was playing No. 1 for Vanderbilt last year at this time, had never reached the quarterfinals of a WTA event until this week, but the Australian was able to eliminate 2012 champion and 2017 and 2018 finalist Lara Arruabarrena 7-5, 6-1 in just over an hour. With her run this week, Sharma is now on the cusp of the WTA Top 100 and the main draw of the French Open. For more on Sharma's win today, see this article from the WTA website.

Sharma has already earned her first WTA title, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's singles final. She and Zoe Hives, also of Australia, beat Hayley Carter(UNC) and Ena Shibahara(UCLA) 6-1, 6-2 in the Bogota doubles final.
Iga Swiatek won the Wimbledon Girls title in 2018
Current girls Wimbledon champion Iga Swiatek of Poland has advanced to her first WTA final, with the 17-year-old beating another Wimbledon junior champion, Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour in today's Samsung Open in Lugano Switzerland. Swiatek will face unseeded Polona Hercog of Slovenia, who beat unseeded Fiona Ferro of France 7-5, 6-4 in the other semifinal. Swiatek will break into the WTA Top 100 regardless of Sunday's result.

Exactly a year ago, Swiatek was winning the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Pelham Alabama. Tomorrow, the final at that tournament will feature No. 2 seed Caroline Dolehide and No. 7 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic. Dolehide defeated No. 4 seed Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 6-3, 7-6(4) while Krejcikova, last week's champion of the $80,000 tournament in Palm Harbor Florida, beat qualifier Hailey Baptiste 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Dolehide already has earned one title this week, taking the doubles championship today with Usue Arconada. The No. 3 seeds defeated the unseeded Romanian team of Oana Simion and Gabriela Talaba(Texas Tech) 6-3, 6-0 in today's final.

Two American men will play for ITF World Tennis Tour $15K titles Sunday, with No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda playing Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan in the Sunrise Florida final, and Jordi Arconada facing No. 5 seed and former Duke star Nicolas Alvarez of Peru in the Cancun Mexico final.

Korda defeated No. 2 seed Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in today's Sunrise semifinal, while Arconada, a former Texas A&M star, beat No. 8 seed Lorenzo Frigerio of Italy 6-4, 6-3 in the Cancun semifinal.

Both the 18-year-old Korda and the 22-year-old Arconada are looking for their first singles titles on the ITF World Tennis Tour.

The doubles title in Cancun went to No. 4 seeds Henry Craig(Denver) and Julian Bradley(North Florida) of Ireland, who beat Ecuador's Ivan Endara and Peru's Jorge Panta 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

No. 2 seeds Justin Butsch(LSU) and Alexander Ritschard(Virginia) won the Sunrise doubles title, beating Argentina's Maximiliano Estevez and Chile's Bastian Malla 3-6, 6-3, 10-2. It's Butsch's third ITF WTT doubles title and the first for Ritschard.

Friday, April 12, 2019

International Spring Championships ITF Recap; CMS Men Take Top Spot in D-III Rankings; Upcoming ITA D-I Team Indoor Sites; Sharma, Anisimova Advance in WTA Bogota; Korda, Baptiste Reach WTT Semis

My recap of last week's ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships looks back at Hurricane Tyra Black defending her title, and Canada's Liam Draxl winning his first title at that level. Although both were the top seeds, the finals were anything but predictable, with the two titles decided late in the third sets. See this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network for more, including the doubles championships.

The Division III team rankings were released by the ITA on Thursday, with the Emory women staying at No. 1, but with a new team atop the men's rankings: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. CMS defeated former No. 1 Chicago 6-3 late last month and also have posted wins over No. 10 Williams and No. 8 Middlebury.  Bowdoin made a big move in the women's rankings after beating No. 8 Tufts and No. 7 Amherst. I'll be covering the Division III NCAA Championships this year, which are May 20-26 at Kalamazoo College.

ITA Division III Women’s Top 10, April 11, 2019
(previous rankings in parentheses)

1. Emory University (1)
2. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (2)
3. Middlebury College (5)
4. Wesleyan University (6)
5. Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (4)
6. Bowdoin College (14)
7. Amherst College (3)
8. Tufts University (7)
9. Williams College (8)
10. Carnegie Mellon University (10)

ITA Division III Men’s Top 10, April 11, 2019 

1. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges (4)
2. Univ. of Chicago (1)
3. Emory University (3)
4. Bowdoin College (5)
5. Wesleyan University (7)
6. Washington University, St. Louis (8)
7. Amherst College (9)
8. Middlebury College (2)
9. Brandeis University (10)
10. Williams College (6)

The host schools and cities for the next three years of men's and women's ITA National Team Indoor Championships were announced today.

The Illinois women will host next year's event in Chicago, the 2021 tournament will be hosted by the University of Washington women and the 2022 women's tournament will return to the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. 

The same three cities will host the men's tournaments, in a different sequence. Wisconsin will host the Indoor next year, followed by Illinois in 2021 and Washington in 2022. 

See this ITA article for more details on the events' next three years.

2018 Vanderbilt graduate Astra Sharma has reached the semifinals of the WTA International tournament in Colombia, beating former WTA No. 5 Sara Errani, a lucky loser, 6-1, 7-5. Sharma, who hadn't reached a WTA quarterfinal until yesterday, will play No. 11 seed Lara Arruabarrena of Spain Saturday. For more on Sharma's win today, see the WTA website.

No. 6 seed Amanda Anisimova is also through to the semifinals, after defeating fellow 17-year-old Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. Anisimova had not dropped a set to the wild card in three previous meetings in juniors, all on clay, but this match was tougher, with Anisimova required nearly two hours to record the win. Anisimova plays qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil next. 

At the WTA International tournament in Switzerland, Iga Swiatek of Poland, also 17, has advanced to her first WTA semifinal, beating Vera Lapko of Belarus 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. The reigning Wimbledon girls champion will face unseeded Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic Saturday. Pliskova won the Wimbledon girls title back in 2010.

Qualifier Hailey Baptiste defeated No. 3 seed Karumi Nara of Japan 6-1, 6-1 today to advance to the semifinals of the $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in Pelham Alabama. The 17-year-old Baptiste, who won the last tournament she played, the $25K in Plantation in January, will face No. 7 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who beat Ann Li 7-6(3), 6-3.  No. 2 seed Caroline Dolehide will play No. 4 seed Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria in the other semifinal. 

No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda didn't have to play a point to advance to the semifinals at the $15K in Sunrise Florida, with the 18-year-old getting a walkover from No. 4 seed Sekou Bangoura(Florida). He will play No. 2 seed Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia in the bottom half semifinal, while Alexander Ritschard(Virginia) will play unseeded Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan in the top half semifinal. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

International Spring Championships 16s Recap; Sharma and Anisimova Reach WTA Bogota Quarterfinals; Swiatek Moves on in Lugano; Kourkina Makes Quarterfinals in Cancun $15K

My recap of last week's 16s tournament at the USTA International Spring Championships is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with the 18s ITF Grade 1 recap scheduled to be published on Friday. If you didn't have a chance to follow my daily coverage, it's a good opportunity to catch up on the week's results at the Level 1 tournament in Carson California, with Winta Woldeab and Alexander Chang taking the singles titles.

A year ago, Astra Sharma was a senior at Vanderbilt, preparing for the end of the SEC regular season and the NCAAs. Today the 23-year-old Australian reached her first WTA quarterfinal, beating No. 8 seed Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the WTA International tournament in Bogota Colombia. Sharma had beaten Shelby Rogers, just returning from a year's absence due to injury, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-1 in the opening round.  She is now at 120 in the WTA live rankings, having started the year at 230.

Amanda Anisimova reached the quarterfinals late last night, with the sixth-seeded Floridian beating Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4. Anisimova will face fellow 17-year-old Maria Osorio Sorrano of Colombia, a wild card, who defeated Kristie Ahn 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3. Anisimova and Orsorio Sorrano have met three times in ITF junior competition, with Anisimova winning all three matches, all on clay.

Sharma has also reached the doubles semifinal, with partner Zoe Hives of Australia. Ena Shibahara(UCLA) and Hayley Carter(UNC) have also advanced to the doubles semifinal.

Reigning Wimbledon girls champion Iga Swiatek of Poland has reached her first WTA quarterfinal at the WTA International tournament in Lugano Switzerland. The 17-year-old defeated No. 3 seed Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in today's second round. Swiatek will face No. 8 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus in the quarterfinals Friday. For more on Swiatek's win, see the WTA website.

I wrote about teens Hailey Baptiste and Ann Li in yesterday's US World Tennis Tour update, and both have advanced to the quarterfinals at the $25,000 tournament in Pelham Alabama. Li took down top seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-2, 6-1; Baptiste beat Dasha Ivanova 6-4, 6-2.  Sebastian Korda, the No. 8 seed, is the sole teen in the quarterfinals of the $15,000 tournament in Sunrise Florida. Harrison Adams(Texas A&M), Sekou Bangoura(Florida) and Alexander Ritschard(Virginia) are the other Americans in the final eight at Sunrise.

There's another US teen in the quarterfinals of the $15K in Cancun Mexico: Vanderbilt recruit Dasha Kourkina. The 17-year-old Kourkina, who lost in the second round at last week's ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, qualified in Cancun earlier this week and today defeated No. 4 seed Sebastiani Leon to advance to her first ITF World Tennis Tour quarterfinal. Former UCLA star Chanelle Van Nguyen, the No. 3 seed, is the other American still in the singles draw in Cancun. Adam El Mihdawy and Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) are the American men who have reached the quarterfinals at the $15,000 men's tournament in Cancun.

Regular season conference play is wrapping up this weekend for several of the Big 5 conferences, and Bobby Knight has the schedule and links for the important matches in his midweek report at College Tennis Today.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Few Changes in USTA/Tennis Channel Weekly Rankings; Ahn Defeats Ostapenko in WTA Bogota; US Fed Cup Team Announced; First Rounds Complete at WTT Women's $25K and Men's $15K in US

Unlike yesterday's ITA rankings, this week's Division I rankings from the poll conducted by the USTA shows few changes, with the women's Top 10 staying the same and the only men's changes in the slots 7-10.  The current ITA computer-generated rankings have Texas on top in the men's rankings, and North Carolina on top in the women's rankings.
For the release and complete Top 25s, see this article at usta.com.

Men's Division I Top 10 Team:
(previous week's rankings in parentheses)

1. Ohio State (1)
2. Wake Forest (2)
3. Texas (3)
4. Florida (4)
5. Virginia (5)
6. Baylor (6)
7. North Carolina (9)
8. UCLA (12)
9. TCU (8)
T10. Mississippi State (T10)
T10. USC (7)

Women's Division I Top 10 Team:
1. Georgia (1)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Duke (4)
5. Pepperdine (5)
6. South Carolina (6)
7. Texas (7)
8. Vanderbilt (8)
9. Michigan (9)
10. UCLA (10)

Ahn reached the quarterfinals at the Dow Tennis Classic $100K in Midland this winter
Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn picked up the biggest win of her career last night in the first round of the WTA International tournament in Bogota Colombia, beating top seed and 29th-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-5. Ahn, a lucky loser, saved two match point in defeating the former French Open champion. For more on Ahn's win, see this article from the WTA website.

The United States Fed Cup team is in action later this month in San Antonio Texas, with Kathy Rinaldi captaining the team of Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Sonya Kenin, Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula against Switzerland. Switzerland will be competing with its top player, Belinda Bencic, with their team made up of  Viktorija Golubic, Timea Bacsinszky, Conny Perrin and Yiena In-Albon.  For more on the April 20 ties, see this article from the Fed Cup website.

There are two ITF World Tennis Tour events in the United States this week, the $25K for women in Pelham Alabama and the $15K for men in Sunrise Florida. Unlike last week, when the $80,000 tournament in Florida attracted most of the top Americans, leaving the $25K in Jackson Mississippi with a less formidable field, this week's tournament in Pelham is much stronger. Eighteen-year-old Ann Li, the No. 2 seed in Jackson last week, is unseeded this week, and will play top seed and WTA 123 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in Thursday's second round.  The only other teen advancing to the second round is qualifier Hailey Baptiste, who beat No. 8 seed Lizette Cabrera in today's first round action. Baptiste is playing her first tournament since winning a $25K in Plantation in January.

In Sunrise, three teenagers have advanced to the second round: No. 8 seed Sebastian Korda, Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, with the latter two using their Top 100 junior rankings in 2018 to receive entry into the main draw.  Stefan Kozlov is the top seed.

The ATP Tour stop in Houston has been American-heavy in the past few years, but only two Americans remain in the singles draw: Sam Querrey, who won his first round match, and top seed and defending champion Steve Johnson, who received a first round bye and will play his first match on Thursday.  Great Britain's Cameron Norrie, the former TCU star seeded No. 3, also plays his first match Thursday.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Texas Men and North Carolina Women Move to Top Spots in ITA D-I Rankings; USTA Southern's Bill Ozaki Retiring; Jerome Jones Named New Executive Director at First Break Academy

Due to the two big junior events in California, it's been a couple of weeks since I've featured the ITA Division I rankings, but today's rankings are particularly notable, with both the men's and women's No. 1 spots changing hands.  The Texas men have moved to No. 1, displacing Ohio State, which had held the No. 1 spot in the ITA rankings since winning the National Team Indoor title in February.  North Carolina and Georgia have both been No. 1 since they met in the Team Indoor final, with North Carolina back on top this week after Georgia spent the previous two weeks at No. 1.

Not much change in the individual rankings, with JJ Wolf of Ohio State and Katarina Jokic of Georgia continuing to occupy the No. 1 position in singles. To see the complete rankings, click on the headings below.

Men’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team Rankings April 9, 2019
previous week’s rankings in parentheses
1. Texas (4)
2. Ohio State(1)
3. Florida (2)
4. Wake Forest (3)
5. Virginia (5)
6. Baylor (7)
7. Mississippi State (6)
8. Texas A&M (8)
9. North Carolina (11)
10. TCU (10)

Men's Top 10 Singles, April 9, 2019
1. JJ Wolf, Ohio State (1)
2. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (2)
3. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest (3)
4. Alex Rybakov, TCU (4)
5. Carl Soderlund, Virginia (10)
6. Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois (9)
7. Yuya Ito, Texas (5)
8. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas (7)
9. Paul Jubb, South Carolina (6)
10. Thomas Laurent, Oregon (8)

Men's Top 5 doubles, April 9, 2019
1. Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendick, Baylor (1)
2. Henry Patten and Oli Nolan, UNC-Asheville (2)
3. Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic, Mississippi State (10)
4. Maxime Cressy and Keegan Smith, UCLA (6)
5. Christian Sigsgaard and Harrison Scott, Texas (3)

Women’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team Rankings, April 9, 2019
1. North Carolina (2)
2. Georgia (1)
3. Stanford (5)
4. Duke (4)
5. South Carolina (3)
6. Texas (7)
7. Vanderbilt (6)
8. Pepperdine (9)
9. NC State (10)
10. UCLA (8)

Women's Top 10 Singles, April 9, 2019
1. Katarina Jokic, Georgia (1)
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (2)
3. Kate Fahey, Michigan (3)
4. Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina (5)
5. Makenna Jones, North Carolina (7)
6. Alexa Graham, North Carolina (6)
7. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (4)
8. Anna Rogers, NC State (15)
9. Eden Richardson, LSU (10)
10. Ida Jarlskog, Florida (8)

Women's Top 5 Doubles, April 9, 2019
1. Lauren John-Baptiste and Ilze Hattingh, Arizona State (3)
2. Mia Horvit and Ingrid Gamarra Martins, South Carolina (2)
3. Janet Koch and Nina Khmelnitckaia, Kansas  (1)
4. Ashley Lahey and Evgeniya Levashova, Pepperdine (4)
5. Gabby Andrews and Ayan Broomfield, UCLA (7)

One of the most prominent junior development administrators in the United States, Southern's Bill Ozaki, will be retiring from his position in the section at the end of June. I've known Bill for more than a decade, first meeting him when he took a position in the USTA's Player Development area. Since he returned to the Southern section, I have seen him regularly in Mobile, most recently at last month's National Spring Team Championships, and have always enjoyed talking with him about issues relating to junior competition.  His outgoing personality and his institutional knowledge of the USTA will be missed by those in his section as well as those outside it.  For more on Bill's lifelong involvement in tennis, see this article from Ron Cioffi.

The Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson is the home not just to the recently completed ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, but also First Break Academy, a 501(c)(3) outreach initiative to expose children in the LA area to tennis, with an emphasis on a multi-sport approach.  The academy, founded in 2014, now has a new executive director, with 1984 NCAA doubles champion Jerome Jones (Pepperdine) taking over the position from Peggy Bott, who will remain on the board. For more on Jones' tennis background and the academy, see this press release

Monday, April 8, 2019

Caty McNally Signs with Octagon; Center Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Scandal; Pro Circuit Update

Octagon announced today that 17-year-old Caty McNally has signed with the sports management agency, based in McLean Virginia. Octagon had been tracking McNally for the past couple of years, and agents from company were often seen at her Wimbledon and US Open matches. The McNallys were not in a rush to sign, and were still considering college as an option (the route her brother John, a sophomore at Ohio State took) until she began to post impressive results at higher level ITF Pro Circuit events and beat Top 100 WTA players. After McNally won the Midland Dow Tennis Classic $100K without dropping a set in February, with a wild card that Octagon helped her obtain, turning pro seemed much more likely than retaining her amateur status for another year and attending college. McNally's current WTA ranking is a career-high 214.

Former University of Texas men's tennis coach Michael Center agreed to plead guilty today in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal that has been in the news for several weeks. When initially charged, Center's then lawyer had said he would plead not guilty, but that obviously changed and he will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to this article in the Austin American-Statesman. The student involved in obtaining admission as an athlete, when he lacked the qualifications to be on the tennis team, has now been identified. His father, who made donations to advisor Richard Singer's foundation, has not been charged.

Because I was so busy at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson last week, I didn't have time to follow the two women's ITF World Tennis Tour events in the US, a $25,000 tournament in Mississippi and an $80,000 event in Florida.  Neither tournament produced an American singles champion, with top seed Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) falling to No. 5 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-1 in the final and No. 2 seed Ann Li losing to top seed Katarzyna Kawa of Poland 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

No. 4 seeds Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Ingrid Neel(Florida) won their first title as a team in Florida, beating the unseeded team of Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan and Lizette Cabrera of Australia 5-7, 7-5, 10-8.

At the Volvo Car Open in Charleston South Carolina, Madison Keys won her fourth WTA title and her first on clay, beating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 7-6(5), 6-3 in Sunday's final. For more on Keys first title since 2017, see the WTA website.

American doubles teams picked up two titles in Mexico last weekend. Maria Sanchez(USC) and Asia Muhammad one the WTA International in Monterrey, with the No. 3 seeds beating the unseeded Australian team of Monique Adamczak and Jessica Moore 7-6(2), 6-4 in the final. It's the third WTA doubles title for Sanchez and the fourth for Muhammad, and their second as a team.

An ATP 125 Challenger was also in Monterrey last week, with unseeded Evan King(Michigan) and Nathan Pasha(Georgia) taking that doubles title with a 7-5, 6-2 win over top seeds Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan. It's their first Challenger title as a team, with King now a three-time Monterrey Challenger winner (2016, 2017, 2019). Former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, who was unseeded, reached the singles final before falling to No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Top Seeds Black and Draxl Fight Through Three-Setters to Claim Titles at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Carson, CA--

Anyone expecting top seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Liam Draxl to breeze through their wild card opponents in the finals of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Sunday, didn't need long to revise their assumptions, with Draxl needing nearly three hours to outlast Zachary Svajda 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-5 and Black requiring a third set comeback to defeat Connie Ma 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 on a warm and breezy day at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

The boys final was riveting from the opening points, with neither player showing any evidence of nerves.

Draxl, a 17-year-old Canadian, went up 4-1 in the first set, but Svajda broke back and had the easier service games as the set moved to a tiebreaker. Svajda, a 16-year-old from San Diego, had a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but he succumbed to what both he and Draxl considered poor shot selection, and Draxl passed him to pull even and claimed the next two points for the set.

"On that short forehand I went crosscourt, and he was already cross court, so he didn't have to move," Svajda said. "I should have gone down the line probably, that was a mistake. I'll definitely remember that."

"He hit a huge return and I picked it up at the baseline," Draxl said. "He hit an easy forehand and I guessed right and hit a pass winner. It was kind of lucky, I don't know, if he went the other way, it would have been a winner by a mile."

The second set was not likely to match the first for quality, and when Svajda let a 40-0 lead slip away to give up his first service game of the second set, Draxl was in good position to take control of the match. But Svajda, who shows no emotion, positive or negative, on court, kept his body language neutral and it was Draxl who saw his level slip, losing five straight games.

"That was really bad from me, to be honest," said Draxl, who is as animated on court as Svajda is stoic. "I was mentally frustrated, I was losing it, falling apart a little bit in the second, but I think it was important for me to go from 5-1 to 5-3, getting it a little bit going again."

Draxl broke Svajda serving for the set at 5-1, and Svajda had to save two break points serving for the second set at 5-3 to finally even the match.

The second and third games of the third set took over 20 minutes, with Svajda and Draxl both getting holds after saving break points. Svajda lost his next serve, giving Draxl a 3-1 lead, but he immediately broke back and held for 3-all. Draxl went down 0-30 serving at 4-all, but errors began to creep into Svajda's game, and Draxl claimed the next four points.

Serving down 4-5, Svajda saved two match points, with a backhand winner and a wide backhand from Draxl and closed out the game with a rare ace, one of just three he hit in the match.

Svajda had his chances in the next game, when he blasted a return winner, got a rare netted forehand from Draxl and executed a perfect backhand pass to go up 15-40. But Draxl stepped up, hitting a backhand volley winner and a forehand winner on the line to get back to deuce and he hit his seventh and final ace of the match to put the pressure back on Svajda.

Svajda had shown no signs of faltering throughout the high-pressure situations previously, but Draxl forced him into two errors to start the game. Svajda hit a forehand winner to pull even at 30-all, but made another error to give Draxl a third match point, and this time Svajda couldn't save it, hitting a forehand long to end the match.

"I was a little bit tired, by the end," said the slightly built Svajda. "We had some long points. Every point was long, most of them anyway."

Draxl was impressed by Svajda's performance.

"He was so tough, he was running me around with his angles and big forehands, it was really tough," Draxl said. "If you drop your focus for just one game, it's a completely different story against a good player like him. I had to fight really hard to win that. It's pretty unusual, because usually if you're in a Grade 1 ITF final, it's going to be someone you know and he's playing a bunch of ITFs too. But he's just a local kid."

Draxl, who trains with Peter Billingham at the Saddlebrook Resort in Florida, said he played this event with an eye toward a seeding at the summer's junior slams.

"From what I calculated, I think I'll be 10," Draxl said of his ITF Junior ranking. "That the was kind of the purpose of playing this tournament to be honest, and I needed to play one more tournament and I thought this would be an opportunity to get some more points, and it worked out."

After a ITF World Tennis Tour event in Florida, Draxl will head to the Grade A in Milan and the French Open.

Svajda, who was playing in just his second ITF Junior event, is also headed to Florida, to a playoff being held at the USTA's Lake Nona National Campus for Challenger and $25K wild cards. Currently without a coach in San Diego, Svajda, who considers John Isner as his chief mentor, is spending more time training at the USTA campus, although he is still looking for a full-time training base. He spent most of March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, serving as a hitting partner, and practiced with Roger Federer the final three days of the tournament.

Black's second straight title in Carson came despite an array of ailments and misfortunes, with the 18-year-old from Florida winning the final four games of the match to overcome Ma.

After a shaky start by Ma, who is not prone to unforced errors but made a slew of them to lose her final two service games in the first set, the 15-year-old from Northern California began calm her nerves and  adjust to Black's unconventional game, especially the slice forehand.

"It is the finals of a big tournament and her style is little bit different from the ones I've usually been playing," Ma said. "I needed to move her a little more and come in a little more on her slices, to give her less time, and to lengthen the rallies and get her moving."

Ma got the first break of the second set, lost it serving at 3-4 then broke Black to serve for the set at 5-4. Up 40-0, Ma couldn't convert her first three set points, but on the fourth, Black's slice went wide, and Ma was even.

"The first game of the second set, I fell on my hand, which I injured last week, and that made it even worse," Black said. "Then I scraped my knee and my shoelace broke off, and I played three games without my shoelaces tied, I had to tie it to the side and I could barely move, so it was really stressful for me."

Black's problems didn't go away in the third set, despite an early 2-0 lead. Ma broke back and held, starting a string of 11 straight points that resulted in a 3-2 lead for her.

"I hit one serve and started cramping in my leg, I started cramping more and more everywhere, then it went to my arm, my calf, my other leg," said Black, who said she vomited after the match, while suffering more cramping. "I honestly didn't think I could do it, after all the stuff that was going on, I was freaking out a lot."

But Black refocused on the changeover at 2-3.

"After those three games, I went back, sat down, took some energy gummies, drank some Gatorade and realized that I had to keep going," Black said. "It's only 3-2, and anything can happen and I knew how much I really wanted this match, so I just fought my ass off for it."

Ma said Black's tumbles on the court and her visits from the trainer, didn't disrupt her focus.

"I've watched her play a couple of matches this week and I saw her fall a lot of times, so I kind of expected it," said Ma, who is coached by Max Taylor at Tompkins Tennis.

But with her ailments mounting, Black played a bit more aggressively, breaking Ma to even the set at 3 and holding at love in the next game. Ma reverted to the pattern of unforced errors that plagued her late in the first set, and after getting broken at love, her usual calm demeanor dissolved, as she berated herself with the demand to "make one ball."

With Black serving for the match, Ma did step up her play, and she had a break point, but Black saved it when Ma's backhand went long. When Ma sent a forehand long, Black got to match point, and converted it, putting a volley past Ma with both players at the net.

Black was impressed by Ma's game.

"I think she's a great player, especially being 15 years old," Black said. "She places the ball better than anybody I've ever seen. Usually you see players trying to play offense or defense, but she's just worried about where she's placing the ball. I thought that was a very good thing for her."

Black, who signed with Baseline Management company in January, said she's headed home to Boca Raton to rest and to find a coach.

"I haven't had a coach in a little bit, but I'm going home to try to work on it and figure stuff out," said Black, who plans to play the junior slams this summer, with Italy or Belgium her first event on the clay. "But I'm definitely going to play some $15Ks, I'm just not sure where yet."

Ma returns to Dublin High School, with her trip to the ITF Spring Championships fitting into her schedule because it was spring break.

"I don't know when my next tournament will be," said Ma, who was playing just her third ITF Junior Circuit event this week. "Probably in the summer-ish, I'm not really sure."

Complete results are available at the tournament website.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Ma and Black Meet for Girls Title, Svajda and Draxl Advance to Boys Championship Match at ITF G1 International Spring Championships; Woldeab and Chang Claim 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Carson, CA--

Two wild cards and two top seeds will meet Sunday for ITF Grade B1 International Spring Championships singles titles at the Dignity Health Sports Parks after all advanced with straight-sets win Saturday.

Defending champion and girls No. 1 seed Hurricane Tyra Black was the closest to going to a third set, when unseeded Katrina Scott twice served for the second set, at 5-4 and at 6-5, holding a 40-0 lead in that 12th game.

"I honestly thought the set was going to be done," said Black, who went on to win 6-3, 7-6(3). "But she made three mistakes in a row and I was like, I can do this. Then the whole tiebreaker I was really nervous--I don't seem like it some time, but I am--I was super nervous, and then I started cramping the last two points."

Up a mini-break at 4-3 in the tiebreaker, Black held her two serves, with Scott sending two consecutive forehands long to make it 6-3. Black converted her first match point when Scott's backhand found the net, while Black was unable to shake hands with Scott or the chair umpire due to a hand cramp.

"I couldn't change my racquet grip to anything but my slice," Black said. "I couldn't move my hand, it was stuck in that one place and it got a little annoying."

Black's opponent in the final will be 15-year-old wild card Connie Ma, who defeated No. 13 seed Robin Montgomery 6-3, 6-4 to reach her first Grade 1 final while playing in just her third ITF Junior Circuit tournament.

Ma got the only break of the first set in the third game and held throughout, having no difficulty standing up to Montgomery's pace. Montgomery took a 2-0 lead in the second set, but lost the next four games, with Ma just too steady.

"I knew I had to break back, but because that would be a huge momentum shift for her," said Ma, who plays few competitive events during the school year. "I tried my best to get the next game and thankfully, I did, otherwise it would have been hard to get back into it. It can shift your play a lot. Sometimes when things aren't going your way, if you can get a couple of games, your whole mood and attitude changes, and that helps you play better."

Ma, who expected Montgomery to play her aggressive baseline game, knew she had to keep control of the points.

"I just tried to keep her moving and make sure I don't hit every ball right to her, because if she just stands there, she's going to dictate and that would be troublesome for me," Ma said.

Black, who at 18 is facing younger players regularly in this Southern California junior swing, said she has little experience with Ma's game style.

"I think I played her in doubles here last year, but you don't really learn much about somebody in doubles, so we'll just have to see tomorrow," Black said.

Black, currently at 13 in the ITF junior rankings, said she will be relaxed in the final, since reaching the championship means she will retain a Top 20 ranking regardless of the outcome of the match.

"Now that I'm in the finals, I don't have to worry about the points or anything anymore," Black said. "So tomorrow, win or lose, it's really exciting for me."

Top seed Liam Draxl of Canada advanced to his first Grade 1 final, defeating No. 12 seed Andrew Dale 7-5, 6-3, his fifth consecutive straight-sets win.

Serving at 5-all in the first set, Draxl saved four break points, and immediately went up 15-40 on Dale's serve.

"I was was down three, four break points, but ended up coming out of that game, which was like 15 or 20 minutes," said the 17-year-old University of Kentucky recruit. "That was the biggest game of match."

Draxl is vocal and emotional on court, but he said none of the exhortations, he gives himself, like his frequent "Wake up", are strategic.

"I'm crazy on court," said Draxl, who is from Ontario. "I just say that all the time when I'm down in the first set, it just sparks me a little bit. I don't even know what I'm saying."

Draxl's opponent in the final is wild card Zachary Svajda, who cruised past unseeded Stefan Dostanic 6-1, 6-1 in the second boys semifinal of the day.

The 16-year-old from San Diego has lost only three games in his past three matches, receiving a walkover in his quarterfinal match Friday.

"I've been playing better throughout the tournament," Svajda said. "The beginning was a little shaky (a 4-6, 7-6(4) 6-2 win over No. 4 seed Martin Damm). Especially in the round of 16, when I won 1 and 0, I was playing really well. As long as I keep it up for tomorrow."

Svajda was happy with his level throughout the match against Dostanic, who he played many times when both were 12 and under, but not since then.

"We played a lot when we were younger and it was always back and forth," Svajda said. "He would win one, I would win one, but we haven't played in what, five years, until we met here."

After holding to start the match, Dostanic lost ten straight games, and while Svajda said he was returning well and handling Dostanic's big shots, most of the points ended with Dostanic making an error. It wasn't until Dostanic broke Svajda serving at 4-0 that a comeback seemed possible, but Dostanic double faulted three times in the next game and Svajda held for the win.

"At 4-1 in the second, I thought maybe he could pick it up, and I was getting a little tight," Svajda said. "He was playing a little bit better, it was definitely closer in the second. It was a little windy, and he hits really big, but I was pretty consistent and moving well, so he didn't hit too many winners."

The boys final is schedule for 10:00 a.m. PDT Sunday, followed by the girls final.

The 16s champions were crowned Saturday morning, with unseeded Alexander Chang and Winta Woldeab taking the titles.

Woldeab unseated defending champion Anne Lutkemeyer 6-3, 6-4, closing out her sixth consecutive straight-sets victory to join her brother Siem as a 16s International Spring champion.

Woldeab, 15, broke Lutkemeyer to end the first set, and did the same in the second set, eventually forcing the action on match point by approaching the net.

"She's a fierce competitor, she wins a lot, so I had to play with my strategy, keep it going, and that's what won the match," said the unseeded Woldeab, who trains at both the Barnes Center in San Diego and with Bob Simmons at the Peninsula Tennis Club. "She had really good, powerful ground strokes, moved well from side to side. I just kept in mind that I had to play my game, and I did."

No. 7 seed Lutkemeyer, who won the title last year at age 13, decided to defend her title in order to assure herself of matches.

"We weren't sure if I would play 16s or 18s, just because if I played 18s, I would have probably gone into the qualifying," Lutkemeyer said. "So we just decided to play 16s, to get some matches in. Next year I'll definitely be playing 18s."

Woldeab had breezed through her semifinal match, while Lutkemeyer needed nearly three hours to get by Ria Bhakta, and she admitted she felt the effects from that contest.

"I'm a little tired from yesterday, but I really wanted to play well today, so I didn't let that affect me at all," said Lutkemeyer, who trains with Kevin Jackson and the Jackson-Bridge Academy in Fountain Valley California. "I think she played a really solid match. She was getting a lot of balls back, making a lot of balls in; she hit a lot of heavy spin balls. So she was backing me up and she took the right opportunities, played a really good match, really consistent and at the right moments she was able to get those points."

Lutkemeyer was happy with her own level in this year's final.

"I played really well this year," said Lutkemeyer, who will begin playing more ITF Junior Circuit events later this year. "I know last year I said I wasn't playing very well, but I think this year I played really good and I'm proud of the way I played. Even though I lost today, I played a good solid match and I'm happy with the way I played throughout the week."
Woldeab also couldn't be more pleased with her first Level 1 win.

"I'm ecstatic," said Woldeab, who matched her brother's 2017 accomplishment. "I'm really happy. It shows hard work pays off. I've been practicing a lot."

Chang's 6-3, 6-4 win over William Cooksey reversed the result of their previous meeting last week at the Easter Bowl, where Cooksey took
their consolation match.

"He played way tougher than I did that day, the key points," Chang said. "At Easter Bowl, he had a lot of good first serves that he got a lot of points off of. But here it was windy, so it was tough to make first serves and we were both trying for consistency, not going for too many lines. I had my chances last time we played, so I felt if I could capitalize on the key moments, I could take it. I was hungry to win."

Chang saved five break points in his first two service games, then broke at love in the fourth game to take the lead for good. The 15-year-old from Berkeley California then went up 3-0 in the second set, but Cooksey fought back, getting one break back to make it 3-1, and then pulling even at 4 for a second break.

"When I got it back to 4-all and I was serving, I had a couple of chances, blew a couple of chances," said Cooksey, a 15-year-old from Grosse Pointe Shores Michigan, who trains with Joe Shaheen at Wimbledon Racquet Club."I thought that if I got that game, maybe I could take the set and see what would happen, but it didn't turn out that way."

Chang was happy to get out of that game and serve out the match.

"It feels good," said Chang, who trains at the Berkeley Tennis Club with Morten Christensen and Rafa Cirne Lima. "It's been about a year since I won a title. It's cool; a lot of good players come through here."
Cooksey did get his winner's trophy in the doubles final later in the day. He and partner Jeffrey Etterbeek, who were unseeded, defeated No. 4 seeds Lucas Brown and Alexander Karman 6-1, 0-6, 10-7 to take the championship. Cooksey and Etterbeek defeated four seeded teams to take the title.
The girls 16s doubles title went to Ava Krug and Tsehay Driscoll, who defeated Makenna Martinez and Maxine Murphy 6-3, 6-2. Although unseeded, Krug and Driscoll did not drop a set in their four victories this week.
The 18s doubles champions were decided Saturday afternoon, with unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash taking the girls title, and top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat claiming the boys title.

Harvey and Subhash reached the finals at both the Grade 1 Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl last year, so taking that final step Saturday, with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 8 seeds Ellie Coleman and Jenna DeFalco, was especially sweet.

"We were really excited that we were able to close it out today," said Harvey.

"Third time's a charm," said Subhash, who won the International Spring Championships doubles title last year with Katie Volynets.

Harvey and Subhash lost only one set during the week, in their second round 6-1, 6-7(6) 10-7 win over No. 7 seeds Kailey Evans and Robin Montgomery.

"We were up and then we became a little bit loose in the second set," said Harvey. "So after that match especially, we need to make sure we keep our foot on the gas, especially in the second sets. Not to let them come back when we win the first set."

"We told ourselves we wouldn't do that again," Subhash added.

In the final, there was no taking the foot off gas.

"I think we kept to our game plan of trying to play aggressive and go for as many volleys as we can," Harvey said. "Both of us feel pretty confident at the net."

"We were definitely trying to keep the points short," said Subhash. "We didn't get into too many of the long cross-court rallies, and I think we both served well too. That really helped."

Harvey and Subhash aren't sure they will have an opportunity to play together again, with Harvey heading to North Carolina and Subhash to Virginia this fall.

"We'll actually be playing against each other because we're in the same conference," Harvey said. "I don't know if we're going to play any more tournaments before we leave, so this might have been the last one," Subhash said.
The 16-year-old Kodat and the 15-year-old Damm have many tournaments both ahead and behind them. The pair have played together so often that they can't even guess at the number of times, but they showed the value of that familiarity throughout the week and in the final, beating unseeded Braeden Ho and Welsh Hotard 6-3, 6-2.

"The friendship helps by a mile," said Damm.

Both Kodat and Damm speak Czech, but use it only when necessary, preferring English.

"We understand English better," Damm said, "and sometimes we mess it up, especially when it's a tight situation. But on changeovers, when the opponents are right next to us, when we're trying to say go line or go cross on the return, for sure we say it in Czech."

Both were pleased with their play in the final.

"I think we played really well today," said Kodat. "It was a good day for us, we were holding serve well. We didn't give them too many chances. We were very solid today."

The match featured only two deciding points, both in the second set, with Damm and Kodat winning both, one on serve, one on return.

As for future tournaments, Damm and Kodat are planning to play together often in Europe this spring and summer, when their schedules coincide.

For complete results, see the tournament website.

Friday, April 5, 2019

March Aces; Woldeab and Lutkemeyer Meet for Girls 16s International Spring Championships Title, Cooksey and Chang in Boys 16s Final; Wild Card Ma, Unseeded Dostanic Advance to ITF 18s Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Carson, CA--

Before I get to today's action at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, here's the link to the March Aces column at the Tennis Recruiting Network. As usual, there's a substantial number of former collegians featured, as well as some impressive ITF World Tennis Tour results from juniors, both American and international.

The 16s finals are set for Saturday at the Dignity Health Sports Park, with a Southern Californian certain of taking the girls title.  Irvine's Anne Lutkemeyer, the defending champion, will face La Mesa's Winta Woldeab after the pair won their semifinal matches Friday in contrasting fashion. 

Lutkemeyer, the No. 7 seed, needed nearly three hours to get past No. 6 seed Ria Bhakta 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, while Woldeab made customary short work of her opponent, Makenna Martinez, 6-1, 6-2.  Woldeab has not surrendered more than two games in any set and only 12 games total in her first five victories. Woldeab is the younger sister of Siem Woldeab, who won the boys 16s title in 2017.

As a seed, Lutkemeyer had a bye in the first round but she too got through to the semifinals without dropping a set, until she ran into Bhakta, coming off the 14s final at the Easter Bowl.

The boys 16s final will feature William Cooksey, a two-time Division 4 Michigan High School champion, against Alexander Chang of Berkeley California. Cooksey defeated Chang 7-5, 6-3 in the back draw of the Easter Bowl last week.  Cooksey beat Eli Gordon 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Chang, who has yet to lose a set in his four wins, downed Jiaxi Ma of China 6-3, 6-4. None of the boys semifinalists were seeded.

Four unseeded players, including two wild cards, have advanced to Saturday's semifinals of the 18s division.  Katrina Scott continued her impressive tournament, with the 14-year-old taking down her third seed today, beating error-prone No. 7 seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-3.  Scott will get another test on Saturday, against defending champion and top seed Hurricane Tyra Black, who beat No. 12 seed Emma Jackson 6-1, 6-0. Jackson had beaten Black last week in the third round of the Easter Bowl. Black and Scott met last year at an ITF Grade 4 in Florida, with Black winning 7-5, 6-3.
The girls semifinal in the bottom half features wild card Connie Ma against No. 13 seed Robin Montgomery. No. 8 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico had two set points in the first set, serving at 5-4, 40-15, but Easter Bowl finalist Montgomery picked up her level when under pressure and sustained it, taking a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Ma, the reigning 18s Winter Nationals champion, defeated No. 14 seed Jenna DeFalco 6-2, 6-4.  Ma was up 3-0 and serving in the second set, but lost three straight games before breaking DeFalco to regain the lead.

"I think that break was pretty critical," said the 15-year-old Ma, who blamed that poor stretch on her own unforced errors. "If she won that game I don't know what was going to happen after that."

Ma still attends regular school, so her competitive schedule is limited, but she is 29-2 since last year's International Spring Championships, with the only two losses to ITF Junior Circuit stars Coco Gauff (at the USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego) and Daria Lopatetska of Ukraine (at the US Open Juniors). This is just her third ITF Junior Circuit tournament.

Ma said she has not played Montgomery before, but was aware of her run at the Easter Bowl.

"I think she plays pretty aggressive, but I haven't watched her play much, to be honest," Ma said.

As for her own game, Ma names movement and timing as her chief strengths, and as to what she would like to improve, Ma cited her "serve, and transitioning from defense to offense and offense to defense."

In the boys semifinals, top seed Liam Draxl of Canada will face No. 12 seed Andrew Dale after both scored straight-sets victories Friday. Draxl lost his break in the first set against No. 5 seed Toby Kodat, but found his form in the tiebreaker and cruised from there to a 7-6(1), 6-1 victory. Dale was down to No. 13 seed Jacob Bullard, who served for the first set at 5-3, but Bullard didn't win another game, with Dale claiming a 7-5, 6-0 win. Dale and Draxl met last fall in the second round of a Grade 2 in Canada, with Draxl winning that match 6-2, 6-2.
The bottom half semifinal will be an all-Southern California affair, with wild card Zachary Svajda against unseeded Stefan Dostanic. San Diego's Svajda, who had lost only one game in his previous two wins, did not have to take the court today, with Marcus McDaniel withdrawing due to a back injury. Dostanic defeated No. 8 seed Blu Baker of Great Britain 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the only 18s semifinal match to go three sets.

"When I was up a set and a break, I feel like I strayed away from my game," said Dostanic, a 17-year-old from Irvine. "I was winning when I was coming to net, pushing him around, then finishing at the net with my volleys. In the second, I just tried to win from the baseline, and he's a very solid, very consistent player, so all the points were from the baseline. But in the third, I told myself to go back to my game, and I did a lot better."

Dostanic said he and Svajda go back many years in Southern California junior competition.

"Me and him go back to the 8s honestly in SoCal," Dostanic said. "We played a lot growing up, probably 15 times. I haven't seen him in a while, but he's doing very well, so it should be a good match. He's had some pretty short matches, so he'll be ready."

The doubles finals in both age division are scheduled for Saturday. In the 16s, Cooksey and his partner Jeffrey Etterbeek, will play No. 4 seeds Lucas Brown and Alexander Karman. Cooksey and Etterbeek defeated No. 3 seed Ryan Morgan and Jake Vassel 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals, while Brown and Karman come back to take a 4-6, 6-3 10-7 win over Chang and Cooper Williams.

The girls 16s doubles championship match will feature Ava Krug and Tsehay Driscoll against Martinez and Maxine Murphy.  Martinez and Murphy defeated Julia Fliegner and Nataly Kader 6-2, 7-5; Driscoll and Krug topped Parker Fry and Sofia Zaprianov 6-2, 6-1.

In the 18s, top seeds Kodat and Martin Damm reached their second straight final, with the Easter Bowl runners-up beating unseeded Dostanic and Bullard 6-3, 4-6, 10-5. They will play unseeded Welsh Hotard and Braedan Ho, who saved a match point in their 6-3, 4-6, 11-9 win over No. 6 seeds Blaise Bicknell and Ronan Jachuk.

Natasha Subhash will defend her title in the girls 18s doubles final, this time with partner Kacie Harvey. Subhash, who won with Katie Volynets last year, and Harvey defeated No. 4 seeds Savannah Broadus and Vanessa Ong 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals. They will play No. 8 seeds Ellie Coleman and DeFalco, who beat unseeded Holly Fischer of Great Britain and Skyler Grishuk 7-6(4), 7-6(5). Coleman and DeFalco, who saved set points on deciding points in both the first and second sets, trailed 5-2 in the second set tiebreaker before winning the final five points of the match.

Saturday's order of play is available at the tournament website.