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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Twenty Americans Start Roehampton Grade 1 Sunday with Navarro Top Seed; Fritz Wins First ATP Title in Eastbourne; Mortera Named Women's Head Coach at Utah

As is the case at all junior slams, the first week of the pro event has the juniors warming up for their major tournament during the second week at a Grade 1 on the same surface. With Wimbledon's junior tournament starting on a Saturday, the Roehampton Grade 1 event begins on the previous Sunday, so that it can finish Friday. Tomorrow's first round singles matches will feature nine US boys and 11 US girls, including three who qualified today: Charlotte Owensby, Alexandra Yepifanova and Andres Martin.

French Open girls finalist Emma Navarro is the top seed, with Qinwen Zheng of China seeded No. 2.  In addition to Owensby, Yepifanova and Navarro, the other American girls in the draw are: Chloe Beck, Abigail Forbes, Robin Montgomery, Alexa Noel[8], Savannah Broadus, Hurricane Tyra Black[5], Elli Mandlik and Katrina Scott, who received entry via a special exemption for making the singles semifinal at this week's Grade 1 in Nottingham.

No. 2 seed Black lost in today's Nottingham final, retiring to No. 4 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi down 6-4, 2-1. No. 3 seed Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan won the boys singles title, beating unseeded Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain 6-3, 6-1.

The US boys in the draw, in addition to Martin, are Eliot Spizzirri, defending champion Brandon Nakashima[6], Cannon Kingsley, Martin Damm[4], Emilio Nava[7], Govind Nanda, Tyler Zink and Dali Blanch. Blanch is listed as a special exempt entry, although the exemption must have been rain related, as it is rare for a doubles quarterfinalist to receive one.  Missing from the American contingent is French Open finalist Toby Kodat, who was originally scheduled to play the event. Kodat was ill last weekend during the Hutchins Trophy competition, but I'm not sure if his absence this week in Roehampton is related to that. He is still entered in the Wimbledon Junior Championships.

Taylor Fritz won his first ATP title today at the 250 tournament in Eastbourne, defeating Sam Querrey 6-3, 6-4 in the final. The 21-year-old Southern Californian's previous best showing in an ATP event came in 2016, when he reached the Memphis tournament's final as a wild card. Fritz joins friends Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka as ATP champions, with Tiafoe winning Delray Beach last year and Opelka taking the New York Open this year. Fritz will now move to a career-high ATP ranking of 31, and although he is not seeded at Wimbledon, he has a good chance to be seeded at the US Open. For more on Fritz's win today, see this article from the ATP website.

Four years ago, Fritz was No. 1 in the ITF Junior World rankings. I spoke to him at Wimbledon that year for this Tennis Recruiting Network article(subscription required for complete interview); at that time he had not yet decided to turn pro, but was obviously leaning in that direction. His US Open boys title two months later made his decision to immediately pursue a pro career easier, and six months later he had made the Memphis final.

One of the three Power 5 conference women's head coaching vacancies was filled this week, with Ric Mortera set to lead the Utah program after one year as head coach at Fresno State. Prior to taking the Fresno State job, Mortera was the women's associate head coach at Texas Tech for three years. For more on Mortera's background, see this article at the Utah website.