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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Seventeen of 36 Americans on Monday's US Open Qualifying Schedule; Qualifying Complete at ITF Grade 1 in College Park; Keys Claims Cincinnati Title

Qualifying for the US Open begins Monday, which is a first for the tournament, which has been Tuesday-Friday in past years. This year's Monday-Friday schedule should make for shorter days, which had extended past 10 p.m. on occasion. A total of 36 Americans, 18 of them wild card recipients, will play for a US Open main draw berth, with 17 of them scheduled to play on Monday.

The 16 US men participating in qualifying:
Michael Mmoh*
Sebastian Korda[WC]*
JC Aragone[WC]*
Govind Nanda[WC]*
Mitchell Krueger
Stefan Kozlov[WC]
Thai Kwiatkowski*
Alex Rybakov[WC]*
Sam Riffice[WC]*
Tommy Paul[10]*
Jenson Brooksby[WC]*
Ryan Harrison*
Maxime Cressy[WC]*
JJ Wolf[WC]
Noah Rubin
Donald Young

*On Monday's schedule

The 20 US women participating in qualifying:
Emma Navarro[WC]*
Christina McHale[4]
Robin Anderson
Nicole Gibbs[24]
Danielle Lao
{Shelby Rogers[WC]
{Caroline Dolehide[WC]
Sachia Vickery
Bethanie Mattek-Sands[WC]
Vicky Duval[WC]
Reese Brantmeier[WC]*
Hailey Baptiste[WC]
Jamie Loeb[WC]
Varvara Lepchenko[11]
Allie Kiick*
Taylor Townsend[13]*
Ann Li*
Usue Arconada*
Asia Muhammad
Katrina Scott[WC]

*On Monday's schedule
{{ Play each other in first round

Emma Navarro, who received her wild card for reaching the final last week at the USTA National 18s Championships in San Diego, drew top seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. Govind Nanda, who received his wild card for reaching the 18s final last week in Kalamazoo, drew ATP No. 163 Oscar Otte of Germany.

Qualifying concluded today at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, and I'll be providing coverage of the tournament for the sixth straight year beginning at 9 a.m. Monday at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. The top girls seed is Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who lost in the final of a $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Kenya today, but is still in the draw as of this evening. Top seed in the boys draw is Flavio Cobolli of Italy, who is draw to play Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda. I didn't ask Svajda specifically if he was going to play this tournament after he won Kalamazoo last week, but I was under the impression he was not planning to play again before the US Open. I'll know soon enough, with that match first on the JTCC's stadium court. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s tomorrow, so the implementation of the ITF's junior heat rule is a real possibility.

The boys qualifiers:
Bruno Krenn(USA)
Azuma Visaya(USA)
Ozan Colak(USA)
Braden Shick(USA)
Evan Wen(USA)
Michael Zheng(USA)
Tauheed Browning(USA)
Derek Raskopf(USA)

The girls qualifiers:
Nicole Hammond(USA)
Sydni Ratliff(USA)
Meera Jesudason(USA)
Ruth Marsh(USA)
Isabelle Kouzmanov(USA)
Taylor Cataldi(USA)
Neha Velaga(USA)
Muskan Mahajan(USA)

For Monday's order of play and the draws, see the tournament website.

Madison Keys won the biggest tournament of her career today at the WTA Premier event in Cincinnati. The 24-year-old defeated wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-5, 7-6(5) after trailing 5-3 in both sets in this afternoon's final, and will move back into the Top 10 on Monday. For more on the Cincinnati final, see this article from the WTA website.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Dolehide Wins Concord $60K; Cid Downs Blanch in Memphis Final; Kittay and Wood Claim ITF Grade 4 Titles in Mexico; Keys Tops Kenin in Cincinnati

Caroline Dolehide won the singles title at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Concord Massachusetts, beating Ann Li 6-3, 7-5 in this afternoon's final. It's the second $60K title of Dolehide's career, and it moves her back near the WTA Top 200. The 20-year-old from Chicago was as high as 102 last summer.

The wild card team of Angela Kulikov and Rianna Valdes, teammates for the past three years at USC, won their first title in just their second tournament as a team, beating unseeded Ellie Halbauer and Ingrid Neel(Florida) today 7-6(3), 4-6, 17-15 in just under two hours.

At the $25,000 men's tournament in Memphis, former University of South Florida All-American Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic took the singles title, with the top seed saving two match points to defeat No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8).

Two American juniors, both seeded No. 2, claimed the singles titles at the ITF Grade 4 in Monterrey Mexico, with Benjamin Kittay and Sasha Wood prevailing in straight sets.  Kittay, who won the Kalamazoo 16s doubles title last Saturday with Hugo Hashimoto and is scheduled to compete in this coming week's ITF Grade 1 in College Park, defeated No. 6 seed Mario Duron Garza of Mexico 6-2, 6-4 for his first Grade 4 singles title. Kittay was a finalist last year in Monterrey.

Wood defeated No. 3 seed Sofia Caezas Dominguez of Venezuela 6-2, 6-1 in the final for her fourth singles title and second at the Grade 4 level.

Madison Keys ended the run of Sonya Kenin this afternoon in Cincinnati, with the No. 16 seed winning 7-5, 6-4. Keys will play Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, a wild card, for the title Sunday.

Sunday is the final day of qualifying for the new WTA International tournament next week in the Bronx, and Elli Mandlik has won two matches in the past two days to advance to the final round. Mandlik, 18, defeated Jennifer Elie 6-4, 6-4 yesterday and beat YingYing Duan of China 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 today. She will face No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France for a place in the main draw, and it will be Mandlik's first match against a WTA Top 100 opponent, with Ferro ranked 71.

The final round of qualifying is set for Sunday morning at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland.  Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who is entered and would be the No. 1 girls seed, is currently playing in a $15K in Nairobi, where she has reached the final.  All first round matches in College Park are scheduled to be played on Monday, so it seems unlikely that she will be able to get here in time.

Friday, August 16, 2019

My Recap of Kalamazoo 18s Championships; Dolehide, Li and Blanch Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Ecarma Out at Louisville; Kenin Advances to Second Straight WTA Premier Semifinal; College Park ITF Grade 1 Wild Cards

The final two articles on last week's USTA National Championships were posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I covered Zachary Svajda's victory over Govind Nanda in the best-of-five boys 18s final in Kalamazoo and Rhiannon Potkey has the details on Katie Volynet's win over Emma Navarro in the girls 18s championship match in San Diego. Both articles also include coverage of the double finals, with Martin Damm and Toby Kodat and Abigail Forbes and Alexa Noel earning US Open main draw wild cards with their victories.

The two USTA Pro Circuit events this week in the United States end on Saturday rather than the customary Sunday finish, and three Americans will be vying for titles.  Wild card Caroline Dolehide, who won the silver medal in singles and gold medal in doubles at the Pan Am Games earlier this month, advanced to the final of the $60,000 tournament in Concord Massachusetts, beating qualifier Olga Govortsova of Belarus 7-6(2), 6-4.  She will face Ann Li, also unseeded this week, who advanced to her second straight $60K final with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Usue Arconada.

At the $25,000 men's tournament in Memphis, Ulises Blanch has reached the final, where he'll face top seed Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic. Blanch, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) 6-3, 6-2, while Cid, the former All-American at the University of South Florida, got by No. 7 seed Daniel Nguyen(USC) 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

No. 2 seeds Ian Dempster(NC State/Wake Forest) and Korey Lovett(Alabama/Central Florida) won the doubles title in Memphis, beating No. 4 seeds Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) and Alexander Cozbinov(UNLV) of Moldova 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

The University of Louisville has fired men's head coach Rex Ecarma, two months after placing him on leave while an investigation was in progress. Ecarma, the head coach at Louisville for 29 years, was under scrutiny for his "treatment of student-athletes," according to the suspension letter that was obtained by the Louisville Courier-Journal. This article from WDRB, quoting a Louisville press release, says Ecarma will be paid according to his contract, which runs through 2023.

Sonya Kenin has beaten her second WTA No. 1 in two weeks, advancing to Saturday's semifinals in Cincinnati when Naomi Osaka retired trailing 6-4, 1-6, 2-0. Kenin had beaten Ashleigh Barty last week in Toronto, which allowed Osaka to reclaim the No. 1 position. Regardless of how she fares in the semifinals against either Venus Williams or Madison Keys, Kenin will make her WTA Top 20 debut on Monday.

I'll again be covering the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Junior Tennis Championships in College Park Maryland beginning Monday with the start of the main draw. Qualifying begins Saturday with two rounds and will finish on Sunday with one round. The order of play and the draws are available here.

The wild cards have been distributed as follows:
Muhammad Dossani
Ekansh Kumar
Samir Banerjee
Trinity Greer
Hayden Postin
Hugo Hashimoto
Luke Casper
Cash Hanzlik

Elise Wagle
Carson Tanguilig
Nishitha Saravanan
Clervie Ngounoue
Ashlyn Krueger
Tsehay Driscoll
Alison Bach
Noa Boyd

Thursday, August 15, 2019

My Recap of Kalamazoo 16s National Championships; Masi Named to Replace Peter Smith at USC; ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Moves Indoors; New Athletic Complex in Carson to Feature 52 Tennis Courts

Beginning with the 12s on Tuesday, the Tennis Recruiting Network has been providing recaps of the USTA National Championships, held last week in five different cities.  The article on the girls 12s final in Alpharetta Georgia, which saw Claire An defeat Bella Payne is here. For more on the boys 12s final in Mobile Alabama between Maxwell Exsted and Abhinav Chunduru click here.

The boys 14s, also in Mobile, concluded with Cooper Williams beating Nicholas Godsick, and Theadora Rabman defeated Brooklyn Olson in the girls 14s final in Rome Georgia.

My article on Alex Bernard's win over Aidan Mayo for the Kalamazoo 16s title was posted today, as was Rhiannon Potkey's look at Reese Brantmeier's victory in the 16s final over Valencia Xu in San Diego. My recap also features comments from 16s doubles champions Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay. The 18s article will go up on Friday.

The news broke last weekend that Brett Masi would be leaving Texas Tech and returning to USC to replace Peter Smith and USC made it official today with this announcement.  Masi, who was an assistant to Smith at USC from 2005-2009, left after their 2009 NCAA team title to take the head coaching job at University of San Diego. He was there from 2010-2015 before taking the head coaching job at Texas Tech, where he has been the past four years. USC announced Smith's retirement on July 19th. The release does not say whether current associate head coach Kris Kwinta will remain.

After many years in Tulsa, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed left Oklahoma in 2018, with the tournament held in Charlotte, North Carolina last October. Although the University of North Carolina-Charlotte has a beautiful facility, the lack of indoor courts and outdoor lights made it a difficult week, with Hurricane Michael playing a large role in that frustration. This year the event is moving to Nicholasville Kentucky, outside of Lexington, and will be played on 12 indoor courts at Top Seed Tennis, a private club. Qualifying is scheduled for October 5-6, with main draw running from October 7-12.  The deadline for entry is September 10, and due to the time of year and the closed nature of the tournament, the qualifying rarely fills, so those interested in getting started in ITF tournaments should consider entering.

In February, the USTA announced its foundation as a partner in the construction of the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus in Carson California. With approval from the Los Angeles County board, construction is expected to begin this winter, and when complete, will feature 52 tennis courts and five soccer fields as well as academic facilities. USTA Player Development-West, currently just a short distance away, and the USTA Southern California section are expected to move to the facility upon its completion.  The USTA's initial release is here and a recent press release from the County of Los Angeles is here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

UTR's San Francisco $120,000 Event Offers Prize Money for Top College, Junior Finishers, in Addition to $50K to Overall Winner; Svajda Among Youngest Men's Competitors Ever at US Open

Last week UTR announced a new men's tournament, the Kunal Patel San Francisco Open, which will feature a total of $120,000 in prize money. The competition begins with a staggered entry qualifying tournament at the Fremont Tennis Club from August 31 through September 2, with the two finalists, as well as two wild cards, receiving entry into the main tournament, which is scheduled for September 12-15 at the Berkeley Tennis Club. Players will be selected based on their Universal Tennis Ratings.

ATP pros Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn are expected to compete in the Berkeley portion of the tournament, with the players with the eight best UTRs among the entrants bypassing the qualifying round. The winner receives $50,000 and the finalist $20,000, but what makes this tournament unique is prize money for a variety of top finishers, not just those who compete against the pros in that part of the event.

The top 2 players advancing the furthest in the qualifying tournament in the following categories will have a final playoff on Sunday, September 15th to earn the following prize money/expense reimbursement:
  • 40 & Over: Winner $2,000, Finalist $1,000  
  • College: Winner $3,000, Finalist $1,000
  • 18 & Under: Winner $3,000, Finalist $1,000
  • 14 & Under: Winner $500, Finalist $250
This is a great opportunity to play a certified UTR event and earn money while doing so, without actually needing to win a tournament to receive it.

College players would be able to retain their amateur status as long as they use their winnings to offset expenses, while the juniors are allowed to accept up to $10,000 a year without affecting their amateur status.

To enter, and for more details, see the UTR event page, with the deadline for entry August 25th.

Randy Walker at World Tennis has delved into the US Open archives to see where 16-year-old Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda lands among the youngest participants in the main draw of the men's singles in New York.  Svajda is the youngest player since Donald Young in 2005 (the article says 2007, which is incorrect), with Young turning 16 the month before. Svajda turns 17 in November.

1988 Kalamazoo champion Tommy Ho is the youngest man to play at the Open in the Open era, at age 15. I believe Ho is also the last player to win Kalamazoo in his debut here, which is what Svajda did this year.

I'm occasionally asked who was the most impressive Kalamazoo champion I've seen in my 40 plus years of watching the finals, and I would have to go with 1983 champion Aaron Krickstein, who won Kalamazoo just days after turning 16, and went on to make the fourth round of the US Open just a few weeks later. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Gauff Accepts US Open Wild Card; Men's USO Wild Cards Also Announced; Sheehy, Rogers Capture ITA Summer Circuit National Titles

The US Open men's and women's wild cards were announced today, ending the suspense as to Coco Gauff's status. Although she has used all her allotted WTA wild cards until next year, the 15-year-old was given a main draw US Open women's singles wild card by the USTA, which is not bound by the WTA's age eligibility restrictions. According to the WTA rules, participating in the main draw of the US Open as a wild card (rather than getting there via qualifying), Gauff will not earn any WTA ranking points regardless of her results:

Ranking Point Penalty: In the event a player plays in a Tournament that exceeds the number or level permitted to be played under the AER or enters a Tournament that in any way conflicts with the AER or Player Development Programs, that Tournament will not be counted for ranking points for that player.

The two American women who earned their wild cards via competition are 17-year-old Katie Volynets, the 18s National Champion, and 27-year-old Kristie Ahn, who won the USTA Wild Card Challenge. The two women's reciprocal wild cards with France and Australia were given by those federations to 17-year-old Diane Parry and former women's singles champion Samantha Stosur.  That leaves four additional main draw wild cards and those went to 17-year-olds Whitney Osuigwe and Caty McNally, former Ohio State star Francesca Di Lorenzo, 22, and Gauff.

Women's qualifying wild cards were given to Hailey Baptiste, 17; Reese Brantmeier, 14; Caroline Dolehide, 20; Vicky Duval, 23; Jamie Loeb, 24; Bethanie Mattek-Sands; Emma Navarro, 18; Shelby Rogers, 26; and Katrina Scott, 15. Loeb is the only college player of the nine; I'm a bit surprised by National 16s champion Brantmeier's wild card over say Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga, who has gone 9-5 in Pro Circuit events since graduating in May, and reached the semifinals of the $60,000 event in Landisville Pennsylvania last week.

The men's main draw wild cards are a much older group, with the exception of USTA National 18s champion Zachary Svajda, who is 16. Ernesto Escobedo, 23, won the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, and the French reciprocal wild card was given to 23-year-old Antoine Hoang. The Australian reciprocal wild card has yet to be announced.

Four 26-year-old Americans received wild cards: Jack Sock, Marcos Giron, Bjorn Fratangelo and Denis Kudla. Later in the day, Kudla moved into the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew, with 23-year-old Chris Eubanks receiving Kudla's wild card.

The first question many tennis fans on twitter posed after the announcement was why 22-year-old Tommy Paul didn't receive a main draw wild card. It was a bit of a surprise that he didn't get a wild card into Cincinnati qualifying, and a big surprise that he didn't get Kudla's wild card, as he is currently ranked at 112, higher than Fratangelo, Sock, Giron and Eubanks.

Paul finished second to Escobedo in the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, primarily due to his run at the Rogers Cup last week, where he qualified and won his first round before losing to No. 7 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy. These results are remarkably similar to Di Lorenzo's, who finished second to Ahn in the Wild Card Challenge after qualifying at the Rogers Cup and winning her first round before falling to No. 5 seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. With Di Lorenzo receiving a main draw wild card, the fact that Paul did not get one is puzzling.

Christina McHale also has a case, with her current WTA ranking of 102 higher than any of the players who did receive a main draw wild card.

The men's qualifying wild cards were given to: JC Aragone, 24; Jenson Brooksby, 18; Maxime Cressy, 22; Sebastian Korda, 19; Stefan Kozlov, 21; Govind Nanda 18; Sam Riffice, 20; Alex Rybakov, 22 and JJ Wolf, 20. Kozlov won his wild card in a playoff held at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.

Wild card distribution is tricky business and no player is entitled to one, unless they win it in a designated tournament or series of events. But the USTA should be trying to select the most deserving players, all other things being equal, and something seems off in their evaluation process this year.

The ITA Summer Circuit National Championships concluded today in Fort Worth Texas, with Abilene Christian rising senior Jonathan Sheehy and North Carolina State rising senior Anna Rogers claiming the titles, along with $3,000 in prize money and a wild card into October's ITA All-American Championships.  No. 15 seed Sheehy defeated Stanford rising sophomore Sangeet Sridhar, seeded ninth, 7-5, 6-2 in the singles championship match, and also won the doubles title, with partner Parker Wynn of Texas Tech. No. 5 seeds Sheehy and Wynn defeated Tennessee's Adam Walton and Andrew Rogers, the No. 6 seeds, 8-5 in the final.

Top seed Rogers, who finished the season No. 13 in the ITA National rankings, defeated unseeded Taylor Melville, a rising sophomore at Denver, 6-4, 7-6(7) for the title.  Elise Van Heuvelen, a senior at Iowa, and Yun Chen Hsieh, a freshman at Iowa State, won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair beating Texas A&M's Jayci Goldsmith and Tatiana Makarova, seeded No. 3, 8-7(8).

For more on the men's finals, see this article; for more on the women's finals, see this article.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Pro Circuit Update; Kristie Ahn, Ernesto Escobedo Win USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge

With most of my attention focused on the USTA Nationals and the ITF World Junior Tennis competition, I couldn't keep up with the Pro Circuit results, but American veterans won singles titles at the $60,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Landisville Pennsylvania and the men's ATP Challenger 90 in Aptos California.

Top seed Madison Brengle defended her title, defeating No. 2 seed Zhu Lin of China 6-4, 7-5 in the final for her second title of the year. Brengle also won a $60,000 tournament in Berkeley California last month.  Claire Liu and Vania King won the doubles title, beating former North Carolina teammates Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter 4-6, 6-2, 10-5 in the final. Neither team was seeded.

No. 2 seed Steve Johnson, whose ATP ranking had fallen into the 90s, returned to the Challenger level for the first time in over a year in Aptos. He claimed his second title there, with the first coming back in 2012, by defeating former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final.

Top seeds Marcelo Arevalo(Tulsa) of El Salvador and Miguel Reyes-Varela(Texas) of Mexico won the doubles title, beating unseeded Nathan Pasha(Georgia) and Max Schnur(Columbia) 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in the final.

At the $25,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit event in Edwardsville Illinois, 2018 NCAA champion Petros Chrysochos (Wake Forest) of Cyprus won his first Pro Circuit singles title of the year and the fifth of his career. The No. 6 seed defeated rising Arizona State senior Nathan Ponwith, who was unseeded, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5. It was Chrysochos' fourth three-set victory of the week, and the only match he won in straight sets involved two tiebreakers.

Ponwith did earn his first pro doubles title since 2016, with Liam Caruana(Texas) of Italy. In another final between unseeded teams, Ponwith and Caruana defeated George Goldhoff(Texas) and Alfredo Perez(Florida) 4-6, 6-4, 10-5.

This week's US events are a $60,000 women's tournament in Concord Massachusetts and a $25,000 men's event in Memphis Tennessee.  A number of Americans are also competing in Vancouver Canada, in a women's $100,000 ITF tournament and an ATP Challenger 100 there.

With the USTA Nationals drawing most Americans to those events, there's not much to report as far as the ITF Junior Circuit results go. The only title for an American junior came at a Grade 4 in Zimbabwe, where Lauren Cooper won the doubles titles with Li Zongyu of China. The top seeds defeated No. 8 seeds Vasilisa Lisina of Russia and Vipasha Mehra of India 7-5, 6-4 in the final.

Last week marked the end of the USTA's US Open Wild Card Challenge, with Ernesto Escobedo and Kristie Ahn winning the competition by accumulating the most ATP and WTA points in their best three results in five weeks of hard court tournaments around the world. Escobedo won the Granby Challenger and reached the semifinals in Aptos to finish at the top of the US competitors, while Ahn secured her first appearance at the US Open since she qualified as a 16-year-old back in 2008. Escobedo had also won the wild card challenge back in 2016.

Complete standings from this year's US Open Wild Card Challenge can be found here.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Svajda Claims Kalamazoo 18s Title; Bernard Saves Match Point to Win 16s Championship; Volynets Takes Girls 18s Crown in San Diego

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

Most players need years to acclimate themselves to the special atmosphere of the Kalamazoo Boys 18s and 16s National Championships. But for 16-year-old Zachary Svajda, it took only a few matches, with his first trip to the tournament ending with one of the biggest titles in junior tennis and the US Open main draw wild card that goes to the winner.  Svajda, seeded No. 6, defeated No. 5 seed Govind Nanda 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 Sunday afternoon at Stowe Stadium, with his progressively better performance in the best-of-five final mirroring his path in the tournament.

"It definitely took me a few days," the San Diego resident said of the time he needed to adjust to Kalamazoo's special character. "The first few matches weren't the best. But I would say third round it got a little bit better and then the fourth, the fifth, and in the semis and finals it got much, much better."

Svajda served for the first set at 5-4 after going down 3-0 to start the match, but he never got to set point, and Nanda played the more composed tiebreaker that decided the set.

In the second set, Svajda lost a 3-0 lead, but he earned his first set points of the match with Nanda serving at 5-6, 15-40, needing only one to even the match with Nanda throwing in a double fault.

Both players were aggressively attacking the other's second serve, and that continued throughout the third set. Svajda saved five break points at 1-1 in the third set, broke in the next game and managed to hold on to that break, taking the 2-1 lead in sets with a big first serve at 5-3 40-30.

"I was trying to attack his second serve and he was on mine," Svajda said. "I don't have the biggest second serve. That was my game plan, be aggressive, attack the second serve, and it worked."

Although Nanda had played four consecutive three-setters just to reach the final and was also in the doubles draw throughout the week, losing in Saturday's final, Svajda did not want to adopt a strategy that would wear his opponent down.

"I tried to win right away," said Svajda, who found his first experience in a best-of five match difficult both mentally and physically. "I didn't want to be out there five sets. I'm feeling it now. I'm pretty tired right now, but I like the three out of five sets. It's definitely tougher on your body.

Svajda got an early break in the fourth set, and he was able to stay in front, saving a break point in the fourth game, with two serves down the T crucial in that hold. With his backhand doing the bulk of the work, Svajda earned a second break and Nanda couldn't summon that last bit of energy, dropping the final nine points of the match.

Despite the errors that crept into his game as the match neared a fourth hour, Nanda was happy with his level of play.

"I thought I played pretty well," said the 18-year-old from Cerritos California. "Probably one of the best matches I've played all week to be honest. There was a little bit of nerves from both of us, he came out a little shaky too and I could sense that, but he picked it up as it went on."

Nanda, who receives a wild card into the US Open qualifying, admitted that fatigue could have contributed to the loss.

"It adds up, having to play that many matches, that many three-setters, all that time on court adds up," said Nanda, who will be returning to UCLA in January of 2020. "But I thought I handled it pretty well. I had some chances in every set except maybe the last, but all credit to him, he played really well."

Svajda, who confessed he didn't even remember what happened on match point, said he is still processing the reality of his US Open wild card.

"I was getting pretty nervous when I was one game away," said Svajda, who has yet to play a match above the Futures level. "But there were definitely some tears when I won, it was pretty special."

Although Svajda doesn't have any experience playing a competitive match with the top pros, he has hit and trained with several of them, including Roger Federer this year at Indian Wells, John Isner, and other pros who are based at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, where Svajda often trains.

Svajda plans to accept the US Open first round prize money, which is $58,000 this year, marking the beginning of his professional career, but his immediate plans include a return to San Diego for some rest and relaxation before testing his game on the courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.
The 16s final that preceded the 18s championship match also featured a come-from-behind victory, with top seed Alex Bernard saving a match point and coming from 4-1 down in the third set to beat No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

Mayo took the first set after a break at 5-all, with two let cord winners helping the 16-year-old from Torrance California close out the set.

Bernard, sensing he had to make a change to his strategy, played more aggressively early in the second set, hitting a spectacular winner off a good overhead from Mayo to take an early 2-0 lead. Mayo then struggled to get a serve in the court, hitting four double faults in the sixth game to go down 5-1. Bernard couldn't close out the set on his own serve, but the left-hander from Bonita Spring Florida broke Mayo for the third time in the set to pull even at a set apiece.

"In the second, I was like, ok I'm going with everything to the backhand and try to come in," Bernard said of his decision to focus on Mayo's one-handed backhand. "And I was finishing with overheads a lot."

Bernard held to open the third set, and before the second game, Mayo asked for a medical timeout, with the trainer working on his right hamstring.  After a long game, in which he saved four break points, Mayo found his stride, breaking Bernard twice to take a 4-1 lead.

"I got down 4-1 in the third off just being tentative," said Bernard, who turns 16 on Tuesday. "It went by really quickly, and I didn't even realize how quickly. So I thought I'm just going to make balls deep and look for opportunities to be aggressive. And then I think he won just one point out of the next eight, so I got it back to 4-3 and I thought, I've got a good chance here."

At 4-3 Mayo managed to hold serve after saving a break point, hitting two tough overheads with a forehand winner sandwiched in between. At 5-3, Bernard went up 40-30, but a couple of unforced errors gave Mayo a match point. Bernard decided to bring Mayo in with a drop shot, and the strategy, which hadn't been successful earlier in the match, worked this time, with Bernard able to execute a backhand pass.

"I was kind of thinking of lobbing it," Bernard said. "And then I just went for a passing shot and it went in."

The large crowd roared its approval and Bernard held after Mayo made two unforced errors on the backhand side.

"The crowd was pretty crazy," said Bernard. "They got really loud sometimes, it was pretty cool."

Mayo still had a chance to close out the match, but he played a sloppy game to get broken at love.

"I maybe got a little tired, maybe a little ahead of myself, thinking about the title," Mayo said. "I made some loose errors, my feet weren't going and didn't make enough first serves. Mentally, I got a little tight, and I definitely didn't play that one very well."

After Bernard held to take a 6-5 lead, Mayo went up 30-0, but it was Bernard who took control after that, winning the final four points of the match to earn his place on the tournament's permanent list of champions displayed at Stowe Stadium every year.

"It's just really cool to see the names, and next year I'll come and see mine there," said Bernard, whose previous USTA National Level 1 title came at the 2017 Easter Bowl 14s. "I don't know where I'll end up being, but at least I've got that."

Bernard and Mayo are both heading to the ITF Grade 1 in College Park, Maryland, which begins on Monday August 19.

Four other singles matches were played on Sunday, with third place and fifth place matches in each age division decided. Alex Finkelstein defeated Ben Shelton 6-3, 6-2 to take the bronze ball in the 16s, and Brandon Nakashima beat Ronan Jachuck 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-5 to finish third in the 18s.

Evan Wen beat Ozan Colak 6-3, 6-4 in the feed-in consolation final in the 16s division, with Andres Martin taking fifth place in the 18s with a 7-6(10), 6-2 win over Blaise Bicknell.

The Allen B. Stowe sportsmanship award for 18s went to Brandon Nakashima. Thomas Paulsell won the Bobby Kaplan sportsmanship award for 16s and Nathan Han was the recipient of the Wes Richards feed-in sportsmanship award.

At the USTA National 18s championships in San Diego, No. 2 seed Katie Volynets won the singles title and a US Open women's main draw wild card, beating No. 3 seed Emma Navarro 6-2, 6-4.  The 18s doubles title and US Open women's doubles main draw wild card went to Abigail Forbes and Alexa Noel. The No. 13 seeds beat unseeded Katrina Scott and Gabby Price 7-5, 6-1 in today's final.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Svajda and Nanda Reach Kalamazoo 18s Final, Bernard and Mayo Meet for 16s Championship; Damm and Kodat Earn US Open Main Draw Wild Card with Doubles Title; Volynets and Navarro Advance to San Diego 18s Final; US Boys Win Second Straight ITF World Junior Tennis 14U Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

Sixteen-year-old Zachary Svajda dropped his first set of the tournament in Saturday's USTA Boys 18s National Championships semifinal to top seed Brandon Nakashima, but the No. 6 seed didn't let that shake his confidence, rebounding for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 2017 16s champion and 2018 18s finalist. Svajda will take on No. 5 seed Govind Nanda, who won his fourth consecutive three-set match Saturday over No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Svajda played just one loose service game in the first set of the match, played under partly cloudy skies on Stowe Stadium's court 3 , but that was enough to give Nakashima the edge in the battle of San Diego residents.

But Svajda began to assert himself in the second set, and although he couldn't hold on to an early service break, he earned another with Nakashima serving at 4-5 to even the match.

Svajda was hitting return winners with regularity, and with Nakashima unable to raise his first serve percentage, that pattern continued in the third set.

"I thought he served pretty well in the first, but he missed a lot of first serves later, and I tried to take advantage of his second," said Svajda, who is playing Kalamazoo for the first time. "When I lost the first set, I thought, ok, I'll have to be more aggressive. I thought I played really well, especially the third set. t was probably one of the best I've played. I was really aggressive."

In the third set, Svajda continued to pummel Nakashima's second serve, getting a quick break to take a 3-0 lead, but with a trip to New York, whether for US Open men's qualifying or main draw, on the line, Svajda admitted that nerves made an appearance in the final games.

"The last few games I did get nervous," Svajda said. "I thought I'm two games away, three games away from US Open. It's amazing, but I can't think about that yet."

Svajda didn't have to serve out the match, breaking Nakashima at love, with a double fault ending Nakashima's stellar singles career in Kalamazoo.

Svajda considered himself the underdog, but was confident he could win the match.

"I knew if I was to go out there and play my game, I could beat anybody," Svajda said. "If I play that way [as in the third set today], I'm pretty confident. But you never know, it's tennis."

Unlike Svajda, Nanda had much more experience in third sets, with today's match his fourth consecutive three-set victory and the second straight from a set down. Jachuck served for the match at 6-4, 5-4, but Nanda didn't have to face a match point, taking a 15-40 lead in the game and breaking on his second opportunity with volley winner.

"I was nervous the whole match, super nervous," said the 18-year-old from Cerritos California. "More than ever for sure, and by a lot too. I had no business winning that match, but fought my hardest, trying to find a way. I thought he got a little bit nervous towards the end of the second too, so it kind of helped me out a little bit."

In the third set, Nanda saved a break point, then converted a break point for a 4-2 lead, but he too struggled closing out the match, with Jachuck saving two match points with Nanda serving for it at 5-3. Jachuck held for 5-5, but Nanda again gained the advantage with a quick hold. Jachuck went up 30-0 serving at 5-6, but Nanda pressed him, and when Jachuck missed an easy volley, Nanda earned a third match point. This time he converted, when Jachuck's backhand went wide.

Nanda said the mental aspect of his game was crucial to taking the match.

"I was trying to get myself to have fun in the key moments," Nanda said. "I knew that would help me a little bit and that's what got me through the second set also, just having fun. Honestly, it felt 100 percent mental today. Getting through that match was all mental."

Nanda and Svajda haven't played in years, but Nanda is preparing for tough match in the final.

"I'm going to have play pretty aggressive I think," Nanda said. "I know he's super solid off both sides and has a very cool head. I think he plays his game no matter what, a very respectable game, and I'm looking forward to it."

The best-of-five format may put Nanda at a disadvantage given the disparity in the time on court, with Nanda also competing in the doubles final this afternoon. But with neither player having any experience with that format, how they will handle it is anyone's guess.
Prior to the 18s final, the 16s champion will be decided, with top seed Alexander Bernard facing No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo.  Bernard eased past No. 7 seed Ben Shelton 6-2, 6-4, while Mayo came back to post a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 19 seed Alex Finkelstein.

Bernard sensed that Shelton was nervous in the opening games, so he concentrated on keeping the ball in the court against his fellow left-hander.

"First set I was just kind of staying steady and he was spraying a little bit," said Bernard, who turns 16 next week. "Second set he started to put in some more first serves, and he's got a nice lefty serve, so it's pretty tricky to break. So I was just trying to focus on getting as many returns in as possible and holding my serve, which I thought I did pretty well."

Bernard is fond of his drop shot, which he used effectively against Shelton, although his coaches are concerned that he goes to it too often.

"I'm not supposed to use it as much, that's what my coaches says," said Bernard, from Bonita Springs Florida. "Not every point. I brought it out a couple of times today on big points, because he wasn't expecting it and he was pretty far back, so I thought, why not?"

Bernard had to save a couple of break points serving at 4-3 in the second set, and went down 0-30 serving for the match, but a drop shot winner got him to 30-30 and a couple of misses on the backhand side from Shelton gave Bernard a place in the final.

Mayo needed some time to get used to Finkelstein's flat strokes and depth.

"The first set I came out a little nervous, a little tentative, and he hits a pretty flat ball, so I wasn't really used to it," said the 16-year-old from Torrance California. "So in the second, I kind of calmed down and realized I had to get it high, he doesn't like it up there. I got my first serve percentage up and tried to hit spinny and heavy as much as I could and it kind of worked, I guess."

Mayo got the only break of the second set in the sixth game and got the first break of the third in the fifth game, although he had to save two break points serving at 4-3.

"I made first serves and maybe he got a little tight and missed some returns," said Mayo, who hit a difficult overhead on a good lob to save the first and a good deep second serve to save the second. "I feel like I put a lot of balls in the court and made him earn it and I came out on top today."

Mayo and Bernard have played often in the past, with Bernard winning at the 2017 Eddie Herr 14s and last year's Orange Bowl 16s.

"We've played many times, so it's going to be a good match, it'll be fun," Mayo said. "We're pretty good friends, so I'm just going to compete hard and see how it goes."

Bernard said he expected the match to have some "fire."

"Since we know each other, I think we'll be a little more into it."

Mayo agreed.

"He's my age, so we're always trying to get the best of each other. It'll definitely be pretty tense out there."

The 16s doubles final saw No. 7 seeds Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay defeat No. 11 seeds Lucas Brown and Aidan Kim 6-4, 6-3 after trailing 4-2 in the opening set.

"We started out a little shaky at first, a little nervous," said Hashimoto, a 16-year-old from San Jose California. "I think holding serve at 4-2 was really important, and getting that positive energy flowing back into the match was a big thing for both of us. That decided the first set, and I think we were able to keep it going in the second."

Kittay and Hashimoto, who have played together four times and won the tournament three of those times, also had to mount a comeback in the third set of the semifinal match against Jameson Corsillo and Luke Casper Friday evening, after trailing 4-1 in the third set.

"It was our communication," said Kittay, a Potomac Maryland resident, who turns 16 later this month. "We had a little lapse of energy, were a little flat-footed, weren't playing our best, but we just came back, found a way."

Brown and Kim didn't go quietly, saving three match points with Brown serving at 2-5 in the second, and another with Kittay serving at 5-3 40-0. But on match point number five, Kittay hit a good first serve and Hashimoto put away the return, and the pair celebrated like the Bryan brothers.

"At the end, we did our signature chest bump," Kittay said. "We've done it since our first match. Every match point, I told him 'you better jump,' I give today's bump an A plus."

Seven days ago, top 18s doubles seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat were facing down three match points in a third round match against Michael Andre and Blake Kasday. Today, the longtime friends are preparing to play in the US Open main draw, after beating No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda 6-4, 6-3 in the 18s doubles final.

Damm, 15, and Kodat, 16, said they hit their stride in today's match.

"It's been a grueling week, a lot of fighting going on, but it's a good end to it," Kodat said.

"Today was our best match, and we probably played our best opponents as well," Damm said. "Yesterday, we also played a very good match against a very solid team and today we knew we had to repeat what we did in the second and third sets yesterday. Although we went down early in the first I think we regrouped pretty well, we returned better and the nerves went down a bit. Some points were unbelievable, we have no idea how we won those points."

After taking a 3-1 lead in the second set, Damm had to save break points serving at 3-2, but once the finish line was in sight, Damm and Kodat wouldn't be denied, with Kodat slamming away a ball at the net on their first match point.

Damm and Kodat know they will face a major challenge in the main draw of the US Open.

"We've known each other since going to preschool, kindergarten together," said Damm. "So obviously our chemistry is probably the best of anyone here. But we're 15, 16 and those are guys who play on a daily basis, those tournaments and matches. Obviously we've got nothing to lose, we're playing at our home grand slam and there's so much history from both our families at that tournament. It's going to be super tough, obviously, but we're going give it our all."

Damm's father Martin won the 2006 US Open doubles title with Leander Paes, while Kodat's half sister Nicole Vaidisova reached the fourth round there in 2005.

"It helps a lot that my dad knows what he's talking about in doubles; His advice isn't that bad," Damm joked. "Yeah, kudos to big Marty."

In third place doubles matches, No. 2 seed Thomas Paulsell and Frank Thompson defeated No. 13 seeds Casper and Corsillo 6-1, 6-0 to take the bronze balls in 16s. Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin, the No. 15 seeds, beat No. 14 seeds Robert Cash and Cannon Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(6) to claim third place in 18s doubles.

Sunday's schedule begins with third place matches in singles at 10 a.m. The 16s singles final is scheduled for 11:30, with the 18s final to follow, not before 1:30 p.m. Consolation finals are also on Sunday's schedule, at 10:30 a.m.  Draws and a link to live streaming can be found at ustaboys.com.

The finals of the USTA Girls 18s National Championships will feature No. 2 seed Katie Volynets against No. 3 seed Emma Navarro.  Volynets defeated No. 13 seed Katrina Scott 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 and Navarro defeated top seed Hailey Baptiste 6-0, 6-2. The final is scheduled to be shown live on Tennis Channel Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The results of the finals of the other National Championships are below:

G12s: Claire An[4] d. Bella Payne[1] 6-2, 6-2

G14s: Theadora Rabman[3] d. Brooklyn Olson[33] 6-7(1), 6–1, 6-1

B12s: Maxwell Exsted[3] d. Abhinav Chunduru[2] 7-6(5), 6-0

B14s: Cooper Williams[4] d. Nicholas Godsick[3] 6-1, 7-5

G16s: Reese Brantmeier[14] d. Valencia Xu[1] 6-2, 6-0

The boys team from the United States won a second consecutive ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team title today in the Czech Republic. The No. 2 seeds defeated no. 5 seeds France 2-1, with Nishesh Basavareddy and Kyle Kang clinching the title with the doubles point. It's the first time since 2002-2003 that a country has won back-to-back boys titles, with the US also doing it those years.

The US girls, seeded No. 8, fell in the final to No. 2 seeds Czech Republic, with sisters Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova winning both singles matches to clinch the title.

For more on the boys title, see this article from the ITF.  For a recap of the girls final, click here.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Top Seed Nakashima Rolls into 18s Semifinals in Kalamazoo; Girls 18s Semifinalists Include Top Three Seeds; US Teams Reach ITF 14U Team Finals; Spizzirri Twins Excel in Different Racquet Sports

©Colette Lewis 2019—
Kalamazoo MI—

Although the Girls 16s and 18s are in San Diego for their USTA National Championships, Kalamazoo will have a battle of that city Saturday, when top seed Brandon Nakashima and No. 6 seed Zachary Svajda meet for a place in the 18s final.

Both dominated their quarterfinal matches Friday, with Nakashima beating No. 31 seed Blaise Bicknell 6-1, 6-1 in just over an hour and Svajda defeating No. 33 seed Cash Hanzlik by the same score in 55 minutes.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Nakashima, who turned 18 on Monday. “I definitely feel pretty comfortable here, especially this year. I’m feeling my game really well.”

Against Bicknell, Nakashima had a number of easy service games, which gave him the freedom to swing away when returning.

“It helped give me a lot of confidence on my returns,” said Nakashima, who played the dual match season at Virginia before returning to junior tennis this summer. “My service games felt more comfortable; there wasn’t as much pressure to hold my service games, because I knew I was in all the return games. I just played really well this match and hope I can continue to play well.”

Unlike 2017 16s champion and 2018 18s finalist Nakashima, who has now won 18 of his last 19 matches at Kalamazoo, Svajda is making his Kalamazoo debut.
“It’s a lovely tournament, a great tournament, everything is so nice, just really well done,” said Svajda, who received a wild card into the tournament. “I like the courts, they’re slow, which I like. I think it’s a little easier for me with my game. I think I’m playing better throughout the tournament. The first and second (matches) I didn’t play too well, but I felt it’s getting better each day, slowly, and I thought today I played really well.”

Although both sets had the same score, the second was much more competitive, with Hanzlik connecting on many of the big serves and ground strokes that hadn’t found the court in the first set.

“He has a big game, very aggressive,” said Svajda, who turns 17 in November. “He hits really big and I was getting pushed back a lot. I was trying to take my returns really early, which I was. I like the pace, compared to a softer ball.”

Being more than a year younger than Nakashima, Svajda hasn’t played him much, despite living in the same city. But he certainly followed Nakashima’s rise in the junior ranks.

“We were probably 11, or maybe 9, when we last played,” Svajda said. “But I’ve known him for a while. I’d always see him in the juniors when I was younger. He’s a big name there.”

While the San Diego boys were cruising into the semifinals, the other two semifinalists needed over two hours and three sets to advance.
No. 5 seed Govind Nanda overcame an extremely slow start to beat No. 4 seed Cannon Kingsley 6-7(8), 6-1, 7-5, while No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck eliminated No. 10 seed Eliot Spizziri 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3.

Nanda trailed 5-1 in the first set before winning five games in a row, but Kingsley managed to save a set point in the tiebreaker and convert his third set point. But the second set was over in no time, although Nanda said he still wasn’t quite at ease.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten used to the conditions here yet,” said Nanda, who is the third semifinalist from Southern California, and like Nakashima, has already played a dual match season of college tennis, his at UCLA. “The wind’s swirling, it’s tough to feel comfortable out there, but I think I felt more comfortable in that second set.”

The level for both Nanda and Kingsley went up in the third set, with long rallies frequently ending with forced errors or winner. With Nanda serving at 4-all, he hit the shot of the tournament, blasting an over-his-head winner past Kingsley, who was closing the net while Nanda was facing the bleachers.

“I’ve actually hit that shot a couple of times of before, hit a winner on it a couple of times,” Nanda said. “No one really expects it, they probably think it’ll be a lob, up in the air, a floater.”

The run of holds in the third set reached 11, but with Kingsley serving at 6-5, the tension began to mount. At 30-all, Nanda came through with a backhand volley winner to earn his first match point, which Kingsley saved with an ace. A netted Kingsley forehand gave Nanda another match point, but a good first serve that Nanda couldn’t control saved that one. Another forehand error gave Nanda a third match point, and this one ended more controversially, with a second serve ace by Kingsley that was generally believed by to be wide by Nanda and all the fans sitting behind the far sideline.

“It was out,” said Nanda, who appealed to the chair umpire, but did not get the overrule of the line judge he was seeking. “It was tough, but I can’t afford to lose my focus. I just have to play the next point, like it didn’t happen. You can’t do anything about it after it’s done.”

A good passing shot forced a volley error by Kingsley and on the fourth match point, Nanda converted, with Kingsley missing a forehand wide after a lengthy rally.

“I was super nervous going out there, but as the match went on, I felt my nerves calm down a little more,” Nanda said. “By the end, I wasn’t really thinking about anything too much, just playing like it’s zero-all, playing it one point at a time.”
Jachuck was on the verge of a tough straight-sets win over Spizzirri leading 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, but Spizzirri won four straight points to send the match to a third set.

“I thought I played a really solid match overall, almost two full sets,” said Jachuck, a 17-year-old from Boca Raton Florida, who starts at Harvard late this month. “6-4 in the tiebreaker, obviously I had match points. I didn’t play bad on those points, but I didn’t go after it, and going into a third set, mentally it was tough to rebound, but I did a great job.”

After just one break in the opening set, Spizzirri broke Jachuck twice, but wasn’t able to hold the lead, and the well-played tiebreaker, which saw 12 straight first serves made on the first 12 points, ended in Spizzirri’s favor. In the third set, Jachuck saved two break points serving at 2-all, knowing that a break might end his chances of advancing.

“If I remember, I hit a couple of good serves and I don’t think he made the returns back in play,” Jachuck said of those two break chances. “That’s definitely something I’ve been working on lately and I think the serve has become a weapon of mine and I was able to rely on it on those break points and serving out the match. I had belief in myself and went after the serve,” Jachuck said of the ace he hit to close out the win.

Jachuck said his results during the summer on the USTA Pro Circuit showed that his game was ready for this tournament.

“I definitely knew I was playing good tennis coming in,” Jachuck said. “This summer I played four Futures; I won a round in Orlando, I quartered in Rochester and semied in Oklahoma, so I picked up seven ATP points this summer. So I knew coming in my level was high enough that on any day I could beat anyone, just being consistent at that level.”

Jachuck and Nanda have known each other for a long time, but the only time they can remember playing is during the Junior Orange Bowl 12s consolation tournament.

“I think is was like sixth round of back draw,” Jachuck said. “He beat me in three sets. He’s been good at every level of juniors. You know how talented he is, we’ve all seen him play. I’m going to have to play a very good match to win.”

The teams in the doubles championship matches Saturday were decided Friday afternoon, with two of the singles semifinalists playing for a title, and a US Open main draw wild card, in the 18s. Top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat defeated No. 15 seeds Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and will play No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda, who beat No. 14 seeds Robert Cash and Kingsley 6-4, 7-6(3).

In the 16s, it will be No. 11 seeds Lucas Brown and Aidan Kim against No. 7 seeds Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay. Brown and Kim defeated No. 2 seed Thomas Paulsell and Frank Thompson 7-6(2), 7-6(7), while Hashimoto and Kittay beat Casper and Corsillo 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-4, with the match ending with a game penalty for Casper and Corsillo for unsportsmanlike conduct, after a threatening remark was reported to the chair by a line umpire, after a previous point earlier in the set was assessed for remarks about a line call.

Saturday's schedule will have 16s semifinals at 9:30 a.m., followed by 18s semifinals, with the 16s doubles final around 1:30 and the 18s doubles final to follow. See the tournament website for schedule, results and a link to the live streams.

For more on the 16s semifinalists, see my recap of Thursday's quarterfinals.

The finals are set in five other National Championships. Click on the heading to go to the Tennis Link site for the results.

G12s: Bella Payne[1] v Claire An[4]

G14s: Brooklyn Olson[33] v Theadora Rabman[3]

B12s: Abhinav Chunduru[2] v Maxwell Exsted[3]

B14s: Cooper Williams[4] v Nicholas Godsick[3]

G16s: Valencia Xu[1] v Reese Brantmeier[14]

The USTA Girls 18s semifinals are Saturday, with three of the top four seeds remaining.

G18s: Hailey Baptiste[1] v Emma Navarro[3]
          Katie Volynets[2] v. Katrina Scott[13]

Both the US teams have advanced to the finals of the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition in the Czech Republic. The US girls, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 1 Switzerland 2-1 and will play the Czech Republic team for the title. The US boys, seeded No. 2, beat Croatia 2-1 and will play No. 5 seed France in the final. For more, see the ITF Junior website for boys semifinal article and girls semifinal article.

I had an opportunity to talk with top 2020 recruit Eliot Spizzirri last weekend about his twin brother, who is a world class squash player. Read about the competitive spirit that sent the pair in different directions athletically, but may have saved their relationship. My Tennis Recruiting Network article is here.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Top Seed Bernard Leads Kalamazoo 16s Semifinalists; Quarterfinals Set in San Diego Girls 18s; US Boys and Girls Advance to Semifinals at ITF World Team Event

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

Top seed Alex Bernard and No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo earned places in the Saturday's semifinals with impressive wins Thursday at USTA Boys 16s National Championships at Stowe Stadium, while No. 7 seed Ben Shelton equaled his father's best performance in Kalamazoo, and No. 19 seed Alex Finkelstein pulled out yet another victory after losing the first set.

Bernard defeated No. 32 seed Hugo Hashimoto 6-1, 6-4, but the 15-year-old left-hander had to bring all his defensive skills into play to put away the big-hitting Californian.

"I think he came out with a little bit of nerves, but in the second set he freed up and played some really good games," said Bernard, who has dropped just one set in the tournament. "So I felt I did pretty well in the second to just fight through it, stay steady. He can hit some really good shots."

Bernard prefers to dictate points, but once Hashimoto began to feel comfortable, Bernard didn't have a choice.

"I had to defend, because he's a very aggressive player," said the Bonita Springs Florida resident. "I'm not just going to hit hard with him all the time, that's kind of difficult, so I just had to play a little defense."

Bernard was up 3-1 and serving, but Hashimoto won the next three games, only to surrender his only lead in the match when Bernard broke right back. Bernard then closed out the match with a hold and another break to set up a semifinal meeting with Sheldon, a Florida junior rival.

Bernard said that being the No. 1 seed comes with expectations, but also can provide an advantage.

"I try not to think about the seeding too much, but you know you're expected to do well, so you have to stay focused and get off to good starts in matches," Bernard said. "But if you can get on top of people, it can help you."
Shelton came back to defeat No. 3 seed Samir Banerjee 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, getting over his nerves and eliminating his unforced errors in the last two sets.

"I was down 5-1 and I started playing more freely," said the 16-year-old from Gainesville Florida. "I started to move around and hit more forehands, and I won three games in a row. He ended up winning the set, but I had some momentum built up going into the second set, and I started playing well in the second set and kept it rolling in the third."

The 10-minute break between the second and third sets can halt any momentum, but Shelton came out with a plan to retain his edge on Banerjee, the reigning Easter Bowl 16s champion.

"He was serving in the first game of third set, so I said, let's go out and put pressure on him in the first game, see if you can get a break and I got it," said Shelton, who saved a match point in his third round win over Alex Visser. "Then it was, ok, let's back it up and hold, and I did that, and then let's break again. That was my mentality the whole time, just locked in."

Shelton is fortunate to have a coach with a lot of experience to impart during the coaching breaks, with his father Bryan currently the head men's coach at the University of Florida. Not only that, but Bryan also reached the semifinals in Kalamazoo, back in 1984, in the 18s division.

"He told me it was a great tournament," Shelton said. "He also said a lot people come here and they get tight, they tighten up, feel there's too much to lose, and I feel that's how I played my last couple of rounds. But today I played like there was nothing to lose, and I was putting a lot of balls in the court."
The top four seeds reached the quarterfinals, yet only two survived, with No. 2 seed and reigning Clay Court champion Luke Casper also unable to hold on to a lead, losing to Finkelstein 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2.

Finkelstein said he wasn't discouraged by dropping the first set, as he had won three of his previous four matches from a set down.

"I'd lost the first set in every single match except one, so I was kind of getting used to it," said the 16-year-old from Raynham Massachusetts. "I don't want to get used to it. But I remember last time, I played him at Clay Courts and that went three sets too, so I kind of felt I could still get in the match, just trying to be aggressive."

Finkelstein said he felt nerves were a problem for both of them in the opening set.

"I think the first set we were both like super nervous," Finkelstein said. "I think we were both pretty tight, but I kind of relaxed after the first set; I had nothing to lose, as the 19th or 20th seed, I forget."

Finkelstein did think a run like this was possible, if not likely.

"I've always felt like I have the level to be here, but at the same time, I am kind of surprised," Finkelstein said. "I felt like I had a pretty tough draw--I know (Jack) Anthrop lost and that opened it up--but still, (Casper) was a really tough player, and I surprised myself how well I played the last two sets."
Finkelstein's opponent is not surprised to be the semifinals, although Mayo had to come from 4-2 down in the first set to defeat No. 9 seed Victor Lilov 6-4, 6-4.

"I thought I got my serve back and started making him play as much as I could," Mayo said of comeback. "Got a little lucky maybe, here or there. But I turned it up a little bit, brought up the intensity."

Mayo knew he would have to be sharp to keep Lilov from asserting himself at the net.

"He's tough, he plays aggressive, hits big, volleys well," said the 16-year-old from Torrance California. "So I knew I had to get it at his feet as much as I could, pass him when I had a chance, but make him play, make him put away a volley."

After an ITF Grade 3 title and another final last month in the Dominican Republic, Mayo arrived in Kalamazoo convinced he could excel this week.

"I definitely expected to do well," said Mayo. "I knew I was one of the best players coming in, so I'm not surprised, but I'm happy I'm here, for sure."

Mayo and Finkelstein will be playing for the first time on Saturday.

"I haven't really seen him before, it will be a new challenge and it should be a good match," Mayo said.

While the 18s had the day off from singles, the doubles quarterfinals were played Thursday afternoon.

Top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat defeated No. 12 seeds Leighton Allen and Mark Mandlik 6-3, 6-2 and will play No. 15 seeds Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin. Jordan and Martin defeated No. 8 seed Dali Blanch and Will Grant 6-1, 7-6(4).

The other 18s doubles semifinal will feature No. 3 seeds Brandon Nakashima and Govind Nanda against No. 14 seeds Robert Cash and Cannon Kingsley. Nakashima and Nanda defeated No. 16 seeds Ron Hohmann and Neel Rajesh 6-1, 4-6, 11-9 and Cash and Kingsley downed No. 7 seed Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch 6-4, 6-2.

The 16s doubles closed out the action Thursday.

Shelton is not the only son of a Division I coach still in the running for a Kalamazoo title, with Frank Thompson, son of Virginia Tech men's coach Jim Thompson into the semifinals with partner Thomas Paulsell. Paulsell and Thompson, the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 8 seeds Banerjee and Ozan Colak 7-5, 3-6, 10-7. They will face No. 11 seeds Lucas Brown and Aidan Kim, who defeated unseeded Kurt Miller and Jakob Esterowitz 6-2, 6-1.

The top half semifinal will feature No. 13 seeds Casper and Jameson Corsillo against No. 7 seeds Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay. Casper and Corsillo beat No. 10 seeds Alexander Karman and Adit Sinha 6-3, 7-5, while Hashimoto and Kittay downed No. 3 seeds Finkelstein and Nathan Mao 6-4, 5-7, 10-7.

The 18s quarterfinals are Friday, beginning with two matches at 11 a.m.  The 16s doubles semifinals and 18s doubles semifinals will follow at Stowe Stadium.  Results, draws and a link to live streaming can be found at ustaboys.com.

The semifinals in the girls 16s and the quarterfinals in the girls 18s are set at the Nationals in San Diego.

None of Thursday's round of 16 matches in the 18s singles went to three sets. Friday's quarterfinal matchups:

Hailey Baptiste[1] v. Abigail Forbes[8]
Emma Navarro[3] v. Lea Ma[33]
Katrina Scott[13] v. Elli Mandlik[10]
Connie Ma[5] v. Katie Volynets[2]

Friday's 16s semifinals:
Valencia Xu[1] v. Eleana Yu[17]
Reese Brantmeier[14] v. Vivian Ovrootsky[2]

At the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team event in the Czech Republic, the US teams both defeated Japan to advance to Friday's semifinals. The No. 2 seeds boys won over No. 3 Japan 3-0, while the No. 8 seeded girls came back to beat No. 6 Japan 2-1. The girls will play top seed Switzerland next. For more on the US girls win, see this article at the ITF Junior website. The boys will play No. 8 seed Croatia in the semifinals. The article on the boys quarterfinals today is here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Few Upsets in Fifth Round at Kalamazoo 18s and 16s Nationals; Girls Nats in San Diego Lose Several Top Contenders; Both US Teams Advance to Quarterfinals at ITF World Junior Tennis Competition

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

After a crazy day on Tuesday, which began with a lengthy rain delay and ended with half of the Top 8 seeds eliminated in the 18s division of the USTA Boys National Championships, Wednesday proved much quieter. The weather was warm and sunny, and upsets were few, although two top 8 seeds were eliminated in the 16s division, which returned to Stowe after playing at Western Michigan University on Tuesday after the rain.

No. 5 seed Thomas Paulsell was beaten by No. 32 seed Hugo Hashimoto 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 and No. 6 seed William Cooksey was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 15-year-old wild card Victor Lilov, who is making his Kalamazoo debut this year.

Lilov, who last year at this time was leading the US boys to a title at the 14-and-under ITF World Tennis Competition in the Czech Republic, has not been entirely pleased with his play this week, in spite of his four straight-sets victories.

"My level's been up and down, even though I haven't lost a set," said Lilov, who is now training in Delray Beach Florida. "Some good games, some poorer games. Today, we both didn't play that well in the first set. He had like ten double faults; in one game he gave me four straight double faults. But when I kept my legs moving, I definitely played a lot better."

Like most players, Lilov said he is looking at Kalamazoo as an opportunity to improve his game.

"Everyone in the tournament, if they're serious, they want to win the whole thing," said Lilov, who acknowledges the importance of the wild card into the US Open Juniors that goes to the 16s champion. "But my goal is to play more matches the way my coach wants me to...of course, I'll be disappointed if I lose, but I'll have to fight in every match from now on; the players will be very good."

Lilov's quarterfinal opponent on Thursday will be No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo, who beat unseeded Alejandro Moreno 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Alex Bernard defeated No. 10 seed Benjamin Kittay 6-1, 6-1 and will play Hashimoto next. No. 3 seed Samir Banerjee downed unseeded Connor Krug 6-4, 6-2 and will face No. 7 seed Ben Shelton, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 winner over No. 30 seed Nate Bonetto.  No. 2 seed Luke Casper, the Clay Court champion, continued his winning streak at USTA National Level 1s, beating No. 15 seed Braden Shick 6-3, 6-3.

The 16s quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday at Stowe Stadium, beginning at 11 a.m.

In the 18s, top seed Brandon Nakashima rolled on, beating No. 33 seed Ryder Jackson 6-3, 6-0 to win his 17th match in 18 attempts during the past three years in Kalamazoo. Nakashima will face No. 31 seed Blaise Bicknell, who saved three match points in the second set tiebreaker to defeat No. 27 seed Siem Woldeab 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4.

No. 33 seed Cash Hanzlik, who defeated No. 3 seed Toby Kodat on Tuesday, picked up another big win Wednesday, taking out No. 12 seed Dali Blanch 6-3, 6-1. Hanzlik will face No. 6 seed Zachary Svajda, who has lost just 13 games in four matches after beating No. 15 seed Andres Martin 6-3, 6-1.

No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck eliminated No. 29 seed Garrett Johns, who had beaten No. 2 seed Martin Damm on Tuesday, with the Harvard rising freshman getting the better of the Duke rising freshman by a 7-6(2), 6-2 score. Jachuck will play No. 10 seed Eliot Spizzirri, who beat Marcus McDaniel 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4.
No. 5 seed Govind Nanda moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-1 win over unseeded wild card Samuel Rubell, and will take on No. 4 seed Cannon Kingsley, who outlasted No. 16 seed Andrew Dale 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a nearly three-hour battle.

Kingsley said his three week training block at Ohio State, where he is enrolled in summer classes, was the difference in the match.

"I've been training really hard at Ohio State the last few weeks," Kingsley said. "Previously, in a span of four months, I'd lost six three-setters in a row. Just now, I've won four in a row now, just since I've been going to Ohio State. Ty (head coach Tucker) has gotten me in such physical shape, that when I'm out there in three sets, it's nothing compared to practices, it's actually fun."

Dale, who has verbally committed to Princeton for 2020, began to struggle physically late in the third set, which featured no breaks of serve through the first seven games.

"I'm lucky I didn't cramp like him," Kingsley said. "I was feeling maybe the calf, that's usually what goes. He started cramping in his quad, I think, and that's when I got the break. He was up 30-love on his serve and all of sudden I see him limping a little bit, and I said, ok, I've got to make a lot of returns here and see what he does. He started slowing down, slowing down, his serve slowed down a little bit, and I broke him, and then he took that medical timeout."

Kingsley had no trouble serving out the match, although Dale, who had saved a match point in his win over Henry Ruger on Tuesday, saved one match point with a winner before Kingsley closed it out at 40-30.

"He played unbelievable," said Kingsley. "I've played him maybe four or five times and I don't think it's ever been that close, except two years ago here, for fifth and sixth, that was a super breaker. He surprised me, making so many balls. I'd played a lot opponents before him that weren't making half the amount of balls he was making and I was kind of being the one making balls. Today I had to change it up, play offense, and it was really tough to hit through him. Side to side, laterally, he's so good. I just really had to stick it out. If hadn't started cramping, I could have lost that match easily."

Kinglsey was happy to hear that the 18s have Thursday off in singles, with a doubles quarterfinal the only thing on his schedule until Friday.

Kingsley and his partner Robert Cash, seeded No. 14, advanced via walkover, when Tyler Zink, seeded No. 2 with Spizzirri, withdrew with an illness.

Top seeds Damm and Toby Kodat advanced to Thursday's doubles quarterfinals, as did No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda, No. 6 seeds Blanch and Will Grant and No. 7 seed Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch.

The 16s doubles third round, played at Western Michigan University Wednesday afternoon, saw No. 2 seeds Paulsell and Thompson and No. 3 seeds Finkelstein and Nathan Mao advance to Thursday's quarterfinals. The No. 4 and No. 1 seeds withdrew with injury and illness earlier in the week.

Thursday begins with 18s consolation matches, followed by the first two 16s quarterfinals at 11, with the next two to follow. 18s doubles quarterfinals are scheduled to begin at 2 pm, followed by the 16s doubles quarterfinals around 4 pm.  Draws, schedules and a link to the live streams are at ustaboys.com.

Several of the pre-tournament favorites were eliminated today in the fourth round of the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, although top three seeds Hailey Baptiste, Katie Volynets and Emma Navarro did move into the round of 16. No. 4 seed and Wimbledon girls finalist Alexa Noel lost to Karina Miller[17] 7-5, 6-0; No. 6 seed Natasha Subhash, who had been winning so many matches on the Pro Circuit this summer, lost to Lea Ma 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 seed Savannah Broadus and No. 12 seed Robin Montgomery also lost, to Allura Zamarripa[17] and Sarah Hamner[17] respectively.

In the 16s, top seeds Valencia Xu and Vivian Ovrootsky are through to Thursday's quarterfinals.

The boys 12s and 14s in Mobile have had rain delays, but the top two seeds in both divisions have made the quarterfinals.

At the girls 12s in Alpharetta, No. 2 seed Eva Oxford was beaten by Elena Zhao[17] in the round of 16. Top seed Bella Payne has advanced.

At the girls 14s in Rome, top seed Stephanie Yakoff retired in the round of 32, and No. 2 seed Kinaa Graham lost to No. 33 seed Brooklyn Olson 6-2, 6-1 in the round of 16.

Both US teams won their round robin groups today at the ITF World Junior Tennis competition, with the second-seeded boys beating No. 6 seed Bulgaria 2-1 and the eighth-seeded girls beating No. 4 seed Philippines 3-0. I thought it odd that the US girls team was seeded so low, given the history and the strong team assembled, but that's irrelevant once you reach the quarterfinals, which begin on Thursday. The US boys will play No. 3 Japan, and the US girls will play No. 6 seed Japan for a place in the semifinals. Two unseeded girls teams, Ukraine and Serbia, reached the quarterfinals, and one unseeded boys team, Brazil.  For more on the final day of round robin play, see this article from the ITF Junior website.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

No. 2 Seed Damm, No. 3 Seed Kodat Upset in Fourth Round Kalamazoo 18s Action Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

A rainy morning gave way to sunny skies Tuesday afternoon for the fourth round of the USTA Boys 18s and 16s National Championships, but it remained a gloomy day for four of the top eight 18s seeds, with upsets the order of the day at Stowe Stadium.

No. 2 seed Martin Damm lost to No. 29 seed Garrett Johns 6-4, 6-2 and No. 3 seed Toby Kodat fell to No. 33 seed Cash Hanzlik by the same score.

Clay Court champion Leighton Allen, the No. 7 seed, and Clay Court finalist Logan Zapp, the No. 8 seed, also fell in straight sets, with Allen losing to No. 33 seed Marcus McDaniel and Zapp falling to No. 27 seed Siem Woldeab 7-6(5), 7-6(5).

Originally the schedule had all the fourth round singles matches in both divisions at Stowe Stadium, but five hours of rain had officials sending the 16s fourth round matches to Western Michigan University and feed-in consolation matches indoors.

Once the courts dried, just before 2 pm, the 18s began their fourth round, and Damm, who had lost the first set in his win over Matthew Segura Monday, quickly went down 2-0. Damm had expressed disappointment in his serving in that match, and he was not able to improve in that department against Johns, who counts his return game as a strength.

"I think he's not used to someone returning all his serves," said Johns, who wasn't notified that he had received a wild card into the tournament until six days ago. "I have really good returns, I would say, and he has a really good serve, so he's probably used to getting more free points off his serve. That was probably a lot different for him."

Johns was aware that Damm had come back in his match on Monday, so he made an effort keep the pressure on the 15-year-old.

"I was up a couple of breaks, but knowing what he did yesterday, I was like, I need to focus every point," said Johns, an 18-year-old from Atlanta Georgia. "Don't give him anything, and it worked out."

Johns, who has been playing on the ITF World Tennis Tour circuit for most of the year, rather than USTA junior tournaments, was pleased with his level of play, particularly because he had only one match coming into today's fourth round.

"I think I played very well, very solid," said Johns, who will be joining the Duke team for his freshman year in a couple of weeks."It's only my second match of the tournament, because I got a bye and a walkover, so it was good to play that well."

Johns will play No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck, who eliminated unseeded Andre Ilagan 6-0, 2-6, 6-2.
Hanzlik's defeat of Kodat followed a different pattern, with Hanzlik's power putting Kodat on the defensive throughout the match.

"I know I'm probably physically stronger than a lot of the kids that I play, so my game is always to try to overpower them," said the 17-year-old from Portland Oregon. "He has a one-handed backhand, and got to the final of the French Open Juniors, so he has a lot of variety. So I knew he was just going to try to move me around the court, but he wasn't really going to hurt me, so I just tried to be aggressive."

Yet Hanzlik knew that just using his pace wasn't enough to beat Kodat.

"It was successful when I tried to hit big and go to net," said Hanzlik, who is coached by Jonathan Stark, the Kalamazoo 18s doubles champion in 1988, with David DiLucia. "It doesn't do anything if you hit big and stay behind the baseline. He can slice me all day. But when I hit big and went to net, that worked."

Hanzlik, a rising senior who is still considering his college options, said he gained confidence for his run in here in Kalamazoo when he qualified for the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Orlando in June, then played NCAA semifinalist Aleks Kovacevic close (7-6(2), 6-4) in a first round loss.

"I knew I was capable, because I just had a really good result in a Futures," Hanzlik said. "I was confident I could, but it still felt good to win the match. I'm excited for my next round and to go farther in the tournament."

Hanzlik will face No. 12 seed Dali Blanch, who beat Easter Bowl ITF champion Ron Hohmann 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1.

Top seed Brandon Nakashima avoided the upset bug, beating No. 18 seed Evin McDonald 6-1, 6-1, but another Kalamazoo meeting with Stefan Dostanic was derailed by No. 33 seed Ryder Jackson, who beat No. 9 seed Dostanic 3-6, 6-2, 6-1. Nakashima and Dostanic played in the 16s final two years ago and in the semifinals of the 18s last year, with Nakashima winning both matches.

The only unseeded player remaining in the 18s is wild card Samuel Rubell, who advanced when No. 11 seed Tyler Zink withdrew due to illness.

No. 4 seed Cannon Kingsley also had a quick match, beating No. 33 seed Alejandro Quiles 6-0, 6-2.

The top seeds in the 16s avoided the fate of their counterparts in the 18s, with all seven of the Top 8 seeds playing today advancing to Wednesday's round of 16. No. 8 seed Jack Anthrop lost on Monday.

Top seed Alex Bernard was pushed hard by unseeded Will Mayew, but came back for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory at Western Michigan University. No. 2 seed Luke Casper beat No. 31 seed Evan Wen 6-2, 7-5; No. 3 seed Samir Banerjee defeated No. 20 seed Luke Neal 6-2, 6-3 and No. 4 seed Aidan May downed No. 29 seed John Kim.

Two unseeded players remain in the 16s: Connor Krug, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 23 seed James Delgado, and Alejandro Moreno, who beat Krug's twin brother Jake, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

The 18s doubles fourth round was postponed until Wednesday, while the third round of 16s doubles was played Tuesday evening at Western Michigan University. The fourth round of doubles in both age divisions are now scheduled for Wednesday, as part of the Dinner at the Nats event in the evening.

Singles for both age divisions are scheduled to begin at 9:30 Wednesday morning and continue throughout the day, with doubles to follow.

For schedule, draws and results, see ustaboys.com.