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.


Weapons said...

How are Svajda and Nanda in terms of weapons? Has Nakashima developed any weapons in college?

ClarkC said...

Brandon Nakashima has been in college for one whole semester. Not sure how noticeable his development should be at this point.

Kim Mitchell said...

I have to agree the Brantmeier wildcard is a little bizarre. Its common knowledge that the girls 16s is the easy one. The 14s are loaded with young players but after that the best players then play the 18s and skip the 16s. Anyone who saw the G16s finals realizes it was not very good tennis. Yu had no business being in a national finals and Brantmeier was obviously better but no where near a level deserving a wildcard to qualis.

Brent said...

My assessment from watching all of them play in the semis on Saturday...Nakashima - no weaknesses other than no real overwhelming strength. Second serve will get worked against better players. Plus athlete. All court game, willing to come forward. Solid off both sides. Nanda - great wheels, excellent return and passing shots. Relentless fighter. Counterpuncher. Svajda - potential for a world class backhand. Great touch. Loves handling pace and redirecting. Smooth mover. Excellent shot selection. Second serve is a fairly significant opportunity. Size may be a challenge.

All three competed with class and kept their poise through tight situations (and a couple horrendous key calls against him in Nanda's case).

I give Svajda a significant edge in terms of best chances of the group of carving out a recurring spot in the top 50. My two cents.

Brent said...

Quick observation on Kalamazoo - the idea of having line judges for quarters and beyond is great theory but terrible in execution. Many of these folks mean well and are giving up their time to volunteer so God bless them, but they just are being put in very difficult positions - not used to judging the pace of the ball at this level. I think it would be a far better plan to stick with the chair to overrule obvious missteps but let the guys call their own. I'm sure some of the guys like the novelty of feeling like they are on the tour but would be interested in a vote of the players in terms of whether to keep the line judges or scrap that plan.

Pro said...

Nakashima - forehand continues to be his weakness. Seems to have gotten worse in college. Most of the errors come off the forehand.

Nanda - forehand has always been a problem for him as well. I really don't understand coaches who train their players to run around their better shot to hit forehands.

All three are excellent junior players, playing a combination of "don't miss" and "smart" versions of Djokovic and Goffin junior tennis. It's hard to say anything about the pros with no real weapons.