Monday, August 19, 2019

Top Seed Nahimana Loses Race to College Park, Ngounoue Claims First ITF Victory; Svajda Signs with Topnotch; Disappointing First Day of US Open Qualifying for Americans

©Colette Lewis 2019--
College Park MD--

Sada Nahimana was racing against the clock Monday to get from Nairobi Kenya, where she played in a $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour final, to College Park Maryland, where she was the No. 1 seed in the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 1 tournament. She made it to Europe yesterday, and arrived at Dulles Airport Monday afternoon, but she was unable to get to the Junior Tennis Champions Center by her not-before time of 5:30 p.m., which actually turned out to be 6:07, when an open court was available and her match was officially called. Nicole Hammond, her scheduled opponent, played lucky loser Violeta Martinez instead, and in a match that finished indoors due to fading light, Hammond earned a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

In addition to Nahimana's whereabouts, the talk of the tournament Monday centered around the heat, which fell just short of the heat index required to suspend play, but did see all but the first round of matches getting a 10-minute rest period between the second and third sets.

Nahimana was one of three girls seeds who did not reach Tuesday's second round, with No. 8 seed Zhuoxuan Bai of China falling to Rachel Gailis 7-5, 6-4 and No. 10 seed Annerly Poulos of Australia going out to local standout and University of Maryland rising freshman Ayana Akli 6-4, 6-1.

The ITF tries to avoid players from the same country playing in the first round, but it wasn't possible to do that for everyone this week, with more than half of the each of the draws made up of Americans. In one of those matches, Clervie Ngounoue defeated Charlotte Owensby 6-2, 6-2 to post the first ITF Junior Circuit win of her career. Ngounoue was not able to play ITF events until she turned 13 last month, and she spent the first full week of the month at the ITF World Junior Tennis team competition in the Czech Republic, helping the US team reach the final. But a big tournament, just 20 minutes from her home, was the ideal place to make her debut.

"I just wanted to play freely the whole time," said Ngounoue. "I didn't want to play tight. I asked myself why should I play tight? It's my first ITF, I have nothing to lose, so when I got to my match I tried to do everything I remembered from practice."

Ngounoue was pleased with her level of play throughout her match.

"I think I played well. I was focused the whole time," Ngounoue said. "I didn't think about anything else, just take one point at at a time, and whatever happens at the end, I didn't want to regret anything."

Participating in the ITF World Junior Cup, along with Qavia Lopez and Tsehay Driscoll, was an eye-opening experience for Ngounoue.

"Words can't explain the way I felt playing that tournament," Ngounoue said. "It was just an amazing experience, going out there playing for team USA--I love playing for team USA. I love going out and representing that. And I wanted to have fun with my teammates, cheer them on. I was very confident going into it, and I knew we could do it."

The boys draw lost three seeded players in Monday's first round action. Wild card Cash Hanzlik defeated No. 6 seed Juan Bautista Torres of Argentina 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 at the Greenbelt site, while Kalamazoo 16s champion Alex Bernard continued his run of impressive wins with a 6-4, 7-6(4) win over No. 9 seed Samuel Vncent Ruggeri of Italy.  In a rare all-US first round ITF battle, Stefan Leustian took out No. 11 seed Dali Blanch 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, with Blanch suffering from cramps at the end but hanging on to finish the match.

Qualifier Evan Wen had two match points serving at 6-5 in the second set of his match with No. 5 seed Kevin Chahoud of Sweden, but Chahoud came back for a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-0 win.

Tuesday's schedule includes second round singles and first round doubles, with temperatures expected to be in the 90s again.

Topnotch Management announced today it has signed Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda. Svajda, who withdrew from the College Park tournament last night, will make his debut as a pro next week in the main draw of the US Open.  The announcement from Topnotch is available here.

The first day of US Open qualifying was not a success for most of the Americans in action, with only four of the 17 on Monday's schedule posting victories.

Wild card Jenson Brooksby defeated Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-3, 6-2 and No. 10 seed Tommy Paul survived against former USC star Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) for the only two wins of the 11 US men in action Monday.

Ann Li and Taylor Townsend picked up the two wins for US women, with Li defeating No. 22 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-0, 6-3 and No. 13 seed Townsend beating Natalija Kostic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1.

Five US men and 14 US women have yet to play their first round qualifying matches, and all are on Tuesday's schedule. Draws can be found here.


USA Not Hungry Enough, P Mac said...

4 out of 16 USA men advance to 2nd round of the US Open Qualifier