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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Top Seeds Parry, Mayot Claim Osaka Grade A Titles; Liu, Contreras and Geerts Win USTA Pro Circuit Championships; Shibahara Earns Another WTA Doubles Title

The ITF Grade A in Osaka Japan ended with the top seeds, both from France, claiming the titles.  Seventeen-year-old Diane Parry, who didn't lose more than four games in any set throughout the week, defeated 14-year-old Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-4 in the girls singles final.  Harold Mayot, also 17, defeated No. 10 seed Jeffrey Von der Schulenburg of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2 for the boys title. It's the first Grade A title for Mayot and the second for Parry, who won the Grade A in Mexico last November. Both now head to the ITF Junior Finals in Chengdu China, which begin on Wednesday.

The Swiss team of Jerome Kym and Dominic Stricker, seeded No. 7, won the boys doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Hanwen Li and Bu Yunchaokete of China 6-3, 4-6, 10-4 in the final.  No. 4 seeds Maria Bondarenko of Russia and Mai Nirundorn of Thailand won the girls doubles title, beating No. 5 seeds Zhuoxuan Bai of China and Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan 7-5, 6-3 in the final.

Nineteen-year-old Claire Liu won her first Pro Circuit title since 2017, when she was still playing junior events, today, with the No. 7 seed beating 18-year-old wild card Peyton Stearns 6-1, 6-2 in the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Florence South Carolina. Liu has seen her ranking fall from 137 this year to its current 386, but this title has to be a boost in confidence for her, as she didn't drop a set all week.

In Waco, qualifier Fernanda Contreras of Mexico won her first $25,000-level tournament, with the 22-year-old recent Vanderbilt graduate beating No. 2 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 in today's final. Contreras, who grew up in Austin Texas, has played only nine ITF tournaments this year (and only 11 total), and has now won two of them.

Former Arizona State Sun Devil Michael Geerts won his second consecutive $25,000 title, taking the Waco men's singles championship after winning the Claremont tournament last week. The 24-year-old from Belgium, seeded No. 6, defeated unseeded Alex Rybakov(TCU), 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4) in just under three hours.

Unseeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada took the title at the ATP Challenger 80 in Las Vegas, beating No. 5 seed James Duckworth of Australia 7-5, 6-7(11), 6-3 in this afternoon's final. The unseeded team of Ruan Roelofse of South Africa and Ruben Gonzales of the Philippines, both former University of Illinois standouts, won the doubles title, beating unseeded Max Schnur(Columbia) and Nathan Pasha(Georgia) 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the final.

Former UCLA Bruin Ena Shibahara, who grew up in Southern California, but now plays for Japan, won her second consecutive WTA doubles title this week in Moscow. After Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama of Japan won the International title the previous week in China, they moved on to the Premier event in Moscow and again had an impressive run to the title, beating No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals 6-1, 7-5. In today's final, the unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-2, 6-1. With the title, the 21-year-old Shibahara will move to a career high ranking of 31, and now has the highest doubles ranking of any former collegiate woman.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Gauff and McNally Claim Second WTA Doubles Title; Stearns Reaches First Pro Circuit Final in Florence $25K; Rybakov Advances at Waco $25K; Cressy Defeats Vesely to Reach Challenger Final in Germany

Coco Gauff and Caty McNally earned their second WTA doubles title today at the WTA International event in Luxembourg. The unseeded pair, who won their first title at the Citi Open this summer and reached the third round at the US Open in September, defeated No. 2 seeds Kaitlyn Christian(USC) and Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) of Chile 6-2, 6-2 in today's final.  Gauff and McNally, the 2018 US Open girls doubles champions, beat top seeds Kristyna Pliskova and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals. With the title, Gauff will be around 78 and McNally around 64 in next week's WTA doubles rankings.

Wild card Peyton Stearns, who turned 18 earlier this month, has advanced to her first USTA Pro Circuit final, with No. 5 seed Hanna Chang retiring in today's Florence South Carolina $25K semifinal down 6-3, 1-1. Stearns, who beat Emma Navarro in the quarterfinals, will face another American teenager, Claire Liu, in the final. Liu, the No. 7 seed, beat No. 2 seed Marina Melnikova of Russia, the champion last week at Hilton Head, 6-4, 6-4. Although they are only 18 months apart in age, Stearns and Liu haven't met, with Liu leaving the ITF Junior Circuit just as Stearns was getting the results to play at the top level tournaments.

In the Florence doubles final, No. 2 seeds Emina Bektas(Michigan) and Tara Moore defeated No. 3 seeds Olivia Tjandramulia of Australia and Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 7-5, 6-4.

At the USTA Pro Circuit men's tournament in Waco Texas, Alex Rybakov will contend for his second $25K title Sunday after the former TCU star defeated No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) 7-6(6),6-3 in today's semifinals. The unseeded Rybakov will face No. 6 seed Michael Geerts of Belgium, who defeated Baylor junior Matias Soto of Chile, a wild card, 7-5, 7-6(4). The 24-year-old Geerts, who played for Arizona State during the 2017-18 season, won last week's $25,000 event in Claremont California.

Geerts fell short in the doubles final, with he and partner Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain losing to No. 3 seeds Jesper De Jong and Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands 7-6(4), 6-1 in today's championship match.

The women's $25,000 final in Waco will feature qualifier Fernanda Contreras of Mexico and reigning French Open girls champion Leylah Fernandez of Canada. Former Vanderbilt star Contreras, who grew up in Texas, defeated No. 7 seed Anna Danilina(Florida) of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 in today's semifinal, while the 17-year-old Fernandez, seeded No. 2, took out No. 4 seed Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 6-1, 6-4.  Neither Contreras, who won her first Pro Circuit singles title in August at a $15K in Cancun, nor Fernandez has come close to losing a set in the main draw this week.

The doubles title went to top seeds Danilina and Vladica Babic(Oklahoma State) of Montenegro, who beat unseeded juniors Savannah Broadus and Vanessa Ong 6-3, 6-2 in today's final. Danilina, who won the previous two doubles titles at the USTA Pro Circuit events with former teammate Ingrid Neel, is now on a 12-match winning streak in doubles.

The last American in the ATP Challenger 80 in Las Vegas lost in today's semifinals, with Ernesto Escobedo falling to No. 5 seed James Duckworth of Australia 6-4, 7-6(5). Escobedo had defeated top seed Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals Friday. Duckworth will face unseeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada for the singles title.

Maxime Cressy, the 2019 NCAA doubles champion at UCLA, has reached the singles final of the ATP Challenger 90 in Germany after taking out top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals for the best ranking win of his career. Vesely is currently 120 in the ATP rankings. Cressy, the No. 12 seed, will play No. 16 seed Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in the final. Regardless of the result in Sunday's final, Cressy will move into the ATP Top 200 for the first time.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Oracle's Mark Hurd, Key Financial Backer of College Tennis, Dies at Age 62; My Recap, Videos of ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed

Sad and unexpected news today that Oracle CEO Mark Hurd has died,  a month after taking a medical leave of absence. The cause of death has not been revealed. The 62-year-old Hurd, who played college tennis at Baylor, has been one of the college games's most significant advocates, with his love for the game and his financial support obvious to anyone who follows the sport. I never met Hurd, meaning these comments are based on what I have observed, but from his funding of the fantastic facility at his alma mater to his support and promotion of the Oracle Collegiate Series, the Oracle US Tennis Award and the Oracle Challenger Series, his commitment to elevating American tennis could not be ignored. Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, who owns the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and has taken that to new heights as an ATP/WTA event, no doubt encouraged Hurd's interest in the sport, but those who have had to work their way up to that level know how important it is to have someone championing the steps below, and for many, that someone was Hurd.  Rhiannon Potkey of the Tennis Recruiting Network spoke to Hurd about his and Oracle's investment in tennis for this article back in March.

My recap of last week's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with the background of how Robin Montgomery and Welsh Hotard claimed their first Grade 1 titles.  I'm not a big fan of indoor tennis, but I agree that at least one major ITF tournament in the United States should be held indoors given that is a regular feature of college tennis. The Top Seed Tennis Club, where the tournament was held this year, is an outstanding facility for the event, with excellent viewing on all 12 indoor courts, good lighting, outdoor courts for practice and a gym available for player use. The downsides were few, with expensive hotel prices, which isn't too much of a factor once a player is the main draw, and spotty wifi/4G signal inside the building about all that come to mind. My understanding that this was a one-year trial, but I didn't talk to anyone who would be disappointed if the tournament returned there next year.

Below are the videos of the finals. The perspective may take a little getting used to (it's not as conducive to videos as the Tulsa site was), but it is a chance to see the four finalists.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

USTA Names Dowse to Succeed Smith as USTA CEO; Top Seeds Reach Quarterfinals at Osaka Grade A; ITA Cup, Division I Regionals Underway

The USTA today announced that Michael Dowse is their choice to succeed Gordon Smith as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. Smith announced his retirement earlier this year. Dowse, who has been president of Wilson Sporting Goods since 2013, was not one of the names I heard mentioned as a contender when I spoke with several people about Smith's replacement at the US Open, but it is reassuring to me that he has a tennis background, including an earlier position as Director of Tennis Footwear at Nike. Dowse will officially begin on January 1, 2020 and will be based in Lake Nona.  For more on Dowse's background and responsibilities, see this article from usta.com.

The quarterfinals will be played in the next few hours at the ITF Grade A in Osaka Japan, with top seeds Diane Parry and Harold Mayot, both of France, in action. No Americans remain in singles or doubles. Below are the quarterfinal matchups:

Diane Parry(FRA)[1] v Ya Yi Yang(TPE)
Erika Andreeva(RUS)[13] v Mai Nirundorn(THA)[7]
Punnin Kovapitukted(THA) v Alexandra Eala(PHI)[4]
Maria Bondarenko(RUS)[9] v Mara Guth(GER)[15]

Guth defeated No. 2 seed Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan in the third round.

Harold Mayot(FRA)[1] v Jerome Kym(SUI)
Keisuke Saitoh(JPN)[4] v Dominic Stricker[5](SUI)
Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg(SUI)[10] v Shunsuke Mitsui(JPN)[3]
Leandro Riedi(SUI)[7] v Bu Yunchaokete(CHN)[2]

I can't recall ever seeing four Swiss boys in the quarterfinals of a Grade A before; it's rare to see two.

The ITA Cup is underway in Rome Georgia, with Division II, Division III, Junior College and NAIA players competing for places in the main draw of next month's Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach, California. The singles champions of each division will compete against Division I players in one of the Division I major individual championships, formerly the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. 
The following players are seeded No. 1 in their respective ITA Cup draws (via the ITA release):

NCAA Division II Men
Alvaro Regalado (Columbus State)

NCAA Division II Women
Kim Moosbacher (Oklahoma Baptist)

NCAA Division III Men
Leo Vithoontien (Carleton)

NCAA Division III Women
Danna Taylor (Carnegie Mellon)

Jose Dugo (Georgia Gwinnett)

NAIA Women
Maria Genovese (Georgia Gwinnett)

Junior College Men
Yassir Kilani (ASA Miami)

Junior College Women
Tatiana Simova (ASA Miami)

The ITA Division I Regionals, which will help determine many of the participants in the National Fall Championships, have begun at several locations across the country. I haven't seen any draws posted on the ITA site, but some results are being posted by individual schools on twitter, with the hashtag #ITARegionals

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

USTA Announces Annual Australian Open Wild Card Challenge Events; Nakashima, Zhu and Stewart Beat Top Seeds in First Round of $25K Events; Varsity Blues Articles Explore Fallout of College Admission Scandal

The USTA's annual Australian Wild Card Challenge begins next week for the women and on October 28th for the men, with the tournaments included in the race for the most ATP and WTA points announced today.

The women's events, with the best THREE results counting in the race, are:

  • Week of October 21: USTA Pro Circuit / ITF World Tennis Tour W80s: Macon, Ga.; Poitiers, France; ITF World Tennis Tour W60s: Saguenay, Canada.
  • Week of October 28: USTA Pro Circuit W80: Tyler, Texas; ITF World Tennis Tour W60s: Toronto, Canada; Liuzhou, China; Nantes, France.
  • Week of November 4: USTA Pro Circuit W60 Event: Las Vegas; ITF World Tennis Tour W100: Shenzhen, China.
  • Week of November 11: WTA $125,000 Series Events: Houston, Texas; Taipei; ITF World Tennis Tour W100: Tokyo.
I'm sure the USTA is as happy as anyone that Coco Gauff has recently moved her ranking into the Top 100 (she's currently 71) and will not need a wild card into the Australian Open.

The men's events, with the best TWO results counting in the race are:

  • Week of October 28: ATP Masters 1000 Paris; ATP Challenger 110: Shenzhen, China; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Charlottesville, Va.; Playford, Australia.
  • Week of November 4: ATP Challenger 110: Bratislava, Slovakia; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Knoxville, Tenn.; Kobe, Japan.
  • Week of November 11: ATP Challenger 125: Houston; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Champaign, Ill.; Helsinki, Finland; Ortisei, Italy; Pune, India.
Last year's winners were Jack Sock, who earned all his points at the Masters in Paris, and Whitney Osuigwe, who won the Tyler Texas $80K and reached the quarterfinals at the WTA 125 in Houston.

For more, see this article from usta.com.
The top seeds all went out in the first round today at the $25,000 men's and women's tournament in Waco Texas and the $25,000 women's tournament in Florence South Carolina.  In Texas, 18-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) needed just 55 minutes to roll past No. 1 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands 6-0, 6-2 and Amy Zhu(Michigan) took out No. 1 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.   In South Carolina Katarina Stewart defeated top seed and former WTA Top 50 player Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4 and wild card Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia) ousted No. 3 seed Ellie Halbauer 6-3, 6-3.

Former Texas men's coach Michael Center is scheduled to be sentenced and the end of this month for his involvement in the Varsity Blues scandal that shook Division I athletics this spring. When the story of Rick Singer's scheme to get his clients' children into prestigious schools while representing them as potential student-athletes first broke, there was wide agreement that other misconduct would be discovered, as those charged would cooperate in a continuing investigation.

Nothing on the scale of the first revelations has surfaced, but there was another arrest of a parent last month, with tennis at least on the periphery of Xiaoning Sui's quest to get her son into UCLA. This lengthy article by ProPublica focuses on two Southern California high school teammates, one a viable college prospect and the other not, with the latter ending up at Georgetown. Although it centers on these two boys and their families, the article also provides a great deal of background on how the process worked, as well as explanations of how wealthy families often raise their odds of gaining admission, without resorting to hiring someone as dubious as Singer.  The University of Texas also released a report last month about how their admission process failed to prevent an unqualified student-athlete from getting a books scholarship and then quitting the team but remaining as a student at the university.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

ATP Challenger, Three $25,000 Events Highlight USTA Pro Circuit This Week

Qualifying is now complete at the three $25,000 events on the USTA Pro Circuit this week.

The men's and women's events in Waco Texas, part of the new Oracle Pro Series, have attracted many current collegians, as well as several juniors. Brandon Nakashima(Virginia), who reached the semifinals of the ATP 100 Challenger last week in California, received a wild card and has drawn No. 1 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands as his first round opponent. Other wild cards went to 2019 Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda and two Baylor players: sophomore Adrian Boitan of Romania and junior Matias Soto of Chile. 2019 NCAA champion Paul Jubb of Great Britain is in the draw, with the South Carolina Gamecock taking the fall off to play the Pro Circuit, but expected to return to Columbia for the dual match season.

The six men's qualifiers are Alexander Lebedev(Notre Dame), Barnaby Smith of Great Britain(Texas A&M), Rinky Hijikata(North Carolina) of Australia, Vasil Kirkov, George Goldhoff(Texas) and Tadeus Paroulek(TCU) of the Czech Republic.

The six women's qualifiers in Waco include two US juniors: Alexa Noel and Charlotte Chavatipon. Other qualifiers are Dominique Schaefer of Peru, Chanelle Van Nguyen(UCLA), Fernanda Contreras(Vanderbilt) of Mexico and Alyssa Tobita(Oregon). The top two seeds are both Canadians: Katherine Sebov and 2019 French Open girls champion Leylah Fernandez, 17.  Wild cards were awarded to Texas juniors Savannah Broadus and Tennessee recruit Hadley Doyle, and Baylor juniors Alicia Herrero Linana of Spain and Mel Krywoj of Argentina.

At the other $25,000 women's tournament this week, in Florence South Carolina, the six women qualifying are high school senior Carly Briggs, a Tennessee recruit, Louise Kwong(Illinois) of Canada, Andie Daniell(Alabama), Katarina Jokic(Georgia) of Serbia, Shahar Biran(Old Dominion) of Israel and Joelle Kissell(NC State). The 17-year-old Briggs, playing in just her third Pro Circuit event, beat No. 5 seed Victoria Emma(Florida) and Alexis Keberle(Wisconsin) to qualify into the main draw of a Pro Circuit tournament for the first time.

Wild cards were given to Peyton Stearns, Georgia recruit Lea Ma, Charleston Southern freshman Zoe Cauthen and Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia). Former WTA Top 50 player Johanna Larsson of Sweden is the top seed.

The ATP Challenger in the United States this week is an 80 level tournament in Las Vegas. Steve Johnson, USC's two-time NCAA singles champion, has again taken a wild card this week and is the top seed. Johnson, who reached the final last week in Fairfield California as the No. 1 seed and a wild card, is currently 86 in the ATP rankings.  In addition to Johnson, the other four wild cards went to two players with UNLV ties, senior Alex Kobelt and former player Alexandr Cozbinov of Moldova, Nevada native Evan Song and Stefan Kozlov. Kozlov and Song met in the first round yesterday, with Kozlov earning a 6-4, 6-3 win and the 2015 Kalamazoo 18s finalist took out 2013 NCAA champion and No. 4 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia by the same score today.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Harmon, Smith Win ITF Grade 5 Titles; Osaka Grade A Underway; ITF Junior Finals Fields Set; Ngounoue Wins USA Les Petits As Playoff, Spot in WTA Future Stars Event

While I was covering the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed last week, there were no fewer than 18 other tournaments scheduled on the ITF Junior Circuit and despite most of the Americans being in Nicholasville Kentucky for the Grade B1, American juniors captured four titles elsewhere.

At the ITF Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, 13-year-old Alexia Harmon of Las Vegas won her first title, with the No. 8 seed winning all five of her matches in straight sets. In the final, Harmon defeated No. 2 seed Tanisha Kashyap of India 6-3, 6-0.

Colton Smith swept the titles at the Grade 5 in British Columbia, with the unseeded 16-year-old from Washington beating No. 2 seed Noah Gampel 6-4, 7-6(4) in the all-USA singles final. Smith and Nate Bonetto won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair beating top seeds Hanamichi Carvajal Suazo of Chile and Keita Duclos of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Smith was playing in only his second ITF event after reaching the singles semifinals of his first, also a Grade 5 in Canada, in June.

Jennifer Kida won the doubles title at the Grade 3 in New Zealand last week, partnering with Manami Ukita of Japan, who also won the singles title. Kida and Ukita, the No. 2 seeds, beat top seeds Roopa Bains and Mia Repac of Australia 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

Kida is on the other side of the international date line again this week, at the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan. One of only three US girls in the draw, Kida will play her first round match on Tuesday.  Rebecca Lynn lost her first round match to Talia Gibson of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Skyler Grishuk, the No. 12 seed, won her first round match, beating Ai Yamaguchi of Japan 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. The only US boy in the draw was qualifier Karl Kazuma Lee, and he lost his first round match to No. 14 seed Ryuhei Azuma of Japan 7-6(5), 7-5.

The top seeds in Osaka are France's Diane Parry and Valentin Royer, both of whom are playing the tournament in advance of the ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Finals, formerly known as the Junior Masters, which takes place from October 23-27 in Chengdu China. Although four American boys--Martin Damm, Emilio Nava, Toby Kodat and defending champion Brandon Nakashima--qualified as participants, none elected to make the trip, which allowed No. 12 Royer to gain entry. (No. 14 Bu Yunchaokete of China received a wild card, meeting the Top 25, no other Chinese player ahead of him criteria). Also participating are three of the four boys 2019 slam champions, with Wimbledon's Shinto Mochizuki of Japan, French Open's Holger Rune of Denmark and US Open's Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic leading the field. Thiago Tirante of Argentina, Liam Draxl of Canada and Harold Moyer of France complete the boys field.

The US does have a girls representative, with Hurricane Tyra Black receiving entry with an ITF ranking of 12.  Unlike the boys, only one 2019 girls slam champion is participating: Wimbledon's Daria Snigur of Ukraine. Parry, Qinwen Zheng of China, Kamilla Bartone of Latvia, Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan, Elsa Jacquemot of France and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia complete the girls field.  The ITF Junior website is publishing features of each of the 16 participants leading up to the event, with five articles already up.

The USA Playoffs for January's Les Petits As were held last week in Delray Beach Florida, with four girls and four boys earning their places in the prestigious 14-and-under tournament in Tarbes France (top three are in main, fourth place player is in qualifying). The US girls who advanced are: Clervie Ngounoue, Maya Joint, Brooklyn Olson and Lexington Reed. The US boys who advanced are: Alexander Razeghi, Mitchell Lee, Nikita Filin and Kaylan Bigun. Ngounoue was the overall winner in the girls draw (unfortunately, only round robin results are available on the Les Petits As website NOTE: quarterfinal draws and results now available), so she will be included in the upcoming WTA Future Stars event at the end of this month in China, in conjunction with the WTA Finals.

I've heard that the boys did not finish their tournament due to rain, so the USTA will need to bring them together again in January to determine which three of the four qualifiers will make the main draw. The USTA used to organize these playoffs, but for the past several years they have been handled by a French company.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Lahey and Ito Claim ITA All-American Singles Championships; Gauff Wins WTA Title in Austria; Pro Circuit Update

Pepperdine senior Ashley Lahey and Texas senior Yuya Ito captured the Saint Francis Health System ITA All-American singles titles tonight in Tulsa Oklahoma, with Lahey defeating North Carolina's Alexa Graham 6-4, 7-5 and Ito taking out Sam Riffice of Florida 6-4, 6-4 in matches televised on ESPNU.

Lahey, seeded No. 12, started the match on fire, rushing out to a 4-0 lead, but Graham worked her way into the set by virtue of winning four deciding points in the next five games. Lahey had set points on deciding points with Graham serving at 2-5 and when she served at 5-3, but Graham won both, only to get broken serving a 4-5.

Lahey, who has played three full years of college tennis while still just 19 years old, was broken in the opening game of the first set, with an unfortunate overrule by the chair umpire overturning a Lahey winner on a deciding point, but she did not let that carry over into the next game, and she broke right back. Lahey, who reached the 2018 NCAA singles final, lost her serve at 2-2, but again broke right back, with Graham finally losing her first deciding point. The third-seeded Graham, a senior, played well in the next four games, but Lahey held on a deciding point to take a 6-5 lead, and Graham went down 15-40 in the final game. Lahey netted a forehand to make it 30-40, and a good serve by Graham sent the match to its final deciding point, which Lahey won with a forehand winner.

Lahey, who won the ITA Oracle Masters in late September and an invitational event last weekend and is undefeated this fall, now has her first major collegiate title and she is the first woman from Pepperdine to earn an All-American singles title.
Ito took a 4-1, two-break lead over Riffice in the opening set, but Riffice, a sophomore, got one back back to keep the set close. Ito, the Most Outstanding Player at this year's NCAA Team Championships, was able to close out the set with a hold, but Riffice began to find his range in the last four games, and he took a 3-0 in the second set, winning two deciding points. Then Ito won two deciding points to get it back to 3-all, and in the crucial eighth game, won another. Riffice was broken in the next game, with Ito playing some world class defense and he closed out the championship on his second match point after going up 40-0.

Ito, who is from Japan, is the first Texas man to win an All-American singles title since Chad Clark accomplished that in 1993.

Both doubles titles went to Ivy League teams, and both came through after dropping the first set to take the championships. Yale's Samantha Martinelli and Jessie Gong became the first players from Yale to win an All-American titles in singles or doubles with their 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 win over Tennessee's Tenika McGiffin and Kaitlin Staines. Neither team was seeded.

Columbia's Jackie Tang and Jack Lin, a No. 5 seed, won the men's doubles title, beating the unseeded Central Florida team of Gabriel Decamps and Juan Pablo Mazzuchi, who qualified into the main draw, 3-6, 6-2, 10-6.

Coco Gauff defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 today to claim her first WTA singles title at the International-level tournament in Linz Austria. The 15-year-old from Florida, who lost in the final round of qualifying but got into the main draw as a lucky loser and beat top seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, is the youngest WTA champion since Nicole Vaidisova won two events in 2004.  For more on Gauff's title, see this article from the WTA website. Gauff and Caty McNally also reached the doubles semifinal in Linz.

There were no American singles champion this week in the four USTA Pro Circuit events, with the two US players that reached the finals falling short of the titles.

At the ATP 100 Challenger in Fairfield California, No. 12 seed Chris O'Connell of Australia defeated top seed Steve Johnson(USC) 6-4, 6-4 in today's final. Johnson had ended the run of wild card Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) in the semifinals with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory.  In the doubles final, unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada and Darian King of Barbados defeated No. 4 seeds Sem Verbeek(Pacific) of the Netherlands and Andre Goransson(Cal) of Sweden 6-4, 3-6, 12-10.

Ellie Halbauer reached the final of the $25,000 women's tournament in Hilton Head SC, with the No. 7 seed falling to No. 2 seed Marina Melnikova of Russia 6-3, 6-4.  Former Florida teammates Ingrid Neel and Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan won their second straight USTA Pro Circuit doubles title, with last week's Charleston $60K champions and top seeds beating the unseeded team of Halbauer and Kate Fahey(Michigan) 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Neither of the $25,000 Oracle Pro Series tournaments in Claremont California, both men's and women's, had Americans in the singles finals. Former Arizona State star Michael Geerts of Belgium, who lost in the final last week in Norman Oklahoma, won the men's title, with the No. 4 seed beating top seed Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match.  Former San Diego State Aztecs Milen Ianakiev and Hendrik Jebens of Germany won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair taking down top seeds and former Illinois standouts Ruben Gonzales of the Philippines and Ruan Roelofse of South Africa in an impressively long match tiebreaker 6-4, 3-6, 17-15.

No. 5 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain won the Claremont women's title, beating unseeded Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil 6-1, 6-3 in the final. No. 3 seeds Jacqueline Cako(Arizona State) and Angelina Gabueva of Russia won the doubles title, beating unseeded Hind Abdelouahid(St. Mary's) and Alyssa Tobita(Oregon) 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-4 in the final.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Montgomery Sweeps Girls Titles, Unseeded Hotard Claims Boys Singles Championship at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

No. 3 seed Robin Montgomery and unseeded Welsh Hotard captured their first ITF Grade 1 titles Saturday morning at the Pan American Closed, and although both came through in straight sets, Montgomery needed only an hour to defeat unseeded wild card Isabelle Kouzmanov 6-2, 6-0, while Hotard battled No. 8 seed Cash Hanzlik for two hours before taking a 6-4, 6-4 decision on the indoor courts of the Top Seed Tennis Club.

Montgomery and Kouzmanov had several close games to start the match, with Montgomery needing six deuces before consolidating her break to go up 3-1. But holding serve proved to be a problem for Kouzmanov, with her hold in the next game the last game she would win.

"I think it was just all the matches," said Kouzmanov, who admitted she didn't play as well as she would have liked in her first Grade 1 final. "I had a lot of three-setters and that just kind of builds up and makes you more tired. I think my energy level just wasn't at 100 percent today. My forehand wasn't going in and my footwork was making my shots go out. And she had a good day and I had a bad day."

Montgomery was prepared for her doubles partner's big groundstrokes and was determined not to let Kouzmanov's winners bother her.

"I knew in the beginning she was definitely going to come out swinging," said Montgomery, a 15-year-old left-hander from Washington DC, who was playing in her second Grade B1 final. "I knew I had to hang in there and not give her any chances. I did a pretty good job staying calm, trusting myself and not getting too concerned when she hit a really hard, amazing shot."

Although Montgomery was on court for nearly three hours in her semifinal win over top seed Alexandra Yepifanova, she said she felt fine physically.

"I was kind of lucky, because I had only one really long three-setter," said Montgomery, who noted the kinesio tape on Kouzmanov's shoulder. "I feel pretty good. My back's a bit tight, but that's what we work hard for, that we can last this long."

Montgomery did not play this tournament last year, as she was in Asia, where she made the quarterfinals of the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup and the finals of a Grade 2 in Japan. A title at this event means she doesn't have to worry about dropping in the rankings, but she is looking forward to some time off before the Grade A in Mexico next month.

"I'm definitely glad I played this tournament now," Montgomery said. "My mom and coach made me come, but it definitely takes a load off  [the Grade A] in Merida, Orange Bowl and Aussie, when I go and play, knowing I have this to help support me. The rest of this month is going to be free because this year has been a lot of traveling. I usually like a month for my training and I haven't gotten that month yet, so I think after I go back home I'll focus mainly on fitness and getting ahead in school."

Kouzmanov is heading to a Grade 3 in Canada next month, and will then play the Eddie Herr ITF and the Grade A Orange Bowl.

"My next tournament I want to win even more," said the 14-year-old from Michigan. "I'm hungry for more. I had that in the past, but not as much."
In the boys final, Hotard was up a set and serving at 4-3, when he got a sudden case of the service yips, double faulting three times, including on game point.  The 18-year-old left-hander from Louisiana could have experienced some doubts, but he refused to let it bother him.

"I was just trying to mentally stay focused," said Hotard, who has verbally committed to Oklahoma for 2020. "I knew if I could get into that next game, I had a chance to go back up. It was in my mind for a second, but I knew I had to get it out for me to even have a chance in the next game."

Having already broken the big-serving Hanzlik three times, Hotard's positive outlook had substance, and, with Hanzlik's forehand proving unreliable, Hotard finally broke through on his third break point to take a 5-4 lead. He then took advantage of the ITF rule allowing coaching on changeovers, with former Oklahoma star Dane Webb, who was traveling with Hotard and several other players from the Lakes Tennis Academy in Dallas, providing advice from another sport as Hotard prepared to serve out the match.

"I got my coach at 4-5 and he said serve like a pitcher," Hotard said. "He said you have to mix it up, throw in different spins, I didn't need to rely on the bomb of my serve. So I went up 15-0, then I served that double and then I just tried to throw in different spins to get my serve in and it ended up working out."

Hotard hit an ace out wide to get to match point, and another first serve resulted in Hanzlik's return going well long. As the ball moved past the baseline, Hotard flung his racquet high in the air and let out a lengthy yell of "yeah" in celebration of the B1 title.

"It means a lot," said Hotard, who didn't drop a set all week. "This is like my third [Grade 1] I've played, and to play well this week and be able to win it is awesome. I thought I had a chance before the tournament; I've been training hard, practicing well, so I knew if I could keep my head straight and keep everything in check that I had a chance."

Hanzlik had said after Friday's semifinals that serving was likely to be the key to the match, and he didn't believe his held up.

"The serve just wasn't there like the other matches," said the 17-year-old from Oregon, who hadn't lost a set prior to the final. "I lost my serve four times, which is completely unacceptable. You don't deserve to win if you lose serve four times."

Although he put most of the blame on his own play, Hanzlik credited Hotard for his level.

"He played really well, and I wasn't feeling the ball like the other matches," said Hanzlik, who was also playing in his first Grade 1 final. "He controlled the angles of the court a bit better than me, but it all starts with the serve and mine wasn't there. I played a lot of good matches this week, so one match doesn't change that, and I'll take confidence from this week going into the next tournaments."

Hotard is not certain whether he will play the USTA National Indoors or the Eddie Herr late next month, while Hanzlik's next tournament is a $25,000 Futures in Orlando in November.
In doubles, two teams that got together at the last minute and had never played together before claimed the titles.

Although they looked a little weary after the day was over, Montgomery and Kouzmanov finished the tournament with the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Reese Brantmeier and Carson Tanguilig 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-8 in the final.  The unseeded Montgomery and Kouzmanov got together just prior to the closing time of the doubles sign in, and were not expecting much from their partnership.

"To be honest, I thought we were going to lose first round," Montgomery said. "The goal for me in doubles was just to get past the first round and get a couple of points and we just kept on winning, decently easy in the first couple of rounds, and then I was like, oh crap, we might actually have a chance to win it."

"I was just going to slap," Kouzmanov said. "That worked most of the tournament and it worked again today here."
The boys doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela and Aidan Mayo, who defeated No. 5 seeds Andrew Dale and JJ Tracy 6-1, 6-2.  Mayo said he was late in arranging a partner but he knew Claverie from other ITF Junior Circuit events and was glad to hear that he was also looking for a doubles partner for this event.

The pair were not taken to a match tiebreaker all week and lost only eight games combined in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, but it did take them some time to find that form.

"The first match, it wasn't bad, but it was definitely not at the level that we played at the end of the tournament," Mayo said. "It maybe took us a match and a half, two matches, but at the end of the week, we started feeling really good, playing well. We've had some good matches, for sure."

Friday, October 11, 2019

Montgomery Comes Back to Beat Top Seed Yepifanova, Kouzmanov Saves Match Points to Advance to ITF GB1 Pan Am Closed Final; Hotard and Hanzlik Face Off in Boys Final; My Article on USTA's Alex Cercone; Gauff Reaches WTA Linz Semifinal; Top Seed Perez-Somarriba Out in Tulsa

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

Robin Montgomery stayed calm when match point after match point slipped away against top seed Alexandra Yepifanova in the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Friday, and that composure paid off in a third set tiebreaker, with the No. 3 seed earning a 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(3) victory and a place in the final.

After a well played first set ended with Montgomery broken at 4-all and Yepifanova converting her third set point in the next game, the second set started much differently with six consecutive breaks of serve after Montgomery had held for 1-0. With Yepifanova serving at 4-5, Montgomery failed to convert two set points and with Yepifanova serving at 5-6 30-40, another set point came and went, leading to the tiebreaker. Montgomery couldn't afford to let her chances slip away in that game, and she came up with a great forehand volley with Yepifanova serving at 4-5 to earn two more set points. Montgomery missed a forehand on the next point, but finally converted set point No. 5 when Yepifanova's backhand clipped the net and landed wide.

Although many of the points were high quality, both girls continued to struggled to hold serve in the third set, and Yepifanova began to battle her emotions when she went down a break at 1-2 and 2-3. She broke back both times, but was distraught to the point of tears on several occasions, and Montgomery began to realize that she had the edge mentally.

"She knows me very well and knows it's going to be a tough match, but I wasn't expecting the breakdowns she had, or whatever," Montgomery said of the 16-year-old from Florida. "Granted, I did hit a lot of lucky shots, so that probably got under her skin as well, but yeah, it was definitely an emotional roller coaster for her, and I did a pretty good job just staying calm and just focusing on the next point."

Montgomery got her break at 4-all, although Yepifanova saved two break points before Yepifanova double faulted on the third.

Serving for the match, Montgomery went down 15-40, but recovered for deuce and earned five match points by winning that and the next four deuce points. Montgomery made errors on three of those occasions but Yepifanova hit winners on the other two and finally got a game point when another Montgomery forehand went long. Yepifanova then brought it back to 5-all with a Montgomery backhand error, and after two holds, a second tiebreaker would decide who would advance to the final.

Despite the disappointment of losing the 5-4 game, Montgomery showed no frustration.

"A younger me would have definitely lost my mind," said Montgomery, who turned 15 last month. "I've definitely matured over the course of the past few months. Once I lose a point, I can't go back and change it and I think I've definitely learned from past matches. After seeing what Sasha looked like, kind of crying, I didn't want to look like that, so I decided to stay more composed."

Montgomery took a 4-0 lead in the final set tiebreaker and earned her sixth match point when her backhand forced an error from Yepifanova for a 6-2 lead. Montgomery didn't convert that one either, shanking a forehand, but she closed out the nearly three-hour match with a flourish, crushing a backhand winner after a good first serve.

In the final, Montgomery will face 14-year-old wild card Isabelle Kouzmanov, who participated in some drama of her own, saving three match points in her 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over unseeded India Houghton. Kouzmanov, who trailed 4-0 in the second set, brought it all the way back to 4-all, but she was broken in the ninth game and Houghton went up 40-0 serving for the match at 5-4. But she couldn't convert and Kouzmanov won five straight points for 5-all, then held for 6-5. Houghton had a game point for a tiebreaker, but Kouzmanov earned the last three points of the game to earn a third set, where she took control with an early break and finished with another break and a hold.

"Even though I love to take risks, I told myself not to try to go for every shot, but be as consistent as possible and let her make the errors," said the 14-year-old from Michigan. "I was trying to hit with more topspin and more to corners and that ended up working."

Kouzmanov said unforced errors led to the 4-0 deficit in the second set, and once she eliminated those, she was able to control more points.

"I tried to move her around as much as possible and have her on the run, finish off the point," Kouzmanov said. "She's a good player and she has a lot of different strategies that she uses and she mixes them up so it makes a little bit more difficult to play against her. But at the end, I just tried to return as many balls as possible, and with her serve, I stopped trying to go for return winners and just try to make the first ball."

Kouzmanov, who beat No. 2 seed Savannah Broadus in the second round, said she was energized after finishing off the second set and she was able to maintain that in the third.

"My adrenaline and my confidence kind of went up, I had the momentum and somehow I felt a little stronger on the inside," Kouzmanov said. "I told myself, you've worked hard, whatever happens happens, just play your game."

Kouzmanov's best result on the ITF Junior Circuit has been a semifinal at a Grade 3 this spring, and she admits she did not see this result coming.

"To be honest, I was not expecting this at all," said Kouzmanov, who lost to Montgomery in the first round at the College Park Grade 1 in August 6-1, 7-5. "I am still like, someone pinch me. I feel like I'm actually in a dream, but to get to the finals of a B1, the hard work paid off and I'm extremely happy about that."

After their encounter on Montgomery's home courts at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Montgomery knows how dangerous Kouzmanov can be.

"I think indoor courts definitely suit her game style pretty well," Montgomery said. "I understand she's definitely playing well. I do know she hits the ball very hard...and I do also like hitting the ball hard, but I'm not going to be able to outhit her, so I'm going to have to come up with something different."
In Thursday's quarterfinals, the boys provided the drama with the only three-set matches, but the semifinal results were straightforward Friday, with Welsh Hotard defeating No. 4 seed Alex Bernard 6-0, 6-3 and No. 8 seed Cash Hanzlik downing No. 15 seed Victor Lilov 6-1, 6-1.

The semifinals usher in a new method of officiating, with a chair umpire calling all the lines, whereas players called their own lines in the first four rounds. A dispute with the chair early in the match seemed to linger for Lilov, who lost 11 straight games before finally holding at 6-1, 5-0.

"He started the match super well, four straight winners," said Hanzlik, 17. "And then it was close. Then he hit the ball up the line and I thought the ball was out and I asked the ref--he didn't call it--and the ref went with the call and then I won the next 11 games in like 30 minutes. Clearly, he didn't really get over it, and it definitely affected him, yeah."

Hanzlik, who has lost only 14 games in five matches this week, hadn't been past the third round in a grade 1 before this week, but his results this year at Kalamazoo, where he beat French Open finalist Toby Kodat before falling to eventual champion Zachary Svajda in the quarterfinals, gave him confidence that he could contend at that level.

"Kalamazoo was huge for me," Hanzlik said. "After Kalamazoo I started training at USTA and I've improved there a ton."

Hanzlik also says he has improved his mental game significantly in the past several months.

"I'm trying to be much more professional on the court," Hanzlik said. "I think I'm doing a much better job of staying level-headed. It's kind of fake it til you make it. But that's the only way really, to play tennis. Watching pros, high level, you have to mentally be in it for sure. It's easier when you're winning, but it also makes winning easier. So it goes both ways."

Hanzlik, who is from Oregon, has played a lot of indoor tennis and feels comfortable on the courts at the Top Seed Tennis Club.

"I'm definitely not complaining about it," Hanzlik said. "The ball doesn't move as much, so it's easier to slap for sure. Serve and forehand are huge for me and these courts are a bit fast, so it works well for my game."

Hanzlik will face Hotard for the first time, after Hotard blitzed through the 2019 Kalamazoo 16s champion, avenging a three-set loss on clay back in May.

"I've been playing well and I knew if I played my game I thought he would have trouble," said Hotard, an 18-year-old left-hander who has not played any ITF Junior Circuit events outside the United States. "I was expecting to come out and have a battle, and I feel like I played well, and we did battle, but I took over by the end."

Bernard was also distracted by several of the chair umpire calls that he disagreed with, but Hotard was determined not to let an error from the chair derail him.

"I feel like you have to move through it," said Hotard, who has verbally committed to Oklahoma. "If the ref sees it in or out, it's his call. I tried to stay focused and that helped me at the end. It can change a match, but I tried to move to the next point."

Hotard, who hasn't dropped a set all week and has beaten three seeds, is expecting a tough match Saturday.

"I think we both like coming to net and we both like attacking," Hotard said. "We both have big serves, big forehands so it's all what happens on that day: who's going to play better, who wants it more."

"I think it will be a fun match," Hanzlik said. "We both serve and look to play with the forehand, and we're both aggressive. I think it'll come down to who is serving better. I'm really confident in my serving and hitting my forehand right now, and I'm excited about it."

The doubles semifinals were also played this afternoon, and girls singles finalists Montgomery and Kouzmanov will contend for that title as well on Saturday. After agreeing to play together just 15 minutes before sign-in time, the unseeded pair advanced to the finals with a 7-5, 3-6, 10-7 win over unseeded Ava Hrastar and Ruth Marsh. They will face unseeded Reese Brantmeier and Carson Tanguilig who beat top seeds Yepifanova and Puerto Rico's Lauren Anzalotta 6-1, 6-1.

Two seeded teams will meet for the boys final, with No. 5 seeds Andrew Dale and JJ Tracy facing No. 2 seeds Aidan Mayo and Lorenzo Claverie of Venzuela. Mayo and Claverie defeated unseeded Murphy Cassone and Hugo Hashimoto 6-2, 6-0, while Dale and Tracy took out the unseeded team of Ozan Colak and Maxwell Smith 6-4, 6-4.

The USTA is responsible for the ITF junior circuit events held in the United States, including this one in Kentucky, and while I was in Florida for the Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup competition two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to talk with Alex Cercone about her role as an administrator of the Junior Competitive Pathway. Cercone, a former All-American at Florida, told me how she made the transition from player to administrator in this "Where Are They Now?" article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Fifteen-year-old Coco Gauff earned her first WTA Top 10 win today in Linz Austria, beating top seed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 7-6(1), 6-4 to advance to the semifinals. Gauff is the youngest player to reach a WTA semifinal since Nicole Vaidisova won the Tashkent event in 2004. Next up for Gauff is unseeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany.  For more from Gauff on today's win, see this article from the WTA website.

The ITA hasn't updated the results from today's round of 16 and quarterfinal matches at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, but Miami has posted an article regarding the loss of top seed and 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba to Anna Turati of Texas 6-0, 6-1 in the round of 16.  I will try to provide an update later this evening when all the scores have been posted.

Men's All-American singles semifinals:
Unseeded Valentin Vacherot of Texas A&M vs. Sam Riffice[6] of Florida
Yuya Ito[3] of Texas vs. unseeded Alex Rotsaert of Stanford

Women's All-American singles semifinals:
Anna Turati[15] of Texas vs. Alexa Graham[3] of North Carolina
Ashley Lahey[12] of Pepperdine vs qualifier Chloe Beck of Duke

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Top Seed Yepifanova Reaches Girls Semifinals, No. 4 Seed Alex Bernard Survives Test to Reach Boys Final Four at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Nakashima Advances to Another Challenger Quarterfinal; Top Seed Sigsgaard Ousted at ITA All-American Championships

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

Top seed Alexandra Yepifanova made a meteoric rise in the ITF junior rankings last month after qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships and making it all the way to the final. One of the key New York wins for the 16-year-old from Florida was a come-from-behind quarterfinal victory over National 16s champion Reese Brantmeier, and today they met again, with Yepifanova taking the rematch 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed.

"I know that Reese is a good player, and since I played her just a few weeks ago, I kind of know her strengths and weaknesses," Yepifanova said. "I changed my game plan a little bit coming in; the first time I wasn't as aggressive, didn't really go for my shots as much and my first serve percentage was low, and that serve percentage was crucial."

Yepifanova said picking up that part of her game today was the determining factor in getting a less dramatic win.

"Today, my serve was great," said Yepifanova, a high school junior who is beginning to explore her options for college tennis. "My first serve gave me a lot of easy points and quick games even."

Yepifanova said her coach at the IMG Academy, Jorge Gonzalez, thought playing as the top seed among her peers was a challenge she needed to meet before moving into Women's Pro Circuit events.

"He really wanted me to experience playing as the first seed, with pressure with high expectations, to see how girls my age look at me, since I finaled at the Open," said Yepifanova, who began training at IMG this spring. "For me to handle that pressure and still win matches against my peers, he wanted me to overcome that fear of regressing. I've had so many good results, and now I'm playing a little bit lower ranked girls and he didn't want me to fear playing them."

Yepifanova will take on No. 3 seed Robin Montgomery, who has dominated her opponents this week on indoor hard courts after helping the USA win the Junior Fed Cup two weeks ago on outdoor clay.  The 15-year-old from Washington DC defeated No. 7 seed Ellie Coleman 6-0, 6-2 and has now lost just 11 games in her first four victories.

Yepifanova, who beat Montgomery last year in the second round of the USTA 18s Clay Court Championships, is expecting aggressive play from Montgomery.

"She hits big and flat," said Yepifanova, who agreed that her own game style is similar to Montgomery's. "But I feel like I sometimes enjoy playing defense, and I don't see Robin often doing that."

The other girls semifinal will feature two unseeded players, with India Houghton taking on wild card Kouzmanov. Houghton defeated No. 4 seed Jada Bui of Canada, the last international player still in the draw, 6-1, 6-1 although the match was over 90 minutes long. Kouzmanov took out No. 11 seed Ava Catanzarite 6-1, 6-4.
With all the girls matches completed in straight sets, it was up to the boys to provide the drama, and two of their quarterfinals went the distance. No. 15 seed Victor Lilov defeated wild card William Cooksey 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, and No. 4 seed Alex Bernard survived a tough test from unseeded JJ Tracy 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

Bernard earned the only break of the third set in the fifth game then held on to it, barely, by consolidating for 4-2 after saving four break points.

"First set I didn't get broken once, but in the second set I struggled to hold serve, got broken three times, and I wasn't going to win the set like that," said the 16-year-old from Florida. "I knew in that 3-2 game, I really needed to hold, and I think my second serve got a little tight. He gave him me some freebies, he really got passive on some of those points; we were both very passive in that game."

After two holds, Tracy had to hold serve to stay in the match, but he was broken at love, ending the two-and-half-hour contest and putting Bernard into the semifinals against unseeded Welsh Hotard.

Hotard, who defeated wild card Ben Shelton 6-2, 6-2, lost to Bernard in their previous meeting this spring in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 4 in Plantation Florida 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

"It was a good match and I think we both know how we are going to play," Bernard said. "That was on clay; it's different, but I think roughly we know what to expect from each other."

Lilov will take on No. 8 seed Cash Hanzlik, who beat No. 16 seed Daniel Milavsky 6-3, 6-1. Hanzlik has dropped only 12 games in his four wins this week.

The doubles semifinals are set for Friday, with three unseeded teams and the top seeds getting through today's girls quarterfinals, while the top-seeded boys team fell in a match tiebreaker.

No. 1 seeds Yepifanova and Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico defeated No. 7 seeds Houghton and Gianna Pielet 7-6(4), 6-2 and will play Reese Brantmeier and Carson Tanguilig, who beat unseeded Carrie Beckman and Emma Charney 7-5, 6-2.  Kouzmanov and Montgomery advanced when Maryam Ahmad, partnering with Catanzarite, had to retire due to an injury after dropping the first set 6-2. Kozmanova and Montgomery will take on Ava Hrastar and Ruth Marsh, who beat No. 2 seeds Bui and Kailey Evans 7-5, 6-1.

Top boys seeds Hunter Heck and Stefan Leustian fell to unseeded Ozan Colak and Maxwell Smith 6-3, 4-6, 11-9, with Colak and Smith seeing their 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker dissolve into an 8-7 lead for Heck and Leustian, but Smith's volleying proved the difference as they closed it out on their second match point. Colak and Smith will play No. 5 seeds Tracy and Andrew Dale, who beat No. 3 seeds Joshua Lapadat and Ilya Tiraspolsky of Canada 1-6, 6-2, 10-7.  No. 2 seeds Aidan Mayo and Venezuela's Lorenzo Claverie beat No. 6 seeds Leighton Allen and Jack Anthrop 6-2, 6-1. They will play unseeded Murphy Cassone and Hugo Hashimoto, who defeated No. 4 seeds Bernard and Hanzlik 3-6, 6-3, 10-5.

At the ATP 100 Challenger in Fairfield California, 18-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima defeated No. 6 seed James Duckworth of Australia 7-6(5), 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals at a 100-level Challenger for the second straight tournament. Duckworth, with a ATP ranking of 143, is the highest ranked player the Virginia Cavalier has beaten. Nakashima said that his results this fall would determine if he would return to Charlottesville in January; that is looking increasingly unlikely given his results the last two months.

Top seed Christian Sigsgaard of Texas lost today in second round singles action at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa. Senior Gui Osorio of San Diego defeated Sigsgaard 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to Friday's round of 16. Georgia freshman Philip Henning, a qualifier, beat No. 7 seed John McNally of Ohio State 6-3, 6-1 and Alex Rotsaert of Stanford took out No. 5 seed Jack Lin of Columbia 6-3, 7-5.

Top women's seed Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami, the 2019 NCAA champion, advanced to the round of 16, although all the women's second round singles results are not yet posted. No. 7 seed Jada Hart of UCLA lost to North Carolina State's Alana Smith 6-1, 6-3 and qualifier Iuliia Bryzgalova of Penn defeated No. 4 seed Kelly Chen of Duke 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (2).

Up-to-date results can be found here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Top Three Boys Seeds Fall in Third Round of ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Gauff Makes WTA Linz Quarterfinal; Texas's Sigsgaard, Miami's Perez-Somarriba Top Seeds as ITA All-American Championships Begin in Tulsa

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

Top seed Andrew Dale, No. 2 seed Joshua Lapadat and No. 3 seed Aidan Mayo all saw their dreams of a ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed title end Wednesday morning at the Top Seed Tennis Club, with unseeded Ben Shelton, No. 15 seed Victor Lilov and No. 16 seed Daniel Milavsky keeping their hopes alive by advancing to the quarterfinals.

Shelton received a wild card into this event, his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament, and he was able to overcome a slight stumble in the second set to take out Dale 6-3, 7-5.  Dale had needed three sets and three hours to win his first round match and had another close win in the second round, so Shelton could see his path to a victory today.

"I saw in some of his earlier matches some of the things he was struggling with indoors, and I tried to expose them a little bit today," said Shelton, who celebrated his 17th birthday today. "I felt pretty comfortable, because he was pretty predictable with his shots and I felt like I was a step ahead of him in rallies. I felt comfortable extending the rallies and making him work."

Shelton lives in Gainesville Florida, where his father Bryan is the men's coach at the University of Florida, so he has access to the rare indoor courts in that state.

"UF has indoor courts so I was able to hit on those the last week or two," said Shelton, who has not been able to travel the ITF Circuit due to being enrolled in regular school.

Shelton, who like Dale is left-handed, went up a break in the second set and had a chance to serve out the match at 5-4, but Dale got even, only to drop serve again.

"I was a little tight," Shelton admitted of his first attempt to end the match. "But I was pretty much in control of the match. All the pressure was on him, he was the 1 seed, and I was up a set and the score was even."

With his second opportunity, Shelton took advantage, hitting three aces in the game, with the last two coming at 30-15 and 40-15.

"I just wanted to make him uncomfortable with my serve," Shelton said. "I've been serving pretty well the whole tournament and I thought if I could get a few free points with the last game, it would be tough for him to break me and I did that."

Shelton will face unseeded Welsh Hotard in Thursday's quarterfinals, after Hotard defeated No. 6 seed Hunter Heck 6-1, 6-0.
Lilov had lost to No. 2 seed Lapadat 6-2, 6-3 just two weeks ago at the Grade 2 in Montreal, but today he turned the tables for a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

"The first today was one of my better sets that I've played all year," said the 15-year-old, who is from Raleigh North Carolina, but is now training in Florida. "I honestly think I've improved the last two weeks, and I focused on my serve, being aggressive and taking his time away. I came out aggressive and I don't think he was expecting it, because last time he was the one who was coming out really aggressive. I don't think he played as well this time, especially in the second set. I think in the second set, the level dropped, from me and him, but he's a really good player, and it was a good win."

After cruising through the first set, Lilov got an early break in the second, but gave it back in the sixth game, and shouted an obscenity that the officials monitoring the courts either didn't hear or didn't understand, as he did not receive a code violation.

"I should have said it in Bulgarian," Lilov said. "I don't think the refs heard it, but I need to watch my mouth."

The frustration that prompted that outburst didn't last long, as Lilov broke back at love and made the second break stand up.

"It was a good game to bounce back on, because if he had held serve, it would have been much more difficult," Lilov said.

Although he doesn't love indoor tennis, Lilov has experience, and success, in his past to draw on this week.

"I used to practice a lot indoors, not anymore unfortunately, since I'm in Florida now," said Lilov, who won both Bolton and Les Petits As indoors in 2018. "I've won some tournaments indoors too and I think my game suits it. I like to come in and I'm pretty aggressive."

Lilov will play wild card William Cooksey who defeated unseeded Adit Sinha 7-5, 6-4.

No. 4 seed Alex Bernard is the highest seed remaining now, and he advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Ozan Colak. He will face his fourth straight unseeded player in JJ Tracy, who beat unseeded Zachery Foster 6-2, 6-4.

Milavsky won the only three-setter of the day in the boys third round, after Mayo had served for the first set at 5-3, coming back for a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 victory. Milavsky, a Harvard recruit, will face No. 8 seed Cash Hanzlik, who beat No. 11 seed Bruno Kuzuhara 6-0, 6-4.

Top seed Alexandra Yepifanova dropped her first set of the tournament to No. 14 seed Gianna Pielet, but recovered for a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory to set up a rematch with unseeded Reese Brantmeier, who beat unseeded Zoe Hitt 6-0, 6-0. Brantmeier led Yepifanova 6-4, 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships last month, before Yepifanova reeled off eight straight games and rolled to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will also feature a recent rematch, with No. 3 seed Robin Montgomery taking on No. 7 seed Ellie Coleman. The pair met in the second round of the Grade 1 in College Park in August, with Montgomery winning that one 6-3, 7-6(1).  Montgomery defeated No. 15 seed Annabelle Xu of Canada 6-0, 6-1 today, while Coleman got by wild card Ashlyn Krueger 6-4, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Jada Bui of Canada is the only non-US player in the quarterfinals of the boys or girls draws. She defeated qualifier Eleana Yu 6-3, 6-3 and will take on unseeded India Houghton, who beat No. 10 seed Elaine Chervinsky 6-3, 6-0. No. 11 seed Ava Catanzarite took out No. 6 seed Kailey Evans 6-2, 6-3 and will face 14-year-old wild card Isabelle Kouzmanov, who got by Elise Wagle 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-5.  Wagle served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but Kouzmanov stepped up her game to get the break, then hit seven consecutive winners to go up 6-5, 40-0 with Wagle serving to force a third set tiebreaker. The streak of Kouzmanov winners ended on the first match point, when Wagle netted a backhand.

The second round of doubles concluded today, with the top two seeds in both boys and girls draws advancing. After a bye in Tuesday's first round, top girls seeds Yepifanova and Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico were down 6-1, 5-1 to Elaine Chervinsky and Makayla Mills before claiming a 1-6, 7-6(5), 10-8 win. Chervinsky and Mills served for the match at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5 and had two match points at 5-4, but they were unable to close it out. No. 2 seeds Bui and Evans beat Ariana Arseneault and Allie Gretkowski 6-4, 7-6(8).

Boys top seeds Heck and Stefan Leustian defeated the Canadian team of Samuel Paquette and Marko Stakusic 6-1, 6-1 and No. 2 seeds Mayo and Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela beat Foster and Billy Suarez 6-3, 6-4.

Coco Gauff lost in the final round of qualifying at the WTA event in Austria, but made the main draw as a lucky loser and has now advanced to the quarterfinals. She defeated Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland in the first round and made the quarterfinals when Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine retired with an injury trailing 4-6, 6-4, 2-0. Gauff is the youngest quarterfinalist in a WTA event since Sesil Karatantcheva in 2005 and she will make her WTA Top 100 debut next Monday. For more, see the WTA's article.

The main draw of the ITA All-American Championships began today in Tulsa, but rain has disrupted play with first round women's singles matches not yet complete and women's doubles cancelled.

Men's top seed Christian Sigsgaard of Texas has advanced to the second round, as has No. 2 seed Oliver Crawford of Florida. No. 2 women's seed Makenna Jones of North Carolina is through, while 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba, the top seed, has yet to finish.

The singles scores update (as of 7:40 pm Central Time) is available here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Kouzmanov Defeats No. 2 Seed Broadus, Cooksey Survives Roller Coaster to Beat No. 5 Seed Leustian in ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Second Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

Southeastern Michigan came up big Tuesday during second round action at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, with wild cards Isabelle Kouzmanov and William Cooksey taking out seeded players in dramatic fashion on the indoor courts of the Top Seed Tennis Club.

Kouzmanov defeated No. 2 seed and 2018 finalist Savannah Broadus 7-5, 7-6(4), using her underdog status to play fearlessly in the late stages of the match.

“Before the match I just told myself to go out there and play how you can, and whatever happens, happens,” said the 14-year-old from Novi, “Just have confidence in yourself, and I’m happy with the result. I played really well, although sometimes my level would go down. But she’s obviously a very good player.”

Aware that Broadus was one of the top-ranked US juniors on the ITF Circuit, Kouzmanov didn’t dwell on the difference in their rankings: 28 for Broadus versus 712 for Kouzmanov.

“I put that aside; it depends on if someone is having a good day or a bad day, who is mentally tougher out there,” said Kouzmanov.

Kouzmanov lost a break in the second set, but true to her word, she did not get discouraged and kept going for the lines in the tiebreaker. At 4-4, she swung for the backhand corner and her forehand whizzed past Broadus and a point later, on her first match point, she hit another laser-like forehand to the same spot and again hit the target.

“In general, I’m a big risk taker,” Kouzmanov, who trains with her father at the Sports Club of Novi, but is hoping to find a warmer location so she can get more court time in the winter. “But playing the No. 2 seed definitely helped. Since she’s a flat hitter, I can swing through my shots, take risks, and in the end, those risks were a good idea.”

Kouzmanov will play unseeded Elise Wagle in Wednesday's third round after Wagle defeated lucky loser Elisabeth Jones 6-1, 6-2.
Gross Pointe Shores resident Cooksey was able to recover from squandering two big leads in the second and third sets, then mount a comeback of his own in the third set tiebreaker to defeat No. 5 seed Stefan Leustian 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(6).

“I was up 6-4, 5-1 serving and was serving my best ever and you know, I just think I got a little tight, let it slip a little bit,” said the 16-year-old, who had match points in the second set tiebreaker.

"I was very disappointed, but at the end of the day, it's a third set," said Cooksey, who has been focusing on improving his mental game, and needed to draw on all that work when he saw a 4-0 lead disappear in the second set, and then went down 5-1 in the third set tiebreaker.

"I was just thinking every point I can win is important," Cooksey said. "It was an unbelievable match. I came to the net a lot and I think that helped me too."

Leustian had a match point serving at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but missed a backhand wide, and Cooksey's net play made the difference in the final two points, when he knocked off two tough volley winners to earn the win, over three hours and 15 minutes after the match began.

Another player who looked exceptionally comfortable indoors was unseeded Adit Sinha, who beat No. 10 Leighton Allen 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. Sinha said he knew he had to stick to his aggressive play to beat Allen, who made him pay for getting more tentative in the second set.

"Clearly he was an outdoor player," said the 16-year-old from New Jersey, who trains indoors at the Garden State Tennis Center. "He was playing the outdoor style indoors, so I had to come in, finish the points early, not grind with him. In the middle, I kind of went back to playing an outdoor game style and he was beating me, so I had to go back to coming in and serving big."

In addition to Leustian and Allen, one additional seed lost in the second round, with qualifier Ozan Colak beating No. 13 seed Murphy Cassone 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Top seed Andrew Dale had another tight match, but managed to close out Nedim Suko 7-5, 6-4.

No. 11 seed Bruno Kuzuhara was facing his friend Evan Wen in the second round, and Kuzuhara was the one with a disadvantage indoors, but he managed to overcome Wen 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a three-hour marathon.

"I live in Florida and there's almost no indoor courts there," the 15-year-old said. "I train on clay, so I feel his game is more suited to indoors than mine. The return is really important, because if I don't return well, he starts off the point attacking and he loves to rip the forehand and come to the net and finish the point off, so it's important to keep it deep."

Although Kuzuhara doesn't consider himself an indoor player, there's one aspect to playing inside that he really likes.

"I love playing indoors because of the sound," said Kuzuhara, who was on the USA's ITF World Junior Tennis championship team with Wen last year. "When you hit a great shot it just sounds ten times better."

After four girls seeds lost in Monday's first round, three more went out in the second round. In addition to Broadus, No. 13 seed Valencia Zu was beaten by qualifier Eleana Yu 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, and unseeded Reese Brantmeier took out No. 8 seed Jenna DeFalco 6-4, 6-4.

Brantmeier, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships after receiving a wild card for winning the National 16s title in San Diego, has had a busy few weeks since her success in New York.

"I had a couple days off and I stayed at home," Brantmeier said of her post-US Open schedule. "Then I went to Orlando to train and I was there about two weeks. And then I went up to Charleston and played a $60K, then went back to Orlando, then came straight here."

Brantmeier, who lives and trains, mostly indoors, in Wisconsin, was happy to see an indoor tournament on the ITF Junior Circuit schedule.

"I grew up playing indoors and this is nice, because there's never any indoor tournaments inside and it's fun to get to play indoors," Brantmeier said.

As for her goal in playing this event, Brantmeier doesn't want to focus on a specific ranking, but knows doing well here could boost her prospects for playing junior slams next year.

"The Open was the first ITF tournament that I got a significant amount of points at," Brantmeier said. "So hopefully, if I get a lot of points here, I could play the other slams. It would be amazing to play junior slams, that's a no-brainer."

Brantmeier will face unseeded Zoe Hitt in Wednesday's third round. Hitt defeated Malaika Rapolu 6-2, 6-3 in today's second round.

Top seed Alexandra Yepifanova advanced to a meeting with No. 14 seed Gianna Pielet with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Corina Spasojevic of Canada. Pielet defeated Allie Gretkowski 6-3, 6-2.

The first round of doubles was played today, with boys top seeds Hunter Heck and Leustian and No. 2 seeds Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela and Aidan Mayo advancing. Top girls seeds Lauren Anazalotta of Puerto Rico and Yepifanova had a bye; No. 2 seeds Jada Bui of Canada and Kailey Evans advanced with a straight-sets win.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Charney Beats Seed in First ITF Junior Circuit Main Draw Match; Houghton Ousts No. 6 Seed Jackson on Day One at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

A cold rain on the first day of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships didn't have any impact on the first day of singles action, with the tournament being conducted indoors at the Top Seed Tennis Club for the first time this year.

Top seeds Alexandra Yepifanova and Andrew Dale advanced in contrasting fashion, with Yepifanova defeating Isabella Barrera Aguirre 6-2, 6-4, while Dale needed nearly three hours to get past Spencer Brachman 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Dale trailed in the first set 5-2 before reeling off five straight games, and got up an early break in the second set, but Brachman broke back then got another break with Dale serving at 4-5 to send the match to a third set. Brachman went down two breaks, giving Dale a chance to serve out the match at 5-2, but Dale couldn't close it out and Brachman held again to force Dale to serve it out a second time. Dale couldn't convert on his first two match points, missing an easy sitter on the first. Brachman made a tough forehand volley to save the second, but on the third Brachman couldn't get a second serve return back in play to allow Dale to advance.

Although Dale escaped the upset, four other boys seeds did not. No. 7 seed Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela lost to Saiprakash Goli 6-2, 6-1; No. 9 seed Jeffrey Fradkin was beaten by Zachery Foster 7-5, 6-3; No. 14 seed Ilya Tiraspolsky of Canada lost to wild card Ben Shelton 6-4, 6-3 and No. 12 seed Jack Anthrop fell to Welsh Hotard 6-2, 7-5.

Hotard ended Anthrop's ITF winning streak at 12, as he had won the Grade 5 in Austin two weeks ago and the Grade 4 in Corpus Christi last week.

Hotard, 18, did not consider himself an underdog to the 15-year-old Anthrop.

"He's a great player, but I thought I definitely had a chance in that match," said Hotard, who lost to Anthrop last year at the ITF event in Austin. "I just had to play my game and not get upset with myself."

Down 5-2 in the second set, Hotard said he got more aggressive.

"I went for a little more, settled down and stepped into the ball a little more," said the left-hander from Louisiana, who has committed to the University of Oklahoma. "That helped me with my forehand especially, to get him off the court and finish the points. I had break chances early in the second, didn't convert, but when I settled down a little bit, it got better."

Four girls seeds also fell in the first round, including No. 5 seed Emma Jackson, who was beaten by India Houghton 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 in the last match to finish Monday evening.

"In the first set, I started out strong, but then I got tentative," said the 17-year-old from the San Francisco Bay area. "My ball started landing short and she took it and was playing really aggressive. I realized that so in the second set, I was really focusing on being more aggressive and that worked pretty well. I thought she played better in the third set than the second set, but it was really close."

The left-hander, who recently committed to Stanford, said she tried to disregard Jackson's ITF junior ranking, which is 98, compared to Houghton's 353.

"I was trying not to focus on that, and I still had confidence going in," Houghton said.
Emma Charney was playing in her first ITF Junior Circuit main draw today after qualifying over the weekend, and she used that recent experience to overcome her lack of experience in international events to defeat No. 12 seed Hina Inoue 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-1.

"It definitely helped that I had played matches in here," said the blue-chip sophomore from South Carolina. "I know the courts and she hadn't played a match, so I was warmed up and ready going in."

Charney said it was important for her to keep positive after dropping such a close first set.

"I was up 5-2 in the breaker and lost the breaker, but in the second set I started with a new mindset," said Charney, who prefers long matches and was on court for three hours to earn her first main draw win in an ITF Junior tournament. "You just can't give up. After a tight first set, when the other person wins it, they think they might have an easy second set. You just can't let them have that. Fight back, make balls, make them have a long match."

Charney needed to win a match tiebreaker in the final round of qualifying Sunday to advance to the main draw, and the girl she beat, Elisabeth Jones, got into main draw as a lucky loser when wild card Olivia Gallagher did not play. Jones also beat a seed Monday, taking out No. 16 seed Dakota Fordham 6-1, 6-0. The fourth girls seed to fall on Monday was No. 9 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico who lost to Malaika Rapolu 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Doubles begins on Tuesday, with Hunter Heck and Stefan Leustian the tops seeds in the boys draw and Anzalotta and Yepifanova the top seeds in the girls draw.