Zootennis

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Crawley Ousts Top Seed in Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1 Qualifying; Eddie Herr ITF Wild Cards; Basavareddy, Kiefer and Blanch Win Grade 5 Titles

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Bradenton FL--

The weather was perfect for the opening day of qualifying at the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr Championships, with clear blue skies, temperatures in the upper 70s and very little wind. The attempt to finish two rounds of the girls qualifying today nearly succeeded, but four second round qualifying matches are either in progress or had yet to begin when darkness halted play on the green clay courts of the IMG Academy.

Both top seeds in the qualifying were eliminated, with boys top seed Kokoro Isomura of Japan moving into the main draw before play began due to a special exempt initially held open for a player in a late match at the Grade A in Merida. The player lost however, meaning he was not eligible for the special exemption, and Isomura moved into the main draw.

The girls top seed, Fiona Arrese Mata of Spain, lost to another Fiona, Crawley of the United States, 6-1, 6-2 in the second round Saturday afternoon. Crawley had won her first match over Thaina Amorim Carvalho of Brazil 6-0, 6-0 and she began her match with Arrese in the same fashion, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before Arrese broke Crawley to get on the board. Crawley got the break back to take the first set, but the second was much more competitive, with Crawley actually down a break at 2-1 before taking the final five games of the match.

Crawley felt Arrese, who had a bye in the first round, needed that set to get going.

"First matches are always the hardest," said Crawley, a 17-year-old from Texas, who loves playing on clay. "She was colder than me for sure, and I think it was an advantage for me for sure. It would have been different if it had been a hard three-set match, but for me it just let me get the jitters out."

Crawley, who now trains at the FIT High Performance Tennis Academy at the McFarlin Tennis Center in San Antonio, was pleased with her overall level of play today and in her improvements in the past year.

"I think I played really well," said Crawley, who credits her coaches at FIT for getting her to step up her aggression. "I just wanted to go out and have a good match, have a good time, because she was the one seed, she's good, and her name is Fiona as well, which is cool."

Arrese caught Crawley by suprise on several drop shots, but Crawley had the higher shot tolerance throughout the match and she was able to raise her level when it was necessary.

"It was a lot closer than 6-1, 6-2," said Crawley, who needed 90 minutes to claim the win. "Most games went to deuce. I think she played really well as well."

Crawley recently signed with the University of North Carolina, which ended a difficult junior year for her.

"It was so hard," Crawley said. "My junior year was hell. On top of school and everything, just the stress. A lot of my friends committed early junior year, they knew, but I had no idea. I took all my visits and of course I loved every school, loved every person I met. I thought I was narrowing it down, but I was making it worse. North Carolina was the first official that I took. I took a bunch of other officials and unofficials and I remembered how much I loved it and thought I needed to go back one more time, and then I knew, this is the school for me."

Crawley will face Victoria Hu for a place in the main draw Sunday. Hu defeated No. 11 seed Zoe Hitt 6-2, 6-0 in the first round.

In the first round of boys qualifying, Hugo Hashimoto defeated No. 9 seed Bohua Dong of China 7-5, 2-6, 10-4 and JC Roddick defeated No. 8 seed Abedallah Shelbayh of Jordan 6-4, 6-2. The boys will play two rounds of qualifying on Sunday.

The wild cards for the ITF main draw, which begins Monday:

Boys:
Cash Hanzlik

Stefan Leustian

Victor Lilov

Evan Wen

Juncheng Shang(CHN)

Daniel Vallejo(PAR)

Fnu Nidujianzan(CHN)

Spencer Whitaker

Girls:
Clervie Ngounoue

Reese Brantmeier

Elena Yu

Isabelle Kouzmanov

Isabella Kruger(RSA)

Victoria Mboko(CAN)

Chelsea Fontenel(SUI)

Sanyukta Gawande 

The final round of qualifying for the 12s, 14s and 16s will also take place Sunday on the IMG Academy's hard courts. See the TennisLink site for draws and times.

Three Americans won ITF Grade 5 singles titles this week with 14-year-old Nishesh Basavareddy and 17-year-old Nicole Kiefer earning their first in St. Kitts, and 15-year-old Krystal Blanch claiming her first in Buenos Aires.

Basavareddy, the top seed, defeated No. 8 seed Kaiwen Jiang of China 6-0, 6-1 in the singles final, and also won the doubles title with older brother Nishanth, defeating Jiang and Robert Zhang of the United States 6-0, 6-2 in the final. 

Kiefer, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed and doubles partner Hana Gamracy of Canada 6-0, 6-0 in the girls singles final. In the doubles final, Gamracy and Kiefer, the top seeds, beat Artemis Pados and Canada's Maria Popova 4-6, 7-6(4), 10-5.

Americans won both doubles titles at the Grade 5 in Panama, with top seeds Jennifer Kida and Ana Carmen Zamburek of the Domican Republic beating No. 2 seeds Rachel Hermanova of the Czech Republic and Luca Udvardy of Hungary 6-3, 6-0 in the girls final. In the boys final, Ryan Colby and Stefan Regalia defeated Luis Diego Leon and Daniel Marcano of Venezuela 3-6, 6-4, 10-5. 

At the Grade 4 in India, Samir Banerjee and Ekansh Kumar defeated Jack Loutit of New Zealand and Jaishvin Sidana of India 6-3, 6-3 in the final. 

Friday, November 29, 2019

Sieg Reaches Semifinals of ITF Grade A in Merida; Eddie Herr Grade 1 Qualifying Begins Saturday with 52 Americans

Madison Sieg had not won a match on the Grade A level prior to this week, but the 16-year-old has advanced to the semifinals of the ITF Grade A in Merida Mexico after picking up a 6-0, 6-0 victory over unseeded Romina Ccuno of Peru this evening. Sieg, the 2018 Orange Bowl 16s champion, has yet to face a seed, but that is her second love and love win this week. Sieg won't play a seed in the semifinals either, as Victoria Jimenez Kastinseva of Andorra has beaten No. 5 seed and last week's Cancun Grade 1 winner Maria Bondarenko of Russia in three sets.

Charlotte Chavatipon, the No. 16 seed, defeated top seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the third round yesterday, but Chavatipon lost to No. 9 seed Melodie Collard of Canada 7-5, 6-2 today. Collard will play No. 7 seed Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador in the other girls semifinal.

No US boys reached the quarterfinals. Top seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina will face compatriot Juan Bautista Torres, the No. 8 seed, in one of the boys semifinals. The other two boys quarterfinal matches are still in progress.

Live streaming can be found at the tournament website.

Qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr begins at 8 a.m. Saturday here in Bradenton, with two rounds for the girls and one round for the boys, with the boys qualifying draw full, but the girls draw having only 55 entrants in the 64-draw.  Twenty-seven US girls are competing for a place in the main draw, with the seeded Americans Zoe Hitt[11], Sofia Camila Rojas[2], Elise Wagle[14], Sophie Williams[15], Rachel Gailus[13] and Allie Gretkowski[16].  The top seed in the girls qualifying is Fiona Arrese Mata of Spain [1] with a ranking of 211.

Twenty-five US boys are entered in qualifying, with the seeded Americans Hunter Heck[3],  JJ Tracy[4], Connor Krug[7], Jackson Ross[10], Maxwell McKennon[11] and Daniel Milavsky[14].  The top seed in the boys qualifying is Kokoro Isomura of Japan, who is ranked 175. (UPDATE FROM TOURNAMENT REFEREE: The Boys Qualifying singles revised after the move to Main Draw of the 1st player out Kokoro Isomura (JPN).  A player just lost in Mexico who was fighting for a place in MD as Special Exempt.  The order of play was also revised to reflect the change (the alternate position will be filled tomorrow with the alternate list to be signed before the matches).)


Qualifying for the 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions has been underway since Wednesday. See the TennisLink site for those draws.

For additional information on the tournament, go to EddieHerr.com.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

photo by Tim Mossholder, unsplash.com

I'm off today, but check back on Friday for the Eddie Herr Grade 1 qualifying draws.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

My Article on Michigan State's Pro Tournament as Part of a Recent Trend on College Campuses; More NLI Signing Announcements


Last week I had the opportunity to visit Michigan State and see the first men's professional tournament in the state since 1988, with the Spartans hosting a $15,000 event at their indoor facility. Colleges across the country have been adding tournaments as a part of the USTA Pro Circuit/ITF World Tennis Tour to assist their players in sampling the professional tour, and I spoke to head coach Gene Orlando and assistant coach Harry Jadun to learn why they decided they needed to host a tournament and what was necessary to get it off the ground in this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

With NLI signing day now a full two weeks ago, and the Florida junior swing coming up, this will probably be my last update featuring links to the schools' announcements. Last week's update is here and the signing week update is here.

WOMEN:
Auburn has signed Adeline Flach and Anne Knüttel of Germany. Knüttel will join the Tigers in January.

Iowa has signed Gina KondosSamantha Gillis, a transfer from Virginia Tech, will join the Hawkeyes in January.

Kentucky has signed Elizabeth Stevens and Salsa Aher of India.

Maryland has signed Adela Josefova of the Czech Republic, who will start in January.

MEN:
Arizona has signed Gustaf Strom of Sweden.

Arkansas has signed Avery Zavala and Foster Rogers.


Baylor has signed Alejandro Garcia of Spain and Joseph Chen of Taiwan. They will start in January.

Cal has signed Noah Gampel.

Indiana has signed Jagger Saylor, Michael Andre and Ilya Tirapolsky of Canada. 

Michigan has signed Jacob Bickersteth.

Nebraska has signed Iskandar Karimov of Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Evans Upsets Nahimana at ITF Grade A in Merida; Three Americans Reach Main Draw at Santa Domingo $15K ITF World Tennis Tour Event

The first round of singles is now complete at this week's ITF Grade A in Merida Mexico, with one big upset. Sixteen-year-old Kailey Evans defeated No. 2 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the second round of a Grade A tournament for the third time. Evans is one of 12 US girls to reach the second round, and all four of the American seeds--Charlotte Chavatipon[16], Alexandra Yepifanova[3], Robin Montgomery[4] and Savannah Broadus[8]--posted wins.

The US boys were less successful in their opening round matches, with only four of the 18 managing to post a first round win: Cash Hanzlik, Alexander Kiefer, and qualifiers Colton Smith and Nate Bonetto. The only two US boys lost, with No. 3 Zane Khan falling to Great Britain's Derrick Chen 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and No. 11 seed Dali Blanch losing to Herman Hoeyeraal of Norway 7-6(2), 7-5.

Wednesday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

There are no USTA Pro Circuit events scheduled this week, with the only ITF World Tennis Tour tournament with a substantial American presence the men's $15,000 event in the Dominican Republic. Three Americans advanced to the main draw with wins today: AJ Catanzariti(Texas A&M), Matthew Mendez(Ohio State) and Fletcher Scott(Illinois).

Toby Kodat won his second match on the ITF World Tennis Tour today in the first round, with the 16-year-old Floridian, using his junior exemption for entry, defeating No. 3 seed Camilo Ugo Carabelli of Argentina 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Other Americans playing in Santo Domingo this week are No. 4 seed Gage Brymer(UCLA) and wild card Quinton Vega(Wisconsin).  Jan Choinski of Great Britain is the top seed, and last week's East Lansing $15K champion Daniel Altmaier of Germany is the No. 2 seed.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Olson Sweeps ITF Grade 5 Titles In Bahamas, Soliman Wins First ITF Event in Guatemala; Neumayer and Bonderenko Claim Cancun Grade 1 Titles; USTA Indoor Nationals Begin Friday

Thirteen-year-old Brooklyn Olson captured her second ITF singles title in as many months, with the Floridian also winning the doubles title at the ITF Grade 5 Goombay Splash Bowl in the Bahamas. Olson, the No. 2 seed, defeated fellow American Sophia Wang, who was unseeded, 6-0, 6-0 in the final. She and Sage Loudon, seeded No. 2, won the doubles title in another all-USA final, beating unseeded Artemi Pados and Wang 6-1, 3-6, 10-8.  Olson, who was eligible to begin playing ITF Junior circuit events in May, is now up to 514 in the rankings.  Fourteen-year-old Cooper Williams, who was unseeded, made the boys final, losing to top seed Matias Gaedechens of Chile 6-3, 6-2.

At the Grade 5 in Guatemala, high school junior Gabriella Soliman won her first ITF Junior Circuit title in another All-USA final, with the top seed beating No. 8 seed Teja Tirunelveli 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. Soliman also reached the doubles final.

The Grade 1 in Cancun concluded Sunday with the singles champions crowned. No. 2 seed Maria Bondarenko won her sixth ITF Junior Circuit title this year, but her first at the Grade 1 level, beating Dayeon Back of Korea, the No. 8 seed, 6-2, 6-2. The 16-year-old Bondarenko moved up to 14 in this week's ITF Junior rankings.  On Saturday, Bondarenko won the doubles title, with Darja Semenistaja of Latvia. The No. 2 seeds beat No. 5 seeds Victoria Jimenez Kastintseva of Andorra and Amarissa Toth of Hungary 3-6, 6-0, 10-8 in the final.

The boys champion in Cancun is 17-year-old Lukas Neumayer of Austria, the No. 11 seed. He defeated No. 4 seed Eliakim Coulibaly of Cote D'Ivoire 6-3, 6-2 in the final to earn his first Grade 1 title, which moved him into the Top 100 for the first time. Unseeded Mikolaj Lorens of Poland and Marko Topo of Serbia won the boys doubles title Saturday, beating top seeds Roman Andre Burruchaga and Santiago De La Fuente of Argentina 6-4, 1-6, 10-3 in the final.

The USTA National Indoor Championships begin on Friday in eight locations across the country.  Below are the Tennis Link sites, with the 12s divisions already posting seeds.

Boys 12s, BJK National Tennis Center New York

Boys 14s, Midtown Athletic Club Chicago

Boys 16s, Longfellow Tennis Club Wayland MA

Boys 18s, Overland Park Racquet Club Kansas

Girls 12s, Manchester Athletic Club MA

Girls 14s, Twos Athletic Club Toledo

Girls 16s, University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center

Girls 18s, Indianapolis Racquet Club

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Baptiste, Altamirano Win USTA Pro Circuit Titles; 36 American Juniors Begin Play This Week at ITF Grade A in Merida Mexico

Hailey Baptiste and Collin Altamirano both won their third career ITF World Tennis Tour singles titles today in Tucson and Austin.

The 18-year-old Baptiste, seeded No. 6, defeated No. 7 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Arizona. Baptiste is now 3-0 against Zacarias, all of the wins coming this year and all of them going to three sets. Baptiste, who should move to around 229 in the WTA rankings when the points are added, is now in good position to playing qualifying at this year's Australian Open if she chooses to make the trip. She won a round at the US Open women's qualifying this year in her major debut. Due to the rain all week, the doubles draw was played only through the quarterfinals with the semifinals and finals abandoned.

The 23-year-old Altamirano, the former University of Virginia standout and 2013 Kalamazoo 18s champion, has been playing mostly on the Challenger tour this year, and the Texas $15K is his first tournament at that level since May of 2018, where he also won the event. The top seed, Altamirano got by TCU freshman Jacob Fearnley of Great Britain, a qualifier, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Martin Damm fell short in his quest for his first Pro Circuit title, with the 16-year-old wild card beaten by No. 8 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina 7-6(4), 7-5 in the $25,000 tournament in Naples Florida.  Damm had two set points with Etcheverry serving at 3-5 in the first set, but couldn't convert either, and in the next game, serving for the set, Damm saved four break points but not the fifth, hitting his second consecutive double fault to give back the break. Damm fell behind 3-0 and 4-2 in the second set, got it back to 4-4, then 5-5, but couldn't hold at 5-6, with two more double faults sealing his loss. Damm had 14 double faults in the match and made only 49% of his first serves. Despite the loss, Damm had a breakout tournament, and his commitment to moving forward, even on clay, is great to see from a young player in his first pro final.

Seone Mendez of Australia won the women's title at the $25,000 in Naples, beating Panna Udvardy of Hungary 6-3, 6-4 in a final between two unseeded players. No. 4 seeds Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Gabriela Talaba(Texas Tech) of Romania won the doubles title, defeating unseeded Mendez and Lea Boskovic of Croatia 7-5, 6-2 in the final.

At the $15,000 men's tournament in East Lansing Michigan, No. 2 seed Daniel Altmaier of Germany defeated top seed Michael Geerts(Arizona State) of Belgium 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 for the title.

The ITF Grade A in Merida Mexico begins Monday, with 18 US girls and 18 US boys in the 64-player singles draws.

The US girls: Hibah Shaikh, Charlotte Chavatipon[16], Hina Inoue, Emma Jackson, Alexandra Yepifanova[3], Ava Catanzarite, Lauren Schneider[Q], Tara Malik, Madeleine Jessup[WC], Skyler Grishuk, Isabelle Kouzmanov, Ellie Coleman, Robin Montgomery[4], Savannah Broadus[8], Madison Sieg, Elizabeth Stevens[Q], Ashley Krueger[Q] and Kailey Evans.

The top seed in the girls draw is Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, who will play Shaikh in the first round Monday.

The US boys: Milledge Cossu[WC], Stefan Leustian, Welsh Hotard[16], Connor Krug[Q], JJ Tracy, Zane Khan[3][WC], Cash Hanzlik, Hunter Heck, Benjamin Kittay, Aidan Mayo, Dali Blanch[11], Jake Krug[Q], Alexander Kiefer, Jackson Ross, Colton Smith[Q], Nedim Suko[Q], Spencer Brachman[Q] and Nate Bonetto[Q].

ITF No. 7 Thiago Tirante of Argentina accepted a wild card and is the top seed. ITF junior No. 1 Holger Rune of Denmark, No. 3 Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan and No. 4 Harold Mayot of France all had entered but withdrew. Mochizuki is still entered in next month's Grade A Orange Bowl, but the withdrawal deadline is not until Tuesday.

When I checked the entries early last week, Zane Khan was still entered, but he is now showing as withdrawn. He must have changed his mind late last week and decided to request a wild card; he has reached the quarterfinals of two $15Ks in Cancun this month.

The tournament website has links to draws, the order of play and live streaming.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Damm, Baptiste Reach $25K Finals; Spizzirri and Zink Win Austin $15K Title; Qualifying Underway at Merida ITF Grade A

Sixteen-year-old Martin Damm and 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste have advanced to the finals of $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit events in Florida and Arizona, while US Open boys doubles champions Eliot Spizzirri and Tyler Zink claimed the title at the $15,000 tournament in Austin Texas.

Wild card Damm, who had no ATP points coming into the Naples Florida tournament, will have at least 12 when he finishes after beating top seed and ATP 244 Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina 7-5, 6-3 in today's semifinals. Damm converted 3 of his 4 break points, while the 22-year-old Ficovich was 1 for 7 on break points, with Damm saving five in the fifth game of the second set, coming from 0-40 down to take a 4-1 lead.  Damm will face 20-year-old Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina, the No. 8 seed, who beat No. 3 seed Javier Barranco Cosano of Spain 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-1. Etcheverry already has claimed one title this week, taking the doubles championship with Camilo Ugo Carabelli of Argentina. The unseeded pair beat unseeded Benjamin Dhoe of Belgium and Maxime Mora of France 6-4, 6-0 in today's final.

Baptiste had to win two matches today to advance to Sunday's singles final at the $25,000 tournament in Tucson, a result of days of rain earlier in the week. The No. 6 seed defeated unseeded Sophia Whittle(Gonzaga) 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and unseeded Katie Volynets 6-1, 7-6(3) in the semifinals. Baptiste will play for her third $25K title of the year against No. 7 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, who had to play only her semifinal match today after her quarterfinal opponent provided a walkover. Baptiste and Zacarias have played twice on the ITF World Tennis Tour, with Baptiste winning both those matches earlier this year in three tough sets.

Spizzirri, who has committed to Texas and will join the Longhorns in January, picked up his first Pro Circuit title, while Georgia freshman Zink earned his second, with his first coming back in June with teammate Trent Bryde. The No. 4 seeds defeated top seeds Justin Butsch(LSU) and Ian Dempster(NC State/Wake Forest) 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 in today's final.

Texas freshman Siem Woldeab lost to TCU freshman Jacob Fearnley, a qualifier, 6-2, 7-6(4) in today's singles semifinals. Fearnley, of Great Britain, will play top seed Collin Altamirano(Virginia) in Sunday's final. Altamirano beat No. 5 seed Ruan Roelofse(Illinois) of South Africa 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

The top two seeds will meet in the final of the men's $15,000 tournament in East Lansing, with No. 1 Michael Geerts(Arizona State) of Belgium facing No. 2 seed Daniel Altmaier of Germany.  Geerts barely survived the challenge of Ohio State freshman Cannon Kingsley 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(5). Both players had aces in the double digits, and there were no breaks at all in the final set. Altmaier defeated former Oklahoma State star Lucas Gerch of Germany, the No. 4 seed, 6-1, 7-6(4).  No. 3 seeds Jacob Dunbar(Richmond) and David Fox(Denver) of Great Britain won the doubles title, beating Gabriel Diallo(Kentucky) of Canada and Millen Hurrion(Gardner Webb/Kentucky) of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(3).

The singles final at the Grade 1 in Cancun are scheduled for Sunday, while qualifying for the Grade A in Merida started today. The qualifying draws are technically 64, but only 27 girls signed up, including six Americans. The boys qualifying draw had 34 entrants, including seven Americans. The boys qualifying matches today were for the most part not competitive, with the Krug twins both winning their matches 6-0, 6-0 and three other matches also decided by that score. Sunday's order of play is available at the tournament's website.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Damm Beats Another Seed to Reach Naples $25K Semifinals; Kingsley and Woldeab Advance to Semifinals in $15Ks; Cancun Grade 1 Finals Set; Isner's ATP Top 20 Streak Continues

Three American teenagers advanced to semifinals in USTA Pro Circuit events for the first time in their careers today.

With his win today over No. 5 seed Nicolas Alvarez of Peru, 16-year-old wild card Martin Damm has advanced to the semifinals of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Naples Florida. Damm, who had not earned an ATP point prior to this week, defeated the former Duke All-American, who won last week's $25,000 tournament in Orlando, 6-3, 7-6(4). Damm will face top seed Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina, who last week reached the quarterfinals of the Champaign Challenger. No. 8 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina and No. 3 seed Javier Barranco Cosano of Spain meet in the other semifinal.

Like his fellow wild card Damm, University of Texas freshman Siem Woldeab had earned no ATP points prior to this week, but the 18-year-old from Southern California has made his way into the semifinals of the $15,000 tournament on his home courts in Austin. Woldeab defeated No. 4 seed Evan Zhu(UCLA) 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to advance to a meeting with TCU freshman Jacob Fearnley, a qualifier. Top seed Collin Altamirano(Virginia) and No. 5 seed Ruan Roelofse(Illinois) of South Africa face off in the other semifinal. US Open boys doubles champions Tyler Zink and Eliot Spizzirri have advanced to the doubles final.

At the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in East Lansing, 18-year-old Ohio State freshman Cannon Kingsley has reached his first semifinal on the Pro Circuit, defeating unseeded Jacob Dunbar(Richmond) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Kingsley, who is unseeded, will play top seed Michael Geerts(Arizona State) of Belgium in one of Saturday's semifinals. The local public radio station in Lansing spoke to Geerts prior to the tournament, getting his thoughts on working his way up the professional tennis ladder. No. 2 seed Daniel Altmaier will face No. 4 seed Lucas Gerch(Oklahoma State) in an all-German semifinal.

All Americans were eliminated from the women's $25,000 tournament in Naples, including top seed Danielle Collins, who lost 7-6(2), 6-1 to former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania in today's quarterfinals.

The $25,000 tournament in Tucson is still recovering from days of rain, but Katie Volynets and Hailey Baptiste[6] are through to the quarterfinals.

The finals are set at the ITF Grade 1 in Cancun, with Dayeon Back of Korea facing Maria Bondarenko of Russia for the girls title and Eliakim Coulibaly of Cote D'Ivoire playing Lukas Neumayer of Austria. Back, the No. 8 seed, beat top seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 7-6(2), 6-0 and No. 2 seed Maria Bondarenko ended the run of qualifier India Houghton 6-4, 6-3.  Coulibaly, the No. 4 seed beat No. 8 seed Sebastian Gima of Romania 7-6(3), 6-3 and Neumayer, the No. 11 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Juan Bautista Torres of Argentina 7-5, 7-6(1).

The ATP announced yesterday that former University of Georgia star John Isner will finish in the Top 20 for the tenth consecutive year, with Nadal, Federer and Djokovic the only other players on the tour who can make that claim. Isner, who will end this year ranked 19th, was out with a foot injury this year, and added a second child to his family, but was able to maintain his status as one of the top players in the game. For more on what Isner thinks of this accomplishment, see this article from the ATP. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Qualifier Houghton Advances to Cancun Grade 1 Semifinals; Wild Card Damm Reaches Quarterfinals at Naples $25K; US Eliminated in Davis Cup

India Houghton took a wild card into qualifying at the ITF Grade 1 in Cancun this week, although she would have made the main draw had she not withdrawn earlier. Perhaps because of her recent success earlier this month, winning the Grade 2 in Peru, the 17-year-old Stanford recruit changed her mind, and after being the top seed in qualifying, needed only one win to reach the main draw. Once there, she has steamrolled her opponents, losing only seven games in four matches, and in today's quarterfinal she defeated unseeded BoYoung Jeong of Korea 6-1, 6-0. Houghton will face No. 2 seed Maria Bondarenko of Russia in the semifinals after Bondarenko had a much tougher time of it today, beating No. 9 seed Julie Belgraver of France 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3. Top seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi, who beat unseeded Hibah Shaikh 6-1, 6-2 in today's quarterfinal, plays No. 8 seed Dayeon Back of Korea next.

Both US boys in the quarterfinals lost, with No. 16 seed Stefan Leustian beaten by No. 8 seed Sebastian Gima of Romania 6-3, 6-2 and Hunter Heck falling to No. 3 seed Juan Bautista Torres of Argentina 7-6(12), 6-2.

Benjamin Kittay is the sole US player in the doubles semifinals. He and Torres are the No. 6 seeds.

Martin Damm had not won a match in limited play on the Pro Circuit, but he has now earned his first three ATP points by advancing to the quarterfinals of the $25,000 event in Naples Florida. The 16-year-old, No. 5 in the ITF Junior World rankings, defeated No. 4 seed Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil in the first round yesterday 6-4, 6-4 and today beat qualifier Benjamin Dhoe of Belgium 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Damm's quarterfinal opponent is No. 5 seed and last week's champion in the Orlando $25K, former Duke All-American Nicolas Alvarez of Peru. Alexander Ritschard, the No. 6 seed, is the other American through to the quarterfinals in Naples.

At the women's $25K tournament in Naples, top seed Danielle Collins in through to the quarterfinals, as are qualifier Kate Fahey(Michigan) and Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame).

The women's $25K in Tucson has been disrupted by rain all week, and there are still first round matches to be completed on Friday's schedule. It looks like quarterfinal and semifinal matches will both be played on Saturday.

At the men's $15,000 tournament in Austin Texas, five Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals, including Texas freshman Siem Woldeab, a wild card. Woldeab will take on former UCLA standout Evan Zhu, the No. 4 seed, in the quarterfinals. Georgia freshman Tyler Zink advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 7 seed Tadeus Paroulek of the Czech Republic. Top seed Collin Altamirano(Virginia) and No. 3 seed Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) are also through to the quarterfinals.

I spent a few hours in East Lansing yesterday at the new men's $15,000 tournament there, and will have an article on how Michigan State brought men's pro tennis back to Michigan after a long hiatus for Tennis Recruiting Network next week. The quarterfinals feature some familiar Big Ten faces, with Illinois senior Zeke Clark[8], former Northwestern star Strong Kirchheimer[5], Ohio State senior Kyle Seelig and Ohio State freshman Cannon Kingsley all advancing.

The United States team beat Italy 2-1 yesterday (or this morning actually) in the round robin portion of the Davis Cup in Madrid, with Jack Sock and Sam Querrey clinching the victory with a 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-4 decision over Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini that ended after 4 a.m., giving them second place in their group, but it wasn't enough to send them onto the quarterfinals. Two second-place teams, as well as the six group winners, advance, but those are chosen based on rubbers and sets won, and the US did not qualify for either of those two spots. Canada advanced out the US group, and today they beat Australia 2-1 to reach the semifinals. For more on the US - Italy match, see this article from the AP.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Nott Returns to College Tennis at UT-Rio Grande Valley; Leustian Beats Top Seed to Reach Cancun Grade 1 Quarterfinals; More D-I NLI Signings

I recently had an opportunity to catch up with West Nott, the former University of Southern California women's associate head coach, who has taken the head coaching position at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Nott, who has been out of college coaching for two years, explained what appealed to him about the UT-RGV position, how a Division I school outside the Power Five conferences handles its budget and recruiting, and what he learned in his ten years of collegiate coaching at USC and two years of private coaching that he's applied to his new position. He also told me what one thing he would change about Division I college tennis if he had the opportunity in this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Cancun, two US boys and two US girls have advanced to the quarterfinals. After qualifier Adit Sinha beat the No. 2 seed yesterday, No. 16 seed Stefan Leustian took out the top seed today, with the recently signed UCLA recruit beating Santiago de la Fuente of Argentina 6-4, 6-4.  Recently signed Illinois recruit Hunter Heck, who is unseeded, defeated No. 7 seed Natan Rodrigues of Brazil 6-4, 6-1.  Unseeded Hibah Shaikh defeated No. 7 seed Darja Semenistaja of Latvia 6-0, 6-2 and qualifier India Houghton beat No. 6 seed Shavit Kimchi of Israel 6-0, 6-3.

It's been a week since signing day, and below are links to website articles from those that have come out since I posted an initial batch on November 14th. I'm trying to point out those who are starting in January, rather than next fall, but double check the ones you are interested in, in case I missed that information. Again, if no country is mentioned, the player is from the United States.

MEN:

Arizona has signed Jett Middleton.

Arizona State has signed Max McKennon, Spencer Brachman, Tom LeBlanc, Mortiz Hoffman of Germany and George Stoupe of New Zealand. LeBlanc and Stoupe are joining the Sun Devils in January.

BYU has signed Redd Owen and Alex Lin. Owen will be serving a mission prior to joining the team.

Clemson has signed Daniel Labrador, Spencer Whitaker and Ryuhei Azuma of Japan.

Kentucky has signed Joshua Lapadat of Canada.

Ohio State has signed JJ Tracy.

Oklahoma has signed Nathan Han, Welsh Hotard and Justin Schlageter of Germany.

Oregon has signed Quinn Vandecasteele.

Texas Tech has signed Isaac Arevalo of Mexico and Connor Johnson of Australia. Arevalo is a transfer from Utah State; both will start in January.

Tulane has signed Fynn Kuenkler of Germany.

UCLA has signed Stefan Leustian.

Virginia has signed Iñaki Montes de la Torre of Spain, Chris Rodesch of Luxembourg and Alexander Kiefer.

Virginia Tech has signed Ryan Fishback and Matthis Ross of Great Britain.

Western Michigan has signed Brogan Pierce, Joaquin Caballer of Spain, and Jackson Boone and Ben George of Canada.

WOMEN:

Baylor has signed Audrey Boch-Collins.

Georgia has signed Ariana Arseneault of Canada.

Iowa State has signed Miska Kadleckova of Slovakia and Ellie Murphy of Ireland.

Memphis has signed Sophie Abrams and Dolavee Tumthong of Thailand.

Mississippi has signed Kelsey Mize.

Missouri has signed Elys Ventura of New Zealand.

North Carolina has signed Fiona Crawley, Elizabeth Scotty and Reilly Tran.

North Carolina State has signed Abigail Rencheli.

Rutgers has signed Chloe Brown and Alisa Prinyarux.

SMU has signed Kiana Graham, Avery Hilbig and Winslow Huth.

Texas has signed Charlotte Chavatipon.

Washington has signed Yolanda Lin and Sarah-Maude Fortin of Canada.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Qualifier Sinha Defeats No. 2 Seed at Cancun Grade 1; Five USTA Pro Circuit Events This Week; US Falls to Canada in Davis Cup Round Robin Play

The second round at the ITF Grade 1 in Cancun Mexico has not yet concluded, but one of the top seeds has already been eliminated. No. 2 seed Roman Burruchaga of Argentina, No. 51 in the ITF Junior rankings, lost to qualifier Adit Sinha, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, 7-5, 7-6(5). Sinha, who reached the semifinals of the Grade 3 in Canada last week, has gone from outside the Top 1000 in the ITF Junior rankings to 396 now and his rise will continue when these points are added. Sinha defeated Leighton Allen at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed last month and I spoke to him in this report from that tournament.

Other American boys advancing to the third round are qualifier Connor Krug, Stefan Leustian[16], Hunter Heck and Dali Blanch[5]. US girls through to the third round are Hibah Shaikh, Emma Jackson[13] and qualifier India Houghton.

While the higher level USTA Pro Circuit events are done for the year, there are still $15,000 and $25,000 tournaments left on the schedule, including five this week. There are two $15,000 men's events, in Austin Texas and East Lansing Michigan, a $25,000 women's event in Tucson Arizona and a joint $25,000 event in Naples Florida.

Qualifying is complete in Naples, with three former collegians from the US advancing to the women's main draw: Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech), Kate Fahey(Michigan) and Maria Mateas(Duke).  Danielle Collins(Virginia) is the top seed, and it's unusual to see a player ranked that high in a $25K event, but she lost early at the WTA 125 in Houston last week, and she needs matches that she wasn't able to get this fall due to her diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Wild cards were given to Collins, Peyton Stearns, Jaleesa Leslie and Sofia Sewing.

The men's top seed in Naples is Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina, with Oliver Crawford(Florida), 18-year-old Daniel Labrador and Ron Hohmann(LSU) qualifiers from the US.  Wild cards were given to Toby Kodat, Martin Damm, Jesse Witten(Kentucky) and Fletcher Scott(Illinois).

It's been raining in Tucson, so not all of matches in the final round of qualifying were completed, but so far Americans advancing to the main draw are Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine), Ellie Douglas(TCU), Haley Giavara(Cal) and Naomi Cheong. Ariana Arseneault of Canada, who has just signed an NLI with Georgia, also advanced to the main draw. Wild cards were given to University of Arizona sophomores Khim Iglupas and Kirsten Prelle, Michigan recruit Karina Miller and Pepperdine senior Ashley Lahey.

In Austin, five Americans, including three with University of Texas ties, advanced to the main draw. Recruit Leighton Allen, sophomore Nevin Arimilli and graduate Colin Markes join Joshua Sheehy(Abilene Christian) and 18-year-old Preston Brown in the main draw. Collin Altamirano(Virginia) is the top seed. Wild cards went to Texas graduate Rodrigo Banzer, Longhorn freshmen Siem Woldeab and Evin McDonald and Texas senior Yuya Ito, who has won both ITA majors this fall. Woldeab defeated No. 8 seed Harue Inoue(Wichita State) of Japan 6-4, 6-1 in a first round match today.

I'll be in attendance tomorrow at the East Lansing tournament, where former Arizona State standout Michael Geerts of Belgium is the top seed. Americans qualifying into the main draw are Matt Kuhar(Bryant), Tanner Smith(USC) and Alex Kobelt(Ohio State/UNLV). Wild cards went to Mattias Siimar(Michigan), Keenan Mayo(Illinois) and Michigan State's John Carlin, a junior, and Anthony Pero, a sophomore.

The reformatted Davis Cup is underway in Madrid Spain, and the United States lost its first match today in round robin play. Canada's Vasek Pospisil defeated Reilly Opelka and Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz to clinch the win. Canada, which beat Italy yesterday, advances to the quarterfinals, while the US plays Italy, still with a chance to advance to the quarterfinals as one of the "wild card" teams. For more on today's matches, including what might be a key unplayed doubles match, see this article from usta.com.

Monday, November 18, 2019

ITF Grade 1 Underway in Cancun; Giron and Vandeweghe Officially Granted Australian Open Wild Cards; ITA Announces 28 Oracle Series Wild Cards for Collegians

The first of four consecutive major ITF Junior Circuit tournaments in the next three weeks has begun in Cancun Mexico. With the Grade A in Merida, the Eddie Herr Grade 1 and the Grade A Orange Bowl to follow, many of the top American juniors are skipping the Cancun event, which is the only one played on hard, rather than clay, courts.


Usually there are more US girls than US boys in any major ITF junior draw, but that's not the case at the Cancun Grade 1 this week. The US boys competing this week are Stefan Leustian[16], Connor Krug[Q], Jake Krug, Jackson Ross, Benjamin Kittay, Alex Kiefer, Hunter Heck, Milledge Cossu, Spencer Brachman[Q], Dali Blanch[5], Jack Anthrop and Adit Sinha[Q].

The top seed in the boys draw is Santiago de la Fuente of Argentina, currently 49 in the ITF Junior rankings.

The US girls competing this week are Isabelle Kouzmanov, Hibah Shaikh, Emma Jackson[13], Zoe Hitt[Q], India Houghton[Q], Tara Malik[16], Ava Krug and Madison Sieg. 

The top seed in the girls draw is 17th-ranked Sada Nahimana of Burundi. 

Wrapping up last week on the ITF Junior Circuit, three Americans won titles, all of them doubles. At the biggest event on last week's schedule, a Grade 3 in Ottawa, No. 2 seed Valencia Xu reached the singles final, falling to top seed and doubles partner Jada Bui of Canada 6-1, 7-6(4).  Bui and Xu, the top seeds, won the doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Elise Wagle and Katja Wiersholm 7-6(2), 6-4 in the final.  Marko Stakusic of Canada won the boys singles title in Ottawa, with the No. 6 seed claiming a 7-6(2), 6-4 decision over qualifier Nate Bonetto in the final. In the all-Canadian boys doubles final, unseeded Maxime St. Hilaire and Kyle Weekes defeated unseeded Stakusic and Jaden Weekes 6-0, 6-3. 

At the Grade 5 in Antigua, No. 2 seeds Artemis Pados and Hungary's Luca Udvardy won the girls doubles title, beating top seeds Sifa Butcher and Canada's Hana Gamracy 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 in the final. 

At the Grade 5 in El Salvador, No. 2 seeds Mariajose Hernandez Coronado of Guatemala and Gabriella Soliman won the girls doubles title, beating No. 6 seeds Matia Cristiani and Valeria Guerrero of El Salvador 6-2, 6-2 in the final. 

The USTA officially confirmed today that Marcos Giron(UCLA) and Coco Vandeweghe have earned the Australian Open reciprocal wild cards for 2020 after accumulating the most ATP/WTA points in the tournaments the USTA designated in its annual Challenge. Giron had to win the title in Houston to pass Michael Mmoh and he did it, saving six match points in the third set tiebreaker. After reaching the quarterfinals in two previous tournaments, Vandeweghe needed only to reach the final to pass Katerina Stewart, who won the first tournament, an $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia. Stewart and Mmoh will receive the wild cards if Vandeweghe and Giron do not need them. For more on the conclusion of the Wild Card Challenge, see this article from usta.com.


The ITA has worked with Oracle to provide wild cards for collegiate champions during the fall season, and today the ITA announced the names of all the players who will be given wild cards into Oracle Series events. According to the release, the champions from the Masters, All-Americans and Fall Nationals, in both singles and doubles, will receive wild cards into an Oracle Challenger, while the finalists in those events, and the small college champions from the ITA Cup, will get wild cards into Oracle's $25,000 events.  The first series of those, for January-March of 2020, were announced last week.

Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey and Texas's Yuya Ito earned two Challenger wild cards each, Lahey for her Masters title and her All-American title,  Ito for his All-American and Fall Nationals titles.

Oracle ITA Masters
Men’s Singles Champion – Daniel Cukierman (USC)
Men’s Singles Finalist – Keegan Smith (UCLA)
Women’s Singles Champion – Ashley Lahey (Pepperdine)
Women’s Singles Finalist – Jada Hart (UCLA)

Oracle ITA National Fall Championships
Men’s Singles Champion – Yuya Ito (Texas)
Men’s Singles Finalist – Damon Kesaris (Saint Mary’s)
Women’s Singles Champion – Sara Daavettila (North Carolina)
Women’s Singles Finalist – Anna Turati (Texas)
Men’s Doubles Champions – Dominik Kellovsky/Matej Vocel (Oklahoma State)
Men’s Doubles Finalists – Robert Cash/John McNally (Ohio State)
Women’s Doubles Champions – Elysia Bolton/Jada Hart (UCLA)
Women’s Doubles Finalists – Anna Rogers/Alana Smith (NC State)

ITA All-American Championships
Men’s Singles Champion – Yuya Ito (Texas)
Men’s Singles Finalist – Sam Riffice (Florida)
Men’s Doubles Champions – Jack Lin/Jackie Tang (Columbia)
Men’s Doubles Finalists – Gabriel Decamps/Juan Pablo Mazzuchi (UCF)
Women’s Singles Champion – Ashley Lahey (Pepperdine)
Women’s Singles Finalist – Alexa Graham (North Carolina)
Women’s Doubles Champions – Jessie Gong/Samantha Martinelli (Yale)
Women’s Doubles Finalists – Tenika McGiffin/Kaitlin Staines (Tennessee)

ITA Cup
Men’s Division II Singles Champion – Alejandro Gallego (Barry)
Men’s Division III Singles Champion – Boris Sorkin Tufts)
Men’s NAIA Singles Champion – Jose Dugo (Georgia Gwinnett)
Men’s Junior College Singles Champion – Oscar Gabriel Ortiz (Seward County)
Women’s Division II Singles Champion – Berta Bonardi (West Florida)
Women’s Division III Singles Champion – Justine Leong (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps)
Women’s NAIA Singles Champion – Elyse Lavender (Brenau)
Women’s Junior College Singles Champion – Tatiana Simova (ASA Miami)

See this article from the ITA for more information on these wild cards.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Wolf and Giron Claim ATP Challenger Titles in Third Set Tiebreakers

Former collegians won both ATP Challengers held in the United States today, with JJ Wolf and Marcos Giron taking titles in nail-biting third set tiebreakers.

Giron's title was down right improbable with the 2014 NCAA champion trailing Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-1 in the final set tiebreaker of his 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(9) victory at the ATP Challenger 125 in Houston.  The 40-year-old Karlovic, seeded No. 3, had two match points on his serve, which is one of the biggest in the game, at 6-3 and 6-4, but both times he pushed volleys long. After saving those five match points, Giron, the No. 4 seed, earned his first match point with Karlovic serving at 6-7, but Karlovic come up with an overhead winner to stop Giron's run. After Karlovic held his next serve, he had another match point, but Giron saved it when Karlovic was unable to get his return of a first serve in play. Another return error gave Giron a second match point, but Karlovic saved it with a good first serve. He missed his first serve on the next point, but decided to serve and volley on his second serve and he was unable to handle Giron's return at his feet, netting it. On his third match point, but the first on his serve, Giron hit an ace, a call that Karlovic objected to, but it stood and the former UCLA Bruin had earned the biggest title of his career.

The 26-year-old Southern Californian also has assured himself of a place in the main draw of the Australian Open, whether by his own ranking, which should move up to 102, or by finishing first in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge. With the title Giron passed Michael Mmoh, who is now in second place and will get the wild card if Giron makes the main draw on his current ranking. Giron, who won the first Challenger of 2019 in Orlando, ends the Challenger season in the United States with his second title at that level.

Former Ohio State star JJ Wolf won his first Challenger title away from his home courts in Columbus, beating 19-year-old Sebastian Korda 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) in the final of ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign. The 20-year-old from Cincinnati was down a break three times in the third set, with Korda serving at 1-0, 3-2 and most significantly, 6-5. But Wolf got two break points and converted the second on one of his patented return winners to force the tiebreaker. After two mini-breaks were exchanged, the players changed ends at 3-all, but Korda won the next two points, and had the match on his racquet, serving at 5-4. But another good return saw Korda net his response to it, making it 5-all. Korda took the next point, earning a match point, although Wolf was adamant that Korda's shot on the baseline was out. Down a match point, Wolf came up with a big first serve to save it. The next point was long and well played, with both players hitting deep and defending well. Eventually Wolf clocked a backhand that Korda couldn't handle to get to match point, and Korda missed his first serve. Wolf took advantage of the second, hitting a deep forehand return that Korda, who thought it was out, managed to get back over the net, but Wolf slammed away the weak reply for his second Challenger title, both coming this year. Wolf has now assured himself of a place in the Australian Open qualifying, breaking into the ATP Top 200 for the first time. Korda is now 0-8 in Futures and Challenger finals.

Coco Vandweghe came up short in the women's final in Houston, falling to No. 3 seed Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 7-6(4), 6-4. Vandeweghe still leads the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenger however; her points from the Houston final and two quarterfinals at $80K events earlier put her ahead of Katerina Stewart, who played only two events. Official word from the USTA regarding the wild card winners should be forthcoming Monday.

The women's doubles title in Houston went to two former collegians, with No. 2 seeds Ellen Perez(Georgia) of Australia and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) of Brazil beating top seeds Sharon Fichman of Canada and Ena Shibahara(UCLA) of Japan 1-6, 6-4, 10-5 in the final. The men's title went to top seeds Jonathan Erlich of Israel and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico who earned a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over No. 3 seeds Ariel Behar of Uruguay and Gonzalo Escobar(Texas Tech) of Ecuador in the final. For more on the doubles finals, see this article from the Oracle Challenger Series website.

In Champaign, two Georgia Tech alums won the doubles title, with unseeded Chris Eubanks and Kevin King defeating No. 4 seeds Evan Hoyt of Great Britain and Martin Redlicki(UCLA) 7-5, 6-3.

At the $25,000 women's tournament at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, top seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands won her tenth title on the ITF World Tennis Tour this year, all of them at the $25K level, beating unseeded Irina Fetecau of Romania 6-3, 6-2 in the final. In the men's $25K in Orlando, former Duke star Nicolas Alvarez added a singles title to the doubles title he won on Saturday, with the No. 3 seed beating doubles partner Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in today's final.

At the $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Thailand, qualifier Hurricane Tyra Black lost in the final to No. 2 seed Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wolf and Korda Meet in Champaign Challenger Final; Vandeweghe and Giron Reach Houston Finals; Sebastian Gorzny Returns to Tennis after Mysterious Illness

It's an all-American final at the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign after No. 9 seed JJ Wolf and No. 14 seed Sebastian Korda cruised to semifinal victories today at the Atkins Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Illinois.  The 20-year-old Wolf, who left Ohio State this spring after his junior year, defeated unseeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-4, 6-2 to reach his third Challenger final, but his first away from his home courts in Columbus. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's final, Wolf will move to a career-high of around 215 in the ATP rankings, assuring himself of a spot in the Australian Open qualifying in January.

Korda, 19, defeated wild card Alex Brown, a junior at Illinois, 6-2, 6-2 in 49 minutes to reach his second Challenger final, both this year. He is now around the cutoff for the Australian Open qualifying (he won the boys title there in 2018) and if he wins tomorrow, will be safely in. Despite today's loss, it was a great tournament for Brown, and according to this article from the Illinois website, he is the first active Illini player to ever reach a semifinal at that tournament.

At the Oracle Challenger Series in Houston, Coco Vandeweghe and Marcos Giron will play for the titles Sunday, and a wild card into the Australian Open in January. Vandeweghe, who reached the semifinals in Melbourne in 2017, is just getting back up to speed after a long injury layoff and she may have been planning to use a protected ranking for Australia, but she can earn the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge with a win over No. 3 seed Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium Sunday, passing current leader Katerina Stewart. Wild card Vandeweghe defeated No. 7 seed Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 3-6, 6-4, 7-5; Flipkens ended the run of Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech) 6-3, 7-5.

Marcos Giron will pass current Australian Open wild card leader Michael Mmoh with a win in the final Sunday, but the title would also move Giron up to around 100 or 101, so that might well be enough to get him in the main draw without a wild card. The former UCLA All-American and 2014 NCAA singles champion, seeded No. 4, defeated No. 8 seed Mitchell Krueger 7-6(4), 6-2 tonight to reach the final against No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. Karlovic defeated Christopher O'Connell 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.

Wild card Maria Mateas lost in today's semifinal at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Orlando, going out to unseeded Irina Fetecau of Romania 6-2, 6-0. Fetecau will face top seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, who beat former Miami star and No. 8 seed Stephanie Wagner of Germany 6-3, 6-0.

Wagner did collect a title this week however, partnering with Kate Fahey(Michigan) to claim the doubles championship. The unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Carolina Alves of Brazil and Renata Zarazua of Mexico 4-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the final.

In the men's $25,000 tournament in Orlando, former Duke star Nicolas Alvarez of Peru has reached the final, after the No. 3 seed defeated top seed Javier Barranco Cosano of Spain 7-5, 6-4. Alvarez will face No. 2 seed and double partner Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil in the final.

Alvarez and Sakamoto earned the doubles title today, with the top seeds beating unseeded Charlie Emhardt(Valparaiso) and Alfredo Perez(Florida) 7-6(3), 4-6, 10-8.

Hurricane Tyra Black reached her first Pro Circuit final at a $25,000 tournament in Thailand with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over top seed Valentina Ivakhnenko of Russia, her second WTA Top 300 win this week. Black faces No. 2 seed Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands in Sunday's final.

Last August, while competing at the Kalamazoo Nationals, Sebastian Gorzny mysteriously fell ill and was in a coma for days and in a local hospital here for over a week. Steve Pratt has an update for the Southern California section's website on Gorzny's recovery, with the happy news that the 15-year-old has recently begun playing competitively again.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Brown Advances to Champaign Challenger Semifinals; Giron, Krueger to Meet for Spot in Houston Challenger Final; Mateas Reaches Final Four at Orlando $25K; Black Advances to Semifinals at Thailand $25K

University of Illinois junior Alex Brown is certainly taking advantage of his wild card into the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign, advancing to the semifinals on his home courts this evening with a 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 8 seed Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina. The left-hander from Iowa has now beaten three seeds in succession, all in the ATP Top 300, and will compete for a place in Sunday's final against a fourth, ATP 288 Sebastian Korda. The 19-year-old Korda, seeded No. 14, defeated Martin Redlicki(UCLA) 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(4) in today's quarterfinal.

In the semifinal in the top half, No. 9 seed JJ Wolf(Ohio State) will face unseeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia. Wolf took out Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-2 and Kavcic ended the run of UCLA junior Keegan Smith 7-6(3), 6-3.

A very long day is wrapping up at the Oracle Challenger Series in Houston, after the round of 16 was rained out on Thursday. The women's semifinals are set, with two unseeded American veterans, Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech) and Coco Vandeweghe still alive in the WTA 125 event. Falconi, who defeated No. 2 seed Taylor Townsend in the quarterfinals, will face No. 3 seed Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, while Vandeweghe, who defeated No. 10 seed Mandy Minella of Luxembourg in the quarterfinals, plays No. 7 seed Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland. I'm not sure of the protected ranking status of Falconi and Vandeweghe, but they both still have a chance to win the USTA's Australian Open wild card with the Houston title, as leader Katerina Stewart can still be passed.

The men's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge leader Michael Mmoh retired in his quarterfinal match in Houston to Christopher O'Connell of Australia, so he is done earning points. With the 125 points on offer to the Houston winner, both No. 8 seed Mitchell Krueger and No. 4 seed Marcos Giron(UCLA) can still catch him with the title, but one will be eliminated when they play in the semifinals tomorrow. No. 15 seed Michael Redlicki(Arkansas), who lost to Krueger 6-4, 6-4 in tonight's quarterfinal, got his best win by ranking earlier today, when he beat Tennys Sandgren, currently No. 70 in the ATP rankings, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4.

At the two $25,000 tournaments at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, just one American remains, with wild card Maria Mateas(Duke) advancing to the women's semifinal. Mateas will face unseeded Irina Fetecau of Romania, while top seed Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands takes on former Miami star Stephanie Wagner of Germany, the No. 8 seed.  No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch, the last American in the men's tournament, lost to top seed Javier Barranco Cosano of Spain today 6-2, 6-3. Barranco will next face former Duke star Nicolas Alvarez of Peru, the No. 3 seed.

Hurricane Tyra Black, who has been in Asia since competing in the ITF Junior Finals in China last month, has advanced to the semifinals of the $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Thailand. Black, a qualifier, defeated No. 6 seed Fang Ying Xun of China 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. It's Black's first victory over a WTA Top 500 player, with Xun now ranked 224. The 18-year-old from Florida, who reached the quarterfinals at last week's $25K in Thailand, plays top seed Valentina Ivakhnenko of Russia next.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Division I Signing Announcements Rolling In; UCLA's Smith, Illinois's Brown Among Six Americans in Champaign Challenger Quarterfinals

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash
Yesterday was the first day that high school seniors could sign Division I National Letters of Intent, and by today, a great many schools have provided announcements of their new recruits. Some have only put out notices on Twitter, but I am going to stick to those who have posted a website article. If the nationality of the player is not given, they are from the United States.

MEN:
The University of Texas announced their second consecutive outstanding class, with Leighton Allen, Eliot Spizzirri and Micah Braswell signing yesterday. Spizzirri will be joining the Longhorns in January.

Boise State has signed Caden Moortgat.
Florida State has signed John Bernard and Maks Silagy.
Illinois has signed Hunter Heck.
LSU has signed Ben Koch.
Michigan State has signed Luke Baylis, Reed Crocker and Graydon Lair.
SMU has signed Liam Krall and Callaway Clark.
South Carolina has signed Carter Morgan and Great Britain's Toby Samuel.
Southern California has signed Sean Holt, senior Brandon Holt's brother.
Utah has signed Bruno Krenn and Wally Thane.

WOMEN:
Alabama has signed Anne Marie Hiser, Sydney Orefice and Czech Republic's Vanesa Nikolovova.
Clemson has signed Jenna Thompson and Sophia Hatton.
Florida State has signed Lara Schneider and Italy's Alice Amendola.
Georgia Tech has signed Ava Hrastar, India's Mahak Jain and Croatia's Monika Dedaj. Dedaj will start in January.
Illinois has signed Katherine Duong.
Michigan has signed Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller.
Oklahoma has signed Carmen Corley; her sister Ivana is a sophomore at Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State announced that Lenka Stara of Slovakia will be joining the team in January.
Oregon has signed Janice Tjen of Indonesia.
South Carolina has signed Corina Spasojevic of Canada.
Vanderbilt has signed Anessa Lee.

I will continue to monitor signings for the next few days and make sure you check the Tennis Recruiting Network often, as they are adding commitment stories throughout the week.

Rain kept any matches from being played at the WTA 125 and ATP Challenger 125 in Houston today. See the Oracle Challenger website for the link to Friday's schedule.

There are no such issues at the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign, where the indoor courts have been kind to Americans. Six players from the United States have reached the quarterfinals, including UCLA junior Keegan Smith and Illinois junior Alex Brown, both of whom received wild cards. Smith, the 2019 NCAA doubles champion, was at the top of his game against 2016 NCAA singles finalist Mikael Torpegaard(Ohio State) of Denmark, breezing to a 6-0, 6-3 victory over the No. 4 seed in an hour and six minutes. Brown, who obviously has a home court advantage, took out No. 2 seed Blaz Rola(Ohio State) of Slovenia in the second round and tonight defeated No. 13 seed JC Aragone(Virginia) 7-6(5), 6-3.

No. 9 seed JJ Wolf (Ohio State) will play unseeded Stefan Kozlov in one quarterfinal, while Smith faces unseeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia in the other quarterfinal in the top half. Martin Redlicki(UCLA) will play No. 14 seed Sebastian Korda and Brown will take on Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina, the No. 8 seed.

Live streaming is available at the ATP Challenger home page.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Scott Turns Pro; Pepperdine's Lahey and USC's Cukierman Top ITA Fall Rankings; Bryan Brothers Announce 2020 Retirement

Topnotch Management announced today that it has signed a contract with 15-year-old Katrina Scott to represent her as a professional tennis player. Scott, currently No. 40 in the ITF World Junior rankings after starting the year at 348, reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 US Open Junior Championships, helped the US to a Junior Fed Cup title at the end of September and reached the semifinals as a qualifier at last week's $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Malibu. The Woodland Hills California resident will be represented by the Topnotch's LA-based agent Meilen Tu. According to the press release, Scott will be playing the Orange Bowl in December and the Australian Open in January. She will be around 615 in the WTA rankings when her points from Malibu are added next week.

The ITA published their final singles and doubles rankings for the fall season today, and once again they are demonstrating the problem with the method currently used to determine the rankings. Last season's final women's singles ranking had Katarina Jokic of Georgia at No. 1 and NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami at No. 2, even though Perez-Somarriba was the No. 1 seed going into the NCAA singles championships and beat No. 2 seed Jokic in the final. If the algorithm doesn't account for that scenario properly you have to wonder about its efficacy, and today's rankings just add more fuel to that fire.

Yuya Ito of Texas won the ITA All-American Championships and the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships, two of the individual majors in Division I College tennis, (the NCAA championships are the third), and he is not No. 1 in the rankings. Daniel Cukierman of USC, who lost in the quarterfinals of the Fall Nationals and did not play the All-American tournament, is at the top of the rankings, with Ito in second place.

In the women's doubles, Anna Rogers and Alana Smith of North Carolina State are No. 1, with Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart of UCLA No. 2, despite the fact that Bolton and Hart defeated Rogers and Smith  6-4, 6-3 in the Fall Nationals final.

The evidence is mounting that the current ranking procedure is producing flawed outcomes, and the ITA needs to recognize this and begin investigating ways to remedy it sooner rather than later.

Click on the headings to go to the full rankings.

Women's Division I Singles Fall Top 10:
1. Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine
2. Cameron Morra, North Carolina
3. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
T4. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
T4. Anna Turati, Texas
6. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
7. Michaela Gordon, Stanford
8. Alexa Graham, North Carolina
9. Jada Hart, UCLA
10. Kelly Chen, Duke

Women's Division I Doubles Fall Top 5:
1. Alana Smith and Anna Rogers, NC State
2. Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart, UCLA
3. Rebeka Stolmar and Marie Mattel, Central Florida
4. Jessie Gong and Samantha Martinelli, Yale
5. Cameron Morra and Makenna Jones, North Carolina

Men's Division I Singles Fall Top 10:
1. Daniel Cukierman, USC
2. Yuya Ito, Texas
3. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
4. Sam Riffice, Florida
5. Richard Ciamarra, Notre Dame
6. Jack Lin, Columbia
7. Keegan Smith, UCLA
8. Joseph Guillin, UC Santa Barbara
9. Mor Bulis, USC
10. Hady Habib, Texas A&M

Men's Division I Doubles Fall Top 5:
1. Matej Vocel and Dominik Kellovsky, Oklahoma State
2. Robert Cash and John McNally, Ohio State
3. Jackie Tang and Jack Lin, Columbia
4. Christian Sigsgaard and Yuya Ito, Texas
5. Andrew Fenty and Mattias Siimar, Michigan

Mike and Bob Bryan announced today that they are retiring after the 2020 US Open. The twins, now 41, made their debut at the US Open in 1995 after winning the Kalamazoo 18s title, and have played that slam 25 times, with Bob winning five men's doubles title there and Mike six. There is little disagreement about their place in tennis history and they are certain to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as soon as they become eligible. For more on all their accomplishments and their plans for 2020, see this article from usopen.org.