Friday, November 1, 2019

October Aces; Nakashima Reaches Charlottesville Challenger Semis; Fields Announced for Oracle ITA National Fall Championships

My monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network features what I believe is a record number of aces, with 20 (21 including the Turati twins) highlights from October. No fewer than seven juniors won their first Pro Circuit singles titles, and with major college and junior events throughout the month, there was a lot to cover.

Brandon Nakashima has put up some impressive results since reaching the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships, reaching the quarterfinals at the Tiburon ATP 100 Challenger, the semifinals at the Fairfield ATP 100 Challenger and the semifinals this week at the ATP 80 Challenger in Charlottesville. The 18-year-old Nakashima, who entered college early and played the dual match season this year at the University of Virginia, has now beaten Taro Daniel of Japan twice in the quarterfinals in the past month, including today's 6-7(7), 6-1, 6-3 victory over the No. 4 seed. Those two wins are the best ranking wins that Nakashima has had, with Daniel at 110 and 111 in the ATP rankings.

Although Nakashima cruised in the second set, closing out the third set was a challenge, with Daniel saving five match points serving at 2-5 and two more with Nakashima serving for it at 5-3. But Nakashima stayed aggressive despite the mounting tension and hit two forehand winners to go from break point down to earn his eighth match point and a good first serve finally sealed the win.

Nakashima, a wild card this week, will play No. 10 seed Vasek Pospisil of Canada in Saturday's semifinals. Pospisil defeated Nakashima 6-0, 7-6(3) in their only previous meeting, in the qualifying of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells back in March of 2018, when Nakashima was just 16 years old.

The other semifinal will feature top seed Brayden Schnur(North Carolina) of Canada against No. 16 seed Dimitry Popko of Kazakhstan. Popko took out No. 5 seed Marcos Giron(UCLA) 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. With Giron out, Nakashima is the last American remaining, meaning he will lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge after this first week.

The ITA today released the fields for next week's Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach California. ITA All-American champion Yuya Ito of Texas is entered on the men's side, but women's All-American champion Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine is not. Other notable absentees on the women's side are 2019 NCAA singles finalist Katarina Jokic of Georgia, Makenna Jones of North Carolina, Kenya Jones of Georgia Tech and Bianca Turati of Texas. Even without Jones, North Carolina has four players in the main draw: Sara Daavettila, Alexa Graham, Cameron Morra and Alle Stanford. Six schools have three players participating: Cal, Central Florida, Duke, NC State, Oklahoma State and UCLA.

Florida's Sam Riffice, the All-American finalist, is not playing, nor is his teammate Oliver Crawford. Virginia's Carl Soderlund, who is No. 1 in the ITA pre-season rankings, hasn't played at all this fall in college events and isn't entered here either. USC's Brandon Holt, Stanford's Axel Geller and NC State's Alex Galarneau are also missing.

Even with Holt not participating, USC has four players in the field, the most of any school: Riley Smith, Daniel Cukierman, Mor Bulis and Stefan Dostanic. In addition, Jake Sands and Bradley Frye from USC are alternates. Schools with three participants are Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M.

In men's doubles, Baylor, Iowa and Oklahoma State each have two teams in the field; in women's doubles, Central Florida, NC State, North Carolina and Oklahoma State have two teams competing. UCLA has an astounding three teams in the women's doubles field.

The complete list of men's competitors is here; the complete list of women's competitors is here.

The ITA has published an article focusing on the non-Division I players who have made the field here.