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Friday, January 10, 2020

My Conversation with USTA's Head of Women's Tennis Kathy Rinaldi; Nava Among Three Americans into Los Angeles $25K Semifinals; Kozlov, Blanch and Wolf Move on in Challengers

I have known Kathy Rinaldi for more than a decade, starting when she was named a USTA National Coach. She traveled to many of the same tournaments as I did when she was working primarily with younger juniors and even as she was  given more responsibility at the USTA, she could always be found at a junior event, watching those coming up. After being named Fed Cup captain in 2016 and leading the US to the title in 2017, Rinaldi continued in that role, and last year was named head of women's tennis at the USTA. Although there are few bigger roles than that in the organization, Rinaldi is still a regular at junior matches, and this year I caught up with her at the Junior Orange Bowl, where she was watching and supporting the American girls competing in that event. I took the opportunity to ask Rinaldi how her first year in the new position has gone, and about the new Fed Cup format, the WTA age restrictions, and what advice she has for parents of junior players. All that and more can be found in this interview, published today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The semifinals are set at both the USTA Pro Circuit events, with two Americans in the Ann Arbor ATP Challenger 80 final four and three Americans advancing at the $25,000 tournament in Los Angeles.

Unseeded Stefan Kozlov defeated top seed Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6(4), 6-2 to reach his first Challenger semifinal in over two years. The 21-year-old will face former USF All-American Roberto Cid (South Florida), the No. 4 seed, who saved six match points in his second round match against Agustin Velotti of Argentina when I was at the tournament Wednesday. In the other semifinal, unseeded Ulises Blanch will take on No. 10 seed Daniel Altmaier of Germany after Blanch defeated No. 8 seed JC Aragone(Virginia) 7-5, 5-7, 6-2. Live streaming is available at the ATP website.

In Los Angeles, wild card Emilio Nava, who turned 18 last month, is through to the semifinals, defeating former USC star Raymond Sarmiento 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Nava will play top seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina, who played briefly at South Carolina, in the semifinals. It's the first semifinal at the $25K level for the 2019 US Open and Australian Open boys finalist.

In the other semifinal, unseeded Brandon Holt, a senior at USC, will face No. 6 seed Alexander Ritschard, a former Virginia standout. Holt took out No. 2 seed Geoffrey Blancaneaux of France 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, while Ritschard beat former teammate Collin Altamirano, the No. 4 seed, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

At the ATP Challenger 90 in Noumea, JJ Wolf has advanced to the final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over unseeded Matteo Viola of Italy. Wolf has lost only one set en route to the final, to No. 2 seed and ATP No. 80 Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain in the second round. In what I watched of that match, Wolf was particularly good at simply taking time away from Viola, which is essential for the former Ohio State Buckeye as he ascends to the highest level of the sport. He has now won 10 straight matches at the Challenger level, having won the last US Challenger in Champaign in November.


Jon King said...

No offense to Kathy Rinaldi, but the USTA has nothing to do with true player development. Its always been the parent coaches and private coaches. USTA player development has been a 30 year fiasco and waste of money.

We live in the hot bed of US tennis, South Florida. The running joke among the best kids and parents is how they have to succeed despite the USTA. USTA tournaments are poorly run for the most part. USTA coaches are avoided at all costs.

All the girls on the Junior Fed Cup and all the US women pros were developed 100% by parent or private coaches. The USTA should focus on one thing in regards to junior tennis, make the tournaments fair by having more officials and make them well organized. Thats it. Parent and private coaches will handle everything else. We do not need USTA coaches nor USTA player development.

Suggestions? said...

@Jon King what do you suggest instead of USTA tournaments then? Other than UTR or ITF’s, there isn’t another option, unless another organization starts up with the player in mind.

Jon King said...

Suggestions....unfortunately for an American player there are only the 2 options, USTA or ITF tournaments. Some of the S. Florida girls have started playing mostly ITF tournaments, but this requires lots of travel and is expensive.

USTA tournaments are quite random. Sometimes you get 1 roving ref for 12 courts, other times a few more. Sometimes a few adults are around to check in and supervise, other times the kids show up and have to wait for anyone at the check in desk. Sometimes nice trophies for 4 matches of hard work, others a plastic medal that looks like it costs 20 cents. Some tournaments you go court to court and see blatant cheating like in South Florida, other times its a fair event like if you drive a few hours north.

We visit other countries and the tournaments are so structured and consistent. More adult supervision, much smoother. The kids can concentrate on developing their games and having fun.

USTA needs to cancel all high performance spending. Use Orlando for college tennis and public play and tournaments. Spend all the high performance money and salaries on having consistent tournaments, plenty of referees to insure fairness, consistent awards, just a smoother experience for the kids.

The private coaches and parents will develop the players.