Thursday, January 9, 2020

Stanford Women, Florida Men Voted No. 1 in First Oracle/ITA Team Rankings; Three Unseeded US Girls Reach ITF Grade 1 Coffee Bowl Semifinals; Brady Beats WTA No. 1 Barty; Wolf Makes Noumea Challenger Semifinals

The dual match season is right around the corner and the Oracle/ITA Division preseason team rankings were released on Wednesday, with the Stanford women and Florida men in the No. 1 positions. Stanford won the women's NCAA title last year, while the Florida men lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Texas.  Stanford received 8 first place votes, North Carolina 3 and Georgia 1. Florida received 5 first place votes, Texas 4 and USC 3.

These rankings are based on voting, not on a computer algorithm so this is what coaches think based on what they know of the teams before they've played any matches. Once some actual matches are played and enough results are tabulated, the computer will take over; this year that will be February 18th. The ranking manual for 2019-20 is available here.

Women's preseason rankings, with last year's final ranking in parentheses:

1. Stanford (1)
T2. North Carolina (3)
T2. Georgia (2)
4. UCLA (7)
5. Duke (4)
6. Pepperdine (6)
7. Texas (9)
8. NC State (11)
9. South Carolina (5)
10. Vanderbilt (8)

Men's preseason rankings:
1. Florida (4)
2. Texas (2)
3. USC (8)
4. North Carolina (7)
5. Baylor (6)
6. Ohio State (3)
7. Wake Forest (2)
8. TCU (10)
9. Texas A&M (14)
10. Virginia (5)

The ITA appears to making a transition to a new website, with the current and past rankings now available at this page.
The girls semifinals are set at the ITF Grade 1 Coffee Bowl in Costa Rica, and three unseeded girls have advanced to the final four. Alexis Blokhina, who defeated the top seed yesterday, continued her run with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Sofia Rojas. Blokhina, 15, will play another American on Friday, with 14-year-old Alexia Harmon advancing with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Melisa Ercan of Turkey. Nevena Carton, 16, reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 15 seed Lola Radivojevic of Serbia. She will play No. 16 seed Lan Mi of China, who trains in the United States. Mi defeated No. 11 seed Rebecca Lynn 6-0, 6-1.

All three of the US boys in the quarterfinals--Bruno Kuzuhara, wild card JC Roddick and top seed Dali Blanch--were playing night matches. In the two matches that are complete in the boys quarterfinals, Kuzuhara lost to Sweden's Leo Borg, son of Bjorn Borg, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Natan Rodrigues of Brazil defeated No. 11 seed Mehdi Sadaoui of France 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

Jennifer Brady earned the best win of her career Thursday, taking out world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-4, 7-6(4) to reach the quarterfinals of the premier event in Brisbane. The former UCLA star, a qualifier, will face No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic Friday. For more on Brady's win, see this article from the WTA website.

At the ATP 90 Challenger in Noumea, JJ Wolf has reached the semifinals, beating Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 6-3, 6-4 in Friday's quartefinals. The 21-year-old former Buckeye, who won the Columbus Challenger that was played this week in 2019, now has a nine-match winning streak at the Challenger level. He won the Champaign Challenger in November of 2019 to close out his year, a result that helped him gain entry into the Australia Open qualifying, which begins next week.