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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Texas Men Start NCAA Title Defense with Win over No. 1 Florida; Clemson's Harris Announces Retirement; Damm Top Seed at Traralgon Grade 1; Australian Open Draws Announced

Senior Yuya Ito clinched the win for the Longhorns
It's hard to imagine a better opening match for the Division I dual match season than the one that took place last night in Gainesville, with the 2019 NCAA champion Texas men, No. 2 in preseason poll, facing Florida, who topped last week's poll.  Florida took the doubles point, but Texas roared back to post a 5-2 win, with Yuya Ito clinching it for the Longhorns with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Oliver Crawford at line 1. Texas had three freshmen in the singles lineup--Siem Woldeab, Eliot Spizzirri and redshirt Cleeve Harper--with Woldeab at line 3 and Spizzirri at line 4 posting wins. Texas will certainly move to No. 1 in next week's team rankings, and when the computer rankings begin next month, getting a road win over such a good team will be especially valuable.

The recap from the Texas website is excellent, featuring plenty of match details and quotes from head coach Bruce Berque. An article this thorough is unfortunately rare in college tennis, so I want to make sure I recognize SIDs who are providing this quality of reporting. There are also video highlights here.

In other Division I tennis news, Nancy Harris, who has led the Clemson women for 23 years, will retire at the end of this season. Harris posted more than 500 wins in her career, made the NCAA tournament 19 times and guided the Tigers to the Final Four in 2004 and 2005. For more on her accomplishments, see this article from the Clemson website.

The ITF Grade 1 in Traralgon Australia is set to begin Friday (tonight in the United States) with four US girls and five US boys in the main draw. Martin Damm is the top seed and Dali Blanch is the No. 15 seed. Cash Hanzlik, who qualified, and Kalamazoo 16s finalists Alex Bernard and Aidan Mayo round out the American contingent in the boys draw.

None of the three US girls in qualifying won their final round matches. Robin Montgomery is the No. 2 seed and Savannah Broadus in the No. 16 seed. India Houghton and Ellie Coleman are the other two American girls in the Australian Open warmup event.

The men's and women's singles draws for the Australian Open were revealed Thursday, with 11 US men and 19 US women receiving direct entry.

Just two of the men are seeded: No. 19 John Isner(Georgia) and No. 29 Taylor Fritz. The remaining American men are Frances Tiafoe, Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), Sam Querrey, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul, Steve Johnson(USC), Marcos Giron(UCLA), Michael Mmoh[WC] and Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA).

Paul has reached the semifinals of an ATP event for the first time in his career in Adelaide as a qualifier. Paul is now working with former USTA coach Brad Stine and the ATP published an article recently about their partnership.

In contrast to the men, the women have seven seeded players: Alison Riske[18], Madison Keys[10], Sloane Stephens[24], Sofia Kenin[14], Serena Williams[8], Danielle Collins[26](Virginia) and Amanda Anisimova[21]. The other American women in the draw are Bernarda Pera, Christina McHale, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Madison Brengle, Kristie Ahn, Cici Bellis, Jennifer Brady, Lauren Davis, Taylor Townsend, Jessica Pegula and Coco Vandeweghe[WC].  Venus and Gauff will have a rematch of their Wimbledon contest, with Townsend and Pegula also meeting in an all-US first rounder.

Collins, who reached the quarterfinals of the WTA event last week in Brisbane, is into the semifinals this week in Adelaide. The two-time NCAA champion, who beat No. 4 seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-1 Thursday, has two wins over Top 10 players now in the past two weeks, dropping six games total in them. She takes on No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia in Friday's semifinals.

The qualifying continues at the Australian Open, with Chris Eubanks, JJ Wolf and Ernesto Escobedo the US men who still have a chance to reach the main draw. Eight US women are still in the running: Ann Li, Sachia Vickery, Varvara Lepchenko, Allie Kiick, Danielle Lao, Shelby Rogers, Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally. Six is the maximum number that can make the main draw, as four could meet in the final round of qualifying.