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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Cressy, Wolf Reach Challenger Finals; Emory and CMS Advance to Women's D-III Indoor Final; McKennon and DeFalco Win ITF Titles; Grant Makes Tennis Europe U12 Final in France

A year ago, both Maxime Cressy and JJ Wolf were playing college tennis, for UCLA and Ohio State. On Sunday, they will play for their second ATP Challenger titles of the year after claiming deciding tiebreakers at events in Calgary and Columbus.

The 22-year-old Cressy, who won last week's ATP Challenger in Drummondville, pounded 31 aces in his 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) over No. 7 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain. The No. 10 seed this week, Cressy will move to a career-high regardless of the result on Sunday, when he meets No. 8 seed Arthur Rinderknech of France in a rematch of the Drummondville final. Rinderknech, a Texas A&M graduate, defeated unseeded Kacper Zuk of Poland 6-3, 7-6(3).

The 21-year-old Wolf earned his second consecutive win over former teammate Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, taking a 7-6(2), 7-6(5) decision over the 2016 NCAA singles finalist.  There were no breaks of serve in the match, with No. 6 seed Wolf saving three break points and No. 8 seed Torpegaard two.  Wolf will play No. 5 seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who defeated No. 13 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-3, 7-6(1).  Treat Huey(Virginia) and Nate Lammons(SMU) won their second Challenger title in the past three weeks, with the No. 4 seeds defeating unseeded Lloyd Glasspool(Texas) of Great Britain and Alex Lawson(Notre Dame) 7-6(3), 7-6(4) in today's final.

At the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit women's event in Rancho Santa Fe California,  No. 3 seed Xiaodi You of China won the singles title, beating No. 5 seed Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia 6-4, 7-6(5). Kayla Day and Sophie Whittle took the doubles title, with the unseeded Americans beating No. 2 seeds You and Eudice Chong(Wesleyan) of Hong Kong 6-2, 5-7, 10-7 in the final.

The finals are set for the ITA Women's Division III Team Indoor Championships, and as with the men, Emory and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps will contest the Sunday's final.  Neither were challenged in today's semifinals, with top seed CMS defeating No. 4 seed Carnegie Mellon 9-0 and No. 2 seed Emory beating No. 3 seed Pomona-Pitzer 8-1. The final is scheduled for noon on Sunday at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Nicholasville Kentucky. Links to live scoring and live streaming is available at the ITA tournament page.

Top seeds Max McKennon and Jenna DeFalco won ITF singles titles today, with McKennon taking the Grade 3 tournament in El Salvador and DeFalco earning the Grade 4 tile in Mexico. McKennon, who has committed to Arizona State for this fall, defeated No. 9 seed Francisco Villarroel of Venezuela 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-4 to add to the doubles title he won yesterday.  McKennon now has three singles and six doubles titles on the ITF Junior Circuit. Qavia Lopez lost in the girls final in El Salvador, with the No. 9 seed dropping a 7-5, 6-4 decision to No. 13 seed Leena Bennetto of Canada.

DeFalco won her sixth singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, defeating fellow American Daniella Benabraham 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Unseeded Tauheed Browning reached the boys final, but lost to No. 3 seed Maxime Mareschal-Hay of Canada 6-3, 6-0.

Bolton and Les Petits As always draw Americans to those major Tennis Europe Indoor events, and the USTA usually puts together a team and provides a coach for the eight 14-and-under boys and girls who make the trip. But the 12s age division doesn't normally attract Americans, possibly because there are no rankings (or seedings) for that age group in Europe and it's difficult to know where the best American players might fit in. The USTA doesn't sponsor a trip, but this year at the Open Super 12 Auray in France, an important Level 1, two Americans did participate and performed well. Carel Ngounoue, the younger brother of Clervie, qualified and reached the quarterfinals, while Tyra Grant, also a qualifier, has reached the final. From what I have gathered, Grant lives and trains in Italy and has never played in the United States. Grant will play Hanna Klugman of Great Britain for the title Sunday. Live scoring is available at TennisTicker. Grant's three-set semifinal win from today is available on YouTube.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Former Teammates Wolf and Torpegaard Meet in Columbus Challenger Semifinals; American Finalists Abound at El Salvador ITF Grade 3; Fritz Advances to Acapulco Final

Two former Ohio State Buckeyes who are extremely comfortable on the indoor courts of the OSU Varsity Tennis Center will face off there Saturday for a place in the ATP Columbus 80 Challenger final, with former teammates Mikael Torpegaard and JJ Wolf meeting for the fourth time in their careers.  Wolf, the No. 6 seed, came back to defeat No. 3 seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3, while Torpegaard, the No. 8 seed, beat No. 2 seed Marc Polmans of Australia 7-5, 7-6(2). Torpegaard, the 25-year-old from Denmark, won their first two meetings, in the Winnipeg Challenger qualifying and in the round of 16 at a Columbus Challenger in 2018, but the 21-year-old Wolf won their most recent encounter, in the final of Columbus Challenger in January of 2019.  In the top half of the draw, No. 13 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria will face No. 5 seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

At the ATP 90 Challenger in Calgary, last week's Drummondville Challenger champion Maxime Cressy(UCLA) has reached the semifinals, with the No. 10 seed saving three match points in the second set tiebreaker to beat unseeded Yusuke Takahashi of Japan 4-6, 7-6(11), 6-4. Cressy will play No. 7 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain in the semifinals.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California, unseeded 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste lost 6-3, 6-2 to No. 3 seed Xiaodi You in today's semifinal. You will play No. 5 seed Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia, who defeated top seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-2, 6-1. You and Hong Kong's Eudice Chong, the four-time NCAA singles champion at Wesleyan, have advanced to the doubles final; the No. 2 seeds play unseeded Americans Kayla Day and Sophie Whittle(Gonzaga).

At the ITF Grade 3 in El Salvador, top seed Max McKennon and No. 9 seed Qavia Lopez have advanced to the singles finals, while Americans swept the doubles championships.  McKennon defeated No. 3 seed Jake Krug 7-6(7), 6-2 in today's semifinal, and Lopez beat No. 12 seed Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-2.  The 14-year-old Lopez will face No. 13 seed Leena Bennetto of Canada for title. McKennon's opponent in the final is No. 9 seed Francisco Villarroel of Venezuela, who beat No. 8 seed Sam Scherer of the United States 6-4, 6-2.

McKennon and Spencer Brachman, the No. 3 seeds, won the boys doubles title, beating No. 6 seeds John Chin of Jamaica and Richard Mallory of Bermuda 6-4, 6-3. Top seeds Kailey Evans and Tara Malik won the girls doubles championship, beating unseeded Josefa Fernandez of Chile and American Leah Kuruvilla 6-1, 7-5 in the final.

At the ATP tournament in Acapulco, 22-year-old Taylor Fritz has advanced to his fifth ATP final, but first at the 500 level, coming back to defeat No. 5 seed John Isner 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Fritz was serving down 2-4 0-40 in the second set, but he held and broke, then broke again, after an odd delay due to a bat in the stadium, to take the second set. Fritz got up an early break in the third and didn't face a break point, serving out the match at love. In Saturday's final, Fritz will play either Rafael Nadal or Grigor Dimitrov, who play later this evening. Fritz, currently 35 in the rankings, with his career high of 25, should move to a new career high regardless of the outcome of the final.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Women's Division III ITA Team Indoor Championships Begin Friday in Kentucky; D-II Indoor Championships Debut; Emory Tops New Men's D-III Rankings; Nadal and Dimitrov Head to Atlanta for Exhibition Monday

The Division III Women's Team Indoor Championships begin Friday at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Nicholasville Kentucky, with Claremont Mudd Scripps the top seed and defending champion Emory seeded second. Centre College is the host school. Friday's schedule:

Emory[2] v Brandeis[7], 9 a.m. EST
Carnegie Mellon[4] v Chicago[5], 9 a.m.
Claremont Mudd Scripps[1] v Centre College, 1 p.m.
Pomona Pitzer[3] v MIT[6], 1 p.m.

Live streaming and live scoring links are available here. The ITA preview is here.

Division II has never held an Team Indoor Championship, but this year both the men and the women will be in Oklahoma for their inaugural events this weekend. As with Division III, the tournaments feature eight-team fields and are played over three days.

Barry is the top seed in the men's tournament, with Midwestern State the host school.

Friday's schedule:

Hawaii Pacific[3] v Flagler[6], 8 a.m. CST
Columbus State[2] v Saint Leo[7], 11 a.m.
West Florida[4] v Wingate[5], 2:30 p.m.
Barry[1] v Midwestern State[8] 5:30 p.m.

Barry and Columbus State are also the top two seeds in the women's tournament, which is hosted by the University of Central Oklahoma.

Friday's schedule:
Saint Leo[4] v. Nova Southeastern[5], 8:00 a.m. CT
Barry[1] v Washburn[8], 11:00 a.m.
Indianapolis[3] v Hawaii Pacific[6], 2:30 p.m.
Columbus State[2] v Central Oklahoma[7], 5:30 p.m.

The new ITA National Division III men's team rankings, which are done via poll, are out today, with 2019 NCAA champions and 2020 National Indoor champions Emory at the top. The women's D-III rankings will come out next week, after the Indoor Championships.

1. Emory
2. Claremont Mudd Scripps
3. Middlebury
4. Chicago
5. Amherst
6. Wesleyan
7. Bowdoin
8. Brandeis
9. Case Western Reserve
10. Williams

Both Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov are still playing in the ATP 500 this week in Acapulco, but they have another engagement planned for Monday, in Duluth Georgia, where they are scheduled to stage an exhibition, with a portion of the proceeds going to both Nadal's foundation and the National Tennis Foundation. On Sunday night, a charity dinner and live auction will be held and a courtside meet and greet will also be also available, with the deadline for that opportunity Friday, February 28th. For more information, see the website of Premier Live, the exhibition's promoters.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

New Name for March's ITF Grade 1 in Carson; Six Americans Advance to Quarterfinals at El Salvador Grade 3; Paul Earns First ATP Top 10 Win over Zverev in Acapulco

The site of the ITF Grade 1 in Carson has changed names several times in the
past 15 years, but the location has remained the same.

The ITF Grade 1 in Carson California has been known as the USTA International Spring Championships since its inception in 2005, but that is changing this year. The USTA's Southern California section has taken over the tournament from USTA Player Development, and it is now known as International Open of Southern California. Former ATP doubles standout Scott Lipsky, who is employed by the section, is the new tournament director, replacing Lew Brewer.

The tournament's new website doesn't mention anything about a 16s tournament, which had been part of the event for the past 15 years, and the USTA's TennisLink site for the tournament also makes no reference to a 16s event.  Another change will be in the officiating, which had featured chair umpires from the first round; the website now says chair umpires will be used from the quarterfinals on, which is typical for Grade 1 events. The USTA had used Carson as a training ground for officials, which is why chairs started from the first round matches.

The past two years, the Easter Bowl had been before the Grade 1 in Carson, but this year's calendar has Carson before the Easter Bowl Grade B1, as it was from 2005-2017.

Entries closed Tuesday for the tournament, and the acceptance lists were up briefly on the ITF website, but they are not currently available. I did note that Robin Montgomery, Alexa Noel and Katrina Scott did not enter, but that Australian Open girls finalist Weronika Baszak of Poland did. Alexandra Yepifanova, Elvina Kalieva, Madison Sieg, Ellie Coleman, Savannah Broadus, India Houghton and Sofia Rojas are the ITF Top 100 American girls entered.

The highest-ranked Americans, Martin Damm and Toby Kodat, did not enter, nor did 2019 Carson finalist Zachary Svajda, the Kalamazoo 18s champion. I was surprised to see Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan on the entry list, as the Wimbledon boys champion has not played a junior event since leading his team to the Junior Davis Cup title last September. I will be even more surprised if he actually plays the tournament, as he did not compete at the Eddie Herr, which was held at IMG Academy, where he lives and trains.

Top 100 American boys entered are Dali Blanch, Bruno Kuzuhara, Alex Bernard, Aidan Mayo, Jack Anthrop and Benjamin Kittay.

At the ITF Grade 3 in El Salvador this week, four of the eight boys in the quarterfinals are Americans: top seed Max McKennon, No. 3 seed Jake Krug, unseeded Ryan Colby and No. 8 seed Sam Scherer. Colby and Scherer play each other Thursday.  Two US girls have advanced to the quarterfinals, and they face off on Thursday, with No. 9 seed Qavia Lopez playing No. 2 seed Tara Malik.

The third round is not yet complete at the Grade 4 in Tampico Mexico, but unseeded qualifier Sebastian Sec has beaten top seed Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Other American boys into the quarterfinals are Tauheed Browning and Ekansh Kumar[6], who play each other, and Jameson Corsillo[4] and Maxim Groysman[11], who play each other.

At the ATP 500 event in Acapulco, Tommy Paul earned his first Top 10 win tonight, beating No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 6-4. Although both are 22 years old, the only time I can remember a match between them was back in 2011, in the Eddie Herr 14s, when Paul won that round of 16 match in a third set tiebreaker. Next for Paul is No. 5 seed John Isner, who beat qualifier Marcos Giron 6-3, 7-6(4) today.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

USTA Pro Circuit Returns This Week in Rancho Santa Fe and Columbus; USC Men, UNC Women Stay No. 1; Former Texas Coach Michael Center Sentenced to Six Months in Jail

After a rare winter week without any USTA Pro Circuit tournaments scheduled last week, two tournaments are underway this week, with the women at a $25,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California and the men at an Oracle Pro Series ATP 80 Challenger in Columbus Ohio.

The women's field is a strong one for that level, with WTA 154 Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium the top seed and the cutoff for the main draw at 308, which is close to the same cutoff as the $100K earlier this month in Midland. American qualifiers are Hanna Chang, Kayla Day and Megan Manasse. Wild cards were awarded to Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine), Jamie Loeb(North Carolina), Megan McCray(Oklahoma State) and local 19-year-old Haley Giavara, a freshman at Cal. Giavara played her first round match on Monday and defeated No. 4 seed Danielle Lao(USC) 6-1, 6-3.  Fred Sidhu, press aide for the tournament, talked to Giavara about her win yesterday in this recap.

Two Australians are the top seeds in Columbus, with Christopher O'Connell at the top of the draw and Marc Polmans at the bottom. Wild cards were awarded to Illinois junior Alex Brown, Ohio State junior John McNally and Buckeye freshmen Justin Boulais and Cannon Kingsley. All four lost their first round matches. Former Ohio State teammates JJ Wolf, the No. 6 seed, and Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the No. 8 seed, had first round byes, with Wolf winning his second round match today. Torpegaard is on the schedule for Wednesday. Former Northwestern standout Strong Kirchheimer, who got in as an alternate, has now advanced to the round of 16 in a Challenger for the first time after his 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) win over No. 10 seed Peter Polansky of Canada today. It's also Kirchheimer's first win over a player in the ATP Top 200.

The ATP also has a Challenger 90 in Calgary this week, and that has drawn quite a few Americans as well. The wild cards all went to Canadians playing Division I college tennis: Taha Baadi(Wake Forest), Alex Galarneau(NC State), Joshua Peck(North Carolina), Gabriel Diallo(Kentucky) and Cleeve Harper(Texas). Vasek Pospisil is the top seed, with Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) the No. 6 seed, Drummondville champion Maxime Cressy(UCLA) the No. 10 seed, and JC Aragone(Virginia) the No. 13 seed.  Americans Felix Corwin(Minnesota) and Alex Rybakov(TCU) qualified, and both won their first round matches today. Corwin will play Aragone Wednesday, with Rybakov taking on No. 2 seed Go Soeda of Japan.

This week's Division I team rankings find both National Indoor Champions retaining their places at the top. The North Carolina women had to win the final two singles matches in third sets in their conference opener at No. 2 Florida State, with Cameron Morra and Elizabeth Scotty coming through at lines 2 and 3 with the Tar Heels trailing 3-2. Sara Daavettila did not play for North Carolina, which is now 13-0 on the year.

Stanford defeated Texas 4-3 in Austin over the weekend, and that helped the Cardinal climb back into the Top 10 after falling to No. 12 in last week's first computerized rankings. The full rankings are here.

Women's ITA Division I Team Rankings
February 25, 2020
(previous ranking in parentheses)
1. North Carolina(1)
2. Florida State(2)
3. NC State(4)
4. Texas(3)
5. Ohio State(6)
6. Stanford(12)
7. Duke(10)
8. UCLA(7)
9. Georgia(8)
10. Georgia Tech(11)

There were no new teams in the Top 10 in the men's rankings this week, but North Carolina moved up to No. 2, replacing Ohio State, and Michigan dropped one spot after being blanked by Oklahoma State.
The complete ranking list is here.

Men's ITA Division I Team Rankings
February 25, 2020
1. USC(1)
2. North Carolina(3)
3. Ohio State(2)
4. Texas(5)
5. Michigan(4)
6. Florida(6)
7. Columbia(7)
8. Stanford(8)
9. NC State(9)
10. Tennessee(10)

In a Boston courtroom yesterday, former University of Texas men's head coach Michael Center was sentenced to six months in jail for his role in the wide-ranging Varsity Blues scandal. Center had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud last April. Center is only the second coach to be sentenced; the first, Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, was only in jail for one day and did not receive additional time. USA Today had a reporter in the courtroom at Center's sentencing and his article provides many more details than I had seen previously about the source and distribution of the $100,000 Center received from Rick Singer, the man behind the college admissions payment scheme.

Also in the article, the judge and federal prosecutor explain why they think jail time is warranted; Center's attorney explains why he believes the sentence is "harsh".

Monday, February 24, 2020

USTA Announces Its 2020 Competitive Pathway Merit-Based Wild Cards


A long day of travel is ahead of me today, so this is an early post based on information I received from the USTA last week.

Although the USTA has a history of providing certain wild cards, including US Open main and junior draw spots to winners of the 18s Nationals, in recent years they have expanded the number and types of wild cards available, all of them tied to performances at junior tournaments held in the United States. 

I recall how important some of those wild cards were to the juniors who earned a spot in the main draw of the US Open Junior Championships by winning USTA-sanctioned events. Last year Ron Hohmann and Gabby Price would not have made the main draw at the US Open Juniors without the wild cards awarded to them as Easter Bowl and G18s Clay champions.

This year's list of linked wild cards is both expanded and much more specific than in years past.  The USTA B18s national champion for example, now gets two ATP Challenger wild cards, but must use them in two of the three tournaments in the fall of 2020 in Cary, Fairfield or Tiburon. The G18s national champion will choose two from between the Templeton $60K, the Las Vegas $60K and the Tyler $80K tournaments in the fall.

There hasn't previously been any official reference to the NCAA champions, but there is this year, with a qualifying wild card into the the US Open guaranteed and "strong consideration" given for a main draw wild card. As has been the case for many years, that wild card is restricted to Americans, as is spelled out in the eligibility criteria.

Many wild cards are tied to specific tournaments, which I assume gives the USTA an opportunity to determine what they will have available at any given tournament on the Pro Circuit.  And these are not just for juniors, as men's and women's National Open winners are also included for the first time, with wild cards into $15Ks on offer.

There is also a new section for those in the Top 5 of the USTA 18s National Standing List once the Nationals are completed in August.

Few things are more difficult for a national federation than distribution of wild cards, but I believe this is the best way for the USTA to handle it. The more transparency, the more put in writing, the more specifics offered help fight the perception that it's more important who you know at the USTA than what you've accomplished on the court. Complaining about wild cards is a popular topic everywhere I go, and I certainly understand the USTA's desire to squelch that by whatever means they can.

Please read through the USTA document and let me know in the comments if I've missed anything new or important on my first read through.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Emory Claims Another Division III Men's Team Indoor Title; Opelka Wins Delray Beach; Cressy Captures Drummondville Challenger Title; Colak Sweeps at ITF Grade 4 in Mexico

Last year, the Emory fell short of their fourth straight ITA Men's National Team Indoor title, losing in the final to the University of Chicago. Today the top-seeded Eagles started what they hope will be another string of titles, beating No. 2 seed Claremont Mudd Scripps 5-3 at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter Minnesota.

Emory had a 2-1 lead after doubles, but CMS went ahead 3-2 with wins by Nikolai Parodi at line 1 and Nic Meister at line 3. Emory's Antonio Mora tied it with a three-set win at line 2, the first of the three-set matches that would decide the championship. Emory pulled ahead 4-3 with Mark Sverdlov winning at line 4 and with Emory's Rex Serituk up 5-2 and serving at line 5 against Ian Freer, but he was unable to serve out the match at 5-2 or at 5-4. The match at line 6 was still up for grabs with Hassan Kenawi of Emory leading Daniel Park 4-3 in the third, but Serituk finally held serve to force a tiebreaker and won that going away, 7-1 to secure the Eagles' ninth Team Indoor title in the 20-year history of the event.

The ITA's recap of the final is available here.  Box scores from the third, fifth and seventh place matches, as well as photo galleries, are here.

Men's Division III National Indoor Championships
February 23, 2020
Final
Emory[1] d. Claremont Mudd Scripps[2] 5-3
Singles:
1. Nikolai Parodi (CMS) def. Hayden Cassone (EU) 6-0, 6-2
2. Antonio Mora (EU) def. Jack Katzman (CMS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-1
3. Nic Meister (CMS) def. Andrew Esses (EU) 7-5, 6-0
4. Mark Sverdlov (EU) def. Ian Freer (CMS) 7-5, 1-6, 6-2
5. Rex Serituk (EU) def. Robert Liu (CMS) 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1)
6. Hassan Kenawi (EU) vs. Daniel Park (CMS) 7-6, 5-7, 4-3, unfinished
Order of finish 1,3,2,4,5

Doubles:
1. Ian Freer/Nikolai Parodi (CMS) def. Hayden Cassone/Antonio Mora (EU) 8-7(2)
2. Alec Rabinowitz/Will Wanner (EU) def. Jack Katzman/Robert Liu (CMS) 8-6
3. Andrew Esses/Hassan Kenawi (EU) def. Daniel Park/Nic Meister (CMS) 8-3
Order of finish 3,1,2
Reilly Opelka was forced to play both his semifinal and final today in Delray Beach after rain washed out last night's meeting with No. 2 seed Milos Raonic of Canada. Opelka, the No. 4 seed, saved a match point this morning in his 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 decision over Raonic, then faced unseeded Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, who had finished his semifinal on Saturday, this afternoon. Again Opelka needed three sets, but the 22-year-old South Floridian came through with a 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-2 win, claiming the second ATP title of his career.  For more on Opelka's busy day, see this article from the ATP website.

At the ATP 80 Challenger in Drummondville Canada, two former collegians with double-digit seeds met in the final, with American Maxime Cressy defeating Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. Former UCLA Bruin Cressy, the No. 14 seed, did not defend his January 2019 title in Cleveland last month, so saw his ranking fall, but he should be back in the Top 200 with today's title. Rinderknech, the former Texas A&M star seeded No. 12 this week, won his first Challenger last month in France, and he will move to a career high around 206 after making the final. Rinderknech did win the doubles title, partnering Manuel Guinard of France. The unseeded pair defeated Roberto Cid (South Florida) of the Dominican Republic and Goncalo Oliveira of Portgual, also unseeded, 7-6(4), 7-6(3) in the final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Jalisco Mexico, 15-year-old Ozan Colak swept the titles, earning his fourth ITF doubles title and his first ITF singles title. Colak, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed and doubles partner Aidan Kim 6-2, 6-2 in the final, and did not drop a set all week.

Kim and Colak, the top seeds in doubles, beat No. 3 seeds Stefan Simeunovic and Jaden Weekes 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Aubrey Nisbet and Gracie Epps, the No. 8 seeds, won the girls doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Gabriela Giraldo of Colombia and Lizette Reding of Mexico 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Nisbet, who was unseeded in singles, reached the final, falling to top seed Ana Paula Naranjo Martinez Kobashi of Mexico 6-1, 6-4.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Oracle Announces 26 Additions to Pro Series Schedule for 2020; Emory and Claremont Mudd Scripps Advance to Men's D-III Team Indoor Final

The University of Michigan hosted a men's Pro Series event in January
and has men's and women's events scheduled for June
One of my intriguing questions for 2020 asked if Oracle would continue to support college tennis after the death of Mark Hurd, and for this year at least, that answer is yes. After previously announcing nine events in the Pro Series through March, yesterday Oracle released the schedule for the remainder of 2020, which includes 26 more tournaments, from $25Ks to $80Ks ITF and ATP Challengers, most of which will be held on college campuses.

March 29-April 4 – Academia Sanchez-Casal – Naples, Fla. (Men/Women)
April 27-May 3 – Southern Methodist University – Dallas, Tex. (Men)
April 27-May 3 – Polo Tennis Club – Austin, Tex. (Women)
May 18-24 – Cleveland Skating Club – Cleveland, Ohio (Women)
June 1-7 – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Mich. (Men/Women)
June 8-14 – Southern Methodist University – Dallas, Tex. (Men)*
June 8-14 – Texas Christian University – Fort Worth, Tex. (Women)
June 15-21 – Dwight Davis Tennis Center – St. Louis, Mo. (Women)
June 22-28 – Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio (Men)
June 29-July 5 – Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio (Women)
July 6-12 – Georgia Tech University – Atlanta, Ga. (Men)
July 13-19 – Georgia Tech University – Atlanta, Ga. (Women)
July 20-26 – University of North Carolina, Charlotte – Charlotte, N.C. (Men)
July 27-August 2 – University of North Carolina, Charlotte – Charlotte, N.C. (Women)
August 17-23 – Cary Leeds Tennis Center – The Bronx, N.Y. (Men*/Women)
September 14-20 – University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Pa. (Men/Women)
September 21-27 – Stanford University – Palo Alto, Calif. (Men/Women)
September 28-October 4 – The Claremont Club – Claremont, Calif. (Women)
October 5-11 – University of California, Los Angeles – Los Angeles, Calif. (Men)
November 9-15 – Pepperdine University – Malibu, Calif. (Men/Women)

*ATP Challengers

January 6-12 – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Mich. (Men)
January 6-12 – University of Southern California – Los Angeles, Calif. (Men)
January 13-19 – Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club – San Diego, Calif. (Men)
January 13-19 – Pepperdine University – Malibu, Calif. (Women)
February 24-March 1 – Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio (Men)
March 2-8 – Darling Tennis Center – Las Vegas, Nev. (Men/Women)
March 23-29 – USTA National Campus – Orlando, Fla. (Men/Women)
*previously announced

Details on each event can be found at the Oracle Pro Series website.

The final of the ITA Division III Men's Team Indoor is set for Sunday with the top two seeds advancing to the final.  Both had tight matches in today's semifinals, with No. 2 seed Claremont Mudd Scripps defeating defending champions Chicago 5-4 and top seed Emory losing two of three doubles points, but winning four of the six singles matches for another 5-4 victory.

For box scores, see host Gustavus Adolphus' tournament page.  Live scoring and live streaming is available there for Sunday's final, which will begin at 8 a.m. Central time.

Friday, February 21, 2020

My Conversation with Former Texas Tech Star, Current WTA 230 Gabriela Talaba; Top Seeds Advance at Men's D-III Team Indoor; Opelka Reaches Semifinals in Delray Beach

I'm at a wedding on the west coast this weekend, so posts will be shorter and later than usual, as I won't have time to follow much of what's going on in the tennis world.

Earlier this month at the Dow Tennis Classic in Midland, I had an opportunity to talk with Gabriela Talaba, the former Texas Tech star who has been moving up the WTA rankings since her graduation in 2018. Talaba explained to me why college tennis was so attractive to her and so many other international players who don't have the means to fund their careers on their own or the financial backing of a wealthy federation. Talaba still faced a difficult decision after college, but thanks to connections she made while at Texas Tech, she obtained sponsorship from three families that gave her the funds to start building her ranking, which has gone from 755 when she graduated to 230 now.  Talaba told me why she decided to go to college, how she improved there and what her plans are for the next several years in this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

At the ITA Division III Men's Team Indoor Championships in Minnesota, the top four seeds advanced to Saturday's semifinals.

Chicago[3] d. Kenyon[6], 5-4
CMS[2] d. Case Western[7] 6-3
Brandeis[4] d. Washington-St. Louis[5] 7-2
Emory[1] d. Gustavus Aldophus[8] 7-2

Saturday's schedule:
Chicago[3] v. CMS[2], 8:30 a.m.
Brandeis[4] v. Emory[1] noon

Box scores are available at host Gustavus Aldophus' tournament page.

Three of the four Americans in action today at the ATP Delray Beach tournament lost today, with No. 4 seed Reilly Opelka the only one to advance to Saturday's semifinal.  Opelka defeated Soonwoo Kwon 6-3, 6-4. He will face No. 2 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who beat Steve Johnson tonight 7-6(6), 6-3.  Frances Tiafoe lost to Ugo Humbert of France 6-1, 6-2 and Brandon Nakashima's impressive run came to an end at the hands of Yoshihito Nishioki of Japan 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.  For more on Nishioki's win, see this article from the ATP website.

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady lost to top seed Simona Halep 6-2, 6-0 at the WTA tournament in Dubai.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

ITA Men's Division III Team Indoor Begins Friday; Division I Team Indoor All-Tournament Team Announced; Brady Reaches WTA Dubai Semifinals

The ITA Men's Division III Team Indoor Championships begins Friday at Gustavus Aldophus in St. Peter Minnesota. 2019 NCAA team champions Emory are the No. 1 seed, with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps seeded No. 2.  Unlike the Division I Team Indoor Championships, just eight teams participate in the Division III version. Also unlike the Division I events, many of the top teams in the country do not participate, with none of the teams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference in the fields. The University of Chicago is defending champion.

Friday's quarterfinal matches:
(draw)
Chicago[3] v. Kenyon[6], 8:30 a.m.
CMS[2] v. Case Western[7], noon
Brandeis[4] v. Washington-St. Louis[5], 3:30
Emory[1] v. Gustavus Aldophus[8], 7 p.m.

Links to live streaming and scoring are available at the Gustavus tournament page. The Division III Tennis blog has previews of all four matches, predictions and plenty of other coverage of Division III tennis, so check it out.

The Division I National Indoor All-Tournament team was announced today, with players from champion USC, finalist North Carolina and quarterfinalist Texas. Daniel Cukierman of USC was named Most Outstanding Player.

No. 1 singles: William Blumberg, North Carolina
No. 2 singles: Daniel Cukierman, USC, Most Outstanding Player
No. 3 singles: Rinky Hijikata, North Carolina
No. 4 singles: Mor Bulis, USC
No. 5 singles: Stefan Dostanic, USC
No. 6 singles: Cleeve Harper, Texas

No. 1 doubles: Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith, USC
No. 2 doubles: Jacob Bullard and Eliot Spizzirri, Texas
No. 3 doubles: Rinky Hijikata and Benjamin Sigouin, North Carolina

Records for all those named above are available in this ITA release.

Jennifer Brady advanced to the semifinals of a WTA Premier event for the first time in her career today in Dubai, defeating Australian Open finalist and two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. The 24-year-old, who qualified for this event, beat No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina in the first round and French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova in the second round. With her victory over No. 9 seed Muguruza today, the former UCLA star will play in the third WTA semifinal of career, with top seed Simona Halep standing in the way of her first WTA final.  For more on Brady's win today, see this article from the WTA website.

At the ATP 250 in Delray Beach, Steve Johnson and Frances Tiafoe advanced to the quarterfinals, with wins over their American opponents. Johnson defeated wild card Jack Sock 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 and Tiafoe beat Tommy Paul 7-5, 7-6(4).  Johnson and Tiafoe now join Brandon Nakashima and Reilly Opelka in Friday's quarterfinals.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

USC's National Indoor Title Keeps Them Atop First ITA Computer Rankings; USC's Cukierman, Miami's Perez-Somarriba No. 1 in Singles; Nakashima Beats Norrie to Reach ATP Delray Beach Quarterfinals

The first ITA Division I team rankings done by computer were released last night and USC stays on top of the men's rankings, thanks to their title Monday at the Team Indoor Championships. Because no rankings were released the week of the Indoors, USC never officially vacated the No. 1 position they had prior to losing to Ohio State in Columbus, but they were the No. 2 seed in Madison, so the unpublished rankings obviously had top seed Ohio State at No. 1.  Michigan made a big jump, going from 13 to 4 after their semifinal showing at the Indoors, while Tennessee, which didn't qualify for the Indoor field, moved into the Top 10. Links to the full ranking lists can be found by clicking on the headers.


ITA Men's Division I Team Rankings,
February 18, 2019 (previous ranking in parentheses)

1. USC (1)
2. Ohio State (2)
3. North Carolina (5)
4. Michigan (13)
5. Texas (4)
6. Florida (3)
7. Columbia (9)
8. Stanford (8)
9. NC State (10)
10. Tennessee (17)

USC's Daniel Cukierman, who plays No. 2 for USC, continues as the No. 1 player in singles. Stanford sophomore Alex Rotsaert made a big jump from 21 to 5, while John McNally of Ohio State and Alex Brown of Illinois also moved into the Top 10. North Carolina's Will Blumberg, who was not ranked prior to this week, is up to 11.

Singles:
1. Daniel Cukierman, USC (1)
2. Yuya Ito, Texas (2)
3. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M (3)
4. Sam Riffice, Florida (4)
5. Alexandre Rotsaert, Stanford (21)
6. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas (12)
7. John McNally, Ohio State (19)
8. Keegan Smith, UCLA (6)
9. Alex Brown, Illinois (18)
10. Richard Ciamarra, Notre Dame (5)

Doubles:
1. Matej Vocel and Dominik Kellovsky, Oklahoma State (2)
2. Andrew Fenty and Mattias Siimar, Michigan (4)
3. Robert Cash and John McNally, Ohio State (1)
4. Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard, North Carolina (3)
5. Sean Sculley and Nick Stachowiak, Duke (6)

The first women's computer rankings also didn't dislodge the previous No. 1, with North Carolina having a substantial lead over the second place team, which is something of a surprise. Florida State moved to No. 2, while UCLA, who was runner-up to UNC at the Team Indoor, dropping all the way down to No. 7.  Virginia moved into the Top 10, while defending NCAA champion Stanford fell to No. 12.

ITA Women's Division I Team Rankings:

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Florida State (4)
3. Texas (7)
4. NC State (5)
5. Princeton (9)
6. Ohio State (10)
7. UCLA (2)
8. Georgia (8)
9. Virginia (13)
10. Duke (6)
In the singles rankings, NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba has moved to No. 1, dislodging Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey. North Carolina has three Top 10 players and two of the Top 5 doubles teams.

Singles:
1. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (3)
2. Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine (1)
3. Anna Turati, Texas (2)
4. Cameron Morra, North Carolina (9)
5. Alexa Graham, North Carolina (7)
6. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina (4)
7. Kelly Chen, Duke (10)
8. Abigail Forbes, UCLA (5)
9. Michaela Gordon, Stanford (6)
10. Iuliia Bryzgalova, Penn (11)

Doubles:
1. Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart, UCLA (2)
2. Alana Smith and Anna Rogers, NC State (1)
3. Jessie Gong and Samantha Martinelli, Yale (3)
4. Sara Daavettila and Alexa Graham, North Carolina (6)
5. Cameron Morra and Makenna Jones, North Carolina (4)

The USTA rankings continue to be by poll, so they do differ frequently from the computer generated rankings, although they agree this week on the No. 1 teams.

The USTA Division I Top 10, February 19, 2020
MEN:
1. USC (5)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Ohio State (1)
4. Florida (4)
5. Texas (3)
6. Michigan (11)
7. Wake Forest (8)
8. Stanford (10)
9. Columbia (12)
10. Texas A&M (6)

WOMEN:
1. North Carolina (1)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Duke (4)
5. NC State (5)
6. Florida State (7)
7. Georgia  (6)
8. Texas (8)
9. Princeton (9)
10. Virginia (12)

The full Top 25 list for this week is available at usta.com.  There is also a new landing page for college tennis at usta.com here.

Brandon Nakashima is having an impressive debut at the ATP level this week in Delray Beach. After earning his first Top 100 win Monday over Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, the 18-year-old wild card from San Diego got his second today, beating qualifier Cameron Norrie (TCU) of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2.  Norrie, current ATP No. 60, is Nakashima's best win. The former Virginia Cavalier will face unseeded Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in Friday's quarterfinals. Nakashima has apparently hired a new coach since I spoke with him last month in Ann Arbor, with Pat Cash now named in that capacity in this ATP article about Nakashima's win today. Cash spoke about his new partnership with Nakashima in this article.

Two all-US second round matches are on the docket for Thursday, with wild card Jack Sock taking on Steve Johnson and Frances Tiafoe facing off against Tommy Paul.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Shick Wins First ITF Junior Title in Mexico; Next Month's Grade 4 Moves From SoCal to Las Vegas; A Look at ITF Junior Rankings After 2020's Second Grade A

With all the problems that I've encountered trying to navigate the ITF's new website, it's been difficult to track what's going on throughout the Junior Circuit. In addition to the technical problems with the website, the news coverage has dropped off as well, and there was nothing posted on last week's Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil. In addition to Elvina Kalieva's title there, four other Americans claimed titles last week, all at the Grade 4 in Mexico, with 16-year-old Braden Shick sweeping singles and doubles (with Samir Banerjee) and 17-year-olds Minorka Miranda and Grace O'Donnell taking the girls doubles title.

Shick, the No. 8 seed, defeated doubles partner Banerjee, the No. 2 seed, 6-3, 6-4 for his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title. A frequent quarterfinalist at ITF Grade 4s, Shick got his third win over Banerjee in the past six months in his first ITF singles final. Shick and Banerjee, the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 3 seeds Ozan Colak and Aidan Kim 7-5, 4-6, 10-6 in the all-American doubles final.  Miranda and O'Donnell, the No. 5 seeds, defeated No. 8 seeds Ana Paula Chavez Sanchez of Mexico and Vanesa Suarez of Venezuela 6-3, 6-3 in the girls doubles final. Miranda, the third seed, lost in the singles final to top seed Ana Paula Naranjo Martinez Kobashi of Mexico 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-3.

There are two Grade 4s this week that have large numbers of Americans. In Jalisco Mexico, Colak is the top boys seed, with Kim, Lucas Brown and Evan Wen also seeded. O'Donnell, Cecilia Alcobe Garibay, Nicole Kiefer and Leyden Games are the American girls seeded this week.

In Guatemala, Adam Duan has beaten top seed Alvin Tudorica of Canada in the first round and Ty Switzer took out No. 2 seed Carlos Solares Midence of Bolivia. Sam Scherer and Jakub Ostajewski are the two American boys seeded. Fourteen-year-old Madison Smith defeated top seed Tanisha Kashyap of India in the opening round. Brooklyn Olson is the only seeded American girl in the draw.

The last time I checked the ITF Junior calendar, not too long ago, the location of the Grade 4 that is scheduled the week before the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson was still reading TBD. In looking today, I see that the tournament will be held outside of Southern California for the first time, with this year's event in Las Vegas.  The tournament has moved around Southern California a lot, with Claremont, Newport Beach and Irvine all hosting the event. I'm not sure why it was moved, and although Las Vegas is within driving distance of Los Angeles, about four hours, it obviously will not draw as many Southern Californians, which strengthened the fields considerably.

With the second Grade A of 2020 complete, it's a good time to look at the ITF Junior rankings. There was no change in the girls Top 10, but  with Kalieva's victory at the Banana Bowl, the 16-year-old has taken a huge jump and is into the Top 30 for the first time, at 29. With the bulk of her points earned in the past six months, she doesn't have much to defend this spring and summer, meaning that she is in good position for the summer junior slams. She has only played the US Open, and she did that via qualifying last year.  Madison Sieg with her semifinal result in Brazil, has moved to 45, and the 16-year-old also has little to defend prior to the junior slam cutoffs.

Although Matilde Paoletti of Italy moved up only 2 spots this week, to 39, she has a huge jump since the beginning of the year, having ended 2019 ranked 265. Paoletti, 16, has won a Grade 1 and made the quarterfinals and semifinals in two others in South America since mid-January to secure her place in the slams this summer.

Luciano Darderi, also of Italy, has had a similar rise in the boys rankings, with the 18-year-old winning three consecutive Grade 1s in South America to move from 208 at the end of last year to the Top 20. After making the Grade A quarterfinals and winning the doubles last week, Darderi is now sitting at No. 8 in the rankings.

The American boys who helped themselves the most in South America are Dali Blanch, 16, and Bruno Kuzuhara, 15. After reaching the semifinals last week at the Banana Bowl, Blanch is up to 24, a career high for him.  Kuzuhara has gained more than 266 places in the rankings this year, and after reaching the quarterfinals last week in Brazil, he now is at 45, with nothing to defend until the fall.

Obviously a lot can happen between now and the first of May, when the acceptances for the French will be posted, but moving into the Top 50 six weeks into the year is a good start if the goal is junior slams.

Monday, February 17, 2020

USC Drops North Carolina 4-1 to Claim ITA Men's Team Indoor Title; Nakashima Posts First ATP Top 100 Win at Delray Beach

The University of Southern California 2020 Indoor Champions

The ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships provided plenty of thrills and drama over the weekend, but that did not extend to today's final between No. 2 seed Southern Cal and No. 4 seed North Carolina.

USC had somehow overcome No. 11 seed Michigan 4-3 in the semifinals after losing the doubles point and five first sets in singles, while North Carolina had blanked both No. 5 Florida and No. 1 Ohio State in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but it was the Trojans who dominated in the final, taking it 4-1.

USC had lost the doubles point to both Michigan and TCU, but today they secured what was expected to be a crucial point with a win at line 1, with Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith taking a tiebreaker from Will Blumberg and Brian Cernoch 7-6(5) after trailing 5-2 in that tiebreaker.
Rinky Hijikata and Benjamin Sigouin of UNC won at line 3, beating Stefan Dostancic and Bradley Frye 6-2, while USC quickly sent all attention to court 1 with Mor Bulis and Brandon Holt downing Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard by the same score at line 2.

USC picked up two quick first sets, with Cukierman getting one from Sigouin at line 2 and Dostanic one from Cernoch at line 5. But the Tar Heels had two quick first sets of their own, from Blumberg over Holt at line 1 and Soendergaard over Frye at line 6.  North Carolina got on the board when Holt, who had been ill all weekend and didn't play in the quarterfinals, retired after losing the first set 6-0. But Bulis took the first set from Joshua Peck at line 4, giving the Trojans a clear path to the title.  At line 3, Hijikata served for the first set against Smith at 5-4, but he was broken at 30-40, and when Smith went on to take the tiebreaker, USC had four first sets. By then, Cukierman had made it 2-1 with his 6-2, 6-1 win over Sigouin and, just a few minutes later, Dostanic closed out Cernoch 6-1, 6-4 to give USC a 3-1 lead.

Bulis had a big lead on Peck and served for the match and the championships at 6-3, 5-0, but was broken. Peck went up 40-0 in his next service game, but lost it on the deuce point, giving the Trojans a 4-1 victory in almost exactly two hours.

It's the fourth Team Indoor title for Southern California, whose previous three came in 1987, 1988 and 2012.

The ITA's recap of the final is here. USC's recap of the final is here.

ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships
Final
February 17, 2020

USC 4, North Carolina 1

DOUBLES
(1) Cukierman/R. Smith (USC) vs. Blumberg/Cernoch 7-6(5)
(2) Bulis/Holt (USC) def. Kiger/Soendergaard (UNC) 6-2
(3) Hijikata/Sigouin (UNC) def. Dostanic/Frye (USC) 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 2, 1*

SINGLES
(1) William Blumberg (UNC) def. #24 Brandon Holt (USC) 6-0 ret.
(2) Daniel Cukierman (USC) def. #60 Ben Sigouin (UNC) 6-2, 6-1
(3) Riley Smith (USC) vs. Rinky Hijikata (UNC) 7-6(2), 2-3 susp.
(4) Mor Bulis (USC) def. #80 Josh Peck 6-3, 6-1*
(5) Stefan Dostanic (USC) def. Brian Cernoch (UNC) 6-1, 6-4
(6) Bradley Frye (USC) vs. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) 0-6, 6-3, 0-1 susp.

Order of finish: 1, 2, 5, 4*

There are no USTA Pro Circuit events this week for men or women, so the focus of US tennis is on the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open in Florida. Today 18-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima made his ATP main draw debut there and got his first Top 100 win, beating Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 7-6(4), 6-1. Nakashima, who has competed in qualifying at both the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and at the US Open, had previously played four other players in the ATP Top 100 before he took out No. 74 Vesely today. He will play the winner of the match between Taylor Fritz[3] and qualifier Cameron Norrie(TCU) of Great Britain.  Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic are the top two seeds in Delray Beach.

The ATP has a 5 Things to Know series about those having breakthroughs, and Nakashima is featured today.

If you are a Tennis Recruiting Network member, you can read my entire article on Nakashima from last month, when I spoke with him at the Ann Arbor Challenger. One update from that conversation is that Nakashima has in the past few weeks signed an endorsement agreement with Fila. At Ann Arbor, he was still wearing Lacoste, which had sponsored him as a junior, but he told me there were deals in the works, so I am not surprised by the switch.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Kalieva Claims Banana Bowl Title; North Carolina Downs Ohio State, Faces Southern Cal in ITA Men's Team Indoor Final Monday; Torpegaard Wins Cleveland Challenger

Although the ITF website has been down all day, I was able to discover the winners of today's singles finals at the ITF Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil thanks to some help from a twitter follower.

Sixteen-year-old Elvina Kalieva won the girls title, beating unseeded Leyre Romero Gormaz of Spain 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.  Kalieva, the No. 8 seed, had not dropped a set all week, so that middle set is something of a surprise, but she recovered for her first Grade A title. Her previous best showing at that level was a quarterfinal at the South African tournament last fall.

The boys title went to No. 3 seed Hanwen Li of China, who earned the title when top seed Natan Rodrigues of Brazil retired after losing the first set 6-4. The 17-year-old Li had not been past the third round at a Grade A before this week.

The finals are set for the ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships, and a new champion will be crowned, after No. 4 North Carolina defeated top seed and defending champion Ohio State 4-0 in this evening's match.  The Tar Heels took the doubles point with little difficulty and then grabbed five first sets, with the singles points coming from Rinky Hijikata at line 3, Simon Soendergaard at line 6 and, with the clinch, Brian Cernoch at line 5. Ohio State's battle with Wake Forest Saturday night probably had some impact on their slow start today, and they were up in the three unfinished singles matches, but the Tar Heels definitely earned their shot at their first Indoor title since 2016.

North Carolina will take on No. 2 seed Southern California, who mounted an incredible comeback to defeat No. 11 seed Michigan 4-3. After losing the doubles point in a tiebreaker at line 3, USC lost five first sets, but the Trojans fought back to take three of those matches to a third set and won them all. Riley Smith got USC on the board with a win at line 3, but Michigan made it 3-1 with wins by Andrew Fenty at line 1 and Connor Johnston at line 4. USC made it 3-2 with Stefan Dostanic beating Nick Beaty 2-6 6-4, 6-3 at line 5, and the Trojans were up in the third set of the remaining two matches, but more drama remained. USC's Daniel Cukierman, the top-ranked player in the country, led Ondrej Styler 5-2 in the third at line 2, but couldn't close it out serving for it at 5-3. Styler saved two match points serving at 5-4, and with two more holds, they moved into a tiebreaker. Ryder Jackson saw his break over Patrick Maloney slip away at line 6, but he quickly regained the lead and when he earned his 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 win, Cukierman was up 5-1 in the tiebreaker, and three points later, USC completed the comeback.

USC last won an Indoor title in 2012 and made the Indoor finals the following three years, but this is their first final since 2015.

The final is scheduled for noon on Monday, with links to live streaming and live scoring available at the ITA tournament page. The score links in the above paragraphs go to the TennisTicker results pages for the two semifinal matches.

Americans were shut out as far as singles titles go at the three USTA Pro Circuit tournaments this week.

At the women's $100,000 tournament in Lexington Kentucky, wild card Claire Liu lost to Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-4, 6-4.

photo courtesy Scott Gerber©2019
The Buckeyes did get a win today at the ATP 80 Challenger in Cleveland, with former Ohio State Mikael Torpegaard claiming his third Challenger title and first not in Columbus. The 25-year-old from Denmark, seeded No. 12 seed, beat unseeded Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in today's final.

Unseeded Treat Huey(Virginia) and Nate Lammons(SMU) won the doubles title, beating top seeds JP Smith(Tennessee) and Luke Saville of Australia 7-5, 6-2.

Another former SMU standout came out on top at the $25,000 men's tournament in Naples Florida, with No. 8 seed Ronald Slobodchikov of Russia beating qualifier Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) of Colombia 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the final. It's the sixth title for the 26-year-old, but the first above the $15K level.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Kalieva Reaches Grade A Banana Bowl Final; Liu Advances to Final at Lexington $100K; Ohio State Survives Wake Forest in Thriller to Reach ITA Men's Team Indoor Semifinals

Elvina Kalieva is through to Sunday's singles final at the ITF Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil. The 16-year-old, whose previous best showing at a Grade A event was a quarterfinal, again won in straight sets, beating unseeded Sabina Zeynalova of Ukraine 6-2, 6-0. In her five victories this week, the eighth-seeded Kalieva has lost just 13 games, with seven of those in the quarterfinals against No. 3 seed Julia Garcia of Mexico.  Kalieva will again face an unseeded opponent Sunday, after Leyre Romero Gormaz of Spain prevented an all-US final with a 7-6(8), 2-6, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Madison Sieg.

In the boys semifinals, top seed Natan Rodrigues of Brazil defeated American Dali Blanch, the No. 4 seed, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3. Rodrigues will face No. 3 seed Hanwen Li of China, who beat No. 6 seed Roman Burruchaga of Argentina 6-4, 6-3.

Blanch also fell in the doubles final. He and partner Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela, the No. 4 seeds, lost to No. 2 seeds Luciano Darderi of Italy and Gustavo Heide of Brazil 6-2, 6-3 in the championship match.

The girls doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Ana Geller of Argentina and Guillermina Grant of Uruguay. They defeated unseeded Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador and Solana Sierra of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

An unseeded champion will emerge from the new women's $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Lexington Kentucky when 19-year-old wild card Claire Liu takes on 31-year-old Olga Govortsova of Belarus Sunday for the title. This is by far the biggest final of Liu's career; her previous finals were all at the $25,000 level or below. Govortosva, who reached a high of 35 in the WTA rankings back in 2008, has made three WTA Tour finals, but her biggest title is the Midland $100K back in 2012. In today's semifinals, Liu defeated lucky loser Francoise Abanda of Canada 6-1, 6-2 and Govortsova beat No. 3 seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-3.

The doubles final was also between two unseeded contestants. Catherine Harrison(UCLA) and Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) defeated Whitney Osuigwe and Hailey Baptiste 7-5, 6-2 in today's championship match.

photo courtesy ITA/Jacob Dye
The only 4-3 match of the day at the ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships came late tonight, with top seed and defending champion Ohio State barely holding off No. 9 seed Wake Forest. After the Buckeyes won a very tight doubles point, they took four first sets in singles, but it was Wake Forest who held on to their advantage, closing out the first two singles points with Taha Baadi winning at line 3 and Bar Botzer at line 1.  Ohio State couldn't close out any of the matches they led in straight sets, and it was nearly three hours into the match before Ohio State finally got two singles points from Cannon Kingsley at line 2 and Kyle Seelig at line 4. Wake's Sid Banthia came all the way back to win in three at line 6, meaning that James Trotter and Eduardo Nava would decide the match at line 5. It was 3-3 in the third when the dual match score went to 3-3, and there were twists and turns yet to come.  Trotter broke for a 5-3 lead, but could not serve out the match, getting broken at love while looking very nervous throughout the game. Nava held for 5-5, followed by Trotter holding on a deciding point for a 6-5 lead. Serving to get to a tiebreaker, Nava went down 30-40, and although he saved one match point with a good first serve, Trotter scrambled around on the deciding point, kept the ball in play and eventually Nava hit a forehand long to end it.

Michigan is the only seed outside the Top 4 to reach Sunday's semifinals. The No. 11 Wolverines' 4-2 win over No. 3 seed and NCAA champion Texas was particularly impressive, because the Wolverines were without their No. 3 player Mattias Siimar. With the doubles point going to Texas, and Michigan short-handed, a victory seemed unlikely, but they got impressive wins from Andrew Fenty, who beat Yuya Ito, the second-ranked player in the country, at line 1 and Ondrej Styler, who beat No. 12 Christian Sigsgaard at line 2. Additional points from Connor Johnston and Nick Beaty at lines 3 and 4 completed the upset for the Wolverines.

No. 2 seed USC had beaten No. 7 seed Stanford 6-1 a couple of weeks ago in Palo Alto, and despite playing without their No. 1 player Brandon Holt, the Trojans again got the better of the Cardinal.

No. 4 seed North Carolina and No. 5 seed Florida was expected to be a dogfight but the Tar Heels never let the Gators into the match, with Will Blumberg at 1, Rinky Hijikata at 3 and Brian Cernoch at 5 getting straight-sets wins, and with the doubles point, getting to four points before Florida could get on the board.

ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships
Quarterfinals, Saturday February 15, 2020:
Michigan[11] d. Texas[3] 4-2
USC[2] d. Stanford[7] 4-0
North Carolina[4] d. Florida[5] 4-0
Ohio State[1] d. Wake Forest[9] 4-3

Semifinals, Sunday February 16, 2020
Michigan[11] v. USC[2] noon
North Carolina[4] v Ohio State[1] 3:30 p.m.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Coleman Commits to Duke; Damm and Kodat Win Doubles Title at Naples $25K; Blanch, Sieg and Kalieva Reach Brazil Grade A Semifinals; Six of Eight Top Seeds Advance at D-I Men's Team Indoor

When I was at the Dow Tennis Classic last week in Midland, I had an opportunity to talk with hometown wild card Ellie Coleman about her recent commitment to Duke for the fall of 2021. For more on why the 16-year-old blue chip chose the Blue Devils, see this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Because they have been playing different tournaments the past several months, with Martin Damm mostly competing in ITF Junior Circuit events and Toby Kodat mostly competing on the ITF's World Tennis Tour, the longtime friends and partners have not played together often. But today, the wild card team won the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Naples Florida, beating the unseeded Colombia team of Nicolas Barrientos and Cristian Rodriguez 4-6, 6-4, 10-7 in the final. I believe it's the first Pro title for the Kalamazoo 18s doubles champions, who became the youngest pair to win a doubles match at the US Open last September, but with the ITF website currently not showing past results, I can't double check that.

Qualifier Evan Zhu, the former UCLA star, is into the singles semifinals. Zhu, the only American remaining, will play fellow qualifier Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) of Colombia Saturday. The 21-year-old Zhu, who reached the ATP Top 500 last fall, had not won a main draw match in his four previous tournaments this year.

No. 4 seed Dali Blanch, No. 6 seed Madison Sieg and No. 8 seed Elvina Kalieva have advanced to the singles semifinals at the ITF Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil.  Blanch, playing in his first Grade A quarterfinal, defeated 15-year-old Jerry Shang of China 6-4, 6-3 in today's quarterfinals and will play top seed Natan Rodrigues of Brazil for a place in the final.  Blanch and his partner Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela have also advanced to the doubles final.

The 16-year-old Kalieva, who has yet to drop a set this week, defeated No. 3 seed Julia Garcia of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 and will face unseeded 15-year-old Sabina Zeynalova of Ukraine. It's the first Grade A semifinal for Kalieva.  Sieg, also 16, defeated No. 14 seed Tina Smith of Australia 6-4, 6-2 to reach her second Grade A semifinal, having also made the semis in Merida Mexico last November. Sieg's opponent in this week's semifinal is unseeded 17-year-old Leyre Romero Gormaz of Spain.

Plenty of close matches today in Madison Wisconsin on the opening day of the ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships, but six of the top 8 seeds advanced to the quarterfinals. Stanford, USC and Texas all dropped the doubles point, but won four singles matches to advance.

In the 4-3 decisions, Stanford freshman Neel Rajesh got the fourth point for the Cardinal at line 5 and Michigan freshman Ondrej Styler clinched the last match on for the Wolverines at line 2. Click on the winning team's name below to go to their coverage.

Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships
Round of 16
February 14, 2020

Texas[3] d. UCLA[14] 4-2
Michigan[11] d. Texas A&M[6] 4-3
Stanford[7] d. NC State[10] 4-3
USC[2] d. TCU[15] 4-2
Florida[5] d. Columbia[12] 4-0
North Carolina[4] d. South Carolina[13] 4-2
Wake Forest[9] d. Baylor[8] 4-1
Ohio State[1] d. Wisconsin[16] 4-0

Quarterfinals:
Texas[3] v. Michigan[11] 9 a.m.
USC[2] v. Stanford[7] noon
North Carolina[4] v. Florida[5] 3:30 p.m.
Ohio State[1] v. Wake Forest[9] 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

North Carolina Women Take Over Top Spot in ITA Rankings, Dominate Indoor All-Tournament Team; Men's D-I Team Indoor Begins Friday; Blanch, Kuzuhara, Kalieva and Sieg Reach Grade A Banana Bowl Quarterfinals

The ITA's new women's Division I team rankings are out, and they are the last rankings done by ballot, with next week's the first done by computer.  As is customary, the winner of the National Team Indoor Championships moves to No. 1, with North Carolina at the top, followed by finalist UCLA. Georgia fell from 3 to 8 and Princeton made a big jump, from 17 to 9.

There are no ITA men's team rankings this week in advance of the Indoor, but the USTA did release its poll yesterday, with the Ohio State men and the North Carolina women at the top spot. The North Carolina men are No. 2 in the USTA poll, but are seeded No. 4 at the Indoor; of course the results this weekend will go a long way to getting more uniformity between the USTA poll and ITA computer (I think. Maybe.). The full USTA Top 25 release is available here, and they have also added the rankings of current and former collegians in the Top 300 to their weekly report.

The ITA Division I Women's Team rankings, February 13, 2020:
(previous ranking in parentheses).

1. North Carolina (2)
2. UCLA (4)
3. Stanford (1)
4. Florida State (9)
5. NC State (8)
6. Duke (5)
7. Texas (7)
8. Georgia (3)
9. Princeton (17)
10. Ohio State (12)

The ITA released its women's Team Indoor all-Tournament team, with North Carolina senior Sara Daavettila named Most Outstanding Player. The only players not on either North Carolina or UCLA are Duke's No. 2 doubles team of Margaryta Bilokin and Meible Chi.

All-Tournament Team:
No. 1 singles: Alexa Graham, UNC
No. 2 singles: Sara Daavettila, UNC
No. 3 singles: Jada Hart, UCLA
No. 4 singles: Elizabeth Scotty, UNC
No. 5 singes: Makenna Jones, UNC
No. 6 singles: Sasha Vagramov, UCLA

No. 1 doubles: Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart, UCLA
No. 2 doubles: Margaryta Bilokin and Meible Chi, Duke
No. 3 doubles: Cameron Morra and Elizabeth Scotty, UNC

For the results of the above players, see this article from the ITA.

The Men's Team Indoor begins tomorrow in Madison Wisconsin at 9 a.m. central time. Links to live scoring and live streaming can be found at the ITA tournament page.

Texas[3] v UCLA[14] 9 a.m.
Texas A&M[6] v Michigan[11] 9 a.m.
Stanford[7] v NC State[10] noon
USC[2] v TCU[15] noon
Florida[5] v Columbia[12] 3:30 p.m.
South Carolina[13] v North Carolina[4] 3:30 p.m.
Wake Forest[9] v Baylor[8] 6:30 p.m.
Ohio State[1] v Wisconsin[16] 6:30 p.m.

The quarterfinals are set at the ITF Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil, with two American girls and two American boys still in the running for a title.

No. 4 seed Dali Blanch defeated No. 13 seed Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria 7-5, 6-2 in the third round and will take on unseeded Jerry Shang of China in the quarterfinals. No. 12 seed Bruno Kuzuhara beat unseeded Nicolas Zanellato of Brazil 7-6(4), 6-3 and will face No. 3 seed Hanwen Li of China next.

No. 6 seed Madison Sieg defeated No. 11 seed Alejandra Cruz of Mexico 7-5, 5-7, 6-0 and will play No. 14 seed Tina Smith of Australia. Both the No. 1 seed Dana Guzman of Peru and the No. 2 seed Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador lost in the second round. Elvina Kalieva, the No. 8 seed, has lost only four games in her first three matches, beating No. 10 seed Matilde Paoletti of Italy 6-1, 6-0 in today's third round. Kalieva, who has played only one other tournament this year, the qualifying of the $25K in Daytona Beach, faces No. 3 seed Julia Garcia of Mexico in the quarterfinals.