Tuesday, March 10, 2020

North Carolina Women, USC Men Stay No. 1 in ITA Rankings; USTA and ITA Introduce Year-long Mentorship Program; Connor Krug Ousts Top Seed at ITF Grade 2; Several USTA Sections Announce Tournaments to Continue Despite COVID-19 Virus

This week's ITA Division I team rankings have the same two teams on top, with both ITA Team Indoor champions continuing to hold the No. 1 rankings.  The North Carolina women have held that position for five weeks now, with the undefeated Tar Heels taking over from Stanford after winning the Team Indoor last month.  The USC men have been No. 1 for four weeks, after their Indoor title.

There were no dramatic moves in either Top 10 this week; Stanford's men returned to the Top 10, and the Texas A&M men moved up after defeating Florida 4-3 last weekend. The Florida State women returned to No. 2 after beating Virginia 4-3 in Charlottesville Sunday. For the full list of ranked teams, click on the headings below.

ITA Men’s Division I Team Top Ten, March 10, 2020
(previous ranking in parentheses)

1. USC (1)
2. North Carolina (2)
3. Michigan (4)
4. Texas (3)
5. Ohio State (5)
6. NC State (7)
7. TCU (8)
8. Stanford (13)
9. Florida (6)
10. Texas A&M (12)

ITA Women’s Division I Team Top 10, March 10, 2020

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Florida State (4)
3. UCLA (3)
4. Texas (6)
5. Ohio State (2)
6. Stanford (9)
7. NC State (5)
8. Georgia (7)
9. Georgia Tech (8)
10. Duke (11)

The ITA recently announced a new pilot program with the USTA to provide year-long mentoring opportunities to 20 college coaches. I would guess this is aimed at the many volunteer assistants currently finishing their degrees at their alma maters and considering getting into college coaching as a career. When I spoke to Michigan State men's assistant Harry Jadun last November for this Tennis Recruiting Network article, he mentioned how valuable his experience was with then USTA coach Brad Stine in a similar, but much shorter, mentorship program in place a few years ago.(NOTE: That program is known as USTA Fellowship in Professional Coaching and the seventh edition of that will take place this summer). Entries close for this new program on March 20th and selections should be made by April 1. For more, see this article from the ITA.

In the first round of the ITF Grade 2 in the Dominican Republic, American Connor Krug ousted No. 1 seed Rafel Alfonso De Alba Valdes of Mexico, recording a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 win. Krug and twin brother Jake, who committed to Duke late last year, will play each other if they win their second round matches today. Jake Krug defeated No. 16 seed Daniel Ibragimov of Russia 6-4, 7-5 in his first round match.

Zane Khan, who made the final of the Grade 1 in Thailand last week, is also in the draw of this week's Grade 1 in Malaysia. The unseeded 18-year-old, who was injured most of the last half of 2019, won his first round match, as did Duke recruit Niroop Vallabhaneni, who also played last week's Grade 1 in Thailand, losing in the second round.

It's difficult to keep track of everything that has been canceled due to the COVID-19 virus, but so far I have not heard of any USTA events that won't be held for that reason. A decision on the Easter Bowl in Indian Wells could come as soon as Wednesday.

Several USTA sections have provided statements, including the Pacific Northwest, which includes Seattle, an area hit hard by the virus. From their March 9 update:

Based on the latest information, we currently aim to continue tennis play as planned and not cancel or suspend scheduled matches, programs, or events in the section.

USTA Southern posted a similar statement today, with emphasis on CDC and county health guidelines.

USTA Eastern said is continuing all matches, programs and events. The traditional handshake upon completion of a match is out, however.

All of this is subject to change, of course. 

Many Division III programs had already cancelled spring break trips, and now some in the Northeast are shutting down spring competition entirely. The Division III tennis blog has an update on these disruptions.