Friday, August 14, 2020

Gauff, Brady, Rogers Advance to WTA Top Seed Open Semifinals; Defending Champion Andreescu Withdraws from US Open; Klahn, Kudla Lead Field at Lotto Elite Exhibition

Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff advanced to her second career WTA semifinal tonight at the WTA International Top Seed Open in Lexington Kentucky, beating No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Trailing 6-4, 4-2, Gauff began to figure out the variety in Jabeur's game, and by the third set, Gauff was fresher and more confident. It also helped that Jabeur's serve deserted her entirely; she made only 10 percent of her first serves in the final set, while Gauff's first serve percentage was 72 percent. Gauff will play fellow unseeded American Jennifer Brady, whose quick 6-1, 6-2 victory over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic wasn't included in Tennis Channel's coverage after being relocated due to a rain delay. But by all accounts it was a dominant performance by the former UCLA star to put her in a fourth WTA semifinal. She has yet to advance to a WTA final, while Gauff will be looking for her second trip to a final. It will be their first meeting.

Shelby Rogers July 2020
photo ©Scott Gerber OhioTennisZone.com

Wild card Shelby Rogers, ranked 116, defeated top seed Serena Williams today 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) to advance to the other semifinal. After a lengthy rain delay before the match got underway, Rogers lost the opening set in 26 minutes, but she hung tough in the second and third sets to earn a victory over Williams in their first meeting, despite a first-serve percentage of just 45. Rogers, who will now move back into the WTA Top 100, faces unseeded Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in Saturday's first semifinal. Teichmann defeated Cici Bellis 6-2, 6-4 in the day's first quarterfinal. 

After I posted on Thursday the USTA announced that defending champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada had withdrawn from the US Open, which put Olga Govortosva of Belarus in the main draw. The 20-year-old Andreescu, who has had injury issues throughout the past five years,  has not played in 2020. The women's wild card situation does not change until Usue Arconada moves into the main draw; she is currently four spots out. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ann Li and Caroline Dolehide have already gone from wild card recipients to entrants based on their own rankings.

The latest US Open women's entry list is here.

I stumbled across information about a money tournament this weekend in Pennsylvania, which will be serving as a tuneup for several American men playing in the US Open. The Lotto Elite Pro Tennis Challenge will feature eight Americans, including three who are in the main draw of the US Open: Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla, and wild card Thai Kwiatkowski. Others expected compete are Alex Lawson, Nicholas Bybel, Chad Kissell and Roy Smith, with an eighth to be announced. A YouTube video explains the format for the two-day event, which is two round robin groups, with the top two finishers advancing to Sunday's semifinals and final. The round robin format is Fast 4, but regular scoring with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a full third set is the format for Sunday's matches. Spectators at the private court are limited to ten, and tickets are not cheap, with prices for one day $200 and both days $350. The tournament's champion receives $4000, with the finalist earning $1000. 

For more on the event, see this YouTube video, or read this article from the Reading Eagle. The video mentions that live streaming will be available.

If you checked out Tennis Recruiting Network this morning, you would have seen my article on Lauren Anzalotta's commitment to Oklahoma State. However, due to the fact that she has not yet been cleared by the school in regards to her eligibility, that article was removed as of this afternoon.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

USTA Cancels September Pro Circuit Tournaments and National Level 3 Junior Events; ITA's Plans for Fall Tennis Don't Include All-American Championships; Ferro Out of US Open, Liu Receives Wild Card

The USTA announced today that the five ITF World Tennis Tour Pro Circuit events scheduled for September in the United States have been canceled.


Due to the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has cancelled all ITF World Tennis Tour and ATP Challenger events taking place in the U.S. in September. This decision was made to ensure the health and safety of all those involved with these events. Although detailed health and safety protocols had been planned, without the creation of a controlled environment that includes a comprehensive and contained lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and medical testing program in place, as will be the case for the Western & Southern Open and US Open, proper risk mitigation would not be possible – and in the case of these events, this type of environment would logistically and financially be difficult to create.

The events include:

Week of Sept. 14

Cary, N.C. – ATP Challenger 80

Champaign, Ill. – M15

Week of Sept. 21

Columbus, Ohio – ATP Challenger 80

Fayetteville, Ark. – M15

Lubbock, Texas – W15

The USTA also confirmed that the National Level 3 junior events scheduled for September 12-14 at 15 sites across the country have been canceled.

Due to the situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has canceled the September National Level 3 events. The decision to cancel was made to ensure the health and safety of all those involved as the interstate travel required for these tournaments carries an increased risk. In addition, the different regulations, restrictions and quarantine periods, dependent upon the localities involved, both at the site of the event and in the participants’ home states were considered. 

More information regarding the USTA National Junior Tournament Schedule as well as an update on local play opportunities is forthcoming.

The news from Division I college tennis is a bit more positive. Although the ITA announced that its All-American Championships will not be held in October due to the American Athletic Conference's cancellation of fall sports, other fall competition is planned. The All-Americans, one of three collegiate majors and the first of two held in the fall, is hosted by Tulsa, which is an AAC conference member.

The Oracle Masters, which is not a considered a major, but has also been played in the fall for the past several years, is continuing, but is changing to a competition resembling the recently completed ITA National Summer Championships, which featured junior players, college players and professional players as competitors:

The Oracle ITA Masters will be changed from the traditional format that has in recent years selected players based upon conference representation to an open, prize-money event for both genders with plans to feature top American juniors, top college players, and American professionals. Additional details concerning the location and selection process will be forthcoming.

The ITA closes its schedule update with word that information on Division II, Division III, NAIA and JUCO Regionals and the ITA Cup, the fall championships for those divisions next Wednesday. Information on the ITA National Fall Championships, the other fall major for Division I players, is promised "at a later date."

The list of WTA Top 100 women withdrawing from the US Open gets longer nearly every day, with word coming today that Palermo champion Fiona Ferro of France will not be playing in New York. That moves Caroline Dolehide, ranked 138, into the main draw, and frees up Dolehide's wild card. That will go to 20-year-old Claire Liu, who is currently ranked 236. The next wild card recipient that could get in with additional withdrawals is Usue Arconada, who is now five spots out of the main draw.  The updated women's US open entry list is here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Gauff Defeats No. 2 Seed Sabalenka to Reach WTA Lexington Quarterfinals; Kuznetsova Withdraws from US Open; Vukic Wins UTR Pro Series Event in Australia; NCAA Extends Dead Period Again

Coco Gauff wasn't happy with her serving performance today at the WTA International tournament in Lexington Kentucky, but the 16-year-old still managed to advanced to the Top Seed Open quarterfinals, beating No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4. 

Gauff, who had eight double faults in the match, led 5-2 in the first set, lost four straight games, but broke Sabalenka serving for the set at 6-5, and held on in the tiebreaker after building a 5-0 lead. She went down 5-2 in the second set, got back on serve, but was broken at love at 4-5 to send the match into a third set. 

Gauff squandered leads in the third set, but she broke the WTA's 11th-ranked player at 4-all, with her outstanding defense forcing the big-hitting 22-year-old to go for too much. In a match with 14 breaks of serve, it was far from certain that Gauff would be able to close out the match, but, in what is becoming her signature, she bore down when she had to, got first serves in and held at 15 for the victory, her second WTA quarterfinal in her brief career. Gauff, who now has three WTA Top 20 wins, will play No. 8 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in Friday's quarterfinals.

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady also defeated a seed today to advance to the quarterfinals, beating No. 6 seed Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-3. Brady will face unseeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in Friday's quarterfinals. It is Brady's sixth quarterfinal at the WTA level.

Thursday's second round matches include top seed Serena Williams against sister Venus; CiCi Bellis versus Jessica Pegula, No. 5 seed Yulia Puntintseva of Kazakhstan versus Jil Teichmann of Switzerland and wild card Shelby Rogers against 17-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada. 

Another official announcement from the USTA today regarding the upcoming US Open, with 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia withdrawing from the event. Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic moves into the main draw, leaving Caroline Dolehide, who has been announced as a wild card recipient earlier, next into the main draw.

The updated women's US Open entry list is available here.

The UTR Pro Series continues in Australia, and former University of Illinois star Aleks Vukic won his second title on the circuit today in Sydney. The 24-year-old Vukic, the top seed, defeated Nikita Volonski 6-2, 6-2 in the men's single final to extend his winning streak to seven. Twenty-year-old Destanee Aiava also earned a second consecutive title in Sydney, and her third in the UTR Pro Series, beating Alexandra Bozovic 7-6(6), 5-7, 11-9 in the women's final. For more, see this article from Tennis Australia.

The NCAA announced yet another extension of the recruiting dead period, which now goes through September 30th. No in person recruiting or campus visits are allowed in any sport. The Division I Council made additional minimum recommendations for student-athletes competing in fall sports, but the official announcement of the new rules has been delayed until August 21.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Texas A&M's Habib and Pepperdine's Failla Claim ITA National Summer Championships; Yepifanova, Mejia Win $10K Battle of Boca; Gauff, Fernandez Move On at WTA Top Seed Open


ITA Summer Champions Hady Habib and Jessica Failla
photo credits, Jacob Dye, ITA

The two top seeds claimed the titles today at the annual ITA National Summer Championships, with Hady Habib of Texas A&M prevailing on his home courts and Pepperdine's Jessica Failla crowned the women's champion.

Both matches were held at the same time this morning in College Station, so I was flipping back and forth between the two, and without any scoring graphics, I admit to having a hard time following closely. I thought that Habib's victory over defending champion and No. 7 seed Jonathan Sheehy was 6-1, 6-4, but the ITA recap and the UTR website gives the final score as 6-1, 6-3.  I thought Sheehy, a graduate student at Oklahoma, had saved three break points at 3-all in the third to hold, but was unable to do the same at 4-all, giving Habib, a rising senior, a chance to serve it out. He was able to convert his first match point at 40-30, crushing a forehand winner, to earn the title and $2500.

Usually the winner of the Summer Nationals receives a wild card into the ITA All-American Championships, held in October, but with all the fall sports being canceled across the country now, that event is by no means assured, as the lack of any mention of it in the ITA recap implies.

The women's final took a bit longer, but was more lopsided score-wise, with Failla, a fifth year senior, defeating No. 6 seed Solymar Colling, a redshirt sophomore at San Diego 6-2, 6-1. Failla also earned $2500, with Sheehy and Colling taking home $1250 for reaching the finals. There were no doubles played this year due to the pandemic.

The $10,000 Battle of Boca, a UTR Open event, was supposed to finish today, but the finals were actually played Monday, with No. 2 seed Alexandra Yepifanova taking the women's title, and No. 4 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia earning the men's championship. 

Yepifanova, a rising senior who has committed to Stanford, defeated top seed and former Georgia star Maria Carle of Argentina 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Yepifanova lost only 13 games in her five victories.

The 20-year-old Mejia defeated 18-year-old Emilio Nava, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 6-4 in the men's final. Nava had defeated top seed Adrian Andreev in the quarterfinals and Zane Khan in the semifinals. Khan, the No. 8 seed, had avenged his 2018 Kalamazoo 16s final loss to Martin Damm, the No. 9 seed, in the round of 16. Another notable result saw Ben Shelton, who will start at Florida this fall, defeating 2019 Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, the No. 6 seed, 6-3, 7-6(2) in the second round.

Shelton lost in the third round in singles, but partnered with his sister Emma to claim the mixed doubles title. The Sheltons, seeded No. 6, defeated No. 7 seeds Yepifanova and Nathan Han 6-3.

The prize money distribution for the event was not disclosed.

The first round is complete at the WTA Top Seed Open in Lexington Kentucky, with two teenagers among the 16 players to advance.

Sixteen-year-old Coco Gauff may have been generous in grading her performance today, giving it an A, but she did pick up her first WTA win since January, beating qualifier Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 7-5. 

Seventeen-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada, who won two qualifying matches the past two days, ousted No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens 6-3, 6-3 in the final match of the first round. 

Cici Bellis was scheduled to play No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova, but Anisimova withdrew with an injury and Francesca Di Lorenzo got in as a lucky loser. Bellis converted 5 of her 6 break points, while Di Lorenzo was 1 of 8 and won only one point on her second serve, giving Bellis a straightforward 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Top seed Serena Williams and older sister Venus won their opening round matches today; the pair will play against each other for the 31st time on Thursday. The other American to advance to the second round today, joining yesterday's winners Jessica Pegula and Jennifer Brady, is wild card Shelby Rogers.

Today's scores are here, and Wednesday's order of play is here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Top Seeds Habib and Failla Advance to ITA Summer Nationals Finals; Brady Claims First WTA Victory Since February in Kentucky; Baptiste Awarded US Open Wild Card

After an ITA Summer Circuit that featured many a junior champion, the ITA National Summer Championships have come down to four collegians, including both top seeds and the defending champion.

After the quarterfinals and semifinals were played today at the George Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A&M, top seeds Jessica Failla of Pepperdine and Hady Habib of Texas A&M advanced to Tuesday morning's final. Failla, who is returning for a fifth year, dropped a set in the second round, but she has been dominant since, picking up wins today over Leyden Games and Maria Kononova.  She will face No. 6 seed Solymar Colling, a red shirt sophomore at San Diego, who reached the final with a straight-set quarterfinal win over No. 3 seed Rhiann Newborn and a 3-6, 7-6(0), 13-11 win over No. 2 seed Adriana Reami(North Carolina State).  

Top seed Habib, a rising senior, has won all five of his matches in straight sets, beating teammate Noah Schachter, the No. 6 seed, in the quarterfinals and No. 5 seed Zeke Clark(Illinois) in the semifinals. Habib will take on the defending champion, No. 7 seed Jonathan Sheehy, who is transferring as a graduate student from Abilene Christian to Oklahoma for the 2020-21 season. Sheehy took out No. 2 seed and ATP professional Austin Krajicek in the quarterfinals and beat No. 13 seed Andrew Rogers(Tennessee) in three sets in the semifinals. 

The finals, which provide $2500 in prize money for the winners and $1250 for the runners-up, are scheduled for 9 a.m. Central time Tuesday, and can be viewed via Playsight. For more on today's action, see the ITA recap.

Rain in the Lexington Kentucky area set the WTA Top Seed Open schedule back considerably, with some matches in the final round of qualifying moving indoors.  Three Americans qualified for the main draw: top seed Kristie Ahn, who beat Jovana Jovic of Serbia 2-6, 6-4, 6-2; Caroline Dolehide, who defeated wild card Jamie Loeb 6-2, 7-5 and wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who downed Robin Anderson 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. 

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady, who has been active in exhibition events and World Team Tennis during the shutdown, picked up her first win since late February, beating Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour. Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, who won the 2014 US Open girls title, beat No. 3 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4.  

All of today's results are available here.

The other WTA International event on this week's calendar is in Prague, and rain was also a problem there, with play canceled for the day with only one main draw match completed. Qualifying is also not quite finished but former Pepperdine All-American Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz of Egypt is into the main draw after a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Switzerland's Leonie Kung in the final round of qualifying. Abdelaziz won a $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour title in Turkey right before the pandemic closed down the circuit.

Another official announcement from the USTA regarding two withdrawals from the women's field provides another wild card opportunity for an American, with Ann Li getting in on her own ranking. Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic and 2018 US Open girls champion Xiyu Wang of China withdrew, with Li and Australian Priscilla Hon moving into the main draw. Li's wild card was awarded to 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste, who lost yesterday in the first round of qualifying at the Top Seed Open.

Caroline Dolehide, who received a wild card earlier, is just two out, so another women's wild card should be available in the next week or so.

The updated US Open women's entry list is here.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Zink Wins $25,000 Metzger Open Title; Seven Americans Advance to WTA Lexington's Final Round of Qualifying; Krueger Given Murray's USO Wild Card; Quarterfinals Set at ITA Summer Nationals

The opportunities to earn $6,000 playing tennis this summer have been severely limited by the pandemic, but University of Georgia rising sophomore Tyler Zink earned that amount today by winning the men's singles title at the UTR Metzger Clay Court Open in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Zink, who was born in Lancaster Pennsylvania and grew up there before moving to the IMG Academy as a teenager, was the No. 4 seed at the event. He defeated No. 7 seed Chad Kissell, who is from Latrobe Pennsylvania and a 2019 Valparaiso graduate, 6-3, 6-4 in today's final.  Kissell, who earned $4000, is the younger brother of Michaela and Joelle Kissell, who were collegiate stars at Marshall and North Carolina State, respectively.

The doubles title went to former LSU stars Boris Arias and Justin Butsch, the top seeds, who defeated unseeded Colin Sinclair and Vladislav Melnic, former and current Cornell players, 6-7(4), 6-2, 10-5. 

The complete draws can be found at the tournament website.  The singles final is available on YouTube

The first round of qualifying has concluded at the WTA International Top Seed Open in Nicholasville Kentucky, with seven Americans advancing to Monday's final round. Top seed Kristie Ahn squeezed past former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5, but No. 2 seed Margarita Gasparyan of Russia lost to wild card Jamie Loeb 7-6(5), 6-4. Francesca Di Lorenzo[5] saved a match point in her three-hour, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5) win over Claire Liu. The other four Americans in the final round of qualifying are Caroline Dolehide[7] (who plays Loeb for a place in the main draw), Usue Arconada, Robin Anderson and wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Main draw matches begin on Monday, although top seed Serena Williams and No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova are not on the schedule. No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka will take on Madison Brengle and No. 3 seed Johanna Konta will play Marie Bouzkova in two of the six main draw matches on Monday's schedule.  Wild cards were given to Caty McNally, Vera Zvonareva and Shelby Rogers. Coco Gauff will play a qualifier in the first round and if she advances, will meet the Sabalenka-Brengle winner.

The singles main draw is here, the doubles draw is here, and the qualifying draw is here.

The first official change in the US Open men's draw was announced today, with Alexei Popyrin of Australia withdrawing. That puts Andy Murray into the main draw on his own ranking, freeing up a wild card that was given to Mitchell Krueger. To see who is next in line for the main draw, see this entry list

The quarterfinals are set for the ITA National Summer Championships after two rounds of singles play today in College Station.  The top two seeds in the men's draw, Hady Habib(Texas A&M) and Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) are through to the quarterfinals, but No. 3 seed Alex Brown(Illinois) went out to No. 12 seed JC Roddick and No. 4 seed Vazha Shubladze(Georgia State) lost to No. 13 seed Andrew Rogers(Tennessee).

In the women's draw, the top three seeds: Jessica Failla(Pepperdine), Adriana Reami(NC State) and Rhiann Newborn(Baylor), have advanced to the quarterfinals, along with three unseeded players: Leyden Games, Maria Kononova, and Mika Ikemori.

For more on today's results, see this ITA recap.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Ahn Top Seed as Qualifying Begins Sunday for WTA's Return in US; Three Women's Seeds, Including Defending Champion, Fall in First Round of ITA National Summer Championships

Five months without WTA- and ATP-points-earning professional tennis comes to an end Sunday at the Top Seed Open in Nicholasville Kentucky, with the WTA International tournament beginning its qualifying. 

Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn is the top seed in qualifying, with Margarita Gasparyan of Russia the No. 2 seed. Wild cards for the tournament were not announced ahead of the qualifying or main draws, but for qualifying, all four wild cards were given to Americans.

Jamie Loeb(North Carolina), Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame), 2019 USTA 18s National champion Katie Volynets and veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands were awarded spots in the 24-player draw, with six players advancing to the main draw. 

Ahn will take on Romania's Gabriela Talaba, the former Texas Tech star Sunday morning, while Loeb has drawn Gasparyan. Gleason's opponent is No. 3 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, and another interesting matchup is between No. 9 seed Usue Arconada and 18-year-old Hailey Baptiste. Arconada and Baptiste both trained for many years at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland. Volynets will play No. 8 seed Olga Govortsova of Belarus, and Mattek-Sands has drawn No. 12 seed Varvara Lepchenko. 

Sunday's order of play is here, and the qualifying draw is here.

At the professionals tours' first tournament in five months, at the WTA event in Palermo Italy, No. 4 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia will face unseeded Fiona Ferro of France for the title. Kontaveit defeated top seed Petra Martic of Croatia 6-2, 6-4 and Ferro beat unseeded Camila Giorgi of Italy 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in today's semifinals. 

The first round of the ITA National Summer Championships is complete, with all 16 of the men's seeds posting victories.  

Three of the women's seeds, including two top 8 seeds, lost their opening round matches.

No. 4 seed Anna Rogers, a fifth year senior at North Carolina State and the defending ITA National Summer champion, lost to Sierra Berry 7-6(6), 6-4. No. 7 seed Tatiana Makarova, a rising senior at Texas A&M, lost to Lizanne Boyer 7-5, 3-6, 1-0, and another Aggie rising senior, No. 16 seed Riley McQuaid, lost to West Alabama rising junior Haina Franco 6-0, 6-4.

For more on today's action, see this recap from the ITA.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Western & Southern Open Qualifying Wild Cards Include Katie Volynets; Vickery Receives US Open Wild Card; A Look at ITA Summer Nationals Top Seeds

The Western & Southern Open revealed its wild cards for qualifying today, with 2019 USTA National 18s champion Katie Volynets receiving an opportunity to play in the W&S Open/US Open bubble in New York.  The 18-year-old Volynets, who was eligible to defend her title in San Diego before the Nationals were canceled, is currently 343 in the WTA rankings.

The other women's qualifying wild cards were given to Shelby Rogers, Ann Li, CiCi Bellis, Francesca Di Lorenzo and Russia's Anna Kalinskaya. Kalinskaya, 21, is currently 121 in the WTA rankings, and is represented by Octagon, which owns the Western & Southern Open sanction. 

The men's qualifying wild card recipients are all Americans: Mackenzie McDonald, JJ Wolf, Michael Mmoh, Brandon Nakashima and Sebastian Korda. 

Of the 10 Americans who received Western & Southern Open qualifying wild cards, only Volynets is not also going to be in the New York bubble for the US Open.  

Main draw wild cards for the W&S Open were given to Andy Murray of Great Britain and Americans Tennys Sandgren, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe on the men's side and Caty McNally, Belgium's Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka on the women's side.

After yesterday's US Open wild card announcement, I concluded that Di Lorenzo would probably get in on her own ranking, and that has officially been confirmed just a day later. Notification of the withdrawals of Elina Svitolina(WTA 5), Kiki Bertens(WTA 7) and Barbora Krejcikova(115) resulted in Di Lorenzo, Natalia Vikhlyantseva and Viktoriya Tomova moving into the main draw. Sachia Vickery was given Di Lorenzo's wild card, and Ann Li, who, like Di Lorenzo, received a US Open wild card, is next in, meaning her wild card is also likely to be available soon.

No official word on Andy Murray's US Open wild card being freed up, but that should be just a matter of time.

The current women's US Open entry list is here.

Qualifying is complete for the ITA National Summer Championships at Texas A&M, with the main draw scheduled to kick off with men's first round matches at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, followed by women's first round matches. The ITA has provided bios of the top eight men's seeds and top eight women's seeds here. (One correction: No. 8 seed Emma Staker made the semifinals, not the finals, of the USTA Winter Nationals).

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Montgomery, Nakashima Among US Open Wild Cards; Habib and Krajicek, Failla and Reami Top Seeds at ITA National Summer Championships

The USTA announced the 2020 US Open wild cards today, with 15-year-old Robin Montgomery and 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima the youngest players to receive them in their respective draws. 

Former champions Kim Clijsters and Andy Murray are the only non-Americans to be given wild cards. Clijsters, without a WTA ranking, will certainly need hers, but Murray is the next player in with his ATP ranking of 129, so his wild card will certainly be available for redistribution. That also goes for Francesca Di Lorenzo, who received a wild card, but needs just four withdrawals to get in on her ranking. Without any qualifying this year, a main draw wild card is even more precious than usual, with the $61,000 first round prize money critical funding for those outside the Top 100. 

 The women's wild cards, with current WTA ranking 

  1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, 128
  2. Ann Li, 131
  3. Caroline Dolehide, 134
  4. Usue Arconada, 138
  5. Whitney Osuigwe, 143
  6. Cici Bellis, 304
  7. Robin Montgomery, 600
  8. Kim Clijsters, unranked
The first five are the highest ranked Americans who did not receive direct entry. Bellis and Montgomery were awarded wild cards over veterans Nicole Gibbs (148), Sachia Vickery(158) and Allie Kiick(160), among others. 

Montgomery would have been one of the favorites for the USTA Girls 18s Nationals had it been held, but she played her way into US Open wild card consideration by winning the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Las Vegas right before the Covid-19 shutdown. I spoke with her about that back in March for this Tennis Recruiting Network article

The men's wild cards, with current ATP ranking

  1. Andy Murray, 129
  2. JJ Wolf, 144
  3. Maxime Cressy, 164
  4. Michael Mmoh, 182
  5. Thai Kwiatkowski, 183
  6. Brandon Nakashima, 220
  7. Sebastian Korda, 224
  8. Ulises Blanch, 242
Several Americans with better rankings than Blanch did not receive a wild card including Ernesto Escobedo(181), Mitchell Krueger(195), Noah Rubin(225) and Christopher Eubanks(238). Which one would be next in line for Murray's wild card is hard to say.

Nakashima, who had an impressive run with World Team Tennis the past three weeks, was among those expected to receive a wild card. He told me back in January of his goal to make the qualifying of the slams; shortly after that he reached the quarterfinals of the ATP event in Delray Beach.

Interesting that the reciprocal wild cards with the Australian Open and French Open were not included this year, possibly because of the uncertainty around whether Americans will compete in those events, and the value of the US Open wild card this year for one more American.

The US Open release with bios of all the wild card recipients is here.

The ITA National Summer Championships begin with qualifying Friday morning at Texas A&M. The seeds are below. Draws can be found at the UTR website.

Women’s Seeds:

1. Jessica Failla

2. Adriana Reami

3. Rhiann Newborn

4. Anna Rogers

5. Ashlyn Krueger

6. Solymar Colling

7. Tatiana Makarova

8. Emma Staker

9. Mary Stoiana

10. Jeanette Mireles

11. Jayci Goldsmith

12. Marlee Zein

13. Sofia Rojas

14. Lucia Quiterio

15. Janice Shin

16. Riley McQuaid

Men’s Seeds

1. Hady Habib

2. Austin Krajicek

3. Alexander Brown

4. Vazha Shubladze

5. Zeke Clark

6. Noah Schachter

7. Jonathan Sheehy

8. Ilgiz Valiev

9. Welsh Hotard

10. Stefan Storch

11. Guido Marson

12. JC Roddick

13. Andrew Rogers

14. Franco Ribero

15. Fletcher Scott

16. Pierce Rollins

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Impressive Fields for Two UTR Prize Money Events; Division III Cancels Fall Championships; 2020 US Open Prize Money Down Slightly Overall

Many of the top ITF juniors training in Florida and those who have recently moved on to pro tennis have entered the Battle of Boca, a UTR $10,000 prize money event that begins Friday at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy.

The men's entry list includes 2019 Wimbledon junior champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, 2019 US Open boys finalist Emilio Nava, Martin Damm, Zane Khan, Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, Liam Draxl of Canada, Nicolas Meija of Colombia, Stanford's Alex Rotsaert and Tristan Boyer and former Miami Hurricane Christian Langmo.

The women's field isn't as strong, but does feature former Georgia standout Maria Carle of Argentina, 2019 US Open girls finalist Alexandra Yepifanova and former Miami Hurricane Sofia Sewing.

The prize money is $25,000 for the UTR William H Metzger Pennsylvania Clay Court Open, which began today in Harrisburg. There are only eight seeds in the 128-player draw: Jesse Witten[1], Alec Adamson[2], Justin Butsch[3], Tyler Zink[4], Colin Sinclair[5], Karl Poling[6], Chad Kissell[7] and Alexander Kotzen[8].

The draws are not posted on the UTR webpage, but rather at the tournament's own website.

The NCAA Division III Committee announced today that all fall sports championships have been canceled and will not be moved to spring. While tennis is not a fall sport for NCAA purposes, there is a full slate of ITA Division III regionals that will not take place. The release states the priority for the spring will be on providing championships for winter and spring sports, which were, of course, canceled due to the onset of Covid-19 shutdowns.

The US Open announced its prize money for 2020, which is, remarkably, nearly 95 percent of the amount awarded in 2019. There is even an increase, from $58,000 to $61,000 in first round prize money. However the singles champions will receive $3 million, rather than the $3,850,000 that was awarded to the winners last year. The complete release:

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., August 5, 2020 – The USTA today announced that the US Open will offer $53.4 million in total player compensation in 2020 – nearly 95 percent of its total from 2019 – with $7.6 million dedicated toward player relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USTA, WTA and ATP Tour worked collaboratively to build a payment structure for the 2020 US Open that would feature critical financial balance and support for players. First-round prize money for men’s and women’s singles increased by 5 percent over 2019 ($61,000 from $58,000), while second- and third-round singles prize money was unchanged. Doubles prize money for the rounds of 32, 16 and the quarterfinals also remained the same as 2019.

Both the men’s and women’s singles champion will earn $3 million.

The USTA will also provide $6.6 million in additional relief grants and subsidies due to the decision to not hold the Qualifying Tournament and the reduction of the Doubles draws. These funds will be allocated equally to the WTA and ATP, which will then make the determination of how to distribute and/or utilize them to provide replacement playing and ranking-point opportunities. Previously in 2020, the USTA contributed $1 million to an international player relief fund.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 percent of the prize pool from 2019,” said Mike Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time.”

Round-by-round individual prize money for the US Open is as follows:

Winner: $3,000,000
Runner-up: $1,500,000
Semifinalist: $800,000
Quarterfinalist: $425,000
Round of 16: $250,000
Round of 32: $163,000
Round of 64: $100,000
Round of 128: $61,000

Doubles(each team):
Winner: $400,000
Runner-up: $240,000
Semifinalist: $130,000
Quarterfinalist: $91,000
Round of 16: $50,000
Round of 32: $30,000

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

US Open Entry Lists Feature 32 Americans, but No Nadal; Western & Southern Qualifying Fields Announced; Recap of ITA Summer Circuit's Final Week

The entries for the US Open were announced today, with more suspense than usual given the travel restrictions and health concerns surrounding the pandemic. Men's World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has entered but No. 2 Rafael Nadal announced today that he would not participate in either of the two events in New York. Dominic Thiem, No. 3 in the rankings, is on for the US tournaments, but rehabbing ATP No. 4 Roger Federer and No. 9 Gael Monfils are out among the Top 10. The US Open article on the men's field is here.

WTA No. 1 Ashleigh Barty had announced last week she would not be playing in the US tournaments and No. 2 Simona Halep had expressed doubts, but she is on the entry list for now. Karolina Pliskova, ranked No. 3, and Sofia Kenin, No. 4, have entered, as has defending champion Bianca Andreescu, although she is likely to withdraw due to injury. The US Open article on the women's field is here.

The tours jointly announced today that the Madrid Open, rescheduled in the spring to be played after the US Open, has been canceled. An ATP Masters and a WTA Premier Mandatory, Madrid was expected to draw a strong field of Europeans not interested in traveling to the United States prior to the French Open.

The American men who received direct entry into the US Open main draw:
John Isner, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Sam Querrey, Tennys Sandgren, Tommy Paul, Steve Johnson, Frances Tiafoe, Mackenzie McDonald, Marcos Giron, Denis Kudla, Jack Sock and Bradley Klahn. McDonald and Sock used protected rankings for entry.

The American women who received direct entry into the US Open main draw:
Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, Madison Keys, Alison Riske, Amanda Anisimova, Sloane Stephens, Jennifer Brady, Danielle Collins, Coco Gauff, Bernarda Pera, Lauren Davis, Venus Williams, Taylor Townsend, Madison Brengle, Jessica Pegula, Christina McHale, Kristie Ahn, Shelby Rogers and Caty McNally.

The Western & Southern Open qualifying fields were released today, and because the draws are so much smaller, many of those in the main draw at the US Open are currently in qualifying for that tournament. Americans in the qualifying are Steve Johnson, Mackenzie McDonald, Bernarda Pera, Lauren Davis, Taylor Townsend, Madison Brengle, Jessica Pegula, Christina McHale and Kristie Ahn. Sam Querrey received main draw entry when Nadal withdrew.

Wild cards for both the W&S qualifying and US Open main draw have yet to be announced.

Week 7 of the ITA Summer Circuit wrapped up Monday, with all that remains of it the ITA National Summer Championships beginning Friday in College Station.

In Toledo Ohio, Michigan State rising junior Carson Gates, the No. 1 seed, took the men's top flight title, beating Ball State rising sophomore and No. 2 seed Vince Orlando, the son of MSU men's coach Gene Orlando, 6-2, 6-0.

No. 4 seed Rylie Hanford, a five-star rising junior, took the women's top flight, beating No. 2 seed Julia Fliegner, a five-star rising senior and Michigan recruit, 1-6, 6-3, 13-11 in the final.

At Wichita State, top seed Alex Richards, a rising sophomore at Wichita State, defeated No. 2 seed Cole Knutsen, a four-star rising senior, 3-6, 6-2, 10-4 in the final of the top flight of men's singles.

No. 5 seed Ellee Dryer won the women's top flight, with the four-star rising junior defeating top seed Lizanne Boyer, a five-star rising junior, 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

In Lakeland Florida, No. 7 seed Tygen Goldammer, a four-star rising sophomore, won the men's title, beating Cassius Chinlund, a blue-chip rising eighth-grader, 6-2, 2-6, 10-5 in the final.

Four-star rising junior Elizabeth Tindera, the No. 2 seed, won the women's title, beating No. 8 seed Savannah Webster, a four-star rising freshman, 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Webster is the daughter of UCLA women's head coach Stella Sampras Webster.

In Lawrenceville Georgia, the top seeds won the top flights. Tomas Rodriguez, a rising junior at Tennessee-Chattanooga, defeated Patrick Lazo, a rising junior at Georgia State, 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Rodriguez had finished runner-up last week at the Summer Circuit event in Murfreesboro Tennessee.

Emma Shelton won the women's title, beating five-star rising junior Akari Matsuno 6-1, 6-0 in the final.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Aces From Past Julys; Murray, Three Americans Receive Western & Southern Open Wild Cards; UTR and ITA Announce 10-Week Fall Circuit

With professional tennis now officially back at the WTA International in Palermo Italy this week, I hope this is my fourth and final edition of Aces that depends on the Tennis Recruiting Network's archives. The 15 players in the July edition skews to the men's side, with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Reilly Opelka, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime among those featured. It wasn't so long ago that the conventional wisdom held that young stars were no longer possible in the men's game because the game was too physical and demanded too much maturity. Then Alexander Zverev started winning Masters events, and although it's true slam titles have been the exclusive property of older players, there is no question that the 25-and-under crowd is a threat now, with the 21-year-old Tsitsipas already an Australian Open semifinalist and the reigning ATP Finals champion.

The Western & Southern Open has announced its four men's wild cards, with Great Britain's Andy Murray and Americans Tennys Sandgren, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe the recipients.  Sandgren at 55 and Paul at 57 are the highest ranked Americans not in the initial acceptances; Tiafoe, at 81, was given one ahead of Steve Johnson, currently at 63 in the ATP rankings.

The five women's wild cards, announced last Thursday, are Caty McNally, Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Naomi Osaka.

Qualifying begins on Thursday August 20th at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, with the main draw starting Saturday the 22nd. The current player list is here.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association and UTR today announced a Fall Circuit, modeled on the ITA's longstanding Summer Circuit which is drawing to a close with the National Summer Championships beginning on Friday. Although the sites have yet to be selected, the Fall Circuit is expected to begin on September 18th and run through November 22nd, a 10-week schedule, with dates and sites to be confirmed by August 24th.

For NCAA compliance purposes, these events are open, so anyone with an ITA Player Membership is eligible to compete in them. As I wrote after covering the Summer Circuit event in Grand Rapids last month, these tournaments are very popular with national-level juniors, who have had limited opportunities to compete elsewhere due to ITF and USTA pandemic cancellations. I imagine this new Fall Circuit will be popular with college players too, particularly if there are enough of them to keep travel distances drivable.

As with this year's Summer Circuit, doubles competition is not offered.

Information on hosting a Fall Circuit event, purchasing a Player Membership and important dates can be found here.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

New York Empire Saves Championship Point to Take World Team Tennis Title; Proposed Carson California Athletic Center Receives $50 Million for Construction

Coco Vandeweghe
 photo credit: World Team Tennis

Less than a week ago, two members of World Team Tennis champions the New York Empire were playing for another team. But heading into the third week of the season, the San Diego Aviators traded Nicole Melichar and Coco Vandeweghe to the Empire for Kveta Peschke, Sabine Lisicki and "financial considerations," and the pair ended up delivering the title Sunday afternoon in women's doubles, winning the ultimate deciding point against the Chicago Smash in a Super Tiebreaker.

The Empire led 10-6 after Jack Sock and Neal Skupski(LSU) defeated Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) 5-2 in men's doubles, then Sock and Vandeweghe beat Ram and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 5-4 in mixed doubles.

With men's singles next up, after Smash coach Kamau Murray elected to have the match finish with women's doubles, Nakashima gave Chicago an 11-10 lead by crushing Sock 5-0. Sloane Stephens beat Vandeweghe 5-3 in women's singles to extend that lead to 16-13, so Vandeweghe and Melichar had to win the women's doubles over Mattek-Sands and Eugenie Bouchard to force extended play.

If the trailing team wins that fifth set, the match continues, if the leading team wins it, the match ends with a victory for them. At 3-all, Mattek-Sands dropped serve, giving Melichar an opportunity to serve for the set, but she was broken. In the tiebreaker, which the Empire had to win, they went up 4-1, only to see the Smash come back to 4-all. There is no "win by two" in the World Team Tennis tiebreakers, so the next point would decide if the match would continue. Melichar, who had had some shaky serves came up with a great first serve on the T to take the point and the game and the set, forcing extended play. The Smash still led 20-18 in total games, so they had to win the next two games to force a Super Tiebreaker.

Vandeweghe held serve easily, making it 20-19, but Mattek-Sands had the opportunity to serve out the championship. She was unable to, with some great returning by Vandeweghe and Melichar leading to the Super Tiebreaker. Unlike the nine-point tiebreaker, first to 5 normally played, this one is 13 points, first to 7, with a winner-take-all point should it get to 6-6.

At the stage, Murray substituted Stephens for Bouchard, and she helped the Smash to a 5-3 lead, but Melichar and Vandeweghe got the mini-break back, and by winning three points in a row, had a championship point of their own with Stephens serving at 5-6. Stephens hit an ace, meaning that one point would decide the championship. Stephens had one more serve, but the returns had been dominant most of the match, and so it proved in this case, with Vandeweghe ripping a forehand return on the back of the baseline to give the Empire its first WTT title.

All lines throughout the three weeks were called electronically and were not subject to review or challenge, but as you can see in the tweet below, the margin between a title and finishing second was about as close as it could be.

New York was the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, but took out No. 1 seed Philadelphia 22-18, with Sock beating Taylor Fritz in the fifth set to send the Empire to the final. Chicago, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Orlando Storm 24-13.

Sock was named the men's MVP, despite his loss in men's singles today, and Vandeweghe, who also lost in singles today, was named the women's MVP, emphasizing the importance of doubles in the format.

The Empire shares $500,000 in prize money, in addition to their salaries and other bonuses they may have earned; the Smash shares $250,000.

Overall the World Team Tennis season has to provide optimism for tennis, with no positive Covid-19 tests reported throughout the three-week season, given that the bubble at The Greenbrier is much less strict than what has been put in place in New York for the Western & Southern Open and US Open. And the extensive presence on television throughout, including the finals airing on network TV today, gave tennis some exposure as other pro sports are just ramping up.

Earlier last year, the development of the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus in Carson California was announced, with support from the Tiger Woods' TGR Foundation and the USTA Foundation as well as the Kimmelman family. I had heard that county politics and environmental considerations had led to delays in groundbreaking, but the project is back in the news this week, with the announcement of $50 million dollars in funding for construction costs. This Los Angeles Times article projects a late 2021 or early 2022 opening at the site of a former golf course, which is just up the street from the Dignity Health Sports Park, site of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships and the USTA Player Development West training center.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Drastic Changes to ITF Junior Circuit Coming for Remainder of 2020; French Open Junior Championships Receive Waiver

Although there has been no official announcement to the public, the International Tennis Federation has made its decisions for the remainder of the year on the ITF Junior Circuit, which resumes the week of August 31st. 

According to information I've seen, the maximum number of points for any event in 2020, regardless of its current Grade, will be awarded as if it were a Grade 3. (The ITF point chart for singles can be seen here). Draw sizes are now 32 for singles, both main draw and qualifying, and 24 for doubles. That is about half the usual singles draw at most events, and certainly all the ITF events in the United States.  

This means October's Pan American Closed Grade B1 in Nicholasville Kentucky and December's Grade 1 Eddie Herr and the Grade A Orange Bowl will basically provide half the opportunities for competition and substantially reduced points, assuming they do take place.

The ITF granted the French Open Junior Championships a waiver from these new restrictions, but as it reads below, it is only providing Grade A points, which are now half the points awarded for junior slams, as the chart linked above shows.  The Junior Championships at Roland Garros still do not appear on the ITF Junior Circuit calendar, but assuming that it is going forward during the second week of the French Open, US junior players would have to choose between the Nicholasville tournament and the French. Of course, at this stage, that wouldn't be much of a choice, with Americans currently not allowed to travel to France due to the pandemic.

I would hope the USTA would ask for a waiver similar to that granted to Roland Garros for the Orange Bowl, given its prestige and history, and would consider upgrading the ITF Level 4s and 5s still on the schedule here in the US to Level 3s. But even if all that happens and everything proceeds as expected for the rest of the year--a big if--US juniors are going to fall behind their European counterparts in playing opportunities.

• ITF World Tennis Tour Junior tournaments are scheduled to resume on 31 August 2020 (qualifying on 29-30 August permitted). However, a maximum of Grade 3 (J3/B3) ranking points will be awarded for the remainder of 2020. Any tournament scheduled for 31 August-31 December 2020 that is Grade 2 or better (JA, J1, J2) will receive Grade 3 (J3) ranking points.

• Draw sizes are restricted to 32 in qualifying singles, 32 in main draw singles and 24 pairs in doubles for the remainder of 2020.

• The entry deadline for all tournaments for the remainder of 2020 shall be reduced, unless otherwise stated, to twenty (20) days prior to the Monday of the tournament week, i.e. 14.00pm (GMT) on the Tuesday.

• Exception is granted by the ITF Juniors Committee for Roland Garros 2020 to continue with Grade A points and to stage larger draws.

• Following the General Administration of Sport in China's directive, the 2020 ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Finals in Chengdu, China is cancelled this year.

The ITF's decision on how rankings will be handled follows:

The amended rules for the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors outlined below have been approved by the ITF Board and shall come into effect when the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors resumes on 31 August 2020:

• From the resumption of competition on 31 August 2020, until 14 March 2021, a player’s combined ranking will be comprised of his / her best 6 singles results and 25% of his / her best 6 doubles results achieved between 18 March 2019 – 14 March 2021 (i.e. 104 week ranking period), during what is an extended ranking period.

• Results from tournaments upon resumption on 31 August 2020 will replace a player’s result from that tournament held the previous year if it is a better result and provided it is one of the player’s best 6 results.

• Results earned between 18 March 2019 and 15 March 2020 (i.e. 52 weeks) are protected and will have their ranking drop date extended by 52 weeks.

• Effective from 15 March 2021, points from 2019 and/or 2020 will drop on an ongoing weekly basis and be replaced with points earned from tournaments in 2021.

• Results from higher graded (JA, J1/B1, J2/B2 and J3/B3) tournaments can be counted a maximum of once within a player’s best 6 results during the 104-week period (i.e. double counting of the same tournament is not permitted).

• Results from lower graded (J4 & J5) tournaments can be counted more than once within a player’s best 6 results during the 104-week period.

• The ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors circuit plan to return to the 52-week ranking in December 2021.