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Friday, August 28, 2020

My Conversation with JJ Wolf; Western & Southern Open Finals Set; US Open Doubles Draws Released; Talking Junior Tennis with Parenting Aces

JJ Wolf, photo courtesy Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com

I had an opportunity to talk with former Ohio State star JJ Wolf Sunday via a Zoom conference at the Western & Southern Open, where he had just made his ATP Tour main draw debut. Although he lost to to Richard Gasquet of France, Wolf is confident he belongs in professional tennis. We spoke about how he trained and stayed focused during the Covid-19 shutdown, his goals as he prepares for the US Open, and his most significant takeaway from his three seasons as a Buckeye. I was particularly interested in his decision to leave after his junior year.

And probably the hardest part was leaving all of my buddies at Ohio State, on and off the team. I have a really good friend group there.

But living in Columbus over quarantine, I got to see them a lot. So I feel like I got that would-have-been senior year back almost. So I'm pretty content with my decision, especially looking at what happened this year. I think my game was ready to leave college tennis, but it was definitely hard for me.

The complete interview was posted this morning at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Tennis resumed today at the Western & Southern Open, after a one-day pause to align with calls for social justice across all professional sports. No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka, the leader of that action in pro tennis, advanced to Saturday's final, defeating No. 14 seed Elise Mertens 6-2, 7-6(5). Her opponent will be unseeded Victoria Azarenka, who defeated No. 8 seed Johanna Konta 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The men's final will also feature an unseeded player, with Milos Raonic ousting No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(5), 6-3 in the first men's semifinal. Top seed Novak Djokovic needed three hours to get past No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0). Bautista Agut won four straight games after trailing 5-2 in the third set, but could not close it out when serving for the match at 6-5. Djokovic, who looked physically shaky throughout the final set, did not do press after the match due to what the tournament characterized this way: Novak Djokovic was not feeling well on court today and it worsened after the match. The tournament medical team has advised him not to do press today.

Nicole Melichar is the sole American still in the chase for a title. She and Yifan Xu of China, the No. 2 seeds, defeated unseeded Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia and Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 7-5 in one of the women's doubles semifinals. In the other, No. 3 seeds Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands defeated defending champions Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia, the No. 8 seeds, 6-2, 6-1. 

Two unseeded teams will meet for the men's doubles title on Saturday. Jamie Murray and former LSU star Neal Skupski of Great Britain will face Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and Alex De Minaur of Australia in the final. Murray and Skupski beat No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 7-5, 6-3, while Carreno Busta and De Minaur downed Austin Krajicek and Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-4.

Saturday's order of play is here

The US Open doubles draws were released and because only doubles rankings were used for entries, most of the singles players in the field are not playing doubles. The fields have been cut in half, with just 32 teams due to the pandemic and no mixed doubles is being played this year.

Defending US Open champions Robert Farah(USC) and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia are the top men's seeds; Kristina Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos of Hungary are at the top of the women's draw.  Coco Gauff and Caty McNally will face wild cards Hailey Baptiste and Whitney Osuigwe in a first round match, with Osuigwe replacing Kim Clijsters, who was originally set to be Baptiste's partner. McNally and Osuigwe were doubles partners often in their junior years, winning the Easter Bowl, the Italian Open and the Eddie Herr together in 2017. At the 2018 US Open Juniors, McNally and Gauff won the girls doubles title, beating Baptiste and her partner Dalayna Hewitt in the final.  The women's doubles draw is here; the men's doubles draw is here.

I spoke with Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces today on Facebook Live, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about covering tennis remotely, as I'm doing these three weeks, junior tennis, what alphabet entity I think emerged the strongest from the pandemic, college tennis and USTA's commitment to it, the ITA Fall Circuit, and a lot of other topics squeezed into a half-hour conversation. You can watch our conversation on the Parenting Aces YouTube channel