Wednesday, September 2, 2020

August Aces; Brady's Draw Opens with Loss by Top Seed Pliskova

©Colette Lewis 2020--

For the first time since March, I was able to put together my monthly Aces column for the Tennis Recruiting Network from current results. After four months looking through the archives for those who have gone on to Top 100 status on the professional tours, this article features active competitors who could reach those heights in the next several years. Two 17-year-old girls with impressive junior resumes won ITF World Tennis Tour titles in Europe and 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain is a name you'll know soon, if you don't already. 

Another one of those Aces is Jennifer Brady, who won her first WTA title last month at the Top Seed Open in Lexington Kentucky. I spoke to Brady today via Zoom after her impressive 6-1, 6-2 win over Cici Bellis, and I admit to being surprised by her answer to my question about when it was that she realized her game was good enough to compete at the highest level of the WTA tour. I thought she might say the 2017 Australian Open, when, less than two years as a pro, she reached the round of 16, But her answer was much more recent, in Brisbane this year, when, as a qualifier, she defeated WTA No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia in the first round and went on to reach the quarterfinals.

"I would say the beginning of the year in Brisbane Australia, when I played Ash Barty," said the 25-year-old, who will move to a career-high inside the Top 40 after her win today. "During the week I practiced with a lot of Top 10 players, I practiced with Ash one that week, and even in practice I was like, they don't hit the ball much bigger than me, or if they do, it's very small margins, things like that. And then I was able to play a good match and win against Ash in Brisbane and I think from that point on I was like, ok, if I just keep getting better, I can give myself the best opportunity."

For all her success this on the WTA tour, Brady was unequivocal about her decision to spend two years at UCLA before turning pro. 

"It was honestly the only decision realistically I had," Brady said. "There was no reason for me to turn pro, I just really didn't have the results in the juniors, I didn't have the confidence in my game, the confidence in myself, or really just a plan to go pro. Going to UCLA was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. Stella (head coach Sampras Webster) and Rance (associate head coach Brown) helped mature on the court and off the court, helped me grow as a person and take responsibility for myself and my actions and also just be responsible with my game."

Brady did her press conference before she knew who her opponent would be, with most expecting that she would be up against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic. But Caroline Garcia of France had other ideas, taking out the top seed 6-1, 7-6(2) with some inspired and aggressive play. For more on Garcia's win, see this article from the WTA website.

Brady was one of four US women to advance to the third round with wins today (Madison Brengle has yet to take the court tonight), with Shelby Rogers particularly impressive in her 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. Jessica Pegula, who beat Brady in the first round of the Western & Southern Open last week, beat Kirsten Flipkens 7-6(1), 6-7(3) 6-3 to reach the third round of a slam for the first time, and 20-year-old Ann Li steamrolled No. 13 seed Alison Riske 6-0, 6-3 to also make the third round of a slam for the first time in her career.

The US men had much less success in today's second round, going 1-6 (Maxime Cressy is playing the night match) with only No. 19 seed Taylor Fritz getting through. Brandon Nakashima got the attention of the tennis world in his match with No. 5 seed Alexander Zverev, going toe-to-toe with the German for two and a half sets, but the Zverev serve proved too much for the 19-year-old from San Diego, who was competing in just his second main draw match at a slam.  For more on that match, see this article from Steve Tignor at tennis.com. It's interesting for me, who has watched countless Nakashima matches, to read what someone unfamiliar with his game has to say about it; I do know that if he improves as much in the next 12 months as he has in the past 12 months, Tignor will be seeing him on the big stages regularly.

Wednesday's results for all matches are here.

Wednesday second round results of US men (1-6)

Filip Krajinovic[26](SRB) d. Marcos Giron 64, 61, 63 

Jan-Lennard Struff[28](GER) d. Michael Mmoh[WC] 62, 62, 75

Alexander Zverev[5](GER) d. Brandon Nakashima[WC] 75, 67(8), 63, 61

Adrian Mannarino[32](FRA) d. Jack Sock 76(5), 75, 62

Pablo Carreno Busta[20](ESP) d. Mitchell Krueger[WC] 61, 62, 62

Taylor Fritz[19] d. Gilles Simon(FRA) 75, 63, 62

Ricardas Berankis(LTU) d. Steve Johnson 75 62 16 76(1)

Stefanos Tsitsipas[4](GRE) d. Maxime Cressy[WC] 76(2), 63, 64

Wednesday’s second round results featuring US women (5-2):

Jennifer Brady[28] d. Cici Bellis[WC] 61, 62

Jessica Pegula d. Kirsten Flipkens(BEL) 76(1), 67(3) 63

Shelby Rogers d. Elena Rybakina[11](KAZ) 75, 61

Ann Li d. Alison Riske[13] 60, 63

Madison Brengle d. Dayana Yastremska[19](UKR) 62, 63

Thursday's full schedule is here.

Thursday’s second round matches featuring US men (3):

Frances Tiafoe v John Millman(AUS)

JJ Wolf[WC] v Roberto Carballes Baena(ESP)

Ernesto Escobedo[Alternate] v Salvatore Caruso(ITA)

Thursday’s second round matches featuring US women (9):

Sofia Kenin[2] v Leylah Fernandez(CAN)

Serena Williams[3] v Margarita Gasparyan(RUS)

Katrina Scott[WC] v Amanda Anisimova[22]

Sloane Stephens[26] v Olga Govortsova(BLR)

Madison Keys[7] v Aliona Bolsova(ESP)

Caty McNally v Ekaterina Alexandrova[21](RUS)

Sachia Vickery[WC] v Iga Swiatek(POL)

Bernarda Pera v Maria Sakkari[15](GRE)


Max Ho said...

Interesting to hear Brady talk about her college journey. When she was a freshman at UCLA you could see how good she could be if she could reign in her power, but she only played number 3 on the team. While a player is in college the have to opportunity accomplish multiple things:
- Get stronger physically
- Become more mature mentally and emotionally
- Develop a plan for tour including finding financial backing
- Improve pro ranking during fall and summer tournaments while having home base with good players to train with,and facilities for free.

Being on the tour is incredibly difficult especially when points start to come off from year before. Many players feel the need to overplay to keep points and money coming in, but that stifles your improvement. It's very difficult to get consistent practice and fitness while you are traveling, players need training blocks and rest.

I am surprised that more players don't try to graduate early and start college spring of what would be players senior year? If you play that season and one more after player is still only 19-20 coming out on tour

College Tennis Fan said...

Max Ho, I completely agree. Both Wolf and Nakashima followed your suggested path.

SeminoleG said...

Graduating Early and Playing the the Spring is a very nice plan on paper. Problem is you are walking into a Team that has been playing since the FALL. You have decided to go to college to "improve" something as you have listed and the rush may not reap the benefits.

I will say that Graduating early and using a "Red Shirt" could be the best solution. You cannot travel or participate in Matches for your school, but you can reap all the other benefits as well as get needed Point Play in Practice. You are then allowed to continue to play ITF's or Challengers unattached. This approach is especially beneficial if the player feels they are not staying all 4 years anyway.

Max Ho said...

I am not sure a coach would go for a redshirt year for a player who would make top 6 and sit out season who wasn't injured (especially on mens side with only 4.5 scholarships)? The coach would be giving up a scholarship to a player who could help (in this example) but would not be in the team in matches. My point for spring would be to take advantage of the spring college season and get those matches in. The one plus of so many good foreign players is that competition is much stronger for top-level American players trying to make tour after college.

To your point Seminole, many football recruits graduate early and do football spring practice learn the system, and stay over summer as well to lift and take summer classes.

I am not familiar at all with homeschooling, how easy is it to accelerate credits and graduate a year early? It would def be worth it for someone who is highly ranked and can play in Southern Cal or Southeast where there are a lot of Challengers to play.