Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Four US Men Advance to Final Round of Qualifying at French Open; ITA Announces Women's Hall of Fame Inductees; Iowa Rejects Attempts to Restore Men's Tennis; Stanford's Gould Talks College Tennis

Four of the five American men remaining of the 13 that began qualifying at Roland Garros, won their second round matches today to advance to the final round Thursday or Friday.

2016 Kalamazoo champion Michael Mmoh advanced when Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic retired trailing 7-6(3), 3-1; 19-year-old Sebastian Korda defeated former UNC star Brayden Schnur of Canada 6-4, 6-4; Jack Sock came back to win a tight one with No. 24 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1), and Ulises Blanch beat Gian Marco Moroni of Italy 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-3. This is just the third slam of the 22-year-old Blanch's career, and he had lost his first match in qualifying at the US Open in 2018 and dropped a five-set battle in the first round of the just-completed US Open, but he has plenty of experience on red clay, with a substantial amount of his development taking place in Argentina.

Blanch is the only one of the four Americans on Thursday's schedule; he plays No. 2 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain for a place in the main draw. Mmoh will play Renzo Olivo of Argentina; Korda faces No. 7 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia and Sock takes on Andrey Kuznetsov, also from Russia. 

Three of the four US women playing their first round qualifying matches advanced, with No. 3 seed Caty McNally, Asia Muhammad and Varvara Lepchenko picking up victories. They will join Ann Li[1] and Francesca Di Lorenzo, who won matches yesterday, in Thursday's second round. Li plays Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia; Muhammad faces Martina Trevisan of Italy; McNally plays former Pepperdine star Mayar Sherif of Egypt; Di Lorenzo takes on Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania and Lepchenko faces Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. 

The qualifying draws are here. The main draw is scheduled for release on Thursday at noon Eastern time. 

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced its recent class of inductees in the Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame yesterday, with former Georgia star Lisa Spain Short, former Northwestern star Diane Donnelly Stone, former USC star AnnaMaria Fernandez-Ruffels and former University of Indiana women's coach Lin Loring. Donnelly Stone is the daughter of longtime Kalamazoo National Championship volunteers Bud and Carol Donnelly, and the aunt of USTA Winter Nationals 14s Champion Susanna Maltby.  

They will be honored at the induction ceremony in Williamsburg Virginia on September 18, 2021.  

I hope that Alabama's Roberta Alison Baumgardner, who I wrote about this spring for the Tennis Recruiting Network, will be considered for posthumous indiction into the Collegiate Hall of Fame when the next class is selected.

When the Big Ten decided to play football this fall, after previously postponing the season, there was hope that the decision to drop four sports, including men's tennis, would be re-examined, but that appears to have been dashed with this statement. The student-athletes affected have been critical of the administration's handling of the cuts, according to this The Gazette article, with men's tennis Jason Kerst saying: 

“We have received no adequate follow-up since August 21st, The decision itself is very disappointing, but the lack of communication and transparency from our own administration is probably the most frustrating.”

Meanwhile, a Save Iowa Sports fundraising campaign has been launched, with 1.65 million pledged in the early going. 

That number may sound impressive, but one of many things I learned from a recent conversation that Andy Katz had with former Stanford men's tennis coach Dick Gould, is that that would be nowhere near enough to convince the athletic department to save a sport.

In this wide-ranging interview in the USTA ITA College Tennis Chats series, embedded below, Gould says it took him years to understand the necessity for the endowments and decades to work toward financial independence for Stanford tennis. Gould talks about how tennis has changed, where American tennis might be heading, the prevalence of international players in Division I, how he connected the Palo Alto community to the tennis programs, and how a coach should be dividing his working hours between his team and outreach. All in all, it's an interesting behind the scenes look at what is necessary to build a successful Division I program.