Zootennis

Friday, October 23, 2020

Qualifier Charney, Unseeded Perego Win Atlanta Grade 4 Titles; Montgomery Claims $25K Doubles Title in France; Bellis, Lepchenko Reach Macon $80K Semis; Brady Advances in Czech Republic

Champions were crowned today at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, the first ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States in 2020. Seventeen-year-old qualifier Emma Charney won the girls singles title, defeating wild card Ashlyn Krueger 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 for her first ITF Junior Circuit title in her fourth tournament played. Charney, a blue chip from South Carolina, had lost to Krueger at last year's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Kentucky last fall. She won eight matches, including qualifying, and lost a set for the first time today.

Unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy won the boys singles title, when No. 3 seed Aidan Kim retired trailing 6-1, 2-0. It was the first ITF Junior Circuit singles title for the 17-year-old. 

As in singles, the doubles champions were unseeded. Julia Fliegner and Elisabeth Jones defeated the unseeded team of Krueger and Marcela Lopez 6-4, 7-5 in the girls final. Braden Shick and Maxwell Smith won the boys title with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over No. 7 seeds Stian Klaassan of the Netherlands and Lucas Brown.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman lost her quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 6-2, 6-4. Coleman and Madison Sieg, who are the top seeds in doubles, have advanced to the semifinals.

Robin Montgomery, playing in her second consecutive quarterfinal at a $25K in France, lost to No. 2 seed and current WTA No. 124 Oceane Dodin of France 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2. But the 16-year-old did pick up her first ITF World Tennis Tour doubles title, with 18-year-old Selena Janicijevic of France, when they received a walkover in the final from the British team of Harriet Dart and Sarah Beth Grey, the No. 2 seeds. Montgomery and Janicijevic defeated the No. 3 seeds in the quarterfinals and top seeds Robin Anderson and Jessika Ponchet of France, who had won the doubles title at last week's $25K, in the semifinals before benefitting from the walkover. 

At the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, wild card Cici Bellis and qualifier Varvara Lepchenko set up a semifinal meeting Saturday with contrasting quarterfinal victories. Bellis rolled past Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-3, winning the first nine games of the match with some outstanding tennis. She cooled off a bit in the second set, but has been impressive in her three wins so far, all in straight sets. After her first round win went more than three and a half hours, Lepchenko had another marathon victory today, with the qualifier defeating Sachia Vickery 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes.  Bellis and Lepchenko have split two previous meetings, with the last one, in November of 2019 at the Houston WTA 125, going to a third set tiebreaker. 

The other semifinal features 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the No. 6 seed, against qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. Kostyuk breezed past top seed Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1, while Frech defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-3.

Replays of the Kostyuk and Bellis wins, among other previous matches, are available here, with live streaming at the same site this weekend.

Jennifer Brady(UCLA) continued her impressive hard court play since the restart, advancing to her fourth WTA semifinal of the year today with a come-from-behind win over qualifier Veronika Kudermetova of Russia at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic.  Brady, who beat Kudermetova 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, will face No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who had a spectacularly improbable win over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain this evening. Sabalenka trailed 6-0, 4-0 before winning 12 straight games for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. 

Marcos Giron(UCLA) lost his first ever ATP quarterfinal match today at the European Open in Belgium, falling to No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia 6-3, 6-0. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Giron Earns First ATP Top 20 Win, Brady Advances in Ostrava; Montgomery Reaches $25K Quarterfinal; Finals Friday at Atlanta Grade 4; Coleman Claims Bulgaria Grade 1 Quarterfinal Berth


2014 NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron has achieved a handful of career firsts since the restart, including his first main draw grand slam win (US Open), his first French Open main draw win, and his first appearance in the ATP Top 100. Tonight at the ATP 250 European Open in Belgium, the 27-year-old former UCLA Bruin added two more accomplishments, earning his first ATP Top 20 victory and reaching his first ATP quarterfinal. Giron took advantage of the inconsistency and poor serving of top seed and ATP No. 14 David Goffin in Goffin's home country, posting a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Giron played nearly flawless tennis in the opening set, building a 5-1 lead before Goffin began to show some signs of life. 

The second set was more competitive, but it was Giron who was able to prevail on the important points, saving eight of ten break points. After Goffin took a 5-4 lead in the second set, Giron took charge, winning 12 of the next 15 to earn his place in the quarterfinals. Giron will play No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who was his previous best win prior to tonight, with Giron defeating the then 24th-ranked De Minaur in the second round at Indian Wells last year 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

For more on Giron's win, see this article from the ATP website.

Giron wasn't the only former UCLA star to pick up a win today in Europe; Jennifer Brady came from 2-5 down in the first set at the WTA Premier in the Czech Republic, defeating qualifier Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-5, 6-2. Brady will face another qualifier, Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 today.

Robin Montgomery has advanced to the quarterfinals of a $25,000 event in France for the second consecutive week. The 16-year-old left-hander once again drew Robin Anderson in the first round, and once again got the win over the only other American in the Reims draw. Today Montgomery defeated Olga Danilovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 to earn a quarterfinal meeting with No. 2 seed Oceane Dodin of France. 

The finals are set at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, with wild card Ashlyn Krueger facing qualifier Emma Charney in the girls final, and No. 3 seed Aidan Kim playing Giulio Perego of Italy in the boys final. Krueger defeated Gracie Epps 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while Charney took out Grace O'Donnell 6-2, 6-0. Charney, 17, has already won seven matches this week and has yet to drop a set.  The 15-year-old Kim defeated Ellis Short 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Perego, 17, downed last year's finalist Nishesh Basavareddy, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  

Krueger, 16, has also advanced to the girls doubles final with partner Marcela Lopez.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman advanced to the quarterfinals, beating Lucie Nguyen Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Coleman faces top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who took a late wild card into qualifying, on Friday. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Top Seed Mi Out in Quarterfinals at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Moves On at Macon $80K; Fritz Defeats Opelka in Belgium; Cooksey Wins Fourth State Singles Title

With the draws consisting of only 32 players, the semifinals of the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4 in Atlanta are Thursday, a day earlier than usual when the draws are usually twice as large. Boys top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay lost yesterday, and in today's quarterfinals, girls top seed Lan Mi of China exited, with unseeded Gracie Epps advancing when Mi retired at 4-6, 7-6(6). Epps, who will be 16 next week, will face wild card Ashlyn Krueger in the semifinals. Krueger, who won the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles last year, beat qualifier Salma Farhat 6-2, 6-0.

The other girls semifinal will feature qualifier Emma Charney against unseeded Grace O'Donnell. Charney defeated Aubrey Nisbet 6-4, 6-1, while O'Donnell advanced when Ava Hrastar retired trailing 5-1. 

No. 2 seed Nishesh Basavareddy, who reached the final last year in Atlanta, defeated wild card Jelani Sarr 6-1, 6-4 and will play unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy. Perego beat No. 4 seed Azuma Visaya 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Unseeded Ellis Short, who beat top seed Vallejo yesterday, picked up another win today, beating Canadian Jayden Templemen 6-4, 7-6(4). Short will take on No. 3 seed Aidan Kim, who defeated Ryan Colby 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman won her first round match, but she is the only American still alive in singles. No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, Jenna DeFalco and Isabelle Kouzmanov all lost in the first round, while boys No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara lost in the second round today. 

A couple of first round matches are still underway tonight at the $80,000 women's tournament in Macon Georgia, but at least eight US women will advance to Thursday's second round. Qualifiers Varvara Lepchenko and Katie Volynets both picked up wins today, with Lepchenko outlasting No. 2 seed Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(6) in over three and a half hours, and Volynets defeating Caroline Dolehide 7-6(3), 6-3 in just over two hours. No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn(Stanford), No. 5 seed Ann Li, Cici Bellis, Sachia Vickery and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) also posted first round wins today. 

Live streaming is up and running at usta.com, with Ken Thomas of RadioTennis.com on the call. 

Taylor Fritz ran his record against friend Reilly Opelka to 5-1 today in the first round of the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Fritz, the No. 7 seed, was outaced 19-10, but he never faced a break point in his 7-6(5), 6-1 victory. Fritz plays Lloyd Harris of South Africa next; qualifier Marcos Giron(UCLA) takes on top seed David Goffin of Belgium.

I normally am not able to follow high school tennis around the country, but because I wrote an article about William Cooksey's commitment to the University of Michigan this spring, and because I follow high school tennis here in my home state of Michigan, I did want to note that Cooksey won his fourth consecutive state singles title in Division IV today, a week after his Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett team won the Division IV title. It was touch and go throughout the summer and early fall as to whether the high school season would even be possible, but the MHSAA made some changes, decentralizing the team events and holding a separate individual tournament to keep the number of competitors at each site to a minimum. The girls, who play in the spring here in Michigan, were not as fortunate, as their season was, of course, canceled.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Top Seed Blanch Falls in First Round at Bulgaria Grade 1; Quarterfinals Set at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Beats Bouchard to Qualify for Macon $80K; ITA Fall Circuit Week Five Winners

The opening day of boys singles at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria saw top seed Dali Blanch exit in the first round, with fellow 17-year-old Jack Pinnington-Jones of Great Britain taking out the American by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 score. Blanch was coming off a title at the Grade 3 in Romania last week, but Pinnington-Jones has also picked up a title since the restart, claiming the Grade 2 in the Czech Republic last month. 

Blanch was the only seeded boy to fall in the opening round. The other American boy entered, No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, won his first round match over Szymon Kielan of Poland 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-0. 

The girls qualifying concluded today, with their first round matches scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Qavia Lopez lost to wild card entry Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 7-5, 6-3, leaving four American girls in the main draw. Australian Open girls champion Jimenez Kasintseva, currently No. 3 in the ITF Junior rankings, is the top seed in the event, after taking a late wild card into qualifying. The American girls in the draw are Jenna De Falco, Isabelle Kouzmanov, Madison Sieg, the  No. 4 seed, and Ellie Coleman, the No. 5 seed.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, Princeton recruit Ellis Short defeated top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5) to advance to the quarterfinals. The No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds--Nishesh Basavareddy, Aidan Kim and Azuma Visaya--are among the six Americans still in contention for the boys singles title. 

In the girls draw, the only seed remaining is No. 1 Lan Mi of China, with the other quarterfinalists all from the United States, including qualifiers Salma Farhat and Emma Charney. No. 2 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland lost yesterday to qualifier Ann Guerry, who was beaten by Georgia Tech freshman Ava Hrastar today. Aubrey Nisbet defeated No. 3 seed Gabriella Proudfoot of South Africa 6-2, 6-4 in today's second round action.

Two Americans advanced to the main draw of the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, with Varvara Lepchenko defeating Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-2, 6-3 and 18-year-old Katie Volynets prevailing when top qualifying seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada retired trailing 6-4, 3-0. Bouchard led 3-1 in the first set, but Volynets broke right back, then went on to break at love at 4-all and hold at love for the set, winning 13 straight points at one stage. After a lengthy medical time out after dropping serve for a second time in the second set, Bouchard retired. Volynets will play Caroline Dolehide in the first round Wednesday.

At the WTA Premier event in the Czech Republic, Coco Gauff defeated wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the second round. Gauff defeated Sabalenka in Lexington back in August 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

The ITA Tour: Fall Circuit by UTR in now at the halfway point after this past weekend's events. Participation seems to be dropping, with draws not filling in most places; some of the tournaments held round robins with their small fields, and if I wasn't able to determine who had won those, I did not include them in the winners below. The ITA has a recap of how the Top 5 UTRs fared in Week Five here.

ITF Fall Circuit Week Five Winners:

Bellevue: Men, Clement Chidekh; Women, Alina Zolotareva

Hilton Head: Men, Connor Thomson; Women, Allie Gretkowski

West Palm Beach: Men, Connor Laymon; Women, Anna Baranovski

Minneapolis: Women, Veronica Rodriguez

Lakeland: Men, Julian Cuartas; Women, Olivia Bryant

Walled Lake: Men, Addison Cazier

Peachtree Corners: Men, Jake Beasley; Women, Maggie Pate

Deerfield: Men, Alex Bancila; Women, Alexandra Benedetto

N Richland Hills: Men, Angel Diaz; Women, Lucia Natal Gomez

Grand Junction: Men, Billy McDermott; Women, Brooklyn Ross

Spring: Men, Gabriel Evans; Women, Rhiann Newborn

Monday, October 19, 2020

Qualifying Underway at Macon $80K; 2021 Dow Tennis Classic Moved to November; Gauff Among Ten Americans Competing in WTA, ATP Events in Europe

The first ITF World Tennis Tour matches in the United States in over seven months were played today, at the women's $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia. The first round of qualifying is complete, with the second and final round of qualifying set for Tuesday. Eight players will qualify, with main draw singles beginning on Wednesday. Misaki Doi of Japan is the top seed, with wild cards going to Emma Navarro(Virginia), Lulu Sun of Switzerland, Cici Bellis and Katerina Stewart.

In today's first round of qualifying, Americans Asia Muhammad, Varvara Lepchenko, Claire Liu, Katie Volynets and Kayla Day advanced to the final round. Day, who received a wild card into qualifying got a big win, beating Mayar Sherif(Pepperdine) of Egypt, currently 163 in the WTA rankings and the No. 4 seed in qualifying 7-6(3), 7-5. It's the 21-year-old Day's best win by ranking since she defeated No. 158 Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands back in April of 2019. 

Free live streaming of the Macon tournament is expected to begin Tuesday at usta.com.

One of the Pro Circuit tournaments I've attending regularly over the years is the Women's $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland Michigan. Driving there--it's about three hours from where I live in Kalamazoo--is almost always an adventure, with the weather at its worst here at the end of January. Yet I've kept going back, not only to watch great tennis and catch up with the juniors and former college players I covered earlier in their careers, but because the tournament is so well run and has so much support from the community, which really appreciates having world class athletes competing in their small city.

If I go to Midland in 2021, it's unlikely I'll encounter a blizzard, as the tournament announced today that it would be moving to November 1-7, some nine months after its usual date.  For more on the move, see this article from the Midland Daily News

The ATP and WTA action this week is again in Europe, with the women competing in a Premier level event in Ostrava Czech Republic, and the men competing in two 250s, in Antwerp Belgium and Cologne Germany. 

Coco Gauff, who did not initially enter the Ostrava tournament, but would have been in qualifying anyway, received a wild card into qualifying and made it into the main draw with wins over Jana Cepelova and Irina-Camelia Begu. She will face wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the first round Tuesday. Other Americans in the main draw are Jennifer Brady(UCLA), who plays Dayana Yastremska Tuesday, and Amanda Anisimova, who plays No. 7 seed Elise Mertens on Wednesday.

In Antwerp, No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz will play good friend Reilly Opelka in the opening round Wednesday. Frances Tiafoe won his first round match today, beating No. 6 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6(6). Tommy Paul lost his first round match to Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-2. A fifth American man, Marcos Giron(UCLA), will also compete in the main draw after qualifying today. Giron plays 17-year-old wild card Luca Nardi of Italy in a first round match Tuesday.

Just two Americans are in Cologne: Steve Johnson(USC) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee). Johnson got his first win over Marin Cilic in six attempts today in the first round, with a 7-6(3), 6-4 decision over the No. 9 seed. For more from Johnson on his win today, see this article from the ATP. Sandgren will play qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the first round Tuesday.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Blanch, Banerjee and Loudon Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles; Genovese, Simkiss Champions at ITA Cup; Alcaraz Claims Third Challenger Title to Join Elite Group


Last week all the titles won by American juniors were in doubles; this week's titles were all in singles, with Dali Blanch, Samir Banerjee and Sage Loudon collecting winner's trophies on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Seventeen-year-olds Blanch and Banerjee won Grade 3 events, with  Blanch getting the win in Romania, while Banerjee won his title in Turkey.

Blanch, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Ilya Snitari of Moldova 7-5, 6-2 in the final to earn his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title in nearly two years. 

Banerjee, who won the doubles title at a Grade 5 last week in Istanbul but didn't play singles in that tournament, picked up a title for the third straight week after winning a Grade 4 in Macedonia two weeks ago. Banerjee, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Stefan Popovich of Serbia 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Banerjee beat doubles partner Ekansh Kumar in the semifinals by the same score. 

At the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, blue chip freshman Sage Loudon won the girls singles title, a week after she had captured the doubles title in the same location. Loudon, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Leah Kuruvilla, also of the United States, 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

A Grade 1 in Bulgaria has drawn strong fields this week, including Blanch, who will be one of the top seeds. I'm not sure if this tournament is providing Level 1 points or whether it is capped at Level 3 points; some language I've read recently suggests that the ITF may have revised its stance on Grade 3 points being the maximum. In any case, US boys in the acceptances are Blanch, Bruno Kuzuhara and Benjamin Kittay (note: Kittay is in the $10K UTR Vero Beach draw, so presumably is a late withdrawal from this event). The US girls accepted to the main draw are Madison Sieg, Ellie Coleman, Jenna De Falco and Isabelle Kouzmanov. Qualifying, which began today with boys matches, continues Monday. US girls in the qualifying draw are Clervie Ngounoue and Qavia Lopez.  The big surprise is at the top of the qualifying draw, with Australian Open champion and former World No. 1 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra taking a wild card. She is in the same quarter as Lopez.

The ITA Cup, the fall competition that usually encompasses the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College divisions was confined to NAIA only this year, due to all the Covid-19 related cancellations of regional competitions and other qualifying events. Held at Rome Georgia, the competition featured singles and doubles, with the latter a rare occurrence these days due to safety concerns. Women's top seed Maria Genovese of Georgia Gwinnett won the singles title, beating unseeded Lailaa Bashir of Xavier of Louisiana 6-2, 7-6(0) in the final. Unseeded Luke Simkiss of Keiser is the men's singles champion after a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Valentino Caratini of Georgia Gwinnett. 

In women's doubles, Bashir and her partner Angela Charles-Alfred defended their title, with the top seeds beating Genovese and her partner Eva Siska, the No. 2 seeds, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. No. 3 seeds Christopher Papa and Ivan Smith of San Diego Christian won the men's doubles title, beating unseeded Stefano Di Aloy and Martin Carrizo of Indian Wesleyan 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. 

Draws from this weekend's competition are available here, under the Events tab.

Seventeen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain won his second consecutive ATP Challenger title today in his home country and his third since the restart. By earning three Challenger titles before age 17, he joins an impressive list, joining Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Richard Gasquet and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The unseeded Alcaraz, who defeated top seed Pedro Martinez of Spain 7-6(6), 6-3 in today's final, is the second-youngest on that list, older than only Gasquet, who was 16 years and ten months old when he claimed his third in 2003. Alcaraz, who is 20-3 on the Challenger level since the restart, has improved his ATP ranking from 310 to 136 during that time. For more on Alcaraz's title, see this article from the ATP website.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

First ITF Junior Circuit Event in US Since December 2019 Underway in Atlanta; Other Notes from College and Junior Tennis

The ITF Grade A Orange Bowl ended last year on December 15th, with Robin Montgomery and Thiago Tirante winning the titles, no one expected that the next US tournament with ITF points would be more than ten months later, at the Grade 4 in Atlanta. Once the Easter Bowl, Carson, the US Open Junior Championships and the Pan American Closed were canceled, any opportunity to collect major points in this country this year disappeared, with the ITF tournaments the next three weeks offering only Level 4 points, although the Orange Bowl is currently still on the schedule for December.

Qualifying for the Atlanta ITF has attracted a strong field, particularly on the girls side, probably because draws have been reduced to 32, rather than the usual 64 for these ITF junior tournaments. Main draw matches begin on Monday at the Windward Lake Club in Alpharetta Georgia.

I watched the webinar on the new USTA Junior Competition structure provided by the USTA Midwest Section, and I am beginning to grasp some of the details of how the system will work going forward. I am encouraged by the the commitment that the Midwest section has to increase playing opportunities, and I hope we'll get to a place regarding the pandemic that will allow the ambitious plans to happen. I did take a screenshot of a slide that lists the National Championships scheduled for 2021, and there are no changes to those. 

For more on these upcoming changes, including a link to the USTA webinar on these changes from a national perspective, go to this usta.com page dedicated to information on the subject.

The USTA Florida section's Bobby Curtis Junior Sectionals for 12s and 14s were played last weekend in Delray Beach. For more on the winners there, see this article from the section's website. As a bonus, there's a fantastic list of former winners included.

UTR has posted a primer on its system and particularly on how it's used by college coaches here.

Although the Fresno State news yesterday was unequivocally bad, a team a few hours north received good news a couple of weeks ago , with the Cal women's team set to receive $1.7 million dollars to fund The Edward H. and Lynn Little Scholarship. This is an estate gift, totalling $5 million dollars, with the men's and women's golf teams also sharing in the Little's generosity. 

I ran across this article earlier this week about Federico Rebecchini an Italian player who arrived in the US expecting to play for Old Dominion, but when told there was no longer a scholarship for him, ended up instead at Norfolk State. I'm not sure if universities have reduced the number of scholarships they are funding during the Covid-19 financial crunch, but if more articles like this emerge, that would be the obvious conclusion.

Friday, October 16, 2020

My Article on Ghosh's Notre Dame Commitment; Fresno State Drops Men's Tennis; Update on Next Two Grand Slams; ESPN's ATP Masters Coverage Moving to Tennis Channel Next Year


Although recruiting has pretty much ground to a halt in 2020, with no official campus visits or in-person meetings with coaches allowed since March, young players are still committing to college teams. I had an opportunity to speak earlier this week with five-star recruit Nibi Ghosh of New Jersey, who I met this summer at the ITA Summer Circuit event in Grand Rapids, about her decision to commit to Notre Dame, and how she arrived at that choice. Unable to meet with the coaches in person, or to take an official visit, Ghosh and her coach, former Michigan star Mike Sroczynski, devised a plan to reach out to schools she was interested in, which included sending videos. In addition to all the time they spend improving their tennis skills, I'm always impressed by the other interests that players find time for, which in Ghosh's case includes music, beginning with piano and now including guitar and songwriting. For more on how Ghosh decided on tennis after playing multiple sports as a kid, and what she's looking forward to in college, see this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

It's been quiet lately on the tennis program cuts, but another was announced today, with Fresno State dropping its men's team at the end of the current academic year. The program has had a long and successful history, and current coach Luke Shields led the Bulldogs to a Mountain West title last year, earning Mountain West Coach of the Year and ITA Northwest Region Coach of Year honors in the process. Earlier this month, the team had announced six new recruits, three of whom were from California. For another view at the Fresno State decision to drop men's tennis, wrestling and women's lacrosse, see this article from the Fresno Bee.

The Australian Open is only three months away, but Australia's strict quarantine rules have led to much discussion on how players could still prepare for the event, and any other warmups, while spending 14 days in isolation. The current plan still includes fans, but as with many tournaments, including the recent French Open, the number of spectators anticipated changes regularly, and will probably continue to do so. For more on some of the issues Tennis Australia is facing right now in its planning stages, see this Reuters article

Wimbledon released a statement today on its preparation for 2021 and for the first time voiced the possibility of a tournament behind closed doors. From the email I received this afternoon:

We are actively engaged in planning for next year’s Championships and are considering multiple operational scenarios at this point in time, given that there are still many months until the Wimbledon Fortnight.

These scenarios fall into three broad categories: a full capacity Championships, a reduced capacity Championships, and a ‘behind closed doors’ Championships, all of which are dependent on the status of government and public health guidelines. Our overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders, in particular our guests, our staff, and our competitors. We are working closely with the relevant government and public health authorities, alongside the rest of the sports industry, to understand the varying challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The full statement from Wimbledon is here.

Earlier this week, Tennis Channel announced it had acquired the rights to ATP 1000 Masters events beginning in 2021. Previously, the big ATP tournaments in the United States were broadcast by ESPN, including Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. ESPN will continue to hold the rights to the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, but Tennis Channel will have the bulk of all tennis shown in the United States, as it already has a WTA deal. I don't really consider this good news for the sport, with ESPN a much more widely carried channel on most cable providers, and the implication that ESPN doesn't view a tournament like Indian Wells as important isn't positive either. The hope is that Tennis Channel can become more widely available and it can function as the Golf Channel does, as the go-to place to watch the sport. But not being on network television or ESPN (except for the three majors) hurts the visibility of the sport and limits the audience of casual fans.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Yepifanova, Montgomery Reach Quarterfinals at ITF Women's Events in Europe; Strong Fields for Women's $80Ks in Georgia and Texas; Opelka Defeats Medvedev in Russia

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Yepifanova and 16-year-old Robin Montgomery posted victories today to advance to Friday's quarterfinals at the $15K in Portugal and the $25K in France respectively.

Yepifanova, who lost in the first round of the French Open Junior Championships last week, won two qualifying matches to earn a spot in the main draw in Portugal, then beat Ines Murta of Portugal and Emily Appleton of Great Britain, both in straight sets. Yepifanova, who has committed to Stanford for next fall, is up against No. 3 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the quarterfinals, who has won three ITF World Tour events since the restart. Yepifanova also reached the quarterfinals of a $15K in Mexico in February, so she should have enough points to enter the WTA rankings after this week. The Netherlands' Arianne Hartono, the 2018 NCAA singles champion at Ole Miss, is the No. 2 seed in this tournament, and also has advanced to the quarterfinals.

Montgomery, who was entered in the French Open Junior Championships but pulled out, used a junior exemption to enter the event in France. These places in the ITF World Tennis Tour draws reserved for juniors are even more important now that opportunities are so limited for everyone, and top players are entering smaller events just to get matches. Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, the top seed in France, is ranked 109 and No. 2 seed Timea Babos of Hungary, who lost in the first round, is ranked 111. Montgomery defeated Robin Anderson, the former UCLA star, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round, with the only two Americans in the field drawing each other. Today Montgomery defeated WTA No. 225 Valeria Savinykh 6-1, 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal meeting Friday with No. 6 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain.

The long-awaited resumption of the USTA Pro Circuit begins next week in with the $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia, which features four WTA Top 100 players at the time of acceptance: Misaki Doi of Japan[81], Nina Stojanovic[91] of Serbia, Aliona Bolsova[97] of Spain and Monica Puig[98] of Puerto Rico. Among the top Americans in the draw are Kristie Ahn, Ann Li, Caty McNally, Francesca Di Lorenzo and Caroline Dolehide. The ITF's preview of the tournament is here.

The acceptances for the $80,000 tournament in Tyler Texas the week of October 26th are even more impressive, with No. 27 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and recent US Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, No. 55, entered. There's a total of eight Top 100 players at the time of acceptances with Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands and Jasmine Paolini of Italy joining the four Top 100 players in Macon. Ahn, Li and McNally are the only Americans other than Rogers to receive direct entry as of now. For more on the tournament, see this article from the tournament website.

The $100,000 tournament in Charleston in November has Putintseva, French Open quarterfinalists Danielle Collins and Germany's Laura Siegemund, along with Rogers, Lauren Davis and Madison Brengle in its field as of today.

Reilly Opelka earned the best ranking win of his career today at the ATP 500 in St. Petersburg Russia, beating top seed and ATP No. 6 Daniil Medvedev of Russia 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Opelka, who is 6-6 against Top 10 players in his career, only had 11 aces, but he managed to win the only break point either player had in the third set to end the match. Opelka plays Croatia's Borna Coric, the No. 7 seed, in Friday's quarterfinals. For more on Opelka's win, see this article from the ATP website.

There was off-court drama in St. Petersburg with Sam Querrey's positive Covid-19 test eventually leading to a private jet flight for him, his wife and their son to an undisclosed country where they were expected to quarantine. For more on all this intrigue, see this article.

At the ATP 250 in Italy, Germany's Yannick Hanfmann, the former USC All-American, defeated No. 3 seed Casper Ruud of Norway 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals, where he will play 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. Hanfmann, who has already reached an ATP final since the restart, will now move back into the Top 100, while Musetti is into his first ATP quarterfinal after winning his first Challenger last month.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NCAA Announces Sites for Future Championships; USTA National Campus Lands Historic Assembly of All Divisions for 2023

photo courtesy USTA

After a lengthy delay while dealing with Covid-19 issues, the NCAA today finally revealed the sites for its national championships in the four years from 2023-2026, including those of Division I, Division II and Division III tennis.

I had heard there was a possibility that the NCAA Tennis Committee would consider moving all future championships to the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona Florida, with the championships in all three divisions played there each May.  That did not happen, but a prototype of that format is on the schedule for 2023.  Today's release from the USTA:


ORLANDO, Fla., October 14, 2020 – The NCAA today announced that the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., will host the 2023 NCAA Division I, II, and III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships as part of a hybrid bid proposed by the USTA to bring all NCAA tennis championships to a single site.

This will mark the first time in the history of any NCAA sport that one venue will host all six (DI-III M/W) divisional championships in a given year. The bid process was completed in conjunction with the Greater Orlando Sports Commission; university partners of UCF, Rollins College and Oglethorpe University (Ga.); and community partners of the City of Orlando and Orange County.

“Bringing all of these championships to one site will create a true celebration of college tennis, and we could not be more excited and honored that the USTA National Campus was selected to host this historic event,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “College tennis is incredibly important to the growth of tennis in this country, and we feel the Campus is the ideal location to showcase every level of college tennis like never before.”

Initial plans for hosting the 2023 events include potential junior tournaments and coaching programming, connecting various components of the USTA’s competitive pathway.

“We are pleased that the NCAA has selected the USTA National Campus to host the 2023 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “We have the finest tennis facility in the world right here in our community, and we can’t wait to safely welcome the top teams and individuals in Division I, II and III tennis, as well as their coaches and families back to Orlando and Lake Nona to compete for NCAA championships.”

“Since our tennis teams play their home matches at the USTA National Campus, all of us at UCF are well aware that it’s unquestionably the best collegiate tennis facility in the country,” said UCF Vice President & Director of Athletics Danny White. “So it’s no surprise that the NCAA has elected to bring its national championships back to Orlando—and we look forward to joining with the USTA and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission to ensure these are elite events for the student-athletes, coaches and spectators.”


The USTA National Campus previously hosted the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, attracting nearly 12,000 fans over the 10-day event. Tennis Channel, which has a permanent production presence at the Campus, broadcast more than 50 hours of live coverage in 2019, a first for college tennis.

The Campus is scheduled to host the Division I championships again in 2021, as well as the Division III championships in 2022. In addition, Sanlando Park in nearby Seminole County, in conjunction with Rollins College, is scheduled to host the 2022 Division II championships, cementing Central Florida as the home of college tennis.

As mentioned above, the National Campus will serve as the site for the 2021 Division I and the 2022 Division II Championships, before hosting all three divisions in 2023. I assume the dates will be staggered in 2023, with each of the team championships played on the 12-court collegiate facility. The individual championships, which in the past have been held only for Division I and Division III, could expand to other courts on campus if necessary. Aside from the extremely annoying love bug insect infestation, the 2019 Division I championships in Lake Nona received good reviews from most in attendance, but they were extremely fortunate not to have any rain disrupting scheduling last year. There are only six indoor courts on the National Campus, and almost none elsewhere in the area, which could present a problem if there is persistent or regular rain.

The other sites announced are below. I'm including the 2021 and 2022 sites, which were determined several years ago. Oklahoma State, which was to host the Division I Championships this year, and Washington St. Louis, which was to host the Division III Championships this year, will host instead in 2024.

Division I 
2021: Central Florida, USTA National Campus 
2022: Illinois
2023: Central Florida, USTA National Campus
2024: Oklahoma State
2025: Baylor
2026: Georgia

Division II
2021: Pacific West, Surprise Arizona
2022: Rollins
2023: Rollins, USTA National Campus
2024: Rollins
2025: Rollins
2026: Pacific West

Division III
2021: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2022: Oglethorpe
2023: Oglethorpe, USTA National Campus
2024: Washington University, St. Louis
2025: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2026: University of the South

As far as the Division I selections go, Baylor was not on my list as likely to be selected, after the 2015 National Championships held there were plagued not only by rain and severe weather, but also by a local biker gang shooting that killed nine and led to scores of arrests. Baylor's outdoor facility is an excellent place to watch tennis, but many other schools have specifically constructed new facilities with the express purpose of bidding for these championships, and I would have liked to see the committee acknowledge one of those instead.

Having covered many NCAA championships in Athens Georgia, I was happy to see them return to the rotation, given the tradition and the support for tennis that the community is known for. I know they've recently completed a renovation of the outdoor facility, but I hope in the next five years they have the opportunity to fix their indoor court situation, which only has four courts. If I recall correctly, in three out of the four tournaments I covered there, rain was a regular disruption, and having only four indoor courts extended matches late into the night. Now with the new finals site format, including just eight teams, not 16, the pressure isn't as great, but two more indoor courts would be a welcome addition, not just for the NCAAs, but for regular season dual matches too.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

ITA Tour Fall Circuit Week 4 Winners; ITA Cup for NAIA Division Begins Friday in Georgia; Entries Close Thursday for UTR $10K in Vero Beach

Week Four of the ITA Tour Fall Circuit by UTR is in the books, although rain kept several tournaments from finishing and a week that once had 24 tournaments scheduled resulted in only 15 taking place. The tournament in Lawrenceville Georgia was canceled due to rain, with refunds issued, and the tournaments in Belmont NC and Williamsburg VA do not look to have finished. The ITA Oracle Masters last weekend was also considered a part of the Fall Circuit. The ITA provides its look at Week Four here. Registration for Weeks Six and beyond is available through links on the ITA Fall Circuit home page.

Week Four Fall Circuit champions:

Logan: Men, Chase Stoner; Women, Renata Lombera
Lakeland: Men, Joe Herin; Women, Kida Ferrari
Lexington: Men, Mathew Krusling; Women, Emma Navarro
Lowell: Men, Zeke Clark; Women, Eleanor Coleman
San Diego: Men, Brandon Holt; Women, Eryn Cayetano
Des Moines: Men, Oliver Okonkwo; Women, Darinka Stepan
Tucson: Men, Wade Heerboth; Women, Nikita Vishwase
Minneapolis: Men, Gavin Young
St. Louis: Men, Ethan Hillis; Women, Aran Teixido Garcia
Waco: Men, Charles Broom; Women, Siri Kongara
Ypsilanti: Men, Galen Mast; Women, Marharita-Sophia Tavpash
Chicago: Men, Tristan McCormick; Women, Karina Miller

The ITA Cup, which traditionally includes Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College players, is confined to NAIA players this year due to the pandemic, but it is happening this weekend in Rome Georgia. The top women's seed is Georgia Gwinett's Maria Genovese, known as Maria Shishkina during her junior career, and the top men's seed is also from Georgia Gwinett: Federico Bonacia. The ITA provides a detailed look at the top four seeds, and also highlights doubles in its preview. I believe this is the first ITA event since the shutdown this spring that has featured doubles play.

While the USTA Pro Circuit's men's events don't resume until the week of October 26th with a $25,000 tournament in Harlingen Texas, the Vero Beach UTR event, which has been a Pro Circuit tournament in the past, is taking place next week with a $10,000 prize pool. Entries for the tournament, which provides $3000 to the singles champion, close on Thursday October 15th. For more on the tournament, see its UTR page.

Monday, October 12, 2020

French Open Champion Jacquemot Takes Top Spot in ITF Junior Rankings; Doubles Titles for Seven American Juniors on ITF Circuit; Tiafoe, Alcaraz Earn Challenger Titles

Any time a junior wins a slam, the rankings change dramatically, and the significance of the recently completed French Open Junior Championships is even greater given the limited opportunities juniors have had to earn points since March.

Back in August, the ITF announced that Grade 3 points were to be the maximum that could be earned through the end of the year, and draw sizes were to be limited to 32, but an exception was granted to the French Open, both in points and in draw size. The singles winner of a Grade 3 earns 100 points, while French junior champions Elsa Jacquemot of France and Dominic Stricker of Switzerland received ten times that amount, 1000, which is the standard number at a junior slam.

That boost moved the 17-year-old Jacquemot from sixth to No. 1, while semifinalist Alexandra Eala of the Philippines earned 490 points, which helped her move to No. 2. Boys champion Stricker went from No. 10 to No. 3, but Harold Mayot of France kept his position at the top despite a second round loss.  Last year's junior champions at Roland Garros, Holger Rune of Denmark and Leylah Fernandez of Canada, did not have to defend their points, so they are still No. 2 and No. 16 respectively.

With US junior wins scare in Paris, nearly all the Top 100 Americans fell in this week's rankings, although Ellie Coleman moved up 10 spots to a career high of 44.

For the explanation of the ITF ranking rules post shutdown, see this article from the ITF.

Not all American juniors on the ITF Circuit were in Paris last week, and seven of them collected doubles titles in Portugal, Turkey and the Dominican Republic.

At the Grade 3 in Portugal, unseeded Qavia Lopez and Charlotte Owensby captured the girls doubles title, beating the unseeded team of Anastasia Abbagnato of Italy and Lucija Bagaric of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in the finals. Lopez and Owensby defeated the top seeds in the first round and the No. 3 seeds, Clervie Ngounoue and her Greek partner Michaela Laki, in the semifinals. Lopez, who was unseeded in singles, advanced to the semifinals.

At the Grade 5 in Istanbul, top seeds Samir Banerjee and Ekansh Kumar took the boys doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Erik Arutiunian and Taras Ignatiuk of Belarus 7-6(1), 7-5 in the final. Banerjee, who won two titles in Macedonia the previous week, was not in the singles draw, but No. 4 seed Aman Sharma of the US reached the singles final, after beating Kumar in the semifinals.

At the Grade 5 in Santo Domingo, top seeds Leah Kuruvilla and Sage Loudon defeated No. 2 seeds Deborah Dominguez Collado of Guatemala and Carolina Xavier Laydner of Brazil 6-2, 6-3 in the final. In the boys doubles final, No. 3 seeds Samuel Dickson and his partner Alejandro Jose Gandini of the Dominican Republic defeated No. 4 seeds Miguel Angel Alonso of Mexico and Gillian Osmont of France 6-4, 6-4. Unseeded 15-year-old Mia Saveljic of the US reached the girls singles final, falling in three sets.

Next week, the ITF Junior Circuit will resume in the United States, at the Grade 4 in Atlanta. Acceptances can be found here.

Frances Tiafoe claimed the title at the ATP Challenger 125 in Parma Italy, with the top seed defeating No. 5 seed Salvatore Caruso of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the final, which was held today due to rain in Italy on Sunday. Tiafoe defeated 18-year-old rising star Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the second round and came back from a set down to defeat No. 4 seed Federico Bagnis of Argentina in the semifinals. 

At the ATP Challenger 80 in Spain, unseeded 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz won his second Challenger title since the resumption of the tour, beating No. 4 seed Damir Dzumur of Bosnia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Alcaraz, who had to finish his semifinal match before playing the championship match later on Sunday, is now up to 158 in the ATP rankings. Alcaraz  has joined some big names now that he has earned his second Challenger title as a 17-year-old, as this ATP article details

The ATP has three tournaments on the schedule in Europe this week, a 500 in St. Petersburg Russia, and 250s in Cologne Germany and Sardinia Italy. 

JJ Wolf qualified in St. Petersburg and has drawn No. 6 seed Milos Raonic of Canada in the first round. Taylor Fritz, the No. 8 seed, lost to Cameron Norrie(TCU) in the first round, while Tennys Sandgren and Mackenzie McDonald also dropped their first round matches today. Sam Querrey had been expected to play, but he was replaced due to illness, and the ATP announced, without naming the player, that a player was removed from the draw due to a positive Covid-19 test.

Steve Johnson is the only American in the Cologne main draw; he defeated No. 5 seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round. 

Tommy Paul, who is joined in the main draw in Italy by Frances Tiafoe, had a memorable comeback today, saving two match points in his 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 win over lucky loser Andrej Martin of Slovakia. Paul, the No. 7 seed, trailed 5-0 in the third set. Musetti, who received a wild card, defeated No. 8 seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 7-6(4), 7-5.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

USC Sweeps Oracle ITA Masters with Holt, Cayetano Claiming Titles; Nadal Wins 13th French Open, Krawczyk and Guarachi Fall in Women's Doubles Final

Unseeded Eryn Cayetano defeated University of Southern California teammate Angela Kulikov 3-6, 6-2, 12-10 and No. 2 seed Brandon Holt breezed past Cannon Kingsley of Ohio State 6-3, 6-1 to claim the titles Sunday afternoon at the Oracle ITA Masters at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.

Cayetano, a sophomore at USC, started slowly against her friend and doubles partner, as Kulikov, a fifth-year senior, used her variety and experience to win three deciding points in the second half of the opening set to take the lead.

Cayetano didn't seem flustered however, and she adjusted in the second set, using her inside out forehand to dictate more points, while Kulikov was unable to find her first set form, losing her serve three times.

In the match tiebreaker, Cayetano trailed 6-4, but began to hit out, and she hit three winners in four points to take an 8-7 lead. One of Cayetano's advantages was her ability to get a first serve in during the match tiebreaker, making 9 of 11, while Kulikov could get only 5 of 11 first serves in, and double faulted twice in crucial points down the stretch, at 9-all, and again on Cayetano's third match point.

After nearly two hours of competition, which was understandably subdued given their relationship, Cayetano and Kulikov shared a long embrace at the net, and USC had its first women's Masters champion.

For more on the women's final, see this article from the ITA website.

The men's final between No. 3 seed Kingsley and No. 2 seed Holt did not have the competitive dynamic that a match between teammates would have, but Holt so dominated the proceedings that emotions didn't enter into it at all.

Holt, who has opted not to return for a fifth year after his senior season was cut short, made 85% of his first serves, and that's going to be hard to beat no matter who is on the other side of the net. Kingsley, a sophomore at Ohio State, made way more unforced errors than usual, allowing Holt to just wait him out during a rally, and Kingsley wasn't able to find a way to put any pressure at all on Holt's serve.

Holt has now won two ITA Masters titles, with his first coming in 2017. USC men have won four of the six singles titles, with the tournament introduced into the fall collegiate season back in 2015. Cam Norrie and Danielle Collins, both Top 100 professionals now, won the inaugural championships.

The men's final at the French Open was a surprising one, not so much for the result, with Rafael Nadal earning his 13th title and his 100th victory at Roland Garros, but with his sheer dominance. Nadal played flawless tennis for two sets and answered every question Novak Djokovic asked in the third set for a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory.  For more on Nadal's win, see this article from the tournament website.

As was the case in yesterday's men's doubles final, the women's final saw the defending champions repeat, with Kristina Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos of Hungary beating Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) and Chile's Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) 6-4, 7-5. Krawczyk and Guarachi, who had never been past the round of 16 at a major before this event, held their own against the now four-time slam champions, but found themselves playing from behind most of the match. They fought back three times after falling behind a break in the second set, including with Babos serving for the match at 5-4, but Mladenovic closed it out on her serve.

It's the first time that both the men's and women's doubles champions defending their titles in the same year at Roland Garros.

For more on the doubles final, see this article from the tournament website.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Stricker Sweeps Boys French Open Titles, France's Jacquemot Claims Girls Championship; Swiatek Downs Kenin for Women's Crown; Auburn's Mies, Partner Krawietz Defend Men's Doubles Title; Oracle ITA Masters Update

Dominic Stricker made history Saturday at Roland Garros, winning the first all-Swiss junior slam singles final over friend Leandro Riedi 6-2, 6-4, then becoming the first boy this century to add a doubles title with partner Flavio Cobolli of Italy.

Stricker, the No. 7 seed, ran out to a quick 3-0 lead and with his all-court game, the 18-year-old left-hander made the first set look easy.  The eighth-seeded Riedi, also 18, was completely outplayed in the first set, but he settled down midway through the second, going from 1-3 down to 4-3 up, saving four break points in that seventh game. Stricker, who got 75% of his first serves in during the match, held for 4-all, then broke Riedi in the next game, after Riedi had failed to convert his two game points.

Serving for the match, Stricker probably was nervous, but that wasn't the reason he failed to convert his first two match points; Riedi hit clean winners on those, and actually earned a break point, only to see Stricker swat it away with an overhead winner. On his third match point, Stricker ended the point even more quickly than usual, hitting his second ace of the match.

Stricker trained with Roger Federer early this year in Dubai, and got some specific advice, which he took to heart:

He actually said I should improve my serve. That's what I did actually. So I think my serve is pretty good now. So, yeah, it helped me a lot here.

For more on the boys final, see this article from the ITF Junior website.

Later in the afternoon, No. 3 seeds Stricker and Cobolli, who lost in the boys doubles final last year, snared the title this time, beating No. 8 seeds Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues of Brazil 6-2, 6-4. Stricker is the first player since Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in 1998 to win both the boys championships.

Seventeen-year-old Elsa Jacquemot of France, the No. 3 seed, was not at her best in the first half of the girls final against unseeded Alina Charaeva of Russia. But down 6-4, 4-2, something clicked, and eight straight games later she had a 4-0 lead in the third set, before closing out the title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.  I was able to watch the boys final in its entirety on Tennis Channel, but they inexplicably left the girls final at 4-3 in the second set, not for another match, but for a studio conference on the women's final, still an hour away. So I don't know what changed exactly in the match, as I was confined to watching live scoring, but Jacquemot recorded her sixth consecutive break of the Charaeva serve to claim the first girls singles title in Paris for a French girl since Kristina Mladenovic won it in 2009.

For more on Jacquemot's title, see this article from the ITF Junior website.

The girls doubles title went to the unseeded Italian team of Eleonora Alvisi and Lisa Pigato, who defeated No. 5 seeds Maria Bondarenko and Diana Shnaider of Russia 7-6(3), 6-4. Neither Alvisi nor Pigato, 94 and 102 in the ITF junior rankings, received entry into the singles draw, but leave Paris with Roland Garros champions trophies.

Just over two years ago, I was covering Iga Swiatek's junior Wimbledon title; today she claimed her first slam title on the professional tour, beating No. 4 seed and Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-4, 6-1. Swiatek had been rolling through the draw, with her 6-1, 6-2 fourth round win over No. 1 Simona Halep particularly impressive, but no one knew how the 19-year-old from Poland would react to the pressure of a final of this magnitude. The first set was tough, and Swiatek was unable to serve it out, although she broke to win it. As Kenin demonstrated in Australia, it's not always the most experienced player who is able to summon her best tennis in a final, and Swiatek sailed through the second set to become the first Polish player, male or female, to win a slam singles title. Kenin, who has had her thigh taped for the past week, took a medical timeout at 2-1 in the second to get it re-taped, but the expected comeback from Kenin failed to materialize with Swiatek firmly in control as she closed it out.

For more on Swiatek's win, see this article from the WTA.

Last year, the German team of Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies shocked the tennis world with their French Open men's doubles title, and today they proved that it was no fluke. The eighth-seed Krawietz and Mies, the latter an All-American at Auburn, defeated US Open champions Bruno Soares of Brazil and Mate Pavic of Croatia, the seventh seeds, 6-3, 7-5 to earn a second title. They are just the fourth team in the Open era to win back-to-back titles in Paris, and the first since Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor did it in 2011-12.  For more on their title, see this article from the ATP.

The Oracle ITA Masters quarterfinals are complete and the semifinals are underway, with two major surprises coming in the second round late last night at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego. Fifteen-year-old Kyle Kang defeated top seed Raymond Sarmiento(USC) 6-4, 7-5, and 16-year-old Anne Lutkemeyer defeated Pepperdine's fifth-year senior Ashley Lahey, the No. 2 seed, 5-7, 7-6(9), 10-7. Neither Kang nor Lutkemeyer were able to extend their tournaments in today's quarterfinals, with Kang losing to No. 5 seed Govind Nanda(UCLA) 6-3, 6-2 and Lukemeyer falling to No. 5 seed Angela Kulikov(USC) 6-2, 6-4.

Other women's quarterfinal winners were top seed Sophie Whittle(Gonzaga), unseeded Eryn Cayetano(USC) and No. 4 seed Alexa Ryngler. Other men's quarterfinal winners were Keegan Smith(UCLA), the No. 4 seed, No. 2 seed Brandon Holt(USC) and No. 3 seed Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State).

UPDATE:

Women's semifinals:

Angela Kulikov[5] d. Alexa Ryngler[4] 4-6, 6-4, 13-11

Eryn Cayetano d. Sophie Whittle[1] 6-1, 4-6, 10-6

Men's semifinals:

Brandon Holt[2] d. Keegan Smith[4] 6-7(6), 6-2, 10-5

Cannon Kingsley[3] d. Govind Nanda[5] d.  5-7, 7-6(8), 11-9 

The finals will be televised on ESPNU Sunday beginning with the women's match at 2 p.m. Pacific. 


Live scoring is here.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Krawczyk and Guarachi Advance to French Open Women's Doubles Final; All-Swiss Boys Final, France Versus Russia for Girls Championship; Oracle ITA Masters Underway

Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi will play for the French Open women's doubles title Sunday after the former collegians won a rollercoaster of a semifinal Friday against unseeded Nicole Melichar and Poland's Iga Swiatek. Krawczyk, who attended Arizona State, and Guarachi, who attended Alabama and now represents Chile, were down 5-2 and two breaks in the 72-minute first set and saved four set points before claiming it in a tiebreaker, 7-6(5). 

After dropping the second set 6-1, Krawczyk, 26, and Guarachi, 29, went down a break three times in the third set, but each time broke right back, with six consecutive breaks until Krawczyk held serve at 4-all. Swiatek, who will play for the women's singles title Saturday against Sofia Kenin, served to stay in the match, but she and Melichar lost the first three points to give Krawczyk and Guarachi three match points. They couldn't convert the first two, but the snagged the third for a 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-4 win, setting up a meeting Sunday with defending champions and No. 2 seeds Kristina Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos of Hungary.  Mladenovic and Babos defeated No. 4 seeds Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.

For more on the semifinals, including comments from Krawczyk on the role college played in her professional success, see this article from the French Open website.

The men's doubles final on Saturday will also feature the defending champions, as well as a former collegian. Andreas Mies, who starred at Auburn, will defend the title he won last year with Kevin Krawietz, with the No. 8 seeds from Germany facing US Open champions and No. 7 seeds Bruno Soares of Brazil and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

In men's singles semifinal action Friday, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal defeated No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(0) and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic defeated No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-1 to advance to Sunday's final. 

The first boys junior slam final between two Swiss players is scheduled for Saturday, with No. 7 seed Dominic Stricker taking on No. 8 seed Leandro Riedi. Stricker, an 18-year-old left-hander, showed an aggressive, net-centric style in his 6-0, 5-7, 6-0 semifinal win over 2019 Orange Bowl finalist Juan Bautista Torres of Argentina, while Riedi, also 18, employed a more conventional clay court style in his 6-3, 6-1 win over unseeded Pepperdine recruit Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands. Riedi has won all three times the pair have played, including in the second round of an ITF World Tennis Tour 15K in Germany in February of this year. The winner will be the first Swiss boy to claim a slam singles title, since Stan Wawrinka won at Roland Garros in 2003.

The French had high hopes for a junior champion at Roland Garros this year, with the top two seeds in the boys draw and four boys in the round of 16, but it's now up to No. 3 girls seed Elsa Jacquemot to deliver a title for the country. The 17-year-old Jacquemot, who has not lost a set this week, defeated No. 2 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines 6-3, 6-2 in just over an hour in today's semifinal. She will face unseeded Alina Charaeva of Russia, who defeated No. 4 seed Polina Kudermetova of Russia 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-5. 

Jacquemot and Charaeva have met once before, on clay, last year in the semifinals of a Grade 1 in France, with eventual champion Jacquemot winning 6-3, 6-3. 

For more on today's junior singles semifinals, see this article from the French Open website.

The boys doubles final will be Stricker's second chance at a title on Saturday, when he and Flavio Cobolli of Italy take on No. 8 seeds Bruno Oliveira and Natan Rodrigues of Brazil after the singles final.  The No. 3 seeds, who lost in the final last year, defeated the unseeded French team of Lilian Marmousez and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-3, 5-7, 10-6. Oliveira and Rodrigues beat unseeded Martin Krumich and Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4.

Unseeded Eleonora Alvisi and Lisa Pigato of Italy pulled off the big upset in junior doubles today, defeating US Open champions and No. 2 seeds Kamilla Bartone of Latvia and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia 6-3, 2-6, 10-7. Alvisi and Pigato, neither of whom played in the singles draw, will face No. 5 seeds Maria Bondarenko and Diana Shnaider of Russia, who beat unseeded Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain and Guillermina Grant of Uruguay 5-7, 6-2, 10-4.

All French Open draws can be found at this link.

With two rounds of play today in San Diego at the Oracle ITA Masters, all results from the round of 16 are not in, but several men's seeds fell in the first round: No. 6 William Griffith, No. 7 Andrew Fenty and No. 8 Alex Brown.

A live stream of Stadium court is available here. Live scores are available here. The ITA preview, with more on the players who received wild cards, is here.

The finals will be televised on ESPNU on Sunday, beginning with the women's final at 2 p.m. Pacific, followed by the men's final.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Kenin and Swiatek Advance to French Open Women's Final; Junior Semifinals Set; USTA National Indoor Championships in November Canceled; Virtual Tournament Desk Facilitates Safe Play

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin will have the advantage in experience on Saturday, when the 21-year-old from Florida takes on 19-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland in the French Open final, but Swiatek is putting together a run that suggests this is just the first of many slam final appearances.

The unseeded Swiatek, who beat top seed and heavy favorite Simona Halep in the fourth round, continued her string of impressive scorelines today, beating qualifier Nadia Podoroska of Argentina 6-2, 6-1. Swiatek, who won the French Open girls doubles title in 2018 and the Wimbledon girls singles title the following month, has not lost a set in her six wins and only 23 games total.

Kenin, on the other hand, was pushed to three sets in four of her six matches, including yesterday, but fortunately for her, she got out of today's semifinal with No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5. Kenin, the No. 4 seed, wasn't able to hold on to her two-break lead in the first set, and had to save a break point serving at 4-3, but she managed to serve out the opening set when Kvitova made a couple of forehand errors in crucial points in the tenth game.

Kenin worked broke for a 3-2 lead in the second set, then got through and extremely tough service game to consolidate, saving four break points to stay in front. Serving for the match at 5-4, Kenin played a very nervous game, with uncharacteristic unforced errors and few first serves, but she shook off that disappointment and broke for a 6-5 lead. Again, it wasn't easy, with Kenin needing to save a break point, but she did close out the match on her first attempt to earn her first win over Kvitova and an opportunity for a second slam title in 2020.

The only time that Kenin and Swiatek have played was also in Paris, at the 2016 Junior Championships at Roland Garros, with Swiatek winning 6-4, 7-5 in the third round.

Highlights of the match are here; Kenin's press conference is here.

The men's semifinals Friday feature top seed Novak Djokovic against No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal against No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

Torres reached the Grade A Orange Bowl final last year

The semifinals of both singles and doubles in the Junior Championships are scheduled for Friday, with one unseeded girl and two unseeded boys in singles and four unseeded doubles teams in the last four.

Eighteen-year-old Alina Charaeva set up an all-Russian girls semifinal by defeating No. 9 seed Alexandra Vecic of Germany 6-2, 6-3. Charaeva will face No. 4 seed Polina Kudermetova, the younger sister of WTA Top 50 player Veronika Kudermetova, who defeated unseeded Oceane Babel of France 6-3, 7-5. France's Elsa Jacquemot, seeded third, defeated No. 10 seed Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 2 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines. Eala, who has played three consecutive three-set matches, defeated unseeded Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

While all of the eight semifinalists will be playing in their first junior slam Final Four, unseeded Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands is the least likely to have made it this far. The 18-year-old Pepperdine recruit, who beat French wild card Sean Cuenin 6-3, 6-4 today, had never even played a Grade A tournament before this week. He will take on No. 8 seed Leandro Riedi of Switzerland, who beat Alex Barrena of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Unseeded Juan Bautista Torres, who reached the Orange Bowl final last year, defeated unseeded Lilian Marmousez of France 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-1, and will play the other seeded Swiss boy, Dominic Stricker. Stricker, the No. 7 seed, defeated Austrian Lukas Neumayer 6-3, 6-3.

Stricker is also in the doubles semifinals, with partner Flavio Cobolli of Italy. The No. 3 seeds, who were in the boys doubles final last year, will play the unseeded French team of Marmousez and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard.  Unseeded Martin Krumich and Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic will face No. 8 seeds Bruno Oliveiro and Natan Rodrigues of Brazil in the other boys doubles semifinal.

Americans Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg fell just short in their upset bid of No. 2 seeds and US Open champions Kamilla Bartone of Latvia and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia, falling 1-6, 6-1, 10-8. Coleman and Sieg recovered from 7-2 down in the tiebreaker to get within 7-8, but couldn't quite pull even, and Bartone and Selekhmeteva closed it out on their second match point.

Bartone and Selekhmeteva will play the unseeded Italian team of Lisa Pigato and Eleonora Alvisi, while No. 5 seeds Maria Bondarenko and Diana Shnaider of Russia face the unseeded team of Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain and Guillermina Grant of Uruguay.

The USTA announced today that it was canceling the National Indoor Championships, which were scheduled for the Thanksgiving weekend.

October 8, 2020

USTA STATEMENT ON NATIONAL INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS

The USTA has canceled the 2020 National Indoor Championships, set to be held at various locations around the country, Nov. 27-30.

The decision to cancel the events was made with the health and safety of all those involved at the forefront, and due to numerous challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. These included differing local government mandates and policies surrounding indoor building capacities, as well as mandatory quarantine periods due to interstate travel.

While travel restrictions have made national events difficult, the Tennis Recruiting Network published an article today on how some sections, including USTA Southern California, have eliminated congregating at tournament desks with an app. Developed by former WTA pro Lindsay Lee-Waters and her husband, Heath Waters, the Virtual Tournament Desk is part of their Match Tennis App. For more on the app and how it has been positioned to help with social distancing at tournaments, check out the TRN article.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Kenin Beats Collins to Reach French Open Semifinals; Coleman and Sieg Advance to Girls Doubles Quarterfinals; Sarmiento and Whittle Top Seeds for ITA Oracle Masters; ITA Fall Circuit Week Three Winners

Sofia Kenin, photo courtesy Fila

Sofia Kenin had lost all three pro matches she had played against Danielle Collins, but in today's French Open quarterfinal, the Australian Open champion showed the resourcefulness that has put her at the top of the sport in the past two years. Kenin, seeded fourth, again needed three sets, but her 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 victory again saw her pulling away in the final set.

Collins was playing for a second consecutive day, while Kenin had only played a doubles match on Tuesday, and Collins was not as vocal and emotional as she had been in her three-set win over Ons Jabeur. Kenin got the only service break in the first set and went up a break in the second, but Collins broke right back and then won a tough game with Kenin serving at 4-5, needing four set points to finally even the match.

Any momentum Collins may have had evaporated quickly, with Kenin going up 4-0 before Collins took a medical timeout for an abdominal issue. That break didn't interrupt Kenin's concentration, and she finished off the 27-minute set with another break and hold.

Kenin will play No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in Thursday's semifinal, with Kvitova advancing via a 6-3, 6-3 win over unseeded Laura Siegemund of Germany. Kvitova is 2-0 against Kenin, having won in two sets on clay in Madrid last year, and in three sets on hard courts in 2018.

Two Americans have advanced to the semifinals in women's doubles, with former Arizona State Sun Devil Desirae Krawczyk and her partner Alexa Guarachi of Chile, a former Alabama All-American, earning a 6-0, 6-4 win over No. 7 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara(UCLA) of Japan.  The No. 14 seeds will play unseeded Nicole Melichar and singles semifinalist Iga Swiatek of Poland, who defeated Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula 6-3, 6-4. 

The singles quarterfinals are set in the Junior Championships, with three of the top four seeds in the girls draw still alive, but only two seeds total remaining in the boys draw.

No. 2 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines will take on unseeded Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic in a battle of 15-year-olds that is a rematch of the 2018 Les Petits As final, won by Eala by a score of 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(5).  No. 3 seed Elsa Jacquemot of France will face No. 10 seed Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus, and No. 4 seed Polina Kudermetova of Russia plays unseeded Oceane Babel of France. Unseeded Alina Charaeva of Russia, who beat top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra yesterday, will take on No. 9 seed Alexandra Vecic of Germany.

The two seeds remaining in the boys draw are both from Switzerland, with No. 7 seed Dominic Stricker playing unseeded Lukas Neumayer of Austria in a top half quarterfinal, while No. 8 seed Leandro Riedi is facing unseeded Alex Barrena of Argentina in a bottom half quarterfinal.  France still has two home hopes, but they are not the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, with Harold Mayot losing in the second round, and second seed Cazaux falling to Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands, a Pepperdine recruit, 6-4, 6-4. Den Ouden will face 16-year-old wild card Sean Cuenin of France, while unseeded Lilian Marmousez of France will take on a second unseeded Argentine, Juan Bautista Torres.

The American interest in the Junior Championships lies with Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg, who advanced to the girls doubles quarterfinals today with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 7 seeds Romana Cisovska of Slovakia and Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic. Coleman and Sieg have been playing together for the past month in Europe on the clay, but they will face their biggest test tomorrow when the face 2019 US Open champions and No. 2 seeds Kamilla Bartone of Latvia and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia. 

Bruno Kuzuhara, the only US boys to advance in doubles, and partner Max Wiskandt of Germany lost in the second round today, with No. 7 seeds Karlis Ozolins of Latvia and Mikolaj Lorens of Poland claiming a 6-3, 1-6, 10-8 win.

The draws for this weekend's Oracle ITA Masters in San Diego have been released and both the No. 1 seeds are professional players, rather than collegians. Because of the lack of playing opportunities due to the pandemic, the ITA decided to open up the Masters to everyone, and with $20,000 in prize money, they have attracted many of the best Southern California players, as well as others from across the country. The draws can be found here.

The men's seeds:

1.Raymond Sarmiento

2.Brandon Holt

3. Cannon Kingsley

4. Keegan Smith

5. Govind Nanda

6. William Griffith

7. Andrew Fenty

8. Alex Brown

The women's seeds:

1. Sophie Whittle

2. Ashley Lahey

3. Jessica Failla

4. Alexa Ryngler

5. Angela Kulkov

6. Haley Giavara

7. Julia Rosenqvist

8. Carolyn Campana

The Sunday finals are set to air on ESPNU with the women's final at 2:00 PM PT and the men’s final following. Mark Bey and Bryan Fenley will be providing the commentary.

Week Three of the ITA Tour Fall Circuit by UTR is complete, with the winners listed below. Week Four this weekend features 16 tournaments, not including the Oracle Masters. Registration for Week Five ends this Sunday. The ITA recently posted this article on the Week Three results.

Week Three Fall Circuit champions:

Charlottesville: Men, Benjamin Kittay; Women, Alana Smith

Indianapolis: Men, Nikolaj Talimaa; Women, Natalie Boesing

Edmond: Men, Emile Hudd; Women, Laia Conde Monfort

Cincinnati: Men, Tim Seibert; Women, Katie Rolls

Mason: Men, Nick Beaty; Women, Sydney Jackson

Lawrenceville: Men, Valentino Caratini; Women, Rasheeda McAdoo

Laramie: Men, Brendan Lock; Women, Ana Fernandez/Sophie Zehender

Ojai: Men, Jake Vassel; Women, Maxi Duncan

Salt Lake City: Men, Gustavo Kerber; Women, Julia Ronney

Cypress: Men, Garrett Skelly; Women, Jeanette Mireles