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.