Saturday, April 10, 2021

Thoughts, Observations and News from My Two Weeks in San Diego

Thoughts, Observations and News from Two Weeks in San Diego

I’ve covered tournaments remotely since the shutdown last March (Cincinnati, US Open, Orange Bowl) and did manage to cover finals day at an ITA Summer Circuit tournament last July in Grand Rapids in person. But that one event had been the extent of my face-to-face interactions with players, coaches and tournament staff in over a year, so returning to Southern California for the two annual Grade 1 tournaments there was a long drink after a  year in the desert. One thing I’ve learned over the years of doing this is that as much as you can learn on the internet, it’s no substitute for talking with people. And actually watching players compete live is superior in nearly every way to a live stream.

Below is some of what I learned and observed during the two weeks I was at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, and I want to make clear that the critiques below are in no way meant to denigrate the decision to hold these tournaments. The willingness to provide these opportunities for competition, when it is often easier to just cancel, is commendable, and I hope that attitude will extend into all the USTA’s National events this summer.

Covid Protocols

The ITF has very strict protocols for holding a tournament now, but as with all rules, they frequently don’t make a lot of sense in real world situations. Players were allowed only one guest each day, which resulted in a parents and coaches often taking turns using that one exemption. I also saw more than a few players with three or even four family members watching their matches; I’m not sure how they navigated the plus-one, the daily covid symptom check-in, the temperature check and the wristband protocols.

Because I saw many without the required wristbands, I imagine they took advantage of the fact that the Barnes Tennis Center was open to the public, as allowed by the San Diego area health authorities. That allowed pickleball players, local tennis players and others to enter the site without going through the same procedures as players, guests and staff.

Masks were required, and compliance was good in general, although the younger the players, the less likely they were to wear one. Unlike mask-wearing, social distancing was not enforced, but that did not seem a major problem to me (disclosure: I’m fully vaccinated), especially since the case and positivity rates are very low in the area.

The ITF would be wise to offer more flexibility and defer to local health authorities, and maybe they do, but I didn’t get that impression from those enforcing the ITF protocols.

USTA National Coaches Return

Like me, the USTA National Coaches haven’t seen much live tennis in the past year, and unable to hold their usual high performance camps due to the pandemic, it wasn’t a surprise to see so many of them in San Diego trying to watch as many matches as possible, especially in the 12s and 14s. Head of women’s tennis Kathy Rinaldi was there for over a week and head of coaching Ola Malmqvist traveled from Miami for several days. The USTA national coaches I saw in San Diego: Michael Joyce, Brian Baker, Jamea Jackson, Jermaine Jenkins, Maureen Diaz, Jose Caballero, Lori Riffice and Jon Glover. Glover was there through the conclusion, with several in the 14s age group he works with, including 16s champion Alexander Rezaghi, going deep.

Tecnifibre’s US Push

Two former USTA national coaches, Erik Kortland and Philippe Oudshoorn, were in San Diego as representatives for the French sporting goods company, which sponsors the USTA Southern California section’s Signature Series. The International Open of Southern California, played the first week of the fortnight, is one of those events, and it used Tecnifibre balls, while the Easter Bowl was played with balls manufactured by Wilson, the long-time sponsor of all USTA National tournaments. Tecnifibre is making a renewed push into the US market and their sponsorship of SoCal’s Signature Series is one component of that commitment.


The US sporting good company, which usually provides a hugely popular players party and all manner of signage and goodies as the presenting sponsor of the Easter Bowl, did not participate this year, other than providing T-shirts. They were missed, and I hope they return when the tournament resumes at Indian Wells in 2022.

So. Many. Wild. Cards.

The ITF’s entry system is well established and generally not controversial, with the only source of contention, as it is throughout the tennis world, the selection of the allotted wild cards. There didn’t appear to be much grumbling about that for the J1 International Open of Southern California or the Easter Bowl, but the same cannot be said for the wild cards into Easter Bowl 12s, 14s and 16s. 

The disaster of the new USTA Junior Competition rollout this year, with its ranking and implementation problems, only exacerbated the entry dilemma, already problematic due to the lack of play last year. That meant many, many blue chips, who had been playing up a division at the restart, had to rely on wild cards for entry into their division, a particular problem in the 16s. Because the seedings did not reflect the actual accomplishment of those receiving wild cards, seeds met these players way too early in the draw. Only 16s champion Alexander Razeghi, as a No. 9, was seeded at all, with two of the four girls 16s semifinalists and both the boys 16s finalists wild card recipients.

Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces
Lisa Stone and Parenting Aces

I have known Lisa for many years, yet I only run into her occasionally at tournaments, usually at the US Open Junior Championships. I do follow all her posts on her website, however, and it was great that she was able to make the daily drive to San Diego from her home in Orange County to cover the Easter Bowl. She conducted daily interviews of players, coaches and others involved with the tournament on Instagram Live and spoke to many parents about the issues they had encountered with the rollout of the new USTA junior structure. Lisa has been relentless in her pursuit of answers and accountability from the USTA on this topic, and I know she is pursuing this issue to help all those families who are confused and exasperated by how this happened and how it will be resolved. Please consider becoming a premium member at her website, which provides a host of benefits, including a personal consultation with Lisa about these issues.

International Players and Closed ITF Events

I have known for years that international players with immigration status in the US are eligible to compete in the ITF Easter Bowl (as well as the younger age divisions). Back in 2013, Mayo Hibi of Japan won the girls title, so it was no surprise to me to see Juncheng "Jerry" Shang in the field, but what I did learn is that ITF regulations prohibit an international player from competing in more than one Closed event per year when playing outside his or her region. The Easter Bowl is open only to US players; October’s Pan American tournament, the other ITF Closed event in the US, is open only to those players from North and South America.

Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup

The ITF has provided no updates on these September competitions, which were canceled last year due to the pandemic. Qualifying rounds are generally underway across the globe now for the 16-and-under group, as well as the August World Junior Tennis global team competition for those 14-and under. The US was scheduled to host the JDC and JFC (Junior Billie Jean King Cup now?) through 2022 at its National Campus, but I’m hearing the event is now back up for bid, with little interest due to the added expense of the ITF Covid protocols.

Warren Pretorius of Tennis Analytics
Tennis Analytics and USTA Provide Free Match Videos

There are plenty of complaints about the cost of entering USTA National events, but the USTA and Tennis Analytics have added more value to the Easter Bowl’s entry fee by providing three free videos of entire matches to every competitor. This is a godsend for coaches who were not able to attend, whether due to the ITF’s plus-one rule, or other obligations. 

Founder Warren Pretorius also told me the company is interested in providing more live streaming of junior events, but was unable to do that at the Easter Bowl due to the short notice regarding this year’s venue change. I hope that the 16s and 18s girls and boys USTA Nationals this summer can find a way to work with him on this project; the Orange Bowl is also very much in the mix for his company's mobile live streaming initiative.

Wild Card Tournament for Upcoming ITF Grade 4s in Florida

It’s hard to overstate the importance of even just a few ITF points for 13- and 14-year-olds when it comes to getting opportunities for qualifying in the big ITF events in the US. The USTA is encouraging the younger boys it works with to get those points by holding a playoff next week in Lake Nona for wild cards into the three J4s in Florida beginning at the end of the month.

Does Tennis Really Need Another Doubles Format?

First of all, it’s great to see doubles played after the de-emphasis of it during the pandemic by both the USTA and the ITA.

But much to my surprise, in a scoring format change that can’t be determined by looking at draws, the Easter Bowl doubles for all age divisions was no-ad. That wasn’t a surprise in the ITF event, which has played the same no-ad, match-tiebreaker-in-lieu-of-a-third-set format for years, but I did not know that no-ad was introduced for USTA events, which apparently was approved for 2020, but with so few tournaments played last year, the change wasn’t evident. The match tiebreaker introduction for rounds through the quarterfinals at the Level 1s has been around for several years, but the actual games were played with regular scoring. 

The twist is that the USTA has retained the full third set in the semifinals and finals (not in the 12s), while playing no-ad, a format that, as far as I know, is not played anywhere else. 

The only tournaments in all of professional tennis that have not gone to no-ad in doubles are the slams, so the winners of the 18s USTA Nationals in August will play this hybrid format to earn a wild card in the US Open, then return to regular scoring when competing in New York. 

Minnesota's Men's Tennis Program was instrumental in the development of ITF Easter Bowl Champion Liv Hovde(with headband)

Liv Hovde and Minnesota’s Men’s Tennis

When a college program is cut, the focus, rightfully, is on the student-athletes and coaches who have their lives disrupted through no fault of their own. But the collateral damage is often overlooked. ITF Easter Bowl champion Liv Hovde’s mother explains much more eloquently than anyone else could on how much the program meant to her daughter.

It’s heartbreaking that the U of M is looking to cut that program - and that decision has garnered lots of attention and very strong opposition. And it should. That decision ignores the positive impact that team and coaches have had on the youth and growth of tennis in MN. Liv is a perfect example of that. 

Liv first started practicing at Baseline at age 5 with Geoff Young’s wife, Dana Young. That kickstarted her love for the sport. She began attending Gopher Men’s Tennis matches at a very early age. She loved watching, cheering and would even ask for autographs of the team. She watched and screamed in joy when they won the Big Ten title, she observed countless practices, trained countless times on their courts, met many of the Gophers and their amazing  coaches (Geoff Young), and was coached for a few years by a former Gopher men’s player. She would study intently the photos of the Gophers teams hung on the wall behind the bleachers - hoping one day she might play college tennis. 

She won 16s indoors both singles and doubles on those courts. To this day she feels like those are her home courts.  That team, their coaches and those courts are a big reason why she grew to love the sport.  

The Minnesota tennis community as a whole is strong, vibrant and supports their youth. Liv feels that support to this day. She adores the Young family and they have always supported her. Tennis development takes a village and Gopher’s Men’s tennis has and continues to have an enormous positive impact on her. Without it, I don’t think she would have embraced the sport so whole heartedly at such an early age. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Easter Bowl 12s and 14s Recap; Fritz, Alcaraz Reach ATP Semifinals; Gauff Bows Out at Volvo Car Open; No. 2 UNC Men Lose to Wake Forest; Thriller in Tallahassee; UCLA Women Extend Stanford's Skid

Easter Bowl girls 14s doubles champions and finalists

Covering the Easter Bowl is a challenge, with four age divisions and important matches, including finals, being played at the same time across the site. It was especially difficult this year, with the way the schedule had to be adjusted due to the unavailability of auxiliary sites, but I'm accustomed to these concurrent finals from all my years covering the Eddie Herr. My Easter Bowl recaps for Tennis Recruiting Network are again split, with the 12s and 14s recap up today, and the 16s and 18s recap posted on Monday. If you couldn't follow along throughout the tournament, these recaps are a good way to catch up on what you missed in the first junior "major" in the United States since the Orange Bowl.

Taylor Fritz, who took over from John Isner as the top-ranked American after the Miami Open results, is through to the semifinals of the ATP 250 Sardegna Open in Italy. Fritz, the No. 2 seed, defeated Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia 6-3, 6-4, to set up a meeting with No. 3 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy Saturday. For more on today's action in Italy, see this article from the ATP website.

The semifinalists at the ATP 250 in Marbella are all from Spain, the first time the same country has had four semifinalists in an ATP tournament since Spain did it 17 years ago. One of the four is 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who advanced to his first ATP semifinal with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Casper Rudd of Norway. He will play clay court specialist Jaume Munar, who is unseeded, for a place in the final. Alcaraz, who turns 18 next month, is the youngest ATP semifinalist since Alexander Zverev in 2014. For more on the Rudd-Alcaraz match today, see this article from the ATP website.

Coco Gauff lost in the quarterfinals of the Volvo Car Open today, with the No. 14 seed, dropping her first match in three meetings with No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-3, 6-3. The big news of the day however, was the loss of WTA No. 1 and Miami Open champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia to Paula Badosa, by a 6-4, 6-3 score. Badosa will play the winner of tonight's match between Sloane Stephens and Viktoria Kudermetova of Russia; Jabeur will face unseeded Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the other semifinal.

Gauff and McNally will play their doubles quarterfinal match later tonight. 

Today is a big day in college tennis, with significant matches everywhere as the final weeks of the season have top teams vying for the wins that will impress those making the NCAA selections.

The top-ranked Florida men squeezed by South Carolina 4-3, with Blaise Bicknell clinching for the Gators at line 4. Florida ends the SEC regular season undefeated in the conference and is now off until the SEC tournament April 19.

The North Carolina men, ranked No. 2 now after a 6-1 loss at Virginia, lost at home today to Wake Forest 5-2. Playing without Rinky Hijikata, who retired early in his match at Virginia, the Tar Heels lost the doubles point, with their two points coming at lines 4 and 5. 

In other notable men's matches, Georgia defeated Texas A&M 4-2 and Stanford came from 3-0 down to beat UCLA.

In women's matches, No. 4 Florida State defeated Miami 4-3, after Miami's Florencia Urrutia led 5-2 in the final set of the last match on. Florida State's Petra Hule saved seven match points, according to Miami's twitter updates, to secure the win in a third-set tiebreaker. 

The Stanford women were shut out today in Los Angeles by UCLA 7-0, their third straight loss after dropping 4-3 decisions to Pepperdine (at home) and Oregon (on the road) last week. It's the first time since 1981 that Stanford has lost three consecutive matches. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Gauff Advances to Quarterfinals at Volvo Car Open, Says Playing Juniors Was Right Pathway for Her; New ITA Division II Team and Singles Rankings; USTA and ITA Announce Alliance for College Tennis

Coco Gauff, the No. 14 seed, defeated Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6(2) today at the WTA 500 Volvo Car Open in Charleston South Carolina, reaching her first WTA quarterfinal on clay.

In her press conference after the match, Gauff was asked why she played junior tournaments, given the example set by Serena and Venus Williams, who did not.

"Everyone is different, but for me, playing juniors was all about experience. As soon as I saw a level I needed to be at, I raised my level. For example, my first ITF Junior [tournament] was in Roehampton, I lost second round, and I saw what that level was like and went back to work. 

At least for me, and for my team, juniors was a good way to see how I was progressing. Obviously, once I started doing well in juniors, I didn't go back and play anymore. It just depends on the player, I know Naomi didn't play juniors too much. 

It all depends what your thing is; for me, juniors helped me a lot. Because even today, maybe I'm at a certain scoreline and I think about matches I played in juniors. It definitely helped me being at the slams. In 2019 and 2020, playing a lot of the grand slams for the first time, playing juniors helped me be familiar with the grounds and that, I feel, can be a little bit of an advantage for a young player, if they did well in juniors, like me."

After that loss Gauff referred to in Roehampton, and a second round qualifying loss the following week at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, Gauff went on to reach a Grade 1 final in College Park, then the US Open girls final two weeks later. The following year, 2018, she won the French Open girls title, lost in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and US Open Juniors, and won the Orange Bowl, her last junior event, at age 14.

Now 17, after her birthday last month, Gauff still is limited in the number of WTA and ITF tournaments she can play until next March, and she has not always been happy with those rules. But using the juniors as she describes seems to have worked for her and prepared her for many of the situations she's faced on the pro tour.

Gauff will play No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur in Friday's quarterfinals; they have played twice, on hard and on clay, with Gauff winning both.

Caty McNally lost her third round match today to Paula Badosa of Spain 6-3, 6-3. Sloane Stephens is also through to the quarterfinals after a 6-3, 6-4 win over Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Gauff and partner McNally are through to the quarterfinals in doubles; they will play Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk on Friday.

The ITA released the latest Division II team and new individual rankings today, with undefeated Columbus State still atop the men's rankings and undefeated Indianapolis remaining as No. 1 in the women's rankings. The are notable disparities in the number of matches played: Indianapolis is at 11 and No. 2 Barry at 6. The difference is even greater with men; Columbus State has 13 matches and No. 10 Hawaii Pacific has two. These rankings are a coaches poll, still, undoubtedly due to that issue.

In the first individual rankings of the D-II season, also done by poll, Alessandro Giuliato of Barry is at the top of the men's list, and Nikol Alekseeva of Indianapolis is No. 1 on the women's list

In doubles, Yohan Nguyen and Florian Simbozel of Valdosta State are No. 1 in the men's rankings; with Alekseeva and Novikova No. 1 in the women's rankings.

While I was in San Diego, the USTA and ITA released a joint statement on their "strategic alliance," which has the aim of increasing the visibility and viability of college tennis.  

There will a new emphasis on tournaments that allow both college and junior players in the same fields; a commitment to work with colleges to open their facilities to the public, and continued support to strengthen coaching education.

The USTA has been a valued partner for college tennis for many years now, with the College Match Days, the college-specific courts at the National Campus, as host of the NCAAs among many other programs. That hasn't been able to stem the tide of lost programs recently, but a statement reiterating their commitment is always welcome.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Davis Beats Kenin, Gauff and McNally Advance at Volvo Car Open; French Open Expected to Delay One Week; ITA Releases New D-I Team Computer and Poll Rankings

Doubles partners Caty McNally and Coco Gauff advanced to Thursday's Round of 16 at the WTA 500 Volvo Car Open with wins today.

McNally trailed WTA No. 47 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 4-2 in the third set, but won the final four games of the match to claim a 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 victory. Gauff, seeded No. 14, also went three sets, beating Liudmila Samsonova of Russia 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.  Three other US teenagers lost in today's second round: lucky loser Whitney Osuigwe, who took the place of No. 9 seed Marketa Vondrousova, 6-1, 6-4 to Kurumi Nara; wild card Hailey Baptiste, 6-3, 6-3 to No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur and wild card Emma Navarro, 6-4, 6-4 to No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova.

 Two of the three all-US matches are tonight, with Shelby Rogers playing No. 13 seed Amanda Anisimova and Sloane Stephens facing No. 8 seed Madison Keys. In the third, this afternoon, Lauren Davis upset No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Gauff will play Davis Thursday, while McNally meets Paula Badosa of Spain, who defeated No. 5 seed Belinda Bencic today.

While Navarro lost her singles match, she advanced in doubles, with Caroline Dolehide. The wild cards defeated No. 3 seeds Yifan Xu and Shuai Zhang of China 6-1, 6-4 this afternoon.

According to this article from Reuters, French sports daily L’Equipe is reporting that the French Open will be delayed by one week this year, starting on May 30, rather than May 23, which is the date still on the Roland Garros website for the start of the main draw, with qualifying the week before that.

What this may mean for the Roland Garros Junior Championships is not clear; the ITF Junior Circuit website s still showing the dates of May 30-June 5, which would put it in the first week of the tournament, not the second, a schedule that is not feasible given the number of matches played the first week. Once an official announcement is made by the French Tennis Federation, I am sure the ITF will change the dates to the second week; how this might impact the cutoff date for entries, which is currently Tuesday April 20, is unclear.

As I wrote Tuesday, the ITA delayed the release of its Division I team rankings to today, and is now providing both the computer rankings and the coaches poll. (If you would like yet another poll, the USTA is also now releasing a weekly team ranking). From the tone of the ITA's post yesterday, I thought the discrepancies between its two sets of rankings might be large, but, at least in the top 10, that's not the case. I've put the two rankings of the Top 10 side by side for comparison purposes, with the computer rankings the ones with an average; you can see the disagreements are minor, with the Top 3 women's teams and the Top 5 men's team the same in both.

Men's Division I Top 10 April 7, 2021

Women's Division I Top 10 April 7, 2021

The complete women's rankings are here; the complete men's ranking are here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

UVA's Navarro Wins First WTA Main Draw Match at Volvo Car Open; ITA Pushes Pause Button on Singles and Doubles Rankings, Will Publish Both Computer Rankings and Coaches Poll; More on Easter Bowl 18s Champions

Emma Navarro

University of Virginia freshman Emma Navarro won her first WTA main draw match tonight at the Volvo Car Open in her hometown of Charleston South Carolina. The 19-year-old wild card, currently No. 6 in the ITA collegiate rankings and 481 in the WTA rankings, defeated WTA 141 Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in her third main draw appearance in a WTA event.

Navarro said after the match that she couldn't be happier with the experience she's had at Virginia.

"It's been everything I've hoped of," Navarro said. "I'm just so grateful to be playing for a school like UVA. They have an incredible program going on there. I've just had an amazing past few months, playing in Charlottesville, traveling around and playing college tennis, it's been such a great experience for me," Navarro said. "I'm just really grateful to have had this and to continue to have this experience."

Two years ago, Navarro made her WTA debut at the Volvo Car Open, a tournament that is owned by her father Ben. Just a few days after her title at the Easter Bowl ITF, Navarro lost to Germany's Laura Siegemund 7-5, 6-4, and only a few weeks later she reached the semifinals of a $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event, again on clay and again in her hometown. 

Navarro then reached the girls final at Roland Garros, where she lost to Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who also won her first round match today, beating Shuai Zhang of China 6-3, 6-1, and advanced to the semifinals at the Wimbledon Junior Championships. I asked Navarro how her game has improved over those two years, which include, of course, the lengthy shutdown last year due to the pandemic.

"I think I've improved on my mental game a lot in college tennis," said Navarro, who suffered her first loss in college competition on Sunday to 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami. "Coming into college tennis as a freshman, playing No. 1 line and just having a lot of expectations of me, it's been a lot of pressure. But it's been a great experience for me, learning how to handle that pressure and deal with nerves, so I feel I've progressed a lot mentally."

Navarro said she has devoted a lot of her effort in the past two years on improving her forehand.

"It used to sort of be a weakness of mine," Navarro said. "I'd run from it a little bit on court. I've been working on that, continuing to improve my backhand, I'm always working on everything, but I think I've progressed a lot in every aspect of my game."

Down 0-30 when serving for the match at 5-3, Navarro brought out the mantra her coach Peter Ayers has made a part of her game.

"Nerves for sure crept in," said Navarro, who had grandparents, parents, siblings and friends supporting her tonight. "Up 5-2, I have this incredible opportunity in front of me, don't mess it up. That got to me a little bit in the 5-2 game and in the first couple of points in the 5-3 game. But my coach and I work a lot, we call it the bounce back, and that's after doing something less than your best, or not how you wanted to, you bounce back and play a good point the next point no matter what. That phrase has helped me a lot in the past few years and it's something I always come back to."

Navarro doesn't have much time to savor her first WTA win, as she is back on the court early Wednesday afternoon against No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia. Navarro also has doubles later in the day, with Caroline Dolehide.

In addition to Navarro, 19-year-old wild card Hailey Baptiste also advanced, beating lucky loser Dolehide 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting with No. 12 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. There are three all-US second round matches Wednesday, with Lauren Davis playing No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin, Sloane Stephens taking on No. 8 seed Madison Keys and No. 13 seed Amanda Anisimova facing Shelby Rogers. Caty McNally is playing Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia Wednesday. No. 14 seed Coco Gauff won her first round night match over Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgari 6-3, 6-0.

New ITA team and individual rankings were scheduled to be released today, but the ITA posted an update stating that singles and doubles rankings were being paused this week and the team rankings, to be released Wednesday, would consist of two methods: the computer and a coaches poll. I can only imagine the number of complaints they must have received to make this change so close to the end of the season, but if it helps get the best teams and the best singles players and doubles teams in the NCAA tournament, I'm all for it. From the ITA's post:

  • Team Rankings – beginning Wednesday, April 7th, the ITA will publish both the ITA Computer Team Ranking Top 50 as well as the ITA Coaches Poll Top 50.  We are prepared to provide both sets of data to the NCAA as early as this week. 
  • Singles & Doubles Rankings – The ITA has decided to “pause” the publishing of ITA Computer Singles and Doubles Rankings for the week of April 5th as our staff and coach governance committees continue to review the best path forward for providing coaches, players, and fans the most accurate collegiate singles and doubles rankings. More information will follow as it becomes available.

For another alternative, see CollegeTennisRanks, which provides a live Division I men's ranking after each dual match result.

My recap of the 12s and 14s Easter Bowl will be up at Tennis Recruiting Network on Friday, with the 16s and 18s recap scheduled for Monday. Steve Pratt, who was on site at the Barnes Tennis Center throughout the two weeks, wrote features for usta.com on champions Liv Hovde and Jerry Shang.  All singles and doubles champions at this year's Easter Bowl are noted at the bottom of each feature.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Volvo Open Takes Center Stage This Week in Charleston, with Navarro and Gauff on Tuesday's Schedule; Just One American ITF Junior Circuit Champion Last Week Outside US with Tournament Cancellations Increasing

I'm back from two weeks in San Diego covering the big junior events there and I will be writing more about my impressions, as well processing photos and videos of the IOSC and Easter Bowl, in the weeks to come. 

And it might be weeks, not days, as I'm excited to have received a credential to cover the WTA Volvo Car Open this week in Charleston South Carolina, remotely of course, as they are not allowing fans or media onsite this year.

The USTA sends out an email every Monday with the names of the top 500 Americans competing in professional events that week, and there aren't too many of those lists that are longer than that of the Volvo Car Open. Former Arizona State star Desirae Krawczyk, who is one of the WTA's top doubles players, got into qualifying and won two matches to make her first main draw in WTA singles. She lost to No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-1, 6-2 and she wasn't alone, with the other two American qualifiers, Asia Muhammad and Grace Min, also falling in straight sets. 

Americans in main draw:
Sofia Kenin[2]
Madison Keys[8]
Amanda Anisimova[13]**
Coco Gauff[14]
Sloane Stephens
Shelby Rogers
Bernarda Pera*
Madison Brengle*
Lauren Davis**
Christina McHale*
Caty McNally**
Francesca Di Lorenzo*
Asia Muhammad[Q]*
Grace Min[Q]*
Hailey Baptiste[WC]
Emma Navarro [WC]
Desirae Krawczyk (qualifier)*
Caroline Dolehide (lucky loser)

*lost first round Monday
**won first round Monday

Nicole Melichar and Demi Schuurs
Desirae Krawczyk and Alexa Guarachi
Kenin and Mattek-Sands
Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova
CoCo Vandweghe and Ellen Perez

Kenin and Keys are not on Tuesday's schedule, but Rogers, Stephens, Dolehide, Baptiste, Gauff and Navarro are, with Navarro playing the first night match against Renata Zarazua of Mexico, followed by Gauff, who will play Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Navarro, who won the 2019 Easter Bowl and received a wild card into the Volvo Car Open that year after winning the USTA Clay Courts in 2018, is now a freshman at the University of Virginia. Navarro had won her first 14 matches in collegiate competition at the top of the lineup until yesterday, when she lost to 2019 NCAA Singles Champion Estella Perez-Somarriba of Miami 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

For more on Navarro's wild card, see this article from Virginia's website.

The turn for the worse that the Covid pandemic has taken recently in Europe and South America caused the cancellation of several ITF Junior Circuit events there, including a J2 in Italy, a J3 in Paraguay and a J5 in Great Britain last week. Two J2s in the next two weeks in France have been canceled, but the J1 in Bulgaria is on for next week. 

The sole American to win a title outside of San Diego last week was Maximilian Wuelfing, who won the doubles title at the J5 in Cairo Egypt. Wuelfing and partner Joan Torres Espinosa of Spain, seeded No. 7, defeated No. 3 seeds Jan Kobierski of Austria and Aleksa Pisaric of Serbia 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 10-4 in the final. Wuelfing also reached the singles semifinals.