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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fields Revealed for NCAA D-I Individual Championships

In college tennis, we don't have just one "Selection Sunday" as they call it basketball, but two days of announcements for the NCAAs. Yesterday was the NCAA team selection, today the individual fields were posted on ncaa.com.

The men's subcommittee made one change that affected the seeding, with Virginia's Dominic Inglot, who is 17th in the latest rankings, bumping Ohio State's Bryan Koniecko out of his 16th spot. Inglot does have a win over Koniecko last fall at the Indoor, but he's lost his last three completed matches, while Koniecko hasn't lost since he dropped that clinching match to Treat Huey at the Team Indoor. Being members of the two top-ranked teams, they wouldn't meet until the team final, and probably not then, with Koniecko playing at No. 1 now. The draw for the individual tournament is a long way off, but I'll be looking for that potential matchup.

The final at-large bid in the men's went to No. 58 ranked Guillermo Gomez, the Georgia Tech freshman. Luis Flores of Georgia, ranked 59th, is not in the field, but he's also not listed as an alternate, which sounds ominous for Georgia's chances in the team event. Stanford's Matt Bruch and Boise State's Luke Shields are also not in the field, although Shields will compete in doubles with his brother Clancy. For a complete list of the men's field, click here.

Two-time NCAA runnerup Lindsey Nelson of USC was 57th in the most recent rankings and that was just high enough to get the final at-large bid. Kelley Hyndman of Georgia, ranked No. 58, is the first alternate. Notable women not making the cut this year are Stanford's Celia Durkin and Lindsay Burdette, a quarterfinalist last year. All of the alternates should take heart, however, from Washington's Alex Slovic, who reached the semifinals last year as the sixth alternate and the final player to make the field.

For the women's complete list, click here.

I would love to hear from anybody (no anonymous comments please) who thinks that Devvarman will not win the men's title again this year. Although I could come up with a scenario that would make his losing possible, I don't expect it to happen. As for the women, the crystal ball is much murkier. Mijacika of Clemson has been the most consistent all year, but at this stage, I wouldn't bet against Hilary Barte of Stanford.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Studying the NCAA brackets

I didn't see the ESPNews show announcing the Division I draws for this year's NCAAs (Charter Cable doesn't offer it here in Kalamazoo), so any of you who would like to comment on it, please enlighten me.

But I have spent a few hours studying the selections, and have a few observations. Usually, the last rankings are followed pretty closely, but the men's subcommittee made one big change this year, moving Georgia, ranked fifth, to the fourth seed, and dropping fourth-ranked Ole Miss to the five seed. Should they meet in Tulsa in the quarterfinals, it will be settled on the courts, but I'm not sure I understand the reason for the switch. It's true that Georgia beat Ole Miss 5-2 back in early March in their only head-to-head, but Ole Miss just won the conference tournament, so I would have been inclined to stick with the rankings. The other change flipped Florida and Baylor, with Baylor moving up to 9, where Florida was in the latest rankings.

Michigan's men captured the 16th spot, which means I'll be able to travel to Ann Arbor for that regional, where they will host unranked Western Michigan, No. 51 Harvard and No. 17 Texas Tech.

Western is one of 12 unranked conference winners in the field of 64, which means that there are teams in the Top 50 who did not get in. The highest ranked, at 45, was the University of New Mexico of the Mountain West Conference. St. Mary's College of California (47), Arkansas-Fayetteville (48), Louisville (49) and Fresno State (50) are others who did not receive at-large bids.

There are five men's teams with losing records with three of them, Southern (10-11, SWAC), Oral Roberts (7-9, Summit), Hawaii (8-10, WAC) winning their conference championships. Auburn (10-12) of the SEC was ranked 35, with wins over Oklahoma State, LSU and Vanderbilt helping their cause. The ACC's Duke, 10-13, was ranked 43rd, and was probably one of the last teams in since their only win against a team in the tournament was over No. 19 Miami. Denver's 4-3 win over New Mexico back in February may have been the match deciding the final at-large bid, with 44th ranked Denver getting it.

By the way, there are two undefeated teams on the men's side. Everyone knows about top-ranked Virginia, of course, but Drake, ranked 46th, is 24-0. They will meet LSU in the Illinois-hosted regional.

The women's subcommittee made no notable changes. There are 15 unranked conference winners in the draw, and four Top 50 teams who were not extended at-large bids: Virginia (47), Brigham Young (48) Marshall (49) and South Alabama (50). The last team in was probably 8-13 Wake Forest, ranked 46th, and with wins over Virginia and two tournament teams--No. 25 Tennessee and No. 30 Indiana. The only other team with a losing record on the women's side is 9-10 Quinnipiac, who won the Northeast Conference tournament bid.

As for most intriguing round of 16 match, I'll go with Ohio State vs. Illinois on the men's side given Sunday's 4-3 barn burner in the conference final and the Illini's quarterfinal win over the Buckeyes at last year's NCAAs. For the women, it's got to be No. 13 Clemson against No. 4 Stanford. Not only will it feature two of the top three women players in the country in Ani Mijacika of Clemson and Hilary Barte of Stanford, but it will pit arguably the hottest team (excepting Northwestern, of course) against the most storied program. Stanford has something to prove after losing last year in the semifinals to UCLA, and if they come through this year with Clemson, Baylor, Duke, Cal and Northwestern all in their half, they will have earned their berth in the finals.

For complete draws, click here for the men, and here for the women. The individual tournament field will be released on Wednesday at ncaa.com.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Expected and Unexpected Winners at Conference Tournaments

The Big Ten's conference tournament champions have been the same for the past three years now, with the Northwestern women and the Ohio State men claiming titles yesterday. The nation's No. 1 ranked team, Northwestern breezed past No. 21 Michigan 4-0, and the only blemish on their record is their loss to Georgia Tech in the finals of the Team Indoor back in February. The Ohio State men also have suffered only one loss, and theirs also came in the finals of the Team Indoor, when Virginia beat them 4-1. Yesterday Ohio State came close to their second defeat, when Illinois took a 3-2 lead, but both No. 2 Justin Kronauge and No. 3 Steven Moneke came through in three sets after dropping the first to give the Buckeyes the win. The Buckeye website has the details here and Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com was also there.

If those results were expected, the Big 12 produced a surprise, as the Baylor men, ranked 11th, upset No. 6 Texas 4-2. The third-ranked women came through as expected. For more on both finals, see kwtx.com.

In the WAC, there was also a surprise on the men's side as No. 4 seed Hawaii, led by freshman Dennis Lajola, defeated both No. 1 seed Boise State and No. 2 seed Fresno State to take that conference's automatic bid. The Fresno State women won their seventh straight WAC title.

The Mid-American conference also produced a surprise in the form of the Buffalo women defeating regular season conference champions Western Michigan 4-3. The Western Michigan men, who like the women, won the regular season conference title, did earn the NCAA bid.

For a wrap up of the Pac-10 singles and doubles at Ojai, click here. (Note to photo caption author: Van't Hof is left-handed).

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the bids and regional sites are announced at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPNews.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Alison Riske's Fed Cup Diary

When I interviewed Alison Riske last year at the U.S. Open for a Tennis Recruiting profile (now available in its entirety only to Recruiting Advantage members), she mentioned writing as one of her favorite subjects in school. The recently named Bill Talbert Sportsmanship award winner got an opportunity to put that creative writing talent to use this weekend in Moscow, when she kept a diary of her experience as a "Future Fed Cupper," during the semifinal tie.

The U.S. was beaten by Russia 3-2, with the final two matches dead rubbers, but from Riske's charming posts, it sounds as if it was anything but a loss for those making the trip. Although Riske is not quite as off-the-wall as Dmitry Tursunov, the resident ATP blogger, the copious use of exclamation points and the tale of harrowing foreign car rides brings to mind his famous Estoril blog of two years ago. (For the right chronology, start at the bottom and work up.) Coco Vandeweghe was also in Moscow as a hitting partner, but she managed just two posts, in contrast to Riske's eight.

I will be posting a wrap on the major college conference tournament results tomorrow.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Kalamazoo College Wins 70th Consecutive Conference Title and NCAA D-III Bid

The Northwestern women meet Michigan tomorrow at the conference tournament for their 10th straight Big Ten title, an impressive accomplishment. But if the the top-ranked Wildcats win as expected, they will still need 60 more to match the Kalamazoo College Hornets.

I decided to head to Stowe Stadium today, in spite of the cold front that came through last night, dropping the temperatures from the low 80s to the mid 40s. The stiff north wind was an unpleasant reminder of a very long winter here in Kalamazoo, but the sun came out in time for the afternoon's championship contest between Kalamazoo and Calvin College, located an hour north in Grand Rapids.

Kalamazoo, which had already clinched a share of the championship by finishing atop the MIAA regular season standings, had not only sole possession of the title, but also the NCAA bid on the line today. Coach Mark Riley, in his first year at Kalamazoo, knew well the tradition of the streak, having played on the team in the early 80s when George Acker was in charge. But there didn't seem to be any particular pressure evident; and even the Calvin fans, of whom there were plenty, seemed to be resigned to a second place finish.

Kalamazoo ended up winning by a 6-3 score. For those of you who don't follow Division III tennis, the format differs from Division I only in that all three doubles contests have a point at stake. After Hornets Matt Wise and Patrick Boyd won at No. 2 by an 8-5 score and Calvin's No. 1 team of Marcus Zeilstra and Steve DeMaagd had prevailed 8-6, it was down to the threes. K's Joe Unger and Cyrus Jaden had a 6-2 lead, only to see it evaporate, but they won the tiebreaker to give K a 2-1 advantage heading into the singles.

The power that dominates in Division I tennis is rare in DIII players, and the standard baseline game isn't much in evidence either. Getting to the net was the goal, and I saw more approach shots today than I saw all week at the Easter Bowl. For these players, hitting a winner from the baseline is rare, so many of them have adopted a game style that dares their opponent to pass. I saw K's No. 1 Jason Brown make good on that dare often today in his 6-2, 6-3 win over Ricky Tilton, but more often the player at the baseline was unable to put pressure on the attacker, even when the latter had hit an indifferent volley.

Brown's point gave the Hornets a 4-1 lead, with Tim Hubbard at No. 4 having collected the third point, so the Knights needed to take the remaining four matches on court to pull the upset. It wasn't out of the question--they had the lead in three of them--but couldn't finish any of them before Boyd, at No. 5, put it out of reach with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Mike Goorhouse of Calvin.

Boyd, who makes Roger Federer look demonstrative, gave a small fist pump, and Riley raised both his arms as if signalling a touchdown, but the celebration was decidedly low-key.

I guess that happens when you've done it 69 times before. For all scores, click here.

Marcia Frost is in Iowa City for the Men's Big Ten championships, which finds Ohio State battling Illinois for the title for the fifth straight year. Go to collegeandjuniortennis.com for Marcia's coverage.

And Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be in Ojai on Sunday, covering the Pac-10 individual championships. This is a FREE service, so log in and listen to it, streamed live to your computer. I can confidently say that USC will win at least one of the finals as the men's features Kaes Van't Hof against teammate Robert Farah. In fact all four semifinalists were Trojans on the men's side. The women's final has USC's Amanda Fink taking on UCLA's Riza Zalameda. For complete draws, see the Ojai TennisLink site.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Coaches Q &A: Now we have to play doubles!

Today we tap the professional expertise of Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the subject of doubles. Andy Brandi provies these tips:

Not so long ago, it was not popular to play doubles. In the last few years the ITF and the USTA and its sections have combined their rankings and we are now facing the task of having to play doubles. It is interesting watching juniors playing doubles because it is like two players playing singles. As it is, two good singles player do not automatically make a good doubles team.

Here are five suggestions for better doubles play:

Team chemistry might be the most important factor in a good doubles team. If two players get along really well, they have a good chance of being successful. They will be able to communicate better, keep each other relaxed, and trust each other more. Complementing styles are essential. For example, a good aggressive baseliner will do great with a good all-court player. The all-court player can take advantage of the aggressive baseliner’s groundstrokes and returns while he is at net.

Communication needs to happen before, after and during the points. Most successful pro doubles teams communicate religiously. They talk before the point and discuss strategy after the point to encourage each other and make plans for the next point. During the point they help each other by calling for balls, or switching sides to effectively cover the court.

Two Important Firsts
Get first serves in play! Be most effective by serving a high percentage of first serves. Make it easy for the net person to poach and put more pressure on the returner. Good serves take all the pressure off your team. Be sure to mix placement.

Make first volleys; if you are coming in, you need to be smart on how to play your first volleys. Do you hit it deep? Do you go with a short x-ct angle or do you hit it down the line?

Get returns in play; make the other team play. At the same time, look at returns as a means to create some offensive opportunities. Mix up the returns by hitting some down the line or by lobbing.

Be Willing to Poach
Poaching is one of the most difficult things to get players to do, but it makes your team more effective. By poaching, the server will be able to hold more easily because of the distractions the partner is creating at the net. Do not forget you can poach off returns as well. When at net, do not be a statue or a good spectator; get involved in the points! Guard the middle and not the alley.

Although very basic, we hope that these tips help you become a better doubles player. Good luck!

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rachael White Profile; Querrey Downs Gasquet to Reach Monte Carlo Quarterfinals

My weekly article for The Tennis Recruiting Network is this recruiting profile of Midwest section junior Rachael White. Until Mobile, I had not seen her play, but after she won the K-Swiss and a National Open back-to-back I made a point to watch her there, and was impressed with her ball-striking. I imagine come July 1, she'll be getting lots of phone calls from college coaches.

The big news in tennis today, in the U.S. anyway, was Sam Querrey's win over No. 7 seed Richard Gasquet on the red clay in Monte Carlo. For the first time since last year's U.S. Open, I had a chance to chat with Sam while I was in Carson, where he was training on the clay courts there with his coach Grant Doyle and Michael McClune. During a lunch break, he came down to watch fellow Thousand Oaks resident and sometimes hitting partner Denis Lin in his third round match against ISC top seed Alexei Grigorov. He was excited about going to Europe again this year to play on clay, and with wins over Moya and Gasquet this week, he's certainly gaining confidence every day. Bonnie Ford spoke with both Querrey and Doyle about his recent unexpected success and filed this story today at espn.com.

One tournament that Querrey surprisingly didn't win was the Men's Open at Ojai; this year's tournament began today. Visiting that tournament, now in its 108th(!) year, is high on my personal "bucket list"; everyone in Southern California tennis speaks glowingly of it. Querrey competed in the Men's Open division in both 2005 and 2006, losing to Cecil Mamiit in the quarters when Mamiit was the top seed, and to Zbynek Mlynarik in the finals, when Querrey was the top seed.

Ryan Thacher, who has been playing high school tennis, but few junior events this year, is in the Men's Open draw, which can be found here. Ojai also serves as the Pac-10 singles and doubles championships, and has a small college and a high school component as well. For the tournament's website, go to ojaitourney.org.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bollettieri to Assist USTA

When Patrick McEnroe was revealed as the USTA's choice for GM of Elite Development, one of the initiatives mentioned was working more closely with academies. Only a few weeks later comes this announcement that Nick Bollettieri will assist in the training of several of the USTA's prime prospects, including Donald Young.

Two of those prospects, Sachia Vickery, the 14s Easter Bowl champion and Vicky Duval, are now residents at the NBTA, and on Sunday, the Miami Herald's Michelle Kaufman spoke with Bollettieri about his new charges. You can't help but get excited about their futures when he says:

"I want to help the future of American tennis, and it's important to find youngsters like Vicki and Sachia, girls who have so many fantastic qualities, such talent, and really, really love the sport," Bollettieri said.

"Would you believe when they got off the plane from California, the first thing they did was come to the court and ask if they could practice? They have passion. They say, 'Thank you.' They give hugs when they leave the court. And they are A students. This is what our country needs. They have the potential to be darn good."
Another story, this one from the Boca Raton News profiles Julia O'Loughlin, one of the USTA's players training at Boca Raton, and her family's journey around the country to find suitable competition.

And because I was in California, I didn't give much attention to the 12s Spring Nationals in Delray Beach, but Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com was there, and filed daily reports. Marcia's been plenty busy with her new book American Doubles, and she now has a myspace page where you can learn more about its imminent publication.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Talbert Sportsmanship Award Winners Announced

I'm a little late on this, as the announcement of the 2007 Bill Talbert Junior Sportsmanship Award recipients was made earlier this month at the USTA meeting in Naples, Florida. Pictured below are the four winners, Alexa Glatch, Michael Sicora, Alison Riske and Evan King. To my knowledge, the USTA did not send out a press release, but this is a much sought-after honor, as it includes an invitation to Newport, Rhode Island for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and tournament. Families who have gone tell me they are treated like royalty, and that for their son or daughter, it is one of the highlights of their junior tennis careers. As with Sam Querrey receiving the honor last year, Alexa Glatch's selection is more a junior lifetime achievement award than for the particular year; Glatch played only one junior tournament in 2007, at Roland Garros.

Next to each photo I've put the player's name, with a link to their section's write up about their award (except for Alison Riske, who isn't featured by Middle States. She is on her way to Moscow, however, as a Fed Cup hitting partner for this weekend's tie).
Alexa Glatch
Evan King

Michael Sicora

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; Conference Championships

Kevin McClure and I had a lot to talk about in this Inside Junior Tennis podcast. In addition to the ISC and Easter Bowl, we discussed Patrick McEnroe's recent appointment as GM of Elite Player Development, Ryan Harrison, the Tennis Recruiting Network's Top Ten seniors and more. I've appreciated hearing comments from those of you who listen to the podcast, and I know Kevin does too. If you have a moment to write a brief review, on iTunes, we'd welcome it.

It was a busy and dramatic weekend of college tennis. John supplies his account of the Stanford women's victory over Cal, which gave the Cardinal a share of the Pac-10 crown with UCLA.

The real drama came in the SEC and ACC women's conference championships, however, which both came down to the third set in the final match with the score tied at 3-3. Georgia won its second straight SEC conference tournament when sophomore Naoko Ueshima outlasted Florida freshman Marrit Boonstra 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 at No. 4 singles, avenging the Bulldogs' 5-2 loss to the Gators last month. Georgiadogs.com has the complete story here.

Ole Miss won the men's SEC title, downing Florida 4-1. The details are here.

The Virginia men took all the suspense out of their ACC tournament title, taking down surprise finalist Miami 4-0.

But the women's final more than made up for that, when it was decided in a third set tiebreaker at No. 3 singles between Duke freshman Reka Zsilinszka and Clemson senior Carol Salge. Salge prevailed 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6) to give the No. 4 seeded Tigers, who had upset No. 1 seed Georgia Tech in the semifinals Saturday, their tenth straight win heading into the NCAAs. For more, click here.

The Big Ten and Big-12 will conduct their conference tournaments this coming weekend. The Conference USA men's and women's titles both went to Tulsa, who is hosting the NCAAs next month.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Easter Bowl Slideshow

These slide shows have become one of my favorite post-tournament tasks. It takes time, but I enjoy selecting and tweaking the photos for inclusion. In order to get them on YouTube, I've started using animoto, a free program (for 30-second videos only), which doesn't allow me to control the process like Slideroll does. But it also is a chance to reach a wider audience, and it's not difficult, so why not? The Animoto/YouTube version is here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

UCLA Earns Two PAC-10 Titles Friday; Kriese Says Goodbye to Clemson, but Not Tennis

The UCLA vs. USC men's dual match is always huge, even when one team or the other is rebuilding. This year, it pitted the country's No. 4 (USC) against No. 5 (UCLA) and the excitement was building even two weeks ago, when I was in Carson. It decided the Pac-10 title, as it did last year, and again it was UCLA that finished on top, with a 4-3 victory at USC. Details of the match are here at uclabruins.cstv.com.

Key quote from UCLA head coach Billy Martin:
"They threw everything they could at us but we stayed focused. Everyone from the football team to the song girls to the band was there. It was a vocal crowd and I've seen some really good players buckle in those types of situations. But everyone did a great job at handling the pressure. I couldn't be more proud of this team than I am today."

This was expected to be a rebuilding year, with the loss of Kohlloeffel to graduation and Haythem Abid to wrist surgery this past fall. (He's unlikely to return for the NCAAs). But the contributions of freshmen Holden Seguso and Nick Meister have made a big difference as has the transfer in of No. 1 Harel Srugo from Old Dominion.

The UCLA women may have a long and storied history, and in reaching the NCAA team finals last year, outperformed the men's team. But with Stanford in the Pac-10, conference titles have been hard to come by; with their 5-2 win over USC at home yesterday, they earned a share of the conference title with the winner of this afternoon's Cal-Stanford showdown. It is their first Pac-10 title ever. The match account is here.

When I read some months ago that Chuck Kriese was retiring as coach of the Clemson men, I had wanted to note it, but let it slide, hoping that his final year with the team would not come to an end until the NCAA round of 16 in Tulsa. After a 4-3 loss to Virginia Tech yesterday at the ACC conference tournament, it looks very unlikely that will happen, so here is the Clemson Tigers site on that match and on the Kriese legacy. But although Kriese and his outside-the-box thinking will be missed on the U.S. college scene, he won't be leaving tennis. This USA Today story sketches out his plans for helping the Thai tennis federation and what he has meant to some of his past players.

And speaking of Clemson, the women's team came up with a big win in today's ACC tournament, taking down the nation's No. 2 team and ACC top seed Georgia Tech, 4-1. They will face Duke in tomorrow's final. For the ACC tournament page, click here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

USTA Announces Teams for ITF Junior Team Qualifying

The USTA has released the names of the players representing the U.S. in next month's regional qualifying taking place in Montreal.

The teams for the 14s World Junior Tennis competition are:
Alexios Halebian, Glendale, CA
Christian Harrison, New Braunfels, TX
Tyler Gardiner, Novi, MI
Coach: Kent Kinnear
Madison Keys, Boca Raton, FL
Kyle McPhillips, Willoughby, OH
Grace Min, Lawrenceville, GA
Coach: Jai Dilouie

The 16-and-under teams for Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup qualifying are:
Jordan Cox, Duluth, GA
Evan King, Chicago, IL
Raymond Sarmiento, Fontana, CA
Coach: David Roditi
Kristie Ahn, Upper Saddle River, NJ
Brooke Bolender, Delray Beach, FL
Beatrice Capra, Ellicott City, MD
Coach: Robin White

The format for both events is a four-team round robin, with the top two teams advancing to the 16-team international finals in August and September.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Easter Bowl Wrap; Brengle Named to Fed Cup Team; Cohen and Keys Profiles

My Easter Bowl wrap-up is this week's post for The Tennis Recruiting Network. I know it isn't always possible to read my daily updates from tournaments, so these look-backs help to sum up the tournament in one place at one time.

It was announced yesterday that Madison Brengle will be a part of the U.S. Fed Cup team facing Russia later this month in Moscow. Unfortunately, she isn't joined by Davenport, Harkelroad or either of the Williams sisters, so it will be tough going for the U.S. The News Journal has Brengle's thoughts on representing the U.S. here.
(A widely circulated AP story had Brengle as an amateur, but that was wrong, and I believe has been corrected now.)

Frequent commenter Scott sent me a link to this story from the Florida Alligator that profiles Julia Cohen, and delves into her plans for the future.

And Play Tennis Florida, a new magazine serving the members of the USTA Florida section, features this story on Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 12s champion Madison Keys, who is on their April cover.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

International Spring Championship Slideshow

The Home Depot Center is an excellent site for shooting tennis, and I look forward to filling my photo library there every year. An Easter Bowl slideshow will follow in a few days. For the shorter Animoto/YouTube version with music, click here.

Ryan Harrison to Appear on ESPN.COM chat Wednesday at 2:30 pm Eastern

The link to submit a question in advance is here.

UPDATE: Ryan chatted for 20 minutes, but the complete transcript is available only to ESPN insider subscribers. Some of the quotes are in this Reuters story, but it rather embarassingly insists Harrison's next opponent is James Blake, when Blake has yet to win his first round match against Kei Nishikori tonight. The caption in the photo on espn.com has incorrect information about his age. He will be 16 in less than a month.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

College Tennis Surprises

I've been out of touch with college tennis the past two weeks, except for the tidbits picked up here and there from a few of the college coaches recruiting at Carson, before the signing week dead period began. The ITA released the latest rankings today, and they aren't showing many significant changes, with Northwestern leading the women's rankings and Virginia the men's. Virginia completed its regular season undefeated, and won its fifth straight ACC title. The Cavaliers will open ACC tournament play this weekend in Florida. The Daily Progress filed this story.

Another impressive winning streak came to an end when Tennessee dealt Georgia a 4-3 loss in Knoxville on Saturday. Georgia had won 40 straight SEC matches before the Volunteers took wins at the No. 2 and No. 1 positions to clinch the upset. Utsports.com has the details here.

The University of Texas-Austin men's team was upset by Texas Tech over the weekend, and again it was on the road and by a 4-3 score. The Texas Tech website provides the specifics here.

Yet another 4-3 win, this one by the Cal men over Washington, is the subject of this eyewitness report by Bear fan John Tsutsui.

And finally, Ohio State continued its domination of the Big Ten with a close 5-2 win over Illinois. Four of the singles matches went three sets, two ended in tiebreakers, and the Buckeyes prevailed in both. For more on the match, see fightingillini.com.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Harrison Creates Sensation at U.S. Men's Clay Courts

It's been a long but uneventful day of travel, and I returned to my Kalamazoo den to find that the whole tennis world is buzzing about Ryan Harrison's win today in the main draw of the U.S. Clay Courts in Houston. To see the list of players he's now joined in winning an ATP main draw match before his 16th birthday, see this story on atptennis.com.

For a report on his straight-set win over 95th ranked Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay, see this story from the Associated Press. Nick Bollettieri (no, Harrison doesn't train there, but he is an IMG client) also took note of the win in this blog entry.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sizzling Buchanan Takes ITF Easter Bowl Championship

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Chase Buchanan minimized his exposure to the blistering heat in Sunday's 18s Easter Bowl final by roaring past No. 13 seed Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico 6-1, 6-0 Sunday afternoon at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.

Buchanan opened the match serving, and four points and four winners later, two of which were volleys, he was ahead to stay.

"I wanted to attack the whole time," said Buchanan, the No. 4 seed. "He likes to get in long points, and I'm fit enough to play that way when I need to, but there's no need to when he can feel the pressure of me coming in."

Llompart served well, but Buchanan missed very few returns, and even when Llompart hit a good approach and tried to close, he was either passed or lobbed over. The lobs were especially demoralizing to Llompart, who became more reluctant to finish as the match went on.

"He played very good," said Llompart, who is now training at Newcombe's Tennis Academy in Texas. "He missed like four balls in the whole match. I came into the match a little anxious, a little tight, but he just played very good, and I didn't play my best."

Buchanan, who turns 17 in June, was pleased with the consistency he is starting to exhibit in competition.

"I've played good in practice, I just hadn't been bringing it out when I needed to," said Buchanan, who is from New Albany, Ohio, but is now training at the USTA High Performance Center in Boca Raton. "I hadn't been consistent an entire week. I've been more consistent these past two weeks. Even at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, I played up and down, had a great win over Berankis, go three sets with Wil (Spencer) and then lose 0 and 2. It needs to level off, and hopefully that's what it's doing."

Next for Buchanan are two Pro Circuit events on Florida clay, which he'll use to prepare for the upcoming junior tournaments in Belgium and Roland Garros.

Llompart lost two championship matches on Sunday. Partnering Jose Sierra-Short, also of Puerto Rico, the No. 8 seeded doubles team lost to unseeded Denis Lin and Kyle McMorrow of Thousand Oaks, Calif. 7-6(1), 2-6, 10-7.

For complete draws, click here.

Tsay and Sock Crowned Easter Bowl 16s Champions with Three-Set Victories

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Jack Sock earned 10 gold balls in the 12s, but stress fractures in his foot kept him from reaching that level again--until now. Sock, the No. 8 seed from Lincoln, Neb., defeated No. 2 seed Clay Thompson of Venice, Calif., 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) to capture the boys 16s Easter Bowl title.

With temperatures on court over 120 degrees, a three-setter was not what either player wanted, but Sock said the conditions weren't a factor for him until the tiebreaker.

"The heat started creeping in on me in the tiebreak," said Sock, who is training at the Mike Wolf Academy in Kansas City. "I wasn't really thinking about nerves."

Thompson, a 6-foot-5 serve-and-volleyer who turns 16 next month, was kept at bay by Sock throughout the contest.

"To be honest with you, I think I would have rather lost this match 2 and 2 and played my game," said Thompson. "My game is a come-in, serve-and-volley, at the net. And I was grinding for some reason."

"I wanted to keep him back off the net," said Sock, who will be 16 in September. "I didn't want him to start attacking me all over the place...if you let him have any room, he'll just stay on you."

Thompson's volleys weren't sharp in the opening set, and when his other weapon, a punishing forehand, went off, he went to what he called "Plan C."

"Plan A is to serve-and-volley, Plan B is to hit my forehand and Plan C is you have no idea what's going on, so just play. I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't stick with the game plan. He's a great player and he did well to take me out of my rhythm."

There was certainly not much rhythm throughout the match, as both players had breaks and lost them at crucial moments in the first two sets. Sock was up 3-1 in the second, but lost the next five games, the final one on a double fault. During the ten-minute break between sets, Sock was encouraged to stay positive by his coaches, and told to get his first serve percentage up, keep the ball to Thompson's backhand and hit second serve returns more aggressively.

Although Sock conceded that his first serve percentage didn't improve, he was serving for the match after breaking Thompson for the only time in the final set at 4-4. But he immediately lost his serve at love due to unforced errors, and when Thompson held, Sock was facing a crucial 5-6, 5-30 point. Thompson missed a return, however, and Sock held for the tiebreaker.

Sock took a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker, but an ace and a strong forehand kept Thompson in the match. But Sock took the final two points on his serve to collect his first singles gold ball since the 12s.

"I played my game really well in the third set," said Sock. "I did what I did well and made him uncomfortable."

Number 2 seed Ellen Tsay has been making opponents uncomfortable all week, and even down a 4-2 in the final set against No. 12 seed Sarah Lee, she was unconcerned.

"I knew I could come back if I ground out some tough points," said the frail looking 14-year-old left-hander, who did just that in her 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Defense and placement are the hallmarks of Tsay's game, but in the first set, Lee took away those strengths.

"In the first set, I knew nothing could stop me from winning," said the 14-year-old from Los Angeles, who aggressively approached the net and aimed for the lines. "In the second set I slowed down a little, and she slowed down her pace a little."

Having lost her first set of the tournament, Tsay wasn't worried.

"I actually had a lot of opportunities, just a few misses at critical points," said Tsay. "The second set I started playing with my own rhythm more--in the first set I was just sort of reacting to her ball. Even though it probably looked like she was still on the offense, I felt like I was controlling more points."

As the match neared its conclusion, Tsay won 11 of twelve points to take a 5-4 lead, and Lee's backhand error at 4-5, 30-40 gave Tsay her fourth gold ball, two of which were earned in singles play.

She collected her fifth a few hours later, as she and partner Amelia Herring, the sixth seeds, won the doubles championship, defeating Alexandra Clay and Whitney P. Kay, the fifth seeds, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

Clay Thompson played his second third-set tiebreaker of the day, but this one he won. Thompson and partner Nelson Vick, the No. 1 seeds, took the doubles gold ball with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3) decision over No. 8 seeds Warren Hardie and Casey E. MacMaster.

For complete results, including consolation and third place matches, see the TennisLink site.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Oudin Wins....Again; Buchanan to Meet Llompart in Boys 18s Final Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

The last time that Melanie Oudin reached two consecutive major junior tournament finals, she lost the second one. After winning the Eddie Herr last December, she lost in the finals of the Orange Bowl the following week. At this week's Easter Bowl, coming off a title at the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, Oudin finished another grueling stretch of play with a win.

On a scorchingly hot afternoon at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, down a set to Lauren Embree, Oudin fought back for a 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-3 win, her 12th victory in the past 13 days.

Embree, a 17-year-old from Marco Island, Fla., was determined to avoid a repeat of their last meeting, in the finals of the Spring Nationals in Mobile last year, when she failed to win a game from Oudin.

Her strategy, to keep Oudin from getting a comfortable rhythm in ground stroke rallies, worked perfectly in the first set.

"I had a game plan coming into it," said Embree. "Last time I didn't really know what to do. She likes pace, so I mixed it up. I tried not to give her too many out wide because she's really good on the run."

Embree hit many a high looping shot up the middle, and Oudin admitted that she knew she was in for a long day from the outset.

"From the beginning I knew it was going to be different," Oudin said. "I knew I played really, really well last time, and when we started off today, I was making some errors, and I could tell it wasn't going to be that perfect day like it was last time. She was playing well and not missing, so I knew it was going to be tough."

Embree served for the opening set twice--at 5-4 and 6-5--but wasn't able to hold. It wasn't long before she took control of the tiebreaker, however, with Oudin describing her error-strewn performance there as "horrible."

The sweltering heat--temperatures were in the low 90s in the shade and much hotter on the court--seemed to take a toll on Embree in the second set, and she quickly fell behind 5-0. But she refused to relinquish the set to conserve energy, and kept battling, despite a wealth of double faults.

Due to the extreme heat, the players received a 10-minute break after the split, with no coaching allowed during that time. But Oudin was glad to get a chance to collect her thoughts and find a shady spot to relax before returning for the final set.

It started off well for her, and again she took a big lead at 5-1, but the 16-year-old from Marietta wasn't able to finish it there. A break and a hold by Embree brought it back to 5-3, but when Oudin got her second chance to finish, her serve came through. She hit two aces, and on championship point, rolled a ball deep and finished with a volley at the net to capture her fifth Grade 1 since September.

After a plunge in the pool with friend Alex Anghelescu, to both cool off and celebrate, Oudin had another celebration in mind.

"I really want to have an ice cream or some kind of dessert," said Oudin, who is scheduled to compete in the $75,000 Pro Circuit event in Dothan, Ala. the week of the 21st. "I've been extremely good about not eating anything bad, so I'm definitely going to have dessert."

And savor the sweetness of joining Sam Querrey as the only back-to-back Carson/Easter Bowl winners since the former was established four years ago.

The girls 18s doubles championship was also decided on Saturday, with top seeds Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens defeating the No. 2 seeded team of Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale 6-4, 6-3.

In boys 18s semifinal action, No. 4 seed Chase Buchanan downed No. 16 seed Frank Carleton 6-3, 6-4, while No. 13 seed Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico upset No. 3 seed Tennys Sandgren 7-6(4), 7-6(4).

For complete draws in the 18s, see the TennisLink site.

Vickery and Rinaldi Win 14s Easter Bowl Titles Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage CA--

Twelve-year-old Sachia Vickery took the gold ball at the 12s Spring Nationals in her home state of Florida last year. This year she moved west to California and stepped up to the 14s, but again took top honors, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over top seed Kyle McPhillips on a hot, cloudless Coachella Valley day.

Vickery, a No. 17 seed, took a 4-1 first-set lead over McPhillips, whose unforced error count in the first set might have exceeded the total in her previous six straight-set wins. McPhillips, from Willoughby, Ohio, saw her first serve desert her, and it wasn't until she was down 4-1 in the second set that she held for the second time.

"Sometimes I didn't get my first serve in even once in a game," said McPhillips. "It was really off. My second serve held up, but my first serve was bad."

Vickery, who is from Miramar, Florida and now trains at IMG/Bollettieri's, took advantage, and moved out to a 4-0 lead in the second set. But McPhillips fought back to even the second set, and Vickery admitted that her lack of concentration may have contributed to that.

"I was thinking, am I going to win Easter Bowl, or just be a finalist, or am I going to frame the next ball?" she joked. "I just took a minute, recuperated, and started playing like I did in the first set. I don't think I was taking enough time during the breaks, I was kind of rushing."

After slowing herself down, Vickery played a strong service game that gave her a 5-4 lead. McPhillips was serving to stay in the match, but at 15-30 she missed an overhead to give Vickery her first championship point. The final rally ended with McPhillips hitting a forehand long, and Vickery had a gold ball to go with her gold Maria Sharapova Prince racquet bag.

"She played good," said McPhillips, who will be representing the United States in World Junior Competition qualifying in Canada next month. "She didn't make many errors and she's a good player."

Vickery was pleased with her performance and with the Easter Bowl title.

"I'm really happy right now, and I know my mom is really happy--she was screaming on the phone," Vickery said. "I feel great being the youngest person in the tournament and being able to win."

Top seed Michael Rinaldi completed the Floridian sweep of the 14s when he defeated No. 5 seed John Harrison Richmond of Pawley's Island, S.C. 6-3, 6-2.

Rinaldi had difficulty with his first serve in the first, which helped the left-handed Richmond get several looks at break points in the first four games. But Richmond was broken after a multi-deuce game at 2-2, and had difficulty holding after that.

"Sometimes my serve let me down, but it won me the match," said Rinaldi, who is the nephew of former WTA star Kathy Rinaldi. "I got a lot of free points off first serves."

Rinaldi, who will be 15 in October, displayed a bit more depth and pace than Richmond, who may have been feeling the effects of his previous three three-set matches.

"I felt fine, fresh going in, and I thought I had a lot of chances in the first set, even the second set, that I did not capitalize on," said Richmond, who goes by Harrison, rather than John. "It (the three-setters) may have had something to do with it, it's a long tournament, but he played better and he deserves it."

Rinaldi didn't have much time to celebrate, as he was due on the court in a few hours for the doubles final. He and partner Trey Strobel, the No. 2 seeds, lost to the No. 6 seeded team of Andrew Korinek and Michael Riechmann 6-1, 7-6(3).

The girls 14s doubles championship went to Julia Jones and Blair Shankle, the No. 3 seeds. They defeated the No. 4 seeded team of Ashley Dai and Valerie Thong 6-3, 6-2.

The 16s finals will be played Sunday. No. 8 seed Jack Sock meets No. 2 seed Clay Thompson for the boys title. Sock defeated Joshua Tchan, the No. 6 seed, 6-1, 6-3 while Thompson downed No. 14 seed Mitchell Frank 6-0, 6-2. Ellen Tsay, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 8 seed Jennifer Kellner 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the girls final against Sarah Lee. Lee, the No. 12 seed, overcame Mary Ann MacFarlane, a 17 seed, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals.

For complete results, including consolation winners and third place finishers in the 14s, click here for the TennisLink site.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oudin and Embree Reach Girls 18s Easter Bowl Final; 14s Finalists Also Determined on Friday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Top seed Melanie Oudin was an expected finalist in this year's Easter Bowl, while unseeded Lauren Embree knew she would have to take out a lot of good players to advance.

Embree opened the bottom half of the draw for herself, taking out No. 2 seed Mallory Burdette in the first round, then taking out her next three unseeded opponents with the loss of only nine games. But in Friday's semifinal with Aeriel Ellis, who reached the 2006 Easter Bowl final in the 16s, Embree needed all her conserved energy to post a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4 win.

Ellis, also unseeded, packs a wallop despite her small stature, and with her powerful forehand, short balls are put away in a hurry. She also plays a much more high-risk game than Embree, who knew that giving Ellis pace would spell disaster.

"I couldn't give it to her right where she liked it, with pace, in her strike zone," said Embree, 17. "I had to keep mixing it up, go to the forehand, then to the backhand. She ran around her backhand a lot, though, so I really couldn't get it there sometimes."

After Embree took the first set, Ellis took control of the second, running out to a 5-2, two-break lead on the strength of her winners. Ellis, playing in only her second tournament since coming back from an injury, couldn't hold that lead, but did hold at 5-6 to force a tiebreaker. It took her three set points to finish it, but when Embree sent a backhand wide, the match was even.

The third set featured seven breaks and only three holds of serve, but Embree got the crucial one, serving at 5-4. At 30-30, Ellis had control of the point, with a routine putaway at the net, but she missed the forehand volley long, and Embree had her first match point. A first serve and a wide forehand return, and Embree, the 2005 14s Easter Bowl champion, had reached another Easter Bowl final.

In the other girls semifinal, Oudin and McHale engaged in a hard-hitting groundstroke battle that Oudin took 6-4, 6-1. In contrast to the Embree-Ellis match, there was only one break of serve in the first set, with Oudin getting it at 3-3.

"I never got broken in the whole match," said Oudin, who had beaten McHale 1 and love on her way to the 2007 Orange Bowl finals. "I actually served really well today. I think I had three aces, and I got a lot of free points on my serve."

McHale, who turns 16 next month, also served well, but was facing an uphill battle with so few opportunities to break.

"I was pretty confident the whole match," said Oudin, who on Saturday will be seeking her fifth ITF Grade 1 title since last September. "I said all I had to do was hold my own serve and look to break her, and it ended up working."

Embree and Oudin last met in the 2007 Spring National Championships in Mobile with Oudin winning 6-0, 6-0, a result that Embree says she "pretend[s] never happened." The conditions will certainly be different, as it was a cool spring day in Mobile, and it is expected to be in the upper 90s in Rancho Mirage on Saturday. Oudin said that beating someone badly in a previous meeting has a downside for her as well.

"They have nothing to lose," said Oudin. "They say, I lost 1 and 0 or whatever, so this time I'm just going to go for it."

That was the scenario that No. 4 seed Chase Buchanan faced against No. 12 seed Alex Domijan in a Friday boys 18s quarterfinal, as Buchanan had won their previous two meetings in Grade 1 events in straight sets. It started out the same way, with Buchanan taking the first set, but Domijan challenged him in the second before Buchanan reasserted control in a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

Buchanan's backhand was his chief weapon, but he also pulled off a couple of backhand volley winners that had the small crowd around the stadium court voicing "wows" and shaking their heads in disbelief. As the match neared the end, Buchanan even kept a point going with a "tweener," although it happened so quickly that most of the spectators weren't sure what they had seen.

Buchanan will face another of his Boca Raton roommates in the semifinals, as he did with Jarmere Jenkins last week in Carson. No. 16 seed Frank Carleton, who also trains at the USTA High Performance Center in Boca, followed his upset Thursday over top seed Bradley Klahn with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 10 seed Harry Fowler.

In the other boys 18s semifinal, No. 3 seed Tennys Sandgren will meet No. 13 seed Alex Llompart. Sandgren advanced when No. 8 seed Evan King had to retire with a shoulder injury trailing 6-2. Llompart beat No. 11 seed Mateusz Kecki 6-2, 6-0, and Kecki was treated by a trainer during the second set.

The 14s finalists were also determined on Friday, and two of the matches took up the bulk of the day on court two. Sachia Vickery, a 17 seed, overcame the pain of blowing a 5-1 lead in the first set tiebreaker to take a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Julia Vrabel. Vickery and top seed Kyle McPhillips will meet for the title on Saturday. McPhillips downed No. 13 seed Ronit Yurovsky 6-4, 6-1.

In the day's second match on court 2, No. 5 seed John Richmond made his third consecutive recovery from an opening set loss to defeat unseeded Austin Smith 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1. Vying with Richmond for the title on Saturday will be top seed Michael Rinaldi, who downed No. 6 seed Reo Asami 6-1, 6-3 on Friday.

In the girls 18s doubles, No. 1 seeds Mallory Burdette and Sloane Stephens will face No. 2 seeds Shinann Featherston and Lauren McHale.

The boys 14s doubles finalists are No. 2 seeds Michael Rinaldi and Trey Strobel and No. 6 seeds Andrew Korinek and Michael Riechmann. The girls 14s championship in doubles will feature No. 3 seeds Julia Jones and Blair Shankle and No. 4 seeds Ashley Dai and Valerie E. Thong.

For complete results for the 18s, click here. For complete results for the 14s and 16s, click here.

For additional Easter Bowl coverage, visit Core Tennis and usta.com.

Easter Bowl Video: Chase Buchanan

This short video is match point in Buchanan's 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 quarterfinal victory over Alex Domijan.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Carleton Upsets Klahn; McHale Outlasts Gibbs at Easter Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Frank Carleton was coming off a stress fracture and in his first tournament back, the International Spring Championships in Carson last week, he lost in the first round. His expectations weren't high for the Easter Bowl, but in Thursday's third round the 17-year-old from Naples had one of his biggest wins, taking down top seed and International Spring winner Bradley Klahn 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

"I was definitely fresh coming into the tournament," Carleton joked. "I am not mentally or physically fatigued. I'm moving well and playing solid."

Carleton, who had battled back from a 4-1 third-set deficit in his second round match Wednesday, was down 2-0 in the third set against Klahn, but the 16th seed kept his composure, which hasn't always been the case in the past.

"It's definitely something I've been working on a lot," said Carleton. "It doesn't help and it just wastes energy. When I'm in a tough match like this I definitely don't want to do that."

With warm temperatures and barely a whisper of a breeze, the afternoon conditions were challenging for both players as the third set got underway. Carleton got up a break, but serving at 4-3, he was broken, and Klahn held easily to move to within a game of victory. Carleton steadied himself, holding for 5-5, and in the next game, Klahn had two game points, but each time, Carleton's backhand came through, once on a serve return, and once on a clean down-the-line winner. After the fifth deuce and a backhand wide, Klahn faced another break point. His first serve had pace and depth, but it came back off Carleton's racket even faster, and Klahn's backhand went just deep to give Carleton the 6-5 lead.

Carleton went down 0-30 in the next game, but an ace and a Klahn backhand error brought him even. Carleton then hit a volley winner to earn his first match point, and he had only one thought in mind.

"I just thought I had to make my first serve," Carleton said. "I've got to make my first serve and I'm in good territory." He did, and when Klahn's return didn't make it over the net, Carleton was pleased and relieved. "I was kind of cramping at the end, so it was good that it ended without a long point."

Carleton's opponent in Friday's quarterfinal match is No. 10 seed Harry Fowler, who also had a draining three-set win, defeating Daniel Nguyen 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

The girls are through to the semifinals, and only one of the four quarterfinals on Thursday went to three sets. Christina McHale, the No. 15 seed, dropped the first set to Nicole Gibbs, easily won the second, then held on for dear life in the third to take a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 decision.

Up 5-0 in the third set, and playing near-perfect tennis, McHale failed to put away the feisty Gibbs serving for the match at 5-0 and 5-2, and when Gibbs picked up her level of play, cracking a forehand winner to make it 5-4, an improbable comeback seemed almost inevitable.

With McHale trying to end it for the third time on her serve, she executed a confident forehand putaway for 40-30, but two forehand errors, which produced an "oh my gosh" from the usually serene 15-year-old, gave Gibbs a point for 5-5. But another forehand putaway by McHale brought it back to deuce and on the next point, a long groundstroke rally that featured pace and depth from both girls, Gibbs tried to change the pace with a slice but failed to control it, giving McHale another chance to end it. After Gibbs missed a backhand, McHale and her older sister Lauren, who was urging her on throughout the match, could finally relax.

McHale now faces top seed Melanie Oudin, who downed No. 6 seed Nicole Bartnik 6-1, 6-1. The other semifinal will feature Lauren Embree, a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Ester Goldfeld and Aeriel Ellis, who defeated McCall Jones 6-4, 6-4. Neither are seeded.

The boys and girls 14s have also reached the semifinals, and top seeds are still alive in both divisions.

Michael Rinaldi will face No. 6 seed Reo Asami and No. 5 seed John Richmond will meet unseeded Austin Smith.

Girls top seed Kyle McPhillips will take the court against No. 13 seed Ronit Yurovsky and Julie Vrale, the No. 3 seed, takes on Sachie Vickery, a No. 17 seed.

For complete results for the 18s, click here. For complete results for the 14s and 16s,click here.

For complete draws and results for the 16s and 14s,

International Spring Championships Wrap-up

My weekly Tennis Recruiting Network post looks back at the week in Carson, Calif. at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Elortegui Upsets Boys 16s Top Seed Vick; Davis Ousts Top Seed Fuller in Girls 16s Easter Bowl Action

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

The boys 16s provided the bulk of the excitement Wednesday at the Easter Bowl, with third-set tiebreakers deciding three third round matches, including Michael Elortegui's 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) upset of top seed Nelson Vick.

Elortegui, a 17 seed, was leading 5-2 in the third set, but his serve deserted him, and Vick broke back and held for 5-5. When Elortegui, who trains at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, double faulted to open the 11th game, it looked as if he might go quietly, but Vick made a couple of errors and Elortegui held.

Vick connected on his forehand in the next game to send the match to the tiebreaker, and as a small crowd gathered around Court 5, the tension rose as the sun began to set behind the mountains.

At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Elortegui double faulted, giving Vick the chance to serve out the match. After a long rally, Vick pulled Elortegui off the court with a volley and when the floating reply came, Vick had his choice of placement. His backhand volley sailed long, however, and the momentum, as well as two match points, were gone.

"I just made him play it and hope for the best, and he ended up missing," said Elortegui, who also won his first round match in a third set tiebreaker. "It was a great relief and I think it was the turning point right there."

Vick missed a forehand on the next point, giving Elortegui his first match point; when he made his first serve and Vick's backhand returned landed long, Elortegui sank to the court, overcome by emotion.

"Fighting through the nerves, it was just everything," Elortegui said of his response to that final point. "Fighting back after being up 5-2, to 5-5 and continuously fighting."

Elortegui and Vick, who is from Wisconsin, had never played before, but Elortegui was impressed with his opponent's play.

"He's a great player. I definitely wasn't expecting how great he played," said Elortegui. "To be honest, I didn't expect how great I played."

Fourth seed Brian Fang also pulled out a third set tiebreaker in his match to defeat Chidi Gabriel, a 17 seed who had beaten Christian Harrison on Tuesday, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).

"In the first set he didn't miss a forehand," said Fang. "He was hitting winners everywhere. In the second set, I was just grinding, getting everything back, and eventually he missed some."

Early in the third, Gabriel rolled his ankle, but after having it wrapped by the trainer, he continued to play. At 5-4 in the third, Fang was serving for the match, but got "so tight" that he lost his serve at love. Despite a second chance after breaking Gabriel in the next game, Fang again was broken at love, not an ideal way to enter a third set tiebreaker.

"In the tiebreaker he started going after everything because he was cramping," Fang said. "I got more confident, he just started missing everything, and that was match."

Clarke Spinosa, a 17 seed, also advanced to the round of 16 via the nerve-wracking third set tiebreaker route, defeating Nathan Pasha 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).

The girls 16s top seed Kate Fuller was ousted by 17 seed Lauren Davis, a finalist in last year's Easter Bowl 14s, 6-4, 6-4.

Although the score may not suggest it, the match had its share of drama, with Davis taking a 5-2 lead in the second set, before Fuller fought back. After five match points, the two-hour-plus contest was decided, somewhat anticlimatically, by a roving umpire.

At ad-in, Fuller thought she had caught the line for a winner, but Davis called the ball out, and began coming to the net for the handshake. With the wind gusting, Fuller didn't hear the call, and returned to the deuce court position to receive serve. After a conversation between the two girls, which was polite and composed, an official was summoned, and the call stood.

"On the match points I was kind of tense," said Davis, who counts the Easter Bowl as her favorite tournament. "I tried to calm myself down, but I guess it didn't work. I made some stupid errors."

The quarterfinals are set in the girls 18s, and just as it was last week in Carson, the bottom half of the draw is without a seed, assuring an unseeded finalist.

McCall Jones, who lost in qualifying in Carson, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 7-6(5), 7-6(4) win over No. 5 seed Lauren McHale. Also in the quarterfinals is 2005 Easter Bowl 14s champion Lauren Embree, who beat Jones in the finals that year. Last year's 16s champion Nicole Gibbs continued her Rancho Mirage winning streak, taking out No. 7 seed Brooke Bolender 6-3, 6-2, and will face No. 15 seed Christina McHale, who downed fourth seed and 2007 18s finalist Nadja Gilchrist 7-5, 6-2.

There were no upsets Wednesday in boys 18s second round action, and only three unseeded players, two of whom are from Thousand Oaks, Calif., reached the final 16.

For complete draws for the 14s and 16s, click here. For the 18s draws and results,click here.