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Friday, October 31, 2008

ITA Indoor Fields Announced; USTA Names Players Competing in International University Challenge

The ITA website today revealed the players who will be competing in the ITA Indoor next week, and I have to admit, I'm a bit confused by some of the inclusions and omissions. The at-large men selected are Daniel Vallverdu of Miami, Denes Lukacs of Baylor, Austen Childs of Louisville, Andrei Daescu of Oklahoma, JP Smith of Tennessee and Brett Helgeson of Notre Dame. Sanam Singh of Virginia was given the host wild card. To get an at-large bid, you are required to reach the quarterfinals of your regional. All of the above, save for Lukacs, did that and were selected based on their preseason rankings. I'm assuming that Lukacs, the preseason No. 2, received the ITA wild card. Notably absent from the men's field in Virginia will be Florida State's Jean-Yves Aubone, preseason No. 13, who was winning a Futures event during his team's regional qualifying and Dimitar Kutrovsky of Texas, the preseason No. 7. Preseason No. 16 Harel Srugo of UCLA, who received another year of eligibility from the NCAA, did not play this fall.

The women's field includes wild card Jennifer Stevens of Virginia and six others not previously qualified. Csilla Borsanyi of Baylor, Claire Ilcinkas of Cal, Katie Rybakova of Florida State, Megan Falcon of LSU and Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State all fit that quarterfinal, pre-season ranking criteria. Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State does not, so is she the ITA wild card? But at No. 16 in the preseason rankings there were others ahead of her--Lenka Broosova of Baylor, Sanaz Marand of UNC to name two--who were more obvious choices. I'm also stumped by Arkansas's Anouk Tigu being listed in doubles but not singles, when she was a finalist in the region and should have qualified. Maria Sanchez of USC, who won the West regional, is nowhere to be found. Preseason No. 4 Hilary Barte of Stanford would have been the first at-large selection--she made the semis of her regional--but she is not listed, meaning that there are no Stanford women in the field, in singles or doubles. Has the balance of power in the Bay area shifted to Cal, who has three in singles? Northwestern also has three players in the women's singles field, if you are looking for early favorites for the national team titles this winter and spring.

The USTA announced the players competing in December's International University Challenge in France, with All-American champions Michael Venus and Kelcy McKenna leading the teams. Amanda McDowell and Alex Clayton, who were eligible based on their preseason rankings, will not be going, with Amanda Fink and Nate Schnugg taking their spots. The Division III small college champions, John Kauss of Gustavus Adolphus College and Jennifer Kung of the University of Chicago, complete the squads. For more information on the competition and the players, see the ITA website.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October Aces; Kantarian Leaving USTA; Tennis Australia Maintains Status Quo

It's still October, but I decided to put together my aces at the end of the month, instead of the beginning November, and all 16 are available today on The Tennis Recruiting Network.

The big news today was the stepping down of Arlen Kantarian, the CEO of Professional Tennis at the USTA. Kantarian, who recently took control of Elite Player Development, hiring Patrick McEnroe as General Manager, was the face of the US Open this decade, and is being widely praised for the income he has generated for the USTA, primarily from that event. Several prominent tennis journalists have provided detailed accounts beyond the USTA press release. Matt Cronin of Foxsports.com and Tennisreporters.net has sources telling him that it was about money. Richard Pagliaro at Tennis Week mentions the possibility of a rift between the community and professional sectors of the USTA and Kantarian accruing too much power. Bonnie Ford at espn.com doesn't speculate on the reasons for his departure, but details how much Kantarian has changed the sport in his nine years at the helm.

Gordon Smith, the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the USTA since last November, is said by Cronin to have been "at odds" with Kantarian and in the frequently byzantine politics of the USTA, that may have been enough to assure his departure. Smith is the author of a column in the latest issue of Racquet Sports Industry that alludes to financial belt-tightening.

We in the national office need to decrease expenses. We must begin to spend the USTA’s money as if it were coming from our own checking accounts. But that alone is not enough. We can’t ask others to sacrifice until we’ve gotten our act together. And I want to hear from you about what you think we could do better, more efficiently and with less cost.
Maybe this is unrelated to Kantarian's departure, but certainly it sounds the warning that the USTA is feeling the pinch of the economic downturn.

In Australia, there was speculation that Geoff Pollard, the president of Tennis Australia since 1989, might be in trouble in the recent board elections, which would spell the end of the Steve Wood-Craig Tiley regime. But thanks to a mention in On The Baseline website, a great women's professional tennis resource, I learned that Pollard was elected unopposed. Tennis Australia has the entire story here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kandath to Stanford; SoCal High School Tennis; Northwestern Women Have New Assistant

If you went to the Tennis Recruiting Network this morning, you saw that Matt Kandath has chosen Stanford over Duke, Princeton and Virginia for his college tennis. Blue chip Walker Kehrer is also listed as committed to the Cardinal, while Denis Lin and Fillip Pogostkin are also interested, so it looks like another good recruiting year for John Whitlinger.

Kandath is a two-time New York state high school tennis champion, which segues into this story from San Diego's North County Times about the pros and cons of high school tennis in Southern California. The reporter, Scott Bair, centers the story on Gabrielle DeSimone, but he talks with many local high school coaches about the challenges that level of competition presents for nationally ranked players. Unlike college tennis, which will always offer stiffer competition to a junior player, high school tennis can often involve players with much less skill, so the social and community aspects become more important.

2008 ITA National Coach of the Year Claire Pollard of Northwestern announced last week that Jackie Holden, her former doubles partner when they won the NCAA title in 1989 at Mississippi State, will join the Wildcats as assistant coach. Holden, a highly regarded national coach at the LTA for the past three years, replaces Dave Mullins, who accepted the head coaching position at Oklahoma this summer. Pollard's team have won the Big Ten title all ten of the years she has been head coach.

And finally, the ITF Grade 2 in South Carolina is well underway. See the TennisLink site for complete draws.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fields for ITA Indoor Nearly Set after Completion of Regional Play; Aggies Pollock and Krajicek Play Golden Set/Match

The last ITA regional champions were crowned today, with only a few at-large bids remaining to fill the singles draws of 32 at the National Indoor next month in Charlottesville, Va. I'm told the complete fields will be announced on Friday, when, by my calculations, five men and four women who have otherwise not qualified will be extended invitations (there is one more man because the defending champion, Somdev Devvarman, is not eligble to return). It actually may be six men, since Texas A & M's Conor Pollock qualified two different ways.

Here are the regional results and the explanation of other qualifiers:

Regional Women's results:

MIDWEST: Samantha Murray of Northwestern over Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame

EAST: Ragini Acharya of William & Mary over Bianca Aboubakare of Brown

SOUTH: Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia over Marritt Boonstra of Florida

WEST: Maria Sanchez of USC over Alison Ramos of USC

SOUTHEAST: Josipa Bek of Clemson over Laura Gioia of Furman

SOUTHWEST: Nina Munch-Soegaard of TCU over Taylor Ormond of Baylor

CENTRAL: Wiveca Swarting of Nebraska over Anouk Tigu of Arkansas

NORTHWEST: Melanie Gloria of Fresno State over Bojana Bobusic of California

Delia Sescioreanu of Auburn-Montgomery (Small College Champion)
Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas (defending Indoor champion)
One wild card to host UVA

All-American qualifiers:
Kelcy McKenna Arizona St
Fani Chifchieva Auburn
Maria Coussou Cal
Maria Mosolova Northwestern
Laura Vallverdu Miami
Amanda McDowell Georgia Tech
Ani Mijacika Clemson
Georgia Rose Northwestern
Amanda Fink USC (consolation winner)

Regional Men's results:

CENTRAL: Arnau Brugues of Tulsa over Matt Hogan of Arkansas

NORTHEAST: Chris Clayton of Harvard over Bogdan Borta of Columbia

MIDWEST: Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State over Justin Kronauge of Ohio State

MIDEAST: Dom Inglot of Virginia over Cory Parr of Wake Forest

SOUTHEAST: Nate Schnugg of Georgia over Bruno Agnostinelli of Kentucky

MOUNTAIN: Clancy Shields of Boise State over Martin Zimmerman of Denver

SOUTH CENTRAL: Connor Pollock of Texas A&M over Bruno Rosa of Rice

WEST-SOUTH*: Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine over Omar Altmann of Pepperdine

WEST-NORTH*: Alex Clayton of Stanford over Bradley Klahn of Stanford
*Only winner advances from these regionals

Fabio Silva of Fresno Pacific (Small College Champion)

One wild card to host UVA

All-American qualifiers:
Michael Venus LSU
Oleksandr Nedovyesov Okla St
Robert Farah USC
Enrique Olivares East Tennessee St
Conor Pollock Texas A&M
Blake Strode Arkansas
Michael Shabaz Virginia
Steven Moneke Ohio St
Guillermo Gomez Georgia Tech (consolation winner)

There are many new faces. By my count, only nine men and nine women who competed in singles last year have qualified this year. I'll link to the ITA list of all competitors, including doubles, once it is available.

For those of you not familiar with the terminology, a golden set refers to a set in which the victor wins every point. According to Wikipedia, it has happened only once in professional tennis when Bill Scanlon did it back in 1983.

As amazing a feat as that is, Conor Pollock and Austin Krajicek exceeded even that, playing a golden match in the first round of the South Central Regional doubles. Although a college doubles match at the regional level is only one eight-game set, it is hard to imagine winning 32 points in a row. But that's what Pollock and Krajicek did against Prairie View A&M's Jose Garcia and Kudakwashe Nyatoti last week. Pollock and Krajicek went on to win the regional title, beating three different Texas Longhorn teams en route.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oudin Beats Bammer in Quebec; College Showdown Schedule; Carleton Joins Babolat

Melanie Oudin scored the biggest win of her young professional career this evening, downing No. 2 seed Sybille Bammer of Austria 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 at the WTA Bell Challenge in Quebec, a Tier III event. Although Oudin, now ranked 209, had won a WTA main draw match in Indian Wells back in March, beating Maret Ani, then ranked 123, this is by far the highest-ranked opponent she has defeated. Bammer is currently ranked No. 26. For more on this match and others, click here.

The College Showdown schedule has been revised a bit, so click here to see the latest on these one-day events organized by the ITA and USTA to give young players a chance for more competition at low cost. I'm excited that the one I'll be attending this Saturday, in East Lansing, is now coed, so it should be a lively day of tennis. If you live in the area where one is scheduled, please email the coach for information. Weeks of advance planning is not necessary. The cost is only $10 or so, making it a real bargain now that indoor court time season is upon us in the Northern half of the country.

Jackie Carleton, who was previously employed as the Adidas junior rep, is now working for Babolat. The release, which can be found here, also announces the promotion of Seth McKinley to Sports Marketing Manager for the Americas and Australia. Carleton's two younger brothers, Reid and Frank, will be teammates at Duke in the fall of 2009.

I recently spoke with Matt Kandath, who has made his college decision. Look for the announcement Wednesday at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

State High School Tennis in Midwest; Glatch Takes Second Straight $50,000 Challenger in Canada

The high school tennis season in the Midwest culminates in the state championships this time of year, and I've located four stories detailing results in Illinois and Ohio, which contests its girls championships in the fall, and Michigan and Indiana, which have boys championships this time of year.

Elizabeth Epstein of Chicago won her second straight state title defeating Nida Hamilton in the final. It was an exceptionally strong field in Illinois this year, featuring blue chips Rachael White, Courtney Dolehide, Kristen Dodge and Jasmine Minor, but Epstein triumphed again. The Chicago Tribune had this story on her victory.

I had linked to a story last month about freshmen Kyle McPhillips and Lauren Davis playing high school tennis in Ohio. Davis did win a state championship, in Division II, but McPhillips was upset in the semifinals of Division I and Kara Sherwood won that championship. The complete News-Herald article is here.

In boys action, Aaron Pfister of Grand Blanc won the Division I boys championship in Michigan last weekend, and the Flint Journal followed his quest for the championship, no doubt much sweeter after failing to take a title in the two previous state competitions where he reached the final but lost. And in Indiana, sophomore Nick Chappell capped an undefeated season with a state title, according to this story in the Indianapolis Star.

In pro news, 19-year-old Alexa Glatch won her second consecutive $50,000 event in Canada and the Tennis Canada website immediately posted this account. The downside for Glatch (a double downside for the finals loser, Alberta Brianti of Italy) is having to give up a qualifying spot in the Bell Challenger, the WTA event in Canada that started this weekend.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hagedorn Back on Court, Sacks Leaves USC, Smith & Begley Win El Paso, Little Mo Results

Marc Lucero, a fellow contributor to The Tennis Recruiting Network, sent me a link to this San Diego Union-Tribune story on University of San Diego coach Tom Hagedorn, who was gravely ill with leukemia last year. Today's news that Frederico Luzzi of Italy, a former ATP top 100 player who was only 28 years old, died suddenly of the disease after taking ill only last weekend, makes Hagedorn's recovery story even more miraculous.

There was other, less weighty, news from Southern California this week, with the word that Gary Sacks has left USC. A participant at the All-American just two weeks ago, Sacks is striking out on the pro tour.

The ITF Grade 5 in El Paso finished today, with unseeded Connor Smith of Florida winning the boys event and No. 2 seed Elizabeth Begley of Texas taking the girls title. For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

And while I was in my final weekend in Tulsa, the Little Mo national tournament was held in Austin, Texas. For 8, 9, 10 and 11 year olds, the competition is a look at the future stars of the junior tennis circuit. The winners are (seeding in parenthesis):
Boys 8s---Perry Gregg
Girls 8s--Alyvia Jones (1)
Boys 9s---Noah Schachter (1)
Girls 9s--Ryan Peus
Boys 10s--William Blumberg (2)
Girls 10s-Sofia Kenin (2)
Boys 11s--Grayson Broadus (1)
Girls 11s-Carolyn Xie (2)

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Horror Show" in British Junior Tennis; Broadys Say No to LTA Funding

Just how much more important the sport of tennis is in Great Britain than here in the U.S. is illustrated by these three recently published newspaper stories about junior tennis and its governing body.

The first, with a rather sensational tabloid-style headline from the respectable Independent of "Junior tennis serves up a horror show" is a discussion, prompted by the comments of former British greats Annabel Croft and Jo Durie, of the pressure and misbehavior that accompanies junior tennis matches in that country. I can't dispute anything that any of the quoted people have to say--I've witnessed blatant cheating and unbecoming behavior by parents and children (although little I would classify as violent); I agree that there needs to be more supervision (which means more money spent), especially at the younger ages, and I also agree that this is hardly an issue confined to junior tennis. But tennis's one-on-one nature does contribute to the ugliness, just as it plays a major role in the sport's appeal. Croft describes her daughter's decision to quit junior tennis, saying:

"I think my daughter just wasn't cut out for it; she's incredibly laid back. Either you're cut out for it or you're not – if you're rather sensitive it's not really for you."

Again, I agree, but it only serves to enhance my admiration for those young players who do continue, who take the best from it, reject the worst, and emerge wiser without surrendering their integrity.

The other story, brought to light by Neil Harman of the Times, in his must-read weekly column, details the history and consequences of the rift between the Broadys and the LTA. Liam, the 14-year-old Les Petit As finalist, and his older sister Naomi, a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon Juniors this year, are not accepting funding from the LTA. The Daily Mail also had coverage of this spat.

As for the U.S., I'm still awaiting any newspaper or magazine mention of the major changes at the USTA, which now include the naming of Ola Malmqvist as head of women's tennis, and Jay Berger as head of men's tennis.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pan-American Wrap; Koz at the U.S. Open; Georgia Bulldog Update

My weekly story for the Tennis Recruiting Network is a wrap-up of the ITF B1 Pan-American Closed, and although it is the biggest ITF tournament in the U.S. until the Grade 1 Eddie Herr in December, there are three U.S. events in between--the El Paso Grade 5 going on now, the Grade 2 in South Carolina next week and the Grade 4 at the Evert Academy the following week. The acceptances for those two are available here, and as of now, the South Carolina tournament looks to have a girls field equal to, if not better, than Tulsa.

Dave Kozlowski, a/k/a the Koz, was at the U.S. Open last month and his show, which includes brief interviews with Madison Brengle, CoCo Vandeweghe, Melanie Oudin, Devin Britton and Grigor Dimitrov, as well as Patrick McEnroe and Paul Roetert of USTA High Performance, can be watched online at indietennis.com.

It was confirmed in Tulsa that Matt Reid will not be joining the Georgia Bulldogs in January, as he has decided to pursue the professional path instead. He was a semifinalist in a $10,000 tournament in Australia last week, and has reached the quarterfinals of this week's Australian Futures, as has 16-year-old Bernard Tomic.

The RedandBlack profiled Georgia's two outstanding additions to the women's team, Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist, in advance of Friday's Regional in Athens. Gullickson is the top seed, based on her performance so far in the fall, but unfortunately Gilchrist is injured and will not play the rest of this year, according to the article.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nike Junior Tour Crowns Champions; Coaching Changes; Capra Defeats Brengle

The Nike Junior Tour is one of the premier international events for 12s and 14s, and this year the finals were held for the first time in the United States, Port St. Lucie Fla., to be specific. Although there were no U.S. players in the four finals, it is an opportunity to become familiar with some of the names that will no doubt surface in the upcoming Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowls.

The boys 14s winner was unseeded Carlos Bautista of Spain, who beat No. 1 seed Kevin Kaczynski of Germany 6-4, 6-4. According to this article on the Nike Junior Tour website, his performance was a surprise to nearly everyone who knew Bautista from European competition. The girls 14s winner was No. 2 seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, a semifinalist at Les Petit As, who beat top seed Petra Uberalova of Slovakia 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-4.

The boys 12s champion is 11-year-old Bollettieri student Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy, who was a semifinalist at last year's Eddie Herr. Quinzi, the No. 1 seed, defeated unseeded Omar Salman of Belgium 6-1, 1-0, ret. inj. The girls 12s winner was unseeded Yan Wang of China, who downed unseeded Virginia Pena of Spain 6-4, 6-3.

A few bits of coaching news to report from my conversations in Tulsa. Pat Harrison will be leaving the John Newcombe Academy in New Braunfels, Texas for the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy beginning next month. The entire family is planning on settling in Bradenton. Ryan is not playing in any of the major junior tournaments in the next few months, however. He has a stress fracture in his back and is not expected to play competitively until next year.

USTA High Performance coach Mark Merklein, who was traveling with James Blake, is back with the juniors, and he was shepherding the 1993 birth year players in Tulsa. Mike Sell was with the 1992s. Whether this is permanent probably depends on the still evolving elite development scene. Jose Higueras and Patrick McEnroe are in Boca Raton now for the twice-yearly coaches meetings. The U.S. is not the only Grand Slam country to lose its head of men's tennis in the past two weeks. Paul Hutchins of Great Britain will vacate his position at the LTA by year's end. Neil Harman of the Times reports on this development, as well as Laura Robson's three-set loss to Iveta Benesova in Luxembourg.

In Augusta today, ITF Pan-American champion Beatrice Capra continued her excellent play, battling past No. 4 seed Madison Brengle 7-6(5), 6-4 in the $25,000 Pro Circuit's first round. Pan-American singles semifinalist and doubles champion Lauren Embree also won, defeating No. 6 seed Agustina Lepore of Argentina, ranked 249th, 6-2, 6-0. The two wild cards played doubles together, but lost, to Brittany Augustine and Tiya Rolle, 3-6, 6-3, 14-12.

For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page on usta.com.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ITA Regional Results; Noble Decides on North Carolina, Krajicek Wins Battle of 2008 Kalamazoo Champions

Although it seems like the Men's All-American just finished, most of the Men's Regionals that will decide the participants in next month's ITA Indoor Championships in Charlottesville were completed yesterday and today. The bulk of the Women's Regionals are late this week. I've come up with a list of those who have qualified in singles to date (assuming that the criteria for selection is the same as last year), with both finalists earning a berth in the draws at the Indoor with two exceptions. There will be at-large selections to fill in the remaining spots in the 32-draw singles.

Regional Men's results:

CENTRAL: Arnau Brugues of Tulsa over Matt Hogan of Arkansas

NORTHEAST: Chris Clayton of Harvard over Bogdan Borta of Columbia

MIDWEST: Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State over Justin Kronauge of Ohio State

MIDEAST: Dom Inglot of Virginia over Cory Parr of Wake Forest

SOUTHEAST: Nate Schnugg of Georgia over Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky

MOUNTAIN: Clancy Shields of Boise State over Martin Zimmerman of Denver

WEST-SOUTH*: Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine over Omar Altmann of Pepperdine

WEST-NORTH*: Alex Clayton of Stanford over Bradley Klahn of Stanford
*Only winner advances from these regionals

Fabio Silva of Fresno Pacific (Small College Champion)

One wild card to host UVA

All-American qualifiers:
Michael Venus LSU
Oleksandr Nedovyesov Okla St
Robert Farah USC
Enrique Olivares East Tennessee St
Conor Pollock Texas A&M
Blake Strode Arkansas
Michael Shabaz Virginia
Steven Moneke Ohio St
Guillermo Gomez Georgia Tech (consolation winner)

Regional Women's results:

Delia Sescioreanu of Auburn-Montgomery (Small College Champion)

CENTRAL: Wiveca Swarting of Nebraska over Anouk Tigu of Arkansas

NORTHWEST: Melanie Gloria of Fresno State over Bojana Bobusic of California

All-American qualifiers:
Kelcy McKenna Arizona St.
Fani Chifchieva Auburn
Maria Coussou Cal
Maria Mosolova Northwestern
Laura Vallverdu Miami
Amanda McDowell Georgia Tech
Ani Mijacika Clemson
Georgia Rose Northwestern
Amanda Fink USC (consolation winner)
Ryan Noble of Fayetteville, NC has announced he will be staying in his home state. McCarton Ackerman talked with Noble about his decision for The Tennis Recruiting Network. In the next few weeks there will be many players making their decisions. I spoke to three of them in Tulsa, and Matt Kandath, Evan King and Bo Seal are still undecided, but plan to make a choice by mid-November.

In first round action today in the $15,000 Pro Circuit event in Mansfield, Texas, 18s Kalamazoo champion Austin Krajicek defeated 16s Kalamazoo champion Jordan Cox (who received a wild card into the main draw) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in what appears to have been a fantastic contest. But Cox, who won the doubles title at the Tulsa ITF with Evan King, did get a win in doubles. He and Devin Britton took out former Texas A&M teammates Brett Joelson and Bryan Wooten, who won the doubles title in last week's Pro Circuit event in Louisiana, 6-3, 6-4.

In first round action at the $25,000 women's event in Augusta, Ga., CoCo Vandeweghe, who qualified, repeated her US Open Junior finals win, taking out Gabriela Paz of Venezuela 6-3, 6-3.

For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Aubone, Hardenbergh win Pro Circuit Titles; Robson Makes WTA Debut Tuesday

After 23 days in Tulsa this year, I'm certainly feeling comfortable there, but it's good to back in Kalamazoo, even with rain dampening the spirits and bringing down the dramatically colored leaves. I've got a lot of news to catch up on, so stay tuned this week as I work through it all.

Jean-Yves Aubone of Florida State won his second Pro Circuit title Sunday in Louisiana, a $15,000 level event, and I think it clearly demonstrates the level of men's Division I tennis. Aubone, a junior who was ranked 13th in the preseason, lost in the third round of the All-American in Tulsa, to Robert Farah of USC. The following week he wins a pro event over what I would consider a typical field in the U.S. when there is a challenger also on the schedule. If you are playing D-I tennis in a major conference, you are facing competition as least as strong as most $10,000 Futures. Whatever the arguments against college, the level of competition isn't one of them. The Florida State athletic website has this story on Aubone's victory.

Another college website was called into action as qualifier Lindsey Hardenbergh, who is just beginning her college career at Virginia, won the $10,000 event in St. Louis Sunday. The field wasn't particularly strong due to the $50,000 in Lawrenceville and the Pan-American ITF in Tulsa, but even so, Hardenbergh has to be considered a surprise winner. A five-star, not a blue chip, on The Tennis Recruiting Network, Hardenberg failed to win a match in Mobile at the Spring Nationals and at the Hard Courts in Berkeley this summer, but she certainly stepped up her game last week. See this story on the Virginia Cavalier website for more.

See the Pro Circuit page at usta.com for complete draws.

Last week Jacqueline Cako won the Southlake, Texas Pro Circuit $10,000 event, beating Ashley Weinhold in the final. Although she downed one Vanderbilt grad in Texas, Amanda Taylor, Cako couldn't get by another in St. Louis, where Taka Bertrand beat her in the first round. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram covered the tournament, and posted this story on Cako's win, and her plans for the future. It's interesting that she's considering Vanderbilt among her choices for college, if she goes.

Laura Robson plans don't include college, at least not college tennis, as she signed with Octagon several years ago, but the 14-year-old Wimbledon girls champion, now ranked in the 500s on the WTA computers after the obligatory three events, will no doubt get some vocational training in Luxembourg on Tuesday, when she plays in her first tour event. Amelie Mauresmo, a former Wimbledon girls champion, has some advice for Robson in this story by the Telegraph, as does Annabel Croft, the last British girls Wimbledon champion, in this story that appeared in the Times.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

ITF Pan-American B1 Slide Show

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Domijan and Capra Take Pan-American Titles

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

Double digit seeds Alex Domijan and Beatrice Capra took their first ITF Grade 1 titles Saturday on another calm and crystal clear day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus.

Domijan, seeded No. 12, outlasted No. 4 seed Ryan Lipman 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in a well-played match that featured an intriguing contrast of styles, while Capra, the tenth seed, trumped No. 1 Pamela Montez of Mexico 7-6(2), 6-2.

Lipman, who woke up with a sore throat and headache, suffered a heavy fall in the third game of the first set, tweaking his knee, and seemed slightly off his game during the remainder of the set, which quickly went to Domijan.

When the 6-foot-6 Floridian took a 3-1 lead in the second, there was no question who controlled the match, when all of a sudden, Domijan went off the boil and Lipman heated up.

Domijan was broken at love to immediately give back the break, Lipman held at love for 3-3 and in the four consecutive games that Lipman won in that stretch, he dropped only two points. With his forehand the go-to shot from the baseline, Lipman volleyed well and finished any high or short balls with easy putaways. Domijan missed an overhead during that four game stretch, a rare occurrence, and even more rare, dropped his racquet in disgust at his play during that run. The usually placid 17-year-old could be heard muttering to himself between points by the few spectators in attendance.

"I don't feel like we both played well at the same time," Domijan said. "It was up and down. I was up and he was down and vice versa."

After Lipman closed out the second set, he was the player with the momentum, but after Domijan held in the first game, Lipman was broken in a four deuce game, when Domijan found the range on a couple of passing shots. But Lipman broke back and pulled even, only to miss two crucial volleys serving at 3-4 that contributed to the break.

"I was real positive after I got the break back," said Lipman, who turned 18 this month. "But then I made three or four unforced errors and kind of handed it to him. It was kind of frustrating to go out like that."

Lipman's strategy was to bring Domijan into the net, but the results were mixed as Domijan acquitted himself well when drawn forward. Domijan admitted that he rarely comes in of his own volition, and yet Lipman, who is much more comfortable there, complimented his opponent on his composure.

"He executed his shots well at the net," said Lipman.

The confidence that Domijan felt was evident when serving out the match, as he made two nice pickups coming forward, one off a drop shot that he stroked by Lipman for a winner. Domijan's forehand, always a fearsome shot, also contributed, the last one handcuffing Lipman at the net on match point.

For Domijan, it was a welcome result.

"It's good to win any tournament. I haven't won a tournament in a long time," Domijan said. "I've been in a couple finals--in the Futures (final in June) I was kind of unlucky because I played Devvarman--but it's good to win any tournament."

Beatrice Capra, known as Trice (pronounced Treecee) to her friends, would agree to that. Although she has won several doubles titles on the Pro and Junior Circuits, getting that final win in singles has been difficult.

"I'm really happy I was able to close this one out," said Capra, who lost in both the ITF Grass Court and USTA Clay Court finals this summer. "I don't think I ever really had the confidence to actually close it out. But throughout this tournament I felt I was playing really well, and when I was beating those girls pretty easily (in the first three rounds), it pumped me up."

Capra got off to a good start, going up 4-1, but Montez came back to even the first set at 4-4. A series of four consecutive breaks led to the tiebreaker, where the string of failing to hold serve continued for Montez, who lost all four points she served to give a relieved Capra the set, 7 points to 2.

"When I got up 4-1, I was like, oh my god, I could actually win the tournament," Capra said. "I started thinking about all this other stuff when I should have been focusing just on the points. I got really tight, but I was happy I was able to close it out."

An hour and 45 minutes after the match had begun, Capra and Montez were only midway through the second set, but the end came relatively quickly when Capra held for a 4-2 lead. Montez, who uses the drop shot as a major weapon, continued to employ it against Capra, who was by now expecting it after seeing it often in the first set. Running down each one and usually responding with an excellent version of her own, Capra broke Montez at love and played superb defense in the final game to capture the win.

Montez admitted that dropping the first set took a psychological toll.

"I think I was really bummed about the first set," said Montez, who lives and trains in the Palm Spring, Calif. area. "I had a lot of chances there. Overall it was an okay tournament considering the amount of tennis I've been playing lately. So I'm not completely disappointed."

The day didn't get any better for Lipman and Montez in the doubles, as both dropped those finals too.

As the No. 2 seeds, Montez and Cierra Gaytan-Leach were up against the formidable pairing of Jessica Alexander and Lauren Embree, who play together at every opportunity. Seeded No. 6, Alexander and Embree were forced into only one deciding tiebreaker, in the quarterfinals against No. 4 seeds Capra and Alexandra Cercone, and in Saturday's final they secured a 6-3, 6-2 win, The "deciding point" in the no-ad scoring used now in ITF Grade A and Grade 1 tournaments often went to Montez and Gaytan-Leach, but it was usually when they were serving. Alexander and Embree were not broken in the match, a rarity in girls doubles.

"With Jessica we usually always win it because she has such a big serve, and the return we just kind of poach off of," said Embree, who was speaking for her teammate due to Alexander's laryngitis. "I think that's what made the difference, our serving."

In contrast the boys doubles final was filled with breaks, with No. 2 seeds Jordan Cox and Evan King overcoming No. 1 seeds Lipman and Matt Kandath 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 to end the top seeds' nine-match winning streak in Grade 1 competition.

There were ten breaks in the 16 games played in the first two sets, with Cox failing to hold the first three times he served and Lipman 0 for 3 in the second set. In the tiebreaker, that changed, with only one break, against Cox, in the first nine points. Cox got it back, and evened the tiebreaker at 5-5 with a forehand winner, but surrendered the advantage with a forehand error to give Kandath and Lipman a 7-5 lead.

But then the netcord bestowed its blessings on Cox and King, as two consecutive points on Lipman's serve were decided in their favor after the ball caromed off the netcord.

"We got a couple of lucky net cords," said Cox. "A couple in a row really helped us," King agreed. "I have to say that helped out a ton," said Cox. "We just focused on every single point, took it one by one, and got it done," said King.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site. For brief videos of the finals, see the post below.

Pan-American Finals Videos

Friday, October 17, 2008

Domijan Meets Lipman, Capra Faces Montez in Finals of Pan-American B1

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

No. 10 seed Beatrice Capra avenged her loss in this year's 18 Clay Court finals, downing No. 2 seed Lauren Embree 6-4, 6-1 in the most compelling match of the singles semifinals at the ITF Grade B1 Pan-American Championships.

Capra and Embree played four games in the late stages of the first set that were as fiercely contested as they were high in quality. After taking a 3-0 lead to open the match, Capra was in danger of losing her fourth straight game after her 40-0 lead melted away when she was serving at 3-3. Embree won four straight points but could convert on neither of the break points she earned, and Capra took a 4-3 lead with a rare ace.

The six deuce game that followed was filled with punishing groundstrokes, swinging volleys, confident overheads and multiple twenty-stroke rallies, with neither player showing any signs of fatigue or nerves. Embree held for 4-4 and yet another deuce game followed, when Capra dug herself out of a 15-40 hole to take a 5-4 lead. But given the duration of the three previous games, the set ended quickly, with Embree broken after only one deuce, when she made a rare unforced forehand error on Capra's first set point.

Embree was broken at love in the second game of the second set, and although she had two chances to get it back in Capra's next service game, she couldn't seize either opportunity. Capra took a 4-0 lead with yet another break, her fourth straight, and was able to close out the always tenacious Floridian three games later.

"I felt like I was playing a lot more agressive than I was at the Clay Courts, handling her ball a lot better" said Capra, who lost 6-4, 6-2, on a Memphis Sunday as hot and hazy as the Tulsa Friday was crisp and blue. "On clay, she can run down anything, it's like playing a ball machine kind of. On hard courts, I was able to hit a lot more winners."

One of Capra's most effective shots was her overhead, and even though she missed a few, it was important for her to keep Embree on the defensive.

"I was focusing on what I needed to do, attacking the ball," said the 16-year-old Capra, from Ellicott City, Maryland. "I knew if I kept doing that, I was going to be fine. Either way, if I won or lost, it was okay, because I'm improving my game."

Neither Capra nor her opponent in the finals, No. 1 seed Pamela Montez of Mexico, has lost a set in the tournament, but Montez, who easily handled No. 6 seed Sachia Vickery 6-2, 6-1, isn't entirely satisfied with her play this week.

"I've been playing okay, better as the tournament goes along," said Montez, who said she wasn't aware just how young the 13-year-old Vickery was. "I was just more consistent than her, and that was pretty much the main thing, keeping the ball in play."

Vickery again struggled with her serve and even her court speed failed to produce any errors from Montez. The drop shot that Montez has displayed this week would normally not be considered a great tactic against Vickery, but the young Floridian couldn't do anything creative with the ball when she got to it, making errors when retrieving that seemed to spill over into her usually lethal ground game.

Errors also played a major role in No. 4 seed Ryan Lipman's 6-1, 6-0 rout of No. 11 seed Denis Kudla, but not many of them were Lipman's. Kudla failed to hold his serve even once in the first set, while becoming increasingly frustrated by Lipman's high standard of play.

"I think I got under his skin a little bit with the way I played," said Lipman, who needed less than an hour to dispose of the Junior Davis Cup hero and Kalamazoo 16s finalist. "And then he just kind of didn't know what to do, he just kind of fell apart, which helped me a lot."

No. 12 seed Alex Domijan also breezed through his first set with qualifier JT Sundling, jumping out to a 5-1 lead in a matter of minutes. After losing the first set 6-2, Sundling was broken the first two times he served in the second, falling behind 3-0, but he got back in the set with a break of Domijan, at love, in the next game. After holding for 3-2, Sundling had a chance to put pressure on the 6-foot-6 Floridian, but he couldn't sustain any momentum.

"In the second set he started changing and coming into the net," said Domijan, who will play in his second Grade 1 final on Saturday. "He had me at 3-2, it was 0-15, and he kind of fell back a little bit, I thought."

Domijan won the next four points and broke Sundling for the fifth time in the match to take the second set 6-3.

Lipman and Domijan have not played in over three years, but they are well aware of what to expect from each other.

"I imagine he's going to slice everything because I'm so tall" said Domijan. "But if I can handle that, I think I can do pretty well."

"They'll be a pretty good bit of slicing going on," Lipman agreed. "I'll try to mix it up. He does really well side to side, but I don't know how well he does up and back. So we'll find out tomorrow."

Capra and Montez have never played. "I've never even heard of her," said Capra. "I'm just going to wing it tomorrow."

The doubles titles will be decided Saturday, with the top two seeds in the boys reaching the final. Both needed tiebreakers to get there, however; No. 1 Matt Kandath and Lipman won the last four points of their tiebreaker to take a 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 decision from unseeded Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, while No. 2 seeds Jordan Cox and Evan King stopped No. 4 seeds Mauricio Astorga and Jose Gerardo Meza Paniagua of Mexico 6-1, 2-6, 10-2.

No. 2 seeds Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Montez barely survived the unseeded pairing of Ester Goldfeld and Ellen Tsay 6-4, 4-6, 11-9. After trailing 8-5 in the tiebreaker, Gaytan-Leach and Montez won the next four points, but Tsay saved the first match point with a forehand winner in the alley. At 9-9, Montez broke a string early in the point, and Tsay and Goldfeld each hit a shot to her, but Montez somehow controlled two touch volleys to earn her team a second match point, which they converted when Goldfeld netted a backhand. Gaytan-Leach and Montez will face No. 6 seeds Jessica Alexander and Embree, who dispatched No. 7 seeds Kate Fuller and Monica Yajima 6-2, 6-1.

For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kudla Wins Denis Battle in Third Set Tiebreaker; Girls Quarters Decided in Straight Sets at ITF Pan American

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

Straight sets were the rule during the ITF Pan-American B1 quarterfinals, but the exceptions provided ample excitement under the brilliant blue sky over the Michael D. Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa.

No. 11 seed Denis Kudla and unseeded Denis Lin needed a third set tiebreaker to decide their encounter, with Kudla using all the experience he has gained as a Kalamazoo finalist and as the No. 1 player on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup championship team in Mexico to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) victory.

"In Mexico I definitely established that I was able to control my nerves," said the 16-year-old from Fairfax, Va. "It helped me a lot in the third set to hold onto my nerves and depend on my serve."

After Kudla took the second set with a break at 3-4, he faced the precarious position of serving from behind throughout the third, but he held throughout what he called a "definitely tense" situation to force a tiebreaker. Lin had kept his errors to a minimum during the set, and Kudla admitted that Lin just didn't let up. "He never had moments when I had nice easy points--he made me play for every single point."

At one stage, when Kudla's coach voiced an encouraging "C'mon Denis" after a Kudla winner, Lin turned to the coach and good-naturedly informed him that his name was Denis too. Subsequent support from the coach was directed at "Kudla" instead, while Lin had only doubles partner Walker Kehrer as an audience and he refrained from any vocal displays.

In the tiebreaker, Kudla eliminated virtually all errors from his game, while Lin caught the tape several times in their ground stroke exchanges, and on match point sailed a forehand wide, putting Kudla in the semifinals against the highest remaining seed in the draw, No. 4 Ryan Lipman. Lipman downed No. 7 seed Bob van Overbeek 6-3, 6-1, using an effective return to frustrate the 16-year-old from Boca Raton.

The top half of the draw also featured a very tight match, with JT Sundling squeezing by Campbell Johnson 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. At the same time that Lin and Kudla's match was drawing to a close, Johnson was serving at 5-6 in the third set. Down 15-40, Johnson not only fought off those two match points but two more after that, and earned a couple of game points as well, but on his fifth opportunity, Sundling finally put away the determined 16-year-old qualifier.

Sundling, himself a qualifier, will meet No. 12 seed Alex Domijan, who won the battle of the baseline with No. 3 seed Bo Seal 6-2, 6-0.

The top two seeds in the girls draw--No. 1 Pamela Montez and No. 2 Lauren Embree--both posted straight set quarterfinal victories. Montez, from Mexico, used change of pace and an effective drop shot to subdue unseeded Rachel Kahan 6-3, 6-1, while Embree fought past unseeded Monica Turewicz 6-2, 6-3. Embree was down a break point serving a 0-3 in the second, but once she secured that game there was no stopping her, and the 15-year-old left-hander from Illinois couldn't turn the tide back in her favor.

Embree's semifinal opponent will be a familiar one, as she and No. 10 seed Beatrice Capra met for the girls 18s Clay Court title in July, with Embree prevailing 6-4, 6-2. Capra earned another shot at Embree with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Ester Goldfeld. The first set was full of long points and service breaks--six in all--but Goldfeld's backhand let her down in the tiebreaker, allowing to Capra to win the first difficult set she's had in the tournament.

Montez will face No. 6 seed Sachia Vickery, who emerged with her first win over Madison Keys in their last three meetings 6-2, 7-6(3). The much taller Keys was determined to use her height and reach at the net, but Vickery passed extremely well throughout the match and with her speed and anticipation very few volleys from Keys were outright winners. Keys' serve, which is superior to Vickery's, did not prove to be much of an advantage because of the low percentage of first serves she made.

The doubles quarterfinals had their share of excitement too, with three of the four boys matches going to the 10 point tiebreaker. No. 2 seeds Jordan Cox and Evan King escaped with a 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-5 win over unseeded Frank Carleton and Sundling. No. 4 seeds Mauricio Astorga and Jose Gerardo Meza-Paniagua of Mexico downed No. 6 seeds Kudla and Raymond Sarmiento 6-2, 3-6, 10-3. Top seeds Matt Kandath and Lipman saved two match points in their tiebreaker, eking past the unseeded pair of Kehrer and Lin 6-1, 5-7, 13-11. They will play unseeded Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, the only team that had a stress-free semifinal, as they downed No. 5 seeds David Holiner and Tennys Sandgren 6-0, 6-1.

One girls doubles semfinal will feature No. 7 seeds Kate Fuller and Monica Yajima, who took out No. 1 seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Nicole Smith of Canada 6-2, 6-4, against No. 6 seeds Jessica Alexander and Embree, who prevailed in a tiebreaker over No. 4 seeds Capra and Alexandra Cercone. The other semifinal has No. 2 seeds Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Montez taking on unseeded Goldfeld and Ellen Tsay.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

D'Novo ITA All-American Wrap-up

The skies have cleared in Tulsa, so the quarterfinals will be outdoors today, but before they start, I wanted to link to my weekly article for The Tennis Recruiting Network on the just completed D'Novo ITA All-American. While you are there, check out Marc Lucero's story on Kyle McMorrow's college choice and McCarton Ackerman's profile of Kristie Ahn.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Indoor Tennis Suits Southern California Boys Just Fine at Pan-American ITF

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

For the second consecutive day, the six indoor courts at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center saw continuous action when overnight rain in Tulsa again left the outdoor courts unplayable.

But for Campbell Johnson, Denis Lin and JT Sundling, all Southern Californians who have little experience with indoor tennis, it proved no problem. All three advanced to the quarterfinals, with Lin overpowering No. 2 seed Jose Hernandez of the Dominican Republic 6-4, 6-1, while qualifiers Johnson and Sundling will meet each other for a berth in the semifinals.

"This is like the third time I've ever played indoors, and the last couple of times I kind of let it effect me," said Sundling, who defeated No. 8 seed Julien Uriguen of Guatemala 6-3, 7-6(3) after trailing 5-0 in the second set. "I tried not to think about it today. I knew my serve is an advantage indoors, and I ended up playing well."

Sundling admitted that he and Johnson talked about how unlikely it was they would be meeting in the quarterfinals, especially since this is the 16-year-old Johnson's first ITF Grade 1 event, but when Johnson defeated a tiring Ed Nguyen of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, their first duel was set.

"I've know JT for a long time, we're good friends," said Johnson. "He's older, bigger--it's going to be tough to come through. My return will be really important. He serves really well, he's a lefty and his out wide is really big. I'll just have to keep a lot of balls in play and keep it to the backhand as much as possible."

Sundling knows he can't take Johnson lightly.

"He has really good feel, he plays pretty smart," said Sundling. "He's really crafty. But if I go out and play as I have been, I have a pretty good chance of winning."

The other quarterfinal in the top half will put No. 3 Bo Seal, now the highest seed remaining, against No. 12 seed Alex Domijan. Seal, who has been rolling through his first three matches, downed No. 15 seed William Parker 6-1, 6-1, while Domijan avenged his Clay Court semifinal loss to No. 6 seed Evan King 6-3, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Ryan Lipman had no trouble with No. 13 seed Mauricio Astorga of Mexico, taking a 6-0, 6-3 decision to set up a quarterfinal encounter with No. 7 seed Bob Van Overbeek, the only quarterfinal that developed as predicted. Van Overbeek prevailed in a lengthy struggle with No. 11 seed Matt Kandath 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-2.

The fourth quarterfinal will feature Denis vs. Denis, as the unseeded Lin takes on No. 11 seed Kudla. Kudla ousted No. 5 seed Harry Fowler 6-4, 6-1.

Unlike the boys final eight, the girls quarterfinalists include the top two seeds, with No. 1 Pamela Montez defeating Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-4, 6-3, and No. 2 Lauren Embree downing Blair Shankle 6-2, 6-4. Next up for Montez will be 16-year-old Rachel Kahan, who beat her second seed in a row, taking out No. 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-4, 6-1. Embree's quarterfinal opponent is unseeded Monica Turewicz, who earned her spot with a 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 8 seed Monica Yajima.

Although she is seeded only 10th, Beatrice Capra has posted the most impressive results this week, losing only two games in three matches. In today's third round, No. 5 seed Monica Puig was unable to get a game from Capra, who is fresh from a Pro Circuit doubles championship in Southlake Texas last week. Capra's quarterfinal opponent is No. 3 seed Ester Goldfeld, who beat unseeded Fidan Manashirova 6-4, 6-4.

And the last girls quarterfinal is yet another battle between Madison Keys and Sachia Vickery, who have already established a formidable rivalry although both are only 13 years old. The unseeded Keys earned her quarterfinal berth with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Breaunna Addison, while No. 6 seed Vickery prevailed in the only three setter in the girls draw Wednesday, taking out No. 9 seed Gina Suarez 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-0. Keys and Vickery met in the Eddie Herr 12s final last year, with Keys winning a grueling battle in three sets and it was Keys again emerging the winner in three sets when the two girls played in the third round of the Junior Orange Bowl a few weeks later.

The doubles have also progressed to the quarterfinals. The boys second round matches were played indoors, and the top two teams--Kandath and Lipman, No. 1 and Jordan Cox and King, No. 2, easily advanced. The girls played outdoors despite temperatures in the upper 50s and a cold breeze blowing, although three matches had to be brought indoors when it began to rain again late in the afternoon. The top four seeded teams are through, with the No. 1 team of Bouchard and Nicole Smith of Canada needing a ten-point tiebreaker in lieu of a third set to get past Alexandra Leatu and Haley Martin.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Girls Move Indoors for Second Round at ITF Pan-American

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

Wet courts from light rain overnight sent the second round of girls singles indoors Tuesday at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa. The precipitation returned by 3 p.m., but by that time 11 of the 16 boys singles matches had been completed outdoors. One of the matches that wasn't, between Spencer Newman and No. 4 seed Ryan Lipman, was at 3-2 in the third set, and Lipman was relieved to have extended the match to that stage after dropping the first set to the 15-year-old from Florida 6-1.

"He was not nervous at all," said Lipman. "He came out free swinging and I was a little uptight, playing a little dude, a younger guy. I got up early in the first game 30-0, he made a couple of errors and I'm thinking all right...but after that he didn't miss the whole set it seemed like."

Lipman was unable to shake Newman until 3-3 in the second set, when he began to take more control of the points, to earn the second set by a score of 6-3.

"I picked up the tempo, started hitting through the ball and that helped me a lot," said Lipman. "I was just massaging it and he was dictating, and he was killing me doing that."

When the match moved indoors, Lipman was up a break, and looking much more relaxed than Newman, the 18-year-old from Nashville won the last three games for the 6-2 third set. Although Lipman said he prefers to come into a tournament as an underdog, he acknowledged that mindset wasn't going to work in his match against Newman.

"I can't really be an underdog when I'm playing a little guy who's three years younger than me," said Lipman, who won the last U.S. ITF, a Grade 4 in Atlanta. "I'm one of the oldest kids in the tournament, which is weird, because two years ago I was one of the youngest guys."

In the round of 16, Lipman will also be the favorite against No. 13 seed Maurico Astorga of Mexico, who also needed three sets to down a younger opponent in a match finishing indoors, defeating 15-year-old Jeremy Efferding 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

The other seeded players in the top half advanced as expected, with Denis Lin the only unseeded player getting through to the third round. In the bottom half, three unseeded boys remain, and two will play each other in the third round, with Canadian Edward Nguyen, who had upset No. 1 Tennys Sandgren in the first round, taking on Campbell Johnson. Qualifier JT Sundling prevailed over No. 9 seed Jordan Cox 6-4, 7-6(3), staying calm despite letting three match points slip away serving at 6-5, 40-0 in the second set. Sundling faces No. 8 seed Julien Uriguen of Guatemala, who won the last 11 games of the match after trailing Junior Ore 5-2 in the first set in a 7-5, 6-0 victory.

No. 15 seed William Parker squeaked by Brian Fang 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6) in the only match of the day decided by a third set tiebreaker, and will meet No. 3 seed Bo Seal, who had the opposite experience in his second round match, beating Shane Vinsant 6-0, 6-1.

In the second round of girls singles, the 13-year-olds from Florida continued to roll, with Madison Keys, No. 6 seed Sachia Vickery and Breaunna Addison all advancing. One is guaranteed to lose in the third round however, as the unseeded Keys and Addison meet each other for a quarterfinal berth.

Chanelle Van Nguyen had no trouble with No. 13 Kerrie Cartwright of the Bahamas in a 6-2, 6-2 win, and Rachel Kahan fought past No. 12 seed Khristina Blajkevitch of Canada 7-6(5), 6-2 in a match that featured such tremendous groundstroke pace from both players that the sound echoed throughout the indoor facility.

Two more seeds fell in the bottom half with No. 14 seed Alexandra Cercone losing to 14-year-old Blair Shankle 6-2, 6-1 and No. 15 seed C.C. Sardinha on the wrong side of a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 decision with Fidan Manashirova.

The first round of girls doubles was played indoors Tuesday evening, and with more rain in the forecast on Wednesday, the possibility exists for more indoor matches, which unfortunately, doesn't allow for good photos.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nguyen Upsets Top Seed Sandgren at ITF Pan-American

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

The opening day of the ITF Pan-American action was barely two hours old when the first huge upset was recorded as 14-year-old Canadian Edward Nguyen came back to defeat No. 1 seed Tennys Sandgren 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Sandgren had not played since the U.S. Open junior championships, giving his aching knees a rest, but at the start of the match, played under overcast skies, he seemed to show no signs of rust, handily taking the opening set. But Nguyen's confidence grew, and the reigning Les Petit As champion began to believe he could pull off the upset.

"In the beginning I was kind of tight, I was missing some easy shots here and there, but in the second and third I got it together," said Nguyen, who had lost his only other ITF Grade 1 match 6-0, 6-0 as a wild card in August's Canadian Open.

"I was trying to be more consistent, open up the court and try to get into the net as much as possible."

The boys draw featured several outstanding or unfortunate first round encounters, depending on your point of view, and one of them, between No. 11 seed Denis Kudla and unseeded Nathan Pasha, certainly lived up to its billing. After splitting sets, with Kudla taking the first 6-4 and Pasha the second 7-5, the third was decided when Pasha was broken serving at 3-4. At 30-all Kudla didn't hit an overhead cleanly, but it found the court and when Pasha'a backhand sailed long on the next point, the match was on Kudla's racquet. The U.S.A's No. 1 Junior Davis Cup player, who clinched the title last month in Mexico, showed no sign of nerves in the final game, taking it at love to move into the second round.

In another highly competitive match, Sean Berman saved three match points in a third set tiebreaker to down Dennis Novikov 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Novikov was up 6-3 but fell victim to his own unforced errors as Berman won the final five points of the match.

In addition to Sandgren, seeded boys losing Monday were No. 14 seed Jose Gerard Meza Paniaqua of Mexico, who was defeated by Aaron May 7-5, 2-6, 7-5, and No. 16 seed Frank Carleton, who lost to Salvador Lopez of Mexico 6-3, 6-3.

The girls first round, which wasn't completed until after 8 p.m. Monday evening, featured one major upset, with 13-year-old Breaunna Addison eliminating No. 4 seed Nicole Smith of Canada. There were many lengthy rallies in the contest, but it was the less experienced Addison who fought through for a 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Another 13-year-old that battled into the second round was Madison Keys, who took a 7-6(1), 2-6, 6-4 decision from Jasmine Minor. The third of the 13-year-old Americans to win, Sachia Vickery, had a much easier time of it, taking out Andrea Tabachnik of Mexico 6-0, 6-1 despite giving up nearly a foot in height to the 16-year-old.

Aside from Smith, the only other girls seed to fall was No. 11 Marianne Jodion of Canada, who lost to Monica Turewicz 6-1, 6-2.

(If no country is given, please assume that the player named is from the U.S.).

With rain in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, the first round of doubles was also scheduled for Monday evening.

For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

D'Novo All-American Singles Final Videos

LSU's Venus and Ole Miss Pair Give SEC Sweep of ITA D'Novo All-American

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

The SEC has a reputation for outstanding football teams, but on a breezy Sunday morning in Tulsa, it was tennis adding to the conference glory, with Louisiana State's Michael Venus taking the singles crown and Ole Miss's Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge capturing the doubles title at the ITA D'Novo All-American tournament at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

The unseeded Venus fought through a sore right knee to oust top seed Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Oklahoma State 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-4 in a seesaw affair that was remarkably well played given the gusty conditions.

After failing to hold on to a 3-0 lead in the first set, Venus managed to earn the one-set advantage when Nedovyesov missed a routine backhand at 4-5 in the tiebreaker, giving Venus to set points. Nedovyesov saved one with a volley winner, but Venus kicked a service winner past the junior from Ukraine, and celebrated with a quiet but intense fist pump.

"With the wind behind me on my serve I was able to kick some up so they would get up high," said Venus, who became LSU's first All-American champion with the victory. "I tried to use it as more of an advantage, rather than looking at it as a hazard. I wanted to play my game, just bring it, not go so close to the lines."

Down 2-0 in the second set, Venus began limping a bit and favoring his right knee, which was encased in an elastic brace. Although Venus is not a counterpuncher who relies on speed, he does need the mobility to run around to hit his lethal forehand, and when he was unable to do that Nedovyesov took full advantage, breaking Venus three times, the last of which gave him the set 6-2.

Venus called for a trainer at that stage and there was some doubt among the several hundred spectators as to whether he would continue, but Venus credited medication and assistant coach Danny Bryan with helping him fight through the final set.

"My knee was really hurting me, I really couldn't feel the lower part of my right leg," Venus said. "I took some Celebrex and Danny was talking to me about how hard I've worked and to give it everything I had for three games, and I could have some time off afterwards."

Venus gave it everything he had for ten games, but Nedovyesov helped the Tiger's state of mind immensely by dropping his serve in the first game of the final set.

"He had just won the second set and he could see that I was hurt, so maybe he had a little mental lapse there that helped out a lot," Venus said.

Both players held serve until Venus squandered a 30-0 lead serving at 4-3 in the third set, as Nedovyesov reeled off four consecutive points to pull even. But he was immediately broken at love, sealing his fate.

"I kind of lost my concentration there," said Nedovyesov. "And then I play the bad side (against the wind) with him on his forehand and my backhand was not good enough."

Venus's first match point, at 40-30, was a neat synopsis of his game, as he kicked a second serve high to the backhand and punished the short return with a clean forehand winner. But the real improvement in his game could be seen when he lost the service break in the third set but did not erupt or indulge in the anger he often exhibited as a junior.

"I've been working really hard at staying calm, treating every point the same," said Venus, who was born in New Zealand but lived and trained in both Florida and Texas as a teenager. "If you do that, it will take care of itself. Danny was talking to me about that at the change of ends--don't worry about the score, if you get there, you get there, but if you don't, you know you played every point hard, and that's all that you can ask."

That tranquility has resulted in what Venus acknowledges is his biggest win.

"It's pretty cool to win the tournament and you beat the No. 1 player in the nation in the finals....I don't really know what to say about it right now, because it's pretty awesome."

For Nedovyesov, who tasted defeat for the first time this season, there was both disappointment and determination.

"Yes, I'm disappointed, especially since yesterday, I play the best tennis of my life. But I'll try to come back at the National Indoors, try my best there to win it. I'm still No. 1 so far, but I'll need to prove it again."

In the doubles final, the Ole Miss pair of Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge were not the crowd's choice, as it was the Tulsa team of Arnau Brugues and Phil Stevens opposite them, but the experience of the Mississippi seniors made the difference in the 6-4, 6-4 win.

Berg, who was a finalist at both the 2007 All-American and the 2008 NCAAs with Erling Tveit, finally took home a winners trophy in Tulsa.

"I'm very happy to have won, finally," said Berg, who is playing in only his second tournament with ten Berge, a 2008 NCAA semifinalist.

"We're fundamentally good doubles players," said ten Berge. "And we've been here a while, so we know what to do. We have the same idea about the game, so it makes it a lot easier, obviously."

Berg and ten Berge were not broken in the championship match, while it was a break of Stevens in each set that proved the undoing of the Tulsa pair. They had one break opportunity to pull even with ten Berge serving at 2-1 in the second set and another with ten Berge serving at 5-3, but the Mississippi team brushed those chances aside to take the third All-American title in their school's history.

In the consolation finals, for those who lost in the first round, Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech defeated Raony Carvalho of Texas Tech 6-1, 6-4 in singles; the doubles consolation finals went to the Auburn team of Tim Puetz and Alexey Tsyrenov, who beat Rice's Christoph Muller and Bruno Rosa 9-7.

For complete results, see the ITA tournament website.