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Sunday, January 31, 2010

ITA Collegiate Kick-off Weekend Winds Down; Tsuji and Halys Win Les Petits As Titles

I spent the afternoon at the Eck Tennis Center in South Bend, where No. 2 seed North Carolina upended top seed Notre Dame 5-2 to advance to the women's Team Indoor in Madison, Wisc. on February 12th. I will have a detailed account of the match for the Tennis Recruiting Network on Thursday.

Notre Dame was one of the few top seeds/hosts who did not advance; of the 15 women's teams hosting only Fresno State, Arkansas and Notre Dame did not win both their matches this weekend. As a No. 3 seed, Michigan is the lowest seed to advance to Madison, but with their No. 19 ranking, it's difficult to call it a big upset. Their host, Arkansas, the top seed, is ranked 18. (Florida State (2) and Ohio State (4) are playing on the West Coast, and the result is not yet in, so if the Buckeyes pull off another upset, they will be the lowest seed.) The qualifiers are: Duke, Northwestern, Georgia, California, North Carolina, Baylor, Miami (congratulations to NCAA finalist Laura Vallverdu for becoming the all-time leader in wins for the Hurricanes), Georgia Tech, Southern California, Tennessee, Clemson, UCLA, Michigan, Florida.

For the men, there are three finals taking place on Monday: Georgia vs. North Carolina, Baylor vs. TCU and Tennessee vs. South Carolina (the Volunteers website is featuring a live blog). The dozen teams who have already qualified for the men's indoor championship in Charlottesville, Virginia are: Ohio State, Ole Miss, Texas, Stanford, Louisville, Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Southern California, UCLA and Fresno State.

Fresno State, a No. 4 seed, has been the big surprise of the weekend. Ranked 46th coming into the weekend play at College Station, the Bulldogs dismissed No. 12 seed Texas A & M in the first round and today swept Rice, ranked 34th, to advance to Charlottesville. The women's team had the opposite kind of weekend, losing both their first match to No. 4 seed Ohio State, and their consolation match to Virginia.

Marcia Frost's coverage of the Illinois men's event this weekend can be found at her Big Ten Tennis Examiner site.

In Tarbes, the French crowned their first Les Petits As champion since Richard Gasquet in 1999, when unseeded Quentin Halys defeated American Noah Rubin, the 12th seed, 6-1, 6-2 in the final of the 14-and-under event. The girls title went to No. 8 seed Kanami Tsuji of Japan, who defeated No. 6 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. For more on the tournament, see the Les Petits As website.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fernandes, Pliskova Win Australian Junior Championships; Rubin in Les Petits As Final; Fresno State Upsets Texas A&M

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to watch the boys and girls singles finals last night, although it was odd that the ESPN 360 service had replays, hawkeye and closeups (although no commentary) for the boys, but just one camera and not even a microphone on the chair umpire for the girls final. Fernandes' forehand was the major difference in the boys match, I thought, and Pliskova's very impressive serve was the shot that carried her to the title. I wrote a short synopsis of both matches for the New York Times' Straight Sets blog. For the ITF story on the finals, click here. The girls article from the Australian Open website is here, the boys here, and the interview transcripts from the Robson, Pliskova and Fernandes press conferences are here.

The finals are set for Sunday at Les Petits As, and Noah Rubin of the United States will play unseeded Quentin Halys of France for the boys title. Rubin, seeded No. 12, beat No. 16 seed Xander Veys of Belgium 6-4, 7-5 in today's semifinals, while Halys upset No. 2 seed Borna Coric of Croatia 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1. The girls championship match will feature No. 8 seed Kanami Tsuji of Japan against No. 6 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands.

Gabrielle Andrews and Brooke Austin of the U.S. claimed their second major doubles title of the trip, again defeating Americans Alexandra Stiteler and Taylor Townsend in the final, this time by a 6-3, 6-4 score. The boys title went to Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Li Tu. Stitler lost in the finals of the singles consolation draw. For complete results, see the tournament website.

Bad weather throughout much of the Southern half of the country has caused delays in the ITA Kick-off weekend, but there has been a notable upset today, with No. 1 seed Texas A & M losing in College Station to No. 4 seed Fresno State 4-3. For more on that match, see Aggieathletics.com.

For other results, see the ITA tournament page.

Friday, January 29, 2010

AO Junior Final Preview; Rubin Reaches Les Petits As Semis; Quigley Spotlight; Kick-off Weekend Underway

I've previewed tonight's Australian Open girls and boys finals, featuring Laura Robson vs. Karolina Pliskova and Sean Berman vs. Tiago Fernandes for the New York Times' Straight Sets blog. I didn't go into a lot of detail on the Sean Berman situation, but from what I've learned, it appears Tennis Australia(or any Grand Slam host) has the final word on a player's nationality for their particular tournament, although Berman will remain affiliated with the United States in future ITF tournaments until he has been released by the USTA and Tennis Australia has provided the appropriate paperwork to the ITF. The Australian press is calling Berman Australian in headlines, etc., although many are explaining his status, since it's likely that very few Australians were familiar with his name prior to last month's national championships. The Sydney Morning Herald had this story on Berman. For more on his win yesterday over Marton Fucsovics of Hungary, and Fernandes' victory over Gianni Mina of France, see this story on the Australian Open website. The girls semifinal story from the AO website is here.

The boys final begins at 9 p.m. Eastern here in the US, and is being played, as it has been for several years now, in Rod Laver Arena. The girls final follows. At the risk of belaboring the point, this scheduling is much preferred over the simultaneous finals always scheduled at the US Open junior championships. The ESPN 360 schedule does include that time slot, although it does not specifically mention the junior championships. I'll tweet a link if it is available.

Today's action at Les Petits As produced only one American singles winner, with No. 12 seed Noah Rubin advancing to the semifinals with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win over qualifier Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain. Spencer Furman came close to upsetting No. 2 seed Borna Coric of Croatia before suffering a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat. Rubin plays No. 16 seed Xander Veys of Belgium on Saturday.

Wild card Christina Makarova lost to No. 8 seed Kanami Tsuji of Japan by the rather odd scoreline of 6-2, 0-6, 6-0, and Teen Tennis champion and No. 2 seed Gabrielle Andrews was beaten by No. 6 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 7-6(4), 6-4.

Andrews will play for a title however, as she and Brooke Austin will, for the second tournament in a row, face Americans Alexandra Stiteler and Taylor Townsend for the girls doubles championship. Both U.S. teams won semifinal matches in match tiebreakers.

For complete results, see the tournament website.

Kentucky sophomore Eric Quigley is the subject of the usta.com's college spotlight, and he will be in action this weekend, as will many of the top collegians, in the qualifying events for next month's ITA Team Indoor Championships. A few of the sites have begun play today, most are Saturday/Sunday schedules, with a few extending into Monday. See the ITA page for more information. Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be broadcasting from the University of Southern California site, which features men's and women's matches, beginning on Saturday.

For more on the Kick-off weekend, see texascollegetennis.com.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Media Training; Four Americans in Les Petits As Quarterfinals; AO Junior Update

My weekly article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is one I had wanted to write, but until I heard about the media training the USTA had done for the juniors in Boca Raton, I wasn't able to figure out the proper framework. Although I wasn't at the training, the accounts I heard made me wish all juniors could participate in a similar session; for obvious reasons, I have a vested interest in effective communication between players and reporters. The important part is providing the players with an idea of what's expected of them and why, and I hope this article helps do that.

The quarterfinalists have been decided at Les Petits As in Tarbes, France, and the United States has two boys and two girls still vying for the prestigious 14-and-under titles. Top seed Brooke Austin was upset in the second round, but wild card Christina Makarova and Teen Tennis champion Gabrielle Andrews, the second seed, are in the final eight. After her 6-2, 6-1 win today over No. 3 seed Valeria Patiuk of Israel, Makarova plays No. 8 seed Kanami Tsuji of Japan on Friday. Andrews' opponent in the quarterfinals is 2008 Junior Orange Bowl 12s winner Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands, who has won two ITF Grade 4 events already this month. Neither has lost a set this week, so it has the makings of a great match.

On the boys side, Teen Tennis champion and No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov lost in the third round, but unseeded Spencer Furman and No. 12 seed Noah Rubin advanced to quarterfinals with wins today. Rubin, who has lost only seven games in three matches, plays qualifer Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain, while Furman is up against No. 2 seed Borna Coric of Croatia. With top seed Gianluigi Quinzi losing today, Coric is now the favorite for the title.

Neither of the two boys teams is still alive in the doubles, but two girls teams have reached the semifinals. Taylor Townsend and Alexandra Stiteler of the U.S., who lost to Andrews and Austin in the Teen Tennis final, could earn another shot at their teammates if both win on Friday.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

In the Australian Open junior championships, there are some relatively unknown names in the semifinals, especially in the girls draw. Laura Robson, is not, of course, one of the unknowns, and she easily dismissed unseeded American Ester Goldfeld 6-1, 6-0 on Thursday. Qualifier Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who saved match points in her 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 upset of top seed Timea Babos of Hungary on Thursday, will need to beat Robson to record her eighth victory of the tournament. Her twin sister Karolina, the No. 6 seed, has yet to drop a set this week, defeating Eddie Herr champion and No. 3 seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia 6-1, 7-5 Thursday. She will meet unseeded Hao Chen Tang of China, who undoubtedly inspired by Jie Zheng and Na Li, downed No. 5 seed Silvia Njiric of Croatia 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. The 15-year-old Tang lost in the second round at the Eddie Herr and in the first round of the Orange Bowl (to Robin Anderson) after qualifying, so she has to be pleased with her current form.

For more on the Pliskova sisters, see the ITF junior website.

On the boys side, wild card Sean Berman reached the semifinals with a straight set win over No. 10 seed Guilherme Clezar of Brazil. Berman's nationality is something of puzzle right now, as the ITF site (see article above) continues to refer to him as American, while the Australian Open site has him firmly under the Australian flag. Berman meets No. 6 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the semifinals, while No. 14 seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil faces No. 2 seed and Orange Bowl champion Gianni Mina of France.

For complete draws, see the Australian Open website.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coaches Q and A: What are your suggestions for an opponent who takes too much time?

It can be irritating to compete against someone who goes to the towel after every point, or is often not ready to receive when you are ready to serve. We asked Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida his advice on coping with that kind of distraction. His response:

When an opponent is trying to disrupt the flow of a match by taking more than the 20 seconds allowed between points it can be very annoying and negatively affect the outcome of the match if you let it.

Obviously the first thing you can do is to seek out help from the officials. However, during a junior tournament the officials are normally so thinly spread that they can not be expected to monitor the pace of every match.

So the real question is how do you adopt a mental framework which will allow you to be successful no matter what is going on on the other side of the net?

When an opponent of mine attempts to use gamesmanship it only makes me more determined to be victorious in the match. I tell myself to play one point at a time and I stay focused on what is working to my advantage on the court. I know if my opponent is resorting to these kinds of tactics that there is a sense of desperation and that I must be getting to him or her in some fashion. I don't let myself get emotional about things that are out of my control on the court. I focus on the things that I can control: my tactics, my mentality, my game, and allow myself to enjoy the challenge that is before me.

I loved to play in front of 15,000 crazy, screaming fans when we played Davis Cup in other countries--I took it as a challenge. They would scream out when I served, they would throw things on the court, and the more they did it, the more I liked it. I was determined and resolved to do everything I could to win my matches and I had over time developed in practice the mentality to do so.

Juniors can start by playing in practice the same way they would in matches. Work on your concentration, notice when your mind drifts off and work to get it back on track immediately. I liked to focus on the ball during my matches. I would not take my eyes off the ball for extended periods of time when it was in play or just on the ground. The ball became the center of my focus and I developed the ability to block out almost everything else except me and the ball, in a sort of a dance on the court. When you are focused on the ball it takes you away from everything else that is not important on the court.

It's important to remember that you're there to play tennis and not get caught up in the soap opera of tennis. So let your opponent try to rattle you; the more you practice staying focused on your side of the court, the more successful you will be.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

USTA Announces US Open National Playoffs; Little Change in Campbell ITA Team Rankings; Dolehide Wins Dow Corning Wild Card

The USTA made a big splash today with the announcement that a National Playoff will decide one of the wild cards into the qualifying for the U.S. Open. This is being compared to the tournament structure that allows amateurs to compete for a spot in the USGA's US Open golf tournament, but it's actually even more "open." In golf, you must have a low handicap to compete, but the USTA is advertising this as open to everyone 14 years of age and older who is a member of the USTA and has the $125 entry fee. Each section will have a men's and women's tournament with up to 256 players, and those winners will meet in a national playoff. Skier Bode Miller has apparently already secured one of the spots, as he is being used as the poster boy for the campaign and golfer Matt Kuchar is also contemplating signing up, although probably not this year, since it is in the middle of the golf season. Registration for some of the sectional tournaments begins February 1.

The USTA makes clear that there is no seeding, so juniors, teaching pros, celebrities, college and Pro Circuit players will all be thrown together regardless of ATP or NTRP ranking. There is no mention of whether there will be chair umpires for the matches, or whether players will call their own lines.

For more information, see usta.com.

The latest Campbell ITA rankings were released today, and there was no movement in either the men's or women's top 10. The Alabama men suffered a dual match loss at Northwestern last weekend and fell from 18 to 25, while the Florida State women lost to the Unversity of South Florida and dropped from 15 to 25. Expect much more movement next week, after the Indoor kickoff weekend. For the complete rankings, see the ITA website.

UCLA recruit Courtney Dolehide of Chicago won the wild card tournament for a qualifying spot in next month's $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich. Dolehide beat Vanderbilt recruit Emily Gelber of New York 6-4, 7-6(5) yesterday in Midland to claim one of the 32 qualifying slots.

At the Australian Open, Mitchell Frank and Ester Goldfeld advanced to Wednesday's round of 16, but Madison Keys was defeated. Frank beat Slim Hamza of Tunisia 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 and Goldfeld defeated Mai Grage of Denmark 7-5, 7-5. Keys was down 3-0 in the opening set to No. 16 seed and US Open girls finalist Yana Buchina of Russia but took six straight games to claim the first set. She couldn't keep that momentum going however, and lost 7-5, 6-2 in the final two sets. From the statistics, it looks like both girls had trouble with their serves, with Keys committing 10 doubles faults and Buchina 15.

Goldfeld and Keys have reached the quarterfinals in the girls doubles, after a second straight victory in a match tiebreaker.

The top seeds in each division, Daniel Berta and Timea Babos, moved on, and Babos is the sole seed remaining in the top half of the girls draw. The Australian boys wild cards have done very well, with three of them, including Sean Berman, reaching the round of 16. Sweden's Kalle Averfalk is sole qualifier remaining in the boys draw (not including Berta, of course), and on Tuesday he eked out a 4-6, 7-5, 8-6 win over Dominik Schulz of Germany. Schulz was down 5-1 in the final set, brought it all the way back to 5-5, saved multiple match points, but ultimately was broken serving at 6-7.

All of the Australian wild cards are gone from the girls draw, but one qualifier remains, Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, the twin sister of No. 6 seed Karolina Pliskova, who also has advanced to the round of 16.

For complete draws, see the Australian Open website.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Duke Tops Men's Recruiting Rankings; Applications for USTA Training Center East, New RTC; Pro Circuit Notes

The men's recruiting class rankings were released today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, and Duke finished on top, with 15 of the 18 first place votes. UCLA finished second, with 1 first place vote, Michigan third and Georgia, with 2 first place votes, fourth. Notre Dame rounds out the top 5.

I seemed to remember that Duke had ranked quite high in past years, and it was interesting to look back at the the 2007, 2008 and 2009 winter rankings. Duke finished second in '07 and '08, behind Florida and Stanford respectively. Stanford's 2008 class has lived up to its ranking, with Klahn and Thacher playing in the top half of the lineup in their sophomore years, but Florida's blue chip recruits that year--Tyler Hochwalt and Jeff Dadamo--did not have that same success in their second years. Dadamo is now at Texas A & M, and Hochwalt is no longer playing college tennis. Stanford again topped the rankings last year, but it will be a year or two before that class can be assessed.

The USTA made two player development announcements today. The National Training Center-East, which is located at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is accepting applications for twice-a-week training at the center, so those in the New York area may want to apply. The complete release can be found at gvtnews.com. The USTA also announced another Regional Training Center, the Eagle-Fustar Tennis program, which is the first RTC in Northern California. That release can also be found at gvtnews.com.

Austin recapped some of the major Division I men's action this weekend in a comment under Sunday's post, but he didn't specifically mention Baylor's 5-2 win over Florida. Carlos Cueto didn't play for the Gators, but after losing 7-0 to Florida last year, the Bears are probably not attaching any asterisks to their victory this year. See the Baylor athletic site for the story.

In the Pro Circuit events last week, unseeded qualifier Jamie Hampton won seven matches to reach the finals of the $25,000 Lutz tournament, where she lost to Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Christina McHale reached the quarterfinals for the second week in a row. At the $10,000 men's event in Hollywood, Alex Domijan also made the quarterfinals in consecutive tournaments. No. 2 seed Eric Prodon of France won four three-set matches to reach the final, where he beat qualifier Stefano Ianni of Italy 6-4, 7-6(2).

There is no women's Pro Circuit event in the U.S. this week. The men have another $10,000 in South Florida, with Junior Ore, Denis Kudla and Domijan receiving main draw wild cards, and a $50,000 challenger in Hawaii. For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com .

It will be several more hours before the junior matches in Australia are completed, but check the Twitter feed for updates later this evening.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Second Seed Watson Out in First Round; Three Americans Advance at Australian Open Jr. Championships; Dabrowski Feature

The first round of singles at the Australian Open Junior Championships were played over two days and are just finishing now, which is Monday in Melbourne.

The biggest surprise of the opening rounds was the loss of US Open girls champion and No. 2 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain who was defeated by unseeded 15-year-old Hao Chen Tang of China 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. Watson spoke at length about her loss Saturday with Simon Cambers who is writing for the ITF junior website.

Three of the four U.S. players advanced, with No. 4 seed Mitchell Frank posting his first singles win at a Grand Slam on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Australian wild card Jay Andrijic. Nick Chappell lost to wild card Ben Wagland of Australia 6-3, 6-1. Like Frank, Madison Keys also earned her first Grand Slam victory Sunday, defeating one of the few Australians in the field not there by means of a wild card, Viktorija Rajicic, 6-3, 6-4. Ester Goldfeld avenged her second round Orange Bowl loss last month to China's Saisai Zheng, the No. 15 seed in Melbourne, taking Monday's contest 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Zheng was one of five seeded girls to lose in the first round. In addition to Zheng and Watson, No. 8 seed Camila Silva of Chile, No. 13 seed Tamara Curovic of Serbia and No. 14 Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway were eliminated.

Unseeded Laura Robson had no difficulty advancing past wild card Belinda Woolcock of Australia, and she will continue to juggle her schedule to include girls singles and doubles, as well as women's doubles. Robson has dropped out of girls doubles. She was playing with Heather Watson. She and Australian Sally Peers have reached the women's doubles quarterfinals as wild cards.

Orange Bowl champion and No. 4 seed Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada recorded her first Grand Slam victory Monday, defeating Emi Mutaguchi of Japan 7-5, 6-4. Dabrowski and her family are the subject of this lengthy feature, entitled "All for love" in her hometown newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen.

The Australian boys have been very impressive in the opening round, with seven of the eight wild cards reaching the second round, as well as No. 3 seed Jason Kubler and Luke Saville, who received entry based on his ITF ranking. Qualifier Jarryd Chaplin gave top seed Daniel Berta of Sweden a real battle on Monday before finally succumbing 7-5, 2-6, 8-6.

Three seeded boys lost in the first round--No. 7 seed Kevin Krawietz of Germany, No. 12 seed Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan and No. 15 seed Henri Laaksonen of Finland.

The doubles championships have begun, with Keys and Goldfeld playing together. Mitchell Frank and Finland's Micke Kontinen were seeded fifth, but they lost in the first round Monday to the Brazilian team of Tiago Fernandes and Bruno Semenzato. Nick Chappell is playing with Vladislav Dubinsky of Russia.

For complete draws, see the Australian Open website.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Juniors Championships Underway in Australia; Features on Kubler, Robson and Harrison

I spent most of the afternoon writing my Australian Open Juniors preview for the New York Times tennis blog Straight Sets. I'm not making any predictions, although I will install Laura Robson and Jason Kubler as the favorites, but Todd at the WTA Backspin blog has done a girls junior slam prediction, a first for him, and you might be interested in having a look at those (scroll down). Todd knows his stuff.

The ITF Junior site's preview is here.

There have been several features about juniors that may be of interest in advance of the junior tournament.

Laura Robson believes she might have the best of both worlds right now, playing both junior and professional events, according to this Sunday Times profile by Barry Flatman.

Early last week, Neil Harman of the Times featured Ryan Harrison, as did Doug Robson at USA Today.

And although there is no conversation with him, this AAP story looks at Kubler's credentials. Either they counted wrong or I did, but I can come up with "only" 33 straight junior wins.

Mitchell Frank has already won the first set from Australian wild card Jay Adrijic; Madison Keys is third on. Nick Chappell and Ester Goldfeld are not on the Sunday schedule.

See the Australian Open website for draws and live scoring. Kubler is featured on the home page, but the accompanying article fails to mention Laura Robson as a contender.

Remarkable Story of Rescue of Vickie Duval's Father from Earthquake in Haiti

I just read this story by Steve Hummer from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and I'm still in shock. Fourteen-year-old tennis player Vickie Duval's father, Jean-Maurice, was seriously injured in the earthquake, and with the incredible efforts of a family at the Racquet Club of the South, he has been airlifted to Ft. Lauderdale, where he now is in intensive care at local hospital. No movie or television show could contain more drama. Even if you have already donated to help Haiti, please consider a donation to the National Tennis Foundation for the family.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Americans Sweep Teen Tennis Titles in UK; Harman Compares Tomic to Murray; Curtis Tribute; Australian Jr. Draw Released


Florida's Stefan Kozlov and California's Gabrielle Andrews won the Aegon Junior International Teen Tennis singles championships today in Bolton, England. The unseeded Kozlov, who turns 12 next month, defeated No. 15 seed Thomas Brechemier of France 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the final. Seeded 16th, Andrews, the girls 14s Winter National Champion, beat top seed Brooke Austin of Indianapolis 2-6, 6-0, 6-3, to give the U.S. its second consecutive title girls title. As I mentioned yesterday, Andrews and Austin won the girls doubles championship. Andrews and Kozlov join the list of champions that includes Andy Murray, Kim Clijsters, Dinara Safina and Justine Henin. (Thanks to this article for that bit of information).

Next up for all three players is Les Petits As, in Tarbes France, the crown jewel of the international 14-and-under indoor events. In addition to Andrews, Austin and Kozlov, there will be nine other Americans competing: Taylor Townsend, Alexandra Stiteler and wild card Christina Makarova in the girls main draw; Tommy Paul, Noah Rubin and Spencer Furman in the boys main draw; Dennis Uspensky in the boys qualifying; and in the wheelchair competition, Mackenzie Soldan and Dylan Levine. Qualifying begins on Saturday. For the qualifying draws, see lespetitsas.com.

Neil Harman of the Times sees resemblances to Andy Murray in the game of Bernard Tomic, with this assessment:

Watching the 6ft 4in Tomic play Cilic, of Croatia, one could not help but see in the lad all the gangly promise, the innate sense of court and strategy, the fleetness of foot, the ability to change the pace of a match that had been bountiful in Murray’s teenage years. Tomic, good to know, was kicking himself for losing 6-7, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, especially for squandering three chances for a 5-3 lead in the final set.

Those who have known me since I first started covering international junior tennis back in 2004 when Tomic won the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s, know that I have always been impressed by the Australian's game. And although I believe that Andy Murray has much better footwork, I haven't seen anything from Tomic since then that convinces me I should jump off his bandwagon now.

For a dissenting opinion on Tomic and the other young players at the Australian Open, see the Week 1 grades from Tennis.com's Tom Perotta.

Dave "The Koz" Kozlowski was the master of ceremonies at the Bobby Curtis retirement celebration at the USTA Florida section's annual meeting last month in Clearwater, Fla. The many tributes to Curtis from his friends and colleagues in the tennis community, as well as remarks from Curtis himself, can be found in about halfway through Kozlowski's production at indietennis.com.

The boys draw has been released at the Australian Open, and probably by the time most of you read this, the girls draw will also be out. Mitchell Frank and Nick Chappell are the sole U.S. boys in the draw, although Sean Berman is listed as from the USA, despite playing under the Australian flag in men's AO qualifying.

I'll have more on the Australian Open juniors in tomorrow's post.

The draws can be found at the Australian Open website.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Austin Meets Andrews For Teen Tennis Title, with Kozlov also in Finals; Tennis Plaza Cup Recap; Australian Jr. Qualies Underway

Doubles partners Brooke Austin and Gabrielle Andrews have assured a second U.S. championship at the Aegon International Junior Teen Tennis Tournament in Bolton, England with victories in Thursday's semifinals. Austin, the No. 1 seed, beat No. 9 seed Estelle Cascino of France 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 and Andrews, the No. 16 seed, breezed past unseeded Jana Fett of Croatia 6-1, 6-2. Austin and Andrews have already captured the doubles title with the No. 4 seeds defeating Alexandra Stiteler and Taylor Townsend of the U.S. 6-1, 6-3.

Unseeded Stefan Kozlov advanced to the boys final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over unseeded Maxime Janvier of France and will face another French opponent in the final, No. 15 seed Thomas Brechemier. Kozlov, who will be 12 next month, is playing against older competitors than he did in the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl tournaments, yet he has lost only one set in his five victories.

For complete draws, see the LTA website.

My weekly article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is a recap of the Tennis Plaza Cup, a USTA Level 3 National Tournament in Coral Gables, Fla., that I have now been covering for three years.

In Australia, the qualifying for the Junior Championships have begun and two things struck me as unusual. First, unlike all the other Grand Slams, including the Australian Open Junior Championships last year, the draw is 64, not 32, meaning that it will take three victories to reach the main draw, not two. And there are three American boys in qualifying: Evan Song, Michael Zhu and Michael Grant, all of whom won their opening qualifying matches on Thursday. World Junior Champion Daniel Berta of Sweden, who received a qualifying wild card after an entry mixup, also won his first match. According to the Tennis Australia site, the final two rounds of qualifying will be on Friday, with a day off for everyone on Saturday before the main draw begins on Sunday. There are no U.S. girls in qualifying.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Austin, Andrews, Kozlov Reach Teen Tennis Semis; McHale Beats Vaidisova; Australia Notes

The 14-and-under tournament in Bolton, England is down to the semifinals, and three Americans remain in the running for the Aegon Junior International Teen Tennis titles.

Top seed Brooke Austin will play Estelle Cascino of France, the No. 9 seed, in one of Thursday's semifinals, and Gabrielle Andrews, the No. 16 seed, will play unseeded Jana Fett of Croatia in the other. With semifinal wins, Austin and Andrews will duplicate the results of two Americans girls last year, when Sachia Vickery defeated Vicky Duval in the final.

In the boys division, unseeded 11-year-old Stefan Kozlov has reached the semifinals, having defeated the No. 9 and No. 5 seeds along the way, and will face another unseeded player, Maxime Janvier of France, in Thursday's semifinal.

The U.S. girls are assured of the doubles title, with Austin and Andrews, the No. 4 seeds, playing the other American team, unseeded Alexandra Stiteler and Taylor Townsend, in the final. Neither team has lost a set in reaching the final. The two U.S. boys teams lost in the quarterfinals.

For complete results, see the LTA website.

In the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Lutz, Fla., Christina McHale defeated former WTA Top 10 player Nicole Vaidisova, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the second round. McHale will play Mirjana Lucic of Croatia, whom she defeated in the second round last week in Plantation. Julia Cohen defeated qualifier Sloane Stephens and last week's champion Ajla Tomljanovic also advanced to the second round. Qualifiers Jamie Hampton and Jacqueline Cako won their first round main draw matches.

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

At the ITF Grade 1 lead-up to the Australian Open Junior Championships, the Loy Yang Traralgon International, unseeded Justin Eleveld of the Netherlands defeated wild card Ben Mitchell of Australia 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 for the boys title. Top seed Timea Babos of Hungary took the girls title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 6 seed Sachie Ishizu of Japan. Nick Chappell, one of only two U.S. boys Down Under, defeated Orange Bowl champion and No. 1 seed Gianni Mina of France in the first round, and won another round before falling to Jannick Lepescu of the Netherlands. Mitchell Frank, the No. 2 seed, lost in the first round to Australian wild card James Duckworth.

For complete draws, see the ITF junior site.

Thanks to ESPN 360, I was able to see the last two sets of the Marin Cilic - Bernard Tomic match, which went to the 14th seeded Cilic 6-7 (6), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. The tennis wasn't exactly scintillating, with 133 unforced errors, but the length of the match--nearly four hours, and the lateness of the hour--after 2 a.m., may have had something to do with that. In fact Tomic is quoted as saying that the late start (after 10 p.m.) may have contributed to his loss in this AAP story.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Conkic Surprise Winner at SEC Indoor; Klahn Takes Sherwood Cup; Pro Circuit Notes

I'm back in Michigan, and it's time to catch up with some of the college action over the weekend, as well as other scattered results, before our attention gets absorbed in the Australian Open.

In the SEC Coaches Indoor, the Tennessee Volunteers claimed the singles champion again this year, but it wasn't last year's winner JP Smith repeating, it was Boris Conkic, who had most of his success this past fall in doubles not singles. Conkic, a junior from Serbia, beat Javier Garrapiz of Georgia 7-5, 6-2 in the final. An alphabetical 9-16 seed, Conkic defeated No. 2 seed Alex Lacroix of Florida in the round of 16, No. 8 seed Drake Bernstein of Georgia in the quarters and Nate Schnugg, also of Georgia, in the semifinals. The doubles title went to No. 3 seed Lacroix and Antoine Benneteau of Florida, who beat No. 4 seeds Schnugg and Jamie Hunt of Georgia 8-5 in the final.

For a detailed look at Conkic's victory, see utsports.com.

Another major tournament featuring many top men, the Sherwood Cup, was held over the weekend in Thousand Oaks, Calif. with players from the Pac-10 powerhouses of Stanford, UCLA and USC competing in an individual tournament, as well as those from Big-12 champion Baylor. Stanford sophomore Bradley Klahn won the singles title, defeating Baylor's Denes Lukacs 6-3, 6-4 in the final. The doubles title went to Robert Farah and Steven Johnson of USC who beat teammates Daniel Nguyen and Jason McNaughton 6-3. For more on Klahn's win, see the Stanford athletic website.

As I mentioned in a tweet on Sunday, 16-year-old qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia won the Plantation $25,000 tournament with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 3 seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden. Tomljanovic received a special exemption into this week's $25,000 event in Lutz, Fla, where the top two seeds, Maret Ani of Estonia and Angela Hayes of the U.S., are already out after the first day of main draw play. Christina McHale, a quarterfinalist last week in Plantation, has drawn former WTA Top 10 player Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, the No. 4 seed, in the first round. Sloane Stephens qualified and has drawn No. 6 seed Julia Cohen. Nicole Melichar, Allie Will and Sachia Vickery received main draw wild cards. Vickery lost today to Georgia Stoop of Great Britain 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

In the men's $10,000 tournament in Hollywood, Fla., 15-year-old Alexios Halebian qualified for the main draw with a 6-3, 7-6(6) win over former USC Trojan Gary Sacks. The Orange Bowl 16s champion will go for his fifth straight win when he meets fellow qualifier Eric Nunez, 27, in the first round of the main draw. Wild card Jack Sock lost in three sets in today's first round to No. 3 seed Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic. Plantation quarterfinalist Alex Domijan received a special exemption and will play his first match Wednesday.

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

Also note that Ken Thomas will be in Miami calling Thursday's dual match between the Miami men and Florida Atlantic on radiotennis.com, beginning at 5:45 p.m. Eastern.

NOTE: Those who would like to discuss the upcoming dual college season and make predictions for the Team Indoor coming up next month should use this post. PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU TYPE A NAME IN THE APPROPRIATE COMMENT BOX. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS ARE NOT POSTED.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sanon, Rinaldi Win 18s Titles at Tennis Plaza Cup

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Top seed Bianca Sanon and unseeded Michael Rinaldi approached the Tennis Plaza Cup in unsettled states of mind, yet the two Floridians managed to focus on the task at hand to emerge with championship trophies this weekend at Salvadore Park. Sanon defeated unseeded Lynn Chi 6-2, 6-3 in the final, while Rinaldi downed No. 3 seed Zachry Bruchmiller 6-3, 6-2 on a warm and sun-splashed Martin Luther King Day.

Sanon's parents are from Haiti, and when news of the catastrophic earthquake began to surface Sanon's thoughts were not on tournament preparation.

"It just came so unexpectedly," said Sanon, who lives in Plantation, Fla. "I came home from practice and the news channels were on and the phone was ringing off the hook. It was just a weird week, honestly, so I didn't really know what was going to happen coming into this tournament; I was just hoping for the best."

Sanon was relieved to hear that her relatives and family friends were safe, but acknowledged that the tragedy had shaken her. It didn't show in her approach to her matches over the tournament's three days, as the 18-year-old, who will enter Columbia in the fall, didn't drop a set in her five victories.

"I didn't lose any sets, but it was not easy at all," said Sanon, who like Chi, had to finish her quarterfinal match at 8 a.m., before playing the semifinals and finals at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. "This morning playing Lindsay (Graff), 4 and 4 is very close match and when I played with Sherry (Li) each point, you just didn't know who was going to win it. And with Lynn (Chi), each point was really stressful, each point I had to give one hundred percent."

The unseeded Chi had proven a tough out, defeating No. 2 seed Julie Sabacinski in the second round Saturday, surviving an 11-9 match tiebreaker against unseeded Deborah Suarez in the completion of the quarterfinal, and coming from 4-1 down in the opening set to eliminate unseeded Samantha Crawford 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals.

But against Sanon, the 15-year-old Chi couldn't find an answer to her opponent's variety and superior execution. Sanon got a break to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, and while her first serve percentage wasn't high, Chi wasn't able to take advantage of Sanon's very reliable second serve. Chi got her only break of the match in the opening game of the second set, but she was broken at love in the next game, and when Chi was broken in the sixth game of the set, Sanon had the margin she needed.

"She just outplayed me, she was just better," Chi said, who also mentioned the superior placement of Sanon's serve. "She made more balls than I did."

Sanon exhibited some impressive variety as well as consistency, using both a powerful backhand and an effective slice forehand, depending on whether she needed offense or defense. Sanon also credited her serve with getting her out of tight spots.

"My dad is my coach, and what he'll do is set up cones in all four corners, and I can't get off the court until I hit all four corners. I can't go home until I do it, so it's a pretty big incentive. My serve has always been, I wouldn't say a weapon, but a safety. It always helps in crucial points. I have my dad to thank for that."

Serving for the match, Sanon started the game with a brilliant forehand winner from way outside the court, and she ended the game and the match on her first try, with a serve winner.

"I was playing well this whole tournament," Sanon said. "Everything was working. Usually there will be some shots that you don't really make all the time, but I was pretty comfortable with all my shots this tournament."

Boys 18s champion Michael Rinaldi was far from comfortable when he began the tournament, as he had injured his thumb during a session with a punching bag. Wearing a cast for a week, Rinaldi wasn't even certain he would play until Thursday.

But like Sanon, Rinaldi didn't lose a set all week, and in the final against Bruchmiller, he continued his excellent form.

"I played really well," said Rinaldi, the nephew of former WTA pro and current USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi. "I just got better and better as the tournament went on."

Against Bruchmiller, Rinaldi served well and also displayed soft hands when he approached the net. Bruchmiller, a Texan with a one-handed backhand, saw a lot of balls directed there, and he was also hampered by what he thought might be an abdominal pull.

"It was kind of sore after my match this morning, but I think in one of the early games, I hit a kick serve and I kind of felt something pull," Bruchmiller said.
"So I was slicing most of my serves."

Without his serve, which had proven effective in his earlier matches, including his match tiebreaker semifinal win over top seed Danny Riggs, Bruchmiller was at a disadvantage. Rinaldi was serving well, and once he got the break he needed early in each set, Bruchmiller couldn't get the break back.

"I served really well this tournament," said Rinaldi, of Palm City, Fla. "Sometimes it's not good, and sometimes it is."

Punching bag incident aside, Rinaldi likes the way 2010 has begun.

"This is a good start to the year," he said.

In the girls 14 final, also played at Salvadore Park, top seed Mia King claimed a 6-1, 6-4 victory over unseeded Bridget Forster.

Unlike Sanon and Rinaldi, King had had a couple of nail-biters earlier in the tournament. On Friday, she had needed a 10-8 match tiebreaker to defeat Adi Milstein in the second round, and on Sunday evening, she returned to the court after a six-hour rain delay to finish a 6-4, 7-6(6) victory over No. 7 seed Caroline Henderson.

On Monday, King was in top form however, taking out No. 5 seed Alexis Aranda 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals, before taking on Forster in the final. Forster had come back for a 3-6, 6-3 10-7 win over unseeded Shilin Xu in the semifinals, but even that momentum and her remarkable positive energy weren't enough against King.

"She just kept really consistent and was dictating most of the points," said Forster. "When I would try to change up the pace with semi-lobs or slices, she would really control the ball, take a swinging volley, or try to get to the net. I know she played a little bit better than me today."

King used the swinging volley very effectively throughout the match, although she admitted it doesn't necessarily come naturally to her.

"I just had to push myself to do it," said King, a Hendersonville, NC resident now training at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "The last two matches the swing volley wasn't my best, but today I felt it really helped me a lot. It was tough running up there, but I felt like it paid off."

Having lost the first set for the third consecutive match, Forster had no reason to doubt she could come back against King, and her body language made that clear. But King, who had never played Forster before, didn't lose her determination either.

"I knew that it was going to be a tough fight," King said. "So I just tried to focus on myself, and not so much on my opponent."

With the finals at Salvadore Park completed, the focus turned to the 16s finals at the Biltmore Tennis Center, where the two winners now have even fonder memories of the tournament.

No. 4 seed Alexandra Morozova, the 14s winner in 2008, captured the girls 16s title Monday afternoon with a 6-4, 6-3 win over friend and training partner Emily Hahn, the No. 2 seed.

The 14-year-old Morozova, who is from Sunny Isles, Fla., was playing her third match of the day, and although none involved the stress of a match tiebreaker, she admitted she was tired in the final against Hahn.

"I know her game pretty well, so I thought that was an advantage," said Morozova, who trains with Hahn at Nick Saviano's Academy in Sunrise, Fla. "I managed to play good, and do what I was told."

The boys 16s champion Jordan Daigle took his second consecutive Tennis Plaza Cup title, having won the boys 14s title on the clay courts of the Riviera Country Club last year.

This year, Daigle, the No. 6 seed, moved to the hard courts at the Biltmore, but the result was the same, with Daigle collecting a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 3 seed Nikko Madregallejo.

Daigle, from Lafayette, La., had beaten Madregallejo in three sets in a November 2009 National Open, so he knew what he had to do to repeat that result.

"I knew it would be a tough match, so I had to come prepared," said Daigle. "I think I served really well today. I was a little tired from playing three matches, but I think I kept my composure, kept a lot of balls in play, and made him play."

Madregallejo, a Californian who trains at the USTA National Center, wasn't at his best, and playing from behind throughout both sets just increased the pressure he was under. Daigle lost his serve only once, and that was when he already had a two-break lead in the opening set.

Daigle had a simple explanation for his continued success at the Tennis Plaza Cup.

"I always play well here. I just enjoy playing here in Miami," Daigle said. "It's just a fun atmosphere."

This year's boys 14s title went to top seed Dan Kerznerman who defeated unseeded Matthew Cravinhos 6-4; 6-1. The boys 12s title was won by No. 2 seed Michael Plutt, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over No. 4 seed Alexander Del Corral. The girls 12s champion is No. 7 seed Cristina Rovira who defeated No. 3 seed Usue Arconada 6-2, 6-2.

For draws and results, see the TennisLink site.

The tournament is sponsored by Tennis Plaza. For more information about their Miami store and products available online, see tennisplaza.com.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rain Pushes Plaza Cup Semifinals to Monday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Monday's schedule for the Tennis Plaza Cup will be packed with matches after rain on Sunday washed out the bulk of the action at the four sites.

The girls 14s and boys 18s were the only two divisions to nearly complete quarterfinal round of singles when the skies opened around 11:30 a.m. And the two matches that had not finished were completed after a six hour delay, on the two new courts at Salvadore Park, the only two courts that were playable after the heavy rain.

The four girls 18s quarterfinal matches were in various stages of completion, with top seed Bianca Sanon up a set on Lindsay Graff. No. 8 seed Sherry Li had taken the first set against Reeree Li, and in another matching surname battle, No. 6 seed Jacqueline Crawford and Samantha Crawford were early in the first set. Deborah Suarez and Lynn Chi were on serve late in the first set.

Boys 18s top seed Danny Riggs advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0, 3-6, 10-6 victory over No. 6 seed Alex Sidney, and as he had done in his first round match Saturday, Riggs took control in the late stages of the match tiebreaker. At 4-4, Riggs won four consecutive points, the last one on a rare ace, and after a change of ends made it five straight points to give himself five chances to finish it off. Sidney save two, but again Riggs came up with a big first serve and Sidney's return found the net.

Riggs will play No. 3 seed Zachry Bruchmiller, who beat John Banks 6-4, 7-5. The bottom half of the boys 18s draw features two unseeded players--Michael Rinaldi and Zachary Krumholz. Rinaldi, who has yet to lose a set, had little difficulty with Alex Calott, taking a 6-2, 6-2 decision in their quarterfinal contest. Krumholz, who had survived two match points in the second round on Saturday, defeated unseeded Connor Evins 6-2, 6-4, in a match that was finished under the lights at Salvadore Park.

Girls 14s top seed Mia King also was required to return to the court after the rainstorm, leading 6-4, 5-5 ad out with her opponent, No. 7 seed Caroline Henderson serving. King won that point, giving her a chance to serve for the match, but she wasn't able to finish it quite that quickly, with Henderson forcing a second set tiebreaker.

There were many long points during the match tiebreaker, with both girls hitting deep shots that still gave them some margin for error. King's first match point came at 6-5, but Henderson played another patient point, and an exchange of short crosscourt forehands ended with Henderson pulling King so far wide that she couldn't keep her response in the court. On the next point, King used the surprise tactic of a slice backhand and that change of pace and rhythm produced an error from Henderson. On her second match point, King again used surprise as a tactic, quickly coming to the net and putting away a swinging volley for the 6-4, 7-6(6) victory.

King will play No. 5 seed Alexis Aranda, who has lost only five games in three matches, and today beat unseeded Olivia Thaler 6-0, 6-1. The bottom half semifinal will feature a pair of unseeded players, with Shilin Zu facing Bridget Forster. Xu downed unseeded Johnnise Renaud 6-1, 7-5, while Forster came back for a 1-6, 6-3, 10-5 win over No. 2 seed Rasheeda McAdoo.

Due to the rain, the doubles portion of the tournament has been abandoned, but consolation matches will continue, although the entire consolation tournament will not be completed.

For complete scores, see the TennisLink site.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Top Seeds Survive, but No. 2 Seeds in Plaza Cup 18s Defeated Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Danny Riggs, the top seed in the boys 18s division at the Tennis Plaza Cup, certainly didn't get off to the start he anticipated Saturday morning at Salvadore Park, dropping his opening set of the tournament to fellow Floridian Andrew Dzulynsky 6-2. Riggs, the grandson of Bobby Riggs, best known for his role in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King, didn't panic however, and won the second set 6-4. Then came the ten-point tiebreaker to decide the match, and although Riggs fell behind in that too, he again stayed calm, winning the last four points of the match. In the gusty winds, Riggs managed to keep the ball inside the lines when it counted, letting Dzulynsky make the errors when every point was a critical one. Riggs won his second match of the afternoon against Carl Eguez without the drama of a match tiebreaker.

Girls 14s top seed Mia King also stayed alive in the main draw by winning a match tiebreaker against Adi Milstein in their second round contest. King, who trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton, and Milstein, who trains at the Evert Academy on the same site, embraced at the net after the emotionally exhausting victory, which King took 6-2, 5-7, 10-8.

Girls 14s second seed Rasheeda McAdoo also barely survived, taking a match tiebreaker from Ally Miller-Krasilnikov to advance to the quarterfinals by the score of 3-6, 6-4 10-4.

The second seeds in the 18s division were not as fortunate. Julie Sabacinski served for the first set in her second round match with Lynn Chi, but Chi won the final three games of that set and completed the upset 7-5, 6-2. The boys 18s No. 2 seed, Justin Crenshaw, had his chances in the second round against Zachary Krumholz, but Krumholz saved two match points on his way to a 1-6, 6-2, 12-10 victory.

It wasn't a good day all around for the seeds in the girls 18s, with five of them losing in the first two rounds. No. 3 seed Mia Schmidt was beaten by Reeree Li 4-6, 6-4 10-6 in the second round, No. 4 seed Julia Jones lost to Samantha Crawford 6-4, 2-6, 10-4 in the first round, No. 5 seed Caitlin McGraw dropped her first round match to Lindsay Graff, and No. 7 seed Emily Stein lost in the first round to Maci Epstein. The 14-year-old Crawford proved her mettle a second time on Saturday, coming back to take a 5-7, 6-0 12-10 decision from Anika Novacek, daughter of former ATP Top 10 player Karel Novacek.

Top seed Bianca Sanon breezed through her first two matches, losing only six games in her wins over Leah Fried and Courtney Malinchak. No. 8 seed Sherry Li and No. 6 seed Jacqueline Crawford joined Sanon in the quarterfinals with straight set victories in the second round.

I spent almost all day at Salavador Park, the site of the boys and girls 18s and the girls 14s, but I did walk the six blocks south to the Biltmore Tennis Center in time to see the match tiebreaker in a first round contest between Stephen Watson and Jake Albo. At 9-9 in the tiebreaker, Watson got a net cord winner that actually bounced twice on the net cord before falling on Albo's side, and on match point, a rattled Albo failed to finish a point a he had control of, giving Watson the victory. Although I didn't see any of it, Watson later defeated No. 7 seed Thai Kwiatkowski 1-6, 6-0, 10-5. The top seed in the boys 16s, Gordon Watson, advanced to the quarterfinals, but girls 16s top seed Christina Carpenter lost in the first round. Boys 14s No. 1 seed Daniel Kerznerman had no difficulty in his first two matches, and the top seed in the boys 12s, Nikola Samardzic, also had two straight-set victories.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Domijan and McHale Fall in Three Sets at Plantation; Plaza Cup Draws Released, with Play Beginning at 8 am Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Plantation, FL--

Teenagers Christina McHale and Alex Domijan started out well in their quarterfinal matches at the Pro Circuit tournaments in Plantation, but neither was able to recover from poor second sets, and the pair failed to advance to Saturday's semifinals. McHale fell to No. 1 seed Maret Ani of Estonia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, while Domijan was defeated by fellow qualifier Jean-Noel Insausti of France 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Much balmier weather was a welcome relief from the record cold that has gripped South Florida for the past 12 days, but with it came some gusty winds that made for adventurous service tosses, and both McHale and Ani struggled to hold serve throughout the match.

McHale fell behind 2-0 to start the match, but reeled off six straight games, making virtually no errors during that stretch, and running Ani from side to side. The 27-year-old Ani on the other hand, couldn't find the court, or rather couldn't find anything but the net, as many of her errors didn't reach McHale's side of the court. Ani didn't help her cause by double faulting away two service games, the last double fault coming on set point.

At the set break, it was as if the two players swapped games, in some sort of bizarre tennis version of duplicate bridge. McHale's errors began to pile up, with her forehand sailing long, and her first serve nowhere to be found. She lost eight straight points early in the second set, and when she got one of the breaks back, she was immediately broken; there was a series of five straight service breaks to close out the second set.

In the third set, Ani saved a break point in the opening game, but McHale couldn't overcome two double faults in her first service game. Then McHale picked up her game, winning eight straight points to take a 0-40 lead with Ani serving at 2-2. But Ani saved all three of those break points and another one in the three-deuce game, playing much more assured tennis when she was on the brink. Trailing 2-3, it was then McHale's turn to save three break points, but unlike Ani, she couldn't save a fourth, with a double fault at deuce contributing to the break. Ani saved another break point in the next game, taking a 5-2 lead, but McHale suddenly began to recognize that she had to play more aggressively. She stepped in more often, held for 5-3--only her third hold since the first game of the second set--then broke Ani at 15 to get back on serve.

McHale quickly fell behind 0-30 and a forehand wide, with the wind assisting it, left her staring at three match points. She saved the first with a service winner and the second with a forehand winner down the line, but on the third, her forehand went just long, putting Ani in the semifinals, where she will meet No. 3 seed Johanna Larson of Sweden.

Domijan's match with Insausti was beginning as McHale's was drawing to a close, and unlike his second round match of Thursday, Domijan was off to a flying start. Domijan broke the 25-year-old from France in the third game and in the seventh, and was serving so well that it looked as if Insausti would need to win a tiebreaker in the second set to have a chance.

But after a bathroom break, Insausti returned a different player. He began to read Domijan's serve, and his returns were more offensive than defensive. Unable to get any free points from his serve or from weak returns, Domijan had to stay in long rallies, and Insausti, who had made a slew of unforced errors in the first set, simply outlasted him. So clean was Insausti's play in the second set that Domijan didn't even have a game point on his own serve.

Domijan, like Insausti playing in his seventh match in eight days, didn't look tired, but he couldn't match Insausti's quickness, and Domijan had particular trouble when Insausti served into his body. Domijan had a chance to turn the momentum in his favor in the second game of the third set, but he couldn't convert his game point and a double fault and a forehand into the net gave Insausti his eighth game in a row. He extended that to nine, taking a 3-0 lead, and it was all he would need, as Domijan would not get a break point chance the rest of the way.

Serving for the match at 5-3, Insausti showed off his variety at 30-30, hitting a tricky slice volley that Domijan had no chance to reach. The subsequent match point also found Insausti at the net, and he hit a more conventional deep volley to earn his spot in the semifinals. He will play fellow qualifier Marco Mirnegg of Austria. The other semifinal features Morgan Phillips of Great Britain and No. 3 seed Benoit Paire of France.

While the two American teens were not able to reach the semifinals, 16-year-old Alja Tomljanovic of Croatia managed to come back from the loss of the first set for the second straight day, defeating wild card Ahsha Rolle 2-6, 7-5, 6-2. Tomljanovic, a qualifier, will play No. 4 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Karolina Kosinska of Poland in Friday's other quarterfinal.

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

The Tennis Plaza Cup, which is a regional level 3 USTA tournament for four age divisions, begins tomorrow, and I'll be at the Salvadore Park site in Coral Gables most of the time. That site, where the girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl is held, has the boys and girls 18s and the girls 14s on its 13 courts. Floridians Danny Riggs and Bianca Sanon are the top seeds in the 18s. I will also try to get to the Biltmore, where the boys 16s are being played, as that field is chock full of the U.S. players from the boys 14s Junior Orange Bowl, with one who wasn't at the Junior Orange Bowl, Gordon Watson, the top seed.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tomljanovic Defeats No. 2 Seed Haynes; McHale, Domijan Reach Quarterfinals in Plantation

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Plantation, FL

There seems to be an infinite number of venues for Pro Circuit events in Florida, and today we got our first look at one we hadn't seen in the past three years of covering Florida's January Pro Circuit--the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, just west of Ft. Lauderdale. Located in a large public park that provides all the requisite recreational facilities, the tennis center was bustling with activity, even though the women's $25,000 and the men's $10,000 tournaments were using only eight of the courts. The contrast between league players and the pros is often jarring when they are playing side-by-side, but it's great when a facility is capable of accommodating both.

After chatting with some players and families I hadn't seen in a while, I made my way over to court T to watch the only main draw match scheduled for 10 a.m., qualifier Alja Tomljanovic versus No. 2 seed Angela Haynes. This was a rematch of last January, when Haynes, the No. 1 seed in the Boca Raton $25,000 tournament, fell to qualifier Tomljanovic in the first round, although in the interim, Haynes had beaten Tomljanovic in the first round at Indian Wells in straight sets. Today, Haynes won the first set 6-4, with the 16-year-old Croatian, who trains at the Evert Academy, winning the second by the same score. Tomljanovic took a 3-0, two-break lead in the third set before Haynes got one of those breaks back but Haynes struggled to hold serve at 3-5, saving at least one match point, and the effort to hold left her without much energy for the next game. Tomljanovic held at love to complete the 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 upset, which took over two-and-a-half hours to play, earning herself a quarterfinal berth against wild card Ahsha Rolle, who also won a long, tough match, beating No. 6 seed Olga Puchkova 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.

Qualifier Beatrice Capra couldn't extend her streak of wins to five, with the 17-year-old from Maryland, who is now also training at Evert's, dropping a 6-2, 6-2 decision to Karolina Kosinska of Poland. Capra had a break point opportunity in all of Kosinska's service games in the first set, and she converted on two of them, but she couldn't hold her own serve even once. Kosinska displayed some soft hands and often surprised Capra with her shot selection, which included drop shots, angles and once, a moonball so deep and so high Capra was unable to track it down before banging into the back fence. After the first set, which took over an hour, Kosinska continued to keep Capra off balance, closing the second set even more efficiently. Capra could not be too disappointed with her tournament however, since the injury that caused her to retire from the Orange Bowl had kept her from training for most of December.

Alex Domijan, another qualifier who is coming off an injury, got off to a very slow start against No. 4 seed Artem Sitak of Russia, falling behind 4-1 in the first set.

"I was missing everything," said Domijan, who had a toe injury that kept him from training in December. "Then I just started making everything. I changed my racquet; maybe that was it, I don't know."

Sitak was serving for the first set at 5-3, but the unforced errors that were coming off Domijan's racquet in the first few games gravitated to his. He was broken at love, and when Domijan held, Sitak had lost his momentum. Although he held in the next game, Sitak played poorly in the tiebreaker, with many more errors than winners.

The 18-year-old from Wesley Chapel, Fla. had something that Sitak did not--the ability to hit a clean forehand winner, and once Domijan began to stay in the points longer he had a chance to hit it. In the second set, which I saw only a few minutes of, the match continued to be very close, but Domijan held at the crucial 4-4 game, saving a break point, and Sitak was under pressure from the start serving at 4-5. Sitak saved two match points at 15-40, when an ace and a Domijan forehand long got it back to deuce, but he failed to convert his only game point, and Domijan got his sixth win since last Friday on the third match point. Domijan's opponent in the quarterfinals is another qualifier, Jean-Noel Insausti of France.

Scoville Jenkins, the top seed, escaped with a 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 win, after his opponent, Marius Copil of Romania served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Former Florida Gator Greg Ouellette outlasted qualifier Deniss Pavlovs of Latvia 4-6, 6-6, 6-4 in a match that took nearly three hours to complete.

Number seven seed Christina McHale took considerably less time to dispose of Mirjana Lucic of Croatia, rolling past the former WTA Top 50 player 6-3, 6-0.

"I think we were both really nervous in the beginning," McHale said, "but then I really got in a groove."

Lucic had difficulty coping with McHale's first serve, and the 27-year-old could not find any rhythm at all, with most of the rallies ending with her unforced errors. McHale, who did not travel to Australia because she was several spots out of women's qualifying when a decision was necessary, has lost only five games in her first two wins. She faces a tough test on Friday against top seed Maret Ani of Estonia, who is 164 in the WTA rankings and won her second round match against Great Britain's Georgie Stoop today 6-0, 6-2.

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

Nine Intriguing Questions for 2010

My annual look at some interesting questions for college and junior tennis in 2010 is up this morning at the Tennis Recruiting Network. This is one of the few times of year that I step away from daily tournament results and news to ponder some of the bigger questions in college and junior tennis.

We're going to check in on the Plantation Pro Circuit events today, hoping to catch some of the Capra, McHale and Domijan matches. I will try to tweet some results, and will have an update later this evening.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Women's Qualifying Begins in Australia; Capra, Tomljanovic and Domijan into Second Round in Plantation

We arrived in Miami this evening, and while the temperatures here have yet to return to the normal mid 70s from last week's Arctic blast, it sure was more comfortable being outside than in Kalamazoo, where temperatures were no warmer than the teens and 20s the past three weeks.

Austin gave a good account of the men's qualifying at the Australian Open, with emphasis on the American men and the former U.S. college players, in a comment on yesterday's post. To that I'll just add that Grigor Dimitrov's first round loss to Robert Kendrick was an indication that he's not ready for the stardom that many have predicted for him, although Kendrick is a tough draw.

Another disappointment was in the women's qualifying, which began several hours ago. Sixteen-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, the No. 4 seed, lost in the first round to Ekaterina Dzehalevich of Belarus 6-3, 6-0. I haven't seen Larcher de Brito play in several years now, but that's not a scoreline I would expect from her against any opponent.

There are nine U.S. women in the qualifying field of 96 (I've never understood why women qualifying is 96 and men 128): Lindsay Lee-Waters, Shenay Perry, Carly Gullickson, Madison Brengle, Alexandra Stevenson, Julia Cohen, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Lauren Albanese and Lila Osterloh. Perry and Gullickson have already posted first round victories, as has ITF World Junior Champion Kristina Mladenovic of France. Mladenovic made it into qualifying based on her own ranking and she breezed through her first round match against countrywoman Mathilde Johansson, the 15th seed, 6-1, 6-3.

The qualifying wild cards went to:
Marija Mirkovic, Shannon Golds, Jessica Moore, Viktorija Rajicic, Ashling Sumner, Laura Robson, Sally Peers and Monika Wejnert. All but Robson are Australian.

For the complete draw, see the Australian Open website.

Today at the Plantation Pro Circuit events, Jack Sock and Evan King acquitted themselves well in the men's $10,000 Futures, but both lost; Sock to No. 1 seed Scoville Jenkins 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 and King to No. 2 seed Eric Prodon of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-0. It was a good day for qualifiers, as the only two who lost went down to another qualifier. Alex Domijan beat fellow qualifier Olivier Sajous, who, being from Haiti, probably had other things on his mind.

In the women's $25,000, seven of the eight seeds won their first round matches, including No. 7 Christina McHale, who thumped qualifier Jamie Hampton 6-1, 6-1. The only seed to lose was No. 8 Greta Arn of Hungary, who was beaten by qualifier Beatrice Capra 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Qualifier Ajla Tomljanovic also advanced to the second round, defeating wild card Kyle McPhillips 6-3, 6-2.

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