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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lauren Davis Wins Puerto Rico Challenger; Kandler and Strobel Take Titles in Atlanta ITF; Kukushkin's Route to ATP Title

Lauren Davis gave herself a Halloween treat today, winning her second Pro Circuit event this month, the $25,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Puerto Rico. The 17-year-old from Ohio, who is now training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., beat Madison Keys, who also is at Evert's, 7-6(5), 6-4 in today's singles final.

After winning the $10,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Williamsburg, Va., earlier this month, Davis went straight to the Pan-American Closed ITF junior tournament in Tulsa, where she lost to eventual champion Keys in a three-set semifinal match. That was the only loss of the month for Davis, who has now won 11 consecutive professional matches, including her one qualifying match in Puerto Rico. Neither Davis nor Keys were seeded in Puerto Rico.

The doubles title went to top seeds Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil and Marie-Eve Pelletier of Canada, who defeated the second-seeded team of Maria Irigoyen and Florencia Molinero of Argentina 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the Birmingham Futures tournament, Canadian Philip Bester, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed James Lemke of Australia 0-6, 6-2, 6-0. Bester also won the doubles title, teaming with countryman Kamil Pajkowski to beat Lemke and German Dennis Bloemke 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-5.

Bester wasn't the only player to lose the first set 6-0 and come back to win a championship today. Austria's Christine Kandler won the ITF Grade 4 girls singles title over Brooke Austin by the score of 0-6, 7-5, 7-6(2). It was Austin, the No. 6 seed, making the comeback in the third set, taking five straight games after falling behind 5-1, but the eighth-seeded Kandler prevailed in the tiebreaker. No. 2 seed Trey Strobel won the boys singles title, defeating fellow 16-year-old Harrison Richmond, the sixth seed, 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Top seeds Anthony Delcore and Austin Smith won the boys doubles title, with No. 2 seeds Austin and Hannah King taking the girls doubles title.

For complete results from the Atlanta ITF, see the ITF junior website. Next week the ITF circuit in the US moves to Lexington, SC, where unfortunately the former Grade 2 tournament is now a Grade 4.

Next week on the Pro Circuit, the women are in Grapevine, Texas for a $50,000 Challenger, while the men have a $50,000 Challenger in Charlottesville, Va. and a $10,000 Futures in Niceville, Fla. Qualifying for all three events is underway. In Charlottesville, all wild cards went to former or current Cavaliers: Treat Huey, Ted Angelinos, Jarmere Jenkins and Alex Domijan. Jenkins and Angelinos play each other in the opening round. Michael Shabaz, a wild card into qualifying, has won two matches and will play Nicholas Monroe for a spot in the main draw Monday.

See usta.com's Pro Circuit results page for draws.

Twenty-two-year-old Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan won the St. Petersburg, Russia ATP event today, and because I didn't recall his name from the juniors, I wondered if he had played mostly Futures events and perhaps only small ITF junior events in Russia (where he was born and grew up) when he was younger. As I tweeted earlier today, I was surprised to find that Kukushkin had not played a single ITF junior event, anywhere, at any age. He is not in the ITF junior database. There are many examples of young players concentrating on Futures rather than junior events, most notably Rafael Nadal, but even Nadal, who was 16 at the time, played Junior Wimbledon (he was given a wild card). I've long since learned that every player's path to success is different, but this is one that I could not have imagined.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Thinking about Turning Pro Instead of Going to College? Study Says 250K in Cash Should be Your Price

I hope that headline isn't too sensational, but the study that I'm referring to--by the USTA National Collegiate Varsity Committee--is of such importance that I want to make sure that it gets noticed and read.

Of course the decision on whether an elite junior should go to college or turn pro is not entirely financial, but it is an appropriate place to start the discussion. To get to the item I mention in the headline, the study provides estimates of the expenses of competing full-time on the pro tour and contrasts it with the value of the college scholarship and the coaching, fitness, and travel expenses that are provided free to college players. The first figure is $143,000 (per year), the second is $90,000 (per year).* Although there may be a few who are in a position to ignore that $233,000 gap, most are not. The passage I'm referring to is this:

From a financial perspective, unless you can get at least $250,000 of “real money” (hard cash dollars) placed into an escrow account in your name (e.g., not promises, not simply clothes, etc.) you should go to college.

*I do wish there had been at least a nod to the difference in this number for men vs. women at the college level, since very few men actually receive a full scholarship, given that there are only 4.5 available at the NCAA D-I level.

The study isn't just about money however. Here is the list of questions addressed, whether in the body of the report or in the appendices.

(1) What is the USTA player development pathway?
(2) What is the monetary value of a college tennis scholarship?
(3) What are the annual costs for playing the professional tour at a highly competitive level?
(4) What ATP and WTA rankings (earnings) are needed to break even financially playing professional tennis?
(5) What can you can make as professional tennis player at the progressive levels of professional tennis?
(6) Can you share any sample case studies of professional careers, including career earnings?
(7) What are the average ages of tour professionals at various rankings?
(8) What does a career progressions of playing records in the developmental pathway look like for a successful pro, including the average number of years it takes to become top 100 and the “life expectancy on the pro tour”?

There is also reference to the advantages of playing a lot of matches in college, which are usually in high-pressure situations, and the value of the confidence gained from that. John Isner has spoken many times about the particular value of having that kind of experience at Georgia. And while this study rightfully focuses primarily on the tennis question, the social and educational advantages of spending four years in college are also considerable, especially when preparing for life after professional tennis.

The study provides a sort of minimum checklist for juniors who are considering the question of pro vs. college:

A truly elite junior tennis player should have a proven track record of success before even considering embarking on a professional career. Some good preliminary guidelines to consider are:

Boy’s scenario – 18 years old; Top 10 ITF; Top 5 in United States; Top
500 ATP and has won at least one national US junior championship.

Girl’s scenario – 17 years old; Top 10 ITF; Top 5 in United States; Top
300 WTA and has won at least one national US junior championship.

It's interesting to note that several boys who did meet most of those tests, Chase Buchanan, Rhyne Williams and Alex Domijan, opted for college, a sure sign that the trend is in that direction. I also doubt that any of them had that $250,000 offer. While Christina McHale met the above criteria and turned pro after much thought, Beatrice Capra, who also qualifies, is still contemplating that move.

There is, however, no template, no easy way to determine who is ready for professional tennis and who needs more time before trying it as a first career. As Kentucky coach Dennis Emery told me last month, "there is one indicator of success on the pro tour, and that's success on the pro tour."

With the USTA's emphasis now on the collegiate game as a pathway to pro tennis, I'm optimistic that there will be more success stories like that of John Isner. The U.S. actually has a huge advantage over many countries with the collegiate sports infrastructure we have. Professional baseball, football and basketball take advantage of that; it's time tennis did the same.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turewicz to Duke; ITA Indoor Seedings Announced; Coaches Clinic, College Showcase, Information Fair Next Weekend in NY; Keys, Davis Make 25K Semis

During the Pan-American Closed, I sat down with Monica Turewicz to discuss her decision to attend Duke, and this story, posted today on the Tennis Recruiting Network, is the result. Turewicz made her decision relatively early, based on unofficial visits, which seems to be a trend, particularly for girls. Don't miss the TRN articles on Gregory Scott's choice of UC-Santa Barbara and Spencer Newman's decision to become a Florida Gator.

The seeds have been announced for next week's USTA/ITA Indoor Championships, with fall competition playing a major role in the selections. The All-American champions top the lists, with last year's Indoor champions getting the No. 7 and No. 2 seedings.

1. Alex Domijan Virginia
2. Eric Quigley Kentucky
3. Henrique Cunha Duke
4. Bradley Klahn Stanford
5. J.P. Smith Tennessee
6. Guillermo Gomez Georgia Tech
7. Steve Johnson USC
8. Michael Shabaz Virginia

1. Courtney/Shabaz Virginia
2. Carleton/Cunha Duke
3. Inbar /Meister UCLA
4. Klahn /Thacher Stanford

1. Hilary Barte Stanford
2. Jana Juricova California
3. Kristy Frilling Notre Dame
4. Denise Muresan Michigan
5. Denise Dy Washington
6. Allie Will Florida
7. Maria Sanchez USC
8. Reka Zsilinszka Duke

1. Barte/Burdette Stanford
2. Andersson/Juricova California
3. Bek/Wong Clemson
4. Guarachi/McLane Alabama

The schedule has also been posted in this document, with doubles starting the action on all four days. There is no admission charge to watch, and with two rounds on Friday, there will be plenty of tennis to view Friday evening, as well as on the weekend.

There are a number of events being held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in conjunction with tournament, including a Tennis Coaches workshop on Friday with USTA National Coach Tim Mayotte, open to all high school and college coaches and club pros. More on that event can be found here. On Saturday there is a College Information Fair organized by USTA Eastern and USTA Serves, and on Sunday, the Eastern section presents its popular College Showcase. Information and great tennis is a hard combination to beat, so if you are in the area, make plans to attend.

Today in the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Puerto Rico, Lauren Davis defeated No. 5 seed Sloane Stephens 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the semifinals. The unseeded Davis, who had also beaten Stephens in the quarterfinals of the USTA Girls 18s Nationals back in August, plays No. 4 seed Maria Irigoyen of Argentina Saturday. Unseeded Madison Keys beat No. 6 seed Lauren Albanese 6-4, 7-6(4) today and will play Johanna Konta of Australia, the No. 7 seed, in the other semfinal. Konta defeated No. 2 seed Julia Cohen 6-2, 6-3 today.

With the loss of Sekou Bangoura and Andrea Collarini in the quarterfinals today, there are no current college or junior players left in the draw at the Birmingham Futures.

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coaches Q and A: Should I Play Futures and if so, When?

After a three-month hiatus, Coaches Q and A is back.

Andy Brandi, who coached at the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is now a USTA National coach, so Harold will be doing most of the heavy-lifting going forward. Take advantage of the opportunity to have one of best American players of his generation and one of the nation's most respected coaches answer your questions about junior tennis and player development.

Today's question: Is there an appropriate age for juniors to begin playing Futures and Pro Circuit events?

Harold Solomon responds:

There isn't a specific age that I would recommend for juniors to compete in futures tournaments. If juniors have played well in national events and then gone on to have some success in ITF tournaments, especially at the top levels, then playing Futures events can be a good idea.

It's important for the player to be sufficiently physically developed so that playing against bigger stronger players doesn't cause injuries. For juniors who have had success in ITF events, playing some future events can be important as an indication of where they stand. It is still much easier for women who mature earlier to have success at a younger age in futures events and at the tour level.

I would shy away from requesting too many wild cards into the main draws. Use wild cards occasionally as a barometer for your level of play but the track record of former players who have virtually lived on wild cards at these and higher events is not very good. It's important to go through the growing pains of working your way up the ladder and feeling like you belong at a certain level because you earned it and have done the mental, physical, and technical development necessary to become successful.

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Courier Named Davis Cup Captain; Fields Set for USTA/ITA Indoor Next Week

The USTA held another conference call today to introduce Jim Courier as the new Davis Cup captain. I hadn't planned on doing anything more than listen, since the practice partners for the March tie with Chile are obviously a long way from being decided. But several times during the call, Courier mentioned working with younger players, so I asked him what specifically he was planning to do in that area.

"I think most of my focus will be working closely with Patrick McEnroe and his team, Jose Higueras, who was my great mentor during my career, Jay Berger, who will remain coach of the team, and all the staff at the Player Development sites that they have, whether it's New York here, where I live, or down in Boca or Carson. I think that's a way for me to get to know these players a little bit better. I'm planning on traveling some this winter to those locations, where they're having some camps, so I can see some of the younger players and also see some of the players who are going to be playing Davis Cup for us next year as well. I've signed a multi-year agreement, so my hope is to be in the position for quite a while, and to integrate our much younger players into the team over time."

Courier was also available to reporters at a luncheon earlier today in Manhattan, which was attended by espn.com's Greg Garber. Garber has more on Courier's past success as a player in Davis Cup, and his prospects for matching that as the captain, in this article.

The complete transcript of the conference call can be found at ASAP Sports.

The fields for the USTA/ITA Indoor are set, including the wild cards. The men's field is here, and the women's field here on the ITA website. Great work by the ITA staff to display photos of nearly all the participants.

The USTA singles wild cards were given to Evan King of Michigan and Alex Cercone of Florida, with the doubles wild cards going to two Stanford teams--defending champions Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher, and Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs. Defending men's champion Steve Johnson of USC was given an ITA wild card. It appears that Dennis Nevolo of Illinois, ranked 26th in the preseason polls, was the last at-large to get in. All the players ranked above him who received entry also had reached the quarterfinals of the regionals, as the men's committee mandated. This left 8 players ranked above Nevolo, who did not receive entry because they either did not play a regional, or failed to make the quarterfinals. The wild card reserved for Columbia, the host school, went to Haig Schneiderman.

The women's at-large bids were not as cut-and-dried. As mentioned in the selection document, as long as a player competed in the regional, it was not necessary for her to reach the quarterfinals to be considered, and Bianca Eichkorn of Miami and Venise Chan of Washington, both in the preseason top 15, were granted entry despite not reaching the regional final eight, as was Mari Andersson of Cal-Berkely. Kristie Boxx of Mississippi appears to have been the final at-large selection, although I'm not sure why Andrea Remynse of UCLA is not competing, as she met the criteria. The loser of the match on Thursday between Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn of Stanford will receive an ITA wild card. Nicole Bartnik is the wild card from Columbia.

I hope to hear from the ITA tomorrow on the reason that the Princeton women's team of Hilary Bartlett and Taylor Marable were selected, as they lost the final of the regional to Yale's Vicky Brook and Lindsay Clark. UPDATE: It was an error by the ITA that has been corrected. Brook and Clark are now listed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fed Cup Team Announced; Horter to Baylor; Full Ride Isn't; Improving College Tennis Attendance

Mary Joe Fernandez participated in a conference call today to announce the Fed Cup team for the final against Italy November 6th and 7th in San Diego, and as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported yesterday, CoCo Vandeweghe will join Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber on the team.

I joined the call to ask, as I usually do, the names of the practice partners, who are referred to Future Fed Cuppers on the women's side. Fernandez was unable to say for certain who would accompany the team to San Diego.

We're still working on it because the future Fed Cup'ers that were going to come have all been doing really well and they're trying to earn points to get into the Australian Open main draw. There's tournaments the week of Fed Cup.

As of now, players like Sloane Stephens, been on the team before, Christina McHale, and also Ally Riske, Alison Riske, has been on fire over in Europe, winning three tournaments and reaching one final. They're all right on the verge of making that cut.

We're going to see this week how Sloane does. She's in Puerto Rico, see if any of them can come. If not, we're going to go down the line. But those three have really been making a big push, along with CoCo, which is very exciting.

For the complete transcript of the conference call, see the ASAP Sports website.

In conjunction with the Fed Cup, there will be a kids clinic at the Barnes Tennis Center, a USTA Regional Training Center, and home to the Girls 16s and 18s Nationals. For more on the November 3rd event, click here.

Today's Tennis Recruiting Network story in the Signing Countdown is by Granger Huntress, who talks with Megan Horter about her decision to sign with Baylor. Baylor has had very few Americans on its always excellent teams, and Huntress delves into the reasons Horter has chosen to be a pioneer of sorts.

Any student-athlete signing a National Letter of Intent and accepting a scholarship needs to look closely at the numbers, whether it is a full scholarship, which women receive in tennis, or a partial, which is what most men receive. And according to this article today on espn.com, even a full ride may come with other expenses necessary to attend school, but not provided by scholarship. The NCAA is also being sued for making scholarships one-year renewable, rather than negotiable for a longer term.

As someone who has heard Wayne Bryan speak often at clinics and conferences, I can attest to his love and support of college tennis. He recently organized a summit in Southern California to address ways of boosting attendance at college tennis matches; the ITA website has a review of those attending and the topics discussed. There were several Tennis Channel executives there, and although I don't get Tennis Channel myself, I would welcome their support of the collegiate game. There was a time, not too long ago, when they covered the NCAA individual tournament, and a resumption of that would be welcome. I think it would also be fantastic if they could do the "Getting to Know" segments, like those they did for juniors here in Kalamazoo, for college players.

And if you live in the New York area, please consider attending the upcoming USTA/ITA National Indoor at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center November 4-7. It's a great opportunity to see high quality tennis and support the collegiate game.

In today's regional finals, Connie Hsu of Penn, Sona Novakova of Baylor, Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame and Gonzalo Escobar of Texas Tech all won regional singles titles. I have updated Monday's post to include all regional winners, except for the Mountain men's doubles and Northwest women's singles, both still undecided. Freshmen Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs of Stanford have reached the Northwest final, which may be played another day this week, since both had already played three matches today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

ITA Regional Primer; USTA's Q and A with Mallory Burdette

Most of the ITA regional competition is winding down, with the majority of competitors now decided for the USTA/ITA Indoor, which begins a week from Thursday in New York. I've compiled a list of the singles and doubles winners from the regions, and if they are not yet decided, or results not available, the most recent information I can find. Below that is the list of automatic qualifiers from the All-American tournaments and the rankings that will decide the at-large bids.

Michaela Kissell (Marshall)
Maria Fuccillo and Rashmi Teltumbde (Virginia)

Zoe De Bruycker (North Carolina)
Josipa Bek and Keri Wong (Clemson)

Anouk Tigu (Arkansas)
Ana-Maria Constantinescu and Alice Radu (Oklahoma)

Kristy Frilling (Notre Dame)
Linda Abu Mushrefova and Nida Hamilton (Northwestern)

Lucia Batta (UNLV)
Anastasia Putilina and Paige Miles (Utah)

Connie Hsu (Penn)
Vicky Brook and Lindsay Clark (Yale)

Kristie Ahn (Stanford)
Mari Andersson and Jana Juricova (CAL)

Ohio Valley

Brynn Boren (Tennessee)
Boren and Maria Sorbello (Tennessee)


Mary Anne Macfarlane (Alabama)
Courtney McLane and Alexa Guarachi (Alabama)


Olivia Janowicz (Florida)
Sofie Oyen and Allie Will (Florida)

Danielle Lao (USC)
Valeria Pulido and Alison Ramos (USC)


Sona Novakova (Baylor)
Novakova and Nina Secerbegovic (Baylor)

Jarmere Jenkins (Virginia)
Alex Domijan and Jenkins (Virginia)


Henrique Cunha (Duke)
Cunha and Reid Carleton (Duke)

Ionut Beleleu (Oklahoma)
Aleksey Bessonov and Rifat Biktyakov (Oklahoma State)


Blaz Rola (Ohio State)
Matt Allare and Peter Kobelt (Ohio State)


Enej Bonin (Denver)
Thomas Shubert and Spencer Smith (BYU)


Sven Vloedgraven (Binghamton)
Alistair Felton and Andy Nguyen (Harvard)

Ohio Valley

Eric Quigley (Kentucky)
Austen Childs and Viktor Maksimcuk (Louisville)

Kiryl Harbatsiuk (Sacramento St.)
Nick Andrews and Chris Konigsfeldt (CAL)

Tucker Vorster (Mississippi)
Marcel and Christopher Thiemann (Mississippi)


Wil Spencer (Georgia)
Kevin King and Juan Spir (Georgia Tech)

Sebastian Fanselow (Pepperdine)
Amit Inbar and Nick Meister (UCLA)

Gonzalo Escobar (Texas Tech)
Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie (Texas)

All-American Qualifiers:
Hilary Barte (Stanford)
Denise Dy (Washington)
Kristy Frilling (Notre Dame)
Jana Jurikova (Cal)
Marta Lesniak (SMU)
Denise Muresan (Michigan)
Nina Secerbegovic (Baylor)
Reka Zsilinszka (Duke)

Reid Carleton (Duke)
Austen Childs (Louisville)
Drew Courtney (Virginia)
Alex Domijan (Virginia)
Bradley Klahn (Stanford)
Alex Lacroix (Florida)
Eric Quigley (Kentucky)
Sanam Singh (Virginia)

The rankings for at-large bids (must have reached quarterfinals of Regional to be eligible for at-large bids) * indicates they have met that requirement, + indicates All-American qualifier, # indicates regional winner. Eight at-large bids available for women, seven for the men. There are no at-large bids in doubles.

WOMEN: (It appears there is more leeway in at-large bids for women, with having played the regional enough for consideration. See this selection document.)

1 Jana Juricova+
2 Hilary Barte+
3 Maria Sanchez*
4 Lauren Embree
5 Allie Will*
6 Maria Mosolova*
7 Denise Dy+
8 Kristy Frilling+#
9 Venise Chan
10 Nina Secerbegovic+
11 Marina Cossou
12 Denise Muresan+
13 Josipa Bek*
14 Bianca Eichkorn
15 Aeriel Ellis*
16 Mari Andersson
17 Andrea Remynse*
18 Anouk Tigu#
19 Alison Ramos
20 Kristi Boxx*
21 Mallory Burdette
22 Marta Lesniak +
23 Noelle Hickey
24 Nadine Fahoum *
25 Jackie Wu*

1 JP Smith*
2 Henrique Cunha#
3 Bradley Klahn+
4 Guillermo Gomez*
5 Chase Buchanan *
6 Michael Shabaz *
7 Steve Johnson
8 Eric Quigley#
9 Alexandre Lacroix+
10 Austen Childs+
11 Tim Puetz
12 Austin Krajicek*
13 Sanam Singh+
14 Javier Garrapiz
15 Marcel Thiemann
16 Raony Carvalho
17 Pedro Zerbini
18 Ed Corrie
19 Marek Michalicka
20 Ryan Lipman*
21 Rhyne Williams*
22 Jeff Dadamo*
24 Gonzalo Escobar#
25 Jason Jung

The college spotlight from the USTA is back up and running, with this installment about Stanford's Mallory Burdette, who did qualify for the ITA Indoor in doubles by winning the All-American with Hilary Barte.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Zheng, Uchiyama win Osaka Mayor's Cup; Riske Wins Again; Cox Falls in Mansfield Final, Falconi Loses in Rock Hill Final

There has been a lot of college regional action going on this weekend, with most of the finals in the 12 regions set for Monday. Watch the twitter feed for some re-tweeted updates; I'll have a complete review of all of the results tomorrow or Tuesday. Several of the finals are teammate vs. teammate, and depending on the status of the players as candidates for an at-large bids to the National Indoor, some of these matches may not be played. Michael Shabaz of Virginia will advance based on his preseason ranking, since he reached the regional quarterfinals, so, for the second year in a row, Jarmere Jenkins wins the regional final by walkover/retirement from a teammate (Singh in 2009).

Today in Japan, the home country claimed three championships, with Yasutaka Uchiyama taking the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayors Cup boys singles title, and Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato taking the girls doubles title. Uchiyama won the boys doubles title with Croatia's Mate Pavic. Uchiyama, the No. 2 seed, beat the top seed Pavic in the singles final 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. The girls singles final was even closer, with the second-seeded Saisai Zheng of China defeating Japan's Miho Kowase 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(3). Kowase, the No. 7 seed, had upset top seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in the quarterfinals.

Whether it was due to a stronger field or simply junior players not in form, it is interesting to note that neither Uchiyama nor Zheng had notable results at last month's U.S. Open junior championships. Zheng lost in the first round to Sachia Vickery of the U.S., while Uchiyama fell in the third round to American Dennis Novikov. Both are likely to make big jumps in the junior rankings when they are released tomorrow. For more, see the ITF junior site.

This week the ITF junior circuit in the United States is in Atlanta for a Grade 4.

Twenty-year-old Alison Riske is making a late season push to reach the main draw of the Australian Open on her own ranking, which is now 130, by winning her third straight challenger this month, a $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in France. Since losing to Canada's Rebecca Marino last month in a third set tiebreaker that decided the title in a $50K event, Riske has won 15 consecutive matches. The seventh seed this week, Riske defeated unseeded Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 6-2 in the final. For complete results, see the ITF Women's Circuit site.

In Pro Circuit action today, Jordan Cox, seeded 4th, won his semifinal match, which was rained out on Saturday, but fell in the final of the $15,000 Mansfield Futures to No. 3 seed Fritz Wolmarans of South Africa 6-1, 6-2. Two former University of Texas Longhorns won the doubles title, with Dimitar Kutrovsky and Josh Zavala downing Denis Kudla and Andrea Collarini 6-3, 6-2. Neither of the teams in the finals were seeded.

Former collegians were not as successful in the women's $25,000 tournament in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Eighth seed Camila Georgi of Italy defeated former Georgia Tech All-American Irina Falconi, the sixth seed, 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Caitlin Whoriskey, formerly at Tennessee, and Sanaz Marand, a recent North Carolina grad, fell in the doubles final to No. 3 seeds Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil and Marian Duque Marino of Colombia 6-1, 4-6, 10-4. Whoriskey and Marand were not seeded.

In the Calabasas Challenger, Ryan Harrison and Travis Rettenmaier, seeded third, won the doubles title with a 6-3, 6-3 over fourth seeds Bobby Reynolds and Rik DeVoest. I believe it is Harrison's first doubles title at the Challenger level. Harrison and Rettenmaier did not need a match tiebreaker in any of their four wins. Ryan Sweeting and Marinko Matosevic of Australia are in the singles final, which is still in progress.

The two Pro Circuit events this week are a women's $25,000 Challenger in Puerto Rico and a men's $10,000 Futures in Birmingham, Alabama. Qualifying is underway in both tournaments.

Results can be found at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Desdunes Named Director of USTA Junior & Collegiate Competition; Saviano Moves Academy to Plantation; Charlie Bricker on Gianluigi Quinzi

This isn't exactly breaking news, but if you don't frequent the USTA Player Development Staff Directory regularly, you might not know that Jean Desdunes has been named to the position of Senior Director, Junior and Collegiate Competition, which Timon Corwin vacated in May. Desdunes, formerly a Lead National Women's Coach at the USTA's Boca Raton National Training Center, was in Tulsa for the All-American and for the early part of the Pan American in his new role. Desdunes played collegiate tennis at Clemson, was head men's coach at Georgia Tech for ten years through 1998, and in 2005 became a USTA coach after several years with the USTA's Southern section.

There have been other changes in the coaching roster as well. Marc Lucero, the former women's assistant at Princeton, has been added, which probably means the end of his contributions as a writer/researcher for the Tennis Recruiting Network. Listed in the materials I received last month at the U.S. Open are two coaches who don't appear on the directory on the USTA website: Lee Hurst and Diego Moyano. Roger Smith, the longtime USTA coach who worked at Carson, Calif., Training Center, has left the organization.

In other coaching news, a recent issue of Florida Tennis (sorry, no link available), provided the news that Nick Saviano has moved his High Performance Tennis academy from Sunrise to Plantation, Florida. It is now located at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, the home to the Girls 14s Clay Courts as well as ITF and Pro Circuit events.

Charlie Bricker visited another well-known Florida tennis academy recently, the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, to check out Gianluigi Quinzi, the 14-year-old Italian who has been sweeping through the ITF Grade 5s in the Caribbean this fall, winning four straight tournaments and 20 consecutive matches at that level. According to Bricker's piece in World Tennis Magazine, Quinzi will play the 16s at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, but is going to make his professional debut at the upcoming Futures event in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Puig Upset at Osaka Mayor's Cup; Little Mo Nationals; A Correction

Top seed Monica Puig was upset today in the ITF Grade A Mayor's Osaka Cup in Japan, losing in the quarterfinals to No. 7 seed Miho Kowase of Japan 4-6 6-3 7-5. The 15-year-old Kowase, ranked 60th in the current ITF junior rankings, lost in the first round of the U.S. Open juniors to Kyle McPhillips. She was a member of Japan's Junior Fed Cup team, which was seeded 5th, but ended up finishing 13th last month in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Japan was in the USA's group, and in their round robin meeting, Krista Hardebeck defeated Kowase at No. 1 singles. Kowase will play No. 4 seed Daria Salnikova of Russia in one semifinal, while No. 2 seed Saisai Zheng of China takes on No. 3 seed Ilona Kremen of Belarus in the other.

In the boys semifinals, top seed Mate Pavic of Croatia will meet No. 8 seed Sean Berman, who is still listed as representing the USA by the ITF, although he competed as an Australian at the AO Juniors in January, and No. 2 seed Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan will face No. 3 seed Bowen Ouyang of China. For more on Friday's action, see the ITF junior website.

The Little Mo Nationals ended Monday in Austin, Texas, with the following winners (division and age group in parentheses): Zane Khan (B8), Charlotte Owensby(G8), Brandon Nakashima (B9), Josie Frazier (G9), Sangeet Sridha (B10), Nada Dimovska (G10), 1) Jackson Suh (B11) and Anna Bright (G11). For complete results, see the TennisLink site. This year the Little Mo International tournament will be held at the IMG Bollettieri Academy the week after the Eddie Herr, according to this post on the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation's website. They are adding a 12s division, but that is now in direct competition with the Nike Junior Masters, which this year is in the Bahamas during that same time period, instead of last year's dates in October. The Nike Junior Tour also has a 14s division.

I also need to make a correction from one of my posts from the Pan American Closed, in which I referred to Francoise Abanda of Canada as the youngest competitor in the field. She was the youngest among the direct entries, but Marie Norris of Kansas, who qualified, is also 13, and actually a few month younger. Norris lost to No. 8 seed Ashley Dai in the first round in Tulsa. I discovered my mistake when I looked at the draws for the current Cincinnati Open, a USTA Level 3 event for 14s. and saw Norris is the second seed there. It occurred to me if she was playing in a 14s event, she could have been the youngest in Tulsa, and so it proved. On a side note, 2009 Nike Masters 12s champion Stefan Kozlov, who is not yet eligible for ITF tournaments, as he won't be 13 until next February, is also playing in Cincinnati, and he too is the No. 2 seed. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pan American Closed Recap, Slideshow, Videos

I'm wrapping up the 2010 ITF B1 Pan American Closed today, with this recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network and the slideshow and videos below. The article is more an overall summary of the tournament than the daily match reports I posted on this site throughout last week.

Below are videos of the two champions from the Pan American. To view videos of finalists Christina Makarova and Shane Vinsant, see the tenniskalamazoo channel on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ore Selects Texas A & M to Help Him Prepare for Professional Tennis

Junior Ore has yet to visit the Texas A & M campus, but his conversations with Aggie coaches Steve Denton and Bob McKinley have convinced the 18-year-old from Gaithersburg, Md. that the path to professional tennis runs through College Station.

"Steve Denton and Bobby McKinley have a pretty strong background with tennis professionally, and I want to become a pro and they were pros, so I believe Texas A & M is a perfect fit," said Ore, who plans to join the team in January. "I believe I need more time to develop my game before I can go pro and college is just another stepping stone."

Ore also considered a number of other schools, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois and took unofficial visits to the first two campuses. But the conversations that Ore and his grandfather had with Denton and McKinley convinced him to select Texas A & M.

"They came to where I was training and they talked to my grandfather," Ore recalled. "We--my coach and I--were talking about the things I needed to do with my game, and they were doing the same thing as well, so it just worked out perfectly."

Ore spent many years at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., but since the U.S. Open Juniors, he has trained with former Princeton player Alex Vuckovic at Steve Smith's Academy in Tampa. Current Aggie senior Austin Krajicek also has trained with Smith throughout his junior and college career.

"I don't know the whole team, but I know most of the team," Ore said of the current A & M squad. "Austin just wrote me a message the other day saying welcome to the team."

Ore is in the process of changing some of his strokes, and wants to continue to work on those changes when he starts at A & M.

"My goal right now is just to work on my game, just tweaking here and there with my coaches and Denton," Ore said. "This summer I'm planning on playing in Europe on the red clay, just to play matches, not to go after points. I'll just keep practicing on my game and see what happens from there."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Regional, Small College Winners Join All-American Quarterfinalists in USTA/ITA Indoor Draws

Although the majority of the regionals which will decide 12 spots in next month's USTA/ITA Indoor Championships are scheduled for this weekend, there are a few players who already know they'll be in New York November 4-7.

Three men's and two women's regionals are complete, as are the ITA Small College Championships. That competition, held in Mobile last weekend, includes NAIA, Division II, Division III and JUCO student-athletes, with a "Super Bowl" held between the four singles and doubles winners in those four categories. The overall winner receives a wild card into the National Indoor. The Super Bowl winners this year are: Kirill Sinitysyn of Fresno Pacific, an NAIA school, Kirstin Strimple, also from an NAIA school, Pt. Loma Nazarene, and two D-II Armstrong Atlantic doubles teams, Rafael Array and Mikk Irdoja on the men's side and Alida Muller-Wehlau and Barbora Krtickova on the women's side. For more on the Small College Championships, see the ITA website.

In addition, all the singles quarterfinalists from the All-American Championships receive an invitation to New York. The men are: Sanam Singh, Drew Courtney and Alex Domijan of Virginia, Eric Quigley of Kentucky, Reid Carleton of Duke, Austen Childs of Louisville, Bradley Klahn of Stanford and Alex Lacroix of Florida. The women are: Jana Jurikova of Cal, Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame, Marta Lesniak of SMU, Denise Dy of Washington, Denise Muresan of Michigan, Reka Zsilinszka of Duke, Nina Secerbegovic of Baylor and Hilary Barte of Stanford.

Only the All-American doubles winners--Barte and Mallory Burdette and Courtney and Shabaz--receive one of the precious 16 spots in the doubles draw. Host school Columbia receives a wild card in singles and doubles for men and women.

For more on the selection criteria, see this PDF document on the ITA website.

In the completed Division I action, two freshman have earned spots from the women's Ohio Valley and Mountain regions. Brynn Boren of Tennessee took the singles and doubles (with Maria Sorbello). The finalists in both singles and doubles were all Lady Volunteers. For more, see utladyvols.com. Lucia Batta of University of Nevada-Las Vegas won the Mountain regional in singles; Anastasia Putilina and Paige Miles of Utah won the doubles.

In the men's Northeast regional at Yale, Sven Vloedgraven of Binghamton won the singles, with Alistair Felton and Andy Nguyen of Harvard taking the doubles title. In the men's Carolina regional in Chapel Hill, Henrique Cunha of Duke won the singles, with Cunha and Carleton taking the doubles title.

In the Northwest regional at Stanford, Cal-Berkeley's doubles team of Nick Andrews and Chris Konigsfeldt captured the doubles title, surprising Stanford's Klahn and Ryan Thacher, last year's Indoor champions, in the semifinals. Konigsfeldt and Sacramento State's Kiryl Harbatsiuk are in a third set to decide the singles title. Stanford's Thacher, seeded 1, and Alex Clayton, seeded 2, fell in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the singles.

For results of the completed regionals and information about the upcoming regionals, see the ITA regional central site.

In other college news, Julia Cohen has been ruled eligible by the NCAA to compete for Division II California University of Pennsylvania this season. A protest was lodged against Cohen and the school last spring that kept her from competing in the NCAA D-II quarterfinals, according to this article on the school's website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

D'Novo/ITA All-American Slideshow, Videos

In just over two weeks the second collegiate major of the season, the USTA/ITA Indoor, will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. Many of the players shown in the All-American slideshow will be at the Indoor, as will 32 of the country's top women's players. But before I start looking ahead, it's time to look back on the D'Novo All-American in Tulsa. For complete draws, see the ITA tournament website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kudla Wins First Pro Event in Austin; Riske Takes Another Challenger Title; Grade A Osaka Cup Underway

My annual Tulsa festival of college and junior tennis is over, and it's time to catch up on some of the news from the other tournaments this week.

Denis Kudla captured his first professional singles title today in at the $15,000 Pro Circuit event in Austin, Texas, beating former Florida Gator Tyler Hochwalt 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Neither player was seeded, with both getting big wins in Saturday's semifinals. Hochwalt defeated top seed and ATP No. 380 Andrea Stoppini of Italy, while Kudla took out No. 2 seed and ATP No. 426 Fritz Wolmarans of South Africa. Chris Haggard and Conor Pollock won the doubles championship.

After winning a $75,000 Challenger in England last week, Alison Riske went across the Channel and won a $50,000 Challenger in France. In the past month, Riske is 14-1 in three challengers, the only loss coming in a third set tiebreaker to Rebecca Marino of Canada last month.

Speaking of Marino, she won her third straight Challenger title, taking the $50,000 Pro Circuit event in Troy, Alabama today. She easily defeated wild card Ashley Weinhold in the final, after needing three sets to get by Irina Falconi in the semifinals. Madison Brengle and Asia Muhammad won the doubles championship.

At the Tiburon men's Challenger, Ryan Harrison fell in the final to top seed Tobias Kamke of Germany 6-1, 6-1. On his way to the final, Harrison, who was unseeded, beat Lester Cook, Donald Young (2), Alex Bogomolov and Carsten Ball (6). Robert Kendrick and Travis Rettenmaier won the doubles title.

The draws for these tournaments can be found on the Pro Circuit page at usta.com. Qualifying is underway for the $15,000 men's Futures in Mansfield, Texas, the $50,000 men's Challenger in Calabasas, Calif., and the $25,000 women's Challenger in Rock Hill, S.C. Jack Sock, who withdrew from Austin with a hand injury, will not be playing in Mansfield as he had originally planned.

The ITF Grade A Mayor's Osaka Cup in Japan has begun, with Puerto Rico's Monica Puig the top girls seed and Mate Pavic of Croatia the No. 1 seed in the boys field. Traditionally few Americans venture to Japan for this, due to the scheduling proximity to the Pan American Closed, but two U.S. boys made the trip from Tulsa to Osaka this year: Evan Song and Robert Livi. Sean Berman, whose nationality is still listed as USA by the ITF, is seeded eighth.

The ITF junior website's Mayor's Osaka Cup preview can be found here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peliwo Takes ITF B1 Pan American Closed Boys Singles Championship; Keys Sweeps Girls Singles and Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

Most championship point celebrations at junior events are muted. When Madison Keys completed her 6-2, 6-1 victory over Christina Makarova Saturday morning at the Michael Case Tennis Center, she displayed little emotion other than a brief, wide smile.

But just a few minutes later, Filip Peliwo, who defeated Shane Vinsant 6-0, 6-3 in equally convincing fashion, punctuated his victory, with not one exclamatory roar, but three, while adding a double fist pump filled with exhilaration.

"I'm so happy right now, I can't even describe it," the 16-year-old Canadian said. "I'm struggling to even speak. It's a huge win for me. I came into this tournament hoping to get my points back from the loss last week in Montreal. I'd won it the year before and lost in the second round there....I'm really happy about the win, and it will boost my ranking a lot. This way I'll be able to get in main draw of Grand Slams next year, and I can play 18s Orange Bowl now."

Peliwo, seeded 12th, started well, missing very few balls, while the third-seeded Vinsant struggled in the first few games. Vinsant had several chances to hold to stay in the set down 0-3, but couldn't convert any of the game points, and Peliwo quickly took the first set. Vinsant had lost the first set in both his quarterfinal and semifinal wins however, so even with a 2-0 lead in the second set, Peliwo didn't relax.

"I knew he was going to be playing a bit better, a bit more solid, because he had been the whole tournament," Peliwo said. "I'd seen that he had been winning a lot of those matches because his opponents started to get a bit nervous when he started to play better. So I knew I had to keep my game going, going for my shots and not give him anything."

Vinsant came back to even the second set at 2, holding serve for the only time in the match at 1-2, but he couldn't sustain any momentum against Peliwo.

"He played a good match, a solid match, nothing special, cause I don't really think I made him do anything special," said Vinsant. "He played solid, I didn't really play well."

Vinsant's 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 2 seed and friend Bjorn Fratangelo in Friday's semifinal contributed to his lackluster play in the final.

"It was a letdown mentally and physically," said Vinsant, who received a wild card into the Mansfield Pro Circuit Futures near his home in the Dallas area. "My shoulder is just dead, and I couldn't serve today."

Keys knew that against the unseeded Makarova, her first serve would need to be on target, and it was. Makarova had beaten three consecutive seeds, including the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, by counter-punching them into frustration.

"I felt like I had to take her out of her game a little bit," the third-seeded Keys said. "I made her play a little bit more aggressive and I think that made her a little uncomfortable."

Broken only once, when Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" suddenly blared from a nearby loudspeaker at jet-engine decibel levels, Keys had already earned a 5-1 lead in the opening set, and she had no trouble breaking Makarova in the next game to close out the set.

"I didn't keep that many balls in the court," said the 14-year-old Makarova. "Sometimes she overwhelmed me, but sometimes I just couldn't keep it in. For some reason I was missing all of my backhand returns, ones I shouldn't miss, and I was getting really frustrated with that. And I kind of lost my forehand, and had to rely on my backhand instead."

Makarova still managed to put up a fight in several games, but most of the time it was on her serve. She managed to hold a six-deuce game down 3-0 in the second set, but Keys quickly held and broke in the next two games, and served out the match, when the backhand return that so troubled Makarova went long on the first match point.

Keys is dividing her time between Pro Circuit and high level junior events--next week she is in Puerto Rico for a $25,000 ITF women's circuit event--but going between the two is more of a psychological adjustment for her than one of game style.

"In the juniors, there's more pressure on me, and in the pros, it's more on them," said the 15-year-old Keys. "So you're kind of going back and forth on who has pressure."

Although she said Friday that her goal this week in Tulsa was to do better she had in 2009, when she lost in the second round, Keys had less results-based goals too.

"I was really focusing on staying calm, no matter what," said Keys. "Just being patient and staying positive, and I think I did a pretty good job with that."

In the girls doubles final that followed the singles final, Keys added a second title, when she and Annie Mulholland defeated unseeded Whitney Kay and Monica Turewicz 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

Although the top seeds due to their individual ITF junior combined rankings, Keys and Mulholland had never played together, and decided to pair up just a few days before the tournament began.

"The thing about doubles is the seeding doesn't really matter," said Mulholland, who is now training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, where Keys has been for several years. "It's how you work together as a team, and I think we did that."

Keys and Mulholland took advantage of some lethargic play by Kay and Turewicz in the opening set, but they knew their opponents were likely to stage a comeback.

"I was expecting them to play better after the first set," said Keys. "So it didn't really surprise me that we had to go to a match tiebreaker."

In the second set, five of the ten games went to the deciding point in the no-ad scoring format, with Kay and Turewicz taking the last two games of the set by winning those two points.

"In the second set, I think we stopped moving a little bit," said Mulholland. "Starting from the very first point in the tiebreaker, we went back to what we were doing in the first set, and it worked out."

Mulholland and Keys went up 6-2 in the match tiebreaker, and Kay and Turewicz were not able to get close enough to pressure Mulholland and Keys the rest of the way. A fortunate net cord winner by Keys gave her team match points, and they only needed one, when Turewicz missed a backhand following Keys' return.

And once again, there was no appreciable celebration by the winners or angst by the losers. There were handshakes, then photos and trophies before the players began focusing on the next tournament.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Unseeded Makarova Reaches Girls Final Against Keys; Vinsant and Peliwo To Decide Boys Pan American Closed Title

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

Christina Makarova would have been happy to win one match at the ITF B1 Pan American Closed Championships. But after yet another upset Friday--a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Monica Turewicz--the 14-year-old from San Diego will play No. 3 seed Madison Keys for the girls singles title.

"My goal in this tournament was to win one match," said Makarova, who completely frustrated Turewicz with her counter-punching ability in Friday morning's quarterfinals at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. "If I had lost this match, sure I would have been disappointed, but would have thought, I just got to the semis, what more can I ask for? But apparently, I can ask for more."

Makarova lost the first two games of her match against Turewicz, but then went on to take the next eight games on another warm and sunny day in Tulsa. With her ability to defend, a commitment not to miss and a willingness to hit dozens of moonballs per point if that's what is necessary, Makarova is extremely difficult to put away. The strategy of taking Makarova's looping shots out of the air can be effective, but Turewicz missed too many swinging volleys. And as is often the case against counterpunchers, and Turewicz is generally considered in that category herself, the other player begins to try to force the play, which leads to going for too much and making errors in the process. With Turewicz serving at 2-4 in the first set, having lost four straight games, she and Makarova engaged in what was certainly the longest point of the tournament. The ball had to have crossed the net 60 or 70 times, maybe more, but the strategy of trading moonballs with Makarova didn't work either, as Turewicz finally put the ball in the net.

The second set played out much the same as the first, and once Makarova held for a 3-1 lead after a long game in which Turewicz had three break points, Makarova's third straight win over a seeded player was secure, this one taking 90 minutes to complete.

Although she didn't know which of the other two semifinalists she would face, Makarova said she feared both Madison Keys and Lauren Davis.

"They scare me," said Makarova, who has never faced either player. "I know that I'm hard to win a point against, but they still scare me."

If there's a polar opposite to Makarova in junior tennis, it would be Keys. The 15-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida hits flat and hard, and doesn't change that approach no matter what the score or conditions. Third-seeded Keys and top seed Davis have trained together at the Evert Academy since Davis arrived early this year, but their only encounter in actual competition was in the 14s Winter Nationals, when Keys was 12 and Davis 14. Davis, who won the title in Tucson, beat Keys 6-0, 6-0 in the third round.

It looked as if Davis would get her second victory over Keys when she took the first set, but Keys bounced back to record a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Keys had difficulty with her serve in the opening set, and was broken three times as a result. Davis is one of the few juniors capable of absorbing Keys' power and converting it to offensive shots of her own, and Keys, perhaps unaccustomed to seeing her big ground strokes rifled back at her, was forced into some errors. At 1-1 in the second set, Keys was down 0-40 on her serve, but saved all three break points. She went on to win 10 points in a row, breaking Davis at love, and wasn't broken again in the set.

Keys' forehand was simply too much for Davis near the end of the second set, and that didn't change in the third, even though Keys was broken at 1-1, with three forehand errors contributing to the break. She got it right back in the next game, with a forehand winner, and by the sixth game of the match, Davis was starting to struggle physically. After nine straight days of tennis at the Pro Circuit and ITF Junior Circuit level, Davis was tiring, and the cough that had bothered her all week was often heard.

"At the 4-2 game, she started looking a little out of breath and tired," said Keys, who did not play the Pro Circuit event in Williamsburg that Davis won last week. "With all those matches and all these matches, I imagine she's pretty worn down."

Davis began to try to end points quickly, often resorting to short shots to get Keys to the net. Occasionally the strategy would work, but Davis also netted several drop shots. Keys kept rolling on her serve, and Davis's usually impeccable footwork started to let her down. Davis was broken for the third time in the set in the final game, and Saturday's contrast in styles was set.

"I have to try to focus on playing my game, and not let her different paced balls give me a hard time," Keys said when asked about Makarova. "I will need to try to stay in the match the entire time. She has no pressure."


The boys final will feature No. 12 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada against No. 3 seed Shane Vinsant. Peliwo defeated No. 15 seed Alexios Halebian 6-2, 6-1, whom he had also beaten in the Junior Davis Cup North American qualifying in May.

"It can always go both ways," the 16-year-old Peliwo said of the psychology of a rematch. "On one side, you have the mental advantage of knowing you have beaten him before, and on the other side, he's even more motivated to go for the win. But definitely the match in May helped me know what to do against him. I had a plan, and I followed it."

Peliwo made almost no unforced errors, while Halebian was frequently misfiring. After holding serve for 2-2 in the first set, Halebian won only one more game.

"I think I played well, not really any fancy stuff, just making a lot of balls, playing aggressive when I had the chance, basically just forcing him to make the mistake," Peliwo said. "He was getting frustrated because he was missing quite a lot of balls today, and it was just kind of a snowball effect that got worse and worse for him."

Peliwo believes Vinsant, who beat No. 2 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, is a better matchup for him in the final, although he had not played either player. But if he's expecting another snowball to start rolling for him, Peliwo should note that Vinsant has lost the first set in his past two victories.

"I'm a guy who just gets ready for the next point," Vinsant said of his slow start, which saw him lose the last six games of the opening set. "I try to win every point, so I don't have to think, am I going to fight here? It's not a choice. I'm ready to go--it's a new set."

Vinsant's defense was outstanding throughout the match, and many of the potent forehands and backhands that Fratangelo threw at him would have certainly been winners against other players.

"I played a lot of good defense today," said Vinsant, a Texan who turns 17 later this month. "Bjorn's really offensive, so he'll force you to do that. I also got a little lucky that he missed a few shots."

Vinsant made the only break of the second set stand up, but despite taking a 4-1 two-break lead in the third set, Fratangelo wasn't done. He got one of the breaks back and held his own serve, forcing Vinsant to serve out the match at 5-4. Down 0-30, Vinsant was in danger, but Fratangelo's forehand let him down, with three errors on that side contributing to his loss of four straight points and the match.

Vinsant believes he has a good idea what to expect from Peliwo.

"I think I've got a pretty good game plan," Vinsant said. "He's solid from all over. I can't let him stand still a lot, I've got to keep him on the run."

In Saturday morning's single final, Vinsant will be playing for his second Pan American Closed title. He and partner Emmett Egger, who were finalists here in Tulsa last year, earned the championship with a 3-6, 6-3, 14-12 win over unseeded Chase Curry and Nolan Paige, saving three match points in the final tiebreaker. Curry and Paige had defeated No. 2 seeds Mitchell Krueger and Daniel McCall 7-6(5), 6-2 earlier in the semifinals Friday morning.

"We lost a similar match last year," Vinsant recalled of their 10-8 match tiebreaker loss to Brandon Burke of Jamaica and Darian King of Barbados. "So that made us want to get this more."

"Neither of us wanted to take second again," said Egger. "They were a tough team, did some things well, definitely hit a lot of good volleys. In the second set especially, we were able to come up with some good shots at some key moments."

Egger and Vinsant are no strangers to the winners circle in doubles. The top-seeded pair have now won three major tournaments in a row: International Grass Courts, USTA 18s Clay Courts and now the ITF B1 Pan American.

Keys is also still in the running for two Pan American titles. As the top seeds, she and Annie Mulholland will go for the girls doubles title on Saturday against the unseeded team of Whitney Kay and Turewicz. Both defeated Canadian teams in Friday afternoon's semifinals. Keys and Mulholland downed unseeded Francoise and Elisabeth Abanda 6-4, 2-6, 11-9, while Kay and Turewicz beat the No. 8 seeds Kimberley-Ann Surin and Carol Zhao 6-4, 6-4.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

D'Novo/ITA All-American Recap; Blue Chip Girls Signing Update

Before the semifinals of the PanAmerican Closed begin today, I wanted to post a link to my recap of last weekend's D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships for the Tennis Recruiting Network. Usually I try to get the slideshow and videos up to go with the recap, but with back-to-back tournaments this week, it wasn't possible. Look for those next week, when I return to Kalamazoo.

Also, check out Tennis Recruiting Network's roundup of the blue chip girls 2011 commitments and upcoming announcements.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Boys Provide the Drama in Pan American Quarterfinals Thursday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

The semifinals are set for the ITF B1 Pan American Closed Championships after the final four girls advanced without much excitement on a clear and calm day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

The boys were a different story however, with only one quarterfinal failing to produce a compelling match.

Unseeded 14-year-old Christina Makarova had two tense wins in a row, over Catherine Harrison and No. 2 seed Ester Goldfeld, but today she had all the answers against No. 9 seed Gabrielle DeSimone, who couldn't find her form in Makarova's 6-1, 6-1 win. Makarova meets No. 4 seed Monica Turewicz in Friday's semifinal. Turewicz dispatched unseeded Stephanie Nauta 6-1, 6-2.

No. 3 seed Madison Keys, who has played extremely well all week, powered her way past No. 11 seed Kyle McPhillips 6-2, 6-0. McPhillips can usually find ways to disrupt the rhythms of any opponent, but Keys served too well and hit the ball too cleanly to allow McPhillips any time to sort out her strategy.

The most competitive of the four matches was top seed Lauren Davis's 6-1, 6-2 win over unseeded Canadian Elisabeth Abanda. Both girls were hitting with great power and depth, especially on the backhand side, but a confident Davis, who has now won eight matches over the past eight days, usually ended up hitting a winner or forcing an error after a long and well-played rally. Keys and Davis, who both train at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, will play their first ITF match against each other in Friday's semifinal.

No. 2 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, who struggled with the wind and No. 16 seed Robert Livi on Wednesday, had no difficulty subduing No. 8 seed Marco Nunez of Mexico 6-2, 6-0, but the going was much tougher for the other three winners.

Fratangelo's semifinal opponent, No. 3 seed Shane Vinsant, couldn't find the court in the first set of his quarterfinal match with Maxx Lipman. But despite losing the opening set 6-1 and trailing 2-0 and 5-3 in the second set, Vinsant eventually located his game and came away with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Lipman, who had beaten Vinsant in the final of the International Grass Courts in June, served for the match after breaking Vinsant at 3-4 in the second set. Lipman never reached match point, hitting a forehand into the net at 30-40, and Vinsant held at love in the next game to make it 5-5, broke again, and won his fourth straight game to take the set.

In the third set, Vinsant broke at 1-1, but Lipman had a great chance to get back on serve with Vinsant down 0-40 serving at 3-2. Vinsant won five straight points to hold however, and Lipman, who had received treatment between the second and third sets for what looked like a hip problem, didn't get another chance.

In the top half, unseeded Thai Kwiatkowski's run was halted by No. 12 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Kwiatkowski was down 4-1 in the final set, but with Peliwo serving at 4-2, Kwiatkowski got the break back, and held for 4-4. Peliwo held for 5-4, and suddenly he had match points, as Kwiatkowski fell behind 0-40 on his serve. Kwiatkowski battled back, using the strategy he had employed effectively throughout the match, hitting high deep top spin to throw Peliwo off his rhythm, then moving in and crushing a forehand. But after saving three match points, Kwiatkowski made a forehand error to give Peliwo match point number four, and another error, this one a backhand long, gave Peliwo the win.

Peliwo's semifinal opponent, No. 15 seed Alexios Halebian, has a score to settle with the 16-year-old Canadian. Halebian, who posted a 7-5, 7-6(3) victory over 2010 USTA Boys 16 champion Michael Redlicki on Thursday, lost to Peliwo in the North American Junior Davis Cup qualifying in May. That 2-1 loss to the Canadians kept the U.S. team, which also included Mitchell Krueger, from reaching the final in Mexico last month, where Canada finished as the runner-up to Japan.

"Played him in Davis Cup and it didn't go our way," said Halebian. "I've been wanting to play him again. I'll definitely be ready. I really want to win that match."

Against Redlicki, Halebian had plenty of opportunities to break the 6-foot-7 lefthander in the opening set, but Halebian, also a lefty, couldn't covert any of them until Redlicki served at 5-5. After holding to secure the first set, Halebian was broken for the first and only time in the match, serving at 1-2 in the second set, but the break didn't prove fatal.

"I broke him right back, and then we had a really long game," said Halebian, who saved four break points in the six-deuce game before finally holding for 3-3. "That was the turning point of the match--it gave me more room, more safety to play, and I served a little better there to hold the next three games."

Halebian didn't lose a point on his serve in the tiebreaker, and he felt Redlicki's three previous three-setters had taken a toll.

"I wasn't really that concerned if I lost the second set," said Halebian. "He was bending over a few times, was taking a lot of time between points. Physically, I thought I was in a better place than he was today."

The doubles quarterfinals were also played Thursday afternoon. Girls top seeds Keys and Annie Mulholland advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over unseeded Melissa Kopinski and Jessica Wacnik. They will play the unseeded Abanda sisters from Canada. Elisabeth and Francoise defeated No. 5 seeds Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia and Dhanielly Quevedo of the U.S. 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-3. Another team of Canadians, No. 8 seeds Kimberley-Ann Surin and Carol Zhao, also reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 10-2 win over unseeded Giuliana Olmos of Mexico and Leighann Sahagun of the U.S. Their opponents in the semifinals will be unseeded Whitney Kay and Turewicz, who advanced over Brooke Austin and Hannah King, when King was unable to compete due to an injury.

In the boys doubles, top seeds and 2009 finalists Emmett Egger and Vinsant are back in the final. The pair defeated the unseeded team of Harrison Adams and Casey Kay 7-6(7), 7-6(5) to advance to the semifinals against the unseeded team of Luca Corinteli and Halebian. Corinteli and Halebian defeated unseeded Hunter Callahan and Richard Del Nunzio 6-4, 6-3, but due to a previous commitment at Futures qualifying in Mansfield, Corinteli couldn't play Friday's semifinal, so after playing and losing a game in the semifinals to Egger and Vinsant, Corinteli and Halebian retired.

The other semifinal will feature unseeded Chase Curry and Nolan Paige against No. 2 seeds Krueger and Daniel McCall. Curry and Paige beat unseeded Kwiatkowski and partner Nicholas Naumann 6-2, 6-4, while Krueger and McCall got past the unseeded team of Connor Farren and Nunez 6-2, 4-6, 10-7.

For the tournament draws, see the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Makarova Upsets No. 2 Seed and 2009 Finalist Ester Goldfeld in Third Round Action at Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

Fourteen-year-old Christina Makarova isn't the youngest player at the ITF B1 Pan American Closed; that distinction belongs to 13-year-old Francoise Abanda of Canada. Yet you might expect that after losing eight straight games in the middle of a round of 16 match with No. 2 seed and 2009 finalist Ester Goldfeld, Makarova's lack of experience would surface. Instead, she won six of the last eight games to earn a 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 victory and a place in the quarterfinals.

"Actually I didn't realize I lost eight straight games until you just told me," said an excited Makarova. "It never crossed my mind."

Part of the reason Makarova didn't dwell much on losing all those games was simple: she was too busy trying to figure out how to play in the gusty winds that made their first appearance at the tournament.

"It took such a long time to get used to it," said the San Diego native, who barely took a breath as she recalled her trouble with the conditions. "You only had two games to get used to hitting with the wind, and then you had to get used to hitting against the wind. I couldn't hit a single lob, because with the wind it would just keep on going out, and against the wind it would keep on going too short, and she would just kill it. I wasn't sure what to do, so I didn't make as many lobs, but in the third set, the wind calmed down a little bit."

Makarova can't match Goldfeld in the power department, so losing a shot in her arsenal could have cost her, but Goldfeld also made a slew of unforced errors. At 3-2 in the third set, Goldfeld had two break points to take a 4-2 lead, but Makarova saved them. At 3-3, Goldfeld saved four break points, but Makarova got the fifth to make it 4-3.

"I easily won my serve because I was so pumped up, wanting to win because it was 5-3. We had three or four deuces on her service game, but I never got a match point."

That changed in the final game, when Makarova had more matches points than she wanted.

"The last game was a complete battle," said Makarova. "She saved five match points--when I was up 40-15. I was kind of pushing because I didn't want to lose the game; I pushed every match point, and she finally missed."

Makarova, who is playing in her second ITF Grade 1 event, will play No. 9 seed Gabrielle DeSimone, another player from the San Diego area, in the quarterfinals. DeSimone defeated No. 8 seed Ashley Dai 6-2, 6-4.

In another upset in the bottom half of the draw, unseeded Stephanie Nauta downed No. 6 seed Annie Mulholland 6-3, 7-5 to set up a quarterfinal encounter with No. 4 seed Monica Turewicz. Unseeded Whitney Kay was serving for a 5-3 lead over her doubles partner in the final set, but she lost that game and the next two to give Turewicz the 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 decision.

Top seed Lauren Davis won her seventh match in seven days after flying from Williamsburg, Va., where she won the Pro Circuit title, to compete in Tulsa without so much as a day off. Davis showed no signs of fatigue in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over No. 13 seed Vicky Duval. Davis will take on another recent tournament winner, Elisabeth Abanda of Canada, in Thursday's quarterfinal. The unseeded Abanda, who won the Grade 3 ITF last week in Canada, beat No. 12 seed Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

No. 11 seed Kyle McPhillips prevented another meeting of longtime Florida rivals Madison Keys and Sachia Vickery by eliminating the fifth-seeded Vickery 6-3, 6-3. Keys, the No. 3 seed, had too much power for No. 16 Carol Zhao of Canada, taking their match 6-2, 6-4.

For the second straight day, Anthony Delcore played the most dramatic boys match, but this time he came out on the wrong side of a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(5) decision to No. 12 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada. After three and a half hours, Delcore was in the position he wanted, having broken Peliwo at 5-5, but serving for the match, the 16-year-old from Omaha, Neb. double faulted to open the game, then tried an unsuccessful drop shot. Whether it was understandable physical or mental fatigue, Delcore wasn't as aggressive on the next two points, and at 15-40, Peliwo put away an overhead to send the match into the deciding tiebreaker.

The 16-year-old Canadian had a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker, but lost both of his service points to give Delcore hope at 5-4. But a badly executed surprise serve and volley tactic by Delcore gave Peliwo a 6-4 lead, and although he didn't convert his first match point, Peliwo got the second when Delcore netted a backhand.

Peliwo meets unseeded Thai Kwiatkowski, who has not let up since beating top seed Dennis Novikov in the first round. Kwiatkowski beat unseeded Wyatt Mcoy 6-0, 6-3 on Wednesday.

The other top half quarterfinal has No. 15 seed Alexios Halebian taking on unseeded Michael Redlicki. Halebian outgunned No. 4 seed Mitchell Krueger 6-3, 6-4, while Redlicki managed his third consecutive three-set victory, defeating unseeded Chase Curry 1-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Maxx Lipman and Shane Vinsant, who met in the final of the International Grass Courts in June, will play again on Thursday, with No. 3 seed Vinsant hoping to avenge his loss in Philadelphia. Vinsant defeated unseeded Austin Smith 7-6(5), 6-0, while the unseeded Lipman rolled past No. 11 seed Morgan Mays 6-3, 6-0.

Second seed Bjorn Fratangelo struggled to put away No. 16 seed Robert Livi, failing to serve out the match at 5-4 and 6-5, but he did avoid a third set in his 6-4, 7-6(5) victory. He will play No. 8 seed Marco Nunez of Mexico, who defeated No. 10 seed Evan Song 3-6, 6-1, 7-5.

In the doubles quarterfinals on Thursday, there are only two seeded boys teams still in the hunt for a title--top seeds Emmett Egger and Vinsant and No. 2 seeds Krueger and Daniel McCall. In the girls doubles quarterfinals, three seeded teams remain among the eight still playing, including top seeds Keys and Mulholland.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

For the order of play for Thursday, see the usta.com player development ITF site.