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Monday, January 31, 2011

Fields Set for ITA Team Indoor Championships; USC Tops Women's Recruiting Class Rankings; Dan Magill's 90th Birthday Party

With the completion of the ITA Kickoff Weekend today, the fields are set for the Team Indoor Championships February 18-21. Below are the teams who advanced, the men to Seattle, where the University of Washington will host, and the women to Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia will host. Two women's teams who hosted Kick-off Weekend regionals and were top seeds fell to visiting teams: Notre Dame lost to Arkansas and Florida State lost to Washington both by 4-3 scores. Top seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Georgia went to a third set tiebreaker at No. 2 singles to decide their match, with Shinann Featherston winning it for the Tar Heels.

On the men's side, all 15 top seeds hosting advanced.

The qualifying teams' current rankings are in parentheses:
Stanford (1)
Florida (2)
Baylor (3)
UCLA (5)
North Carolina(6)
Duke (7)
Michigan (8)
California (9)
Miami (11)
Tennessee (12)
Georgia Tech (13)
Northwestern (20)
Arkansas (23)
Washington (24)
Host Virginia (26)

USC (2)
Tennessee (3)
Ohio State (4)
Texas (5)
UCLA (6)
Florida (7)
Stanford (8)
Texas A & M (10)
Georgia (11)
Kentucky (12)
Louisville (13)
Duke (14)
Texas Tech (15)
Illinois (16)
Host Washington (26)

Tennis Recruiting Network released the winter edition of its 2011 women's recruiting class rankings and the University of Southern California was the unanimous choice with its four blue chips. It was the first time there has been a unanimous selection in the women's rankings in five years. Michigan finished second and UCLA third. For the complete rankings, see the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Dan Magill, the legendary Georgia Bulldog, who was the men's tennis coach and so much more at the University of Georgia, celebrated his 90th birthday this weekend in Athens. They threw a huge party for him that was a great tribute to one of the most memorable personalities in college tennis. For more on Magill's legacy at the University of Georgia, see this story from the Athens Banner-Herald (I think they shortchanged current coach Manny Diaz a couple of NCAA titles in that sidebar however). Thanks to Bill Kallenberg for the photo of Magill with Diaz.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wiersholm Wins Les Petits As Boys Championship, Ostapenko Takes Girls Title

I've just returned from a day trip to Ann Arbor, where I watched the Michigan women defeat the University of Southern Californa women 5-2 in an exciting Kickoff Weekend final that took nearly five hours to complete. I'll have a complete match report with details of all the twists and turns Wednesday at the Tennis Recruiting Network, but if you can't wait, Mgoblue.com has posted its update. The final matches of the ITA Kickoff Weekend will conclude on Monday and I'll be reviewing all the results here in tomorrow night's post.

The big news today in junior tennis was Henrik Wiersholm's boys championship at Les Petits As. Wiersholm, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 5 Bogdan Borza of Romania 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to capture the title. Wiersholm is the seventh American boy to win the championship since the competition began in 1983, and the first since Chase Buchanan won the title in 2005. The set Wiersholm lost to Borza was the only one he surrendered in the tournament. A week ago at the Aegon International Teen Tennis, Wiersholm lost a three-setter to U.S. teammate Stefan Kozlov in the final.

Jelena Ostapenko, the No. 3 seed, won the girls title, becoming the first Latvian to claim a Les Petit As singles championship. Ostapenko overcame No. 7 seed Anastasiya Komdardina of Russia 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

For more, see the tournament website.

At the Weston Futures, Jack Sock lost to Phillip Simmonds 6-2, 6-2 in the singles final. He and former Texas All-American Dimitar Kutrovsky, seeded No. 2 in doubles, lost in the final to unseeded Soong-Jae Cho and Hyun-Joon Kim of Korea 6-3, 6-4.

Ryan Harrison won his first Challenger title in Honolulu, defeating Alex Kuznetsov 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. Harrison also teamed with former UCLA Bruin Travis Rettenmaier to win the doubles title. The final was a walkover victory against Robert Kendrick and Kuznetsov.

For complete draws, and results from the qualifying for the upcoming week, see the ATP tour website.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wiersholm Advances to Final at Les Petits As; Mestach, Vesely Win Australian Junior Titles; Sock Reaches Weston Futures Final

For the second year in a row, a American boy has reached the final of Les Petits As, considered among the most prestigious 14-and-under events in the world. Last year, Noah Rubin lost to France's Quentin Halys; this year, Henrik Wiersholm, seeded second, will play No. 5 seed Bogdan Borza of Romania. Borza prevented an all-American final by defeating unseeded Francis Tiafoe 6-2, 6-4, while Wiersholm continued to cruise through the draw. The 13-year-old from Washington beat No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinals, and has lost only 17 games in his five wins this week.

In the girls final, No. 7 seed Anastasiya Komardina of Russia will face No. 3 seed Jelana Ostapenko of Latvia, already having claimed the girls doubles title and a win over Ostapenko. The No. 2 seeds Komardina and Anastasiya Rychagova defeated top seeds Ostapenko and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-4. Domagoj Iljesko and Karol Lozic of Croatia won the boys championship with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Joseph Guillin and Alexandre Muller of France.

I watched both Australian Open Junior championship matches last night via the Australian Open website, which streamed the match between Australia's Luke Saville and the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely, and ESPN3, which offered the girls final between Puerto Rico's Monica Puig and Belgium's An-Sophie Mestach.

I had never seen Saville play, and had only watched Vesely play a few games in doubles at last year's US Open, so I had no expectations coming into the match. Saville started out coming into the net on Vesely's serve in the first game, but after he lost both net approaches, the 16-year-old abandoned that strategy early. The second game of the match went to six deuces, and despite three double faults, Saville managed to save five break points before losing the sixth. Vesely held at love in the next game, and trailing 3-0, Saville committed several backhand errors, seemingly off-balance most of the time from that side, and was broken again. Vesely held again, losing one point on serve, the only point on serve the 6-foot-5 lefthander would drop in the set, and when Saville couldn't hold in his third opportunity, Vesely had the set 6-0. Saville called for a trainer and after five minutes or so, play resumed. Suddenly all the unforced errors that Vesely had avoided in the opening set surfaced and he lost his serve, committing five unforced errors by my count. Saville consolidated the break, hitting more confidently and much deeper and closer to the lines than he had in the first set, and when Vesely went down 0-30 in the next game, it looked as if Saville had a chance to make it a match. But Vesely held, and after a strong game from Saville to make it 3-1 in his favor, the Australian began to make many of the same errors that plagued him in the first set.

Unable to match Vesely in the serving department, Saville lost both 30-40 points that he faced in his next two service games, and Vesely confidently finished on his serve for a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

For more on the boys final, see the Australian Open website.

In contrast to the boys finalists, I was very familiar with the games of Puig and Mestach, having seen them both play during the US Open Juniors, Eddie Herr (Mestach only) and Orange Bowl. Both were coming into the final playing exceptionally well. As I've recounted earlier in the month and in my preview yesterday, Mestach won the Casablanca Cup and the Coffee Bowl, while Puig took the Grade 1 warm-up event in Traralgon. Puig had the most recent win over Mestach, at the Orange Bowl, but in Saturday's meeting she never seemed to find her comfort zone.

Puig was down a break from the first game in both sets, and although she got both breaks back, she never established her rhythm. Mestach smartly threw in some slice backhands, and nearly always won that shot exchange, but it was really Puig failing to take advantage of her opportunities that cost her the match. Mestach faced at least one and usually more break points in every service game of the second set, but lost only one of them. In fact, Puig could convert only 2 of 14 break points, while Mestach won 5 of 7. Although Puig kept her body language positive and her fighting spirit visible, all those missed chances had to take a toll. Mestach saved two break points in the final game, and collected her second junior slam title 6-4, 6-2. She and Demi Schuurs took their first junior slam titles in the girls doubles. Vesely, with partner Filip Horansky of Slovakia, also leaves Australia with two slam titles, having taken the boys doubles.

The Australian Open website's story on the girls final is here. For more on both matches, see the ITF junior website.

Ten days ago I covered the match at the USTA's Boca Raton training center that earned Jack Sock a wild card into the main draw of the $10,000 Weston Futures. On Sunday, Sock will play Phillip Simmonds in the final, after Sock beat No. 4 seed Benjamin Balleret of France in today's semifinals 6-1, 3-0, ret. On Friday, Sock beat friend and doubles partner Dimitar Kutrovsky for the first time in four meetings, and on Thursday, he beat Denis Kudla for the fourth time in a row. (For more on that match, be sure to read the account over at Challenger Tennis). Sock and Kutrovsky are also in the doubles final Sunday.

Qualifying for the last of the early season men's Florida Futures in Palm Coast has begun. The women, who were off this week on the Pro Circuit, will begin qualifying for the $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe California tournament on Sunday. For those draws, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Plaza Cup Recap, Slideshow; AO Junior Preview; Wiersholm and Tiafoe Reach Les Petits As Semifinals; ITA Kickoff Weekend Underway

My weekly article for the Tennis Recruiting Network is a recap of the Tennis Plaza Cup and I've also put together the slideshow below. Because there are four different sites including two separate sites for the final day, I wasn't able to cover or photograph the 16s, 12s and girls 14s competition. Although it's a brief trip, I always enjoy south Florida this time of year, and these regional tournaments pack a lot of tennis into three days.

The singles final are set at the Australian Open junior championships, with Monica Puig(5) playing An-Sophie Mestach(2) for the girls title, and Luke Saville facing Jiri Vesely(1). I am hoping to watch the matches live on espn3.com beginning at 9 o'clock this evening. Last year they were streamed there, and tonight's schedule includes a twilight session on Rod Laver, where the girls follow the boys, so I am hopeful. My preview of the finals can be found at the New York Times Straight Sets blog. Onsite coverage of the Australian Open can be found at collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Today at Les Petits As, both No. 1 seeds were toppled in the quarterfinals. Canadian Francoise Abanda fell to No. 6 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, while Stefan Kozlov of the U.S. was beaten by No. 5 seed Bogdan Borza of Romania 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). Borza will need to get by unseeded American Francis Tiafoe if he is to reach Sunday's final. Tiafoe beat unseeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals. Second seed Henrik Wiersholm had another straightforward victory in the quarterfinals. Wiersholm's 6-2, 6-3 win over unseeded Kenneth Raisma of Estonia is his fourth consecutive straight-set win. Wiersholm will play No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in the semifinals. Zverev is the younger brother of Top 100 ATP professional Mischa Zverev. Eighth seed Julia O'Loughlin, the only U.S. girl in the quarterfinals, lost to No. 3 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-4, 6-1.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

The college tennis dual match season begins in earnest this weekend, and I had a nice chat with Granger Huntress about the Kickoff weekend yesterday. It was intended to be podcast, but a technical glitch left only one side of the conversation recorded, so it didn't happen. Visit the Texas College Tennis blog for his thoughts about the Texas teams both hosting and traveling this weekend.

As I did last year, I will be covering one of the matches that will determine a participant in next month's National Team Indoor. Last year, I went to Notre Dame and witnessed their loss at the hands of North Carolina. This year, I'm going to the University of Michigan on Sunday, for, if the seeds hold, Michigan vs. Southern California. Unfortunately, for geographic and financial reasons, I won't be covering either Team Indoor championship this year, the first time since 2006 that I haven't been at either the men's or the women's event.

The competition began today at seven sites around the country, and won't be completed until Monday at two sites--Tennessee and Duke--that are hosting both men and women. Several teams are hosting Live Blogs, including Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, so if you are fans of those teams, or of their opponents, check out this new way of following college tennis. There is also live streaming available at some of the host sites. For more information, see the ITA's Kickoff Week home page, and if you are near one of the host sites, get out to watch some college tennis.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kozlov, Tiafoe, Wiersholm and O'Loughlin Reach Les Petits As Quarterfinals; The Problem with Junior Tennis

A quick update on the action today at Les Petits As, which saw four of the six remaining Americans advance to the singles quarterfinals.

Top seed Stefan Kozlov, No. 2 seed Henrik Wiersholm and unseeded Francis Tiafoe won in straight sets, with Tiafoe beating No. 7 seed Michal Demek of Poland 6-1, 7-5. Eduardo Nava lost to Sasha Merzetti of Italy in today's third round. In the girls draw, No. 16 seed Carolyn Xie lost to top seed Francoise Abanda of Canada 6-2, 6-2. All eight girls matches today were decided in straight sets. No. 8 seed Julia O'Loughlin defeated No. 10 seed Anna Sviripa of Ukraine 6-3, 6-2. Kozlov and Wiersholm, the top seeds in doubles, lost in the quarterfinals to Canadians Alejandro Tabilo and David Volfson 6-1, 7-6(5), leaving four unseeded teams in the semifinals.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

A couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal published this article entitled "The Problem with Junior Tennis."

I'm likely to sound defensive about this, because I've centered my working life around junior tennis, but after reading the article, I still haven't figured out what the reporter thinks the problem with junior tennis is.

It seems to boil down to this: There's no guarantee that the winner of the Australian Junior Championships will go on to win Grand Slams as a professional. I personally don't see that as a problem that demands as its solution the elimination of junior slams. If anything the lack of a direct correlation just adds to the excitement of the sport and demonstrates the many mysterious factors that determine professional success.

Probably my biggest objection, after the vaguely defined "problem," is the opening three sentences.

Later this week, one boy and one girl will win junior singles titles here at the Australian Open. There will be trophies, lots of smiles and some breathless talk about the future.

If history is any guide, however, it's probably the last we'll hear from them.
That is just so dismissive of players who haven't won a slam, even if they are well-known to casual tennis fans. Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer and Viktoria Azarenka, three AO girls champions from the last decade, have fashioned long and successful careers at the top of the professional game. How about Janko Tipsarevic, Marcos Baghdatis and Gael Monfils? Ever heard of them? All have won the Australian Open boys title in the past ten years.

Despite the denigrating tone, there are some interesting kernels in the article that would stand on their own if expanded upon. It touches on the fact that the Australian Open Junior Championships attract the weakest fields of the four junior slams, a problem the senior event had for many years. Why did the professional event grow in stature over the years, while the junior event continues to lag? Is it the distance, the expense, the other competitive alternatives this time of year, the fact that if a junior wins it all, he or she knows it's the last we'll hear of them?(a little joke there). Or is it because, excepting the professional players, there are fewer of the coaches, agents, equipment reps, media, etc. that make for maximum exposure for a junior who does make the trip? Lots of good questions that don't get asked or answered.

I agree with the premise that players are not ready to compete for slam titles as early in their careers as they once were, but does that really make junior slams obsolete? For girls particularly, who are limited in the number of professional events they can play from age 14-18, the junior slams give them an opportunity to compete with the best of their age group.

Lagardere's John Tobias is quoted as saying "a lot of players choose not to go through the traditional junior route and they're kind of skipping that and starting to play the lower level professional tournaments at a really early age."

This is, of course, the route that most Spanish boys have taken in the past, the most notable of whom is Rafael Nadal. Nadal played only one junior slam--2002 Wimbledon--and was beaten in the semifinals there by Lamine Ouahab of Algeria. He played Futures and Challengers almost exclusively, but on the other hand you have Roger Federer, who played all the junior slams and many, many other lesser junior tournaments, so if there's a true pattern there, I don't think it's an obvious one.

I think junior slams, while perhaps not as fertile an environment as they once were from an agent's perspective, still serve the same mission they did when teens ruled the tennis world. Back then, the article states, "the stars of tomorrow accumulated experience (and occasionally rubbed shoulders with the sport's stars on the practice courts),[and] their junior matches gave organizers an excuse to continue selling grounds passes at a point where a majority of players in the senior draws had already been sent home."

Playing in a junior slam is also a reward for the hard work required to become a world class junior tennis player. After years of playing in front of parents and coaches, it is also chance for a player to gauge his or her comfort level in the spotlight such venues offer, against opponents they often have never played.

I just don't see how any of this is constitutes a "problem."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Six Americans Advance to Third Round at Les Petits As, but None Remain in Australian Open Singles; More on Capra's Signing; Roditi's Path to TCU

I'm getting time zone whiplash trying to keep up with Les Petits As in France (6 hours ahead of EST) and the Australian Open in Melbourne (16 hours ahead), so I apologize if this information is not applicable by the time you read this.

Wednesday in Tarbes, all four U.S. boys making the trip--Stefan Kozlov, Henrik Wiersholm, Eduardo Nava and Francis Tiafoe--won their second round matches to advance to the round of 16. After their performance at Teen Tennis, where Kozlov defeated Wiersholm in the final, they were given the top two seeds at Les Petits As. Nava and Tiafoe weren't seeded, but they are among 11 unseeded boys to advance. Nava defeated No. 8 seed Evgeny Tyurnev of Russia in the first round, with Tiafoe beating No. 9 seed Dominik Stary of the Czech Republic, also in the first round. Kozlov and Wiersholm, the top seeds in doubles, are through to the quarterfinals and are the only seeded team remaining.

The seeding has held up much better in the girls draw, with only three seeds losing in the first two rounds. Kenadi Hance lost in the first round, and Nicole Frenkel lost in today's second round, leaving No. 16 seed Carolyn Xie and No. 8 seed Julia O'Loughlin as the last remaining Americans. Xie will play top seed Francoise Abanda of Canada in Thursday's third round, while O'Loughlin, a Teen Tennis semifinalist, meets No. 10 seed Anna Sviripa of Ukraine. Both U.S. teams are out of the girls doubles draw. For complete results, see the tournament website.

Thursday in Australia, all three remaining Americans were defeated in straight sets. Unseeded Christina Makarova was leading No. 5 seed Monica Puig, who lives in Miami, but plays under the Puerto Rican flag, 5-3 in the opening set, but lost four games in a row to lose the first set, with the final score 7-5, 6-2. Puig will play No. 14 seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, who defeated unseeded Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3. Bouchard has a 2-1 head-to-head record against Puig, but Puig won their last match 6-3, 6-1 in November's Yucatan Cup. For more on Bouchard's win over Lauren Davis on Wednesday, see this story by the Montreal Gazette's Stephanie Myles.

The other semifinal has No. 8 seed Caroline Garcia of France facing No. 2 seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium.

Mitchell Krueger fell to top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2, but it wasn't quite as straightforward a defeat as it sounds, as the second set was nearly an hour in length. Vesely will play No. 4 seed George Morgan of Great Britain in the semifinals. Morgan overcame No. 8 seed Jeson Patrombon of the Philippines 5-7, 7-2, 6-3. Qualifer Mac Styslinger, who was a subject of this "Junior Watch" segment on the Tennis Australia website, fell to No. 6 seed Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

Krueger and his partner are just taking the court now at 11 pm here in the U.S. For complete draws, see australianopen.com.

The USTA sent a press release out today regarding Beatrice Capra's decision to attend Duke, including remarks from Patrick McEnroe.

Over at Tennis Recruiting Network, Granger Huntress of the Texas College Tennis blog has written a feature on TCU's new head coach David Roditi. I met Roditi when he was a very popular USTA National Coach, and I believe the USTA's loss is TCU's gain.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Krueger, Styslinger and Makarova Reach Australian Junior Quarterfinals; Vanderbilt Selected as Top Men's Recruiting Class for 2011: Capra to Duke

Today was a travel day, but I wanted to do a short post to update Wednesday's results from the Australian Open junior championships. In the past few years there hasn't been much to write about when it comes to Americans in Australia, unless you consider 2010 finalist Sean Berman as American, which Tennis Australia certainly does not. This year however, there are three U.S. players in the quarterfinals, and none of them are Lauren Davis, the No. 3 seed, who was beaten in the third round by Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-0, 6-3.

Qualifier Mac Styslinger is having a Milos Raonic-like Australian Open. The big right-hander dropped the opening set in his first qualifying match, and hasn't lost a set in his five wins since. In Wednesday's third round, Styslinger beat Australian wild card Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 6-4 and will play the winner of the match between No. 6 seed Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain and Leonard Stakhovsky of Ukraine.

Texan Mitchell Krueger will face top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals after Krueger's 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over wild card Mark Richards of Australia, and Vesely's 6-4, 6-1 victory over Sean Berman of Australia. Krueger is also in the doubles quarterfinals with Brazilian Karue Sell.

The third American is 14-year-old Christina Makarova, who Wednesday defeated last year's Les Petits As winner Kanami Tsuji of Japan 7-5, 6-4 in exactly two hours. Tsuji had upset top seed and reigning US Open girls champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia in the opening round. Makarova didn't play the warm-up event in Traralgon, so I wasn't even sure she would be in the draw, but she's got to be very pleased with her performance in her first junior slam. She will play either Emi Mutaguchi or No. 5 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.

Davis and Gavrilova weren't the only two big names to fall early. Dominic Thiem of Austria, the No. 2 seed, went out in the second round to Luke Saville of Australia, and No. 3 seed Mate Pavic of Croatia exited in the first round. US Open girls finalist Yulia Putintseva of Russia, the No. 7 seed, lost in the third round to Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

For complete draws, see the Australian Open website.

The Tennis Recruiting Network published its first set of rankings for the men's 2011 recruiting classes and Vanderbilt came out on top, followed by UCLA and South Carolina. The women's rankings will be out next Monday, but the voting has already closed, so Duke's signing of Beatrice Capra last November, which was just announced yesterday, will not be included until the spring rankings are released.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Clark, Townsend Claim Plaza Cup 18s Titles; Opelka Wins Boys 14s

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

Fourteen-year-old Taylor Townsend has a game style that seems perfect for grass, but the left-handed serve-and-volleyer is right at home on the clay courts, as she proved today with a 6-2, 2-6, 10-5 victory over Allie Kiick in the girls 18s final at the Plaza Cup.

Townsend dealt Kiick her first loss of a set in the tournament, with breaks in the fourth and eighth games of the opening set. Kiick struggled with her serve in nearly every game, while Townsend was holding quickly and taking chances on Kiick's serve. Often Townsend's approach shot alone was enough to win the point; she didn't need to use her excellent net play to finish, with Kiick unable to get any rhythm off the ground.

In the second set, Townsend donated many more unforced errors, and Kiick got more balls in play, but even then Kiick, 15, was not pleased with her level of play. "What is wrong with my forehand?" Kiick said after she found the net with that usually reliable weapon. And if that wasn't enough, the reigning girls 16s Orange Bowl champion also was fighting a balky serve. But for all the displeasure with her play, Kiick won the final four games of the second set to force a match tiebreaker that would decide the champion.

During the three-minute break that has been instituted between the second set and the match tiebreaker, coaching is allowed, although the players are not allowed to leave the court. Both Townsend and Kiick received advice from their coaches, both former Top 10 WTA and ATP professionals. USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi leaned over the fence to speak with Townsend, who trains at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton, while Harold Solomon, the former French Open finalist, imparted his wisdom to his student Kiick, who now trains at Solomon's Fort Lauderdale Academy.

Townsend had the advantage of having played a match tiebreaker earlier in the tournament, when she took out No. 2 seed Amber Li in the second round. She took a quick 3-0 lead, built it to 7-1 on the strength of a couple of service winners and Kiick errors and hung on as the lead shrunk to 8-5. Kiick had the next two serves, but she was passed at the net to give Townsend her first match point, and double faulted on the next point to end the match.

The match tiebreaker isn't popular with every player, but Townsend sees the advantages.

"I think I like it more than playing a full third," Townsend said. "You have to channel your energy and you don't have enough time to give away games or give away points. I like it better because I know I have to focus point by point."

Even after she had won the second set, Kiick didn't feel she had taken control of the match.

"It didn't feel right," said Kiick. "I still believed I could win, but nothing felt right today. Everyone has days like that, so I can't be upset. But I don't want to take anything away from her, because she did play very well."

Kiick admitted that Townsend presented a special challenge.

"I knew her game style was different, and that she sliced it," Kiick said. "No girls like slicing."

Townsend credits Donald Young Sr., whom she worked with in Atlanta before moving to Boca Raton, with developing her aggressive all-court game.

"He established my game to come to the net, be an aggressive chip-and-charger, serve-and-volleyer and all that stuff," Townsend said. "I've been doing it a long time and it takes years to master it, but it becomes natural. It's always good to bring some different spunk and different style into the game, and I think my opponents have a hard time with that."

Rinaldi echoed those thoughts.

"She's unique to today's tennis, I think," Rinaldi said. "You see so many aggressive baseliners. She's a serve-and-volleyer, and while she likes to play from the baseline too, she has terrific hands and is very comfortable, very at home, around the net. I've had a lot of people stop and say, wow, she's a throw-back, and that is her game style."

Given that skill set, it is probably not surprising to hear that Townsend also won the doubles on Monday afternoon, teaming with Mia King to defeat No. 3 seeds Alexandra Morozova and Leighann Sahagun 8-2.

The boys 18s final didn't produce the same tension or the same contrast in styles as did the girls. No. 6 seed Brett Clark, the only seeded player to reach the semifinals, continued his outstanding play with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Ognjen Samardzic. Clark broke Samaradzic in the opening game of the match, and that was the only break he needed as Clark protected his own serve throughout the set. In the third game of the second set, Clark again got the only break he would need, using both excellent offense, in the form of a forehand winner, and excellent defense-turned-offense in digging out a presumed winner from Samardzic and using a squash-shot reflex to send the ball whizzing past Samardzic and deep into the corner for an actual winner.

Although Samardzic had managed to overcome such deficits in earlier matches, he couldn't find his way through on Sunday, with Clark simply unwilling to give him any breathing room.

"I played really well the whole tournament," said Clark, who will be 17 in April. "Two weeks ago I wasn't playing that great, but I got some things straightened out in practice. When I saw the draw, I thought maybe I had a chance to make it all the way, but I knew I had to play really well, because I had the one seed in the third round. Everyone's good in this tournament, so you can't expect anything. Everything went my way in this tournament, so I won."

Aside from playing in Florida sectional and USTA National tournaments, Clark is also looking forward to playing for Barron Collier High School in Naples, Florida.

"We won states last year in 3A, and we have a really good team this year," Clark said. "I'll play one this year for our team, so hopefully we can repeat."

Clark and his partner Gordon Watson were not able to add a second winner's trophy to Clark's collection however, as the second seeds lost to the top seeded doubles team of Justin Crenshaw and Blaine Willenborg 8-5.

In the boys 14s, also played on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park, No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka took the championship with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over No. 4 seed Alfredo Perez.

Perez and Opelka had had quite a match the last time they met, with Opelka taking a close three-set decision in the first round of the Florida Closed, so Opelka was ready for another tough contest.

"I've played him twice before, and I've won both times, but last time it was 7-6 in the third, so it could have gone either way, so I knew I was in for a battle today."

Opelka knew he couldn't afford to drop the first set as he had in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches, so the 13-year-old, who trains at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton, was focused from the start.

"It was a good start and I came out pretty solid," said Opelka. "When I got up 2-0, 3-0 in the first I wanted to stay on him, didn't want to let it slip away."

In the second set, Perez found his game and was able to stay with Opelka until he dropped a long game serving at 2-3. Opelka was too steady to relinquish that lead, holding his final two service games to claim the title.

"I thought I improved throughout the tournament," Opelka said. "Better shot selection and better decisions, not going for too much at the wrong time."

Perez didn't go home without a winner's trophy however, as he and partner Mirko Radosevic won the doubles championship over Alex Knight and David Omsky 8-3. Neither team was seeded in the tournament.

In the new USTA format for regional tournaments, the consolation final is not played. Samantha Crawford and Courtney Colton were the last two remaining in the girls 18s, Willenborg and Dylan Gunning in the boys 18s, and Knight and Daniel Grunberger in the boys 14s. Third place in the girls 18s went to Caroline Doyle, who beat Lindsay Graff 6-3, 7-5. Third place in the boys 18s went to Joshua Dancu, who won when Ryan Smith retired with an injury, trailing 5-3 in the first set. Radosevic took third in the boys 14s when Tate Allwardt withdrew with an injury.

The winners at the other sites are as follows:
Boys 16s-Daniel Kerznerman(3) def. Oliver Landert 6-4, 6-3
Girls 16s-Alanna Wolff(1) def. Rasheeda McAdoo(5) 6-3, 6-0
Girls 14s-Katerina Stewart(1) def. Rebecca Weissmann(2) 6-3, 6-1
Boys 12s-Alexander Del Corral(1) def. Nicolas Barone(6) 6-3, 6-3
Girls 12s-Nicole Conard def. Maria Ross(2) 6-2, 6-4

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plaza Cup 18s Finals Feature Kiick Vs. Townsend and Samardzic Vs. Clark

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

The Plaza Cup packs a lot of tennis into three days, with singles, doubles and a full feed-in consolation. Good weather and a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set are required for a successful tournament, and on Sunday there was plenty of both at Salvadore Park.

Although the day started with temperatures in the 40s, abundant sunshine soon warmed the air, and there wasn't much breeze to accent any chill. With doubles and consolation matches in the morning, it was downright pleasant by the time the main draw quarterfinals began.

Brett Clark, the sixth seed in the boys 18s, wasted no time in disposing of top seed Justin Crenshaw, posting a 6-4, 6-0 quarterfinal victory. Clark used his serve and his forehand to win the majority of his points in that one, while Crenshaw didn't seem comfortable from the beginning. In the semifinal, Clark didn't appear quite as sharp against unseeded Ryan Smith, who had beaten No. 8 seed Blaine Willenborg 6-1, 6-4 in their quarterfinal contest. But Clark, a 16-year-old from Naples, managed to keep Smith's serve from hurting him too much, earning a 6-4, 6-3 win, his fourth straight-set win of the tournament.

Clark's opponent in the final, Ognjen Samardzic had a much tougher route to the championship match. The 16-year-old from Bradenton outlasted No. 5 seed Matt Saiontz 7-6(5), 7-5 in the quarterfinals to reach the semis against unseeded Joshua Dancu. Dancu, a senior who has committed to DePaul, beat Dylan Gunning in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-3, and took the opening set from Samardzic by a 6-3 score, primarily on the strength of his forehand and some erratic play from Samardzic. But by the second set, Samardzic had eliminated most of the errors from his game, forcing a match tiebreaker with a 6-3 second set. In the tiebreaker, Samardzic built up a big lead that he nearly gave away, but at 9-8 he came up with a big first serve to earn his spot in the final.

Fifteen-year-old Allie Kiick and 14-year-old Taylor Townsend will contest the girls 18s championship match on Monday, after each took two straight-set victories on Sunday.

The Dunlop Orange Bowl 16s champion, Kiick defeated unseeded Courtney Colton 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and unseeded Caroline Doyle 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals. Doyle, who has recently begun training at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton, had taken out Rianna Valdes in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-2.

Townsend, like Kiick unseeded in the tournament, defeated No. 6 seed Laura Wiley 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and was rolling along nicely against No. 3 seed Lindsay Graff in the semifinals, when suddenly the wheels came off. Up 6-4, 4-1, Townsend proceeded to lose four straight games, and Graff was serving to send the match into a match tiebreaker. Graff was broken however, and in the subsequent second set tiebreaker, couldn't capitalize on her opportunities. At 5-5, she hit a forehand long, and Townsned came up with a big serve winner to secure the win 6-4, 7-6(5).

In the boys 14s, the match tiebreakers were everywhere, and finalist Reilly Opelka, the No. 2 seed, won both his matches in that tense fashion. Opelka beat unseeded Mark Epshteyn-Losey 3-6, 6-2, 10-6 in the quarterfinals, and unseeded Mirko Radosevic 3-6, 6-1, 10-6 to advance to the final. Radosevic had won his quarterfinal match over Alex Rybakov 4-6, 7-6(4), 10-8. In the top half of the draw, No. 1 seed Tate Allwardt and No. 4 seed Alfredo Perez posted straight-set quarterfinal wins over Chase Colton and Alexander Knight respectively, but their semifinal match ended dramatically, with Perez taking it 6-2, 2-6, 11-9. Allwardt had a match point at 9-8, but couldn't quite get to a drop shot by Perez, with his shot hitting the netcord and dropping back on his side. Perez won the next point with a putaway volley, and went to the drop shot again on his first match point. This time Allwardt got it back, but Perez was waiting to execute his next shot, a perfect lob that Allwardt had no chance to return.

The singles finals are scheduled for 9:30 Monday morning.

For complete results from the other age divisions, see the TennisLink site.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Plaza Cup Begins and Ends with Upsets on Opening Day

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

The Plaza Cup, in its fifth year as a USTA National Regional event, started with a bang the early this drizzly, gloomy morning, when 14-year-old Rianna Valdes defeated the girls 18s top seed Sherry Li 6-4, 6-2. Li, who will be 16 next month, did not play badly. Perhaps she could have extended some rallies for a few more balls on occasion, but Valdes played an extremely clean, yet aggressive match. Looking like she was born on the Har-Tru--which was receiving regular misting and even a couple of dousings of precipitation that required brief suspensions in play--Valdes hit deep, slid precisely, played defense, and most importantly, made no errors that weren't forced by Li. Several hours later Valdes reached Sunday's quarterfinals with another composed performance: a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Katie Pollan.

Li was hardly the only top seed to falter in the opening two rounds. Amber Li, the No. 2 seed in the girls 18s, went out to another 14-year-old, Taylor Townsend, and on the same court, Court 1, that was the scene of the other Li's loss. Townsend's win was a bit more dramatic however, as she needed to win two consecutive tiebreakers before she could claim the 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-7 win. Townsend, who is an excellent volleyer, didn't use that weapon too often on the clay, but her soft hands were in evidence when she did venture near the net. Li led the match tiebreaker 7-5 at the second change of ends, but Townsend seized control of the match with three straight winners: a drop shot, a down-the-line forehand and a service winner. Li hit a backhand long on the next point to give Townsend two match points, but the left-hander only needed one. Li, determined not to play timidly, went for a swinging volley, and it sailed well long.

Of the eight seeds in the girls 18s, only two reached the quarterfinals: No. 3 seed Lindsay Graff and No. 6 seed Laura Wiley. Orange Bowl 16s champion Allie Kiick, who was surprisingly not seeded, beat No. 5 seed Leighann Sahagun 6-3, 6-3 in the second round, while Courtney Colton took out No. 4 seed Chalena Scholl by the same score in round two. Caroline Doyle defeated No. 7 seed Samantha Crawford 6-3, 6-4 in a second round battle of USTA National Junior Team members.

The boys 18s draw also saw its share of upsets, but No. 1 seed Justin Crenshaw was not among them. Crenshaw posted two straight-set wins to reach the quarterfinals. No. 2 seed Zach McCourt was up a set and 3-0 over Ognjen Samardzic in their first round contest, but Samardzic came back to record a 2-6, 7-6(3), 10-6 victory. Samardzic also won his second round match over Jackson Murphy to advance to Sunday's quarterfinals.

That was an impressive comeback, but it couldn't equal Ryan Smith's in his second round match with No. 3 seed Gordon Watson. With chilly winds and plunging temperatures providing even more challenges, Smith fought back from a 4-6, 2-5 deficit to record an improbable 4-6, 7-6(6), 11-9 victory. Smith saved eight match points, six or seven of which came with Watson serving for the match at 5-3 in the second. (Sorry for the imprecise nature of this account, but the match was three courts away and the score was not always obvious). It was Smith's serve that ultimately made the difference; the left-handed high school sophomore, clad in a University of Miami shirt, came up with aces and winners at the most crucial stages of the two tiebreakers to claim a spot in the quarterfinals. No. 4 seed Zachary Krumholtz withdrew before the start of play, while Dylan Gunning defeated No. 7 seed Ken Sabacinski 6-2, 7-5 in the opening round.

There will also be two rounds of singles on Sunday, with the finals scheduled for Monday. The tournament is sponsored by Tennis Plaza, a retail and online tennis equipment retailer.

For complete draws in all four age divisions, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, January 21, 2011

USTA Junior Boys Team vs. Alabama; Plaza Cup Begins Saturday; Kozlov Repeats as Teen Tennis Champion; Styslinger Qualifies in AO Juniors

We were fortunate to escape mid-winter in Michigan this week for our annual visit to South Florida for the Plaza Cup, a USTA regional tournament with level 3 points. Other than the date change--it was held over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend the previous four years--there aren't any changes of note. It's a 32-draw three-day event with a full feed-in and doubles for 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s. I will primarily be covering the boys and girls 18s and boys 14s at Salvadore Park, which features 13 Har-Tru courts. For the draws, see the TennisLink site.

Usually on this trip I try to spend a couple of days at one of the Futures events, but with the USTA National Junior team's match with Alabama scheduled for yesterday, there wasn't much time for that. (My coverage of that event was posted this morning on the Tennis Recruiting Network website.) I did stop by the Tamarac Futures, held at the Woodmont Country Club, which is the site of the Synergy Tennis Academy. I had a chance to talk with Diego Ayala, one of the principals, who I knew from his coaching on the junior circuit. He spoke of the renovations that had been completed in the year and a half since they've taken over the 20-court facility, and in addition to the Futures tournament, now in its second year there, they are hoping to add national junior events.

I watched the four quarterfinals in the company of the Challenger Tennis blog's proprietor, and I'll leave him to recount the tennis shots made and the emotions on display, but rest assured, there were plenty of both. Phillip Simmonds of the U.S. will play No. 3 seed Alex Bogdanovic of Great Britain in one semifinal, while Dan Smethurst of Great Britain meets Daniel Garza of Mexico in the other. In the women's $25K in Lutz, on the other side of the state, qualifier Jessica Pegula has continued her excellent play, reaching the semifinals with a straight-set win over Jennifer Elie, also of the U.S. Pegula took out Julia Boserup and top seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in her first two main draw matches.

The first round of four rounds of qualifying for the Weston Futures was completed, despite widespread rain in the afternoon throughout the area. Many of the players in the match I covered yesterday advanced to the second round. For complete results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

At the Aegon International Teen Tennis 14-and-under event, 12-year-old Stefan Kozlov repeated as champion with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 victory over doubles partner Henrik Wiersholm. The girls title went to Anastasiya Rychagova of Russia, who defeated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-1, 6-1. For complete draws, see the LTA website.

Next up for the U.S. 14-and-under quartets is Les Petits As in Tarbes France. All eight Americans are in the main draw, which begins Monday.

Qualifying is complete at the Australian Open Junior championships, and Mac Styslinger of the U.S. earned a place in the main draw with two wins on Friday. The draws have not yet been released, but the ITF junior website has a preview of the action, which begins Sunday. Marcia Frost will be covering the U.S. juniors matches for collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kozlov and Wiersholm to Meet Again in Teen Tennis Final; USTA National Teams Win Two in College Contests

I spent the day watching junior and college tennis matches in beautiful Florida sunshine at the USTA National Training Center, while across the Atlantic, two Americans were earning spots in the 14-and-under Aegon International Teen Tennis tournament championship match held indoors in Bolton England. No. 3 seed and defending champion Stefan Kozlov defeated No. 8 seed Domagoj Biljesko of Croatia 6-0, 6-4 to set up another meeting with Henrik Wiersholm, the No. 9 seed. Wiersholm beat Francis Tiafoe of the U.S. 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals. Wiersholm and Kozlov met recently in the semifinals of the 14s Winter Nationals, with Kozlov winning 6-1, 6-0. Wiersholm and Kozlov, seeded second, won the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over top seeds Andrey Rublev of Russia and Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Julia O'Loughlin, the last American girl remaining, lost in the semifinals to No. 2 seed Anastasiya Rychagova of Russia 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. Rychagova will play top seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the girls final. For complete draws, see the LTA site.

The first tennis match I covered today featured Jack Sock and Bjorn Fratangelo, who were the finalists in a four-man round robin tournament that also featured Alexios Halebian and Morgan Mays. The prize was a wild card into the Weston Futures event that begins with qualifying on Friday. Neither player looked particularly sharp in the opening few games of the match and Sock made a habit in the first set of coming from 0-30 down on his own serve to hold. There were no breaks until Fratangelo lost his serve at 3-4, and in his next service game, Sock didn't dig any holes for himself.

Sock opened the second set with a break, but was broken right back. Fratangelo saved two break points in the next game, but Sock was beginning to serve better and vary his forehand to keep Fratangelo off balance. Each held the next three service games, but at 4-4, Fratangelo was broken. A serve he thought was an ace to save break point was called out by Sock and after some examination, the call stood. Fratangelo then double faulted on his second serve and Sock had the break. Again he eliminated any drama in closing out the match, serving well and forcing errors to post a 6-3, 6-4 win. Sock seems to have a knack for recognizing when he needs to focus, what points are crucial and how to win those points. Tennis is really not as easy as he made it look today, both in his match against Fratangelo and in his 6-1, 6-3 win over Ricky Doverspike, Alabama's No. 1. I did hear later however, that Fratangelo had also received a wild card into the main draw of the Weston Futures, thus avoiding the 128-draw qualifying there.

I'll have a complete recap of the USTA National Boys Junior team's 7-5 win over the University of Alabama on the Tennis Recruiting Network Friday, but for the complete results, see rolltide.com.

The USTA National Girls Junior team played their third match in three days, this one at the University of Central Florida, posting a 6-1 win.

Samantha Crawford and Lauren Herring USTA def. Jenny Frisell and Alexis Rodriguez 8-4
Vicky Duval and Krista Hardebeck USTA def. Genevieve Lorbergs and Courtney Griffith 8-4
Taylor Townsend and Mia King USTA def. Jenna Doerfler and Andrea Yacaman 8-4
Caroline Doyle and Sachia Vickery USTA def. Josephine Haraldson and Allison Hodges 8-2

Hardebeck USTA def. Frisell 6-1, 6-1
Duval USTA def. Rodriquez 6-1, 6-0
Herring USTA def. Lorbergs 6-3, 6-4
Crawford USTA def. Doerfler 5-7, 6-1, 6-3
Townsend USTA def. Griffith 6-4, 6-3
Haraldson UCF def. King 6-4, 4-6, 10-2
Doyle USTA def. Yacaman 6-0, 6-1

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Australian Junior Qualifying Draws Out; Florida Women Beat USTA National Team; Sock vs. Fratangelo for USTA Weston WC; Teen Tennis Update

The qualifying draws for the Australian Open Junior Championships have been posted on the ITF junior website, and it was just a few days ago that I realized that Australia is the only junior slam to have a 64-draw in the qualifying. The other three all have 32 draws. They didn't fill their 64 spots, and as I mentioned a few days ago, a player didn't need an ITF ranking to get in qualifying. There are two American girls playing in the qualifying that I'm unfamiliar with, Stephanie Hazell and Miriam Lane. Neither has so much as a birth date in the ITF junior system, but I've linked to their Tennis Recruiting Network accounts. There are three American boys in qualifying: Emmett Egger, Mac Styslinger and Shane Vinsant, who is the No. 2 seed in qualifying and has bye.

Marcia Frost is in Australia and is filing reports on collegeandjuniortennis.com. Her first report is available at that site, and she mentions the possibility of going to the junior qualifying site, which is not in Melbourne Park.

At the Loy Yang in Traralgon, another player I'm not familiar with, Andres Artunedo Martinavarr of Spain, won the boys title. George Morgan of Great Britain and Mate Pavic of Croatia won the boys doubles, with Monica Puig of Puerto Rico and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada taking the girls title. Complete draws can be found at the Tennis Australia site.

After beating the Miami women on Tuesday, the USTA National team went north to Gainesville to take on Florida, and the Gators came out on top this time 5-2. I was not at the match, but the scores are as follows.

Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather (FLA) def. Lauren Herring and Taylor Townsend 8-4
Vicky Duval and Krista Hardebeck def. Alex Cercone and Caroline Hitimana (FLA) 8-5
Olivia Janowicz and Sofie Oyen (FLA) def. Samantha Crawford and Caroline Doyle 8-6

Hardebeck def. Janowicz 6-2, 6-2
Mather def. Vickery 6-2, 6-3
Oyen def. Herring 6-3, 6-0
Cercone def. Duval 6-3, 2-6, 10-8
Hitimana def. Crawford 6-4, 6-1
Townsend def. Brittany Borsanyi 6-3, 6-4
Mia King def. Borsanyi 8-3

I will be at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton tomorrow when the USTA Boys National Team plays its first match of the season, which is against the University of Alabama. The juniors scheduled to compete are: Jack Sock, Bjorn Fratangelo, Nathan Pasha, Alexios Halebian, Thai Kwiatkowski, Nikko Madregallejo, Spencer Papa and Casey Kay. The Alabama players participating can be found in this article from rolltide.com.

But prior to that match, Jack Sock and Bjorn Fratangelo will play for the USTA's wild card into the upcoming Futures event in Weston. I will also be a that match, scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

At the Aegon International Teen Tennis tournament in England, three U.S. boys have reached the semifinals, and No. 9 seed Henrik Wiersholm will play No. 14 seed Francis Tiafoe in one of them. In the other, defending champion and No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov will play No. 8 seed Domagoj Biljesko of Croatia. Wiersholm and Kozlov are in the doubles final. In the girls draw, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals, with No. 4 seed Julia O'Loughlin of the U.S. the only American to win of the four who played in today's quarterfinals. O'Loughlin and Nicole Frenkel lost in the doubles semifinals today. For complete draws, see the LTA website.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stosur Breezes Past Davis; USTA Junior Girls Beat Miami; Puig Wins Traralgon; Teen Tennis Update

By now I'm sure most of you know that Lauren Davis lost her grand slam debut to No. 5 seed Samantha Stosur 6-1, 6-1 Tuesday in Melbourne. Davis seemed understandably nervous, but it was a shame she wasn't able to show the form she exhibited in her impressive junior run and in the USTA wild card tournament. Since turning pro, she's obviously gotten a sponsorship deal from Nike, as she was on the Adidas team the last few years in the juniors, but it seemed, from what I saw on espn3, that she had trouble with the shoes, losing her footing often. There is no question that Stosur had much to do with Davis's poor play, but with Davis serving so poorly, only 41 percent first serves, she was fortunate to win the two games she did manage. For more on the match, and Davis's reaction to the loss, see this story from foxsports.com.

In a makeup of the rainout from yesterday, the USTA girls National Junior team defeated the University of Miami women 5-2, avenging a loss by the same score that the Hurricanes had posted over the USTA team last March. The USTA won the doubles point, and four of the six singles matches. There were a couple of additional matches played as well, which I'm including in the scores below:

Lauren Herring and Chanelle Van Nguyen (USTA) def. Bianca Eichkorn and Anna Bartenstein 9-8(4)
Vicky Duval and Krista Hardebeck (USTA) def. Gabriela Mejia and Bolivar 8-4
Mia King and Taylor Townsend (USTA) def. Brittany Dubins and Danielle Mills 8-4
Samantha Crawford and Caroline Doyle (USTA) def. Kayla Rizzolo and Bistra Otashlyska 5-3 ret.

Hardebeck def. Eichkorn 6-2, 7-6(3)
Bartenstein def. Herring 6-4, 6-7, 6-3
Mills def. Van Nguyen 2-6, 6-3, 6-3
Duval def. Mejia 6-3, 5-7, 6-0
Crawford def. Rizzolo 6-2, 6-0
Townsend def. Bolivar 6-1, 6-3
Dubins def. King 9-8(3)

The National team heads to Gainesville on Wednesday to play the No. 2-ranked Florida women at 4 p.m. I will be covering my first USTA National team-college team dual match on Thursday, when the Alabama men play the USTA boys team in Boca Raton.

Miami's Monica Puig, who plays for Puerto Rico, has captured the singles championship at the ITF Grade 1 Loy Yang in Traralgon Australia. Puig, the third seed, beat top seed and ITF world junior champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia in the semifinals and No. 4 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia in the final. Puig had lost to Putintseva in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open juniors last year, a loss that left her very disappointed, so the 6-2, 6-4 win over the fiery Russian must have been a satisfying one. Puig, who didn't lose a set in her six wins, is also in the doubles final with Canadian Eugenie Bouchard. The scores of the doubles finals and the boys final between Andres Artunedo Martinavarr of Spain and Luke Saville of Australia, both unseeded, have not yet been posted. The draws can be found at the Tennis Australia site.

At the Aegon International Teen Tennis competition in England, the United States players continue to advance, with seven of the eight who made the trip reaching the singles quarterfinals. Unseeded Kenadi Hance defeated the No. 5 seed, unseeded Nicole Frenkel beat the No. 7 seed and the two American seeds, No. 4 Julia O'Loughlin and No. 9 Carolyn Xie had no trouble. All four girls are in different quarters, so the possibility of an all-American semifinal remains. Unseeded Eduardo Nava is the only American boy out, losing today to the No. 8 seed, but Henrik Wiersholm, Francis Tiafoe and defending champion Stefan Kozlov have reached the quarterfinals. The teams of Kozlov and Wiersholm and Frenkel and O'Loughlin have reached the doubles semifinals. For complete draws, see the LTA website.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spencer Claims SEC Indoor Title; Klahn Defends Sherwood Cup Title; All Eight Americans Advance at Teen Tennis; Brodsky Downs Vickery in Guadaloupe

I was hoping to have a report on the dual match between the University of Miami women and the USTA girls national team, but due to heavy rain today in south Florida, the match was rescheduled for Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. at Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center. The USTA girls team for this event is Krista Hardebeck, Lauren Herring, Chanelle Van Nguyen, Vicky Duval, Samantha Crawford, Taylor Townsend, Mia King and Caroline Doyle. I believe they are planning to play eight matches deep.

At the SEC Indoor championship in Knoxville, Georgia's Wil Spencer, a 9-16 seed, beat top seed Eric Quigley of Kentucky 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) to complete a Bulldog sweep of the titles. Javier Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters won the doubles title, taking an 8-6 decision from Boris Conkic and JP Smith of Tennessee. For more on the title matches, with quotes from Spencer and head coach Manny Diaz, see georgiadogs.com.

At the Sherwood Cup in California, Stanford's Bradley Klahn, the No. 2 seed, repeated as champion with a 6-2, 6-4 win over top seed Steve Johnson of USC. Klahn and teammate Ryan Thacher also won the doubles, defeating Baylor's John Peers and Roberto Maytin 8-6. Stanford's website doesn't yet have the recap up, but for more on the doubles, see baylorbears.com. For more on the singles, see the article on usctrojans.com.

It was a great day for the U.S. 14-and-under teams at Teen Tennis in Great Britain, as all eight players, 4 boys and 4 girls, advanced to the round of 16. Unseeded Eduardo Nava beat No. 12 seed Arturs Lazdins, and unseeded Kenadi Hance and Nicole Frenkel also defeated seeds in girls action. Hance won a three-setter from the No. 10 seed Freya Christie, while Frenkel downed No. 11 seed Erika Hendsel in straight sets. Henrik Wiersholm, Stefan Kozlov, Francis Tiafoe, Carolyn Xie and Julia O'Loughlin, all seeded, are in the round of 16. All but Tiafoe and Nava are still in the doubles too. Complete draws can be found at the LTA website.

At the $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Guadeloupe last week, 2008 USTA 18s National champion Gail Brodsky claimed the title with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win over 15-year-old Sachia Vickery. Former college stars Amanda McDowell and Nina Munch-Soegaard took the doubles title. For complete draws, see the ITF Women's circuit site.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

AO Junior Wild Cards; Dellien Wins Another Grade 1; Spencer v. Quigley for SEC Indoor; Klahn v. Johnson for Sherwood Cup: Sanchez Wins in Las Vegas

I've received the list of the wild cards for the Australian Open Junior Championships, and they are:

Main Draw Singles Wildcards
1. Andrew Harris
2. Nick Kyrgios
3. Jordan Thompson
4. Jack Schipanski
5. Alex Bolt
6. Andrew McLeod
7. Mark Richards
8. Joey Swaysland

1. Samantha Harris
2. Ashleigh Barty
3. Brooke Rischbieth
4. Stefani Stojic
5. Kassandra Dunser
6. Belinda Woolcock
7. Storm Sanders
8. Lauren Davis (USA)

Qualifying Wild Cards

1. Thanasi Kokkinakis
2. Oliver Ceranic
3. Shane Vinsant (USA)
4. Thien Nguyen Hoang (VIE)
5. Andrew Macfarlane
6. James Dann

1. Isabelle Wallace
2. Ashley Keir
3. Azra Hadzic

As they were last year, Tennis Australia has been generous with junior wild cards for non-Australians.

Since losing to Alexios Halebian in the quarterfinals of the Dunlop Orange Bowl, Bolivian Hugo Dellien has won 11 straight ITF Grade 1 singles matches, including today's final at the Copa Gatorade in Venezuela. The top-seeded Dellien, who last week won the Coffee Bowl singles title, defeated No. 3 seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-4, 6-3. Dellien and partner Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador, the top seeds, also took the doubles title by virtue of a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Americans Connor Farren and Nicholas Naumann.

Top seed Danka Kovinic of Montenegro claimed the girls singles title in Venezuela with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 seed Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador. Kovinic had beaten American Christina Makarova, the No. 3 seed, in the semifinals. Gonzalez, who lost in the doubles final of the Coffee Bowl to Kovinic, did win the doubles championship this week, beating Kovinic and her partner in the semifinals. She and Montserrat Gonzalez of Paraguay, the third seeds, then went on to defeat top seeds Saska Gavrilovska of Serbia and Yana Sizikova of Russia 6-3, 6-3.

In the Grade 1 Loy Yang in Traralgon Australia, there have been some surprising results as play heads into the quarterfinals. No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria was beaten in the first round by qualifier Axel Alvarez Llamas of Spain, unseeded Karue Sell of Brazil defeated No. 3 seed Mate Pavic of Croatia, and Orange Bowl champion George Morgan, the No. 4 seed, was defeated by No. 13 seed Mate Delic of Croatia. Top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic is through to the semifinals. Emmett Egger of the U.S. qualified and won two rounds before falling to Alvarez Llamas. In the girls draw, top seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia and No. 3 Monica Puig of Puerto Rico are still in contention, but An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, the No. 2 seed, retired in her second round match against Klara Fabikova of the Czech Republic. With that loss, Mestach, who had won the Casablanca Cup and the Coffee Bowl, saw her junior match winning streak end at 12.

The ITF junior site doesn't have the Traralgon results, they can be found at the Tennis Australia site.

In three of the major collegiate tournaments I've been following this weekend, one champion has been decided, with two other finals on Monday. Today at the Freeman Memorial at UNLV, USTA/ITA Indoor champion Maria Sanchez of USC defeated Florida freshman Olivia Janowicz 6-3, 6-0 in the final. Sanchez is having a fantastic senior year so far, and ditto for Janowicz in her first year with the Gators. Janowicz did not have a gold-ball-laden junior career, but she's had a very impressive start, winning the regional and making the final in this event. She is currently ranked No. 22 in the country. For more on the match, see gatorzone.com. Note the mention of the USTA National team match with Florida on Wednesday. The USTA girls will take on Miami on Monday, and I hope to have some updates on that contest to tweet tomorrow.

At the SEC Indoor in Knoxville, there is an expected finalist in top seed Eric Quigley of Kentucky, and an unexpected one, in 9-16 seed Wil Spencer of Georgia. In Sunday's two matches, Quigley defeated No. 8 seed Sadiou Doumbia of Georgia and No. 4 seed JP Smith of Tennessee in straight sets, while Spencer surprised No. 2 seed Alex Lacroix of Florida and No. 3 seed and teammate Javier Garrapiz. The final is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, and a live blog will be conducted by Tennessee SID Amanda Pruitt. For complete results, see utsports.com.

At the Sherwood Cup in Thousand Oaks, California, Bradley Klahn of Stanford and Steve Johnson of USC will renew their lengthy rivalry when they meet for the singles title. Klahn, the defending champion, is the No. 2 seed, Johnson is the top seed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Five from US Qualify for Australian Open; Sajous' Double Duty; Teen Tennis Draws Posted, Play Begins Sunday

Sorry for the late post, but I wanted to have the results from the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open first. It was a good day for American players, led by Donald Young, who breezed past former Old Dominion star Izak Van Der Merwe of South Africa 6-3, 6-1, to reach the main draw. Young, who qualified in Australia last year and won a round, lost only 11 games in three qualifying wins this week. Ryan Sweeting is the other American man qualifying; he beat Alex Kuznetsov yesterday to advance to the main draw. Unfortunately for the host country, no Australians made it through qualifying.

Three of the 12 women's qualifiers are from the U.S., with CoCo Vandeweghe, Irina Falconi and Jamie Hampton winning their final round matches in straight sets. Falconi has now qualified for slams in her first two attempts as a professional. It's interesting to note that all three played in the USTA's wild card tournament won by Lauren Davis, with Davis beating both Hampton and Vandeweghe. Speaking of Davis, she is writing a blog for usta.com, which can be found here. For complete draws, see australianopen.com.

There are plenty of examples of the difficulties a player encounters when he or she is trying to work through the lowest level of tennis's minor leagues. Today's case in point is the challenges faced by former Florida Atlantic and University of Texas player Olivier Sajous. Sajous, who lost to Wayne Odesnik in the finals of the wild card tournament for the Pro Circuit tournament in Plantation, and in the final round of qualifying to Andrei Daescu, got in to the main draw as a lucky loser and has reached the final of the $10,000 event. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to qualify for the next Futures, in nearby Tamarac, Florida, so he had to play a second match after winning his semifinal in Plantation. Usually a semifinalist receives a special exemption from qualifying, but two other Plantation semifinalists were also in Tamarac qualifying, Matej Bocko and Daniel Smethurst, and because they had higher ATP rankings than Sajous, they would have received the special exempts.

Sajous played and won his first Tamarac qualifying match, but lost to UCLA recruit Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-0 today. You can't help but wish the Haitian Davis Cupper receives a wild card into a bigger event soon. After the past couple of days, there's no denying he's willing to work for it, if given the chance.

Sajous plays Luka Gregorc of Slovenia in Sunday's Plantation final. In the final of the women's $25,000 in Plantation, No. 7 seed Alexandra Cadantu of Romania meets No. 8 seed Sharon Fichman of Canada. For complete draws, see the usta.com Pro Circuit results page.

The first of the two big 14-and-under tournaments, Aegon International Teen Tennis, begins main draw play on Sunday. Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion Nicole Frenkel qualified, while the three other U.S. girls on the trip, Julia O'Loughlin, Kenadi Hance and Carolyn Xie were given main draw slots. O'Loughlin is seeded 4 and Xie is seeded 9, and they have byes Sunday.

On the boys side, all four U.S. players were given main draw berths, with defending champion Stefan Kozlov (3), Henrik Wiersholm (9), and Francis Tiafoe (14) all seeded. Eduardo Nava is the fourth U.S. boy on the trip, and he is scheduled to play on Sunday.

For the draws and order of play, see the LTA website.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Eight Intriguing Questions for 2011; Lauren Davis Turns Pro; College Tennis Action This Weekend

In my weekly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network, I look ahead at some of the intriguing questions for 2011. It's my seventh installment of one of journalism's most well-worn formats, but I always find it fun to do, and I always learn something in the process of composing it. Tennis Recruiting Network has the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 articles in their archives (for Recruiting Advantage members only). My first foray, back when I was just starting the website, and before TR Net existed, can be found here. Anyone know what Jessica Kirkland is doing now?

Yesterday the news regarding Lauren Davis was her drawing of Samantha Stosur in the first round of the Australian Open, today comes word that she has signed with CAA, an entertainment management company with a growing sports representation division. The release announcing the news was not from CAA, but from the International Tennis Club of the United States of America, which apparently provided Davis with a scholarship to attend the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. I was not familiar with the Eugene Scott Junior Excellence scholarship fund, but the release explains its purpose and mentions the academies associated with these scholarships. The complete release is here:

Young American Tennis Prospect Lauren Davis Turns Pro at 2011 Australian Open

There's lots of college action this weekend around the country, although most of it is still the individual variety, not dual matches. The SEC Indoor Championships are underway at the new Goodfriend Tennis Center at the University of Tennessee. Top-ranked Rhyne Williams is not in the draw, but there is a good field, as expected in the SEC. Eric Quigley of Kentucky is the top seed, with the Top 8 seeds beginning play on Saturday. Defending champion Boris Conkic, a No. 9 seed, was defeated by Georgia's Ignacio Taboada in a third set tiebreaker. Tennessee SID Amanda Pruitt is doing her usual outstanding job, and although there is no live scoring, she hosts a live blog during play, which is becoming a destination for all college tennis fans, not just those of the Volunteers. She also updates the @volstennis and @secindoors2011 twitter accounts. For today's results, see utsports.com.

The Sherwood Cup regularly draws the top Pac-10 men to the Thousand Oaks, California club, and this year UCLA, USC and Stanford have many of their top players competing. Trojan Steve Johnson is the top seed, with Cardinal Bradley Klahn No. 2. For the complete draw, see uclabruins.com. You can also follow @uclatennis on twitter for live scores. Right now I'm keeping an eye on twitter for reports on the very close second round match between Johnson and UCLA freshman Dan Kosakowski.

The eighth-ranked University of Michigan women are hosting three other Top 25 teams this weekend: No. 13 Tennessee, No. 16 Georgia Tech and No. 23 Washington. This is an individual tournament with team scoring, which is explained in this release at mgoblue.com. There is live streaming and live scoring of the event beginning Saturday at 10 a.m.