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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hardebeck, Ho Receive Top Seeds at Girls 18s and 16s Nationals; Texas Repeats as Boys 18s National Team Champions

The seeds have been announced for the the Girls 18s and 16s championships, and unlike in the Boys 18s seedings, the WTA ranking has trumped the ITF ranking with Krista Hardebeck receiving the top ranking and Taylor Townsend, No. 1 in the ITF junior rankings, getting the No. 2 seed.

Hardebeck, whose WTA ranking is 346, qualified today for the $100,000 Vancouver Pro Circuit Challenger with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Jacqueline Cako.  Other players in San Diego who have been seeded due to their WTA rankings are Samantha Crawford, Allie Kiick and Mayo Hibi, who all are inside the Top 500 WTA.  Only the top two girls in the USTA rankings--Townsend and Austin--get Top 8 seeds in San Diego, while in Kalamazoo the Top 6 in the USTA rankings are among the Top 8 seeds. 

There are many dangerous lower seeds including Jamie Loeb and Danielle Collins in the 9-16 group, and Vicky Duval, who just beat Townsend 6-1, 6-2 in Vancouver qualifying (losing to Nicole Gibbs in the final round of qualifying today), in the 17-32 group.  Dangerous unseeded floaters include wild card Hayley Carter, Lynn Chi, Sherry Li and Alyssa Smith.

In the girls 16s, Jessica Ho is the top seed, and it appears the seeding follows the national selection list, which underestimates Katerina Stewart, putting her at the No. 6 seed.  A dangerous unseeded player is Usue Arconada, a finalist this year at the ITF Grass Courts.

Girls 18s:
1. Krista Hardebeck
2. Taylor Townsend
3. Samantha Crawford
4. Alexandra Kiick
5. Mayo Hibi
6. Sachia Vickery
7. Chalena Scholl
8. Brooke Austin
9. Jamie Loeb
10. Christina Makarova
11. Kyle McPhillips
12. Jennifer Bradey
13. Gabby Andrews
14. Ashley Dai
15. Danielle Collins
16. Maegan Manasse
17. Frances Altick
17. Lexi Borr
17. Louisa Chirico
17. Caroline Doyle
17. Vicky Duval
17. Catherine Harrison
17. Liz Jeukeng
17. Zoe Katz
17. Kourtney Keegan
17. Kelsey Laurente
17. Spencer Liang
17. Madeline Lipp
17. Rachel Pierson
17. Peggy Porter
17. Jilian Rooney
17. Denise Starr

Girls 16s:
1. Jessica Ho
2. Kimberly Yee
3. Kaitlyn McCarthy
4. Ellyse Hamlin
5. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer
6. Katerina Stewart
7. Francesca Dilorenzo
8. Meredith Xepoleas
9. Caroline Lampl
10. Andie Daniell
11. Mira Ruder-Hook
12. Ndindi Ndunda
13. Amber Park
14. Olivia Sneed
15. Meghan Kelley
16. Cassandra Vazquez
17. Hadley Berg
17. Caroline Brinson
17. Sophie Chang
17. Megen Cochran
17. Luisa Fernandez
17. Terri Fleming
17. Lauren Goodman
17. Mariana Gould
17. Melissa Lord
17. Alexis Pereira
17. Annika Ringblom
17. Caroline Turner
17. Ines Vias
17. Carolyn Xie
17. Amy Yang
17. Ellie Zogg

See the TennisLink site for all the competitors.

The Boys 18s National Team title went to the Texas section for the second straight year. The No. 2 seeded Texas team defeated the fifth seeded Midwest section 4-3 to take the championship, after the Midwest won the doubles point.  Shane Vinsant and Harrison Adams defeated the Midwest's No. 1 and No. 2 singles players Jared Hiltzik and Ronnie Schneider respectively and Texas also got singles wins from Nicholas Naumann (over Paul Oosterbaan in an injury retirement) and Grant Solomon. Top seed Southern California finished fourth, losing to Eastern 4-3 today.

Today was a bit late to discover this website for the Boys National Team Championship ( a link on the TennisLink site would have been nice), but it did allow me to see the draw and get the seedings, and it has a good pdf option for easy access to complete results.

At the girls National Team Championships, the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals, and on Wednesday No. 1 Southern California will play No. 4 Eastern and No. 2 Midwest will play No. 3 Southern. The TennisLink site is here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Coppejans, Uberalova Win European Championships; Kudla Wins Lexington Challenger; USTA National 18s Team Championships Underway

I'll have more on the two winners of the ITF B1 European Closed champions in my July Aces, which will be out Wednesday at the Tennis Recruiting Network, but I wanted to post a bit about all of the European Championships tonight. Top seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium, the Roland Garros boys champion,  won the 18s in Switzerland, defeating No. 2 seed Frederico Silva of Portugal 6-2, 6-3, and took over the top spot in the ITF Junior rankings from Wimbledon boys champion Filip Peliwo of Canada. Petra Uberalova of Slovakia, the No. 4 seed, won the girls 18s title, beating unseeded Basak Eraydin of Turkey 6-3, 6-2.  For more on the 18s, including links to full draws, see the Tennis Europe site.

The 16s were held in Moscow, with No. 12 seed Lucas Miedler of Austria taking the boys title and unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain taking the girls title. Fifteen-year-old Sorribes Tormo was a runner-up last year, so that probably wasn't the upset it seems, and she had not played a junior event all year until this one, playing only ITF women's circuit events and winning a $10K in March.  For more on the 16s tournament, see this article at the Tennis Europe site.

The 14s championships, held in the Czech Republic, went to Mikael Yemer of Sweden, the No. 3 seed, and top seed Olga Fridman of Ukraine. Fridman, who is the first girl from Ukraine to win the 14-and-under championship, has had an impressive year, with this her fourth grade 1 win so far.  According to this article at Tennis Europe, the boys final was moved indoors due to heavy rain, but it should be noted that all the European Championships are played on clay.

I'll also have more on the winners of this week's $10,000 events on the Pro Circuit in the upcoming Aces column, with Julia Elbaba and Jason Jung getting their first titles in New Orleans and Godfrey, Ill. respectively.  Denis Kudla won his first Challenger title last week in Lexington, and he is now tied for the lead in the race for the US Open wild card with Michael Yani, who won the Binghamton Challenger. Yani and Kudla are both playing the $100,000 Challenger in Vancouver this week, but Yani has already lost, with wild card Bradley Klahn taking their first round match 4-6, 6-0, 7-6(5). Kudla is playing Peter Polansky of Canada in his first round match, probably Tuesday. There is one other tournament left on the men's side, the Aptos Challenger next week, so the wild card is still very much up for grabs.  On the women's side, Vancouver is the last tournament, and although Shelby Rogers is in the lead, she lost today in qualifying to Jacqueline Cako, so Madison Keys, who received entry into the main draw and is seeded No. 8 and controls her own destiny now. Keys' first round opponent is Canadian junior Carol Zhao, who received a wild card. Center court matches in Vancouver are being streamed live, for free, on usta.com.

The USTA 18s National Team Championships are held the week leading up to the National Championships, and this year the boys are again in Champaign, Ill., while the girls are at Claremont, Calif. Unfortunately, the TennisLink site makes it extremely difficult to follow the action or even figure out the draw, but the girls site does post a quick overview on its TennisLink home page. Southern California is the top seed.  The boys TennisLink home page is here. They started Saturday and should finish Tuesday, the girls started today and should finish Thursday.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kalamazoo Seeds; National Girls 18s and 16s Wild Cards

The seeds for Kalamazoo, which begins Friday, August 3rd, have been announced.  The draw is not yet out, but will be posted on ustaboys.com, probably Monday.

Boys 18s:
1. Mitchell Krueger
2. Michael Redlicki
3. Dennis Novikov
4. Mackenzie McDonald
5. Noah Rubin
6. Jared Hiltzik
7. Ronnie Schneider
8. Alexios Halebian
9. Spencer Papa
10. Thai Kwiatkowski
11. Stefan Kozlov
12. Connor Farren
13. Austin Siegel
14. George Goldhoff
15. Henry Craig
16. Deiton Baughman
17. Gage Brymer
18. Kristofer Yee
19. Brendan McClain
20. Nolan Paige
21. Ryan Shane
22. Charles Boyce
23. Martin Redlicki
24. Jonathan Ho
25. David Hsu
26. Jordan Daigle
27. Roy Lederman
28. Harrison Richmond
29. Austin Smith
30. Shane Vinsant
31. Harrison Adams
32. Mac Styslinger

Boys 16s:
1. Mitch Stewart
2. Paul Oosterbaan
3. Aron Hiltzik
4. Logan Smith
5. Thomas Fawcett
6. Chase Perez-Blanco
7. Tommy Mylnikov
8. Baker Newman
9. Sameer Kumar
10. Will Showers
11. Maximilian Fliegner
12. Henrik Wiersholm
13. Logan Staggs
14. Jess Jones
15. William Griffith
16. Nathan Ponwith
17. Hampton Drake
18. Yancy Dennis
19. Toshiki Matsuya
20. Kyle Seelig
21. Christian Langmo
22. Daniel Kerznerman
23. Josh Silverstein
24. David Wilczynski
25. William Chiu
26. Eduardo Nava
27. Jordi Arconada
28. Kial Kaiser
29. Walker Duncan
30. JT Nishimura
31. Tate Allwardt
32. Alexandru Gozun

The girls 16s and 18s seeds have not been posted yet, but the names of the wild cards have been announced:

Girls 16s:
Mary Haffey
Isabella Heidenreich
Kelly Shaffer
Carolyn Xie

Girls 18s:
Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer
Rima Asatrian
Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum
Hayley Carter
Lynn Chi
Yuki Chiang
Liz Jeukeng
Rachel Nelson
Kassandra Orozco
Katrine Steffensen

Notably absent from the girls 18s field this year are Jan Abaza, Nadia Echeverria Alam, Breaunna Addison, Tornado Black, Jessica Pegula, Grace Min, Madison Keys and Lauren Davis. 

Some of the younger divisions have posted their seedings, and that information can be found at the TennisLink site.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Allie Will Turns Pro, Kauffmann Takes Over at Kentucky, Merzbacher Moves to Minnesota; Jung, Elbaba, Kudla Reach Pro Circuit Finals

Allie Will, who played No. 1 singles for the NCAA champion University of Florida for most of the last two years, has turned pro and will not be returning to Gainesville for her senior year.

Will, a six-time All-American, won two collegiate majors during her career at Florida: the 2011 ITA Riviera All-American singles championship, and the 2010 USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate doubles championship with Sofie Oyen. She leaves Florida with the second highest winning percentage in the Gators' illustrious history, with her singles winning percentage of 90.4% (104-11) second only to that of Lisa Raymond (95.4%, 84-4). Raymond is currently in London, representing the United States in doubles at the Olympics.

This summer Will has played the 10K in Evansville, where she reached the semifinals, and the final round of qualifying in this week's Lexington 50K. She is listed in the qualifying for the $100,000 Vancouver Challenger next week.

Her loss leaves a big hole to fill for the two-time defending NCAA champions, who also lost Joanna Mather to graduation. Clay champion Danielle Collins is their sole recruit, but one that is expected to contribute immediately, as have all the Florida freshmen recently.

At the University of Kentucky, longtime assistant and former Wildcat Cedric Kauffmann has been named to replace Dennis Emery as men's head coach. After 30 years of coaching at Kentucky, Emery has taken a position as Special Assistant to the Athletic Director.

Chuck Merzbacher, who for 16 years was the women's head coach at Ohio State, has been hired to fill that position at the University of Minnesota, his alma mater. The previous coach at Minnesota, Tyler Thomson, left for the head women's position at William and Mary.

Sunday's finals are set in the Pro Circuit events, the two $10,000 tournaments, and the joint $50,000 Challenger in Lexington.

In the women's $10,000 tournament in New Orleans, wild card Julia Elbaba, who reached the semifinals in Evansville last week, is into her first Pro Circuit final after beating No. 5 seed Jacqueline Cako 6-3, 7-5 today.  The unseeded Elbaba, who has committed to the University of Virginia, hasn't lost a set this week, beating three seeds in her four matches. She'll need to make that four of five to pick up the title, as she plays No. 3 seed Hua-Chen Lee of Taiwan in the final.

The doubles title in New Orleans went to Macall Harkins and Zoe Scandalis. The unseeded pair defeated the sister team of Roxanne and Sierra Ellison, also unseeded, 7-5, 6-2.

In Lexington, Denis Kudla reached the final with a 6-3, 7-5 win over 18-year-old wild card Christian Harrison this evening. Kudla, the No. 4 seed, will meet No. 8 seed Eric Chvojka of Canada in the final. Chvojka got a walkover from Great Britain's Alex Bogdanovic in the semifinals.

Eighth-seed Madison Keys lost to unseeded Julia Glushko of Israel today in the semifinals 6-3, 6-3. Glushko will play unseeded Johanna Konta of Great Britain in the final. Konta came from behind to defeat No. 4 seed Misaki Doi of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

Complete results are available at the women's Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

At the men's $10,000 Futures in Godfrey, Illinois, Jason Jung of Michigan beat former Big 10 rival Dennis Nevolo of Illinois 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals to advance to his first professional final. Jung, who like Nevolo was unseeded, meets No. 2 seed Cesar Ramirez of Mexico for the championship Sunday.  The doubles title went to the unseeded pair of Ryan Rowe and Marcelo Arevalo, who defeated top seeds Sebastien Boltz of France and Luca Margaroli of Switzerland 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

For the men's results, and the qualifying draws for next week's Pro Circuit events in Vancouver and Decatur, Illinois, see usta.com.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Girls 18s Clay Courts Recap, Slideshow, Videos

My recap of the Girls 18s Clay Court Championships is up now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. While you are there, please read the articles on all the other seven finals, which are part of Clay Championship Week at TRNet. Earlier today Marcia Frost described the dispiriting end to the Boys 18s final, which, of course, produced no winner.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but there's no denying that this is not the first time the tournament has ended this way. Because there is absolutely no indoor backup in South Florida (which is not true here in Kalamazoo), every effort should be made to play the finals as early as possible, and unless the weather forecast was horribly off, playing both the boys 16s and boys 18s final at the same time would have been sensible. As would playing the final on Monday morning. Tennis players pay airline change fees as often as they buy Gatorade, and that is certainly a choice for the players to make, not the tournament or federation. Perhaps when the draw size is reduced next year, the tournament can use the extra day as a rain day, and play both the finals early on Sunday.

The slideshow from the girls clays and videos of the two finalists are below:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sean Hannity's Response to Tim Russell; Kozlov Reaches Quarterfinals in Godfrey; Cohen into WTA Semifinal

Sean Hannity's rebuttal to USTA's Junior Competition Chair Tim Russell (or Patrick McEnroe, as he titles it) came out last week, but due to my girls 18s Clay Court coverage, I wasn't able to post it until now.  Similar to Hannity's first post, it's long,  no doubt because he addresses nearly every counter-argument that Russell raised in his 17-page response to Hannity's first post.  Skeptical of Russell's claim of landslide support from the junior tennis community, Hannity offers to pay for a survey of USTA membership on the issue.

At this time, I would like to restate my challenge to you to institute an unbiased survey on these schedule and draw size changes – a membership survey that, again, I would be more than happy to provide financial support for if the USTA will agree to abide by the outcome, regardless of what the outcome may be. Should the membership vote to keep the schedule and draw sizes, we can begin to work on ways to improve the legitimate concerns the USTA says it has.

I do not think the USTA will take Hannity up on this offer, so then what?  I hope the discussion continues, but I fear it will not.

Junior Development Coach Tom Walker, whom Russell sites in his 17-page rebuttal, but has been against the changes from the beginning, has written another response directed as a letter to Hannity. Walker pulls no punches in the letter, and calls for the dissolution of the USTA Junior Competition Committee. An excerpt from Walker's letter:

All participants must go! Even the well intentioned members lacked the courage and intestinal fortitude to stand up and fight what was occurring. Their fear to speak out allowed this situation to occur. This committee could reverse the present proposals before implementation in 2013. To do so...these positions must be filled with junior development coaches from around the country. All must have coached actively or represent top tournaments, colleges, top international players, past professional players, or top sectional players. Each section of the country must be represented. Meanwhile, the current administration is hard at work to try to continue their hold on this committee. Political payoffs are being attempted. These can be broken up by the nominating committees by vote at the US Open. Most importantly, the new incoming President must be made to see the necessity of appointing a completely new competition committee. He will have complete authority to do this.

Walker's complete letter is here.

For another, briefer view of the issue, see Lisa Stone's post on her website Parenting Aces. Stone is also starting a weekly internet radio show on Sunday nights, so if you would like to call in and talk with her about this issue or any others, I know she would love to hear from you.

Stefan Kozlov defeated Harrison Adams today in the Godfrey, Illinois Futures 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 to reach the quarterfinals. He will play former Michigan No. 1 Jason Jung, who is also unseeded. In fact, there is only one seed remaining in the last eight players: No. 2 Caesar Ramirez of Mexico, who plays TCU's Nick Chappell Friday.  Ryan Thacher and Dennis Nevolo, two recent college graduates, have also reached the quarterfinals.  Kozlov and Henrik Wiersholm lost in the doubles semifinals 6-2, 6-2 Thursday to former Illinois NCAA doubles champion Ryan Rowe and Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador, who played for Tulsa University. 

Complete results can be found at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

At the $50,000 joint Challenger in Lexington, Ky., Mallory Burdette reached the quarterfinals with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Jessica Pegula. Burdette faces 17-year-old Madison Keys, the No. 8 seed, on Friday. Burdette and Lauren Embree beat No. 2 seeds Karin Knapp of Italy and Erika Sema of Japan 7-6(5), 6-2 in the first round of doubles yesterday.

Complete results can be found at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

In Baku, Azerbaijan, the site of this week's only WTA event, Julia Cohen, the former all-American at Florida and Miami, reached her first WTA semifinal with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia. She will play unseeded Olga Puchkova of Russia on Friday.

With the Olympic tennis competition scheduled to start Saturday at Wimbledon (draws here), there won't be as much attention as usual on next week's CitiOpen, which is now a combined men's and women's event in Washington DC (the men's event was sponsored by Legg Mason for many years).  The women's qualifying draw of 16 includes 14-year-old Tornado Black, a wild card, 17-year-old Allie Kiick and 18-year-old Lauren Davis.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kalamazoo Wild Cards; US Open Junior Acceptances; Burdette, Harrison, Keys Advance in Lexington

The wild cards for the boys 16s and 18s at Kalamazoo have been determined by the USTA.
Boys 18s:
Shane Vinsant
Joseph DiGiulio
Jose Gracia
Ernesto Escobedo
Austin Smith
Terrell Celestine
Justin Butsch
Michael Redlicki
Martin Redlicki
JC Aragone
Mac Styslinger
Stephen Watson

Boys 16s:
Zandrix Acob 
Oliver Landert
Riley Smith
Lamar Remy
Tommy Paul
Daniel Grunberger
Jordan Belga

The initial acceptances for the US Open Junior Championships have been posted at the ITF junior website.  There are eight US girls and four US boys who have been accepted into the main draw.

The girls:
Taylor Townsend
Sachia Vickery
Chalena Scholl
Allie Kiick
Christina Makarova
Kyle McPhillips
Jennifer Brady
Krista Hardebeck

The boys:
Mitchell Krueger
Noah Rubin
Mackenzie McDonald
Spencer Papa

Currently, the following US juniors have been accepted into qualifying:
Samantha Crawford
Alexios Halebian
Thai Kwiatkowski
Connor Farren
Stefan Kozlov
Austin Siegel

There are four girls who have received direct main draw entry due to their WTA rankings inside 350:

Krista Hardebeck
Kateryna Kozlova (UKR)
Margarita Gasparyan (RUS)
Anna-Lena Friedsam (GER)

Wimbledon junior champions Filip Peliwo and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada have entered, Luke Saville and Ashleigh Barty of Australia have not. 2010 finalist Yulia Putintseva, formerly of Russia, now playing for Kazakhstan, has entered and at 122 in the WTA rankings, she would be slotted for the No. 2 seed behind Townsend. Thiago Monteiro of Brazil is the only boy who has received entry based on his ATP ranking, and at 495, he would be seeded in the top eight, although those seedings would depend on their rankings as of August 20th.

Fourteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov, who will certainly get a wild card into the US Open Juniors main draw, picked up his first ATP point yesterday at the Godfrey Futures by beating fellow wild card Henrik Wiersholm, also of the US, who is himself only 15. Kozlov and Wiersholm, playing doubles together, have reached the semifinals in Godfrey after beating USC's Michael Grant and Daniel Nguyen today 6-2, 6-3. I've been a part of discussion on twitter about the youngest player with an ATP point. Currently, that now must be Kozlov, but if anyone has knowledge of a younger player winning a Futures or Challenger match, please pass it along.

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

At the joint men's and women's tournament in Lexington, Ky., 18-year-old Christian Harrison, who will not, unfortunately, be playing in Kalamazoo next month, reached the quarterfinals with two victories today. In a match held over from Tuesday, Harrison beat former Florida Gator Sekou Bangoura Jr. 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, then defeated another former Gator, Greg Ouellette, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals at the $50,000 Challenger. 2012 NCAA finalist and local hero Eric Quigley won his first round match Wednesday, beating Riccardo Ghedin of Italy 6-3, 6-2.

Wild card Mallory Burdette, the Stanford rising senior, beat top seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-3, 6-4 in the first round, and will take on 18-year-old Jessia Pegula of the US in the second round Thursday. (Pegula, although eligible, did not enter the US Open Junior Championships). Seventeen-year-old Madison Keys, the No. 8 seed, beat qualifier Jennifer Elie, also of the US, 6-4, 6-3.

For the women's results from Lexington, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Krueger Signs with Octagon; Johnson Gets Asics Deal; European Championships Begin with Upsets

There has been much speculation in the past few months as to whether Mitchell Krueger would actually end up attending Texas A&M, and the answer to that question is now officially no. Although at Wimbledon Krueger had not yet signed the papers relinquishing his amateur status, it had been rumored for months that he was considering skipping college and training with a group of young pros at the USTA. Soon after returning to Texas from London, he signed a contract to be represented by the sports management agency Octagon. Although there has been no press release, Krueger is now listed on their website as a client, and is being featured in promotional banner ads for Tecnifibre, his racquet sponsor.

Steve Johnson, who took a different path, playing all four years at the University of Southern California, signed an endorsement deal with Asics for shoes and apparel. Johnson, who received a wild card into the ATP Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, and plays his first round match against Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands later tonight, appears in this YouTube promotion for the company.

The biggest junior tournament in Europe that isn't held in Paris or London is taking place this week, as the European Summer Championships are underway.  The 14s are in Pilzen, Czech Republic, the 16s are in Moscow and the 18s, which are an ITF Grade B1, are in Switzerland.

Although the tournaments are in the early stages, there have already been several upsets of note.

In the boys 14s, top seed Jay Clarke of Great Britain lost in the second round (his first match) to Carlos Divar of Spain. The top seed in the girls 14s, Olga Fridman of Ukraine, has advanced to the third round, but No. 2 seed Maia Lumsden of Great Britain was beaten in the second round by Denisa Cichova of the Czech Republic.

The girls 16s field is a strong one, with Croatia's Ana Konjuh, a Wimbledon girls quarterfinalist and No. 11 in the ITF junior rankings, the top seed. Konjuh has advanced to the third round, as has No. 2 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, who is No. 5 in the ITF junior rankings.

Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus, the No. 1 seed in the boys 16s, was upset by Johannes Haerteis of Germany in the second round, but No. 2 seed Elias Ymer of Sweden is through to the third round.

In the girls 18s, top seeds Margarita Gasparyan of Russia and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland have made the third round, but No. 3 seed Illona Kremen of Belarus lost in the second round to Tess Sugnaux of Switzerland. In the boys 18s, French Open boys champion Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium has reached the third round, as has No. 2 seed Frederico Silva of Portugal. No. 5 seed Enzo Couacaud of France, who reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, lost his opening match to Laslo Djere of Serbia.

For the 18s draws, see the ITF junior website. The draws for the other age divisions can be accessed by click on the links above, or going to the TennisEurope website.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Burdette Wins Evansville Pro Circuit 10K; Klahn and Meister Qualify for ATP Farmers Classic

I'm back home from the Girls 18s Clays in Memphis, and ready to catch up on the other results of note at the assorted tournaments in the United States.

Stanford's Mallory Burdette, the 2012 NCAA finalist, won her first WTA main draw match at the Bank of the West Classic over Anne Keothavong and had set points on Marion Bartoli of France in the second round less than two weeks ago.  That one win has propelled Burdette into the Top 500 of the WTA rankings, and she will move up more, although not as dramatically, when the points from her win Sunday at the Evansville $10,000 Pro Circuit tournament are added.  Burdette lost only five games in three qualifying matches and only 15 games in her five main draw matches. In the final, she beat top seed Ying-Ying Duan of China, ranked 212, 6-1, 6-2.  In the doubles final, Duan and partner Yi-Fan Xu beat Burdette and former Tennessee all-American Natalie Pluskota 6-2, 6-3.

Burdette has received a wild card into the main draw of the $50,000 Lexington Challenger, which is a joint men's and women's event. It is one of the three tournaments for women (Yakima, Lexington, Vancouver) and four tournaments for men (Binghamton, Lexington, Vancouver and Aptos) that will decide a US Open wild card, with the best two results counted in a player's total.  There is also free live streaming  this week at Lexington, available via this USTA Pro Circuit page.

Last week's men's events were the $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton, won by former Duke star Michael Yani and a $10,000 Futures in Joplin won by Sebastien Boltz of France. The Binghamton doubles title went to Dudi Sela and former UCLA Bruin Harel Srugo, and the Joplin doubles champions are Texas teens Harrison Adams and Shane Vinsant.

This week, in addition to Lexington, there are two $10,000 tournaments. The women are in New Orleans, and the men in Godfrey, Illinois.

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

Out in Los Angeles, the ATP Farmers Classic is suffering from going against the Olympics, and the top seed, Benoit Paire of France, is ranked 47.  (According to the always interesting Jeff Sackmann, who runs the blog Heavy Topspin and provides a statistics site, tennisabstract.com, that isn't even in the Top 10 of lowest No. 1 seeds in an ATP tournament). But it's an opportunity for players like Sam Querrey, a two-time champion who is seeded No. 2 this year, and other non-Olympic qualifying Americans like James Blake, Brian Baker, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock, the latter three receiving wild cards.

Two more Americans, both with Southern California roots, qualified for the main draw today. Recent Stanford graduate and 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn, from Poway, defeated Alex Kuznetsov 7-6(5), 7-6(2) in the final round of qualifying to set up a main draw meeting Tuesday with Italian Paolo Lorenzi, and Nick Meister, the recent UCLA graduate from Trabuco Canyon, beat Jimmy Wang of Taiwan 6-4, 7-6(3). Meister has drawn No. 5 seed Xavier Malisse for his Tuesday first rounder.  Steve Johnson, the two-time NCAA champion, will play Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands on the stadium court Tuesday night. Sock and Baker are on the stadium court later tonight, with Sock playing Italian Flavio Cipolla and Baker, the No. 8 seed, playing Rajeev Ram.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Danielle Collins Claims Girls 18s Clay Court Championship in Fifth Attempt

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Few tennis players at any level could take a five-month break from competitive tennis and win a national championship in their first tournament back. Danielle Collins added her name to that short list Sunday morning, when she defeated No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb 6-1, 6-4 to claim the Girls 18s National Clay Court Championship on another steamy day at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

Collins, seeded No. 16, had taken time off this winter and spring to deal with senior activities at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., although she continued to train at IMG's Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton between bouts of tendinitis in her knees. Graduating last month, Collins returned to competitive tennis on Monday, when she lost the first set to Jessica Ho and trailed 4-1 in the third set before winning the final five games of the match.

"I had such a close first match and I almost wasn't able to pull it out," said the 18-year-old, who was competing in her fifth 18s Clay Court Championship in Memphis. "So to be able to come back from that and get better each match, improve, that was my goal the whole tournament. I was able to reach my goal and it's a great feeling."

Collins had played an outstanding match against defending champion Gabby Andrews in Saturday's semifinal, rolling to a 6-3, 6-0 victory, and although she wasn't quite at that level Sunday against Loeb, she had enough left to end Loeb's impressive 33-match winning streak.

Loeb struggled with her serve throughout the match, double faulting often, and she never found the key to counter Collins devastating ground strokes. Loeb did have a brief lead to open the second set, getting her first service hold in the opening game, and breaking Collins in the next, but Collins won the next three games. From then on neither player held serve, with five straight breaks, the last one earned when Collins hit a drop shot winner from deep in the court that went over to Loeb's side of the net, then spun back into it. It wasn't the first drop shot winner Collins had hit, but it was the most improbable and significant, giving her a 5-4 lead, although she maintained Loeb's version of the shot is superior to hers.

"She would drop shot so much," said Collins. "Her drop shot is really good; it's better than mine. So to be able to hit that, at that point in the match, it was kind of like, yeah, finally caught you."

Collins still faced the difficult task of holding her serve, and Loeb had two break points to even the second set. On the first, at 30-40, Collins hit a backhand winner, and on the second, she hit a good first serve that caused Loeb's return to go just long.  An ace gave Collins her first match point, but Loeb replied with a clever forehand passing shot winner. On the second match point, Collins missed a forehand wide, and on the third match point, Loeb again hit a forehand passing shot for a winner. Finally, on match point number four, Loeb just missed a forehand slice wide, and a relieved Collins had her sixth gold ball.

"It's very discouraging when you get a ball around the service line, you hit it, you think you're going hit a winner, but she's so good at anticipating, she gets to it and she passes you," Collins said. "Not once, but twice. But I just told myself, you've got to be patient, eventually she'll break down and I'll be able to close this out. Just stay calm, don't get too angry, and stay motivated, get to the finish line."

Loeb thought her slow start hurt her against Collins.

"I could have gotten off to a better start, she came out swinging right away," said Loeb, a 17-year-old from New York. "In the second set, I got into more of a groove.  Maybe if I'd served a little better, if I could change that, but overall, I think I fought really hard to the end, and never gave up."

Loeb, who trains at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, felt she was close to turning the match around in that final game.

"As a player, I never give up, even if I'm down 5-0, 40-0 even," Loeb said. "I've come back from being down 5-2 in both sets, winning the match 6 and 6, so I knew today, being down match points, I wasn't going to change my mentality. I just kept fighting, unfortunately, it just didn't work out."

Collins is no longer ITF age eligible, as she turns 19 in December, so she will not be offered the US Open wild card that goes to the Girls 18s Clay Court champion, but she is interested in the qualifying wild card for the WTA event held indoors at the Racquet Club in February that she earned with her victory.

"I'll be in college then, but I'm sure they'll let me play this tournament," said Collins, who joins the team at the University of Florida next month. "Hopefully Scott (Dei, her coach) can come. I know he's always wanted to come here, so I'm sure he's happy I won."

After a little over two hours of rest for Loeb, the girls doubles final was played, with No. 2 seeds Ashley Dai and Maegan Manasse defeating Loeb and Madeline Lipp, the top seeds, 7-6(2), 6-1.

As storm clouds swirled around in all directions but miraculously didn't produce any rain, Dai and Manasse, who had never played together before, overcame a 4-1, two-break lead in the first set.

"We started a little slow, but we picked it up," said Manasse, whose usual partner, Zoe Katz, was injured. "We kept our cool and started to get more balls in," said Dai, who was playing in her third consecutive national doubles final, having taken silver at the Winters with Kourtney Keegan and won gold with Whitney Kay at the Springs. "We got more pumped, basically just kept it going," said Dai.

Both Manasse and Dai, who are from Southern California, were initially at a loss to explain how they meshed so quickly, but once they considered the question, they began to offer several reasons.

"I don't know, it just works," said Manasse. "She's better at net, so when I set it up, she can finish it with no problem," said Dai. "It works well, and she has a good backhand, I have a good forehand."

"And our personalities mesh well," said Dai, who has six gold balls, all in doubles.  "And we had fun throughout the whole tournament," said Manasse. "It was good."

In the bronze ball match in singles, top seed Gabby Andrews defeated No. 2 seed Brooke Austin 6-3, 6-1. In the consolation final, No. 14 seed Kourtney Keegan downed Katerina Stewart, a 17 seed, 7-5, 3-6, 12-10.

The bronze ball in doubles went to Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum and Spencer Liang, who beat Louisa Chirico and Denise Starr 6-3, 6-3 in a match between two No. 9 seeds.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

In Virginia Beach, Mia Horvit, the No. 10 seed, won the girls 16s Clay Court championship, defeating unseeded Francesca Dilorenzo 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

At Delray Beach, No. 3 seed Mitch Stewart won the boys 16s Clay Court championship, beating No. 13 seed Baker Newman 6-1, 6-3.

The boys 18s final match was abandoned due to rain, with top seed Jared Hiltzik leading No. 16 seed George Goldhoff 6-4, 3-1.  Marcia Frost is covering the event for the Tennis Recruiting Network, so I'm sure she'll have more on this unfortunate ending in her recap.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Collins and Loeb in USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Final Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Danielle Collins couldn't have played much better in ousting defending champion and top seed Gabby Andrews 6-3, 6-0 in Saturday's first semifinal at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships. Jamie Loeb dropped the first set to No. 2 seed Brooke Austin, but then she too came up with her best tennis to post a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory and extend her winning streak to 31 straight matches.

Unlike Loeb, who came into the tournament with a $10,000 Pro Circuit title, as well as ITF junior circuit and Eastern sectional championships, Collins hadn't played a tournament since February. A minor case of knee tendinitis and a final semester's worth of senior activities left her without any match play, although she continued to train at Bollettieri's, near her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"I didn't really expect to do this well here because I didn't have any matches coming into this tournament," said Collins, who has played the Memphis clays for five straight years. "That first match against Jessica Ho really helped me out, being able to dig out the second set and somehow come back in the third. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I feel so much better than last year, when I was really not very healthy."

Last year against Andrews in the semifinals, Collins had to retire, and was taken to the hospital for severe cramping, but those memories were far away in Saturday morning's match.

Collins said she woke up feeling energetic and had a good warm-up, and she blasted the ball from the outset, targeting Andrews' forehand.

"I was able to stick to my game plan, attack her forehand and break her down early in the match," said Collins, who will be joining the NCAA champion Florida Gators next month. "I think she was kind of overwhelmed by some of the pace I was coming up with. That really threw her off and I think it was frustrating her a lot."

Collins barely made an error in the opening six games, but Andrews was able to stay within striking distance with some good play of her own. Collins' level dropped ever so slightly when serving for the set at 5-3, and she was required to save three break points in that game, but she hit a forehand winner to save one and two backhand winners to save the others, which had to be discouraging for Andrews.

Collins started out the second set with a break, and she was determined not to give Andrews any hope of a comeback.

"My main goal was not to let her into the match at all," said Collins. "I didn't want to give her any type of momentum, because she's the type of player that, you give her a couple free points, she gets back in the match. She's really good at coming back, so I wanted to make sure I didn't have any sloppy points or give any points away. I had to stay focused the whole match, stay on top of it."

In the semifinal between Austin and Loeb, the first set looked similar to that of Andrews and Collins.  Loeb didn't play poorly, but Austin was crushing the ball and hitting the lines, with many more winners than unforced errors.

Loeb began to make some changes in the second set, and Austin dropped her serve at 1-2, with two consecutive double faults helping Loeb take a 3-1 lead.

"I started recognizing her return patterns, and certain shots, how she'd react," said the 17-year-old New Yorker. "That took a while, and also in the beginning I came out a little tentative. As the match progressed, I got a little more comfortable and more confident with my shots."

Loeb began using her drop shot and changed the pace with an effective slice, although she also held her own in the baseline rallies, matching Austin's aggressive groundstrokes.

When errors began to surface in Austin's game, especially on the backhand side, Loeb continued to apply pressure and she won seven straight games to take the second set and earn a 2-0 lead in the third before Austin got her first--and last--game in that stretch to make it 2-1.

"In the second and third sets, I think I played very, very well, very consistent," said Loeb, who trains with Felix Alvarado at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, but consulted with Jason, her brother and traveling coach, about strategy before the match. "I wasn't playing passive, I was going for my sho

ts and making them. I feel with my variety of drop shots and slices, it really threw her off."

Some of that variety may be the result of training with McEnroe himself, which Loeb has done occasionally.

"I hit with him here and there," said Loeb, who has been at the academy since last September. "It is fun, and he gives great advice. He's obviously one of the best tennis players, so it's great to be at his academy."

When Austin netted a forehand on the first match point, Loeb, the reigning USTA Winter National 18s champion, had reached her second USTA National final this year, while extending her winning streak to 31 matches. She ended Austin's winning streak at 33, and avenged a loss to Austin at a National Open last year.

Loeb will also be out for revenge in Sunday morning's final, with Collins having beaten her last year at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Buffalo, the same tournament that Loeb won earlier this month.

Once the singles final, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., is complete, Loeb will go for another national championship in doubles.  On Saturday afternoon, Loeb and partner Madeline Lipp, the top seeds, defeated Louisa Chirico and Denise Starr, a No. 9 seeded team, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. They will play second seeds Ashley Dai and Maegan Manasse, who played a roller coaster of a match with Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum and Spencer Liang. Dai and Manasse led 4-1 in the first set, lost seven straight games to go down 2-0 in the second set, then won six games in a row to send the match into a third set. The third set didn't contain any such streaks, with Dai and Manasse breaking Bernard-Feigenbaum in the last game to secure a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win.

The consolation final is also scheduled for Sunday morning, with Katerina Stewart, a No. 17 seed, facing Kourtney Keegan, the No. 14 seed, for fifth place in the tournament.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

At the Boys 18s Clay Courts in Delray Beach, George Goldhoff, seeded 16th, will face top seed Jared Hiltzik in the final. In the 16s, also at Delray Beach, Baker Newman, seeded 13th, will play No. 3 seed Mitch Stewart for the title.

In Virginia Beach, Va., the girls 16s Clay Court championship match will feature No. 10 seed Mia Horvit against unseeded Francesca Dilorenzo.

The 12s and 14s USTA Clay Court champions have been decided.  At the girls 14s in Plantation, Fla., top seed Emma Higuchi defeated Angela Kulikov, seeded 22, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1. At the boys 14s in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., No. 6 seed Evan Zhu defeated No. 3 seed Jonathan Small 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the final. 

At the girls 12s in Boca Raton, Fla., No. 2 seed Victoria Emma downed No. 9 seed Ellie Douglas 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-2 in the championship match.

At the boys 12s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, second seed Trent Bryde defeated top seed Roscoe Bellamy 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Andrews vs. Collins, Austin vs. Loeb in USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Three of the top four seeds and a 2011 semifinalist have reached the final four at the USTA Girls 18s National Clay Courts after another brutally hot day of play Friday at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

No. 2 seed Brooke Austin and Caroline Doyle, a No. 17 seed, started the morning off with some outstanding tennis, with Austin eventually taking a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 decision over her fellow 16-year-old.

Once Doyle adjusted to the pace of Austin's ball, she was able to hang in all the rallies, and her lefty serve and forehand produced nearly as many winners as Austin, who can paint the lines when she has a rhythm, as she did this morning.

Although Doyle had the momentum after the 10 minute break between sets, she was broken in the first game of the third set after failing to convert five game points and double faulting an Austin's first break point. After Austin came back from 0-40 down in the next game, winning five straight points to make it 2-0, Doyle desperately needed a hold, but she couldn't get it, as the errors that were absent in the second set began to crop up.  Austin held and broke again for a 5-0 lead, but she played a loose game serving for the match, and was broken at 15.

Doyle saved two match points in the next game, with a forehand winner and an ace, and serving at 5-2, Austin again played a sloppy game and was broken for 5-3.  In the final game, the quality of play that had been evident throughout most of the first two sets, but had dipped in the third, returned.  With Doyle serving at 3-5, 30-40, she and Austin played a match point that would make any highlight show, with great offense and defense by both girls. Doyle eventually saved that match point, number three, with an overhead. Another long and entertaining rally ended with an Doyle forehand going long for match point No. 4, which Doyle saved with a forehand winner. Her forehand went long on the next point to give Austin her fifth match point, and Austin finally converted, blasting a backhand winner.

"She definitely started just going for her shots more," Austin said. "She wasn't as tentative, especially at the end there, her forehands. But I feel like her serve, she wasn't placing it as well as she did in the second set. I just tried to keep the ball in the middle of the court and take away her forehand angles."

Austin doesn't train on clay and had only 30 minutes of practice on the surface before starting the tournament, so there was no suggestion that she change her aggressive game style.

"I just try to play my game and not try to adjust to clay court tennis," said Austin, who is playing in Memphis for the first time. "Typically that doesn't work well for me, so I just play like I normally do."

Austin likes to play a lot, and since she last lost, in the second round of the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Hilton Head at the end of May, she has won two lower level sectional events (primarily to break in a new racquet), the Midwest Closed, a National Open, and an ITA Summer Circuit event at Purdue. With her five wins here in Memphis, her winning streak is at 33, and something's got to give in her semifinal match with No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb, who has a 30-match win streak of her own going.

Loeb picked up No. 30 today against unseeded Sherry Li, by a 6-2 6-2 score, so it's fair to say the summer's two hottest players will face off in equally torrid temperatures for a place in Sunday's final.

The other semifinal is a repeat of last year's with Gabby Andrews again facing Danielle Collins. That ended in Andrews favor, 7-6(5) 5-1 ret., when Collins couldn't continue due to complications from a previous bout of mononucleosis.

Defending champion Andrews earned her 12th straight win in Memphis, defeating No. 14 seed Kourtney Keegan 6-3, 6-4 after trailing 4-1 in the final set.

Collins, seeded 16th, had a considerably tougher time with unseeded Louisa Chirico before pulling out a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win in the midday heat, which reached 100 degrees, with a heat advisory in effect for the area.

Collins, who had not played a competitive match in over five months prior to this tournament, believes her win over Jessica Ho in the second round helped propel her back to the semifinals.

"My first match gave me a lot of confidence, coming back," said Collins, 18. "It made me realize how mentally tough I am, and it helped me out a lot in the long run. I'm so glad I had that match."

Against Chirico, whom she had never played, Collins had begun with a strategy of hitting to Chirico's backhand, but had to change that as the match progressed.

"She moves around her backhand sometimes, so I thought she might favor her forehand side more," Collins said. "So I tried to attack her backhand a lot, but she was coming up with some amazing down the line shots and cross court off her backhand when she was on the run, so I had to change my game plan, go more into her forehand. And once I slowed down the pace a little bit, I kind of wore her out."

During last year's tournament, one of Collins' symptoms was excessive sweating, but even in the heat this year, she has had no such issues.

"I feel so much healthier and have so much more energy now," Collins said. "I feel better, more fit, and physically, I think I should be ready. She's going to make me win the match, she's not going to give me any free points, and I'm going to have to work for it. She's a really tough competitor. I played her once after Clay Courts (last year) at Fed Cup, and we had a three-setter that I ended up winning, on hard courts. But it was tough, I really had to work for it."

The doubles semifinals are also set for Saturday.  Top seeds Madeline Lipp and Jamie Loeb won their quarterfinal match over unseeded Hadley Berg and Mary Closs 6-3, 6-4 and will face No. 9 seeds Louisa Chirico and Denise Starr. Chirico and Starr defeated No. 8 seeds Catherine Harrison and Kendal Woodard 4-6, 7-6(3), 14-12.

No. 2 seeds Ashley Dai and Maegan Manasse defeated Gabby Andrews and Lauren Marker, a No. 9 seeded team, 6-4, 6-1 and will face Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum and Spencer Liang, also a No. 9 seed, in the semifinals. Bernard-Feigenbaum and Liang defeated No. 3 seeds Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan 6-3, 6-7(4), 11-9 Friday evening.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top Two Seeds and Two Unseeded Players Reach USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Thursday was another hot and steamy day in Memphis, but seven of the eight players who advanced to the quarterfinals of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships did themselves a favor by keeping their matches to two sets.

The one round of 16 match that went the distance had the advantage of starting at 8 a.m., but by the time unseeded Louisa Chirico had defeated 15-year-old Katerina Stewart, a No. 17 seed, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, it was nearly 11 a.m. and nearing 90 degrees.

The match started with six consecutive breaks of serve, with the 16-year-old Chirico getting the advantage with her first hold at 4-3. Stewart suffered her fourth straight break to make it 5-3, but Chirico couldn't hold. Stewart had her opportunity to serve for the set at 6-5, having finally held serve for 5-5 and broken Chirico again, but at 6-5, 30-40, Stewart lost a long rally when she sent a forehand long and a tiebreaker would decide the set.

Stewart earned a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but after a lengthy point, Chirico's forehand landed on the baseline out of Stewart's reach, a bit of good fortune that had Stewart shaking her head. After the change of ends, Chirico earned her first set point with a good backhand that forced an error. She seized her first set point with a forehand winner, the shot that had kept Stewart on the defensive in much of the first set.

The second set opened much differently than the first, with seven straight holds before Chirico was broken serving at 3-4. Stewart couldn't serve out the set, double faulting on break point, but she took advantage of several unforced errors by Chirico to earn a break point and when Chirico netted a backhand, the match was all even, after just under two hours of play.

After the 10-minute heat break between sets, the deciding set began with four holds, followed by three breaks, with Stewart losing her serve twice when Chirico hit forehand winners on break point to end the fifth and seventh games. Chirico held for 5-3, then pressured Stewart into a 15-40 hole before hitting yet another forehand winner to end the match.

Chirico, who won a $10,000 Pro Circuit event as a qualifier back in May, will play No. 16 seed and 2011 semifinalist Danielle Collins.  Collins defeated 2011 finalist Denise Starr, the No. 7 seed, 6-1, 6-2 in the day's final singles match, and after a difficult opening win over Jessica Ho, Collins has met her goal of improving every match.

The other unseeded player to reach the quarterfinals is Sherry Li, who took out local favorite Catherine Harrison in the second round and has continued to post one straight-set win after another. In Thursday's action, Li defeated No. 6 seed Maegan Manasse 6-1, 6-4, and she believes not being seeded may actually have benefited her.

"I haven't been doing well in junior tournaments before, so I wasn't really surprised I wasn't seeded," said Li, a 17-year-old from Parkland, Florida. "And to be honest, it's sort of less pressure when I'm not seeded. Everybody was like, oh it was such a huge upset against Catherine, but I know we're at the same level. I just haven't been playing that well. But I brought my game here, more than other places."

Against Manasse, Li noticed that balls high to the Californian's forehand gave Li an advantage and she was pleased she had the presence of mind to exploit it.

"Usually I don't keep a clear enough head to see the little things I could do better," said Li. "But today I think my head was a lot clearer, even though it was super hot out. I was really tired, especially in the second set. I just played a little smarter than she did, and I was a little more consistent too."

Echoing others from the Sunshine State, Li said the heat here in Memphis this week is on a different order of magnitude.

"This is hotter than Florida," said Li. "I don't think the heat index has been to 110 like weather.com said it was here. But you just have to get through it, there's no complaining about it, it's the same for everybody."

Li's quarterfinal opponent will be No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb, who trailed 4-2 in the second set against unseeded Keisha Clousing before winning the final four games in her 6-2, 6-4 victory.

The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature No. 2 seed Brooke Austin against Caroline Doyle, a No. 17 seed.  Austin pulled out a tough first set against unseeded Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer and went on to a 7-5, 6-1 victory, while Doyle overcame a slow start against unseeded Cassandra Vazquez to post a 6-3, 6-1 win.

Top seed and defending champion Gabby Andrews saved four set points in the opening set against unseeded Manon Peri, then got a late break in the second set to record a 7-6(1), 6-4 win. She will play No. 14 seed Kourtney Keegan, who downed 2011 16s Clay Court champion Peggy Porter, a No. 17 seed, 6-0, 6-3.

The doubles round of 16 was played Thursday evening with top seeds Madeline Lipp and Jamie Loeb advancing to the quarterfinals along with No. 2 seeds Ashley Dai and Maegan Manasse and No. 3 seeds Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan.  The fourth-seeded team of Taylor Davidson and Makenzie Craft lost to Louisa Chirico and Denise Starr, a No. 9 seed.

Fifth seeds Frances Altick and Katerina Stewart lost to No. 9 seeds Gabby Andrews and Lauren Marker in unusual circumstances. After Altick and Stewart won the first set 6-2 and Andrews and Marker took the second 6-1, the match tiebreaker was being playing under the lights as dusk advanced, with all the other matches already completed.  With Andrews and Marker leading 8-4 and the players changing ends, the lights went out, and there was a nearly 30-minute delay while the staff got them reset. The girls all stayed on the court, as did the chair umpire, with the girls playing mini-tennis in the dark as they waited. After a five-minute warmup, play resumed, and although Altick and Stewart closed the gap to 8-6, and saved one match point, Andrews poached and finished the match in her team's favor at around 8:45 p.m.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chirico Upends Third Seed Dai as Heat and Humidity Surge at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Heat and humidity come with the territory at the Girls 18s Clay Courts in Memphis, with temperatures in the 90s expected. On Wednesday, the temperature reached 98 degrees and the heat index was 107 during most of the round of 32 matches at the Racquet Club of Memphis. Only a consistent breeze kept the condition from being intolerable, yet even that relief was best experienced in the shade.

The top eight seeds had all managed to reach the fourth round, but that streak ended with three of them falling, including third seed Ashley Dai. The top four seeds all faced unseeded opponents, but Dai had the most dangerous one, with Chirico having won a $10,000 Pro Circuit event as a qualifier back in May.

Playing on one of the three courts down by the street, away from the seven main courts, Dai and Chirico didn't have much of an audience for Chirico's 7-6(5), 6-3 win. But Dai was put on notice immediately that this would be much different from her previous two wins this week, with Chirico taking a 4-0 lead in the first set.

"I came out swinging pretty loose," said Chirico, 16. "She picked up her game a little bit, and I got a little bit too comfortable."

Chirico saw that two-break lead melt away like an ice cube in the Memphis sun. She served for the set at 5-4, but never got closer than deuce. The momentum should have been with Dai as they entered a tiebreaker two games later, but Chirico showed no nerves, taking a 3-0 and 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker.  That lead almost vaporized too, with Dai saving three set points, last of which was saved when Chirico double faulted. Back on serve, Dai hit a good first serve, but Chirico slammed the return back deep and hard and Dai's forehand response went wide.

In the second set, Dai was up a break at 2-1, but she gave it back immediately, with Chirico hitting a blistering forehand winner at 30-40 to make it 2-2. The girls held serve the next three games, but Dai got in trouble serving at 3-4. She double faulted for 0-15, and on the next point she made Chirico hit three overheads before putting one away, but Chirico didn't crack, and it was 0-30. Chirico's forehand return winner gave her two break points at 15-40, with Dai saving one, but netting a backhand on the second, leaving Chirico to serve for the match.

Although closing out a win against a solid and competitive player like Dai is never easy, Chirico made it seem so. At 40-0, she hit yet another forehand winner, ending the match before the conditions could become a factor.

Chirico, who is from New York and trains at the USTA's National Center-East in Flushing Meadows, likes clay and likes the heat, which is not always true of players from the Northeast.

"I practice pretty much all the time on clay," said Chirico, who was preparing at Boca Raton the week prior to the tournament. "At Flushing, there's a bubble with clay. And I actually like the heat, I don't know why. We do a lot of fitness, and I've never had issues with cramping or anything like that."

Next up for Chirico is Katerina Stewart, a No. 17 seed, who beat her doubles partner Frances Altick, the No. 11 seed, 6-1, 6-2. Stewart celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday.

Top seed and defending champion Gabby Andrews and No. 2 seed Brooke Austin advanced in straight sets. Andrews beat Kimmy Guerin 6-1, 6-4 and Austin defeated Laura Patterson 6-2, 6-1 in two morning matches.

No. 5 seed Madeline Lipp fell to Peggy Porter, a No. 17 seed, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2. Like Andrews, Porter is seeking a second straight USTA Clay Court title. She won the 16s in Virginia Beach last year. 

Spencer Liang, the No. 8 seed, lost to unseeded Cassandra Vazquez 7-5, 7-6(1). Vazquez is one of six unseeded players in the round of 16. The others are Chirico, Manon Peri, Sherry Li, Keisha Clousing and Alex Anton-Ohlmeyer.

Caroline Doyle, a No. 17 seed, defeated No. 15 seed Taylor Davidson 6-4, 6-1, and the 16-year-old left-hander is happy to be back after a broken wrist kept her out of the major tournaments last summer.

"I fractured my wrist hitting a backhand," said Doyle. "It was kind of a weird shank and it fractured my growth plate, so I was out for about three months. Originally I thought it would be better for Clays, because I thought is was a sprain, but they told me it was a fracture. Then I thought I would be ready for Hards, and I was getting excited, but I wasn't okay for that or the (US) Open. It was hard not knowing when I would be back, but I think I've recovered well."

Doyle says that the fracture to her right wrist may have actually had a benefit.

"It definitely improved my forehand, but I think my backhand got better," Doyle said. "I think I can hit it more now. It took a little while to get it back, but now it's feeling good again."

Doyle also trained in Boca Raton prior to the Clays, but even Florida's summer heat couldn't match what she experienced today against Davidson. 

"It's definitely a bit hotter than Florida and today's match was really hot," Doyle said. "The first set was really hot and humid, I definitely needed to towel off so I didn't lose my racquet."

Doyle's goal was to outlast Davidson, but also play aggressively.

"She is very consistent and she can step in," Doyle said. "I just tried to stay solid, keep my shots deep and look to attack when the opportunity came. I felt I was executing well. We definitely had a lot of long rallies, we were both just grinding out there."

The third round of doubles was played this evening, with the top four seeded teams all advancing to the round of 16.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

My Look at the Brian Baker Comeback From a Junior's Perspective

The Brian Baker comeback story has gotten the attention of most tennis fans this spring and summer, but I wondered what some of the top US juniors, a decade younger and so far removed from his health struggles, thought of it.

As it turns out, they are as amazed and inspired as the rest of us.  I spoke with Baker and with several of Baker's youngest fans at Wimbledon for this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Loeb's Win Streak Reaches 27 as Top Seeds Continue to Roll at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Jamie Loeb isn't quite sure when she last lost a match. After winning tournament after tournament the past two months, from USTA Eastern Sectionals on hard courts to ITF Junior tournaments on clay and grass, to her first Pro Circuit title on clay, the 17-year-old New Yorker has apparently forgotten how to lose.

After a 6-2, 6-0 win over Katherine Butler in the third round of the USTA Girls 18s National Clay Courts, Loeb has run her win streak to 27 matches, with her last loss to Breaunna Addison in the first round of the Easter Bowl.

"Springs and Carson was a little bit of a disappointment to me," said Loeb, who lost in the first round at the International Spring Championships as well as the following week at the Easter Bowl. "But I just kept training hard and working hard and after Delray (the ITF Grade 4), things just started clicking, and so far I've been in a nice little streak."

Loeb's confidence has grown with each win, and it really began to soar after her win at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Buffalo, just over two weeks ago.

"It was really exciting," Loeb said. "The first pro event I've won, the second one I've ever played. Especially being unseeded and playing against all these women with a lot more experience than me. I played loose, with nothing to lose, and just went out there giving it everything I've got, and I ended up winning."

Today against Butler, Loeb, the fourth seed, was up a break at 3-2 in the first set when she locked in, winning the final nine games of the match. She kept the ball consistently deep, made few errors, hit winners when she got the opportunity and transitioned to the net when sensing Butler was on the defensive.

"I've been improving my net game," said Loeb, who had several drop volley and drive volley winners today.  "I'm more comfortable coming to net and using a variety of shots. I feel that's maybe one of my stronger points now, not playing the same way every point. I'm mixing things up and keeping my opponent guessing."

Joining Loeb in the fourth round are top seed and defending champion Gabby Andrews, No. 2 seed Brooke Austin and No. 3 seed Ashley Dai, all of whom came through in straight sets on show court 4.

Dai began another hot and humid day at the Racquet Club of Memphis by defeating Natalia Janowicz 6-2, 6-4. Taking advantage of a lapse by Janowicz late in the first and early in the second set, Dai protected her serve throughout while Janowicz was spraying balls all over during a five game stretch. Janowicz was down 2-0 in the second set before she found her form again but it was too late with Dai holding serve the rest of the way, and closing out the match with a forehand winner on her first match point. Dai will face a tough unseeded player on Wednesday, in Louisa Chirico, who advanced over Alison Ho, a No. 17 seed, 7-5, 6-1. Chirico won the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Sumter South Carolina in May as a qualifier.

Austin defeated Alexandra Chatt 6-0, 6-1, with the consistent pace and accuracy on her ground strokes too much for Chatt. Andrews led Shannon Hudson 4-0 in the first set before dropping three straight games, but the top seed was able to save a break point serving for the first set and got an early break in the second to post a 6-4, 6-2 win.

Madeline Lipp(5), Maegan Manasse(6), 2011 finalist Denise Starr(7) and Spencer Liang(8) all recorded straight-set wins, as did Stephanie Vlad, a 2011 semifinalist, who is a No. 17 seed this year. There are 12 unseeded players in the round of 32 as well as the top eight seeds.

Doubles were not played today, but will resume on Wednesday.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Top Four Seeds Breeze into Third Round; Li, Anton-Ohlmeyer Oust Seeds; 2010 Semifinalist Collins Survives at Girls 18s Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

The top four seeds advanced to the third round without incident Monday, but there was no shortage of compelling matches at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

Conditions were typical for Memphis in mid-July: hot and humid, with only an occasional breeze giving a small measure of relief.

Top seed and defending champion Gabby Andrews was fortunate to have an 8 a.m. match, which is always preferable to being on the courts at midday, and she didn't waste much time, defeating Lindsey Hodge 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour.  Second seed Brooke Austin was stuck with a late afternoon match in the hottest part of the day, but she came through with a 6-1, 6-1 decision over Macy Vonderschmidt. Most of the deuce games in the match were on Austin's serve; she had more success returning Vonderschmidt's serve than she did with holding her own.

No. 3 seed Ashley Dai dropped only one game to Tiffany Tavares, and No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb showed similar dominance in her 6-0, 6-1 win over Kandis Legall.

Although all of the top eight seeds advanced, there were several in the 6-16 category who didn't survive their first match.

Catherine Harrison, the No. 12 seed, was playing in her fifth and last Girls 18s Clay Court championship, which is her hometown National, but there will be no title for the Germantown, Tennessee resident after she fell to Sherry Li 7-6(6), 6-3.  Harrison had two set points serving at 6-5 in the opening set, but she converted neither and fell behind 6-2 in the tiebreaker. She fought all the way back to 6-6, saving four set points, but couldn't handle a drop shot by Li so faced a fifth. Her serve, which had given her trouble throughout the opening set, let her down again on the next point when she double faulted to give Li the set.

Li made fewer unforced errors in the second set, and once Harrison fell behind a break, she was unable to get it back. Li was able to stay in the point long enough to benefit from Harrison's errors, which probably outnumbered her numerous winners.

No. 10 seed Rachel Pierson lost to Rima Asatrian 6-4, 6-4, No. 13 seed Makenzie Craft fell to Keisha Clousing 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 and No. 9 seed Lexi Borr was beaten by Alex Anton-Ohlmeyer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The 17-year-old Anton-Ohlmeyer, playing in her first Girls 18s Clay Courts in Memphis, was determined not to let her inexperience on clay play too big a role in her strategy.

"I just went in trying to play my own game rather than try to play like a European clay court player," said Anton-Ohlmeyer, who is from Laguna Niguel, California. "I did that in the first set, and I had very few errors. In the second set, she started coming back and changing up her game. Then in the third set, it was just survival of the fittest."

Borr, the Spring Nationals finalist, never conceded the final set, even when she was down 4-0.  She got one of the breaks back to make it 4-1, but was again broken, and Anton-Ohlmeyer, who kept the ball extremely deep throughout the contest, served for the match. With Borr making a break for the net at every opportunity, Anton-Ohlmeyer was taken by surprise on several points, and she was again broken for 5-2.  Borr saved two match points serving in the next game and held, and saved two more with Anton-Ohlmeyer serving at 40-15, with Borr's forehand volley again proving decisive.

Anton-Ohlmeyer showed no signs of frustration however, with a quick clench of her left fist the only emotion she conveyed throughout the final two sets. She earned her fifth and final match point when Borr hit a backhand wide, and on the next point, a Borr forehand beyond the baseline gave Anton-Ohlmeyer the win in their first meeting.

"I knew she was going to be a tough opponent, because she doesn't miss much," said Anton-Ohlmeyer, who trains at Woodbridge Tennis Academy in Irvine, Calif. "It was very physically demanding. It was tough, but it was a really good match."

No. 16 seed Danielle Collins, who reached the semifinals here last year, trailed 15-year-old Jessica Ho virtually the entire match, but pulled out a 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 victory by winning the final five games of the match. Ho served for the match twice in the second set, at 5-4 and 6-5, but she never got to match point, with Collins coming up with some big shots when she needed them. Collins played well in the tiebreaker, but was concerned when the players had to take a 10-minute break after the second set due to the heat.

"That was kind of tough, because it threw my momentum off a little bit," said Collins, who hadn't played a tournament since February, due to a minor injury and senior activities, including her recent graduation. "I got frozen I guess. I didn't come out playing too bad, but I had a sloppy two games at 2-1 to go down 4-1. But I started getting my rhythm again and it wasn't really a problem after that."

Ho gave up her break by double faulting twice at deuce to make it 4-3, and Collins took a 5-4 lead with a perfect lob winner.  Her serve had been balky throughout the match, but she only missed one in the final game.

"My serve's definitely never been my weapon," said Collins, who will be joining the University of Florida this fall. "But I'm glad I was able to serve under pressure the way I did."

Collins said she felt no additional pressure playing the much younger Ho, or coming back after reaching the semifinals last year.

"I never got really nervous in the match," said Collins, who believes she ultimately will benefit from the long and tough opener. "Because at this point all I can really do is try my hardest, do my best, because I haven't had a lot of matches, any matches, coming into this. So I just need to try to get a feel for this, try to improve with each match I play."

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pro Circuit and ITF Junior Update

I'll begin my onsite coverage of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts on Monday, which began today with the first round of singles and doubles. The seeded players and teams will see their first action Monday, and the draws are available here at the TennisLink site. Before I turn my focus to that event, I wanted to catch up on the week's Pro Circuit and ITF Junior results of note.

At the $50,000 Women's Tournament in Yakima, Washington, two unseeded US teens reached the final, with Shelby Rogers defeating Samantha Crawford 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 for her first ITF women's circuit singles title. The 19-year-old Rogers beat top seed Irina Pavlovic of France in the quarterfinals, and the 17-year-old Crawford beat No. 2 seed Madison Brengle in the same round.  Crawford did go home with a title, however, teaming with Madison Keys to take the doubles championship with a 6-3, 2-6, 12-10 win over Yi-Fan Xu and Yi-Miao Zhou of China.

At the men's $10,000 Futures in Rochester, NY, Great Britain's Alex Bogdanovic won his second straight Futures tournament, beating No. 7 seed Chase Buchanan 6-3, 6-4 in today's final. Bogdanovic, the top seed, won the Pittsburgh Futures last week, beating Buchanan in the semifinals there. Ohio State's Buchanan, the 2012 NCAA doubles champion won the doubles title in Rochester today, with 2010 NCAA doubles champion Drew Courtney of the University of Virginia. Buchanan and Courtney, the No. 3 seeds, beat No. 2 seed Sekou Bangoura and Vahid Mirzadeh 6-3, 6-0 in Sunday's final.

This week the men are at a $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton, New York, and a $10,000 Futures in Joplin, Mo., while the women's Pro Circuit event is a $10,000 tournament in Evansville, Ind. See the Pro Circuit page at usta.com for draws. That link will also provide information on the US Open wild card that will be decided by the results at several of this month's Pro Circuit events, much as the French Open wild cards were decided.

In the ITF Junior events, there were two Grade 1s last week, one in Germany and one in Morocco. Two Germans won the Berlin Grade 1, Antonia Lottner and Maximilian Marterer. Jordi Arconada and Katrine Steffensen were the only US juniors in that draw, and they lost in the first and second rounds respectively.

In Morocco, Christina Makarova of the US, who suffered a broken wrist in Belgium and returned to action for the first time at Wimbledon, reached the final as the No. 2 seed. She was beaten in the final by No. 5 seed Ioana Ducu of Romania 7-6(2), 6-1.  No. 5 seed Clement Geens of Belgium won the boys title, beating top seed Franko Miocic of Croatia 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-2 in the final.

Fifteen-year-old Dasha Ivanova of the US collected her second consecutive ITF title in Western Canada, winning the Grade 4 this week in Vancouver after taking the Grade 5 last week in Edmonton. Ivanova, the top seed, beat No. 2 seed Charlotte Petrick of Canada 7-6(4), 6-1 in the final.  Ivanova and Petrick also won the doubles title.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Catching Up on College Coaching Changes; Pepperdine Men's Team Put on Probation, Vacates Championships, Loses Scholarships; Maryland Men's Tennis Dropped

While I was at Wimbledon, a slew of college coaching changes were announced as schools prepare for the upcoming fall season.

Probably the most eagerly awaited announcement came from Georgia Tech, with Rodney Harmon named to replace Bryan Shelton as the women's coach there. Harmon, who was the head of men's tennis for the USTA until 2008, had been coaching privately in Florida the past several years. Harmon played college tennis at Tennessee and SMU, and coached at the University of Miami for a few years.

Shelton, who took over the men's program at Florida, hired former Illinois NCAA champion Amer Delic as his assistant. Delic, who had played Davis Cup for Bosnia this spring and was still playing on the ATP tour as recently as last month, has had many injuries the past few years and wasn't able to return to the Top 100. Delic grew up in Jacksonville Florida after immigrating and played his junior tennis in the Florida section before joining Craig Tiley at Illinois.

Matt Hill, the former Mississippi State men's assistant, has been named men's head coach at the University of South Florida, following the retirement of Don Barr.

Jenny Garrity has resigned as head women's coach at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington after 13 seasons.

Drake Bernstein, who was the women's assistant at the University of Alabama this year, is returning to Athens as the women's assistant at Georgia, replacing Frank Polito. Bernstein is from the Athens area, and he is just two years removed from playing for the Bulldogs.

Max Norris, formerly a volunteer assistant for the University of North Carolina women's team, takes Bernstein's place at Alabama.

Roberto Aspillaga has been named women's assistant at the University of Colorado, replacing Courtney Nagle, who was assistant for only one season. Aspillaga comes to Colorado from Purdue.

Derek Schwandt, formerly an assistant for the Fresno State men's team and a volunteer assistant for the Unversity of Virginia men's team, has been named men's assistant at Georgia Tech. He replaces Conor Pollock, who resigned after being arrested last March.

Stephen Huss, a Wimbledon men's doubles champion who retired from the ATP tour last year, has joined Virginia Tech as the men's assistant. He replaces Christophe Bonadona.

Former Florida State assistant Mat Cloer has been named men's assistant coach at North Carolina State. He replaces Stephen Ward.

Men's tennis is one of seven sports that has been officially discontinued at the University of Maryland after supporters were unable to raise the funds necessary to ensure the teams' long-term survival.

The current women's coach at Maryland, Dianne Matias, will not return to that position, according to this article from the school's daily student newspaper.

And Pepperdine University has been put on probation and has lost scholarships in several sports, including men's tennis. The tennis team must vacate its conference titles and NCAA appearances going back to the 2007-2008 season. This is the same action that had the Pepperdine men's team ruling itself ineligible for postseason play last year. The complete NCAA ruling is here.