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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Virginia's Jenkins Named ACC Male Athlete of the Year; Other College News and Notes

It's no secret that men's football and basketball dominate the college sports landscape, but men's tennis players have made names for themselves recently with major post-season accolades.  Back in 2011, JP Smith, an eight-time All-American at Tennessee, beat out Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn as SEC Male Athlete of the Year, and this year Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins, the 2013 NCAA doubles champion and singles finalist and ITA Player of the Year, has received the ACC's male athlete of the year award. The only other winner with tennis accomplishments is John Lucas, who excelled at both basketball and tennis at Maryland.

For more on Jenkins' honor, see the Virginia website.

That's just one of the many college news items that have surfaced in the past few weeks. I'm passing along links to others below. If you have other college news, please add in the comments.

Men's Tennis:

Former top junior Nikko Madregallejo has signed with Alabama.

Luke Shields replaces his brother Clancy as assistant coach at Boise State.

Luke Johnson is transferring from Florida to Clemson.

Marco Nunez is transferring from Georgia to Florida State.

Chris Doerr is the new assistant at Memphis.

Mark Finnegan, the previous Memphis assistant, is now head coach at the University of North Florida.

Former women's coach at Auburn, Tim Gray, is the new men's head coach at Bradley.

Women's Tennis:

Matt Tyler has been named head coach at Bradley.

Sadhaf Pervez has been named head coach at Drake.

Florida has signed two recruits from Australia.

Georgia Tech has added a recruit from South Africa.

Maria Fuccillo is the new assistant at George Washington.

Rick Mortera is returning to Illinois as assistant coach.

Aaron Fuller is the new assistant at Kansas.

2013 NCAA singles finalist Mary Weatherholt will be the volunteer assistant at Memphis.

2009 NCAA singles finalist Laura Vallverdu has been named assistant coach at Miami.

Catrina Thompson is the new assistant at Notre Dame.

Emily Fraser is the new assistant at Pittsburgh.

Hayden Perez has left Nebraska and has taken the assistant's position at Texas Tech.

In facility news, the Oklahoma State tennis center is under construction, and Nebraska has approved a plan for a new tennis and soccer complex.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Midwest Wins USTA Boys 18s National Team Championships, Girls Team Semifinals Wednesday; More Kalamazoo Withdrawals; Kudla's Parents Take Loss in Stride

The USTA Boys 18s National Team Championships concluded today in Champaign, Illinois, with the Midwest section defeating the Southern section for the title. Texas, the two-time defending champions, lost to Southern Cal in the quarterfinals.

The draw shows the final score as 4-3 for top-seeded Midwest, while the results, in the screenshot below, show Southern winning the doubles point and number six singles, which would make it 5-2. The live scoring wasn't working, which I assume meant rain sent the matches into the Atkins Indoor Tennis Center.

In the semifinals, both teams had 4-3 victories, with Midwest beating No. 4 seed Northern California despite losing at the top three singles positions, while Southern just squeezed by Southern Cal.  Both were 5-8 seeds, with Southern responsible for defeating No. 2 seed Florida and Southern Cal beating No. 3 Texas.

The TennisLink site has the results, in the format above, of all the matches, as well as the results for each individual player.

The USTA Girls 18s Team Championships have gone more to form, with the top four seeds reaching Wednesday's semifinals.  Top seed Southern will take on defending champion Southern Cal, the No. 3 seed in a rematch of last year's final, while second seed Midwest will meet No. 4 seed Texas.

See the TennisLink site for results from the first two days of competition in Claremont, California.

The Boys 18s Nationals at Kalamazoo have been hit hard by withdrawals, with Thai Kwiatkowski and Spencer Papa dropping out prior to the draw, and three more high-profile players withdrew today. Eighth seed Michael Mmoh, who was to make his Kalamazoo debut, is out with a abdominal injury, while JC Aragone and Christian Langmo, two of the more highly regarded unseeded players, also withdrew.

Speaking of withdrawals, in this Tennis Grandstand interview with Eugenie Bouchard and Taylor Townsend, who won their first round doubles match at the CitiOpen yesterday, Townsend says she may not play the US Open Junior Championships, but is committed to playing the Girls 18s Nationals next week in San Diego.  Townsend, who received a wild card into the CitiOpen in singles, lost her first round match to unseeded Monica Niculescu of Romania today 6-3, 6-0.

Yesterday, big-serving Australian qualifier Samuel Groth defeated local wild card Denis Kudla 7-6(2), 6-2, and the Washington Post's Liz Clarke was there with Kudla's parents, brother and friends. She not only chronicles their reactions to the loss, but also delves into the dedication and determination Kudla and his parents displayed when he was a junior contemplating his future as a professional tennis player.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rogers Wins US Open Wild Card; Krejcikova Ends Bencic's Win Streak; Pro Circuit Update

After she won the French Open main draw wild card back in May, I asked Shelby Rogers, during a conference call, what she thought of method the USTA was using to award both the French reciprocal and one of their US Open wild cards.

"Yeah, I think it's a great way of picking a wild card recipient. It shows a little bit more the player that can be consistent with results instead of just having one good weekend or one good week. You really have to prove yourself over three weeks, which I think is a
great process.

That probably goes double now, with Rogers winning her second straight wild card by collecting the most WTA points in two of the three recently completed Challengers.  Rogers reached the semifinals in Portland and won last week's Lexington Challenger, which she had to do to overtake Nicole Gibbs, who had won the first Challenger in Yakima.  The fourth-seeded Rogers, who beat unseeded former Clemson star Julie Coin 6-4, 7-6(3), finished the competition with 102 points, with Gibbs second at 88.  Gibbs will undoubtedly receive a US Open wild card for winning the NCAAs, as she did last year.

The men's competition, which includes four events (only two count), is only two tournaments in, with the performances at the $100,000 Vancouver and Aptos Challengers in the next two weeks, likely to be the deciding factor.  Currently, Binghamton Challenger winner Alex Kuznetsov leads Bradley Klahn, Binghamton finalist and Lexington semifinalist, 80 points to 77. Klahn is in the field at the Vancouver Challenger this week, while Kuznetsov qualified for the main draw at the ATP CitiOpen in Washington DC.

In the Pro Circuit Futures finals Sunday, former University of Virginia All-American Michael Shabaz won his second Futures title of the month, and fourth overall, defeating Noah Rubin 6-3, 7-5 in Godfrey, Illinois.  According to this article in the Alton Telegraph, Shabaz trailed 5-3 in the second set, but won the final four games of the match.  Third seeds Evan King and Peter Kobelt won the doubles title, defeating unseeded Marcos Giron and Devin McCarthy 7-5, 6-2 in an all-college final.

At the $10,000 women's tournament in Austin, 2006 USTA junior champion Lauren Albanese picked up her first ITF women's circuit title since 2010, defeating Baylor standout Ema Burgic 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4). Burgic did take home the doubles title however, teaming with Blair Shankle to beat Rachel Pierson and Madison Westby 6-1, 7-6(5) in the final.

This week the men's Futures is in Decatur, Illinois, and the women are in Fort Worth, Texas, with both $10,000 level events. Qualifying is complete in both events.  In addition to the men's Challenger in Vancouver I mentioned earlier, the women also have a $100,000 tournament there this week.

The European Championships concluded last week, with Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and Karen Khachanov of Russia claiming titles in the ITF Grade B1 18s.  Krejcikova ended top seed Belinda Bencic's junior winning streak at 39 matches, beating the French and Wimbledon girls champion from Switzerland 6-1, 7-6(4) in the semifinals. There was no letdown in the final, with the 17-year-old Krejcikova, seeded No. 4, beating No. 7 seed Karin Kennel of Switzerland 6-2, 6-4.  Khachanov, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 10 seed Quentin Halys of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the boys final.

Orange Bowl 16s champion Andrey Rublev of Russia won the boys 16s, defeating Roman Safiullin, also of Russia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final.  The girls 16s title went to yet another Russian, Darya Katsatkina, who defeated Jill Teichmann of Switzerland 6-3, 6-3 in the championship match.

Corentin Moutet of France won the boys 14s, defeating Samuele Ramazzotti of Italy 6-2, 6-1, while the girls 14s title went to Evgeniya Levashova of Russia, who beat Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2. That means Russia took four of the six available singles titles at the European championships.

For complete draws, see the TennisEurope website.

Vickery, Shibahara Top Seeds at USTA Girls 18s and 16s Nationals

The seeds for the USTA Girls 16s and 18s National Championships have been released, with Sachia Vickery the No. 1 in the 18s, and defending champion Vicky Duval No. 3. Winter National and ISC 16s Carson champion Ena Shibahara is No. 1 in the 16s, with defending champion Kim Yee No. 2.  Even without US Open girls champion Samantha Crawford, who hasn't played since the $25K in Raleigh in May, the 18s field is an impressive one, with the top 10 seeds all in the WTA Top 500.  Jennifer Brady, Hayley Carter, Liz Jeukeng, Kourtney Keegan, Maegan Manasse, Maria Shishkina, Cassandra Vazquez and Amy Zhu are among the many dangerous players who are unseeded.

Girls 18s:
1. Sachia Vickery
2. Allie Kiick
3. Vicky Duval
4. Taylor Townsend
5. Jan Abaza
6. Chalena Scholl
7. Brooke Austin
8. Louisa Chirico
9. Krista Hardebeck
10. Jamie Loeb
11. Christina Makarova
12. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer
13. Kaitlyn McCarthy
14. Peggy Porter
15. Rachel Pierson
16. Spencer Liang
17. Alyza Benotto
17. Caroline Brinson
17. Brooke Broda
17. Taylor Davidson
17. Terri Fleming
17. Ellyse Hamlin
17. Jessica Ho
17. Dasha Ivanova
17. Zoe Katz
17. Allison Miller
17. Monica Robinson
17. Gabrielle Smith
17. Olivia Sneed
17. Katrine Steffensen
17. Madison Westby
17. Kristin Wiley

Girls 16s:
1. Ena Shibahara
2. Kimberly Yee
3. Katerina Stewart
4. Alexandra Letzt
5. Emma Higuchi
6. Brienne Minor
7. Francesca Dilorenzo
8. Meredith Xepoleas
9. Star Makarome
10. Angela Kulikov
11. Samantha Martinelli
12. Jessica Failla
13. Jaclyn Switkes
14. Rebecca Weissmann
15. Jenna Friedel
16. Usue Arconada
17. Jessie Aney
17. Hanna Chang
17. Paige Cline
17. Abigail Desiatnikov
17. Nadia Gizdova
17. Lauren Goodman
17. Alexa Graham
17. Samantha Hampton
17. Sarah Hu
17. Sofia Kenin
17. Raveena Kingsley
17. Jacqueline Pelletier
17. Gaby Pollner
17. Sydney Riley
17. Christina Rosca
17. Camila Wesbrooks

The complete field is available at the TennisLink site. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Brymer, Kumar Named No. 1 Seeds at Kalamazoo

Overlooking the courts at Stowe Stadium, Kalamazoo College

The seeds for the USTA Boys 16 and 18 National Championships at Kalamazoo have been announced.

Boys 18s:
1.   Gage Brymer
2.   Noah Rubin
3.   Stefan Kozlov
4.   Connor Farren
5.   Ernesto Escobedo
6.   Luca Corinteli
7.   Martin Redlicki
8.   Michael Mmoh
9.   Mackenzie McDonald
10.  Daniel Kerznerman
11.  Eliot Orkin
12.  Mitch Stewart
13.  Henrik Wiersholm
14.  Jared Donaldson
15.  Ronnie Schneider
16.  David Hsu
17.  Henry Craig
18.  Thomas Fawcett
19.  William Little
20.  William Griffith
21.  George Goldhoff
22.  Thomas Mayronne
23.  Alexandru Gozun
24.  John Mee
25.  Deiton Baughman
26.  Robby Bellamy
27.  Trey Yates
28.  Chase Perez-Blanco
29.  Roy Lederman
30.  Stephen Watson
31.  Logan Smith
32.  Quentin Monaghan

Boys 16s:
1.   Sameer Kumar
2.   Francis Tiafoe
3.   Tommy Paul
4.   Jake DeVine
5.   Taylor Fritz
6.   Catalin Mateas
7.   Kalman Boyd
8.   Kyle Seelig
9.   Reilly Opelka
10.  Alex Rybakov
11.  Alexander Lebedev
12.  Chase Colton
13.  Emil Reinberg
14.  Jordi Arconada
15.  Victor Pham
16.  Alfredo Perez
17.  William Blumberg
18.  Grayson Broadus
19.  Daniel Grunberger
20.  Robert Levine
21.  Nathan Ponwith
22.  Connor Hance
23.  Cameron Klinger
24.  Zeke Clark
25.  Vincent Lin
26.  Daniel Gealer
27.  Alex Knight
28.  Johnathan Small
29.  Martin Joyce
30.  Henry Gordon
31.  Michael Lorenzini
32.  Adrian Chamdani

The draws should be up Monday at the tournament website, ustaboys.com.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rubin Reaches Godfrey Futures Final; Libietis Wins Futures Title; Arconada Surprises Irigoyen in CitiOpen Qualifying

It's an extremely busy day in tennis, with the WTA/ATP CitiOpen qualifying in Washington DC and the WTA Southern California Open in Carlsbad underway. As is usually the case, those two tournaments  feature many top junior and college players from the US getting a taste of the pro level.

Most notable of the early qualifying results today was 14-year-old wild card Usue Arconada's 7-5, 6-3 win over WTA No. 174 and No. 5 seed Maria Irigoyen of Argentina.  Arconada, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland and will be playing the 16s in the San Diego Nationals next week, trailed 5-2 in the opening set. According to Kevin Fischer of the WTA, Arconada, at 14 years and 9 months, is the youngest winner (qualifying or main draw) in WTA competition since Madison Keys won a main draw match in Ponte Vedra back in 2009, when she was 14. Arconada will play Alexandra Mueller in the final round of qualifying.  Reigning National 18s champion Vicky Duval also advanced to the final round of qualifying with a 6-4, 7-5 win over former Harvard player Lena Litvak.

Christian Harrison (in a third set tiebreaker, saving three match points), Rhyne Williams (in three sets) and Jarmere Jenkins (in straight sets) posted first round qualifying wins at the CitiOpen today.  Former Alabama star Saketh Myneni defeated a struggling Donald Young 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 and Somdev Devvarman downed Jesse Witten 7-5, 6-0.

The semifinals of the two Pro Circuit Futures were played today, and the finalists in the Lexington Challengers for men and women will be decided tonight.

At the men's $10,000 Futures in Godfrey, Illinois, 17-year-old Noah Rubin has reached his first Futures final, defeating Michigan All American Evan King 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinal.  He will play No. 4 seed Michael Shabaz, one of the few current or former Virginia Cavaliers not participating in the CitiOpen qualifying.  Shabaz beat top seed Darien King of Barbados 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.  Rubin will be competing next weekend in the Kalamazoo 18s Nationals.

At the women's $10,000 Futures in Austin, Baylor's Ema Burgic has reached the final, where she will play Lauren Albanese.  The unseeded Burgic defeated No. 7 seed Peggy Porter 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals, while Albanese topped Trice Capra, who has a wild card into the main draw of the CitiOpen awaiting her when she returns to the East Coast, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.  Burgic and Baylor recruit Blair Shankle won the doubles, defeating wild cards Rachel Pierson and Madison Westby 6-1, 7-6(5) in the final.

Over in Europe, current college stars recorded important wins, with Tennessee's Mikelis Libietis taking his first Futures title at the $10,000 tournament in Estonia. The unseeded Libietis, a rising junior, defeated top seed Vladimir Ivanov of Estonia  6-7(2), 7-6(3), 7-6(7) in the final, after beating No. 2 seed Mathias Bourgue of France 6-4, 7-6(3) in the semifinals. 

USC's Sabrina Santamaria, the silver medalist at the World University Games, stopped in Italy on her way home to compete in a Futures event, and she made the singles final as a qualifier. She and teammate Kaitlyn Christian, the NCAA doubles champions but unseeded this week, won the doubles title at the $10,000 event in Italy, with four games the most they lost in any set.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Girls 18s Clay Court Recap, Slideshow, Videos

The Tennis Recruiting Network completes in coverage of the USTA Clay Courts this week with my recap of the Girls 18s in Memphis. Make sure you go back through the last four days of articles on all eight of the gold ball tournaments.

I conclude my coverage of the Clays with a slideshow and short videos of both finalists below.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Townsend Will Play USTA Girls Nationals in San Diego; Girls 16s and 18s Wild Cards Named; Gibbs, Christian Harrison Fall Just Short in Pro Events

A couple of weeks ago, when the acceptance lists for the USTA Nationals were published, I mentioned that Taylor Townsend was not included in the Girls 18s field. Because she had said she was going to play it, and with a US Open main draw wild card on the line, I was surprised by her absence, but until the wild cards were announced, there was obviously a still a chance she would compete in San Diego next month.

As it turns out, she should have been on that initial acceptance list due to her ITF ranking, but an administrative error occurred and she was overlooked.  If someone didn't drop out who received entry via the National Standings List, she would have received a wild card, but since someone did, a wild card wasn't necessary, and she is now in the field and playing doubles with Gabby Andrews.

With Townsend and the 12 wild cards below, the field is even more impressive than it was two weeks ago.

Girls 18s Wild Cards:
Jennifer Brady
Hayley Carter
Kennedy Davis
Nicole Frenkel
Ellie Halbauer
Dasha Ivanova
Liz Jeukeng
Christina Makarova
Rasheeda McAdoo
Elizabeth Profit
Maria Shishkina
Katrine Steffensen

Girls 16s:
Helen Altick
Usue Arconada
Julia Goldberg
Olivia Hauger
Raveena Kingsley
Angela Kulikov
Ndindi Ndunda
Erica Oosterhout
Madison Stevens

Two-time NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs played her second round match against No. 4 seed Jamie Hampton today at the WTA Bank of the West Classic at Stanford, and Hampton scraped through with a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3 win. Hampton, who hadn't played since the first day of Wimbledon, looked a little rusty, especially on serve, but Gibbs held her own and was even back on serve after trailing 4-0 in the third set before losing, a comeback that would surprise absolutely no one who knows her.  For more on the match, see the Stanford website.

Christian Harrison continues to make his case for a US Open main draw wild card (his older brother Ryan also will need one), after taking top seed John Isner deep into the third set before losing 7-6(9), 4-6, 7-5 in the second round of the BB&T Atlanta Open tonight.  Isner got 70 percent of his first serves in, had 29 aces, and still barely squeezed by the 19-year-old.  Harrison, ranked 373, had defeated No. 83 Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-2 in the opening round, his first ATP tour win. Last year in the Cincinnati Masters qualifying, Harrison had lost 6-3, 6-3 to Falla, then ranked No. 54.

Ken Thomas called the match at radiotennis.com, and despite Isner's roots in Georgia, it was obvious that the underdog Harrison had captured the affection of the crowd. They roared louder on each match point he saved, three in all, before Isner finally served out the match.

Isner will play James Blake in the quarterfinals Friday. Kevin Anderson, the No. 2 seed, also needed three sets to advance to the quarterfinals, beating qualifier Matt Ebden of Australia  6-7(7), 6-2, 6-2. He will play Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan Friday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kalamazoo Wild Cards; US Open Junior Acceptances Feature Strong Girls Field

The USTA has determined the wild cards for the boys 16s and 18s Nationals in Kalamazoo, and unlike last year, when the maximum of 12 wild cards were distributed in the 18s and seven in the 16s, this year only a total of 11 were given out.

Boys 18s:
Jared Donaldson
Connor Farren
George Goldhoff
Maxx Lipman
Quentin Monaghan

Boys 16s:
Jacob Brumm
Michael Chen
Spencer Richey
Alex Rybakov
Oliver Sec
Brenden Volk

Donaldson, 16, has been playing Futures and other professional events the last two months and has won a total of four matches in Futures and one in ATP qualifying.  Farren, who was the top seed in the Kalamazoo 16s two years ago, has played only Futures tournament this year, and his ATP ranking is inside the Top 1000.  Goldhoff, who played only the Easter Bowl this year in junior competition, has been playing Futures this summer. Lipman has had back trouble throughout his junior career, and has played very little this year.  Monaghan has completed his freshman year at Notre Dame, where he played mostly at the No. 2 position, going 26-9 overall.

Alex Rybakov would have received entry in the 18s with his ranking, but may have decided to request a wild card into the 16s. The winner of the 16s gets a US Open Junior Championships main draw wild card.

The US Open Junior Championships acceptances were revealed today, with ten Americans receiving direct entry, five girls and five boys.

The US girls, with their current ITF ranking in parentheses:

Taylor Townsend(5)
Louisa Chirico (10)
Christina Makarova (21)
Jamie Loeb (32)
Sachia Vickery (received direct entry due to WTA ranking of 241)

Accepted into qualifying are Johnnise Renaud(48), Katrine Steffensen(67) and Brooke Austin, who received direct entry into qualifying by virtue of her WTA ranking of 456.

ITF Top 100 American girls who are alternates, that is are not even in qualifying, are: Rianna Valdes(91), Madison Bourguignon(93) and Dasha Ivanova(97)

The US boys accepted into the main draw:

Stefan Kozlov(15)
Noah Rubin(26)
Thai Kwiatkowski(29)
Luca Corinteli(44)
Martin Redlicki(50)

US boys in qualifying are Spencer Papa(59) and Michael Mmoh(82).

ITF Top 100 American boys who are alternates are Francis Tiafoe(89) and Dennis Uspensky(100).

The girls field is right up there with this year's French Junior Championships as strength of field goes.  The Top 13 girls in the ITF junior rankings are entered, with No. 1 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland going for her third straight junior slam singles title.  Among the Top 40, only No. 14 Carol Zhao of Canada, No. 26 Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia and reigning champion Samantha Crawford(40) are missing. 

Along with Vickery, three other girls received entry based on their WTA rankings, which must be 350 or better:  Mayo Hibi of Japan, ranked 261; Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, ranked 338; and Mayya Katsidadze of Russia, ranked 323.  With Sandra Samir of Egypt taking the Africa spot in the draw,* and Sara Tomic the Oceania spot, that puts the main draw cutoff for the girls at 43.  The cutoff for qualifying is now 80, but that is likely to move into the 100s in the next few weeks.

The boys field is missing four of the top 15 players, with No. 1 Nick Kyrgios of Australia, No. 8 Fillipo Baldi of Italy, No. 9 Pedro Cachin of Argentina and No. 14 Wayne Montgomery not entered.  Other notable absences are Great Britain's Kyle Edmund(24), Mexico's Lucas Gomez(32) and Canada's Hugo DiFeo(45).

No boy received entry into the main draw by virtue of his ATP ranking, leaving the main draw cutoff at 53. But Calvin Hemery of France received entry into the qualifying with his ATP ranking, which is 709. Roger Siller of Mexico received a qualifying entry based on the Central American and Caribbean exemption below.

Applications for US Open junior wild cards can still be filed through Sunday, July 28.  The procedure is available in this online brochure.

*the explanation for admittance to these players, from the ITF regulations: In addition the highest ranked entrant from each of the following areas – South America, North America, Central America and Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania, if not already included in a) or b) above shall be accepted for main draw if their ranking is 80 or higher or qualifying if their ranking is 150 or higher. (Note: a & b are ITF junior ranking and WTA/ATP ranking).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gibbs, Keys Win Openers at WTA Bank of the West Classic; European Championships Underway; Three Teens Contemplate Pro Tennis

Two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs posted the best win of her career last night at the WTA's Bank of the West Classic, beating No. 67 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-1.  The 20-year-old Gibbs, who attended Stanford, the site of the tournament, for three years, made the most of her wild card and the home town environment. Gibbs reached the second round at the tournament last year, and while she faces a formidable opponent Thursday in No. 4 seed Jamie Hampton, last year's encounter with Serena Williams was certainly more intimidating.

Gibbs, who turned pro after her NCAA team and individual titles this year, was cheered on by three friends, who are offensive linemen on the Stanford football team. This article from the Palo Alto Daily News delves into their support of Gibbs throughout her Stanford career.

Madison Keys also won her first round match Monday evening, defeating No. 8 seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2. She will play qualifier Vera Dushevina of Russia in Thursday's second round. For more on Keys, particularly on her debut in the Top 50 and on Twitter, see this WTA article.

The European Championships are being held this week in three different locations, with the 14s in the Czech Republic, the 16s in Moscow and the 18s in Switzerland.

The top seeds in the 14 are Artem Dubrivnyy and Evgeniya Levashova, both of Russia.  The 16s top seeds are Juame Antoni Munar Clar of Spain and Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus.  The girls 18s draw, which is an ITF Grade B1 tournament, features the ITF's two top-ranked junior girls: French and Wimbledon champion Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Australian Open and Orange Bowl champion Ana Konjuh of Croatia. The top seed in the boys event is Filippo Baldi of Italy, ranked No. 8, with Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France, ranked No. 12, the No. 2 seed.  For links to all the draws, see the Tennis Europe site.

In going through my backlog of feeds the past week, I ran across three separate articles about junior girls who are contemplating whether to go to college or go straight to the professional ranks.  Dasha Ivanova, who played in the qualifying of the $50,000 Oregon Challenger near her home town of Beaverton, has a higher profile on the USTA and ITF circuit than the other two, who I personally haven't encountered in my travels on the junior circuit the past four or five years. Nyla Beenk, a 16-year-old from Iowa, had a win over Clemson All-American Yana Koroleva last week in the second round at the Evansville, Indiana Pro Circuit event, her first two wins in a Futures main draw.   Sadie Hammond of Maine has yet to win a main draw match in a Pro Circuit tournament, but the rising junior says she will turn pro if she reaches the Top 300 in the next two years.

If there's one thing I've learned in the past nine years of covering junior tennis, it's that there are as many different paths to professional success as there are players to take them. But as a realist, I hope the path that Gibbs, Mallory Burdette, Lauren Embree and Robin Anderson have taken gets the consideration it deserves.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Emina Bektas Sweeps Titles at Evansville $10K; Kevin King Qualifies for ATP's Atlanta Tournament; Southern Cal Women Finish with Bronze at World University Games

The Tennis Recruiting Network begins its review of all eight of the USTA Clay Court Championships this week, and I'll have a recap of the Girls 18s in Memphis for them on Friday, so check their website daily.

While the US junior tennis world was focused on the clay, the Pro Circuit was in four different cities across the country. At the women's $10,000 tournament in Evansville, Indiana, University of Michigan rising junior Emina Bektas won both the singles and doubles titles. Wild card Bektas, who lost in the first round of Evansville last year and the first round of the Buffalo $10K this year, her only Pro Circuit main draw appearances, beat top seed Brooke Austin 4-6, 6-4 6-3 in the final Sunday.

Bektas, who grew up in Indiana, and teammate Brooke Bolender won the doubles title on Saturday, beating former Wolverine star Denise Muresan and former Vanderbilt standout Jacqueline Wu, 6-4, 6-4 in an all-unseeded final. For more on the final, and a curious reference to a Evansville bid on an NCAA regional, see this article from the Evansville Courier and Press.

At the $50,000 Challenger in Portland, Oregon, No. 4 seed Kurumi Nara of Japan beat No. 3 seed Alison Riske 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, but the run to the final was enough to get Riske into the WTA Top 100 for the first time in her career, at No. 96.  Riske is also tied for second with Shelby Rogers in the race for the US Open wild card, with Nicole Gibbs, the winner last week in Yakima, leading.  French Open wild card winner Rogers is in the field for the final women's tournament this week in Lexington, but only the two best results count, so she will need a deep run to pass Gibbs, who is playing the Stanford WTA event this week.  Riske is not in the Lexington field, while Grace Min, who is fourth in the standings, is, taking a wild card.

Top seeds Irina Falconi and Nicole Melichar took the doubles title in Portland over unseeded Sanaz Marand and Ashley Weinhold 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.

The men's race has just begun, with three more events still on the schedule, including two $100,000 Challengers, but French Open wild card winner Alex Kuznetsov is in the lead after his title at the $50,000 Challenger in Binghamton.  Kuznetsov, the No. 6 seed, beat 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn, the No. 5 seed, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 for the title.  Klahn and former LSU All-American Michael Venus of New Zealand, seeded second, won the doubles title, defeating Australians Adam Feeney and former Tennessee star JP Smith, the top seeds, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  For more on the finals, see the tournament website.

At the $10,000 Futures in Joplin, Missouri, top seed Darian King of Barbados defeated Pepperdine star Alex Sarkissian, who was unseeded, 6-3, 7-6(3) in the final.  Top seeds Daniel Garza of Mexico and Venezuela's Roberto Maytin, a former Baylor Bear, won the doubles title, defeating No. 4 seeds Dekel Bar of Israel and Leon Frost of Australia 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

This week the men and women are both in Lexington for a joint Challenger. In the Futures, the women are in Austin, Texas, and the men in Godfrey, Illinois for $10,000 tournaments.  For links to the draws, see the USTA Pro Circuit page.

The ATP's BB&T Atlanta Open is underway, with the final round of qualifying completed today.  Former Georgia Tech star Kevin King made it through qualifying, defeating ATP No. 141 Jimmy Wang of Taiwan in the first round, and today downing Robby Ginepri, currently ranked 232, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his first ATP main draw.  King will play No. 5 seed Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan Tuesday afternoon.  Two former college rivals, Georgia's John Isner and Illinois' Kevin Anderson, are the tournament's top two seeds.

The World University Games in Kazan, Russia ended with the Southern Cal women claiming the overall bronze medal for their combined performance during the competition.  Sabrina Santamaria, who was unseeded, took the silver medal in singles, and she and Kaitlyn Christian, the NCAA doubles champions, reached the quarterfinals in doubles before losing to WTA Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina of Russia, both in the WTA Top 25.

For more on the USC men's and women's results in Russia, see the USC website.  For more on Santamaria's experience in the final, see this article from the USA's World University Games website.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ouellet-Pizer Outlasts Fleming for USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Title

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN--

Fifteen-year-old Chloe Ouellet-Pizer had every reason to panic as she saw a 6-3, 5-2 40-0 lead over Terri Fleming evaporate in the final of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships at the Memphis Racquet Club.

When Fleming saved four match points and elevated her game to take five of the final six games of the set, Ouellet-Pizer used the 10-minute break between the second and third sets to adjust her game and adapt to the new reality. She won the third set going away, claiming a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory and her first gold ball, as well as a wild card into the US Open junior championships.

"I was pretty upset that I let that go," said Ouellet-Pizer, the No. 3 seed. "And I was really upset in the ten-minute break, but then my dad said, Chloe you haven't really played that great, so you were fortunate to get that first set. Just play good in the third set, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, I just want you to play well."

Ouellet-Pizer rolled through the draw during the week, using her defensive, moon balling game style to win every set she played, thwarting every opponent who was confident they could hit through her.

Fleming, who had beaten Ouellet-Pizer the last time they played, back in March, knew what to expect, and her frustration in the opening set was with herself, as she made a slew of unforced errors.

But something clicked when she served at 2-5, 0-40, and the 16-year-old from Georgia came up with her best game of the match when the outlook was at its most bleak.

"I told myself to just keep going for my shots," said Fleming, who recalled a match at the Eddie Herr when she was down 1-6, 2-5, 15-40 and came back to win 6-0 in the third. "At this point I really have nothing to lose. I'm either going to lose 3 and 2, or I'm going to fight and come back and win the match. I tried to stay positive and go for my shots and it worked out in that set."

Fleming, who had also saved a match point in her semifinal win over Alexandra Letzt Saturday, used her forehand to overcome three of the match points, with three clean winners and another forehand Ouellet-Pizer could barely touch. 

After that series of perfect execution of aggressive tennis, the game ended when, ironically, Fleming hit a moon ball that Ouellet-Pizer couldn't return.

The next several games were more of the same from Fleming, who took advantage of several uncharacteristic unforced errors from Ouellet-Pizer when she served for the match at 5-3. Fleming held from 0-30 down in the next game, hitting a forehand winner deep in the corner to make it 5-5.

Forehand winners kept flying off Fleming's racquet, and she broke Ouellet-Pizer again to take a 6-5 lead, but was unable to serve out the set, netting a forehand at 30-40.

At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Fleming and Ouellet-Pizer engaged in a long and entertaining rally that included Ouellet-Pizer somehow returning a excellent overhead from Fleming, while Fleming held her ground, eventually forcing Ouellet-Pizer to send a backhand long.  Serving at 5-4, Fleming had the set on her racquet, and this time she cashed in, hitting a short angle forehand winner for 6-4 and finishing the set with another aggressive forehand.

"By the time she got to the fourth [match point], she was really playing great," said Ouellet-Pizer. "It was completely to her credit. Once it was 5-3, she played great for the rest of that set."

The match had passed the two-hour mark by the end of the second set, and when Fleming and Ouellet-Pizer returned after the break, they were going in different directions.

Fleming, who had already won seven matches during the week, four of them three-setters, was out of energy reserves, while Ouellet-Pizer abandoned her defensive, moonballing strategy for a quicker pace and a much flatter ball, on the advice of her father.

"He told me to make her run as much as I was running," said Ouellet-Pizer. "I knew she was tired, but not from running, from beating me up. I just tried to make her run, and it really worked. It's funny, because it's the first time I've played aggressively the whole tournament."

Fleming, who had played Ouellet-Pizer several times in Southern sectional events in the past few years, was not quite prepared for the drastic change.

"That was actually quite surprising," said Fleming. "She's done that a few times when I've played her, but not for an entire set."

This time when Fleming got down, she didn't have anything to counteract Ouellet-Pizer's aggression. And when Fleming double faulted to go down two breaks at 4-1, Ouellet-Pizer was confident, but wary.

"I was trying not to think about it, because that's what I was thinking in the second set," Ouellet-Pizer said. "So in the third, I was like, do not go there. Just play, hit the ball, don't think about the score."

Although excited to win her first gold ball, Ouellet-Pizer was particularly happy to secure the US Open Junior Championships' wild card that goes to the winner.

"Last year, when I was 14, my goal for this year was to get to the US Open," said Ouellet-Pizer. "But it didn't really work out, because in the ITFs, I kept losing. In the California tour, I lost really early in all three of them, so I just didn't get enough points. So I told everyone, no, I'm not going to make it, and I actually didn't know if I won this that I would get in, so it's great."

Both Ouellet-Pizer and Fleming head west for the Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, with Fleming certain her run in Memphis will help her.

"It's only going to help me improve," said Fleming, who turns 17 on Tuesday. "Now I know I can be in the finals and compete with the best players, so I'm definitely looking forward to more."

Due to rain during the week, both the semifinals and finals of the doubles were played Sunday morning, but it was no problem for unseeded Brienne Minor and Caroline Dolehide, who breezed to the title, losing only seven games in their two victories.

Minor and Dolehide defeated No. 7 seeds Gabrielle Smith and Olivia Sneed 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals, then cruised past No. 2 seeds Gabby Andrews and Zoe Katz 6-1, 6-1 in the championship match.

Minor, 15, and Dolehide, 14, may not have been seeded, but the two Chicago-area residents already have an impressive resume, with a bronze ball in the Winter Nationals 16s and a gold ball at the Easter Bowl 16s this spring. They served notice of their intentions to compete for the 18s title this week when they beat top seeds Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter in the second round.

"We had no pressure, since we're 14 and 15," said Dolehide. "When we moved up, we really took control and got pumped up for the next matches."

"We really know our own strength and weaknesses," said Minor. "We know how the other person hits, so we just work together well."

Minor wasn't aware that Andrews has two junior slam doubles titles on her resume, but Dolehide knew they were facing a formidable team in the final.

"She didn't know that," said Dolehide. "I knew that, but I didn't want to tell her, because I knew she would be a little shaky."

Minor is coached by Mark Bey, a junior development coach who also works regularly with Bob and Mike Bryan, so Dolehide and Minor know they can't get away with passive play.

"Brie does a really good job of setting me up to finish," said Dolehide. "I have a really big kick (serve)." "And she sets me up on that side so I can poach," said Minor.

Dolehide and Minor, who didn't lose a set in their seven victories, brought their best game to the final.

"Brie did a great job setting me up and hitting the ball really hard at the net player," Dolehide said. "When they were both at the net, she did a really good job passing them down the middle or at their feet," Minor added.

Dolehide and Minor will not be playing together at the Hard Courts in San Diego next month however, as Dolehide is playing the 18s division and Minor the 16s.

The bronze ball in doubles went to Smith and Sneed, who beat Jessie Aney and Carol Finke 0-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The bronze ball in singles went to Peggy Porter when Alexandra Letzt was unable to compete due to the effects of her full body cramp after the singles semifinal Saturday.

Top seed Spencer Liang won the consolation tournament, beating No. 17 seed Jessica Ho 6-3, 6-1. After losing in the third round, Liang won nine matches in five days, all in straight sets, with only one walkover.

Jessie Aney received the tournament's sportsmanship award.

Complete draws are available at the TennisLink site.

In the other Clay Court singles championships, Daniel Kerznerman, a No. 17 seed, won the Boys 18s in Delray Beach, defeating No. 7 seed Mitch Stewart 6-4, 6-3.  No. 6 seed Tommy Paul won the Boys 16s, also in Delray Beach, downing unseeded Reilly Opelka 6-2, 6-4.

Top seed CiCi Bellis won the Girls 16s title in Virginia Beach, beating No. 2 seed Katerina Stewart 7-5, 6-1.

No. 5 seed Noah Makarome took the Boys 14s title in Ft. Lauderdale with a 6-0, 7-6(3) win over No. 6 seed Sam Riffice.

Top seed Claire Liu took the Girls 14s singles championship in Plantation, beating No. 13 seed Dominique Schaefer 6-4, 6-2.

In Boca Raton, No. 3 seed Carson Branstine took the girls 12s title, defeating No. 10 seed Caty McNally 7-6(4), 6-4.

In Winston-Salem,  No. 4 seed Steven Sun won the boys 12s, defeating top seed Brandon Nakashima 7-6(3), 6-2.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Unseeded Fleming Saves Match Point to Reach USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Final Against Ouellet-Pizer

©Colette Lewis 2013--

Memphis, TN--

Unseeded Terri Fleming knew just how small the margin was between her first USTA Level 1 final and a loss in the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court semifinal.  Down 6-4, 4-5 30-40 to No. 6 seed Alexandra Letzt, Fleming saved a match point when Letzt's return went just beyond the baseline.

"I hit the serve and she got really tight and tried to push the return back," said Fleming, who went on to win the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. "I though, oh my god, I think this is going out, and he (the chair umpire) called it out. It was actually really close, and I was like, thank god that he's calling them and not me, because I probably wouldn't have made that call."

Fleming won the next two points to make it 5-5, and Letzt began to unravel a bit. She was broken in the next game, with three unforced errors proving costly, giving Fleming an opportunity to serve for the set. Given that there had been seven breaks in the previous 11 games, it was by no means a certainty that Fleming would serve out the set, but she played an aggressive game, then threw in a drop shot winner to earn two set points. She closed it out on the first with a good forehand forcing an error from Letzt.

In the third set, Fleming took a 3-2 lead with the first break of the set, but gave it right back. Letzt lost her serve in the next game to give Fleming a 4-3 lead, and Fleming managed to overcome an ill-time double fault to give Letzt a break point at 30-40.  Fleming saved that break point with a great cross court forehand pass from off the court, and after two Letzt backhand errors, Fleming had a 5-3 lead.

Letzt struggled in the final game, double faulting for 15-30, and netting a forehand to give Fleming her first match point. After a long rally, Letzt eventually sent a forehand wide to give Fleming the victory after more than two and half hours of play on the Racquet Club of Memphis's stadium court.

"I'm always trying to stay positive, and it's never over," said Fleming, a Georgia resident who will turn 17 next week. "I've made some comebacks before so I'm pretty much always looking for when my opponents get tight, so I can take advantage of that. They either slow down their racquet head or their feet, and start pushing the ball back, it won't have as much spin. And they kind of start looking around some. You try to look for some of those things and that's when you know to really key your focus in, on each shot and each point."

Because Fleming is unseeded, she has already played seven matches, four of them going three sets in the stifling Memphis heat and humidity. She seemed fresh at the end, while Letzt, a 16-year-old from Arizona, experienced some severe cramping issues after the match and was on IV fluids to help her recover.

While Fleming and Letzt labored for three sets in the midday sun, No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer and No. 2 seed Peggy Porter had a two-set battle that lasted nearly as long, with Ouellet-Pizer posting a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Porter's strengths revolve around her speed and defense, which she can turn to offense quickly, but with Ouellet-Pizer content to outlast Porter with moonballs, willing to make the match a war of attrition, Porter couldn't use her skills to maximum effect.

"I didn't think she played badly," said Ouellet-Pizer, who will be 16 in September. "We were having really long points and I run down a lot of balls, so I kind of force you to go for too much and maybe make errors on shots you wouldn't usually miss. It kind of shrinks the court and they have to go for lines rather than a safer target."

On the few occasions when Porter served well, she was able to take control of the points, but she wasn't able to get enough first serves in to sustain any advantage.

Serving to stay in the first set at 4-5, after Ouellet-Pizer had failed to serve out the set, Porter missed seven of eight first serves late in the game and eventually dropped the game and the set on a forehand just long. Porter did not agree with the call, but after the chair checked the mark and confirmed it, Ouellet-Pizer had the first set, which took 80 minutes to play.

In the second set, Porter was up a break three times, at 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3, but each time Ouellet-Pizer broke right back. Porter was becoming visibly and vocally frustrated by her own misses--her volleys were particularly off throughout the match--a sign that Ouellet-Pizer's game style was taking its toll.

"I don't think she liked my game very much," said Ouellet-Pizer, who had played Porter before only in doubles. 

Ouellet-Pizer held for 5-4, hitting a forehand winner on game point, a shot that she believes is getting better with recent, injury-related work.

"I've really improved my forehand in the last month or two," said the left-handed Ouellet-Pizer, who is coached primarily by her father Todd Pizer. "With my right wrist being hurt, I've been hitting a ton of forehands, and we've changed the swing. I think I have a lot more topspin and people are having a lot more trouble with it, and I'm able to hit more winners."

Ouellet-Pizer had reached the semifinals of the 18s Spring Nationals in Mobile this year, and the semifinals of the 14s Easter Bowl in 2011, as well as in doubles at other tournaments, but this is her first trip to a USTA Level 1 final.

"I've lost in the semifinals so many times," said Ouellet-Pizer, who moved from Michigan to North Carolina when she was 10. "I just really wanted to go that extra step."

Ouellet-Pizer took that extra step last December, reaching the 16s Orange Bowl final, and she believes she's learned from that experience.

"I really learned a lot from that final," said Ouellet-Pizer, who lost to Canadian Gloria Liang 6-3, 7-5. "In the Orange Bowl final, I didn't really play to win. I didn't really compete very well in that match. So I'm really going to play to win. I think the occasion kind of overwhelmed me, and it was already such a great success, but in this one, I really want to win the final."

Fleming and Ouellet-Pizer last played at a Southern Bullfrog Designated in March, with Fleming posting a 6-1, 7-6(3) win in a third round match.

"It was a good match," said Fleming, who has two wins over Ouellet-Pizer in the 14s age division. "She's a good player. It's exciting, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

The singles final is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

The doubles semifinals and final will both be played on Sunday, with consolation matches preventing two rounds from being played on Saturday.  

The semifinals, beginning at 8 a.m., will feature unseeded Caroline Dolehide and Brienne Minor against No. 7 seeds Gabrielle Smith and Olivia Sneed, and Jessie Aney and Carol Finke, a No. 9 seed, against No. 2 seeds Gabrielle Andrews and Zoe Katz.

Both the semifinals and finals are best of three sets, after playing a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set through the quarterfinals. Depending on the length of the two semifinals, the final will be started as close to 11 a.m. as possible.

The consolation final, also scheduled at 8 a.m., will see top seed Spencer Liang, who has won seven matches since losing to Aney in the third round on Tuesday, take on Jessica Ho, a No. 17 seed, who has won four matches since losing to Porter in the round of 16 on Thursday.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

The 12s Clay Court champions were decided today in Florida and North Carolina. In Boca Raton Florida, No. 3 seed Carson Branstine of Orange, California took the girls 12s title, defeating No. 10 seed Caty McNally of Cincinnati, Ohio 7-6(4), 6-4.

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, No. 4 seed Steven Sun of New York won the boys 12s, defeating top seed Brandon Nakashima of California 7-6(3), 6-2.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Porter Faces Ouellet-Pizer, Fleming Meets Letzt in USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Semifinals Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN

Back in 2009, Alexandra Letzt won the Winter National 12s Championships on the familiar hard courts of her home state of Arizona.

On Friday, the 16-year-old from Scottsdale picked up what she termed an even bigger win, defeating Amy Zhu, a No. 17 seed, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts.

"This means so much more," said Letzt, the No. 6 seed. "That was the 12s. You can get easy matches and it's a different mentality. Now I have to work for every point; every match is so grueling and so important in the 18s."

Letzt started slowly in slightly cooler and less oppressive conditions Friday morning, failing to read Zhu's serve and unable to find any rhythm on her own, double faulting three straight times at one stage. After not holding her serve in the first set, Letzt picked up her return game, and protected her own serve well enough to earn a third set.

"She has a big serve and I wasn't moving into the court after it, so I was playing way too much defense way behind the baseline," said Letzt, a six-foot right-hander. "I made a couple of adjustments, got more comfortable on my returns, moving in and being more aggressive, and I noticed she was more fatigued."

In the third set, Letzt started by breaking Zhu at love, and held for a 2-0 lead.  The next game probably decided the match, with Zhu desperately needing to hold.  She had five game points that she failed to convert, two of them squandered with double faults, and after eight deuces, the University of Michigan sophomore finally double faulted on break point, her fourth of the game, and Letzt had the cushion she needed.

Letzt gets little training on clay in Arizona, where she works with Jeremy Coll and Vera Leontieva at the Eurotennis Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"There isn't any clay in Arizona, just people who have it at their house or private clubs, so it's pretty hard to get on it," said Letzt. "I played Intersectionals in Shreveport to warm up for this, and that helped me a lot. I didn't like the way I was playing there at all. So I'm definitely playing a lot better here."

Letzt will play unseeded Terri Fleming, who got past 14-year-old Caroline Dolehide 6-4, 6-3.  Dolehide reached the quarterfinals earlier in the morning when she finished her rain-delayed match with Cassandra Vazquez, a No. 17 seed, by getting a late break and hold for a 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 win.  Fleming, a quarterfinalist at the Easter Bowl 16s last year, is now into her first USTA level 1 semifinal.

The other semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Peggy Porter against No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, after both sailed through their quarterfinal matches.

Ouellet-Pizer beat No. 14 seed Madison Westby 6-1, 6-1, while Porter blanked unseeded Stephanie Smith 6-0, 6-0. Like Dolehide, Westby was required to finish her round of 16 match at 8 a.m. before playing the quarterfinal, and she defeated Shannon Hudson, a No. 17 seed, 6-2, 6-1 to advance.

Porter was too consistent and too steady for Smith, with the score more a testament to Porter's concentration.

"She could hit the ball pretty big some time, so she made me stay focused," said Porter, 17. "The points were good, it's not like I just blew her off the court. I had to stay focused."

Porter considers her speed the most important component of her game, and although she believes she can use it aggressively to her advantage, she also knows its importance when playing someone like Ouellet-Pizer, who doesn't miss and gets everything back in play.

"I can play aggressively, but my speed has always been my biggest weapon," Porter said. "I use it offensively now, compared to how I used to, but I feel if all else fails, I can always win a match just grinding. It's really comforting being on the clay knowing that. For someone to blow me off the court on clay, that's going to be tough for them."

Porter has never played Ouellet-Pizer in singles, but she knows what to expect from the 15-year-old left-hander.

"I played a girl that played similar to her, a left-hander, Francesca (Dilorenzo), so my game worked pretty well against her," said Porter. "I'll adjust if I need to, but hopefully, I won't have to."

The rain on Thursday afternoon put the doubles tournament a round behind, and while the singles are into the semifinals, the doubles are just in the quarterfinal stage after the Friday evening matches.

For complete results of Friday's singles consolation matches, as well as the doubles round of 16, see the TennisLink site. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Six of Eight Quarterfinalists Determined Before Rain Washes Out Play at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts; What College Coaches Want to See

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN

When Thursday's first quarterfinal match at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts began at 8 a.m., the temperature was 83 degrees and the air was so thick with humidity it already felt like 89.  But for No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, the hotter the better, so the early start was a disappointment to her.

"I actually love the heat, I would have liked it to be later," said Ouellet-Pizer, who beat unseeded Katharine Fahey 6-3, 6-2. "I've been working out in the heat so I'd be used to it, so I actually like it."

The first few games of the match were full of 20-, 30-, even 40-ball rallies, with Ouellet-Pizer winning the majority of them to take a 5-1 lead.  Fahey may have proven she was capable of handling Ouellet-Pizer's deep moonballs, but she had more success once she began taking some balls out of the air, hitting overheads and swinging volley winners. Fahey broke Ouellet-Pizer serving for the set and held for 5-3, but all the hard work she had to do to win a point, work which Ouellet-Pizer does against any opponent on any point, began to take its toll.

Fahey, a rising junior from New Jersey, made another mini-run after going down 2-0 in the second set, but after breaking Ouellet-Pizer to make it 2-2, she didn't win another game. She began to miss some of those swinging volleys and overheads, while Ouellet-Pizer resisted the temptation to try to end points quickly.

"I think she plays kind of similar to me, except she might be a bit more aggressive," said Ouellet-Pizer, a 15-year-old left-hander. "So I had to really stay in the points for a long time and wait to go for my shots or wait until she went for too much. On some points it was tempting to go for too much, but I couldn't, because she plays really good defense."

Ouellet-Pizer hasn't always been comfortable on clay, but after reaching the girls 16s Orange Bowl final on the same surface, she has seen how it helps her game.

"It's funny, because I used to not like clay, but I used to live in Michigan and play on the indoor courts, and I like hard better," said Ouellet-Pizer, who now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. "But I think my ball is better on clay, because it pops up more, and after I learned to move on clay, I think I'm better on clay."

Ouellet-Pizer's opponent in the quarterfinals has yet to be determined, with No. 14 seed Madison Westby and Shannon Hudson, a No. 17 seed, still on the court when rain washed out play for the day, with Westby up a set.

Two of the quarterfinals are set however, with Amy Zhu and Alexandra Letzt earning their places in contrasting fashion.  The 16-year-old Letzt had no trouble with Anna Sanford, a No. 17 seed, posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory, while Zhu found herself at 4-4 in the third against unseeded Sarah Baron.  The University of Michigan rising sophomore broke for a 5-4 lead, but couldn't close out Baron, only to break Baron again and hold for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.

Top seed Peggy Porter continued her strong play, defeating Jessica Ho, a No. 17 seed, 6-1, 6-4.  Ho won the first game of both sets, but that was the only time she led, with Porter able to handle Ho's pace, play defense when necessary and use her down-the-line backhand effectively on important points.  Porter did hit a slight bump in the second set when she was unable to serve it out at 5-3, but she converted her second match point on Ho's serve with a backhand winner to keep the drama to a minimum.

Porter will play unseeded Stephanie Smith, who advanced to the quarterfinals of a Level 1 USTA tournament for the first time in her career when No. 16 seed Erin Larner retired trailing 6-3, 3-1.

Another unseeded player in the quarterfinals is Terri Fleming, who defeated Brienne Minor, also unseeded, 6-1, 6-4, just as the thunder began to rumble and the sky darkened.

Fleming had been cruising along, up 6-1, 4-1, with two breaks, but Minor came back to make it 4-4.  Once Minor was back in the set, she couldn't sustain the play that had gotten her even, and a loose game gave Fleming a chance to serve out the match, which she did, at love.

"She definitely stepped up her game," said Fleming, who will be 17 next week. "I'm not sure if she just said I'm going to go for it, but she just started slapping winners. I was just okay, stay calm. There's not really much you can do when your opponent is slapping it here, slapping it there. Just try to keep it deep and stay positive."

Fleming had played three three-set matches in a row prior to today's match with Minor, and she credits coconut water with giving her the energy she's needed in the stifling heat.

"My first two three-setters were three hours," said Fleming, who trains with Courtney Rutherford at Hamilton Mill in Gwinnett County, Georgia. "My last one was a quick three-setter, but it was still long, like two hours. I was struggling with my energy level in those matches, but I've been drinking a lot of coconut water, and that's helped me a lot. And icing, definitely."

Fleming doesn't know who she will be playing in the quarterfinals, although it looked likely to be another unseeded player in Caroline Dolehide, who was up 6-1, 5-2 on Cassandra Vazquez, a No. 17 seed, before Vazquez won the last five games of the second set to force a third. After the ten-minute break between the second and third sets, Dolehide and Vazquez traded four breaks before Vazquez finally held to take a 3-2 lead.  Rain then halted play, with Dolehide serving. After nearly an hour's delay, play resumed, but only briefly, when the rain began again. This time play did not resume, with the two remaining quarterfinals as well as the consolation matches in progress postponed until Friday at 8 a.m.

The round of 16 in doubles was also postponed due to the rain, and those are now scheduled not before 1 p.m. Friday, with matches dependent on players still in singles pushed back beyond that.

For the results and schedule, see the TennisLink site.

On Monday and Tuesday, I spoke with several college coaches attending the tournament in Memphis about what they're looking for when watching matches at the USTA national level.  I transcribed their responses for this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Steamy Conditions Don't Faze Unseeded Players, as Six Reach Round of 16 at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN--

Heat and humidity are a given in Memphis in July, and there were no surprises on that front in Wednesday's round of 32 at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts at the Racquet Club of Memphis. The temperature reached 95 as few clouds gave any relief from the sun, and players went to their towels often, their clothing soaked with sweat.

After losing 14 seeds in the second and third rounds, eight more seeds lost on Wednesday, and there are now more unseeded players (six) than Top 16 seeds (five) remaining with a chance for the Clay Court gold ball and the US Open junior championships wild card that goes with it.

No. 2 seed Peggy Porter has avoided the upset bug circulating in East Memphis this week, and she dodged a dangerous opponent Wednesday, defeating unseeded Francesca Dilorenzo 6-3, 6-1.  Porter trailed 3-1 in the opening set, still unsure of her opponent's tendencies and strengths, as they hadn't met before.

"I was still adjusting to her pace," said Porter, 17. "And the lefty weird spin a little bit. Once I got used to it, I started rolling a little bit. She got a little frustrated and I worked with it."

But even with Dilorenzo's lack of success in the second set, she didn't allow Porter to win many easy points.

"She worked really hard and didn't give me any easy points, or if she did, the next point she picked right back up," said Porter. "She never let me take off and have momentum and she didn't give me any loose errors. She got that extra ball back every time."

Porter is familiar with extreme heat, living and training in Dallas, but she hasn't been there much recently, since she's been playing Pro Circuit events the last two months.

"Usually I'm really used to the heat," said Porter, who won the 16s Clays and Hard Courts back-to-back in 2011. "I've been traveling a lot though. It's a little hotter in Texas, but it's more humid here. It's still rough."

Porter will play Jessica Ho in the round of 16 Thursday, after Ho, a No. 17 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Brooke Broda 6-1, 6-2.

Ho, who lost in the first round here in Memphis last year to eventual champion Danielle Collins, has been getting in plenty of practice on clay since she's begun training at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, Florida.

"I've been there three months now," said Ho, who also mentioned that helped her prepare for the heat and humidity in Memphis. "They only have one hard court."

Ho hadn't played Broda before, but was familiar with her and her game.

"I thought it was a pretty good match. It was hot out there," said Ho, who had a bag of ice she applied to her neck during changeovers. "I played pretty well. I worked on the things I've been training to do, so I felt pretty comfortable out there."

While the projected semifinal between Porter and No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer is still intact after Ouellet-Pizer's 6-4, 6-2 win over Nikki Kallenberg, a No. 17 seed, the top half of the draw has been riddled with upsets.  No. 6 seed Alexandra Letzt, who beat Caroline Lampl, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday, is the only top 16 seed left in the top half.

Four unseeded players and three No. 17 seeds advanced to the final 16 in the top half.  Unseeded Sarah Baron beat No. 17 seed Lindsey Hodge 7-5, 7-5, unseeded 14-year-old Caroline Dolehide defeated unseeded Maia Magill 6-1, 6-0, unseeded Terri Fleming outlasted unseeded Felicity Maltby 6-3, 0-6, 6-3 and unseeded Brienne Minor cruised past No. 10 seed Olivia Sneed 6-3, 6-0.  For a stretch at the end of the first set and the beginning of the second, Minor couldn't miss, hitting aces, lobs, drop volleys, backhands on the line and dipping forehand angles that Sneed could only observe with exasperation. Minor and Fleming will meet Thursday, assuring an unseeded quarterfinalist.

Baron will play Amy Zhu, a No. 17 seed, who had one of the most dramatic wins of the day, defeating Jessie Aney 6-4, 7-6(5). Zhu, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, was up 6-4, 4-1, cruising past the 15-year-old from Minnesota, when she became ill, vomiting in the trash receptacle and needing a trainer at the changeover. She lost four games in a row, with Aney taking a 5-4 lead, but Zhu held for 5-5 and then broke Aney to serve for the match.  She wasn't able to serve it out, saving two break points but not a third, sending the match into a tiebreaker.  Although Zhu continued to hit big shots on occasion, she was still struggling with the heat, and there was a real sense that Aney would take the third set if she could get there.

Zhu took the first three points of the tiebreaker, with Aney taking the next three.  At 5-5, Zhu came up with a backhand winner to give herself a match point, on Aney's serve.  Zhu took control of the point, but couldn't quite finish it, with Aney somehow getting back several shots including a good overhead. But finally, on a second overhead, Zhu put it out of Aney's reach, ending the building tension. After the handshake and a brief rest on her courtside chair, Zhu left with the trainer, heading to the club's air conditioning to try to ready herself for her doubles match two hours later.

Two unseeded players reached the round of 16 in the bottom half of the draw, with Katharine Fahey defeating Alexis Nelson, a No. 17 seed, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and Stephanie Smith beating Laura Patterson, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-2.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Aney Ousts Top Seed Liang in Third Round at USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN--

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Aney had difficulty deciding whether to play the 16s or the 18s division of the USTA Clay Courts this week. But with a ice hockey development camp coming up, she thought a possible early exit from the 18s would have a silver lining. With No. 1 seed Spencer Liang as Aney's third round opponent, those plans still seemed likely until Tuesday morning, when Aney defeated Liang 6-3, 6-2.

Liang struggled throughout the match, played on the Racquet Club of Memphis's stadium court, making more errors than usual and finding it difficult to get the ball by Aney even when an opening appeared. The points throughout the match were long and grueling, and although the temperatures hadn't reached the low 90s of the late afternoon, a lot of physical effort was required in every game.

Aney has a one-handed backhand that Liang tried to attack, but whether it was of the slice or topspin variety, Aney made few errors on that side. Aney came to the net often, knocking off her overheads with confidence and sliding on the clay like a Spanish veteran.

"I don't play on it too much," Aney said. "We have a couple of clay courts in Rochester (Minnesota), but they're not very good. I think hockey has helped a lot with that. Stopping and stuff, it's kind of similar. I really like playing on clay, it's really fun."

In the second set, Liang went up a break at 2-1, but Aney broke back immediately, shutting the door on any possible comeback from Liang. Five games later, on a forehand cross court winner, Aney had the victory in her first USTA Level 1 tournament in the 18s division.

"I'd never seen her play before, so I don't know what her level was," said Aney. "But I played really well, I executed really well on my shots.  I didn't really have a plan, I was just trying to play my game, move her around, slide in when I could, play good defense."

Aney has played high school hockey for three years, although she is only a rising sophomore.

"Almost all the high schools in Minnesota have a girls team," said Aney. "This summer I'm doing some camps, called Select 15 camps, and they keep narrowing down the girls from my age until eventually they'll pick a national team for the girls 18s. So now I'm at the final 60 for my age."

Aney will play University of Michigan sophomore Amy Zhu, a 17 seed, in the round of 32 on Wednesday.

With Liang out, No. 2 seed Peggy Porter becomes the favorite, and she looked the part on Tuesday, needing barely an hour to defeat Alexandra Solovyev 6-1, 6-0.  Porter has now won her first two matches with the loss of only two games.

No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer advance with 6-3, 6-2 win over Smith Hinton, but No. 5 seed Michaela Gordon was beaten by Stephanie Smith 6-2, 6-4.  Gordon, who turns 14 later this month, was having trouble with her serve throughout the match, and Smith was moving well inside the baseline to tee off on Gordon's second serves.

Serving for the match at 5-3, Smith had two match points, but missed a forehand long on the first and saw Gordon hit a forehand winner on the second, and eventually Smith was broken.  Gordon couldn't keep that momentum however, and with Gordon serving at 4-5, a net cord winner by Smith gave her two more match points. This time she converted, with Gordon sending a backhand wide to give Smith the victory.

Other Top 16s seeds to fall were No. 9 seed Brittany Lindl, who lost to Sophie Chang 7-5, 6-0, and No. 12 seed Allison Miller, who was beaten by Katherine Fahey 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.

In all, there are 18 seeds remaining in the round of 32, with 10 of them No. 17 seeds. Only one of the eight sections in the draw has produced the four expected seeds.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.