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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Seven Americans Qualify for US Open Junior Championships Main Draw

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Flushing Meadow, NY

The coaches at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland have a few more gray hairs after the final round of qualifying for the US Open junior championships was completed today.  All three of their players competing on Saturday at the practice courts outside the East Gate--Raveena Kingsley, Usue Arconada and Francis Tiafoe--won in third-set tiebreakers to advance to the main draw, which begins Sunday.

Tiafoe's win was the most dramatic, as he saved three match points with Adrian Ortiz of Mexico serving at 6-5 in the final set, going on to take the match 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-6(6).

At 5-5 in the third set Tiafoe was broken, hitting a routine backhand long after a couple of failed drop shots earlier in the game had signaled his fatigue. Ortiz, who at 18 is three years older than Tiafoe, also seemed to move less freely than he had earlier in the match, tugging at his thigh as the match moved to its final stages.  Ortiz managed a 40-15 lead, but hit a routine forehand long to lose his first match point, and he double faulted to squander the second.  He earned a third match point with a backhand volley winner, but Tiafoe saved it by rifling a backhand pass that went directly at Ortiz's head. He ducked, but the ball landed inside the baseline to make it deuce again. Tiafoe, whose shirt and shorts were completely soaked with sweat, won the next two points, with an overhead winner and a netcord that went against Ortiz.

The tiebreaker was every bit as close as the match, with the score 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5. Tiafoe had his first match point at 6-5, but Ortiz showed his speed and determination by running down a sure winner and flicking a backhand cross court that Tiafoe got his racquet on for a winning volley, but instead netted it.

Tiafoe came up big on the next point, hitting an ace down the T to earn his second match point. When Ortiz sent a forehand long, Tiafoe had qualified, after falling in the final round of qualifying last year.

Tiafoe admitted he was looking ahead when he served for the match at 6-2, 5-4.

"I'm thinking about it a little bit," Tiafoe said. "Main draw, it's on my racquet. I played an awful game there, and then the guy started playing really well. At 5-5 in the third, both of our legs started to go away a little bit, got broken and played a few sloppy points and got broken."

When Ortiz double faulted, Tiafoe knew he had a chance.

"After he doubled, I knew he was going to get tight," said Tiafoe, the No. 3 seed in qualifying. "At 6-5 (in the tiebreaker) he made an unbelievable get, an unbelievable shot, so I was pretty tight then. But at 6-all it was hit the serve as hard as you can, and luckily it hit the line, and then he hit a forehand long, so I stayed in there, and I'm so happy I qualified."

Raveena Kingsley picked up her 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4) win over fellow wild card Emma Higuchi the hard way, watching a 5-1 lead in the third set disappear.  Higuchi won five games in a row and served for the match at 6-5, but Kingsley broke her at love, and once the tiebreaker began, took control, keeping her deep flat strokes in the court to build a 5-2, and 6-3 lead. Higuchi didn't go easily, saving her sixth match point to make it 6-4, but the 15-year-old Kingsley hit a forehand winner to end it.

Kingsley said she relaxed and took her time when she got to tiebreaker.

"I calmed down and played the point," said Kingsley. "I told myself I'm going to swing freely because I'm going to trust my training in everything I did. And it paid off."

The third JTCC player to win via a third-set tiebreaker was Usue Arconada, who also broke back when her opponent, No. 7 seed Beatrice Lombardo of Italy, was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set.  Arconada, who went on to post a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory, also trailed 5-4 in the tiebreaker, with Lombardo having the match on her racquet with two serves. She lost them both, netting a forehand to give the 14-year-old Arconada a match point. Lombardo's forehand caught the tape and bounced well wide to put Arconada in the main draw.

Arconada is not the youngest girl in the draw however, with Claire Liu taking that honor.  The 13-year-old from Southern California, who received a wild card into qualifying, beat No. 14 seed Rianna Valdes of the US 6-3, 6-3 after taking out the No. 6 seed Friday, also in straight sets.

In addition to Tiafoe, the three other US boys in the final round of qualifying also won: Alex Rybakov, and wild cards Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka. Rybakov defeated No. 10 seed Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan 6-4, 6-4, while Fritz defeated No. 7 seed Luis Valero of Colombia 6-3, 6-4.

Opelka had more of a challenge, coming from a set down to beat No. 12 seed Piotr Lomacki of Poland 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.  Lomacki used the drop shot effectively early in the third set, but after missing one, he didn't go back to it, and Opelka was more consistent in the baseline rallies. At one stage in the match there were five straight breaks, but the 6-foot-7 Opelka got his hold when it was most important at 5-3 in the third, hitting a sizzling running backhand winner to end it on his first match point.

The order of play for Sunday's first round on the outside courts has not yet been posted, but the draws are out.  Canada's Francoise Abanda, who has not played a match since March, is making her return to tennis here after a shoulder injury, and she has drawn No. 6 seed Taylor Townsend in the first round. Abanda has had great success against Townsend in the past, beating her at Roehampton and Wimbledon last year, but without any warmup tournaments, the 16-year-old from Montreal will be understandably rusty.

In the boys draw, No. 3 ranked Nikola Milojevic of Serbia was a late withdrawal, allowing one lucky loser to reach the main draw: Carlos Lopez Villasenor of Mexico.  Spencer Papa of the US was also still on the acceptance list as of Wednesday, but is not in the draw.

Both top seeds have drawn US qualifiers, with Switzerland's Belinda Bencic playing Kingsley and Germany's Alexander Zverev facing Fritz.

Friday, August 30, 2013

My US Open Junior Preview; Twelve Americans Advance to Final Round of US Open Junior Qualifying; Finals Set in ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open

My preview of the US Open junior championships is available now at Tennis Recruiting Network, with the girls field in particular deep and full of talent this year.

Most of my day was spent traveling, but I did get to Flushing Meadows tonight to pick up my credential, get my locker and organize my desk for a full day of coverage of the final round of junior qualifying on Saturday.

Eight US girls and four US boys reached the second and final round with victories today, with several of the younger US girls picking up wins over seeded players.  Wild card Emma Higuchi, 15, took out No. 10 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2); Nicole Frenkel, also 15 and a qualifier last year here, beat No. 15 seed Kyoka Okamura 6-2, 3-6, 7-5; 13-year-old wild card Claire Liu downed No. 6 seed Xiaodi You of China 6-0, 7-5.  Liu will play No. 14 seed Rianna Valdes of the US and Higuchi meets wild card Raveena Kingsley of the US Saturday, assuring two more Americans in the main draw. Kingsley defeated No. 2 seed Asiya Dair of Kazakhstan 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-2 in a match that started at 10 a.m. and didn't finish until nearly 1:30 p.m.

Dasha Ivanova, Usue Arconada(12) and Madison Bourguignon(13) are the other three US girls to win today.

Only four of the 11 US boys won today, with No. 3 seed Francis Tiafoe joined in the final round of qualifying by wild cards Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz, both of whom beat seeds today. Opelka took out No. 4 seed Chih-Chun Tang of Taiwan 7-6(7), 6-3, and Fritz beat No. 11 seed Rogelio Siller of Mexico 7-6(5), 6-3.  Alex Rybakov also beat a seed to reach Saturday's final round.

Play begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on the practice courts outside the east gate, and there is no admission charge.

For complete draws, see usopen.org.

The finals are set for the Grade 1 in Canada, with Czech doubles partners Katerina Siniakova, the No. 1 seed, and Barbora Krejcikova, the No. 2 seed, reaching the girls final, after winning the doubles title together today.  Saturday's singles final will be about more than just the tennis, as the two have won the last two junior slams and the European championships this summer.

Canadian Brayden Schnur, who is unfortunately not entered in the US Open junior championships, continued his fine form this summer, reaching the final with a 6-2, 6-4 win over his frequent doubles partner Hugo Difeo.  Schnur will play Nicolas Jarry of Chile, who surprised his doubles partner and the reigning Roland Garros champion Christian Garin 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals.

Complete results can be found at the tournament website.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Twenty-three Americans Begin Quest for Main Draw in US Open Junior Qualifying Friday; Vickery, Duval Lose in Second Round Actionl

Qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships begins at 10:00 a.m. Friday on the practice courts outside the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The draws were released this evening, with 11 US boys and 12 US girls hoping to earn one of the eight available spots in the main draw, which begins on Sunday.

The US boys, with status/seedings in parentheses:

Jake DeVine (WC)
Luke Gamble
William Blumberg (WC)
Francis Tiafoe (3)
Reilly Opelka (WC)
Alex Rybakov
Anudeep Kodali
Julian Zlobinsky (14)
Sameer Kumar (WC)
Taylor Fritz (WC)
Henrik Wiersholm

It appears that to fill the draw, players way down the alternate list were accepted into the qualifying, with both Gamble and Kodali, who were ranked 269 and 402 at the time of acceptance, gaining entrance.

The US girls:
Madison Bourguignon (13)
Raveena Kingsley (WC)
Emma Higuchi (WC)
Katrine Steffensen (3)
Nicole Frenkel
Dasha Ivanova
Mira Ruder-Hook
Claire Liu (WC)
Rianna Valdes (14)
Elysse Graci (WC)
Usue Arconada (12)
Hannah King (WC)

It appears Constanza Gorches of Mexico was the last girl accepted into qualifying and her ranking at the time of the acceptance cutoff was 175.

For the draws, see the ITF junior website, or the junior draw page at usopen.org, where the junior schedule appears with all the other matches Friday.

Both Sachia Vickery and Vicky Duval saw their dreams of advancing to a third round match end with Vickery losing to qualifier Julia Glushko of Israel 7-5, 6-3 and Duval falling to veteran Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-3.

American women advancing to the third round with wins today were Serena Williams, Christina McHale and Alison Riske. Jack Sock was the only American man to advance, although John Isner had a two-set to love lead over Gael Monfils in a late match tonight.

Kalamazoo doubles champion Paul Oosterbaan and Ronnie Schneider were beaten by Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram 6-0, 6-4, and NCAA champions Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger lost to No. 14 seeds Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut of France 6-3, 6-2.

Wild cards Austin Krajicek and Denis Kudla won their first round doubles match, beating Martin Klizan and Michal Mertinak of Slovakia 6-3, 6-2.

For complete draws, see usopen.org.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

USTA Getting Out of Academy Business? Duval and Expectations; Thibodeau Comes Out

Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal has been a thorn in the USTA's side since last year's Open, when he broke the story about Taylor Townsend's rift with the USTA over her fitness. Today, Perotta writes about the USTA's national training center in Boca Raton, revealing a change in the organization's developmental strategy.

"Next year, just three players will live in the academy's dormitory, down from a high of 18 in 2009," writes Perotta. "'Maybe they were too young, maybe they weren't ready for being away from home,' said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's player-development program who lobbied for the full-immersion approach. 'We're starting to pull back in that direction a bit.'

The USTA says the budget will remain the same and the academy will offer full-time training to players who live nearby, but the USTA will devote more of its resources to players who visit periodically and then return home to their own coaches."

I've never supported the USTA's venture into the academy business, feeling the money devoted to the select few in this circumstance could be much more effective if spread out over a substantially larger number of players. I do think the USTA needs a place with temporary housing to optimize the time spent there by those in town for weekly camps, but running a full time academy always felt unnecessary to me. Some players have thrived under in USTA's academy setting, but a significant number have not, and I believe the move away from this centralization experiment is a good one. And while they're making changes, I'd love for the USTA to consider reviving the Junior Davis Cup (and Junior Fed Cup). See my Tennis Recruiting Network article from last summer on how that worked in past years.

With rain the major story at the US Open today, much of the tennis world was still focusing on Vicky Duval's huge upset of Samantha Stosur last night.  Jeff Sackmann has a look at just how rare it is for a qualifying wild card to win a match at the Open, let alone beat a seed, in this post at Heavy Topspin.

Howard Bryant of ESPN looks at the consequences of fame and hype, with Donald Young and Duval front and center in the discussion.  There's no question that the dramatic 2009 US Open run of Melanie Oudin figures in all of this, but it's important to remember that each person and each situation is different, and will not, can not, proceed in the same fashion. As usual, Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has a nuanced and sensible exploration of the issue in the lead item of his mailbag today.

My mantra, since starting this blog eight years ago, is to celebrate accomplishment, not potential. I'll stick to that, I guess, in the absence of a better plan.

John Branch of the New York Times filed this story on Simon Thibodeau, the women's tennis coach at UC-Santa Barbara, who came out as gay recently. Thibodeau explains what led him to the decision to make his sexual orientation public, and Branch puts his announcement in context, not just in college sports, but in tennis as well.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Duval Shocks Stosur, Vickery Advances at US Open; McCarthy Beats Mertens in ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open

Day Two at the US Open was a good one for young Americans, led by 17-year-old Vicky Duval, who defeated 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 this evening on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

After serving for the first set at 5-4, Duval lost the next three games, and trailing the No. 11 seed 4-2 in the second set, it looked as the 2012 USTA 18s champion would be ousted in the first round by a former US Open champion, just as she was last year by Kim Clijsters. But whether it was last year's experience, the reserve of confidence she had built qualifying last week, where she won all three of her matches in straight sets, or just uninspired play by Stosur, Duval turned the match around, winning the final four games of the second set to force a third.  Duval got the break she needed at 4-3, held for 5-3, and had a match point on Stosur's serve before the Australian held, forcing Duval to serve it out.  The final game was a long one, with Duval saving break points and Stosur saving match points until on her fourth match point, Duval hit a forehand winner to record the first Top 20 victory of her young career. For more on the match, see usopen.org.

Sachia Vickery, with 18s National Championships trophy
Earlier in the day, Duval's friend and long-time Florida junior rival Sachia Vickery, who succeeded Duval as USTA 18s National Champion, earned her first slam victory in her first slam match, beating qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4, 6-4.  Vickery broke Lucic-Baroni serving at 4-5 in the first set, then fell behind a break early in the second, but came back to serve for the match at 5-3.  The 18-year-old didn't get to match point in that game, but broke Lucic-Baroni at love to move into the second round against qualifier Julia Glushko of Israel, who beat No. 20 seed Nadia Petrova in the first round. Duval will play Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia in the second round.

While girls national champion Vickery was successful in her slam debut, boys national champion Collin Altamirano was not.  The 17-year-old lost to No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 Tuesday, and was no doubt disappointed with his performance. Altamirano, who was playing in his first ATP level match, started the match with a hold of serve, but lost nine straight games, with unforced errors doing most of the damage.  Kohlschreiber hit a lot of winners and served well, never facing a break point, leaving Altamirano with little choice but to go for even more.

Other young Americans fared better, with former two-time Kalamazoo champions Jack Sock and Donald Young advancing to the second round, along with Denis Kudla, who beat 2011 ITF World Junior champion Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic in four sets.  Sam Querrey(26) and John Isner(13) also advanced to the second round. Other US winners Tuesday were Christina McHale and Alison Riske.

Aside from Isner, it wasn't a good day for former college players, as Nicole Gibbs, Steve Johnson, Maria Sanchez and Mallory Burdette all lost first round matches.

For complete draws and results, see the tournament website.

The mixed doubles draw has been released, with eight wild card teams, seven of them American pairs.  2011 mixed doubles champions Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock are not playing together this year, with Oudin playing with 2011 NCAA doubles champion Austin Krajicek and Sock partnering Sloane Stephens.  I'm a bit surprised not to see Taylor Townsend in the mixed draw, but her commitment to the juniors may have been a factor in that, and she is playing women's doubles with Mallory Burdette. Vicky Duval, who is not playing the junior tournament, is paired with Donald Young in the mixed.

The Grade 1 in Repentigny Canada this week has not attracted the deepest fields, with the US boys in particular absent from the draw, but the girls field has several top 10 players: Katerina Siniakova(3), Barbora Krejcikova(4) and Elise Mertens(8).  Mertens, the No. 3 seed from Belgium, was beaten by unseeded Kaitlyn McCarthy today 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4. Christina Makarova, the No. 6 seed, is the only other American to reach the third round. Semi-live scoring can be found on the tournament's website.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Klahn Through to Second Round at US Open; Junior Champions Debut on Tuesday; Blake Retires; Wild Card Update

There were mixed results for the 14 Americans in action Monday as the US Open got underway in New York.

Lauren Davis never got on track against No. 18 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, losing 6-0, 6-0, but No. 23 seed Jamie Hampton posted a straightforward 6-4, 6-2 win over another Spaniard, Lara Arruabarrena. CoCo Vandeweghe defeated fellow qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-4, 7-6(5), while veterans Venus Williams and Bethanie Mattek-Sands got impressive straight-set victories.  No. 15 seed Sloane Stephens struggled but got past Mandy Minella of Luxembourg 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).

Bradley Klahn at 2012 NCAA Championships
One of the bright spots for the US was wild card Bradley Klahn's four-set win over fellow left-hander Kenny De Schepper of France. Although Klahn's five-set victory over Austria's Jurgen Melzer in last year's first round was no doubt bigger, reaching the second round of the US Open for the second year in a row is worth celebrating.  The 2010 NCAA champion while at Stanford, Klahn received his wild card this year for his play on the US Challenger summer circuit, and the way he handled the loss of the first set shows he has ample confidence after his excellent results the past two months. For more on the match, see the tournament website.

Shelby Rogers, who received a wild card based on her results in the Challengers this summer, fell to 2011 US Open girls finalist Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2.  Aside from perhaps Davis, the day's most difficult loss for a young American was that of Rhyne Williams, who was up two sets to one and two breaks at 4-1 in the fourth, but ended up losing to Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 6-3, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 in a match that lasted nearly three and a half hours.

Madison Keys, who withdrew with an injury from qualifying at the Rogers Cup, lost to No. 9 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4.

The young Australians split their openers, with 17-year-old Ashleigh Barty outclassing Estrella Cabez Candela of Spain 6-1, 6-4 to post her second main draw slam win (she won a round at the French, also as a reciprocal wild card).  World Junior No. 1 Nick Kyrgios, who qualified into the main draw, was eliminated by No. 4 seed David Ferrer today 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.

Tuesday's schedule will feature the USTA National junior champions, with Collin Altamirano's first round match against No. 22 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany first on at 11 a.m. on televised court 11.  To watch the match, go to usopen.org and click on the WATCH LIVE button at the top of the home page, which takes you to the index of the six televised courts.  Sachia Vickery's match against qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia is third on court 7, which unfortunately is not a televised court. NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs is on second on Court 4, also not a televised court, against Flavia Pennetta of Italy.

James Blake announced today that he would be retiring after this year's US Open.  Blake, who played here in Kalamazoo, reaching the finals of the 18s in 1997, won both the ITA All-American and Indoor singles titles while at Harvard, leaving school after his sophomore year for the professional tour. Blake has always been vocal in his support of college tennis, advocating it for the vast majority of juniors.  For more on Blake's retirement, see this article from usopen.org.

According to the USTA, the final boys main draw wild card has been awarded to Ernesto Escobedo.  The last girls qualifying wild card is still to be determined.

USC women's associate head coach West Nott has posted on Facebook that Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian received wild cards into the mixed doubles draw, with Santamaria partnering Jarmere Jenkins and Christian playing with Dennis Novikov.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's Wrong with US Men's Tennis; Fourteen Americans Play in US Open First Round Monday; Doubles Draws Posted

With the US Open beginning Monday, several articles on the state of men's tennis in the United States were published today.  Doug Robson of USA Today, in a piece headlined "US Men Not Measuring Up" discusses the disturbing firsts recently, including no American men in the Wimbledon third round this year, and none in the ATP Top 20 a couple of weeks ago (Isner has since returned to the Top 20).

Robson quotes Tim Mayotte, who briefly worked for USTA Player Development and has been one of its most persistent and visible critics since then.

"The model is broken," says Mayotte, a former top-10 player who worked under McEnroe at the USTA but last year opened his own tennis academy a few miles away from the National Tennis Center in Queens.
"They are forced to hit overly aggressive forehands from out of position or weak backhands that get killed," Mayotte says of a problem affecting most of the top American men since the turn of the century, from Roddick and James Blake to Querrey and Isner to lauded youngsters such as Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison.

For me, the most intriguing part of this article is this assertion:

McEnroe hopes young players such as Harrison, 21, and Sock, 20, can develop into elite players and is even more optimistic about a younger group of players who have yet to hit the pros (emphasis mine).

This could very well be true, and who doesn't want optimism? But unnamed younger players have been pointed to for several years now, and professional breakthroughs have been few there.

The aging of the ATP Top 100 makes identifying young players less important than ever unless you believe, as I assuredly do not, that a federation can "develop" a player.

Lindsay Gibbs, a freelance writer who is part of the Changeover website, wrote an article for Sports On Earth with a similar theme. The USTA's Director of Coaching Jose Higueras provided Gibbs with the bulk of her information on the reasons for the decline in men's tennis, and Higueras has been widely cheered on twitter for this quote: "If it was up to me, there would be no wild cards. Wild cards create entitlement for the kids. I think you should be in the draw if you actually are good enough to get in the draw." 

I'm sure Higueras knows as well as anyone the importance of wild cards, and without one, Goran Ivanisevic would never have won Wimbledon, Kim Clijsters wouldn't have been able to say goodbye at the US Open last year, etc. etc.  But if Higueras wants to eliminate or reduce the wild cards in the hands of the USTA, especially those often given to younger players, he is in a position to raise the issue, and should, given his opinions stated in this article.

As far as the USTA Player Development budget, I don't know what Higueras is referring to when he says the USTA pays for junior competition. Everyone who has paid a USTA entry fee knows that money is expected to cover the cost of the tournament, including courts, officials and administration, with the balls the only direct contribution from the USTA itself. The USTA does pay for several of the large ITF junior events in this country, but not the USTA sanctioned junior tournaments.

Gibbs also added on twitter that Higueras brought up his support of the collegiate tennis system in the US in her interview with him, which did not make the final cut in her article. The timing of that assertion isn't the best, given that the USTA failed to give a US Open women's doubles wild card to NCAA champions Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian of USC, but I hope Higueras continues to reach out to college coaches, who are an under-utilized asset and deserve more credit and recognition for their work.

It's being reported that Santamaria and Christian have been promised a wild card for the 2014 US Open, regardless of their performance in college events this season, but they won't know about the mixed doubles wild card possibilities for this year until Monday.

The US Open doubles draws have been released, with girls 18s champions Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery playing Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada. Boys 18s champions Paul Oosterbaan and Ronnie Schneider will play Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram, and with Ram and Schneider both coached by Bryan Smith, it will be an interesting coaching/preparation dynamic.  NCAA men's doubles champions Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger of Virginia have drawn No. 14 seeds Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut of France.

There are 14 Americans on Monday's schedule, all in singles, including Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bradley Klahn, Shelby Rogers and Rhyne Williams.  Ryan Harrison has drawn No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, and is third on Ashe Monday afternoon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kasatkina, Nishioka Win ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Santamaria and Christian Shut Out of US Open Women's Doubles Draw; Schnack, Roberson Win USO Mixed Wild Card

This year the International Hard Court tournament became an ITF Grade 1, and had my personal circumstances been different, I would have covered it in person, or at least more extensively than I did. With so many ITFs in the US being downgraded to Grades 4 or 5, an upgrade deserves more recognition than I was able to give it.  Thanks to Ray Benton of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland for providing US players with an opportunity to improve their ITF rankings without traveling outside the US.

This year it was international players who benefitted the most however, with top seed Darya Kasatkina of Russia taking the girls title without the loss of a set, and No. 4 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan claiming the boys title.  The 16-year-old Kasatkina defeated unseeded Maria Shishkina of Kazakhstan, when Shishkina retired trailing 6-3, 3-1. Unseeded Michaela Gordon and Josie Kuhlman reached the semifinals.

Nishioka, a semifinalist at last year's US Open juniors, downed No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 6-1, after Kozlov had beaten top seed and former ITF No. 1 junior Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the semifinals.  Nishioka also won the doubles title, with Naoki Nakagawa of Japan. The No. 3 seeds beat No. 6 seeds Nicolas Jarry of Chile and ALan Nunez Aguilera of Mexico 3-6, 6-3, 10-4.

The girls doubles title went to Iryna Shymanovic of Belarus and Alina Silich of Russia, the No. 2 seeds. They beat top seeds Katie Boulter of Great Britain and Viktoriya Lushkova of Ukraine 7-6(4), 6-1.

Unfortunate news out of New York today, with the word that Sabrina Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian, the USC pair who won all three collegiate majors this year, including the NCAA title, did not receive a wild card into the women's doubles at the US Open.  Santamaria and Christian, not knowing they needed to apply to the USTA for a wild card, didn't, and the oversight wasn't noted by anyone at USTA Player Development when the time came for deciding US Open wild cards. Men's NCAA champions Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger of Virginia did receive a wild card into the US Open men's doubles.  It's hoped that both Santamaria and Christian will receive wild cards into the mixed doubles draw.

Speaking of mixed doubles, former UCLA star Yasmin Schnack and former Boise State standout Eric Roberson won the US National Playoffs for the mixed doubles main draw wild card today in New Haven. Schnack and Roberson defeated two other UCLA stars, Matt Brooklyn and Stephanie Wetmore, 6-1, 6-4 in today's final. For more, see this article from the Connecticut Post.  The National Playoffs mixed doubles draw is available here.

Friday, August 23, 2013

American Teens Duval and Min Earn US Open Spots Via Qualifying; ITF's Top Junior Kyrgios Reaches Main Draw

Last year, Vicky Duval won the USTA Girls 18s National Championships and with it a main draw wild card into the US Open, where she played former champion Kim Clijsters in the first round.  This year, Duval fell in the quarterfinals of the National Championships in San Diego, but received a wild card into the US Open qualifying tournament, and today she reached the main draw with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia.

Duval, 17, didn't drop a set in her three wins this week, beating No. 4 seed and WTA No. 105 Teliana Pereira of Brazil in the first round 6-1, 6-3, and Valeria Solovyeva of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in the second round. Duval will play No. 11 seed and former champion Samantha Stosur of Australia in the main draw next week.

2011 US Open girls champion Grace Min also qualified without dropping a set. The 19-year-old from suburban Atlanta defeated No. 3 seed and current WTA No. 104 Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1 in her final qualifying match today.  Min had previously qualified at the French this year, and made the final round of qualifying at Wimbledon. Min will play Karin Knapp of Italy in the first round.

CoCo Vandeweghe, the 2008 US Open girls champion, also qualified today, beating Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Vandeweghe will play fellow qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia in the main draw. Krunic defeated Louisa Chirico 6-1, 6-3 to earn her spot. Taylor Townsed lost to Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 today to fall short of the main draw. With these three qualifiers, the total number of American women in the main draw is now 19, the most since 2006.

The only men's qualifier from the US was Donald Young, who beat Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 6-1, 6-4. Young, who did not drop a set in his three wins, will play Slovakia's Martin Klizan in the main draw.  With Young qualifying, the total number of US men in the main draw is 15. Kalamazoo finalist Jared Donaldson fell to Philipp Petzschner of Germany 6-2, 6-0 in the final round of qualifying, with Petzchner moving on to face Jack Sock. Recent University of Virginia grad Jarmere Jenkins also fell short of the main draw today, losing to Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-3, 6-4.

Eighteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia, the No. 1 junior in the ITF rankings, decided not to play the US Open junior championships, and in hindsight that looks like the right decision, as he qualified for the men's main draw today. Kyrgios, who received the Australian Open reciprocal wild card at Roland Garros this year and won a round, will be playing in his first US Open men's draw.  He has a tough opponent to start out: No. 4 seed David Ferrer of Spain.

The draws, with qualifiers placed, are available at usopen.org.

Speaking of Australia, it's been announced that former University of Illinois men's tennis coach Craig Tiley will take over from Steve Wood as chief executive of Tennis Australia, ending speculation that Tiley was a candidate to replace the late Brad Drewett as president of the ATP.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wild Cards Announced for US Open Junior Championships

Thank you all for the many comments, emails, messages and texts I've received expressing sympathy for my father's recent death. I've known for some time that the tennis community contains vast numbers of generous and compassionate people, and this is just another example of how that spirit manifests.

I'll be slowly working my way back into the tennis world in the next few days, with posts here and on twitter, as the US Open qualifying, one of the most compelling four days of the year for me, continues.  As of now, I am planning to cover, for the 10th consecutive year, the US Open junior championships, beginning with the final day of qualifying on August 31.

The USTA has announced the recipients of the US Open junior wild cards.

Boys main draw:
1. Collin Altamirano
2. JC Aragone
3. Gage Brymer
4. Jared Donaldson
5. Dan Kerznerman
6. Mackenzie McDonald
7. Tommy Paul
8. TBD

Girls main draw:
1. Brooke Austin
2. CiCi Bellis
3. Tornado Alicia Black
4. Michaela Gordon
5. Kaitlyn McCarthy
6. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer
7. Peggy Porter
8. Katerina Stewart

Boys qualifying draw:
1. Jake DeVine
2. Taylor Fritz
3. Sameer Kumar
4. Reilly Opelka
5. Henrik Wiersholm
6. Kenta Miyoshi

Girls qualifying draw:
1. Emma Higuchi
2. Hanna King
3. Raveena Kingsley
4. Claire Liu
5. Yumeka Maeda
6. TBD

The full USTA release is below:


Brooklyn Teen Danny Kerznerman among Boys’ Wild Card Recipients

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 21, 2013 – The USTA today announced that 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion Collin Altamirano (17, Yuba City, Calif.) and 14-year old CiCi Bellis (Atherton, Calif.) are among the boys and girls, respectively, receiving singles main draw wild cards into the US Open Junior Championships, September 1-8 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

As this year’s USTA Boys’ 18s national champion, Altamirano earned a wild card to play in the US Open men’s main draw, which begins next week. Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the Boys’ 18s singles title in the 71 years the event has been at its current home in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Joining him as wild card entrants into the boys’ junior singles draw are Brooklyn 17-year old and USTA Boys’ 18s national clay court champion Danny Kerznerman, who trains at the home of the US Open at the USTA Training Center – East; Mackenzie McDonald (18, Piedmont, Calif.), who played in qualifying for the US Open men’s draw this week after becoming the first unranked teen to qualify for an ATP Masters 1000 event at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati; Gage Brymer (18, Irvine, Calif.), the No. 1-ranked Boys’ 18s singles player in the USTA national standings; 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship runner-up Jared Donaldson (16, Cumberland, R.I); 2013 USTA Boys’ 16s national champion and national clay court champion Tommy Paul (16, Coconut Creek, Fla.); and JC Aragone (18, Yorba Linda, Calif.) One additional boys’ singles main draw wild card will be awarded to a player to be determined.

On the girls’ side, Bellis and Michaela Gordon (14, Los Altos Hills, Calif.) received singles main draw wild cards. Together, the two led the U.S. to the World Junior Tennis title earlier this month in the premier 14-and-under world team competition, held in the Czech Republic. Bellis, additionally, has won several prestigious singles titles in 2013, including the Girls’ 16s Easter Bowl championship.

Girls’ main draw wild card recipients also include Brooke Austin (17, Indianapolis, Ind.), a USTA Girls 18s National Championship semifinalist who played in qualifying for this year’s US Open women’s draw; 2013 USTA Girls’ 16s national champion Katerina Stewart (16, Miami); 2013 Easter Bowl Girls’ 18s finalist Alicia Black (15, Boca Raton, Fla.); 2013 USTA Girls’ 18s national clay court champion Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (15, Chapel Hill, N.C.), and Kaitlyn McCarthy (15, Cary, N.C.) and Peggy Porter (17, Dallas), ranked No. 3 and No. 5 in the USTA Girls’ 18s national standings, respectively.

Additionally, boys receiving singles qualifying wild cards are Jake DeVine (16, Boca Raton, Fla.), Taylor Fritz (15, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.), Sameer Kumar (16, Carmel, Ind.), Reilly Opelka (15, Palm Coast, Fla.), Henrik Wiersholm (16, Kirkland, Wash.) and Japanese high school champion Kenta Miyoshi.

Girls receiving singles qualifying wild cards are Emma Higuchi (15, Los Angeles), Hannah King (17, Dunwoody, Ga.), Raveena Kingsley (15, Parkton, Md.), Claire Liu (13, Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Japanese high school champion Yumeka Maeda. One additional girls’ qualifying wild card will be awarded to a player to be determined.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Personal Note

Those of you I've spoken to in person the past year or so know my father has been seriously ill with cancer during that time. Those of you who come to this website daily know it is unusual for me to go one day without posting, let alone two or three. The connection may not be obvious, but my father died on Saturday, leaving my focus on funeral arrangements, family memories, many tears and much laughter as we celebrate the kind and generous man he was. My mother, the love of his life for more than 62 years, will need all the support her family and friends can provide as she copes with his loss. His obituary is available here.

As painful as these last few months have been, my father's death is not a tragedy, with 84 of his years healthy, happy and productive. Not everyone is so blessed, and I'm sad to report that two young tennis players have died in the past week: Paul Nahon and Conor Pollock. Nahon, who had just transferred from Richmond to Colorado College, died on August 15, while hiking in the Rocky Mountains. His obituary is here. I don't have any official confirmation about Pollock's death, which I'm told happened Sunday night. Please follow the texascollegetennis blog for more details.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Kalamazoo 18s Recap, Slideshow of 16s and 18s

My recap of the USTA Boys 18s National Championships can be found today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. If you did not follow the coverage all week, it provides a synopsis of the tournament, with a focus on the championship match.

Below is the slideshow I created for both the 16s and 18s championships. I did not do videos of the finals due to the improved live streaming this year, but if you missed the 18s final and would like to watch it in its entirety, it is available on YouTube here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Kalamazoo 16s Recap; Brymer, McDonald Get USO Qualifying Wild Cards; $10,000 in Prize Money Now Okay with NCAA; Sean Karl Update

I hope you've been checking the Tennis Recruiting Network this week for their updates on the USTA National Championships. The past three days have featured detailed coverage of the 12s, 14s and 16s, with my recap of Tommy Paul's win in the 16s here in Kalamazoo posted this afternoon.

Tim Curry of the USTA tweeted that future UCLA Bruins Gage Brymer and Mackenzie McDonald have received qualifying wild cards into the US Open. I am not sure whose previously announced wild card Brymer is getting, but Curry said that McDonald was taking the qualifying wild card of Christian Harrison, who has an injury.  Rajeev Ram moved into the main draw on his own with recent withdrawals, so Tim Smyczek has been award the main draw wild card previously given to Ram. There is one more qualifying wild card to be awarded, from the US Open National Playoffs, which begin tomorrow in New Haven, Conn.  The preview of the men's field is here, and the women's field is here.

A few days ago, a twitter follower generously supplied a link to the NCAA's new $10,000 exemption for prize money for amateur tennis players before they start college.  The effective date for this rule change was August 1.  If I am reading the rules correctly, an enrolled student-athlete is only able to take actual expense.  The pre-college rule is here.  The in-college rule is here.

The Nashville Tennessean had this update on the condition of University of Tennessee freshman Sean Karl, who was in Kalamazoo last week with his brother Steven Karl, a competitor in the 16s division.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

US Open Women's Wild Cards Announced; Draws for US Open National Playoffs Released

 The USTA today released the names of the women receiving wild cards into the US Open main draw, with the press release headline featuring two-time NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs and girls 18s National Champion Sachia Vickery.

The six wild cards to US players went to Gibbs, Vania King, Alison Riske, Maria Sanchez, Shelby Rogers (who won by her results in the designated USTA Pro Circuit Challenger events this month) and Vickery. The reciprocal wild cards went to Australia's Ashleigh Barty and France's Pauline Parmentier.

The qualifying wild cards were given to Jan Abaza, Brooke Austin, Louisa Chirico, Vicky Duval, girls 18s National finalist Allie Kiick, Jamie Loeb, Taylor Townsend, and in something of a surprise, Brianna Morgan. Morgan, a sophomore at the University of Florida, won the $10,000 Futures in Bethany Beach back in June, and reached the quarterfinals in the $50,000 Challenger in Portland in July.

The final US Open qualifying wild card (for both men and women) will be determined at the National Playoffs in New Haven beginning Friday. 

The draws for those events are now available.  Seventeen-year-old Mayo Hibi is the top seed in the women's tournament, with 2011 NCAA doubles champion Jeff Dadamo of Texas A&M the top seed in the men's tournament.

The mixed doubles National Playoff, which gives a main draw wild card to the winner, begins on August 21, also in New Haven.

The complete USTA release on the wild card selections is below:


Former World No. 1 Junior Taylor Townsend,
Local teens Louisa Chirico and Jamie Loeb among Qualifying WC Recipients

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 14, 2013 – The USTA announced today that two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs, U.S. Fed Cup team member Vania King, rising young Americans Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers and Maria Sanchez and USTA Girls’ 18s national champion Sachia Vickery are among those receiving wild-card entries into the 2013 US Open. Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and France’s Pauline Parmentier also will receive US Open main draw wild cards.

The 2013 US Open will be played August 26-September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s singles champions this year will earn $2.6 million, the largest payout in tennis history, with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money – for a total $3.6 million potential payout – based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series.

Gibbs, 20, of Santa Monica, Calif., won her second consecutive NCAA singles title this year as a junior at Stanford. Gibbs turned pro this summer and won the singles title at the USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 event in Yakima, Wash., ascending to a career-high rank of No. 166. She is now ranked No. 172.

King, 24, of Boynton Beach, Fla., has finished in the Top 100 each of the past four years. Once ranked No. 50 in the world, King won her first WTA singles titles as a teenager in Bangkok in 2006 and has represented the U.S. in Fed Cup eight times from 2006 to 2011. This year, she qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon, reaching the second round at Roland Garros.

Riske, 23, of Pittsburgh, reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Birmingham, England, this summer, where all of her WTA main draw wins had come to that point. Then, after receiving a wild card into the Wimbledon main draw, she reached the third round there and broke into the Top 100 for the first time shortly thereafter. She is now ranked No. 98.

Sanchez, 23, of Modesto, Calif., once was the No. 1-ranked college singles player at the University of Southern California and has been hovering around the Top 100 much of this year. Now ranked No. 113, Sanchez won singles titles at both $75,000 and $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit events in 2012.

Rogers, 20, of Charleston, S.C., earned her US Open wild card as the top American points earner at select USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events this summer. Rogers, who earned a USTA wild card into the 2013 French Open the same way and reached the second round at Roland Garros, has won two USTA Pro Circuit $50,000 titles in 2013. She is ranked No. 132.

Vickery, 18, of Hollywood, Fla., received a US Open wild card after winning the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships singles title. Formerly the No. 6-ranked junior in the world, Vickery is now at a career-high pro ranking of No. 229. She trains at the USTA Player Development Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla.

Barty, 17, of Ipswich, Australia, received a wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant an American a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open, to be determined by a USTA playoff. (Madison Keys was the 2013 winner.) The 2011 Wimbledon girls’ singles champion, Barty was a women’s doubles finalist at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open this year.

Parmentier, 27, of Paris, France, received her wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which awarded a wild card into the 2013 French Open to an American player designated by the USTA. (Shelby Rogers won the USTA Pro Circuit event-based system this year.) A former Top 40 player, Parmentier reached the third round of the 2012 US Open and has been in the Top 100 for most of 2013.

In addition to the eight US Open women’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced eight women who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 20-23 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  One additional US Open qualifying wild card will be awarded to the winner of the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Women’s Championship, taking place August 16-19 in New Haven, Conn.

Players receiving 2013 US Open qualifying wild cards are: Jan Abaza (18, Deerfield Beach, Fla.), who has won two pro doubles titles in 2013; Brooke Austin (17, Indianapolis, Ind.), a USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships semifinalist; local teenager Louisa Chirico (17, Harrison, N.Y.), who reached the girls’ singles semifinals at both the French Open and Wimbledon this year; Victoria Duval (18, Delray Beach, Fla.), the 2012 USTA Girls’ 18s national champion; Allie Kiick (18, Plantation, Fla.), this USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships singles runner-up and doubles champion each of the last two years; local teenager Jamie Loeb (18, Ossining, N.Y.), a 2013 Wimbledon junior singles quarterfinalist; Brianna Morgan (19, Beverly Hills, Calif.), a freshman at Florida this year who won her first pro singles title in June; and Taylor Townsend (17, Chicago), who made history in 2012 as the first American girl in 30 years to hold the year-end No. 1 world junior ranking.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

US Open Men's Wild Cards Announced

 The USTA announced the men's wild cards for the US Open main and qualifying draws today.

Receiving main draw wild cards are Americans Brian Baker, Ryan Harrison, Bradley Klahn, Rhyne Williams, Rajeev Ram and Kalamazoo 18s champion Collin Altamirano.  Klahn, who won the Aptos Challenger on Sunday, secured his wild card by accumulating the most ATP points in four designated pro circuit challenger events this summer.  Australia's James Duckworth and France's Guilluame Rufin received reciprocal wild cards.

Qualifying wild cards were given to Kalamazoo 18s finalist Jared Donaldson, Bjorn Fratangelo, Christian Harrison, Jarmere Jenkins, Mitchell Krueger, Dennis Novikov, Noah Rubin and Tennys Sandgren.

The complete release from the USTA is below:


Teenagers Christian Harrison, Mitchell Krueger, Dennis Novikov,
Noah Rubin, Jared Donaldson Get Qualifying WCs

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 13, 2013 – The USTA announced today that Brian Baker, playing in his first Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open, 2012 Olympian and former world No. 43 Ryan Harrison, 2010 NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn and 2011 NCAA singles finalist Rhyne Williams have been awarded men’s singles main draw wild card entries into the 2013 US Open. Other American men receiving US Open main draw wild cards are Rajeev Ram and 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s champion Collin Altamirano. Australia’s James Duckworth and France’s Guillaume Rufin will also receive wild cards.

The 2013 US Open will be played August 26-September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s singles champions this year will earn $2.6 million, the largest payout in tennis history, with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money – for a total $3.6 million potential payout – based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series.

Baker, 28, of Nashville, Tenn., is attempting to make yet another remarkable comeback from injury. After being sidelined since the 2013 Australian Open in January, when he suffered a significant knee injury during his second-round match against Sam Querrey, Baker returned to competitive play last week at the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., and has advanced to the second round of this week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Baker, now ranked No. 185, ascended to No. 52 in the world in 2012 after injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six years.

Harrison, 21, of Shreveport, La., rose to No. 43 in the world in 2012, the year in which he also represented the U.S. in the London Olympics and in Davis Cup. On the Emirates Airline US Open Series this summer, Harrison, now ranked No. 102, reached the semifinals at the BB&T Atlanta Open and defeated former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Klahn, 22, of Poway, Calif., earned a US Open wild card as the top American points earner at select USTA Pro Circuit events this summer. The 2010 NCAA singles champion while a sophomore at Stanford, Klahn won the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., last week, catapulting to a career high rank of No. 123. Last year, Klahn received a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, qualified and reached the second round, becoming the first men’s qualifying wild card to win a US Open main draw match.

Williams, 22, of Knoxville, Tenn., reached his first ATP semifinal in Houston this year and played in the main draws of the French Open and the Australian Open, winning a USTA playoff to gain entry into the latter. Now at a career-high rank of No. 114, He was a 2011 NCAA singles finalist while at Tennessee, and his grandfather, Michael DePalmer, Sr., was the Volunteers’ longtime coach who helped found the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

Ram, 29, of Carmel, Ind., is the highest ranked American who did not receive direct entry into the US Open at the entry deadline.  Ram owns one singles title (Newport, 2009) and seven doubles titles on the ATP World Tour and has been ranked as high as No. 78 in singles. Ram qualified and reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open.

Altamirano, 17, of Yuba City, Calif., earned his wild card by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship singles title, doing so in historic fashion. Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the tournament in the 71 years it has called Kalamazoo, Mich., home.

Duckworth, 21, of Sydney, Australia, received a wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant an American a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open, to be determined by a USTA playoff (Rhyne Williams was the 2013 winner). Currently at a career-high rank of No. 150, Duckworth reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open and qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon this year.

Rufin, 23, of Charnay, France, received his wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which awarded a wild card into the 2013 French Open to an American player designated by the USTA (Alex Kuznetsov won the USTA Pro-Circuit event-based system this year). Rufin, currently ranked No. 92, has played in all three Grand Slam main draws this year, reaching the second round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

In addition to the eight US Open men’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced eight men who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 20-23 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  One additional US Open qualifying wild card will be awarded to the winner of the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship, taking place August 16-19 in New Haven, Conn.

Players receiving 2013 US Open qualifying wild cards are: 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship runner-up Jared Donaldson (16, Cumberland, R.I.); 2011 French Open boys’ champion Bjorn Fratangelo (20, Pittsburgh, Pa.), who has won three Futures titles in 2013; Christian Harrison (19, Shreveport, La.), who reached the 2012 US Open doubles quarterfinals with his older brother, Ryan Harrison; Jarmere Jenkins (22, College Park, Ga.), who came one win short of winning the NCAA triple crown this summer, leading Virginia to its first NCAA team title, winning the NCAA doubles title and reaching the NCAA singles final; former Wimbledon and French Open boys’ semifinalist Mitchell Krueger (19, Fort Worth, Texas), who won his first pro singles title in June; UCLA sophomore Dennis Novikov (19, San Jose, Calif.), the 2012 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion who defeated 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz in the first round of last year’s US Open; local teenager Noah Rubin (17, Rockville Centre, N.Y.), who has been as high as No. 6 in the world junior rankings; and Tennys Sandgren (22, Gallatin, Tenn.), a former standout at Tennessee who has won five USTA Pro Circuit Futures singles titles in the last two years.

Monday, August 12, 2013

USTA National Championship Winners; USA Girls Win ITF 14U World Junior Tennis Championships, Boys Fall in Final

18s Champion Sachia Vickery

The Tennis Recruiting Network will begin its in-depth coverage of last week's National Championships starting with the girls 12s on Tuesday, but here are all the singles finals results and links to the TennisLink site for complete draws.

Girls 12s:  Hurricane Tyra Black(1) def. Carson Branstine(2) 6-4, 6-2

Boys 12s:  Jenson Brooksby(1) def. Thomas Yu(4) 6-3, 6-1

Girls 14s:  Kayla Day(2) def.  Ashley Lahey(1) 1-6, 6-3, 7-5

Boys 14s:  Brian Cernoch(15) def. Maxwell Mendelsohn(2) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4

Girls 16s:  Katherine Stewart(2) def. Ena Shibahara(1) 6-4, 6-1

Boys 16s:  Tommy Paul(3) def. Jake DeVine(4) 6-3, 6-1

Girls 18s:  Sachia Vickery(1) def. Allie Kiick(2) 4-6, 6-2, 6-0

Boys 18s:  Collin Altamirano def. Jared Donaldson(14) 6-1, 6-2, 6-4

Last year the boys 14-and-under team from the United States won the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic. This year it was the girls' turn, with CiCi Bellis, Claire Liu and Michaela Gordon, who were seeded a surprisingly low fifth, beating No. 2 seeds Russia 2-0 in the final. Bellis and Liu won their singles matches, so the doubles weren't played.  

The boys team of Gianni Ross, Sam Riffice and Patrick Kypson, seeded fourth, lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to No. 2 seed Russia, losing the doubles rubber 7-5, 7-6(6).

For more on the WJT finals, see this article from the ITF junior website. Complete results are here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Unseeded Altamirano Makes History in Winning Kalamazoo 18s Championship; Paul Captures 16s Title

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Kalamazoo, MI--

When Collin Altamirano returns to Kalamazoo next year to defend the USTA Boys 18s National Championship he won Sunday afternoon at Stowe Stadium, he won't be an underdog, and he won't be rooting for one either.

After defeating No. 14 seed Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in a best-of-five match that secured him a US Open main draw wild card, Altamirano is in the record books as the only unseeded player ever to win a singles title in the 71-year history of the Kalamazoo National Championships.

"There's a first time for everything, right?" said the 17-year-old right-hander, who lives and trains at the Arden Hills Tennis Club in Sacramento, California. "I've got to root for all the seeds now."

Altamirano secured his place in Kalamazoo history on a partly cloudy and cool afternoon, displaying impressive power, touch and defense against the 16-year-old Donaldson, who struggled on nearly all of his service games.

"He was very aggressive on the return, so I knew he could break me, but I knew I could break him," said Altamirano, who felt his own serve was also a bit erratic. "I wasn't too worried about it. I knew he wasn't holding, so it made me feel like I was going to be ahead in every set."

Altamirano actually lost his first service game in both the first and second sets, saying he was nervous to start the match, but he never trailed by more than one game. After taking six consecutive games to claim the first set, Altamirano broke Donaldson to go up 1-0, but gave the break right back. After Donaldson finally saved a break point to hold for the first time in the match, he took a 2-1 lead, but Altamirano continued to play more controlled and error-free tennis on the important points.

Having surrendered only one game to top seed Gage Brymer in Saturday's semifinal, Altamirano was not as pleased with his performance against wild card Donaldson, and several "gosh darn its" surfaced when he double faulted or committed an unforced error. But he managed to come up with big shots when the occasion called for it, such as the ace he hit on set point in the second set.

Donaldson began to look discouraged at 2-2 in the third set, with two double faults--one to start the game and one to end it--contributing.

"My serve has always been a little streaky," said Donaldson, who had quit tennis for three months back in February, but returned to the game after consulting with a sports psychologist. "It's come and gone throughout this entire tournament, usually actually it's been pretty good. I didn't serve well, I didn't return well. I didn't make that extra ball, win those few key points that I had done earlier in the week. He played really well."

Donaldson expressed disappointment at the result, despite his recent success at Futures and this week against the nation's best juniors.

"You come to tournaments to win," said the Cumberland, Rhode Island resident, who has trained in Argentina the past three years. "You don't come to tournaments to say you had a good tournament or you had good wins. Second place obviously isn't something to be ashamed of, but it's definitely something you don't come here for. Now, if someone had told me, back in February, when I thought I was done with tennis, that if you could take second in Kalamazoo, would you, of course I would say yes, but now that you're here, you always want more."

Donaldson will receive a wild card into men's qualifying at the US Open later this month, and he already had heard that Mackenzie McDonald, who lost in the round of 16 to Brymer, qualified Sunday into the ATP Masters event in Cincinnati, defeating Nicolas Mahut and Steve Johnson to do so.

"Mackie is obviously a really great player and he had a tough one in the round of 16 here," said Donaldson. "Tennis is a funny game. Mackie can lose round of 16 here, and the player he lost to lost 0 and 1 to the guy who won the tournament, then Mackie goes and beats No. 77 in the world (Mahut) and Steve Johnson."

Altamirano admitted that choking crossed his mind when he stepped to the line to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third, but then made every first serve, converting his first match point on a service winner. The 17-year-old, who played junior tennis in Northern California, just as McDonald did, is confident his game can measure up at the US Open in two weeks.

"I know my level's up there," said Altamirano, who is coached by Joseph Gilbert. "I've just got to believe it, and do it day in and day out. I know this tournament's tough, and to win it is huge."

Boys 16s winner Tommy Paul is also heading to New York for the first time after he beat roommate and close friend Jake DeVine 6-3, 6-1 in Sunday's first final.

No. 3 seed Paul and No. 4 seed DeVine were staying in the same hotel room all week, and have played countless practice sets at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida in the past months. That made for a subdued atmosphere, especially when DeVine lost his serve to open the match.

Although he held to get on the board at 2-1, DeVine struggled on serve all day, as double faults plagued him, while Paul was holding without much difficulty.

"I was disappointed with a lot of things, serve being one of them," said DeVine, 16. "In my round of 16 match I experienced similar nerves. I pulled that one out, obviously, then yesterday against Sameer (top seed Kumar), I was relaxed, but today nerves were a little more of a factor."

Paul, who also won the 16s Clay Court championship last month, admitted that the big-serving DeVine was not at his best.

"In practice, it goes either way all the time," said the 16-year-old right-hander, who was a finalist at the Orange Bowl 16s last December. "That's not usually him. He plays a lot better than that usually. I don't want to say he was playing bad, but he wasn't on top of his game today. I think he came out a little nervous, so I kind of took advantage of that, as fast as I could."

Paul pointed to the final game of the first set, when he finally converted on his seventh set point with DeVine serving, as a key to his victory.

"That was really important to me," Paul said of the six-deuce game. "When the first deuce came up, I was like, all right, this game is really, really important, so focus on every point you can."

Showing no sign of discouragement when DeVine saved set point after set point, often with good serves, Paul finally took the set when DeVine sent a forehand long.

Paul took a 5-0 lead in the second set before DeVine got on the board, and, despite an overhead into the net on his first match point, closed it out when DeVine netted a forehand.

"I don't think it's sunken in yet," said Paul, who also won the USTA 12s Clay Courts in 2009. "It feels good. Getting the wild card (into the US Open Junior Championships) was a huge factor in this tournament, because based on my ITF ranking, I wouldn't have gotten into qualies at the US Open. Getting into the main is great. It gives me the opportunity to show the world."

DeVine was making his debut at the Kalamazoo tournament, with an injury keeping out of the draw last year, but after his first experience in the Zoo, he is looking forward to coming back in 2014.

"I've played a lot of junior tournaments, so I wasn't really sure what would make this tournament incredible in particular," said DeVine. "None of the matches are behind, it's very well organized and players are treated professionally. Fans, it's sweet playing in front of this many people. I'm personally patriotic, so I love that they play the national anthem here. I think that's something that they should do everywhere."

For complete results, including the consolation finals and the third and fourth place match, see the tournament website.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Altamirano and Donaldson Face Off in 18s Final; DeVine and Paul Meet for 16s Title at USTA Nationals

Due to the declining health of my father, I was unable to cover the 18s semifinals today in Kalamazoo, and the 16s and 18s doubles finals.

But I do have photographs from today's matches, and below are  links to the stories from Pam Shebest, writing for the Kalamazoo Gazette.  Pam has been covering the tournament for decades and always does an outstanding job.

Her article on the singles upsets is here.

The doubles article, particularly big news in Kalamazoo this year, is here.

I hope to go to the finals on Sunday, but am not sure I will be able to.

16s Finalist Jake DeVine

16s Finalist Tommy Paul

18s Finalist Jared Donaldson

18s finalist Collin Altamirano

Taylor Fritz and Anudeep Kodali, 16s Doubles Champions      

Ronnie Schneider and Paul Oosterbaan, 18s doubles champions

Friday, August 9, 2013

Brymer Comes Back to Reach 18s Semis; Top Four Seeds Advance to 16s Semifinals at USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Top-seeded Gage Brymer has reverted to his Easter Bowl form, winning his quarterfinal and semifinal matches at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships from a set down. On an ideal day of tennis weather at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium, Brymer overcame No. 5 seed Ernesto Escobedo 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. 

In claiming the Easter Bowl ITF title in April, Brymer won four of his matches, including the final, from a set down. Until yesterday's 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) win over fellow UCLA Bruin freshman Mackenzie McDonald, Brymer had won his early rounds in straight sets, but he credited the level his competition for his perilous situation the past two days.

"Maybe I came out a little slow, but I thought Mackie came out really aggressive yesterday, and today Ernesto did the same thing," said Brymer, 18. "It was really tough to break either of them. With Ernesto, in the first two sets, he's got a good serve and played aggressive, so it was really tough."

After the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, Brymer didn't change his strategy, only his energy level, but that was enough to build a 4-0 lead.

"In the first two sets, I was playing all right, but I just didn't have as much energy as I needed to," Brymer said. "In the first couple of games of the third set, that was my main focus, come out with a lot of energy, keep balls in play, look for my opportunities and take them when they were there."

Escobedo's serve wasn't giving him as many forehand putaways as usual in the third set, but he was able to hold serve twice before Brymer served for the match.  After his backhand winner made it 40-15, Brymer said "one more", and his big forehand forced an error from Escobedo, putting Brymer in the semifinals.

Brymer said his training has given him the stamina to recover quickly from difficult matches, like the one he had against McDonald.

"I'm used to training really hard," said Brymer. "I take pride in my work ethic and I feel like over the summer, leading up to this tournament, I've really prepared myself by doing the extra work and the extra hours. That's really helped me so that the longer matches don't affect me as much as the other players."

Brymer's semifinal opponent is unseeded Collin Altamirano, who also credits his fitness regimen as a key in his success this week.

"I'm wearing guys down over time," said Altamirano, who defeated unseeded Trevor Johnson 7-5, 6-0. "I work out probably about three hours a day on top of hitting. I do it all, anywhere from swimming, to running, to weights, everything."

Altamirano, who, like Brymer, has come back from a set down twice in the tournament, wasn't surprised by the second set score in his match with Johnson.

"The first set was tight, he served very well, he was hitting good shots, but I just kept wearing him down," said Altamirano, 17. "The next thing you know, he kept making more errors and more errors, and in the second, I snuck a break in there early and he was just done after that."

Because Altamirano played only Futures events except for the Spring Nationals at Mobile this year, he wasn't expecting to be seeded, but he didn't feel that was an impediment to his chances to win the tournament.

"I don't play as much as the other kids when it comes to juniors," said Altamirano, who lives and trains in Sacramento, California. "I was expecting not to be seeded. But it's good. I'm doing what I came here for."

Another player who competes very little on the junior circuit is No. 14 seed Jared Donaldson, who reached the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over No. 6 Luca Corinteli.  But Donaldson wasn't sure, back in February, if he was interesting in playing any tennis at all, quitting the game for three months this spring.

"I think it was a combination of a lot of things," said Donaldson, 16, who left Argentina, where he'd been training for three years, in February, returning to his home in Rhode Island.

"I was a little burnt out culturally, not speaking the language that well, and I think I was burned out mentally," said Donaldson, who received a wild card into the tournament. "If you asked me in March if I was going to be in the semifinals of this tournament, or even playing this tournament, I would be very skeptical. I just feel lucky to be here."

Donaldson sought help from a sports psychologist, and decided that the daily achievement that tennis represented for him was something he wanted back in his life.

"When I started playing tournaments again in June, some Futures, and I had good results there, good matches, got some points, and played the qualifying of (an ATP) 250, so I'd won matches and was feeling confident coming in here, but I still hadn't had that one breakthrough in the Futures or even in the juniors really. But I knew I was playing well and felt confident about my game, felt confident it was coming, it was coming."

Donaldson hadn't exactly rolled through the draw, needing a third set tiebreaker to beat AJ Catanzariti in the second round, and trailing No. 4 seed Connor Farren 7-5, 5-2 in yesterday's round of 16 match. But he played well from then throughout the rest of the match, so falling behind Corinteli, who had two set points in the first set with Donaldson serving at 5-6, didn't faze him.

"The tiebreaker was really close, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4, 5-5, 6-5 me," said Donaldson. "And I just got that one second serve at 5-6, and I hit a good return at his feet, because he came in behind it, and I won the point and the first set. That kind of relaxed me, because I didn't feel I was playing that well up until that point, but I felt more confident in the second set."

Donaldson will play No. 2 seed Noah Rubin, who ended the run of unseeded Logan Staggs 6-2, 6-0.  Donaldson and Rubin have never met, but it's a match Donaldson has always wanted to play.

"Ever since we were 11, I knew the name Noah Rubin," said Donaldson. "He was always better than me, so it's going to be fun to play a guy my year, to test myself against probably the best kid in United States tennis right now."

The top four seeds have advanced to the semifinals of the 16s, with only one of the quarterfinal matches extending to three sets.

In that match, No. 3 seed Tommy Paul served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but lost the subsequent tiebreaker before posting a 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2 victory over No. 9 seed Reilly Opelka.

Paul will play No. 2 seed Francis Tiafoe, who once again failed to serve out the match when he had the chance, but came back for a straight set victory over No. 24 seed Zeke Clark 6-3, 7-6(4).

"It's a little losing focus, it's not nerves," said Tiafoe, who served for the match at 5-4 against the speedy Clark. "I think I have it and I'm relaxed, but I've got to play a little tighter. It's the biggest tournament in the US and everybody's going to be playing unbelievable on those points especially, so I've got to tighten up."

Tiafoe respects the results Paul has gotten in the past few months, although Tiafoe did beat Paul 6-3, 6-3 in the Carson ITF Grade 1 in April.

"He's definitely got a lot of confidence behind him," said Tiafoe. "He's just won Clays and ITFs in the spring, so it should be an exciting match tomorrow."

Top seed Sameer Kumar will face No. 4 seed Jake DeVine, after Kumar defeated No. 14 seed Jordi Arconada 6-0, 6-3.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match and it was a tough match," said Kumar, 16. "The score doesn't completely look like that but it was tough, so I'm glad to get through this."

Kumar admitted that the US Open junior wild card was a major factor in his decision to play the 16s division this week.

"Since I don't play very many ITFs, this is probably the only way to get to the US Open," said the Carmel, Indiana resident. "Obviously, I really, really want that. That would be a very cool experience, so I really hope I can win two more matches."

DeVine earned his way into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 7 seed Kalman Boyd.

DeVine took the first set with a break at 4-5, then took a 3-0 lead, only to see Boyd come back to make it 3-3.

"In the second set, I started strong, but I kind of lost my rhythm a little bit," said the 16-year-old, who trains with the USTA. "He got it back to 3-all and I held serve at 4-3. I played a fantastic last two games to finish the match, which I was really happy with."

DeVine, who won the ITF 16s title in Carson this year, lost to eventual champion Kumar in the quarterfinals of the Easter Bowl 7-5, 6-4, is determined to leave the tournament without experiencing two losses.

"I was in the semis at Clay Courts, and I lost two matches, to Reilly Opelka and Alex Rybakov, and it's a bitter feeling to leave the tournament with two losses after having such a good run, so this tournament I'm definitely looking to go all the way."

The 16s singles semifinals begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by the 18s semifinals. 

The doubles finals are set for Saturday afternoon, starting with the 16s division.  Top seeds Tommy Paul and Alex Rybakov will meet No. 11 seeds Taylor Fritz and Anudeep Kodali for the 16s gold ball. Paul and Rybakov defeated No. 7 seeds Alexander Knight and Kyle Seelig 6-2, 6-3, while Fritz and Kodali downed unseeded Henry Gordon and Reese Stalder 6-3, 6-2.

The 18s doubles semifinals were much closer, with both going three sets.

No. 3 seeds Paul Oosterbaan and Ronnie Schneider took advantage of significant crowd support to come back against 2012 16s champions Henrik Wiersholm and Danield Kerznerman, seeded eighth, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.  They will play No. 4 seeds Henry Craig and George Goldhoff, who also turned their match around, defeating unseeded William Griffith and JT Nishimura 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.  A main draw wild card into the US Open men's doubles draw is on the line in Saturday's final.

For complete results, see the tournament website.