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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Darkness Delays Completion of First Round of Eddie Herr ITF Qualifying; USA Team Meets Russia Sunday for Master' U Title

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Bradenton, FL--

The first round of qualifying for the ITF Eddie Herr tournament fell two matches short of completion Saturday, with darkness descending on courts 1 and 2 of the IMG Bollettieri Academy's Har-Tru courts.

In the girls match, which had been moved from court 7, Mayka Aikawa of Japan led Claudia Cianci of Portugal 6-3, 4-4 when it was stopped at 5:40 p.m.  The boys match between Jake DeVine and alternate Sebastian Hawken of Norway, who received entry for No. 2 seed Alan Nunez Aguilera of Mexico, was in at 1-1 in the third set when it was stopped at around 5:30. There are no lights on the clay courts. Hawken had taken the first set 7-5, with DeVine taking the second 6-3. Both matches will resume at 8 a.m. on Sunday, but with two rounds of qualifying Sunday, a long day and a race against darkness could again face those two winners.

Girls top seed Nicole Frenkel posted a routine 6-1, 6-1 win over wild card Erisa Onchi of Japan, while boys No. 1 qualifying seed Ryotaro Matsumura of Japan defeated Stephen Watson 6-3, 6-4.  Matsumura broke Watson for a 5-3 lead, but was unable to serve out the match. Watson fell behind 0-40 in the next game, but saved the first match point with a drop shot winner. On the second, Matsumura hit a forehand wide. Watson again attempted a drop shot, a frequent strategy for him, especially on clay, but Matsumura was ready for it. He got to it, and ended the match with a deep volley winner two shots later.

Catalin Mateas ousted No. 3 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, and Reilly Opelka defeated No. 8 seed Brandon Laubser of South Africa 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-1. No. 14 seed Tommy Paul was in serious trouble throughout his match with Andres Torres of Colombia, but he came back to post a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory.

The top four girls seeds made it through the first round, but No. 5 seed Lesedi Sheya Jacobs of Namibia was beaten by Rachel Chong 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, and No. 6 seed Ana Paula Neffa De Los Rios of Paraguay lost to Gabriela Knutson of the Czech Republic 7-6(5), 6-3.

Qualifying continued in the 12s, 14s, and 16s age divisions, with the eight qualifiers in each draw to be determined in Sunday's final round. See my post from Friday for the wild cards.

For the draws and the order of play for the 18s, see eddieherr.com.

At the Master' U BNP Paribas collegiate team event in France, the United States team of Mitchell Frank, Marcos Giron, Peter Kobelt, Robin Anderson, Lauren Herring and Sabrina Santamaria will play Russia in Sunday's final, after picking up 6-1 wins over Ireland and France in the first two matches. The US team is going for its third straight title. Boise State men's coach Greg Patton is blogging about the matches at usta.com.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Eddie Herr Wild Cards; Christian Harrison to Undergo Hip Surgery; Qualifying Begins Saturday for Eddie Herr ITF

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Bradenton, FL--

Qualifying continued Friday in the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr, with the last match finishing around 9 p.m. The temperatures were seasonable and there was no rain, but still the day's last matches, scheduled for 4:30, went on well after dark, and only on the lighted courts.

Pat Harrison and Vicky Duval

When I first arrive at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, I immediately head for the Stadium court, to see who coach Pat Harrison may be working with. Today it was Vicky Duval, Stephanie Nauta, home from Virginia for the weekend, and Michael Venus, while Pat's son Christian watched.

Christian is scheduled for hip surgery next month, and a couple of months later he will have the other hip operated on, so he is unlikely to play much in 2014. I spoke briefly to Duval and Nauta, but because I hadn't seen Venus since his college days at LSU, we had a longer chat, and of course I congratulated him on recently winning the Asian-Pacific wild card into the Australian Open in doubles with Yuki Bhambri. It will be Venus' first appearance in the main draw of a slam. He has worked with Pat Harrison since he was a teenager, and rather than stay home, where hitting partners are scarce, he decided to spend the off-season in Bradenton. He isn't too optimistic about receiving a wild card into the Heineken Open, the January ATP event in New Zealand, although he is now the second-ranked man in the country.

The main draw wild cards for the Eddie Herr are as follows:

Girls 12s:
Qingwen Zheng
Viktoria Morvayova
Daria Tomashevskaya
Sanyukta Gawande
Lana Brezanin
Sara De Oliveira
Emily De Oliveira
Roopa Bains

Boys 12s:
Landon Hover
Harry Neel
Noah Berry
Alfredo Casso
Peter Dragar
Timmy Phung
Graham Hadesman
Fnu Nidunjianzan

Girls 14s:
Emily Pugachevsky
Yulin Chen
Mariela Martinez
Catherine Xu
Hoda Habib
Daniela Martinez
Dariya Kazentseva
Lillian Gabrielsen

Boys 14s:
Drew Baird
Vasyl Kiselov
Zicheng Zeng
Joao Fujiwara
Lutwin De Macar
Toi Kobayashi
Chanasorn Nakaurai
Sebastian Korda

Girls 16s:
Ingrid Neel
Nicole Johnston
Mimi Levine
Brooke Lashway
Alana Smith
Amber Policare
Tatiana Samurgasheva
Christina Jordan

Boys 16s:
Andres Andrade
Gabriel Pilones
Hady Habib
Alexandros Gianikitsidis
Soo Woo Kwon
Matus Lazar
Kalman Boyd
Alfredo Perez

Girls 18s:
Olivia Hauger
Emilie Francati
Raquel Pedraza
Emma Higuchi
Daniela Pedraza Novak
Josie Kuhlman
Nandini Das
Katarina Kozarov

Boys 18s:
Alejandro Tabilo
Toshiki Matsuya
Anudeep Kodali
Oscar Janglin
Deiton Baughman
Ulises Blanch
AJ Catanzariti
Taylor Fritz

The 18s qualifying gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday. Nicole Frenkel is the top seed in the girls qualifying, with Ryotaro Matsumura of Japan the top seed in boys qualifying.  The order of play and qualifying draws are available at eddieherr.com

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eddie Herr Preview; Masters'U Begins Thursday; Top Seed Black Upset in Yucatan Cup

The main walkway at the IMG Bollettieri Academy

This will be my last post until Friday, as I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in North Carolina before heading to the Eddie Herr.

My preview of the Eddie Herr tournament, an annual project for me, is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Especially for the younger age groups, I use it to help myself, and I hope my readers, become familiar with some of the names that will surface in the next three weeks in Florida.

Thanksgiving in France is on the menu for the members of the United States' Master'U team, which is an international team competition for college players. Mitchell Frank of Virginia, Marcos Giron of UCLA and Peter Kobelt of Ohio State are on the men's team, with Robin Anderson of UCLA, Lauren Herring of Georgia and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California making up the women's team. Cal women's head coach Amanda Augustus and Boise State men's head coach Greg Patton are the coaches.

Follow the weekend's action at the tournament's website.

At the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup in Merida, Mexico, top seed Tornado Alicia Black lost in the second round on Tuesday, to fellow 15-year-old Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 7-5, 7-5.  Usue Arconada(9), Katrine Steffensen(3) and Rianna Valdes are the three US girls into today's third round.

Top seed and defending champion Filippo Baldi of Italy is through to the third round. The two Americans still remaining in the boys draw are Alex Rybakov(13) and Ulises Branch.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kozlov Wins Tournament for Delray ATP Qualifying Wild Card; Futures and Challengers as Unpaid Internships; Vazquez, Akkerman Join Tar Heels; Jenkins, Gibbs in AO Wildcard Playoff

Fifteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov defeated Spencer Papa 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 today in the finals of a wild card tournament for a place in qualifying at the February ATP event in Delray Beach.  Unlike other wild card tournaments, this one was not small, with a 256-draw requiring two matches a day.  Held on clay, the wild card tournament not only resulted in a place in the qualifying draw next February, but it was also undoubtedly excellent preparation for the Eddie Herr Grade 1 next week, which both Papa and Kozlov have entered.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

The Challenger Tennis blog has an important article today on a well-known, yet as still largely unaddressed issue of the huge financial obstacles faced by those playing Futures and Challengers. Examples of the inability of tennis to provide a decent living to those ranked in the 150-300 range are abundant, and there are links to some of those in the post.  The ITF really must do something about the $10,000 Futures which haven't raised their prize money in 15 years.  As former ATP top pro and now coach Magnus Norman told me last year: "They’re increasing the prize money all the time for the ATP and WTA for the best players in the world, which is good, because they sell the tickets, sell the media, but they should think about the future generation a little bit more."

A few more signing announcements have come out this week. For the men, Northwestern announced its signing of Logan Staggs; Wisconsin announced its signing of Lamar Remy and Josef Dodridge; North Carolina signed Robert Kelly.

The North Carolina women announced the addition of Marika Akkerman and Cassandra Vazquez. For more on Vazquez's commitment see this article from Tennis Recruiting Network.

The full fields for the USTA's Australian Open wild card playoff have not been released, but the USTA Public Relations account tweeted today that 2013 NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs and 2013 NCAA singles finalist and doubles champion Jarmere Jenkins have been invited to compete.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baldi, Black Top Seeds in ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, with 31 Americans in Main Draws

While most of us here in the United States are preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday with our families, 31 American juniors are in Mexico this week, competing at the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup in Merida.

Tornado Alicia Black, who hasn't played since winning the Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa six weeks ago, is the top girls seed, with Italy's Filippo Baldi, defending his 2012 title, the top boys seed.  Roman Saffiulin of Russia is the No. 2 boys seed, with Alejandra Cisneros of Mexico No. 2 in the girls draw.

The first rounds of singles were scheduled for today, but matches frequently run late into the evening at this tournament, so if you are reading this Tuesday morning, check the tournament website for updated results and draws.

The 12 US boys in the main draw are:  William Blumberg, Henrik Wiersholm, Dan Kerznerman(8), Julian Zlobinsky, Ulises Blanch, Robert Levine, Maximiliano Colorado Zavala, Tommy Paul, Alex Rybakov(13), Javier Restrepo, Jake DeVine and Anudeep Kodali.

The 18 US girls in the main draw, in addition to Black, are: Marie Norris, Claudia Wiktorin, Ally Miller-Krasilnikov, qualifier Sabrina Faybyshev, Jessica Ho, Camila Wesbrooks, Olivia Hauger, Usue Arconada(9), Mia Horvit, qualifier Stephanie Hazell, Ellyse Hamlin, Mary Haffey, Katrine Steffensen(3), Raquel Pedraza, Rianna Valdes(10), qualifier Ines Vias, qualifier Kenadi Hance and Mia Ruder-Hook.

This is the first year the Yucatan Cup is being played on clay. Back in September, the ITF announced the surface would switch to clay to give continuity of surface to this tournament and the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl here in the US that directly follow it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spir Wins First Futures Title; 2012 NCAA Doubles Champions Buchanan and Rola Claim Challenger in Japan; Kan, Fucsovics Move into Top 200 with Challenger Titles

Juan Spir, who just completed his career at Georgia Tech back in June has had an excellent start to his professional career, and this weekend won his first Futures event.  That the 23-year-old Colombian had already won a four doubles titles this year was not a surprise. He and teammate Kevin King, with whom he won the Quito Challenger in September, were an elite team in college and Spir was an All-American in doubles three times, twice with King, and after King graduated, with Vikram Hundal last year. Spir's singles career in college was not as notable, but in just a few months on the tour, and has gone 18-6 in Futures events, reaching two semifinals and two finals, including his win this week, unseeded, at the $15,000 tournament in his home country. He also has reached the quarterfinals of a Challenger. His ATP ranking, which was 1768 as recently as August, should be inside the Top 500 when these points are added.

Ohio State's Blaz Rola and Chase Buchanan, who won the NCAA doubles title in 2012, as well as the two ITA fall events in 2011, have reunited during this month's Challengers in Japan. They lost in the second round in Yokohama, but won the championship this week in Toyota. Although they have 13 Futures doubles titles between them, this is the first Challenger title for either. 2013 NCAA singles champion Rola also made the semifinals in singles, and his ATP ranking, less than six months after leaving Columbus, is now 185.

In other doubles news, former LSU All-American Michael Venus will be playing in Australian Open main draw in January, after he and Yuki Bhambri of India won the Asia-Pacific wild card playoff conducted by Tennis Australia. Venus, who represents New Zealand, is currently at a career high 121 in the ATP doubles rankings and 395 in singles.

Unseeded 18-year-old Victoria Kan of Russia, who was an Eddie Herr finalist in 2011, won the $75,000 Challenger in Egypt today, beating qualifier Nastja Kolar of Slovenia 6-4, 6-4. Kan, who hasn't played a junior event since the French Open in 2012, has two $25,000 titles to her credit, but this victory will be a huge boost to her ranking, putting her in the 150s.

2010 Wimbledon boys champion Marton Fucsovics of Hungary won his second Challenger tournament at the 30,000 Euro plus Hospitality event in Italy. Unseeded, the 21-year-old beat the No. 2, 3, and 4 seeds, downing No. 3 Dustin Brown of Germany 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Fucsovics has now moved up to a career-high of 180 after ending 2012 at 445. Andreas Siljestrom of Sweden, the 2007 NCAA doubles champion from Middle Tennessee State, won the doubles title, with Philipp Oswald of Austria.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Easter Bowl Moving to Indian Wells; Georgia Honors Diaz for 25 Years of Coaching

The Asics Easter Bowl has announced it will be moving again in 2014. After six years at Rancho Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage, in 2013 the main tournament site moved to Sunrise Country Club, which is also in Rancho Mirage.  In 2014, which will usher in numerous changes to the tournament, the main tournament site will also change, to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Until last year, when construction precluded it, Indian Wells was used by the Easter Bowl as an early round auxiliary site. It obviously has some huge advantages, with plenty of parking and 29 courts, which were constructed with spectators in mind.  I'm sure the players will be thrilled to be competing on the same courts where Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal played in the BNP Paribas Open just weeks before. But there are also some drawbacks that can be anticipated from the Orange Bowl, which was held at the home of the Sony Open in Key Biscayne until the Orange Bowl moved to Plantation, Florida in 2011.

With a site built for tens of thousands of spectators, the small number of junior tennis fans can feel isolated and lost. Without an intimate central gathering place, where fans, coaches, players and parents mingle, the excitement of the tournament can dissipate quickly, especially as the tournament winds down.  I much prefer Plantation to Key Biscayne for the Orange Bowl; I hope I'll prefer the new Easter Bowl site to the old ones, but it's unquestionably going in the opposite direction.

Other changes for 2014 include a qualifying draw for the ITF Grade B1, which will make the final two days of the International Spring Championships in Carson more interesting, and will probably result in stronger fields.   The 12s, 14s, and 16s are no longer USTA gold ball events and the 64-draws will be played in just four days at the tournament's conclusion. This means no staggering of the finals, as has been the case, with the girls and boys 14s and girls 18s on Saturday and the boys and girls 16s and boys 18s on Sunday.  The 12s are a new addition to the tournament this year. 

Obviously other sites will be used on the first few days of the tournament 's younger divisions, with two singles matches on two of the four days. With doubles and consolation draws, and prohibitions for the 12s and 14s against starting a match after 8 p.m., the scheduling is going to be extremely complicated.  Throw in the fact that the four days selected are during the Coachella Music Festival, when hotel rates in the area double if rooms are available at all, and there's no denying the huge challenges faced by the organizers for 2014.

For the complete release, see the Easter Bowl website.

Manny Diaz, photo courtesy Bill Kallenberg
The University of Georgia men's tennis team held its annual banquet last night in Athens, and head coach Manny Diaz was surprised with a tribute to his 25 years of coaching.  Diaz, who took over for legend Dan Magill, Georgia's first varsity coach, has won four NCAA team titles. Magill, who turns 93 in January, was not able to attend, but the school announced there will be a professorship of Sports Communication named for him at its Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Papa Signs with Tulsa, Kerznerman with Alabama, Plus More NLI Signings; Zmak, Schmaus Top NAIA Fall Rankings

Daniel Kerzerman and Spencer Papa in Tulsa's ITF B1

Spencer Papa and Daniel Kerznerman, both of whom trained with the USTA, have signed National Letters of Intent to Tulsa and Alabama respectively. As recently as the Pan American Closed in October, neither had made a decision, so the suspense had built as signing week approached.

Below are the most recent official school signing announcements, and despite the fact that Signing Week ended on Wednesday, there will be more. The Tennis Recruiting Network is also a source for finding out who has chosen which school, and because the Ivy League does not offer scholarships or make announcements, it is certainly the best place to go for those commitments. Nearly every commitment announcement from the school will contain a reference to the recruit's TRNet ranking.

Alabama: Sam Edwards, Daniel Kerznerman, Korey Lovett
Duke: Nicolas Alvarez, Martin Redlicki
Illinois: Toshiki Matsuya
LSU: William Adkisson, Simon Freund
Miami: Christian Langmo, Piotr Lomacki, Alexander Fahnehjelm
Michigan State: Jasper Koenen, Michael Dube
Ole Miss: Gustav Hansson
Texas Tech: Connor Curry
Tulsa: Spencer Papa

Denver: Julia O'Loughlin, Gracia Mboko
Illinois: Grace Tapak
Kansas: Caroline Henderson, Smith Hinton, Summer Collins, Rachel McNeely
Michigan State: Alexandra Baer, Lexi Baylis
UNC-Charlotte: Fleur Holtkamp, Megan Smith
Notre Dame: Brooke Broda, Allison Miller
Ohio State: Anna Sanford

The ITA released its NAIA individual fall rankings today, with Embry-Riddle's Deni Zmak and Theresa Schmaus of Savannah College of Art and Design at the top.  There's no controversy in NAIA rankings, with both Zmak and Schmaus winners of the National Championships in October. Zmak went on to win the small college Super Bowl and competed at the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships earlier this month in New York.  The complete release from the ITA can be found here.  The full rankings are available here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fenty Downs Mayo to Win USTA's Boys 14s Les Petits As Playoff; Can These Three Words Stop Choking?

The three-day playoff for two spots on the USTA's boys team that will travel to Bolton and Tarbes in January was completed today in Boca Raton, Florida.  Andrew Fenty defeated Keenan Mayo 6-4, 6-1 in the match that concluded the competition for those born in 2000, with both players reserving their places on the team.  Adam Neff, the top-ranked player born in 2001, was also included in the the playoff. The other two players who will travel to the Teen Tennis and Les Petits As tournaments will be selected by the USTA at a later date. 

Fenty, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., went 5-0 in the playoff. Thursday's complete results are below:

Andrew Fenty def. Keenan Mayo 6-4, 6-1

Keenan Mayo def. Robert Baylon 7-5, 6-1
Andrew Fenty def. Roscoe Bellamy 6-4, 6-2
3rd place match:
Roscoe Bellamy def. Robert Baylon 6-3, 6-3

Consolation :
Axel Nefve def. Adam Neff 6-4,6-3
Brain Shi def. RJ Fresen 6-3,6-4

5th place match :
Brian Shi vs Axel Nefve .....Unfinished due to rain

7th place match :
Adam Neff vs RJ Fresen....Unfinished due to rain

Dan Coyle, the author of The Talent Code, posted the results of a recent study of performance under pressure on his blog. Ambushed into singing karaoke, subjects were asked to say one of three three-word phrases prior to taking the stage:  "I am calm," "I am anxious," or "I am excited."  They were then graded on their performance. The calm group peformed the worst, followed by the anxious, with the excited group getting the best scores. 

Coyle discusses the possible reasons for these results and what they might mean for anyone seeking to control their emotions under stress. Tennis has plenty of situations where there could come in handy, so take a moment to read the entire post.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tennis Europe's Players of the Year in 14s and 16s; What Junior Tennis Can Learn from Golf; Saviano and Witten to Coach Robson

Tennis Europe announced its players of the year, (along with the second and third place finishers) for 2013 in the 14s and 16s division, so here are a few names you might want to file away for future reference.

Girls 14s:
1. Evgeniya Levashova, Russia
2. Amina Anshba, Russia
3. Marketa Vondrousov, Czech Republic

Boys 14s:
1. Corentin Moutet, France
2. Samuele Ramazzotti, Italy
3. Artem Dubrivnyy, Russia

Girls 16s:
1. Michaela Bayerlova, Czech Republic
2. Ioana Minca, Romania
3. Hanna Kryvatulava, Belarus

Boys 16s:
1. Mate Valkusz, Hungary
2. Daniel Orlita, Czech Republic
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece

For the complete review of the years of all 12 players, see this article from the Tennis Europe website.

Lisa Stone at the Parenting Aces blog published a thought-provoking post on what junior tennis can learn from junior golf. I urge you to read the entire post to get a feel for how different the systems of the two major individual sports in the country are.

Stone gives a synopsis of the structure, the pathway and the atmosphere surrounding junior golf, and mentions that college golf is always the ultimate goal. Providing the PGA and LPGA with professional players is considered outside their realm of influence.

Obviously there are differences in the sports, and I know golf is having difficulty attracting young people to a sport that takes so long to play and is expensive to boot. Although Tiger Woods has set a higher bar for fitness in the game, there is no question that it is less physically demanding than tennis, which has led to long playing careers and no rush to bypass college. It used to be that golf prodigies were nonexistent, and a tennis career was downhill after age 25; the two professional tours seem to be converging now, although a golfer can still be considered young in his or her 30s. 

Globalization has also come to golf, although perhaps more slowly than in tennis, but the concern over the lack of Americans in the upper echelons of the sport seem to be confined to the LPGA, where Koreans dominate. But if Tiger Woods were to retire early, as Andy Roddick did, the void would be large. Does the USGA see this as a problem they need to fix? I don't know, but I doubt it.

One area where golf is firmly ahead of tennis is in wealth distribution. The 100th ranked ATP player, Ivo Karlovic, has made $362,974 in 2013, while Jerry Kelly, No. 100 on the PGA list, has made over twice that, $832,407. (Interesting that I am a member of both the USGA and USTA, and I pay twice as much for my tennis membership as I do for my golf membership). Golf, especially men's golf, has always excelled at attracting and retaining corporate sponsors, while tennis has not always been able to find the companies that fit with its position here in the US as a niche sport.

Unlike Lisa, I'm not providing a coherent comparison that leads to any conclusions. I guess I'm just trying to sort out how the sports differ, and how that might lead to contrasting philosophies by players, coaches and governing bodies. But a willingness to look outside each sport for answers to these vexing questions can't hurt.

One of the best junior development coaches in the country, Nick Saviano, has been much in the news the past few days. Genie Bouchard, the 19-year-old Canadian, was named WTA Newcomer of the Year, and Bouchard, like Sloane Stephens, Mallory Burdette and Laura Robson, has spent time working with Saviano early in her career, and still visits his academy in Plantation on occasion. Bouchard has announced she will work with Saviano, as will Robson, who is training in Plantation with Saviano now.  Jesse Witten, the former University of Kentucky All-American, will travel with Robson, according to this report from the Daily Mail.  Matt Cronin has more on how friends Bouchard and Robson plan to work out this unorthodox coaching arrangement at tennis.com.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

UCLA Signs Mayo Hibi to National Letter of Intent; More NLI Signings; USTA Announces Four Australian Wild Card Playoff Participants

Mayo Hibi at the 2013 US Open Junior Championships 
UCLA announced today that it has signed Mayo Hibi, with a current WTA ranking of 228, to a National Letter of Intent for the 2014-15 school year. Hibi, who won the International Spring Championships and Easter Bowl and reached the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships, while also winning a $25,000 Challenger in New Mexico and A $50,000 Challenger in California this year. A resident of Irvine, California, Hibi plays under the Japanese flag in ITF events. She is the Tennis Recruiting Network's No. 1 recruit in the class of 2014.

UCLA also announced the signings of Kristen Wiley and Kelly Shaffer.

I've been collecting official announcements over the past four or five days, since my initial post on the early signings last week. If there is just one announcement on the school's athletic website, the link will be the school's name. If there is more than one, each article will be linked by the player's name.

The IMG Bollettieri Academy announced the signings of four of its players here. The Junior Tennis Champions Center announced the signings of eight of its players here.

Clemson: Hampton Drake
Fresno State: Adam Glynn, Youssef Hassan, Eric Komati
Georgia Tech: Christopher Eubanks, Michael Kay, Daniel Yun
Kentucky: Jerry Lopez, Trey Yates, William Bushamuka, Jake Stefanik
Louisville: Augie Ge
Ohio State: Herkko Pollanen, Riley Reist, Matt Mendez
South Carolina: Wood Benton, Thomas Mayronne, Gabriel Friedrich
TCU: Trevor Johnson
Texas: John Mee
Texas A&M: A.J. Catanzariti
Toledo: Stephen Miller
UCLA: Austin Rapp

Alabama: Bennett Dunn, Aryn Greene
Georgia: Caroline Brinson, Mariana Gould, Hannah King
Michigan: Alex Najarian
Nebraska: Spurti Shivalingaiah, Macarena Olivares
Oklahoma: Christiana Brigante, Malene Stripp
Penn State:  Taylor Shukow, Dasha Sapogova
Purdue: Deborah Suarez (transfer from Miami)
Rice: Savannah Durkin, Lindsey Hodge
South Carolina: Hadley Berg, Megen Cochran
Southern Cal: Gabrielle Smith, Madison Westby
Virginia: Cassie Mercer
Washington: Miki Kobayashi
Western Michigan: Olivia Myers, Labina Petrovska

The USTA announced four of the women who will be participating in its annual Australian Open Wild Card playoff next month in Norcross, Georgia. Madison Brengle, Vicky Duval, Grace Min and Shelby Rogers have accepted invitations to compete in the tournament.  There are eight spots for both men and women, so stay tuned for more announcements in the coming weeks.  For additional information about attending the tournament, which runs from Friday December 20, through Sunday December 22, see the tournament website.

Monday, November 18, 2013

USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships Recap, Slideshow, Videos

While Signing Week continues through Wednesday, and I'll continue to post commitment announcements, the competitive portion of the fall college season is now over. My recap of the 2013 USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network today, with the slideshow and videos of the singles finalists below.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kumar, Chen Take Lexington ITF Grade 4 Titles; Rublev Wins Bradenton Futures; Boys Les Petits As Playoff Participants

I don't know how much longer I'll have power, with the severe storms in the area tonight and the lights flickering regularly, so this post will be brief.

At this week's ITF Grade 4 tournament in Lexington, SC, Sameer Kumar won his second consecutive title, defeating Emil Reinberg 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Kumar, the 16-year-old from Indiana, won last week's ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta also. Neither player was seeded, which is not all that unusual in lower level ITF events, where so many younger players are competing to build their rankings. Kumar, who won the Easter Bowl and reached the semifinals at Kalamazoo this year, is obviously one of the best of his age in the country, but has played very few ITF junior circuit events.

The boys doubles title went to Robert Kelly and Nick Stachowiak, who beat Korey Lovett and Josh Silverstein 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Neither team was seeded.

While Kumar was collecting his second ITF title, so was 14-year-old Kelly Chen. Chen played her first ITF tournament at the Grade 4 in Claremont, California back in March, and won her first ITF title at the Grade 5 in Canada in July.  Last week in Atlanta, the Southern Californian lost to eventual champion Kennedy Shaffer in the first round; this week, as the No. 9 seed, Chen beat both 2013 18s Clay Courts finalists--No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer in the quarterfinals and No. 15 seed Terri Fleming in the semifinals.  In the final, Chen beat No. 6 seed Andie Daniell 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

Daniell did come away with a title however. She and Sophie Chang, the No. 6 seeds, beat No. 2 seeds Helen Altick and Alexa Bortles 7-5, 6-1 for the girls doubles championship.

At the $10,000 Bradenton Futures, 2012 16s Orange Bowl champion and 2013 16s European champion Andrey Rublev won his first title on the pro circuit. The 16-year-old Russian, seeded eighth, defeated 19-year-old Martins Podzus of Latvia, the No. 6 seed, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 in the final.  Rublev is entered in both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, so he assumes a favorite's role now, as the surface is the same green clay, and in the case of the Eddie Herr, the exact same courts, as those tournaments.

One teen succeeded in claiming his first title, but unseeded Ernesto Escobedo just missed out. The 17-year-old Southern Californian lost to No. 2 seed Nick Meister(UCLA) 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(7) at the $10,000 Futures in Mexico.  Alex Llompart(Pepperdine) of Puerto Rico and Marcelo Arevalo(Tulsa) of El Salvador won the doubles title.

Other prominent juniors collecting ITF Pro Circuit singles titles today include 16-year-old Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, who won both singles and doubles at the $10,000 event in Helsinki, 16-year-old Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, who won her second straight $10,000 event in Egypt, and 17-year-old Katerina Siniakova, who won the $25,000 tournament in Poland.

Former Ohio State Buckeye Steven Moneke of Germany won a $10,000 Futures title in Egypt.

The boys playoff for the Teen Tennis and Les Petits As trip in January is taking place early this year, beginning this Tuesday and running through Thursday.  Eight boys have been invited to the USTA Boca Raton National Center to compete for two of the spots on the four-player team that travels to Europe for those two major events.  The eight boys, seven from the 2000 birth year and one(Neff) from 2001, are:

Roscoe Bellamy
Andrew Fenty
Axel Nefve
Keenan Mayo
RJ Fresen
Brian Shi
Robert Baylon

Adam Neff

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sandgren Wins Champaign Challenger; Escobedo, Rublev into Futures Finals; Bruguera Sr. Looks to Develop Players in Hong Kong

Tennys Sandgren reached his first Challenger final in Champaign, Illinois yesterday, and he didn't stop there. The 22-year-old former Tennessee Volunteer, completing his second full year on the professional circuit, defeated No. 7 seed Sam Groth of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in this afternoon's singles final to pick up his first Challenger title at the $50,000 tournament.

The 2007 Kalamazoo 16s champion reached the semifinals of the Knoxville Challenger last week, losing to champion Tim Smyczek and although he wasn't seeded in Champaign, he was certainly one of the most in-form players coming into the tournament, taking advantage of all the early round upsets.  With his win, Sandgren is projected to reach a career-high ATP ranking inside the Top 200, and is likely to among those selected to compete in the USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament next month in Atlanta.  According to Mike Cation, who did a stellar job on the USTA live stream commentary, Sandgren has been working with Billy Heiser, the former Illinois player who was a junior development coach for a short time, but is now a pro tour coach. Heiser has been traveling with Tim Smyczek and also is working with Dennis Nevolo, who reached the semifinals of the Champaign Challenger.

2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn made the semifinals of the Yokohama, Japan Challenger tournament this week, and after winning a Challenger in Korea and reaching the final of one in Australia before that, he is projected to move into the ATP Top 100 and will be straight into the Australian Open.

Make sure you go to the Challenger Tennis blog on Monday for a full list of all those who have reached their career-high in the ATP rankings (between 60 and 300, that is).

2012 Orange Bowl 16s champion Andrey Rublev of Russia defeated Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the $10,000 Bradenton Futures, and will make his second attempt at a Futures title Sunday against 19-year-old Martins Podzus of Latvia. Podzus advanced to his first Futures final when Greg Ouellette (Florida) retired trailing 6-3, 5-3.

In the $10,000 Futures in Mexico, 17-year-old Ernesto Escobedo reached his second Futures final today, defeating qualifier Kyle McMorrow(Washington) 6-4, 7-6(4). The unseeded Californian has not lost a set in his four wins, and will take on No. 2 seed Nick Meister(UCLA), who defeated Mexico's Mauricio Astorga 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the semifinals. Meister defeated Escobedo in three sets the only time they've met, in the first round of the Costa Mesa Futures back in March.

In Colombia, Ted Angelinos(Virginia) won his third Futures title of the year(he's reached eight finals), taking the championship as the No. 1 seed by defeating No. 2 seed Luis David Martinez of Venezuela 7-6(5), 7-6(4).

In notable junior results in Challengers this week, Wimbledon boys champion Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Ecuador Challenger, losing in three sets to the top seeds, while US Open boys champion Borna Coric of Croatia and French Open boys champion Christian Garin of Chile reached the quarterfinals in Japan and Peru.

Australian and US Open girls champion Ana Konjuh reached the semifinals of the $75,000 Challenger in Dubai.

I ran across this article in the South China Morning Post earlier this week, and thought those of you with an interest in player development might find it worthwhile. Sergei Bruguera, Sr. is scouting in Hong Kong for a possible academy site, and he had some thought-provoking comments about the importance of local tournaments and the clay surface in developing talent. One thing he said that I find odd is in this section:

He was in China nine years ago at the invitation of the Chinese Tennis Federation and at the time saw “five or six” youngsters who had the potential to go all the way. “What happened? I don’t know. It is amazing that today these players are nowhere.
I was in Guangdong nine years ago for two weeks and was impressed with what I saw. But there have been no results. I hope I can help in this process to uncover a star from China, or even Hong Kong,” said the Spaniard. Bruguera is a firm advocate of the Spanish system where mind matters more than a power game. Having all the shots in the book is of no use, he says, if one cannot think how to win a point and have a feel for the game.
Every tournament I attend I see youngsters with the potential to "go all the way" (whatever that means). But to expect them to all succeed is delusional. Unfortunately, I guess, tennis is a zero sum game. If you consider going all the way as Top 100, which I think is fair, there are only 100 places in it. That pie doesn't get bigger as the talent pool grows. China will certainly get its Top 100 man some day, but to expect five or six by now? That seems optimistic in the extreme given the global nature of the game today.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Donaldson Tapped for Training with Federer; Teens Rubin and Rublev Meet in Futures Semifinal; Michigan, Georgia Announce Commitments From Former ITF Top 10 Players

Seventeen-year-old Jared Donaldson has been invited to train with Roger Federer in Dubai for three weeks next month. Federer is known for asking junior players to serve as hitting partners while he competes in tournaments and also during his off-season workouts in Dubai, where he trains to prepare himself for the heat of Australia in January.

Donaldson, this year's Kalamazoo 18s finalist, is now working with Taylor Dent and his father Phil at their academy in Fountain Valley, California. Taylor will be accompanying Donaldson on the trip to Dubai.

At the $10,000 Futures in Bradenton, 17-year-old Noah Rubin will face 16-year-old Andrey Rublev of Russia in Saturday's semifinal. Rubin posted a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over 16-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan today, while Rublev, the 2012 Orange Bowl 16s champion, defeated 21-year-old Romain Arneodo of Monaco 7-6(4), 7-6(2).  Rublev, the No. 8 seed this week, and Rubin, seeded seventh, have both already reached Futures finals--Rubin in the $10,000 Godfrey, Illinois Futures in July, Rublev in the $15,000 Belarus Futures in August.  Rublev defeated Rubin in the first round of the ITF Grade A Italian Open this year, on red clay, not the green clay they compete on in Bradenton.

Former Florida Gator Greg Ouellette will play Martins Podzus of Latvia in the other semifinal. No. 4 seed Ouellette defeated Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 7-6(5), while No. 6 seed Podzus, who is 19, beat recent Ohio State graduate Devin McCarthy 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-1.

The doubles final was played today, with Kozlov and Sekou Bangoura Jr. taking the championship with a 6-2, 6-4 win over McCarthy and Tommy Mylnikov of Canada. Both teams were unseeded.

I'll have more links to signing announcements in a few days, but I wanted to single out a couple of former ITF Top 10 juniors who formally committed today. Cameron Norrie, who recently switched his ITF flag from New Zealand to Great Britain, has committed to the University of Michigan. The 18-year-old Norrie, currently No. 32 in the ITF junior world rankings but as high as 10 back in the spring, will enter Michigan next fall.

Wayne Montgomery of South Africa will be joining Georgia in January. Montgomery, a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open junior championships this year, has been ranked as high as No. 7. The 18-year-old has not played since the Wimbledon Juniors and is currently ranked No. 36.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Catanzariti Commits to Texas A&M; NLI Roundup; Tennis and Wall Street; Virginia Tech Pair Hits with McEnroe

My fourth and final Tennis Recruiting Network 2014 commitment article features blue chip AJ Catanzariti of Pittsburgh, Pa. Catanzariti, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., will be playing for the Texas A&M Aggies next fall.

I've gathered up National Letter of Intent signing announcements from many major programs, (lots more will go up in the next week or two) and clicking on the school name will take you to the athletic website's release. If you know of other official announcements, please leave a link in the comments.

Baylor: Kelley Anderson, Eliza Long
Cal: Lynn Hoang
Central Florida: Kennan Johnson, Mónica Matía
Clemson: Keisha Clousing
Florida: Brooke Austin, Josie Kuhlman, Peggy Porter
Florida State: Gabriella Castaneda
Georgia Tech: Alexis Prokopuik
Iowa: Adorabol Huckleby
Marshall: Madison Silver
TCU: Alexis Pereira
Texas Tech: Sarah Dvorak, Katelyn Jackson

Cal: William Griffith, J.T. Nishimura
Florida: Jordan Belga, Oliver Landert, Chase Perez-Blanco
Georgia: Peter Bertran, Andy Martinez
Illinois: Aron Hiltzik
Louisville: Pally Ray
Minnesota: Felix Corwin
South Carolina: Harrison O'Keefe
Washington: Mitch Stewart, Jake Douglas

A few days ago, Business Insider published this fascinating and exhaustive list of 45 former junior and college tennis stars (it was 34, but they've added more, including two recent Virginia graduates) who have gone on to financial careers on Wall Street. I knew of a few of these, but was most intrigued by the account of two-time Kalamazoo champion Rudy Rake becoming one of Morgan Stanley's youngest managing directors. Rake turned pro before attending college, but obviously thrived academically at the University of Miami after a brief time on the tour.

I'd be fascinated to see a similar article about former golf stars on Wall Street, to see if this is a sport-specific phenomenon.

I was hoping John McEnroe might come to the National Indoor for the finals to see Jamie Loeb, who trains at this academy in New York (brother Patrick was there). He did not, but John McEnroe did connect with two Virginia Tech doubles players Amerigo Contini and Andreas Bjerrehus, in New York for the tournament, who went to him.  Virginia Tech assistant Stephen Huss, ranked as high as 21 in the world in doubles, arranged it, and it's obvious from this Richmond Times-Dispatch account of their hitting session that the competitive fire in McEnroe still burns as brightly as ever.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wiersholm Chooses Virginia on NLI Signing Day; Master'U Team Announced; Great Day for Teens at Bradenton Futures

Today is the first day high school seniors can sign an NCAA Division I National Letter of Intent for 2014, and the Tennis Recruiting Network will be publishing many blue chip announcements in the next several days. My article about Henrik Wiersholm's commitment to the University of Virginia is among the three published today, along with Brooke Austin's  commitment to Florida and Nikki Kallenberg's commitment to Harvard.  This is an exciting time for junior tennis players, in large part thanks to the Tennis Recruiting Network. Junior players now have an opportunity for a national spotlight to shine on them during this time, when ten years ago there was no such option available to them.

State high school champions have always received much local press however, and this year's Mr. Tennis in Michigan is a Kalamazoo product, Davis Crocker. Crocker, who has committed to the University of Michigan and will begin there in January, played high school tennis for one of the Kalamazoo public high schools, Loy Norrix, all four years, went undefeated this year in collecting his third straight state title, and was a unanimous selection.

The USTA has announced the team of American college players who will be representing the United States at the Master'U BNP Paribas internatioal collegiate tournament November 28-December 1 in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Mitchell Frank of Virginia, Marcos Giron of UCLA and Peter Kobelt of Ohio State are joined by Robin Anderson of UCLA, Lauren Herring of Georgia and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California. Cal women's head coach Amanda Augustus and Boise State men's head coach Greg Patton are again traveling with the team.

The US team is the defending champion, and they have won the competition three of the last four years. Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia are the other seven teams in the competition.

North Carolina's Jamie Loeb was invited, but declined due to school obligations and the amount of competitive tennis she has played recently.

The first round at the $10,000 Bradenton, Florida Futures was completed today, and 12 of the 16 players in the second round are teenagers.  Sixteen-year-old qualifier Reilly Opelka picked up his first ATP point when Keith-Patrick Crowley(Miami) retired with Opelka leading 6-3, 3-1, and 16-year-old wild card Sumit Nagal earned his first ATP point with a 6-0, 7-6(5) win over Catalin Gard(Ole Miss). Noah Rubin, Stefan Kozlov, Connor Farren, Canadian qualifier Tommy Mylnikov, Alexandru Gozun(South Florida) and Martins Podzus of Latvia are the other teens who won today, joining Janis Podzus(twin of Martins), Andrey Rublev of Russia, Martin Redlicki and Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, who won Tuesday, in the second round.  There will be a 18-and-under teen in the semifinals, with Nakagawa, Rubin, Mylnikov and Opelka in the same quarter of the draw. The Bradenton Herald had this article on soon-to-be-17-year-old Nakagawa, who is a Sony scholarship recipient at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, and his hard fought win over 15-year-old Michael Mmoh, also an student at Bollettieri's.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Klahn Wins Challenger in Korea; Bangoura Takes Niceville Futures; Smyczek, Minella Claim $50K Challenger Titles

As promised, today's post will review the Pro Circuit results from last week and look at this week's final two events of the year in the United States.

Stanford's 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn has made a push toward the ATP Top 100 this fall, and after reaching the final at the $50,000 Challenger in Australia and his title at the $35,000 Challenger in Korea last week, the 23-year-old Californian is now at 101, and in good position for the main draw at the Australian Open in January.  In Korea, the fourth-seeded Klahn defeated unseeded Taro Daniel of Japan 7-6(5), 6-2 for his second Challenger title of the year.  Klahn is also playing in Japan at a $50,000 Challenger this week, where he is again the No. 4 seed and has advanced to the second round.  2012 NCAA doubles champions from Ohio State Blaz Rola, who lost his first round singles match, and Chase Buchanan, a qualifier who won his, are playing doubles together for the first time since January and beat the No. 3 seeds in the first round.  US Open boys champion Borna Coric of Croatia, a wild card, also advanced to the second round.

Former Florida Gator Sekou Bangoura Jr. had played 17 Futures events this year, but hadn't gotten past the quarterfinals until last week in a $10,000 tournament in Niceville, Florida, where he won the title, his first. The eighth-seeded Bangoura, who will be 22 next week, defeated unseeded Eric Prodon of France, who retired in the final after losing the first set 7-6(9).  Fifteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov reached the quarterfinals, while 17-year-old Deiton Baughman got through four rounds of qualifying and won his first round match over No. 3 seed Nick Meister(UCLA). France's Alex Musialek(Kentucky) and Arthur Surreaux(New Mexico State) won the doubles title, beating South Africa's Damon Gooch(Elon) and Sweden's Lucas Renard 7-6(5), 6-4 in a final between two unseeded teams.

The $50,000 Knoxville Challenger singles title went to top seed Tim Smyczek, who beat unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final.  Unseeded Tennys Sandgren, comfortable on the courts of his Alma Mater Tennessee, reached the semifinals before losing to Smyczek.  JP Smith, another former Volunteer, collected his sixth Challenger doubles title of the year, with he and fellow Australian Sam Groth, the top seeds, beating unseeded Polansky and Carsten Ball 6-7(6), 6-2, 10-7 in the final. Smith is now 74 in the ATP doubles rankings, number three among Australians behind John Peers(Baylor) and Paul Hanley.

The women closed out the year, in the United States at least, in Captiva Island, Florida, with Luxembourg's Mandy Minella taking the $50,000 tournament's singles title. Minella, the No. 2 seed, beat Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski, who was unseeded, 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Unseeded 18-year-old Allie Kiick reached the semifinals, but was then blanked by Minella. Top seeds Allie Will(Florida) and Dabrowski won the doubles title, beating unseeded Julia Boserup and Alexandra Mueller 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

The women are done for the year in the US, but the men have both a Futures and a Challenger this week.  The $50,000 Challenger in Champaign has already had its share of upsets after the first day, with top seed Smyczek, No. 4 seed Alex Kuznetsov and No. 5 seed Polansky going out to Erik Crepaldi of Italy, Dimitar Kutrovsky of Bulgaria (and Texas), and Dan Smethurst of Great Britain, respectively. Wild cards Marcos Giron(UCLA), Tim Kopinski and Jared Hiltzik(Illinois) play later tonight.  Kopinski and Ross Guignon, who were semifinalists at the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships this past weekend, received a doubles wild card and won their first round match Monday.

At the $10,000 Bradenton Futures, Ohio State's Devin McCarthy picked up the best win of his short professional career, beating top seed and ATP No. 257 Benjamin Balleret of Monaco 6-3, 6-4. US Open boys doubles champion Martin Redlicki earned his first ATP point with a 6-4, 6-1 win over fellow wild card Alejandro Tabilo of Canada. 2012 Orange Bowl 16s champion Andrey Rublev, who is seeded No. 6, also advanced to the second round. Only five first round singles matches were played today, with 11 more scheduled for Wednesday.

At the close of the year, the ATP now holds a Challenger Tour Finals in Brazil, and this year Oleksandr Nedovyesov, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy and ITA Player of the Year, will be participating, starting Wednesday. The ATP website filed this feature on Nedovyesov, who describes his college experience:

“I learned a lot there, especially how to live by myself,” Nedovyseov said. “I lived four and a half years away from my family and I didn’t take any money from my parents at the time. It was a really useful experience and if anyone asks me if I would do it again, I would definitely say yes.”

Monday, November 11, 2013

Shaffer and Kumar Win ITF Grade 4 Titles in Atlanta; Xu and Chung Take ITF B1 Asian Closed Championships; Eddie Herr Acceptances

The National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships mark the end of the fall college tennis season, so in the next couple of months my focus will be on the juniors and Pro Circuit.(An Indoor Tennis Recruiting recap, plus slideshow and videos, will be posted next week however.) On Tuesday, I'll catch up on the Pro Circuit results from last week and this week's events, but today, I'll stick with ITF junior results and news.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, 16-year-old Midwesterners Kennedy Shaffer and Sameer Kumar collected their first ITF junior titles, with Shaffer having the distinction of winning the first ITF junior event she played. I saw Shaffer win the 18s National Open here in Kalamazoo in July and was impressed with her power and the confidence she said she has gained since moving to the Ivan Lendl Academy in Hilton Head, South Carolina.  You can read about the Ohio native's National Open win in the Tennis Recruiting Network recap I wrote in July (subscription required.)

In Atlanta, Shaffer won when top seed CiCi Bellis retired with an injury trailing 3-1 in the opening set. Shaffer, a qualifier, beat three other seeds--Nos. 9, 8 and 11-- en route to the final and did not lose a set. The girls doubles title went to unseeded Caroline Lampl and Ndindi Ndunda who beat No. 6 seeds Sophie Chang and Andie Daniell 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-8.

Indiana's Kumar has slightly more ITF experience than Shaffer, but all of it in the United States, and all of his ITF 18s tournaments this year. Kumar, unseeded, beat top seed Anudeep Kodali 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Kumar also claimed the doubles title, with Kalman Boyd. The unseeded pair defeated No. 5 seeds Walker Duncan and Emil Reinberg 5-7, 6-3, 10-5 in the final.

At the Seogwipo Asia Oceania International, the fall ITF Grade B1 in that part of the world, 15-year-olds Shilin Xu of China and Yunseong Chung of Korea were the singles champions, with Xu also winning the girls doubles title.

Xu, seeded No. 2, beat top seed Ziyue Sun, also of China, 6-4, 6-4 in the final.  She and Xiaodi You of China, the top seeds, beat No. 2 seeds Dabin Kim of Korea and Sara Tomic of Australia 6-2, 7-6(1) in the final.

The unseeded Chung beat five seeds in his six victories, taking out No. 3 seed and Osaka Mayor's Cup finalist Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan 7-6(1), 3-6, 6-3 in the final.  The doubles championship went to No. 3 seeds Seong chan Hong and Chan-yeong Oh of Korea, who beat Wei-de Lin and Shao-chi Yang of Taiwan 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

The acceptances for the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr were released last week, with, as usual, similar fields to the Orange Bowl.  World No. 1 Alexander Zverev of Germany and  No. 3 Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy top the boys field. US boys in the main draw are: Stefan Kozlov, Michael Mmoh, Francis Tiafoe, Martin Redlicki, Spencer Papa, Danny Kerznerman, Dennis Uspensky and Kumar, who is receiving a US 16-exempt entry.

Russia's Varvara Flink, Serbia's Ivana Jorovic (who won a $10,000 ITF event last week in Egypt) and Tornado Alicia Black head the girls field. US girls in the main draw are: Christina Makarova, Katrine Steffensen, Johnnise Renaud, Dasha Ivanova, Michaela Gordon, Usue Arconada, Rianna Valdes, Kaitlyn McCarthy, Madison Bourguignon and Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, who received the US 16-exempt entry. CiCi Bellis had entered, but has withdrawn.

When I checked last week, Karen Khachanov of Russia, who has made such a big splash in two ATP events this fall, was still on the Orange Bowl entry list, but he has since withdrawn.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

North Carolina's Loeb, UCLA's Thompson Claim USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Titles; Columbia Men, Georgia Tech Women Make History in Doubles

 ©Colette Lewis 2013--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

North Carolina freshman Jamie Loeb continued her domination of the fall majors, while UCLA senior Clay Thompson is still pinching himself after winning his 15th straight match after the pair collected the singles championships at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

All-American champion Loeb repeated last month's final result in California on the opposite coast, again defeating UCLA junior Robin Anderson, this time by a 6-3, 6-2 score.

Top seed Loeb, who hasn't lost a set since the second round of qualifying at the Riviera All-American last month, won the big-hitting battle with defending champion Anderson.  Up 4-1 and two breaks in the opening set, Loeb gave back one, but the 18-year-old from Ossining New York reasserted herself late in the set, breaking Anderson to win it.

Anderson, who had dropped the All-American final to Loeb 6-4, 6-0, got off to a good start in the second set, breaking Loeb in the first game, but the 20-year-old from Matawan, New Jersey couldn't consolidate, losing her next service game and watching Loeb take a 4-1 lead.  Anderson held for 4-2, and forced Loeb to win a deuce game to keep her lead, but when Loeb held there for 5-2, she let out a loud "c'mon," pumping her fist in the direction of her family, friends and private coach sitting in the viewing area above the court.

Loeb was correct in thinking that was a key hold, with Anderson serving to stay in the match. Seeing the finish line, Loeb kept giving back Anderson's pace with more of her own and soon it was 15-40. After so many penetrating ground strokes throughout the match, Loeb picked her first match point to display her variety, hitting an excellent backhand slice that Anderson had to come forward to get. When Anderson's forehand went long, Loeb turned to her supporters with another fist pump and c'mon, having secured the first National Indoor title for the Tar Heels.

"We both played pretty well," said Anderson, who had won her previous four matches in straight sets. "Jamie came out, she executed. She really didn't miss at all. Congrats to her, she played really well. She has a solid game all around."

Anderson said she's seen improvement in her own game since winning the title last year, so she didn't have many regrets about surrendering it.

"I still played really well. I felt like played better than I did last year, so as long as I'm improving, that's the goal," said Anderson, who will be on the team representing the United States at the Master'U BNP Paribas international college tournament in Paris next month.

Loeb didn't see much of a change in strategy from Anderson, although she did notice that Anderson was hitting the ball bigger than last month.

"She mixed it up with a lot of slice and she has a good serve," said Loeb. "I think she served better today than last time we played. Plus, indoors,  it's faster, a faster pace obviously. I think she was hitting the ball harder today. But I think that helped me, because I was able to redirect it and use that pace. But I think both of us played pretty well today."

As for her future, Loeb is looking to catch up on the school work that she's missed during the fall season, yet not being on the courts the next two months when she's playing at such a high level is a concern.

"I know I'm going to want to play more, because that's just me," said Loeb, who trains at the John McEnroe Academy in New York. "When I come home for Thanksgiving, I'll definitely be playing."

Loeb is also looking forward to her first spring dual match season.

"I'm going to see how the rest of the season goes, and I'm going to be there for my team and support them," said Loeb, who is the first woman since Texas' Lucie Ludvigova in 1993 to win both the All-American and the Indoor titles. "I'll know they'll do the same for me. I'm excited for the spring and I'm just going to think about that for now, see how that goes, and by the end, I'll make a decision and see what I want to do and how I feel."

For men's champion Thompson, a major title was unanticipated, even given his outstanding fall season. So when he overcame a late bout of nerves in the second set to defeat Illinois sophomore Jared Hiltzik 6-4, 7-5, he was mostly in shock.

"Honestly, I was happy to get past the first round, so I didn't have to play consolation again," said the sixth seed, who received entry into the tournament via his consolation title at the All-American championships last month. "Wow, what a surprise, what a treat. This has been so great, so fun, such a week, I can't even start to put together how it all happened."

Thompson did credit his serve as a key to the match, and he didn't face a break point in the first set.  Eight straight holds to start the match gave no indication from either player that nerves were a factor, although both were competing in their first major final.

At 4-4, Hiltzik blinked first and was broken, with Thompson serving out the set. The 6-foot-6 Thompson was demonstrative throughout the first set, applauding himself and Hiltzik for any winners, and there were plenty from both.

"I had some friends here, so I wanted to put on a good show for them," said Thompson, from Venice Beach, Calif. "It was fun. I was having a great time, and I was really excited for this one. I think the added pressure of the moment kind of helped me get a little more fired up than usual, especially in the first couple of games."

Thompson broke Hiltzik, the No. 8 seed, to start the second set, despite Hiltzik's 40-0 lead in the game. Using his strategy of keeping points short against an outstanding counterpuncher like Hiltzik paid off, as did some scouting reports he received.

"I was serving very well," said Thompson, "and someone told me he preferred the backhand return, so I went 98 percent of my second serves to his forehand, and I thought that was a big help for me."

Thompson's eagerness to end points quickly wasn't solely due to the indoor surface. 

"It's kind of a new thing I've been doing," said Thompson. "I've been trying to serve and volley a lot, trying to hit my forehand and come in. My shots are pretty penetrating for the most part, but I don't make too many of them in a row, so I like to just hit them, and rush in behind them and see what happens."

Thompson made that early break in the second hold up until he was serving at 5-4. Up 30-0, the nerves began to get the better of Thompson, and he missed nearly every first serve and double faulted twice. Hiltzik had his only break points of the match in that game, converting the third with a lob winner.

"I was having such a great time, but it does hit you, that you're this close to winning a major tournament," said Thompson. "I don't think I've really won a major tournament before. I got to the finals of the Easter Bowl, quarterfinals of Kalamazoo, but I don't think I've ever won a tournament that people would call a major. So I'd never been in that situation before."

But for all his inexperience, Thompson could draw on his performance in the pressure-packed dual match season. 

"When it comes down to the pressure points, I'm pretty good," said Thompson. "It helped me get the break back at 5-all. That happens a lot during the dual match season, and honestly, more often than not, I'm down a break when it comes down to me in that deciding match and I break back and run with that. So that's been a strength of mine, to break when my back's against the wall."

Hiltzik was down 30-40 serving at 5-6, got it back to deuce, but was overruled in his call of out on Thompson's backhand volley on the second break point.

Serving for the match a second time, Thompson earned a match point with a perfectly executed forehand volley. He hit a first serve that Hiltzik called out, but after some confusion, the chair umpire overruled Hiltzik's call and Thompson had his major championship.

"Honestly, I thought the ball was in," said Thompson. "It's tough to say completely, but that's the way it goes. You just accept it one way or another. But it is sad that it had to end that way. It was such a great match and for it to end that way, with any controversy, any doubt in anyone's mind, it's kind of sad. Honestly, I would have rather played the point out, taken a second serve."

Hiltzik took the decision with the same stoicism he's displayed all week.

"That's tennis," said Hiltzik, 19. "Whatever happens, happens. I saw it out, and didn't agree with the ref."

Hiltzik said he wasn't particularly nervous, but that the match "went by really quickly." 

"I prepared pretty well, but he just came out and played better than me today," said the Wilmette, Illinois resident. "There's a point where it's just a tennis match, and you treat like a tennis match, not like something more than it is. I think I treated it more like who I'm playing, what he does, rather than me playing my own tennis match."

Hiltzik returns to Champaign to compete in the Pro Circuit Challenger there next week as a wild card, while Thompson returns to Los Angeles with a trophy and his name on the list of champions. The last Indoor champion from UCLA was Benjamin Kohlloeffel, who won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006.

"That's a pretty big name, Ben Kohlloeffel," Thompson said of the 2006 NCAA champion. "He was a really good player. So wow, just to be among that list of players, to have this opportunity, it's so amazing. That's just all I can say. It's such a great feeling."

The atmosphere at the singles finals was typical of any individual tournament, but the noise level engulfing the men's doubles final between Tennessee and Columbia was more like an NCAA dual match between bitter rivals.

Columbia, the host school, was seeking its first national tennis title since 1889, and Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur delivered, beating top seeds and All-American champions Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese 6-3, 6-2.

The cheers of "Let's Go Lions" reverberated throughout the indoor tennis center after nearly every point, and once Narayana saved three break points serving down 1-2 in the opening set, the Columbia team was on its way. 

Reese and Libietis had been cruising along on their first three service games, but Reese was broken at 3-3, and after a love hold from Narayana, Libietis was broken to give Columbia the first set.

The cheer changed from "Let's Go Lions," to "Here We Go Lions," to start the second set, but there was no change in the momentum on the court, with Libietis broken in the second game, while both Schnur and Narayana rode the emotion of the crowd to easy holds. Although Tennessee trailed 5-2, it was only one break, and doubles can turn on a dime. The crowd refused to let that happen however, and Reese was broken at love to deliver the title to the Lions and their fans.

"I thought this tournament we were so loose, because we were fortunate to get the home wild card," said Schnur, a junior from Richmond, Va. "But we also felt like we really belonged here, because we played it last year after winning our regional. So that combo served us really well."

Narayana was both surprised and not surprised by the support the team received.

"We knew we'd get fans out and everything," said Narayana, a junior from Houston, Texas. "But it surprised me how loud they were today. I think that was a mistake on my part, because we have some of the best fans in the whole country, especially when we play at home in our bubble, it gets loud, even louder than this. But today I was a little surprised, because it was an individual match, but I shouldn't have been."

"We definitely fed off them," added Schnur. "Our entire team was sitting on the court and it felt like a clincher of a dual match, how everyone's waiting on the side of your court. It felt like that for the entire match. I think we did a really good job playing with a sense of urgency and playing really smart."

Schnur and Narayana believe the title will help the perception not only of the Columbia program, but of the Ivy League.

"We play in the Ivy League and some people think we're just students," said Narayana. "But you're not just going to school. You're competing with the best teams in the nation. We can compete with anyone if we work hard. I hope recruits see that as well. Winston (Lin, a quarterfinalist this weekend) is sitting right there, and he's one of the best players in the nation. We have some of the best coaches, best facilities and I know we have the best fans, so I hope other players realize this is a place where they can get their tennis better while also getting a really good degree."

The next step for Narayana and Schnur is qualifying for the NCAA tournament. It was in the predecessor to the NCAAs that Columbia collected its only previous national titles, with Oliver Campbell winning the doubles with V.G. Hall in 1888 and with A.E. Wright in 1889, in competition that was primarily between Ivy League schools, although it was considered a national event.

"We haven't been able to make it into the NCAAs our first two years," said Schnur. "That's our goal. But hopefully in the spring we'll continue to take it one match at a time. We're trying to peak for our Ivy League season in April and we think if we get better, getting into the NCAAs and making a run there will take care of itself."

The women's doubles final was the only match of the day that went three sets, with Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard of Georgia Tech defeating Julia Fellerhoff and Rebecca Shine of Louisville 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. 

It was a match of many twists and turns, and a few strokes of luck, as the two unseeded teams tried to concentrate on their task at hand as the Columbia crowd roared for their Lions.

The only break of the first set came courtesy of a net cord winner with Woodard serving. The second set went to the Yellow Jackets, with Kurey digging out a volley at her feet and somehow turning it into a lob winner on set point.

Woodard and Kurey, both sophomores from suburban Atlanta, had a 3-0 lead in the third set, but seniors Shine and Fellerhoff got the break back winning three games in a row. Fellerhoff was broken to give Woodard a chance to serve out the match at 5-3, but she couldn't close the deal.  Shine held for 5-5, and Kurey held for 6-5, leaving it up to Fellerhoff to hold for a tiebreaker. A couple of errors and a double fault gave Woodard and Kurey two match points. Kurey missed a return on the first and Woodard barely touched a lob with the top of her racquet to lose the second. But the pair converted the third, as a Louisville forehand sailed wide, and Georgia Tech had its first National Indoor doubles title.

"They were really serving well, and they played well the whole match," said Kurey. "In the first three games(of the third set), we played so well and we got up, and they started making more balls. We just realized we're still in the set, we're not losing, so we just had to focus in on a couple more points and finally got the win."

"We've been playing together for almost a year," said Woodard. "We had a really good spring," said Kurey. "When we played regionals, we didn't play that well until the finals," said Woodard. "But coming into this, we knew that if we played like we did in the finals, then we'd have a pretty good chance of winning this."

"It was our goal to get here," said Kurey. "But we never imagined that we'd win it, so we're excited."

Georgia Tech head coach Rodney Harmon flew in Saturday night for the finals, and his team was glad to have both him and assistant Alison Silverio on court with them.

"We knew he was coming last night," said Woodard. "We wanted him to come. We're the first [Georgia Tech] team to win National Indoors, so why not have him here?"

In the singles consolation for those losing in the first round, UCLA's Marcos Giron won the men's tournament, beating Patrick Pradella of Baylor 6-4, 6-2. Duke's Beatrice Capra won the women's consolation final, defeating Abigail Tere-Apisah of Georgia State 7-5, 6-4. 

The men's doubles consolation final went to Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka of Ohio State, who downed Giron and Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA 8-7(5). Brynn Boren and Zoe Katz of Southern Cal won the women's doubles consolation final 8-7(4) over Pleun Burgmans and Emily Flickinger of Auburn.

The sportsmanship awards, which are given to a player who has reached the semifinals, went to Clay Thompson of UCLA and Hayley Carter of North Carolina.

For more coverage, including video interviews of the champions, see the ITA tournament page.