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Monday, March 31, 2014

Top Seed Tiafoe Moves into Second Round at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Eighth Seed McCarthy Aims for Junior Slam Main Draws

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Carson, California

Top seed Francis Tiafoe fought gusty winds and a determined opponent Monday afternoon, but the Grade 1 International Spring Championships' top seed bore down, saving two set points to claim a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory over Sami Kirberg in first round action.

After double faulting to make it 5-6, 15-40 in the second set, Tiafoe was able to save both set points. A forehand winner took care of the first, and an excellent first serve and a third-shot forehand winner brought the score to deuce.  Two points later, the 16-year-old had forced the tiebreaker, and despite three consecutive double faults after taking a 4-1 lead, Tiafoe maintained his lead and closed out the 16-year-old from Florida.

"Coming from playing indoors, my feet still aren't too good outside," said Tiafoe, from College Park, Maryland. "Second set, I was up 3-1 and kind lost focus there and started to get frustrated, did stuff I shouldn't have done. But I'm glad I got through, and I'm happy with it."

Tiafoe didn't know anything about his opponent, although he said he did receive a congratulatory message from Kirberg after Tiafoe won the Orange Bowl last December. Kirberg's serve gave Tiafoe some problems, but Kirberg also had his share of double faults in the breezy conditions.

"It's a weird serve. On the ad, he can hit it flat wide, not sliding away, and the second serve goes into your body," Tiafoe said of his 609th- ranked opponent. "He's pretty solid from the baseline and he's definitely better than what his ranking says."

Tiafoe, who is ranked No. 8, doesn't have to worry about getting into the junior slams this summer, and had some success in Futures events earlier this year, but felt he needed to play this tournament and the Easter Bowl.

"It's good to play," said Tiafoe. "I haven't played a tournament since a 10K in Florida, and I didn't want to stay too much indoors. The weather in Maryland is awful. So I just wanted to get out of there, get some sun, get outside. After these two tournaments, I think I'm just going to stay out here, get some training weeks with some of the pros here. I think it's a good decision to play these."

Girls No. 8 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy began her quest for a main draw berth at the French Open and Wimbledon Juniors with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Claudia Wiktorin.

In 2013, McCarthy had to retire in her second round match in Carson due to a foot injury, and although she played the following week at the Easter Bowl, she is looking for better results this year, now that she is healthy.

"I'm glad I'm healthy this year," said the 16-year-old from North Carolina, who is ranked 87th among ITF juniors. "My goal here is to secure a spot in the main draw of the slams. That would be amazing. Obviously, things happen, like last year, that's what I was trying to do, and I ended up in a boot, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be healthy this year and playing good tennis. But yes, that is really something that I want to do if I can."

The first round of 18s singles is spread over two days, and girls No. 1 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt and No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin will play Tuesday. No. 3 seed Johnnise Renaud, No. 5 seed CiCi Bellis and No. 7 seed Michaela Gordon all advanced to the second round with wins on Monday.

No. 10 seed Madison Bourguignon was unable to compete due to illness, with lucky loser Bianca Moldovan taking her place and advancing to the second round.  The only other girls seed to fall on Monday was No. 14 seed Constanza Gorches of Mexico, who lost to wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo 7-6(3), 6-2.

Boys second seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan is on Tuesday's schedule, as are No. 3  and No. 4 seeds Alex Rybakov and Henrik Wiersholm. No. 5 seed Logan Smith was upset by Nathan Ponwith 6-1, 6-2.  No. 14 seed Zhe Zhou of China was the only other boys seed to lose Monday, falling to Myles Schalet 7-5, 6-4.

Unseeded Deiton Baughman, who lives within walking distance of the tournament site at the StubHub Center in Carson, advanced to the second round with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Kentaro Mizushima of Japan. Baughman, who has decided to forego college and turn pro, is planning to play several Futures tournaments outside of the US in the upcoming months.

The live streaming on courts 4 and 5 is up and running and is available on the tournament website. Tuesday's schedule on those two courts includes the first round matches of Taylor Fritz, Claremont champion Claire Liu, Samir, Wiersholm and Kenin.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kenin Joins International Spring Championships Field in Carson; Luz, Teichmann Win Grade A Titles in Brazil

The qualifying is complete and play will began Monday morning at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, California.

There was a surprise in the girls draw, with Sofia Kenin taking a late wild card into the event. The 15-year-old Floridian is the No. 2 seed behind Egypt's Sandra Samir, with Johnnise Renaud No. 3 and Usue Arconada No. 4.  Christina Makarova, a semifinalist last year and previously as high as No. 11 in the ITF junior rankings, is one of the dangerous floaters, and could face Samir in the second round, should they both advance.

In addition to the two previously announced boys 18s wild cards given to William Genesen and Reilly Opelka, five more were awarded, with Claremont finalist Liam Caruana, Michael Genender, McLain Kessler, Spencer Furman and Austin Rapp given spots the main draw.

Francis Tiafoe is the top seed, with Naoki Nakagawa of Japan No. 2, Alex Rybakov No. 3 and 2013 finalist Henrik Wiersholm No. 4.  Deiton Baughman is unseeded, and he could meet Wiersholm in the second round.

Tiafoe and CiCi Bellis, the No. 5 seed, are scheduled to play Monday, on courts that are scheduled to be streamed. Baughman, Opelka, Renaud and Kaitlyn McCarthy are also slated for action on courts 4 and 5 Monday. I will tweet a link to the streaming Monday when I receive it.

For the complete draws and order of play, see the tournament website.

At the ITF Grade A Campeonato Internacional in Brazil, Orlando Luz of Brazil and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland won the championships.  Luz, seeded No. 6, beat No. 9 seed Clement Geens of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, for his third title in three weeks on the ITF South American circuit. Teichmann avenged her semifinal loss in last week's Banana Bowl, defeating Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(10). From the looks of that scoreline, it must have been a great final.  Teichmann also took the doubles title with Priscilla Hon of Australia. Quentin Halys and Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France, the top seeds, won the boys doubles title.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ohio State Sets New NCAA Record for Home Wins; Georgia, Oklahoma Men Fall in Texas; Duncan, Liu Win Claremont Titles; Kozlov Hits with Nadal

Last night in Columbus, the Ohio State men's team set an NCAA record for all Division I sports with its 185th consecutive home victory.  The second-ranked Buckeyes defeated No. 28 Northwestern 4-3, with senior Peter Kobelt clinching the victory for Ohio State.  Next up for the Buckeyes is Illinois, who will attempt to end the streak that extends back over a decade Sunday at noon.  For more on last night's milestone, see this recap from the Ohio State website.

In other Top 10 action last night, No. 11 Texas defeated No. 3 Oklahoma 4-3, in front of a home crowd of over 1,000 that apparently included both Andy Roddick and John Isner, although Roddick was certainly supporting his brother John, the Sooners head coach, and not the Longhorns.  In nearby College Station, No. 12 Texas A&M defeated No. 7 Georgia 4-1 in a College Match Day contest delayed several hours by rain.

When the Aggies and Bulldogs split first sets, the prospect of the first doubles point of the College Match Day format experiment (at least of those that were streamed by ESPN3) looked good, but Texas A&M secured all three matches that they led, with Harrison Adams, Shane Vinsant and Jeremy Efferding winning at 1, 2 and 3.  Georgia's Hernus Pieters closed on Jordan Szabo at 6 for Georgia's point, but Jackson Withrow clinched for the Aggies, taking out Nick Wood 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 at line 5.  

With only one more ESPN3 streamed College Match Day scheduled, with the unranked Missouri women facing No. 9 Georgia in Athens Sunday, it's unlikely that any doubles points will be played at all. I don't know how that can possibly be spun as a positive, and I hope after tomorrow's match that format will just go away.  Georgia had an important SEC victory last night, defeating No. 7 Texas A&M 4-0 in a match played indoors in Athens.

The ITF Grade 4 in Claremont was completed today, with Walker Duncan and Claire Liu winning the titles.  The No. 6 seed, Duncan defeated unseeded Liam Caruana of the US 7-5, 6-1.  The 17-year-old Georgia recruit did not lose a set in picking up his first ITF singles title.

The 13-year-old Liu now has her first ITF title too, with the No. 16 seed beating No. 3 seed Emma Higuchi of the US 6-4, 6-2 in the final.  Liu didn't lose more than 4 games in any set during the week.

The boys doubles title went to top seeds Kentaro Misushima of Japan and Harrison Scott of Canada, who beat No. 2 seeds Duncan and Emil Reinberg of the US 7-6(2), 6-2.  Ena Shibahara and Savannah Slaysman won the girls doubles title, defeating Liu and Annette Goulak 7-5, 7-5 in a battle of unseeded American teams.

Complete draws for the Claremont ITF can be found here.

Qualifying for the Grade 1 in Carson is underway, and I will be traveling to California Sunday, so check this website for updates and Monday's order of play, although I hope to provide a quick post late Sunday with links.

Dasha Ivanova was the last US player still in action at the Grade A Campeonato Internacional in Brazil, but she lost in the semifinals today to Jil Teichmann of Switzerland 6-2, 6-0. The No. 13 seed Teichmann will play No. 14 seed Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain in Sunday's final. Bolsova Zadoinov defeated Teichmann in the semifinals of the Grade 1 Banana Bowl last week, which Bolsova Zadoinov went on to win.

Orlando Luz of Brazil will be playing for his third consecutive South American title Sunday, when the No. 6 seed plays No. 9 seed Clement Geens of Belgium.

And finally, ITF World No. 2 junior Stefan Kozlov has been busy this week serving as a hitting partner for ATP No. 1 Rafael Nadal, who takes on Novak Djokovic in the final of the Sony Open on Sunday.  This article by Sandy Harwitt for the Miami Herald explains the challenges that come with that honor, both off and on the court.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Aney to North Carolina; Halbauer Prepares for Family Circle Cup Qualifying; New Names Atop ITA Rankings in Division II and Division III

My article for the Tennis Recruiting Network this week is about 15-year-old Jessie Aney and her decision to commit to the University of North Carolina for the fall of 2015.  I interviewed Aney earlier this month in Mobile, where she played No. 1 in the 18s division for the Tornados, who won the first USTA Team Championships.  As many of you already know, Aney is one of the best girls hockey players in the state of Minnesota, and therefore the country, but she has decided to concentrate on tennis in college. She will be 17 when she enters school, having accelerated her online schooling.  Few juniors can match her composure on the court, and her unabashed love of Roger Federer will also make her a popular teammate in Chapel Hill, I'm sure.

I wrote about Ellie Halbauer's wild card for the WTA Family Circle Cup qualifying last month, which she won in a tournament that included a victory over Orange Bowl champion Varvara Flink of Russia.  Qualifying begins on Saturday, and Halbauer, who is originally from the Charleston, South Carolina area, has gotten quite a bit of press on her upcoming appearance.  This was also true when local Shelby Rogers won the qualifying wild card in the same tournament back in 2010. (Rogers received a main draw wild card this year, as has Nadia Petrova of Russia and Melanie Oudin.)  Here's the latest article on Halbauer and her decision to leave the area for South Florida to train. There is one error in the article, which states Halbauer "was able to accept only expense money for her Hilton Head win," in reference to her title at the Hilton Head $10,000 tournament last fall.  That used to be the rule prior to August of 2013, but the NCAA has since changed that.  A link to the new rule is here.

Tornado Alicia Black, Taylor Townsend and Grace Min have also been announced as qualifying wild cards for the Family Circle Cup.

The ITA released the new team rankings for Division II and Division III earlier this week, with two new schools at the top of the men's lists.

The University of West Florida has taken the No. 1 spot from Barry, ending Barry's 41-match winning streak earlier this month. West Florida's No.1 player Bruno Savi is the top-ranked singles player in men's Division II competition.

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps has taken the top spot in Division III men's tennis, beating previous No. 1 Washington University, Saint Louis, and also topping Amherst to remain undefeated.  They played UCLA earlier this week, and for more on that match, see this article from the CMS website.

Johns Hopkins retains the top spot in women's Division III, but there is a new No. 1 in Division II, with the undefeated Barry women claiming it after a victory over previous No. 1 Armstrong Atlantic.  Valentine Confalonieri of Lynn University is the No. 1 singles player in the Division II individual rankings.

The ITA release on Division III is here, and the Division II release is here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Four US Juniors Reach Quarterfinals in ITF Grade A in Brazil; Carson Preview; College Match Day Streaming Features Georgia - Texas A&M Men Friday

The quarterfinals are set for the ITF's first Grade A of 2014, with two US boys and two US girls winning their third round matches today in Brazil.

Usue Arconada, the No. 8 seed, and Dasha Ivanova, the No. 10 seed, advanced in straight sets, with Ivanova defeating No. 7 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico, who was a finalist at last week's Banana Bowl, 7-6(4), 6-4. Arconada beat unseeded Luisa Stefani, who was the last Brazilian girl in the singles draw, 7-5, 6-4.  Americans Madison Bourguignon, Olivia Hauger and Sofia Kenin lost their third round matches today.

Also out is top seed Fanny Stollar of Hungary, the winner of the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay earlier this month. Stollar, 15, was beaten 6-0, 6-3 by No. 13 seed Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, who is 16 years old.

Henrik Wiersholm and Alex Rybakov of the US have been in South America for three tournaments, but this is the first time either has made the quarterfinals in singles.  Rybakov, the No. 13 seed, beat Peru's Nicolas Alvarez, the No. 4 seed, 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.  Wiersholm, the No. 14 seed, beat unseeded Gian Marco Moroni of Italy 6-4, 6-2.

The ITF junior website has been publishing daily stories from the Campeonato Internacional, but the draws haven't yet been updated. The singles results from today, from the tournament website, are below:

Quentin Halys (FRA/1) v. Mirko Cutuli (ITA) 6/1 6/3
Omar Jasika (AUS/12) v. Matias Zukas (ARG/5) 6/1 7/5
Henrik Wiersholm (USA/14) v. Gian Marco Moroni (ITA) 6/4 6/2
Clement Geens (BEL/9) v. João Menezes (BRA/8) 6/4 6/4
Marcelo Zormann (BRA/10) v. Naoki Nakagawa (JPN/7) 6/3 4/6 7/6 (2)
Alex Rybakov (USA/13) v. Nicolas Alvarez (PER/4) 7/5 2/6 6/1
Orlando Luz (BRA/6) v. Francisco Bahamonde (ARG/11) 5/7 6/4 7/5
Johan Tatlot (FRA/2) v. Osni Júnior (BRA) 6/0 6/2

Jil Teichmann (SUI/13) v. Fanny Stollar (HUN/1) 6/0 6/3
Usue Arconada (USA/8) v. Luisa Stefani (BRA) 7/5 6/4
Priscilla Hon (AUS/3) v. Olivia Hauger (USA/16) 6/3 6/2
Dasha Ivanova (USA/10) v. Renata Zarazua (MEX/7) 7/6 (4) 6/4
Bianca Turati (ITA) v. Katherine Sebov (CAN) 7/6 (3) 6/4
Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov (ESP/14) v. Sofia Kenin (USA/4) 6/3 6/2
Anna Bondar (HUN/5) v. Madison Bourguignon (USA) 6/1/6 6/2
Fiona Ferro (FRA/2) v. Verena Hofer (ITA) 6/1 2/6 6/2

Steve Pratt, who is the longtime media liaison at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, has provided a preview of the tournament, which begins with qualifying on Saturday, and main draw action on Monday.  All four of the US players still playing in Brazil are in the field, as is Orange Bowl champion Francis Tiafoe, who did not travel to South America this month, but will be the No. 1 seed in Carson.  Taylor Fritz and Deiton Baughman, who have been winning matches on the Futures circuit this year, strengthen the boys field, as does Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, a semifinalist last year.

Eddie Herr finalist Sandra Samir of Egypt, who trains at the Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine, is the girls top seed. Christina Makarova, a semifinalist last year, will be one of the favorites this year, although she has not played any junior events this year and her ranking has fallen from the Top 30 down to 169 now.

The complete release can be found here.

The last two College Match Day contests to be streamed on ESPN3 are this weekend, with the Georgia men traveling to College Station to play Texas A&M on Friday, and the Missouri women playing the Georgia women in Athens on Sunday.  The link for the Georgia - Texas A&M match, which begins at 7 p.m. Eastern, is here.

There is also a big match in Columbus Ohio tomorrow night, with the Ohio State men attempting to set a new NCAA Division I record for consecutive home victories in any sport.  Currently tied with the Stanford women at 184, the Buckeyes will host Northwestern Friday at 6 pm.  If Ohio State, ranked No. 2 currently, should establish the record, they will face a tough task of extending it, with No. 10 Illinois on the schedule for Sunday.  For more on the streak, here's my Tennis Recruiting Network article on it after the end of the 2013 season, and here's the current status on the Ohio State website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

More on USTA Complex to be Built in Orlando; New National High School Tennis Event This Summer; Athletic Talent Bestowed, Not Created?

The Orlando Sentinel has confirmed the USTA's intention to purchase land in the Orlando area for a "state-of-the-art" tennis campus, although it has not yet signed a deal, according to this article.  The article doesn't mention the number of courts, which has been reported as 102, but it does contain the first public comments from the USTA.

"It would be a comprehensive facility that would provide court access, coaching, and player development for virtually every level of the game," said Chris Widmaier, managing director for the association, which is based in White Plains, N.Y.

The goal for a new USTA facility, Widmaier said, is to fulfill the association's mission of promoting and developing the sport.

Widmaier could not provide details on a construction timetable, the number of courts or overall cost. Also uncertain is whether any government incentives would be provided.

With the USTA already announcing these plans to those at its annual meeting earlier this month, there seems little doubt the deal will go through, and I'll post the USTA's release when I receive it.

Another announcement I was expecting from the USTA, about a new high school tennis-centered tournament, came from New Balance, who developed the event to reach out to the teenage sports market. The first edition of the tournament, which features a 64-compass draw, will be held at Harvard University, July 21-25, 2014. I believe this is the week after the National Clay Courts.

Anyone who played varsity high school tennis in the 2013-14 season is welcome to enter, but according to the TennisLink site, the Universal Tennis Rating, geographic distribution and USTA results will be taken into account by the tournament committee.  

Dormitory housing with supervision will be available to participants, and meals for the players in the tournament will be provided. 

The boys and girls champions will be given a wild card into an unnamed ITF event prior to the US Open, which I presume will be the Grade 1 International Hardcourts in College Park, Md. 

For more on the tournament, see this article from Tennis Panorama News. 

Is practice enough?

Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated linked to this article in his weekly mailbag, and I'm passing it along as a counterpoint to the popular notion that 10,000 hours devoted to obtaining a skill will lead to mastery of said skill.  I've never doubted the role that discipline and determination can play in any success, but I think we all know people who can pick up any sport in just a few hours, and while they wouldn't challenge a highly trained professional in that sport, there's no doubt they have athletic gifts others can only envy.  This article makes an excellent point, I think, about the changes in tennis the past several decades, and how the sport now requires both the hard work and the talent, when one or the other might have sufficed in the the early years of the Open era. Here's an excerpt:

During the amateur era and the early decades of professionalism, tennis players came in all shapes, sizes and training regimes. So it was possible to gain a significant edge through sheer hard work. But when a sport becomes fully professional and global, and nurture equilibrates, nature once again has the upper hand.

I also think the last paragraph, with its insight into the role siblings can play in the selection of a sport, should launch serious academic study into just that topic.   

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

USC Men Take Top Spot in Latest ITA Rankings, Duke Women Remain No. 1; Redlicki Suspended at Duke; Criteria for USTA Collegiate Team Announced

Another week, another new team at No. 1, with the Southern California Trojans claiming the top spot in this week's men's ITA rankings. As with the NCAA men's basketball season, there's lots of parity and no reason to think that will change in the next six weeks.

Southern Cal, No. 4 last week, moved past last week's No. 1 Oklahoma, who dropped to third, with Ohio State, another previous No. 1, who remained at No. 2. The men's Top 10:

1. Southern Cal
2. Ohio State
3. Oklahoma
4. Virginia
6. Baylor
7. Georgia
8. North Carolina
9. Notre Dame
10. Illinois

The Duke women maintained their place at the top of the rankings, with UCLA continuing in the No. 2 spot.  Georgia, who lost to Vanderbilt on Sunday, fell from 3 to 9.  The women's Top 10:

1. Duke
3. Virginia
4. Florida
5. Stanford
6. Alabama
7. Texas A&M
8. North Carolina
9. Georgia
10. Vanderbilt

The Texas College Tennis blog has released its new men's rankings, with Oklahoma at No. 1, Ohio State 2, UCLA 3 and Southern Cal 4.  The complete list is here.

The individual rankings had only one change, with Jamie Loeb of North Carolina, Clay Thompson of UCLA and Robin Anderson and Jennifer Brady of UCLA staying at No. 1.  The Tennessee doubles team of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese have returned to the top spot this week.

Women's Singles Top 10:

1. Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
2. Kristie Ahn, Stanford
3. Julia Elbaba, Virginia
4. Robin Anderson, UCLA
5. Beatrice Capra, Duke
6. Lauren Herring, Georgia
7. Hayley Carter, North Carolina
8. Jenny Jullien, St. Mary's
9. Emina Bektas, Michigan
10. Olivia Janowicz, Florida

Men's Singles Top 10:
1. Clay Thompson, UCLA
2. Axel Alvarez, Oklahoma
3. Raymond Sarmiento, Southern Cal
4. Mitchell Frank, Virginia
5. Guillermo Alcorta, Oklahoma
6. Marcos Giron, UCLA
7. Julian Lenz, Baylor
8. Peter Kobelt, Ohio State
9. Jared Hiltzik, Illinois
10. Brayden Schnur, North Carolina

The complete rankings, both team and individual, can be found at the ITA ranking page.

According to this report from the Duke Chronicle on Sunday's Virginia - Duke men's match, sophomore Michael Redlicki, No. 35 in this week's rankings, was not in the lineup because he had been suspended indefinitely for "disorderly conduct." I have been told there will be no other statement on the matter from the University.

Dustin Taylor, USTA National Coach for Collegiate Tennis
The criteria for inclusion on the USTA's Collegiate Team has been released. ITA rankings are no longer used for team selection, but they are used for the $3000 and $2000 grants. The full explanation is below:

Collegiate National Team

The Collegiate National Team consists of the nation's top American college players, who are eligible to represent the U.S. in Davis Cup/Fed Cup play, and is designed to provide them with valuable exposure to the USTA Pro Circuit in a team-oriented environment. The Collegiate National Team is for collegiate players aspiring to become top professionals.

Teams will be comprised of 6 players and 2-3 coaches who meet the criteria specified below.  Team members will be granted the opportunity to participate in: USTA Pro Circuit events, MasterU Competition, and will be in consideration for Davis Cup/Fed Cup competitions (practice partner), and will be provided with appropriate funding, coaching, training and competitive opportunities throughout the year, courtesy of USTA Player Development (USTAPD).

The program, which is administered by the USTAPD and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, began in 1996, initially funded by the USTA and now by the USTAPD, and is currently headed by USTA National Coach, Dustin Taylor.

Automatic Qualifiers:

·       Singles winners of the ITA All-American, National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, and NCAA’s will be automatically on the team
·       ITA Player and/or Rookie of the year
·       And for the remaining spots, the highest ranked Collegians in the ATP and WTA rankings, as of Monday, August 11, 2014, will round out the teams of 6

Grant Money Recipients:

At the conclusion of the NCAA Individual Tournament, the USTAPD will be distributing a $3000 grant to the top 5 Americans and a $2000 grant to Americans 6-10 in final ITA Division I Singles rankings

Priorities for USTA Player Development:

1.     The players who have already qualified for the team
2.     Grant money recipients who didn’t qualify during the course of the academic year
3.     The rest of college tennis!!  Collegiate National Team coaches at tournaments will stay to help out ANY collegian who is still in the tournament


Feel free to contact USTA National Coach, Dustin Taylor with any questions or concerns at dtaylor@usta.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bourguignon Wins ITF Grade 3 Costa Rica Bowl; Eleven US Juniors Competing In Brazil Grade A This Week; Junior Fed and Davis Cups Return to Mexico

Two young Americans won Pro Circuit titles over the weekend, with Grace Min and Marcos Giron capturing champioships at $25,000 and $15,000 tournaments in the United States, but US ITF junior results outside the country were mixed last week.

Madison Bourguignon won her second ITF title of the month, following up her win at the Grade 4 in Guatemala with another at the Grade 3 Costa Rica Bowl.  Bourguignon, the No. 3 seed, defeated Great Britain's Anna Brogan 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 in the final. Brogan was the only girl from outside the US to make the quarterfinals.  Brogan did collect the doubles title, partnering Gabriella Pollner of the US. In the final, the unseeded team defeated Bourguignon and Rafaella Baquerizo of Ecuador, the No. 1 seeds, in a walkover.

Walker Duncan had the best showing of the US boys in Costa Rica, with the Georgia recruit reaching the semifinals in singles and winning the doubles title with Emil Reinberg of the US.  Duncan and Reinberg, unseeded, beat No. 2 seeds Runhao Hua of China and Stephen Madonia of the US 6-2, 7-6(1) in the final.  No. 2 seed Luis Valero of Colombia won the boys singles title, 6-3, 6-2 over No. 3 seed Hua.

At the two Grade 1s--the Banana Bowl in Brazil, and the Mitsubishi-Lancer International in Philippines--there were no US winners in singles or doubles. Raveena Kingsley reached the semifinals in singles, losing to eventual champion Gloria Liang of Canada. Liang, the No. 14 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia 6-2, 7-5 in the final. No. 4 seed Ku Keon Kang of Korea won the boys title, beating unseeded Rhett Purcell of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4.

In Brazil, Orlando Luz continued his outstanding play, earning his second consecutive sweep of Grade 1 titles.  The 16-year-old Brazilian, seeded No. 8, defeated doubles partner and No. 7 seed Joao Menezes, also of Brazil, 6-3, 7-5 in the final. It was Luz's tenth consecutive straight-set win in Grade 1 competition this month. Luz and Menezes, the No. 2 seeds, won the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan and Lautaro Pane of Argentina.

No. 13 seed Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain won her first Grade 1 title, with the 16-year-old defeating No. 9 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in the final. Zarazua won the doubles title, with Luisa Stefani of Brazil.

This week's major ITF junior tournament is indeed a major, with the
Campeonato Internacional in Porto Alegre Brazil the first Grade A of the year.   Four US boys and seven US girls are in the draw: Ulises Blance, Henrik Wiersholm(14), Alex Rybakov(13), Myles Schalet, Nicole Frenkel, Usue Arconada(8), Olivia Hauger(16), Dasha Ivanova(10), Sofia Kenin(4), Madison Bourguignon and Raquel Pedraza(15).   The top seeds in the girls draw are Fanny Stollar of Hungary and Fiona Ferro of France. The top two seeds in the boys draw are Quentin Halys and Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France.

The California ITF circuit has begun with the Grade 4 in Claremont, California this week. As expected, Taylor Fritz withdrew after reaching the quarterfinals at the Calabasas Futures, so there are no ITF Top 100 players in the field. The boys top seed is Harrison Scott of Canada, and the girls top seed is Ellyse Hamlin of the US. 

The ITF announced today that the ITF Junior Fed and Junior Davis Cup, the 16-and-under international team competition will be in San Luis Potosi Mexico again this year. In 2012, the competition was in Barcelona, but it has been in San Luis Potosi for six of the last seven years now.  Because the host country gets an automatic bid, this limits the North American qualifying tournament to just one team berth in the final, meaning only the US or Canada, traditionally the strongest two countries, can advance.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Giron, Min win Pro Circuit Titles; Alabama Women Save Match Points, Win Doubles Shootout to Beat Florida 4-3

UCLA junior Marcos Giron won his third Futures title, all of them since last September, and all of them in California, defeating  No. 3 seed Jason Jung 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the final of today's $15,000 tournament in Calabasas.

The unseeded 20-year-old from Thousand Oaks, California has won three of the last four Futures he has played, and reached the semifinals of the tournament he didn't win, back in September.  He has three losses in college matches this year, two of them this fall, to Amerigo Contini of Virginia Tech and Jared Hiltzik of Illinois, and one this spring, to Yannick Hanfmann of Southern Cal at the Team Indoor. With his win today, Giron will add 27 ATP points to his total, and he'll easily reach the ATP Top 500 for the first time.

Top seeds Evan King(Michigan) and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Dennis Novikov(UCLA) and Connor Smith(Ohio State) 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

Grace Min, who will be 20 in May, overcame a slow start against NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs to post a 7-5, 6-0 victory in the final of the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Innisbrook, Florida.  Gibbs was serving at 4-3 in the first set, but lost ten of the next 11 games, and Min earned her first title since May of 2012.

The doubles title went to unseeded Gioia Barbieri of Italy and Julia Cohen(Miami), who beat wild cards Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery 7-6(5), 6-0 in the final.

I watched quite a bit of the College Match Day doubleheader at Duke, which featured the women against Florida State and the men against No. 7 Virginia. The top-ranked women's team earned a straightforward 6-0 win over No. 43 Florida State, with the match finishing in an hour and 45 minutes, but the men's match was closer. Even without Michael Redlicki in the lineup, No. 13 Duke managed to hold its own, before Virginia's Mitchell Frank closed out Jason Tahir at No. 2 6-3, 7-6(5) to secure the win for the Cavaliers.

The ESPN3 streaming crew is still looking for its first dual match tied at 3-3, but in a College Match Day contest today in Alabama, with the No. 8 Crimson Tide women hosting No. 5 Florida, that elusive outcome became a reality.  When Alabama's Luicelena Perez defeated Kourtney Keegan 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (3) at line 6, the two teams were tied, sending the match's outcome into the doubles point, where match tiebreakers would be played, with the team winning two of the three taking the match.  Florida rolled at No. 2, Alabama took the No. 3 line, and it came down to No. 1 with Florida's Sofie Oyen and Belinda Woolcock facing Alabama's Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe.  Oyen and Woolcock had two match points at 9-7, but couldn't convert and Jansen and Routliffe won the tiebreaker 12-10 to give Alabama a 4-3 victory, and its first win ever against Florida.

With Georgia's 4-2 loss to Vanderbilt today, Alabama is now the only women's team undefeated in the SEC.  Interesting to note that the match time was over four hours, while the bulk of the College Match Day contests have been under two, without any doubles played at all.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014's Wild Cards for Players Winning USTA National Titles; Min vs Gibbs for Innisbrook Title; Giron Reaches Futures Semifinal

Finding a specific item on the vast usta.com site is never easy, so when I came across this list of the 2014 wild card allocation for those juniors who win national tournaments, I thought I would pass it along. Last year, Easter Bowl champion Gage Brymer and 18s Clay Court champions Chloe Ouellet-Pizer and Dan Kerznerman received wild cards into the US Open Junior Championships via these performance-based wild cards, as did, of course, Kalamazoo winners Collin Altamirano and Tommy Paul, and San Diego 16s champion Katerina Stewart.  

The discussion about the ramifications of wild cards is ongoing and likely will continue as long as they exist, but I do think a distinction needs to be made between wild cards earned on the court and those conferred based on potential or popularity. The USTA French Open wild card will be decided by points accumulated in designated Pro Circuit events in the next two months, and I think this is an effective innovation, preferable to an invitation-only tournament, as is currently done for the Australian Open wild card.

The final at the women's $25,000 Innisbrook Pro Circuit tournament is set, and it's a rematch of the 2011 US Open Junior semifinals, with Grace Min facing Nicole Gibbs.  The unseeded Min, who won the title that year by beating France's Caroline Garcia 7-5, 7-6(3), had the easier route to the Innisbrook final, beating qualifier Gioia Barbieri of Italy 7-6(5), 6-2 in the day's first match.  Gibbs looked to be cruising over qualifier Louisa Chirico up 6-2, 5-3 40-0, but Chirico saved those three match points, two more serving in the next game, and forced a third set by winning the subsequent tiebreaker 7-4.  Gibbs again took a big lead, serving at 4-1, but she was broken at love and had to save a break point in her next service game to stay in front. That was the last comeback Chirico could muster, and Gibbs broke for a 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-3 victory, and her first final since winning the $50,000 Yakima Challenger last July.

At the $15,000 Futures in Calabasas, California, UCLA junior Marcos Giron has reached the semifinals, and he is joined there by two other Southern Californians who excelled in college, Daniel Nguyen(Southern Cal) and Jason Jung(Michigan).  Jung, the No. 3 seed, defeated 16-year-old wild card Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-4 in Friday's quarterfinal, while Nguyen beat former Duke star Henrique Cunha 6-1, 6-4.  Late last night, Giron topped former University of Washington All-American Kyle McMorrow 6-2, 6-3.  After Nguyen and Jung face off, Giron will again be featured in the night match, taking on No. 6 seed Mate Pavic of Croatia, who, like Giron, is 20 years old and has two Futures titles in singles.

Ken Thomas of Radiotennis.com is audio streaming from Calabasas this weekend.

Friday, March 21, 2014

USTA Team Championship Recap; Carson Wild Cards; Chirico, Min and Gibbs Reach $25K Semis

My recap of the USTA Team Championships held last week in Mobile is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  The tournament, and more particularly the gold balls given for winning it, has drawn some interesting comments on this site, which I won't address specifically. But I do think the tournament can be improved, and for me, the most important change is to get rid of the sets-won and games-won tiebreakers, which are decidedly not in keeping with the USTA's goal to provide a team experience similar to that the juniors will likely encounter in college. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this, with a super tiebreaker doubles match to decide the winner if it's 6-6 or an odd number of doubles matches, which would require each age division sitting out just one day. Not including the 12s age division at all would also be a more drastic change that would lead to a more manageable tournament.

It's impossible to imagine a better facility and more dedicated tournament directors, and still, even with perfect weather, the first day extended until 9 p.m. Except in the main draw, perhaps third-set match tiebreakers should be used if players split sets, especially if the team match has already been decided. I'm sure the format and the schedule will be looked at carefully before next year's tournament, but while I would have preferred the USTA Spring Nationals schedule remain as it was the past nine years, it's obvious that many of the participants and the coaches enjoyed the team experience this new tournament provided.

My next live coverage will be from the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, which begins a week from Monday. The wild cards for that tournament were announced last week.  They are:

Boys 18s:
William Genesen
Reilly Opelka

Girls 18s:
Sophie Chang
Francesca Di Lorenzo
Caroline Dolehide
Alexandra Letz
Jada Hart
Claire Liu
Kylie McKenzie

Boys 16s:
Roscoe Bellamy
Brian Cernoch
Andrew Fenty
Maxwell Mendelson
Nathan Perrone

Girls 16s:
Elysia Bolton
Nicole Conard
Julia Goldberg
Taylor Johnson

Qualifying Wild Cards

Girls 18s:
Jessica Failla
Hannah Lairmore
Jessica Livianu
Ashley Kratzer
Elizabeth Profit
Savannah Slaysman
Jaclyn Switkes
Rebecca Weissmann

Boys 18s:
Julian Rozenstein

Girls 16s:
Kariann Pierre-Louis

Boys 16s:
Robert Baylon
Keenan Mayo
Brandon Nakashima
Axel Nefve

For more on the tournament, including the complete list of 16s entry, see the tournament's webpage at usta.com.

Three of the four semifinalists at this week's $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Innisbrook, Florida are Americans, with Grace Min, Louisa Chirico and Nicole Gibbs picking up victories today.

The 17-year-old qualifier Chirico recovered from a miserable start to defeat 19-year-old Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 0-6, 6-2, 6-1. Putintseva's current WTA ranking is 154, Chirico's is 350.  Chirico will play 2012 and 2013 NCAA champion Gibbs in the semifinal, who also came back from a set down to advance. The unseeded Gibbs defeated qualifier Ling Zhang of Hong Kong 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

2011 US Open girls champion Grace Min put an end to the impressive run of Katerina Stewart, defeating 16-year-old wild card 6-2, 6-4.  Min will play Italian qualifier Gioia Barbieri in the semifinals. There were nine women in the WTA Top 150 in the main draw--none reached the quarterfinals.

Barbieri is also the only international player in the doubles final. She and Julia Cohen will play Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery in a battle on unseeded teams.

Jared Donaldson has continued to put up good results in $10,000 Futures in Turkey. The 17-year-old was a finalist last week, receiving a special exemption into this week's main draw, and today he avenged that loss, beating No. 3 seed Jordi Samper-Montana of Spain 6-4, 7-6(5).  He will play No. 2 seed Jan Mertl, a 32-year-old from the Czech Republic, Saturday to attempt to reach his second consecutive Futures final.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Registration Underway for US Open National Playoffs; Tiafoe Featured in New Junior Tennis Quarterly; Peter Kobelt in USTA College Spotlight

For the fifth year, the US Open is truly open, with the USTA's National Open Playoffs featuring a wild card into the US Open qualifying on tap this spring.  This May and June 13 sections are offering tournaments, with the winners going on to the National tournament in August at the New Haven Open on the campus of Yale University.

Registration, which began last Saturday, is open to any USTA member who will be at least 14 by August 25th, 2014. When this system was established in 2010, the fee was $125; now the sections set the entry fee, but it is less, either $75 or $100, depending on the section.  The mixed doubles competition, which provides the National Champions with a wild card into the main draw of the US Open, has separate fees of $45 to $60 per person.

Former Texas A&M star Jeff Dadamo and Mayo Hibi won the qualifying wild cards last year. UCLA junior Robin Anderson was the women's champion in 2011.

For the dates and locations of the sectional tournaments this year, see this pdf.

For more details, including the rules and regulations for the competition, see this from usopen.org.

The USTA has been publishing a Tennis Tuesday online weekly magazine for its members for the past several months, and this week a Juniors Quarterly has been introduced, with 2013 Orange Bowl champion Francis Tiafoe headlining the first issue.  Nina Pantic, who played college tennis at UCLA and Missouri, wrote the Tiafoe feature and also contributes regularly to the weekly magazine.

Sally Milano has provided this College Spotlight on Ohio State senior Peter Kobelt for usta.com.  Kobelt's improvement in college certainly can inspire any junior, as indicated by his response to the question on turning pro right out of high school:

To be honest, I didn’t really know if I was actually good enough to even play at the Division I level. I was never ranked in the Top 200 nationally in the USTA rankings, and not too many schools knew who I even was because I didn’t play for half the year because of (playing high school) basketball. Going pro wasn’t even in my ballpark.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Porter, Fritz Grab Big Wins in Pro Circuit Events; Update on Ivan Lendl's Academy; Texas A&M Women Beat Baylor 4-1 in College Match Day Contest

Peggy Porter and Taylor Fritz both picked up the biggest wins of their relatively brief experiences on the ITF Pro Circuit, defeating veteran players ranked way above them to advance to the second round in Florida and California tournaments.

Porter beat both WTA No. 282 Sanaz Marand (North Carolina) and No. 245 Maria Sanchez (Southern Cal) to qualify for the $25,000 Innisbrook tournament, which would have been a successful tournament for her regardless of her first round result. The 18-year-old University of Florida recruit, ranked 738, a career high, had never beaten anyone in the Top 500 before this week.  Today she faced No. 6 seed Alize Lim of France, a 23-year-old ranked 138, with Lim's seeding an indication of just how strong the field was in this event.  Porter beat Lim 7-5, 6-4, her fourth straight set win this week. She will play Madison Brengle in the second round.  Other US women to advance to the second round include Grace Min, Nicole Gibbs,  Irina Falconi(3), Allie Kiick, Louisa Chirico and Katerina Stewart, who continued her fine play with a 6-1, 6-2 win over WTA 150 Saisai Zheng of China.

The 16-year-old Fritz, who only just collected his first ATP point last month, defeated No. 7 seed and ATP 403 Dimitar Kutrovsky(Texas) of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the $15,000 Calabasas, California Futures. Kutrovsky said on Facebook that he had difficulty with the transition from the indoor courts in Canada, where he won a title last week, but also said, "All my shots felt very off and the ball was flying. My opponent was hitting big serves and big shots and they were going in which made it difficult to get a feel for everything."

Fritz will play Evan King(Michigan) in the second round. Fritz defeated King in the first round of the Bakersfield Futures last week  6-3, 6-3. Fritz is still showing on the entry list of the Grade 4 ITF Junior tournament in Claremont next week, but I've got to think he'll withdraw from that and concentrate on preparing for Carson and the Easter Bowl.

Other Americans in the second round in Calabasas are Stefan Kozlov, Collin Altamirano, Daniel Nguyen(Southern Cal), Jason Jung(Michigan), Sekou Bangoura(Florida), Kyle McMorrow(Washington), Marcos Giron(UCLA) and Mitch Krueger.

Ivan Lendl was much in the news today, with the announcement that he and Andy Murray have ended their coaching relationship, with much of the speculation as to why centered on Lendl's wish to travel less and perhaps play more on the senior tour himself.  Lendl also has an academy in Hilton Head to attend to, and at a recent Open House there, he spoke with Bluffton Today about his reasons for being involved in such a venture.

The seventh streamed College Match Day was played this evening in Waco, Texas, where the No. 7 Texas A&M women defeated the No. 12 Baylor Bears 4-1.  The production seemed much smoother than the previous one I watched, and I especially enjoyed the insets of the coaches talking about an individual player while the live match of that player was shown in a separate frame. The Aggies' Ines Deheza clinched the match, beating Ema Burgic 6-3, 6-4 at line 2.  The box score can be found here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bryan Brothers Speak Out Against NCAA Format Changes Affecting Doubles; Oklahoma Men, Duke Women Climb to No. 1 in Latest ITA Rankings

The Bryan twins won their second consecutive men's doubles title at the ATP Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells Saturday, their 95th ATP title as team.  In their news conference after the match, they were asked about the format experiments taking place in college tennis, experiments that have de-emphasized doubles or eliminated it altogether. (In the College Match Days being streamed on ESPN3, six of the 10 singles-first matches have been played, with none needing the doubles point to break a 3-3 tie).  Here is the pertinent part of the transcript from Indian Wells:

"Q.  You guys have worked really hard to promote doubles in the States.  So what are your feelings on the NCAA's attempts to try to make college tennis more TV friendly and trying to also minimize the doubles by doing so, especially with like the experimental formats they have been trying?

MIKE BRYAN:  Yeah, we are not fans of shortening the college matches.  You know, the doubles, I think they are only playing to 5.  It was experimental.  I don't think it took, which is good.  You know, TV does help the game.  It can make college tennis bigger.  But there's probably other ways you can go about it.  We would like to have doubles have bigger emphasis and matter more in college tennis.  So eight game pro set is what we played back in the day, and I think they should keep the format the way it is.

Q.  Have you had a chance to talk with the coaches about any of these changes that they have talked about with the doubles game on the college level?

BOB BRYAN:  I haven't talked to any coaches.  I talked to some of the players.  They don't really like that.  I mean, college coaches recruit based on singles and doubles performances in juniors, and, you know, I think doubles should, you know, really be a high priority for these kids and for these coaches.  And when you just kind of minimize these matches, it's not good for them, I don't think."

Whether their opinion matters to anyone at the NCAA or the ITA isn't known, but the 1998 NCAA doubles champions at Stanford certainly have the credentials to speak with authority about doubles at any level.

The latest team rankings were announced today by the ITA, with the Duke women returning to the No. 1 position, and the Oklahoma men ascending to the top for the first time in program history. Oklahoma, which was No. 2 last week, had been earning the program's highest-ever rankings all season, but that climb is over. They can only tie their best ranking from now on.  Baylor, on the strength of wins over Illinois and UCLA, moved from 12 to 5 and North Carolina has also moved into the Top 10 at 6, up from 11 last week. The Tar Heels and No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers meet this Friday in Chapel Hill. Georgia, with wins over Ohio State and Florida, moved from 16 to 10.

On the women's side, Georgia, who beat both Virginia and Florida last week, made a huge leap, going from 12 to 3. Duke replaced UCLA at the No. 1 spot.

Women's Top 10:

1. Duke
3. Georgia
4. Stanford
5. Florida
6. Virginia
7. Texas A&M
8. Alabama
9. Northwestern
10. North Carolina

The men's Top 10:

1. Oklahoma
2. Ohio State
4. Southern Cal
5. Baylor
6. North Carolina
7. Virginia
8. Texas
9. Illinois
10. Georgia

The complete rankings can be found at ITA rankings page. The individual rankings are skipped this week, and will return next Tuesday. Last week, new Division III rankings were released, with no change at No. 1.  The Washington University men and Johns Hopkins women remain at the top spots.

Monday, March 17, 2014

ITF Junior Update

After a quiet month of February, the ITF Junior Circuit is back at full throttle, with two Grade 1s last week and two more this week.

At the Grade 1 in Malaysia top seed Duckhee Lee of Korea took the boys title with a 6-3, 7-6(1) win over No. 2 seed Harry Bourchier of Australia, with unseeded Tami Grende of Indonesia capturing the girls title with a 7-5, 6-3 win over top seed Shilin Xu of China. The best American junior showing there was by unseeded Sameer Kumar, who lost to Bourchier in the quarterfinals.

Usue Arconada of the US won the doubles title at the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, partnering Renata Zarazua of Mexico. The No. 2 seeds defeated unseeded Mayuka Aikawa of Japan and Ndindi Mwaruka of the US 4-6, 6-2, 11-9 in the final.

Sixteen-year-old Brazilian Orlando Luz swept the boys titles in Paraguay. The No. 8 seed defeated No. 9 Francisco Bahamonde of Argentina 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final, and didn't lose a set in any of his five victories. He and compatriot Joao Menezes, the No. 2 seeds, beat No. 8 seeds Omar Jasika of Australia and Alexander Sendegeya of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in the doubles final.

Fanny Stollar of Hungary, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 15 seed Constanza Gorches of Mexico 6-3, 6-1 in the final.

Arconada, seeded fourth, reached the semifinals in singles, losing to Stollar, while Alex Rybakov(10) and Henrik Wiersholm(12) lost to Jaskia(6) and Luz respectively, in the third round.

At the Grade 2 in South Africa, Johnnise Renaud, the top seed, reached the final, but lost to No. 8 seed Maia Lumsden of Great Britain, the 2012 Girls 14s Junior Orange Bowl champion, 6-4, 6-3.

The Grade 4 in Guatemala produced two American winners. Madison Bourguignon, the top seed and a wild card, won the girls singles championship, beating qualifier Alexandra Sabe of New York 6-2, 6-0 in the final. Californian Gui Gomes won the boys doubles with Pedro Platzeck Cavalcante of Brazil, beating Jorge Ortegon of Mexico and Afonso Salgado of Portugal 6-2, 6-2 in a battle of unseeded teams.

2013 Eddie Herr 14s champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, an unseeded wild card, won the boys title, defeating No. 2 seed Christian Cargill of the Bahamas 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

The two Grade 1s this week are again in Southeast Asia and South America. Americans competing in the Philippines Grade 1 are Kumar, Raveena Kingsley(15), Katrine Steffensen(5) and qualifier Samantha Gonzalo.

The Grade 1 Banana Bowl in Brazil has Americans Wiersholm(13) and Rybakov(11) in the field, with Ulises Blanch and lucky loser Myles Schalet already out of singles in the first round. Arconada(12), Australian Open junior quarterfinalist Olivia Hauger(15), Dasha Ivanova(7), Raquel Pedraza(7) and Sofia Kenin(2) are joined in the draw by Nicole Frenkel, who won her first round match today.

Most of the US junior playing outside the US are in Costa Rica however, at the Grade 3 there. In a draw of 32, 17 American girls are competing, including Abi Altick(2), Bourguignon(3), Jenna Friedel(4), Chloe Ouellet-Pizer(5), Sofia Sewing(6), Jessica Golovin(7) and Claudia Wiktorin(8). Five American boys are in the draw, with Alexander Lebedev(6) the only seed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

USTA Planning 102 Court Facility in Orlando; Stewart Wins First Pro Circuit Title; Georgia Women Top Florida; Qualifying Begins Monday at Sony Open

There's been no formal public announcement from the USTA, but at the annual meeting today in Carlsbad, California plans were revealed for a 102 court facility in Orlando, Florida. According to Jon Scott from the Midwest section, who is at the meeting, it will include hard, clay and "covered" courts, as well as a kid zone, and groundbreaking is scheduled for the fall, with completion projected for 2016.  What this means for the current Boca Raton Player Development site, and all the large major tournaments, junior and otherwise, in the US, remains to be seen. When more details are released, I will pass them along.

Speaking of Orlando, it was the site of a teen sweep at the $10,000 women's Pro Circuit event today.  Miami's Katerina Stewart, 16, who reached the finals of the Gainesville 10K last week, won her first professional singles title, in what can only be described as dominating fashion. The unseeded Stewart, who received entry into the main draw by virtue of a special exemption for last week's performance, beat unseeded Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in the final. This after she had taken the final set from Mayo Hibi in the quarterfinals 6-0, and had beaten qualifier Natalie Suk 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals.

The doubles title also went to unseeded US teens, with 15-year-old Alexis Nelson and 14-year-old CiCi Bellis defeating Natalie Pluskota(Tennessee) and Sally Peers of Australia, the No. 3 seeds, 6-2, 0-6, 11-9.  Bellis and Nelson saved a match point at 8-9 in the tiebreaker, and beat the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 3 seeds to win their first titles on the Pro Circuit.

Unseeded Jared Donaldson lost in the finals of a $10,000 Futures in Turkey, to top seed Jordi Samper-Montana of Spain, 6-2, 7-6(4). Qualifier Noah Rubin, playing in his second Futures final, lost to top seed David Guez of France 6-4, 6-0, in a $15,000 Futures in Poitiers, France.

At the $15,000 Futures in Canada, two former teammates at Texas squared off in the final, with unseeded Bulgarian Dimitar Kutrovsky beating No. 7 seed Ed Corrie of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in the final.

Out in California, Dan Kosakowski(UCLA) continued his exceptional play, winning the $15,000 Bakersfield Futures singles title. Kosakowski, the No. 3 seed beat No. 8 seed Mitchell Krueger 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the final, after taking out Kalamazoo champion Collin Altamirano in three sets in the semifinals.

Evan King(Michigan) and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) won the doubles title, with the No. 1 seeds beating No. 2 seeds Adam Chadaj of Poland and Marek Michalicka (Wisconsin) of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-4, 10-5.

At the $125,000 Irving ATP Challenger, which was interrupted by rain on Saturday, Steve Johnson(Southern Cal), won his semifinal match today, but lost the final 6-0, 6-3 to ATP No. 47 Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, seeded No. 3.  Top seeds Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Scott Lipsky(Stanford) won the doubles title over unseeded JP Smith (Tennessee) and Michael Venus (LSU) 4-6, 7-6(7), 10-7.

Today in college tennis, No. 12 Georgia beat No. 3 Florida 4-2, in a match played indoors due to rain in Athens.  The Bulldogs won the doubles point easily, then picked up wins from Lauren Herring, Maho Kowase and Kate Fuller to remain undefeated in SEC play.  Florida coach Roland Thornqvist, in this Gatorzone.com article, said he believes Georgia is a favorite for the NCAA title in Athens in May, and cites the Georgia fans as a reason.

"This was one of the better Florida-Georgia matches in recent years. I’m very proud of this team because they atmosphere here in the indoor center was, in my 13 years at Florida, the toughest atmosphere that we’ve played in. It was a fantastic crowd, they were relentless and they really helped Georgia sustain their momentum throughout the match. Although they outplayed us for the majority of the beginning of the match, we somehow found a way to make it 3-2 and make it interesting. I thought Georgia played a fantastic match, really. If they can play like this at home, they will be my pick to win the national championship. The level of play that they displayed today in front of their home crowd should make them the favorite. It was a very, very high level of tennis.”
Georgia coach Jeff Wallace's thoughts on the match are included in this Georgiadogs.com article.

Playing without Jared Hiltzik, who is injured, No. 6 Illinois lost to No. 12 Baylor 4-0 today in Indian Wells. Baylor has now beaten No. 3 UCLA and No. 6 Illinois in the space of five days.  According to these quotes from Matt Knoll, Baylor's head coach, the players were able to watch the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, which Djokovic won in a third set tiebreaker.

Qualifying for the Sony Open in Miami begins on Monday, with three US women and nine US men attempting to reach the main draw.  Melanie Oudin returns after illness kept her out of competition for over three months, along with Shelby Rogers and CoCo Vandweghe.  The US men in qualifying are Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek, Wayne Odesnik, Jack Sock, Alex Kuznetsov, Steve Johnson (no day off between tournaments for him), Mike Russell, Rhyne Williams and 17-year-old Deiton Baughman, who received a wild card for the second year in a row.

The women's draw has been released, with the men's draw scheduled to come out on Monday.  US women in the main draw are: Serena Williams(1), wild card Vicky Duval, Vania King, Lauren Davis, Venus Williams(29), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Alison Riske, Varvara Lepchenko, Sloane Stephens(17), Christina McHale and Madison Keys.

Monday's order of play and the draws can be found here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Georgia Beats No. 1 Ohio State, Baylor Tops No. 3 UCLA in Men's D-I Play Last Week; Georgia Women Host Florida Sunday

With all my attention on the USTA Team Championships, I didn't get an opportunity to post on the big matches in college tennis the past week. Most of the important contests between top teams were on the men's side, although the North Carolina women's 5-2 win over Virginia last Sunday was instrumental in the Tar Heels moving back into the Top 10.

On Wednesday, two of the top four men's team suffered losses, more evidence that this year's NCAA tournament will be much less predictable than it has been in past years.  Ohio State, who had lost to Oklahoma the previous week, but retained their No. 1 ranking, went to Athens to take on No. 16 Georgia on Wednesday, and, in a match played on Georgia's four indoor courts due to high winds, the Bulldogs beat the Buckeyes 4-3.  Nick Wood and Hernus Pieters were the heroes for Georgia, coming from behind at lines 5 and 6, with Pieters clinching the win.

Later that same day in Los Angeles, No. 12 Baylor got itself back into the national title conversation, beating No. 3 UCLA 4-2.  With Marcos Giron playing No. 1 for the Bruins, Clay Thompson, the nation's top-ranked player, dropped down to No. 2, where Julian Lenz of the Bears dealt Thompson only his third loss of the season, 7-6(5), 6-4. Thompson's other two losses were to Axel Alvarez of Oklahoma, back in October's All-American Championships' first round, and to Giron, who beat Thompson in the Sherwood Cup final in January.  All three doubles matches were decided in tiebreakers, with Baylor winning two of them.

Earlier in the week, No. 11 North Carolina defeated No. 7 Texas in Chapel Hill 4-3.  Tar Heel freshman No. 1 Brayden Schnur, who has yet to lose a singles match in his brief college career, clinched the match, beating Longhorn Soren Hess-Olesen 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Yesterday, No. 4 Southern California blanked No. 8 Notre Dame, and looked sharp doing so, with the Trojans winning all six singles matches in straight sets.

No. 2 Oklahoma continued their excellent play tonight, beating No. 10 Duke 4-3.  The match summary isn't available right now, but should be up on the Sooners website in a few hours.

Baylor and No. 6 Illinois will play in the Oracle Challenge Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where the finals of the BNP Paribas Open will also be played.  Illinois had to make a quick trip out west, after serving as host for a College Match Day in Champaign, where they beat Pepperdine 5-0 in less than ninety minutes.

For more on the Oracle Challenge and how it came to be played this weekend in Indian Wells, see this article from the ITA

The big match in women's competition Sunday has No. 3 Florida traveling to No. 12 Georgia in a key SEC battle. Florida, Georgia and Alabama are all undefeated in conference play this season. Match time is 1 pm, with live scoring, streaming and blog available at the Georgia website.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Altamirano, Rubin, Donaldson and Stewart Reach Futures Semifinals; Isner Back in Top 10 After Reaching BNP Paribas Semifinals

It's a travel day for me, as I return to the (still) frozen north for a couple of weeks until heading out to California for the ITF Grade 1 in Carson and the Easter Bowl, but a quick post here to catch up on some of the results in the ITF Men's and Women's circuits and ATP events.

Noah Rubin, who is in France playing Futures there this month, has reached the semifinals of the $15,000 tournament in Poitiers after getting through qualifying.  The 18-year-old New Yorker defeated No. 2 seed and ATP No. 192 Gregoire Burquier of France today 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.  It is Rubin's sixth Futures semifinal, and a win over former University of Georgia standout Sadio Doumbia of France on Saturday would give Rubin his second appearance in a Futures final.

Seventeen-year-old Jared Donaldson, a Kalamazoo finalist in 2013, has reached the second Futures semifinal of his career at a $10,000 tournament in Turkey.  The unseeded Donaldson beat former Ohio State All-American Steven Moneke, the No. 3 seed, in the second round, and today took out No. 5 seed Laslo Djere of Serbia, the 2012 Orange Bowl champion, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.  He will play 18-year-old Maximilian Marterer of Germany, a Wimbledon boys finalist last year, for a place in the final.

Collin Altamirano, who beat Donaldson to win the Kalamazoo 18s title last year, reached his first Futures semifinal after a win today at the $15,000 Futures in Bakersfield, California. The 18-year-old Altamirano defeated doubles partner Deiton Baughman 6-3, 6-1, after having beaten No. 5 seed Michael Shabaz (Virginia) in the first round, and 16-year-old Taylor Fritz in the second.  Altamirano will play Dan Kosakowski(UCLA) in Saturday's semifinal.

At the $10,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Orlando, Katerina Stewart reached the semifinals for the second straight week, picking up a big win over No. 3 seed Mayo Hibi 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.  Stewart, who lost in the final at last week's Futures in Gainesville, will play qualifier Natalie Suk in Saturday's semifinals. 

At the $125,000 + hospitality Challenger in Irving, Texas, Steve Johnson (Southern Cal) has reached the semifinals, defeating fellow NCAA champion Benjamin Becker (Baylor, 2004), 6-3, 6-1 in today's quarterfinal.  Johnson will play unseeded Tobias Kamke of Germany, who beat Johnson in the first round of the US Open last year.

Unseeded JP Smith (Tennessee) and Michael Venus (LSU) are into the doubles final against top seeds Scott Lipsky (Stanford) and Santiago Gonzalez.

John Isner (Georgia) will return to the ATP Top 10 next week, after reaching the semifinals at the BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells. Isner defeated Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 7-6(4), 7-6(3), to make the semifinals, where he will meet Novak Djokovic. They met two years ago in the BNP Paribas semifinals, and Isner came away with the win.  For more on Isner's match today with Gulbis, see this Tennis View magazine report.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tornados and Rams Claim Gold Balls in First USTA Spring Team Championships

Left to right: Keyser, Garcia, Loeb, Khan, Cacciatore, Little, Jones, Johnston

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Mobile, AL--

A chilly but sunny morning was the backdrop for the finals of the USTA's first Spring Team Championships, with the boys title going to the Rams, by virtue of sets won from the Saints, and the girls title going to the Tornados, who beat the Firecrackers 7-5.

The boys title match was close from the start, with the two teams splitting the four doubles points available.  The Rams took the No. 1 doubles, with William Little and Robert Loeb beating Spencer Furman and Luke Gamble 8-5, and the No. 4 doubles, with Nicholas Garcia and Zane Khan downing Michael Karr and Benjamin Koch 8-4.  The Saints got their two points from Gianni Ross and Justin Lee, who beat Blest Jones and Alexander Keyser at No. 2 doubles 8-5, and Keenan Mayo and Pierce Rollins, who took an 8-4 decision from Henry Cacciatore and Brittton Johnston 8-4.

Once the four doubles matches were complete, the 12s and 14s matches were sent out. Khan's 6-0, 6-0 win over Karr at No. 1 12s briefly gave the Rams the lead, but Mayo beat Cacciatore 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 14s to pull the Saints even.  Garcia at No. 2 12s gave the Rams a 4-3 lead with his 6-4, 6-2 win over Koch and the Rams made it 5-3 when Keyser won at No. 2 16s over Lee. Lee, who had retired from his match in Wednesday's semifinal without playing a point, did manage to play four games against Keyser, but could not finish the first set. The Saints came back however, with Gamble's 6-1, 6-0 win over Jones at No. 2 18s and Rollins 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Johnston at No. 2 14s, making it 5-5.

The two matches left on the court were the No. 1s in 16s and 18s.  Little and Furman were only five games into their 18s match, but Rossi and Loeb were much farther along, with Loeb winning the first set 6-4 and the second set tied at 3-3.  Rossi had two set points with Loeb serving at 5-6 15-40 in the second set, but Loeb, who had been hitting winners with regularity throughout the match, really stepped up his game.  On the first set point, he hit a forehand crosscourt that Ross could barely get a racquet on. Loeb, who turned 16 on Wednesday, saved the second by guessing that Rossi would go down the line on a backhand pass and picking it off for a volley winner. Two more forehand winners later, Loeb had forced a tiebreaker, and while he wasn't quite as dialed in there, he did give the Rams a 6-5 lead when Ross double faulted on Loeb's third match point for a 6-4, 7-6(5) win.

"I was just thinking take one point at a time," said Loeb, who trains at the Smith Stearns Academy in Hilton Head. "Trying to stay in the moment, be really consistent and wait for my opportunity to come forward."

Shortly after Loeb won, Furman took the first set from Little in a tiebreaker, which still gave the Saints hope.  With the number of sets won serving as the tiebreaker should the teams finish 6-6, Furman had to win in straight sets to send the match to the next tiebreaker, games won.  He trailed 4-1 and got back on serve, but was immediately broken at 4-3 and Little served out the set, which was enough to clinch it for the Rams.

Little said he didn't know he only had to win one set to assure his team the championship, but the support of his teammates, and the desire for a gold ball, kept him focused.

"My whole goal when I was younger was to make National junior tournaments," said Little, who turns 18 on Friday. "The thought of winning a gold ball is kind of mind blowing to me. It's fun to see the process come together like this. A team gold takes a team effort, which is really special, but still to get the gold ball and see the progress, it's still unbelievable."

The stars of the Rams team throughout the tournament were their 12s, who did not lose, in singles or doubles, in their four victories.

"They were awesome," said Loeb. "They were fun, they were great. One of them came clutch for us yesterday and it was awesome being with them."

Looking back to when he was 12, Loeb said he didn't measure up to the standard Khan and Garcia displayed throughout the tournament.

"I wasn't that good, that's for sure," Loeb said. "They are very good."

Rams coach Glenn Allsop knew just how close the match was.

"In a match like this, there's many variables," Allsop said. "I think team cohesion was part of it, and I also think it was a little bit of luck. We had a default in our favor, even though I was feeling optimistic about how that match might have gone, when it comes down to one set, anything's possible. I don't think you could possibly ask for a better learning experience for these kids. They learn the most when it comes down to the wire, down to the last few minutes. That's when they find out who they are really, in the heat of battle."

Saints coach Matias Marin had nothing but praise for his players.

"We had chances, and we fought hard," Marin said. "That's all I can ask for from these guys--that they compete all the way. We were down and we came back, and I'm very proud of them.  Unfortunately we came up one set short, but that's the way it is, and I'm proud of them."

Bottom, L to R: Slaysman, White, Arbitman
Top, L to R: Battaglia, LaFrance, Aney, Weissmann, Kowalski

When USTA National Coach Tom Gullickson spoke to the coaches and players prior to the tournament, he said the most important aspect of being a good coach is to have good players.  Zach Buenger, coach of the Tornados, agreed that his eight girls deserved all the credit for his team's title run.

"They made it easy," Buenger said. "You have to have a blend of girls who are open to this kind of coaching. I didn't know any of them, and they didn't know me, and you have to have the right kind of personality to accept blind coaching from somebody you just met."

Buenger's team looked as if they were going to lose three of the four doubles points, when Jessie Aney and Savannah Slaysman trailed Caroline Turner and Morgan Coppoc 5-0 at No. 1.  The Firecrackers' Lea Ma and Ann Li had already taken an 8-1 decision from Meg Kowalski and Maggie White at No. 3, and Rebecca Weissmann and Madison Battaglia had fallen behind Victoria Yu and Samantha Martinelli at No. 2, eventually losing 8-3.  The team of Katie LaFrance and Rachel Arbitman gave the Tornados a point with an 8-2 win over Peyton Stearns and Ava Neyestani, but Aney and Slaysman, who had dropped all three of their previous doubles matches, looked to be heading for their fourth loss.

But Aney and Slaysman reeled off seven straight games until Coppoc finally held for 6-7, only to watch as Slaysman served out the match in the next game.

"My team competed the way they competed from the very first day," said Buenger. "Down 5-0, and all of sudden, we have a little talk, focus them a little bit, and they bring it back to only give up one more game after that. It's just a testament to their competitiveness and the inner fire that they bring to each of their matches."

The two teams traded straight set wins in the four 12s and 14s matches. The Firecrackers' Stearns beat Arbitman 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 12s, then Kowalski made it 3-3 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Li at No. 1 14s. The Tornados' White closed out Neyestani 6-3, 6-1 at No. 1 12s, and the Firecrackers responded with Ma's 6-3, 6-2 victory over LaFrance at No. 2 14s to make it 4-4.

The Firecrackers took a 5-4 lead with Martinelli's 6-1, 6-1 win over Slaysman at No. 1 16s, and the Tornados countered with a 6-3, 6-4 victory by Battaglia over Coppoc at No. 2 16s.  Now 5-5, the Tornados had the luxury of the first two sets in the 18s, meaning that they only needed to win one of the two remaining matches, since they held the number of sets tiebreaker.  At No. 2, Weissmann had a 4-1 lead in the second set over Yu, and Aney a 3-1 lead over Turner at No. 1, and it was Weissman who reached the finish line first, beating Yu 6-3, 6-2 to clinch the win for the Tornados.

"This tournament has honestly been the greatest tournament I've played," said the 16-year-old Weissman, who won all four of her singles matches. "It's been such a great experience and just being a part of the team has made it all the more special. I felt very solid all week, and I just felt playing for the team meant all the more to me. Having that team support was awesome."

The team cheer, which is basically "Nados" faster and louder eight or ten times in succession, was another unique aspect to the event.

"I loved that," said Weissman. "Before every match we did it, and it set the precedent to fight for every single point in every single match. These group of girls have been amazing, I love them all."

Aney, who will be 16 next month, was aware the match was coming down to the last two courts.

"Becca and I were playing on the courts next to each other, and we both knew that if either of us won in straight sets, we won, since we automatically had the sets tiebreak," said Aney, who also went undefeated in singles during the week. "So we were just cheering for each other, and when she won, I just got so excited. I don't think I lost a game after that. I was pumped up and it was awesome."

Aney said the gold ball was special, and not just because it was her first.

"It was so exciting to win with a team," Aney said. "It was so much better than if I had just won individually. It was a blast."

As for staying in touch with her team in the upcoming months, Aney said that was a given.

"We're planning on extending our group message forever," Aney said. "We'll just keep texting in that. It was one of the best tournaments ever. I'll never forget the friends that I made here."

Firecrackers coach John Meincke agreed that the relationships developed were a major benefit in the new format.

"I hope the USTA does more of this, gets some camaraderie with these players," Meincke said. "A lot of times you go play a tournament, you sit in the hotel, and that's all you do. But getting out here and having these kids be exposed to other kids in different age groups is so, so important. These kids are from all over the country and they became close friends, and hopefully they'll be that way for years to come."

In the bronze ball matches, the Patriots beat the Vikings 11-1 for third place in the boys draw, and the Lightning downed the Lynx 8-4 for third place in the girls draw.

The USTA sportsmanship awards went to Kareena Manji of the Blue Jays and Luke Gamble of the Saints.

For the complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Boys Final:

Rams def. Saints 6-6, 11-10


1. William Little & Robert Loeb (Rams) def. Spencer Furman & Luke Gamble (Saints) 8-5
2. Gianni Ross & Justin Lee (Saints) def. Blest Jones & Alexander Keyser (Rams) 8-5
3. Keenan Mayo & Pierce Rollins (Saints) def. Henry Cacciatore & Britton Johnston (Rams) 8-4
4. Zane Khan & Nicholas Garcia (Rams) def. Michael Karr & Benjamin Koch (Saints) 8-4

Order of finish: 3, 2, 4, 1

18 (1). Spencer Furman (Saints) def. William Little (Rams) 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1
18 (2). Lucas Gamble (Saints) def. Blest Jones (Rams) 6-1, 6-0
16 (1). Robert Loeb (Rams) def. Gianni Ross (Saints) 6-4, 7-6(5)
16 (2). Alexander Keyser (Rams) def. Justin Lee (Saints) 4-0, ret. inj.
14 (1). Keenan Mayo (Saints) def. Henry Cacciatore (Rams) 6-4, 6-4
14 (2). Pierce Rollins (Saints) def. Britton Johnston (Rams) 2-6, 7-5, 6-1
12 (1). Zane Khan (Rams) def. Michael Karr (Saints) 6-0, 6-0
12 (2). Nicholas Garcia (Rams) def. Benjamin Koch (Saints) 6-4, 6-2

Order of finish:
12(1), 14(1), 12(2), 16(2), 18(2), 14s(2), 16s(1), 18s(1)

Girls Final:

Tornados def. Firecrackers 7-5


1. Jessie Aney & Savannah Slaysman (Tornados) def. Caroline Turner & Morgan Coppoc (Firecrackers) 8-6
2. Victoria Yu & Samantha Martinelli (Firecrackers) def. Rebecca Weissmann & Madison Battaglia (Tornados) 8-3
3. Lea Ma & Ann Li (Firecrackers) def. Meg Kowalski & Maggie White (Tornados) 8-1
4. Katie LaFrance & Rachel Arbitman(Tornados) def. Peyton Stearns & Ava Neyestani (Firecrackers) 8-2

Order of finish: 4, 3, 2, 1


18 (1). Jessie Aney (Tornados) def. Caroline Turner(Firecrackers) 7-5, 6-4
18 (2). Rebecca Weissmann (Tornados) def. Victoria Yu (Firecrackers) 6-3, 6-2
16 (1). Samantha Martinelli (Firecrackers) def. Savannah Slaysman (Tornados) 6-1, 6-1
16 (2). Madison Battaglia (Tornados) def. Morgan Coppoc (Firecrackers) 6-3, 6-4
14 (1). Meg Kowalski (Tornados) def. Ann Li (Firecrackers) 6-3, 6-3
14 (2). Lea Ma (Firecrackers) def. Katie LaFrance (Tornados) 6-3, 6-2
12 (1). Maggie White (Tornados) def. Ava Neyestani (Firecrackers) 6-3, 6-1
12 (2). Peyton Stearns (Firecrackers) def. Rachel Arbitman (Tornados) 6-2, 6-0

Order of finish:
12(2), 14(1), 12(1), 14(2), 16(1), 16(2), 18(2), 18(1)