Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Six Americans Advance on Hot and Humid First Day of the US Open Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

The late afternoon thunderstorms arrived as predicted around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, but before rain suspended play, six Americans had posted victories as the first round of the US Open Junior Championships began.

One of them, Henrik Wiersholm, may have wished the rain had come early in the day, because although he managed to get through his match with Joao Menezes of Brazil, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, during it, he said "I literally felt like I was dying."

Wiersholm had started his day hitting with Giles Simon, who upset No. 4 seed David Ferrer on Louis Armstrong Stadium a few hours later, but his health deteriorated, with a sore throat and diarrhea the symptoms.  The 49th-ranked Wiersholm easily took the first set from Menezes, ranked 23, but the oppressive heat and humidity began to take its toll on an already weakened Wiersholm.  Up 3-1 in the second set, he was doubled over in pain, and had to have treatment on the changeover.

"It wasn't just exhaustion, I felt like I had to puke," Wiersholm told Simon Cambers, who reports on junior tennis for the ITF website. "It was terrible. I went to the lady and said I need a trainer, I couldn’t even stand up. I got a few minutes rest and was able to recuperate. They gave me an ice bag, I used it the rest of the match. After that it became a lot less about tennis. I hit a wall, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t serve properly, otherwise I was cramping. The heat was definitely a factor, it was the dehydration before it and then the heat afterwards. It was a situation where literally I felt like I was dying. I was just playing one-hit points. I thought I played pretty smart just going for shots. He got a bit nervous, I got a second wind at 3-3 in the third set and I thought I’m just going to find a way."

Despite all his difficulties in the second set, Wiersholm twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5, unable to win either game, and when he lost the tiebreaker, the outlook wasn't good. But he survived, saving six of the seven break points he faced, and is understandably happy to have done so.

"It was definitely very satisfying," Wiersholm told Cambers.  "I should get a day off tomorrow and that will be huge. I’m confident that it will definitely change (for the better)."

Alex Rybakov also suffered from cramping in his 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Nino Serdarusic of Croatia, needing treatment after the match.  A trainer massaged his left leg on the changeovers in the third set, but other than his tendency to keep the rallies short, Rybakov wasn't noticeably impeded.  In the final set, Rybakov led 2-0, 4-1 and 5-2, but had to save a break point serving for the match at 5-3.  He hit a forehand winner to save it and another forehand that caught the line to give himself a match point.  He converted it with a well-struck backhand that forced an error from Serdarusic, who also seemed to physically struggling in the aftermath of the match.

No. 6 seed Francis Tiafoe needed just over an hour to defeat Chan-yeong Oh of Korea 6-2, 6-3 on the new show court 5.  Six US boys lost on Sunday, with wild card Aron Hiltzik falling to No. 5 seed Quentin Halys of France 7-5, 6-3, despite being up a break in both sets, Tommy Paul lost to No. 8 seed Roman Safiullin of Russia 6-4, 6-3 and Logan Smith fell to No. 9 seed Marcelo Zormann of Brazil 6-3, 6-1. Wild card Walker Duncan, who replaced an injured Ernesto Escobedo,  lost to Juan Jose Rosas of Peru 6-3, 6-3, wild card Deiton Baughman fell to Omar Jasika of Australia 7-6(4), 7-5, and Dennis Uspensky was beaten by top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-0.

Boys seeds eliminated on Sunday were No. 11 seed Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan, who lost to Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-6(1), 6-4, No. 13 seed Matias Zukas of Argentina, who was beaten by Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and No. 16 seed Nicolas Alvarez, who was ousted by Martin Blasko of Slovakia.

Unlike the boys, the girls matches scheduled for the day were not completed, with Americans Brooke Austin, Dasha Ivanova and Sofia Kenin in various stages of their matches when the rain began. No. 4 seed Tornado Alicia Black had yet to begin her match.

Three US girls did post wins Sunday afternoon, all of them 15 years old, with Michaela Gordon taking out Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2, Usue Arconada having a surprisingly easy 6-1, 6-1 victory over last week's Repentigny Grade 1 semifinalist Gabriella Taylor, and Kelly Chen collecting her first junior slam victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia by the curious score of 6-0, 6-7(6), 6-0.

Chen had two match points leading 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, but admitted she was felt the tension of her first US Open junior match in the second set.

"I was a bit nervous in the second set," Chen said. "I wasn't hitting my shots as well. I think I choked.  Most of the time was up 40-15, and I would just lose four points in a row, so it was a bit frustrating in the second set. I really wanted to win this first match and it was nerve-wracking."

Even though she quickly took a big lead in the third set, Chen said she couldn't relax until she had taken the final point.

"I was never really comfortable," said Chen, from Cerritos, California. "I was just really nervous, and I'm shaking right now. I don't think I was comfortable throughout the whole match. It's my first time in New York, and I really want to do well this tournament."

Chen will face No. 11 seed Anna Kalinskaya in the second round, after the 15-year-old Russian defeated Bianca Turati of Italy 6-3, 6-4. Kalinskaya beat Chen 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the ITF Grade 1International Hard Court Championships two weeks ago in College Park, Maryland.

Katrine Steffensen lost to Greetje Minnen of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, wild card and Nationals 16s champion Kylie McKenzie was beaten by No. 16 seed Olga Fridman of Ukraine 6-1, 6-2 and Jessica Ho lost to Dalmi Galfi of Hungary 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

The upset of the day in girls first round action saw Anna Bondar of Hungary defeat No. 5 seed and Wimbledon finalist Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

The doubles tournament begins on Monday, with two Americans part of the top-seeded teams.  Stefan Kozlov, who is still alive in mixed doubles with Christina McHale, is playing with Rublev of Russia, and the Wimbledon finalists are the top boys seeds.  CiCi Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, the French Open finalists, are the top seeds in the girls doubles draw.

Draws, results and the order of play for Monday are at usopen.org.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dolehide Joins 35 Other US Juniors in Main Draw of US Open; Ruse, Santillan Sweep Repentigny Grade 1 Titles

The US started Saturday with six players hoping to make it to the main draw of the US Open, but only one made it through--15-year-old wild card Caroline Dolehide.

Dolehide, the younger sister of UCLA's Courtney Dolehide, had no trouble adjusting to her first visit to the US Open, dropping only ten games in winning both her qualifying matches.

On Friday, Dolehide defeated No. 9 seed and 89th-ranked Emily Arbuthnott of Great Britain 6-2, 6-4 and on Saturday she was the first player earn a spot in the main draw, thumping No. 2 seed and 63rd-ranked Lucie Wargnier of France 6-2, 6-2.

Dolehide, who didn't make the trip to New York when Courtney played in the US Open Junior back in 2009, said the surface on the practice courts outside the East Gate helped the recent improvement she's made to one of her strokes.

"Every match is hard, but I think I played really well today, I played the wind right," said Dolehide, a Hinsdale, Illinois resident. "I've changed my serve and it's a lot harder. And these courts are a little faster, so I impact the person more. Fast and high bouncing courts have really been helping."

As she headed inside the gates to pick up her player credential, Dolehide marveled at the thousands of fans spilling out from the boardwalk leading from the subway platform near the East gate.

"It's really nice to play here," said Dolehide, a rising sophomore who will be 16 next week. "Seeing all these people cheering for me really pumps me up. It's amazing, just being here is amazing."

As a qualifier, Dolehide will get the day off on Sunday, and was looking forward to her hours of leisure as a main draw junior participant.

"I'll get my all-access pass, eat lunch with the pros, and then go back to the hotel and have a nice dinner."

Wild cards Gianni Ross and Connor Hance both fell in three-setters Saturday, with Ross losing 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2 to Simon Soendergaard of Denmark and Hance falling to Simone Roncalli, one of three Italians to qualify, 6-0, 6-7(6), 6-1. 

Wild card Alexandra Sanford lost to No. 4 seed Margot Yerolymos of France 6-0, 6-2, Johnisse Renaud was beaten by No. 3 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus 6-4, 6-1 and Madison Bourguignon fell to No. 10 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 6-1, 6-3.  Bourguignon will be playing in the main draw however, with the late withdrawal of Canada's Francoise Abanda.

Another lucky loser was needed for the boys draw, with the withdrawal of David Poljak of the Czech Republic, and it went to Jordi Arconada, who trains in College Park, Maryland, but plays for Argentina.

Wild card Ernesto Escobedo, who had reached the final round of men's qualifying last week, withdrew with an injury and Walker Duncan has replaced him in the draw.

In all there are 19 girls and 17 boys from the United States competing in the junior championships this year, and as is now always the case in ITF junior competitions, they are separated in the draw, so none will play each other in the first round.

Twenty of the 36 will be in action on Sunday, starting at 11 a.m.

The US Open boys seeds:
1. Andrey Rublev (Russia)
2. Orlando Luz (Brazil)
3. Jared Donaldson (USA)
4. Stefan Kozlov (USA)
5. Quentin Halys (France)
6. Francis Tiafoe (USA)
7. Duck Hee Lee (Korea)
8. Roman Safiullin (Russia)
9. Marcelo Zormann (Brazil)
10. Michael Mmoh (USA)
11. Jumpei Yamasaki (Japan)
12. Naoki Nakagawa  (Japan)
13. Matias Zukas (Argentina)
14. Taylor Fritz (USA)
15. Francisco Bahamonde (Argentina)
16. Nicolas Alvarez (Peru)

US Open Girls Seeds:
1. CiCi Bellis (USA)
2. Jelana Ostapenko (Latvia)
3. Iryna Shymanovich (Belarus)
4. Tornado Alicia Black (USA)
5. Kristina Schmiedlova (Slovakia)
6. Jil Teichmann (Switzerland)
7. Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov (Spain)
8. Paula Badosa Gibert (Spain)
9. Anhelina Kalinina (Ukraine)
10. Marketa Vondrousova (Czech Republic)
11. Anna Kalinskaya (Russia)
12. Anastasiya Komardina (Russia)
13. Naiktha Bains (Australia)
14. Ipek Soylu (Turkey)
15. Ioana Rosca (Romania)
16. Olga Fridman (Ukraine)

Complete draws are available at usopen.org.

At the Grade 1 in Repentigny Canada, Gabby Ruse of Romania and Akira Santillan of Australia took the singles titles.  Ruse, the No. 2 seed, defeated unseeded Katie Swan of Great Britain 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Ruse, who retired from the final at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park last week, was obviously not seriously injured then.  Swan's performance in Canada got her a special exemption into the US Open juniors main draw, and the 12th-seeded Santillan received the same reprieve from qualifying with his 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(2) win over No. 2 seed Nakagawa of Japan.

Ruse and Tami Grende of Indonesia, seeded fourth, won the doubles title 7-5, 6-2 over unseeded Chihiro Muramatsu and Yukina Saigo of Japan.

The boys doubles title went to Santillan and Halys of France, the No. 2 seeds, who won in a walkover from Nakagawa and Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My US Open Junior Preview; Six American Juniors Reach Final Round of Qualifying at US Open; Mmoh and Tiafoe's Week with Pros Comes to End

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

My preview of the US Open Junior Championships can be found today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  There's been one late change: wild card Nathan Ponwith suffered an injury and Sameer Kumar was awarded Ponwith's wild card, taking Kumar out of qualifying, where he was the No. 11 seed. 

Two American boys, both wild cards, and four American girls, two of them wild cards, advanced to Saturday's final round of qualifying.  Gianni Ross defeated No. 3 seed Lloyd George Harris of South Africa 6-3, 6-4 and Kalamazoo 16s finalist Connor Hance defeated No. 6 seed Domagoj Biljesko of Croatia 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. Hance led 5-1 in the second set, only to lose six straight games, but he was able to get himself into the same situation in the third set and finished off the win.  

Wild cards Caroline Dolehide and Alexandra Sanford also took out seeded players, with Dolehide beating No. 9 seed Emily Arbuthnott of Great Britain 6-2, 6-4 and Sanford defeating No. 14 seed Ojasvinee Singh of India 6-3, 6-2.  Madison Bourguignon downed No. 6 seed Ioan Petroiu of Romania 7-5, 6-4 and Johnnise Renaud eliminated No. 12 seed Destanee Aiava of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

The finals round of qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday on the practice courts outside the East entrance gate and I will be there covering those six matches.

Although I didn't get settled in until nearly all the first round of junior qualifying matches were completed Friday, I did get an opportunity to see the second round men's doubles match with Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe playing Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram.  The age disparity was remarkable, with Lipsky 33 and Ram 30, while Mmoh and Tiafoe are both 16.  The experience gap was obvious during the match, with the veterans earning the win by a 6-1, 6-4 score in front of a sparse crowd on court 17.

"We've never really played people like that who are constantly doing different stuff on the doubles court, switching on every serve," said Mmoh.  "They really played real doubles, compared to in juniors, when we never play anybody anywhere near like that. It was tough, and we obviously didn't play our best."

Mmoh and Tiafoe had beaten Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic and Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday, but that team didn't present the same challenges.

"They didn't play doubles," Tiafoe said of their first round opponents. "We were rallying crosscourt a lot. They would come in sometimes and one guy had pretty good hands, but there was no switching, mainly rallying a lot. We played unbelievable, got a lot of rhythm from the baseline, passing well, serving great. We were hoping that would happen today, but those guys weren't having baseline rallies."

The second set was much closer than the first, with no breaks of serve until Tiafoe was broken at 4-4.  Ram then served out the match, with aces on the last two points, although the first one had to be confirmed by Hawkeye, the first challenge by either team in the match.

"We kind of forgot about it," said Tiafoe, who had been on a court with Hawkeye once before, at the Citi Open last month. "There wasn't many close calls," Mmoh added. "They were calling them pretty well," Tiafoe said. "I tried to challenge at 40-15 too, but they didn't allow me to do that, it was pretty disappointing, I thought the serve could have been long."

"At the Citi Open I tried to challenge a couple times and I was always late," Tiafoe said. "You have to do it right away. I'm usually arguing with the ref, so I'm not dong it right away."

Another perk of playing on Court 17 is the serve speed indicator, with Mmoh taking fastest serve honors with a 131 mph bomb in the sixth game of the first set.

"It was probably one of the only good things in the match," Mmoh said.

But despite the loss, Mmoh and Tiafoe have enjoyed their week in New York and the status that comes with a main draw player's credential.

"First off, the locker room is humongous compared to the juniors'," Tiafoe said. "It's night and day. You have the past champions. You see all these pros live and you're so used to seeing them on TV. It's like you're dreaming kind of. At first, me and Mmoh only talked to each other we were so out of place.  You have a lot more access too. You are able to hit on the inside courts before the juniors can, we can pretty much go wherever we want.  You're much more respected and I've signed a lot of autographs--way more than we would if we were playing juniors."

"It's really amazing to see these guys every day," said Mmoh, who mentioned a conversation with Gael Monfils as a memorable moment during the week. "The experience was probably the best I've ever had at a tournament."

Both Mmoh and Tiafoe have hit with John Isner this week, and Tiafoe has had an opportunity to renew his acquaintance with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who he met back in March at an exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

"I had a pretty deep conversation with Novak yesterday," Tiafoe said. "That was pretty exciting, and me and Andy have been talking a lot. So the fact they exchange conversations with me means a lot to me and I'm happy to have the experience this week."

Mmoh and Tiafoe will now prepare for the Junior Championships, "back to reality" as Tiafoe put it, with Saturday an off day for them.

"We'll probably sleep in a little bit, get here at a decent time. We'll probably hit with each other, sign in for the tournament, get ready for the juniors. We've both been playing pretty well, so I think we'll go on a good run here, try to go out strong with the US crowd."

Complete draws and Saturday's schedule can be found at usopen.org

Thursday, August 28, 2014

US Open Junior Qualifying Begins Friday; Bellis Falls to Diyas in Three; Gibbs Reaches Third Round; Should Bellis Sue the NCAA?

The qualifying draws for the US Open Junior Championships have been posted with eight American boys and nine American girls aiming to join the 34 US juniors already in the main draws, which will get underway on Sunday.

The boys in qualifying are Dan Kerznerman(10), Robert Levine, Sameer Kumar(11) and wild cards Gianni Ross, Patrick Kypson, Connor Hance, Sam Riffice and Jacob Brumm.

The girls in qualifying are Raquel Pedraza, Johnnise Renaud, Olivia Hauger(5), Madison Bourguignon and wild cards Kayla Day, Caroline Dolehide, Alexandra Sanford, Ryan Peus and Ellie Halbauer.

Qualifying begins at 10 a.m. Friday on the Practice courts outside the Billie Jean King National Tennis and there will be live scoring available on the usopen.org website.  The schedule for Friday's matches is here. I will be arriving in New York tomorrow afternoon, but probably won't get there in time to watch any of the first round of qualifying, although I do hope to see some of the second round men's doubles match between Francis Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh and Rajeev Ram and Scott Lipsky.

Due to long matches on Court 17 today, CiCi Bellis ended up playing her second round against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in prime time, with the support of a enthusiatic crowd.  The 15-year-old National 18s champion played well after a shaky first few games and forced a third set, but eventually fell to the 20-year-old, whose WTA ranking is 48, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.  Bellis might have tired midway through the third set, but she did not look overmatched or out of place in any of the extended games and rallies between the two.  She now has some time to rest before the junior championships begin, and she'll be the top seed, facing an entirely different scenario than the one she competed in this week.

Former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova today at the US Open
Two-time NCAA champion Nicole Gibbs won the biggest match of her career today, defeating No. 23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 on Court 17. Gibbs served for the match twice in the second set, and had a match point at 5-6 in the second set tiebreaker, but she couldn't convert. She kept fighting however, and didn't experience similar problems when she got up a break in the third set, closing out the victory to become one of just four US women in the third round. She plays No. 11 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy next, with Serena Williams meeting Varvara Lepchenko in another third round match. Venus Williams is the only American woman in the bottom half of the draw.  Gibbs talks about overcoming that disappointing stretch in the second set in her press conference.

John Isner and Sam Querrey advanced to the third round with wins today, while Tim Smyczek will attempt to join them in third round play tomorrow.

Wild cards Stefan Kozlov and Christina McHale won their opening mixed doubles match, beating No. 7 seeds Julia Goerges of Germany and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 7-5, 2-6, 12-10.

Jared Donaldson and Michael Russell beat their fellow wild card team, Kozlov and Noah Rubin, the Kalamazoo champions, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4. Donaldson and Russell will play the Bryan twins in the second round.

Complete draws can be found at usopen.org.

An interesting article by Patrick Hruby on the NCAA's insistence on college athletes being amateurs was posted today on Vice Sports, with background on why the $10,000 expense rule was adopted in Division I tennis only and why CiCi Bellis should be able to keep the prize money she won at the Open without jeopardizing her ability to play college tennis in the future.  I know plenty of athletic departments fear the end of the world as they know it with the professionalization of college sports, but the Olympics and tennis, once virulently insistent on amateurism, have managed to survive and thrive without the catastrophes many in college athletics are predicting now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wild Cards Mmoh, Tiafoe Win Opening Round Doubles at US Open; Amritraj Takes Dustin Taylor's National Collegiate Coaching Position at USTA

The good news from the US Open for American tennis fans came late Wednesday, after a downright depressing first eight hours. Sloane Stephens, seeded No. 21, went out in the second round to WTA No. 86 Johanna Larsson of Sweden 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, despite leading 3-0 in the second set and 2-0 in the third set.

Steve Johnson was up 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-0 against qualifier Tatsuma Ito of Japan when he began cramping, and after taking two game penalties for time violations and losing the next two games, barely able to hold the racquet, he retired.  Johnson discussed in his press conference the seemingly random nature of the cramps, saying the onset took him completely by surprise.

Ryan Harrison went out to No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-2 in the first round, and wild card Madison Brengle lost to No. 26 seed Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-1 in the second round. So Americans were 0-4 in singles until No. 20 seed Venus Williams defeated Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-1, 6-4 in a second round night match. 

Just before that match finished however, 16-year-old wild cards Francis Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh picked up their first grand slam win, defeated Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic and Teymuraz Gabishvili of Russia 6-3, 6-4.  Tiafoe and Mmoh had no idea they were going to receive a wild card into the men's doubles, and Tiafoe had returned to College Park, Maryland to prepare for the Junior Championships after playing in his first round men's qualifying match in New York last Wednesday, planning to return to New York today or tomorrow. Mmoh, who had just lost in the semifinals of the ITF International Hard Court Championships at College Park, was preparing to return to Bradenton for a few days before the US Open Juniors, but all that changed when they went to the US Open website, tipped off by twitter, to see their names on the wild card list for men's doubles.  Once they confirmed, the frequent doubles pair rearranged their travel schedules and went to New York on Monday.

They were broken only once in the match, in the second set, although they were required to save nine break points. Immediately after they were broken, they broke right back then held for the win. They will play the winner of the match between Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram, who meet No. 15 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and John Peers of Australia tomorrow.

Eleven Americans are on the singles schedule for Thursday, including CiCi Bellis, who plays 20-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan fourth on Court 17.  Free live streaming of that match and many others can be found by clicking the red Watch Live button at usopen.org.

I heard a couple of days ago that Stephen Amritraj, currently a USTA National Coach in Carson, California, will be taking over Dustin Taylor's position as National Coach for Collegiate Tennis, beginning September 1.  I spoke at length with Amritraj, who played his college tennis at Duke, this past April when I was in Carson, and he is certainly passionate about and committed to college tennis and its current and former players.  I'm sure I'll have additional opportunities to talk with him about his plans for the position next week at the American Collegiate Invitational at the US Open.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wild Card Bellis Shocks Cibulkova in US Open First Round; Giron, Rubin, Donaldson Fall in Opening Matches

Twenty-one Americans were playing first round singles matches today at the US Open, but the show was stolen by 15-year-old wild card CiCi Bellis, who defeated No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.   Bellis, the USTA National 18s champion, was playing on newly configured Court 6, which isn't a televised court, but once she had taken the first set, ESPN managed to get a camera and Pam Shriver to the court, just in time to watch Bellis lose the second set.

Bellis went down a break early in the third set, and ESPN stuck with their John Isner studio interview, but once Bellis got the break back in the third set, they returned. From the studio Chris Evert spoke of the lack of pressure for a player in Bellis' position, and all that Cibulkova must be feeling, and that certainly did play a role in the final two games.  With a large and supportive crowd pushing her on, Bellis held, then broke, feasting on Cibulkova's second serve, to become the youngest US Open first round winner since Anna Kournikova in 1996 and the youngest American since Mary Jo Fernandez ten years earlier.

Cibulkova, who reached the Australian Open final this year, has had an awful hard court season this summer, and she looked in the few games I saw, error prone and a step slow. But Bellis took advantage and did what she is supposed to do in her situation, swing away and try to win the match. 

Now comes the tough part for Bellis, who will have to deal with all the attention and hype surrounding this win without the help of an agent, as she is still an amateur.  She plays 20-year-old Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round Thursday, and expectations are now much higher than they were before today's win. But coping with success hasn't been a problem for Bellis in her junior career, so that's encouraging.

Here's the New York Times account of Bellis' win.  The transcript of the Bellis news conference is here.

The American women had a great day, with Madison Keys(27), Nicole Gibbs, Vania King, CoCo Vandweghe, Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko and Shelby Rogers picking up victories (Serena Williams and Taylor Townsend have yet to take the court).

The news wasn't as good for American men.  Isner, the No. 13 seed, beat NCAA champion Marcos Giron 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(2) on Ashe, with the level extremely high in the opening set.  Giron never earned a break point however, and as usual, Isner came up with big shots in the tiebreakers.  I look forward to seeing Giron competing in the American Collegiate Invitational next week, along with Danielle Collins, who played so well on Ashe yesterday.  Both did college tennis proud this week.   Kalamazoo champion Noah Rubin lost to Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-4, 6-3, 6-0, getting down early in the first set before shaking his nerves and making a match of it at the end of the first and beginning of the second sets.  But a first serve percentage of 51 percent just isn't going to get it done at the slam level, and Rubin's errors began to mount as Delbonis continued to apply pressure with some big shotmaking.  Steve Tignor of Tennis.com filed this account of the match.

Seventeen-year-old wild card Jared Donaldson played No. 20 seed Gael Monfils of France in front of a packed house at the Grandstand this evening, with Monfils coming away with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory.  Donaldson showed his power from both sides, but made too many errors, some of which were caused by the always stunning defense of Monfils.  Monfils' serve was also superior; although he made only 54 percent of his first serves, he had much easier holds than Donaldson, who had to work so hard to hold his. Donaldson did get one break of the Monfils serve, in the third set, but he was broken both before and after that break, so it didn't provide the boost he needed to take a set.

Sam Querrey and Tim Smyczek won their first round matches today, but in addition to the losses by the wild cards Giron, Rubin and Donaldson, Jack Sock and Wayne Odesnik also lost, with Sock retiring down 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to Pablo Andujar of Spain, with a right leg or foot injury.

Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson play their first round matches Wednesday.  Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams and Madison Brengle will play their second round matches Wednesday. 

2013 US Open junior champion Borna Coric of Croatia, who qualified for the main draw, made a splash today by defeating No. 29 seed Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.  The transcript of his interview can be found here.

Mixed doubles play begins Wednesday, as does women's doubles.  The complete schedule is here.

The draws are at usopen.org.

Monday, August 25, 2014

International Hard Courts Recap, Slideshow, Videos; NCAA Champion Collins Test Halep, Falls in Three Sets at US Open

My recap of last week's ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships, with details on Russia's Anna Kalinskaya and Florida's Reilly Opelka winning their first ITF titles is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Even with the rainy weather, I enjoyed covering the tournament for the first time, and am glad another Grade 1 tournament is now available in the United States, after the loss of the Lexington Grade 1 that used to follow the US Open.

Below is the slideshow of those reaching the singles quarterfinals and the doubles semifinals. The videos of the two champions are below, with the videos of the finalists available by clicking on the links below:

Tim Van Rijthoven

Gabby Ruse

NCAA champion and wild card Danielle Collins put a scare into WTA No. 2 Simona Halep today in a US Open first round match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The rising junior from the University of Virginia came from 4-2 down in the opening set to force a tiebreaker, which she dominated, before eventually succumbing 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2.

It's easy to say a 20-year-old with no WTA ranking has nothing to lose in that situation, but it's much harder to perform as if you truly believe that, which is what Collins did. In the first set she hit out on every ball, served well, kept the ball deep and played with conviction, despite playing only one match since she underwent wrist surgery at the end of May. To be fair, Halep wasn't playing her best, but part of that was due to the relentless pressure Collins put on her. Collins wasn't able to sustain the level she showed in the second and third sets, with her serve most noticeably dropping off, but she did prove that her top level is competitive with the world's best. Whether she can play at that level consistently is of course the important question, but that was an impressive performance in a slam debut.

For more on the match, see the WTA's website.

Video highlights from the match can be found at usopen.org.

A transcript of Collins' post-match press conference is here

Although not mentioned in the press conference, Collins is expected to return next week to New York, as she will be competing in the inaugural American Collegiate Invitational beginning next Thursday.

The US Open Tuesday schedule is out, with NCAA champion Marcos Giron playing John Isner second on Arthur Ashe. Kalamazoo champion Noah Rubin, who plays Federico Delbonis of Argentina, is also second on Tuesday, on court 13. Taylor Townsend gets a night match on Ashe against top seed Serena Williams, after the men's night match, which starts at 7 p.m. Jared Donaldson plays No. 20 seed Gael Monfils of France not before 5 p.m. on the Grandstand. CiCi Bellis is also on Tuesday's schedule, but her match with No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia is on Court 6, which is not televised.

In all, there are 21 Americans in singles action on Tuesday, and seven in men's doubles, with Peter Kobelt and Hunter Reese, Chase Buchanan and Tennys Sandgren, Donald Young and Nick Monroe and Eric Butorac (with South Africa's Raven Klaasen) playing their first round matches.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Georgia's Dan Magill Dies at Age 93; Xu, Majchrzak Win Youth Olympic Games Gold; US Wins Le Blanc Cup; NCAA Champion Collins Kicks Off US Open Monday Against Halep on Ashe

Georgia men's coach Manny Diaz with Dan Magill
There's not much I can add to the tributes being paid to former University of Georgia men's tennis coach Dan Magill, who died earlier today at 93.  Magill is one of the most influential Division I tennis coaches in history,  revered for his ability to coach, promote and lead, while always recognizing the place of history in the college game. With his health deteriorating over the past three years, Magill was not much in evidence at the 2012 and 2014 NCAA championships, but in 2007 and 2010 he was a vibrant part of the tournaments being played in the complex named for him. Magill's influence on college sports was not confined to tennis, as Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains in this obituary for the "greatest Bulldog ever."

The tennis portion  of the Youth Olympic Games concluded today in China, with gold medals going to unseeded Shilin Xu of China and Kamil Majchrzak of Poland in singles.  Xu defeated No. 8 seed Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus 6-3, 6-1 in Sunday's final, while Majchrzak, seeded No. 7, defeated No. 2 seed Orlando Luz of Brazil 6-4, 7-5 in Saturday's boys final.

Luz did take home a gold medal however, partnering Marcelo Zormann to take the boys doubles 7-5, 3-6, 10-3 over top seeds Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev. Zormann and Luz, the No. 2 seeds, also won the Wimbledon boys doubles title last month.

Shymanovich also collected a gold medal to go with her silver in singles, when she and Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, the No. 3 seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Darya Kasatkina and Anastasiya Komardina of Russia 6-4, 6-4  in the girls doubles final.

The mixed doubles gold medal went to No. 5 seeds Jil Teichmann of Switzerland and Jan Zielinski of Poland, who defeated Ye Qiu Yu of China and Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan 4-6, 6-3, 10-4.

Complete draws can be found at the ITF junior website.

Majchrzak has withdrawn from the US Open Junior Championships, as have Noah Rubin, Elias Ymer, Gianluigi Quinzi and Johan Sebastien Tatlot.  Xu is still in, as are Shymanovich, Kalinina, Luz and Zormann, who now have a little less than a week to adjust from playing in China.

This week's ITF Grade 1 is in Repentigny Canada, with Quentin Halys of France and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain the top seeds. Neither played the Olympics or the Hard Courts last week in College Park.  The tournament website has results, draws and order of play.

Last week the US teams of 12-and-under players won the Le Blanc Cup competition in Canada.  Results are below:

The USA boys defeated France 3-0, and the USA girls defeated Canada 2-1.  

Boys Singles
#1 Zane Khan defeated #1 Arthur Cazaux 6-2, 6-3
#2 Faris Khan defeated #2 Quentin Kouvtanovitch 6-1, 6-2 

Khan/Khan defeated Cazaux/Kouvtanovitch 8-3

Girls Singles
#1Whitney Osuigwe defeated #1 Sofiya Babych 6-1, 2-6, 6-3   
#2 Victoria Hu lost to #2 Ariana Arseneault 3-6, 3-6

Hu/Osuigwe defeated Babych/Arseneault 8-6

The US Open doubles draws were released today, with Kalamazoo champions Noah Rubin and Stefan Kozlov drawing another wild card team of Michael Russell and Jared Donaldson.  San Diego champions Katerina Stewart and Louisa Chirico will play Marina Erakovic of New Zealand and Arantxz Parra Santonja of Spain. 

Other wild card teams are:
Tornado Alicia Black and Bernarda Pera
Jennifer Brady and Samantha Crawford
Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend
Nicole Gibbs and Maria Sanchez
Grace Min and Melanie Oudin
Irina Falconi and Anna Tatishvili

The men's wild card teams include Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe, and neither had any inkling they would receive a wild card (they didn't request one) until Friday night, when they learned via twitter that they needed to be in New York by Monday for possible play on Tuesday.  The other men's wild card teams:

Bradley Klahn and Tim Smyczek
Tennys Sandgren and Chase Buchanan
Peter Kobelt and Hunter Reese
Marcos Giron and Kevin King

Draws can be found at the US Open website.

The mixed doubles draws have not been released yet, but one wild card team has been determined.  Jacqueline Cako (Arizona State) and Joel Kielbowicz (UNLV) won the US Open National Playoff yesterday in New Haven, beating  Ena and Shuhei Shibahara 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  For more on their win, see this article.

NCAA champion Danielle Collins will open play on Arthur Ashe Stadium tomorrow morning when she plays No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania. Collins has played only one match since having wrist surgery immediately after winning the NCAAs in May: a qualifying match in New Haven, where she lost 6-4, 6-3 to Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan. She has been training at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy near her home in St. Petersburg to prepare for her US Open match, according to this article from the IMG website.

Other Americans in action on Monday are Venus Williams(20), Sloane Stephens(21), Donald Young, Madison Brengle and Bradley Klahn. Monday's schedule is here

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Opelka Takes ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Title in Third Set Tiebreaker; Kalinskaya Sweeps Girls Championships

©Colette Lewis 2014--
College Park MD--

Top seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia earned her ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts singles title quickly Saturday, with No. 2 seed Gabby Ruse of Romania retiring down 6-2, 2-1 in the girls final.  The brevity of that final was more than compensated for by the boys final on the adjacent court, with unseeded Reilly Opelka defeating No. 2 seed Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in a match lasting two hours and 30 minutes.

Morning showers forced play indoors at the Junior Tennis Champions Center for the second straight day, but Ruse said she had been suffering from problems with her right leg long before she called the trainer down 5-2 in the first set.

"In the second round I felt something in my leg, but today it was so bad," said the 16-year-old Ruse, who is entered in next week's Grade 1 in Canada, but is not sure whether she will play. "It was a good match and Anna played good, but I couldn't move. When I was serving it was a problem, and on the forehand, and I didn't want to retire at the US Open. It's much better to rest for a few days and play better at the US Open."

Kalinskaya said she didn't notice Ruse having any problems as a result of her injury, but the 15-year-old was wary of the delay halting her momentum.

"When she had the medical timeout, I thought don't relax, just continue to play," said Kalinskaya, who is training now with Robert Gomez at Tier One Tennis in Coral Gables, Florida. "I played really good and fast and I think I played very focused, so maybe it helped."

Kalinskaya held easily to take the first set, and when Ruse didn't get treatment at the set break and held to open the second set, a retirement didn't seem imminent. But after Kalinskaya held and Ruse was broken to fall behind 2-1, she approached the chair to announce she was retiring and shook Kalinskaya's hand.

Kalinskaya, who lost in her only other appearance in a Grade 1 final, was happy to collect her first title at that level less than 10 days from the start of the US Open Junior Championships.

"Now that I won this tournament, I feel more confident for the US Open," said Kalinskaya, who added she felt no disappointment about the way the match finished, "just happy to win."

The boys final was early in the second set when the girls match finished, but Opelka had just collected the break he needed, indeed his only break of the match, to take a 3-2 lead. Although Opelka had to work on his service games, he did manage to keep the lead without facing a break point, and when it came time to serve out the set, he did it with style, hitting three consecutive aces to give himself three set points.  Van Rijthoven handled the next kick serve and Opelka missed a volley, but a service winner on the next point evened the match at a set apiece.

Opelka had been broken in the opening set serving at 4-5, but he had also come from a set down against top seed Michael Mmoh in the semifinals, so there was no sign of panic from him.

In the third game of the final set, Van Rijthoven kept himself in the match by saving five break points.

"Every chance I had on his serve, he played unbelievable," Opelka said. "I had a love-40 game in the third and I didn't touch a ball. Both of us played phenomenal, I think, in the third set."

Van Rijthoven knew his chances to break Opelka would be few.

"I was kind of hoping to rally with him a little more," said Van Rijthoven, who was playing in his first Grade 1 final. "But he was serving amazing, and I had a disadvantage with my one-handed backhand. He was using that well, by kicking on my backhand."

After failing to break Van Rijthoven in the third game, Opelka faced a break point in the fourth, but saved it with that kick serve to the backhand and closed out the game with two winners.  Holds were routine until Opelka served at 5-6.  Up 40-15, Opelka missed a forehand long and it was deuce when Van Rijthoven rifled a forehand pass by Opelka at the net.  Van Rijthoven didn't get all he wanted on his forehand on the deuce point and Opelka responded with an angled forehand that forced an error to give Opelka another game point.  For the eighth time in the game, Opelka missed his first serve, and Van Rijthoven had him on a string blasting a forehand to one side of the court and then directing the response to the open court.  Opelka then came up with the shot of the tournament, somehow getting to the ball on the far sideline and hitting a running backhand passing shot by a startled Van Rijthoven to force the tiebreaker.

"It was probably kind of lucky," Opelka said of the shot, which spectators were still talking about long after the match was over. "But it was probably one of the best shots I could have hit from there."

Although Opelka celebrated with a loud yell, he knew he had to find the balance from the adrenaline produced from that shot.

"I was definitely excited after that point, but I also had to kind of realize that that point's over, we're tied." Opelka said.

Opelka lost his first service point in the tiebreaker to go down 2-0, but got the mini-break back and then took a 3-2 lead with a forehand winner. Opelka stepped up his serve then, getting his final four first serves in and Van Rijthoven couldn't defend against the forehands Opelka was generating in the rallies.

"After the first two points, it was pretty much flawless from me," said Opelka, who will be 17 next week. "I didn't miss a return, I stepped in on a lot of balls, played some good defense.  I played really well from the baseline today. I didn't serve as well as I have throughout the whole week, but it was good to win without doing what I'm used to doing."

Opelka said he isn't concerned about how the win will affect his ITF ranking but is happy to be heading to the US Open in good form.

"I don't really get caught up with the ITF ranking to be honest," said Opelka, who trains with Eric Nunez at the USTA's Boca Raton Center. "It's awesome that I won, I'm really excited, but I don't really look in to the rankings too much. It's a big confidence builder and I'm really excited to go to New York. Hopefully I can translate this over there and play like this."

The girls doubles championship was the final title decided Saturday, with No. 2 seeds Evgeniya Levashova and Kalinskaya defeating unseeded Gabby Andrews and Mia Horvit 6-3, 7-5.

Andrews and Horvit were up a break in the second set at 3-1 and 4-3, but couldn't keep the advantage.  The Russian pair took leads of 5-4 and 6-5, and Horvit was broken to end the match.

Levashova and Kalinskaya, who said they play together often, were ready for a tough match, knowing that Andrews is a two-time junior slam doubles champion.

"They play exactly like men," said Levashova, also 15 years old. "They go every time to the net, good serve, good return. So before the match we decided to put more pressure in these doubles, because we know it's going to be a hard match."

"They are very good, they played very aggressive," said Kalinskaya. "We tried to go to net and play more aggressive than them."

Despite their success this week, Kalinskaya and Levashova are not planning to play together at the US Open, but they will return to Miami to practice together next week to prepare for the Junior Championships.

For complete results, see the tournament website.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Opelka Tops Mmoh, Faces Van Rijthoven in ITF Grade 1 Hard Court Finals; Kalinskaya, Ruse Meet for Girls Championshp

©Colette Lewis 2014--
College Park MD--

Low clouds and gray skies made for a challenging semifinals day at the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships, with intermittent rain and drizzle eventually forcing the boys semifinals indoors at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.  Unseeded Reilly Opelka took advantage of the opportunity, defeating top seed Michael Mmoh 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, while No. 2 seed Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands outlasted No. 9 seed Jordi Arconada 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

The girls semifinals were completed outdoors after a delay of more than two hours, with top seeds Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Elena Ruse of Romania moving through in straight sets.

Kalinskaya defeated No. 3 seed Usue Arconada 6-3, 6-3, and Ruse downed unseeded Mia Horvit 6-4, 6-1.

Ruse and Horvit had played nearly an hour when Horvit was broken serving at 4-all. The long, punishing rallies often ended with winners, occasionally with forced errors, but the level was high throughout the opening set. Ruse got to 5-4, 40-30 when a light sprinkle stopped play for about 15 minutes, but she was able to win the set point without any warmup on returning to the court, hitting a forehand winner to take the lead.  After a more substantial shower forced the two-hour delay, Ruse's level stayed high, but Horvit couldn't maintain hers, and the second set went quickly to the 16-year-old Romanian.

"It was really difficult to play today, because we started and stopped two times," Ruse said. "But I played good, felt really good on the court, and I won, and this is the important thing."

Ruse, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last month, said her form has continued on the US hard courts.

"I'm very happy to be in the final here," said Ruse, who is in her first Grade 1 final. "I like to play in America, the weather is perfect here--except for today. The people here are so nice, and I'm very happy to be in the final before the US Open."

The 15-year-old Kalinskaya, who reached her first Grade 1 final last month on clay in Germany, fell behind early, but after trailing 2-0, won four straight games to take control of the match against local favorite Arconada.

"I played very good, but I think yesterday I played better," said Kalinskaya, who took out No. 7 seed Raveena Kinglsey on the same court, show court 17. "Today it was rainy, but it was okay for me. I was focused."

Kalinskaya and Ruse have not played before, but Kalinskaya knows what to expect.

"I know she's very strong and she likes to attack, but we will see tomorrow."

In the boys semifinals, the first games of the first sets were just completed when a light sprinkle led to a short delay.  The rain held off enough long enough for Opelka to save one break point serving at 4-4 in the first.  Opelka then immediately broke Mmoh in the next game, the only break of the set, when Mmoh netted a backhand at 30-40.

Mmoh, who had beaten Opelka in straight sets two weeks ago in Kalamazoo, showed no discouragement, breaking Opelka in the first game of the second set. Again a light sprinkle began, and before long, a full fledged rain storm was underway, sending the matches indoors to finish.

Mmoh kept his advantage throughout the second set, but Opelka stayed close, staying in rallies with Mmoh while continuing to hold easily.  In the third set, Opelka took a 2-0 lead, was broken, but broke Mmoh again with a great return to take a 3-1 lead.  After that, it was all Opelka, despite his unfamiliarity with indoor conditions.

"I've never really played indoors--I've played maybe one match in my life indoors," said the 6-foot-9 Opelka, who lives in Florida and trains with the USTA in Boca Raton. "I didn't know what to expect.  I just had the mentality that I should be able to hold serve on any court, so I just had to put pressure on him off the return. I played well today. I put pressure on him and didn't give him much rhythm."

Van Rijthoven was in a similar position to Opelka, taking the first set from Arconada 6-3 outside, but he had held serve in the first game of the second set when the rain sent the match indoors.

Like Opelka, Van Rijthoven, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, was unfamiliar with indoor tennis, but unlike Opelka, he didn't adjust well to the change.

"I haven't played indoors for two years so it's a big difference," said the 17-year-old, who has a one-handed backhand. "So I had to make the switch, and second set, when we went indoors, he made the switch a little earlier than I did. But the third set, I picked it up again."

Van Rijthoven has played a tiebreaker in every match this week until this one, winning a third-set tiebreaker from No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik of Russia in the quarterfinals, and winning in those situations has given him confidence.

"Tennis is a fight. If you don't fight, you're not going to win," said Van Rijthoven. "If I lose the second set here I can also say, okay, I'm done. But you keep on going and it pays off to fight."

Opelka and Van Rijthoven haven't played before, with both making their debut in a Grade 1 final, but Van Rijthoven has a strategy.

"He has a very big serve, so what I think I'll try to do is just return the ball in the court and see how the rally goes," said Van Rijthoven. "And on my own serve, play aggressive."

Opelka is determined not to be satisfied with getting this far.

"It's good, but I kind of want to keep it going tomorrow," Opelka said.

The boys doubles semifinals were completed outdoors before the first rain delay, but the final was played indoors while the girls semifinals waited to return to the outdoor courts.  Unseeded Tommy Paul and Nathan Ponwith, playing together for the first time, defeated No. 2 seeds Viktor Durasovic of Norway and Nicolae Frunza of Romania 7-6(5), 6-3 to claim the championship.

Paul and Ponwith, who had beaten Brian Tsao and Evan Zhu 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinal match Friday morning, saved a set point in the opening set with Durasovic serving for the set at 5-4.  On the deciding deuce point, Paul's forehand forced an error from Durasovic, and it was the third deciding point in four played in the first set that Paul and Ponwith won.

In the tiebreaker, Paul and Ponwith were down 3-0, but got the mini-break back and when Frunza missed a volley at 5-4, the Americans had two set points. They converted the second when Durasovic missed a Ponwith second serve return, and immediately broke Frunza on a deciding point to start the second set, sending them on their way to victory.

"Our chemistry is a little overwhelming to our opponents," said Ponwith, smiling. "Sometimes our opponents just can't keep up on the mental level."

"I think indoors was a little tougher," said Paul. "I think if we had played outdoors it might have worked in our favor a little bit more, but it was tough. They played really well inside."

Paul and Ponwith started the week with a 6-7(4), 7-5, 10-7 win over top seeds Seong Chan Hong and Chan-Yeong Oh of Korea.

"That was a little weird, to have a really tough match in the first round," said Ponwith. "But it was nice, because after we got through that really tough match, it was kind of like having the one seed's draw," said Paul.

Both Paul and Ponwith received wild cards into the US Open Junior Championships, but Paul is expecting to play with frequent partner Henrik Wiersholm there.

In the girls doubles, another American team has a chance to win the title, with unseeded Gabby Andrews and Mia Horvit reaching Saturday's final against No. 2 seeds Kalinskaya and Evgeniya Levashova of Russia.

Andrews and Horvit started their match with No. 4 seeds Tami Grende of Indonesia and Theresa Van Zyl of South Africa outdoors, but that was moved indoors midway through the first set.  Andrews and Horvit, who had beaten top seed Arconada and Ruse in the first round, posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory today to reach the final.  Kalinskaya and Levashova defeated No. 3 seeds Vera Lapko of Belarus and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-0 in a semifinal match played entirely indoors.

Complete draws can be found at the tournament website.

All four of the Americans in the final round of US Open qualifying--Ernesto Escobedo, Rajeev Ram, Melanie Oudin and Maria Sanchez--lost today. For complete qualifying results, see usopen.org.

At the Youth Olympic games, unseeded Shilin Xu of China will play No. 8 seed Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus for the girls gold medal in singles Sunday. Orlando Luz of Brazil and Kamil Majchrzak of Poland will play for the boys singles gold medal Saturday.

Jared Donaldson Turns Pro

Jared Donaldson has announced he is turning pro.  Here is his statement:

"I dreamed of being a professional tennis player my entire life.  I do not play for money or fame.  I play tennis because I love to play the game.  Today, after much thought and deliberation, I made the decision along with my parents and coach to live my dream and pursue professional tennis as my career.  In addition to playing professional tennis, I will complete my high school education and I plan to postpone College for now, and return for a degree once I am finished on the professional tour."  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Arconadas Make ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Semifinals a Family Affair; Gold Medal Match Set at Youth Olympic Games; Four US Players Reach Final Qualifying Round at US Open, Main Draw Unkind to Wild Cards

©Colette Lewis 2014--
College Park, MD--

Playing on side-by-side courts at the Junior Tennis Champions Center where both train, Jordi and Usue Arconada admitted to sneaking a peak at the other's score in Thursday's quarterfinals at the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships.  Both had to be happy at what they saw, with Jordi, the No. 9 seed, defeating No. 3 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea 6-4, 6-4, and Usue, the No. 3 seed downing unseeded Ingrid Neel 7-6(3), 6-1.

"I don't really like playing at the same time as she's playing," said Jordi, who turns 18 next month. "I lose focus a little bit too, because she's my sister, but it's fine I guess."

Usue, who will be 16 in October, said she's been following her older brother's matches for so long that it's not distracting anymore, just a habit.

"I look over at the score a lot," said Usue. "I just want to see how he's doing, I always do that and it never causes me problems. I've been doing it since I've been little, and if he's playing next to me I'll be checking his scores."

Usue played an intense first set with Neel in hot and humid conditions on show court 17, but worked out how best to attack Neel's all-court game by the time the second set began.

"When I first came out in the match it was weird playing someone that took the ball really early like that," Usue said. "I knew she takes the ball early, likes to come in, sometimes serves and volleys--I knew all that about her, but you don't know how she's going to come out. But I knew I had to move her with angles. At the beginning I knew what to do, but I couldn't put in my game system. At the end of the first set, I started doing that better and in the second set, she just got a little out of it."

Jordi's game system worked to perfection agains Hong, and the matchup also played to his strengths.

"He has a weaker backhand, and I knew if I opened the court on the backhand and I rallied with him cross court, he was going to give me a couple of mistakes," Jordi said. "He let me run around the backhand and hit a couple of forehands inside in and come in.  Also, I could get him on the stretch and it was easier for me to come in. His serve doesn't do that much damage, so every return game I feel like I was close and had opportunities."

Serving for the match at 5-2, Jordi was broken at love, and at 5-3, several dozen young students at the JTCC came out to watch on the nearby bleacher.  At 30-all, Jordi admitted to some loss of concentration, and Hong held, but Jordi made good on his second chance to complete the win, allowing the youngsters to turn their attention to Usue's match.

Both Jordi (who plays for Argentina as he awaits US citizenship) and Usue(who plays for the US) said they are comfortable playing on their home courts, surrounded by their friends and fellow students.  Both will need that support on Friday, with Usue playing top seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and Jordi taking on No. 2 seed Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands.

"I've never played him, but I've been to a lot of tournaments with him," Jordi said. "He has a very good serve and good forehand and he's backhand is pretty solid too, but I think it could be a good match for me."

Usue is less familiar with Kalinskaya, who is also 15 years old.

"I actually hadn't seen her before this tournament," Usue said. "I haven't even met her yet, but Raveena (Kingsley) played her today, so we'll see tomorrow."

Kalinskaya beat No. 7 seed Kingsley 6-2, 6-3, while Van Rijthoven needed nearly three hours to get past No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik of Russia 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(1).

The other boys semifinal will be between Americans Michael Mmoh and Reilly Opelka, who met just two weeks ago in the round of 16 at Kalamazoo, with Mmoh taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision.  Top seed Mmoh earned his place with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 8 seed Victor Durasovic of Norway, while the unseeded Opelka's serve was way too much for No. 4 seed Chan-yeong Oh of Korea in a quick 6-1, 6-4 decision.

Unseeded Mia Horvit continued her fine play this week, beating Ellyse Hamlin 6-3, 6-3 to reach her first Grade 1 semifinal.  The 17-year-old Floridian lost her opening set of the tournament, but since then has not lost more than three games in any set.  She will play No. 2 seed Elena Ruse of Romania, who has followed up her semifinal appearance at Wimbledon last month with an increasingly dominant run on the JTCC hard courts. She cruised past No. 5 seed Tami Grende of Indonesia 6-2, 6-2 in Thursday's quarterfinal.

The girls semifinals are scheduled first on Friday, followed by the boys semifinals, due to both Horvit and Kalinskaya also being in the doubles semifinals.  The boys doubles semifinals do not have any singles semifinalists, so with the Canada Grade 1 starting Sunday, it's possible the boys final will be played Friday as well.

The boys top half semifinal has unseeded Tommy Paul and Nathan Ponwith against unseeded Brian Tsao and Evan Zhu.

The bottom half semifinal has No. 7 seeds Michal Dembek of Poland and Majed Kilani of Tunisia against No. 2 seeds Durasovic and Nicolae Frunza of Romania.

The girls doubles semifinals has the 2-, 3- and 4-seeded teams, with Gabby Andrews and Horvit, who beat top seeds Ruse and Arconada in the first round, the unseeded team. Andrews and Horvit will play No. 4 seeds Grende and Theresa Van Zyl of South Africa in one semifinal, while Kalinskaya and her partner Evgeniya Levashova of Russia, the No. 2 seeds, will play No. 3 seeds Vera Lapko of Belarus and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia.

Complete draws are available at the tournament website.

The gold medal match for boys singles is set at the Youth Olympic Games in China, with No. 2 seed Orlando Luz of Brazil meeting No. 7 seed Kamil Majchrzak of Poland.  Majchrzak defeated top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, while Luz beat No. 8 seed Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.  The girls semifinals feature unseeded Shilin Xu of China against unseeded Akvile Parazinskaite of Lithuania and No. 7 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine against No. 8 seed Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus.  Sofia Kenin and her Mexican partner Renata Zarazua will play for the bronze medal in girls doubles competition Friday. Complete results are here.

It wasn't a good day for Americans in the second round of qualifying at the US Open. Only two of the seven men in action--Ernesto Escobedo and No. 28 seed Rajeev Ram--advanced to Friday's final round of qualifying.  Escobedo defeated James Duckworth of Australia 6-2, 7-6(3) and will play No. 4 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina for a place in the main draw. Ram defeated fellow American Rhyne Williams 6-3, 6-2 and faces the winner of the Sanam Singh - Andreas Beck match.

Melanie Oudin and wild card Maria Sanchez were the only two US women to advance to the final round of qualifying. Oudin, seeded No. 26, defeated Stephanie Foretz of France 6-2, 7-5 and will play Australian Ashleigh Barty for a place in the main draw.  Barty defeated US Open National Playoff winner Caitlin Whoriskey 6-4, 6-0.  Sanchez defeated No. 20 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 16 seed Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belrus.

Complete qualifying draws can be found at usopen.org.

The US Open main draws were released today, and boy, the American wild cards got no favors.  Taylor Townsend was drawn to meet No. 1 Serena Williams, NCAA champion Danielle Collins was drawn against No. 2 Simona Halep and US National champion CiCI Bellis was drawn against No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova. Grace Min will play No. 17 seed Ekaterina Makarova. Nicole Gibbs, who faces Caroline Garcia, and Madison Brengle, who plays Julia Glushko, are the only two women's wild cards who did not draw seeds.

In the men's draw, NCAA champion Marcos Giron drew No. 13 seed John Isner, Jared Donaldson will play No. 20 Gael Monfils in the first round, Ryan Harrison's first round opponent is No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov and Wayne Odesnik drew No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori.

Only wild cards Noah Rubin and Tim Smyczek managed to avoid drawing seeds, with Rubin playing ATP No. 66 Federico Delbonis of Argentina and Smyczek drawing a qualifier.

Complete draws are at usopen.org.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Top Seeds Reach Quarterfinals at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Kozlov, Altamirano Among US Open Qualifying Winners

©Colette Lewis 2014--
College Park, MD--

The exit of seeds that marked the first two days of play at the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts slowed in the third round, with only one seeded player losing in each of the draws.

Of the two unseeded winners, Reilly Opelka had the easier time, ousting No. 11 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada 6-3, 6-4, while Ellyse Hamlin needed three hours to overcome No. 13 seed Siqi Cao of China 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Opelka said he was serving exceptionally well against the powerful left-hander, who began to show signs of frustration after Opelka won the first set.

"I served unbelievable today," said the 6-foot-9-inch Opelka. "He didn't touch many serves and as soon as I broke him early in the second set, I think that's why he got so frustrated. I put a lot of pressure on him."

Opelka understands that his serve can control a match when it's on.

"Every day's different as far as how I'm serving," said Opelka, who received a wild card into the US Open Junior Championships later this month. "I think for example today, if I hit my spot on my serve, it shouldn't come back. I was just trying to pay attention to my serve, all the details, keep a high percentage of first serves.  I'd say I served probably 80 percent."

Opelka's opponent in Thursday's quarterfinals will be No. 4 seed Chan-Yeong Oh of Korea, who beat a cramping Anudeep Kodali 6-4, 7-5.

The other boys quarterfinal in the top half of the draw will feature top seed Michael Mmoh against No. 8 seed Viktor Durasovic of Norway. Mmoh overcame a serious challenge from No. 14 Benjamin Hannestad of Denmark 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, while Durasovic got past New Balance High School champion Matt Kuhar 6-4, 7-6(3).

No. 9 seed Jordi Arconada, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, the host site of the tournament, will play No. 3 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea in Thursday's quarterfinals.  Arconada defeated unseeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 6-4, while Hong took out unseeded Tommy Paul by the same score.

No. 2 seed Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands has had to win a tiebreaker in each of his three wins this week, today's to close out No. 13 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-2, 7-6(6).  The tiebreaker was a high quality affair, with Van Rijthoven dictating most of the points with his forehand. At 5-all, he earned a match point with a stunning inside in forehand winner, but gave the mini-break right back when he netted a forehand. The next two points were again on Van Rijthoven's forehand and this time, there were no errors, just two consecutive winners for the match.

Van Rijthoven will play No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik of Russia, who survived No. 10 seed Sameer Kumar 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.  Bublik served for the match at 5-3 but was broken at love. With Kumar serving to stay in the match, he was able to save one match point with an ace, but he missed a backhand volley on the second to give the tall, thin Russian the victory.

In the girls third round, only Hamlin's win over Cao went three sets. Hamlin has dropped the first set in all three of her matches this week, but was much happier with her overall level today than in her other two victories.

"She came out hitting a big ball and I just wasn't hitting it big enough back," said Hamlin, who has committed to Duke for the fall of 2015. "She got control and kept pushing, pushing, pushing. I think she got a little bit tired at the end of the second set, which really helped me, even though I was definitely feeling it. But I think I kept my energy up and was really positive with myself and that helped."

Hamlin said she was focusing on her own strengths after getting away from that.

"I really had to play true to myself," said Hamlin. "I hadn't really been doing that lately, so this match I felt I was a lot better with that. Going after stuff, even if I was back behind the baseline, I was just trying to keep playing my game, and that ended up happening and I ended up winning. I don't know how, to be honest."

Hamlin will play unseeded Mia Horvit for a place in the semifinals, after Horvit defeated qualifier Jessica Livianu 6-1, 6-2.

"I played her in the 14s clays and I actually lost the first set, lost it 6-0 actually. I ended up pulling it out in the third," Hamlin said of her 0-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) third round win three years ago. "She's a really good competitor and I'm good friends with her, so it should be a good match."

In contrast to Hamlin's three-hour win, No. 2 seed Elena Ruse of Romania breezed by unseeded qualifier Andrea Kevakian 6-0, 6-0 to set up a quarterfinal match with No. 5 seed Tami Grende of Indonesia, who defeated Andie Daniell 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 7-5 win over unseeded qualifier Abigail Desiatnikov and will play No. 7 seed Raveena Kingsley, another JTCC student.  Kingsley beat unseeded Claire Liu 6-1, 6-3 and has lost only eight games in her three victories.

The third JTCC player into the quarterfinals is No. 3 seed Usue Arconada, younger sister to Jordi, who beat qualifier Maria Mateas 6-3, 6-1. Arconada will play unseeded Ingrid Neel, who downed unseeded qualifier Dominique Schaefer 6-4, 6-1.

The second round of doubles was completed this afternoon just before a rain storm arrived in the area.  See the tournament website for today's complete results and Thursday's order of play.

Another long day at the US Open qualifying saw the completion of the first round.   Stefan Kozlov defeated Mitchell Frank in a battle of American wild cards 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 and Kalamazoo finalist Collin Altamirano picked up a 6-2, 6-4 win over Luca Vanni of Italy.  Other US winners were Rajeev Ram(28), Rhyne Williams, Austin Krajicek, Melanie Oudin and Caitlin Whoriskey.  Whoriskey, who won the US Open National Playoff Monday in New Haven, came back to defeat WTA No. 106 and No. 5 seed Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Former University of Virginia star Sanam Singh, who won the men's National Playoff on Monday, defeated Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-1, 7-6(3).

Complete draws can be found at usopen.org.

Wild Cards for 2014 US Open Junior Championships


Tommy Paul (clay courts champion)
John McNally (16s national champion)
Ernesto Escobedo
Nathan Ponwith
Reilly Opelka
Deiton Baughman
Aron Hiltzik
Eduardo Nava

Katerina Stewart (clay courts champion)
Kylie McKenzie (16s national champion)
Claire Liu
Kelly Chen
Brooke Austin
Ingrid Neel
Francesca Di Lorenzo
Ena Shibahara


Connor Hance
Gianni Ross
Patrick Kypson
Jacob Brumm
Sam Riffice
Toshiki Konayashi (Japan HS Champion)

Ellie Halbauer
Caroline Dolehide
Kayla Day
Ryan Peus
Anna Sanford
Mayu Okawa (Japan HS Champion)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Top Seed Mmoh Saves Match Point in Win over Riffice at ITF Grade 1 Hard Courts; Escobedo, Stewart, Chirico, Black Win Opening Round Qualifying Matches at US Open

©Colette Lewis 2014--
College Park, MD--

Top seed Michael Mmoh, who is only 16,  well knows the feeling of being the young player with no pressure and nothing to lose against older and more established players.  In his second round ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts match against 15-year-old Sam Riffice however, Mmoh was cast in the role of the veteran target, and but for a missed backhand volley by Riffice on match point, he would have made an early exit, rather than posting a 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6) victory.

After Mmoh had cruised through the first set, Riffice used his forehand to pressure Mmoh into errors and returned well, forcing a third set.  Mmoh was up 4-2 in the third set, and even had his chances to break again at 4-4 in the third, but Riffice saved two break points and held to take a 5-4 lead.

Riffice continued to keep the pressure on Mmoh in the tiebreaker, as dozens of players and fans gathered around court 19 to watch the conclusion of the match.  Without a chair umpire, knowing the score required tracking every point, with Mmoh leading 4-2 at the change of ends.  He lost his advantage with a double fault and Riffice took a 5-4 lead.  A good first serve by Mmoh made 5-all, but he missed his first serve and made an error off Riffice's return of his second.  Match point for Riffice on his serve, and it was a great point, with big hitting and Riffice coming in to close out a volley.  He made one fine backhand volley that the ultra quick Mmoh got back, giving Riffice no time to think. Close to the net, with an open court in front of him, Riffice reacted with another backhand volley, but somehow it found the net.

Riffice netted a forehand to give Mmoh his first match point, and a good first serve brought a wide return from Riffice and Mmoh had survived.

"I thought it was over, to be honest," said Mmoh. "It was a bit of a scare."

After reaching the semifinals of Kalamazoo and taking champion Noah Rubin to 7-5 in the third set, Mmoh was in Riffice's position less than two weeks ago.

"I've been in his position, and it's a good position to be in," Mmoh said. "You're just free, hitting like, whatever, and in my position you get really nervous. When you're nervous, he's not--every short ball, he's just like ripping it."

But Mmoh understands he needs to get accustomed to being expected to win.

"It's good, I think, because if you make it to the top, you're obviously going to be in a similar situation, but it takes some getting used to."

Mmoh, who acknowledged that Riffice played well and has a great future, said his close call may help him the rest of the week, and most immediately, in his third round match again No. 14 seed Benjamin Hannestad of Denmark.

"The guy I'm playing next is tough," Mmoh said. "But I think after today, I'll be a lot more loose, more aggressive."

After four boys seeds exited in the first round on Monday, only one lost today, with Anudeep Kodali defeating fellow Bollettieri student Robert Levine, the No. 16 seed, 6-3, 6-1.

In the girls draw, only six of the 16 seeds have survived, with five more losing today.  Fourteen-year-old Claire Liu defeated No. 12 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 6-4, 7-5, but she wasn't the youngest player to make the final 16. That distinction belongs to 13-year-old qualifier Abigail Desiatnikov, who overcame No. 14 seed Raquel Pedraza 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Pedraza served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but didn't get to match point, and Desiatnikov closed it out from there, using some anger at a line call as motivation.

"I was really frustrated because at 4-4, there was a ball that I thought to my eyes was way in and she said out," said Desiatnikov. "But I just kept going, and at 5-4, I said just make good margins, keep the ball deep to her backhand, which is her weaker side. Play smart and if you get tight, just shake it off."

Desiatnikov stepped up her forehand in the final two games to keep her momentum going.

"I was on a roll from the two previous games and I was really feeling my forehand."

Desiatnikov couldn't find any fault with the way she played to open the match.

"I honestly hit like five errors at the most in the that first set," said Desiatnikov, who said her goal before the tournament was to make the third round. "She was just hitting forehand winners left and right. I wasn't even mad, it's what can I do?  So I said, just get the ball in, a little deeper, and I pulled it through."

Qualifier Dominique Schaefer defeated No. 9 seed Sara Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, Mia Horvit downed No. 11 seed Emily Arbuthnott of Great Britain and qualifier Andrea Kevakian beat No. 16 seed Madison Bourguignon 7-6(3), 6-3.

Top seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia and No. 2 seed Elena Ruse of Romania both advanced in straight sets, with Kalinskaya playing Desiatnikov and Ruse meeting Kevakian.

The first round of doubles saw both top-seeded teams go out.  In the girls draw, Usue Arconada and Ruse lost to Gabby Andrews and Horvit 6-1, 3-6, 10-8, and in the boys draw, Tommy Paul and Nathan Ponwith beat Seong Chan Hong and Chan-Yeong Oh of Korea 6-7(4), 7-5, 10-7.

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

The first day of US Open qualifying produced several excellent wins for teenage wild cards.  Ernesto Escobedo defeated No. 24 seed Somdev Devvarman of India 6-3, 6-2, Tornado Alicia Black got past Naomi Broady of Great Britain 7-6(6), 7-6(2), Louisa Chirico downed Maria Irigoyen of Argentina 6-2, 6-2, and Katerina Stewart beat Yuliya Beygelzimer of Ukraine 6-3, 6-1.  Other US players who picked up first rounds wins were: wild card Maria Sanchez, Irina Falconi and Michael Russell.

The rest of the first round qualifying matches are Wednesday, with nine US men and six US women on the schedule.

Mitchell Frank plays Stefan Kozlov in a battle of wild cards on Court 17, Francis Tiafoe is also on that court against No. 11 seed Tatsuma Ito of Japan, while Melanie Oudin(26) plays there against Sesil Karatantcheva of Kazakhstan.

The other five US women on Wednesday's schedule are No. 7 seed Anna Tatishvili(7) against Nao Hibino of Japan, and four wild cards: Jennifer Brady against Carina Witthoeft of Germany, Caitlin Whoriskey against Danka Kovinic(5) of Montenegro, Samantha Crawford against Heidi El Tabakh of Canada and Asia Muhammad against Ksenia Pervak(18) of Russia.

The six other US men in action Wednesday are Rajeev Ram(28) against Martin Fischer of Austria, Rhyne Williams against Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, Austin Krajicek against Norbert Gombos(13) of Slovakia, Taylor Fritz against Jan Mertl of the Czech Republic, Mackenzie McDonald against Ricardas Berankis(8) of Lithuania and Collin Altamirano against Luca Vanni of Italy.

Qualifying draws are available at usopen.org.  Qualifying matches are being televised on the CBS Sports Network.