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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bellis Returns to Junior Fed Cup with two 6-0, 6-0 Victories; Tiafoe, Sandgren, Donaldson Reach Tallahassee Challenger Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Boca Raton, FL--

CiCi Bellis has a ITF World Junior Tennis championship and an ITF Junior Fed Cup championship on her resume the past two years, so she would expect to have experienced just about everything those two competitions had to offer when she returned for the North and Central American Qualifying for Junior Fed Cup this weekend.  But Bellis, who turned 16 earlier this month, had never before had an opponent ask for a photo with her, which happened today after her second 6-0, 6-0 victory of the day.

"I don't think any of my opponents has ever wanted a picture with me," said Bellis, who had been asked for one earlier in the day by two older gentlemen on their way to hit on the Evert Academy courts. "It was fine, they were really nice girls, and we talked to them a little bit when we were having lunch. But I don't mind, I'm getting used to it, it's fun."

Bellis, who won her singles match over Penelope Abreu of the Dominican Republic 6-0, 6-0 to give the USA Junior Fed Cup team an insurmountable  2-0 lead, said the photo requests have been common since her first round win over Dominika Cibulkova at the US Open last year, but her two victories last month at the Miami Open have also raised her profile.  Bellis lost 6-1, 6-1 to Serena Williams in the third round, an experience she thinks will be valuable to her in the future.

"It was so scary, but it was a good experience," Bellis said. "I was really nervous and I couldn't get past playing Serena. I didn't really get past it this time, but if I ever play her again, I think it will be easier."

As for returning to junior competition this week, Bellis said she enjoys the team atmosphere and believes it will help prepare her for the French Open qualifying in a few weeks.

"This is for match play before the French," said Bellis, who will make her decision about competing in the French Junior Championships based on how the women's qualifying tournament goes for her. "Canada's a really good team, and the next team, Mexico, is pretty good too, so it's match play, and practice on the clay."

As for the team format, Bellis said, "it's so much fun. We put bows in our hair and paint our faces, it's so fun."

"And being on a team, you're not playing for yourself, but obviously, for your country and I like that. And I play so much better at these things."

Because Bellis is 16, she is restricted by WTA rules on the number of tournaments she can play, so junior competition can help fill that match play void.

"I have to have it scheduled out basically for the whole year and even next year, a calendar to make sure I don't play too many tournaments," said Bellis, who will also weigh her participation in the Wimbledon Junior Championships based on her performance in the women's qualifying there.

Kayla Day and Michaela Gordon are the two other USA Junior Fed Cup players, with Day winning 6-3, 6-0 in the opening match at No. 2 singles. Gordon and Bellis won the doubles against the Dominican team 6-0, 6-0.

As impressive a performance as that was, the US boys participating in the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition were equally dominant, losing only two games in three matches against Guatemala.  Brandon Nakishima won 6-0, 6-0 over Jonathan Hernandez, Adam Neff won 6-0, 6-1 over Juan Sebastian Dominguez and Nakashima and Govind Nanda won in doubles 6-0, 6-1.

The US girls 14-and-under team defeated Canada 3-0, with Amanda Anisimova winning over Ariana Arseneault 6-1, 6-4 and Caty McNally beating Leylah Fernandez 6-2, 6-3. McNally and Hurricane Tyra Black won the doubles 6-1, 6-1.

The US Junior Davis Cup team made it 12-0 for the US, with Vasil Kirkov beating Kyle Frankel of Aruba 6-1, 6-0 and Gianni Ross defeating Patrick Sydow 6-3, 6-3.  Sam Riffice and Kirkov took the doubles 6-3, 6-2.

The other teams to win in the first round Thursday: Canada's WJT boys team, Junior Fed Cup team and Junior Davis Cup team all beat Mexico, all by 3-0 scores.  Canada did have two late substitutions with Vanessa Wong taking Bianca Andreescu's place on the Junior Fed Cup team, and Benjamin Sigouin substituting for Felix Auger-Aliassime on the Junior Davis Cup team.

The only match decided by the doubles was the girls World Junior Tennis contest between Guatemala and Mexico.  Guatemala won at No. 2 in a three-setter, Mexico won at No. 1 in a three-setter, and the doubles also went three sets, with Guatemala taking a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory.  Although all doubles in ITF Junior (and Professional) events are no-ad with match tiebreakers for a third set, these team competitions play regular scoring, best of three tiebreak sets, so that match went more than two hours, with Mexico coming back from 5-1 down in the final set to get back on serve, only to be broken in the last game to end it.

All four US teams will play Mexico in Friday's second round.

Complete results can be found here.

Three Americans have reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Tallahassee Challenger: 17-year-old Frances Tiafoe, 18-year-old Jared Donaldson and 23-year-old Tennys Sandgren.  Sandgren knocked Bjorn Fratangelo out of the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge for the French Open wild card with a 6-2, 6-2 victory, while Mitchell Krueger was eliminated from contention with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to No. 6 seed Facundo Arguello of Argentina. Donaldson defeated Vincent Millot of France 6-4, 7-6(4), and tonight, Tiafoe downed Emilio Gomez of Ecuador 6-1, 7-6(2).  Tiafoe is now in the lead in the wild card race, but the other two Americans can win it if they claim the title Saturday. 

At the Women's Pro Circuit stop in Charlottesville, 16-year-old wild card Usue Arconada defeated Julia Boserup 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals. Dothan finalist Katerina Stewart downed qualifier Nicole Frenkel 6-3, 6-0 and Allie Kiick beat Paula Goncalves of Brazil 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. 

The American quarterfinalists at the $10,000 Futures in Vero Beach include Wil Spencer, Greg Ouellette, Michael Mmoh and Ryan Haviland.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Oklahoma's Alvarez, UCLA's Anderson Top Seeds for NCAA Singles Championships; Tiafoe Reaches Tallahassee Challenger Quarterfinals, Stewart Avenges Loss to Chirico in Charlottesville First Round

I've arrived in Boca Raton to cover the qualifying for the North/Central American tournament for spots in the Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup (16-and-under) and World Junior Tennis (14-and-under) competitions. Round robin play begins at 10 a.m. Thursday and continues through Saturday at the USTA's National Training Center.  I haven't seen the draw yet, but I'll try to post it via twitter if I get it tonight.

The singles and doubles fields for the NCAA Division I individual championships were announced this evening, with UCLA's Robin Anderson and Oklahoma's Axel Alvarez the top seeds.  The 16 seeds are listed below, with all those seeded having secured All-American status regardless of their results in the tournament.

Women's singles seeds:
1. Robin Anderson, UCLA
2. Carol Zhao, Stanford
3. Brooke Austin, Florida
4. Maegan Manasse, Cal
5. Lauren Herring, Georgia
6. Julia Elbaba, Virginia
7. Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
8. Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt

Hayley Carter, North Carolina
Danielle Collins, Virginia
Joana Eidukonyte, Clemson
Lorraine Guillermo, Pepperdine
Julie Jones, Ole Miss
Josie Kuhlman, Florida
Giuliana Olmos, Southern Cal
Stephanie Wagner, Miami

The women's doubles seeds:
1. Erin Routliffe and Maya Jansen, Alabama
2. Carol Zhao and Taylor Davidson, Stanford
3. Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, UCLA
4. Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, Clemson

Emily Flickinger and Pleun Burgmans, Auburn
Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr, Cal
Zsofi Susanyi and Klara Fabikova, Cal
Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan, Florida

It's great to see Jennifer Brady, after her outstanding results this fall on the professional circuit and an injury-plagued dual match season, among the selections, with Sabrina Santamaria of USC, who missed last year's tournament due to injury, also in the singles draw.  Last year's finalist Lynn Chi of Cal did have the ranking to qualify, but didn't have the required six completed matches this spring--she was 2-1 in dual match play--so was not selected. Players who made the round of 16 last year and are in the field but not seeded this year are Brady, Breaunna Addison of Texas and Duke's Ester Goldfeld. Georgia's Silvia Garcia reached the round of 16 in 2014 but did not make the field this year, with the same true of Duke's Trice Capra.

The complete field can be found at ncaa.com.

The men's singles seeds:
1. Axel Alvarez, Oklahoma
2. Julia Lenz, Baylor
3. Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA
4. Andrew Harris, Oklahoma
5. Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, Louisville
6. Soren Hess-Olesen, Texas
7. Noah Rubin, Wake Forest
8. Ryan Shane, Virginia

Nicolas Alvarez, Duke
Gonzales Austin, Vanderbilt
Romain Bogaerts, Wake Forest
Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal
Dominik Koepfer, Tulane
Mikelis Libietis, Tennessee
Quentin Monaghan, Notre Dame
Brayden, Schnur, North Carolina

If you recall in last year's men's tournament, only 3 seeds made the round of 16, all of them 9-16 seeds: Hess-Olesen, champion Marcos Giron of UCLA and Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss.  Players in this year's field who made the round of 16 last year and are not seeded this year are: Scholtz, Denis Nguyen of Harvard, Leandro Toledo of Minnesota, Dane Webb of Oklahoma, Nathan Pasha of Georgia, and Roberto Cid of South Florida.  Cid and Nguyen were quarterfinalists last year. (Correction: Nguyen reached the semifinals). Shane Vinsant of Texas A&M and Andrew Adams of South Carolina made the round of 16 last year, but did not make the field this year.

The men's doubles seeds:
1. Ben Wagland and Austin Smith, Georgia
2. Roberto Quiroz and Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal
3. Luca Corinteli and Ryan Shane, Virginia
4. Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese, Tennessee

Julian Lenz and Diego Galeano, Baylor
Julian Cash and Florian Lakat, Mississippi State
Kevin Metka and Ralf Steinbach, Ohio State
Gonzales Austin and Rhys Johnson, Vanderbilt

The complete list of men's selections can be found at ncaa.com

In Pro Circuit action today, Frances Tiafoe defeated former Florida State All-American Jean-Yves Aubone 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Tallahassee Challenger.  Tiafoe had beaten top seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the first round yesterday, the 17-year-old from Maryland's first ATP Top 100 win.  Josh Meiseles of the ATP reported it is the first time an American has reached at least the quarterfinals in his first three career Challengers entered since Todd Martin in 1989-90. He will play former Southern Cal star Emilio Gomez Thursday night. Although he remains in the lead for the USTA's Har-Tru wild card, he hasn't increased his lead, since the results are the best two and he already has a quarterfinal (in Sarasota's $100K) and a semifinal last week in Savannah.

At the $50,000 women's tournament in Charlottesville, Katerina Stewart got revenge for her loss in the final of Dothan on Sunday, beating Louisa Chirico 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 in their unfortunate first round encounter today.  Chirico leads in the women's USTA Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge, but obviously can't improve her best two results this week, while Stewart still can. The third tournament is next week's $50K in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida.

In other first round action in Charlottesville, wild card Usue Arconada picked up a win, beating wild card Rianna Valdes 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, qualifier Nicole Frenkel won her first round match, and Julia Boserup ousted top seed Sachia Vickery. Boserup will play Arconada next.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NCAA Division I Team Championships Draws Released; Oklahoma Men, Southern California Women Top Seeds

The draws and at-large bids for the NCAA Division I team tennis championships were revealed this evening via live streaming at ncaa.com.  After enduring several years of chaotic production at ESPN, I'll again state that the simplicity and timeliness of this "show" is much easier for all concerned.

The first surprise came at the very beginning, with the Southern California women taking the No. 1 seed ahead of North Carolina. Although North Carolina lost to Virginia in the ACC conference tournament semifinals, USC didn't play at all after last week's rankings had them at No. 2.  We won't know until Friday, when the new double-run rankings are released, whether USC retook the No. 1 spot, and in the long run, seedings aren't that important, (do you even remember who the No. 1 seeds were last year?), but it did provide something of a jolt to open the show.

The draws are always set up so the 1 seed plays the 16 seed, 2 plays 15 seed, etc. at the final site, provided all 16 seeds make it of course.

That makes the 8/9 and 4/5 always interesting, and this year is no exception, with Virginia, fresh off their win over North Carolina, playing Baylor at home, a rematch of last year's round of 16, won by the Cavaliers (should they both advance, of course).  And Florida is no doubt eager for a rematch with Vanderbilt, who has already beaten them twice this year.

Here are the top 16 women's seeds, all of whom will host regionals:

1. Southern Cal
2. North Carolina
3. Cal
4. Vanderbilt
5. Florida
6. Georgia
8. Baylor
9. Virginia
10. Texas A&M
11. Michigan
12. Oklahoma St.
13. Alabama
14. Stanford
15. Miami
16. Texas Tech

Of the 16, only three were not Top 16 seeds last year: Michigan, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.  Duke, Northwestern and Clemson were seeded in the Top 16 last year and are not his year.

It appears the Texas women ran afoul of the .500 rule. At No. 32 in last week's rankings the Longhorns would have been expected to be named as an at-large team, but a 4-3 loss to TCU in the Big 12 conference championships put them at 10-11 for the year, and by rule, they were not selected. Their best win was over Texas Tech.

The complete women's draw can be found at ncaa.com.

The top two seeds in the men's tournament are no surprise, with Oklahoma No. 1 and host Baylor No. 2.  The prospect of a fifth meeting between the two teams, after Oklahoma has won the first four, is not particularly tantalizing, but despite the head-to-head, there's no denying they are evenly matched teams.  If they should meet again, in the final, it will be the first time they've played this year with regular scoring.

According to Bobby Knight at College Tennis Today, who ran his own rankings after the weekend's results, several seeds were flipped by the Committee due to head-to-head meeting.  USC, who has two wins over Georgia, moves ahead of them, and TCU, who has two wins over Texas A&M, also leapfrogged (pun intended) the Aggies despite the final ITA rankings.

The 8/9 on the men's side is Georgia-Texas, which is certainly intriguing and the 4/5 is Illinois and TCU. The committee wasn't interested in boosting TCU even more by putting them in the No. 4 position due to their 4-0 win over Illinois in Fort Worth in March, which is probably sensible. And I would be shocked if the projected rematch between the two in the quarterfinals isn't much, much closer.

The men's 16 seeds:

1. Oklahoma
2. Baylor
3. Virginia
4. Illinois
5. TCU
6. Texas A&M
7. Southern Cal
8. Georgia
9. Texas
10. Duke
11. Ohio State
12. Wake Forest
13. North Carolina
14. Ole Miss
15. Virginia Tech
16. UCLA

There are four teams seeded in the top 16 this year who were not in that position last year: TCU, Wake Forest, Ole Miss and Virginia Tech. The four teams seeded top 16 last year and not this year are: Columbia, Notre Dame, Florida and Kentucky.

The complete draw can be found at ncaa.com. The final site schedule is available at baylorbears.com.

The fields for the individual championships will be released on Wednesday at ncaa.com.

The Tennis Recruiting Network will again be sponsoring their May Madness bracket challenge with a host of great prizes.  Check it out now.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Easter Bowl Videos; Ojai Results; Rubin Sweeps ACC Men's Awards

Finally finished processing all the videos from the Easter Bowl over the weekend. Below are videos of all eight champions. Videos of the eight finalists can be found by clicking on their names below.

Jameson Corsillo
Emma Jackson
Jaycer Calleros
Alexa Noel
Brian Cernoch
Natasha Subhash
Sam Riffice
Katie Swan

The complete results from the Ojai tournament are below.  For more on unseeded UCLA Bruin Catherine Harrison's win at the Pac-12 women's individual tournament, see this article from the UCLA website.


Men’s Open Singles: Philip Bester (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada) d. Lester Cook (Los Angeles, CA), 7-5, 6-4.
Women’s Open Singles: Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) d. Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA), 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
Men’s Open Doubles: Quinn Borchard/Calle Hansen (Newbury Park) d. Jochem Hoefnagels (Azusa)/Peter Lucassen (Rolling Hills), 6-4, 6-3
Women’s Open Doubles: Jada Hart (Colton, CA)/Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) d. Kaitlyn Christian (Rancho Cucamonga)/Amy Zhu (Newark, DE), 6-0, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3
Pac-12 Men’s Championship: No. 2 USC def. No. 1 Stanford, 4-3
Pac-12 Women’s Singles Championship: Catherine Harrison (UCLA) d. Klara Fabikova (Cal), 6-4, 6-0
Pac-12 Women’s Doubles Championship: Taylor Davidson/Carol Zhao (Stanford) d. Caroline Doyle/Ellen Tsay (Stanford), 7-5, 6-2
Pac-12 Women’s Singles Invitational: Meredith Xepoleas (USC) d. Terri Fleming (UCLA), 6-2, 6-3
Pac-12 Women’s Doubles Invitational: Gabriella DeSimone/Zoe Katz (USC) d. Capucine Gregoire/Riko Shimizu (Washington), 8-4
CIF Boys’ Singles: Michael Genender (Harvard-Westlake HS) d. Bjorn Hoffmann (Corona del Mar HS), 6-1, 6-4
CIF Boys’ Doubles: Bradley Cummins/Alex Kuperstein (Palm Desert HS) d. Keegan Smith/Ivan Thamma (Point Loma HS), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
Girls’ 18s Singles: Ryan Peus (Santa Barbara, CA) d. Seira Shimizu (Ojai, CA), 7-6, 6-7, 6-4
Girls’ 18s Doubles: Madison Hale/Mattea Kilstofte (Santa Barbara, CA) d. Kelsie Bryant (Carpinteria, CA)/Sophia Whittle (Nipomo, CA), 6-4, 6-4
Boys’ 16s Singles: Matthew Tsolakyan (Glendale, CA) d. Connor Rapp (Rancho Mirage, CA), 6-3, 6-3
Girls’ 16s Singles: Alexa Ryngler (Calabasas, CA) d. Rika Tanaka (Tokyo, Japan), 6-2, 6-2
Boys’ 14s Singles: Miles Jones (Marina del Rey, CA) d. Jacob Bullard (Calabasas, CA), 6-1, 4-6, 6-1
Girls’ 14s Singles: Delanie Dunkle (Arroyo Grande, CA) d. d. Hina Inoue (Huntington Beach, CA), 6-3, 6-3
Men’s Independent College Singles: Brendan Aguilar (San Diego Christian) d. Adrian Legarreta (Grand Canyon), 6-2, 6-2
Men’s Independent College Doubles: Adrian Legarreta-Mitchell Maroscher (Grand Canyon) d. Alexander Roggenkamp-Felix Schueller (Grand Canyon), 6-4, 7-5
Women’s Independent College Singles: Erin Walker (Abilene Christian) d. Brittney Reed (Abilene Christian), 6-1, 7-5
Women’s Independent College Doubles: Lucile Pothier-Erin Walker (Abilene Christian) d. Kaysie Hermsdorf-Brittney Reed (Abilene Christian), 7-6 (10-8), 6-1
Men’s Division III West Singles: Warren Wood (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Skyler Butts (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), 7-6 (8-6), 6-4
Men’s Division III West Doubles: Skyler Butts/Daniel Morkovine (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Joe Dorn/Warren Wood (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Championship: Irvine Valley def. Foothill, 5-2
Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Singles: Hironori Koyanagi (Ventura) def. Corentin Haener (San Diego Mesa), 6-2, 6-3
Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Valentin Baize/Maxime Rumeau (Irvine Valley) d. Simon Guillin/Guillermo Ucelay (Irvine Valley), 6-4, 6-1
Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Championship: Mt. San Antonio def. Modesto, 5-4
Women’s Community College Athletic Association Singles: Mayra Jovic (Santa Monica) d. Chieko Yamada (Shasta), 6-1, 6-2
Women’s Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Mayra Jovic/Izabel Nazdracheva (Santa Monica) d. Polina Gorshinina/Van Nguyen (De Anza) 6-2, 7-5

The ACC has announced its men's award winners, with Noah Rubin of Wake Forest claiming both Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year honors, the first time in conference history those awards have gone to the same player in the same year. Virginia Tech's Jim Thompson was named Coach of the Year. For a complete list of the all-ACC teams, see this article.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Chirico, Chung, Ram and Rola Win Pro Titles; Conference Tournament Champions Crowned with NCAA Draw Announcement Set for Tuesday

Eighteen-year-old Louisa Chirico and 17-year-old Katerina Stewart battled for nearly three hours this afternoon in Dothan, Alabama before Chirico came away with a 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-6(0) victory at the $50,000 Pro Circuit tournament.  Stewart, using her drop shot effectively, went up 4-2 in the final set, but could not serve it out at 5-4, double faulting at 15-40 to put Chirico right back in the match.  Stewart was able to get a difficult hold at 5-6, but played a poor tiebreaker, with Chirico just staying in points until Stewart made an unforced error.

With Chirico's first title at the $50,000 level, she will move to a career high ranking of 122 and has taken the lead in the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge, which will continue next week at the $50,000 tournament in Charlottesville, Va.

Rajeev Ram added the singles title to the doubles title he won on Saturday in Guadalajara Mexico, with the No. 7 seed beating unseeded Jason Jung 6-1, 6-2 at the $100,000 ATP Challenger. It is Ram's seventh career Challenger title.

At the $50,000 Challenger in Santos, Brazil, 2013 NCAA champion Blaz Rola of Ohio State collected his second career Challenger title. The No. 2 seed defeated unseeded Germain Gigounon of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Former Baylor standout Roberto Maytin of Venezuela won the doubles title with partner Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina.

In Savannah, 18-year-old Hyeon Chung of Korea took the singles title at the $50,000 Challenger, his third career Challenger title, with the No. 4 seed defeating unseeded James McGee 6-3, 6-2.  With the title Chung will move into the ATP Top 100 for the first time at 88, and with Nick Kyrgios turning 20 tomorrow, Chung will be one of only two teenagers in the Top 100, with Borna Coric of Croatia the other.

The third and final stop in the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge for men is in at the $50,000 Challenger in Tallahassee.  Frances Tiafoe, the current leader in points, received a special exemption and drew top seed Facundo Bagnis, while wild cards were given to Tommy Paul, Stefan Kozlov, former Florida State All-American Jean-Yves Aubone and current Seminole Benjamin Lock.

There is also a $10,000 Futures tournament in Vero Beach next week, Florida, with the final round of qualifying set for Monday.

The last of the conference championship tournaments were completed today, with no real surprises in the major conference finals.  The No. 1 Oklahoma men defeated No. 2 Baylor 4-3 in another Big 12 thriller that was interrupted several times by rain and lightning in the Waco area. The women's final was played indoors at Baylor, with the Baylor women having no trouble with Texas Tech, taking that final by a 4-0 score.

The ACC titles went to Virginia, with the top-seeded men defeating No. 3 seed Wake Forest 4-2 and the fourth-seeded women downing No. 6 seed Georgia Tech 4-0.  Both matches, which were scheduled to be shown on ESPN3, were sent indoors due to rain, and no streaming was provided.

The Big Ten titles went to the top seeds, with the Michigan women taking down No. 2 Ohio State 4-0 and the Illinois men rolling over No. 2 Ohio State, also by a 4-0 score.

Last night in Ojai, the University of Southern California men claimed the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, defeating Stanford 4-3.

I'll have a rundown of the other results from Ojai on Monday.

For a complete list of all the conference champions, see this page from the ITA website.

My Interview with Reilly Opelka on Signing with Lagardere

I spoke with Reilly Opelka this afternoon after it was revealed last night that he had signed with sports management agency Lagardere, and therefore would be forgoing college tennis.

The 17-year-old senior from Palm Coast, Florida said he had always hoped to be a professional tennis player, but was definitely considering college tennis, with his choice narrowed down to Southern Cal or Florida, until last month.

"It was getting to the point where I had to make a decision for them," Opelka said. "They had to get moving along with their priorities, and that's kind of why the decision came now, how the timing happened. But there was no rush to sign. I would say my mind was 100 percent made up by February or March. I was all in by then, and it was kind of a process signing, getting it in writing and whatnot."

Opelka, who says he was recently measured and now is just a bit over 6-feet 10-inches in height, will be represented by Sam Duvall, who also represents John Isner.

Opelka joked that my question about his height was hardly a unique one.

"I'll be at the mall or wherever and I'll hear the question at least five times a day," Opelka said. "And I usually give five different answers. It ranges from 5'5" to 7'6", just depending on what number pops into my head first."

Opelka said he consulted with his parents and with the USTA, where he has trained for many years, before make the decision to sign.

"The USTA has guided me since I was 12," Opelka said. "The people I've had around me at the USTA I trust more than anyone--Jay Berger, Diego Moyano. Jay's been helping me out since I was 11 years old. And Tom Gullikson, he works for the USTA, and he's probably the only reason I'm playing tennis right now, and at this level. I'm lucky to have known him since I was 6 years old, and he definitely helped me and guided me. But at the end of the day, it was my decision. They were supportive for either option and left it up to me."

"I explored every option pretty well, I think," Opelka said of his decision. "I had college tennis in mind, no doubt. It's a great option for Americans, they think about college tennis more. It's such a high level now, it makes the decision tough.That's a good thing, but it's a little more stressful.  I could play Tommy Paul, Chris Eubanks, Noah Rubin, college tennis is such a high level now, it makes the decision even tougher."

Opelka, who is No. 30 in the ITF junior rankings and 1115 in the ATP rankings, said the fact that he had interest from Lagardere was not a major influence on his decision, but he is happy to have their expertise at his disposal.

"We looked at (turning pro) even before Lagardere came into play, but once they did it helped a lot," Opelka said. "Those guys know what they're doing when it comes down to this. That's what they do. And I really like Sam Duvall."

Opelka said a few nagging injuries have kept him out of competition for the past couple of months, but he is training hard now and is preparing to travel with the USTA to Spain for several Futures before playing the French Open Junior Championships. He is also planning to play Wimbledon Juniors, Kalamazoo and the US Open Junior Championships this year before concentrating exclusively on the professional circuit after that.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chirico, Stewart Reach Dothan Final; Virginia Women End North Carolina's Perfect Season; Third Set Tiebreakers Put Baylor and Oklahoma Men in Big 12 Final

The USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge could hardly have gotten off to a better start this week for two American women, with 17-year-old Katerina Stewart and 18-year-old Louisa Chirico reaching the final of the $50,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Dothan, Alabama.

Stewart, a wild card who won her first $25,000 title last month in Palm Harbor, Florida, defeated unseeded Paul Goncalves of Brazil 6-4, 6-0 in the day's first semifinal, while No. 4 seed Chirico needed considerably longer to defeat Serbia's Jovanan Jaksic 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-0.  Whoever wins the title on Sunday will claim her first singles championship at the $50,000 level and will take the lead in the race for the French Open wild card.

The final will be available via the USTA's live streaming, with the singles final scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

The $50,000 Savannah Challenger will not feature any Americans, with both Frances Tiafoe and Bjorn Fratangelo dropping their semifinal matches today.  Tiafoe lost to former NC State star James McGee of Ireland 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, while Fratangelo was beaten by 18-year-old Hyeon Chung of Korea, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-4. Tiafoe does leave Savannah with the lead in the men's race for the USTA"s reciprocal French Open wild card however, with one tournament left next week in Tallahassee.

At the $100,000 Challenger in Guadalajara, Mexico, Jason Jung will play in his first Challenger final, meeting Rajeev Ram.  Jung, the 25-year-old from California, won the $15,000 Futures in Little Rock last week, so he is now on a nine match winning streak.  Today he defeated Connor Smith 6-4, 7-6(3), while No. 7 seed Ram downed qualifier Kevin King 6-4, 6-3.  Neither Ram nor Jung have faced a seed this week.

photo via twitter 

Ram already has captured one title in Guadalajara, taking the doubles title with Austin Krajicek.  The top seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Marcelo Demoliner of Brazil and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela of Mexico 7-5, 4-6, 10-6.

In the ACC tournament, in a match moved indoors due to rain, No. 4 seed Virginia handed top seed North Carolina their first loss of the season, downing the Tar Heels 4-1.  The Cavaliers had lost to North Carolina 4-3 just two weeks ago, but did not have Maci Epstein in the lineup.  Virginia won the doubles point and got wins from Skylar Morton at 4, Danielle Collins at 2 and Cassie Mercer at 6 to spoil No. 1 North Carolina's perfect season.  Virginia will play No. 6 seed Georgia Tech, who reached the final with a 4-3 win over No. 10 seed Florida State. The final is scheduled to be live streamed on ESPN3 Sunday, if the match is played outdoors.

The ACC men's final will feature top seed Virginia against No. 3 seed Wake Forest.  Virginia defeated North Carolina 4-0, while Wake had no trouble with Georgia Tech, also advancing by a 4-0 score.  The men's final is also scheduled to be live streamed at ESPN3.

The Big 12 men's final will be the fourth meeting this season between No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Baylor, but both needed third set tiebreakers to advance over Texas and TCU in today's semifinals. Baylor's Julian Lenz outlasted TCU's Nick Chappell at No. 1, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (1), for the 4-3 win, while Oklahoma's Alex Ghilea defeated Texas's George Goldhoff 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) at line 4 to give the Sooners a 4-3 win.  Oklahoma has won the three previous meetings against Baylor by scores of 4-2, 4-1 and, most recently, 4-3.

The Big 12 women's final will feature No. 1 seed Baylor against No. 2 seed Texas Tech.

In the Big 10 men's final, the perennial battle between Illinois and Ohio State will be rejoined, while the women's final has Michigan against Ohio State.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Neel Commits to Florida, Paul to Georgia; Tiafoe Reaches Savannah Challenger Semifinals, Stewart into Dothan Semis; Upsets in ACC Tournament

Ingrid Neel, the No. 2 recruit in the Tennis Recruiting Network's Class of 2016, has verbally committed to the University of Florida.  I spoke to Neel about her decision at the Easter Bowl and wrote this article about her choice and her aspirations for a professional career.

The No. 2 recruit in the boys class of 2015, Tommy Paul, has announced his commitment to the University of Georgia. Reilly Opelka, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2015 , has not yet announced his decision.

Frances Tiafoe, who turned pro less than three weeks ago, has lost only one match since then.  He qualified for the $100,000 Sarasota Challenger and reached the quarterfinals; this week at the $50,000 Savannah Challenger, he received a wild card and is now into the semifinals after a 6-2, 7-6(3) win over Mitchell Krueger.  I've watched a lot of matches on the live stream this week and Tiafoe's forehand has been the most dynamic shot on display.  That and his flair for the unexpected is reason enough to tune in on Saturday, when he'll play James McGee of Ireland for a place in the final.  McGee defeated top seed Tim Smyczek 6-0, 6-3.  Tiafoe has also now taken the lead in the USTA's Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge for the French Open.  Bjorn Fratangelo, who Tiafoe beat in the second round last week in Sarasota, defeated Jared Donaldson 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-0 in the other all-American quarterfinal.  He will play No. 4 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea, who defeated No. 5 seed Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-2, 6-4.

At the Women's $50,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Dothan, Alabama, wild card Katerina Stewart defeated Samantha Crawford 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 to reach the semifinals, where she'll play unseeded Paula Goncalves of Brazil. Louisa Chirico defeated Jessica Pegula 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the semifinals against Jovana Jaksic of Serbia.

In the $50,000 Santos Challenger in Brazil, 17-year-old wild card Orlando Luz reached a Challenger semifinal for the first time, with qualifier Agustin Velotti of Argentina retiring down 5-0 in their quarterfinal meeting today. Luz, currently ranked No. 2 in the ITF Junior World rankings, will play unseeded Germain Gigounon of Belgium in the semifinals.

At the $100,000 Guadalajara Challenger, an American champion is assured before the quarterfinals have finished.  Unseeded Connor Smith defeated No. 6 seed JP Smith of Australia 6-4, 7-5 to earn his first berth in a Challenger semifinal.  Smith will play Jason Jung, who defeated Adam El Mihdawy 6-3, 6-4..  No. 7 seed Rajeev Ram defeated Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador 7-6(2), 6-3 and will play qualifier Kevin King in the semifinals.  King defeated top seed Adrian Menendez Maceiras of Spain 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(2).

King capped what was an outstanding day for Georgia Tech, with both the men's and women's teams posting upsets in the ACC tournament in Cary, NC.  Fresh from a 4-3 win over Duke in the final weekend of the season, the men, seeded 10th, beat Notre Dame on Thursday and today took out No. 2 seed and 14th-ranked Virginia Tech 4-3.  They will play No. 3 seed Wake Forest in the semifinals.  Top seed Virginia will play No. 4 North Carolina, after the Tar Heels got by No. 5 seed Duke 4-3.

The sixth-seeded Georgia Tech women defeated No. 3 Duke 4-3, but the real surprise came in the other other quarterfinal in the bottom half, with Florida State, seeded 10th, beating No. 2 seed Miami 4-3.

In the top half of the ACC women's tournament, No. 4 seed Virginia plays top seed North Carolina.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

115th Ojai Underway; Austin and Austin Win SEC Player of the Year Awards; Liu Out of Junior Fed Cup Qualifying with Injury; Stewart Beats Konta in Dothan

The Southern California tennis festival that is the Ojai tournament is underway, for the 115th year, and while the centerpiece is usually the PAC-12 tournaments, there's plenty of other tennis to follow this weekend.

The Men's Open began today, with Canadian Philip Bester the top seed in the 32-draw, with Connor Farren No. 2, Clay Thompson No.3 and Haythem Abid No. 4.  I presume Farren's appearance in the Open draw means he will not be playing for the USC Trojans when they begin team play Friday against the winner of tonight's UCLA-Washington match.

The Women's Open starts Friday, with Emma Higuchi the top seed in the 16-player draw.  The No. 2 seed is Ena Shibahara, Felicity Maltby in No. 3 and Megan McCray is No. 4.

There is a total of $22,500 in prize money available in the Open tournaments.

In the CIF tournament for boys high school players, which began today, Michael Genender and Connor Hance are among the favorites, with Brandon Holt and Riley Smith also in the draw.

Top juniors competing in the Girls 18s are Ryan Peus, Seira Shimizu and Kenadi Hance.

In the Pac-12 women's tournament, which, unlike the men, continues to be an individual tournament, Giuliana Olmos of Southern Cal and Chanelle Van Nguyen of UCLA are the top two seeds.  UCLA's Jennifer Brady, the defending champion, is not seeded after taking the fall off and playing little this spring due to an injury.  She needs to pick up some good wins this week to qualify for the NCAA singles tournament next week.

Stan Smith is being honored at tonight's opening barbecue and will be the featured guest at a wine reception/fundraiser for the tournament on Friday.  For more on Smith's experience at The Ojai, see this recent interview.

For links to all the draws, see the tournament's website.

The ACC has announced its women's awards, with North Carolina's Jamie Loeb named Women's Player of the Year and North Carolina's Brian Kalbas named Coach of the Year.  Miami's Sinead Lohan was named the Freshman of the Year.

With its postseason tournaments completed, the SEC has announced its award winners for both men and women.

Brooke Austin of Florida was named SEC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Vanderbilt's Geoff Macdonald was named Coach of the Year.  The list of the All-SEC teams can be found here.

Gonzales Austin of Vanderbilt was chosen as the SEC men's Player of the Year, with Steven Denton of Texas A&M the Coach of the Year and Wayne Montgomery of Georgia the Freshman of the Year.  The list of the All-SEC teams can be found here.

The USTA sent out a release regarding the upcoming Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup and World Junior Tennis North/Central American qualifying in Boca Raton next weekend, which I will be covering onsite, with the news that Easter Bowl champion Claire Liu will not be participating due to injury.  Kayla Day will be joining CiCi Bellis and Michaela Gordon on the Junior Davis Cup team.  The boys Junior Davis Cup team is Sam Riffice, Gianni Ross and Vasil Kirkov. The 14-and-under boys team is Govind Nanda, Adam Neff and Brandon Nakashima. The 14-and-under girls team is Hurricane Tyra Black, Caty McNally and Amanda Anisimova.

At the $50,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan, 17-year-old wild card Katerina Stewart beat WTA 147 Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals, where she will face Samantha Crawford. It's Stewart's first quarterfinal at the $50,000 level.  Louisa Chirico, Jessica Pegula and wild card Alexandra Stevenson are the other Americans to have reached the quarterfinals.  Fourth seed Chirico will play Pegula, while Stevenson faces Paula Goncalves of Brazil. There are no seeds remaining in the top half of the draw.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Easter Bowl Slideshow; Tiafoe, Donaldson Advance to Savannah Challenger Quarterfinals

Below is the slideshow from the Easter Bowl, with the singles semifinalists in all eight divisions and the doubles finalists.  (For viewing on a mobile device, go to this link: https://picasaweb.google.com/100541051847349613453/EasterBowl2015?authuser=0&feat=directlink)

On the Pro Circuit today, Frances Tiafoe reached his second straight Challenger quarterfinal, defeating No. 6 seed Frank Dancevic of Canada 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the $50,000 tournament in Savannah. Tiafoe has made a habit of coming from a set down--he mentioned his knack for problem-solving in an interview with the USTA's livestream's Mike Cation--and his ability to come up with an unexpectedly great shot when he needs it has served him well the past two weeks. Tiafoe's quarterfinal opponent will be Mitchell Krueger, who pulled off a stirring comeback of his own tonight against Liam Broady of Great Britain, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Krueger was thoroughly outplayed by Broady in the first set, and trailed 4-2 in the final set, but he stayed in every point, kept his emotions in check and was rewarded with his first berth in a Challenger quarterfinal.

Broady and Krueger played in the final of the Eddie Herr 12s back in 2006, with Krueger winning that match 6-0, 6-1. The photo of the two them with former Eddie Herr tournament director Rick Workman, which I tweeted before their match tonight, is below.

Jared Donaldson also came from a set down to advance to the quarterfinals in Savannah, defeating Facundo Arguello of Argentina 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Donaldson served for the match at 5-2 and had some anxious moments in the final game, but held on for the win. He will play Bjorn Fratangelo, who had no difficulty with qualifier Tommy Paul, winning 6-2, 6-1 in less than an hour.

Those two all-American quarterfinals will be played on Friday. Top seed Tim Smyczek and Tennys Sandgren will play thir second round match on Thursday.

The first round is now complete at the $50,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan, Alabama, with six US players advancing. Top seed Grace Min was defeated by wild card Alexandra Stevenson 6-1, 7-6(8), and No. 3 seed Sachia Vickery also lost her first match 6-4, 7-6(4) to Gabriela Ce of Brazil. Samantha Crawford and No. 4 seed Louisa Chirico won Tuesday, with Bernarda Pera, Jessica Pegula and wild card Katerina Stewart picking up wins today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

North Carolina Women, Oklahoma Men Keep No. 1 Rankings; Tiafoe, Paul Advance at Savannah Challenger; Rublev Beats Verdasco in Barcelona

Next Tuesday, beginning at 5 p.m. EDT, the NCAA Division I selections will be revealed at ncaa.com. Today's rankings are the last ones to be released before that announcement, although the rankings the committee will use to make its decisions will be published Friday, May 1st.

The undefeated North Carolina women continue to occupy the No. 1 spot, as do the Oklahoma men, with both teams playing their conference tournaments this weekend.

Because the Top 16 teams will host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament the weekend of May 8-10, I'm including the Top 20 this week, not the Top 10 as I usually do.  Of course these positions are likely to change as the result of the many conference championships being played this weekend.

The Top 20 women's teams:

1. North Carolina
2. Southern California
3. California-Berkeley
4. Vanderbilt
5. Florida
7. Georgia
8. Baylor
9. Texas A&M
10. Virginia
11. Oklahoma State
12. Michigan
13. Stanford
14. Alabama
15. Miami
16. Texas Tech
17. TCU
18. Ohio State
19. Pepperdine
20. Mississippi

The Top 20 men's teams:
1. Oklahoma
2. Baylor
3. Texas A&M
4. Illinois
5. Virginia
6. TCU
7. Georgia
8. Southern California
9. Duke
10. Texas
11. Wake Forest
12. Ohio State
13. Mississippi
14. Virginia Tech
15. UCLA
16. North Carolina
17. Texas Tech
18. Mississippi State
19. South Florida
20. Columbia

For the complete list of automatic qualifiers for the NCAAs, see this page at the ITA website.

In the individual rankings, UCLA's Robin Anderson stayed at No. 1 on the women's side, but the men's No. 1 spot, which has been fluid throughout the year, belongs again to Baylor's Julian Lenz.

The women's singles Top 10:
1. Robin Anderson, UCLA
2. Carol Zhao, Stanford
3. Maegan Manasse, Cal-Berkeley
4. Brooke Austin, Florida
5. Julia Elbaba, Virginia
6. Lauren Herring, Georgia
7. Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
8. Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt
9. Julia Jones, Mississippi
10. Stephanie Wagner, Miami

The women's doubles Top 4:
1. Erin Routliffe and Maya Jansen, Alabama
2. Carol Zhao and Taylor Davidson, Stanford
3. Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, UCLA
4. Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, Clemson

The men's Top 10 in singles:
1. Julian Lenz, Baylor
2. Axel Alvarez, Oklahoma
3. Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA
4. Soren Hess-Olesen, Texas
5. Andrew Harris, Oklahoma
6. Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, Louisville
7. Ryan Shane, Virginia
8. Gonzales Austin, Vanderbilt
9. Quentin Monaghan, Notre Dame
10. Dominik Koepfer, Tulane

The men's Top 4 in doubles:
1. Ben Wagland and Austin Smith, Georgia
2. Luca Corinteli and Ryan Shane, Virginia
3. Roberto Quiroz and Yannick Hanfmann, Southern California
4. Kevin Metka and Ralf Steinbach, Ohio State

The complete rankings can be found at the ITA website.  Or if you prefer all on one page, see this post at College Tennis Today.

Tuesday was a big day for teenaged boys in ATP action, starting off with World No. 1 junior Andrey Rublev's 7-6(4), 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco in the first round of the Barcelona tournament.  The 17-year-old Russian, who qualified for the main draw, already has won main draw ATP matches in Delray Beach and Miami this year and should break into the Top 300 with his win today.

In the $50,000 Savannah Challenger, wild card Frances Tiafoe and qualifier Tommy Paul both picked up victories.  Tiafoe saved a match point at 4-5, 30-40 in his 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Vincent Millot of France and Paul picked up his first Challenger victory in his first attempt, beating ATP 101 and No. 2 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-3.  Paul double faulted on set point at 6-5 in the first set tiebreaker, but he recovered, and was the more consistent player throughout what was obviously a very close match.  When it came time to serve out the match, Paul again stayed calm. He hit an ace to make it 30-15, and calmly dealt with Bemelmans' volley winner on the next point with a "too good."  He then hit a second ace, 119 up the T for his first match point and finished with a third-shot backhand winner to close it out.  Paul will play Bjorn Fratangelo in the second round, while Tiafoe meets No. 6 seed Frank Dancevic of Canada.

Two other teenagers, No. 4 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea and No. 8 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, also advanced to the second round in Savannah.  Wild card Stefan Kozlov was defeated by top seed Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-1 this evening.

At the $50,000 Challenger in Brazil, wild card Orlando Luz advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 8 seed and ATP 199 Guido Andreozzi of Argentina.  The world's No. 2 junior will play friend and frequent doubles partner Marcelo Zormann, also a wild card, in the second round.  Luz and Zormann won the Wimbledon boys title last year over Kozlov and Rublev.

Monday, April 20, 2015

ISC Carson Videos; A Look at the ITF Junior Rankings; Paul Qualifies for Savannah Challenger

Videos of the International Spring Championships winners are below, with additional videos of the finalists available at the Tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel.

Miomir Kecmanovic, ITF boys finalist

Fanni Stollar, ITF girls finalist

Andrew Fenty, 16s boys finalist

Victoria Flores, 16s girls finalist

There's never really a break to stop and reflect on the ITF junior rankings, but now that the major US ITF spring events are in the books, and the European clay season just beginning, I thought now might be a good time.

With William Blumberg moving into the ITF Top 10 for the first time in his career, the US has four boys in that elite group, all of them 17 years old. Only Fritz is in his final year of ITF junior competition. In all the US has 14 boys in the Top 100, the most of any nation; Japan in second with eight. Russia's Andrey Rublev, who qualified into this week's ATP event in Barcelona, remains No. 1.

The US boys in the ITF Top 100, with their current rankings:

3. Taylor Fritz*
5. Stefan Kozlov
7. Michael Mmoh*
10. William Blumberg*
30. Reilly Opelka
37. Ulises Blanch
40. Alex Rybakov
41. Nathan Ponwith
59. Emil Reinberg
79. Hady Habib
84. Sam Riffice
90. Catalin Mateas
95. Frances Tiafoe
96. Sameer Kumar

*career high

There are 13 US girls in the ITF Top 100 this week, with Russia leading all countries with 17.

The US girls in the ITF Top 100, with their current rankings:

4. CiCi Bellis
7. Usue Arconada
13. Sonya Kenin
29. Michaela Gordon
31. Raveena Kingsley
40. Ingrid Neel
41. Caroline Dolehide
42. Francesca Di Lorenzo
46. Claire Liu*
59. Kayla Day
65. Tornado Alicia Black
71. Alexandra Sanford
92. Mia Horvit

*career high

The cutoffs rankings for Roland Garros and Wimbledon vary from year to year, but Top 60 is usually a safe bet for the main draw. The entry deadline for the Roland Garros junior championships is two weeks from tomorrow.

Two US juniors who do not have to worry about their ITF junior rankings are Katerina Stewart and Tommy Paul. Stewart, who is ranked 276 by the WTA, would be admitted to the main draw of the junior slams if she enters (400 in the minimum ranking) as would Paul, who at ATP 720 is inside the requirement of a 750 ATP ranking for boys.

Stewart received a main draw wild card into the $50,000 Dothan Pro Circuit event this week, which starts the women's USTA Har-Tru Wild Card Challenge for the French Open wild card. Paul won three matches to qualify for the $50,000 Savannah Challenger, the second of three men's tournaments that count toward the Wild Card Challenge.

His contest with No. 2 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium will be the 17-year-old's first match in the main draw of a challenger. Jared Donaldson, Mitchell Krueger and Bjorn Fratangelo all picked up wins in first round action Monday. Wild card Stefan Kozlov drew top seed Tim Smyczek and wild card Frances Tiafoe drew Vincent Millot of France.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vanderbilt Women, Texas A&M Men Take SEC Tournament Titles; Kalinina, Jung Win Pro Circuit Events

Rain caused difficulties for most of the Division I college tennis matches today, including the SEC tournament finals, even though one was in South Carolina and the other was in Texas. 

The women's final between No. 2 seed Georgia and No. 4 seed Vanderbilt was played indoors in Columbia from the start, and with only four courts, it's no surprise it took over five hours to complete.  Vanderbilt took the doubles point and went up 3-0 with wins by Frances Altick and Astra Sharma at lines 3 and 2. Lauren Herring put Georgia on the board with a win at 1 and so it remained for a long stretch, as lines No. 5 and 6 began their matches.  Georgia eventually tied it with wins from Hannah King at 6 and Kennedy Shaffer at 4, but Maria Cesares clinched the 4-3 win for Vanderbilt with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory at No. 5 over Caroline Brinson, avenging the Commodores loss to Georgia in Athens earlier this year.

In the men's final between No. 1 seed Georgia and No. 2 seed Texas A&M, rain caused a two-hour disruption in College Station with Texas A&M leading 3-2.  The Aggies won the doubles point and got points from AJ Catanzariti at 5 and Arthur Rinderknech at 3, while Georgia's points came from Ben Wagland at 4 and Paul Oosterbaan at 6.  Both matches at 1 and 2 were deep into the third set when the rain came, but it was Texas A&M that came out strong in the resumption of play.  Jeremy Efferding won the last three games of the match against Austin Smith at 1 to clinch the 4-2 win for the Aggies.

The SEC was the only one of the Big 5 conferences having their tournaments this weekend, so for the ACC, Pac-12, Big 10 and Big 12 the final weekend of conference play proved to be primarily focused on shares of the regular season title and seedings for next week's conference tournaments.  Three teams did secure outright, sole possession conference titles.  The University of Virginia men won the ACC and finished undefeated in conference play for the ninth consecutive year. The North Carolina women won the conference title with a perfect record--they have yet to lose this year period.  The third team to take a conference title by themselves is the Michigan women, who defeated Ohio State and Penn State this weekend to go undefeated in Big Ten play this season.

Those three teams have provided some certainty in a year notably free of it, and today there was another surprise, with the unranked Georgia Tech men defeating No. 8 Duke 4-3 indoors in Atlanta.  Carlos Benito defeated Raphael Hemmeler 7-6(11), 3-6, 6-3 to clinch the win for Georgia Tech.

Rain also complicated the Pro Circuit events in Pelham, Alabama and Little Rock, Arkansas this week, but they did manage to finish today.

US Open girls finalist Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine won her second consecutive $25,000 title in the US, winning both a semifinal and a final today in Pelham.  Unseeded, Kalinina beat No. 1 seed Lin Zhu of China 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and took out No. 2 seed Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-3, 7-5 in the final.  Kalinina, who won the $25,000 tournament in Jackson, Mississippi the week prior to this one, also reached the semifinals of the $50,000 tournament in Osprey. The doubles competition was cancelled due to rain.

Former University of Michigan Wolverine Jason Jung won his third career Futures titles in singles in Little Rock, with the No. 3 seed defeating No. 4 seed Darian King of Barbados 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the $15,000 event.  South Africa's Keith-Patrick Crowley (Miami) and Mexico's Hans Hach won the doubles title, beating Eric Quigley(Kentucky) and Matt Seeberger(UC-Santa Cruz) 6-3, 1-6, 10-7 in the final.

At the Sarasota Challenger, No. 2 seed Federico Delbonis won an all-Argentine final, beating No. 6 seed Facundo Bagnis 6-4, 6-2.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Easter Bowl Recap; SEC Conference Finals Set; Ly, Yadlapalli Win ITF B1 Asian Closed; Pierre-Louis Claims Grade 4 in Guadeloupe

My recap of the Easter Bowl Spring Championships, available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, provides a condensed version of the seven days of tennis coverage I provided last week while in the Coachella Valley.  I will be processing the slideshow and videos from that tournament in the upcoming week.

The SEC conference tournament finals are set, with the University of Georgia still alive in both the men's and women's draws.  The top-seeded Georgia men defeated No. 4 Ole Miss 4-1 today, while host Texas A&M, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 3 seed Mississippi State 4-0. Georgia won the regular season meeting between the two teams in Athens 4-1 back in early March.

The women's tournament, played in Columbia, SC, had a few more surprises.  No. 3 seed Texas A&M was beaten by No. 6 seed LSU in the 4-3 in the quarterfinals, with the match coming down to a third-set tiebreaker with the score tied at 3.  No. 2 Georgia handled LSU today however, and will meet No. 4 seed Vanderbilt in the final, after they took out No. 1 seed Florida 4-2.  It is the second win for Vanderbilt over Florida this year. Georgia beat Vanderbilt 5-2 in Athens in regular season play back in March.

In other notable results today in college tennis, the Cal men defeated Stanford 4-3, denying the Cardinal the outright Pac-12 championship. The TCU men, who beat Texas A&M last week, followed up this week with a 4-1 win over Texas today in Fort Worth.  It's TCU's first win over Texas since 1996.

Last night, No. 33 Minnesota defeated No. 3 Illinois 4-3, yet another indication that sure things in Division I college tennis are rare this year.

The ITF Grade B1 Asian Closed was played in India this week, with Nam Hoang Ly of Vietnam and Pranjala Yadlapalli of India sweeping the titles.  Yadlapalli, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed Wushuang Zheng of China 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in the singles final, while Ly defeated No. 8 seed Renata Toduka of Japan 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.

Ly and Alberto Lim of the Philippines, seeded 1, defeated No. 2 seeds Toduka and Sora Fukuda of Japan 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles final. Yadlapalli and Zheng, the top seeds, beat No. 2 seed I-hsuan Cho of Taiwan and Zhanlan Wei of China 6-2, 6-4 to take the girls doubles title.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Guadeloupe, Kariann Pierre-Louis claimed her first ITF singles title, and also took the doubles championship.  The 16-year-old from Florida halted the winning streak of Hurricane Tyra Black in the semifinals, then the No. 3 seed defeated Clara Froget of France 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the final.  Pierre-Louis and Naomi Waters, the top seeds, won the doubles over No. 3 seeds Black and Julia Goldberg 6-4, 6-2. 

Top seed Andres Andrade of Ecuador won both boys titles, beating No. 4 seed Morgan Dill 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-0 in the singles final and teaming with Jason Legall to win the doubles.  The top seeds beat Sean Burnette and Andrew Quiros of El Salvador 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

Friday, April 17, 2015

International Spring Championships Slideshow; Southern Cal Women Claim Pac-12 Title; Buchanan Defeats Tiafoe, Takes Early Lead in USTA French Open Wild Card Race

My recap of the International Spring Championships went up last week at the Tennis Recruiting Network, but because the Easter Bowl follows that tournament immediately, I wasn't able to get the slideshow from Carson processed until today.  I also will have short videos available of the eight finalists in the next few days.

(All photos copyright 2015 zootennis.com All rights reserved)
For viewing on a mobile device, use this link: https://picasaweb.google.com/100541051847349613453/ISC2015?authuser=0&feat=directlink)

Last night in LA, the Southern Cal women avenged an earlier 4-3 loss to UCLA, and this one counted in the Pac-12 standings, clinching the Pac-12 title for the Women of Troy.  UCLA won the doubles point and went up 3-0 with wins by Robin Anderson at line 1 and Catherine Harrison at line 5. Zoe Scandalis won the only straight-set match over Chanelle Van Nguyen at line 3 to put USC on the board, and Meredith Xeopoleas at 6, Giuliana Olmos at 2 and Madison Westby at 4 all came from a set down to post wins, with freshman Westby clinching the match with a 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over Kyle McPhillips.

Somehow in all the chaos, the Pac-12 conference trophy ended up in pieces, but that probably barely registered in the euphoria of such a win.

The complete account of the match can be found at the USC website.

The USC men traveled to UCLA yesterday and also came away with the win, beating the Bruins 4-2.  Stanford can still win the Pac-12 regular season conference title with a win over Cal on Saturday, and unlike the women, the men also play a conference team tournament, next week in Ojai.  For more on yesterday's match, see the USC website.

At the $100,000 Sarasota Challenger, former Ohio State star Chase Buchanan defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-3 to reach the semifinals, where he'll face No. 6 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina.  Tiafoe had all sorts of difficulties in the opening set, with foot faults and net cords adding to the frustrations that his errors were causing him.  Buchanan played well, facing only one break point and saving that, and while Tiafoe put a bit of pressure on him in the second set, the 17-year-old was unable to find the form that had helped him win five matches this week. With Jared Donaldson's 6-2, 6-3 loss to No. 2 seed Federico Delbonis tonight, Buchanan is now in first place by himself in the Har-Tru Challenge for the USTA's French Open wild card.

The next tournament in the Challenge is next week in Savannah, and the tournament announced today that Tiafoe and Stefan Kozlov have been award main draw wild cards. The third and final tournament in the Challenge is another $50,000 Challenger, in Tallahassee.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bellis Leads US Team in Junior Fed Cup Qualifying; Tiafoe Beats Fratangelo to Advance to Sarasota Challenger Quarterfinals

The North/Central American & Caribbean final qualifying for the World Junior Tennis competitions and Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup is coming up in two weeks in Boca Raton, and the players selected by the USTA to represent it in the round robin competition include CiCi Bellis.

Bellis was on the US team that won the World Junior Tennis title for 14-and-under players back in 2013, and last year led the Junior Fed Cup team to the 16-and-under title, so her participation this year, in her final year of eligibility, seemed unlikely.  This does not mean she will play in the September final competition in Madrid, if the US qualifies April 30-May 2 as it is expected to do, but it does reunite her with the 2013 team at least for the qualifying.

Junior Fed Cup:
CiCi Bellis
Michaela Gordon
Claire Liu

Junior Davis Cup:
Sam Riffice
Vasil Kirkov
Gianni Ross

World Junior Tennis girls:
Caty McNally
Amanda Anisimova
Hurricane Tyra Black

World Junior Tennis boys:
Adam Neff
Brandon Nakashima
Govind Nanda

Although the Junior Davis Cup team is a good one, it's too bad there wasn't room on the team for Oliver Crawford, given his domination in Southern California the last two weeks.

I will be covering the North American qualifying in person, which for the World Junior Tennis portion of the event, will feature the US, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala.  In the Junior Davis Cup round robin, Aruba will join the US, Canada and Mexico as the fourth team; in the Junior Fed Cup round robin, it will be the Dominican Republic joining the US, Canada and Mexico.  The top two finishers will receive spots in the World Finals, which are in August for the 14-and-under teams and September for the 16-and-under teams.

The quarterfinals are set for Friday at the $100,000 Sarasota Challenger, with qualifier Frances Tiafoe earning his place this evening with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bjorn Fratangelo.  Tiafoe, who received a wild card into qualifying, won three three-setters to reach the main draw, then defeated friend and fellow 17-year-old Michael Mmoh, who had received a wild card, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round.  Against Fratangelo, who had posted a grueling comeback win over No. 3 seed Paolo Lorenzi on Tuesday, Tiafoe's forehand did most of the heavy lifting throughout the match, and even when he was down a break at 4-2 in the second set, Tiafoe was able to maintain his composure and keep the pressure on Fratangelo.

Tiafoe will play Chase Buchanan in the quarterfinals on Friday, the fifth American he has faced in six matches.  Buchanan defeated Mitchell Krueger 6-2, 6-2 earlier today.  Jared Donaldson is the third American in the quarterfinals, and will play No. 2 seed Federico Delbonis of Argentina.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Polite Spectators Discouraged in Big 12 Men's Play; USTA's Lake Nona Groundbreaking Held Last Week; North Carolina Women Stay Perfect Against Duke, Clinch ACC Title, Baylor Men Top Texas

When I heard last year that the Big 12 men's coaches had voted to let college tennis fans indulge in what is normally considered inappropriate behavior by the sport's spectators: noise during points, heckling, and other non-abusive disruptions, I considered attending a match this spring to see these loosened rules in action.  The fact that the Big 12 has stuck with no-ad, and the schedule didn't really work with my other commitments, kept me from doing that, but Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal went to last week's match between Oklahoma and Baylor in Waco and wrote this article about the experience. (For an account of the actual tennis match, see College Tennis Today.)

Last year, David Roditi, the men’s tennis coach at Texas Christian, pushed for a new policy that would let fans behave just like they would at a football or basketball game. It is now known as the Roditi Rule. It says, “Spectators are to behave under the same principles/guidelines of other sports (no profanity, vulgarity, abusive comments, etc.).”

From my discussions with coaches, I think it's fair to say not all of them view this change as a uniformly positive one, and in Perotta's article, it's clear that not all longtime fans are comfortable with it, either.  Tennis, after all, is not unfamiliar with rabid team support, as Davis Cup regularly exhibits, but the taboo of cheering during points will be a hard to overcome for many.  

One quibble I have with Perotta's article is this: In May, Baylor will host the NCAA team tournament. Traditional tennis rules will apply, so matches will be longer and heckling will be forbidden. Even so, some fans said they would consider returning.

I have heard plenty of heckling at the NCAAs, much of it from student-athletes themselves, who direct their comments at opponents in support of teammates. Occasionally the heckler will be warned, but the atmosphere is most certainly NOT akin to Centre Court Wimbledon, and it won't be next month in at the NCAAs in Waco, I can assure you.

The USTA has broken ground on its Lake Nona, Florida project, the new home of Community Tennis and Player Development, which is expected to be completed at the end of 2016.  For more on the new complex's official name, the specific configuration of the 100 plus courts, plus the other amenities, see this article from the Orlando Business Journal.

The top-ranked North Carolina women dropped the doubles point for the first time this season against No. 23 Duke, but fought back for a 4-1 win, with Caroline Price and Hayley Carter winning three-setters at lines 3 and 2 to clinch for the Tar Heels.  North Carolina has assured itself the ACC regular season conference title and the top seed in next week's conference tournament.

In the big men's match tonight, No. 2 Baylor defeated No. 10 Texas 4-1, getting the doubles point and wins from Julian Lenz at line 1, Diego Galeano at 4 and Felipe Rios at 6. Lloyd Glasspool kept the Longhorns from being shut out with a win at line 2. Recap should be up soon at the Baylor website.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Undefeated North Carolina Women Reclaim No. 1 Ranking, Oklahoma Men Stay No. 1 Despite Loss to Texas Tech; Alvarez, Anderson Top Singles Rankings

The Division I college tennis dual match season is winding down, with conference tournaments starting as early as tomorrow for the SEC men and SEC women (the Southwestern conference tournaments produced men's winner Alabama State and women's winner Southern University last weekend).  Most of the conference tournaments are next week (April 22-26), with the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC men and women and Pac-12 men deciding their automatic NCAA qualifiers then.

These last few weeks will determine seeding positions and hosting schools for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, while the Sweet 16 portion of the tournament, and the individual championships, are being played this year at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, May 14-May 25.

If you thought Tulsa's win over Southern Cal was the upset of the year in men's tennis, you are probably safe in continuing to hold that view, but No. 23 Texas Tech's 4-3 win over No. 1 Oklahoma on Sunday is on the short list, along with No. 36 Stanford's 4-3 win over No. 5 Southern Cal Saturday, and No. 26 Mississippi State's 4-2 win over No. 6 Georgia earlier this month.  And, early last month, No. 2 Duke's 6-1 loss to No. 44 Virginia Tech also bears mentioning.

Whether the conference championships will produce similarly unexpected results remains to be seen, but given what's happened in the past few weeks, it's difficult to proclaim anyone a strong favorite for the NCAA title.

This week's ITA Men's Top 10 Team Rankings:
1. Oklahoma
2. Baylor
3. Illinois
4. Virginia
5. Georgia
6. Texas A&M
7. TCU
8. Duke
9. Southern Cal
10. Texas

In the individual rankings, Axel Alvarez of Oklahoma has taken over the No. 1 spot, becoming the first Sooner ever to attain that ranking.

The Men's Top 10 in singles:

1. Axel Alvarez, Oklahoma
2. Julian Lenz, Baylor
3. Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA
4. Ryan Shane, Virginia
5. Soren Hess-Olesen, Texas
6. Andrew Harris, Oklahoma
7. Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, Louisville
8. Gonzales Austin, Vanderbilt
9. Quentin Monaghan, Notre Dame
10. Romain Bogaerts, Wake Forest

The Men's Top 4 in doubles:
1. Ben Wagland and Austin Smith, Georgia
2. Gonzales Austin and Rhys Johnson, Vanderbilt
3. Roberto Quiroz and Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal
4. Kevin Metka and Ralf Steinbach, Ohio State

For more on the men's rankings this week, see College Tennis Today.

The women have had fewer jarring upsets, although No. 6 Alabama's loss to No. 44 Mississippi State last month and No. 47 Virginia Tech's win over No. 16 Miami show they are not immune.

Over the weekend, No. 6 Florida beat No. 5 Georgia 4-3 on Friday, then beat Tennessee Sunday to clinch the SEC regular season conference title. UndefeatedNorth Carolina, then No. 2, beat No. 12 Virginia 4-3  and can wrap up the ACC regular season championship with a win over Duke on Wednesday. Texas A&M, unranked in early March, beat No. 7 Baylor and No. 8 Vanderbilt 4-3 in the past week and will be seeded behind only Florida and Georgia in the SEC women's tournament.

In the Pac-12, No. 2 Southern Cal will host No. 5 UCLA Thursday and No. 4 Cal will host No. 11 Stanford Saturday.

This week's ITA Women's Top 10 Team Rankings:
1. North Carolina
2. Southern Cal
3. Florida
4. Cal
6. Georgia
7. Texas A&M
8. Baylor
9. Vanderbilt
10. Oklahoma State

UCLA's Robin Anderson continues to hold the No. 1 spot in the women's singles rankings.

The Women's Top 10 in singles:

1. Robin Anderson, UCLA
2. Carol Zhao, Stanford
3. Maegan Manasse, California
4. Julia Elbaba, Virginia
5. Brooke Austin, Florida
6. Jamie Loeb, North Carolina
7. Lauren Herring, Georgia
8. Stephanie Wagner, Miami
9. Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt
10. Josie Kuhlman, Florida

The Women's Top 4 in doubles:
1. Erin Routliffe and Maya Jansen, Alabama
2. Carol Zhao and Taylor Davidson, Stanford
3. Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, Clemson
4. Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips, UCLA

Complete rankings can be found at the ITA website.

The Tennessee athletic department held its annual awards ceremony and tennis player Sean Karl, who passed away in November of last year, was on everyone's mind.  Karl's teammate Hunter Reese was named Mr. Tennessee during the ceremony and a video tribute to Karl was included in place of a "most inspirational" award, which was suspended this year in Karl's honor.  Read more about the ceremony at utsports.com