Monday, November 16, 2015

Crawford Wins Australian Open Wild Card; US Girls Dominate Draw in ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano; Sean Karl Remembered

Samantha Crawford won the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, defeating Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 to claim her first professional singles title at the $50,000 Scottsdale tournament.

Much as she had done last summer, when she reached the championship match of the third and final USTA Pro Circuit event to secure the US Open wild card, Crawford secured the Australian Open wild card by doing what she had to do at the last possible moment.

Leading 6-3, 2-3 ad out when play was stopped last night due to rain in the Scottsdale area, Crawford certainly had additional time to consider what the win would mean for her.  When she and Golubic returned to the court this morning, Crawford saved the break point, but ended up dropping the game. She got the break back leveling the set at 4, but serving at 4-5, she lost her serve again and Golubic was right back in the match. 

Crawford, who has twice played in the main draw of the US Open, recovered quickly, getting a 3-0, two-break lead, but she was broken for 3-1, Golubic held and Crawford went down 0-30.  She held however, using her power to keep Golubic defending, not attacking, and then broke again to go up 5-2.  The 20-year-old closed out the championship on her serve without any further complications and will play her first slam outside of the US in January.

Jonathan Kelley has posted a detailed review of Crawford's career since she rose to prominence in the juniors as the 2010 Eddie Herr 16s champion on his On The Rise blog. Kelley calls Crawford the Ultimate Wild Card, and explains why the 2012 US Open girls champion deserves that label.

The ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano in Mexico City is underway with 26 of the 64 competitors in the girls draw from the US, including top seed Sonya Kenin.  In addition to Kenin, Usue Arconada(5), Kayla Day(6) Alexandra Sanford(11) and Maria Mateas(13) are seeded, and all won their first round matches today.  Five of the eight girls qualifying are American: Nadia Gizdova, Whitney Osuigwe, Ellie Douglas, Rachel Lim and Ashley Lahey. 

The boys field is much less US-dominated.  Of the ten American boys in the main draw, only Ulises Blanch(8) is seeded.  Four of the ten are qualifiers: Jason Legall, Andrew Fenty, Caleb Chakravarthi and Robert Loeb.  Mate Valkusz of Hungary, currently 11 in the ITF rankings, is the top boys seed, while there are five Top 10 girls competing.

There is live streaming and live scoring (although the latter had quite a few problems today). Links to those features and draws can be found at the tournament website.

Several of the US boys who could be playing in Mexico City are instead at the $10,000 Pensacola Futures.  Vasil Kirkov, Gianni Ross and Nathan Ponwith all won their fourth and final qualifying matches today to advance to the main draw, as did Virginia sophomore Henrik Wiersholm and Washington sophomore Mitch Stewart.  Sixteen-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Canada also reached the main draw via qualifying for the second straight week.  Patrick Kypson, who picked up his first ATP point last week in Niceville, received a wild card.

Speaking of first ATP points,  Christopher Clarey of the New York Times went to the Birmingham Futures two weeks ago and wrote this piece on that topic. Ryler DeHeart, Patrick Daciek, Jean Yves-Aubone, Korey Lovett and Ryan Lipman are among those quoted in the article. He also spoke to the top players about their memories of their first ATP points for this article.

Today marks the first anniversary of the death of Sean Karl, a member of the University of Tennessee men's tennis team who was stricken with Ewing's Sarcoma.  This summer Steed Johnson wrote a moving piece on what he learned from Karl and his teammates during the battle with the illness that took Karl's life. Today is an appropriate time to revisit his tribute and remember a young tennis player gone much too soon.