Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rubin and Paul Advance to Charlottesville Challenger Final; Gibbs Reaches Waco $50K Final; Rain Problems Elsewhere

All-teen Challenger finals are rare. As the ATP's Josh Meiseles noted in his tweet, there were none from 2007 until last month, when Taylor Fritz and Jared Donaldson met for the title at the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger. But just four weeks later, we have another one, with 18-year-old Tommy Paul facing 19-year-old qualifier Noah Rubin in the final of the $50,000 Challenger in Charlottesville, Va. Both are junior slam champions, with Rubin capturing the 2014 Wimbledon title and Paul the 2015 French Open boys winner.

Rubin, who has now won seven matches in the past eight days, defeated unseeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-5, 6-2. The 2015 NCAA finalist served for the first set at 5-3, but was unable to hold, no surprise in a set that featured seven breaks.  At 5-5, Rubin saved a break point to hold and he broke the 23-year-old to take the hour-long set.

The second set opened with five holds, a streak that ended when Rubin broke for a 4-2 lead. He saved four break points in the next game to hold for 5-2, and that seemed to deflate Laaksonen, who went down 15-40 on his serve. He saved one match point, but not the second, with Rubin chasing down an overhead and whipping a winner down the line to end it. Rubin's forehand was particularly lethal and once he settled into the match he was able to dictate many of the points.

The newly blond Paul was broken to start his match against unseeded Dimitar Kutrovsky of Bulgaria, but he quickly recovered to take the first set 6-3 and the second 6-4.  Paul, who has not lost more than four games in a set in his four wins this week, got the first break of the second set for a 4-3 lead, but the former Texas Longhorn broke right back, only to lose his serve in the next game.  Serving for the match, and, like Rubin, for a place in his first Challenger final, Paul went up 40-15, only to double fault. He converted his second match point however, when Kutrovsky netted a backhand.

Despite being only a year apart in age, Paul and Rubin haven't played before, so the first few games of Sunday's final could prove interesting. Neither Paul nor Rubin had direct entry into next week's Knoxville Challenger, but have now earned places in the main draw with special exemptions by winning their matches today. They are also the early co-leaders in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

Sunday will begin at 1 p.m. with the doubles final, featuring No. 2 seeds Chase Buchanan and Tennys Sandgren against No. 3 seeds Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin of Canada.  The singles final will follow. Both will be live streamed here.

While the Charlottesville Challenger was scheduled to be an indoor tournament, the women's $50,000 event in Waco, Texas was not, but due to rain today, the semifinals were played indoors on the Baylor campus.  Nicole Gibbs battled her way to the final, defeating No. 5 seed Julia Glushko of Israel 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a tough two-hour and 18-minute contest.

Gibbs was up a break early in all three sets, but wasn't able to keep Glushko at bay until the final set, when the two-time NCAA singles champion ran out to a 4-0 lead.  Adopting a go-for-broke strategy, Glushko began coming in often, and she did get one break back for 4-2, but too many errors led to another break for Gibbs and she closed it out on her second match point.

The 22-year-old will go for her fourth $50,000 title on Sunday against unseeded 23-year-old Viktoria Golubic of Switzerland, who defeated No. 8 seed Veroncia Cepede Royg of Paraguay 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals. Live streaming of the final is available here. Wild cards Gibbs and Vania King won the doubles title this afternoon, defeating Glushko and Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-4, 6-4. It is Gibbs' third pro doubles title and the second this year, all at the $50,000 level. She won the NCAA doubles championship with Stanford teammate Mallory Burdette in 2012. King, who is coming back from injury, won the US Open and Wimbledon women's doubles titles in 2010.

The singles semifinals were rained out today at the $10,000 Birmingham Futures, with both the semifinals and finals now scheduled for Sunday.  The doubles final was completed last night, with top seeds Wil Spencer and Cameron Silverman defeating unseeded Jared Hiltzik and Piotr Lomacki of Poland 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 for the title.

The South Carolina ITF Grade 4 has been plagued with rain all week, and quarterfinal matches were moved indoors at the University of South Carolina today, but as of 7:30 pm, no results have been posted. To see the extent of the weather problems the tournament has experienced this week, check out the TennisLink site where the updates are being posted.