Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thompson, McDonald, Fritz Reach Champaign Challenger Semifinals; Six US Girls, One US Boy into Quarterfinals at Grade A in Mexico; Junior Boys and Pro Success; Kingsley to LSU

The Champaign Challenger semifinals Friday will feature three Americans, qualifiers Clay Thompson and Mackenzie McDonald and Taylor Fritz.

Fritz, who defeated top seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-2, 6-1 this evening for his third win over a Top 100 player, will face McDonald in the semifinals, after the UCLA junior downed Mitchell Krueger 7-5, 6-1 to advance to his second career Challenger semifinal.

The winner of that match will have a chance to earn the Australian Open wild card with a victory in the final, but a loss will give the wild card to Noah Rubin, the Charlottesville Challenger champion, who currently leads in the race. McDonald and Fritz met back in January in the second round of the Los Angeles Futures, with Fritz winning 6-3, 6-4.

Thompson, who beat No. 2 seed Austin Krajicek 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to continue his outstanding run (which includes his first Challenger win, his first Challenger quarterfinal and now his first Challenger semifinal) will play the only international player left in the draw, unseeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who defeated Eric Quigley 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 today. Thompson cannot win the Australian Open wild card because his he can only tie Rubin with a title, and the tiebreaker is ATP ranking, with McDonald and Fritz winning that tie, but Thompson coming up short.

For more on the Champaign Challenger, check out Jonathan Kelley's On The Rise Tennis blog.

US girls continue to dominate at the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, with six of them through to the quarterfinals.  Top seed Sonya Kenin and No. 11 seed Alexandra Sanford are joined in the final eight by unseeded Sofia Sewing, Amanda Anisimova, Abigail Desiatnikov and Hanna Chang.  Anisimova and Desiatnikov, both 14, play each other, as do Sanford and Chang.  Chang defeated No. 2 seed and Wimbledon girls finalist Anna Blinkova of Russia 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-5 in today's third round.

Three of the four teams in the girls doubles semifinals also feature Americans.

No. 8 seed Ulises Blanch is the only US boy still in either draw. He will face unseeded Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina in the singles quarterfinals.

Links to live scoring, live streaming, draws and Friday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

Fivethirtyeight.com, which specializes in data journalism, published an article today on the likelihood that the current crop of American junior boys will reach the top echelon of the pro game.  Perhaps even more interesting is the investigation into the reasons why so few teenagers are breaking into the Top 100 these days, which can be summed up quite simply: the players already there just won't leave. The aging of the Top 100/50/25 has been a trend for some time now and here are a few of the specific findings:

A player in the top 100 today is on average 2.3 years older than he was in 2005; a player in the top 50 is now 3.1 years older; and a player in the top 25 is 4.1 years older. Today’s top 10 pros have spent, on average, 11 years in the top 100, 7 years in the top 10 and 4.5 years in the top 5.

This trend can't continue indefinitely, but it's anybody's guess when the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. For many years, the stars of pro golf were in their 30s and 40s, but now the best players in the world are in their 20s. Tennis certainly requires more athleticism and is more physically demanding, but so far that hasn't kept those in their 30s from staying at the top of the game.

A big Division I signing was announced today, with LSU getting a National Letter of Intent from Raveena Kingsley, the No. 2 recruit in the Tennis Recruiting Network's class of 2016.  Kingsley has a WTA ranking of 613 and has been ranked as high as 22 in the ITF junior rankings. She joins Jade Lewis and Rebecca Weissmann to give LSU three blue chip recruits for the class of 2016.