Thursday, November 5, 2015

Three American Teens Advance at Charlottesville Challenger; Stanford Teammates Meet in Waco $50K Quarters; National Indoors Semis and Finals to be Streamed on ESPN 3

The first of the three $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Challengers that will decide the USTA's Australian Open wild card is underway this week in Charlottesville, Virginia, and US teens have been the story of the tournament so far.

French Open boys champion Tommy Paul, who was an alternate receiving entry into the tournament, has reached his first Challenger quarterfinal (after going 0-5 in Challenger second round matches previously) with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Denmark's Frederik Nielsen.  He will play Alex Kuznetsov, who defeated Kalamazoo champion Frances Tiafoe 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the final second round match this evening. Tiafoe had taken out top seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 7-6(5), 6-4 in the opening round Tuesday.

Kalamazoo finalist Stefan Kozlov, a qualifier, came from a set and a break down to defeat David Rice of Great Britain, also a qualifier, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, setting up a rematch of last year's Wimbledon boys final against Noah Rubin. Kozlov, who won a Futures tournament in Belarus to close out October, has now won 10 matches in a row.

Rubin, also a qualifier, reached his first career Challenger quarterfinal by defeating fellow 19-year-old Jared Donaldson, the No. 6 seed, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

In addition to the three American teens in the quarterfinals, two more experienced US players have also advanced, with Tim Smyczek(3) and Bjorn Fratangelo(5) the only seeded players remaining among the final eight.

Jonathan Kelley is in Charlottesville covering the tournament for his blog, On The Rise Tennis, so check out his daily updates there. He posted an interesting interview with NCAA champion Ryan Shane of Virginia earlier today.

The women's USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge began last week in rain-soaked Macon, Georgia, with Anna Tatishvili reaching the final to take the early lead in the race for the wild card. It is unlikely that she will need it however, as her ranking is now 100 which is certain to get her direct acceptance.  Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, the No. 5 seed, beat top seed Tatishvili 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the final, played indoors at the University of Georgia in Athens due to rain in Macon. Julia Boserup reached the semifinals, so she held second place prior to this week's event in Waco.  The totals after last week are available here.

With the second round completed today in Waco, only three Americans remain: Tatishvili, the top seed, and Nicole Gibbs and Kristie Ahn, former Stanford teammates who play each other in Friday's quarterfinals.  Ahn defeated Kat Stewart 6-3, 6-3, while No. 3 seed Gibbs downed Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein 6-4, 6-4 to set up their fourth professional meeting. Gibbs has won their four previous meetings, (including one in juniors) with both her wins last year in straight sets.

The USTA announced today that the semifinals and finals of the Indoor Intercollegiate Championships will be live streamed on ESPN 3 for the first time.  Patrick McEnroe and USTA National Collegiate Coach Stephen Amritraj will provide the commentary, with the college coaches wearing microphones and the players being interviewed during set breaks.

According to the USTA release, the semifinals will be played consecutively, as will the finals, unlike the simultaneous matches that have been the norm in past years.  This is no doubt due to the resources necessary for streaming, but regardless of the reason, it is a welcome change.  Early round coverage on Thursday Nov. 12 and Friday Nov. 13 will be available via Ken Thomas of Radiotennis.com and the live blog hosted by Pat Mitsch of the USTA.