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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ayeni, Desiatnikov Topple No. 3 Seeds to Move into International Spring Championships Quarterfinals

©2016 Colette Lewis--
Carson, CA--

Thursday was not a good day to be a No. 3 seed at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, with Nathan Ponwith and Maria Mateas eliminated in starkly contrasting fashions.  Ponwith went out to unseeded Alafia Ayeni 6-2, 6-1 in just under an hour, while Mateas's exit came after more than two and a half hours, with No. 14 seed Abigail Desiatnikov earning the 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory.

Ayeni, a 16-year-old from San Diego, has yet to lose more than three games in a set this week, but his play against Ponwith, ranked 27th in the ITF world rankings, surprised even him.

"I was shocked," said Ayeni, whose ITF junior ranking is 149. "It was a pretty competitive match, but just on a couple of the key points, I thought I was stronger than him. He had a couple of break points, we had some deuce games, and I felt like when I won those games it gave me a big advantage over him."

Ayeni lost last year in the first round of qualifying, so to reach the quarterfinals this year is a sign of his improvement.

"I think mentally is the biggest difference," Ayeni said. "I used to be a little bit more emotional. I would throw away a lot of easy points because I would get mad; the ref would make some calls and I'd get mad. But I felt like today I managed my emotions really well and that made a big difference. I played really freely, I was hitting my forehand really well, and I felt like that's a big difference from last year, I'm more aggressive."

Ayteni will play 2015 16s champion Oliver Crawford in the quarterfinals. Crawford, the No. 10 seed, defeated unseeded Kyrylo Tsygura 7-5, 6-2.

Unseeded Patrick Kypson, who had upset top seed Ulises Blanch in the second round, rolled past No. 16 seed Joshua Peck of Canada 6-1, 6-0. Kypson's quarterfinal opponent is No. 11 seed Liam Caruana, who recently began playing under the Italian flag.  Caruana defeated No. 6 seed Brandon Holt 6-2, 7-6(2), playing a nearly perfect tiebreaker to avoid a third set.

Caruana is one of the three quarterfinalists representing countries other than the United States.  No. 5 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, was down 6-1, 4-1 to No. 9 seed Alexandre Rotsaert but came back to post a 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 victory.  Vale will play No. 4 seed Sam Riffice, who defeated No. 14 seed Trent Bryde 6-3, 6-1.

Defending champion and No. 2 seed William Blumberg moved his Carson winning streak to nine, beating unseeded Gianni Ross 7-6(6), 6-1. He will play No. 12 seed Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico, who advanced to the quarterfinals when No. 7 seed Zeke Clark retired trailing 6-0, 4-2.

The girls quarterfinals will feature the top two seeds, with No. 1 Amanda Anisimova and No. 2 Kayla Day advancing in contrasting fashion.  Anisimova made short work of No. 13 seed Ellie Douglas, who she had beaten twice before in ITF play, taking a 6-3, 6-1 decision, while Day escaped a serious challenge from Ann Li 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Day looked a bit sluggish in the opening set, but most of the credit should go to Li, who showed off an impressive all-court game to keep Day on the defensive throughout the first set. Day fought off the first eight break points she faced in the second set, and playing more confidently, rolled through an error-prone Li in the final set. She will play No. 6 seed fellow 16-year-old Californian Michaela Gordon, who beat unseeded Elysia Bolton 6-3, 6-1.

While Day was reversing her fortunes, Mateas was seeing hers go in the opposite direction. Desiatnikov had received attention from the trainer for back spasms, but it didn't impact her willingness to battle, even after seeing a match point elude her with Mateas serving at 4-5 in the third set.

"I had a passing shot and she hit two good volleys," said the 15-year-old, who lives in Atlanta. "It was a good point, she just played it better. She guessed right twice, so I couldn't do anything. I played the percentage shot, so I wasn't upset with myself, and I knew I was up, it would only be 5-5."

After the next game, Desiatnikov was down however, with Mateas getting an opportunity to serve out the match.

"She didn't have a match point," said Desiatnikov. "I was up 15-40 and I took it. I played that game pretty aggressive, just went with the wind basically on every shot, and I just trusted myself."

In the tiebreaker, Desiatnikov went up 3-1 and 5-3, and reached match point when Mateas netted a forehand.  Another forehand error on the next point, this one on a ball that went wide, gave Desiatnikov the match.

"I think I played very tight, but she also was tight," said Desiatnikov. "She made the errors, I didn't really do much special, just got the balls back in. I don't know if she was tired, or just that tight, but she made some errors and I got some chances."

Desiatnikov will play No. 5 seed Claire Liu, who also had to make a comeback to survive, beating unseeded Emma Higuchi 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Anisimova will face unseeded Carson Branstine in the quarterfinals, after Branstine recovered from a 6-4, 4-1 deficit to beat No. 10 seed Jade Lewis of New Zealand 4-6, 7-5, 6-0.

An unseeded girl will be in the semifinals, after Meible Chi and Rosie Johanson of Canada advanced to the quarterfinals.  Chi defeated unseeded Sofia Sewing 6-2, 6-3, and Johanson beat a seed for the second day in a row, defeating No. 7 Morgan Coppoc 6-2, 7-6(3).

The semifinals are set in the doubles, with 2015 champion Ena Shibahara still in the mix for a second title.  She and Hurricane Tyra Black advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Bolton and Chiara Lommer and will face Dalayna Hewitt and Kariann Pierre-Louis, who are also unseeded. Hewitt and Pierre-Louis beat Nadia Gizdova and Whitney Osuigwe 6-3, 3-6, 10-7.

The other girls doubles semifinal will feature two seeded teams. Coppoc and Raquel Pedraza, seeded No. 4, will play Branstine and Taylor Johnson, the No. 7 seeds.  Coppoc and Pedraza beat Kate Paulus and Alana Smith 6-4, 6-7(7), 10-7 and Branstine and Johnson topped Emma Decoste and Lea Ma 6-2 7-6(5).

In the boys doubles, top seeds Blumberg and Ponwith advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1, 7-6(7) win over Vasil Kirkov and Sebastian Korda. They will play No. 4 seeds Andres Andrade of Ecuador and Vale, who beat Sergio Hernandez Ramirez of Colombia and Juan Hernandez Serrano of Mexico 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.

No. 3 seeds Holt and Crawford beat No. 7 seeds Kypson and Bryde 6-4, 7-6(2) and will face No. 5 seeds Riffice and Brian Cernoch.  Riffice and Cernoch saved seven match points in their 5-7, 7-5, 10-6 win over No. 2 seeds Blanch and Caruana.

The 16s semifinals are set for Friday, with just one unseeded among the eight semifinalists.

That would be Eryn Cayetano, who trains at the RAMP Academy at the tournament site. Cayetano defeated No. 9 seed Luba Vasilyuk 6-2, 6-2 to advance against No. 14 seed Jessi Muljat. Muljat beat No. 6 seed Peyton Stearns 6-4, 6-4.  The other girls semifinal will feature No. 10 seed Hailey Baptiste against No. 15 seed Katie Volynets.  Baptiste took out No. 16 seed Vivian Cheng 6-2, 6-3, while Volynets advanced when No. 12 seed Cali Jankowski retired trailing 6-4, 4-6, 4-0.

The boys 16s lost its top seed in today's quarterfinals, with Govind Nanda falling to No. 5 seed Vikash Singh of India 6-3, 6-3. Singh will play No. 6 seed Adam Neff, who beat doubles partner and No. 4 seed Tyler Zink 6-4, 7-6(4).  The other semifinal will feature No. 12 seed Eric Hahn against No. 2 seed Axel Nefve.  Hahn beat unseeded Matthew Segura 7-6(6), 6-1 and Nefve defeated No. 11 seed Jake Sands 6-4, 6-3.

Draws and Friday's order of play is available at the tournament web page.

Complete results from Thursday's action are below.

Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  Kyrylo Tsygura (North Potomac, MD)  7-5, 6-2
Duarte Vale (Portugal)  def.  Alexandre Rotsaert (Boca Raton, FL)  1-6, 7-6(3), 6-1
Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA)  6-3, 6-1
Sebastian Arcila (Silver Spring, MD)  def.  Zeke Clark (Tulsa, OK)  6-0, 4-2  Ret (inj)
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT)  def.  Gianni Ross (Boca Raton, FL)  7-6(6), 6-1
Liam Caruana (Italy)  def.  Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  6-2, 7-6(2)
Alafia Ayeni (San Diego, CA)  def.  Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  6-2, 6-1
Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  def.  Joshua Peck (Canada) 6-1, 6-0

Boys' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT) / Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL) / Sebastian  Korda (Bradenton, FL)  6-1, 7-6(7)
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC) / Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  def.  Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA) / Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  6-4, 7-6(2)
Andres Andrade (Bradenton, FL) / Duarte Vale (Portugal)  def.  Sergio Hernandez (Colombia) / Juan Alejandro  Hernandez Serrano (Mexico)  6-4, 3-6, 10-7
Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD) / Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Ulises Blanch (Deerfield Beach, FL) / Liam  Caruana (Italy)  5-7, 7-5, 10-6

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, CA)  def.  Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA)  3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Rosie Johanson (Canada)  def.  Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK)  6-2, 7-6(3)
Meible Chi (Weston, FL)  def.  Sofia Sewing (Doral, FL)  6-2, 6-3
Michaela Gordon (Saratoga, CA)  def.  Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, NY)  6-3, 6-1
Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA)  def.  Ann Li (Devon, PA)  4-6, 6-4, 6-1
Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  def.  Jade Lewis (New Zealand)  4-6, 7-5, 6-0
Abigail Desiatnikov (Atlanta, GA)  def.  Maria Mateas (Braintree, MA)  2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
Amanda Anisimova (Hallandale Beach, FL)  def.  Ellie Douglas (McKinney, TX)  6-3, 6-1

Girls' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH) / Kariann Pierre Louis (Miami, FL)  def.  Nadia Gizdova (Columbia, MD) / Whitney Osuigwe (Bradenton, FL)  6-3, 3-6, 10-7
Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK) / Raquel Pedraza (Claremont, CA)  def.  Kate Paulus (Boca Raton, FL) / Alana Smith (Fort Washington, MD)  6-4, 6-7(7), 10-7
Hurricane Tyra Black (Boca Raton, FL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  def.  Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, NY) / Chiara  Lommer (Skokie, IL)  6-3, 6-1
Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, CA) / Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  def.  Lea Ma (Dix Hills, NY) / Emma  Decoste (Stuart, FL)  6-2, 7-6(5)

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, IL)  def.  Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA)  6-4, 6-3
Eric Hahn (Fullerton, CA)  def.  Matthew Segura (Los Angeles, CA)  7-6(6), 6-1
Adam Neff (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL)  6-4, 7-6(4)
Vikash Singh (India)  def.  Govind Nanda (Cerritos, CA)  6-3, 6-3

Boys' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
William Grant (Bronxville, NY) / Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, IL)  def.  Leighton Allen (Austin, TX) / Nicholas Garcia (Hollywood, FL)  6-2, 6-1
Eric Hahn (Fullerton, CA) / Maximilian Wild (Murrieta, CA)  def.  Jericho Grollman (Lake Mary, FL) / Benji  Jacobson (Bloomfield Hills, MI)  6-4, 6-3
Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, CA) / Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA)  def.  Joseph Brailovsky (North Potomac, MD) / Brandon Perez (Staunton, VA)  7-5, 6-3
Adam Neff (Bradenton, FL) / Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Patrick Maloney (Oyster Bay, NY) / Sam Turchetta (Pound Ridge, NY)  6-3, 7-5

Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Eryn Cayetano (Corona, CA)  def.  Luba Vasilyuk (Frisco, TX)  6-2, 6-2
Jessi Muljat (Sacramento, CA)  def.  Peyton Stearns (Mason, OH)  6-4, 6-4
Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD)  def.  Vivian Cheng (Santa Monica, CA)  6-2, 6-3
Katie Volynets (Walnut Creek, CA)  def.  Cali Jankowski (Carlsbad, CA)  6-4, 4-6, 4-0  Ret (inj)

Girls' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Ali Despain (Murrells Inlet, SC) / Alexis Merrill (Fairfax, VA)  def.  Avery Aude (Woodland Hills, CA) / Elizabeth Goldsmith (Chula Vista, CA)  6-1, 6-4
Dasha Kourkina (Brooklyn, NY) / Michelle Sorokko (Little Neck, NY)  def.  Vivian Cheng (Santa Monica, CA) / Britt Pursell (Oceanside, CA)  7-6(5), 7-6(2)
Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD) / Mackenzie Clark (College Park, MD)  def.  Kacie Harvey (Braintree, MA) / Jessi Muljat (Sacramento, CA)  6-4, 2-6, 10-6
Addison Guevara (Keller, TX) / Luba Vasilyuk (Frisco, TX)  def.  Julieanne Bou (Puerto Rico) / MariaFernanda Campos (Laredo, TX)  1-6, 6-4, 10-6

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kypson Upsets Top Seed Blanch in Second Round of International Spring Championships, Anisimova Survives in Three Sets, Chi Beats McKenzie

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Carson, CA--

Both No. 1 seeds in the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships were pushed to three sets in Wednesday's second round, but only one survived. Amanda Anisimova fought back to post a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded Jessica Livianu, but Ulises Blanch dropped the final four games to Patrick Kypson to suffer a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 loss.

Serving at 2-4 in the final set, Kypson had to save two break points to keep Blanch from serving for the match.  In the next game, Kypson earned two break points with his backhand doing most of the damage. Blanch saved one break point with an ace, but failed to get a first serve in on the second break point and Kypson took advantage whistling a backhand winner down the line to make it 4-4.

Kypson channeled that surge of adrenaline into more winners in the next game, with two forehand winners sandwiched around a perfectly executed topspin lob.  Now the pressure was squarely on Blanch, and serving to stay in the match, he fell behind 0-30 on a wide forehand and a missed overhead.

Blanch responded with a backhand winner and a confident overhead for 30-all, but netted a backhand to give Kypson a match point. Blanch saved it with a great forehand into the corner, forcing an error from Kypson, but Kypson earned a second match point and converted it.

"He hits a huge ball," said Kypson, who just missed being seeded this week by one ranking spot. "His serve is ginormous and so is his forehand. So it was a struggle to return his serve to where it would be a neutral scenario, but I defended well, so that helped a lot today."

Kypson admitted that breaking Blanch was an ideal way to close out the match.

"I think at 5-4 it was definitely better that he was serving," Kypson said. "It's never easy to serve out a match at 5-4."

Kypson admitted that he's under a bit more pressure to perform these two weeks after a disappointing trip to Brazil for the Banana Bowl and Grade A in Porto Alegre, where he won only one match.

"I had a pretty bad South America, I cramped two weeks in a row there," said the 16-year-old, who is currently 141 in the ITF rankings. "I was forced to pull out the first week, and the second week, I didn't want to pull out, so I kept playing. It was bad, because I thought I could have done a lot better there, I had a good opportunity, but it happens."

Kypson will play No. 16 seed Joshua Peck of Canada in the third round. Peck, who is 140 in the ITF junior rankings, defeated Luke Hammond of Great Britain 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Anisimova struggled in the opening set against Livianu, with unforced errors the primary reason she fell behind 5-1.  Livianu wasn't able to close out the first set serving for it at 5-1 or 5-3, but on her sixth set point, with Anisimova serving at 5-4, Livianu got a double fault to secure the first set.

Anisimova began to find her range in the second set, with her errors much less frequent, and her depth keeping Livianu on defense. At 3-3 in the second set, Anisimova broke, held and broke, hitting a fine drop shot on set point.

The third set started much as the second had ended with Anisimova taking the first three games, but the fourth game could have proven to be a bit of a problem, with a few big rain drops halting play for a minute or two before the cloud passed.

"I was playing really well, so I was just hoping that the rain would go away," said Anisimova.

It did, and although Livianu did hold to make it 3-1, Anisimova won the next two games, and broke to secure the win.

"I started out making a lot of mistakes, but I adjusted to the courts, because they're really fast," said Anisimova, who reached the final of the Grade A in Brazil just ten days ago. "But I started playing my game, and I got better throughout the match. I'm very happy with myself. That's a great match to get through."

Anisimova will play No. 13 seed Ellie Douglas in Thursday's third round. Douglas beat Hanna Chang 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

In the last singles match of the day, unseeded Meible Chi defeated No. 4 seed Kylie McKenzie 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, winning the battle of the big forehands.

The wind that surfaces every afternoon in Carson, can be a challenge, but Chi was determined not to let that affect her.

"I knew the wind was there, but I didn't let it change the way I wanted to play," said the 16-year-old from Florida. "She loves to really hit the ball with pace, and I like to do that too. But I knew that I needed to do something a little bit different--change the pace, stay in the point longer, sometimes I have to guess, and sometimes she hits winners, but always I have to get ready for the next point."

Chi said staying focused on that strategy resulted in an especially satisfying win.

"I think this match I was able to stay with my plan, and execute it until the end," Chi said. "A lot of times, recently, I've been close but I've dropped off near the end. So yeah, good win."

Chi will play unseeded Sofia Sewing, who defeated No. 16 seed Abi Altick 7-5, 6-3.  No. 9 seed Alexandra Sanford was beaten by Rosie Johanson of Canada 6-3, 6-0 and No. 12 seed Hurricane Tyra Black fell to Elysia Bolton 6-4, 6-2.

No. 6 seed Vasil Kirkov was beaten by Kyrylo Tsygura 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, with Kirkov the only boys seed, aside from Blanch, to fall in the second round.  Defending champion William Blumberg was pushed to three sets by wild card Sebastian Korda but came away with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory, while No. 5 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal won the final six points of the match to defeat qualifier Jacob Brumm 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4).

In the 16s, top boys seeds Govind Nanda and Axel Nefve moved into the quarterfinals with straight-set victories, but No. 3 seed William Grant fell to Matthew Segura 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.

In the girls 16s, No. 2 seed Marcella Cruz was eliminated by No. 15 seed Katie Volynets 7-5, 6-1 and No. 3 seed Niluka Madurawe lost to No. 16 seed Vivian Cheng 7-5, 6-4.

The girls 18s doubles lost its top two seeds in the second round.  The top-seeded pair of Kayla Day and Sanford gave a walkover to Nadia Gizdova and Whitney Osuigwe, while Anisimova and Douglas, the No. 2 seeds, were beaten by wild cards Emma Decoste and Lea Ma 7-5, 6-1.
The only seeded teams in the quarterfinals of the girls doubles are No. 4 seeds Raquel Pedraza and Morgan Coppoc and No. 7 seeds Carson Branstine and Taylor Johnson.

All but two of the boys 18s doubles quarterfinalists are seeded.  Top seeds Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith advanced with a 3-6, 7-5, 10-6 win over Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico and Danny Thomas. Blanch and Liam Caruana, the No. 2 seeds, defeated Hammond and Jason Legall 6-2, 6-3.

Thursday's order of play is available at the tournament webpage.

Results from Wednesday are below:

Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 32)
Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  def.  Ulises Blanch (Deerfield Beach, FL)  6-4, 5-7, 6-4
Joshua Peck (CAN)  def.  Luke Hammond (GBR)  6-4, 2-6, 6-4
Liam Caruana (ITA)  def.  Danny Thomas (Pickerington, OH)  6-0, 6-2
Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  def.  Nathan Perrone (Bluffton, SC)  6-0, 6-1
Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Sean Hill (Berkeley, CA)  6-1, 6-0
Alafia Ayeni (San Diego, CA)  def.  Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD)  6-2, 6-2
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  Jenson Brooksby (Carmichael, CA)  6-1, 6-2
Kyrylo Tsygura (North Potomac, MD)  def.  Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL)  6-3, 1-6, 6-4
Duarte Vale (POR)  def.  Jacob Brumm (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)  3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
Alexandre Rotsaert (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Maxwell Mendelsohn (Little Rock, AR)  6-0, 6-3
Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA)  def.  Andrew Fenty (Washington, DC)  6-4, 6-1
Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Juan Alejandro Hernandez Serrano (MEX)  6-2, 6-0
Zeke Clark (Tulsa, Okla.)  def.  Caleb Chakravarthi (Irvine, CA)  6-1, 6-3
Sebastian Arcila (Silver Spring, MD)  def.  Sam Turchetta (Pound Ridge, NY)  6-3, 6-2
Gianni Ross (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Connor Hance (Torrance, CA)  6-4, 6-1
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT)  def.  Sebastian Korda (Bradenton, FL)  5-7, 6-2, 6-1

Boys' 18 Doubles (Round of 16)
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT) / Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Sebastian Arcila (Silver Spring, MD) / Danny  Thomas (Pickerington, OH)  3-6, 7-5, 10-6
Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL) / Sebastian Korda (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Alafia Ayeni (San Diego, CA) / Joshua  Peck (CAN)  6-1, 6-1
Andres Andrade (ECU) / Duarte Vale (POR)  def.  Ching Lam (HKG) / Ming  Sou (HKG)  4-6, 6-3, 10-6
Sergio Hernandez (COL) / Juan Alejandro Hernandez Serrano (MEX)  def.  Gianni Ross (Boca Raton, FL) / Alexandre Rotsaert (Boca Raton, FL)  4-6, 6-1, 10-5
Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA) / Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  def. Zummy Bauer (Suwanee, GA) / Morgan  Dill (Coral Gables, FL)  6-2, 6-3
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC) / Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  def. Alexander Donski (CAN) / Sebastian Mermersky (BUL)  6-3, 6-3
Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD) / Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Arnav Dhingra (Darnestown, MD) / Nikolai  Parodi (Takoma Park, MD)  6-1, 6-3
Ulises Blanch (Deerfield Beach, FL) / Liam Caruana (ITA)  def. Luke Hammond (GBR) / Jason Legall (Palm Coast, FL)  6-2, 6-3

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 32)
Amanda Anisimova (Hallandale Beach, FL)  def.  Jessica Livianu (Brooklyn, NY)  4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Ellie Douglas (McKinney, TX)  def.  Hanna Chang (Fontana, CA)  6-4, 2-6, 6-4
Jade Lewis (NZL)  def.  Camille Favero (Sacramento, CA)  6-3, 6-4
Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  def.  Whitney Osuigwe (Bradenton, FL)  6-4, 6-4
Maria Mateas (Braintree, MA)  def.  Sara Choy (Palo Alto, CA)  6-1, 6-0
Abigail Desiatnikov (Atlanta, GA)  def.  Margaryta Bilokin (New Canaan, CT)  0-6, 6-4, 7-5
Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA)  def.  Raquel Pedraza (Claremont, CA)  6-4, 6-1
Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, CA)  def.  Layne Sleeth (CAN)  6-2, 6-1
Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK)  def.  Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH)  6-4, 6-3
Rosie Johanson (CAN)  def.  Alexandra Sanford (Westerville, OH)  6-3, 6-0
Sofia Sewing (Doral, FL)  def.  Helen Altick (Monroe, LA)  7-5, 6-3
Meible Chi (Weston, FL)  def.  Kylie McKenzie (Anthem, AZ)  3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Michaela Gordon (Saratoga, CA)  def.  Melissa Plambeck (Bradenton, FL)  6-0, 6-1
Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, NY)  def.  Hurricane Tyra Black (Boca Raton, FL)  6-4, 6-2
Ann Li (Devon, PA)  def.  Chiraz Bechri (TUN)  6-3, 2-6, 6-4
Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA)  def.  Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  7-5, 6-1

Girls' 18 Doubles (Round of 16)
Nadia Gizdova (Columbia, MD) / Whitney Osuigwe (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA) / Alexandra Sanford (Westerville, OH)    Wo (ill)
Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH) / Kariann Pierre Louis (Miami, FL)  def.  Ashley Lahey (Hawthorne, CA) / Mimi Levine (Santa Monica, CA)  6-2, 2-6, 12-10
Hurricane Tyra Black (Boca Raton, FL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  def.  Victoria Emma (Naples, FL) / Maria Mateas (Braintree, MA)  6-1, 4-6, 10-8
Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, NY) / Chiara Lommer (Skokie, IL)  def.  Hanna Chang (Fontana, CA) / Jessica Livianu (Brooklyn, NY)  7-6(4), 5-7, 10-1
Kate Paulus (Boca Raton, FL) / Alana Smith (Fort Washington, MD)  def.  Helen Altick (Monroe, LA) / Jade Lewis (NZL)  6-2, 7-6(5)
Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK) / Raquel Pedraza (Claremont, CA)  def. Salma Ewing (Long Beach, CA) / Jada Robinson (Kennesaw, GA)  6-4, 6-3
Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, CA) / Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  def.  Chloe Beck (Watkinsville, GA) / Emma Navarro (Charleston, SC)  6-3, 6-4
Lea Ma (Dix Hills, NY) / Emma Decoste (Stuart, FL)  def.  Amanda Anisimova (Hallandale Beach, FL) / Ellie Douglas (McKinney, TX)  7-5, 6-1

Boys' 16 Singles (Round of 16)
Govind Nanda (Cerritos, CA)  def.  Joshua Xu (Chandler, AZ)  6-4, 6-2
Vikash Singh (IND)  def.  Hunter Heck (New Brighton, MN)  6-2, 7-6(6)
Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Maximilian Wild (Murrieta, CA)  6-3, 6-3
Adam Neff (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, CA)  7-5, 6-2
Eric Hahn (Fullerton, CA)  def.  Bradley Frye (Overland Park, KS)  6-3, 6-4
Matthew Segura (Los Angeles, CA)  def.  William Grant (Boca Raton, FL)  4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2
Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA)  def.  Jaycer Lyeons (San Antonio, TX)  6-2, 6-1
Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, IL)  def.  Stevie Gould (Corte Madera, CA)  6-3, 7-6(0)

Girls' 16 Singles (Round of 16)
Eryn Cayetano (Corona, CA)  def.  Alexis Merrill (Fairfax, VA)  6-4, 3-6, 6-2
Luba Vasilyuk (Frisco, TX)  def.  Amy Huang (San Diego, CA)  4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Jessi Muljat (Sacramento, CA)  def.  Cameron Compall (Winnetka, IL)  6-2, 6-0
Peyton Stearns (Mason, OH)  def.  Gabriella Price (Montebello, NY)  6-2, 2-6, 6-4
Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD)  def.  Addison Guevara (Keller, TX)  6-2, 6-3
Vivian Cheng (Santa Monica, CA)  def.  Niluka Madurawe (Sunnyvale, CA)  7-5, 6-4
Cali Jankowski (Carlsbad, CA)  def.  Dasha Kourkina (Brooklyn, NY)  6-3, 6-3
Katie Volynets (Walnut Creek, CA)  def.  Marcella Cruz (Marlboro, NJ)  7-5, 6-1

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Branstine Continues Run at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Cayetano Takes Out Top Seed in 16s Division

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Carson, CA--

Carson Branstine has had an eventful month. At the end of February she qualified for the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, beating Carol Zhao, Alexandra Sanford and Ena Shibihara to advance to the main draw, where the 15-year-old from Orange, California lost to Asia Muhammad.  

She then traveled to New York's Madison Square Garden for a World Tennis Day exhibition against Hurricane Tyra Black, as an opening act for the Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka match.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life by far," Branstine said. "I got to play in front of eight, ten thousand people, which is something you don't get to do very often. I wasn't really that nervous, to be honest. I thought these people are here to watch me, so I have to relax and play my game. I just kind of blocked it out as much as I could, just pretended like I was on my home courts practicing."

After that experience, Branstine returned home, and playing on her home courts, took the title at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach last week, the second ITF singles title of her junior career. 

All that helped her in today's opening round match against friend and doubles partner Taylor Johnson, with Branstine earning a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3 win over the No. 8 seed.

After taking the first set with excellent serving and deep ground strokes, Branstine had an opportunity to close it out in the second set, serving for the match twice: once at 5-4 and once at 6-5. Branstine actually earned her first match point with Johnson serving at 3-5, but Johnson put away an overhead and went on to hold.  Branstine reached match point in the 5-4 game, but missed a forehand putaway long, prompting her to exclaim "you just missed the easiest shot ever from on top of the net."  

Branstine broke to take a 6-5 lead, but didn't reach match point in that attempt to serve it out.  At 6-5 in the tiebreaker, Branstine had a third match point, but she couldn't blame herself for the loss of that point, with Johnson hitting a cross court short angle backhand on the line to save it, then converting on her second set point when Branstine netted a backhand.

"I got a little bit relaxed and that kind of hurt me," Branstine said of her thoughts on failing to convert those match points. "She's one of the best fighters out there, and she kept going and going, and I knew she wasn't going to stop, but I figured it out."

But although frustrated, Branstine didn't doubt she could win another three-setter when Johnson forced her into that situation.

"I went three sets in four of the six matches (in Newport Beach last week) and, I thought, of geez, another third set," said Branstine. "But I was confident going into the third for sure, that I'd played a lot of these, and I was ready for it."

Branstine dropped serve in the opening game of the third set, but that was the first of four consecutive service breaks. She held for 3-2 and broke for 4-2 and made that break stand up, although she did have to dig out from a 0-30 hole in the final game.  A good first serve finally ended the two hour and 30 minute match and the two girls shared an embrace at the net.

"I've been playing great so far this year, I've been working really hard," said Branstine, who trains with Sean Abdali at the Grand Slam Tennis program in The Tennis Club of Newport Beach. "I'm playing really well, so I'm happy."

Johnson was one of only three seeds to fall in the first round of play, with No. 15 seed Victoria Emma losing to Ann Li 6-1, 6-3 today and Kelly Chen, the No. 11 seed, falling to Raquel Pedraza 6-4, 6-3 on Monday.

No. 2 seed Kayla Day, playing her first junior match of the year, took out qualifier Sydney Van Alphen 6-1, 6-1.

The boys draw lost only two seeds, with Andres Andrade, the No. 15 seed,  losing to Brian Cernoch 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 on Monday and Carlos Divar of Spain, the No. 13 seed, falling to wild card Connor Hance 6-3, 7-6(6) today.

The day's big upset came in the girls 16s, with Eryn Cayetano bouncing top seed Kacie Harvey 6-4, 6-1.  Cayetano, who will be 15 next month, trains at RAMP Academy, which is located at the Stubhub Center, the site of the tournament and the USTA Player Development West Training Center.

Cayetano's first ITF-affiliated tournament win came on Monday, when she recovered from losing the first set at love to beat Zlata Bobyr 0-6, 6-2, 6-2.

"I was really nervous at first, because it's my first ITF," said Cayetano, who lost in the first round of qualifying at the Newport Beach ITF last week. "But I was thinking in my head, I didn't come here to lose, I came here to play. So I just kept on motivating myself, and tried not to show emotion, so my opponent won't know I'm mad or something."

Cayetano said she didn't know until after her win today that Harvey was the tournament's No. 1 seed.

"I never really look at the draw, so I won't psych myself out," said Cayetano. "I didn't know her, but I've seen her around. She's a really good player."

No. 8 seed Julianne Bou also lost in her first match of the tournament, falling to Amy Huang 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. 

In the boys 16s, top seed Govind Nanda moved into round three with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Jacob Bullard.

Doubles began for the 18s, with top seeds Day and Sanford in the girls draw, and No. 1 seeds William Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith in the boys draw, both getting through with uncomplicated straight-set victories.

Draws and Wednesday's order of play is available at the tournament webpage.

Complete first round results from the 18s singles are below:
Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 64)
Ulises Blanch (Deerfield Beach, FL)  def.  Tristan McCormick (Berwyn, PA)  4-6, 6-3, 6-3
Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  def.  Nicolas Mejia (Aventura, FL)  7-6(5, 6-2
Luke Hammond (White Plains, NY)  def.  Arnav Dhingra (Darnestown, MD)  6-3, 6-4
Joshua Peck (Armstrong, BC)  def.  Ryan Goetz (Greenlawn, NY)  7-6(3), 6-2
Liam Caruana (Austin, TX)  def.  Trey Hilderbrand (San Antonio, TX)  6-3, 6-3
Danny Thomas (Pickerington, OH)  def.  Sangeet Sridhar (Glendale, AZ)  6-2, 4-6, 6-2
Nathan Perrone (Bluffton, SC)  def.  Drew Baird (Holly Springs, NC)  6-1, 6-3
Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  def.  Harrison Brown (Hilton Head Island, SC)  6-1, 6-1
Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Jason Legall (Palm Coast, FL)  6-4, 6-1
Sean Hill (Berkeley, CA)  def.  Sebastian Mermersky (Washington, DC)  6-3, 6-4
Alafia Ayeni (San Diego, CA)  def.  Keenan Mayo (Roseville, CA)  6-3, 6-2
Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD)  def.  Andres Andrade (Bradenton, FL)  6-0, 3-6, 6-3
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  Ching Lam (White Plains, NY)  7-5, 6-2
Jenson Brooksby (Carmichael, CA)  def.  Gui Gomes (Newport Beach, CA)  2-6, 6-3, 3-0
Kyrylo Tsygura (North Potomac, MD)  def.  Jorge Nunez (Kissimmee, FL)  6-4, 6-4
Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL)  def.  Mac Kiger (Katonah, NY)  6-3, 6-4
Duarte Vale (White Plains, NY)  def.  Sean Sculley (Hilton Head Island, SC)  2-6, 7-5, 6-2
Jacob Brumm (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)  def.  Alexander Donski (Philadelphia, PA)  1-6, 6-4, 6-2
Maxwell Mendelsohn (Little Rock, AR)  def.  Mwendwa Mbithi (Deerfield Beach, FL)  6-4, 1-6, 7-5
Alexandre Rotsaert (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Ray Ho (White Plains, NY)  6-2, 6-2
Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA)  def.  Morgan Dill (Coral Gables, FL)  7-6(3), 6-1
Andrew Fenty (Washington, DC)  def.  Ming Sou (White Plains, NY)  6-3, 6-1
Juan Alejandro Hernandez Serrano (Clearwater, FL)  def.  Austen Huang (Elk Grove, CA)  6-3, 6-2
Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Jake Van Emburgh (Belleair Beach, FL)  6-3, 6-3
Ezekiel Thomas CLARK (White Plains, NY)  def.  Brian Shi (Jericho, NY)  6-4, 6-2
Caleb Chakravarthi (Irvine, CA)  def.  Jorge Ortegon (Cedar Creek, TX)  7 6(2), 6-3, 6-4
Sam Turchetta (Pound Ridge, NY)  def.  Matthew Story (White Plains, NY)  7-5, 6-3
Sebastian Arcila (Silver Spring, MD)  def.  Matthew Gamble (Webster, NY)  6-1, 6-2
Connor Hance (Torrance, CA)  def.  Carlos Divar (White Plains, NY)  6-3, 7-6(6)
Gianni Ross (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Kevin Ma (San Ramon, CA)  6-3, 6-2
Sebastian Korda (Bradenton, FL)  def.  sergio hernandez (Doral, FL)  6-4, 6-2
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT)  def.  Robert Loeb (Hilton Head, SC)  6-1, 6-1

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 64)
Amanda Anisimova (Hallandale Beach, FL)  def.  Paris Corley (Grants, NM)  6-4, 6-1
Jessica Livianu (Brooklyn, NY)  def.  Nidhi SURAPANENI (White Plains, NY)  6-3, 6-2
Hanna Chang (Fontana, CA)  def.  Kamilla Kokeladze (Plantation, FL)  6-2, 6-3
Ellie Douglas (McKinney, TX)  def.  Alexa Noel (Summit, NJ)  6-3, 1-6, 6-2
Jade Lewis (Hilton Head Island, SC)  def.  Mimi Levine (Santa Monica, CA)  6-1, 6-1
Camille Favero (Sacramento, CA)  def.  Nicole  Lynn Anderson (College Park, MD)  6-1, 6-3
Whitney Osuigwe (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Alana Smith (Fort Washington, MD)  6-2, 7-6(3)
Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  def.  Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, CA)  6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3
Maria Mateas (Braintree, MA)  def.  Malkia Menguene (Washington, DC)  6-3, 6-4
Sara Choy (Palo Alto, CA)  def.  Alexandra Angyalosy (Boca Raton, FL)  6-4, 6-1
Margaryta Bilokin (New Canaan, CT)  def.  Naomi Cheong (Las Vegas, NV)  6-1, 6-4
Abigail Desiatnikov (Atlanta, GA)  def.  Zoe Spence (Chicago, IL)  6-0, 6-4
Raquel Pedraza (Claremont, CA)  def.  Kelly Chen (Cerritos, CA)  6-4, 6-3
Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA)  def.  Salma Ewing (Long Beach, CA)  6-3, 7-6(6)
Layne Sleeth (Wesley Chapel, FL)  def.  Nicole Conard (Boca Raton, FL)  6-4, 6-1
Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, CA)  def.  Chiara Lommer (Skokie, IL)  7 5, 6 2
Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK)  def.  Safiya Carrington (South Hadley, MA)  7-6(3), 7-6(2), 6-3
Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH)  def.  Nicole Mossmer (La Jolla, CA)  6-3, 6-4
Rosie Johanson (Abbotsford, BC)  def.  Abigail Forbes (Raleigh, NC)  6-2, 7-5
Alexandra Sanford (Westerville, OH)  def.  Ashley Lahey (Hawthorne, CA)  5-7, 6-3, 7-5
Helen Altick (Monroe, LA)  def.  Maria Kozyreva (Granite Bay, CA)  6-2, 6-4
Sofia Sewing (Doral, FL)  def.  Sabina Dadaciu (Stuart, FL)  7-5, 6-4
Meible Chi (Weston, FL)  def.  Kariann Pierre Louis (Miami, FL)  6-4, 6-2
Kylie McKenzie (Anthem, AZ)  def.  Emma Decoste (Stuart, FL)  5-7, 6-2, 6-1
Michaela Gordon (Saratoga, CA)  def.  Vanessa Wong (White Plains, NY)  6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Melissa Plambeck (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Jimena Rodriguez Benito (Miami, FL)  3-6, 7-5, 6-1
Elysia Bolton (Cold Spring Harbor, NY)  def.  Nadia Gizdova (Columbia, MD)  4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Hurricane Tyra Black (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Ryan Peus (Palos Verdes Estates, CA)  5-7, 6-1, 6-1
Ann Li (Devon, PA)  def.  Victoria Emma (Naples, FL)  6-1, 6-3
Chiraz Bechri (White Plains, NY)  def.  Jada Robinson (Reisterstown, MD)  6-2, 6-3
Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  def.  Amanda Meyer (Delray Beach, FL)  6-2, 6-1
Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA)  def.  Sydney Van Alphen (Laguna Beach, CA)  6-1, 6-1

Monday, March 28, 2016

Top Seed Blanch Survives in Three Sets, Defending Champion Blumberg Rolls in First Round of International Spring Championships; TCU Defeats Texas A&M in 4-3 Thriller

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Carson, CA--

A two-hour delay for rain-soaked courts made for a long first day of main draw competition, with chilly winds adding to the challenge, but the top seeds at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships cleared all the hurdles Monday at the Stubhub Center.

No. 1 seed Ulises Blanch, who made his ITF Top 10 debut last week, dropped the opening set to Tristan McCormick, but fought back to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Blanch went up 3-0 to start the match, but McCormick found his range and reeled off five straight games.  Blanch saved a set point serving at 3-5 in the first and McCormick struggled to close out the set serving at 5-4, with several nervous errors, including a double fault, preventing him from converting the first three set points he had in the game. McCormick eventually did close out the set, when Blanch missed a second serve return, then netted a forehand on set point No. 5.

Near the end of the first set, the wind began to assert itself, reaching speeds of 20 mph and up and gusting higher, and it was McCormick who appeared to have more difficulty adjusting. His one-handed backhand and serve had troubled Blanch in the first set, but McCormick, who will be 17 on Friday, couldn't find a way to get back in the second set after dropping serve in the fourth game.

"I knew he had a good serve and I thought he served really well today," said Blanch, who turned 18 last Friday. "The wind was very tricky and picked up in the second and third. So I just put the ball deep, try to move him around. I tried not to hit too hard, but not too soft. He wasn't hitting it as cleanly as in the first set."

McCormick was broken in the opening game of the third set, and Blanch's strategy of just keeping the ball in play began to pay dividends. He didn't face a break point in the set and closed out the match by breaking McCormick.

Blanch said it wasn't nerves or the pressure of being the top seed that led to his slow start.

"I don't know what was going through my mind, but I wasn't nervous, that's for sure," Blanch said. "With the wind and everything, I struggled to get my game going, but after I lost the first set, I thought I had to win the match no matter what."

Unlike Blanch, who has been playing junior events all year, defending champion William Blumberg, the No. 2 seed, was playing his first ITF junior competition since last September's US Open Junior Championships.

Showing no signs of rust, Blumberg defeated Robert Loeb 6-1, 6-1 to run his winning streak in the Carson tournament to seven matches.

After a bout with mono last year, Blumberg took time off, hoping to rediscover what he had enjoyed about playing tennis.

"After I healed from that, I just needed a little mental break, to figure out some stuff," said the 18-year-old from Connecticut. "I practiced a long time, and now I came back, and I'm having a lot of fun playing again. That's what really matters to me."

Although conditions were far from ideal in his first match in nearly seven months, Blumberg was not dwelling on the negative.

"It's super windy, but I actually don't mind the wind," said Blumberg, who will play wild card Sebastian Korda in the second round on Wednesday. "It's frustrating in general, but throughout my whole career, I've kind of used the wind to my advantage. Obviously serves are tough, but everything else, it just makes it more fun and challenging."

Returning to the same court where he won the title last year, beating Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-4, was bound to invoke good memories, regardless of the conditions.

"It's awesome," said Blumberg. "Playing in the US is awesome for me, I love it, and playing here after winning last year is really fun as well. I feel comfortable here, and I love hard court and I love California, so it's fun."

Of the 14 boys seeds in action on Monday, only one lost, with No. 15 seed Andres Andrade of Ecuador falling to Brian Cernoch 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

The girls seeds posted similar results, with nine of the 10 seeds in action Monday advancing, including top seed Amanda Anisimova, who defeated Paris Corley 6-4, 6-1.

Raquel Pedraza topped No. 11 seed Kelly Chen 6-4, 6-3, but although Chen was the only seed to lose, several others needed comebacks to advanced.  No. 4 seed Kylie McKenzie, playing under the lights, survived against wild card Emma Decoste 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.  No. 7 seed Morgan Coppoc defeated Safiya Carrington 6-7(3), 7-6(2), 6-3, and No. 9 seed Alexandra Sanford outlasted Ashley Lahey 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

No. 2 seed Kayla Day will play qualifier Sydney Van Alphen in one of the 21 remaining first round 18s matches scheduled for Tuesday.

The seeds in the 16s singles will begin play on Tuesday, and the 18s doubles will also start.  Top seeds are Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith in the boys draw, and Day and Sanford in the girls draw.

The order of play, draws and a link to the live scoring can be found at the tournament website.

There was a thriller in College Station tonight, with No. 3 TCU defeating No. 7 Texas A&M 4-3, with the final match going to 12-10 in a third-set tiebreaker.  Jerry Lopez of TCU defeated Max Lunkin of Texas A&M 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(10) at line 5 to give the Horned Frogs the victory. Details and quotes from TCU's David Roditi can be found at the TCU website.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Top Seeds Blanch, Anisimova Kick Off ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Monday; Barton, Haas Win USTA Pro Circuit Events

Court 4--the Stadium Court--at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

Qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships was completed today at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California, with main draw play beginning with the 16s division at 8 a.m. on Monday morning.

Boys qualifying for the 18s main draw are Drew Baird, Sam Turchetta, Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, Arnav Dhingra, Matthew Gamble, Jacob Brumm, Kevin Ma and Matthew Story of Great Britain.  No. 7 Story is the only qualifying seed who made the main draw.

No lucky losers were needed, but two additional wild cards were awarded with Jenson Brooksby and Austen Huang added to the five named last week.

The girls qualifying for the 18s main draw are Ryan Peus, Alexandra Angyalosy(2), Sydney Van Alphen, Nadia Gizdova(4), Salma Ewing, Camille Favero, Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine and Sara Choy.

Again there are no lucky losers in the main draw as of now, with Abigail Forbes, Emma Decoste and Jada Robinson awarded late wild cards.

All 32 of the 16s first round matches are scheduled for Monday, with the seeds getting byes, while the first round of the 18s are spread over two days.

Top seeds Ulises Blanch and William Blumberg are on Monday's schedule, with Blanch playing Tristan McCormick and Blumberg facing Robert Loeb.   Top girls seed Amanda Anisimova is also on Monday's schedule against Paris Corley.

The top seeds in the boys 16s are Govind Nanda and Axel Nefve; the top seeds in the girls 16s are Kacie Harvey and Marcella Cruz.

The complete draws and the order of play for Monday is available at the tournament website.  Live scoring will be available via Tennis Ticker.http://www.tennisticker.de/usa/usta-sb.html.

The USTA Pro Circuit events wrapped up today, with Matthew Barton of Australia taking the title at the $25,000 Futures event in Calabasas, California. Barton, the No. 2 seed, defeated top seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6(6), 6-3.

Tope seeds Eric Quigley and Nick Meister won the doubles title, beating Laaksonen and Marek Michalicka of the Czech Republic, 4-6, 6-3, 10-3. Meister won last week's $25,000 Futures in Bakersfield with Adrien Puget; Meister and Quigley also won the Dallas Challenger back in February.

At the $25,000 women's tournament in Naples, Barbara Haas of Austria took the title, beating qualifier Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  Valeria Solovyeva of Russia and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine won the doubles title, with the No. 4 seeds defeating Sophie Chang and Quirine Lemoine of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-0 in the final.

There is no men's event in the US, or anywhere in North America for that matter, this week, but there is a $50,000 women's tournament in Osprey, Florida, with qualifying getting underway there today.

At the Miami Open, Steve Johnson, CoCo Vandeweghe and Nicole Gibbs all fell in their third round matches, with Madison Keys the only American advancing in today's action.  Jack Sock, Tim Smyczek and Serena Williams are the Americans on Monday's schedule.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Mayo, Branstine, Jachuk and Mandlik Take Grade 4 Titles; ISC Carson Qualifying Underway; Vanderbilt, Florida Women Take Down Top 10 SEC Opponents

Keenan Mayo and Carson Branstine won the singles titles today at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach, with both the boys and girls finals tough three-set affairs.  The 15-year-old Mayo, seeded No. 6, defeated No. 4 seed Govind Nanda 7-6(2), 5-7, 6-2 to win his second Grade ITF singles title of the month.  His first, at the Grade 3 in Costa Rica, also came at the expense of Nanda.   No. 3 seed Carson Branstine, also 15, defeated No. 5 seed Ann Li 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(1) to win her second ITF Grade 4 singles title, but her first since 2014.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Barbados, No. 5 seed Ronan Jachuk won his second ITF singles title, with the 14-year-old beating unseeded Michel-Alexandre Fortin of Canada 6-1, 6-2 in the final. No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik breezed through the girls draw until the final. In the championship match, the 14-year-old daughter of four-time major champion Hana Mandlikova beat top seed Stefania Rogozinska Dzik of Poland 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to claim her second ITF singles title.  Mandlik also took the doubles title, teaming with her opponent in the singles final. The top seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Estella Jaeger of Germany and Claire Koke of Canada 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The qualifying began today for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, California.  Edson Ortiz Tovar of Mexico and Kate Paulus are the top seeds in the 18s qualifying.  I will be providing onsite coverage of the tournament for the 12th straight year, beginning with the main draw on Monday.  Results and the order of play can be found at the tournament website.

Two important SEC matches between Top 10 teams were played today. No. 7 Florida women defeated No. 8 seed South Carolina 4-1 in Columbia. The Gators dropped the doubles point, but got singles wins from Kourtney Keegan, Brooke Austin, Belinda Woolcock and Josie Kuhlman to stay undefeated in conference play at 7-0.

In Nashville, No. 5 Vanderbilt defeated No. 3 Georgia 4-3, with the Commodores taking the doubles point, then getting wins from Fernanda Contreras, Frances Altick and Courtney Colton to take a 4-1 lead.  Georgia took the matches at the 1 and 2 positions after the match was clinched.  For more on the match, see the Vanderbilt website.

There were two big upsets in Division I men's tennis yesterday, with No. 7 Texas A&M falling to No. 49 Vanderbilt in Nashville and No. 8 Southern California losing to No. 39 Washington in Seattle with both scores 4-3. Bobby Knight has all the details on both matches at College Tennis Today.   The surprises didn't end yesterday, with No. 36 SMU defeating No. 5 Oklahoma State 4-0 today in Stillwater.

At the Miami Open, qualifier Tim Smyczek defeated No. 13 seed John Isner 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(5) to advance to the third round. No. 22 seed Jack Sock also reached the third round when Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine retired down 6-2, 3-2.  Sam Querrey(29) and Denis Kudla also lost, leaving Sock, Smyczek and Steve Johnson(31) as the only American men in the last 32.  Among the US women, top seed Serena Willliams, wild card Nicole Gibbs, CoCo Vandeweghe and Madison Keys(22) still remain in the draw.  Johnson, Vandeweghe, Keys and Gibbs are on Sunday's schedule.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Adam Ambrozy on Selecting Columbia; Gibbs Keeps Rolling in Miami; World Team Tennis Draft; Li Upsets Gordon to Reach Final in Newport Beach Grade 4

Earlier this month in Mobile, I had an opportunity to talk with blue chip Adam Ambrozy about his commitment to Columbia for the fall of 2016. I had spoken to Ambrozy after he qualified for the Eddie Herr last year, and again after he qualified for the Plantation Futures last month, but this conversation was the first that centered on his college choice. This Tennis Recruiting article, which also features comments from his coach Scott Dei, provides some insight into how the Ivy League recruiting process differs from the Division I schools who offer athletic scholarships.

Nicole Gibbs, who is at a career-high of 74 in the WTA rankings, has been playing great tennis of late, having qualified at the BNP Paribas Open and won three rounds there before falling to Petra Kvitova in three sets.  This week she received a wild card into the Miami Open, and she has picked up two wins, with today's 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 27 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France putting Gibbs into the third round against No. 4 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

CoCo Vandeweghe had a big win over 2015 finalist and No. 6 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-4, 6-2 and will play No. 32 seed Monica Niculescu of Romania next.  No. 22 seed Madison Keys, who lost to Gibbs in Indian Wells, won her first match since the Australian Open when she defeated Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 6-4, 6-2.

Men's 2012 NCAA champion (Gibbs won the women's title that year) Steve Johnson advanced to the third round with a 7-6(9), 7-6(3) win over Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Taylor Fritz hung with No. 8 seed David Ferrer of Spain in the opening set of their second round match, holding two set points--one at 5-6 with Ferrer serving, the other at 6-5 serving in the tiebreaker--but he was unable to convert either and ended up on the wrong end of a 7-6(6), 6-1 decision.  After the 75-minute first set, Fritz looked tired and as if he might have tweaked something that kept him from serving with his usual effectiveness, but he kept fighting, even after going down 5-0 15-40 in the second set.  The 18-year-old saved four match points to hold for 5-1 and another as Ferrer served for the match, but on his sixth attempt, Ferrer closed out the victory.  With both Top 10 opponents he's played in the past two months, Fritz has shown he can be competitive at that top level, but sustaining it over the course of a match is a bigger task. Yet the opportunity to play the Ferrers and Nishikoris is vital to his development and improvement, which is proceeding faster than anyone could have imagined just six months ago.

The order of play for Saturday, which will feature the first matches of the tournament for Jack Sock, John Isner and Sam Querrey, is here.

Mylan World Team Tennis held its draft today, with Gibbs among the eight former college players selected for the six teams that will compete this summer.  The season is later than usual this year, from July 31-August 13, instead right after Wimbledon, as it has been in the past. The rosters, which are still subject to change, are below.

At the Newport Beach Grade 4, 15-year-old Ann Li, ranked 326 and seeded No. 5, defeated top seed Michaela Gordon, ranked 43, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 to earn a place in Saturday's singles final.  Li will play No. 3 seed Carson Branstine, who took out No. 2 seed Hanna Chang 6-4, 6-2.  Li and Branstine played last year in a Grade 2 round of 16, with Branstine taking a 7-6(1), 6-3 decision.

The boys final will feature No. 6 seed Keenan Mayo against No. 4 seed Govind Nanda.  Mayo beat No. 3 seed Ming Chun Alan Sou of Hong Kong 6-3, 7-6(9), while Nanda outlasted unseeded Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.  Mayo and Nanda met in the final of the Grade 3 Costa Rica Bowl just a few weeks ago, with Mayo winning 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

Li has already earned one title, regardless of the outcome of Saturday's singles final. She and Elysia Bolton, the No. 1 seeds, beat unseeded Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro 6-4, 4-6, 10-6 in the doubles final. The boys doubles championship went to Great Britain's Luke Hammond and Matthew Story, the No. 3 seeds, who beat top seeds Sou and Ching Lam, also of Hong Kong, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

USTA Pro Circuit Announces Collegiate Series; Carson Preview; Kingsley Receives Qualifying Wild Card for WTA Volvo Car Open; Pro Update

The USTA Pro Circuit was not officially involved in the new Futures and Challengers that took place on college campuses last year, but that is changing this year, with the following announcement today:

The USTA today announced that the USTA Pro Circuit is launching the USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series, a circuit of more than 10 tournaments held on or near college campuses nationwide to provide a platform for college players to gain pro experience and transition to the pro ranks. The USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series will consist of events that complement a college player’s schedule, with most events being held in the fall semester, and will give players the chance to collect valuable ATP or WTA ranking points. 

The Collegiate Series is scheduled to begin the week of June 6 with a $25,000 men’s Futures event held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., followed by a $25,000 men’s Futures event at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. The series will then continue in the fall with further men’s and women’s tournaments to be named with prize money ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. Ohio State will host a $50,000 men’s Challenger in mid-September, while two $25,000 men’s Futures events will take place near the University of California, Berkeley, in October.

All of the specified events above are men's events, but it sounds as if the women's events will be included in the fall segment.

Stephen Amritraj, the head of the Player Development Collegiate Division, has worked hard to provide these kinds of opportunities for college players in the past two years and it's fantastic that all the Pro Circuit resources can now be accessed by this initiative. The complete release can be found here.

Steve Pratt, the longtime media aide for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, has provided his annual preview, which can be found here. Caty and John McNally have both withdrawn, but are still entered in the Grade B1 Easter Bowl the following week. Kayla Day and defending champion William Blumberg are scheduled to play in Carson, but will, along with Usue Arconada and Sonya Kenin, travel to China the following week for the ITF Junior Masters.  Amanda Anisimova, who will be the top seed in Carson, withdrew from the Easter Bowl.  The list of wild cards for Carson is here.

The qualifying wild cards were announced for next month's WTA Volvo Car Open in Charleston, with Raveena Kingsley receiving one, along with Ellie Halbauer, Laura Robson of Great Britain and Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.  Kaitlyn McCarthy of Duke, who was awarded a wild card into qualifying as a finalist of the Shape Invitational, is not able to use it, with Duke playing ACC matches against Virginia and Notre Dame the weekend of qualifying.  The complete release is here, although it mistakenly says that Kingsley received her wild card for making the finals of the Shape Invitational, which she did not play due to an injury.

It wasn't a great day for Americans in Miami or Naples.  Madison Brengle, Denis Kudla and Serena Williams did advance, as did Tim Smyczek, who beat fellow qualifier Tommy Paul 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.  Paul saved a match point with Smyczek serving at 5-4 in the second set and went on to force a third, but was broken in the opening game of the final set.  He got the break back to make 4-4 with some outstanding play, but at 5-all, Paul's first serve deserted him and he was broken, with Smyczek serving out the match in the next game.  Smyczek had beaten Paul in the final round of BNP Paribas qualifying 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, so I imagine Paul would have preferred a different opponent this week.

Late last night, wild card CiCi Bellis lost to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

At the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Naples, all four remaining Americans were beaten today. No. 5 seed Katerina Stewart, Maria Sanchez, wild card Victoria Emma and Grace Min all fell in straight sets.

At the $25,000 USTA Men's Futures in Calabasas, Ernesto Escobedo, Eric Quigley and Mitchell Krueger have advanced to the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Emma's First Pro Win a Big One; Fritz Advances in Miami Open, Mmoh Falls; USTA Announces Junior Leadership Team

Sixteen-year-old Victoria Emma played her first Pro Circuit event last summer in Spain and her second this week in Naples. Emma lost in the first round of that $10,000 tournament last year, but as a wild card in this week's $25,000 tournament in Florida she pulled off a stunning win, beating No. 8 seed Jovana Jaksic of Serbia 6-0, 6-4 in just over an hour.

Emma, who trains at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, has verbally committed to Florida for 2017. She has brought her ITF junior ranking up to a career-high 117 now, but this is a different level, with Jaksic having reached 102 in the WTA rankings two years ago (she is at 186 right now).  Next up for her will be 19-year-old Francoise Abanda of Canada, who won last week's $25,000 tournament in Mexico and received a special exemption into Naples this week.

Emma and partner Allie Collins of Great Britain, another Sanchez-Casal student, had earned a doubles win Tuesday over Jamie Loeb and Sanaz Marand 6-2, 0-6, 10-8.

Other Americans to advance to the second round in Naples are Maria Sanchez, Katerina Stewart(5) and Grace Min, who defeated No. 2 seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium 6-3, 6-1.

American qualifiers had a tough day today in the first round of the Miami Open with Dennis Novikov, Bjorn Fratangelo and lucky loser Jared Donaldson all falling in straight sets. Wild card Michael Mmoh also failed to advance, although he hung with fellow 18-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany until the end in a 7-6(3), 7-6(4) loss. Mmoh was playing on Stadium Court, undoubtedly the biggest court he'd ever played on, and after a slew of double faults early in the match, he was able to adjust. Zverev didn't play an outstanding match, and trailed 3-0(two breaks) in the second set, but his experience on the tour the past year provided him with enough confidence on the key points to survive. He will play Steve Johnson(31) in the second round.

One American qualifier did win his opening match, with Taylor Fritz taking out Italy's Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2 this evening. Fritz will play No. 8 seed David Ferrer of Spain in the second round.

Tommy Paul and Tim Smyczek, the other two American qualifiers, play each other on Thursday.

Both US women who qualified, Samantha Crawford and Anna Tatishvili, lost today, but many other American women advanced, including Irina Falconi, Vania King, CoCo Vandeweghe(who beat Crawford 6-4, 7-5) and Christina McHale.  Rajeev Ram provided the US men with a second victory on Wednesday.

Wild card CiCi Bellis, who made the third round in Miami last year, and Monica Puig of Puerto Rico are playing later tonight.

The order of play for Thursday is up at the tournament website.

At the $25,000 Futures in Calabasas, Dennis Nevolo, Eric Quigley(7) and Mitchell Krueger(3) won today, joining Ernesto Escobedo and Sekou Bangoura(4) in Thursday's second round.

The USTA has formed a Junior Leaders Team from nominations provided by its sections.  This team was introduced to provide recognition of the efforts of juniors in displaying outstanding sportsmanship and community service.  The players named to the team:

Photos of the 2016 team members can be found at usta.com.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

ITF Grade 1 ISC-Carson Wild Cards; Fritz, Paul Among Seven US Qualifiers in Miami; North Carolina Men, Cal Women Top This Week's ITA DI Rankings

The two major ITF spring tournaments in the United States begin next week with the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, followed by the Grade B1 Easter Bowl in Indian Wells. The main draw wild cards for Carson are:

Boys 18s:
Keenan Mayo
Connor Hance
Sebastian Korda
Sean Sculley
Trey Hilderbrand

Girls 18s:
Nicole Mossmer
Ena Shibahara
Dalayna Hewitt
Alexa Noel
Alexandra Sanford

Boys 16s:
Brandon Nakashima

Girls 16s:
Mae Fmar Canete
Christine Inah Canete
Gabby Price

Typically the tournament saves 18s wild cards for players who go deep in the ITF Grade 4 this week because there is no special exemption from qualifying when Grades 4 and 1 are involved.

The complete list of competitors for the 16s division can be found at the tournament's website.

Qualifying is complete at the Miami Open, and five US men and two US women won their way into the main draw.  A sixth US man, Jared Donaldson, lost his final round qualifying match but reached the main draw as a lucky loser.

Top seed Taylor Fritz defeated Alex Kuznetsov 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Tommy Paul will make his Masters 1000 debut after beating No. 10 seed Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 6-2, 6-3, giving the US four teenagers in the main draw, with Michael Mmoh receiving a wild card. Bjorn Fratangelo qualified for his second straight Masters 1000 event, Dennis Novikov qualified for a Masters 1000 for the second time in his career and No. 11 seed Tim Smyczek earned an opportunity to duplicate last year's second round showing.

Fritz will play Simone Bolelli of Italy, Novikov has drawn Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, Smyczek and Paul will play each other, with the winner getting No. 13 seed John Isner, Fratangelo plays fellow qualifier Marcel Granollers of Spain and Donaldson will face qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

Samantha Crawford and Anna Tatishvili advanced to the main draw, with Crawford beating wild card Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and Tatishvili defeating Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-2. Crawford will play CoCo Vandeweghe and Tatishvili has drawn Timea Babos of Hungary.

In women's main draw action, wild card Nicole Gibbs continued her excellent form, beating Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 6-4, 6-2 and Madison Brengle advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi of Italy.

Draws and Wednesday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event on the other side of the state, Jamie Loeb was the only American to qualify. She defeated fellow former Tar Heel Sanaz Marand 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 today.  All 16 first round main draw matches will be played on Wednesday, with teens Ingrid Neel, Victoria Emma, Kayla Day and Ali Collins of Great Britain among the competitors. Collins, who trains at the Naples Sanchez-Casal Academy where the tournament is being played, as well as Emma and Neel, are wild cards. Day used a junior exemption for main draw entry. Asia Muhammad received the fourth wild card.

This week's ranking have another change at the top for the men, with North Carolina returning to No. 1, replacing Virginia.  Undefeated Cal remained at No. 1 in the women's rankings.  There was no change in the individual singles rankings, with North Carolina's Hayley Carter and Tulane's Dominik Koepfer staying at No. 1.  Carter and Whitney Kay kept their No. 1 ranking in women's doubles, while Gordon Watson and Diego Hidalgo of Florida returned to the No. 1 spot in the men's doubles rankings. Complete rankings lists can be found by clicking on the headers below.

March 22                                         March 15
    North Carolina
    Ohio State
    Oklahoma State    
    Texas A&M
    Southern Cal
    Texas Tech

March 22                                      March 15
    Ohio State
    North Carolina
    South Carolina
10    Duke                          8 

The NAIA individual rankings for men were released yesterday, with Kevin Konfederak of Georgia Gwinnett No. 1 in men's singles. The women's NAIA individual rankings have not yet been posted.