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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top Seed Wang, Second Seed Juvan Out in Second Round of Eddie Herr ITF; Quarterfinals Set for Thursday in 12s, 14s and Boys 16s

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

Sixteen-year-old Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany spent several years training at the IMG Academy when she was younger, and although she had not been back since last playing the 14s age division of the Eddie Herr in 2013, she credits the atmosphere with an assist in her 6-3, 7-6(4) win over top seed Xiyu Wang of China in Wednesday's second round of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr.

"I think this is part of why I won today," said Cantos Siemers, who is currently training in Barcelona. "I love it here. Every time I'm here, I'm so happy."

Cantos Siemers didn't have to do much in the first set against fellow left-hander Wang, who made a slew of unforced errors and not nearly enough first serves. Cantos Siemers then took a 2-0 lead in the second set, and stretched that to 5-2, but the 15-year-old Wang found her game just in time.

"She was missing quite a lot with her forehand, and I knew exactly what I had to do," Cantos Siemers said. "Then she switched it up a bit and I got a little bit tight and a little bit confused. And she didn't miss at all actually."

Wang began to find the depth and placement that had been missing from her game earlier and she won four straight games to take a 6-5 lead.  She failed to earn a set point however when serving for the set however, and Cantos Siemers got to where she wanted to be, in a tiebreaker.

"I love playing tiebreakers,"  Cantos Siemers said. "I don't know why, but I feel very secure in them, so yeah, I felt good. But I was obviously a little nervous, because she was playing better."

The tiebreaker was 3-3 at the first changeover, but Wang's backhand began to show signs of stress and she made two errors on that side, the second of which gave Cantos Siemers two match points.  She only needed one, hitting a backhand just inside the baseline that handcuffed Wang and forced an error.

"It's one of my best wins, definitely," said Cantos Siemers, who is supported by the German Tennis Federation and still visits there often. "She's probably the highest ranked player I've beaten."

Next up for Cantos Siemers is one of the eight US girls left in the round of 16, No. 14 seed Morgan Coppoc. Coppoc defeated Lina Glushko of Israel 6-4, 7-5.

Sofia Sewing has had a great deal of success on the courts of the IMG Academy, winning the Eddie Herr 14s title in 2013 and the 16s title in 2014. She suffered her first Eddie Herr loss in three years last year in the ITF tournament, going out to eventual champion Kylie McKenzie in the second round, but she has another winning streak going now after beating No. 2 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.

Sewing served for the first set at 5-4, but was unable to get to set point, and Juvan took the tiebreaker, aided by a fortunate net cord. The first set took over 75 minutes to complete, but despite the discouraging end to the set, Sewing stayed positive.

"That net cord hurt a lot," said the 17-year-old from Miami. "I held that grudge for a while but I had to try to move on, think about the next set. I had to just play my game, forget about the first set and start over."

Sewing found herself in control in many of the rallies in the final two sets.

"I think the key for both of us to win was who was going to be more aggressive," Sewing said. "Who could be more consistent, because we had a lot of long rallies, and it was a really tough match. I think it was a really good match from both of us; it was really close, a few games in the end, a few points, that really made the difference."

Sewing, who won in three sets in her first round match Tuesday against Canadian qualifier Brindtha Ramasamy, will play No. 15 seed Lea Boskovic of Croatia, who defeated lucky loser Abigail Desiatnikov 6-3, 6-4.

The six other US girls in the round of 16 include two qualifiers: Vanessa Ong and Victoria Emma.  Ong, 14, defeated No. 10 seed Daniela Vismane of Latvia 6-3, 6-4 and will play Carson Branstine, who is still playing for the USA in this tournament, but is expected to change to Canada soon.  Branstine defeated Zhibek Kulambayeva of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-2.  Emma took out fellow qualifier Salma Ewing 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and will face No. 12 seed Maria Carle of Argentina. Jimena Rodriguez-Benito defeated Himari Sato of Japan 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and will play No. 9 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

The only all-US third round match will feature No. 3 seed Ellie Douglas and Nicole Mossmer.  Douglas advanced when Anastasia Iamachkine of Peru retired trailing 6-1, 2-0, while Mossmer defeated Katya Townsend 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.

Five US boys advanced to the third round, with four of them in the top half of the draw. No. 14 seed Gianni Ross beat Jason Legall 7-6(5), 6-2, No. 7 seed Sam Riffice defeated Jack Mingjie Lin of Canada 6-2, 6-1, Vasil Kirkov downed Seon Yong Han of Korea 6-4, 6-1 and Patrick Kypson defeated qualifier William Grant 6-1, 6-3.  Ross will play top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia next, Riffice faces No. 12 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey, Kirkov meets No. 13 seed Alberto Lim of the Philippines and Kypson takes on No. 6 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina.

In the bottom half of the draw, Kalamazoo 16s champion Lukas Greif is the only US boy remaining.  He advanced when Sebastian Korda retired trailing 4-0 in the first set. Korda has been ill and his status for next week's Orange Bowl is questionable.  Greif will play Marko Miladinovic of Serbia, who beat No. 11 seed Trent Bryde 6-2, 6-1.  Bryde was the only boys seed to lose in the second round.

The doubles quarterfinals are set for Thursday, with three US teams still alive in the boys draw: Gianni Ross and Danny Thomas, Govind Nanda and Alexandre Rotsaert and Greif and Axel Nefve, who beat a seeded team for the second straight day today.

The girls doubles quarterfinals have eight US girls participating: No. 2 seeds Douglas and Natasha Subhash, Coppoc and Emma, Elysia Bolton and Mossmer and Sewing and Branstine.  Sewing is playing with Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Branstine is playing with Cantos Siemers.

The quarterfinals are set for the 12s and 14s divisions and the boys 16s division, with the girls 16s division a day behind due to rain late in the day on Monday.

The matchups:

Girls 12s:
Jade Haller[15](SUI) v Stela Peeva[11](BUL)
Katrina Scott[3](USA) v Denislava Glushkova[9](BUL)
Alexandra Eala(PHI) v Dasha Piekhanova[4](CAN)
Rebecca Lynn[6](USA) v Tatiana Muzykantskaya[2](RUS)

Girls 14s:
Qinwen Zheng[1](CHN) v Gianna Pielet[5](USA)
Gabby Price[4](USA) v Jada Bui[14](CAN)
Kylie Bilchev[8](GBR) v Natasha Sengphrachanh[12](CAN)
Elaine Chervinsky(USA) v Emma Raducanu[2](GBR)

Boys 12s:
Victor Lilov[1](USA) v Jackson Armistead[5](USA)
Ron Ellouck[4](ISR) v Jonah Braswell[9](USA)
Kenta Nakamura(JPN) v Haesun Lee[3](KOR)
Dinko Dinev[6](BUL) v Gunuk Kang(KOR)

Boys 14s:
Bu Yunchaokete[1](CHN) v Stefan Leustian(USA)
Nicholas-David Ionel[4](ROU) v Toby Kodat(USA)
Ryota Kaneda(JPN) v Alexander Gaponenko[3](ISR)
Juan Torres(ARG) v Zane Khan[2](USA)

Boys 16s:
JanMagnus Johnson(USA) v Vikash Singh[5](IND)
Jake Hersey[4](GBR) v Stefan Palosi[7](ROU)
Tyler Zink[8](USA) v Jack Draper[3](GBR)
Liam Draxl(CAN) v Anton Matusevich[2](GBR)

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ball Hit in Anger Leads to Default; Ewing Defeats Naito as Qualifiers Advance at Eddie Herr ITF

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

The eight qualifiers and one lucky loser who advanced to the second round of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr normally would have been the highlight of Tuesday's action, but a rare default had players, officials and spectators buzzing throughout the afternoon at the IMG Academy.

The match on court one between qualifier Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Kyrylo Tsygura had been contentious from the start, with a long delay in the second game of the match as Andreev disputed Tsygura's line call and called the roving umpire to rule on the mark. The call went against Tsygura and he asked for the referee, a request that was denied.  These disputes continued throughout the match, which I caught only glimpses of at its beginning and did not see its abrupt ending. The account below is based on what I was told by those who were there.

After the 15-year-old Andreev took the first set 6-4, Tsygura came back to take the second 6-3, and led 4-1, I believe, in the final set. (Without chair umpires and with scoring devices adjusted only on changeovers, it's difficult to be sure). Andreev held for 4-2 and when Tsygura was broken to put the match back on serve, he angrily swatted a ball that ended up hitting a spectator sitting in the courtside bleachers. That spectator turned out to be Andreev's coach, and the roving officials called tournament referee Steve Reitman to the court. After hearing the accounts of the incident, Reitman issued the default, awarding the match to Andreev.

A default in singles does not automatically result in a default from the doubles competition under ITF rules, but if the reason for default is deemed serious enough, it can result in a default from both, which is what happened in this case, with the team of Andres Andrade and Duarte Vale of Portugal moving into the second round by default. Harrison Brown of Australia was Tsygura's doubles partner.

Although he won his fourth match of the tournament in the most unconventional manner, Andreev was one of a quartet of qualifiers to advance to the second round. William Grant had reached the second round with a win over lucky loser Sebastian Mermersky of Bulgaria on Monday after beating Mermersky in the final round of qualifying on Sunday. On Tuesday, Javier Rodriguez Sanchez of Peru defeated No. 15 seed Oliver Crawford 6-2, 6-2 and Timothy Sah beat Maxeno Broville of France 6-3, 6-4.

Sah has yet to drop a set this week, and the 17-year-old Southern Californian has begun to adjust to the clay after qualifying for both the Grade A in Mexico City and the Grade 1 last week in Yucatan.

"I've been on the road for three weeks, and it's really nice to play qualies, especially if you're playing well, because it gives you extra time to get used to the courts," said Sah, who lost in the first round at both tournaments in Mexico. "I've always liked to play on clay. I played the 12s Spring Nationals when it used to be on clay in Florida, and I had one of my breakthrough tournaments on clay at the 16s Clay Courts two years ago. I got fifth (place) that year and this year I also got fifth in the 18s. I just think my game fits pretty well on clay and I like playing on it."

Sah, who reached the quarterfinals of the 18s Nationals in Kalamazoo this year, has committed to Stanford for next fall.

"I tried not to worry about it on court, back when I was undecided," Sah said. "Now, it's like a big relief to have committed. I'm happy with my decision and now I can just focus on school and playing."

Eight qualifiers and a lucky loser played their first round matches on Tuesday, with five getting through.   Abigail Desiatnikov took the place of Shelly Krolitzky of Israel, who withdrew Tuesday morning with an injury. Desiatnikov faced Peyton Stearns, also a lucky loser, and Desiatnikov emerged with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Vanessa Ong, who knows something about a lucky loser's second chance, having made the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships this year after losing in the final round of qualifying, earned her entry the more conventional way in qualifying at the Eddie Herr. Today she defeated Georgia Drummy of Ireland 6-4, 6-2.

Imani Graham defeated Mihaela Marculescu of Romania 7-6(7), 7-6(5) and Victoria Emma beat Anhzelika Isaeva of Russia 6-3, 6-1.  The only girls seed to lose on Tuesday was No. 5 seed Yuki Naito of Japan, who went out to Salma Ewing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Ewing, who spent most of this month playing $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit hard court events in South Africa, said her two qualifying wins over the weekend helped her prepare for an encounter with an ITF Top 25 player like Naito.

"I hadn't really practiced on clay that much, like just one day before this," said the 16-year-old from Southern California. "So I felt like qualifying helped to get acclimated to the court, adjust to the different surface."

Ewing said she changed her court positioning after losing the first set.

"I stepped in, started hovering around the baseline, not standing back," Ewing said. "Once I stood back it opened the court for her and she has really good angles. When I stepped in, she didn't have those angles anymore and I started winning more points, so I told myself to keep doing that."

Down 2-0 in the third set, Ewing won four straight games, but lost her break serving at 4-3, with a disputed call on the baseline going in Naito's favor.  Ewing was determined not to let the loss of that point derail her and she broke Naito right back, using her backhand to maximum effect while Naito's backhand betrayed her.

"I told myself to imagine that the ball was out and think of it as the first point of the first set," Ewing said. "I told myself to stay calm and keep fighting, dig deep and don't give up. I tried to stay as positive as I could and it really helped."

Ewing went down 0-30 serving for the match, but she stayed aggressive and hit two winners to make it 30-all. Naito was unable to get a second serve return in play to give Ewing a match point, and Ewing took advantage, hitting an ace to seal the victory.

Ewing credits her mother Reyana, who is also her coach, with providing a simple mantra that works in the difficult situations that come up late in a match.

"She just tells me to do PFT: positive, footwork and towel," said Ewing. "Not to think about the outcome or anything, just positive, footwork and towel. And usually when I do all those things, I get the results."

Ewing will play Emma in Wednesday's second round, one of just two all-USA matches, with the other between Katya Townsend and Nicole Mossmer.  Of the 16 girls second round singles matches Wednesday, 14 will feature Americans.

Top seed Xiyu Wang of China advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over qualifier Jada Robinson.

Half of the boys seeds in doubles lost in Tuesday's first round, with No. 2 seeds Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan falling to Alexandre Rotsaert and Govind Nanda 3-6, 7-6(5), 10-7, and No. 4 seeds Shinji Hazawa and Naoki Tajima of Japan losing to Danny Thomas and Gianni Ross 6-4, 6-4.  Trent Bryde and Brian Cernoch, the No. 8 seeds, lost to Barnaby Smith and Max Stewart of Great Britain and No. 6 seeds Patrick Kypson and Oliver Crawford were beaten by Daniil Glinka and Kenneth Raisma of Estonia.

Only one seed lost in the first round of the girls doubles, with No. 3 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia and Daniela Vismane of Latvia losing to Morgan Coppoc and Victoria Emma 2-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Due to damp hard courts this morning after rain overnight, play was delayed in the younger divisions, and not all the first round doubles have been played.  The girls 16s division is a day behind now, with their second round matches scheduled for Wednesday. The other age groups will play their third round matches on Wednesday, with second round singles completed today. Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Monday, November 28, 2016

World No. 1 Kecmanovic Cruises to First Round Win at Eddie Herr ITF, but Eight Seeds Exit; Top Seeds in Boys 16s and Girls 12s Eliminated

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

Miomir Kecmanovic, the top seed at the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr, decided at the beginning of 2016 that reaching No. 1 in the world in the ITF Junior rankings was a goal he wanted to pursue before focusing on professional tennis. The 17-year-old Serbian, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, took over the top spot in the rankings earlier this month when he won the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano and he may not have any competition for the year-end title of World Junior Champion, despite needing to defend his points at the Grade A Orange Bowl next week.

By taking wild cards into the Grade A two weeks ago and last week's Grade 1 in Mexico, Kecmanovic had a chance to surpass then No. 1 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece with a title, and he also build a cushion in prior to his Orange Bowl defense.

"That was basically the thought process," said Kecmanovic. "I got the wild card a week before I went, so it turned out pretty good for me. Now I think it's a little easier coming into Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl."

Kecmanovic was initially expected to go head-to-head with Tsitsipas at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, where they met in the quarterfinals and finals respectively in 2015, but Tsitsipas withdrew from the Eddie Herr, and is not expected to play the Orange Bowl.

"He's still in (the entry list), but he said he's done for the season," Kecmanovic said. "It's not like him, because he usually plays every week possible. He posted it on Facebook, and I got on Facebook and I was like, yes."

In his 6-0, 6-1 victory today over No. 181 Siphosothando Montsi of South Africa, Kecmanovic had both a physical advantage and an experience advantage.  Although Montsi, like Kecmanovic, turned 17 recently, he would not have been out of place in the 14s draw, with his slight build.  Montsi has played and won events throughout Africa, but this is his first visit to North America, and he was simply overpowered by Kemanovic on most of the points.

"Physically he wasn't that ready," said Kecmanovic. "I had to be focused, stay in every point played as I normally would, to practice for the next round."

Kecmanovic will play another boy outside the Top 100 in Wednesday's second round, Great Britain's Max Stewart, who beat wild card Russell Benkaim 7-5, 6-2.

Of the 12 boys seeds who played first round matches on Monday, five lost, with four of them beaten by Americans.

Vasil Kirkov took out No. 4 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on the Academy Park courts, which are a tram ride away from the main site.  Earlier in the day at Academy Park, Patrick Kypson defeated No. 9 seed Dan Added of France 6-4, 6-1, with Ivan Lendl, who has served as a coaching consultant for several USTA boys, in attendance for the first part of the match.  Lendl then made his way to the main site to watch Sebastian Korda defeat No. 8 seed Toru Horie of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Govind Nanda  took out No. 10 seed Naoki Tajima of Japan 6-3, 6-3. The fifth seed to go out was No. 5 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal, who was beaten by Finn Bass of Great Britain 6-3, 6-0.

The other US boys advancing to Wednesday's second round are qualifier William Grant, No. 7 seed Sam Riffice, wild card Lukas Greif, who plays Korda next, No. 11 seed Trent Bryde and Danny Thomas.

The top two girls seeds, Xiyu Wang of China and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, have drawn qualifiers and will not play their first round matches until Tuesday.

No. 3 seed Ellie Douglas had her hands full with Emiliana Arango of Colombia, but the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano finalist came through with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory.

"I started out the first set well, but I had my problems in the second set," said the 16-year-old from Texas, who did not play last week's Grade 1 Yucatan Cup. "I relaxed a little bit and as soon as you do that everything kind of falls apart. So in the third set, I just had to regroup, stick to what I knew, keep swinging at the ball."

Douglas has had difficulties with double faulting late in matches, particularly in her last two finals, so she had to be pleased with her serving at 5-4 in the third set.  She made all six of her first serves, with a particularly good one earning her a free point at 15-30 and closed out her first match point with a well-executed forehand pass.

"That's my goal," Douglas said when asked about her serving in the final game. "It's always good to make a first serve and not put any pressure on the second. Coming up with a good serve at 15-30, so that helped a lot. First round is always a little tough, so I'm excited to get through that and on to the next round."

Douglas's opponent on Wednesday will be Anastasia Iamachkine of Peru, who was a semifinalist last week at the Yucatan Cup.

Of the 12 girls seeds in action Monday, three were beaten: No. 7 seed Natasha Subhash, No. 8 seed Malene Helgo of Norway and No. 13 seed Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico.  Subhash lost to Zhibek Kulambayeva of Kazakhstan 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, Helgo was beaten by Jimena Rodriguez-Benito 6-2, 6-1 and Portillo Ramirez fell to Nicole Mossmer 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3).

First round US girls winners in addition to Douglas, Rodriguez-Benito and Mossmer are: No. 14 seed Morgan Coppoc, Elysia Bolton, Katya Townsend, Ann Li, wild card Marlee Zein and Whitney Osuigwe. Carson Branstine, who won a tough three-setter over Helene Pellicano of Malta, is still technically playing for USA until her Canadian passport comes through.  My article on her move to Canada can be found here.

The doubles draws have been posted with Kecmanovic and No. 2 singles seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada the top boys seeds.  Oliver Crawford and Patrick Kypson are seeded No. 6 and Trent Bryde and Brian Cernoch are the No. 8 seeds.

Yuki Naito of Japan and Kiyu Wang of China are the top seeds in the girls doubles draw, with Douglas and Subhash the No. 2 seeds. Sofia Sewing and Portillo Ramirez of Mexico are the No. 7 seeds and Branstine and Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany are seeded No. 8.

First round matches in the girls 14s and girls 16s are still being played as of 8:00 p.m., but the No. 1 seeds in those divisions, Qinwen Zheng of China and Eun Ji Oh of Korea, are safely through.  Girls 12s top seed Katerina Dimitrova of Bulgaria was beaten by qualifier Daria Zykova of Russia 6-3, 6-2.

Boys 16s No. 1 seed Yeong Seok Jeong of Korea went out to wild card JanMagnus Johnson 7-5, 7-6(4). Top 14s seed Bu Yunchaokete of China and top 12s seed Victor Lilov both advanced with straight-sets victories.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

In Sunday's recap, I neglected to mention the results of last week's $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Nashville.  Twenty-four-year-old qualifier Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada defeated No. 1 seed Jennifer Elie 7-6(6), 6-4 for her second career singles title and first since 2014. Catherine Harrison and Madison Kobelt won the doubles title, with the No. 3 seeds beating unseeded Melissa Kopinski and Felicity Maltby 6-3, 6-0 in the final.

This week the men are in Waco Texas for a $25,000 Futures, with qualifying completed today.  TCU's Cameron Norrie of Great Britain is the No. 1 seed.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Creative Game; Eleven Americans Qualify at Eddie Herr ITF; Anisimova Wins Yucatan Grade 1; Bellis, Kozlov Take Titles in WTA, ATP Events

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

It was a big weekend for US teenagers, but before I get to all that news, I want to make sure you are aware of the article renowned tennis journalist Joel Drucker wrote for the Tennis Recruiting Network. Joel and I have conversations about the topics he addresses in this article when I run into him at the slams, and I'm glad I was successful in getting him to provide his thoughts to a wider audience. Anyone interested in tennis as a game for life needs to consider Joel's thoughts on what's missing in many junior development structures today.

The only tennis played today at the Eddie Herr were the second and final rounds of qualifying for the ITF Grade 1.  Four US boys and six US girls are among the qualifiers for the 64-player draws.

The ITF boys qualifiers:
Javier Rodriguez Sanchez, PER
Yusuf Khamis, EGY
William Grant, USA
Brian Shi, USA
Adrian Andreev, BUL
Harrison Brown, AUS
Sangeet Sridhar, USA
Timothy Sah, USA

Sridhar, seeded No. 7, had to play only two and a half sets to advance to the main draw in the second and final rounds of qualifying, with his opponent in the second round, Petros Tsitsipas of Greece, retiring down 4-1 in the first set.

Tsitsipas, younger brother of ITF No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas, took a nasty fall in the second game of the match and was nursing his elbow when he got up. He took a medical timeout, then continued playing for two more games, but he was not effective, and so chose to retire. Sridhar, 16, had a tough match in his final round of qualifying against No. 9 seed Simen Bratholm of Norway, but came through with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory.

Unlike many of the juniors playing the Eddie Herr ITF, Sridhar has not played on the ITF clay circuit the previous weeks, coming straight to Bradenton's IMG Academy from his home in Arizona.

"It's nice to play qualifying; I got some extra matches under my belt before I go into the main," Sridhar said. "It's good practice, if you make it through, and now the goal is to start winning matches in the main draw. I trained a couple of weeks and it's my first tournament for a while."

Fifteen-year-old William Grant is one of two unseeded qualifying players to make it to the main draw. Grant defeated No. 3 seed Carlos Sanchez Jover of Spain 6-1, 6-2 and No. 13 seed Sebastian Mermersky of Bulgaria 6-2, 7-6(2). He will have to beat Mermersky again in the main draw on Monday, after Mermersky received entry as a lucky loser.

Timothy Sah is the other unseeded American to advance. The Stanford recruit lost only 12 games in his three victories, and on Sunday he defeated Yuchen Wu of China 6-4, 6-0 and No. 8 seed Boris Kozlov 6-1, 6-3.

There are 23 US boys in the draw, with Sam Riffice(7), Trent Bryde(11), Gianni Ross(14) and Oliver Crawford(15) seeded.  World No. 1 Miomir Kecmanovic is the No. 1 seed.

The ITF girls quailfiers:
Victoria Emma, USA
Brindtha Ramasamy, CAN
Amanda Meyer, USA
Imani Graham, USA
Jada Robinson, USA
McCartney Kessler, USA
Salma Ewing, USA
Vanessa Ong, USA

The only unseeded qualifier to advance to the main draw is 17-year-old Jada Robinson, who beat Melissa Plambeck and No. 5 seed Malkia Menguene to advance to the main draw.  In three USA vs Canada matches, the USA won two, with No. 3 seed Amanda Meyer beating No. 14 seed Raphaelle Lacasse 7-6(1), 7-5 and No. 7 seed Salma Ewing defeating No. 11 seed Alexandra Tutecky 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.  The Canadian winner was No. 10 seed Brindtha Ramasamy, who defeated No. 2 seed Abigail Desiatnikov 6-2, 7-6(7) as the light began to fade.

Knowing a third set would not be completed Sunday, as there are no lights on the Har-Tru courts, Ramasamy had extra motivation to get the win in straight sets.

"I just wanted to finish," said the 15-year-old from Toronto, who couldn't convert on her first two match points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker. "I went for it, just went with my gut instead of being too safe, and I guess it worked."

Ramasamy's first round opponent on Tuesday will be Sofia Sewing.

There were two late withdrawals, with Elli Mandlik and Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia giving their spots in the main draw to lucky losers Peyton Stearns and Lacasse.

There are 28 US girls in the draw, with Ellie Douglas(3), Natasha Subhash(7) and Morgan Coppoc(14) seeded.  Xiyu Wang of China is the top seed.

Although the first round of the Eddie Herr ITF is split over two days, all the other age divisions will play their first rounds on Monday. Full draws are at the TennisLink site.

The top seeds:
Boys 16s: Yeong Seok Jeong, KOR
Boys 14s: Bu Yunchaokete, CHN
Boys 12s: Victor Lilov, USA

Girls 16s: Eun Ji Oh, KOR
Girls 14s: Qinwen Zheng, CHN
Girls 12s: Katerina Dimitrova, BUL

Top seed Amanda Anisimova won the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup last night in Merida, defeating No. 2 seed Jodie Burrage of Great Britain 6-1, 6-2 in the final. No. 7 seed Gabriel Decamps of Brazil won the boys title, defeating No. 2 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final. Burrage is the only Yucatan singles finalist competing in the Eddie Herr this week.

The boys doubles title went to Oliel and Andrew Fenty, the No. 6 seeds. They defeated unseeded William Woodall and Brian Cernoch 6-4, 2-6, 10-8 in the final. Oliel and Fenty also won the doubles championship last week at the Grade A in Mexico City. Unseeded Sada Nahimana of Burundi and Maileen Nuudi of Estonia won the Yucatan girls doubles title with a 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 decision over No. 2 seeds Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Sofia Sewing.

Eighteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov closed out the 2016 ATP Challenger season in style, claiming the the $75,000 Columbus Challenger title with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 decision over No. 6 seed Tennys Sandgren. Kozlov, the No. 4 seed, had lost in his previous three appearances in an ATP Challenger final. He will move inside the ATP Top 120 with the title.

The ATP website has more on the amazing 2016 run by American teenagers in Challengers (which includes three titles in the last four weeks).

Former University of Memphis standouts Joe Salisbury of Great Britain and David O'Hare of Ireland, seeded fourth, won the doubles title in Columbus, beating Great Britain's Luke Bambridge and Cameron Norrie, the latter a junior at TCU, 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

The year's last event on the WTA's 2016 calendar came to close this evening in Hawaii, where 17-year-old CiCi Bellis, seeded fourth, captured the Hawaii Open title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over top seed Shuai Zhang of China. The title at the WTA 125 level tournament is Bellis's third straight, coming after two consecutive $50K titles in Canada.  The 27-year-old Zhang, a wild card into the tournament, is currently 23 in the WTA rankings.  With the title, Bellis will move to around 75 in the WTA rankings.

For more on Bellis's title see the WTA website.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Qualifying Complete for 12s, 14s, 16s at Eddie Herr; Branstine's Switch to Canada Imminent; Anisimova Reaches Grade 1 Yucatan Final

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

The final round of qualifying was completed today for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr International Championships at IMG Academy.  Eight players in each division earned their places in the main draw, which begins Monday.

Boys 16s qualifiers:
Ivan Yatsuk, USA
Jackson Ross, USA
Harry Cacciatore, USA
Heman Nama, IND
Jose Galvez, USA
Liam Draxl, CAN
Maxwell Benson, USA
Patrick Sebastian, USA

Boys 14s qualifiers:
Aaron Cohen, ISR
Joshua Miller, USA
Saud Alhogbani, USA
Ryota Kaneda, JPN
Sebastian Gima, ROU
Filipe Costa, USA
Daniel Webb, GBR
Niroop Vallabhaneni, USA

Boys 12s qualifiers:
Gunuk Kang, KOR
Luka Butera, USA
Henry Ren, CAN
Nemanja Stefanovic, CAN
Leanid Boika, USA
Peter Anastasakis, USA
Jayson Mbogoro, KEN
Minseong Kim, KOR

Girls 16s qualifiers:
Saki Oyama, JPN
Elizabeth Verizova, USA
Elvina Kalieva, USA
Ali Despain, USA
Harris Caldwell, USA
Kiana Rizzolo, USA
Rosie Dickson, USA
Nina Gulbransen, USA

Girls 14s qualifiers:
Lisa Pigato, ITA
Zhenghui Tian, USA
Ayshe Can, USA
Leena Bennetto, CAN
Roopa Bains, AUS
Abigail Renchell, USA
Anna Babayan, USA
Matilde Paoletti, ITA

Girls 12s qualifiers:
Sophia Wang, USA
Alexia Harmon, USA
Sarah Liu, CAN
Ava Grnja, USA
Stefanya Shalakhova, KAZ
Daria Zykova, RUS
Sayaka Ishii, JPN
Polina Yatsenko, USA

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

The first round of the qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 was completed today, with two rounds scheduled for Sunday.  All but one of the 16 boys seeds advanced to the second round, with No. 15 Lucca Takeda Baptista of Brazil falling to Timothy Sah 6-3, 6-1.

The top 10 seeds in the girls qualifying didn't play today, but of the six seeds that did play, three lost, with Katarina Drazic of Serbia defeating No. 16 seed Savannah Williams 7-5, 6-1, Jada Robinson beating No. 13 seed Ruoyu Chen of China 6-4, 6-2 and Mya Bui of Canada downing No. 15 seed Camille Townsend.

To clarify some of the wild card information in yesterday's post, after talking with the tournament referee, Gabrielle Goldin did not get a main draw wild card, but played qualifying today. Lea Ma used her wild card, with Anhzelika Isaeva of Russia moving into the main draw with Amanda Anisimova's withdrawal, and Katya Townsend avoiding qualifying due to the use of just one of the two special exemptions available.  Maileen Nuudi of Estonia, who is in the Yucatan doubles final tonight, received the sole special exemption.

Three late withdrawals from the boys draw, one after the qualifying draw was made, means four players moved into the main draw and there will be a lucky loser.  There are no special exemptions into the boys main draw.  Yibing Wu of China, Yshai Oliel of Israel and Rudolph Molleker of Germany are out, so Kristjan Tamm of Estonia, Ray Ho of Taiwan, Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic and Keenan Mayo moved into the main draw. With Ho moving into the main draw, Diaki Yoshimura received Ho's previously announced wild card.

While I was watching the last few matches of the ITF qualifying this afternoon, Carson Branstine arrived for a practice session, and I took the opportunity to talk to her about her decision to represent Canada going forward.

The 16-year-old Southern Californian said she first began to consider her option of representing Canada back in February, after she defeated Canadian Carol Zhao, Stanford's 2015 NCAA singles finalist, in the first round of qualifying at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe.

"That was kind of how I met them," Branstine said of her first encounter with TennisCanada. "I talked to the coaches and I really liked them, so I said, hey, my mom's Canadian and I do have that option to play with them, so maybe I'll try it out and go up there."

"Basically, after US Open (where she reached the quarterfinals of the junior championships), I went up there a few weeks later and kind of fell in love with it. I just felt like in my heart, it was the right thing to do."

Branstine's family is staying in California, and Branstine intends to spend half of her time at the National Centre in Montreal, and the other half in Southern California.

"I'll be staying with a housing family up in Montreal and that's where I'll be a lot of the time. I still have my private coach in California that I want to work with."

"Tennis Canada seemed like it was a better fit when it came to schedule, funding and everything else. They're very organized with what tournaments I'm going to play, and when I'm going to have training blocks, which really works for me. I like having things planned ahead of time, and that's what they're about. That's one of the main reasons I fit in there."

Branstine is expecting to receive her Canadian passport "anytime now. It's definitely a long process to get everything set, but it's a good process and everything's going smoothly."

Branstine said her mother's country has always been a part of her life.

"We still have a lot of family in the Toronto area," said Branstine, who is the cousin of Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. "Because my mom grew up there, she talked very highly of the country and the area and it's beautiful. I love Canada and I feel at home when I'm there."

The winter in Canada will not feel like home, but Branstine is looking forward to experiencing a climate different from the one she has always known.

"I usually wear shorts and a shirt on Christmas Day," Branstine said. "I'll definitely feel the seasons, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm not going to have to be in it too much, because I will be going to Australia in January. I'll feel the winter in February, but I'm kind of excited. I've seen snow three times in my life, so it's going to be fun. I'm excited to experience new things."

Branstine will be working with TennisCanada's Ralph Platz, who is currently traveling with her, and Simon Larose.

The finals of the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup are late tonight, with No. 2 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel taking on No. 7 seed Gabriel Decamps of Brazil in the boys final, and No. 1 seed Amanda Anisimova facing No. 2 seed Jodie Burrage of Great Britain in the girls championship match.

No. 6 seeds Andrew Fenty and Oliel, who won last week's Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, will play unseeded William Woodall and Brian Cernoch for a second straight doubles title.

Sofia Sewing, playing this week with Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico, reached the girls doubles finals, facing Nuudi and Sada Nahimana of Burundi.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Eddie Herr: My Preview, Qualifying Begins Saturday for ITF; World No. 1 Kecmanovic Falls in Yucatan Cup Quarterfinals

Right before Thanksgiving I wrote this preview of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr for the Tennis Recruiting Network, which was published yesterday.

While I was preparing it, Amanda Anisimova, who is playing her semifinal match at the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup tonight, withdrew.  And late yesterday, Miomir Kecmanovic, who took over the top spot in the ITF boys rankings with his title at the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano on Sunday, lost in the quarterfinals to No. 7 seed Gabriel DeCamps of Brazil 6-3, 0-6 ,6-4. That added a rare loss to the 17-year-old Serbian's junior record since August, which is now 25-3.  Kecmanovic, who took a wild card for the two Mexico events, trains at the IMG Academy, and is entered in the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl.

The most recent list of ITF main wild cards I received is as follows:

Evelyn Tiron
Carolyn Campana
Catherine Xu
Lea Ma( I believe she moved into main draw and her wild card was distributed to Gabriela Goldin)
Chloe Hamlin
Marlee Zein
Sanyukta Gawande
Meredith Jones

Andy Andrade
Manuel Alencar
Filip Ianu
Lukas Greif
Jason Legall
Russell Benkaim
Drew Baird
Ray Ho(moved into main draw, not sure who took his wild card)

Qualifying draws are out, and while the boys draw is a full 64 players, the girls draw is not.  I know qualifying begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, but I do not have a link to the order of play.

Qualifying will be completed on Saturday for the 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions. Those draws can be found on the tournament's TennisLink site.

The weather forecast is excellent for the next five days, with temperatures in the low 80s and little chance of rain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving; Eddie Herr 12s, 14s, 16s Qualifying Draws; Junior Orange Bowl Acceptances; UVA Plans New Tennis Facility; Crowd Funding for Junior Tennis Player Refugee

photo by Tim Mossholder, via Unsplash.com

Today's post is early, so I can enjoy the Thanksgiving with my family, and I will not be posting on Thursday, but check Tuesday's post for links to the USTA Pro Circuit events that are not taking the week off for the holiday. I'm thankful for your readership and the opportunity I have to cover the sport I love, and it's always important to take a moment to reflect on what we all have to be thankful for.

Beginning Friday, I'll be starting 25 straight days of on-site coverage of junior tennis (I'm exhausted just thinking about it), starting with the Eddie Herr, then the Metropolia Orange Bowl and the Junior Orange Bowl.  Qualifying started today for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr, and draws can be found here.  Acceptances for the Junior Orange Bowl, which is for U12 and U14 players, were recently posted here.

The University of Virginia will be building a new 12-court outdoor tennis facility at Boar's Head Sports Club, where their current indoor facilities are located, according to this report from the Daily Progress. No dates as to when this construction might be started or completed are given in the article.

And, as we celebrate our gratitude for all that we have, it's an appropriate time to consider the hardships encountered by junior tennis player Oleksandra "Sashka" Oliynykova in her young life. A refugee from Ukraine, now representing Croatia, Oliynykova is seeking funds to continue playing the ITF Junior Circuit. For her story, and how you can help, see this website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NYT Feature on Korea's Remarkable Lee Duck-hee; Cako Downs Gibbs at WTA Event in Hawaii; Mateas Among Qualifiers at Nashville $25K; Hamlin, Mayo and Schachter Oust Seeds in Yucatan Grade 1

Ben Rothenberg has written a terrific in-depth feature article on 18-year-old Lee Duck-hee for the New York Times. Back in 2010, Lee won the Eddie Herr 12s championship, beating Michael Mmoh in the final and I was still trying to comprehend how he could possibly compete at that level when he was deaf.  As he continued to excel in juniors that sense of amazement never left me, and Rothenberg explains not only how Lee developed into the player he is (currently 143 in the ATP rankings) but the ways in which sound matters in tennis and how a lack of it may be compensated for in others way.

At the $75,000 Columbus Challenger today, Ohio State recruit John McNally picked up his first win at that level, defeating fellow wild card Herkko Pollanen, a senior at Ohio State, 6-1, 6-3.  Top seed Taylor Fritz defeated Ohio State junior Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, who won the previous Challenger this fall in Columbus, 7-6(3), 6-1 and No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov downed Jose Statham of New Zealand 6-2, 7-6(6).

The WTA's $125,000 event in Hawaii is underway, with Stanford recruit Michaela Gordon one of just two qualifiers. She will play No. 6 seed Evgenyia Rodina of Russia in the first round Wednesday. Nicole Gibbs, the No. 2 seed, was beaten in the first round by former Arizona State star Jacqueline Cako 6-3, 7-5 and Sachia Vickery took out No. 3 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5 6-2.  Other US winners today were Danielle Collins, Samantha Crawford(8), Asia Muhammad and Jamie Loeb. Loeb defeated wild card Ingrid Neel 6-2, 6-4.  Usue Arconada received a wild card, and two other juniors who received wild cards, Katie Swan of Great Britain and Fanny Stollar of Hungary play each other in Wednesday's first round.

Qualifying was completed today at the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Nashville, with 17-year-old Maria Mateas among those advancing to the main draw.  The other US women to qualify are Brianna Morgan(Florida), Andie Daniell(Alabama) and Catherine Harrison (UCLA). Jennifer Elie is the top seed and 2014 US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in the No. 2 seed. Wild cards were given to Vanderbilt's Sydney Campbell and Astra Sharma, as well as Ally Bojczuk and Jeannez Daniell.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Yucatan, seven US girls are into the third round, including top seed Amanda Anisimova, who needed to come back from a set down to beat Jule Niemeier of Germany.  Chloe Hamlin defeated No. 5 seed Malene Helgo of Norway 6-2, 6-2 and will next face No. 11 seed Carson Branstine, who outlasted Alexa Noel 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-4.

Three US boys have advanced to the third round: No. 16 seed Alafia Ayeni, Keenan Mayo and qualifier Noah Schachter.  Mayo took out No. 15 seed Alan Rubio Fierros of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 and Schachter ousted No. 15 seed Finn Bass of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Alison Ojeda Named Head Coach at Tennessee; Columbus Challenger Underway; Sixteen US Girls Reach Second Round at ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup

I'm en route to Florida for my annual onsite coverage of the Eddie Herr, Metropolia Orange Bowl and Junior Orange Bowl, so most of this week's posts will be brief, and I will take a break on Thanksgiving.

The University of Tennessee announced today that former Volunteer All-American Alison Ojeda will head the women's program in Knoxville, replacing Mike Patrick, who retired last week.  Ojeda, who spent six years as an assistant/associate head coach at Baylor, returned to her alma mater this June. See the Tennessee website for more on Ojeda's background. A video of her press conference is also available there.

The inaugural $75,000 ATP Challenger in Columbus is underway, with qualifying completed today as well as four first round matches.  Three of the qualifiers are current collegians, with Northwestern senior Strong Kircheimer, Virginia senior JC Aragone, Illinois junior Aron Hiltzik and former Ohio State standout Hunter Callahan earning a spot in the main draw.  A lucky loser will also get into the main draw with the withdrawal of No. 2 seed Rajeev Ram, who lost in the ATP World Tour Finals doubles championship Sunday.

In today's first round action, former Tulane All-American Dominik Koepfer of Germany beat Marcos Giron, Dennis Nevolo defeated fellow Illinois alum Jared Hiltzik, Georgia Tech's Kevin King, an alternate, beat wild card Martin Joyce and Christian Harrison got the better of No. 7 seed Austin Krajicek 6-2, 7-5. I spoke briefly to King at the Champaign Challenger, where he was among Chris Eubanks' most vocal supporters, and the 25-year-old left-hander told me after recovering from hip surgeries and serving as a volunteer assistant at Georgia Tech, he was committed to rejoining the tour full time in 2017.

Taylor Fritz, who has not played a Challenger match since April, is the top seed.

Following the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup results has always been a challenge with some of the matches scheduled to be played at 9 or 10 p.m., on courts that have seven or eight matches to be completed before those matches begin. But I think all the US girls have finished their first round matches today, with 16 of them reaching the round of 32. No. 4 seed and Mexico City Grade A champion Taylor Johnson has withdrawn.

Top seed Amanda Anisimova, No. 8 seed Sofia Sewing and No. 15 seed Dalayana Hewitt advanced, as did Amanda Meyer, Elysia Bolton, Hailey Baptiste, Ann Li, lucky loser Victoria Flores, Carson Branstine, Alexa Noel, Chloe Hamlin, Kacie Harvey, Nicole Mossmer, Malkia Menguene and Vanessa Ong.  Qualifier Peyton Stearns defeated No. 7 seed Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

US boys advancing to the second round include qualifiers Caleb Chakravarthi and Noah Schachter, Keenan Mayo, Axel Nefve and No. 10 seed Trent Bryde.

The tournament website is here, with links to live streaming and live scoring, but I couldn't get either to work for me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Johnson Defeats Douglas to Claim Girls Championship, Kecmanovic Takes Boys Title and ITF No. 1 Ranking at Mexico City Grade A; Grade 1 Yucatan Cup Features 41 Americans

Eighth seed Taylor Johnson won her first Grade A title Sunday in the all-US girls final at the ITF's Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, defeating No. 11 seed Ellie Douglas 6-2 2-6, 6-4.

The 16-year-old left-hander from Redondo Beach California took advantage of Douglas's serving problems in the opening set, with Douglas double faulting on game point to give Johnson a 4-2 lead. After Johnson held for 5-2, Douglas went down 15-40, and although she saved one set point, she double faulted on the second to hand the set to Johnson.

Douglas came out strong in the second set, forcing Johnson to save four break points in the opening game, which lasted 14 minutes, although Johnson did hold. Douglas, a 16-year-old right-hander from McKinney Texas got her first break of the match to take 4-2 lead, and Johnson was broken in her next service game, taking a page from Douglas's book by double faulting at 15-40.  Douglas closed out the set with no difficulty and broke Johnson to open the third set, taking a 2-0 lead. With six games in a row, Douglas looked to be ready to put Johnson away, but Johnson displayed little negative emotion and she got the break back for 2-2.  Johnson saved three break points at 2-2, with her touch at the net a key factor, and she broke Douglas for a 4-2 lead with some luck from the net cord.

Johnson went up 5-2, but Douglas held and broke, with Johnson, who did not earn a match point in the 5-3 game, showing some nerves with three netted forehands. Douglas started out the final game poorly, double faulting for 0-30 and at 30-40 she double faulted, giving Johnson the title.

Johnson's previous best result at the ITF level was the Grade 1 Copa Barranquilla title in Colombia back in January, also on clay.

A replay of the girls final can be found here.

The boys title went to top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who continued the domination he displayed all week, defeating No. 10 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal 6-3, 6-0.  The IMG-trained Kecmanovic, who lost only 27 games in his six victories, will overtake Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece for the top spot in next week's ITF junior rankings.

Kecmanovic, the 2015 Metropolia Orange Bowl champion and the US Open boys finalist, was a wild card in Mexico City, and he took a wild card into the coming week's ITF Grade 1 in Yucatan. Tsitsipas has withdrawn from the Grade 1 Eddie Herr in two weeks, but is still entered in the Orange Bowl where he was a finalist last year. Kecmanovic is still in both the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, and titles in the next two Grade 1s would give him a nice cushion before defending his title in Plantation.

A replay of the boys final can be found here.

The qualifying is complete at the Yucatan Cup, and as was the case in Mexico City, there are huge numbers of American juniors in both the girls and boys draws.  After Imani Graham, Jennifer Gadalov, Peyton Stearns and Zoe Hitt made it through qualifying and Victoria Flores received entry as a lucky loser, there are 22 US girls in the draw, a number which includes soon-to-be-Canadian Carson Branstine. Amanda Anisimova is the top seed, Taylor Johnson is seeded No. 4, Sofia Sewing is No. 8 and Daylana Hewitt is No. 15.

All eight of the boys qualifiers are from the US: Caleb Chakravarthi, Tomas Kopczynski, Trey Hilderbrand, Ronan Jachuck, Noah Schachter, Timothy Sah, Ryan Goetz and Joshua Bode.  Seeded American boys are Trent Bryde(10) and Alafia Ayeni(16).  In all, there are 19 US boys in the draw.

Kecmanovic is the top seed in the boys draw, of course.

Both the singles and doubles final were played today at the $10,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, with Gianni Mina of France, the No. 2 seed, winning his second consecutive title in the Florida Panhandle.  Mina defeated unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

In the doubles final, No. 2 seeds Dominic Cotrone and Robert Galloway defeated University of West Florida wild cards Pedro Dumont of Brazil and Alexandre Peyrot of France 7-5, 6-3.

Bobby Knight has a full rundown of all the current and former collegiate players' results at College Tennis Today.  Most notable of these results is the ATP World Tour Finals championship for former Middle Tennessee State and Baylor star John Peers of Australia, who won his biggest career title with Henri Kontinen of Finland.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Johnson and Douglas Meet for Grade A Title in Mexico City with McNally, Subhash and Fenty Claiming Doubles Championships; Grant and Malik Win Grade 5 Titles; More Early Signing Announcements

Sixteen-year-olds Taylor Johnson and Ellie Douglas advanced to the finals of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano today in Mexico City.

The eighth-seeded Johnson ousted No. 3 seed and defending champion Amanda Anisimova 7-5, 7-6(5), refusing to succumb to frustration after her 5-1 first set lead and 4-2 second set lead disappeared.  Johnson had a set point at 5-1 and another with Anisimova serving at 2-5, but unforced errors cost her, with Anisimova eventually pulling even at 5-all. Johnson had an easy hold to go up 6-5, and two more set points at 15-40, missing the third, but finally converting on the fourth with an aggressive backhand, followed by a drop shot that Anisimova couldn't track down.

Up 4-2 in the second set, Johnson lost three straight games, but Anisimova was able to close out the set serving at 5-4, with unforced errors proving her undoing.  Both players held for the tiebreaker, and again Johnson took a lead, going up 6-2, only to commit three unforced errors in a row.  Johnson didn't get her first serve in at 6-5, but she did make the second and Anisimova netted a routine backhand to end the match.

Interviewed after the match, played in what was apparently cold and damp conditions, Johnson said she had been injured after the US Open Junior Championships, which is why she didn't play any other junior events this fall.

A replay of the semifinal is available here.

Douglas's 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Claire Liu was not streamed, but if interpreting the live scoring, the final set was tense, with Liu coming from a break down to get back on serve at 3-4, only to drop her serve in that game.  Douglas, the No. 11 seed, closed out the win without further drama and she and Johnson will meet for the first time in ITF junior competition in the first Grade A final for both of them.

The boys final will feature top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and No. 10 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal(see below).  Kecmanovic, who has not lost more than four games in any of his five victories, defeated No. 11 seed Zsombor Piros of Hungary 6-4, 6-2.  Vale, who had played three consecutive three-setters, defeated unseeded Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi of Argentina 6-4, 6-4.  Vale and Kecmanovic met last year in the second round of the Eddie Herr, with Kecmanovic earning a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

In today's doubles championships, No. 4 seeds Caty McNally and Natasha Subhash captured the girls title, beating No. 3 seeds Malene Helgo of Norway and Claire Liu 6-2, 6-4.  The girls doubles final can be viewed here.

The boys doubles championship went to Yshai Oliel of Israel and Andrew Fenty.  The No. 7 seeds defeated unseeded Boris Kozlov and Karl Poling 6-4, 6-3.  The boys doubles final can be viewed here.

The girls final is scheduled for noon Eastern time on Sunday. Links to live scoring and live streaming can be found at the tournament website, which also features the always amusing sombrero photos of doubles winners McNally and Subhash.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Anguilla, 15-year-old William Grant and 14-year-old Tara Malik earned titles today. Top seed Grant defeated No. 2 seed Rafael Grovas of Puerto Rico 6-4, 0-6, 6-2 for his first ITF title. Malik, who didn't lose a set in her four wins, blanked top seed Dakota Fordham 6-0, 6-0 for her first ITF title.  Fordham and Jenna Dean won the doubles title, taking a 6-1, 6-2 decision over No. 2 seeds Renata Lombera of Mexico and Maria McKay, but the top seeds only had to win two matches to do so, with just six teams in the draw.

Both of the young Americans competing in the semifinals of the $10,000 Pensacola Futures lost, with wild card Patrick Kypson falling to unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 6-3, 6-3 and No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov beaten by No. 2 seed Gianni Mina of France 6-2, 6-3.

At the $50,000 Champaign Challenger, No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland defended his title, defeating No. 6 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-5, 6-3.  The doubles title went to unseeded Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren, who defeated unseeded Luke Bambridge and Liam Broady 7-6(4), 7-6(2).

I've collected quite a few early signing announcements since November 11, when I last posted on the topic, although there are many more still to come, I'm sure.  Bobby Knight at College Tennis Today has updated his list of signings here.  My first post with links to announcements, on the official signing day, Wednesday November 9, can be found here.

In coaching news, Tennessee's Mike Patrick is retiring after 30 years heading up the women's program in Knoxville. Additional information, including a video interview with Patrick, can be found at the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Alabama has signed Edson Ortiz, Zhe Zhou, Sam Fischer and Grant Stuckey, with Ortiz and Zhou starting in January.

Baylor has signed Roy Smith.

Clemson has signed Chambers Easterling, Beau Pelletier, William Van Gelderen and Carlos Kelaidis

Denver has signed Matt Summers and Eric Morris

Duke has signed Sean Sculley.

Florida has signed Andy Andrade, Oliver Crawford and Duarte Vale.

Illinois has signed Alex Brown, Caleb Chakravarthi, Mac Kiger and Fletcher Scott.

Indiana has signed Andrew Redding and Brandon Lam.

Iowa has signed Will Davies and Joe Tyler.

Kentucky has signed Kento Yamada.

Michigan has signed Teddy Oosterbaan.

Mississippi State has signed Florian Broska and Hunter Harrison.

North Carolina State has signed Morgan Lohan.

Ohio State has signed John McNally and JJ Wolf.

Oklahoma State has signed Luke Hammond and Thomas Unia.

Pepperdine has signed Max Mendelsohn.

Rice has signed Jacob Eskeland and Mohamed Abdel-Aziz.

San Diego has signed Alex Reyna.

TCU has signed Alistair Gray.

Washington has signed Jack Davis and Alexis Alvarez Varas.

Wisconsin has signed Robert Krill.

Arizona State has signed Lauryn John-Baptiste and Saša Klanecek.

Duke has signed Kelly Chen and Ema Lazic.

Florida State has signed Lucie Prochazkova.

Fresno State has signed Alessia Dario.

Georgia Tech has signed Ida Jarlskog.

Michigan State has signed Ava Thielman and Sara Kuuttila 

Mississippi State has signed Magdalini Adaloglou.

North Carolina has signed Alexandra Sanford.

North Carolina State has signed Taylor Bridges.

Rice has signed Michaela Haet.

SMU has signed Nicole Petchey.

South Carolina has signed Megan Davies and Nikolina Jovic.

Texas has signed Marta Perez.

Texas A&M has signed Tatiana Makarova.

USC has signed Sydney Van Alphen.

Wake Forest has signed Eliza Omirou.

Washington has signed Katarina Kopcalic and Lana Slavica, with Aleix Prokopuik transferring from Georgia Tech.

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Interview with Bradley Klahn; Four US Girls Reach ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano Semifinals; Kypson Advances to Final Four in Pensacola $10K; Donaldson, Eubanks Fall in Champaign Semifinals

I had an opportunity to sit down with Bradley Klahn earlier this week at the Champaign Challenger, where he was making his first competitive appearance after 21 months away from the game due to injury. He was firm in maintaining he had no expectations and no motive other than match play this week, but I thought his five wins, three in qualifying and two in the main draw, were remarkable. My interview with the 26-year-old Stanford graduate, who reached No. 63 in the ATP rankings prior to his back problems, can be found at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

With six US girls in the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, the numbers were on their side, and when the red clay dust had settled, four of them--Claire Liu, Amanda Anisimova, Ellie Douglas and Taylor Johnson--had reached the quarterfinals.  Although all are seeded, the surprise semifinalist was No. 11 seed Douglas, who defeated No. 2 seed Kayla Day 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.  Day, the US Open girls champion, had not lost a junior match since the semifinals of Wimbledon, a stretch of 22 straight wins, and she had beaten Douglas 6-1, 6-4 in the final of Day's last junior tournament, at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed.

Day's attempt to catch Anastasia Potapova of Russia for the ITF's year-end World Junior Champion title was dealt a blow with the loss, as she is not entered in next week's Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, where she is the defending champion, nor in the Grade 1 Eddie Herr the following week. She and Potapova are still entered in the Metropolia Orange Bowl, the last ITF junior major of 2016.

Douglas will face No. 4 seed Claire Liu, who defeated No. 7 seed Emily Appleton of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in the only girls quarterfinal match decided in straight sets. Douglas and Liu, both 16, have not played in ITF junior competition.

Defending champion Amanda Anisimova, the No. 3 seed, won the final five games of the match to defeat No. 9 seed Caty McNally 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.  McNally struggled with double faults throughout the match, and while Anisimova didn't look like the same player who had lost only five games in her three previous matches, the 15-year-old Floridian didn't panic down 3-1 in the third and took the opportunities McNally gave her.  Anisimova's semifinal opponent is No. 8 seed Taylor Johnson, who defeated unseeded Sofia Munera Sanchez of Colombia 6-7(0), 6-4, 6-3 to reach her first Grade A semifinal.  The 16-year-old Johnson and Anisimova have played only once in ITF junior competition, back in 2014, with Anisimova winning in straight sets; they also played twice in the 12s, with Anisimova taking both decisions.

The only US boy to reach the quarterfinals, unseeded Sebastian Korda, lost to No. 1 seed Zsombor Piros of Hungary 6-3, 6-2. Piros will face top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who defeated No. 6 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany 6-1, 6-3.  Kecmanovic took a wild card into the tournament in pursuit of the ITF No. 1 junior ranking, and by my (less than confident) calculations, he will overtake Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece if he takes the title. But because both are entered at the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, that race is far from over.

The No. 2 seed in the boys draw also was eliminated today, with University of Florida recruit Duarte Vale of Portugal, seeded No. 10, defeating Canada's Benjamin Sigouin 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6).  Vale will play unseeded Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi, who defeated fellow Argentinian Tomas Etcheverry, the No. 7 seed, 6-3, 6-2. The 17-year-old Grassi Mazzuchi, ranked 156, is definitely having a breakout tournament, as his previous best ITF junior result is a Grade 3 title earlier this month in Bolivia and he has no ATP ranking.

Links for live scoring and live streaming can be found at the tournament website.

Seventeen-year-old Patrick Kypson had never reached a Futures quarterfinal before yesterday, but he is now in the semifinals of the $10,000 Pensacola Futures.  Kypson outlasted No. 5 seed Winston Lin, the former Columbia All-American,  6-7(8), 7-6(4), 6-1 in a match that lasted three hours and 20 minutes.  Kypson will face unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, who downed No. 4 seed Wil Spencer 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

TCU sophomore Alex Rybakov, seeded No. 7, defeated No. 3 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 6-1, 6-4 and will play No. 2 seed Gianni Mina of France, who beat No. 6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada 7-6(3), 6-4.

At the $50,000 ATP Challenger in Champaign Illinois, top seed Jared Donaldson was beaten by No. 6 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(1), 6-3, which eliminated Donaldson from any chance at the USTA's Australian Open wild card.  The ATP had stated that Donaldson would be in the main draw on his own ranking if he won the title, so Michael Mmoh was announced yesterday as the winner of the wild card, but the USTA didn't make the official announcement until after Donaldson's loss today.

Tonight's semifinal match between defending champion and No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland and Chris Eubanks was a good one, with Laaksonen coming from 3-0 down in the final set to take a 7-6(3), 6-7(6), 6-4 decision over the Georgia Tech junior.  Eubanks was down a break in each of the first two sets, but his serve and big hitting were often too much for the ATP 135th-ranked player. Eubanks had the tables turned on him after taking that one-break lead in the third, and shortly after Laaksonen took a medical timeout for attention to his ankle, Eubanks lost his break.  At 4-4, Eubanks took a medical timeout for an issue with his right eye, and he was broken in the next game. After double faulting on his first match point, Laaksonen converted his second to book his place in Saturday's final.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Six US Girls Reach Abierto Juvenil Grade A Quarterfinals; Master'U Collegiate Team Announced; Kypson Beats Top Seed in Pensacola Futures; Mmoh Withdraws from Champaign

Between rain delays in Mexico City and my trip to the Champaign Challenger, it's been hard to keep track of what's been happening at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil, but the girls quarterfinals are now set, with six Americans in the final eight, including defending champion Amanda Anisimova and Kayla Day.

The US had 26 of the 64 entrants in the girls singles, and all four Americans seeded to do so reached the quarterfinals.  No. 8 seed Taylor Johnson will play the only unseeded girl, Sofia Munera Sanchez of Columbia, while No. 4 seed Claire Liu faces No. 7 seed Emily Appleton of Great Britain.  The other two quarterfinals will be all-American affairs, with No. 3 seed Anisimova facing No. 9 seed Caty McNally, and No. 2 seed Kayla Day playing No. 11 seed Ellie Douglas in a rematch of last month's Pan American Closed final.

The only US boy to advance to the quarterfinals is unseeded Sebastian Korda, who will play No. 11 seed Zsombor Piros of Hungary.

The tournament website has updated draws and Friday's order of play, as well as current news articles, including one on Anisimova, who has lost only five games in her three victories. Links to live scoring and live streaming can also be found there.

On Tuesday, the USTA announced the US team for the Master'U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition held annually in France. This year the event is scheduled for December 1-4, and once again the US, which has won five consecutive titles and six of the last seven, is sending a strong team: Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State, Hayley Carter of North Carolina, Ena Shibahara of UCLA, Tom Fawcett of Stanford, Strong Kirchheimer of Northwestern and Chris Eubanks of Georgia Tech.  The other seven teams in the competition this year are Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia.

At the $10,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, 17-year-old wild card Patrick Kypson advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over top seed Maxime Chazal of France.  Kypson's opponent Friday in his first Futures quarterfinal will be No. 5 seed Winston Lin, the former Columbia All-American. No. 4 seed Wil Spencer and No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov are the other two Americans in the quarterfinals.  US Open junior champion Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, seeded No. 6, has also reached the quarterfinals.

News from the $50,000 ATP Champaign Challenger today was what I had feared it might be, with Michael Mmoh, who suffered a wrist injury in a fall late in his second round win over Stefan Kozlov yesterday, giving Chris Eubanks a walkover. I hope, after he clinched the Australian Open main draw wild card last night, Mmoh was just erring on the side of caution and he will be ready for his second straight slam appearance in Melbourne.

Top seed Jared Donaldson's quest to return to the top 100 continued, with the 20-year-old beating qualifier Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-4 to end Klahn's impressive return after 21 months out with injury. Donaldson will play No. 6 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium, who advanced to the semifinals when Brian Baker retired trailing 6-3, 1-0.

Eubanks's semifinal opponent will be defending champion and No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who beat qualifier Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-2 in the night match.

I asked Eubanks yesterday if he was playing in next week's $75,000 Challenger in Columbus, and this is what he said:

"I've missed a lot of school and especially with Master'U coming up, I can't afford to. I would love to, I honestly would, and it would be a great opportunity, but I have some very nice professors and I don't want to take their generosity for granted. I figure I better get back in the classroom and at least make it look like I'm trying."

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mmoh Clinches Australian Open Wild Card with Giron's Win Over Opelka; Donaldson, Klahn, Baker and Eubanks Also Advance to Quarterfinals at Champaign Challenger

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Champaign, IL--

I've returned from my quick trip to the $50,000 ATP Champaign Challenger and unlike last year, when the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge went down to the final match there, this year it was decided today in Michael Mmoh's favor, when he beat No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-1, 6-4 and Reilly Opelka lost to qualifier Marcos Giron 6-2, 7-6(4).

Mmoh's win over Kozlov was not as easy as the score would indicate, although the first set was similar in dominance to Mmoh's 6-0, 6-3 semifinal win last week at the Knoxville Challenger.  Kozlov, who is now winless in their four 2016 meetings, got off to a slow start, with errors and a low percentage(40) of first serves resulting in a quick first set. Kozlov looked alternately frustrated, angry and resigned to another loss after Mmoh took a 3-0 lead, but that didn't continue when the second set began.

Kozlov held to start the second set and Mmoh was then forced to save four break points in a nine-deuce game that might not have been pretty, but was undeniably tense and often entertaining.

"That was one of the tougher sets I'd played in a long time," said Mmoh, "especially in that second game. Deuce after deuce. That explained the second set perfectly. I'm really happy with the way I handled it, with the way he was playing."

Kozlov dropped his serve and Mmoh held for a 3-1 lead, but Kozlov dug in, broke Mmoh for the only time in the match, then held, saving a break point to take a 4-3 lead.

In the next game, Mmoh was down a break point at 30-40, but chose that point, with all the momentum pointing in Kozlov's direction, to serve and volley.  Mmoh actually didn't have to volley, with Kozlov missing the return, muttering to himself about Mmoh's unexpected tactic. Kozlov just missed wide on the next point, giving Mmoh a game point, and Mmoh converted it with an impressive combination of speed and touch.

Kozlov hit a fine cross court volley that very few players would have a chance to reach, but Mmoh not only reached it, but guided a down the line forehand winner deep as Kozlov scrambled back to retrieve it, to no avail.

"Definitely those kind of points change the match completely," said the 18-year-old from Bradenton, Florida. "I felt like he had some momentum at that point. He started off slow in that 4-4 game, maybe because of that, I don't know, but for sure that gave me a boost."

Kozlov went down 15-40 in the next game, saved one break point, but not the second, when Mmoh showed off his improved net game with a backhand volley winner.  Earlier in the point, Mmoh had fallen down deep behind the baseline but managed to get up to the short angled shot by Kozlov and finish with the soft backhand volley.

Mmoh had felt something in his left wrist after the fall however, and he asked for the trainer and took a medical timeout.  Serving for the match at 5-4, he held at love, letting out a long loud c'mon after a forehand winner clinched it.

"I caught my fall with my left hand and kind of hyperextended my elbow somehow," said Mmoh, who was heading for another visit with the trainer after the match. "I kind of did a pushup, off balance in an awkward position to get myself back up, and I think something is going on, but adrenaline got me through."

Mmoh didn't know the win would be the Australian Open wild card clincher, because Reilly Opelka, another contender, was playing a night match, but he was once again happy with his level.

"It was an unbelievable level," said Mmoh, who has now won seven straight matches at the Challenger level. "I thought I was playing really well and I thought he was bringing it. If somebody looks at the score they're going to see like, oh, Mmoh crushed him, but it was not the case, it was not the case. It was a very tough match."

Kozlov was eliminated from the Australian Open wild card race with the loss, and only Jared Donaldson, the top seed, and Opelka in his way.

Donaldson defeated qualifier Ryan Shane 6-1, 6-4, so he is technically still in the running, but he needs to win the title to beat out Mmoh, and if Donaldson does win the title, he'll return to the ATP Top 100 and won't need the wild card.

I was unable to stay for Giron's win over Opelka, but I did have an opportunity to talk with Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks after he reached his first Challenger quarterfinal with a  6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Sekou Bangoura.

Last week, Eubanks got on the plane in Atlanta expecting to be an alternate in qualifying, but he received some good news when he landed.

"I missed the entry deadline," said the rail-thin 20-year-old from Atlanta. "The whole ATP player deadline thing is kind of new to me, so I asked Stephen Amritraj [USTA Director of Collegiate Tennis] if there was a way I could get in qualies. He said to sign in, so I came, prepared to play qualies, and when I landed I had a text message saying I got a main [draw wild card], so I was pretty excited about that."

Eubanks, who beat No. 7 seed Noah Rubin in the first round, has a simple explanation for his success this week.

"I've just committed to my game," Eubanks said. "I'm focusing a little bit more on shot tolerance. I'm usually one-two punch, but at this level, and even the higher level college, it's not that easy and you're going to have to try to construct a point, hit two, three, four big balls to get one where you can finally end the point on. So I think I'm kind of committed to that, not to force things, and I think it's working out pretty well, especially with the serve."

Although Eubanks had only seven aces in three sets, he did get 74% of his first serves in, and and his serve came up big when he had to dig out of a 15-40 hole after breaking for a 3-1 lead in the final set.

"After I got the break I went down early, trying to rush things, getting a little bit of the juices flowing," said Eubanks. "I had to take my time, calm down, find my rhythm. Serving for me is a confidence thing, and I feel when I go up after it, when I make contact, I know it's going in."

Mmoh and Eubanks will meet for the first time in the quarterfinals.

"I've been to Atlanta to hit with him a couple of times," Mmoh said. "So I know how he plays, and I'm decently good friends with him. He's playing really well, hitting the ball big and hitting the ball clean, serving well, big game, and on these indoor courts, you never know how it's going to turn out. But I like my chances given the way I'm playing."

Earlier in the day, qualifier Bradley Klahn advanced with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Tennys Sandgren, continuing his remarkably successful return to competition after 21 months out due to injuries. He will play Donaldson next.

Brian Baker defeated Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-4, 6-1 and will face No. 6 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium, who beat Mitchell Krueger 7-6(5), 6-2. Giron's next opponent is No. 2 seed and defending champion Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who came back to beat wild card Jared Hiltzik 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 on the former Illinois All-American's collegiate home courts at the Atkins Tennis Center.