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Monday, March 13, 2017

Fritz Earns First Top 10 Win; McPhillips, Chen Back in Competition; Qualifying Complete at Bakersfield Futures; D-II Powerhouse Armstrong State Ends Intercollegiate Athletics

Wild card Taylor Fritz wasn't in a great position to get his first Top 10 win against No. 6 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia last night in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Down a set and a break to the 2014 US Open men's champion, Fritz somehow fought his way back, taking the second set, then went up 5-3 in the third set. The 19-year-old failed to serve out the match, but he broke Cilic to win it, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

According to the ATP Media information, Fritz is the first American teenager to beat a Top 10 player since Sam Querrey downed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters back in 2007.  Next up for Fritz is unseeded Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, with Fritz and Jaziri having split their previous two meetings, both at Challengers.

For more on Fritz's win, see the ATP website.

Two players who have been absent from competition for some time are back on the court this week.  Kyle McPhillips, who was a three-time All-American in doubles at UCLA, had been dealing with injuries since completing her eligibility last May.  When I spoke to Chanelle Van Nguyen at Midland, she assured me that McPhillips was going to give the tour a shot when healthy, and this week she took a wild card into the qualifying for $15,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Tampa. The 22-year-old McPhillips has won her first two matches in qualifying, beating No. 2 seed Jaeda Daniel today 6-2, 6-2. She will face Catherine Leduc of Canada, who played at St. Mary's, in the final round of qualifying on Tuesday. Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal and Danielle Collins are the top two seeds in the main draw.  Wild cards were given to Alycia Parks, Daniella Moreno-Kaste, Caitlyn Williams and Jada Robinson.

The other play back competing is 17-year-old Kelly Chen, who has not played in nearly a year. Chen, who has signed with Duke, has been as high as 75 in the ITF junior rankings and 647 in the WTA rankings, currently has no ranking in either system.  She received a wild card into the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach this week, and she won her first round match today, beating No. 6 seed Sabina Dadaciu 6-4, 6-0.

Top seeds Salma Ewing and Caleb Chakravarthi have won their opening round matches in straight sets.

The men's USTA Pro Circuit event this week is a $25,000 Futures in Bakersfield, where qualifying was completed today.  UCLA recruit Keegan Smith has qualified for a Futures main draw for the second time. He earned his first ATP point after qualifying at last fall's $10,000 Futures in Fountain Valley California.

Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium, who went through qualifying, is the top seed. Wild cards were given to Bradley Klahn, Connor Smith, Jacob Brumm and Jarryd Woog.

While I was in Mobile last week, it was announced that Armstrong State would be merging with Division I Georgia Southern and as a result, intercollegiate athletics at Armstrong State will be discontinued. Armstrong State has been a powerhouse in Division II tennis, with the men winning three NCAA team titles and the women 10. The women are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, with the men No. 3, so there's a chance they can add to those numbers one final time. Yet the loss of such legendary programs can only be viewed as depressing, especially with all the success they've had.