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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Henry Craig and Salma Ewing Claim Open Singles Titles at Ojai; Jankowski Captures Girls 18s Championship; Teen Teams Win Open Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

The final day of the 117th edition of The Ojai saw 22 championship matches played on the courts of Libbey Park on yet another cloudless day in the Valley. The Men's and Women's Open finals are the usual Sunday focus, according to the many Ojai regulars, but this year the junior finals were moved from Saturday to Sunday, adding to the packed schedule.

Yet with all those finals to choose from, the match generating the most buzz was the Men's Open final, where unseeded Henry Craig came back to defeat top seed Philip Bester 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2).

Although Craig was unseeded, that was due to his late entry into the tournament. The 22-year-old University of Denver graduate was placed into the main draw when USC volunteer assistant Deiton Baughman withdrew just prior to the start of the tournament.

"I missed the deadline and I emailed the director a ton of times to try to get in," said the San Diego area resident, who graduated last December. "She said, I can't get you in main draw, so I said just put me in the qualifying draw. I'll qualify if I have to. The day before qualifying she emails me, saying I'm in the main draw. I was so mad I missed the deadline, but now I'm here and winning it, so it's pretty exciting."

The first two sets were decided by just one break of serve.

"My serve was off for one game in the first set and he served so well, that was enough," Craig said. "In the second set, he had one slightly loose service game and that set was over. The third set was obviously a battle."

Craig got the precious break in the third set with Bester serving at 3-3, converting his third break point with a forehand winner, and held for a 5-3 lead. But after Bester held for 5-4, Craig was broken at love and the 28-year-old Canadian held at love, reeling off 11 points in a row.

"I was definitely tight at 5-4, to hold it out," Craig said. "But he was returning really deep, he didn't miss a ball. I went for slightly too much and got a little nervous."

Craig lost his 12th straight point serving to force a tiebreaker, but at 0-15, he won what he believes was the point that altered the course of the match.

"He came to the net and we played that boom, boom, boom, volley, volley, volley and I passed him with a backhand," Craig said. "That was the one point that changed the momentum of the match. It was a huge one."

Craig held with a forehand winner, took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, then deflated Bester for good with a backhand return winner for a 6-2 lead. Bester, who had served his way out of many a tight spot in the third set, then double faulted to give Craig the win.

"I was just blacking out in the tiebreaker," said Craig, who had played The Ojai just once previously, in the CIF division. "Just see ball, hit ball. I hit the good return at 2-5 and he kind of mentally checked out. Four match points, that's tough to come back from."

Craig, who won a men's Open tournament the previous week, said his check for $5300 was the most he'd earned in his brief career, but he valued the title not primarily for the money, or for playing well in front of a large and appreciative crowd. Rather it was the beating an opponent the calibre of Bester that was most satisfying.

"He's such a great player," Craig said. "He's my biggest win yet, in my career. He just got to the final of the (Little Rock Futures) tournament I lost first round in...he's a great player. That's why I was more nervous than anything. Not the money, not the crowd--I love the crowd--but just the fact that he was such a distinguished player."

Sixteen-year-old Salma Ewing won the Women's Open singles title, beating top seed Megan McCray 7-6(4), 6-0.

Ewing was unable to serve out the first set at 6-5, but she was the steadier of the two in the tiebreaker, and she carried that form throughout the second set, as the 21-year-old McCray, who played for Oklahoma State for one year, saw her unforced error count grow.

"I felt like I stayed steady and she made more errors," said Ewing, who trains with the USTA in Carson and with Mitch Bridge and Peter Smith at the Southern California Tennis Academy in Long Beach. "In the first set she was staying in the rallies, hitting more winners. The first set was very physical, so I really wanted to make it two sets."

Ewing's first trip to Ojai was as a tennis novice six years ago.

"I had started playing tennis for a little bit, maybe a year or two,"  said Ewing, who ran track and cross country before focusing on tennis. "We wanted to come to the tennis and we watched Cal play, Nicole Gibbs and Sachia Vickery. But last year was the first year I played Ojai and I beat Olga Puchkova, the 2 seed, then I lost in the second round. This means a lot to me, to win it just means the world to me."

Ewing said she is going to try to save the $2000 check she received for winning the Open, but she does have travel to fund in the next few weeks.

"I'm going to play Naples, the $25K this weekend, there are two of them," Ewing said. "I'm probably going to go to Europe for the French Open Juniors."

Although raised on the California hard courts, Ewing is comfortable on clay.

"I love clay, I feel I play better on clay actually," Ewing said. "I have some of my best results on clay."

While Ewing will make her debut on the Ojai's famous photo boards next year, girls 18s champion Cali Jankowski is already able to trace her progress there, having reached the girls 14s final back in 2014.

Jankowski, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Charlotte Chavatipon 6-1, 6-4, claiming her fifth straight-set victory of the week.

"I think we both came out a little nervous and then we both got our groove," said Jankowski, who has verbally committed to Arizona State for 2018. "Obviously the second set was a little tighter. She started serving better, making more shots and she put me on the ropes a little bit to get it back on serve, so yeah, it was really good."

Jankowski played the 18s in 2016, and now that she has captured a junior title, is ready to move up to the Open.

"I'm a big believer in playing tournaments as a one seed, when everyone is going to be kind of gunning for you," said the Carlsbad resident. "Seeing if you can handle the pressure, when people play outrageous because they have nothing to lose. So now that I feel I've mastered that, yeah, definitely next year I'll go up to the Women's Open."

In contrast to the singles tournaments, the Open doubles titles went to the No. 1 seeds, high school seniors all, in match tiebreakers.

Georgia recruit Annette Goulak and North Carolina State recruit Dominique Schaefer defeated unseeded Gail Brodsky and Paiton Wagner 3-6, 6-3, 10-4 for the Women's Open doubles title.

UCLA recruit Keegan Smith and Stanford recruit Timothy Sah followed a similar pattern, taking out unseeded Haythem Abid and Rylan Rizza 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4.

Smith and Sah could not manage to break the two former Ojai Open doubles champions, but once they won the second set tiebreaker, the teens from San Diego raised their level, with Abid and Rizza unable to follow suit.

The complete finals results from all divisions are below.  Links to full draws are available at the tournament website.

Pac-12 Men’s Team Championship: No. 3 USC def. No. 1 UCLA, 4-3

Pac-12 Women’s Team Championship: No. 1 Stanford def. No. 2 California, 4-1

CIF Boys Singles: Jake Sands (Palisades HS) d. Stefan Dostanic (Woodbridge HS), 4-6, 7-5, 6-0

CIF Boys Doubles: Connor Lee/Bryce Pereira (San Marino HS) d. Jed Kronenberg/Adam Sraberg (Harvard-Westlake HS), 6-4, 6-1

Boys’ 14 Singles: Ryan Morgan (Pasadena, CA) d. Takeyasu Tekiguchi (Ojai, CA), 6-4, 7-6(4)

Girls’ 14 Singles: Leyden Games (Newport Beach, CA) d. Kenadee Semenik (Las Vegas, NV), 6-0, 6-0

Boys’ 16 Singles: Sahm Irvine (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) d. Fernando Fonseca (Ojai, CA), 6-3, 6-0

Girls’ 16 Singles: Elle Christensen (Los Angeles) d. Eryn Cayetano (Corona, CA), 6-3, 2-6, 6-4

Girls’ 18 Singles: Cali Jankowski (Carlsbad, CA) d. Charlotte Chavatipon (Fullerton, CA), 6-1, 6-4

Girls’ 18 Doubles: Amanda Chan (Pasadena, CA)/Lauren Ko (Temple City, CA) d. Cade Sorensen (Solvang, CA)/Mikala Triplett (Goleta, CA), 6-2, 6-1

Men’s Open Singles: Henry Craig (Murrieta, CA) d. Philip Bester (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2)

Men’s Open Doubles: Timothy Sah/Keegan Smith (San Diego) d. Haythem Abid (Los Angeles)/Rylan Rizza (Redondo Beach, CA), 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4

Women’s Open Singles: Salma Ewing (Long Beach, CA) d. Megan McCray (Oceanside, CA), 7-6(4), 6-0

Women’s Open Doubles: Annette Goulak (Oak Park, CA)/Dominique Schaefer (Newbury Park, CA) d. Gail Brodsky (Woodinville, WA)/Paiton Wagner (Cashmere, WA) d. 3-6, 6-3, 10-4

Men’s Division III West Singles: Nikolai Parodi (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Daniel Morkovine (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

Men’s Division III West Doubles: Nikolai Parodi/Daniel Morkovine (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Joey Dulle/Jake Ly (Redlands), 6-3, 6-1

Men’s Independent College Singles: Joshua Sheehy (Abilene Christian) d. Jonathan Sheehy (Abilene Christian), 7-5, 6-1

Men’s Independent College Doubles: Henry Adams/Nico Agritelley (Abilene Christian) d. Joshua Sheehy/Jonathan Sheehy (Abilene Christian), 4-6, 7-6 (6), 13-11

Women’s Independent College Singles: Lucile Pothier (Abilene Christian) d. Whitney Williams (Abilene Christian), 6-1, 6-2

Women’s Independent College Doubles: Whitney Williams/Lucile Pothier (Abilene Christian) d. Sarah Adams/Erin Walker (Abilene Christian), 6-2, 6-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: Irvine Valley College d. American River College, 5-1

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: Orange Coast College d. De Anza College, 5-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Singles: Javi Callejo Velasco (Irvine Valley) d. Vincent Reynaud (Cypress), 6-3, 6-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Javi Callejo Velasco/Lucas Lesoeur (Irvine Valley) d. Nikita Katsnelson/Sasha Krasnov (Cerritos), 6-2, 6-4

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Singles: Danielle Garrido (San Diego Mesa) d. Clarissa Colling (Orange Coast), 7-5, 6-1

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Mayra Jovic/Abby Mullins (Santa Monica) d. Veronika Galstyan/Tsukimi Ono (Glendale), 6-4, 6-3

Saturday, April 29, 2017

USC Downs UCLA in 4-3 Thriller to Claim Men's Pac-12 Tournament Title; Stanford Women Beat Cal 4-1 for Inaugural Women's Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

The Stanford women and USC men will leave the Ojai Valley with more trophies and memories after collecting Pac-12 tournament titles Saturday afternoon and evening at Libbey Park.

Stanford adds conference tournament title to regular season championship
Although the women's tournament, the first team championship the conference has ever held, had produced the more exciting matches leading up to the final, Stanford was just too strong throughout the event, putting the exclamation point on their regular season conference title with a 4-1 win over Cal.

The Cardinal took the doubles point with wins at 1 and 3, but Cal was able to put a quick point on the board, with Karla Popovic defeating Melissa Lord 6-3, 6-3 at line 2.  The teams had split first sets, and Cal's Olivia Hauger forced a third set against Caroline Lampl at line 4, but Stanford's Emma Higuchi and Caroline Doyle forced third sets at lines 6 and 1 and it was Doyle who ended up supplying the fourth point. After Taylor Davidson's win over Denise Starr made it 2-1 Stanford, Emily Arbuthnott closed out Maya Jansen at line 5, and before those following the two matches on the lower courts could make it back to the upper four courts, Doyle had beaten the underhand-serving Maegan Manasse 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 giving the defending NCAA champions the conference's automatic bid into this year's team event in Athens.

Peter Smith receives Thacher trophy from former Ojai Valley Club President Alan Rains

In the nightcap, USC and UCLA were meeting for the conference tournament title for the fifth time in the six years the men's event has existed, and the large and enthusiastic crowd was treated to a classic, with freshman Brandon Holt delivering the deciding point in the Trojans 4-3 victory.

The doubles point was decided in a tiebreaker at line 2, after USC had taken line 3 and UCLA line 1. Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven clinched it for the Trojans with a 7-6(2) win over Joe Di Giulio and Austin Rapp.

As Cal had done after losing the doubles point in the women's final, UCLA countered quickly in singles, with Martin Redlicki earning a 6-2, 6-2 win over Crystal at line 2.  USC took a 3-1 lead with Logan Smith beating Evan Zhu 7-5, 6-1 at line 3 and Thibault Forget defeating Di Giulio 6-2, 7-5 at line 5, but UCLA fought back, with Logan Staggs completing a comeback at line 4, beating Jack Jaede 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 after Maxime Cressy had finished off Riley Smith at line 6 7-6(2), 6-4.  That left Holt and Gage Brymer to decide the championship, with their third set at line 1 the sole focus. Holt had won a long, tough first set 7-5, with Brymer taking the second set 6-3.

Stands were packed at Libbey Park's Upper Courts for Men's Final
With the entire crowd now gathered around court 1, the atmosphere alternated between hushed silence followed by raucous cheers from Holt's and Brymer's teammates depending on the outcome of every point.  Holt had his opportunities to go ahead, but Brymer won a deciding point to hold for 3-3 and fought off three break points to hold for 4-4. But after Holt held with no trouble to take a 5-4 lead, Brymer again found himself facing break (and now match) points, going down 0-40.  He saved two of them, but a big forehand by Holt on the third forced the error, igniting a joyful USC celebration on the court and also in the stands.

The win gives USC a split in this year's Pac-12 conference championships, with UCLA having earned the regular season title with a 4-1 victory over the Trojans on April 21st.

More on the finals can be found at the Pac-12 website.

Complete results are below:

April 29, 2017 | Libbey Park (Ojai, Calif.)

Women's Pac-12 Final
No. 6 Stanford 4, No. 16 California 1

1) No. 82 Arbuthnott/Davidson (STAN) d. No. 36 Jansen/Manasse (CAL) 6-3*
2) Hauger/Popovic (CAL) led No. 43 Doyle/Lord (STAN) 4-3, susp.
3) Higuchi/Lampl (STAN) d. Stephane Lin/Starr (CAL) 6-2
Order of Finish: 3, 1

1) No. 41 Caroline Doyle (STAN) d. No. 38 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 4-6, 6-3, 6-3*
2) No. 13 Karla Popovic (CAL) d. No. 26 Melissa Lord (STAN) 6-3, 6-3
3) No. 59 Taylor Davidson (STAN) d. No. 124 Denise Starr (CAL) 6-4, 6-3
4) Olivia Hauger (CAL) led No. 90 Caroline Lampl (STAN) 6-7(1), 6-2, 1-0, susp.
5) Emily Arbuthnott (STAN) d. Maya Jansen (CAL) 6-1, 7-6(1)
6) No. 72 Emma Higuchi (STAN) led Maria Smith (CAL) 4-6, 6-0, 2-1, susp.
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 5, 1
*clinching match
Men's Pac-12 Final
#7 USC 4, #5 UCLA 3

(1) #7 Redlicki/Zhu (UCLA) def. #11 Holt/R. Smith (USC) - 7-5
(2)#80 Crystal/Laurens Verboven (USC) def. Austin Rapp/Di Giulio (UCLA) - 7-6(2)*
(3) Rob Bellamy/Jaede (USC) def. Cressy/ Ben Goldberg (UCLA) - 6-2
Order of finish: 3, 1, 2

(1) #23 Brandon Holt (USC) def. #22 Gage Brymer (UCLA) - 7-5, 3-6, 6-4*
(2) #56 Martin Redlicki (UCLA) def. Nick Crystal (USC) - 6-2, 6-3
(3) #82 Logan Smith (USC) def. Evan Zhu (UCLA) - 7-5, 6-1
(4) Logan Staggs (UCLA) def. Jack Jaede (USC) - 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
(5) Thibault Forget (USC) def. Joseph Di Giulio (UCLA) - 6-2, 7-5
(6) Maxime Cressy (UCLA) def. Riley Smith (USC) - 7-6(2), 6-4
Order of finish: 2, 3, 5, 6, 4, 1

*clinching match

Sands Joins Father on Ojai Photo Boards with CIF Title; Top Seeds to Play for Men's and Women's Open Championships; Dolehide Reaches Charlottesville $60K Final; Riffice Advances to Vero Beach Futures Final

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

Jake Sands had earned his place on one of The Ojai’s famous photo boards earlier on Saturday, when he reached the final of the CIF singles as a member of the Palisades High School team. Sands defeated defending champion Connor Hance of Peninsula 7-5, 6-2 in the morning’s semifinals, while Stefan Dostanic had beaten Ryan Seggerman of Coronado 7-5, 7-6(2).

Sands with tournament official
Regardless of the outcome of the final, Sands would join his father Howard as a member of The Ojai elite, but down a match point to Dostanic at 6-4, 5-3, it looked like it would be as finalist, not as the champion.

But Dostanic’s backhand went “an inch” wide, according to Sands, who held, broke, held and broke again to take the second set. Facing a third set after having already played four sets in the past five hours is not a pleasant prospect, but Sands was able to find another level to claim a 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory.

“I just played more positive and got off to a good start,” said Sands, a 17-year-old junior, who has committed to Penn for 2018. “I fought hard and stayed ahead of him. I got pumped up, an adrenaline rush and I played well.”

Sands shares the reverence most Southern California juniors feel for the tournament.

“It means everything,” said Sands. “Walking into Libbey Park, and seeing all the people on the board, the pictures, I always wanted to be up there, on the winning side up there. It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments, and I just love playing here. When you’re driving around town, everyone’s thinking about tennis, there’s posters up, the whole town comes out to watch and it just feels like the most fun tennis atmosphere.”

Scott Davis (left) and Howard Sands on Ojai Photo Board
Howard Sands, who watched his son’s comeback from the green wooden bleachers, had some trouble recalling the year, but he remembered the Ojai singles final he lost, and to whom.

“I lost in the finals to Scott Davis, who was one of the greatest juniors in history,” said Sands of the 1978 boys 16s final. “I always felt Jake was better than me and that he could win it. This tournament is rated low, but he wanted to play it. It’s a deep tournament, because everybody loves it and wants to play in the environment with the college players, the college coaches watching.”

Jake Sands is not sure what division he will play next year but he expects to be back, attempting close the gap on his father, who is in The Ojai record books two other times, once as 14 doubles champion and once as CIF doubles finalist for Peninsula High School.

The Men’s Open finals are set for Sunday with unseeded Henry Craig facing top seed Philip Bester. Bester defeated No. 5 Haythem Abid 6-3, 7-6(4), while Craig took out an under-the-weather Clay Thompson, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

The Women’s Open final will also feature the top seed, with Megan McCray defeating Gail Brodsky, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 7-6(4).  McCray will face 16-year-old Salma Ewing, the No. 4 seed, who beat unseeded 17-year-old Hannah Zhao 7-5, 6-4.

The women’s final will be at 9:30 am Sunday at Libbey Park, with the men’s final scheduled for 11 am.

Two 18-year-old Americans have advanced to the finals of USTA Pro Circuit events, with Caroline Dolehide earning her first trip to a final above the $25,000 level at the $60,000 Charlottesville event, and Sam Riffice reaching his first pro final at the $15,000 Vero Beach Futures.

Dolehide defeated wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 7-6(7) to advance to a meeting with top seed Madison Brengle, who beat No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb  6-3, 6-2.

Riffice took out No. 6 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in today's semifinals and will face top seed Calvin Hemery of France, who advanced when No. 8 seed Gavin van Peperzeel of Australia retired down 6-3.

Friday, April 28, 2017

UCLA and USC Meet for Pac-12 Men's Title, Stanford and Cal in Women's Championship Match; Semifinals Set for Men's and Women's Opens; US Junior Teams Continue to Roll in ITF North and Central American Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

Friday was another busy day at the 117th edition of The Ojai, with the Pac-12 men's semifinals taking place at Libbey Park, the women's semifinals at the Weil Academy and Ojai Athletic Club and a steady stream of Men's and Women's Open matches filling the courts at the Ojai Valley Inn.

The men have now been playing a Pac-12 conference tournament for six years and after today's results, five of the finals will have been between UCLA and USC. UCLA, who had a bye into the semifinals, was the first to earn its place in the final, beating Stanford 4-0 in a match devoid of suspense.  USC and Cal then took the courts, and although Cal was the team that had gotten a bye into the semifinals, the Trojans won a close doubles point and went on to post a 4-1 win.  The three singles points came from Riley Smith at line 6, Jack Jaede at line 4 and Nick Crystal at line 2.  UCLA has won two of the three previous meetings between the crosstown rivals this year, with the last meeting a 4-1 decision for the Bruins just last week.

This is the first year for the Pac-12 women's team event, and close matches have been the theme, although Stanford has managed to avoid that trend.  The Cardinal defeated Oregon 4-0 today, but had to wait to see who they would play in the final, with USC and Cal going down to the wire, before the Bears posted a 4-3 victory. Maya Jansen clinched for Cal, beating Angela Kulikov 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 at line 5 to secure the victory.

Both finals will be held at Libbey Park on Saturday and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.  The women's final begins at 3 p.m., with the men's final at 6 p.m.  For more on the Pac-12 tournament, see the conference website.

The other finals to be played on Saturday at Libbey Park are the CIF (Southern California High School) boys singles and doubles, with the semifinals in the morning and the finals around noon.  Defending champion Connor Hance will face Jake Sands in the top half semifinal, with Stefan Dostanic playing Ryan Seggerman in the bottom half semifinal.

The Men’s Open semifinals are set for Saturday at Libbey Park, with top seed Philip Bester taking on No. 5 seed Haythem Abid and No. 3 seed Clay Thompson facing unseeded Henry Craig.

Bester’s win over Ojai regular Cecil Mamiit was not easy, with the 28-year-old Canadian taking early leads in both sets before USC's 1996 NCAA singles champion fought back.  Bester, with a current ATP ranking of 341, was too strong on the forehand however, and he closed out the match 6-4, 6-3.

Abid’s 7-6(4), 7-5 win over No. 4 seed Keegan Smith was the longest of the quarterfinals, while Craig was looking to be first off the court against Cal recruit Jacob Brumm after taking a 6-2, 5-1 lead.  But Craig was unable to serve it out in either of his opportunities, and he needed to break Brumm at 4-5 to post the 6-2, 6-4 victory.

“He started playing a lot better,” said Craig, a December 2016 graduate of the University of Denver, who lives in the San Diego area. “He was hitting really short for pretty much the whole match and I think his legs were a little tired from yesterday and he was struggling a little bit. But then at 5-1, he really stepped it up, started hitting deep and I was kind of surprised, but I ended up closing it out.”

The Women’s Open, with a 16-player draw, started early in the morning, with two matches on their schedule Friday.

For No. 3 seed Gail Brodsky, who now lives in the Seattle area, returning to Ojai is something of a homecoming, after training for years at Ojai's Weil Academy.

“It feels like family,” said the 25-year-old, who now has a two-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl. “I think I’ve played this tournament six times.”

Brodsky had begun a comeback after her son was born and won a $10,000 event in Canada in 2015, but that had to be put on hold when she became pregnant again, “a good reason,” she said, for another break from tennis.  She and her husband, Mark Hanson are coaches at Northwest High Performance Tennis in Kirkland Washington, and Brodsky is playing doubles with NWPT student Paiton Wagner, an Oregon recruit.

Brodsky defeated Holly Verner 6-0, 6-1 in the first round and reached Saturday's semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jwany Sherif.

For links to draws for all events, see the tournament website.

At the North and Central American qualifying for the Junior Davis Cup, Junior Fed Cup and World Junior Tennis events, all four US teams blanked their opponents for the second day in a row.  Results are below.


USA def. Mexico 3-0


Caty McNally defeated Romary Cardenas 6-0,6-0

Natasha Subhash defeated Daira Cardenas 6-2,6-0


Caty McNally/Whitney Osuigwe defeated Aida Garcia Mendez/Daira Cardenas 6-3,6-2


USA def. Guatemala 3-0


Tristan Boyer def. Alejandro Solares (GUA) 6-0, 6-0

William Grant def. Sebastian Dominguez (GUA) 6-1, 6-2


Boyer/Nanda def. Padilla/Solares (GUA) 6-1, 6-1


USA def. Mexico 3-0


Cori Gauff def. Midori Castillo (MEX) 7-5, 6-1

Gabriella Price def. Julia Garcia (MEX) 6-4, 6-1


Owensby/Price def. Castillo/Chavez (MEX) 6-3, 6-2

WJT – BOYS 14s

USA def. Canada 3-0


Martin Damm def. Berk Tunali (CAN) 6-3,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Marko Stakusic (CAN) 6-1,6-0


Bernard/Kodat def. Stakusic/Tunali (CAN) 6-0,6-1

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ojai Amazes; US Junior Teams All Post Shutouts in ITF North and Central American Team Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA

I had heard so many good things about Ojai, the Southern California festival of tennis now in its 117th year, that I was dubious it could live it to my expectations.  It managed to exceed them, with perfect weather, and a community obviously dedicated to putting on the best tennis show possible for juniors, collegians, pros and fans.

I started at the Ojai Valley Inn, where the opening matches of the Men's Open were taking place. I saw several of the Pac-12 men's coaches there, looking at possible recruits or those who will be joining them in 2017.  I watched Keegan Smith, who will start at UCLA in the fall, play Errol Smith, a Loyola Marymount junior, with Smith earning a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

Smith, who reached the semifinals of the Bakersfield Futures last month as a qualifier, said he decided to do the opposite of what many players do once they make their college commitment.

"Me and my dad talked about that a lot," said Smith, the nephew of USC head coach Peter Smith. "A lot of seniors commit and then their senior year they're not really training. My dad said, let's do the opposite. Let's home school, and really just go for it. I want to play high in the lineup once I get there."

Smith, who works with the USTA in Carson, with Angel Lopez and with Christian Groh, is playing the Open tournament for the first time, having played the previous two years in the CIF doubles for high school boys.  Although the prize money, $5300 of which goes to the men's singles winner, is a consideration, Smith said that's not the main reason for playing.

"It's nice, but I'm out here because I love tennis," Smith said. "It's fun and I like competing. Obviously the money's nice, but there's a lot of good players here and I can get some good matches. If at the end, you get some money, that's an added bonus."

Smith's 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Bradley Klahn in Bakersfield was the most memorable match in his recent surge.

"I was injured a little bit with my knee, and when I got back, I upped my training," Smith said. "I played well in those tournaments. [Against Klahn], I was seeing it big, I was serving well. With my game, I've just got to get my first serves in and take chances on the returns. That's my game style."

Smith, seeded fourth, won his second round match later in the day, and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Private court in Ojai
My next stop was Thacher School, where some of the boys CIF and the junior singles were being played. Although I didn't see him, Wayne Gretzky was reportedly there watching his daughter Emma in the 14s division. She lost in the first round.  After the trip to Thacher School, I had an opportunity to see one of the private courts Ojai is famous for, with girls 18s top seed Cali Jankowski getting a 6-0, 6-0 win at one of the most scenic tennis courts I've ever seen.  Then it was on to the Weil Academy and the Ojai Athletic Club, where other junior matches and the Pac-12 women's team event, the first conference team event for women in Pac-12 history, were being contested.

Then it was on to the famous Libbey Park, with the hundreds of photos of winners from years past, the wall of fame, with names of those who have played Ojai and gone on to win slams, with the complimentary hot tea in china cups served by volunteers, closing with the annual Thursday barbecue, which this year included a chat with honorary guest Rod Laver.

Oh, and there was tennis going on all day too, with big crowds watching Stanford defeat Oregon 4-2 and USC blank Utah 4-0 to reach the men's semifinals Friday, where they will play UCLA and Cal, respectively, with the Bruins and Bears getting byes into the semifinals.

The women's semifinals will feature USC, a 4-3 winner over Arizona State, against Cal, who beat Washington 5-0, and Stanford, a 4-0 winner over Utah, against Oregon, who upset UCLA 4-3.

For links to all the draws, see the tournament website.

At the ITF North and Central American qualifying for Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup and the World Junior Tennis competition in Mexico, the USA teams went 4-0, with all the wins shutouts.

The results are below:


USA def. Guatemala 3-0


Whitney Osuigwe def. Rut Galindo (GUA) 6-1, 6-1

Caty McNally def. Gabriela Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-0


McNally/Subhash def. Galindo/Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-2


USA def. Mexico 3-0


Govind Nanda def. Sergio Molina (MEX) 6-2, 6-2

William Grant def. Rafael de Alba (MEX) 6-3, 6-4


Boyer/Nanda def. Corro/Molina (MEX) 6-1, 7-5


USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0


Cori Gauff def. Sara Snyder (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Charlotte Owensby def. Yadalis Rodriguez (PUR) 6-0, 6-1


Gauff/Owensby def. Gonzalez/Rodriguez (PUR) 6-2, 6-1

WJT – BOYS 14s

USA def. Costa Rica 3-0


Martin Damm def. Christian Winstead 6-0,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Alberto Sierra 6-1,6-0


Damm/Kodat def. Lozano/Sierra 6-1,6-0

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easter Bowl ITF, 16s Slideshow; Videos

I'm heading to Ojai today to experience that legendary Southern California tennis event for the first time, so that means a long day of travel and an early post.

This wraps up the adidas Easter Bowl, with a slideshow of the 16s and 18s and videos of the four finals.  (The 12s and 14s slideshow and videos are here). Replays of three of the finals are available on Livestream, with the boys ITF here, the girls ITF here, some of the boys 16s here and here. The girls 16s final does not appear in the archives, but there is a video of the postmatch ceremony.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gullikson Retires from USTA Player Development; Florida Women Stay No. 1 Despite Second Loss to Vanderbilt, Wake Forest Remains Atop Men's Rankings, TCU's Norrie Moves to No. 1 in Singles; Pro Circuit Update

The USTA announced today that Tom Gullikson, currently serving as Player Development's Lead National Coach of men's pro tennis, is retiring from full-time coaching effective June 2. Gullikson, 65, is a former ATP Top 40 player who first joined the USTA in 1988, serving in the USTA's initial Player Development department until 1997. He was Davis Cup captain in 1995, when the USA won the Davis Cup and also coached the US Olympic team in 1996. Gullikson then served as Director of Coaching at the USTA, leaving the organization in 2001.  He returned in 2009, and has served in a variety of roles in Player Development in the past eight years.  Knowing him as I do, I would not expect him to retire from tennis, and I don't think the USTA expects that either, with their pointed use of the "full-time" adjective.  The full USTA release is here.

Three years ago, I had an opportunity to interview Gullikson for the Tennis Recruiting Network at the USTA Spring Team Championships in Mobile.  We talked about team competition, college tennis as a pathway, what's changed over the years in the sport and what's stayed the same, the prospects for American men's tennis and other topics. I learned a lot, and that was just during a 30 minute conversation, so I assume the players that he's coached and mentored have collected his wisdom to a much greater degree.  He's part of the institutional memory of American tennis and all of us will miss regular access to that connection.

The new ITA Division I rankings are out, with the Florida women staying at No. 1 despite losing for the second time in eight days to Vanderbilt.  I think this is the point where the human poll that the USTA conducts will start to show its value; Vanderbilt is still suffering from a poor showing at the National Team Indoor, which Florida won.  In the long run, the NCAA championships settle the dispute, and next week's rankings are the last published by the ITA until after the tournament. (But we have College Tennis Today and Texas College Tennis helping us out with rankings in the week leading up to the NCAAs and they have discovered some errors affecting this weeks rankings).  In the singles rankings, Francesca Di Lorenzo continues at No. 1, and there were almost no changes in the Top 10, other than LSU freshman Jade Lewis's big jump from 22 to 10.

Women's Team Top 10: (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. Florida (1)
2. Vanderbilt (2)
3. Georgia (4)
4. Ohio State (5)
5. North Carolina (3)
6. Stanford (8)
7. Texas Tech (7)
8. Georgia Tech (6)
9. Oklahoma State (9)
10. Michigan (10)

1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (1)
2. Hayley Carter, North Carolina (2)
3. Ena Shibahara, UCLA (3)
4. Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt (4)
5. Blair Shankle, Baylor University (5)
6. Belinda Woolcock, Florida (7)
7. Viktoriya Lushkova, Oklahoma State (6)
8. Jasmine Lee, Mississippi State (10)
9. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech (9)
10. Jade Lewis, LSU (22)

1. Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney, North Carolina (1)
2. Astra Sharma and Emily Smith, Vanderbilt (3)
3. Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux, Mississippi State (5)
4. Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson, Georgia (4)
5. Erin Routliffe and Maddie Pothoff, Alabama (8)

The men's No. 1 continues to be Wake Forest and they have a large lead over Ohio State at No. 2.  TCU is all the way up to No. 4 after not being ranked in the Top 50 back in February.  Another plus for the Horned Frogs comes in singles, where Cameron Norrie has dislodged Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State from his No. 1 spot in the rankings.

Men's team Top 10:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. Ohio State University (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. TCU (9)
5. UCLA (8)
6. Baylor University (4)
7. Southern California (6)
8. Oklahoma State (5)
9. Texas (7)
10. Cal (11)

1. Cameron Norrie, TCU (2)
2. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (1)
3. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (4)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest University (3)
5. Aleks Vukic, Illinois (5)
6. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (6)
7. Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech (7)
8. Alfredo Perez, Florida (9)
9. Hugo Di Feo, Ohio State (8)
10. Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (10)

1. Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (1)
2. Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb, Georgia (3)
3. Jose Salazar and Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (8)
4. Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat, California (2)
5. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida (6)

The qualifying is complete at the two USTA Pro Circuit events this week.  At the men's $15,000 Futures in Vero Beach, Sam Riffice, Alexandre Rotsaert and Oliver Crawford are among those earning their way into the main draw with wins today. Wild cards were given to Junior Ore, Vasil Kirkov, Patrick Kypson and 16-year-old Ivan Yatsuk. Calvin Hemery of France is the top seed.

At the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event, Robin Anderson and Canada's Carol Zhao advanced to the main draw, with Julia Elbaba getting in as a lucky loser.  She will play former Virginia teammate Danielle Collins in the first round.  Wild cards were given to Claire Liu, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia (whose sister Hana played at UVA) and Maria Sanchez.  Madison Brengle is the top seed.

At the ATP Challenger in Tallahassee, top seed and Sarasota Challenger winner Frances Tiafoe withdrew and No. 2 seed Darian King of Barbados lost today.  Sarasota finalist Tennys Sandgren fell in his first round match, but wild card Bradley Klahn, Dennis Novikov, Mitchell Krueger and Christian Harrison are Americans who have advanced to the second round.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gauff, Heller Win US Wild Card Tournament for French Open Juniors; Sandgren, Anisimova Lead USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge; Kalamazoo College Wins 79th Consecutive Conference Title, More

Last week, Longines sponsored a tournament giving US juniors an opportunity to play for a French Open Junior Championship wild card. Held on red clay at the Boca West Country Club from April 19-22, the tournament is one of six the French Tennis Federation is sponsoring, with winners from the tournaments in Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and India advancing to playoffs in France. After round robin competition on May 26th, the finals will be the following day, with the winner getting a wild card into the French Open Junior Championships, scheduled for June 4-10.

The United States will be represented by two Floridians: Cori (CoCo) Gauff and Michael Heller. Gauff, who just last month turned 13, the age required to compete in ITF tournaments, defeated 18-year-old Victoria Flores 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Heller, who will turn 17 next month, defeated Matthew Tsolakyan 6-4, 6-3 to earn his trip to Paris.

For more on the event, see this article from tennis.com.

The USTA distributed updated standings for the men's and women's main draw wild cards for the French Open.  With two weeks left to go, Amanda Anisimova and Tennys Sandgren are on top of the standings. Neither Anisimova nor Kristie Ahn, who is second place, are playing the $60,000 tournament in Charlottesville VA this week.  Sandgren is entered in the $75,000 Tallahassee Challenger this week, but No. 2 Denis Kudla is not.

The women's current standings are here; the men's current standings are here.

The Kalamazoo College men's tennis team just won its 79th consecutive MIAA conference title this weekend, a streak that dates back to when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a first-term president.  It's the longest conference title streak in college sports.  Prior to K's win over Albion this weekend, which clinched the conference title outright, the Detroit News published this article on the program's mind-boggling accomplishment.

Did you know NBA star Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz concentrated on tennis for most of his youth?  Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal looks back on the growth spurt that changed his focus in this article. Hayward even had a Tennis Recruiting Network profile, with Purdue listed as his school of choice. As Perotta explains, Hayward ended up at Butler, thinking he would play both sports, but ended up concentrating on basketball.

Sixteen-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who hasn't played a junior event since reaching the final of the Wimbledon juniors last July, picked up her first WTA victory today, beating No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic of Germany 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Istanbul.  It was also the first Top 100 victory for Yastremska, ranked 420. For more, see the WTA website.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ahn Wins Dothan $60K; Tiafoe Captures Sarasota Challenger Title; US Fed Cup Team Advances to Final; Vanderbilt Beats Florida Again to Claim SEC Conference Tournament Title

Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her pro career today, beating 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the $60,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan AL.  The match, delayed for several hours by rain, saw the unseeded Anisimova do no wrong in the opening set, especially returning serve, with No. 8 seed Ahn able to win only 30 percent of her first serve points.

In the final game of the first set, with Anisimova serving at 5-1, the tenor of the match began to change. Although Anisimova ended up holding serve, she needed 16 points to do so, as Ahn began to eliminate her unforced errors.  After Ahn saved three break points to hold serve and go up 2-1 in the second set, Anisimova left the court after a medical timeout for what looked to be a problem with her right hip or thigh. She won only one game in the set after that, while Ahn's improved serving continued into the third set. Ahn went up 2-0, lost that break, but finished off the match by taking the last four games.

It's the sixth ITF Women's Pro Circuit title of the Stanford graduate's career, with her previous three at the $25,000 level and the first two at the $10,000 level.  She will move to a career-high of around 155 in Monday's WTA rankings and keeps the race for the USTA's French Open wild card interesting with two more tournaments yet to be played. Anisimova is now 0-3 in ITF finals, all of them since late February. She will move to around 260 in the WTA rankings.

Ahn also reached the doubles title in Dothan, but she and partner Lizette Cabrera of Australia lost to Sanaz Marand and Emina Bektas 6-3, 1-6, 10-2 in tonight's final.  It's the third doubles title of the year for Marand and Bektas, following their wins at the $15K in Orlando and the $25K last week in Pelham.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Orange Park Florida, unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia took the title, beating top seed Calvin Hemery of France 6-2, 6-4.

Frances Tiafoe won his third ATP Challenger title in another all-American final today at the $100,000 tournament in Sarasota Florida. No. 3 seed Tiafoe, who had outlasted Jurgen Melzer of Austria in last night's semifinal 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), beat Tennys Sandgren in today's final 6-3, 6-4. With the title, his first this year, the 19-year-old will move into the ATP Top 75 for the first time.  Melzer and Scott Lipsky won the doubles title, beating Peter Polansky of Canada and Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4.

The US Fed Cup team defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in Wesley Chapel Florida to advance to the final in November, where they will play Belarus for their first Fed Cup title since 2000.

CoCo Vandeweghe played a part in all three US points, beating 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday. Siniakova had beaten Shelby Rogers on Saturday and Vondrousova forced a deciding doubles match by beating Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in the fourth singles match.  The doubles team of Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a formidable one, and they earned the USA's first trip to the Fed Cup final since 2010 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Kristyna Pliskova and Siniakova.  For more on today's action, see this USTA article.

Most of the major conference championships begin later this week, but the SEC women's finished today, with the nation's No. 2 team Vanderbilt beating the nation's No. 1 team Florida 4-3 in Nashville. Vanderbilt won its first regular season conference title by knocking off Florida 4-3 last Sunday, also in Nashville. Vanderbilt won the tournament title today after dropping the doubles point (they had won the point a week earlier), getting singles wins from Astra Sharma at line 1, Sydney Campbell at line 2, Christina Rosca at line 3. Fernanda Contreras clinched for the Commodores at line 6.  Florida played today without Josie Kuhlman, who was scratched due to a stomach virus. See the Vanderbilt website for more on today's match.

For more on all this weekend's college results, see College Tennis Today.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anisimova, Ahn Reach Dothan $60K Final; Sandgren Advances to Sarasota Challenger Final; Madurawe, Inoue Claim ITF Titles in Caribbean

Amanda Anisimova reached the final last week at the $80,000 Indian Harbour Beach USTA Pro Circuit event and has followed that up this week with another trip to the championship match, her third in three ITF Women's Circuit tournaments this year.  The 15-year-old from Florida defeated 18-year-old Sonya Kenin 6-3, 6-0 in today's $60,000 Dothan Alabama semifinal and will face No. 8 seed Kristie Ahn in the final. Ahn defeated unseeded Barbara Haas of Austria 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal. Ahn is looking for the biggest title of her pro career and her first since 2015. The 24-year-old, who graduated from Stanford in 2014, will reach her career high in the WTA rankings regardless of the result on Sunday.  Should Anisimova win the title , she will put herself in a commanding position in the USTA French Open Wild Card Challenge, even with two more tournaments still on the schedule.  Live streaming of the final will be available via this link.

Both US men in the semifinals of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida Futures lost today.  Qualifier Gianni Ross's string of victories ended at six, when he lost 6-4, 6-2 to top seed Calvin Hemery of France.  No. 2 seed Evan King led 5-3 in the second set against unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia, but Mantilla won the final four games of the match to earn a place in the final.

Tennys Sandgren has had an outstanding start to 2017, and the former Tennessee Volunteer stayed on that track today, beating Vincent Millot of France 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the final of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota.  Sandgren, now at a career high of 156 in the ATP rankings, will face the winner of tonight's match between No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe and former ATP Top 10 player Jurgen Melzer of Austria. A free live stream of the match is available at the ATP Challenger website.

In ITF junior action, US juniors Niluka Madurawe and Hina Inoue won titles, with Madurawe capturing the championship at the Grade 4 in Trinidad and Tobago and Inoue claiming the title at the Grade 5 in Guadeloupe. No. 8 seed Madurawe's  6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Dakota Fordham gave the 17-year-old her second singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the first earlier this year in Guatemala. Qualifier Inoue, just 13, defeated unseeded Selena Janicijevic of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final to win the first ITF junior tournament she has played.

Ronan Jachuck was the second American to pick up a title in Trinidad, taking the doubles championship with Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Ignacio Garcia and Rafael Grovas of Puerto Rico 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final.

Several US juniors are already in Europe, with Amanda Meyer reaching the singles semifinals and Nicole Mossmer advancing to the quarterfinals in singles and final in doubles at the Grade 2 in France.
At the Grade 2 in Italy, Easter Bowl champion Alafia Ayeni was the top seed but lost in the quarterfinals to Matias Soto of Chile. He did take the doubles title, however, with Soto as his partner. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Francesco Forti and Mattia Frinzi of Italy 4-6, 6-2, 10-3 in the final.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ross Advances to Futures Semifinals; Anisimova vs Kenin for Finals Berth at $60K in Dothan; Tiafoe, Sandgren Reach Sarasota Challenger Semifinals; Junior Trio on Hand as US Fed Cup Team Hosts Czech Republic in Tampa

A day after reaching his first USTA Pro Circuit Futures quarterfinal 18-year-old Gianni Ross has advanced to his first semifinal, beating unseeded Thales Turini of Brazil 6-4, 6-0 today at the $15,000 Orange Park Florida tournament.  Ross, a qualifier who has now won six matches in the past seven days, will face top seed Calvin Hemery of France in Saturday's semifinals.

No. 2 seed Evan King will play in the bottom half semifinal against unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia after King defeated Genaro Olivieri of Argentina 7-5, 6-2.

Former Michigan All-American King won the 20th doubles title of his pro career today, teaming with 2014 NCAA champion Hunter Reese, the former Tennessee Volunteer. The No. 3 seeds defeated unseeded Daniel Nolan of Australia and Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 2-6, 7-5, 10-8 in the final.

The semifinals of the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama will feature three Americans, with 18-year-old Sonya Kenin facing 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova in one semifinal.  Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn, the No. 8 seed and the only seed remaining, will play Barbara Haas of Austria for a place in the final.  Kenin downed wild card Usue Arconada 6-4, 6-2, while Anisimova, a finalist at last week's $80K at Indian Harbour Beach, beat wild card Sophie Chang 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.  Ahn took out Fanny Stollar of Hungary 6-3, 6-3.

The $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota Florida is down to its last four, with Tennys Sandgren and No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe making the semifinals. Sandgren advanced over Denis Kudla via walkover and will play unseeded Vincent Millot of France, who beat top seed Jared Donaldson 6-4, 7-5.  Tiafoe beat No. 7 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 and will face Jurgen Melzer of Austria.

The US Fed Cup team hosts the Czech Republic in the competition's semifinals, which begin Saturday at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel Florida. CoCo Vandeweghe will face 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in the in the first singles match, with Shelby Rogers taking on Katerina Siniakova in the second singles match of the day. The doubles matchup, played after the two reverse singles on Sunday, is scheduled to be Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lauren Davis against Kristyna Pliskova and Denisa Allertova.

Caty McNally, Natasha Subhash and Whitney Osuigwe, who are representing the US in the Junior Fed Cup, are training with the team this week, and spoke to the USTA's Ashley Marshall about what they've learned from observing the preparation for the most important team event in women's tennis.  McNally, Subhash and Osuigwe will be traveling to Mexico next week for the North/Central American qualifying for this fall's Junior Fed Cup.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Florida Gets Verbal Commitments From Riffice, Greif; Ross Reaches First Futures Quarterfinal; Kenin, Anisimova, Arconada Advance at Dothan $60K

Although 2017 signing week is over, two major blue chip commitments have come in this week for 2018, with the University of Florida landing 2016 Kalamazoo 16s champion Lukas Greif and Sam Riffice, No. 1 in the Tennis Recruiting Network's rankings.  Florida also has received verbal commitments from Harry and Grey Cacciatore, five-star recruits from Gainesville.

None of these players can sign before November, so these verbal commitments are not binding, but it's rare that a decision is changed once it has been announced by the player (the school cannot acknowledge a commitment until the player has signed).  With Riffice now living in Orlando, I'm not surprised by his choice, but Greif had been heavily recruited by all the top Big Ten schools, and I was expecting the Indiana resident to end up at one of them, or another school that plays indoors regularly.

One of the other notable signings announced recently comes from Texas A&M, who will have US Open boys doubles champion Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia on their team this coming fall. When I spoke to Aguilar after his US Open title, he said he was going to play college tennis (he spent a great deal of time in Canada growing up and speaks excellent English), because his federation did not have the money to support him on the ITF Pro Circuit.  At that time, he was still exploring his options, but he has now decided to join the Aggies.

The University of Michigan has announced that the Siimar brothers from Estonia have signed for 2017.  Mattias Siimar, whose ITF junior ranking reached a high of 41, made the final of the 16s Orange Bowl back in 2014, losing to Riffice. His twin brother Kristofer has been ranked as high as 146 in the ITF juniors.

Arizona State is getting ready to resume collegiate competition after an eight-year hiatus and head coach Matt Hill so far has seven players committed to play for the Sun Devils. Read about them here.

Gianni Ross is one of the few senior blue chips who has yet to decide on if or where he will attend college.  Today the 18-year-old reached his first Futures quarterfinal, beating fellow qualifier Cameron Silverman 7-6(5), 7-5 in the second round of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida event.  Ross will play unseeded Thales Turini of Brazil on Friday. Evan King, the No. 2 seed, is the only other American to advance to the quarterfinals.

At the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama, Sonya Kenin, Usue Arconada and Amanda Anisimova have advanced to the quarterfinals, as have Kristie Ahn and Sophie Chang.  Kenin defeated Catalina Pella of Argentina 6-2, 6-1, after ousting No. 3 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany in the first round.  Arconada, a wild card, took out No. 6 seed Jamie Loeb 6-4, 7-5 today and will face Kenin in the quarterfinals. Kenin defeated Arconada 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of this January's $25K in Orlando and reached the final that week. Anisimova beat Paula Kania of Poland 6-3, 6-2 and will meet wild card Chang in the quarterfinals. Chang, who beat No. 2 seed Taylor Townsend in the first round, defeated qualifier Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 today.  Ahn, the No. 8 seed, beat Jennifer Elie 6-2, 6-2 and will play Fanny Stollar of Hungary in the quarterfinals. Live streaming of the main court can be found here.

Four Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota Florida: top seed Jared Donaldson, Tennys Sandgren and Denis Kudla, who play each other Friday, and No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe, who is the only one of the four in the bottom half of the draw.  Live streaming is available at the ATP Challenger website.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Bowl ITF Recap; 12s and 14s Divisions Slideshow, Videos

My recap of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. If you didn't have an opportunity to follow my daily on-site coverage, this is a chance to catch up on one of the biggest ITF tournaments of the year in the United States.

I decided to put together two separate slideshows for the Easter Bowl, and today's features the 12s and 14s divisions.  I also compiled brief videos of the finals.   Replays of the finals(and many other matches) are available via the archives on Livestream.  The boys 14s final (beginning at 3-3 in the first set) is here; the complete girls 14s final, and a dramatic one it was, is here; and the coverage (without commentary) of the 12s start with the girls and continue on to the boys here.  My Tennis Recruiting Network recap of the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions is here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Boys USTA Summer Team Set; NCAA Championship Sites Announced; Florida Women Remain No. 1 Despite Loss

The USTA camp to select the boys Team USA summer team was completed today at Lake Nona, with seven of the eight players earning their spots through a round robin competition.  The 16-and-under players named to the team are:

Govind Nanda (automatically qualified)
Alex Lee
Cannon Kingsley
Andrew Dale
Marcus McDaniel
William Grant
Siem Woldeab
Blaise Bicknell

Obviously not all the top 16-and-under players eligible participated, with Easter Bowl champion Brandon Nakashima, finalist Stefan Dostanic and Junior Davis Cup team member Tristan Boyer among those missing.

For the round robin results, click here.  A tournament was then held for the top eight finishers from the round robin groups. That draw is here.

The NCAA announced the host venues for the NCAA championships for the four years beginning in 2019.

For Division I Tennis:
2019--USTA National Campus, Lake Nona Florida, University of Central FL
2020--Oklahoma State, Stillwater OK
2021--USTA National Campus, Lake Nona Florida, UCF
2011--University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana IL

For Division II Tennis:
2019--Rollins and Central Florida Sports Commission, Sanlando Park, Atlamonte Springs FL
2020--Lindenwood Mo, St. Charles CVB and St. Louis Sports Commission, St. Louis MO
2021--Pacific West Conference and City of Surprise, Surprise Arizona
2011--Rollins and Central Florida Sports Commission, Sanlando Park, Atlamonte Springs FL

For Division III Tennis:
2019--Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo MI
2020--Washington-St. Louis, St. Louis MO
2021--Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Claremont CA
2022--Oglethorpe and Central Florida Sports Commission, USTA National Campus, Lake Nona FL

I'm excited to see the Division III tournament returning to Kalamazoo so soon and look forward to covering it as I did last year when it was here.

I had heard doubts expressed about the Division I tournament being held at an off-campus site such as the USTA's National Campus, but I think some of those concerns may have been allayed by the obvious commitment to college tennis that the USTA demonstrated this dual match season. The college facility there is perfect for the event, although as with most venues, rain during the tournament will present problems, with just six indoor courts onsite.

As a reminder, here are the sites for 2017 and 2018:

Division I
2017--University of Georgia
2018--Wake Forest

Division II
2017--Altamonte Springs Florida
2018--Surprise Arizona

Division III
2017--Chattanooga Tennessee

The NCAA release on all its championship venues for all divisions can be found here.

The latest ITA Division I rankings are out, with the same two teams at the top.  Despite its loss to Vanderbilt, the Florida women maintained their No. 1 position. Vanderbilt moved up to No. 2, the most significant movement in either ranking list this week. Wake Forest remains No. 1 in the men's team rankings.  The No. 1s in both men's and women's singles and doubles also are unchanged from last week. Click on the heading to see the full rankings.

Women's team Top 10 (previous ranking in parentheses):
1. Florida (1)
2. Vanderbilt (5)
3. North Carolina (3)
4. Georgia (2)
5. Ohio State (4)
6. Georgia Tech (6)
7. Texas Tech University (7)
8. Stanford (10)
9. Oklahoma State (8)
10. Michigan (9)

Women's singles Top 10:
1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (1)
2. Hayley Carter, North Carolina (2)
3. Ena Shibahara, UCLA (3)
4. Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt (4)
5. Blair Shankle, Baylor University (5)
6. Belinda Woolcock, Florida (7)
7. Viktoriya Lushkova, Oklahoma State (6)
8. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina (8)
9. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech (10)
10. Jasmine Lee, Mississippi State (16)

Women's doubles Top 5:
1. Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney, North Carolina (1)
2. Aldila Sutjiadi and Mami Adachi, Kentucky (2)
3. Astra Sharma and Emily Smith, Vanderbilt (5)
4. Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson, Georgia (11)
5. Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux, Mississippi State (3)

Men's team Top 10:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. Ohio State University (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. Baylor University (4)
5. Oklahoma State (5)
6. Southern California (6)
7. Texas (8)
8. UCLA (7)
9. TCU (9)
10. Texas A&M (10)

Men's singles Top 10:
1. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (1)
2. Cameron Norrie, TCU (3)
3. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest University (2)
4. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (4)
5. Aleks Vukic, Illinois (6)
6. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (8)
7. Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech (5)
8. Hugo Di Feo, Ohio State (7)
9. Alfredo Perez, Florida (9)
10. Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (11)

Men's doubles Top 5:
1. Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (1) 1
2. Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat, California (4)
3. Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb, Georgia (2)
4. Arjun Kadhe and Julian Cash, Oklahoma State (3)
5. William Blumberg and Robert Kelly, North Carolina (8)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Bowl Recap; Milan Grade A Acceptances; Michigan Wins Tennis on Campus National Title; ITA Production of Siegel's Story; Q and A with USTA President Katrina Adams

Now that Signing Week is complete at the Tennis Recruiting Network, it's time for my recaps of the adidas Easter Bowl. Today I look back at the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions; on Wednesday, my review of the ITF Grade B1 Championships will be published.  The slideshows and videos will be coming, if not soon, before the end of the month.

The acceptances for the third ITF Grade A of the year, the Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, have been released, with ten US boys and 11 US girls receiving entry into the main draw.  The girls are: Claire Liu, Taylor Johnson, Whitney Osuigwe, Sofia Sewing, Ellie Douglas, Hailey Baptiste, Caty McNally, Hurricane Tyra Black, Elysia Bolton, Nicole Mossmer and Natasha Subhash.  Liu had said recently she was only playing the junior slams, so she may withdraw; missing is Carson Branstine of Canada, who had said she was planning to play doubles in Milan with Douglas, after the pair had won the Carson ITF last month.  Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who has not played a junior event since the Australian Open and has won two $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit events this year, is entered, as is Australian Open champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, Orange Bowl champion Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olesya Pervushina of Russia.

The US boys receiving direct entry are: Trent Bryde, Oliver Crawford, Vasil Kirkov, Sam Riffice, Alafia Ayeni, Danny Thomas, Alexandre Rotsaert, Gianni Ross, Patrick Kypson and Sebastian Korda. Orange Bowl finalist Yibing Wu of China[3] and Australian Open boys finalist Yshai Oliel of Israel[5] are the highest ranked boys players entered.  The tournament begins May 22nd.

The Tennis on Campus National Championships were completed on Saturday at the USTA campus in Lake Nona Florida, with the University of Michigan taking home the title for the first time with a 24-20 win over the University of California-Irvine. Interesting to note that team member Laura Ucros, a former ITF Top 40 junior, played on the varsity team at Michigan before injury set her on a different course. For details on the final, see this article from the USTA.

The ITA has produced a video supporting The Team Luke Foundation, created recently in the wake of the tragic golf cart accident in 2015 involving Luke Siegel, the young son of former Texas Tech men's coach Tim Siegel. It's heart-wrenching to see the Siegel family coping with the aftermath of the accident, which left Luke with serious brain damage, but it's also inspiring to see their persistence and determination. The college tennis community has supported the Siegels throughout these difficult months, but the foundation now gives that support a focal point.  Luke turns 11 tomorrow, please consider donating to his foundation or participating in one of the events scheduled in the months ahead.

USTA president Katrina Adams spoke with ESPNW recently about how she knew she was ready for pro tennis after competing at Northwestern and how she used the lessons learned on the tennis courts to pursue a career in tennis after her years on the pro tour.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Vondrousova Wins WTA Title; Anisimova Falls in Indian Harbour Beach Final; Johnson Claims Second ATP Title; No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Georgia Women Upset

Seventeen-year-old qualifier Marketa Vondrousova had played only one WTA event prior to this week, last year in her home country, the Czech Republic. As a wild card, Vondrousova earned her first WTA victory in her first attempt last April in Prague, losing in the second round to eventual finalist Samantha Stosur of Australia.  This year, Vondrousova qualified for a WTA event for the first time in Biel Switzerland, then ran the table, beating unseeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4, 7-6(6) in today's final.  The former ITF junior No. 1, Vondrousova didn't lose a set in her five main draw wins and will see her WTA ranking go from 233 to around 117. That means she's certain to receive entry into the French Open qualifying, where she reached the junior semifinals in 2015.  For more on Vondrousova's title, see the WTA website.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova fell short in her quest for a Pro Circuit title, falling to Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the $80,000 tournament in Indian Harbour Beach Florida. There were 16 breaks of serve in the match, but it was the 28-year-old Govortsova who got the most important one, with Anisimova serving at 3-4 in the third set.  True to the theme of the day, Govortsova struggled to serve out the match, but she converted her fourth match point to win her first title since last September.

In doubles, unseeded Kristie Ahn and Quinn Gleason won their first title as a team, beating No. 2 seeds Laura Pigossi of Brazil and Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-3, 6-2 in the final.  It's Ahn's first doubles title on the ITF Women's Circuit since 2010 and Gleason's first ITF Women's Circuit title of any kind in her first year on the pro circuit after graduating from Notre Dame in 2016.

Two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson won his second ATP title in dramatic fashion today, beating Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) at the US Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston. USC alum Johnson, the No. 4 seed, began to cramp down 2-4 in the third set, but he managed to get the break back, save his energy for the tiebreaker and gut out a win over the No. 8 seed with a blistering forehand winner on his third match point.  For more on the final, see the ATP website.

Former North Carolina All-American Brayden Schnur won his first Futures title of the year and the fourth of his career today at the $25,000 tournament in Little Rock Arkansas, beating fellow Canadian Philip Bester 7-6(4), 6-1 in the final.  The 21-year-old, who was seeded fourth, has now won his last two encounters with Bester, the No. 5 seed. Bester had won five of their previous six meetings, all of which took place in Canada.

The SEC regular season came to an end today and it delivered two big surprises on the women's side, with No. 1 Florida falling to No. 5 Vanderbilt 4-2 in Nashville and No. 2 Georgia losing to No. 21 Texas A&M by the same score in Athens.  Vanderbilt took the doubles point and got wins from Fernanda Contreras at line 6 and Astra Sharma at line 1 before senior Sydney Campbell clinched at line 2.  The win gave Vanderbilt the SEC regular season conference title for the first time in program history. The Commodores will be the top seed in the conference tournament, which they will host beginning on Wednesday.

Texas A&M also won the doubles point in their win over Georgia, with their three singles points coming from Rachel Pierson at line 1, Eva Paalma at line 6 and Rutuja Bhosale with the clinching point at line 2. It is the best win, by ranking, for any team in the program's history.