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Friday, June 30, 2017

June Aces; Falconi Qualifies at Wimbledon, Joining 24 Other Americans in Main Draw; US Girls Win Maureen Connolly Challenge Cup; Pro Circuit Update

My Tennis Recruiting Network Aces column is early this month, coming out today with 17 current junior and college players, plus several former collegiate standouts, receiving recognition for what they accomplished in June.

The women's Wimbledon qualifying was completed today at Roehampton, and, as with the American men, just one woman from the US advanced to the main draw.  Former Georgia Tech star Irina Falconi, who had struggled this year on the WTA tour and has seen her ranking fall to 246, defeated No. 8 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia 6-1, 6-4 to earn a place in the main draw for the third straight year. Falconi, who did not drop a set in her three qualifying victories, will play top seed Angelique Kerber of Germany in the opening round.  Kristie Ahn[6] lost to Aryna Sabalenka[13] of Belarus 6-1, 6-1 in today's final round of qualifying, and Asia Muhammad[17[ was beaten by No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-0.

In addition to 19-year-old Sabalenka, three other teenagers reached the main draw with qualifying wins today.  Eighteen-year-old Anna Blinkova[5] of Russia, the 2015 Wimbledon girls finalist, defeated Jana Fett of Croatia 1-6, 6-3, 6-3; 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada beat Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3 and 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova of Russia, the 2016 Wimbledon girls champion, defeated Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia 6-3, 7-5 to make their Wimbledon man draw debuts.

The draws were released today for men's and women's singles with 15 US women, including Falconi, and 10 US men, including qualifier Taylor Fritz competing.

Fritz was drawn to face No. 23 seed John Isner in the only all-US first round match in the men's draw.  Other US men in the main draw are: Sam Querrey[24], Donald Young, Steve Johnson[26], Jack Sock[17], Frances Tiafoe, Jared Donaldson, Ryan Harrison and Ernesto Escobedo.

Three women's first round matches are all-US affairs, with Shelby Rogers facing Julia Boserup, Lauren Davis[28] meeting Varvara Lepchenko and Alison Riske playing Sloane Stephens, who has not played since the Olympic Games last August.  The other US women in the draw are wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Christina McHale, CoCo Vandeweghe[24], Jennifer Brady, Venus Williams[10], Madison Keys[17], Madison Brengle and CiCi Bellis.  Bellis has drawn to play former WTA No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who has just begun playing again after having a baby late last year.

The women's draw is here; the men's draw is here.

Victorious US team kneeling, British team standing (courtesy photo)
The US won the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy, the competition featuring the top junior girls from Great Britain against their counterparts from the United States, by a score of 6-4.  The two teams split eight singles matches, with Vanderbilt recruit Emily Appleton of Great Britain defeating both Claire Liu and Whitney Osuigwe.  After a default due to injury in the first of two doubles matches gave the US a 5-4 lead, the US needed to take the final doubles match to avoid a deciding tiebreak, and they got it, with Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe beating Appleton and Holly Fischer 6-4 to give the Americans the victory.

2017 Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy results:


Emily Appleton (GBR) bt Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 6-4

Claire Liu (USA) bt Holly Fischer (GBR) 6-3

Taylor Johnson (USA) bt Gemma Heath (GBR) 7-5

Emma Raducanu (GBR) bt Sofia Sewing (USA) 7-5

Emily Appleton (GBR) bt Claire Liu (USA) 6-4

Holly Fischer (GBR) bt Whitney Osuigwe (USA) 7-5

Sofia Sewing (USA) bt Gemma Heath (GBR) 6-4

Taylor Johnson (USA) bt Emma Raducanu (GBR) 7-6 (2)


Walkover to USA due to GBR injury

Osuigwe and McNally (USA) bt Appleton and Fischer (GBR) 6-4

Final score: USA 6-4 GBR

The semifinals are set for the three USTA Pro Circuit events with all three champions from last week's events still in the running for a second straight title.

At this week's $25,000 event in Auburn Alabama, top seed Nicole Gibbs(Stanford), who won in Baton Rouge last week, beat Emina Bektas(Michigan) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to advance against unseeded Australian Ellen Perez(Georgia), who beat qualifier Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.  In the bottom half, Canada's Carol Zhao(Stanford) defeated No. 2 seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 5 seed Miharu Imanishi of Japan. Imanishi took out No. 3 seed Mayo Hibi 7-5, 6-3. 

At the men's $15,000 Futures in Pittsburgh, top seed Mikael Torpegaard(Ohio State) of Denmark, who won in Rochester last week, defeated unseeded Collin Johns 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 to reach the semifinals, where he will face No. 4 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan. Uchida defeated Canadian qualifier Huge Di Feo(Ohio State) 6-3, 6-0.  In the bottom half, unseeded Nathan Pasha(Georgia) will take on No. 6 seed Dennis Nevolo(Illinois) after Pasha beat Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-3, 6-4 and Nevolo took out No. 2 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 6-4, 6-4.

Torpegaard and Di Feo won the doubles title for the second week in a row, with the unseeded pair beating top seeds Pasha and Great Britain's Farris Gosea(GBR) 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Torpegaard and Di Feo did not come close to losing a set all week.

At the $25,000 Futures in Tulsa, Wake Forest champion Tommy Paul advanced to the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-4 win over wild card Zeke Clark(Illinois).  Paul will face top seed Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M), who beat wild card Spencer Papa(Oklahoma) 6-3, 6-3. Paul and Krajicek met last week in the Wake Forest semifinals, with Paul recording a 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 victory.  In the bottom half, Georgia rising junior Emil Reinberg defeated wild card William Blumberg(North Carolina) 6-4, 6-3 to reach the first Futures semifinal of his career.  Reinberg had taken out No. 2 seed Max Purcell of Australia on Thursday. Reinberg will face No. 4 seed Christian Harrison, who posted a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Ryan Shane(Virginia) in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek and Jackson Withrow(Texas A&M) won the doubles title, with the top seeds beating No. 2 seeds Paul and Nathan Ponwith(Georgia) 6-4, 6-2 in the final.  Like Torpegaard and Di Feo, Krajicek and Withrow did not lose more than four games in any set during the week, winning their fourth title of the year, with two of those on the ATP Challenger circuit.

In Canada, three of the four finalists at the $25,000 Futures in British Columbia are from the US.  Deiton Baughman beat No. 2 seed Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada in the semifinals. Peliwo downed No. 6 seed Alexios Halebian 6-2, 7-6(3).  In the top half, No. 4 seed Raymond Sarmiento(USC), seeded fourth, will face top seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine). Sarmiento beat No. 7 seed Marcel Felder of Uruguay 6-2, 6-2, while Sarkissian defeated unseeded Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain 6-1, 7-5.

The doubles title went to unseeded Peliwo and Ronnie Schneider(North Carolina) who beat unseeded Jody Maginley of Antigua and Whitehouse 7-5, 6-4 in the final.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fritz Qualifies at Wimbledon; Ahn, Falconi and Muhammad Reach Final Round Qualifying; USTA's US Open Challenge to Include ATP/WTA Events for Men and Women; Hunt Hired to Replace Hodge at Georgia; Suarez-Malaguti Joins O'Leary at Virginia

I spent the morning covering the four finals at the Midwest Closed, where Bill Duo, Emma Jackson, Saiprakash Goli and Sydni Ratliff collected titles. Complete coverage, including interviews with all four champions, will be available Monday at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The Wimbledon's men's qualifying is nearly complete, with 15 of the 16 final round qualifying matches finishing today in Roehampton.  Thirteen US men started competition Monday with designs on a place in the main draw, but only Taylor Fritz managed to record the three wins necessary to get there.  Fritz[21] defeated No. 21 seed Vincent Millot of France 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in today's final round qualifying match.  Denis Kudla and Dennis Novikov fell at the final hurdle, with Kudla failing to convert two match points in a 4-6, 2-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), 6-0 loss to Andrew Whittington of Australia and Novikov losing to Chile's Nicolas Jarry 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Both Whittington, 23,  and Jarry, 21, will be making their Wimbledon main draw debuts.

In addition to Fritz, two other teenagers have qualified with 19-year-old Andrey Rublev[5] of Russia and 18-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece making their first appearances in the Wimbledon main draw. Fritz was a direct entry at Wimbledon last year.

The women's final round of qualifying is scheduled for Friday, with three American women vying for one of 12 places in the women's main draw.  In second round action today, Kristie Ahn[6] defeated Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-3; Asia Muhammad[17] topped Miyu Kato of Japan 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 and Irina Falconi beat Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-3.  Ahn will face 19-year-old Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the No. 13 seed, who beat Jamie Loeb in today's second round. Muhammad's next opponent is No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Falconi will take on No. 8 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia.

2016 Wimbledon girls champion Anastasia Potapova also advanced to to the final round of qualifying with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey.  Bianca Andreescu of Canada, Anna Blinkova of Russia, Destanee Aiava of Australia and Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia are other teens who will play in the final round of qualifying on Friday.

The USTA announced the tournaments that will be in the mix for its sixth annual US Open Wild Card Challenge this summer.  As with the French Open wild card Challenge, the men's events include many ATP and ATP Challenger events around the globe, with 16 different tournaments during the five weeks beginning July 10th.  The best three results from any of the five events listed below will decide one of the USTA's US Open wild cards.

Week of July 10: $75,000 Winnetka, IL; $75,000 Winnipeg, Canada
Week of July 17: $125,000 Astana, KAZ; $75,000 Gatineau, Canada
Week of July 24: Atlanta ATP World Tour 250; $100,000 Granby, Canada; $75,000 Binghamton, NY
Week of July 31: Washington, D.C. ATP World Tour 500; Los Cabos ATP World Tour 250; $125,000 Chengdu, CHN; €85K+H Segovia, ESP; $75,000 Lexington, KY
Week of Aug. 7: Montreal ATP World Tour Masters 1000; $150,000 Jinan, CHN; $100,000 Aptos, CA; €43K+H Portoroz, SLO

The women's US Open Wild Card Challenge runs only three weeks, from beginning July 17, but for the first time, it will include two WTA events: the Stanford Premier event and the Citi Open International event, both of which are held in the third week. The best two results during that three-week span will earn the winner a US Open wild card.

Week of July 17: $60,000 Stockton, CA (main-draw points only)
Week of July 24: $60,000 Sacramento, CA (main-draw points only)
Week of July 31: $60,000 Lexington, KY (main-draw points only); Washington, D.C. WTA International Event (qualifying and main-draw points); Stanford WTA Premier Event (qualifying and main-draw points)

For more, including the past winners of the Wild Card Challenge, see this usta.com article.

A couple of high profile assistant coaching positions were filled today, with Jamie Hunt returning to his alma mater as associate head coach for the Georgia men.  Hunt, who has been at Vanderbilt as the men's assistant/associate head coach for the past seven years, replaces Bo Hodge, who was the associate head coach for the past two years. Hodge was suspended last month while a police investigation continues into missing prescription drugs reported by the men's program.

Sara O'Leary, who was named the new women's head coach at Virginia two weeks ago, has hired Gina Suarez-Malaguti as her assistant, it was announced today. Suarez-Malaguti, who has been an assistant at North Carolina State's women's program for the past three years, played for North Carolina when O'Leary (then Anundsen) was an assistant there, and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2013.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Midwest Closed Winds Down; Andreescu Tops Day in First Round of Wimbledon Qualifying; Fritz, Novikov, Kudla Through to Final Round of Men's Qualifying; ESPN Feature on Osuigwe

I am in Indianapolis for the the 16s and 18s Midwest Closed, which I am covering for an article at the Tennis Recruiting Network early next week.

The weather's been great throughout the tournament, some of the best ever according to veteran officials and coaches, and I enjoyed my time today catching up with prominent Midwest development coaches Tom Walker, Mark Bey, and Jeff and Bryan Smith, who run their program at these North Central High School courts.  Bryan Smith, who traveled extensively with Rajeev Ram last year, is staying closer to home this summer, and he was overseeing a practice with Stanford's Sameer Kumar and North Carolina's Sara Daavettila this afternoon.

I also talked with Troy Hahn, who grew up nearby and learned to play on these same courts of North Central high school, which he attended. Hahn, who played at Florida, was an assistant at Purdue before becoming a USTA National coach, is back in his hometown now and will be coaching at the Indianapolis Community Tennis Program this summer after parting ways with Jack Sock after more than two years as his private coach.

While watching the semifinals today, I kept track of the Wimbledon qualifying, which resumed today after Tuesday's action was mostly washed out.  

Just three US men advanced to Thursday's final qualifying round after 13 had begun play on Monday. 2012 Kalamazoo champion Dennis Novikov defeated Stefan Kozlov[32] 7-5, 6-2 and will face Nicolas Jarry of Chile in an attempt to make the main draw of Wimbledon via qualifying for the second straight year.  After his prolonged victory in the first round over Akira Santillan of Japan, Denis Kudla had a much easier time of it today, beating Ricardo Bellotti of Italy 6-1, 6-1 in a mere 40 minutes.  Kudla, who received direct entry into the main draw last year at Wimbledon, will play Andrew Whittington of Australia for a place in the main draw for the fifth straight year.

Taylor Fritz[21] also had a quick second round win, beating Alejandro Gonzalez of Colombia 6-1, 6-3 in 45 minutes. Fritz meets unseeded Vincent Millot of France, who took out Tennys Sandgren[3] 6-2, 7-6(5).

On Tuesday, the US women split their four completed matches, with Kristie Ahn and Irina Falconi getting today off while the other eight American women completed this first round matches today.  Jamie Loeb, who was just a game away from victory Tuesday, closed out Louisa Chirico 6-7(11), 6-1, 6-2, while Asia Muhammad also picked up where she left off by beating Anastasiya Komardina of Russia 6-0 6-1. The fifth US woman to join Ahn, Falconi, Loeb and Muhammad in the second round of qualifying is Sachia Vickery, who outlasted Georgina Garcia Perez 6-3, 3-6, 9-7.

The marquee matchup between two of the world's top 17-year-olds went to Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who defeated Kayla Day[10] 6-3, 6-3. It's Andreescu's fourth win in six matches again Day and her second in a row.  Point-by-point coverage of the match is available via IBM Slamtracker here.

The men's qualifying draw is here; the women's qualifying draw is here.

ESPN.com has posted an article on French Open girls champion Whitney Osuigwe with a look at how the IMG Academy in Bradenton honored her for the title.  There is one implication in the article I think needs to be clarified however.  Although it is true that "When she turns 16 next April, she will no longer be limited to participating in 10 women's tournaments a year", it doesn't necessarily follow that she can play "regularly."  Depending on her junior ranking, Osuigwe will be given "merited increases" to the limits the WTA sets on the number of tournaments, but she is still subject to those rules until she turns 18. CiCi Bellis, for example, was constantly weighing her schedule with regard to those restrictions until this past April.

I spoke to Osuigwe after her title earlier this month for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rain Disrupts Wimbledon Qualifying; Maureen Connolly Trophy Challenge Begins Thursday; Three USTA Pro Circuit Events Underway; Tulane Hires Brito to Lead Women's Program

Only 12 women's first round matches were completed today at Roehampton, the site of Wimbledon qualifying, before rain washed out play for the day.  Four American women finished their matches, with Irina Falconi and Kristie Ahn advancing and Grace Min and Taylor Townsend falling.

Ahn, the No. 6 seed, needed only 53 minutes to defeat Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-2, 6-1, while Falconi took out Tara Moore of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2. Min lost to Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 6-2, 6-3 and Townsend, the No. 9 seed, was beaten by Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-6(7), 6-3.  The Wimbledon website has more details on Hercog's comeback in this article.

There were two notable junior results, with British wild card Katie Swan falling to Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 and 2016 Wimbledon girls champion and ITF junior No. 1 Anastasia Potapova of Russia beating No. 7 seed Patricia Tig of Romania 7-6(1), 6-3.

The annual Maureen Connolly Trophy Challenge, which features US junior girls against their British counterparts in eight singles and four doubles matches, begins Thursday in Southsea, where an ITF $100,000 women's tournament is taking place.

The British team is Emily Appleton, Francesca Jones, Holly Fischer and Emma Raducanu. The US team is Whitney Osuigwe, Claire Liu, Sofia Sewing and Taylor Johnson.  Johnson didn't enter Wimbledon, but is in the acceptances for the Grade 1 in Roehampton next week.   Two other girls, Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste, are also traveling with the US team.  The US captains are Jamea Jackson and Erik Kortland; the British captains are Anne Keothavong and Jane O'Donoghue.

The USTA Pro Circuit again features two men's Futures and one women's $25K this week.  The men are on green clay in Pittsburgh for a $15,000 Futures, with last week's Rochester champion Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark the top seed.  He will play Ohio State teammate Kyle Seelig, who qualified, in the first round on Wednesday. A third Buckeye is also in the main draw, with Hugo Di Feo of Canada getting through qualifying; John McNally, who will join Ohio State this fall, lost his opening round match today.

After two weeks in North Carolina, the men have left Wake Forest for Tulsa, the site of a $25,000 Futures.  Austin Krajicek is the top seed. NCAA finalist William Blumberg received a wild card and picked up his first ATP point, beating Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-2.  Two other wild cards also picked up first round wins, with Oklahoma graduate Spencer Papa and Illinois rising sophomore Zeke Clark advancing in three-setters.

The women are in Auburn this week, with Baton Rouge champion Nicole Gibbs again taking a wild card card and the top seed.  Eighteen-year-old Jada Robinson and 16-year-old Emiliana Arango of Colombia reached the main draw through qualifying today.  The other six qualifiers all have college ties: rising Florida freshman McCartney Kessler, Florida's Josie Kuhlman, Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani(BRA)and Ashley Lahey, Georgia Tech's Paige Hourigan(NZL) and Alabama's Andie Daniell.  Auburn's Alizee Michaud, North Carolina's Alexandra Sanford and UCLA's Ena Shibahara received wild cards.

There is also a $25,000 Futures in British Columbia Canada this week, with Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) and Marcos Giron(UCLA) the top two seeds.

Tulane has announced its new women's head coach: Maria Brito. Brito has served as the assistant coach at Clemson, her alma mater, for the past four years. Briton replaces Terri Sisk, who resigned in April.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ten US Men Advance to Second Round of Wimbledon Qualifying; 12 US Women Scheduled to Open Qualifying Tuesday; Norrie Claims First ATP Win; Life on the Pro Circuit

The first round of Wimbledon qualifying got off to a good start for American men today, with 10 of 13 advancing to Tuesday's second round.

Two of those three losses came in all-American matches, with Rajeev Ram taking out No. 17 seed and 2015 boys champion Reilly Opelka 7-6(6), 7-6(5) and No. 3 seed Tennys Sandgren eliminating Michael Mmoh 6-3, 7-5.  Mitchell Krueger was the only US man to lose to an international player, with the 23-year-old Texan falling to Mathias Bourgue of France 6-3, 6-4.

Other US winners today were Taylor Fritz[21], Tim Smyczek, Bradley Klahn, Mackenzie McDonald, Bjorn Fratangelo[22], Dennis Novikov, Stefan Kozlov[32] and Denis Kudla.

Kudla's win was the most dramatic, with the 24-year-old saving two match points in a 5-7, 7-5, 13-11 victory over Akira Santillan of Japan that took two hours and 45 minutes to complete.

Novikov and Kozlov will face off tomorrow assuring that at least one American will be in the final round of qualifying. In this Wimbledon article on the American men's success, which includes a long discussion with Fritz on his knee pain, training blocks and decision to skip clay, Kozlov is quoted as saying he suffered an injury during today's match and may not play.

The women begin play on Tuesday to determine who will fill the 12 main draw spots available to qualifiers. A dozen US women are in contention: Danielle Collins, Sachia Vickery, Asia Muhammad[17], Sonya Kenin, Kristie Ahn[6], Grace Min, Jamie Loeb, Louisa Chirico, Irina Falconi, Taylor Townsend[9], Kayla Day[10] and Jacqueline Cako. Loeb vs Chirico is the only all-US match in the first round. Day will face fellow 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu, with whom she already has quite a history.  Day and Andreescu have played five times in the past two years, with Andreescu leading the head-to-head 3-2.  Day won a big match in the semifinals of last year's US Open Junior Championships 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, but Andreescu won their last meeting, the final of February's $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe tournament, 6-4, 6-1.

I believe Watch ESPN is streaming all matches scheduled on Court 11 throughout qualifying. Replay of the four matches on that court today, including Kudla's win, is available here. For the complete order of play for Tuesday, see the Wimbledon website.

Cameron Norrie, who completed his third year of eligibility at TCU last month and turned pro, earned his first ATP main draw win today at Eastbourne. The 21-year-old British wild card also picked up his first ATP Top 50 win with his 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over No. 28 49 Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. Earlier this month Norrie had posted his first ATP Top 100 win by beating No. 71 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia at the Surbiton Challenger. Next up for Norrie, who was awarded a Wimbledon main draw wild card, is No. 2 seed Gael Monfils of France.

Norrie is undoubtedly hoping to move quickly into the main draw Challenger level, where the outlay and the income is more conducive to financial solvency.  In today's New York Times, David Waldstein looks at how two players at different stages of their pro careers--29-year-old Aleksandra Wozniack of Canada and 18-year-old Fanni Stollar of Hungary--cope with life on the lower levels of professional tennis.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gibbs, Paul, Graham Win Pro Circuit Titles; 13 Americans in Wimbledon Men's Qualifying Monday; Seggerman Sweeps Titles at ITF Grade 4

Nicole Gibbs won her first title since 2014 today in Baton Rouge Louisiana, beating Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event.  Gibbs took a wild card into the tournament, and although she had several tough matches, particularly against Vicky Duval in Saturday's semifinal, the two-time NCAA singles champion has to be happy with her title and the number of matches she played as she prepares for the North American hard court season. Di Lorenzo, seeded No. 4, is now 0-2 in finals the past two weeks, but playing Gibbs, with a WTA ranking of 124,  gives the Ohio State rising junior an opportunity to assess how her game stacks up against the next level.

Had you told Christopher Eubanks he would get 81% of his first serves in and have eight aces and no double faults, he probably would have liked his chances to beat Tommy Paul to claim his second consecutive $25,000 Futures title in Winston-Salem.  But the Georgia Tech rising senior was able to get a break point against Paul only once, which he converted to pull even at 4-4 in the second set, only to get broken in the next game, with Paul serving out a 6-4, 6-4 victory.  It's Paul's first Futures title since January of this year, but after a first round loss to qualifier Felix Corwin at last week's Futures at Winston-Salem, it's especially gratifying for the 20-year-old from North Carolina.

North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham won her second career title on the Pro Circuit today, with the unseeded New Yorker defeating No. 2 seed Tori Kinard 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the $15,000 tournament in British Columbia.  It's the 18-year-old's first title since she won the $10,000 Hilton Head tournament back in 2015.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Rochester New York, top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark added the singles title to the doubles title he won Friday.  The rising Ohio State senior defeated qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada 6-2, 6-4 in today's final to earn his third title, with the most recent title at the Challenger level last fall in Columbus. Torpegaard did not lose a set in his five singles and four doubles victories.

The men's qualifying draw was posted today at Wimbledon.com, with 13 Americans playing their opening round matches on Monday.

Two matches feature American vs American, with Tennys Sandgren, the No. 3 seed, playing Michael Mmoh and Reilly Opelka, the No. 17 seed, facing Rajeev Ram.  The other US men in qualifying are Taylor Fritz[21], Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek, Bradley Klahn, Mitchell Krueger, Mackenzie McDonald, Bjorn Fratangelo[22], Dennis Novikov and Stefan Kozlov[32].

Watch ESPN is providing coverage of four qualifying matches each day for the first time this year.

In ITF Junior competition this week, Southern Californian Ryan Seggerman, a blue chip who will be playing for Princeton this fall, swept the titles at the Grade 4 in Fiji.  No. 12 seed Seggerman, whose only previous ITF junior competition was at the 2016 and 2017 Easter Bowls, didn't drop a set all week, beating No. 3 seed Hiroki Sakagawa of Japan 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Seggerman won the doubles title with Kiev Moores, with the No. 6 seeds beating unseeded Chen Dong and Philip Sekulic of Australia 7-5, 1-6, 10-4 in the final.

At the Grade 4 in Tunisia, Will Grant and Tomas Kopczynski won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds taking down top seeds Mert Alkaya and Bora Sengul of Turkey 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the final.

At the Grade 4 in Denmark, No. 2 seed Skyler Grishuk reached the singles final, falling 7-6(3), 6-1 to fellow 14-year-old Dasha Lopatetskaya of Ukraine 7-6(3), 6-1. Lopatetskaya won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title back in 2015.

Rudolf Molleker of Germany claimed his second consecutive Grade 1 title in this home country today, with the No. 2 seed beating unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania 6-4, 6-2 in the Berlin final.  The 16-year-old Molleker did not lose a set in capturing the title last week in Offenbach or in this week in Berlin.  No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier of Germany won the girls title, beating No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine 6-1, 7-5.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eubanks, Di Lorenzo Advance to Pro Circuit Finals for Second Straight Week; Graham Aims for Title in Canada; Goetz and Nefve Win Doubles Championship at Berlin Grade 1

Georgia Tech's Christopher Eubanks and Ohio State's Francesca Di Lorenzo will play their second singles finals in the past eight days on Sunday after picking up victories today at $25,000 events in Winston-Salem North Carolina and Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Eubanks is a rising senior who won the singles title at last week's $25,000 Winston-Salem Futures in a third set tiebreaker against Georgia Tech alum and volunteer assistant coach Kevin King. Today the pair of unseeded Yellow Jackets, who won the doubles title on Friday, met in the semifinals with Eubanks again coming out the winner by virtue of a third set tiebreaker, beating King 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(2).  Eubanks will play unseeded Tommy Paul in Sunday's final, after Paul took out top seed Austin Krajicek 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Paul, who just turned 20, and Eubanks, who just turned 21, met in the first round of qualifying at the BB&T Open in Atlanta last year, with Eubanks winning 6-2, 7-5.

Di Lorenzo, 19, dropped the Sumter South Carolina final last week to Ashley Lahey, an unseeded wild card, who is on the opposite end of the pro experience spectrum of Di Lorenzo's opponent on Sunday, top seed Nicole Gibbs.  No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to that meeting with a third consecutive win over No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa, this time by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  Gibbs, 24, took a wild card to play in Baton Rouge after injuries and slump had left her winless on the WTA tour since reaching the third round at the Australian Open.  Gibbs trailed Vicky Duval 3-1 and 4-2 in the final set of their semifinal match today, but fought back to secure a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory and set up her first meeting with Di Lorenzo.

The doubles title in Baton Rouge went to Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani of Brazil and Georgia's Ellen Perez of Australia, who beat Di Lorenzo and Virginia alum Julia Elbaba 6-3, 6-4.

A third all-American final will take place on Sunday in British Columbia, where unseeded Alexa Graham, a rising sophomore at North Carolina, will face No. 2 seed Tori Kinard at the $15,000 event in Canada.  Graham, who turns 19 next month, defeated Virginia rising sophomore Rosie Johanson of Canada 7-6(3), 6-4 in the semifinals, while Kinard, 29, outlasted recent Penn graduate Kana Daniel 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1).  It's Graham's third Pro Circuit final, with one win and one loss in championship matches at $10,000 events back in 2015.

This week's Grade 1 in Berlin Germany was disappointing for the 11 Americans in the singles draws, with none of them advancing past the second round.  But the US did manage a title, with the unseeded team of Ryan Goetz and Axel Nefve beating top seeds Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France and Naoki Tajima of Japan 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-5.

The boys singles final will feature No. 2 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany, who won last week's title in Offenbach, and unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania.  The girls finals will also feature a German, No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier, against No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine.

At the WTA's Mallorca Open, CiCi Bellis's opportunity to play in her first WTA final was denied by Julia Goerges of Germany, who rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Goerges will face No. 2 seed  Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in
the final. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Duo Commits to Princeton; Americans Dominate USTA Pro Circuit $25K Semifinals; Bellis Reaches Mallorca Semifinals; K-College Conference Winning Streak Ends Due to NCAA Violations

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network looks at Kalamazoo area blue chip Bill Duo's choice of Princeton for 2018.  Duo, a rising senior at Portage Central High School, is the latest in a long line of Kalamazoo area juniors who have been coached by Tom Walker. Unfortunately for Kalamazoo tennis, Walker moved to a new position at Court One in Lansing several years ago, so Duo has been making that 75-minute commute three or four times a week.  I spoke to both of them at the West Michigan qualifier earlier this month at Western Michigan University about the recruiting process, how they began working together and why they've continued, even with the extra burden of that distance.

All four semifinalists at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures are Americans, with last week's winner and finalist Christopher Eubanks and Kevin King meeting again a round earlier after victories today. Eubanks beat qualifier Riley Smith 7-6(2), 6-4 and King eliminated qualifier Henry Craig 6-2, 6-4.  The other semifinal will feature Tommy Paul, who beat Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-3 and top seed Austin Krajicek, who defeated No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Eubanks and King lost in last week's doubles final, but this week they came away with the winners' trophies when the No. 4 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Dominik Koepfer of Germany and Luis Martinez of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match.  It's the first pro doubles title for Eubanks, while King now can claim 11 Futures and Challenger doubles titles.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Baton Rouge are Americans, with No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa the only international.  Simmonds, who beat qualifier Quinn Gleason 6-4, 6-1, will play No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo, who defeated wild card Ashley Kratzer 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kratzer served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Di Lorenzo was able to break hold and break to force a third set in the nearly three-hour contest. Di Lorenzo beat Simmonds last week in three sets en route to the Sumter final and has another win over Simmonds in Macon last year.

The other semifinal will feature top seed Nicole Gibbs against Vicky Duval.  Gibbs ended the run of last week's champion Ashley Lahey, beating the 17-year-old 7-6(0), 6-1, while Duval, playing in just her third tournament since last year's Wimbledon, defeated Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-1. Gibbs and Duval have split their two previous meetings, with Duval winning in Wimbledon qualifying back in 2014 and Gibbs winning in Vancouver qualifying way back in 2012, when Gibbs was still at Stanford.

The results for Americans at this week's $15,000 Futures in Rochester New York couldn't have been any worse.  It began with No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian giving a walkover to qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada. NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski[5] was beaten by No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-3, 6-1, Cameron Silverman went out to No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-2, 6-2 and qualifier Alex Knight retired trailing top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 4-0.   The doubles title also eluded the US team, with Kwiatkowski and Virginia teammate Luca Corinteli falling to Torpegaard and Ohio State teammate Huge Di Feo 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in British Columbia, North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham has advanced to the semifinals after beating top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-4, 6-0. She will play unseeded Canadian Rosie Johanson, who is a rising sophomore at Virginia.

CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA semifinal (not counting the 125 level WTA tournament she won last November in Honolulu) at the Mallorca Open, an international level tournament.  Bellis, playing in her first WTA tournament on grass, defeated Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals and will face unseeded Julia Goerges of Germany in Saturday's semifinals.  For more details on Bellis' win today and comments from the 18-year-old, see this article from the WTA website.

Kalamazoo College's men's tennis team had a streak of conference championships that extended to a remarkable 79 years, but that's over now after the MIAA vacated previous titles and banned the school from participating in the 2018 conference championships due to NCAA violations.  The violations involve the school's process of rewarding of financial aid and are not specific to any particular sport, but because they have the most noteworthy accomplishment ending with this decision, men's tennis will feel the sanctions more keenly than some of the other programs.  For more details on the violations and sanctions, see this Kalamazoo Gazette article, which also provides the first public mention that athletic director Kristen Smith will be leaving her position.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Qualifiers Advance to Quarterfinals in Three USTA Pro Circuit Events; Potapova Out of Wimbledon Juniors; Hodge Out at Georgia

All three USTA Pro Circuit events this week will still have their No. 1 seeds in action after today's matches, but the No. 2 seeds have all been eliminated, and qualifiers have picked up some big wins.

At the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina, only two seeds remain: No. 1 seed Austin Krajicek and No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand, who will play Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Last week's champion Christopher Eubanks, the rising Georgia Tech senior, continued his run with a  7-6(3), 7-5 win over 2012 NCAA finalist Eric Quigley and will meet USC rising sophomore Riley Smith, son of USC coach Peter Smith. Smith, a qualifier who beat No. 4 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada in the first round, took out North Carolina graduate Ronnie Schneider 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Futures quarterfinal.  Tommy Paul beat No. 5 seed Philip Bester of Canada 6-2, 6-2 and will play Wil Spencer, who advanced via a walkover from qualifier Brandon Holt.  The other quarterfinal will feature last week's finalist Kevin King(Georgia Tech) and qualifier Henry Craig.  Craig beat 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-6(3), 6-3 today, with Shane having beaten No. 2 seed Alex Sarkissian, the 2014 NCAA finalist, in two tiebreakers.  It's the 22-year-old Denver graduate's second career Futures quarterfinal.

University of Michigan rising senior Alex Knight earned his first ATP point yesterday at the $15,000 Rochester Futures with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, but the 20-year-old qualifier didn't stop there. Today Knight defeated Ohio State recruit John McNally 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the rising Ohio State senior.

Knight is one of two qualifiers into the quarterfinals in Rochester, with former Indiana standout Samuel Monette of Canada joining him by virtue of a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Dennis Nevolo.  Monette will face No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian.

NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, seeded fifth, needed over three hours to get by Alex Rybakov, last week's champion in Buffalo, 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 6-2 in yesterday's first round. Today the recent Virginia graduate defeated qualifier Sasha Gozun, a recent South Florida graduate, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan.

Former Elon star Cameron Silverman advanced to his second straight Futures quarterfinal with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Adam El Mihdawy.  Silverman meets No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile next.

The only qualifier still remaining at the $25,000 women's tournament in Baton Rouge is former Notre Dame star Quinn Gleason.  The 22-year-old Gleason beat No. 2 seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the first round yesterday and today she took out fellow qualifier Raveena Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(8).  Gleason will play No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa next.

Top seed Nicole Gibbs faces last week's Sumter champion Ashley Lahey in one of the top half quarterfinals. In the other, Julia Elbaba plays Vicky Duval.  In the other bottom half quarterfinal, wild card Ashley Kratzer will face last week's Sumter finalist, No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo.

Yesterday 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova of Russia received a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon and the 2016 Wimbledon girls champion also withdrew from this year's junior championships.  She joins Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu of Canada as prominent junior girls who have withdrawn since the initial acceptance list was posted.  By not defending her title, Potapova will relinquish her No. 1 ranking.

The Macon Telegraph is reporting that Georgia men's assistant Bo Hodge, who was suspended during an ongoing police investigation into missing drugs, will not return to the team.  The article says the University has posted the assistant coach's position as of this morning. The article makes no mention of the status of women's associate head coach Drake Bernstein, who was also suspended last month for reasons yet to be publicly acknowledged by the school.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shapovalov and Norrie Awarded Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards; Bellis Reaches WTA Mallorca Quarterfinals; Gooch, Morton Win WCs for Citi Open Qualifying: USTA Hires New Director of Performance

2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov 
Wimbledon announced its first wild cards today, with both 2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov of Canada and TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain selected to compete in the main draw. Ranked in the ATP Top 200, Shapovalov is already in qualifying, which is the usual wild card given to the previous year's junior champion.

The men's main draw wild cards:
Tommy Haas(GER)
Denis Shapovalov(CAN)
Cameron Norrie(GBR)
Brydan Klein(GBR)
James Ward(GBR)

The other three wild cards will be announced later this week, with qualifying set to begin next week.

The women's main draw wild cards:
Katie Boulter(GBR)
Naomi Broady(GBR)
Heather Watson(GBR)
Laura Robson(GBR)
Zarina Diyas(KAZ)

Again, three more wild cards are likely to be distributed after this week's tournament results.

The men's qualifying wild cards include two former Texas Longhorns, Ed Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.

The men's qualifying wild cards:
Liam Broady(GBR)
Ed Corrie(GBR)
Lloyd Glasspool(GBR)
Jay Clarke(GBR)
Marcus Willis(GBR)

Two more will be announced and the final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

The women's qualifying wild cards:
Freya Christie(GBR)
Harriet Dart(GBR)
Katy Dunne(GBR)
Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Katie Swan(GBR)
Gabriella Taylor(GBR)

Final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

Potapova received her wild card as the previous year's junior champion. Swan, now 18, received a main draw wild card last year and a qualifying wild card in 2015.  Click on the link in the first sentence to see the doubles wild cards.

Today at the WTA event in Mallorca Spain, CiCi Bellis reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Mona Barthel, the 18-year-old's third quarterfinal appearance in 2017.  She will play unseeded Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic for her first WTA semifinal appearance.

The Citi Open, a combined ATP/WTA event scheduled for next month in Washington DC, held a wild card tournament this week, with former Elon standout Damon Gooch of South Africa and former Virginia star Skyler Morton earning qualifying wild cards.  Both were top seeds, with Gooch defeating 17-year-old Andrew Fenty, the No. 2 seed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and Morton beating No. 2 seed and current Virginia rising senior Cassie Mercer 7-6(6), 6-2 in the finals.  For more on the finals, see this Washington Post article.  For the complete results, see the TennisLink site. 

The USTA today announced the hiring of Brent Salazar as Director of Performance.  Salazar, who played college tennis at New Mexico, has been an assistant strength coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and last year was head of strength and conditioning for the Minnesota Vikings. Salazar will be based at the USTA's new National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.  The complete release can be found here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Again This Week; Another ITF Grade 1 in Germany; Bellis, Kozlov Post WTA, ATP Wins on Grass

This week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are very much like last week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, with only one of the three this week moving to a different state.

Winston-Salem North Carolina is the site of a second consecutive $25,000 Futures, with last week's champion, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, earning another win in today's first round, beating wild card Jonathan Ho, a Wake Forest alum, 6-4, 6-2.  The other three wild cards, all American juniors, also went out in the opening round, with Gianni Ross falling to top seed Austin Krajicek, Trent Bryde losing to Jose Statham[8] of New Zealand and Alexandre Rotsaert beaten by Tommy Paul, all in straight sets.

A notable first round winner today is Deiton Baughman, who spent the past collegiate season as a volunteer assistant at USC.  Once ranked as high as 341, the 21-year-old from California started his professional competition for 2017 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Harrison Adams(Texas A&M).  He and Ho also won their first round doubles matches, beating top seeds Krajicek and Jackson Withrow 7-6(6), 5-7, 10-7.

The other Futures this week moved an hour east from last week's $15,000 tournament in Buffalo, to Rochester New York.  Top seed is Ohio State senior Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, with wild cards going to John Speicher, Jenson Brooksby, Roy Smith and Josh Silverstein, none of whom played in today's opening round action.  John McNally, who is no longer eligible for ITF junior events but can still compete this year in Kalamazoo, received entry via his year-end Top 20 ITF junior ranking and won his first round match today.

The women moved from Sumter South Carolina to Baton Rouge Louisiana for their second straight $25,000 tournament, with Sumter champion Ashley Lahey receiving a special exemption into the main draw.  The surprise top seed is Nicole Gibbs, whose only two wins this year were at the Australian Open.  Gibbs, who had been out for all of April with an injury and decided not to play the grass season, has not played a $25,000 level event since March of 2014.  In addition to Gibbs, wild cards were given to Ryann Foster, a senior at LSU, and Ashley Kratzer.

The second consecutive Grade 1 in Germany, this one in Berlin, will have a different girls champion, with last week's winner, Victoria Flores, falling in her first round match today.  Flores, the No. 12 seed, was beaten by German wild card Anica Stabel 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.  Katya Townsend and Lea Ma also lost their first round matches today, while Alexa Noel, Elli Mandlik and Hurricane Tyra Black advanced to the second round.  Xiyu Wang of China, the top seed, was upset in her first round match by Melis Yasar of Sweden.

Five US boys--Boris Kozlov, Axel Nefve, Ryan Goetz, Tristan Boyer and Christian Alshon--were in the main draw and none advanced to the second round.  Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France is the top boys seed, with last week's champion Rudolf Molleker of Germany the No. 2 seed.

Stefan Kozlov has five wins in ATP main draws in his career and all five have come on grass.  Today the 19-year-old qualifier, who reached the final of the 2014 Wimbledon Junior Championships, earned his first ATP win at the 500 level, by defeating Steve Johnson 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 at London's Queens Club tournament.  Next for Kozlov will be Marin Cilic, who beat John Isner 7-5, 6-3.

Eighteen-year-old CiCi Bellis picked up her first WTA win on grass today at the International-level tournament in Mallorca. Bellis defeated No. 4 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 7-5 and will face Germany's Mona Barthel in the second round.

At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit grass tournament in Ilkley Great Britain, 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide and former USC star Maria Sanchez won three qualifying matches and will begin main draw play on Wednesday, with Dolehide taking on Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium and Sanchez facing Xinyun Han of China.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Balance High School Championships Move to Ojai; HBO Real Sports Features Frances Tiafoe; ITA Summer Circuit Begins Friday

Now in its fourth year, the New Balance High School Championships will be held at a new venue, the Weil Academy in Ojai California.  After three years in Boston, the world headquarters of the athletic shoe company, the tournament for those who play high school tennis will now be close to the high school tennis hotbed of Southern California. One of the pioneers of using UTR ratings for entry into junior tournaments, the High School Championships have settled into a prominent place on the junior competitive calendar, with this year's tournament scheduled for July 24-27.  A compass draw ensures four matches for all 64 players selected in each boys and girls draw, and there is also a mixed doubles competition being added this year.

Registration, which closes on June 30, 2017, is available through the TennisLink site.  For more on the tournament, see this preview from the UTR blog.

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 20, at 10:00 PM EDT, 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe will be featured in a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Mary Carillo will be exploring the 19-year-old's rise from a young spectator of lessons at the Junior Tennis Champions Center to his current place in the ATP Top 100.

I had an opportunity to view a preview of the piece, and it emphasizes just how unlikely that rise has been, with his father's maintenance job at the JTCC leading Frances (and twin brother Franklin) into tennis. JTCC's Frank Salazar describes Frances' fascination with the sport from the beginning, and Carillo details how this affinity for tennis never wavered. The life his parents led in Sierra Leone and the reasons they immigrated to the United States is also explored. HBO provided this YouTube trailer in advance of tomorrow night's show.

The first series of tournaments of the ITA Summer Circuit begin on Friday, with events continuing throughout July and culminating in the National finals August 12-15 at TCU.  These tournaments are an opportunity for junior and college players to compete in three- or four-day events on college campuses, with several of this year's tournaments part of a pilot program to incorporate Universal Tennis Ratings. For a list of tournaments around the country, see this page from the ITA.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Current Collegians Rybakov, Eubanks and Lahey Earn Pro Circuit Titles; Flores Claims Grade 1 in Germany; Kopczynski Takes Grade 4 Title; Auger-Aliassime Wins Challenger; Kozlov Qualifies for Queens

Sunday was quite a day for current collegiate players, with TCU junior Alex Rybakov, Georgia Tech senior Christopher Eubanks and Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey all unseeded, winning their first Pro Circuit titles.

Rybakov, who had reached two Futures finals, won the $15,000 Buffalo Futures with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed and fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan.  The left-hander from Florida defeated the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds for the title.

Eubanks took out fellow Yellow Jacket and doubles partner Kevin King 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(6) in a two-hour and 30-minute nailbiter at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures.  Eubanks reached the semifinals of the Champaign Challenger last November, and qualified for the ATP tournament in Atlanta last summer, but has not competed often at the Futures level.  It has already been announced that Eubanks has received a main draw wild card for next month's BB&T in Atlanta.

Lahey, still just 17, had played in just one other ITF Pro Circuit event main draw prior to this week's $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, but she made the most of her wild card, beating Ohio State junior Francesca Di Lorenzo, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 7-6(4) for the title. Di Lorenzo led 5-1 in the second set and served for the set three times, at 5-2, 5-4, and 6-5, but she couldn't close it out and Lahey took the tiebreaker by claiming the final three points.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, Victoria Flores followed up her doubles title on Saturday with her first ITF junior singles title, beating No. 15 seed Qinwen Zheng of China 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.  The 18-year-old Flores has had excellent results on clay this year, reaching two quarterfinals and a semifinal at Grade 1 tournaments prior to this week's title.  Top seed Rudolf Molleker won the boys title, beating No. 7 seed and fellow German Marvin Moeller 6-4, 4-3, ret.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Tunisia, 17-year-old Tomas Kopczynski[5] won his first ITF junior singles title, beating Will Grant[2] 7-6(5), 6-4 in an all-USA final.  No. 2 seeds Grant and Kopczynski lost in the doubles final to unseeded Harry Butler and Barney Fitzpatrick of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4).

US Open boys champion Felix Auger-Aliassime, still just 16, won his first Challenger title today in Lyon France, beating Mathias Bourgue of France 6-4, 6-1. At 16 years, 10 months, Auger-Aliassime is the seventh youngest player to win an ATP Challenger title and will be the youngest player to break into the ATP Top 250 since Juan Martin del Potro in 2005.  For more on Auger-Aliassime's place in the ATP record books, see this article.

The Next Gen American men haven't had much to show for the grass court season so far, but Stefan Kozlov has advanced to the main draw of next week's ATP 500 Queen's Club tournament in London.  The 19-year-old defeated No. 3 qualifying seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-4, 6-2 in today's final round.  He will play Steve Johnson for a third time in the past 12 months, having beaten Johnson last year in 's-Hertogenbosch and lost to Johnson this year at Delray Beach.

TCU All-American Cameron Norrie of Great Britain received a wild card into Queens and will face Sam Querrey in the opening round. For more on Norrie's background and goals now that he has turned pro, see this article from The Herald.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two All-Collegiate USTA Pro Circuit Finals Set; Flores Ousts Top Seed to Reach Grade 1 Final in Germany; Beck, Baird Claim ITF Grade 4 Grass Court Titles; Han, Madurawe Win Grade 4s in Guatemala

Four of the six finalists in the three USTA Pro Circuit championship matches Sunday are current college players: Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine sophomore), Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State junior), Alex Rybakov(TCU junior) and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech senior).

Wild card Lahey and No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to the final of the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, with Di Lorenzo beating No. 6 seed Robin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 and Lahey saving a match point in her 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(2) win over No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan.  Lahey needed three hours and 5 minutes to advance today, after being on court for three hours and 26 minutes in her semifinal win over Julia Elbaba, so that could be a factor in tomorrow's final, which is a career-first for Lahey.  Di Lorenzo won a $25,000 tournament last summer.

The doubles title went to former USC teammates Kaitlyn Christian and Mexico's Giuilana Olmos who beat Australian Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Brazilian Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) 6-3, 2-6, 10-7 in the final. Both teams were unseeded.

Rybakov advanced to his third Futures final and first since 2015 with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 3 seed Dennis Nevolo at the $15,000 tournament in Buffalo.  Rybakov will face fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, the No. 4 seed, who beat No. 2 seed Kaichi Uchida, also of Japan, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.  Rybakov is looking for his first Futures title, while Nakagawa is aiming for his second, but first since 2013.

The singles final at the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina will be an all-Georgia Tech affair. Eubanks will take on Kevin King, a former Yellow Jacket All-American who served as volunteer assistant the past two years while recovering from hip surgeries. Eubanks defeated Andrew Harris of Australia 6-3, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while King downed No. 8 seed Wil Spencer 6-2, 6-4. Eubanks is seeking his first pro title, while King has four Futures titles, the most recent last month in Mexico.

Recent Virginia graduate JC Aragone will play for his first title on the Pro Circuit tomorrow at the $15,000 Futures in Spain. The unseeded Aragone, who turns 22 next week, defeated unseeded Lucas Ruepke of Germany 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to advance against No. 8 seed Carlos Gomez-Herrera of Spain.  Gomez-Herrera defeated Andres Artunedo Martinavarr of Spain 6-4, 6-3.  Evan King(Michigan) and Robert Galloway(Wofford) took the doubles title, beating Aragone and Daniel Nolan of Australia 6-4, 6-4 in the final between two unseeded teams.

Victoria Flores[10] ousted top seed Xin Yu Wang of China 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 today at the ITF tournament in Offenbach Germany to reach her first Grade 1 final. She will face 14-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China, the No. 15 seed, for the title.  Flores, who has committed to Georgia Tech for this fall, has already claimed the doubles title. She and Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil, seeded No. 3, beat No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Ukraine's Viktoriya Petrenko 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The boys singles final will feature top seed Rudolf Molleker against fellow German Marvin Moeller, the No. 7 seed.  Moeller has one win against Molleker in the bank this week, with he and partner Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France beating Molleker and Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

The ITF Grade 4 International Grass Court Championships were completed Friday in Philadelphia, with Drew Baird and Chloe Beck earning three of the four titles.  The 16-year-old Baird, seeded fifth, defeated top seed Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 to earn his first ITF junior singles title.

Beck, the No. 3 seed, also took out the top seed, beating Alana Smith 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final.  It's the third Grade 4 title for the 15-year-old Beck, who also claimed the doubles crown in Philadelphia.  No. 3 seeds Beck and Emma Navarro defeated top seeds Smith and Malkia Menguene 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the final.

Baird fell just short of the sweep, as he and Tyler Zink, the No. 1 seeds, lost to No. 4 seeds Jeffrey Fradkin and Eliot Spizzirri 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Guatemala, 16-year-old Nathan Han swept the titles, winning his first ITF junior singles title with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) decision over qualifier Antonio March of Ecuador and partnering with Pierce Rollins for the doubles title.  Unseeded 17-year-old Niluka Madurawe won her third ITF singles title, all this year, beating No. 6 seed Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  No. 2 seeds Kacie Harvey and Peru's Kianah Motosono won the girls doubles, beating Madurawe and Luba Vasilyuk 2-6, 6-0, 12-10 in the final.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresen, Yarlagadda Win at Inaugural USTA College Combine; Lahey Reaches Sumter $25K Semifinals; Flores into Offenbach Grade 1 Final Four; Thompson Named to Lead Minnesota Women's Program

The first annual USTA All-American College Combine finished today at the USTA Campus in Lake Nona, with 16-year-old RJ Fresen and 15-year-old Anika Yarlagadda claiming the USTA Pro Circuit wild cards set aside for the competition's winners.  For more on the tournament, including a slideshow, see this usta.com article.  Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

A year ago, Ashley Lahey was in Europe, where she reached ITF Junior Circuit Grade 1 and Grade 2 finals and another Grade 1 semifinal. After her freshman year at Pepperdine, where the 17-year-old earned All-America honors,  she received a wild card into this week's $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Sumter South Carolina and she has advanced to the semifinals.  Lahey and 2016 Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba battled for three hours and 26 minutes in today's quarterfinal before Lahey secured the 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-4 victory and her first appearance in a Pro Circuit semifinal.   She will play No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan in the semifinals.  The other semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo and No. 6 seed Robin Anderson. The Ohio State rising junior and the 2015 UCLA graduate, both National Indoor champions, played last year in a $25,000 tournament with De Lorenzo winning 7-5, 6-3.

Lahey still has two more years of eligibility for the USTA 18s Nationals in August, and Usue Arconada, who reached her first semifinal above the $25,000 level today at a $60,000 Pro Circuit event in Spain, will still be eligible for this year's Nationals.

At the $25,000 men's Futures at Wake Forest, Chris Eubanks, the Georgia Tech rising senior, will face recent Oklahoma graduate Andrew Harris in one semifinal.  In the other, former Georgia Tech star Kevin King will face No. 8 seed Wil Spencer, a Georgia graduate.  The doubles final was played today, with rising USC sophomores Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, who were unseeded, beating No. 3 seeds Eubanks and King 7-6(4), 6-3.  It is the second Pro Circuit title for Holt and Smith, who did not play a match tiebreaker all week.

In Buffalo, former Illinois star Dennis Nevolo[3] and TCU rising junior Alex Rybakov will meet in one semifinal of the $15,000 Futures there, while Naoki Nakagawa[4] and Kaichi Uchida[2] of Japan face off in the other.  In the doubles final, recent South Florida graduate Sasha Gozun of Moldova and former UT-San Antonio standout Tomas Stillman defeated Canadians David Volfson(Cornell) and Christian Lakoseljac(Penn State) 6-4, 6-3.  Neither team was seeded.

Victoria Flores has reached the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, with the No. 10 seed beating No. 13 seed Anastasia Kulikova of Russia 6-1, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals.  Flores will face top seed Xin Yu Wang of China on Saturday.  In addition, Flores has reached the doubles final, where she and partner Thaisa Peretti of Brazil, the No. 3 seeds, will play No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and her partner Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine.

The last Power Five conference job was filled today, with the announcement that Catrina Thompson has been hired to lead the University of Minnesota women's program.  Thompson, a former all-American at Notre Dame, had served as an assistant coach at her alma mater the past four seasons.  Thompson replaces Chuck Merzbacher, who announced his retirement in April.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pro Circuit Quarterfinals Set; Kwiatkowski, Venus Features; Flores Advances at ITF Grade 1; Midwest College Showcase Next Friday

The quarterfinals are set at all three USTA Pro Circuit events this week, with current and former college stars making up the majority of those in the final eight.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Buffalo, TCU rising junior Alex Rybakov defeated top seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-3, 7-6(6) to join former collegians Dennis Nevolo[3] (Illinois), Raleigh Smith (Northwestern), Cameron Silverman (Elon) and Samuel Monette (Indiana) in the quarterfinals. Rybakov will face wild card Maksim Tikhomirov, who advanced when Great Britain's Farris Gosea[7] (Illinois) retired.

Seven of the eight quarterfinalists at the $25,000 Futures at Wake Forest have college ties.  USC's Brandon Holt, a qualifier, reached his first Futures quarterfinal, saving two match points in his 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-5 win over fellow rising sophomore Borna Gojo of Wake Forest. Holt will play Kevin King (Georgia Tech) who advanced by a walkover from No. 3 seed Christian Harrison. Georgia Tech rising senior Christopher Eubanks will face No. 5 seed Jared Hiltzik (Illinois); Isiah Strode will face Australian qualifier Andrew Harris, a recent Oklahoma graduate; No. 8 seed Wil Spencer (Georgia) plays Jesse Witten (Kentucky). Eubanks and King will face Holt and Riley Smith, Holt's doubles partner at USC, for the doubles championship on Friday.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, Allie Kiick, in her second tournament back after nearly two years out with illness and surgery, advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 2 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in just under three hours.  Kiick will face No. 6 seed Robin Anderson (UCLA); Ohio State rising junior Francesca Di Lorenzo[4] will play No. 5 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa; Ashley Kratzer meets No. 7 seed Connie Hsu (Penn) of Taiwan; and Julia Elbaba (Virginia) will take on Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey, a wild card.

NCAA singles champion Thai Kwiatkowski discusses how college tennis helped him mature, with some candid comments on how far he had to progress in his four years, in this article from the University of Virginia.

"I don't think the fourth-year Thai would be friends with first-year Thai," Kwiatkowski said last week. "I'm very proud and grateful for the person I am today, because so many people have impacted my life, from coaches to professors to my team to just friends at the University. I was able to grow up in this place. I'm leaving it, but I'll always be back."

Former LSU star Michael Venus, who won the French Open men's doubles title last week, is the subject of this feature, which focuses on his possible need for a doubles partner for Wimbledon. Ryan Harrison, his partner at the French, is not certain to play Wimbledon, where the format is best-of-five. But they are now in the running for the ATP Championships at year-end, so that may change their schedule in the upcoming months.

The singles quarterfinals and doubles semifinals are set at the ITF Grade 1 this week in Germany.  Victoria Flores[10], the Georgia Tech rising freshman, has advanced to the quarterfinals in singles and the semifinals in doubles, where she is playing with Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil.  Hurricane Tyra Black is also in the doubles semifinals, playing with Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine.

The USTA Midwest section is having their annual college showcase in conjunction with the Midwest Closed 16s and 18s in Indianapolis next week.  The showcase, which costs $75.00, is Friday June 23rd. The deadline to register is Tuesday, June 20th.  For more information, click here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Conversation with French Open Champion Whitney Osuigwe; Qualifiers Carter, Corwin Upset Seeds on USTA Pro Circuit; Ahn into WTA Quarterfinals; Spencer Named NC State Men's Coach

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network is based on a phone interview I did with French Open girls champion Whitney Osuigwe Monday, after she returned to the United States. I've been watching the 15-year-old play since she was 11 and have talked to her often during that time after her big wins or titles, so I'm happy I was able to do so again, even if I couldn't be in Paris for the final.  As with all girls who win a junior slam early, Osuigwe can't move directly into pro tennis, due to the age restrictions the WTA imposes based on age. With the limits on the number of pro events she can play, Osuigwe probably will continue to compete in some major junior events next year, and she is planning to play both Wimbledon and US Open Junior Championships this year.

The upsets keep on coming in the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem. A day after top seed Filip Peliwo of Canada and No. 2 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany were eliminated in the first round, No. 4 seed Tommy Paul was beaten by qualifier Felix Corwin, a rising senior at Minnesota, 6-4, 6-4.  Corwin, the son of former Kalamazoo Nationals tournament director Timon Corwin, was 1-4 in main draw matches at the Futures level last summer, with that one win over Darian King of Barbados, who is now ranked 113.  Paul, who has been ranked as high as 191 back in April of last year, is currently 399 in the ATP rankings.

Qualifier Brandon Holt, the USC rising sophomore, also took out a seed today, beating No. 7 seed and 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-5, 6-2.

Hayley Carter, the 2016 NCAA singles finalist and the ACC's all-time leader in singles wins, started her pro career by dropping just three games in three qualifying matches to move into the main draw at the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina.  In her first round match today, the first she's played on the USTA Pro Circuit since last September, Carter defeated top seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.  Rogowska's current WTA ranking is 233. Carter's best win by ranking before today was back in 2013, when she defeated Ashley Weinhold, then ranked 377.

Carter was one of three qualifiers to advance to the second round, with Stanford recruit Michaela Gordon and Vanderbilt's Astra Sharma of Australia also posting wins.  Carter's teammate Sara Daavettila, who received a wild card, beat Sabrina Santamaria 6-1, 6-4.

At the WTA International tournament in Nottingham, former Stanford star Kristie Ahn defeated Magda Linette of Poland 6-1, 6-3 to reach her first WTA quarterfinal.  The 24-year-old from New Jersey, who qualified this week and is currently ranked a career-high 131, moves closer to the Top 100 with every victory. She will play the winner of Thursday's match between Alison Riske[4] and Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

North Carolina State named Kyle Spencer to head its men's program today. The former University of Maryland head coach, who also was an assistant at USC and Baylor, was most recently an assistant for the men's program at SMU.  He takes over from Jon Choboy, who stepped down in May after his 15th season.

That leaves the Minnesota women's program as the sole Power Five conference job still vacant.

The ITA announced its College All-Star Team today, which includes players from all five Divisions: I, II, III, NAIA and Junior College. The complete list, with the accomplishments of all those named to the team, is available in the ITA's release.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Andy Brandi Leaves USTA for LSU; Craig Surprises Top Seed Peliwo in Winston-Salem; WaPo Feature on Brienne Minor; Sportime Tryouts, College Combine

LSU announced today that Andy Brandi and his son, Chris Brandi, have been named co-coaches of the men's program, replacing Jeff Brown, who resigned this spring. Unlike many college hirings, this one doesn't leave a vacancy at another school, but rather at the USTA, where Andy has been employed in Player Development since 2010.  Recently Brandi had been serving as the coordinator of all junior boys tennis, so new USTA head of men's tennis Brian Boland and Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman will have a major vacancy to fill in the next few weeks.

Andy coached the University of Florida women from 1985-2001, winning three NCAA team championships and six National team Indoor titles, so he is well acquainted with the top level of Division I college tennis. His son Chris had served as an assistant at both Baylor and Wake Forest, so he too has experience at college's top level.

The LSU women's team co-coaches Mike and Julia Sell have their own connections with Andy Brandi. The former Julia Scaringe played under Brandi at Florida, while Mike Sell and Brandi were USTA National Coaches together for several years before Sell departed.

I've gotten to know Brandi over the years while covering junior events (he wrote a regular Coaches Q and A column for me when he was in the private sector) and I know the respect he has among all coaches, whether they coach in college, the private sector or for federations.  As excited as LSU undoubtedly is to hire someone of Brandi's resume and stature, the USTA will find it challenging to replace someone with his reputation.

While in Ojai, I interviewed University of Denver graduate Henry Craig about the transition from college to pro tennis, and in observing the Men's Open there, I learned how important those money tournaments are to players trying to fund their own travel on the Pro Circuit.  Craig won that Men's Open, beating top seed Philip Bester of Canada in the final, but he hadn't played a Pro Circuit event since then.

Today at the $25,000 Futures tournament in Winston-Salem, Craig defeated top seed Filip Peliwo of Canada, who had won two Futures in Israel last month and is currently ranked 312 by the ATP, by a 6-3, 7-6(6) score.  Both Peliwo and Craig were born in 1994, but their junior careers were wildly different.  Peliwo made all four junior slam finals in 2012, winning two, and he was the ITF World Junior champion that year. Craig's ITF junior ranked peaked at 278 and he never won an ITF junior event, but in today's match, he was the better player.

No. 2 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany, the former Tulane star, also was beaten in the first round, dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision to 34-year-old veteran Jesse Witten, who seldom plays now, with his last Pro Circuit appearance last summer.

The Washington Post spoke with NCAA singles champion Brienne Minor of Michigan about her title for this feature, which focuses on her status as the first African-American woman to win the Division I singles title. I interviewed Minor for this Tennis Recruiting Network article last week.

One of my advertisers, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, is conducting two events later this month that may be of interest to some of my readers.  Scholarship tryouts are this Saturday, June 17, in Syosset Long Island, with information about registration and the schedule here.  The second annual College Combine is next weekend, June 24 and 25 at the Randall's Island facility.  For more on that event, click here.