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Thursday, August 31, 2017

US Open Junior Qualifying Begins Friday with 14 Americans Competing; Brady, Keys, Rogers and Vandeweghe Through to Third Round; USTA Player Development Press Conference

Qualifying begins Friday at the US Open Junior Championships, with nine US girls and five US boys looking for the first of two wins that will propel them into the main draw.  As I mentioned when I posed the wild cards last week, changes were to be expected as players withdrew and with special exempts possible in Canada at this week's Grade 1.

The US girls in qualifying are: Gabby Price (WC), Nikki Redelijk(WC), Elizabeth Mandlik, Lea Ma, Elvina Kalieva(WC), Nicole Mossmer(5), Imani Graham, Alexandra Yepifanova(WC), Charlotte Owensby(WC). Yepifanova received the to-be-determined qualifying wild card, not Australia's Jaimee Fourlis, who was hoping to get one after not entering the junior tournament. Canada's Layne Sleeth, originally in qualifying, has advanced to the semifinals at the Grade 1, so she will get a special exemption into the main draw. Graham was way down the alternate list at the freeze date, so many of the Americans above her must not have shown up to sign in.  There is still one main draw wild card for girls yet to be announced.

The US boys in qualifying are all wild cards, Tyler Zink, Garrett Johns, Govind Nanda, Will Grant and Tristan Boyer.  Zink, Boyer and Johns are late wild card recipients, with Trey Hilderbrand and Brian Shi, who were on the original qualifying wild card list, not in the qualifying draw. I am speculating here, because I have no information, but it's possible that Andrew Fenty moved into the main draw (he was next out) freeing up that wild card as well as a TBD wild card.  Shi is still playing in Canada, losing in the quarterfinals tonight, but he was on the USO alternate list, not the qualifying list, at the freeze date, so I don't know that he is eligible for a special exemption.  No. 4 seed Sofia Sewing, who is already in the USO main draw, is the other American playing a quarterfinal match tonight in Canada.

All the American success today at the US Open was recorded by the women, with Jennifer Brady, Shelby Rogers, Madison Keys[15] and CoCo Vandeweghe[20] getting wins.  Brady cruised past No. 23 seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-1, while Rogers had exactly the opposite experience, needing a US Open women's match record 3 hours and 31 minutes to beat No. 25 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5).  Qualifier Nicole Gibbs acquitted herself well in her Arthur Ashe match with World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, but fell 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Taylor Fritz, Donald Young and Bjorn Fratangelo lost their second round matches today.

The National 18s doubles champions could not move on, with Vasil Kirkov and DJ Thomas falling to No. 9 seeds Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia 6-4, 6-2 and Taylor Johnson and Claire Liu going out to Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia and Saisai Zheng of China 6-2, 6-2.

NCAA champion Francesca Di Lorenzo and her partner Allie Kiick came close, but were beaten by Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato of Japan 7-6(4), 7-6(5).  NCAA champion Spencer Papa and his partner Will Blumberg lost to top seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia 6-3, 6-3.

Dolehide and Day reached the US Open girls doubles final last year
One young team did pick up an impressive victory with Kayla Day and Caroline Dolehide beating No. 10 seeds Abigail Spears and Slovenia's Katarine Srebotnik 6-3, 6-3.

Thursday’s 2nd round singles results involving Americans:

Karolina Pliskova(CZE)[1] def. NICOLE GIBBS 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
COCO VANDEWEGHE[20] def. Ons Jabeur(TUN) 7-6(6), 6-2
Dominic Thiem(AUT)[6] def. TAYLOR FRITZ 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5
MADISON KEYS[15] def. Tatjana Maria 6-3, 6-4
JENNIFER BRADY def. Barbora Strycova(CZE)[23] 6-1, 6-1
Gael Monfils(FRA)[18] def. DONALD YOUNG 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
Adrian Mannarino(FRA) def. BJORN FRATANGELO 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2
SHELBY ROGERS def. Daria Gavilova(AUS)[25] 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5)
Daria Kasatkina(RUS) def. CHRISTINA MCHALE 7-5, 6-3

Friday's 3rd round singles matches involving Americans:

Maria Sakkari(GRE) v VENUS WILLIAMS[9]
JOHN ISNER[10] v Mischa Zverev(GER)[23]
SONYA KENIN v Maria Sharapova(RUS)
SAM QUERREY[17] v Radu Albot(MDA)

The complete Thursday schedule, including junior qualifying matches, can be found here.

The USTA held a press conference today at the US Open featuring General Manager of Player Development Martin Blackman, Head of Women's Tennis Ola Malmqvist, Head of Men's Tennis Brian Boland and Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi.  The full transcript is available here. I don't get to New York until tomorrow, so I was unable to attend. Had I been there, I would have asked about the role college tennis will play in USTA Player Development, a question that I expected to be of interest given Boland's recent move from the University of Virginia to his current role.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ITF International Hard Court Recap; Nine More Americans Through to Second Round at US Open; Kenin Advances to Third Round with Dramatic Win

My recap of last week's ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Because it's played during the qualifying week of the US Open, it often gets overlooked in the junior tennis world, but as one of only five ITF Grade 1 events in the United States, it provides a significant opportunity for American players to gain valuable ranking points.  Thirteen-year-old Coco Gauff took advantage, and is now ranked 325 after only three ITF junior tournaments.

With Tuesday's rain, today's US Open was, and continues to be, packed with singles action all over the courts.  It seems like ages ago that I followed the live scoring of Kalamazoo champion Patrick Kypson held-over match with qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain, which Kypson lost 6-4, 7-6(9), 6-1 after failing to convert four set points in that second set tiebreaker, one of which, at 6-5, was on his serve.

San Diego champion Ashley Kratzer struggled mightily in her match with Tatjana Maria of Germany, making a raft of unforced errors that contributed to Maria's 6-1, 6-1 win. Tennis Panorama spoke with Kratzer after her loss, with the 18-year-old left-hander explaining why she didn't play junior events once she was age-eligible for pro events.

I watched quite a bit of Taylor Fritz's impressive 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win over Marcos Baghdatis. He looked very good against the veteran from Cyprus, and will need that confidence against No. 6 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria on Thursday.

NCAA champion Brienne Minor had trouble getting started in her 6-1, 7-5 loss to Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, but had a 3-0, two-break lead in the second set before Jabeur recovered for the win. Minor is scheduled to compete in the American Collegiate Invitational beginning next Thursday at the US Open outer courts.

Nicole Gibbs(Stanford) and Jennifer Brady(UCLA) won their held-over first round matches, with John Isner(Georgia) and Kevin Anderson(Illinois) advancing to the third round with wins today.

Former USC star Danielle Lao's heartbreaking three-hour 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) loss to Japan's Risa Ozaki, in which she couldn't convert five match points serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, wasn't streamed, so my vote for dramatic match of the day goes to wild card Sonya Kenin's 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(0) win over qualifier Sachia Vickery.

Kenin, the 2015 National 18s champion, trailed Vickery, the 2013 National 18s champion 4-2 and then 6-5 in third before rallying. With Vickery serving for the match but looking physically drained, she fell behind 0-30, but won the next three points to get her first match point. Vickery wildly missed a swing forehand volley, ending up on the ground to squander that chance, then netted a forehand to give Kenin a break point. She saved it when Kenin netted an aggressive forehand, and with another forehand error from Kenin, Vickery had her second match point.  A deep Kenin ball during a rally had Vickery waiting for an out call, but it didn't come. and as she didn't stop play to challenge, she ended up losing the point. Then Vickery fell to the court for the second time in the game, netting a backhand for ad-out and Kenin's backhand winner then sent the match to a tiebreaker. Kenin, who had received a coaching warning at 5-5, hadn't shown much of her devastating drop shot late in the third set, but she got a clean winner from one to take a 2-0 lead and then hit forehand winner after forehand winner to take a 6-0 lead, with Vickery missing a forehand on Kenin's first match point.
Kenin, who beat Lauren Davis on Monday, will face her fellow wild card recipient Maria Sharapova on Friday.

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY Round 1 matches featuring Americans:
MADISON KEYS[15] def. Elise Mertens(BEL) 6-4, 7-6(6)
Roger Federer(SUI)[3] def. FRANCES TIAFOE 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4
COCO VANDEWEGHE[20] def. ALISON RISKE 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
Tomas Berdych(CZE)[15] def. RYAN HARRISON 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(4)
Nao Hibino(JPN) def. CICI BELLIS 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
TAYLOR FRITZ def. Marcos Baghdatis(CYP) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
Daria Gavrilova(AUS)[25] def. ALLIE KIICK 6-2, 6-1
Ons Jabeur(TUN) def. BRIENNE MINOR 6-1, 7-5
Taro Daniel(JPN) def. TOMMY PAUL 6-1, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2
Risa Ozaki(JPN) def. DANIELLE LAO 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(5)
BJORN FRATANGELO def. Ivo Karlovic(CRO) 7-6(2), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4)
Ana Bogdan(ROU) def. TAYLOR TOWNSEND 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Philipp Kohlschreiber(GER)[33] def. TIM SMYCZEK 6-1, 6-4, 6-4
Kirsten Flipkens(BEL) def. MADISON BRENGLE 6-2, 6-3
JENNIFER BRADY def. Andrea Petkovic(GER) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
SHELBY ROGERS def. KAYLA DAY 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
NICOLE GIBBS def. Veronica Cepede Royg(PAR) 6-0, 1-6, 6-1
Adrian Menendez-Maceiras(ESP) def. PATRICK KYPSON 6-4, 7-6(9), 6-1
Tatjana Maria(GER) def. ASHLEY KRATZER 6-1, 6-1
DONALD YOUNG def. Maximilian Marterer(GER) 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4
CHRISTINA MCHALE def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[19] 3-6, 6-3, 6-2

Wednesday’s 2nd round matches:
VENUS WILLIAMS[9] def. Oceane Dodin(FRA) 7-5, 6-4
JOHN ISNER[10] def. Hyeon Chung(KOR) 6-3, 6-4, 7-5
Kyle Edmund(GBR) def. STEVE JOHNSON 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(4)
Lucas Pouille(FRA) def. JARED DONALDSON 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4
SAM QUERREY[17] def. Dudi Sela(ISR) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
SONYA KENIN def. SACHIA VICKERY 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(0)
SLOANE STEPHENS def. Dominika Cibulkova[11](SVK) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3

The schedule for Thursday includes both men's and women's doubles. National 18s champions Claire Liu and Taylor Johnson will face Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia and Saisai Zheng of China, while NCAA champion Francesca Di Lorenzo, playing with Allie Kiick, will face Eri Hozumi and Miyu Kato of Japan. Last year's US Open girls doubles finalists Kayla Day and Caroline Dolehide will play No. 10 seeds Abigail Spears and Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik.

Kalamazoo 18s champions DJ Thomas and Vasil Kirkov will face No. 9 seeds Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia, while NCAA doubles champion Spencer Papa, playing with NCAA singles finalist Will Blumberg, will face top seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia.

Thursday’s 2nd round singles matches featuring Americans:

Karolina Plizkova(CZE)[1] v NICOLE GIBBS
TAYLOR FRITZ v Dominic Thiem(AUT)[6]
Tatjana Maria v MADISON KEYS[15]
Barbora Strycova(CZE)[23] v JENNIFER BRADY
DONALD YOUNG v Gael Monfils(FRA)[18]
Adrian Mannarino(FRA) v BJORN FRATANGELO
SHELBY ROGERS v Daria Gavilova(AUS)[25]

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Rain Washes Out Most Matches at US Open; ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Videos and Photos

Very few matches were completed today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, with all but three of the US Open's first-on matches on outside courts unable to finish, and the rest postponed until Wednesday. With the roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium now, those matches have proceeded uninterrupted, with Americans Madison Keys and Frances Tiafoe scheduled to take that court tonight.

Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson was down a set and break to qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain, with the match not on a court being streamed.  Kypson will be on the same court for the completion of his match, one of 29 Americans on the jam-packed Wednesday schedule.  Below are the Wednesday matches featuring Americans, with asterisks for those who are playing second round matches.

RYAN HARRISON v Tomas Berdych(CZE)[15]
Marcos Baghdatis(CYP) v TAYLOR FRITZ
ALLIE KIICK v Daria Gavrilova(AUS)[25]
Taro Daniel(JPN) v TOMMY PAUL
Philipp Kohlschreiber(GER)[33] v TIM SMYCZEK
MADISON BRENGLE v Kirsten Flipkens(BEL)
JENNIFER BRADY v Andrea Petkovic(GER)
Veronic Cepede Royg(PAR) v NICOLE GIBBS
PATRICK KYPSON v Adrian Menendez-Maceiras(ESP)
Maximilian Marterer(GER) v DONALD YOUNG
CHRISTINA MCHALE v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[19]

Oceane Dodin(FRA) v VENUS WILLIAMS[9]*
Hyeon Chung(KOR) v JOHN ISNER[10]*
SAM QUERREY[17] v Dudi Sela(ISR)*
SLOANE STEPHENS v Dominika Cibulkova[11](SVK)*

With my Tennis Recruiting Network recap of last week's ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships scheduled to come out early Wednesday, I would normally wait to post the photos and videos then, but with not much tennis today, I'm putting them up now.

Below are the You Tube videos of the champions. Click on their names to see videos of Coco Gauff and Axel Geller.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Eight Americans Earn First Round US Open Wins on Opening Day, Liu and Kwiatkowski Fall Short

No. 10 seed John Isner and No. 9 seed Venus Williams, the two highest seeded Americans, were among the winners today as the 2017 US Open got underway at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  Thanks to ESPN's streaming, I was able to watch JC Aragone, Claire Liu and Thai Kwiatkowski's matches today, and although all three suffered losses, they put up good fights.

Recent Virginia grad Aragone's 6-3, 6-3 6-1 scoreline in his loss to South Africa's Kevin Anderson, the former Illinois star, doesn't look impressive, but he held his own in every rally in the first two sets and made the veteran beat him.

Liu, the youngest player in the main draw, fell behind 2-0 in the first set against Ying-Ying Duan of China, looking out of her element despite three qualifying wins. But she recovered, getting the break back and having a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker before losing it 7-6(8).  Liu trailed 4-1 in the second set and saved a match point with Duan serving at 5-3, but Liu broke, held and broke to go up 6-5.  She couldn't serve out the set however, and Duan won the tiebreaker 7-6(3).

Kwiatkowski's loss to No. 23 seed Mischa Zverev hinged on just a few points. The NCAA champion, who graduated from Virginia this year, was not able to hold his break in the fourth set, and Zverev got a second break with Kwiatkowski serving at 5-6. There were no breaks in the fifth set until Kwiatkowski dropped serve at 3-4, but as discouraging as the break was he continued to fight as Zverev tried to serve out the match, saving four match points before the relentless net-rushing of Zverev finally wore him down on the fifth.

Both Aragone and Kwiatkowski are scheduled to play in the American Collegiate Invitational which begins on September 7th at the National Tennis Center.

Eightteen-year-old Sonya Kenin, the 2015 USTA National 18s champion, won her first US Open main draw match in three tries, beating No. 32 seed Lauren Davis 7-5, 7-5.  Kenin has played in the main draw three straights years with wild cards won in competition: the Nationals, and for the past two years, the USTA's Wild Card Challenge.

Qualifier Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who recently left TCU after his junior year, picked up his first slam victory, when Dmitry Tursunov of Russia retired trailing 7-6(7), 6-1.  Eighteen-year-old qualifier Denis Shapovalov of Canada cruised past Daniil Medvedev of Russia 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 to continue his impressive results on North American hard courts.

Monday's results featuring Americans:

Garbine Muguruza(ESP)[3] def. VARVARA LEPCHENKO 6-0, 6-3
Marin Cilic(CRO)[5]def. TENNYS SANDGREN 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
VENUS WILLIAMS[9] def. Viktoria Kuzmova(SVK) 6-3, 3-6, 6-2
JOHN ISNER[10] def. Pierre-Hugues Herbert(FRA) 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
SLOANE STEPHENS def. Roberta Vinci(ITA) 7-5, 6-1
Jordan Thompson(AUS) def. JACK SOCK[13] 6-2, 7-6(12), 1-6, 7-5, 6-4
STEVE JOHNSON def. Nicolas Almagro(ESP) 6-4, 7-6(2), 7-6(5)
SAM QUERREY[17] def. Gilles Simon(FRA) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
SONYA KENIN def. LAUREN DAVIS[32] 7-5, 7-5
Kevin Anderson(RSA) def. JC ARAGONE 6-3, 6-3, 6-1
Ying-Ying Duan(CHN) def. CLAIRE LIU 7-6(8), 7-6(3)
Radu Albot def. ERNESTO ESCOBEDO 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
JARED DONALDSON def. Nikoloz Basilashvili(GEO) 6-0, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6)
SACHIA VICKERY def. Natalia Vikhlyantseva(RUS) 4-6, 6-4, 6-1
Dudi Sela(ISR) def. CHRISTOPHER EUBANKS 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(BLR) def. JULIA BOSERUP 6-2, 6-2
Pablo Carreno Busta(ESP)[12] def. EVAN KING 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(5)
Mischa Zverev(GER)[23] def. THAI KWIATKOWSKI 7-6(5), 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3

Tuesday's first round matches featuring Americans:

Elise Mertens(BEL) v MADISON KEYS[15]
Roger Federer(SUI)[3] v FRANCES TIAFOE
RYAN HARRISON v Tomas Berdych(CZE)[15]
Marcos Baghdatis(CYP) v TAYLOR FRITZ
ALLIE KIICK v Daria Gavrilova(AUS)[25]
Taro Daniel(JPN) v TOMMY PAUL
Philipp Kohlschreiber(GER)[33] v TIM SMYCZEK
MADISON BRENGLE v Kirsten Flipkens(BEL)
JENNIFER BRADY v Andrea Petkovic(GER)
Veronic Cepede Royg(PAR) v NICOLE GIBBS
PATRICK KYPSON v Adrian Menendez-Maceiras(ESP)
Maximilian Marterer(GER) v DONALD YOUNG
CHRISTINA MCHALE v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[19]

The complete schedule for Tuesday is here.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Nineteen Americans on Monday's US Open Schedule; Gadalov and Kiefer Earn First ITF Junior Circuit Titles; Grade 1 in Canada Underway

Crowds will return to the USTA BJK National Tennis Center Monday
The US Open begins tomorrow at 11 a.m., with 19 of the 42 Americans in the main draw scheduled to play their first round matches. The matches involving Americans are listed below, with the US players in bold. Note there is just one all-US match, between Lauren Davis and Sonya Kenin. The full order of play for Monday is here.  Tuesday's order of play has also been released and can be found here.

VARVARA LEPCHENKO v Garbine Muguruza(ESP)[3]
Viktoria Kusmova(SVK) v VENUS WILLIAMS[9]
Pierre-Hugues Herbert(FRA) v JOHN ISNER[10]
JACK SOCK v Jordan Thompson(AUS)
Nicolas Almagro(ESP) v STEVE JOHNSON
SAM QUERREY[17] v Gilles Simon(FRA)
Kevin Anderson(RSA) v JC ARAGONE
CLAIRE LIU v Ying-Ying Duan(CHN)
JARED DONALDSON v Nikoloz Basilashvili(GEO)
Natalia Vikhlyantseva(RUS) v SACHIA VICKERY
Aliaksandra Sasnovich(BLR) v JULIA BOSERUP
EVAN KING v Pablo Carreno Busta(ESP)[12]
Mischa Zverev(GER)[23] v THAI KWIATKOWSKI

Two young Americans captured their first titles on the ITF Junior Circuit this weekend, with 15-year-old Texan Alexander Kiefer winning the Grade 5 in Trinidad and Tobago and 16-year-old Californian Jennifer Gadalov winning the Grade 4 in Mexico.  Kiefer, the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Mann Shah of India 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) in the singles final, and also reached the doubles final, with Jericho Grollman.  The No. 2 seeds fell to top seeds Milledge Cossu and Guatemala's Jose Dominguez Collado 6-7(5), 6-1, 10-8.

In Mexico, the unseeded Gadalov didn't drop a set all week, defeating top seed Dyane Barcena Del Bosque of Mexico 6-1, 6-2 in the final. Gadalov was one of three US winners in Mexico.  Nathan Han lost in the boys singles final to doubles partner Blu Baker of Great Britain, but the top-seeded pair won the doubles title, beating No. 7 seeds Emilio Nava and Maximilian Wild 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the final.  Camille Townsend won the girls doubles title, partnering with Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam to beat top seeds Barcena del Bosque and Romary Cardenas Rifka of Mexico 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

A number of first round matches at the Grade 1 in Quebec Canada were played today, although no seeded players are in action until Monday with a 48-player draw. Axel Geller of Argentina is the top boys seed, while Australian Open girls champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine is the top girls seed. Americans picking up first round wins today include Hurricane Tyra Black, Elli Mandlik and qualifiers Drew Baird, Brian Shi and Dalayna Hewitt.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fourlis Sweeps Girls Titles, Mejia Wins Both Boys Championships at ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Courts

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park, MD--

Australian Jaimee Fourlis's first junior tournament in more than a year yielded two titles, while Colombian Nicholas Mejia also doubled up on winner's trophies Saturday on the final day of the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships.

The weather was perfect for tennis, with partly cloudy skies, little wind and temperatures in the 70s as Fourlis and Mejia took to the courts of the Junior Tennis Champions Center, both experiencing a Grade 1 singles final for the first time.

Fourlis, the No. 7 seed, was up against 13-year-old wild card Coco Gauff, who had beaten four straight seeds and surrendered only four games in her quarterfinal and semifinal matches. But Fourlis was able to do what those before her could not: take time away from Gauff and pressure her into errors.

Gauff was broken in the first game, and fell behind both 2-0 and 4-2 before getting the score back to 4-all.  But struggling with her serve, Gauff was broken again, giving Fourlis an opportunity to serve out the set.  Down 30-40 after missing a volley, Fourlis saved the break point with a forehand winner, then hit a good first serve that Gauff couldn't get back in play.  An aggressive return by Gauff forced an error to deny Fourlis on her first set point, but Gauff missed a backhand pass to set up a second, and after a long rally, hit a winner, while Gauff  was left complaining about a previous ball on the sideline she thought was out.

As in the first set, Gauff was broken in the first game, but this time she got the break back, then held serve for her first lead in the match. Gauff broke to go up 3-1, but that was the first of four straight breaks. Fourlis received a medical timeout before serving at 2-3, emerging from it with her left thigh heavily taped.  She lost that game despite saving two break points, but again, Gauff couldn't hold, and when Fourlis held serve for the first time in the second set to make it 4-all, the momentum Gauff had worked to build faded.

"When I went 4-2 down, I just had to keep playing my game, keep being aggressive," said Fourlis, who last played a junior tournament at Wimbledon last year. "I knew I could break her down slowly, I just had to believe in myself."

Fourlis also determined that closing the net and forcing Gauff to react to that change could provide her with an edge.

"She was timing the ball really well and getting used to what I was doing," the 17-year-old said. "So changing it up and coming into net, she didn't really like that. I had to stick to my guns, had to be positive and had to keep doing that no matter what the outcome was. It ended up in a really good result."

Gauff agreed that Fourlis's strategy had an impact late in the second set.

"When she was down, she started going for it," Gauff said. "She came to net more times in that game than she probably did the whole match. I think that made the difference, because I wasn't used to it. And she has good volleys, obviously, she's in the doubles final."

Attacking Gauff's second serves, Fourlis broke to go up 5-4, but she was down 15-40 before winning the final four points of the match to claim her first Grade 1 title.

"She's an unbelievable player and I knew that coming in," said Fourlis, who took Caroline Wozniacki to three sets in the first round of the French Open this year. "But I knew that I was in great form and with solid mindset to break her down."

Gauff was impressed with the level of play Fourlis displayed throughout the match.

"Today wasn't my best day, but she played well," Gauff said. "She was taking the ball early and hitting winners, coming to the net. She played well and she was serving pretty good too."

After a day of sightseeing in Washington DC, Gauff will return to Florida for a few days to prepare for her junior slam debut at the US Open.

"My confidence has definitely gone up a little, knowing I can compete with these girls," Gauff said. "Pretty much all of them are playing the US Open, so hopefully I'll have another good week there too."

Fourlis didn't enter the US Open junior championships, but is hopeful of getting a qualifying wild card.  Originally scheduled to compete at the Grade 1 in Canada next week, she has pulled out due to the thigh injury she sustained today.

"I think I just tweaked it during the match," Fourlis said. "Nothing to be worried about. It's still really sore now, I'm going to get some physio treatment and have a couple of days' break, as I've played a lot of matches this week."

Mejia's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over roommate and top seed Axel Geller of Argentina was an unusual contest, with the friends frequently serving as their own line arbiters in spite of a full complement of officials working the match.

Their conversations in Spanish occasionally resulted in conceded points or, more often, in accepting the officals' opinion on a close call.  But often those discussions led to a lack of focus for Mejia or Geller on subsequent points.

Geller took the first set with the only break at 4-4 and saved two break points serving for the set.

The 18-year-old Stanford freshman, who wore his Cardinal hat for the trophy photos, broke Mejia in the first game of the second set, but gave the break right back and then was broken at love serving at 4-5.

In the third set, Mejia went up 4-2, but Geller got the break back immediately.

"When I broke him at 3-2, it was kind of weird, there was a ball I thought was in and I was going to tell him it was in but the referee said it was really wide," the 17-year-old Mejia said. "Then I broke and I was kind of surprised, but I didn't take a lot of time between my serves and I made a lot of mistakes there. I got distracted; I thought I didn't deserve the break, because I thought that ball was in. The lead went away and he could have also broken me in the next game."

Mejia did hold at 30 to go up 5-4 in the third set, and at 30-30 a point had to be replayed due to a chair overrule of a line judge.  Geller lost that replayed point, giving Mejia a match point, but Mejia conceded an ace which the chair had called a let on.

"Even though it's a match point, you've got to be fair," Mejia said.

Geller missed a forehand wide to give Mejia a second match point, and this time there was no controversy, with Geller's backhand sailing long and wide.

"It's a lot easier, whenever you get to a final, to win it the first time, because you never know when your next final is," said Mejia. "It means a lot to me to win my first Grade 1. I've done really well in doubles, for a long time and I never really had a good singles result, so this means I have the level and I have to believe way more in myself."

Geller, who is 1-2 in the three Grade 1 or Grade A finals this summer, said all the practice matches he and Mejia have played at the IMG Academy recently figured into the result.

"He knows me and he knew to change pace more," Geller said. "We've played so many times, I already knew the feelings of what was happening. Many times, with faster balls, I would overpower him, but today I couldn't.  That's why we played long rallies, and I'm not used to that honestly. He's a bit smarter and was more prepared for that. He played very well, and I'm very happy for him. He deserved it."

Mejia is not playing the Grade 1 in Canada, and while Geller is going there, he is not sure he will be able to play, with that depending on how he feels physically prior to his first match.

Both are competing in the US Open, where Geller will be the No. 1 seed. Mejia is just hoping he doesn't get the draw that he had at Wimbledon, where he lost to eventual champion Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain in the first round.

"I've got to be realistic," said Mejia. "At the US Open, there are going to be a lot more top players than a Grade 1. I think [Geller's] going to be the No. 1 seed, so I hope I don't draw him in the first round. But this gives me confidence to believe in myself and hopefully go deep in the US Open."

Mejia will go into the US Open boys doubles competition with another title after he and Sebastian Korda, the No. 2 seeds, closed out the day's schedule with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 6 seeds Brian Cernoch and Andrew Fenty.

Mejia said the singles title was particularly emotional for him, and not because he had beaten his friend and roommate to win his first Grade 1 title.

"I was emotional mostly because my dad passed away earlier in the year," Mejia said. "I was happy, but I just wished he could have been here. But we played really good doubles. We went to a couple of tiebreakers this tournament, and we were able to win them, but in the final, thank god, we didn't go to a tiebreak. That would have been tough."

"It's always a fun week playing with Nico," said Korda, who has won three Grade 1 titles this year with Mejia as his partner. "He's one of my best friends and definitely my brother for sure.  I can't wait for many more, and hopefully we'll do big things at the Open."

Fourlis partnered with Emily Appleton of Great Britain to take the girls doubles title, with the No. 3 seeds defeating the unseeded team of I-Hsuan and Yi Tsen Cho of Taiwan 6-1, 6-3.

Appleton and Fourlis had played together only once before this week, at a $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event on grass in Ilkley.

"We played our first match together last summer in England against two Top 100 [doubles] players," Appleton said of their first round contest against Zhaoxuan Yang and Kai-Lin Zhang of China. "It was a tight two sets and they ended up winning the tournament.

"So this is our second time," said Fourlis. "And we've done pretty well. I think Emily has a really big serve, so that helps me at the net, cross and be active. Her big groundstrokes help me to get involved."

"Jaimee's so reliable from the back; she's never going to miss, so I always have confidence at the net," Appleton said.

Against the Cho sisters, Appleton and Fourlis got early breaks in both sets, winning two deciding points to take a 2-0 lead in the second set.

"I think the sudden death points are crucial," Fourlis said. "If you win two in a row it's a break and a hold up and I think that was crucial in today's match."

Appleton and Fourlis hope to play the US Open junior championships together, if Fourlis gets a qualifying wild card and makes it through to the main draw.

Complete draws and a photo gallery are available at the tournament website.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Conversation with USTA's Bill Mountford; Gauff and Fourlis Reach Girls Final, Roommates Geller and Mejia Play for Boys Title at G1 International Hard Courts; Liu and Seven Other Americans Qualify for US Open Main Draw

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park MD--

Before I get into today's semifinal action at the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships, here is the link to an interview I did during the Kalamazoo Nationals with USTA Director of Junior Tournaments Bill Mountford for the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Although the changes to the USTA National Junior Competition schedule aren't drastic they are important, and I think Mountford provides some useful background information on them. Those of you interested in how Universal Tennis Ratings may be used by the USTA should also check out the interview, published today.

Saturday's singles finals here at the JTCC will showcase two roommates in the boys final, and in the girls final, two players at opposite ends of their junior careers.

The girls final will feature 13-year-old wild card Coco Gauff against No. 7 seed Jaimee Fourlis, with Gauff playing in only her third ITF event and Fourlis, who turns 18 next month, playing in her first junior tournament since 2016 Wimbledon.

Fourlis displayed serious grit in defeating top seed Elena Rybakina of Russia 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, coming back from 3-0, two breaks down, in the third set to steal the victory.

"I had to dig deep and fight really hard," said Fourliss, who won a round in the Australian Open as a wild card recipient and also earned a spot in the women's main draw at this year's French Open by winning a Tennis Australia playoff. "She had a great serve and she hits the ball really big, so I just had to trust my game."

Rybakina had a game point to go up 4-0 in the final set, but she didn't convert it. Fourlis saved a break point in the next game to close the gap to 3-2, and she got the second break back after Rybakina couldn't hold at 4-3 from 30-0 up.  After Fourlis held at 30 to go up 6-5, Rybakina immediately went down 0-40, and she was unable to escape as she had in her first and third round matches.  This time Rybakina was the one trying to hold at 5-6, and she could not, double faulting to give Fourlis the win.

"I know what I'm capable of, and yeah, she was serving great and she does have big serve, but I knew I could do it," Fourlis said. "I just had to be positive and trust myself. I knew it would be a tough match; she's a really good player."

Fourlis received entry based on her WTA ranking, saying that a visit to the United States was part of the reason she came back to junior tennis.

"I've only been to America once, so it was a little bit of a change to come here, get a lot of matches with top junior girls," said Fourlis, who entered the Grade 1 next week in Canada as well, but will need a wild card to play the US Open Junior Championships. "I just wanted to see how it would go, and so far, it's going really well."

Although Gauff has only been allowed to play ITF tournaments since her 13th birthday in March, Fourlis disputed the suggestion that Gauff was a relative unknown.

"I think most people know about her," said Fourlis, whose WTA ranking is 330. "I think everybody knows about her.  She's a great player and she's proven she can definitely play very smart on the court. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Gauff has certainly produced buzz at the JTCC club, and after her 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 14 seed Alina Charaeva of Russia, the fourth straight seed Gauff has eliminated, no one is discounting her chance to win the title.

Gauff struggled in her first service game, but finally held after nearly 10 minutes, and then broke Charaeva when the 15-year-old double faulted at 30-40.

Charaeva has unorthodox strokes, which Gauff admitted confused her at first.

"It's kind of weird playing it, but after the first game, I was just running for the ball," Gauff said. "Sometimes I didn't know where it was going, sometimes I did, but mostly she went cross court on her back hand, because her stroke is weird and it's hard for her to go line, so I just covered the cross court more than the line."

Gauff sensed Charaeva's belief ebb after that lengthy first game.

"I think her confidence dropped a little bit and she was not hitting as hard as she was in the first game," Gauff said. "After I got used to her ball, I was just going for my shots."

Gauff said she watched Fourlis defeat Rybakina and was impressed with their level.

"I thought both players played well and it could have gone either way," said Gauff, who has lost only 20 games in her first five victories. "It's really exciting and I'm excited to see what happens tomorrow."

Top seed Axel Geller of Argentina and No. 11 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia have been rooming together throughout the travels in Europe this summer and have been practicing together at the IMG Academy when not on the road, but Saturday's final will be their first official meeting.

"We met when he was 11 and I was 12 in a South American tournament," said Geller, who defeated No. 2 seed Sebastian Korda 6-2, 6-4 in Friday's semifinals. "We've trained and roomed together and he's like my little brother, I love him. We've played approximately 50 or 60 sets, and he knows me very well. He knows what I don't like, so he has that advantage, but I also know him very well."

Geller was able to save two early break points against Korda and found the rhythm on his serve, breaking Korda twice, the second time to secure the first set.

Korda took a 3-1 lead in the second set, but serving at 3-2, couldn't save the last of the five break points he faced.

"There was a key game when he was serving at 3-2," said Geller. "I had five break points, but he made five first serves and played very good points. But he had an easy ball and he didn't know what to do and he missed, he tried to fake a drop shot and hit a slice and I think if he had won that game, it could have been different. I would have kept fighting but maybe he would have momentum."

Geller, who won Roehampton and was a finalist at Wimbledon last month, finished the match with a break, to earn his third straight final in an ITF Junior Grade 1 or Grade A.

For Mejia, Saturday's final will be a new experience, as he had never reached the semifinal of a Grade 1 before this week. But after an impressive 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, Mejia is ready to play his roommate for the title.

"We've been rooming since French Open, every single tournament," said the 17-year-old, who, like Geller, won his quarterfinal match 7-6 in the third. "I'd rather play him in a final than in the first round. If we're in the final, we're the ones who have played better the whole, so that's going to be fun. We love it. I'm really excited and for sure our coach is also excited about the final."

Mejia fell behind a break in the first set, but was able to break right back and took advantage of a shaky service game from Baez at 4-5 in the first set, when he double faulted twice in a row from deuce to give Mejia the set.

Baez's unforced error count continued to rise and Mejia was up 5-0 before Baez could get on the board.

"It's not that I played really well, he just made a couple more mistakes than usual. That was good for me, because I was able to break him twice," Mejia said, acknowledging that Baez preferred surface is clay. "I think for sure that on clay he has a little more time. This surface for me, I like it a lot better than the clay. I would rather play on fast courts."

Although Mejia is playing his first Grade 1 singles final, he has a Grade A and 3 Grade 1 doubles titles, and has earned his way back to the doubles final for a second year in a row at College Park.  He and Korda, the No. 2 seeds, defeated Lukas Greif and Sangeet Sridhar 7-5, 4-6, 10-6 and will meet No. 6 seeds Brian Cernoch and Andrew Fenty in Saturday's final.  Cernoch and Fenty took out defending champion William Woodall and his partner Lorenzo Musetti of Italy 6-4, 6-2.

The defending doubles champion in the girls draw also went out today, with Sofia Sewing, playing this year with Taylor Johnson, losing to Fourlis and Emily Appleton. Sewing and Johnson, the top seeds, were beaten by the No. 3 seeds 6-1, 6-1.  Appleton and Fourlis will face the unseeded Cho sisters, I-Hsuan and Yi Tsen of Taiwan, after they defeated No. 2 seeds Rybakina and Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-8.

Saturday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

A year ago, Claire Liu was sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the International Hard Courts here in College Park. Today, as a wild card, the 17-year-old qualified for the US Open women's main draw, defeating Victoria Kamenskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-1 at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.  Liu, who will play Ying-Ying Duan of China in the first round, is one of five US women to advance to the main draw. Danielle Lao, the former USC star, defeated No. 20 seed Jana Fett of Croatia 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 and will face Risa Ozaki of Japan in her slam debut.  Allie Kiick advanced when Vicky Duval retired down 6-3, 1-0 and will face No. 25 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia.  Sachia Vickery, the 2013 USTA 18s National champion, beat Jamie Loeb 6-3, 6-4 and will play Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia.  Nicole Gibbs[14] defeated Naomi Broady of Great Britain 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying to advance to the main draw, where she will play Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay.

Three US men qualified for the Open, two of them wild cards, with recent Virginia graduate JC Aragone defeating Akira Santillan of Australia 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and former Michigan All-American Evan King downing No. 31 seed Michael Mmoh 6-3, 6-3.  Aragone faces No. 28 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa and King play No. 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain. The third US man to qualify, Tim Smyczek, also drew a seed, No. 17 Sam Querrey. Smyczek defeated No. 20 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the main draw.

In addition to the Americans who qualified, TCU's Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Tennessee's JP Smith of Australia also reached the main draw through qualifying.

2017 Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson will face qualifier Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain, who at 31, is 14 years older than Kypson. 2015 Kalamazoo champion Frances Tiafoe drew No. 3 seed Roger Federer. Tennys Sandgren drew No. 2 seed Andy Murray.

Ashley Kratzer, the USTA 18s National champion, drew Tatjana Maria of Germany as her first round opponent.  NCAA women's champion Brienne Minor will face Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Thai Kwiatkowski, the NCAA men's champion, will play No. 23 seed Mischa Zverev of Germany

With the eight qualifiers, the number of US players in the main draw is 42--19 men and 23 women. Draws can be found at usopen.org.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Geller Saves Match Point, Mejia Ousts Second Seed Bryde to Reach ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Semifinals; Liu Among 13 Americans Through to Final Round of Qualifying at US Open

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park MD--

All the quarterfinal drama in the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships was in the boys draw Thursday as top seed Axel Geller of Argentina saved a match point to beat Alafia Ayeni 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia took out No. 2 seed Trent Bryde 6-4 4-6, 7-6(4), although without saving a match point. Both matches, over two-and-a-half hours in length, were contested at the same time on an unseasonably cool morning at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

Geller admitted his loss of the first set to No. 9 seed Ayeni was due to the Californian's perfectly executed serve and volley strategy.

"He came out to try to impose his game, and actually he did it really good," Geller said. "It's not that I played bad, but he played better. My passing shots were good, but he would do some weird thing and make the volley. It's really smart on his part, because he's really athletic and big, so it's hard to hit passing shots on him."

Geller said that changing balls only for a third set, rather than at 7 and 9 games, caused some of his struggles, as he fell behind 5-2 in the final set.

"Because of the balls, I really couldn't go for my down the line passing shots, so I had to go cross and get a second ball," Geller said. "But I guess it was a really smart play from his side. I'd say I kept my composure a bit more than he did when he served for the match."

After a love hold by Geller to make it 5-3, Ayeni served for the match and got an error from Geller to go up 30-15. But that was the last point Ayeni would win in the game, as his two backhand errors and a netted forehand put Geller back on serve. Geller held after one deuce to make it 5-5, and Ayeni came back from 15-40 down in his next service game, closing out the game with a overhead winner and an ace.

After Ayeni saved a game point with a backhand volley winner at 5-6, 40-30, Geller missed a forehand to give Ayeni a match point. But Geller got his first serve in, and Ayeni's return went just long. A forehand winner and an unforced error on the backhand side gave Geller the game, and he was rejuvenated.

"I didn't really give him an opportunity to play that point," Geller said. "I served body and that was it. I knew if I went body and made it, it was going to be point or an easy first shot.  When I was younger, I could have gotten into that trouble, but I didn't have that big of a serve, I wasn't developed, then I might lose those matches, without doing anything wrong. Now it's a bit better for me; I know I can go for my shots. I think it's how tennis works today, most of the good players do that."

Ayeni made a couple of unforced errors in the tiebreaker and fell behind 5-1.  He got one of the minibreaks back when Geller's drop shot attempt backfired, but Ayeni couldn't hold on either of his next two serves and Geller had survived.

"I'm happy with the way I reacted when I was down in the third," Geller said. "Up until then I was concerned with the attitude I had, my body language wasn't great and I couldn't get into the match. It's not that I didn't care, but maybe I was thinking I came here to get matches, not to actually win. But when I was about to lose, I could react."

Geller will face No. 7 seed Sebastian Korda in the semifinals, after Korda mounted a comeback of his own in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over unseeded Trey Hilderbrand.

Mejia said his first serve was not effective in the first two sets against Bryde, and when he served for the match, those woes continued, compounded by nerves.

"I got kind of tight, and I wasn't making too many first serves," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "But then at 5-all I was able to play loose, I made four first serves.  In the tiebreak I was 3-0 down and then won six straight points. He made a couple of mistakes, and I made my first serves. I got it right just in time."

Mejia will face No. 3 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, who won the only boys quarterfinal decided in straight sets. The 16-year-old Orange Bowl semifinalist defeated unseeded Lukas Greif 7-5, 6-4.

"I'm never played him, except in doubles," said Mejia, who will be playing in his first Grade 1 singles semifinal. "I know he goes for his shots, and I've just got to stay with him. Hopefully he'll give me some chances and I'll take advantage of them."

The girls quarterfinals were quick affairs, with only one upset. Thirteen-year wild card Coco Gauff continued her march through the draw with an impressive 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 6 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan. Liang had trouble finding the court in the first set, but the 16-year-old is a fine ball striker when she isn't under pressure.  Gauff stayed with Liang in all the long rallies and also displayed a savvy feel for the ball when a lighter touch was required.  But her serve was particularly impressive on Thursday. Although she was broken twice in the second set, she came back from 0-40 down to hold for 5-2, hitting two aces and two service winners to take control of the match again.

Gauff will attempt to defeat her fourth seed in succession when she takes on No. 14 seed Alina Charaeva of Russia.  Charaeva defeated unseeded Layne Sleeth of Canada 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

Top seed Elena Rybakina has alternated between easy and difficult matches in her four victories this week, and a day after beating Hurricane Tyra Black 7-5 in the third, the 18-year-old Russian breezed by unseeded Lulu Sun of Switzerland 6-0, 6-1.  Rybakina will face No. 7 seed Jaimee Fourlis of Australia, who defeated unseeded Abigail Forbes 6-3, 6-3.

The doubles semifinals are set for Friday, with two seeded boys teams and the top three seeds in the girls draw remaining.

Top seeds Taylor Johnson and Sofia Sewing will face No. 3 seeds Fourlis and Great Britain's Emily Appleton. No. 2 seeds Rybakina and Alina Kharitonova of Russia will face the unseeded team of I-Hsuan Cho and Yi Tsen Cho of Taiwan.  Cho and Cho needed two hours and 15 minutes, an unheard length for a match with no-ad scoring and match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set, to defeat Sleeth and Argentina's Maria Carle 7-6(7), 6-4.

Defending boys doubles champion William Woodall has returned to the semifinals, although not with 2016 partner DJ Thomas. Woodall is playing with Lorenzo Musetti of Italy this year and the unseeded pair ended the run of 15-year-olds Alex Lee and Marcus McDaniel 6-1, 2-6, 10-5.  Woodall, who trains at the JTCC, will face his fellow students in No. 6 seeds Brian Cernoch and Andrew Fenty.  The other semifinal will feature Mejia and Korda, the No. 2 seeds, against unseeded Greif and Sangeet Sridhar.  Mejia and Korda won the rematch of the ITF Grade 1 Carson final today, beating unseeded Boris Kozlov and Karl Poling 7-5, 4-6, 10-8.

For Friday's order of play, see the tournament website.

The second round of US Open qualifying was completed today, with 13 of the 50 Americans competing for a spot in the main draw advancing to Friday's final round.  Seventeen-year-old Claire Liu was the last to book her place in the final round of qualifying, with the Wimbledon girls champion defeating Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3). She will face Victoria Kamenskaya of Russia next.

Two of the women's final round qualifying matches will be US against US.  Allie Kiick and Vicky Duval, both of whom have had cancer and other serious health issues interrupt their promising young careers, will face off Friday, as will Sachia Vickery and Jamie Loeb.  Danielle Lao, Bernarda Pera[31] and Nicole Gibbs[14] are the other three US women advancing with victories today.

Five US men are through to the last round of qualifying, with Tim Smyczek, Mitchell Krueger and wild card JC Aragone winning today. Recent Virginia graduate Aragone, who received a last minute wild card, followed up his first round win Tuesday over No. 5 seed Marco
Cecchinato with another come-from-behind victory over another Italian, Riccardo Bellotti. Aragone defeated Bellotti 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 and will face Akira Santillan of Australia on Friday.

Either Evan King or Michael Mmoh will reach the main draw after both posted victories today and will play each other on Friday.  Former Michigan star King, a 3-6, 6-1, 6-0 winner over No. 13 seed Renzo Olivo of Argentina, has never played a main draw match at a slam.  No. 31 seed Mmoh, who has breezed through his first two matches, played in the US Open main draw last year after receiving a wild card for winning Kalamazoo and the Australian Open main draw this year after winning the USTA's reciprocal wild card race last fall.

Great Britain's Cameron Norrie, who recently turned pro after his junior year at TCU, is in the final round of qualifying, as is former Tennessee All-American JP Smith, who is Krueger's opponent on Friday. 2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov of Canada is also through to the final round of qualifying.

Friday's schedule is available here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Gauff Ousts No. 2 Seed Johnson, Hilderbrand Moves into Quarterfinals at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; McNally and Liu Among Day Two Winners at US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park, MD--

Coco Gauff, who turned 13 in March, has played in only three ITF junior tournaments: Roehampton, Wimbledon qualifying and this week's Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships. Returning from the Czech Republic after leading the US girls to the ITF 14-and-under World Junior Tennis Championships earlier this month, Gauff is full of confidence as she demonstrated in her 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson.

Gauff admitted that she has the advantage over her older opponents in a match such as today's.

"I wasn't really nervous before the match, because she's 12 in the world, she's the 2 seed, so if I lost, there was no pressure," said Gauff, who beat No. 15 seed Kamila Rakhimova of Russia on Tuesday, also in straight sets. "So I just played my best and hit through my shots, and it turned out I won."

Johnson made more unforced errors than usual, and became increasingly frustrated as she missed routine volleys at the net.

"I thought she played well, but I've seen her play better," Gauff said. "I think today was just not her day. But again, I thought she played well too."

Gauff said competing for her country in another country was an honor.

"And it was cool meeting people, I met a lot of friends from different countries and it was really fun," said Gauff, who went 6-0 at No. 1 singles. "But of all the tournaments I played, that was the most mentally and physically exhausting, even though it was a team tournament. If you lose, you're not only letting yourself down, but you're letting your whole team down, your country. I knew I could win the matches, but my nervousness would take over sometimes, but after I got over that, I started winning."

Gauff will face No. 6 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan, who beat Alana Smith 6-2, 6-4.   The only other seed in the bottom half of the girls draw is No. 14 seed Alina Charaeva of Russia. She will face Layne Sleeth of Canada, who beat her second seed in two days in another marathon, defeating No. 11 seed Jule Niemeier of Germany 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Top seed Elena Rybakina of Russia was down a set to Hurricane Tyra Black, but managed to hold her nerve in the final stages of the third set to eke out a 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 win.  She will face Switzerland's Lulu Sun, who defeated qualifier Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-4, in Thursday's quarterfinals. Abigail Forbes won her third consecutive match in straight sets, taking out Anna Laguza of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4. She will face No. 7 seed Jaimee Fourlis of Australia who defeated No. 12 seed Daniela Vismane of Latvia 7-6(2), 7-6(4) in a two-and-a-half hour battle. Fourlis received her entry and seeding based not on her ITF junior ranking, but on her WTA ranking of 330.

The boys' top two seeds had a much more routine third round than the girls', with No. 1 Axel Geller of Argentina defeating wild card Siem Woldeab 6-1, 6-1 and No. 2 seed Trent Bryde downing Karl Poling 6-2, 6-0.

Geller will face No. 9 seed Alafia Ayeni, who outlasted Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4.  Bryde will take on No. 11 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, who beat Sangeet Sridhar 6-4, 6-2.  Bryde and Mejia met earlier this year at the Milan Grade A, with Bryde winning in three sets.

No. 7 seed Sebastian Korda won the only third round match between seeds, beating No. 12 seed Alan Rubio Fierros of Mexico 7-6(6), 6-2. Korda's quarterfinal opponent will be unseeded Trey Hilderbrand, who eliminated No. 13 seed Brian Cernoch 6-4, 7-5.

Cernoch served for the second set after getting a break at 4-4, but he couldn't hold, and after an easy hold for Hilderbrand, Cernoch went down 15-40 on his serve. A forehand winner and a deft backhand slice approach saved two match points, but Cernoch missed a backhand pass to give Hilderbrand another match point, which he converted with a overhead winner.

"I think the difference was my backhand and serve, I hit those really well today," Hilderbrand said. "If I hadn't, honestly, I think I would have lost the match. I kept going for my shots and they started going in in the later parts of the second set."

Hilderbrand said Cernoch's serve gave him trouble, but in general he doesn't mind playing a left-hander.

"The lefty's best pattern is to my strengths," said the 17-year-old from San Antonio Texas, who has committed to Central Florida for 2018. "My backhand is my favorite shot, so personally I like playing lefties a lot. But the serve is the hardest part. His kick serve was good today, and was tough to return."

Hilderbrand and Korda played last fall at the Pan American Closed in Tulsa, with Korda winning 7-5, 7-6(2).

"He beat me in a close one," said Hilderbrand, who is in a Grade 1 quarterfinal for the first time. "It will be another fun one. He's an amazing player, one of my 2000 buddies, he's a star.  It's going to be a fun one."

The other boys seed to fall on Wednesday was No. 12 seed Menelaos Efstathiou of Cyprus, who was beaten by Lukas Greif 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-2. Greif was down a break with Efstathiou serving at 2-1 in the third, but a code violation for a racquet toss, his second, and therefore a point penalty, which gave Greif the break back. Efstathiou argued the penalty, which was assessed by a different roving umpire than the one who had given him the first, but the referee affirmed the penalty and play eventually continued, with Greif winning the last five games of the match.

Greif will face No. 3 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, who beat William Woodall 7-5, 6-1.

The order of play for Thursday's singles and doubles quarterfinals is available at the tournament website.

The completion of the first round of qualifying at the US Open on Wednesday produced ten more American winners, joining the 17 who advanced to the second round on Tuesday.

Fifteen-year-old Caty McNally, who lost in the first round here in College Park on Monday, was one of those advancing.  McNally, who received a last minute wild card, defeated Polina Monova of Russia 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.  Claire Liu won the battle of the US teens, beating Caroline Dolehide 6-1, 6-2.  Nicole Gibbs beat Francesca Di Lorenzo 7-6(0), 7-5 and Jacqueline Cako got the better of No. 2 seed Maryna Zanevska of Belgium 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Kalamazoo 18s finalist JJ Wolf was beaten by JP Smith of Australia 6-4, 6-1, but 2016 Kalamazoo champion Michael Mmoh[31] advanced to the second round, beating Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-2.  Other US men picking up wins today were Tim Smyczek, Ray Sarmiento, Austin Krajicek, Mitchell Krueger and Evan King.

All 27 US players are on Thursday's schedule.

US Open Junior Championships Wild Cards

The wild cards for the US Open Junior Championships, which begin with qualifying on Friday September 1st, are below. Five additional wild cards will be awarded at a later date: two in the boys’ main draw – one by the French Tennis Federation, as part of a reciprocal agreement – and one in qualifying, and one each in the girls’ main draw and qualifyingPlease note that  those listed below are as of today; withdrawals can results in entry list and wild card changes.

Boys main draw:
Andrew Fenty (17, Washington, D.C.; Coach: Asaf Yamin)
Ryan Goetz (17, Greenlawn, N.Y.; Coaches: Matt Gordon, Keith Kamborian, Chris Goetz)
Lukas Greif (17, Newburgh, Ind.; Coaches: Bryan Smith, Stephanie Hazlett)
Brandon Nakashima (15, San Diego; Coaches: Larry Stefanki, Christian Groh)
Axel Nefve (17, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Nick Saviano)
Sangeet Sridhar (17, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Coach: Lou Belken)
TBD: French reciprocal

Boys qualifying draw:
William Grant (16, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Juan Alberto Viloca)
Trey Hilderbrand (17, San Antonio; Coach: Mark Hilderbrand)
Govind Nanda (16, Cerritos, Calif.; Coach: Vahe Assadourian)
Brian Shi (17, Jericho, N.Y.; Coach: Andre Daescu)
Yuta Kikuchi (Japanese High School Champion)

Girls main draw:
Angelica Blake (16, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coaches: Nick Saviano, Eric Riley)
Kelly Chen (18, Cerritos, Calif.; Coach: Debbie Graham)
Salma Ewing (16, Long Beach, Calif.; Coaches: Reyana Ewing)
Abigail Forbes (16, Raleigh, N.C.; Coach: Cameron Moore)
Cori Gauff (13, Delray Beach, Fla.; Coach: Gerard Loglo)
Natasha Subhash (15, Fairfax, Va.; Coach: Bear Schofield, Bob Pass)
Katie Volynets (15, Walnut Creek, Calif.; Richard Tompkins, Mark Orwig)

Girls qualifying draw:
Elvina Kalieva (14, Staten Island, N.Y.; Coach: Nick Saviano)
Gabriella Price (14, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Rick Macci)
Charlotte Owensby (14, Boca Raton, Fla.; Coach: Yulia Beygelzimer)
Nikki Redelijk (15, Windermere, Fla.; Coach: Ferdinand Redelijk)
Marina Kurosu (Japanese High School Champion)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Two Seeds in Boys and Girls Draws Advance to Third Round at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts, Sleeth Ousts Fifth Seed Appleton; Americans Post 17 Wins on First Day of US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park, MD--

Tuesday was another hot and sticky day in the Washington DC area, but the top two seeds in both the girls and boys draws managed to avoid lengthy battles, with all four winning their second round matches at the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships in straight sets.

With the temperatures in the lower 90s and the heat index over 100 for the second consecutive day, the less time spent on court the better, and girls top seed Elena Rybakina of Russia made quick work of Draginia Vukovic of Serbia, posting a 6-3, 6-1 victory at the University of Maryland courts.  No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson also played at the Maryland courts, and she got by Rhea Verman of India 6-2, 6-2.  Boys No. 2 seed Trent Bryde, posted his second consecutive 6-1, 6-2 win, beating Mark Mandlik by that score at the University of Maryland.  The only one of the top seeds to play at the Junior Tennis Champions Center on Tuesday was boys No. 1 Axel Geller of Argentina, and he moved past Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey in an uneventful 6-2, 6-3 contest.

No. 6 seed Uisung Park of Korea was eliminated in one of the day's longest matches, falling to Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.  No. 8 seed Alexandre Rotsaert was the seventh boys seed to fall in the first two days, with Lukas Greif posting a 6-0, 6-1 victory at the University of Maryland courts.

No. 13 seed Brian Cernoch, playing on his home courts at the JTCC, needed all the support he could muster from the local community, saving a match point in the second set tiebreaker in his 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Govind Nanda. So depleted was Nanda that he pulled out of his scheduled doubles match later in the day, while Cernoch returned two hours later to get his second victory of the day with doubles partner Andrew Fenty.

After losses by No. 3 seed Sofia Sewing and No. 4 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia on Monday, No. 5 seed Emily Appleton of Great Britain was eliminated Tuesday, going out to 16-year-old Layne Sleeth of Canada 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.

Sleeth, who saved four match points in the second set, admitted her counter-punching game wore Appleton down.

"I just ran for every ball," said Sleeth, who had not played Appleton before. "I figured out she has a very strong forehand, so I needed to play to her backhand.  She made errors on the match points and she seemed to get discouraged after the second set. It was a really good win for me."

Sleeth will play No. 11 seed Jule Niemeier of Germany on Wednesday, and Niemeier also had a long slog in the heat, beating Lisa Piccinetti of Italy 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

The only other girls seed to lose in Tuesday's second round was No. 15 seed Kamila Rakhimova of Russia, who was beaten 13-year-old wild card Cori Gauff 6-2, 6-2.  Gauff has played both her matches at the University of Maryland, but will play Johnson at JTCC on Wednesday. Only seven seeds remain in the girls draw for Wednesday's round of 16.

One of the biggest surprises of the day came in the boys doubles, with 15-year-olds Alex Lee and Marcus McDaniel taking out top seeds Geller and Rotsaert 3-6, 6-4, 10-6.  Geller is the reigning Wimbledon boys doubles champion.

The order of play for Wednesday's round of 16 can be found at the tournament website.

A long day of qualifying matches ended after 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the US Open, with the 28 Americans on the schedule going 17-11. Advancing to the second round of women's qualifying are wild card Vicky Duval, Grace Min, Alexa Glatch, Bernarda Pera[31], Danielle Lao, Sachia Vickery, Jamie Loeb, Louisa Chirico[30], Allie Kiick and Kristie Ahn[9]. Notably, USTA girls 18s finalist Kelly Chen took top seed Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan to a third set tiebreaker before falling 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3).

US men advancing to the second round are: wild cards JC Aragone and Sekou Bangoura, Christian Harrison, Dennis Novikov, Bradley Klahn, Mackenzie McDonald and Reilly Opelka. Aragone's win was the most impressive, a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 decision over No. 5 seed Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

On Wednesday, 11 more US men and 11 more US women will take the courts for first round qualifying matches.   The men in action: Michael Mmoh[31], Tim Smyczek, Raymond Sarmiento(WC), Austin Krajicek(WC), Marcos Giron, Daniel Nguyen(WC), Mitchell Krueger, Jared Hiltzik(WC), JJ Wolf(WC), Evan King(WC) and William Blumberg(WC).

The women are: Nicole Gibbs, Francesca Di Lorenzo(WC), Ann Li(WC), Amanda Anisimova, Jacqueline Cako, Caroline Dolehide, Claire Liu(WC), Danielle Collins, Caty McNally(WC), Jessica Pegula and Usue Arconada.  There are two all-US first round matches again today in the women's qualifying, with Gibbs playing Di Lorenzo and Dolehide facing Liu.