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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Li Qualifies for $100K Dow Tennis Classic, Zhao Cruises Past No. 6 Seed; Florida Tops TRN's Men's Recruiting Class Rankings

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Midland, MI--

Ann Li decided to move on from junior tennis after the US Open Junior Championships last year.  The 17-year-old, who has signed with LSU for the fall of 2018, had reached the Wimbledon girls final in July, and felt that in order to continue her improvement, she needed to play more on the next level.

"I felt like it was time," said Li, who advanced to the main draw of the $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic Tuesday with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Paula Goncalves of Brazil. "I felt like I could hang with these girls and that I was at the same level."

Li, who won her first Pro Circuit title at a $15,000 tournament shortly after her Wimbledon run and now has a WTA ranking of 588, believes the work she put in during her off-season helped her win three qualifying matches this week, two of them over Top 300 players.

"I went through my first preseason in Orlando for a month or so and it was really tough," said Li, who is now living in the lodge there. "We did a lot of fitness. There was a little bit of tennis, but it was more just getting stronger and faster. I've been playing really well this week and it's more of me focusing on just being physical, grinding out points instead of going for something that was too risky or me not being aware of every ball. Using my legs and being physical, that's my goal. These last couple of matches, I've played good players and I feel really good, because I've just been tough and I can trust what I've done in preseason."

Li won the first three games of the match against Goncalves, but when Goncalves raised her level of play, Li lost the next four games in a row.  Goncalves double faulted on game point to give back the break, and after Li held for a 5-4 lead, Goncalves found herself down two set points at 15-40 and double faulted again.

The second set saw only two holds of serve, both by Li, with seven breaks.

"I felt good on my return and I didn't serve very well," said Li, who is being coached at the USTA by Jamea Jackson. "She took advantage of my second serve, because my first serve was low percentage, so I really tried to focus on getting my first serves in in that last game."

Li is still planning to attend LSU this fall and hasn't set any specific ranking goals that would change that decision.

"I've signed, so we'll see how this year goes," Li said. "I'm not really trying to focus on numbers right now. Whatever feels good, we'll see. It would be really fun to experience that[college]."

Li will face No. 5 seed Sachia Vickery in the first round on Wednesday.

Carol Zhao, who spent three years at Stanford before leaving after the Cardinal won the 2016 NCAA championship, won her first round match today at the Greater Midland Tennis Center, beating No. 6 seed Richel Hogenkamp 6-0, 6-1.  The first game, with Zhao serving, was a bit of a struggle, but the 22-year-old Canadian held, then went on to win the next 10 games of the match before Hogenkamp got on the board.

"The first game of the first round of any tournament is always going to be tricky," said Zhao, who is at a career-high WTA ranking of 143. "I thought I did a great job executing what I set out to do today, a couple things we've been working on the past couple of days, just staying solid on the first couple of balls and taking my opportunity when I see it during the point. So yeah, I'm very happy with my performance."

Zhao earned the biggest title of her career last November at a $100,000 Pro Circuit event in China, which moved her into the Top 200 for the first time and changed the level of tournaments she could get into.

"It made for a short offseason, that's for sure, but obviously I was excited to be going to bigger tournaments, Melbourne and obviously WTA events," said the 22-year-old, who trains with Cyril Saulnier at the Tennis Canada facility in Toronto.  I think it led to a lot more motivation on my part, to continue doing better, to continue improving and climbing."

Zhao, who grew up in Ontario, said she feels at home on indoor hard courts.

"Growing up, this was our most prevalent surface in Canada, so obviously we're very comfortable on it," Zhao said. "Hopefully it's a bit of an advantage for us."

Zhao admits to struggling in her first year on the WTA Tour.

"I'm not anywhere close to where I want to be yet still," said Zhao who reached the NCAA singles final in 2015. "But obviously it's been a great last eight months. Coming out of college it's not easy to adjust to this whole new life. Even though I had an idea of what it was like from playing before college, dedicating your whole life to it and making it a career is a different thing. It just took some time for me to find my feet. Once I did, I'm just now really enjoying the process."

Like former Stanford star Nicole Gibbs, who left school the year before Zhao started there, Zhao has another year of classes before she will get her degree.

"We can go back whenever we want to and Gibbsy and I joke that we'll be class of 2030 together," said Zhao, who will experience team tennis again as a member of the Canadian Fed Cup team for next week's tie in Romania.

In addition to Hogenkamp, another seeded player fell in the opening round of main draw Tuesday, with wild card Jessica Pegula defeating No. 7 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia 6-2, 6-1.

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada, No. 8 seed Evgeniya Rodina of Russia and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland also posted first round main draw victories.

Qualfiers, in addition to Li, are Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway, Katherine Sebov of Canada and Jovana Jaksic of Serbia.  Usue Arconada, who lost to Eikeri 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, received entry into the main draw as a lucky loser, with Irina Falconi withdrawing for medical reasons.  Arconada will face Irina Bara of Romania in the first round Wednesday.

The Tennis Recruiting Network posted its 2018 Men's Winter Recruiting Class rankings yesterday, with Florida capturing the No. 1 spot.  Texas A&M, Michigan, Princeton and Miami round out the top 5.  This is the first of two rankings that will be done for the class of 2018, with the rankings in May likely to give a better picture of who will actually be on campus come next fall.  I am one of the 20 college tennis aficionados who voted in this poll.


A Concerned Parent said...

It’s a real shame that Tennys Sandgren’s impressive and storybook run at the Australian Open has been overshadowed by the controversy over the many offensive views that he expressed and supported on his Twitter Account. By ultimately deciding to delete most of his tweets, hopefully, he finally realized that his retweets and comments supporting the Alt-Right movement were a mistake and how that support is deeply offensive to many people.

The Alt-Right movement is defined as “composed chiefly of white supremacists, neo-nazis, neo fascists, and other fringe hate groups.” The problem with his statement that he is open to learning about “interesting ideas” and other views is contradicted by the fact that virtually everything he tweeted or commented on is from just one side, the far-right, so he cannot learn other views if he does not expose himself to more objective, more credible and more progressive sources and information.

The other problem with using sources from just one non-credible side is that the reader has a tendency to lose judgement and believe clearly debunked and unsubstantiated myths. As just one example, his twitter comments confirmed that he actually came to believe the absurd and firmly debunked myth that Hillary Clinton was the architect of a child pedophile ring in the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant. Besides being absurd on its face, “Pizzagate” was debunked by virtually every legitimate news source known to mankind, including strongly Republican-leaning news organizations. A truly educated person who wasn’t relying on such non-credible sources would not have fallen for this ridiculous story and would not have embarrassed himself so badly to the entire world.

While expressed support of Donald Trump is more defensible and less controversial than support of the Alt-Right movement, tennis players should not be surprised that many people find this support extremely offensive. Support of a figure such as Trump cannot be brushed off as merely “political” because it’s public knowledge that Trump has ADMITTED on the Access Hollywood Videotape that he is a serial sexual predator who regularly and non-consensually gropes women’s private parts. Furthermore 19 different women have publicly confirmed his admission by accusing Trump of doing precisely that same thing to them. One of the 19 accusers is a People Magazine reporter named Natasha Stoynoff whose published account described how Trump assaulted her while she was writing a story about his wedding anniversary, and a separate People Magazine article cited 6 people who corroborated Stoynoff’s account.

In summary, be careful about what you say on social media and this includes using better judgment and utilizing broader and better sources of information. And, don’t be so surprised when a tremendous number of people (including future employers) are deeply offended by your support of the Alt-Right and even Trump. Hopefully you will now understand why so many people are so offended.

Anonymous said...

Such a shame for a guy who grinded it out on the challenger tour for so long, finally makes big break and now is tainted as hillbilly racist. He also made anti gay comments, it is amazing how uneducated some people are, especially as a guy who went to college and should have been exposed to various types of people.

Echo Chamber said...

I could not agree more with both of the above postings on this subject. I think part of the problem is that if young people make the mistake of only using incredibly biased sources of "news" such as Fox News -- which was founded by Right Wing Republican operative Roger Ailes who first became famous for being Richard Nixon's campaign advisor -- then they become easily duped. Fox News has become Trump News featuring lying right wing full-time Trump apologists such as Sean Hannity who lies through his teeth and makes up conspiracies such as Pizzagate every day. If this is the only type of source that a young tennis player uses for his/her "factual" information then they will have a tendency to believe absurd myths like Pizzagate are real, that Obama is not an American citizen and that Trump is not desperately committing obstruction of justice every day to avoid being exposed as Putin's ally for the past decade.