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Saturday, September 29, 2018

US Girls Reach Yet Another Junior Fed Cup Final; Wiersholm, Barnett Win Titles at Austin ITF: Mmoh, Shabaz and Muhammad Advance to Pro Circuit Finals

The US Junior Fed Cup team of Coco Gauff, Alexa Noel and Connie Ma will look to defend their country's title Sunday, with the top seeds taking on No. 2 seed Ukraine in Budapest Hungary. The US girls have reached the finals now for five consecutive years, with titles in 2014 and last year, while Ukraine is looking for its first Junior Fed Cup title.

In today's semifinal against unseeded Slovakia, Noel, playing No. 2 singles, came back to defeat Nina Stankovska 1-6, 6-0, 6-0 to give the US a 1-0 lead. Gauff, playing No. 1 singles, also won her match in three sets, beating Romana Cisovska 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4. Doubles were not played.

Ukraine had an easier time getting past No. 3 seed Russia, with Lyubov Kostenko beating Polina Kudermetova 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles and Dasha Lopatetskaya defeating Oksana Selekhmeteva 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles. For reasons I'm not clear on, the doubles was played even though the match had been decided and Ukraine's team retired, meaning the final score was 2-1.

Lopatetskaya and Gauff met in last year's ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team final last summer, with Gauff winning in straight sets. Lopatetskaya has won their other two meetings however, including earlier this month in the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships. For more on the girls semifinals today, see the ITF Junior Circuit website.

The Junior Davis Cup final will feature No. 2 seed France against No. 6 seed Spain.  France defeated Argentina 3-0, while Spain took out top seed Italy 2-0.  The US boys picked up their third straight win, beating Canada 2-0, and will play for ninth place against Hungary Sunday. For more on the boys semifinals today, see the ITF Junior Circuit website.

Live scoring will be available here.  The ITF Junior tournament website is here.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Austin Texas, 14-year-old Katja Wiersholm won her second Junior Circuit singles title, while 17-year-old Frank(Wesley) Barnett won his first. Wiersholm, the No. 8 seed, lost just one set in her six wins, and Henrik Wiersholm's younger sister defeated top seed Kailey Evans 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  The unseeded Barnett, who doesn't play many ITF Junior Circuit events, defeated No. 9 seed Jack Anthrop 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the boys singles final. Barnett also beat Anthrop in Friday's doubles final, with he and Leighton Allen, the No. 6 seeds, beating No. 4 seed Anthrop and Max Fardanesh 6-4, 7-6(2). Wiersholm lost to Evans in the girls doubles final, with Evans and Carson Tanguilig, the No. 2 seeds, beating top seeds Wiersholm and Nikita Vishwase 4-6, 6-4, 10-2.  The next ITF Junior Circuit tournament is a Grade 4 in Corpus Christi Texas, where qualifying is now underway.

Americans have reached the final of three of the four USTA Pro Circuit events in the United States this week, with Michael Mmoh, Asia Muhammad and Michael Shabaz playing for titles Sunday.

Mmoh, who won the Columbus Challenger last week, will go for his tenth straight victory against top seed Marcel Granollers of Spain in the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Tiburon California. The 20-year-old, seeded No. 5, defeated James Duckworth of Australia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 this evening, while Granollers defeated No. 6 seed Noah Rubin earlier 6-2, 6-2.  If Mmoh wins Sunday, he will break into the ATP Top 100 for the first time.

At the $60,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament down the coast in Templeton California, Asia Muhammad, 27, is aiming for her second $60,000 title in the past two months after beating No. 2 seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-4 in today's semifinal.  Muhammad will play Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria, also unseeded, who beat Grace Min 6-1, 7-6(5).  Muhammad will also play for the doubles title on Sunday, with frequent partner Maria Sanchez.

Former University of Virginia star Shabaz, now 31, played only two Pro Circuit events in 2016 and 2017, and his last title came in 2013, but he has played four straight weeks this month, and including qualifying, has now won seven consecutive matches at the $15,000 Futures in Fountain Valley California. Today he defeated UCLA senior Maxime Cressy of France 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3. After his win yesterday, Shabaz spoke to Joel Beers, the tournament press aide, about his struggles over the past few years, which included a bout with mono.

“This is me trying to do now what I was trying to do five or so years ago,” said Shabaz, who kept involved tennis during his break by teaching. “It’s me finally taking the chance again. I know some people [his age of 31] works against me, but this is a small, exclusive club and the margins are so small. I really think I can [get to his 2013 level]and maybe higher.”

Shabaz will face 30-year-old Takuto Niki of Japan, the No. 4 seed, in Sunday's final. Niki defeated No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) in today's semifinal 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. 

Cressy did a get title this week, winning the doubles with Moldova's Alexander Cozbinov(UNLV). The unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Alec Adamson(UC-Davis) and Conor Berg(New Mexico) 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

In the fourth USTA Pro Circuit event this week, at the $15,000 tournament in Hilton Head SC, two current collegians will face off for the title Sunday. University of Texas junior Bianca Turati of Italy, the top-ranked collegian in the preseason rankings and the No. 1 seed in this tournament, will face Washington State sophomore and No. 3 seed Michaela Bayerlova of the Czech Republic.  Turati defeated qualifier Justina Mikulskyte of Lithuania, a senior at Kentucky, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 and Bayerlova beat former Georgia Tech standout Rasheeda McAdoo 6-2, 6-3.

Identical twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 16, fell in the doubles final.  The sisters, who lost in the doubles qualifying, got in as lucky loser and went all the way to the championship match before dropping a 7-6(2), 3-6, 11-9 decision to top seeds Barbara Gatica of Chile and Rebeca Pereira of Brazil.

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