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Friday, November 2, 2018

October Aces; Osuigwe Outlasts McNally to Reach Tyler $80K Semifinals; Sock Takes Lead in USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge; Chavatipon Advances to Semis at $15K in Mexico

Last month was exceptionally busy, with the ITF Youth Olympics, held only once every four years, adding to the many important junior tournaments held during October. ITA's Division I had its All-American Championships and the three Futures in Texas were all won by young Americans, so my monthly feature for the Tennis Recruiting Network highlights a total of 19s players.

The highlight of today's matches for those of us focused on junior tennis was Caty McNally versus Whitney Osuigwe in the quarterfinals of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas. The frequent doubles partners, both 16 years old, had split their two meetings on the ITF Junior Circuit the past two years, with McNally winning their most recent contest at the Grade 1 in Roehampton this summer. McNally, a wild card, started the late afternoon match better, taking the first set, but Osuigwe, who received a junior exemption for entry, fought back to earn a 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-3 win.  McNally will no doubt regret failing to convert six break points with Osuigwe serving at 4-4 and 5-5; winning any one of those six points would have given her an opportunity to serve for the match.  McNally, who saved a set point serving at 4-5, took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but Osuigwe won the final six points of the set.  Osuigwe went up two breaks and served for the match at 5-2 in the third, but she didn't get to a match point until the next game, converting her second match point when McNally double faulted.

Osuigwe will now face top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who had to mount a comeback of her own again today against Kayla Day, earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory.  The other semifinal will feature unseeded Danielle Lao, the former USC star, and the winner of the night match between unseeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria. Lao beat Lauren Davis 6-1, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

The USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge will have an unexpected leader on Monday: Jack Sock. Sock, who was ranked No. 8 to start the year, has struggled in singles, winning just nine ATP matches, with two of them coming this week at ATP Paris Masters. Sock was defending his title there, as well as a semifinal appearance at the ATP Finals, but now that he is out of both, he will fall out of the Top 100 and may not make the main draw cut at the Australian Open. He can win the USTA's Australian Open reciprocal wild card however, if he needs it, because last year the USTA began allowing points earned from any ATP tournament or Challenger held on hard courts in the designated period to count towards the Challenge. Sock picked up 180 points for his two wins in Paris this week, giving him a substantial lead, and forcing any other American man to win this week in Charlottesville or next week in Knoxville AND win the $150K Houston Challenger to pass him, obviously a tall order.

Three Americans are still in the running for the first leg of that daunting double though, with wild card Thai Kwiatkowski, lucky loser Tommy Paul and top seed Bradley Klahn all reaching the semifinals of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville. Kwiatkowski, the 2017 NCAA singles champion while at Virginia, beat No. 2 seed Michael Mmoh 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first career Challenger semifinal.  He will play the only non-American left, No. 8 seed Peter Polansky of Canada.  Stanford's 2010 NCAA singles champion Klahn, who may not need the Australia Open wild card as he is hovering around 100 in the rankings, beat Bjorn Fratangelo 6-3, 6-3.  He will play Paul, who beat No. 3 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 Futures in Birmingham Alabama, the semifinals are set, after rain on Thursday kept the round of 16 from being completed. No. 6 seed and former LSU standout Justin Butsch, who reached a Futures final in September, will play No. 2 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern), while University of Tennessee senior Timo Stodder of Germany, a qualifier, will face No. 5 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela.

Sixteen-year-old Californian Charlotte Chavatipon, who won her main draw match in a Pro Circuit event back in June, has advanced to the semifinals of this week's $15,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Mexico City. Chavatipon, who does not have a WTA ranking, has beaten No. 2 seed Shelby Talcott(Iowa), Vanderbilt recruit Dasha Kourkina and today, Maria Carvajal Altamirano of Mexico, all in straight sets. Also into the semifinals is qualifier Anastasia Rychagova of Russia, a senior at Kansas who is No. 6 in the ITA preseason rankings. She beat top seed Kirsten-Andrea Weedon of Guatemala 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-4 in today's quarterfinals.