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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Opelka Wins Champaign Challenger, Moves into ATP Top 100; Davis, Klahn and Smith Reach Oracle Challenger Finals in Houston; Sock and Bryan Advance to Championship Match at ATP Finals

Reilly Opelka defeated Ryan Shane 7-6(6), 6-3 Saturday after noon at the $75,000 Champaign Challenger, assuring himself a place in the ATP Top 100 and a berth in the main draw of the 2019 Australian Open. There were no breaks of serve in the first set of the championship match, and it was 2015 NCAA champion Shane who had the first set point, at 6-5 in the tiebreaker. But Opelka made a volley to save it and took the set on his first opportunity, giving him a chance to relax a bit in the second set. Another tiebreaker would not have been unexpected, but Opelka continued to serve well, and when he is making 75 percent of his first serves, it's his opponent who is going to feel the pressure. University of Virginia graduate Shane was broken at 2-all, and Opelka cruised from there, breaking in the final game for the title.

After winning Champaign this week and Knoxville last week, his third and fourth Challenger titles, Opelka makes his debut in the ATP Top 100 Monday, joining Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe as Americans aged 21-and-under in that elite group.

The doubles title in Champaign went to No. 2 seeds JP Smith(Tennessee) and Matt Reid of Australia, who beat unseeded Hans Hach(Abilene Christian) of Mexico and Luis Martinez of Venezuela  6-4, 4-6, 10-8 in the final.

The Champaign Challenger final was an all-American affair and the winner tomorrow at the $150,000+H Oracle Series Challenger in Houston will also be from the host country.  No. 2 seed Bradley Klahn(Stanford) beat No. 8 seed Dominik Koepfer(Tulane) of Germany 6-3, 6-4 to reach his third Challenger final of the year.

There are improbable Challenger finalists and then there is Roy Smith, the 20-year-old Baylor sophomore who advanced to the Houston final today.  The wild card, whose previous best Pro Circuit results was a final at a Futures last month in Waco, advanced to the final when Kamil Majchrzak of Poland retired in today semifinal with a leg injury, trailing 6-4, 2-3. Smith, unranked in the ITA collegiate rankings and 870 in the ATP rankings, will be facing his first ATP Top 100 player in Klahn.

Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M) and Nicholas Monroe(North Carolina) won the doubles title in Houston, with the top seeds beating No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arevalo(Tulsa) of El Salvador and Jamie Cerretani(Brown) 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-5 in the final.

The women's final in Houston, a WTA 125 Series tournament, will have more on the line than just a big title.  Qualifier Lauren Davis can win the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge if she defeats wild card Peng Shuai of China.  With Jessica Pegula[4] losing today to Peng 6-4, 6-3, Davis, who had such a memorable match against Simona Halep in the third round of the Australian Open this year, is the only player who can pass Whitney Osuigwe, who currently leads in the race, but she must claim the title to do so. Davis defeated No. 7 seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 in today's semifinal.

Unseeded Pegula and Maegan Manasse(Cal) won the Houston doubles title, beating No. 3 seeds Giuliana Olmos(USC) of Mexico and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) 1-6, 6-4, 10-8.

The three Americans still alive in singles semifinals at the other USTA Pro Circuit tournaments this week all lost today.

No. 3 seed Jordi Arconada was beaten 6-4, 6-3 by top seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands at the $25,000 Futures in Norman Oklahoma. Brouwer will face No. 7 seed and Oklahoma State sophomore Matej Vocel of the Czech Republic in the final.

Brouwer and Justin Butsch(LSU) won the doubles title in Norman, with the unseeded pair beating No. 4 seeds Vocel and Dominik Kellovsky(Arizona State) of the Czech Republic 6-3, 2-6, 10-5 in the final.

Unseeded Isaiah Strode lost 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals of the $15,000 Pensacola Florida Futures to No. 6 seed Ricardo Rodriguez of Venezuela.  Rodriguez will face Mississippi State senior Nuno Borges of Portugal for the title.  Borges, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 7-5, 6-2 in today's semifinal.

The singles final at the women's $25,000 Norman tournament will feature two teenagers: 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Canada against 16-year-old Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia.  Andreescu, the top seed, defeated wild card Lily Miyazaki(Oklahoma) of Japan 6-1, 6-3, while Osorio Serrano came from 4-1 down in the first set to beat qualifier Katie Volynets 6-4, 6-2. It's Osorio Serrano's second win over Volynets this year, with the first coming in ITF Junior Circuit competition.

Ena Shibahara, who I understand has turned pro and will not be returning to UCLA, and 2018 NCAA doubles finalist at Oklahoma State Vladica Babic of Montenegro won their second straight doubles title today.  The unseeded pair, who won last week at the $25K in Lawrence Kansas, extended their winning streak to eight with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Sofia Sewing and Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico in today's final.

At the Nitto ATP Finals in London, former University of Illinois star Kevin Anderson fell in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic will face Alexander Zverev in the final, after Zverev beat Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6(5).

Jack Sock and Mike Bryan will play for the doubles title Sunday against Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.  Sock and Bryan beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-3, 4-6, 10-4 to advance, while Mahut and Herbert defeated Robert Farah(USC) and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia 6-3, 5-7, 10-5. Sock and Bryan, the Wimbledon and US Open champions, lost to French Open champions Mahut and Herbert in the round robin stage of the competition earlier this week.