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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Three Seeds Fall as First Round of Dow Tennis Classic Concludes; Wolf Beats Top Seed at Cleveland Challenger; No Change at Top in New Division I Rankings

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Midland Michigan--

Eight Americans advanced to the second round on Wednesday at the ITF World Tennis Tour $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic, joining 14-year-old Coco Gauff and 2018 finalist Jamie Loeb, who won their matches on Tuesday in brutally cold Midland Michigan.

Three seeded players were eliminated, including 2017 champion and this year's No. 2 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany, who was beaten 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 by Olga Govortsova of Belarus, who was using a special ranking after returning from maternity leave. No. 8 seed Jill Teichmann of Switzerland lost to Christina McHale 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, although McHale was only one spot below Teichmann in the WTA rankings.

The third seed to lose was No. 7 Nicole Gibbs, who fell to 17-year-old wild card Caty McNally 6-0, 7-5. Gibbs didn't play well in the first set, with McNally taking control of any point when Gibbs didn't get her first serve in play. McNally also served well, with four aces, and showed no sign of nerves.

McNally won two more games before Gibbs got on the board in the second set, but McNally was broken for the first time, and Gibbs started to raise her level from that stage on. There were no breaks again until the final game, although Gibbs did have to save three match points serving at 4-5. McNally converted on her fourth match point, with Gibbs serving at 5-6, 30-40, and she advanced to a second round contest with Canada's Rebecca Marino.

Last year's champion Madison Brengle, the No. 3 seed, got through a tough first set against qualifier Urszula Radwanska of Poland, earning a 7-6(4), 6-3 win Wednesday morning on the Meredith McGrath Stadium
Court. Radwanska and Brengle met in the 2007 Wimbledon girls final, with Radwanska winning in three sets, and had only met once since then before today, with Radwanska also claiming a victory in 2011.
Brengle will play Jamie Loeb on Thursday in a rematch of the 2018 final.

Top seed Rebecca Peterson defeated qualifier Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan 6-0, 6-3 and will face Gauff in Thursday's second round.

Eighteen-year-old qualifier Ann Li reached the second round with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over qualifier Jovana Jaksic of Serbia, and qualifier Robin Anderson(UCLA), who reached the Dow final in 2016, advanced with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Danielle Lao(USC).

In addition to the Brengle - Loeb match, another all-US contest is scheduled with No. 4 seed Jessica Pegula facing Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State). Pegula beat Francoise Abanda of Canada 7-5, 6-2 and Di Lorenzo took out Lauren Davis, the 2013 Dow champion, 6-3, 6-4 in the featured night match.  I spoke with Di Lorenzo Tuesday and that conversation will be available next month at the Tennis Recruiting Network.
Another former college player, Stanford's Kristie Ahn, advanced to the second round. Ahn defeated qualifier Valeria Savinykh of Russia 6-4, 6-2, in a match much more difficult that the score would indicate. Ahn won a 21-point game to consolidate her break at 2-0 in the second set, and an 11-point game to hold on to that break at 4-2.

"I think I had like three 15-minute service games," said the 26-year-old Stanford graduate. "She's a really good ball striker and something I've been really working on is bearing down in those games. Ten-minute service games are not out of the norm for me any more. So being able to convert those is really huge for me, for confidence. It's not about this week, but in the future, being able to build on those moments, in those tough times to be able to tell myself I got this."

Ahn knew she was at a disadvantage, with Savinykh having won two matches already.

"These conditions aren't easy, even though you practice on them," Ahn said. "She's got two tough matches under her belt and she definitely had some momentum coming in."

Ahn has recently moved back to New Jersey and is training at the USTA's Player Development Center in Flushing Meadows.

"Jay Devashetty is coaching me and some of the girls are around there, Jamie(Loeb), Christina (McHale), Louisa (Chirico), they pop in and out. Jennie Elie is there as well," Ahn said. "It's nice to feel my home base is actually home. I feel like I have a life and friends, it's not just about tennis. I did a couple of weeks of off-season in New York, then went down to Orlando for a couple of weeks, just to get matches and get outdoors, it was a pretty good balance I thought."

As with all of the former college players I spoke to this week, Ahn was inspired by former Virginia star Danielle Collins' run to the semifinals of the Australian Open.

"It was like less than a year ago she had her Indian Wells, Miami run," Ahn said. "You can definitely learn a lot from her, just the sheer competitor that she is, as well as how much she believes in herself. On the court she's in her own little world, she's not distracted, she's focused. I watched her play a lot in Melbourne, obviously backing college tennis, but I've also gotten to know her a bit and she's a great girl and I was like, you know what, we can all learn stuff. She has the cleanest backhand ever, but just in terms of her demeanor on court, you can definitely take some stuff away from there."

Ahn is not setting a ranking goal for this year, after feeling the impact of having done that previously.

"I've learned to stay away from number goals," said Ahn, who reached a career-high of 105 in the WTA rankings in 2017. "Last year it was like, I want to be top hundred and the unnecessary amount of pressure I put on myself. I was like 1-5 and this crushing feeling, you feel almost like you've failed versus mainly aiming more for process goals, working on pulling out those service games, bearing down. For me, it's mostly about confidence; even when I was playing at the WTA level there was a lot of doubt. So now it's just to back myself, tell myself that I can do it."

Ahn is expecting to play the $25K in Rancho Santa Fe, the WTA 125 in Indian Wells and is hoping to play qualifying at the BNP Paribas Open.

In first round doubles play in Midland, the top two seeds were beaten Wednesday. No. 2 seeds Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller lost to Govortsova and Savinykh 6-3, 6-2 and in the night match, Gauff and Li beat top seeds Jamie Loeb and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand 6-1, 7-6(4).

At the ATP 90 Challenger in Cleveland, current college players are having an impact, with Ohio State junior JJ Wolf beating top seed Jason Jung(Michigan) 6-3, 6-4, Baylor sophomore Roy Smith, who beat No. 12 seed Donald Young 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(5), UCLA senior Maxime Cressy, who qualified and beat Kaichi Uchida of Japan and Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador and Wake Forest junior Borna Gojo of Croatia who defeated wild card Michael Redlicki and No. 4 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany

There wasn't much change in the ITA ranking's Top 10 after the conclusion of the Kick-off Weekend, but four women's teams cracked the Top 25 after being unranked earlier this season: NC State, Ohio State, LSU and Tennessee.  Two men's teams--Tulane and NC State-- moved into the rankings, which are done by poll until after the National Team Indoor Championships next month, when the computers take over.

ITA Division I Team 1/30/19


1. Stanford [12] (first place votes received)
2. Vanderbilt
3. North Carolina
4. Duke
5. Georgia
6. Texas
7. Pepperdine
9. Oklahoma State (was 10)
10. Syracuse (was 24)


1. Wake Forest [11]
2. Ohio State [1]
3. Mississippi State
4. Florida
5. USC
6. North Carolina
8. Texas
9. Stanford (was 10)
10. Baylor (was 11)

The first USTA rankings were revealed today, and they vary a bit from the coaches poll, although not at the top, where Wake Forest and Stanford are also No. 1. Article and complete top 25 rankings can be found by clicking on the header.

USTA 1/30/19
1. Stanford
2. Duke
3. North Carolina
4. Vanderbilt
6. Georgia
7. Pepperdine
8. Texas
9. Oklahoma State
10.South Carolina

1.Wake Forest
2.Ohio State
T3. Mississippi State
5. Florida
7. North Carolina
8. Texas
9. Stanford
10. Baylor