Saturday, March 9, 2019

Loeb, Aragone Receive Oracle US Tennis Awards; Giron Beats De Minaur at BNP Paribas Open; Mandlik, Branstine in Carson $15K Final; Chopra, Collins Take Grade 3 Titles in Costa Rica

The third annual Oracle US Tennis Awards were announced today, with Jamie Loeb and JC Aragone this 2019 recipients of the $100,000 grants. The previous four recipients of the awards, given to American collegiate players who wish to pursue a career on the professional tours, went to players who had competed in college the previous year, but that's not the case with either Loeb or Aragone. Loeb left North Carolina in 2015, after winning the NCAA title in her sophomore year, but the award wasn't established until 2017.  Aragone graduated from Virginia in 2017, but last year's award went to Chris Eubanks of Georgia Tech, who left school after his junior year. All four previous recipients--Eubanks, Francesca Di Lorenzo, Mackenzie McDonald and Danielle Collins--have seen their rankings improve, and most credit the grants, and Oracle tournament wild cards, as a significant reason for that. I spoke to Di Lorenzo in January about what the grant has meant to her in this Tennis Recruiting Network article.  Today's press release from Oracle is available here.

2014 NCAA champion Marcos Giron was also too early to receive an Oracle grant, but after two hip surgeries, the former UCLA Bruin is climbing the rankings without that help. After getting the best win of his career Thursday at the BNP Paribas Open over No. 37 Jeremy Chardy of France, Giron recorded an even better one today, beating  No. 23 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.  The 25-year-old Californian, ranked 217, is the lowest ranked man to reach the round of 32 in Indian Wells since 2011. Next up for Giron will be No. 13 seed Milos Raonic of Canada, who defeated Sam Querrey 7-6(1), 6-4.  Mackenzie McDonald won his match last night to reach the second round, while qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo will play top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia later tonight.

Eighteen-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada continued his impressive start to 2019, beating former junior rival Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, the No. 9 seed 6-4, 6-2. Auger-Aliassime is now 4-0 against the 20-year-old Australian Open semifinalist, with the previous three wins coming in ITF junior competition. Both played his last junior match at the 2016 US Open, with Auger-Aliassime beating Tsitsipas in the semifinals, then going on to defeat Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia in the final.

The final is set for the $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in Carson California, with Elli Mandlik facing Carson Branstine of Canada. The 17-year-old daughter of Hana Mandlikova, who is unseeded, defeated No. 5 seed Rasheeda McAdoo 6-1, 6-4 to reach her first WTT singles final. Her opponent is 18-year Branstine, who defeated 14-year-old qualifier Ashlyn Krueger 6-0, 6-0. Branstine, who just signed with USC for this fall, will also be playing in her first WTT singles final.

At the ITF Grade 3 in Costa Rica, Americans claimed all four titles.  Keshav Chopra swept the boys titles, and 16-year-old Kylie Collins took the girls singles title, her first in ITF competition, although she has a long list of titles in doubles. Collins, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 5 seed Melodie Collard of Canada 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(0) in the final. The 17-year-old Chopra, who won his first ITF junior singles title last fall, was the No. 7 seed this week. He defeated No. 6 seed Mark Mandlik (Elli's twin brother) 6-1, 6-3 in the final.  Chopra and Andres Martin, the No. 2 seeds, won the doubles title by defeating top seeds Ronan Jachuck and Alex Lee 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final.  No. 4 seeds Madison Sieg and Elaine Chervinsky won the girls doubles championship, beating No. 3 seeds Jada Bui of Canada and Charlotte Owensby 6-1, 2-6, 10-7 in the final.

At the Grade 3 in South Africa, Dakota Fordham won the doubles title, with partner Fanni Gecsek of Hungary. The No. 2 seeds defeated unseeded Xenia Lipiec of Poland and Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 in the final.