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Monday, September 30, 2019

Nanda, Paul and Rogers Claim USTA Pro Circuit Titles; Pepperdine's Lahey and USC's Cukierman Win Oracle Masters; Stoiana, Kida, Williams and Anthrop Win ITF Grade 5 Events

Because I was so busy covering the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competitions last week, I didn't have a chance to follow much of the USTA Pro Circuit events, but Americans won all three titles, at the ATP 100 Challenger in Tiburon, the women's $60K in Templeton and at the $25K in Harlingen.

Top seed Tommy Paul won his second ATP Challenger of the month in Tiburon California, with the 22-year-old beating No. 8 seed Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia 7-5, 6-7(3) 6-4 in the final. With the title, Paul has moved to a career-high of 81 in the ATP rankings. No. 3 seeds Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Venezuela's Roberto Maytin(Baylor) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Darian King of Barbados and JC Aragone(Virginia) 6-2, 7-5 in the final.

In Templeton California, the finalists were unseeded Americans, but not exactly surprises to get that far. Shelby Rogers, a former WTA Top 50 player before an knee injury sidelined her from more than a year, beat former WTA Top 10 player Coco Vandeweghe, also returning from a long injury layoff, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final. For more on Rogers' win, see this recap from tournament press aide Steve Pratt. 

No. 3 seeds Vladica Babic(Oklahoma State) and Caitlin Whoriskey(Tennessee) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Gabriela Talaba(Texas Tech) of Romania and Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

This year's Kalamazoo 18s finalist Govind Nanda won his second $25,000 level title this year, in Harlingen Texas. The unseeded Nanda, who is taking the fall off from classes at UCLA after playing the spring semester with the Bruins, defeated qualifier Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, also 18, in the final by a 6-4, 6-4 score. Nanda, whose previous title was earned in Tucson, right before he began school at UCLA, will move to a new ATP career-high of around 550 when these points are added.

No. 4 seeds Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) and George Goldhoff(Texas) won the doubles title, beating Jaime Bendeck(Baylor) of Honduras and Timo Stodder(Tennessee) of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 10-1 in the final.

At the ITA Oracle Masters in Malibu, all four singles finalists were from Southern California, with Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey taking the women's title and Daniel Cukierman of USC claiming the men's title.  No. 3 seed Lahey defeated UCLA's Jada Hart, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-0 in the final and No. 2 seed Cukierman took out top seed Keegan Smith of UCLA 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the men's championship match.  Natasha Subhash of Virginia and Sven Lah of Baylor won the mixed doubles title. For more on the finals and the complete draws, see the ITA website. The finals will re-air on ESPNU Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern(women) and Wednesday at 4 p.m.(men).

The ITF Junior Circuit returned to the United States this week, with the Grade 5 in Austin Texas. No. 3 seed Sophie Williams, 15, won the girls singles title, beating  top seed Leyden Games 6-4, 6-2 in the final for her first ITF singles title. Top seed Jack Anthrop, also 15, captured the boys singles title, beating No. 13 seed Hugo Hashimoto 7-5, 6-1. Anthrop, who now has two ITF Junior Circuit singles titles, had reached the final at the same event last year.

Samir Banerjee and Andrew Chang won the doubles title, beating Ozan Colak and Hugo Hashimoto 6-3, 6-4 in the final between unseeded teams. The girls final also was between two unseeded American teams, with Reya Coe and Skylar Moody beating Simran Chhabra and Isabella Flodin 1-6, 7-5, 10-8.

Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Kida won the girls title at the ITF Grade 5 in New Zealand last week. The top seed, Kida defeated No. 6 seed Ana Tamanika of New Zealand 7-6(5), 6-1 in the final. Kida, who has recently committed to Eastern Washington, now has three ITF junior singles titles, all at the Grade 5 level.

At the Grade 5 in Canada, Mary Stoiana won her first title on the ITF Junior Circuit in just her second tournament played, coming through qualifying to win eight matches during the week. The five-star high school junior from Connecticut defeated three seeds and lost only one set in her eight victories. She downed No. 4 seed Kristen Borland of Canada 6-4, 6-1 in the championship match.

Unseeded 14-year-old Madeleine Jessup lost in the final of the Grade 3 in Malaysia, falling to top seed Janice Tjen of Indonesia 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the championship match.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

United States Retains Junior Fed Cup Trophy, Mochizuki Leads Japan to Junior Davis Cup Title over United States

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona FL--

The Junior Fed Cup trophy won't be going anywhere. The United States has had possession of the silver cup since 2017, and this year they claimed the ITF 16-and-under world team championship on home soil, beating No. 3 seed Czech Republic 2-1 at the USTA's National Campus.  The top-seeded US boys fell short, dropping a 2-1 decision to No. 2 seed Japan in the Junior Davis Cup final.

Connie Ma again put the US in the lead, beating Barbora Palicova 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles on the Har-Tru Championship court. The 16-year-old from Dublin California absorbed the pace of the powerful Palicova, who began struggling when she discovered she could not hit through Ma. Ma fell behind 2-1 in the second set, and was broken twice, but she got the break she needed at 4-3, playing some great defense on break point. Ma served well in the final game, but Palicova hung in until 30-30, when she made two forehand errors to give Ma the match.

The Czechs needed to win No. 1 singles to keep the match alive and they did, with 14-year-old Linda Noskova defeating 15-year-old Katrina Scott 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.  Noskova, who stepped into the No. 1 singles position with Darja Vidmanova suffering from an injury, led
6-2, 3-1 before Scott won five games in a row to send the match to a third set. Scott couldn't quite sustain that momentum after a 10-minute heat break however, and Noskova broke in the sixth game, which was the only break she needed, serving out the match at love.

With Vidmanova's injury, Noskova and Palicova were doing double duty every match, while the US had Robin Montgomery, who had not played singles in the knock-out phase of the tournament, playing with Ma in the doubles. In the quarterfinals against Italy, Ma and Montgomery had claimed the doubles point to get the victory, and they came through again Sunday, coming from 4-1 down in the second set to take the point and the Cup 6-2, 7-5.

Noskova served for the second set at 5-3, but double faulted three times to keep the US team in it. Montgomery held serve in the next game, with Ma hitting a backhand drop volley winner to close out the game, and they broke Palicova in the next game, with Ma hitting a return winner and a volley winner to put the US up 6-5. Serving for the title, Ma fell behind 30-40, but she hit a backhand on the line to get to the deciding point, and the title belonged to the Americans, when Palicova's backhand volley found the net.

"So solid, so solid in singles, nothing for free," Captain Jamea Jackson said of Ma's performance this week. "And when things came down to the wire in doubles, she stepped it up to a whole other level. That's what great competitors do. I was so proud of her; this is her second year doing this and just to see her grow up and blossom before my eyes, it's one of the rewarding parts of what we do."
The Junior Fed Cup trophy stays in the US for another year
Ma was on last year's championship team, but did not play in the final, with Coco Gauff and Alexa Noel clinching the title against Ukraine by winning the doubles point. This year it was Ma's turn to step up when it counted, and Montgomery gave her credit for that mindset.

"Connie came in clutch, hitting the clean cross court shot right on the line," the 15-year-old Montgomery said of Ma's winner at 30-40. "Connie pulled some amazing shots at the end to make it go our way."

"Robin made amazing shots as well," said Ma. "It was a team effort."

"You have to think of all these teams bringing their three best players," Montgomery said. "Every match is going to be tough, especially since we're representing our country. Everyone's going to put their fight into it, because they're representing their country."

Scott appreciated earning the title at home, with fans waving small American flags as they cheered on the girls.

"It was amazing to win in the first place, and then having it be at our home courts is even more amazing," Scott said. "It's more memorable, an experience we'll never forget."

Czech captain Daniel Vanek was proud of his team's effort, but disappointed that they couldn't send the doubles match to a tiebreaker.

"We had a good chance to win for sure," Vanek said. "Full respect to the USA, they played doubles the way I like, positive, aggressive, they were going for it. It's a great achievement, making the final. Of course we're a little bit sad, but if you say to me before that we make the final, almost make a match tiebreaker, I'll take it. But for them to win at home, that's nice."

Jackson was impressed by how well Montgomery and Ma played as a team without having any previous experience.

"Maybe they'd played like one match together," Jackson said. "So credit to them to be able to jell together so quickly. They're a good team and they're capable of playing really, really good doubles. In the last four or five games, that was the best doubles they've played."

"It was amazing to do this at home," Jackson said, as she made arrangements to store the Cup before heading to the player party at Disney Springs. "Game, set and match for the United States, but everybody wants more. It's not enough."
The boys final, played at the same time on Court 2, started well for the home team, with Toby Kodat defeating Kokoro Isomura 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles for a 1-0 lead. But then, it was Shintaro time, as Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki took the court, and as he had done in five of the six Japanese wins, brought his team even with a victory at No. 1 singles.

Mochizuki had beaten the United States' No. 1 player, Martin Damm, 6-1, 0-6, 10-8 in the Wimbledon semifinal, saving a match point, so he knew the challenge he faced against his friend and fellow IMG student. But Mochizuki returned well, had little trouble holding serve and outplayed Damm in a first set tiebreaker, going up 6-0 before winning it 7-3.

Mochizuki earned the first break in the match with Damm serving at 3-4 in the second set, but the 16-year-old couldn't close out the match, getting broken at love. Damm brought it back to 5-all, but Mochizuki rebounded to hold for a 6-5 lead, and Damm found himself in trouble serving at 5-6, 15-30. Mochizuki hit a deft offensive lob winner to earn his first match point and he closed it out with a forehand winner for a 7-6(3), 7-5 victory and a chance to win a doubles match for the championship.

Damm and Kodat had saved three match points in their doubles win against Spain in the quarterfinals and two match points in their doubles win over No. 3 France in the semifinals, so they were familiar with pressure situations.  They started well against Mochizuki and Yamato Sueoka, breaking Mochizuki in the second game, but Kodat was broken in his next two service games and Japan took the first set 6-4.

Kodat held from 15-40 down in the opening game, but Damm was broken serving at 1-1, with a controversial call ending the game. On the deciding point, Damm hit what appeared to be a clean ace and he and Kodat were already ready to sit down at the changeover when the Japanese team asked for the chair umpire to check the mark. Although the line judge had not called the ball out, the chair ruled it was out, and after an lengthy argument and a discussion with ITF referee Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire's decision stood. Damm then double faulted and the Americans could not get that break back, with the final score 6-4, 6-3.

"We don't win or lose this tie on that serve, obviously," said US captain Philippe Oudshoorn. "I thought it was in, I thought it was clean on the line. I haven't seen a replay, but I had some people text me that it was ridiculous, because that was on the line. It's a big point, a deuce point to be broken. That was a tough pill to swallow, but we said all week there were going to be obstacles and challenges and we've faced many and overcome many. On that particular point, we weren't able to come back. But at the end of the day, that team was better. They were just better."

Kodat was particularly impressed by Japan's play throughout the match, especially Sueoka's.

"It was ridiculous how they played, they played so well, no mistakes," Kodat said. "The other guy just played perfect today, crazy. There's not much you can do, really."

Oudshoorn agreed.

"Shintaro's fighting spirit is second to none, and I was super surprised by the guy in doubles," Oudshoorn said. "He played phenomenal, lights out. It was so fast, I was almost getting dizzy, how quick everything was going. And Shintaro played fantastic in singles. The promise was to play every point and that's what the boys did. It was a really fun two weeks, the training week and now. Looking back on it, maybe not today, but it was a really, really fun two weeks."

Although Damm expressed disappointment with the loss in the final, he recognized that earning a silver medal was no small accomplishment.

"It could have ended a couple of days ago in the quarterfinals," said Damm, who turns 16 Monday. "Losing in the finals is never easy but on the other hand, we have to look at the positives and be happy we made it this far."

With a Wimbledon singles title and a Junior Davis Cup trophy claimed in the last three months, Mochizuki has made great strides in his game since playing No. 2 singles on Japan's fifth place Junior Davis Cup team last year.

"It's different," Mochizuki said, when asked to compare his two biggest titles. "It's always tough to win here, and it's another big tournament for me to win. I really love competing with my team; my teammates are really nice and I love playing this tournament."

Mochizuki admitted it took him a few matches to come to terms with his position of having to bring his team back by winning singles and doubles day after day.

"First day, second day, I was a bit nervous before the matches, a bit tight," Mochizuki said. "But I got used to it and in the quarters, semifinals, finals I was always ready, if the No. 2 singles lose, and I just tried my best."

Captain Ko Iwamoto marveled at how Mochizuki has been able to carry the load throughout the week, with temperatures in the 90s every day and the pressure always on him to perform.

"He won every match, singles and doubles, he hasn't lost," said Iwamoto, who coached Japan's last Junior Davis Cup champion in 2010 and has been captain of the team every year since. "Just one day we won 3-0, but all the other days we lost No. 2 singles and Shintaro has to win No. 1 and doubles. But six days, we came through. I'm very happy and very proud of these boys."

In the third place matches, Serbia defeated France 2-0 in Junior Davis Cup and Russia beat Germany 2-0 in Junior Fed Cup.

Complete standing and results of all six matches that all 32 teams played this week can be found at the ITF tournament site.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Damm and Kodat Save Match Points Again to Put US into Junior Davis Cup Final Against Japan; US Girls Reach Sixth Straight Junior Fed Cup Final, Face Czech Republic for Title

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona FL--

The top-seeded US boys came from behind to beat No. 3 seed France in the Junior Davis Cup semifinals, and for the second straight day Martin Damm and Toby Kodat saved match points in the deciding doubles rubber to advance. They will play No. 2 seed Japan for the title, after they also won a deciding doubles match to advance over No. 4 seed Serbia.

The US girls will play for their third straight title Sunday after defeating No. 6 seeds Germany 2-0, but the No. 2 seeds will not play top seeds Russia, who lost to the Czech Republic in the third deciding doubles match of the semifinals.

Matches were halted just after noon under the ITF's extreme heat policy, with all the No. 2 singles matches completed, except the US vs Germany match, which started at 11 a.m., rather than 10.  All three teams that lost that No. 2 singles match went on to win in the doubles, none more dramatically, again, than the US boys.

USA captain Philippe Oudshoorn elected to play Dali Blanch at No. 2 singles, despite Toby Kodat's impressive victory Friday in the quarterfinals against Spain.

"Toby really wasn't ready to compete at the time, and I had a lot of confidence in Dali," Oudshoorn said. "I thought it was the right move for everyone involved. The guy from France played fantastic, but no, it was my decision."

Blanch could not get going against Mehdi Sadaoui, going down 6-2, 4-0 before a mini surge saw him win two games in a row for the first time in the match. But Blanch was broken again and Sadaoui closed out the match in an hour and 22 minutes.

After his grueling three-set singles loss in the quarterfinals to Daniel Rincon Yague of Spain, and a thriller of a doubles match, in which he and Kodat saved three match points, Damm was not sure what shape he would be in for his singles against France's Giovanni Mpetshi-Perricard.

"I woke up this morning feeling really well," Damm said. "I was scared there would be a hard time to play today, and actually I didn't fall asleep right away, but I woke up feeling pretty good."

Damm knew that he would have to play well to beat Mpetshi-Perricard, who is one of the only juniors taller than the 6-foot-7 Damm.

"I know how he plays, he has a serve," Damm said. "At 2-1, I had some chances on his serve early so I was bummed about the suspension. But as the match went on, I was feeling better and better and I knew that I had to win."

Damm got the only break of the first set in the fifth game and closed out the set with a forehand winner. He went up two breaks and held for 5-1, but he couldn't close out the match on his first attempt at 5-2, with two double faults contributing to his only loss of serve in the match. But on his second attempt, Damm held to love to earn a 6-4, 6-4 win and send the match into the deciding doubles.

Damm and Kodat fell behind 4-1 in the first set against Mpetshi-Perricard and Max Westphal, and although they had several chance to break back, they lost two deciding points on France's serve.

Damm and Kodat started well in the second set, going up 3-0, but Mpetshi-Perricard and Westphal fought back to 3-3. Westphal lost his serve to love  in the eighth game and Damm closed out the second set on serve, hitting a forehand winner at 40-30 to send the match to a match tiebreaker.

Up 7-6 in the match tiebreaker, Kodat lost both of his serves and Mpetshi-Perricard held his first point on serve to gave France a 9-7 lead. But Mpetshi-Perricard missed a backhand volley to squander the first match point, and Damm got a let-cord ace to save the second.

"Thank god the ITF made that new rule," Damm said of the 2018 decision to play lets on serve. "I don't think I've actually ever hit a serve where it dribbles over for an ace. I knew I had to hit an unreal serve and I hit an unbelievably, ridiculously good serve," he joked.

Damm and Kodat did not convert their first match point at 10-9, with Damm missing a forehand return, but a forehand winner set up another chance and they converted.

"I'm hoping that's the last time," Kodat said of another match-point saving win, which they also came up with en route to the Kalamazoo 18s doubles title this year. "Hopefully, it never goes there again," Damm said. "Obviously that wasn't our goal, to save two match points again, but it's a win, so we'll take anything."

Oudshoorn said the team's philosophy has not been geared to drama, even though that has been a theme the past two days.

"I keep echoing the same thing the whole week," said Oudshoorn. "The one thing that we said was that we were going to be gritty and persistent and fight, no matter what the score...the typical messages are to be smart aggressive and pick each other up and have high energy."
While Japan's win over Serbia was not as dramatic, it was the third consecutive day that Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki had to dig his team out from a 1-0 deficit with a win in singles and then in doubles.

Serbia's Stefan Popovic defeated Kokoro Isomura 6-4, 7-6(4) at No. 2 singles to put his team in the lead, but Mochizuki countered with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Hamad Mededovic at No. 1 singles to send it to the doubles. Mochizuki and Yamato Sueoka then took the doubles 7-5, 6-2 to put Japan into the Junior Davis Cup final for the first time since 2010.

Ko Iwamoto, who has served as Japan's team captain since that championship year, gave credit to Mochizuki for what he's done to lead the team.

"Our No. 1 player, Shintaro, he pulled out our team," said Iwamoto. "During the match, I'm not telling them what to do too much. Our No. 1 player, he has the game already, so I just try to motivate. Every day, it's getting better and they are enjoying the atmosphere."
While Japan may have ended something of a Junior Davis Cup drought with their performance this year, the US girls are putting together an impressive string, with this the sixth consecutive year they have played for the Junior Fed Cup title.

"It's great that we have players coming through each and every year who are at the level to win it, who are gunning for it, who believe that they can do it," said team captain Jamea Jackson. "That's the kind of culture we're trying to build and sustain. We've got to keep our eyes on the prize, never satisfied."

Connie Ma, who was on the championship team last year that featured Coco Gauff and Alexa Noel, has been perfect so far this week, going 4-0 in singles and 4-0 in doubles. She got the US off to another fast start today, beating Nastasja Schunk 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. That set the stage for Katrina Scott, who admitted she felt extra motivated by her loss in singles to Italy, the only match the US has lost in the five days of the competition.

"It was disappointing not being able to get the win yesterday," said Scott, who beat Mara Guth 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to clinch the win. "But Robin [Montgomery] and Connie did really well in doubles and really picked me up. I was really fired up for today, and I think that was what helped me."

Scott went up 3-0 in the second set, but gave both of those breaks back, with Guth holding just once and Scott only twice, including in the final game. The wind became a factor in the second set, which meant many a service toss caught and many balls sailing long.

"Very, very tough conditions," Scott said. "The wind really picked up in the second set and it was really difficult for the serve, especially when I was on the further side, but I'm glad I was able to get through it and find my way."

Scott and Montgomery were on the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team last year, finishing third, so making the final feels like a significant step forward in this 16-and-under competition this year.

"Me and Robin lost in the semifinals last year, to Russia, it was pretty close," Scott said. "So it felt good to clinch the win to go to the finals. It's amazing, amazing, amazing and it's good I can do it with some of my really good friends. My best friend Robin, and Connie, I haven't had as many trips with her, but I already love her. It's so fun to do it with this team."
The Czech Republic's appearance in the final is all the more remarkable given that their No. 1 player, Darja Vidmanova, has not been able to play singles since the second day of round robin play. But 14-year-old Linda Noskova has stepped in to replace her and carried the No. 3 seeds to the finals, winning at No. 1 singles yesterday to clinch against No. 5 seed Thailand and at No. 1 singles today to send the match to a deciding the deciding doubles.

Polina Kudermetova defeated Barbora Palicova 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to give Russia a 1-0 lead, but Noskova came back to take out US Open semifinalist Oksana Selekhmeteva 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.  In the doubles, another comeback was necessary for the Czechs, with Kudermetova and Selekhmeteva winning the opening set, but Noskova and Palicova taking the second and holding off the Russians in the match tiebreaker for a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory.

Up 9-6 in the tiebreaker with Palicova serving, the Czechs looked in good position to close it out, but an error and a Kudermetova return winner made it 9-8 with Selekhmeteva serving. Noskova took charge however, moving forward and closing out the match with a backhand volley winner to put the Czechs in the final for the first time since they beat the United States in the 2016 championship match.

"It's a special moment," said Czech team captain Daniel Vanek, who coaches Vidmanova. "I'm a little bit disappointed, because she is not in good shape, so I can't play her. But otherwise, I'm really happy that we reach the final. It's a great achievement and I look forward to play US in the final. We had a tough group with France, Argentina; it took a lot of effort to get to the final."

Both finals are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, with coverage provided by Tennis Channel. The third and fourth place matches and all other compass draw matches are scheduled for 10 a.m.

Live scoring for boys is here and live scoring for girls is here.

All results from today are available at the ITF tournament site.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Damm and Kodat Save Three Match Points to Squeeze Past Spain in Junior Davis Cup Quarterfinals; US Girls Also Need Doubles Win to Advance to Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona FL--

The excitement level escalated at the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup quarterfinal Friday, culminating in a match tiebreaker in the deciding doubles to determine if the top-seeded American boys team could hold off the challenge of defending champion Spain.

Martin Damm and Toby Kodat did end up earning a 6-2, 3-6, 14-12 win over Spain's Daniel Rincon Yague and Alejandro Turriziani Alvarez, but not before saving three match points at 10-9, 11-10, and 12-11 in the match tiebreaker.

Spain, who was unseeded this year, earned their chance for the upset when Rincon defeated Damm 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(2) at No. 1 singles, after Kodat had given the US a 1-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Daniel Merida Aguilar. Damm was up 2-0 and 3-1 in the third set, and had break points with Rincon serving at 4-3,  and Damm admitted that it was a struggle to cope with the loss after all those chances.

"Obviously the singles match was long and hard to take, but in the locker room after the match, I was for sure trying to lighten the mood with the boys," said Damm, who turns 16 on Monday. "They were trying to have a little fun with it as well, but it was up to me as to how I was going to take it. We sat down with Philippe [Oudshoorn, team captain] and the team and said we were going to put away everything that happened and I think we did a pretty good job. Our main thing was to come out with incredible energy and it showed in the first set, but then it hit me."

Damm and Kodat looked like the team that won the Kalamazoo 18s title this year and made history as the youngest team to win a main draw men's doubles match at the US Open in that first set, but what hit Damm was fatigue.

"In the second game [in the second set], I got broken, and that was because if they put the return in play cross court I couldn't get to the ball," Damm said. "It hit me like it's never hit me before. I've actually never cramped in my life, but I thought today was going to be the day."

Fortunately the match tiebreaker assured a quicker resolution, although calling it quick would be inaccurate.

Damm and Kodat earned the first match point at 9-8, but Damm couldn't get a Turriziani second serve back in play. Damm and Kodat then saved their first match point with Kodat hitting a good first serve and Damm putting the ball away at the net. A Kodat double fault gave Rincon a serve for the second match point, but Turriziani's reflex volley went out. Damm was serving for the third match point, and a good first serve saw Spain miss the return. Kodat hit a volley winner on the next point and they had their second match point. Turriziani again failed to get a first serve in, and Damm hit a good deep return right up the middle that Turriziani couldn't handle, putting the US team in the semifinals.

"We just played point by point, honestly," Kodat said. "We just tried our best not to get too tight on the important points."

"We got a little lucky for sure," Damm said. "But I'm just happy we won it. If I had lost this one, and the singles, it would have been a tough one."

Although Damm and Kodat lost their first doubles match, a dead rubber against Canada in round robin play, Oudshoorn never considered another pairing for this deciding match.

"I believe strongly that we have the best doubles team in this tournament," Oudshoorn said. "Credit to Canada, they played a fantastic doubles match there. But we saw in the first set, that's what I see from Marty and Toby. What happened in the second was a little bit of an energy dip and Marty's struggled a little bit getting first serves in still, but if they play like they did in the first set, I don't see too many teams being able to stay with them. I have a ton of confidence in them for sure."

No. 3 seed France is next up for the Americans, after they won both their singles matches over unseeded Paraguay.  Mehdi Sadaoui beat Martin Vergara 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles and Giovanni Mpetshi-Perricard came back to defeat Adolfo Vallejo 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to clinch the tie.

No. 2 seed Japan also went to a deciding doubles point, with Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki winning his singles match over Jack Pinnington-Jones of No. 5 seed Great Britain 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, after Derrick Chen had beaten Kokoro Isomura 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Mochizuki and Yamoto Sueoka beat Pinnington-Jones and Chen 6-2, 7-6(4) in doubles to set up a semifinal tie with No. 4 seed Serbia.  Serbia defeated No. 7 seed Hong Kong 2-0, with Petar Teodorovic winning at No. 2 singles over Tim Gauntlett 6-4, 4-0 ret., with Gauntlett rolling his ankle and retiring a few games later.  Hamad Mededovic beat Coleman Wong 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1 singles to clinch the win for Serbia.

The US girls were the only winning team that needed a doubles point to advance, although top seed Russia was a point away from a doubles match several times before Oksana Selekhmeteva defeated Melodie Collard 4-6, 7-6(11), 6-2 at No. 1 singles to end No. 4 seed Canada's hope of extending the match. Russia took a 1-0 lead when Diane Shnaider defeated Annabelle Xu 6-4, 7-5 after Xu had served for the second set at 5-4.

Russia will face No. 3 seed Czech Republic, with Linda Noskova coming from 3-0 down in the final set against Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of No. 5 seed Thailand 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. Barbora Palicova had defeated Lanlana Tararudee 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to open the match.

The second-seeded US girls continued to look invincible at the start of their tie with unseeded Italy, with Connie Ma, playing No. 2 singles, defeating Matilde Paoletti 6-0, 6-2 to give the US a quick 1-0 lead. But at No. 1 singles, Lisa Pigato got up early on Katrina Scott, took the first set 6-4 and served for the match at 5-4 in the second. Scott broke and held for her first lead of the match at 6-5, but Pigato held and converted her third match point in the tiebreaker, for a 6-4, 7-6(6) final score.
That put the pressure on Robin Montgomery and Ma in the deciding doubles against Paoletti and Pigato, and the Americans got off to a shaky start, falling behind 5-2 before winning four straight games to serve for the first set at 6-5. Ma lost her serve at love however, with several uncharacteristic unforced errors, so a tiebreaker would decide the first set. At 4-3, Pigato lost both points on her serve to give Montgomery a chance to serve it out and she hit a backhand winner for the set.

Trailing 2-0 in the second set, Ma and Montgomery won the final six games of the match for a 7-6(3), 6-2 win.

"There definitely was pressure, but Jamea [Captain Jackson] told us we had to play like there was nothing to lose, not think of the end result and that's what we did," Montgomery said. "We knew there was a lot on the line, and win or lose, we definitely wanted to play the best we can play. In those first seven games, we knew that definitely wasn't our best."

"It's just about the mindset," Ma said. "We may have played better, but Jamea and Robin are there to cheer me up when I make a mistake and being positive, just believing that you can do it."

Jackson said she had confidence that Ma and Montgomery would find their level.

"These matches are so tough and they're about so much more than just how you play," Jackson said. "I was just very encouraged to see them, even when they weren't playing their best, find a way....I never felt like they would lose that match, but the thing about any sport is you have to go out and play the match. This is what it's all about. It would be great to walk out on the court and win every match, but where's the fun in that? You're not going to remember those."

The US girls will take on No. 6 seed Germany, who defeated unseeded France 2-0. It took nearly three hours for Germany to take a 1-0 lead, with Nastasia Schunk defeating Juline Fayard 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Mara Guth took out Elsa Jacquemot, who at 12 has the highest ITF junior ranking in the field, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to put Germany into the semifinals.

Complete results from all the matches today can be found at the ITF tournament site.

The US boys will play at 10 a.m and the girls will play at 11 a.m., with Tennis Channel providing coverage of both matches from 11 a.m.

Live scoring for boys is here and live scoring for girls is here.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

US Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Teams Win Round Robin Groups, Advance to Quarterfinals; Nakashima Reaches Quarterfinals at Tiburon Challenger

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona, FL--

With their spots in the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup quarterfinals already assured after Wednesday's second day of round robin play, the US teams were able to concentrate on finishing at the top of their groups, and both succeeded in beating their fifth-seeded opponents on another hot but dry day at the USTA National Campus.

The US girls, the No. 2 seeds, are the only team of the 8 girls and 8 boys teams advancing to the quarterfinals who did so without the loss of a rubber, going 9-0.  In today's match with Thailand, Robin Montgomery won the closest match any American girl had played so far, beating Lanlana Tararudee 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Katrina Scott, playing No. 1 singles, defeated Pimrada Attavapornvanit 6-1, 6-2 to clinch the win, but the doubles was played (not all of them were), with Montgomery and Connie Ma defeating Attavapornvanit and Thamonpan Jonglertrakul 6-4, 6-2.

Thailand finished second in Group D with a 2-1 record in round robin play and has drawn No. 3 seed Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.  The US will face unseeded Italy in the quarterfinals, with Italy losing to top seed Russia 2-0 in Group A to finish in second place.

The other unseeded team to advance to the Junior Fed Cup quarterfinals is France, who lost to Czech Republic in the opening round, but defeated No. 7 seed Argentina today to finish second in Group B. France has the highest ranked girl participating this week in Elsa Jacquemot, who is No. 12 in the ITF junior rankings.

France will play No. 6 seed Germany, who lost to unseeded Morocco on the first day of round robin play, but have been playing lights out since then, beating No. 4 seed Canada 2-1 yesterday and Serbia 3-0 today. The loss to Germany put Canada in a must-win situation today against Morocco, who was sitting at the top of Group C at 2-0. And in order to eliminate Morocco, Canada had to win all three matches with Germany's sweep of Serbia, which they did. Playing on the Tennis Channel Championship Court, Annabelle Xu beat Yasmine Kabbaj 6-3, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to give Canada a 1-0 lead; Melodie Collard defeated Sara Akid 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 singles to make it 2-0 and Xu and Collard won the doubles over Akid and Kabbaj 6-2, 6-2 for the sweep.
Canada's Junior Fed Cup Captain Simon Larose

Canada's captain Simon Larose isn't one to crunch the numbers involved in the round robin scenarios, but he said his team had it all figured out.

"To be 100 percent sure we'd advance, we had to win all three, but I didn't do all the calculations," Larose said. "I'm not very good at looking at what's going to happen if this and this and that. As a coach, I just focus on getting my players ready to play every day. The girls were all over it though, but I didn't want to hear about it. I said, you guys calculate it, that's fine, I don't want to hear it."

Larose said his team had no trouble putting the loss to Germany Wednesday behind them.

"They [Germany] came out balling," Larose said. "My girls tried hard but the other girls were actually too good that day. They outplayed us definitely. It was just great tennis and sometimes that's how it is."

Canada finished second to Germany in Group C based on sets won and loss and will face top seed Russia in the quarterfinals.

The US Junior Davis Cup team defeated Great Britain 2-1, with Toby Kodat beating Derrick Chen at No. 2 singles 6-4, 6-3 and Martin Damm clinching the tie with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Lui Maxted at No. 1 singles. Jack Pinnington-Jones, who played No. 1 singles on Tuesday and Wednesday, has not played any doubles and did not play at all today, reportedly due to injury.

Dali Blanch and Kodat played the doubles match against Chen and Maxted, coming from a set and two breaks down to force a match tiebreaker, but Chen and Maxted won the final four points of the match tiebreaker to earn a 7-5, 6-7(9) 10-8 victory.

The US will play defending champion Spain in the quarterfinals, after the unseeded Spanish team came from behind to beat Morocco 2-1 and finish second in Group B to No. 2 seed Japan. Japan defeated No. 8 seed Czech Republic 2-1 to finish 3-0. Japan will play Great Britain in the quarterfinals.

The other unseeded boys team in the quarterfinals is Paraguay, who lost to No. 4 seed Serbia 3-0, but finished second in Group C with a 2-1 record. Paraguay faces No. 3 seed France, who finished at the top of Group B, while No. 7 seed Hong Kong, who finished second in Group B, plays Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The final round robin standings, with top 2 finishers advancing to quarterfinals:

Junior Davis Cup:

Group A
1. USA[1]
2. Great Britain[5]
3. Canada
4. Bolivia

Group B
1. France[3]
2. Hong Kong[7]
3. Ukraine
4. Syria

Group C
1. Serbia[4]
2. Paraguay
3. Australia[6]
4. Egypt

Group D
1. Japan[2]
2. Spain
3. Czech Republic[8]
4. Morocco

Junior Fed Cup:

Group A
1. Russia[1]
2. Italy
3. Peru
4. Chinese Taipei[8]

Group B
1. Czech Republic[3]
2. France
3. Argentina[7]
4. China

Group C
1. Germany[6]
2. Canada[4]
3. Morocco
4. Serbia

Group D
1. USA[2]
2. Thailand[5]
3. Korea
4. Brazil

For more on today's action, see the ITF Junior website, with the article focusing on the unseeded boys from Paraguay and the unseeded girls from Italy.

For all of today's results and tomorrow's schedule, see the ITF tournament website.

The US teams will be featured on Tennis Channel Friday at 11 a.m., with coverage of both girls on Court 2 and boys on Championship Court.

For links to live scoring and live streaming, see the National Campus website.

Eighteen-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima advanced to the quarterfinals of the ATP 100 Challenger in Tiburon today, getting his second consecutive victory over a seed. A day after beating No. 6 seed Michael Mmoh 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, the US Open boys semifinalist took out No. 10 seed Christopher Eubanks 7-6(5), 7-5 to reach a Challenger quarterfinal for the first time.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

US Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup Teams Blank Opponents on Day Two of Round Robin Play at National Campus

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona, FL--

The second day of round robin play produced more of the same for the home country teams, with the top-seeded US boys cruising past Bolivia 3-0 and the second-seeded US girls shutting out Korea on a hot and sunny day at the USTA's National Campus.

Martin Damm, the No. 1 singles player for the US, got the day off, with Dali Blanch getting his second win of the week at No. 2 singles with a 6-0, 6-1 thumping of Ernesto Requena, and Toby Kodat clinching it with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Agustin Cuella. Blanch and Kodat then completed the sweep with a 6-1, 6-3 decision over Requena and Santiago Navarro in doubles.

Junior Fed Cup captain Jamea Jackson also made a change in her lineup for the second day, with Robin Montgomery, who played only doubles on the first day, taking the No. 2 singles spot, after Connie Ma had played there on Tuesday.  Montgomery defeated Ji Min Kwon of Korea 6-1, 6-1, but if you saw the match on Tennis Channel, you know she had to work for it, with Montgomery taking most of the many multiple deuce games. Connie Ma, the No. 1 singles player today, had less difficulty against Bo Young Jeong, taking a 6-1, 6-2 decision to clinch the win for the US. Montgomery and Scott defeated Jeong and Hyeongju Han 6-1, 6-1 in the doubles match.

Ma rarely plays ITF Junior Circuit events, with most of her competitive match play coming either during school breaks or the summer. But the fact that she was competing for the national team in an international championship made getting out of school for this event a bit easier.

"When I told my teachers I was competing for USA, they were like, yeah, that's pretty cool," said the 16-year-old from Dublin California. "It got them excited too. My math teacher was like, send me the link if they're live streaming it or putting it on TV."

Ma doesn't play much on the Har-Tru surface that is being used at this event, so she was grateful to have a week of preparation at the National Campus prior to this week's competition.

"There are a couple of clay courts back in California, but I don't really play on them," Ma said. "Playing on clay, you obviously need an adjustment and you have to be willing to work harder for points."

Ma's ITF junior ranking is 322, which is quite low when compared to those who play ITF events more regularly, with seven girls competing this week, including her two teammates, in the ITF Top 50.

"Rankings don't show the full extent of someone's skill," said Ma, who reached the final of the ITF Grade 1 in Carson during her spring break. "Someone may just not play tournaments, but they can be really good. I don't really play ITF tournaments, which is I guess why my ranking isn't that high. But I don't think that affects me; when I play someone, I don't know their ITF ranking, and it's not a factor when I play."
Temperatures in the low 90s were a challenge throughout the afternoon.
Only one of the eight girls ties went to a deciding doubles match, with Morocco defeating Serbia 2-1 with the match coming down to a match tiebreaker. Morocco's Sara Akid and Yasmine Kabbaj had a set and a break lead before Serbia's Fatma Idrizovic and Natalija Senic began a furious comeback. They saved two match points in the second set tiebreaker, but Akid and Kabbaj closed out their third to take it 6-1, 6-7(7), 10-7.

Three boys ties were decided by the doubles point, with Serbia, Paraguay and France earning wins after splitting the two singles matches.

I'm no expert in round robin accounting, but I believe that teams that are both 2-0 and playing each other have already qualified for the quarterfinals. That would include the US boys, who play No. 5 seed Great Britain in Group A; the US girls, who play No. 5 Thailand in Group D.

Others in that situation are unseeded Italy and top seeded Russia in Junior Fed Cup Group A; France[3] and Hong Kong[7] in Junior Davis Cup Group B and unseeded Paraguay and Serbia[4] in Group C. 

In Junior Fed Cup, two groups are still undecided, with the possibility of three teams finishing 2-1. In Junior Davis Cup, No. 2 seed Japan leads Group D 2-0, but if they lose to Czech Republic and Spain beats Morocco, all but Morocco would be 2-1.

The Junior Davis Cup match between the US and Great Britain is Thursday's feature match on the Tennis Channel beginning at 11 a.m.

For links to live streaming and live scoring, see the National Campus tournament page.

For complete results and Thursday's schedule, see the ITF tournament website.

Below are the results from today's round robin play:

Junior Davis Cup Round Robin Day 2

Group A
USA[1] d. Boliva 3-0
Great Britain[5] d. Canada 3-0

Group B
France[3] d. Ukraine 2-1*
Hong Kong[7] d. Syria 3-0

Group C
Serbia[4] d. Australia[6] 2-1*
Paraguay d. Egypt 2-1*

Group D
Japan[2] d. Morocco 3-0
Spain d. Czech Republic[8] 3-0

Junior Fed Cup Round Robin Day 2

Group A
Russia[1] d. Chinese Taipei[8] 3-0
Italy d. Peru 3-0

Group B
Czech Republic[3] d. China 3-0
France d. Argentina[7] 3-0

Group C
Germany[6] d. Canada[4] 2-1
Morocco d. Serbia 2-1*

Group D
USA[1] d. Korea 3-0
Thailand[5] d. Brazil 3-0

*match decided by doubles point

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

US Teams Earn Opening Day Wins in Round Robin Play at Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup

I've arrived Orlando and will be covering this week's Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions at the USTA National Campus beginning Wednesday. In the first day of round robin play today, both teams from the United States won their ties, with the second-seeded girls rolling past Brazil 3-0 and the top-seeded boys beating Canada 2-1.

Today's results for the US teams:

Junior Davis Cup:
USA[1] d. Canada 2-1
No. 2 singles: Dali Blanch(USA) d. Jaden Weekes 6-4, 6-0
No. 1 singles: Martin Damm(USA) d. Marko Stakusic 6-3, 6-2
Doubles: Stakusic and Weeks d. Damm and Toby Kodat 6-7(1), 6-1, 10-5
Junior Fed Cup:
USA[2] d. Brazil 3-0
No. 2 singles: Connie Ma(USA) d. Lorena Medeiros Cardoso 6-0, 6-0
No. 1 singles: Katrina Scott(USA) d. Juliana Cotrim Munhoz 6-2, 6-0
Doubles: Ma and Montgomery d. Priscilla Kotrozini Janikian and Medeiros Cardoso 6-2, 6-0

The US girls will play Korea Wednesday as the feature match, which will be broadcast on Tennis Channel beginning at 11 a.m.; the boys take on Bolivia Wednesday at 10 a.m.  Live scoring and live streaming links are here.

The team results from today:

Junior Davis Cup
Group A
USA[1] d. Canada 2-1
Great Britain[5] d. Bolivia 3-0

Group B
France[3] d. Syria 3-0
Hong Kong[7] d. Ukraine 2-1

Group C
Serbia[4] d. Egypt 2-1
Paraguay d. Australia[6] 2-1

Group D
Japan[2] d. Spain 2-1
Czech Republic[8] d. Morocco 2-1

Junior Fed Cup
Group A
Russia[1] d. Peru 2-1
Italy d. Chinese Taipei[8] 3-0

Group B
Czech Republic[3] d. France 2-1
Argentina[7] d. China 2-1

Group C
Canada[4] d. Serbia 2-1
Morocco d. Germany[6] 2-1

Group D
USA[2] d. Brazil 3-0
Thailand[5] d. Korea 3-0

Individual results from all of today's matches can be found at the ITF tournament website.

For more on the first day of action, see the ITF junior website.

Monday, September 23, 2019

US Teams Seeded 1 and 2 as Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Begin Tuesday in Lake Nona; Holt Wins Battle of the Bay, then Tiburon Challenger First Round Match; Women's Pro Circuit $60K in Templeton Features Lepchenko, Vandeweghe

I'll be covering the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup in Lake Nona beginning Wednesday, but the tournament starts with round robin play Tuesday at the USTA's National Campus.

The National Campus website has the schedule and matchups posted, and links to live streaming and live scoring. From what I understand, the Tennis Channel will be providing live coverage each day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The US boys team, seeded No. 1, consists of Martin Damm, Toby Kodat and Dali Blanch and is coached by Philippe Oudshoorn. The US girls team, seeded No. 2, is Connie Ma, Robin Montgomery and Katrina Scott, with Jamea Jackson the coach. The US girls have won the past two Junior Fed Cup titles.

The boys seeds:
1. USA
2. Japan
3. France
4. Serbia
5. Great Britain
6. Australia
7. Hong Kong
8. Czech Republic

The girls seeds:
1. Russia
2. USA
3. Czech Republic
4. Canada
5. Thailand
6. Germany
7. Argentina
8. Chinese Taipei

The ITF's tournament website has the round robin group draws, as well as the complete list of all players participating, with 16 teams in each draw.

USC senior Brandon Holt won the prestigious Battle of the Bay singles title yesterday in San Francisco, beating Michigan freshman Ondrej Styler 6-2, 6-4 in the final. Holt didn't have much time to enjoy that accomplishment as he was on the schedule at the ATP 100 Challenger in Tiburon this afternoon after receiving a wild card. Holt defeated former USC star Raymond Sarmiento 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3, with 18 aces certainly helping his cause. Next up for Holt is top seed Tommy Paul. Styler also received a wild card into the main draw and will play Roberto Quiroz(USC) of Ecuador. Wild cards also were given to Oliver Crawford(Florida), Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) and Emilio Nava. Nava lost today to Ulises Blanch 6-2, 6-3.

The women's Battle of the Bay winner, University of the Pacific freshman Klara Kosan, received a wild card into this week's $60,000 women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Templeton California. Qualifying will continue through tomorrow, but the main draw is out, with wild card Varvara Lepchenko the top seed. Usue Arconada is the No. 2 seed, but she has drawn Coco Vandweghe, who just returned to competition late this summer after nearly ten months out with injuries and received a wild card. The fourth wild card went to 2017 USTA National 18s champion Ashley Kratzer and she will play Lepchenko in the first round.

The other USTA Pro Circuit event this week is a men's $25,000 tournament in Harlingen Texas. Top seed is Alexander Erler of Austria, and wild cards were given to AJ Catanzariti(Texas A&M), Georgia freshman Tyler Zink, local junior Ethan Silva and LSU freshman Ron Hohmann. It's good to see Zane Khan back in action for the first time since the French Open Junior Championships. He won his opening qualifying match today to advance to the final round of qualifying.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Eala, Montsi Win Championships at Grade A in South Africa; Visaya Sweeps Grade 5 Titles in Puerto Rico; Qualifier Livianu and 18-year-old Tar Heel Hijikata Earn $15K Titles

Fourteen-year-old Alexandra Eala of the Philippines and 16-year-old Khololwam Montsi of South Africa captured the singles titles at the new ITF Grade A in Cape Town South Africa today, taking out higher seeds in straight sets.

No. 4 seed Eala defeated top seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3 and No. 6 seed Montsi (the younger brother of University of Illinois sophomore Siphosothando Montsi) defeated No. 4 seed Terence Atmane of France 7-5, 6-1.  Montsi has now won four consecutive ITF junior events in Southern Africa since the first of August: a grade 4, a grade 3, a grade 2 last week and now this, and his ITF junior ranking should rise into the Top 30. Eala, who qualified for the US Open this month and won a round, should also move into the Top 30.

In doubles, the fifth-seeded team of Eliakim Coulibaly of Cote D'Ivoire and Pierre Malan of South Africa defeated No. 2 seeds Atmane and Arthur Cazaux of France 6-4, 6-7(6), 11-9 in the final. The girls doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Ziva Falkner of Slovenia and Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain, who beat top seeds Fruhvirtova and Weronika Baszak of Poland 3-6, 7-6(10), 10-7.

The three titles for American juniors came at the Grade 5 in Puerto Rico, with 16-year-old Azuma Visaya sweeping the boys competition. The blue chip from Hawaii, seeded No. 3, beat No. 4 seed Alejandro Gandini of the Domincan Republic 6-0, 6-1 to earn his second ITF singles title. Visaya and Sam Scherer won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds Rodrigo Montes de Oca Murillo of Peru and Samuel Sanchez of Mexico 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Alexandra Centra won the girls doubles, partnering with Ariana Salgueiro-Estela of Puerto Rico. The No. 2 seeds defeated American Fiorella Bolona Medina and Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland, the top seeds, 2-6, 6-4, 10-7 in the final. Fontenel, 15, won the singles title, beating No. 2 seed Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

Qualifier Jessica Livianu, who hadn't won a main draw match on the Pro Circuit prior to this week, captured the title at the $15,000 tournament in Lubbock Texas. The St. John's senior defeated 18-year-old Dalayna Hewitt 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in today's final.

At the $15,000 men's tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, North Carolina freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia also won his first Pro Circuit title, beating No. seed Nick Chappell(TCU) 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Hijikata is No. 5 in the ITA preseason Freshmen/Newcomers rankings.

No. 2 seed Hugo Gaston won the singles titles at the $25,000 tournament in Houston, beating unseeded Liam Caruana(Texas) of Italy 6-1, 6-3 in today's final. The 20-year-old Gaston, a former ITF Junior No. 2, now has two ITF Pro Circuit titles on his resume, both at the $25,000 level.

Florida teammates Sam Riffice and Oliver Crawford took the doubles title, beating Preston Touliatos(Tennessee) and Austin Rapp(UCLA) 7-5, 3-6, 10-3 in today's final. It's the first Pro Circuit doubles title for Crawford and Riffice; both have won a singles title in the past 12 months.

JJ Wolf fell in the final of the ATP Challenger 90 in Columbus, with the No. 13 seed beaten by No. 4 seed Peter Polansky of Canada 6-3, 7-6(4). Wolf didn't serve well all day, making just 46 percent of his first serves and double faulting eight times, while Polansky had 9 aces and just 2 double faults.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Wolf Reaches Columbus Challenger Final; Chappell and Hijikata Meet for Arkansas $15K Title; Livianu and Hewitt Advance to Lubbock $15K Final; Kenin Wins Third WTA Title

Twenty-year-old JJ Wolf, who turned pro this summer with one year of eligibility left at Ohio State, advanced to the final of the ATP 90 Challenger on his recent home courts in Columbus, beating top seed Emilio Gomez(USC) of Ecuador 6-2, 7-6(5). Wolf, the No. 13 seed, won his only other Challenger title early this year, also at the Ohio State indoor courts in Columbus. Wolf, the 2017 Kalamazoo 18s finalist, will face No. 4 seed Peter Polansky of Canada, who defeated No. 9 seed Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador 7-6(7), 7-6(4). Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, Wolf will move into the ATP Top 250 for the first time, and is in good shape for the 2020 Australian Open qualifying. The final, which begins at noon on Sunday, can be streamed at the ATP Challenger website.

No. 4 seeds Martin Redlicki(UCLA) and Jackson Withrow(Texas A&M) won their first doubles title as a team today in Columbus, beating unseeded Nathan Pasha(Georgia) and Max Schnur(Columbia) 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final.

The final of the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fayetteville Arkansas will see No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU) take on North Carolina freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia. Chappell, who is seeking his second Pro Circuit singles title, advanced when Virginia senior Carl Soderlund of Sweden retired trailing 6-4, 4-3. Hijikata also advanced via retirement, with top seed Takuto Niki of Japan retiring with Hijikata leading 6-1, 2-0.  Hijikata will be competing in his first Pro Circuit final Sunday.

Oklahoma State teammates Dominik Kellovsky and Matej Vocel of the Czech Republic won the doubles title in Fayetteville, beating Chappell and another Horned Frog, Reese Stalder, 1-6, 6-3, 13-11. Neither team was seeded.

The $25,000 men's tournament in Houston will feature a final between unseeded Liam Caruana(Texas) of Italy and No. 2 seed Hugo Gaston of France. Caruana beat No. 2 seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) 6-2, 6-0 and Gaston defeated unseeded Austin Rapp(UCLA) 6-2, 6-2.  Florida teammates Oliver Crawford and Sam Riffice have advanced to the doubles final, and will play the winner of tonight's match between Rapp and Preston Touliatos(Tennessee) and top seeds Korey Lovett(UCF) and Ian Dempster(Wake Forest).

At the $15,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Lubbock Texas, qualifier Jessica Livianu, a senior at St. John's, had never won in main draw match in Pro Circuit competition prior to this week, but today she defeated No. 3 seed Dasha Ivanova 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 to earn her place in the final. She will face 18-year-old Dalayna Hewitt, who beat Lauren Proctor 1-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3). Hewitt, who was out six months at the beginning of this year, had never reached the quarterfinals in singles at a Pro Circuit event prior to this week.

No. 3 seeds Sofia Sewing and Mexico's Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez won the doubles title in Lubbock, beating unseeded Shiori Fukuda(Ohio State) and Ashlyn Krueger 6-4, 6-2 in the final. It is their third title as a team, but first since 2017.

Sofia Kenin claimed the third WTA title of her career today at the Guangzhou Open in China, defeating wild card Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. The 20-year-old from Florida, seeded No. 3, will move to a career-high ranking of 17 following this title. For more on Kenin's third title, see this article from the WTA website.

Friday, September 20, 2019

My Article on Ana Geller's Commitment to Stanford; Lapadat, Xu Take ITF Grade 1 Titles in Montreal; All US Semifinals at Lubbock $15K; Wolf Advances to Columbus Challenger Semis

While I was in New York, I had the opportunity to talk with Ana Geller about her recent commitment to Stanford for 2020. I was interested in knowing how much influence her older brother Axel had on her choice, and while it appears to have been considerable, she did take all her official visits before ultimately deciding on Stanford. For details on her decision, see my article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Valencia Xu and Joshua Lapadat won the singles titles today at the ITF Grade 2 in Canada. Xu, 16, avenged her loss to No. 2 seed Jada Bui last December at the Orange Bowl, beating the Canadian 6-1, 6-2. Xu, who started playing ITF Junior Circuit events just this spring, now has two titles, with the USTA National 16s finalist winning the Grade 4 Grass Courts in June. No. 2 seed Lapadat also avenged a loss when he defeated top seed Andrew Dale 7-6(5), 6-3. Last month Lapadat lost to Dale in the first round of the Grade 1 in College Park 6-2, 1-6, 6-3. Although Lapdat has been playing ITF junior events since 2016 and has made several finals, this is his first singles title.

All four semifinalists at the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Lubbock Texas are Americans: Lauren Proctor(Winthrop), Dalayna Hewitt, No. 3 seed Dasha Ivanova and qualifier Jessica Livianu(St. John's).  Proctor defeated qualifier McCartney Kessler(Florida) 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3; Hewitt beat fellow teenager Savannah Broadus 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; Ivanova defeated Tiphanie Fiquet(Ole Miss) of France 7-5, 6-4 and Livianu downed Shiori Fukuda(Ohio State) of Japan 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. All but Ivanova are seeking their first Pro Circuit singles title.

Fukuda and 15-year-old Ashlyn Krueger took out top seeds Alexandra Mueller and Caitlin Whoriskey(Tennessee) in the doubles semifinals today 6-2, 2-6, 10-5 and will play No. 3 seeds Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Sofia Sewing(Miami) in the final. Portillo Ramirez and Sewing beat Vanessa Ong and Broadus 6-4, 6-4 in the other semifinal this evening.

At the $15,000 men's tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, top seed Takuto Niki of Japan will face North Carolina freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia in one of Saturday's semifinals, with No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU) playing Virginia senior Carl Soderlund of Sweden in the other. Chappell beat Georgia sophomore Trent Bryde 6-2, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals.

JJ Wolf has advanced to the semifinals of the ATP 90 Challenger in Columbus, with the former Ohio State star coming back to beat unseeded Gabriel Petit of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Wolf, the No. 13 seed, is one of two players in the way of a final between cousins and former USC teammates Roberto Quiroz and Emilio Gomez of Ecuador. Quiroz, the No. 9 seed, beat former Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the No. 2 seed, 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Gomez, the top seed, beat No. 6 seed Enzo Couacaud of France 7-5, 7-6(4) and will play Wolf next. Quiroz will face No. 4 seed Peter Polansky of Canada, who beat No. 5 seed Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(7).

The $25,000 men's tournament in Houston continues to have problems with rain, with the quarterfinals currently in a delay.  Wild card Ron Hohmann, a freshman at LSU, continued his run Thursday, beating Stanford junior Axel Geller 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Qualifier Lucas Greif, a sophomore at Florida, beat No. 5 seed Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) 6-3, 6-3 in the second round last night.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Xu, Dale Reach ITF Grade 2 Finals; Broadus Advances at Lubbock $15K; Wolf Tops Mmoh at Columbus Challenger; USTA Fall Ranked Spotlight Next Weekend at Lake Nona Campus

The singles finals are set for Friday at the ITF Grade 2 in Montreal, with top seed Andrew Dale and unseeded Valencia Xu taking on second-seeded Canadians for the titles.  Dale defeated JJ Tracy 6-0, 6-2 and will face Joshua Lapadat, who beat No. 6 seed Alex Kiefer 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal today.

Xu, the USTA 16s finalist in San Diego, defeated 13-year-old qualifier Victoria Mboko of Canada 2-6, 7-5, 6-0 and will play Jada Bui, who beat unseeded Annabelle Xu of Canada 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

The doubles finals were played today, with Lapadat and his partner Ilya Tiraspolsky, also of Canada, beating Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov 6-2, 6-3 for the boys title. No. 3 seeds Jenna DeFalco and her Canadian partner Marina Stakusic won the girls doubles title, beating top seeds Bui and her partner Sarah-Maude Fortin of Canada 3-6, 6-2, 10-6 in the final.

At the ITF Grade A in South Africa, Elvina Kalieva lost to top seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic in today's quarterfinals 6-0, 7-5, but she is still alive in doubles, with partner Alexandra Eala of the Philippines. The No. 4 seeds take on No. 2 seeds Ziva Falkner of Slovenia and Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain in the semifinals.

Rain continues to plague the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Houston, with the second round yet to begin today, but last night TCU freshman Tadeus Paroulek of the Czech Republic defeated top seed Sebastian Fanselow(Pepperdine) of Germany 7-5, 3-6, 6-4. Wild card Ron Hohmann(LSU) beat No. 6 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 and Austin Rapp(UCLA) beat No. 3 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3.

The quarterfinals are set at both $15,000 tournaments, with just two US men, but six US women, into the last eight. Georgia sophomore Trent Bryde will face No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU) in the quarterfinals of the tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas to decide which American reaches the semifinals. Bryde and US Open boys doubles champion Tyler Zink(Georgia) are in the doubles semifinals. In Lubbock Texas, Savannah Broadus defeated wild card Katja Wiersholm 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with Dalayna Hewitt, who beat No. 4 seed Andrea Villarreal of Mexico 6-2, 6-3.  Other Americans into the quarterfinals are Jessica Livianu(St. Johns), No. 3 seed Dasha Ivanova, Lauren Proctor(Winthrop) and qualifier McCartney Kessler(Florida).

Two US men remain in the ATP 90 Challenger in Columbus, with JJ Wolf reaching his first quarterfinal at that level since turning pro. The former Ohio State star, seeded No. 13 defeated Michael Mmoh 6-2, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with unseeded Gabriel Petit of France. 2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia), the No. 5 seed, will face No. 4 seed Peter Polansky of Canada in the quarterfinals.

Lots of early season college events are on for this weekend and next, and Central Florida and North Carolina State will be hosting an eight-school, 32-player singles tournament, as well as doubles, next weekend at the USTA's National Campus at Lake Nona.  I'll be at the campus covering the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup, but if I have any spare time I will try to get to some of those matches. NCAA champion  Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami is expected to compete, along with Kessler, Isabelle Boulais of Ohio State and NC State's Anna Rogers. For more on the schools participating and the schedule, see this article from the USTA.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pielet Beats Top Seed at Lubbock $15K; Three US Boys Reach Semifinals of ITF Grade 2 in Canada; Kalieva into Quarterfinals at Grade A in South Africa

The USTA Pro Circuit is featuring one women's event and three men's event this week.

The women's tournament is a $15,000 event in Lubbock Texas, and 17-year-old qualifier Gianna Pielet made news there today, defeating top seed and Redding $25K finalist Alycia Parks 6-2, 6-4.  University of Florida junior Victoria Emma took out No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova 7-6(5), 6-3 today, so the highest seed remaining is No. 3 seed Dasha Ivanova.

Savannah Broadus, Dalayna Hewitt, Katja Wiersholm and Lawrence $15K champion Vanessa Ong are the other US teens to advance to the second round.

The men had their choice of a $25,000 tournament in Houston and a $15,000 tournament in Arkansas, and points and dollars aside, Arkansas looks like the better choice, with Houston experiencing rain for much of the past three days.

North Carolina freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia and Georgia sophomore Trent Bryde are among those advancing to the second round. Top seeds Takuto Niki of Japan and Nick Chappell(TCU) have also advanced.

In Houston, former Pepperdine star Sebastian Fanselow is the top seed, with 18-year-old Hugo Gaston of France, the 2017 Orange Bowl champion, seeded No. 2. Stanford junior Axel Geller is through to the second round; I spoke to last week's Champaign $15K champion earlier this week and he told me this is his last tournament before school begins next week. He does not have plans to play much this fall, but said he is considering taking the fall of his senior year off to compete professionally.

In addition to the tournaments in Arkansas and Texas, the ATP 90 Challenger in Columbus Ohio is in full swing, with two former Ohio State Buckeyes advancing to the third round: No. 13 seed JJ Wolf, who beat former teammate Kyle Seelig, a wild card; and No. 2 seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, who defeated Alexander Erler of Austria. North Carolina junior Benjamin Sigouin of Canada, who got in as an alternate, defeated No. 11 seed Renzo Olivo of Argentina today 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the third round, where he'll meet No. 5 seed Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia). Wolf will play No. 3 seed and Cary Challenger finalist Michael Mmoh Thursday.

The semifinals of the ITF Grade 2 in Montreal are set, with three US boys advancing to the final four: top seed Andrew Dale, unseeded JJ Tracy and No. 6 seed Alex Kiefer. Dale and Tracy will play in one semifinal, with Kiefer taking on No. 2 seed Joshua Lapadat of Canada. Only one American girl has made the girls semifinals, unseeded Valencia Xu. She will face 13-year-old qualifier Victoria Mboko of Canada, who was a finalist at last year's Junior Orange Bowl 14s and is playing in her first ITF Junior Circuit event. The other semifinal is all-Canadian, with No. 2 seed Jada Bui taking on unseeded Annabelle Xu.

At the ITF Grade A in South Africa, No. 8 seed Elvina Kalieva has advanced to the quarterfinals, where she will face top seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Georgia's Jokic, Virginia's Soderlund Top ITA Division I Preseason Rankings; US Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup Team Named

The ITA has released its Oracle preseason rankings for Division I, with Georgia's Katarina Jokic and Virginia's Carl Soderlund at the top of the lists. This is also the only time for rankings that assess the players who are beginning their college careers this fall.  The men's rankings are all included in this document; the women's rankings are here.

Men’s Division I Top 10 Singles:
1. Carl Soderlund, Virginia
2. Christian Sigsgaard, Texas
3. Oliver Crawford, Florida
4. Yuya Ito, Texas
5. Brandon Holt, USC
6. Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois
7. Axel Geller, Stanford
8. Daniel Cukierman, USC
9. Jack Lin, Columbia
10. Sam Riffice, Florida

Men’s Division I Top 5 Doubles:
1. Carlos Aguilar and Barnaby Smith, Texas A&M
2. Parker Wynn and Bjorn Thomson, Texas Tech
3. Trey Hilderbrand and Bogdan Pavel, Central Florida
4. Johannes Ingildsen and Brian Berdusco, Florida
5. Marius Frosa and Murkel Dellien, Wichita State

1. Ondrej Styler, Michigan
2. Liam Draxl, Kentucky
3. Tadeas Paroulek, TCU
4. Cannon Kingsley, Ohio State
5. Rinky Hijikata, North Carolina
6. Taha Baadi, Wake Forest
7. Drew Baird, UCLA
8. Baptiste Anselmo, Georgia
9. Andres Martin, Georgia Tech
10. Marcus Walters, Florida State

Women’s Division I Top 10 Singles:
1. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
3. Makenna Jones, North Carolina
4. Alexa Graham, North Carolina
5. Kelly Chen, Duke
6. Michaela Gordon, Stanford
7. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
8. Anna Rogers, NC State
9. Jada Hart, UCLA
10. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech

Women’s Division I Top 5 Doubles:
1. Anna Rogers and Alana Smith, NC State
2. Ilze Hattingh and Lauryn John-Baptiste, Arizona State
3. Makenna Jones and Cameron Morra, North Carolina
4. Jada Hart and Elysia Bolton, UCLA
5. Martina Okalova and Vera Ploner, Tulsa

1. Natasha Subhash, Virginia
2. Carson Branstine, USC
3. Shalimar Talbi, Old Dominion
4. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
5. Lea Ma, Georgia
6. Layne Sleeth, Florida
7. Ayumi Miyamoto, Oklahoma State
8. Angelica Blake, Stanford
9. Daria Frayman, Princeton
10. Erin Richardson, California

The Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup, the ITF sanctioned competitions for 16-and-under players, begin a week from today at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.

The teams for the 16 boys and 16 girls teams coming there from around the globe should be revealed in the next several days, but the US teams have been selected, with Robin Montgomery, Katrina Scott and Connie Ma comprising the Junior Fed Cup team and Martin Damm, Toby Kodat and Dali Blanch comprising the Junior Davis Cup team.

These teams are not quite the same as those who played in for the US in the North/Central American qualifying this spring, with Kodat replacing Alexander Bernard on the boys team. Montgomery is the only holdover from the girls qualifying team, with Charlotte Owensby and Ellie Coleman being replaced by Scott and Ma. 

It's a good problem to have that players as accomplished as those who played in the qualifying, along with Aidan Mayo, Reese Brantmeier and Alexandra Yepifanova (not to mention Coco Gauff, who was not expected to play) are left off the teams, which are limited to just three players.

I will be in Orlando to cover the final event for the first time (I did cover the qualifying back in 2015, when it was in Boca Raton) beginning next Wednesday and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to watch and report on what is the ultimate team competition in junior tennis. 

Monday, September 16, 2019

New ITF Grade A in South Africa Underway; Only Doubles Titles for US Juniors Last Week on ITF Junior Circuit; Ohio State Freshmen Earn First Round Wins at Columbus Challenger

The number of ITF Junior Circuit Grade A tournaments had been stable at five (not counting the junior slams and the every-four-years Youth Olympics) as long as I've been covering junior tennis, but this year, a sixth tournament at that level was added, in Cape Town South Africa. Given that it's the first rendition of the event, the  time of year and the distance from Europe and the Americas, it's not surprising that the fields are weak, with no qualifying at all, for boys or girls, and byes in the first round for several top seeds.

Just one American boy, Milledge Cossu, made the trip, but five US girls did, and all have advanced to the second round of 64-player draws. The US girls competing are No. 8 seed Elvina Kalieva, No. 11 seed Lauren Cooper, No. 14 seed Dakota Fordham, No. 15 seed Rebecca Lynn and Violeta Martinez. The top girls seed is Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, No. 29 in the ITF junior rankings; the top boys seed is Arthur Cazaux of France, No. 49 in the ITF junior rankings.

Most Americans playing this week are at the Grade 2 in Montreal Canada. Skyler Grishuk was the top seed, but she was defeated in today's first round by 15-year-old Canadian Mia Kupres 6-4, 6-3. Fourteen-year-old Qavia Lopez defeated No. 3 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico 6-0, 1-6, 6-3. No. 2 seed Jada Bui, who reached the semifinals of the Grade 1 in Canada prior to the US Open, did advance to the second round, beating Rachel Gailis 7-6(3), 7-6(2).  The boys top seed is Andrew Dale, who won his opening round match over Peter Alam of Great Britain 7-6(7), 6-1.

The only titles Americans won last week on the ITF Junior Circuit came in doubles. At the Grade 4 in Togo, 13-year-old Clervie Ngounoue won her second straight doubles title, again with Linda Eloundou Nga of Cameroon, with unseeded pair beating No. 4 seeds Carmine Becoude of Benin and Manuella Eloundou Nga of Cameroon 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Ngounoue, who won the Grade 5 singles title last week, lost in the semifinals this week to top seed and eventual champion Vipasha Mehra of India.

At the Grade 5 in Honduras, No. 4 seeds Andrea Le and Teja Tirunelveli took the girls doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Isabella Rivera Ortiz and Maria Camila Torres Murcia of Colombia 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. It's the first ITF title for both Le and Tirunelveli.

At the Grade 5 in Montreal, No. 4 seeds Aubrey Nisbet, the reigning 16s USTA Clay Court champion, and Sophie Williams won the girls doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Hana Gamracy of Canada and Jade Marie of France 6-3, 6-1 in the final.

At the ATP 90 Challenger this week in Columbus, two Ohio State freshman wild cards picked up first round wins today.  US Open semifinalist Cannon Kingsley defeated Evan Song 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 and 17-year-old Justin Boulais, whose sister Isabelle was a star for the Buckeye women last year as a freshman, defeated Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) 7-6(4), 7-6(6). Boulais reached the round of 16 at the Winnipeg Challenger earlier this summer as a wild card. Sophomore James Trotter also won his first round match today. Former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador is the top seed, with former Ohio State All-American Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark seeded No. 2.