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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Rune and Mochizuki Lead Acceptances for November's ITF Grade A in Mexico; Entries Close Tuesday for Eddie Herr Grade 1 and Grade A Orange Bowl

The acceptances for next month's ITF Grade A in Merida Mexico are out, with, at least for now, an exceptionally strong boys field. Perhaps because both are just 16, Wimbledon champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan and French champion Holger Rune of Denmark are on the list, while most older junior slam champions do not play through the final two Grade As of the year.  Rune took over the top spot in the ITF rankings with his title at the Junior Finals last week, while Mochizuki is No. 3 in the ITF World Junior rankings. Rune is defending semifinal points in Mexico, while Mochizuki is defending nothing the rest of the year, so the year-end title of ITF World Junior champion is still very much up for grabs. Mochizuki has also entered the Grade 1 in Cancun the week before the Merida tournament, which begins November 25th.

In addition to Rune and Mochizuki, fourth-ranked Harold Mayot of France, a finalist last week at the ITF Junior Finals in China, has also entered.

The top American boys are not playing, with No. 5 Martin Damm, No. 6 Emilio Nava and No. 9 Toby Kodat passing on both Cancun and Yucatan. American boys receiving main draw acceptances to the Grade A are, in order of ranking, Zane Khan, Dali Blanch, Andrew Dale, Welsh Hotard, Micah Braswell, Alex Bernard, Aidan Mayo and Cash Hanzlik. The boys cutoff is currently 152.

There are no Top 10 girls entered in Mexico, with No. 14 Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic the highest ranked player entered. ITF No. 1 Diane Parry is not defending her title, but with the other contenders for year-end No. 1 not playing, that may not matter, depending on who shows up for the Orange Bowl.

US girls currently on the acceptance list are Alexandra Yepifanova, Robin Montgomery, Savannah Broadus, Katrina Scott, Skyler Grishuk, Charlotte Chavatipon, Charlotte Owensby, Jenna DeFalco, Kailey Evans, Emma Jackson, Ellie Coleman, Madison Sieg and Tara Malik. The girls cutoff is currently 130.

The entry deadlines for both the Grade 1 Eddie Herr, December 2-8, and the Grade A Orange Bowl, December 9-15, are next Tuesday, November 5th. Very few juniors commit to both events in Mexico and then both in the United States, which would mean four straight weeks of competition, so it will be interesting for the year-end race to see who enters these last two.

The 16s Orange Bowl entry deadline is also next Tuesday, at 9 a.m.  See the tournament website, ustaorangebowl.com, for more on those entries, which are updated as they come in.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

USTA Announces Master'U Collegiate Team; Qualifier Crawford Defeats Top Seed at Naples $25K

Kovacevic reached the semifinals of the NCAA singles tournament this year
Today the USTA announced the members of United States Team that will compete in the annual Master'U BNP Paribas International Collegiate Team competition next month in Grenoble France. University of Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic, UCLA junior Keegan Smith and Stanford sophomore Alexandre Rotsaert are the men selected, with UCLA senior Jada Hart, Stanford junior Michaela Gordon and University of North Carolina senior Alexa Graham the women chosen to represent the United States.

Hart was on the team that won the championship last year, and the United States has finished in first place in eight of the last ten years.

Greg Patton, the former Boise State men's coach, has been a fixture guiding the team over the past decade and he returns this year. UCLA women's associate head coach Rance Brown is making his debut as a coach this year. A list of the past US teams and coaches is available here.

Other teams participating in the competition, which begins November 29 and runs through December 1, are Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Italy.

Florida's Oliver Crawford, who was on last year's Master'U championship team, made his way through qualifying at this week's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Naples Florida and today defeated top seed Matias Descotte of Argentina 6-3, 4-0 retired. Another qualifier, 37-year-old Jesse Witten(Kentucky), also advanced to the second round, joining Americans Jordi Arconada[2](Texas A&M), wild card Sam Riffice(Florida) and Stefan Kozlov[6], who won their first round matches Tuesday.  Crawford and Riffice have advanced to the doubles semifinals, continuing their winning streak after taking the doubles title last month at the $25,000 tournament in Houston.

It's been raining in Tyler Texas, keeping the first round from being completed at the women's $80,000 tournament there.

It's been raining for two days at the ITF Grade 4 in South Carolina, and without indoor courts, no matches have been played, with second round matches on the order of play for Thursday.

There are no weather problems at the $60,000 ITF World Tennis Tour women's event in Toronto, which is played indoors, and the first round is now complete. Three Americans have advanced: No. 2 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State), Catherine Harrison(UCLA), and qualifier Hayley Carter(North Carolina).

Also indoors is the ATP Challenger 80 in Charlottesville Virginia. Americans in Thursday's third round are Sekou Bangoura(Florida), No. 5 seed Marcos Giron(UCLA), wild card Brandon Nakashima(Virginia), lucky loser Dennis Novikov(UCLA) and No. 15 seed Mitchell Krueger. One second round match, between former Virginia standout JC Aragone and No. 3 seed Denis Kudla, has yet to begin this evening.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

ITA Regionals Conclude; USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Underway This Week in Charlottesville, Naples and Tyler

The final eight regionals finished in the past few days, so all 24 champions have been crowned. Both the winners and the finalists receive entry into next month's Oracle ITA National Fall Championships, which begin on November 6th in Newport Beach California.

Unlike last weekend's finals, none of the eight finals contested this weekend featured teammates playing one another. University of Virginia freshman Natasha Subhash, No. 1 in the ITA Newcomer rankings, won the Atlantic Regional title without dropping a set. UCLA's Abbey Forbes, No. 4 in the Newcomer rankings, was the other freshman to win a Regional. Zoe Howard of Princeton shared the title with teammate Brianna Shvets, with the final not played. None of the men's regional champions are freshman. Although there are a couple of errors on their list of Regional winners, the ITA page does include doubles champions. Below are the results of all the regional singles finals.

Division I Regional Champions
Midwest: John McNally(Ohio State) d. Kyle Seeling(Ohio State) 7-6(4), 6-1
Atlantic: Ryan Goetz(Virginia) d. Luca Maldoner(ODU) 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4
Northeast: Charlie Broom(Dartmouth) d. Jackie Tang(Columbia) 6-3, 7-5
Southern: Gregor Ramskogler(Miss St) d. Tim Dollman(Auburn) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Carolinas: Bar Botzer(Wake Forest) d. Rrezart Cungu(Wake Forest) 6-4, 7-6(5)
Southwest: Joseph Guillin(UC-Santa Barbara) d. Stefan Dostanic(USC) 2-6, 6-3, 7-5
Mountain: Sean Hill(BYU) d. Mateo Vereau Melendez 6-1, 6-1
Southeast: Duarte Vale(Florida) d. Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi(Central Florida) 6-4, 6-4
Northwest: Damon Kesaris(St. Mary's) d. Yuta Kikuchi(Cal) 7-6(2), 6-0
Texas: Sven Lah(Baylor) d. Valentin Vacherot(Texas A&M) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Central: Kody Pearson(Tulsa) d. Stefan Milicevic(Minnesota) 6-3, 6-1
Ohio Valley: Tin Chen(Louisville) d. Bennett Crane(Indiana) 6-0, 6-3

Midwest: Giulia Pairone(Michigan) d. Shiori Fukuda(Ohio State) 6-2, 6-4
Ohio Valley: Kaitlin Staines(Tennessee) d. Rebeka Mertena(Tennessee) 6-1, 6-1
Southeast: McCartney Kessler(Florida) d. Lea Ma(Georgia), 6-2, 6-2
Southwest: Abbey Forbes(UCLA) d. Jada Hart(UCLA) 7-6(3), 6-2
Northwest: Michaela Gordon(Stanford) d. Maria Kozyreva(St. Mary’s) 6-2, 7-5
Central: Lisa Rioux(Okla St) d. Dariya Detkovskaya(Okla St) 6-2, 6-3
Texas: Lucia Quiterio(Texas A&M) d. Lexi Ryngler(Texas), walkover
Northeast: Zoe Howard(Princeton) v Brianna Shvets(Princeton) final not played
Southern: Taylor Bridges(LSU) d. Paris Corley(LSU) 6-3, 6-0
Carolinas: Cameron Morra(UNC) d. Kelly Chen(Duke) 6-1, 6-4
Atlantic: Natasha Subhash(Virginia) d. Paola Delgado(VCU) 6-2, 6-0
Mountain: Chiara Tomasetti(Northern Arizona) d. Sara Nayar(Colorado) 6-2, 6-1

Three USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are on the schedule this week: the Charlottesville ATP Challenger 80, an $80,000 women's event in Tyler Texas and a $25,000 men's event in Naples Florida (not Italy, as the ITF's Live Scores page shows).  There is also a $60,000 ITF World Tennis Tour women's tournament in Toronto this week, which has also drawn a substantial number of Americans.

In Charlottesville, the top seed is former North Carolina star Brayden Schnur of Canada, with Ivo Karlovic of Croatia seeded No. 2. Wild cards were given to University of Virginia stars Brandon Nakashima and Carl Soderlund of Sweden, with Nakashima already through to the third round, and Soderlund winning his opening match. Other wild cards went to Raymond Sarmiento(USC), Govind Nanda(UCLA) and Alex Rybakov(TCU).

2017 Kalamazoo champion Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M), who has not played since January due to injuries, is in the doubles draw with Sebastian Korda, after the pair received a wild card, and they won their first round match today.

In Tyler, Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia is the No. 1 seed and for the second week in a row, she is out of the tournament in the first round despite her position at the top of the draw. Alexa Glatch, who received a wild card this week, beat Sharma 6-2, 6-4 today. For more on Glatch, who is now 30, and why she decided to come back this year after surgery in 2017, see this article from Steve Pratt for the USTA Southern California website.  In addition to Glatch, wild cards were given to Grace Min, Coco Vandeweghe and Jamie Loeb. Americans who qualified with wins today are Sophie Whittle(Gonzaga), Sanaz Marand(UNC), Kate Fahey(Michigan) and Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine). 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba(Miami) of Spain received a wild card into qualifying and advanced to the main draw with wins over Claire Liu and Chanelle Van Nguyen(UCLA).

In Toronto, Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia), Hayley Carter(UNC) and Dalayna Hewitt qualified with wins today. The top seed is Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, with Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) the No. 2 seed. Three Canadian juniors received wild cards: Ariana Arseneault, Jada Bui and Melodie Collard.

In Naples, the American qualifiers are Oliver Crawford(Florida) and 37-year-old Jesse Witten(Kentucky). Witten, who coaches at an academy in the Naples area, has played a couple of Pro Circuit tournaments a year for several years now, but currently he doesn't have an ATP ranking. Matias Descotte of Argentina is the No. 1 seed, and Crawford will face him in the first round. Wild cards went to Sam Riffice(Florida), Texas recruit Micah Braswell, Tyler Zink(Georgia) and North Carolina recruit Logan Zapp.  Riffice defeated Braswell 6-3, 6-3 and Zapp lost to No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) 6-1, 6-2.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Hotard and Yu Win ITF Grade 4 Tournament in Atlanta; Kim Sweeps Titles in Barbados Grade 5; Lucky Losers Abound at This Week's ITF Grade 4 in South Carolina

It's time for an update on last week's ITF Junior Circuit events involving Americans, with results from the Grade 4 in Atlanta leading the way.

It's unusual for a Grade 1 champion to go back to a Grade 4, but Welsh Hotard, who won the B1 Pan American Closed earlier this month in Nicholasville Kentucky, went to Atlanta as the top seed and came out with his second consecutive ITF singles title.

Due to rain in the area, both the semifinals and the finals were moved indoors to the University of Georgia courts, and I'm sure that didn't hamper Hotard in the least. In the final, the 18-year-old defeated unseeded 14-year-old Nishesh Basavareddy, the reigning 14s Clay Court champion, 7-5, 6-3. With the title, Hotard boosted his ranking 20 points to 109, and getting into the Top 100 before year end is important for him, as that provides another method of entry into ITF World Tennis Tour $15,000 events he might like to play in 2020, before joining Oklahoma in the fall.

Hotard also won the doubles title, with JJ Tracy. The top seeds beat the second-seeded team of Samuel Paquette of Canada and Giulio Perego of Italy 3-6, 7-5, 11-9 in the final.

Unseeded Eleana Yu, who turns 15 next month, won the girls singles title, her first on the ITF Junior Circuit. Yu defeated No. 2 seed Lan Mi of China 6-1, 6-3 in the second round and No. 13 seed Ava Hrastar in the third round before defeating three unseeded players in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final. Yu downed Ellie Pittman 6-3, 6-1 in the championship match.

No. 7 seeds Allie Gretkowski and Carson Tanguilig won the girls doubles title, beating the unseeded team of Pittman and Katherine Weber 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

At the Grade 5 in Barbados, 14-year-old Aidan Kim swept the titles, his first two titles on the ITF Junior Circuit. Kim, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Oscar Tejera Ecenarro of Spain 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in the singles final. In the doubles final, Kim and partner Nicholas Godsick, who were unseeded, beat No. 3 seeds Donte Armbrister of the Bahamas and Freddie Ridout of Great Britain 6-3, 6-0 in the final.

Victoria Mboko of Canada, the 2018 Junior Orange Bowl 14s finalist who just turned 13 in August, won the girls singles title, her first on the ITF Junior Circuit in just two tournaments played. Daniela Livson and Sophie Williams won the girls doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating No. 3 seeds Gabrielle Leslie of Barbados and Miu Yabuta of Japan 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

This week's tournament in the United States is a Grade 4 in Lexington South Carolina, with Jack Anthrop and Nevena Carton the top seeds. There are more lucky losers in the two singles draws than I can ever recall, with 10 boys and 9 girls getting in after losing in qualifying. Since the last round of qualifying is only eight matches, all those losers got in and three players received main draw entry after falling in the second round of qualifying, which was the only qualifying match for many of them.

The USTA provides a monthly Honor Roll for top performances from 20-and-under players from the United States. The September edition is out, with a long list of players and their coaches.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Parry, Rune Claim ITF Junior Finals Titles; Ngounoue, Brantmeier Win WTA Future Stars Competition; Loeb, Stewart Take Pro Circuit Titles

Diane Parry could be ending her junior career on an 11-match winning streak after the 17-year-old from France claimed the ITF Junior Finals title Sunday in Chengdu China. Parry defeated Wimbledon girls champion Daria Snigur of Ukraine by the surprisingly routine score of 6-3, 6-1, which kept her undefeated during both the round robin and knockout portions of the competition.  Parry, who won the Grade A in Osaka Japan prior to the Junior Finals, told the ITF ,"For me, I will now play professional tournaments only. There will be some fears to overcome but I will try to go far in the rankings."

The title, the second in a row for France after Clara Burel's win last year, solidifies Parry's place at the top of the ITF Junior Circuit rankings, but since she is not defending her Grade A points from Mexico last year, it's doubtful she has the year-end ranking wrapped up. Clara Tauson, Leylah Fernandez and Snigur are unlikely to return to junior competition, but with two Grade As and two Grade 1s still to be played this year, someone could pass Parry.
Sixteen-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark will move to No. 1 in the ITF Junior rankings after defeating Harold Mayot of France 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-2 in the final. Rune, the French Open boys champion, barely made it out of the round robin phase of the tournament after losing to Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, does not reveal any of his plans for this fall in the ITF Junior website's article on the boys final.

The final standings for all 16 participants in the competition are here.

The United States swept the titles at the WTA Future Stars competition in Shenzhen China, with Clervie Ngounoue winning the 14-and-under division and Reese Brantmeier capturing the 16-and-under title. Top seed Ngounoue, 13, defeated No. 2 seed Kayla Cross of Canada 6-2, 7-6(2) in the final. No. 1 seed Brantmeier, 15, took out No. 2 seed Annabelle Xu of Canada 6-3, 6-4 in the final. The WTA provided this article, which includes quotes from Ngounoue and Brantmeier. The article says Ngounoue gets a main draw wild card into Les Petits As, but she already had that by winning the USA Playoff, which is what got her a spot in the WTA Future Stars, so they may have that backwards.

Katerina Stewart won the biggest title of her career today, beating Shelby Rogers 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia. The 22-year-old Floridian, an unseeded wild card, has played only eight Pro Circuit/World Tennis Tour events this year, but has made the finals of four and won two. She will take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

Robin Anderson fell in the final of the $60,000 tournament in Saguenay Canada, with the former UCLA star, seeded No. 3, losing to unseeded Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.  Canadian juniors Melodie Collard and Leylah Fernandez won the doubles title, with the wild cards beating top seeds Samantha Murray of Great Britain and Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands 7-6(3), 6-2 in the final.

Seventh seed Jamie Loeb won her first singles title since 2017 today at the $25,000 tournament in Dallas, beating top seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 in the final. The 2015 NCAA champion, whose ranking has fallen into the 300s, needs a good fall to assure herself a spot in Australian Open qualifying.

Former South Florida All-American Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic swept the titles at the $25,000 tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, with the top seed beating unseeded University of Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic 6-2, 6-2 in the singles final. He and Evan Song won the doubles title Saturday with a 7-6(3), 6-2 decision over Korey Lovett and Justin Butsch.

Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands won the men's $25,000 tournament in Fort Worth Texas, with the unseeded 19-year-old beating No. 3 seed Ryan Peniston(Memphis) of Great Britain 6-2, 6-0. De Jong now has three singles titles since August (and in his career), with the other two at the $15,000 level.  Yates and Hunter Johnson(SMU) won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds defeating the unseeded pair of Alfredo Perez(Florida) and Charlie Emhardt(Valparaiso) 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

And finally, the championship match at the $15,000 tournament in Austin Texas was a close as one might expect. Top seed Bianca Turati defeated twin sister Anna Turati, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 37 minutes. The Italians, seniors at the University of Texas, won the doubles title yesterday.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Parry and Snigur Face Off in Girls ITF Junior Finals, Mayot and Rune Meet for Boys Title; Ngounoue and Brantmeier in WTA Future Stars Finals; Loeb, Kovacevic Reach $25K Finals; Anderson Aims for Title at $60K in Canada

The championship matches are set at the ITF Junior Finals in Chengdu China, with not only titles on the line, but also the No. 1 ranking in the Junior Circuit rankings.

Diane Parry, currently No. 1 in the rankings, defeated Elsa Jacquemot in an all-French semifinal 6-3, 6-3. Wimbledon champion Daria Snigur of Ukraine needed less than an hour to defeat Hurricane Tyra Black 6-0, 6-2 in the other semifinal, with matches played indoors due to rain, according to the ITF.  If Snigur wins the title, she will overtake Parry for the No. 1 ranking. For more on the stakes of Sunday's girls final, see this article from the ITF Junior website.

The boys final will feature Holger Rune of Denmark, the French Open champion, and Harold Mayot of France, who won the Grade A in Osaka last week. Mayot defeated Wimbledon champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan 6-2, 7-5 to advance to the final, while Rune eased past Valentin Royer of France 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-2. If Rune wins the title, he will take over the No. 1 ranking spot from US Open champion Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, according to this ITF article on the boys semifinals.

Links to live scoring and live streaming are available at the ITF junior home page.

The top-seeded American girls have advanced to the finals of the WTA Future Stars event in Shenzhen China, which concludes on Sunday, when the WTA Finals begin. Reese Brantmeier defeated Tailia Gibson of Australia 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the final of the 16-and-under division. She will face No. 2 seed Annabelle Xu of Canada, who defeated Sanjana Sirimalla of India 6-2, 7-5.  In the 14-and-under division, Clervie Ngounoue survived a match tiebreaker against Taylah Preston of Australia, earning a 6-2, 2-6, 10-5 decision. She will face No. 2 seed Kayla Cross of Canada, who beat Anja Nayar of Malaysia 6-1, 6-2.

Jamie Loeb has advanced to the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Dallas, with the seventh-seeded former University of North Carolina star defeating No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(3) today. She will face top seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, who beat unseeded Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-2, 6-2.  The doubles title in Dallas went to No. 2 seeds Zacarias and Olivia Tjandramulia of Australia, who defeated the top-seeded team of Loeb and Emily Appleton of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

Unseeded University of Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic advanced to the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, beating No. 2 seed Michael Redlicki(Duke/Arkansas) 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. He will play No. 1 seed and former South Florida All-American Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic in Sunday's final. Cid defeated No. 3 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-4, 6-3.  Cid and his partner Evan Song won the doubles title today. The unseeded pair beat No. 2 seeds Korey Lovett(Alabama/UCF) and Justin Butsch(LSU) 7-6(2), 6-3.

At the $60,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Saguenay Canada, No. 3 seed Robin Anderson is through to the final. The former UCLA star defeated No. 6 seed Samantha Murray(Northwestern) of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour. Like Loeb, Anderson is looking for her first singles title this year. She will face unseeded Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands, who needed three hours and 13 minutes to defeat Francoise Abanda of Canada this afternoon in the other semifinal 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 7-6(5).

The final of the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia will feature unseeded Shelby Rogers and unseeded wild card Katarina Stewart, with the winner taking the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge. Rogers defeated Grace Min 6-4, 6-2, while Stewart rolled past Danielle Lao(USC) 6-3, 6-0.  Caroline Dolehide and Usue Arconada won the doubles title, their third Pro Circuit title this year, with the No. 3 seeds beating unseeded Jaimee Fourlis of Australia and Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece 6-7(2), 6-2, 10-8 in the final.

University of Texas seniors Anna and Bianca Turati won the doubles title today at the Austin Texas $15,000 tournament and will play for the singles title on Sunday. Anna, the No. 2 seed, beat Baylor junior Melany Krywoj of Argentina, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 6-1, while Bianca, the No. 1 seed, beat unseeded Charlotte Chavatipon, a future Longhorn, 6-3, 6-2. The Italian twins claimed the doubles title, with the unseeded pair beating top seeds Krywoj and teammate Fernanda Labrana of Chile 6-3, 1-6, 10-4.

The rain-plagued men's $25,000 tournament in Fort Worth saw the last American bowing out in the semifinals, with qualifier Alfredo Perez(Florida) dropping his match to unseeded 19-year-old Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands 7-6(7), 6-3. De Jong will face No. 3 seed and former Memphis standout Ryan Peniston of Great Britain, who beat top seed Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-4.

Friday, October 25, 2019

My Article on Blue Chip Braswell Committing to National Champions Texas; Black Advances to Semifinals at ITF Junior Finals; Four Unseeded Americans Reach Semifinals at Macon $80K

When I spoke to Micah Braswell at the ITF College Park Grade 1 back in August, he had announced a verbal commitment to Florida State, where his father Ty played and coached. But the 17-year-old blue chip had begun to rethink that decision, and after taking an official visit to Austin recently, he changed his commitment to Texas, the 2019 NCAA team champions. I spoke with Micah and his father about what led him to that choice and what the next year of competition holds for him as he prepares to enter college next fall in this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The semifinals are set for Saturday at the ITF's World Junior Finals, with Hurricane Tyra Black advancing through the round robin phase with a 7-5, 7-6(1) win over Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan. Black finished second in her group, having beaten Kawaguchi and Qinwen Zheng of China, while losing to France's Diane Parry, who advanced with a 3-0 record in round robin play.

The other two girls finalists are Wimbledon champion Dara Snigur of Ukraine, who finished 3-0 in her round robin group, and Elsa Jacquemot of France, who beat Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia to finish 2-1 and in second place.  Jacquemot faces Parry, assuring a French girls finalist, while Black takes on Snigur.

The boys qualification scenario in one round robin group was that  maddening math problem that the format devolves to occasionally. Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic beat Holger Rune of Denmark 6-4, 7-6(1) to leave both of their records at 2-1, but based not on sets won, which were the same for both, but on games won over the course of the three round robin matches, Rune advanced, finishing second in the group to Harold Mayot of France, who went 3-0. Forejtek had lost to Mayot on the first day by the surprising score of 6-1, 6-3 and that turned out to be more than he could overcome. Two walkovers, given by Canada's Liam Draxl and China's Bu Yunchaokete, who were no longer in contention, simplified things for Mayot and Valentin Royer of France, who won the other round robin group. Wimbledon champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan finished second in that group, beating Thiago Tirante of Argentina 6-4, 6-7(0), 6-4.  Mochizuki will play Mayot in one semifinal, with Rune and Royer meeting in the other. For more on Friday's matches, see the ITF Juniors website.

Links to the live scoring, live streaming, plus Friday's results and Saturday's order of play are on the ITF Juniors home page.

At the $80,000 women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, four unseeded Americans are through to the semifinals.  Shelby Rogers defeated Coco Vandeweghe by the eyebrow-raising score of 6-0, 6-0 to advance to a meeting with Grace Min, who beat No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe 6-1, 6-3.  In the other semifinal, Danielle Lao(USC) will face wild card Katarina Stewart. Lao took out No. 3 seed Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland by a 6-1, 6-2 score, while Stewart beat qualifier Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech) 6-4, 7-6(2). No matter which of the four takes the title, she will lead USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge after the first week.

Jamie Loeb, the 2015 NCAA singles champion while at North Carolina, is the sole American remaining in the hunt for the $25,000 Dallas title. Loeb, the No. 7 seed, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-1 win over unseeded Monika Kilnarova of the Czech Republic. She will play No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain, who beat No. 8 seed Kayla Day 6-2, 6-3. Top seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine and unseeded Marcela Zacarias of Mexico will meet in the other semifinal.

Unseeded 17-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon, who recently gave Texas a verbal commitment, has advanced to the semifinals of the $15,000 tournament in Austin. She will face one of the Turati twins, top seed Bianca, who is a senior at Texas. The other Turati sister, No. 2 seed Anna, also a senior at Texas, will play Baylor junior Melany Krywoj, seeded No. 4, in the other semifinal.

In men's USTA Pro Circuit play, rain has been a problem in Fort Worth, so the semifinals are not yet set there, but at the $25,000 tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, two American will face off in the semifinals, with No. 2 seed Michael Redlicki(Duke/Arkansas) playing unseeded Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic. Top seed Roberto Cid(South Florida) of the Dominican Republic will play No. 3 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia in the top-half semifinal.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Brantmeier and Ngounoue Advance to WTA Future Stars Semifinals; Black Beats Zheng in ITF Junior Finals Round Robin Play; Division I ITA Regional Update

Reese Brantmeier and Clervie Ngounoue have advanced to the semifinals of the WTA Future Stars competition this week in Shenzhen China, where the WTA Finals begin Sunday.  The 15-year-old Brantmeier is playing the 16-and-under competition, and she went undefeated during the round robin phase, winning all six matches in straight sets and dropping only six games total.  She will play Talia Gibson of Australia in Saturday's semifinal. Annabelle Xu of Canada is the No. 2 seed and she will play Sanjana Sirimalla of India in the other 16s semifinal.

Ngounoue, 13, also got through the round robin phase of the 14-and-under competition without dropping a set, and she is the top seed in the semifinals. She will face Taylah Preston of Australia, while No. 2 seed Kayla Cross of Canada plays Anja Nayar of Malaysia.  The order of play for Saturday's semifinals is here.

While that competition is going on in Shenzhen, the ITF Junior Masters continues in Chengdu, with Hurricane Tyra Black staying in contention for the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Qinwen Zheng of China. Diane Parry of France, Daria Snigur of Ukraine, Holger Rune of Denmark and Valentin Royer of France are 2-0, but with many players 1-1, as Black is, Friday's third and final round of match in the round robin will determine which four players advance to the semifinals. See the ITF Junior Circuit website for more on Black's win today and the other results from Day Two.

The live streaming link and live scoring link can be found on the ITF Junior Circuit website's home page.

The final eight ITA Division I Regional Championships are scheduled this weekend, with berths in next month's Oracle ITA Fall National Championships on the line.  Below are the results from the 16 Regional singles finals that concluded this week, with both the winner and the runner-up receiving entry into the Fall Nationals. An unusually large number of finals featured teammate vs teammate.  The ITA Regionals page now has links to individual regionals draws as well as names of the doubles champions, who receive entry into the Fall Nationals.

Division I Regional Championships singles finals:

Midwest: John McNally(Ohio State) d. Kyle Seeling(Ohio State) 7-6(4), 6-1
Atlantic: Ryan Goetz(Virginia) d. Luca Maldoner(ODU) 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4
Northeast: Charlie Broom(Dartmouth) d. Jackie Tang(Columbia) 6-3, 7-5
Southern: Gregor Ramskogler(Miss St) d. Tim Dollman(Auburn) 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Carolinas: Bar Botzer(Wake Forest) d. Rrezart Cungu(Wake Forest) 6-4, 7-6(5)
Southwest: Joseph Guillin(UC-Santa Barbara) d. Stefan Dostanic(USC) 2-6, 6-3, 7-5
Mountain: Sean Hill(BYU) d. Mateo Vereau Melendez(BYU) 6-1, 6-1

Midwest: Giulia Pairone(Michigan) d. Shiori Fukuda(Ohio State) 6-2, 6-4
Ohio Valley: Kaitlin Staines(Tennessee) d. Rebeka Mertena(Tennessee) 6-1, 6-1
Southeast: McCartney Kessler(Florida) d. Lea Ma(Georgia), 6-2, 6-2
Southwest: Abbey Forbes(UCLA) d. Jada Hart(UCLA) 7-6(3), 6-2
Northwest: Michaela Gordon(Stanford) d. Maria Kozyreva(St. Mary’s) 6-2, 7-5
Central: Lisa Rioux(Oklahoma St) d. Dariya Detkovskaya(Oklahoma St) 6-2, 6-3
Texas: Lucia Quiterio(Texas A&M) d. Lexi Ryngler(Texas), walkover
Northeast: Zoe Howard(Princeton) v Brianna Shvets(Princeton) final not played
Southern: Taylor Bridges(LSU) d. Paris Corley(LSU) 6-3, 6-0

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

USTA Announces Overhaul of Junior Competitive Structure for 2021

Earlier this month, the USTA unveiled a new Junior Competitive Structure, scheduled to begin in 2021, which has been undertaken to stem the drop in USTA tournament participation in the past decade. According to this explanation of the changes at usta.com, more than 5,000 players have exited the USTA system in 2018 alone.

In order to counteract that trend, the USTA has decided on simplification, which means, finally, a nationwide ranking system. The stumbling block over the years has been the autonomy of the 17 USTA sections, which had their own rankings and set their own competitive calendars. While the sections will retain some control over their tournaments, the new overall structure doesn't appear to vary much, no matter where you live in the United States.

I have my share of issues with the International Tennis Federation, but with just a few exceptions, the same ranking and progression system in its junior circuit has been in place throughout the time I have covered junior tennis. The USTA, on the other hand, has made more changes to their structures than I can count, and if a complex new structure must be implemented and adapted to every two to four years, it obviously does not leave a lot of time for promoting and marketing the sport, and it just adds to the frustration of junior high performance coaches and their players. Whether the USTA's frequent changes have drawn people to the ITF pathway, I'm not qualified to say, but it was one of the fears expressed during the massive USTA changes implemented in 2013.

That said, I don't believe that simplifying the pathway is likely to have a major impact on participation numbers, because I believe the causes of the decline are much more complicated than that, but as long as the USTA sticks with this for more than a couple of years, I don't see many drawbacks for implementing it. There will be unintended consequences--there always are in these changes--but if they can be dealt with with minor adjustments, rather than a scrapping the whole system again, this could turn out to be a positive development.

The brief explanation entitled The Why is short on specifics, but it does demonstrate an effort by the USTA to communicate the background of this change with those who will have to navigate the new system.  The Ten Things to Know post provides an overview of the major changes, and should be viewed as a starting point for those who are just hearing about the new structure. But I urge everyone to email the USTA at JuniorTour@usta.com and ask to be put on their mailing list for additional information and webinars in preparation for the 2021 change.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ITF Junior Finals Begin in Chengdu; Five USTA Pro Circuit Events This Week Attract Scores of College and Junior Players

The draws have been made and round robin play begins tonight (Wednesday in China) at the ITF Junior Finals. The only American in the draw, Hurricane Tyra Black, begins with a match against new ITF World No. 1 Diane Parry of France, while US Open boys champion Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic takes on France's Harold Mayot, who, like Parry, just claimed a Grade A title in Japan. The top two finishers in each group will move on to the semifinals.

Group Shuai
Jonas Forejtek, Czech Republic
Holger Rune, Denmark
Harold Mayot, France
Bu Yunchaokete, China

Group Yong
Shintaro Mochizuki, Japan
Thiago Tiriante, Argentina
Liam Draxl, Canada
Valentin Royer, France

Group Liang
Daria Snigur, Ukraine
Kamilla Bartone, Latvia
Elsa Jacquemot, France
Oksana Selekhmeteva, Russia

Group Li
Qinwen Zheng, China
Diane Parry, France
Natsumi Kawaguchi, Japan
Hurricane Tyra Black, United States

The order of play is here. I have not seen a live scoring or streaming link, but if I run across one I will pass it along.

Five USTA Pro Circuit events are on the calendar this week, one an $80,000 tournament, three at the $25,000 level and one a $15K tournament.

The $80,000 event in Macon Georgia is the first tournament in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

Qualifying concluded today, with former collegians Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech), Sanaz Marand(UNC) and Ingrid Neel(Florida), and current collegians Elysia Bolton(UCLA) and Estela Perez-Somarriba(Miami) earning places in the main draw, as did junior Gabby Price. The 16-year-old USTA Clay Court 18s champion defeated No. 3 seed Suzan Lamens of the Netherlands 6-1, 3-6, 10-6 to qualify for an $80,000-level tournament for the first time. She had previously received a wild card into an $80,000 tournament in France this spring.

Perez-Somarriba and Katrina Jokic(Georgia) of Serbia had a rematch of May's NCAA Division I singles final, and as with their previous meeting, it was incredibly close, with Perez-Somarriba getting another win, this time by a 7-6(2), 6-4 score, in two hours and 40 minutes.  Falconi, a wild card, has been on a sabbatical recently, and she explains in this Behind The Racquet post why she left the game for nearly a year and why she is now back competing.

Wild cards into the main draw include US Open girls finalist Alexandra Yepifanova, Katarina Stewart, Coco Vandeweghe and Sophie Whittle(Gonzaga). Yepifanova has been drawn to play top seed Astra Sharma of Australia, the former Vanderbilt star. Whitney Osuigwe is the No. 2 seed.

Also part of the USTA's AO Wild Card Challenge is the $60,000 tournament in Saguenay Canada this week, where Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia) and Jessica Livianu(St. John's) are among the qualifiers. Top seed Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) won her first round match today against Emina Bektas(Michigan) 4-6, 6-0, 7-6(4).

Four Americans qualified for the $25,000 women's tournament in Dallas, part of the new Oracle Pro Series, with former collegians Lorraine Guillermo(Pepperdine) and Kate Fahey(Michigan) and juniors Vanessa Ong and Hadley Doyle earning places in the main draw. Wild cards were given to Ellie Douglas(TCU), Kayla Day, Emma Shelton and Chanelle Van Nguyen(UCLA). Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine is the top seed.

At the women's $15,000 tournament in Austin, the University of Texas twin sisters Bianca and Anna Turati of Italy are the top two seeds. Wild cards were given to Kylie McKenzie, and three UT players: freshman Lexi Ryngler, sophomore Tijana Spasojevic and sophomore Marta Perez Mur.  American qualifiers are: Gianna Pielet, Fiona Crawley, Madison Appel, Ashlyn Krueger, Malaika Rapolu, Jeanette Mireles and Mara Schmidt.

The two men's events this week are $25,000 tournaments, one in Fort Worth and one in Fayetteville. At the Oracle Pro Series event in Texas, Alfredo Perez(Florida), Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda and Brian Cernoch(UNC) are the Americans who qualified with wins today.

Liam Broady and Jack Draper of Great Britain are the top two seeds, with wild cards going to juniors Logan Zapp and Eliot Spizzirri, Georgia freshman Tyler Zink and TCU senior Alistair Gray.

In Arkansas, junior Murphy Cassone and Georgia sophomore Trent Bryde are the two Americans who qualified with wins today. Wild cards were awarded to Vasil Kirkov, junior Tauheed Browning and University of Arkansas juniors Alexandre Reco and Joshua Howard-Tripp. Former South Florida All-American Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic is the top seed.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Five Americans Claim ITF Junior Circuit Singles Titles; Fritz and Opelka to Make Davis Cup Debuts; ITA Cup Crowns D-II, D-III, NAIA and JUCO Champions

There was no ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States this week (the Grade 4 in Atlanta this week begins a three-week stretch of US events), but five Americans claimed singles titles elsewhere.

At the Grade 4 in Vancouver Canada, 16-year-old Jenna DeFalco won her fifth singles title on the circuit, with the top seed defeating No. 3 seed Danielle Tuhten of Canada 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the final. Blue chip junior Nate Bonetto won the boys title as a qualifier, his first ITF singles title. The Oregon resident, who has played only four ITF tournaments total, all in western Canada, defeated doubles partner Colton Smith 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the final. Smith had beaten Bonetto in the quarterfinals at last week's Grade 5, while they won the doubles title. Bonetto did not lose a set in his seven matches leading up to the final.

At the Grade 5 in Aruba, 13-year-old Brooklyn Olson won her first title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the No. 3 seed defeating top seed Ana Paula Jimenez Coello of Ecuador 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Ty Switzer won the boys doubles title, partnering with John Chin of Jamaica. The top seeds beat No. 3 seeds Leon Berg of Germany and Quintan Van Wijk of Curacao 6-4, 6-0 in the final.

Sixteen-year-old Ellis Short swept the titles at the Grade 5 in Bermuda. Short, the No. 2 seed, claimed his first ITF singles title when No. 3 seed Jakub Ostajewski gave him a walkover victory in the final. Short partnered with Richard Mallory of Bermuda to take the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating No. 4 seeds Scott Redmond of Great Britain and Tariq Simons of Bermuda 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

And at the Grade 5 in Portugal, 15-year-old Violeta Martinez won her first ITF junior title, with the No. 4 seed defeating No. 3 seed Xenia Lipiec of Poland 6-3, 6-3 in the championship match.

At the Grade 2 in Uruguay, Dali Blanch and Madison Sieg picked up doubles titles. Blanch and Bruno Oliveira of Brazil, seeded second, beat No. 3 seeds Sean Cuenin and Mehdi Sadaoui of France 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-2 in the final. Sieg, playing with Guillermina Grant of Uruguay and seeded No. 2, beat No. 4 seeds Oceane Babel and Anaelle LeClercq of France 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 in the final.

Opelka and Fritz won the National 18s doubles title in Kalamazoo in 2015
The United States announced its team for next month's Davis Cup, which will be played under the new format, with 18 teams all on one site, with round robin groups of three. The US team consists of Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, with Fritz and Opelka making their Davis Cup debut. Also debuting is new Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish, who took over this January for Jim Courier. The US is in a tough round robin group with Canada and Italy.  For more on the format and the accomplishments of the American players, see this article from usta.com.

The ITA Cup, the major fall competition for Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College divisions, concluded yesterday, with the singles results below.  All eight singles champions (only two were No. 1 seeds, the NAIA men's and Juco women's) will receive entry into next month's Oracle ITA Fall Championships in Newport Beach California. Just one doubles team receives entry, which is decided by all the division winners playing for that one spot.

Division II Singles
Men: Alejandro Ibanez Gallego (Barry) def. Alvaro Regalado (Columbus State) 6-0, 3-6, 6-1
Women: Berta Bonardi (West Florida) def. Nikol Alekseeva (Indianapolis) 6-3, 6-3

Division III Singles
Men: Boris Sorkin (Tufts) def. Stanley Morris (Middlebury) 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1
Women: Justine Leong (CMS) vs. Catherine Allen (CMS) (To be played in California)

NAIA Singles
Men: Jose Dugo (Georgia Gwinnett) def. Martin Barbier (Cumberlands) 6-2, 6-2
Women: Elyse Lavender (Brenau) def. Maria Genovese (Georgia Gwinnett) 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-4

Junior College Singles
Men: Oscar Gabriel Ortiz (Seward County) def. Sander Jans (Seward County) 6-4, 6-0
Women: Tatiana Simova (ASA Miami) def. Lucie Devier (Tyler JC) 6-3, 6-2

ITA Cup Doubles
Men: Dario Huber/Renato Lima(Indianapolis) def. Tao Castillo/Gustavo de Oliveira (ASA Miami) 2-6, 6-2, 10-5
Women: Angela Charles-Alfred/Lailaa Bashir (XULA) def. Helena Jansen/Emelie Schwarte (Tyler JC); 7-6(3), 6-3

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Top Seeds Parry, Mayot Claim Osaka Grade A Titles; Liu, Contreras and Geerts Win USTA Pro Circuit Championships; Shibahara Earns Another WTA Doubles Title

The ITF Grade A in Osaka Japan ended with the top seeds, both from France, claiming the titles.  Seventeen-year-old Diane Parry, who didn't lose more than four games in any set throughout the week, defeated 14-year-old Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-4 in the girls singles final.  Harold Mayot, also 17, defeated No. 10 seed Jeffrey Von der Schulenburg of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2 for the boys title. It's the first Grade A title for Mayot and the second for Parry, who won the Grade A in Mexico last November. Both now head to the ITF Junior Finals in Chengdu China, which begin on Wednesday.

The Swiss team of Jerome Kym and Dominic Stricker, seeded No. 7, won the boys doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Hanwen Li and Bu Yunchaokete of China 6-3, 4-6, 10-4 in the final.  No. 4 seeds Maria Bondarenko of Russia and Mai Nirundorn of Thailand won the girls doubles title, beating No. 5 seeds Zhuoxuan Bai of China and Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan 7-5, 6-3 in the final.

Nineteen-year-old Claire Liu won her first Pro Circuit title since 2017, when she was still playing junior events, today, with the No. 7 seed beating 18-year-old wild card Peyton Stearns 6-1, 6-2 in the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Florence South Carolina. Liu has seen her ranking fall from 137 this year to its current 386, but this title has to be a boost in confidence for her, as she didn't drop a set all week.

In Waco, qualifier Fernanda Contreras of Mexico won her first $25,000-level tournament, with the 22-year-old recent Vanderbilt graduate beating No. 2 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 in today's final. Contreras, who grew up in Austin Texas, has played only nine ITF tournaments this year (and only 11 total), and has now won two of them.

Former Arizona State Sun Devil Michael Geerts won his second consecutive $25,000 title, taking the Waco men's singles championship after winning the Claremont tournament last week. The 24-year-old from Belgium, seeded No. 6, defeated unseeded Alex Rybakov(TCU), 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4) in just under three hours.

Unseeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada took the title at the ATP Challenger 80 in Las Vegas, beating No. 5 seed James Duckworth of Australia 7-5, 6-7(11), 6-3 in this afternoon's final. The unseeded team of Ruan Roelofse of South Africa and Ruben Gonzales of the Philippines, both former University of Illinois standouts, won the doubles title, beating unseeded Max Schnur(Columbia) and Nathan Pasha(Georgia) 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the final.

Former UCLA Bruin Ena Shibahara, who grew up in Southern California, but now plays for Japan, won her second consecutive WTA doubles title this week in Moscow. After Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama of Japan won the International title the previous week in China, they moved on to the Premier event in Moscow and again had an impressive run to the title, beating No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals 6-1, 7-5. In today's final, the unseeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-2, 6-1. With the title, the 21-year-old Shibahara will move to a career high ranking of 31, and now has the highest doubles ranking of any former collegiate woman.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Gauff and McNally Claim Second WTA Doubles Title; Stearns Reaches First Pro Circuit Final in Florence $25K; Rybakov Advances at Waco $25K; Cressy Defeats Vesely to Reach Challenger Final in Germany

Coco Gauff and Caty McNally earned their second WTA doubles title today at the WTA International event in Luxembourg. The unseeded pair, who won their first title at the Citi Open this summer and reached the third round at the US Open in September, defeated No. 2 seeds Kaitlyn Christian(USC) and Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) of Chile 6-2, 6-2 in today's final.  Gauff and McNally, the 2018 US Open girls doubles champions, beat top seeds Kristyna Pliskova and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals. With the title, Gauff will be around 78 and McNally around 64 in next week's WTA doubles rankings.

Wild card Peyton Stearns, who turned 18 earlier this month, has advanced to her first USTA Pro Circuit final, with No. 5 seed Hanna Chang retiring in today's Florence South Carolina $25K semifinal down 6-3, 1-1. Stearns, who beat Emma Navarro in the quarterfinals, will face another American teenager, Claire Liu, in the final. Liu, the No. 7 seed, beat No. 2 seed Marina Melnikova of Russia, the champion last week at Hilton Head, 6-4, 6-4. Although they are only 18 months apart in age, Stearns and Liu haven't met, with Liu leaving the ITF Junior Circuit just as Stearns was getting the results to play at the top level tournaments.

In the Florence doubles final, No. 2 seeds Emina Bektas(Michigan) and Tara Moore defeated No. 3 seeds Olivia Tjandramulia of Australia and Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 7-5, 6-4.

At the USTA Pro Circuit men's tournament in Waco Texas, Alex Rybakov will contend for his second $25K title Sunday after the former TCU star defeated No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) 7-6(6),6-3 in today's semifinals. The unseeded Rybakov will face No. 6 seed Michael Geerts of Belgium, who defeated Baylor junior Matias Soto of Chile, a wild card, 7-5, 7-6(4). The 24-year-old Geerts, who played for Arizona State during the 2017-18 season, won last week's $25,000 event in Claremont California.

Geerts fell short in the doubles final, with he and partner Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain losing to No. 3 seeds Jesper De Jong and Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands 7-6(4), 6-1 in today's championship match.

The women's $25,000 final in Waco will feature qualifier Fernanda Contreras of Mexico and reigning French Open girls champion Leylah Fernandez of Canada. Former Vanderbilt star Contreras, who grew up in Texas, defeated No. 7 seed Anna Danilina(Florida) of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1 in today's semifinal, while the 17-year-old Fernandez, seeded No. 2, took out No. 4 seed Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 6-1, 6-4.  Neither Contreras, who won her first Pro Circuit singles title in August at a $15K in Cancun, nor Fernandez has come close to losing a set in the main draw this week.

The doubles title went to top seeds Danilina and Vladica Babic(Oklahoma State) of Montenegro, who beat unseeded juniors Savannah Broadus and Vanessa Ong 6-3, 6-2 in today's final. Danilina, who won the previous two doubles titles at the USTA Pro Circuit events with former teammate Ingrid Neel, is now on a 12-match winning streak in doubles.

The last American in the ATP Challenger 80 in Las Vegas lost in today's semifinals, with Ernesto Escobedo falling to No. 5 seed James Duckworth of Australia 6-4, 7-6(5). Escobedo had defeated top seed Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals Friday. Duckworth will face unseeded Vasek Pospisil of Canada for the singles title.

Maxime Cressy, the 2019 NCAA doubles champion at UCLA, has reached the singles final of the ATP Challenger 90 in Germany after taking out top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals for the best ranking win of his career. Vesely is currently 120 in the ATP rankings. Cressy, the No. 12 seed, will play No. 16 seed Lukas Lacko of Slovakia in the final. Regardless of the result in Sunday's final, Cressy will move into the ATP Top 200 for the first time.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Oracle's Mark Hurd, Key Financial Backer of College Tennis, Dies at Age 62; My Recap, Videos of ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed

Sad and unexpected news today that Oracle CEO Mark Hurd has died,  a month after taking a medical leave of absence. The cause of death has not been revealed. The 62-year-old Hurd, who played college tennis at Baylor, has been one of the college games's most significant advocates, with his love for the game and his financial support obvious to anyone who follows the sport. I never met Hurd, meaning these comments are based on what I have observed, but from his funding of the fantastic facility at his alma mater to his support and promotion of the Oracle Collegiate Series, the Oracle US Tennis Award and the Oracle Challenger Series, his commitment to elevating American tennis could not be ignored. Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, who owns the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and has taken that to new heights as an ATP/WTA event, no doubt encouraged Hurd's interest in the sport, but those who have had to work their way up to that level know how important it is to have someone championing the steps below, and for many, that someone was Hurd.  Rhiannon Potkey of the Tennis Recruiting Network spoke to Hurd about his and Oracle's investment in tennis for this article back in March.

My recap of last week's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with the background of how Robin Montgomery and Welsh Hotard claimed their first Grade 1 titles.  I'm not a big fan of indoor tennis, but I agree that at least one major ITF tournament in the United States should be held indoors given that is a regular feature of college tennis. The Top Seed Tennis Club, where the tournament was held this year, is an outstanding facility for the event, with excellent viewing on all 12 indoor courts, good lighting, outdoor courts for practice and a gym available for player use. The downsides were few, with expensive hotel prices, which isn't too much of a factor once a player is the main draw, and spotty wifi/4G signal inside the building about all that come to mind. My understanding that this was a one-year trial, but I didn't talk to anyone who would be disappointed if the tournament returned there next year.

Below are the videos of the finals. The perspective may take a little getting used to (it's not as conducive to videos as the Tulsa site was), but it is a chance to see the four finalists. The Tennis Recruiting photo gallery of the quarterfinalists is here.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

USTA Names Dowse to Succeed Smith as USTA CEO; Top Seeds Reach Quarterfinals at Osaka Grade A; ITA Cup, Division I Regionals Underway

The USTA today announced that Michael Dowse is their choice to succeed Gordon Smith as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. Smith announced his retirement earlier this year. Dowse, who has been president of Wilson Sporting Goods since 2013, was not one of the names I heard mentioned as a contender when I spoke with several people about Smith's replacement at the US Open, but it is reassuring to me that he has a tennis background, including an earlier position as Director of Tennis Footwear at Nike. Dowse will officially begin on January 1, 2020 and will be based in Lake Nona.  For more on Dowse's background and responsibilities, see this article from usta.com.

The quarterfinals will be played in the next few hours at the ITF Grade A in Osaka Japan, with top seeds Diane Parry and Harold Mayot, both of France, in action. No Americans remain in singles or doubles. Below are the quarterfinal matchups:

Diane Parry(FRA)[1] v Ya Yi Yang(TPE)
Erika Andreeva(RUS)[13] v Mai Nirundorn(THA)[7]
Punnin Kovapitukted(THA) v Alexandra Eala(PHI)[4]
Maria Bondarenko(RUS)[9] v Mara Guth(GER)[15]

Guth defeated No. 2 seed Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan in the third round.

Harold Mayot(FRA)[1] v Jerome Kym(SUI)
Keisuke Saitoh(JPN)[4] v Dominic Stricker[5](SUI)
Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg(SUI)[10] v Shunsuke Mitsui(JPN)[3]
Leandro Riedi(SUI)[7] v Bu Yunchaokete(CHN)[2]

I can't recall ever seeing four Swiss boys in the quarterfinals of a Grade A before; it's rare to see two.

The ITA Cup is underway in Rome Georgia, with Division II, Division III, Junior College and NAIA players competing for places in the main draw of next month's Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach, California. The singles champions of each division will compete against Division I players in one of the Division I major individual championships, formerly the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships.
The following players are seeded No. 1 in their respective ITA Cup draws (via the ITA release):

NCAA Division II Men
Alvaro Regalado (Columbus State)

NCAA Division II Women
Kim Moosbacher (Oklahoma Baptist)

NCAA Division III Men
Leo Vithoontien (Carleton)

NCAA Division III Women
Danna Taylor (Carnegie Mellon)

Jose Dugo (Georgia Gwinnett)

NAIA Women
Maria Genovese (Georgia Gwinnett)

Junior College Men
Yassir Kilani (ASA Miami)

Junior College Women
Tatiana Simova (ASA Miami)

The ITA Division I Regionals, which will help determine many of the participants in the National Fall Championships, have begun at several locations across the country. I haven't seen any draws posted on the ITA site, but some results are being posted by individual schools on twitter, with the hashtag #ITARegionals

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

USTA Announces Annual Australian Open Wild Card Challenge Events; Nakashima, Zhu and Stewart Beat Top Seeds in First Round of $25K Events; Varsity Blues Articles Explore Fallout of College Admission Scandal

The USTA's annual Australian Wild Card Challenge begins next week for the women and on October 28th for the men, with the tournaments included in the race for the most ATP and WTA points announced today.

The women's events, with the best THREE results counting in the race, are:

  • Week of October 21: USTA Pro Circuit / ITF World Tennis Tour W80s: Macon, Ga.; Poitiers, France; ITF World Tennis Tour W60s: Saguenay, Canada.
  • Week of October 28: USTA Pro Circuit W80: Tyler, Texas; ITF World Tennis Tour W60s: Toronto, Canada; Liuzhou, China; Nantes, France.
  • Week of November 4: USTA Pro Circuit W60 Event: Las Vegas; ITF World Tennis Tour W100: Shenzhen, China.
  • Week of November 11: WTA $125,000 Series Events: Houston, Texas; Taipei; ITF World Tennis Tour W100: Tokyo.
I'm sure the USTA is as happy as anyone that Coco Gauff has recently moved her ranking into the Top 100 (she's currently 71) and will not need a wild card into the Australian Open.

The men's events, with the best TWO results counting in the race are:

  • Week of October 28: ATP Masters 1000 Paris; ATP Challenger 110: Shenzhen, China; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Charlottesville, Va.; Playford, Australia.
  • Week of November 4: ATP Challenger 110: Bratislava, Slovakia; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Knoxville, Tenn.; Kobe, Japan.
  • Week of November 11: ATP Challenger 125: Houston; USTA Pro Circuit / ATP Challenger 80s: Champaign, Ill.; Helsinki, Finland; Ortisei, Italy; Pune, India.
Last year's winners were Jack Sock, who earned all his points at the Masters in Paris, and Whitney Osuigwe, who won the Tyler Texas $80K and reached the quarterfinals at the WTA 125 in Houston.

For more, see this article from usta.com.
The top seeds all went out in the first round today at the $25,000 men's and women's tournament in Waco Texas and the $25,000 women's tournament in Florence South Carolina.  In Texas, 18-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) needed just 55 minutes to roll past No. 1 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands 6-0, 6-2 and Amy Zhu(Michigan) took out No. 1 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.   In South Carolina Katarina Stewart defeated top seed and former WTA Top 50 player Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4 and wild card Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia) ousted No. 3 seed Ellie Halbauer 6-3, 6-3.

Former Texas men's coach Michael Center is scheduled to be sentenced and the end of this month for his involvement in the Varsity Blues scandal that shook Division I athletics this spring. When the story of Rick Singer's scheme to get his clients' children into prestigious schools while representing them as potential student-athletes first broke, there was wide agreement that other misconduct would be discovered, as those charged would cooperate in a continuing investigation.

Nothing on the scale of the first revelations has surfaced, but there was another arrest of a parent last month, with tennis at least on the periphery of Xiaoning Sui's quest to get her son into UCLA. This lengthy article by ProPublica focuses on two Southern California high school teammates, one a viable college prospect and the other not, with the latter ending up at Georgetown. Although it centers on these two boys and their families, the article also provides a great deal of background on how the process worked, as well as explanations of how wealthy families often raise their odds of gaining admission, without resorting to hiring someone as dubious as Singer.  The University of Texas also released a report last month about how their admission process failed to prevent an unqualified student-athlete from getting a books scholarship and then quitting the team but remaining as a student at the university.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

ATP Challenger, Three $25,000 Events Highlight USTA Pro Circuit This Week

Qualifying is now complete at the three $25,000 events on the USTA Pro Circuit this week.

The men's and women's events in Waco Texas, part of the new Oracle Pro Series, have attracted many current collegians, as well as several juniors. Brandon Nakashima(Virginia), who reached the semifinals of the ATP 100 Challenger last week in California, received a wild card and has drawn No. 1 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands as his first round opponent. Other wild cards went to 2019 Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda and two Baylor players: sophomore Adrian Boitan of Romania and junior Matias Soto of Chile. 2019 NCAA champion Paul Jubb of Great Britain is in the draw, with the South Carolina Gamecock taking the fall off to play the Pro Circuit, but expected to return to Columbia for the dual match season.

The six men's qualifiers are Alexander Lebedev(Notre Dame), Barnaby Smith of Great Britain(Texas A&M), Rinky Hijikata(North Carolina) of Australia, Vasil Kirkov, George Goldhoff(Texas) and Tadeus Paroulek(TCU) of the Czech Republic.

The six women's qualifiers in Waco include two US juniors: Alexa Noel and Charlotte Chavatipon. Other qualifiers are Dominique Schaefer of Peru, Chanelle Van Nguyen(UCLA), Fernanda Contreras(Vanderbilt) of Mexico and Alyssa Tobita(Oregon). The top two seeds are both Canadians: Katherine Sebov and 2019 French Open girls champion Leylah Fernandez, 17.  Wild cards were awarded to Texas juniors Savannah Broadus and Tennessee recruit Hadley Doyle, and Baylor juniors Alicia Herrero Linana of Spain and Mel Krywoj of Argentina.

At the other $25,000 women's tournament this week, in Florence South Carolina, the six women qualifying are high school senior Carly Briggs, a Tennessee recruit, Louise Kwong(Illinois) of Canada, Andie Daniell(Alabama), Katarina Jokic(Georgia) of Serbia, Shahar Biran(Old Dominion) of Israel and Joelle Kissell(NC State). The 17-year-old Briggs, playing in just her third Pro Circuit event, beat No. 5 seed Victoria Emma(Florida) and Alexis Keberle(Wisconsin) to qualify into the main draw of a Pro Circuit tournament for the first time.

Wild cards were given to Peyton Stearns, Georgia recruit Lea Ma, Charleston Southern freshman Zoe Cauthen and Kennedy Shaffer(Georgia). Former WTA Top 50 player Johanna Larsson of Sweden is the top seed.

The ATP Challenger in the United States this week is an 80 level tournament in Las Vegas. Steve Johnson, USC's two-time NCAA singles champion, has again taken a wild card this week and is the top seed. Johnson, who reached the final last week in Fairfield California as the No. 1 seed and a wild card, is currently 86 in the ATP rankings.  In addition to Johnson, the other four wild cards went to two players with UNLV ties, senior Alex Kobelt and former player Alexandr Cozbinov of Moldova, Nevada native Evan Song and Stefan Kozlov. Kozlov and Song met in the first round yesterday, with Kozlov earning a 6-4, 6-3 win and the 2015 Kalamazoo 18s finalist took out 2013 NCAA champion and No. 4 seed Blaz Rola of Slovenia by the same score today.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Harmon, Smith Win ITF Grade 5 Titles; Osaka Grade A Underway; ITF Junior Finals Fields Set; Ngounoue Wins USA Les Petits As Playoff, Spot in WTA Future Stars Event

While I was covering the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed last week, there were no fewer than 18 other tournaments scheduled on the ITF Junior Circuit and despite most of the Americans being in Nicholasville Kentucky for the Grade B1, American juniors captured four titles elsewhere.

At the ITF Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, 13-year-old Alexia Harmon of Las Vegas won her first title, with the No. 8 seed winning all five of her matches in straight sets. In the final, Harmon defeated No. 2 seed Tanisha Kashyap of India 6-3, 6-0.

Colton Smith swept the titles at the Grade 5 in British Columbia, with the unseeded 16-year-old from Washington beating No. 2 seed Noah Gampel 6-4, 7-6(4) in the all-USA singles final. Smith and Nate Bonetto won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair beating top seeds Hanamichi Carvajal Suazo of Chile and Keita Duclos of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Smith was playing in only his second ITF event after reaching the singles semifinals of his first, also a Grade 5 in Canada, in June.

Jennifer Kida won the doubles title at the Grade 3 in New Zealand last week, partnering with Manami Ukita of Japan, who also won the singles title. Kida and Ukita, the No. 2 seeds, beat top seeds Roopa Bains and Mia Repac of Australia 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

Kida is on the other side of the international date line again this week, at the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan. One of only three US girls in the draw, Kida will play her first round match on Tuesday.  Rebecca Lynn lost her first round match to Talia Gibson of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Skyler Grishuk, the No. 12 seed, won her first round match, beating Ai Yamaguchi of Japan 3-6, 6-0, 6-1. The only US boy in the draw was qualifier Karl Kazuma Lee, and he lost his first round match to No. 14 seed Ryuhei Azuma of Japan 7-6(5), 7-5.

The top seeds in Osaka are France's Diane Parry and Valentin Royer, both of whom are playing the tournament in advance of the ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Finals, formerly known as the Junior Masters, which takes place from October 23-27 in Chengdu China. Although four American boys--Martin Damm, Emilio Nava, Toby Kodat and defending champion Brandon Nakashima--qualified as participants, none elected to make the trip, which allowed No. 12 Royer to gain entry. (No. 14 Bu Yunchaokete of China received a wild card, meeting the Top 25, no other Chinese player ahead of him criteria). Also participating are three of the four boys 2019 slam champions, with Wimbledon's Shinto Mochizuki of Japan, French Open's Holger Rune of Denmark and US Open's Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic leading the field. Thiago Tirante of Argentina, Liam Draxl of Canada and Harold Moyer of France complete the boys field.

The US does have a girls representative, with Hurricane Tyra Black receiving entry with an ITF ranking of 12.  Unlike the boys, only one 2019 girls slam champion is participating: Wimbledon's Daria Snigur of Ukraine. Parry, Qinwen Zheng of China, Kamilla Bartone of Latvia, Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan, Elsa Jacquemot of France and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia complete the girls field.  The ITF Junior website is publishing features of each of the 16 participants leading up to the event, with five articles already up.

The USA Playoffs for January's Les Petits As were held last week in Delray Beach Florida, with four girls and four boys earning their places in the prestigious 14-and-under tournament in Tarbes France (top three are in main, fourth place player is in qualifying). The US girls who advanced are: Clervie Ngounoue, Maya Joint, Brooklyn Olson and Lexington Reed. The US boys who advanced are: Alexander Razeghi, Mitchell Lee, Nikita Filin and Kaylan Bigun. Ngounoue was the overall winner in the girls draw (unfortunately, only round robin results are available on the Les Petits As website NOTE: quarterfinal draws and results now available), so she will be included in the upcoming WTA Future Stars event at the end of this month in China, in conjunction with the WTA Finals.

I've heard that the boys did not finish their tournament due to rain, so the USTA will need to bring them together again in January to determine which three of the four qualifiers will make the main draw. The USTA used to organize these playoffs, but for the past several years they have been handled by a French company.