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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Live Competitive Tennis Begins Friday on Tennis Channel; Collins on Her Long Road to Diagnosis; Austin Talks Tennis Parenting; NAIA All-Americans Announced

Tennis Channel will broadcast the first live tennis competition in nearly two months beginning tomorrow at 3 a.m. from Germany. Eight men, all Germans, are competing in the The Tennis Point Exhibition series, which is scheduled to take place over four days in the next three weeks. The format used in the round-robin is basically the same as the Milan ATP Next Gen tournament, with sets to four and no-ad scoring. Two of the eight participants are former collegians, with former USC All-American Yannick Hanfmann the highest ranked player at ATP 143. Former Tulane All-American Constantin Schmitz is also in the field as is current Mississippi State junior Florian Broska. There will be no fans, of course. For more, including the weekend matchups, see this article.

Two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins is featured on Noah Rubin's Behind the Racquet today, talking about the lengthy battle she had had coming to terms with her rheumatoid arthritis. Some of that battle was getting a diagnosis, but often that difficulty was the result of her own inability to consider that she might have a condition that she had always associated with older people. She also says that she only recently has found medications that work well for her, and she has every intention of continuing to play professional tennis while managing her condition.

Tracy Austin was featured on the Tennis Hall of Fame Facebook Live show today with host Blair Henley. Austin talked about how she dealt with being a prodigy, how she is coping with the pandemic (access to a private court and all three boys at home are positives), and how she began her current role as a commentator. Asked about her role as a tennis parent, Austin has one rule she instituted that she wished her parents would have followed.

"The golden rule is when they play a tournament, you're not allowed to say anything in the first hour or two (after the match is over). It could be different for each kid. We so want to fix things as a mom--if you'd only hit more to the backhand, if you'd only gotten more first serves in--that's not what anybody wants to hear the first hour or two after a loss. You gave a great effort, let's go to get ice cream, I had to learn that. That was the only thing that my mom would sometimes break that rule and it drove me crazy. I'm proud of the fact all three of my kids took tennis seriously at a different level, and I had to adjust because I wanted them to love it long-term. I see so many parents that it's kind of their desire for their kid to play, so it's cookie cutter for each kid. We all know as moms that all of our kids are so different in their desires and their wishes and likes are completely different."

Three years ago, I spoke with Austin about her role as a tennis parent when middle son Brandon was a freshman at USC, for this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

The ITA announced its NAIA All-American award winners today, with Georgia Gwinnett placing four men and four women on the singles list. As in Division I, 20 players, determined by a double run of the rankings, were named All-Americans in singles and 10 doubles teams were honored.

The men's singles and doubles lists are here. The women's singles and doubles lists are here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

USTA's Annual Team USA Coaching Awards Announced; ITA Names Division III All-Americans, Yepifanova to Stanford, Zamarripa Twins to Texas

The USTA's Team USA coaching awards are always one of the highlights of the Easter Bowl, with coaches gathering in Indian Wells to honor their counterparts and mentors. With the tournament's cancellation this year, the gathering is not possible, so a press release will have to suffice for now.

Corey Gauff was named the 2019 Developmental Coach of the Year.

Northwest High Performance Tennis in Kirkland Washington was named Developmental Program of the Year.

USTA Eastern was named Player Development Section of the Year.

Jay Berger was honored as a Team USA Legendary Coach.

For more details on each honoree, as well as quotes from Martin Blackman, Kent Kinnear and Johnny Parkes on the recipients, read today's complete press release.

The ITA released the Division III All-Americans today, with 23 men and 25 women singles players receiving the coveted honor. As with Division I, there was no opportunity to earn All-America status at the NCAAs, so the honors come from rankings and performances in the major fall tournaments in 2019. Below are the singles All-Americans; the releases, which include the doubles lists, can be accessed by clicking on the headings below.

ITA Division III Men's Singles All-Americans:
Markus Nordby, Babson 
David Aizenberg, Brandeis
Leo Vithoontien, Carleton
James Hopper, Case Western Reserve
Nikolai Parodi, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Jack Katzman, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Scott Altmeyer, Colby
Antonio Mora, Emory
Hayden Cassone, Emory
Will Leach, George Fox
Indraneel Raut, Gustavus Adolphus 
Vishnu Joshi, Johns Hopkins
Jake Zalenski, Kenyon
Stanley Morris, Middlebury
Jed Kronenberg, Pomona-Pitzer
Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Alexander Angradi, Salisbury
Cameron Krimbill, Trinity (TX)
Boris Sorkin, Tufts
Joshua Xu, Chicago
Jordan Brewer, University of the South
Ethan Hillis, Washington, St. Louis
Noah Lilienthal, Wesleyan

ITA Division III Women's Singles All-Americans:
Camille Smukler, Amherst
Jacqueline Bukzin, Amherst 
Grace Riermann, Bethel (MN)
Danna Taylor, Carnegie Mellon 
Vinaya Rao, Carnegie Mellon
Madeleine Paolucci, Case Western Reserve 
Justine Leong, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Catherine Allen, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Ysabel Gonzalez Rico, Emory 
Defne Olcay, Emory
Alexa Goetz, Emory
Amanda Bandrowski, Hope
Claire Hallock, Hope
Erika Oku, Kenyon 
Karina Jensrud, New York University
Maria Lyven, Pomona-Pitzer
Georgia Ryan, Pomona-Pitzer
Risa Fukushige, Skidmore College
Nina Mitrofanova, Southwestern (TX)
Lauren Park, Chicago
Serim Jin, Wesleyan
Caitlyn Ferrante, Wesleyan
Katie Fleischman, Wesleyan
Alexis Almy, Wesleyan
Andei Fukushige, Whitman

A couple of blue chip verbal commitments were revealed this week, with 2019 US Open girls finalist Alexandra Yepifanova choosing Stanford and Allura Zamarripa selecting Texas for 2021. Zamarripa's twin sister Maribella, a five-star recruit, has also chosen Texas, which featured twins Bianca and Anna Turati for the past four years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Junior Referee and ITF Supervisor Steve Reitman Dies Suddenly; UNC's Will Blumberg Leads Division I All-Americans; Steve Johnson Featured on UTR's All-Access Webinar

Steve Reitman at 2014 US Open 
Prior to the start of an officiating webinar today, USTA officiating head Jake Garner announced the death of Steve Reitman, a longtime fixture on the ITF Junior Circuit and the USTA Pro Circuit. I got to know Steve when he served as the ITF referee at the ITF Grade B1 in Tulsa Oklahoma and he had been referee at both the Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1 and the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland over the years. He was at College Park last August, but he told me then that he had taken a new supervisory position with the USTA, which had him doing many more USTA Pro Circuit events than junior tennis tournaments.

No details were given on the cause of death, but it was certainly unexpected. My husband, who worked with Reitman at the tournament desk in College Park for the past six years, had exchanged how are you doing during the pandemic texts just a week ago. I will miss working with him at tournaments; he was always so generous and gracious about helping me with draws, rules and other information that helped me do a better job as a reporter. Rest in peace.
The ITA announced its Division I and Division II All-American teams this year, based on a double run of the last rankings. Because no players were able to earn All America status at the NCAAs this year, this pandemic year will see the lowest number of players possible honored: 20 singles players and 10 doubles teams. Below are the Division I singles All-Americans. Clicking on the headings will take you to the release, which notes the top conferences, first all-Americans for a school, etc. along with the doubles honorees. There is a separate Division II release for women and menNorth Carolina's Will Blumberg is only the third man in Division I history to be named an eight-time All-American, receiving the honor in singles and doubles all four years he played for the Tar Heels. He joins USC's Rick Leach and Tennessee's JP Smith on that exclusive list.  I have not seen any reference to Blumberg returning for the 2020-21 season, but obviously he could achieve something no one else has if he were to achieve All-American status next year.

ITA Division I Men's Singles All-Americans:
Sam Riffice, Florida
Oliver Crawford, Florida
Duarte Vale, Florida
Trent Bryde, Georgia
Philip Henning, Georgia
Alex Brown, Illinois
Andrew Fenty, Michigan
William Blumberg, North Carolina
Alexis Galarneau, NC State
Richard Ciamarra, Notre Dame
Cannon Kingsley, Ohio State
John McNally, Ohio State
Alexandre Rotsaert, Stanford
Yuya Ito, Texas
Christian Sigsgaard, Texas
Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
Hady Habib, Texas A&M
Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida
Keegan Smith, UCLA
Daniel Cukierman, USC

ITA Division I Women's Singles All-Americans:
Haley Giavara, California
Kelly Chen, Duke
Katarina Kozarov, Furman
Katarina Jokic, Georgia
Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
Alexa Graham, North Carolina
Cameron Morra, North Carolina
Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Shiori Fukuda, Ohio State
Iuliia Bryzgalova, Penn
Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine
Mariia Kozyreva, St. Mary’s
Michaela Gordon, Stanford
Bianca Turati, Texas
Anna Turati, Texas
Abigail Forbes, UCLA
Elysia Bolton, UCLA
Jada Hart, UCLA
Natasha Subhash, Virginia

Prakash Amritraj and Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson was today's guest on the UTR All-Access Webinar series, with USC's two-time NCAA singles champion and four-time NCAA team champion discussing his path from juniors, through college and on to a successful professional career.

"College was incredible for me," Johnson told UTR host Prakash Amritraj. "It gave me a chance to mature, to put into perspective what I wanted to do with my life. Tennis was a passion of mine, but then [professional tennis] came to the forefront as a realistic possibility."

Johnson, who played lines 3 and 4 much of his freshman year, said he really began to believe he could play professional tennis when he won the ITA Intercollegiate Indoor title in the fall of his sophomore year.

"We had won the NCAAs, and then in the fall, we have our biggest tournament, the Indoors and I win it," Johnson said. "I don't think anybody thought that I would win, I was 15-20 in the nation maybe, so I win that tournament and get to No. 1 in the country. I'm 19, just about to turn 20 and I feel like all right, this is making being a tennis professional a real possibility. From then, I just worked my butt off to get better and better."

Amritraj asked Johnson when in his junior career did he begin to take the sport more seriously.

"In the 12s and 14s, I was 1 in the country, 1 in the section(SoCal), at the top," Johnson said.  "I'd get to 15, 16, 17, that's when maybe some of the talent doesn't get you as far as it once did. As people, we start to grow and mature, our bodies take shape, take form. I wasn't that good in the 16s and I wasn't that good in the 18s. I'm saying relatively; I was probably Top 10 in the section, Top 30 in the country. I think I made the round of 16 at Kalamazoo my last year, my best result. I didn't really make that transition to college until I saw the older guys on the team and their work ethic, what they did on a daily basis. I didn't do any of that, really in the 16s and 18s, and I really wish I would have. Would have had that base and that discipline going forward, but thankfully, I got that very quickly in college and turned the corner there."

The complete webinar will be available at the UTR All-Access page under the On Demand tab. Thursday's All-Access webinar will feature Bethanie Mattek-Sands. There is also a virtual event with IMG's Jimmy Arias and Miomir Kecmanovic on Thursday and another virtual event with former Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard and Joey Johnson on Friday. Registration for those events and others throughout May can be found here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Recap of USTA Webinar on Tennis Parenting, Featuring McNally Family; ITA Announces Online College Tennis Panel Next Monday

The topic of today's weekly USTA Player Development Learning Series webinar was entitled "The Role Parents Play in their Children's Tennis Experience." In addition to moderator Johnny Parkes, the webinar featured Director of Coaching Education and Sports Science Paul Lubbers, Mental Skills Specialist Larry Lauer, USTA National Coach Lori Riffice and Lynn, Caty and John McNally.

Dr. Lubbers spoke about the importance of a development plan that puts the parents, the coach and the player on the same page and working toward the same goals.

Dr. Lauer provided strategies for finding the right amount of parental push; enough to teach the importance of commitment and persistence, while not so much that pressure for results obscures the reason the child took up the game in the first place.

One of the reference materials from the webinar, "Sport Parent “Do’s and Don’ts” can be accessed here.
Riffice took over from Parkes to conduct the McNally interview, which featured a discussion on how Lynn McNally balanced being a full-time coach at a private club, while still coaching her children and being a parent. Riffice, who also coached her son Sam, now at the University of Florida, knows all the benefits and drawbacks of a relationship that requires two different mindsets. Both Riffice and McNally agreed that practice quality is much more important that quantity.

The choice between college and professional tennis is never an easy one, and Lynn McNally said that she discouraged the agents that began showing an interest in Caty in her early teens, with Caty not signing a professional contract until last March, when she was 17 and had already won a $100,000 tournament.

"I know that Alex [Sohaili, Caty's agent] and Octagon would probably tell you that I waited a long time, but I felt I waited until the right time, that it was the best decision for Caty," Lynn McNally said. "For John, going to college right now, the men's and women's games are very different and so to put yourself in a viable position for your future, no matter what it is, is highly important to me and my entire family."

"Like my mom said earlier, once you make that decision to turn pro, there's no going back," Caty said. "I could get a full scholarship anywhere to play tennis, so that takes a lot off my parents' backs money-wise. I was being recruited by Octagon when I was 12, 13 years old and I wanted it, but my parents were always like no, Caty, you need to wait; it's not a good time. I didn't really understand that, so I think I kind of got annoyed at that, but looking back at that now, I'm super grateful that I....waited, because I was mentally more prepared for it, everything that comes with it."

For John, the decision was less complicated.

"I think for me it was a little bit different," John said. "I think, quite honestly, I wasn't good enough to go pro at 18. It would have been a very bad mistake. Sam [Riffice] and I grew up playing the same tournaments and our age group was tough. It was Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur, Alejandro Fokina Davidovich, all these guys that are Top 100. Coming out of the juniors, I think I got to as high as 13 in the world in the ITFs, but it was never really an option for me to go pro, because I would never do that to my family financially--go play Futures, that's what I would have had to play, qualies in Futures, just go waste money...For me, as an 18-year-old guy, I wasn't the strongest, I wasn't the fastest, I didn't have a 130 mph serve, I wasn't a circus freak, so college was a no-brainer for me. Did it hurt the ego? Yeah, a little bit that some guys my age were going pro and I wasn't. But at the end of the day, you just have to suck it up and I thought the best decision was to go to college and try to get an education."

The complete webinar will be available on demand at the USTA PD Learning Series page, which is also where registration for future webinars is found. Next week's webinar, at 3 p.m. Eastern, is entitled Building a Junior Program, with Kent Kinnear, Parkes, Tracy Lawson and Vesa Ponkka.

The latest issue of the USTA High Performance Coaching News also came out recently and can be found here.

The ITA announced an online panel of coaches with ITA CEO Tim Russell as the moderator, with the panel entitled Eligibility, Recruiting and the Future of College Tennis. The following coaches are expected on the Zoom call:

Division I Women – Claire Pollard (Northwestern)
Division I Men – David Roditi (TCU)
Division II – Lauren Conching (Hawaii Pacific)
Division III – Pam Rende (Arcadia)
NAIA – Chase Hodges (Georgia Gwinnett)
Junior College – Dash Connell (Tyler Junior College)

I would like to listen in on this, but unfortunately, it is scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. Eastern, the exact same time as the USTA's Learning Series webinar. Registration is available here.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

New College Tennis Talk Show Debuts with First Guest Bobby Knight; NCAA Denies Request to Drop Number of Sports Required for D-I; Signing and Transfer Update

The above is a screenshot, click here for the full show
Drake men's head coach Davidson Kozlowski (son of Inside Tennis with the Koz's Dave Kozlowski) has introduced College Tennis Talk this month on YouTube, with Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today his first guest. Bobby talks about how he got hooked on college tennis, why he loves it, what he thinks of no-ad, his advice on how to keep college tennis relevant in a community, who he would have picked for the men's NCAA title this year, and many other topics. In the lightning round of questions at the end Knight gives a few answers that surprised me, including best college venue. But after I thought about it, he's not wrong, although personally I would have gone with the more traditional choice.

Chase Hodges, the men's and women's head coach at NAIA powerhouse Georgia Gwinnett, has also recently been a guest on the show.

On Friday, the NCAA announced it would not consider waiving the requirements for minimum sports sponsorship in Division I, which is good news for non-revenue sports like tennis.

“Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered.”

I've been collecting more Division I signings, returning seniors and graduate transfers over the past week. There was also a coaching hire, with Alexander Free named to lead the men's program at Idaho State, and the coaching retirement of Clemson's Nancy Harris. Unfortunately Harris did not get the opportunity to finish off her final year as she had planned.

UCLA senior Jada Hart is returning for the 2020-21 season.

Clemson's Sydney Riley is transferring to Alabama as a graduate student.

New Mexico junior Bronte Murgett is transferring to Missouri.

Princeton's Claire McKee is transferring to Southern California as a graduate student, and five-star recruit McKenna Koenig has signed with the Women of Troy.

Pepperdine has signed Nikki Redelijk, and Lexi Ryngler has transferred to the Waves after a year at Texas. 

Seniors Miranda Ramirez and Guzal Yusupova are returning to Syracuse for the 2020-21 season.

Tulsa has signed Leonor Peralta Dias de Oliveira of Portugal.

Charlotte Russell of England has signed with Tulane.

Carol Lee of the Northern Mariana Islands has signed with Georgia Tech.

Kailey Evans is finishing her junior and senior year this spring and summer and now will be joining Texas Tech this fall after signing last week. I wrote about Evans' choice of Texas Tech last month for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Clemson's Gabriel Diaz Freire is joining Alabama as a graduate student transfer.

Vanderbilt's Billy Rowe is joining Georgia as a graduate student transfer.

Utah senior Slava Shainyan is returning for the 2020-21 season.

After two seasons at Virginia Tech, Brandon Perez is transferring to Nebraska. 

Peter Sallay of Hungary has signed with Denver.

Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands has signed with Pepperdine. Den Ouden is currently 46 in the ITF World Junior rankings.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

More Summer ATP Challenger Cancellations Announced; USTA's Midwest and Intermountain June Sectionals Off; Robin Montgomery Interviewed by ITF

I hope the ATP, WTA, ITF and national federations are communicating better with their players than they are with the media and fans, because my attempts to find out what tournaments have been canceled past the July 12th date they jointly announced earlier has been a frustrating one.

Here's what I've learned by checking the various websites. There is no longer any ATP Challenger tour calendar past June, while the the WTA has one tournament in Sweden in early July still on the schedule. The ATP calendar notes the suspension of its tournaments through July 12, with the rest still showing, although I believe, due to a national decree in Germany, that the Hamburg event can not be played before September (it's currently listed as July 13). The Olympics, canceled some time ago, also are still showing on the ATP calendar. The USTA no longer has any calendar available on its Pro Circuit page.

The ITF has been updating its calendar through August, but it might not be entirely reliable, as it has a women's event in Germany still on the schedule in July, as is an event in Canada that has been canceled. This article mentions the cancellation of a men's Challenger in Germany in August.

In the United States, several Challengers scheduled after the July 12th date have been canceled: Winnetka's 80, the 80 at Binghamton, which pulled the plug several weeks ago, both in July, and the 100 in Tiburon California the last week of September.

Tennis Canada announced this week that it was canceling the Winnipeg Challenger in July, the women's $25K in Saskatoon in July and the big $100K combined event in Vancouver, scheduled for late August. Earlier Tennis Canada has also canceled its National Junior Championships, the Granby Challenger, and the WTA Rogers Cup for 2020.

I had not heard that any other ITF events in the United States had been canceled after July 13th, but in this Tennis.com article today, Tim Mayotte says both the women's $60Ks in Massachusetts in late July are off. They are both still appearing on the ITF women's schedule.

While most of these cancellations appear to be the result of local/provincial/federal government decisions, there is a possibility that sponsors are no longer available given the economic impact of the pandemic. But in last week's conference call, USTA Executive Director Michael Dowse said "We've made a commitment to continue to fund the challenger series and ITF related tournaments when those come back online. That's an investment in the neighborhood of $7.5 million." So perhaps the financial backing is not the problem.

Anyway, if you've heard of any USTA Pro Circuit, ITF or Challenger  tournaments that have been postponed or canceled that I have not mentioned here, please leave a comment.

I've been attempting to track the status of the USTA Sectional tournaments, the most important events of the year in each section for qualification for the Clay Courts and the Nationals, and so far three sections have made decisions. As I mentioned Thursday, Northern California has canceled all USTA events prior to August 1. The Intermountain section canceled its sectional yesterday, and the Midwest section said it was postponing its June event, with a new date scheduled to be named on May 15.

The ITF spoke recently with Orange Bowl champion Robin Montgomery about what she's doing during this unexpected break in tennis. The Q and A is here.

Friday, April 24, 2020

My Article on Cooksey's Commitment to Michigan; Broadus Chooses Pepperdine; Wisconsin-Green Bay Suspends Men's and Women's Tennis Programs Indefinitely; USTA National Team Events Canceled; ITA Division III Final Rankings

Blue Chip Will Cooksey committed to the University of Michigan earlier this month, and the three-time Michigan High School Division 4 singles champion spoke to me about his decision to stay in state last week for this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Cooksey, who is finishing his junior year at Grosse Pointe Wood's University Liggett online, will be the third generation of Wolverines when he joins Michigan in the fall of 2021.

I neglected to mention earlier this week the commitment of another blue chip earlier this week, with 2019 Wimbledon girls doubles champion Savannah Broadus deciding on Pepperdine for 2021. Rhiannon Potkey has the details on Broadus's choice in this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

There has been much discussion lately about the the vulnerability of Division I tennis programs during this pandemic, but until today, none had been shut down. The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which does not have a men's football program, has suspended its men's and women's tennis programs. The Covid-19 shutdown was not mentioned as a factor in the decision, with the lack of a dedicated on-campus facility and rising costs associated with that blamed for the "indefinite suspension." The school's statement is available here.

In some good news for Division I tennis, Liberty University has begun construction on its new indoor facility, with the start date moved up due to the pandemic. Although Liberty had an outdoor facility, it was playing its indoor matches in a private facility. From the release:

The $5 million project was first announced on Nov. 14, 2019, and made possible through a generous lead gift pledged from an anonymous donor.

Beside the six indoor tennis courts with seating for 100 fans, the building will also house locker rooms, a team room, a laundry facility and a concessions area. The construction project is expected to be completed in January 2021.

Today the USTA notified junior tournament directors that USTA Zone Team Championships and USTA National Team Championships had been canceled, with the USTA Board of Directors approving the cancellations of those events at the recommendation of the Junior Competition Committee. This is in addition to the 16-and-under Intersectionals, which were canceled on April 13.
The ITA released its final Division III National singles and doubles rankings for the 2019-20 season today.  Below are the Top 10 singles players; click on the heading to see the full list.

ITA Division III Women's Singles Top 10:

1. Justine Leong, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2. Catherine Allen, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
3. Ysabel Gonzalez Rico, Emory
4. Serim Jin, Wesleyan
5. Maria Lyven, Pomona-Pitzer
6. Camille Smukler, Amherst
7. Danna Taylor, Carnegie Mellon
8. Amanda Bandrowski, Hope
9. Madeleine Paolucci, Case Western Reserve
10. Lauren Park, Chicago

1. Nikolai Parodi, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges
2. Boris Sorkin, Tufts University
3. Stanley Morris, Middlebury College
4. Antonio Mora, Emory University
5, Jack Katzman, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges
6. Jake Zalenski, Kenyon College
7. James Hopper, Case Western Reserve University
8. Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
9. Vishnu Joshi, Johns Hopkins University
10. Scott Altmeyer, Colby College

Earlier this week, the ITA released the final Junior College rankings, with the men's individual and team rankings here and the women's individual and team rankings here.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lendl and Green Discuss Development on UTR All-Access; Parenting Aces Talks with Tucker on Coaching Creativity During Pandemic; ITF Academy Course for Beginning Tennis Players' Parents

Leschly, Lendl and Green
I've attended more webinars in the past six weeks than I have in the last decade, with two of them I attended today providing valuable information. The UTR All-Access series, which has given everyone access to top pros and coaches, featured fitness expert Jez Green and eight-time slam winner Ivan Lendl, both of whom have worked with Andy Murray in the past decade. Lendl has been a consultant for the USTA (my 2016 Tennis Recruiting Network article on his work with top junior boys is here) and Green is currently working with Alexander Zverev at Saddlebrook.

Both Lendl and Green agreed that the game has changed, just in the past five to ten years, and Green said, even with extended careers now commonplace, starting a physical fitness plan with a player at a young age (16-17) is a huge advantage.

Lendl, now 60, said the biggest change in the game since he was winning titles is the speed at which it is played. He said all sports from the 80s, including tennis, look like they are being played in "slow motion."

Green said the most important part of developing a fitness plan for a world class athlete is being able to read the player's personality, and he contrasted the different personalities, and body types, of Murray and Zverev.

Lendl was asked what surprised him most in his observations of top pros and he said the intensity of practice, or rather, the lack of it.

I'll close this recap with another quote from Lendl about what quality is most important in identifying future champions.

"I have not seen a top player, or a player near the top, that hasn't been viciously, viciously in capital letters, competitive. That's what gets them through. They can learn to overcome things that happen to them, bad luck, disappointments, and that vicious competitiveness can get them through."

UTR CEO Mark Leschly also provided the chart below (sorry I could not get a complete screen shot, but the girls ages missing from the bottom line are the same as the boys), which plots the UTRs Top 100 players from age 14 to 23.

Today's webinar, and all previous ones, are available on demand at the UTR All-Access site, by clicking on the On Demand Webinars heading. Next Tuesday's webinar will feature Steve Johnson.

Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces hosted Trent Tucker and Matias Marin of the Tucker Tennis Academy in Tulsa on Facebook live today, and they gave an excellent presentation on how they are keeping their students productive and providing instruction during this lockdown. Although no one likes having to refrain from in-person instruction, Tucker made the point that this tournament hiatus is the ideal time to go deeper into the vast array of analytics now available to coaches. Marin shared documents and videos, and mentioned that breaking up their Zoom lessons into smaller groups has been more productive for them.

I also learned from Tucker that the Northern California section has already canceled its sectional tournament and will not resume any sectional events until August 1st at the earliest. I checked the other 16 sections, and they all appear to be abiding by the USTA's current assessment date of May 31st.

Today's conversation with Tucker and Marin can be found at the Parenting Aces YouTube channel.

The ITF Academy has made available its course for parents of beginning tennis players here. Registration is required, but there is no charge.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

New USTA Guidance on Playing Tennis Safely; NCAA Champion Jubb Begins Pro Career with LTA Support; ATP, WTA Merger?

The USTA announced new guidance on playing tennis today, with some states beginning to relax their Stay at Home restrictions. The USTA's release mentions not only the federal guidelines, but also the local government and health agencies in the statement released today:

The USTA recognizes that the coronavirus has been affecting different parts of the country in different ways and with different timing. We therefore believe it will be possible for people to return to playing tennis safely in some cities and states sooner than in others.

The Federal Government issued guidelines on April 16 for “Opening Up America Again” at WhiteHouse.gov/OpeningAmerica. By following these guidelines as well as those of local governments and health agencies, facilities and players will be able to make informed decisions as to when play can recommence. 

If you live in a community where stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders have been lifted or modified, and if your locality meets the standards in the Federal Guidelines, then tennis, if played properly, can be a great opportunity for you to relieve stress, socialize with others and provide much-needed exercise. Of primary importance is taking every precaution to help keep all participants safe. 

Because tennis does not require any direct person-to-person contact, players can enjoy the many physical and mental benefits that tennis offers so long as you practice social distancing by keeping six feet apart from other players to ensure you are in a safe exercise environment and follow other safety recommendations included here.

Although there is no specific evidence that tennis balls can spread COVID-19, we know that contamination by respiratory droplets from an infected person can potentially survive on hard surfaces up to three days. If you choose to play tennis, be sure to practice these safety tips and recommendations.


  • Make sure that your state and region allow tennis play, satisfy the Federal Government’s gating criteria (as outlined in the “Opening Up America Again” guidelines) and have entered Phase One of the Phased Comeback.
  • States and regions with no evidence of a rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria a second time may proceed to Phase Two of the Phased Comeback, in which all individuals, when in public recreation areas, should maximize physical distance from others. 
  • Be aware that although restrictions are eased when your state and region move from Phase One to Phase Two or Phase Three of the Phased Comeback, safety precautions must remain in place until there is a universal vaccine or effective treatment for the coronavirus.
  • The USTA Medical Advisory Group highly recommends competitive players ease their way back into play prior to competition. Given the layoff from competing, players will be more susceptible to under-training, over-use and other injuries. The USTA strongly recommends at least three weeks of on court and off court conditioning before competition begins.
  • Arrange to play only with family members or others who live in your household or with individuals who are considered to be low risk.
  • Do not play if any of you: 
    • Are exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus: mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, or other symptoms identified by the CDC.
    • Have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. 
    • Are a vulnerable individual and your state and region is in Phase One or Phase Two. A vulnerable individual is an elderly individual and/or an individual with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy. (For states and regions in Phase Three, a vulnerable individual can resume public interactions, including playing tennis, but should practice physical distancing.)


  • Protect against infections:
    • Wash your hands with a disinfectant soap and water (for 20 seconds or longer), or use a hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available, before going to the court. 
    • Clean and wipe down your equipment, including racquets and water bottles. Do not share racquets or any other equipment such as wristbands, grips, hats and towels.
    • Bring a full water bottle to avoid touching a tap or water fountain handle.
    • Use new balls and a new grip, if possible.
    • Consider taking extra precautions such as wearing gloves.
    • If you need to sneeze or cough, do so into a tissue or upper sleeve.
    • Arrive as close as possible to when you need to be there.
    • Avoid touching court gates, fences, benches, etc. if you can.


  • Try to stay at least six feet apart from other players. Do not make physical contact with them (such as shaking hands or a high five).
  • You should consider not playing doubles, which could lead to incidental contact and unwanted proximity. If you do play doubles, avoid all incidental contact, NO Bryan Brothers Chest Bumps and NO whispering to each other from a close distance to strategize. 
  • Avoid touching your face after handling a ball, racquet or other equipment. Wash your hands promptly if you have touched your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks or towels.
  • Use your racquet/foot to pick up balls and hit them to your opponent. Avoid using your hands to pick up the balls.
  • Stay on your side of court. Avoid changing ends of the court.
  • Remain apart from other players when taking a break. 
  • If a ball from another court comes to you, send it back with a kick or with your racquet.


  • Leave the court as soon as reasonably possible.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly or use a hand sanitizer after coming off the court.
  • Do not use the locker room or changing area. Shower at home. 
  • No extra-curricular or social activity should take place. No congregation after playing. 
  • All players should leave the facility immediately after play.


Although unlikely, it’s possible that a tennis ball can transmit the COVID-19 virus, as virtually any hard surface can transmit the disease. So here is an extra precaution you can take to keep safe when playing tennis:

  • Open two cans of tennis balls that do not share the same number on the ball. 
  • Take one set of numbered balls, and have your playing partner take a set of balls from the other can.
  • Proceed with play, making sure to pick up your set of numbered balls only. Should a ball with the other number wind up on your side of the court, do not touch the ball with your hands. Use your racquet head or feet to advance the ball to the other side of the court.
Obviously all these suggestions are pertinent only for those who are not still in lockdown. In Michigan, where I live, the Stay at Home order is not set to expire until April 30th, so these suggestions can not be implemented until then.
Several top college players have announced their decision to return for  a fifth year, including women's 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba, but 2019 men's champion Paul Jubb of South Carolina will not return for another year. The 20-year-old from Great Britain will begin his professional career when tennis resumes, assisted by the financial support of the Lawn Tennis Association. The LTA announced today that Jubb will be added to its Pro Scholarship Programme, which provides up to £80,000 pounds for players age 16-24 "with genuine potential to reach the ATP/WTA top 100 within five years." Jubb is the only former collegian in this category now. Jodi Burrage, who is included, had committed to the University of Florida, but did not end up enrolling.

The big news in professional tennis today is Roger Federer coming out in support of a merger between the ATP and WTA. The idea that this crisis could lead to a combination of the two professional tours has been popular one, and this quote from ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi reflects that optimism at a very difficult time for all sports.

“Our sport has a big opportunity if we can come together in the spirit of collaboration and unity,” ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi said in an email. “Recent cooperation between governing bodies has only strengthened my belief that a unified sport is the surest way to maximize our potential and to deliver an optimal experience for fans on-site, on television and online. To that end, I welcome the views of our players.”

See this article from the Associated Press for more on the possibility of combining the tours.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Corey Gauff Talks Coaching at UTR All-Access; Covid-19 Player Relief Fund Coming Soon

Corey and Coco Gauff after Coco won 2018 US Open Girls Doubles Title
Coco Gauff's father and coach Corey was featured on UTR's All-Access webinar today, discussing with host Prakash Amritraj how he and his wife Candi have handled the early and sustained success of their daughter Coco, now 16.

Gauff mentioned the sports background of both he and his wife as a key factor in understanding the steps that were necessary, yet it was also clear that he had been able to apply some of the management skills he had acquired when he was in the corporate world.

One answer that directly addressed junior tennis came when Amritraj asked Gauff what he thought of on-court coaching.

"I am a fan of it. I'm ok with not having it at the grand slams, but they should really push it down to the junior level, especially 12 and unders and 14 and unders. To me, that's really when you need to give the feedback, training them not just to be good tennis players, but training them to be good competitors. A lot of time when they're juniors, you've got to tell them a lot of times to stop cheating, quit throwing your racquet, quit whining. All this stuff, I believe in really, whether it's coaching or even teaching, at the moment that it happens is the best time to correct the behavior, as opposed to waiting and seeing. What can happen sometimes, is the kid can act like a jerk, then win the match and the parents just forget all about the jerk part because they had the outcome that they wanted. It's important to coach them through being the jerk part and that would help junior tennis. It would probably help better athletes stay in the sport longer."

A question submitted by a viewer asked if there was anything Gauff would have done differently if he could go back in time elicited this response:

"I don't know, you know I think we were fortunate to make some good choices from a technical standpoint. I think little things we didn't pay attention to--I found myself when she was 14, 15, reminding her to split step and that could have been emphasized a lot more at a younger age, I just didn't, because I figured you'd pick that up naturally. I think understanding how to play doubles at a younger age could have probably helped develop skills, volley skills, a little earlier, but she ended up becoming a pretty good doubles player, but I think we could have possibly done that along the way. I think maybe we would have looked at moving to Florida (from Atlanta) a little bit later; we didn't have to come as early as we did, which would have helped make her even more well rounded at an early age. We didn't know that and we were doing what we thought was the right thing. You're going to make good and bad decisions along the way, just don't wait too long to change them if you think it's the wrong decision, because there is no one way to do this."

Another submitted question asked what one quality would he consider most important to turn pro.

"To me, you've got to be driven and you've got to be competitive. If you're competitive, and you love competing, you're going to find the way to do the work that's required to be successful. You've got to want it more than anything."

Gauff talked about when they realized Coco might be exceptional, when she no longer was considering college, why they limited her schedule in the juniors and didn't travel much, among many other topics. The 45-minute webinar will be available on the UTR All-Access site, as are all the previous webinars the past several weeks.  Wednesday's webinar features Vasek Pospisil of Canada, with Ivan Lendl and Jez Green on tap for Thursday, with all webinars in the series at 2 p.m. Pacific time.

The ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams are working on a plan to distributed at least six million dollars to lower ranked WTA and ATP players during this lengthy hiatus caused by the global pandemic. The details have not yet been released, but here is the statement:

The international governing bodies of world tennis (the ITF, ATP, WTA, Tennis Australia, the Federation Francaise de Tennis, All England Club and United States Tennis Association) have issued the following statement regarding a COVID-19 Player Relief Programme:

With so much uncertainty around when it will be safe to restart the professional tennis tours, the international governing bodies of world tennis can confirm they are in discussions to create a Player Relief Programme to provide much-needed assistance to the players who are particularly affected during this time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

These discussions have been progressing well and details are being finalised with an announcement expected in the near future. Already agreed is that the ATP and the WTA will administer the Player Relief Programme and all seven stakeholders will make a significant contribution.

The health and safety of everyone involved in tennis is the absolute priority for all the governing bodies, and the tennis community has been unwavering in playing its part in limiting the spread of the infection.

This is particularly true of our players, with so many engaging their fans through messages of hope while reiterating the importance of staying safe at home, as well as demonstrating creative ways to stay fit and practice our sport to be ready for when the time comes that play can begin again.

We know that for our players, as well as for so many people worldwide, there is the need for financial support for those who need it most and we look forward to finalizing and sharing the further details of a plan in due course.

What this program might look like, chiefly what players would be eligible and how much would they receive, is not known at the moment, but Chris Clarey at the New York Times and Russell Fuller at the BBC have additional thoughts on the possibilities.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Hsieh Chooses University of Chicago; Update on Division I Collegiate Signings, Transfers, Returning Seniors

With no tennis being played, much of the news this month has been focused on the college game, with the usual commitments and signings, plus the decisions of seniors as to whether they will be returning in 2021 to take advantage of the NCAA eligibility waiver.

Since mid-February, I've written four commitment announcements, with another coming Friday, but the only one not that is not Division I is today's Tennis Recruiting Network article on five-star recruit Derek Hsieh, who will be joining the Division III University of Chicago team this fall. The 17-year-old from New Jersey, who had planned to play high school tennis this spring at his public high school before the pandemic hijacked the season, wanted to prioritize academics in choosing a school, but still wanted a chance to contend for a national title.

As for other college news, I've checked most of the websites of the top Division I teams, but many transfers have not yet been announced by their new teams. For up-to-date news on verbal commitments and transfers, see Parsa Nemati's twitter account @ParsaBombs.

Illinois has announced that seniors Zeke Clark and Vuk Budic will return for the 2020-21 season. The Fighting Illini have a transfer coming for next season, with Nic Meister leaving Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps after his sophomore year.

Ohio State senior Kyle Seelig will return to the Buckeyes next season, which will be his sixth year in Columbus, as he took a redshirt year previously.

Wisconsin has signed four-star recruit Tim Dzhurinskiy of California.
SMU has signed four-star recruit John Zisette of California.

USC has signed Lodewijk Weststrate of the Netherlands, who was ranked as high as 39 in the ITF world junior rankings last February.

Washington has signed Clement Chidekh of France, who is a transfer from National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon.

In women's news, Georgia has signed 17-year-old Ziva Falkner of Slovenia, who is at a career-high of 42 in the ITF world junior rankings and reached the Australian Open girls doubles final this year.

Iowa has signed 18-year-old Vipasha Mehra of India.

Shir Azran of Israel is transferring to Auburn after two years at Fresno State.

Indianna Spink of Great Britain has signed with Arkansas.

Iowa State senior Maty Cancini is returning for the 2020-21 season.

Isabella Pfennig of Germany has signed with Miami.

Satoho Toriumi of Japan has signed with New Mexico.

Malaika Rapolu, a blue chip from Texas, has signed with the Longhorns.

Cora Barber of Germany has signed with Tulane.

TCU has announced two graduate student transfers for next season: Clemson's Tate Schroeder and Winthrop's Alisa Soloveva.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Can This Grand Slam Be Saved?

The USTA sent out their annual US Open media credential application email on Friday, so they are obviously keeping to their normal preparation schedule without knowing whether the event, scheduled for August 31-September 13, will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. As I wrote in Thursday's post, USTA Executive Director Michael Dowse said he believed it "highly unlikely" the tournament would be played without fans, but also added that the USTA is "not taking anything off the table."

In the spirit of putting more options on the table, tennis historian and former USTA employee Randy Walker recently came up with a raft of contingency plans that would allow the 2020 US Open to be held.

Among his ideas are:

a three-week tournament, with women starting a week before the men to spread out the matches.

a smaller field, with no qualifying

no doubles, wheelchair, juniors events

fewer tickets sold, no grounds passes

mask required for entry

automatic line calling

move it to Indian Wells

move it to Los Angeles

add already canceled ATP/WTA events to schedule for second week of Open
Although I wouldn't reject any of these ideas out of hand, the only one I really like is the one that moves it to Indian Wells. This is the only facility comparable to the USTA BJK National Tennis Center, and the main objection Walker provides to this plan is the heat in the desert in September. I agree that would not be ideal, but I think the French Open has already shown us that moving the dates for a slam isn't unthinkable. I would like to see it held a couple of weeks after the French, which would be late October; by then, the high temperatures in Indian Wells would be in the 80s and 90s, not the 100s.  Jon Wertheim mentioned that ESPN might not be interested in broadcasting the event in the midst of the college and professional football seasons, but Tennis Channel certainly would. Anyway, that's my preferred solution, if it becomes clear that New York is not going to be available.

What do you think of Walker's ideas? Is there any way to salvage the last four months of the 2020 tennis year?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

NCAA Adjusts Eligibility Requirements for Current High School Seniors; Competitive Pro Tennis Coming in May? Georgia Gwinnett Dominates Final NAIA Rankings

The NCAA announced it would loosen restrictions on the academic eligibility requirements for high school seniors who are anticipating enrolling in college this fall for the 2020-21 academic year. The complete list of adjustments, which includes rules regarding the core curriculum, GPA, standardized testing and pass/fail parts of eligibility can be found here.  Of note for tennis players, many of whom get their education entirely online:

The Eligibility Center also adjusted its operations in other ways to help prospective student-athletes, their parents and high schools during the pandemic. For example, the Eligibility Center will not require a separate review of distance or e-learning programs used for NCAA-approved core courses during spring and summer 2020 in response to school closures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Students are encouraged to complete their courses as recommended by their school, district or state department of education.

With some countries beginning to ease Covid-19 Stay at Home restrictions, several places are coming out with plans to televise competitive matches between professionals in May. Although the ATP and WTA are on hiatus until July 13, matches could start as early as May 1 in Germany. This The Telegraph article is behind a paywall, but what can be read without a subscription says that Tennis Channel will provide coverage.  

Reuters is reporting that Patrick Mouratoglou will begin competitive matches at his French Academy in mid-May, in an initiative titled Ultimate Tennis Showdown. Ten matches will be played each weekend for five weeks, with the first match featuring David Goffin of Belgium against Alexei Popyrin of Australia. 

Rafael Nadal, who also has an academy, appears to be interested in setting up something similar, although this release says the concept is being explored and there are no details.

I assume all these places will have access to quick regular testing and that they have obtained all the necessary clearances from the national and local health authorities. As much as we would all love to watch live tennis again, that desire isn't worth endangering anyone's health.
Chase Hodges, head men's and women's coach at Georgia Gwinnett
The final ITA singles and doubles rankings for the NAIA were published late last week and the Top 10s are listed below, with Georgia Gwinnett continuing its domination of the rankings. (Complete rankings are found via the link in the heading).  In this ITA article from last fall, Steve Pratt talked with men's and women's head coach Chase Hodges, who has built an NAIA juggernaut in his eight years; the men's team has not lost a match in five years and has lost only three matches in the program's history. 

1. Max Bertimon, Georgia Gwinnett College
2. Jose Dugo, Georgia Gwinnett College
3. Federico Bonacia, Georgia Gwinnett College
4. Daniil Klimov, William Carey University
5. Martin Barbier, Cumberlands (Ky.)
6. Luke Simkiss, Keiser University
7. Santiago Perez, Xavier University of Louisiana
8. Christopher Papa, San Diego Christian College
9. Nick Nienhaus, San Diego Christian College
10. Yuri Syromolotov, Middle Georgia State University

1. Elyse Lavender, Brenau University (Ga.)
2. Maria Genovese, Georgia Gwinnett College
3. Madeline Bosnjak, Georgia Gwinnett College
4. Tomomi Nagao, Cumberlands (Ky.)
5. Cade Pierson, Westmont College
6. Anais Gabriel, Keiser University
7. Priya Sukkahana, Savannah College Of Art & Design
8. Isidora Petkovic, Union College, Kentucky
9. Tereza Koplova, Georgia Gwinnett College
10. Angela Charles-Alfred, Xavier University of Louisiana

Friday, April 17, 2020

Coco Gauff Admits Stress From Hype; Rubin's Influence Grows Behind the Racquet

Coco Gauff turned 16 last month, when tennis had shut down and no one was paying attention to much of anything but the Covid-19 pandemic. That milestone gave Gauff a fresh start when it came to the WTA's Age Eligibility rules, but that is currently irrelevant. After winning her first WTA title last fall and reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open, her last event, Gauff is up to 50 in the now frozen WTA rankings.

But earlier this week, Gauff wrote a Behind the Racquet post that revealed how she struggled with expectations and pressure prior to last year's Wimbledon breakout. Although she says that her tennis results weren't really affected, she was having doubts about her place in professional tennis.

Throughout my life, I was always the youngest to do things, which added hype that I didn’t want. It added this pressure that I needed to do well fast. Once I let that all go, that when I started to have the results I wanted. Right before Wimbledon, going back to around 2017/18, I was struggling to figure out if this was really what I wanted. I always had the results so that wasn’t the issue, I just found myself not enjoying what I loved. I realized I needed to start playing for myself and not other people. For about a year I was really depressed.

Gauff stopped playing junior events after she won the 2018 Orange Bowl title, with a impressive comeback in the final, so I didn't speak with her after this interview from the $100K 2019 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland in January of 2019, but I never sensed any of the ambivalence she talks about in the post. She seemed candid and genuine then, but as she reveals her struggle to deal with hype and pressure, it's a reminder that what is going on in a player's mind is not always going to be verbalized in a competitive situation. That should happen only on the player's timeline and in their comfort zone, which leads me to mention once again the huge service Noah Rubin has provided the tennis community when he introduced Behind the Racquet last year.

Former Kalamazoo 18s and Wimbledon boys champion Rubin, who played at Wake Forest for one year, reaching the NCAA singles final in 2015, has been able to shine a light on the issues of a vast array of tennis players, most of them professionals, but all willing to voice their mental and emotional struggles. Reducing the stigma surrounding conversations like this, which can't be had in press conferences during competition, is just one of the many ways Behind the Racquet has changed the media landscape in tennis. In a little over a year, Rubin has had such an impact that he was recently named to French sports daily L'Equipe's Twenty Most Influential People in Tennis. He is one of six active players on the list, with the others Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, and Andy Murray.

For more on the genesis of Behind the Racquet, see this article or listen to this interview. Mike Cation and Rubin also have a weekly podcast on issues affecting the professional players outside the Top 100.