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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Aleshchev, Lee, Coppoc and Stice Win ITA Summer Circuit Titles; Crawford Signs with GSE Worldwide; Perez Claims Australian UTR Pro Series Title; Sandgren and Querrey Advance to Altec Styslinger Final

The first two ITA Summer Circuit tournaments have concluded with the top two seeds winning the events at the Weil Academy in Ojai California, and the No. 3 seeds taking the titles in the top flights in Alpharetta Georgia.

Vanderbilt incoming freshman Anessa Lee, who did not lose a set in her four victories, defeated rising high school senior Makenna Thiel 6-3, 6-4 in the final of Flight 1. Thiel, a four-star recruit, was the No. 5 seed.

Alexey Aleshchev, a rising senior at Fresno State, won the men's Flight 1 final, beating rising high school senior Takeyasu Sekiguchi 6-3, 6-2. Ojai resident Sekiguchi, a five-star recruit, was the No. 8 seed.

In Georgia, Tyler Stice, a rising sophomore at Auburn, won the men's Flight A, after taking out top seed Andres Martin(Georgia Tech) in the semifinals 6-4, 1-6, 10-6 and beating No. 7 seed Jordan Chrysostom 7-5, 6-0 in the final. Chrysostom recently transferred from Tennessee to Virginia Tech after his freshman year.

Morgan Coppoc, a rising senior at the University of Georgia, claimed the women's Flight A title, beating unseeded Georgia Gwinnett rising senior Maria Genovese (formerly Shishkina) 1-6, 6-5 ret. Genovese had defeated unseeded 14-year-old Brooklyn Olson 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals, while Coppoc had downed rising high school senior and North Carolina recruit Carson Tanguilig 7-6(4), 6-4.

Shortly after the NCAA canceled the spring season for 2020, University of Florida junior Oliver Crawford announced that he was turning pro. The 21-year-old from South Carolina, who reached the Top 10 in the ITF junior rankings, has now signed with GSE Worldwide, a management agency that represents Grigor Dimitrov, Sloane Stephens, Sam Querrey, Brandon Nakashima, Danielle Collins and others.  Below is the release from the University of Florida detailing his outstanding career there.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - University of Florida men's tennis standout and captain Oliver Crawford has chosen to forego his final year with the Gators to pursue and begin his professional tennis career after signing with GSE Worldwide, a leading athlete representation and sport marketing firm. 

"I was inspired by a sporting heritage that includes national champions, world class athletes and the daily challenge to do your best," said Crawford of his time at Florida. "I just wanted to add to the legacy and be part of the story. There is no better place than this."

An immediate contributor since he stepped foot on campus, Crawford, a three-time ITA All-American and two-time First Team All-SEC selection, concludes his career at UF with 125 overall combined wins, including 63 singles wins and 62 doubles wins overall. Holding a plethora of high rankings throughout his career in both singles and doubles, Crawford holds impressive career dual marks of 44-16 in singles and 44-13 in doubles, including career SEC records of 23-5 and 19-3 respectively.

"It has been a real privilege to be able to coach Oliver over the past three seasons," said head coach Bryan Shelton. "I speak for Coach Stump, Coach Perelman, our staff and all of our players and fans. Oliver delivered time and time again and was always up for the challenge. Oliver pushed our program forward with his leadership and his positive energy."

"While we will certainly miss Oliver next season, I can't wait to watch him continue to break through at the professional level and live out his dream! Oliver was built for this and I know he will reach all of his goals!"

Crawford went 11-4 overall in singles and 13-3 in doubles for the 2019-20 season to earn ITA All-American singles and doubles recognition. Ranked as high as No. 3 throughout the fall, the Spartanburg, S.C. native compiled an 8-3 dual singles record at the top spot, including a 6-2 mark over ranked opponents, and 3-1 record in SEC play. Crawford and co-captain Sam Riffice went 9-2 together at the top spot for the Gators, finishing 3-0 in SEC play, as the pair opened the season on a six-match win streak that included a top-five win over Columbia's Jack Lin and Jackie Tang. The tandem reached a career-high ranking of No. 13 prior to finishing ranked No. 14, as the duo also won the consolation doubles draw of the ITA All-American Championships in the fall.

During his sophomore season in 2019, Crawford was significant in the Gators' NCAA Final Four run as he played all 29 matches at the No. 1 singles position and amassed a 16-8 record, while recording 14 wins over nationally ranked opponents, including a three-set victory over then-No. 2 and defending singles national champion Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest in Florida's 5-2 win over the No. 2 Demon Deacons. He earned the No. 8 seed at the NCAA Singles Championships, advanced to the Sweet 16 and was named an ITA All-American for the first time in his career. Crawford went 9-3 in SEC singles and 8-3 in SEC doubles, while concluding the season with 25 singles wins and 23 doubles wins, in which he reached and finished the season with a singles ranking of No. 7 (No. 1 in the ITA Southeast Region). Crawford received First Team All-SEC, SEC All-Tournament Team, NCAA All-Tournament Team and SEC Community Service Team honors, while also going on to be named the ITA Southeast Region and National Player to Watch.

Additionally, in the fall, he had earned a spot on Team USA for the Master'U BNP Paribas, in which USA won the championship.

His freshman year in 2018, Crawford held a 20-5 singles record with a 19-5 doubles record, while going 11-1 in SEC singles and undefeated (8-0) in SEC doubles. Tabbed the ITA Southeast Region Rookie of the Year and 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year, along with All-SEC First Team & All-Freshman team recognition, Crawford was a perfect 10-0 at No. 3 singles and 4-0 at No. 1 singles. He tied for the team-best in matches clinched (5), including the wins over Georgia and No. 1 Wake Forest. Crawford was 7-4 against nationally ranked opponents, including an upset victory over No. 5 Patrick Kypson in the NCAA Elite Eight. He and Chase Perez-Blanco combined for 23 doubles wins, which is tied for eighth most in program history, while Crawford also competed in the singles of the NCAA Individual Championships to conclude his rookie season. 

Former University of Georgia star Ellen Perez kicked off the UTR Pro Series in her home country of Australia with a title, beating Alexandra Bozovic 6-4, 6-4 in the Sydney final. Max Purcell won the men's title, beating former Illinois star Aleks Vukic 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is the first of five events to be completed in major cities around the country. For more on their return to competitive tennis from Perez and Purcell, see this Tennis Australia article.

Tennys Sandgren and Sam Querrey will meet for the title at the Altec/Styslinger Exhibition in Miami, after both won third-set tiebreakers in today's semifinals. Sandgren defeated Brandon Nakashima 3-4(3) 4-1, 4-3(3), while Querrey took out Reilly Opelka 4-2, 2-4, 4-3(2).  Results from today's two consolation matches, and all of yesterday's first round matches can be found here. Tennis Channel will have coverage of Wednesday's four matches beginning at noon EDT.

Monday, June 29, 2020

UTR Announces National Championships Series; American Clay Court 16s Nationals Underway; Nakashima Defeats Hurkacz at Altec Styslinger Exhibition

Most of the competitive tennis that has been played in the past couple of months has been under the UTR umbrella, and the company is rolling out another series of events next month, called the UTR National Championship Series, with tournaments for College, Junior and High School competitors. Space is limited to the top 16 Universal Tennis Ratings for each Fila-sponsored event, which are often back-to-back-to-back weeks at the same location. Unlike the ITA Summer Circuit tournaments, also UTR events, the college events are scheduled mostly for Wednesday through Friday rather than weekends. Prize money is offered, with the amount varying depending on the tournament. The schedule of events is here. Today's UTR release is below.


Nationwide Event Series Offers High School, Junior and Collegiate Players the Opportunity to Compete Locally And Count Globally In High Level Regional Play 

June 29, 2020 (Palo Alto, CA) - Universal Tennis (MyUTR.com) today announced the launch of its first-ever UTR National Championship Series, a new initiative for junior, high school and college athletes to compete in high level local tennis events, continue to develop their game, and have their scores count globally via the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). 

The UTR National Championship Series features over 20 locations with more than 70 events and 2,000 matches across the United States, including California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. The series will be divided into three divisions: High School, Juniors (14’s & 16’s) and College, with events beginning July 8th and running through early August. Space is limited to the top 16 players by UTR in each division and winners of each host site will be nationally recognized by Universal Tennis as the first ever UTR National Champions. 

All UTR National Championship Series events will be organized based on a World Cup-style format, where groups of players will compete in round robin style stages and will advance to the next round based on their results. Winners of the collegiate and junior UTR National Championships will be eligible to receive prize money. The junior series will be live-streamed for college coaches on MyUTR.com to help support summer recruiting efforts. 

“The UTR National Championship Series gives young players who are eager to get back on the court a new opportunity to participate in local, high level competition that counts globally for their Universal Tennis Rating. Due to the global health crisis, players have been unable to compete for a few months, and many events have been cancelled,” said Mark Leschly, Universal Tennis Chairman & CEO. “Our partner sites are committed to following their local health and safety guidelines, while offering a fun, competitive environment for players to get back to competition, showcase their skills and return to the game they love.”  

FILA (FILA.com) will serve as the Official Apparel and Footwear Provider of the UTR National Championship Series, providing prizes for all winners across the junior, high school and collegiate divisions. In addition, FILA and Universal Tennis will work to create unique apparel and footwear offerings for all participants of the National Championships, as well as the broader UTR community. 

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Universal Tennis on the UTR National Championship Series,” said Lauren Mallon, Director of Strategic Partnerships - Tennis at FILA. “These National Championships offer players a much needed opportunity to compete in a safe, local environment, while also serving as an exceptional showcase for the FILA brand. We look forward to bringing our apparel and footwear to this talented group of players." 

 Calendar Dates:
  • College: July 8 - August 2
  • Juniors Boys & Girls (14s & 16s): July 15 - July 26
  • High School: July 29 - August 2 
Players, coaches and parents can learn more and sign up for their local UTR National Championship Series event at MyUTR.com

The American Clay Court Nationals for the 16s age division is underway today at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, after the boys qualifying was completed on Sunday. There are eight round robin groups for the boys, with just three for the girls draw, which had only 12 entries. Draws and results can be found here.
The first day of the Altec/Styslinger men's exhibition in Miami produced one big upset, with 18-year-old Brandon Nakashima(Virginia), ranked 220, beating ATP No. 29 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 4-3(6), 4-1. Nakashima will face Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) next, after Sandgren defeated organizer JC Aragone(Virginia) 4-1, 4-2. Sam Querrey defeated Mackenzie McDonald 4-3(5), 4-2 and will play Reilly Opelka, who saved five set points in the tiebreaker to beat Steve Johnson(USC) 4-3(9), 4-1. For additional coverage of the event, check out the @CrackedRacquets twitter feed; they are onsite in Miami for this event.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Brady Shines in Charleston; Borges Wins Portugal Event; Evans Claims British Men's Title; What's Financial Impact of No Fans at US Open?

So many exhibition tournaments have popped up in the past couple of months that Sunday is getting to be like it was before the pandemic halted play: full of results from around the world.

I am not really following the Ultimate Tennis Showdown at the Mouratoglou Academy in Nice, because, while I have no problem with the scoring/format experimentation they are doing, I don't personally care for tennis scored as basketball, accumulating points in quarters. I gather that Stefanos Tsitsipas is leading in the standings, but there are still several more weekends of tennis left, so it may be some time before a "champion" is actually determined there.

Although rain has been a problem in Charleston South Carolina this week, I have tuning into Tennis Channel for the Credit One Bank women's tournament, which is playing the shortened format I prefer (I would rather there was no shortening, like regular ATP and WTA singles), which is advantage scoring with a tiebreaker for the third set. Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady, who was off to a great start this season before the pandemic hit, has been exceptional for Team Peace, going 4-0 this week. Last night she defeated Sloane Stephens in singles, after having also beaten Victoria Azarenka in straight sets earlier in the week. She teamed with Emma Navarro to win a doubles match on Friday, and won another doubles match today with Eugenie Bouchard as her partner. After a final rain-delayed singles match was played early this afternoon, four doubles matches are being played, with captain Bethanie Mattek-Sands' Team Peace clinching the win with two doubles matches still left to play. To follow the remaining matches, see this article at tennis.com.

Nuno Borges, the 2019 NCAA finalist as a senior at Mississippi State, won the national exhibition for Portuguese men today, beating Pedro Araujo 6-3, 6-3 in the final. The 23-year-old Borges, currently with an ATP ranking of 596, was expected to beat Araujo, who is ranked 1388; Borges' most impressive win came earlier, when he defeated ATP 66 Joao Sousa 7-6(3), 6-3. Click here to view of Borges' results in this exhibition.

Jamie Murray put together an exhibition in England billed as the Battle of the Brits, which concluded today with Dan Evans defeating Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-2 for the title. Edmund had defeated former TCU star Cam Norrie 6-7(3), 6-4, 10-8 in the semifinals, while Evans took out Andy Murray 1-6, 6-3, 10-8. Norrie went on to take third place today; after Murray pulled out of the third place match, Norrie beat James Ward 6-3, 7-5. Murray and Neal Skupski(LSU) won the doubles title over Evans and Lloyd Glasspool(Texas).

An exhibition in the Czech Republic this week saw 2019 US Open boys champion Jonas Forejtek take the title. The 19-year-old won via a walkover in the final from Lukas Rosol. Martin Damm played in the round robin portion of the tournament, going 1-2 in his group and failing to qualify for the semifinals.

About ten days ago I submitted a sports business mailbag question to The Athletic about the financial implications of holding the US Open without fans, and I keep forgetting to post the response. Although this is not part of this question, I also want to pass along the information that the ESPN television contract requires that ATP/WTA points be distributed at the Open, which would make it impossible for the USTA to hold it as say, a US National Championship tournament, and still collect the rights fees from ESPN.

What is the loss of revenue for USTA when fans are not present at US Open? Specifically, how much do TV rights offset that? — Colette L.
Great to get a tennis question, my not-so-secret passion. The U.S. Open is one of the great financial stories in sports. Last year it attracted 850,000 over three weeks (the first week is qualifying and other events) and brought in over $300 million. More than half that comes from gate and sponsorship, most of which won’t come in this year if the event is held (the USTA plans to make its decision in the coming weeks). But there is still a lot of TV money, ESPN is in the midst of a 12-year, $825 million contract. And that does not include the many international TV deals the Open boasts (as much money comes in from foreign as domestic TV, given tennis’ international model.) There is no doubt the loss of spectators, suites, hospitality customers is a big big hit. The Open is the late summer corporate event in New York, bringing in the high rollers. — Daniel Kaplan

Saturday, June 27, 2020

JC Aragone Organizes Pro Exhibition in Miami; Changing of the Guard at Vanderbilt, Blue Chip Anzalotta to Oklahoma State, More College News; ITF Grade 1 in Canada Canceled

Former University of Virginia star JC Aragone has put together another exhibition, this one in Miami, featuring many of the top American men, and it will be broadcast on Tennis Channel for three days beginning Monday.

The event, sponsored by Altec/Styslinger, will feature five ATP Top 100 pros: No. 29 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, the only international player in the field; No. 39 Reilly Opelka; No. 45 Sam Querrey; No. 55 Tennys Sandgren and No. 63 Steve Johnson. Rounding out the eight-man field are Aragone, Brandon Nakashima and Mackenzie McDonald. Aragone spoke with Tennis Channel's Ted Robinson about how he went about organizing the event in this clip. There's no mention of the format in the clip however. Opelka, Querrey, Sandgren and Johnson are also playing the Atlanta DraftKings All-American Team Cup exhibition, which starts on July 3rd.

Today's buzz around college tennis centered on a posting for the women's head coaching job at Vanderbilt, which has been Geoff Macdonald's position for the past 26 years. Parsa Nemati reported this afternoon that associate head coach Aleke Tsoubanos, who has been at Vanderbilt for 13 years, will be taking over as head coach, but Macdonald will stay on. An official announcement from Vanderbilt is expected Monday.

Blue chip Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico, a recent graduate, has signed with Oklahoma State for this fall. Anzalotta, currently at 66 in the ITF junior rankings, just two points off her career high of 64, has been among the Tennis Recruiting Network's Top 20 in the class of 2020 for the past three years.

Four-star recruit Hailey Stelse will be joining the Air Force Academy this fall.

Abilene Christian graduate Jonathan Sheehy will join Oklahoma as a graduate transfer.

Princeton graduate Payton Holden will join Texas as a graduate transfer.

Texas Tech announced that seniors Jackson Cobb and Bjorn Thomson will not be returning for a fifth season. This information is really appreciated, but not all schools have done this kind of release, meaning that 2020-21 rosters, many not yet out, are going to be the only official information. Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today has been keeping track of these fifth year seniors and graduate transfers, by conference, in this google document.

Parsa Nemati continues to provide updates on signings, many of which have not yet been posted on the schools' athletic website, at his Parsa Bombs (@ParsaBombs) twitter feed. All the latest of these announcements are available here.

The ITF has yet to release its new calendar for August, but when I went took a look today at the list of junior events for that month, I noticed for the first time that the Grade 1 in Repentigny Quebec, the tournament that is the week before the US Open Junior Championships, has been canceled. I'm told that is due to the restrictions that Quebec announced many months ago regarding events through August, and I would imagine that the cancellation has been out there for some time, because the US Open Junior Championships are not showing as canceled, although that was official back on June 17. The ITF Grade 1 in College Park, which I have covered onsite since 2014, is still a possibility according to the latest information I have received.

Friday, June 26, 2020

My Interview with Iowa's Blue Chip Recruit Alexa Noel; NCAA D-I Dead Period Extended Through August; TIU Bans Former Tulsa Player for Seven Years; Saving College Tennis

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to talk with 2019 Wimbledon girls finalist Alexa Noel about her decision to join the Iowa Hawkeyes this fall and the result is this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

When speaking with Noel and Iowa head coach Sasha Schmid, I learned that all this came together in the past few months, with Noel shifting gears after the pandemic shutdown continued month after month. The 17-year-old from New Jersey had won her first ITF World Tennis Tournament this year, and was expecting to play only pro events to build her WTA ranking, although she told me she might have played a junior slam this summer. When all that went out the window, Noel got in touch with Schmid, who had attended University of Iowa at roughly the same time as Noel's mother Juree. A chance to play, which she didn't feel was likely this fall on the Pro Circuit, a chance to make a real difference in a program, and her family connections in Iowa led Noel to sign with the Hawkeyes.

Noel has never been on the Iowa campus, and she was unable to take a visit prior to committing due to the dead period the NCAA has imposed since canceling competition in March. Although current student-athletes have begun returning to campuses this month, prospective student-athletes are not allowed to visit, and there has been no in-person recruiting allowed in any sport. Yesterday the NCAA again extended that dead period, which is usually only a few weeks each year, through the end of August. Division I college coaches are not allowed to attend tournaments or practices or make home visits. The USTA had already ruled against allowing college coaches at the August 16s and 18s National Championships when it announced the sites on June 15th; this NCAA announcement makes that ruling moot.

The Tennis Integrity Unit announced today that Majed Kilani has been banned from tennis for seven years and fined $7000 after being convicted of match fixing at a Futures event in Egypt in 2016. The 23-year from Tunisia, who played at the University of Tulsa from 2015-2019, has a current ATP rank of 804. The full TIU release is here.

Lisa Stone at Parenting Aces has been following the demise of college tennis programs closely this past few months, and she has written an important post that explores in detail the issues confronting the sport. She also provides a link to a recent roundtable discussion on college tennis' problems that features reporter Andy Katz, ITA CEO Tim Russell and the USTA's Tim Cass.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Colby and Honer Win American Clay Court 18s Nationals at The Greenbrier; Draws Posted for First Two ITA Summer Circuit Events, Summer Circuit Coming to Michigan; Brady Defeats Azarenka in Charleston

The finals of the American Clay Court 18s Nationals were played this afternoon at The Greenbrier, with Ryan Colby taking the boys title and Amelia Honer winning the girls tournament.
Colby, a blue chip recruit in the class of 2022, defeated five-star Liam Krall 2-6, 6-0, 6-4 after beating blue chip Michael Zheng 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 in a morning semifinal. Krall received a walkover from Eric Li in the other boys semifinal. Colby takes home the $750 first prize, while Krall earns $325.  Zheng and Nicolas Kotzen won the doubles title, beating Frank Thompson and Chase Robinson 8-2.

The boys draw had 44 participants, but the girls draw had only 24, so there was no qualifying for them. Five-star Amelia Honer, who had the second highest UTR in the draw, defeated four-star Kavya Patel  7-6(1), 6-4 in the final. Honer, a rising senior who has verbally committed to UC-Santa Barbara, defeated five-star Vennmukiil Mathivanan 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals, while Patel beat four-star Maggie Gehrig 6-1, 6-2. The result of the girls doubles final hasn't yet been posted. Honer earned $750 and Patel $325.

The 16s American Clay Court Nationals begin Sunday, also at The Greenbrier. At the close of entries Tuesday, there were 41 boys entries and 12 girls entries.

The ITA Summer Circuit's first two tournaments are set to begin on Friday and Saturday, in California and Georgia.  The Atlanta-area tournament is being played at two sites with more than 140 players in five flights for men and similar numbers for women. Two rising college sophomores, Georgia Tech's Andres Martin and South Carolina's Emma Shelton, are the top seeds in the A Flights. Shelton's younger brother Ben is the No. 2 seed in Flight A, while Allie Gretkowski, a South Carolina recruit, is the No. 2 seed in the girls Flight A.  The draws are here.

The California tournament at the Weil Academy in Ojai and two other sites in Ojai, was scheduled after the cancellation of the two events, last weekend and this weekend, in Long Beach. The tournament, which starts Friday, has more than 64 players registered in both the men's and women's divisions, with Fresno State senior Alexey Aleshchev the top seed in the men's Flight 1 and Vanderbilt rising freshman Anessa Lee the top seed in the women's Flight 1.

Speaking of the ITA Summer Circuit, I was excited to see that a new event for July 18-20 has been added in the Grand Rapids Michigan area, so I will be seeing some live tennis after all this summer. Tom Walker, a longtime junior development coach in Kalamazoo and Lansing, purchased a club in Grand Rapids a couple of years ago and has been hosting many tournaments at that indoor facility. There are no outdoor courts however, so the tournament site is expected to be Hudsonville. I'm not familiar with that facility, but I'm looking forward to getting to know it next month. Registration is open for that event, and other sites have been added, so check out the latest list from the ITA here.

The Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston has had plenty of rain delays in its first two days and another one at the beginning of today's action, but all of the one-point matches are now complete, with former UCLA star Jennifer Brady beating former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 6-2.  Brady spoke with Diane Dees last week about her preparation for the event and how she spent her time during the pandemic layoff. Madison Keys defeated Caroline Dolehide 6-1, 6-7(6), 10-4 in the final one-point match, with two two-point matches still to come tonight.  For updates, see tennis.com.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Three More Division I Programs Get Axe Today; Wheelchair Tennis Added to US Open; Atlanta Men's Event with Fans Set for July; Ram's College Coaching Plan

A day after Southern Utah announced the discontinuation of its men's and women's tennis programs, two more Division I schools have cut their teams, with the University of Connecticut dropping its men's program and Northern Colorado eliminated its men's and women's programs.

Connecticut, which has had financial problems in its Athletic Department for some time, cut men's cross country, women's rowing, men's swimming & diving and men's tennis, while women's tennis continues. Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today says that there are no athletic scholarships at U Conn for the men (I don't understand why, less than two weeks ago, they announced three incoming freshmen), which makes this cut even more puzzling. If all your student-athletes are paying tuition, how much does eliminating the program really save? The savings aren't broken out, but $2 million for four sports over three years is not a significant part of the athletic department budget, and yet this is what they say about fundraising to keep these programs:

Q:  How much private fundraising would allow you to keep some or all these programs?
A:  Private fundraising is not a sustainable solution. Even with a reduced number of programs for our student-athletes, fundraising will still need to be a major revenue source for those remaining programs.

In other words, women's tennis could be next in the crosshairs, if Title IX regulations allow it.

Northern Colorado, like Southern Utah, is a member of the Big Sky conference, which is quite regional in nature. But apparently the conference recently gave its members permission to cut certain sports and still retain the conference affiliation, with both programs citing that change in their decision. Northern Colorado does not have an indoor facility, and that is also given as a reason for the cuts.

The updated list of Division I programs cut this year:
Akron (W) 
Appalachian State (M) 
Arkansas Pine Bluff (M/W) 
East Carolina (M/W) 
Florida A&M (M) 
Kansas City (M)
Northern Colorado (M/W)
Southern Utah (M/W) 
U Conn (M)
USC Upstate (M/W) 
UW Green Bay (M/W) 
Valparaiso (M) 
Winthrop (M/W) 
Wright State (M/W)

De Groot won the US Open Wheelchair title in 2018 and 2019
A bright spot in tennis news today comes from the USTA, which announced that the Wheelchair Tennis competition, initially presented as canceled last week, has been reinstated, and will be played September 10-13. The announcement is below:

The 2020 US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition will be held in its traditional place on the US Open calendar at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this September. The tournament will run from Sept. 10-13.

This decision was made following multiple virtual meetings with a group of wheelchair athletes and the International Tennis Federation over the last week. The 2020 US Open Wheelchair Competition will feature men’s and women’s singles and doubles events and quad singles and doubles events, all with draw sizes similar to past US Opens.

Wheelchair athletes will follow the same health and safety procedures as all players participating in the US Open and will be able to access the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center beginning on Sept. 7.

The ITF is carefully reviewing the impact of this evolving situation related to awarding wheelchair ranking points in regards to the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour. The USTA expects a decision to be announced in the coming days.

The ATP's summer tournament in Atlanta has of course been canceled, but the city will host a smaller cohort of players July 3-5, with the eight participants in the team event all from the United States. There will be two teams, with John Isner, Tennys Sandgren, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson on one and Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe on the other. Although they are being called the Stars and Stripes teams, they really have been divided by age.  The big news is paying fans will be allowed, up to 450 per match, making this the first event in the US that will have them, although there is a women's pro event in Kentucky that same weekend which will also have fans present.  For more on the event, called the DraftKings All-American Team Cup, see this Forbes article. Its last sentence is a cautionary one. (Update: the article has since been modified; I am talking about the Georgia Covid-19 update). 

I mentioned on Saturday that Rajeev Ram has been named a volunteer assistant at Cal; Rhiannon Potkey has more details on Ram's plans for the coming year and how he plans to work with the Bears while still competing on the ATP doubles circuit in this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Novak Djokovic Tests Positive for Covid-19; USTA President Galbraith on US Open; D-I Southern Utah Drops Men's and Women's Tennis; Fernandez Beats Navarro in French Open Girls Final Rematch

There is really only one story in tennis today, with the announcement from World No. 1 Novak Djokovic that he has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. His wife also tested positive; their two children tested negative.  As the world's top player, the head of the ATP Player Council and the organizer of the Adria Tour that appears to be the nexus of the outbreak that now has sickened four ATP pros, Djokovic is now facing inevitable scrutiny about his judgment and what it means for the future of not only his career, but that of the sport itself.

Alarms were sounded from the first day of Adria Tour matches, which featured no concessions to the pandemic that has been raging for nearly six months. In his announcement of his positive test, Djokovic didn't offer much in the way of contrition, but in a second statement this evening said:  

I am so deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm. Everything the organisers and I did the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions.

“We believed the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite people for philanthropic reasons.

“We were wrong and it was too soon.

“If you attended Adria Tour or were around any attendees, please get tested and practice social distancing.

“I pray for everyone's full recovery.”

The self-centered focus of a professional athlete, particularly a tennis player, is hardly a shock, but for all the accomplishments that produces, it does have a downside, which we've certainly seen here. SI.com's Jon Wertheim likens it to a Greek tragedy in his reaction, Steve Tignor also weighs in on the limits of confidence in this article at tennis.com.

The three pro tournaments scheduled for August and September in the United States are not helped by these developments and the steady number of cases still being diagnosed, but as of now, they are still on.  The USTA Eastern section recorded a conversation with USTA President Patrick Galbraith, who was not on last week's US Open media conference call, and he remains optimistic about those events. Tennis Now has this recap of the conversation, which includes a link to the full interview.

Another Division I school has discontinued its tennis programs, with Southern Utah making their announcement today. The school did not have a long tradition of tennis, starting programs in 2012, when it joined the Big Sky conference. As the announcement states, they will have 15 sports programs remaining, one more than the NCAA requirement for maintaining Division I status. Scholarships will be honored for those who wish to stay at the school.

Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today tweeted the Division I schools who have dropped tennis in 2020; not all are related to Covid-19.  I'll keep adding to this list, which is certain to grow over the next few months.
Akron (W) Appalachian State (M) Arkansas Pine Bluff (M/W) East Carolina (M/W) Florida A&M (M) Kansas City (M) Southern Utah (M/W) USC Upstate (M/W) UW Green Bay (M/W) Valparaiso (M) Winthrop (M/W) Wright State (M/W)

The Credit One Bank Invitational, the women's team exhibition in Charleston South Carolina, is underway, and I had an opportunity to watch it this afternoon on Tennis Channel.  Held on the site of the Volvo Car Open, but without any spectators, it obviously didn't have any of the atmosphere of a regular tour event, but several things contributed to it being more watchable than some of the previous exhibitions. Most notably, for me, was the format, which was regular advantage scoring (I assume a third set is a tiebreaker, but both matches I watched were completed in straight sets).  With all the Fast 4 events recently, it was terrific to get back to normal, watching the tension develop in a lengthy game. There actually weren't too many of those long games, with Sofia Kenin beating Alison Riske 6-1, 6-1 and Leylah Fernandez defeating Emma Navarro 6-4, 6-0, but it helped me take the results seriously.

Ted Robinson and Tracy Austin provided the commentary, there were ballrunners with tubes so that they didn't have to handle the balls, and each player had a whole section of the stadium to serve as their own player lounge. Players called their own lines, which has proven to be much less disruptive than I had thought it would be.

All of the precautions helped to quell the fears that the disastrous Adria Tour had raised, but that doesn't guarantee a Covid-free event, and I'm sure everyone in tennis has their fingers crossed that nothing goes wrong during the next five days in Charleston.

Tennis.com has coverage of the event here, including a video interview with Fernandez, who won the rematch of last year's French Open girls final against Navarro. Navarro is scheduled to start her collegiate career at Virginia this fall.

Monday, June 22, 2020

More Positive Covid-19 Tests From Adria Exhibition Competitors; 18s American Clay Court Nationals Underway; August's $25K Pro Circuit Event in Illinois a Go; Kenin and Stephens Head Fields in Tuesday's Credit One Bank Invitational in Charleston

Yesterday's announcement from Grigor Dimitrov that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus was followed today by the news that his opponent in Saturday's exhibition match in Croatia, ATP No. 33 Borna Coric, has also tested positive, as has Viktor Troicki, who played last weekend's Adria Tour stop in Serbia, but did not play in this past weekend's event in Croatia. Also testing positive are Dimitrov's fitness coach Marko Paniki, and his coach Christian Groh, who served as Brandon Nakashima's coach for several years prior to joining Dimitrov's team. Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev and Marin Cilic, who also played in the same Adria series tournament in Zadar Croatia over the weekend have tested negative; test results for organizer Novak Djokovic are expected to be announced on Tuesday. For more on other players' reactions, see this tennis.com article.

Obviously this has major implications for the resumption of the ATP (and WTA) tours, as well as the US Open. If it leads to a genuine realization that the virus is truly dangerous, not just for those who are older and less healthy, but for young athletes and citizens of all countries, it could be an important wake-up call, one that could save lives. But it also could lead organizations to the conclusion that tennis is just too dangerous, too global and too self-absorbed to mitigate the risks, and an even longer shutdown could result.

A glimmer of hope for actual pro tennis managed to break through all the gloom of the positive tests with the news that the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit Ursula Beck tournament in Decatur Illinois, originally scheduled for August 3-9, is still planning to host its event, albeit at a later date, August 17-23. 

"The local tennis community is excited to help the United States Tennis Association (USTA) reopen professional men's tennis in the United States," said Chuck Kuhle, Tournament Director of the event. "Tennis, along with so many other sports, had been suspended since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The USTA has always respected our tournament and we are happy they have the confidence in our organization to be a part of returning professional tennis back to our country We will run the tournament with safety guidelines provided to us be the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the USTA. I am thrilled that the Beck family, as well as the Decatur Park District, have stepped up to the plate once again."

The tournament does not yet appear on the ITF World Tennis Tour calendar, but that should change when the updated calendar is released.

The 18s American Clay Court Nationals is underway at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, with qualifying for the boys event completed yesterday and round robin play beginning today. The girls event, which did not have enough entries to warrant a qualifying draw Sunday, has six round robin groups, while the boys tournament has eight round robin groups. The top finisher in each of the round robin groups will advance to the quarterfinals; I assume that two second place finishers will advance to the girls quarterfinals. The tournament organizers announced last night that doubles tournaments were being added.

As a reminder, entries for the 16s tournament, scheduled for next week, close on Tuesday night. I wrote about the events for Tennis Recruiting Network last week.

One of the biggest women's exhibition events begins on Tuesday afternoon in Charleston South Carolina, with a Laver Cup-like competition, called the Credit One Bank Invitational, featuring 16 top women. Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are the captains of the two teams, with grand slam champions Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens leading the entries. (US Open champion Bianca Andreescu was among the announced participants, but she withdrew). Others competing in the event are Victoria Azarenka, Amanda Anisimova, Monica Puig, Ajla Tomljanovic, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers, Genie Bouchard, Jennifer Brady, Leylah Fernandez, Emma Navarro and Caroline Dolehide. Tennis Channel will have coverage beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Dimitrov Tests Positive for Corona Virus; Fathers Recruiting Sons; College Signings, Fifth Year Seniors, Transfers

Just three days after the first professional golfer tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, tennis had its first star player diagnosed, with Grigor Dimitrov announcing he had contracted the illness today. Dimitrov, who played last weekend's Adria Tour exhibition series in Belgrade Serbia, which had no noticeable concessions to the pandemic in terms of distancing, fans, etc., played this weekend's Adria Tour stop in Croatia, where he apparently fell ill after competing yesterday. The Croatia final, which was to feature organizer Novak Djokovic against Andrey Rublev, was canceled. Next weekend's event had already been canceled by the country of Montenegro earlier this week; whether the fourth and final tournament in Bosnia will be played remains to be seen.  This obviously isn't a good sign for resuming the tour in August, or the US Open, but the PGA has continued with its tournament this week in Hilton Head without Nick Watney, who tested positive on Thursday.  For more on Dimitrov's announcement and reactions from the Adria Tour, see this article.

Rhiannon Potkey at the Tennis Recruiting Network has the perfect article for this Father's Day, a look at four top junior players who have committed to playing for their fathers in college: Ben Shelton(Florida), Frank Thompson(Virginia Tech), Gavin Young(Minnesota) and Ashe Ray(Wofford). Shelton and Thompson are in the Class of 2021; Young and Ray are 2020 graduates.

Below are the Division I signings, graduate transfers and fifth year senior updates I mentioned I would be providing in yesterday's post:

Louisville senior Clement Filho will return for a fifth year.

LSU has signed Tom Pisane of Belgium.

South Florida has signed Manuel Goncalves of Portugal.

San Diego graduate Joel Gamerov will join Tennessee as a graduate transfer.

Senior Yuya Ito, one of the top players in college tennis the past two years, has announced he will not be returning to Texas for a fifth year.

Senior Parker Wynn is returning to Texas Tech for a fifth year.

Seniors Ewan Moore and Luis Erlenbusch will return to Tulane for their fifth seasons.

After one season at Tennessee, Jordan Chrysostom is transferring to Virginia Tech.

Notre Dame graduate Zoe Spence will join Northwestern as a graduate transfer.

Indiana seniors Caitlin Bernard, Annabelle Andrinopoulos and Michelle McKamey are returning for their fifth years.

Lisa Hofbauer, a graduate of East Carolina, which just discontinued its program, is transferring to Ohio State for her fifth year.

After one season at Alabama, Ares Teixido Garcia is transferring to Oregon.

After one season at Tennessee, Hadley Doyle is transferring to SMU.

After two seasons at Pepperdine, Daria Kuczer is transferring to Tennessee.

William and Mary is adding three transfers, graduate transfer Jill van den Dungen (Southwest Baptist), Lisa Fukutoku, who spent two years at Missouri, and Alisia Manolescu, who played one year at New Mexico.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Division I Winthrop Drops Men's and Women's Tennis; UConn Tennis Alumni Fight to Save Programs; Ram Named Volunteer Assistant at Cal; Other College Coaching Updates

The drip, drip, drip of college tennis program cuts continued Friday afternoon, when Division I Winthrop announced it was discontinuing both its men's and women's teams. The South Carolina school, which now will field 16 varsity teams, two over the NCAA minimum for Division I, obviously did not consider the success of the tennis teams in its calculations of which sports to cut, with the women having won 21 Big South conference titles, including four straight from 2016-2019. Lauren Proctor, who graduated last year, was a four-time Big South Player of the Year and an All-American in doubles in 2017; she has had been playing of the ITF World Tennis Tour full time prior to the pandemic hiatus. The men's team won a regular season conference title in 2010, 2011 and 2018, while winning the tournament title in 2014 and 2015. The school will honor the scholarships of those who wish to continue at the school without competing; the three student-athletes who have signed National Letters of Intent will receive their scholarships for one year.

The University of Connecticut's athletic program has been in financial disarray for some time, and cuts are expected when the board meets Wednesday, June 24.  The track and field and tennis teams are attempting to raise money to keep those programs, with track and field having raised more than $1.5 million, according to this article. As has been the case throughout these cuts, tennis has been less successful in coming up with funds to save programs, but they have $300,000 pledged. There is a change.org petition to sign here, with a GoFundMe donation link included.

The updated list of Covid-related dropped collegiate tennis programs, now 32 in number, is available here.

A couple of weeks ago, Cal announced that longtime men's associate head coach Tyler Browne was leaving for a private sector tennis position. This week Peter Wright announced his replacement, Horacio Matta, and a high profile volunteer assistant, Rajeev Ram. Matta had served as a volunteer assistant at Stanford this past academic year. Ram, the reigning Australian Open men's doubles champion, is currently No. 9 in the ATP doubles rankings.

In other Division I coaching news, Tom Wynne, head coach of both the men's and women's programs at the University of North Dakota, will be retiring after the 2020-21 season, his 30th year at UND. Interesting that both tennis programs were discontinued in 1990 and both were brought back, the women in 1998 and the men in 2012.

Duke has hired Maciek Sykut as the assistant men's coach, replacing longtime associate head coach Jonathan Stokke. Sykut, who played at Florida State, comes to Durham from his position as men's associate head coach at Arizona.

Ian Van Cott, who was an assistant at East Carolina before they cut their program last month, will join the Tennessee men's program as a volunteer assistant. 

And former Baylor star Blair Shankle will join Utah as the women's program's assistant coach. Shankle spent the past two years as a volunteer assistant at Ole Miss.

I'll have more college news, specifically on signings, fifth-year seniors and graduate transfers, in Sunday's post.

Friday, June 19, 2020

How the Accelerating Prize Money Gap Jeopardizes Men's Professional Tennis; Johns Hopkins Men and Williams Women Top Division III Recruiting Class Rankings

Earlier this month, I received an email from high school senior and junior tennis player Nicholas Wernink that contained his independent study of the allocation of prize money in men's professional. Wernink did an outstanding job of researching the uneven distribution of ATP points and prize money in the Futures, Challengers and ATP events over the past decade, and he has given me permission to upload his 42-page paper.

Knowing that many of you would be curious about the results, but not inclined to read a report of that length, I asked if he could put together a brief synopsis of his findings, and he agreed. But please, by all means delve deeper into his graphs and numbers, and his interviews with players impacted by this widening gap, to better understand just how crucial closing it is to the health of tennis as a sport.

Economics of Prize Money Inequality in the ATP
by Nicholas Wernink

In 2019, the ATP Challenger Tour consisted of 158 tournaments awarding a total of just $12.5 million while the ATP Tour awarded about $140 million across 62 events. The severe disparity in prize money allocation between the two levels has to be narrowed to ensure that more players have the opportunity to make a living playing professional tennis. In order to do so, prize money, on average, at the Challenger level needs to be at least doubled.

Since the Challenger Tour’s inception in 1978, prize money at this level has remained relatively stagnant when adjusted for inflation, despite the significant prize money increases at the ATP Tour level. The ATP has made no considerable effort to create a more equitable framework for prize money allocation, and this problem has actually become worse. For example, at the end of 2019, the ATP announced that the total player compensation in 2020 was projected to reach a record-high of $158.7 million representing a 13% increase from 2019. While this press release displays substantial growth, the Challenger Tour was expected to receive no increase in prize money whatsoever.

Instead, prize money is distributed unequally throughout the rankings. The top 100 players in 2019 earned approximately 80% of the total prize money pool for the top 750 singles players in the world. Meanwhile, the bottom two-thirds of players (those ranked from 251-750), received just 6% of all the prize money awarded.

The steep decline in the percent of total prize money for the lower-ranked players represents a vast income inequality. Furthermore, not only is prize money distributed unequally throughout the rankings, but the inequality has been exacerbated over time. The top-ranked players have seen a substantial rise in their prize money earnings while players outside the top 100 have not benefited nearly as much from the overall increase in the total prize money pool. The widening income gap displays the lack of substantial change aimed at bettering the situation for players outside the top echelon of the sport.

The essence of the prize money inequality that persists in men’s professional tennis lies in the disproportionate amount of prize money awarded at the Grand Slams and ATP Tour in comparison to the Challenger Tour and Futures circuit. Players should be rewarded for their success, i.e. the points that they earn and resulting ranking, regardless of where they win the points; however, players outside of the top 100 earn relatively far less than their peers at the top of the game. Furthermore, because the inequality has become more striking, the middle level of tennis, the Challenger Tour, is not developing nearly as quickly as the ATP Tour. Tennis is, in turn, ultimately missing out on a product that even Roger Federer does not believe is very different from the ATP Tour (ATP Media, 2019).

In conclusion, the purpose of drastically increasing prize money at the Challenger level is to support around 500 professional tennis players each year with a break-down of roughly 375 singles players and 125 doubles players. While players like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal are relatively unaffected by changes in prize money since most of their earnings come from sponsorships, the livelihoods of middle-ranked players depend on tournament compensation. All in all, investing in the Challenger Tour means promoting the health and future of men’s professional tennis. Players and tournament organizers at this level work tirelessly to help advance the sport yet barely receive any recognition. A restructured prize money allocation system, in which these people benefit, will go a long way in furthering tennis as a world-class international sport.

The Tennis Recruiting Network's series of 2020 recruiting class rankings concluded today, with the Williams women topping the Division III list, followed by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona-Pitzer, Amherst and Emory. Wesleyan, Carnegie Mellon, Swarthmore, MIT and Babson round out the Top 10.

The Division III men's list, which was published Monday, has Johns Hopkins at No. 1, the first time that school has had the top recruiting class. MIT, Amherst, Middlebury and Pomona-Pitzer round out the Top 5. Chicago, Emory, Williams, Wesleyan and Carnegie Mellon complete the Top 10.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

ITF Announces Return of Pro Tour Events in August; New ITF Player Panel Has No Americans; Oracle Dropping Sponsorship of Pro Events

In all the news that came out yesterday, I didn't have an opportunity to provide an update on the International Tennis Federation's plans. In a release yesterday, the ITF announced that its men's and women's World Tennis Tour tournaments would return in August, without fans, although no locations or dates are out as of today. "The ITF is currently finalising a provisional calendar of ITF World Tennis Tour events from 3 August to 27 September, which will be available on the ITF website."

There were eight ITF women's events previously scheduled in the US during that time frame, from $15K to $100K, and six ITF men's events, all either at the $25K or $15k level (five ATP Challengers were also on the US schedule but there is not a revised scheduled for Challengers as of now).

The ITF went on to say that there has been no decision on competitive resumption for its other groups: "The ITF is mindful that players competing on the junior tennis, senior tennis, wheelchair tennis and beach tennis tours want to resume international competition as soon as possible, and further updates will be provided regarding these tours in due course."

With the US Open Junior Championships officially canceled yesterday, I have my doubts about the viability of the two Grade 1s in North America prior to the Open, but I am hopeful the Grade B1 Pan American Closed might be possible in October.

The ITF announced the election results for its new Player Panels today, and there were no American men or women voted in. Over 1000 players voted for their panel representatives, which "will provide a forum for players to provide their input and have their say on how the tour is run."  Although geographic representation is mentioned as a significant factor, TCU alum Nick Chappell was the only North American candidate and he was not elected because two other players in the 350-500 range had already been added to the panels.  The only North American player on the women's panel is former Penn State star Petra Januskova of Canada. Whether the panel actually has any power to effect policy remains to be seen, but it's disappointing that more American men in particular didn't run for election. A link to the results are included in the article announcing the winners.

I attended the Oracle Pro Series Challenger in Ann Arbor in January
I had heard some time ago that Oracle was taking steps to divest itself of its pro tennis sponsorship, but I was hoping to have some kind of official announcement to link to before I reported it. Oracle still hasn't provided that, but Cracked Racquets broke the story today, reporting the discontinuation of the Oracle Challenger Series and the Oracle Pro Series, both of which were bright spots on the American tennis landscape. The Challenger Series was a huge dollar commitment, with the joint events offering $150,000 purses, and Oracle had expanded their number of ATP Challenger events on college campuses the past two years. They also were underwriting many $25,000 Pro Series tournaments on college campuses, with a commitment to upgrading player experiences at those events; Oracle's decision to discontinue those will be felt at many colleges this fall, especially given the financial crunch caused by the pandemic.

As I wrote back in January in my Tennis Recruiting Network's annual Intriguing Questions column, the death of Oracle CEO Mark Hurd cast a shadow over the company's continued sponsorship of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, but that number is so much smaller than what Oracle had pledged to Pro events, it is probably safe for at least a couple of more years.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Boys 18s Nationals Moving From Kalamazoo to Lake Nona; US Open Junior Championships Canceled; American Clay Court Championships Begin Sunday at The Greenbrier

USTA National Campus Welcome Center, Lake Nona Florida
Monday's announcement that the 16s and 18s USTA National Championships were going to be held in their normal August time slots lifted my spirits substantially after weeks of reporting cancellations and postponements. But for me personally, and for those in the B18s division, that excitement was short-lived, with the USTA announcing today that Kalamazoo, which has hosted the event for 77 years, will not be the site for that tournament. The USTA statement:

Following Monday’s announcement, the USTA was notified by officials at Kalamazoo College that the school would no longer be able to serve as the host facility of the 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships, citing concerns from school leadership as to whether or not the college could effectively execute safety protocols mandated by the USTA. Despite the more than 70 years of history of hosting this premier event in Kalamazoo, the USTA unfortunately had no choice but to seek an alternate location in order to successfully host the 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships in the safest possible manner.

The 2020 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships will now be held at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 7-16. The USTA looks forward to returning to Kalamazoo in 2021. 

When I had heard early today that this switch was possible, I did not know Kalamazoo College was behind it. After dealing with over 450-player fields in the past three years, holding a 128-draw tournament in just one age division seemed eminently doable, even with the new protocol required due to the pandemic. A scaled down event without all the bells and whistles that Kalamazoo offers, including large crowds, is not ideal, of course, but it would provide some continuity for the tournament history and an important boost for the struggling hospitality industry in this small city.

Ironically, Michigan, like New York, seems to have gotten through the worst of the Covid-19 first wave, while Florida, in general, and Orlando, in particular, are seeing its cases increasing.

Here is the Facebook post from the tournament:

Due to health and safety concerns for athletes, guests, volunteers, and the Kalamazoo community at large, Kalamazoo College leadership has made the difficult decision to not host the USTA Boys National Championships, August 7-16, 2020. This decision came through consultation with a group of medical and public health professionals, community leaders, tournament supporters, as well as those within the sports industry. Collectively, the concern is safety and we simply do not know enough about COVID-19 or how to ensure the health of athletes, guests, volunteers and the community. As United States sporting associations and events of this magnitude have been suspended or postponed in 2020, there is no template to safeguard the transmission of COVID-19 as of now. 

Kalamazoo is our home and has been for 77 years and we want it to be our home for another 77 years and beyond. We are excited to welcome back the Boys' Nationals to Kalamazoo in 2021!

Although initially the TennisLink sites gave Tuesday, June 16 as the day entries open, now all four sites are showing Thursday, June 18 instead.  Links to the TennisLink site are available in this article.

While Kalamazoo College adopted a "can't-do" attitude to this cherished local event, the USTA has demonstrated the opposite approach to the US Open, and the Western and Southern Open, the major US-based ATP and WTA event several weeks prior. On today's virtual press conference, the USTA announced that the W&S Open would be held this year in New York, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center from August 19-28 (including qualifying), followed by the US Open, which will not have any qualifying, from August 31-September 13.  Serena Williams has committed to playing, but entry deadlines are next month, so other top players have several weeks before they make up their mind. All Americans are expected to play; the question is whether those who plan to play the newly scheduled European Clay season this fall, will make the trip.

As expected, there will be no junior championships this year, and no media will be allowed onsite, other than broadcast partners. I do expect virtual press conferences like the one they had today, so I hope to be able to cover the event from my home.

I did have an opportunity to ask if one of the eight wild cards the USTA has for the Open will go to the 18s National Champions this year, and Tournament Director Stacey Allaster assured me they would.

The transcript of the press conference, which lasted about an hour, is available here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to the organizers of the American Clay Court Nationals about their events, which will have the 16s and 18s compete at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and the 12s and 14s at Centercourt in Chatham New Jersey. I also spoke with Frank Thompson, a rising high school senior from Virginia, who is planning to play the boys 18s, which begins Sunday. For more on the tournaments, see this article, posted on Tennis Recruiting Network today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

New York Provides US Open Approval; World Team Tennis Rosters Announced, Includes Teens Nakashima and McNally

New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave the state's approval for this year's US Open, which prompted this statement from USTA CEO and Executive Director Michael Dowse:

June 16, 2020

Statement from Mike Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director

We are incredibly excited that Governor Cuomo and New York State have today approved our plan to host the 2020 US Open and 2020 Western & Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. We recognize the tremendous responsibility of hosting one of the first global sporting events in these challenging times, and we will do so in the safest manner possible, mitigating all potential risks. We now can give fans around the world the chance to watch tennis' top athletes compete for a US Open title, and we can showcase tennis as the ideal social distancing sport. Being able to hold these events in 2020 is a boost for the City of New York and the entire tennis landscape. We will have more details and an official announcement tomorrow.  


I have been invited to a USTA conference call tomorrow morning that will feature Dowse, Katrina Adams, Stacey Allaster and Dr. Brian Hainline, so I'm sure many of the details Dowse refers to above will be addressed then. We should find out if the Junior Championships have been canceled, which I expect, and if any media will be allowed on site.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim tweeted a two-page notice from the US Open, which appears to have been provided to players, that gives more details on tournament from their perspective. Those tweets are below:

World Team Tennis is set for its three-week season at The Greenbrier beginning on July 12th, and the rosters for the nine teams were finalized today. Eighteen-year-old Brandon Nakashima will be playing on the Chicago Smash, a team added this year, with Sloane Stephens the marquee star of that team. Jack Sock, Frances Tiafoe, Monica Puig, Kim Clijsters and Milos Raonic were added to rosters today. Comments from Tiafoe and Stephens can be found in this release.

Chicago Smash:
Brandon Nakashima, Sloane Stephens, Evan King, Genie Bouchard, Rajeev Ram
Coach: Kamau Murray

New York Empire:
Mardy Fish, Jack Sock, Sabine Lisicki, Neal Skupski, Kveta Peschke, Kim Clijsters
Coach: Luke Jensen

Orange County Breakers:
Steve Johnson, Luke Bambridge, Andreja Klepac, Milos Raonic
Coach: Rick Leach

Orlando Storm:
James Ward, Danielle Collins, Ken Skupski, Darija Jurak, Tennys Sandgren
Coach: Jay Gooding

Philadelphia Freedoms:
Donald Young, Taylor Townsend, Fabrice Martin, Caroline Dolehide, Sofia Kenin
Coach: Craig Kardon

San Diego Aviators:
Ryan Harrison, Christina McHale, Jonny O’Mara, Nicole Melichar, Coco Vandeweghe
Coach: John Lloyd

Springfield Lasers:
Mitchell Krueger, Olga Govortsova, Robert Lindstedt, Hayley Carter, Jean-Julien Rojer, Caty McNally
Coach: John-Laffnie de Jager

Vegas Rollers:
Sam Querrey, Kristie Ahn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Asia Muhammad, Monica Puig
Coach: Tim Blenkiron

Washington Kastles:
Marcelo Arevalo, Bernarda Pera, Nick Monroe, Arina Rodionova, Frances Tiafoe
Coach: Robby Ginepri

The WTT also announced its protocol if a player or coach arrives at The Greenbrier and tests positive or tests positive during the season. Because fans are being allowed at matches, they are subject to two temperature checks each day. There will be electronic line calling and no ballrunners or high-fives/handshakes, according to this Associated Press article.