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Friday, July 31, 2020

ITA National Summer Championships Acceptances Include Wild Card for Krajicek; George Washington to Drop Men's Tennis; WTA Palermo Starts Saturday with Qualifying; W&S Open, USO Update

The ITA Summer Circuit National Championships, which begin next Friday at Texas A&M, announced its acceptances this week, and one of the participants is certainly unexpected, with former Aggie Austin Krajicek listed as a wild card recipient. The selection criteria mentions two Texas A&M wild cards, but the only one currently showing is Krajicek, who won the NCAA doubles title in 2011.

The 30-year-old, who is currently 47 in the ATP doubles rankings, played World Team Tennis the past three weeks, but his team, the Orange County Breakers, did not make the playoffs, so his WTT season is over.

The men's field is a strong one, with five players having UTR ratings of over 13.50: Hady Habib(Texas A&M), Alex Brown(Illinois), Vazha Shubladze(Georgia State), Zeke Clark(Illinois) and Noah Schachter(Texas A&M).  The women's field has two entries with UTRs over 11.00: Jessica Failla(Pepperdine) and Adriana Reami(North Carolina State).

While conferences continue to postpone fall sports or push back starting dates, news came today of another Division I program being cut. George Washington, which has both men's and women's teams, announced today that the men's team would be reduced to club status after this season.

The non-NCAA sports of men's rowing, sailing, men's and women's squash, and the NCAA sports of men's indoor track, men's tennis and women's water polo will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, if it becomes safe to do so, but they will be discontinued at the conclusion of their respective seasons.

George Washington, located in Washington DC, will have 20 varsity sports after these seven teams go to club level.  This has to particularly disturbing to International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty, who played No. 1 singles for George Washington in the late 70s and is in their Hall of Fame.

Aliona Bolsova
Tomorrow marks the official resumption of the professional tours, with qualifying scheduled for the WTA International Palermo Ladies Open in  Italy. The qualifying field has seven Italians, including all four wild cards. No Americans are competing there, with the WTA in Kentucky taking place the following week. Varvara Gracheva of Russia is the top seed in qualifying; former Florida Atlantic star Aliona Bolsova of Spain is the No. 2 seed.  For more on the qualifying field, see this article from the WTA.

I'm not sure what prompted it, but today the USTA sent out another brief update on the status of the Western & Southern Open and the US Open.

The USTA continues its plans to stage the US Open and host both the US Open and the Western Southern Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. We remain confident that our top priority, the health and safety of all involved in both tournaments, remains on track. Working with our Medical Advisory Group and security team and the State of New York, we have developed a strong health and safety plan to mitigate the risk of infection within the contained environment comprised of the tournament site and player hotels. New York State continues to be one of the safest places in the country as it relates to the COVID-19 virus. Details of this health and safety plan will be released at a later date closer to the tournaments. In all aspects of health and safety, and the viability of travel to the New York area, the USTA has worked collaboratively with the WTA and the ATP.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Boland Resigns After Two Years at Baylor; World Team Tennis Playoffs Begin Saturday; McNally Among Western & Southern Open Wild Cards

Brian Boland, who took the men's head coaching position at Baylor just over two years ago after a short run as head of men's tennis at the USTA, resigned from his position on Wednesday. Boland, who led Virginia to NCAA titles in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, returned to college tennis for the 2018-19 season, leading the Bears to the quarterfinals of the NCAAs.

Associate head coach Michael Woodson, who was assistant coach prior to Boland's arrival and was promoted to associate head coach last year, has been name interim head coach for the 2020-21 season.

The release by Baylor contains quotes from both athletic director Mack Rhoades, who hired Boland, and Boland himself, which is contrast to the statement provided by USC when Peter Smith's resignation was announced. That statement included a brief thank you from Smith, but nothing from the administration, despite Smith's 17 years there. No reason is given for Boland's resignation, by either Rhoades or Boland, but it's my understanding that Boland was asked to resign, and there is nothing in the official statement suggesting otherwise.

In any case, the two most successful Division I men's coaches of this century, with nine NCAA team titles between them since 2009, are now out of college coaching.

The playoffs are set for World Team Tennis, with the top-seeded Philadelphia Freedoms taking on No. 4 seed New York Empire in one semifinal and the second-seeded Orlando Storm facing No. 3 seed Chicago Smash in the other semifinal. Those matches will be played on Saturday, at 2 p.m. for Philadelphia vs New York and 5 p.m. for Orlando vs Chicago, with CBS Sports Network broadcasting.  The winners of those two matches will advance to the final, which will be shown on live network television for the first time in the league's 45-year history at noon Sunday on CBS.

Among those playing for the four teams are:
Sofia Kenin (Philadelphia Freedoms), Taylor Fritz (Philadelphia Freedoms), Taylor Townsend (Philadelphia Freedoms), Kim Clijsters (NY Empire), Jack Sock (NY Empire), Coco Vandeweghe (NY Empire), Sloane Stephens (Chicago Smash), Genie Bouchard (Chicago Smash), Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Chicago Smash), Tennys Sandgren (Orlando Storm) and Jessica Pegula (Orlando Storm).

The Western & Southern Open announced its WTA wild cards today, with 18-year-old Caty McNally, Sloane Stephens, Kim Clijsters, Naomi Osaka and Venus Williams the recipients. Both Stephens and Osaka would have received entry based on their rankings had they entered, but for some reason did not.  McNally received a main draw wild card last year, when the event was held, as usual, in her hometown of Cincinnati, losing in the first round to Elise Mertens 7-5, 6-0.  Joel Drucker of tennis.com has more on McNally's development and her all-court game in this article. Tennis.com is also raising awareness for the nonprofit Team Luke Hope for Minds, headed by former Texas Tech coach Tim Siegel, whose son Luke suffered a brain injury in a golf cart accident.

The four Western & Southern Open men's main draw wild cards have yet to be announced.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Western & Southern Open Acceptances; ACC, Big West Conferences Join in Cancellation of Fall Tennis; LTA Hires New Performance Director

Entries for the Western & Southern Open, which begins three weeks from Thursday with qualifying matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, were announced today.  Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are entered in the men's field, along with defending champion Daniel Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.

The women's field is not as impressive, with No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu not planning to play. Barty announced that she would also be skipping the US Open due to concerns about the pandemic.

It's likely that other big names will drop in the next week or so; the US Open entry list is scheduled to be released next week.

American men who have received direct entry:
John Isner
Taylor Fritz
Reilly Opelka

American women who have received direct entry:
Sofia Kenin
Serena Williams
Madison Keys
Alison Riske
Amanda Anisimova
Jennifer Brady
Danielle Collins
Coco Gauff

The complete list of main acceptances can be found here.

The ACC made an announcement about its fall sports, and among the sports canceled was tennis. With the ACC arguably the best tennis conference in the country, and with players from ACC schools not able to represent their institutions during the fall, the prospect of either of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association majors held in the fall happening is now decidedly unlikely.

Many college players compete throughout the fall at ITF events without representing their schools, so if those tournaments come back, that will remain an option, but they must pay their own way. Having the school pay for those ITF tournaments has been one of draws to Division I college tennis recently, so that is a blow to those who were relying on that support.

While the ACC is the first Power 5 conference to make that decision, another conference, the Big West, announced today that tennis is one of the sports affected by its decision to postpone the fall sports season.

The Big West has 11 member schools, with ten of them sponsoring women's tennis and seven sponsoring men's tennis:
Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Northridge
Cal Poly*
Long Beach State
UC Davis*
UC Irvine*
UC Riverside*
UC Santa Barbara*
UC San Diego*
*sponsor both men's and women's teams

While the Big West specifically addressed tennis in its release, other non-Power 5 conferences have previously announced they would be canceling or postponing fall sports, presumably including tennis. They are:

America East

Atlantic 10

Ivy League

Metro Atlantic

Mid-Eastern Athletic

Patriot League

Southwestern Athletic

In Player Development news, the LTA has announced the hiring of Michael Bourne as its Performance Director. Bourne, who has Olympic sport administration experience, but no background in tennis, will "oversee a national network of coaches and performance support services implementing the LTA’s Performance strategy across both the able-bodied and wheelchair programme, which sets out a clear player pathway for tennis players from junior level through to the professional game."

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

ITA Summer Circuit Week 6 Concludes Monday; Winthrop Continues Effort to Save Tennis Teams; WTA Event in Tokyo Canceled; Dimitrov, Tiafoe No Longer Positive for Covid-19

The ITA Summer Circuit will head into its home stretch this weekend, with the final four events in Week 7 beginning on Saturday. Then it's on to the ITA National Summer Championships, starting a week from Friday in College Station, with $15,000 in prize money offered. Week 6 was a busy one, with nine events taking place across the country. I reviewed two of them on Sunday, four of them yesterday, and recaps of the other three follow.

At the University of Minnesota event, Ohio State rising junior Kolie Allen, the No. 2 seed, defeated top seed Nandini Das, who will return to Florida State for a fifth year, 7-6(5), 6-0 to take the women's title.

Top seed Gavin Young, a blue chip who is the son of Minnesota head coach Geoff Young and will play for his father next season, won the men's title. He defeated four-star rising junior Mujtaba Ali-Khan, the No. 2 seed, 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

In Raleigh North Carolina, top seed Abigail Forbes, a rising sophomore at UCLA, won the women's top flight, defeating Vanderbilt rising sophomore Anna Ross 7-5, 6-0 in the final. 

In another rare, all-college final, two Liberty rising sophomores squared off, with No. 5 seed Goncalo Ferreira defeating Rafael Da Silva 6-4, 6-4 for the men's top flight championship.

The College Station tournament also featured a final between teammates, with Texas A&M rising junior Guido Marson, the No. 1 seed, beating No. 2 seed Austin Abbrat, also a rising junior,  6-4, 6-2 for the men's top flight championship. 

Top seed Savannah Broadus, a blue-chip rising senior who has committed to Pepperdine, defeated five-star rising senior Jeannette Mireles 2-6, 6-3, 10-4 in the women's top flight final.

ESPN published an article today on the Winthrop tennis teams' effort to save their programs, which has benefitted from a similar push by the Eastern Carolina swimming and diving teams. The article mentions Billy Rinehart, a University of North Carolina Wilmington alumnus who had helped save its swim programs, is working on a resource guide for those trying to save programs.

Speaking of swimming and diving, a new twist to the current athletic department response to the Covid-19 implications for Olympic sports is this from Arizona State, where the entire men's and women's swimming and diving teams are taking a redshirt year in 2020-21. For more on this approach, see this Sports Illustrated article.

It's a rare day when a cancellation isn't featured in my post, and it won't be today, with the WTA Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, which had been moved from September to November, now canceled. The cancellation of this Premier event leaves just one tournament in Asia still on the schedule for 2020, the October International event in Korea.

Grigor Dimitrov, one of several top players who have contracted the Covid-19 virus, spoke about his recovery, and his uncertainty as to how it would ultimately affect him physically and mentally in the short term. Although he played in the UTS exhibition in France last week, he expresses doubt about flying again to return to the United States for the Western & Southern and US Open.

Frances Tiafoe, who contracted the virus while playing the Atlanta exhibition, announced today on twitter that he was now negative and was beginning training again.

Monday, July 27, 2020

USTA Cancels Two Orlando Challengers; ITA Announces Scholar-Athletes, All-Academic Teams; More ITA Summer Circuit Results

Just over three weeks ago, the USTA announced two new ATP 125 Challengers at its Lake Nona National Campus, in part to try to compensate for the lack of qualifying for the US Open. Today, the USTA canceled those two events, with this statement:


Due to the situation surrounding COVID-19, the USTA has made the decision to cancel the Orlando Open presented by Nemours 1, scheduled to be held August 22 - 29, and the Orlando Open presented by Nemours 2, scheduled to be held August 29 - September 6, both at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. The decision to cancel these two ATP Challenger 150 events was made with input from the USTA Medical Advisory Group, to ensure the health and safety of all those involved with these tournaments. Although detailed health and safety protocols had been planned, without the creation of a controlled environment that includes a comprehensive and contained lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and medical testing program in place, as will be the case for the Western & Southern Open and US Open, proper risk mitigation would not be possible – and in the case of these events, this type of environment would logistically and financially be difficult to create. As the health and safety for all those involved is the greatest concern of the USTA, these factors, coupled with the current rates of COVID-19 in Florida, were key in driving the decision making process.

Today's news that major league baseball, which is not going the bubble route like the NBA and NHL, is experiencing an outbreak does not provide much optimism for events like these Challengers. As the statement says, it's not financial feasible to create such a bubble for every tennis event, although there is some evidence the Major League Soccer and World Team Tennis versions of this type of isolation has been successful. What this means for upcoming WTA event in Kentucky, which doesn't have a bubble, and the Western & Southern Open and US Open, which does, isn't clear, but uncertainty has been the status quo for months now when it comes to tennis events.

As of now, as I mentioned Saturday, the smaller Cary and Columbus ATP Challengers in September are still a go.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced its Scholar-Athletes and All-Academic teams today for Division I. An explanation of the criteria and links to the lists are here for the women and here for the men.
Results from four more ITF Summer Circuit events from Week 6 follow. I posted on the Wichita Kansas and Ojai California events yesterday, and I'll have updates on the remaining three in tomorrow's post.

At the tournament hosted by Palm Beach Atlantic, two juniors captured the Gold Draw titles. Top seed Madison Sieg, a blue chip rising junior, defeated No. 2 seed Sydney Ratliff, a blue chip who recently committed to Ohio State for 2021, 6-3, 6-4 to take the women's championship.

Four-star recruit Adam Duan, a rising senior, beat the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for the men's Gold Draw title. In the quarterfinals Duan took out top seed Logan Zapp 6-2, 2-0 ret. and in the final he beat No. 2 seed Victor Lilov 6-1, 6-1.

The Middle Tennessee State tournament in Murfreesboro also produced two junior champions. No. 5 seed Baylor Sai, a blue chip rising senior who has committed to Harvard, defeated No. 2 seed Tomas Rodriguez, a rising junior at Tennessee-Chattanooga, 7-5, 4-6, 10-6 in the top flight final. Sai also took out top seed Andrew Rogers, a senior at Tennessee, 3-6, 7-6(3) 11-9 in the quarterfinals.

Top seed Ann Guerry won the women's top flight, with the five-star rising junior defeating No. 3 seed Monique Woog, a rising sophomore at Memphis, 6-0, 6-3 in the final.

In Livermore California, University of Illinois rising freshman Katherine Duong, seeded No. 2, won the women's top flight, beating five-star rising senior Leyden Games, a USC recruit, 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the final. Games, the No. 3 seed, defeated top seed Vivian Ovrootsky in the semifinals.

University of Portland rising junior Issa Yoshida, who was unseeded, won the men's top flight, beating No. 3 seed Andrei Volgin, a rising sophomore at UC-Davis, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Yoshida defeated No. 2 seed Luke Casper 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

Four collegians reached the finals at the Cleveland tournament, with Xavier rising sophomore Anna Roggenburk, the No. 1 seed, winning the women's top flight with a 6-0, 6-2 decision over unseeded Madeleine Lynch, a rising sophomore at Wake Forest.

No. 2 seed Alex Bancila, a sophomore at the University of Illinois, took the men's top flight title, beating No. 3 seed Brett Winters, a rising senior at Xavier 6-4, 4-6, 1-0. Winters, the No. 3 seed, had taken out top seed James Hopper, a rising sophomore at Case Western, in the semifinals.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Philadelphia, Chicago Clinch World Team Tennis Playoff Spots; Miyazaki, Broom Take British Tour Titles; Alcaraz Wins Spanish Exhibition; ITA Summer Circuit Update

Unlike most of the pro sports leagues gearing up right now, World Team Tennis is playing its regular schedule this year, at its regular time of year, with the only difference from the past four-plus decades coming in the location, with all matches held at The Greenbrier resort, rather than in the nine cities that are fielding teams this year. The season, always confined to three weeks with a final weekend playoff, is drawing to a close this week, with the semifinals and finals set for August 1st and 2nd.

Two teams clinched their places in the playoffs today, with the Philadelphia Freedoms and the expansion franchise Chicago Smash assured of a place in the semifinals. Philadelphia, which is playing tonight, is currently a half game behind Chicago, which stands at 9-2 and has won four matches in a row. Eighteen-year-old Brandon Nakashima of Chicago is currently No. 2 in the WTT men's singles rankings, trailing only Taylor Fritz of the Freedoms.

For complete standings and the schedule for the coming week, along with the broadcast details, see the World Team Tennis website.

While World Team Tennis has been the primary focus of the sport in the United States this month, Great Britain's LTA has continued to hold competitions for players from those in the Top 100 to those much farther removed from the ATP or WTA. The Week 4 events were captured by former Oklahoma star Lily Miyazaki and recent Darthmouth graduate Charlie Broom.  The 24-year-old Miyazaki, seeded No. 1, defeated Grace Piper 6-0, 6-2 in the women's final. Broom, a 22-year-old who will take a fifth year at Baylor in 2020-21, beat Henry Patten 7-6(3), 6-1 in the men's final. For more on this week's British Tour events, see this article.

Carlos Alcaraz, one of the most promising teenagers in the junior ranks, won an exhibition event in his home country of Spain this week. The 17-year-old, who is currently 318 in the ATP rankings, defeated ATP 220 Bernabe Zapata Miralles 7-6(1), 6-4 in today's final. Alcaraz won five matches in this week's tournament; he did not play in the two prior weeks.

Because there are nine ITA Summer Circuit events to report on this week, I'm going to review them over the next two or three days, starting with the two that concluded today.

At the tournament at Wichita State, top seed Bradley Frye took the men's top flight, with the USC rising junior defeating No. 2 seed Marius Frosa 6-4, 6-4 in the final. Frosa is returning for a fifth year for the Wichita State Shockers.

Unseeded Abidullina Adel-Byanu, a rising junior at Division II Central Oklahoma, won the women's top flight, beating rising UC-Santa Barbara freshman Camille Kiss 3-6, 6-4, 10-7 in the final. Adel-Byanu had taken out top seed Sofia Smagina, a University of Kansas rising junior 6-3, 3-6, 11-9 in the semifinals.

Both Frye and Adel-Byanu took home $375 in prize money, while Forsa and Kiss collected $275.

In contrast to the collegians that came through in Kansas, teenagers were the winners at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai California. Division III Middlebury rising freshman Noah Laber, the No. 1 seed, took the men's title, beating Trinity(CT) rising freshman Henry Bilicic 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  Blue chip rising sophomore Mika Ikemori, the No. 5 seed, won the women's title, beating No. 8 seed Velizara Fileva, a rising senior, 1-6, 7-5, 10-7 in the final.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Look at What's on ITF's World Tennis Tour Schedule in the United States This Fall; ATP Challengers at Cary and Columbus Set for September

News is sparse today in tennis, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to list the latest updates on the ITF World Tennis Tour Men's, Women's and Junior Circuit tournaments for the remainder of 2020.

I posted a similar update early this month and that post serves as a reminder how tentative all these tournaments and their dates are. Many changes--dates, prize money, cancellations--have happened in the past three weeks and there is no reason to think those changes are behind us. While a disruption to the calendar was rare pre-pandemic, all of us know how provisional all these dates are now.

ITF World Tennis Tour US Events for remainder of 2020


Champaign IL M15

Fayetteville AR M15

Ithaca NY M15

Wichita KS M25

Harlingen TX M25

26-Nov. 1
Norman OK M15
Tallahassee FL M15

Ithaca NY M15
Fayetteville AR M15

Shreveport LA M15

Austin TX M15
East Lansing MI M15


Lubbock TX W15

Las Vegas NV W80
Hilton Head SC W15

Florence SC W25

Macon GA W80

26-Nov 1
Tyler TX W80
Austin TX W15

I hope additions are forthcoming, particularly for the women, who, according to the ITF Women's Circuit calendar for 2020, have no events in the United States after the end of October. The USTA's Australian Open Wild Card has recently been awarded to the player earning the most WTA points while competing in these higher level fall events, and it would certainly be heartening to see that continue this year, particularly because there were no such opportunities to distribute a US Open wild card via that method this summer. As I mentioned three weeks ago, the lack of $25Ks is a real problem right now and I hope that if tournaments are added they are at that level.

The ATP has released its Challenger calendar through September, and two of the US Challengers previously announced have remained on the schedule: Cary North Carolina September 14-20 and Columbus Ohio Sept 21-27. They will be 32-player draws, which is a reduction from 48 in Challengers held before the pandemic shutdown. In addition to these two events, there are two ATP Challengers in Orlando, with 48-player draws, in back-to-back weeks beginning August 24th and August 31st.

As far as the juniors go, I mentioned yesterday that the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl are now on the ITF schedule, but the usual US Grade 4 and 5 events leading up to the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl are not currently on the ITF junior calendar. The Grade A and Grade 1 in Mexico also are not showing, although the Grade A Osaka Cup in Japan in October currently does appear on the calendar.

McKinney TX J5

28-Oct 3
Corpus Christi TX J4

Nicholasville KY JB1

30-Dec 6
Eddie Herr J1

Orange Bowl JA

Friday, July 24, 2020

My Look at an ITA Summer Circuit Event During the Pandemic; Chicago's Quarantine Rules Complicate Sectional Event; ITF Cancels Junior Finals in China; ATP Events Also Pulled

Social distancing at the Grand Rapids ITA Summer Circuit tournament desk
As I posted Monday, when I wrote about the finals of the ITA Summer Circuit tournament I attended in Grand Rapids, I have prepared another article about the event, which has been published today at The Tennis Recruiting Network. This article is more about returning to tennis during the pandemic, with thoughts from all four finalists about playing competitively again, as well as the differences between tennis matches played in February and those played this summer. 

In that vein, I received an email from a parent of a participant in an upcoming USTA Midwest section Boys 18s Level 2 event in Chicago, notifying applicants that, due to the city's travel ban, anyone who had recently traveled to selected states(listed below, none in the section itself) would have to be removed from the event.
Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
 If you have traveled to any of those states recently and have not quarantined for two weeks, please let us know by the end of the business day today (Friday July 24) so we do not select you into the event.
Getting that information out and relying on players to abide by that request is, of course, problematic, but it illustrates just how difficult holding a national event at this time would be.

A day after announcing that its Junior Circuit events would resume beginning August 31st, the ITF acknowledged that the ITF World Junior Finals would not be held in Chengdu China this fall. The tournament, a junior approximation of the ATP and WTA year-end finals, was scheduled for October 19-25th. With very little ITF junior tennis played this year, and two of the junior slams already canceled, attempting to identify which top 8 players should qualify would be nearly impossible. There has been no release on this, just the tweet below. I have also not seen any formal cancellation of the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup, and nothing on the status of the French Open Junior Championships. The current ITF junior calendar has been updated since yesterday, and in addition to the Grade B1 in Nicholasville Kentucky in October, the Eddie Herr Grade 1 and Orange Bowl Grade A in November and December are now included on it.

The ITF had no choice but to cancel the World Junior Finals after the Chinese directive, and the ATP also released its anticipated statement, which followed the news yesterday that the extensive WTA China swing was off.

The ATP's China events include the Shanghai Masters, a 500 level event in Beijing and two 250s in Chengdu and Zhuhai. The ATP is promising a revised schedule for the remainder of 2020 in the next two weeks.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Gauff Enters WTA Event in Lexington; WTA Fall China Swing Off; Feature on Top African Junior Boys; Covid-19 Brings Tennis Issues to Forefront; Collins Explains WTT Bubble Breach

The WTA International event that will kick off the return of professional tour tennis in the United States keeps adding big names to its field. The Top Seed Open in Nicholasville Kentucky initially announced that Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens would be a part of its field. Since then, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff have also committed to play in the event, which begins August 10th. According to this Lexington Herald-Leader article, the draw size is 32 for singles and 16 for doubles. I assume there will be wild cards available, but have not heard anything about those yet.

News broke today that the WTA tournaments in China are being canceled, which leaves a huge hole in the fall calendar for women. Chris Clarey of The New York Times provides details on what this means for women's professional tennis, as well as other pro sports scheduled for that part of the world.

It's rare for an African junior to break into the ITF Junior Top 100, and the top girl from Africa, Sada Nahimana of Brundi, is continuing her quest to play professional tennis with a commitment to play at North Carolina State. Tumani Carayol of The Guardian has an update on two African boys who are currently in the Top 25 in the ITF Junior World Rankings: Khololwam Montsi of South Africa and Eliakim Coulibaly of Cote D'Ivoire.  There isn't any mention of college in the article, but Montsi older brother Siphosothando, who is referenced briefly, is currently a rising junior at the University of Illinois.

Peter Bodo of ESPN has published a thorough review of what he thinks tennis has learned about itself in this months-long interruption. All of it is interesting, but I thought the call for a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set was the "hot take" of the article. Is it time for that, if not in slams, then in ATP and WTA events? I'm not convinced, but I do find it preferable to the many other shortening options tried recently.

Danielle Collins has spoken about her dismissal from World Team Tennis, saying she was not aware that she was prohibited from leaving the site, although WTT CEO Carlos Silva said it was mentioned to players on two different occasions. For more from Collins and Silva, see this article from The New York Times.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

ITF Announces Resumption of Junior Calendar on August 31; Tennis Europe Also Sets August 31st Start Date; Blue Chip Ben Shelton Will Join Florida Early, Plus More Top Junior Commitments; UMES Suspends Women's Tennis

The International Tennis Federation has finally released a statement regarding its junior circuit calendar, with tournaments resuming beginning the week of August 31st. Unfortunately, the calendar on the junior website has not been updated to reflect the cancellations of events before that, so it remains to be seen which of the tournaments will actually happen. Currently the first ITF junior tournaments scheduled in the US are a Grade 4 and a Grade 5 in Texas in late September. The ITF's statement also makes no reference to any ranking adjustments.

The ITF World Tennis Tour men's and women's tournaments are set to resume the week of August 17, although all of those events in the United States have been canceled through August, with just a few $15K tournaments currently on the US Pro Circuit calendar in September.

Tennis Europe also announced that resumption of play for juniors there will begin August 31st, but there is much more detail in their release, including a ranking adjustment. The European championships, held each summer for the 14s, 16s and 18s, are being canceled for the first time in 45 years, and no Super category or Category 1 events will be held, with only 2s and 3s for the 14s and 16s age groups. Draws will be cut to 32 players and there will be no overlap between qualifying and main draw and no spectators are allowed. There is also this on rankings: From the resumption of competition and until 14 March 2021, an Extended Ranking Period (24 months/104 weeks) will come into place. More details will be online in due course.

The University of Florida announced today that blue chip Ben Shelton, who was expected to join the Gators in 2021, has completed his senior year early and will start at Florida this fall. The 17-year-old left-hander is the son of head coach Bryan Shelton, and was featured in this Tennis Recruiting article as one of several juniors who would be playing for their fathers.

Shelton is one of several top juniors who have made news on the recruiting front the past several days. According to Parsa Nemati, blue chip Jenna DeFalco has verbally committed to LSU for 2021, blue chip Sydney Ratliff has verbally committed to Ohio State for 2021, and

Nemati is also reporting that Christian Alshon is transferring from Virginia after this freshman year to Division III Chicago.

In addition to providing these updates, Nemati is also preparing a valuable list of the top 2020 freshmen by their UTR. Part 1 shows the men from 51-100 and the women from 51-75. I have no doubt I'll be referring to this often once college tennis resumes.

Division I University of Maryland Eastern Shore has suspended its women's tennis program beginning with the 2020-21 season. From the release:
"We will take the next three years to perform an assessment of the program's needs," Hawk Athletic Director Keith Davidson said. "During this suspension, a number of areas will be reviewed and evaluated. Current practice and match facilities, scholarships, equipment, coaching staff and other expenses that continue to impact our ability to offer a quality program for our young women will all be looked at."
 In addition, the university will initiate a fundraising campaign that will be dedicated to supporting the tennis program and returning our ladies to the court as well as reinstating the men's program, which was suspended beginning with the 2017-18 academic year.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Recap of ITA Summer Circuit Week 5; Collins Dismissed From World Team Tennis for Leaving Bubble; ATP Citi Open in Washington Canceled

I attended the ITA Summer Circuit finals in Grand Rapids yesterday, and wrote in detail about the titles for Ellie Coleman and Ekansh Kumar in last night's post. I will also have more on the tournament in an article for the Tennis Recruiting Network Friday.

Three other tournaments on the circuit also concluded, and as with the Grand Rapids event, the competition in Lake Nona Florida also produced to winners from the junior ranks.

Blue chip Sonya Macavei, a rising high school junior, defeated five-star rising senior Kate Sharabura 6-2, 6-2 to win the women's title at the USTA National Campus. The draws from the event didn't show seeds, but Macavei had the fifth best Universal Tennis Rating in the field, while Sharabura's UTR was the sixth best. Macavei defeated Rachel Gailis, who had the top UTR in the women's draw, 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

Five-star Jelani Sarr, a rising sophomore, won the men's event, beating rising senior Jake Fellows, who had the men's top UTR, 6-1, 6-2 in the final. Sarr, with the fourth best UTR in the men's field, had reached the final of the ITA Summer Circuit event in Lake Nona the previous week, but gave a walkover to Ozan Colak. According to Sarr's UTR record, they played a match a few days later, with Colak winning that match 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-4.

The tournament in Houston, which paid prize money, had more mature champions.  Baylor graduate Rhiann Newborn, now 26, defeated 25-year-old Ayaka Okuno, who played briefly at Georgia, 7-5, 7-6(1) in the women's final. Newborn had the best UTR and Okuno the second best UTR in the women's field.

Texas A&M rising junior Austin Abbrat, who had the second best UTR, defeated Tyler Junior College rising sophomore Jaycer Lyeons 6-3, 7-5 for the men's title. Lyeons had the fourth best UTR in the men's field.

The champions collected $375, while the finalists received $275.

Unlike most of the ITA events this summer, the event in Lubbock Texas did not attract many entries. Lubbock resident Harrison Bennett, a four-star rising sophomore, won the men's event, beating two-star Andrew Azatian, also from Lubbock 6-3, 6-1 in the final.

Maria Kononova, who played at the University of North Texas, didn't have much competition in the thin women's draw. Kononova, with a 10.09 UTR, lost only two games total in her two matches. She defeated Rachel Homan, whose UTR is 6.42, 6-0, 6-0 in the final.

World Team Tennis has entered its second week of competition without any reports of positive Covid-19 tests, but Danielle Collins was dismissed from her team, the Orlando Storm, for violating the safety protocols. Collins left the premises of The Greenbrier during the team's day off Sunday.  Jessica Pegula is the other singles player on the Storm, and she played in their match this morning, losing in singles, but winning both her doubles matches to lead the Storm to a 23-17 win over the Washington Kastles.

The brief statement provided by the league said only that the 2014 and 2016 NCAA singles champion had left the site and the state; given Collins' connection with the University of Virginia a couple of hours away, speculation was that she had traveled there. That was confirmed later by teammate Tennys Sandgren and coach Jay Gooding in this article about Collins' dismissal at tennis.com.

The USTA, ATP and WTA have not yet provided any information on how they might handle a similar breach at the upcoming Western & Southern Open and US Open, but the WTT has set a standard that they would be wise to adopt.

The return of ATP tennis will now be delayed yet again, when it was announced today that the Citi Open in Washington DC would be canceled. Scheduled to start on August 13, the tournament was not a part of any bubble environment, and with so much uncertainty Chairman Mark Ein made the decision to pull the plug, stating, "With only 23 days left until the start of the tournament, there are too many unresolved external issues, including various international travel restrictions as well as troubling health and safety trends, that have forced us to make this decision now in fairness to our players, suppliers and partners, so that they can have certainty around their planning.”

The USTA immediately sent out a statement that this decision has no implications for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open:
"This decision in no way impacts the US Open or the Western & Southern Open. The USTA will create a safe and controlled environment for players and everyone else involved in both tournaments that mitigates health risks that was approved by the State of New York and also conforms to the standards put forth by New York City and the federal government. We constantly base our decisions regarding hosting these tournaments on our three guiding principles that include safety and health of all involved, whether hosting these events are in the best interest in the sport of tennis and whether this decision is financially viable. We are confident we remain in-line with all three guiding principles."

Monday, July 20, 2020

Kumar and Coleman Win ITA Summer Circuit Titles in Grand Rapids

For the first time since February, I saw a tennis match in person today, as I traveled an hour north to Grand Rapids for the finals of ITA Summer Circuit tournament there. I'll have a complete rundown of the event for Tennis Recruiting Network this Friday, and that will focus on what the finalists told me about returning to tennis after this four-month layoff and why a tournament usually held on a college campus ended up on high school courts instead.  But tonight, I'm going to go back to what I used to do regularly: report on the actual tennis, although like many players right now, I'm certainly out of practice.

The courts at the Northview High School were in excellent shape, but there were no wind screens and little viewing for any courts other than 1 or 2, so the ambiance certainly didn't rival a national junior event. Thunderstorms for most of the day Sunday meant the semifinals didn't finish until around 8 p.m., with the quarterfinals also on the schedule. The men were sent indoors, which required the consent of all players and their coaches or parents, while the women did manage to finish outside.

Fortunately Monday dawned clear and much less humid than the first two days of the tournament, so any fatigue the finalists may have felt for their fifth match in three days wouldn't be magnified by conditions. All four finalists are teenagers, with the women rising high school seniors and the men rising high school juniors.

Grand Rapids ITA Summer Circuit Champions Ekansh Kumar and Ellie Coleman

Top seed Ellie Coleman, who trains at the Grand Rapids Racquet Club, just down the street from the high school, was the top seed, with the best UTR in the field.  She faced Nibedita Ghosh of New Jersey, who was the No. 2 seed and had the second best UTR among the girls, with the 6-3, 7-5 decision in favor of Coleman hinging on a couple of deciding points in the last two games.

Ghosh was playing her first event since February, but said once she got through the first couple of matches, she began feel comfortable again.

"It was hard to get started," said Ghosh, who drove from New Jersey to play in the event. "I feel my first few rounds were shaky and everyone had a tough time. Everyone was nervous; they were just trying to get back in the groove of things."

Ghosh had to contend with Coleman's strategy of serving and volleying on nearly every point.

"It’s something that I’ve been trying to work on," said Coleman, who had played the ITA Summer Circuit event in Lake Nona the previous weekend. "I thought it was a good time to incorporate it into a match situation, see how it played out in some real points."

Coleman was often successful, but Ghosh also came up with enough passing shots and lob winners to keep Coleman guessing. 

"Most girls I play don’t do that, but when I go to Garden State [Tennis Center], I can play with a lot of boys and they do that a lot," said Ghosh, a rising senior. "It was a little bit unusual, but I was able to adjust pretty quickly."

Despite Ghosh's adjustment, Coleman continued to rush the net, although when Ghosh was serving, the points were much longer.

"I think she did well keeping the points long and keeping the ball deep," said Coleman, who has committed to Duke for 2021. "So yeah, there were definitely some good tight points in there and a good match overall."

Ghosh served for the second set at 5-4, but was broken at love. She had three opportunities for another break when Coleman fell behind 15-40, but Coleman saved all three, winning the deciding point to take a 6-5 lead. The next game also went to a deciding point, and Coleman was again able to take it, this time ending the two-hour match.

Finalists Noah Hernandez and Nibedita Ghosh

In the men's final, No. 3 seed Ekansh Kumar defeated No. 2 seed Noah Hernandez 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-5, with the first set taking over an hour to complete.

"He’s a great player and he gave me a tough battle, likes to keep rallies long, so it was fun to find angles and stuff," said Kumar, who like Ghosh drove to Grand Rapids from the east coast, in his case Virginia. "I think the whole match was kind of above average, level was always up there. I just found a way towards the end, to make him miss, make him feel tight, pushed him off the court, came in, put my points away when I needed to. Got it done when it mattered I think."

Kumar had the most tournaments under his belt of any of the finalists, having played the American Clay Court Nationals at The Greenbrier last month and a men's open in Louisville Kentucky over the 4th of July weekend.

"The Clay Courts at Greenbrier was my first one back, I was a little bit rusty there, but it was a good tournament, got a couple of solid wins," Kumar said. "[Louisville] was a good tournament; I also played well there, lost in the semis. There were a bunch of college players there. We just decided to drive out here for the ITA and it was a good tournament, a high level. I had a pretty solid experience, played well and my opponents played well. Now I’m finally starting to feel like I’m coming back."

Hernandez was also coming off a semifinal appearance, having reached that stage at the Summer Circuit event in Indianapolis last weekend. 

"I did pretty well at that one, my first tournament back, and I did even better here than that last tournament, so I’m happy with my result I guess," said Hernandez, who drove to the tournament from the Chicago area. "This tournament was a lot better than the last one. I got used to playing a tournament again and I don’t feel physically and mentally tired right now, which is good. I guess I’m getting a feel for tournaments again."

I asked all four finalists their thoughts on the recent cancellation of the USTA National Hard Courts and unsurprisingly, they were all disappointed, although all will have another opportunity to play that tournament in 2021. Ghosh said she was anticipating the cancellation before it happened. 

Except for Coleman, who committed to Duke early this year, the other three finalists have seen their college recruiting process disrupted.

"I was going to take some visits in the spring but with the recruiting dead period it’s been hard for me to commit," Ghosh said. "I want to see a campus before I commit, so it’s been really tough."

Kumar misses seeing coaches on sidelines for his matches.

"I kind of want them to come because they give me more of a purpose to put everything into a match," Kumar said. I did that today, but sometimes it’s a little bit de-motivating. I’m looking forward to when they can come and watch; it would be nice to talk with the ones that might want me."
Like Kumar, Hernandez is still in the early stages of the recruiting process.
"It’s definitely different than what I expected," Hernandez said. "I’m spending a lot of time texting coaches and on the phone, but it’s still pretty exciting."

Tomorrow I'll have a recap of the other three ITA Summer Circuit events that made up Week 5. 

Registration links for the nine Week 6 events coming up can be found at the ITA website.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Stanford's Fery Wins Again; Borges Earns Portugal's National Championship; More Notable Exhibition Results

Keeping track of all the exhibitions going on around the world now hasn't been easy, but I have tracked several notable results from this weekend.

Arthur Fery of Great Britain, who is set to begin his college career at Stanford this fall, won his second straight British Tour title today, beating Jonathan Gray 6-2, 2-6, 10-6 in the final. Fery, who has yet to drop a match in this particular competition, defeated top seed Jack Draper, ATP No. 288, in the first round, and Baylor rising junior Finn Bass in the semifinals. For more on Fery's win, see this LTA article.

In a UK Pro Series event, TCU senior Alastair Gray won the title, beating Billy Harris 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Gray had beaten ATP No. 211 Liam Broady 7-5, 6-4 earlier in the tournament.

In Australia, former University of Illinois star Aleks Vukic won this week's UTR Pro Series event in Sydney, defeating Max Purcell 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Vukic, who graduated from Illinois in 2018, had lost to Purcell in the first event in Sydney at the end of last month.

Ellen Perez, the former University of Georgia star, had her winning streak stopped in the final, falling to Destanee Aiava 7-5, 0-6, 15-13. Perez had won the previous two UTR Pro Series events in Sydney, while Aiava won the UTR Pro Series tournament in Melbourne in her last outing.

For more on both finals, see this article from Tennis Australia.

Nuno Borges, the former Mississippi State All-American, won his third tournament in the Portugal National men's competition, defeating Tiago Cacao 6-2, 6-3 in today's final. Borges, who reached the NCAA singles final last May, won the Week 1, Week 3 and Week 4 tournaments that made up the competition, and is now officially Portugal's National champion.

2019 US Open boys champion Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic has now won two exhibition tournaments in his home country in the past month. The 19-year-old collected the second today by defeating 18-year-old Jiri Lehecka 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Forejtek and Lehecka won the boys Wimbledon doubles title last year.

At the Cracked Racquets money tournament in Cincinnati, Northwestern rising junior and top seed Steve Forman captured the men's open title, defeating 2019 Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion Nishesh Basavareddy, the No. 5 seed, 6-4, 7-5 in Sunday's final. Forman earned $700, while Basavareddy took home $300.  Top seed Abby Nugent won the women's open title, beating No. 2 seed Lily McCloskey 6-3, 7-6 in the final.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Nakashima Continues to Shine in World Team Tennis; Other Notes From Around Tennis

Brandon Nakashima, who turns 19 next month, has had no difficulty staying with the veterans in men's singles during the first week of World Team Tennis play.  The former University of Virginia standout is 3-1 playing men's singles for the Chicago Smash, with victories over Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock. His win over Sock, who plays for the New York Empire, saw him capture a tiebreaker to force extended play, then take another game to force a Super tiebreaker, then win the last three points of that tiebreaker to give his team the 22-21 win. Nakashima's only loss was to Tennys Sandgren, who also dealt Nakashima his only loss at the Altec Styslinger Exhibition last month in Miami. For more on his win over Sock, see this WTT article. The Smash is now 3-1 on the season, in second place 1/2 game behind the Philadelphia Freedoms, who are 4-1.

Kim Clijsters' comeback has been impressive, with the New York Empires team member going 4-0 in women's singles. Clijsters has beaten Bernarda Pera, Danielle Collins, Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens so far this week. See this tennis.com article for more on Clijsters return.

The NCAA has announced return-to-sport guidelines, which are more pertinent right now for fall sports than for tennis, which is spring sport. The NCAA also adopted legislation for sports, including tennis, "that would exempt from counting against team limits need-based financial aid given by the school that meets other specific criteria and other school-given, merit-based awards with no relationship to athletics ability."  The NCAA also approved the move of St. Thomas(Minn) from Division III to Division I.  St. Thomas has both men's and women's tennis teams, so while there will be no net gain overall, there are now two more Division I teams, which is a welcome change. St. Thomas will compete in the Summit League in most sports, but will not be eligible for postseason play until 2025-26.

CNBC published this article about college football financials and what the consequences might be if, as is looking increasingly likely, football is not played this fall. I was not sure how much football contributed to overall athletic department revenue at most Division I schools; I'm not surprised by the percentage given here, but it does show just how precarious everyone's finances will be if it can't be played.

Jeff Wilson was announced as the new men's head coach at the University of Pacific at the end of last month, but after two weeks left the new job for personal reasons. According to Parsa Nemati, Wilson will return to the assistant's job at Dartmouth. On Friday, Pacific announced Robin Goodman as the new men's head coach. Goodman spent the past four seasons as assistant men's coach at New Mexico.

Once the USTA National Hard Court Championships were canceled, I was hoping to cover the new WTA event announced for Lexington Kentucky that same week. Unfortunately, I was told that the WTA will not be credentialing media for that tournament, so I will not be able to attend after all. With that tournament the first women's WTA event in United States since the shutdown, it was expected to have a strong field, and a few days ago the WTA announced that Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens have committed to playing it. The tournament begins August 10th. Stephens is playing World Team Tennis for the Chicago Smash, but she would have more than a week off prior to the Lexington tournament.

Several weeks ago I ran across this investigation of junior boys slam champions, which not only looks at their highest ATP ranking, but whether their age when they won their titles gives any indication of future success.

Friday, July 17, 2020

My Article on Pros Loeb and Rybakov Serving as Har-Tru Sales Reps; ATP Talks with Brayden Schnur and Kevin Anderson

Har-Tru, known for its green clay, also provides
 hard court options and court accessories
When I talked to Jamie Loeb last month, the 2015 NCAA singles champion told me that she was playing exhibition matches while training in Florida and was doing her best to stay ready for whenever the Pro Circuit might return. The 25-year-old New Yorker also mentioned she had recently signed on with Har-Tru as an outside sales representative, after a conversation with Dustin Taylor, who joined the company whose name is synonymous with green clay late last year.

I later spoke with Taylor about this idea, which struck me as a clever way to promote the company's products and also produce some income for players who are in direct contact with Directors of Tennis at facilities across the country. Obviously the opportunities to talk to tournament directors and tennis operations managers face-to-face are limited now, but Taylor hopes the program can be expanded once some normalcy returns to the ITF World Tennis Tour and the USTA Pro Circuit.

When I spoke to the men's Har-Tru rep Alex Rybakov earlier this month, he told me he spent the first few months of the lockdown recovering from an injury.

"It was bothering me a little bit the last tournament I'd played March. I'd played a Challenger in Calgary and a Futures in Vegas," said the 23-year-old from Florida, who completed his eligibility at TCU last year. "I was playing pretty well and I came back and got an MRI. I had a stress reaction in my pubic bone, so I rested for a while and maybe two months of rehab, and now another month getting back in the gym, back on the court, and now I'm starting to play. I actually got lucky."

Taylor told me Rybakov was the player who spurred him to get the program off the ground, and once Rybakov reached out to Taylor during his downtime, the lull in competitive tennis provided a window to actually get it going.

For more on this initiative and Taylor's hopes for its expansion, see my article, posted today, at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Two other former college standouts have been featured by the ATP recently.

North Carolina's Brayden Schnur, currently 176 in the ATP rankings, talked to the ATP about his move to Newport Beach California, where he is training with Ernesto Escobedo, Jason Jung and Brandon Nakashima. The 25-year-old Canadian, who was the ITA Rookie of the Year in 2014 was able to use the break to recover from injuries he had at the start of the year.

Former Fighting Illini Kevin Anderson, who, like Schnur spent three years in college before turning pro, spoke with ATP Radio about his goals for this year and next after a lengthy battle with a knee injury saw the 34-year-old South African miss most of the 12 months. Anderson has several ambitious goals for the next several years, with the two-time slam singles finalist hoping to going one step further at the level, while winning Masters Series title. Anderson has not yet reached a final at the Masters level.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

ITF Grade 1 in College Park MD Canceled; Update on Draw Sizes, Schedule for Western & Southern Open; 13-Year-Old Fruhvirtova Beats Siniakova in Czech Republic Exhibition

Although still appearing on the ITF's junior schedule, the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, scheduled for August 24-29, has been canceled.  With all other ITF sanctioned events in the US already canceled early last week, and the USTA National Hard Courts canceled this week, there was no reason to expect the College Park event would be held and today I confirmed with the JTCC, which hosts the event, that it has been canceled for this year. I had heard the ITF would be making a formal announcement about its junior calendar this week, but so far that announcement has not materialized.

The only high-level tennis expected in the United States in August is at the WTA and ATP level. The Western & Southern Open, which has been moved from Cincinnati to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York the week before the US Open, sent out an update today on its draw sizes and schedule.

Both men's and women's singles draws will be 56 players, with first round byes to the top 8 seeds. Thirty-nine players will be direct acceptances as of the July 27 deadline, with 12 qualifiers and four wild cards, as well as one special exemption for the ATP's Washington event, if needed. The WTA, which will not have a special exemption, has five wild cards.

The qualifying draws will be 48 players, with two wins necessary to advance. There are six wild cards for the men's qualifying and five wild cards for the women's qualifying. The entry deadline is August 3 for qualifying.

Qualifying is scheduled for Thursday and Friday August 20th and 21st, with the first round of the main draw set for Saturday the 22nd and Sunday the 23rd.

Tennis Channel and ESPN will share the broadcast coverage.

For additional details, including those for doubles competition, see this article.

Brenda Fruhvirtova turned 13 in April, meaning the 2020 Les Petits As champion is now eligible to compete on the ITF Junior Circuit, were any such tournaments being played. She has gotten the opportunity to compete in the women's Czech Republic exhibitions for the past several weeks however, and today she picked up a huge win, beating WTA No. 54 Katerina Siniakova 7-6(5), 6-1. Fruhvirtova will advance out of her round robin group if she beats 17-year-old Darja Vidmanova, who is currently No. 40 in the ITF World Junior rankings, Friday.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

2022 Youth Olympic Games Postponed Until 2026; USTA Southern Cancels Sectional; Krajicek and Dabrowski Join World Team Tennis's Orange County Breakers

The Youth Olympic Games are a strange animal, with very little history, having begun in 2010. When there are four years between competitions, a great many juniors (in tennis and all other Olympic sports) are precluded from competing in them based on their birth dates alone; if, in 2019, you were 16 when you got high enough in the ITF junior rankings to think about qualifying, you would be too old to compete in the next scheduled competition in 2022.

That bad luck got even worse for the current crop of promising ITF Juniors, with the International Olympic Committee's announcement today that the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Senegal would be postponed until 2026. Now a player would have to be born in 2008 or later to be eligible for the next Youth Olympic Games, meaning that those players are currently 11 or 12 years old. For example, Les Petits As champion Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, who turned 13 this year, will be too old to play when the next Youth Olympic Games are held. I've never been a fan of tennis in the Olympics, even when pros can play in several of them due to the length of their careers, the Olympics seem more of an afterthought in a sport like tennis. For juniors, their introduction 10 years ago seemed particularly misguided given the age penalty so many young athletes would pay through no fault of their own. I don't know the motivation behind the decision to establish the Youth Olympic Games in the first place, but today's announcement just emphasizes how fundamentally unfair the system is.

After Friday's announcement that the USTA Southern California Sectional was being postponed and Monday's announcement that the USTA 16s and 18s National Hard Court Championships were not going to be played this year, it is no surprise that the USTA's Southern section announced yesterday that its Sectional Closed events, scheduled for July 30-August 5 at various venues, are off.  The letter explaining the cancellation of these events is here. As the letter says, travel is what makes these events dangerous and confusing, not the tennis itself, and local play can continue. I hope other sections are also encouraging this model.

The safety of the actual tennis being played was not a concern of the USTA Medical Advisory Group, therefore USTA Southern will continue to encourage State Level Tournaments 3-6 to continue, since these are local tournaments where traveling is not encouraged, and draws are smaller in size.

The World Team Tennis Stadium Court at The Greenbrier
World Team Tennis is halfway through its first week of competition at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. The Orange County Breakers, who were to have Milos Raonic on their roster before he withdrew, were down to four players, and after they lost their first two matches, they have added doubles specialists Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and 2011 NCAA doubles champion Austin Krajicek(Texas A&M). Correction: Both played today in the Breakers third loss, with Dabrowski playing both mixed, with Krajicek, and women's doubles with Jennifer Brady. 

For an interesting look at how the testing is going in the Greenbrier bubble, and who is still waiting for clearance to come out of quarantine, see this tennis.com article

And for those interested in the current status of 2017 US Open boys champion Yibing Wu of China, Jon Wertheim's weekly mailbag at SI.com has an update.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Results From All Seven ITA Week 3 Summer Circuit Events, Texas A&M to Host August Summer Nationals; My Conversation with Ken Thomas

It was a busy week 3 for the ITA Summer Circuit, with seven tournaments around the country producing both junior and collegiate champions in the top flights.

Two juniors won at the event at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, with Georgia's blue chip recruit Gianna Pielet, seeded No. 2, defeating No. 4 seed Madison Sieg 7-5, 3-6, 10-4 in the final. Sieg had beaten top seed Ellie Coleman 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals. Sixteen-year-old blue chip Ozan Colak, seeded No. 2, won the boys title when unseeded Jelani Sarr withdrew prior to the final. Top seed Ben Shelton withdrew before playing his first match. Both the men's and the women's draws were limited to 16 players in the top flight and 32 players overall.

The top flights at the tournament in Danville California also were made up of 16 players. Blue chip Vivian Ovrootsky, who turns 16 tomorrow, defeated Wake Forest rising junior Carolyn Campana 6-1, 6-4 in the women's final. Ovrootsky, the No. 3 seed, defeated  top seed Connie Ma 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals.  No. 3 seed Eric Hadigian, a rising sophomore at Gonzaga, won the men's title, beating Yale rising freshman Theodore Dean 7-5, 6-0 in the final.

At the Corpus Christi tournament featured just one flight in their 32-player draws. Division II West Alabama's Christopher Bulus, a rising senior seeded No. 2, defeated top seed Javier Gonzalez of UT-San Antonio 7-6(5), 3-6, 10-4 for the men's title. Top seed Jeanette Mireles, a five-star rising high school senior, defeated Western Michigan rising junior Femke Tjon-a-joe, the No. 2 seed, 6-0, 7-5 for the women's title.

Three-star recruit Lily Walther, a rising high school senior, won the women's title in Kansas City, when 14-year-old Brooklyn Olson, the top seed, retired in the final at 6-0, 0-5.  Top seed Maximiliano Sanoja, a rising senior at D-II Southwest Baptist, won the men's top flight title, beating unseeded rising sophomore Jaydn Richardson of Division II McKendree University 6-2, 6-2.

In San Diego, five star rising senior Maxi Duncan, the No. 3 seed, beat No. 2 seed Camille Kiss, a rising freshman at UC-Santa Barbara 1-6, 6-2, 10-5 in the women's final. Duncan had beaten top seed Katie Codd in the semifinals.  No. 3 seed Matthew Sah, a rising sophomore at UC-Irvine, won the men's title, beating Princeton recruit Ellis Short, the No. 7 seed, in a thriller 3-6, 6-4, 15-13.  Short had beaten top seed Thomas Paulsell 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals.

The Wichita Falls Texas tournament saw both No. 2 seeds claim titles over No. 1 seeds in deciding tiebreakers. Katherine Petty, a rising freshman at Santa Clara, defeated Tennessee sophomore Callie Creath 7-6(7), 1-6, 10-8 for the women's title. Alex Martinez Roca, a rising junior at Midwestern State, beat 15-year-old Lucas Brown, currently No. 1 in the Class of 2023, 5-7, 6-4, 12-10 in the men's final.

At Indianapolis, which had a large numbers of participants leading to four flights for each gender, Oakland University rising senior Ava Theilman won the women's top flight title, beating Ellie Pittman, a five-star rising senior, 7-5, 2-6, 10-4 in the final.  Vanderbilt five-star recruit Michael Ross won the men's top flight title, beating five-star rising high school junior Preston Stearns (Peyton's brother) 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

In week 4 there are just four Summer Circuit events, but the following week there are ten on the schedule, with registration open for all of them.

The ITA also announced today that the National Summer Championships will be held at Texas A&M August 7-11. There had been suggestions that the last and most important event on the ITA Summer Circuit would be held at Lake Nona this year, but that obviously did not happen.

Ken Thomas checks the sound prior to our conversation
I had an opportunity to talk to longtime friend and colleague Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com in person today, as he has journeyed to Michigan from Southern California to continue his Pandemic Interview series. He set up his portable recording studio on my patio this afternoon and we talked, at a socially safe distance, about how I got into tennis, my connection to Kalamazoo, why I started Zootennis, and many other topics. If you missed the interview live, it is available via the site's archives, as are all the other interviews Ken has done in this series. He will be talking with men's head coach Ryan Sachire of Notre Dame tomorrow, and has many other college coaches on his schedule for the next two-plus weeks.

There is no sign in or password necessary to access these interviews; just go to the site, click on the Listen Live tab and press play.