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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Korda, Fritz, Anisimova Advance to French Open Third Round; Eddie Herr Canceled; ITA Fall Tour Week Two Winners

Serena Williams withdrew from the French  Open today prior to her second round match with Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria with an Achilles injury, but the younger Americans delivered victories today in Paris, with 20-year-old qualifier Sebastian Korda extending his breakthrough slam to the third round with a four-set win over No. 21 seed John Isner.

Korda, the 2018 Australian Open boys champion, broke Isner five times in his 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory, and struck 46 winners against just 28 unforced errors. Korda returned well, and was much more solid once the rallies began, while Isner couldn't summon his best serving when he needed it. Korda, who won his first slam match on Sunday, will face fellow qualifier Pedro Martinez of Spain for a spot in the round of 16.

No. 27 seed Taylor Fritz, 22, who has made the third round in all three of the slams played in 2020, defeated Radu Albot of Moldova 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. 

Nineteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who reached the French Open semifinals last year, breezed past Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-0, to set up another Paris encounter with Simona Halep, the top seed, who Anisimova defeated last year in the quarterfinals.

Coco Gauff, who had taken out No. 9 seed Johanna Konta in the first round, struggled with her serve again today against qualifier Martina Trevisan of Italy, hitting 19 double faults in a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 loss. 

With Mackenzie McDonald going out to Rafael Nadal, Dominik Koepfer losing to Stan Wawrinka, and Isner falling to Korda, only three former collegians remain: Kevin Anderson, Marcos Giron and Tennys Sandgren, all of whom play their second round matches Thursday, as does the only former collegian on the women's side, Danielle Collins.

Thursday's order of play is here.

Wednesday’s French Open second round results of Americans:

Tsvetana Pironkova(BUL) d. Serena Williams[6] w/o 

Martina Trevisan(ITA)[Q] d. Coco Gauff 46, 62, 75

Amanda Anisimova[25] d. Bernarda Pera 62, 60 

Rafael Nadal(ESP)[2] d. Mackenzie McDonald 61, 60, 63

Dominic Thiem(AUT)[3] d. Jack Sock[Q] 61 63 76(6)

Sebastian Korda[Q] d. John Isner[21] 64, 64, 26, 64

Taylor Fritz[27] d. Radu Albot(MDA) 63, 62, 64

Casper Ruud(NOR)[28] d. Tommy Paul 61, 16, 63, 16, 63

Thursday’s French Open second round matches featuring Americans:

Sofia Kenin[4] v Ana Bogdan(ROU)

Danielle Collins v Clara Tauson(DEN)[Q]

Christina McHale v Patricia Tig(ROU)

Sloane Stephens[29] v Paula Badosa(ESP)

Marcos Giron v Thiago Monteiro(BRA)

Tennys Sandgren v Daniel Elahi Galan(COL)[LL]

The Eddie Herr International tournament had promised a decision about the status of this year's event by the end of September, and it was announced today that it will not take place in 2020.

The health and safety of everyone involved in the Eddie Herr International Junior Championship remains our top priority, so due to global health concerns regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus), and in agreement with the USTA, this year’s event will not take place. We thank our guests, players, partners and staff for their support, and look forward to welcoming everyone back to Eddie Herr in 2021.

As of now, the Orange Bowl, which is an ITF event for 16s and 18s in Plantation Florida, is still on for December 7-13.

Week 2 of the ITA Fall Tour has concluded, and below is a list of the winners of the 18 events. The ITA published this recap of how the Top 5 UTR players did in the tournaments they entered. Entries for Week 4 close on Sunday.

Williamsburg: Men, Alec Strause; Women, Diya Challa

South Bend: Men, Patrick Maloney; Women, Gabrielle Guenther

Evansville: Men, Jacob Perkins; Women, Jana Leder

Lexington: Men, Davis Phillips; Women, Marina Fuduric

Huntsville: Men, James Story; Women, Jana Hecking

Wichita: Men, Elio Lago; Women, Vanessa Ong

Lawrenceville: Men, Ben Shelton; Women, Maria Genovese

Urbandale: Men, Benjamin Lott; Women, Claire Gu

West Palm Beach: Men, Jorge Santamaria; Women, Maria Rizzolo

Minneapolis: Women, Veronica Rodriguez

Lakeland: Men, Samuel Frizelle; Women, Katja Wiersholm

Ypsilanti: Men, Andrew Vincler; Women, Sophia Zaslow

Daytona Beach: Men, Rodrigo Carvalo

Medina: Men, Caleb Miller; Women, Madeline Atway

San Angelo: Women, Andrea Villareal

Whitewater: Men, Tomas Salgado; Women, Reese Brantmeier

Beaumont: Men, Axel Vila Antuna; Women, Destinee Martins

Aurora: Men, Nicholas Patrick

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tauson Beats Brady at French Open, Giron Saves Match Point in Marathon Win; La Salle Drops Men's and Women's Tennis; Georgia Tech Receives Coaching Endowments

Seventeen-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark could have been satisfied with qualifying for the French Open this year, but the 2019 Australian Open girls champion made her main draw debut even more memorable by saving two match points against US Open semifinalist and No. 21 seed Jennifer Brady in a 6-4, 3-6, 9-7 victory.

Tauson matched Brady in the power department and neither woman dialed back on their aggressive playing style even as the stakes got higher in the third set. Brady led 4-2 in the third set, but failed to consolidate the break, and Tauson pulled even at 4-all. Serving at 5-6 Tauson went down 15-40, but then won eight of the next nine points, to find herself serving for the match at 7-6. But it was Brady's turn to step up, saving three match points with big hitting to make it 7-7, but Tauson broke to get another chance to serve it out.

It wasn't easy, as Tauson had to save a break point and couldn't convert her fourth match point, but she closed it out on her fifth, celebrating quietly with a look of disbelief on her face as she headed to the net for the racquet tap.

"We played an amazing match today, probably the highest-quality tennis I’ve ever played in my life,” Tauson told Danielle Rossingh in this article for the tournament website. “I have adjusted, and I think that I am ready to be on this level, but you still have to break into the top 100 and there is still a long way for that...and I feel good to play against those kind of players.”

Tauson will face Danielle Collins in the second round, with Collins coming back against qualifier Monica Niculescu of Romania for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Marcos Giron had not won a tour-level match on clay before today, but he joined five other Americans this year in claiming a first victory at Roland Garros, beating wild card Quentin Halys of France 7-5, 3-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 8-6 in four hours and 26 minutes.

Like Tauson, Giron faced a match point late in the deciding set, serving at 5-6, 30-40. But the 2014 NCAA singles champion saved it, broke in the next game and served out the match at love to earn just his second main draw slam victory, with the first coming earlier coming less than a month ago at the US Open.

Giron was the only US man to advance today, but the eight Americans advancing to the second round is the most since 1996. Eight American women also advanced to the second round, with Sofia Kenin and Sloane Stephens joining Collins into Tuesday's winner's circle.  

Wednesday's schedule features ten Americans; the only two who played their first round matches Monday who are not on Wednesday's schedule are Tennys Sandgren and Christina McHale. 

Former Pepperdine All-American Mayar Sherif of Egypt acquitted herself well in her first-ever slam main draw match, but she fell to No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-4. With Sherif's loss,  Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia and Collins(Virginia) are the sole collegiate women in the draw. Six men remain: John Isner(Georgia), Sandgren(Tennessee), Kevin Anderson(Illinois) of South Africa, Giron(UCLA), McDonald(UCLA) and Dominik Koepfer(Tulane) of Germany.

Tuesday’s French Open first round results of Americans: 

Andrey Rublev(RUS)[13] d. Sam Querrey 67(5), 67(4), 75, 64, 63

Marcos Giron d. Quentin Halys(FRA)[WC] 75, 36, 67(5), 75, 8-6

Roberto Carballes Baena(ESP) d. Steve Johnson 61, 61, 60 

Sofia Kenin[4] d. Liudmila Samsonova(RUS) 64, 36, 63

Aryna Sabalenka(BLR)[8] d. Jessica Pegula 63, 61

Clara Tauson(DEN)[Q] d. Jennifer Brady[21] 64, 36, 97 

Danielle Collins d. Monica Niculescu(ROU)[Q] 26, 62, 61

Julia Goerges(GER) d. Alison Riske[19] 63, 67(4), 61

Jelena Ostapenko(LAT) d. Madison Brengle 62, 61

Sloane Stephens[29] d. Vitalia Diatchenko(RUS) 62, 62

Wednesday’s French Open second round matches featuring Americans:

Serena Williams[6] v Tsvetana Pironkova(BUL)

Coco Gauff v Martina Trevisan(ITA)

Bernarda Pera v Amanda Anisimova[25]

Mackenzie McDonald v Rafael Nadal(ESP)[2]

Jack Sock[Q] v Dominic Thiem(AUT)[3]

Sebastian Korda[Q] v John Isner[21]

Taylor Fritz[27] v Radu Albot(MDA)

Tommy Paul v Casper Ruud(NOR)[28]

Division I La Salle announced today that it was cutting seven sports, including men's and women's tennis, after this academic year, leaving them with 18 sponsored varsity sports. In the announcement, the private university in Philadelphia says that this "is not a cost-cutting decision," but then goes on to say its doesn't have enough money to properly fund 25 sports, so that seems more aimed at heading off fund raising efforts than anything else. 

The other sports being cut are men's swimming and diving, men's water polo, softball and volleyball. 

In better news for college tennis, Georgia Tech announced that Ken and Trish Byers, for whom the school's tennis complex is named, have endowed the men's and women's head coaching positions. For more on all the support they have provided to athletic and academic endeavors at Georgia Tech, see this announcement

Monday, September 28, 2020

Eight More Americans Advance to Second Round at French Open; Men's and Women's Doubles Draws Released; Next Month's Men's $15K in Vero Beach Switches to UTR $10K

After a damp start to Day Two, all 51 matches on the French Open schedule were completed, although the last one didn't finish until after midnight, a first in Paris, where they have a roof and lights for the first time this year.

American women picked up four victories, as did American men, with Christina McHale and Tennys Sandgren picking up wins over seeds.

The day started with qualifier Jack Sock's routine 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win over Reilly Opelka, with the weather conditions taking some of the juice from the Opelka serve, although Sock did return quite well. Opelka ended up with 16 aces, but he faced 15 break points, with Sock converting five, while he was only broken once in the match. Sock faces US Open champion Dominic Thiem, the No. 3 seed, in the second round.

Tommy Paul, the 2015 French Open boys champion, posted his first main draw win at Roland Garros, beating Australian James Duckworth 62, 63, 62 and Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) also earned his first main draw win in Paris, beating qualifier Steven Diez of Canada 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. But Sandgren(Tennessee) got the most dramatic win of the day, saving two match points to defeat No. 29 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 7-6(1), 11-9. Sandgren, who, like Paul and McDonald had not won a main draw match at the French Open, dug out of a 15-40 hole serving at 7-8 in the fifth set. He then broke Hurkacz for a 10-9 lead, went up 40-0 serving for the match only to see that lead evaporate, and Sandgren had to save two break points before finally closing out the win in four hours and 34 minutes.

MacDonald and Sandgren were the only two former college players to earn victories on Monday.

Christina McHale had an impressive win over No. 22 seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4. She gets Patricia Tig of Romania in the second round.

Several notable results from teenagers today, with 2018 ITF World Junior champion Clara Burel, a French wild card getting her best win in the post-midnight match with a 6-7(7), 7-6(2), 6-3 decision over WTA No. 67 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. Burel, who struggled with injury most of 2019, will face another 19-year-old, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, in the second round, after Juvan defeated No. 18 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 6-3. That is a rematch of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medal match, which Juvan won 7-5, 6-4.  Eighteen-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez, the 2019 French Open girls champion, overcame a slow start to beat No. 31 seed Magda Linette of Poland 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. 

Monday’s French Open first round results for Americans:

Serena Williams[6] d. Kristie Ahn 76(2), 60

Shuai Zhang(CHN) d. Madison Keys[12] 63, 76(2)

Christina McHale d. Karolina Muchova(CZE)[22] 62, 64

Katerina Siniakova(CZE) d. Lauren Davis 76(5), 62

Amanda Anisimova[25] d. Tamara Korpatsch(GER) 62, 60

Bernarda Pera d. Cici Bellis 76(3), 61

Tommy Paul d. James Duckworth(AUS) 62, 63, 62

Mackenzie McDonald d. Steven Diez(CAN)[Q] 46, 63, 63, 64

Jack Sock[Q] d. Reilly Opelka 64, 64, 63

Jan-Lennard Struff(GER)[30] d. Frances Tiafoe  36, 76(5), 63, 67(2), 63

Tennys Sandgren d. Hubert Hurkacz(POL)[29] 75, 26, 46, 76(1), 11-9

Pierre-Hugues Herbert(FRA) d. Michael Mmoh[Q] 63, 62, 63

Twenty-two of the 32 Americans in the draws have finished their first round matches, with the remaining 10 on Tuesday's schedule.

Tuesday’s French Open first round matches featuring Americans:

Sam Querrey v Andrey Rublev(RUS)[13]

Marcos Giron v Quentin Halys(FRA)[WC]

Steve Johnson v Roberto Carballes Baena(ESP)

Sofia Kenin[4] v Liudmila Samsonova(RUS)

Jessica Pegula v Aryna Sabalenka(BLR)[8]

Jennifer Brady[21] v Clara Tauson(DEN)[Q]

Danielle Collins v Monica Niculescu(ROU)[Q]

Alison Riske[19] v Julia Goerges(GER)

Madison Brengle v Jelena Ostapenko(LAT)

Sloane Stephens[29] v Vitalia Diatchenko(RUS)

Doubles draws were released today, with Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic and Su-Wei Hsieh of China the top women's seeds, and Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia the top men's seeds

The two all-US women's teams seeded are No. 9 Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands and No. 16 Coco Gauff and Caty McNally. No all-US men's teams are seeded. Notable that Canadian Vasek Pospisil and Sock, the 2014 Wimbledon men's doubles champions, have reunited for this event.

I heard from the USTA today that the $15,000 Men's Pro Circuit event in Vero Beach was off the ITF World Tennis Tour schedule, then heard this evening that it was still happening, but rather as a $10,000 UTR Prize Money event. These are the details from tournament organizer Randy Walker:

We did a pivot today with our Vero Beach M15 event, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships. It will still be held October 19-25 at The Boulevard tennis club in Vero Beach, Florida but will be a $10,000 UTR Open Prize Money event. This replaces the original ITF World Tennis Tour event for this year.

The first prize at the event will be $3,000 for the singles winner of the tournament, while the singles runner-up will earn $1,500. Losing semifinalists will earn $750 while losing quarterfinalists will earn $500.

Doubles winners will split $1,500 while the runners-up will split $500.

Players can enter on the MyUTR website here https://app.myutr.com/events/30593?_ref=randywal270

Singles entries are $90 and doubles entries are $120 per team. Entries close on Thursday, October 15 at Noon eastern time. It is an open sign-up so it’s a great opportunity for some players to get some great match-play.

COVID-19 safety protocols will be implemented at the event and seating for fans will be limited to approximately 35 percent. There will be no morning matches at this event. The earliest start time would be Noon.

We won’t sell daily tickets, only have our sponsors, box seat holders and a select number of club members daily allowed to attend, with new socially distanced seating. Normally, we get like 400 fans per day for our event. The event benefits the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, which helps at-risk children in Indian River County, Florida learn to have active and healthy lifestyles (which is even more important now in the age of COVID).

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Gauff Defeats Konta, Korda Earns First Slam Win at Roland Garros; Venus and Peers Claim ATP Title in Hamburg; Min Takes $25K Title in Czech Republic

The first day of the French Open was as miserable as promised, with temperatures in the 50s and intermittent rain, but with 22 of the 23 matches were completed, with American men going 3-0, and Gauff upsetting last year's semifinalist to pick up the lone win for US women.

Twenty-year-old Sebastian Korda, who had won all three of his qualifying matches in straight sets, posted his first ATP-level win today, beating veteran Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Korda took a medical timeout for his back after the third set, and had more treatment during a changeover in the fourth set, but after trailing 1-3, he won the last five games to secure the win. Korda, the son of Petr Korda, a French Open men's finalist in 1990, had the more penetrating shots and was able to use them to his advantage on the key points in the fourth set. The 2018 Australian Open boys champion will play No. 21 seed John Isner next, after Isner defeated Elliot Benchetrit, a wild card from France, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

Taylor Fritz, the No. 27 seed, had a much tougher time subduing qualifier Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, but Fritz took control in the fifth set to beat the 19-year-old 7-5, 7-6(2), 1-6, 2-6, 6-3.

Expectations are so high for 16-year-old Coco Gauff that her first round losses at the Western and Southern and the US Open were considered disappointing. But the 2018 French Open girls champion, who has been training on Florida's green clay for many years, is comfortable on the surface, and she did get a good win over Ons Jabeur in the Italian Open before falling to semifinalist Garbine Muguruza in three tough sets. Today Gauff looked comfortable against No. 9 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, defeating the 2019 semifinalist 6-3, 6-3 despite 12 doubles faults. For highlights of her win, see this from the tournament website.

Of the four collegians on today's schedule, three won, with Isner(Georgia), Dominik Koepfer(Tulane) of Germany, and lucky loser Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia advancing to the second round. 

Fifteen Americans are on the schedule for Monday, but the forecast continues to call for rain, and with 50 matches (plus the unfinished match from today), getting through that schedule is unlikely if there are any delays. 

Sunday French Open first round matches featuring Americans:

Sebastian Korda d. Andreas Seppi(ITA) 62, 46, 63, 63

Taylor Fritz[27] d. Tomas Machac(CZE)[Q] 75, 76(2), 16, 26, 63

John Isner[21] d. Elliot Benchetrit(FRA)[WC] 64, 61, 63

Kamilla Rakhimova(RUS)[Q] d. Shelby Rogers 62, 63 

Barbora Strycova(CZE)[32] d. Varvara Lepchenko[Q] 75, 62

Coco Gauff d. Johanna Konta(GBR)[9] 63, 63

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova(SVK) d. Venus Williams 64, 64

Monday’s French Open first round singles matches featuring Americans:

Kristie Ahn v Serena Williams[6]

Madison Keys[12] v Shuai Zhang(CHN)

Christina McHale v Karolina Muchova(CZE)[22]

Lauren Davis v Katerina Siniakova(CZE)

Amanda Anisimova[25] v Tamara Korpatsch(GER)

Cici Bellis v Bernarda Pera

Tommy Paul v James Duckworth(AUS)

Mackenzie McDonald v Steven Diez(CAN)[Q]

Reilly Opelka v Jack Sock[Q]

Frances Tiafoe v Jan-Lennard Struff(GER)[30]

Tennys Sandgren v Hubert Hurkacz(POL)[29]

Michael Mmoh[Q] v Pierre-Hugues Herbert(FRA)

Michael Venus(LSU) of New Zealand and John Peers(Baylor) of Australia won the ATP 500 doubles title today in Hamburg Germany, their second title of this year, which marked the beginning of their partnership. The unseeded pair, who saved a match point in their semifinal win, defeated the Croatian team of Mate Pavic, who won the US Open title this month with Bruno Soares, and Ivan Dodig 6-3, 6-4 in the final. It's the 22nd ATP title for Peers, while Venus now has 12. For more on the final, see this article from the ATP website.

The sole title for Americans this week on the ITF World Tennis Tour was claimed by Grace Min, who was the last player standing at the $25,000 tournament in the Czech Republic. The unseeded Min, who had not won a tournament in over a year, defeated No. 6 seed Georgina Garcia-Perez of Spain 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 in the final, in just under three hours. Min got a second round walkover from top seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who ended up playing in the French Open and won her first round match today.

Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) lost in the final of the WTT $15K in Portugal today. The No. 7 seed fell to No. 6 seed Lucas Catarina of Monaco 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(11).

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Seven Americans in First Round Action at French Open Sunday; Musetti Claims First Challenger Title; Frusina Sweeps Grade 5 Titles in Albania

Much is different about the French Open this year, but one thing that is not is the Sunday start, unique among the slams. Twenty-three first round singles matches will take place Sunday, if weather permits, with seven Americans in action.

Earlier this month, it was announced that 15,000 fans would be allowed on the grounds, but that has been reduced several times due to the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in France, and is now down to 1000 fans per day, with 250 of those 1000 spots set aside for sponsors and other VIPs. See this Washington Post article for more on the decision to limit spectators.

The weather forecast is also making news, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s and rain expected throughout most of the event, according to weather.com

Sunday's schedule is here.

Sunday's French Open first round matches featuring Americans:

Sebastian Korda v Andreas Seppi(ITA)

Taylor Fritz[27] v Tomas Machac(CZE)[Q]

John Isner[21] v Elliot Benchetrit(FRA)[WC]

Shelby Rogers v Kamilla Rakhimova(RUS)[Q]

Varvara Lepchenko[Q] v Barbora Strycova(CZE)[32]

Coco Gauff v Johanna Konta(GBR)[9]

Venus Williams v Anna Karolina Schmiedlova(SVK)

Eighteen-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy won his first ATP Challenger today at the Challenger 80 in his home country.

Although he was an unseeded wild card this week, he was arguably the favorite after his run at the Italian Open in Rome, where he defeated Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori en route to the round of 16. This week the 2019 US Open boys champion defeated top seed Frances Tiafoe in the second round 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, and then the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds before beating Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, who came through qualifying in spite of his ATP ranking of 89, 7-6(2), 7-6(5) in the final. That made six ATP Top 100 wins for Musetti in the past 12 days, according to this article from the ATP Challenger website. It's too bad the French Open couldn't find a wild card for him, but if looks as if he can make the main draw of the Australian Open on his ranking, which is now inside the Top 140.

At the Challenger 80 in Romania, Hunter Reese(Tennessee) and Jan Zielinski(Georgia) of Poland won their first title as a team in all-former-collegiate doubles final, beating Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian) of Mexico and Robert Galloway(Wofford) 6-4, 6-2. Reese and Zielinski, who did not drop a set in the tournament, beat the No. 4 and No. 2 seeds prior to the final, in which neither team was seeded. Reese, 27, has won four Challenger titles since his first in 2014. It's the first Challenger title for Zielinski, 23, but he has 14 Futures titles, including 5 at $25K events this year. Zielinski reached the NCAA doubles final in 2017 with Robert Loeb.

Alex Frusina, a blue chip in the Class of 2024, won his first two ITF Junior Circuit titles this week at a Grade 5 in Albania. The 14-year-old Texan, who played his first ITF event back at a Grade 4 in Panama in March, won both the singles and doubles titles unseeded. Receiving a wild card into singles, he defeated top seed Berk Bugarikj of Macedonia 6-4, 6-3 in the final; in doubles he teamed with Naoya Honda of Japan to beat top seeds Birtan Duran of Turkey and Aman Sharma of the United States 7-6(4), 1-6, 10-7 in the final. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Korda, Sock, Mmoh, Lepchenko Qualify for French Open; Sherif, Among 18 Collegians in Draw at Roland Garros, Makes History; Blumberg Returning to North Carolina; December's Little Mo International Canceled

All four Americans in action in today's final round of qualifying at the French Open won their matches, advancing to the main draw, which begins Sunday in Paris.

Twenty-year-old Sebastian Korda and 22-year-old Michael Mmoh will be making their debuts at Roland Garros, with Korda defeating No. 7 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia 7-5, 6-2 and Mmoh coming back to beat Renzo Olivo of Argentina 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Karatsev had been one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour since the restart, going 15-1, winning two 125 Challengers, with his only loss in a 125 Challenger final to Stan Wawrinka. The third American male to reach the main draw is Jack Sock, who defeated Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Sock, who turned 28 yesterday and was announced as the Davidson men's team volunteer assistant earlier this month, will face Reilly Opelka in the first round. With these three qualifiers, there are 13 US men in the main draw. 

Of the 11 US women in qualifying, only Varvara Lepchenko was able to win the three matches necessary to reach the main draw. Today she defeated Dalma Galfi of Hungary 6-3, 6-4, her third consecutive straight-sets win. 

Seventeen-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark, the 2019 Australian Open girls champion and former ITF Junior No. 1, qualified as did 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the 2017 Australian Open girls champion. 

Mayar Sherif, who played at Fresno State from 2014-16 and was an All-American at Pepperdine from 2016-2018, made history today when she defeated Giulia Gatto-Monticone of Italy 6-1, 6-3. The 24-year-old, who did not drop a set in her three qualifying victories, will be the first woman from Egypt ever to play a grand slam match. This article about Sherif from the tournament website was posted after her first qualifying win, which was already historic, but she has exceeded that now.

Sherif is one of six former collegiate women to make the main draw for this year's French Open. The others are Jennifer Brady(UCLA), Kristie Ahn(Stanford), Danielle Collins(Virginia), Aliona Bolsova(Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic) of Spain and Astra Sharma(Vanderbilt) of Australia, who received entry as a lucky loser. 

There are 12 former collegiate men in the main draw this year: Cameron Norrie(TCU) of Great Britain, Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), Marcos Giron(UCLA), Kevin Anderson(Illinois) of South Africa, Steve Johnson(USC), Arthur Rinderknech(Texas A&M) of France, Emilio Gomez(USC) of Ecuador, Dominik Koepfer(Tulane) of Germany, Jason Jung(Michigan) of Taiwan, John Isner(Georgia), Aleks Vukic(Illinois) of Australian and Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA).

Many college players announced their decision about taking a fifth year this spring and summer, but the decision of North Carolina's William Blumberg was not official until yesterday, when he posted the tweet below. Blumberg, an eight-time All-American in his four years at UNC, and one of college tennis's best players during that time, will obviously give the Tar Heels a huge boost for the dual match season of 2021, provided it does get played.


The 14th annual Little Mo International Tournament, scheduled for December 4-9, 2020 in Palm Beach Gardens Florida, has been canceled. From the organization's email announcing the cancellation:
We were very hopeful to host our event this year, but we realized that it would not be possible due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of our most memorable experiences like the Player Party, Opening Ceremony, and Player Parade could not be held this year due to social distancing and other safety protocols. International travel is also very difficult at this time. Taking everything into consideration, we feel that we would not be able to provide the same unique and competitive tournament that our players and families have come to know and enjoy.

Information on 2021 events on the Little Mo calendar will be available later at their website.  

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thirteen-year-old Fruhvirtova Receives French Open Junior Wild Card; 10 US Men, 18 US Women in Singles Main Draws; Ginsberg's Tennis Connection

The wild cards for the French Open Junior Championships were released today by the French Tennis Federation, with 15 of the 16 going to French juniors. The one exception was a wild card granted to 13-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, who won the only ITF junior tournament she's played since becoming eligible in April, earlier this month at the Grade 2 in Egypt. It's not unheard of for a player outside of France to receive a wild card--Alexandra Eala, who won Les Petits As in 2018 received a qualifying wild card to the French Open that year, but it is unusual. Whether she would have received a wild card without her performance in Czech exhibitions this summer, which included a win over WTA No. 62 Katerina Siniakova, is hard to say, but it certainly bolstered her case.

ITF Junior World No. 5 Robin Montgomery has withdrawn, leaving four US girls and four US boys in the French Open junior fields.

Roland Garros girls singles wild cards:

Océane Babel (FRA)                    

Flavie Brugnone (FRA)                                

Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE)                          

Sarah Iliev (FRA)                       

Anaëlle Leclercq (FRA)                               

Laia Petretic (FRA)                   

Shanice Roignot (FRA)                       

Winner of the Roland-Garros Wild Card Series by OPPO  

Roland Garros boys singles wild cards:

Sean Cuenin (FRA)                     

Arthur Fils (FRA)                                 

Axel Garcian (FRA) 

Antoine Ghibaudo (FRA)                               

Mehdi Sadaoui (FRA)                               

Luca Van Assche (FRA)                                           

Max Westphal (FRA)

Winner of the Roland-Garros Wild Card Series by OPPO

The men's and women's doubles wild cards were also announced, with all players from France, except Leylah Fernandez of Canada, last year's girls champion, who received entry with fellow 18-year-old Diane Parry. The list of wild cards can be found here.

Day four of French Open qualifying didn't go well for the Americans on the schedule, with top seed Ann Li, No. 3 seed Caty McNally and Asia Muhammad all losing their second round matches. Varvara Lepchenko, who beat Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-2, 7-5, is the only American woman remaining with a chance to reach the main draw. The 34-year-old will take on 2015 US Open girls champion Dalma Galfi of Hungary in Friday's third and final round

Ulises Blanch was the only American man who played his third round match Thursday. He lost to No. 2 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-2, 6-3, but will take home 25,600 for making the third round of qualifying.

The three remaining American men will play on Friday, with Michael Mmoh playing Renzo Olivo of Argentina, Sebastian Korda facing No. 7 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia and Jack Sock taking on Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia. 

Two former college players will be making their slam main draw debuts at Roland Garros after picking up wins today. Former Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia defeated former Michigan star Jason Jung 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to qualify, while former USC standout Emilio Gomez of Ecuador saved two match points and beat Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1) to earn his place in the main draw. Gomez, who had taken out top seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil in the first round, qualified for Roland Garros for the first time 30 years after his father Andres won the men's singles title in Paris over Andre Agassi. 

The qualifying draws can be found here.

The men's and women's singles draws were released today, with 18 US women and 10 US men competing for the title. 

I'll have the first round matchups for them this weekend, but these are the women: Cici Bellis, Bernarda Pera, Amanda Anisimova[25], Coco Gauff, Shelby Rogers, Lauren Davis, Venus Williams, Serena Williams[6], Kristie Ahn, Jessica Pegula, Jennifer Brady[21], Danielle Collins, Christina McHale, Sofia Kenin[4], Madison Keys[12], Alison Riske[19], Sloane Stephens[29], Madison Brengle.  Bellis and Bernard will play each other, with Ahn drawing Serena in the first round for the second straight slam. Simona Halep, who did not play the US Open, is the top women's seed.

The men are Tennys Sandgren, Frances Tiafoe, Marcos Giron, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Taylor Fritz[27], Tommy Paul, Reilly Opelka, John Isner[21], Mackenzie McDonald. Novak Djokovic is the top men's seed.

As the country mourns the death last week of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, hundreds of stories of her impact have been recounted, including this one, from the New York Times, involving tennis in the pre-Title IX era. Abbe Seldin, a high school girl from New Jersey, had no girls tennis team to compete on, so she sued, with Ginsberg as one of her attorneys, to join the boys team. Although the lawsuit was decided in her favor, a change in coaches and less than a warm welcome from the boys on the team resulted in Seldin never playing on the team, but she had earned the opportunity thanks in no small part to Ginsberg.

This is the second time in two days I've referenced Roberta Alison Baumgardner, who played on the men's team at Alabama in the 1960s, but the opening of the article on Seldin struck me as similar to what I learned about Alison.
Abbe Seldin didn’t know or care too much about gender discrimination or equal rights or other weighty subjects.

She just wanted to play tennis.
That was the same impression I got from talking to those who knew Alison; the chance to compete was the motive, not any desire to pursue the cause of equal opportunity for all women. Alison had the good fortune to have a supportive coach, who had in fact recruited her to join the team, and accepting teammates, although she certainly encountered her share of sexism from opposing teams. For more on Alison Baumgardner, see my article for Tennis Recruiting Network.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Four US Men Advance to Final Round of Qualifying at French Open; ITA Announces Women's Hall of Fame Inductees; Iowa Rejects Attempts to Restore Men's Tennis; Stanford's Gould Talks College Tennis

Four of the five American men remaining of the 13 that began qualifying at Roland Garros, won their second round matches today to advance to the final round Thursday or Friday.

2016 Kalamazoo champion Michael Mmoh advanced when Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic retired trailing 7-6(3), 3-1; 19-year-old Sebastian Korda defeated former UNC star Brayden Schnur of Canada 6-4, 6-4; Jack Sock came back to win a tight one with No. 24 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(1), and Ulises Blanch beat Gian Marco Moroni of Italy 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-3. This is just the third slam of the 22-year-old Blanch's career, and he had lost his first match in qualifying at the US Open in 2018 and dropped a five-set battle in the first round of the just-completed US Open, but he has plenty of experience on red clay, with a substantial amount of his development taking place in Argentina.

Blanch is the only one of the four Americans on Thursday's schedule; he plays No. 2 seed Pedro Martinez of Spain for a place in the main draw. Mmoh will play Renzo Olivo of Argentina; Korda faces No. 7 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia and Sock takes on Andrey Kuznetsov, also from Russia. 

Three of the four US women playing their first round qualifying matches advanced, with No. 3 seed Caty McNally, Asia Muhammad and Varvara Lepchenko picking up victories. They will join Ann Li[1] and Francesca Di Lorenzo, who won matches yesterday, in Thursday's second round. Li plays Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia; Muhammad faces Martina Trevisan of Italy; McNally plays former Pepperdine star Mayar Sherif of Egypt; Di Lorenzo takes on Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania and Lepchenko faces Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. 

The qualifying draws are here. The main draw is scheduled for release on Thursday at noon Eastern time. 

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced its recent class of inductees in the Women's Collegiate Hall of Fame yesterday, with former Georgia star Lisa Spain Short, former Northwestern star Diane Donnelly Stone, former USC star AnnaMaria Fernandez-Ruffels and former University of Indiana women's coach Lin Loring. Donnelly Stone is the daughter of longtime Kalamazoo National Championship volunteers Bud and Carol Donnelly, and the aunt of USTA Winter Nationals 14s Champion Susanna Maltby.  

They will be honored at the induction ceremony in Williamsburg Virginia on September 18, 2021.  

I hope that Alabama's Roberta Alison Baumgardner, who I wrote about this spring for the Tennis Recruiting Network, will be considered for posthumous indiction into the Collegiate Hall of Fame when the next class is selected.

When the Big Ten decided to play football this fall, after previously postponing the season, there was hope that the decision to drop four sports, including men's tennis, would be re-examined, but that appears to have been dashed with this statement. The student-athletes affected have been critical of the administration's handling of the cuts, according to this The Gazette article, with men's tennis Jason Kerst saying: 

“We have received no adequate follow-up since August 21st, The decision itself is very disappointing, but the lack of communication and transparency from our own administration is probably the most frustrating.”

Meanwhile, a Save Iowa Sports fundraising campaign has been launched, with 1.65 million pledged in the early going. 

That number may sound impressive, but one of many things I learned from a recent conversation that Andy Katz had with former Stanford men's tennis coach Dick Gould, is that that would be nowhere near enough to convince the athletic department to save a sport.

In this wide-ranging interview in the USTA ITA College Tennis Chats series, embedded below, Gould says it took him years to understand the necessity for the endowments and decades to work toward financial independence for Stanford tennis. Gould talks about how tennis has changed, where American tennis might be heading, the prevalence of international players in Division I, how he connected the Palo Alto community to the tennis programs, and how a coach should be dividing his working hours between his team and outreach. All in all, it's an interesting behind the scenes look at what is necessary to build a successful Division I program.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Updated Schedule for 2020 ITF USA Junior Circuit and USTA Pro Circuit Events; Just Two Wins for Americans Today in French Open Qualifying; Week 1 ITA Fall Tour Winners

I've received an update today from the USTA on the calendar of events in the United States for the rest of the year for the ITF Junior Circuit and USTA Pro Circuit. Obviously, this is tentative, with changes in health and safety protocols, whether by governments, governing bodies or facilities themselves, always possible.

I also want to make sure to point out that the USTA told me, counter to what the Tyler Texas women's tournament stated on their website yesterday, that there will not be an Australian Open Wild Card Challenge this fall for the 2021 tournament in Melbourne. 

I'm excited about the news that the Orange Bowl 16s and 18s is on for December, and will be a Grade A. The Eddie Herr website, which had initially given September 18 as the decision date for its tournament, has now pushed that back to September 30. 

ITF Junior Circuit:

Oct 17-23 J4 Atlanta 

Oct 24-30 J4 Lexington - relocated to USTA National Campus (Orlando)

Oct 31- Nov 5 J4 Boca Raton - relocated to Florida Tennis Center (Daytona Beach)

Nov 30- Dec 6 J1 Bradenton Eddie Herr - details still TBD

Dec 6 - 13 GA Plantation Orange Bowl: 

B/G 16s and 18s scheduled as planned

MDS/QS draws reduced to 48, MDD reduced to 24

Will remain a Grade A tournament

Pro Circuit, Men's and Women's Events:

Week of:

October 19: M15 Vero Beach FL,  W80 Macon GA 

October 26: M25 Harlingen TX,  W80 Tyler TX

November 2: M15 Fayetteville AR, W100 Charleston SC

November 9: ATP 80 Cary NC

November 16: ATP 80 National Campus Orlando

Not much to report from Roland Garros qualifying today, with just two Americans picking up victories. Ann Li, the top seed, defeated Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 7-6(6), 6-4 and No. 10 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo beat Marina Melnikova of Russia 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the second round. Five other US women lost today, with four others playing their first round matches on Wednesday: Asia Muhammad, Varvara Lepchenko, Caty McNally[3] and Allie Kiick.

Both Thai Kwiatkowski and Bradley Klahn[22] lost their first round matches today, meaning five US men have advanced to Wednesday's second round.

Michael Mmoh will play Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic, Sebastian Korda plays former North Carolina star Brayden Schnur of Canada, Jack Sock faces No. 24 seed Facundo Bagnis of Argentina, Ulises Blanch takes on Gian Marco Moroni of Italy and Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) plays Steven Diez of Canada. 

Qualifying draws are here.

Week 1 of the ITA Fall Tour by UTR is in the books, with the names of the champions at the 11 events across the country below. The ITA has posted its recap here, which includes an update on the top two seeds at the Nebraska-Kearney tournament having to be withdrawn due to a Covid-19 situation. Registration is open for many of the events scheduled for October.

Aurora: Men, Michael Choi; Women, Belen Nevenhoven

Charlottesville: Men, Alex Kiefer; Women, Anna Rogers

Indianapolis: Men, JJ Tracy; Women, Carrie Beckman

Alpharetta: Men, Andres Martin; Women, Paula Dougherty

Stillwater: Men, Etienne Donnet; Women, Liv Hovde(pictured above)

Salt Lake City: Men, Lawrence Sciglitano; Women, Anastasia Goncharova

Medina: Men, Connor Johnston; Women, Irina Cantos Siemers

Lawrence: Women only, Tiffany Lagarde

Lexington: Men only, Maxwell Benson

Kearney: Men, Julian Kenzlers; Women, Natsumi Kurahashi

College Station: Men, Anish Sriniketh; Women, Tatiana Makarova

Monday, September 21, 2020

Five US Men Advance to Second Round Qualifying at French Open, 11 Americans in Women's Qualifying Draw; ITF Junior Grade 4 Moving to Orlando; Sieg Sweeps Grade 5 Titles in Hungary; Women's $80K on in Texas

American men went 5-6 on the first day of qualifying at the French Open, with Ulises Blanch, Michael Mmoh, Christopher Eubanks, Jack Sock and Sebastian Korda earning victories today.

Blanch defeated French wild card Rayane Roumane 3-6, 6-3, 6-3; Mmoh beat Alex Bolt of Australia 6-4, 6-3; Eubanks defeated French wild card Geoffrey Blancaneaux 6-2, 7-5; Sock downed Mikhail Torpegaard of Denmark 6-2, 6-4 and Korda defeated Mitchell Krueger 6-1, 6-4. 

The two remaining American men in qualifying, Bradley Klahn and Thai Kwiatkowski, are on Tuesday's schedule

The men's qualifying draw, with all results, is here

The women's qualifying begins on Tuesday, with 11 Americans looking for a one of the 12 qualifying spots in the main draw. Ann Li, who plays Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands in the first round, is the top seed in qualifying, with Caty McNally, who plays Pemra Ozgen of Turkey, the No. 3 seed. Five other US women are seeded: Former Ohio State star Francesca Di Lorenzo[10] plays Marina Melnikova of Russia; Caroline Dolehide faces Mayo Hibi of Japan; Usue Arconada[18] plays Martina Di Giuseppi of Italy; Sachia Vickery[21] faces Martina Trevisan of Italy and Whitney Osuigwe[23] faces wild card Carole Monnet of France. 

Robin Anderson(UCLA) will play No. 20 seed Xinyu Wang of China; Asia Muhammad faces French wild card Audrey Albie, Varvara Lephchenko plays Xiaodi You of China and Allie Kiick faces Julia Grabher of Austria.

McNally, Lepchenko, Muhammad and Kiick are not on Tuesday's schedule.

Roland Garros announced today that one woman who was set to play qualifying tested positive for the Covid-19 virus and was withdrawn from the field. The name of the player has not been released. 

The women's qualifying draw, which is for 96 players, not a 128 draw like the men's, is here

I understand that the ITF Junior Grade 4 that was scheduled to take place in Lexington South Carolina the week of October 26th will move to Orlando Florida, due to Covid-19 concerns at the Lexington facility. The ITF Junior Circuit calendar still is showing the name as Lexington, but the ITF tournament fact sheet now has the USTA's Alex Cercone as the tournament director. 

Normally players in the Top 60 like Madison Sieg and Ellie Coleman don't bother with Grade 5 tournaments, but they played one in Hungary last week (possible that it was downgraded due to the pandemic) and met again in the final, just as they had done earlier this month at a Grade 2 in Serbia. Coleman, seeded No. 2, won that encounter over top seed Sieg, but yesterday No. 1 seed Sieg defeated No. 2 seed Coleman 6-4, 6-4. The 17-year-olds also won the doubles title, as the top seeds, beating the unseeded Hungarian team of Vanesa Danko and Kitti Molnar 6-4, 7-5 in the final and getting valuable clay matches in advance of the French Junior Championships in two weeks.

The USTA has not publicly released a calendar for its Pro Circuit this fall, but today an $80,000 women's tournament, the Bellartorum Resources Pro Classic, announced that it is indeed happening, October 26 through November 1 in Tyler Texas. In addition, the article says the tournament is again part of the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, which I had thought might not happen in 2021, as no Australian was extended a wild card for the 2020 US Open. In addition, the article mentions Macon and Charleston as the other tournaments that are part of the wild card competition, but does not give dates.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Thirteen US Men Poised to Begin French Open Qualifying; Five Positive Covid-19 Tests Shake Up Draw; Teens Rune, Mutavdzic and Zheng Claim ITF World Tennis Tour Titles

In the year of the crazy tennis calendar (among other things), the Italian Open is not yet complete, but qualifying for Roland Garros will begin Monday, the day of the finals in Rome

Thirteen American men are in the 128-player qualifying draw, with 11 on Monday's schedule. 

Ulises Blanch, one of the last players to get into qualifying, will face French wild card Rayane Roumane and former UCLA star Maxime Cressy, who grew up in France and represented that country until just a couple of years ago, will also play a French wild card, Kyrian Jacquet. The third American to draw a French wild card is Christopher Eubanks, the former Georgia Tech star, who will play 2016 French Open boys champion Geoffrey Blancaneaux.

Three Americans are seeded in the qualifying: No. 6 seed Denis Kudla, who plays Enose Couacaud of France; No. 10 JJ Wolf, who plays Roberto Marcora of Italy, and No. 22 Bradley Klahn, who is not on Monday's schedule, but faces Roman Safiullin of Russia in the first round.

The only American v American battle is between Mitchell Krueger and Sebastian Korda.

Jack Sock's opponent is former Ohio State star Mikhail Torpegaard of Denmark, Noah Rubin plays No. 19 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, Michael Mmoh faces Alex Bolt of Australia, and Brandon Nakashima takes on Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina. 

2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, who, like Klahn, is not on Monday's schedule, will play Facundo Mena of Argentina in the first round. 

The men's qualifying draw can be found here.

Unfortunately the big news of the day was not the qualifying draw, but the fact that five players had to be withdrawn from the tournament due to positive tests for Covid-19. The statement from Roland Garros did not name the players, two of whom tested positive themselves, while three were eliminated from the qualifying due to positive tests of their coaches. But according to Stephanie Myles, one of the five was American Ernesto Escobedo. See her reporting here for more on the developing situation. 

It was a great day for teenagers on the ITF World Tennis Tour, with three of them claiming titles. Seventeen-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark won his first title at the $25,000 tournament in Klosters Switzerland, with the unseeded 2019 French Open Boys champion defeating No. 5 seed Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Rune, who won all four of his previous matches in three sets, was  playing in his first ITF World Tennis Tour final. 

At the $15,000 ITF women's tournament in Spain, 16-year-old Matilda Mutavdzik of Great Britain, playing in just her third ITF World Tennis event, earned her first title. The unseeded Mutavdzik, who has a much less impressive junior resume than Rune, defeated No. 3 seed Yvonne Cavalle-Reimers of Spain 6-2, 7-5 in today's final. Mutavdzik had beaten world No. 1 junior Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals. 

Seventeen-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China has been rolling on European clay since the restart, and today she won her third title, all in the past month, at the $25,000 tournament in the Czech Republic. Zheng, who had to win three qualifying matches just to get into the main draw, overcame No. 4 seed Gabriela Talaba of Romania 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in today's final. Zheng, a semifinalist and the French and US Open junior championships last year, has now won 19 of her last 20 matches. 

I am frankly surprised at the success of these younger players during this restart; I had expected that they would struggle as higher ranked and more experienced players filled all these draws. But the ITF's expanded junior exemption program, a part of the much-maligned World Tennis Tour restructuring, has proven to be extremely valuable in giving them a chance to compete at the higher levels. And to their credit, they have taken full advantage of those opportunities.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Does Tennis Owe Its Players a Living? Nava Brothers Win Doubles Title in Portugal; Koepfer's Journey from 'Pretty Terrible' in College to ATP Top 70; Zheng Reaches Another $25K Final

Early this month The Ringer published a lengthy look at the financial struggles of lower ranked professional tennis players, focusing on former Tennessee star Hunter Reese. Paul Wachter, who wrote the article Does Tennis Owe Its Players a Living?, played at Division III Swarthmore in the 1990s, so he knows enough about the the structure of the sport and the level necessary to succeed to explore the nuances involved. (He is wrong about Reese getting an "automatic" US Open doubles wild card in 2014; no NCAA wild cards are automatic, and because his partner Mikelis Libietis was from Latvia, Reese was offered a wild card with another American. Also, the US Open and French Open are not ATP Masters events).

Earlier this summer, I published an article from high school senior Nicholas Wernink that looked into the financial inequities in pro tennis, particularly on the Challenger Tour. Those issues are also explored by Wachter, with 2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski also weighing in on the perils of being outside the Top 100. The lack of work available for the past six months, particularly in the United States, has just added to the stress; the entire sport of tennis is going to have to continue to deal with the fallout from the pandemic and finding solutions to this decade-old problem is not going to be a high priority. 

Reese did find his way to Europe for Challengers this month, playing in France last week and reaching the semifinals of the Challenger in Romania this week with former Notre Dame star Alex Lawson. Whether those paychecks will cover his expenses is another question, but I'm sure he is happy to just be back playing. 

I hope the USTA is able to figure out a way to schedule some Pro Circuit and Challenger tournaments yet this year; it's tough enough to try to stay afloat as a player when you have opportunities to earn income. Without that, it's impossible.

Emilio Nava lost his quarterfinal singles match to qualifier Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain Friday, but he and his older brother Eduardo won their first professional doubles title at the $15,000 tournament in Portugal today. The Navas, who beat the No. 2 seeds in the semifinals, defeated the unseeded German team of Sebastian Fanselow and Maik Steiner 6-3, 6-4 in today's final. Fanselow, the former Pepperdine star, has reached the singles final, where he'll play 2019 Wimbledon boys finalist Carlos Gimeno Valero of Spain. 

Former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany lost to ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic today in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open, but he managed to come back from a set and a break down to force a third set before falling 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Koepfer, who will move into the ATP Top 70 with his showing in Rome, was featured in this ATP website article, which quotes him as saying he was a "pretty terrible" college player at the beginning of his career.

Dominik Koepfer says attending Tulane University beginning in Fall 2012 was an easy choice because he, “didn’t really have one”. It was the only Division I institution to offer him a spot on its team.

"I went to college, but wasn't very good. I would say I was pretty terrible the first year,” Koepfer said. “But I started to work my way up."
Koepfer may not have been impressive early in his Tulane career, but he won one of the collegiate majors, the Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in 2015, and was No. 1 in the country most of his senior year of 2015-16, before finishing at No. 4. He certainly should serve as an inspiration to any player who might have had a late start in the sport and didn't receive a lot of recruiting attention.
China's Qinwen Zheng, who turns 18 in a couple of weeks, has been extraordinarily busy since the end of the shutdown, playing five consecutive weeks on the European clay. After a quarterfinal appearance in her first tournament, Zheng won back-to-back events, a $15K and a 25K, before falling in the second round of a $25K last week. Although her WTA ranking rose more than 200 places, to 410, with those results, Zheng had to qualify at the $25,000 tournament this week in the Czech Republic, but after three qualifying victories and four main draw victories, she has reached another final. She swamped No. 2 seed Victoria Kan of Russia 6-0, 6-1 in the first round and surrendered just two games to Katie Volynets in the second round. In Sunday's final, she will face No. 4 seed Gabriela Talaba of Romania, the former Texas Tech star.

Friday, September 18, 2020

My Look at ITA's Fall Tour; Just Three Division I ITA Regionals Survive; Koepfer Through to Quarterfinals in Italy; Juniors Jimenez Kasintseva and Rune Plus Columbia's Kotzen Reach Pro Circuit Semis

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Fall Tour by UTR begins today at seven sites across the country, with four more starting Saturday, in Week 1 of the ten-week series of regional competitions. I wrote about this new initiative for the Tennis Recruiting Network and in today's article I explain how the Fall Tour is similar to the long-running Summer Circuit and how it's different. With a reduced number of college and junior events on the horizon due to the pandemic, these events are an important source of competition, with over 170 tournaments scheduled over the next ten weeks at a wide variety of sites.  The Sunday prior to the start of the tournament is the deadline for entry, which is based on UTRs. Next week there are 20 events on the calendar; see the ITA page for registration information.  This ITA article has links to the Playsight streaming that is available this week.

When I spoke to Tim Russell about the Fall Tour earlier this week, he mentioned that a few Division I regionals would still be played. It turns out only three, one women's and two men's, out of the usual 24, have survived. The men's Southern regional will be held at Southern Mississippi October 16-19, and the men's Texas regional will be held at Baylor at a date to be determined  The Central women's regional will be held at Arkansas October 23-25. 

Former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer ended the run of 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy today, making his way into the Italian Open quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-0 win over his fellow qualifier. It's the 26-year-old German's first ATP quarterfinal; in order to reach his first semifinal, he'll have to defeat ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7), 6-3 today.

A lot of ITF World Tennis Tour events are going on in Europe and Northern Africa right now, 13 by my count, so it's been tough to keep up with all the results this week, but I did want to call attention to a couple of high profile ITF juniors who are having good tournaments. Australian Open girls champion and ITF World No. 1 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra is warming up for the French Open Juniors next month in Spain, where she has reached the semifinals of the $15,000 tournament in Melilla. The 15-year-old, who used her junior exemption for entry, beat the No. 2 seed in the second round and 18-year-old Alina Charaeva of Russia, the No. 7 seed, today.  Jimenez Kasintseva is playing in just her fourth professional tournament this week; she had not won a match in her first three.  She takes on 16-year-old Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain, who also received entry based on a junior exemption, in Saturday's semifinals. Mutavdzic has an ITF junior ranking of 28.

Seventeen-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark, the 2019 French Open boys champion, has advanced to the semifinals of the $25,000 ITF WTT tournament in Switzerland, his second career semifinal in professional competition, with both coming since the shutdown. Also using his junior exemption for entry, Rune avenged his loss to No. 2 seed Dimitar Kuzmanov of Bulgaria in a $25,000 semifinal last month in Austria in a second round match this week, and today he defeated 18-year-old wild card Dominic Stricker 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Rune faces unseeded Gonzalo Lama of Chile in the semifinals.

And at the $15,000 tournament in Tunisia, Columbia sophomore Alex Kotzen has advanced to the semifinals after making it through qualifying. The 20-year-old from New Jersey had not won a main draw match on the Pro Circuit prior to this week. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Koepfer, Musetti Earn Big Wins to Advance to Italian Open Round of 16; Nava Reaches Portugal $15K Quarterfinals; Parenting Aces Interview with Dominic Thiem's Father Set for Saturday; Fed Cup Renamed for Billie Jean King; French Open Reduces Number of Fans

The 10 Americans who participated in the Italian Open singles draws this week have now all lost, with Coco Gauff losing to No. 9 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 and No. 3 seed Sofia Kenin failing to win a game against US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka today. The transition from the hard courts of the US to the clay of Europe isn't easy, and Americans have never been much of a factor in Rome, but for the ten players to earn just two wins total is disappointing regardless of the reason.

While Americans have not had much success, a former collegian is having a terrific run, with former Tulane All-American Dominik Koepfer of Germany picking up his first Top 10 win today in Rome, beating ATP No. 9 Gael Monfils, the No. 5 seed this week, 6-2, 6-4. The 26-year-old left-hander, who is coached by former Tennessee star Rhyne Williams, qualified for the tournament and picked up a win over US Open quarterfinalist Alex De Minaur of Australia in the first round.

Koepfer's opponent in the round of 16 Friday is another qualifier, 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, the 2019 Australian Open boys champion. Musetti, who needed a wild card to get into qualifying, defeated Stan Wawrinka in straight sets in the first round and followed that impressive win with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori today. Ranked 280 coming out the shutdown, Musetti will move past Carlos Alcaraz of Spain to become the second-highest ranked teenager on the ATP tour, behind countryman Jannick Sinner, 19, who is currently at 81.

Emilio Nava, who will always be linked to Musetti in my mind, due to their epic Australian Open boys final, which Musetti won 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(12). Nava is also playing in Europe right now, although on a much less significant level, at the ITF World Tennis Tour M15 in Portugal. Nava, who used a junior exemption for entry into the event, has advanced to the quarterfinals, after beating Patrick Kypson 6-3, 6-3 in the first round and qualifier Arnaud Bovy of Belgium 6-2, 6-2 in today's second round. He will take on another qualifier, 19-year-old Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain, in the quarterfinals. Two former collegians are the only seeds remaining, Memphis's Ryan Peniston of Great Britain, the No. 1 seed, and No. 5 seed Sebastian Fanselow of Germany, the Pepperdine standout. 

Nava and his older brother Eduardo, who played at TCU and Wake Forest, have also advanced to the doubles semifinals. 

Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces has announced that she will be talking with US Open champion Dominik Theim's father Wolfgang via Facebook Live on Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern, 8 a.m. Pacific. For more on what to expect from that conversation, see the Parenting Aces Facebook page.

The Fed Cup, which was canceled for 2020 quite a while ago, made news today by announcing that it would be changing its name to honor Billie Jean King. The women's version of the Davis Cup will now be known as the Billie Jean King Cup. For more on the ITF's decision to rename the competition, see this Associated Press article.

The French Open begins in 10 days, but there are still changes coming from the organizers. Today it was announced that the initial plan to have up to 11,500 fans in three separate zones has been scrapped, and the number of fans will now be limited to 5000 each day. For more, see this BBC article.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

NCAA Division I Recruiting Dead Period Extended Through Year End; Fall Competition Dates Announced in Several Conferences; Is Pandemic an Excuse to Dump College Olympic Sports?

The NCAA imposed an NCAA Division I dead period on in-person recruiting back in March, and it has been extended each month since. Today, at the Division I Council meeting that produced a November 25th start date for basketball, the dead period was extended once again, this time through the end of the year. The reason for this prohibition is ostensibly health and safety; that made sense to me when sports were not being played and school was not in session, but now that both are back in many areas, there must be more to it than that. Division II resumed normal recruiting on September 1, so unless you think they care less about health and safety than Division I coaches, there's a disconnect there somewhere.

I spoke this week to a women's head coach Chris Young of Oklahoma State for an article about the ITF Fall Tour that will appear Friday on the Tennis Recruiting Network and he told me that he can't attend the Fall Tour events that are being played at his campus facility because of the dead period. With potential student-athletes allowed to enter, simply being at the tournament, even though he has players from his team competing, is not allowed. In addition, no coaches can attend private practices or go to any other tournaments, including any of the USTA and ITF events this fall, a major departure from normal recruiting calendar.

While many fall sports. including university-sponsored competition in tennis, have been postponed, some conferences are permitting a few competitive dates. The SEC is allowing three team events beginning October 1; here is what the Georgia men and the Mississippi women, for example, have planned for those dates. 

Some teams in the Big 12 are also announcing fall dates, with the Oklahoma men and Texas Tech women among them. The Oklahoma release mentions a new tournament: the Big 12 Individual championships, which for the men will be at TCU and for the women will be at Oklahoma State. The Georgia release also contains information on an individual tournament, the 53rd annual Southern Intercollegiates, which is usually held in Athens in September, but will be held, as will the Big 12 events, November 6-8.  I had understood those to be the dates for the ITA National Fall Championships, but as I said yesterday, the details of that event have not been released, so perhaps it will be scheduled for the preceding or following weekend.

It was announced today that the Big Ten will play football after all, beginning on October 24. This probably isn't much consolation to the men's tennis teams at Iowa and Minnesota, which will be cut after this year according to recent announcements.

Football and basketball are considered the profit centers that fund the Olympic sports at the Division I level, but it's much more complicated than that.  Former Division I athlete D.R. Hildebrand, a William and Mary graduate, wrote this Richmond Times-Dispatch column entitled Cutting sports to steal endowments: The myth of football-funded athletics.

And Greg Couch, a sportswriter who is coaching the NAIA men's and women's teams at Roosevelt University in Chicago, wrote this column for Outkick entitled NCAA Schools Cry Poverty, Use Pandemic to Cut Sports They Didn't Want Anyway.

Both look at the management of athletic departments at the Division I level and wonder about the legitimacy of the cost-benefit analysis those departments are making. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Oracle ITA Masters Moves to San Diego for 2020; Additional Indictments in Georgetown's Varsity Blues Scandal; Sock, Withrow Take Volunteer Assistant Positions; Musetti Beats Wawrinka at Italian Open

The ITA announced today its Oracle Masters, an individual tournament that had been held in Malibu during the fall season, will take place October 9-11, 2020, but in a new location, the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.

The Masters, which had been a field with representatives from all Division I conferences, will have different entry standards this year, with so many conferences canceling fall tennis competition. According to the ITA release:

The singles-only field is open to collegiate, professional, and high-performance juniors and will be selected based on UTR. In total, four wild cards will be given by the ITA, USTA Southern California, and Barnes Tennis Center. All players will be guaranteed at least three matches throughout the tournament.

The men's and womens's singles finals will air on ESPNU at 2 p.m. Pacific, with the winners receiving wild cards into the ITA Fall National Championships. Details on that event have yet to be released, but the fact that a wild card is being offered for it is a positive indication that it will proceed.

The ITA release on the Oracle Masters, with information on entry and deadlines, can be found here.

While I was covering the US Open remotely I wasn't able to post several articles about college tennis that I want to pass along now.

The Varsity Blues scandal is by no means in the past, with new indictments being issued earlier this month in Boston. Georgetown continues to be in the thick of the tennis-related charges, with a Palm Beach parent charged for using fraud and bribery to gain admission to Georgetown for his daughter. Former Georgetown coach Gordon Ernest, who had already been charged at the outset of the scandal, had additional charges added recently, including filing false tax returns. 

Although unrelated to this college admissions investigation, the Los Angeles Times recently looked at the relationship of controversial US Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Duke athletic department. DeJoy's son was a member of the Duke men's tennis team from 2014-16. 

Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow, the 2011 USTA Boys 18s National Doubles champions, who have played as a team on the ATP Tour, and most recently at the US Open, are both joining college teams this fall as volunteer assistants. Sock, who has recently moved to the area, will coach at Davidson, while Withrow, who graduated from Texas A&M, has joined the coaching staff at Nebraska. I assume this means they will not be playing on the ATP tour for the remainder of the year, but will look to resume their professional careers in 2021. 

Lorenzo Musetti, US Open Juniors 2018

At the Italian Open, the big news of the day was 18-year-old qualifying wild card Lorenzo Musetti's 6-0, 7-6(2) win over No. 10 seed and three-time slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland. Italy's Musetti, who reached the 2018 US Open boys final and won the Australian Open boys final in 2019, is the first male born in 2002 to win an ATP level match. 

There are no US men remaining in the Italian Open draw, but four US women are still in contention. Coco Gauff won the battle of the former French Open girls champions today, beating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-3. Amanda Anisimova won her first round match Monday, beating No. 16 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 7-6(4), 7-6(6). No. 3 seed Sofia Kenin received a first round bye, and wild card Venus Williams plays her first round match, against US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, Wednesday, with the winner getting Kenin in the second round. The order of play for Wednesday is here.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Junior Orange Bowl Canceled; Two ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4s Set for US in October; Blanch Takes Doubles Title at Czech Grade 2; Young French Junior Stars Receive Roland Garros Wild Cards

The Junior Orange Bowl Committee announced today that the 59th annual tournament, scheduled for December 11-20, 2020 has been canceled:

Regretfully, the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship Committee announces that due to concerns and complications from the Covid-19 Pandemic, the 59th Annual Championship, previously scheduled for December 11-20, 2020 is cancelled. This decision was very difficult and one that was not taken lightly, but is the decision that the Committee believes is best for all involved.

We look forward to welcoming all of our participants, coaches, parents and spectators next year for our 60th Anniversary.

As always we thank you and our sponsors for your continued support. Please check back with the website for updates for next year’s event and other tennis related news and events from the Junior Orange Bowl.

Just as with the US Open Junior Championships, I had covered the Junior Orange Bowl 12s and 14s every year since 2004, so this is another understandable but disappointing cancellation for me personally. Without seeing any of the American 12s and 14s at the Easter Bowl this year, it's now down to the Eddie Herr to provide me with a look at those age groups. The Eddie Herr website has posted that a final decision will be made for that tournament by Friday September 18th.

Although the International Tennis Federation began its Junior Circuit competition two weeks ago, all ITF junior events in the United States were canceled through mid-October. ITF play is scheduled to resume in the US now with two Grade 4s, both of them regular stops on the fall schedule, starting in Atlanta the week of October 19th, followed by the tournament in Lexington South Carolina the week of October 26th.

The Eddie Herr Grade 1 appears on the current ITF Junior Calendar, but as mentioned above, that may change.

In ITF Junior Circuit tournaments that did get played in Europe, Dali Blanch won a doubles title at the Grade 2 in the Czech Republic. Blanch and partner Jack Pinnington-Jones of Great Britain, who won the singles title, were the top seeds in the tournament. They defeated No. 2 seeds Pierre Yves Bailly and Maikel De Boes of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 10-5 in the final. 

Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg lost in the doubles final at the Grade 1 in Serbia. The No. 1 seeds fell to No. 2 seeds Polina Iatcenko of Russia and Petra Marcinko of Croatia 6-0, 6-2 in the championship match. Coleman, the No. 3 seed and Sieg the No. 2 seed, lost in the semifinals of singles. 

At a Grade 5 in Singapore, American Cameron Austin Chang won the boys doubles title, with partner Matthew Johnstone of Singapore. The No. 2 seeds defeated top seeds Nathan Barki and Brendan Hendrata of Indonesia 6-3, 6-2 in the final. 

The French Open announced its wild cards today, with a mix of veterans and young players awarded entry into the main draw. One former college player, recent Texas A&M graduate Arthur Rinderknech of France, received a main draw wild card.

The men's wild cards:

Elliot Benchetrit (FRA)

Hugo Gaston (FRA)

Quentin Halys (FRA)

Antoine Hoang (FRA)

Maxime Janvier (FRA)

Harold Mayot (FRA)

Andy Murray (GBR)

Arthur Rinderknech (FRA)

Note that Harold Mayot, who is currently No. 1 in the ITF Junior rankings, is also entered in the junior championships at Roland Garros.

The women's wild cards:

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN)

Clara Burel (FRA)

Elsa Jacquemot (FRA)

Chloe Pacquet (FRA)

Pauline Parmentier (FRA)

Diane Parry (FRA)

Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL)

Harmony Tan (FRA)

The 19-year-old Burel is the 2018 ITF World Junior Champion, Parry is currently No. 2 in the ITF Junior rankings, but is not entered in the junior event. 

The list of qualifying wild cards can be found at the Roland Garros website.