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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Li and Kostyuk Advance to Tyler $80K Singles Final, Zamarripa Twins Reach Doubles Final; Fields Set for ITA National Fall Championships; Qualifying Begins at ITF Grade 4 in Daytona Beach

No. 7 seed Ann Li and No. 8 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine will meet in the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Tyler Texas after a day of tennis that was downright meager. After two days extending into nights Thursday and Friday, with the tournament attempting to catch up from three days of rain, today saw only two of the four matches on the schedule actually played.

Cici Bellis, who won the title last week at the $80,000 tournament in Macon, was unable to compete in today's singles semifinals due to injury. Bellis was set to take on Kostyuk, whom she defeated in the Macon final when Kostyuk had to retire with cramping early in the third set. Bellis, who had beaten both qualifier Jamie Loeb and No. 4 seed Aliona Bolsova of Spain in three sets Friday, was not in doubles this week, but that was not enough to overcome the challenge of the singles doubleheader. The 18-year-old Kostyuk, who won her two singles matches Friday in straight sets, was scheduled to play in the doubles semifinals today, but Clara Tauson of Denmark withdrew with an injury, which put alternates Allura and Maribella Zamarripa in the final.

The Zamarripa twins, who have committed to the University of Texas for 2021, defeated top seeds Caroline Dolehide and Caty McNally 6-4, 4-6, 10-4 in the quarterfinals late Friday night. They will take on the No. 4 seeds from Poland, Paula Kania-Chodun and Katarzyna Piter, in Sunday morning's final.

Li has gotten through her four matches in the past three days with a minimum of fuss, although she needed late breaks in each set to defeat Greet Minnen of Belgium 7-5, 7-5 in today's semifinals. Li was particularly impressive on break points, winning four of six, while Minnen could convert only two of the six she had. The 20-year-old from Pennsylvania has only two ITF Pro Circuit singles titles, a $15K and a $25K, but her run to the third round of the US Open last month and qualifying for both the Australian Open back in January and the Western & Southern Open in August has no doubt helped her confidence, particularly on hard courts.

The finals will be streamed here, beginning with doubles at 10:30 am Central Time, with Ken Thomas providing the commentary. 

Frances Tiafoe lost to No. 4 seed John Millman of Australia 3-6, 6-4, 6-4  in the semifinals of the ATP 250 tournament in Kazakhstan today, with Millman avenging his loss to Tiafoe at the US Open. 

Qualifying is underway and the main draw is out for the ATP Masters in Paris next week, with three Americans: Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee). Marcos Giron(UCLA) is in qualifying and won his first round match today; he will advance to the main draw if he defeats No. 2 seed Lazlo Djere of Serbia Sunday. Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the top two seeds.

The ITA National Fall Championships are scheduled to begin Thursday at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, and the fields have been released, including the wild cards.

Ohio State sophomore Cannon Kingsley, a finalist at the Oracle Masters this month, is among the men's entrants, but unlike the Masters, the fields are mostly collegians.  Ashley Lahey and Summer Circuit champion Jessica Failla, both of Pepperdine are entered, as is UCLA's Abigail Forbes, UNC's Alexa Graham and NC State's Anna Rogers.

Junior players dominate the wild card selections, with Qavia Lopez, Emma Charney, Katherine Hui and Allie Gretkowski the girls wild cards and Benjamin Kittay, Kyle Kang, Quinn Snyder and Gavin Young the boys wild cards. The boys field is here; the girls field is here

Qualifying for the last of the three ITF Grade 4 events in the United States is underway in Daytona Beach Florida, with two rounds completed today and the final round of qualifying set for Sunday. Top qualifying seed Sarah Hamner, who played both the singles and doubles finals at the ITF in Orlando yesterday, didn't get an exemption or a wild card into this week's event, and she was back on the court for two matches today. She won them both, so she will have a less taxing day on Sunday, with just one match. Jackson Armistead, the top boys seed in qualifying, also won both his matches today. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Krueger Sweeps Orlando ITF Titles, Vallejo Wins Boys Singles; Tauson Beats Rogers at Tyler $80K; Tiafoe Advances to Semifinals in Kazakhstan; SoCal Junior Sectionals Begin Saturday

Ashlyn Krueger lost both the singles and doubles finals last week at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, but this week the 16-year-old Texan flipped the script, taking both championships at the ITF Grade 4 at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida. Krueger, a wild card, defeated doubles partner Sarah Hamner, a qualifier, 6-2, 6-4 in the singles final, then teamed with Hamner to earn the doubles title with a 6-0, 7-5 victory over Sophie Llewellyn and Mia Slama, with both teams unseeded. For Krueger, who won the 16s Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl titles last year, it's her first two titles on the ITF Junior Circuit, where she has played sparingly.

Top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay took the boys singles title, beating Atlanta champion Giulio Perego of Italy 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Jonah Braswell and Timothy Phung won the boys doubles title, defeating No. 8 seed Ryan Colby and Braden Shick 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

The $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Tyler Texas is still trying to catch up from three days of rain, with several quarterfinal matches not yet underway tonight. But 17-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark has already pulled off a big upset, beating top seed Shelby Rogers 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in the second round. How Tauson will fare in her quarterfinal against Ann Li after that three-hour-plus match remains to be seen, but this is her second ATP Top 60 win this month. 

Frances Tiafoe reached his first ATP semifinal in more than two years today when he defeated Egor Gerasimov of Kazakhstan 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-5 at the 250-level event in Kazakhstan. Tiafoe will face No. 4 seed John Millman of Australia, who he defeated at the US Open last month, for a place in the finals. Millman saved two match points in his 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over No. 7 seed Tommy Paul to prevent an all-US semifinal. Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) lost to No. 3 seed Adrian Mannarino of France 6-1, 6-4. Mannarino's semifinal opponent is Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland. For more on today's quarterfinals, see this article from the ATP website.

The USTA Southern California sectionals, delayed from this summer due to the pandemic, begin tomorrow and extend through next weekend, with competition taking place in various sites over two weekends. I've listed the top seeds in each of the five divisions below. For draws and results, see the TennisLink site.

Girls 18s: Rebecca Lynn

Boys 18s: Sebastian Gorzny

Girls 16s: Lucinda Gatsiounis

Boys 16s: Lucas Coriaty

Girls 14s:  Rachel Lee

Boys 14s:  Mario Garcia

Girls 12s:  Julieta Pareja

Boys 12s: Rishvanth Krishna

Girls 10s: Ania Zabost

Boys 10s: Stefanos Constantinides

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Doubles Partners Meet for Orlando ITF Girls Title; Tyler $80K Finally Finishes Qualifying; McDonald Advances to Quarterfinals in Kazakhstan; Kratzer Receives Ban from Anti-Doping Agency

The finals are set in singles and doubles at the ITF Grade 4 in Orlando, with wild card Ashlyn Krueger and qualifier Sarah Hamner meeting in the singles final, then pairing up to compete in the doubles championship.

Krueger, who made the final of both singles and doubles last week at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, defeated No. 6 seed Katja Wiersholm 6-1, 6-3 in today's semifinal, with Hamner, a South Carolina recruit, beating top seed Alexis Blokhina 6-4, 6-4. In the doubles semifinals, Krueger and Hamner downed Julia Fliegner and Elisabeth Jones, who beat Krueger and her partner Marcela Lopez in the Atlanta final, 6-4, 6-3. In Friday's final, they will face unseeded Sophie Llewellyn and Mia Slama, who beat top seeds Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland and Eva Elbaz of France 6-7(11), 7-6(4), 10-6 in the semifinals.

The boys final features top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay and unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy, with the latter looking to make it two titles in a row after winning in Atlanta last week. Vallejo defeated No. 7 seed Braden Shick 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(6), while Perego beat unseeded Colton Smith 7-6(1), 6-2. Shick is in the running for a second consecutive doubles title, with he and partner Ryan Colby, the No. 8 seeds, facing unseeded Jonah Braswell and Timothy Phung in Friday's final. Shick won the Atlanta doubles title last week with Maxwell Smith.

The weather finally cooperated in Tyler Texas, which is not to say it was warm, but it was dry, for the fourth day of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament. The qualifying was completed and the first round played, although as of 8 p.m. Eastern, there were still two first round singles matches in progress. University of Texas freshman Peyton Stearns had a big win in the final round of qualifying, beating WTA 173 Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-4, 2-6, 10-4, but the 19-year-old from Ohio lost to WTA 114 Greet Minnen of Belgium 6-2, 7-5 in the first round later in the day. 

Seventeen-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark qualified and defeated Caty McNally 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. Wild card Hailey Baptiste won her first round match over No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn(Stanford) 6-2, 6-2, and Macon champion Cici Bellis defeated No. 6 seed Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 6-3, 6-3, joining top seed Shelby Rogers, No. 7 seed Ann Li, Caroline Dolehide and qualifier Jamie Loeb(UNC) representing the US in the second round. Bellis and Loeb will play in the second round Friday.

At the ATP 250 in Kazakhstan, Mackenzie McDonald reached his first quarterfinal on the ATP Tour since February of 2019, defeating wild card Andreas Seppi of Italy 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 today. McDonald, the 2016 NCAA singles champion as a UCLA Bruin, will play No. 3 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, who is the highest seed remaining in the draw, on Friday. Frances Tiafoe faces Egor Gerasimov of Kazakhstan and No. 7 seed Tommy Paul meets No. 4 seed John Millman of Australia.

Ashley Kratzer, a 21-year-old American, was banned from competition for four years in a decision released today by the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme. Kratzer, who won the 2017 USTA National 18s championships in San Diego, was tested in January of this year and her sample showed the presence of a prohibited substance, leading to a provisional suspension. The details of how this violation occurred can be found here. Kratzer, who can appeal this ruling, will be ineligible for competition through March 27, 2024.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Four US Girls Reach Orlando ITF Semifinals; Rain Continues to Disrupt Tyler $80K; McDonald, Tiafoe and Paul Advance in Kazakhstan; Ohio State High School Championships Results

Both of the top seeds have advanced to Thursday's semifinals at the ITF Grade 4 in Orlando, with No. 1 Alexis Blokhina one of four American girls to earn quarterfinal wins today at the USTA National Campus.  In the boys draw, top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay and unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy, last week's Grade 4 champion in Atlanta, will take on the two remaining US boys in the singles draw.

Blokhina, who did not play last week in Atlanta, defeated unseeded Calissa Dellabarca 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(1) and will play qualifier Sarah Hamner. Hamner, who has verbally committed to South Carolina for 2021, defeated unseeded Olivia Lincer 6-2, 6-4 for her sixth win of the week. The other semifinal features No. 6 seed Katja Wiersholm and wild card Ashlyn Krueger. Wiersholm advanced when Grace O'Donnell retired trailing 3-6, 7-6(4), 4-0. Krueger, a finalist last week in Atlanta, defeated qualifier Tsehay Driscoll 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.

Vallejo, who defeated unseeded Nedim Suko 6-4, 7-5, will face No. 7 seed Braden Shick, who beat No. 4 seed Azuma Visaya 0-6, 6-3, 6-3. Perego, who defeated wild card Nicholas Godsick 6-3, 6-1, meets unseeded Colton Smith for a place in the final. Smith, who has committed to Arizona, downed 15-year-old qualifier Joseph Phillips 7-5, 6-4. 

Two of the doubles quarterfinals matches were not completed, but three teams in each draw have booked their spots in the semifinals. Hamner and Krueger are still alive in doubles, as is Shick.

Three days of rain in Tyler Texas has put the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament way behind schedule, with qualifying matches moved indoors to the SMU facility in Dallas and just six of those competed: the final three first round qualifying matches and three second round qualifying matches. Those qualifying so far are Jamie Loeb(UNC), who defeated alternate Paula Kania-Chodun of Poland 7-6(5), 6-4; Ankita Raina of India, who defeated Tessah Andrianjafitrimo of France 6-0, 6-2 and Georgina Garcia-Perez of Spain, who defeated Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-4.

Three of the four Americans in the draw at the ATP 250 in Kazakhstan won matches today, with Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) picking up a first round win and Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul advancing to the quarterfinals with victories today.  McDonald defeated No. 6 seed Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-2 and will play wild card Andreas Seppi of Italy tomorrow. Tiafoe took out No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic 7-5, 6-3 and will play Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in Friday's quarterfinals. It's Tiafoe's second ATP quarterfinal appearance this year, with the previous one back in February at Delray Beach. Paul, the No. 7 seed, beat Radu Albot of Moldova 6-4, 6-0 and will face No. 4 seed John Millman of Australia in the quarterfinals Friday.  Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), the fourth American in the draw, lost his first round match Tuesday.

For more on Tiafoe's victory, see this article from the ATP website

Scott Gerber does a tremendous job of covering Ohio high school tennis, and with the girls state championships concluding last weekend, there is plenty of new content on his website, OhioTennisZone.com, including scores, photos and videos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

No. 2 Seeds Out as ITF Orlando Grade 4 Moves to Quarterfinals; USTA Releases National Schedule for 2021; ITA Fall Circuit Week Six Winners

After rain caused delays on Monday, the second round of the ITF Grade 4 in Orlando has concluded, with the singles quarterfinals set for Wednesday at the USTA National Campus. The quarterfinals will feature both top seeds, with Alexis Blokhina and Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay advancing today, but the No. 2 seeds have been eliminated.

Nishesh Basavareddy lost in the first round, to wild card John Kim, with Kim losing to Guilio Perego of Italy, last week's champion at the Atlanta Grade 4, in the second round. Perego, a senior who has recently made a verbal commitment to Texas A&M, will face wild card Nicholas Godsick, son of Mary Joe Fernandez and Tony Godsick, in the quarterfinals. 

Fifteen-year-old qualifier Tsehay Driscoll defeated frequent doubles partner Ava Krug, the No. 2 seed and granddaughter of ESPN's Dick Vitale, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 in today's second round. Driscoll will face wild card Ashlyn Krueger, who reached the final last week in Atlanta, in Wednesday's quarterfinals.  Grace O'Donnell, a semifinalist last week in Atlanta, defeated No. 3 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in today's second round action.

The second round of doubles isn't complete yet, with two rounds on Wednesday's schedule for some teams.

More rain in Tyler Texas kept that $80K tournament's qualifying behind schedule, but the draw has been posted, with Shelby Rogers the top seed. Wild cards were awarded to Varvara Lepchenko, Hailey Baptiste, Katie Volynets and Fernanda Contreras(Vanderbilt) of Mexico. Macon $80K champion Cici Bellis did receive a special exemption into the main draw.

The USTA has published its national junior tournament schedule for 2021, with the first national events Level 2s in February. Of course, with the pandemic still raging, this schedule is tentative, but it offers at least some possibilities should the outlook improve.

Week Six of the ITA Tour: Fall Circuit by UTR is complete, with tournaments in 12 cities across the US now complete. (The ITA recap of Week Six says 13 tournaments, but I can't find any results for Mason, so I assume it was not played). 

ITF Fall Circuit Week Six Winners:

Williamsburg: Men, Harrison Hunter

Phoenix: Men, Jose Dominguez; Women, Jacque Dunyon

Morgantown: Men, Henry Shepherd; Women, Taylor Ng

Cincinnati: Men, Devin Boyer; Women, Sophia Zaslow

Wilson: Women, Abigail Forbes

Lawrenceville: Men, Jamieson Nathan/Mikael Erler; Women, Chelsea Sawyer

Des Moines: Men, Benjamin Lott; Women, Arunadee Fernando

South Elmonte: Men, Dawid Kaszubowski; Women, Velizara Fileva

Wichita: Men, Marius Frosa/Nicolas Acevedo; Women, Kristina Novak

Morgan Hill: Men, Nitzan Ricklis; Women, Maria Martinez Vaquero

Minneapolis: Men, Gavin Young

Houston: Men, Anish Sriniketh; Women, Phonexay Chitdara

Monday, October 26, 2020

Qualifying Underway at Tyler $80K; NCAA Overreacts, UMass Women's Tennis Suffers; Hidalgo Wins Vero Beach UTR $10K; UTR Sponsors November $20K Pro Series in Cancun

With no WTA events this week, the biggest tournament in the world is in Tyler Texas, where qualifying for the $80,000 Bellatorum Resources Pro Classic began today. It appears that rain interrupted some of the first qualifying matches today, but several Americans have posted victories. University of Texas freshman Peyton Stearns defeated No. 9 seed Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan 6-3, 3-6, 10-6; Jamie Loeb(UNC) defeated No. 3 seed Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 6-4, 6-2 and Alycia Parks beat No. 13 seed Gabriela Ce of Brazil  6-3, 6-3.  

There are two ATP events this week, an ATP 500 in Vienna Austria and a 250 level tournament in Kazakhstan. Taylor Fritz was the only American in the Vienna draw, and he lost to Borna Coric of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in a first round match today.  Four Americans are playing in Kazakhstan: Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Tennys Sandgren and Mackenzie McDonald. Paul, the No. 7 seed, defeated Stefano Travaglia of Italy 7-6(2), 6-3 and Tiafoe avenged a recent lost to Corentin Moutet of France with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in first round action today. Sandgren and McDonald have not yet played their first round matches.

The NCAA is under siege from many constituencies, and their ongoing relevance to college sports is an open question, but they've managed to get themselves in yet another controversy with their recent decision to vacate three years worth of wins by the University of Massachusetts women's tennis team, as well as their Atlantic 10 title, after determining that two players on the team received impermissible benefits. These benefits amounted to $252 in the form of a phone jack reimbursement that neither player knew they had been given, because there was no itemization included in their scholarship distribution. The school, who initially self-reported and expected probation for what they are describing as a "clerical error", has reportedly paid over $100,000 to fight the decision. 

One of the two women who received that benefit, Brittany Collens, has begun a campaign on social media to raise awareness of the NCAA's decision to punish the school, and has started a petition to the NCAA, which now has over 2600 signatures.

For more details on this NCAA decision, see this article from the Boston Globe and this article from Front Office Sports.

I missed that the USTA Pro Circuit men's $25K in Harlingen Texas, scheduled to begin this week, had been canceled, but there was opportunity available at the $10,000 UTR Mardy Fish Children's Foundation Tennis Championships in Vero Beach Florida last week, with the winner taking home $3000.00. 

That turned out to be the player with the highest UTR, former Florida Gator Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador, who has not played on the men's ITF World Tennis Tour since the restart, but is currently 378 in the ATP rankings. The 27-year-old Hidalgo defeated 20-year-old Matthew Segura, great nephew of tennis legend Pancho Segura, 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

With so few tournaments this fall in North America, UTR has announced another one of its supplemental events, three $20,000 prize money tournaments in Cancun Mexico, beginning the week of November 15th. Below is the format, for the breakdown of the prize money, or to register, visit the UTR site.

Here’s How UTR Pro Tennis Series Works

  • The 32 person main draw, guaranteeing at least 3 matches, will consist of 8 groups of 4 players each. The round-robin group stages will run from Monday to Wednesday. All matches will be best 2 out of 3 sets, regular scoring.
  • The Playoff Rounds will be single elimination and consist of three draws of 8 players depending on the player’s group finishing (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) and will run from Thursday to Sunday. All matches will be best 2 out of 3 sets, regular scoring.
  • A one-round Qualifying will start and be completed on Sunday and all matches will be best 2 out of 3 sets, regular scoring.
  • Players losing in qualifying can sign in for Lucky Loser throughout the round-robin group stages.

Event Details
Venue: Cancun Tennis Complex
Health & Safety: COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place
Registration Deadline: November 5th
Registration Fee: $40 USD

*Note you will also need a Power Subscription which we are offering for just $2/month (regularly $10/month)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bellis Wins Macon $80K Title; Coleman and Sieg Take Grade 1 Doubles Championship in Bulgaria; Orlando Grade 4 Starts Monday; More ATP Doubles Titles for Former Collegians

With nearly four years between titles, Cici Bellis knows that winning one is difficult, with injuries and bad luck often creating insurmountable roadblocks. Today at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, Bellis saw her opponent come up against one of those roadblocks, when 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk was forced to retire with cramps in the first game of the third set, giving Bellis a 6-4, 6-7(4) victory.

The first two sets took over two hours to play, with the grueling baseline rallies favoring neither player. Bellis broke at love at 4-all and was able to serve out the set, hitting a terrific crosscourt forehand pass on the run at 30-15 to give herself some breathing room.

Kostyuk, the No. 6 seed, took a 4-1 lead in the second set, only to see Bellis come roaring back to win five of the next six games. But she couldn't serve out the match at 6-5, and in the tiebreaker, Kostyuk stepped up her game, making no errors, while Bellis was less consistent.

The first game of the third set was another tense one, with Bellis saving two break points from 15-40 down, before earning two game points. Bellis couldn't convert the first and it was after she had earned the second that Kostyuk began to cramp, eventually crumpling to the court. She received medical attention, but was in no condition to continue, and, for the second consecutive day, Bellis had won via a walkover.

The Macon title is the first for Bellis since she won the WTA 125 in Hawaii back in 2016, and with the title, she should move up to around 142 in the WTA rankings after starting the week at 173. I assume she will get a special exemption into the main draw at the $80K in Tyler Texas, where qualifying begins Monday.

Sieg and Coleman win doubles title in Bulgaria
(contributed photo)

At the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria, Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg won the girls doubles title. The top seeds, who will now head back to the United States after competing in Europe for the past two months, defeated the unseeded team of Anaelle LeClercq of France and Radka Zelnickova of of Slovakia 7-5, 4-6, 10-6. 

In the girls singles final, top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra defeated No. 7 seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium 6-2, 6-1. Jimenez Kasintseva took a wild card into qualifying as a late entrant and won eight matches to claim her first Grade 1 title. 

The ITF Grade 4 in Orlando begins on Monday, with Alexis Blokhina and Ava Krug the top two girls seeds. Blokhina and Krug did not play the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta last week. The boys top two seeds are the same as in Atlanta: No. 1 Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay and No. 2 Nishesh Basavareddy. 

The boys qualifiers, all from the US, are Alexander Razeghi, Jackson Armistead, Niles Rachal and Joseph Phillips. The girls qualifiers are Mary Stoiana, Tsehay Driscoll, Sarah Hamner of the US and Sarah L'allier of Canada. Girls singles wild cards were given to Katherine Hui, Ria Bhakta, Ashlyn Krueger and Sophie Llewellyn, all of the United States.  The boys wild cards went to Jonah Braswell, Kian Vakili, Nicholas Godsick and John Kim, all from the US.

The ATP doubles tour has been fertile ground recently for former collegians, and at the two 250 events this week, three of the four doubles champions played college tennis.

Michael Venus(LSU) and John Peers(Baylor) won their third title in this abbreviated year, their first as a team, taking the championship at the European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Venus and Peers, the No. 2 seeds, defeated the unseeded team of Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Venus and Peers did not drop a set all week. For more on their title, see this article from the ATP website.

At the ATP event in Cologne Germany, Ben McLachlan of Japan and Raven Klaasen of South Africa won the title in their first tournament as a team. The unseeded pair did not drop a set all week, beating No. 3 seeds and two-time French Open champions Andreas Mies(Auburn) and Kevin Krawietz of Germany 6-2, 6-4 in the final. McLachlan, who now has six ATP doubles titles, played college tennis at Cal. For more on their win, see this article from the ATP website.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bellis Reaches Macon $80K Final Versus Kostyuk; Brady Falls in WTA Ostrava Semis; Pinnington Jones Wins ITF Grade 1 Title in Bulgaria; Qualifying Underway at Grade 4 in Orlando

Cici Bellis this summer at Lexington Exhibition
©Scott Gerber, OhioTennisZone.com

Cici Bellis last reached a singles final way back in November of 2016, when she won her biggest title at the WTA 125 in Honolulu. The 21-year-old, who was out most of 2018 and 2019 with multiple wrist and elbow surgeries, earned the opportunity to raise the winner's trophy again today at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, advancing to the final with a 6-3, 1-0 ret. win over qualifier Varvara Lepchenko.

Bellis, a wild card who has looked dialed in throughout the week, wasn't quite as sharp today, but Lepchenko was noticeably off her game. The 34-year-old had to win three matches just to get into the main draw, and once there she had two three-hour-plus victories, including yesterday's quarterfinal over Sachia Vickery. After Bellis closed out the first set, Lepchenko took a medical timeout, but she didn't look physically able to move from side to side in the first two games, and after eight points were played in the second set, she retired.

Bellis will face 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Belarus, who ended the run of qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland in today's other semifinal 6-3, 6-2. The sixth-seeded Kostyuk, who made a huge breakthrough at the Australian Open in 2018, qualifying and reaching the third round, had a few injury issues of her own and couldn't consistently locate that early form, but she is currently at her career-high of 113 and gave eventual champion Naomi Osaka all she could handle in the third round at this year's US Open. Like Bellis, Kostyuk has not dropped a set all week, so their first meeting should be an interesting one.

The final is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, with live streaming available here

The doubles championship was decided this afternoon, with Frech and her partner Katarzyna Kawa, also of Poland, defeating Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-1 in the final. 

Jennifer Brady's run at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic ended today against No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, with Sabalenka just too powerful and to consistent today in her 6-4, 6-4 win. Sabalenka will play Victoria Azarenka in the first WTA final between two players from Belarus, after Azarenka defeated Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-3. 

The boys finals were played today at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria, with unseeded 17-year-old Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain defeating unseeded Pierre Yves Bailly of Belgium 6-1, 6-2 for his first ITF Grade 1 title.  In the doubles final, Peter Fajta and Zsombor Velcz of Hungary beat Pinnington Jones and Angel Guerrero Melgar of Spain 6-1, 7-6(2) in a battle of unseeded teams.

Top seeds Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg are through to Sunday's girls doubles final after defeating Sofia Costoulas of Belgium and Fatima Keita of Romania 6-2, 6-4 in today's semifinal. They will play the unseeded team of Anaelle LeClercq of France and Radka Zelnickova of of Slovakia for the title. 

The girls singles final will feature Costoulas, seeded No. 7, and top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra.

Qualifying began today at the ITF Grade 4 in Orlando, which was moved from Lexington South Carolina to the USTA National Campus last month. As with the Grade 4 just completed in Atlanta, the qualifying draws were full and it takes three wins to advance to the main draw, which has just 32 spots. All first round and most second round qualifying results are posted now at the ITF Junior Circuit website

Friday, October 23, 2020

Qualifier Charney, Unseeded Perego Win Atlanta Grade 4 Titles; Montgomery Claims $25K Doubles Title in France; Bellis, Lepchenko Reach Macon $80K Semis; Brady Advances in Czech Republic

Champions were crowned today at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, the first ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States in 2020. Seventeen-year-old qualifier Emma Charney won the girls singles title, defeating wild card Ashlyn Krueger 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 for her first ITF Junior Circuit title in her fourth tournament played. Charney, a blue chip from South Carolina, had lost to Krueger at last year's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Kentucky last fall. She won eight matches, including qualifying, and lost a set for the first time today.

Unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy won the boys singles title, when No. 3 seed Aidan Kim retired trailing 6-1, 2-0. It was the first ITF Junior Circuit singles title for the 17-year-old. 

As in singles, the doubles champions were unseeded. Julia Fliegner and Elisabeth Jones defeated the unseeded team of Krueger and Marcela Lopez 6-4, 7-5 in the girls final. Braden Shick and Maxwell Smith won the boys title with a 7-6(3), 6-1 win over No. 7 seeds Stian Klaassan of the Netherlands and Lucas Brown.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman lost her quarterfinal match with No. 1 seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 6-2, 6-4. Coleman and Madison Sieg, who are the top seeds in doubles, have advanced to the semifinals.

Robin Montgomery, playing in her second consecutive quarterfinal at a $25K in France, lost to No. 2 seed and current WTA No. 124 Oceane Dodin of France 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2. But the 16-year-old did pick up her first ITF World Tennis Tour doubles title, with 18-year-old Selena Janicijevic of France, when they received a walkover in the final from the British team of Harriet Dart and Sarah Beth Grey, the No. 2 seeds. Montgomery and Janicijevic defeated the No. 3 seeds in the quarterfinals and top seeds Robin Anderson and Jessika Ponchet of France, who had won the doubles title at last week's $25K, in the semifinals before benefitting from the walkover. 

At the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, wild card Cici Bellis and qualifier Varvara Lepchenko set up a semifinal meeting Saturday with contrasting quarterfinal victories. Bellis rolled past Sara Errani of Italy 6-0, 6-3, winning the first nine games of the match with some outstanding tennis. She cooled off a bit in the second set, but has been impressive in her three wins so far, all in straight sets. After her first round win went more than three and a half hours, Lepchenko had another marathon victory today, with the qualifier defeating Sachia Vickery 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes.  Bellis and Lepchenko have split two previous meetings, with the last one, in November of 2019 at the Houston WTA 125, going to a third set tiebreaker. 

The other semifinal features 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the No. 6 seed, against qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland. Kostyuk breezed past top seed Misaki Doi of Japan 6-2, 6-1, while Frech defeated Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) 7-5, 6-3.

Replays of the Kostyuk and Bellis wins, among other previous matches, are available here, with live streaming at the same site this weekend.

Jennifer Brady(UCLA) continued her impressive hard court play since the restart, advancing to her fourth WTA semifinal of the year today with a come-from-behind win over qualifier Veronika Kudermetova of Russia at the WTA Premier in Ostrava Czech Republic.  Brady, who beat Kudermetova 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, will face No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who had a spectacularly improbable win over Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain this evening. Sabalenka trailed 6-0, 4-0 before winning 12 straight games for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. 

Marcos Giron(UCLA) lost his first ever ATP quarterfinal match today at the European Open in Belgium, falling to No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia 6-3, 6-0. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Giron Earns First ATP Top 20 Win, Brady Advances in Ostrava; Montgomery Reaches $25K Quarterfinal; Finals Friday at Atlanta Grade 4; Coleman Claims Bulgaria Grade 1 Quarterfinal Berth

2014 NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron has achieved a handful of career firsts since the restart, including his first main draw grand slam win (US Open), his first French Open main draw win, and his first appearance in the ATP Top 100. Tonight at the ATP 250 European Open in Belgium, the 27-year-old former UCLA Bruin added two more accomplishments, earning his first ATP Top 20 victory and reaching his first ATP quarterfinal. Giron took advantage of the inconsistency and poor serving of top seed and ATP No. 14 David Goffin in Goffin's home country, posting a 6-3, 7-5 victory. Giron played nearly flawless tennis in the opening set, building a 5-1 lead before Goffin began to show some signs of life. 

The second set was more competitive, but it was Giron who was able to prevail on the important points, saving eight of ten break points. After Goffin took a 5-4 lead in the second set, Giron took charge, winning 12 of the next 15 to earn his place in the quarterfinals. Giron will play No. 8 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who was his previous best win prior to tonight, with Giron defeating the then 24th-ranked De Minaur in the second round at Indian Wells last year 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

For more on Giron's win, see this article from the ATP website.

Giron wasn't the only former UCLA star to pick up a win today in Europe; Jennifer Brady came from 2-5 down in the first set at the WTA Premier in the Czech Republic, defeating qualifier Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-5, 6-2. Brady will face another qualifier, Veronika Kudermetova of Russia, who beat No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 today.

Robin Montgomery has advanced to the quarterfinals of a $25,000 event in France for the second consecutive week. The 16-year-old left-hander once again drew Robin Anderson in the first round, and once again got the win over the only other American in the Reims draw. Today Montgomery defeated Olga Danilovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 to earn a quarterfinal meeting with No. 2 seed Oceane Dodin of France. 

The finals are set at the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, with wild card Ashlyn Krueger facing qualifier Emma Charney in the girls final, and No. 3 seed Aidan Kim playing Giulio Perego of Italy in the boys final. Krueger defeated Gracie Epps 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while Charney took out Grace O'Donnell 6-2, 6-0. Charney, 17, has already won seven matches this week and has yet to drop a set.  The 15-year-old Kim defeated Ellis Short 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Perego, 17, downed last year's finalist Nishesh Basavareddy, the No. 2 seed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  

Krueger, 16, has also advanced to the girls doubles final with partner Marcela Lopez.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman advanced to the quarterfinals, beating Lucie Nguyen Tan of France 6-2, 6-3. Coleman faces top seed Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who took a late wild card into qualifying, on Friday. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Top Seed Mi Out in Quarterfinals at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Moves On at Macon $80K; Fritz Defeats Opelka in Belgium; Cooksey Wins Fourth State Singles Title

With the draws consisting of only 32 players, the semifinals of the ITF Junior Circuit Grade 4 in Atlanta are Thursday, a day earlier than usual when the draws are usually twice as large. Boys top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay lost yesterday, and in today's quarterfinals, girls top seed Lan Mi of China exited, with unseeded Gracie Epps advancing when Mi retired at 4-6, 7-6(6). Epps, who will be 16 next week, will face wild card Ashlyn Krueger in the semifinals. Krueger, who won the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl 16s titles last year, beat qualifier Salma Farhat 6-2, 6-0.

The other girls semifinal will feature qualifier Emma Charney against unseeded Grace O'Donnell. Charney defeated Aubrey Nisbet 6-4, 6-1, while O'Donnell advanced when Ava Hrastar retired trailing 5-1. 

No. 2 seed Nishesh Basavareddy, who reached the final last year in Atlanta, defeated wild card Jelani Sarr 6-1, 6-4 and will play unseeded Giulio Perego of Italy. Perego beat No. 4 seed Azuma Visaya 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Unseeded Ellis Short, who beat top seed Vallejo yesterday, picked up another win today, beating Canadian Jayden Templemen 6-4, 7-6(4). Short will take on No. 3 seed Aidan Kim, who defeated Ryan Colby 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

At the Grade 1 in Bulgaria, No. 5 seed Ellie Coleman won her first round match, but she is the only American still alive in singles. No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, Jenna DeFalco and Isabelle Kouzmanov all lost in the first round, while boys No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara lost in the second round today. 

A couple of first round matches are still underway tonight at the $80,000 women's tournament in Macon Georgia, but at least eight US women will advance to Thursday's second round. Qualifiers Varvara Lepchenko and Katie Volynets both picked up wins today, with Lepchenko outlasting No. 2 seed Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-6(6) in over three and a half hours, and Volynets defeating Caroline Dolehide 7-6(3), 6-3 in just over two hours. No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn(Stanford), No. 5 seed Ann Li, Cici Bellis, Sachia Vickery and Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State) also posted first round wins today. 

Live streaming is up and running at usta.com, with Ken Thomas of RadioTennis.com on the call. 

Taylor Fritz ran his record against friend Reilly Opelka to 5-1 today in the first round of the ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp Belgium. Fritz, the No. 7 seed, was outaced 19-10, but he never faced a break point in his 7-6(5), 6-1 victory. Fritz plays Lloyd Harris of South Africa next; qualifier Marcos Giron(UCLA) takes on top seed David Goffin of Belgium.

I normally am not able to follow high school tennis around the country, but because I wrote an article about William Cooksey's commitment to the University of Michigan this spring, and because I follow high school tennis here in my home state of Michigan, I did want to note that Cooksey won his fourth consecutive state singles title in Division IV today, a week after his Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett team won the Division IV title. It was touch and go throughout the summer and early fall as to whether the high school season would even be possible, but the MHSAA made some changes, decentralizing the team events and holding a separate individual tournament to keep the number of competitors at each site to a minimum. The girls, who play in the spring here in Michigan, were not as fortunate, as their season was, of course, canceled.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Top Seed Blanch Falls in First Round at Bulgaria Grade 1; Quarterfinals Set at Atlanta Grade 4; Volynets Beats Bouchard to Qualify for Macon $80K; ITA Fall Circuit Week Five Winners

The opening day of boys singles at the ITF Grade 1 in Bulgaria saw top seed Dali Blanch exit in the first round, with fellow 17-year-old Jack Pinnington-Jones of Great Britain taking out the American by a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 score. Blanch was coming off a title at the Grade 3 in Romania last week, but Pinnington-Jones has also picked up a title since the restart, claiming the Grade 2 in the Czech Republic last month. 

Blanch was the only seeded boy to fall in the opening round. The other American boy entered, No. 6 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, won his first round match over Szymon Kielan of Poland 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-0. 

The girls qualifying concluded today, with their first round matches scheduled to take place on Wednesday. Qavia Lopez lost to wild card entry Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra 7-5, 6-3, leaving four American girls in the main draw. Australian Open girls champion Jimenez Kasintseva, currently No. 3 in the ITF Junior rankings, is the top seed in the event, after taking a late wild card into qualifying. The American girls in the draw are Jenna De Falco, Isabelle Kouzmanov, Madison Sieg, the  No. 4 seed, and Ellie Coleman, the No. 5 seed.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Atlanta, Princeton recruit Ellis Short defeated top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5) to advance to the quarterfinals. The No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds--Nishesh Basavareddy, Aidan Kim and Azuma Visaya--are among the six Americans still in contention for the boys singles title. 

In the girls draw, the only seed remaining is No. 1 Lan Mi of China, with the other quarterfinalists all from the United States, including qualifiers Salma Farhat and Emma Charney. No. 2 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland lost yesterday to qualifier Ann Guerry, who was beaten by Georgia Tech freshman Ava Hrastar today. Aubrey Nisbet defeated No. 3 seed Gabriella Proudfoot of South Africa 6-2, 6-4 in today's second round action.

Two Americans advanced to the main draw of the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, with Varvara Lepchenko defeating Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-2, 6-3 and 18-year-old Katie Volynets prevailing when top qualifying seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada retired trailing 6-4, 3-0. Bouchard led 3-1 in the first set, but Volynets broke right back, then went on to break at love at 4-all and hold at love for the set, winning 13 straight points at one stage. After a lengthy medical time out after dropping serve for a second time in the second set, Bouchard retired. Volynets will play Caroline Dolehide in the first round Wednesday.

At the WTA Premier event in the Czech Republic, Coco Gauff defeated wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the second round. Gauff defeated Sabalenka in Lexington back in August 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

The ITA Tour: Fall Circuit by UTR in now at the halfway point after this past weekend's events. Participation seems to be dropping, with draws not filling in most places; some of the tournaments held round robins with their small fields, and if I wasn't able to determine who had won those, I did not include them in the winners below. The ITA has a recap of how the Top 5 UTRs fared in Week Five here.

ITF Fall Circuit Week Five Winners:

Bellevue: Men, Clement Chidekh; Women, Alina Zolotareva

Hilton Head: Men, Connor Thomson; Women, Allie Gretkowski

West Palm Beach: Men, Connor Laymon; Women, Anna Baranovski

Minneapolis: Women, Veronica Rodriguez

Lakeland: Men, Julian Cuartas; Women, Olivia Bryant

Walled Lake: Men, Addison Cazier

Peachtree Corners: Men, Jake Beasley; Women, Maggie Pate

Deerfield: Men, Alex Bancila; Women, Alexandra Benedetto

N Richland Hills: Men, Angel Diaz; Women, Lucia Natal Gomez

Grand Junction: Men, Billy McDermott; Women, Brooklyn Ross

Spring: Men, Gabriel Evans; Women, Rhiann Newborn

Monday, October 19, 2020

Qualifying Underway at Macon $80K; 2021 Dow Tennis Classic Moved to November; Gauff Among Ten Americans Competing in WTA, ATP Events in Europe

The first ITF World Tennis Tour matches in the United States in over seven months were played today, at the women's $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia. The first round of qualifying is complete, with the second and final round of qualifying set for Tuesday. Eight players will qualify, with main draw singles beginning on Wednesday. Misaki Doi of Japan is the top seed, with wild cards going to Emma Navarro(Virginia), Lulu Sun of Switzerland, Cici Bellis and Katerina Stewart.

In today's first round of qualifying, Americans Asia Muhammad, Varvara Lepchenko, Claire Liu, Katie Volynets and Kayla Day advanced to the final round. Day, who received a wild card into qualifying got a big win, beating Mayar Sherif(Pepperdine) of Egypt, currently 163 in the WTA rankings and the No. 4 seed in qualifying 7-6(3), 7-5. It's the 21-year-old Day's best win by ranking since she defeated No. 158 Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands back in April of 2019. 

Free live streaming of the Macon tournament is expected to begin Tuesday at usta.com.

One of the Pro Circuit tournaments I've attending regularly over the years is the Women's $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland Michigan. Driving there--it's about three hours from where I live in Kalamazoo--is almost always an adventure, with the weather at its worst here at the end of January. Yet I've kept going back, not only to watch great tennis and catch up with the juniors and former college players I covered earlier in their careers, but because the tournament is so well run and has so much support from the community, which really appreciates having world class athletes competing in their small city.

If I go to Midland in 2021, it's unlikely I'll encounter a blizzard, as the tournament announced today that it would be moving to November 1-7, some nine months after its usual date.  For more on the move, see this article from the Midland Daily News

The ATP and WTA action this week is again in Europe, with the women competing in a Premier level event in Ostrava Czech Republic, and the men competing in two 250s, in Antwerp Belgium and Cologne Germany. 

Coco Gauff, who did not initially enter the Ostrava tournament, but would have been in qualifying anyway, received a wild card into qualifying and made it into the main draw with wins over Jana Cepelova and Irina-Camelia Begu. She will face wild card Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the first round Tuesday. Other Americans in the main draw are Jennifer Brady(UCLA), who plays Dayana Yastremska Tuesday, and Amanda Anisimova, who plays No. 7 seed Elise Mertens on Wednesday.

In Antwerp, No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz will play good friend Reilly Opelka in the opening round Wednesday. Frances Tiafoe won his first round match today, beating No. 6 seed Dusan Lajovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-6(6). Tommy Paul lost his first round match to Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-2. A fifth American man, Marcos Giron(UCLA), will also compete in the main draw after qualifying today. Giron plays 17-year-old wild card Luca Nardi of Italy in a first round match Tuesday.

Just two Americans are in Cologne: Steve Johnson(USC) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee). Johnson got his first win over Marin Cilic in six attempts today in the first round, with a 7-6(3), 6-4 decision over the No. 9 seed. For more from Johnson on his win today, see this article from the ATP. Sandgren will play qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the first round Tuesday.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Blanch, Banerjee and Loudon Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles; Genovese, Simkiss Champions at ITA Cup; Alcaraz Claims Third Challenger Title to Join Elite Group

Last week all the titles won by American juniors were in doubles; this week's titles were all in singles, with Dali Blanch, Samir Banerjee and Sage Loudon collecting winner's trophies on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Seventeen-year-olds Blanch and Banerjee won Grade 3 events, with  Blanch getting the win in Romania, while Banerjee won his title in Turkey.

Blanch, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Ilya Snitari of Moldova 7-5, 6-2 in the final to earn his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title in nearly two years. 

Banerjee, who won the doubles title at a Grade 5 last week in Istanbul but didn't play singles in that tournament, picked up a title for the third straight week after winning a Grade 4 in Macedonia two weeks ago. Banerjee, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Stefan Popovich of Serbia 7-5, 6-1 in the final. Banerjee beat doubles partner Ekansh Kumar in the semifinals by the same score. 

At the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, blue chip freshman Sage Loudon won the girls singles title, a week after she had captured the doubles title in the same location. Loudon, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Leah Kuruvilla, also of the United States, 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

A Grade 1 in Bulgaria has drawn strong fields this week, including Blanch, who will be one of the top seeds. I'm not sure if this tournament is providing Level 1 points or whether it is capped at Level 3 points; some language I've read recently suggests that the ITF may have revised its stance on Grade 3 points being the maximum. In any case, US boys in the acceptances are Blanch, Bruno Kuzuhara and Benjamin Kittay (note: Kittay is in the $10K UTR Vero Beach draw, so presumably is a late withdrawal from this event). The US girls accepted to the main draw are Madison Sieg, Ellie Coleman, Jenna De Falco and Isabelle Kouzmanov. Qualifying, which began today with boys matches, continues Monday. US girls in the qualifying draw are Clervie Ngounoue and Qavia Lopez.  The big surprise is at the top of the qualifying draw, with Australian Open champion and former World No. 1 Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra taking a wild card. She is in the same quarter as Lopez.

The ITA Cup, the fall competition that usually encompasses the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College divisions was confined to NAIA only this year, due to all the Covid-19 related cancellations of regional competitions and other qualifying events. Held at Rome Georgia, the competition featured singles and doubles, with the latter a rare occurrence these days due to safety concerns. Women's top seed Maria Genovese of Georgia Gwinnett won the singles title, beating unseeded Lailaa Bashir of Xavier of Louisiana 6-2, 7-6(0) in the final. Unseeded Luke Simkiss of Keiser is the men's singles champion after a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Valentino Caratini of Georgia Gwinnett. 

In women's doubles, Bashir and her partner Angela Charles-Alfred defended their title, with the top seeds beating Genovese and her partner Eva Siska, the No. 2 seeds, 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. No. 3 seeds Christopher Papa and Ivan Smith of San Diego Christian won the men's doubles title, beating unseeded Stefano Di Aloy and Martin Carrizo of Indian Wesleyan 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. 

Draws from this weekend's competition are available here, under the Events tab.

Seventeen-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain won his second consecutive ATP Challenger title today in his home country and his third since the restart. By earning three Challenger titles before age 17, he joins an impressive list, joining Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro, Richard Gasquet and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The unseeded Alcaraz, who defeated top seed Pedro Martinez of Spain 7-6(6), 6-3 in today's final, is the second-youngest on that list, older than only Gasquet, who was 16 years and ten months old when he claimed his third in 2003. Alcaraz, who is 20-3 on the Challenger level since the restart, has improved his ATP ranking from 310 to 136 during that time. For more on Alcaraz's title, see this article from the ATP website.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

First ITF Junior Circuit Event in US Since December 2019 Underway in Atlanta; Other Notes from College and Junior Tennis

The ITF Grade A Orange Bowl ended last year on December 15th, with Robin Montgomery and Thiago Tirante winning the titles, no one expected that the next US tournament with ITF points would be more than ten months later, at the Grade 4 in Atlanta. Once the Easter Bowl, Carson, the US Open Junior Championships and the Pan American Closed were canceled, any opportunity to collect major points in this country this year disappeared, with the ITF tournaments the next three weeks offering only Level 4 points, although the Orange Bowl is currently still on the schedule for December.

Qualifying for the Atlanta ITF has attracted a strong field, particularly on the girls side, probably because draws have been reduced to 32, rather than the usual 64 for these ITF junior tournaments. Main draw matches begin on Monday at the Windward Lake Club in Alpharetta Georgia.

I watched the webinar on the new USTA Junior Competition structure provided by the USTA Midwest Section, and I am beginning to grasp some of the details of how the system will work going forward. I am encouraged by the the commitment that the Midwest section has to increase playing opportunities, and I hope we'll get to a place regarding the pandemic that will allow the ambitious plans to happen. I did take a screenshot of a slide that lists the National Championships scheduled for 2021, and there are no changes to those. 

For more on these upcoming changes, including a link to the USTA webinar on these changes from a national perspective, go to this usta.com page dedicated to information on the subject.

The USTA Florida section's Bobby Curtis Junior Sectionals for 12s and 14s were played last weekend in Delray Beach. For more on the winners there, see this article from the section's website. As a bonus, there's a fantastic list of former winners included.

UTR has posted a primer on its system and particularly on how it's used by college coaches here.

Although the Fresno State news yesterday was unequivocally bad, a team a few hours north received good news a couple of weeks ago , with the Cal women's team set to receive $1.7 million dollars to fund The Edward H. and Lynn Little Scholarship. This is an estate gift, totalling $5 million dollars, with the men's and women's golf teams also sharing in the Little's generosity. 

I ran across this article earlier this week about Federico Rebecchini an Italian player who arrived in the US expecting to play for Old Dominion, but when told there was no longer a scholarship for him, ended up instead at Norfolk State. I'm not sure if universities have reduced the number of scholarships they are funding during the Covid-19 financial crunch, but if more articles like this emerge, that would be the obvious conclusion.

Friday, October 16, 2020

My Article on Ghosh's Notre Dame Commitment; Fresno State Drops Men's Tennis; Update on Next Two Grand Slams; ESPN's ATP Masters Coverage Moving to Tennis Channel Next Year

Although recruiting has pretty much ground to a halt in 2020, with no official campus visits or in-person meetings with coaches allowed since March, young players are still committing to college teams. I had an opportunity to speak earlier this week with five-star recruit Nibi Ghosh of New Jersey, who I met this summer at the ITA Summer Circuit event in Grand Rapids, about her decision to commit to Notre Dame, and how she arrived at that choice. Unable to meet with the coaches in person, or to take an official visit, Ghosh and her coach, former Michigan star Mike Sroczynski, devised a plan to reach out to schools she was interested in, which included sending videos. In addition to all the time they spend improving their tennis skills, I'm always impressed by the other interests that players find time for, which in Ghosh's case includes music, beginning with piano and now including guitar and songwriting. For more on how Ghosh decided on tennis after playing multiple sports as a kid, and what she's looking forward to in college, see this Tennis Recruiting Network article.

It's been quiet lately on the tennis program cuts, but another was announced today, with Fresno State dropping its men's team at the end of the current academic year. The program has had a long and successful history, and current coach Luke Shields led the Bulldogs to a Mountain West title last year, earning Mountain West Coach of the Year and ITA Northwest Region Coach of Year honors in the process. Earlier this month, the team had announced six new recruits, three of whom were from California. For another view at the Fresno State decision to drop men's tennis, wrestling and women's lacrosse, see this article from the Fresno Bee.

The Australian Open is only three months away, but Australia's strict quarantine rules have led to much discussion on how players could still prepare for the event, and any other warmups, while spending 14 days in isolation. The current plan still includes fans, but as with many tournaments, including the recent French Open, the number of spectators anticipated changes regularly, and will probably continue to do so. For more on some of the issues Tennis Australia is facing right now in its planning stages, see this Reuters article

Wimbledon released a statement today on its preparation for 2021 and for the first time voiced the possibility of a tournament behind closed doors. From the email I received this afternoon:

We are actively engaged in planning for next year’s Championships and are considering multiple operational scenarios at this point in time, given that there are still many months until the Wimbledon Fortnight.

These scenarios fall into three broad categories: a full capacity Championships, a reduced capacity Championships, and a ‘behind closed doors’ Championships, all of which are dependent on the status of government and public health guidelines. Our overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders, in particular our guests, our staff, and our competitors. We are working closely with the relevant government and public health authorities, alongside the rest of the sports industry, to understand the varying challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The full statement from Wimbledon is here.

Earlier this week, Tennis Channel announced it had acquired the rights to ATP 1000 Masters events beginning in 2021. Previously, the big ATP tournaments in the United States were broadcast by ESPN, including Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati. ESPN will continue to hold the rights to the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, but Tennis Channel will have the bulk of all tennis shown in the United States, as it already has a WTA deal. I don't really consider this good news for the sport, with ESPN a much more widely carried channel on most cable providers, and the implication that ESPN doesn't view a tournament like Indian Wells as important isn't positive either. The hope is that Tennis Channel can become more widely available and it can function as the Golf Channel does, as the go-to place to watch the sport. But not being on network television or ESPN (except for the three majors) hurts the visibility of the sport and limits the audience of casual fans.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Yepifanova, Montgomery Reach Quarterfinals at ITF Women's Events in Europe; Strong Fields for Women's $80Ks in Georgia and Texas; Opelka Defeats Medvedev in Russia

Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Yepifanova and 16-year-old Robin Montgomery posted victories today to advance to Friday's quarterfinals at the $15K in Portugal and the $25K in France respectively.

Yepifanova, who lost in the first round of the French Open Junior Championships last week, won two qualifying matches to earn a spot in the main draw in Portugal, then beat Ines Murta of Portugal and Emily Appleton of Great Britain, both in straight sets. Yepifanova, who has committed to Stanford for next fall, is up against No. 3 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil in the quarterfinals, who has won three ITF World Tour events since the restart. Yepifanova also reached the quarterfinals of a $15K in Mexico in February, so she should have enough points to enter the WTA rankings after this week. The Netherlands' Arianne Hartono, the 2018 NCAA singles champion at Ole Miss, is the No. 2 seed in this tournament, and also has advanced to the quarterfinals.

Montgomery, who was entered in the French Open Junior Championships but pulled out, used a junior exemption to enter the event in France. These places in the ITF World Tennis Tour draws reserved for juniors are even more important now that opportunities are so limited for everyone, and top players are entering smaller events just to get matches. Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, the top seed in France, is ranked 109 and No. 2 seed Timea Babos of Hungary, who lost in the first round, is ranked 111. Montgomery defeated Robin Anderson, the former UCLA star, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the first round, with the only two Americans in the field drawing each other. Today Montgomery defeated WTA No. 225 Valeria Savinykh 6-1, 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal meeting Friday with No. 6 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain.

The long-awaited resumption of the USTA Pro Circuit begins next week in with the $80,000 tournament in Macon Georgia, which features four WTA Top 100 players at the time of acceptance: Misaki Doi of Japan[81], Nina Stojanovic[91] of Serbia, Aliona Bolsova[97] of Spain and Monica Puig[98] of Puerto Rico. Among the top Americans in the draw are Kristie Ahn, Ann Li, Caty McNally, Francesca Di Lorenzo and Caroline Dolehide. The ITF's preview of the tournament is here.

The acceptances for the $80,000 tournament in Tyler Texas the week of October 26th are even more impressive, with No. 27 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and recent US Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, No. 55, entered. There's a total of eight Top 100 players at the time of acceptances with Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands and Jasmine Paolini of Italy joining the four Top 100 players in Macon. Ahn, Li and McNally are the only Americans other than Rogers to receive direct entry as of now. For more on the tournament, see this article from the tournament website.

The $100,000 tournament in Charleston in November has Putintseva, French Open quarterfinalists Danielle Collins and Germany's Laura Siegemund, along with Rogers, Lauren Davis and Madison Brengle in its field as of today.

Reilly Opelka earned the best ranking win of his career today at the ATP 500 in St. Petersburg Russia, beating top seed and ATP No. 6 Daniil Medvedev of Russia 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Opelka, who is 6-6 against Top 10 players in his career, only had 11 aces, but he managed to win the only break point either player had in the third set to end the match. Opelka plays Croatia's Borna Coric, the No. 7 seed, in Friday's quarterfinals. For more on Opelka's win, see this article from the ATP website.

There was off-court drama in St. Petersburg with Sam Querrey's positive Covid-19 test eventually leading to a private jet flight for him, his wife and their son to an undisclosed country where they were expected to quarantine. For more on all this intrigue, see this article.

At the ATP 250 in Italy, Germany's Yannick Hanfmann, the former USC All-American, defeated No. 3 seed Casper Ruud of Norway 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals, where he will play 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. Hanfmann, who has already reached an ATP final since the restart, will now move back into the Top 100, while Musetti is into his first ATP quarterfinal after winning his first Challenger last month.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

NCAA Announces Sites for Future Championships; USTA National Campus Lands Historic Assembly of All Divisions for 2023

photo courtesy USTA

After a lengthy delay while dealing with Covid-19 issues, the NCAA today finally revealed the sites for its national championships in the four years from 2023-2026, including those of Division I, Division II and Division III tennis.

I had heard there was a possibility that the NCAA Tennis Committee would consider moving all future championships to the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona Florida, with the championships in all three divisions played there each May.  That did not happen, but a prototype of that format is on the schedule for 2023.  Today's release from the USTA:

ORLANDO, Fla., October 14, 2020 – The NCAA today announced that the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., will host the 2023 NCAA Division I, II, and III Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships as part of a hybrid bid proposed by the USTA to bring all NCAA tennis championships to a single site.

This will mark the first time in the history of any NCAA sport that one venue will host all six (DI-III M/W) divisional championships in a given year. The bid process was completed in conjunction with the Greater Orlando Sports Commission; university partners of UCF, Rollins College and Oglethorpe University (Ga.); and community partners of the City of Orlando and Orange County.

“Bringing all of these championships to one site will create a true celebration of college tennis, and we could not be more excited and honored that the USTA National Campus was selected to host this historic event,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “College tennis is incredibly important to the growth of tennis in this country, and we feel the Campus is the ideal location to showcase every level of college tennis like never before.”

Initial plans for hosting the 2023 events include potential junior tournaments and coaching programming, connecting various components of the USTA’s competitive pathway.

“We are pleased that the NCAA has selected the USTA National Campus to host the 2023 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships,” said Jason Siegel, President & CEO of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “We have the finest tennis facility in the world right here in our community, and we can’t wait to safely welcome the top teams and individuals in Division I, II and III tennis, as well as their coaches and families back to Orlando and Lake Nona to compete for NCAA championships.”

“Since our tennis teams play their home matches at the USTA National Campus, all of us at UCF are well aware that it’s unquestionably the best collegiate tennis facility in the country,” said UCF Vice President & Director of Athletics Danny White. “So it’s no surprise that the NCAA has elected to bring its national championships back to Orlando—and we look forward to joining with the USTA and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission to ensure these are elite events for the student-athletes, coaches and spectators.”

The USTA National Campus previously hosted the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships, attracting nearly 12,000 fans over the 10-day event. Tennis Channel, which has a permanent production presence at the Campus, broadcast more than 50 hours of live coverage in 2019, a first for college tennis.

The Campus is scheduled to host the Division I championships again in 2021, as well as the Division III championships in 2022. In addition, Sanlando Park in nearby Seminole County, in conjunction with Rollins College, is scheduled to host the 2022 Division II championships, cementing Central Florida as the home of college tennis.

As mentioned above, the National Campus will serve as the site for the 2021 Division I and the 2022 Division II Championships, before hosting all three divisions in 2023. I assume the dates will be staggered in 2023, with each of the team championships played on the 12-court collegiate facility. The individual championships, which in the past have been held only for Division I and Division III, could expand to other courts on campus if necessary. Aside from the extremely annoying love bug insect infestation, the 2019 Division I championships in Lake Nona received good reviews from most in attendance, but they were extremely fortunate not to have any rain disrupting scheduling last year. There are only six indoor courts on the National Campus, and almost none elsewhere in the area, which could present a problem if there is persistent or regular rain.

The other sites announced are below. I'm including the 2021 and 2022 sites, which were determined several years ago. Oklahoma State, which was to host the Division I Championships this year, and Washington St. Louis, which was to host the Division III Championships this year, will host instead in 2024.

Division I 
2021: Central Florida, USTA National Campus 
2022: Illinois
2023: Central Florida, USTA National Campus
2024: Oklahoma State
2025: Baylor
2026: Georgia

Division II
2021: Pacific West, Surprise Arizona
2022: Rollins
2023: Rollins, USTA National Campus
2024: Rollins
2025: Rollins
2026: Pacific West

Division III
2021: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2022: Oglethorpe
2023: Oglethorpe, USTA National Campus
2024: Washington University, St. Louis
2025: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
2026: University of the South

As far as the Division I selections go, Baylor was not on my list as likely to be selected, after the 2015 National Championships held there were plagued not only by rain and severe weather, but also by a local biker gang shooting that killed nine and led to scores of arrests. Baylor's outdoor facility is an excellent place to watch tennis, but many other schools have specifically constructed new facilities with the express purpose of bidding for these championships, and I would have liked to see the committee acknowledge one of those instead.

Having covered many NCAA championships in Athens Georgia, I was happy to see them return to the rotation, given the tradition and the support for tennis that the community is known for. I know they've recently completed a renovation of the outdoor facility, but I hope in the next five years they have the opportunity to fix their indoor court situation, which only has four courts. If I recall correctly, in three out of the four tournaments I covered there, rain was a regular disruption, and having only four indoor courts extended matches late into the night. Now with the new finals site format, including just eight teams, not 16, the pressure isn't as great, but two more indoor courts would be a welcome addition, not just for the NCAAs, but for regular season dual matches too.