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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Shang Adds Third USTA Pro Circuit Title in Past Month at Vero Beach; Brengle Claims Macon $80K; Li Wins First WTA Title; ITF JA in South Africa Begins Monday

Since falling in the boys final at the US Open to Spain's Daniel Rincon, 16-year-old Juncheng "Jerry" Shang of China has lost one match, to former ATP Top 50 player Ryan Harrison, 13 years older. Shang has won 16 matches, all at $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in the United States, with his third title since the end of September coming today in Vero Beach Florida.

Shang, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, defeated No. 3 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela 7-6(6), 6-4 for his second straight title, having won last week's $15K in Naples Florida. Shang, the ITF's top-ranked junior, had the advantage of not having to go through qualifying at any of the four $15Ks he played the past five weeks; although he had no ATP ranking, and was given no wild cards, Shang was able to take advantage of the ITF junior reserved program, which sets aside three main draw spots at every $15K tournament for its Top 100 juniors. 

In the past two weeks, Shang has lost just one set in his ten victories, and has won all three tiebreakers he has played.

After the US Open final, I asked him if he was planning to play any more junior events, particularly the upcoming Florida tournaments that close out the year, and he said most likely no, although he did say he was considering one more junior slam.

"Maybe I'll go to Australia," he said. "That would be the last grand slam for the juniors. Hopefully it will be a good transition year to the pros next year."

After his success this past month, Shang is ahead of schedule and should be able to get into the main draw of $25K tournaments going forward.

In the final of the $15,000 men's ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Cancun, Wimbledon boys finalist Victor Lilov fell to top seed Matias Descotte of Argentina 7-5, 6-4.

Top seed Madison Brengle won the title at the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Macon Georgia, beating No. 2 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Brengle, who should move up to 70 in the WTA rankings with the title, had not won a title since before the pandemic.

Twenty-one-year-old Ann Li won her first WTA title today at the 250 in Tenerife Spain, defeating 2019 US Open girls champion Camila Osorio of Colombia 6-1, 6-4. Li, who had shared a title with Anett Kontaveit of Estonia in a 2021 pre-Australian Open tournament where the final wasn't played, is now 23-13 on the WTA tour this year, which included several months out with an injury. Coincidentally, Kontaveit also won a title today, at the 500 in Moscow.

For more on today's Tenerife final, see this article from the WTA.

The ITF JA in Cape Town South Africa begins Monday, after the completion of qualifying over the weekend. Four Americans are in the main draws: Yannik Rahman, Olivia Lincer, Qavia Lopez and Clervie Ngounoue[6]. Benjamin Kittay and Azuma Visaya, initially on the acceptance list, were late withdrawals. 

With the late withdrawal of Aleksander Orlikowski of Poland, Leo Borg of Sweden is the top boys seeds. Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic is the top seed in the girls draw.

Ngounoue was the only American to claim a title last week on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the exception of all the champions at the J4 in Atlanta, which I covered the past several days. Ngounoue won the doubles title at the J2 warmup tournament in South Africa, with Amelie Smejkalova of the Czech Republic. The No. 3 seeds defeated Irina Balus of Slovakia and Natacha Schou of Denmark, who were unseeded, 6-4, 6-2 in the final. 

Ngounoue and Lopez reached the singles quarterfinals. Top seed Johanne Svendsen of Denmark won the girls title, with No. 8 seed Orel Kimhi of Israel claiming the boys singles title.

At the J3 in Mexico, Ava Krug and Luca Hotze reached the singles finals, and Carla Pacot and Catherine Walker advanced to the girls doubles final. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Charney, Truwit Claim ITF J4 Titles in Atlanta; Shang Aims for Second Straight $15K Title Sunday; Lilov Through to Final at Cancun $15K

Top seed Emma Charney defended her 2020 singles title at the ITF J4 in Atlanta today, with the University of Southern California recruit defeating 13-year-old wild card Iva Jovic 6-2, 6-0. Charney, who beat Ashlyn Krueger in the final last year, lost only 16 games in her six singles victories this week. Yesterday, Charney and her younger sister Piper took the doubles title, and again, were never taken to a third set. Charney, who also swept the titles at the J5 in McKinney Texas last month, now has a total of six ITF Junior Circuit titles.

In the boys singles final, 18-year-old Teddy Truwit won his first ITF Junior Circuit title, in his first and only appearance on the ITF Junior Circuit since he lost in qualifying four years ago in Lexington South Carolina. The blue chip, who has committed to Duke, defeated No. 3 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan of China, a Princeton recruit, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. 

Juncheng Jerry Shang has stretched his USTA Pro Circuit win streak to nine matches, advancing to the final of the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Vero Beach Florida. The 16-year-old, who reached the final of the US Open junior championships last month, defeated the No.1 ranked player in the ITA Division I preseason rankings, Canadian Liam Draxl of Kentucky, 6-4, 6-4 in today's semifinals. The unseeded Shang, who won the $15K in Naples last week and is 15-1 in Pro Circuit $15Ks in the past month, plays No. 3 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela for the Vero Beach title Sunday.  Rodriguez-Pace defeated No. 7 seed Zeke Clark(Illinois) 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

In the doubles final, former University of Florida teammates Johannes Ingildsen of Denmark and Duarte Vale of Portugal defeated No. 2 seeds Draxl and another Gator, Ben Shelton, 6-3 6-4. Ingildsen, who completed his eligibility this spring, and Vale, a senior this year, did not come close to dropping a set this week, despite being unseeded.

While Shang is competing for his third $15K title tomorrow, another junior slam finalist will be playing for his first. Victor Lilov, the Wimbledon boys runner-up, has advanced to his first ITF World Tennis Tour men's final, a day after reaching his first semifinal at the $15,000 tournament in Cancun.  The unseeded Lilov, who is 17, defeated No. 7 seed Mwendwa Mbithi 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals, after Mbithi had to finish his quarterfinal match with No. 2 seed Jerry Lopez(TCU) of Mexico. Lilov will get another shot at top seed Matias Descotte of Argentina, who beat Lilov in three sets last week in the quarterfinals of another $15K in Cancun.

Mbithi did get a title out of a grueling day's worth of tennis however. The 23-year-old American won his first title on the Pro Circuit in the men's doubles, partnering with Joshua Peck of Canada, a recent North Carolina graduate, who also won his first Pro Circuit title today. The fourth-seeded pair defeated top seeds Peter Bertran(South Florida) of the Dominican Republic and Jorge Panta of Peru 7-5, 7-6(4) in the final, after completing their semifinal earlier in the day.

Madison Brengle will take over the top spot in the USTA's Australian Open wild card challenge, although with her ranking at 78, it's unlikely that she would need it. Brengle, the top seed, defeated No. 7 seed Xiyu Wang of China 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the final of the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia. Brengle will face No. 2 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, who defeated No. 4 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4, 6-1.

No. 2 seeds Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Catherine Harrison(UCLA) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Alana Smith(North Carolina State) and Alycia Parks 6-2, 6-2 in today's final. It's not their biggest title as a team, with that a title at the $100,000 tournament in Kentucky last February.  Harrison has nine pro doubles titles; Gleason now has 13, including a $60K title earlier this month in Las Vegas.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Macavei Chooses Vanderbilt; Lilov Reaches Semifinals at Cancun $15K; Draxl Tops Shelton in Vero Beach; Brengle Sole American in Macon $80K Semis; Atlanta J4 Finals Set; Brooksby, Li Advance to ATP, WTA Semifinals

I spoke with blue chip senior Sonya Macavei a couple of weeks ago in Kentucky about her verbal commitment to Vanderbilt, and wrote this article for Tennis Recruiting Network. With the National Letter of Intent signing period beginning on November 10, keep tabs on everyone in the senior class at TRN. Here's their overview of blue chip boys, with the girls list set to come out next week.


Wimbledon boys finalist Victor Lilov, who had made the quarterfinals of two $15,000 ITF men's World Tennis Tour tournaments in Cancun since the end of last month, advanced to the semifinals of this week's event in Cancun with a 6-4, 7-5 win today over former Tennessee standout Gilles Hussey of Great Britain. Hussey had won last week's tournament in Cancun. The 17-year-old Lilov, who has been entering these events via the ITF Junior Circuit's reserved method, is currently No. 6 in the ITF junior rankings. 

His opponent in the semifinals has not been determined, with the quarterfinal match between No. 7 seed Mwendwa Mbithi and No. 2 seed Jerry Lopez(TCU) of Mexico interrupted.

At the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Vero Beach, No. 6 seed Liam Draxl, a junior at the University of Kentucky, ended the seven-match Pro Circuit winning streak of Florida sophomore Ben Shelton, the No. 4 seed.  The Canadian posted a 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-4 victory in two hours and 47 minutes to set up a semifinal meeting with Juncheng Jerry Shang of China. The unseeded 16-year-old Shang, who won last week's $15K in Naples Florida, defeated Duarte Vale of Portugal, the No. 8 seed and senior at Florida, 6-3, 7-6(4).  Former Illinois star Zeke Clark, the No. 7 seed will face No. 3 seed Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela. Clark defeated wild card Matthew Segura 7-5, 6-4, while Rodriguez-Pace beat qualifier Juan Manuel Benitez Chavarriaga of Colombia 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Madison Brengle is through to the semifinals of the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon, after she defeated qualifier Louisa Chirico 7-6(5), 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Brengle will play No. 7 seed Xiyu Wang of China, who got past wild card Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). Harrison served for the match at 5-4 in the third set. No. 2 seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan defeated qualifier Vicky Duval 6-1, 6-4 to set up a semifinal against No. 4 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil. Haddad Maia advanced when Renata Zarazua of Mexico retired trailing 3-0 in the first set. 

North Carolina State senior Alana Smith has advanced to the doubles final in Macon. She and Alycia Parks, who are unseeded, defeated Abbie Myers and Ivana Popvic of Australia 3-6, 7-5, 10-4 in today's semifinals. They will face No. 2 seeds Harrison and Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) in Saturday's final. 

Iva Jovic, the 13-year-old Southern Californian play in her first ITF Junior Circuit, has advanced to the final of this week's J4 in Atlanta. Jovic, a wild card, moved into the final when No. 2 seed Cadence Brace of Canada retired trailing 6-1, 1-0.  Jovic will play top seed Emma Charney, who defeated unseeded 14-year-old Katie Rolls 6-4, 6-3.

No. 3 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan of China beat top seed Joseph Phillips 6-3, 6-2 to advance to Saturday's final, where he'll meet unseeded Teddy Truwit. Truwit took out unseeded Ari Cotoulas 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals.

Two pairs of siblings won the doubles titles today in Atlanta. Emma Charney and younger sister Piper took the girls title, with the No. 8 seed defeating unseeded Reya Coe and Brooke Schafer 6-3, 6-0. The sisters did not drop a set in their five doubles victories, and Emma has yet to lose a set in singles in her five wins so far.

Andrew and James Delgado won the battle of the brothers in the boys doubles final, beating Will and Ian Mayew 6-1, 4-6, 10-8 in a match between unseeded teams. It's the first ITF junior circuit title for both Delgados. 

Two Americans are in the semifinals of events in Europe, with Ann Li through to the final four at the WTA 250 in Spain and Jenson Brooksby(Baylor) advancing to the semifinals at the ATP 250 in Belgium.  The unseeded Li, who will be playing in her third semifinal of 2021 when she faces Alize Cornet of France Saturday, defeated Irina Begu of Romania 7-5, 7-5 today. 

Brooksby, a qualifier, downed unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-5, 6-0 in today's quarterfinals. Brooksby will play No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, who beat qualifier Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) 6-4, 6-2.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Shelton Extends Pro Circuit Win Streak to Seven with Victory over Bicknell; Qualifiers Nakashima, Brooksby Reach ATP European Open Quarterfinals; Three Pairs of Siblings in Atlanta J4 Doubles Finals; Banerjee's Bombshell

University of Florida sophomore Ben Shelton advanced to the quarterfinals at the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Vero Beach Florida, beating former teammate Blaise Bicknell 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. The All-American champion and Kalamazoo 18s finalist, seeded No. 4, now has a seven-match winning streak on the USTA Pro Circuit, after winning a $25K in Champaign Illinois prior to Kalamazoo this summer. 

Where Shelton will play in the Florida lineup this year is the subject of much speculation among college tennis fans, with the consensus that he won't move ahead of 2021 NCAA champion Sam Riffice or last year's No. 1 singles player Duarte Vale. Vale is also playing in Vero Beach this week and if both win their quarterfinals on Friday, will meet in the semifinals. Shelton played No. 5 for Florida last year, behind Duarte, Riffice, Andy Andrade and Bicknell.

Shelton has to get by the ITA's No. 1 ranked player in the preseason, Canadian Liam Draxl of Kentucky, to reach the semifinals. The two are doubles partners this week and have advanced to the semifinals as the No. 2 seeds. Draxl, the No. 6 seed in singles, defeated Florida State's Loris Pourroy of France 7-5, 6-4 in today's second round action. In order to advance to a meeting with Shelton, Vale must put an end to the streak of 16-year-old ITF World No. 1 junior Juncheng Jerry Shang, who extended his winning streak to seven matches with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over William Bushamuka(Kentucky). Shang won the $15K in Naples last week.

In tonight's feature match in Vero Beach, wild card Matthew Segura upset top seed Donald Young 6-3, 4-0, retired.

I thought it was strange that both Jenson Brooksby(Baylor) and Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) had to qualify for the ATP 250 tournament in Antwerp Belgium this week, but the field was strong, with the main draw cutoff 76. Both Brooksby, the No. 1 seed in qualifying, and Nakashima, the No. 2 seed in qualifying, made it through to the main draw, and both have won two matches this week.  

Brooksby defeated No. 5 seed Reilly Opelka in the first round, and yesterday beat US Open quarterfinalist Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands to reach the quarterfinals.  Nakashima defeated No. 6 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-4, 6-0 in the first round and got past fellow qualifier Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-3 today. Brooksby plays 2017 Wimbledon boys champion Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain Friday, while Nakashima faces No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. If they both win, they play each other; they have a rivalry from their junior days that is entirely in Brooksby's favor. He is 4-0, including the 2018 Kalamazoo 18s final.

Friday's singles semifinals and doubles finals at the ITF J4 in Atlanta are set after a long day that included rain.

Top seed Joseph Phillips will take on No. 3 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan of China in the top half of the boys draw Friday. Phillips defeated unseeded Andrew Delgado 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 and Nidunjianzan beat No. 6 seed Felipe Pinzon Moreno 6-2, 6-4. In the bottom half, unseeded Teddy Truwit, who beat No. 8 seed Grant Lothringer 6-3, 6-3, will take on unseeded Ari Cotoulas, who beat wild card Robert Bauer 6-1, 6-4.

Girls No. 1 seed Emma Charney advanced, again with little difficulty, beating qualifier Jo-Yee Chan 6-3, 6-1. She will play unseeded Katie Rolls, who beat qualifier Shannon Lam 6-3, 7-5. No. 2 seed Cadence Brace defeated No. 6 seed Theodora Rabman 6-4, 6-4, while wild card Iva Jovic, who is playing in her first ITF junior tournament, beat No. 10 seed Victoria Osuigwe 6-1, 6-3. 

Charney and her younger sister Piper are through to the doubles final, where the eighth-seeded pair will face the unseeded team of Reya Coe and Brooke Schafer. 

The boys doubles final will feature not one but two pairs of siblings, with Andrew and James Delgado, who are unseeded, taking on Ian and Will Mayew, who are also unseeded.

Parsa Nemati dropped a big bombshell today on Twitter, with the news that Samir Banerjee has decommitted from Columbia and is verbally committing to Stanford for the fall of 2022. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Texas Signs Former ITF Top Ten Junior Bailly; Zheng, Kittay Earn First ATP Points in Vero Beach; Navarro and Smith Advance in Macon; Quarterfinals Set at ITF J4 in Atlanta

The University of Texas picked up one of the best international recruits of the 2021-22 season today, signing Belgium's Pierre Yves Bailly, who turned 18 last Friday. Bailly, who reached the quarterfinals at the US Open Junior Championships, where he lost to finalist Jerry Shang in three sets, has been ranked as high as 7 in the world. He has a J1 title to his credit and is now ranked 21 in the ITF Junior rankings.  For more on Bailly's signing at Texas, see this article.

Two US juniors picked up a first ATP point today at the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Vero Beach, with 17-year-old qualifier Michael Zheng and 18-year-old wild card Benjamin Kittay getting victories.  Zheng defeated qualifier Reece Falck(UNC-Wilmington) of New Zealand 7-5, 6-1 and Kittay beat 17-year-old qualifier Credit Chaiyarin of Thailand 7-6(4), 6-4. 

Last week's champion at the Naples $15K, US Open boys finalist and ITF No. 1 Shang, got his second win in as many weeks over Damien Wenger of Switzerland. Seeded No. 2 this week, Wenger lost to the 16-year-old left-hander 6-1, 6-4 today, after losing to him in three sets in the semifinals in Naples.

Florida sophomore Ben Shelton, the No. 4 seed, beat friend and Kalamazoo 18s doubles partner (and champion) Bruno Kuzuhara 7-5, 7-6(9) in two hours and 40 minutes. Shelton will face former Florida teammate Blaise Bicknell, who has transferred to Tennessee for the spring season, in the second round.

Ten Americans won their first round matches today at the $80,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon Georgia, including University of Virginia sophomore Emma Navarro and North Carolina State senior Alana Smith.  Navarro beat fellow wild card Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-4, while Smith defeated fellow qualifier Whitney Osuigwe 6-0, 5-7, 6-4. Smith was one of five qualifiers to win their opening round matches in the main draw today: Robin Anderson(UCLA), Hanna Chang, Vicky Duval and Louisa Chirico. 

Wild card Catherine Harrison(UCLA) advanced when No. 3 seed Kristina Kucova of Slovakia retired trailing 6-4. Top seeds Madison Brengle and Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan both were taken to three sets today, but did advance. 

At this week's ITF Junior Circuit J4 in Atlanta, No. 1 seed Emma Charney and No. 2 seed Cadence Brace of Canada have advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals, but not much else has gone as expected in the girls draw. Charney, a senior who recently committed to Southern California, has rolled through her first three opponents, losing only three games total. She will face qualifier Jo-Yee Chan in the quarterfinals. Qualifier Shannon Lam and unseeded Katie Rolls play in the other top half quarterfinal. No. 10 seed Victoria Osuigwe, Whitney's younger sister, plays Easter Bowl 14s champion Iva Jovic, a wild card. The fourth quarterfinal features Brace, the only non-American, against No. 6 seed Theodora Rabman, the 16s Easter Bowl champion. 

Boys top seed Joseph Phillips is through to the quarterfinals, where he'll play unseeded Andrew Delgado. No. 2 seed Preston Stearns, who recently committed to Ohio State, lost to Duke recruit Teddy Truwit. Truwit plays No. 8 seed Grant Lothringer, who recently committed to Texas A&M. The only quarterfinal between two seeds features No. 3 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan of China, a Princeton recruit, and No. 6 seed Felipe Pinzon Moreno, the 2021 16s Clay Court champion. Unseeded Ari Cotoulas and wild card Robert Bauer, a Georgia Tech recruit, meet in the other boys quarterfinal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Eight Americans Advance to $80K Macon Main Draw; Cooper Williams Qualifies for Vero Beach $15K; ITF Junior Hospitality Update; Wimbledon to Host 14U Event in 2022

Qualifying is now complete at the two USTA Pro Circuit tournaments this week in Georgia and Florida. At the women's $80,000 tournament in Macon, all eight qualifiers are Americans, while at the men's $15,000 tournament in Vero Beach, just two Americans have reached the main draw via qualifying.

North Carolina State senior Alana Smith picked up the best pro circuit win of her career today, defeating No. 2 seed and WTA 226 Conny Perrin of Switzerland 6-2, 6-4. Smith, who received a wild card into qualifying, had defeated No. 13 seed Francois Abanda of Canada 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the first round of qualifying.

The other Americans advancing to the main draw: Robin Anderson(UCLA), Louisa Chirico, Whitney Osuigwe, Allie Kiick, Vicky Duval, Hanna Chang and Danielle Lao(USC).

Madison Brengle is the top seed in the main draw, with Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan seeded No. 2.  Wild cards were given to 2021 NCAA champion Emma Navarro(Virginia), Hailey Baptiste, Usue Arconada and Catherine Harrison(UCLA). 

The USTA provide an early update on its Australian Open wild card challenge last night, with Elvina Kalieva, who is not playing Macon, leading with 63 points, followed by Brengle, with 35 points and Maria Mateas(Duke) with 25 points. That competition runs through the week of November 1. The men's AO wild card challenge begins next week.

Sixteen-year-old Cooper Williams, who reached the quarterfinals of the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed in Nicholasville two weeks ago indoors, has qualified for the Vero Beach $15K on the green clay. Williams defeated top qualifying seed Louroi Martinez of Switzerland yesterday 7-6(6), 3-6, 10-6, and today took out LSU junior Ron Hohmann, the No. 13 seed, 7-5, 7-5.  

The other American to advance to the main draw is JanMagnus Johnson, who briefly played for Central Florida during the 2019-20 season. 

Donald Young, who received a wild card, is the No. 1 seed. He will play Pan American Closed champion Jack Anthrop in the first round. Anthrop received entry via the ITF Junior reserved program. The other wild cards were given to Matthew Segura, 17-year-old Michael Zheng, a Pan Am semifinalist, and 18-year-old Pan Am doubles finalist Benjamin Kittay.

Ben Shelton is the No. 4 seed, and will take on Bruno Kuzuhara, another junior reserved entrant. Shelton and Kuzuhara won the 18s doubles title at Kalamazoo in August. 

Last week's champion at the $15K in Naples, Jerry Shang of China, will face No. 2 seed Damien Wenger of Switzerland in the first round. They played in the semifinals last week with Shang recording a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

All first round matches are scheduled for Wednesday.

I ran across an update from the ITF last month on several issues, including hospitality requirements for 2022 for the various levels of tournaments. There was also an easing of the requirements for being included in the final ITF junior rankings at year-end, and of the rule against playing two tournaments in the same week. I assume players were sent this update via email, but for anyone else interested, it can be found here.

Wimbledon announced information for the 2022 tournament, which included this: In addition, 2022 marks the first year of the 14&U Junior Championships, which will take place in the second week.

No details were provided, so I'm not sure if this is an initiative only for British players, or if it will include international players as well.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Welcoming New Advertiser Junior Tennis Champions Center; One Singles Title, Three Doubles Titles for American Juniors Last Week on ITF Junior Circuit; ITF J4 Underway in Atlanta

I hope many of you have noticed the new advertiser this month on Zootennis.com: Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, IMG Academy, a longtime advertiser, decided not to renew for 2021, so I'm delighted to have another top junior development academy step in. I've been covering the ITF J1 in College Park since 2014, and before that I was familiar with JTCC due to Denis Kudla, Frances Tiafoe, Mitchell Frank and others training there, so its great to be partnering with them to get the word out on their many offerings, including the high performance program.

In addition, I want to take this opportunity thank my two other direct sponsors, OTZ Sports/EcoGrip and the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, for their continued support. They stuck with me throughout the pandemic, when much of the news I was posting in 2020 was not much more than canceled tournaments and dropped college teams. I can say, with the exception of Wimbledon this year, my schedule since this spring has been  back to normal, and I hope the resumption of my live coverage of events has been valuable to those reading this. That also means a return to significant travel expenses, so please take a moment to click on their ads to learn about those places and products that are contributing to offsetting that side of the ledger.  

I have resisted going the Patreon route, or another form of subscription model, for the basic reason that I want anyone who is interested in junior or college tennis information to have access to what I write, but there are still ways you can help, if you wish: exploring the offerings of my advertisers; ordering via the Tennis Warehouse link; making a donation via the Paypal link; purchasing a Recruiting Advantage subscription at Tennis Recruiting Network, where I continue to write regularly.

Thanks for reading and supporting Zootennis.com.

Although there were no ITF J1s last week, there were 21 tournaments on the ITF Junior Circuit and Americans took home winners' trophies in three of them.

Maya Joint, a 15-year-old blue chip from Michigan, swept the titles at the J5 in Austria. Joint, the No. 3 seed, won her first singles title with five straight-sets victories, losing only 14 games in the process. In the final, she defeated unseeded Emma Leitner of Austria 6-0, 6-1. Joint won her second ITF Junior Circuit doubles title, partnering with Eszter Berenyi of Hungary. The top seeds defeated the No. 2 seeds Aneta Junova and Nicole Lukesova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-0 in the final. 

At the J4 in the Dominican Republic, No. 4 seeds Ria Bhakta and Esther Vyrlan won the girls doubles title, defeating No. 3 seeds Gabriela Rondon of Colombia and Masha Vrsalovic Gimenez of Bolivia 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Thirteen-year-old Les Petits As champion Mathilde Ngijol Carre of France won the girls singles title, her second in as many weeks. With her 6-2, 6-0 win over No. 7 seed Martina Marica of the US in the final, she has now won 16 straight matches since September.

At the J4 in North Vancouver Canada, Nicholas Godsick and John Kim captured the boys doubles title. The No. 1 seeds, Godsick and Kim defeated the unseeded Canadian team of Kuang Qing Xu and Junghee You 6-4, 6-4 in the final. 

After a week off, the ITF Junior Circuit resumes in the United States with the J4 in Atlanta.  Recent Southern California commit Emma Charney and Joseph Phillips are the top seeds, and both advanced with straight-sets victories in today's first round. No. 3 seed Ana Grubor of Canada was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Ellee Dryer, and in the boys draw, Easter Bowl 14s champion Cooper Woestendick defeated No. 4 seed Jiayang Dong of Australia 6-4, 6-2.  

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Shang Wins Second USTA Pro Circuit Title in Naples; Kingsley Claims $15K in Norman; Norrie Champion at BNP Paribas Open; ITA Cup Small College Winners

Juncheng Shang of China won his second USTA Pro Circuit title since reaching the boys final at last month's US Open, defeating University of Florida senior Duarte Vale of Portugal 6-3, 7-6(3) today at the $15,000 tournament in Naples Florida.

The 16-year-old Shang, known as Jerry here in the US, again used his ITF junior exemption for entry, just as he had done when he played his first main draw at a Pro Circuit event in Arkansas last month. After winning that title, the ITF World No. 1 returned to Florida for the first of two $15,000 tournaments at the Sanchez Casal Academy in Naples, where he used to train (he's now at IMG). He lost to Ryan Harrison, who went on to win the tournament, in the second round, then got right back on track this week, although he was again unseeded.

Shang lost only one set, to No. 3 seed Damien Wenger of Switzerland in the semifinals, and is now 11-1 in USTA Pro Circuit events since September 26th.

Raveena Kingsley, who reached the WTA Top 300 as an 18-year-old back in 2016, won her first title since 2018 at the $15,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma. Kingsley, who played only one tournament last year, right before the pandemic lockdowns hit, ended the unexpected run of 17-year-old Canadian Annabelle Xu with a 6-2, 6-0 win in today's final.

The other teens in the finals also fell today. Eighteen-year-old Elvina Kalieva, who qualified for the $60,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California and beat three seeds, lost in the final today to top seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-4, 6-0.

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Gailis, who recently committed to the University of Florida, lost to 19-year-old top seed Darja Semenistaja of Latvia, who claimed her third straight $15K title in Cancun with a 7-5, 7-5 victory.

At the $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Florence South Carolina, qualifier Emiliana Arango of Colombia took the title, beating top seed Xiyu Wang of China 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(0). The 20-year-old, a former ITF Top 10 junior, has now won two $25K titles in the past two months.  The unseeded team of Emily Appleton of Great Britain and Lily Miyazaki(Oklahoma) of Japan took the doubles title, defeating No. 2 seeds Robin Anderson, a former UCLA Bruin and Elysia Bolton, a UCLA senior, 6-3, 1-6, 10-8 in Saturday's final. 

Great Britain's Cameron Norrie won the ATP Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Open men's singles title tonight in Indian Wells, coming back to defeat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The former TCU star is the first British man to win the title and the first former collegian to take the winner's trophy since Larry Stefanki (Cal) in 1985. The 26-year-old left-hander will now move to No. 16 in the ATP rankings and is No. 10 in the race to the ATP year-end finals.

The ITA Cup concluded today in Rome Georgia, with the champions crowned in the NAIA and Junior College divisions. The singles finals results from all four divisions:

NAIA women:
Stephanie Petit[2], Montreat def. Nicole Coopersmith[1], Keiser 7-5, 4-6, 6-4

NAIA men:
Agustin Tamagnone, Georgia Gwinnett def. Francisco Faria, Olivet Nazarene 6-4, 4-6, 7-5

Divison II women:
Deniz Khazan[1], Barry def. Mae Canete[2], Central Oklahoma 6-2, 6-4

Division II men:
Alvaro Regalado[1], Columbus State def. Joaquin Benoit, North Georgia 6-2, 6-2

Division III women:
Eliza McPherron[2], Emory def. Sahana Raman[1], Middlebury 3-6, 7-5, 6-2

Division III men:
Stan Morris, Middlebury, def. Chase Cohen[3], Williams 2-6, 6-3, 6-1

Junior College women:
Lauren Anzalotta[1], Tyler def. Justine Lespes[3], Seward 6-3, 6-1

Junior College men:
Takeshi Taco[2], Cowley def. Boruch Skierkier[4] Cowley 6-3, 7-6(1)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Kalieva One of Four Juniors Reaching ITF Pro Circuit Finals; Three Unseeded Champions at Tennis Europe 14U and 16U Masters Championships; Norrie Advances to BNP Paribas Open Final

It's a banner week when a couple of juniors reach finals in USTA and ITF Pro Circuit tournaments, but this week has seen four such achievements, with 18-year-old Elvina Kalieva leading the way.

Kalieva, the Easter Bowl finalist and US Open girls quarterfinalist, advanced to the final of the $60,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe by defeating No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France 4-6, 6-4, 3-0 ret.

Ferro, at 83 in the rankings, is more than 500 spots above Kalieva, who advanced to the main draw via qualifying. But Kalieva has now defeated the No. 4, No. 8 and No. 2 seeds this week, and will need to prevail over top seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden if she is to claim her first ITF women's Pro Circuit title. Peterson defeated No. 3 seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-2 today.

The other three finalists are at a $15,000 tournaments, a level more conducive to junior finalists.

Just three weeks after capturing his first USTA Pro Circuit title in Arkansas, 16-year-old Juncheng Jerry Shang of China is in another final, this time in Naples Florida. Shang, the ITF's top-ranked junior, has played only three Pro Circuit main draws, all since reaching the final of the US Open junior championships last month, and has a record of 10-1. Today he defeated No. 3 seed Damien Wenger of Switzerland 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.  Shang will face University of Florida senior Duarte Vale of Portugal, who beat lucky loser Blu Baker of Great Britain 7-6(2), 6-3. This is Vale's second $15K final since August. 

Seventeen-year-old Bruno Kuzuhara won his first professional title today, partnering with fellow teenager Abedallah Shelbayh of Jordan to take the doubles championship. Shelbayh, a freshman at Florida defeated Vale and former Florida Gator Johannes Ingildsen of Denmark 6-4, 6-1 in today's final. 

Annabelle Xu of Canada continued her run at the tournament in Norman Oklahoma, with the 17-year-old defeating Oklahoma State senior Martina Zerulo of Italy 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals. Xu, will face Raveena Kingsley, also unseeded, in Sunday's final. Kinglsey defeated wild card Ivana Corley(Oklahoma) 6-3, 7-6(3).

The Oklahoma State team of Zerulo and Oona Orpana of Finland took the doubles title, defeating Kelly Williford(Virginia Tech) of the Dominican Republic and South Carolina recruit McKenna Schaefbauer 6-2, 5-7, 10-6. Both teams were unseeded. 

In Cancun, University of Florida recruit Rachel Gailis is through to the final, her second at the $15K level, after Pamela Montez retired at 3-6, 6-3. Gailis will play 19-year-old Darja Semenistaja of Latvia, the top seed, who defeated Madison Sieg. Semenistaja is going for her third straight title in as many weeks in Cancun.

Christian Langmo, the former Miami standout, is also going for his third title in three weeks tomorrow in Cancun against recent Tennessee standout Giles Hussey of Great Britain.

The Tennis Europe Masters event, which featured eight of the top 14U and 16U players in Europe, concluded yesterday, with only one seed claiming a title.

The boys 14s title went to Max Schoenhaus of Germany, who beat compatriot Justin Engel 7-5, 7-5 in a contest between two unseeded players. 

The only seeded player to win was in the girls 14s, where No. 3 Laura Samsonova of defeated No. 4 seed Eva Maria Ionescu of Romania 6-4, 6-4.

In the 16s, Russia's Mariia Masiianskaia claimed the girls title with a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 4 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland, and Bosnia and Herzegovina's Marko Maksimovic won the boys title with a 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Michal Karjci of Slovakia.

For more on the finals, see this Tennis Europe article.

Former TCU star Cameron Norrie keeps adding to his fantastic season, reaching the final of the ATP Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Open with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgari today in Indian Wells. Norrie, the No. 21 seed, will face No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who beat Taylor Fritz this evening 7-6(5), 6-3. Norrie will break into the Top 20 for the first time, just over four years after leaving TCU after his junior year in 2017. Not only will Norrie become the British No. 1 after this week, but he will also be the highest ranked player, male or female, to have competed in college. He will move past John Isner(Georgia) and Danielle Collins(Virginia).

For more on Norrie's win today, see this article from the ATP.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Recap of Hovde and Anthrop's ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Titles, Plus Videos; Kalieva Reaches $60K Semifinal; Juniors Shang, Xu, Gailis and Sieg Advance at $15Ks; Fritz Saves Match Points in Quarterfinal Win over Zverev at Indian Wells

If you weren't able to follow my daily coverage of the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed last week in Nicholasville Kentucky, my review of one of the biggest ITF junior tournaments in the US is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. It was US vs Canada in both finals, with the Americans Liv Hovde and Jack Anthrop coming back to take the titles. 


The video highlights of the finals are below:



Qualifier Elvina Kalieva continued her breakout tournament at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit women's event in Rancho Santa Fe California, defeating former WTA No. 35 and No. 8 seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4, 6-3 in today's quarterfinals. Hercog had a woeful serving day, making only 33% of her first serves, while the 18-year-old from Florida made 72% of hers. Kalieva should break into the WTA Top 500 regardless of her result Saturday, when she faces No. 2 seed Fiona Ferro of France. Madison Brengle[3] and top seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden will meet in the other semifinal.

Former Duke star Maria Mateas is through to the semifinals at the $25K in Florence South Carolina, after the unseeded 22-year-old defeated No. 3 seed Katie Volynets 6-2, 6-3. She will play qualifier Emiliana Arango of Colombia, who beat No. 5 seed Robin Anderson(UCLA) 6-4, 6-3.

Sixteen-year-old Jerry Shang of China is through to the semifinals of the $15,000 men's tournament in Naples Florida after defeating wild card Jake Van Emburgh(Oklahoma/Ohio State) 6-1, 6-3. Shang, the 2021 US Open boys finalist, will face No. 3 seed Damien Wenger of Switzerland Saturday.

Annabelle Xu of Canada had lost the only ITF World Tennis Tour women's pro circuit main draw match she played before this week, but the 17-year-old is now in the semifinals of the $15,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma. Xu defeated No. 8 seed Tamara Barad Itzhaki of Israel 6-4, 6-2 and will play Oklahoma State senior Martina Zerulo of Italy Saturday. Raveena Kingsley and wild card Ivana Corley(Oklahoma) face off in the other semifinal.

Teens having success in ITF World Tennis Tour events outside the United States include Martin Damm, who has reached the semifinals of the $25,000+hospitality tournament this week in France, and won the doubles title. The unseeded 18-year-old from Florida defeated Yannick Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with No. 5 seed Aidan McHugh of Great Britain.  Damm and Felix Corwin(Minnesota), seeded No. 3, won the doubles title with a 3-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over top seeds Gijs Brouwer and Jelle Sels of the Netherlands. It's the fifth pro doubles title for Damm and the second for Corwin.

At the men's and women's $15Ks in Cancun, both Alexander Bernard and Victor Lilov lost in three sets in today's quarterfinals, but USC recruit Madison Sieg and Florida recruit Rachel Gailis have reached the semifinals. Sieg defeated No. 5 seed Yuliana Monroy of Colombia 6-1, 6-4 and Gailis beat recent NC State star Anna Rogers 6-4, 6-0. 


Taylor Fritz reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal two days ago with a win over Jannik Sinner at the BNP Paribas Open; he now has advanced to his first semifinal, coming from 5-2 down in the third set to beat No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3). Fritz, the No. 31 seed, saved a match point on his serve at 5-2, and another with Zverev serving for the match at 5-3, but in the final stages of the match, it was Fritz who looked more confident and aggressive. It's the first Top 5 win for Fritz, having gone 0-10 prior to today.  He will play No. 29 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, who took out No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 earlier today.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Kalieva Advances to Quarterfinals at Rancho Santa Fe $60K; Teens Coleman, Xu into Norman $15K Quarterfinals; Norrie Reaches BNP Paribas Semis; Small College ITA Cup Underway

Eighteen-year-old Elvina Kalieva has played most of her professional-level tournaments at the $15,000 and $25,000 levels, but rather than opt for either of the two USTA Pro Circuit events at those classifications this week in Norman Oklahoma and Florence South Carolina, she decided to play qualifying at the $60,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California

After the ITF junior No. 11 won a match over No. 4 seed Tara Moore of Great Britain(Kalieva got a walkover in her first round qualifying match), she was into the main draw of a $60K via qualifying for the first time. In the first round, she defeated fellow qualifier Dalayna Hewitt 7-5, 1-6, 6-2; today, Kalieva earned her best win via ranking, beating No. 4 seed and WTA 108 Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. Kalieva, who won a round in the women's qualifying and reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships, will face Slovenia's Polona Hercog, the No. 6 seed, in Friday's quarterfinals.  No. 3 seed Madison Brengle is the only other American still in the running for the singles titles.

At the $15,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma, 17-year-old Annabelle Xu of Canada and Ellie Coleman, a Duke freshman, advanced to the quarterfinals. Both Xu and Coleman received entry to this week's tournament via their ITF junior rankings. Xu defeated Kianah Motosono(Oklahoma) 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 and Coleman beat Anita Sahdiieva of Ukraine (Baylor) 6-4, 6-3.  Wild card Ivana Corley(Oklahoma) and Raveena Kingsley are the other two Americans joining Coleman in the quarterfinals.

The three Canadian teenagers who got through qualifying and won their first round matches yesterday, all lost today in the second round.

Four American women are through to the quarterfinals of the $25,000 tournament in Florence SC: No. 3 seed Katie Volynets, No. 5 seed Robin Anderson(UCLA), Maria Mateas(Duke) and qualifier Amy Zhu(Michigan).

The men's $15K in Naples Florida lost its No. 1 seed today, with lucky loser Blu Baker of Great Britain defeating Michael Redlicki(Duke/Arkansas) 6-4, 6-3.  Wild card Jake Van Emburgh(Oklahoma/Ohio State) is the only American remaining. Van Emburgh will take on 16-year-old ITF Junior No. 1 Juncheng Jerry Shang of China in the quarterfinals.

If you are interested in tracking which current college players are competing in USTA Pro Circuit events this fall, check out this website.

Cam Norrie has had an outstanding 2021, and the former TCU All-American kept it going today in Indian Wells, defeating Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open. The 26-year-old left-hander from Great Britain, already at an ATP career-high of 26, will become the top-ranked player in that country, the 18th since the ATP began publishing rankings in 1973. Norrie will face Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2).

The ITA Cup, an individual ITA national championship competition for Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College, began today in Rome Georgia and is scheduled to finish Sunday. For more about the event, see this ITA article. Links to the draws and live streaming can be found here.

A number of ITA Division I Regionals are also being played this weekend. See this page for dates and links to draws.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Look Ahead to JA in South Africa; Trio of Canadian Girls Advance at Norman $15K; Fritz, Norrie Reach First ATP Masters 1000 Quarterfinals at Indian Wells

I forgot about the JA in South Africa that is scheduled for later this month, but in my defense, it's only been played once, in 2019, with no tournament held last year. Yesterday was the withdrawal deadline, so now is a good time to look at the fields.

Six Americans, three boys and three girls, are scheduled to make the long trip to Cape Town for the tournament, which begins on October 25th. Two years ago, the tournament was a 64-draw, but it didn't fill, with one boys bye and three girls byes and no qualifying. This year, the draw sizes have been cut in half, so qualifying is likely to take place this year, but there are no Americans on the list of qualifying acceptances.

The US boys on the acceptance list are Benjamin Kittay, Azuma Visaya and Yannik Rahman. The US girls are Clervie Ngounoue, Qavia Lopez and Olivia Lincer. All three of the girls are also on the acceptance list for the J2 in South Africa next week; only Rahman is of the three boys.

The only Top 20 player in either draw (at the time of acceptance) was No. 17 Ksenia Saytseva of Russia. Brenda Fruhvirtova, who won a J1 last week and is now No. 10, is entered and will be the top seed. Poland's Aleksander Orlikowski, 24 at the entry cutoff, was the highest ranked boy.

With no JA in Japan for the second consecutive year (Osaka is hosting a J4 this week, with only Japanese players competing), that leaves just two more JAs on the ITF junior calendar for 2021: Merida Mexico November 22-27 and Orange Bowl in Plantation Florida December 6-12.

The first round of the $15,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Norman Oklahoma was completed today, indoors, due to rain throughout the day. The three Canadian girls who qualified yesterday, fresh from their appearances at the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed indoors last week, all won their first round matches today.

Seventeen-year-old Mia Kupres, who reached the quarterfinals last week in Kentucky, defeated Oklahoma State freshman and No. 2 seed Mananchaya Sawangkaew of Thailand 6-4, 7-6(5) in two hours and 47 minutes. Fifteen-year-old Victoria Mboko, who defeated Kupres in last week's Pan Am quarterfinals and lost to Liv Hovde in the semifinals, defeated No. 6 seed Stefania Rogozinska Dzik of Poland 6-4, 6-4. Cadence Brace, 16, who lost to Hovde in the third round, beat Oklahoma State junior Ayumi Miyamoto of Japan 6-1, 7-5. They join 17-year-old Canadian Annabelle Xu, who beat top seed Oona Orpana of Finland, a freshman at Oklahoma State, yesterday.

After the first round, six quailfiers, but just three seeded players, remain.

At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells today, Taylor Fritz advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal, defeating No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy 6-4, 6-3. This comes a day after the No. 31 seed had taken out No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy by the same score. Fritz will face the winner of tonight's late match between No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany and Gael Monfils of France on Friday.

The ATP recently published this interview with one of Fritz's coaches, David Nainkin, who provides a closer look at the goals and the personality of the Californian, who turns 24 later this month.

Tommy Paul lost to former TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, the No. 21 seed, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. It's also the first ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal for the 26-year-old left-hander, who plays No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina Thursdsay.

No. 19 seed Jessica Pegula lost to No. 27 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-2 in tonight's quarterfinals. Shelby Rogers and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia meet later tonight in the other women's quarterfinal.

Links to the draws and the order of play are here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Qualifying Complete at Four USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments This Week, Canadian Xu Ousts Top Seed at Norman $15K; Tennis Europe's Junior Masters Begins Wednesday; Fritz, Paul, Pegula and Rogers Advance at BNP Paribas Open

It's another busy week on the USTA Pro Circuit, especially for women, with a $60,000 tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California, a $25,000 tournament in Florence South Carolina and a $15,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma.  The sole USTA Pro Circuit tournament for men this week is a $15,000 tournament in Naples Florida.

Qualifying concluded today at all four events, but the top story today was one of the few results in the main draw. In Norman, Annabelle Xu, a 17-year-old from Canada, defeated top seed Oona Orpana, a freshman at Oklahoma State, 6-0, 7-5. Xu, who used her ITF Top 100 junior ranking for entry, lost last week in the quarterfinals of the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed to Qavia Lopez.

Xu was among five Canadian girls who competed in Kentucky last week who travelled to Norman for this week's event, with the other four competing in qualifying. Three of them advanced to the main draw: Cadence Brace, Victoria Mboko and Mia Kupres. 

The only Americans advancing to the Norman main draw today are Sofia Rojas, a freshman at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma senior Kianah Motosono.  Wild cards were given to Oklahoman Gracie Epps, a Pan American Closed quarterfinalist, 16-year-old Meera Jesudason, Carmen Corley, a junior at Oklahoma, and Ivana Corley, a senior at Oklahoma. Epps, Carmen Corley and Jesudason lost today in first round play.  In addition to Xu, Duke freshman Ellie Coleman entered via her ITF junior ranking and won her first round match today, beating TCU freshman Helena Narmont of Estonia 6-3, 7-5.

In Florence, four of the eight qualifiers are Americans: North Carolina State senior Alana Smith, former Michigan star Amy Zhu and juniors Sophie Williams and Katja Wiersholm.

The top seed in Florence is Xiyu Wang of China, the 2018 US Open girls champion, with Kurumi Nara of Japan the No. 2 seed.

Wild cards went to Alexa Graham(UNC), Elysia Bolton(UCLA), Sophie Chang and Georgia Southern junior Nadja Meier of Germany. 

In Rancho Santa Fe, six of the eight qualifiers are Americans: Maegan Manasse(assistant women's coach at Cal), Elvina Kalieva, Dalayna Hewitt, Ellie Douglas(TCU), Haley Giavara(Cal) and USTA 18s National champion Ashlyn Krueger.

Rebecca Peterson of Sweden is the top seed, with Fiona Ferro of France the No. 2 seed. Wild cards were given to Hanna Chang, Kayla Day, Allie Kiick and Jessica Failla(Pepperdine).  Day defeated No. 5 seed Misaki Doi of Japan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in first round action today, while Failla lost to WTA 123 Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 in a four-hour marathon.

In Naples, the only American to advance through qualifying was Tristan McCormick, the former Notre Dame standout who is a graduate transfer this season for Georgia. Blaise Bicknell, who competes for Jamaica, and recently transferred from Florida to Tennessee, defeated former Gator teammate Josh Goodger of Great Britain 4-6, 7-6(3), 10-6 to qualify.  

The top two seeds are Michael Redlicki(Duke/Arkansas) and Florida State freshman Antoine Cornut Chauvinc of France.

Wild cards went to junior Juan David Velasquez of Colombia, Georgia's Trent Bryde, Florida's Will Grant and Jake Van Emburgh, the former Oklahoma star who is a graduate transfer at Ohio State this season.

The year-end Tennis Europe Masters events begin Wednesday in Monte Carlo, with eight of the top players in the 14U and 16U divisions competing for the title. Recent Les Petits As champion Maxime Mrva of the Czech Republic is the top seed in the boys 14s and Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic is the top seed in the girls 14s. In the 16s, the No. 1 boys seed is Tomasz Berkieta of Poland, with the girls No. 1 seed Rose Maria Nijkamp of the Netherlands. For more on the tournament and a link to the draws, see this Tennis Europe article.

Four Americans remain in contention for singles titles at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, with Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers advancing to the quarterfinals with wins today, while Taylor Fritz moved into the round of 16.

Pegula, the No. 19 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1; the unseeded Rogers beat US Open finalist and No. 23 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(4). 

Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul are through to the round of 16, with No. 31 seed Fritz beating No. 5 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-4, 6-3 today, and the unseeded Paul defeating No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. 

Links to the draws are here.

Monday, October 11, 2021

USTA Announces Return of Australian Open Wild Card Challenge; Sarr Sweeps Titles at J5 in France; Brenda Fruhvirtova Adds Third Consecutive J1 Title in Croatia

After the USTA's annual Wild Card Challenges for the French, US and Australian Opens were suspended for 2020-2021 due to the pandemic, the organization announced on Friday the return of this method of awarding wild cards for the 2022 Australian Open.  Here's the full release:

ORLANDO, Fla., October 8, 2021 – The Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, which utilizes hard-court professional tournaments to award an American man and woman a main draw wild card into the Australian Open, is returning this fall and will begin next week. The USTA and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement in which main draw wild cards for the 2022 Australian Open and US Open will be exchanged.

 

Both the men's and women's wild cards will be awarded to the Americans with the most ranking points earned at a maximum of three indoor and outdoor hard court tournaments during a four-week window. All indoor and outdoor hard-court events at the 25 level and above, including WTA and ATP Tour events, will be included in the Challenge.

 

The Women's Challenge begins next week and runs through the week of November 1.

 

The Men's Challenge begins the week of October 25 and runs through the week of November 15.

 

Americans who otherwise earn direct entry into the Australian Open are not eligible, nor are players ranked in the ATP or WTA Top 50 at the start of the Challenge. Should the player with the highest number of Challenge points earn direct entry into the Australian Open, the wild card will go to the next eligible American in the Challenge points standings. In the event of a tie, the player with the best ATP or best WTA singles ranking on November 8 for the women and November 22 for the men will earn the wild card.

 

Both wild card recipients will have to follow all Australian Open protocols as it relates to quarantine or vaccination.

 

The USTA has utilized this Challenge format to award wild cards into the Australian, French and US Opens. This is the first Challenge to be contested since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

 

Previous Americans to earn wild cards into the Australian Open (year specified is the year of the tournament):

 

2021: Not held

2020: Marcos Giron (1R); CoCo Vandweghe (1R)

2019: Jack Sock (1R); Whitney Osuigwe (1R)

2018: Tim Smyczek (2R); Kristie Ahn (1R)

2017: Michael Mmoh (1R); Kayla Day (1R)

2016: Noah Rubin (2R); Samantha Crawford (1R)

2015: Denis Kudla (1R); Irina Falconi (2R)

2014: Steve Johnson (1R); Sachia Vickery (1R)

2013: Rhyne Williams (1R); Madison Keys (3R)

2012: Jesse Levine (1R); Madison Keys (1R)

2011: Ryan Harrison (1R); Lauren Davis (1R)

2010: Ryan Harrison (1R); CoCo Vandeweghe (1R)

2009: John Isner (1R); Christina McHale (1R)

2008: Jesse Levine (2R); Madison Brengle (1R)

2007: Madison Brengle (1R); No men’s wild card competition.


The announcement used to provide the dates and cities of the tournaments being considered, but this year, there are almost no parameters, other than the dates and the surface, which is hard court only. Any tournament anywhere in the world that is at the $25K level and above qualifies, so that will make tracking the leaders during the four-week stretch a challenging job. 

The WTA 125 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland Michigan, which starts November 1, is the final week of the women's Wild Card Challenge, and could decide the Australian Open wild card for 2022. The Dow, normally played the first week of February, was moved to November this year due to the pandemic, and has been upgraded from an ITF WTT 100 to a WTA 125. I plan to attend the tournament for a day or two, as I have done for the past six years.

In ITF Junior Circuit action last week that was not the ITF JB1 in Nicholasville Kentucky, 17-year-old Jelani Sarr won his first two career ITF junior titles at the J5 in Honfleur France. Sarr, who was seeded No. 1 in both singles and doubles, has been playing ITF events in Europe since competing at the USTA Boys 18s Nationals in August. In singles, Sarr defeated unseeded Iannis Fernandes of France 6-0, 6-2 in the final; in doubles, the top-seeded team of Sarr and Belgium's Natan D'Hulst defeated the unseeded French team of Bogdan Desy and Theo Mottier 6-4, 6-2 in the final. 

The only other title of the week (aside from those won by Liv Hovde, Jack Anthrop and Qavia Lopez) for American juniors came at the J4 in the Dominican Republic. Jackson Armistead and Elias Shokry won the doubles title, with the No. 4 seeds defeating the unseeded Chilean team of Diego Jarry Fillol and Matias Rojas 1-6, 6-4, 10-6 in the final. It's the first ITF junior circuit title for both 17-year-old Americans.

Fourteen-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic won her third consecutive J1 title, all since August, in Vrsar Croatia last week. The top seed defeated No. 6 seed Celine Naef of Switzerland 7-6(2), 6-2 in the final, with all five of her wins coming in straight sets. The only blemish on Fruhvirtova's record since winning the J1 in College Park at the end of August, which started her current 16-match J1 winning streak is a US Open girls first round qualifying loss to American Ariana Pursoo.

Fruhvirtova, who also won the doubles title with Barbora Palicova of the Czech Republic, is now up to No. 10 in the ITF junior rankings, just two spots behind her 16-year-old sister Linda.

No. 5 seed Mili Poljicak of Croatia won the boys title, beating unseeded Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland 2-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the final. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Teens Shelton and Hamner Claim First ITA All-American Titles for Florida and South Carolina; Americans Capture Four of Five Singles Titles in Sunday's USTA Pro Circuit Action

University of Florida sophomore Ben Shelton and University of South Carolina freshman Sarah Hamner won the first Division I majors of the 2021-22 collegiate season today in Tulsa Oklahoma and Charleston South Carolina.

Shelton, who was unseeded, defeated University of San Diego fifth-year senior August Holmgren, also unseeded, 6-3, 6-4 this morning to become the first Gator to win the men's All-American singles title.

Shelton, who turned 19 yesterday, went up a quick break in the first set, the only one he needed, to take the lead. In the second set, the 2021 Kalamazoo 18s finalist fell behind 3-1, but won the next four games to close out Holmgren, who had beaten Jordan Thompson, the ATP No. 75, in the San Diego Open qualifying two weeks ago.

In his six victories, Shelton did not drop a set, with his closest match a 7-6(7), 7-5 quarterfinal win over qualifier JJ Tracy of Ohio State.

Hamner, who was the ITA's No. 1 newcomer for this season, won three matches in qualifying just to get into the main draw, but after what the 18-year-old from Florida had done last fall in ITF junior events, it was no surprise that she was able to hold up physically and mentally this week.

In the final, Hamner defeated No. 8 seed Alexa Noel of Iowa 6-0, 3-6, 5-2 ret. to take the first major title in the history of the South Carolina women's program.  Hamner is the first freshman to win the All-American title since Jamie Loeb in 2013; Loeb went on to win the ITA Indoor (now Fall Championships) the following month.

I would like to have more to offer on these two finals, which two years ago were available on ESPN+, but there were no streams this year. The women did not have live streaming at all for their tournament, while the stream of the men's final, which was promoted by the ITA, did not work. It's extremely disappointing for college tennis fans that exposure for the sport is decreasing rather than improving.

The men's doubles title went to Ohio State's Robert Cash and Matej Vocel, who beat teammates Justin Boulais and James Trotter 6-3, 6-2. 

Wake Forest's Anna Brylin and Brooke Killingsworth won the women's doubles title, the program's first at the ITA All-American Championships.  The only seeds to win a title today, the No. 6 seeds defeated Tatsiana Sasnouskaya and Yuliia Starodubtseva of Old Dominion 2-6, 7-6(6), 10-3.

For more on today's championship matches, see this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Last week was one of the busiest weeks in the US since the pre-pandemic days, with five USTA Pro Circuit events, as well as the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed and the first week of the BNP Paribas Open.  Four of the five singles titles this week were won by Americans, and three of the five titles went to former collegians. 

At the $60,000 women's tournament in Las Vegas Nevada, former Michigan star Emina Bektas took the title, with the No. 6 seed defeating former Oklahoma star Lily Miyazaki of Japan 6-1, 6-1 in the final. No. 2 seeds Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia won the doubles title, beating top seeds Bektas and Tara Moore of Great Britain 7-6(5), 7-5.  For more on today's finals, see this article from press aide Steve Pratt.

Former UCLA star Catherine Harrison won her first title in over two years at the $25,000 tournament in Redding California. The 27-year-old from Tennessee, who was unseeded, defeated No. 6 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia 6-1, 6-1 for her second career ITF Pro Circuit title, both at the $25,000 level.

The other three USTA Pro Circuit events this week were at the $15,000 level. 

In Ithaca New York, Great Britain's Charlie Broom, who played for Baylor last year as a graduate student after graduating from Dartmouth, won his first Pro Circuit title. Broom defeated compatriot Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 in today's final.  Broom and Patten won the doubles title Saturday, with the No. 3 seeds beating No. 4 seeds Eduardo Nava(Wake Forest) and Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) 7-6(6), 6-3.

In rainy Hilton Head South Carolina, No. 2 seed Katerina Stewart defeated Raveena Kingsley 6-4, 6-2 for the title. Top seeds Stewart and Anastasia Sysoeva of Russia won the doubles title via walkover, which were common throughout the week due to the wet weather.  

Ryan Harrison won the tournament in Naples Florida, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 3 seed Antoine Cornut Chavinc of France, who is a freshman at Florida State, 6-3, 7-5. Cornut Chavinc and teammate John Bernard won the doubles title, beating the top- seeded Swiss team of Louroi Martinez and Damien Wenger 6-3, 6-7(2), 10-8 in today's final.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Comebacks by Hovde and Anthrop Lead to ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Titles; Shelton and Holmgren in Men's ITA All-American Final; Noel and Hamner to Decide Women's All-American Championship

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Nicholasville KY--


Liv Hovde and Jack Anthrop of the United States fought back from a set down to claim the singles titles over their Canadian opponents at the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Saturday at the Top Seed Tennis Club.

Hovde, the No. 12 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Marina Stakusic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win her second ITF JB1 title, while No. 3 seed Anthrop claimed his first J1 title with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 13 seed Jaden Weekes.

Falling behind 3-0 in the opening set, Hovde admitted that nerves were a factor in her slow start. Her normally solid ground game was not there, and she was down 0-40 in her second service game before clawing back to hold after saving five break points.

Hovde began to find her form after that game, and with Stakusic serving for the set at 5-3, Hovde had a look at her first break point, but she couldn't convert and Stakusic held.

"I started to feel more comfortable at the end of the first set," said the 15-year-old Texan. "I started out really strong in the second, but then she started coming back and it was a really tight second set."

Stakusic went down 3-0 in the second, but fought back to 4-4 and had a break point with Hovde serving at 5-5. Stakusic's return had been reliable throughout the match, but it let her down there, as she missed two second serve returns at 30-40 and deuce. Hovde held, then took advantage of a loose game from Stakusic who went down 0-40 and was broken on the second set point when her forehand sailed long.

The third set started out as a duplicate of the second, with Hovde getting an early break for 3-0 lead, only to see it disappear. Serving at 3-3, Hovde went down a break point, and when Stakusic failed to convert that, Hovde took control.

"I had a short backhand, and I didn't hit it hard enough I guess, and she got it back," Stakusic said. "Then I missed the next shot.  I probably could have attacked that backhand a little harder and come to the net."

Hovde said that moving closer to the baseline helped her get the upper hand in the later rallies.

"I had to keep from being so far behind the baseline," said Hovde, who is coached by former Australian star Phil Dent. "That gave her so many angles to hit those shots. She's a really good, flat hitter and when I was so far back she could move me from side to side."

Hovde broke Stakusic to take a 5-3 lead, and just minutes after being down a break point, she was up 40-0, looking determined to finish the match without any tension or drama.

"I felt really confident," said Hovde, who won the Easter Bowl title in April coming from a set down in the final against Elvina Kalieva. "I was just hitting my serves, thinking I've got to get this done, because you get nervous at the end. But I just had to play my game and felt really comfortable doing that."

Stakusic said that Hovde's most significant advantage was her composure.

"She started playing better in the second set and I was getting too frustrated with my mistakes," said Stakusic, a 16-year-old from Toronto. "She just stayed way more calm than I did and I think that's why she ended up winning."

 

Hovde will move into the ITF Top 100 with the win, and she could not contain her delight at taking the title, even if her celebration after match point was muted.

"It's been a crazy week," said Hovde, who beat four Canadians in succession, including the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 4 seeds. "It's amazing and I'm so happy."

Both Stakusic and Hovde are planning to play the Eddie Herr J1 and Orange Bowl JA later this year.

Like Hovde, Anthrop said he was nervous to start the match, and that led him to play passively.

"He made me pay in that first set," said the 17-year-old from Orlando. "He played much better than I did, much more aggressive and I wasn't answering any of his questions when it came into moving into the court. He has a great serve, a great volley and it took a lot of effort to break him."

Weekes had spent much more time on court prior to the final than Anthrop, who had not lost more than five games in any of his matches, while three of Weekes four matches went to three sets. When Anthrop began to take control of the rallies with his forehand, Weekes started to falter physically, and when Anthrop got a second break of serve in the second set and held, Weekes received a medical timeout.

"I started feeling my legs later in the match, my upper hamstring, so it was hard for me to move," said the 17-year-old left-hander. "I tried to find a solution, but I was just not able today. He played me smart, he knew that I had something and did good to stay calm and to make me move side to side because I was hurting. He executed it very good."

The third set went quickly as Anthrop kept his energy level high, and stuck to the tactics that had worked for him in the second set.

"I thought I was playing too much to his backhand, so in the second and third I went more cross court and inside out with the backhand and forehand, rather than keep him in the same corner," said Anthrop, who trains with Jordan Belga and Bryan Koniecko, head coach of the Central Florida women's team. "He seemed pretty comfortable over there and I was getting pushed around and he could come in and finish at the net."

Anthrop continued to stick with what was working, closing out the match, and his junior career, with three consecutive breaks of serve.

"This was my last junior event and I was able to hit a home run," said Anthrop, who celebrated by dropping face-first on the baseline. "At the moment, I really couldn't be any happier with how I managed this week and the way I played. This will probably go down as the best week I've had in my junior career."

Anthrop's next stop is Ohio State, beginning the next phase of his tennis career in Columbus in January.  Weekes is planning to play the Grade A in Mexico and the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl in Florida to end the year.

The finals are set for Sunday at the ITA All-American Championships, with Ben Shelton of Florida and August Holmgren of San Diego playing for the men's singles title in Tulsa. Live streaming at 11 a.m. Eastern will be available here

The men's doubles championship will feature two teams from Ohio State, with James Trotter and Justin Boulais taking on Robert Cash and Matej Vocel.

For more on today's semifinals, see this article from the ITA.  

At the women's All-American Championships in Charleston South Carolina, Iowa's Alexa Noel will face South Carolina's Sarah Hamner.

The women's doubles final will feature Old Dominion's Tatsiana Sasnouskaya and Yuliia Starodubtseva and Wake Forest’s Anna Brylin and Brooke Killingsworth.

For more on the women's tournament, see this article from the ITA. There is no live streaming for the women's final, but live scoring can be found here.