Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Covid Forces ITA Kickoff Weekend Shuffling; Top Seeds Ousted at New Jersey Grade 5; Nakashima Advances at Istanbul Challenger; ATP's Tiafoe Feature

The first restructuring of this coming weekend's ITA Kickoff Weekend, which will determine the seven teams advancing to next month's Team Indoor Championships, took place last month, when Stanford announced its men's and women's teams would not be participating. The Wisconsin women and the Alabama men stepped into their slots, with Pepperdine taking over the hosting duties for the Stanford women and no other teams pulled out for the next month. 

But beginning last Wednesday, that changed, with the Washington women dropping out of the Ohio State regional, replaced by Syracuse. A few days later, the Kansas women pulled out of the UCLA regional and were replaced by Cal. 

Yesterday, two men's teams bowed out, with Central Florida replaced by UNLV in the USC regional and Texas Tech replaced by Middle Tennessee in the Ohio State regional.

With all testing needing to be completed by Wednesday, more withdrawals were expected, and today we had the Oklahoma State men and the LSU women pulling out. The ITA has not yet named those two replacements, but when they do, the update will be here.

Oklahoma State women's schedule interrupted due to Covid

The Oklahoma State women took over the hosting duties for the Team Indoor next month when Washington couldn't swing it, automatically qualifying for the Team Indoor. It's fortunate for them that they do not have to play in a regional, since they have had to cancel three matches scheduled for this week.

Qualifiers had impressive results today in the second round of the ITF Grade 5 in New Jersey, with Hudson Beaudoin taking out top seed Rohan Belday 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 and Nicholas Steiglehner beating No. 2 seed Nicholas Godsick 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Beaudoin will take on wild card Alexander Rezaghi, who won last week's Grade 5 in Connecticut, in the quarterfinals, while Steiglehner will face lucky loser Kase Schinnerer. Only two seeds remain in the boys last eight, and they play each other Wednesday.

The girls No. 2 seed also went out today, with Kathryn Treiber beating Brooklyn Olson 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3. Top seed Reese Brantmeier advanced 6-2, 6-2 over lucky loser Bianca Molnar. Last week's Connecticut champion Mary Stoiana, who beat Brantmeier in the semifinals there, lost in the first round last night to qualifier Bojana Pozder.

With most pros in Australia quarantining, the biggest event this week is an ATP Challenger 125 in Istanbul Turkey.  Brandon Nakashima is the only American competing in singles, with the 19-year-old Californian staying in that part of the world after failing to qualify for the Australian Open. He won his first round match today, beating wild card Cem Ilkel of Turkey 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Nakashima's second round opponent will be former Texas A&M star Arthur Rinderknech of France, who qualified, then advanced to the second round when No. 5 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India retired trailing 6-4, 3-2.  Three American doubles teams are competing in Istanbul, with Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson winning their first round match, Jackson Withrow and Nathaniel Lammons losing theirs and Evan King and Nathan Pasha playing their first round match Wednesday.

The ATP caught up with Frances Tiafoe, who turns 23 Wednesday, with the young American admitting that he was in a bad place mentally when the pandemic shut down the sport. 

“I looked at the guy in the mirror [and asked], ‘Why are you here? What are the things you need to change and what are the things you need to keep building on?’ It helped me a lot. There were a lot of deep conversations with my guys and I wouldn’t have made it to the second week of the US Open without that.”

For more on Tiafoe's new approach to the game, see this article.