Sunday, January 17, 2021

Zheng Defeats Fruhvirtova for Fifth ITF WTT Title; Rubin, Chang Win UTR $25Ks in Florida and California; Following Along with Australian Open Quarantine

Eighteen-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China won the last tournament she played, in December of 2020, and the first tournament she's competed in this year, taking the title at the ITF World Tennis Tour $25,000 tournament in Hamburg Germany

Zheng, who won her first three tournaments on clay courts, now has back-to-back titles on indoor hard courts after defeating 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3 in today's final. Zheng, who is 287 in the WTA rankings, went through qualifying, probably due to a late entry. In the final round of qualifying, she trailed 2018 NCAA singles champion Arianne Hartono(Mississippi) of the Netherlands 6-3, 5-2, but came back to win the next five games and take the match tiebreaker to advance. Zheng breezed through her next three matches with the loss of only six games, but she had her hands full with Jesika Maleckova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals, needing three hours to record a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory. Today's final, only the second ITF WTT women's final for Fruhvirtova and the first at the $25K level, was not as taxing, with Fruhvirtova holding serve only once in the one-hour 19-minute match.

Since the ITF's August restart, Zheng, who won the Eddie Herr ITF title in 2018 and lost to Coco Gauff in the Orange Bowl final that same year, won four of the eight tournaments she played and is now starting the new year without skipping a beat.

Another top junior who has been outstanding since the restart is 2019 French Open boys champion Holger Rune of Denmark. Rune, who won three ITF WTT titles last fall, reached the final of the $15,000 tournament in Spain this week, falling to Evan Furness of France 6-2, 5-7, 6-0.

The UTR $25,000 tournaments concluded today, with Noah Rubin and Hanna Chang taking the titles in Naples Florida and Newport Beach California respectively.

Rubin, the former Wake Forest star and No. 2 seed, went undefeated during the round robin portion of the tournament, and didn't surrender more than four games in any set throughout the week. In today's final, he defeated Harris Walker, a Harvard sophomore who is taking a gap year, 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Rubin, who had gone 0-4 in pro events since the restart, including a loss in the first round of the Delray Beach ATP event this month, collects $4000, while Walker earns $2200. 

At Newport Beach, Chang, also a No. 2 seed, needed nearly three hours to secure her $4000 first place prize money, coming from 3-0 down in the third set to beat Jessica Alsola of Canada 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. Alsola, a 16-year-old who has signed with Cal, had just the 14th best UTR coming into the tournament, but she defeated top seed Katie Volynets in the semifinals and dealt Chang the only set she lost in six matches.

Both locations are hosting another tournament beginning tomorrow, with the women again in Newport Beach and the men in Naples.

More positive Covid-19 tests from those on charter flights to the Australian Open has seen the number of players required to strictly quarantine, without practice, rise to nearly 100.  If you are interested in following three people who are posting about their quarantine experience in Melbourne, Stephanie Myles is providing news and personal updates from her room here. Coach Sven Groeneveld got the bad news that he and his player, Taro Daniel of Japan, were on the Doha flight that had a positive test. He is posting about his experience here.  Coach Marc Lucero, who is in Melbourne with Steve Johnson, is doing mini-podcasts from quarantine, and so far, at least, they have not been notified of any positive tests on their flight, so are able to practice.