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Sunday, February 28, 2021

McDonald, Harrison and Lepchenko Win Titles; Vliegen and Gille Claim ATP Singapore Doubles Championship; Kuzuhara Falls in Brazil Grade 1 Final

After getting shut out last week in the two $25,000 Florida tournaments in Florida, Americans picked up titles today in Boca Raton and Naples

Christian Harrison, who lost in last week's Naples final, came through with his first title since 2017, with the No. 8 seed defeating No. 6 seed Corentin Denolly of France 6-4, 6-2. The 26-year-old, who has had multiple illnesses and surgeries over the past eight years, has lost only two matches this year, in the semifinals of the ATP 250 in Delray Beach and last week's $25K final.

In the doubles final, played on Saturday, Junior Ore(Texas A&M) and Alejandro Gomez(Kentucky) improved on their runner-up finish last week in Naples, with the No. 2 seeds defeating unseeded Diego Hidalgo(Florida) of Ecuador and Cristian Rodriguez of Colombia 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final. 

Varvara Lepchenko, like Harrison a No. 8 seed, has also gone a long time between titles, with the 34-year-old last earning a title in 2018. Lepchenko defeated unseeded 20-year-old Claire Liu 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 in today's Boca Raton $25,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit final, battling through a 74-minute second set to take control of the match. 

Mackenzie McDonald at Wimbledon 2018

Mackenzie McDonald claimed his third ATP Challenger title today at the 100 in Kazakhstan, dominating No. 6 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-1, 6-2. McDonald, the 2016 NCAA singles and doubles champion, had no trouble handling the pace of the hard-hitting left-hander, with McDonald's serve and return especially effective throughout the match. After a round of 16 performance at the Australian Open and this title, McDonald is closing in on the Top 100 again, which is where he was when he suffered his serious injury back in June of 2019.

A day after Alexa Guarachi and Desirae Krawczyk won the doubles title at the WTA 500 in Adelaide, another all-collegian team took a championship at the ATP 250 in Singapore. Top seeds Sander Gille(East Tennessee State) and Joran Vliegen(East Carolina) of Belgium defeated JP Smith(Tennessee) and Matt Ebden of Australia 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Gille and Vliegen, who are a perfect 5-0 in ATP tour finals, did not drop a set all week. For more on their title, see this article from the ATP website.

Bruno Kuzuhara fell short of his second consecutive ITF Grade 1 title today in Porto Alegre Brazil, with the 16-year-old Floridian losing to Swedish qualifier Leo Borg, the son of tennis legend Bjorn Borg. The 17-year-old Borg, who had never contested a Grade 1 final before today, came from behind to defeat No. 3 seed Kuzuhara 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Natalia Szabanin of Hungary won her second title of this South American circuit, with the top seed defeating No. 2 seed Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. 

The order of play is out for the ITF's Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil, and because no qualifying was allowed over the weekend, only qualifying matches are on the schedule, with both first round and second round matches expected to be played.  The main draws have been posted, with the same group of US boys who played the event in Porto Alegre: Dali Blanch[1], Kuzuhara[3], Alex Bernard[5], Jack Anthrop[7], Victor Lilov and Ozan Colak, with Aidan Kim, who qualified last week, in qualifying again this week. Just three US girls are in the main draw: Ellie Coleman[4], Alexia Harmon and Alexis Blokhina, with Clervie Ngounoue the top seed in the qualifying. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Kuzuhara Faces Borg's Son in Third Straight Grade 1 Final; Qualifying Delayed for Grade A Banana Bowl; Liu, Lepchenko in Boca Raton $25K Final; Harrison Advances at Naples $25K; Krawczyk and Guarachi Claim Adelaide Doubles Title

Bruno Kuzuhara avenged his loss to Juncheng Shang of China in the Ecuador Grade 1 final--the only loss Kuzuhara has suffered in the past three South American Grade 1 tournaments--today in Brazil, defeating No. 2 seed Shang 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals. The 16-year-old No. 3 seed, who won last week's Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, will face 17-year-old Swedish qualifier Leo Borg in Sunday's final, after Borg defeated No. 5 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(2). Borg, who will be playing in his first Grade 1 final, is the son of tennis legend Bjorn Borg. 

Sunday's girls final will feature the top two seeds, with No. 1 Natalia Szabanin of Hungary facing No. 2 Diana Shnaider of Russia.

The first Grade A of 2021, next week's Banana Bowl in Brazil, has run into difficulties with local Covid protocols and the qualifying, which was scheduled to begin today, will not begin until Monday, according to this announcement. The qualifying draws have been posted on the ITF junior website, but nothing else has been communicated there regarding the schedule. With draws consisting of just 32 players, instead of the usual 64 for Grade As pre-pandemic, the tournament can begin on Wednesday with no serious affects, but those in qualifying are facing a lot of tennis in the first three days of the week. Americans competing in the qualifying are Timothy Phung, Aidan Kim, Azuma Visaya, Joseph Phillips and Clervie Ngounoue. 

Twenty-year-old Claire Liu and 34-year-old Varvara Lepchenko will meet Sunday for the singles championship at the $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Boca Raton Florida. The unseeded Liu defeated No. 4 seed Usue Arconada 7-5, 6-2 and the No. 8 seed Lepchenko beat wild card Hailey Baptiste 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-2 in over three hours to reach the final. 

Arconada did leave the tournament with a winner's trophy, partnering with Caroline Dolehide for the doubles title. The top seeds defeated the unseeded team of Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia and Conny Perrin of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 in today's final. 

Christian Harrison has advanced to the final of the $25,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Naples Florida after defeating unseeded Cristian Rodriguez of Colombia 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in today's semifinals. Harrison, the No. 8 seed, will face No. 6 seed Corentin Denolly of France in Sunday's championship match.

Mackenzie McDonald is through to the final at the ATP Challenger 100 in Kazakhstan after defeating No. 5 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-2, 6-1 today. UCLA's 2016 NCAA singles and doubles champion will face No. 6 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria for the title. 

In the doubles final, former Oklahoma State star Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan and his partner Denys Molchanov of Ukraine took the title, with the top seeds defeating No. 2 seeds and former collegians Nathan Pasha(Georgia) and Max Schnuur(Columbia) 6-4, 6-4 in the final. 

At the ATP Challenger 80 in Spain, 2015 NCAA doubles champion Lloyd Glasspool(Texas) of Great Britain partnered with Harri Heliovaara of Finland for the title. The No. 2 seeds defeated unseeded Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium and Sergio Martos Gornes of Spain 7-5, 6-1 in the final. 

Adelaide champions Krawczyk and Guarachi won 
their second WTA title last September in Istanbul

The all-collegiate battle at the WTA 500 in Adelaide went to No. 3 seeds Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State), who defeated Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) and Hayley Carter(North Carolina) 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-3 in the final. It's the third WTA title for the French Open finalists. 

Nineteen-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland won the singles title, beating Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-2, 6-2 in the final. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

All-American Semifinals at Women's $25K in Boca Raton; Kuzuhara's Win Streak Continues in Brazil; Collegians Abound in WTA Adelaide's Women's Doubles Final; McDonald Advances to Semifinals at Kazakhstan Challenger

 All four American women competing in Friday's quarterfinals at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Boca Raton won today, setting up two all-US semifinals on Saturday. Only one quarterfinal, No. 4 seed Usue Arconada's 7-5, 6-1 win over Gabriela Talaba of Romania, was decided in straight sets, with the other three all three sets and at least two hours and 45 minutes in duration. Arconada will play unseeded Claire Liu, who won the battle of former junior slam champions with a 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2 decision over Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia.

No. 8 seed Varvara Lepchenko, who needed over three hours to eliminate Canadian qualifier Katherine Sebov 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, will play 19-year-old wild card Hailey Baptiste, who took out Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

At the men's $25,000 tournament in Naples, Christian Harrison is the sole American to advance to the semifinals. Harrison, the No. 8 seed, defeated top seed Mitchell Krueger 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-5 in three hours and 17 minutes to reach Saturday's semifinal. He will play unseeded Cristian Rodriguez of Colombia for a place in the final. Martin Damm lost to Gonzalo Villanueva of Argentina 5-7, 7-6(0), 7-6(6) in three hours and eight minutes. Villanueva will face No. 6 seed Corentin Denolly of France in the bottom half semifinal. 

Bruno Kuzuhara, who won last week's Grade 1 in Paraguay, is through to the semifinals of this week's Grade 1 in Brazil, putting his win streak at eight. The 16-year-old from Florida, who is 12-1 this year in Grade 1 tournaments, defeated Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador 6-2, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Kuzuhara, the No. 3 seed, will take on No. 2 seed Juncheng Shang of China, who beat him in the final of the Grade 1 in Ecuador two weeks ago. Shang defeated No. 7 seed Jack Anthrop 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, while No. 4 seed Alex Bernard lost to No. 5 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil 6-4, 6-2. Boscardin Dias will face Swedish qualifier Leo Borg, son of Bjorn Borg, who advanced to the semifinals via walkover.

No. 3 seed Madison Sieg lost to unseeded Solana Sierra of Argentina in today's quarterfinals 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and also fell in the doubles final. Sieg and Ellie Coleman, the top seeds, lost to unseeded Michaela Laki of Greece and Lola Radivojevic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4. 

Top seeds Bernard and Dali Blanch won their second Grade 1 doubles title on this South American swing, in dominating fashion, defeating unseeded Marko Adrejic of Austria and Mili Poljicak of Croatia 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Blanch and Bernard didn't lose more than four games in any of the eight sets they played this week.

Coco Gauff fell to No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the semifinals of the WTA 500 in Adelaide Friday 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 6-2. Gauff will earn a new career-high ranking after her wins this week however, moving into the Top 40 for the first time. Bencic will face French Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland in the singles final. 

The doubles final in Adelaide is guaranteed to produce an American champion and a collegiate one with Hayley Carter(UNC) and Brazil's Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) facing off against Chile's Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State). The third-seeded Guarachi and Krawczyk, who reached the French Open final last fall, will be looking for their third WTA title as a team. Carter and Stefani, who are not seeded this week, also have two WTA titles as a team. 

At the ATP Challenger 100 in Kazakhstan, Mackenzie McDonald is through to the semifinals after defeating Frederico Silva of Portugal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) today. McDonald will play No. 5 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland on Saturday. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Damm One of Three Americans in Quarterfinals at Naples $25K; Four US Women Advance at Boca Raton $25K; Four Americans Move On at Grade 1 in Brazil; Gauff Makes Semifinals in Adelaide

Although he hasn't played a junior tournament in more than a year, 17-year-old Martin Damm is still, thanks to the rankings freeze, No. 3 in the ITF world junior rankings. Opting to concentrate on the ITF's Men's World Tennis Tour, Damm hasn't had much success since last fall's restart, going 4-8 in $15,000 and $25,000 tournaments until this week. 

But this week Damm has made his first quarterfinal since last November at the Arkansas $15,000, and on the same courts where he made his only final in 2019, at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples Florida. Damm defeated qualifier Evan Zhu(UCLA) 6-1, 6-1 today, after taking out No. 5 seed JC Aragone(Virginia) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday. Damm, who is also through to the semifinals in doubles with Govind Nanda(UCLA), will play unseeded Gonzalo Villaneuva of Argentina in Friday's quarterfinals.

The other two Americans in the quarterfinals will play each other with top seed Mitchell Krueger taking on No. 8 seed Christian Harrison. Krueger defeated Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) 6-4, 6-4, while Harrison needed three hours to eliminate 19-year-old wild card Zane Khan 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5.

Four Americans advanced to the quarterfinals of the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Boca Raton, ranging from 19-year-old Hailey Baptiste to 34-year-old Varvara Lepchenko.  Baptiste won the match between teens who learned their tennis skills at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland, beating Robin Montgomery 6-3, 6-3. Wild card Baptiste will face unseeded Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia, who beat top seed Olgo Govortsova of Belarus 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 today. No. 8 seed Lepchenko, who defeated 16-year-old wild card Ashlyn Krueger 6-3, 6-4 today, will play qualifier Katherine Sebov of Canada in Friday's quarterfinals.

In the bottom half, Claire Liu, the 2017 Wimbledon girls champion, will play 2019 US Open girls champion Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia in one quarterfinal after Liu defeated qualifier Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 6-4, 6-2 and Osorio Serrano took out No. 2 seed Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 7-6(5). No. 3 seed Usue Arconada, the only seed other than Lepchenko remaining, needed three hours and 26 minutes to get past qualifier Katie Volynets 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4. Arconada will face former Texas Tech star Gabriela Talaba of Romania in the quarterfinals. 

Three US boys and one US girl are through to the singles quarterfinals of this week's ITF Grade 1 in Brazil. No. 3 seed Madison Sieg will play unseeded Solana Sierra of Argentina on Friday and will also contest the doubles final, with partner Ellie Coleman. The top seeds will play the unseeded team of Michaela Laki of Greece and Lola Radivojevic of Serbia for the title Friday. 

Alexander Bernard is also still alive in both singles and doubles. The 17-year-old, seeded No. 4 in singles, will play No. 5 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil in the quarterfinals. Bernard and Dali Blanch, the top seeds in doubles, face unseeded Marko Andrejic of Austria and Mili Poljicak of Croatia in the final.

No. 3 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, last week's Grade 1 champion in Paraguay, will play unseeded Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador in the quarterfinals, and No. 7 seed Jack Anthrop takes on No. 2 seed Juncheng Shang of China. 

Qualifier Coco Gauff is through to her third WTA semifinal, but the first at the 500 level after defeating Shelby Rogers 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in Adelaide. Gauff, who turns 17 next month, has won her last four matches in three sets, coming from a set down in three of them. She will take on No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in Friday's semifinal. Iga Swiatek, who advanced to the semifinals when Danielle Collins retired trailing 6-2, 3-0, will play unseeded Jil Teichmann of Switzerland in the other semifinal. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

No Change Atop ITA Division I Team Rankings; Illinois Signs Former ITF Top 10 Junior; Collins Beats WTA No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Joins Gauff and Rogers in Adelaide Quarterfinals; ATP Feature on Brooksby

This week's Division I team rankings didn't produce any changes at the top, with the North Carolina women and North Carolina men both retaining the No. 1 spots. The Texas women stayed at No. 2, as did the Baylor men, but for the women, the shuffling began with Georgia moving up to No. 3. After UCLA's 4-3 loss to Cal over the weekend, the Bruins dropped to six, while Cal moved from 17 to 12.

Unranked women's teams moving into the top 25 this week are No. 21 Auburn, who beat South Carolina and Florida over the weekend, and No. 24 Arkansas, who earned wins over Mississippi State and Mississippi.

In the men's rankings, Ohio State was the instigator of the changes in the Top 10, with the Buckeyes' win over Illinois dropping the Illini to No. 8 and Ohio State and Texas moving up as a result.  Oklahoma State's losses to USC and Pepperdine over the weekend dropped them from 14 to 23. Memphis, who did not play last weekend, has moved into the Top 25 for the first time. 

This is the last week for rankings to 25; next week's rankings will extend to 50, which will be the case at least through March. All these rankings are determined by a poll, not by a computer algorithm. There is still no sign of any individual rankings, which haven't been updated since the preseason.

Division I ITA Division I women's top 10 team rankings 2-24-21,
(previous ranking in parentheses)

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Texas (2)
3. Georgia (5)
4. Pepperdine (4)
5. Florida State (6)
6. UCLA (3)
7. Northwestern (7)
8. Ohio State (8)
9. NC State (10)
10. Vanderbilt (9)

Division I ITA men's Top 10 team rankings 2-24-21

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Baylor (2)
3. Tennessee (3)
4. Virginia (4)
5. TCU (5)
6. Texas (7)
7. Ohio State (9)
8. Illinois (6)
9. USC (8)
10. Texas A&M (10)


There have been a few men's signings for fall of 2021, with the biggest that of Karlis Ozolins of Latvia committing to Illinois. Ozolins, who reached the singles semifinals and doubles final of the Australian Open Junior Championships last year, has been ranked as high as No. 6 in the ITF World Junior rankings. 

Roni Hietaranta of Finland has signed with Nebraska, and Joel Pierleoni of Great Britain has signed with New Mexico.

On the WTA tour, Danielle Collins earned her first win over a No. 1 player, beating Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the 500 level event in Adelaide. The two-time NCAA singles champion will face French Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland, the No. 5 seed, on Thursday.

In an all-American quarterfinal in Adelaide, qualifier Coco Gauff and Shelby Rogers, who, like Collins, are unseeded, will meet for the first time. 

While American women are doing well in the sole WTA event this week, all six American men competing in the main draw of the three ATP 250 events have bowed out, with only Sebastian Korda and Maxime Cressy winning a match. Mackenzie McDonald opted for the ATP Challenger 100 in Kazakhstan this week, and after beating top seed Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the first round, he is through to the quarterfinals.

And speaking of Challengers, the ATP website has posted an article on last week's first-time Challenger champion Jenson Brooksby.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Krueger and Govortsova Top Seeds at Florida $25Ks; Cleveland Hosts First 2021 US Challenger Next Month; Division II Men's and Women's Indoor Championships Begin Friday in Oklahoma

Qualifying is complete at the two $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments this week in Florida, with the women moving to Boca Raton and the men playing a second straight week in Naples. 

Mitchell Krueger is the top seed in Naples, with Bjorn Fratangelo the No. 2 seed. Darian King of Barbados played qualifying, but is seeded No. 3 in the main draw now that he made it through qualifying. 

Americans qualifying for the main draw are Dennis Novikov(UCLA), Evan Zhu(UCLA) and Christian Langmo(Miami). The wild cards, all of whom are in the top quarter of the draw, went to Govind Nanda(UCLA), Fletcher Scott(Illinois), Jesse Witten(Kentucky) and Zane Khan. Martin Damm entered with as a junior exempt and last week's champion Clement Tabur of France received a special exemption into the main draw.

Olga Govortsova is the top seed in Boca Raton, with Caroline Dolehide, who has returned from competing in Australia, the No. 2 seed.  

Americans qualifying for the main draw are Maria Mateas(Duke), Jamie Loeb(North Carolina), Catherine Harrison(UCLA) and Katie Volynets. 

Wild cards were awarded to Ashlyn Krueger, Elli Mandlik, Gabby Price and Hailey Baptiste. Baptiste played the only main draw match on Tuesday's schedule, beating No. 7 seed Varvara Flink of Russia 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(5).

Robin Montgomery used her option for a junior exempt for entry, and last week's Orlando champion Katie Swan of Great Britain is the main draw with a special exempt entry. 

The USTA released a new men's Pro Circuit calendar yesterday, and has been the case since last August's return to competition, opportunities remain sparse. Hopefully more events will be added, but as of now, there is nothing on the $15,000 or $25,000 level after this week until May 17th.

There are three ATP Challenger 80s scheduled, with the first one in the United States this year set for Cleveland March 15-20. For more on the Cleveland Challenger, which will be restricting access to the event, see this recent release.  JJ Wolf, who would normally be on the entry list for the event in his home state, is currently out with an injury and is not expected to compete.

The other two Challengers are both in Florida, in Orlando the week of April 12th and in Tallahassee the week of April 19th.

The women's USTA Pro Circuit calendar, released earlier this month, shows another $25K next week in California, but nothing else until mid April after that. Currently, there are no $15,000 tournaments on the schedule until June. A couple of $60Ks and two $100Ks in April and May are the spring highlights for women.

The ITA Division II Team Indoor Championships were introduced last year, and thank goodness, because in less than two weeks the entire season was sunk by the pandemic. The tournaments are again in Oklahoma, with the men's event hosted by Midwestern State University in Oklahoma City and the women's event hosted by University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond

Barry, the women's defending champions, is not competing this year, with the University of Indianapolis the top seed and Columbus State No. 2.  The schedule for Friday:

8:00 AM CT – (3) University of West Florida vs. (6) Angelo State University
11:15 AM CT – (2) Columbus State University vs. (7) Southwest Baptist University
2:30 PM CT – (1) University of Indianapolis vs. (8) Midwestern State University
5:45 PM CT – (4) University of Central Oklahoma vs. (5) Flagler College

Columbus State is defending its men's title as the top seed, with the University of West Florida seeded second. The men's schedule for Friday:

8:00 AM CT – (3) Flagler College vs. (6) University of Indianapolis
11:15 AM CT – (2) University of West Florida vs. (7) Delta State University
2:30 PM CT – (4) Drury University vs. (5) Concordia University Irvine
5:45 PM CT – (1) Columbus State University vs. (8) Midwestern State University

The ITA announced two weeks ago that Division III would not be having Team Indoor Championships this year.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Changes to May's NCAA Division I Championships; ITF Grade 1 in Brazil Underway; Strode Wins UTR $25K in Newport Beach; More UTR Pro Tennis Tour Events Added

The NCAA Division I men's and women's tennis committee met(virtually) earlier this month and made some adjustments to this year's tournament at the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona. 

In 2019, a new format was introduced, with Super Regionals played on campuses, with those eight winning teams advancing to the finals site. That has been changed for this year, with the tournament going back to 16 men's and 16 women's teams at the finals site. From the NCAA committee report:

The proposed format change helps to minimize preliminary-round sites and reduces responsibilities for campuses that otherwise would host. By eliminating the 16 super-regional round locations, the committee will be able to provide the most effective and efficient competition as it relates to health and safety, given the increased restrictions in testing and gathering protocols.

This means starting competition at the finals site with round of 16 matches Sunday May 16th(women) and Monday May 17th(men).  With that change, the quarterfinals have been moved up a day to Wednesday May 19th(women) and Thursday May 20th(men) from when they were originally scheduled. Tuesday May 18th is an off day for everyone and it will serve as a rain day if the round of 16 matches cannot be played. As the release notes:

There are only six indoor courts available in Orlando. In the event of a complete rainout, eight matches cannot be completed indoors in one day with six courts. The advancing teams from the super-regional round [round of 16] have two days of rest before their next match in the quarterfinals.

The 2018 tournament was played at the National Campus and miraculously did not feature any rain, but the committee appears to recognize that it will be unlikely to be so lucky this year. 

The team finals will now be on Saturday, rather than Sunday, and the individual tournament will begin on Sunday and run through Friday, rather than as originally scheduled Monday through Saturday. 

Tennis Channel is mentioned as covering the team event from the quarterfinals on (which is good news for most, but I no longer have access to it).

The recommendation also moves the start of the quarterfinal round up one day to accommodate available television windows for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals of the team tournament on the Tennis Channel.

The third consecutive South American Grade 1 is underway in Porto Alegre Brazil, with five American girls and seven American boys in the 32-player singles fields. The US boys are qualifier Aidan Kim, Dali Blanch[1], Bruno Kuzuhara[3], Alexander Bernard[4], Jack Anthrop[7], Victor Lilov and Ozan Colak. The US girls are Alexia Harmon, Madison Sieg[3], Ellie Coleman[5], Rebecca Lynn and Alexis Blokhina.

For the third straight week, top seed Blanch hasn't gotten to the quarterfinals; today he lost to Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.  Colak, Coleman and Harmon also lost their first round matches today, with Sieg, Blokhina and Bernard getting victories; the others will play their first round matches Tuesday.

Isaiah Strode won last week's UTR $25K Pro Tennis Tour tournament in Newport Beach California, beating former USC Trojan Connor Farren 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 in the final. Strode takes home $4000 and Farren $2200 for their week's work.

Several more UTR $25K tournaments have been added in the United States and Mexico for this spring, with several in the Atlanta area and Cancun in March and April, and in Bradenton Florida in late May and June. See the complete schedule here.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Brooksby Claims First Challenger Title; Harrison, Anderson Fall in $25K Florida Finals; Lincer, Ford and Evans Win ITF Junior Circuit Titles

Jenson Brooksby, who decided to play college tennis, but spent more than a year recovering from a toe injury and so never actually competed while attending Baylor, won his first Challenger title today at the ATP Challenger 80 in South Africa. Brooksby, who started the year by winning a UTR $25K tournament in California, had played only three tournaments on the pro circuit since 2019, getting to the semifinals of a $25K in Spain before losing his first round match two weeks ago at the first ATP Challenger 80 in South Africa. This week the unseeded 20-year-old from Northern California found his form, with the 2018 Kalamazoo 18s champion defeating unseeded Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 in today's final. 

Brooksby will move to a new career high with his title this week, cracking the ATP Top 250 for the first time. Brooksby joins Brandon Nakashima and Sebastian Korda as 20-and-under Americans to capture ATP Challenger titles in 2021.

The two $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Florida this week didn't produce an American singles champion, with both Christian Harrison and Robin Anderson falling in today's finals. 

At the men's tournament in Naples, 21-year-old qualifier Clement Tabur of France defeated the unseeded Harrison 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in a two-and-a-half hour final. Great Britain's Katie Swan defeated Robin Anderson(UCLA) 6-1, 6-3 in another battle between unseeded finalists, this one in Orlando.

The US did pick up the doubles titles in the Florida tournaments, with Great Britain's Tara Moore and Emina Bektas(Michigan) winning in Orlando and the Johnson twins claiming the title in Naples.

Moore and Bektas defeated Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia and Conny Perrin of Switzerland 7-5, 2-6, 10-5 in the final between two unseeded teams. Moore and Bektas are now two-for-two in USTA Pro Circuit events, having also claimed the title last month at the $60K in Rome Georgia.

Hunter and Yates Johnson(SMU), the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 3 seeds Junior Ore(Texas A&M) and Alejandro Gomez of Colombia(Kentucky) 6-1, 1-6, 12-10 to claim their 13th ITF Pro Circuit title. 

At the Australian Open, Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury(Memphis) fell one match short of defending their title, with Filip Polasek of Slovakia and Ivan Dodig of Croatia taking the men's doubles final 6-3, 6-4. It's their first slam title as a team, although Dodig won Roland Garros with Marcelo Melo in 2015.

Novak Djokovic collected his ninth Australian Open men's singles title with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Daniil Medvedev. 

Americans added three more ITF junior singles titles to the Grade 1 championship Bruno Kuzuhara won in Paraguay, with Olivia Lincer sweeping the titles at the Grade 4 in Guatemala and Karsyn Evans and Zane Ford taking the titles at the Grade 4 in Cancun.

No. 6 seed Lincer, a 16-year-old blue chip from Connecticut, won her first ITF junior title on Friday, taking the doubles title with Ashton Bowers. The No. 3 seeds, who didn't drop a set in their run to the title, defeated unseeded Jacqueline Soloveychik and Monika Wojcik, also from the US, 6-1, 6-3 in the final. 

In the singles final on Saturday, Lincer defeated No. 5 seed Deborah Dominguez Collado of Guatemala 6-3, 6-2 for her second ITF junior title.  No. 4 seed Sebastian Sec of the US lost in the boys singles final to unseeded Christopher Li of Peru 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(10).

Texan Karsyn Evans won her first ITF Junior Circuit title in Cancun, with the unseeded 15-year-old defeating unseeded 13-year-old Maya Iyengar 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Qualifier Zane Ford, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, won his first ITF Junior Circuit title in another all-US final, beating Alexander Frusina 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. It was Ford's eighth win of the week and that first set was the only one he lost in those eight victories.

Unseeded Luc Boulier Santelices of Chile and Zamaan Moledina of the US won the boys doubles title, beating No. 3 seeds Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Boliva and Joseph Phillips of the US 6-4, 4-6, 10-6 in the final. 

No. 3 seeds Gracie Epps and Aubrey Nisbet won the girls doubles title, defeating unseeded Cecilia Alcobe Garibay of the US and Ana Paula Chavez Sanchez of Mexico 6-1, 6-2 in the final. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Kuzuhara Wins Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl; Brady Falls in Australian Open Final, Ram Claims Mixed Title; Brooksby into Challenger Final; Wake Forest's Response to Salon Article

Last year Bruno Kuzuhara reached the final of the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, and last week the 16-year-old from Florida advanced to the final of the Grade 1 in Ecuador. Today he got past those disappointments, winning this year's Asuncion Bowl title with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil. Kuzuhara, the No. 4 seed, who moved into the ITF Top 10 last week, did not drop a set in his five wins to earn his first Grade 1 title. His previous three titles were at the Grade 5 level.

No. 8 seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia, who turned 15 in December, earned her first Grade 1 singles title today, beating unseeded Solana Sierra of Argentina 6-4, 7-5. Marcinko, who made the semifinals last week in Ecuador, won five ITF Grade 4 and Grade 5 singles titles and won the doubles and reached the singles final of a Grade 1 in Serbia last September. 

Jennifer Brady, the first former collegian to reach a women's grand slam singles final since Kathy Jordan in 1983, fell to Naomi Osaka of Japan 6-4, 6-3 Saturday at the Australian Open. Despite a nervous start, Brady got back to 4-all in the first set and had a break point to serve for the set, but Osaka held and Brady was broken in the next game, with her usually reliable forehand shaky when she needed it. Osaka took a 4-0 lead in the second set, but again Brady got herself back in it, although she could get only one of those two breaks back, and Osaka served out her fourth slam title without any drama. 

The WTA website has a good recap from Brady's post-match press conference, touching on why she was disappointed in her performance, what she thinks she needs to improve, and how she'll spend the next few days before heading to her next tournament.

Rajeev Ram and Czech Barbora Krejcikova, the No. 6 seeds, won their second Australian Open mixed doubles title on Saturday, defeating the Australian wild card team of Matthew Ebden and Samantha Stosur 6-1, 6-4. Ram and Krejcikova won the mixed doubles title in Melbourne in 2019. Ram will go for his fourth grand slam doubles title, all in Australia, on Sunday, when he and former Memphis standout Joe Salisbury defend their men's title against Filip Polasek of Slovakia and Ivan Dodig of Croatia.

2018 Kalamazoo 18s champion Jenson Brooksby is into the final of the ATP Challenger 80 in South Africa, after he defeated qualifier Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-5, 6-2. The 20-year-old Californian will face unseeded, but former ATP Top 50 player Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia, who beat No. 4 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. 

The top seeded South African team of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse(Illinois) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Julien Cagnina of Belgium and Zdenek Kolar of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 in the final. 

Wake Forest released a response to the recent Salon article about Sean Hannity and the Wake Forest tennis team, which can be found here.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Eight Intriguing Questions for 2021; Ivy League Cancels Spring Season; Kuzuhara Through to G1 Final; Ram and Salisbury Return to Australian Open Doubles Final; Brooksby Advances to First Challenger Semifinal

It's a month later than usual, and with the pandemic still disrupting everything, it's hard to say what 2021 will bring in the way of tennis competition. But I still managed to come up with my annual Eight Intriguing Questions column for the Tennis Recruiting Network, which gives me the opportunity to look at the big picture, rather than the results of tournaments week to week, and pick out a few issues I think could have a significant impact in the years to come.

I probably could have added several more college tennis questions, including how much disruption we're likely to see during the conference seasons getting underway now. One of the questions hanging over the season was answered yesterday by the Ivy League, which has opted not to offer conference play in spring sports. According to the release:

Due to the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, and in order to maintain compliance both with campus travel, visitor and gathering policies and also with the state guidelines governing each institution, the Ivy League will not conduct conference seasons or conference postseason events in any spring sports.

This means the tennis teams will not be able to participate in the NCAA championships this year; only the Columbia men were in the Top 25 of the ITA preseason rankings, but losing an entire spring season after last season was cut short is a huge blow to all the student-athletes in the conference.

Bruno Kuzuhara has advanced to the final of the Asuncion Bowl, the Grade 1 in Paraguay. It's the second week in a row that the 16-year-old from Florida has reached the championship match in singles. Kuzuhara, the fourth seed, defeated No. 8 seed Joao Victor Couto Loureiro of Brazil 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with another Brazilian, No. 3 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias, in the final. Boscardin Dias defeated unseeded Max Rehberg of Germany 7-5, 0-6, 6-3 in today's semifinal.

The girls final will feature No. 8 seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia against unseeded Solana Sierra of Argentina. 

Valencia Xu won her first Grade 1 title with Annabelle Xu of Canada. The fourth-seeded pair defeated No. 3 seeds Marcinko and Serbia's Lola Radivojevic 4-6, 6-1, 10-3 in today's final.

The boys doubles final featured two unseeded German teams, with Maximilian Homberg and Neo Niedner defeating Rehberg and Filip Florig 6-3, 3-6, 10-8.

Defending champions Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury(Memphis) will go for another Australian Open title Saturday after defeating No. 6 seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil 6-4, 7-6(2). The No. 5 seeds will play No. 9 seeds Filip Polasek of Slovakia and Ivan Dodig of Croatia, who took out No. 2 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the other semifinal. For more on the Ram and Salisbury win Friday, see this article from the ATP.

Before that final on Sunday, Ram will have another opportunity for a grand slam title, as he will play in the mixed final after Saturday's women's final. Ram and Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic will face the wild card team of Samantha Stosur and Matt Ebden, who beat Salisbury and Desirae Krawczyk 7-5, 5-7, 10-8 in the semifinals Friday. 

The women's doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who defeated No. 3 seeds Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's final. 

Jenson Brooksby avenged his first round Challenger loss last weekend to Cem Ilkel of Turkey today in the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger 80 in South Africa, beating the No. 7 seed 6-1, 6-4. The 20-year-old Brooksby, who was playing in his first Challenger quarterfinal today, will meet qualifier Lucas Miedler of Austria for a place in the final. The top half of the draw will feature a semifinal between No. 4 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain and unseeded Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Brady Reaches Australian Open Final; Ojai Tournament Canceled; Brooksby Advances to South Africa Challenger Quarterfinals; North Carolina's Cernoch Heads ITA Men's D-I Indoor All-Tournament Team

Jennifer Brady defeated Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 Thursday at the Australian Open to reach her first grand slam final. The former UCLA Bruin will face Naomi Osaka in for the title, after Osaka defeated Serena Williams 6-3, 6-4 earlier in the day.

Brady, the No. 22 seed, got an early break in the third set and held on, although just barely. She had to save three break points in the 18-point final game, with Muchova, the No. 25 seed, saving four match points before she sent a forehand long on the fifth.

Brady is the first former collegiate woman to advance to a grand slam singles final since 1983, when Kathy Jordan, a former Stanford star, reached the Australian Open final, losing to Martina Navratilova. Kevin Anderson is the only former collegian to reach a slam final this century on the men's side, with the former Illinois All-American advancing to the 2017 US Open final and the 2018 Wimbledon final. 

Another Australian Open finalist who went to college is Rajeev Ram, who advanced to the mixed doubles final with Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic. Ram and partner Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain, the defending men's doubles champions, play their semifinal against Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil Friday(tonight in the US). Salisbury, who is playing mixed doubles with Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State), can advance to the final against Ram and Krejcikova if they defeat wild cards Samantha Stosur and Matt Ebden of Australia later tonight. 

Some of the many trophies usually awarded at The Ojai,
 canceled again this year.

For the second consecutive year, The Ojai Tennis Tournament, one of the most storied tennis tournaments in the country, has been canceled due to the Covid pandemic. The tournament usually takes place at the end of April. From the release:

Ojai Valley Tennis Club President Duane Williamson and Ojai Tennis Tournament Executive Director Katrina Rice Schmidt released a joint statement on the tournament’s cancellation:
“We were busy making plans for a scaled-down version of The Ojai Tennis Tournament with no spectators, but the decision to cancel this year's tournament simply came down to the fact that in this environment we could not ensure the safety of all of the players and coaches, our staff and volunteers, and the greater Ojai Community. We are all very disappointed that we will not be holding this year's event and, yet, at the same time feel it is the correct and responsible decision to make. We are encouraged that as the ongoing vaccination rollout continues, we’ll be able to return to the courts and be back for play in 2022.”
Jenson Brooksby, the 2018 Kalamazoo champion, returned to competition this month after a semester at Baylor last year that was marred by injuries and then the Covid shutdown. He reached the semifinals of a $25K in Italy, lost in the first round of the South African Challenger last week, but has advanced to the quarterfinals of this week's South Africa Challenger 80. The 20-year-old's 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed and ATP 137Benjamin Bonzi of France is his third best by ranking, behind only his win over No. 96 Tomas Berdych at the 2019 US Open and No. 133 Yuichi Sugita in the US Open qualifying that year. Brooksby will play No. 7 seed Cem Ilkel of Turkey Friday, with Ilkel having beaten Brooksby 6-3, 6-4 last week.

On Wednesday, the ITA announced the All-Tournament team for last weekend's Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships, along with the Most Outstanding Player, which was awarded to North Carolina junior Brian Cernoch.

The results that led to the recognition for these players can be found here.

No. 1 singles: Carl Soderlund, Virgina
No. 2 singles: Luca Fomba, TCU
No. 3 singles: Micah Braswell, Texas
No. 4 singles: Brian Cernoch, North Carolina
No. 5 singles: Charlie Broom, Baylor
No. 6 singles: Simon Soendergaard, North Carolina

No. 1 doubles: William Blumberg and Cernoch, North Carolina
No. 2 doubles: Bradley Frye and Stefan Dostanic, USC
No. 3 doubles: Inaki Montes de la Torre and Jeffrey von der Schulenburg, Virginia

Most Outstanding Player: Brian Cernoch, North Carolina. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Kuzuhara, Colak and Blokhina into Paraguay Grade 1 Quarterfinals; Dead Period Extended Again; North Carolina Men and Women Number One in Latest ITA Rankings; Parenting Aces on LSU Mess; Salon Looks at Wake Forest and Hannity

Three of the eight Americans competing this week in the singles draws of the ITF Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay are still alive for a title, with Ozan Colak, Bruno Kuzuhara and Alexis Blokhina winning their second round matches today.

Kuzuhara, the No. 4 seed and a finalist last week at the Ecuador Grade 1, defeated Peter Privara of Slovakia 7-6(5), 6-4 and will take on Mili Poljicak of Croatia in Thursday's quarterfinals. The unseeded Colak, who also reached the quarterfinals in Ecuador, defeated No. 5 seed Marko Topo of Serbia 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and will face No. 3 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brasil next. Unseeded Alexis Blokhina, who beat the top seed on Monday, defeated Tijana Sretenovic of Serbia 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 and will play unseeded Bianca Behulova of Slovakia in the quarterfinals. 

Top seed Dali Blanch and No. 3 Madison Sieg both lost today in straight sets.

The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach is reporting that the NCAA has extended the Division I recruiting dead period from April 15th to May 31st. That means it will have been nearly 15 months since coaches were allowed any in-person contact with prospective student-athletes and since the recruits could make official visits to campus.

The latest Division I rankings are out, with little changing in the women's coaches poll, but a big shuffling occurring in the men's, due to last weekend's ITA Team Indoor results. The USC men dropped from first to eighth after going 0-3 in Champaign, while Illinois jumped from unranked all the way to sixth after beating USC and Virginia.

Both Stanford teams have disappeared from the rankings, with the recent decision made that, since they have not played any matches, they should not be a part of the rankings until they do begin to post results. The rankings page explains that the polls will continue later than usual this year, and expand to 50 teams, while tweaks to the algorithm are considered given the reduced number of matches this year. A release date for the singles and doubles rankings is still unknown at this time.


ITA Division I Women's Team Rankings, 2-17-21
(previous ranking in parentheses)

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Texas(2)
3. UCLA(3)
4. Pepperdine(4)
5. Georgia(5)
6. Florida State(7)
7. Northwestern(8)
8. Ohio State(10)
9. Vanderbilt(15)
10. NC State(12)

ITA Division I Men's Team Rankings, 2-17-21 (last ranking from 2-3-21)

1. North Carolina(2)
2. Baylor(4)
3. Tennessee(10)
4. Virginia(7)
5. TCU(3)
6. Illinois (unranked)
7. Texas(5)
8. USC(1)
9. Ohio State(8)
10. Texas A&M(9)

The competition and excitement of the Team Indoor Championships held earlier this month is the positive side of college tennis, but there are less inspiring stories that also need to be told.

Salon looks at the relationship of Sean Hannity with the Wake Forest men's team, where his son, who is referred to on the roster as Sean Patrick, has been on the team since 2017. Although the article makes it clear that the investigation doesn't approach the Varsity Blues level, it is still a fascinating look at the many ways wealthy parents can influence programs that accept their children.

Lisa Stone at Parenting Aces spoke with the father of Jade Lewis, the former LSU tennis player whose abuse by a football player was not reported as required by Title IX, on her podcast, available at the Parenting Aces website. USA Today reported on this and other issues at LSU in this article back in November.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ansimova, Krueger Top Seeds at $25Ks in Florida; Lilov Beats No. 2 Seed Shang at G1 Asuncion Bowl; Brady Defeats Pegula to Reach Australian Open Semifinals

The first 2021 USTA Pro Circuit event for men and the second for women are underway this week in Florida, with the women in Orlando for a $25,000 tournament and the men in Naples, also for a $25,000 tournament.

A very big name is at the top of the women's draw in Orlando, with WTA No. 31 Amanda Anisimova returning to action in her home state after testing positive for Covid-19 prior to competing in the first tournament of the year in the Middle East. Anisimova, still only 19, accepted a wild card into the event and she will play 16-year-old Robin Montgomery in the first round. The second seed is WTA No. 137 Olga Govortsova of Belarus.

Qualifying was completed today, with five Americans advancing to the main draw: Katrina Scott, Sophie Whittle(Gonzaga), Katie Volynets, Maria Mateas(Duke) and Kayla Day. In addition to Anisimova, wild cards went to Ashlyn Krueger, Sarah Hamner and Emina Bektas(Michigan).

In Naples, Mitchell Krueger is the top seed, with No. 2 seed Noah Rubin(Wake Forest) pulling out at the last minute. Christian Langmo(Miami), Govind Nanda(UCLA) and Aleks Kovacevic(Illinois) are the Americans reaching the main draw via qualifying. Kovacevic played for Illinois in the Team Indoor over the weekend, although he left for the qualifying before Sunday's match with Virginia, which Illinois won 4-3.  

Wild card recipients in Naples are Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M), Fletcher Scott(Illinois), Zane Khan and Brandon Holt(USC).

Last week at the Grade 1 in Ecuador, Victor Lilov drew No. 2 seed Juncheng Shang of China in the first round and lost 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, with Shang going on to win the tournament. This week, at the Grade 1 in Paraguay, they met again in the first round, but this time it was Lilov who came out on top, defeating the No. 2 seed 7-6(3), 6-1. All four of the US boys advanced to the second round, and four of the five US girls moved into the round of 16, with Valencia Xu suffering the only loss.

Serena Williams defeated No. 2 seed Simon Halep 6-3, 6-3 Tuesday to reach the Australian Open semifinals, where she'll play reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka of Japan.

In tonight's all-American quarterfinal Jennifer Brady(UCLA) recovered from a slow start to defeat Jessica Pegula 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 . Brady is known for her ability to consistently hold serve, but Pegula managed to break her four times, including in the first game of the third set. But Pegula's unforced error count began to rise dramatically after that, and Brady found her form, reeling off six straight games to close out the match and book her place in the semifinals against Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. No. 25 seed Muchova, who will be playing in her first slam semifinal, defeated top seed Ashleigh Barty 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Brady, the No. 22 seed, has now reached the semifinals of two of the past three slams.

Defending men's doubles champions Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury(Memphis) advanced to the semifinals Wednesday, with the No. 5 seeds defeating unseeded Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Philipp Oswald of Austria 7-6(6), 6-2. Ram and Salisbury are also both still alive in mixed doubles, with Ram partnering with Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, and Salisbury playing with Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State). Former North Carolina All-American Hayley Carter, who got into mixed doubles as an alternate, is also through to the quarterfinals, partnering with Belgium's Sander Gille(East Tennessee State).

At the WTA 250 Phillips Island Trophy tournament this week in Melbourne, which is being played on the grounds of the Australian Open, Danielle Collins(Virginia) has advanced to the semifinals. The No. 8 seed cruised past No. 16 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-1, 6-2 Wednesday to reach her fifth WTA semifinal (including the 2019 Australian Open), but the two-time NCAA champion is still looking for her first final. She plays unseeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the semifinals.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Nicole Gibbs Announces Retirement; Blokhina Ousts Top Seed as ITF Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl Begins; Lebedev Wins Newport Beach UTR $25K; Dates For 12s, 14s, 16s Easter Bowl Posted


Nicole Gibbs, who turns 28 next month, announced today that she is retiring from the WTA tour. Gibbs, who did not return to tennis after the pandemic shut down the sport last March, explained in this tweet that she is ready to move on to the next phase of her life, with law school this fall expected to be her next step.

 

I've watched Gibbs play more tennis matches than I count, with the first one more than 14 years ago. I watched her win the Easter Bowl 16s as a 14-year-old back in 2007, and although I didn't cover those tournaments personally, followed her as she reached the final of the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in 2010 and 2011, losing to Shelby Rogers and Lauren Davis respectively. Entering Stanford as a 17-year-old, Gibbs went on to win three NCAA titles, capturing both singles and doubles in 2012, her sophomore year, and defending her singles title the following year before leaving Stanford for the WTA tour.

Gibbs broke into the Top 100 in 2014, shortly after I spoke to her at the US Open, where she had reached the third round, for this Tennis Recruiting Network article. She advanced to her WTA career high of 68 in 2016, after making the fourth round at Indian Wells and the third round at Miami that spring. Gibbs wouldn't finish any of the next three years in the Top 100, with the life changes of getting married in November of 2019, the pandemic, and the option to finish her degree, she began to see where life after tennis might take her.

From the beginning of her tennis career, Gibbs was known as a fighter, with her commitment to competition always fierce. Lacking the physical size of many of her opponents, Gibbs made up for it with determination and a willingness to work. Whatever post-tennis career she pursues, I'm confident she'll find a way to maximize those qualities.

The second of the South American Grade 1s is underway in Paraguay, and already the Asuncion Bowl's top girls seed has been eliminated. Alexis Blokhina, a 16-year-old from Florida who did not play last week's Grade 1 in Ecuador, defeated France's Oceane Babel  6-2, 6-2 in today's first round.

The other American girls competing this week are Rebecca Lynn, Ecuador semifinalist Valencia Xu, Ecuador finalist Madison Sieg[3] and qualifier Krystal Blanch. Only four US boys are in the draw: top seed Dali Blanch, Ecuador finalist Bruno Kuzuhara[4], Ozan Colak and Victor Lilov. Kuzuhara has moved into the ITF Top 10 for the first time today thanks to his performance in Ecuador last week.

Last week's UTR Pro Tennis Series tournament for men in Newport Beach California concluded Sunday, with former Notre Dame star Alex Lebedev finishing in first place. No. 2 seed Lebedev, who did not play in the previous UTR $25K events, defeated former Virginia star JC Aragone, the top seed, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the final. Lebedev earns $4000 as the winner and Aragone $2200 as the finalist.

This week's tournament, also a men's $25K event at Newport Beach, has drawn a similar field, although Aragone is not playing it.

A check of the USTA Level 1 Easter Bowl site today produced this clarification of the dates for the 12s, 14s and 16s:

DATES OF PLAY: 
Boys & Girls 12-14's will start on Thursday, March 25th & the finals will be on Tuesday, March 30th. 
Boys & Girls 16's will start on Tuesday, March 30th & the finals will be on Sunday, April 4th.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

North Carolina Claims Men's Division I Team Indoor Title; Williams, Pegula, Brady Through to Australian Open Singles Quarterfinals; Gauff and McNally Reach Doubles Quarterfinals

2021 ITA Men's Team Indoor Champions North Carolina

Last weekend the North Carolina women defended their ITA Women's Team Indoor title, this weekend the North Carolina men joined them, with the second-seeded Tar Heels defeating No. 4 seed Baylor 4-1 Sunday night at the Atkins Tennis Center at the University of Illinois.

North Carolina, who lost to USC in last year's Team Indoor final, got off to a quick start, taking the doubles point with a minimum of fuss with wins at lines 3 and 2. Baylor, whose last appearance in a Team Indoor final was back in 2005, was able to draw even when Charlie Broom blitzed Josh Peck 6-0, 6-3 at line 5, but the Tar Heels ended up taking four first sets in singles, leaving the Bears with an uphill climb.

North Carolina's Benjamin Sigouin, who had struggled in the first two matches of the weekend, got a key point with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Sven Lah at line 5 to make it 2-1. Baylor's Spencer Furman had earned a split at line 6, to give the Bears a glimmer of hope, but they needed another split somewhere. Line 1 looked to be their best hope, with North Carolina's Will Blumberg and Baylor's Adrian Boitan going to a second set tiebreaker, but Blumberg used a couple of deft lobs to open up a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker and kept his focus to close out the match and give his team a 3-1 lead. Rinky Hijikata of North Carolina had earned a split at 2, and Simon Soendergaard and Furman were at 2-2 in third, but the most direct route to the fourth point was at line 4, where Brian Cernoch and Baylor's Nick Stachowiak were at 5-all in the second set. Cernoch held for a 6-5 lead and Stachowiak, a graduate transfer from Duke, faced the pressure of holding serve to keep the dual match going. He earned a game point at 40-30, but Cernoch, who clinched the 4-2 semifinal win over Virginia Saturday, ripped a forehand winner to bring up a deuce point, and after a brief rally Stachowiak made an error to send a host of Carolina blue jerseys running in his direction.

North Carolina won its first Team Indoor in 2016, six months before the fifth-year seniors Blumberg, Peck and Soendergaard joined the team, but after losing in the 2017 NCAA team final and last year's Team Indoor final, they now have their national championship.

ITA Men’s Division Team Indoor Championships
February 14, 2021
Atkins Tennis Center
University of Illinois
Final:

North Carolina[2] 4, v Baylor[4] 1
Singles
1. William Blumberg(UNC) d. Adrian Boitan(BAY) 6-3, 7-6(3) 
2. Rinky Hijikata(UNC) v Matias Soto(BAY) 4-6, 7-5, 0-4 DNF
3. Benjamin Sigouin(UNC) d. Sven Lah(BAY) 6-3, 7-5
4. Brian Cernoch(UNC) v Nick Stachowiak(BAY) 7-6(3), 7-5
5. Charlie Broom(BAY) d. Josh Peck(UNC) 6-0, 6-3 
6. Simon Soendergaard(UNC) v Spencer Furman(BAY) 6-2, 3-6, 3-3 DNF

Doubles
1. Blumberg/Cernoch(UNC) v Lah/Constantin Frantzen(BAY) 5-5 DNF
2. Mac Kiger/Soendergaard(UNC) d. Soto/Broom(BAY) 6-4
3. Sigouin/Hijikata(UNC) d. Stachowiak/Furman(BAY) 6-2

Order of finish: Doubles: 3,2; Singles: 6,3,1,4

Three American women are through to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open with unseeded Jessica Pegula and No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady getting fourth round wins Monday in Melbourne. Pegula has followed up her impressive first round win over Victoria Azarenka with two more victories to get a shot at No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the fourth round. Pegula overcame a shaky second set to earn her first Top 10 win 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and reach her first slam quarterfinal. She will play Brady, who has not lost a set in her four wins, beating No. 28 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 7-5 Monday. Serena Williams beat Aryna Sabalenka in three sets on Sunday; Shelby Rogers plays top seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia later tonight.

Now that the second week is underway in Melbourne, the men's and women's doubles picture is getting clearer, with the quarterfinalists including Coco Gauff and Caty McNally. The American teenagers defeated No. 9 seeds Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) 7-5, 6-3 in Monday's third round action.  Nicole Melichar, playing this slam with Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands, has also advanced to the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seeds defeated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine 6-2, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Gauff and McNally. 

The only American remaining in men's doubles is Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and his partner Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain. The defending Australian Open doubles champions and No. 5 seeds defeated another all-collegiate team, No. 10 seeds Michael Venus(LSU) of New Zealand and John Peers(Baylor) of Australia, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) Monday.

AO schedule for Americans in Sunday's fourth round:

Serena Williams[10] d. Aryna Sabalenka[7](BLR) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

AO results for Americans in Monday's fourth round:

Jessica Pegula d. Elina Svitolina[5](UKR) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Jennifer Brady[22] d. Donna Vekic[28](CRO) 6-1, 7-5

Ashleigh Barty[1](AUS) d. Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4

Daniil Medvedev[4](RUS) d. Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3

Saturday, February 13, 2021

North Carolina Returns to ITA Men's D-I Team Indoor Final; UCLA Alumni Brady and McDonald Reach Fourth Round at Australian Open; Sieg and Kuzuhara Fall in Ecuador Grade 1 Finals

The North Carolina Tar Heels have returned to the final of the ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships, and this time they will have a different opponent.

With the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, No. 2 seed North Carolina was able to return their roster from last year, with exactly the same seven players competing today as last February. There were a few Tar Heels playing in a different spot in the singles lineup in today's match against Virginia, who did not make the 16-team Indoor field last year, and have three freshmen in their top six.

After beating No. 3 seed TCU yesterday 4-3, Virginia had every reason to be confident, and they started well, earning the doubles point with wins at lines 2 and 3. Freshman Jeffrey von der Schulenburg gave the sixth-seeded Cavaliers a 2-0 lead, but the Tar Heels had won four first sets in singles, giving them a path to victory. All four North Carolina players who won the first set ended up taking the match, but Virginia forced third sets in two of those matches, giving spice to the final hour of the contest. In the end, Brian Cernoch clinched the win at line 4, joining Rinky Hijikata, Josh Peck and Simon Soendergaard in contributing points to the Tar Heels' cause. 

The second semifinal between No. 4 seed Baylor and host Illinois, who shocked top seed and defending champion Southern California last night, is unlikely to begin before 9 p.m. EST, so I will post that result much later tonight. UPDATE: Baylor breezed past Illinois 4-0 to reach their first Team Indoor final since winning the title in 2005. The Bears, who have yet to drop a point this weekend, have used their exceptional depth to advance. Sunday's final is again scheduled for 7:30 p.m., but with three consolation matches to be played before the final, it's unlikely to start on time.

ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships
Semifinals
February 13, 2021
University of Illinois Atkins Tennis Center

North Carolina[2] 4, Virginia[6] 2
Singles
1. Carl Soderlund(UVA) v William Blumberg(UNC) 7-5, 6-7(6), 0-1 UNF
2. Rinky Hijikata(UNC) d. Inaki Montes de la Torre(UVA) 6-3, 7-5
3. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg(UVA) d. Benjamin Sigouin(UNC) 6-4, 6-0
4. Brian Cernoch(UNC) d. Ryan Goetz(UVA) 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-2
5. Josh Peck(UNC) d. Chris Roesch(UVA) 6-1, 4-6, 6-4
6. Simon Soendergaard(UNC) d. Gianni Ross(UVA) 6-2, 6-4

Doubles
1. Blumberg/Cernoch(UNC) d. Soderlund/Woodall(UVA) 6-4
2. Goetz/Rodesch(UVA) d. Mac Kiger/Soendergaard(UNC) 6-3
3. Montes de la Torre/von der Schulenburg d. Hijikata/Sigouin 6-4

Order of finish: Doubles: 2,1,3; Singles: 3,6,2,5,4

Baylor[4] 4, Illinois[8] 0
Singles
1. Aleksander Kovacevic(ILL) vs Adrian Boitan(BAY) 3-6, 2-5 DNF
2. Matias Soto(BAY) d. Alex Brown(ILL) 6-2, 6-4
3. Siphosothando Montsi(ILL) vs Sven Lah(BAY) 3-6, 5-5 DNF
4. Zeke Clark(ILL) vs Nick Stachowiak(BAY) 7-6, 1-0 DNF
5. Charlie Broom(BAY) d. Hunter Heck (ILL) 6-0, 6-2
6. Spencer Furman(BAY) d. Kweisi Kenyatta(ILL) 6-1, 6-2

Doubles
1. Montsi/Kenyatta(ILL) vs Lah/Constantin Frantzen(BAY) 3-5 UNF
2. Soto/Broom(BAY) d. Brown/Heck(ILL) 6-4
3. Stachowiak/Furman(BAY) d. Kovacevic/Alex Bancila(ILL) 6-3

Order of finish: Doubles: 2,3 Singles: 5,2,6

Two 25-year-olds who played college tennis at UCLA advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open on Saturday, with Jennifer Brady and Mackenzie McDonald winning their third round matches in straight sets. Brady defeated qualifier Kaja Juvan of Slovenia 6-1, 6-3 and McDonald downed Lloyd Harris of South Africa 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-4. Brady reached the semifinals of the US Open last year and was in the round of 16 at the Australian Open four years ago, so her success isn't unexpected, although she has gone one round beyond expectations of her seed, which is 22.

Mackenzie McDonald at Wimbledon 2018

2016 NCAA singles and doubles champion McDonald reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2018 (I spoke with him after his third round win for this Tennis Recruiting Network article), but a serious injury in 2019 interrupted his rise up the rankings, and he used a protected ranking for entry in Melbourne. Against Harris, McDonald made few unforced errors and was cracking his forehand; Harris doesn't move as well as McDonald and McDonald tested that part of Harris's game with plenty of slices. Joel Drucker wrote this tennis.com account of a match he and McDonald played when McDonald was just 11 years old, with some fascinating observations on McDonald's skill set and court sense even back then.

McDonald will face No. 4 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia in Monday's fourth round, while Brady takes on No. 28 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia.

All four of the Americans who played on Saturday won, with unseeded Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers continuing their outstanding play.

AO results for Americans in Saturday's third round:

Shelby Rogers d. Anett Kontaveit[21](EST) 6-4, 6-3
Jessica Pegula d. Kristina Mladenovic(FRA) 6-2, 6-1
Jennifer Brady[22] d. Kaja Juvan[Q](SLO) 6-1, 6-3
Mackenzie McDonald d. Lloyd Harris(RSA) 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-4

AO result for Americans in Sunday's fourth round:
Serena Williams[10] d. Aryna Sabalenka[7](BLR) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

Both Madison Sieg and Bruno Kuzuhara lost in the finals today at the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador. Sieg, the No. 3 seed, lost to No. 2 seed Natalia Szabanin of Hungary 6-2, 6-1; Kuzuhara, the No. 4 seed, lost to No. 2 seed Juncheng Shang of China 6-2, 1-6, 6-2.

At the ATP Challenger 80 in South Africa, qualifier Nick Chappell's run ended in the semifinals, with the former TCU star falling to No. 2 seed Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-1, 6-2.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Easter Bowl Moving to San Diego; Chappell Reaches First Challenger Semifinal; Kuzuhara and Sieg Advance to Ecuador G1 Final; No. 1 USC, No. 3 TCU Fall at Men's D-I Team Indoor; Five Americans Remain at Australian Open

The USTA officially announced today that the ITF Easter Bowl Grade B1 and the Easter Bowl's 12s, 14s and 16s divisions will be moved from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego. This comes a day after the announcement that the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson, the week prior to the Easter Bowl, would relocate to Barnes this year.  The USTA tournament website for the adidas Easter Bowl gives the dates from Thursday March 25th through Sunday April 4th, but I believe that is tentative. The two youngest age divisions, which are 64-player draws, have been starting on Saturday and going through Thursday, while the 16s, also a 64 draw, have begun on Monday and ended on Saturday, with the ITF concluding on Sunday. As with the ISC, the Easter Bowl ITF will be a 48-player draw this year, due to the ITF's safe play protocols.

 
With so much happening on the junior tennis front here in the US and the Australian Open this week, I haven't been following the ATP Challenger as diligently as usual, but there is one American still in singles in the three tournaments at that level this week, former TCU star Nick Chappell. The 28-year-old won two qualifying matches over seeded players to reach the main draw of the Challenger 80 in South Africa, and, for the first time in his career, advanced to a Challenger quarterfinal with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Hugo Grenier of France. Chappell earned his place in the semifinal with a 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 win today over No. 7 seed Peter Polansky of Canada and will face No. 2 seed Benjamin Bonzi of France Saturday. 

Two Americans will play for the singles championships at the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador Saturday, with No. 4 seed Bruno Kuzuhara and No. 3 seed Madison Sieg earning wins today.  Sieg defeated unseeded compatriot Valencia Xu 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 and Kuzuhara topped qualifier Gonzalo Bueno of Peru 6-0, 6-1. Kuzuhara will play No. 2 seed Juncheng "Jerry" Shang of China for the boys title, while Sieg's opponent is No. 2 seed Natalia Szabanin of Hungary.

Top seeds Dali Blanch and Alexander Bernard won the boys doubles title today, defeating No. 3 seeds Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov 6-4, 6-7(9), 10-2 in the final. Clervie Ngounoue and partner Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland lost in the girls doubles final to No. 3 seeds Anaelle Leclerque of France and Radka Zelnickova of Slovakia 2-6, 6-2, 10-8.

The bottom half semifinal at the ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships will feature ACC rivals No. 2 seed North Carolina and No. 6 seed Virginia after both claimed victories today in the quarterfinals at the Atkins Tennis Center at the University of Illinois.

Virginia, who had earned its spot with an upset of Ohio State in Columbus during the Kickoff Weekend, continued their recent run with a 4-3 come-from-behind win over No. 3 seed TCU. After the Cavaliers dropped the doubles point and three first-sets, the Horned Frogs looked to be in good position, but they couldn't manage another point after taking a 3-1 lead. Virginia freshman Jeffrey von der Schulenburg ended up clinching for Virginia at line 3, but it was Carl Sonderlund who got the key point, rebounding from the loss of the first set against Alastair Gray at line 1.

North Carolina took the doubles point from Tennessee and four first sets in singles, but the Volunteers kept the pressure on until the Tar Heels' Benjamin Sigouin closed out Martim Prata at line 3 for a 4-1 victory.

The live streaming and live scoring are different from last weekend's Women's Team Indoor, although all six courts are available via Playsight without commentary. Mike Cation and Alex Gruskin are providing commentary at the University of Illinois website, and, in an improvement over last week, they are able to cover all six courts, rather than just the top court. Unfortunately, whoever is doing the box scores is not providing the  scores of unfinished matches, which I find extremely annoying. I took a screen shot of the live scoring once the day's second match went final, but I won't always be able to do that, so I apologize for not having that information. If the school websites provide it, I will try to track down and post those unfinished match scores. Tiebreaker scores are not posted regularly either, another disappointment.

No. 4 seed Baylor made short work of Texas, with most of the excitement in the Bears 4-0 win coming in the doubles, which was decided in a tiebreaker, with Nick Stachowiak and Spencer Furman saving a match point in their 7-6(6) win over Micah Braswell and Cleeve Harper at line 3. Baylor will play the winner of tonight's match between top seed and defending champion USC and host Illinois, the No. 8 seed. I will post that result later, with the match starting an hour late at 8:30 EST. UPDATE: Unranked Illinois stunned No. 1-ranked USC 4-1 tonight, taking the doubles point and getting wins at lines 3, 4 and 6. With no fans allowed at Atkins Tennis Center, the atmosphere of a typical Illinois match was missing, but the Illini proved they'll be a contender in the Big Ten this year.

Tomorrow's semifinal between North Carolina and Virginia is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST, while the Baylor match with Illinois winner is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.

Men's ITA Division I Team Indoor
Quarterfinals
February 12, 2021
University of Illinois Atkins Tennis Center

Virginia[6] 4, TCU[3] 3

Singles:
1. Carl Soderlund(UVA) d. Alastair Gray (TCU) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2. Luc Fomba(TCU) d. Inaki Montes(UVA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-0
3. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg (UVA) d. Sander Jong (TCU) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
4. Tomas Jirousek(TCU) d. Ryan Goetz(UVA) 6-1, 7-6(7)
5. Chris Rodesh(UVA) d. Tadeas Paroulek(TCU) 6-0, 6-1
6. Gianni Ross(UVA) d. Juan Martin (TCU) 7-6(5), 1-6, 6-4

Doubles
1. Fomba/Gray (TCU) d. Soderlund/William Woodall(UVA) 6-3
2. Jong/Paroulek (TCU) d. Goetz/Rodesh (UVA) 6-3
3. Bertus Kruger/Jake Fearnley (TCU) vs. Montes/Von der Schulenburg(UVA) 5-4 DNF

Order of finish: Doubles: 1,2; Singles: 5,4,2,1,6,3

North Carolina[2] 4, Tennessee[7] 1
Singles
1. Adam Walton(TENN) vs. William Blumberg (UNC) 6-0, 1-6, 4-1 DNF
2. Johannus Monday(TENN) d. Rinky Hijikata(UNC) 6-4, 6-2
3. Benjamin Sigouin(UNC) d. Martim Prata(TENN) 6-4, 6-4
4. Brian Cernoch(UNC) d. Giles Hussey(TENN) 6-4, 6-4
5. Luca Wiedenmann(TENN) vs. Josh Peck(UNC) 3-6, 6-3 DNF
6. Simon Soendergaard(UNC) d. Pat Harper(TENN) 6-2, 6-3

Doubles
1. Blumberg/Cernoch(UNC) d. Walton/ Harper(TENN) 6-4
2. Mac Kiger/Soendergaard(UNC) d. Monday/Prata(TENN) 7-6
3. Hussey/Mark Wallner(TENN) d. Sigouin/Hijikata(UNC) 6-3

Order of finish: Doubles: 3,1,2; Singles: 2,6,4

Baylor[4] 4, Texas[5] 0
Singles
1. Adrian Boitan(BAY) d. Siem Woldeab(TEX) 6-3, 7-5
2. Matias Soto(BAY) v Eliot Spizzirri(TEX) 7-6, 2-5 DNF
3. Sven Lah(BAY) v Micah Braswell(TEX) 6-2, 2-6, 2-3 DNF
4. Nick Stachowiak(BAY) v Cleeve Harper(TEX) 7-6, 1-2 DNF
5. Charlie Broom(BAY) d. Chih Chi Huang(TEX) 6-3, 6-4
6. Spencer Furman(BAY) d. Evin McDonald(TEX) 6-2, 6-3

Doubles
1. Spizzirri/Woldeab(TEX) d. Lah/Constantin Frantzen 6-4
2. Broom/Soto(BAY) d. Payton Holden/Huang(TEX) 6-4
3. Stachowiak/Furman(BAY) d. Braswell/Harper 7-6(6)

Order of finish: Doubles: 1,2,3; Singles: 6,5,1

Illinois[8] 4, USC[1] 1
Singles
1. Aleksander Kovacevic(ILL) v Daniel Cukierman(USC) 6-4, 2-6, 3-3 UNF
2. Alex Brown(ILL) v Riley Smith(USC) 4-6, 7-6, 2-2 UNF
3. Siphosothando Montsi(ILL) d. Stefan Dostanic(USC) 6-4, 6-3
4. Zeke Clark(ILL) d. Ryder Jackson(USC) 7-5, 7-5
5. Lodewijk Westrate(USC) d. Hunter Heck(ILL) 6-2, 7-6
6. Kweisi Kenyatta(ILL) d. Bradley Frye(USC) 6-4, 6-2

Doubles
1. Montsi/Kenyatta(ILL) d. Cukierman/Smith(USC) 7-5
2. Dostanic/Frye(USC) d. Brown/Heck 6-3
3. Kovacevic/ Alex Bancila(ILL) d. Jackson/Westrate(USC) 6-4

Order of finish: Doubles: 2,3,1; Singles: 6,3,5,4

Five Americans remain alive in single at the Australian Open, with Serena Williams the only one of the three in action Friday to advance to the fourth round. Taylor Fritz gave top seed Novak Djokovic a tough battle before losing in five sets to the defending champion, who suffered an injury during the match. In addition, a snap 5-day lockdown was instituted in Melbourne due to an increase in Covid cases, so fans had to be evacuated from Rod Laver at midnight. No fans will be allowed until Thursday at the earliest.

AO results for Americans in Friday's third round:

Aryna Sabalenka[7](BLR) d. Ann Li 6-3, 6-1
Serena Williams[10] d. Anastasia Potapova(RUS) 7-6(5), 6-2
Novak Djokovic[1](SRB) d. Taylor Fritz[27] 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2

AO results for Americans in Saturday's third round: 

Shelby Rogers d. Anett Kontaveit[21](EST) 6-4, 6-3
Jessica Pegula d. Kristina Mladenovic(FRA) 6-2, 6-1
Jennifer Brady[22] d. Kaja Juvan[Q](SLO) 6-1, 6-3
Mackenzie McDonald d. Lloyd Harris(RSA) 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-4

Thursday, February 11, 2021

ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Moved to San Diego; Kuzuhara, Sieg and Xu Advance to Ecuador Grade 1 Semifinals; Two US Men, Five US Women into Australian Open Third Round

More big news on the United States junior tennis front today, with the confirmation that the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships will take place as scheduled the week of March 22. There are some changes however, starting with the location, which has been in Carson California since the tournament's inception in 2005. Although the ITF calendar still shows the city as Carson, the 2021 tournament will take place at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, home of the USTA Girls 16s and 18s National Championships. As was the case at last year's Orange Bowl, the fields have been reduced from 64 to 48 for both the singles main draw and qualifying and from a 32 to a 24 team doubles draw. Unlike the Orange Bowl, there will be no 16s tournament at the ISC, which had been part of the tournament since the beginning. The deadline for entry is March 2. For more information about the tournament, see the official website.

The Grade B1 Easter Bowl the following week is showing on the ITF junior circuit calendar with a site to be determined, but there is a good chance that will also be at Barnes, although that is not official. When I have more information on that tournament, and the status of younger divisions of the Easter Bowl, I'll certainly pass it along.

The singles semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador features three Americans, with No. 4 seed Bruno Kuzuhara advancing in the boys draw and No. 3 seed Madison Sieg and Valencia Xu meeting for a place in the final.  Kuzuhara defeated Ozan Colak 6-3, 6-2, while Xu followed up her second round win over top seed Oceane Babel of France with a 6-3, 6-4 decision over unseeded Lola Radivojevic of Serbia. Sieg defeated unseeded Laia Petretic of France 6-4. 6-2. 

The boys doubles title will go to an American team, with top seeds Dali Blanch and Alexander Bernard taking on No. 3 seeds Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov in the final. In the girls doubles final, unseeded Clervie Ngounoue and her partner Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland will face No. 3 seeds Anaelle Leclercq of France and Radka Zelnickova of Slovakia.

Seven of the 26 Americans who started the Australian Open are still alive, but not 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, who lost to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 6-2. Mackenzie McDonald, the 2016 NCAA singles champion at UCLA, took out No. 22 seed Borna Coric of Croatia 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the third round of a slam for the second time. If you need a refresher on the injuries that forced McDonald to use a protected ranking for entry in this event, see this article from tennis.com.

AO results for Americans in Friday's third round:

Aryna Sabalenka[7](BLR) d. Ann Li 6-3, 6-1 

Serena Williams[10] d. Anastasia Potapova(RUS) 7-6(5), 6-2

Novak Djokovic[1](SRB) d. Taylor Fritz[27] 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2

AO results for Americans in Thursday's second round:

Karolina Pliskova[6](CZE) d. Danielle Collins 7-5, 6-2

Kaia Kanepi(EST) d. Sofia Kenin[4] 6-3, 6-2 

Elina Svitolina[5](UKR) d. Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-3 

Jessica Pegula d. Samantha Stosur[WC](AUS) 6-0, 6-1

Jennifer Brady[22] d. Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-2

Shelby Rogers d. Olga Danilovic[Q](SRB) 6-2, 6-3

Rafael Nadal[2](ESP) d. Michael Mmoh[Q] 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 

Mackenzie McDonald d. Borna Coric[22](CRO) 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4

Casper Ruud[24](NOR) d. Tommy Paul 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5