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.