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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.


fan said...

How about Stanford women, they just canceled home match against SMC, doesn't look good at all. If then can't make NCAA surely it'll be a huge boon especially for UNC, who always lost to the Cards in the NCAA after 2014 semi? win.