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:

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.