Thursday, March 4, 2021

Kuzuhara Falls in Grade A Banana Bowl Semifinals; Top Seed Kiick Ousted at Newport Beach $25K; Pegula Reaches Semifinals in Doha; Paul Advances to Quarterfinals in Rotterdam

The singles finals are set for the ITF Grade A Banana Bowl in Brazil, after three days of furious action, with a couple of new faces emerging.

With three rounds of qualifying and five rounds of main draw singles matches and four round of doubles matches squeezed into five days due to Covid restrictions, it would seem unlikely that a qualifier would advance to the final, but that's exactly what happened in the boys draw, with 17-year-old Miguel Gomes of Portugal a surprise finalist. Gomes defeated No. 4 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil 6-4, 2-6, 14-12, demonstrating just how small the margins can be when short scoring is used.  Gomes will play No. 2 seed Juncheng Shang of China, who defeated No. 3 seed Bruno Kuzuhara, the only American to reach the semifinals, 6-4, 4-6, 10-5. Shang had beaten No. 5 seed Alexander Bernard 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Qualifier Clervie Ngounoue lost to No. 2 seed Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, but has advanced to the doubles semifinals with Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland.

The girls final will feature unseeded Bianca Behulova of Slovakia against No. 3 seed Oceane Babel of France. In the semifinals, Behulova defeated Shnaider 6-3, 3-6, 10-4, the third match this week she has won in a match tiebreaker. Babel defeated unseeded Michaela Laki of Greece 6-7(6), 6-3, 11-9 in the semifinals. 

In the boys doubles, top seeds Dali Blanch and Bernard are through to Friday's semifinals as are unseeded Jack Anthrop and Aidan Kim.

The first round of the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Newport Beach California is finally complete, after rain washed out most of the action on Wednesday.  Top seed Allie Kiick was eliminated by qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 7-5, 6-0. Haddad Maia is a former WTA Top 60 player who is coming back after a 2019 performance enhancing drug suspension. The only Americans to advance to the second round are No. 5 seed Claire Liu, who beat qualifier Emiliana Arango of Colombia 3-6, 6-4, 6-1; No. 7 seed Danielle Lao(USC), who beat qualifier Panna Udvardy of Hungary 6-0, 6-4 and Hanna Chang, who beat Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 6-3, 6-4.  Chang and Lao will meet in the second round.  Two rounds of singles are scheduled for Friday.

In WTA and ATP action, two Americans are still alive for titles, with Jessica Pegula reaching the semifinals of the WTA 500 in Doha Qatar and Tommy Paul reaching the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 in Rotterdam Netherlands.  Pegula defeated No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-1 in today's quarterfinals and will play No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic next. Paul took out Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1 in today's round of 16 match, and will meet qualifier Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in Friday's quarterfinals.