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Friday, April 30, 2021

April Aces; NCAA Tickets Go On Sale; Evans and Perego Win J4 Delray Beach Singles Titles; Liu and Vickery to Meet in Charlottesville $60K Semifinal; List of Seeds for USTA Level 1s Beginning Saturday

My monthly column for Tennis Recruiting Network is up today, with 16 of April's top performances. It includes all eight Easter Bowl singles champions, in case you missed that coverage earlier, and significant milestones for many former college players. In May, current college players will step into the spotlight.

If you want to see some of those players in person, the USTA National Campus has announced that tickets are available for the NCAA team and individual championships, beginning with the team round of 16 matches May 16 and extending through the singles and doubles finals May 28th. The NCAA is allowing 50% capacity for spring championships this year due to the pandemic. Tickets can be purchased here.

Qualifier Tatum Evans and No. 3 seed Giulio Perego of Italy won the singles titles at the J4 in Delray Beach. Evans, who won eight matches over the course of the past seven days, all in straight sets, defeated No. 8 seed Sonya Macavei 6-3, 7-6(5) in today's final for her first ITF Junior Circuit title. Perego, who has signed with Texas A&M for this fall, defeated No. 5 seed Jayden Templeman of Canada 6-1, 6-4 for his third ITF Junior Circuit singles title.

Samir Banerjee is through to the semifinals at the only J1 this week, in the Czech Republic.

The semifinals are set at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit women's tournament in Charlottesville Virginia, with Claire Liu and Sachia Vickery meeting Saturday for a place in the final. Liu advanced when No. 7 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain gave her a walkover, while Vickery beat Allie Kiick 6-3, 7-5. The other semifinal will feature qualifier Katie Boulter, who beat wild card Alycia Parks 6-2, 6-3, against No. 6 seed Xinyu Wang of China.

The level 1 Sectional invitational tournaments the USTA added this spring begin tomorrow in eight locations across the country. Below is a list of the top eight seeds in each division. Click on the heading to see the draws.

B12s (Austin TX):
1. Trenton Kanchanakomtorn
2. Jack Secord
3. Liam Alvarez
4. Navneet Raghurman
5. Elliott Awomoyi
6. Izyan Ahmad
7. Colin McPeek
8. Drew Hassenbein

G12s (Virginia Beach VA):
1. Thea Frodin
2. Ciara Harding
3. Sena Yoon
4. Isabelle DeLuccia
5. Nancy Lee
6. Ana Avramovic
7. Maria Aytoyan
8. Filipa Delgado

B14s (Cary NC)
1. A Filer
2. Braeden Gelletich
3. Nicolas Iantosca
4. Jimin Jung
5. Evan Sharygin
6. Dominick Mosejczuk
7. Nicholas Patrick
8. Calvin Baierl

G14s (Tucson AZ)
1. Iva Jovic
2. Sydney Jara
3. Elena Zhao
4. Aspen Schuman
5. Addison Bowman
6. Claire Hill
7. Lauren Zhang
8. Capucine Jauffret

B16s (San Diego CA)
1. Landon Ardila
2. Quang Duong
3. Stephan Gershfeld
4. Creed Skinner
5. Dylan Tsoi
6. Mikkel Zinder
7. Cyrus Mahjoob
8. Xavier Calvelo

G16s (Tulsa OK)
1. Amber Yin
2. Audrey Spencer
3. Arina Oreshchenkova
4. Brooke Lynn Schafer
5. Tola Glowacka
6. Kinaa Graham
7. Diya Challa
8. Clara Zou

B18s (Indianapolis IN)
1. Alejandro Moreno
2. Nicholas Heng
3. Aadarsh Tripathi
4. Bjorn Swenson
5. Rohan Sachdev
6. Eric Li
7. Joshua Portnoy
8. Chad Miller

G18s (Mobile AL)
1. Kaitlyn Carnicella
2. Amelia Honer
3. Akari Matsuno
4. Theadora Rabman
5. Helen Sarikulaya
6. Natalie Stasny
7. Reya Coe
8. Bayley Sheinin

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Conference Awards for ACC, SEC Women, Big Ten Men; Evans and Macavei Advance to Delray J4 Singles Final; Five Americans Reach Charlottesville $60K Quarterfinals

The Division I conference regular season is over and several of the Power 5 conferences released their award winners and all-conference teams this week. The ACC has announced for both its men's and women's programs, while the Big Ten has announced for its men and the SEC for its women. Below are the award winners, click on the heading for the all-tournament teams.

Big Ten
Athlete of the Year: Cannon Kingsley, Ohio State
Freshman of the Year: JJ Tracy, Ohio State
Coach of the Year: Adam Steinberg, Michigan

Player of the Year: Katarina Jokic, Georgia
Newcomer of the Year: Lea Ma, Georgia
Freshman of the Year: Indianna Spink, Arkansas
Coach of the Year: Jeff Wallace

Tennis Player of the Year: Carl Soderlund, Virginia
Freshman of the Year: Henri Squire, Wake Forest
Coach of the Year: Andres Pedroso, Virginia

Tennis Player of the Year: Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Emma Navarro, Virginia
Coach of the Year: Brian Kalbas, North Carolina

The singles finals at the ITF J4 in Delray Beach Florida are set for Friday, with an all-US girls final. Qualifier Tatum Evans, the 16s Easter Bowl finalist, will face No. 8 seed Sonya Macavei for the title. Evans, who has yet to drop a set in her seven matches, defeated wild card Victoria Osuigwe, Whitney's sister, 6-0, 6-1, while Macavei downed No. 7 seed Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-1. 

The boys singles final will feature No. 3 seed Giulio Perego of Italy, a Texas A&M recruit, and No. 5 seed Jayden Templeman of Canada, a Columbia recruit. Perego defeated top seed Aidan Kim 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-1 in today's semifinals, with Templeman beating qualifier Sean Daryabeigi 6-2, 6-2.

In the doubles finals today, No. 2 seeds Nicholas Godsick and Bolivia's Juan Carlos Prado Angelo defeated No. 3 seeds Nathan Cox and Sebastian Gorzny 7-5, 6-4 for the boys title. No. 4 seeds Emma Charney and Elisabeth Jones won the girls title, beating unseeded Jaquelyn Ogunwale of Great Britain and Martyna Ostrzygalo of Canada 7-6(1), 6-4. 

Five Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals of the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Charlottesville Virginia with Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery set to face off in the top quarter. Claire Liu, who beat No. 4 seed Irina Bara of Romania 6-2, 6-0 today, will play No. 7 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain.

In the bottom half, wild card Alycia Parks takes on qualifier Katie Boulter of Great Britain, and No. 6 seed Xinyu Wang of China will face Hailey Baptiste. Baptiste defeated No. 2 seed Mayar Sherif(Pepperdine) 6-3, 7-6(4) in today's second round action. Baptiste, who won her first WTA doubles title earlier this month with Caty McNally, is into the doubles semifinals this week with Whitney Osuigwe.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Junior Davis and Billie Jean King Cups Move to Turkey; Baylor Men Take Top Spot in ITA Rankings, Big Ten Continues to Lag; UCLA's Keegan Smith Seriously Injured

The International Tennis Federation announced today that the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Billie Jean King Cup, the international team competitions for players 16-and-under, will be played September 28-October 3 in Antalya Turkey.

The USTA had a three-year agreement to host, from 2019-2021, but after hosting in 2019, and last year's cancellation, the USTA was not interested in having the competition this year, given the extra expense involved with Covid protocols. I know just getting visas for some players was an arduous task in 2019, so adding more complications with the various pandemic restrictions was probably not appealing, nor was the cost of having the event.

The ITF's announcement says the regional competitions that serve to qualify teams will take place in the next several months; the North and Central American qualifying is usually around now, but I assume those will be later this summer. There has been no word on the status of the ITF's 14-and-under World Junior Tennis team competition that takes place in August in the Czech Republic.

What I believe are the final published ITA Division I rankings were released today, and at least in the computer and coaches poll, a consensus is beginning to form. Baylor has taken over from Florida as No. 1 in the men's rankings, after Baylor crushed Texas in the Big 12 final and former No. 1 Florida lost to Tennessee in the SEC final.

That consensus does not extend to the USTA poll, which has Virginia, No. 5 in the ITA polls, as the top-ranked men's team. All three polls for the women have North Carolina as No. 1, followed by Texas and Georgia. 

The NCAA committee has recently said it will not be following the ITA rankings as closely as usual, and in the list of the Top 20 teams below, I've made a note of the teams that have been approved as regional hosts. With the approval of 20 teams, four will be dropped and we won't know which ones until the selections announcement Monday. The Big Ten, which is playing its conference tournaments this week, has been approved for six hosts, but as of now, just one of the six teams are in the Top 16, the Ohio State women, who are 16th. Suffice it to say that the Michigan men will need a good showing at the conference tournament to enhance their chances for selection as they are ranked 44 right now.

CollegeTennisRanks has projections for the Division I men available here.

Division I Men's Team 4/28/21

1. Baylor*
2. Florida*
3. Tennessee*
4. Texas*
5. Virginia*
6. North Carolina*
7. TCU*
8. Texas A&M*
9. Central Florida*
10. Georgia*
11. Wake Forest*
12. South Carolina*
13. Southern California*
14. Mississippi*
15. Kentucky*
16. Mississippi State
17. Illinois*
18. Oklahoma State
19. Arizona
20. Arizona State

Texas Tech*[26]
Ohio State*[28]

*in running for hosting NCAA regional

Coaches Poll men:
1. Baylor
2. Florida
3. Tennessee
4. Texas
5. Virginia
6. North Carolina
7. TCU
8. Texas A&M
9. Central Florida
10. Wake Forest
11. Georgia
12. USC
T13. Illinois
T13. South Carolina
15. Kentucky
16. Mississippi
17. Ohio State
18. Mississippi State
19. Arizona
20. Stanford

Division I Women's Team 4/28/21
1. North Carolina*
2. Texas*
3. Georgia*
4. Pepperdine*
5. UCLA*
6. Florida State*
7. NC State*
8. Central Florida*
9. Baylor*
10. Texas A&M
11. Virginia*
12. Georgia Tech*
13. Florida*
14. LSU*
15. Tennessee*
16. Ohio State*
17. Northwestern*
18. Duke*
19. Auburn
20. Miami


*in running for hosting NCAA regional

Coaches Poll women:
1. North Carolina
2. Texas
3. Georgia
4. Pepperdine
6. NC State
7. Florida State
8. Baylor
9. Central Florida
10. Texas A&M
T11. Virginia
T11. Georgia Tech
13. Ohio State
14. LSU
15. Florida
16. Tennessee
17. Cal
18. Michigan
19. Northwestern
20. Duke

The individual rankings show a new No. 1 for the women, 2019 NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami. The top 10 in the singles rankings demonstrate the problem with limited fall and out-of-conference play this season, with eight of the top 10 men from the SEC and seven of the top 10 women from the ACC. Playing and beating each other means everyone gets highly-ranked wins, making it hard for others outside the conference to break into this self-fulfilling cycle.

Men's singles top 10, April 28, 2021

1. Liam Draxl, Kentucky
2. Daniel Rodrigues, South Carolina
3. Hady Habib, Texas A&M
4. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
5. Duarte Vale, Florida
6. Carl Soderlund, Virginia
7. Sam Riffice, Florida
8. Johannus Monday, Tennessee
9. Adam Walton, Tennessee
10. Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida

Women's singles top 10, April 28, 2021

1. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
2. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
3. Emma Navarro, Virginia
4. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
5. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
6. Anna Rogers, NC State
7. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
8. Natasha Subhash, Virginia
9. McCartney Kessler, Florida
10. Isabella Pfennig, Miami

The full list for men is here and women is here. Men's doubles is here and women's doubles is here.

Keegan Smith, the 2019 NCAA doubles champion and a senior at UCLA, was involved in a serious skateboarding accident on April 14th, when he struck a car and suffered a head injury that put him in the hospital for a week or more. I don't know much more about the accident than what he posted on Instagram recently (keegan_smith23), but I do know everyone in the tennis community wishes him a speedy recovery and an opportunity to excel on the tennis court again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Roland Garros Junior Acceptances; Change in Wimbledon Schedule for Junior Championships; Cal Women, USC Men Claim Pac-12 Titles; Charlottesville $60K Underway

photo via Armand Khoury at unsplash

The acceptances were posted today for the French Open Junior Championships, scheduled for June 6-12 in Paris, with nine US boys and eight US girls earning main draw entry.

For the second French Open Juniors in a row, there will be no qualifying, so the cutoffs are lower than usual, 62 for both boys and girls.

But the fields are excellent, with 8 of the top 10 entering for the girls and 7 of the top 10 boys entering.  

ITF No. 1 Elsa Jacquemot of France, the reigning French Open girls champion is not among the girls entrants, nor is No. 10 Alexandra Yepifanova. But other than those two, the top 52 girls in the rankings have all entered, including eight American girls: Robin Montgomery, who did not play the French last October, Madison Sieg, Elvina Kalieva, Ellie Coleman, Ashlyn Krueger, Reese Brantmeier, Valencia Xu and Alexis Blokhina.

2020 Australian Open girls champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, No. 2 in the rankings, leads the field. Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, currently No. 13 in the junior rankings, will be one of the favorites, as will Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, current No. 3 in the rankings.

Easter Bowl champion Junchen Shang of China leads the boys field, which includes these nine Americans: Bruno Kuzuhara, Dali Blanch, Alexander Bernard, Jack Anthrop, Ozan Colak, Samir Banerjee, Aidan Mayo, Victor Lilov and Ethan Quinn.

Braden Shick is just two out of the main draw, and Benjamin Kittay is four out, so they will be watching the withdrawals closely in the next few weeks.

Wimbledon had its spring press conference today, with the pandemic restrictions for this year's event one of the main topics, of course. The elimination of the middle Sunday day of rest, beginning in 2022, garnered much of the attention, but of particular interest to me is the start date of the Junior Championships. Ever since I can remember, the juniors started on the first Saturday of the tournament, but this year the juniors are not scheduled to start until Monday, which will make any rain the second week that much more problematic. I assume this is just for 2021, but the fact sheet has not yet been posted on the ITF junior site.

Key dates for this year's Wimbledon are below:

The Pac-12 conference tournament concluded late last night and early this morning, with the Cal women and the USC men earning titles. Cal, the No. 3 seed, defeated top seed UCLA 4-2 to earn its first tournament title (A conference team tournament has been played only since 2016, Stanford winning the previous four). The third-seeded USC men, no strangers to conference tournament titles, won their fifth, defeating No. 5 seed Arizona State 4-1.

Eight conferences will complete their tournaments this week, including the Big Ten. See College Tennis Today for all the Division I conference results for both men and women.

After two straight weeks of the USTA Pro Circuit focusing on the men, the women take center stage this week with the $60,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in Charlottesville Virginia. Top seed Madison Brengle has already exited in the first round, retiring when trailing Arina Rodionova of Australia 7-5, 4-6, 6-5. Former Pepperdine star Mayar Sherif of Egypt, the No. 2 seed, defeated wild card Emma Navarro(Virginia) 6-4, 6-1. Four Americans qualified for the main draw: Grace Min, Maria Mateas(Duke), Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) and Hanna Chang. In addition to Navarro, wild cards went to Alycia Parks and Katie Volynets. Volynets defeated Danielle Lao(USC) 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 in a nearly three-hour first round match.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Baylor Men Blank Texas for Big 12 Conference Tournament Title; Rain Pushes Pac-12 Finals Late into Monday Night; NCAA D-I Tennis Committee Addresses Selection Challenges; Easter Bowl 16s Videos

Just 11 days ago, in regular season conference play, Texas went to Waco and defeated the Bears 5-2. It appears that loss motivated Baylor in today's Big 12 conference tournament men's final, with the Bears sweeping Texas 4-0 at the Hurd Tennis Center. Baylor won the doubles point and took three straight-sets victories at lines 1, 2 and 5. Adrian Boitan, who played at line 1, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. 

Rain throughout the day in San Diego delayed the start of the Pac-12 finals, with UCLA and Cal beginning the women's final at 6:30 p.m EDT, rather than 3:00 p.m. EDT schedule. The rain resulted in the cancellation of the other consolation matches scheduled for today. The Pac-12 had decided to give teams extra matches throughout the weekend in hopes of increasing their chances for NCAA selection, but the third of the three matches teams expected to play weren't possible due for those who had losses over the weekend. 

Speaking of NCAA selection chances, the Division I Tennis Committee sent out a memo today that addressed the problems  with the current rankings. Rather than try to paraphrase it, I'll just provide the body of the memo for those interested in how the committee plans to make its team and individual selections. 

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee continues to prepare for the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships with the goal of selecting the best teams and individuals to participate in the championships. To that end, we want to provide as much information as possible regarding the process by which teams and individuals will be considered.

Due to very limited fall competition in singles and doubles and limited numbers of non-conference matches played this year, the ITA has acknowledged, and the tennis committee has agreed, that the statistical value of the ITA computer ranking is not reliable on a national level.

These rankings dovetail with the committee’s selection criteria and are based on win/loss record, strength of schedule, common opponents, significant wins and significant losses. While the rankings may be less accurate, the tennis committee recognizes that the individual data points themselves are still important elements in the evaluative process.

As a result, and in concurrence with the NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee, the tennis committee will use the following to assist with its goal of selecting the most qualified student-athletes for the NCAA championships:

  1. Use the same foundational criteria (head-to-head, win/loss record, strength of schedule, common opponents, significant wins, and eligibility and availability of student-athletes); however, be able to identify those teams (and individuals) who might be adversely impacted by the lack of non-conference scheduling and therefore under ranked and place them within a recommended range and evaluate them individually against the other teams (or individuals) within that range to ensure they are placed in the appropriate position within the bracket.

  2. Continue to use the ITA computer rankings but weight the rankings less than in a traditional year.

  3. Monitor conferences through committee members.

  4. Review conference ranking of teams, singles and doubles players provided by each conference.

  5. Review past brackets for informational purposes.

The committee continues to work toward the goal of selecting the best teams and individuals to participate in the championships while providing those individuals with memorable championships experiences. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters and wish you continued good health, safety and competitive success in the balance of the regular season.

The last of the Easter Bowl videos are now available at the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel. Below are videos of 16s champions Theadora Rabman and Alexander Razeghi, followed by videos of finalists Tatum Evans and Learner Tien. 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Brooksby Wins Third Challenger Title in Tallahassee; North Carolina Women and Virginia Men Claim ACC Conference Championships; Texas Women Capture Big 12 Title

Jenson Brooksby, photo courtesy Tallahassee Challenger

Last week at the Orlando Challenger, on hard courts, 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby won the title without dropping a set. This week, on the green clay in Tallahassee, the 2018 Kalamazoo 18s champion only won one match in straight sets, but he now has his third Challenger title, all since February, with today's 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over Bjorn Fratangelo.

Fratangelo was the last player to beat Brooksby in a main draw on the professional circuit (Brooksby lost to Thomas Fabbiano of Italy in the second round of Miami Open qualifying shortly after that loss to Fratangelo), and clay is not Brooksby's best surface, but his competitive instincts(he saved 16 of 19 break points) kept him in every match. He now is 19-2 in Challenger play in 2021, after being out most of 2020 due to the pandemic and an injury, and with three Challenger titles in the first four months of the year, he is off to the best start to a year on the ATP Challenger Circuit since Kei Nishikori went 19-2 through August of 2010, according to the ATP.

Brooksby, who was on the Baylor team in the spring of 2020, but did not play a match for the Bears, is up to an ATP career-high of 166.

The top-seeded Brazilian team of Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos won the doubles title today, beating wild cards Sekou Bangoura(Florida) and Donald Young 7-6(2), 6-2 in the final.

The ACC conference championships concluded today in Rome Georgia, with the top seeds claiming both titles. Top seed North Carolina won its fifth straight conference tournament title, beating No. 6 seed Georgia Tech 4-1.  Virginia, the top seed in the men's tournament, had a much tougher time with the third-seeded North Carolina men, taking a 4-3 decision, although all matches were decided in straight sets. Freshman IƱaki Montes earned the fourth point for the Cavaliers with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Simon Soendergaard. Neither Will Blumberg nor Rinky Hijakata played singles today for the Tar Heels.

The women's Big 12 title went to the third-ranked Texas Longhorns, who defeated Baylor 4-0 today in Waco. Texas is now 25-1 on the season, with the only loss by a 4-3 score to North Carolina in the Team Indoor final. Freshman Kylie Collins was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The men's Big 12 title will be decided on Monday, also in Waco, with top seed Texas taking on No. 2 seed Baylor. Texas downed No. 4 seed Oklahoma State 4-1, while Baylor had to battle past No. 3 seed TCU 4-3, with Spencer Furman clinching for the Bears at line 6.  Baylor won the first two meetings this year with the Longhorns, but Texas won 5-2 ten days ago in Waco.

The Pac-12 women's championship is set, and for the first time since 2016, when the women began playing a conference team tournament, Stanford will not be in it. The No. 2 seeded Cardinal lost to No. 3 seed Cal 4-1 to end Stanford's string of four consecutive titles.  Cal will play top seed UCLA, who beat No. 4 seed Arizona State 4-2.

The men's Pac-12 championship match Monday will feature No. 3 seed Southern California against No. 5 seed Arizona State. USC defeated No. 2 seed Arizona 4-1, while Arizona State toppled No. 1 seed Stanford 4-3 in a match that just ended, with freshman Max McKennon saving two match points in the decider against Timothy Sah at line 5 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(8). 

The Big Ten conference championships begin Wednesday for the women and Thursday for the men.

See College Tennis Today for the results of all the conference championships.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Brooksby and Fratangelo Advance to Tallahassee Challenger Final; Shick Wins J3 in Costa Rica, Bigun Earns First Title in Cancun; ACC Finals Feature Both UNC Teams

The last player to defeat Jenson Brooksby, who has now won nine straight matches at the Challenger level, is Bjorn Fratangelo, who beat the 20-year-old Californian in the final of the Cleveland Challenger back in March. Brooksby earned an opportunity to avenge that loss today at the ATP Challenger 80 in Tallahassee, when he defeated Facundo Mena of Argentina in a rain-delayed semifinal 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Fratangelo, who, like Brooksby is unseeded, downed No. 2 seed Denis Kudla 7-6(2), 6-2, to prevent a repeat of last week's Orlando Challenger final.  

A free live stream of the final is available here, after the noon doubles final, featuring the wild card team of Donald Young and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) against the top-seeded Brazilian team of Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos.

North Carolina State redshirt freshman Braden Shick reached the final of the ITF J3 in Costa Rica last week and this week at another J3 in Costa Rica he collected the title, his second singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit. The fourth-seeded Shick, 17, defeated top seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 6-1, 6-4 in the final, after winning his previous four matches in straight sets as well. 

Unseeded Mia Kupres of Canada won the girls singles title, beating Victoria Mboko, also of Canada, 6-3, 7-6(2) in the final.

At this week's J4 in Cancun, Meecah Bigun won his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the unseeded 14-year-old defeating top seed Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  Unseeded Marcela Lopez reached the girls singles final, falling to No. 4 seed Cadence Brace of Canada 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(5).

The finals of the ACC tournament are set after a long day indoors at the site of the men's and women's conference championships in Rome Georgia. Top seed and ITA No. 1 North Carolina reached the women's final with a 4-1 win over No. 4 seed Virginia. The No. 1 and No. 2 women in the ITA rankings faced off at line 1, but Sara Daavettila and Emma Navarro did not finish their match, with Navarro leading 5-4 in the third set.  The Tar Heels will face No. 6 seed Georgia Tech, who beat No. 7 seed Miami 4-3. Mahak Jain clinched for the trip to the final for Tech with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win at line 5.

Top seed Virginia shut out No. 4 seed North Carolina State in the men's semifinal, but in the second semifinal, the battle between No. 3 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Wake Forest couldn't have been closer. With the Tar Heels trailing 3-2, UNC's Josh Peck and Rinky Hijkata both saved dual match points in their respective wins, with Hijakta defeating Henri Squire 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(6) at line 1 to keep the Tar Heels alive, and Peck then coming through with the fourth point at line 4, beating Rrezart Cungu 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(8). For a recap of the match, see the North Carolina website.

For more on all this weekend's conference tournaments, see CollegeTennisToday.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Georgia Women, Tennessee Men Win SEC Tournament Titles; Upsets in ACC Tournament; Brooksby, Fratangelo and Kudla Reach Tallahassee Challenger Semifinals; Brittany Collens Calls Out NCAA

The men's and women's finals today at the SEC Conference Championships were markedly different, with the top-seeded Georgia women adding the tournament title to their regular season championship with a 4-0 win over No. 3 seed Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa. Senior Morgan Coppoc was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

Like the Georgia women, the top-seeded Florida men had gone through the SEC regular season undefeated, but they had much tougher quarterfinal and semifinal matches, beating Mississippi State 4-2 and Texas A&M 4-3. Against No. 2 seed Tennessee, the nation's top-ranked team was not able to duplicate their regular season victory over the Volunteers, with Tennessee posting a 4-3 win today in Fayetteville. The Gators lost the doubles point for the third straight match, and this time they weren't able to overcome that, with Tennessee jumping out to a 3-0 lead and holding on. Martim Prata defeated Andy Andrade 7-6(3), 2-6, 7-5 at line 3 to clinch Tennessee's fourth conference tournament title and first since 2010. 

Two Top 10 teams lost in today's ACC women's quarterfinals, with No. 4 NC State dropping a 4-3 decision to No. 16 Georgia Tech(Tech clinched at 4-2, but the final match was played out), and No. 6 Florida State losing to No. 24 Miami 4-1 in Atlanta. No. 6 seed Georgia Tech will play No. 7 seed Miami in the semifinals, with No. 1 seed North Carolina facing No. 4 seed Virginia in the top half. Those matches have been moved indoors at the Rome Tennis Center due to rain in the forecast for Saturday.

In the men's ACC quarterfinals, also in Rome, top-seeded Virginia squeezed past Georgia Tech 4-3, while No. 4 seed NC State defeated No. 12 seed Florida State 4-1. No. 3 seed North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech 4-2. No. 2 seed Wake Forest was up 2-0 on No. 7 seed Duke, with the match still going at 10 p.m.

The semifinals at the ATP Challenger 80 in Tallahassee will feature three Americans, with Jenson Brooksby, Bjorn Fratangelo and No. 2 seed Denis Kudla earning wins in today's quarterfinals. 

In another Tallahassee battle between former Kalamazoo champions, 2018 National 18s champion Brooksby defeated 2016 National 18s champion Michael Mmoh, the No. 8 seed, 1-6, 6-1, 4-1 ret.  Brooksby, who now has won his last eight Challenger matches and is 17-2 in Challenger competition this year, will face unseeded Facundo Mena of Argentina, who beat former Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 6-1, 7-6(3).  

Fratangelo defeated Thai Kwiatkowski 7-5, 6-4 while Kudla again had a fraught three-setter, defeating qualifier Filip Jianu of Romania 7-6(8), 3-6, 7-5. Fratangelo and Kudla have split their two previous meetings, but haven't faced off since 2017.

Brittany Collens, who played on the University of Massachusetts team that had its wins vacated by the NCAA for a trivial administrative error, wrote an article for The Players Tribune that describes just how petty and lacking in common sense the enforcement arm of the organization can be. Losing the trust of the institutions that provide it with its reason for existing is a death knell for an organization. Now that athletes are more willing to speak out when they encounter these issues, the NCAA must realize that the power they once held is eroding fast, and their decisions in this case are just one of the many reasons why.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

San Diego J1 Photo Gallery; Easter Bowl 14s Videos; SEC Tournament Finals Feature Top-Seeded Georgia Women and Florida Men; Quarterfinals Set at Tallahassee Challenger

Another photographer provided Tennis Recruiting Network with an Easter Bowl photo gallery last week, so my photos from San Diego feature the quarterfinalists of the J1 tournament held the week prior at the Barnes Tennis Center. After being unable to add to my photo library for a year, it was great to have the opportunity to do that again.

The videos for the 14s Easter Bowl finalists are below, with the champions first, followed by the finalists. That leaves the 16s as the last group, and those will be posted in the next few days. For the ITF, 12s and 14s, and the IOSC videos, see the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel

The SEC conference tournament concludes on Friday, with top seed Georgia taking on No. 3 seed Texas A&M for the women's championship, and top seed Florida facing No. 2 seed Tennessee for the men's title.

Georgia defeated No. 5 seed Tennessee 4-0 today, while Texas A&M reached the program's first SEC championship final with a 4-2 win over No. 7 seed South Carolina. South Carolina had beaten No. 2 seed Florida in the quarterfinals. 

The Tennessee men swept No. 6 seed South Carolina, who had beaten No. 3 seed Georgia in the quarterfinals. Top-ranked Florida had its second straight nail-biter, with Blaise Bicknell clinching a 4-3 victory for the Gators over No. 4 seed Texas A&M 6-4 in the third at line 4. 

The Pac-12 and Big 12 begin their tournaments this weekend, with the ACC playing its quarterfinals on Friday. The Big Ten's tournament is next weekend.

For results and links to live streams and scoring for the conference tournaments, see CollegeTennisToday.

At the Tallahassee Challenger, Americans Bjorn Fratangelo, Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) and No. 2 seed Denis Kudla advanced to the quarterfinals today, with Kwiatkowski beating No. 4 seed Jason Jung(Michigan) of Taiwan 6-3, 6-2 and Kudla defeating qualifier Alexander Ritschard(Virginia) 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5). Fratangelo, who plays Kwiatkowski next, moved into the quarterfinals due to a walkover from Yosuke Watanuki of Japan. They join Michael Mmoh and Jenson Brooksby, who will play each other Friday for a spot in the semifinals. Kudla plays qualifier Filip Jianu of Romania, and in the the only quarterfinal that doesn't feature an American, Mikael Torpegaard(Ohio State) of Denmark will play Facundo Mena of Argentina.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New Division I Team and Individual Rankings Released, with Big Ten Prospects Precarious; Brooksby Beats Top Seed Seyboth Wild to Reach Tallahassee Challenger Quarterfinals

UNC's Sara Daavettila 

The new team and individual rankings for Division I are out today, and because we're getting so close to the NCAA selections, I'm posting the Top 25 in all three: one ITA computer ranking, one ITA poll and one USTA poll.

The Top 10 in both of the ITA men's team rankings is now pretty closely aligned, with the only divergence the flipping of No. 5 and No. 6 between Virginia and Tennessee. The two ITA women's rankings are not as closely aligned, with Texas No. 2 in the poll and Georgia No. 2 in the computer rankings. The No. 1 team in all three polls is the same for both men and women, with the North Carolina women and Florida men at the top.

The USTA voters are much more impressed with the Big Ten than the ITA rankings show.  Those voters have the Illinois men, the Ohio State men and the Michigan men all in the Top 10, while the ITA polls don't have any Big Ten team listed until Illinois at No. 12 in the coaches poll. It's interesting that the NCAA approved all three of those schools for regional sites, but only Illinois would be considered if they were going by the usual method of selecting the Top 16 teams to hosts.  

In the women's USTA poll, Ohio State and Michigan are No. 6 and No. 7, with Northwestern dropping to 14 after their loss to Illinois last weekend. In the ITA polls, Ohio State is 15(computer) and 10, with Michigan at 19(computer) and 14. 

The problem with the individual rankings continues, and again with a focus on the Big Ten, there are no men from that conference in the Top 50 and just three women: Irina Cantos Siemers of Ohio State[13], Alexa Noel(who is undefeated this year) of Iowa[15] and Michigan's Kari Miller[48].  UCLA's No. 1, Keegan Smith, the 2019 NCAA doubles champion, is currently at 61 in singles, and Ohio State's Cannon Kingsley is at 124.

Sara Daavettila of North Carolina has moved into the top spot in the women's singles rankings, with Liam Draxl of Kentucky keeping the No. 1 singles spot for the men.

Below are the Top 25 team rankings and the Top 10 and Top 5 in singles and doubles. Click on the headings to go to the complete lists.

Division I men's team, April 21, 2021:

1. Florida
2. Texas
3. Baylor
4. North Carolina
5. Tennessee
6. Virginia
7. TCU
8. Texas A&M
9. Wake Forest
10. Georgia
11. Central Florida
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi
14. Kentucky
15. Southern California
16. Illinois
17. Mississippi State
18. Oklahoma State
19. Tulane
20. Alabama
21. Texas Tech
22. Ohio State
23. Stanford
24. Arizona
25. NC State

Coaches Poll

1. Florida
2. Texas
3. Baylor
4. North Carolina
5. Virginia
6. Tennessee
7. TCU
8. Texas A&M
9. Wake Forest
10. Georgia
11. Central Florida
12. Illinois
13. Southern California
14. South Carolina
15. Ohio State
16. Kentucky
17. Mississippi
18. Mississippi State
19. Stanford
20. Arizona
21. Michigan
22. Oklahoma State
23. Tulane
24. Texas Tech
25. Alabama


1. Florida
2. Virginia
3. North Carolina
4. Baylor
5. Texas
6. Tennessee
7. Ohio State
8. Illinois
9. TCU
10. Michigan
11. Wake Forest
12. Central Florida
13. Georgia
14. Texas A&M
15. Southern California
16. Kentucky
17. South Carolina
18. Stanford
19. Arizona
20. Mississippi
21. UCLA
22. Mississippi State
23. Pepperdine
24. NC State
25. Oregon

Division I women's team, April 21, 2021:


1. North Carolina
2. Georgia
3. Texas
4. NC State
6. Florida State
7. Pepperdine
8. Central Florida
9. Baylor
10. LSU
11. Florida
12. Texas A&M
13. Virginia
14. Duke
15. Ohio State
16. Georgia Tech
17. Tennessee
18. Northwestern
19. Michigan
20. Auburn
21. Mississippi
22. Vanderbilt
23. Oklahoma
24. Miami
25. Kentucky

Coaches Poll

1. North Carolina
2. Texas
3. Georgia
5. NC State
6. Pepperdine
7. Florida State
8. Baylor
9. Central Florida
10. Ohio State
11. LSU
12. Virginia
13. Florida
14. Michigan
15. Northwestern
16. Duke
T17. Georgia Tech
T17. Texas A&M
19. Tennessee
20. Miami
21. Auburn
22. Mississippi
T23. Cal
T23. Vanderbilt
25. Stanford


1. North Carolina
2. Texas
3. Georgia
5. Pepperdine
6. Ohio State
7. Michigan
8. NC State
9. Florida State
10. Baylor
11. Virginia
12. Central Florida
13. Duke
14. Northwestern
15. Stanford
16. Florida
17. Texas A&M
T18. LSU
T18. Georgia Tech
20. Cal
21. Tennessee
22. Miami
23. Oklahoma
24. Mississippi
25. Auburn

To 10 men's singles:

1. Liam Draxl, Kentucky
2. Daniel Rodrigues, South Carolina
3. Duart Vale, Florida
4. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
5. Hady Habib, Texas A&M
6. Sam Riffice, Florida
7. Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida
8. Matias Soto, Baylor
9. Carl Soderlund, Virginia
10. Henri Squire, Wake Forest

Top 5 men's doubles:

1. Tim Sandaulen and Finn Reynolds, Mississippi
2. William Blumberg and Brian Cernoch, North Carolina
3. Adam Walton and Pat Harper, Tennessee
4. Will Davies and Oliver Okonkwo, Iowa
5. Trent Bryde and Tyler Zink, Georgia

Top 10 women's singles:

1. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
2. Emma Navarro, Virginia
3. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
4. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
5. Anna Rogers, NC State
6. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
7. McCartney Kessler, Florida
8. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
9. Natasha Subhash, Virginia
10. Giulia Pairone, Florida State

Top 5 women's doubles:

1. Akvile Parazinskaite and Fiona Arrese, Kentucky
2. Victori Flores and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
3. Sara Daavettila and Cameron Morra, North Carolina
4. Jaeda Daniel and Adriana Reami, NC State
5. Marlee Zein and McCartney Kessler, Florida

At the ATP Challenger 80 in Tallahassee today, No. 8 seed Michael Mmoh advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over wild card Ryan Harrison, and Orlando Challenger champion Jenson Brooksby(Baylor) continued his winning streak with a 7-6(6), 6-4 win over top seed and 2018 US Open boys champion Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil. Brooksby, who is now 20-4 on the year, will get a day of rest before he faces Mmoh in Friday's quarterfinals.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Brooksby Survives Damm Challenge in Tallahassee; Automatic Bids to NCAAs on Offer at D-I Conference Tournaments; Latest Division II Team Rankings

The 2018 Kalamazoo champions met today in the first round of the ATP Challenger 80 in Tallahassee, with 18s champion Jenson Brooksby taking out 16s champion Martin Damm 6-7(11) 6-1, 6-2.

Jenson Brooksby, photo via USTA twitter

Brooksby had just one day to practice on Tallahassee's Har-Tru courts after winning the Orlando Challenger Sunday on hard courts, and he looked, understandably, less confident with his footing and his shot selection. Damm, who received a wild card into the main draw after qualifying in Orlando last week, was undoubtedly responsible for some of Brooksby's uncertainty, with the 17-year-old left-hander winning a lot of serve plus one points. Damm went up 3-1 in the first set, but Brooksby began to play better, immediately getting the break back. Although the remaining games were close, there were no more breaks, leaving a tiebreaker to decide it. Damm had six set points, Brooksby two in the tense and well-played 13th game of the set, with Damm continuing to go for his shots and Brooksby continuing to compete for every point.

It was an 80-minute set, but losing it didn't seem to faze Brooksby, who quickly won the second set and took a 4-1 lead in the third. Once Brooksby had adjusted both to his opponent's aggressive game and his own performance on an unaccustomed surface, he was in control, but Damm kept making him earn each game. It took six match points before Brooksby closed Damm out, with the last two sets taking less time to play than the first in what was an entertaining and intriguing match.

Other Americans who picked up first round wins today were Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia), who beat Mitchell Krueger 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3, wild card Ryan Harrison, who beat lucky loser Donald Young 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, Bjorn Fratangelo, who defeated No. 5 seed Ivo Karlovic 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(4), and qualifier Alexander Ritschard(Virginia), who defeated Renzo Olivo 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Alex Rybakov and No. 2 seed Denis Kudla are playing a night match. Michael Mmoh, the No. 8 seed, won his first round match on Monday.

Many conference tournaments are on the calendar for the rest of the month, with some of the 29(men) or 30(women) spots in the 64-team NCAA championships already decided. Bobby Knight has two comprehensive pages on his CollegeTennisToday site, with results from the smaller conferences (not all are conducting conference tournaments, although the Power 5 all are) as well as the matchups and links to live streams and live scoring. The women's conference tournament page is here, and the men's conference tournament page is here. Scroll to the very bottom of each page for a quick look at the qualifiers.

The selections and draws will be revealed on Monday May 3 at ncaa.com.

The Division II team selections will be announced on Tuesday May 4th at ncaa.com, and today the ITA released its latest Top 25 rankings, which is a coaches poll. Full list available by clicking on heading.

Men's Division II Top 10 teams, April 20, 2021

1. Columbus State
2. Barry
3. Valdosta State
4. Saint Leo
5. Indianapolis
6. Lander
7. Azusa Pacific
T8. West Florida
T8. Lynn
10. Delta State

Women's Division II Top 10 teams, April 20, 2021
1. Indianapolis
2. Barry
3. Nova Southeastern
4. Central Oklahoma
5. West Alabama
6. Azusa Pacific
7. West Florida
8. Saint Leo
9. Lynn
10. Columbus State

Monday, April 19, 2021

Twenty Regional Sites Announced for NCAA Division I Team Tournament; Easter Bowl 12s Division Videos

Today the NCAA released the acceptances of 20 bids for hosting the Division I regional team competitions next month, with 16 of these 20 sites receiving final approval on Monday May 3, when the selection of 64 men's teams and 64 women's teams are announced.

The 20 men's sites are:
Central Florida
North Carolina
Ohio State
South Carolina
Southern California
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
Wake Forest

Top 20 teams (in last week's computerized rankings) missing are Mississippi State, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Tulane, replaced by Texas Tech[21], Stanford[24], Ohio State[26] and Michigan[30].

The 20 women's sites:
Central Florida
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina State
Ohio State

Current Top 20 teams either not bidding or not selected are Texas A&M[17] and Mississippi[19], with Cal[25] and Stanford[29] in their place.

I haven't heard whether fans will be allowed at this year's finals site, the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, but this is the link to check for that information going forward.

The Easter Bowl videos for the 12s division are embedded below, with the champions first, followed by the finalists. It was disappointing that the finals for the 12s and 14s weren't put on show courts, which isn't the case at the tournament's usual venue, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Brooksby Claims Second Challenger Title in Orlando; Sharma Earns First WTA Title in Charleston, McNally and Baptiste Win Doubles Championship; Aney Nabs Second Straight $15K

Jenson Brooksby defeated No. 5 seed Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-3 Sundat at the ATP Challenger 80 on the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.

For the 20-year-old Californian, who won the USTA National 18s title in 2018, it marks the second Challenger title of his career and the second this year, with the first coming in South Africa in February. In between those two titles, Brooksby reached the final of the Cleveland Challenger in March, with his 2021 record at that level now 14-2, after being out of action with injuries for most of 2020.

Brooksby looked very sharp today, and his combination of offense and defense, as well as a tendency not to miss many balls, left Kudla without much to attack. Brooksby did not lose a set all week, wasn't even taken to a tiebreaker, and with the title has now moved into the ATP Top 200 for the first time. 

He is playing next week's Challenger 80 in Tallahassee, where he has drawn 17-year-old wild card Martin Damm in the first round. Bruno Kuzuhara, Ozan Colak and Perry Gregg received wild cards into the qualifying, which concludes Monday.

Astra Sharma

Former Vanderbilt All-American Astra Sharma won her first WTA tournament title, with the unseeded Australian defeating top seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 today at the MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston South Carolina.

Sharma said she had no ideas how to counteract the level Jabeur displayed in the first set. 

"I thought Ons played an amazing first set, I didn't know really what to do," said the 25-year-old, who graduated from Vanderbilt in 2018. "She was wrong-footing me, dropshoting me, making me cover a lot of court and I couldn't really read what she was doing. I thought, that's just too good from her, if she can keep pulling off these really good shots, whatever, but maybe if I keep competing, keep showing up, keep doing the right things, those are inherently tricky shots, so maybe she'll waiver and I'll get an opportunity to get it closer."

Sharma has said earlier in the week that her ability to keep matches physical has been a key to her run to the second WTA final of her career and first since 2019. 

"That is the basis of my game," Sharma said. "To be athletic, to be dynamic, for one match, two matches, three matches and to use it more offensively, coming in, is what I've tried to do more this tournament. I may not have the straight up weapons that a player like Ons has, but I do have the speed to close and finish at the net, so I've been trying to do that more, instead of hitting really good shots and not be able to close it out."

Sharma acknowledged the debt she owed her Vanderbilt coaches Geoff Macdonald and Aleke Tsoubanos.

"Both of them were so great to me, saw what they thought I could become," Sharma said. "They never stopped helping me out, giving me time...it was great for me having those two people in my corner, because I think coaches before that didn't really connect with me, like I connected to them and responded to their feedback."

With the title, Sharma's WTA ranking rises to 120, but she will not be heading to Europe for the clay events there, with the USTA Pro Circuit $100K events in May her preferred alternative.

"I will probably stay and try and play some of the ITFs," Sharma said. "My ranking before was not good enough that I could go to Europe, because I was not going to get into Madrid and Rome, even Saint-Malo looked a little bit dicey. So I thought I would stay and play these ITFs, where I knew for sure I was going to get some match play, so that's the plan."

Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste

Another player won her first WTA title today in Charleston, with Hailey Baptiste and partner Caty McNally winning the doubles championship. Baptiste and McNally, both 19, defeated top seeds Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Storm Sanders of Australia 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-6 for Baptiste's first title and McNally's third.

For more on the two women's finals today in Charleston, see this article from the WTA website.

And a quick note about former UNC Tar Heel Jessie Aney, who has now won two consecutive $15,000 tournaments in Kazakhstan. Aney, who turns 23 tomorrow, was unseeded in both events, but after beating No. 5 seed Tamara Curovic of Serbia 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-0 in three hours today, she now has a 10-match winning streak, which started with a first round win over Curovic.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Brooksby and Kudla Reach Orlando Challenger Final; Sharma Advances to Second WTA Final; Daryabeigi Earns First ITF Title at J4 in Cancun; Doubles Titles for Americans in Cancun and at J3 in Costa Rica

An all-American is final is set for Sunday at the ATP Challenger 80 on the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona, with unseeded Jenson Brooksby taking on No. 5 seed Denis Kudla.  Brooksby defeated Christian Harrison 7-5, 6-1, rebounding in the first set after letting a 5-1 lead slip away, while Kudla outlasted former USF star Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. 

Kudla is looking for his second Challenger title since the restart, having won the Cary Challenger last November, while Brooksby is looking for his second career Challenger title, with the first coming in February in South Africa. The 20-year-old, who enrolled at Baylor, but due to injuries and then the pandemic shutdown did not play for the Bears, also reached the final of the Cleveland Challenger last month. 

In today's doubles final, Mitchell Krueger and Jack Sock took the title, saving two match points in the match tiebreaker against Harrison and Dennis Novikov, who were also unseeded. Krueger and Sock had seen three match points slip away when up 9-6, but shook that off to post a 4-6, 7-5, 13-11 win. 

Former Vanderbilt star Astra Sharma advanced to her second career WTA final today at the MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston, ending the run of Bogota champion Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia 7-6(5), 6-1 in today's semifinal. 

Sharma lost her first WTA final, at the 2019 tournament in Bogota to Amanda Anisimova. I asked her today how the pressure of college matches compared to the pressure of playing in a pro final.

"If anything, I felt a lot more pressure playing in college," said the 25-year-old Australian. "You know six girls, depending on you to win. That always gave me, if anything, more stress or focus; every point counts, I don't want to let anyone down. I think I played really well on a team because of that; I was so focused on every point, not to let the team down."

Sharma said that same mindset wasn't there when she began to play professionally after graduation.

"For a while it was almost a little bit less intense or focused for me, because it was just myself," Sharma said. "If I was down 4-1, it wasn't like someone was counting on you, it would be easier almost to find an excuse to not push myself that extra bit, whereas in college, I felt like, oh man, I'm 4-1 down, it was like, I'd better get my act together, let's go. That was a big learning experience for me, getting out professionally and finding that own fire and support within myself. No one's here, no one's cheering you on, no one's holding you accountable, it's just yourself out there. How do you want to talk to yourself, how do you want to push yourself...I've learned along the way how to be my own little college team, supporting myself on court, honing my focus on each point."

Sharma will face top seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who defeated Danka Kovinic of Montenegro 6-3, 6-0.

Sunday's doubles final will feature two 19-year-old Americans who have been steamrolling through the draw this week. Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste at one stretch had won 22 consecutive games, with three straight 6-0 sets. Their second set against Bogota champions Elixane Lechemia(South Carolina) and Ingrid Neel(Florida) ended that streak, but their 6-0, 6-2 win put them in the final, where they will face top seeds Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Storm Sanders of Australia. 

Two ITF junior tournaments this week attracted a substantial number of Americans, with the J4 in Cancun and the J3 in Costa Rica featuring three US singles finalists. Sixteen-year-old Sean Daryabeigi was the sole champion, coming through qualifying to earn his first junior circuit title with a 6-4, 6-2 win over top seed Emiliano Aguilera Guerrero of Mexico. The Cancun tournament was just Daryabeigi's fourth ITF tournament, with the other three Grade 4s in Florida, where he lives.

Ashton Bowers, the No. 6 seed, lost 6-1, 6-1 in the Cancun final to top seed Martyna Ostrzygalo of Canada. 

Tianna Rangan partnered with Switzerland's Jade Haller for the Cancun doubles title, beating Leah Kuruvilla and Mexico's Barbara Martinez 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Kurt Miller and Mexico's Santiago Arredondo Delgado won the boys doubles title, beating the American team of Quang Duong and Felipe Pinzon Moreno 6-1, 6-0.

Braden Shick, the No. 3 seed, fell in the final of the J3 in Costa Rica, to top seed Gonzalo Bueno of Peru, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. 

Cooper Williams and Mexico's Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez, the No. 4 seeds, won the Costa Rica doubles title, beating Santiago Giamichelle of Argentina and Luis Carlos Alvarez Valdes of Mexico 6-1, 6-3 in the final. No. 3 seeds Ava Krug and Bolivia's Maria Olivia Castedo won the girls doubles title, beating No. 4 seeds Mia Kupres and Victoria Mboko of Canada 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final. Kupres also lost in the singles final, to fellow Canadian and top seed Annabelle Xu.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Easter Bowl ITF Videos; Kudla, Harrison and Brooksby Advance at Orlando Challenger; Sharma Defeats Fruhvirtova to Reach Charleston Semifinals

The videos of the Easter Bowl ITF finals are below, with the videos for the 12s, 14s, and 16s, still to come. 

A photo gallery from the Easter Bowl by photographer Derrick Tuskan is available at Tennis Recruiting Network.

Americans Denis Kudla, Christian Harrison and Jenson Brooksby and former South Florida star Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic have advanced to the semifinals of ATP Challenger 80 in Orlando

No. 5 seed Kudla, the only seed who made the quarterfinals, defeated Michael Mmoh 7-5, 6-3 and will face Cid, who advanced when former UNC star Brayden Schnur of Canada retired trailing 3-6, 6-2, 4-0. Harrison downed Jack Sock 7-6(3), 6-3 and will play Brooksby, who beat wild card Zane Khan 6-4, 6-3.

Sock and Mitchell Krueger will play Harrison and Dennis Novikov in the doubles final Saturday.

Astra Sharma

 The run of 15-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova ended this evening at the WTA MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston South Carolina, with former Vanderbilt star Astra Sharma advancing to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

"I honestly don't really look at the age," Sharma said when asked about playing someone so young. "Look at Linda, she's an amazing player who plays as if she was born to hold a racquet her whole life."

Sharma, 25, will face 19-year-old Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, who advanced to the semifinals when 18-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark retired trailing 6-4, 1-0. 

"Same with Maria," Sharma continued. "She's just come off a really good win in Bogota and she's been backing it up here in Charleston against really top quality opponents. So I don't think age has anything to do with it. She might be fresher than me, since she has younger legs. I'm really looking forward to playing her tomorrow, I think she's been playing really well, it will be a really good challenge to see how I match up against her."

Sharma, who will be playing in just her second WTA semifinal, was asked about her decision to play college tennis.

"I was really undercooked as a junior," said Sharma, who uses Nashville as her training base during most of the post-Australian Open year. "I wasn't played that many touraments, I also played soccer and everything, so I didn't really have a traditional tennis background in terms of the quantity and quality that I put in compared to the other girls. I just had too many things going on, so my decision to go to college was more, let's see, if I focus one hundred percent on tennis how good can I get. And honestly, college for me was the perfect time to do that. All the facilities are open, you have eight other girls willing to hit with you, you have coaches and physios. So for me it was a perfect kind of environment for developing a tennis player, which I really needed. I think I was behind, in terms of maturity, on court and off court, so that was really good for me."

In the other semifinal, top seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will play Danka Kovinic of Montenegro. Jabeur defeated Nao Hibino 6-0, 6-1, while Kovinic took out No. 3 seed Shelby Rogers 7-5, 6-1.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

NCAA Allows Resumption of In-Person Recruiting June 1; Orlando Challenger Quarterfinals Feature Six Americans; Fruhvirtova Downs Navarro to Reach MUSC Quarterfinals

The long-awaited end of the recruiting dead period was announced today by the NCAA, with in-person recruiting and campus visits, which have not been allowed since March of 2020, set to resume on June 1.  

In addition, some of the restrictions on who can contact a prospective student-athlete have been loosened:

Council members also granted a waiver to allow school staff to participate in a call with any number of uncommitted prospective student-athletes in any sport and to allow student-athletes to participate in phone calls with a coach and prospective student-athletes or at the direction of a coach. Additionally, student-athletes cannot be directed to make calls on a day off.

The Council also approved a blanket waiver allowing full-time institutional staff members, current students and all coaches, including volunteer coaches, to initiate recruiting calls (for example, telephone calls, video calls) involving prospective student-athletes whom an institution is permitted to call. The waiver is in effect from June 1 through Dec. 31, 2021, and requires staff who are not making or receiving calls to prospects under an existing legislated exception (for example, academic advisors and compliance administrators) to pass the recruiting exam before making or receiving calls.

It will be great to see college coaches back at junior tournaments--they were certainly missed by everyone at last year's Orange Bowl and the recent tournaments in San Diego--and the June 1 date allows them to attend most of the important closed events in sections, typically held in that month. The French Open Juniors would also be a possibility with the new dates, although I imagine it would be even more difficult than usual to find a credential for that event.

Four second round matches were on the schedule today at the ATP Challenger 80 in Orlando, with six Americans playing. Michael Mmoh and Christian Harrison won the two all-US battles, with Mmoh defeating Christopher Eubanks 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Harrison taking out University of Illinois senior Aleks Kovacevic 6-4, 6-3.  In the other two matches, No. 5 seed Denis Kudla defeated Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and Jack Sock beat No. 6 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 6-4. 

Friday's quarterfinals will feature Sock versus Harrison, Mmoh versus Kudla, Jenson Brooksby versus Zane Khan, and in the former collegiate battle, Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic(South Florida) versus Brayden Schnur of Canada(North Carolina).  Kudla is the only seed remaining.

Free live streaming of all the matches is available here.

The action today at the WTA MUSC Health Women's Open in Charleston didn't begin until 1 p.m. and two matches that were two-and-a-half hours in length made for a late night for teens Emma Navarro and Linda Fruhvirtova, who were fourth on. 

The 15-year-old Czech came out on top, overcoming a 4-2 deficit in the first set for a 6-4, 6-2 win and a place in the quarterfinals against Astra Sharma of Australia.

Earlier in the day, 19-year-old Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia came back to defeat Christina McHale 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(1) and former Vanderbilt star Sharma outlasted No. 8 seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. In between, top seed Ons Jabeur downed qualifier Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-0. 

Shelby Rogers, the No. 3 seed, plays Volvo Car Open finalist Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, Jabeur faces Nao Hibino of Japan and Clara Tauson of Denmark meets Osorio Serrano in a battle of former junior slam champions.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Navarro, Draxl Top New ITA D-I Singles Rankings, North Carolina Women, Florida Men Remain No. 1; Brooksby, Khan and Nakashima Reach Quarterfinals at Challengers

The latest ITA Division I rankings released today feature two rankings, computer and poll, for teams, and computer rankings for singles and doubles. The ITA is still struggling with these rankings, which isn't surprising given the lack of consistent play due to individual schools and conferences Covid protocols, but their latest explanation for publishing two different rankings doesn't reveal much. It's clear that the ITA is hearing from coaches with strong opinions on both sides of the issue, particularly when it says:

"A simple solution that attempts to balance all of the various interests and includes consensus support is currently not available."

The team rankings are all over the place, although it's not obvious in the Top 10.  Take the Michigan men, for example, who I follow more closely than other teams due to geography. The computer rankings show Michigan at 30, the coaches poll at 19, and the current Tennis Channel/USTA poll has them at 7.  That's quite a disparity. I'm sure there are other similar examples; feel free to post a comment if you have one. Again this week I am providing side-by-side comparisons of the poll and computer rankings for the Top 10. The full list for men is here; for women is here.

Men's Top 10, poll on left, computer on right.

Women's Top 10, poll on left, computer on right

In the individual rankings, Ohio State's Cannon Kingsley is undefeated this year in singles, 23-0, but his ranking is 117, far too low to make the NCAA field.  Whatever the reason behind that, it's obvious to anyone with a pulse that Kingsley is one of the top college players in the country, as is No. 36 Alexa Graham of North Carolina, who won the only traditional ITA major held in the 2020-21 season. It isn't good enough for the ITA to simply supply the NCAA committee with their computer rankings. They must advocate for their best players to be in the NCAA fields, and if they need to use UTR to assist with that assessment, so be it. 

Here are the Top 10 and Top 5 in singles and doubles. Click the heading for the full list.

Top 10 Division I Men's Singles April 14, 2021
1. Liam Draxl, Kentucky
2. Daniel Rodrigues, South Carolina
3. Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida
4. Duarte Vale, Florida
5. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
6. Carl Soderlund, Virginia
7. Hady Habib, Texas A&M
8. Alastair Gray, TCU
9. Sam Riffice, Florida
10. Johannus Monday, Tennessee

Top 5 Men's Doubles
1. Tim Sandkaulen and Finn Reynolds, Mississippi
2. Will Davies and Oliver Okonkwo, Iowa
3. William Blumberg and Brian Cernoch, North Carolina
4. Alastair Gray and Luc Fomba, TCU
5. Riley Smith and Daniel Cukierman, Southern California

Top 10 Division I Women's Singles April 14, 2021
1. Emma Navarro, Virginia
2. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
3. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
4. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
5. Anna Rogers, NC State
6. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
7. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
8. McCartney Kessler, Florida
9. Natasha Subhash, Virginia
10. Giulia Pairone, Florida State

Top 5 Women's Doubles
1. Akvile Parazinskaite and Fiona Arrese, Kentucky
2. Sara Daavettila and Cameron Morra, North Carolina
3. Victoria Flores and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
4. Marlee Zein and McCartney Kessler, Florida
5. Andrea Garcia and Nandini Das, Florida State

Today's second round action at the ATP Challenger 80 in Orlando featured wins by two young Americans, who will now play each other. A day after securing his first main draw Challenger victory, 19-year-old Zane Khan defeated No. 2 seed and ATP 108 Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in two hours and 18 minutes. rebounding after failing to serve out the first set at 5-4 and failing to hold on to a 5-1 lead in the first set tiebreaker. It was Uchiyama who couldn't serve out the set in the second, with Khan breaking for 5-all, and although there were anxious moments, he managed to navigate them better than his more experienced opponent. 

Brooksby defeated qualifier Altug Celikbilek of Turkey 6-1, 6-3 to run his 2021 Challenger record to 11-2.  Bjorn Fratangelo lost in the second round today to former UNC star Brayden Schnur of Canada 6-3, 7-6(2). 

Six other Americans will be in action Thursday, with two all-US second round battles. Live streaming, with Mike Cation providing commentary, is available here.

Brandon Nakashima, who won the previous Challenger played in Orlando, in November, opted instead for the red clay in Serbia, where he has reached the quarterfinals at the 125 level event. Nakashima defeated No. 7 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-2, 6-2 today and will play unseeded Liam Broady of Great Britain in the quarterfinals Thursday.