Wednesday, May 5, 2021

USTA Level 1 Results; Final Division I Pre-NCAA Championships Rankings Released; Quinn and Gorzny Meet Thursday in Coral Gables J4 Semifinals

I spent the day in Indianapolis, for the finals of the USTA Sectional Invitational Grade 1 in the Boys 18s division. These eight 128-player tournaments, played over five days, singles only, were added to the junior schedule this year by the USTA, in an attempt to provide more playing opportunities for top national competitors, after the pandemic and the new junior competition structure kept many of them off the courts for significant parts of the past 12 months.

I am writing an article on the final for the Tennis Recruiting Network, which will be up next week, but congratulations to champion Masato Perera and finalist Ryan Torres for a great tournament despite the challenging weather conditions.

Finalist Ryan Torres, tournament official Alex Gruskin of Cracked Racquets, champion Masato Perera

The results of the final are below for all but the G14s in Tucson, which hasn't been posted yet. To get to the tournament draws(not easy to navigate on the new playtennis site), click on the headings.

B18s Indianapolis
Masato Perera[22] d. Ryan Torres 6-2, 6-2

G18s Mobile
Akari Matsuno[3] d. Theadora Rabman[4] 6-4, 6-2

B16s San Diego
Landon Ardila[1] d. Quang Duong[2] 6-3, 6-4

G16s Tulsa
Kinaa Graham[6] d. Amber Lin[1] 1-6, 6-4, 6-3

B14s Cary
Nicholas Patrick[7] d. Braeden Gelletich[2] 6-4, 6-4

G14s Tucson
Iva Jovic[1] v. Aspen Schuman[4]

B12s Austin
Jack Secord[2] d. Navneet Raghuram[4] 6-1, 6-3

G12s Virginia Beach

Thea Frodin[1] d. Isabelle DeLuccia[4] 6-4, 3-6, 6-0

The ITA Division I team and individual rankings that include all the results pre-NCAA championships were published today. The NCAA committee had access to these rankings prior to the release of their fields for the team and individual events, and although some of the questions about the changes they made are answered, others are not, including the switch to put UNC's Sara Daavettila as the No. 1 seed over top-ranked Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami, and the decision to give the Florida men the No. 1 seed over Baylor, who remains No. 1 in the computer rankings.

With all the college tennis news the past several days, I haven't been able to focus much on the ITF Junior Circuit J4 in Coral Gables Florida this week. The quarterfinals were played today, with two of the American boys who excelled in the San Diego Grade 1s meeting tomorrow in the semifinals. Top seed Ethan Quinn, who won the IOSC and made the Easter Bowl final, will play No. 4 seed Sebastian Gorzny, who won the IOSC doubles title and made the singles quarterfinals at the Easter Bowl. Gorzny beat Quinn in the quarterfinals of the J4 in Las Vegas the week prior to the San Diego events. In the bottom half, last week's Delray Beach champion Giulio Perego of Italy, the No. 3 seed, will face unseeded Maxime St-Hilaire of Canada.

Only one seed remains in the girls draw, with No. 2 seed Dasha Plekhanova of Canada taking on wild card Valeria Ray, the reigning 16s Orange Bowl champion. In the top half, Ahmani Guichard will play Mary Stoiana for a spot in the final. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Kentucky's Draxl and North Carolina's Daavettila Top Seeds in Division I Singles Fields; Liberty Men Out Due to Covid Contract Tracing; Oklahoma State's Udwadia Resigns

The individual selections for NCAA Division I were announced this evening, as well as the seedings for the singles and doubles competitions. 

The NCAA tennis committee knew that it had several top players, especially those from the Pac-12 and Big Ten, who were either unranked or ranked way below the traditional cutoff in the mid-50s, so they had to evaluate those cases separately, making their task was much more difficult this year than usual.

It appears the men's ranking cutoff for singles(and again, I have to go by last week's rankings, as this week's have not yet been released) was 51, with No. 52 Blaise Bicknell of Florida the No. 6 alternate.

Players who were added to the men's field by the committee were Ohio State's Cannon Kingsley and John McNally, who were unranked, No. 118 Aleks Kovacevic of Illinois, No. 101 Siphosothando Montsi of Illinois, No. 60 Keegan Smith of UCLA and No. 63 Arthur Fery of Stanford. Smith is unlikely to play, of course, due to his serious injury from a skateboard accident last month.  Govind Nanda of UCLA, Axel Geller of Stanford and Nathan Ponwith of Arizona State are among the first five alternates, placed above those behind Bicknell in the rankings.

How the alternates are going to work, I can't figure out, with the announcement stating that this year only, alternates will not fill a place in the draw after this coming Sunday. With so many late withdrawals commonplace after the team event, I'm not sure what the procedure is for filling spots, but if anyone knows please leave a comment.

Although selections went outside the usual parameters, seeding did not, with the top 16 players in the computer rankings getting seeded, and thereby earning All-American honors. As I mentioned last week when posting the individual rankings, the men's selections were heavily skewed in the SEC's favor, with that conference receiving 25 (thanks to @Jwilsontennis for that stat) of the 64 slots, while the Big Ten got just five, four of those due to the committee's discretion.

Men's Division I seeds:
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. Sam Riffice, Florida
7. Carl Soderlund, Virginia
8. Johannus Monday, Tennessee

9-16 alphabetical:
Trent Bryde, Georgia
Gabriel Decamps, Central Florida
Gabriel Diallo, Kentucky
Luca Fomba, TCU
Alistair Gray, TCU
Matias Soto, Baylor
Henri Squire, Wake Forest
Adam Walton, Tennessee

The top four seeds in doubles:
1. Tim Sandkaulen and Finn Reynolds, Mississippi
2. William Blumberg and Brian Cernoch, North Carolina
3. Adam Walton and Pat Harper, Tennessee
4. Alastair Gray and Luc Fomba, TCU

The women's field also has its share of entrants who had to rely on the committee for entry: Georgia's Lea Ma[63], San Diego's Solymar Colling, Oklahoma State's Alana Wolfberg, Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey, the 2018 NCAA singles finalist, and Arizona State's Ilze Hattingh.  Duke's Meible Chi, ranked No. 39, is the first alternate, but the actual cutoff for the women appears to be 56, with Selin Ovunc of Auburn the last ranking in, although No. 59 Taylor Bridges of LSU also was selected.

The women's seeds did see some adjustments. Sara Daavettila of North Carolina moved to No. 1, past Miami's Estela Perez-Somarriba, the 2019 singles champion. No. 8 McCartney Kessler moved into the Top 8, over Natasha Subhash of Virginia. Iowa's Alexa Noel, No. 18, received a seed, as did No. 20 Katarina Kozarov of Furman.

Women's Division I seeds:
1. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
2. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami
3. Emma Navarro, Virginia
4. Katarina Jokic, Georgia
5. Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
6. Anna Rogers, North Carolina Stat
7. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
8. McCartney Kessler, Florida

9-16 alphabetical
Carolyn Campana, Wake Forest
Victoria Flores, Georgia Tech
Viktoriya Kanapatskaya, Syracuse
Katarina Kozarov, Furman
Alexa Noel, Iowa
Giulia Pairone, Florida State
Isabella Pfenning, Miami
Natasha Subhash, Virginia

The top four seeds in doubles:
1. AkvilÄ— Parazinskaite and Fiona Arrese, Kentucky
2. Sara Daavettila and Cameron Morra, North Carolina
3. Victoria Flores and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech
4. Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty, North Carolina

The first team to see their NCAA tournament experience cut short due to the Covid-19 virus is Liberty, the ASUN conference men's champion, who was making their first NCAA appearance in program history. The Flames were forced to withdraw from the tournament due to contract tracing. Florida Gulf Coast, the conference tournament finalists, will take their place, playing North Carolina State at the South Carolina regional. For more on this unfortunate turn of events, see this article from The News and Advance.

Oklahoma State will begin its search for a new men's head coach after it was announced on Monday that Jay Udwadia has resigned. Udwadia, who had been in Stillwater since 2012, took a leave of absence earlier this year, with assistant Scoville Jenkins serving as interim head coach. Oklahoma State will take on Navy in the first round of the North Carolina regional on Saturday.

Monday, May 3, 2021

NCAA Division I Seeds, Draws Revealed, with Florida Men and North Carolina Women No. 1; SEC Men's, Big Ten Women's Conference Awards

For all the caveats that the ITA and NCAA Division I committee communicated over the past several weeks, the lack of deviation from the most recent computer rankings was the primary surprise this evening when the seeds and brackets were revealed.

In the men's announcement, the biggest deviation from the computer came right at the beginning, with Florida named the No. 1 seed, over Baylor, who topped both the computer rankings and the coaches poll last week. That, of course, isn't a big deal, but the opportunity to host a regional is a significant perk, and there the committee made no adjustments, with every top 16 team in the final published computer rankings who put in a bid to host selected to do so. I had thought that Mississippi or Kentucky might give way to Ohio State, but the Buckeyes loss in the Big Ten final yesterday may have kept that from happening, and they are now set to travel, not to Kentucky, which is closer, but to Wake Forest, the No. 10 seed.  Stanford, also approved to host, was one of the four not selected (Texas Tech and Michigan are the other two), and they travel to Virginia, while Michigan and Arizona head to Kentucky for another great regional.  

The Big Ten hasn't had the same presence in the rankings this year as usual for several reasons, including losses by Ohio State and Michigan during the Kickoff Weekend that proved particularly damaging. But the committee did put Northwestern and Michigan in the tournament, which the computer would not have done.

The men's bracket is here.

The men's seeds:

1. Florida 
2. Baylor
3. Tennessee
4. Texas 
5. Virginia 
6. UNC 
7. TCU 
8. Texas A&M 
9. Central Florida 
10. Wake Forest 
11. Georgia 
12. USC 
13. South Carolina 
14. Kentucky 
15. Mississippi 
16. Illinois

The women's bracket features the only unseeded team to host a regional, with Northwestern, No. 17 in last week's rankings, getting the nod over No. 10 Texas A&M. Texas A&M was not approved for a regional; I assume they didn't submit an application to host. Stanford, Michigan, Tennessee and Duke, all approved for regionals, are instead being sent elsewhere. Stanford, the reigning NCAA champions, will play at  No. 5 seed's Pepperdine regional; Michigan is going to No. 12 LSU and Tennessee, which is No. 15 in the most recently published ranking, is traveling to No. 14 seed Virginia. Duke is going to No. 8 seed Baylor.

Ohio State, the No. 15 seed, is the other Big Ten school hosting; Iowa, which made the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament and has one of the country's top players in Alexa Noel, was not selected.  I know my bias is showing, but it's really a shame that the beautiful University of Michigan facility will be quiet this coming weekend. 

Cal was elevated to the No. 16 seed in order to host, with the Bears most recent computer ranking No. 25, but that may have been calculated before they beat UCLA in the Pac-12 final last Monday. 

The women's announcement is here, and the bracket is here.

The women's seeds:
1. UNC 
2. Texas 
3. Georgia 
4. UCLA 
5. Pepperdine 
6. NC State 
7. Florida State 
8. Baylor 
9. Central Florida 
10. Texas A&M 
11. Florida 
12. LSU 
13. Georgia Tech 
14. Virginia 
15. Ohio State 
16. Cal

The lineups are up right now, with the men's here and the women's here, but they will be taken down shortly, once the challenges are underway.

The singles and doubles selections are scheduled to be announced Tuesday ncaa.com; given today's decisions, I'm not feeling great about the best players in the Big Ten getting into the draws.

Speaking of the Big Ten, the women's conference awards were announced today, including the all-conference teams. 

Athlete of the Year: Alexa Noel, Iowa
Freshman of the Year: Alexa Noel, Iowa
Coach of the Year: Melissa Schaub, Ohio State

The men's SEC awards were announced a few days ago:

Player of the Year: Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M
Freshman of the Year: Johannus Monday, Tennessee
Newcomer of the Year: Liam Draxl
Coach of the Year: Bryan Shelton

The Big Ten men's, SEC women's and ACC men's and women's awards can be found here.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Illinois Takes Men's Big Ten Title in Third Set Tiebreaker; Ohio State Wins Women's Big Ten Conference Tournament; Liu Claims Charlottesville $60K Title; USTA Level 1 Update

photo via Illinois men's tennis twitter

Illinois won the Big Ten Conference tournament Sunday afternoon in Lincoln Nebraska in the most dramatic fashion possible, with Zeke Clark defeating Ohio State's Kyle Seelig 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) in the last match on at No. 4 singles. 

After Illinois took the doubles point without much drama, getting wins at No. 2 and No. 3, giving the Illini a point they were glad to have when the Buckeyes put two quick points on the board in singles, with Cannon Kingsley defeating Siphosothando Montsi 6-1, 6-2 at line 2 and James Trotter beating Alex Brown 6-3, 6-4 at line 3. The other sure point for Ohio State all year, JJ Tracy, had blitzed past Hunter Heck 6-0 in the first set at line 5, but Heck fought back to win the second set.  John McNally dropped the first set to Aleks Kovacevic at line 1, the only first set the Buckeyes lost in singles, but forced a third, while Seelig dropped the second set to Clark and Robert Cash gave up his advantage over Noe Khlif at line 6. When Heck finally put Illinois' second point on the board, with a 0-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over the previously undefeated Tracy after trailing 3-1 in the final set, the momentum tipped to Illinois, even after McNally dealt Kovacevic his first loss of the year 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

With Ohio State leading 3-2, Khlif kept the Illini alive with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory over Cash at 6, leaving it all up to the veterans at line 4. Seelig, a sixth-year senior, and Clark, a fifth-year senior, have been through countless big matches throughout their careers, and have always been considered rocks for their teams. With the conference title on the line, there was virtually nothing to separate the two and at the first changeover it was 3-3. Seelig looked more committed to an aggressive strategy and he hit a winner to take a 4-3 lead, but that was the last point he could tally, with Clark keeping the ball in play and Seelig making four consecutive errors to end the four-hour contest.

For more on the match, see this article from the Illinois website. A replay of the match is available to watch, at no cost, at BigTen+.

Ohio State did pick up a conference title today in Madison Wisconsin, with the women defeating Michigan 4-1. Ohio State took the doubles point with wins at lines 2 and 3 and won three first sets in singles, giving them an advantage. But after splitting two 4-3 matches this year, it was unlikely that either team would cruise, although it was Michigan that had trouble closing out their leads. Kari Miller took the first set at line 1 against Irina Cantos Siemers and Jaedan Brown took the first set at line 3 against Lisa Hofbauer, but neither could finish in straight sets. Meanwhile Ohio State's Lucia Marzal had beaten Andrea Cerdan 6-3, 6-4 at line 4 and Luna Dormet had defeated Alyvia Jones 6-3, 6-4 at line 5 to give Ohio State a 3-0 lead. Michigan's Bella Lorenzini picked up a point at line 6, beating Madeline Atway 7-6, 6-2, but Hofbauer closed out her comeback over Brown 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 to deliver the title and the automatic NCAA bid to Ohio State. Box score is here. 

Claire Liu won her biggest pro title and her first since 2019 today at the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville Virginia, hoisting the trophy after No. 6 seed Xinyu Wang of China retired trailing 3-6, 6-4, 4-1.

Liu was up 3-1 in the first set, only to lose five straight games, then found herself down 3-1 in the second set before taking eight of the next nine games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. She converted just four of 17 break points, but it was enough to break her four-final losing streak.  Liu is schedule to compete in next week's $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Charleston.

At the ATP 250 in Estoril, former TCU All-American Cameron Norrie of Great Britain fell just short of his first title, losing to No. 7 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).

Three rounds of the USTA National Level 1 tournaments were scheduled to be completed by this evening, although rain in some parts of the country have caused some rescheduling, including at the Boys 12s in Austin. Below I've noted how the top 8 seeds have fared in the first three rounds, although not all today's results from the non-eastern time zones have been posted. Headings are links to the full draws.

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

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

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

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

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

G16s (Tulsa OK)
1. Amber Yin
2. Audrey Spencer
3. Arina Oreshchenkova (out rd 3)
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 (out rd 2)
3. Aadarsh Tripathi
4. Bjorn Swenson
5. Rohan Sachdev
6. Eric Li (out rd 3)
7. Joshua Portnoy (out rd 3)
8. Chad Miller (out rd 2)

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

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Both Ohio State Teams, Michigan Women, Illinois Men Reach Big Ten Tournament Finals; Liu Advances to Charlottesville $60K Final; Norrie Seeks First ATP Title in Estoril

Ohio State will have two opportunities to win a conference tournament on Sunday, with both the men's and women's programs winning their semifinal matches today. 

At the men's tournament in Lincoln Nebraska, the Buckeyes defeated Northwestern 4-0, winning the doubles point and getting victories from JJ Tracy at line 6, John McNally at line 1 and Kyle Seelig at line 5. Ohio State will meet Illinois in the final, after they defeated Michigan 4-2. Illinois lost the doubles point, but posted wins in singles by Aleks Kovacevic at line 1, Alex Brown at line 3, Siphosothando Montsi at line 2 and Noe Khlif at line 6. Ohio State won the regular season meeting with Illinois in Champaign 4-1.

At the women's tournament in Madison Wisconsin, Ohio State took down Iowa 4-2, winning the doubles point and getting victories from Lucia Marzal at line 5, Luna Dormet at line 6, and Isabelle Boulais at line 2.  One of Iowa's points came at No. 1, where freshman Alexa Noel is now 23-0 on the season. The Buckeyes will take on Michigan, who defeated Northwestern 4-1. The Wolverines captured the doubles point and got wins from Kari Miller at line 1, Andrea Cerdan at line 3 and Alyvia Jones at line 5. Michigan is into the conference tournament final for the 16th consecutive time. Ohio State and Michigan split two 4-3 decisions this year, each winning on the road. 

Claire Liu at Lexington $100K, Feb. 2020, photo ©Scott Gerber 

Claire Liu advanced to the final of the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville Virginia, beating Sachia Vickery 6-3, 6-3. The 2017 Wimbledon girls singles champion will face No. 6 seed Xinyu Wang of China, a Wimbledon girls doubles champion in 2018, after Wang advanced when qualifier Katie Boulter retired after losing the first set 6-3.  This is Liu's second pro final above the $25K level; she reached the Lexington $100K final back in February of 2020. The 20-year-old Californian has lost her last four finals, including back-to-back finals in $25Ks earlier this year. 

Top seeds Anna Danilina(Florida) of Kazakhstan and Arina Rodionova of Australia won the doubles title, beating unseeded Erin Routliffe(Alabama) of New Zealand and Aldila Sutjiadi(Kentucky) of Indonesia 6-1, 6-3 in the today's final.

At the ATP 250 in Estoril Portugal, former TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain has advanced to the second ATP final of his career. The 25-year-old left-hander, who defeated No. 2 seed Cristian Garin of Chile 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in Friday's quarterfinals, backed up that win today against No. 6 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, beating the 2014 US Open champion 7-6(5), 7-5. He will play No. 7 seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain in Ramos-Vinolas's 10th ATP final and Norrie's second. Norrie, currently No. 50 in the ATP rankings, has 18 wins on the ATP tour already this year.  For more on Norrie's great week and great season so far, see this article from the ATP website.