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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Nakashima, McDonald, Kudla, Volynets and Liu Qualify for Wimbledon Main Draw; Navarro Advances to Charleston $60K Quarterfinals; Seelig Defeats Bellucci at Champaign $15K

Two Southern Californians with great memories of the Roehampton courts advanced to the main draw of Wimbledon today, as did three other Americans: Wimbledon veterans Mackenzie McDonald and Denis Kudla and teenager Katie Volynets.

Nineteen-year-old Brandon Nakashima won only one match on grass in the two Challengers in Nottingham that served as a warmup for many in Wimbledon qualifying, but he had only to look back on his 2018 run at the Junior Circuit Grade 1 title in Roehampton to know that he could succeed on these grass courts. Today Nakashima dominated former ATP Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis of Latvia by a 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 score to reach the Wimbledon main draw for the first time.

"When I was at Roehampton, in the juniors, that was the first time I ever played on grass," Nakashima said. "I ended up winning that tournament, so obviously I fell in love with it right away. I knew my game suited well for the grass and was always looking forward to the grass courts this season."

Nakashima said that his serve and his return are especially effective on the surface, and admitted that beating Viktor Troicki in the second round and Gulbis today, both of whom have reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the past, was significant.

"They're both great players with great experience behind them, with great results on the grass," the San Diego resident said. "So obviously beating them gives me a lot of confidence in my game."

Claire Liu, who defeated Astra Sharma of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in today's final round of qualifying, won the Roehampton title in 2017, then went on to claim the girls Wimbledon championship with a win over Ann Li, extending her winning streak on grass to 12 matches. 

The 21-year-old Liu, who also qualified for Wimbledon in 2018, won back-to-back tournaments on the ITF Circuit in May, in Charlottesville and Charleston. The former ITF Junior No. 1 is now at a career-high of 120.

Katie Volynets had her breakthrough in May, winning her first title at the $100,000 tournament in Bonita Springs. That put her into slam qualifying for the first time at Wimbledon, the 19-year-old from Northern California was ready for it. Today she defeated Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 7-5, 6-4, coming back from 2-0 down in both sets to earn a place in the main draw. Volynets, who is known for her tenacity and mental strength, played outstanding tennis today. Her defense against the former WTA No. 58 was excellent, and she also hit big and made the right shot choices in nearly every situation. Volynets, the 2019 USTA National 18s champion, was tested today as she was not in her first two qualifying wins, and she came up with an impressive performance under some of the greatest pressure a professional player can face.

Mackenzie McDonald reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2018, but injuries and the pandemic have stalled his progress on tour since then. After holding a two-set to none lead over Cristian Garin of Chile in the second round of the French Open this month but losing, it had to feel especially satisfying for McDonald to come from two sets down to defeat former UCLA teammate Maxime Cressy 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in today's final round of qualifying. Cressy's serve and volley game is not easy to defend, but McDonald held his own on serve, losing serve only once in the final three sets, and that after he had a two-break lead in the fourth set.

Denis Kudla, the fifth American to advance to the main draw with a  6-2, 7-5, 6-4 win over Federico Gaio of Italy today, reached the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2015, and he had already won six matches on grass in the Nottingham Challengers this month, including another win over Gaio. The 28-year-old from Virginia did not drop a set in his three wins this week.

The last ten matches of qualifying, all women's matches, are scheduled for Friday, with two Americans hoping to join the quintet of their compatriots in the main draw. Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn defeated Ekaterine Gorgodze of Georgia 6-2, 6-3 and former USC star Danielle Lao took out No. 2 seed Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. 

The men's qualifying draw is here; the women's qualifying draw is here.

Thursday's US women's second round results:

Danielle Lao d. Viktoriya Tomova[2](BUL) 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
Katie Swan[WC](GBR) d. Caty McNally[6] 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5
Kristie Ahn[13] d. Ekaterine Gorgodze(GEO) 6-2, 6-3
Monica Niculescu(ROU) d. Asia Muhammad 6-3, 6-2
Clara Burel[31](FRA) d. Sachia Vickery 5-7, 6-2, 6-3

Thursday's US men's final round results:

Mackenzie McDonald[2] d. Maxime Cressy[30] 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Brandon Nakashima[22] d. Ernests Gulbis(LAT) 6-4, 6-2, 6-1
Denis Kudla[6] d. Federico Gaio[25](ITA) 6-2, 7-5, 6-4

Thursday's US women's final round results:

Katie Volynets d. Beatriz Haddad Maia(BRA) 7-5, 6-4
Claire Liu[16] v Astra Sharma[19](AUS) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Greet Minnen[15](BEL) d. Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-2

Friday's final round of qualifying for US women:

Danielle Lao v Urszula Radwanska(POL)
Kristie Ahn[13] v Monica Niculescu(ROU)

At the women's USTA Pro Circuit $60,000 tournament in Charleston South Carolina, NCAA champion Emma Navarro(Virginia) is one of three Americans to advance to Friday's quarterfinals. Navarro, a wild card, moved on when Fanni Stollar of Hungary retired trailing 5-0 in the first set. Navarro will face former Vanderbilt star Fernanda Contreras of Mexico, who, for the second week in a row, beat Alycia Parks. Parks, the No. 4 seed this week, lost to Contreras 6-3, 6-3. No. 8 seed Alexa Glatch and unseeded Sophie Chang are the other Americans in the quarterfinals.

The men's USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 tournament in Champaign moved indoors today for the second round, with three Americans advancing to the quarterfinals and another assured a late match tonight between Christian Langmo(Miami) and Connor Farren(USC).

Qualifier Kyle Seelig, who just completed his eligibility at Ohio State, defeated No. 2 seed and former ATP No. 21 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. Gage Brymer(UCLA) and University of Illinois junior Kweisi Kenyatte, a wild card, also are into the final eight. Kenyatte defeated junior Alexander Bernard 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(4). Bernard is one of three US juniors who were playing the tournament, with Bruno Kuzuhara also losing today, while Victor Lilov qualified but lost in the first round. All three should be heading for London to compete on grass, with the ITF Junior Circuit Roehampton J1 starting on Tuesday.


Jan from Atlanta said...

Come on now, Katie Volynets should have gone to college. 200 ranking and the women she beat is 188 and has been dealing with a lot of injuries. Katie does not have the game to get into the money which is top 80-100, to make a profit from tennis.

She is a text book case of a player who should have gone to college instead of making about $40000/year in tennis earnings while paying over $100000/year to stay on tour. At some point it becomes ridiculous to lose over $50000 to play tennis.

Max Ho said...

College is no guarantee of improvement, some players (especially women) can develop more on tour. Volynets just qualified for a grand slam and won a WTA 100 this year. There are tons of women in the top 100 that play defensive tennis and many who have made a great living. There are also a ton of men and women who go to college and stay on tour losing money, so not sure she has to go to college?

On another Nor Cal tennis note, CiCi Bellis is hurt again

Boca Tennis Mom said...

Sadly Ci Ci Bellis' short career was very preventable. We would see her in Boca in the summers at 12 years old, hitting with the stiffest Babolat I have ever seen, for extra power due to her small size. She was having some pain even back then. There was not much injury prevention going on.

She paid the price for improper training while just a kid, the wrong racquet frame, the wrong strings, and coaches/parents not paying attention to the injuries early on.

But she is highly intelligent, great personality, and will land on her feet just fine.

Max Ho said...

Ci Ci Bellis's wrist injury has nothing to do with playing with any racket or type of strings. What do you mean by improper training?

You could certainly argue that like many young very good tennis players who overplayed at a young age and her body broke down.

Jon King said...

Max Ho, please do some research on racquet stiffness, string stiffness, etc. Absolutely the wrong racquet and strings can lead to shoulder, wrist, and elbow issues with kids.

The difference between one of those Babolat stiff frames from 10 years ago when Ci Ci was 12, and a Yonex frame, is night and day. Same with type of strings.

We know the dorm mother from Evert's when Ms. Bellis was training there. She runs a local pro shop now. Ci Ci absolutely would be having arm pain back then. While the other kids were playing cards, she would be constantly icing her arm. It was well known that she was having frequent issues with her wrist even back then.

Coach Nick said...

Been coaching junior girls for almost 20 years and the change in preferred racquets and teaching styles has been unbelievable in that time. The time frame being discussed has seen the biggest changes. 10 years ago many coaches taught girls in the "big banger" style. Hit as hard as possible to emulate Sharapova and Serena and the other baseline hard hitters. That led the tennis parents to get the girls the most powerful racquets such as the old school Babolat's, which were very stiff racquets. These girls would hit very hard for thousands of hours with these racquets. We would lose girls all the time to arm injuries.

Both coaching and racquets have shifted. Much more flexible racquets such as those offered by Wilson and especially Yonex have taken over girl's juniors. You see it on the Pro Tour also, Yonex has exploded in popularity. The reason is these racquets are much easier on the girl's arms as they grow. The coaching has also changed, the girl's have been shifted over those 10 years to more topspin and less very flat ball bashing. The change in racquets and playing styles has greatly lessened the number of girls with arm injuries we see in juniors these days compared to years ago.

Max Ho said...

I had the same injury, tore cartilage in my wrist from too much rotation on the forehand, ahd surgery with not great result (not uncommon injury with Delpo and Nishikori as well). I had tons of overuse injuries while playing and developed a torn rotator cuff in college that was iced every day plus as many as 8 Advil a day to play). Obviously, none of us really know the root of her injury, but her wrist flared up in 2017, she tried casting to prevent pronation/supination then underwent surgery in 2018 for cartilage repair and an ulnar shorting. She has since undergone 2 other surgeries for spurs and hardware removal for her plate on her ulna.

Bellis is big story here in Bay Area, but obviously a cautionary tale as well. Maybe it was stiff racket and strings, but my guess is to much tennis and wrist just broke down. I would see her practice with current and past Stanford players and never noticed any injury issues or icing, but didn't see her full routine.

Jon King said...

Same experience here Coach Nick. Wow, those older Babolats were boards. I remember little 7-8-9 year olds wailing away with those things to get more power! The Yonex DR series saved my niece's tennis career after she started to have arm issues. So comfortable, can hit all day with no arm discomfort.