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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Stearns Doubles Up to Claim First Pro Circuit Title at Sumter $25K; All-Argentina Final at Tulsa $25K; Banner Day for TCU Men's Tennis on British Grass Courts

Peyton Stearns has had a fantastic four weeks. As a freshman playing No. 1 singles, the 19-year-old from Ohio didn't just help Texas earn its first NCAA Team Championship since 1995, she was named the Team tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

This week, given a wild card into the main draw of the first Pro Circuit tournament since the NCAAs, Stearns won her first title today at the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, dealing with the last-minute decision to play both the semifinals and the finals today due to rain in Sunday's forecast. Stearns had played a grueling semifinal against No. 5 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, needing two hours and 20 minutes to complete her 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 victory, avenging a first round qualifying loss to Zacarias at a $25,000 tournament in Florida in February. 

Meanwhile, former Vanderbilt All-American Fernanda Contreras of Mexico need just an hour and 23 minutes to take out No. 2 seed Alycia Parks 6-3, 6-2 in the other semifinal this morning.  This evening, both Contreras and Stearns were playing in their second final at the $25K level, with Contreras winning her first title in October 2019 as a qualifier by defeating Leylah Fernandez of Canada in the Waco final, and Stearns losing her first Pro Circuit that very same week to Claire Liu in Florence. It was all Stearns in the final, which lasted only 65 minutes, with the 13th-ranked player in the ITA final rankings this season posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory. 

Currently 484 in the WTA rankings, Stearns should move up to around 350 when these points are added. Stearns said in her post-NCAA championship press conference that her goal to be a pro tennis player hasn't changed; this result will certainly add to the speculation about whether she'll return to Texas this fall, or at all.

In the doubles final, top seeds Emina Bektas(Michigan) and Catherine Harrison(UCLA) won their second title as a team, but their first since 2016, beating No. 2 seeds Paige Hourigan(Georgia Tech) of New Zealand and Aldila Sutjiadi(Kentucky) of Indonesia 7-5, 6-4. Bektas now has 20 ITF doubles titles, Harrison has eight.

A champion from Argentina is guaranteed at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Tulsa, with NCAA champion Sam Riffice(Florida) falling in today's semifinals to unseeded Genaro Olivieri of Argentina 7-6(5), 7-6(2).  Riffice, a wild card, led 4-1 in the second set, lost five of the next six games, broke Olivieri serving for the match, but then dropped the last five points of the tiebreaker. Olivieri will face compatriot Nicolas Kicker in Sunday's final, with Kicker defeating qualifier Nicolas Barrientos of Colombia 1-6, 6-2, 6-1. 

In the doubles final tonight, unseeded Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) and Michail Pervolarakis(Portland) of Greece defeated No. 2 seeds Barrientos and JC Aragone(Virginia) 6-1, 4-6, 10-7. Kirchheimer now has four ITF doubles titles and Pervolarakis has seven.

Cameron Norrie has had a great year already, on all surfaces, but reaching the final on the grass courts of the ATP 500 at Queen's Club in London will raise his profile even higher going into Wimbledon later this month. The former TCU All-American from Great Britain, who has made two ATP 250 finals since the end of April, is 29-12 this year and now closing in on the Top 30. After beating No. 2 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada 7-5, 6-3 today, the 25-year-old lefthander is set for a contest against top seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy Sunday. For more from Norrie on his win today, see this article from the ATP website.

Norrie wasn't the only TCU Horned Frog from Great Britain to have a stellar day today. Senior Alastair Gray, who finished the 2020-21 season ranked No. 16 in the ITA singles rankings, received a wild card into the qualifying of the ATP 250 in Eastbourne and promptly defeated top qualifying seed and ATP No. 79 Soonwoo Kwon of Korea 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Gray, who will  turn 23 on Tuesday, had not beaten a Top 500 player before today, and had lost to Kwon, then ranked 135, in a Challenger on grass in 2019.