Sunday, July 25, 2021

Collins, Alcaraz and Norrie Claim First WTA and ATP Titles; Krueger Wins Cary Challenger; Hijikata Earns Second Straight $15K in Edwardsville; US Olympic Update

Two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins captured her first WTA singles title Sunday at the 250 event in Palermo Italy. Collins, who was a sophomore at Virginia when she won her first NCAA title in 2014 and a senior when she won her second in 2016, has been a fixture in the Top 50 for the past four years, but she had not made a final until this week's tournament, where she was the top seed. Up against qualifier Gabriela Ruse of Romania, who had beaten Collins earlier this month in Hamburg, the 27-year-old Floridian got her revenge, taking a 6-4, 6-2 victory. All five of Collins' victories came in straight sets.

Collins isn't the only 2014 NCAA champion to win a title in Palermo this week, with Erin Routliffe taking the women's doubles title, her first, with partner Kimberley Zimmerman of Belgium. Routliffe, who represents New Zealand, won back-to-back NCAA doubles titles in 2014 and 2015 with Maya Jansen at the University of Alabama. This week, the No. 4 seeds defeated unseeded Natela Dzalamidze and Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-4 in the final. 

Cameron Norrie of Great Britain won his first ATP title, although he was playing in his fifth ATP final last night at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos Mexico. The former TCU star, also the top seed, defeated unseeded 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-2 for his 39th win of the year. Three of his 14 losses this year came in finals, so it was surely a relief for the 25-year-old left-hander to secure that first title.

Another first-time ATP champion today was Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, which despite his tender age was also impatiently awaited. The 18-year-old won the ATP 250 in Umag Croatia, defeating Richard Gasquet of France 6-2, 6-2 in the final to become the youngest ATP champion since Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach Open in 2008. Alcaraz, who has won 4 Challenger titles in the past 12 months, was playing in his first ATP final. Alcaraz played only two ITF junior slams, losing in the first round of the 2019 French to Toby Kodat and the quarterfinals of 2019 Wimbledon to Martin Damm.

Fifteen-year-old Sara Bejlek of the Czech Republic completed her dream week, winning the $60,000 ITF Women's World Tennis Tour tournament in her home country as a wild card. Bejlek, who is ranked 57 in the ITF juniors and lost in the second round at Roehampton, Wimbledon and the JA in Milan, blitzed through the field this week, beating No. 2 seed Francesca Jones of Great Britain 6-0, 6-3 in the semifinals and then not allowing Paula Ormaechea of Argentina a game in the final. She will move into the WTA Top 500 after starting the week outside the Top 1000.

Mitchell Krueger won the ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina, the second Challenger title of his career, with a 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over No. 8 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan of India. The 27-year-old, seeded No. 6 this week, previously won the Dallas Challenger in February of 2019.

Qualifying has begun for next week's Lexington Challenger 80, with Jenson Brooksby the top seed in the main draw. Brooksby will play ITA National Player of the Year Liam Draxl of Canada, a wild card entrant, in the first round. Stefan Dostanic(USC) and Govind Nanda(UCLA) also received wild cards into the main draw.

University of North Carolina rising junior Rinky Hijikata of Australia could have decided to take a pass on this week's $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Edwardsville Illinois after winning a $15,000 title in Tunisia last week. But he made the trip back to the United States and ended up going back-to-back half a world away, beating No. 3 seed Strong Kirchheimer, the former Northwestern star, 6-3, 6-1 in today's final. He is now 13-1 since the month began, and has now won three career ITF singles titles.

With no Americans scheduled to compete in the Olympics on Monday, it's a good time to catch up on the first round. Two US men have advanced in singles, but all three US women fell in the first round, as did women's top seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia. 

First round results for Americans, courtesy of USTA:

Frances Tiafoe (USA) def. Soonwoo Kwon (KOR) 63 62

Marcos Giron (USA) def. Norbert Gombos (SVK) 76(4) 36 62

Aslan Karatsev[11] (ROC) def. Tommy Paul (USA) 63 62

Pablo Busta Carreno[6] (ESP) def. Tennys Sandgren (USA) 75 62

Camila Giorgi (ITA) def. Jennifer Brady[11] (USA) 36 26

Belinda Bencic[9] (SUI) def. Jessica Pegula (USA) 63 63

Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU) def. Alison Riske (USA) 67(0) 75 64

Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Jessica Pegula[4] (USA) def. Magda Linette/Alicja Rosolska (POL) 61 63

Darija Jurak/Donna Vekic (CRO) def. Nicole Melichar/Alison Riske[8] (USA) 36 75 (10-2)

Rajeev Ram & Frances Tiafoe (USA) def. Karen Khachanov & Andrey Rublev (ROC) 67(3) 76(5) (12-10)

Austin Krajicek/Tennys Sandgren (USA) def. John Peers/Max Purcell (AUS) 36 76(5) (10-5)

The USTA has also published quotes from the Americans competing in Tokyo here and here.

The draws:

men's singles

women's singles

men's doubles

women's doubles