Saturday, July 31, 2021

Shelton, Loeb and Nakashima Move into Finals; Third Straight Title for Quevedo at Bogota J3, Slama Wins J3 in Paraguay; Olympic Bronze for Stefani and Peers; WTA Qualifying Victories for Krueger and Montgomery

Many of the top contenders for the Kalamazoo 18s title play the USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in the Midwest as warmups for the Nationals, with similar surface, similar weather and a guarantee of a high quality match or two the attraction for those who have a chance to play qualifying, or even receive a main draw wild card. 

I don't, however, remember anyone coming into Kalamazoo immediately after winning one of these pro tournaments, which is what 18-year-old Ben Shelton now has an opportunity to do with a win in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Champaign Illinois. Wild card Shelton, the rising sophomore at Florida, has yet to drop a set in Champaign, and today he defeated top seed and ATP No. 360 Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals. Shelton, who finished fourth in the 16s division in Kalamazoo in 2019, will face No. 5 seed Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands for the title. Brouwer defeated unseeded Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in today's semifinals.

Regardless of the outcome in Sunday's singles final, Shelton has his first ITF men's World Tennis Tour title, after he and Eliot Spizzirri(Texas) won the doubles championship this afternoon. The wild cards defeated No. 2 seeds Yunseong Chung of Korea and Rio Noguchi of Japan 6-4, 6-0 in the final and they didn't come close to losing a set during the week.

Jamie Loeb July 2020
photo credit: Scott Gerber

Jamie Loeb will be back in the Top 200 after reaching the biggest final of her career this week at the WTA 125 in Charleston South Carolina. The 26-year-old from New York, who won the NCAA singles title in 2015 as a sophomore at North Carolina, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-2 in today's semifinal. She will face No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko, who beat No. 2 seed Lauren Davis 7-5, 6-3. Loeb was coming off a rough stretch on European clay after Wimbledon qualifying, winning just one qualifying match in four tournaments, so the Har-Tru of Charleston must have been more to her liking. Her previous best result was an appearance in the final of the Midland $100K in 2018, where she beat both Sofia Kenin and Jennifer Brady, losing to Madison Brengle in the final.

En-Shuo Liang of Taiwan and Rebecca Marino of Canada won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Erin Routliffe(Alabama) of New Zealand and Aldila Sutjiadi(Kentucky) of Indonesia 5-7, 7-5, 10-7.

Brandon Nakashima has been on a roll the past two weeks, reaching his first final at last week's ATP 250 in Los Cabos and his second this week at the 250 in Atlanta. Today Nakashima defeated Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to set up an all-US final against the winner of tonight's match between John Isner and Taylor Fritz. It was just two years ago that Nakashima was preparing to play the Kalamazoo 18s as the top seed; he lost in the semifinals to champion Zachary Svajda 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Kaitlin Quevedo has been on a tear since capturing the USTA Girls 16s Clay Court singles championship two weeks ago in Huntsville Alabama. Last week the 15-year-old Floridian won her first ITF Junior Circuit title at the J5 in Medellin Colombia to run her winning streak to 13; she added five more wins to that this week, with the title at the J3 in Bogota Colombia. Unseeded, she again didn't drop a set all week, defeating top seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru 6-4, 6-1 in the final. Quevedo is showing as withdrawn from the USTA Nationals in San Diego next month.

At this week's J3 in Paraguay, 15-year-old Mia Slama won an all-American final, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 8 seed Tatum Evans 6-3, 6-4. It's Slama's fifth ITF junior singles title, with her previous four coming at the J4 and J5 levels.

Jonah Braswell, the 2020 16s Orange Bowl champion, is not playing Kalamazoo, but was in Germany for a J4 this week. Although he lost in the first round as the No. 2 seed, he did win the doubles title, partnering with Massimo Giunta of Italy. The No. 4 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Cesar Bouchelaghem and Tiago Pires of France 3-6, 6-1, 11-9 in the final.

I wrote about Michael Venus getting a bronze medal yesterday in men's doubles at the Tokyo Olympics and two more former collegians also took third, with John Peers(Baylor), playing with Ashleigh Barty, taking the bronze in mixed for Australia and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) taking bronze for Brazil in the women's doubles with partner Laura Pigossi. It's Brazil's first tennis medal.

Qualifying for next week's WTA 500 in San Jose began today, and two of the junior contenders warming up there in the qualifying won their matches today. Wild card Ashlyn Krueger defeated WTA 183 and No. 7 seed Valeria Savinykh of Russia 6-1, 7-6(2) and wild card Robin Montgomery defeated No. 5 seed Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-4, 6-0. Krueger faces Na-Lae Han of Korea for a place in the main draw; Montgomery's opponent is the winner of tonight's match between Ana Konjuh of Croatia and Eri Hozumi of Japan.