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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tip From Djokovic Helps Svajda Earn First US Open Win; Cressy Saves Four Match Points to Beat Carreno Busta; USTA National Doubles Champions Crowned in Lake Nona

The last time a Kalamazoo 18s champion won a round at the US Open with the wild card he earned was 2012, when Dennis Novikov, who had played a semester at UCLA, defeated Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-2, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-3. This year's champion Zachary Svajda had the benefit of having played in the main draw of the US Open when he won Kalamazoo in 2019, and he made the most of his second opportunity, defeating Marco Cecchinato of Italy 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

In 2019, Svajda had led Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi two sets to love before he began struggling physically, leading to his 3-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 loss. 

The 18-year-old from San Diego also felt a cramps emerging in the third set, but the two years of physical and mental maturity, and observing Novak Djokovic, kept a similar collapse at bay.

"This time, it happened again, but physically, I was fine," Svajda said. "The nerves got to me, but it definitely wasn't as bad as two years ago and I think that's because I'm 18 now, the fitness, everything I've been doing."

Svajda had practiced with Djokovic on Monday, meeting the world No. 1 for the first time, and as with the match itself, a practice with a top player wasn't as nerve-racking two years later.

"I got a little nervous, but two years ago, when I was practicing with Federer, I got so nervous," Svajda said. "But I now, I just feel it's all going in the right direction, so I'm not as nervous, and it was a really good practice."

Svajda noted how Djokovic handled his time on between games.

"The breathing during the changeovers, I saw him being really locked in and focused," Svajda said. "Sometimes I can get distracted by the fans or whatever it is, and but now I'll just focus on my breathing, close my eyes a little bit. That's what he told me yesterday and it worked today."

Although he showed no signs of nerves when serving out his first US Open win, Svajda admitted they were there.

"I was nervous, but I thought I'd be way more nervous," Svajda said. "But the more I start getting nervous and overthinking everything, winning or whatever it is, that's when more cramping starts to come. So, even in the last service game, I just try to block everything out and just focus."

The emotion that Svajda kept inside was released after match point, when he began to tear up.

"I never really do that, though it happened it Kalamazoo two years ago when I won it," Svajda said. "That's the only two times. It felt really special tonight, just winning first round of US Open, it's really special. It's always been my dream."

Svajda had never played a Top 100 player before today, and his next opponent will be a level above that, with No. 13 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy standing in his path to the third round.

"Jannik hits a great ball," Svajda said. "It'll be a good experience, should be a great match, but we'll see how it goes."

Svajda wasn't the only former Kalamazoo champion to pick up a win today, with 2018 winner Jenson Brooksby defeating Mikael Ymer of Sweden 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in four hours, while 2010 and 2011 champion Jack Sock defeated Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Qualifier Maxime Cressy won a thriller over 2020 semifinalist and No. 9 seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(7), saving four match points from 6-3 down in the fifth set tiebreaker. The former UCLA Bruin, who won a round at the US Open last year, never wavered in his belief that his serve-and-volley game could prevail, even when down two sets.

"My main thought I kept telling myself was on really holding my serve efficiently," Cressy said. "One of my good qualities, I'm not really scared of my opponent or whoever I'm playing. I was just focused on me and holding serve. That gave me some confidence. I was able to really loosen up and make some great shots to break him. No, my main thought was to just focus on holding my serve efficiently throughout the rest of the match and it worked."

Girls 18s champion Ashlyn Krueger, playing her first WTA Top 100 player, acquitted herself well against qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, but came up short against the veteran7-5, 6-7(3), 6-3. Krueger saved a match point at 3-5 in the second set with an ace, but she was broken early in the third set and couldn't recover. Krueger and Robin Montgomery, who won the girls 18s doubles title and a main draw wild card, will play their first round match Wednesday against No. 13 seeds Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula.

The mixed doubles draw was released today, and it was good to see that Bruno Kuzuhara received a wild card to play with Elvina Kalieva. Kuzuhara, who won the Kalamazoo 18s wild card with partner Ben Shelton, was withdrawn from the men's doubles with Shelton testing positive for Covid-19. Reese Brantmeier also received a mixed doubles wild card; the 16-year-old, partnering with Nick Monroe, plays on Wednesday.

Tuesday's first round results featuring Americans:

Shelby Rogers d. Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-0
Su-Wei Hsieh(TPE) d. Claire Liu 6-1, 6-4
Shuai Zhang(CHN) d. Hailey Baptiste[WC] 6-3, 6-4
Martina Trevisan(ITA) d. Coco Vandeweghe[WC] 6-1, 7-5
Jessica Pegula[23] d. Anastasia Potapova(RUS) 6-2, 6-2
Iga Swiatek[7](POL) d. Jamie Loeb[Q] 6-3, 6-4 
Karolina Pliskova[4](CZE) d. Caty McNally[WC] 6-3, 6-4 
Amanda Anisimova d. Zarina Diyas(KAZ) 7-5, 6-2
Ajla Tomljanovic(AUS) d. Katie Volynets[WC] 6-3, 6-1
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova[Q](SVK) d. Ashlyn Krueger[WC] 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova[14](RUS) d. Alison Riske 6-4, 6-2
Lauren Davis d. Viktoriya Tomova[Q](BUL) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3

Mackenzie McDonald d. David Goffin[27](BEL) 6-2, 7-5, 6-3
Jenson Brooksby[WC] d. Mikael Ymer(SWE) 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3
Taylor Fritz d. Alex De Minaur[14](AUS) 7-6(4), 6-2, 1-6, 6-4
Denis Kudla d. Laslo Djere(SRB) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(4)
Ilya Ivashka(BLR) d. Tennys Sandgren 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4
Alexander Zverev[4](GER) d. Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
Jack Sock[WC] d. Yoshihito Nishioka(JPN) 6-7(5), 6-2 6-4 6-2
Steve Johnson d. Maximilian Marterer[Q](GER) 5-7, 7-6(8), 7-6(8), 6-3
Zachary Svajda[WC] d. Marco Cecchinato(ITA) 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Maxime Cressy[Q] d. Pablo Carreno Busta[9](ESP) 5-7, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(7)
Nikoloz Basilashvili(GEO) d. Sebastian Korda 6-2, 2-1 ret.
Lorenzo Musetti(ITA) d. Emilio Nava[WC] 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3
Reilly Opelka[22] d. Soonwoo Kwon(KOR) 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-4
Ernesto Escobedo[WC] d. Pablo Cuevas(URU) 6-1, 6-3, 6-1
Roberto Carballes Baena(ESP) d. Tommy Paul 7-6(5), 6-2, 1-6, 6-3

Wednesday's second round singles matches featuring Americans:

Sloane Stephens v Coco Gauff[21]
Christina McHale v Barbora Krejcikova[8](CZE)
Danielle Collins[26] v Kaja Juvan(SLO)

Frances Tiafoe v Guido Pella(ARG)
Marcos Giron v Dan Evans[24](GBR)
Brandon Nakashima[WC] v Alex Molcan[Q](SVK)

Tennis Recruiting Network has an article posted today on the USTA National Doubles Championships, which were held last weekend at the National Campus in Lake Nona. Gold balls were distributed in the 18s, 16s and 14s divisions, with comments from several of the members of the winning teams, including 16s champion Sofia Webster, daughter of UCLA head coach Stella Sampras Webster.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Nakashima Defeats Isner, 2014 NCAA Champions Advance to US Open Second Round, Brady Withdraws; Final Two US Open Junior Wild Cards Distributed

Brandon Nakashima, photo credit: USTA/Andrew Ong

Brandon Nakashima, who played one semester at Virginia in 2019, and John Isner, who played four years at Georgia from 2003-2007, are at different stages of their careers. 

Nakashima just turned 20 and reached the ATP top 100 for the first time early this month, while Isner is 36 and has been in the ATP top 100 for a dozen years, and in the top 25 most of that time. 

They have played three times this year, with Nakashima winning in the Los Cabos semifinals and Isner winning in the Atlanta final, both last month. 

Today they played their first best of five match, with wild card Nakashima beating Isner at his own game, taking out the No. 19 seed 7-6(7), 7-6(6), 6-3 for his second main draw win at the US Open. 

Nakashima, who is up to 86 in the ATP rankings, said he had picked up on some of Isner's tendencies in their two recent meetings.

"It's always tough against his serve, no matter how many times you play against him," Nakashima said. "Also really happy with the way I played today. Against him, it's very tough, especially on the return games, to get some breaks and opportunities. But I just told myself I just got to try to take care of my service games as much as possible, just try to take every opportunity I could get out there."

Nakashima had 15 aces and faced only one break point, which he lost. Isner was down break point five times, losing two, but it was Nakashima's superior play in the tiebreakers that proved to be the difference.

Nakashima was asked for his best memories of the US Open and he mentioned his first trip there for the Junior Championships, after he received a wild card for winning the Kalamazoo 16s title in 2017.

"I think the first time I came here was when I played the juniors for the first time," said Nakashima, who won his first round match that year. "I think I was 16 years old, coming here for the first time. It was such a great feeling. I was super excited just to be a part of it, just to be on the grounds here. Even to play in the juniors event on these courts was such an amazing feeling. I think I'll always remember that. I think those experiences for the first time being here and the past few years also, I think it's helped me be more comfortable at these courts."

The 2014 NCAA singles champions earned straight-sets victories today, with No. 26 seed Danielle Collins(Virginia) hitting 10 aces and 41 winners in her 6-2, 6-4 win over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, who said this would be the final slam appearance of her career.

Marcos Giron, who turned pro after his 2014 NCAA title, while Collins returned to school for two more years and won the 2016 NCAA singles title too, defeated qualifier Antoine Hoang of France 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 to reach the second round of the US Open for the second year in a row. The former UCLA Bruin was up 5-2, 40-0 when Hoang began hitting winners from every conceivable position on the court, but Giron weathered the storm, broke Hoang to go up 6-5 and served it out, converting his fourth match point.

The 2021 NCAA champions did not fare as well, with University of Florida's Sam Riffice falling to No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3 and University of Virginia's Emma Navarro losing to Christina McHale. Navarro, down 6-1, 2-0, was not playing well, but she found her form, served for a 4-2 lead, but lost that game and the next two, giving McHale the chance to serve for the match at 5-3. In a 15-minute game, McHale had four match points, but Navarro saved them all, broke, held and broke, giving Navarro the opportunity to serve out the set. She couldn't hold, and the one early mini-break for McHale held up as she converted her seventh match point to take her first slam victory of the year.

Seventeen-year-old Coco Gauff, who lost in the first round of the US Open last year, came back from a set and a break down to defeat Magda Linette of Poland 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. 

Monday's first round singles results for Americans:

Kristina Kucova[Q](SVK) d. Ann Li 7-5, 6-1
Sloane Stephens d. Madison Keys 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(7)
Coco Gauff[21] d. Magda Linette(POL) 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
Olga Danilovic[Q](SRB) d. Alycia Parks[WC] 6-3, 7-5
Christina McHale d. Emma Navarro[WC] 6-1, 7-6(5)
Danielle Collins[25] d. Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP) 6-2, 6-4
Tamara Zidansek(SLO) d. Bernarda Pera 6-4, 7-6(4)
Frances Tiafoe d. Christopher Eubanks[Q] 7-6(8), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
Brandon Nakashima[WC] d. John Isner[19] 7-6(7), 7-6(6), 6-3
Grigor Dimitrov[15](BUL) d. Sam Riffice[WC] 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3
Marcos Giron d. Antoine Hoang[Q](FRA) 6-3, 6-4, 7-5

Monday was a light day for Americans compared to Tuesday's schedule, which features 28 US men and women.  Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady is not one of them, after she withdrew today with an injury. Both USTA National 18s champions are in action.

Tuesday's first round singles matches featuring Americans:

Shelby Rogers v Madison Brengle 
Claire Liu v Su-Wei Hsieh(TPE)
Hailey Baptiste[WC] v Shuai Zhang(CHN)
Jennifer Brady[13](withdrew) v Emma Raducanu[Q](GBR)
Coco Vandeweghe[WC] v Martina Trevisan(ITA)
Jessica Pegula[23] v Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Jamie Loeb[Q] v Iga Swiatek[7](POL)
Caty McNally[WC] v Karolina Pliskova[4](CZE)
Amanda Anisimova v Zarina Diyas(KAZ)
Katie Volynets[WC] v Ajla Tomljanovic(AUS)
Ashlyn Krueger[WC] v Anna Karolina Schmiedlova[Q](SVK)
Alison Riske v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova[14](RUS)
Lauren Davis v Viktoriya Tomova[Q](BUL)

Mackenzie McDonald v David Goffin[27](BEL)
Jenson Brooksby[WC] v Mikael Ymer(SWE) 
Taylor Fritz v Alex De Minaur[14](AUS)
Denis Kudla v Laslo Djere(SRB)
Tennys Sandgren v Ilya Ivashka(BLR)
Sam Querrey v Alexander Zverev[4](GER)
Jack Sock[WC] v Yoshihito Nishioka(JPN)
Steve Johnson v Maximilian Marterer[Q](GER)
Zachary Svajda[WC] v Marco Cecchinato(ITA)
Maxime Cressy[Q] v Pablo Carreno Busta[9](ESP)
Sebastian Korda v Nikoloz Basilashvili(GEO)
Emilio Nava[WC] v Lorenzo Musetti(ITA)
Reilly Opelka[22] v Soonwoo Kwon(KOR)
Ernesto Escobedo[WC] v Pablo Cuevas(URU)
Tommy Paul v Roberto Carballes Baena(ESP)

The final two US Open junior wild cards, which were still To Be Determined yesterday, went to Alexis Blokhina (girls main draw) and Sebastian Gorzny(boys qualifying draw). Blokhina was the next American into the main draw by ranking.  The complete lists are below:

Girls main:
Tatum Evans (16s National champion)
Amelia Honer (USTA Clays 18s champion)
Liv Hovde
Sarah Hamner
Eleana Yu
Alexis Blokhina

Boys main:
Colton Smith (third place 18s Nationals)
Alexander Razeghi (16s National champion)
Ryan Colby (USTA Clays 18s champion)
Aidan Mayo
Aidan Kim
Michael Zheng

Girls qualifying:

Yuina Igarash(Japan)
Ariana Pursoo (USTA 18s Clays finalist)
Theadora Rabman
Qavia Lopez

Boys qualifying:
Kyle Kang (18s Nationals fifth place)
Yu Tanaka (Japan)
Nicholas Heng (USTA 18s Clays finalist)
Sebastian Gorzny

Sunday, August 29, 2021

US Open Junior Championships Singles Wild Cards; Fifteen Americans Begin Play at US Open Monday; Covid Leads to Withdrawal of B18s Doubles Champions Shelton and Kuzuhara; Blanch, Tindera, Smejkal Add ITF Junior Circuit Titles, Czaplinski Earns First

All but two of the singles wild cards have been announced for US Open Junior Championships, which begin Monday September 6 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.

The girls main draw wild cards:

Tatum Evans (16s National champion)
Amelia Honer (USTA Clays 18s champion)
Liv Hovde
Sarah Hamner
Eleana Yu

The boys main draw wild cards:

Colton Smith (third place 18s Nationals)
Alexander Razeghi (16s National champion)
Ryan Colby (USTA Clays 18s champion)
Aidan Mayo
Aidan Kim
Michael Zheng

Hovde would have received a main draw wild card as the Easter Bowl champion under the criteria of previous years, so it is good to see her receive one, even without any official guarantee of a wild card for that title this year. Hamner earned a wild card into qualifying by finishing fifth this year in San Diego 18s, but she was upgraded to a main draw wild card.

The girls qualifying wild cards:

Yuina Igarash(Japan)
Ariana Pursoo (USTA 18s Clays finalist)
Theadora Rabman
Qavia Lopez

The boys qualifying wild cards:
Kyle Kang (18s Nationals fifth place)
Yu Tanaka (Japan)
Nicholas Heng (USTA 18s Clays finalist)

I've never understood the reasoning behind the qualifying wild cards for Japanese players, which has been going on for years; I have never learned what the US receives in return. And with two fewer wild cards this year due to the smaller draws, I would think that particular gesture could be suspended, given the circumstances.

Play begins at the US Open on Monday at 11:00 a.m, with 15 of the 43 Americans in action. The top half of both the men's and women's draw are where most of the US players fell, with nearly double the number of Americans (28) set to play their matches on Tuesday.

Monday's first round singles matches featuring Americans:

Ann Li v Kristina Kucova[Q](SVK)
Madison Keys v Sloane Stephens
Coco Gauff[21] v Magda Linette(POL)
Alycia Parks[WC] v Olga Danilovic[Q](SRB)
Emma Navarro[WC] v Christina McHale
Danielle Collins[25] v Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP)
Bernarda Pera v Tamara Zidansek(SLO)

Frances Tiafoe v Christopher Eubanks[Q]
John Isner[19] v Brandon Nakashima[WC]
Sam Riffice[WC] v Grigor Dimitrov[15](BUL)
Marcos Giron v Antoine Hoang[Q](FRA)

Spizzirri and Zink won the US Open boys doubles title in 2019

The doubles draws were released this evening, and I noticed that USTA Kalamazoo 18s champions Ben Shelton and Bruno Kuzuhara were not in the men's draw. A short time later, the University of Florida twitter account reported that Shelton was withdrawn due to "Covid-19 protocols". Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) and Bjorn Fratangelo will assume that wild card.

2019 US Open boys doubles champions Eliot Spizzirri(Texas) and Tyler Zink(Georgia/Oklahoma State) were among those receiving wild cards. The others are Mitchell Krueger and Michael Mmoh, Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Alex Lawson(Notre Dame), Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson(USC), Evan King(Michigan) and Hunter Reese(Tennessee) and Jackson Withrow(Texas A&M) and Nathaniel Lammons(SMU).

The women's doubles wild cards went to Usue Arconada and Whitney Osuigwe, Hailey Baptiste and Emma Navarro(Virginia), Madison Brengle and Claire Liu, Lauren Davis and Ingrid Neel(Florida), 2021 NCAA champions Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty of North Carolina, 18s National champions Ashlyn Krueger and Robin Montgomery and Sania Mirza and CoCo Vandeweghe.

There were 19 ITF Junior Circuit events in addition to the J1 in College Park that I covered, with Americans capturing four singles titles. 

Three of those went to girls who had won titles earlier this month. Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Tindera, who won last week in El Salvador, took the title this week at the J5 in Panama. Tindera, the No. 4 seed, defeated No. 5 seed Carolina Reynoso of the Dominican Republic 6-3, 6-0 in the final.  

Seventeen-year-old Lara Smejkal, who won a J4 last week in Slovenia, added another there this week. The No. 6 seed, Smejkal defeated No. 9 seed Panna Bartha of Hungary 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the final. 

Sixteen-year-old Krystal Blanch won her second J3 title of the month in Spain, after winning earlier in Poland. Blanch, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Celine Simunyu of Ireland 6-3, 6-4 in the final. 

Tommy Czaplinski won his first ITF title this week at the J5 in Panama, with the unseeded 16-year-old beating No. 8 seed Julian Alonso of Spain 6-3, 6-2. He also reached the doubles final, with partner Wil Jenkins of Great Britain.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Lajal's Comeback Leads to ITF College Park J1 Title, Fruhvirtova Sweeps Girls Championships

©Colette Lewis 2021--
College Park MD

Playing a final with the crowd firmly on the side of his opponent was a new experience for Estonia's Mark Lajal, but even in the most pressure-packed moments of his three-hour 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win over local favorite Ryan Colby in the championship match of the ITF College Park J1, Lajal enjoyed himself.

"It was the first time I played with everyone in the crowd against me," said the 18-year-old, seeded No. 6. "Honestly, it was fun in a way. The way it was, was the way I imagined it to be. I always wanted to experience it, and it was nice. Whatever you do, no matter how bad it is, someone is going to cheer for him, even a double fault. But you do something really good and no one cheers for you, that's good, because you have to cheer for yourself."

Lajal sensed that the unseeded Colby was nervous in the first set, with no previous experience in a J1 final to draw on, while Lajal had already claimed two titles at that level this year. Colby, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, the tournament's host, recovered from going down 3-0 at the start to get back to 4-all, but he was broken in the final game of the set.

Colby had come back from a set down twice in earlier matches, crediting the home crowd's support with boosting his energy when the heat and humidity threatened to sap it. 

The 17-year-old was on a path to replicate those comebacks, going up 4-0 in the second set, with Lajal making errors and double faulting, but Colby could not hold on to that lead. Colby failed to convert a set point up 5-2, and when he went down 0-40 serving for the set a second time at 5-4, a collapse looked eminent. He saved those three break points and one more however, drawing errors from Lajal with his excellent slice and hitting a courageous volley winner to finally reach set point. Colby hung in a lengthy rally, and eventually Lajal hit a forehand wide, with the scores of family, friends and fellow JTCC students roaring their approval.

The third set started much like the second, with Colby going up 4-1 and serving for a 5-1 lead. But Lajal immediately broke, held and broke, and when he saved a break point at 4-all, he had the lead for the first time since the first set. Colby held for 5-all as chants of "Let's go Ryan, Let's go" came from the fans in the new bleachers surrounding the Stadium court. Despite two double faults in the game, Lajal held for 6-5, and in the next game, Colby was unable to convert his game point. Unhappy with the lack of two out calls on the baseline by the chair umpire, Colby voiced his displeasure, but the calls stood, and when his forehand found the net on the first match point, the silence that had accompanied Lajal's performance throughout the match seemed even more pronounced.

For all his disappointment, Colby was able to recover his perspective prior to the trophy presentation, taking a few minutes while sitting in his chair with a towel over his head .

"I love those moments, those tight moments," Colby said. "That's why I play tennis really. Even though I lost, I loved it. It was a good experience."

Colby, who will play his first (and last--he turns 18 next month) junior slam next month in New York as a wild card, couldn't channel all the emotion from the crowd as he had done earlier in the week.

"He stepped up and I think I lost a little bit of energy," said Colby, who has verbally committed to USC for 2022. "That was the biggest difference, me losing energy. I couldn't keep it when I was up and he got me."

Prior to this tournament, Colby hadn't played enough at the highest level of ITF junior events to gauge his progress against international competition. But his performance this week has him heading to the US Open with high hopes for more success.

"I'm really confident, I feel I can beat anyone out here," Colby said. "I feel really good going into the US Open."

Lajal, who is now three for three in ITF J1 finals, wasn't happy with his level of play in the final, but never lost faith that he could come back in the third set.

"I knew I could come back," said Lajal, who trains at the Mouratoglou Academy. "Honestly, I didn't play my best tennis throughout the match, I was pushing the ball and making a lot of easy errors, but every game that I lost, I had the lead, so I knew, deep down, if I keep going like this, keep playing, I might have a chance. So I kept trying, fighting for every point."

Lajal gave Colby credit for putting him in difficult positions throughout the match.

"His game is very nice," said Lajal "He has good hands, has a good forehand. If you leave the ball short, he'll put a lot of pressure on you. I was leaving the ball in the box for him, and he was the one dictating the whole match."

Lajal will stay and practice at the JTCC next week prior to traveling to New York for the US Open Junior Championships, with his title here making him one of the favorites.

"This gives me confidence," Lajal said. "It's nice to go into a tournament as the winner of the last tournament. Obviously, I'm going to keep working, but I have the feeling that I can do it."

While Lajal now has three ITF J1 singles titles on his resume, 14-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova earned her first on Saturday morning, defeating No. 8 seed Mirra Andreeva of Russia 6-1, 6-0.

The 13th-seeded Fruhvirtova got off to a good start in the match going up 2-0, but Andreeva threatened to get right back in it in the third game, going up 0-40 and eventually having four opportunities to get back on serve before Fruhvirtova held after three deuces. Andreeva held in the next game, but could not put any pressure on Fruhvirtova's service games, especially with all the unforced errors piling up.

Andreeva took a bathroom break after the first set, but it did nothing to change her fortunes. She received a point penalty for racquet abuse in the first game that gave Fruhvirtova the 1-0 lead, and her frustration boiled over often, leading to shrieks of despair after yet another unforced error.

Fruhvirtova was able to stay focused while her opponent's commitment waned, and she closed out the second set, and the match, with little resistance from Andreeva.

"I really didn't expect that the score would look that smooth," Fruhvirtova said. "It wasn't as easy as it looked, but I thought it would be a bit closer. But I just played really well today."

Fruhvirtova had been down 4-0 in the third set of her second round match against qualifier Ena Koike of Japan and saved a match point, so she had experienced her adversity at the front end of the tournament, while cruising in her final three victories.

"When it was 0-4, I was already on my way back to the hotel," Fruhvirtova said. "Then somehow it just turned. I didn't really expect then that I would win this tournament, but now my ranking is going to get better, so I can play grand slams, and that is really good."

Fruhvirtova, who is now training with her 16-year-old sister Linda at the Olympic Tennis Center in Prague, is in the qualifying draw for the US Open Junior Championships, as is Andreeva. Andreeva, who like Fruhvirtova is 14, was so distraught after her loss that she declined an interview, leaving the site immediately after the trophy ceremony.

Fruhvirtova capped her week in College Park with the girls doubles title, partnering with Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia to claim a 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand and Yichen Zhao of China. The No. 6 seeds had never played together before, but dropped only one set all week.

"I feel from the first round we clicked," Fruhvirtova said. "I feel we play good together because we're both good players," Ciric Bagaric said. "Today we're doing the same as we've been doing for the past four days--breaking serve early and keep going from there."

"We were better from the baseline," Fruhvirtova said. "It was a smooth match."

"We played a good match," said Ciric Bagaric. "Let's just say that."

The boys doubles champions also were playing together for the first time, and as Fruhvirtova had done in singles, Ozan Colak and Canada's Jayden Templeman won the title after saving match points in a previous round. Colak and Templeman defeated No. 3 seeds Ignacio Buse of Peru and Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match Saturday morning, after good fortune came their way earlier in the week.

In their quarterfinal match with top seeds Gonzalo Bueno of Peru and Adolfo Vallejo of Paraguay, Colak and Templeman had saved one match point at 5-6, 15-40, when the match was moved indoors to finish due to thunder and lightning.

"We were definitely a little lucky," said Colak, describing a net cord winner on one of the two match points they saved after moving indoors. 

Colak and Templeman, the No. 8 seeds, were a very last minute pairing after Samir Banerjee, who was Colak's partner, withdrew when he received a US Open qualifying wild card, and Marko Stakusic, Templeman's Canadian partner, couldn't get into the country for the tournament.

"He had good energy from the start," Colak said of Templeman. "Honestly, I wasn't feeling it too much, and he just brought the energy up and I was like, oh, ok, let's get this. And after that we just kept bouncing off each other, when one was down the other could pick it up."

Against Buse and Guillen Meza, Colak and Templeman started slow but changed the tenor of the match midway through the first set, when they won six games in a row.

"We played more aggressive," said Templeman. "We found our groove and our energy went up," Colak added. "After that it was neck and neck, and luckily we were able to stick with the break we got in the first game of the second set."

Complete draws can be found at the ITF Junior Circuit website.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Unseeded Colby Reaches College Park J1 Final on Home Courts; Two 14-Year-Olds Vie for Girls Title Saturday; Eubanks, Cressy and Loeb Qualify for US Open; Vaccination Now Required for Fans at US Open

©Colette Lewis 2021--
College Park MD--

Ryan Colby had two tough three-set matches in the shirt-soaking heat in the third round and quarterfinals of the ITF College Park J1, so it's no surprise that he slept for 12 hours last night. That he dominated No. 15 seed Kalin Ivanovski of Macedonia 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals Friday was a bit more unexpected, with the 17-year-old Junior Tennis Champions Center student executing his strategy perfectly against his physically imposing opponent.

"I tried to mix it up," said Colby, who never gave Ivanovski the same ball twice in a rally. "I knew he had a big serve, a big forehand so I couldn't let him get comfortable with that. I knew I could last longer than him in the heat, so I just tried to make balls, make him lose his legs."

Getting a break in the fourth game of the first set allowed Colby to keep the pressure on Ivanovski, who seemed to make an unforced error early in every important point. Colby, who didn't drop serve in the match, neutralized Ivanovski's serve and played with both control and aggression.

The second set was close until the sixth game, when Colby broke at love, and he showed no sign of nerves serving out the match, with his JTCC training partners, friends and family not required to provide the energy he had needed from them in his last two wins.

The tournament, which has been a Grade 1 since 2013, has never had a singles finalist from the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

"It's special," said Colby, the reigning USTA 18s Clay Court champion, who has committed to USC. "It's always feels good to be in a final, especially here, in my home town. I love playing in front of the crowd."

Colby will face No. 6 seed Mark Lajal of Estonia, who had an even easier day on the courts than Colby, beating No. 11 seed Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador 6-1, 6-1 in just over an hour.

"I was expecting a tough match because I knew he was a grinder and he liked to make a lot of balls," said the 18-year-old. "But from the first point I put a lot of pressure, and I played a game he didn't like. At one point he started to give me a lot of free points, so I knew what I was doing was exactly what I needed to do."

Lajal had needed three hours to get by Coleman Wong in Thursday's quarterfinals, so he was happy to get through the semifinals quickly.

"The first match, I didn't feel well on the court," said Lajal, who has been in two previous J1 finals this year in Europe and has won them both. "The jet lag and everything. But every match I've started feeling better and better and now I feel pretty good on the court. I like playing in the heat, but here it's really humid and I've played three long matches this week. It's pretty draining on the body, but I can manage."

With Lajal in Europe and Colby playing very little international circuit due to a raft of injuries, they were unlikely to have met in competiion, but Lajal recalled playing Colby in the consolation draw of the Junior Orange Bowl 12s back in 2015, a match that Colby does not remember.

"It was the third round and it was a long match; we had rain delays, but I don't know why I remember that," Lajal said.

Fourteen-year-olds Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic and Mirra Andreeva of Russia will meet for the girls title Saturday after both took out their older opponents in straight sets.

Andreeva, the No. 8 seed, defeated unseeded 17-year-old Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand 6-3, 6-2, while Fruhvirtova, the No. 13 seed, defeated No. 14 seed Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia by the same score.

Andreeva has had the more consistent results this week, winning all five of her matches in straight sets, while Fruhvirtova was down a match point in the second round against qualifier Ena Koike of Japan after going three sets in the first round.

"The first two rounds I really didn't feel good on the court," said Fruhvirtova, who won a J2 early last month in the Czech Republic, but will be playing in her first J1 final Saturday. "I'm playing on hard courts not even two weeks, so I'm finding my game in the first two rounds. Luckily I saved the match point there, and the two matches after were better and better."

Fruhvirtova said she struggled a bit today, for a variety of reasons.

"I didn't really feel good on my legs today," Fruhvirtova said. "Because it's a fifth match and it's really hard with the weather here, so I didn't really feel good physically. It wasn't an easy match, because it's not easy to play against my doubles partner, but I'm happy that I figured out how to play, even when I was tired."

Andreeva, who earlier this month went undefeated in Russia's ITF World Junior Tennis 14U competition in the Czech Republic, has made a seamless transition from clay to hard courts, and although she has not played Fruhvirtova, she has a recent win over her 16-year-old sister Linda at last month's Grade A in Milan.

"I'm expecting how she'll play tomorrow," said Andreeva, who reached the semifinals in Milan. "I have the plan for her game and so I think I could win the tournament because I am sure of myself. I watched her match in the second round, crazy match, and tomorrow will be easier. I know how she plays and how she will play me."

Andreeva, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s in 2019, was able to keep Jattavapornvanit off balance, and by altering her pace and placement she forced the left-hander into going for too much. 

"That girl was very great player, active and aggressive," Andreeva said. "I play across, lines, because of my game, I win this match."

Fruhvirtova and Ciric Bargaric will play for the girls doubles title Saturday afternoon against Jattavapornvanit and her partner Yichen Zhao of China, who trains at the JTCC. Jattavapornvanit and Zhao defeated No. 7 seeds Tatyana Nikolenko of Kazakhstan and Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan 6-0, 6-3, while No. 6 seeds Fruhvirtova and Ciric Bagaric defeated unseeded Charlotte Owensby and Alexandra Yepifanova 6-2, 6-3.

The only third sets played on Friday were in boys doubles, with both semifinals decided in match tiebreakers.

No. 8 seed Ozan Colak and Canada's Jayden Templeman defeated No. 4 seeds Coleman Wong of Hong Kong and Max Westphal of France 7-5, 2-6, 10-6.  Their opponents in the final will be No. 3 seeds Guillen Meza and Ignacio Buse of Peru after they defeated unseeded Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn 6-4, 1-6, 10-7.

Three Americans, all former collegians, have advanced to the main draw of the US Open after winning their third round qualifying matches today. 

Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) defeated Sebastian Baez of Argentina 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(6), hitting 21 aces in the two-and-a-half-hour match. He will be in the main draw of the US Open for the third time, after receiving a wild card in both 2017 and 2019. 

Maxime Cressy(UCLA) managed 18 aces, but he also had 14 double faults in his 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium. Cressy will be in the US Open main draw for the second consecutive year after receiving a wild card and winning a match in 2020.

Jamie Loeb last competed in the main draw of the US Open in 2015, the year she won the NCAA women's singles title as a UNC Tar Heel and received a wild card. After defeating Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-4, 7-6(2) today, the 26-year-old New Yorker, who had 10 aces in the match, will play in her first slam main draw since that 2015 debut.

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

This afternoon the USTA announced that all ticket holders would be required to prove vaccination status in order to enter the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. For more information, see this statement at usopen.org.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Colby Reaches College Park J1 Semifinals the Hard Way; NCAA and National 18s Champions Learn US Open First Round Opponents; Seven Americans Advance to Final Round of US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2021--
College Park MD--

Playing where he trains, Ryan Colby could be excused for feeling the pressure of having friends, training partners and family memberes following every point of his matches this week at the ITF College Park J1 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. But the 17-year-old from Virginia doesn't look at it that way; instead he credits their support as instrumental in getting him through his 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Michael Zheng.

"I love a crowd, I love my friends watching, it makes me play better I think," said Colby, who also came from a set down in his third round match Wednesday against Braden Shick. "Even though I was tired and cramping towards the end, I felt the crowd helped a lot and I was getting myself pumped on every point that I won. That was a big difference, me having more energy than him."

Colby, who won the USTA National Clay Court Championships last month in Delray Beach, said getting back to even after losing serve in the first game of the second set was a turning point in his comeback.

"I wasn't feeling too good about myself the first game of the second set," Colby admitted. "But I won that game, a tough game, and broke back, went up 4-1, so I knew I had it if I just kept staying with it."

Colby went up 5-0 in the third set, but when he finally closed out the match, he looked as if he was going to go down from a leg cramp.

"I felt it was about to, but it didn't really cramp," said Colby, who thought conditions were about as bad as they get in the area, with the heat index over 105 degrees today. "It was kind of scary on a few balls, because it would have been tough to come back. This is the first tournament I've dealt with [cramping]. I haven't cramped in a match yet, but I did after my match yesterday and then today."

Colby, the only unseeded boys semifinalist, will face No. 15 seed Kalin Ivanovski of Macedonia, who also needed three sets to advance. Ivanovski, who defeated No. 9 seed Alejandro Vallejo of Paraguay 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, said the heat wore him down in the second set.

"I was in the lead the whole match, I had a set and 3-2 and a break and then I really got tired from the heat," said the 17-year-old. "It's really humid, I've never played in weather like this and I think he is more used to this. I was still serving really good, but he was blocking all my serves back really deep and we were playing long points. I tried to finish it faster, but I made quite a few errors and he was playing much better."

Ivanovski took a break after the second set--with the heat rule not yet in effect in the late morning--changing his shirt and doing some brief meditation.

"I cooled down, I was positive for the third set, and when I got back in the third set, I started off with a break, so it helped me a lot," said the 6-foot-5-inch Ivanovski, who trains with Ivan Cinkus in Croatia after previously spending several years at the Mouratoglou Academy.

Although he plays primarily on clay in Europe, Ivanovski plays what is widely considered an American-style game.

"My serve and my forehand are the two biggest shots in my game," Ivanovski said. "I like to serve big, I'm tall, and the first shot after the serve, I mostly use my forehand to win the points. I like to be creative on the court, and right now, I prefer hard courts."

Top seed Juncheng Shang of China lost a 75-minute first set to No. 11 seed Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador 7-6(4) and retired after going down 2-0 in the second set. In his previous matches this week, he was seen touching his back regularly during play; hopefully it's nothing serious and he can recover in the next 10 days for the US Open Junior Championships.  

Guillen Meza will face No. 6 seed Mark Lajal of Estonia, who played an even longer first set in his 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3 win over No. 16 seed Coleman Wong of Hong Kong. The first set took over 90 minutes to complete, with Wong's defense regularly prolonging the rallies, but Lajal was able to keep the ball in the court more consistently as fatigue became an issue in the third set.

The last two US girls in the draw lost Thursday, with unseeded Katja Wiersholm unable to hold either of her early leads in both sets, with 14-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia taking a 6-3, 6-4 decision. Andreeva, seeded No. 8, will play unseeded Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand, who advanced when No. 7 seed Alexis Blokhina retired after losing the first set 6-0.

Another 14-year-old, No. 13 seed Brenda Fruhvirtova, advanced to the semifinals, where she will play doubles partner Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia, the No. 14 seed. Fruhvirtova, who saved a match point in her second round win over Ena Koike of Japan, defeated No. 6 seed Solana Sierra of Argentina 6-3, 6-2. Ciric Bagaric eliminated unseeded Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa by a 6-4, 6-2 score.

The doubles semifinals are also set for Friday, with four players still in singles also remaining in doubles.

Fruhvirtova and Ciric Bagaric, the No. 6 seeds, will face the unseeded American team of Charlotte Owensby and Alexandra Yepifanova, while No. 7 seeds Tatyana Nikolenko of Kazakhstan and Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan will play the unseeded team of Jattavapornvanit and Yichen Zhao of China.

No. 8 seeds Ozan Colak and Canada's Jayden Templeman were down three match points at 6-5 in the second set against top seeds Gonzalo Bueno of Peru and Adolfo Vallejo of Paraguay when thunder and lightning forced the match to be moved indoors. After saving one match point, play was suspended, and when it resumed indoors Colak and Templeman saved two more, won the ensuing tiebreaker, then took the match tiebreaker for a 4-6, 7-6(1), 11-9 victory.  The will play No. 4 seeds Wong and Max Westphal of France Friday, while No. 3 seeds Guillen Meza and Ignacio Buse of Peru will play unseeded Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn.

Play begins at 9 a.m. with the girls singles semifinals, followed by the boys, not before 10 a.m. Two turns of doubles will follow, with the first two matches not before noon.

The US Open draws (men's and women's singles) were revealed today, with NCAA champions Sam Riffice and Emma Navarro and National 18s champions Zachary Svajda and Ashlyn Krueger learning who they will play in the first round.  Riffice got the toughest assignment, against No. 15 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria; Navarro drew fellow American Christina McHale and Svajda will face Marco Cecchinato of Italy.

In all, 41 Americans are currently in the draw: 20 men and 21 women. That's before the final round of qualifying, where seven additional Americans have a chance to reach the main draw by winning matches Friday.

They are: Caroline Dolehide, Jamie Loeb(North Carolina), San Diego 18s finalist Reese Brantmeier[WC], Maxime Cressy[29](UCLA), Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech), Zane Khan[WC] and Aleksandar Kovacevic[WC](Illinois).

Kovacevic, who is just starting his pro career, defeated qualifying top seed Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-3, 6-4 for his first ATP Top 100 win. Bonzi is currently 94 in the ATP rankings.

Friday's schedule is here, with the men's qualifying draw here and the women's qualifying draw here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Wiersholm, Wong Oust No. 3 Seeds Yepifanova and Lilov; Shelton and Kalieva Among US Open Qualifying Winners; Cal's Wright Retires

©Colette Lewis 2021--
College Park MD--

Wednesday's third round at the ITF College Park J1 was similar to the first two days, with searing heat and the exit of seeds, with the No. 3 seeds the victims today. Unseeded Katja Wiersholm and No. 16 seed Coleman Wong of Hong Kong were responsible for the elimination of junior slam finalists, with Wiersholm defeating Alexandra Yepifanova 6-1, 6-3 and Wong taking out Victor Lilov 7-5, 6-1.

Wiersholm had lost to Yepifanova in the second round of the Easter Bowl this spring, but had beaten her in the consolation tournament of the USTA 18s National Championships in San Diego earlier this month.

"At Easter Bowl I had a lot of nerves going into the match because she's like the highest-level player that I'd played since Covid," said the 17-year-old left-hander, who has committed to Cal. "But I saw that it was competitive and I had the game. I beat her at San Diego, but that was just back draw, so I knew that this match was bigger for her and for me too, so we were both going to step it up."

Wiersholm said her returning was a key to taking control of the match.

"She's very tall and and she has a great serve," Wiersholm said. "I just had to go for the returns, be fearless and eventually get a rhythm with it, instead of just getting tight."

Wiersholm had gotten through two long three-setters on the first two days, so she was relieved to get the first match on Wednesday morning, when the heat and humidity were still building to the oppressive levels they reached in the afternoon. 

"I made it a little hard on myself the first two rounds," Wiersholm said. "I feel fine. Training in Florida has really helped my fitness, so going into tournaments like this, I feel more confident, knowing I've been practicing in really hot weather and I can handle it."

Wiersholm will play 14-year-old Mirra Andreeva of Russia, the No. 8 seed, who defeated No. 11 seed Victoria Mboko of Canada 6-3, 6-2.

Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of Thailand, who took over the top spot in the draw when Linda Fruhvirtova withdrew just prior to the tournament, will face No. 7 seed Alexis Blokhina in the other quarterfinal in the top half. Blokhina, who is the only other US girl in the quarterfinals, defeated two-time Orange Bowl finalist Jana Kolodynska of Belarus, the No. 9 seed, 6-2, 6-3.

Just two American boys remain as well, both unseeded, with local favorite Ryan Colby playing Michael Zheng for a spot in the semifinals. Colby defeated Braden Shick 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, while Zheng ended the run of qualifier Brayden Michna 6-0, 6-3. The three seeded Americans remaining in the top half all lost today, with top seed Juncheng Shang of China defeating No. 13 seed Ethan Quinn 6-4, 6-3 and No. 7 seed Alexander Bernard retiring with heat-related illness to No. 11 seed Alvaro Guillen Meza of Ecuador in the first game of the third set, after winning the first 7-5 and dropping the second 6-4.

The third, Lilov, had set points at 5-4 in the first against Wong, but a disagreement over Wong's call on a Lilov serve proved a turning point.

"He's serving at 5-4 and he has two or three set points," said Wong, who didn't play from March of 2020 until June of this year due to the travel restrictions imposed for the pandemic in Hong Kong. "He said he served an ace, it was close to the line and I said it was out, and we kind of argued a bit. Then I broke him back and he dropped a bit. I got more returns in, second set and that was the key, and my serve."

Wong, who is traveling with a coach provided by the federation, was told that he hit 12 aces during the match.

"So I was serving good, and my return was solid," said Wong, who had beaten Lilov in the final of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s in 2018 and considers him a good friend. "Two years ago, I was here and made the quarters as well; hopefully I can do better tomorrow."

Wong will face No. 6 seed Mark Lajal of Estonia, who defeating No. 12 seed Ignacio Buse of Peru 6-4, 6-3.

Not all the upsets were in singles, with the top-seed girls doubles team getting knocked off in this afternoon's second round action. Alejandra Cruz of Mexico and Dasha Plekhanova of Canada defeating Dana Guzman of Peru and Solana Sierra of Argentina 3-6, 6-3 11-9.

The No. 2 seeds in the boys doubles, Lajal and Kalin Invanovski of Macedonia lost to Evan Wen and Sebastian Sec 7-6(3), 6-7(1), 10-4. 

Due to the heat continuing on Thursday, all eight quarterfinal singles matches will be played at 9 a.m. with doubles to follow after suitable rest.

The draws and Thursday's order of play can be found at the ITF junior website.

A long day of qualifying at the US Open ended tonight with six American men and seven American women advancing to the second round Thursday, joining the seven who won their first round matches Tuesday

Two current collegians, Texas junior Eliot Spizzirri and Florida sophomore Ben Shelton, both picked up impressive wins as wild cards, with Spizzirri defeating ATP 163 Alejandro Tabilo of Chile 5-7, 7-6(0), 6-3 and Shelton beating Michael Mmoh 7-6(3), 7-6(5). Eighteen-year-old wild card Elvina Kalieva also made good use of her wild card, defeating Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-3, 6-4.

Americans winning first round qualifying matches Wednesday:

Christian Harrison[WC]
Mitchell Krueger
Christopher Eubanks
Ben Shelton[WC]
Aleksandar Kovacevic[WC]
Eliot Spizzirri[WC]

Elvina Kalieva[WC]
Robin Anderson
Usue Arconada
Hanna Chang
Victoria Duval[WC]
Caroline Dolehide
Sachia Vickery

The women's draw is here; the men's draw is here; Thursday's order of play, which features 20 Americans, is here.

Peter Wright, who has led the Cal men's tennis program for the past 29 years, announced today that he is retiring. Women's head coach Amanda Augustus is taking over as the interim head coach while a national search is conducted. I spoke with Wright at length just two weeks ago in Kalamazoo about several possible changes in the college tennis calendar, so I hope his retirement from coaching doesn't mean he's stepping away from the sport, but rather shifting his focus to the overall health of collegiate tennis in general. College tennis has benefited from his vision and insight for decades, and needs it now more than ever.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Colby Takes Out No. 5 Seed Blanch on Home Courts, Fruhvirtova Saves Match Point in College Park J1 Second Round Action; Brantmeier Among Seven American Winners on First Day of US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2021-
College Park MD--

Another scorcher of a day at the ITF J1 in College Park produced upsets, long, competitive matches and a big win by the hometown hero at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

Ryan Colby, who trains at the JTCC, defeated No. 5 seed Dali Blanch 6-2, 6-4 in front of scores of fans, all of whom have watched him play for years on the same courts. 

Colby said it took him only one game to realize he could win the match against Blanch, who is 16 in the ITF Junior World rankings.

"I knew I had him, it was just whether I could sustain my level," said Colby, who has committed to USC and expects to start there in January. "He's a great player, but I felt that if I stayed with him, put more balls in the court and fight harder, I would have it."

Colby has had a myriad of injuries throughout his junior career, with elbow, shoulder and wrist injuries and surgeries, but he has been healthy for about a year, and had seen his game blossom in the past several months. Colby won the USTA Clay Courts 18s last month in Delray Beach, and with it a US Open Junior Championships main draw wild card.

"Playing Clays, doing well there, that's where I've always gotten my injuries, each one, so winning that and not getting injured, that was big," said Colby, who turns 18 next month. "It's been helpful [for confidence] and I'm excited for the US Open. It's a great opportunity to play, in my last year, so it's going to be fun."

Colby believes that all the injuries he's suffered and the rehabilitation he's done have played a role in how he looks at tennis now.

"It's been a good process; it's changed my perspective on tennis and life," Colby said. "Not having something you take for granted, it's changed me a lot."

Colby will face Braden Shick in the third round Wednesday, with the NC State freshman having beaten Colby in the semifinals of a Grade 3 in Costa Rica this spring 7-6(8), 7-5. That is one of two matches between unseeded players in the boys draw, with the other featuring qualifier Brayden Michna, who beat No. 14 seed Max Westphal 6-4, 6-2 and Michael Zheng, who defeated Benjamin Kittay 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.

Top seed Juncheng Shang of China, the No. 1 player in the iTF Junior rankings, came away with another tough victory in today's second round, advancing when Derrick Chen of Great Britain retired trailing 6-1, 6-7(2), 1-0. Shang will play No. 13 seed Ethan Quinn in a rematch of the Easter Bowl final, after Quinn defeated Leanid Boika 6-3, 6-3.  All four of the matches in the top half are as predicted by the seeding, but in the bottom half, the only seeds remaining are No. 9 Adolfo Vallejo of Paraguay and No. 15 seed Kalin Ivanovski of Macedonia. 

The girls draw also lost the No. 5 seed today, with Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa beating Laura Hietaranta of Finland 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Ariana Pursoo defeated No. 12 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland 6-4, 6-1 and Nevena Carton took out No. 10 seed Annabelle Xu of Canada 7-6(4), 6-1.

No. 13 seed Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic was one point from joining the other seeds on the sidelines, but the 14-year-old saved it to stay alive, beating qualifier Ena Koike of Japan 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. Fruhvirtova trailed 4-0 in the final set, but won four straight games before Koike stopped her run to hold for a 5-4 lead. Down 30-40, Fruhvirtova found the shot she wanted after a tense rally hitting a sharply angled backhand winner to save the match point. Two points later, Fruhvirtova held and after a shaky service game from Koike, Fruhvirtova had a chance to serve out the match. Koike saved a match point at 40-30 with a forehand winner, but Fruhvirtova converted on her second match point to earn her second consecutive three-set victory. She will face unseeded Charlotte Owensby in round of 16 Wednesday.

The first round of doubles was played this afternoon, with the top four seeds in both boys and girls draws advancing to Wednesday's second round.  Draws and the order of play for Wednesday can be found at the ITF Junior Circuit website.

The first day of qualifying at the US Open saw seven of the 13 Americans in action advancing to the second round, including San Diego 18s finalist Reese Brantmeier, who defeated No. 21 seed Olga Govortsova of Belarus 6-2, 6-3. The 27 other Americans in the men's and women's qualifying play their first round Wednesday.

Americans winning first round qualifying matches Tuesday:

JJ Wolf
Maxime Cressy[29]
Ulises Blanch
Zane Khan[WC]
Jamie Loeb
Reese Brantmeier[WC]
Francesca Di Lorenzo

Americans in first round US Open qualifying action Wednesday:

Aleksandar Kovacevic[WC]
Christopher Eubanks
Govind Nanda[WC]
Christian Harrison[WC]
Ben Shelton[WC]
Michael Mmoh
Samir Banerjee[WC]
Mitchell Krueger
Nicolas Moreno de Alboran[WC]
Eliot Spizzirri[WC]
Bjorn Fratangelo

Robin Montgomery[WC]
Whitney Osuigwe
Clervie Ngounoue[WC]
Katrina Scott[WC]
Elvina Kalieva[WC]
Hanna Chang
Gabriella Price[WC]
Asia Muhammad
Robin Anderson
Usue Arconada
Grace Min
Peyton Stearns[WC]
Caroline Dolehide
Victoria Duval[WC]
Danielle Lao
Sachia Vickery

The women's qualifying draw is here; the men's qualifying draw is here, and Wednesday's schedule is here.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Shick, Kittay Oust Seeds in College Park J1 First Round, No. 2 Seed Sieg, No. 4 Seed Guzman Upset; 40 Americans in US Open Qualifying, 13 Start Play Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2021--

College Park MD--

The top seeds were under siege Monday in the opening round of the ITF J1 in College Park, with both No. 4 seeds, and the girls No. 2 seed, eliminated.

Madison Sieg, the No. 2 seed, lost to Mia Kupres 6-1, 6-2 at the University of Maryland courts, with No. 4 seed Dana Guzman of Peru also losing at the secondary site, with Gracie Epps posting a 6-2, 6-1 decision.  

Benjamin Kittay defeated No. 4 seed Gonzalo Bueno of Peru 6-4, 6-3, using his all-court game to keep the points short, after going down a break early in the first set.

"That's my game style," said Kittay, who turns 18 in four days. "That was the plan and I felt like I executed it well. When I got to a neutral basis off his first serve, I felt like I was inside the court a lot and could dictate the points very well.  So getting in the point off the return was the biggest thing."

Although Kittay, from Potomac Maryland, was happy to get out of the 90 degree temperatures in the late afternoon without needing a third set, he showed no signs of heat fatigue.

"I'm from here, so I'm used to the heat," said Kittay. "But it was a good match."

Braden Shick went down quickly to No. 10 seed Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria, but the North Carolina State freshman found the energy to fight back, taking a 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 decision in an two-hour and 45 minute battle.

"I think he got a little tired in the third, and I don't think he is quite used to this heat," said Shick, who joined the Wolfpack in January, and is juggling schoolwork again now, with school resuming. "I've done pretty well in the heat; I haven't had too many matches in the heat when my fitness has let me down. I work pretty hard on that part, so it's good to have that as confidence, so when you go deep, you can be there in the late big moments."

Shick didn't save any match points, but he admitted that a couple of points in the second set tiebreaker could have made the difference.

"At 6-5 in the breaker, I forget what happened in the point, it could have gone either way and I could have been out right there," Shick said. "I stuck around, and I got a little lucky."

Other seeds who lost in today's first round were No. 8 seed Ozan Colak, who was beaten by lucky loser Learner Tien 6-2, 6-3; No. 15 seed Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan, who lost to Katja Wiersholm 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; and No. 16 seed Kayla Cross of Canada, who lost a three-hour battle with Daniella Ben-Abraham 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5. 

The last match of the day had to be moved indoors to finish, with the light fading as Jonah Braswell and No. 9 seed Adolfo Vallejo of Paraguay split sets, and all lighted courts inside at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. Vallejo took that match 0-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Top seed Juncheng Shang of China was tested by Luca Hotze, but came through with a 6-2, 7-6(4) victory. Girls No. 3 seed Alexandra Yepifanova, the highest girls seed remaining now, also had a tough second set, but prevailed 6-0, 7-6(3) over Reece Carter of Canada.

Doubles begins on Tuesday, with Bueno and Vallejo the top seeds in the boys draw and Guzman and Solana Sierra of Argentina the No. 1 seeds in the girls draw. 

The results, draws and order of play for Tuesday can be found at the ITF Junior website.

Qualifying for the US Open begins Tuesday, with 13 of the 40 Americans vying for a main draw spot in action. 

US Men (17)
Aleksandar Kovacevic[WC]
Thai Kwiatkowski*
Christopher Eubanks
Govind Nanda[WC]
Christian Harrison[WC]
JJ Wolf*
Stefan Kozlov[WC]*
Ben Shelton[WC]
Michael Mmoh
Zane Khan[WC]*
Samir Banerjee[WC]
Mitchell Krueger
Maxime Cressy[29]*
Ulises Blanch*
Nicolas Moreno de Alboran[WC]
Eliot Spizzirri[WC]
Bjorn Fratangelo

US Women (23)
Robin Montgomery[WC]
Whitney Osuigwe
Reese Brantmeier[WC]*
Francesca Di Lorenzo*
Kristie Ahn[25]*
Clervie Ngounoue[WC]
Katrina Scott[WC]
Elvina Kalieva[WC]
Hanna Chang
Gabriella Price[WC]
Asia Muhammad
Robin Anderson
Usue Arconada
Grace Min
Peyton Stearns[WC]
Caroline Dolehide
Victoria Duval[WC]
Danielle Lao
Sachia Vickery
Louisa Chirico*
Elli Mandlik[WC]*
Allie Kiick*
Jamie Loeb*

*Plays Tuesday

The women's qualifying draw is here; the men's qualifying draw is here, and Tuesday's schedule is here.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Banerjee Receives Last Minute US Open Qualifying Wild Card, Out of College Park J1; Smejkal, Tindera Win Junior Circuit Titles; Post-Kalamazoo Podcast with Cracked Racquets

The domino effect when a player withdraws from the US Open can extend down to the junior level, as was demonstrated today when  Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia withdrew from the US Open men's main draw. That moved Taro Daniel into the main draw, and qualifying wild card Ulises Blanch into the qualifying draw on his own ranking, thus freeing up a qualifying wild card. That qualifying wild card was given to Wimbledon boys champion Samir Banerjee, who was the No. 2 seed this week at the ITF J1 tournament in College Park.

Although there were sporadic showers in the area throughout the day, the final round of qualifying came off without any delays. The eight girls qualifying for the main are Kailyn Carnicella, Ena Koike(JPN), Esha Velaga, Eria Jessel, Ariana Pursoo, Bayley Sheinin, Seren Agar and Alice Xu.  At least four lucky losers have also made the girls main draw.

The eight boys qualifying for the main draw today are Rohan Belday, Jonathan Irwanto, Eric Li, Aram Noroozian(CAN), Will Mayew, Ian Mayew, Brayden Michna and Alejandro Jacome Jaramillo(ECU)As of tonight, two lucky losers will receive entry into the main draw.

Play begins at 9 a.m. at the Junior Tennis Champions Center and University of Maryland courts. Draws and Monday's order of play can be found at the ITF Junior site.

Twenty ITF Junior Circuit tournaments were on the calendar this week, and two American girls came away with singles titles. Seventeen-year-old Laura Smejkal won her first ITF singles title at the J4 in Slovenia, with the No. 2 seed defeating qualifier Lea Aschenberger of Germany 6-2, 6-0 in the final. Smejkal also won the doubles title, her second on the ITF Junior Circuit. She and Brina Sulin of Slovenia, the No. 4 seeds, defeated the unseeded Slovakian team of Laura Cilekova and Zofia Cubonova 6-4, 3-6, 10-2 in the final.

At the J5 in El Salvador, 17-year-old Elizabeth Tindera won her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the No. 5 beating top seed Hannah Chambers of Barbados 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Tindera had won her first ITF Junior Circuit title in doubles in Colombia two weeks ago. 

At the J2 in Mexico Yannik Rahman won the boys doubles title, with partner Martin Vergara del Puerto of Paraguay. The No. 2 seeds defeated the fourth-seeded American team of Luca Hotze and Kurt Miller 5-7, 7-6(4), 12-10 in the final. Top seeds Alejandra Cruz and Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico won the singles titles.

And finally, at the J5 in Ecuador, 17-year-old Alyssa Perdomo won the doubles, partnering with Colombia's Sofia Loren Muñoz Muñoz for her first ITF Junior Circuit title. The unseeded pair defeated No. 2 seeds Tania Andrade Sabando and Andrea Robles Cuellar of Ecuador 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 in the final.

Eighteen-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark won the WTA 125 in Chicago today, defeating Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. Tauson now at a career-high of 76 in the WTA live rankings. 

Emina Bektas(Michigan), Alexa Glatch and Catherine Harrison(UCLA) qualified for the WTA 250 in Cleveland with wins today.

Quinn Gleason followed up her first WTA Top 100 win yesterday over Anastasia Potapova of Russia with a victory in the final round of qualifying at the WTA 250 in Chicago. The former Notre Dame star defeated Makoto Ninomiya of Japan 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the main draw of a WTA tournament for the first time. Former Kentucky star Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia also advanced to the main draw, and she too will be making her WTA debut.

Alex Gruskin of Cracked Racquets and I rehashed the USTA Nationals, with the bulk of our conversation about the boys in Kalamazoo on this Great Shot podcast.  But we also discussed the girls in San Diego, the US Open wild card selections and the avenue for college tennis players to benefit from the new NCAA framework for name, image and likeness.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

College Park J1 Girls Draw Minus Top Seed Fruhvirtova, ITF's No. 1 and No. 2 Shang and Banerjee Lead Boys Field; Johnson and Krajicek Reach Cincinnati Doubles Final; Gleason Earns First WTA Top 100 Win in Chicago 250 Qualifying

I'm not accustomed to having the draws for the College Park ITF J1 before the qualifying is complete, but they were published tonight, with no No. 1 seed. Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic was expected to be the top seed, but the 16-year-old got into the qualifying at the new WTA 250 event in Cleveland and won her match today against 33-year-old Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-2, 7-6(3). She will play former Michigan star Emina Bektas in the final round of qualifying.

Other top juniors who were entered but will not be playing due to wild cards into the US Open women's qualifying next week are Reese Brantmeier, Elvina Kalieva and Clervie Ngounoue, so the girls field has no Top 10 players. 

In the boys draw, Bruno Kuzuhara and Aidan Mayo were late withdrawals, but the ITF's top 2 junior boys, Jerry Shang and Samir Banerjee, are in the draw.

Girls seeds:

1. withdrew
2. Madison Sieg(USA)
3. Alexandra Yepifanova(USA)
4. Dana Guzman(PER)
5. Laura Hietaranta(FIN)
6. Solana Sierra(ARG)
7. Alexis Blokhina(USA)
8. Mirra Andreeva(RUS)
9. Jana Kolodynska(BLR)
10. Annabelle Xu(CAN)
11. Victoria Mboko(CAN)
12. Chelsea Fontenel(SUI)
13. Brenda Fruhvirtova(CZE)
14. Lucija Ciric Bagaric(CRO)
15. Ya Yi Yang(TPE)
16. Kayla Cross(CAN)

Boys seeds:
1. Juncheng Shang(CHN)
2. Samir Banerjee(USA)
3. Victor Lilov(USA)
4. Gonzalo Bueno(PER)
5. Dali Blanch(USA)
6. Mark Lajal(EST)
7. Alexander Bernard(USA)
8. Ozan Colak(USA)
9. Adolfo Vallejo(PAR)
10. Petr Nesterov(BUL)
11. Alvaro Guillen Meza(ECU)
12. Ignacio Buse(PER)
13. Ethan Quinn(USA)
14. Max Westphal(FRA)
15. Kalin Ivanovski(MKD)
16. Coleman Wong(HKG)

The final round of qualifying is set for Sunday at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park after two rounds today.

The draws and the order of play for Sunday can be found at the ITF Junior site.

Steve Johnson and Austin Krajicek, who received a wild card into the men's doubles field at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, are through to Sunday's final, where they will play No. 2 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina for the title. Johnson and Krajcek defeated the third-seeded Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 10-3 in the semifinals. Farah and Johnson played together on the USC teams that won the 2009 and 2010 NCAA titles.

Quinn Gleason in Charleston 2021
In addition to the new WTA 250 in Cleveland, Chicago is also hosting a WTA 250 next week, with the first round of qualifying underway there today as well. Former Notre Dame star Quinn Gleason picked up her first ATP Top 100 win, beating top qualifying seed and WTA 87 Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-1, 2-6, 6-3. The 26-year-old Gleason will face Makoto Ninomiya of Japan for a place in the main draw. 

Both Americans lost in today's semifinals at the WTA 125 in Chicago to 18-year-olds, with Emma Raducanu of Great Britain beating Claire Liu 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 and Clara Tauson of Denmark defeating No. 3 seed Ann Li 7-6(5), 6-1.

At the ATP Winston-Salem Open, Denis Kudla and Noah Rubin(Wake Forest) have advanced to the final round of qualifying.

Friday, August 20, 2021

My Recap of Svajda's Second Kalamazoo 18s Title; Krueger Doubles Up in San Diego; Liu and Li Advance to Semifinals of Chicago WTA 125; Qualifying Begins Saturday for College Park J1

Yesterday's Tennis Recuiting Network recap of Alexander Razeghi's Kalamazoo 16s title focused on how dominant his run was despite the 15-year-old's lack of previous experience in Kalamazoo. 

Today, my Tennis Recruiting Network recap of the Zach Svajda's 18s title centers on his equally impressive march through the draw, although he had plenty of experience to draw on, having won in 2019. Going undefeated in a Kalamazoo singles career, with his record 14-0 in the two tournaments he played, gives him a special place in the 78-year history of the tournament.

In the girls 18s, Ashlyn Krueger's sweep of both titles in San Diego were the big news; the TRN article on that championship is here.  Links to recaps of all eight finals are here

Americans Ann Li and Claire Liu, both 21, are the oldest of the four semifinalists at the WTA 125 in Chicago. Liu, who defeated qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia 6-2, 6-3, will face 18-year-old wild card Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who advanced when Jule Niemeier of Germany retired after losing the first set 7-6(4).  No. 3 seed Li, who beat Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, will face 18-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark. Tauson took out Australian Storm Sanders 7-5, 6-3 in today's quarterfinals. 

The qualifying draws have been released for the College Park J1, with two rounds scheduled for Saturday at two sites: the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the University of Maryland. There were byes in both qualifying draws, and only eight seeds in the girls, with that the number of girls entered with any ITF junior ranking at all. The top girls seed in qualifying is Japan's Mao Mushika, who is ranked 153, which would have easily gotten her into the main draw had she entered. The No. 2 seed is Ena Koike of Japan, who is 594.

Rohan Belday, ranked 510, is the top seed in the boys qualifying draw. Nearly all the players in qualifying are from the United States.

I'll be providing onsite coverage of the tournament for the seventh year beginning Monday.

The draws for next week's ATP 250 Winston-Salem Open have been released, with no wild cards given to players from the US, and only four Americans in the draw: Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), Steve Johnson(USC), Marcos Giron(UCLA) and No. 13 seed Frances Tiafoe. 

More Americans are in the 16-player qualifying draw: Denis Kudla[2], Sekou Bangoura, wild cards Eduardo Nava and Donald Young, JC Aragone and Noah Rubin[8].

Thursday, August 19, 2021

My Recap of Razeghi's 16s Title in Kalamazoo; Liu and Li Reach Quarterfinals at WTA 125 in Chicago; Tips for Coaching in USTA's 10-Minute Break; Tennis Community Mourns Death of Luke Siegel

Top seed Alexander Razeghi arrived in Kalamazoo as this year's Easter Bowl champion, which made him the clear favorite for the 16s National title despite making his first appearance in the tournament. He left Kalamazoo having answered every question about his lack of experience and handling the pressure of the No. 1 seeding, winning all seven of his matches in straight sets, losing only 24 games in that stretch.

Razeghi, who has already won two ITF tournaments this year, will take a step up in competition at next week's College Park J1 and in the US Open, where he will receive a main draw wild card.

My recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network is here. The girls 16s recap, which is usually posted on the same day as the boys 16s, was published last week, with the girls 16s in San Diego concluding earlier this year due to a lack of court availability.

All Americans are now out of the Western and Southern Open with the last two, John Isner and Jessica Pegula, losing in the round of 16 today. The men's draw is here; the women's draw is here.

Two Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals of the WTA 125 this week in Chicago: unseeded Claire Liu and No. 3 seed Ann Li.  Wild card Hailey Baptiste, who had beaten No. 2 seed Danka Kovinic of Montenegro in the first round, lost today to 18-year-old Clara Tauson of Denmark 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Liu will play qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko of Russia in Friday's quarterfinals, while Li, who is the only seeded player to reach the quarterfinals, will play Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. The two 21-year-old Americans will need to reach the final to reprise their 2017 meeting in the Wimbledon Junior Championships. 

Wimbledon star Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who received a wild card, defeated top seed Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the first round and will face alternate Julie Niemeier of Germany.

The 10-minute break between the second and third sets in USTA tournaments presents a unique challenge to both players and coaches. The player who lost the second set may welcome a break to analyze what happened, but it can pose a problem for the player who forced the third, as their momentum can be disrupted. Because coaching is allowed during this break, it provides and opportunity for immediate feedback, but occasionally it is a parent who steps into that position, if the coach is not present, and they often feel ill-prepared to take on that role.

Johnny Parkes of IMG and Larry Lauer of the USTA have recorded an episode on coaching during the 10-minute break for their Compete Like a Champion podcast, which can be found here.

Word came today of the death of Luke Siegel, the 15-year-old son of former Texas Tech men's coach Tim Siegel, who was severely injured in a 2015 golf cart accident. Luke's accident spurred Tim  to devote himself to raising money for and awareness of severe brain injury in children, and stars from many sports joined Tim in his cause.

Lisa Stone interviewed Tim for her Parenting Aces podcast in May of 2017. This article today from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal provides an overview of how the Siegel family coped with the tragedy and how Luke's courage and determination served as an inspiration for teams and athletes across the country, and will continue to do so despite his passing.