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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Top-seeded Czechs Advance to Quarterfinals at Junior Davis and Billie Jean King Cups; National 18s Champions Svajda and Krueger Receive Indian Wells Wild Cards; Semifinals Set at Corpus Christi J4

The round robin stage of the ITF's 16U Billie Jean King Cup and Junior Davis Cup team competitions concluded today in Turkey, with the top three girls seeds and the top four boys seeds all advancing to the quarterfinals of the knockout stage. (The United States did not participate in the two ITF junior team events in 2021).

The Czech girls had to win the doubles over No. 5 seed Argentina when their No. 1 player Nikola Bartunkova retired from her match with an injury, leading Luciana Moyano 7-6(4), 1-2. Argentina's loss put Peru into the quarterfinals, one of four unseeded teams who advanced.

No. 4 seed Romania, Argentina, No. 6 seed Hungary and No. 8 seed Thailand all failed to advance, with Peru, Germany, Morocco and Mexico the unseeded teams moving through to the quarterfinals. 

Friday's BJK Cup quarterfinal pairings:

Czech Republic[1] v. Mexico
Morocco v Germany
Japan[7] v Peru
Canada[3] v Russia[2]

All top four seeds in Junior Davis Cup advanced, but three other seeds did not. The top-seeded Czech team lost at No. 1 singles in their meeting with No. 6 seed Japan, but both seeded teams from Group A advanced.

Not so from the other three groups, with No. 5 Brazil, No. 7 Bulgaria and No. 8 Hong Kong failing to advance. Russia, Argentina and Canada are the unseeded teams who moved into the quarterfinals.

Friday's Junior Davis Cup quarterfinal pairings:

Czech Republic[1] v Argentina
Canada v Russia
Germany[4] v Mexico[3]
Japan[6] v France[2]

For more on today's results, see this article from the ITF junior circuit website.


The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells begins next Monday with qualifying, and today they announced the remainder of the main draw wild cards, after awarding one to US Open women's champion Emma Raducanu on Tuesday.

Both USTA National 18s champions were given main draw wild cards, although today's release from the tournament doesn't mention the titles Ashlyn Krueger and Zachary Svajda won in San Diego and Kalamazoo last month.

Other women's main draw wild cards went to Kim Clijsters, Caty McNally, Katrina Scott, Claire Liu, Katie Volynets and 2020 French Open girls champion Elsa Jacquemot of France. 

The men have only five wild cards, with Andy Murray, Jack Sock, Jenson Brooksby and Denmark's Holger Rune, the 2019 French Open boys champion, joining Svajda in the main draw.

There are five men's and six women's qualifying wild cards yet to be announced.

The top seeds have reached the semifinals at the ITF J4 in Corpus Christi. Nevena Carton, who is No. 1, and Elisabeth Jones, who No. 2, will both play unseeded opponents on Friday. Carton faces Vivian Miller and Jones meets Marley Lambert.

Top seed Joseph Phillips, who has yet to drop a set, will play last week's champion in McKinney, unseeded Landon Ardila. Roy Horovitz, who beat No. 2 seed Alexander Razeghi Wednesday, advanced to a semifinal meeting with No. 6 seed Learner Tien.

At the men's $15,000 tournament in Lubbock, three Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals: No. 4 seed Omni Kumar(Duke), No. 7 seed Keegan Smith(UCLA) and No. 8  seed Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State). 

The women's $15,000 tournament in Lubbock also features three Americans in the quarterfinals: wild card Liv Hovde, qualifier McCartney Kessler(Florida) and Adriana Reami(North Carolina State).

Four Americans are through to the quarterfinals of the $60,000 women's tournament in Berkeley: qualifiers Emma Navarro(Virginia) and Sophie Chang; Usue Arconada and Louisa Chirico.

Danielle Collins(Virginia) defeated Elise Mertens of Belgium today at the WTA 500 in Chicago to reach Friday's quarterfinals. Marcos Giron(UCLA) advanced to the quarterfinals of the ATP 250 in Sofia Bulgaria, beating No. 3 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia for the second time in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My Article on Juniors Reactions to Computer Line Calling at US Open; Top Seeds Upset in Berkeley $60K and Lubbock $15K

I was especially busy at the US Open Junior Championships this year, with my daily articles for the ITF Junior website in addition to my Zootennis.com posts. But I was curious to hear from the juniors about the computer line calling they were experiencing for the first time, as it was also the first time I had been at a tournament where it was being used.

I had an opportunity to talk with the USTA's Sean Cary about the system, so I could understand better how it worked and what it might mean going forward, especially for those who hope to make a career of officiating. It's obvious to everyone that the juniors are not going to have access to this system outside of the slams and perhaps not even then, with Wimbledon still using the Challenge system and the French Open, on clay, not using any technology for line calls. The one advantage that the computer system has is that it must be available for juniors (and wheelchair and legends) simply because so many officials have been eliminated. At Wimbledon this year, the Challenge system was turned off for the juniors on the outside courts, but that was an option (although I'm not sure what exactly was accomplished by doing that) because they still had line judges; that's not the case now at the US Open (and I expect the upcoming Australian Open to be the same).

In any case, the technology is still too expensive to expect its adoption elsewhere, but I personally found it less stressful to watch a match when I knew there would be no disputes over line calls.

That's not to say that I believe the system to be flawless; I think it may miss some close calls now and then, but with no appeal, with no human to question or blame, the call is final and there is nothing for anyone--player or fan or chair umpire--to do about it. 

Replays can be requested, but those are rare, and there is no chance the replay will differ from the verbal call.

I do think the system can be improved, with a visual representation of an out call added; right now it can be difficult to hear the recorded calls when a crowd is reacting.

Here is the article I wrote for the Tennis Recruiting Network; I had expected juniors to have some objections, but only one had anything less than positive to say about it.

I wrote yesterday about the top seeds at the $60,000 and $15,000 women's Pro Circuit tournaments in Berkeley and Lubbock respectively; today both of them lost their first round matches.

The shocker in Berkeley saw St. Mary's fifth-year senior Mariia Kozyreva, a qualifier, defeat Saisai Zheng of China 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. Kozyreva, a 22-year-old from Russia, is ranked 1246; Zheng is No. 75 in the WTA rankings. Next up for Kozyreva is fellow qualifier Emma Navarro, who beat Kyoka Okamura of Japan 7-5, 6-2.  Wild cards Ellie Douglas(TCU) Reese Brantmeier and Vicky Duval also picked up first round wins today.

In Lubbock, top seed Michaela Bayerlova(Washington State) of the Czech Republic was beaten by wild card Margarita Skryabina of Russia 6-2, 6-2. The Texas Tech sophomore currently has no WTA ranking; Bayerlova is 540.  

Americans advancing to the second round today in Lubbock include qualifier McCartney Kessler(Florida), Adriana Reami(NC State), and Amy Zhu[6](Michigan. Gianna Pielet(Texas A&M) and Liv Hovde won their first round matches yesterday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Smith Posts Win at Texas $15K in Return to Competition after Accident; Qualifying Complete at Women's USTA Pro Circuit $15K and $60K; Nakashima Wins at ATP San Diego Open; Collins Through to Round of 16 at Chicago's WTA 500

UCLA senior Keegan Smith suffered a serious skateboarding accident in April, which led to a lengthy stay in intensive care. Smith, who played No. 1 singles and was the 2019 NCAA doubles champion with Maxime Cressy, returned to tennis in June, according to this article at the Daily Bruin, and today he returned to Pro Circuit competition at the $15,000 tournament in Lubbock Texas. Seeded No. 7, the 23-year-old defeated wild card Ilgiz Valiev, a Texas Tech fifth-year senior, 6-4, 6-4, posting his first win in Pro Circuit play since last December when he made the semifinals and quarterfinals of two $15Ks in the Dominican Republic.

Smith participated in one of just four first round matches played today; the other three winners were also Americans: Garrett Johns(Duke), Tyler Zink(Oklahoma State) and 2015 NCAA singles champion Ryan Shane(Virginia). The top seed is Gijs Brouwer of the Netherlands; Sekou Bangoura(Florida) is the No. 2 seed. Wild cards, in addition to Valiev, went to junior Ryan Colby, and to Texas Tech's Dimitrios Azoidis and Franco Ribero.

The women also have a $15,000 tournament this week in Lubbock, with qualifying concluding today. Americans qualifying were Carmen and Ivana Corley(Oklahoma) and McCartney Kessler(Florida).

The top two seeds are Michaela Bayerlova(Washington State) and Oona Orpana(Oklahoma State). Wild cards were awarded to Texas Tech's Metka Komac, Margaria Skriabina and Kailey Evans, along with junior Liv Hovde. Evans and Hovde played each other today, with Hovde earning a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory.

The women also have a $60,000 Pro Circuit tournament this week, in Berkeley California, and with Indian Wells next week, it has drawn a strong field. The top seed is Saisai Zheng of China, currently 75 in the WTA rankings, with No. 119 Xinyu Wang, a finalist last week at the Columbus 125, the No. 2 seed.

Qualifying concluded today, with Emma Navarro(Virginia), Maegan Manasse(Cal), Jada Hart(UCLA) and Sophie Chang the Americans to advance to the main draw. Wild cards were awarded to Ellie Douglas(TCU), Paola Exposito Diaz-Delgado(VCU), Reese Brantmeier and Vicky Duval. Kayla Day received a special exemption in to the main draw after reaching the final of the $25K in Fort Worth last week.

At the ATP 250 San Diego Open last night, wild card Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) won a big match in front of his hometown fans, beating Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-7(5), 6-1, 7-5. Nakashima will face top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia next, which will be his first match against at Top 5 player. Taylor Fritz, also from the San Diego area, won his first round match last night, beating qualifier Salvatore Caruso 6-4, 7-6(2).  In today's first round match between Americans, Sebastian Korda defeated Tommy Paul 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. 

A new tournament for women also popped up this week in advance of the rescheduled BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, a WTA 500 event in Chicago, which has a 64-draw with the top 8 seeds getting byes. Some of the top seeds haven't played their first matches yet, but No. 10 seed Danielle Collins(Virginia) has already played two, advancing to the round of 16 with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win today over Misaki Doi of Japan. Wild card Hailey Baptiste won her first round match, beating Jasmine Paolini of Italy 7-5, 6-3. The other Americans to post wins are Amanda Anisimova, Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula[9].

Monday, September 27, 2021

Czech Republic Top Seeds as Junior Davis and Billie Jean King Cup Competitions Begin Tuesday in Turkey; Conway Wins First ITF Junior Circuit Title in Nicaragua; Corpus Christi J4 Underway

Japan and USA won the JDC and JFC competitions last time they were held, in 2019

The ITF's Junior Davis Cup and Junior Billie Jean King Cup 16 and under competitions were scheduled to take place last year and this year at the USTA's National Campus in Lake Nona as part as a three-year agreement. The first year, 2019, it did happen, with the US girls and the Japanese boys taking the titles, but the pandemic canceled the events last year and this year the USTA opted against participating as either host or competitor.

The ITF moved the competition to Antalya Turkey, keeping its normal place on the calendar, and it begins on Tuesday, with the Czech Republic named the top seeds in both the girls and boys competitions.

The round robin groups and seeds are as follows:

Junior Billie Jean King Cup
Group A
Czech Republic[1]
Argentina[5]
Egypt
Peru

Group B

Canada[3]
Hungary[6]
Turkey
Germany

Group C

Romania[4]
Japan[7]
Chile
Morocco

Group D

Russia[2]
Thailand[8]
Hong Kong
Mexico

Junior Davis Cup
Group A
Czech Republic[1]
Japan[6]
Chile
Turkey

Group B
Mexico[3]
Bulgaria[7]
Tunisia
Russia

Group C
Germany[4]
Brazil[5]
Argentina 
Korea

Group D
France[2]
Hong Kong[8]
Canada
Egypt

The ITF preview says the top-seeded Czech teams are "highly fancied," which is probably underselling how favored they are. 

The girls team has two girls in the ITF Junior rankings Top 30: Brenda Fruhvirtova at 24 and Nikola Bartunkova at 28, with their third player, Sara Bejlek, at 63 in the juniors, 379 in the WTA rankings after winning a $60K in July and making two $60K quarterfinals since then. Fruhvirtova is 14 years old, with Bartunkova and Bejlek 15; all three could play in the competition again next year.

The boys team features No. 37 Jakub Mensik and No. 61 Vojtech Petr, both of whom are 16.

I won't be covering the competition quite as closely as I do when the US teams are involved, but you can follow the results here. Turkey is seven hours ahead of Eastern time in the United States.

I covered last week's J5 in McKinney Texas on Friday and the J1 in Belgium Saturday, but there was another ITF Junior Circuit tournament of note for Americans last week at the J5 in Nicaragua. Fourteen-year-old Haylee Conway won her first Junior Circuit title, with the No. 4 seed defeating unseeded Nina Costalas 7-6(4), 6-0 in the all-American final.  Conway defeated last week's Nicaragua J5 champion Aida Oviedo in the semifinals.

Oviedo and Linda Ziets Segura took the doubles title, with the top-seeded Americans defeating unseeded Polina Krumkachev and Zimbabwe's Nicole Matukutire 6-3, 0-6, 10-8 in the final.

This week's ITF Junior Circuit in the United States moves to Corpus Christi Texas, with 64-players draws for both the girls and boys at the J4 tournament

Results from today's first round matches have yet to be posted. The top two boys seeds are Joseph Phillips and Alexander Razeghi. The top two girls seeds are Nevena Carton and Elisabeth Jones.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Shang Wins First Pro Circuit Title at Fayetteville $15K; Kozlov Claims First Challenger Title in Four Years; Blanch Wins Doubles Championship in Cancun $15K

Sixteen-year-old Juncheng Jerry Shang of China played his first pro tennis match back in March, when he received a wild card into the qualifying of the ATP Masters 1000 Miami Open, no doubt due to his status as an IMG client. He took 27-year-old Liam Broady of Great Britain (who won his first career Challenger title today in Switzerland) to a third-set tiebreaker before falling 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6), then immediately traveled to the Easter Bowl ITF JB1 in San Diego, which he won. 

After a quarterfinal at the French Open junior championships, a semifinal at the Wimbledon junior championships and a finalist earlier this month at the US Open, Shang, who had ascended to the No. 1 spot in the junior rankings, Shang entered his second Pro Circuit event at the $15,000 tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas. Using the ITF junior reserved program for Top 100 junior players to gain entry, Shang, who had lost in the second round of qualifying in a $25K in Pensacola in May, earned his first, second, third, fourth and fifth pro wins this week. Today, he defeated No. 7 seed Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain 6-3, 6-0 in 64 minutes to earn the title. 

It's difficult to quantify what that kind of debut might mean for a player's confidence, but there's no doubt he will feel much more comfortable in his next Pro Circuit event.

Should he need a reminder Stefan Kozlov (and Broady, who was 0-7 in Challenger finals until today) could tell Shang just how difficult winning a tournament can be. The 23-year-old Floridian last made a Challenger final back in October of 2017, when, as a 19-year-old, he defeated Broady (who else would it be?) to win in Las Vegas. Today Kozlov won his third career title, defeating Max Purcell of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the ATP Challenger 80 in Columbus Ohio. It was the third straight match he won after dropping the first set. Kozlov, who was in the 500s in 2019, will move up to around 250 in the ATP rankings now, which will help him gain entry into slam qualifying. Kozlov also won the doubles title yesterday, with Canadian Peter Polansky.

The WTA 125 singles title in Columbus went to No. 2 seed Nuria Parrizas Diaz of Spain, who beat No. 8 seed Xinyu Wang of China 7-6(2), 6-3 in today's final. Wang and partner Saisai Zheng, also of China, defeated Parrizas Diaz and Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia 6-1, 6-1 to take the doubles title.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Fort Worth Texas, top seed Kaia Kanepi defeated Kayla Day 6-2, 6-1 in under an hour to claim the title. 

The doubles title went to unseeded Amy Zhu(Michigan) and Sophie Chang, who beat Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech) and Ivana Popovic of Australia 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 in the final. 

Eighteen-year-old Dali Blanch won his first Pro Circuit doubles title this weekend at the $15,000 ITF men's World Tennis Tour tournament in Cancun. Blanch and Tom Jomby(Kentucky) of France, seeded No. 3, defeated No. 4 seeds Nicholas Bybel(Bucknell) and Jesse Flores 6-4, 7-5 in the final. It was the only one of their four victories that did not come via a 10-8 match tiebreaker. 

Speaking of doubles milestones, former University of Georgia star Jan Zielinski of Poland won his first ATP title today at the 250 in Metz France, with Hubert Hurkacz, won also won the singles title, a rare double in men's tennis. Zielinski, who played at Georgia from 2015-2019, and Hurkacz defeated Hugo Nys of Monaco and Arthur Rinderknech(Texas A&M) of France 7-5, 6-3 in the final. Zielinski, who has won 18 pro doubles titles at lower levels, including four Challenger titles in 2020-21, will move close to the Top 100 with this title.

University of San Diego's August Holmgren twice came within a point of advancing to the main draw of the ATP 250 San Diego Open today, but Salvatore Caruso of Italy came through with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) victory. Caruso saved a match point serving at 4-5 in the third set, then Holmgren, a fifth-year senior from Denmark, saved four match points from down 6-2 in the tiebreaker and earned a second match point at 7-6, but Caruso won the final three points to get through. Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech) advanced to the main draw with a 7-6(1), 7-5 victory over Darian King of Barbados. 

Andrey Rublev of Russia and Casper Ruud of Norway are the top seeds in San Diego, with Taylor Fritz, Brandon Nakashima, Sebastian Korda, Tommy Paul and Eubanks the Americans in the draw.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Brenda Fruhvirtova Wins J1 in Belgium; ITF's Top Junior Shang Beats Boitan to Reach Fayetteville $15K Final; Holmgren Earns ATP Top 100 Win in San Diego Qualifying

Fourteen-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic won her second J1 title in the past 30 days this week at the rescheduled Astrid Bowl in Belgium. Fruhvirtova, who won her first J1 in College Park last month, moving up to 33 in the ITF junior rankings, was the No. 2 seed this week in Belgium. She dropped only one set en route to the final, where she met No. 4 seed Barbora Palicova, also of the Czech Republic. Fruhvirtova dropped the first set to the 17-year-old, but came back to claim a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory.

No. 14 seed Gabriel Debru of France, who won a J2 in the Czech Republic the week of the US Open Junior Championships, defeated unseeded James McCabe of Australia 6-2, 6-4 to win the boys title. Debru, who is 15, hadn't played the main draw of a J1 until this week.

In doubles, top seeds Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia and Sofia Costoulas of Beligum won the title, beating the unseeded Swiss team of Karolina Kozakova and Celine Naef 6-0, 7-5 in the final.

The boys doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Bor Artnak of Slovenia and Vilius Gaubas of Lithuania, who defeated No. 7 seeds Liam Gavrielides and Neo Niedner of Germany 6-3, 6-4 in the final. 

Juncheng Jerry Shang is through to Sunday's final at the $15,000 men's Pro Circuit tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas after posting a 6-3, 7-5 win over Baylor junior Adrian Boitan of Romania. The 16-year-old, who is the ITF's top-ranked junior, will face 28-year-old Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain, the No. 7 seed. Whitehouse defeated qualifier Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) of Great Britain 1-6, 6-4, 6-3. This is Shang's first main draw of a Pro Circuit tournament; he lost in the second round of qualifying back in May in Pensacola, his only other appearance at that level. His professional debut came in the qualifying of the Miami Open this past March, where he took Liam Broady to a third set tiebreaker.

The doubles title went to the University of Arkansas team of Alexandre Reco and Nicolas Rousset of France. The unseeded Razorbacks defeated No. 2 seeds Abraham Asaba of Ghana and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) 6-3, 3-6, 10-6 in today's final. 

The Ohio State team of James Trotter and Andrew Lutschaunig fell just short of accomplishing what the Arkansas pair did, with the Buckeyes falling today to Stefan Kozlov and Canadian Peter Polansky in the final of the ATP Challenger 80 in Columbus 7-5, 7-6(5).  

Kozlov will play for his second title of the week in Columbus after defeating No. 7 seed and hometown favorite JJ Wolf(Ohio State) today 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. Kozlov, who is only 23, but has been playing in Challengers since 2014, will be playing in his first Challenger final since 2017, when he won the Las Vegas Challenger in October of that year.  He will face unseeded Max Purcell, who beat fellow Australian Aleks Vukic(Illinois) 7-6(3), 7-6(6) in today's semifinals.

Kayla Day has reached her first final since 2017 with a 6-1, 7-6(6)victory over No. 4 seed Maria Carle(Georgia) of Argentina today at the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Fort Worth. Day, who turns 22 on Tuesday, will face top seed and WTA No. 65 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, who defeated Alexandra Bozovic of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. 

The qualifying for next week's ATP 250 in San Diego began today, with a big upset in qualifying. University of San Diego senior August Holmgren, who got into qualifying as a last-minute alternate, defeated ATP No. 76 Jordan Thompson of Australia, the No. 3 seed in qualifying, 6-4, 7-6(6). Holmgren, with an ATP ranking of 903, recently returned from playing a Davis Cup tie for Denmark, winning two singles matches to help his country to a 4-1 win over Thailand. He will face Italian Salvatore Caruso, the No. 6 seed in qualifying, for a place in the main draw. Caruso beat Ernesto Escobedo 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

Denis Kudla defeated two-time Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda, who received a wild card into qualifying, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Boitan and Shang Advance to Fayetteville $15K Semifinals; Wolf and Kozlov Reach Columbus Challenger Semis; Qualifier Ardila Wins ITF J5 Boys Title in Texas; LSU's Chris Brandi Placed on Leave

Adrian Boitan will face 16-year-old Jerry Shang Saturday in the semifinals of the $15,000 Men's Pro Circuit tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas after beating their quarterfinal opponents in contrasting fashion today.

The unseeded Boitan, a 22-year-old Romanian who is a junior at Baylor, defeated No. 7 seed Pedro Vives Marcos of Spain, a TCU freshman, 6-2, 6-1 in 90 minutes. 

The 16-year-old Shang, playing his first ITF Pro Circuit tournament main draw this week after reaching the US Open boys final two weeks ago in New York, squeezed past No. 4 seed Toby Kodat 2-6, 6-0, 7-5, after Kodat led 5-3 in the third and served for the match at 5-4. Shang represents China, but lives and trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida.

Boitan reached the finals of the Champaign $15K last week, where he lost to another IMG resident, 17-year-old Martin Damm.

The other semifinal will feature by an all-British contest, with qualifier Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) taking on No. 7 seed Mark Whitehouse.  Patten ended the 12-match winning streak of No. 2 seed Paul Jubb, also of Great Britain, with a 7-6(8), 6-4 victory. Jubb, the 2019 NCAA singles champion at South Carolina had won back-to-back $25K titles in Portugal the previous two weeks.

At the ATP Challenger 80 in Columbus Ohio, former Ohio State Buckeye JJ Wolf and top seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) battled to 5-all in a third-set tiebreaker before an error by Sandgren gave Wolf a match point, which he immediately converted with an ace for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) win. Wolf, the No. 7 seed, has claimed a Columbus Challenger title in both 2019 and 2020. Out for more than six months this year with an injury, Wolf will face unseeded Stefan Kozlov in Saturday's semifinal. Kozlov prevented an all-Buckeye semifinal by defeating Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-4. Torpegaard served for the match at 6-5 in the second set.

While the top half will feature an all-USA semifinal, the finalist in the bottom half will be from Australia. Former Illinois star Aleks Vukic defeated No. 3 seed Alex Bolt, also from Australia, 7-5, 6-4 and will play unseeded Max Purcell Saturday. Purcell beat Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.

Wolf is not the only Ohio State player still vying for a title. The wild card doubles team of James Trotter, an OSU senior, and Andrew Lutschaunig, an OSU junior, have improbably advanced to the final.  They defeated No. 2 seeds Evan King(Michigan) and Jackson Withrow(Texas A&M) in yesterday's quarterfinals and beat the unseeded Korean team of Yunseong Chung and Seong-chan Hong today. Trotter and Lutschaunig will face Kozlov and Peter Polansky of Canada, who beat top seeds Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Alex Lawson(Notre Dame) in this evening's semifinal. 

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Fort Worth, Kayla Day is the sole American to advance to the semifinals. The 2016 US Open girls champion defeated No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach her first semifinal on the Pro Circuit since 2017. She will face former Georgia standout Maria Carle of Argentina, the No. 4 seed, who beat No. 8 seed Emiliana Arango of Colombia 1-6, 6-0, 7-5.  Top seed Kaia Kanepia of Estonia defeated No. 6 seed Emma Navarro(Virginia) 6-2, 6-2 to set up a semifinal with Alexandra Bozovic of Australia. Bozovic defeated qualifier Alexa Graham(UNC) 7-5, 6-4.

The boys singles title at the ITF J5 in McKinney Texas went to Dallas resident Landon Ardila, a qualifier. Ardila, whose only other appearance in the ITF Junior Circuit came in Easter Bowl qualifying this year, defeated wild card Nikita Filin 6-2, 6-0 in today's final. Ardila, 17, went 8-0, dropping only one set, to earn his first ITF Junior title.

LSU men's co-coach Chris Brandi has been placed on administrative leave, pending a university investigation, according to this article from the Baton Rouge Advocate. No other details were provided.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Boitan Ousts Top Seed Bangoura, Shang Reaches Quarterfinals at Fayetteville $15K; Navarro and Graham Advance at Ft Worth $25K; Charney Wins Texas ITF J5 Via Walkover, Filin Goes for Sweep Friday

The quarterfinals are set at the $15,000 men's Pro Circuit tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas, with teenagers and current collegians picking up wins today.

Baylor junior Adrian Boitan of Romania, who received a special exemption into the main draw after reaching the final last week in Champaign, defeated top seed Sekou Bangoura(Florida) 6-3, 6-4.  He will play TCU newcomer Pedro Vives Marcos of Spain, the No. 8 seed, who beat John McNally(Ohio State) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. 

US Open boys finalist Juncheng Jerry Shang of China is the youngest quarterfinalist; the 16-year-old defeated qualifier Finn Bass of Baylor 6-2, 6-4 to earn his second professional win. He will play another IMG-based teenager in No. 4 seed Toby Kodat. The 18-year-old Kodat advanced when Kentucky junior Liam Draxl of Canada retired trailing 6-3, 3-3.

The third teenager to advance is University of Virginia sophomore Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg of Switzerland. The 19-year-old defeated fellow qualifier and teammate Inaki Montes-De La Torre of Spain 6-4, 6-1 and will face British veteran Mike Whitehouse, the No. 7 seed.  In the fourth quarterfinal, qualifier Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) of Great Britain will play compatriot Paul Jubb, the No. 2 seed and 2019 NCAA singles champion at South Carolina.

The quarterfinalists at the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Fort Worth Texas include Virginia's Emma Navarro and recent UNC graduate Alexa Graham. Navarro, the No. 6 seed, defeated Oklahoma State newcomer Oona Orpana of Finland 6-4, 6-2 and Graham, a qualifier, beat TCU wild card Mercedes Aristegui of Spain 6-1, 6-0. Navarro gets top seed and WTA No. 68 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia next, with Graham playing Alexandra Bozovic of Australia. Bozovic defeated No. 7 seed Catherine Harrison(UCLA) 7-6(3), 7-6(4) in a two-hour and 48-minute straight-setter.

The ATP Challenger 80 in Columbus has no current Ohio State Buckeyes in the quarterfinals, but two former stars have advanced. No. 7 seed JJ Wolf defeated Evan King 6-3, 6-0 today and will face top seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) Friday. 2016 NCAA singles finalist Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark beat No. 4 seed Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-1, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal encounter with Stefan Kozlov. Unseeded Aleks Vukic(Illinois) of Australia is the fourth collegian in the quarterfinals, with Vukic set to face countryman and No. 3 seed Alex Bolt Friday.

The WTA 125 going on in Columbus at the same time as the Challenger doesn't feature any collegiate players, but four Americans are through to the quarterfinals: top seed Ann Li, who will play Coco Vandeweghe next, No. 3 seed Madison Brengle, and No. 5 seed Lauren Davis. 

Three of the four titles at the ITF J5 in McKinney Texas were decided today. No. 3 seed Bridget Stammel and No. 2 seed Emma Charney advanced to the final, but due to a previous commitment Stammel is unable to play in Friday's final, so Charney is the champion. Natalie Block and Charney won the doubles title, with the No. 3 seeds defeating Erica Jessel and Arina Oreshchenkova 7-6(7), 3-6, 10-5.

Wild card Nikita Filin is making an impressive ITF Junior Circuit debut, with the 15-year-old from Illinois winning the doubles title today and advancing to tomorrow's singles final. Filin defeated lucky loser Darwin Blanch 6-4, 6-3 in today's semifinals and will face qualifier Landon Ardila, who defeated Alex Cairo 6-2, 6-1. 

In doubles, Filin and Mitchell Lee finished their straight-sets run to the title, beating Ardila and Marko Mesarovic 6-4, 6-1 in today's final. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

ITF J1 College Park Videos; Qualifier, Wild Card and Lucky Loser Advance to Boys Semifinals at J5 in McKinney Texas

My videos of the finals of the ITF J1 in College Park Maryland are posted now, with Mark Lajal of Estonia defeating Ryan Colby and Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic beating Mirra Andreeva of Russia in a final between two 14-year-olds.




The semifinals are set at the ITF J5 in McKinney Texas, and after today's quarterfinals, there are no seeds remaining in the boys final four. USTA 14s Clay Courts champion Darwin Blanch avenged his loss in the Les Petits As USA Playoffs to Maxwell Exsted today in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 battle of lucky losers. Blanch, who turns 14 next week, will face wild card Nikita Filin, a 16s semifinalist this year at Kalamazoo, who took out Ian Bracks 6-4, 6-2. In the bottom half, qualifier Landon Ardila will face unseeded Alex Cairo, the only semifinalist who received direct entry into the main draw. Ardila advanced when No. 3 seed Adhithya Ganesan retired trailing 6-3, 4-0; Cairo defeated No. 5 seed Marko Mesarovic 6-3, 6-1. 

Ardila and Mesarovic have advanced to the boys doubles final, where they will face Filin and Mitchell Lee. Both teams are unseeded.

No. 2 seed Emma Charney and No. 3 seed Bridget Stammel have moved into the girls semifinals. Charney, who defeated No. 7 seed Catherine Walker 6-1, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals, will play unseeded Erica Jessel, while Stammel takes on qualifier Ava Bruno. Bruno defeated No. 8 seed Anya Murthy 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, while Stammel beat unseeded Teja Tirunelveli 6-2, 6-4. 

Thursday's girls doubles final will feature Charney and Natalie Block, the No. 3 seeds, against the unseeded team of Jessel and Arina Oreshchenkova.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Lucky Loser Blanch Beats Top Seed Brown at ITF J5 in Texas; Qualifying Complete, Main Draw Underway in Fayetteville and Ft Worth USTA Pro Circuit Events; Adam Peterson Fighting Cancer

 A day after the top seed Sophie Williams lost in the first round at the ITF J5 in McKinney Texas, the top seed in the boys draw, Kalamazoo 16s finalist Lucas Brown, was upset by 13-year-old lucky loser Darwin Blanch.

Blanch, the 2021 USTA 14s Clay Court champion, defeated Brown  6-3, 6-4 and will face another lucky loser, 14-year-old Maxwell Exsted, in the quarterfinals. Exsted and Blanch, who turns 14 next week, met in the Les Petits As USA qualifying tournament in July, with Exsted winning 6-2, 7-6(1). Blanch reached the semifinals at Les Petits As earlier this month in France, with Exsted advancing to the quarterfinals. 

The No. 2 seed in the boys draw, Omar Suarez Berrezueta of Ecuador, also lost today, falling to Alex Cairo 6-1, 6-4. All eight quarterfinalists are Americans, with just two seeds remaining: No. 3 seed Adhithya Ganesan and No. 5 seed Marko Mesarovic.

In the girls draw, qualifier Ava Bruno, who beat Williams yesterday, advanced to the quarterfinals, as did No. 2 seed Emma Charney and No. 3 seed Bridget Stammel. 

In addition to the combined WTA 125 and ATP Challenger 80 tournaments in Columbus Ohio this week, there are two smaller USTA Pro Circuit events, with a $25,000 women's tournament in Fort Worth Texas and a $15,000 men's tournament in Fayetteville Arkansas.

Although she would have easily been accepted into the draw in Columbus, the top seed in Fort Worth is Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, currently No. 68 in the WTA rankings. She defeated Sophie Chang 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 in today's first round.  NCAA champion Emma Navarro of Virginia, the No. 6 seed, also advanced to the second round, as did Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Catherine Harrison(UCLA).

Qualifying concluded today, with all qualifiers current or former collegians Alexa Graham(UNC), McCartney Kessler(Florida), Anna Hertel(Georgia), Tiphanie Fiquet(Ole Miss), Katarina Jokic(Georgia), Sara Daavettila(UNC), Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech) and Adriana Reami(North Carolina State) making the main draw.

Wild cards went to Haley Giavara(Cal), who lost to Gleason today, TCU's Mercedes Aristegui and Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine).

In Arkansas, the qualifiers included three players from the University of Virginia: Inaki Montes-De La Torre, Jeffrey Von Der Schulenburg and Gianni Ross. Finn Bass(Baylor), Florian Broska(Mississippi State) and Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville) are the other three qualifiers with collegiate ties that I'm aware of. (I've been alerted that qualifier Radu Papoe is a freshman at Cornell).

US Open boys finalist Juncheng Jerry Shang won his first main draw match on the Pro Circuit today, beating Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) 6-0, 3-6, 7-5. The 16-year-old, who is No. 1 in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings, used the ITF's junior reserved method for entry this week. 

Sekou Bangoura is the top seed in Fayetteville, with Champaign champion Martin Damm seeded No. 5. Paul Jubb, South Carolina's 2019 NCAA champion, is back in the US after winning back-to-back $25K titles in Spain the past two weeks and is the No. 2 seed.

Wild cards were given to Tyler Zink(Oklahoma State) and three Arkansas players: Aleksa Bucan, Nicolas Rousset and Alexandre Reco. 

Sad and startling news this week about Adam Peterson, a longtime USTA National Coach and former University of Southern California star. Peterson, who is 47 years old, took ill suddenly this summer and has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Burkitt Lymphoma, according to the gofundme page set up to help with his medical expenses. Peterson worked with many top US pros on the women's side, but also was involved with the juniors, which is how I got to know him. The photo above is from the 2015 North American qualifying for Junior Fed Cup competition, with Peterson the captain of the team of Kayla Day, Cici Bellis and Michaela Gordon.

If you can help, please consider a contribution. I know he will appreciate hearing from anyone who knew him from his many years playing, coaching and teaching tennis.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Girls Top Seed Out at ITF J5 in Texas; Oviedo Earns First ITF Junior Circuit Title in Nicaragua; Recent UTR Pro Tennis Tour Results

The ITF Junior Circuit's fall hard court swing in the United States began today at a J5 in McKinney Texas. The two lower-level events on this swing have stayed in Texas (they have been in various cities in that state over the years) even as the ITF JB1 which concludes it moved from Tulsa Oklahoma in 2018 and is now an indoor tournament in Nicholasville Kentucky. It is disappointing to see this tournament as a 32 draw, but next week's tournament, a J4 in Corpus Christi, is a 64-player draw, which is what these events have been in the past. 

Three of the boys who competed at Les Petits As in France earlier this month played qualifying in McKinney over the weekend; all three lost, but Maxwell Exsted and Darwin Blanch made the main draw as lucky losers and both won their first round matches today. 

Kalamazoo 16s finalist Lucas Brown is the boys top seed and will play Blanch in the second round.

The top seed in the girls draw, Sophie Williams, lost to qualifier Ava Bruno 6-2, 7-5 in today's first round. Bruno is one of three qualifiers to advance, as did lucky loser Cenan Liu of Canada.

Last week at the J5 in Nicaragua, Aida Oviedo won her first ITF junior circuit title, taking the singles championship. The 15-year-old from Las Vegas, seeded No. 3, defeated No. 7 seed Maria Araoz-Gosn 6-3, 6-0 in an all-USA final. Leah Kuruville won the girls doubles title, partnering with Anika Maldonado of Guatemala. The top seeds defeated Oviedo and her partner, Linda Segura of the US, the No. 2 seeds, 6-4, 6-0 in the final.

At the J5 in Azerbaijan, 17-year-old Baylen Brown won her first ITF Junior Circuit title in girls doubles, with partner Maria Pukhina of Russia. The No. 3 seeds took the trophy when their opponents retired leading 2-1 in the first set.

Two US girls reached the finals of J3s in Europe. Sonya Macavei, seeded No. 3, lost to top seed Irina Balus of Slovakia 6-0, 6-1 in the final in Spain and Lara Smejkal, the No. 6 seed, lost to No. 8 seed Andrea Obradovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-0 in the final in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This week features the rescheduled J1 in Belgium, which has always been before the French Open in the spring. Two Americans are in the draws: Sebastian Sec and Krystal Blanch. As the 15 seed, Blanch has a bye. Sec won his first round match today. US Open boys doubles champion Coleman Wong of Hong Kong is the top boys seed; Sofia Costoulas of Belgium is the No. 1 girls seed.

It's been over a month since I posted results from the UTR Pro Tennis Tour in the United States, so here's the latest. Marcela Zacarias continues to collect titles and prize money, but others have been able to break through, with the winners receiving $3475, and the finalists $1750.  For the results from May through early August, see this post


WOMEN:
August 23 New York
Tatiana Makarova d. Jessica Livianu 5-7, 7-5, 6-0

August 23 Newport Beach
Marcela Zacarias d. Solymar Colling 6-4, 6-1

August 30 Dallas
Marcela Zacarias d. McCartney Kessler 6-4, 3-6, 6-2

September 6 Bradenton

Sophie Chang d. Anastasia Sysoeva 6-3, 6-2

September 12 Bradenton
Ena Koike d. Anastasia Sysoeva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3

September 12 Dallas
Quinn Gleason d. Marcela Zacarias 7-5, 6-4

MEN:
August 16 Naples

Jake Van Emburgh d. Jorge Panta 2-6, 6-3, 6-3

August 22 Newport Beach
Tristan Boyer d. Raymond Sarmiento 6-3, 6-4

August 23 Naples
Jorge Panta d. Matthew Segura 6-3, 6-5 ret.

August 29 Newport Beach
Tristan Boyer d. Drew Baird 6-3, 6-4

August 30 Dallas
Luc Fomba d. Evan Zhu 7-6(3), 6-7(1), 7-5

September 6 Bradenton
Kiranpal Pannu d. Rubin Statham 1-0 ret.

September 12 Bradenton

Michal Lusovsky d. Michal Schmid 7-6(2). 3-6, 6-2

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Damm Claims First Pro Singles Title in Champaign; Krueger Wins A Second Challenger in Cary; Three Americans Qualify at WTA 125 in Columbus

Martin Damm gave himself an early birthday present this week, claiming his first Professional Circuit singles title today at the $15,000 USTA men's tournament in Champaign Illinois. Damm, who will turn 18 on September 30th, was the No. 2 seed this week, and one of the few non-collegiate players in the draw, and he was no stranger to ITF or USTA Pro Circuit finals, having made the final of a $25K in Naples Florida two years ago and a $15K in Croatia this spring. With three pro doubles titles already this year on the surface, and one in 2020, Damm has had his best results on clay, so this one, on the hard courts at the University of Illinois stands out.

Baylor junior Adrian Boitan made Damm work for it, today, with the unseeded Romanian forcing a third set after nearly two hours of play. But Damm, who had to be disappointed in his round of 32 loss as the No. 2 seed in Kalamazoo last month, came from a break down in the the third set, hitting seven of his 12 aces, to earn his first singles title on the pro circuit. His semifinal win over John McNally Saturday took three hours and 13 minutes, so he has to be happy with his fitness in taking the final five games of his 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory.

The ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina finished the same way as the Challenger there in July, with Mitchell Krueger as the champion. The 27-year-old, seeded sixth, defeated No. 2 seed Denis Kudla in the semifinals last night 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(2) and came back this afternoon to beat No. 8 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 6-4, 6-3. Fratangelo had also prevailed in a long, tough semifinal last night, beating former University of Illinois star Aleks Vukic of Australia 6-7(2), 7-6(4), 6-2.

Krueger is projected to reach a new career high with his second Challenger title of the summer, moving to 156. His previous career-high was 159 in February of 2019, after he won the Dallas Challenger.

The qualifying is complete for the WTA 125 in Columbus Ohio, with three Americans reaching the main draw: Alexa Glatch, Louisa Chirico and Danielle Lao(USC). Priscilla Hon of Australia is the fourth qualifier. 

Three main draw matches were played today as well, with No. 5 seed Lauren Davis defeating Usue Arconada 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, Caroline Dolehide losing to No. 6 seed Renata Zarazua 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(8), and Coco Vandeweghe taking out wild card Peyton Stearns, a sophomore at the University of Texas, 6-2, 6-4.

Wild card Elvina Kalieva, the US Open girls doubles finalist, will face her first WTA Top 100 player tomorrow: No. 2 seed Nuria Parrizas-Diaz of Spain, who is No. 88 in the rankings.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Kalamazoo Finals Videos; Blumberg and Schnur Win Cary Challenger Doubles Title; Damm and Boitan Reach Champaign $15K Final; Columbus Challenger, WTA 125 Wild Cards

It's the first weekend since late July that I haven't been at or traveling to a tournament, so I finally had the opportunity to process the videos from last month's finals in Kalamazoo. 

The Tennis Recruiting Network's Bill Kallenberg also created a photo gallery from Kalamazoo, with more than 100 photos. 


It's rare to have your first professional doubles title come at the ATP level, but Will Blumberg's title with Jack Sock in Newport back in July was that rarity.  Today, the recent North Carolina grad got his second pro title, at the ATP Cary Challenger, partnering with former Columbia star Max Schnur. Blumberg and Schnur, who were unseeded, beat top seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Nick Monroe in the first round, No. 4 seeds Christian Harrison and Dennis Novikov in the semifinals and today, unseeded Stefan Kozlov and Canadian Peter Polansky 6-4, 1-6, 10-4.

Schnur, who is 28, had a dozen titles coming into this week, with a career-high ATP doubles ranking of 95 back in 2017. 

The singles semifinals are now underway in Cary, with Mitchell Krueger facing No. 2 seed Denis Kudla, followed tonight by Aleks Vukic(Illinois) against Bjorn Fratangelo. Vukic defeated Kalamazoo champion Zachary Svajda 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Friday.

Live streaming is available here.

The singles final at the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign Illinois Sunday will feature 17-year-old Martin Damm and Baylor junior Adrian Boitan of Romania. Damm, the No. 2 seed, defeated John McNally(Ohio State) 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-3 in a three-hour-plus battle of former Kalamazoo 16s champions (McNally 2014, Damm 2018). The unseeded Boitan defeated Ohio State junior Cannon Kingsley 6-4, 6-4. The 22-year-old Boitan will be appearing in his first Pro Circuit singles final, while Damm is looking to win his first title after two previous losses in the finals, both on clay.

The fourth-seeded team of Karlis Ozolins, a freshman at Illinois, and Kweisi Kenyatte, a senior at Illinois, won the doubles title today, defeating Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) and Ryan Shane(Virginia) 7-5, 2-6, 10-7. It's the first pro circuit title for both Ozolins and Kenyatte.

The ATP Challenger circuit moves to Columbus next week, where it combines with a new WTA 125 event. I received an email Thursday with this information on wild cards:

The qualifying has begun for the women, with Yu and Cantos losing their first matches today.

WTA 125 Wildcards:
Katrina Scott (Main Draw), Peyton Stearns (Main Draw), Elsa Jacquemot (Main Draw), Elvina Kalieva (Main Draw), Eleana Yu (Qualification), Irina Cantos Siemers (Qualification).

ATP Challenger Tour Wildcards:
Matej Vocel (Main Draw), Cannon Kingsley (Main Draw), JJ Tracy (Main Draw), James Trotter (Qualification), Justin Boulais (Qualification), Jake Van Emburgh (Qualification).

Friday, September 17, 2021

My US Open Junior Championships Recap; Notes and Observations From New York; College Stars, Damm Reach Champaign $15K Semifinals

If you didn't follow my daily coverage of the US Open junior championships herelast week or at the ITF Junior Circuit website, my wrap-up today for the Tennis Recruiting Network is a good synopsis of the titles by Robin Montgomery and Daniel Rincon in singles, with coverage of the doubles champions as well.

When I'm on-site at an event (and this was the first junior slam I had covered in person in two years, since the 2019 US Open juniors), I don't have time to report on the incidental information or observations that pop up unexpectedly, so today I'm going to pass along some of those things from last week's tournament.

While I did not like doing my junior interviews on Zoom when we were all on-site (an outside alternative was certainly doable), I still believe that actually being in New York to watch matches was worthwhile. Although I did not watch an entire junior match from start to finish until the finals, I still was able to ask better questions and get a better feel for the match when I was sitting courtside, rather than watching a live stream. 

I was the only credentialed journalist on-site who requested interviews with juniors for daily articles, regardless of their nationality, but in a discussion with the employees at the USTA who arranged the interviews, I learned which countries were likely to care about the progress of their juniors. Those mentioned to me were Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.  This, of course, assumes that they had juniors in the tournament to begin with, but that is not the four countries I would have guessed. 

The quality of English that the international juniors speak astounds me. It wasn't so long ago that it was rolling the dice when requesting an interview with a player from a non-English speaking country, but now juniors who are not fluent in English are a rarity. Three of the four junior finalists--from China, Belarus and Spain--were speaking English as a second language, but all three provided great insight and nuance in their interviews. Monolingual as I am, I have nothing but admiration for the skill and work that it takes to master another language, when becoming a world class tennis player is obviously their top priority.

The community of tennis journalists is a small one, and my interactions with those who focus on the professional side of the sport are usually limited to Wimbledon and the US Open, the two major tournaments that I have covered regularly, in person, for many years. Although many of those I have come to know over the years were not there, due to the drastic reduction in journalists the USTA imposed this year, I did have an opportunity to talk, face-to-face (mask-to-mask) with those who, in the past, have expressed an interest in the junior game. Those random, what-do-you-know-about-x in-person conversations I had with (shameless name-dropping alert) Jon Wertheim, Peter Bodo, Liz Clarke, Ben Rothenburg, Chris Clarey, David Kane, Victoria Chiesa, Courtney Nguyen and Mary Carillo illustrated to me just how much I've missed those interactions in the past two years of media covid cancellations/restrictions. 

I also enjoyed talking with Nick McCarvel, Blair Henley, Marc Lucero, Brad Stine and Mike Cation, who were working for either the world feed for ESPN or US Open radio, or, in Blair's case, as an on-court master of ceremonies. And that leads me into another topic, which is the fantastic option that fans now have to watch any and every match they want to see via ESPN+. There is no better bargain out there (well, maybe the free Challenger streams) than a $6.99 a month ESPN subscription, which can be canceled at any time, and provides access to all courts at a slam. Every tennis fan who can't, or isn't comfortable with traveling to slams, has to be grateful for that option.

Speaking of world feed commentators, I ran into Bradley Klahn, who was doing some of that work, while also preparing to resume his professional career. The 2010 NCAA champion at Stanford, who reached 63 in the ATP rankings despite chronic back problems, intends to return to competitive tennis, although he said he has no firm time frame or schedule. He is hitting now, and hopes to get medical clearance to return for 2022.

The trend of increasing prize money for earlier rounds at slams has meant the decision about turning pro extends to those who lost in qualifying as well. San Diego 18s finalist Reese Brantmeier, who won two rounds in qualifying, earned $42,000, which she can't accept if she wishes to retain her NCAA eligibility. Brantmeier, who is a senior, although she doesn't turn 17 until next month, said she had not decided whether to take the money, saying she still had "a lot of time. I want to see how this week goes, how the rest of the year goes, and go from there."

The ballrunners at the US Open are great. Period. Much respect to their supervisors and trainers, who gave them the structure and feedback that resulted in uniformly outstanding performances day-in, day-out, regardless of the court assignment.

I will be writing an article later this month about the Electronic Line Calling System used in all matches, and how the juniors felt about it, but overall, it was popular and, by mid-week, no longer a novelty for anyone, players or fans.

All told, it was a great tournament, and although I didn't like the draw size reduction, at all, I am grateful I had the opportunity to cover a junior slam again in person. Here's hoping that option is available to me again in 2022.

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The singles semifinals are set for the $15,000 men's Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign, Illinois. Three current or recent collegians, plus 17-year-old Martin Damm, will play Saturday for a place in the finals, while the Illinois team of Karlis Ozolins and Kweisi Kenyatte have reached the doubles final.

Recent Ohio State graduate John McNally, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Omni Kumar(Duke) 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 and will take on No. 2 seed Damm, who beat Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) 7-6(3), 6-4.  

In the top half, Ohio State junior Cannon Kingsley will face Baylor junior Adrian Boitan, with both unseeded. Kingsley defeated qualifier Drew Baird(UCLA) 6-0, 6-3, while Boitan took out Dali Blanch 6-3, 6-2.

Ozolins and Kenyatte, the No. 4 seeds, will play unseeded Ryan Shane and Ponwith in the doubles final Saturday. Shane and Ponwith prevented an all-Illini final when they defeated No. 3 seed Alex Brown and Zeke Clark 7-5, 1-6, 15-13 in today's semifinals.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blanch Reaches First Pro Circuit Quarterfinal; Svajda Advances at Cary Challenger; Preseason No. 1s Missing From ITA All-American Championships Acceptance Lists

The quarterfinals are set for the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign Illinois, with 18-year-old Dali Blanch advancing to his first pro circuit quarterfinal today with a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over unseeded AJ Catanzariti(Texas A&M). Blanch went 0-5 this spring in $15K first rounds in Argentina and Turkey this spring, but he picked up first round wins in two $15Ks in Italy in June, and now has two wins this week. 

He will face Baylor junior Adrian Boitan of Romania, who took out No. 6 seed and ITA singles No. 1 Liam Draxl of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. 

Qualifier Drew Baird(UCLA) will play Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State) in the other top half quarterfinal. In the bottom half, No. 2 seed Martin Damm meets Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State), and in the only quarterfinal that reflects the seeding, No. 5 seed John McNally(Ohio State) will play No. 3 seed Omni Kumar(Duke).

Zachary Svajda, the two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion, advanced to his first Challenger quarterfinal today in Cary North Carolina, defeating qualifier Rinky Hijikata(North Carolina) of Australia 7-5, 6-3. When it counted, Svajda simply did not miss, converting all four of his break points. He will face former Illinois start Aleks Vukic of Australia, who beat No. 3 seed Salvatore Caruso of Italy 6-2, 6-4 Wednesday.  It was announced today that Svajda has received a qualifying wild card into next week's San Diego Open, an ATP 250 event added recently as a warmup for Indian Wells.

Bjorn Fratangelo plays the winner of tonight's match between Ryan Peniston(Memphis) and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech), Mitchell Krueger plays Max Purcell of Australia and No. 7 seed Michael Mmoh meets No. 2 seed Denis Kudla in the other quarterfinals.

The ITA All-American Championships, which were not played last fall due to the pandemic, are coming up next month, and the ITA released the selections last week.

The men's tournament, which remains in Tulsa, begins with pre-qualifying on Saturday October 2, followed by qualifying Monday, October 4 and main draw Wednesday October 6, with the finals scheduled for Sunday October 10.

Forty-six players are on the main draw selection list, so with 16 qualifiers, there are two yet to be added to fill the 64-player draw. The list does not include, of the preseason Top 10, Draxl[1] or Duarte Vale[4] of Florida, but does include the 2021 NCAA champion Sam Riffice of Florida and Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina.

The wild cards have been announced, with Washington's Clement Chidekh of France, who has had outstanding results this summer, receiving the ITA wild card. Jacob Bickersteth of Michigan earned his wild card by winning the ITA Summer Championships last month, and Alex Reco of Arkansas received the host wild card. Wild cards into qualifying went to Yuta Kikuchi of California, Athell Bennett of Purdue and Florida's Lukas Greif, who was the Summer Championships finalist.

In doubles, Riffice and Ben Shelton, who is in singles qualifying,  received a main draw wild card, as did Tennessee's Adam Walton(2021 NCAA champion) and Mark Wallner.

The women's tournament is moving to the Har-Tru courts of the LTP Tennis Club in Charleston South Carolina this year, and, as has been the case, the draws for the women are smaller, leading to a shorter tournament. The women begin with qualifying on Monday October 4, with three matches over two days to determine the eight qualifiers in the 32-player main draw. According to the tentative schedule, there will be one singles match per day in the main draw; previously, the women had played five matches in four days.

NCAA champion and ITA preseason No. 1 Emma Navarro of Virginia is not on the selection list, which is a surprise, given that she is from Charleston. Nor is McCartney Kessler[4] of Florida on the list, although she is the only other Top 10 player missing. Wild cards went to Chloe Beck of Duke(host wild card), Haley Giavara of Cal(ITA), Julia Adams of Furman(ITA Summer champion) and Laia Monfort of Tulsa(release agreement, as tournament was moved from there).

Doubles main draw wild cards went to Pepperdine's new transfers Janice Tjen and Victoria Flores(ITA), South Carolina's Megan Davies and Allie Gretkowski(ITA), Virginia's Elaine Chervinsky and Melanie Collard(host) and Monfort and Shura Poppe(Tulsa).

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Quinn, Kalieva Top ITF B1 Pan American Closed Acceptance Lists; Baird Defeats Top Seed Boyer at Champaign $15K; Former Georgetown Coach to Plead Guilty in Varsity Blues Scandal

The next big junior tournament in North America is next month's ITF B1 Pan American Closed in Nicholasville Kentucky, where it moved from its longtime home in Tulsa (and one year in Charlotte in 2018) for the 2019 tournament. 

As usual, the field is mostly Americans, although there is strong representation from Canada this year in the girls acceptances. I had thought with so many good South American boys eligible this year, a few might enter, as this tournament is an excellent opportunity for the 2004s to start building a ranking that will help them qualify for the junior slams next summer. Perhaps the hard indoor courts kept them away, or the opportunity to play clay events closer to home; this lack of South American players is not unusual, but still a bit puzzling to me.

Ethan Quinn heads the boys acceptances, followed by Ozan Colak, Aidan Kim, Ryan Colby and Benjamin Kittay.

Elvina Kalieva, now up to a career-high No. 9 in the ITF junior rankings, is entered in the girls draw. In New York, she told me she didn't think she would continue to play juniors, although she didn't rule it out either. But as a 2003, Kalieva's junior ranking is not important for next year, although the higher she can finish, the bigger ITF Women's Circuit events she will receive direct entry into as a Top 10 junior.

Alexis Blokhina and Katja Wiersholm are the only other Top 100 US girls on the acceptance list.

In first round action today at the $15,000 USTA Men's Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign, half of the seeds were eliminated, including No. 1 seed Dusty Boyer(Nebraska). Qualifier Drew Baird, a junior at UCLA, defeated Boyer 6-4, 6-1; No. 4 seed Alex Brown(Illinois) lost to AJ Catanzariti(Texas A&M) 6-1, 6-2; No. 7 seed Ryan Shane(Virginia) was beaten by Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) 7-5, 6-2 and No. 8 seed Zeke Clark(Illinois) lost to Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State) 6-3, 6-2.

The only junior advancing to the second round was Dali Blanch, who beat Illinois freshman Karlis Ozlins 7-5, 7-6(3). Victor Lilov, Samir Banerjee and Alexander Bernard all lost their first round matches.

The Associated Press is reporting that former Georgetown coach Gordon Ernst will plead guilty to charges that include "conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery."  Ernst, previously the men's and women's coach at Georgetown, was among the coaches arrested in March of 2019 in the Varsity Blues scandal, which involved schemes to secure admission to prestigious schools by inflating the athletic credentials of children of wealthy parents, who paid for that guarantee of admission. Ernest was scheduled to go to trial in November. The plea agreement filed recommends a jail sentence of four years or less. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Svajda Advances, Sandgren Defaulted at Cary Challenger; Qualifying Complete at Men's $15K in Champaign; Kentucky's Draxl and Virginia's Navarro Top ITA D-I Preseason Rankings

The first round is complete at the ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina, with an abrupt end to the tournament for top seed Tennys Sandgren, who was defaulted in the second game of his match tonight with Christopher Eubanks. Although it wasn't visible on the live stream, Sandgren lost a point on an unforced error and after a misdirected ball toss to him by a ball boy prior to the next point, he swatted a ball, which appeared to hit a line umpire. The supervisor was called to the court and Sandgren was defaulted, leading 1-0.

In a less dramatic start to the day, two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda advanced to the second round when Stefan Kozlov retired trailing 7-5, 2-0.  Svajda will play North Carolina junior Rinky Hijikata of Australia, who qualified yesterday and today defeated No. 5 seed Jason Jung(Michigan) 6-4, 6-4. Alex Kovacevic(Illinois) is another qualifier who advanced to the second round, beating wild card Garrett Johns of Duke 7-6(3), 6-4. Kovacevic will play No. 2 seed Denis Kudla in the second round Wednesday.

Former ITF World No. 1 junior Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, still just 18 years old, is the third qualifier into the second round, with the 2019 Wimbledon boys champion defeating Ulises Blanch 7-5, 6-1 today. 

The other USTA Pro Circuit event this week is also for men, a $15, 000 tournament in Champaign Illinois. Qualifying was completed today, with seven of the eight qualifiers current college players: Blaise Bicknell(Florida), Drew Baird(UCLA), Tyler Zink(Oklahoma State), Jake Van Emburgh(Ohio State), Emile Hudd(Tennessee), Tristan McCormick(Georgia) and Alexander Petrov(Illinois).

The top US juniors went from New York to Champaign, with US Open quarterfinalist Victor Lilov, Dali Blanch and Alexander Bernard using the junior reserve program for entry and Samir Banerjee receiving a wild card.  The other wild cards went to Illinois players Lucas Horve, Olivier Stuart and Hunter Heck. Karl Ozlins, a freshman at Illinois, got in on his own ranking.

Dusty Boyer(Nebraska) is the top seed, with Martin Damm seeded second.

All 16 first round matches are scheduled for Wednesday.

It's been a week since the ITA preseason rankings came out, but when I'm covering a major tournament in person, some things have to wait. Below are the Top 20 in singles for men and women and the Top 8 doubles teams. While these preseason rankings shouldn't be taken too seriously(e.g. no Big 10 men's player is listed until No. 20, and he's a transfer), it is a way to get some official confirmation of who transferred where this summer. It appears that Hijikata is taking the fall off, as he is not in the rankings, but is on the North Carolina roster; I'm sure there are other top players who will not be included until well into the dual match season in 2022.

This is not an comprehensive list, but ranked men and women who will be playing for different teams in 2021-22 include:

Matej Vocel Oklahoma State to Ohio State
Hamish Stewart Tulane to Georgia
Tyler Zink Georgia to Oklahoma State
James Story Memphis to South Carolina
Richard Ciamarra Notre Dame to Texas
Barnaby Smith Texas A&M to Florida State
Bar Botzer Wake Forest to Virginia
Emile Hudd Oklahoma State to Tennessee
Matias Siimar Michigan to Florida

Janic Tjen Oregon to Pepperdine 
Victoria Flores Georgia Tech to Pepperdine
Ayana Akli Maryland to South Carolina 
Bunyawi Thamchaiwat Oklahoma State to San Diego State
Emma Shelton South Carolina to Florida
Layne Sleeth Florida to Oklahoma

Men's Preseason Top 20 Division I Singles:
1. Liam Draxl, Kentucky
2. Sam Riffice, Florida
3. Daniel Rodrigues, South Carolina
4. Duarte Vale, Florida
5. Adam Walton, Tennessee
6. Johannus Monday, Tennessee
7. Matias Soto, Baylor
8. Luc Fomba, TCU
9. Adrian Boitan, Baylor
10. Eliot Spizzirri, Texas
11. Finn Reynolds, Mississippi
12. Trent Bryde, Georgia
13. Gabriel Diallo, Kentucky
14. Andy Andrade, Florida
15. Philip Henning, Georgia
16. Connor Thomson, South Carolina
17. Micah Braswell, Texas
18. Juan Carlos Aguilar, TCU
19. Tyler Stice, Auburn
20. Matej Vocel, Ohio State

1. Emma Navarro, Virginia
2. Abigail Forbes, UCLA
3. Janice Tjen, Pepperdine 
4. McCartney Kessler, Florida
5. Georgia Drummy, Duke
6. Peyton Stearns, Texas
7. Irina Cantos, Ohio State
8. Natasha Subhash, Virginia
9. Buyawi Thamchaiwat, San Diego State
10. Tatiana Makarova, Texas A&M
11. Viktoryia Kanapatskaya, Syracuse
12. Alexa Noel, Iowa
13. Victoria Flores, Pepperdine
14. Vanessa Wong, Washington
15. Meg Kowalski, Georgia
16. Isaella Pfennig, Miami
17. Haley Giavara, Cal
18. Salma Ewing, USC
19. Lea Ma, Georgia
20. Valeriya Zeleva, Central Florida


1. Adam Walton and Pat Harper, Tennessee
2. Eliot Spizzirri and Siem Woldeab, Texas
3. Bogdan Pavel and Trey Hilderbrand, Central Florida
4. Daniel Rodriguez and Connor Thomson, South Carolina
5. David Stevenson and Oscar Cutting, Memphis
6. Florian Broska and Gregor Ramskogler, Mississippi State
7. Tad Maclean and Finn Murgett, Auburn
8. Marcus McDaniel and Andres Martin, Georgia Tech

1.Ivana Corley and Carmen Corley, Oklahoma
2. Chloe Beck and Karolina Berankova, Duke
3. Tatiana Makarova and Jayci Goldsmith, Texas A&M
4. Natasha Subhash and Sofia Munera, Virginia
5. Esther Adeshina and Daria Kuczer, Tennessee
6. Gia Cohen and Ava Hrastar, Georgia Tech
7. Bronte Murgett and Marta Oliveira, Missouri
8. Anna Brylin and Brooke Killingsworth, Wake Forest

Monday, September 13, 2021

Svajda Awarded Cary Challenger Wild Card, Meets Kozlov Tuesday; Florida State, South Carolina Freshmen Lead ITA Newcomers Lists; Bhakta Wins J4 Doubles Title

The ATP Challenger 80 in Cary North Carolina is underway after a five-week break in men's professional tennis in the United States, with two collegians and 2019 and 2020 Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda receiving wild cards.

Duke junior Garrett Johns and North Carolina State freshman Luca Staeheli of Switzerland join Svajda in the main draw. Johns will play qualifier Aleks Kovacevic, the recent Illinois grad, in the first round Tuesday; Svajda has drawn 2015 Kalamazoo 18s finalist Stefan Kozlov.

In addition to Kovacevic, North Carolina's Rinky Hijikata of Australia made it through qualifying as did 18-year-old Shintaro Mochizuki, the 2019 Wimbledon boys champion, of Japan. Former Pepperdine start Alex Sarkissian is the fourth qualifier.

Tennys Sandgren, the top seed, will face Christopher Eubanks in Tuesday's first round action; Denis Kudla, seeded second, plays Donald Young later tonight.

Live streaming is available here

I'm not familiar with Luca Staeheli, but he's No. 3 on the ITA's Men's Newcomers list for the 2021 season, which was published last week.

Top 10 Men's Newcomers:
1 Antoine Cornut Chauvinc, Florida State
2 Pedro Vives Marcos, TCU
3 Luca Staeheli, NC State4 Alexander Hoogmartens, UCLA
5 Nini Gabriel Dica, Clemson
6 Gavin Young, Michigan
7 Jurabek Karimov, Wake Forest
8 Murphy Cassone, Arizona State
9 Shunsuke Mitsui, Tennessee
10 Max Basing, Stanford

1 Sarah Hamner, South Carolina
2 Patricija Spaka, Arizona State
3 Melodie Collard, Virginia
4 Mell Reasco, Georgia
5 Sabine Rutlauka, Penn
6 Jenna DeFalco, LSU
7 Jessica Alsola, California
8 Alexandra Yepifanova, Stanford
9 Victoria Hu, Princeton University
10 Mary Stoiana, Texas A&M

There were 17 ITF Junior Circuit events last week, including the US Open, but, other than Robin Montgomery and Ashlyn Krueger, only one American claimed a title.

The only ITF Junior Circuit in North America, other than the US Open, was the J4 in Mexico, where Ria Bhakta won the doubles title and reached the singles final. The 16-year-old Bhakta and her partner Maria Martinez Hernandez of Mexico won the doubles title as the top seeds, beating No. 3 seeds Ana Paula Chavez Sanchez of Mexico and Vanesa Suarez of Venezuela 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Martinez Hernandez, the No. 1 seed in singles, then defeated her doubles partner Bhakta, the No. 2 seed, 7-6(3), 6-1 in the singles championship match.

This week's only ITF Junior Circuit tournament in this part of the world is a J5 in Nicaragua. This week's J1 in Germany features just one American, Princeton recruit Sebastian Sec.  Kseniz Zaytseva of Russia is the top girls seed, with Aleksander Orlikowski of Poland the top boys seed.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Gauff and McNally Fall in Three Sets in Women's Doubles Final; Deming and An Claim Les Petits As Doubles Title

US Open women's doubles finalists Coco Gauff and Caty McNally
photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/USTA

With the junior singles finals finishing on Saturday (my coverage for the ITF is here) for the first time since I began reporting on the US Open in 2004, Sunday was a bonus day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for me. I was fortunate to be able to watch Sunday's two matches in Ashe for the first time in many years, and although I was excited to see Novak Djokovic compete for the men's singles grand slam, I was thrilled to see Caty McNally and Coco Gauff play in the women's doubles final in the early match.

Three years ago, I spoke to them after they won the US Open girls title, on a match played at the Chase Center indoor courts, in front of no fans, due to rain. 

Today they played on Arthur Ashe stadium, with a vocal crowd behind them, against Australia's Samantha Stosur and China's Shuai Zhang. Although they lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, McNally and Gauff proved they were ready for the sport's biggest stage and intend to make their appearance in slam finals a regular occurrence.

At their press conference in Interview Room 1, the only one I attended in person, rather than via Zoom, because the junior champions did not get that room this year, I asked them to reflect on their progression from girls US Open champions to women's US Open finalists.

"It's been a great journey so far," McNally said. "Winning the juniors, now we're playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, it's pretty cool to see how far we've come. I think it just shows how much better we've gotten as a team. We want to do better. We can't wait to be back out on that court again. But I think from day one when we played, we just had a special relationship, a special partnership. I think we knew this was coming. I think we knew finals were coming down the road. I still think we'll be back out on that court again with a different result sooner than later."

"Yeah, I agree," Gauff said. "It's amazing how far we've come. I'm glad that Caty is able, we're able to do this journey together. There's no other person or player that I would rather do this with. I know that we'll be Grand Slam champions eventually."

A journalist via Zoom asked if they felt their success this year, and that of Raducanu, Fernandez and Alcaraz could be viewed as "jumping the line by going so deep into a Grand Slam."

McNally dismissed that interpretation.

"Yeah, I don't know if there's like a line. I just think we all believe in ourselves, believe in our games," McNally said. "We've all played at really high levels, especially in juniors. We've all played in Grand Slams, all of us. I think that's given us a lot of exposure to what we're getting ourselves into. I think we're just taking on these big moments head first. We're not really afraid to play our games and get the crowd involved, to win these big matches. I think it's just awesome and inspiring to me, I know to myself, I know to Coco, other young players, that anyone can do it."

"I mean, success has no timeline to it," said Gauff, who at 17 is the youngest of all the teenagers who excelled at this US Open. "It can happen early; it can happen later. There are a lot of players that it happened later in their career, and there's a lot of players it happened earlier in their career. There's players like Serena who have success throughout the whole career (smiling). Like Caty said, I don't think there's any line or anything. I think especially the young generation, the new generation coming up, just really believe in themselves, don't really care about how many more years of experience the opponent on the other side of the court has."

One of the biggest stages preparing junior players for the future is in Tarbes France at the 14U Les Petits As tournament. Usually held at the end of January and beginning of February, the tournament was moved to this week due to the pandemic. I usually follow the event closely, which I was unable to do this year because of the conflict with the US Open Junior Championships.

Five US girls and four US boys were in the draws, with Claire An and Max Exsted the top-seeded Americans, both at No. 8. Exsted lost in the quarterfinals, while unseeded Darwin Blanch and Matisse Farzam both advanced to the semifinals. Blanch lost to No. 3 seed Federico Cina of Italy, who had beaten Exsted, 6-3, 6-2 and Farzam was beaten by top seed Maxim Mrva of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Mrva won the title today, beating Cina 6-3, 3-6 6-0. 

Cin and Andrea De Marchi, the No. 6 seeds, won the doubles title, beating No. 7 seed Felix Alopaeus and Oskari Paldanius of Finland 6-7(5), 6-3, 12-10 in the final. 

France ended a long drought in girls singles, with No. 7 seed Mathilde Ngijol Carre becoming the first girl from the host country to win the title since 1984. She defeated unseeded Mika Buchnik of Israel 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the championship match.  An, the only US girl to advance past the second round, lost in the semifinals to Buchnik, 7-6(5), 6-3.

An and Emily Deming were unseeded in the girls doubles competition, but they took home the title, defeating Flora Johnson and Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain, who were also unseeded, 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Riley Crowder and Deming met in the consolation final, with Crowder winning 4-1, 4-1.

Photos from the event can be found at the tournament website. The draws are best viewed at Tennis Europe's website.