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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Four US Juniors Receive Wild Cards at WTA 125 Dow Tennis Classic; Wolf, Nakashima Win Challenger Titles; Kirkov Claims Tallahassee $15K; Three More US ITF Junior Circuit Champions

©Colette Lewis 2021
Midland Michigan--

I'm in Midland for a few days to cover the WTA 125 Dow Tennis Classic, which is one of the few professional tournaments that managed to host its event in 2020 and 2021. It took a move from February to November this year to earn that distinction, while the tournament has also gone from a $100,000 ITF event to a WTA 125.

Word came early today, with the tournament's main draw beginning Monday, of the wild cards, all four of whom are prominent US juniors: USTA National 18s champion Ashlyn Krueger; USTA National 18s finalist Reese Brantmeier; Elvina Kalieva, recent finalist at the Rancho Santa Fe $60K; and Katrina Scott, a quarterfinalist this summer at a WTA 125 in Massachusetts. Krueger has drawn Sachia Vickery in the first round and they will kick off play on Stadium Court at 11 a.m. Monday. Katrina Scott is also on Monday's order of play; the 17-year-old will face No. 3 seed Maddison Inglis of Australia in the fourth match of day on Court 1.

Kalieva will play Whitney Osuigwe and Brantmeier has drawn No. 5 seed and 2019 Dow champion Caty McNally.

Madison Brengle, the 2018 Dow champion, is the No. 1 seed, and will face Asia Muhammad on Stadium court Monday.

Qualifying began today, and with the move to a WTA 125, the draw is just 16 players, meaning only eight matches today at the Great Midland Tennis Center. I ran into Ellie Douglas waiting for her second on match on Stadium Court, and we chatted about what she had been doing since I had last seen her, probably in qualifying here in 2019.  It turns out, not much, as she said had been injured for 18 months, going from February of 2020 to May of this year without playing. The 21-year-old Douglas, who left TCU after her freshman season, said she was also out for six weeks or so this summer with a minor wrist injury, but is happy with her level of play now. She qualified and won a round at the $60K in Berkeley and qualified for the $80K in Tyler Texas last week. 

Today she played No. 5 seed Peangtarn Plipuech of Thailand, who entered with a protected WTA ranking of 265. Douglas led throughout her 6-3, 6-2 victory, with her always dangerous backhand especially effective and a first serve percentage of 80 also instrumental. After giving back an early break in the first set, she got another with Plipuech serving at 2-3 and easily closed out the set. A break in the first game of the second set was all the 21-year-old Texan needed and when she got a second break to go up 5-2, there was no doubt. Douglas served it out at love to set up a final round qualifying match with No. 4 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada. Sebov saved a match point in the second set tiebreaker to beat Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2.

Catherine Harrison, the No. 1 seed in qualifying, defeated Alexandra Riley 6-0, 6-0 in 39 minutes. Former UCLA Bruin Harrison, who won a $25K earlier this month in Redding California, won 48 of the 59 points played in the match. Harrison will play former University of Kentucky standout Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia, who came from 4-0 down in the second set to beat wild card Kari Miller (Michigan) 6-2, 7-5.

No. 3 seed Alexa Glatch, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Beatrice Gumulya(Clemson) of Indonesia, will play No. 7 seed Sophie Chang, who got by Ivana Popovic of Australia 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Dalayna Hewitt defeated No. 8 seed Nargi Hanatani of Japan 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 and will face No. 2 seed Marie Benoit of Belgium for a spot in the main draw Benoit beat wild card Emma Lella 6-3, 6-0.

For draws and Monday's order of play, see the tournament website.

Although both Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz lost their ATP finals today, two Americans did take home ATP Challenger titles. No. 4 seed Brandon Nakashima(Virginia) defeated unseeded Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 6-3 to win the Challenger 90 in France. Nakashima did not drop a set all week and will move to a career-high 65 in the ATP rankings with his third Challenger title in the past 12 months.

At the Challenger 80 in Las Vegas, JJ Wolf(Ohio State) defeated Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 6-4, avenging his loss in the semifinals of the Columbus Challenger last month. The 22-year-old from Ohio, who was out from last November until July with an injury, now has five Challenger titles, and has his ranking back up to 160. His career-high of 120 came last fall, right before his injury. Wolf lost only one set this week in Las Vegas, in his second round victory over No. 2 seed Denis Kudla.

Only one American singles champion emerged from the four USTA Pro Circuit events this week: Vasil Kirkov at the $15,000 tournament in Tallahassee. The 2016 Kalamazoo 18s finalist, seeded No. 3, defeated qualifier Johannes Ingildsen(Florida) of Denmark 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the final. It's his second career ITF singles title and first since 2019. No. 4 seeds Liam Draxl(Kentucky) of Canada and John McNally(Ohio State) won the doubles title, beating top seeds Thomas Fancutt of Australia and Colin Sinclair(Cornell) of North Mariana Islands 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

At the $25,000 tournament in Calabasas California, Universisty of North Carolina junior Rinky Hijikata of Australia defeated Stanford sophomore Tristan Boyer 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. Hijikata, who is taking the fall off, has now won five Pro Circuit singles titles, with four coming this year. Francis Alcantara(Pepperdine) and Raymond Sarmiento(USC) won the doubles title, beating another unseeded pair, Johannes Seeman(San Diego State) of Estonia and Wally Thayne(Utah) 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Kayla Day fell in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Austin, with No. 6 seed Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden coming back for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory. In the doubles final, two unseeded teams played for the title with Elysia Bolton(UCLA) and Maegan Manasse(Cal) defeating Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech) and Chanelle Van Nguyen(UCLA) 6-1, 7-5 in the final.

Misaki Doi of Japan will come into the Dow Tennis Classic, where she is the No. 2 seed,  on a five-match winning streak after capturing the title at the $80,000 tournament in Tyler today. Doi, the No. 4 seed, defeated No. 5 seed Harriet Dart of Great Britain 7-6(5), 6-2 in today's final. No. 2 seeds Giuliana Olmos(USC) and Marcela Zacarias of Mexico won the doubles title, defeating top seeds Doi and Poland's Katarzyna Kawa 7-5, 1-6, 10-5.

In addition to the four titles won by Americans at the J4 in South Carolina, three other ITF Junior Circuit champions were crowned outside the United States this week. At the J4 in Canada, No. 2 seed John Kim earned his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the 17-year-old Californian beating unseeded Aleksandar Mitric of Canada 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the final. 

At the J4 in Zimbabwe, Aayush Bhat of the US and Aman Dahiya of India won the doubles title. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds William Jansen and Roy Keegan of Great Britain 7-6(3), 4-1, ret. It's the third ITF Junior Circuit doubles title for the 16-year-old Bhat, all this year.

At the J5 in Brazil, 15-year-old Athena Rosas won the doubles title, her first title on the ITF Junior Circuit, partnering with  Julia Rocha de Macedo Moraes of Brazil. The unseeded pair defeated Cecilia Costa and Aline Da Silva of Brazil 7-6(3), 2-6, 10-7 in the final.