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Sunday, November 21, 2021

McNally, Svajda Claim First Pro Circuit Titles; Sarmiento Wins in East Lansing; Kozlov Captures Another Challenger in Champaign; JA in Mexico Begins Monday, with Lilov Top Seed

John McNally in today's final
photo credit: Scott Gerber/OhioTennisZone.com

Two Kalamazoo champions won their first USTA Pro Circuit titles today at $25,000 tournaments in Columbus Ohio and Austin Texas as the pro season concluded today in four tournaments across the country.

John McNally, who won the Kalamazoo 16s singles and doubles titles in 2014, defeated recent Ohio State teammate JJ Tracy today in a three-hour final at the Ty Tucker Tennis Center 4-6, 7-6(2) 6-3. Buckeye sophomore Tracy, a wild card, had two match points with No. 7 seed McNally serving at 3-5 in the second set, but the 23-year-old from Cincinnati held, broke, and rode that momentum through the second set tiebreaker and the final set for the title. McNally had previously reached a Pro Circuit final once before, in July of 2019, at the $25,000 tournament in Iowa City, losing to Alex Rybakov in a third set tiebreaker. 

Zachary Svajda, who is the reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion and also won that title in 2019, had never reached a Pro Circuit final prior to today. The No. 2 seed, Svajda was up against lucky loser Eduardo Nava(Wake Forest), who also was competing in his first Pro Circuit final. Nava's ranking of 1586 was over 1000 places below that of Svajda, who is at 442, but the 24-year-old senior forced a third set before falling 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Another three-set final was played at the $15,000 tournament in East Lansing Michigan, with former USC All-American Raymond Sarmiento winning his first Pro Circuit singles title since 2016. The 29-year-old Sarmiento, seeded No. 1, came back to beat unseeded University of Kentucky junior Gabriel Diallo of Canada 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Naples Florida, unseeded Nefisa Berberovic of Bosnia defeated No. 4 seed Sujeong Jang of Korea 7-5, 2-6, 7-4 in a three-hour and 26 minute final.

No. 8 seed Stefan Kozlov defeated No. 4 seed Aleks Vukic of Australia 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 today in the final of the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign Illinois, earning his third Challenger title since September. A day after clinching the USTA's Australian Open wild card, Kozlov was able to refocus, although he was down a set and break before rallying for the win. Kozlov had beaten Vukic in straight sets in the final of the Charlottesville Challenger two weeks ago, then drew him again in the first round of the Knoxville Challenger last week. Kozlov won that match 7-5 in the third, so the 23-year-old from Florida certainly knew that Vukic was dangerous, especially with the home crowd behind the former University of Illinois All-American. But after getting broken to give Vukic a 2-1 lead, Kozlov won four straight games to reassert himself. The third set was not pretty, understandable with both players at the end of four consecutive weeks of Challenger competition, and Kozlov could not consolidate his breaks until the final game, when he held after breaking Vukic for the third time in the set.

Kozlov will move to 159 in the ATP rankings, still well below his career-high of 115 back in February of 2017, but after starting last year at 431, the 2015 Kalamazoo 18s finalist has to be happy with the trajectory of his ranking now.

Qualifying is complete and the draws are out for the JA in Merida Mexico, with 14 US boys and 12 US girls in the main draw. 

Wimbledon boys finalist Victor Lilov is the top seed and the only seeded American boy. With the 48-draw, he and the other 15 seeds have a bye in the first round. The other US boys are Azuma Visaya, Sebastian Sec, Ryan Colby, Cooper Williams, Luca Hotze, Yannik Rahman, Ellis Short(who received a special exemption into the main draw for reaching the doubles final at the J1 in Guadalajara), wild card Jackson Armistead, Timothy Phung and qualifiers Nicholas Steiglehner, Preston Stearns, Leanid Boika and Alexander Aney.

ITF No. 1 junior Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra is the No. 1 seed. I was surprised to see her name at the top of the draw, as she has pulled out of next month's Orange Bowl and was playing in the semifinals of the WTA 125 in Montevideo Uruguay yesterday. But as a seed, she won't play until Tuesday, so she may have decided to make the trip.

Czech Linda Fruhvirtova, who won the J1 yesterday in Guadalajara, accepted a wild card into the JA. She was initially accepted into the women's $60K in Brazil and so was automatically withdrawn from Merida. Qavia Lopez also received a wild card; she was entered in a $15K in Guatemala and she too was automatically withdrawn from the Merida event this week.

The US girls in the main draw, in addition to Lopez, are Sonya Macavei, Liv Hovde, Clervie Ngounoue[6], Ava Krug, Madeleine Jessup, Alexia Harmon, Alexis Blokhina[11], Daniella Ben-Abraham, Krystal Blanch, Mia Slama and Nevena Carton.