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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Eighteen of Top 10 Junior Boys and Girls Enter Wimbledon; Esmail Promoted to Head Coach at Washington; Arkansas Hires Alum Udwadia; Abdala Moves Up at San Diego

The outer courts at Wimbledon, where most juniors compete

The acceptances for the Wimbledon Junior Championships were published today, and any speculation that the lack of ITF junior points would lead to diminished fields can be put to rest, with nine of the Top 10 in both the boys and the girls rankings on the lists.

Of course withdrawals are still possible in the next two weeks, but it appears that the opportunity to win a Wimbledon title is too rare to pass up. Jerry Shang of China, currently ranked No. 10, is passing, as he said he was done with junior tennis after making the final of last year's US Open Junior Championships. The 17-year-old is currently 406 in the ATP rankings. Last year's Wimbledon boys finalist Victor Lilov of the US did not enter; he is 16 in the ITF rankings. Only one Russian boy who would have qualified was banned from entering: Yaroslav Demin, currently ranked 24.

Three boys received direct entry without a Top 50 ranking: Jeremy Jin of Australia[52] and Connor Henry Van Schalkwyk [53], who fill the regional spots of Oceania/Australia and Africa that the ITF reserves for those in the Top 75. Daniel Merida Aguilar of Spain, who is 81 in the ITF Junior rankings, received entry based on his Top 750 ATP ranking, currently at 590.

The US boys in the main draw are: Bruno Kuzuhara, Nishesh Basavareddy, Ozan Colak, Michael Zheng, Nicholas Godsick, Cooper Williams, Learner Tien and Alex Michelsen.  

Alexander Frusina and Sebastian Gorzny are the second and third boys out.

The only Top 10 girl not entered is No. 6 Diana Shnaider of Russia, who is banned from competing. Two other Russians ranked in the top 20 were banned: Ksenia Zaytseva and Mirra Andreeva. The other notable absences are Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who played Roland Garros and lost in the second round, and Robin Montgomery and Linda Noskova, who have left junior competition after winning the US Open and Roland Garros junior titles last year. Because Roland Garros was a week later last year, the points from that tournament haven't dropped; Noskova only received entry based on that quirk this year, as she played only one other junior tournament in the past 12 months.

The regional entry in the girls draw is Angella Okutoyi of Kenya, ranked No. 64.

The US girls in the main draw are Liv Hovde, Clervie Ngounoue, Qavia Lopez and Alexis Blokhina. Ngounoue hasn't played a junior event since the Australian Open in January, and has not played at all since March, when she made the final and semifinal of $15Ks in Morocco. 

Mia Slama is the next player in the main draw if there is a withdrawal.

Interesting to note that the two Grade 1s on grass this month--Nottingham and Roehampton-- will provide ITF points, because, "alternative equivalent opportunities exist in other countries in the same tournament week."

Few Americans are playing Nottingham, which begins June 20, but most who are competing at Wimbledon are playing Roehampton, with Kuzuhara the notable exception. 

Three coaching vacancies have been filled in the past week, two of them Power Five positions.  

The University of Washington announced today that Rahim Esmail would be taking over as head coach of men's tennis, replacing Matt Anger, who announced his retirement last month after 28 years leading the program. Esmail was the associate head coach of the Huskies last season; prior to that, he was men's head coach at Samford from 2012-2021.

The University of Arkansas announced yesterday that Jay Udwadia would be leading the men's tennis program, after Andy Jackson retired last month. Udwadia, who played at Arkansas, was previously the men's head coach at Drake, Fresno State, and most recently Oklahoma State. Udwadia left Oklahoma State mid-season in 2021.

The University of San Diego announced last week that Nadia Abdala would take over the women's program after the retirement of Sherri Stephens, who was head coach there for 38 years. Abdala, who played at Arizona State, has been Stephens' assistant for the past eight years.

The Power Five positions still open are at Michigan State (men) and LSU (women). Purdue is also looking for a new men's head coach, although there was no official announcement that Pawel Gajdzik was leaving after 13 years. For more on that vacancy, see this article from the Lafayette Journal & Courier.