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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

My College Park J1 Recap; USTA 18s Champions Ngounoue and Brantmeier Win First Round Match at US Open; Stearns Falls Just Short, Wolf Makes Third Round; Querrey Retires

If you weren't able to follow my daily coverage last week at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park, you'll find my synopsis of the tournament posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. As has been the case since I first covered the tournament in 2014, I enjoy being at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, with the energy of all the youngsters they attract to their many junior tennis programs always in evidence. It was also great to get an extended look at many of the international players who will be competing at the US Open Junior Championships; once I'm at the spacious Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it's difficult to see much of the non-Americans, unless they are playing someone from the United States.  

Reese Brantmeier and Clervie Ngounoue received a wild card into the US Open women's doubles draw for winning the USTA National Championships earlier this month in San Diego and they showed they belonged at the highest level this afternoon, defeating Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium 6-3, 6-4.

Brantmeier and Ngounoue spoke with reporter Michael Lewis today about their win today and passed along some of their responses to his questions.

ON NERVES: I wasn't nervous; hardcourts in San Diego was our first time playing together, really, so there was no pressure on us today; I was just there and wanted to have some fun, and I think we did.

ON WHAT BROUGHT THEM TOGETHER AS A TEAM, IN SAN DIEGO: Elvina [Kalieva[ aged out, so she wasn't playing hardcourts; but Clervie and I have been friends for a long time, so I just sent her a text and said "do you want to play together"

Ngounoue: I just was excited and wanted to have fun/

Ngounoue: I was SO happy when she asked me! I was just like this made it so much easier. She's great.

ON HOW THEY PLAYED TODAY: I think we executed what we wanted to do, felt pretty comfortable and got into our points really well.

Ngounoue: Reese is just a great all court player for me; I trust her at the net, and we trust each other, and at the net I feel like I just need to make this ball. Reese serves really big, and it's a confidence booster for me. I feel like with the way she serves, I don't have to do that much. She keeps me stable.

Ngounoue and Brantmeier will face No. 10 seeds Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez(Georgia) of Australia in the second round.

Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn, the Kalamazoo 18s champions, are on Thursday's schedule, facing Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia and Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian) of Mexico in the first match on Court 7 at 11 a.m.  Wimbledon boys doubles champions Sebastian Gorzny and Alex Michelsen, who also received a wild card, take on No. 13 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah(USC) of Colombia on Court 8, also at 11 a.m.

NCAA singles champion Peyton Stearns was unable to finish her first round match with No. 28 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova last night, with rain stopping play with Stearns down 6-4, 4-6, 4-3 and Alexandrova serving.

When the match resumed this afternoon, Stearns immediately got the break back and was two points from the match with Alexandrova serving at 4-5 30-all. But Alexandrova held and broke to go up 6-5, with Stearns usually mighty forehand producing a couple of unexpected errors. Stearns had two chances to break in the final game, but Alexandrova saved them and was extremely fortunate on her first match point, with a net cord winner off a big Stearns return creeping up over the net and falling on Stearns' side.

Qualifier Brandon Holt, the former USC All-American, lost a tough one today after beating No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz on Monday. Holt led Pedro Cachin of Argentina 6-1, 6-2 but couldn't close out the match and ended up falling 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 7-6(6). Down 6-3 in the final tiebreaker, Holt won three straight points to give the huge crowd on Court 12 hope, but Cachin took the final four points to close out the 3-hour and 47-minute match.

JJ Wolf moved on to the third round, with the former Ohio State star following up on his upset Monday of No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 win over Alejandro Tabilo of Chile. Next up for Wolf is No. 23 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Tommy Paul[29] defeated Sebastian Korda in the only all-US singles match of the day 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. No. 5 seed Casper Ruud of Norway is Paul's third round opponent.

John Isner fell in his first round win Tuesday and fractured his left wrist, so Holger Rune of Denmark receives a walkover into the third round.

Wednesday second round results of Americans:

Tommy Paul[29] d. Sebastian Korda 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Pedro Cachin(ARG) d. Brandon Holt[Q] 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 7-6(6)
Andy Murray(GBR)d. Emilio Nava[WC] 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0
JJ Wolf[WC] d. Alejandro Tabilo(CHI) 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3

Madison Keys[20] d. Camila Giorgi(ITA) 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6)
Coco Gauff[12] d. Elena Gabriela Ruse(ROU) 6-2, 7-6(4)
Alison Riske-Amritraj[29] d. Maria Camila Osorio Serrano(COL) 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5)
Ons Jabeur[5](TUN) d. Elli Mandlik[WC] 7-5, 6-2
Shelby Rogers[31] d. Viktoria Kuzmova(SVK) 7-5, 6-1
Serena Williams d. Anett Kontaveit[2](EST) 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2

First round, continued from Tuesday night:
Ekaterina Alexandrova[28](RUS) d. Peyton Stearns[WC] 6-4, 4-6, 7-5

Thursday second round matches featuring Americans:

Sloane Stephens v Iga Swiatek[1](POL)
Jessica Pegula[8] v Aliaksandra Sasnovich(BLR)
Danielle Collins[19] v Cristina Bucsa(ESP)
Lauren Davis v Ekaterina Alexandrova[28](RUS)

Jenson Brooksby v Borna Coric[25](CRO)
Frances Tiafoe[22] v Jason Kubler(AUS)
Christopher Eubanks[Q] v Jannik Sinner[11](ITA)
Brandon Nakashima v Grigor Dimitrov[17](BUL)
Holger Rune[28](DEN) d. John Isner walkover

Sam Querrey, who was given a wild card into the US Open this year, lost his first round match yesterday. Today, he and Steve Johnson lost their first round doubles match, which marked the final professional tennis match for the 34-year-old Californian.

All the accolades in this ATP retirement feature are well-earned, and I will always have a special affection for Querrey, not only for his good guy personality, but for the timing of our meeting. 

Sam was the 2004 Kalamazoo 16s champion and we both made our first appearance at the US Open in New York that year. He did not have a clothing sponsor or any experience at the international level of junior tennis; if I recall, he didn't have a hotel room for the first night before the junior tournament started and had no idea who to call to arrange for one. He never stressed about any of that however, or about the rain that forced matches indoors at a club many miles from the National Tennis Center. He went on to reach the quarterfinals, rare indeed for a Kalamazoo 16s champion, losing to Andy Murray, the eventual champion, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-1.

Querrey returned to Kalamazoo the following year, losing in the final to Donald Young 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-2 (the final was shortened to best of three due to threat of rain). Shortly thereafter he began to win Challengers and did not return to Kalamazoo for his final year of eligibility in 2006, when he made the second round of the US Open men's draw as an 18-year-old wild card.

I last ran into Sam at the Aorangi practice courts at Wimbledon in 2017, after he had beaten Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Although I hadn't seen him in many years, we chatted not only about his great results during the tournament, but about the US juniors competing there and coming up in the ranks. 

I know Sam will enjoy his retirement and his family time in the coming years, but the ATP Tour will be a little less fun without him around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Kalamazoo Champion Tien Falls to Kecmanovic in US Open Debut; Eubanks Posts First Slam Win; Rowinska Upsets Top Seed Daubnerova at ITF J1 Repentigny

Kalamazoo 18s champion Learner Tien made some new fans Tuesday after the 16-year-old left-hander from California extended No. 32 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia to four sets in the first round of the US Open.

Tien played a flawless first set, hitting 10 winners and just three unforced errors as he took the first set from Kecmanovic 6-3. Tien was in no way overpowered in the next three sets, with Kecmanovic winning them 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, but he did find himself pushed back to well behind the baseline. Kecmanovic didn't give any ground himself, served better and cleaned up his unforced errors and he was not broken after that final game of the first set.

Tien had never played anyone inside the ATP Top 300 before, with his first Pro Circuit tournament in April of this year, so even a loss can be encouraging under those circumstances.

Christopher Eubanks has been searching for his first slam win since receiving a wild card into the US Open in 2017, the year he left Georgia Tech after his junior year to pursue a pro career. He has since qualified four times into the main draw, twice in Australia and twice at the US Open, including this year.  Today he got that elusive first win, defeating Pedro Martinez of Spain 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(3). His second round opponent will be No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy.

Doubles begins on Wednesday, with men's, women's and mixed matches on the schedule. The mixed doubles draw features eight wild card teams, and while no juniors received a mixed wild card, the two American NCAA champions--Jaeda Daniel of North Carolina State and Richard Ciamarra of Texas--were awarded one.

The USTA 18s National champions Reese Brantmeier and Clervie Ngounoue are on Wednesday's schedule, playing Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.

Below are the results from today, and the second round matches for Wednesday. Three matches are still in progress, including that of NCAA champion Peyton Stearns, who is down a break 4-3 in the third set.

Tuesday's first round singles results of Americans:

Alison Van Uytvanck(BEL) d. Venus Williams[WC] 6-1, 7-6(5)
Danielle Collins[19] d. Naomi Osaka(JPN) 7-6(5), 6-3
Jessica Pegula[8] d. Viktorija Golubic(SUI) 6-2, 6-2
Yulia Putintseva(KAZ) d. Amanda Anisimova[24] 6-3, 6-3
Victoria Azarenka[26](BLR) d. Ashlyn Krueger[Q] 6-1, 4-6, 6-2
Ekaterina Alexandrova[28](RUS) d. Peyton Stearns[WC] 
Sloane Stephens d. Greet Minnen(BEL) 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka[6](BLR) d. Catherine Harrison[Q] 6-1, 6-3
Lauren Davis d. Lucia Bronzetti(ITA) 4-6, 7-6(3), 5-4 ret.
Anhelina Kalinina(UKR) d. Bernarda Pera 6-4, 6-4
Katerina Siniakova(CZE) d. Taylor Townsend 6-4, 4-6, 6-2
Anastasia Potapova(RUS) d. Claire Liu 6-1, 6-4
Jule Niemeier(GER) d. Sofia Kenin[WC] 7-6(3), 6-4

John Isner d. Federico Delbonis[Q](ARG) 6-3, 6-1, 7-5
Joao Sousa(POR) d. Mackenzie McDonald 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 6-3
Ilya Ivashka (BLR) d. Sam Querrey[WC] 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(8), 6-3
Diego Schwartzman[14](ARG) d. Jack Sock 3-6, 5-7, 6-0, 1-0 re.
Jenson Brooksby d. Dusan Lajovic(SRB) 6-2, 6-0, 3-0 ret.
Miomir Kecmanovic[32](SRB) d. Learner Tien[WC] 3-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3
Christopher Eubanks[Q] d Pedro Martinez(ESP) 7-5, 6-3, 7-6(3)
Brandon Nakashima d. Pavel Kotov[Q] 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2
Grigor Dimitrov[17](BUL) d. Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 
Frances Tiafoe[22] d. Marcos Giron 7-6(0), 6-4, 6-3

Wednesday second round matches featuring Americans:

Tommy Paul[29] v Sebastian Korda
Brandon Holt[Q] v Pedro Cachin(ARG)
Emilio Nava[WC] v Andy Murray(GBR)
JJ Wolf[WC] v Alejandro Tabilo(CHI)

Madison Keys[20] v Camila Giorgi(ITA)
Coco Gauff[12] v Elena Gabriela Ruse(ROU)
Alison Riske-Amritraj[29] v Maria Camila Osorio Serrano(COL)
Elli Mandlik[WC] v Ons Jabeur[5](TUN)
Shelby Rogers[31] v Viktoria Kuzmova(SVK)
Serena Williams v Anett Kontaveit[2](EST)

The ITF J1 in Repentigny Canada has yet to conclude its second round, but there have already been several notable upsets.

Top seed Nikola Daubnerova of Slovakia lost in her first match of the tournament (it's a 48 draw, with the seeds getting byes in the first round), to Malwina Rowinska of Poland, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Daubnerova is No. 8 in the current ITF Junior rankings, with Rowinska No. 92.  Tatum Evans of the US defeated No. 16 seed Renata Jamrichova of Slovakia 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 to reach the third round.

Duncan Chan of Canada, who won the College Park doubles title Saturday, defeated No. 4 seed Arthur Gea of France 6-3, 6-4 and will play unseeded Adhithya Ganesan of the US, who beat No. 13 seed Constantinos Koshis of Cyprus 6-2, 7-6(5). 

Quang Duong defeated No. 10 seed Connor Henry Van Schalkwyk of Namibia 7-6(3), 6-3 and Kurt Miller beat No. 15 seed Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Wild Cards Wolf, Nava, Mandlik Advance to US Open Second Round, Qualifier Holt Shocks Fritz; Yu and Shelton Drop First Round Matches; ITF J1 College Park Videos; More Kalamazoo Match Replays Available

The first day of the 2022 US Open is far from over, but there have already been some memorable victories by the 20 Americans in action today.

Former Ohio State star JJ Wolf, who won this summer's US Open Wild Card Challenge to get into the main draw, looked extremely poised and confident in his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain. Wolf had 14 aces and 46 winners and saved all four break points he faced. The 23-year-old from Ohio will face Alejandro Tabilo of Chile in the second round Wednesday. For more on Wolf's win, see this match report from usopen.org.

Elli Mandlik, the daughter of 1985 US Open women's champion Hana Mandlikova, won the US Open Wild Card Challenge and, like Wolf, she made the most of it. Mandlik, 21, came back to defeat Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4. She plays No. 5 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia next.

Twenty-year-old Emilio Nava, another wild card recipient, defeated John Millman of Australia 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-1 in just under four hours for his first slam victory. The 2019 US Open boys champion will move inside the ATP Top 200 for the first time with the win. He plays Andy Murray in the second round.

In a match that ended around 10 p.m., qualifier Brandon Holt, the son of two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin and Scott Holt, won the biggest match of his career, taking out No. 10 seed Taylor Fritz 6-7(3), 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4. The 24-year-old Holt, who was out for the last half of 2021 due to wrist surgery for a non-tennis related issue, had never played an ATP Top 50 player until today. The former USC star gave Fritz nothing, showed no sign of being intimidated, and was his usual placid self until he converted his second match point.

USTA National 18s champion Eleana Yu held her own against No. 29 seed Alison Riske-Amritraj, but was forced by Riske's pace and depth to play too much defense and couldn't get a look at a break point in a 6-2, 6-4 loss.

NCAA men's singles champion Ben Shelton lost his first main draw match in a slam to qualifier Nuno Borges of Portugal 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 6-3. Shelton saved a match point with an ace at 7-8 in the fourth set tiebreaker, but he lost his serve from 40-0 up at 1-2 in the fifth and that was all former Mississippi State Bulldog Borges, the 2019 NCAA singles finalist, needed. After netting a very nervous looking forehand on his second match point at 5-3, 40-15 Borges didn't panic in a lengthy exchange at the net, closing out the four-hour contest on Court 10 that was standing room only for most of the match.

Below are the results for today and the matchups for Tuesday for the Americans.

Monday's singles results of Americans:

Daniil Medvedev[1](RUS) d. Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4, 6-0
Brandon Holt[Q] d. Taylor Fritz[10] 6-7(3), 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4  
JJ Wolf[WC] d. Roberto Bautista Agut[16](ESP) 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Emilio Nava[WC] d. John Millman(AUS) 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-1
Sebastian Korda d. Facundo Bagnis[Q](ARG) 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5, 6-1
Nuno Borges[Q](POR) d. Ben Shelton[WC] 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 6-3
Tommy Paul[29] d. Bernabe Zapata Miralles(ESP) 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5
Karen Khachanov[27](RUS) d. Denis Kudla 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Marton Fucsovics(HUN) d. Maxime Cressy[30] 6-7(4), 7-5, 5-1, ret.

Coco Gauff[12] d. Leolia Jeanjean[Q](FRA) 6-2, 6-3
Serena Williams d. Danka Konvinic(MNE) 6-3, 6-3
Ons Jabeur[5](TUN) d. Madison Brengle 7-5, 6-2
Shelby Rogers[31] d. Arantxa Rus(NED) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Elli Mandlik[WC] d. Tamara Zidansek(SLO) 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4
Madison Keys[20] d. Dayana Yastremska(UKR) 7-6(3), 6-3
Maryna Zanevska(BEL) d.CoCo Vandeweghe[WC] 6-1 7-5
Maria Camila Osorio Serrano(COL) d. Ann Li 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
Alison Riske-Amritraj[29] d. Eleana Yu[WC] 6-2, 6-4

Tuesday's first round singles matches featuring Americans:

Venus Williams[WC] v Alison Van Uytvanck(BEL)
Danielle Collins[19] v Naomi Osaka(JPN)
Jessica Pegula[8] v Viktorija Golubic(SUI)
Amanda Anisimova[24] v Yulia Putintseva(KAZ)
Ashlyn Krueger[Q] v Victoria Azarenka[26](BLR)
Peyton Stearns[WC] v Ekaterina Alexandrova[28](RUS)
Sloane Stephens v Greet Minnen(BEL)
Catherine Harrison[Q] v Aryna Sabalenka[6](BLR)
Lauren Davis v Lucia Bronzetti(ITA)
Bernarda Pera v Anhelina Kalinina(UKR)
Taylor Townsend v Katerina Siniakova(CZE)
Claire Liu v Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Sofia Kenin[WC] v Jule Niemeier(GER)

John Isner v Federico Delbonis[Q](ARG)
Mackenzie McDonald v Joao Sousa(POR)
Sam Querrey[WC] v Ilya Ivashka (BLR)
Jack Sock v Diego Schwartzman[14](ARG)
Jenson Brooksby v Dusan Lajovic(SRB)
Learner Tien[WC] v Miomir Kecmanovic(SRB)
Christopher Eubanks[Q] v Pedro Martinez(ESP)
Brandon Nakashima v Pavel Kotov[Q](RUS)
Steve Johnson v Grigor Dimitrov[17](BUL)
Marcos Giron v Frances Tiafoe[22]

A sampling of the boys and girls singles finals at the ITF J1 in College Park are included in the YouTube videos below.

Tennis Analytics has also posted more full length match videos from Kalamazoo. They can be accessed by subscribing, which is free.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

US Open Kicks Off with 44 Americans Vying for Singles Titles, Twenty in Action Monday; US Open Doubles Draws; One Singles, Three Doubles Titles for Americans on ITF Junior Circuit

Twenty-one US men and 23 US women are in the singles draws of the US Open, which begins Monday and runs through Sunday September 11. Twenty are in action Monday, including NCAA men's champion Ben Shelton and USTA Girls 18s National champion Eleana Yu.

All courts will have streaming, which can be accessed through ESPN+; ESPN will begin its coverage at noon. Serena Williams will be featured in the first match in the Ashe night session at 7 p.m.

Monday's singles matches featuring Americans:

Stefan Kozlov v Daniil Medvedev[1](RUS)
Taylor Fritz[10] v Brandon Holt[Q]
JJ Wolf[WC] v Roberto Bautista Agut[16](ESP)
Emilio Nava[WC] v John Millman(AUS)
Sebastian Korda v Facundo Bagnis[Q](ARG)
Ben Shelton[WC] v Nuno Borges[Q](POR)
Tommy Paul[29] v Bernabe Zapata Miralles(ESP)
Denis Kudla v Karen Khachanov[27](RUS)
Maxime Cressy[30] v Marton Fucsovics(HUN)

Coco Gauff[12] v Leolia Jeanjean[Q](FRA)
Serena Williams v Danka Konvinic(MNE)
Madison Brengle v Ons Jabeur[5](TUN)
Shelby Rogers[31] v Arantxa Rus(NED)
Elli Mandlik[WC] v Tamara Zidansek(SLO)
Madison Keys[20] v Dayana Yastremska(UKR)
CoCo Vandeweghe[WC] v Maryna Zanevska(BEL)
Ann Li v Maria Camila Osorio Serrano(COL)
Alison Riske-Amritraj[29] v Eleana Yu[WC]

The men's and women's doubles draws were released today, after the USTA released its wild cards yesterday.

Women's doubles wild cards:
Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Sophie Chang and Angela Kulikov
Robin Montgomery and CoCo Vandeweghe
Katrina Scott and Elizabeth Mandlik
Peyton Stearns and Ashlyn Krueger
Hailey Baptiste and Whitney Osuigwe
Clervie Ngounoue and Reese Brantmeier

Men's doubles wild cards:
Nicholas Monroe and Keegan Smith
Max Schnur and Hunter Reese
Chris Eubanks and Ben Shelton
Alex Michelsen and Sebastian Gorzny
Robert Galloway and Alex Lawson
Brandon Holt and Govind Nanda
Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn

Interesting to note that all the men's wild card recipients are soon-to-be, current or former collegians, while only three of the women's wild cards have college ties.

Wimbledon boys champions Gorzny(TCU) and Georgia recruit Michelsen, who were 18s finalists in Kalamazoo, have drawn No. 13 seeds and 2019 US Open champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah(USC) of Colombia; Kalamazoo champions Ethan Quinn(Georgia) and Stanford recruit Nicholas Godsick face Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia and Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian) of Mexico.

Brantmeier and Ngounoue, 18s champions in San Diego, also have drawn an unseeded team, facing Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands and Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium.

Defending champions Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain are the No. 1 men's seeds. Elise Mertens of Belgium and Veronika Kudermetova of Russua are the top women's seeds, with Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff the No. 2 seeds.

Last week was a lean one for US players on the ITF Junior Circuit. Only one American reached one of the four finals at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland, and there was just one singles titles claimed by a US player.

At the J4 in Trinadad and Tobago, top seed Maria Araoz-Gosn swept the titles. The 16-year-old from Florida defeated No. 7 seed Olivia Bustos 6-4, 6-2 for her second ITF Junior Circuit singles title and then partnered with Bustos to claim the doubles. The No. 2 seeds defeated unseeded Alexandra Malysheva and Trinidad and Tobagos's Jordane Dookie 6-1, 6-1 in final.

At the J5 in Salinas Ecuador, top seeds Daniela Livson and Ecuador's Valentina Vargas defeated No. 2 seeds Kristel Isabel Jativa Riofrio Paula Castellanos of Ecuador 7-5, 7-5 in the final, with that the second ITF doubles title for Livson. 

The girls doubles title at the J4 in Chennai India was claimed by  India's Asmi Adkar and Saina Deshpande. The unseeded team defeated unseeded Rishitha Reddy Basireddy and Sohini Sanjay Mohanty of India 6-4, 6-3 in the final. It's Deshpande's second ITF Junior Circuit title, both coming in doubles.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Top Seed Midon Takes ITF College Park J1 Singles Title; Saito Sweeps Girls Championships Saturday at Junior Tennis Champions Center

©Colette Lewis 2022--
College Park MD--

Lautaro Midon and Sara Saito had the advantage in experience in the singles finals of the ITF J1 College Park tournament Saturday, and that proved valuable as they took quick leads and closed out their opponents in straight sets on the Pershing Square Court at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

Midon, the top seed, won two J1 titles this spring, but both were on clay, and the 18-year-old from Argentina had lost to No. 5 seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil last month in the first round of the Wimbledon Junior Championships.  Yet on the hard courts, it was Midon who was the more patient and controlled, and he avenged that recent loss with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Although it was Fonseca who had the small crowd gasping at the pace of his forehand, Midon had only to extend any rally, with Fonseca unable to cut down on his unforced errors. The Brazilian, who turned 16 just last week, tried to hit his way out of his predicament, but he couldn't hold serve, and couldn't get the break back in the opening set, falling behind 5-2 and getting broken to drop his first set of the week.

Not much changed after Fonseca took a bathroom break, and when he returned, Midon held and broke, and while dropping only two points on serve, broke Fonseca a second time for a 5-0 lead.

Fonseca, who couldn't find a plan B, when his usual power game deserted him, did hold for 5-1 and broke Midon for 5-2. A love hold for Fonseca made it 5-3, and he forced Midon to deuce in his second attempt to serve out the championship, but Midon got two errors from Fonseca to close the door.

"I was very nervous at the end of the match," said Midon. "But yeah, I got lucky and I beat him."

Midon acknowledged that he played at a higher level today than at Wimbledon, which the reverse was true for Fonseca.

"I played very good, very, very good with no unforced errors," Midon said. "My opponent, was not a better day for him, but in the important moments, I play better than him."

Fonseca was not pleased with his level after playing so well throughout the week, particularly against Aidan Kim in Friday's semifinals.

"It was a tough match, he played very well and it wasn't a good day for me," Fonseca said. "When it was 0-5, I just thought, okay if I am to lose, just do my best. I knew he was nervous to finish, because I know it's not easy. I had chances at 5-3, deuce, 30-all but he's a very experienced guy and he was motivated. I'm a little sad, because I lost, but it was a wonderful week for me."

Midon was happy to escape his third round match, where he trailed Marko Mesaravic 3-1 in the final set tiebreaker before eking out a 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) victory, and that helped give him confidence going forward.

"That day was bad for me, I played so bad, but with my mentality positive I could beat him," said Midon. "It is important to always win on the bad days, but today was a good day."

Midon has withdrawn from next week's J1 in Canada, but is looking forward to competing at the US Open Junior Championships. 

"It will be my first time at the US Open, so I am very happy to play there," said Midon who also had not played the previous junior slams until competing in all three this year. "I want to play right now, because I feel good with my tennis today and all week, so I am hoping for the best for me."

Saito, who turns 16 in October, will also be making her US Open debut after playing the Australian, French and Wimbledon juniors for the first time this year.

She looked ready for that level today, defeating unseeded Ava Krug of the United States 6-1, 6-1 in 54 minutes.

Saito, who had beaten No. 2 seed and 2021 finalist Mirra Andreeva of Russia 6-3, 7-5 after leading 5-0 in the second set, did not have the same type of opponent in Krug. 

Andreeva, although only 15, has three ITF Women's Pro Circuit titles on her resume, including at a $25,000 tournament in Spain last month. Staying with her in the long baseline rallies was a strategy Saito executed to perfection throughout the first set and a half, with Andreeva's late push to extend the match falling just short.

Against Krug, who hits the ball with at least as much pace as Andreeva, Saito did not need to employ that strategy, with Krug too error-prone to dig out from a poor start.

"Yesterday I rally with so many shots, but today easier than yesterday," said Saito, who denied that she was nervous in her second J1 final. "I just play, do not think too much."

After holding in the third game, Krug lost eight games in a row to trail 4-0 in the second set. Krug broke Saito to get on the board in the second set, but lost her serve again and Saito closed it out with none of the drama of her semifinal with Andreeva.

Krug, who held serve just once, admitted that she did not handle her first J1 singles final as she would have liked.

"Obviously I think Sara handled the big points better at the beginning of the match, especially," said Krug, a 17-year-old from Florida. "I have to give it to her, she played an amazing match, barely made an unforced error. I wish I would have started off the match a little stronger, played more relaxed, but with my first Grade 1 final, it's a little hard to have the experience. Next time, hopefully I'll be better from what I learned."

Krug heads to New York for the US Open qualifying, while Saito had yet another championship to play for in doubles. She collected that trophy as well, with partner Yu-Yun Li of Taiwan, with the No. 5 seeds defeating No. 3 seeds Anastasiia Gureva of Russia and Carolina Kuhl of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Li and Saito have played together often in the past year, winning a Grade 3 in India and reaching the final of the Grade A in Germany this spring. This week they dropped only one set, in Friday's semifinal, to top seeds Andreeva and her partner Taylah Preston of Australia in a 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 victory.

Saito's return and baseline game fits well with Li's aggressive net play, which Li said she was forced to employ even more than usual in this afternoon's final.

"Today I feel not really good at baseline," said Li, 18. "So I just found some chance and go to the net. She has good rallies from baseline and I have good volleys at the net, so if she's good at the baseline I can volley more and take easy points."

"She has good volleys," Saito said. "And she's always happy."

Fonseca left the tournament on an upbeat note, getting a bit of revenge on Midon by winning the doubles title. Fonseca and Duncan Chan of Canada, the No. 5 seeds, came back to defeat top seeds Midon and Branko Djuric of Serbia 2-6, 6-4, 10-7.

"I was a little sad, but now I'm happy," said Fonseca, who was playing with Chan for the just the second time.

Chan pointed to an improvement in their serving as a key to their comeback.

"In the first set, we really didn't make many first serves," said the 17-year-old. "In the second, we got a little more energy and got used to their serves a little bit; just got a little more comfortable."

Like Saito and Li, Fonseca and Chan have different skill sets that help them as a team.

"I have some good returns and a good service, and he has the best volleys," Fonseca said. "It's a good combination, we're friends, and it works out."

In the match tiebreaker, holding serve was not easy, as the returning team won seven consecutive points before Fonseca held both his serves to give he and Chan a 7-4 lead. Midon and Djuric broke Chan for 8-6, but Midon just caught the tape with a down-the-line return to give Chan and Fonseca three match points. Midon held on his first serve, but Fonseca's forehand volley winner delivered the championship.

Both Chan and Fonseca are playing the J1 in Canada, but Fonseca is not playing doubles in order to get more rest with the US Open Juniors coming up the following week.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Saito Ousts Andreeva, Faces Krug in Girls Final at College Park J1; Midon and Fonseca Play for Both Boys Titles: US Open Junior Wild Cards; Krueger, Harrison, Holt and Eubanks Qualify for US Open

©Colette Lewis 2022--
College Park MD--

When Sara Saito saw her 6-3, 5-0 lead over No. 2 seed and 2021 finalist Mira Andreeva slip away, losing five straight games in the semifinals of the College Park ITF J1 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, her reaction was not what you might expect.

Yes, she thought "Oh my god, what happened?", but immediately changed her mindset.

"But at 5-all I feel good," said the 15-year-old from Japan, who rebounded for a 6-3, 7-5 victory. "Because I can relax. More pressure at 5-0 than at 5-all, when I can just play."

Andreeva had something to do with that comeback, as the 15-year-old from Russia basically eliminated her unforced errors, while also locking down mentally after her frustration in the first set had spilled over into screams and tears. 

The fifth-seeded Saito was two points from the match on several occasions, at 5-0 30-0, at 5-1 deuce, at 2-5 deuce, and at 5-3 30-all. Yet Andreeva never let Saito get to match point, and even had a break point at 5-all, although Saito finally put an end to Andreeva's run to hold for 6-5. Andreeva had a game point to send the set into a tiebreaker, but couldn't convert it, and netted a backhand to give Saito her first match point. Andreeva saved it with an excellent first serve that Saito couldn't handle, but the unforced errors that she had avoided for the previous six games suddenly resurfaced. Andreeva missed a forehand wide to give Saito a second match point and she converted it when Andreeva netted a backhand.

Saito had lost to Andreeva this spring in the second round of the Grade A on clay in Milan 6-3, 7-5, but a hard court and a new strategy helped her today.

"I hit a long rally and if I have a chance, I attack," said Saito, who will be playing in her second Grade 1 final Saturday, having won the Asian B1 Closed in India late last year. "My backhand straight(down the line) is my best shot."

Saito will face unseeded Ava Krug, who also had to fight off a comeback, defeating No. 14 seed Kaitlin Quevedo 6-4, 7-5 after leading 5-2 in the second set.

Krug was unable to close out Quevedo at 5-2 and 5-4, but recovered to break for a 6-5 and take her third opportunity to end the match on serve.

"I knew going into this match that she was a fighter," said the 17-year-old of her fellow Floridian. "That's something we both have that's really special. I started out the first set really good, playing my style, really aggressive tennis. I was really happy, coming into the net, hitting swinging volleys, taking the chances. I got up 5-2 in the second but it was really close games, the score wasn't how tight it was. I let a few games go but I'm really happy how I battled back when I was down game points to make it 6-5 her. I stayed steady, trusted myself and it paid off."

Krug, who reached the quarterfinals of the J1 in San Diego and the JB1 in Indian Wells his spring, said new coach Mauricio Haddad has helped her reach a new level, including a first J1 final this week.

"We've been working really hard together and it's so exciting to see how hard we've been working pay off," said Krug, the granddaughter of ESPN college basketball personality Dick Vitale. "Everything is starting to come together, so I'm really happy with the level I'm playing at, and excited to keep going."

Krug and Saito will be playing for the first time, so Krug will start out concentrating on her own side of the court.

"The biggest thing for me this week is I've been playing my style of game and not let anyone dictate that," said Krug, who defeated No. 3 seed and ITF No. 15 Taylah Preston of Australia in the first round. "That's very important, especially to me. I'm an aggressive baseliner and I think playing someone new is almost good for me, because I can focus on exactly what I have to do and not on the other girl. I think I'll be sticking with how I identify as a player and being super aggressive."

While the girls finalists will be meeting for the first time, the boys in the championship match faced off last month in the first round of the Wimbledon Junior Championships. Joao Fonseca of Brazil, then still 15, defeated Lautaro Midon of Argentina 7-6(6), 6-4, so it is the top seed this week who will be seeking revenge.

No. 5 seed Fonseca, who turned 16 last week, has yet to drop a set in his five victories and was in top form today, beating No. 9 seed Aidan Kim 6-1, 6-2.

Kim's net-rushing game style is not generally to Fonseca's liking, but he had little trouble handling those challenges today.

"For me it's difficult, but I was playing so good today," said Fonseca, who will be playing in his second Grade 1 final Saturday. "Aidan, he started aggressively and it's difficult for me, because I'm aggressive too. But it was just amazing for me, it was a wonderful day and I just enjoyed it."

Fonseca, who has lost only 18 games in his first five victories, knows that Midon will present different challenges. 

"His playing style is more defense," Fonseca said. "For me, grass is more aggressive, but hard courts too, so I think it will be good for me."

Midon defeated No. 4 seed Hayato Matsuoka 7-5, 6-4, with many lengthy rallies extended by excellent defense from both. But Midon, 18, got a late break and closed out the two-hour match without much drama.

"It was a tough match and he played very good," said Midon, currently No. 11 in the ITF junior rankings. "But I think in the important moments I play so good, my forehand and my serve and with my good personality inside the court, was so important in the match."

Midon admits he's "a player of clay," but he also likes hard courts, with grass less suited to his game, so he is not troubled by his previous loss to Fonseca on that surface.

"He's a very good player," Midon said. "The first and the last time we play it was a very tough match. For tomorrow I will play good and will try to win the tournament."

Midon, who like Fonseca, is scheduled to compete at the J1 in Canada next week and then the US Open Junior Championships, said he is feeling fine physically.

"We train a lot on the physical in my country so it's good for me," Midon said.

Midon and Fonseca will also play in the boys doubles final. No. 5 seeds Fonseca and his partner Duncan Chan of Canada defeated No. 2 seeds Max Batyutenko of Kazakhstan and Danil Panarin of Russia 6-2, 6-4 in this afternoon's semifinals, while Midon and Branko Djuric of Serbia, the No. 1 seeds, beat No. 3 seeds Lennon Jones and Matsuoka 6-3, 3-6, 10-8.

Saito is also playing for two titles Saturday, reaching the doubles final with Yu-Yun Li of Taiwan. The No. 5 seeds defeated top seeds Andreeva and Preston 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 to set up a meeting with No. 3 seeds Anastasiia Gureva of Russia and Carolina Kuhl of Germany. Gureva and Kuhl beat unseeded Tatum Evans and Piper Charney 7-5, 6-2.

The matches begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the boys singles, followed by the girls singles, the boys doubles and the girls doubles.

For complete draws, see the JTCC website.

The US Open Junior Championships begin a week from Sunday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with qualifying starting a week from today at the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx. The USTA released the wild cards today:

Boys main draw:
Darwin Blanch
Kyle Kang
Kaylan Bigun
Jelani Sarr
Alex Razeghi
Leanid Boika
Jonah Braswell
Bryce Nakashima

Boys qualifying:
Calvin Baierl
Meecah Bigun
Yannik Rahman
Stiles Brockett
Cooper Woestendick
Kousuke Morita (Japan)

Girls main draw:
Alyssa Ahn
Eleana Yu
Valerie Glozman
Capucine Jauffret
Shannon Lam
Iva Jovic
Ariana Pursoo
Sarah Iliev (France)

Girls qualifying:
Katherine Hui
Julieta Pareja
Alanis Hamilton
Christasha McNeil
Akasha Urhobo
Haruka Hasegawa (Japan)

Rain this afternoon meant a late night finish to the final round of US Open qualifying, but four of the six Americans in action today won their spots in the main draw.

Before the rain, Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) qualified, making the main draw for the second straight year by defeating Raul Brancaccio of Italy 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Brandon Holt(USC) was at match point when it rained, but Tracy Austin's son got through that stress test, defeating Dimitar Kuzmanov of Bulgaria 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the main draw of a slam for the first time.

Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Krueger, who was down 7-5, 4-2 to Renata Zarazua of Mexico in the first round, before taking a 5-7, 7-5, 6-0 decision, defeated Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-3 to return to the main draw after getting a wild card last year as the USTA National 18s champion.

Former UCLA standout Catherine Harrison played her first slam qualifying at Wimbledon this year and reached the second round of the main draw. But she needed a wild card into the qualifying at the US Open this year because Wimbledon could not award points. The 28-year-old from Tennessee has now qualified for two slams in a row, defeating German Eva Lys 6-4, 6-4 tonight; this time she will get both the points and the money.

Other college players to advance to the main draw are Nuno Borges(Mississippi State) of Portugal; Alexander Ritschard (Virginia) of Switzerland; Fernanda Contreras(Vanderbilt) of Mexico; and Leolia Jeanjean(Lynn) of France.

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

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Kim Wins Third Set Breaker to Advance to ITF College Park Grade 1 Semifinals; Quevedo and Krug Meet for Place in Final; USTA 18s Champions Draw Seeds for US Open Debuts; Six Americans Reach Final Round of USO Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2022--
College Park MD--

Aidan Kim had seen six match points elude him in his quarterfinal encounter with Alexander Razeghi Thursday afternoon at the ITF Grade 1 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. As the skies darkened, Razeghi saved them all, but as the first drops of rain began to fall, Kim told himself it was "now or never," and hit an ace to end the 6-1, 6-7(3), 7-6(7) marathon. Less than a minute later, the skies opened, ending outdoor play for the day.

Razeghi, the No. 16 seed, had saved two match points at serving at 4-5 in the third set, then broke Kim, the No. 9 seed, to serve for the match. The 16-year-old from Texas recovered from 15-40 to get back to deuce, but that was as close as he would get to closing it out, hitting a forehand wide and double faulting to send the match into a deciding tiebreaker.

The quality of many of the rallies was high, with most of the balls in the baseline exchanges landing within a few inches of the lines. Kim took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, kept his lead throughout, going up 6-3 on the strength of a perfect serve and backhand volley winner at 5-3. Razeghi held his two serves to make it 6-5 and Kim double faulted on his fifth match point. A great second serve gave him another, but his forehand went wide and it was 7-all. Kim got his seventh opportunity with a backhand forcing an error from Razeghi and then came the ace that put the exclamation point on the match.

Kim, who said he has been working with a sports psychologist at the USTA, was able to maintain his composure throughout all those peaks and valleys, including that discouraging double fault.

"In those moments, I really don't think it would be worth it to lose a match because of that one moment," said the 17-year-old from Michigan. "It affects the next two points and then you've just lost the match because you couldn't move on."

Kim is inclined to close the net whenever he can, yet against Razeghi found himself playing long points from the baseline instead.

"In the past few months that's what I've been most happy with myself about, still being able to compete at the same level playing a different game that might have used to feel uncomfortable before," said Kim, who moved into the main draw of the US Open Junior Championships a few days ago. "Now I know I can still play a different game, when Plan A doesn't go as well."

Kim said Razeghi raised his level dramatically in the second set, and was prepared for a challenging third set.

"I know he's mentally tough, he won't give up," Kim said. "I knew that from the beginning of the match, and I tried not to let my guard down, because he'll fight for every single point. I've always respected him for that."

Kim, playing in his first Grade 1 semifinal, will face No. 5 seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil in Friday, with the 16-year-old earning his fourth consecutive straight-sets victory today with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 3 seed Danil Panarin of Russia.

The other boys semifinal features top seed Lautaro Midon of Argentina and No. 4 seed Hayato Matsuoka of Japan. Midon ended the run of 16-year-old JTCC student Stiles Brockett with a 6-2, 6-4 win, while Matsuoka defeated No. 11 seed Luis Alvarez Valdes of Mexico 7-5, 6-2.

Since losing in the first round at Wimbledon as a qualifier, Kaitlin Quevedo has gone 19-1 on the ITF Junior Circuit's J2s and J3s in Colombia. None of those 19 wins were any more difficult than her 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 win today over 14-year-old Capucine Jauffret, who fought back from 5-2, 40-0 down in the third set, but couldn't get that crucial hold at 5-all.

"I stayed calm, learned from my match yesterday, and at 6-5, 40-30 I was able to close it," said the 16-year-old from Naples Florida. "It was a very intense match; she's a very good player and she played very well."

Quevedo, seeded No. 14, knew that Jauffret's lack of experience on the ITF Junior Circuit could be both an asset and a liability.

"Definitely when they play without pressure, they play much better, in my opinion," said Quevedo, who will be playing her first ITF Grade 1 semifinal Friday. "But she's a great player, she knows how to play. She's very consistent, and we both play similar I think. But even though she's 14, we're both playing a Grade 1. It's the level, not really the age."

Quevedo will face unseeded Ava Krug, who defeated Iva Jovic 6-4, 7-6(4). 

"I played her a few years ago when I was very young and she beat me," Quevedo said. "Tomorrow will be better; we've both improved a lot and I know she's playing well, she's had some good wins this tournament. It'll be a good match tomorrow. I'm excited."

In the other semifinal, No. 2 seed Mira Andreeva of Russia continues to cruise through the draw, defeating unseeded Thea Rabman 6-2, 6-0. The 15-year-old has now lost just 15 games in her four victories and will face No. 5 seed Sara Saito of Japan in an attempt to return to the final, where she lost to Brenda Fruhvirtova.  Andreeva defeated Saito in the second round of the Grade A in Milan this spring.

There is only one American team left in the doubles draw, with unseeded Piper Charney and Tatum Evans set to face No. 3 seeds Anastasiia Gureva of Russia and Carolina Kuhl of Germany in Friday's semifinals. Top seeds Andreeva and Taylah Preston of Australia will play No. 5 seeds Yu-Yun Li of Taiwan and Saito in the other girls doubles semifinal.

In the boys doubles, top seeds Branko Djuric and Midon will face No. 3 seeds Matsuoka and Lennon Jones of Japan and No. 5 seeds Duncan Chan of Canada and Fonseca will play No. 2 seeds Panarin and Max Batyutenko of Kazakhstan.

Play begins with boys singles at 9:30 a.m., followed by the girls singles, with the doubles semifinals to follow the singles.

Draws and the order of play is available at the JTCC website.

The draws for next week's US Open were released today, with USTA Boys 18s champion Learner Tien set to play No. 32 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia Tuesday and USTA Girls 18s champion Eleana Yu drawn against No. 29 seed Alison Riske-Amritraj in a match scheduled to be played on Monday.

NCAA men's champion Ben Shelton will face a qualifier on Monday; NCAA women's champion Peyton Stearns plays Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, the No. 28 seed, Tuesday.

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

The final round of US Open qualifying is set for Friday, with six Americans-- two men and four women--still in contention for a spot in the main draw.

Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) defeated Gregoire Barrere of France 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 7-6(4) to advance to the final round, where he'll play Raul Brancaccio of Italy. Brandon Holt(USC) beat No. 14 seed Emilio Gomez(USC) of Ecuador 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 and will play Dimitar Kuzmanov of Bulgaria for a place in the main draw.

USTA 18s boys finalist Ethan Quinn(Georgia) lost to No. 30 seed Federico Delbonis of Argentina 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 and USTA 18s girls finalist Valerie Glozman lost to No. 31 seed Maddison Inglis of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

2021 USTA Girls 18s champion Ashlyn Krueger defeated No. 25 seed Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 to advance to a final round qualifying meeting with Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands. Sachia Vickery, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 2 seed Lin Zhu of China, will face No. 17 Cristina Bucsa of Spain; Whitney Osuigwe, who beat No. 24 seed Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-3, 6-4, will play No. 9 seed Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy and Catherine Harrison(UCLA), who defeated Lizette Cabrera of Australia 6-3, 7-6(2), will meet Eva Lys of Germany.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Razeghi Defeats No. 2 Seed Sakamoto to Join Kim and Brockett in College Park J1 Quarterfinals; Five US Girls Advance, Four in Top Half; Fifteen Americans Through to Second Round of US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2022--
College Park MD--

The top seeds in the boys draw of the ITF Grade 1 in College Park were challenged today, with top seed Lautaro Midon of Argentina barely surviving in a third set tiebreaker, and No. 4 seed Hayato Matsuoka of Japan needing three hours to advance to Thursday's quarterfinals.

There wasn't much drama however in the third round encounter between No. 2 seed Rei Sakamoto of Japan and Alex Razeghi, with No. 16 seed Razeghi playing a near perfect match to defeat the ITF's 26th-ranked boy 6-2, 6-3.

"My forehand was basically on the whole match," said the 16-year-old left-hander from Texas. "I was making a high first serve percentage, playing with big margins, just playing well really."

Razeghi had faced Sakamoto, also 16 years old, at a Grade 2 this summer, and had won that match after dropping the first set.

"I played him two months ago in Germany on clay and I won 6-4 in the third, but I definitely played better today," Razeghi said. "I feel like I like hard court better, so that was a really solid match for me."

Razeghi was down a break early in the second set, but Sakamoto was already showing signs of frustration, receiving a racquet abuse warning and never settling into a rhythm.

"His serve is really big and his ground strokes are really solid, he finds his forehand and his backhand is really consistent," Razeghi said. "But I kind of wore him out today, made more shots than he did and won more of the important points, so it was a good match."

Razeghi faces No. 9 seed Aidan Kim in the only all-American quarterfinal Thursday, after Kim defeated Quang Duong 6-4, 6-1. Both players have reached a J1 quarterfinal for the first time this week.

"I'm really good friends with Aidan," Razeghi said. "We train a lot together in Orlando and we've played a lot of practice matches in Orlando. But the only time I played him was when I was 12 and he was 14. We didn't really know each other back then, but now we're really cool, so it should be good."

The other boys quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature No. 5 seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil and No. 3 seed Danil Panarin of Russia. Both had routine wins today, with the 16-year-old Brazilian defeating Adhithya Ganesan 6-0, 6-1 and the 17-year-old Russian beating qualifier Ian Mayhew 6-3, 6-1.

In the top half, the only unseeded player remaining in the boys draw is JTCC student Stiles Brockett, who used the power of the local support to beat unseeded Rudy Quan 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, his third three-set victory in as many days. He'll play top seed Midon in Thursday's quarterfinal.

Midon, an 18-year-old from Argentina, was on the ropes against unseeded Marko Mesarovic, with Mesarovic serving at 5-4 in the third set. But Mesarovic, who has committed to Clemson for 2023, proceeded to lose eight straight points and found himself serving for a tiebreaker a short time later. In that 5-6 game, Mesarovic served much better and held, then took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, but lost five points in succession to go down 6-3. He saved two match points on his serve, but Midon forced a backhand error on the third match point to survive.

Matsuoka won a three-hour battle with unseeded Ohio State freshman Preston Stearns, taking a 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-4 decision and will play No. 11 seed Luis Alvarez Valdes of Mexico. Alvarez Valdes defeated unseeded Atakan Karahan of Turkey 7-6(2), 6-4.

All four girls in the top half of the draw are Americans, guaranteeing a US finalist, but only one is seeded, No. 14 Kaitlin Quevedo. Quevedo defeated Ahmani Guichard 6-2, 6-4 and will play 14-year-old wild card Capucine Jauffret, who took out No. 7 seed and ITF junior No. 38 Carolina Kuhl 6-4, 7-6(4). Jauffret, who was on the USA's ITF World Junior Tennis team that finished third in the competition in the Czech Republic earlier this month, is playing in her first ITF Junior Circuit event this week.

Unseeded Ava Krug, who beat No. 3 seed Taylah Preston of Australia in the first round, got past qualifier Jessica Bernales 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-3 in three-plus hours Wednesday afternoon. Krug faces unseeded Iva Jovic who defeated Dana Baidaulet of Kazakhstan 6-0, 6-0. Baidaulet played nearly five hours in her second round singles match Tuesday and also competed in doubles later in the day and was obviously feeling the effects of that against Jovic.

Only one American advanced in the bottom half, with unseeded Thea Rabman defeating Maya Joint 6-4, 6-0. Rabman, a North Carolina recruit, will face no. 2 seed Mira Andreeva of Russia, who beat Valeria Ray 6-1, 6-2.  The other quarterfinal features No. 5 seed Sara Saito of Japan and Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa. Saito took out Katie Rolls 6-1, 6-1 and Broadfoot beat Taylor Goetz 6-4, 6-1.

Quarterfinals in both singles and doubles are scheduled for Thursday, with play beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

The first round of qualifying at the US Open concluded today, with seven more Americans advancing to Thursday's second round.

Reigning Australian Open boys champion Bruno Kuzuhara defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-3, 7-5 today and will face Flavio Cobolli of Italy in the second round. Govind Nanda(UCLA) beat Andrea Arnaboldi of Italy 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and will play No. 7 seed Nuno Borges(Mississippi State) of Portugal. Tuesday's first round men's winners on the schedule for Thursday are Ethan Quinn(Georgia), Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech), Zachary Svajda, Brandon Holt(USC) and Bjorn Fratangelo.

American women advancing today are Kayla Day, Caty McNally, Whitney Osuigwe, Catherine Harrison(UCLA) and Ashlyn Krueger. Wimbledon girls champion Liv Hovde, who hadn't played since winning that title last month, lost to Qiang Wang of China 6-2, 6-1 in her first round qualifying match today.

The other US women on the schedule for Thursday are Sachia Vickery, Katrina Scott and Valerie Glozman.

Americans went 15-21 overall in the first round of qualifying, with the men 7-9 and the women 8-12.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Brockett, Energized by Home Crowd and Inspired by Tiafoe, Advances to College Park J1 Round of 16; Quinn and Glozman Win Qualifying Matches at US Open; Shelton Turns Pro, Signs with Team 8

©Colette Lewis 2022--
College Park MD--

Tuesday was not just another day at an ITF Junior Circuit tournament at the Grade 1 in College Park Maryland. Anti-doping agents were on site at the Junior Tennis Champions Center to conduct Dry Blood spot testing, a first at a junior event outside the slams. Then, for two hours in the middle of warm and sunny day in the Washington DC are, ATP No. 24 Frances Tiafoe took over the Pershing Square Court, preparing for the US Open by practicing with University of Michigan fifth-year senior Andrew Fenty.

As the local youngsters gathered on the veranda to watch, and later, to request autographs and selfies, JTCC student Stiles Brockett was patiently waiting to take the court for his second round match against Hoyoung Roh of Korea.  On Monday, Brockett had defeated No. 10 seed Branko Djuric of Serbia 7-6(2), 6-7(3), 6-4 in front of scores of local fans; once he took the court after Tiafoe's practice session, he again gave his supporters reason to cheer, beating Roh 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4.

"It's super fun, because a lot of the little kids are here, a lot of people supporting," said the 16-year-old from Fairfax Virginia, who has trained at JTCC for two years. "I train here and I know a lot of the people, so for them to come out and support me is super cool. It gives me an extra push in the super long matches the last two days, helped me win these matches."

Brockett, playing in just his second ITF Grade 1 event, after failing to qualify at this tournament last year, was up an early break in the third set but was broken serving at 4-3.

"He played a couple of good points in that game and I gave it away a little bit, but the biggest thing was getting the first couple of points in the 4-all game," said Brockett, who won the USTA 16s Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach last month. "It put the pressure back on him, and I was making returns and making balls and forcing him to do something great."

Roh saved one break point at 30-40 with a good first serve, but didn't get his first serve in on the second break point and Brockett's return forced an error to give him the chance to serve for the match. 

That final game saw the tension build in each point, with neither boy willing to dial back and play it safe. At 40-30, Roh hit a perfect lob winner to save the first match point, and on the second, Brockett sent a forehand well long. Roh then began to win the deuce points, with Brockett saving three break points, showing a determination to keep swinging. Although his first serve disappeared, he managed to get a third match point and converted it, with Roh making an error on the final point.

"I'm lucky I pulled it out," Brockett said. "I stayed pretty stable. After every point, even when I hit a good shot, it's like a full reset, the point's over, whether I lose it or win it. I forget about the last point, the last game, and just focus on the next point."

Tiafoe, who watched several games of the match from the bleachers surrounding the court, is, unsurprisingly, one of Brockett's role models.

"Having him here, supporting up in the stands is super cool," said Brockett, who hits with Tiafoe occasionally when the 24-year-old is in town. "I've definitely watched a lot of his matches, and to have him come and watch some of mine, it's been super nice. It definitely inspires me."

Brockett, who plays unseeded Rudy Quan in the third round Wednesday, isn't surprised by the recent uptick in his results.

"I'm starting to show what I can do," Brockett said. "I'm on a pretty good run so far, because last year I lost in qualies, but I have the belief that I can keep going even farther. My expectations are way higher than maybe some of my results show, so that's one of the things that keeps me going, keeps me being able to win these tough matches."

While Tiafoe proved most of the buzz around the JTCC courts Tuesday, the match between No. 6 seed Sayaka Ishii of Japan and Dana Baidaulet of Kazakhstan also generated a lot of comment, with the 9 a.m. match ending at 1:50 p.m., with Baidaulet earning the 7-6(0), 6-7(5), 7-6(3) victory.  Ishii was cramping late in the match, but continued until the bitter end. Struggling with recovery, she was unable to play her double match; Baidaulet did play doubles later in the afternoon and won that match as well.

In addition to Ishii, three other seeds fell in second round action, at all the University of Maryland courts. Taylor Goetz defeated No. 4 seed Luciana Moyano of Argentina 6-7(3), 6-0, 6-1; Maya Joint beat No. 8 seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru 6-1, 6-2 and qualifier Jessica Bernales beat No. 16 seed Yu-Yun Li of Taiwan 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).

Only four girls seeds remain: No. 14 seed Kaitlin Quevedo,  No. 7 seed Carolina Kuhl of Germany, No. 5 seed Sara Saito of Japan and No. 2 seed Mira Andreeva of Russia.

The only boys seed to lose today was No. 11 Lennon Jones of Japan, who lost to Adhithya Ganesan 7-6(5), 6-4. There are now eight seeds remaining in the boys draw, including the top 5.

The first round of doubles was played this afternoon, with one major upset: girls No. 2 seeds Moyano and Perez Alarcon were beaten by Anya Murthy and Alexia Harmon 7-5, 6-2.

It wasn't a great opening day for Americans as the US Open qualifying got underway at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with the men going 5-5 and the women 3-7.  But it was a fabulous day for USTA National 18s finalists, as both Ethan Quinn and Valerie Glozman won their slam debuts.

Quinn, 18, defeated Ernesto Escobedo 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, closing out the match with two forehand winners to advance to the second round against Federico Delbonis of Argentina.

Glozman, 15, trailed 31-year-old Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia 3-0 in the second set tiebreaker, won the next six points, lost her first three match points but converted the fourth for a 6-3, 7-6(6) victory. She will play Madison Inglis of Australia next.

Other Americans winning today: Sachia Vickery, Katrina Scott, Christopher Eubanks, Zachary Svajda, Brandon Holt and Bjorn Fratangelo.

Sixteen more Americans will play their first round qualifying matches Wednesday, including Wimbledon girls champion Liv Hovde.

American's in first round action Wednesday:

Oliver Crawford[WC]
Bradley Klahn
Michael Mmoh
Bruno Kuzuhara[WC]
Alex Rybakov[WC]
Govind Nanda[WC]

Kayla Day[WC]
Caty McNally
Whitney Osuigwe[WC]
Caroline Dolehide
Christina McHale[WC]
Liv Hovde[WC]
Louisa Chirico
Asia Muhammad
Catherine Harrison[WC]
Ashlyn Krueger[WC]

The men's qualifying draw is here.

The women's qualifying draw is here.

Once Ben Shelton began going deep into Challenger draws, which was almost immediately after he won the NCAA title in May, the will-he-or-won't-he turn pro question was the major topic in college tennis....until Cincinnati. After beating Lorenzo Sonego and ATP No. 5 Casper Ruud at the Western & Southern Open, there wasn't much doubt that he belonged on the ATP tour and today he made that official with this announcement.

Shelton is signing with Tony Godsick's Team 8 and will join Roger Federer and Coco Gauff as a client of that firm. For more on the Sheltons' decision, see this article from today's New York Times.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Guichard Defeats Top Seed Bartashevich as Eight Girls Seeds Fall in First Round at ITF J1 College Park; 36 Americans Set for US Open Qualifying, Twenty Open Play Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2022--
JTCC, College Park MD--

The first day of the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland began with damp courts and ended with play moved indoors due to more rain and darkness. During the 12 plus hours in between, eight of the 16 seeds in the girls draw were eliminated, including top seed Yaroslava Bartashevich, while seven boys seeds also were eliminated, although none of the top five.

Ahmani Guichard didn't look as if she were going to topple the No. 1 seed Bartashevich when she dropped the first set to the tall and powerful right-hander from France 6-2. But determined to make a match of it, Guichard hung tough, mentally and physically and rebounded for a 2-6, 6-0, 6-4 victory.

"I've had a really tough last couple of months so I came into this match just trying to be focused and positive with myself," said the 17-year-old from Florida, who has verbally committed to UCLA for 2023. "I just stayed positive with every point. I thought my serve could have been a little bit better, but I tried to keep my first serve percentage as high as I could and I just battled through."

Guichard had a 3-1 lead in the third set, but when Bartashevich brought it back to 3-all she wasn't about to panic.

"It was all mental," Guichard said. "I knew I had been in both positions before; ahead and they come back and the same thing for me, so I just tried to stay positive and keep the same game plan."

Guichard's positivity was in contrast to Bartashevich's demeanor, which telegraphed her frustration with the way she was playing.

"I felt at times, throughout the match, when I would get ahead, she was starting to make a few more errors, get upset with herself," said Guichard, who called it "definitely" one of her best wins of her junior career. "I heard her keep talking to herself negatively, so I tried as best as I could to just keep pushing forward."

At the University of Maryland courts, where 24 of the first round matches were played, Ava Krug defeated No. 3 seed Taylah Preston of Australia 6-3, 6-1. Wild card Capucine Jauffret advanced when No. 9 seed Aruzhan Sagandikova of Kazakhstan retired trailing 6-1, 3-0.  Katie Rolls defeated No. 11 seed Mia Slama 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(4); Theodora Rabman beat No. 12 seed Hayu Kinoshita of Japan 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Valeria Ray defeated No. 13 seed Laniana Tararudee of Thailand 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and wild card Claire An defeated No. 15 seed Sandugash Kenzhibayeva of Kazakhstan 6-3, 5-7, 6-1.

No. 2 seed Mirra Andreeva of Russia, a finalist here last year, beat wild card Shannon Lam 6-4, 6-1.

In boys first round action, No. 6 seed Alex Frusina retired to wild card Rudy Quan with the score 5-7, 6-0 in their match at University of Maryland. Marko Mesarovic defeated Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden 6-3, 7-5; Jordan Reznik beat No. 8 seed Jack Loutit of new Zealand 6-3, 7-6(3); Quang Duong beat No. 7 seed Max Batyutenko of Kazakhstan 6-4, 7-5; qualifier Ian Mayhew defeated No. 13 seed Kaylan Bigun 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-3 in one of the matches that finished indoors; in another indoor finish, Rohan Belday defeated Meecah Bigun 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.

On the Pershing Square Court, the Junior Tennis Champions Center's main show court, wild card Stiles Brockett earned his best win in ITF play, defeating No. 10 seed Branko Djuric of Serbia 7-6(2), 6-7(3), 6-4. When Brockett, the reigning 16s Clay Court champion who trains at JTCC, came up with a good shot, applause from the veranda and stands was generous, but when it was Djuric taking the point, it was quiet.

Top seed Lautaro Midon of Argentina beat Evan Wen 6-2, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Rei Sakamoto of Japan defeated qualifier Kase Schinnerer 6-0, 6-4.

Play begins at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, with a JTCC alum Frances Tiafoe having a practice session on Pershing Square Court after the day's first second round junior match on that court.

Thirty-six Americans, including 18 wild cards, are in the US Open qualifying tournament, which begins 11 a.m. Tuesday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

American's competing in the men's qualifying draw:

Oliver Crawford[WC]
Bradley Klahn
Michael Mmoh
Ernesto Escobedo*
Ethan Quinn[WC]*
Christopher Eubanks*
Bruno Kuzuhara[WC]
Alex Rybakov[WC]
Govind Nanda[WC]
Zachary Svajda[WC]*
Martin Damm[WC]*
Mitchell Krueger*
Brandon Holt[WC]*
Murphy Cassone[WC]*
Bjorn Fratangelo*
Aleks Kovacevic*

*plays first round match Tuesday.

Kalamazoo finalist Quinn and Escobedo play each other in the first round.

Americans competing in the women's qualifying draw:

Sachia Vickery*
Kayla Day[WC]
Katrina Scott[WC]*
Elvina Kalieva[WC]*
Hailey Baptiste*
Emina Bektas*
Alycia Parks*
Danielle Lao*
Robin Anderson*
Caty McNally
Whitney Osuigwe[WC]
Caroline Dolehide
Christina McHale[WC]
Liv Hovde[WC]
Louisa Chirico
Katie Volynets[13]*
Valerie Glozman[WC]*
Asia Muhammad
Catherine Harrison[WC]
Ashlyn Krueger[WC]

*plays first round match Tuesday

Scott and Kalieva play each other Tuesday. Volynets is the only seeded American in either qualifying draw. All matches will be available for streaming via ESPN Plus.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Johns Wins Memphis $15K; Oreshchenkova Sweeps J3 Titles in Mexico; Intriguing First Round Matches to Kick Off ITF Grade 1 in College Park; Ram and Salisbury Claim Cincinnati Doubles Title

Duke senior Garrett Johns claimed his first Pro Circuit title today in impressive fashion, with the unseeded 21-year-old defeating Tennessee sophomore and No. 6 seed Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 79 minutes to win the $15,000 tournament in Memphis Tennessee. Johns, who lost only one set all week, in yesterday's three-hour plus semifinal against No. 7 seed and 2021 NCAA champion Sam Riffice of Florida, had not gotten beyond the quarterfinals of a Pro Circuit tournament until this week.

At the $60,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in the Bronx, No. 5 seed Kamilla Rakhimova won the singles title, beating unseeded Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-2, 6-3. 

Anna Blinkova of Russia and Simona Waltert of Switzerland won the doubles title, beating Na-Lee Han of Korea and Hiroko Kuwata of Japan 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Both teams were unseeded.

With the ITF Grade 1 in College Park main draw beginning tomorrow, I'll be concentrating on that and the US Open qualifying, which begins Tuesday in New York. So I'll review last week's results on the ITF Junior Circuit a day early, with six titles to highlight.

Seventeen-year-old Arina Oreshchenkova of New York won her first two titles on the ITF Junior Circuit this weekend, at the ITF Grade 3 in Tampico Mexico. Oreshchenkova, the No. 8 seed, got a walkover from No. 11 Kate Fakih from the United States to win the singles title. In doubles, No. 3 seeds Oreshchenkova and Maya Dutta defeated No. 7 seeds Pamela Badillo Hernandez and Aime Reynoso of Mexico 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-3 . It's the third ITF Junior Circuit doubles title for Dutta and the first for Oreshchenkova.

At the J5 in Guayaquil Ecuador, 16-year-old Sahana Sanjeev, the No. 4 seed, won her first ITF Junior Circuit title, beating No. 2 seed Gabriella Kellner 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) in the all-USA final. 

And Americans were a part of all four titles at the J5 in Trinidad and Tobago. Unseeded 16-year-old Maximo Oberto Calleri defeated unseeded Ty Host of Australia 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in the boys singles final to post his first ITF Junior Circuit title.

The girls singles title went to 14-year-old Tejaswini Narala, with the No. 2 seed beating top seed Sofia Corte Real of Portugal 6-3, 6-1 in the final. It was Narala's first title on the ITF Junior Circuit. 

Unseeded Miles Kennedy and Noah McDonald won the boys doubles title, beating top seeds Gabriel Porras of Guatemala and Danny Yassine of Canada 6-2 ,6-7(1), 10-4 in the final. 

Medha Chandana partnered with Corte Real in the doubles, and the top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Narala and Cookie Jarvis-Tredgett of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final. 

There are some intriguing matchups in the first round of the ITF J1 in College Park Maryland and I'll be at the Junior Tennis Champions Center bright an early to see wild card Shannon Lam take on No. 2 seed Mirra Andreeva of Russia, last year's finalist.

I'll also be watching Mayu Crossley of Japan, who lost to Liv Hovde in the final of the J1 in San Diego this spring, and Christasha McNeil, the 16s finalist at the USTA Nationals last week in San Diego, with the winner playing the survivor of the match between Andreeva and Lam. Top seed Yaroslava Bartashevic of France will take on Ahmani Guichard in the third series of matches at JTCC. 

Top boys seed Lautaro Midon of Argentina will face Evan Wen in the opening match on Stadium court.

Most of the competitors in the draw are Americans, meaning several play each other to open the tournament, but most of the seeds are not. The only girls seeds are No. 11 Mia Slama and No. 14 Kaitlin Quevedo; the boys seeds from the US are: No. 6 Alex Frusina, No. 9  Aidan Kim, No. 13 Kaylan Bigun, No. 15 Meecah Bigun and No. 16 Alexander Razeghi.

See the JTCC website for the completed qualifying draws, the main draws and the order of play for Monday.

The Western & Southern Open finished today, after a less than ideal week of weather in Mason Ohio. Borna Coric of Croatia became the lowest ranked player (152) in the tournament's history to take the title, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 7-6(0), 6-2. Coric, who didn't play for over a year after having shoulder surgery, will now be seeded at the US Open.

Caroline Garcia of France won the tournament's first women's final between two unseeded players, beating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4.

Top seeds Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain won the men's doubles title, their third Masters 1000 championship today, beating No. 6 seeds Tim Puetz(Auburn) of Germany and Michael Venus(LSU) of New Zealand 7-6(4), 7-6(5) in the final. 

For more on Ram and Salisbury's title run, see this article from the ATP website. 

Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia took the women's doubles title in Cincinnati, with the No. 7 seeds beating unseeded Ellen Perez(Georgia) of Australia and Nicole Melichar-Martinez 7-6(5), 6-3 in the final.