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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.