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Friday, November 18, 2022

Sports Columnist Couch Finds New Career as College Tennis Coach; Shelton Claims USTA's Australian Open Wild Card; Quevedo Rolls into J1 Guadalajara Final; Reed and Michelsen Reach $15K Semifinals

The path from sports journalist to coach isn't heavily traveled, so when I heard that Greg Couch, the former Chicago Sun-Times columnist had been named men's and women's coach at Division III Rose-Hulman, I knew I needed to talk to him about his journey. I met Greg when he was covering the slams for AOL Fanhouse 10 or 12 years ago, and while he hadn't been writing about tennis much in the past few years, I knew from his social media posts that he was still very much engaged in the sport, mostly at the coaching level. 

It was great fun to talk with him about his experiences coaching and how those interactions proved to be much more satisfying than what he had been doing at FS1. I hope the Tennis Recruiting Network article that came out of our recent conversation conveys his enthusiasm for what's ahead at Rose-Hulman. (And no, he didn't have a hairstyle like that when he was a sportswriter).

2022 NCAA singles champion Ben Shelton won his 13th consecutive Challenger match today, defeating Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign. With the victory, the former Florida Gator clinched the USTA's Australian Open wild card, with the only question now whether he will need it. If Shelton wins the title in Champaign, which would be his third straight, he will crack the ATP Top 100 and would be in the Australian Open without the wild card. In that case, it would go to Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech), who is in second place in the race. Eubanks defeated lucky loser Evan Zhu(UCLA) 6-1, 6-2 today to reach the semifinals; Shelton has defeated Eubanks in the last two Challenger finals in Charlottesville and Knoxville. 

Shelton, the No. 4 seed,  will face No. 7 seed Aleks Kovacevic(Illinois) in the semifinals, after Kovacevic defeated No. 2 seed Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-4 today. Kovacevic lost to Shelton in the third round in Charlottesville two weeks ago. No. 3 seed Eubanks will face another former Illini, No. 6 seed Aleks Vukic of Australia, who defeated Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain 7-6(6), 6-4.

Live streaming, with Mike Cation providing commentary, will be available at the ATP Challenger TV website

Kaitlin Quevedo returned to junior competition this week after winning three $15K titles in the past two months and she is showing no signs of slowing down. In the semifinals today at the ITF J1 in Guadalajara, the 16-year-old from Naples Florida defeated top seed Ella Mcdonald of Great Britain 6-2, 6-0, her fifth straight-sets win of the week. She will face No. 8 seed Mingge Xu of Great Britain in Saturday's final. Quevedo and Piper Charney are also competing in the doubles semifinals tonight; Ariana Pursoo and her partner Carolina Alonso of Mexico are through to the final. 

Three US boys will play in boys doubles final, with Cooper Woestendick and Roy Horovitz facing Cooper Williams and Mexico's Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez.

At the $15,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Waco Texas, Lexington Reed won the battle of the teenagers, with the 16-year-old from Orlando beating 15-year-old Aspen Schuman 7-5, 6-3. Reed, who will be playing in her second $15K semifinal this year, faces No. 8 seed Victoria Hu(Princeton) next. Qualifier Martina Okalova(Tulsa) of Slovakia defeated top seed Veronica Miroshnichenko(Loyola Marymount) 6-2, 6-3 and will play No. 4 seed Maria Kozyreva(St. Mary's) of Russia in the other semifinal. Kozyreva ended the seven-match winning streak of UCLA freshman Fangran Tian of China 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Alex Michelsen, who made the Winston-Salem $15K final last week, is through to the semifinals at the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in East Lansing after defeating unseeded Ben Jones of Great Britain 6-4, 6-1. Michelsen, the No. 3 seed, will play No. 5 seed Mitchell Harper(Virginia Tech) of Australia, who beat top seed Alex Knaff(Florida State) of Luxembourg 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The other semifinal will feature current collegians Ron Hohmann(LSU), a qualifier and unseeded Alex Kotzen(Columbia), who both eliminated Michigan State freshman wild cards. Hohmann beat David Saye 6-4, 6-0 and Kotzen defeated Ozan Baris 6-3, 6-1. 

Michelsen and Learner Tien have advanced to the doubles final, where they'll face Emile Hudd(Tennessee) and Josh Goodger(Tulsa/Florida). 

At the $25,000 men's Pro Circuit event in Columbus, qualifier Matej Vocel took out former Ohio State teammate and top seed Cannon Kingsley 7-6(5), 6-4 to reach the semifinals, where he'll play wild card and No. 3 seed Alexander Cozbinov(UNLV) of Moldova. Cozbinov defeated No. 6 seed JJ Tracy(Ohio State) 7-6(6), 7-5. In the bottom half, former Ohio State star John McNally will face another Kalamazoo 16s champion in Buckeye freshman Alexander Bernard. No. 4 seed McNally, who won the Kalamazoo 16s title in 2014, defeated Ohio State redshirt freshman Jack Anthrop 6-3, 7-5; No. 5 seed Bernard, the 2019 Kalamazoo 16s champion, beat No. 2 seed Aidan Mayo 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, to repeat his victory over Mayo in that Kalamazoo final.