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Sunday, November 13, 2022

Titles for Americans Shelton, Montgomery and Braswell; Michelsen Falls to Samuel in Winston-Salem; Fritz Beats Nadal to Open ATP Finals

For the second straight week, NCAA singles champion Ben Shelton defeated former Georgia Tech star Christopher Eubanks in a Challenger final, with this week's championship match in Knoxville coming down to a third-set tiebreaker. Shelton, the No. 4 seed, dominated the first set, Eubanks, the No. 3 seed, outclassed Shelton in the second, but the third was neck and neck until the very end, when Shelton claimed the title with a miraculous passing shot for a 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(4) victory and his second ATP Challenger title. 

The 20-year-old from Gainesville increases his lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, and now that he is up to 108 in the ATP rankings, Shelton is approaching direct entry territory. Should he get in the draw based on his ranking, the wild card would go to the second place finisher. Right now that is a tie between Tennys Sandgren and Eubanks and both still have a mathematical chance to pass Shelton if either wins the Champaign title next week and Shelton fails to make the semifinals. Sandgren and Eubanks are drawn to play in the second round in Champaign, so one will be eliminated then.

Champaign's top two seeds are Denis Kudla and Steve Johnson(USC), who are currently outside the top 100 and are hoping to secure their spots in the Australian Open main draw with a title. All wild cards went to current University of Illinois players: Hunter Heck, Karlis Ozolins, and Mathis Debru. Heck plays Johnson and Ozolins faces Shelton, the No. 4 seed, in the first round. 

Eighteen-year-old Robin Montgomery won her second career Pro Circuit singles title and her first above the $25K level today at the $60,000 women's ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in Calgary Canada. The fifth-seeded Montgomery avenged her quarterfinal loss three weeks ago at the Toronto $60K, beating unseeded Urszula Radwanska of Poland 7-6(6), 7-5, despite 10 double faults. After something of a lost year at Mouratoglou Academy in France that began right after she won the US Open Junior singles and doubles titles, Montgomery has shown steady progress since she began working with Eric Nunez in Florida, reaching the final of a $60K in Templeton California this fall, qualifying at the WTA 500 San Diego Open and WTA 125 Dow Tennis Classic and now this title. Montgomery is now up to a career-high 204 in the WTA rankings, so she will be comfortably in the Australian Open qualifying next year. 

It's every wild card's dream to go on a run and win a title, and University of Texas junior Micah Braswell made it a reality today at the $25,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Austin Texas. Braswell, who had never won a main draw match at a Pro Circuit event until this week, defeated No. 6 seed Andres Andrade(Florida) of Ecuador 6-2, 6-2 to earn the title on his home courts. Braswell, who was out with injuries most of last season, lost just one set in his five victories this week.

Wild cards also captured the doubles championship in Austin, with Phillip Henning(Georgia) of South Africa and Texas Tech sophomore Tyler Stewart earning their first Pro Circuit titles with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seeds Demetris Azoides of Greece and Martin Breysach(Baylor) of France. 

South Carolina junior Toby Samuel of Great Britain, who won the ITA All-American men's doubles title last month with Connor Thomson, swept the titles this week at the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Winston-Salem North Carolina. Samuel, who won the singles title last week at the $15K in Fayetteville, has not lost a set in his 10 singles victories the past two weeks, beating 18-year-old Alex Michelsen 6-1, 7-5 in today's final. Samuel and Ben Jones, also of Great Britain, won the doubles title in Winston-Salem on Friday.

Group play at the ATP Finals began today in Turin, with Taylor Fritz, who received last-minute entry when Carlos Alcaraz withdrew, defeating top seed Rafael Nadal 7-6(3), 6-1. Fritz, who had also defeated Nadal in the Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells this spring, is in the group with Nadal, Casper Ruud and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Ruud defeated Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-4 in the opening match of the Finals.The other group, which begins play Monday, consists of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

Switzerland won its first Billie Jean King Cup championship today in Glasgow, defeating Australia 2-0. Belinda Bencic and Jil Teichmann earned singles wins over Storm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic to clinch it.