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Sunday, November 20, 2022

USTA Pro Circuit Titles for Bernard and Michelsen; Lilov Claims First Title at $15K in Peru; Shelton Makes History with Third Straight Challenger Title; Ram and Salisbury Champions at ATP Finals

Three teens from the United States claimed their first pro singles titles today, with 19-year-old Alexander Bernard winning the $25,000 tournament in Columbus Ohio, 18-year-old Alex Michelsen winning the $15,000 tournament in East Lansing Michigan and 18-year-old Victor Lilov winning the $15,000 tournament in Lima Peru

No. 5 seed Bernard, playing in his first Pro Circuit final, captured the title when qualifier Matej Vocel of the Czech Republic retired trailing 2-6, 6-1, 3-1. Bernard, a freshman at Ohio State, won three of his five matches during the week from a set down. Vocel, 25, played at Ohio State last season, after transferring from Oklahoma State for his final year of eligibility. Bernard, the 2019 Kalamazoo 16s champion, should move inside the ATP Top 600 when the points are added.

Michelsen, who won the doubles title yesterday with Learner Tien, got his second career title today, with the No. 3 seed defeating unseeded Alex Kotzen(Columbia) 7-6(2), 6-1. Michelsen, who lost in the final of the $15K in Winston-Salem a week ago, has gone 13-3 this fall in main draw matches on the Pro Circuit, including his first ATP Challenger main draw victory. He should be right around 600 in the ATP rankings when the points are added.

Lilov has been playing on South American clay this fall, with his best showing before this week a quarterfinal in early October. But this week in Peru, he defeated the No. 2 seed in the semifinals, and today beat top seed Jorge Panta of Peru 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. Lilov has won two ITF World Tennis Tour men's doubles title this year.

The $15,000 men's Pro Circuit tournament in Boca Raton Florida will finish on Monday, due to rain, with No. 5 seed Blu Baker of Great Britain facing unseeded Arvid Nordquist(Mississippi State) of Sweden for the singles title. Baker and Auburn senior Finn Murgett, also of Great Britain, won the doubles title Saturday, with the No. 4 seeds defeating No. 2 seeds Younes Lalami Laaroussi(Old Dominon) of Morocco and Brandon Perez(Virginia Tech/Nebraska) of Venezuela 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-8.

At the $15,000 women's USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Waco Texas, former Tulsa standout Martina Okalova of Slovakia won her first title, beating No. 8 seed Victoria Hu(Princeton) 6-3, 6-2. A qualifier, the 25-year-old won seven matches in seven days, losing only one set. 

At the ATP Challenger 80 in Champaign Illinois, current NCAA singles champion Ben Shelton overcame a shocking start in the final against Aleks Vukic of Australia, recovering to claim his third straight title in as many weeks with a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. Vukic, a former star at the University of Illinois, played well in the first half of the contest, but once Shelton found his forehand form, Vukic was unable to match that level. 

With the title, the 20-year-old Shelton enters the ATP Challenger record books as the youngest player to ever win three consecutive Challenger titles, and has now broken into the ATP Top 100 for the first time at 97.  That means the former Florida Gator will not need the Australian Open Wild Card he won in the USTA's annual challenge, and it will go to Shelton's good friend Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech), who finished second. Shelton's ATP ranking was 548 when he won the NCAA title in May, in Champaign.

Michael Mmoh lost in the final of the Drummondville Canada Challenger today, with Vasek Pospisil of Canada winning that match 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-4. 

US Open champions Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury(Memphis) won the doubles title today at the ATP Finals, defeating Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 7-6(4), 6-4. Ram and Salisbury went undefeated throughout the group and knockout stages and earned the largest payday in doubles history: $930,000. Salisbury is the first British player to win the ATP finals; Ram is the 18th American to do so. For more on today's match, see this ATP article.  

Novak Djokovic won the singles title, defeating Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 for his sixth championship at the year-ending event.