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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Jovic Sweeps Costa Rica J300 Titles; Montgomery, Stearns and Michelsen Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Hijikata Claims Australian Open Men's Doubles Title; Les Petits As Finals Set; Twelve Teams Qualify for D-I National Indoors

Iva Jovic swept the girls titles tonight at the ITF J300 in Costa Rica, with her championship Saturday beginning with the doubles title.

Jovic and Tyra Grant, the Orange Bowl champions last month, defeated fellow Americans Claire An and Alanis Hamilton 6-3, 6-3 in the doubles final. Then, after the boys doubles final, won by Henry Searle of Great Britain and Nikolai Budlov of Norway, Jovic played the singles final, beating unseeded Mika Buchnik of Israel 6-3, 6-2.

It's the first J300 title for the 15-year-old from Torrance California, seeded No. 3, and she didn't drop a set in her five victories.

I'll have the results of the boys final between Roy Horovitz and Thijs Boogaard of the Netherlands, played late Saturday night, in tomorrow's post.

Eighteen-year-old Robin Montgomery and reigning NCAA singles champion Peyton Stearns will play for the title Sunday at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida. Montgomery, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Ann Li, who took a wild card into the tournament, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 today and will be playing for her third Pro Circuit singles title.  The sixth-seeded Stearns, who left Texas after her sophomore year with two team titles and the singles championship, defeated former Michigan star Emina Bektas 6-3, 6-1 today and will be playing for her fourth Pro Circuit singles title Sunday.

The doubles title went to Jada Hart(UCLA) and Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech), with the unseeded pair defeating No. 4 seeds Haruna Arakawa and Natsuo Arakawa of Japan 6-3, 6-3 in this afternoon's final.

Two former collegians will meet for the title at the $25,000 men's tournament in Wesley Chapel Florida Sunday, with Christian Langmo(Miami) taking on Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State). Langmo, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Alfredo Perez(Florida) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in today's semifinal, while the unseeded Ponwith took out No. 3 seed and two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda 6-2, 6-3. Ponwith leads 1-0 in the head-to-head, but that match was over three years ago.

Perez and the Dominican Republic's Roberto Cid(South Florida) won the doubles title, beating another unseeded pair in Canadian Roy Stepanov(Southeastern) and Sekou Bangoura(Florida) 6-3, 6-2.

At the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Edmond Oklahoma, 18-year-old Alex Michelsen has reached his second final in his two tournaments this year, beating wild card Chad Kissell(Valparaiso) 6-2, 6-2 today. Michelsen, the No. 4 seed, will face unseeded 30-year-old Lucas Renard of Sweden, who beat former Baylor All-American Adrian Boitan of Romania, the No. 6 seed, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Michelsen, who lost in the final of the $25,000 tournament in Malibu to start the year, will be looking for his second singles title on the Pro Circuit.

There are improbable slam titles and then there's the one former North Carolina All-American Rinky Hijikata won overnight in Melbourne. The 21-year-old from Australia, who received a wild card into the main draw in both singles and doubles, paired with Jason Kubler to win the Australian Open men's doubles title overnight. Hijikata and Kubler defeated Hugo Nys of Monaco and former Georgia star Jan Zielinski of Poland 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final to become just the second wild card team to take the title after Australians Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis did it just last year.  Here's a look at the outstanding championship point.

It wasn't as if Hijikata and Kubler, playing together for the first time, had an easy draw either. They defeated three seeded teams, including No. 1 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain in the quarterfinals. They also were a point from elimination in the third round, saving a match point in their 1-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 win over Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar(Texas Tech).

Hijikata was playing in only the third ATP tour-level event of his career, and came into the Australian Open with a doubles ranking of 277; Kubler, who reached two ATP doubles finals last year, had an ATP ranking of 163.

North Carolina has posted an excellent article on Hijikata's slam title, (he is the second former Tar Heel to win one) and he talks about how his college coaches were instrumental in preparing him for the sport's highest level.

Hijikata joins Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine), who won the mixed title, as a former collegian champion at this year's Australian Open; Ena Shibahara(UCLA) plays for the women's doubles title tonight.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus won her first major title, defeating reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 for the women's singles title.

The singles finals are set for Sunday at Les Petits As in Tarbes France. No. 6 seed Daniel Jade of Lebanon will face No. 3 seed Mark Ceban of Great Britain for the boys title and No. 5 seed Anna Pushkareva of Russia will play No. 2 seed Giulia Popa of Romania for the girls title.

Jade defeated American Marcel Latak, the No. 7 seed, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 in today's semifinal, avenging his three-set quarterfinal loss to Latak last week at the Bolton tournament. Latak was up 6-1, 4-3 and serving, but Jade won three consecutive deuce games to force a third set, then took control with an early break in the second set. After dropping six straight games, Latak finally got on the board in the third set, but Jade played too well to give Latak any chance of mounting a comeback.  Ceban, who won the Bolton title last week, also had to come back from a rocky start, defeating No. 5 seed Kaan Isik Kosaner of Turkey 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. 

American Michael Antonius, who lost to Jade in three sets in the first round, won the consolation tournament, beating Arthur Lenglet of France 2-4, 4-1, 4-1.

The boys doubles title went to No. 5 seeds Moise Kouame of France and Svit Suljic of Slovenia. They defeated No. 6 seeds Jakub Kusy and Tomas Krejci of the Czech Republic 6-7(7), 6-4, 10-3.

Pushkareva defeated top seed Ksenia Efremova 6-0, 6-2 to reach the final, while Bolton finalist Popa defeated No. 3 seed Luna Vujovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-4.

No. 5 seeds Sara Oliveriusova and Lucie Slamenikova of the Czech Republic won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Lia Belibova of Moldova and Oliwia Sybicka of Poland 5-7, 7-6(8), 10-2 in the final.

The ITA Division I Kickoff Weekend produced its first barnburner Saturday, with the Tennessee men claiming a four-hour, 4-3 win over Oklahoma that put the Volunteers in next month's National Team Indoor field. Johannus Monday earned Tennessee's fourth point with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(2) win at No. 1 singles over the Sooners' Alex Martinez.

In Berkley, the first host lost, with the Cal women falling to San Diego 4-1.  Below are the results from today's regional finals with the teams seeded 1 all hosting. The winners have advanced to the National Team Indoors next month.

Saturday's regional finals

Tennessee[1] d. Oklahoma[2] 4-3
Florida[1] d. Mississippi State[3] 4-2
Wake Forest[1] d. Middle Tennessee[2] 4-2
Kentucky[1] d. Notre Dame[2] 4-1
Baylor[1] d. Florida State[3] 4-2

Texas[1] d. Baylor[2] 4-0
Virginia[1] d. South Carolina[2] 4-1
Georgia[1] d. Notre Dame[3] 4-1
Stanford[1] d. Florida State[2] 4-0
North Carolina[1] d. Charlotte[3] 4-0
San Diego[3] d. Cal[1] 4-1 
Ohio State[1] d. Tennessee[3] 4-2

Sunday's regional finals

Virginia[1] v Princeton[3]
North Carolina[1] v Harvard[2]
Ohio State[1] v. Oregon[3]
Michigan[1] v Northwestern[2]
Texas[1] v Arizona[2]
South Carolina[1] v NC State[2]
Southern California[1] v UCLA[3]
TCU[1] v Texas Tech[3]

Sunday - Monday dates for men's sites Georgia and Stanford

Duke[1] v Wisconsin[3]
NC State[1] v Vanderbilt[2]
Miami[1] v Iowa State[3]
Oklahoma State[1] v Michigan[2]
Oklahoma[1] v Texas Tech[2]
Pepperdine[1] v Memphis[2]
Auburn[1] v Central Florida[3]

Texas A&M women's regional round 1 was rained out Saturday, but still scheduled to finish on Sunday.

See SLAM Tennis for scores and links; check out Cracked Racquets coverage on YouTube.