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Thursday, January 12, 2023

NC State Freshman Shnaider, Four ? Americans Qualify for Australian Open; Twelve US Juniors Begin Competition in Australia at J300 Traralgon; ITA Matches of the Week

Qualifying for the Australian Open concluded Thursday, with just four of the 11 Americans in final round action earning that crucial third qualifying victory.

One of those was Ernesto Escobedo, who appeared with a Mexican flag next to his name for the first time on the Australian Open website last night. Escobedo posted on Instagram yesterday about his change from the United States to Mexico, and the USTA did not include him in their tweet about the American qualifiers, but he is back to having an American flag next to his name on the Australian Open website. Whether it's official at this moment or not, it will be happening sooner rather than later, so I'm guessing this is the last tournament that he'll be identified as an American. I've covered Escobedo since he won the Easter Bowl 14s title in 2011, and although he didn't go to college, I've followed his progress throughout the years. I know he's likely to have many more opportunities competing for Mexico, especially when it comes to playing Davis Cup, and he goes from his current status as another American outside the Top 100 to the top-ranked man from Mexico, even at his current ATP ranking of 310.

The other US man to qualify is also from Southern California, with former USC star Brandon Holt advancing to the main draw of a slam again, after reaching the US Open main draw via qualifying last year and beating Taylor Fritz in the first round. 

The US women reaching the main draw are No. 11 seed Katie Volynets, who qualified in Melbourne for the second straight year, and No. 23 seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who reached the semifinals in 2017.

NC State freshman Diana Shnaider didn't drop a set in reaching the main draw, beating fellow Russian Anastasia Tikhonova 6-2, 6-1 to earn a place in the women's draw, less than six months after she lost in the semifinals of the US Open Junior championships. 

Seventeen-year-old Jerry Shang of China will be the youngest competitor in the men's field after he defeated 2017 Australian Open boys champion Zsombor Piros of Hungary 6-3, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying.

The youngest player in the women's draw will be Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, with the 15-year-old defeating Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 in the final round of qualifying.

The results from Thursday's play for Americans:

Oleksii Krutykh(UKR) d. Denis Kudla[6] 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
Ernesto Escobedo d. Pavel Kotov[11](RUS) 6-3, 7-6(5)
Aleks Vukic[21](AUS) d. Michael Mmoh[9] 6-4, 7-5
Brandon Holt d. Marco Trungelliti(ARG) 6-3, 6-0
Nicolas Jarry(CHI) d. Emilio Nava 7-6(3), 6-3

Lucrezia Stefanini(ITA) d. Sachia Vickery 6-0, 3-0 ret.
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova(SVK)[3] d. Elli Mandlik[21] 6-4, 6-4
Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS) d. Sophie Chang 6-3, 6-3
Katie Volynets[11] d. Kristina Mladenovic(FRA) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
Polina Kudermetova(RUS) d. Asia Muhammad 6-4, 6-2
CoCo Vandeweghe[23] d. Yuriko Lily Miyazaki(GBR) 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(1)

The Australian Open draws have been revealed, with 17 American women and 14 American men competing for the singles titles. I'll post the first round matchups for Americans when the schedule is released.

The first round of the ITF J300 in Traralgon begins tonight (Friday in Australia) with six US boys and six US girls in the draws.

The US boys are Cooper Williams[5], Alexander Frusina, Kaylan Bigun, Learner Tien, Meecah Bigun and Kyle Kang. 

The US girls, none of whom are seeded, are Tatum Evans, Ariana Pursoo, Ahmani Guichard, Theadora Rabman, Anya Murthy and Ava Krug. 

The top seed in the boys draw is Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria, with Sara Saito of Japan the top seed in the girls draw. Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland and Tereza Valentova of the Czech Republic are two top players still listed as playing the Australian Open Junior Championships who are not in the draws at this event in Traralgon.

Although several schools began the dual match season last weekend, many of the Division I schools get underway this weekend, with two men's matches between Top 20 opponents on the schedule. No. 8 Texas will travel to No. 13 Florida and No. 7 Georgia will play No. 16 Florida State, who knocked the Bulldogs out of the NCAA tournament last year, in Tallahassee. Both matches are Sunday. The ITA now has a Matches of the Week feature, with links to live scoring and live streaming. This week's edition of Matches of the Week can be found here.