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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Blanch Ousts Top Seed Demin at ITF J300 in Brazil; Jovic and Sakamoto Lead Fields for San Diego J300; Stearns Advances to WTA Austin Quarterfinals; Michelsen Reaches Waco Challenger Quarterfinals; Montero Joins ITA

Fifteen-year-old Darwin Blanch has had some success this winter in the J300s in Central and South America, going 4-3 in the three tournaments in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia. But in today's second round at the J300 in Porto Alegre Brazil, Blanch earned his best win of the year, with the 2022 Kalamazoo 16s champion defeating top seed and ITF No. 17 Yaroslav Demin of Russia 6-4, 6-3 to reach Thursday's quarterfinals. Blanch, who had lost to Demin 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the second round of the US Open Junior Championships last September, will face unseeded Lennon Jones of Japan for a spot in the semifinals.

No. 2 seed Rei Sakamoto of Japan is also out, with the 16-year-old falling to last week's J300 Paraguay champion Emilien Demanet of Belgium 7-5, 6-2 in the first round. Roy Horovitz, the only other American boy still alive in singles, plays Demanet in the second round Thursday.

Alexia Harmon, the only US girl still in singles, plays No. 4 seed Luciana Moyano of Argentina in the second round Thursday.

The acceptances for next month's ITF J300 in San Diego have been released, with Iva Jovic and Rei Sakamoto heading the lists. ITF No. 20 Mayu Crossley of Japan, who reached the San Diego final last year, is entered, with 18 ITF Top 100 juniors currently among the acceptances. Most are Americans, and many of the international players are likely to withdraw, but those who train in the United States have made the trip in the past. Kaitlin Quevedo, who is still entered in the J300 in Indian Wells, is not entered in San Diego; Clervie Ngounoue is entered in both.

No. 15 Sakamoto, who lost in the second round last year in San Diego, is one of 19 Top 100 players on the initial acceptance list. No. 16 Kyle Kang leads the American contingent, which includes Kaylan Bigun, Roy Horovitz, Alexander Razeghi and Alexander Frusina. Cooper Williams is not entered in either Indian Wells or San Diego.

I will be covering the Indian Wells J300, San Diego J300 and the USTA Level 1 Easter Bowl in person beginning March 14th.

Peyton Stearns has reached the quarterfinals of the WTA 250 in Austin Texas, beating wild card Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden 6-3, 7-5 this evening at the Westwood Country Club. The 2022 NCAA singles and team champion at Texas will face fellow 21-year-old American Katie Volynets, the 2019 USTA National 18s champion, Friday. Volynets saved a match point and came from 5-0 down in the third set to beat No. 3 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

Easter Bowl ITF champion Alex Michelsen was in the 1400s in the ATP rankings when he won the title last year. Now the 18-year-old from Southern California is at 325 in the ATP live rankings after reaching the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger 75 in Waco Texas. Michelsen, who lost in the final of the Rome Challenger last week, defeated Alex Bolt of Australia 6-2, 6-3 today and will face another unseeded Australian in Friday's quarterfinal: Aleks Vukic(Illinois). Vukic defeated Mitchell Krueger 6-3, 6-4 in a second round match today.

The ITA announced today that Anthony Montero, who has served as the referee for both the NCAA Championships and the ITA Championships since 2010, will be joining the organization as head of officiating and general counsel. Montero, who was an FBI agent for the past 23 years, will begin his new role with the ITA in July. I've known Montero since I began covering college tennis and am delighted that he will be continue to be an integral part of the community in the years to come.