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Friday, March 3, 2023

February Aces; Michelsen Reaches Waco Challenger Semis; Young Americans Receive BNP Paribas Wild Cards; Blanch Advances at J300 in Brazil; D-III Women's Team Indoor Underway

The monthly column I write for Tennis Recruiting Network is up now for February's top collegiate and junior performers, who range in age from 15-year-old Iva Jovic to 27-year-old Cam Norrie. In addition to Norrie's ATP title last month, former collegians captured three Challenger titles in February, and a former Baylor star strung together the rare three-straight-titles run.

Alex Michelsen came up one match short of a title last week at the Rome Georgia Challenger, but the 18-year-old from Southern California has made good on the special exempt entry he received this week at the ATP Challenger 75 in Waco Texas, reaching the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Aleks Vukic(Illinois) of Australia today. On Saturday, Michelsen will play his third straight fellow Alex/ks, when he takes on No. 8 seed Alexandre Muller of France. Muller, 26, defeated Seong-chan Hong of Korea 6-7(7), 7-6(1), 6-2 in today's quarterfinals. There is one more Aleks in the draw that Michelsen has not yet faced, Kovacevic, with the former Illinois star, seeded No. 3, advancing to the semifinals in the bottom half with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Gastao Elias of Portugal. Kovacevic will face former Wake Forest All-American and 2018 NCAA singles finalist Borna Gojo[6], after Gojo advanced when qualifier Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan retired trailing 6-2, 4-0.

Stadium 4, Indian Wells Tennis Garden
photo courtesy BNP Paribas Open

Michelsen will not have much time to recover from his back-to-back runs at Challengers after he was awarded a qualifying wild card at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, with Monday the start date for those matches. Michelsen's training partner and 2022 Kalamazoo 18s champion Learner Tien, who is on the USC team, but not yet eligible to compete, also received a qualifying wild cards, as did two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svjada. Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) also received a qualifying wild card, with one more left to be distributed.

Three girls slam singles champions are among the women's qualifying wild cards: 2022 Wimbledon girls champion Liv Hovde, 2022 Australian Open girls champion Petra Marcinko and 2021 US Open girls champion Robin Montgomery. Also receiving qualifying wild cards are Ashlyn Krueger, Caroline Dolehide and Stephanie Yakoff. The John McEnroe Tennis Academy has received a qualifying wild card in the past, with Theadora Rabman a recipient last year. Yakoff, who has committed to Harvard, currently trains there.

The main draw wild cards for the women include the last two NCAA singles champions: Emma Navarro and Peyton Stearns. Stearns lost to Katie Volynets 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the WTA 250 in Austin; Volynets was also a main draw wild card recipient. Others receiving main draw wild cards are Elli Mandlik, Ann Li, Sofia Kenin, Caty McNally and Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine.

The men's main draw wild cards, which number just five, were given to Jack Sock, Dominic Thiem of Austria, Yibing Wu of China, Brandon Holt(USC) and Kovacevic.

The BNP Paribas Open wild card release is here.

Fifteen-year-old Darwin Blanch has advanced to his second J300 semifinal in the past month, defeating Lennon Jones of Japan 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(2) in today's quarterfinals at the J300 in Porto Alegre Brazil. Blanch will face 17-year-old qualifier Maximo Zeitune of Argentina in Saturday's semifinals. Zeitune took out No. 4 seed Adriano Dzhenen of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-4. The other semifinal features No. 6 seed Danil Panarin of Russia, who beat No. 3 seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and Emilien Demanet of Belgium, last week's J300 champion, who defeated No. 5 seed Federico Cina of Italy 6-4, 6-3.

Alexia Harmon lost to qualifier Alessandra Teodosescu of Italy 6-2, 6-2, with Teodosescu facing top seed Sara Saito of Japan in the semifinals. No. 2 seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru will play No. 3 seed Mayu Crossley of Japan in the other girls semifinal.

The boys doubles final will be an all-US contest, with Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick facing No. 3 seed Alexander Razeghi and Roy Horovitz in Saturday's final.

The last of the ITA Team Indoor Championships is underway, with eight Division III women's teams congregating at the Top Seed Tennis Club in Kentucky in a tournament hosted by Sewanee, University of the South. After the first day of play Friday, the top four seeds have advanced to Saturday's semifinals, with No. 1 seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps facing No. 4 seed MIT and No. 2 seed Chicago taking on No. 3 Pomona-Pitzer.

A couple of notable results in women's Division I conference play today, with No. 4 North Carolina State getting past No. 19 Georgia Tech 4-3, despite losing at both No. 1 and No. 2 singles. WTA No. 94 Diana Shnaider lost to Georgia Tech's Carol Lee 6-1, 6-3 to take her first loss in singles at line 1.  The box score is here.

And in a grueling rematch of their Kickoff Weekend contest, No. 2 Texas A&M defeated No. 24 Florida 5-2; after dropping the doubles point, the Aggies took singles decisions at lines 5, 6, 2 and 1, with Mary Stoiana clinching the win in two tiebreakers over Carly Briggs at line 1. Texas A&M also won at court 3, after the match was clinched.