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Friday, June 30, 2023

June Aces; Dates, Venue for Junior Davis and BJK Cups Announced; 31 Americans in Wimbledon Singles Draws; Eubanks Reaches ATP Final; Kypson, Nava Make Challenger Finals; Hui, Tien Advance to Irvine $15K Semis

My monthly Tennis Recruiting Network column is out today, as I feature some of the top junior and collegiate performances for June. The challenge these days is deciding who of all the former collegians winning titles to highlight; there's no question that the number has increased dramatically in the past several years. I think the ITF has expanded the number of opportunities in $15K and $25K, and the increases in prize money may also play a role. Juniors have also been more likely to gain entry into lower level pro events, so their numbers have increased as well. Take a look at the 19 players featured in June, from 15-year-old Tyra Grant to 33-year-old Austin Krajicek, to see all the different paths to a milestone.

The ITF has finally revealed the location and dates for the Junior Davis and Billie Jean King Cups, with both 16-and-under team competitions set to be played in Cordoba Spain. The notable change is that they will not be played at the same time, but rather in back-to-back weeks, with the Junior Davis Cup October 30-November 5 and Junior Billie Jean King Cup November 6-12.

The United States has already qualified for the Junior Billie Jean King Cup and will defend their 2022 title in Spain. The US boys, who also have qualified this year, reached the final of the Junior Davis Cup last year, losing to Brazil. The African, European and South American teams competing are not decided until this summer.  Today's ITF announcement provides the dates of those qualifying competitions.

Wimbledon released its draws today, with 19 US women and 12 US men competing in singles. Below are the first round matches featuring Americans; there are two all-US matches in the women's draw, but none in the men's draw.

Danielle Collins v Julia Grabher(AUT)
Caroline Dolehide v Daria Kasatkina[11](RUS)
Caty McNally v Jodie Burrage[WC](GBR)
Venus Williams[WC] v Elina Svitolina(UKR)
Sofia Kenin[Q] v Coco Gauff[7]
Jessica Pegula[4] v Lauren Davis
Claire Liu v Lesia Tsurenko(UKR)
Alycia Parks v Anna-Lena Friedsam{GER}
Peyton Stearns v Marketa Vondrousova(CZE)
Sloane Stephens v Rebecca Peterson(SWE)
Katie Volynets v Caroline Garcia[5](FRA)
Bernarda Pera[17] v Viktoriya Tomova(BUL)
Shelby Rogers v Elena Rybakina[3](KAZ)
Alison Riske-Amritraj v Paula Badosa(ESP)
Madison Keys[25] v Sonay Kartal[WC](GBR)
Madison Brengle v Sara Errani(ITA)
Emma Navarro v Ekaterina Alexandrova[21](RUS)

Frances Tiafoe[10] v Yibing Wu(CHN)
Marcos Giron v Hugo Dellien(BOL)
Tommy Paul[16] v Shintaro Mochizuki[Q](JPN)
Christopher Eubanks v Thiago Monteiro(BRA)
Sebastian Korda[22] v Jiri Vesely(CZE)
Ben Shelton[32] v Taro Daniel[LL](JPN)
Maxime Cressy v Laslo Djere(SRB)
Taylor Fritz[9] v Yannick Hanfmann(GER)
Mackenzie McDonald v Alexander Bublik[23](KAZ)
JJ Wolf v Enzo Couacaud[Q](FRA)
John Isner v Jaume Munar(ESP)
Brandon Nakashima v Jordan Thompson(AUS)

The doubles draws were also released today. Roland Garros champions Austin Krajicek and his partner Ivan Dodig of Croatia are the No. 2 seeds in the men's doubles draw, with Rajeev Ram and his partner Joe Salisbury of Great Britain seeded No. 3.

In the women's doubles draw, seven US women are seeded: Caroline Dolehide and partner Shuai Zhang of China are the No. 16 seeds, Taylor Townsend and her partner Leylah Fernandez of Canada are the No. 6 seeds, Asia Muhammad and her partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico are the No. 10 seeds, Nicole Melichar Martinez and her partner Ellen Perez of Australia are the No. 4 seeds, Desirae Krawczyk and her partner Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands are the No. 5 seeds, and Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are the No. 2 seeds.

A day after Georgia Tech alum Chris Eubanks made his first ATP semifinal at the 250 in Mallorca, he reached his first ATP final, saving five match points in his 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9) victory over qualifier Lloyd Harris of South Africa. Eubanks will face No. 4 seed Adrian Mannarino of France, who defeated former US All-American Yannick Hanfmann of Germany 7-6(4), 6-4. 

Madison Keys defeated Coco Gauff 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final of the WTA 500 in Eastbourne; she will play Daria Kasatkina of Russia for the title Saturday. The ATP's 250 in Eastbourne was delayed by rain, with Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) trailing Francisco Cerundolo(South Carolina) of Argentina 6-2, 5-7, 2-5. Tommy Paul and Gregoire Barrere of France did not begin their semifinal.

Emma Navarro(Virginia) lost to Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals of the WTA 250 in Bad Homburg.

Patrick Kypson has reached his first ATP Challenger final at the 50 in Colombia. Seeded No. 7, the former Texas A&M star will play former Florida State standout Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe, who will also be appearing in his first Challenger final.

Emilio Nava[3] is through to the final of the ATP Challenger 75 in Italy, where he will play unseeded Titouan Droguet of France. It's the 21-year-old's second Challenger final; he won his first appearance in a Challenger final last year. 

Seventeen-year-old Learner Tien(USC) and 18-year-old Katherine Hui(Stanford) have advanced to the semifinals of the SoCal Pro Series men's and women's $15,000 tournaments in Irvine California. 

Tien, who lives in Irvine, defeated wild card and No. 3 seed Tristan Boyer(Stanford) 7-5, 6-3, saving a set point serving at 4-5 in the first set. Tien, playing in his first tournament since reaching the semifinals of the Roland Garros Junior Championships, will face qualifier Isaiah Strode for a place in the final. Strode eliminated Warren Wood(CMS) 6-3, 6-2. In the top half of the draw, qualifier Quinn Vandecasteele(Oregon) who has now played 12 days in a row after reaching last week's Los Angeles $15K final, will play the only seed remaining, No. 6 Edward Winter of Australia, who is a rising freshman at Pepperdine.  Vandecasteele beat Lorenzo Claverie of Italy 6-3, 6-2, while Winter took out qualifier Daniel De Jonge(Pepperdine) of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-2. De Jonge had ousted top seed and Los Angeles champion Omni Kumar(Duke) in the second round. 

Tien has also reached the doubles final, with Ohio State rising freshman Bryce Nakashima. The unseeded pair will play the unseeded British pair of Josh Goodger(Tulsa/Florida) and Matthew Summers(Denver).

No. 6 seed Hui, a rising freshman at Stanford, had been stopped at the quarterfinals in the first three SoCal Pro Series tournaments this summer, but she broke through to her first semifinal with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 win over Danielle Willson(USC/Ohio State). She will play No. 2 seed Haley Giavara Saturday. In the top half, No. 3 seed Eryn Cayetano(USC) outlasted wild card Amelia Honer(UC-Santa Barbara) 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 in a three-hour and 24-minute quarterfinal. She will face top seed Jia-Jing Lu of China, who beat No. 5 seed Brandy Walker 6-2, 6-2.

Cracked Racquets will have coverage of the Irvine singles semifinals and doubles finals Saturday via their YouTube channel.

At the J300 in Roehampton, four US boys advanced to the final round of qualifying: Meecah Bigun, Alexander Frusina, Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick. Both Alanis Hamilton and Anya Murthy lost in third set tiebreakers, as did Adhithya Ganesan. Live scoring is available at Tennis Ticker

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Kenin Sole American Qualifier at Wimbledon; Roehampton ITF J300 Qualifying Begins Friday with Seven Americans; USTA Announces US Open Wild Card Challenge Start Dates; Eubanks and Navarro Make First Tour Semifinals

In the seedings for Wimbledon qualifying, five Americans were projected to make the main draw, but only one did, with Sofia Kenin, seeded 23, defeating No. 9 seed Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-3 to earn a spot in the main draw. (No. 4 seed Elli Mandlik and No. 16 seed Kayla Day lost in the second round of qualifying). Unseeded Coco Vandeweghe lost her final round qualifying match to Carol Zhao of Canada 7-6(4), 6-4. The 28-year-old Zhao, a 2015 NCAA singles finalist while at Stanford, will be making her slam debut next week.

No. 13 seed Michael Mmoh and No. 14 seed Aleks Kovacevic fell at the last hurdle, with Mmoh losing to Laurent Lokoli 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 and Kovacevic going out to another unseeded French player, Enzo Couacaud, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(5). Denis Kudla lost to Sho Shimabukuro of Japan 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Shimabukuro is one of two Japanese men to advance to the main draw, with 2019 Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki making his men's slam debut after a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 16 seed Zsombor Piros of Hungary, the 2017 Australian Open boys champion. 

Two teens who are still eligible to compete in the juniors have advanced to the main draw, with No. 7 seed 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva defeating No. 19 seed Tamara Korpatsch of Germany 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 and unseeded 18-year-old Celine Naef of Switzerland advancing with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win over Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine. Naef will be making her slam debut, Andreeva qualified at Roland Garros and reached the third round, so this is No. 2 for her.

There are several lucky loser spots available, but it may not be known until Friday's draw who has received them.

The pros are now 
finished at Roehampton, but the juniors begin their time there Friday, beginning with the qualifying for the ITF J300. Toward the end of the Roehampton J300, Wimbledon Junior qualifying will be held there, meaning those courts will be the center of the junior tennis circuit the next ten days.

Seven Americans are competing in the Roehampton qualifying, five boys and two girls. The boys are Alexander Frusina[4], Maxwell Exsted[7], Cooper Woestendick[8], Meecah Bigun and Adhithya Ganesan. The girls are Alanis Hamilton[2] and Anya Murthy[3]. Michigan's Maya Joint, who now represents Australia, is the No. 1 seed in qualifying; Peter Brunclik of the Czech Republic is the No. 1 in the boys qualifying.

Live scoring should be available at Tennis Ticker.

Today the USTA announced the dates for its annual US Open Wild Card Challenge, with the men's Challenge beginning next week and extending for six weeks, while the women's Challenge begins July 17 and extends for four weeks. The best three results will be used to determine the wild card recipients; any tournaments at or above the $25,000 level will count as long as it is played on hard courts. JJ Wolf(Ohio State) and Elli Mandlik won USO wild cards via this method last year.

Two notable results by former collegiate stars today in the grass warmups prior to Wimbledon, with Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) and Emma Navarro(Virginia) reaching their first ATP and WTA semifinals. 

Eubanks defeated lucky loser Arthur Rinderknech(Texas A&M) of France 7-6(5), 7-6(4) to reach the final four at the ATP 250 in Mallorca Spain. The 27-year-old from Atlanta will face qualifier Lloyd Harris of South Africa Friday. Former USC All-American Yannick Hanfmann of Germany, who defeated top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the second round, will play No. 4 seed Adrian Mannarino of France in the other semifinal.

Navarro, the 2021 NCAA singles champion, dropped the first set to Rebeka Masarova of Spain 7-6(2) in their quarterfinal match at the WTA 250 in Bad Homburg Germany. It was 1-1 in the second set when Masarova suffered an injury and retired, sending Navarro through. The 22-year-old from South Carolina will face the winner of the quarterfinal match between Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and No. 2 seed Liudmila Samsonova of Russia, which was suspended due to darkness after Samsonova won the second set.

In other grass warmups, Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) are through to the semifinals at the ATP 250 in Eastbourne. McDonald, who beat top seed Taylor Fritz in the second round, faces No. 4 seed Francisco Cerundolo(South Carolina) of Argentina, while No. 2 seed Paul plays Gregoire Barrere of France.

At the WTA 500 in Eastbourne, Madison Keys and No. 5 seed Coco Gauff will play for a spot in the final. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Six Americans Advance to Thursday's Final Round of Wimbledon Qualifying; Crossley and Jovic Withdraw From Wimbledon Junior Championships; Rinaldi to Step Down as Billie Jean King Cup Captain

Three American men and three American women have advanced to Wimbledon's final round of qualifying Thursday, with the opportunity to go from the fields of Roehampton to the lush confines of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. It was mostly veterans who navigated their way through today's second round, with only 24-year-old Aleks Kovacevic having yet to played a main draw match at Wimbledon.

No. 14 seed Kovacevic, a former University of Illinois All-American, defeated  defeated Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands 7-6(5), 6-4 and will face unseeded Enzo Couacaud of France Thursday.

No. 13 seed Michael Mmoh, whose only main draw Wimbledon appearance came back in 2018 as a lucky loser, took a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 decision today from Dragos Madaras of Sweden; he will play unseeded Laurent Lokoli of France Thursday.

Something of a grass specialist, 30-year-old Denis Kudla has been playing Wimbledon for over a decade, and has made the main draw via qualifying three times, most recently in 2021. He'll have a chance to make it four Thursday against Sho Shimabukuro of Japan after defeating Tung-Lin Wu of Taiwan 6-3, 6-4 today. 

Thirty-one-year-old Coco Vandeweghe has been playing Wimbledon since 2011 and reached the quarterfinals in 2015 and 2017; last year she lost in the third round of qualifying, but got into the main draw as a lucky loser, dropping her first match to eventual champion Elena Rybakina. Today, she defeated Barbora Palicova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6(0) and will play 2015 NCAA singles finalist Carol Zhao(Stanford) of Canada for a spot in the main draw. 

No. 9 seed Taylor Townsend hasn't played Wimbledon often, and has never gotten through qualifying, but she will play in her fourth Wimbledon main draw if she defeats Sofia Kenin, the No. 23 seed, in the final round Thursday. In today's second round, Townsend beat Noma Noha Akugue of Germany 6-2, 6-4; Kenin defeated Moyuka Uchijima of Japan 6-0, 6-3. Kenin is 2-1 in their head-to-head, but they haven't played since 2017.

No. 5 seed Diana Shnaider(NC State) lost to British wild card Anna Brogan, 370 in the WTA rankings, 6-3, 7-6(7). The 25-year-old Brogan is one of two British players in the final round of qualifying; the other is 28-year-old Billy Harris.

Sixteen-year-olds Mirra Andreeva and Brenda Fruhvirtova have both advanced to the final round of qualifying with little difficulty. No. 7 seed Andreeva defeated Chloe Paquet of France 6-1, 6-2 and will face No. 19 seed Tamara Korpatsch of Germany; No. 28 Fruhvirtova defeated Kathine Sebov of Canada 6-0, 6-3 and will face No. 11 seed Yue Yuan of China.

Thursday's order of play is here.

The last men's doubles wild card was given to Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul.

With the Wimbledon Junior Championships deadline to withdraw yesterday, it's a good time to check in on the fields. There hasn't been much movement in the boys draw, although No. 14 Oliver Ojakaar of Estonia recently withdrew. Two Top 10 girls are out: Mayu Crossley of Japan, No. 5 in the entry rankings, and Iva Jovic, No. 10 in the entry rankings. Jovic withdrew from the major junior clay events this spring and was hoping to return from injury in time for Wimbledon, but obviously that didn't happen. No. 45 Elizara Yaneva of Bulgaria also withdrew, so Alexia Harmon, Thea Rabman and Ashton Bowers are just two, three and four spots out of the main draw now.

Although allowing Russian players to compete this year as neutrals, Wimbledon prohibited them from accepting funding from the Russian federation, so as a result only two are in the girls draw, including ITF World Junior No. 1 Alina Korneeva, who is going for an unprecedented third straight slam next month. There are also two in the boys draw, as well, Yaroslav Demin and Danil Panarin. June 14th must have been a date of significance for the Russians to produce documentation of some kind regarding their ties to the federation, because many withdrew (or were withdrawn) on that day, with the notation OTH.

The ITF Junior Circuit website has posted a Roehampton and Wimbledon preview here

The USTA announced earlier this week that Kathy Rinaldi would be stepping down as Billie Jean King Cup Captain after serving in that position since December 2016. Rinaldi, who led the United States to the title in 2017, will continue to serve as the Head of Women's Tennis for USTA Player Development. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Eight US Women Advance to Second Round of Wimbledon Qualifying; Madison Sieg Turns Pro; Andres Martin Receives ATP Atlanta Wild Card; Irvine $15Ks Only Events on USTA Pro Circuit This Week

The first round of Wimbledon's women's qualifying produced eight American winners from the field of 13.

Those advancing to the second round Wednesday include a mix of veteran and young players. In the top half, Coco Vandeweghe defeated No. 20 seed Su Jeong Jang of Korea 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and plays plays 19-year-old Barbora Palicova of the Czech Republic Wednesday. No. 4 seed Elli Mandlik defeated Elsa Jacquemot of France 7-5, 6-3 and will play Natalija Stevanovic of Serbia, and Ann Li beat Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-1, 6-1 to set up a second round match against No. 27 seed Olivia Gadecki of Australia.

In the bottom half, No. 9 seed Taylor Townsend defeated Irina Bara of Romania 7-5, 6-2 and will play 19-year-old Noma Noha Akugue of Germany. Sofia Kenin won the only all-US first round match, beating former Georgia Tech All-American Irina Falconi Hartman 6-3, 6-2. Kenin will face Moyuka Uchijima of Japan in the second round. Robin Montgomery beat Magali Kempen of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with No. 13 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium. No. 32 seed Ashlyn Krueger defeated Alice Robbe of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 and will play 18-year-old Celine Naef of Switzerland. No. 16 seed Kayla Day outlasted Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(4) and will face Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan.

Both 16-year-old phenoms advanced to the second round of qualifying, with Mirra Andreeva[7] defeating Rosa Vincens Mas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Brenda Fruhvirtova[28] beating fellow Czech teen Sara Bejlek 6-0, 7-5.

No. 5 seed Diana Shnaider(NC State) defeated 2022 Wimbledon girls champion Liv Hovde, a wild card, 7-5, 6-2, coming from 4-0 down in the first set to advance to the second round.

The men's second round is also scheduled for Wednesday; the matchups for the four American men remaining are in Monday's post

One day after Georgia freshman Ethan Quinn announced he was turning pro, University of Southern California freshman Maddy Seig did the same. The 20-year-old, who reached the NCAA singles and doubles semifinals last month in Lake Nona, has reached the final in two $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments in Europe this month and now has a WTA ranking of 382. Sieg's statement on her decision can be found here. As with Georgia and Quinn, USC has some big shoes to fill at the No. 1 position for the 2023-24 season.

Speaking of Quinn, I was expecting that he would receive the collegiate main draw wild card that the ATP 250 in Atlanta awards each year, but it was announced today that Georgia Tech's Andres Martin would receive it for the second consecutive year. In past years, the wild card would often rotate between Georgia Tech's and Georgia's top players, but as Georgia Tech has begun to play a bigger role in the Atlanta Open, they obviously have increased their influence in selecting this wild card. Martin is an excellent player and won a round in the main draw as a wild card recipient last year, but I would have thought Quinn's NCAA title would have given him the nod this year. 

After two consecutive weeks featuring five USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, this week is downright barren, with only the $15,000 SoCal Pro Series events in Irvine on the schedule.

While qualifying is still going on, the draws are out, with Jia-Jing Lu of Chinam Haley Giavara(Cal) and Eryn Cayetano(USC) the top three seeds in the women's tournament. Wild cards were awarded to Christine Lutkemeyer(UCLA), Amelia Honer(UC-Santa Barbara), Nikki Redelijk(Pepperdine) and 16-year-old Cleo Hutchinson. 

Last week's champion Omni Kumar(Duke) is the top seed in the men's draw, with Alfredo Perez(Florida) No. 2 and wild card Tristan Boyer(Stanford) No. 3. The other wild cards were given to Noah Zamora(UC-Irvine), Maxwell McKennon(Arizona State) and New Mexico rising freshman Avery Tallakson.

Learner Tien, who lives in Irvine, is returning to competition after reaching the semifinals at the Roland Garros Junior Championships earlier this month. He is unseeded. 

While there are no other USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, several of the Americans who played here in the United States the past two or three weeks are in the Dominican Republic, with $25,000 tournaments there for both men and women.

Bernard Tomic of Australia is the top seed in the men's draw, with Nick Chappell, the finalist last week at the Tulsa $25K, the No. 2 seed and Martin Damm the No. 3 seed.

Carlota Martinez Cirez of Spain is the No. 1 seed in the women's draw, with Gergana Topalova of Bulgaria the No. 2 seed and Yuliia Starodubtseva(Old Dominion) of Ukraine seeded No. 3. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

My Article on Susanna Maltby's Commitment to UNC; Ethan Quinn Turns Pro; Eight Titles for US Juniors on ITF Circuit; Four American Men Advance at Wimbledon Qualifying, 13 US Women in Qualifying Tuesday

Earlier this month I spoke to Susanna Maltby about her commitment to the University of North Carolina for the fall of 2024, and although I knew she came from a tennis family (her maternal grandfather, who starred at Western Michigan, has a long history with the USTA Nationals and actually recruited me as a volunteer back in 2000), I had no idea it was the sport of choice for her father's side too. When you add Billie Jean King into the mix, it's no surprise that all the other sports she played growing up gradually became secondary. For more on how she handled the recruiting process, while taking the more traditional route of USTA competition and attending a regular high school, see my Tennis Recruiting Network article.

Ethan Quinn announced today that he will not be returning to Georgia for his final three years of eligibility. In conversations I've had with the 2023 NCAA singles champion while he was competing in junior tournaments, the 19-year-old from Fresno was always adamant that college tennis would be a part of his development path, but the goal was always professional tennis. After winning the ITA All-American championship last fall and the NCAA title this spring, it's not surprising that he will be moving on. So far, there has been no mention of any agreement with a management agency. Quinn's statement on his decision can be found in this article from georgiadogs.com

For the second week in a row, there was no ITF junior circuit event above the J200 level (and there is none this week either), with the next J300 the Wimbledon warmup in Roehampton the first week of July.

A player formerly representing the United States, Maya Joint, won the J200 in Germany, her second J200 title of the year.  The second-seeded Joint, a University of Texas recruit who now represents Australia, defeated unseeded Kristiana Sidorova of Russia 6-1, 6-1 in the final; she has now improved her ITF junior ranking to a career-high of 46.

There were eight titles for American juniors last week, four singles and four doubles, with 13-year-old Kristina Penickova taking one of each at the J60 in Tunisia. The No. 5 seed in singles, Penickova defeated No. 3 seed Maria Badache of Algeria 7-5, 6-3 for her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title. Kristina and twin sister Annika won their second doubles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the second-seeded pair defeating top seeds Hiba Heni of Tunisia and Marilouise Van Zyl of South Africa 6-0, 7-5 in the final. 

The other America titles at the J60 level were claimed in Salinas Ecuador. Fifteen-year-old Ligaya Murray, the No. 8 seed, defeated top seed Sahana Sanjeev 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) in an all-American girls singles final, for her first singles titles on the ITF Junior Circuit. The girls doubles title went to No. 4 seeds Nina Costalas and Susana Souhrada, who got a walkover in the all-American final from No. 2 seeds Murray and Kayla Moore. 

There were two J30 titles for boys last week, with both Sebastian Bielen and Andre Alcantara getting their first singles titles on the ITF Junior Circuit. The 14-year-old Bielen, the No. 6 seed, won the J30 in the Czech Republic, beating No. 3 seed Stepan Sklenicka of the Czech Republic 1-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the final. 

The 15-year-old Alcantara, the No. 6 seed at the J30 in Mexico, defeated unseeded Sebastian Arevalo of Mexico 6-1, 6-4 in the final.

At the J30 in Honduras, 17-year-old Julia Bedard won her third ITF Junior Circuit doubles title, all in Honduras, with partner Carlota Balseiro of Guatemala. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Diva Bhatia of India and Fernanda Sandoval of Mexico 7-6(8), 6-3 in the final. 

At the J30 in Canada, No. 2 seeds Ireland O'Brien and Christasha McNeil won the doubles title, defeating the unseeded Canadian team of Payton Dith and Madeline Kroupetski 6-3, 7-5 in the final.

Four of the seven US men competing in Wimbledon qualifying reached the second round with wins today. Michael Mmoh[13] defeated Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) and will play Dragos Madaras of Sweden in the second round Wednesday.
Aleks Kovacevic[14] defeated Andrea Collarini of Argentina 7-5, 6-3 and faces Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands next. Denis Kudla beat No. 26 seed Francesco Passaro of Italy 6-4, 6-4 to set up a second round match with Tung-Lin Wu of Taiwan. Two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda defeated Genaro Olivieri of Argentina 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 and will play Marc Polmans of Australia next.

The women play their first round qualifying matches Tuesday, with 13 Americans competing: Elli Mandlik[4], Taylor Townsend[9], Robin Montgomery, Coco Vandeweghe, Ashlyn Krueger[32], Katrina Scott, Ann Li, Liv Hovde[WC], Kayla Day[16], Emina Bektas(Michigan), Irina Falconi Hartman(Georgia Tech), Sofia Kenin[23] and Sachia Vickery.

Hovde, the 2022 Wimbledon girls champion, will face fellow teenager Diana Shnaider(NC State) of Russia, who is the No. 5 seed in qualifying, in the first round.

Tuesday's order of play is here. There is limited coverage of the Wimbledon qualifying available on ESPN+.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Tian Sweeps SoCal Pro Series Titles Again; Tracy Wins First USTA Pro Circuit Title, Fung, Walton, Kumar Crowned Champions; Browning Survives Draxl Marathon in Dominican Republic; Krueger Nears WTA Top 100; Wimbledon Qualifying Begins Monday

NCAA singles champion Fangran Tian swept the titles again this week, adding her fourth of the month with the singles championship today at the $15,000 SoCal Pro Series tournament in Los Angeles. The 19-year-old from China, seeded No. 5, defeated No. 8 seed Jessica Alsola(Cal) of Canada 6-2, 6-1 for her tenth straight singles win, with the rising sophomore at UCLA dropping no more than five games in any of her five victories. On Saturday, Tian won the doubles title, so she has now won 18 singles and doubles titles in the past two weeks during the SoCal Pro Series, which moves to Irvine California next week. 

Unfortunately for Tian, she is not eligible to compete for the BNP Paribas Open qualifying wild card being offered to the player with the most points during this seven-week stretch, as she does not meet the criteria of holding American citizenship. Although not yet updated with this week's results, the links to the Race to Indian Wells standings can be found here.

The men's title in Los Angeles went to No. 3 seed Omni Kumar(Duke), who ended the run of qualifier Quinn Vandecasteele(Oregon) with a 6-4, 6-1 victory in today's final. It's the 21-year-old Irvine California native's fifth title, all at the $15K level, but the first outside of Tunisia. 

For more on the Los Angeles finals, see this article by SoCal Pro Series press aide Steve Pratt.

At the men's $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in South Bend, rising Ohio State senior JJ Tracy won his first Pro Circuit title. Unseeded, Tracy defeated top seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) 6-1, 6-2 in today's final, handing Kirchheimer his ninth defeat in the ten finals he's played on the Pro Circuit. 

Top seed Adam Walton of Australia, an NCAA singles semifinalist last year and the 2021 NCAA doubles champion, won his first Pro Circuit title at the $25,000 level today in Tulsa, defeating No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU) 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The 24-year-old had no ATP ranking when he completed his eligibility at the University of Tennessee last May, but he has moved all the way up to 245 before these points are added. He is certainly getting close to US Open qualifying territory, but he does have the points from two $15K titles from last summer to replace. He is currently next in the main draw at the ATP Challenger in Bloomfield Hills in two weeks, so I don't think there are too many more $15K tournaments in his future. 

At the women's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Wichita, No. 2 seed Stacey Fung(Washington) of Canada ended the run of ITA Player of the Year Fiona Crawley(North Carolina) 6-3, 6-2 in today's final. The 26-year-old Fung, who didn't drop a set all week, has three Pro Circuit singles titles this year and eight overall. An All-American in 2018, Fung completed her eligibility at the University of Washington in 2019 and, even with the pandemic delaying her rise, she has improved her WTA ranking every year. She is now at 259 and she too is looking likely to gain a spot in the US Open qualifying in August.

While Tracy and Kumar were the only American champions this week on the USTA Pro Circuit, another was crowned at the $15,000 ITF men's World Tennis Tour tournament in the Dominican Republic. Twenty-year-old Tauheed Browning won his first pro title the hard way: unseeded and in a three-hour and 52-minute final. Browning defeated No. 3 seed and former ITA No. 1 Liam Draxl(Kentucky) of Canada 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(8) in today's final. Browning had defeated top seed Justin Boulais(Ohio State) of Canada in the quarterfinals. 

Ashlyn Krueger, the 2021 USTA National 18s champion won the biggest title of her career today, defeating top seed Tatjana Maria of Germany 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the final of WTA 125 grass tournament in Italy. Krueger, 19, came from 5-2 down in the third set to win the final five games of the match. As she prepares for Wimbledon qualifying, Krueger will see her ranking rise to a career-high 108.

The Wimbledon men's qualifying begins Monday at Roehampton with only seven US men in the draw(there were 10 last year): Zachary Svajda, Brandon Holt(USC), Steve Johnson(USC), Denis Kudla, Michael Mmoh[13], Nicolas Moreno De Alboran(UC-Santa Barbara)[31] and Aleks Kovacevic(Illinois)[14]. The draw is available here; the order of play is here.

The final two men's main draw wild cards were given to Arthur Fils of France, the 2020 Orange Bowl champion who is now 62 in the ATP rankings, and Sebastian Ofner of Austria. 

The women's qualifying draw will be out Monday, with play beginning for them on Tuesday.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Qualifiers Crawley and Vandecasteele Reach USTA Pro Circuit Finals in Wichita and Los Angeles; Tian Rolls On in LA; Top Seeds Advance in Tulsa and South Bend

The two qualifiers who have reached the finals this week on the USTA Pro Circuit came into this week's tournaments with decidedly different profiles.

Twenty-one-year-old Fiona Crawley may have needed a wild card to get into the qualifying draw at the $25,000 tournament in Wichita, but she won both of the ITA majors last fall, captured this year's NCAA doubles and team titles and was named ITA Player of the Year after her junior year at North Carolina. Crawley defeated former Florida All-American Mccartney Kessler 7-6(6), 6-2 in the semifinals today and will face No. 2 seed Stacey Fung(Washington) of Canada for the title Sunday. Fung, No. 266 in the WTA rankings, beat No. 6 seed Gabriela Lee(Texas Tech) of Romania 6-3, 6-1 today.

The Tar Heels have already claimed one title in Wichita, with rising sophomore Reese Brantmeier and her partner Maria Mateas(Duke), the top seeds, taking the doubles championship with a 6-2, 6-4 win over unseeded Ava Markham(Wisconsin) and Alina Shcherbinina(Baylor/Oklahoma) of Russia. It's the second Pro Circuit title for the 18-year-old Brantmeier, who lost to Crawley in the NCAA doubles final. Mateas now has five doubles titles, all with different partners.

Quinn Vandecasteele of Oregon, who turns 21 in September, played four of the SoCal Pro Series events last summer, but was unable to get out of qualifying. He played line 2 for the Ducks in singles last season, going 14-7, and played No. 1 doubles the past two years, qualifying for the NCAAs in 2022. He has no ATP ranking at the moment, but after reaching the quarterfinals at the San Diego $15K last week, he will enter the rankings on Monday, and with the points earned this week, will continue to rise.

In what has certainly been a breakout month for the rising junior, Vandecasteele continued to display his improvement at the $15,000 tournament in Los Angeles this week, beating fellow qualifier Ryan Seggerman(Princeton/UNC) 6-1, 6-4 in less than an hour today; he had defeated last week's champion Lorenzo Claverie of Italy in the first round and top seed Nathan Ponwith in the second round. He'll face his third seed of week in the final, with No. 3 seed Omni Kumar advancing to the championship match with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 2 seed Alafia Ayeni(Cornell/Kentucky). 

The doubles title went to No. 3 seeds Eduardo Nava(TCU/Wake Forest) and Nathan Ponwith(Georgia/Arizona State), who beat top seeds Claverie and Nicholas Godsick(Stanford) 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

NCAA singles champion Fangran Tian of China, a rising sophomore at UCLA, will be looking for her fourth title of the month in Sunday's singles final at the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Los Angeles. The 19-year-old, seeded No. 5, defeated teammate Kimmi Hance, seeded No. 3, 6-3, 6-1 in today's semifinals for her ninth consecutive win. Tian will face No. 8 seed Jessica Alsola of Canada, a rising junior at Cal, who defeated qualifier Taylor Johnson(UCLA/SMU) 6-4, 6-4. Tian and Alsola didn't play this year in college competition, with Tian playing at line 1 and Alsola primarily in the No. 2 position for the Bears.

Tian, who won the singles and doubles titles last week in San Diego, won her third title of June this afternoon in doubles. Playing with Rinon Okuwaki of Japan this week, the unseeded pair defeated top seeds Maria Fernanda Navarro Oliva(Clemson) of Mexico and Brandy Walker 7-5, 6-3 in the championship match.

The top two seeds have advanced to the final at the men's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Tulsa, with No. 1 Adam Walton of Australia defeating No. 3 seed Aidan McHugh of Great Britain 6-1, 6-3 to reach his second $25K final since completing his eligibility at Tennessee last May.  Walton will face No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU), who beat No. 6 seed Alfredo Perez(Florida) 7-5, 6-3.

Ozan Baris(Michigan State) and Garrett Johns(Duke) won their second straight doubles title, after winning last week at the Wichita $25K. The unseeded pair defeated former Tar Heels Benjamin Sigouin of Canada and Mac Kiger, the No. 3 seeds, 6-2, 7-5 in today's championship match.

At the men's $15,000 Pro Circuit tournament in South Bend, top seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) is through to the final, the tenth Pro Circuit/ITF WTT final of his career. The 28-year-old, who defeated No. 6 seed Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee) of Jamaica 7-5, 7-6(3), will hope to earn his second title when he faces Ohio State rising senior JJ Tracy. Tracy, who reached the semifinals of the South Bend tournament last year, defeated Axel Nefve(Notre Dame/Florida) 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 to advance to his second career Pro Circuit final.

Andrei Duarte(Georgia State) of Colombia and Ryan Fishback(Virginia Tech) won the doubles title in South Bend, with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Bicknell and John Chin of Jamaica in the final between two unseeded teams. It's the first Pro Circuit title for both Duarte and Fishback.

In today's battle between two American teenagers on the grass in Italy, Ashlyn Krueger once again got the better of Robin Montgomery to reach her first WTA 125 final. 2021 USTA National 18s champion Krueger, who is now 3-0 in pro matches against her frequent doubles partner, came back to post a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 victory. Krueger will face top seed Tatjana Maria of Germany, 16  years her senior, for the title Sunday.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Steinberg Leaving Michigan for Florida; Qualifier Crawley Reaches Semis at Wichita $25K; Walton Ends Quinn's Winning Streak; Montgomery and Krueger Meet for Spot in WTA 125 Final; Wimbledon Qualifying Wild Cards Set

With the heart of the recruiting season officially underway, the University of Florida had to fill its men's head coaching position as soon as possible. Three weeks ago, Bryan Shelton announced he was retiring from Florida to coach his son Ben full time; today, Athletic Director Scott Stricklin announced that Michigan's Adam Steinberg has been hired to lead the program.

Steinberg, who coached Pepperdine to the 2006 NCAA team championship, has been at Michigan since 2014. In 2016, he was announced as the head coach at Arizona State, which was bringing back men's tennis, but nine days later he returned to Michigan, citing personal reasons. Steinberg compiled a 172-64 record in his nine years at Michigan, with the Wolverines reaching the NCAA quarterfinals the past two years.

When the Florida position opened, the game of musical chairs began, with that job likely to attract a top coach from another Power Five school. The Michigan job is an attractive one, but the team loses its top three players, so there is rebuilding to be done in Ann Arbor. Although it has not been announced officially, associate head coach Benjamin Becker is said to be leaving and returning to Germany, so unless this impacts his plans, Michigan will have two positions to fill.

ITA Player of the Year Fiona Crawley, a rising senior at North Carolina, is through to the semifinals of the women's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Wichita. The 21-year-old from Texas, who has played almost no pro tennis in the past three years, defeated No. 4 seed Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) 6-4, 6-0, her fifth win this week, with the first two coming in qualifying. Crawley will face former Florida All-American Mccartney Kessler; the unseeded 23-year-old from Georgia defeated Grace Min 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

In the bottom half, No. 2 seed Stacey Fung(Washington) of Canada, will play No. 6 seed Gabriela Lee(Texas Tech) of Romania.

NCAA singles champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia) lost for the first time in 24 matches, with the No. 7 falling to top seed Adam Walton(Tennessee) of Australia 6-2, 7-6(5) in the quarterfinals of the men's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Tulsa. Walton will face No. 3 seed Aidan McHugh in the semifinals; in the bottom half, No. 6 seed Alfredo Perez(Florida) will play No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU). 

At the men's $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in South Bend, former Notre Dame star Axel Nefve, who played his fifth year at Florida in the No. 1 position, reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Edward Winter of Australia, a rising freshman at Pepperdine. Nefve will face Ohio State rising senior JJ Tracy, who beat wild card Ryan Fishback(Virginia Tech) 7-5, 6-1. As in Tulsa, all semifinalists have college experience. In the top half, No. 1 seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern), a 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-3 winner over qualifier Colton Smith(Arizona), will take on Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee) of Jamaica. No. 6 seed Bicknell beat No. 4 seed Aidan Kim 6-3, 6-3.

The fourth men's semifinalist will be decided later tonight at the $15,000 tournament in Los Angeles, but two qualifiers are through and will play each other for a spot in Sunday's final. Quinn Vandecasteele(Oregon) defeated No. 6 seed Stefan Dostanic(USC) 6-3, 6-1 and will face Ryan Seggerman(Princeton/UNC), who beat No. 8 seed Karim Al Allaf(Iowa) 7-6(7), 6-1.  No. 3 seed Omni Kumar(Duke) will face the winner of tonight's match between No. 2 seed Alafia Ayeni(Cornell/Kentucky) and qualifier Jonas Ziverts(Arizona) of Sweden.

All four of the women's semifinalists at the $15,000 tournament in Los Angeles also have collegiate ties, with two currently and one formerly a UCLA Bruin. 

NCAA singles champion Fangran Tian, the No. 5 seed and a rising sophomore at UCLA, defeated No. 2 seed Savanna Ly-Nguyen(Washington State) of Vietnam 6-3, 6-3 to set up a second meeting in the past three weeks with teammate Kimmi Hance, a rising junior at UCLA. Hance, the No. 3 seed, beat wild card Amelia Honer(UC Santa Barbara) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Tian defeated Hance 6-1, 6-1 in the second round of the $15K in San Diego, with Tian going on to take the title.

Taylor Johnson, who spent four years at UCLA before transferring to SMU for her just completed fifth year, reached the semifinals with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, three-hour and 25-minute win over doubles partner and fellow qualifier Nikki Redelijk(Pepperdine). She will play No. 8 seed Jessica Alsola(Cal), who beat 15-year-old qualifier Aspen Schuman 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-0.

Two unseeded American teenagers have advanced to the semifinals of the WTA 125 grass tournament in Italy, with Robin Montgomery and Ashlyn Krueger meeting Saturday for a spot in the final. 

Montgomery, 18, defeated No. 3 seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, while Krueger, 19, took out No. 7 seed Lucrezia Stefanini of Italy 6-2, 6-1. Montgomery and Krueger, the 2021 USTA National 18s and US Open girls doubles champions, have played twice on the Pro Circuit, with Krueger taking both matches. Both are entered in the Wimbledon qualifying next week.

Speaking of Wimbledon qualifying, all the wild cards are now accounted for, after the LTA's Wild Card Playoff today. All four women's semifinalists were given qualifying wild cards: Naiktha Bains, Anna Brogan, Eden Silva and Emily Appleton. Sonay Kartal, who was originally given a qualifying wild card was promoted to a main draw wild card, so there are no more women's main draw wild cards available. The ninth qualifying wild card was not given out.

The men's qualifying wild cards from the LTA's Playoff are Dan Cox, Stuart Parker and Harry Wendelken. There are still two men's main draw wild cards available, as well as men's and women's doubles wild cards to be distributed.  Sebastian Ofner of Austria, who is in the grass Challenger final in Ilkley, is a likely recipient of one of the main draw wild cards; his current ATP ranking is 81. 

The updated Wimbledon wild card list is here.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Qualifiers Schuman, Vandecasteele Defeat Top Seeds at Los Angeles $15Ks; Crawley Wins All-Tar Heel Battle to Reach Wichita $25K Quarterfinals; Inside College Recruiting with Tanner Stump

Both No. 1 seeds were ousted by qualifiers today at the SoCal Pro Series events in Los Angeles, with 15-year-old Aspen Schuman defeating top seed Maria Fernanda Navarro of Mexico 6-4, 6-1 in the women's tournament and Oregon rising junior Quinn Vandecasteele beating top seed Nathan Ponwith(Arizona State) 6-3, 6-3 in the men's tournament.

Schuman, who reached the Easter Bowl 18s final in April, reached the final of the SoCal Pro Series event in San Diego two weeks ago, so this isn't exactly a surprise. Schuman lost in that final to NCAA singles champion Fangran Tian(UCLA), who is again in the opposite half and seeded No. 5. Tian, who defeated qualifier Taylor Cataldi(Wisconsin) 6-3, 6-1 in today's second round, will face No. 2 seed Savanna Ly-Nguyen(Washington State), who beat 14-year-old wild card Thea Frodin 6-4, 6-4. Schuman is one of three qualifiers in the top half; she will play the only seed, Cal rising junior Jessica Alsola of Canada, No. 8, who defeated Anna Campana(Wake Forest/Pepperdine)  6-1, 7-6(4).

Vandecasteele defeated last week's champion in San Diego, Lorenzo Claverie of Italy, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round; his quarterfinal opponent is No. 6 seed Stefan Dostanic(USC), who beat Derek Pham of Australia 6-1, 7-5. Vandecasteele is one of three qualifiers to reach the quarterfinals, with Ryan Seggerman(Princeton/UNC) and Jonas Ziverts(Arizona) of Sweden the other two.

At the women's $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Wichita Kansas, ITA Play of the Year Fiona Crawley defeated North Carolina teammate Reese Brantmeier 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Crawley, who needed a wild card into qualifying due to her limited play on the USTA Pro Circuit, especially since she began her college career, will face No. 4 seed Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) next. Lahey, who has a penchant for lengthy matches, defeated qualifier Alexa Noel(Iowa/Miami) 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 in three hours and 47-minutes. 

Former Florida All-American Mccartney Kessler advanced to the quarterfinals when top seed Karman Thandi of India retired trailing 6-4, 4-2. Kessler will face Grace Min, who defeated No. 5 seed Maria Mateas(Duke) 6-4, 6-2 today, in the quarterfinals. The fifth American in the quarterfinals is Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech), who plays No. 6 seed Gabriela Lee(Texas Tech) of Romania in the quarterfinals.

At the men's $25,000 tournament in Tulsa, Wichita champion Ethan Quinn continued to add to his winning streak, with Georgia's NCAA champion, seeded No. 7, advancing to the quarterfinals when lucky loser Braden Schick(NC State) retired after losing the first set 7-5. Quinn will play top seed Adam Walton(Tennessee) of Australia, the 2022 NCAA singles semifinalist, who beat Murphy Cassone(Arizona State), a 2023 NCAA singles semifinalist, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The only other non-American in the quarterfinals is No. 3 seed Aidan McHugh of Great Britain, who beat Ozan Baris(Michigan State) 6-3, 6-1 today. McHugh will play Garrett Johns(Duke), who defeated Mac Kiger(UNC) 7-5, 6-4 in the second round. 

An American finalist is assured from the bottom half, with No. 6 seed Alfredo Perez(Florida) taking on wild card Adam Neff(SMU) and No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State) facing No. 2 seed Nick Chappell(TCU).

Six Americans have also reached the quarterfinals at the $15,000 men's USTA Pro Circuit tournament in South Bend Indiana, including 18-year-old Aidan Kim, the No. 4 seed. Kim, who recently committed to Florida, will face No. 6 seed Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee), who reached the final last week at the $15K in San Diego. Top seed Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) will play qualifier Colton Smith(Arizona), in the other quarterfinal in the top half. 

Wild card Ryan Fishback(Virginia Tech) will face JJ Tracy(Ohio State) in the all-US quarterfinal in the bottom half; Axel Nefve(Notre Dame/Florida) will play No. 2 seed Edward Winter of Australia, a rising freshman at Pepperdine.

A week ago, on June 15, rising high school juniors could be contacted by college coaches, and that date marks the true kickoff of the summer recruiting season. On his No-ad No Problem podcast, John Parsons interviewed former University of Florida associate head coach Tanner Stump about the recruiting timeline, providing valuable information about what to expect as a prospective student-athlete during this process. Stump, who left Florida last year and now is offering a recruiting consulting service, College Tennis Crash Course, for coaches, also addresses the impact of the Name Image and Likeness rule on Division I college tennis recruiting. Unless you are a college coach yourself, I'm confident you'll learn something you didn't know about the process; I've been observing this activity for over 15 years and have talked with countless players about their recruiting journey in that time, but I am now much more familiar with the coach's perspective than I was before I listened.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Wimbledon Wild Cards Include Stanford's Arthur Fery, Qualifying WCs Go to 2022 Junior Champions Poljicak and Hovde; Sheltons Begin Collaboration; Ulises Beats Dali in Blanch Brothers' Challenger Contest in Poland; Dominican Republic's ITF WTT Events Draw American Collegians

Wimbledon announced its initial batch of wild cards today, and while only two collegians received a main draw singles wild cards, next week's qualifying tournament will feature a handful of junior and college players.

Stanford rising senior Arthur Fery, who has competed in Wimbledon qualifying the past two years, will make his main draw debut. The 20-year-old, who is from Wimbledon, has signed with a management agency, but under new NCAA rules he is still eligible to return to Stanford should he choose. The prize money for the first round is around $70,000 US dollars, so that may also play a role in his decision.

The second collegian is former Memphis star Ryan Peniston, who is something of a grass specialist. The 27-year-old reached the quarterfinals of all four Wimbledon warmup events he played last year, including at an ATP 250 and the ATP 500 at Queen's Club. He received a Wimbledon main draw wild card based on those results last year and reached the second round. Although he has lost in the second round of the three grass tournaments he's played, he has proven he can beat Top 40 players on the surface, most recently No. 37 Ugo Humbert of France this week at Queen's Club.

The seven women's main draw wild cards announced include five British players, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Venus Williams. 

There are two men's main draw wild cards and one women's main draw wild card yet to be announced.

The qualifying wild cards include both of the 2022 junior champions. Seventeen-year-old Liv Hovde, now 277 in the WTA rankings, is only about 50 spots outside direct entry into women's qualifying.

Boys champion Mili Poljicak of Croatia, 660 in the ATP rankings, will turn 19 this year during the second week of Wimbledon. Wimbledon has traditionally offered qualifying wild cards to the previous year's junior champions. 

Rising Wake Forest freshman Luca Pow earned his qualifying wild card by winning the British National 18s championship this spring. Tennessee All American Johannes Monday and South Carolina All American Toby Samuel were given qualifying wild cards. Four of the nine qualifying wild cards have yet to awarded, with two being decided by the LTA's annual Wild Card Playoff beginning Thursday. The men's draw is here.

Sixteen-year-old Isabelle Lacy was awarded a qualifying wild card as the British National 18s champion. She is joined by two other juniors, 14-year-old Hannah Klugman and 15-year-old Mingge Xu. Four more qualifying wild cards will be awarded, with two filled via the Wild Card playoff. The women's draw is here. NCAA singles semifinalist Amelia Rajecki(NC State) is among those competing in the Wild Card playoff.

Other notable wild cards include three men's doubles wild cards: John Isner and Jack Sock of the US, Samuel and Connor Thomson(South Carolina) and Monday and Jake Fearnley(TCU), all from Great Britain. Julian Cash(Mississippi State/Oklahoma State) also received a doubles wild card, although not with his partner Henry Patten(UNC-Asheville), who I assume is injured. (They may not have needed a wild card with their Top 60 ATP rankings). Cash is paired with Luke Johnson(Clemson), who is outside the Top 100 in the ATP doubles rankings.

The wild card list, as of today, can be found here.

In this recent ATP article, 2022 NCAA champion Ben Shelton(Florida) talks about his introduction to grass, and how his father Bryan has been preparing him for the challenges of the surface. Bryan has obviously coached Ben for many years, but he is now officially a coach on the ATP Tour, and he had notable success on the surface, winning two ATP titles at Newport and reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon. 

Another kind of family tennis collaboration took place today at the ATP Challenger 100 in Poland, where the Blanch brothers played each other for a spot in the quarterfinals. It was big brother Ulises, 25, who came out on top, defeating 20-year-old wild card Dali 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Ulises, who qualified for the main draw, has reached his second Challenger quarterfinal of the year.

With the five USTA Pro Circuits this week, which I detailed yesterday, you might not expect two other ITF World Tennis Tour men's and women's tournaments to draw much American participation, but a surprising number opted for the Dominican Republic this week.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Santo Domingo, four women have advanced to Thursday's third round(it's a 48-draw): qualifier Lea Ma(Georgia), DJ Bennett(Auburn), Carolyn Ansari(Auburn) and qualifier Katja Wiersholm(Cal). Former Baylor standout Melany Krywoj of Argentina defeated top seed Katharina Hobgarski of Germany 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round today.

At the men's $15,000 tournament in Santo Domingo, nine of the 16 players through to the second round are Americans, including No. 2 seed Andres Martin(Georgia Tech). Ohio State's No. 1 Justin Boulais of Canada is the top seed. University of South Carolina rising freshman Jelani Sarr, a qualifier, beat No. 4 seed Jack Anthrop(Ohio State) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Sarr has played only two events this year, so it's good to see him putting up this kind of result with so little match play.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Another Five USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments on This Week's Schedule; ITA Tracks Collegiate Champions on Pro Circuit; Mobile Tennis Center's Expansion Plans

It's another busy week on the USTA Pro Circuit, with five tournaments on the calendar for the second straight week. Unlike last week, when the women competed in a $60,000 tournament, this week's events are all at the $25K and $15K levels.

As the men vacate the premises in Wichita, the women arrive for their $25,000 tournament, with many of the same players who competed in last week's $25K tournament in Colorado Springs. Champion Katarina Kozarov(Furman/Texas Tech) is unseeded this week, with Karman Thandi of India and Stacey Fung(Washington) of Canada the top two seeds. Fung was No. 1 last week in Colorado Springs and Thandi No. 2; they reversed positions this week.

Main draw wild cards went to former Pepperdine All-American Ashley Lahey[4], rising North Carolina sophomore Reese Brantmeier and Joelle Kissell(NC State), currently the assistant coach of the Wichita State women.

Some of the top women in college tennis last season received wild cards into qualifying: ITA Player of the Year Fiona Crawley of North Carolina, Alexa Noel of Miami and Ivana Corley of Oklahoma all qualified for the main draw with wins today, having won both their qualifying matches in straight sets. 

Other American qualifiers are Paris Corley(LSU), Ohio State rising freshman Luciana Perry, and recent North Carolina recruit Susanna Maltby.  Next Monday, my article on Maltby's commitment to the Tar Heels for 2024 will be published at the Tennis Recruiting Network. The 17-year-old from Illinois, who has been mentored by one of the world's most famous tennis players, told me she was looking to move beyond USTA Junior competition this summer to prepare for college, so this is obviously an encouraging start for her. She has drawn Thandi in the first round; all first round matches are Wednesday.

The men's $25,000 tournament in Tulsa has completed its qualifying,  with seven of the eight qualifiers, all with collegiate ties, from the United States: Daniel Milavsky(Harvard), Karl Poling(Princeton/UNC), Alejandro Moreno(Auburn), Hank Trondson(Oklahoma), Brayden Michna(Texas A&M), Liam Krall(SMU), Gabrielius Guzauskas(Illinois).  Braden Shick(NC State), who lost to Moreno, received entry as a lucky loser.

Last week's champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia) is the No. 7 seed this week; the top seeds are Adam Walton(Tennessee) of Australia and Nick Chappell(TCU), who played the ATP Challenger in Puerto Rico last week and opted to play a $25K, which is the highest level available this week on hard courts. 

Wild cards were given to Hunter Heck(Illinois), Adam Neff(SMU), Noureldin Adam(Florida A&M) and Pierce Rollins(Texas A&M). Heck lost to No. 6 seed Alfredo Perez(Florida) in first round action today, with Adam also eliminated, by No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley(Ohio State) . Neff won his first round match today, beating No. 4 seed Colin Sinclair(Cornell) of the Northern Mariana Islands 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.  Walton defeated Gianni Ross(Virginia) 6-0, 6-1 in his first round match today. 

Ozan Baris, last week's finalist in Wichita, received entry via the ITF's junior exempt program.

The $15,000 men's tournament in South Bend completed qualifying today, but no main draw matches are scheduled until Wednesday.

The top seeds are Strong Kirchheimer(Northwestern) and Pepperdine rising freshman Edward Winter of Australia, with wild cards given to three Notre Dame players--Chase Thompson, a rising freshman, Nil Giraldez of Spain, a grad transfer, and Brian Bilsey, a rising junior. The fourth wild card went to Virginia Tech's Ryan Fishback.

Qualifiers from the United States are Loren Byers(Penn State), Colton Smith(Arizona) and Connor Bruce(Dayton).

Junior reserved spots in the main draw went to Micah Bigun and Adhithya Ganesan(Cornell).

The $15,000 men's and women's tournaments at the Jack Kramer Club in Los Angeles, part of the SoCal Pro Series, will be difficult to follow this week for those of us in the Eastern time zone, with matches scheduled to start as late as 9 p.m. here. But the draws are out, and twelve first round matches are on the schedule today, so I'll provide what information I have as of now.

The top two seeds in the women's draw are Maria Fernanda Navarro of Mexico and Savanna Ly-Nguyen(Washington State) of Vietnam.

NCAA singles champion Fangran Tian, the UCLA rising sophomore, finally took a week off last week, but she is back this week as the No. 5 seed. She won her first round match today over Zara Larke(Virginia) of Australia 6-2, 6-2. 

Wild cards were given to Parker Fry(Arizona), Amelia Honer(UC-Santa Barbara), Mika Ikemori(UC-Davis) and 14-year-old Thea Frodin.

Anya Murthy received a junior reserved spot in the main draw.

For the men, the top seeds are Nathan Ponwith(Georgia/Arizona State) and Alafia Ayeni(Cornell/Kentucky). 

Wild cards were given to Maxwell McKennon(Arizona State), Ethan Schiffman(Cal), Colter Smith(USC) and 2023 18s Easter Bowl champion Cassius Chinlund.

Nicholas Godsick received a main draw spot via the ITF junior reserved program.

Keeping track of all the current and former collegians flooding the tournament draws in the summer is no easy task, but I was delighted to see that the ITA has begun tracking those results. I know from my own monitoring, for my Aces column, that there are more and more champions from the collegiate ranks with each passing month, demonstrated by the fact that there have been 79 singles and doubles professional titles by former or current collegians in this month alone.

And that doesn't include the two biggest titles, at Roland Garros: Tim Puetz of Auburn's mixed doubles title and Austin Krajicek of Texas A&M's men's doubles title. Those are not included because the tournament began in May. 

That impressively long list can be found here and given all the collegians in this week's tournaments, it will no doubt continue to grow before the month is over.

The Mobile Tennis Center, site of the USTA National Spring Team Championships and the USTA Boys 12s and 14s National Championships, as well as many other big college and junior events, is one of the biggest and most active facilities in the country. One reason for that is the commitment to improvement and there are many of those coming according to this article from usta.com
... the center has ambitious expansion plans, including the addition of 30 clay tennis courts, 12 indoor tennis courts, and eight indoor and 12 outdoor pickleball courts.
The article also mentions bid preparation for live streaming on all courts. 

Monday, June 19, 2023

Calvelo Sweeps ITF J60 Titles in Mexico; Update on Tulane Men's Head Coach Booras's Heart Transplant; Kentucky's Draxl Turns Pro; Blanch Brothers Could Meet in Second Round of Poland Challenger

The ITF Junior Circuit was unusually quiet last week, with just one tournament above the J60 level, a J300 in Germany, with the boys title there going to a 17-year-old Romanian qualifier and the girls title to a 15-year-old German wild card. 

There were only four titles for Americans on the ITF Junior Circuit last week, with Xavier Calvelo taking both the singles and doubles championships at the J60 in Mexico City last week. Calvelo, a 17-year-old from Las Vegas, swept the titles at a J30 in Mexico at the end of April, so these are his third and fourth titles on the ITF Junior Circuit. Seeded No. 2 in singles, Calvelo defeated top seed Andres Degadillo of Mexico 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 in the final. He and 15-year-old Andre Alcantara, seeded No. 2, won the doubles title, their second on the ITF Junior Circuit, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 4 seeds Enzo Tafarelo Vargas of Brazil and Lucas Martin Velasco of Colombia. Calvelo and Alcantara won the Easter Bowl 16s doubles title this spring.

The other singles title for an American last week came at the J30 in Congo. Juan Carlos Portillo Morales, who had won his first ITF Junior Circuit title in doubles at last week's J30 in Congo, earned his first singles title this week. The 17-year-old, seeded No. 2, defeated No. 4 seed Mirija Andriantefihasina of Madagascar 6-4, 6-2 in the final. 

The fourth title came in boys doubles at the J30 in the Czech Republic. Sebastian Bielen, 14, and Sebastian Mazur, 15, earned the title when the unseeded pair defeated No. 2 seeds Jan Rosicky and Stepan Sklenicka of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6(6). It's the first ITF Junior Circuit title for Bielen; Mazur has two doubles titles, both in J30s. Bielen also reached the semifinals in singles.

Mark Booras, the men's head coach at Tulane since 2008, experience sudden heart failure in April and was immediately admitted to the ICU of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to await an emergency heart transplant. He received the transplant on May 30, with Tennis.com providing an update on his condition in this article published today.

The 2021 ITA Player of the Year, University of Kentucky's Liam Draxl, announced today that he would not be returning to the Wildcats for a fifth year. The 21-year-old from Canada, who finished this year ranked No. 11, called his four years in Lexington as "the best four years of my life, and coming to Kentucky was the best decision I've ever made." Draxl, who reached the quarterfinals of last week's ATP Challenger 75 in Puerto Rico, has qualified for the ATP Accelerator Program, so he will receive opportunities to continue to compete in Challengers through that initiative beginning next month.

There is no Challenger action in North America this week, but there are five elsewhere, four in Europe and one in Colombia, just the one in Great Britain not on clay. Americans Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M), Christian Langmo(Miami), Thai Kwiatkowski(Virginia) and Alex Rybakov(TCU) are in the main draw in the 75 in Cali and Alex Michelsen qualified for the 75 in France. Denis Kudla is the sole American remaining at the 125 on grass in Great Britain. At the 100 in Poland, former ITF World Junior No. 4 Dali Blanch got the biggest win of his career, with the 20-year-old wild card defeating top seed and ATP No. 93 Alexander Shevchenko of Russia 6-3, 6-2.  Prior to today, Blanch's best win had been over a player ranked 385.

Blanch, the older brother of Roland Garros boys semifinalist Darwin, and the younger brother of Ulises, could face the later in the second round. Ulises, 25, qualified for the main draw today, and if he beats unseeded Vitaliy Sachko of Ukraine Tuesday, the brothers would play each other in the second round.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Quinn, Daavettila Win USTA Pro Circuit Titles in Wichita and San Diego; Tiafoe's Third ATP Title Moves Him into Top Ten

When University of Georgia redshirt freshman Ethan Quinn won the NCAA singles title last month, he had already put together a winning streak of 17 matches dating back to March. The 19-year-old from Fresno added five more this week at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Wichita Kansas, with the No. 5 seed defeating unseeded Ozan Baris(Michigan State) 6-3, 7-5 in today's final for his second career $25K title.

Quinn, who is currently 507 in the ATP rankings, could move near his career-high of 454 when the 25 points are added a week from Monday. He is scheduled to play the $25K in Tulsa next week, which features many of same competitors in Wichita this week, and is expected to receive a wild card into the next Challenger in the US, in Bloomfield Hills Michigan the first week of July. Baris is also in the main draw in Tulsa.

The other American singles champion this week is Sara Daavettila, the former University of North Carolina All-American. The 25-year-old from Michigan won her first USTA Pro Circuit title today as the top seed at the $15,000 SoCal Pro Series tournament at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego, defeating qualifier Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 7-6(3), 7-5 in a two-hour, 17-minute battle.

Qualifier Lorenzo Claverie of Italy took the men's title in San Diego, with the 20-year-old coming back to defeat Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee) of Jamaica 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. It's the first Pro Circuit singles title for Claverie.

For a complete recap of this week's San Diego men's and women's tournaments, including comments from Daavettila and Claverie, see this article.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Colorado Springs, former Furman All-American Katarina Kozarov of Serbia defended her title, with the No. 4 seed defeating Allie Kiick 6-4, 6-1 in today's final. Kozarov, who won her first Pro Circuit title last year in Colorado Springs when it was a $15K, now has her second career title, and should break into the WTA Top 400 for the first time when the points are added.

Old Dominion All-American Yuliia Starodubtseva of Ukraine, barely a year removed from her last collegiate match, is into the WTA Top 300 after winning the biggest title of her career at the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Sumter South Carolina. Starodubtseva, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 2 seed Karman Thandi of India 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4 in three hours and 32-minutes to claim her second title on the USTA Pro Circuit, both coming this year. Last month Starodubtseva had reached the final of the $60K in Naples Florida as a qualifier, but she will not be in qualifying draws now for that level in the foreseeable future.

Columbia rising sophomore Michael Zheng lost to former ATP No. 4 Kei Nishikori in today's final of the ATP Challenger 75 in Puerto Rico. The 19-year-old from New Jersey looked a bit overwhelmed in the first set, falling behind 5-1, and trailed 5-2 in the second set, but he put pressure on Nishikori in the final half of the second set before the 33-year-old from Japan closed out a 6-2, 7-5 victory. Nishikori had been out with injury for 20 months prior to returning this week as a wild card in Puerto Rico.

The doubles title in Puerto Rico went to top seeds Evan King(Michigan) and Reese Stalder(TCU), who defeated No. 3 seeds Toshihide Matsui(BYU-Hawaii) and Kaito Uesugi of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 11-9 in the final.

For the second straight week, USC rising sophomore Madison Sieg reached the final of a $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in Portugal. The unseeded 20-year-old lost to former Syracuse All-American Gabriela Knutson of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4 in today's final.

2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe won his third ATP title today at the ATP 250 in Stuttgart, saving a match point in his 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(8) win over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. It's Tiafoe's first title on grass, to go with his hard court win at Delray Beach in 2018 and his clay court win at Houston earlier this year. According to a USTA release today, Tiafoe will move into the ATP Top 10 for the first time Monday, at No. 10, joining No. 8 Taylor Fritz in that elite category. It's the first time since May of 2012 that the US has two men in the Top 10. Then it was Mardy Fish[9] and John Isner(Georgia)[10].

For more on Tiafoe's win today, see this article from the ATP website.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Zheng Reaches Challenger Final; Quinn and Baris Meet Again for Wichita $25K Title; Current and Former Collegians Sweep All Five USTA Pro Circuit Doubles Finals; Monday and Fearnley Claim Nottingham Challenger Title

In a rain-interrupted semifinal at the ATP Challenger 75 in Puerto Rico Saturday night, 19-year-old qualifier Michael Zheng defeated Beibit Zhukayev of Kazakhstan 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) to advance to Sunday's final. The rising Columbia sophomore missed out on his chance to break Zhukayev at 5-5 0-40, but didn't let the loss of the next five points faze him. He held to force the tiebreaker, took a 4-1 and 5-2 lead, then closed it out with a tricky volley on his first match point. Zheng, who is up to 542 in the ATP live rankings now, will play the winner of the second semifinal between wild card Kei Nishikori of Japan and qualifier Gustavo Heide of Brazil for the title.

Nineteen-year-olds Ethan Quinn and Ozan Baris played last year in the semifinals of the USTA National 18s championships in Kalamazoo, with Quinn earning his place in the final, and no worse than a US Open qualifying wild card, with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Tomorrow in Wichita, the two rising sophomores will play in the singles final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament, after coming through two tough semifinal battles. No. 5 seed Quinn, playing in his first tournament since winning the NCAA singles title at the conclusion of his redshirt freshman year at Georgia, got past Ohio State's James Trotter of Japan 7-6(7), 7-5 in just over two hours.

Baris, who just completed his freshman year at Michigan State, came from 4-0 and 5-1 down in the third set against wild card Sebastian Gornzy(TCU), saving match points in his 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory. Baris will be playing in his first Pro Circuit final Sunday; Quinn won a $25K and a $15K title last year.

In doubles, Baris, the US Open boys doubles champion last year, won his first title on the Pro Circuit today with Duke's Garrett Johns. The pair defeated Trotter, the 2023 NCAA doubles champion, and Ohio State teammate Cannon Kingsley 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final between unseeded teams.

The Wichita final is the only one of the five Pro Circuit events featuring two Americans, with both the women's $60K in Sumter and men's $15K in San Diego having no American finalists.

In South Carolina, No. 3 seed Liv Hovde lost to No. 8 seed Yuliia Starodubtseva(Old Dominion) of Ukraine 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Starodubtseva will play No. 2 seed Karman Thandi of India, who beat No. 5 seed Maria Mateas(Duke) 7-5, 6-3.

Like all the other four doubles championships on the USTA Pro Circuit this week, the Sumter title went to collegians or former collegians. Top seeds Mateas and Anna Rogers(NC State) took the championship with a 6-4, 6-7(3), 10-6 decision over unseeded Starodubtseva and Mccartney Kessler(Florida).

In San Diego, both American men lost in the semifinals, with Lorenzo Claverie of Italy defeating fellow qualifier Alex Kotzen(Columbia) 6-2, 7-6(6) and Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee) beating qualifier Warren Wood(Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) 6-2, 6-3. It will be the first singles title on the Pro Circuit for both Claverie or Bicknell.

The men's doubles title in San Diego went to top seeds Colin Markes(Texas) and Andrew Rogers(Tennessee/Pepperdine), who defeated unseeded Bryce Nakashima(Ohio State) and Quinn Vandecasteele(Oregon) 6-4, 6-4 in today's final.

Top seed Sara Daavettila(North Carolina) will play for her first Pro Circuit singles title tomorrow in San Diego, against Chanel Simmonds of South Africa. The 30-year-old Simmonds defeated fellow qualifier Kate Fakih, 16, by a score 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the final. Daavettila beat No. 4 seed Kimmi Hance(UCLA) 7-5, 6-1.

Daavettila won her first Pro Circuit title this afternoon, taking the doubles championship with partner Katherine Hui, a rising freshman at Stanford. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Malaika Rapolu(Texas) and Ukraine's Anita Sahdiieva(Baylor/LSU) 7-6(4), 6-4 in today's final.

Cracked Raquets will have coverage of the singles finals from San Diego on their YouTube channel, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Colorado Springs, unseeded Allie Kiick will face No. 4 seed Katarina Kozarov(Furman) of Serbia for the title Sunday. Kiick, who last won a title in 2019, defeated Rhiann Newborn(Baylor) 6-2, 6-0; Kozarov, who won last year's Colorado Springs event, then a $15K, beat No. 2 seed Saki Imamura of Japan 6-4, 6-2.

The doubles title went to No. 3 seeds Eryn Cayetano(USC) and Maribella Zamarripa(Texas), who defeated Russia's Alina Shcherbinina(Baylor/Oklahoma) and Lauren Friedman(Arizona) 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

After this year's NCAA championships, Jake Fearnley(TCU) and Johannus Monday(Tennessee) headed back to their home country's grass tournaments, and today they won the doubles title at the ATP Challenger 125 in Nottingham. The wild cards defeated top seeds Ben McLachlan of Japan and Andre Goransson of Sweden, both Cal alums, in the first round and in today's final got past the unseeded British pair of Liam Broady and Jonny O'Mara 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-7. It's the first pro title at any level for Fearnley; Monday has three titles at the $25K level.