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Thursday, August 31, 2023

Isner's Career Ends With Two Losses in Tiebreakers at US Open; Stearns Advances, Michelsen Falls in Four Sets; Eight US Girls, Two US Boys Advance to Final Round of US Open Juniors Qualifying

John Isner's time as a professional tennis player is over, after the former University of Georgia star lost both his US Open singles and doubles matches today in final set tiebreakers.

Isner, who announced last week that the US Open would be his final tournament, led fellow wild card Michael Mmoh by two sets and had match point with Mmoh serving at 4-5 in the fifth set before falling 3-6, 4-6. 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(7). When the match went to the deciding tiebreaker after nearly four hours, there was a sense it was a fitting conclusion; that Mmoh won it wasn't the Hollywood script version, but he played well when it mattered, and tennis, like all sports, is full of bittersweet endings.

Isner returned to the court for his first round doubles match with Jack Sock, who is also retiring after this tournament, and they fell to Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Albano Olivetti of France 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3) late this afternoon. 

The ATP spoke with five current players--Taylor Fritz, Hubert Hurkacz, JJ Wolf, Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson--about what he meant to them personally and to the game in this article, which also contains a full rundown of all his accomplishments on the ATP Tour. Johnson spoke of how Isner's pro success, after competing for four years at the University of Georgia, inspired him:

"John Isner is someone that I've looked up to since I was a kid, going into college. Following someone that took the same path that I did to get to the professional tours was super meaningful to me. John, even at such a young age in my professional career, he always helped mentor me, gave me advice, things that he did, things that worked for him and whatnot. So, for me, he was somebody that I first and foremost looked up to and took his advice. It was very serious to me, because he had done it and done it successfully."

It's difficult to overstate what John Isner has meant to college tennis as a development pathway. His immediate success on the ATP Tour, his visibility as the top-ranked American throughout the last decade and his longevity all provided ample evidence that timetables vary and not all champions need to emerge as teenagers. Yes, his serve, arguably the best in tennis history, was an advantage few players have ever possessed, but the time he spent in college learning how to use it, and honing his competitive instincts was crucial to the player he became.

As one Georgia Bulldog exits the ATP stage, an almost-Georgia Bulldog, Alex Michelsen, has burst on to it. The 19-year-old Californian, who committed to Georgia and signed a National Letter of Intent, turned pro after his first Challenger title and an ATP final this summer. A wild card into the US Open, Michelsen won his first round match in straight sets Tuesday, but in his first match that went more than three sets today, he lost to No. 23 seed Nicolas Jarry of Chile 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. Michelsen and Jarry were evenly matched throughout, but Jarry appeared more comfortable in the third and fourth sets, as Michelsen appeared to tire. Jarry had 12 aces and a positive winner to unforced error ratio; surprisingly, he also had the more vocal crowd support, with a loud contingent of Chilean fans on his side throughout the nearly three-hour match.

2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns has reached the third round of a slam for the second time this year after a quick win today. The former Texas Longhorn defeated Clara Tauson of Denmark 6-3, 6-0 in 68 minutes and will face unseeded Katie Boulter of Great Britain Saturday.

2023 NCAA champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia) picked up a win today in mixed doubles, with Ashlyn Krueger. The 19-year-olds defeated Asia Muhammad and Jackson Withrow 7-6(4), 6-4. 

2014 and 2016 NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins(Virginia) and her partner Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine upset No. 2 seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Storm Hunter of Australia 6-4, 6-3.

Reigning NCAA doubles champions Fiona Crawley and Carson Tanguilig(North Carolina) lost to Irina Khromacheva of Russia and Daria Saville of Australia 6-2, 6-2.

At the qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships in the Bronx, eight US girls are through to the final round of qualifying, while two US boys are still alive for a main draw berth.

Wild cards Thea Frodin, Annika Penickova and Julieta Pareja all beat seeds in straight sets. The other five US girls advancing are Jessica Bernales, who was the last player receiving entry, Shannon Lam, Olivia Center, Katie Rolls[10] and Anya Murthy[11].

The boys advancing today were wild card Calvin Baierl and Andrew Delgado. The tournament referee has announced that there will be a lucky loser into the boys main draw.

Matches begin at 10 a.m., with live scoring available on usopen.org.

Thursday's second round matches results of Americans:

Madison Keys[17] d. Yanina Wickmayer[LL](BEL) 6-1, 6-2
Jessica Pegula[3] d. Patricia Tig(ROU) 6-3, 6-1
Daria Kasatkina[13](RUS) d. Sofia Kenin 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Greet Minnen[Q](BEL) d. Sachia Vickery[Q]  6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Peyton Stearns d. Clara Tauson(DEN) 6-3, 6-0

Michael Mmoh[WC] d. John Isner[WC] 3-6, 4-6. 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(7),
Nicolas Jarry(CHI)[23] d. Alex Michelsen[WC] 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3

Friday's third round matches featuring Americans:

Tommy Paul[14] v Alejandro Davidovich Fokina[21](ESP)
Frances Tiafoe[10] v Adrian Mannarino[22](FRA)
Taylor Fritz[9] v Jakub Mensik[Q](CZE)
Ben Shelton v Aslan Karatsev(RUS)

Jennifer Brady v Carolina Wozniacki[WC](DEN)
Coco Gauff[6] v Elise Mertens[32](BEL)
Taylor Townsend v Karolina Muchova[10](CZE)
Bernarda Pera v Jelena Ostapenko[20](LAT)

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

My Recap of ITF J300 College Park; 18 Americans Begin US Open Junior Qualifying Thursday; US Open Singles Success Continues for Americans; Ngounoue and Montgomery Oust No. 7 Seeds in Women's Doubles

If you didn't have the opportunity to read my daily coverage of last week's ITF J300 in College Park, check out my wrap-up, published today, at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Both College Park champions--Emerson Jones and Iliyan Radulov--have reached the quarterfinals at the J300 in Canada this week, so they are certainly demonstrating they are serious contenders at the US Open Junior Championships, which begin Sunday. The ITF preview of the Junior Championships is here.

For the first time that I'm aware of, the qualifying for US Open Junior Championships will be Thursday and Friday, rather than Friday and Saturday. The qualifying, which for many years was on the practice courts outside the gates of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is now at the Cary Leeds Center in the Bronx. Play begins at 10 a.m. Thursday with 12 US girls and six US boys hoping to make their way to Flushing Meadows for the first round of play Sunday.

With the last-minute withdrawals, there are always changes in the wild card allocations, and this year, both Thea Frodin and Capucine Jauffret received qualifying wild cards that were not previously announced. Shannon Lam moved into qualifying on her own, freeing up one wild card and one wild card was reserved.

The other US girls in qualifying are wild cards Julieta Pareja, Nancy Lee and Annika Penickova, Jessica Bernales, Kaitlyn Rolls[10], Anya Murthy[11], Piper Charney[16] and National 18s doubles champions Olivia Center and Kate Fakih. Center and Fakih lost their main draw women's doubles match 6-0, 6-3 to No. 6 seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez of Canada this afternoon, so they will not have any time to process that experience before returning to junior competition.

The US boys in qualifying are wild cards Carel Ngounoue, Nikita Filin, Stiles Brockett, Jagger Leach and Calvin Baierl, with Andrew Delgado getting in on his own ranking.  I'm not sure what happened to Matthew Forbes, who was announced as a qualifying wild card as the consolation champion in Kalamazoo, but is not in the qualifying draw; he may have received a main draw wild card.

Two players who were in US Open junior qualifying but are still competing in Thursday's quarterfinals of the singles in Canada, Isabelle Lacy of Great Britain and Carlo Caniato of Italy, will receive special exemptions into the main draw.

Teenage doubles teams got their opportunity to test their games against the best today, and although three of the four came up short, they gained valuable experience playing in the main draw of the US Open.

Kalamazoo 18s champion Alex Frusina and Adhithya Ganesan had their winning streak snapped at 11 matches, with Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia and Tallon Greikspoor of the Netherlands getting a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Obviously nervous at the start, the 17-year-olds found their form midway through the first set, with Ganesan's serve particularly effective throughout the match. If they receive a wild card into the junior championships, they should be a formidable team against any of their peers.

I mentioned Fakih and Center's loss to Townsend and Fernandez earlier; they lost the first eight games before they finally got a hold of serve, but were more competitive the rest of the way.

2022 Kalamazoo 18s champions Ethan Quinn and Nicholas Godsick gave the 2019 US Open champions all they could handle, but Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia earned a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory. Farah and Cabal have announced their retirement at the end of the year, so this is their final slam.

Robin Montgomery and Clervie Ngounoue were given wild cards in both singles and doubles, with Ngounoue receiving her singles wild card for winning the 2023 USTA National 18s title. Neither played well in their opening round losses in singles, but they earned an impressive win today, beating No. 7 seeds Ena Shibahara and Shuko Aoyama  7-6(8), 3-6, 6-3. Montgomery won the USTA National 18s and US Open girls doubles titles in 2021 with Ashlyn Krueger. Ngounoue won the USTA National 18s doubles title with Reese Brantmeier last year.

Thursday's complete order of play is here.

Wednesday's second round matches results of Americans:

Coco Gauff[6] d. Mirra Andreeva(RUS) 6-3, 6-2
Elise Mertens[32](BEL) d. Danielle Collins 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-1
Kaja Juvan[Q](SLO) d. Lauren Davis 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3
Bernarda Pera d. Xiyu Wang(CHN) 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2
Taylor Townsend d. Beatriz Haddad Maia[19](BRA) 7-6(1), 7-5
Jennifer Brady d. Magda Linette[24](POL) 6-1, 2-6, 6-2

Frances Tiafoe[10] d. Sebastian Ofner(AUS)] 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
Ben Shelton d. Dominic Thiem(AUT) 7-6(1), 1-0 ret.
Taylor Fritz[9] d. Juan Pablo Varillas(PER) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Borna Gojo[Q](CRO) d. Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Benjamin Bonzi[WC](FRA) d. Christopher Eubanks[28] 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(7)
Tommy Paul[14] d. Roman Safiullin(RUS) 3-6 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3

Thursday's second round matches featuring Americans:

Madison Keys[17] v Yanina Wickmayer[LL](BEL)
Jessica Pegula[3] v Patricia Tig(ROU)
Sofia Kenin v Daria Kasatkina[13](RUS)
Sachia Vickery[Q] v Greet Minnen[Q](BEL)
Peyton Stearns v Clara Tauson(DEN)

Michael Mmoh[WC] v John Isner[WC]
Alex Michelsen[WC] v Nicolas Jarry(CHI)[23]

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Wild Cards Michelsen, Mmoh and Isner Advance to US Open Second Round; National 18s Doubles Champions Debut Wednesday; ITF PanAmerican Closed J300 Acceptances

After a disappointing first day at the US Open for American wild cards, all three playing in the men's singles today advanced to the second round in straight sets.

John Isner, who recently announced his retirement after this tournament, is facing the prospect each match he plays being his last on the ATP Tour. Playing on Louis Armstrong Stadium today, Isner extended his career for at least another match, beating Facundo Diaz Acosta(ARG) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1). At his post match press conference, Isner spoke about the emotions he was feeling as he faces the end of his time on the Tour.

Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit emotional. I think in a sense it's helping me free up a little bit. If I didn't win that match, it would be tough. I'm very resolute in my decision to retire. There's no doubts about that.

I've just got to try to empty the bucket here. One of the reasons I'm retiring is because my body is really sort of feeling it. I know why right now, too. It's not like it was five, six, 10, 12 years ago, so...

But still alive. Got a lot of adrenaline keeping me going. We'll see what I can do.

Isner will play fellow wild card Michael Mmoh next, after the 2016 Kalamazoo 18s champion defeated No. 11 seed and 2022 US Open semifinalist Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. According to the ATP, it's the third time this year that Mmoh has beaten a Top 20 player in a slam; Mmoh defeated No. 13 Alexander Zverev in the second round of the Australian Open and beat No. 12 Auger-Aliassime in the first round at Wimbledon.

Alex Michelsen is the youngest wild card to advance, with the newly minted 19-year-old defeating Spanish veteran Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 for his first slam victory in his first slam appearance. Now 115 in the live rankings, Michelsen has had a trajectory this year that might see him avoid having to every qualify for a slam, a rarity for sure.

On the women's side, all three wild cards--Venus Williams, Robin Montgomery and Ashlyn Kreuger--lost in straight sets. 2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns(Texas) won her first US Open match, defeating Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-4. Qualifier Sachia Vickery upset No. 21 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

There are six men and six women from the United States playing second round matches Wednesday, while the first round of men's women's and several mixed doubles matches also get underway.

USTA National 18s champions Alex Frusina and Adhithya Ganesan put their 11-match winning streak on the line against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia and Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands at 11 a.m. on Court 13.

USTA National 18s champions Olivia Center and Kate Fakih take on No. 6 seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez of Canada fourth on Court 10.

2022 Kalamazoo champions Ethan Quinn and Nicholas Godsick are fourth on Court 12 against 2019 US Open and Wimbledon champions Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia.

The mixed doubles draw was released this morning, and with a quarter of the teams wild cards, there are some interesting entrants. Quinn is playing with Krueger, Michelsen with Montgomery, Coco Gauff is partnering with the retiring Jack Sock, and Maria Mateas and Mackenzie McDonald, who are a couple off the court as well.

Stearns is partnering with Rajeev Ram and did not need a wild card; Jessica Pegula and Austin Krajicek are the top seeds, with Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski seeded No. 2.

Tuesday first round matches results of Americans:

Peyton Stearns d. Viktoriya Tomova(BUL) 6-3 6-4
Liudmila Samsonova[14](RUS) d. Claire Liu 7-6(3), 6-3 
Madison Keys[17] d. Arantxa Rus(NED) 6-2, 6-4
Jessica Pegula[3] d. Camila Giorgi(ITA) 6-2, 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS) d. Fiona Crawley[Q] 6-2, 6-4
Linda Noskova(CZE) d. Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-1
Marie Bouzkova[31](CZE) d. Ashlyn Krueger[WC] 7-5, 6-4 
Eva Lys[Q](GER) d. Robin Montgomery[WC] 6-2, 6-1
Daria Kasatkina[13](RUS) d. Alycia Parks 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 
Sofia Kenin d. Ana Bogdan(ROU) 7-6(2), 6-4
Greet Minnen[Q] d. Venus Williams[WC] 6-1, 6-1
Sachia Vickery[Q] d. Donna Vekic[21](CRO) 2-6, 7-5, 6-2
Clara Burel(FRA) d. Caroline Dolehide 6-4, 6-3

Lorenzo Sonego(ITA) d. Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[Q] 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 
Alex Michelsen[WC] d. Albert Ramos-Vinolas(ESP) 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
Michael Mmoh[WC] d. Karen Khachanov[11](RUS) 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
John Isner[WC] d. Facundo Diaz Acosta(ARG) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1)

Wednesday's second round matches featuring Americans:

Coco Gauff[6] v Mirra Andreeva(RUS)
Danielle Collins v Elise Mertens[32](BEL)
Lauren Davis v Kaja Juvan[Q](SLO)
Bernarda Pera v Xiyu Wang(CHN)
Taylor Townsend v Beatriz Haddad Maia[19](BRA)
Jennifer Brady v Magda Linette[24](POL)

Frances Tiafoe[10] v Sebastian Ofner(AUT)
Ben Shelton v Dominic Thiem(AUT)
Taylor Fritz[9] v Juan Pablo Varillas(PER)
Mackenzie McDonald v Borna Gojo[Q](CRO)
Christopher Eubanks[28] v Benjamin Bonzi[WC](FRA)
Tommy Paul[14] v Roman Safiullin(RUS)

The ITF PanAmerican Closed J300, which is usually in October, has moved up to September this year, beginning just a week after the conclusion of the US Open Junior Championships. With the participants confined to North, Central and South America, the fields are not as strong as most J300s, but quite a few ITF top 50 players have entered. Kaylan Bigun, Roy Horovitz, Alex Razeghi and Alex Frusina are the boys in that category; Kaitlin Quevedo, Iva Jovic, Tyra Grant and Ariana Pursoo are the girls. Quevedo, Jovic and Grant have all been kept from competing for significant amounts of time this summer with injuries, although all are still on the acceptance list for next week's US Open Junior Championships.

Monday, August 28, 2023

USTA National 18s Champions Tien and Ngounoue, NCAA Champion Quinn Fall in Straight Sets at US Open; A Dozen US Players Advance to Second Round; Seventeen Americans on Tuesday's Schedule

Monday's first day of play at the US Open was not kind to the American wild cards and qualifiers, with none of the eight in action picking up wins.

USTA National girls 18s champion Clervie Ngounoue had a rough start, losing the first ten games of her match with Daria Saville of Australia. Ngounoue didn't serve well, and her first serve, usually a strength, was a liability, with her percentage of first serve points won just 35. She also failed to convert any of her four break points, while Saville was 5 of 6. The unforced error count was also unbalanced, with Saville making just 11, while Ngounoue had 29. Whether it was nerves or just a bad day, Ngounoue will use the experience; one of her favorite sayings is "you win or you learn."

USTA National boys 18s champion Learner Tien was playing a seed in the US Open for the second time, but the profile of the match was much higher than when he took on No. 32 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia last year. Playing No. 10 seed Frances Tiafoe, one of the most popular players on tour and a 2022 semifinalist in New York, on Arthur Ashe Stadium isn't the same as playing in front of a thousand people at Stowe Stadium, but Tien didn't seem uncomfortable.

Although he fell behind early, Tien was not overwhelmed by the speed or the pace, but Tiafoe displayed all his skill and variety and was especially effective coming into the net. When Tien was broken in the opening game of the second set, the likelihood of a long match diminished, but Tien got the break back immediately and held his own until 4-all, when he was broken again. Tiafoe was unable to serve out the set in the next game, but Tien again dropped serve at 5-all and Tiafoe closed out the set on his next opportunity.

Tiafoe had ten aces, and Tien had an uncharacteristically high number of double faults, six, which gave Tiafoe many more free points. Easy holds were the norm for Tiafoe, but I don't recall more than a couple for Tien and he eventually succumbed to the constant pressure Tiafoe was applying.

In his press conference after the match, Tiafoe brought up the point that it was a new experience for him today, not just Tien.

"Yeah, it's different. I mean, it's the first match I played where I'm supposed to win on Ashe. I've never played a match before where I was supposed to win on Ashe. Usually they have boxes for the higher seed on the left and the other, second-highest player on the right. My team has never even been on the left. Things like that was just funny to me.

I mean, I've never sat in the seat I sat today on Ashe. I'm always the first person to get on the court so I always take the far seat. There was a bunch of new experiences today, and ultimately it was fun to be out there.

It will be interesting to see whether Tien plays the Junior Championships next week (he is still on the acceptances and said at Kalamazoo that he might), or if Ngounoue takes a wild card into the Junior Championships. That may depend on how she does in women's doubles. 

NCAA champion Ethan Quinn lost to Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-4, 6-4, 6-3; The 19-year-old, who turned pro this summer and can now be seen in Prudential commercials, led 3-1 in the third set, but couldn't close it out. He had more winners than Zapata Miralles, 30 to 19, but had 52 unforced errors compared to 23 for the Spaniard.

Qualifiers Emilio Nava and Zachary Svajda both won a set from their seeded opponents, but did not advance. 
Monday's US Open first round results of Americans:

Casper Ruud[5](NOR) d. Emilio Nava[Q] 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)
Zhizhen Zhang(CHN) d. JJ Wolf 7-5, 7-5, 6-7(5), 4-6, 6-3
Marton Fucsovics(HUN) d. Sebastian Korda[31] 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-5(1), 4-6,
Frances Tiafoe[10] d. Learner Tien[WC] 6-2, 7-5, 6-1
Tommy Paul[14] d. Stefano Travaglia[Q](ITA) 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina[21](ESP) d. Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4, 6-6-42
Ben Shelton d. Pedro Cachin(ARG) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Christopher Eubanks[28] d. Soonwoo Kwon(KOR) 6-3, 6-4, 0-6, 6-4
Taylor Fritz[9] d. Steve Johnson[WC] 6-2, 6-1, 6-2
Mackenzie McDonald d,  Felix Auger-Aliassime[15](CAN) 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
Francisco Cerundolo[20](ARG) d. Zachary Svajda[Q] 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
Laslo Djere[32](SRB) d. Brandon Nakashima 7-5, 6-4, 6-4
Bernabe Zapata Miralles(ESP) d. Ethan Quinn[WC] 6-4, 6-4, 6-3

Daria Saville(AUS) d. Clervie Ngounoue[WC] 6-0, 6-2
Lauren Davis d. Danka Kovinic(MNE) 6-2, 6-2
Bernarda Pera d. Veronika Kudermetova[16](RUS) 7-5, 6-4
Jennifer Brady d. Kimberly Birrell[LL](AUS) 6-3, 7-6(4)
Danielle Collins d. Linda Fruhvirtova(CZE) 6-2, 6-0
Coco Gauff[6] d. Laura Siegemund[Q](GER) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Sorana Cirstea[30](ROU) d. Kayla Day[WC] 6-2, 6-3
Magdalena Frech(POL) d. Emma Navarro 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-2
Taylor Townsend d. Varvara Gracheva(FRA) 6-4, 6-2
Beatriz Haddad Maia[19](BRA) d. Sloane Stephens 6-2, 5-7, 6-4
Xinyu Wang(CHN) d. Katie Volynets[Q] 6-3, 6-4

Tuesday's schedule features 17 Americans in action: four men and 13 women. There are nine American wild cards/qualifiers on the schedule tomorrow, including UNC senior Fiona Crawley and Alex Michelsen, who turned 19 Friday and was in Tien's box throughout his match today. At least a couple of wins from that group would be welcome after all of Monday's losses.

Tuesday's first round US Open matches featuring Americans:
Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[Q] v Lorenzo Sonego(ITA)
Alex Michelsen[WC] v Albert Ramos-Vinolas(ESP)
Michael Mmoh[WC] v Karen Khachanov[11](RUS)
John Isner[WC] v Facundo Diaz Acosta(ARG)

Peyton Stearns v Viktoriya Tomova(BUL)
Claire Liu v Liudmila Samsonova[14](RUS)
Madison Keys[17] v Arantxa Rus(NED)
Jessica Pegula[3] v Camila Giorgi(ITA)
Fiona Crawley[Q] v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)
Madison Brengle v Linda Noskova(CZE)
Ashlyn Krueger[WC] v Marie Bouzkova[31](CZE)
Robin Montgomery[WC] v Eva Lys[Q]
Alycia Parks v Daria Kasatkina[13](RUS)
Sofia Kenin v Ana Bogdan(ROU)
Venus Williams[WC] v Paula Badosa(ESP)
Sachia Vickery[Q] v Donna Vekic[21](CRO)
Caroline Dolehide v Clara Burel(FRA)

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Twenty-six of 43 Americans Competing in US Open Play Monday; Crawley, Ngounoue Features; US Open Doubles Wild Cards; Jack Sock Announces Retirement; McNeil and Johnston Win J100 Tournament in Mexico

The US Open kicks off Monday with 26 Americans scheduled to play their first round matches on opening day. The bottom half of the men's draw, in which nearly every fourth player is from the United States, features two all-US battles, with 2022 and 2023 Kalamazoo 18s champion Learner Tien facing No. 10 seed Frances Tiafoe, who won the Kalamazoo 18s in 2015. That match is second on Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the first match on that court beginning at noon. Taylor Fritz, the No 9 seed, plays USTA Wild Card Challenge winner Steve Johnson in the other all-USA match, third on Armstrong, with the first match there at 11:00 a.m.

National 18s champion Clervie Ngounoue is first on Court 11 at 11:00, with the Wimbledon girls champion playing Daria Saville of Australia.

Ngounoue is the subject of this Washington Post feature by Ava Wallace, and from this sentence: "She wants to be free of expectations at the U.S. Open — where she can still compete in the junior tournament, which takes place during the event’s second week, if she loses early in the main draw — because she had none at Wimbledon and that worked out all right,"  there appears to be a chance that she will play the US Open Junior Championships. There is one junior main draw wild card still to be awarded, and it may be available to her if she wants it. She has also been given a women's doubles wild card(see full list below), with Robin Montgomery, so how she does in that event may also affect her decision.

North Carolina senior Fiona Crawley, who qualified yesterday, doesn't play until Tuesday, when she takes on Anastasia Pavlyuchenko of Russia. Michael Lewis wrote this Tar Heel Tribune article on Crawley's final round qualifying match. Highlights of Crawley's 6-3, 6-3 win over Kimberly Birrell of Australia can be seen at the US Open's YouTube channel.

US Open first round matches Monday featuring Americans:

Emilio Nava[Q] v Casper Ruud[5](NOR)
JJ Wolf v Zhizhen Zhang(CHN)
Sebastian Korda[31] v Marton Fucsovics(HUN)
Learner Tien[WC] v Frances Tiafoe[10]
Tommy Paul[14] v Stefano Travaglia[Q](ITA)
Marcos Giron v Alejandro Davidovich Fokina[21](ESP)
Ben Shelton v Pedro Cachin(ARG)
Christopher Eubanks[28] v Soonwoo Kwon(KOR)
Steve Johnson[WC] v Taylor Fritz[9]
Mackenzie McDonald v Felix Auger-Aliassime[15](CAN)
Zachary Svajda[Q] v Francisco Cerundolo[20](ARG)
Brandon Nakashima v Laslo Djere[32](SRB)
Ethan Quinn[WC] v Bernabe Zapata Miralles(ESP)

Clervie Ngounoue[WC] v Daria Saville(AUS)
Lauren Davis v Danka Kovinic(MNE)
Bernarda Pera v Veronika Kudermetova[16](RUS)
Jennifer Brady v Kimberly Birrell[LL](AUS)
Danielle Collins v Linda Fruhvirtova(CZE)
Coco Gauff[6] v Laura Siegemund(GER)
Kayla Day[WC] v Sorana Cirstea[30](ROU)
Emma Navarro v Magdalena Frech(POL)
Taylor Townsend v Varvara Gracheva(FRA)
Sloane Stephens v Beatriz Haddad Maia[19](BRA)
Katie Volynets[Q] v Xinyu Wang(CHN)

The doubles wild cards for the US Open were announced yesterday, and the draws were released today. Alex Frusina and Adhithya Ganesan, the 2023 Kalamazoo champions, will play Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia in the first round. That's a good draw, especially compared to what faces the 2023 San Diego champions Olivia Center and Kate Fakih, who will play No. 6 seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez of Canada. Townsend reached the women's doubles final at last year's US Open with Caty McNally.

2022 Kalamazoo 18s doubles champions Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn received a wild card and have drawn 2019 US Open doubles champions Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia, who are competing in their last slam.

2023 NCAA doubles champions Crawley and Carson Tanguilig will play Saville and Irina Khromacheva of Russia in their first round match.

US Open Doubles Wild Cards:

CoCo Vandeweghe and Sofia Kenin
Clervie Ngounoue and Robin Montgomery
Kate Fakih and Olivia Center
Fiona Crawley and Carson Tanguilig
Ashlyn Krueger and Angela Kulikov
Jamie Loeb and Makenna Jones
Quinn Gleason and Elizabeth Mandlik

John Isner and Jack Sock
Will Blumberg and Steve Johnson
Adhithya Ganesan and Alexander Frusina
Eliot Spizzirri and Tyler Zink
Denis Kudla and Vasil Kirkov
Ethan Quinn and Nicholas Godsick
Aleks Kovacevic and Nicolas Moreno de Alboran

The women's doubles draw is here; the men's doubles draw is here.

John Isner announced his retirement last week; Jack Sock revealed today that he is retiring after the US Open. Sock, the 2010 and 2011 Kalamazoo 18s champion, reached an ATP career high of 8 in singles and 2 in doubles. Sock is expected to compete in professional pickleball after playing his last event in doubles, with Isner, at the US Open.

Because I've been so busy with Kalamazoo and College Park this month, and now the US Open, I haven't been able to post on the lower level ITF Junior Circuit titles for Americans this month. I did want to note this week's winners of the J100 in Mexico however, with Christasha McNeil, the USTA 18s Clay Court champion, taking the girls singles title and Noah Johnston, who reached the 16s semifinals in Kalamazoo, claiming the boys singles title.

McNeil avenged her loss to Natalia Fantini in the J100 final in Tampico two weeks ago, taking out the No. 8 seed from Mexico 6-4, 6-4 in last night's championship match. McNeil, who received a US Open junior wild card for her Clay Courts title, also won the doubles title two weeks ago in Tampico, with Brooklyn Olson. The 16-year-old now has two singles and three doubles titles on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Johnston, the No. 6 seed, won an all-US final, beating No. 13 seed Shrikeshav Murugesan 6-3, 6-0. It's the 15-year-old left-hander's third ITF Junior Circuit singles title of his career, all this year, and his biggest.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Jones Defeats Schuman for Girls Title at ITF J300 College Park; Radulov Bests Razeghi in Boys Singles Final; Ganesan and Frusina Roll on in Doubles; Sonobe and Evans Take Girls Title; Six Americans, Including Fiona Crawley, Qualify for US Open

©Colette Lewis 2023--
College Park MD--

Iliyan Radulov and Emerson Jones, both No. 2 seeds this week, were the favorites coming into Saturday's singles finals at the ITF J300 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, and they negotiated that pressure and the challenging conditions to earn straight-sets victories over their American opponents. Radulov defeated No. 15 seed Alexander Razeghi 6-4, 6-4 in the slightly less warm and humid conditions of the morning final, while Australian Jones felt right at home in her 6-2, 6-3 victory over qualifier Aspen Schuman.

Radulov got off to a good start, with the winners flying off his racquet on both forehand and backhand, building a 3-1 lead in the first set. His break of Razeghi in the third game turned out to be the only one Radulov would need, although Razeghi kept the pressure on, forcing Radulov to come up with something special when down 15-30 or 30-all.

"Most of the games were like this, and I just managed to win those points, I don't know how," said the 18-year-old from Bulgaria, who went down 15-30 serving for the set at 5-4, but got an unforced error, rifled a forehand winner and got another forehand error from Razeghi to close out the 45-minute set.

If Razeghi had visions of changing the script in the second set, they weren't realized, as he was broken at love in the first game, while Radulov came from 15-30 down again to go up 2-0. Razeghi then lost his sixth straight point on serve to go down 0-30, but he fought back to hold, then earned a break point at 0-2, his first since the second game of the match, only to miss a crosscourt backhand wide.

Razeghi saved another break point to hold for 2-3, and again had hopes of earning a break when he won the first two points of Radulov's service game, but again, he could not capitalize.  

"I had a lot of game points in the second set especially, and a couple in the first," said Razeghi, a 17-year-old from Texas. "I felt I didn't play them bad at all. He played them well."

Radulov plays very quickly, so Razeghi was conscious of the need to play at his own pace, not Radulov's.

"He doesn't use a towel, and he does play fast," Razeghi said. "But I feel like I play at a normal pace, so I just didn't let it effect me."

Serving at 4-3, Radulov finally let Razeghi into the second set when he double faulted after Razeghi had hit a backhand winner to take a 15-40 lead. At 4-all, Razeghi had a three game points to take his first lead since the first game of the match, but he couldn't convert any of them, and was broken to give Radulov the chance to serve out the match.

The final game was full of drama, with Radulov saving break points and failing to convert his first match point, but he earned another and got a backhand error from Razeghi after a short rally to earn the third J300 title of his career.

"From the beginning of the match, every point was like 20 shot rallies," Radulov said. "By then, we were both very tired, and both hope to put the ball in the court and hope the other one misses the ball. "

Radulov saved two match points in the second round against Nikita Filin, and said this wouldn't be the first time he'd come back to win after tournament after saving match points, but he is not looking for that to be a strategy going forward.

"I hope I don't have to save match points to win," Radulov said. "It's tough to do."

Radulov is now headed to the J300 in Repentigny Canada and then the US Open Junior Championships, his last junior slam, and despite the heat and the ten matches he played this week in singles and doubles, he admits to no fatigue.

"Actually good, I'm feeling good," said Radulov, who is the top seed in Canada. "I'm not tired, two more weeks to play. I hope to play my best tennis and we will see."

Razeghi, who beat top seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil in the third round and No. 3 seed Branko Djuric of Serbia in the semifinals, is not playing the J300 in Canada, but will head to New York with the conviction he can beat anyone in the field.

"It was one of the better weeks I've had this year, so it was really fun," Razeghi said. "Just playing the top juniors, my last four matches, they were all inside the Top 20 of the ITF (junior rankings), so it was getting that level and knowing I can compete with anyone on the ITF Junior tour. It was a really good learning experience, for sure."

The girls final that followed was less dramatic than the boys, with Jones running out to 4-0 leads in both the first and second sets against Schuman.

Schuman was playing her ninth match in eight days, and while she had been in top form against No. 1 Mayu Crossley in the semifinals, the 16-year-old from California couldn't summon that level for a second consecutive day in 90-degree heat.

Jones served for the first set at 5-1, but double faulted at 30-40. Despite two aces, Schuman couldn't hold in the next game, with the unforced errors that she had avoided throughout her eight victories surfacing with regularity.

After losing her first service game at love, with several unforced errors again costing her, Schuman went down 3-0 in the second set and called for the trainer at the changeover. After a short medical timeout, Schuman again lost her serve at love, and her prospects dimmed even more.

"It was my leg, long week, cramping, the heat, it's a lot," said Schuman. "I tried to compete my best, but I'm a little bit tired, obviously, a little fatigued. Nine tough matches, nine great opponents, and also she played really well today, competed well. I tried to dig in, but she was playing really well today."

Schuman broke Jones to get on the board, but couldn't hold in the next game, with Jones having an opportunity to serve at 5-1, just as she had in the first set. And in a repeat of that first set scenario, she was broken, with Schuman hitting a perfect lob at 30-40 to get the break.

Schuman held for the first time in the match to make it 5-3, but as in the first set, Jones converted on her second opportunity, earning her first J300 title.

"It feels great, knowing all the effort I put in to get this," said the 15-year-old from the Australian Gold Coast, which has its share of heat and humidity. "I've been training really hard, competing really hard in my matches, so it's great to finally get the win."

Jones said she didn't sense that Schuman was struggling physically.

"I think she's played well this whole time," Jones said. "I watched a couple of her matches and she has a really high standard, doesn't drop her standard. I thought it was a really great match."

Jones, who had lost her previous J300 final this spring in Thailand, said she did not let herself think ahead when she was up 4-0 in the second set.

"I just focus point by point," said Jones, who will also be the No. 2 seed in next week's J300 in Canada. "I can't get too ahead of myself because it can make me panic and catch up to me. So I just try to stay in the present."

Jones, who did not lose a set in her five victories, is looking forward to continuing to test herself in the next two weeks.

"This win has given me a lot of confidence in my game, knowing I can play like I did today and this week," said Jones. "Obviously I'm going to play different people in the US Open, but we'll see how it goes."

Schuman doesn't know when she'll compete next on the ITF Junior Circuit, but the Northern Californian said she learned a lot this week, in just her second ITF J300 tournament.

"I was very happy to just get the experience today," Schuman said. "Although I wish things went differently, the fact that I've been able to stay in it all week, I'm happy with that. It gives me a lot of confidence to be able to compete at this level for multiple days, in a little more humidity than I'm used to. I'm really grateful for every match I got this week, really happy for the opportunity to get on the court."

The doubles championships were both decided in match tiebreakers, and unlike the No. 2 seeds, who swept the singles titles, the No. 3 seeds managed just one title today.

Tatum Evans and Japan's Wakana Sonobe beat unseeded Kayla Chung and Alanis Hamilton 6-3, 3-6, 11-9, saving a match point with Chung serving at 9-8 in the tiebreaker. 

Sonobe hit a forehand volley winner to extend the match, and Evans and Sonobe won the next two points to claim their first title in their first tournament as a team.

Evans and Hamilton, semifinalists at Junior Wimbledon this year, beat Sonobe and her partner in the second round, but Hamilton was playing with Chung this week, after the pair reached the USTA 18 finals in San Diego earlier this month.

Sonobe reached out to Evans, and the pair won two close matches in the second round and quarterfinals, 12-10 and 10-8 in match tiebreakers, convincing them they could compete for the title.

"We played well throughout the tournament and played tiebreakers really well together," said Evans, an 18-year-old from nearby McLean Virginia. "We play important points well, we make a good team, I think."

"She's so good," said Sonobe, a 15-year-old left-hander from Japan. "She has a good serve and good volleys."

Although Evans said all the close matches were good practice for the US Open Junior Championships, they will not be playing together, with Evans reuniting with Hamilton and Sonobe playing with Hayu Kinoshita of Japan, who did not play this week's tournament.

The boys champions played their first tournament together in Kalamazoo, and two weeks later Alex Frusina and Adhithya Ganesan are now on a 11-match winning streak after defeating No. 3 seeds Radulov and Tiahui Zhang of China 7-6(5), 4-6, 10-7.

After capturing the Kalamazoo 18s title as the No. 7 seeds while saving a match point in the final, Frusina and Ganesan prepared for their US Open men's main draw match next week by taking out five teams in the international field this week without the benefit of a seed.

The won their first two matches in match tiebreakers, so they were not about to panic when Radulov and Zhang took the second set in the final.

Down 3-0 to start the deciding tiebreaker, they went up 6-4, but they lost that mini-break when Ganesan missed a volley to make it 6-6 at the second change of ends. Frusina held for a 7-6 lead, then Ganesan redeemed himself with a volley winner on Zhang's serve to take an 8-6 lead. Zhang held for 8-7, but Ganesan stroked a backhand winner to get to match point and bombed a good first serve to convert it.

"We didn't necessarily start the way we wanted to in terms of our level, but we kind of stuck in there the whole time," said Frusina, a 17-year-old from Texas. "It's something we've been doing really good together, hanging in matches, just trying to be loose in crunch time, like we did in today's final."

"We have confidence now, each match it builds," said the 17-year-old Ganesan, who will be starting at Cornell in January due to all the school he will be missing in the next two weeks at the US Open. "We've won 11 matches now, we've played a lot of good teams, but we're just playing our game and whatever happens happens. In the pressure moments, we're playing better than our opponents."

Frusina and Ganesan are heading for New York Sunday and awaiting the draw, to see if they are able to match the 2022 Kalamazoo 18s champions Ethan Quinn and Nicholas Godsick, who won a round in men's doubles last year.

"We'll be getting there tomorrow, and obviously we're super excited about it," Frusina said. "We just have a lot of confidence and a lot of energy flowing with us right now. Look, we're going to be going up against the best teams in the world, and that's where you want to be, to be able to test our game, have a lot of fun out there and see where it takes us."

The final round of qualifying at the US Open concluded today, with six Americans, three men and three women, advancing to the main draw. 

ITA Player of the Year Fiona Crawley of North Carolina, who had won her first two qualifying matches in third set tiebreakers, had a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 13 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia today to reach the main draw.

Below are the results from today; I'll have the main draw matchups for the American qualifiers in tomorrow night's post.

Third round US Open qualifying Friday:
Sachia Vickery d. Yanina Wickmayer[3] 3-1 ret.
Katie Volynets d. Erika Andreeva 6-1, 4-6, 6-2

Third round US Open qualifying Saturday:
Zachary Svajda d. Marc Polmans 6-2, 6-1
Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[25] d. Joris De Loore 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(12)
Emilio Nava d. Eliot Spizzirri[WC] 3-6, 6-3, 3-1 ret.

Olivia Gadecki d. Emina Bektas[26] 6-1, 6-1
Greet Minnen[5] d. Katrina Scott[WC] 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
Eva Lys d. Maccartney Kessler[WC] 6-2, 6-1
Fiona Crawley[WC] d. Kimberly Birrell 6-3, 6-3

Friday, August 25, 2023

Qualifier Schuman Faces No. 2 Seed Jones, Razeghi Meets No. 2 Seed Radulov in ITF J300 Finals Saturday in College Park; Rain Pushes Final US Open Qualifying Matches to Saturday for Eight Americans

©Colette Lewis 2023--
College Park MD--

Facing the top seed in her eighth match in seven days qualifier Aspen Schuman could have waved the white flag, but the 16-year-old Californian instead earned the best win of her junior career, beating Mayu Crossley of Japan 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes Friday in the semifinals of the ITF J300 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

Although the heat and humidity hadn't reached the peaks they would reach in the afternoon, the first set featured one grueling rally after the next, with Schuman winning the bulk of them.

"She's an all-around great player, she's very steady and she has great stamina, and I knew I had to work really hard to keep up with that," said Schuman, who has defeated three seeds this week. "Those were some long rallies, especially in the first set. She's a great player, so I expected going in we were both going to fight really hard and compete, so I was mentally prepared to have to work a little harder, especially early in the match."

Crossley held serve only once, in the third game of the first set, but Schuman didn't feel she picked up anything that led her to break the Crossley serve four times in the second set.

"I don't think there was anything I did much different," Schuman said. "I did look to be aggressive on second serves if I had the opportunity, but I think that was just how some of the long points happened to play out. I don't think there was a big thing I figured out or anything."

Schuman said this number of matches at this level is a new experience for her.

"It's tough going through qualifying, all the way," said Schuman, who is playing in just her second ITF J300 tournament. "I've never done this at ITFs; I've played qualifying but maybe haven't made it this far. This is a lot of matches."

Schuman said she is drinking a lot and sleeping a lot, but she thought she might do a little scouting, with her opponent in the final, No. 2 seed Emerson Jones of Australia, playing in a later match.

"But I may take a nap or something," Schuman said. "I may prioritize that."

Jones, who defeated No. 3 seed Teodora Kostovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-2, has not lost a set in her four matches, half as many as Schuman has played, and she has been pleased with her level this week, feeling at home with the heat and humidity.

"I think I played pretty well today, and I've played pretty well all week," said the 15-year-old from the Gold Coast, who is the younger sister of current ITF Junior No. 68 Hayden Jones. "It's kind of like Australia, the courts, the conditions, so I am getting used to it."

Kostovic had played two three-hour matches, saving two match points in the first one, and was not able to hang with the depth and pace that Jones consistently generated. 

Jones describes her game as aggressive, yet she indulges in few emotional displays on the the court and appears unfazed by anything her opponent throws at her.

"I stay calm, and the last couple of matches I've done what I needed to do," said Jones, who will be playing in her second J300 final, having lost in the championship match in Thailand in March. "I don't get too worked up, and I just play point by point."

Jones doesn't know what to expect from Schuman, who is not a regular on the ITF Junior Circuit, so Jones will rely on her experience and the confidence she's gained this week.

"I'll just play my game and we'll see how it goes," Jones said.

The only three-set semifinal saw No. 2 seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria give unseeded Alex Frusina a taste of his own medicine, coming from behind to take a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Frusina had dropped the first set in his four previous victories, but Radulov, who saved two match points in his first win this week over Nikita Filin, thought he was fresher in the final set.

"I wasn't playing my best in the first set," said the 18-year-old, who is a member the ITF's Grand Slam Development Player Program. "Those four matches for him, this was the moment to be in the third set now, and he was a little bit tired. For a match like this, it was impossible."

Frusina opened the second set with a break, but lost his next two service games, while Radulov began to raise his level. There was only one break in the third set, in the third game, but that was enough, with Radulov holding easily until the final game. Frusina still had hope for the break back when he hit a good return for 30-love, but Radulov earned a match point and converted it with a let service winner.

Radulov said that his close call in the second set against Filin, when he trailed 3-6, 3-5, 15-40, might be a positive sign as he has won tournaments "a couple of times" after saving match points earlier in the event.

"It was a strange match, but I'm happy to save match points and play the final," said Radulov, who has won two J300s in the past 12 months. "It's amazing for me. It will be a nice match."

It will be the first meeting between Radulov and No. 15 seed Alexander Razeghi, who defeated Branko Djuric of Serbia 7-6(3), 6-3.

Razeghi, who beat top seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil in the third round, No. 6 seed Rei Sakamoto in the quarterfinals and No. 3 seed Djuric, said he's looking forward to taking on the No. 2 seed in the final.

"I have a good amount of confidence, I'm happy where my game's at," said the 17-year-old left-hander from Texas. "I feel like I've been playing some good tennis. My opponent tomorrow is the No. 2 seed, top 10 in the world, I'll be ready for it though."

Razeghi started well in the semifinal, going up 3-1, but lost three straight games, and then was broken again at 4-all. He got the break back immediately, with Djuric failing to reach set point, and took control of the subsequent tiebreaker, taking a 5-2 lead and getting errors from Djuric on crucial points.

"It was pretty hot out and it was a pretty physical match," Razeghi said. "And I like my chances when it's like that."

Razeghi managed to hold serve throughout the second set, although the break he got in the first game was in jeopardy twice.

"I was down 15-40 at 3-2 and at 4-3, I saved another break point," Razeghi said. "He was playing some good tennis; even though he was pretty tired, he was still hitting the crap out of the ball, so I had to deal with that. But good holds and at 5-3 I played a good return game to win it."

Razeghi had beaten Djuric in their only previous meeting, last year in Milan, but although that was on clay, it helped Razeghi prepare for the erratic nature of Djuric's games.

"I feel like he's gotten way better since then," Razeghi said. "But because I had played him I knew he does miss sometimes, but that the winners were going to come as well. It's frustrating when he hits winners and I'm like, wow, even if I tried a hundred times I couldn't do that. So I knew I had to stay mentally locked in, so that when he did hit a couple of those winners I don't go away."

This is Razeghi's first J300 final since he won a title in Ecuador in February.

"It feels great, I like where I am right now, so I'm just going to have fun tomorrow, see how it goes."

The doubles finals are set for Saturday, with the girls scheduled to be played at the same time as the boys singles final.

USTA 18s finalists Alanis Hamilton and Kayla Chung, who are unseeded, defeated No. 8 seeds Crossley and Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2 to reach their second J300 final of the year. Hamilton and Chung, who avenged their recent defeat in San Diego to Kate Fakih and Olivia Center in the quarterfinals, reached the final of the J300 in Indian Wells in March.

They will play No. 3 seeds Tatum Evans and Japan's Wakana Sonobe, who defeated the unseeded 13-year-old twins Annika and Kristina Penickova 6-4, 6-2 Friday afternoon. Evans and Hamilton partnered at Wimbledon Junior Championships last month, reaching the semifinals.

Radulov and his partner Tianhui Zhang of China, seeded No. 3, prevented an all-USA boys doubles final, beating unseeded twins Kaylan and Meecah Bigun 6-4, 7-6(8). 

Kalamazoo 18s champions Frusina and Adhithya Ganesan, also unseeded, have now extended their winning streak to ten matches, defeating No. 5 seeds Tomasz Berkieta of Poland and Charlie Robertson of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3.

Frusina and Ganesan, who will be playing next week in the US Open men's main draw, received singles wild cards into the US Open Junior Championships, which were announced Thursday.

Finals begin at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. Live scoring is available here.

Although Friday is usually the last day of qualifying at the US Open, rain delays Thursday and today have pushed 18 matches in the third and final round of qualifying to Saturday. Seven of those matches feature Americans, with Emilio Nava and Eliot Spizzirri playing each other for a spot in the main draw. 

The results from today, and Saturday's matchups:

Second round US Open qualifying Friday:
Katrina Scott[WC] d. Elvina Kalieva 7-6(6), 6-2
Emina Bektas [26] d. Julia Riera 6-3, 6-4
Maccartney Kessler[WC] d. Su Jeong Jang 6-2, 6-4
Fiona Crawley[WC] d. Timea Babos 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5)

Eliot Spizzirri[WC] d. Aleks Kovacevic 6-4, 6-4
Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[25] d. Aziz Dougaz 7-6(5), 6-4
Emilio Nava d. Andrea Vavassori 7-5, 6-4
Zachary Svajda d. Vasek Pospisil 3-6, 6-4, 6-2

Final round US Open qualifying Friday:
Sachia Vickery d. Yanina Wickmayer[3] 3-1 ret.
Katie Volynets[25] d. Erika Andreeva 6-1, 4-6, 6-2

Final round US Open qualifying Saturday:
Zachary Svajda v Marc Polmans
Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[25] v Joris De Loore
Emilio Nava v Eliot Spizzirri[WC]

Emina Bektas[26] v Olivia Gadecki
Katrina Scott[WC] v Greet Minnen[5]
Maccartney Kessler[WC] v Eva Lys
Fiona Crawley[WC] v Kimberly Birrell[13]

The men's qualifying draw is here; the women's qualifying draw is here.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Semifinals Set at ITF J300 College Park After Six Routine and Two Tense Quarterfinals; US Open Junior Wild Cards; Kalamazoo Champion Tien Draws Tiafoe in First Round of US Open; Round Two of USO Qualifying Disrupted by Rain

©Colette Lewis 2023--
College Park MD--

After a plethora of three-set matches in the third round, most of the quarterfinals at the ITF J300 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center Thursday were less dramatic, with just one boys match and one girls match going the distance. The top three seeds in the girls draw, plus an American qualifier, have advanced to the Friday's semifinals, while the No. 2 and 3 seeds remain in the boys draw, as well as two Americans.

The weather was cool and overcast most of the day, with a 30-minute rain delay in the early afternoon due to a brief shower, so the physical demands weren't a big part of the story, but Alexander Frusina had to draw on his mental game to earn his fourth victory this week from a set down.

Frusina's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over unseeded Charlie Robertson of Great Britain followed a similar pattern to his previous three victories.

"So far this tournament I've been starting slow the first few games of the first set, doing the right things, but not executing the way I wanted to," said the 17-year-old from Texas. "By the time I figure out what needs to happen, I feel like I make good changes and when I start peaking, it's quite a good level."

Frusina said he has no reason to doubt that he can come back regardless of the opponent or the situation.

"When you see a lot of things fall right and go your way in close three-set matches, seeing the things you did to get yourself back into the match and turn it around, it can definitely bring a lot of confidence," Frusina said.

Down a break early in the third set, Frusina knew there was no need to panic.

"I lost my serve at 1-all, just played a bad game, but I knew if I stayed with him in each of his service games I was going to get some of my own chances," Frusina said.

Holding at 4-all gave Frusina a chance to use the same pressure that had helped him get that early break back.

Robertson had a game point for 5-all, but netted a drop shot, then made an unforced error to give Frusina his first match point. A third shot forehand winner off a good first serve saved it, but Frusina earned another with a passing shot winner. Robertson missed his first serve, but Frusina broke a string, so Robertson got another first serve, but he didn't make that, or the next one, double faulting to give Frusina the win.

"My whole goal at 5-4 was to make every single return and really have him earn the last game," Frusina said. "I just told myself that I wasn't giving him anything, unless he played an incredible point. I was going to hustle and recover and stay in those long rallies, outlast him."

Frusina has reached J300 semifinals three times before, in Ecuador last year and in Egypt and in Thailand early this year, where he reached the final, but this is his first J300 semifinal in the United States.

"It's been a few months now, so it definitely feels good to be back in this position," Frusina. "I've seen my level peak at higher points every round. I wouldn't necessarily say I played my best in any match, but in today's match, when I got rolling, I was striking the ball really well, getting good depth on the ball and it was really challenging for him."

Frusina will face No. 2 seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria, who ended the run of wild card Cyrus Mahjoob with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 victory. 

"I've never played against him in singles, just once in doubles," Frusina said. "He's going to be a very tough challenge, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm really excited to be playing on Friday."

No. 15 seed Alex Razeghi continued his dominance of No. 6 seed Rei Sakamoto, cruising to a 6-1, 6-1 victory to run his record against his fellow 17-year-old to 3-0.  Razeghi will face No. 3 seed Branko Djuric of Serbia, who defeated No. 7 seed Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway 6-3, 7-5. Razeghi won their only previous meeting, 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the Grade A in Milan in 2022.

The lone girls three-setter was No. 3 seed Teodora Kostovic's 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Gloriana Nahum of Benin, with the three-hour match ending with both players in tears after the match.

Today was the first day where chair umpires were used, with players no longer calling their own lines, but the chair responsible for calling all the lines. Every year this inevitably leads to issues; there are arguments between players in the early rounds, but they seem to trust each other more than the chair umpire when he or she misses a few calls early. 

Kostovic had saved two match points in her 0-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) win over No. 14 seed Ariana Pursoo Wednesday on the same court, so she was prepared for another battle, as was Nahum, who had beaten No. 11 seed Mika Buchnik of Israel 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in three-hour and 20-minutes in the third round.

"I just tried to stay positive, just keep going, no matter what the score," said the 16-year-old Serbian, a member of the ITF Grand Slam Player Development team during this North American swing. "When I was down, I just tried to keep going, and I win the match because I try to be aggressive and just focus on the ball."

With Kostovic attempting to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third, the chair signaled a Kostovic ball that appeared to be at least several inches behind the baseline was good, with Nahum reacting with disbelief at the decision. Nahum collected herself and continued, but as the next point was played, her several dozen supporters, many with ties to JTCC, expressed their disagreement with the line call decision.

Kostovic blocked out the anger from the sidelines and struck an ace on match point, which sent Nahum collapsing in sobs at the baseline, with her mother eventually going on to the court to comfort her. Kostovic briefly broke into tears as she began collecting her things at her chair, but recovered almost immediately.

"Everybody was cheering for her, and I just tried to look at my team and stay happy," said Kostovic, who makes an Azarenka-like sound when hitting the ball that can be heard from several courts away. "They started talking bad things about me and I didn't like, so that was a little bit of emotions, but it's ok now."

Despite two consecutive three-hour matches, Kostovic wasn't planning to take it easy the remainder of the day.

"I'll go onto the court again today to practice to fix my weaknesses, for tomorrow and I hope for the final," said Kostovic, who will face No. 2 seed Emerson Jones of Australia for the first time Friday. The 15-year-old from Australia defeated No. 9 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland 6-0, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

Top seed Mayu Crossley of Japan, who saved two match points in her third round win over No. 16 Alexia Harmon Wednesday, rolled to a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 8 seed Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-1. Crossley is now 3-0 against Dencheva since last December's Eddie Herr, with all three wins coming in quarterfinals.

Crossley will take on qualifier Aspen Schuman, who won her seventh match in six days to reach the semifinals of the second J300 of her junior career. The 16-year-old Californian defeated Ashton Bowers 6-1, 6-2 in an all-US contest. Crossley is 1-0 against Schuman, with that 6-2, 7-5 victory almost two years ago at a J30 in San Diego.

The boys doubles semifinalists were decided today, with two unseeded teams from the United States advancing against two seeded teams of international players. 

Twins Kaylan and Meecah Bigun defeated wild cards Cale Henceroth and Kase Schinnerer 6-2, 7-5, coming back from 5-2 down in the second set, and will play No. 3 seeds Radulov and Tianhui Zhang of China. Radulov and Zhang defeated No. 6 seeds Kevin Edengren of Sweden and Volodymyr Iakubenko of Ukraine 6-1, 6-2.  

Kalamazoo 18s champions Adhithya Ganesan and Alexander Frusina have now extended their winning streak to nine matches, defeating unseeded Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes 6-3, 6-2. They will play No. 5 seeds Robertson and Tomasz Berkieta of Poland, who beat No. 4 seeds Razeghi and Roy Horovitz 6-3, 6-3.

Play begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday, with one boys and one girls semifinal, followed by the other two singles semifinals, and the doubles semifinals after the singles.

Live scoring is available here.

The US Open Junior Championships wild cards have been released. While these are always fluid, this is the current list ahead of the competition, which begins with qualifying on August 31.

Boys main draw:
Nishesh Basavareddy
Max Exsted
Alexander Frusina
Adhithya Ganesan
Zhengqing Ji
Trevor Svajda
Cooper Woestendick

Girls main draw:
Valerie Glozman
Katherine Hui
Christasha McNeil
Victoria Osuigwe
Kristina Penickova
Anita Tu
Akasha Urhobo

Boys qualifying:
Calvin Baierl
Stiles Brockett
Matthew Forbes
Jagger Leach
Shunya Takekata (Japanese High School champion)

Girls qualifying:
Shannon Lam
Nancy Lee
Annika Penickova
Julieta Pareja
Nanaka Sato (Japanese High School champion)

The draws were released today for next week's US Open main draw, with Kalamazoo 18s champion Learner Tien drawn against 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe. San Diego champion Clervie Ngounoue will face Daria Saville(formerly Gavrilova) of Australia in the first round, and possibly Iga Swiatek in the second round. 

NCAA champion Ethan Quinn will play Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain.

Below are the matchups for the 16 American men and the 21 American women currently in the main draw. 

Women's Top Half (Monday):
Clervie Ngounoue[WC] v Daria Saville(AUS)
Lauren Davis v Danka Kovinic(MNE)
Bernarda Pera v Veronika Kudermetova[16]
Jennifer Brady v Qualifier
Danielle Collins v Linda Fruhvirtova(CZE)
Coco Gauff[6] v Qualifier
Kayla Day[WC] v Sorana Cirstea[30](ROU)
Emma Navarro v Magdalena Frech(POL)
Taylor Townsend v Varvara Gracheva(FRA)
Sloane Stephens v Beatriz Haddad Maia[19](BRA)

Women's Bottom Half (Tuesday):
Peyton Stearns v Viktoriya Tomova(BUL)
Claire Liu v Liudmila Samsonova[14](RUS)
Madison Keys[17] v Arantxa Rus(NED)
Jessica Pegula[3] v Camila Giorgi(ITA)
Madison Brengle v Linda Noskova(CZE)
Ashlyn Krueger[WC] v Marie Bouzkova[31](CZE)
Robin Montgomery[WC] v Qualifier
Alycia Parks v Daria Kasatkina[13](RUS)
Sofia Kenin v Ana Bogdan(ROU)
Venus Williams[WC] v Paul Badosa(ESP)
Caroline Dolehide v Clara Burel(FRA)

Men's Top Half (Tuesday):
Alex Michelsen[WC] v Albert Ramos-Vinolas(ESP)
Michael Mmoh[WC] v Karen Khachanov[11](RUS)
John Isner[WC] v Facundo Diaz Acosta(ARG)

Men's Bottom Half (Monday):
JJ Wolf v Zhizhen Zhang(CHN)
Sebastian Korda[31] v Marton Fucsovics(HUN)
Learner Tien[WC] v Frances Tiafoe[10]
Tommy Paul[14] v Qualifier
Marcos Giron v Alejandro Davidovich Fokina[21](ESP)
Ben Shelton v Pedro Cachin(ARG)
Christopher Eubanks[28] v Soonwoo Kwon(KOR)
Steve Johnson[WC] v Taylor Fritz[9]
Mackenzie McDonald v Felix Auger-Aliassime[15](CAN)
Brandon Nakashima v Laslo Djere[32](SRB)
Ethan Quinn[WC] v Bernabe Zapata Miralles(ESP)

The men's draw is here; the women's draw is here.

Thursday's second round of US Open qualifying has seen several lengthy rain delays and many matches have been canceled for the day. Below are the second round results; postponed second round matches and some third round matches can be found on Friday's schedule.

Second round of US Open qualifying:

Aidan Mayo d. Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 7-6-(6), 7-6(8)

Katie Volynets[25] d. Celine Naef 6-3, 6-4
Elli Mandlik d. Anna Bondar[24] 6-3, 7-6(6)
Sachia Vickery d. Viktorija Golubic 2-6, 6-2, 6-2

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

One Top Seed Survives, One Falls in Third Round of ITF J300 in College Park, Qualifier Schuman Reaches Quarterfinals; Fourteen More Americans Advance to Second Round of US Open Qualifying; Isner Announces Retirement

©Colette Lewis 2023--
College Park MD--

Court 14 is not the usual court assignment for top seeds, as they typically play their matches at the ITF J300 at the Junior Tennis Champions Center on the Stadium Court 17, the Pershing Square Court.  But with that court reserved for two of the JTCC wild cards in the round of 16, Joao Fonseca of Brazil and Mayu Crossley of Japan played on Court 14 in Wednesday's third round, with Fonseca losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to No. 13 seed Alex Razeghi and Crossley saving match points in her 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 16 seed Alexia Harmon. 

Fonseca, who reached the final last year at the ITF J300 Wayne K. Curry Prince George's County International Junior Tennis Championships presented by Laurel Spring School, started well and was up a set and a break before Razeghi began to build his comeback.

"I've always kind of been the guy to fight, that's how people remember me," said Razeghi, a 17-year-old left-hander from Texas. "So I didn't want it to be easy for him. Even if he were to beat me, I still was going to make him fight for it."

Although the temperature was in the 70s with low humidity during the morning match, Razeghi felt he had the edge when it came to the physical side of the match.

"I feel like physically I'm up there with some of the good juniors, so I thought I could get him a bit tired here, make him play a lot of points," Razeghi said. "He kind of gave me a couple things, but I had to play pretty well."

There were no breaks of serve in the second set until Razeghi broke for a 4-3 lead. He immediately went down 0-30 in his service game, with a double fault and an error, but won the next four points to go up 5-3.

"Down 0-30, I just told myself to make him earn it," Razeghi said of that crucial hold. "I hit some really good shots down the stretch, so I'm happy with that."

Fonseca couldn't match Razeghi when it came to winning the important points in the last three games and he was broken at 15-40 to end it.

"This is my best win," Razeghi said, in reviewing his ITF junior career. "I beat [former ITF No. 1 junior Rodrigo] Pacheco on grass courts, but obviously I feel Pacheco is more of a clay court player. I feel like [Fonseca] is probably the best player I've ever played, so it was great to get that experience under my belt, so I know what's next."

Razeghi's quarterfinal opponent is No. 6 seed Rei Sakamoto of Japan, who ended the run of wild card Stiles Brockett 6-4, 6-2. Razeghi is 2-0 in their head-to-head, having beaten Sakamoto in the third round at last year's tournament here 6-2, 6-3.

No. 3 seed Branko Djuric of Serbia defeated Matthew Forbes 6-4, 6-2 and will play No. 7 seed Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway, who beat No. 11 seed Roy Horovitz 7-5, 6-3.

After saving match points in the second round, Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria breezed into quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 13 seed Yuvan Nandal. He will face wild card Cyrus Mahjoob, who came from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Atakan Karahan of Turkey 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, much to the delight of the fans surrounding the Pershing Square court.

The fourth quarterfinal will feature two unseeded players, Charlie Robertson of Great Britain and Alexander Frusina. Robertson won his third consecutive three-setter, beating No. 12 seed Lasse Poertner of Germany 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, while Frusina also won his third straight match from a set down, beating wild card Kase Schinnerer 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Girls top seed Mayu Crossley followed Fonseca on Court 14, and it appeared that it would be the graveyard of her chances for a title too, before she came from 5-2 down in the third set to beat No. 16 seed Alexia Harmon 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Crossley had a one word description of her performance at the start of the match. "First set was bad," said the 17-year-old from Japan, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. "In the second set, I figured out how I should play, but in the third set I started a little bit slow."

Broken serving at 4-2, Crossley escaped Harmon's first attempt to serve out the match, but serving at 3-5, she faced match points when Harmon had the ad. Unwilling to go down meekly, Crossley stepped up, forcing errors on both the match points with aggressive ground strokes, and she held for 5-4.  

"I was playing not my best, but I was fighting every point," said Crossley. "She was also fighting, but she got very tight the last few games, so I took chances to go for it and it worked. I got better when she felt much pressure, when she thought she could win."

Harmon's second chance to serve out the match was filled with errors, with Crossley just needing to keep the ball in play to break. An easy hold by Crossley and the pressure was on Harmon again, and her backhand, usually a strength on her game, let her down, with three errors from that side giving Crossley an improbable win. 

"The last few games I fight even more, compete," said Crossley, who cited her experience in big matches as an edge in that situation. "It was mental."

Crossley will face No. 8 seed Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria, who defeated unseeded Emily Sartz-Lunde of Norway 7-5, 6-0. Crossley beat Dencheva in the quarterfinals of both the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl last December, tournaments Crossley went on to win. 

"It was clay, so a little bit different," said Crossley, who admits she prefers that surface to the hard courts.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will feature the only two Americans remaining, both unseeded. Ashton Bowers took down a seed for the second straight day, beating No. 13 Maya Joint of Australia 6-4, 6-2; qualifier Aspen Schuman got her sixth win in five days, beating No. 12 seed Tatum Evans 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

Schuman, who has just begun to travel to ITF tournaments this year, reached her first quarterfinal at a J300 by withstanding all the physical challenges of a three-hour-plus marathon on top of all her time on court the previous four days.

"I feel pretty good," said the 16-year-old from Northern California, who is accustomed to playing a USTA schedule that often has two matches a day. "It's pretty normal for me, I'm pretty used to it. It is hot here though."

Schuman admitted that getting over dropping the second set was a challenge.

"That's always tough," said Schuman, who reached the final of a $15,000 USTA SoCal Pro Series tournament in San Diego in June, losing to NCAA champion Fangran Tian of UCLA. "I just do the best I can, take a few deep breaths, just remember there's another set to play, that it happens against good players at good tournaments and it's ok, just keep trying."

Bowers and Schuman will be playing for the first time.

The quarterfinal between No. 7 seed Gloriana Nahum of Benin and No. 3 seed Teodora Kostovic of Serbia will feature two players who survived lengthy three-setters Wednesday, Kostovic rebounded to beat No. 14 seed Ariana Pursoo 0-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(5), while Nahum needed three hours and 20 minutes to get past No. 11 seed Mika Buchnik of Israel. 

The other bottom half quarterfinal is between No. 2 seed Emerson Jones of Australia, a 6-4, 7-5 winner over Hephzibah Oluwadare of Great Britain, and No. 9 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland, who defeated No. 5 seed Wakana Sonobe of Japan 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1.

The top two seeds in boys doubles lost in the first matches of the tournament, having had byes in the first round. Boys No. 1s Djuric and Arthur Gea of France lost to Meecah and Kaylan Bigun 4-6, 6-3, 10-1 and No. 2 seeds Budkov Kjaer and Poertner fell to Andrew Delgado and Forbes 7-6(7), 6-4.

The boys doubles are a round behind the girls, so they will play their quarterfinals Thursday, while there are no girls doubles scheduled.

The girls doubles semifinals are set for Friday, with Kayla Chung and Alanis Hamilton playing No. 8 seeds Crossley and Oluwadare. Chung and Hamilton convincingly avenged their loss in the San Diego 18s final to Olivia Center and Kate Fakih 6-1, 6-1, while Crossley and Oluwadare beat unseeded Jessica Bernales and Savannah Webster 6-1, 6-3.

Evans and Sonobe, the No. 3 seeds, will take on the 13-year-old Penickova twins in the other semifinal. Evans and Sonobe defeated No. 5 seeds Pursoo and Joint 7-5, 4-6, 10-8, while Annika and Kristina Penickova took out No. 2 seed Mara Gae of Romania and Lily Taylor of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 11-9.

Matches begin with boys singles quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Thursday, followed by girls singles quarterfinals and boys doubles quarterfinals. Live scoring will be available here.

The first round of qualifying is complete at the US Open, with 14 Americans picking up wins today in New York.

Sixteen-year-old Valerie Glozman, who won a round in women's qualifying last year, repeated that accomplishment, saving two match points in her 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 win over 34-year-old Olga Govortsova.

Texas fifth year Eliot Spizzirri also claimed his second US Open qualifying victory, with a 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1 decision over Matteo Gigante. Spizzirri won a round in men's qualifying in 2021, but with his wrist injury still an issue last year, did not have an opportunity to compete in New York.

Overall, Americans went 23-12 in the first round of qualifying, with the women 11-7 and the men 12-5. (See Tuesday's results here). The second round of qualifying, consisting of 64 matches, is scheduled for Thursday.

Katrina Scott[WC] d. Natalija Stevanovic 6-2, 3-3 ret.
Emina Bektas[26] d. Marcela Zacarias 6-2, 6-1
Elvina Kalieva d. Maria Timofeeva[27] 7-6(4), 7-5
Louisa Chirico d. Nao Hibino[1] 7-6(3), 6-3
Mccartney Kessler[WC] d. Yue Yuan[7] 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4)
Valerie Glozman[WC] d. Olga Govortsova 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-1
Ann Li d. Carlota Martinez Cirez 7-6(1), 6-2

Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) d. Denis Kudla 7-6(6), 6-4
Maxime Cressy(UCLA) d. Vit Kopriva 6-3, 6-3
Zachary Svajda d. Ivan Gakhov 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 7-6(6)
Nicolas Moreno De Alboran[25](UC-Santa Barbara) d. Elias 6-4, 6-2
Eliot Spizzirri[WC](Texas) d. Matteo Gigante 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-1
Emilio Nava d. Tomas Barrios Vera 7-5, 6-2
Aleks Kovacevic[18](Illinois) d. Tung-Lin Wu 3-6, 6-2, 6-3

John Isner has announced the US Open will be his last tournament. I'll be linking to as many articles as possible on what the former University of Georgia star has meant to college tennis and to the ATP tour in the next several weeks.