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Monday, September 18, 2023

Wild Cards Advance at ITF Pan American Closed J300; ITA and ITF Announce Accelerator Program for Collegiate Women; Columbus Challenger Underway with Five Buckeyes in Main Draw

The first round of singles at the ITF J300 Pan American Closed is in the books, and I'll be onsite Tuesday for my coverage, with the seeds taking the courts for the first time.

In today's first round, four of the six boys wild cards posted victories, as did three of the five girls wilds cards.  Local wild card Mahir Khurana, 17, got a victory in his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament, beating fellow Texan Jacob Golden, a qualifier, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Mark Krupkin beat fellow wild card Cal Riggs 6-1, 6-2; Ian Mayew defeated Dominick Mosejczuk 6-4, 6-0 and Andre Alcantara downed Diego Herrera of Mexico  6-1, 6-4.

The girls wild cards picking up wins today are Alexis Nguyen, the 2022 16s Orange Bowl champion, who defeated Gianna Oboniye of Canada 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1. Seventeen-year-old Tianna Rangan of nearby Sugarland Texas, who hasn't played an ITF all year, beat Mariya Dobreva of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, and Anita Tu, the USTA 16s finalist last month in San Diego, defeated Kenzie Nguyen 6-2, 6-4.

In addition to the second round of singles tomorrow, the first round of doubles is also on the schedule, but no seeds will play until Wednesday.  Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick are the top seeds in the boys draw, with Maya Joint(AUS) and Ariana Pursoo the No. 1 seeds in the girls draw.

The ITF today announced its women's version of the Accelerator Program for Division I collegiate women, providing wild cards for the top women in several ITF Women's World Tennis Tour. The men's program, which was announced in January, has already been utilized this summer; this announcement, although retroactive to include the top five women of the 2022-23 season and the 2023 NCAA winner and finalist, starts now.

This program is much less robust that what the ATP has offered the men, which is geared at the Top 20 in the ITA rankings and is for up to eight Challenger main draw wild cards(Top 10) or eight Challenger qualifying wild cards(11-20).

For the women, the wild cards are for ITF 60K, 40K or 25K tournaments as follows:

Players returning to College in the autumn receive three main draw places to be used before the end of 2023, while those who have left College receive five main draw places to be used before the end of June 2024. Players can choose places at one W60 tournament, up to two W40 tournaments and up to two W25 tournaments. 

Obviously, with the exception of the one $60K, these are lower level events than the men's Challengers, are five, not eight wild cards, are are limited to the five to seven women, rather than 10 to 20.

I don't understand why qualifying wild cards into the 60 and 80Ks on the schedule this fall in the United States aren't part of this package, which would seem like an obvious way to expand opportunities for women.

The women qualifying for the wild cards are Fiona Crawley (North Carolina), Mary Stoiana (Texas A&M), Lea Ma (Georgia), Diana Shnaider (NC State), Maddy Sieg (USC), Fangran Tian (UCLA), and Layne Sleeth (Oklahoma). Shnaider, currently 83 in the WTA rankings, is unlikely to need any of these wild cards.

I do hope this is just the beginning, and it is, of course, better than nothing, but it's disappointing to see the women having to settle for less than the men have received via their Accelerator Program.

The ITF release for this program can be found here.

Qualifying concluded today for the ATP Challenger 75 in Columbus, with Ohio State sophomore Jack Anthrop, the 2021 ITF Pan American champion, among those reaching the main draw.  Wild card Anthrop defeated No. 5 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in yesterday's first round and and No. 12 seed Radu Papoe of Romania, a junior at Cornell, 7-5, 6-4 today.

The other qualifiers are Bernard Tomic(Australia), James Trotter(Ohio State) of Japan, Federico Agustin Gomez(Louisville) of Argentina, Aidan Mayo, and Strong Kirchheimer. 

The top seed is Enzo Couacaud of France; wild cards went to three Ohio State players: Cannon Kingsley, Justin Boulais of Canada and JJ Tracy. Boulais and Tracy play each other.  Nishesh Basavareddy(Stanford), who has returned from Croatia, where he was the hitting partner for the US Davis Cup team, is also in the draw, presumably with one of the slots from the Accelerator Program as is NCAA champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia).