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Sunday, November 12, 2023

USA Wins Second Straight Junior Billie Jean King Cup; Navarro Rolls to $100K Title in Charleston; Michelsen Breaks into ATP Top 100 with Knoxville Title; Duke's Johns and Texas's Bailly Win in Winston-Salem and Austin

Alanis Hamilton, Iva Jovic, Tyra Grant and Tom Gutteridge

The United States girls have been consistently dominant in the Junior Billie Jean King Cup(formerly Fed Cup) competition; this is the eighth straight year (the US did not participate in the 2021 competition due to the pandemic) the team from the United States reached the final, and with their 2-0 win over the Czech Republic today, they have won the last five they have played.

Iva Jovic, who turns 16 next month, was on the 2022 championship team with Clervie Ngounoue and Valerie Glozman; although she didn't play much as the youngest, the experience she gained undoubtedly helped her this year as the team's No. 1 player. Jovic, Tyra Grant and Alanis Hamilton all had perfect records this week, winning every match in straight sets. In the semifinals and finals, the doubles match was not required, with Grant and Jovic getting singles wins to make the it moot. 

Against the top-seeded Czech team, Grant got the No. 2 seeds off to their usual fast start, beating Alena Kovackova 6-4, 6-1 in 69 minutes at No. 2 singles. Jovic then rolled Laura Samsonova 6-1 in the first set at No. 1 singles, playing flawlessly and facing no break points.

The tenor of the match changed quickly after the Samsonova bathroom break however, with Jovic getting broken to start. She broke back for 1-1 and then held and broke for 4-1, but Samsonova cleaned up her game and kept the deficit to one break, while Jovic's level began to drop from the lofty heights of the first set. Serving for the match at 5-3, Jovic was broken, with Samsonova clocking a second serve return winner on break point. She held at love for 5-all and Jovic had to save four break points before she finally held for 6-5. 

The pressure mounted on Samsonova, and although she got her first serves in during the last game, she made two unforced errors for 30-30. Jovic stepped up the pace in that point and after dictating throughout, forced a forehand error from Samsonova for match point. A first serve, a deep return and a forehand long by Samsonova ended the drama, although the chair umpire had to check the mark and declare Samsonova's shot long before Jovic could celebrate with her teammates and Captain Tom Gutteridge.

No. 3 seed Great Britain took third place, beating No. 6 seed Spain 2-0.

Comments from Gutteridge and Jovic after the victory are available in this article from the ITF junior website.

The full replay of the final can be viewed on the ITF YouTube Channel.

Canada won its first ever Billie Jean King Cup today, beating Italy 2-0. Eighteen-year-old Marina Stakusic and Leylah Fernandez got straight-sets wins over Martina Trevisan and Jasmine Paolini respectively to clinch the title for the Canadians. For more on the final, see this article from the WTA website.

The US girls dominated on the Spanish clay, while Emma Navarro exceeded even that standard this week at the $100,000 women's  USTA Pro Circuit tournament on the Charleston South Carolina Har-Tru. The top-seeded Navarro defeated No. 3 seed Panna Udvardy of Hungary 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes, avenging a three-set loss last November, in today's final for her fifth title of the year. The 22-year-old, who won the NCAA title in her freshman year at Virginia, is now up to 33 in the WTA live rankings. She is the fourth highest ranked American, behind Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys.

In the doubles final tiebreaker that was played prior to the singles final after an overnight interruption, Hailey Baptiste and Whitney Osuigwe took it and with it, their second consecutive title. Last week's Midland WTA 125 champions defeated Carole Monnet of France and Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-4, 3-6, 13-11.

Nineteen-year-old Alex Michelsen won his second ATP Challenger title today in Knoxville, and with it entered the ATP Top 100 for the first time in the live rankings. Michelsen, the No. 3 seed, defeated unseeded Denis Kudla 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, with his 15 aces the most he had in any of his five victories. Now 99 in the ATP live rankings, Michelsen is in good position for the Australian Open main draw, and he will also take the lead in the USTA's AO Wild Card Challenge race. Michelsen is also likely to have secured a spot in the ATP Next Gen tournament in Jeddah at the end of the month.

At the $15,000 men's USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Winston Salem North Carolina, Duke senior Garrett Johns won his second consecutive title, after taking the $15K in Fayetteville last week. Johns, the No. 2 seed, had a late night Saturday in the semifinals, beating Wake Forest's Luciano Tacchi 7-5, 1-6, 7-6(4) in three hours and 7 minutes. Instead of facing top seed and teammate Pedro Rodenas of Spain in the final, Johns got Wake Forest sophomore DK Suresh of India, who beat Rodenas last night 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-0 in three hours and 10 minutes. Suresh took the opening set, but it was all Johns in the second and third, with the 2-6, 6-0, 6-0 contest over in an hour and 20 minutes.

Johns should be inside the ATP 500 for the first time when the points from these two titles are added.

The last tournament to finish today in the United States was the $25,000 event in Austin Texas, which was moved from a morning start outdoors to a afternoon start indoors due to rain. Wild card Pierre Yves Bailly, a junior at Texas, defeated qualifier Siem Woldeab, a fifth year at Texas 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to claim his second ITF men's World Tennis Tour title and his first at the $25K level. Bailly had beaten Texas No. 1 Eliot Spizzirri in the semifinals and defending champion Micah Braswell, the ITA Fall National Champion, who played No. 3 most of last season, with Bailly at the No. 2 position. Woldeab played at No. 3 and No. 4 last year. So, the Longhorns will be coming into the spring season after an outstanding fall for their top four, while adding 2022 ITF World Junior Champion Gilles Bailly, Pierre Yves' brother.