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Monday, November 13, 2023

Williams Qualifies at Champaign Challenger; Ganesan Wins Fourth Straight ITF Singles Title at J200; Cohen and Moore Go Back-to-Back in Barbados; Titles for Erickson, Golden, Lee, Araoz Gosn, Vijayakumar; India Claims IC Rod Laver Junior Challenge

The last ATP Challenger on the USTA Pro Circuit this year is underway in Champaign Illinois, with four Americans advancing to the main draw after conclusion of the qualifying today.

Eighteen-year-old Cooper Williams, a freshman at Harvard, defeated No. 1 qualifying seed Evan Zhu(UCLA) 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to qualify for a Challenger main draw for the first time in seven attempts this year; he had defeated TCU junior Pedro Vives 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of qualifying Sunday. 

Also advancing to the main draw are University of Illinois senior Hunter Heck, Alex Rybakov(TCU), Alfredo Perez(Florida), University of Virginia senior Inaki Montes of Spain and Mark Whitehouse of Great Britain.

Former Illinois All-American Aleks Kovacevic is the top seed and will face Williams in the first round, with Knoxville Challenger champion Alex Michelsen the No. 2 seed. Wild cards went to two Illinois players, sophomore Kenta Miyoshi of Japan and junior Karlis Ozolins of Latvia, and NCAA champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia).

Adhithya Ganesan won his fourth singles title in four weeks yesterday at the ITF J200 in Malaysia. The 18-year-old Kalamazoo 18s doubles champion, who starts at Cornell in January, now has a 20-match winning streak after three J200 and one J100 title in Asia the past four weeks. Ganesan, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 7 seed Aryan Shah of India 6-2, 6-3 in the final, and he has lost only two sets in his 20 victories since October 17. Although he won the doubles title at the J500 in Osaka the week before he went on this run, he only played doubles in two of these four tournaments, falling in the semifinals in one, and winning the title this past week with Shah as his partner.

Ganesan is now up to a career-high 26 in the ITF junior rankings, so he's in striking distance of the Top 20, which is the cutoff for the ATP Accelerator Program. He's traveled from Malaysia to Mexico for the J300 this week in Zapopan, where he is the No. 4 seed. He's also entered in tournaments the next three weeks, the J500 in Merida, the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, which would be ten straight weeks of tournament play for him. It's one thing to play 10 consecutive weeks if you are mostly losing early, but when you're winning tournaments, that's a lot of matches.

Ganesan was one of eight Americans to claim ITF Junior Circuit singles titles last week. At the J100 in Zapopan Mexico, 17-year-old Trinetra Vijayakumar won her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the No. 9 beating No. 15 seed Sabrina Lin in the all-US final. Lin also reached the doubles final, with partner Maria Aytoyan.

At the J30 in Barbados, 16-year-old Zachary Cohen and 15-year-old Kayla Moore won their second straight singles titles, after both won the J60 singles titles in Barbados two weeks ago. The unseeded Cohen defeated No. 2 seed Jon Gamble 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 for his tenth straight win; Gamble and Cohen also won the doubles title in Barbados for the second straight week. Moore, the top seed in singles, also swept the titles this week. Moore defeated No. 5 seed Koronayashe Rugara 7-6(4), 6-1 in the all-US final and partnered with Brooke Wallman to take the doubles title, with the No. 3 seeds defeating No. 4 seed Emma Allen and Allison Crane 6-4, 6-1 in another all-US final.

The J30 in McKinney Texas was plagued by the same rain that disrupted the men's $25K in Austin, and short scoring was used to finish the tournament by its official end date of Friday.  Sixteen-year-old Texan Kenna Erickson, who recently committed to LSU and will start there this spring, won her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 4 seed Katie Spencer 4-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the final.  Because neither was still in doubles, the boys singles final did not have short scoring, with 18-year-old Jacob Golden, the No. 4 seed, beating qualifier Blake Anderson 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. 

Unseeded 13-year-olds Jordan Lee and Michael Antonius won the boys doubles title, their first title on the ITF Junior Circuit, beating Dmitri Goubin and Noah Hakim 6-2, 4-6, 10-4 in an all-US final between unseeded teams.  The girls doubles final, also all-US and between unseeded teams, produced another title for Lani Brotman and Katiana Gonzalez, who defeated Erickson and Eva Kovachev 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Brotman and Gonzalez won the title at the J60 in Corpus Christi in September.

At the J30 in El Salvador, 16-year-old Jacob Lee won his first ITF Junior Circuit title, with the No. 8 seed defeating top seed Juan Carlos Fuentes Vasquez of El Salvador 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in the final. Seventeen-year-old Maria Araoz Gosn won her fourth career ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the No. 2 seed prevailing in the all-US final over No. 6 seed Reese Calvo 6-4, 4-6, 3-1 retired. Both Lee and Araoz Gosn also reached the doubles finals.

The 2023 IC Rod Laver Junior Challenge Worldwide Finals concluded Saturday at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, with India claiming the title with a perfect 5-0 record. The tournament featured round robin play by mixed teams from Italy, South Africa, the United States, India, Argentina and Great Britain. For more on the final and India's win, see this article from the tournament.


Colin said...

Colette, I'm curious about your insights on how it is that college players go about playing pro events during the academic year. Do some simply take the Fall semester off? Are some taking only online classes? Or are they mostly taking entire weeks where they don't attend classes so as to pursue their individual (i.e. not university-sanctioned) sports goals?

I get that some balance this by only playing events close to where they go to school, but it appears that some are criss-crossing the country while enrolled in classes?

Is there any other college sport where the athletes actively pursue their pro goals during their equivalent of the tennis invitational season? I guess some football players choose not to participate in bowl games so as to avoid injury, but I don't know other sports well.

Colette Lewis said...

I think the trend for fall pro play has continued to rise for a couple of reasons. Online classes are more prevalent since the pandemic and the new ATP Accelerator program and the ITF Junior Reserved program have provided many more opportunities to play professionally in the fall for younger collegians.

Many do take the semester off, which for men, alleviates some of the stress of having only 4.5 scholarships. It's often difficult to tell who is enrolled and who is not; who is just taking off the fall and who has turned pro. There's no accepted standard on team rosters, and the only clue from the ITA is if the season-end's highly ranked player is not in the preseason rankings.

Tennis is unique in having two seasons; other college sports do not have competition in both spring and fall semesters,

Colin said...

Thanks, Colette. I'm a college professor, so from my viewpoint it's surprising, particularly for upperclassmen (advanced classes are less likely to be offered online). But, it seems these players and their profs are making it work!