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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Fonseca Chooses ATP Pro Career Over UVA; ITA Women's D-III Team Indoor Begins Friday; Jovic Advances in Singles and Doubles in W35 in Texas; Mark Bey Feature

One of my Tennis Recruiting Network's Eight Intriguing Questions for 2024 has been answered before the calendar turns to March, with 2023 US Open boys champion Joao Fonseca announcing he will not be attending the University of Virginia this fall, after signing with the Cavaliers in November of 2023. With his success first at the ATP Challenger level and then, this month, at the ATP level, Fonseca looked increasingly likely to bypass college, and like Alex Michelsen last year, the decision was almost made for him with his pro results. Fonseca's notice, which now gives Virginia time to pursue other recruits, can be found here

The eighth and final ITA Team Indoor begins Friday in Nicholasville Kentucky, with the D-III women's championships. The University of Chicago is the two-time defending champions, but they are the No. 2 seeds, with 2022 and 2023 NCAA champions Claremont-Mudd-Scripps the top seeds.

1. CMS
2. Chicago
3. Pomona-Pitzer
4. Emory
5. Johns Hopkins
6. MIT
7. Sewanee University of the South (host)
8. Carnegie Mellon

Top Seed Tennis, which hosted the D-III men's Team Indoor last weekend, is again the venue.

Iva Jovic received entry into the main draw of the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Spring Texas as a lucky loser, and she is now through to the quarterfinals, along with five other Americans. The 16-year-old Californian defeated Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil 6-3, 6-0 in today's second round, advancing to a rematch in the quarterfinals with qualifier Malkia Ngounoue, who had beaten Jovic in the final round of qualifying 6-2, 2-6, 14-12. Former Kansas standout Ngounoue, the older sister of Clervie, defeated No. 3 seed Ana Sofia Sanchez of Mexico 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. 

Allura Zamarripa(Texas) defeated twin sister Maribella 6-3, 6-4 and will face No. 2 seed Varvara Lepchenko, who beat wild card Shannon Lam 6-2, 6-4. 

Top seed Maria Mateas(Duke) plays No. 8 seed Whitney Osuigwe in Friday's quarterfinals, with the day's fourth singles match between Ena Shibahara(UCLA) of Japan and qualifier Maria Kononova(North Texas) of Russia. 

Jovic and partner Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) are through to the doubles semifinals after defeating No. 4 seeds Jessie Aney(UNC) and Jessica Failla(USC/Pepperdine) 4-6, 6-3, 10-2.

Clervie Ngounoue has played back-to-back W50s in South Africa, making the second round last week and the quarterfinals this week. The 17-year-old lost to 19-year-old Hanne Vandewinkel of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 today.

At the W15 in Spain, Kaitlin Quevedo, who now represents Spain after switching from the US last year, is through to the quarterfinals. The 17-year-old, seeded No. 7, defeated wild card Cristina Ramos Sierra of Spain 6-1, 6-0 today.

I forgot to mention it in Wednesday's post, but late Tuesday night at the WTA 500 in San Diego, Stanford freshman and US Open girls champion Katherine Hui lost to No. 7 seed Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-2. Hui, a wild card, broke WTA No. 31 Vekic four times, but struggled to earn points on her first serve, winning just 12 of 35, while Vekic was 24 of 31 in that category.

In conjunction with Black History Month, USTA Midwest/Chicago spoke to renowned development coach Mark Bey about his recent trip to Lithuania for the US Davis Cup tie with Ukraine, as well looking back at how he got involved in tennis. I've known Mark for a long time, but I didn't know that his decision to spend his working life as a coach was actually a detour from an expected career in law. In addition to coaching he has also begun branching out to commentary in the past several years; you'll often hear him on college tennis matches on Cracked Racquets, ESPN+ and on the world feed at the US Open, with doubles and juniors his primary focus there.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Teens Lam, Jovic Advance, Zamarripa Twins Meet in Second Round at W35 in Texas; No. 1 Ohio State Men Drop Another Doubles Point, but Beat No. 14 Baylor; Georgia Gwinnett and Barry Men and Women Top Latest NAIA, D-II Rankings

Fifteen-year-old Shannon Lam, who won a round last February at the W35 in Spring Texas, has equaled that this year, defeating Katrina Scott 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 this afternoon. Lam, who lost in the final of ITF J200 last week in the Dominican Republic, will play No. 2 seed Varvara Lepchenko in Thursday's second round.

Sixteen-year-old Iva Jovic, who received entry as a lucky loser, defeated 30-year-old Gabriela Ce of Brazil 6-3, 6-3 to advance. Jovic, who also won a round last year in the main draw, faces Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil next.

Twins Allura and Maribella Zamarripa will meet for a second time on the Pro Circuit Thursday, after the former Texas Longhorns picked up wins today. Allura defeated wild card Diae El Jardi(Rice) of Morocco 6-4, 6-2, while Maribella beat No. 7 seed Jamie Loeb, last week's Mexico City W50 champion 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in just under three hours.  The last time the 21-year-olds played was over four years ago, before they joined Texas, with Maribella taking a 6-2, 6-3 decision.

The other Americans advancing, in addition to Lam, Jovic, the Zamarripas and Lepchenko, are top seed Maria Mateas(Duke), Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine), Whitney Osuigwe[8], Jessica  Failla(USC/Pepperdine), Victoria Hu[5](Princeton) and Malkia Ngounoue[Q](Kansas).

At the WTA 250 ATX Open in Austin Texas, future Longhorn Maya Joint and current Texas junior Sabina Zeynalova received a wild card into the doubles draw and won their first round match over Elixane Lechemia(South Carolina) of France and Anna Siskova of the Czech Republic 6-7(9). 6-4, 10-4. They face top seeds Oksana Kalishnakova of Georgia and Nadiia Kichenok of Ukraine in the quarterfinals. 

It's been great to have college tennis on ESPN+ this winter, and I was able to watch the men's and women's No. 1s play in the past five days. Oklahoma State blanked No. 33 Princeton 7-0 on Saturday, outdoors in Stillwater; tonight Ohio State defeated No. 14 Baylor 4-1 inside in Waco.

The Waco weather, with temperatures in the 40s and light rain in the area, forced the match indoors, which might have been an advantage for the Buckeyes, who hardly needed one.  Although they again dropped the doubles point for the fifth time in their last seven matches, despite making some changes in the lineup, Ohio State again flexed their muscles in singles, taking all six first sets. The loud Baylor crowd of around 500 reached its peak noise level after the doubles clinch, but they had little to cheer about after that.  JJ Tracy tied the score at line 3, and Ohio State immediately took the lead with a win by Robert Cash at line 4. Justin Boulais, playing No. 1 tonight, made it 3-1 and Jack Anthrop closed out the Bears at line 5, two hours and 15 minutes after the match had begun.

Ohio State is now 15-0, with Baylor falling to 11-2.

I won't have time to follow every ranking release for all the divisions this spring, but with few junior events of note this week, it's a good time to check in on the Division II and NAIA rankings released today.  These are still being done by polls of coaches on the ranking committee; to see the complete Top 25, click on the headings. The two programs and four teams at the top of the polls are this month's ITA Team Indoor champions. 

Division II Team Rankings
Coaches Poll February 28, 2024

1. Barry
2. Nova Southeastern
3. West Alabama
4. Saint Leo
5. Wasburn
6. Flagler
7. Lynn
8. Columbus State
9. Cameron
10. Wayne State

1. Barry
2. Saint Leo
3. Flagler
4. Valdosta State
5. Columbus State
6. Indianapolis
7. West Florida
8. Wayne State
9. Rollins
T10. Hawaii Pacific
T10. Lander

NAIA Team Rankings
Coaches Poll February 28, 2024

1. Georgia Gwinnett
2. Keiser
3. Southeastern (FL)
4. Tennessee Wesleyan
5. Xavier (LA)
6. St. Thomas (FL)
7. LSU Alexandria
8. Middle Georgia
9. William Woods
10. William Carey

1. Georgia Gwinnett
2. Tennessee Wesleyan
3. Keiser
4. Northwestern Ohio
5. Westcliff
6. William Woods
7. Southeastern (FL)
8. William Carey
9. Middle Georgia
10. Coastal Georgia

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Hunt Named to Succeed Diaz at Georgia; ITF J300 San Diego North American Regional Acceptances; W35 in Texas Only USTA Pro Circuit Tournament This Week; Few Changes in ITA Division I Top 10s; Former UNC Player Receives Two-Year Ban for Positive Marijuana Test

In a surprise to no one, Jamie Hunt will succeed Manny Diaz at the University of Georgia, becoming just the third men's head coach in program history. Hunt, who played under Diaz, has been the assistant, then associate head coach under Diaz since 2017. This quick, drama-free transition is refreshing and no doubt gratifying to all the Georgia players, staff and fans, who know the decades of excellence will continue under Hunt's leadership.

Hunt and Diaz discuss the transition in a video at the men's tennis page at georgiadogs.com.

The acceptances are out for the ITF J300 North American Regional Closed tournament next month in San Diego, with eight Top 50 boys and three Top 50 girls scheduled to compete in the March 18-23 event.

Because this tournament is open only to those in the United States and Canada, the fields are obviously less strong than those at the J300 at Indian Wells the week before. The boys cutoff for Indian Wells was 106 (a week later it's 159), in San Diego the cutoff is 233. The girls cutoff for Indian Wells was 130 (now 197), in San Diego the cutoff is 304. 

Missing from the boys acceptances is defending champion Kaylan Bigun; he is still entered at Indian Wells.

The Top 50 boys on the acceptance list are Cooper Woestendick, Alexander Razeghi, 2023 finalist Roy Horovitz, Maxwell Exsted, Matthew Forbes, Jagger Leach, Ian Mayew and Canadian Keegan Rice. The Top 50 girls are 2023 finalist Iva Jovic, Thea Frodin and Shannon Lam.

Currently there are just three girls and five boys from Canada in the main draw. 

Several of the girls playing the SoCal junior swing were or are competing this week at the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Spring Texas; most are familiar with the venue, the Giammalva Tennis Academy, which was the host of last fall's ITF J300 Pan American Closed.

None of the juniors in qualifying advanced to the main draw, with Iva Jovic, Kate Fakih and Akasha Urhobo losing in match tiebreakers in the final round of qualifying today. Three Americans did advance to the main draw: twin sisters Allura and Maribella Zamarripa(Texas) and Hina Inoue.

Maria Mateas(Duke) is the top seed, with Vavarva Lepchenko the No. 2 seed. Wild cards were awarded to juniors Shannon Lam, Elizabeth Ionescu, Kristina Penickova, as well as Diae El Jardi(Rice) of Morocco. Ionescu lost to Lepchenko 6-3, 6-1 in one of the three first round matches today. Japan's Ena Koike received entry via the Junior Exempt program, based on her ITF junior Top 20 year-end ranking.

The latest ITA Division I Team computer rankings have been published, with some shuffling in the top 10, but with the No. 1 teams remaining the same: the Ohio State men and Oklahoma State women.  The Stanford women took over the No. 2 position from Michigan after their win over Texas, and Pepperdine moved up six spots to No. 7 after their wins over Auburn and Florida last weekend. 

The top 5 are same as last week in the men's Top 10, with Harvard moving up two spots to 6 after wins over Duke and Northwestern.

There were no individual rankings published this week.

Click on the headings for the list of Top 75 teams at the ITA's rankings page.

ITA Division I Men's Top Ten Team Rankings February 27, 2024:
1. Ohio State (1)
2. TCU (2)
3. Wake Forest (3)
4. Columbia (4)
5. Tennessee (5)
6. Harvard (8)
7. Kentucky (6)
8. Virginia (7)
9. Arizona (9)
10. Texas (10)

ITA Division I Women's Top Ten Team Rankings Feb 27, 2024:
1. Oklahoma State (1)
2. Stanford (3)
3. Michigan (2)
4. UNC (T7)
5. Virginia (9)
6. Texas (4)
7. Pepperdine (13)
8. USC (5)
9. Ohio State (T7)
10. NC State (6) 

Casey Kania, who was on the University of North Carolina roster as a freshman in 2021-22 and a sophomore in 2022-23, but is not currently listed, has been given a two-year ban by the International Tennis Integrity Agency for testing positive for marijuana at last August's Cary North Carolina Challenger. 

Kania and Benjamin Kittay received a wild card into the doubles draw and defeated the No. 2 seeds in Cary before falling in the quarterfinals.

As a resident of a state where recreational marijuana has been legal for more than five years, this strikes me as a strange thing for the ITIA to care about, but if they are going to hand down bans for it, people need to be aware of that.

Monday, February 26, 2024

My Article on Johnny Mac Tennis Project Director Ryann Cutillo; Kessler Claims WTA 125 Title in Mexico; Satterfield and Rodriguez Double Up on J60 Titles; Barry Wins D-II Women's Indoor; D-I Team Indoor All-Tournament Teams Released

Ryann Cutillo with John McEnroe

I always enjoy talking with players I covered in juniors as they move into their careers after college, and when I heard that former blue chip Ryann Cutillo was now executive director of the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, I wanted to learn more about that non-profit and her role in leading it. That led to this article for the Tennis Recruiting Network, which describes how she got back into tennis after a decade in sales and is now guiding a major expansion of the program, which introduces tennis to the underserved communities in New York.

There's also a piece of news in the article, with blue chip Christasha McNeil the recipient of a women's qualifying wild card at next month's BNP Paribas Open.

Late last night in Mexico, McCartney Kessler won her biggest title as a professional at the WTA 125 in Puerto Vallarta. The former Florida All-American was a lucky loser, having lost to Liv Hovde in qualifying, just a couple of weeks after having beaten Hovde in the final of the W75 in Rome Georgia. Kessler didn't drop a set in reaching the final, with four straight-sets wins, but dropped the first set against teenage wild card Taylah Preston of Australia before coming back for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 win. Kessler is now up to 120 in the WTA rankings, after starting her first full year on tour in 2023 at 945.

I covered several tournaments on the ITF Junior Circuit Friday and Saturday, but I don't want to neglect the other titles captured by Americans last week, including two in singles at J60s in Guatemala. Sixteen-year-old Jack Satterfield and 15-year-old Ava Rodriguez, who had swept the titles the previous week at the J60s in Guatemala, earned three of the four titles this week, including both singles championships.

The unseeded Satterfield didn't drop a set all week, defeating No. 2 seed Jon Gamble 6-4, 6-3 in the all-US final. No. 8 seed Rodriguez also took the title without dropping a set, beating qualifier Sara Shumate 6-1, 6-0 in the all-US final.

Rodriguez won the doubles title for the second week in a row, partnering with Aleksandra Kyselova of Ukraine. The No. 3 seeds defeated unseeded Zaire Clarke and Lucia Donnelly 7-6(3), 6-0 in the final. Rodriguez now has five ITF junior doubles titles with five different partners.  

Satterfield and his partner Lucca Acioly of Brazil lost in the boys doubles final to the unseeded American team of Nathan Mansfield and Omar Rhazali 6-0, 7-6(12). It's the first ITF junior doubles title for the 17-year-old Mansfield and the 16-year-old Rhazali. 

The seventh and eighth singles titles of last week for American juniors came at the J30 in Mexico, with 17-year-old UC-San Diego recruit Robert Freedman and 14-year-old Chukwumelije Clarke taking home the winners' trophies. Freedman, the No. 12 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Oliver Moises Aguilar Gasperin of Mexico 7-5, 6-2 in the final, with all five of his victories in his first ITF junior circuit title coming in straight sets. Top seed Clarke won her third ITF junior circuit singles title with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 12 seed Alexia Estrada of Mexico.

Clarke and Ireland O'Brien won the doubles title, with the top seeds defeating No. 2 seeds Camille Allegre and Olivia Allegre 6-0, 6-7(6), 11-9 in the all-US final.

At last week's J200 in Lithuania, 15-year-old Carel Ngounoue reached the boys singles final, with the No. 4 seed falling to No. 2 seed Felix Balshaw of France 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

Mark Krupkin won the doubles title at the J100 in the Netherlands and William Dean won the doubles title at the J60 in Luxembourg.

The ITA Division II Women's Team Indoor Championships concluded late last night in Kearney Nebraska, with top seeds and two-time defending champion Barry claiming a fourth title for the program with a 4-2 victory over No. 2 seed Nova Southeastern. Barry has won four of the five Women's Team Indoor Championships, which began in 2020; they did not compete in the 2021 tournament.

For reasons I can't explain, the release of the All-Tournament Teams for the ITA Division I Team Indoor Championships were delayed, but both the men's and women's teams were announced today. Results of those selected can be found by clicking on the titles below.

Division I ITA Women's Team Indoor All-Tournament Team

Most Outstanding Player: Kristina Novak, Oklahoma State

1. Amelia Rajecki, NC State
2. Connie Ma, Stanford
3. Alexandra Yepifanova, Stanford
4. Safiya Carrington, Oklahoma State
5. Lily Jones, Michigan
6. Kristina Nova, Oklahoma State

1. Anastasiya Komar and Ange Oby Kajuru, Oklahoma State
2. Connie Ma and Alexandra Yepifanova, Stanford
3. Charlotte Chavatipon and Vivian Ovrootsky, Texas

Most Oustanding Player: Robert Cash, Ohio State

1. Jake Fearnley, TCU
2. Jack  Pinnington Jones, TCU
3. JJ Tracy, Ohio State
4. Jack Anthrop, Ohio State
5. Robert Cash, Ohio State
6. Alexander Bernard, Ohio State

1. Johannus Monday and Angel Diaz, Tennessee
2. Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomson, Wake Forest
3. Henry von der Schulenburg and David Lins, Harvard

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Emory Sweeps Washington St. Louis in D-III Men's Team Indoor Final; Princeton Men, Alabama Women Win Blue-Gray Titles; Popko Claims Third Straight USTA Pro Circuit Title; Hui Awarded Main Draw Wild Card at WTA 500 in San Diego

The ITA Division III Men's Team Indoor Championships have been held for 23 years and today a familiar program returned to the winner's circle, with Emory defeating Washington-St. Louis 4-0 to earn its tenth title.
Emory, the No. 3 seed, dropped only one point in its three victories over the weekend, losing No. 6 singles to Gustavus Adolphus in their 6-1 quarterfinal win. The Eagles took out No. 2 seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 7-0 in Saturday's semifinals and blanked No. 4 Washington-St. Louis today for their first title since 2020. All ten of the titles have come under head coach John Browning, who joined Emory in 2000.

For more on today's final, see this article from the Emory athletic website.

The Blue-Gray Classic is an annual event that brings eight men's and eight women's teams to Montgomery Alabama for three dual matches in a weekend, with a title on the line. This year it was Princeton who took the men's title, beating Michigan State 4-0 in the final after beating Old Dominion 4-0 in the first round and Alabama 4-3 in the semifinals. Princeton's Billy Pate was the head coach for the Crimson Tide for a decade prior to leaving for Princeton in 2013. The Princeton recap is here.

The Alabama women won the women's title, beating Arizona 4-3 in the first round, Illinois 4-1 in the semifinals and Texas Tech 4-2 in the final. It's Alabama's third Blue-Gray title, and the first for Jonatan Berhane, who took over as the Crimson Tide's head coach at the end of last season, after the retirement of Jenny Mainz.  For more on the today's matches, see this Alabama article.

Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan and Andres Andrade(Florida) of Ecuador reprised their $15K final a week ago in Palm Coast Florida at the men's USTA Pro Circuit $25K in Naples Florida today, and once again it was Popko who came out on top in three sets. The No. 2 seed fought back for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 win, his fifteenth in the last three weeks, with a title at the $15K in Sunrise two weeks ago. 

On Saturday, top seeds and former North Carolina Tar Heels Mac Kiger and Benjamin Sigouin took the doubles title, beating current University of Illinois teammates Hunter Heck and Kenta Miyoshi of Japan 6-2, 6-7(7), 10-6 in the final. It's their second ITF Pro Circuit title as a team.

US Open girls champion Katherine Hui was originally announced as a qualifying wild card at the WTA 500 Cymbiotika San Diego Open but when the qualifying draw was released Friday night the Stanford freshman, who is from the San Diego area, did not appear. She was at that time playing in the Stanford - Texas match, and they needed her point at line 5 to win it, but it turns out she did not have to give up the qualifying wild card to help her team, but rather was upgraded to a main draw wild card. 

Hui will play No. 7 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, who was a finalist at the San Diego event in 2022 in the first round. The other two main draw wild cards were given to another teenager, Taylah Preston of Australia, and Caroline Wozniacki.

There is also a WTA 250 in Austin Texas this coming week, with Katie Volynets the only American to receive a wild card. Victoria Jimenez Katsintseva of Andorra and former Vanderbilt star Fernanda Contreras are the other two wild cards. 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Jauffret Earns First ITF Title, Kennedy Claims Second Straight at J200 in Dominican Republic; Dencheva and Preda Champions at J500 in Egypt; Feature on Exsted Examines Life as Top Junior; Top Seeds Out at D-III Men's Indoor

Fifteen-year-old Jack Kennedy has been on winning streaks before, winning back-to-back J60s last May in Spain and going 37-7 in ITF Junior Circuit play at the J100 and below level. This year Kennedy has a record of 14-2 at J100s and above, with ten straight wins after taking his second straight J200 title in the Dominican Republic. 

Kennedy, the No. 4 seed, defeated 17-year-old wild card Aditya Govila of India, the No. 8 seed, 6-4, 6-2 in today's final, which should move him into the ITF Top 60. Unlike last week, he did drop a set in this week's run to the title, defeating qualifier Dylan Long 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. 

All four titles in Santo Domingo were captured by Americans, with both girls finals featuring only US juniors.

Sixteen-year-old Capucine Jauffret, the No. 13 seed, won her first ITF Junior Circuit title, beating top seed Shannon Lam 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Jauffret are now 1-1 in ITF Junior Circuit competition, after Lam won last fall's match at the Pan Am J300 in Houston, but they are developing quite a rivalry. Lam won their third-place match at the Easter Bowl last year, but Jauffret took their consolation match at the Winter Nationals two months ago. 

Jauffret also reached the doubles final, with Monika Ekstrand. The No. 4 seeds lost to No. 2 seeds Christasha McNeil and Claire An 7-5, 5-7, 10-7 in the final.

The boys doubles title went to Joseph Oyebog and Abishek Thorat, with the eighth-seeded pair beating the unseeded team of Ivan Iutkin of Russia and Eyal Shumilov of Israel 6-3, 6-2. Oyebog and Thorat didn't drop a set in their four victories.

The J500 in Cairo Egypt also concluded today, with singles titles for No. 8 seed Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria and No. 4 seed Luca Preda of Romania. Dencheva defeated top seed Laura Samson of the Czech Republic 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in the final; Preda, the 2023 Orange Bowl finalist, beat University of Kentucky signee Thomas Faurel of France 6-3, 6-2 for the title. 

Top seeds Jan Kumstat and Jan Klimas of the Czech Republic won the boys doubles title, beating No. 8 seeds Dmitrii Burtsev and Egor Pleshivtsev of Russia 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 in the final. The girls doubles title was claimed by the unseeded team of Asylzhan Arystanbekova and Sonja Zhiyenbayeva of Kazakhstan, who beat No. 2 seeds Teodora Kostovic of Serbia and Lucie Urbanova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-5 in the championship match. 

Features on young amateur players are quite rare, but already this month I've linked to articles about Fnu Nidunjianzan and Cooper Woestendick; now there's one on Woestendick's Australian Open championship doubles partner Maxwell Exsted from Jeff Day at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This is truly a feature, exploring all the issues, the costs and benefits, of being a world class junior athlete. Every player in that category is different, but there are some questions and challenges they all face, and this article doesn't shy away from them. The only error I spotted was the reference to Hunter Heck, who is a senior at the University of Illinois, competing for the Fightining Illini.

There were not one but two upsets today at the ITA Men's Division III Team Indoor Championships, with top seed Case Western falling to No. 4 seed Washington-St Louis 4-3, and No. 3 seed Emory beating No. 2 seed Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 7-0. Washington-St Louis took the doubles point and lines 1, 4 and 5 to hold off the defending champions. Case Western defeated Washington-St Louis 5-1 in the final last year.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Blue Chip Bowers Chooses Longhorns; No. 3 Stanford Survives No. 4 Texas; Top Four Seeds Advance to Semifinals at ITA D-III Men's Team Indoor; Revised D-I Team Rankings; Caldwell, Hoo Claim First ITF Junior Circuit Titles

Ashton Bowers was released from her National Letter of Intent after Caroline Lilley was fired from the head coaching position last month, and she recently announced a commitment to attend the University of Texas this fall, joining good friend Maya Joint and a third blue chip, Ariana Pursoo. Bowers spoke with Rhiannon Potkey of Tennis Recruiting Network about the extremely unusual situation she found herself in, going through the recruiting process twice, more than 18 months apart.

Bowers' new team came agonizingly close to a huge road victory today, with the No. 4 Longhorns falling to No. 3 Stanford 4-3 in a match that took nearly four hours to complete. Texas took the doubles point with little trouble at lines 1 and 3, while Stanford took line 2. Texas soon had a 2-0 lead with Malika Rapolu posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Alexandra Yepifanova at line 3, but Stanford countered with straight-sets wins by Connie Ma at line 2 and Katherine Hui at line 5. 

The score stayed at 2-2 for a long time, but Angelica Blake eventually put Stanford ahead with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 decision over Sabina Zeynalova at line 1. Stanford's Alexis Blokhina had an opportunity to finish off Texas in her match with Charlotte Chavatipon at line 4, but Chavatipon won the second set tiebreaker. Meanwhile, Valencia Xu had forced a third set in her match with Texas's Vivian Ovrootsky at line 6, so Stanford had the advantage, with two matches left and Texas needing them both.

Stanford's advantage disappeared when Ovrootsky defeated Xu 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, and Chavatipon, trailing 4-1 in the third set, got back on serve at 3-4. She had two points to level the third set, but Blokhina blasted a forehand pass on the deciding point to take a 5-3 lead. Blokhina fell behind 15-40, but got a couple of forehands to find their mark to get to a deciding point/match point. A defensive lob close to the far sideline was called out by Chavatipon and the chair confirmed the call, but the Stanford coaches were not happy about it and let the chair hear their complaints.

Serving down 4-5, Chavatipon had a 40-15 lead, two points later there was another deciding point/match point and again Chavatipon won it, with a forehand winner. Despite the pressure of the last match on with the score 5-5 in the third, both women were staying aggressive, with depth and pace. Blokhina held to go up 6-5, and in the final game Chavatipon couldn't get to a deciding point after losing a point on yet another close call at 30-all. At 30-40 Chavatipon sent a forehand long, and Stanford had survived. 

It's the fifth straight win for the Cardinal over Texas.
Next up for the ITA's Team Indoor Championships is men's Division III, which began today at Top Seed Tennis in Nicholasville Kentucky. Top seed Case Western had its hands full with No. 8 seed Chicago, but came away with a 4-3 victory. It was actually 4-1 at the clinch, with all these scores producing a double take before I remembered that D-III has adopted the D-I scoring format this year. Sort of. All three doubles matches were played out, with Case taking all three, but just for one point, not the three points they would have gotten in previous years. In all D-I competition, matches are abandoned once a team gets two of the three sets in doubles. Also, while Division I does play out matches post-clinch, it is never done at the Team Indoor championships, but all six singles were played to conclusion, with one using a match tiebreaker for a third set.
Nicholasville KY
February 23, 2024
Quarterfinal results:

Case Western[1] 4, Chicago[8] 3
Washington St Louis[4] 4,  Sewanee[5] 3
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps[2] 5, Trinity[7] 2
Emory[3] 6, Gustavus Adolphus[6] 1

For more on today's quarterfinal matches see the ITA recap.

In other ITA news, the ranking errors I mentioned yesterday have led to a new set of rankings, corrected and republished today. There was no change to the men's top 10, but in the women's top 10, USC went from 9 to 5, NC State fell from 5 to 6, and Virginia fell from 6 to 9. I'm sure there are many other changes outside the Top 10.

The ITF J30 in Eau Claire Wisconsin concluded today with 14-year-old Carrie-Ann Hoo and 16-year-old Simon Caldwell earning their first ITF Junior Circuit titles. Caldwell's title was actually his second on the ITF Junior Circuit, with his first coming yesterday in doubles. No. 3 seed Caldwell, a quarterfinalist at the National 16s in Kalamazoo last year, did not lose a set in his five victories, beating unseeded Lukas Phimvongsa 6-3, 6-3 in this morning's final. Caldwell, who is from Grand Rapids Michigan, partnered with Zachary Cohen in doubles with the top seeds defeating unseeded Arnav Bhandari and Adrian Treacy 6-2, 6-3 in the final. 

Hoo defeated Karlin Schock 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(0) in the final between unseeded girls; the New Yorker won three of her five matches in three-sets. 

In the girls doubles final, unseeded Isabelle DeLuccia and Kaya Moe took the title, beating No. 4 seeds Ciara Harding and Ella Olofson 6-2, 6-2. All four finals were contested by Americans, which is not unusual for the host country in a J30 event.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

After 36 Years Leading Georgia Men's Tennis, Manny Diaz Announces Retirement; Jim Martz Memorial Service Set for March 8; Woestendick, Nidunjianzan Features; Michigan Beats NC State in Top 5 Battle

University of Georgia tennis will have an unfamiliar look next season, with men's head coach Manny Diaz announcing his retirement after 36 years leading one of the legendary programs in college tennis. Less than ten months after women's head coach Jeff Wallace retired after 38 years at the helm, Diaz has followed suit, leaving Georgia tennis fans with the prospect of adjusting to life without either of the all-time coaching greats on the sideline.

Diaz played under Dan Magill, the only other coach men's tennis has ever had, and after concluding his playing days, Diaz returned as Magill's assistant. He was named to replace Magill in 1988, and has continued the legacy that Magill began, with four NCAA team titles(1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008) and two ITA team indoor titles(2006, 2007).

I was fortunate to cover three of those titles in person, the 2007 Indoor in Chicago, the 2007 NCAA title in my first trip to Athens, and the 2008 NCAA title in Tulsa, the only one of the six Georgia NCAA team titles the Bulldogs claimed outside Athens.

Those accomplishments add to his stature of course, but his impact on the hundreds of young men he coached extends far beyond that. His retirement has been anticipated for several years now, but I was hoping he might stay until after the 2026 NCAA tournament in Athens, where so much of collegiate tennis history resides. As with Wallace, it appears the program's reigns will be turned over to his former player Jamie Hunt, who was on those three championship teams I covered and has been the assistant/associate head coach since 2017.

Diaz will be missed, by not only the college tennis community, but by everyone in the University's athletic community, with his support of all things Georgia sports never wavering. I hope he'll continue to stay connected to both in his upcoming well-earned retirement.

The memorial service for Florida Tennis magazine founder and editor Jim Martz has been announced, with the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Florida the site of the celebration of Martz's life on March 8. Martz, who died December 30th, lived nearby in Pembroke Pines and could often be spotted at the Veltri Tennis Center, copies of the Florida Tennis in hand, during the Orange Bowl, which has been held at that facility since 2011. Below are the details from the Florida Tennis facebook page. 

Two feature articles focusing on young tennis players were published recently, with the Topeka Capitol-Journal talking with Cooper Woestendick, the 17-year-old from Kansas, after his doubles title at the Australian Open Junior Championships (but before his recent TCU commitment), and The Athletic tracing Fnu Nidunjianzan's remarkable journey from Tibet to IMG to the Princeton men's team.

After a surprising loss to USC at home on Sunday, the second-ranked University of Michigan women got back in the win column, beating No. 5 NC State 4-1 in Ann Arbor this evening.  That's the same score as the Wolverines semifinal win over the Wolfpack at the Team Indoors earlier this month, but this time Michigan had to rebound from the loss of the doubles point.  After quick wins from Lily Jones and Piper Charney at lines 5 and 6 to give Michigan a 2-1 lead, the score didn't budge for quite some time. Eventually the four remaining matches went to third sets, but Gala Mesochoritou earned a three-set win at line 3 to make it 3-1, and Jaedan Brown, who did not play in the USC loss, clinched with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Sophie Abrams at line 4. Lines 1 and 2 were early in third sets when Brown ended the match.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

First ITA Computer Rankings Place Indoor Champions Oklahoma State and Ohio State at No. 1; Men's Team Indoor Recap at Tennis Recruiting Network; UVA Signee Fonseca Wins First ATP Tour Match in Rio; Michelsen Posts First ATP Top 10 Win

As I mentioned last night, the first ITA rankings done by the computer algorithm were released yesterday, and while the top two stayed did change, there was a lot of movement elsewhere. Chris Halioris of CollegeTennisRanks.com had provided projected rankings on his site for the first time this year in advance of the ITA's first computer rankings, but there were some major discrepancies due to what he explained as missing and/or ambiguous results or errors in entering scores, which are done by the programs themselves.

All that is to say that these rankings are likely to change next week when the errors are corrected, but as for now, this is how the Top 10s look, with links to the other 65 ranked teams available by visiting the ITA Division I ranking page

The individual rankings, which have been done by a computer since last November, also have the same No. 1 and No. 2 singles players as in the last rankings two weeks ago.

Top Ten Division I Team Rankings 
February 20, 2024

Last poll rankings in parentheses.

1. Ohio State (1)
2. TCU (2)
3. Wake Forest (9)
4. Columbia (10)
5. Tennessee (7)
6. Kentucky (11)
7. Virginia (6)
8. Harvard (8)
9. Arizona (14)
10. Texas (3)

Top 10 Singles
1. Eliot Spizzirri, Texas
2. Micah Braswell, Texas
3. JJ Tracy, Ohio State
4. Ozan Baris, Michigan State
5. Oliver Tarvet, San Diego
6. Colton Smith, Arizona
7. Johannus Monday, Tennessee
8. Jack Pinnington Jones, TCU
9. Murphy Cassone, Arizona State
10. Chris Rodesch, Virginia

Top 5 Doubles:
1. Max Sheldon and Ozan Baris, Michigan State
2. Hunter Heck and Karlis Ozolins, Illinois
3. DK Suresh and Holden Koons, Wake Forest
4. Robert Cash and JJ Tracy, Ohio State
5. Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives, TCU

1. Oklahoma State (1)
2. Michigan (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Texas (6)
5. NC State (4)
6. Virginia (7)
7. Ohio State (9)
8. North Carolina (5)
9. Southern California (17)
10. Georgia (8)

1. Mary Stoiana, Texas A&M
2. Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
3. Amelia Rajecki, NC State
4. Ange Oby Kajuru, Oklahoma State
5. Kari Miller, Michigan
6. Sarah Hamner, South Carolina
7. Ayana Akli, South Carolina
8. Savannah Broadus, Pepperdine
9. Anastasiya Komar, Oklahoma State
10. Alexa Noel, Miami

1. Elizabeth Scotty and Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
2. Alina Shcherbinina and Dana Guzman, Oklahoma
3. Janice Tjen and Savannah Broadus, Pepperdine
4. Mary Stoiana and Mia Kupres, Texas A&M
5. Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller, Michigan

New York sports journalist Michael Lewis covered the ITA Men's D-I Team Indoor Championships for the Tennis Recruiting Network, traveling to both the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the Milstein Family Tennis Center from his New York home. Those of us who watched from home, thanks to Cracked Racquets, know that we are bound to miss things we would observe if on site, and he does a good job of describing the experience of following a thriller in person in this article.

Junior slam champions rarely entertain the idea of attending college, which made the decision by 17-year-old US Open champion Joao Fonseca of Brazil to sign with Virginia for this fall all the more newsworthy. One of my Eight Intriguing Questions for 2024 was whether he would actually play college tennis, given his enormous potential, and a Challenger semifinal last month increased the odds that he would turn pro before next fall.

Today, at the ATP 500 in rainy Rio, wild card Fonseca met 19-year-old Arthur Fils of France, seeded seventh, in a first round match postponed from yesterday. Fonseca, currently 655 in the ATP rankings, posted a 6-0, 6-4 victory over the ATP No. 36, for his first ATP Top 100 win. He is the first player born in 2006 to win an ATP main draw match; Fonseca's opponent in the second round is Cristian Garin of Chile. Having seen the fanatical crowds he had in New York at the Open in the juniors, I can't imagine what adoration he is receiving after an ATP win in his home country.

With each win on the professional level, Fonseca, who moved up more than 200 places in the ATP rankings with this victory, seems less likely to enroll at Virginia.

His success is inviting comparisons to Alex Michelsen, although Michelsen was never the can't-miss, hope of a country that Fonseca has been for years. But he did win a junior slam (Wimbledon boys doubles) and had every intention of playing at the University of Georgia until his Challenger title in Chicago last July, followed by an ATP 250 final in Newport.

Several hours after Fonseca had posted his milestone victory, Michelsen earned his first ATP Top 10 win, beating Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-4, 6-1 at the ATP 250 in Los Cabos Mexico. Although he reached the third round of the Australian Open this year, which is arguably more impressive, the 19-year-old from Southern California will be playing in his second ATP 250 quarterfinal this week in Mexico, with Newport his first. His opponent in the quarterfinals is the winner of tonight's match between Emilio Nava and Australia's Jordan Thompson, the No. 8 seed. Thompson beat Michelsen a year ago in the Rome Georgia Challenger final, one of the breakout tournaments for the then 18-year-old.

Earlier in the day, 18-year-old Jakub Mensik of the Czech Republic, the 2023 Australian Open boys finalist, reached his first ATP quarterfinal at the 250 in Doha, beating Andy Murray 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 7-6(4). Like Michelsen, Mensik has already been to the third round of a major, at last year's US Open.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Defending Champion Woestendick, ITF No. 8 Bigun Lead ITF J300 Indian Wells Acceptances; Top Seed Kumstat Retires in Second Round at J500 in Egypt; $25K in Naples Sole USTA Pro Circuit Tournament This Week

In less than three weeks, the Southern California junior swing will begin, with the ITF J300 in Indian Wells the first tournament, starting on March 11, followed by the San Diego J300 and the USTA Level 1 Easter Bowl.

The acceptances for the Indian Wells tournament were released today, with the event open to everyone this year, after being a North American Closed event last year. San Diego will be the Closed event this year, with the Easter Bowl not affiliated with the ITF Junior Circuit.

Although the tournament is open, it is an isolated week for those who do not live in the United States, so the fields are not likely to attract the best players from Europe. The opportunity to be onsite the second week of the BNP Paribas Open is an attraction of course, but there are obviously other considerations, and Americans will always be a large percentage of the participants, as they were when the tournament was the International Spring Championships in Carson California.

Fifteen of the 34 boys accepted into the 48-player draw are Americans, led by No. 8 Kaylan Bigun. No. 13 Cooper Woestendick, who just announced his verbal commitment to TCU this weekend, is back to defend his title, with Alex Razeghi, at No. 20, the third ITF Top 20 boy to enter.

The cutoff for the boys acceptances is 106, which is very high if it doesn't move much; the girls cutoff is 130, also with three Top 20 players: Serbia's Teodora Kostovic, Vlada Mincheva of Russia and 2023 finalist Iva Jovic. Tyra Grant, who is coming off an shoulder injury suffered at the Orange Bowl, is on the mend, but is not planning on competing on this swing.

The US boys currently in the main draw: Bigun, Woestendick, Razeghi, Roy Horovitz, Max Exsted, Matthew Forbes, Jagger Leach, Ian Mayew, Noah Johnston, Nikita Filin, Matisse Farzam, Kase Schinnerer, Jack Kennedy, Maximus Dussault and Jack Secord.

The 16 US girls accepted into the main draw: Jovic, Thea Frodin, Aspen Schuman, Kate Fakih, Shannon Lam, Alanis Hamilton, Ariana Pursoo, Christasha McNeil, Mia Slama, Claire An, Monika Ekstrand, Kristina Penickova, Maya Iyengar, Maya Dutta, Olivia Center and Leena Friedman.

Friedman, who took nearly two months off after winning the Orange Bowl 16s title in December, returned to action this month in Germany, and now in Egypt. The 16-year-old from New York qualified for the J300 warmup in Egypt last week, and went on reach the quarterfinals. She was the only American in either draw at the J500 in Cairo this week, and she lost to No. 2 seed Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the second round today. Laura Samson of the Czech Republic is the top seed, and she has reached the third round, but her compatriot, boys top seed and Australian Open boys finalist Jan Kumstat retired in the second round. The 17-year-old retired in his match against Pierluigi Basile of Italy with the score 6-4, 5-7. No. 2 seed Petr Brunclik(CZE), No. 3 seed Maxim Mrva(CZE) and No. 4 seed Luca Preda(ROU) are all through to the third round. The top six seeds in the girls draw have also advanced.

Three US boys and four US girls are through to the second round at the ITF J300 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay: Noah Johnston, Maximus Dussault, Max Exsted[6], Kaitlyn Rolls[6], Gabriella Mikaul[Q], Maya Dutta and Trinetra Vijayakumar.  Exsted defeated last week's J300 Lima champion Miguel Tobon of Colombia, who was a wild card entry, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. 

This week's J200 in the Dominican Republic had 30 Americans competing in the main draw; Shannon Lam is the top seed in the girls draw, with Thea Frodin, the champion last week at the J200 there, the No. 2 seed. Kase Schinnerer was the top seed in the boys draw, but he lost in the second round today (his first match in a 48-draw) to qualifier Eyal Shumilov of Israel 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

The ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States this week is a J30 in Eau Claire Wisconsin. Both top seeds have already lost, with girls No. 1 Thea Latak retiring in today's second round to qualifier Estela Loureiro 5-7, 6-4, 4-0; boys top seed Zachary Cohen also lost in today's second round, 6-4, 6-1 to Adrian Treacy.

The only USTA Pro Circuit tournament this week is the men's $25,000 event in Naples Florida, where Blaise Bicknell(Florida/Tennessee) of Jamaica and Toby Kodat are the top seeds. The women have not had anything at any level the past two weeks, with the next event a W35 in Spring Texas next week.

Qualifying in Naples was completed today, with Trey Hilderbrand(UCF/Texas A&M), Colin Altamirano(Virginia) and Hunter Heck(Illinois) the three Americans to reach the main draw.

Wild cards were given to Axel Nefve(Notre Dame/Florida), Emilio Sanchez Bronzetti, Will Grant(Florida) and Noah Schachter(Texas A&M).

Grant won his first round match today, beating No. 5 seed and two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Leaner Tien(USC) 6-4, 6-4. Alex Razeghi received entry via one of his Junior Exempt spots he is eligible for after finishing in the 21-30 range in the 2023 ITF junior rankings; he lost to Igor Gimenez of Brazil 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the only other main draw match played today.

The ITA D-I rankings came out a day earlier than normal, with the team rankings switching to the computer algorithm now. I'll have a full report on all the changes in Wednesday's post.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Ohio State Beats TCU in Rare 4-3 Thriller to Claim Men's Team Indoor Championship; Kennedy and Frodin Capture ITF J200 Titles, Satterfield and Rodriquez Sweep at J60; Fritz Defends Delray Beach Title

The best was saved for last at the ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships today, with top-seeded Ohio State preventing a third consecutive title for TCU with a dramatic come-from-behind victory. When fifth-year senior Robert Cash defeated Lui Maxted 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3 at line 5 to give the Buckeyes a 4-3 win, it was the first final that had come down to the last match on since 2012, when USC defeated Ohio State in Charlottesville, and the first 4-3 match played in the 2024 Team Indoor Championships.

Neither TCU nor Ohio State had looked good in doubles over the weekend, so there was no obvious favorite there, and although there was singles strength by both teams to point to, the consensus prior to the match deemed TCU more in need of that critical point. They got it, and without much drama, with TCU getting a 6-3 set from Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives at line 1 against Andrew Lutschaunig and Justin Boulais and a 6-4 set from Jake Fearnley and Jack Pinnington Jones against Cannon Kingsley and JJ Tracy at line 2. Ohio State's Cash and Alexander Bernard had blitzed past Maxted and Duncan Chan 6-2 at line 3 in 21 minutes to force TCU to take the top two lines.

The second-seeded Horned Frogs saw their lead doubled less than an hour later, with a surprisingly lopsided 6-1, 6-0 win for Fearnley over Kingsley at line 1 singles. All the first sets were not yet completed when Fearnley closed out Kingsley, but Maxted and Bernard put first sets on the board a few minutes later, for a split of the six singles first sets.

That meant Ohio State would need to hold their advantage on their three positions and force a third in the other two remaining matches, but those calculations are rarely that straightforward.

The Buckeyes did tie the score with nearly simultaneous finishes by Jack Anthrop at line 4 and Tracy at line 3, with Anthrop defeating Gorzny 7-5, 6-2 and Tracy earning a 6-4, 6-4 win over Vives.

The next point belonged to TCU, with Pinnington Jones beating Boulais 6-4, 6-4 at line 2, and minutes later, both remaining matches entered third sets, after Tomas Jirousek took the second set from Bernard at line 6 and Cash forced a third from Maxted at line 5. 

Cash and Bernard, who had delivered quick points for the Buckeyes in their three wins this weekend, were the two players Ohio State fans would want to have in that position, but Cash and Bernard were in pressure situations they had not encountered yet this year. Jirousek got the first break of the third set, but Bernard got it back quickly, while Cash made his early break stand up, staying in front and not deviating from his aggressive net-rushing game. 

Bernard then earned his second break of Jirousek at 3-4 and he served it out for a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory and a 3-3 tie.  After holding a tough service game from 15-30 down at 4-3, the pressure was all on Maxted, and although both stayed committed to their aggressive games, at 30-all it was Cash who forced a passing shot wide and then put away a forehand on his first match point to deliver the title.

"I was so nervous, I was trying so hard to focus, taking every point one by one, trying not to think about it," Cash told Alex Gruskin of Cracked Racquets after the match. "Ty (Tucker) was with me every point, told me to breathe, take my time between points, and I just stuck to the game plan, kept it simple."

Cash had committed to Ohio State, but was not yet playing for the Buckeyes when they last won the title in 2019. The 22-year-old from Ohio explained how important this title was to him and the program.

"It means everything," Cash said in his interview. "We've come so close so many times in this event, we've been the 1 seed so many times, we've had such great starts, and to finally cap it off with a national championship, it's the best feeling ever. It just means so much to us. I was one year out when they won it last, so I saw it from the sidelines as a commit, and it just looked so much fun to be a part of that environment, and I just wanted to be a part of it."

Ohio State now has its third ITA Team Indoor title and is a perfect 13-0 to start the season, with its last seven victories over ranked teams.

TCU suffered its first loss, but its 9-1 record includes six wins this month over ranked teams.

ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships

February 19, 2024
New York NY

Ohio State[1] 4, TCU[2] 3

1. Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives(TCU) d. Andrew Lutschaunig and Justin Boulais(OSU) 6-3
2. Jake Fearnley and Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) d. JJ Tracy and Cannon Kingsley(OSU) 6-4
3. Alexander Bernard and Robert Cash(OSU) d. Duncan Chan and Lui Maxted(TCU) 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 1, 2

1. Jake Fearnley(TCU) d. Cannon Kingsley(OSU) 6-1, 6-0
2. Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) d. Justin Boulais(OSU) 6-4, 6-4
3. JJ Tracy(OSU) d. Pedro Vives(TCU) 6-4, 6-4
4. Jack Anthrop(OSU) d. Sebastian Gorzny(TCU) 7-5, 6-2
5. Robert Cash(OSU) d. Lui Maxted(TCU) 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3
6. Alexander Bernard(OSU) d. Tomas Jirousek(TCU) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Order of finish: 1, 4, 3, 2, 6, 5

The ITF Junior Circuit last week produced plenty of American champions, including a sweep of the four titles at the ITF J200 in the Dominican Republic.

Top seed Thea Frodin eked out a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5) win over No. 2 seed Christasha O'Neil in the girls singles final in Santa Domingo, with the 15-year-old Californian now up to a career-high of 46 in the ITF junior rankings with her highest level title to date.

No. 4 seed Jack Kennedy defeated No. 5 seed Rafael Botran Neutze of Guatemala 6-2, retired in the boys final in Santa Domingo after six Americans had advanced to the quarterfinals. Like Frodin, the 15-year-old Kennedy earned his best title by level with that win and is up to a career high of 83 in the ITF junior rankings.

Unseeded Cole Henceroth and Benjamin Willwerth won the boys doubles title, via a walkover from No. 2 seeds Botran Neutze and El Salvador's Cesar Cruz. It's their first ITF Junior Circuit title as a team.

No. 3 seeds Kayla Chung and Maya Iyengar won the girls doubles title, beating top seeds Frodin and McNeil 6-2, 2-6, 10-8 in the final. It's their first title ITF Junior Circuit title as a team.

There were sweeps for Americans at the J60 in Guatemala as well last week, with Jack Satterfield and Ava Rodriguez champions in both singles and doubles. 

The unseeded Satterfield didn't drop a set in claiming his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the 16-year-old from Florida defeating Agassi Rusher 6-4, 6-3 in the all-American final. No. 8 seed Ava Rodriguez, 15, defeated unseeded Zaire Clarke in another all-US final 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 for her second ITF Junior Circuit title.

Rodriguez and Nina Marcela Chavez Vicente of Guatemala, the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 4 seeds Aida Oviedo and Guatemala's Carlota Balseiro 6-3, 6-4 in the girls doubles final. 

At the J30 in Medford New Jersey, Mark Krupkin swept the titles, with the top-seeded 17-year-old defeating 15-year-old Sebastian Bielen, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-4 in the singles final. He and Nicolas Iantosca, the top seeds, claimed the doubles title when unseeded Gavin Goode and Mason Taube retired trailing 2-0 in the final. 

Unseeded 16-year-old Rachel Smith won her first two titles on the ITF Junior Circuit, beating doubles partner Isabelle DeLuccia, the No. 6 seed, 6-3, 6-4 in the girls singles final. The third-seeded pair then took the doubles title, beating unseeded Anabelle Janczyk and Lauren Zhang 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Sixteen-year-old Aoife Kuo won her first title at the J60 in Mexico last week, with the No. 15 seed beating No. 8 seed Madelynn Ludwig of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Fifteen-year-old Yannik Alvarez, who lives in Atlanta but represents Puerto Rico, won his third ITF Junior Circuit singles title, with the No. 6 seed beating unseeded Emilio Camacho of Ecuador 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the final. Alvarez and Ryan Cozad won the doubles title, their second in the past two weeks, with the No. 5 seeds beating No. 7 seeds Camacho and Tomas Chaves of Colombia 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

At the J300 Inka Bowl in Peru, No. 5 seed Miguel Tabon of Colombia won the boys singles title, beating unseeded William Rejchtman Vinciguerra of Sweden 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in the final. No. 3 seed Antonia Vergara Rivera of Chile won the girls title, beating unseeded 14-year-old Victoria Barros of Brazil 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the championship match.

The rain that postponed the two finals in Florida relented on Monday, and both the $15K in Palm Coast and the ATP 250 in Delray Beach were completed.

No. 2 seed Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan won his second consecutive $15K on the USTA Pro Circuit, beating No. 8 seed Andres Andrade(Florida) of Ecuador 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in today's final.

At Delray Beach, No. 3 seeds Julian Cash (Mississippi State/Oklahoma State) and Robert Galloway(Wofford) won their first ATP title as a team, defeating top seeds Neal Skupski(LSU) of Great Britain and Mexico's Santiago Gonzalez 5-7, 7-5, 10-2 in this morning's final. For more on the first ATP title for both Cash and Galloway, see this article from the ATP.

Taylor Fritz defended his title in singles, with the top seed defeating No. 3 seed Tommy Paul 6-2, 6-3 for his seventh ATP title. Fritz is now 6-0 in his last six ATP finals, with more on the championship match here at the ATP website.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Top Seed Ohio State, Defending Champion TCU Reach Monday's ITA Division I Team Indoor Final; Men's Pro Finals in Florida Postponed Until Monday; USC Women Defeat Michigan in Ann Arbor

Both Ohio State and TCU will be playing for their third ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor title at the Milstein Family Tennis Center at Columbia University Monday, with the Buckeyes, who last won the title in 2019, aiming to end the run of the two-time defending champions Horned Frogs.

Top seed Ohio State earned their place in the final for this first time since that 2019 title with a 4-0 win over No. 4 Virginia, while TCU made it three finals in a row with a 4-2 victory over No. 6 seed Wake Forest.

Ohio State had lost three straight doubles points, including Friday against Alabama and Saturday against Harvard, and they looked to be heading for a fourth consecutive loss of that often key point when Robert Cash and Alex Bernard went down a break to Dylan Dietrich and Inaki Montes at line 3. Montes had not played doubles in the previous two Virginia victories and was still unable to serve with his regular service motion, but did hold his own in the match, and he and Dietrich had two match points with Cash serving at 4-5, after the other two doubles matches had finished. Cash saved both, Montes held serve on a deciding point to go up 6-5 and Bernard held to force the tiebreaker that would determine the point.

On the first point of the tiebreaker, Dietrich hit a second serve to Cash, who replied with backhand return deep at the baseline. Dietrich called it out, and the chair umpire confirmed the call, but Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso corrected his player and told the chair the point should belong to Ohio State. Dietrich and Montes then went down 4-0 and 6-1, and after one hold of serve by Dietrich, the Buckeyes took the set on their second opportunity.

I don't cover college tennis in person as much as I used to, but over the years I've seen too many line call controversies to count, including many overrules on match points and several game penalties that ended matches. Yet I've never seen a college coach correct his or her player's call in a situation like that. In fact, I have rarely seen any of them overrule their own players period, regardless of the significance of the moment. Chair umpires miss calls, as everyone, including the chairs themselves, knows, but it is their job to keep coaches out of situations like the one Pedroso found himself in. 

In this instance, Pedroso certainly had the option of deferring to the chair, but he did not take the easy way out, instead choosing to immediately rectify what he obviously saw as a clear mistake by both his player and the chair umpire. There have been several viral videos of egregious line calls by college players (often when chair umpires are not present) and irate viewers of those videos demand action from the coaches of those players. As I've said, any action of that nature is rare, but this deserves to get equal or greater exposure, to serve as an example of how college tennis might improve its reputation when it comes to line calling.

Now back to the semifinal. The loss of that doubles point wasn't ideal, but Virginia had come back from dropping the doubles point Saturday against Tennessee, who didn't manage another point despite taking three first sets in singles.

But Ohio State has been so rock solid in singles, especially in the bottom two positions, all year, that it proved too much for the Cavaliers, who dropped four first sets. Bernard again got a quick win at line 6, beating Mans Dahlberg 6-0, 6-3 and Cash followed with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Alex Kiefer at line 5 to make it 3-0. The other three matches were all going to third sets, so it was up to JJ Tracy to get the Buckeyes off the court with three straight-sets singles victories and he did, beating Montes 6-3, 6-4 at line 3 to hand the Cavalier senior his first singles loss this weekend, despite his inability to serve normally.

Like Ohio State, TCU has had difficulty with their doubles point, which was so solid last year. They lost their second straight doubles point today against Wake Forest, with the No. 2 team of Jack Pinnington Jones and Jake Fearnley unable to close out a 4-2 lead, losing four straight games to Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomson of Wake Forest.

But as they had done Saturday against Texas A&M, TCU responded in singles, taking five first sets, and while Wake freshman Luca Pow gave the Demon Deacons a point, briefly tying the match after TCU's Lui Maxted at line 5 and Fearnley at line 1 had made it 2-1 Horned Frogs, 15 minutes later it was over, with Pinnington Jones at 2 and Sebastian Gorzny at 4 getting the third and fourth points within seconds of each other.

Monday's championship match, a rematch of the 2023 NCAA semifinal won by Ohio State, is scheduled for noon, with coverage available at the Cracked Racquets YouTube channel. Mike Cation and Alex Gruskin will provide the commentary.

There has yet to be a 4-3 match at this year's Team Indoor Championships, including in the consolation matches, with one of the latter still ongoing this evening. Could that sort of drama be in the cards for Monday?

ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Semifinals:
February 18, 2024
New York, NY

1. Andrew Lutschaunig and Justin Boulais(OSU) d. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg and Chris Rodesch(UVA) 6-4
2. Edoardo Graziani and James Hopper(UVA) d. Cannon Kingsley and JJ Tracy 6-2
3. Robert Cash and Alexander Bernard(OSU) d. Dylan Dietrich and Inaki Montes(UVA) 7-6(2)

Order of finish: 2, 1, 3


1. Cannon Kingsley(OSU) v Chris Rodesch(UVA) 6-4, 3-6, 1-0, unfinished
2. Dylan Dietrich(UVA) v Justin Boulais(OSU) 6-3, 4-6, 1-0, unfinished
3. JJ Tracy(OSU) d. Inaki Montes(UVA) 6-3, 6-4
4. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg(UVA) v Jack Anthrop(OSU) 6-4, 3-6, 2-0, unfinished
5. Robert Cash(OSU) d. Alexander Kiefer(UVA) 6-2, 6-2
6. Alexander Bernard(OSU) d. Mans Dahlberg(UVA) 6-0, 6-3

Order of finish: 6, 5, 3

1. Holden Koons and DK Suresh(WAKE) d. Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives(TCU) 6-3
2. Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomson(WAKE) d. Jack Pinnington Jones and Jake Fearnley(TCU) 6-4
3. Duncan Chan and Lui Maxted(TCU) d. Luca Pow and Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) 6-3

Order of finish: 3, 1, 2

1. Jake Fearnley(TCU) d. Filippo Moroni(WAKE) 6-2, 6-3
2. Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) d. DK Suresh(WAKE) 7-5, 6-2 
3. Pedro Vives(TCU) v Matthew Thomson(WAKE) 6-4, 5-4, unfinished
4. Sebastian Gorzny(TCU) d. Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) 6-1, 7-6(3) 
5. Lui Maxted(TCU) d. Holden Koons(WAKE) 6-1, 6-2 
6. Luca Pow(WAKE) d. Tomas Jirousek(TCU) 6-1, 6-2

Order of finish: 5, 1, 6, 2, 4

Consolation matches

Arizona State[15] 4, Michigan[11] 2
Tennessee[5] 4, Harvard[9] 0
Texas[3] 4, South Carolina[7] 0
Alabama[16] 4, USC[12] 1
Columbia[8] 4, Duke[13] 0
Arizona[14] 4, Texas A&M[10] 1


None of the three men's professional finals were played today in Florida, with rain washing out all three of the championship matches, singles and doubles at the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open, and singles at USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 tournament in Palm Coast.

The doubles final between top seeds Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Neal Skupski(LSU) of Great Britain and No. 3 seeds Julian Cash(Mississippi State/Oklahoma State) of Great Britain and Robert Galloway(Wofford) is set for 10:30 a.m. Monday, with Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul scheduled to decide the singles championship beginning at 12:30 p.m.

In Palm Coast, No. 8 seed Andres Andrade(Florida) of Ecuador will be facing No. 2 seed Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan in the final, scheduled for 10:00 a.m.  

The doubles final did get played Saturday in Palm Coast, with Andrade and Alex Rybakov(TCU), the top seeds, winning their second straight title. The Sunrise $15K champions defeated No. 3 seeds Finn Reynolds(Ole Miss) of New Zealand and Juan Sebastian Gomez of Colombia 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

In a notable result today in women's college tennis, No. 17 Southern California defeated No. 2 Michigan 4-2 in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, finalists last Monday at the Women's Team Indoor in Seattle, dropped the doubles point to USC, with the Trojans winning at lines 5, 6 and 3,  although who was playing what position is unclear with the two schools providing different players in various positions in their recaps. Senior Jaedan Brown did not play singles or doubles for Michigan today.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

No Doubles Point, No Problem as Top Seeds Ohio State and TCU Advance to Men's Team Indoor Semifinals Against Virginia and Wake Forest; Fritz and Paul Meet for ATP Delray Beach Title

After twelve matches at the ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships, we still have yet to get a 4-3, last-match-on nail-biter, but three of the top four seeds will play in the semifinals tomorrow, and there is no questioning their credentials. 

Top seed Ohio State will play No. 4 Virginia in a rematch of last year's NCAA team final, although the Buckeyes have already avenged that loss with a 7-0 victory earlier this month in Columbus. No. 2 seeds and two-time defending champions TCU face No. 6 seed Wake Forest in the nightcap after both picked up 4-2 victories today.

Virginia started the day with a 5-1 win over No. 5 seed Tennessee, introducing the day's theme of advancing despite loss of the doubles point. Tennessee won a tiebreaker at line 1 to get the doubles point after the sets at lines 2 and 3 were split, and had a path to a victory with three first sets in singles. But the Volunteers were unable to put up that second point, while Virginia quickly took two of the singles matches to take the lead, with freshman Dylan Dietrich taking line 2 over Shunsuke Mitsui and Inaki Montes beating Filip Pieczonka at line 3. Montes, who has been out with a shoulder injury most of the year, is back in the lineup, but he is unable to hit a normal serve. He is starting points with a what looks like a practice starter forehand, yet neither of his opponents the past two days has been able to take advantage of that and he is now 2-0.

Those were the only two matches that finished in straight sets, with the other four splitting, and Virginia got a victory from Alex Kiefer at line 6 to go up 3-1. Chris Rodesch won over Johannus Monday at line 1 to clinch it; At line 4, Jeffrey von der Schulenburg was playing a match point against Filip Apltauer at when Rodesch clinched, and he won it, making the final score 5-1.

TCU and No. 10 seed Texas A&M were next up, and the Horned Frogs were soundly beaten by the Aggies in doubles, winning at 2 and 3 in half an hour. But TCU won five of six first sets in singles, and didn't let Texas A&M back into four of those matches, taking lines 1, 2, 4 and 6 in straight sets for a 4-2 victory.

For the third match in a row, Ohio State dropped the doubles point, this time to No. 9 Harvard, with the Buckeyes trying yet another combination and still unable to find a way to take more than one doubles set. Harvard drew a big crowd to the Milstein Family Tennis Center at Columbia, and they enjoyed the Crimson's lead, but the Buckeyes quickly silenced them, taking all six first sets in singles and rolling to 4-1 victory in less than two hours. Cannon Kingsley at 1, JJ Tracy at 3, Robert Cash at 5 and Alex Bernard at 6 delivered the points for Ohio State, who lost in the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed last year.

The doubles point in Wake Forest's 4-2 win over No. 14 seed Arizona took as long as most of the Ohio State singles matches, with both Arizona and Wake Forest having match points in the tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles. But it was Wake who took that tiebreaker, and a second tiebreaker at line 2 for the point, and Arizona was not able to overcome that deficit, as Virginia, TCU and Ohio State had done.

Wake took four first sets in singles, and although Arizona tied the match with Herman Hoeyeraal, the hero of the Wildcats' win over No. 3 Texas Friday, getting a win at line 4. Nick Lagaev, who played at line 4 Friday, was out of the lineup tonight, and Hoeyeraal's replacement at line 5, Inaki Cabrera-Bello lost to Holden Koons 6-2, 6-2 to put Wake Forest back in front. Matthew Thomson made it 3-1 with a routine win over Gustaf Strom at line 3, but Arizona stayed alive when DK Suresh was unable to convert his two match points in the second set tiebreaker in his match with Jay Friend at line 2, and Arizona's Colton Smith closed out Filippo Moroni at line 1 to make it 3-2.

That was as close as Arizona would get, with Wake freshman Luca Pow holding a 3-1 lead in the second set against Casper Christensen as Suresh and Friend entered a third set. Pow went up 4-1, two breaks, so the suspense was muted, but he was unable to serve it out on his first attempt at 5-2. He recovered to break Christensen in the next game however to put Wake Forest, who went 0-3 last year at the Team Indoor Championships, into the semifinals.

The Ohio State - Virginia semifinal is scheduled at noon, with the TCU - Wake Forest semifinal set to start at 3:30 p.m. Both matches will be at Columbia Sunday, with Cracked Racquets providing coverage at their YouTube Channel.

Men's D-I Team Indoor quarterfinals
February 17, 2024
New York, NY

1. Angel Diaz and Johannus Monday(TENN) d. Chris Rodesch and Jeffrey von der Schulenburg(UVA) 7-6(5)
2. Shunsuke Mitsui and Filip Pieczonka(TENN) d. Edoardo Graziani and James Hopper(UVA) 6-1
3. Alexander Kiefer and Dylan Dietrich(UVA) d. Filip Apltauer and Younes Lalami(TENN) 6-1

Order of finish: 2, 3, 1

1. Chris Rodesch(UVA) d. Johannus Monday(TENN) 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4
2. Dylan Dietrich(UVA) d. Shunsuke Mitsui(TENN) 6-3, 6-2
3. Inaki Montes(UVA) d. Filip Pieczonka(TENN) 6-3, 6-3
4. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg(UVA) d. Filip Apltauer(TENN) 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5
5. Christopher Li(TENN) v Edoardo Graziani(UVA) 6-7(4) 6-0, 5-5, unfinished
6. Alexander Kiefer(UVA) d. Angel Diaz(TENN) 4-6, 7-5, 6-2

Order of finish: 2, 3, 6, 1, 4

1. Giulio Perego and Togan Tokac(TAMU) v Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives(TCU) 4-3, unfinished
2. Luke Casper and JC Roddick(TAMU) d. Jake Fearnley and Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) 6-1
3. Raphael Perot and Tiago Pires(TAMU) d. Duncan Chan and Lui Maxted(TCU) 6-4

Order of finish: 3, 2

1. Jake Fearnley(TCU) d. Raphael Perot(TAMU) 6-3, 6-2
2. Jack Pinnington Jones(TCU) d. JC Roddick(TAMU) 6-2, 6-4
3. Togan Tokac(TAMU) d. Pedro Vives(TCU) 6-3, 7-6(2)
4. Sebastian Gorzny(TCU) d. Giulio Perego(TAMU) 6-4, 7-6(6)
5. Lui Maxted(TCU) v Tiago Pires(TAMU) 6-1, 2-6, 4-4, unfinished
6. Tomas Jirousek(TCU) d. Luke Casper(TAMU) 6-4, 6-4

Order of finish: 1, 2, 4, 3, 6

1. Cooper Williams and Daniel Milavsky(HAR) d. Andrew Lutschaunig and Justin Boulais(OSU) 6-3 
2. Cannon Kingsley and JJ Tracy(OSU) d. Ronan Jachuck and Masato Peerera(HAR) 6-1
3. Henry von der Schulenburg and David Lins(HAR) d. Robert Cash and Alexander Bernard(OSU) 6-4

Order of finish: 2, 1, 3

1. Cannon Kingsley(OSU) d. Cooper Williams(HAR) 6-1, 6-2 
2. Justin Boulais(OSU) v Henry von der Schulenburg(HAR) 7-6(4), 2-1, unfinished
3. JJ Tracy(OSU) d. Daniel Milavsky(HAR) 6-1, 6-1 
4. Jack Anthrop(OSU) v. Ronan Jachuck(HAR) 6-4, 3-2, unfinished
5. Robert Cash(OSU) d. Melchior Delloye(HAR) 6-3, 6-1 
6. Alexander Bernard(OSU) d. Valdemar Pape(HAR) 6-2, 6-0 

Order of finish: 1, 6, 3, 5

1.  Holden Koons and DK Suresh(WAKE) d. Colton Smith and Jay Friend(AZ) 7-6(9)
2. Filippo Moroni and Matthew Thomson(WAKE) d. Herman Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham(AZ) 7-6(5) 
3. Alexander Rozin and Gustaf Strom(AZ) d. Luca Pow and Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) 6-1

Order of finish: 3, 2, 1

1. Colton Smith(AZ) d. Filippo Moroni(WAKE) 6-1, 7-6(5)
2. DK Suresh(WAKE) v Jay Friend(AZ) 6-3, 6-7(6), 3-2, unfinished 
3. Matthew Thomson(WAKE) d. Gustaf Strom(AZ) 6-3, 6-1
4. Herman Hoeyeraal(AZ) d. Luciano Tacchi(WAKE) 6-3, 6-2
5. Holden Koons(WAKE) d. Inaki Cabrera-Bello(AZ) 6-2, 6-2 
6. Luca Pow(WAKE) d. Casper Christensen(AZ) 7-6(4), 6-3

Order of finish: 4, 5, 3, 1, 6

Consolation matches:

South Carolina[7] 4, Arizona State[15] 2
Duke[13] 4, USC[[12] 1
Texas[3] 4, Michigan[11] 0
Columbia[8] 4, Alabama[16] 0


Sunday's final at the ATP 250 in Delray Beach is set for Sunday, with No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz, the defending champion, facing No. 3 seed Tommy Paul, who won the title last week at the ATP 250 in Dallas.  Paul rolled past No. 2 seed Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 6-2 in this afternoon's semifinal; Fritz defeated unseeded Marcos Giron(UCLA), 7-6(8), 6-2 in tonight's semifinal. Fritz and Paul split their two meetings on the ITF Junior Circuit back in 2015, with Paul winning the Roland Garros final over Fritz and Fritz winning the US Open final over Paul. 

In professional play, Paul owns a 4-3 edge in matches that date back to a Futures in 2015; Paul won their only meeting last year, in the semifinals of ATP 500 in Acapulco. The final in Delray Beach is scheduled not before 3 p.m. Sunday, after the doubles final between top seeds Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Neal Skupski(LSU) of Great Britain and No. 3 seeds Julian Cash(Mississippi State/Oklahoma State) of Great Britain and Robert Galloway(Wofford).