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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.