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Sunday, February 4, 2024

Mayew Takes Second Straight ITF J300 Title in Colombia; Lyutova Wins Again in San Diego; Kypson and Kessler Claim USTA Pro Circuit 75 Titles; Shnaider Captures First WTA Title; Kentucky Beats Virginia, TCU Comes Back to Defeat Tennessee; Texas Women Upset Georgia

Two weeks ago, 17-year-old Ian Mayew was at 281 in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings; 14 J300 wins later, the North Carolina recruit will be in the Top 50 after adding the Barranquilla Colombia J300 championship to the title he won last week at the J300 in Costa Rica as a qualifier.

With a special exemption providing him a main draw spot in Colombia, where he was initially in qualifying, Mayew won six matches while dropping just one set. In the final, he defeated top seed Hoyoung Roh of Korea 6-2, 6-3, his fifth victory of the week over a seed.

Noah Johnston also went back-to-back in the Costa Rica/Colombia hard court tournaments in doubles. Playing with a different partner this week, No. 5 seeds Johnston and Alejandro Arcila of Colombia took the doubles title, beating the unseeded team of Italy's Vito Darderi and Cole Henceroth 6-2, 6-2.

Fifteen-year-old Thea Frodin reached her first J300 final, a week after advancing to her first J300 semifinal in Costa Rica, but lost the No. 12 seed lost to No. 7 seed Jeline Vandromme of Belgium 6-0, 6-2 in the Barranquilla final. Vandromme swept the titles, partnering with Mia Pohankova of Slovakia; the No. 3 seeds defeated the unseeded team of Anita Tu and Kristina Penickova 7-5, 7-6(2) in the final.

At the J100 in Brisbane Australia, top seed Jagger Leach, who reached the doubles semifinals of the Australian Open Junior Championships with Kaylan Bigun, won the singles title without dropping a set, beating No. 11 seed Brendan Loh of Australia 6-3, 7-5 in the final. 

The J30 in San Diego was something of a mess, with rain washing out all play on Thursday, which forced the semifinals and finals into the same day. That didn't faze No. 2 seed Christina Lyutova, who ran her 2024 record to 15-0 by sweeping all three J30s in Californian the past four weeks. The 14-year-old, who represents Russia but lives in the Pacific Northwest, did lose a set this week, her first this year, to Bianca Molnar in the quarterfinals, but defeated unseeded Isabelle Deluccia 6-2, 6-1 for her sixth ITF Junior Circuit title.

The boys title went to unseeded Nav Dayal, who defeated the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 7 seeds to advance to the final, where he beat unseeded Gray Kelley 6-1, 6-2. It's the first ITF Junior Circuit title for the 16-year-old Californian. 

Kelley did earn a title in San Diego, taking the doubles with Nathan Gold. The No. 3 seeds defeated unseeded Adrien Abarca and Brayden Tallakson 6-3, 2-6, 10-6 in the final. Top seeds Molnar and Gianna Oboniye won the girls doubles, defeating the  unseeded team of DeLuccia and Alexandra Wolf 2-6, 6-2, 10-2 in the final.

Today's USTA Pro Circuit 75 champions McCartney Kessler and Patrick Kypson have several things in common: The two 24-year-olds, claimed the USTA's main draw wild cards for the 2024 Australian Open with their performances last fall, and as No. 5 seeds this week defeated unseeded teenagers in the finals of indoor events. Both spent time in college, although Kypson was at Texas A&M for just one semester in 2018, while Kessler played at Florida from 2017-2022. And now, with today's titles both are at similar career-high rankings, with Kessler at 152 and Kypson at 158.
Kypson, who defeated 19-year-old Ethan Quinn(Georgia) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the ATP Challenger 75 in Cleveland, now has three career Challenger titles, all since last June, after years of injury struggles.

Kessler, who defeated 18-year-old Liv Hovde 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the W75 in Rome Georgia, played her first professional season in 2023 (I spoke to her last fall at the WTA 125 in Midland after she had won her first pro title in Rome in October for this article), and posted her first main draw slam win in Australia last month. She now has won 10 straight matches on the Rome indoors courts, which are near her home in the Atlanta area. 

Former NC State star Diana Shnaider won her first WTA title today at the 250 level event in Hua Hin Thailand. The unseeded 19-year-old from Russia defeated No. 2 seed and defending champion Lin Zhu of China 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 in the final to boost her ranking back into the Top 100 at 73.

It was another day full of excitement in Division I college tennis, with No. 16 Kentucky taking down No. 3 Virginia 4-3 in Lexington and No. 5 seed TCU coming from 3-1 down to defeat No. 6 Tennessee in Fort Worth 4-3.

Virginia was again playing without their top two players with Chris Rodesch competing in Davis Cup for Luxembourg and Inaki Montes not playing in either singles or doubles, presumably due to injury. Kentucky was without Joshua Lapadat, who had been playing No. 1 for the Wildcats, but they overcame the loss of the doubles point and got singles points from Taha Baadi at line 1, Jaden Weekes at line 3, Charlelie Cosnet at line 4 and freshman Eli Stephenson at line 5. Kentucky lost to Alabama in their regional last weekend, so will not be in New York for the National Indoor Championships, but this win will be a big boost for them over the course of the next three months, assuming Virginia does get healthy and back to the form that earned them the last two NCAA team titles.

Like Kentucky, TCU doesn't have six indoor courts, so a close match will be lengthy, and the Horned Frogs needed the two victories from lines 5 and 6, which went on after the first two matches in the top 4 finished, to defeat the Volunteers. TCU rarely trails to start singles, but they did today, dropping the doubles point, and Tennessee went up 2-0 with a quick win by Shunsuke Mitsui over Jack Pinnington Jones at line 2. Sebastian Gorzny got TCU on the board with a three-set win at line 4, but Tennessee went up 3-1 when freshman Filip Pieczonka beat Pedro Vives at line 3. TCU's Lui Maxted at 5 and Tomas Jirousek at 6 had taken their first sets, but wouldn't matter if Jake Fearnley couldn't pull out a third-set tiebreaker against Johannus Monday at line 1. He did, taking it 7-3, and Maxted and Jirousek put an end to the drama after nearly four hours, with straight-sets wins.

The Top 10 battle on the women's side was also indoors in Texas, with the No. 10 Longhorns beating No. 4 Georgia 4-3. Texas took the doubles point but Georgia took five first sets in singles, giving them an obvious path to a win. But the Bulldogs were able to win only two of those matches in straight sets, taking the lead with wins from Mai Nirundorn at line 6 and Dasha Vidmanova at line 2. Texas answered with a come-from-behind three-set win from Charlotte Chavatipon at line 4 to tie and a two-set win from Malaika Rapolu at line 3 to give the Longhorns a 3-2 lead, and they sealed the win with Taisiya Pachkaleva's 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Guillermina Grant at line 5. The match at line 1 between Georgia newcomer Alexandra Vecic and Sabina Zeynalova was played out, with Vecic winning it 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4).

For most of the results from the weekend's Top 25 matches, go to collegetennisranks.com