Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Monday, February 5, 2024

Texas Tops Women's Recruiting Class Rankings; Prominent Juniors Among ITF 51 Grand Slam Grant Recipients; Four Americans Qualify for ATP 250 Dallas Open, Quinn, Neff Awarded Wild Cards; Georgia Gwinnett Sweeps NAIA Team Indoor Titles

Tennis Recruiting Network's 2024 winter recruiting class rankings for women were published today, with the University of Texas's class of Maya Joint, Ariana Pursoo and Lucy Schmeil finishing in the top spot in the rankings. The Longhorns weren't a unanimous choice, UCLA and Stanford also received votes for No. 1, but the precedent is a good one for Texas, as they had the No. 1 class in 2020 and went on to win the next two NCAA team championships.  Following Texas in order are Pepperdine, North Carolina, UCLA, Auburn, Michigan, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Clemson and Central Florida. After the recent dismissal of Auburn's coaches Caroline Lilley and Megan Falcon, blue chip recruit Ashton Bowers received a release from her National Letter of Intent, so the program that signs her is likely to see a boost in their ranking in the spring.

The men's recruiting class rankings for 2024 were published last Monday and can be viewed here.

Back when there was so much going on at the Australian Open, the ITF released its annual list of players who will be receiving grants via the Grand Slam Player Development Programme. There are 51 players on the list this year, some as young as 14 and some as old as 23. I've never quite understood the process or criteria; this is all last year's article had to say on that issue:

The Grand Slam Player Development Programme Committee considers a number of factors – particularly age, ranking and regional representation criteria.

I do know that no player from a Grand Slam nation ever receives one of these grants, but players from large, prosperous countries often do, as do players who are on scholarship at major international tennis academies. 

The two players receiving the largest grants ($50,000) this year are 2023 Roland Garros boys champion Dino Prizmic of Croatia, 18, and Maaya Rajeshwaran Revathi of India, 14.

I'll provide updates Tuesday on the two USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Florida, but there's also the return of the ATP, with the 250 Dallas Open underway today at SMU. This is the last year the tournament will be on the SMU campus, with the tournament moving to the NFL Dallas Cowboys practice facility in  Frisco Texas, which was necessary due to its upgrade to an ATP 500 event next year. For more on that move, see this article.

The tournament has always been popular with American men returning from Australia, and the top three seeds this year are the top American men, minus Taylor Fritz, who played Davis Cup last weekend in Lithuania. Frances Tiafoe is the No. 1 seed, followed by Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton. Adrian Mannarino of France is the No. 4 seed, with the top four seeds receiving byes in the first round. 

All the qualifiers are from the United States, as well as lucky loser Denis Kudla, who lost to Nicolas Moreno de Alboran(UC-Santa Barbara) in today's final round of qualifying. In addition to beating Kudla today, Moreno de Alboran defeated SMU freshman and 2023 Kalamazoo 18s finalist Trevor Svajda 6-3, 7-6(2). Collegiate contemporaries Steve Johnson(USC) and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) reached the main draw, as did Emilio Nava.

Sandgren faces Alex Michelsen, with the winner facing Tiafoe; Moreno de Alboran plays Marcos Giron(UCLA); Johnson will take on No. 5 seed Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech). Nava's first round opponent is Michael Mmoh and Kudla will play Radu Albot of Moldova. 

Two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion Zachary Svajda will face Australian James Duckworth in the first round.

Wild cards were given to Dallas's Mitchell Krueger, SMU senior Adam Neff and NCAA singles champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia). Unfortunately Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M) was initially scheduled to compete in qualifying in Dallas, but was unable to use that opportunity, as he was playing in the Cleveland Challenger final Sunday, when qualifying began in Dallas.

Last year marked the first year of the NAIA Team Indoor Championships, and it was not a tournament that would elicit fond memories in the Georgia Gwinnett teams. The men's 173-match winning streak ended when they lost 4-3 to Keiser in the final; the women's 63-match winning streak also ended in a 4-3 loss to Keiser in the Team Indoor finals, hosted by William Woods in Overland Park Kansas.

Back in the finals again this year, both the Grizzlies teams took the titles this year, with the top-seeded women defeating No. 3 seed Xavier(Louisiana) 4-1 and the top-seeded men beating No. 2 seed Tennessee Wesleyan by the same score. For a recap of both of Sunday's finals in Overland Park, see this article from the ITA.