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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Hovde Claims Fourth USTA Pro Circuit Title at W35 in Boca Raton; Sarasota Challenger Doubles Title for Boyer; Kentucky Men Earn SEC Championship with 4-3 Win Over Tennessee; Easter Bowl Gallery, 14s Finals Videos

Liv Hovde won her fourth USTA Pro Circuit title in her fifth final today at the W35 in Boca Raton Florida, with the 18-year-old defeating 17-year-old wild card Akasha Urhobo 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Hovde, the No. 5 seed, didn't hold serve until the fourth game of the second set, despite getting 80 percent of her first serves in; Urhobo was also unable to take advantage after that first set, however, holding just once in the final set. 


Hovde, the 2022 Wimbledon girls champion, should be close to the top 250 when the points are added, which may give her a chance at the qualifying at Roland Garros.

At the ATP Challenger 75 this week in Sarasota, unseeded Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) was the last American competing in singles and he lost Saturday in the semifinals to No. 4 seed Zizou Bergs of Belgium 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. He then was scheduled to play both his semifinal and final matches in doubles that same afternoon, with Ethan Quinn(Georgia). Quinn and Sandgren won their semifinal, but lost in the final last night, to Tristan Boyer(Stanford) and Oliver Crawford(Florida) of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2.  It's Boyer's first doubles title as a pro, at any level; Crawford has one other doubles title, claimed nearly five years ago at a $25K. 

No. 3 seed Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia won the singles title, beating Bergs 6-3, 1-6, 6-0. 

At the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo, former collegians Joran Vliegen(East Carolina) and Sander Gille(E Tennessee St) of Belgium won their eighth ATP title, and first Masters title, beating Marcelo Melo of Brazil and Alexander Zverev of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 10-5 in the final. With the title, the pair are back into the ATP Top 20, tied for 19th and just off their career-highs of 17 and 18. For more on their title, see this article from the ATP website.

Today was the last day of regular season play for the SEC, Big 12 and ACC, with regular season conference champions crowned. The Oklahoma State women finished a perfect 24-0, capturing the B12 regular season title for the first time since 2017. The Texas men went 7-0 in the Big 12 to claim the men's regular season title.

In the ACC, the Virginia men won their fourth straight conference title, all of them with perfect 12-0 records. The senior class of Chris Rodesch, Inaki Montes, Jeffrey von der Schulenburg and Alex Kiefer are 48-0 in conference play during their four years, a remarkable accomplishment. The Virginia women will share the conference regular season title with North Carolina; both teams suffered one loss, UNC to NC State and Virginia to UNC. North Carolina receives the top seed in next week's ACC conference tournament.

The SEC women also have a shared title, with Texas A&M and Georgia both finishing the year with one conference loss. The Aggies lost to Georgia; Georgia fell to Auburn.


The men's SEC title came down to today's match between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 6 Tennessee. Kentucky had already clinched a share of the title, with Tennessee having a loss to Texas A&M, but a win today in Lexington would give the Wildcats a perfect conference record and the outright conference championship. The match was as close as anticipated, with Kentucky winning the doubles point in a tiebreaker at line 3 after the teams had split lines 1 and 2 by 7-5 scores. 

Tennessee took the first two points in singles, with Johannus Monday at 1 and Angel Diaz at 6 getting straight-sets victories over Taha Baadi and Eli Stephenson, but Kentucky tied it up when Charlelie Cosnet beat Nicholas Kobelt 7-6(7), 6-3 at line 4. That was the last match decided in straight sets, with lines 2, 3 and 5 all going three. Tennessee got the flip they needed at line 2, with Shunsuke Matsui beating Joshua Lapadat 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, but Jaden Weekes brought the Wildcats to 3-all with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Christopher Li. That meant two freshman left-handers would decide the match at line 5, with Jack Loutit leading Filip Pieczonka 3-1 when all the attention went to that match. Pieczonka, down 2 breaks, got one break back and a had a deciding point with Loutit serving at 4-3, but he made an unforced error early in the point, giving Loutit the hold and a 5-3 lead. Pieczonka forced him to serve it out, but he did, finishing off the match with a spectacular passing shot.

For more on the Kentucky conference title and this match, see this UK Athletics article.

The Tennis Recruiting Network published my Easter Bowl Photo Gallery today, which includes shots of the top eight finishers in all eight divisions. 

I processed the 14s videos, which, due to the simultaneous nature of the finals of the 12s and 14s divisions, are not as long as I would like. Expect the 16s and 18s videos next week.


Saturday, April 13, 2024

Urhobo and Hovde Reach Boca Raton W35 Final; Exsted Wins ITF J200 in Canada; USA Advances to Billie Jean King Cup Finals; Easter Bowl 12s Finals Videos

Seventeen-year-old wild card Akasha Urhobo will play in her first USTA Pro Circuit final Sunday at the W35 in Boca Raton Florida against 18-year-old Liv Hovde, who will be competing in a USTA Pro Circuit final for the fifth time, after each posted tough straight-sets victories in today's semfinals.

Urhobo, from Ft. Lauderdale Florida, defeated No. 8 seed Maya Joint of Australia 6-4, 7-5 in just under two hours; Hovde, the No. 5 seed, ended the winning streak of last week's W35 champion in Mississippi, 19-year-old Katrina Scott, 6-4, 6-4.

Hovde, the 2022 Wimbledon girls champion, has won three Pro Circuit titles, two W35s and one W15, with her last one a W35 11 months ago. Hovde and Urhobo met a year ago in the first round of the W100 in Charleston, with Hovde winning 6-0, 6-0, so motivation should not be a problem for Urhobo.

In the doubles final, two former UCLA Bruins, Robin Anderson and Australia's Elysia Bolton, won the title, beating Rasheeda McAdoo(Georgia Tech) and Maribella Zamarripa(Texas) 3-6, 6-4, 10-8. Neither team was seeded.

Nadia Lagaev and Max Exsted
No. 3 seed Maxwell Exsted won the title at the J200 in Woodbridge Ontario today, with the 17-year-old from Minnesota defeating top seed Cooper Woestendick 6-3, 7-6(3) in the first ITF Junior Circuit contest between the reigning Australian Open boys doubles champions. It's the fourth and biggest singles title of Exsted's ITF Junior Circuit career; the 2022 Eddie Herr 16s champion has eight ITF junior doubles titles, four of them with Woestendick.

No. 4 seed Nadia Lagaev of Canada won the girls singles title, beating unseeded 15-year-old Nancy Lee 6-4, 6-1.

The USA will again have its team in the Billie Jean King Cup world final late this year in Seville Spain, after this weekend's 4-0 win over Belgium in World Group qualifying. The US team, with Lindsay Davenport in her first appearance as captain, came into today with a 2-0 lead that was hard to come by; both Jessica Pegula and Emma Navarro(Virginia) dropped their first sets to 19-year-olds Sofia Costoulas(WTA 279) and Hanne Vandewinkel(WTA 278) before claiming the victories last night. Today, Pegula clinched the win with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Vandewinkel, with Taylor Townsend and Caroline Dolehide winning the fourth point in a dead rubber of doubles. For more, see this article from the BJK Cup website.

I've completed processing of the videos of the Easter Bowl 12s finals, which took place at the same time as the 14s finals, so they are all going to be brief. The boys 12s final could not be shot from behind, so there are two separate videos of champion Jiarui Zhang and finalist Nathan Lee. The girls final is all of one, very long game in the second set.



Friday, April 12, 2024

Four Teens Reach Semifinals at Boca Raton W35; Exsted, Woestendick and Lee Advance to ITF J200 Finals in Canada; Xu and Bonding Claim British National 18s Titles; Duke Men Beat No. 7 Wake Forest

Last week, teens Katrina Scott, Maya Joint and Akasha Urhobo reached the semifinals of the W35 in Mississippi; this week at the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Boca Raton Florida all three have again reached the semifinals, with No. 5 seed Liv Hovde joining them, guaranteeing a teen champion for the second week in a row.

Nineteen-year-old Scott, who won the title last week and received a special exemption into the main draw by virtue of that, defeated No. 7 seed Ana Sofia Sanchez of Mexico 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in three hours and 18 minutes in today's quarterfinals and will face 18-year-old Hovde, who beat wild card Ashton Bowers 6-1, 6-1. 

No. 8 seed Maya Joint of Australia, whose worse finish in an ITF women's World Tennis Tour event this year is the quarterfinals, needed three hours and 12 minutes to beat No. 4 seed Varvara Lepchenko today 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Joint, who turns 18 next week, has won two ITF WTT women's titles this year. She will face 17-year-old Akasha Urhobo, who defeated qualifier Hiroko Kuwata of Japan 6-4, 6-1. 

This will be a first meeting in both of the semifinals.

The singles finals are set at the ITF J200 in Ontario Canada, with Australian Open doubles champions Cooper Woestendick and Maxwell Exsted meeting in the boys final, while Nancy Lee will play Canadian Nadia Lagaev in the girls final.

Woestendick, the No. 1 seed, beat No. 6 seed Kase Schinnerer 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in today's semifinals, with No. 3 seed Exsted having a similar challenge in his 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over unseeded Nicholas Arseneault of Canada. Woestendick and Exsted will be playing for the first time in ITF Junior Circuit competiton. 

The 15-year-old Lee, who won the Easter Bowl 14s title last year, defeated No. 7 seed Jessica Bernales 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-5 to advance to the biggest final on the ITF Junior Circuit. The 16-year-old Lagaev, the No. 4 seed, who defeated unseeded Ameia Sorey 6-0, 6-0, has won J100 titles, but this would be her biggest ITF Junior Circuit title.

The doubles finals were played today, with all-USA teams competing for the titles. No. 2 seeds Bernales and Kate Fakih, the No. 2 seeds, won the girls title without dropping a set, beating unseeded Kayla Moore and Vessa Turley 6-3, 6-3 in the final. 

No. 1 seeds Nikita Filin and Matthew Forbes won the boys title, defeating No. 2 seeds Schinnerer and Matisse Farzam 5-7, 7-6(6), 10-8 in the final. 

The finals of the Lexus Junior National 18s Championships in Great Britain were today, with Oliver Bonding and Mingge Xu taking the titles. 

Top seed Bonding, who lost in the finals last year, defeated No. 4 seed Charlie Robertson 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Xu, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed Hannah Klugman 6-7(4), 7-6(7), 6-4 for the girls title. 

In addition to Wimbledon Junior wild cards, which neither is likely to need, Bonding and Xu will receive men's and women's qualifying wild cards at Wimbledon this summer.

Draws can be found here.

Eight of the Top 10 Division I women's teams were in late season conference action today, and all won their matches as expected.

In men's play today, just two Top 10 teams played, and one of them lost, with No. 7 Wake Forest losing to No. 14 Duke 4-1 at home.  

Duke won the doubles point in a tiebreaker at line 1, with Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas beating the ITA's top-ranked team of DK Suresh and Holden Koons 7-6(2) after Michael Heller and Andrew Zhang had taken doubles line 2.

Each team won three first sets, but Duke sophomore Rodenas, who has struggled a bit this year, at least compared to his freshman year, quickly made it 2-0, beating Sureash 6-0, 6-4. Wake Forest got its point next, with Lucciano Tacchi beating Connor Krug 6-3, 7-6(6) at line 4, and that was the last of the straight-sets matches. Andrew Zhang and Faris Khan, both of whom had lost their first sets, forced third sets at 3 and 6, and Alex Visser at 5 and Johns at 1, both of whom had won their first sets, finished off their matches, with Visser defeating Koons 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 and Johns beating Fillipo Moroni 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. 

This win helps solidify Duke's Top 16 position, allowing it to host the first two rounds of the NCAAs. The full box score is here.

The other top 10 men's team in action today is No. 5 Kentucky, who is playing No. 38 Georgia in Lexington and that match was moved indoors, where there are only four courts. Kentucky currently leads 3-1.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

USA Teams for Junior Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, World Junior Tennis Qualifying; Five Teenagers Advance to Boca Raton W35 Quarterfinals; ITA Announces Four Sites for 2025, 2026 Team Indoor Championships; UTR Pro Tennis Tour Results


The North and Central American and Caribbean qualifying for the ITF's Junior Davis Cup, Junior Billie Jean King Cup (16-and-under) and World Junior Tennis(14-and-under) competitions begin next Wednesday in Lake Nona, with the USA rosters as follows:


Junior Davis Cup
Jack Kennedy
Carel Ngounoue
Jack Secord
Jose Caballero (captain)

Junior BJK Cup
Thea Frodin
Shannon Lam
Kristina Penickova
Georgi Rumenov (captain)
WJT - Boys
Michael Antonius
Jordan Lee
Teodor Davidov
Sylvain Guichard (captain)

WJT - Girls
Welles Newman
Margaret Sohns
Sarah Ye
Thierry Champion (captain)

Canada and Mexico will also have teams in all four competitions; the list of the three other countries sending teams to the three-day competition can be found here.

Friday's quarterfinals at the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Boca Raton will feature five teenagers, including two wild cards. The oldest is Katrina Scott, last week's champion at the W35 in Mississippi, who received a special exempt entry into the main draw this week and beat Maria Kozyreva(St. Mary's) of Russia 6-3, 6-3 in the second round today. Scott, who turns 20 in June, will face No. 7 seed Ana Sofia Sanchez of Mexico Friday. Eighteen-year-olds Ashton Bowers and Liv Hovde will face off in the only all-US quarterfinal, with Bowers, a wild card advancing when Jamie Loeb(UNC) retired trailing 2-6, 6-3, 4-2, and No. 5 seed Hovde getting past Alana Smith(NC State) 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.  

In the bottom half, 17-year-old Maya Joint of Australia will face No. 4 seed Vavara Lepchenko, with Joint breezing past qualifier Kayla Cross of Canada 6-1, 6-1. Seventeen-year-old Akasha Urhobo defeated No. 6 seed Maria Mateas(Duke) 6-4, 7-5 and will play qualifier Hiroko Kuwata of Japan. Kuwata, 33, beat No. 2 seed Jana Kolodynska of Belarus 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 today.

After yesterday's announcement of a format change for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in 2025 and 2026, there was a second release today naming the hosts for the split opening rounds. Baylor and SMU will host the men's championships in 2025 and 2026, Illinois and Northwestern will host the women's championships in 2025 and 2026. For more details and comments from the hosting coaches, see this article.

I had vowed to provide more frequent UTR Pro Tennis Tour updates this year, but the number of events hasn't been quite as large as in years past, so there are only seven results since I posted those from January here

WOMEN:
February 11 Boca Raton FL
Maria Kozyreva d. Cadence Brace, walkover

February 26 Long Beach CA
Christina Lyutova d. Ava Markham 6-3, 6-1

March 10 Boca Raton FL
Mia Horvit d. Malkia Ngounoue 6-4, 6-1

April 1 Newport Beach CA
Megan McCray d. Kayla Chung 7-6(1), 6-4

MEN:
February 26 Boca Raton FL 
Noah Rubin d. Vito Tonejc 6-0, 6-0

March 4 Long Beach CA
Sema Pankin d. Alexey Nesterov 7-6(5), 7-5

March 24 Newport Beach CA
Miles Jones d. Thomas Brown 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2)

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Urhobo, Joint Advance at W35 in Boca Raton; SoCal Pro Series Begins Next Month; ITA Announces Revamp of National Team Indoor Format; San Diego ITF J300 Videos

At the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Boca Raton, two 17-year-olds who have been having success continued that trend, with No. 8 seed Maya Joint of Australia, and Akasha Urhobo, a wild card, advancing to the second round. Joint, a University of Texas signee, beat Jessie Aney(North Carolina) 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 in three hours and six minutes; Urhobo took out fellow 17-year-old Victoria Osuigwe, a lucky loser, 6-1, 6-4. Joint's second round opponent is 19-year-old qualifier Kayla Cross of Canada, who beat Robin Anderson(UCLA) 6-1, 6-3; Urhobo, who reached the semifinals last week at the W35 in Mississippi, will face No. 6 seed Maria Mateas. 

Top seed Elvina Kalieva lost her first round match 6-3, 6-4 to Maria Kozyreva(St. Mary's) of Russia, who was a Tennis Recuiting Network March Ace for her first ITF World Tennis Tour title last month at a $50K in Brazil. 

At the ATP Challenger 75 in Sarasota, qualifier Stefan Kozlov defeated Ethan Quinn(Georgia) 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals, where he'll play Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee), who beat Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. Mitchell Krueger, a 6-4, 6-0 winner over Martin Damm, will face No. 4 seed Zizou Bergs of Belgium, who beat 17-year-old qualifier Kaylan Bigun by the same score in the final match of the day. Those quarterfinal matches will take place Friday; second round matches for the bottom half are scheduled for Thursday, with just one American, Tristan Boyer(Stanford), still in contention for a quarterfinal spot in that half of the draw.

With a dearth of $15Ks available on the current USTA Pro Circuit calendars, today's announcement that the SoCal Pro Series is back for its third year is a welcome one.  For seven consecutive weeks, beginning on May 27th, there will be an opportunity to compete for ATP and WTA ranking points at familiar venues in Southern California. That other sections have not seen the value of this kind of circuit and sponsored something similar is disappointing, but all credit goes to USTA SoCal for stepping up to the plate to provide their players with abundant opportunities to jump-start their pro careers.  

A complete list of the tournaments and locations, as well as information on the prequalifying events and wild cards (reserved for SoCal players or collegians competing in SoCal) can be found here

You can file this under "ITA issues I didn't know needed addressing," but the ITA announced today that the next ITA National Team Indoor Championships will undergo a format change, with dual sites until the semifinals. I have been hearing for many years that there are few schools bidding to host the championships; perhaps this has reached a breaking point now, but all this comes as a surprise to me, so it might take me a while to understand the implications. Here's what will happen in 2025 and beyond. 

  • Eight (8) teams will begin at each partner institution (two schools within 200 miles of each other that will serve as co-hosts)
  • Each site will host the opening two rounds of play on their campuses
  • After the second round, the two (2) semifinalists from the secondary site will travel to the primary site, while all four (4) semifinalists will be given this day off for travel, rest and practice
  • For those teams in the back draw, they will remain at the site in which they began and will play their third and final matches during this off day for the semifinalists
  • Both co-hosts will receive wild cards into the event and ITA Kickoff Weekend will be reduced from 15 sites (60 teams) to 14 sites (56 teams). The ITA notes that, with declines and passes, the last team accepted into the Kickoff Weekend Draft typically falls between #62-80 in the final rankings leaving a high probability of the final top 60 gaining entry despite this change.
I'm not sure this is ideal(I'm still ambivalent about the NCAAs going from 16 teams to 8 at the finals site) for fans who want to watch as many of the top teams as possible in a three-day stretch, but I guess I'll reserve judgement until I see who is hosting in 2024 and 2025, which the ITA says will be announced on Thursday. Stay tuned.

The ITF J300 San Diego videos are available now and are embedded below. There are two for the girls final, because there is no way to get behind the court the final was played on, with the boys final being played at the same time on Stadium Court, which does have that access. My recap of last month's tournament is available at the Tennis Recruiting Network.



Tuesday, April 9, 2024

USTA Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge Standings; Bigun Advances at Sarasota Challenger; Bowers Beats No. 3 Seed Chirico at Boca Raton W35; Ohio State Men, Oklahoma State Women Remain No. 1 in Latest ITA Rankings

I guess I missed the USTA's announcement of its annual Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge but it began with the tournaments last week, so the standings were sent out yesterday.

Former University of California-Santa Barbara All-American Nicolas Moreno de Alboran is in the lead for the men, after qualifying for the ATP 250 in Morocco and advancing to the quarterfinals, a first ATP quarterfinal appearnce for the 26-year-old from New York.

Michael Mmoh is in second place after reaching the quarterfinals at the U.S. Men's Clay Courts ATP 250 in Houston. 2019 USTA National 18s champion Katie Volynets leads the women's standings after qualifying and winning a round at the WTA 500 in Charleston last week.

Men's Standings(current rankings in parentheses)

1. Nicolas Moreno de Alboran (134) -- 63
2. Michael Mmoh (110) -- 50
T3. JJ Wolf (102) -- 25
T3. Aleks Kovacevic (96) -- 25
5. Aidan Mayo (286) -- 16

Women's Standings

1. Katie Volynets (104) -- 57
2. Katrina Scott (485) -- 35
T3. Amanda Anisimova (238) -- 32
T3. Shelby Rogers (353) -- 32
5. Hailey Baptiste (107) -- 30

The best three results in a four-week stretch for the men and a five-week stretch for the women will determine the winner of the USTA's reciprocal wild card for Roland Garros. Points won at the ATP and WTA events at the ITF W35/25K level and above will determine those best three results. The last week of the competition for men begins April 22; the last week in the women's race begins April 29.

The first of three ATP Challenger 75s, which often determine the men's Roland Garros wild card winner, is this week in Sarasota, followed by tournaments in Tallahassee and Savannah. 

Seventeen-year-old Kaylan Bigun, who qualified for his first ATP Challenger main draw yesterday in Sarasota with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Viktor Durosovic of Norway, won his first ATP Challenger match, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over lucky loser Durosovic today. Bigun was down 2-0 in the opening set, but won five straight games to take it; the UCLA signee got the only break of the second set at 4-all and a couple of big serves at 30-30 in the final game gave him the win. He will play No. 4 seed and ATP 111 Zizou Bergs of Belgium on Wednesday evening. 

Top seed JJ Wolf(Ohio State) lost to Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan 7-6(5), 6-1 last night; Tristan Boyer(Stanford) defeated ITF Junior No. 1 Joel Schwaerzler of Austria 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 today to advance to the second round; qualifier Stefan Kozlov defeated Denis Kudla 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and will play NCAA champion Ethan Quinn(Georgia) Wednesday.


While the only men's USTA Pro Circuit event this week is the Sarasota Challenger, the only women's event is another W35, this one in Boca Raton Florida.

Qualifying was completed today, with Adriana Reami(NC State) the only American to advance to the main draw, although Victoria Osuigwe did receive entry as a lucky loser. ITF Junior No. 19 Mayu Crossley qualified, beating Malkia Ngounoue 6-4, 6-3 in today's final round. 

Wild cards were awarded to Monika Ekstrand, Usue Arconada, Ashton Bowers and Akasha Urhobo. Ekstrand and Urhobo play their first round matches tomorrow, while Arconada and Bowers were in action today.  The 18-year-old Bowers, a University of Texas signee, defeated No. 3 seed Louisa Chirico 6-3, 7-6(3) for her first WTA Top 300 win. The 25-year-old Arconada, who was out for almost all of 2022 and 2023, lost to No. 5 seed Liv Hovde 6-4, 6-4.

Alana Smith(NC State) and Varvara Lepchenko[4] also advanced to Thursday's second round with wins today. 

Elvina Kalieva is the top seed; Katrina Scott, last week's champion in Mississippi, received a special exemption into the main draw.

The latest ITA Division I rankings were released today, with no change at the top of the team or individual rankings. 

The University of Oklahoma men moved into the Top 10 for the first time this year; the Pepperdine women fell from 3 to 7 after their losses to Stanford and Cal.  Alex Martinez of Oklahoma went from 16 to 10 in singles; Antoine Cornut-Chavinc of Florida State suffered his first (correction: second) loss of the season, to Wake Forest's Fillipo Moroni, and fell from No. 2 to 4. Interesting to note that the highest ranking of a player from No. 1 Ohio State is JJ Tracy at 16. Celia-Belle Mohr of Vanderbilt and Alexa Noel of Miami have moved into the Top 10, with Pepperdine's Savannah Broadus and Lisa Zaar falling to 13 and 14 respectively. Click on the headings below to see the full rankings lists.

ITA Division I Men's Team Top 10, April 9, 2024:
1. Ohio State
2. TCU
3. Virginia
4. Texas
5. Kentucky
6. Tennessee
7. Wake Forest
8. Arizona
9. Oklahoma
10. Columbia

1. Eliot Spizzirri, Texas
2. Micah Braswell, Texas
3. Johannus Monday, Tennessee
4. Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, Florida State
5. Oliver Tarvet, San Diego
6. Murphy Cassone, Arizona State
7. Chris Rodesch, Virginia
8. Jack Pinnington Jones, TCU
9. Jake Fearnley, TCU
10. Alex Martinez, Oklahoma

1. DK Suresh and Holden Koons, Wake Forest
2. Robert Cash and JJ Tracy, Ohio State
3. Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas, Duke
4. Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives, TCU
5. Hunter Heck and Karlis Ozolins, Illinois

1. Oklahoma State
2. Michigan
3. Stanford
4. North Carolina
5. Virginia
6. Georgia
7. Pepperdine
8. Texas
9. Cal
10. Southern Cal

1. Mary Stoiana, Texas A&M
2. Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
3. Kari Miller, Michigan
4. Ange Oby Kajuru, Oklahoma State
5. Amelia Rajecki, NC State
6. Carolyn Ansari, Auburn
7. Ayana Akli, South Carolina
8. Celia-Belle Mohn, Vanderbilt
9. Alexa Noel, Miami
10. Connie Ma, Stanford

1. Elizabeth Scotty and Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
2. Janice Tjen and Savannah Broadus, Pepperdine
3. Alina Shcherbinina and Dana Guzman, Oklahoma
4. Mary Stoiana and Mia Kupres, Texas A&M
5. Ange Oby Kajuru and Anastasiya Komar, Oklahoma State

Monday, April 8, 2024

Bigun Qualifies for Sarasota Challenger; Gaines, Moore Sweep ITF J60 Titles, Rusher, O'Brien Also Earn ITF Titles in Caribbean; Video of ITF J300 Indian Wells Final


Seventeen-year-old Kaylan Bigun received a wild card into the qualifying of this week's ATP Challenger 75 in Sarasota Florida, and the ITF Junior No. 12 beat two seeded players to qualify for the main draw. Bigun beat No. 5 seed and ATP 399 Bogdan Bobrov of Russia in two tiebreakers in yesterday's first round; today the UCLA signee defeated No. 7 seed and ATP 419 Viktor Durosovic of Norway 6-4, 6-3 to reach the main draw of a Challenger for the first time. As luck would have it, Bigun will face Durosovic again in the first round of the main draw, after the Norwegian received entry as a lucky loser. 
Two other American wild cards, both unseeded in qualifying, advanced to the main draw: Stefan Kozlov and Felix Corwin(Minnesota). 

ITF World No. 1 junior Joel Schwaerzler of Austria is using one of his eight entries into a Challenger that he received via the ATP/ITF Accelerator Program for finishing in the ITF Junior Top 10 last year; the 18-year-old left-hander has drawn Tristan Boyer(Stanford) in the first round. 

Main draw action began today, with six first round matches; Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) and Ethan Quinn(Georgia) have advanced, along with Mitchell Krueger and Martin Damm.

Top seed JJ Wolf(Ohio State) plays Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan in the night match. Mike Cation is providing commentary, with streaming available at the ATP's Challenger TV page.

After a quiet week for Americans at the end of March on the ITF Junior Circuit, the first week of April produced four titles in singles and eight in doubles.  All four of the singles titles came in the Caribbean, with 14-year-old Jerrid Gaines Jr and 15-year-old Kayla Moore sweeping the J60 titles in Trinidad and Tobago; 15-year-old Agassi Rusher won the J60 in the Dominican Republic and 15-year-old Ireland O'Brien won the J30 in Martinique.  

Both Gaines and Moore played three matches on the last day, the semifinals and finals of doubles and the finals of singles. Gaines, the No. 3 seed, beat his doubles partner, No. 7 seed Samim Filiz of Turkey 6-3, 6-1, then won two doubles matches, with No. 2 seeds Filiz and Gaines beating No. 3 seeds Hugo Fidler of Aruba and Kale Della Costa of Trinidad and Tobago 3-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the final.  Moore, the No. 1 seed in singles and doubles, beat No. 3 seed Cookie Jarvis-Tredgett of Canada 6-1, 6-3 in the singles final before her two doubles matches; she and Jordane Dookie of Trinidad and Tobago defeated No. 2 seeds Gabriella Kellner and Canada's Sienna Miles 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

It's the first ITF Junior Circuit singles title for Gaines; Moore now has four. She is playing in this week's ITF J200 in Canada, where Cooper Woestendick and Kate Fakih are the top seeds. (Good to see Elizabeth Ionescu back playing after retiring with a knee injury in the semifinals of the ITF J300 in San Diego two weeks ago).

In Martinique, O'Brien, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Valentina Vallova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-5 for her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title. Sixteen-year-old Noble Renfrow won his first Junior Circuit title in doubles, partnering with Finn Willman of New Zealand. The unseeded pair defeated top seeds Edoardo Barbalaco of Italy and Francois-Alexandre Rimbaud of France 6-3, 6-3 in the final. 

In the Dominican Republic, Rusher won his third singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the No. 4 seed defeating No. 3 seed Jossting Cruz of the Dominican Republic 6-3, 6-1 in the final. 

No. 6 seeds Nicolas Pedraza and Erik Schinnerer won the doubles title in the Dominican, beating James Weber and Nicholas Mekhael 6-2, 7-6(4) in an all-US final. Alexandra Miroshnichenko won the girls doubles title with Andrea Landaeta Quintero of Mexico. The No. 4 seeds beat No. 2 seeds Ana Avramovic
and Kalista Papadopoulos 6-4, 6-4 for the title. Avramovic also reached the girls singles final.

At the J30 in Honduras, top seeds Sofia Mills and Sarah Stoyanov took the doubles title, beating unseeded Sara Pena Rojas of Colombia and Alyssa Sucrovich of Honduras 6-1, 6-2.

The other two doubles titles for Americans came with non-American partners: Aida Oveido at the J60 in Paraguay and Koronayashe Rugara at the J30 in Botswana.

There is a J300 in Bulgaria this week, with three Americans competing: Trinetra Vijayaraman, Stiles Brockett and Noah Johnston.  Australian Open finalist Jan Kumstat of the Czech Republic is the top boys seed; Teodora Kostovic of Serbia, who is defending her title, is the No. 1 seed in the girls draw. 

My video from the boys final of the ITF J300 in Indian Wells last month is below. You can read my recap of the tournament at Tennis Recruiting Network. 

Sunday, April 7, 2024

NCAA Champions Shelton and Collins Claim ATP, WTA Titles; Scott Wins W35 in Mississippi; San Francisco Drops Tennis Programs; Four Wild Cards for Summer Junior Slams Awarded; My Podcast Chat with Gruskin on Juniors, USTA PD

Two NCAA singles champions from Florida won professional titles today, with Gainesville's Ben Shelton taking the ATP 250 in Houston and St. Petersburg's Danielle Collins capturing the WTA 500 in Charleston.


Top seed Shelton, who two years ago was playing No. 1 for the Gators but had yet to win his NCAA title, defeated No. 3 seed and defending champion Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships for his second ATP Tour title and his first on clay. Shelton, who will move to a career-high ATP ranking of 14 with the title, was by no means dominant in his four victories, needing three sets in three of them, with his 7-5, 7-6(9) win over fellow Kalamazoo 18s finalist Brandon Nakashima the only two-setter. The 21-year-old is not expected to compete on the European clay until the Madrid Masters 1000, at the end of the month.

Collins, who won the NCAAs in 2014 as a sophomore at Virginia and in 2016 as a senior, won her 13th straight match in the past three weeks, overwhelming No. 4 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-2, 6-1 in today's final. It's the second WTA 500 of the 30-year-old's career, and she is now up to 15 in the WTA ranking. Her career high is 7. Collins is not on the USA Billie Jean King Cup team that will play Belgium this week in Lake Nona, so she can rest and celebrate all her success in the past several weeks.

2021 USTA National 18s champion Ashlyn Krueger and Sloane Stephens, who were a wild card entry into the Charleston doubles field, won the title, beating unseeded Ukrainian twins Lyudmyla and Nadiia Kichenok 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 in today's final. 

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell won the Houston doubles title last night, with the No. 4 seeds defending their 2023 championships. They defeated unseeded Will Blumberg(North Carolina) and John Peers(Middle Tennessee State/Baylor) 7-5, 6-1 for the title.

The third NCAA champion in a final today, Jamie Loeb, whose NCAA title while at UNC was sandwiched between Collins' two, lost to 19-year-old Katrina Scott 7-6(9), 7-6(6) in a two-and-a- half-hour battle at the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Jackson Mississippi. It's the first title for Scott since July of 2022. 

At the ATP Challenger 125 in Mexico City, Ryan Seggerman(Princeton/UNC) and Patrik Trhac(Idaho State/Utah) won their 13th title, all since last July, with the unseeded pair beating No. 4 seeds Adam Walton(Tennessee) and Tristan Schoolkate of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 10-5 in the final. It's their fifth, and biggest, Challenger title, but they only moved up to 130 and 131 in the ATP doubles rankings, far from the ranking needed for entry into the majors.

With all the good news for college tennis this weekend, bad news seems out of place, but Division I University of San Francisco announced on Friday that it would be discontinuing both its men's and women's tennis programs at the end of this year. The release puts the cost for these programs in excess of a million dollars a year(not clear if this each, or for both) and cites enrollment "shortfalls" as impacting the school's budget. 

Four wild cards, two for Wimbledon and two for Roland Garros, were decided this weekend in Great Britain and South America. The LTA's 16-and-under championships were held at the National Tennis Centre, with Hollie Smart and Mark Ceban claiming the titles. Both reached the finals of the international Wimbledon 14U event last year, with Ceban beating Svit Suljic of Slovenia 7-6(5), 6-3 for the title and Smart falling to Luna Vujovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1. 


Roland Garros has held a competition for a main draw junior wild card in South America for many years; this year's champions are both from Brazil (Joao Fonseca won the wild card in 2022): 
14-year-old Nauhany Vitoria Leme Da Silva, who reached the quarterfinals of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last year, and 15-year-old Luis Augusto Queiroz Miguel, who is currently 200 in the ITF junior rankings. The YouTube channel for this event can be found here.

I joined Cracked Racquets' Alex Gruskin on the Great Shot Podcast last Friday, and we had a wild ranging conversation, beginning with 30 minutes on the Jose Higueras email. We also discussed the results from the ITF J300 in San Diego, the ITF J300 in Indian Wells and the Easter Bowl, then wrapped up with some college tennis.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

ITF J300 Indian Wells Girls Final Video; Loeb and Scott Advance to Mississippi W35 Final; Shelton, Tiafoe and Collins Reach ATP, WTA Finals; JMTA Annual College Combine Announced; Cal Women Squeeze Past No. 3 Pepperdine 4-3

I have a lot of videos from the finals of the Southern California junior swing to post, but one by one, they will go up on my YouTube Channel. The first one, today, is the ITF J300 Indian Wells girls final, featuring champion Valerie Glozman and runner-up Teodora Kostovic of Serbia. 


Five Americans, three of them NCAA singles champions, will play for three titles tomorrow in the United States, meaning two US champions are guaranteed.

Top seed Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) will play No. 4 seed Katrina Scott in the final of the USTA Pro Circuit W35 in Jackson Mississippi after both came from behind to beat their younger opponents.

Loeb, who won a W50 in February in Mexico City, got a second career win over 17-year-old Akasha Urhobo, but it was much tougher than her first which came in straight sets last year, with the 2015 NCAA singles champion getting through 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 today.  Scott, still just 19 years old, defeated 17-year-old Maya Joint of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in today's semifinals.  Loeb and Scott have played just once, in 2021, with Loeb winning 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the second round of a 125 in Charleston, also on clay.

Scott has played just four tournaments this year, with her last title coming at a $25K in July of 2022.

The doubles title in Jackson went to former Baylor teammates Alicia Herrero Linana of Spain and Melany Solang Krywoj of Argentina. The No. 3 seeds defeated No. 4 seeds Victoria Flores(Georgia Tech/Pepperdine) and Hiroko Kuwata of Japan 6-3, 2-6, 10-7.

Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe will meet Sunday in the final of the ATP 250 U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships after both earned tough semifinal victories this afternoon in Houston. Shelton(Florida), the top seed, got past No. 4 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4; No. 3 seed Tiafoe, the defending champion, defeated unseeded Luciano Darderi of Italy 6-2, 7-6(2). They have played once before, in the quarterfinals of the US Open last year, with Shelton, the 2022 NCAA singles champion, earning a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-2 victory. 

After claiming the Miami Open last Sunday, two-time NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins has continued her winning streak, reaching the final of the WTA 500 this week in Charleston South Carolina. After dropping her only set of the week in the second round to No. 2 seed and defending champion Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, the unseeded University of Virginia graduate advanced in straight sets over Sloane Stephens, Elise Mertens[11] of Belgium, and today, No. 3 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-3, 6-3. Collins will face No. 4 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who prevented another all-US final by beating top seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5) in the other semifinal.

One of my longtime sponsors, John McEnroe Tennis Academy, holds an annual college combine each summer, and this past week they provided me with all the information on this year's edition. Click on the link to the left to learn more about this popular weekend event.

The third-ranked Pepperdine women, who dropped a 4-0 match at No. 5 Stanford on Friday, lost to No. 10 Cal 4-3 today in Berkeley.  The Waves won the doubles point, but Hannah Viller Moller beat Pepperdine’s Lisa Zaar at line 1 6-0, 6-1 to pull even, with Lan Mi making it 2-1 Cal with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Vivian Yang at line 6. Pepperdine then retook the lead with wins by Janice Tjen over Jessica Alsola at line 2, 6-1, 7-5 and Nikki Redelijk over Berta Passola Folch at line 5, 6-3, 6-1. The final two matches went to third sets and Cal won them both, with Katja Wiersholm beating Savannah Broadus 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 at line 3 and Mao Mushika clinching with a 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4 decision over Anna Campana at line 4. 

The match I'm most looking forward to Sunday, is a conference battle between No. 5 Texas and No. 11 Oklahoma in Norman. The Texas preview of the match is here.

Friday, April 5, 2024

March Aces; Urhobo and Joint Advance to W35 Semifinals in Mississippi; North Carolina Women Beat No. 4 Virginia; Stanford Women Blank No. 3 Pepperdine

March was packed with great results from former collegians, and as regularly been the case recently, I couldn't feature all of them in my monthly Aces column for Tennis Recruiting Network. But I do highlight several former collegians who either won two titles or claimed their first, along with the juniors who won major ITF Junior Circuit titles and those who captured their first ITF men's and women's titles. Sorting through the results and selecting those to feature seems to get more difficult every week, but that is definitely a good problem to have.



One of the juniors I featured in February, but not in the March Aces column was Australia's Maya Joint, who added a W35 title in Santa Domingo in March after winning a W75 in February in Australia. Joint, who turns 18 later this month, is now into the semifinals of the USTA Pro Circuit W35 this week in Mississippi, and with all the success she's had in the last six months in ITF women's tournaments, she is the No. 2 seed. Joint, who has lost six games in her first three victories, defeated fellow University of Texas signee Ashton Bowers 6-1, 6-3 in today's quarterfinals and will play No. 4 seed Katrina Scott in her bid to reach another ITF women's World Tennis Tour tournament final. 

The other semifinal will feature top seed Jamie Loeb, the 2015 NCAA champion while at North Carolina, and 17-year-old Akasha Urhobo. Loeb defeated No. 7 seed Adriana Reami(NC State) 6-4, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals, while Urhobo, who had beaten No. 3 seed Cadence Brace of Canada in the second round, reached her first USTA Pro Circuit semifinal with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 9 seed Allura Zamarripa(Texas).

Loeb defeated Urhobo in the first round of a $60K in Alabama last spring 6-2, 6-4. Scott and Joint have not played.

The doubles final will feature former Baylor teammates Alicia Herrero Linana of Spain and Melany Solang Krywoj of Argentina, the No. 3 seeds, against No. 4 seeds Victoria Flores(Georgia Tech/Pepperdine) and Hiroko Kuwata of Japan.

The next few weekends will be big ones in college tennis, with Division I teams looking for conference titles as well as seeding positions for the NCAA championships next month in Stillwater Oklahoma. A Top 8 seed is especially prized, as it earns a team the chance at three home matches as host for the Super Regional round prior to the quarterfinals at the finals site.  

The Stanford women took a big step toward that goal today, with the fifth-ranked Cardinal beating No. 3 Pepperdine 4-0 in a non-conference match at Stanford, after losing to UCLA at home last Sunday. 2022 USTA National 18s champion Eleana Yu, who had played very little this year, got her chance at No. 6, with the absence of Alexis Blokhina at line 4, Katherine Hui and Valencia Xu moved up a spot and Yu competed at No. 6. 

After Stanford won the doubles point, in something of an upset, given the Cardinal struggles in that part of a dual match, they took four first sets in singles, and were up 3-0 with straight-sets wins by Alexandra Yepifanova over Savannah Broadus at line 2 and Yu over fellow freshman Vivian Yang at line 6. But Pepperdine had taken the first sets at lines 4 and 5, and Lisa Zaar forced a third at line 1 against Angelica Blake, while Connie Ma was down in her second set with Janice Tjen at line 3. I believe Ma trailed 5-3, but she won the final four games to hand Tjen her first loss since early February after 10 straight victories (and one match unfinished). 

The recap of the match, with box score, is here.

Another of the women's tennis dynasties got an impressive win today, with defending NCAA champion North Carolina avenging their National Team Indoor consolation match loss to Virginia with a 4-1 victory in Chapel Hill. Virginia took the doubles point, but UNC came out with a purpose in singles, taking five first sets in singles and then systematically closing out those matches. The Tar Heels got wins from Fiona Crawley at 1, Anika Yarlagadda at 5, and within seconds of each other, Elizabeth Scotty at 2 and Reilly Tran at 3 to get the win. Virginia, ranked No. 4, and North Carolina, ranked No. 6, each have one loss in conference play, with UVA's final three matches against Duke, Miami and Florida State and UNC's final three matches against Virginia Tech, Louisville and Notre Dame.

The recap, with box score, is here.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Jose Higueras Calls Out USTA For Cutting Player Development Budget; His Email, My Perspective

Two weeks ago, renowned coach Jose Higueras, a former USTA Player Development employee and consultant, sent out an email highly critical the current USTA CEO and board as it relates to Player Development. I have had several conversations with Higueras about these issues in the past several years, including one in late February, and he had promised he would be writing down his thoughts and distributing them, so I was not surprised to see the email, nor was I surprised at most of its contents. Here it is in its entirety, my comments follow below.

Dear Members of the American Tennis Family,

I hope this message finds you well. My name is Jose Higueras, and I am writing to you with a deep sense of urgency and concern about the current state of American Tennis, particularly regarding the decisions being made by the USTA Board and CEO leadership.

Allow me to introduce myself briefly. I hail from Barcelona, Spain, and I have dedicated my life to tennis. Despite humble beginnings, the support and sacrifice of my family and community allowed me to pursue my passion for the sport. Over the years, I've had the privilege of not only playing professionally but also coaching and contributing to the development of tennis players, both in the United States and internationally.

As a proud American citizen, I am deeply invested in the success of American Tennis. However, recent decisions made by the USTA leadership have left me gravely concerned. Despite transformational progress from 2009-2019, thanks to strategic continuity with the USTA Boards and the same CEO during that time period we were able to execute a three-way partnership with USTA Sections and the Private Sector, that was led by Player Development that resulted in the best professional results that the U.S. has seen since the mid-90’S. The current leadership has veered off course, deliberately cutting funding and staffing for the Team USA pathway and American players, while they waste millions of dollars on boondoggles like unnecessary building renovations at the USTA Campus in Lake Nona and a million dollar holiday party. 

COACHING AMERICAN CHAMPIONS

I was an Independent Contractor Master Coach for the USTA, at various times between 1988 and 2000, working with many players, including Pete Sampras, Michael Chang (1989 – Roland Garros Champion), Jim Courier (2 x Roland Garros Champion / 2 x Australian Open Champion), Todd Martin and Robby Ginepri and many, many others.

2008-2019 EVOLUTION OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

In 2008 when I joined USTA Player Development full-time many countries had already been funding player development structures for over ten years, and American tennis was falling behind the rest of the world. In 2008 the Board decided to increase funding and staffing for Player Development and in 2008 the General Manager of Player Development for the USTA, Patrick McEnroe, hired me. I was in my second year of coaching Roger Federer, when I accepted the role. It was a difficult decision, not because of the job, which I knew would be challenging and rewarding at the same time, but because I had seen the USTA change directions many times over the preceding twenty years, and I knew that without fifteen years of strategic continuity we could not finish the job.

It’s important that tennis enthusiasts throughout the U.S. understand that Player Development is not just for a small number of juniors and pros. The USTA’s Player Development function provides an invaluable service for the entire American Tennis community. 

The great juniors and young pros that have filled the pipeline for the last six years, are a result of Player Development’s focus on designing and consistently working with thousands of junior players, coaches and parents through a systematic structure (camps, programming and education), and 3-way Partnership (PD/Sections/Private Sector) that was our Team USA Junior Pathway from 2009 to the end of 2019. The impact of the service is to raise the standards for coaching education, parent education and player training; to create standards of excellence in all of those areas, to maximize the talent and ability of everyone in the ecosystem. 

The service that Player Development provides is the development of thousands of juniors, collegians and pros, and their coaches, at every level, who serve as an inspiration for the kids and families in their towns, cities and Sections. 

Here are the areas in which Player Development establishes standards, best practices and great resources for the entire American Tennis community:

·  Tennis teaching, training and coaching that is developmentally appropriate (age and stage) 

·   Strength & Conditioning

·   Mental Skills

·   Performance Analytics

·   Athletic Training / Physio support

·   Parent Education

·   Character Development

·   Coaching Education

To our American professional players: 

The USTA Board and Senior Staff Leadership do not believe that your success and your achievements grow the game in the U.S. even though every other Federation in the world, believes the opposite. 

As a result of the last four years of Board and CEO decisions, the depressing truth is that the next generation of Gauffs, Stephens, Keys, Kenins, Bradys, Fritzs, Tiafoes, Pauls, Opelkas and Sheltons (and many others), will receive very little coaching, programming or grant support from the USTA, and at a time when junior development is becoming more expensive every day, most of them (their families) won’t have enough support to fulfill their potential or make it to the pro ranks. The same thing goes for our top American players who aspire to play high level college tennis, there will be almost no support for them.

In the years from 2009 – 2019, PD was impacting and directly supporting over average 1500 players a year, 1500 parents a year and 1500 coaches per year, for a total of 4500 x 11 years. Approximately 49,500 individuals directly impacted by USTA Player Development! This doesn’t take into account online resources, webinars etc, which are available to the entire American Tennis community.  

The terrible decision-making began in 2020, with a restructure that targeted PD, taking over 30% of our budget and staff. Next came PD merging with Community Tennis, blending two groups which support each other, but have very different goals. 

Then for four straight years (2020-23), Brian Vahaly and Vania King were  destructive voices on the Board, disrespecting our team and leading the charge to cut the PD budget almost every year. Vahaly has gone out of his way to hurt PD and disrespect our team and coaches, despite being completely ignorant of what we do. Usually, the elite athlete representatives on the Board are our strongest allies and supporters, advocating for Player Development and American players. During my last two years (2020-21) none of the elite athletes on the Board ever reached out to congratulate our team on anything.

Every step of the way over the last four years (2020-2023), the last two CEO’s and Boards chose to do the opposite of what PD Leadership advised them to do. If the decisions of the past four years are not reversed soon, in ten years, American Tennis will be irrelevant on the world stage. Most importantly a reinstatement of the $2.5M budget cut (for programming, staffing and grants), and a return to the strategies of 2009-2019 are needed immediately.

The five elements that drove our success were:

1.  A comprehensive camp structure administered through a three-way partnership with the Sections and Private Sector, and based on our USTA Teaching & Coaching Philosophy.

CEO / Board decision: THEY CUT FUNDING FOR CAMPS AND ELIMINATED THE FOUR STAFF POSITIONS IN THE PLAYER ID DEPARTMENT THAT RUN THE CAMP PROGRAM

2.   National Coaches to manage and support our juniors and our pros. In a country the size of the U.S. the minimum number of National Coaches needed to be able to service the top competitive juniors, collegians and rookie pros players is at a minimum 17 National Coaches 

CEO / Board decision: THE BOARD CUT NATIONAL COACH STAFFING TO THIRTEEN COACHES

3.   Grant support. As tennis training gets more and more expensive, we need to be able to give grants to players, especially between the ages of 14-20 when the costs are skyrocketing.

For the average family of a committed junior player, ages 11-15 it costs between $1K and $2K a month for basic tennis training (group and private), not factoring in tournament travel costs (hotel and flights). Almost all of the recent cuts have come out of the Junior space. It’s a disgrace.

CEO / Board decision: THE BOARD CUT OUR GRANT BUDGET

4.   High Performance Coaching Education. The Board and CEO talk a lot about the importance of Coaching Education. For eleven years in a row we were supporting, educating, training and mentoring 1500 coaches a year.

CEO / Board decision: THE BOARD / CEO CUT TWO HEADCOUNT FROM OUR COACHING ED DEPARTMENT 

5.    Lastly, this CEO talks a lot about fiscal responsibility, strategic priorities and a grassroots focus being the cause of the cuts to PD, yet the organization wasted more than $3M (my low estimate) on boondoggles last year: two building renovations on the Orlando Campus in 2023, a million dollar+ Holiday Party and a steady stream of new hires, the majority of whom have no tennis background or knowledge.

IN THE YEAR THAT THE BOARD / CEO DECIDED TO MAKE THE PD BUDGET CUTS, THE USTA BROUGHT IN MORE THAN $250M IN UNPLANNED CASH (on top of $300M from the US Open) FROM THE SALE OF CINCINNATI AND THE GREAT FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE OF US OPEN 

Less important, but also disappointing is the way I was treated after dedicating fourteen years of my life to this project, in service to American Tennis.  In my last three years associated with the USTA (2020-22), I never received a word, text or email of support or thank you from our CEO / Board leadership and when my contractual association with the USTA ended at the end of 2022, I did not receive one word, text or email of thanks or gratitude from the CEO / Board Leadership. Thankfully I worked for the players, for the coaching community and for my amazing colleagues in Player Development but the lack of acknowledgement and gratitude for my service and for the work of our PD team reflects a disturbing lack of respect and leadership.

 The result is that as I write this letter, we have missed four years’ (2020 – 2023) worth of a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to build on our success even more and take our place at the top of the international game, at every level. Recently as some of these facts have come to light the USTA has also tried to silence the media. 

Here is one stat that sums up the transformation of our junior player pathway: 

From 1995-mid-2008 Team USA had two Junior Grand Slam Singles Champions 

From mid-2008 to 2023 Team USA had twenty-two Junior Grand Slam Champions! This is why we have so many good pros today.

THAT IS AN 11X INCREASE IN JUNIOR GRAND SLAM WINNERS! 

Since 2008, I have been actively involved in USTA Player Development, witnessing firsthand the positive impact it has had on thousands of players, coaches, and parents across the nation. Through comprehensive programs, camps, and educational initiatives, we have nurtured talent, raised standards, and inspired a new generation of players.

However, over the past four years, I have watched with dismay from the outside as the USTA Board and CEO leadership have made decisions that directly undermine the progress we've worked so hard to achieve. Budget cuts, staff reductions, and a lack of strategic vision have jeopardized the future of American Tennis.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the success of our programs, the current leadership has chosen to ignore our advice and dismiss the importance of investing in Player Development. This shortsighted approach not only threatens the development of future champions but also jeopardizes the accessibility of tennis for all aspiring players, regardless of background or financial means.

It pains me to know that future generations with the talent of Gauff, Stephens, Keys, Kenin, Fritz, Tiafoe, Paul, Shelton and many more will have little or no support, due to lack of support and resources. American Tennis has seen a remarkable transformation in recent years, evidenced by the unprecedented success of our players on the international stage with more players in the Top 100, Top 50 and Top 20 (and Top 10 on the women's side) than any other country. Yet, this progress is at risk of being undone by misguided leadership decisions.

I urge you, members of the American Tennis community, to join me in demanding accountability from the USTA leadership. We cannot afford to stand idly by while the future of our sport hangs in the balance. Together, we must advocate for the reinstatement of funding, the restoration of proven strategies, and a renewed commitment to the development of American Tennis talent.

In closing, I want to emphasize that my intentions in writing this letter are driven solely by my love for the sport and my desire to see it thrive in the United States. I’m happily retired and enjoying all of the things that I love, especially my family and I have no personal agenda other than ensuring that future generations of American tennis players have the same opportunities to maximize their potential and pursue their dreams that we were able to provide from 2009 to 2019. The cost of junior training is getting higher every day, while the USTA wastes money and allows toxic Board members and an uninformed CEO to drive decisions that will make American Tennis irrelevant on the global stage and ensure that the percentage of American players getting college scholarships will continue to decline.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you will join me in this crucial endeavor to safeguard the future of American Tennis and reverse these terrible decisions.

Sincerely,

Jose Higueras

========================================

I have covered junior tennis for close to 20 years now, and have always paid close attention to USTA Player Development. I do not have access to the information that someone like Higueras would have and am, in my role as a tennis journalist, an outsider, who has a different perspective from the majority of people who have regular contact with Player Development, such as private coaches, junior players and their families, tournament directors. Whether that adds to my credibility or detracts from it, I can't say, but I have had many private conversations with those constituencies over the past two decades, and the substance of them has changed in those years.

From 2005-2010 I heard comments from private coaches that the USTA was "stealing" their players and that the USTA was only interested in helping those who were identified from an early age as top prospects, while ignoring late bloomers. The USTA provided little support for or acknowledgement of college tennis as a viable developmental pathway, and there was a perception that USTA PD wasn't listening to private coaches or juniors and their families, especially those outside of Boca Raton Florida, where the USTA operated its national training center.

That began to change when Patrick McEnroe took over Player Development, and when Dave Haggerty ascended to the position of USTA Chairman of the Board and President. (The USTA structure, which elects a new Chairman and President every two years, has always been a problem in the continuity of any initiative, but PD did convince subsequent Chairmen to continue the Team USA concept). The realization that many junior players thrive at home with their private coaches began to gain traction, and once Martin Blackman took over for McEnroe as General Manager of Player Development in 2015 and the USTA National Campus was opened, the plan to incorporate more players and coaches into the structure began to coalesce.

Talent identification, with frequent regional camps, helped pinpoint players who would benefit from training blocks in Lake Nona; national coaches would provide me with information on a player who I spotted at the Eddie Herr or Junior Orange Bowl that I did not know; that had not always been the case in previous years.  It wasn't only players who were invited to Lake Nona, but private coaches and parents as well, and lines of communication were open that previously had not been.

I'm sure there were players overlooked or not financially supported; while that is unfortunate, it's inevitable in a country as big as this one. But I do think there was, and is, a comprehensive effort to cast as wide a net as possible, and much less of the "we know better" attitude that anointed a few young players as worthy of the bulk of the USTA's attention and funds.

Andy Roddick and Jon Wertheim's new podcast Served (Higueras email segment is 42 minutes in) is the only place I've encountered a discussion of the Higueras email, other than this overview from The Athletic, and Roddick approaches it from his perspective and experience with the USTA as a junior.

Although he seems most upset about not receiving the email when Higueras first sent it, Roddick raises good points in discussing it and acknowledges that it's a complicated issue that he doesn't have a simple solution. He and his producer broach the financial side of it, which is why this finally has come to a head. Years of budgets cuts, the last two after wildly successful US Open Championships, don't make any sense at all, unless you believe Player Development has little reason to exist. 

Wertheim appears to favor this view, and it's fair to wonder if just attracting more young players to the sport and running tournaments for them is all the USTA needs to do. (Roddick appears to believe that Player Development as a concept is important). As someone who sees regularly all that national coaches and the head of men's and women's tennis do, I don't believe that Player Development is expendable.

USTA PD is now down to 13 coaches, six for men, six for women and one that splits his time between both, and that means each one is doing more traveling to tournaments, trying to watch more players and discuss their matches with them, talking with more parents and private coaches, working longer hours, doing as much as before with less money and manpower. 

There is a huge store of institutional and professional wisdom among the Player Development staff, including mistakes made and learned from, that is being taken for granted by those who don't see or know all that they do. That is in danger of being lost as the pressure to do what they know can be done isn't being done due to the financial challenges they face. As Higueras's email indicates, the breaking point is approaching.

I am always going to side with those who are out doing the work, not those making decisions in boardrooms, and although I don't have a firm grasp on the USTA's financial situation, I'm skeptical that the USTA has a better use for the money cut from the Player Development budget than coaches, grants and camps. I understood the need for cuts after Covid, to continue them now seems unnecessary and short-sighted.

Roddick closes the segment of the podcast about Higueras's email with these thoughts.

"I don't think [USTA] investment in the game has been lacking, I really don't, let's not take a s**t shower and call it a day. I think there is nuance to this conversation, specifically, what is the best avenue to make as many good players as possible. Do we go wide? Do we go deep? For a while it was 'we're going to be stock traders and predict our best four', and frankly, they f***ing missed a lot, a lot. So maybe that's not the best avenue, maybe it's a volume play, I don't know. 

"But I like this conversation, because hopefully it gets to what the next version is of Player Development. I applaud Jose Higueras because most of these conversations take place in secrecy or person-to-person, emails. Him saying it out loud, even if I disagree with a lot of parts of it.......he just did it. Even if we don't agree on everything, I agree on intent, I agree on passion, I agree on all of us wanting as many great American players forever and a day. Do I agree with the way they've gone about it always? No....but I like that everyone is saying the quiet parts out loud. I like that, I like transparency...and transparency shortens the runway to an answer and to a solution."

I'd love to hear any thoughts from readers (Colin posted a good comment in yesterday's post about the challenges faced by junior tennis players outside Florida and California), whether they have experience interacting with Player Development or not. I know there's a lot I don't know and I'd be interested in other perspectives. You may use any name you wish to post your comment, just do not use the anonymous option, as it makes a dialog impossible.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

My Easter Bowl 16s and 18s Recap; USTA Announces Goal of 35 Million Tennis Players, Vows to Support Next Generation of Stars; Piric Announces Departure from Miami Men's Program; NAIA Taylor University to Bring Back Tennis

The last two days of the FILA Easter Bowl were tense ones, with rain in the forecast for the final day Saturday and eight finals to be played after the semifinals in singles and doubles were completed Friday. All four of the doubles finals and the Boys 16s singles final were completed by Friday night, with the three other singles finals and seven other consolation finals and third place matches taking place in the early morning Saturday, before the rain arrived. 

Usually the weather isn't worthy of much consideration when it comes to the Easter Bowl, but as anyone who was at the BNP Paribas Open last month knows, that wasn't the case in Indian Wells this year. My recap of the 16s and 18s tournament for the Tennis Recruiting Network was published today; for Monday's recap of the 12s and 14s tournament, click here.

Today the USTA announced a goal of 35 million tennis players in the United States by 2035, which would be about 50% more players than the 23.8 million the USTA says play tennis now. That means more courts and more coaches will be needed and the retention rate of current players must improve, all of which are a part of the 35 by 35 project the USTA describes here.

I found the fourth prong mentioned in this project the most interesting and suspect it was added after the Jose Higueras email began circulating (my post on that is coming soon):

  • Supporting and elevating the next generation of stars. The USTA remains committed to its efforts to develop, support and showcase the best events, players and coaches that U.S. tennis has to offer—empowering up-and-coming competitors to achieve their full potential, and providing a clearer path for our top junior performers to reach the pinnacle of the sport and motivate millions more to follow in their footsteps.

In college tennis news, Aljosa Piric, who has been head coach of the University of Miami's men's program for the past eight years, has announced he will be leaving at the end of the season. Piric, who coached at Old Dominion and Georgia Tech prior to taking over at Miami in 2016, has accepted a position as Director of High Performance and Recruiting at Tennis Innovators Academy in White Plains New York, according to yesterday's release.

Taylor University, an NAIA school in Indiana, announced on Monday that it would be reinstating its men's and women's tennis programs in 2025 after they were dropped during the pandemic. The release contains this quote from Athletic Director Kyle Gould:

"We are excited that our current environment allows men's and women's tennis to return to their rightful status as intercollegiate sports here at Taylor," stated Gould. "We have a strong history of competitive success and life-changing development in both programs and we look forward to hiring the right coach to lead these programs back, starting in the fall of 2025."

Taylor will begin its search for a coach this month; a timeline for filling the position at Miami was not mentioned.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Ohio State Men, Oklahoma State Women Remain No. 1 in Latest D-I Rankings; Texas's Spizzirri and Texas A&M's Stoiana Stay Atop Singles Rankings; USTA Pro Circuit Returns with W35 in Mississippi

I didn't have an opportunity to post the weekly ITA Division I rankings while I was covering the three big junior tournaments in Southern California, but I'll be returning my focus to college tennis in the next several weeks as conference regular seasons wind down and conference tournaments begin. Fortunately for me, not much has changed in the last month, with the Oklahoma State women remaining unbeaten and No. 1, as they have been since winning the Team Indoor Championships in February, and the Ohio State men, although suffering their first lost of the season to Texas last month, staying at the top spot by virtue of all their big wins at both the Team Indoor and before.

The individual rankings generally don't change much at this time of year, with Eliot Spizzirri of Texas and Mary Stoiana of Texas A&M pretty much securing the No. 1 spots when they won ITA majors this fall and continued to perform at the top of their lineups in the spring season. Micah Braswell of Texas, also a fall major champion, did lose his No. 2 spot this week, to Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc of Florida State. 

For the full ranking lists, click on the headings below.

1. Ohio State
2. Virginia
3. TCU
4. Kentucky
5. Texas
6. Wake Forest
7. Tennessee
8. Texas A&M
9. Arizona
10. Columbia

1. Eliot Spizzirri, Texas
2. Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, Florida State
3. Micah Braswell, Texas
4. Johannus Monday, Tennessee
5. Oliver Tarvet, San Diego
6. Chris Rodesch, Virgnia
7. Jack Pinnington Jones, TCU
8. Murphy Cassone, Arizona State
9. Jake Fearnley, TCU
10. Ozan Baris, Michigan State

1. DK Suresh and Holden Koons, Wake Forest
2. Robert Cash and JJ Tracy, Ohio State
3. Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives, TCU
4. Garret Johns and Pedro Rodenas, Duke
5. Max Shelton and Ozan Baris, Michigan State

1. Oklahoma State
2. Michigan
3. Pepperdine
4. Virginia
5. Stanford
6. North Carolina
7. Georgia
8. Texas
9. Southern Cal
10. Cal

1. Mary Stoiana, Texas A&M
2. Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
3. Kari Miller, Michigan
4. Ange Oby Kajuru, Oklahoma State
5. Amelia Rajecki, NC State
6. Ayana Akli, South Carolina
7. Carolyn Ansari, Auburn
8. Savannah Broadus, Pepperdine
9. Connie Ma, Stanford
10. Lisa Zaar, Pepperdine

1. Elizabeth Scotty and Reese Brantmeier, North Carolina
2. Janice Tjen and Savannah Broadus, Pepperdine
3. Alina Shcherbinina and Dana Guzman, Oklahoma
4. Ange Oby Kajuru and Anastasiya Komar, Oklahoma State
5. Mary Stoiana and Mia Kupres, Texas A&M

After a week with no USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, the women are competing in a W35 in Jackson Mississippi this week, with plenty of Americans and collegians in the mix.

Former UNC Tar Heel Jamie Loeb, the 2015 NCAA singles champion, is the top seed, with 17-year-old Maya Joint, the University of Texas signee from Michigan who now represents Australia, the No. 2 seed. 

Wild card were given to former Mississippi State player Lilian Poling, Malkia Ngounoue(Kansas), the older sister of Clervie, Briley Rhoden, a five-star high school freshman from Mississippi, and 16-year-old Anna Frey. Poling and Rhoden played their first round matches today and lost, with Poling losing to 17-year-old Akasha Urhobo 7-5, 6-1 and Rhoden falling to 33-year-old Hiroko Kuwata of Japan, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-1. 

Those qualifying today are Salma Ewing(USC/Texas A&M), Bronte Murgett(New Mexico, Missouri) of Great Britain, Solymar Colling(San Diego), Georgia Tech signee Taly Licht of Uruguay, Anita Sahdiieva(Baylor/LSU) of Ukraine, Texas A&M signee Lexington Reed, Old Dominion freshman Kira Matushkina of Russia and Texas signee Ariana Pursoo. 

A third Texas incoming freshman in the fall of 2024, Ashton Bowers, won her first round match today, as did Adriana Reami(NC State) and Kolie Allen(Ohio State).

Monday, April 1, 2024

My Easter Bowl 12s and 14s Recap; Easter Bowl Sportsmanship Awards; List of Easter Bowl Singles and Doubles Finals Results, Third Place and Consolation Winners

I've been submitting articles to the Tennis Recruiting Network  recapping the past three weeks of tournaments in Southern California with the first, published a week ago last Friday, covering the ITF J300 FILA International Championships in Indian Wells. The second, published last Wednesday, reviews the second week's ITF J300 in San Diego and the third, covering last week's FILA Easter Bowl USTA Spring National 12s and 14s Championships, is available today


The 16s and 18s recap will be coming on Wednesday, and I hope you'll take the time to delve into my daily coverage of each of those events here at Zootennis, as well as those more abbreviated roundups.


I received the list of the Easter Bowl Sportsmanship Award recipients today, which are as follows:

Boys 12s - Nikola Bogojevic
Boys 14s - Antanas Daugis
Boys 16s - Sean Clark
Boys 18s - Blake Anderson

Girls 12s - Isabella Nguyen
Girls 14s - Shristi Selvan
Girls 16s - Kara Garcia
Girls 18s - Addison Lanton

FILA Easter Bowl Results:

Singles Finals:
B12s: Jiarui Zhang[2] d. Nathan Lee 6-2, 7-5
B14s: Andrew Johnson[2] d. Izyan Ahmad[4] 6-0, 6-2
B16s: Gavin Goode[2] d. Gus Grumet[1] 6-2, 6-1
B18s: William Manning[2] d. Ronit Karki 6-4, 6-1

G12s: Nikol Davletshina[1] d. Savannah Schmitz[9] 6-2, 6-2
G14s: Raya Kotseva[6] d. Anjani Vickneswaran[3] 6-0, 7-5
G16s: Bella Payne[1] d. Isabelle DeLuccia[5] 7-5, 6-0
G18s: Tianmei Wang[9] d. Daniela Borruel[9] 6-4, 6-0

3rd Place:
B12s: Rex Kulman[3] d. James Borchard[5] 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(6)
B14s: Safir Azam[1] d. Akshay Mirmira[7] 6-3, 6-0
B16s: Lukas Phimvongsa[3] d. Andrew Li Wo [inj]
B18s: Saahith Jayaraman[8] d. Jack Satterfield Wo [pc]

G12s: Nadia Poznick[2] d. Isabelle Nguyen 6-1, 6-0
G14s: Julia Seversen d. Kingsley Wolf 6-0, 6-2
G16s: Ava Rodriguez[9] d. Ellery Mendell 6-1, 6-2
G18s: Claire Hill[5] d. Addison Lanton[2] 5-7, 6-4, 6-1

Consolation Finals:
B12s: Alexander Anderson[9] d. Daniel Gardality[4] 6-3, 4-6, [10-7]
B14s: Tabb Tuck[9] d. Luca Sevim[9] 6-4, 6-4
B16s: Liam Alvarez d. Vihaan Reddy 6-3, 6-3
B18s: Ian Bracks d. Callum Markowitz[9] 6-4, 6-3

G12s: Tanvi Pandey[9] d. Sophia Khomoutov[9] 6-0, 6-2
G14s: Reiley Rhodes[1] d. Boating Xu[8] 6-3, 6-7(5), [10-5]
G16s: Sena Yoon d. Carrie-Ann Hoo[6] 5-7, 6-3, [10-4]
G18s: Avery Nguyen[6] d. Sophia Webster 2-6, 7-5, [10-4]

Doubles Finals:
B12s: James Borchard & Taiki Bortolin[1] d. Daniel Gardality & Andy Wu[2] 6-4, 6-2
B14s: Andrew Johnson & Izyan Ahmad[1] d. Gadin Arun & Paxton Au[3] 6-1, 6-1
B16s: Tyler Lee & Brayden Tallakson d. Adrien Abarca & Justin Riley Anson[5] 6-3, 6-3
B18s: Ronit Karki & Jack Satterfield[5] d. Krish Gupta & Rithvik Katpelly 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5

G12s: Isha Manchala & Nikol Davletshina[1] d. Audrey Dussault & Olivia Lin 6-4, 7-5
G14s: Raya Kotseva & Jordyn Hazelitt[4] d. Shaya Jovanovic & Julia Seversen[3] 6-4, 6-2
G16s: Bella Payne & Ava Rodriguez[2] d. Zimora McKnight & Anna Bugiaenko 6-4, 6-2
G18s: Sophia Webster & Olivia Center[5] d. Maren Urata & Sabrina Lin[5] 6-1, 3-6, 7-5

Doubles 3rd Place:
B12s: Ashton Morey & Jason Zhao[3] d. Tanmay Konduri & Smyan Thuta[5] 1-6, 6-0, 6-2
B14s: Kahven Singh & Ryan Corcoran[4] d. Tabb Tuck & Arjun Krishnan 6-3, 6-0
B16s: Joseph Nau & Bryan Assi d. James Quattro & Yashwin Krishnakumar[5] 6-1, 7-6(4)
B18s: Cassius Chinlund & Dylan Jaen[5] d. John Cross & Niels Hoffmann 6-3, 6-0

G12s: Sophia Khomoutov & Tanvi Pandey d. Wendy Fan & Reena Alavalapati[4] 6-2, 6-2
G14s: Raina Kim & Madeleine Bridges[1] d. Bella Arwood & Reiley Rhodes 7-6(2), 6-3
G16s: Calla McGill & Georgia Kulevich[5] d. JoAnna Kennedy & Alyson Shannon[3] 7-5, 6-4
G18s: Katiana Gonzalez & Lani Brotman d. Kenzie Nguyen & Emily Deming 6-2, 6-1