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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Jovic Beats Top Seed Day at Bonita Springs W100, Urhobo Reaches Second Round; First ATP Points for Meecah Bigun, Matisse Farzam at Orange Park $15K; McNeil Posts First Pro Win at Boca Raton W35

This week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments have drawn scores of juniors to the Har-Tru in Florida, with the women competing at a W100 in Bonita Springs and a W35 in Boca Raton and the men at another $15K, this time in Orange Park.

Sixteen-year-old Iva Jovic, competing for the first time since she won the ITF J300 in San Diego in March, qualified for the Bonita Springs main draw with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over WTA No. 341 Kateryna Volodko of Ukraine yesterday. Today, she got what is by far her biggest win on the Pro Circuit, taking down top seed and WTA 84 Kayla Day 6-2, 6-4. It's Jovic's first WTA Top 100 win; her only other match against a WTA Top 100 player came in the qualifying of Indian Wells this year, where she lost to Taylor Townsend 6-1, 6-2.  Jovic will face Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) in the second round Thursday.

Seventeen-year-old Akasha Urhobo, who like Jovic is currently ranked in the WTA Top 600, received a wild card into Bonita Springs and played her first round match yesterday. She defeated No. 8 seed and WTA 244 Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to a second round meeting with qualifier Whitney Osuigwe. Urhobo, who made the semifinals and final of two W35s last month, is still in the running for the USTA Roland Garros Wild Card, although she would have to win the title this week to pass current leader Sachia Vickery. 

Louisa Chirico, who won the Charlottesville W75 last week, has to reach the semifinals to pass Vickery. She won her first round match over No. 5 seed Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece today 7-5, 7-5 and will play qualifier Emily Appleton of Great Britain in the second round Thursday. 

Eighteen-year-old Liv Hovde is also still mathematically alive for the Roland Garros wild card, having won the Boca Raton W35 two weeks ago. She also needs a title to catch Vickery; she beat No. 7 seed Justina Mikulskyte(Kentucky) of Lithuania 7-6(2), 6-3 today and will play 17-year-old Maya Joint of Australia next. 

With Bonita Springs going on at the same time, the field for the Boca Raton W35 isn't as strong as it normally would be, with No. 675 Jaeda Daniel(Auburn/NC State) the No. 8 seed. She lost in the first round today to 18-year-old qualifier Ariana Pursoo 6-2, 6-2, with Pursoo picking up her second win on the USTA Pro Circuit. The University of Texas signee won her first main draw Pro Circuit match last month at the W35 in Mississippi. 

Pursoo will face fellow New Yorker Christasha McNeil in the second round, after the 17-year-old McNeil earned her first win on the Pro Circuit as a qualifier. McNeil, who received a wild card into qualifying, defeated WTA No. 706 Berta Bonardi of Argentina 6-2, 6-4 today. McNeil had shown that she has the level to compete on the Pro Circuit when she held match points on WTA Top 100 player Bernarda Pera in the Indian Wells women's qualifying before falling 7-6 in the third. 

Two other teenaged wild cards won their opening matches today, with 17-year-old Kate Fakih beating Louise Kwong(Illinois) of Canada 6-4, 6-4 and 15-year-old Shannon Lam defeating Maria Kononova(North Texas) of Russia 6-0, 6-3. UCLA recruit Mayu Crossley of Japan also qualified and reached the second round, with Marine Partaud of France retiring trailing 6-1, 4-1. She next plays No. 3 seed Hiroko Kuwata of Japan, who at age 33 is nearly twice her age.

Auburn sophomore Angella Okutoyi of Kenya is the No. 5 seed in Boca Raton, and she is trying to earn a spot in the Olympics, which she can do, as the African Games champion, if she can get her WTA ranking to 400 by June 10. Currently at 549, every point matters, but Auburn is playing in the NCAA regionals Friday and Saturday at Cal, so her continued success this week would be bittersweet for her team. After beating wild card Claire An 6-4, 6-3 today, she plays qualifier Lilian Poling(Boise State/Mississippi State) Thursday and then perhaps top seed Allie Kiick in the quarterfinals.

The last two $15Ks have proven very productive for American junior boys, with Mitchell Lee and Cooper Woestendick picking up their first ATP points last week in Vero Beach, and qualifiers Matisse Farzam and Meecah Bigun getting their first ATP points with wins today in Orange Park.

The 17-year-old Farzam, who has verbally committed to Ohio State, defeated Ryan Dickerson(Duke, Baylor) 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 in three hours and 11 minutes for his first point. Seventeen-year-old Meecah Bigun, the twin brother of Kaylan and a Princeton recruit, beat fellow qualifier Lucas Castillo Sanchez, a St. Mary's(Texas) recruit, 6-2, 6-3.  Bigun faces top seed Corentin Denolly of France in Thursday's second round, Farzam will play No. 4 seed and former Florida star Duarte Vale of Portugal.

Woestendick earned his second ATP point today, beating Drew Van Orderlain 6-3, 6-1 and will play No. 6 seed Will Grant(Florida). Wild card Rudy Quan continued to have success; after reaching the quarterfinals last week in Vero Beach, the 18-year-old UCLA signee defeated Vero Beach finalist and No. 5 seed Victor Lilov 6-4, 6-4. His opponent in the second round is Jonas Pelle Hartenstein of Germany.

Andres Andrade(Florida) of Ecuador has gone from the Savannah Challenger 75 final Sunday to this $15K, where he is the No. 2 seed.