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Sunday, June 9, 2024

Former Collegians Win All Four USTA Pro Circuit Titles Sunday; Gauff Captures Women's Doubles Title at Roland Garros

Although the NCAA tournaments have concluded, former collegians continue to dominate the headlines, with four players with college ties claiming singles titles today on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Carson Branstine, who is the most recent college competitor, won the biggest title of her career today at the women's W75 in Sumter South Carolina, beating Sophie Chang 6-7(6), 7-6(6), 6-1 in a two-hour and 40-minute battle between unseeded players. The 23-year-old Branstine, who had reached finals in her two most recent ITF W35 tournaments in February and April, returned to Texas A&M for the SEC tournament and NCAA team championships, and playing at the No. 1 or No. 2 position, provided the boost the Aggies needed to claim their first NCAA team title last month in Stillwater. 

Branstine, who reached a career-high of 4 on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2017, the year she changed her representation from the United States to Canada, is now inside the WTA Top 350 after this title. It's her second title this year and the fifth of her career on the ITF women's World Tennis Tour.

At the ATP Challenger 75 in Tyler Texas, James Trotter of Japan won his first Challenger singles title, with the former Ohio State Buckeye defeating Brandon Holt(USC) 6-2, 7-6(3) this afternoon. The 2022 NCAA doubles champion, who won his fifth Challenger doubles title Saturday night, won all three of the tiebreakers he contested during the hot and humid week. Yet with all the challenges of playing singles and doubles in difficult conditions, he managed to play his best tennis in his first singles final; he did not face a break point in today's match and won 29 of 31 points when he made a first serve.

Trotter will make a huge jump in the ATP rankings with this title, going from 371 to 274 in the live rankings.

The SoCal Pro Series $15,000 tournaments in San Diego also produced former collegiate champions. Eighteen-year-old Learner Tien, who played a half of a semester at USC last year, won his second consecutive men's title at the Barnes Tennis Center this afternoon. The top-seeded Tien, the two-time Kalamazoo 18s champion who returned last week after several months out with injury, defeated No. 2 seed Alafia Ayeni(Cornell, Kentucky) 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 for his fifth USTA Pro Circuit singles title, all coming in the past 11 months. Tien should be around 375 in the ATP rankings when these 15 points are added a week from Monday. Needing matches in his return from injury, Tien got them, winning a 10 singles matches he played, and he is not entered in either the $25K in Wichita or in the third $15K in San Diego next week.

Former University of North Carolina All-American Sara Daavettila won her only ITF women's World Tennis Tour titles last June in San Diego, sweeping the singles and doubles in the SoCal Pro Series at Barnes Tennis Center. The 26-year-old picked up her second singles title today, with the No. 3 seed blanking 16-year-old Maya Iyengar 6-0, 6-0 in the final. Daavettila, who lost only one set this week, in her first round win over Megan McCray(Oklahoma State), didn't play last week's W15 in San Diego, but is on the entry list for this coming week's tournament. Daavettila's teammate in 2020-21, Fiona Crawley, is at the top of the entry list for next week in San Diego.

These are the four winners on the USTA Pro Circuit, but several other current and just graduated collegians won titles outside the United States today, and because I don't think I'll be able to feature them in my June Aces, I'll note them here.

Recent Pepperdine graduate Janice Tjen won her first two ITF women's World Tennis Tour titles this week at the W15 in Monastir Tunisia. The 22-year-old from Indonesia, who qualified for the main draw, defeated No. 5 seed Patricija Paukstyte of Lithuania 6-1, 7-6(1). She and Canadian Leena Bennetto(Princeton) won the doubles title as wild cards, beating No. 3 seeds Paukstyte and Alica Rusova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

It was a good week for Pepperdine Waves, with men's sophomore Edward Winter of Australia winning his second ITF men's World Tennis Tour singles title at a $15K in Korea. The unseeded 19-year-old beat two Illinois players in the semifinals and finals today, first taking out rising senior Karlis Ozolins of Latvia 6-2, 6-4, and in the final, current assistant coach Zeke Clark, the No. 8 seed, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

Recent Kentucky graduate Taha Baadi of Canada won his first ITF men's World Tennis Tour title at the $15K in the Dominican Republic. The unseeded 22-year-old defeated No. 4 seed Peter Bertran(Georgia, South Florida) 7-5, 6-4 in the final. 

Coco Gauff won her first major in women's doubles, after losing in the 2021 US Open final with Caty McNally, and the 2022 Roland Garros final with Jessica Pegula. This tournament Gauff was playing with Katerina Siniakova, who claimed the Roland Garros titles in 2018 and 2021, and in their first competition as partners, the No. 5 seeds won the title, beating unseeded Jasmine Paolini and Sara Errani of Italy 7-6(5), 6-3 in today's final. 

For more on the 20-year-old Gauff's second slam title, see this article from the Roland Garros website