Friday, July 31, 2015

My Kalamazoo Preview; Former Champion Wiersholm Overcomes Tough Challenge in Opening Round at Kalamazoo; Clay Champions Riffice and Kirkov Fall in Doubles

©Colette Lewis--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Seeded players in the 18s all received byes in the first round, meaning their opening matches will be Saturday, and obviously the focus is on them in my Kalamazoo preview for the Tennis Recruiting Network. But a former champion will always receive attention at Kalamazoo, and 2012 16s winner Henrik Wiersholm fought his way past Alex Knight 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in one of the featured matches at Stowe Stadium.

Both Wiersholm and Knight have completed their freshman years in college, with Wiersholm at Virginia and Knight at Michigan, and Wiersholm anticipated he would have his hands full against the left-hander from Florida.

"He plays at Michigan and I knew they had a pretty good program over there, so I knew it was going to be a tough match," said Wiersholm. "It wasn't going to be junior tennis, because he goes to college, he knows how to play. I knew it was going to be long points, move the ball around. In the first set, I came out pretty nervous, honestly. I was playing tight, not looking for the ball and he capitalized on that. In the second set, I was just telling myself, yeah, it's Kalamazoo, but you've played this tournament for the fourth time, so what are you doing playing tight? Just go out and play."

In the third set, Knight's service game at 2-2 went to ten deuces and he saved eight break points before holding with an ace.  And although Wiersholm lost the game, he held easily and then broke Knight for a 4-3 lead in a game almost as short as Knight's previous service game was long.

"I think that took a little bit out of him," said Wiersholm. "I don't how many minutes it was, so long, so many deuces. I had a lot of chances but I knew if I put him in a position like that, the next game I could capitalize because he'd be thinking like, wow, that last service game was tough, this one is going to be tough. And so I went after a couple of returns in that game and was able to get the break."

One of the characteristics of Kalamazoo that sets it apart from other junior events is its ability to draw players back from college, Pro Circuit and ITF junior circuit events. 

Stefan Kozlov, who has not played a junior event since last December and accompanied his friend Wiersholm to his press conference in the Tower, explained.

"This tournament is like nothing else," said Kozlov, 17. "Everyone you see, it seems like you haven't seen in years. It's crazy. You see everyone and you've got to talk to them, you've got to plan an extra 30 minutes just for that. Even at junior slams, it's not like this."

Wiersholm agreed.

"It's all the U.S. players, we're all best buds, and a lot of these guys I haven't seen in a year. I walked out to practice yesterday, and like for an hour, everyone was like, ooo, whaah," said Wiersholm, imitating good friends greeting each other after a long absence. "It's insane."

Wiersholm will play No. 8 seed William Blumberg in the second round Saturday. 

"I'm excited," Wiersholm said. "Will's a damn good player."

Blumberg may not be in top physical condition however, as he withdrew from doubles with an illness. His partner Nathan Ponwith did find another player whose partner had also withdrawn, Adrian Chamdani, and they advanced to the third round with a straight-set victory.

No. 5 seeds Sam Riffice and Vasil Kirkov did not survive their first contest however.  The Clay Court champions fell to Alex Diaz and Zach Jennings 6-2, 6-3.

The only other seeded team to lose was No. 14 Jordan Benjamin and Matthew Gamble, who were beaten by Billy Rowe and Reese Stalder 6-1, 1-6, 10-7.

Top seeds Frances Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh, No. 2 seeds Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka and No. 3 seeds Tommy Paul and Wiersholm all advanced in straight sets.

The 16s division begins play on Saturday with unseeded players taking the courts in the first round and the opening round of doubles to follow in the afternoon.  Jake Van Emburgh and JJ Wolf are the top seeds in doubles, with Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson the No. 2 seeds.  The complete draw for the 16s doubles can be found at

Live streaming can be found for one of the show courts can be found here throughout the tournament.

The opening ceremonies, featuring an exhibition with 1995 18s champion Justin Gimelstob, are scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at Stowe Stadium.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tiafoe and Mmoh Top Seeds in Kalamazoo Doubles; Southern Cal Girls Take 18s National Team Title

The doubles draws have been posted for the Kalamazoo 18s, with two rounds scheduled for Friday. As in the singles, a main draw US Open wild card goes to the winners. Last year's defending champion Stefan Kozlov, who partnered Noah Rubin, is not entered in doubles this year.

The 18s doubles seeds:
1 Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe
2 Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka
3 Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm
4 William Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith
5 Vasil Kirkov and Sam Riffice
6 Joshua Sheehy and Parker Wynn
7 Brandon Holt and Riley Smith
8 Zeke Clark and William Genesen
9 Eduardo Nava and Alex Rybakov
10 Spencer Furman and Eric Rutledge
11 Lane Leschly and Alex Ross
12 Oliver Crawford and Johnathan Small
13 Joseph Haig and William Sharton
14 Jordan Benjamin and Matthew Gamble
15 Martin Joyce and Gianni Ross
16 Liam Caruana and Sameer Kumar

The seeded teams receive a bye in the first round, so will play only one doubles match on Friday.

The 16s begin singles play on Saturday and their doubles draw will come out on Friday afternoon.

The match times for singles and doubles are now posted at Click the Match Times button at the top of the home page for a printable pdf.

The Southern Cal girls won the USTA Girls 18 National Team Championship, beating the Southern section's team 6-1 yesterday in Claremont, California.  The Southern Cal section had won the boys version of the tournament in Champaign on Tuesday.

Below are the results from the final:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kalamazoo Draws Posted; Black Top Seed in San Diego, Seeds in 12s and 14s Posted; Ryan Shane Feature

The draws for the Kalamazoo tournament, which starts on Friday, are now available at  With such a strong group of seeds there was always going to be some tough, tough quarterfinals, and No. 2 Fritz versus No. 5 Mmoh and No. 1 Tiafoe versus No. 6 Opelka are certainly two of them, provided they all make it that far, of course.

Last year the top eight seeds in the 18s all reached the quarterfinals for the first time since 1976. Could it happen two years in a row after a nearly 40-year gap?

The draws for the other age groups are not yet posted--I'm told the San Diego draws will be out Thursday--but the seeds have all been announced.  Below are the Top 16 seeds in the 12s, 14s, and the girls 16s and 18s.  The 17-32 seeds are available via a link back to the TennisLink site. All 32 of the Kalamazoo 16s and 18s seeds are here.

Girls 18s:
1  Tornado Alicia Black
2  Usue Arconada
3  Sofia Kenin
4  Michaela Gordon
5  Raveena Kingsley
6  Francesca Dilorenzo
7  Ingrid Neel
8  Claire Liu
9  Kayla Day
10  Alexandra Sanford
11  Alexa Graham
12  Ellyse Hamlin
13  Ena Shibahara
14  Rebecca Weissmann
15  Mia Horvit
16  Kelly Chen

Girls 16s
1  Natasha Subhash
2  Victoria Flores
3  Hannah Lairmore
4  Nicole Mossmer
5  Elysia Bolton
6  Clarissa Hand
7  Taylor Johnson
8  Anna Brylin
9  Carson Branstine
10  Hannah Zhao
11  Victoria Emma
12  Caroline Dunleavy
13  Meg Kowalski
14  Ally Bojczuk
15  Whitney Osuigwe
16  Sydney Jones

Girls 14s
1  Alexa Noel
2  Katie Volynets
3  Victoria Hu
4  Lea Ma
5  Angelica Blake
6  Reilly Tran
7  Kacie Harvey
8  Chloe Beck
9  Maggie Cubitt
10  Emma Navarro
11  Naomi Cheong
12  Hailey Baptiste
13  Addison Guevara
14  Gabriella Price
15  Cori Gauff
16  Lauren Stein

Girls 12s
1  Brooke Theis
2  Kenadee Semenik
3  Jenna DeFalco
4  Emma Jackson
5  Rachel Arbitman
6  Bridget Stammel
7  Sydni Ratliff
8  Maria Rizzolo
9  Tyra Richardson
10  Tara Malik
11  Hibah Shaikh
12  Madison Sieg
13  Elise Wagle
14  Ellie Pittman
15  Carrie Beckman
16  Katrina Scott

Boys 14s
1  William Grant
2  Cannon Kingsley
3  Daniel Sharygin
4  Nathan Han
5  Ronan Jachuck
6  Connor Nisbet
7  Harry Yang
8  Stefan Leustian
9  Evin McDonald
10  Leighton Allen
11  Hunter Heck
12  Andrew Dale
13  Nicholas Garcia
14  Spencer Gray
15  Richard Bell
16  Thomas Yu

Boys 12s
1  Hugo Hashimoto
2  Karl Lee
3  Saud Alhogbani
4  Phillip Deaton
5  Benjamin Kittay
6  Griffin Daehnke
7  Samuel Landau
8  Eric Perkowski
9  Daniel Dunac
10  Nishesh Basavareddy
11  James Delgado
12  Sam Reichbach
13  Andrew Chang
14  Tonmye Nirundorn
15  Gavin Young

16  Teddy Truwit

NCAA champion Ryan Shane of Virginia is back competing after an injury layoff following his title in Waco in May.  After going 1-1 in the Lexington Challenger qualifying, Shane will be in action this weekend at the qualifying for the ATP event in Washington DC.  In anticipation of that, Kelyn Soong wrote this feature on Shane for the Washington Post, which contains some interesting background on how Ryan and older brother Justin started playing the sport.

In other University of Virginia news, assistant men's coach Dustin Taylor will be accompanying the USTA Collegiate Team to Italy for two $15,000 Futures events there beginning next week. 

The Aptos Challenger, a $100,000 event that begins in two weeks, could decide the US Open men's Wild Card Challenge. Here's a preview from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

All Top 10 ITF Boys and Girls Entered in US Open Juniors; Southern Cal Wins USTA Boys 18 Team Championship; Donaldson, Kudla Advance in Atlanta

The acceptances for the US Open Junior Championships were released today, and all players in the ITF top 10, and all but one of the top 15, girls No. 15 Julieta Estable, have entered.

Nine US girls have received direct entry: Usue Arconada, Sonya Kenin, Michaela Gordon, Raveena Kingsley, Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ingrid Neel, Claire Liu, CiCi Bellis and Katerina Stewart.  Kayla Day is the first alternate, with an ITF ranking of 56.  Alexandra Sanford and Tornado Alicia Black, the 2013 US girls finalist, are in qualifying Stewart, a semifinalist in New York last year, received entry based on her WTA ranking, currently 158.  Magdalena Frech of Poland, 378 in the WTA rankings, also received her entry by that method.

Caroline Dolhide, ranked No. 16 and a semifinalist last year after advancing through qualifying, has not entered and is not playing the G18s Nationals in San Diego either. She played earlier this month at Wimbledon and reached the third round there.

Seven US boys have received direct entry: Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh, Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg, Tommy Paul, Nathan Ponwith and Ulises Blanch.  Sam Riffice has already assured himself of a wild card into the main draw by winning the 18s Clay Courts.

The cutoff for the boys is 45, extremely high for the US Open, but not unusual for the French.  Five players received entry via their ATP rankings, with South Africa's Lloyd Harris (609), Argentina's Juan Pablo Fichovich(706) and two Spanish 18-year-olds: European Championships finalist Bernabe Zapata Miralles(708) and Pedro Martinez Portero(691).  The fifth is 14-year-old Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime, who became the youngest player ever to reach the quarterfinals of an ATP Challenger last week in Granby. Those results moved his ATP ranking up to 749, which is one spot better than necessary for main draw acceptance.  It will be his first junior slam

The USTA Boys 18 Team Championships finals were today in Champaign-Urbana, with the Southern California section defeating the Eastern section 5-2.  Eastern's No. 1 player William Blumberg won all his matches during the tournament, including today's over Austin Rapp, but it wasn't enough to counter the depth of coach Barry Horowitz's team.  The results of today's final are below:

The girls 18 final Wednesday gives Southern Cal an opportunity for a sweep of the USTA Team championships. They will play defending champion Southern for the title. The TennisLink site for the girls competition has all the results.

At the ATP event in Atlanta, Jared Donaldson defeated fellow qualifier Somdev Devvarman 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the second round, where he will play No. 7 seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.  Another US qualifier, Denis Kudla, outlasted wild card Ryan Harrison 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) to set up a second round metting with No. 3 seed Jack Sock. Sock and Kudla have played five times, including, of course, in the US Open boys final in 2010, with Sock winning three, but Kudla has won their last two meetings, though those were in 2012.

No. 6 seed Steve Johnson advanced with a 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-2 win over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia. Qualifier Austin Krajicek fell to No. 5 seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, and Frances Tiafoe saw his attempt at a first ATP-level win thwarted by Australia's Sam Groth 7-6(3), 6-4.   Mardy Fish and Donald Young both suffered straight-set losses.

Georgia Tech rising sophomore Christopher Eubanks, who received a wild card, plays his first round match against Czech Radek Stepanek on Wednesday.  For more on Eubanks, and his friendship with Donald Young, see this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kalamazoo Seeds

Boys 18s:

1 Frances Tiafoe
2 Taylor Fritz
3 Stefan Kozlov

4 Tommy Paul
5 Michael Mmoh
6 Reilly Opelka
7 Alex Rybakov
8 William Blumberg

9 Sam Riffice
10 Nathan Ponwith
11 Oliver Crawford
12 Eduardo Nava
13 Dennis Uspensky

14 William Genesen
15 Eric Rutledge
16 Zeke Clark
17 Nick Stachowiak

18 Spencer Furman
19 Gianni Ross
20 John McNally
21 Connor Hance

22 Brandon Holt
23 Emil Reinberg

24 Martin Joyce
25 Liam Caruana

26 Kalman Boyd
Andrew Heller
28 Vasil Kirkov
29 Sameer Kumar

30 Nathan Perrone
31 Jacob Brumm
32 Matthew Gamble

Top seeds awaiting introductions at 2014 Nats opening night ceremonies

Boys 16s:
1 Jeffery Wolf
2 Jake Van Emburgh

3 Patrick Kypson
4 Alexandre Rotsaert
5 Sean Sculley
6 Austen Huang

7 Danny Thomas
8 Kyrylo Tsugura
9 Carson Haskins
10 Mac Kiger
11 Brian Cernoch
12 Alexander Brown
13 Andrew Fenty
14 Christian Alshon
15 William Howells
16 Jason Lui
17 Kevin Ma
18 Robert Maciag
19 Abhijeet Joshi
20 William Peters
21 Jaycer Lyeons
22 Kevin Zhu
23 Jeff Zucker
24 Ryan Goetz
25 Trent Bryde
26 Trey Hildebrand
27 Eric Yoo
28 Chambers Easterling
29 John Speicher
30 Ajai Shekhera
31 A. Trice Pickens
32 Cotter Wilson

Monday, July 27, 2015

Talking with ITF Junior No. 1 Taylor Fritz; Ayeni Sweeps ITF Grade 4 Titles in Dominican Republic; Donaldson Qualifies for BB&T Open in Atlanta

As the No. 1 ranked ITF junior boy, Taylor Fritz was a popular interview subject at Wimbledon this year, and I spoke with him several times during the junior tournament.  Although many of his peers have turned pro this spring and summer, Fritz has not yet made that decision officially. But from this article I put together for The Tennis Recruiting Network based on those interviews, it appears unlikely that he will attend college.

All the major sports management agencies are interested in Fritz, so his choice will be a story this summer (he says by the end of the US Open). But it's not as if it is a lifetime commitment.  Jack Sock, who signed with CAA initially, has moved to IMG, it was announced today.

Olukayode Alafia Ayeni, who turns 16 next month, won his first two ITF titles last week at the Grade 4 Copa Merengue in the Dominican Republic. Ayeni, seeded No. 11, beat the No. 7, No. 4 and No. 1 seeds to reach the final, where he defeated No. 2 seed Salvador Mijares of Venezuela 6-2, 6-1.  Ayeni and Robert Loeb won the doubles title, with the No. 3 seeds taking a 7-6(8), 7-5 decision from No. 4 seeds Valentino Caratini and Camilo Ugo Carabelli of Argentina.

At the $50,000 Sacramento women's Pro Circuit tournament, which finished late last night, 2014 US Open girls finalist Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, the No. 8 seed, beat top seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. It's the third Pro Circuit title for the 18-year-old, but the first at the $50,000 level.

Ashley Weinhold and Caitlin Whoriskey(Tennessee) won the doubles title, beating another unseeded pair, Nao Hibino of Japan and Rosie Johanson of Canada, 6-4, 3-6, 14-12 in the final. It's Whoriskey's ninth pro doubles title, but her first at a $50,000 tournament and her first with Weinhold as a partner.

The third and final tournament in the USTA's Women's US Open Wild Card Challenge is this week in Lexington.  As you can see from the standings chart, it's still anyone's wild card, although Brooke Austin lost in the first round of Lexington qualifying to Jamie Loeb, so she can't accumulate any more points. Loeb is one of five Americans in Tuesday's final round of qualifying.

The men's Lexington Challenger is just the second of their three tournaments, and next week at Aptos is a $100,000 event, so there is a very long way to go in that race. Noah Rubin qualified for Lexington with three wins, including a win over No. 2 seed Frederik Nielsen of Denmark and today's victory over Dimitar Kutrovsky(7) of Bulgaria. Alex Kuznetsov also qualified, putting a total of eight Americans in the main draw.

Rain has stopped play at the BB&T Atlanta Open today, but Jared Donaldson, Austin Krajicek and Denis Kudla won their final qualifying matches to join nine Americans already in the main draw. Donaldson, who was unseeded in the qualifying, beat Gastao Elias of Portugal in the first round, No. 5 seed JP Smith of Australia in the second round and No. 2 seed Guido Pella of Argentina in today's final round of qualifying. Kudla, the No. 1 seed, won both his qualifying matches in straight sets, as did No. 3 seed Krajicek.

The lower level Pro Circuit events this week are a $15,000 Futures for the men in Edwardsville, Illinois, and a $10,000 tournament for women in Austin, Texas.