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Friday, November 24, 2017

My Conversations with Pros on Next Gen Experiments; Qualifying Begins Saturday for Eddie Herr ITF; Noel Reaches Grade 1 Yucatan Final

The Next Gen experiments, and recently, the Grand Slam committee's recent announcement of changes have been a hot topic in the tennis world, so  when  I was at the Champaign Challenger last week I spoke to a half dozen pros and other tournament officials to get their thoughts on the experiments held during the 21-and-under tournament the ATP held for the first time earlier this month.  In the first of a two-part series for the Tennis Recruiting Network, I sought their opinions on the all-electronic line calling, the 25-second serve clock, the four-game best-of-five sets and no-ad scoring.  In Friday's second part, the discussion turns to playing lets on serves, allowing coaching and fan movement, and reducing the number of medical timeouts.


The qualifying draws have been released for the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr, which begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. Both boys and girls draws are full this year, but only two wild cards were needed to fill the girls draw. 

Twenty US boys are in the 64-player qualifying draw, with five of them seeded: Jaycer Lyeons[1], Nathan Han[2], Sumit Sarkar[5], Boris Kozlov[14] and Pierce Rollins[15].

Twenty-three US girls are competing for a place in the main draw, with nine of them seeded: Kianah Motosono[2], Chloe Beck[4], Kacie Harvey[5], Chloe Hamlin[7], Victoria Hu[10], Lauren Stein[12], Abigail Forbes[14], Jenna Dean[15], and Jennifer Gadalov[16].

The order of play for Saturday's ITF qualifying matches is here.

Rain this week has put the qualifying for the 12s, 14s, and 16s behind schedule, and with four matches needed to determine the eight qualifiers, girls 16s will double up on Saturday, playing two rounds.  The weather forecast is good, with just a small chance of precipitation for the weekend and the week of the main draw.

At the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, Alexa Noel has reached the final after defeating No. 12 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 6-0, 6-1.  The 15-year-old had beaten top seed Maria Carle of Argentina 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday, and has now run her winning streak in Mexico to 11.  Understandably, Noel has withdrawn from the Eddie Herr, as has Andrew Fenty, who lost today in the Yucatan semifinals.  Fenty, the No. 2 seed, lost to No. 6 seed Juan Cerundolo of Argentina 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in singles, but he and William Woodall have advanced to the doubles final,a result that puts Woodall into the main draw at the Eddie Herr.

Drew Baird, who pulled out of the Yucatan G1 after winning the Abierto Juvenil last week, has been given a wild card into the Eddie Herr. The other boys main draw wild cards:
Ronan Jachuck
Emilio Nava
Tyler Zink
Bradon Nakashima
Toby Kodat
Martin Damm
Manoel De Alencar(BRA)

The girls ITF main draw wild cards:
Katya Townsend
Sanyukta Gawande
Ana Geller(ARG)
Angelica Blake
Nikki Redelijk
Carolyn Campana
Elvina Kalieva
Alexandra Yepifanova

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving; USTA National Indoor Championships Begin Friday; Eddie Herr ITF Wild Cards; ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup Update


Photo by Peter Kleinau on Unsplash
I will be taking Thanksgiving Day off, but I do want to take the opportunity today to thank all of my readers, supporters and sponsors. I am grateful to all who have contributed to this website whether by reading, commenting, donating or supporting my advertisers, and I hope to continue to be able to cover junior and college tennis for many years to come.

The new USTA Level 1 gold ball National Indoor Championships begin this Friday at locations across the country.  Links to the TennisLink pages for each division are in the heading below. Because I am covering the Eddie Herr, I won't have the opportunity to follow these closely, but I will post the champions in the Honor Roll section to the left.

Girls 12s, Chatham NJ
Top 8 seeds:
1. Matilyn Wang
2. Stephanie Yakoff
3. Aubrey Nisbet
4. Grace Levelston
5. Madeleine Jessup
6. Reya Coe
7. Natalia Perez
8. Meera Jesudason

Boys 12s, Flushing NY
Top 8 seeds:
1. Cooper Williams
2. Nicholas Herdoiza
3. Nicholas Mangiapane
4. Lucas Pak
5. Alan Hua
6. Adam Sun, Adam
7. Santiago Muhala
8. Adhithya Ganesan

Girls 14s, Toledo OH
Top 8 seeds:
1. Valencia Xu
2. Madison Sieg
3. Alexandra Torre
4. Reese Brantmeier
5. MiaAngelina Ruja
6. Elisabeth Jones
7. Calissa Dellabarca
8. Eleana Yu

Boys 14s, Chicago IL
Top 8 seeds:
1. Noelle Andrey Ampong
2. Samir Banerjee
3. Andrew Chang
4. Eli Gordon
5. Max Fardanesh
6. John Kim
7. Ozan Colak
8. Braden Shick

Girls 16s, Minneapolis MN
Top 8 seeds:
1. Gianna Pielet
2. Karine Miller
3. Zoe Howard
4. Anessa Lee
5. Chidimma Okpara
6. Carmen Corley
7. Eleanor Schulson
8. Maryam Ahmad

Boys 16s, Wayland MA
Seeds not yet posted

Girls 18s, Weymouth MA
Seeds not yet posted

Boys 18s, Overland Park KS
Top 8 seeds:
1. Bill Duo
2. Robert Maciag
3. Carson Haskins
4. Britton Johnston
5. Kevin Zhu
6. Jared Pratt
7. William Peters
8. A. Trice Pickens

Several of the wild cards for the ITF Eddie Herr Grade 1 have been awarded. There will be others in the next few days.

Boys Main Draw:
Brandon Nakashima
Emilio Nava
Tyler Zink
Ronan Jachuck

Boys Qualifying:
Adam Neff
Michael Heller
Patrick Maloney

Girls Main Draw:
Alexandra Yepifanova
Nikki Redelijk
Elvina Kalieva
Angelica Blake

Girls Qualifying:
Charlotte Owensby
Megan Polnet

The first two rounds of the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup are complete, with many Top 8 girls seeds ousted.  No. 2 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland lost in the first round to Andreea Prisacariu of Romania, who was then beaten by Ana Geller, Axel's sister, in the second round.  Americans Vanessa Ong, qualifier Alexandra Yepifanova, Gabby Price and Peyton Stearns all took out Top 8 seeds. Top seed Maria Carle of Argentina is through to the round of 16, as is Grade A Abierto Juvenil champion Alexa Noel.

Boys top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan and No. 2 seed Andrew Fenty have advanced. Drew Baird withdrew from this week's event after winning the Abierto Juvenil last week in Mexico City.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Anisimova Gets Top 100 Win in WTA Honolulu $125K; Buckeyes Advance at Columbus $25K Futures; Eddie Herr Qualifying Begins Wednesday; Service Lets Trial Coming to ITF Junior Circuit


US Open girls champion Amanda Anisimova defeated No. 2 seed Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan 6-0, 6-1 today to advance to the second round of the $125,000 WTA tournament in Honolulu Hawaii. Allie Kiick, Julia Boserup, Danielle Lao, Jacqueline Cako and Sachia Vickery[6] have also advanced to the second round.  Vickery defeated Danielle Collins 6-4, 7-6(2) avenging her loss in Sunday's final at the $25,000 tournament in Norman Oklahoma.

The $25,000 Columbus Futures is unsurprisingly filled with Ohio State Buckeyes, with two of them facing off in the second round on Wednesday.  Senior Mikael Torpegaard, who beat No. 4 seed Ed Corrie 6-4, 6-2 today, will play freshman John McNally, who defeated Illinois sophomore Noe Khlif 7-5, 6-2.  Sophomore JJ Wolf was the third current Ohio State player to advance, beating Nico Mostardi 6-2, 6-2, while former Buckeye Hunter Callahan also picked up a first round win. Top seeds Christian Harrison and Alex Sarkissian posted straight-sets wins in their first round matches.

Qualifying for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr International begins Wednesday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida.  Draws can be found at Tennis Link.

Announcements of changes coming to the Grand Slams were released today, with a serve clock of 25 seconds being used this year at the Australian Open, and beginning in 2019, the seeds being reduced from 32 to 16.  The problem of less than healthy players retiring in the first round just to claim the prize money has been addressed, with a 50% split to a lucky loser and a player who withdraws at the last minute.  For more on these changes, see this article.

On Thursday, look for the first of a two-part article I wrote for the Tennis Recruiting Network about how several players I spoke to at the Champaign Challenger feel about many of the recent trials and experiments that have been tested.

Not be left out, the ITF Junior Circuit has joined the no-let experiment, according to a recent message from the ITF as shown in the tweet below. I don't have any more information about that now, but I will try to find out more while I'm in Florida covering the two big ITF events there.


Monday, November 20, 2017

2018 College Match Days Announced; More NLI Signings; Rychagova of Kansas, Redlicki of UCLA Top Final ITA Fall Rankings

The USTA announced its six 2018 College Match Days beginning in February at the National Campus in Lake Nona Florida. For more on these free events at the stunning new facility outside Orlando, see this article at usta.com.

Saturday Feb. 3
Florida v Florida State (men/women)

Friday Feb. 9
Georgia v Georgia Tech (men)

Saturday Feb 24
Oklahoma v Texas A&M (men)

Saturday March 3
Central Florida v Michigan (men/women)

Sunday April 1
Florida v Texas (women)

Sunday April 15
Central Florida v South Florida (men)

The early signing announcements are starting to wind down, so this will be my last update.  See my previous compilations from November 8. November 10 and November 13.

MEN:
Auburn has signed Matteo De Vincentis of Italy.

BYU has signed Kobe Tran.

Central Florida has signed Trey Hilderbrand.

Georgia has signed Britton Johnston and Blake Croyder.

Georgia Tech has signed Joseph Gandolfo.

Medhi Laale of Morocco is transferring from Division II Lynn to Louisville.


Mississippi has signed Sebastian Rios.

Oklahoma State has signed Matej Vocel of the Czech Republic. Dylan Bednarczyk of Canada has transferred from Nebraska.

San Diego has signed Noah Dufort.

South Carolina has signed Joseph Brailovsky, Nick Watson, Jacob Beasley and Patrick Cacciatore.

Tennessee has signed Sean Presson.

Virginia has signed Ryan Goetz, William Woodall and Gianni Ross.  Ross will start in January of 2018.

Washington has signed Kasper Smith.

Western Michigan has signed Nicholas Hebda, Peter Kuszynski of Canada and Jack Randall.

Wisconsin has signed Daniel Nuzhny, Jared Pratt and Lenard Soha of Germany.

WOMEN:

Alabama has signed Kimika Sakata of Japan.

Central Florida has signed Domenika Turkovic of Croatia.

Kansas has signed Julia Deming.

Kentucky has added Tiphanie Fiquet of France to its previous signing announcement.

Memphis has signed Leonarda Janko of Croatia, Hannah Davies of  Hannah Davies of Great Britain and Aleksandra Topalovic of Great Britain.

North Carolina State has signed Alana Smith.

Ohio State has signed Kolie Allen, Emma DeCoste and Isabelle Boulais of Canada.

Tennessee has signed Kylie Duckworth.

Utah has signed Anya Lamoreaux, Lindsay Hung, Emily Dush and Madison Tattini.


The ITA released the final fall rankings last week, with Martin Redlicki of UCLA and Anastasia Rychagova of Kansas in the top spot. Click on the headers for the complete lists.

Men's Singles Top 10:
1. Martin Redlicki, UCLA
2. William Blumberg, North Carolina
3. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest
5. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State
6. Thomas Laurent, Oregon
7. Johannes Ingildsen, Florida
8. Alfredo Perez, Florida
9. Alex Knight, Michigan
10. Valentin Vacherot, Texas A&M

Men's Doubles Top 5:
1. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida
2. Will Little and Johannes Schretter, Baylor
3. William Blumberg and Robert Kelly, North Carolina
4. Petros Chrysochos and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest
5. Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles, Texas

Women's Singles Top 10:
1. Anastasia Rychagova, Kansas
2. Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, Florida Atlantic
3. Andrea Lazaro, Florida International
4. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt
5. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech
6. Stacey Fung, Washington
7. Samantha Harris, Duke
8. Anna Danilina, Florida
9. Alle Sanford, North Carolina
10. Bianca Turati, Texas

1. Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen, Duke 
2. Ellyse Hamlin and Kaitlyn McCarthy, Duke 
3. Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon, Stanford
4. Erin Larner and Maddie Lipp, Northwestern
5. Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Baird Surprises Top Seed Korda to Claim Grade A in Mexico City; Collins Wins $25K in Norman; American Juniors Capture ITF Titles in El Salvador, Antigua and Philippines

Yesterday unseeded Alexa Noel upset No. 1 seed Whitney Osuigwe to earn the girls singles trophy at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City. Today, unseeded Drew Baird pulled off a similar surprise, beating top seed Sebastian Korda 76(4), 3-6, 6-0.

The 17-year-old Baird, playing in his first Grade A event, got the first break of the final at 4-3, but Korda got the break right back. After four holds, the tiebreaker was similarly close, with Korda twice taking a mini-break lead.  But leading 4-3, Korda began to spray balls, especially on his backhand side, and Baird won the final four points of the set, closing it out with a good serve on his first set.

Korda fought back in the second set, coming forward more often, but after nearly and hour and a half of play, the 17-year-old began to show signs of an injury and quickly went down two breaks, 3-0, in the third set.  After a lengthy off-court medical timeout, Korda returned, but Baird did not let the injury affect him, efficiently finishing off his IMG Academy training partner.

Neither Osuigwe nor Korda are playing next week's Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, but both Baird and Noel are in the singles draws, with both unseeded.  There are 22 US boys and 21 US girls in the 64-player draws.  Maria Carle of Argentina is the top seed in the girls draw and Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan is the top seed in the boys draw. 


Two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins won her second $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit title of 2017 today in Norman Oklahoma.  The University of Virginia graduate, seeded No. 3, defeated No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.  Collins, who has reached five finals on the USTA Pro Circuit this year, is playing in the WTA $125K event this coming week in Hawaii, as is Vickery.  Stanford freshman Michaela Gordon has received a wild card. The complete player list is here.

Former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador won the $15,000 Futures title in Pensacola Florida, with the No. 3 seed defeating No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.  It's Gomez's first Futures title since 2015.
Top seeds Hunter and Yates Johnson(SMU) won their fifth title as a team and second this year, beating No. 2 seeds Junior Ore and Harrison Adams(Texas A&M) 6-3, 6-3.

All the action for US juniors wasn't just in Mexico, with four Americans winning ITF Grade 4 and 5 singles titles.  At the Grade 4 in the Philippines, 16-year-old Nicole Hammond won her first ITF junior singles title, beating Elizabeth Stevens 6-1, 6-4 in the all-USA final. Neither was seeded.  Hammond and Stevens won the doubles title too, with the unseeded pair defeating Jingyi Li and Fangran Tian of China 6-3 6-4 in the final.

At the Grade 5 in El Salvador, No. 2 seed Midori Castillo Meza beat top seed Kennedy Bridgforth 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in another all-USA final. The 14-year-old Castillo Meza won Grade 5 in Costa Rica last week. Jackson Ross teamed with Alfredo Casso of Mexico to take the boys doubles title.

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Brachman, who just began competing on the ITF Junior Circuit this fall, won his first titles at the Grade 5 in Antigua. The unseeded Brachman defeated top seed Jeffrey Fradkin 6-3, 6-2 in yet another all-USA singles final, then paired with Fradkin to take the doubles title as well. The unseeded Brachman and Fradkin beat Canada's Christopher Heck of Canada and Tom LeBlanc Claverie, the No. 2 seed, 7-6(0), 6-3 in the final. 

Fifteen-year-old Hibah Shaikh won the girls singles title in her ITF Junior Circuit debut, beating top seed Alexandra Anttila of Finland 6-3, 6-1 in the final. The two singles finalists then paired up for the doubles title, defeating No. 1 seeds Sydney Clarke of the Bahamas and Tangia Riley-Codrington of Barbados 6-0, 6-3 in the final.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Noel Claims Mexico City Grade A Title Over Top Seed Osuigwe; Baird, Korda in Boys Final; Boyer Wins Another Grade 2; Smyczek is Champaign Challenger Champion; Collins and Vickery Play for Norman $25K Title; Blanch Reaches Futures Final in Florida

Unseeded 15-year-old Alexa Noel had a breakout tournament this week at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City and she topped it off with a 6-2, 6-4 win over the ITF World No. 1 junior Whitney Osuigwe in today's all-American girls singles final. 

Noel, who had not played a tournament since July, didn't drop a set in any of her six victories, and her variety-laden game proved too much for Osuigwe today. Noel was serving particularly well, and when things got tight late in the second set, her first serve and her willingness to use her lethal drop shot against the speedy Osuigwe proved the difference. Noel couldn't consolidate the break she earned for a 4-3 lead, but she broke Osuigwe in a four-deuce game to take a 5-4 lead and served out the match for her first ITF title above the Grade 4 level. Noel, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last year, had lost to Osuigwe in the Easter Bowl 14s final in 2015.

Things didn't get any better for Osuigwe after the singles final, when she and Ellie Douglas, the top seeds, lost in the doubles final to unseeded Peyton Stearns and Dalayna Hewitt 6-4, 6-3.


Like Noel, unseeded Drew Baird is having the tournament of his ITF junior career, reaching Sunday's boys singles final despite his ranking of 192.  Baird, a 17-year-old who is playing in his first Grade A, has won two Grade 4 titles this year but has struggled to post wins at the Grade 1 level.  After dropping a set in his first match, Baird has advanced to the final without losing another, and in today's semifinal against Filip Jianu of Romania, Baird posted a 7-6(2), 7-6(1) victory.  He will face top seed Sebastian Korda, who had his toughest match of the week by far against No. 5 seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina, coming back for a 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory. 

The boys final will be streamed live, but without commentary, at the tournament's website.

Tristan Boyer is now on a 15-match winning streak at the Grade 2 level, after claiming his second straight ITF singles title in Israel.  The 16-year-old Californian, who won a Grade 2 in Japan last month after reaching the semifinals of the Grade A in Osaka, was the top seed this week, and as was the case last week, he beat No. 2 seed Yanki Erel of Turkey in the final.  After a straight-sets loss last week, Erel did win a set today, but Boyer prevailed 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1.  Already in the Top 50, Boyer will move into the Top 40 with this week's title.  Fifteen-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez won the girls singles title, after she also won the title in the Grade 2 the previous week.

At the Grade 3 in Bolivia, 17-year-old Chloe Hamlin won her first ITF singles title. The No. 6 seed defeated top seed Maria Rivera Corado of Guatemala 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-5 in the final.  Jenna Dean reached the final of the girls doubles.

The USTA Pro Circuit Challenger season came to a close today at the $75,000 tournament in Champaign, with No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek winning the title with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo.  Fratangelo struggled with a back injury throughout the match, so another comeback victory for him wasn't in the cards. The title is the second for Smyczek in the past three weeks, and he will move to around 130 in the ATP rankings with his recent run.

Top seeds Leander Paes and Purav Raja of India won the doubles title, beating No. 3 seeds Ruan Roelofse(Illinois) of South Africa and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain 6-3, 6-7(5), 10-5.

The final is set at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma, with No. 3 seed Danielle Collins facing No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery.  Collins ousted top seed Sonya Kenin 6-1, 6-2, while Vickery needed just short of three hours to beat unseeded Maria Sanchez 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.  Collins won their last meeting two weeks ago in the first round of the $80K in Tyler; Vickery won their previous two meetings last year.  Chiara Scholl and Belgium's Tammy Hendler, who had to qualify into the doubles draw, won the title, beating top seeds Sanchez(USC) and Caitlin Whoriskey(Tennessee) 3-6, 6-3, 10-6.

At the $15,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, 19-year-old Ulises Blanch will face former USC star Emilio Gomez of Ecuador in Sunday's final.  The fifth-seeded Blanch defeated No. 6 seed Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach his second career Futures final.  The 25-year-old Gomez took out Mississippi State junior Nuno Borges of Portugal, the No. 4 seed, 7-6(5), 7-5. He is looking for his first Futures title since 2015.

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Interview with Ronnie Schneider; All-American Finals at Champaign Challenger, Grade A in Mexico City; All-American Semifinals in Norman $25K

While I was in Champaign for the $75,000 ATP Challenger earlier this week, I had an opportunity to talk with Ronnie Schneider, the recent University of North Carolina graduate, who is now pursuing a career as a professional.  I'm always interested in the transition from college to the Pro Circuit, a transition that was complicated for Schneider by surgery after his junior year that left him without an ATP ranking upon graduation. Now inside the Top 600, Schneider will continue playing in Futures the next month, and in our conversation, posted today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, he explains why he's not interested in an off-season right now.

The finals are set in Champaign, with Americans Tim Smyczek and Bjorn Fratangelo advancing via three-set wins today.  No. 7 seed Smyczek defeated No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3 and No. 5 seed Fratangelo beat No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, winning seven straight games from 3-all in the second set. Smyczek clinched the USTA's Australian Open wild card yesterday; Fratangelo would move into the Top 100 with a win tomorrow, which would assure him a place in the main draw. 

At the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma, all four semifinalists are Americans: the top three seeds and unseeded Maria Sanchez.  Top seed Sonya Kenin avenged her May loss to Claire Liu, taking out the Wimbledon girls champion 7-6(6), 7-5 in two hours and 22 minutes. Kenin will play No. 3 seed Danielle Collins next, with Collins defeating No. 5 seed Ulrike Eikeri of Norway 7-6(2), 6-2 in another two-hour-plus contest.  Collins beat Kenin 6-1, 7-6(10) two weeks ago in the semifinals of the $80,000 tournament in Tyler.  Sanchez, who beat No. 7 seed Michaela Honcova of Slovakia6-2, 6-4, will face No. 2 seed Sachia Vickery, who defeated Chiara Scholl 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.

At the $15,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida, Ulises Blanch is the only American to advance to the semifinals.  The 19-year-old, seeded fifth, will face No. 6 seed Roberto Cid, the former South Florida star from the Dominican Republic next. Cid ended the impressive run of 16-year-old wild card Will Grant with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Mississippi State junior Nuno Borges of Portugal, the No. 4 seed, will face former USC standout Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, the No. 7 seed, in the other semifinal.


The girls singles and both doubles finals will be played on Saturday at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with an American guaranteed to win all three titles. 

Fifteen-year-olds Whitney Osuigwe, the top seed, and unseeded Alexa Noel will face off for the girls singles title, the second year in a row that the girls championship match has been between Americans, with Taylor Johnson defeating Ellie Douglas in last year's final.  Osuigwe defeated No. 5 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland 6-1, 7-5 and Noel beat unseeded Andreea Prisacariu of Romania 7-5, 7-5, Noel's fifth consecutive straight-sets win.  Osuigwe and Noel met in the 2015 Easter Bowl 14s championship match, with Osuigwe managing to post a 4-6, 6-0, 7-6(4) victory.

Osuigwe will also play in an all-American doubles final. Osuigwe and Douglas, the top seeds, will face unseeded Dalayna Hewitt and Peyton Stearns.  The boys doubles final will feature No. 7 seeds Andrew Fenty and William Woodall against top seeds Sebastian Korda and Colombia's Nicolas Mejia.  

Korda, also the top seed in boys singles, has advanced to the semifinals, where he will take on No. 5 seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina. Unseeded Drew Baird continued his impressive run, beating No. 9 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic 6-3, 6-3.  He will face No. 13 seed Filip Jianu of Romania next.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Smyczek Clinches Australian Open Wild Card; Liu Makes Norman $25K Quarterfinals; Grant Reaches Pensacola Futures Quarterfinal; Sock Moves on at World Tour Finals; Osuigwe, Noel Advance to Grade A Semifinals in Mexico


Tim Smyczek earned his way into the Australian Open main draw today at the $75,000 Champaign Challenger, defeating top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4.  Smyczek, the No. 7 seed, won the Charlottesville Challenger two weeks ago to take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge and once he advanced to the semifinals this week, no one else still playing in Champaign could catch him.  The 29-year-old from Wisconsin had played the main draw in Australia four years running from 2013-2016, but this year he lost in the final round of qualifying to Frances Tiafoe.

In the Champaign semifinals, Smyczek will play No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie, who beat Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 6-0.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, who was eliminated from the wild card race today, could still qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open if he wins the tournament. For the second time this week, Fratangelo was on the brink of defeat, but recovered, beating Knoxville champion Filip Peliwo of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).  Today Fratangelo trailed 4-6, 2-4 0-40, although he was not quite as far down as he was in the first round against Sebastian Fanselow, when he trailed by a set and two breaks before winning in three.  Fratangelo will face No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, who reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 3-0 retired victory over No. 8 seed Tommy Paul.  Paul had treatment for a back problem and retired after Fritz earned a second break of serve.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma, Wimbledon girls champion Claire Liu, who has not played since September, has reached the quarterfinals, where she'll face top seed Sonya Kenin.  Liu defeated Connie Hsu of Taiwan 6-1, 6-4, while Kenin dismissed Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2, 6-3. Liu and Kenin have played four times on the ITF Circuits, with Kenin winning the two junior matches and Liu winning the two pro matches, with the most recent win coming this spring at a $25,000 tournament in Florida.  Other US players to advance to the quarterfinals are Danielle Collins[3], Maria Sanchez, Chiara Scholl and Sachia Vickery[2].

The Futures event this week is again a $15,000 tournament, this time in Pensacola Florida.  Sixteen-year-old Will Grant earned his first ATP point with a win over fellow wild card Collin Johns in a first round match on Tuesday, then got two more points today via a victory over top seed Sekou Bangoura.  Bangoura retired in the match trailing 7-5, 2-1.  Other Americans reaching the quarterfinals are wild card Jonathan Chang and No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch.  Florida freshman Duarte Vale of Portugal, a qualifier, beat No. 2 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-0.  ITA Fall National champion Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, the No. 4 seed, has also advanced to the quarterfinals, beating last week's Futures champion Patrick Kypson 6-4, 6-2 today.

At the ATP World Tour Finals in London today, Jack Sock, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to advance out of his round robin group and into the semifinals, where he'll play No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.  The other semifinal will feature top seed Roger Federer and the winner of the Dominic Thiem-David Goffin match on Friday. For more on Sock's win today, see the ATP website's article.

The girls semifinals are set at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with Americans Whitney Osuigwe and Alexa Noel into the final four.  Top seed Osuigwe had to come from behind to beat unseeded Peyton Stearns, but posted a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory and will face No. 5 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland.  The unseeded Noel, who like Osuigwe is 15 years old, has yet to lose a set this week, beating Diae El Jardi of Morocco 6-4, 6-4 in today's quarterfinal.  Noel will face another surprise semifinalist in 17-year-old Andreea Prisacariu of Romania, who beat No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer 6-0, 6-2.

Two American boys have advanced to the quarterfinals in Mexico City, top seed Sebastian Korda and unseeded Drew Baird.  Korda defeated wild card Eliot Spizzirri 6-2, 6-0 in today's third round and will play No. 8 seed Stefan Palosi of Romania, who beat qualifier Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-2. Baird downed wild card Alan Magadan of Mexico 6-2, 6-3 and will face No. 9 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Four US Girls Advance to Quarterfinals at Grade A Abierto Juvenil; Paul and Fritz Meet in Champaign Challenger Quarterfinals; Fratangelo, Sandgren, Smyczek and McDonald Also Advance

The girls quarterfinals are set at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with four US girls still in the running for the title.  Top seed Whitney Osuigwe defeated No. 13 seed Diane Parry of France 6-1, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with unseeded Peyton Stearns. Stearns defeated doubles partner Dalayna Hewitt 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 to reach her first Grade A quarterfinal.

Natasha Subhash, the No. 4 seed, lost to No. 15 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi  7-5, 6-4.  The two US girls in the bottom half of the draw do not play each other, with unseeded Alexa Noel facing unseeded Diae El Jardi of Morocco and No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer playing unseeded Andreea Prisacariu of Romania.  Prisacariu defeated No. 2 seed Maria Carle of Argentina, who had taken a wild card into the tournament, 6-3, 7-5 and is known for her prowess on clay. Mossmer also reached the quarterfinals in Mexico City last year before falling to Amanda Anisimova.

Fifteen-year-old Noel, who has not played a tournament since July's USTA Clay Courts, will be playing in her first Grade A quarterfinal. She advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 win over 2016 finalist Ellie Douglas, the No. 3 seed.

The boys are a round behind, with the round of 16 matchups now set. Six US boys have advanced, but five of them are in the top half.  Top seed Sebastian Korda will face wild card Eliot Spizzirri in the only all-American contest.  Qualifier Jaycer Lyeons defeated No. 12 seed Leonid Sheyngezikht of Bulgaria 7-6(10), 6-2.  No. 16 seed Axel Nefve and No. 10 seed Sangeet Sridhar moved into the third round with straight-sets wins.

The only American boy in the bottom half is unseeded Drew Baird. No. 3 seed Andrew Fenty, who was awarded a wild card into the event, lost to unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany 6-1, 7-6(3).

Live scoring is available here. 


I've completed my brief trip to the $75,000 ATP Champaign Challenger, where six of the quarterfinalist are Americans.  Top seed Tennys Sandgren, who told me he played this week in spite of his ranking of 85 because he has finalist points coming off from last year's Columbus Challenger and wants to make sure he is safe for main draw for the Australian Open.  Sandgren has played seven of the last eight weeks, going 17-6 in that span, so getting a walkover from Christian Harrison today, which was announced after the warm-up, was a break for him.  He plays No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek, who beat wild card Dennis Nevolo 6-3, 7-6(4). Smyczek is in the driver's seat for the USTA's Australian Open wild card, having won the title in Charlottesville over Sandgren in the final. I believe that if Smyczek wins Thursday, he'll clinch the wild card.

If Smyczek doesn't win Thursday, Bjorn Fratangelo still has an opportunity to tie him and Fratangelo wins the tiebreaker, which is ATP ranking. But taking the title, which Fratangelo has to do, would probably boost Fratangelo's ranking high enough so he wouldn't need the wild card.  Fratangelo defeated Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-4 today, getting his second win over the 2010 NCAA singles champion this year.

"It's always difficult to play a really good friend," said Fratangelo, the No. 5 seed. "Brad's probably one of my best friends out here, but I know his game well and I match up pretty well with him. I just tried to execute, and I think it was a pretty straightforward match."

Fratangelo will face Filip Peliwo of Canada, last week's champion at the Knoxville Challenger, after Peliwo ousted two-time defending champion Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 7-5. 

No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 8 seed Tommy Paul will renew their rivalry in the quarterfinals after advancing in opposite fashion.  Fritz did not face a break point in his 6-4, 6-3 win over qualifier Ronnie Schneider, while Paul was pushed to the limit by qualifier Mikael Ymer of Sweden before taking a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(0) decision.  Nothing separated Paul, the 2015 French Open boys champion, and Ymer, the 2015 Wimbledon boys finalist, until the final set tiebreaker, and suddenly the errors Ymer avoided down the stretch appeared.  Down 3-0, Ymer double faulted and the errors snowballed from there, providing a letdown of an ending to the nearly three-hour contest.

Paul's title in Paris came over Fritz, who then returned the favor in the final of the US Open boys championship in 2015.  They played in the round of 16 of the Winnetka Challenger this summer, with Paul earning a 7-6(7), 7-5 victory. 

The fourth quarterfinal will feature Mackenzie McDonald and No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie. McDonald defeated JP Smith of Australia 7-5, 7-6(5) and Norrie eliminated wild card Jared Hiltzik 6-2, 6-4.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wild Card Hiltzik Saves Three Match Points to Defeat Krueger at Champaign Challenger; Fritz Eyes Australian Open Main Draw


©Colette Lewis 2017--
Champaign-Urbana IL--

Jared Hiltzik fought his way back into his match against Mitchell Krueger Tuesday evening in the first round of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Champaign, and it was a battle of wills in the final set, with both players getting service hold after service hold. The scores of orange-clad fans cheering the former Illini All-American at the Atkins Tennis Center didn't make much noise when he fell behind 0-40 serving at 5-6 in the third set, however.  If that silence bothered Hiltzik, he showed no sign of it, hitting one of his six third-set aces to save the first match point.

Hiltzik saved the second match point with a forehand pass and the third and last match point he saved with a backhand pass. After one more deuce Hiltzik forced the tiebreaker and he ran away with that final game to post a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) victory.

"I think you play better when you're down," said the 23-year-old from Illinois, who had lost to Krueger in all four of their previous Pro Circuit contests. "You have no other choice than to play free. I got pretty lucky today, but I fought hard."

Although he appreciated the efficiency of an ace in that crucial situation, Hiltzik said the two winning passes he made to save the second and third match points were won on instinct.

"He doesn't really give you a chance to think," said Hiltzik, who has recently bought a house in Orlando and is now training at the USTA National Campus. "You react, and I got lucky there."

In the tiebreaker, Krueger lost the first three points on his serve, all on forehand errors and Hiltzik ran out to a 6-0 lead.

"I think that kind of carried over from that previous game," Hiltzik said. "It's a tough thing to do. I've been there, when you have a chance to break to win the match, it's really tough."

Hiltzik, who received a wild card into the main draw, said winning a match at his former home courts always feels good.

"I've had many here before and to be given the opportunity to continue to play here is pretty special."

Hiltzik will face No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who defeated another Illinois wild card, senior Aleks Vukic of Australia, 6-2, 6-3. 

While Hiltzik was playing on Court 2, another former Illinois star who also received a wild card, Dennis Nevolo, was fashioning his own comeback against qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada in his 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. After failing to serve out the second set at 5-3 despite earning a set point, Nevolo broke the former standout at the University of Indiana in the next game to even the match. Once the third set began, Nevolo found his form, while Monette was finding it difficult to move to balls he had easily tracked down before. Nevolo held, broke and held to take a 3-0 lead, and ended the match by winning the final 15 points.

Nevolo's second round opponent is No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek, who defeated qualifier Alex Ward of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in a high-quality match that featured an abundance of lengthy rallies.

The day's shortest match was No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz's 6-2, 6-1 win over Alex Sarkissian, which lasted just 42 minutes.  The 20-year-old Californian had 11 aces and no double faults, and has been happy with his play over the past few weeks.

"I usually play pretty well indoors, I think," said Fritz, who reached the final of the 2015 Champaign Challenger. "The ball moves through the court here and it's easier to serve, hit winners. It's not too fast, it's like medium, so it's easy for me to put the ball away."

Fritz is currently at 110 in the rankings, so his performance this week will go a long way to deciding whether he gets into the main draw of the Australian Open, but he is confident now that he's returned to the racquet he had used prior to this year.

"I've been playing well over the past two weeks," Fritz said. "Last week I thought I was playing really well; unfortunately I played Peliwo who was way too good last week, to be honest. He was incredible. I played great. I switched back to my old racquet. I was using a heavier racquet all this year. I've always been with Head, and it was the same racquet, just added some weight for this year. I've had an ok year, but it just didn't feel right and after Vietnam [Challenger] I said that's it. I don't think I can control the ball off the ground, it's too heavy and I'm late on my shots. So I switched back, had a training week at Carson and it's been great since. Better than ever."

Fritz will play qualifier Ronnie Schneider, who claimed his second ATP Challenger victory, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 decision over Bruno Santanna of Brazil.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo versus Bradley Klahn and No. 1 seed Tennys Sandgren versus Christian Harrison are the other two all-American second round matches Wednesday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Osuigwe, Korda Top Seeds in Grade A Abierto Juvenil; NLI Announcements Continue; Georgia's Hodge in Plea Deal; Duke's Furman Provisionally Suspended by ITF Anti-Doping


The first round of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City is underway, with Americans at the top of both draws.  ITF No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe, who has set a goal of being the 2017 World Junior Champion, took a wild card into the tournament and is, of course, the No. 1 seed. Sebastian Korda, who has not played a junior event since the US Open, is the boys top seed.  Both Osuigwe and Korda earned straight-sets wins in their first round matches today.

Andrew Fenty also received a wild card into the tournament and is the No. 3 seed. Eliot Spizzirri, who reached the final of the Grade 2 in Bolivia last week, also received a wild card.  Other US boys who are seeded: Sangeet Sridhar[10], Brian Shi[14] and Axel Nefve[16].  US girls who are seeded in addition to Osuigwe: Ellie Douglas[3], Natasha Subhash[4], Nicole Mossmer[8], Elli Mandlik[12], Lea Ma[16].  In all, there were 23 US boys and 21 US girls in the 64-player singles draws at the start of play today.. 

Maria Carle of Argentina, the No. 2 seed, also accepted a wild card into the event.

Live scoring is available at the Tennis Ticker.

The early signing announcements are continuing, with those below in addition to the links I posted on Wednesday and Friday. If no country is given, the player is from the US.

MEN:

Brigham Young has signed Brigham Andrus.

Duke has signed Robert Maciag.

Florida has signed Sam Riffice and Lukas Greif.

Florida State has signed Sebastian Arcila and Jorge Martinez Martinez of Spain.

Indiana has signed Carson Haskins and Patrick Fletchall.

Iowa has signed Oliver Okonkwo of Great Britain.

Louisville has signed Alex Wesbrooks.

LSU has signed Boris Kozlov.

Michigan has signed Andrew Fenty, Steven Forman, Ryan Fu and Patrick Maloney.

Mississippi State has signed Gregor Ramskogler of Austria.

North Carolina has signed Brian Cernoch.

Oklahoma State has signed Emile Hudd of Great Britain.

South Florida has signed Niels Van Noord of Canada, Sergio Gomez-Montesa of Spain and Ivan Yatsuk.

Southern California has signed Jake Sands and Bradley Frye.

WOMEN:

Arizona has signed Csenge Furak of Hungary.

Arkansas has signed Thea Rice.

Florida has signed McCartney Kessler, who will start in January, and Marlee Zein.

Georgia has signed Meg Kowalski.

Indiana has signed Somer Henry.

Iowa has signed Michelle Bacalla and Samantha Mannix.

Kentucky has signed Yang Lee of Taiwan and  Alexis Merrill. Diana Tkachenko is transferring in January, after Evansville dropped their women's program this fall.

Minnesota has signed Isabella Lambert.

Nebraska has signed Jessica Aragon.

North Carolina has signed Cameron Morra.

North Carolina State has signed Helene Grimm of Germany, who will start in January.

Ole Miss has signed Isolde de Jong of the Netherlands.

Rice has signed twins Anastasia and Victoria Smirnova of Belgium.

Tennessee has signed Kaitlin Staines of Australia.

Texas A&M has signed Brindtha Ramasamy of Canada, Jayci Goldsmith and Katya Townsend.

Texas Tech has added Denise-Antonella Stoica of Romania to their previously announced recruits Sydney Jones, Nell Miller and Olivia Peet.

UCLA has signed Elysia Bolton.

Wake Forest has signed Anna Brylin and Peyton Pesavento.

Washington has signed Sedona Gallagher.

In less happy news in college tennis, former Georgia men's associate head coach Bo Hodge has pleaded guilty to possession of a schedule II controlled substance, a felony.  Sentenced as first time offender, Hodge was given three years of probation and must undergo a rehabilitation program. He is banned from coaching college tennis for 12 months.  See the Athens Banner-Herald for more on the sentencing.  The controlled substance in question is said to be Adderall.

Spencer Furman, a sophomore on the Duke team, has been provisionally suspended by the ITF for failing a drug test earlier this fall. Furman, who was competing in the qualifying of the Cary Challenger back in September, was found to have the stimulant Damphetamine in his system.  I have been told that Furman has a prescription for the medication, commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, but did not have the required Theraputic Use Exemption on file.  The ITF's new commitment to transparency, which has been in response to the awkward "silent bans" of the past, means that failing a test will be reported, regardless of the circumstances. 

In any case, Furman's predicament, which will not affect his collegiate eligibility, is a lesson for all players who are just beginning to play pro events and may not have read the regulations pertaining to this facet of the sport.  It's imperative to understand what the anti-doping rules require of you if you are taking any medication or you could face a lengthy suspension from ITF sanctioned events.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Kypson Wins Niceville Futures; Townsend Claims Waco Title; US Women Capture First Fed Cup Since 2000

A first Futures title is a milestone for any tennis player, and today at the $15,000 tournament in Niceville Florida, 18-year-old Patrick Kypson met the challenge of his first Futures final, beating top seed Sekou Bangoura 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.  The reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion and 2015 Kalamazoo 16s champion had needed nearly three hours to advance in his second round and quarterfinal matches, and today he approached that length again, but a 29-minute third set ended the suspense sooner rather than later.  Kypson is entered in the $15,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida that begins Tuesday.

At the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Waco Texas, Taylor Townsend won the biggest title of her career, with the top seed beating unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.  Townsend made more than 80% of her first serves in the opening set and that was just too much for the 24-year-old Tomljanovic, but Tomljanovic played much more aggressively in the second set to even the match.  Townsend held on to her break in the third set, but not without saving numerous break points, then broke Tomljanovic, who was up 40-0 in the game, to claim the title. The 21-year-old Townsend will win the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, but she will move into the WTA Top 100 tomorrow, so she will not need it. Kristie Ahn will finish in second place and will receive the wild card if she needs it when the December 4 Australian Open main draw entries are announced.

Canadian Filip Peliwo won his first ATP Challenger title today at the $75,000 tournament in Knoxville, beating Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-2. Peliwo, the 2012 ITF World Junior Champion, had never reached a Challenger final before, but even though he had three qualifying matches just to reach the main draw, the 23-year-old looked fresh and determined throughout the hour it took him to claim the title. The 2012 Wimbledon and US Open boys champion will move into the ATP Top 200 for the first time. With Kudla's loss, Tim Smyczek will retain his lead in the men's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with one week left.

Top seeds Leander Paes and Purav Raja of India won the doubles title, beating former Tennessee Volunteer JP Smith of Australia and James Cerretani, the No. 2 seeds, 7-6(4), 7-6(4).

Former Stanford star Carol Zhao won the biggest title of her career Sunday at the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Shenzhen China.  The 22-year-old Canadian, who was unseeded, defeated No. 4 seed Liu Fangzhou of China 7-5, 6-2 in the final.  The 2015 NCAA singles finalist will move into the WTA Top 200 for the first time with the title, assuring her a place in the Australian Open qualifying next January.

Former Arizona State star Jacqueline Cako won the doubles title, with Nina Stojanovic of Serbia.  The No. 2 seeds defeated top seeds Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Yang Zhaoxuan of China 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Cako and Stojanovic also won a $60,000 title last month in China, and Cako made a third final with Laura Robson of Great Britain two weeks ago at another $60,000 event in China.  Cako's doubles ranking, already in the Top 100, will continue to rise.

Kathy Rinaldi, CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers, Alison Riske
photo courtesy USTA
In Belarus, the USA Fed Cup team captured its first championship since 2000, beating the host country 3-2.  CoCo Vandeweghe was the star of the United States' entire year in Fed Cup, going 8-0, and she won both her singles matches this weekend, then clinched the title with Shelby Rogers in the deciding doubles match.  Kathy Rinaldi, in her first year as Fed Cup Captain, made all the right choices throughout the year and her experience as a Junior Fed Cup Captain in previous years helped make her transition to the senior version a smooth one. For more on today's matches, see the Fed Cup website.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Kypson, Townsend, Kudla Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Boyer Takes ITF Grade 2, Navarro Also Wins Another Title; Chung Claims ATP Next Gen Championship

Reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson has reached his first Futures final, beating Luis Patino of Mexico 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinal match at the $15,000 event in Niceville Florida.  Kypson, who recently turned 18, had played two consecutive three-hour matches to advance to the semifinals, but he needed just over an hour to prevail today.  Kypson will face top seed Sekou Bangoura, who defeated No. 3 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 7-5, 7-6(7), despite being broke four times in the second set.

In the doubles final, Julian Lenz of Germany and Juan Benitez of Colombia, former Baylor stars, beat top seeds Nick Chappell(TCU) and Boris Arias(LSU) 7-5, 4-6, 10-7.

Speaking of Waco, Taylor Townsend[1] defeated Sonya Kenin[3] 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event there. Townsend should return to the WTA Top 100 with her win today, so she may not need the Australian Open wild card that she would earn with a victory on Sunday. That won't be determined until the December 4th rankings cutoff provides the main draw entries for the Australian Open, but Kristie Ahn, who is currently leading the race after winning last week's tournament in Tyler, would be next in line for the wild card. Townsend will play unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's other semifinal.

Kenin did get some revenge on Townsend in the doubles final. Kenin, whose first pro doubles title came earlier this year, partnered with Anastasiya Komardina of Russia to beat Townsend and Jessica Pegula, last week's champions, 7-5, 5-7, 11-9.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee, Denis Kudla won the all-American battle with Bradley Klahn 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to Sunday's final, where he'll meet Canadian Filip Peliwo.  The 23-year-old Peliwo, a qualifier, defeated No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 6-0 to reach his first Challenger final. The 2012 ITF World Junior Champion, Peliwo reached all four junior slam finals in 2012, winning Wimbledon and the US Open.

Tristan Boyer, who two weeks ago won his first ITF title at a Grade 2 in Japan, won both the singles and doubles championships at the Grade 2 in Israel today.  The 16-year-old Boyer, who was the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Yanki Erel of Turkey 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  Boyer and Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands, the top seeds, won the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-3 win in the final over No. 7 seeds Baran Cengiz and Bora Sengul of Turkey. Boyer, who moved into the ITF Junior Top 100 after his title in Japan, should move into the Top 50 with this week's titles.


Emma Navarro, who won the Grade 4 in her home state of South Carolina last week, kept her winning streak going in Florida, claiming the singles title at the ITF Grade 4 in Boca Raton.  Navarro, the No. 12 seed, started the tournament with a 6-0, 6-0 win and finished it with the same score, defeating No. 9 seed Michelle Sorokko in the final. Navarro has committed to Duke, although she is just a sophomore. Sorokko did win the doubles title; with partner Dasha Kourkina, the No. 3 seeds beat No. 2 seeds Jennifer Gadalov and Luba Vasilyuk 6-4, 6-0.

Fifteen-year-old Marcus McDaniel won his first ITF singles title in Boca, with the unseeded Californian beating No. 11 seed Toby Kodat 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. McDaniel defeated four seeds, including last week's champion JanMagnus Johnson, for the title.  McDaniel fell just short of a sweep, losing in the doubles final with partner Alex Lee.  Unseeded Jordi Redelijk and Michael Sun defeated the No. 4 seeds 7-6(3), 1-6, 10-4.

At the Grade 2 in Bolivia, No. 7 seed Elliott Spizzirri lost to No. 13 seed Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 in the boys singles final.

At the Grade 5 in Costa Rica, Midori Castillo Meza, who turns 14 next week, won both the singles and doubles titles.  The No. 2 seed won the all-American singles final with a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Sara Seivane Torres, to give Castillo her second career ITF singles title. In the doubles final, Castillo and Mexico's Lizette Reding, the No. 4 seeds, beat No. 3 seeds Sara Cruz of El Salvador and Anna Markvartova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1.  Michael Agee reached the final of the boys singles.

At the Grade 5 in Jamaica, top seed Blaise Bicknell won his second ITF Junior Circuit singles title, beating No. 3 seed Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Top seeds Kennedy Bridgforth and Najah Dawson won the doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Mireille Moreau and Elodie Petrecca of Canada 6-3, 6-4. Dawson, the top seed in singles, lost in the final to No. 2 seed Alexandra Anttila of Finland.

At the Grade 5 in Canada, Americans took both doubles titles.  Mackenzie Clark and Marcella Cruz, the No. 2 seeds, beat Maryam Ahmad and Jenna Defalco 6-2, 7-5.  Ahmad reached the final of singles unseeded, but fell to No. 6 seed Alexandra Mikhailuk of Canada. No. 3 seeds Matthew Che and Andrew Dale won the boys doubles final 6-3, 6-1 over Sebastian Gima of Romania and Trey Stinchcomb, the No. 6 seeds.

The ATP's Next Gen finals were played today in Milan, with Korea's Hyeon Chung beating Russia's Andrey Rublev 3-4(5), 4-3(2), 4-2, 4-2. Chung, 21, went undefeated in the competition, winning all three of his round robin matches, then the semifinal and the final. For more on the championship match, see this article from the ATP website.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Qualifying Begins Saturday at ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City; Kypson Reaches Semifinals at Niceville Futures; More NLI Signings

Qualifying begins Saturday at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, the first of four consecutive major ITF Junior Circuit events held on clay.

Eight US boys are in the 64-player qualifying draw, which has four byes.  Two of those byes belong to Americans: No. 2 seed Jaycer Lyeons and No. 4seed Emilio Nava, who reached the finals of the Grade B1 Pan American Closed last month.  The other Americans participating in the boys qualifying are Max Wild[5], Anuj Watane, Trinity Grear[13], Samuel Rubell[15], Alex Bancila and Hayden Postin.

Only 42 girls are entered in the girls qualifying, including three Americans: Shelly Yaloz[2], Megan Polnet[6] and Maia Sung.  As is normally the case in Mexico, most of those attempting to qualify are from the home country.

Three rounds of qualifying will be played over the weekend, with the main draw beginning on Monday. Qualifiers will not play until Tuesday.


At the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Niceville Florida, 2017 Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson has reached his second career Futures semifinal with another marathon victory. After beating Roberto Cid in 2 hours and 55 minutes on Thursday, Kypson took out Wil Spencer in 3 hours and 5 minutes today, earning a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win. Kypson's previous Futures semifinal was last year in the same series of tournaments on the Har-Tru courts of the Florida Panhandle.[correction: Kypson also reached a third Futures final this past January in Florida]. He will face unseeded Luis Patino of Mexico in the semifinals.  Patino defeated wild card Christopher Haworth 6-4, 6-3. Top seed Sekou Bangoura won the battle of Florida Gators, with the former Florida star beating freshman Oliver Crawford 7-6(3), 6-0.  Bangoura will play No. 3 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy in the semifinals.

Kayla Day, who won the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenger last year was eliminated from the race today at the $80,000 Waco Pro Circuit tournament, losing to Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-2. No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin defeated Danielle Lao 6-4, 6-3 to eliminate Lao from the race and Kenin will play top seed Taylor Townsend. Townsend has dominated in her first three matches, losing only two games total, and today beat No. 5 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-0. Kenin and Townsend will probably get into the Australian Open main draw on their own rankings with their performances this week. If they do, current race leader Kristie Ahn will get the wild card.  Kenin and Townsend have also reached the doubles semifinals, with Anastasiya Komardina of Russia and Jessica Pegula, respectively.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville, unseeded Bradley Klahn and Denis Kudla will play for a place in the final tomorrow after Klahn defeated Ed Corrie of Great Britain 6-3, 7-6(3) and Kudla ousted No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals.  Filip Peliwo of Canada beat No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz 7-6(7), 6-1 and will face No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who beat Tim Smyczek 7-6(1), 6-4.

More Division I early signings were announced today. Below are links to several releases. If there is no country given, the player is from the United States.

Women:
Michigan has signed Alyvia Jones and Anca Craicun of Canada.

Duke has signed Maria Mateas and Hannah Zhao. Zhao will start in January.

Oklahoma has signed Martina Capurro of Argentina, Jasmine Asghar of Great Britain, Laura Rico-Garcia of Colombia, Ivana Corley and Kianah Motosono.  Capurro and Asghar will start in January.

Southern California has signed Salma Ewing.

LSU has signed Ann Li and Luba Vasilyuk. Vasilyuk will start in January.

TCU signs Kate Paulus.

Men:
Texas A&M has signed Austin Abrrat, Alejandro Vedri Asensi of Spain, Guido Marson of Italy, Jack Pulliam and Noah Schachter.

Illinois has signed Lucas Horve and Keenan Mayo.

Oklahoma has signed Max Stewart of Great Britain, Mason Beiler and Matthew Rodriguez.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Australian Open Wild Card Race Heats Up in Waco; Crawford, Kypson Reach Futures Quarterfinals; Five Americans Advance at Charlottesville Challenger; Cheong in Tokyo $100K Quarterfinals

The final three days of the $80,000 Pro Circuit event in Waco Texas will decide USTA Women's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge with several women still in a position to pass Kristie Ahn, the current leader.
Due to illness, Ahn had to retire up 5-0 in her match yesterday with An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, so her point total is set at 116.

Four Americans have advanced to Friday's quarterfinals, with top seed Taylor Townsend, No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin, Kayla Day and Danielle Lao still in the running.  By my calculations, all have to win the title to pass Ahn, and Lao and Kenin play each other Friday, so one of them will be eliminated.  Complicating all this is possibility that Ahn, Townsend and Kenin could receive direct acceptance into the Australian Open, with their current live rankings all between 104 and 111.  The ranking deadline is December 4th for the main draw.

The best Lao can do is tie Ahn, and Ahn would win the tiebreaker with a higher WTA ranking, but if Ahn gets in on her own, Lao would then earn the wild card. Danielle Collins, who is tied for second and not playing Waco, and Vicky Duval, who lost in the first round this week and is tied with Collins, are not mathematically eliminated until someone passes them or it turns out Ahn doesn't need the wild card.  Day will face Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat No. 2 seed Nicole Gibbs today.  Townsend, who has lost one game in two matches, will play No. 5 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia next.

At the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, teenagers Oliver Crawford and Patrick Kypson have advanced to the quarterfinals.  Crawford, the University of Florida freshman who received a wild card, defeated No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3. Kypson, who received entry by virtue of his ATP ranking, took out last week's Futures champion Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic 7-5, 5-7 6-4 in 2 hours and 55 minutes.  Crawford will face top seed Sekou Bangoura and Kypson will play unseeded Wil Spencer, who defeated No. 2 seed Matias Zukas of Argentina 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 in another nearly three-hour match.  Wild card Christopher Haworth, who played at Oklahoma State, is the fifth American reaching the quarterfinals.

The $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee also has five American in the quarterfinals, with just two of them seeded.  No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz defeated Noah Rubin tonight 7-6(5), 6-1 and No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo beat qualifier Mats Moraing of Germany 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.  Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla and Charlottesville champion Tim Smyczek are the other Americans advancing, with Kudla and Fratangelo meeting on Friday.


Fifteen-year-old Naomi Cheong, who has played only two junior events this year while concentrating on her WTA ranking, has reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Tokyo.  After not dropping a set in qualifying, Cheong beat a wild card in the first round, then took out Mayo Hibi of Japan 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.  Cheong, who was a finalist at the Girls 14s Junior Orange Bowl in 2015, now plays No. 6 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary, who won the US Open girls title in 2015.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

National Letter of Intent Early Signing Period Begins; ITA Releases Division III Individual Rankings

Today is the first day that high school seniors can sign Division I and Division II National Letters of Intent for the 2018 academic year.  The Tennis Recruiting Network is, as always, closely following the signings and is publishing multiple articles on high profile recruits each day this week. Today's articles featured Sara Choy, who will sign with Stanford, Sophia Graver, who is headed to Auburn, and an update on Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson, a senior who will not be making a decision this fall. For more on the National Letter of Intent itself and what it means, visit this website.

I will be periodically doing a roundup of major Division I signings, with links to the announcements on the school's website or twitter account, so let's get to the first batch. (If nationality is not mentioned, the player is from the US).

Men:

Alabama has signed Patrick Kaukovalta of Finland.

Tennessee has signed Nicaise Muamba of Canada, who will begin in January 2018.

Nebraska has signed Mason Meier, William Gleason and Victor Moreno Lozano of Spain.

Texas A&M has signed Noah Schachter and Austin Abbrat.

UCLA has announced the signings of Roscoe Bellamy, Eric Hahn Matthew Tsolakyan and Max Wild.  Bellamy, one of the country's top 14-year-olds in 2014, has been plagued by injuries the past several years.


Women:

Arizona State has signed Cali Jankowski.

Auburn has signed Sophia Graver.

Boise State has signed Emily Strande.

Boston College has signed Laura Lopez Giese of Spain.

Colorado has signed Megan Forster of Great Britain.

Brianna Lashway is transferring from Missouri to Nebraska for her senior year.

Notre Dame has signed Maeve Koscielski.

Oklahoma has signed Jasmine Asghar of Great Britain, Kianah Motosono, Martina Capurro of Argentina and Ivana Corley.

Texas Tech has signed Olivia Peet of Great Britain and Nell Miller of Great Britain.


The ITA released the Division III singles and doubles rankings, the only national rankings compiled for the fall.  To no one's surprise, three-time NCAA singles champion Eudice Chong of Wesleyan is No. 1. It's odd not to see Williams' Julie Raventos near the top however. Click on the headings to see the complete list.

Women's singles Top 10:
1.Eudice Chong, Wesleyan
2. Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, Emory
3. Catherine Allen, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
4. Clare Handa, Chicago
5. Briana Hartmann, Gustavus Adolphus
6. Kate Daugherty, Southwestern
7. Bridget Harding, Emory
8. Rachel Summers, Mary Washington
9. Libby Rickeman, MIT
10. Camille Smukler, Amherst

Women's doubles Top 5:
1. Eudice Chong and Victoria Yu, Wesleyan
2. Bridget Harding and Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, Emory
3. Kate Daugherty and Esther Bowers, Southwestern
4. Emily Chen and Maryann Zhao, Pomona-Pitzer
5. Vinaya Rao andMelissa Strome, Carnegie Mellon

Men's singles Top 10:
1. Mohanad Alhouni, Gustavus Adolphus
2. Daniel Levine, Carnegie Mellon
3. Brian Grodecki, Williams
4. Jonathan Jemison, Emory
5. Chase Lipscomb, Redlands
6. Jeremy Yuan, Chicago
7. Andrew Finkleman, Wesleyan
8. Austin Barr, Williams
9. Lubomir Cuba, Middlebury
10. JT Wynne, Skidmore

Men's doubles Top 5:
1. Tyler Raclin and Jeremy Yuan, Chicago
2. Grant Urken and Luke Tercek, Bowdoin
3. Robert Carter and Zach Hewlin, Whitman
4. JT Wynne and Steven Koulouris, Skidmore
5. Adrian Bouchet and Will Wanner, Emory

The ITA release is available here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Seeds Ousted at Evert ITF Grade 4; Geller Moves to No. 1 in ITF Junior Rankings; Withdrawals Deplete Mexico Grade A Girls Field; Next Gen Finals Underway in Milan

This week's ITF Grade 4 at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton Florida is the third of three hard court tournaments before the ITF Junior Circuit shifts to clay in Mexico and Florida for the remainder of 2017.  In today's second round, both top seeds--2017 USTA 16s champion Angelica Blake and 2016 Les Petits As champion Stefan Leustian--were eliminated.

Blake lost to 16-year-old Anika Yarlagadda 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 and Leustian was beaten by 17-year-old Robert Hammond 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in Hammond's first competition since May.

The No. 2 seeds are also both gone.  Nicholas Ionel of Romania lost in the first round on Monday, and girls No. 2 seed Jennifer Gadalov was beaten by Wu Mei Xu of China in today's second round.  Last week's champions in South Carolina, Emma Navarro[12] and JanMagnus Johnson[10], advanced to Wednesday's third round.


This week's ITF Junior ranking release saw Stanford freshman Axel Geller of Argentina take over the No. 1 spot from US Open boys champion Wu Yibing of China.  None of the top 5 boys in the rankings are entered in the final four major junior tournaments of the year, so Geller definitely has an excellent chance of finishing the year as ITF World Junior champion, since he is not defending any points the rest of the year.  Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic, last year's World Junior Champion, played all four of the season-ending tournaments and won three of them to earn the ITF award, but that kind of a run won't be happening this year.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I can't recall any player ranked No. 1 by the ITF who went on to play college tennis. Ryan Sweeting, who won the US Open boys title in 2005 and went on to play briefly at Florida, reached No. 2 that year, but none of the players, boys or girls, who ended the year as No. 1 since the ITF began the award in 1978 went to college.

The Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City is next week, but the fields have been dwindling since the acceptances were first announced several weeks ago.  Top Americans Taylor Johnson, Sofia Sewing and Hurricane Tyra Black have withdrawn, and the main draw ranking cutoff, initially at 196, is now at 550.  Sebastian Korda, who is playing the Niceville Futures this week in Florida is still entered, but the boys cutoff, initially 256, is now at 452.

The ATP's NextGen Finals have begun in Milan, with the first matches in the round robin portion of the tournament complete.  Hyeon Chung of Korea defeated Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Andrey Rublev of Russia defeated Italian wild card Gianluigi Quinzi, Borna Coric of Croatia defeated Jared Donaldson and Daniil Medvedev defeated Karen Khachanov in an all-Russia match.  The tournament is not only a showcase for the best 21-and-under players, but something of a laboratory, with a long list of experiments.  These are the innovations being tested in this week's matches:

  1. Best of five sets, with number of games to win not 6, but 4
  2. Tiebreaker not at 6-all, but at 3-all
  3. No-ad, with server's choice, not receiver's
  4. Lets played on serves
  5. 25-second serve clock
  6. Maximum of one medical timeout per player per match
  7. Chair umpire but no lines people, Hawkeye used for all calls
  8. Coaching allowed via headset at end of each set
  9. Match begins 5 minutes after second player comes on court for warmup
  10. Fans are allowed to move around during play, if not behind the baseline

I don't like 1, 2, or 3, and I think Hawkeye for all lines is not economically feasible, and probably not desirable either.  The rest of the innovations are fine by me, but rather than polling fans or medium on these changes, I am much more interested in what all pro players think of the changes.

Highlights of today's matches can be found at the ATP website.