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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Strong Fields for ITF Grade A in Milan; Top Seeds Lose at Grade 1 in France; Ojai Underway; Pro Circuit Update; Vanderbilt Women, UCLA Men Top USTA Poll

The acceptances were released today for the ITF Grade A in Milan, which takes place May 21-27, with 10 US girls and six US boys receiving acceptance into the main draw.  The fields are generally strong at this event, but this year they are notably so, with eight of the Top 10 boys in the ITF rankings entered and six of the Top 10 girls. Both Australian Open junior champions have entered: World Junior No. 1 Sebastian Korda and girls No. 2 En Shuo Liang of Taiwan.

The US girls are Alexa Noel, Dalayna Hewitt, Caty McNally, Katie Volynets, Lea Ma, Gabby Price, Natasha Subhash, Hurricane Tyra Black, Hailey Baptiste and Peyton Stearns.  Hewitt, who turned pro this winter, hasn't played a junior event since the Australian Open.

In addition to Korda, the US boys receiving entry are Tristan Boyer, Drew Baird, Andrew Fenty, Brandon Nakashima and Emilio Nava.

Wednesday wasn't a good day for the top seeds at the ITF Grade 1 in France, with the top two boys seeds and the top girls seed eliminated in their opening matches in the second round.  No. 1 Drew Baird lost to French wild card Nicolas Tepmahc  6-3, 7-5 and No. 2 seed Filip Jianu of Romania was beaten by wild card Roman Burruchaga of Argentina 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.  Top girls seed Naho Sato of Japan had an unlucky draw, facing WTA 586 Varvara Gracheva of Russia in the second round, and Sato was beaten 7-5, 7-6(5).  Gracheva will face No. 14 seed Vanessa Ong next.  Kacie Harvey, the No. 11 seed, has also advanced to the third round.

The 118th Ojai, which I attended last year for the first time, is underway, with qualifying for the Men's and Women's Opens now complete.  I won't be covering the tournament in person this year, but I will be following the results throughout the week.  Sebastian Fanselow, the former Pepperdine star, is the top seed in the Men's Open, with Hanna Chang the top seed in the Women's Open. The Pac-12 team events have begun (this page at Slam Tennis will keep you up-to-date on all the results from conference tournaments this weekend) and the draws for the junior events have also been posted.  Stefan Dostanic is the top seed in the boys CIF tournament, and Nicole Mossmer is the top seed in the Girls 18s.

If you haven't been to Ojai, and live within driving distance, you should make every effort to spend at least a day there. I was overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the tournament and how the community treasures this week. You'll see some great tennis in an atmosphere that is unique in the tennis world.

At the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville, rain disrupted play for the second straight day.  The final round of qualifying matches were moved indoors on Tuesday, but because there are no indoor clay courts at the Boars Head Tennis Center, none of the main draw singles matches have been played, with only doubles matches played indoors today.  First and second round matches are both scheduled for Thursday.

The $15,000 Futures in Vero Beach saw 18-year-old qualifier Ryan Goetz earn his first ATP point.  The University of Virginia recruit defeated former Northwestern standout Raleigh Smith 7-6(6), 7-6(2) for his fifth win since Friday, with four coming in qualifying.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Tallahassee, Noah Rubin defeated top seed Denis Kudla 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals. No. 2 seed Peter Polansky of Canada also went out in the second round today, losing to Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.

For more on the history and significance of the Tallahassee Challenger, see this article by Ryan Rodenberg in Sports Illustrated.

Like the ITA, the USTA's Division I poll had a change at the top of the women's rankings, with Vanderbilt now the unanimous No. 1. Vanderbilt moved into the top spot after winning the SEC tournament while Pepperdine, the previous No. 1, lost to UCLA. UCLA remains No. 1 in the men's poll. The complete polls can be found here.

USTA Division I Top 10 Team Rankings:

1. UCLA (1)
2. Wake Forest (2)
3. Ohio State (3)
4. Stanford (4)
5. Texas A&M (5)
6. North Carolina (6)
7. TCU (7)
8. USC (8)
9. Illinois (9)
10. Mississippi State (11)

1. Vanderbilt (3)
2. Duke (4)
3. North Carolina (2)
4. Pepperdine (1)
5. Texas (5)
6. Georgia Tech (6)
7. Stanford (7)
8. UCLA (11)
9. Florida (10)
10. Mississippi (12)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Vanderbilt Women Take Over Top Spot in ITA Rankings; Six Arkansas Matches on One Day Put .500 Rule Back in Spotlight; New NCAA Rules Take Aim at Early Recruiting; Baird Top Seed at ITF Grade 1 in France

The rankings below are the last from the ITA until May 3rd, after the NCAA announces the selections based on the rankings on Tuesday May 1. Wake Forest remains No. 1, with little movement in the Top 10 for the men, but Vanderbilt has taken over the No. 1 spot from North Carolina in the women's rankings, after Duke beat the Tar Heels and Vanderbilt won the Southeastern Conference tournament on Sunday. All but the SEC women have their conference tournaments scheduled for this weekend, so many significant matches remain.

ITA Men’s Division I Team Rankings April 24, 2018 (last week's rankings in parentheses)
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Ohio State (3)
4. Stanford (4)
5. Texas A&M (5)
6. North Carolina (7)
7. TCU (6)
8. Illinois (8
9. Mississippi State (9)
10. Florida (10)

ITA Men’s Division I Top 10 Singles April 24, 2018
1. Martin Redlicki, UCLA (1)
2. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (3)
3. William Blumberg, North Carolina (2)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest (5)
5. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (4)
6. Borna Gojo, Wake Forest (6)
7. Patrick Kypson, Texas A&M (7)
8. Ryotaro Matsumura, Kentucky (9)
9. Tom Fawcett, Stanford (8)
10. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (10)

ITA Men’s Division I Top 5 Doubles April 24, 2018
1. William Blumberg and Robert Kelly, North Carolina (1)
2. Petros Chrysochos and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (2)
3. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida (4)
4. Guillermo Nunez and Alex Rybakov, TCU (5)
5. Korey Lovett and Eero Vasa, Central Florida (3)

ITA Women’s Division I Top 10 Team Rankings, April 24, 2018
1. Vanderbilt (2)
2. North Carolina (1)
3. Duke (4)
4. Georgia Tech (3)
5. Ole Miss (6)
6. Texas (5)
7. Oklahoma State (11)
8. Georgia (8)
9. Florida (9)
10. South Carolina (7)

ITAA Women’s Division I Top 10 Singles April 24, 2018
1. Bianca Turati, Texas (1)
2. Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, Florida Atlantic (2)
3. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (3)
4. Gabriela Knutson, Syracuse (5)
5. Arianne Hartono, Ole Miss (13)
6. Samantha Harris, Duke (4)
7. Makenna Jones, North Carolina (11)
8. Anastasia Rychagova, Kansas (6)
9. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (7)
10. Andrea Lazaro, Florida International (9)

ITA Women’s Division I Top 5 Doubles April 24, 2018
1. Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech (2)
2. Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon, Stanford (3)
3. Jessie Aney and Alexa Graham, North Carolina (1)
4. Erin Larner and Maddie Lipp, Northwestern (4)
5. Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen, Duke (6)

This is always the time of year when college tennis receives the most attention, and the speculation about who will make the NCAA tournament and who will host the regionals provides the bulk of that interest.  This weekend the mainstream media took notice however, when the University of Arkansas women, who reached the semifinals of the SEC tournament, decided they did want to make the NCAAs despite a 10-16 win-loss record.  An NCAA rule requires a team be at .500 to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament, so the Razorbacks scheduled six matches on Sunday against Tennessee State, and six wins later had the requisite .500 record for selection.  Those of us who follow college tennis closely have long disparaged this rule as irrelevant to college tennis, with the rankings algorithm taking into account the strength of schedule, but it has remained, resulting in quite a few dubious triple-headers late in the season between overmatched teams and those from Power 5 conferences who are better than their record might indicate. This is a whole different level however, and it may just prompt a change, although it shouldn't take an incident like this to do it.

Chris Halioris spoke with the Tennessee State coach and athletic director for College Tennis Today and he presents their point of view and a detailed explanation of why Arkansas was in such a position and another SEC school, Alabama, was not. He discusses other problems that may result as long as this last-minute scheduling is allowed and then provides a solution. The solution he proposes does create more work for the ITA, but aside from that, it's hard to see any drawbacks to it.  This article from The Tennessean says that Tennessee State was paid $15,000 to play the matches, and no one would fault them for accepting that, but the cost to the integrity of college tennis is what is really at stake here.

Late last week the NCAA announced a change in the recruiting calendar, with official visits now allowed beginning on September 1 of the recruits junior year, instead of the first day of school of the recruit's senior year.  In return, unofficial visits by recruits will now not include any contact with the athletic department.  The Tennis Recruiting Network spoke with Division I coaches about this change and they raise good points about what some of the issues and consequences may be in this Roundtable.

After several weeks without one, the ITF Junior Circuit has a Grade 1 this week, beginning the European spring clay season in earnest.  Drew Baird is the top boys seed at Beaulieu Sur Mer in France, with Vanessa Ong[14] and Kacie Harvey[11] seeded in the girls draw. Live scoring is available for the tournament here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Easter Bowl ITF and 16s Divisions Photos and Videos

Below are photos of the singles semifinalists and doubles finalists at the USTA Easter Bowl 16s and the ITF Easter Bowl in Indian Wells.  My Tennis Recruiting Network recap of the 16s tournament is here; my recap of the ITF tournament is here.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden, main site of USTA 16 and ITF Easter Bowl
Chidimma Okpara, 16s semifinalist
Hibah Shaikh, 16s third place
India Houghton, 16s finalist
Anessa Lee, 16s champion
Chidimma Okpara and Amanda Chan, 16s doubles finalists
Allura and Maribella Zamarripa, 16s doubles champions
Logan Zapp, 16s semifinalist
Harsh Parikh, 16s third place
Max McKennon, 16s finalist
Keshav Chopra, 16s champion
Keshav Chopra and Coy Simon, 16s doubles finalists
Benjamin Koch and Welsh Hotard, 16s doubles champions
Emma Navarro, ITF semifinalist
Gabby Price, ITF semifinalist
Alexa Noel, ITF finalist
Katie Volynets, ITF champion
Kylie Collins and Savannah Broadus ITF doubles finalists
Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste, ITF doubles champions
Cannon Kingsley, ITF semifinalist
Siem Woldeab, ITF semifinalist
Tristan Boyer, ITF finalist
Jenson Brooksby, ITF champion
Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink, ITF doubles finalists
Govind Nanda and Trey Hilderbrand, ITF doubles champions

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Townsend Claims $80K Title in Dothan; Bryde Qualifies at Tallahassee Challenger; US Women Reach Fed Cup Final; Vanderbilt Women Beat Florida to Win SEC Tournament

2012 ITF World Junior champion Taylor Townsend won the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama this morning, moving her into the WTA Top 100 and giving her a comfortable lead in the USTA's Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge.  The fourth-seeded Townsend, who turned 22 last week, defeated No. 5 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in the final, and with the 115 points she earned today, along with the 29 she received last week as a semifinalist in Indian Harbour Beach, she now leads IHB champion Caroline Dolehide 144 to 80 in the wild card race. She'll move to 91 in the WTA rankings, just 2 places off her career high.  Townsend is entered in next week's $80,000 event in Charlottesville, with qualifying underway there in the third of four tournaments that make up the Wild Card Challenge.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota, Hugo Dellien of Bolivia took the title, beating Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.  Hunter Reese and Evan King won the doubles title, defeating Christian Harrison and Canadian Peter Polansky 6-1, 6-2 in the final. It's their third title as a team, with the other two coming last year in Futures tournaments. 

Chris Eubanks fell in the final of the $50,000+H Guadalajara Challenger, with No. 6 seed Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador beating the former Georgia Tech star 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(5). Former Tulsa standout Arevalo also won the doubles title, teaming with former Texas Longhorn Miguel Reyes-Varela of Mexico. The No. 1 seeds defeated Brydan Klein of Great Britain and Ruan Roelofse (Illinois) of South Africa 7-6(3), 7-5 in the final.

Top seed Noah Rubin lost in the final of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida Futures, with No. 2 seed Marcelo Barrios Vera of Chile prevailing 6-3, 6-4.  The doubles title went to Christopher Haworth(Oklahoma State) and Isaiah Strode, with the unseeded pair defeating No. 3 seeds Nick Chappell(TCU) and Raleigh Smith(Northwestern) 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 in the final.

Next week's Futures event on the USTA Pro Circuit is in Vero Beach Florida, with qualifying scheduled to finish on Monday for the $15,000 tournament.

The next US stop on the ATP Challenger circuit is Tallahassee, with qualifying completed today at the $75,000 tournament.  Eighteen-year-old Trent Bryde, who signed last week with the University of Georgia, has made it through qualifying, beating No. 3 seed Frank Dancevic of Canada 6-4, 6-2 in the final round today. Bryde will face fellow qualifier Federico Coria of Argentina in the first round tomorrow. Denis Kudla is the top seed, with DJ Thomas, JC Aragone, Jared Hiltzik and Florida State junior Aziz Dougaz of Tunisia receiving wild cards.

The US women will defend their Fed Cup title against the Czech Republic in November after defeating host France 3-2 in this weekend's semifinals.  Sloane Stephens defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-0 to give the US a 2-1 lead and Madison Keys beat Pauline Parmentier 7-6(4), 6-4 to clinch the tie for the Americans.  The Czech Republic defeated Germany 4-1 and will host the final.  Kathy Rinaldi is now 5-0 since taking over the Fed Cup captaincy from Mary Joe Fernandez.

The Bryan brothers won their second consecutive Masters title and their 38th overall this week in Monte Carlo, defeating Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia 7-6(5), 6-3 in the final. The former Stanford stars turn 40 next Sunday.

Lots of action in college tennis today, with one Power 5 conference tournament now decided, the women's SEC.  Vanderbilt, the regular season champion, added the tournament title to their haul this year, beating Florida 4-0 in today's final.  Rhiannon Potkey has a detailed look at today's final at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

To keep tabs on all the conference tournaments and their implications for the NCAAs, see the Slam Tennis site, an offshoot of Tennis Recruiting Network, and College Tennis Today.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Eubanks Reaches First Challenger Final; Townsend Plays for Title at Dothan $80K; Andreach, Berdusco Win ITF Junior Titles in Caribbean; Duke Women Top No. 1 North Carolina

Christopher Eubanks, who turned pro last fall after his junior year at Georgia Tech, has reached his first Challenger final at the $50,000+H tournament in Guadalajara Mexico. Eubanks, unseeded and ranked 290, defeated unseeded Pedja Krstin of Serbia 6-2, 7-6(5) in this afternoon's semifinal, which had an odd ending. After Krstin double faulted at 5-all in the tiebreaker, Eubanks had a serve to win it. He hit a good first serve, but the racquet slipped completely out of his hand, leaving him unable to defend any subsequent shot. Fortunately for him Krstin barely got a racquet on it, so Eubanks earned the point and the match.  The 21-year-old from Atlanta will face No. 6 seed and former Tulsa star Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador, who advanced to the final when former UNC standout Brayden Schnur of Canada retired trailing 6-3, 2-0.  Arevalo won a Challenger earlier this month, also in Mexico.

Taylor Townsend, the No. 4 seed, has advanced to the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama and with that result, has taken over the lead in the USTA's Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge. Townsend came back to defeat unseeded Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in today's semifinal and will face No. 5 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, who beat qualifier Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2, 6-0.  Townsend, who reached the semifinals last week at Indian Harbour Beach, now has 99 points, with Caroline Dolehide, who is not playing this week, at 80 after winning the $60,000 event last week.

The doubles title went to Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, who defeated No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb(North Carolina) and Sonya Kenin 6-4, 2-6, 11-9. The former University of Alabama stars now have four pro titles together, three this year. This is the biggest, with the others at the $25,000 and $60,000 levels.

At the $100,000 Sarasota Challenger, Reilly Opelka retired trailing Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 5-2 in the first set to end American hopes for a title. Bagnis will face Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, who beat Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina 6-3, 6-3.  The doubles final will feature three Americans, with Evan King(Michigan) and Hunter Reese(Tennessee) facing off against Christian Harrison and Canadian Peter Polansky.  I believe Opelka has taken over the lead of the men's Roland Garros Challenge from Denis Kudla, but with so many tournaments a part of the men's race, it's difficult to keep track.

On the ITF junior circuit, 15-year-old Julia Andreach swept the titles at the Grade 4 in Barbados, with the No. 2 seed defeating No. 3 seed Sydney Clarke of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-0 in the final. It was the second Grade 4 singles title for Andreach, who did not drop a set all week. No. 2 seeds Andreach and Payton Saca won the doubles title via walkover from top seeds Nicole Kiefer and Canada's Maria Tanasescu.  Vikash Singh of India swept the boys titles, with the No. 2 seed taking out top seed William Woodall 6-2, 6-1 in the singles final and partnering with Canadian Cleeve Harper for the doubles title. The top seeds defeated Blu Baker of Great Britain and John Bernard, the No. 2 seeds, 6-3, 6-7(3), 10-3 in the final.

Seventeen-year-old Russell Berdusco won his first ITF Junior Circuit singles title at the Grade 5 in Guadeloupe. The No. 6 seed, who lost the first set he played in the tournament, but not another one, beat top seed Tom Leblanc Claverie of France 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

It's a busy week in college tennis, with most conferences wrapping up regular season play before next week's conference tournaments. In women's action, No. 4 Duke took out No. 1 North Carolina last night in Durham 5-2, with Hannah Zhao's 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Marika Akkerman at line 6 clinching the match for the Blue Devils. Sara Daavettila did not play for the Tar Heels. Duke can claim sole possession of the ACC regular season title with a win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.

The SEC women's conference tournament final is scheduled for Sunday, with a rematch of last week's regular season decider between Vanderbilt and Florida on tap.  Top SEC tournament seed Vanderbilt won last week's match in Gainesville 4-3, playing without senior Astra Sharma, who is now back in the lineup.  No. 2 seed Florida defeated surprise semifinalist Arkansas 4-2 today, while Vanderbilt took out No. 5 seed Ole Miss 4-1.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Di Lorenzo, Opelka, Eubanks, Rubin Advance to ATP and Pro Circuit Semifinals; Team Impact's Partnership with College Tennis; Danielle Collins Feature; US Meets France in Fed Cup Semifinals

Francesca Di Lorenzo, who is in her first full year on the WTA tour after two years at Ohio State, has reached her first semifinal above the $25,000 level at the $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama. The 20-year-old from Ohio, who won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw, defeated Barbara Haas of Austria 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the final four. Di Lorenzo, who should move into the WTA Top 200 with her results this week, will face No. 5 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, who beat No. 2 seed Sonya Kenin 6-4, 6-1. Taylor Townsend, the No. 4 seed, is playing Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain tonight to decide who will meet unseeded Sesil Karatancheva of Bulgaria in the other semifinal.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota, Reilly Opelka advanced to the semifinals, beating Guilherme Clezar of Brazil 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.  Stefan Kozlov couldn't join him however, despite holding a match point in his 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(6) loss to Hugo Dellien of Bolivia. Opelka will play Facundo Bagnis of Argentina next, with Dellien taking on Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina in the other semifinal.  All the semifinalists are unseeded.

At the $50,000+H ATP Challenger in Guadalajara Mexico, former Georgia Tech star Chris Eubanks has advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Danilo Petrovic of Serbia.  Eubanks, who defeated No. 7 seed Victor Estella Burgos of the Dominican Republic 7-6(5), 7-6(6) in the second round, will face another Serbian, Pedja Krstin in Saturday's semifinal.

The rarity of the top four seeds advancing to the semifinals has happened at the $15,000 Futures in Orange Park Florida, with former Wake Forest star Noah Rubin continuing to cruise through the draw.  The top-seeded Rubin, who took a wild card into the event, defeated No. 5 seed Santiago Rodriguez Taverna of Argentina 6-1, 6-3 in today's quarterfinal and will face No. 4 seed Jose Pereira of Brazil Saturday.  No. 2 seed Marcelo Barrios Vera of Chile will play No. 3 seed Samuel Bensoussen of France in the other semifinal.

Two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins has been the subject of several features since her results in March vaulted her to the WTA Top 50.  This article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch features quotes not just from Collins, but also from her father and former Virginia head coach Mark Guilbeau, who continues to be involved in Collins' coaching.

The Tennis Recruiting Network has posted an article about the college teams who have partnered with sick and disabled children through the non-profit Team IMPACT.  It's an inspiring article on what several collegiate programs have done to reach out to young people in their communities who often don't have teams of their own.

The US women's Fed Cup team is in France this weekend for the semifinals, with the Americans favored, even on red clay, to advance to the final for the second consecutive year. The 2017 champions will send out Sloane Stephens in the first singles match, against France's Pauline Parmentier, while CoCo Vandeweghe will play Kristina Mladenovic in the second singles match.  Also on the team are Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Kathy Rinaldi, who took over as captain last year, has yet to lose a Fed Cup match. The winner of the tie will face the winner of the semifinal between Germany and the Czech Republic. For more on the US-France semifinal, see the Fed Cup website.