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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spizzirri and Breunich Earn ITF Grade 5 Titles in St. Vincent; Oudin Retires; Gojo Beats Bemelmans in WInston-Salem Qualifying

American juniors earned singles titles today at the ITF Grade 5 tournament in St. Vincent. 

The top-seeded Eliot Spizzirri, who exactly a week ago played in the third place 16s doubles match in Kalamazoo, won his second ITF singles title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Diego Gonzalez of Venezuela in the final. The 15-year-old from Connecticut won his first singles title at the Grade 5 in Martinique last April.

Sixteen-year-old Willa Bay Breunich, also the No. 1 seed, won her first ITF singles title when Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador retired trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Both Spizzirri and Breunich also reached the doubles finals, but both lost, with Spizzirri and Roger Lyn giving a walkover to their opponents, while Breunich and Sofia Rojas retired up 6-3, 1-2.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Mexico, Nathan Han, who also played Kalamazoo, won the doubles title and lost in the singles final.  Han and Blu Baker of Great Britain, seeded No. 1, defeated Alvaro Gonzalez of Mexico and Sasha Pachnev of Canada 6-0, 6-1 for the doubles championship.  Han, the No. 2 seed, lost to top seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the singles final.

Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin won the US Open Mixed Doubles title in 2011
Melanie Oudin announced her retirement from professional tennis yesterday at the age of 25.  Oudin, whose amazing run to the quarterfinals of the US Open as a 17-year-old back in 2009 was one of the most unexpected and exciting sports stories of that summer, suffered from injury and illness for most of the last five years.  I watched Oudin come up through the juniors and she was talented, modest, hard-working and competitive. She was fun to watch and made the most of what she had; it's a shame her health didn't allow her to display those qualities the past several years. For more on Oudin's retirement, see the WTA website.

At the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, the last two Americans bowed out in today's semifinals, with wild card Sloane Stephens dropping a 6-2, 6-1 decision to No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania and No. 14 seed John Isner falling to No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6(4), 7-6(10).  Both should be encouraged by their results this week however, as they look ahead to the US Open.

At the men's Winston-Salem Open, Wake Forest rising sophomore Borna Gojo played his first match against an ATP Top 100 player and got his first Top 100 win, beating No. 3 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(3),3-6, 7-6(6). Wild card Gojo, of Croatia, will face No. 8 seed Alex Bolt of Australia for a place in the main draw.  Former Georgia Tech star Kevin King defeated 18-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia, the No. 5 seed, 6-1, 6-2 and will face Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the final round of qualifying.

At the WTA's Connecticut Open, Christina McHale is the only American who made it through this weekend's qualifying (Correction: there were three rounds of qualifying and she lost in the final round). Sloane Stephens and Lauren Davis are the only Americans in the main draw. Rising Yale freshman Samantha Martinelli lost in the first round of qualifying, but she spoke with the media about her experience in this article from the New Haven Register.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Kalamazoo 18s Recap; Isner Downs Donaldson to Reach Cincinnati Semis; Wild Cards Announced for ITF Grade 1 in College Park

The Tennis Recruiting Network completed its review of all last week's National Championships, and as has been the case for many years, I contributed the articles on the Boys 16s and the Boys 18s from Kalamazoo.  Today's article recounts the run of Patrick Kypson, who added the 18s title to the 16s title he won two years ago and he will make his ATP level debut at the US Open late this month.

I am currently in Cincinnati for the Midwest Section's semi-annual meeting, where I will be receiving the Fred Burns media award at a luncheon tomorrow. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to attend the Western & Southern Open for the first time in several years, and I was able to watch the quarterfinal match between John Isner and Jared Donaldson, as well as the Bryan brothers match with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France.

Donaldson stayed with Isner throughout the first set, but two double faults and an unforced error from Donaldson in the tiebreaker gave Isner the first set 7-6(4). Isner continued to serve well--he had 25 aces and I saw one that hit 140 on the serve gun--but he couldn't shake Donaldson until 5-5, when he converted his first break point of the match thanks to a Donaldson backhand into the net.  The final game was a formality, with Isner ending it with an ace.

I had an opportunity to chat with coach Mark Bey prior to the Bryan brothers match. Bey, who usually does the commentary for the live stream of the Kalamazoo finals, was not able to make it this year due to two of the girls he coaches being the doubles semifinals in San Diego. So we had a lot to share about the respective National Championships and many other topics.  Bey was inducted into the USPTA Midwest section's Hall of Fame on Thursday night and was an on-court presenter this morning at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, in addition to helping coach the Bryans this week. I'm sure he was as disappointed as the thousands of fans on Stadium Court 3 Friday night when the Bryans twice failed to consolidate breaks in the second set and lost to Herbert and Mahut 4-6, 7-5, 10-8.

From Cincinnati, I will be heading to the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships in College Park Maryland, which I'll be covering for the fourth straight year. The wild cards for the tournament have been announced, with the qualifying beginning on Saturday.

Boys main draw wild cards:
Finn Garner, Wild Card Challenge winner
Saud Alhogbani
Brandon Perez
Trinity Grear
Alex Lee
Cannon Kingsley
Siem Woldeab
Tyler Zink

Girls main draw wild cards:
Lauren Anzalotta
Lexi Merrill
Malkia Ngounoue, Wild Card Challenge winner
Mackenzie Clark
Katie Volynets
Cori Gauff
Sedona Gallagher
Abigail Forbes

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Kalamazoo 16s Recap; Chrysochos Receives ATP Winston-Salem Open Wild Card; Donaldson and Isner to Meet in Cincinnati Quarterfinals

My review of Brandon Nakashima's title run at the USTA 16s National Championships in Kalamazoo is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I think it's a good overview of the week, especially if you were busy playing, watching or coaching at one of the other National Championships last week.  Make sure to read all the Tennis Recruiting Network's coverage of the 12s, 14s and 16s, with the 18s articles closing out Championship Week on Friday. Links to all articles are available here.

Chrysochos won the ITA All-American title last fall in Tulsa

The final ATP and WTA tournaments before the US Open, the Winston-Salem Open and the Connecticut Open, both end next Saturday due to the Open, so news is already surfacing from them.  Winston-Salem, which begins Sunday, announced its main draw wild cards.  In addition to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis, Croatia's Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz, who has reached the quarterfinals at the $100,000 Vancouver Challenger, the tournament has awarded a wild card to rising Wake Forest junior Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus.  Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, rising seniors at Wake Forest, received a doubles wild card. They finished No. 2 in the final ITA national rankings.  The release announcing the wild cards (and Sam Querrey's withdrawal) quotes tournament director Bill Oakes as saying Chrysochos was "the best player in college tennis last season," an assertion that would no doubt draw an argument from fans at TCU, Ohio State and Virginia. It doesn't appear that North Carolina resident and newly crowned Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson received a qualifying wild card, with Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Wake Forest sophomore Borna Gojo of Croatia announced as the only qualifying wild cards.

The qualifying draw of the Connecticut Open has been released, with playing beginning on Friday. NCAA champion Brienne Minor received a wild card and drew top seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last month.  Maria Mateas, who lives in New England, received a qualifying wild card, as did Yale rising freshman Samantha Martinelli.  Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba and Sonya Kenin are the other Americans receiving wild cards.  Other Americans in qualifying are Kayla Day, Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale and Shelby Rogers.

The playoff for the US Open reciprocal wild card that Tennis Australia is conducting is also at the Connecticut Open, with the draw for that event available here.

Rain has been a problem all day in at the Western and Southern Open Cincinnati, where I'm heading tomorrow.  John Isner and Jared Donaldson managed to get their matches finished however, with No. 14 seed Isner defeating Frances Tiafoe 7-6(4), 7-5 and Donaldson beating Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4, 7-6(4).  They will play each other for a semifinal berth.  It's the first ATP quarterfinal for Donaldson, who had gone 0-13 in ATP round of 16 matches prior to today. For more on Donaldson's win, see the ATP website.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

American Collegiate Invitational Fields Announced; Tiafoe, Donaldson Reach Round of 16 at Cincinnati Masters

The USTA announced the participants of the fourth annual American Collegiate Invitational to be held September 7-9, during the second week of US Open, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Eight American men and eight American women, who are either in college or have recently completed their eligibility, are invited to participate in the single elimination tournament according to their collegiate or professional rankings.

The criteria for selection:
  • The top two players in the ATP/WTA rankings as of August 7th
  • Top five American players in the year-end ITA rankings, including at least two graduating seniors
  • USTA wild cards
The men:
JC Aragone, Virginia (ATP)
William Blumberg, North Carolina
Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech(ATP)
Tom Fawcett, Stanford
Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
Alfredo Perez, Florida
Michael Redlicki, Arkansas
Alex Rybakov, TCU (wild card)

Brandon Holt is ranked above Rybakov in the final ITA list, so I assume he declined the invitation.

The women:
Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt
Hayley Carter, North Carolina
Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (WTA)
Alexa Graham, North Carolina (wild card)
Brienne Minor, Michigan
Ingrid Neel, Florida (WTA)
Ena Shibahara, UCLA

Campbell and Carter are the two graduating seniors in the group and neither are expected to play the Pro Circuit, so this may be their last competitive tennis match for some time.

Blair Shankle of Baylor would have been eligible based on her ITA ranking, but she must have decided against playing.  Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey also would have been eligible by ranking, but I'm guessing she has opted to play the US Open juniors instead, although she will need a wild card.

This year's tournament will again feature the serve clock, which was introduced last year at the event. Coaching will be allowed for the first time this year.  For a look at the other innovations being tested at the ACI (and the US Open Junior Championships), see my post from Monday.

The winners receive qualifying wild cards into the US Open next year, but neither of the 2016 ACI champions needed them.  Kwiatkowski won the NCAAs and so received a main draw wild card. Danielle Collins earned her way into qualifying on her own ranking, but fell short of the 120 ranking that is required to get a wild card into the main draw for the ACI champions.

Wednesday was a big day for young American men at the ATP Masters in Cincinnati, with both 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe and 20-year-old Jared Donaldson advancing to the round of 16.  

Tiafoe, the 2015 Kalamazoo champion, earned his first ATP Top 10 victory, beating No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.  He will play No. 14 seed John Isner next.  Donaldson took out lucky loser Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and will face Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in Thursday's round of 16.  No. 15 seed Sam Querrey, the only other American man still in singles, plays later tonight.  For more on Tiafoe's win, see the ATP website.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day, Eubanks Among Those Receiving US Open Main Draw Wild Cards: ITA National Summer Champions Crowned

Wild Cards for the US Open were announced today, revealing the three main draw wild cards unaccounted for previously.

Taylor Townsend, 21
Kayla Day, 17
Sonya Kenin, 18 (US Open Wild Card Challenge winner)
Ashley Kratzer, 18 (USTA National 18s champion)
Brienne Minor, 19 (NCAA champion)
Maria Sharapova, 30
Amandine Hesse, 24 (French reciprocal wild card)
TBD (Australian reciprocal wild card)

An article with more details on each women's wild card recipient is available at usopen.org.

Taylor Fritz, 19
Bjorn Fratangelo, 24
Christopher Eubanks, 21
Thai Kwiatkowski, 22 (NCAA champion)
Tommy Paul, 20 (US Open Wild Card Challenge winner)
Patrick Kypson, 17 (USTA National 18s champion)
Geoffrey Blancaneaux, 19 (French reciprocal wild card)
Alex De Minaur, 18 (Australian reciprocal wild card)

An article with more details on each men's wild card recipient is available at usopen.org.

Qualifying wild cards were also announced today.

Usue Arconada, 18
Kelly Chen, 18 (USTA National 18s finalist)
Francesca Di Lorenzo, 20
Vicky Duval, 21
Ashley Lahey, 17
Ann Li, 17
Claire Liu, 17
Whitney Osuigwe, 15
Katerina Stewart, 20

Arconada is very close to getting into qualifying on her own ranking, so that wild card may be available to someone else in the days ahead.

William Blumberg, 19
Marcos Giron, 24
Christian Harrison, 23
Evan King, 25
Bradley Klahn, 26
Austin Krajicek, 27
Daniel Nguyen, 26
Raymond Sarmiento, 25
JJ Wolf, 18 (USTA National 18s finalist)

Eight of the nine men Americans receiving qualifying wild cards are current or former college players.

The ITA National Summer Championships concluded today at TCU, with Notre Dame's Alex Lebedev and Winthrop's Lauren Proctor taking the singles titles.  No. 10 seed Lebedev defeated No. 44 Alexandru Grigorescu of Nebraska-Omaha 6-3, 6-2 and No. 4 seed Proctor defeated No. 15 seed Donika Bashota of TCU 6-2, 6-3 in the finals.

Lebedev and Proctor will receive main draw wild cards into the ITA All-American Championships this fall.

The men's doubles title went to Texas's Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles, with the No. 2 seeds beating Michigan's Myles Schalet and Gabe Tishman, the No. 5 seeds, 8-3 in the final.

No. 5 seeds Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin of Duke won the women's doubles title, defeating Iowa's Zoe Douglas and Elise Van Heuvelen 8-2.

The doubles champions also receive a wild card into the main draw of the ITA All-American championships.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dimovska, Watane Win ITF Grade 5 Titles; Hansson Claims Singles and Doubles in Edwardsville Futures; US Open Announces Serve Clock, Coaching, Timed Warmups and Attire Changes for Qualifying, Juniors and ACI

I attempt to keep up on the other tennis news, while covering Kalamazoo but something's got to give during those 12-hour days, and I apologize if I've missed a significant victory or a title in the past 10 days.

In ITF junior tournaments last week, 17-year-old Nada Dimovska won the singles title at the Grade 5 in Bulgaria, her first on the ITF Junior Circuit.  Dimovska, who was unseeded, defeated qualifier Ana Manea of Romania 6-1, 6-2 in the final.  At the Grade 5 in St. Lucia, unseeded Anju Watane won his first ITF junior singles title, claiming the winner's trophy via a walkover from fellow 17-year-old Jericho Grollman.  At the ITF Grade 4 in Mexico, no Americans reached the singles finals, but Camille Townsend and Katya Townsend won the doubles title, with the top seeds beating No. 7 seeds Kailen Galazka and Maria Tanasescu of Canada 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

In ITF action the previous week, 14-year-old Hina Inoue won her third ITF junior singles title, this one a Grade 4 in Colombia.  The No. 2 seeds beat top seed Laura Rico Garcia of Colombia 6-2, 7-5 in the final, and is now up to 248 in the ITF rankings.

None of the singles finals of the Pro Circuit events last week featured any Americans.  At the $25,000 Futures in Edwardsville Illinois, Ole Miss senior Gustav Hansson of Sweden the first two pro titles, taking the singles and doubles.  Hansson defeated fellow qualifier and recent Tulsa graduate Or Ram-Harel of Israel 6-1, 6-2 in the singles final and partnered with former Ohio State Buckeye Hunter Callahan to defeat top seeds Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Alex Lawson(Notre Dame) 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles final.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Landisville Pennsylvania, unseeded 18-year-old Vera Lapko of Belarus won her first title at that level, beating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final.  Unseeded Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller won the doubles title, their third as a team, defeating No. 2 seeds Ksenia Lykina of Russia and Emily Webley-Smith of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.

The singles title at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Aptos California went to unseeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, who defeated unseeded Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in the final.  No. 3 seeds Ken Skupski(LSU) and Jonathan Erlich of Israel won the doubles title, defeating No. 4 seeds Jordan Thompson and Alex Bolt of Australia 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 in the final.

Last week the USTA announced the US Open would implement several initiatives intended to speed up the pace of play. One of the changes, the serve clock, was used last year for the juniors and the American Collegiate Invitation, and there was little backlash from players or officials. The full release is below:

Changes Made to Enhance Fan Experience, Increase Speed of Play and Create Consistent Standards for Competitors
Moves Continue History of Tennis Innovation at US Open

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., August 10, 2017 - The United States Tennis Association today announced a series of in-game innovations that will be implemented across a variety of events at the 2017 US Open.  The US Open events affected include: Qualifying Tournament, Junior Tournament, Wheelchair Invitational, American Collegiate Invitational, Champions Invitational.  The new enhancements will not be instituted in the main draws of singles, doubles or mixed doubles. The introduction of these measures will create a consistent standard in areas that have traditionally been undefined or difficult to enforce, as well as open the discussion for further changes at all levels.

The following will be introduced:
  • Timing Related
    • Serve Clock* – Players will be given 25 seconds to serve following the completion of a point.  This is a five-second increase from the stated rules of tennis, as published by the ITF.  The clock will begin after the chair umpire announces the score.  Time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions
    • Warm-Up Clock* – A five-minute clock will be placed on all players during warm-ups prior to the start of matches.  At the completion of the five minutes, the umpire will announce the end of the warmup period.  After making this announcement, players will have 60-seconds to begin play.  A fine will be assessed on all infractions.
    • Change of Attire – Players will be given five minutes to complete an attire change, during set breaks only.  As not all courts have the same proximity to changing areas, the clock will not begin until a player enters the changing area, and will end when a player leaves the changing area.  Time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions.
*a countdown display will be visible by players and fans for these innovations

  • Coaching Related
    • In-Match Coaching – Coaching will be allowed between coaches and players between points.  Coaching will be limited to only those in the designated player box.  Verbal coaching will be allowed while the player is on the same end of the court as the player box, while signal coaching will be permitted when the player box is on the opposite end of the court.
“The US Open has always been at the forefront of tennis innovation, from blue courts to electronic line calling, and beyond,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer, USTA .  “Throughout the years we have consistently looked for ways to enhance the experience of both our players and our fans, and we think these changes will continue to move the sport in an exciting direction.”

“These innovations were reviewed by the Grand Slam Board for use in the designated tournaments at the 2017 US Open.  In addition, the decision to implement these standards was made in consensus with the two tours and was approved by the ITF Rules of Tennis Committee,” said Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA. “Both throughout the event and following its completion, we will gather and analyze data and reaction, and determine the next steps for future usage, as well as the potential for further innovation in other areas of the game.”