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Monday, April 24, 2017

Gauff, Heller Win US Wild Card Tournament for French Open Juniors; Sandgren, Anisimova Lead USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge; Kalamazoo College Wins 79th Consecutive Conference Title, More

Last week, Longines sponsored a tournament giving US juniors an opportunity to play for a French Open Junior Championship wild card. Held on red clay at the Boca West Country Club from April 19-22, the tournament is one of six the French Tennis Federation is sponsoring, with winners from the tournaments in Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and India advancing to playoffs in France. After round robin competition on May 26th, the finals will be the following day, with the winner getting a wild card into the French Open Junior Championships, scheduled for June 4-10.

The United States will be represented by two Floridians: Cori (CoCo) Gauff and Michael Heller. Gauff, who just last month turned 13, the age required to compete in ITF tournaments, defeated 18-year-old Victoria Flores 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Heller, who will turn 17 next month, defeated Matthew Tsolakyan 6-4, 6-3 to earn his trip to Paris.

For more on the event, see this article from tennis.com.

The USTA distributed updated standings for the men's and women's main draw wild cards for the French Open.  With two weeks left to go, Amanda Anisimova and Tennys Sandgren are on top of the standings. Neither Anisimova nor Kristie Ahn, who is second place, are playing the $60,000 tournament in Charlottesville VA this week.  Sandgren is entered in the $75,000 Tallahassee Challenger this week, but No. 2 Denis Kudla is not.

The women's current standings are here; the men's current standings are here.

The Kalamazoo College men's tennis team just won its 79th consecutive MIAA conference title this weekend, a streak that dates back to when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a first-term president.  It's the longest conference title streak in college sports.  Prior to K's win over Albion this weekend, which clinched the conference title outright, the Detroit News published this article on the program's mind-boggling accomplishment.

Did you know NBA star Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz concentrated on tennis for most of his youth?  Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal looks back on the growth spurt that changed his focus in this article. Hayward even had a Tennis Recruiting Network profile, with Purdue listed as his school of choice. As Perotta explains, Hayward ended up at Butler, thinking he would play both sports, but ended up concentrating on basketball.

Sixteen-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who hasn't played a junior event since reaching the final of the Wimbledon juniors last July, picked up her first WTA victory today, beating No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic of Germany 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Istanbul.  It was also the first Top 100 victory for Yastremska, ranked 420. For more, see the WTA website.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ahn Wins Dothan $60K; Tiafoe Captures Sarasota Challenger Title; US Fed Cup Team Advances to Final; Vanderbilt Beats Florida Again to Claim SEC Conference Tournament Title

Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her pro career today, beating 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the $60,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan AL.  The match, delayed for several hours by rain, saw the unseeded Anisimova do no wrong in the opening set, especially returning serve, with No. 8 seed Ahn able to win only 30 percent of her first serve points.

In the final game of the first set, with Anisimova serving at 5-1, the tenor of the match began to change. Although Anisimova ended up holding serve, she needed 16 points to do so, as Ahn began to eliminate her unforced errors.  After Ahn saved three break points to hold serve and go up 2-1 in the second set, Anisimova left the court after a medical timeout for what looked to be a problem with her right hip or thigh. She won only one game in the set after that, while Ahn's improved serving continued into the third set. Ahn went up 2-0, lost that break, but finished off the match by taking the last four games.

It's the sixth ITF Women's Pro Circuit title of the Stanford graduate's career, with her previous three at the $25,000 level and the first two at the $10,000 level.  She will move to a career-high of around 155 in Monday's WTA rankings and keeps the race for the USTA's French Open wild card interesting with two more tournaments yet to be played. Anisimova is now 0-3 in ITF finals, all of them since late February. She will move to around 260 in the WTA rankings.

Ahn also reached the doubles title in Dothan, but she and partner Lizette Cabrera of Australia lost to Sanaz Marand and Emina Bektas 6-3, 1-6, 10-2 in tonight's final.  It's the third doubles title of the year for Marand and Bektas, following their wins at the $15K in Orlando and the $25K last week in Pelham.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Orange Park Florida, unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia took the title, beating top seed Calvin Hemery of France 6-2, 6-4.

Frances Tiafoe won his third ATP Challenger title in another all-American final today at the $100,000 tournament in Sarasota Florida. No. 3 seed Tiafoe, who had outlasted Jurgen Melzer of Austria in last night's semifinal 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), beat Tennys Sandgren in today's final 6-3, 6-4. With the title, his first this year, the 19-year-old will move into the ATP Top 75 for the first time.  Melzer and Scott Lipsky won the doubles title, beating Peter Polansky of Canada and Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4.

The US Fed Cup team defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in Wesley Chapel Florida to advance to the final in November, where they will play Belarus for their first Fed Cup title since 2000.

CoCo Vandeweghe played a part in all three US points, beating 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday. Siniakova had beaten Shelby Rogers on Saturday and Vondrousova forced a deciding doubles match by beating Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in the fourth singles match.  The doubles team of Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a formidable one, and they earned the USA's first trip to the Fed Cup final since 2010 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Kristyna Pliskova and Siniakova.  For more on today's action, see this USTA article.

Most of the major conference championships begin later this week, but the SEC women's finished today, with the nation's No. 2 team Vanderbilt beating the nation's No. 1 team Florida 4-3 in Nashville. Vanderbilt won its first regular season conference title by knocking off Florida 4-3 last Sunday, also in Nashville. Vanderbilt won the tournament title today after dropping the doubles point (they had won the point a week earlier), getting singles wins from Astra Sharma at line 1, Sydney Campbell at line 2, Christina Rosca at line 3. Fernanda Contreras clinched for the Commodores at line 6.  Florida played today without Josie Kuhlman, who was scratched due to a stomach virus. See the Vanderbilt website for more on today's match.

For more on all this weekend's college results, see College Tennis Today.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anisimova, Ahn Reach Dothan $60K Final; Sandgren Advances to Sarasota Challenger Final; Madurawe, Inoue Claim ITF Titles in Caribbean

Amanda Anisimova reached the final last week at the $80,000 Indian Harbour Beach USTA Pro Circuit event and has followed that up this week with another trip to the championship match, her third in three ITF Women's Circuit tournaments this year.  The 15-year-old from Florida defeated 18-year-old Sonya Kenin 6-3, 6-0 in today's $60,000 Dothan Alabama semifinal and will face No. 8 seed Kristie Ahn in the final. Ahn defeated unseeded Barbara Haas of Austria 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal. Ahn is looking for the biggest title of her pro career and her first since 2015. The 24-year-old, who graduated from Stanford in 2014, will reach her career high in the WTA rankings regardless of the result on Sunday.  Should Anisimova win the title , she will put herself in a commanding position in the USTA French Open Wild Card Challenge, even with two more tournaments still on the schedule.  Live streaming of the final will be available via this link.

Both US men in the semifinals of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida Futures lost today.  Qualifier Gianni Ross's string of victories ended at six, when he lost 6-4, 6-2 to top seed Calvin Hemery of France.  No. 2 seed Evan King led 5-3 in the second set against unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia, but Mantilla won the final four games of the match to earn a place in the final.

Tennys Sandgren has had an outstanding start to 2017, and the former Tennessee Volunteer stayed on that track today, beating Vincent Millot of France 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the final of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota.  Sandgren, now at a career high of 156 in the ATP rankings, will face the winner of tonight's match between No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe and former ATP Top 10 player Jurgen Melzer of Austria. A free live stream of the match is available at the ATP Challenger website.

In ITF junior action, US juniors Niluka Madurawe and Hina Inoue won titles, with Madurawe capturing the championship at the Grade 4 in Trinidad and Tobago and Inoue claiming the title at the Grade 5 in Guadeloupe. No. 8 seed Madurawe's  6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Dakota Fordham gave the 17-year-old her second singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the first earlier this year in Guatemala. Qualifier Inoue, just 13, defeated unseeded Selena Janicijevic of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final to win the first ITF junior tournament she has played.

Ronan Jachuck was the second American to pick up a title in Trinidad, taking the doubles championship with Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Ignacio Garcia and Rafael Grovas of Puerto Rico 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final.

Several US juniors are already in Europe, with Amanda Meyer reaching the singles semifinals and Nicole Mossmer advancing to the quarterfinals in singles and final in doubles at the Grade 2 in France.
At the Grade 2 in Italy, Easter Bowl champion Alafia Ayeni was the top seed but lost in the quarterfinals to Matias Soto of Chile. He did take the doubles title, however, with Soto as his partner. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Francesco Forti and Mattia Frinzi of Italy 4-6, 6-2, 10-3 in the final.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ross Advances to Futures Semifinals; Anisimova vs Kenin for Finals Berth at $60K in Dothan; Tiafoe, Sandgren Reach Sarasota Challenger Semifinals; Junior Trio on Hand as US Fed Cup Team Hosts Czech Republic in Tampa

A day after reaching his first USTA Pro Circuit Futures quarterfinal 18-year-old Gianni Ross has advanced to his first semifinal, beating unseeded Thales Turini of Brazil 6-4, 6-0 today at the $15,000 Orange Park Florida tournament.  Ross, a qualifier who has now won six matches in the past seven days, will face top seed Calvin Hemery of France in Saturday's semifinals.

No. 2 seed Evan King will play in the bottom half semifinal against unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia after King defeated Genaro Olivieri of Argentina 7-5, 6-2.

Former Michigan All-American King won the 20th doubles title of his pro career today, teaming with 2014 NCAA champion Hunter Reese, the former Tennessee Volunteer. The No. 3 seeds defeated unseeded Daniel Nolan of Australia and Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 2-6, 7-5, 10-8 in the final.

The semifinals of the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama will feature three Americans, with 18-year-old Sonya Kenin facing 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova in one semifinal.  Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn, the No. 8 seed and the only seed remaining, will play Barbara Haas of Austria for a place in the final.  Kenin downed wild card Usue Arconada 6-4, 6-2, while Anisimova, a finalist at last week's $80K at Indian Harbour Beach, beat wild card Sophie Chang 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.  Ahn took out Fanny Stollar of Hungary 6-3, 6-3.

The $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota Florida is down to its last four, with Tennys Sandgren and No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe making the semifinals. Sandgren advanced over Denis Kudla via walkover and will play unseeded Vincent Millot of France, who beat top seed Jared Donaldson 6-4, 7-5.  Tiafoe beat No. 7 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 6-4 and will face Jurgen Melzer of Austria.

The US Fed Cup team hosts the Czech Republic in the competition's semifinals, which begin Saturday at the Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel Florida. CoCo Vandeweghe will face 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova in the in the first singles match, with Shelby Rogers taking on Katerina Siniakova in the second singles match of the day. The doubles matchup, played after the two reverse singles on Sunday, is scheduled to be Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lauren Davis against Kristyna Pliskova and Denisa Allertova.

Caty McNally, Natasha Subhash and Whitney Osuigwe, who are representing the US in the Junior Fed Cup, are training with the team this week, and spoke to the USTA's Ashley Marshall about what they've learned from observing the preparation for the most important team event in women's tennis.  McNally, Subhash and Osuigwe will be traveling to Mexico next week for the North/Central American qualifying for this fall's Junior Fed Cup.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Florida Gets Verbal Commitments From Riffice, Greif; Ross Reaches First Futures Quarterfinal; Kenin, Anisimova, Arconada Advance at Dothan $60K

Although 2017 signing week is over, two major blue chip commitments have come in this week for 2018, with the University of Florida landing 2016 Kalamazoo 16s champion Lukas Greif and Sam Riffice, No. 1 in the Tennis Recruiting Network's rankings.  Florida also has received verbal commitments from Harry and Grey Cacciatore, five-star recruits from Gainesville.

None of these players can sign before November, so these verbal commitments are not binding, but it's rare that a decision is changed once it has been announced by the player (the school cannot acknowledge a commitment until the player has signed).  With Riffice now living in Orlando, I'm not surprised by his choice, but Greif had been heavily recruited by all the top Big Ten schools, and I was expecting the Indiana resident to end up at one of them, or another school that plays indoors regularly.

One of the other notable signings announced recently comes from Texas A&M, who will have US Open boys doubles champion Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia on their team this coming fall. When I spoke to Aguilar after his US Open title, he said he was going to play college tennis (he spent a great deal of time in Canada growing up and speaks excellent English), because his federation did not have the money to support him on the ITF Pro Circuit.  At that time, he was still exploring his options, but he has now decided to join the Aggies.

The University of Michigan has announced that the Siimar brothers from Estonia have signed for 2017.  Mattias Siimar, whose ITF junior ranking reached a high of 41, made the final of the 16s Orange Bowl back in 2014, losing to Riffice. His twin brother Kristofer has been ranked as high as 146 in the ITF juniors.

Arizona State is getting ready to resume collegiate competition after an eight-year hiatus and head coach Matt Hill so far has seven players committed to play for the Sun Devils. Read about them here.

Gianni Ross is one of the few senior blue chips who has yet to decide on if or where he will attend college.  Today the 18-year-old reached his first Futures quarterfinal, beating fellow qualifier Cameron Silverman 7-6(5), 7-5 in the second round of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida event.  Ross will play unseeded Thales Turini of Brazil on Friday. Evan King, the No. 2 seed, is the only other American to advance to the quarterfinals.

At the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Dothan Alabama, Sonya Kenin, Usue Arconada and Amanda Anisimova have advanced to the quarterfinals, as have Kristie Ahn and Sophie Chang.  Kenin defeated Catalina Pella of Argentina 6-2, 6-1, after ousting No. 3 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany in the first round.  Arconada, a wild card, took out No. 6 seed Jamie Loeb 6-4, 7-5 today and will face Kenin in the quarterfinals. Kenin defeated Arconada 6-1, 6-3 in the first round of this January's $25K in Orlando and reached the final that week. Anisimova beat Paula Kania of Poland 6-3, 6-2 and will meet wild card Chang in the quarterfinals. Chang, who beat No. 2 seed Taylor Townsend in the first round, defeated qualifier Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 today.  Ahn, the No. 8 seed, beat Jennifer Elie 6-2, 6-2 and will play Fanny Stollar of Hungary in the quarterfinals. Live streaming of the main court can be found here.

Four Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota Florida: top seed Jared Donaldson, Tennys Sandgren and Denis Kudla, who play each other Friday, and No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe, who is the only one of the four in the bottom half of the draw.  Live streaming is available at the ATP Challenger website.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Bowl ITF Recap; 12s and 14s Divisions Slideshow, Videos

My recap of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. If you didn't have an opportunity to follow my daily on-site coverage, this is a chance to catch up on one of the biggest ITF tournaments of the year in the United States.

I decided to put together two separate slideshows for the Easter Bowl, and today's features the 12s and 14s divisions.  I also compiled brief videos of the finals.   Replays of the finals(and many other matches) are available via the archives on Livestream.  The boys 14s final (beginning at 3-3 in the first set) is here; the complete girls 14s final, and a dramatic one it was, is here; and the coverage (without commentary) of the 12s start with the girls and continue on to the boys here.  My Tennis Recruiting Network recap of the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions is here.