Sponsored by IMG

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shapovalov and Norrie Awarded Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards; Bellis Reaches WTA Mallorca Quarterfinals; Gooch, Morton Win WCs for Citi Open Qualifying: USTA Hires New Director of Performance

2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov 
Wimbledon announced its first wild cards today, with both 2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov of Canada and TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain selected to compete in the main draw. Ranked in the ATP Top 200, Shapovalov is already in qualifying, which is the usual wild card given to the previous year's junior champion.

The men's main draw wild cards:
Tommy Haas(GER)
Denis Shapovalov(CAN)
Cameron Norrie(GBR)
Brydan Klein(GBR)
James Ward(GBR)

The other three wild cards will be announced later this week, with qualifying set to begin next week.

The women's main draw wild cards:
Katie Boulter(GBR)
Naomi Broady(GBR)
Heather Watson(GBR)
Laura Robson(GBR)
Zarina Diyas(KAZ)

Again, three more wild cards are likely to be distributed after this week's tournament results.

The men's qualifying wild cards include two former Texas Longhorns, Ed Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.

The men's qualifying wild cards:
Liam Broady(GBR)
Ed Corrie(GBR)
Lloyd Glasspool(GBR)
Jay Clarke(GBR)
Marcus Willis(GBR)

Two more will be announced and the final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

The women's qualifying wild cards:
Freya Christie(GBR)
Harriet Dart(GBR)
Katy Dunne(GBR)
Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Katie Swan(GBR)
Gabriella Taylor(GBR)

Final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

Potapova received her wild card as the previous year's junior champion. Swan, now 18, received a main draw wild card last year and a qualifying wild card in 2015.  Click on the link in the first sentence to see the doubles wild cards.

Today at the WTA event in Mallorca Spain, CiCi Bellis reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Mona Barthel, the 18-year-old's third quarterfinal appearance in 2017.  She will play unseeded Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic for her first WTA semifinal appearance.

The Citi Open, a combined ATP/WTA event scheduled for next month in Washington DC, held a wild card tournament this week, with former Elon standout Damon Gooch of South Africa and former Virginia star Skyler Morton earning qualifying wild cards.  Both were top seeds, with Gooch defeating 17-year-old Andrew Fenty, the No. 2 seed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and Morton beating No. 2 seed and current Virginia rising senior Cassie Mercer 7-6(6), 6-2 in the finals.  For more on the finals, see this Washington Post article.  For the complete results, see the TennisLink site. 

The USTA today announced the hiring of Brent Salazar as Director of Performance.  Salazar, who played college tennis at New Mexico, has been an assistant strength coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and last year was head of strength and conditioning for the Minnesota Vikings. Salazar will be based at the USTA's new National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.  The complete release can be found here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Again This Week; Another ITF Grade 1 in Germany; Bellis, Kozlov Post WTA, ATP Wins on Grass

This week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are very much like last week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, with only one of the three this week moving to a different state.

Winston-Salem North Carolina is the site of a second consecutive $25,000 Futures, with last week's champion, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, earning another win in today's first round, beating wild card Jonathan Ho, a Wake Forest alum, 6-4, 6-2.  The other three wild cards, all American juniors, also went out in the opening round, with Gianni Ross falling to top seed Austin Krajicek, Trent Bryde losing to Jose Statham[8] of New Zealand and Alexandre Rotsaert beaten by Tommy Paul, all in straight sets.

A notable first round winner today is Deiton Baughman, who spent the past collegiate season as a volunteer assistant at USC.  Once ranked as high as 341, the 21-year-old from California started his professional competition for 2017 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Harrison Adams(Texas A&M).  He and Ho also won their first round doubles matches, beating top seeds Krajicek and Jackson Withrow 7-6(6), 5-7, 10-7.

The other Futures this week moved an hour east from last week's $15,000 tournament in Buffalo, to Rochester New York.  Top seed is Ohio State senior Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, with wild cards going to John Speicher, Jenson Brooksby, Roy Smith and Josh Silverstein, none of whom played in today's opening round action.  John McNally, who is no longer eligible for ITF junior events but can still compete this year in Kalamazoo, received entry via his year-end Top 20 ITF junior ranking and won his first round match today.

The women moved from Sumter South Carolina to Baton Rouge Louisiana for their second straight $25,000 tournament, with Sumter champion Ashley Lahey receiving a special exemption into the main draw.  The surprise top seed is Nicole Gibbs, whose only two wins this year were at the Australian Open.  Gibbs, who had been out for all of April with an injury and decided not to play the grass season, has not played a $25,000 level event since March of 2014.  In addition to Gibbs, wild cards were given to Ryann Foster, a senior at LSU, and Ashley Kratzer.

The second consecutive Grade 1 in Germany, this one in Berlin, will have a different girls champion, with last week's winner, Victoria Flores, falling in her first round match today.  Flores, the No. 12 seed, was beaten by German wild card Anica Stabel 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.  Katya Townsend and Lea Ma also lost their first round matches today, while Alexa Noel, Elli Mandlik and Hurricane Tyra Black advanced to the second round.  Xiyu Wang of China, the top seed, was upset in her first round match by Melis Yasar of Sweden.

Five US boys--Boris Kozlov, Axel Nefve, Ryan Goetz, Tristan Boyer and Christian Alshon--were in the main draw and none advanced to the second round.  Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France is the top boys seed, with last week's champion Rudolf Molleker of Germany the No. 2 seed.

Stefan Kozlov has five wins in ATP main draws in his career and all five have come on grass.  Today the 19-year-old qualifier, who reached the final of the 2014 Wimbledon Junior Championships, earned his first ATP win at the 500 level, by defeating Steve Johnson 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 at London's Queens Club tournament.  Next for Kozlov will be Marin Cilic, who beat John Isner 7-5, 6-3.

Eighteen-year-old CiCi Bellis picked up her first WTA win on grass today at the International-level tournament in Mallorca. Bellis defeated No. 4 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 7-5 and will face Germany's Mona Barthel in the second round.

At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit grass tournament in Ilkley Great Britain, 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide and former USC star Maria Sanchez won three qualifying matches and will begin main draw play on Wednesday, with Dolehide taking on Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium and Sanchez facing Xinyun Han of China.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Balance High School Championships Move to Ojai; HBO Real Sports Features Frances Tiafoe; ITA Summer Circuit Begins Friday

Now in its fourth year, the New Balance High School Championships will be held at a new venue, the Weil Academy in Ojai California.  After three years in Boston, the world headquarters of the athletic shoe company, the tournament for those who play high school tennis will now be close to the high school tennis hotbed of Southern California. One of the pioneers of using UTR ratings for entry into junior tournaments, the High School Championships have settled into a prominent place on the junior competitive calendar, with this year's tournament scheduled for July 24-27.  A compass draw ensures four matches for all 64 players selected in each boys and girls draw, and there is also a mixed doubles competition being added this year.

Registration, which closes on June 30, 2017, is available through the TennisLink site.  For more on the tournament, see this preview from the UTR blog.

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 20, at 10:00 PM EDT, 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe will be featured in a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Mary Carillo will be exploring the 19-year-old's rise from a young spectator of lessons at the Junior Tennis Champions Center to his current place in the ATP Top 100.

I had an opportunity to view a preview of the piece, and it emphasizes just how unlikely that rise has been, with his father's maintenance job at the JTCC leading Frances (and twin brother Franklin) into tennis. JTCC's Frank Salazar describes Frances' fascination with the sport from the beginning, and Carillo details how this affinity for tennis never wavered. The life his parents led in Sierra Leone and the reasons they immigrated to the United States is also explored. HBO provided this YouTube trailer in advance of tomorrow night's show.

The first series of tournaments of the ITA Summer Circuit begin on Friday, with events continuing throughout July and culminating in the National finals August 12-15 at TCU.  These tournaments are an opportunity for junior and college players to compete in three- or four-day events on college campuses, with several of this year's tournaments part of a pilot program to incorporate Universal Tennis Ratings. For a list of tournaments around the country, see this page from the ITA.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Current Collegians Rybakov, Eubanks and Lahey Earn Pro Circuit Titles; Flores Claims Grade 1 in Germany; Kopczynski Takes Grade 4 Title; Auger-Aliassime Wins Challenger; Kozlov Qualifies for Queens

Sunday was quite a day for current collegiate players, with TCU junior Alex Rybakov, Georgia Tech senior Christopher Eubanks and Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey all unseeded, winning their first Pro Circuit titles.

Rybakov, who had reached two Futures finals, won the $15,000 Buffalo Futures with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed and fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan.  The left-hander from Florida defeated the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds for the title.

Eubanks took out fellow Yellow Jacket and doubles partner Kevin King 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(6) in a two-hour and 30-minute nailbiter at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures.  Eubanks reached the semifinals of the Champaign Challenger last November, and qualified for the ATP tournament in Atlanta last summer, but has not competed often at the Futures level.  It has already been announced that Eubanks has received a main draw wild card for next month's BB&T in Atlanta.

Lahey, still just 17, had played in just one other ITF Pro Circuit event main draw prior to this week's $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, but she made the most of her wild card, beating Ohio State junior Francesca Di Lorenzo, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 7-6(4) for the title. Di Lorenzo led 5-1 in the second set and served for the set three times, at 5-2, 5-4, and 6-5, but she couldn't close it out and Lahey took the tiebreaker by claiming the final three points.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, Victoria Flores followed up her doubles title on Saturday with her first ITF junior singles title, beating No. 15 seed Qinwen Zheng of China 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.  The 18-year-old Flores has had excellent results on clay this year, reaching two quarterfinals and a semifinal at Grade 1 tournaments prior to this week's title.  Top seed Rudolf Molleker won the boys title, beating No. 7 seed and fellow German Marvin Moeller 6-4, 4-3, ret.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Tunisia, 17-year-old Tomas Kopczynski[5] won his first ITF junior singles title, beating Will Grant[2] 7-6(5), 6-4 in an all-USA final.  No. 2 seeds Grant and Kopczynski lost in the doubles final to unseeded Harry Butler and Barney Fitzpatrick of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4).

US Open boys champion Felix Auger-Aliassime, still just 16, won his first Challenger title today in Lyon France, beating Mathias Bourgue of France 6-4, 6-1. At 16 years, 10 months, Auger-Aliassime is the seventh youngest player to win an ATP Challenger title and will be the youngest player to break into the ATP Top 250 since Juan Martin del Potro in 2005.  For more on Auger-Aliassime's place in the ATP record books, see this article.

The Next Gen American men haven't had much to show for the grass court season so far, but Stefan Kozlov has advanced to the main draw of next week's ATP 500 Queen's Club tournament in London.  The 19-year-old defeated No. 3 qualifying seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-4, 6-2 in today's final round.  He will play Steve Johnson for a third time in the past 12 months, having beaten Johnson last year in 's-Hertogenbosch and lost to Johnson this year at Delray Beach.

TCU All-American Cameron Norrie of Great Britain received a wild card into Queens and will face Sam Querrey in the opening round. For more on Norrie's background and goals now that he has turned pro, see this article from The Herald.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two All-Collegiate USTA Pro Circuit Finals Set; Flores Ousts Top Seed to Reach Grade 1 Final in Germany; Beck, Baird Claim ITF Grade 4 Grass Court Titles; Han, Madurawe Win Grade 4s in Guatemala

Four of the six finalists in the three USTA Pro Circuit championship matches Sunday are current college players: Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine sophomore), Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State junior), Alex Rybakov(TCU junior) and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech senior).

Wild card Lahey and No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to the final of the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, with Di Lorenzo beating No. 6 seed Robin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 and Lahey saving a match point in her 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(2) win over No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan.  Lahey needed three hours and 5 minutes to advance today, after being on court for three hours and 26 minutes in her semifinal win over Julia Elbaba, so that could be a factor in tomorrow's final, which is a career-first for Lahey.  Di Lorenzo won a $25,000 tournament last summer.

The doubles title went to former USC teammates Kaitlyn Christian and Mexico's Giuilana Olmos who beat Australian Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Brazilian Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) 6-3, 2-6, 10-7 in the final. Both teams were unseeded.

Rybakov advanced to his third Futures final and first since 2015 with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 3 seed Dennis Nevolo at the $15,000 tournament in Buffalo.  Rybakov will face fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, the No. 4 seed, who beat No. 2 seed Kaichi Uchida, also of Japan, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.  Rybakov is looking for his first Futures title, while Nakagawa is aiming for his second, but first since 2013.

The singles final at the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina will be an all-Georgia Tech affair. Eubanks will take on Kevin King, a former Yellow Jacket All-American who served as volunteer assistant the past two years while recovering from hip surgeries. Eubanks defeated Andrew Harris of Australia 6-3, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while King downed No. 8 seed Wil Spencer 6-2, 6-4. Eubanks is seeking his first pro title, while King has four Futures titles, the most recent last month in Mexico.

Recent Virginia graduate JC Aragone will play for his first title on the Pro Circuit tomorrow at the $15,000 Futures in Spain. The unseeded Aragone, who turns 22 next week, defeated unseeded Lucas Ruepke of Germany 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to advance against No. 8 seed Carlos Gomez-Herrera of Spain.  Gomez-Herrera defeated Andres Artunedo Martinavarr of Spain 6-4, 6-3.  Evan King(Michigan) and Robert Galloway(Wofford) took the doubles title, beating Aragone and Daniel Nolan of Australia 6-4, 6-4 in the final between two unseeded teams.

Victoria Flores[10] ousted top seed Xin Yu Wang of China 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 today at the ITF tournament in Offenbach Germany to reach her first Grade 1 final. She will face 14-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China, the No. 15 seed, for the title.  Flores, who has committed to Georgia Tech for this fall, has already claimed the doubles title. She and Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil, seeded No. 3, beat No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Ukraine's Viktoriya Petrenko 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The boys singles final will feature top seed Rudolf Molleker against fellow German Marvin Moeller, the No. 7 seed.  Moeller has one win against Molleker in the bank this week, with he and partner Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France beating Molleker and Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

The ITF Grade 4 International Grass Court Championships were completed Friday in Philadelphia, with Drew Baird and Chloe Beck earning three of the four titles.  The 16-year-old Baird, seeded fifth, defeated top seed Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 to earn his first ITF junior singles title.

Beck, the No. 3 seed, also took out the top seed, beating Alana Smith 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final.  It's the third Grade 4 title for the 15-year-old Beck, who also claimed the doubles crown in Philadelphia.  No. 3 seeds Beck and Emma Navarro defeated top seeds Smith and Malkia Menguene 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the final.

Baird fell just short of the sweep, as he and Tyler Zink, the No. 1 seeds, lost to No. 4 seeds Jeffrey Fradkin and Eliot Spizzirri 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Guatemala, 16-year-old Nathan Han swept the titles, winning his first ITF junior singles title with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) decision over qualifier Antonio March of Ecuador and partnering with Pierce Rollins for the doubles title.  Unseeded 17-year-old Niluka Madurawe won her third ITF singles title, all this year, beating No. 6 seed Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  No. 2 seeds Kacie Harvey and Peru's Kianah Motosono won the girls doubles, beating Madurawe and Luba Vasilyuk 2-6, 6-0, 12-10 in the final.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresen, Yarlagadda Win at Inaugural USTA College Combine; Lahey Reaches Sumter $25K Semifinals; Flores into Offenbach Grade 1 Final Four; Thompson Named to Lead Minnesota Women's Program

The first annual USTA All-American College Combine finished today at the USTA Campus in Lake Nona, with 16-year-old RJ Fresen and 15-year-old Anika Yarlagadda claiming the USTA Pro Circuit wild cards set aside for the competition's winners.  For more on the tournament, including a slideshow, see this usta.com article.  Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

A year ago, Ashley Lahey was in Europe, where she reached ITF Junior Circuit Grade 1 and Grade 2 finals and another Grade 1 semifinal. After her freshman year at Pepperdine, where the 17-year-old earned All-America honors,  she received a wild card into this week's $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Sumter South Carolina and she has advanced to the semifinals.  Lahey and 2016 Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba battled for three hours and 26 minutes in today's quarterfinal before Lahey secured the 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-4 victory and her first appearance in a Pro Circuit semifinal.   She will play No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan in the semifinals.  The other semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo and No. 6 seed Robin Anderson. The Ohio State rising junior and the 2015 UCLA graduate, both National Indoor champions, played last year in a $25,000 tournament with De Lorenzo winning 7-5, 6-3.

Lahey still has two more years of eligibility for the USTA 18s Nationals in August, and Usue Arconada, who reached her first semifinal above the $25,000 level today at a $60,000 Pro Circuit event in Spain, will still be eligible for this year's Nationals.

At the $25,000 men's Futures at Wake Forest, Chris Eubanks, the Georgia Tech rising senior, will face recent Oklahoma graduate Andrew Harris in one semifinal.  In the other, former Georgia Tech star Kevin King will face No. 8 seed Wil Spencer, a Georgia graduate.  The doubles final was played today, with rising USC sophomores Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, who were unseeded, beating No. 3 seeds Eubanks and King 7-6(4), 6-3.  It is the second Pro Circuit title for Holt and Smith, who did not play a match tiebreaker all week.

In Buffalo, former Illinois star Dennis Nevolo[3] and TCU rising junior Alex Rybakov will meet in one semifinal of the $15,000 Futures there, while Naoki Nakagawa[4] and Kaichi Uchida[2] of Japan face off in the other.  In the doubles final, recent South Florida graduate Sasha Gozun of Moldova and former UT-San Antonio standout Tomas Stillman defeated Canadians David Volfson(Cornell) and Christian Lakoseljac(Penn State) 6-4, 6-3.  Neither team was seeded.

Victoria Flores has reached the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, with the No. 10 seed beating No. 13 seed Anastasia Kulikova of Russia 6-1, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals.  Flores will face top seed Xin Yu Wang of China on Saturday.  In addition, Flores has reached the doubles final, where she and partner Thaisa Peretti of Brazil, the No. 3 seeds, will play No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and her partner Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine.

The last Power Five conference job was filled today, with the announcement that Catrina Thompson has been hired to lead the University of Minnesota women's program.  Thompson, a former all-American at Notre Dame, had served as an assistant coach at her alma mater the past four seasons.  Thompson replaces Chuck Merzbacher, who announced his retirement in April.