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Monday, October 16, 2017

Grade A Osaka Cup Underway in Japan; Americans Claim ITF Titles in South America and Caribbean

The main draw of ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan begins Tuesday (tonight here in the US) with three American girls and two American boys competing.  Pan American Closed champion Whitney Osuigwe, who is, of course, the No. 1 seed as the top-ranked ITF junior, had little time to overcome jet lag after leaving Tulsa on Sunday and arriving in Japan on Monday.  The other US girls in the draw are Dalayna Hewitt and Hina Inoue, both unseeded.  The top seed in the boys draw is Yuta Shimizu of Japan, with unseeded Tristan Boyer and Anuj Watane the two Americans in the 64-player draw.

In addition to the Grade B1 Pan American Closed last week, there were many other lower-level events, and while most Americans entered Tulsa, some found success elsewhere on the circuit.

At the Grade 5 in Curacao, 15-year-old Jennifer Kida claimed both the singles and doubles titles, losing just six games in her four singles victories. Kida, the top seed, defeated No. 6 seed Afrika Smith of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-1 for her second ITF junior title.  Although she has only been playing the ITF Junior Circuit since March, she earned her first title the day before, when She and Fiorella Bolona Medina, the No. 1 seeds, defeated the home country's team of Zima Gomez Osorio and Ana Sofia Jaramillo 6-1, 6-3 in the doubles final.

American juniors took three of the four titles at the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, with 16-year-old Gia Cohen and 15-year-old Andrew Dale claiming the singles championships and Kyra Foster winning the girls doubles.  The seventh-seeded Cohen, who had lost in the final of the previous week's Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, won her first title with a 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-4 win over 15-year-old American Jackeline Lopez, the No. 4 seed.  Dale took his first ITF junior circuit title, with the No. 10 seed beating No. 8 seed Mateo Gomez of Colombia 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Foster and Cora Barber of Germany, the No. 7 seeds, won the doubles title with a 2-6, 6-2, 10-4 win over No. 4 seeds Isabella Perez of Venezuela and Eva Tasdemir of Turkey.

Fifteen-year-old Jaedan Brown won her second straight title this week at a Grade 4 in Brazil. Two weeks ago, after receiving a wild card into qualifying, Brown won her first ITF title without dropping a set. Last week, after earning entry via a special exemption, she again blitzed through the draw without dropping a set, beating top seed Nathalia Wolf Gasparin of Brazil 6-1, 6-0 in the final. Brown's only previous match in the  ITF Junior Circuit main draw (before these last two tournaments in Brazil) was a second round loss at the Grade 4 in Newport Beach California.

At the Grade 2 in Chile, Kacie Harvey won the doubles title, with partner Ana Makatsaria of Georgia.  The No. 5 seeds defeated No. 4 seeds Marina Figueiredo of Brazil and Jimar Gerald Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

USTA National 14s champion Saud Alhogbani, who lives in Virginia and trains in College Park Maryland but plays under the flag of Saudi Arabia, won his first ITF junior title last week at the Grade 5 in Kuwait.  The unseeded 14-year-old defeated top seed Viktor Jovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and qualifier Raphael Collignon of Belgium 7-5, 6-1 in the final.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Americans McDonald, Kwiatkowski and Townsend Win Pro Circuit Titles; Small College Champions Crowned at Oracle Cup

2016 NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald won the first Challenger of his career today at the $100,0000 ATP tournament in Fairfield California, defeating 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn 6-4 6-2.  The 22-year-old from Piedmont California, which is less than an hour away from Fairfield, had been a regular at the quarterfinals and semifinal stages of Challengers since (and even before) leaving UCLA after his junior year last spring.  But this was his first final, capping an impressive week that saw him defeat No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov in the first round and No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals.  Klahn, who has been ranked as high as 63 before injuries set him back, is also displaying excellent form, making his second consecutive final at $100,000 Challengers this week.  McDonald will move past his previous career high of 196 to around 164.

David O'Hare of Ireland, who competed in college at Memphis, won the doubles title with Great Britain's Luke Bambridge.  The No. 2 seeds beat the wild card team of  Akram El Sallaly of Egypt and Bernardo Oliveira of Brazil 6-4, 6-2 in the final. El Sallaly and Oliveira are members of the University of the Pacific men's team.

At the $25,000 Futures tournament in Houston, 2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski claimed his second career Futures title, beating 17-year-old Sebastian Korda 6-2, 6-2 in another final between unseeded players.  Kwiatkowski, who graduated from Virginia this spring, won his first title late last year in Puerto Rico, but hadn't gotten past the quarterfinals in any event this year.  This week the 22-year-old from North Carolina didn't lose a set and took out three seeds, including top seed Austin Krajicek in the semifinals.  Korda reached his first Futures final with an impressive 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Lucas Miedler of Austria. His best showing at a Futures until this week was a quarterfinal back in January.

The unseeded team of Dennis Nevolo and Aron Hiltzik, former and current University of Illinois standouts, won the doubles title, beating top seeds Kwiatkowski and Krajicek 7-6(3), 6-3. It's the first Pro Circuit title for Hiltzik, a senior at Illinois.

Unlike the men's USTA Pro Circuit events, the women's final at the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina featured two seeded players, with top seed Taylor Townsend taking the title.  Townsend, who didn't lose a set all week, defeated No. 7 seed Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway 6-1, 6-2 in the singles final today. Townsend also won the doubles title Saturday, with Jessica Pegula. The unseeded pair beat top seeds Alexandra Mueller and Caitlin Whoriskey 4-6, 7-5, 10-5 in the final. It's Townsend's 13th career doubles title on the Pro Circuit, but her first this year.

The Oracle Cup, the ITA's National Championships for the Small Colleges, concluded today in Rome Georgia with the doubles playoffs.
Yesterday the singles champions were decided for Junior College, NAIA, Division II and Division III, with all eight winners receiving entry into next month's National Fall Championships in Indian Wells.  Previously, only the playoff winner, decided in a competition between the four champions, would advance to the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, but now that the tournament is a 64 draw, not 32, all four singles champions will earn a spot in the draw.  The doubles champions did have a playoff, with only one men's and one women's team receiving entry into the Fall Championships.  Those teams were decided today, with NAIA Georgia Gwinnett's Kevin Konfederak and Gilad Berman winning the men's overall doubles title and Division III's Eudice Chong and Victoria Yu of Wesleyan taking the women's overall doubles title.

The singles champions who will advance to Indian Wells:

NAIA: Kevin Konfederak, Georgia Gwinnett
Division II: Kiranpal Pannu, Columbus State
Division III: Mohanad Al Houni, Gustavus Adolphus
Junior College: Marcus Walters, Tyler JC

NAIA: Camille Gbaguidi, Savannah College of Art and Design
Division II: Sonja Larsen, Barry
Division III: Eudice Chong, Wesleyan
Junior College: Tamara Arnold, Tyler JC

The ITA's recap of Saturday's singles finals is available here.  The recap of the doubles playoffs is here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty Claim ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Whitney Osuigwe and Andrew Fenty arrived at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed as the top seeds. Saturday, they left the University of Tulsa's Michael Case Tennis Center with the winners' trophies after earning straight-sets wins in the finals.

On a warm and increasingly breezy morning, Osuigwe defeated No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash 6-4, 6-3, just a few minutes before Fenty completed his 6-2, 7-5 victory over unseeded Emilio Nava.

Osuigwe started out quickly against Subhash, taking a 5-1 lead in the first set, holding serve easily, while Subhash lost consecutive two four-deuce games on her serve.

"I think I just started a little bit slow," said Subhash, who didn't think nerves played a role in her lackluster start.  "But once I got used to it, I picked it up a little more."

After getting three easy holds to take the 5-1 lead, Osuigwe served for the set twice, but didn't get to set point either time.  Both girls were not pleased with the chair umpire's calls throughout the first set, and Osuigwe seemed to lose patience serving at 5-3, particularly when what she thought were good first serves were called out.

But Subhash was unable to get a hold serving at 4-5, with Osuigwe breaking at love to take the 52-minute first set.

"I think I let my emotions get to me when I felt the ref made a couple of bad calls," Osuigwe said. "She started playing better, and everything rolled over, but I kept trying to keep my focus and it wound up working for me at 5-4. I broke her earlier in the set, and I was coming close almost every single time on her serve, so I knew I just had to take care of the important points."

Subhash rebounded quickly from the poor game that ended the first set, breaking Osuigwe for a 2-1 lead, then holding for 3-1. Given her previous success in breaking Subhash however, Osuigwe wasn't too concerned about that deficit.

"I was only down a break, so all I had to do was keep holding my serve and just break her once," said Osuigwe, who got the break back and held for a 4-3 lead.

Subhash came back from 0-30 down serving at 3-4, but double faulted at 30-all to give Osuigwe a chance to break, and a Subhash backhand error gave Osuigwe the game.

"I think I backed off a little," Subhash said of her performance in the final few games of her first Grade 1 final. "She raised her level, so it was both probably."

Unlike the first set, Osuigwe finished off the second set and match without any further complications, a victory that will return her to the No. 1 position in the ITF World Junior rankings, a position she occupied for just one week this summer.

"I'm playing a couple more tournaments, so hopefully I can get ahead by more, but I think I should be there for a little bit longer this time," said Osuigwe, who didn't lose more than four games in any set all week.

The next two weeks are important for Osuigwe's goal of finishing the year as the ITF World Junior Champion.  She plays the Grade A in Osaka Japan and the ITF Junior Masters in Chengdu China, with an opportunity to extend her lead in the rankings, which will determine her schedule the rest of the year.

Osuigwe acknowledges that making her goal public could add to the pressure to the year's final tournaments, but she doesn't dwell on that aspect of it.

"I'm a pretty free player, I'd say," said the 15-year-old IMG Academy student, who won the French Open girls title this year. "Obviously it's in the back of my mind, and I just try and forget about it while I'm playing."

Fenty's win over Nava provided a different narrative from his previous two matches, where he dropped the first set and was down a break in the second before securing those victories.

At 2-2 in the first set, Fenty got a break, then got a second, as Nava had difficulty keeping his shots in the court. Up 5-2, Fenty was down 0-40 serving for the set, but he saved those three break points and one other before closing out his first set point with a good first serve.

"In the first set I was missing a little too much," said Nava, a 15-year-old playing in his first ITF Grade 1 tournament. "I should have made just one more extra ball then."

Having never played Nava before, Fenty wasn't sure whether Nava's unforced errors would continue.

"I was really confused," said Fenty. "They were simple misses, and I didn't know if he was like, tight and then he would start making it, that he was tight, but that he would heat up.  But I just got really comfortable, too comfortable."

In the second set, Fenty went up a break twice in the early going but gave both breaks back. He broke for a third time to take a 4-3 lead and held easily for 5-3, but in the next game, Fenty admitted he let his mind drift to victory.

"I made a mistake," admitted the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "It was 6-2, 5-3, 30-0 and I literally started thinking about the win."

Nava brought it back to 30-all, but a forehand winner from Fenty brought about the first match point. Nava saved that with several strong forehands that led to a backhand winner, but he missed a backhand volley on the next point to give Fenty another match point. Nava saved that when Fenty's return went long, and he won the next two points to force Fenty to serve out the match at 5-4.

With a double fault to start the game, Fenty couldn't get back on track. Nava forced an error for 15-40 and then hit a backhand volley winner to bring himself back even. Serving at 5-5, Nava had three game points in the four-deuce game, but Fenty's defense wore him down, with Fenty breaking on his second opportunity.

"I had a chance to hold at 5-all, a couple of game points, but he played some great defense," Nava said. "I was inside the court and he was just back there making balls in and I got a little too crazy, went for shots, when I should have just kept moving him around. But he's a great player, a great defender, a great offensive player too--strong, with great weapons."

Fenty had played well when he was down in his earlier matches, and he admitted that he got that back-to-the-wall feeling in the 5-all game, but he knew the outcome of the match was up to him.

"He was playing the same way, though he played better at the end a little bit, but still, everything that happened was my fault," Fenty said. "The match was in my hands."

Serving for the match a second time, Fenty served well, closing it out on a good first serve to secure his first Grade 1 title, a relief rather than a triumph in his view.

"I haven't played my best tennis all week," Fenty said. "I've just been super tight, super nervous. I don't really like the courts and the conditions, but I can't complain. I just won."

Fenty is returning to his base at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland before next month's Grade A and Grade 1 in Mexico.

After a short rest period, Fenty was back on the court for the boys doubles title, but he and partner William Woodall fell short in the championship match.  The number two seeds fell 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 to top seeds Govind Nanda and Trey Hilderbrand, who were playing together for the first time.

Hilderbrand has an ab injury, which forced him to serve underhand throughout the match.

"I got worse throughout the week," said Hilderbrand, who lost in the opening round of singles as the No. 2 seed. "As the week went on, it got pretty bad, but somehow, we were able to win."

"I think we just fought," said Nanda. "I think we believed in ourselves throughout the whole tournament."

"We competed the whole tournament," said Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old from San Antonio. "Got through three 10-point busters and somehow did it."

Up 5-1 at the first changeover of the match tiebreaker, Nanda and Hilderbrand had to withstand Fenty and Woodall's comeback, which saw them win five of the next six points to make it 6-6. With Fenty serving at 8-8, Nanda was able to put away short ball off a second serve and Nanda converted the first match point on his serve, with a forehand forcing an error.

"We both like coming in and we both like returning, and playing aggressive at the net;  I think that's what helped us." said Nanda, a 16-year-old from Cerritos California.  "It's a good combo," said Hilderbrand, who plans to take the next few weeks off to get healthy.

Nanda will play Futures tournaments in Florida next month, with the pair planning to reunite at the Orange Bowl in December.

Girls doubles champions Peyton Stearns and Nicole Mossmer were also taking the court together as a team for the first time, but the No. 4 seeds looked extremely comfortable in their 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  At least they looked comfortable after overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the first set.

"I whiffed an overhead in the first game, so I was like, oh my god, this might not go very well," said Mossmer, a 17-year-old from La Jolla California. "But then I started playing really well at the net, and Peyton was feeling her forehand, ripping the ball, so it worked out well."

Stearns and Mossmer trailed 16s National Champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redeljik 6-4, 3-0 in the quarterfinals before rebounding for a 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 victory.

"On the bench, we were just like, let's just play, let's play tennis," said Stearns, a 16-year-old from Mason Ohio, of that turnaround. "We came back, and we gained some confidence and that really helped our game there."

Stearns, who ended up with Mossmer after her original partner withdrew, believes their contrasting styles provide them with an advantage.

"Our games mix really well because we have two different kind of balls," Stearns said. "I feel like that's really hard for the other players to get a rhythm off of."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Osuigwe and Subhash Reach Grade B1 Pan American Closed Final; Fenty and Nava in Boys Championship Match

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Unseeded Emilio Nava lost in the second round of the ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi last week, but the 15-year-old has found his form this week, winning five consecutive matches in straight sets at the Grade B1 Pan American Closed to reach Saturday's final.

Nava defeated Corpus Christi champion Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's semifinal, ending Lyeons' winning streak at 10, to set up his first meeting with top seed Andrew Fenty, who advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 4-0, ret. win over No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic.

Nava, competing in his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament at the Grade 1 level, was down 3-1 in the second set before winning the final five games on an unseasonably warm day at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

"When I got broken, I was like, ok, it's fine, just keep fighting, you'll get your chance," Nava said. "And that's what happened. I just stayed strong, stayed focused and I broke him back in the very next game. When I held at 2-3, I saw that he got a little down on himself, and I just built off that, and I finished off the match strong."

Nava knows his ability to stay upbeat when facing adversity can demoralize his opponents.

"When they see that you're super positive and you're right there fighting, and you're never giving up, you can see them getting negative and then you just build on that," said the Woodland Hills California resident. "You can see them getting down and it feels really good, I love it."

Nava admits that after Corpus Christi, he didn't expect this kind of run.

"I wasn't really sure where my game was," Nava said. "My coach just told me to just make a lot of balls, stay in there with them. But I'm pretty surprised.  I'm playing pretty well though, so tomorrow will be a big day."

For the second straight day, Fenty found himself down a set and a break, but his mantra of just needing to hit more balls again brought him back.

"I have a lot of confidence in my game that I can turn things around," said the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "I'm confident I'm in way better shape than my opponents. I knew for a fact, the longer the match was, the better for me. I told myself all you need is more hitting, more time, and the third set, it was five minutes."

Fenty began his comeback with Hardt serving at 3-2 in the second. Hardt saved one break point with a good first serve, but Fenty hit a tricky forehand volley winner on the second to get the break back. After a routine hold for 4-3, Fenty broke again, then saved a beak point serving for the set with a wide-kicking ace.  On his first set point, Fenty executed another difficult volley, this time on the backhand side, to take the set and the momentum.

He broke Hardt at love, as the 17-year-old Dominican's forehand began to break down, with his errors ending most of the longer rallies.  Another break and hold made it 4-0, and when Hardt went down 15-40 serving at 0-4, he walked to the net while announcing to the umpire that he was injured.

"He just left," said Fenty. "He wasn't going to win, but it does bother me a little bit. My coach tells me not to worry about it, but I don't think that's very good sportsmanship."

Fenty is also playing in his first Grade 1 final, but he has much more experience at the higher levels of the ITF Junior Circuit than Nava.

"I'm just going to play my game," Fenty said. "Maybe not get off to a slow start, but if I do, I'm prepared for everything. It's a final. You better enjoy being in a final."

A third player will be making a Grade 1 final debut with No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash earning her first trip with a 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Marlee Zein.  Subhash had back-to-back three-setters in the third round and quarterfinals, but she found her form against Abigail Forbes in the second and third sets on Thursday, winning 12 of the match's last 13 games.

"I think I've been playing overall pretty good," said the 16-year-old from Washington D.C. "Today I probably played my best, and I'm playing consistently better each match."

Subhash won the first nine games against Zein, who couldn't find any rhythm, with unforced errors preventing her from getting any momentum. Zein had come from a set down in her quarterfinal win over Niluka Madurawe, but Subhash gave her nothing to work with Friday.

"I kept the ball in the court," Subhash said. "I started strong and I was consistent for the entire match. She didn't really play her best."

Subhash will take on top seed Whitney Osuigwe in the final, after Osuigwe defeated No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2.

Osuigwe had beaten Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 last month in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships, so she was prepared for this contest between IMG Academy students.

"I feel like I knew her game better, I knew what she was going to do," the 15-year-old Floridian said. "Second set at the Open, I struggled a little bit because I lost my focus, but here, I kept my focus the entire time."

Osuigwe broke to open the first set and got a second break to give her the chance to serve it out. She had to save three break points in that eighth game, but served well when she needed to and converted her second set point.

Bilokin surrendered a break at 2-2 in the second set, and Osuigwe had all the margin she needed, closing out the match by taking the last four games.

Osuigwe and Subhash haven't played on the ITF Junior Circuit, with their most recent meeting in the semifinals of the 2015 USTA National 16s Championships in San Diego, with Osuigwe winning in three sets.

"She played the Junior Fed Cup qualifier, so we got to spend some time together there, as a team," Osuigwe said. "I haven't played her in a while. I don't know much about her; I know she has a good serve and is an aggressive baseliner."

"She hits the ball big," Subhash said when asked what she knew about Osuigwe's game. "She serves big, her ground strokes are big, so I think I just have to be consistent and keep the ball deep, don't let her attack it."

The doubles finals are scheduled for Saturday after the singles final, with Fenty the only singles finalist appearing in both.  He and partner William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, received a walkover into the final. They will play top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda, who beat No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi 7-6(5), 1-6, 10-8. 

The girls doubles final will feature No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns and No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada 6-0, 6-2, while Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 1 seeds Subhash and Lea Ma 7-5, 7-6(4).  Subhash was going for her third straight doubles final in Tulsa, having won the title in 2015 and finishing as runner-up last year, both times with Ann Li as her partner.

My Interview with Chicago's Jay Tee on Division III Recruiting; Korda into Houston Futures Quarterfinals; Brady Reaches WTA Hong Kong Semis

Before the start of the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed today, I wanted to post a brief update on what's going on in college and junior tennis away from Tulsa.

The Tennis Recruiting Network has begun its annual Countdown to Signing Week, and my contribution this week is a conversation I had with University of Chicago men's and women's coach Jay Tee about the Division III recruiting process. I learned a lot from that interview, and I hope those interested in what Division III can offer a top junior player check it out.

Sebastian Korda could have played the Pan American Closed this week, but instead, the 17-year-old received a wild card into the $25,000 Futures in Houston, where he has reached the quarterfinals.  Korda defeated No. 4 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan in the first round and took out Argentina's Alan Kohen, a qualifier, yesterday.  He plays former Northwestern standout Samuel Shropshire, a qualifier, today. Chris Eubanks, Thai Kwiatkowski and top seed Austin Krajicek are the other Americans through to the quarterfinals.

The USTA Women's Pro Circuit is in Sumter South Carolina, with top seed Taylor Townsend and qualifier Jessica Pegula, who play each other today, the only Americans remaining in the $25,000 tournament's quarterfinals.

The $100,000 Fairfield California ATP Challenger this week has been impacted by the deadly wildfires in the area, but has managed to stay on schedule, with the quarterfinals today.  Bradley Klahn, Bjorn Fratangelo[3], Mackenzie McDonald and Tennys Sandgren[2] are the Americans in the final eight, with McDonald and Sandgren meeting today.

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady is through to her first WTA International semifinal in Hong Kong after beating Nicole Gibbs 7-5, 6-4.  Brady will face No. 7 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia next.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Semifinals Feature Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

To most observers, top seed Andrew Fenty's chances of advancing to the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed appeared bleak after he dropped the first set to No. 10 seed Govind Nanda 6-0 and was broken to go down 2-1 in the second set.  Fenty, however, had a different view of his situation.

"I've played a lot of matches where I've had a horrific first set," said Fenty, who went on to post a 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on a warm and sunny day at the Michael Case Tennis Center. "I knew it was going to be a different second. You just have to find yourself and just play. I just needed to play more points. The more you play, you figure it out."

After Fenty took the second set, he and Nanda had completed two sets in 70 minutes, but in the third set, the pace of play slowed considerably, as the points got longer and deuce games were commonplace.

"In the first set, I felt like he was playing really fast," said the 17-year-old from Washington DC. "I thought it was going to be long points, and he came out playing super fast, rushing the net and stuff. It caught me off guard."

Fenty went up 3-1 in the third set, but Nanda came back, winning the next three games. Fenty faced a break point serving at 3-4, but he saved it with a dipping crosscourt forehand pass that Nanda could only watch angle away from him.

"That was a good one, it was whipped, and cut," said Fenty, who had to be reminded of the importance of that particular shot. "But if you didn't tell me that, I wouldn't have thought of it. But that was actually a huge point, he would have been up 5-3. "

Nanda was broken in the next game, with Fenty hitting a backhand winner from down on one knee to go up 15-40, then chipping and charging to force an error from Nanda to get the break.  The final game was as tense as most of the others in the third set, with Fenty netting a backhand at 40-30.  But a good drop shot gave him a second match point, and he converted with a forehand deep in the corner forcing an error from Nanda.

"I was playing the more aggressive tennis," said Fenty, who lost to Nanda in a Grade 3 final last year. "I always felt, in the third set, that I was dictating points. That's where he might have made the mistake."

In Friday's semifinals, Fenty will face No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic, who defeated No. 5 seed Axel Nefve 7-6(6), 6-2.

The other boys semifinals will feature Jaycer Lyeons and Emilio Nava.  Lyeons came back to beat Noah Schachter 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 and Nava ended the run of 14-year-old Aidan Mayo 6-3, 6-1. Lyeons, whose winning streak is up to 10 after last week's title at the Grade 4 in Corpus Christi, defeated Nava last year in the quarterfinals of the Grade 5 in Austin.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe faced her toughest test against No. 9 seed Katie Volynets, but came through with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Osuigwe, who beat Volynets in three sets at the Easter Bowl and in two tight sets at the Nationals in San Diego this year, changed her strategy in Thursday's match.

"I wasn't as defensive as I usually am with her, given that she's a counterpuncher," Osuigwe said. "I just tried to step in for my shots. I knew I was going to spray some, but in the end it paid off."

After going down a break midway through the second set, Volynets got it back to pull even at 4, only to lose her next service game. Osuigwe was able to close out the match in the next game, with Volynets making several costly errors in those final two games.

Osuigwe's opponent in the semifinals is No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine.  Bilokin, down 4-1 in the first set, beat 14-year-old Alexandra Yepifanova 7-6(4), 6-2, with that first set taking over an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

"She trains at IMG as well," said Osuigwe, who beat Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships last month. "We've practiced together a few times, but I haven't been there the same time as she has, so not recently. But she's a fighter."

Osuigwe is headed to Osaka Japan for next week's Grade A and will play the ITF Junior Masters in China the following week, which explains why she is not playing doubles this week in Tulsa. 

"I have two more tournaments ahead of me, so I just wanted to rest," said the 15-year-old French Open girls champion, who has her sights set on the year-end No. 1 ranking.

The two semifinalists from the bottom half had to fight back from a set down to advance.  No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash defeated unseeded Abigail Forbes 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 and will face No. 14 seed Marlee Zein, who beat No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Subhash has also reached the doubles semifinals, with partner Lea Ma. The top seeds defeated No. 5 seeds Chloe Beck and Bilokin 7-6(3), 6-3 and will face No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu. Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 7 seeds Sanyukta Gawande and Tara Malik 6-2, 6-2. 

The other girls doubles semifinal has No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns against No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated USTA National 16s doubles champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redelijk 4-6, 7-5, 10-4 and Arseneault and Vagramov beat No. 2 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Elli Mandlik 7-5, 4-6, 11-9.

One finalist is already known in the boys doubles, with Fenty and William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, getting a walkover into the championship match.  No. 5 seeds Hardt and Brandon Perez of Venezuela beat No. 4 seeds Keenan Mayo and Axel Nefve 6-7(6), 6-3, 10-8, but Perez withdrew after the match, citing injury.  Fenty and Woodall defeated No. 7 seeds Nathan Han and Pierce Rollins 3-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the quarterfinals.

The other doubles semifinal will feature top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Nanda, who beat unseeded Alex Lee and Marcus McDaniel 6-3, 5-7, 10-6, and No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi, who defeated No. 6 seeds Will Grant and Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-1.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty Move into Quarterfinals at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Schachter Eliminates Last Seed in Bottom Half of Boys Draw

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Top seed girls seed Whitney Osuigwe and top boys seed Andrew Fenty have advanced to the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, with each earning a straight-sets victory on a cool and sunny day on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

Osuigwe defeated No. 16 seed Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-3, while Fenty beat doubles partner and friend William Woodall, the No. 15 seed, 6-4, 6-1.

Osuigwe will face fellow 15-year-old Katie Volynets, the No. 9 seed, who beat No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 7-5.  Volynets trailed 4-1 in the second set, but won six of the last seven games to set up a meeting with the French Open champion and the No. 2 player in the ITF Junior world rankings.

"She started playing better in the second set and I made a few more errors in the beginning," said Volynets, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships last month. "But I got my groove again and started playing better and that helped me to get back up."

Volynets and Osuigwe played in the round of 16 at USTA National Championships in San Diego in August, with Osuigwe winning 7-5, 7-6(3). Despite that recent experience, Volynets has yet to formulate her strategy for Thursday's match, although she said she is "super excited."

"I haven't really thought much about this match yet," Volynets said. "I will probably analyze more tonight, but I've just been focusing on each of my matches. No, I'll definitely analyze more tonight."

After making history last December by winning the Eddie Herr 16 and Orange Bowl 16s back-to-back, Volynets was determined not to lose sight of her ultimate goal, which has nothing to do with her performance as a junior.

"I remember that after one good spot, I'm closer to my ultimate goal, but I'm not there yet." Volynets said. "I still have a lot to do to get to the ultimate goal: to be a top pro player. I make sure I look at where I want to be."

The other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw features No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine against unseeded 14-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova. Bilokin defeated Kylie Collins 6-4, 6-3, while Yepifanova defeated No. 13 seed Chloe Beck 6-4, 6-2.

The second unseeded girl in the quarterfinals is Abigail Forbes, who beat Malkia Ngounoue 6-1, 6-2. She will play No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash, who survived a nearly three-and-a-half-hour battle with Meg Kowalski before earning a 6-1, 6-7(5), 7-5 win.  Subhash faced a break point at 4-4 in the third set, after a great display of defense from Kowalski ended with a lob winner.  Subhash didn't get a first serve in on the break point, but she stayed aggressive in the long rally and ultimately won it with an overhead to take a 5-4 lead.  Both players held their next two service games, but serving at 5-6 down, Kowalski double faulted and then hit a backhand long to make it 0-30.  The Georgia recruit hit a forehand winner for 15-30, but Subhash made it 15-40 with a forehand that forced an error from Kowalski. Kowalski saved the first match point with a forehand winner, but Subhash converted the second, hitting a backhand return winner to close out the victory.

That wasn't quite the longest match of the day however.  That distinction went to No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe's 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-3 win over Elle Christensen, which began at 11:20 a.m. and finished at 2:55 p.m.  Madurawe will face No. 14 seed Marlee Zein, who spent considerably less time on court in her 6-2, 6-2 win over Alexandra Vagramov of Canada.

Only one boys round of 16 match went three sets, with unseeded Noah Schachter defeating the last seed in the bottom half, No. 4 Brian Shi, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

"It was a really physical match," said the 18-year-old from Wesley Chapel Florida. "We had a lot of long points. I think at the end, I just took care of my serve really well and that was the difference."

Schachter did have to save a break point after Shi fought off three match points, but Schachter's serve again came through for him.

"I was up 40-0 and he got it all the way back to break point," Schachter said. "I was shaking in my legs, I did not want it to be 5-4."

Schachter said getting free points from his serve is a new development.

"It used to be my biggest weakness, but now it's become a strength," said Schachter, who will play in his first Grade 1 quarterfinal on Thursday. "I have been doing a lot of extra serves in practice, going to the gym, getting stronger and maybe a little bit because I've been growing too."

Schachter has trained at Saddlebrook for five years, and he said rubbing shoulders with the pros there has helped him improve.

"There's a bunch of pros there, Isner, Kudla, Smyczek, and also some that come for weeks at a time," Schachter said. "It helps you, because you're playing right next to them, you realize they are normal people, but you can copy some of the stuff they do, their routines. I've also had the chance to hit with some of them too, so yeah, I think it's great to see that every day."

Schachter's opponent in the quarterfinals is Jaycer Lyeons, whose ninth straight win was a 6-2, 6-3 decision over Cannon Kingsley.  Lyeons won the Grade 4 last week in Corpus Christi and has yet to drop a set in Tulsa.

Fourteen-year-old Aidan Mayo, playing in his first Grade 1, had a big win over No. 2 seed Trey Hilderbrand on Monday, and he has kept on rolling. He defeated Mark Mandlik 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals against Emilio Nava, who downed Anuj Watane 7-5, 6-2.

Fenty's opponent in the quarterfinals is No. 10 seed Govind Nanda, who beat Stefan Leustian 6-0, 6-2.  The only non-US player still in the boys draw is No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic. He beat No. 13 seed Tristan Boyer 6-4, 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 5 seed Axel Nefve, who defeated Maximilian Wild 6-2, 6-0.

The top seeds in doubles took the court for the first time today after receiving first round byes.  Girls No. 1s Lea Ma and Subhash advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Kylie Collins and Meg Kowalski, while No. 2 seeds Black and Elli Mandlik blanked Dyane Barcena Del Bosque of Mexico and Raphaelle Lacasse of Canada.

Boys No. 1s Hilderbrand and Nanda beat Garrett Johns and Jose Galvez 6-3, 6-3 and No. 2 seeds Fenty and Woodall beat Kingsley and Sumit Sarkar 6-2, 7-5.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Only One Seed Remains in Bottom Half of Boys Draw at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Christensen Beats Mossmer in Girls Second Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

After a late night of indoor tennis due to rain and lightning Monday, Tuesday dawned cold and gray, with hooded sweatshirts, down jackets and knit hats employed to counteract temperatures in the low 50s. Those conditions proved challenging for all concerned in the second round of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, but several players will remember their wins over seeded opponents rather than the refrigerator-like setting at the Michael Case Tennis Center.

Seeds in the bottom half of the boys draw were particularly susceptible, with four of the five seeds remaining eliminated today.  Noah Schachter had little trouble in his 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Ronan Jachuck, but the other three unseeded players had considerably more drama in their victories.  Anuj Watane defeated No. 8 seed and local favorite Nathan Han 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, Mark Mandlik beat No. 16 seed Brandon Perez 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-5 and Emilio Nava took out No. 11 seed Drew Baird 6-4, 7-5.

Baird served for the second set at 5-4, but when Nava broke him at love, Nava could sense a change in Baird's attitude.

"In the second set, I got broken in the first game, but I kept positive. I just kept fighting and competing," said the 15-year-old from Southern California. "After he lost that game, I kind of saw him down, he wasn't as positive as he was throughout the set, and I built on that. I was playing pretty well."

Nava, the younger brother of Diego and Eduardo Nava, trains in Los Angeles with his mother, and with 20-year-old Eduardo, who will be transferring to Wake Forest from TCU.  Nava says he is starting to see the benefits of that training and a recent growth spurt.

"I've definitely improved my consistency," Nava said. "Making more balls, getting to more balls, hitting them deep, making them hit one more extra shot.  And my serve has really improved. I grew a couple of inches and I'm getting out of trouble with my serve now."

The only seed remaining in the bottom half of the boys draw is No. 4 Brian Shi, who played a 90-minute first set with Jordi Redelijk, but breezed through the second for a 7-6(11), 6-0 victory.

Last week's Grade 4 champion in Corpus Christi, Jaycer Lyeons, ran his winning streak to eight with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Karl Poling.

Only one seed lost in the top half, with No. 6 seed Will Grant going out to Stefan Leustian 6-1, 6-4.  Top seed Andrew Fenty saved a set point at 5-4 in the first against Britton Johnson, then proceeded to win the next eight games after that one for a 7-5, 6-0 victory.  Fenty will play friend and training partner William Woodall, the No. 15 seed, who led 6-3, 5-0 before dropping nine straight games to Cleeve Harper of Canada.  Woodall managed a surge of his own however, taking the final six games of the match for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 victory.

Two Top 8 seeds were eliminated today in the girls draw, with Kylie Collins beating No. 7 seed Lea Ma 6-1, 6-3 and Elle Christensen defeating No. 6 seed Nicole Mossmer 6-3, 6-2.

Christensen only began playing ITF Junior Circuit events in June, but the 17-year-old from Southern California won a Grade 5 in Fiji soon after.  Against Mossmer, a player with much more international experience, Christensen was able to take advantage of an off day from her opponent.

"Today was about who was a little bit more warmed up," said Christensen, who played late into the evening on Monday due to the rain. "It was really cold out there and the ball was dying.  She served good today, she aced me quite a few times, so I decided to take the pace off the ball a little bit and angle it more. It worked out for me today."

Christensen, a left-hander, knows about spin and angles.

"I do like to take advantage of being left-handed," said Christensen, who trains with Gerald Matthews in Calabasas. "The ball definitely spins the other way, because when I play lefties, it's a little trickier."

Christensen will face No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe, who beat Savannah Broadus 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Whitney Osuigwe advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam and will play No. 16 seed Peyton Stearns, who beat lucky loser Megan Polnet 7-5, 6-4. 

Fourteen-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova, who beat No. 4 seed Hailey Baptiste in the first round, advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over USTA National 16s champion Angelica Blake.

The first round of doubles was played today, but the top three seeds in the girls draw and the top four seeds in the boys draw received byes and will play their first matches on Wednesday.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Blumberg Wins ITA All-American Title; Mayo Upsets Hilderbrand in Opening Round of Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

The ITA St. Francis Health Systems All-American Championships concluded on Monday with North Carolina's Will Blumberg winning the singles title and the Florida team of Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez claiming the doubles championship.

Blumberg, the No. 4 seed, defeated UCLA senior Martin Redlicki, a 9-16 seed, 6-4, 6-4, on an unseasonably warm morning at the Michael Case Tennis Center.  The sophomore from Connecticut earned the only two breaks of the match while facing only one break point, on a deuce point at 3-2, and saving that.  Blumberg credited his serving as the biggest reason he was able to claim his first collegiate major in his second collegiate final.

"I think I served really smartly," said the 19-year-old 2017 NCAA singles finalist. "Martin's a tricky player, really tricky. He has a really good serve, a really good forehand, backhand's solid. He can slice, he can come in. I actually felt I was serving him well wide, which allowed me to get a lot of free points on my serve. That kind of relaxed me, I got in a service groove and it allowed me to be a little bit more free on his service games, so my ability to let loose and try some things, move forward. I thought I stuck to my game plan, thanks to Tripp (Phillips, associate head coach) and I've been mentally solid all week. My body has felt great, and I'm happy about that."

Blumberg's success in his first two semesters of playing college tennis naturally leads to questions as to how long he is going to stay in college.  He is talking to Cameron Norrie, who has made a huge leap in the ATP rankings since leaving TCU in May, after his junior year, to get some idea of what's required for that kind of success.

"I've become pretty good friends with Cam Norrie, who has been tearing it up," said Blumberg, who is 616 in the ATP rankings now.  "I ask him a lot of questions, what things to look for, and one of the things is to be fully mentally ready. I don't think I'm currently at that point. I don't think a bell is going to tell me when that is, you know what I mean, but I know there are a lot of things I have to work through, on the court and off the court to ensure success in professional tennis."

A couple of hours after capturing the singles championship, Blumberg took the court for the doubles final, but he and partner Robert Kelly were not able to make it two North Carolina titles in the same day, with Ingildsen and Perez earning a 7-6(6), 3-6, 10-7.  The fourth-seeded Gators led 4-1 in the opening set, only to see the No. 3 seeds take four straight games and serve for the set. Florida got the break and took a tense tiebreaker, before the Tar Heels fought back for the second set.  Florida led throughout the deciding match tiebreaker, going up 8-4 and 9-6 before closing out the title.

While the ITA All-American tournament was finishing up, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed was just getting started, with 64 first round singles matches on the schedule.  The boys began the day's action, and top seed Andrew Fenty had no difficulty getting past qualifier Alex Bancila 6-1, 6-2.  Will Grant, the No. 6 seed, had his hands full with Tyler Zink, his good friend and frequent doubles partner, eventually coming away with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory.  It was a particularly bad draw for both, and not just because of their friendship; Zink was the highest-ranked player in the draw who was not seeded.

Two 14-year-olds pulled off upsets on Monday, with wild card Alex Bernard beating No. 7 seed Boris Kozlov 6-4, 6-4 and Aidan Mayo defeating No. 2 seed Trey Hilderbrand 6-4, 6-3.

Bernard, who has only been playing ITF Junior Circuit events since June, had reached the quarterfinals of the two Texas warmup tournaments, a Grade 5 and Grade 4, which helped give him match play and confidence coming into his first Grade 1 main draw.

"I lost in the quarters in both, to some good players, but overall I felt I had won some good matches there and was getting confident and ready for this one," said the Naples Florida resident, who turned 14 last month.

Bernard hadn't played Kozlov before, but the left-hander came up with a strategy that proved successful.

"His backhand's really good, but I tried to serve there so I could attack his forehand a little bit," Bernard said. "It looked like he got a little bit tired and he started going for a lot, but overall it was a good match."

Bernard has seen improvement in his forehand and in moving in to finish at the net.  "My serve has been getting better, but it still needs some work."

Mayo has also been playing the ITF Junior Circuit for a short time, with a singles semifinal and doubles final at a Grade 5 this summer his best result.  Although Mayo gave up well over a foot in height to his opponent, he knew he had the advantage of Hilderbrand being less that 100 percent healthy.

"He was a little bit injured and I knew that coming in," Mayo said. "His serve was definitely a problem for him, but I think he was fine other than that. I had a good game plan and executed it well. I played well in the big points and served well when I had to."

Seeing his name in the draw one line from the bottom was not what Mayo was hoping for.

"It's tough to be positive about it, but you can look at it like a great experience," Mayo said. "I knew he's had great results this last year. and I was excited to get out there and play him. He's one of the best 17-year-olds in the nation and in the world, so I shouldn't really be getting through that match, but I knew it was possible."

Down 5-1 in the final set, Hilderbrand began to approach the net more often, but Mayo wasn't bothered by that strategy.

"I prefer people coming in, I feel like I have good passing shots and lobs and good anticipation," said Mayo, who was broken on his first attempt to serve out the match, but converted on his second opportunity. "I was kind of liking it when he came forward."

Jaycer Lyeons defeated No. 12 seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 6-3, 7-5 and Maximilian Wild took out No. 9 seed Keenan Mayo, Aidan's older brother, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe rolled past Imani Graham 6-1, 6-0, but No. 4 seed Hailey Baptiste lost, to 14-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova, 6-2, 6-3.  It was a late night for the girls in the bottom half of the draw, however, with eight matches yet to go on and 12 matches in progress when rain suspended play at around 6 p.m. local time. Thunderstorms in the area continued during the evening, so matches were moved to the six indoor courts at the Case Tennis Center and were still underway at 10 p.m.

Doubles will begin on Tuesday, with Lea Ma and Natasha Subhash the top girls seeds and Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda the top boys seeds.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Grade B1 Pan American Closed Coverage Begins Monday; Vanderbilt's Contreras Claims Women's All-American Title; Redlicki and Blumberg in Men's All-American Final; Norrie Wins Second Straight Challenger

The draws are out for the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, which I'll be covering from the campus of the University of Tulsa beginning on Monday.

The top girls seed is French Open champion Whitney Osuigwe, but the original No. 2 seed, 2016 finalist Ellie Douglas, appears to have withdrawn, with another unseeded player now in her place at the bottom of the draw, and a lucky loser space now open.

Andrew Fenty is the top seed in the boys draw, with Trey Hilderbrand seeded No. 2.

The ITA Women's All-American championships wrapped up today in Pacific Palisades California, with qualifier Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt taking the title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Aliona Bolsova of Florida Atlantic.  Contreras, a junior from Texas,  celebrated her 20th birthday today with her eighth straight win. She is Vanderbilt's first Riviera All-American singles champion. For more on the match, see the Vanderbilt website, which features an interview with Contreras. She talks about winning her quarterfinal match against Jessica Livianu of St. John's 7-6 in the third, coming from 4-1 down in the set and 6-4 down in that tiebreaker.

Unseeded Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin of Duke took the doubles title, beating No. 7 seeds Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici of Texas Tech 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.  For comments on the championship run from McCarthy, Hamlin and head coach Jamie Ashworth, see the Duke website.

The singles and doubles finals of the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa are Monday, with North Carolina sophomore William Blumberg taking part in both championship matches.  No. 4 seed Blumberg, the 2017 NCAA singles finalist, defeated top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State 7-6(3), 6-7(3), 6-3, winning the final three points of the match after falling behind 15-40 when serving for it.  Blumberg will face UCLA senior Martin Redlicki, who beat fellow 9-16 seed Thomas Laurent of Oregon 6-4, 6-3 to become the first Bruin to reach the All-American final since Vince Allegre in 1997.

Blumberg and partner Robert Kelly, the No. 3 seeds, will play No. 4 seeds Alfredo Perez and Johannes Ingildsen of Florida after the singles final.  Blumberg and Kelly defeated Will Little and Johannes Schretter of Baylor 6-4, 6-2, while Perez and Ingildsen beat teammates McClain Kessler and Duarte Vale 7-6(3), 7-6(6).  Streaming and live scoring is available through the Tulsa website.

No. 8 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain won the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton today, with the former TCU star beating No. 6 seed Darian King 6-1, 6-3 in the final.  It's Norrie's second Challenger title in as many weeks, and he will move up to 112 in the ATP rankings in under five months as a professional. 

Brydan Klein and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain won the doubles titles, with the No. 4 seeds beating Denis Kudla and Latvia's Mikelis Libietis 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

At the $100,000+Hospitality Challenger in Monterrey Mexico, Bradley Klahn lost to No. 4 seed Maximilian Marterer of Germany 7-6(3), 7-6(6). Neither player faced a break point in the match.

Unseeded Christopher Eubanks and Evan King won the doubles title, beating No. 3 seeds Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Miguel Reyes-Varela of Mexico 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final after getting two walkovers to move into the semis without hitting a ball.

At the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Hilton Head South Carolina, top seed Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway defeated Texas sophomore Bianca Turati of Itlay, the No. 6 seed, 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Lyeons, Scott and Price Take ITF Titles; Bolsova and Contreras Reach Women's All-American Final; McNally Claims First Pro Circuit Doubles Title; Norrie, Klahn in Challenger Finals

Thirteen-year-old Katrina Scott, playing in just her second ITF junior tournament, upset top seed Hailey Baptiste to win the Grade 4 title in Corpus Christi Texas.  Scott, who reached both the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s finals last year, defeated ITF No. 46 Baptiste 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-3 in today's final, and will head to the Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa with an abundance of confidence.  Top seed Jaycer Lyeons took the boys title in Corpus Christi, beating No. 3 seed Stefan Leustian 7-6(1), 6-4.  The 16-year-old Lyeons won two ITF Grade 4 titles last October.

Lyeons also took the doubles title, partnering with Kevin Zhu. The No. 2 seeds beat No. 3 seeds Emilio Nava and Maximilian Wild 6-4, 6-2 in the final. The girls doubles title went to top seeds Chloe Hamlin and Malkia Ngounoue, who beat No. 2 seeds Mackenzie Clark and Addison Guevara 6-4, 5-7, 10-6.

Fourteen-year-old Gabby Price won her second ITF singles title, at the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic.  Price, the top seed, lost only five games in her first four matches, but was tested in the all-American final, where she defeated No. 9 seed Gia Cohen 6-4, 7-5. 

The finals are set at the ITA Women's All-American Championships, with two qualifiers meeting for the title.  Florida Atlantic sophomore Aliona Bolsova will meet Vanderbilt junior Fernanda Contreras.  Contreras, who is the first All-American Championships singles finalist in Vanderbilt's history, defeated No. 2 seed Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech 6-2, 6-2 in today's semifinals.  Bolsova, a transfer from Oklahoma State, defeated lucky loser Andrea Lazaro of Florida International 6-1, 6-3 to reach the final.  Bolsova has yet to drop a set in main draw competition this week.

The doubles final will feature No. 7 seeds Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici of Texas Tech against unseeded Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin of Duke. 

The ITA All-American men's round of 16 and quarterfinals were played today in Tulsa, with top seed Mikael Torpegaard among those advancing to the semifinals.  Torpegaard, who earned straight-sets wins over Texas's Harrison Scott[9] and Ole Miss's Gustav Hansson[9],  will face No. 4 seed William Blumberg of North Carolina. Blumberg picked up straight-sets wins over unseeded qualifier Ferran Calvo of Oklahoma and Alexis Galarneau of North Carolina State.

In the other semifinal, UCLA's Martin Redlicki[9] will play Thomas Laurent[9] of Oregon.  Redlicki took out defending champion and No. 3 seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals after eliminating No. 5 seed Alfredo Perez of Florida.  Laurent was the only semifinalist to drop a set today when he beat No. 8 seed Constantin Schmitz of Tulane 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the third round, but he rolled past unseeded Eduardo Mena of Tennesse Tech 6-2, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

Blumberg is the only semifinalist also still in doubles, advancing to Sunday's semifinals with Robert Kelly. 

Caty McNally won her first title on the Pro Circuit today at the $15,000 tournament in Hilton Head South Carolina.  McNally and Great Britain's Emily Appleton beat wild cards Kylie Collins and Meg Kowalski 7-5, 6-3 in the final.  Ann Li was thwarted in her bid to reach the singles final, losing to Texas sophomore Bianca Turati[6] of Italy 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.  Turati will face top seed Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway in the final.

Great Britain's Cameron Norrie reached his third consecutive ATP Challenger final with his 7-5, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Michael Mmoh today in the $100,000 tournament in Stockton California.  The No. 8 seed, who left TCU for pro tennis just four months ago, trailed 5-0 in the opening set.  He will face No. 6 seed Darian King of Barbardos, who downed Tim Smyczek 6-1, 6-4. 

Bradley Klahn has reached the final of the $100,000+Hospitality Challenger in Monterrey Mexico, his first Challenger final since 2014.  The 2010 NCAA champion defeated No. 3 seed Quentin Halys of France 7-5, 7-6(4) in the semifinals and will face No. 4 seed Maximilian Marterer of Germany for the title. Marterer defeated Kevin King 7-6(2), 6-3. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wild Cards, Qualifying Draws for ITF Grade 1 Pan American Closed; Top Seed Shibahara Out at ITA Women's All-American Championships; Li Advances to Hilton Head Semifinals

The ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed begins Saturday in Tulsa with qualifying matches, although the draws are sparsely populated.  Only 13 boys and 19 girls signed in for the qualifying, meaning three boys made the main draw without having to win a single qualifying match.  The top 3 seeds in the boys qualifying--Diego Fernandez del Valle Moreno of Mexico, Bill Duo and Britton Johnston--are in the main draw now.  All of the girls in the qualifying draw will have to win at least one match to advance to the main draw, which I'll be covering in person beginning on Monday.

The wild cards, all for main draw, of course, are:

Charlotte Owensby
Elvina Kalieva
Alexandra Yepifanova
Hina Inoue
Ava Hrastar

Alex Bernard
Hunter Heck
Marcus McDaniel
Lucca Takeda Baptista(BRA)

All sorts of chaos hit the ITA Women's All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades California.  Two qualifiers, Aliona Bolsova of Florida Atlantic and Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt, have advanced to the semifinals as has lucky loser Andrea Lazaro of Florida International. Top seed Ena Shibahara of UCLA was defeated by Vanderbilt sophomore Christina Rosca 6-3, 6-2 in the round of 16, with Rosca falling to Lazaro in the quarterfinals, with two singles matches played today. The only seed remaining in the semifinals is No. 2 Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech. Talaba will face Contreras in Saturday's semifinals, with Bolsova and Lazaro meeting in a non-Power 5, all-Spanish contest.

At the men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, only one round of singles was played Friday, with two rounds scheduled for Saturday.  Top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State survived a tough match with Victor Pham of Columbia, but No. 2 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State was eliminated by Eduardo Mena of Tennessee Tech. Defending champion Petros Chrysochos[3] of Wake Forest and 2017 NCAA singles finalist William Blumberg[4] of North Carolina also have reached the round of 16.  Pre-qualifier Ferran Calvo of Oklahoma continued his amazing run, winning his eighth straight match with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 victory over No. 9 seed Timo Stodder of Tennessee. For more on Tyler Junior College transfer Calvo, see the ITA's Day Two recap.

Ann Li has advanced to the semifinals of the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Hilton Head South Carolina, beating No. 4 seed Montserrat Gonzalez of Paraguay 6-0, 3-6, 6-2.  Li will face University of Texas sophomore Bianca Turtati of Italy, the No. 6 seed, in the semifinals.  Turtati's twin sister Anna, also a sophomore at Texas, will face top seed Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway in the other semifinal.  Caty McNally and Great Britain's Emily Appleton advanced to the doubles final, where they'll play wild cards Meg Kowalski and her 14-year-old partner Kylie Collins for the title.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton California, Michael Mmoh and Tim Smyczek have moved into semifinals, as has former TCU star Cameron Norrie.  Mmoh advanced when Dmitry Tursunov of Russia retired after dropping the first set today, while Smyczek defeated Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-4, 6-4.  Smyczek faces No. 6 seed Darian King, who beat Stefan Kozlov 6-4, 6-4.  No. 3 seed Mmoh will play No. 8 seed Norrie, who beat No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren for the second week in a row, 6-3, 7-6(5). 

The semifinals of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Monterrey Mexico also feature two Americans, with Bradley Klahn and Kevin King, both using protected rankings, beating fellow American left-handers in today's quarterfinals. Klahn took out Austin Krajicek 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and King beat Evan King 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Klahn will play No. 3 seed Quentin Halys of France and King meets No. 4 seed Maximilian Marterer of Germany.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Top Seeds Advance at Men's All-American Championships; Mmoh Saves Match Points to Reach Quarterfinals in Stockton; Li, Sewing Move on in Hilton Head

Seeds often exit early at the ITA Men's All-American Championships in Tulsa, but that didn't happen in today's first round, which was played indoors due to rain.  Only three seeds went into the back draw today, two 9-16 seeds, and No. 6 seed William Bushamuka of Kentucky.  Bushamuka was defeated by Notre Dame junior Alexander Lebedev, while Georgia's Wayne Montgomery[9] lost to North Carolina State sophomore Alexis Galarneau 6-2, 7-6(6) and Oklahoma's Spencer Papa[9] fell to Utah junior Dan Little 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State beat qualifier Giovanni Oradini of Mississippi State 6-1, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State defeated qualifier Walker Duncan of Georgia 6-3, 7-5.  Ferran Calvo of Oklahoma wins the tournament's Iron Man award. The transfer from Tyler Junior College won three matches in pre-qualifying, three matches in qualifying, and today won his first round main draw match, beating qualifier Artem Kapshuk of Texas Tech 7-5, 6-4. He will play Timo Stoddard[9] of Tennessee in the second round Friday.

The scores from the first round of the Women's ITA All-American Championships in California are not yet available, with no live scoring the primary reason.

See Bobby Knight's College Tennis Today for more information about both tournaments.

Sofia Sewing at US Open Junior Championships 2017
Qualifier Sofia Sewing defeated No. 7 seed Caty McNally 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Hilton Head South Carolina, Sewing's first appearance in a quarterfinal on the Pro Circuit.  LSU recruit Ann Li, who has won a USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 tournament this summer, also advanced to the quarterfinals. No. 2 seed Ronit Yurovsky was beaten by former Penn State standout Petra Januskova of Canada 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 in just under three hours.

At the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton, Michael Mmoh saved two match points serving at 5-6 in the third set to beat Mackenzie McDonald 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(4).  The 19-year-old Mmoh[3], the 2016 Kalamazoo champion, will play veteran Dmitry Tursurnov of Russia, a qualifier, in Friday's quarterfinals.  Tim Smyczek joins fellow Americans Mmoh, Tennys Sandgren[2] and Stefan Kozlov[4] in the quarterfinals after a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Christian Harrison.

Several Americans are still alive in the $100,000+Hospitality Challenger in Mexico, with three of them playing second round matches tonight.  Kevin King has already advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(3) win over No. 6 seed Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador.

Two Americans have reached the quarterfinals at the ATP 500 event in Tokyo, with Steve Johnson and Ryan Harrison beating No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria and No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa in second round matches.  No. 6 seed John Isner has advanced to the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 China Open in Beijing, and he will play top seed Rafael Nadal next.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Qualifying Complete for Women's ITA All-American Championships; Kozlov into Stockton Challenger Quarterfinals; Juniors Advance at Hilton Head $15K; TRNet's Community Service Initiative

The final round of qualifying for the ITA All-American Championships at the Riviera in Pacific Palisades was played today, and unlike the pre-qualifying, a number of top seeds did advance.

Jessie Aney of North Carolina, the No. 2 seed, earned a spot in the 32-player draw, as did No. 3 seed Felicity Maltby of Texas Texas and No. 5 seed Aliona Bolsova of Florida Atlantic.  Bolsova, who transferred from Oklahoma State after her freshman year, recently reached the semifinals of the $100,0000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Mexico.  Anastasia Rychagova of Kansas, a No. 9 seed, was the fourth seed to make the main draw.  Cal's Olivia Hauger, Idaho's Marianna Petrei, Vanderbilt's Fernanda Contreras and Florida's Brooke Austin are the unseeded players who earned their places in the main draw.  Austin ended the run of the last pre-qualifier still standing, beating Georgia freshman Katarina Jokic 2-6, 7-6, 6-3. Austin was a semifinalist at the All-Americans as a freshman in 2014.

The women's main draw seeds:
1. Ena Shibahara, UCLA
2. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech
3. Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
4. Karla Popvic, Cal
5. Kate Fahey, Michigan
6. Melissa Lord, Stanford
7. Sinead Lohan, Miami
8. Alizee Michaud, Auburn

The men's ITA All-American tournament in Tulsa had the day off today, but the first round will begin Thursday, and unlike the women's event, there will be live streaming and live scoring available. The men's seeds in the 64-player draw:

1. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State
2. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State
3. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest
4. William Blumberg, North Carolina
5. Alfredo Perez, Florida
6. William Bushamuka, Kentucky
7. Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest
8. Constantin Schmitz, Tulane
9. Thomas Laurent, Oregon
9. Spencer Papa, Oklahoma
9. Martin Redlicki, UCLA
9. Julian Cash, Oklahoma State
9. Harrison Scott, Texas
9. Gustav Hansson, Ole Miss
9. Timo Stodder, Tennessee
9. Wayne Montgomery, Georgia

The $100,000 ATP Challenger in Stockton California will feature a rematch of Sunday's Tiburon Challenger final between Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Tennys Sandgren in Friday's quarterfinals.  Former TCU star Norrie[8], who won that match 6-2, 6-3, beat Brydan Klein 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-4, while former Tennessee star Sandgren[2] defeated Liam Broady of Great Britain 7-6(7), 6-4.  Stefan Kozlov[4], who has not played since US Open qualifying, beat Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals, where the 19-year-old will face No. 6 seed Darian King of Barbados. King beat Noah Rubin 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.  Michael Mmoh is the No. 3 seed in Stockton and will face Mackenzie McDonald in the second round on Thursday.

Free live streaming, with commentary by Mike Cation, is available via the USTA website.

The only women's Pro Circuit event this week is the $15,000 tournament in Hilton Head South Carolina. It's not surprising that several top juniors are participating, with Sofia Sewing, who qualified, Ann Li, Caty McNally and Great Britain's Emily Appleton through to Thursday's second round.  Georgia recruit Meg Kowalski, playing in her first Pro Circuit event, qualified, then defeated University of Texas freshman Bojana Markovic of Serbia 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to advance.  Sewing will face McNally, the No. 7 seed, in the second round. Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway is the No. 1 seed, with Ronit Yurovsky the No. 2 seed.

Rhiannon Potkey at the Tennis Recruiting Network is launching a community service initiative that is simple and yet has the potential to be an inspiration to all junior tennis players. Many juniors already participate in community service both in their tennis community and outside of it, and by sending a photo to Tennis Recruiting Network, they can be recognized nationally for what they do locally.  For more details, see this article.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

September Aces; Division III Regional Champions Set for Next Week's Oracle Cup; Rain Sends ITA All-American Qualifying Indoors in Tulsa

My monthly collection of top performances by juniors, collegians and former college players is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with no fewer than 18 September highlights from that group. Many are familiar faces, but there are several players who are making their first appearance as an Ace.

I spent several hours on a beautiful fall afternoon in Kalamazoo at the ITA Division III Men's Central Regional, where I watched the all-Univerisity of Chicago singles semifinals.  (I also spoke with Chicago coach Jay Tee, and I'll have a Q and A with him about Division III recruiting for Tennis Recruiting Network later this month). Because the final was an all-Chicago contest, it didn't have to be played in Kalamazoo, with the final taking place today in Chicago.  Freshman Jeremy Yuan, a No. 9 seed, beat sophomore Erik Kerrigan, the No. 1 seed, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, winning the final four games of the match to earn All-American status and a place in the ITA Oracle Cup next week in Rome Georgia. The ITA Oracle Cup, formerly the Small College Championships, features fall championships for Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College, with each of those winners earning a place in the ITA Oracle Fall Championships November 1-5, 2017, which is replacing the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.

Below are the men's and women's regional champions for Division III:
Most of the regional champions for the other divisions can be found at the ITA's regional webpage.

New England: Eudice Chong, Wesleyan
Northeast: Anna Maria Buraya, NYU
Southeast: Rachel Summers, Mary Washington
South: Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, Emory
Central: Clair Handa, Chicago
Midwest: Briana Hartmann, Gustavus Adolphus
Southwest: Kate Daugherty, Southwestern
Northwest: Ella Riddle, Linfield
West: Catherine Allen, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps

New England: Brian Grodecki, Williams
Northeast: JT Wynne, Skidmore
Southeast: Daniel Levine, Carnegie Mellon
South: Jonathan Jemison, Emory
Central: Jeremy Yuan, Chicago
Midwest: Mohanad Al Houni, Gustavus Adolphus
Southwest: Arthur Fagundes, UT-Tyler
Northwest: Spencer Watanabe, George Fox
West: Chase Lipscomb, Redlands

Rain this afternoon in Tulsa has sent the final round of qualifying for the ITA Men's All-American Championships indoors, with three singles matches still in progress.  The 13 qualifiers who have been determined are:

Ricky Hernandez Tong, New Mexico
Marius Frosa, Wichita State
Kyle Seelig, Ohio State
Carlos Divar, Georgia Tech
Jackie Tang[12], Columbia
Michael Geerts, Arizona State
Josh Goodger, Tulsa
Giovanni Oradini, Mississippi State
Valentine Vacherot[25], Texas A&M
Walker Duncan, Georgia
Johannes Ingildsen[3], Florida
Logan Staggs, UCLA
Martin Joyce, Ohio State

Goodger, a freshman at the host school, upset John McNally of Ohio State, whose UTR was more than full point higher than Goodger's.

The qualifying draw is available here.

Two rounds of women's qualifying at the All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades were on the schedule today, but no results have yet been posted.

Monday, October 2, 2017

USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge Starts Later This Month; Baptiste Takes Wild Card into ITF Grade 4 This Week; Qualifying Begins Tuesday at Women's ITA All-American Championships

The USTA's annual Australia Open Wild Card Challenge begins in Macon Georgia on October 23rd for the women and in Charlottesville Virginia (and many other locations) on October 30th for the men. 

As in the previous years, the best two of three tournament results, measured by accumulated ATP and WTA points, will determine who will get the 2018 main draw wild card the USTA gets in a trade with Tennis Australia.  The women's three events are all $80,000 prize money tournaments, in Macon, Tyler Texas (new site) and Waco Texas.  Last year's women's wild card winner was Kayla Day.

The American men have a much broader range of tournaments to choose from, a total of 10, including the ATP Masters tournament in Paris.  For the men, both qualifying and main draw points count, only main draw points earn count for the women.  Michael Mmoh won the Australian Open men's wild card last year. The complete list of tournaments counting for the men, which includes the Challengers in Knoxville and Champaign, can be found here.

This week's ITF Junior Circuit tournament in the United States is in a new location, Corpus Christi Texas.  The Grade 4, which is the week before the ITF Grade B1 in Tulsa, has drawn a top 50 player in Hailey Baptiste, who has struggled this summer.  Another rare occurrence in an ITF event in the US was no qualifying for the girls, and the 64 draw was not full, with the top 11 seeds getting byes.  The boys had a 32-draw qualifying and have a full main draw, with Jaycer Lyeons the top seed.  Last week's winners at the Grade 5 in Austin, Hunter Heck and Savannah Broadus, are not seeded in this tournament.

The first round of qualifying was completed today at the men's ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, with Florida freshman Duarte Vale of Portugal taking out top seed Gergely Madarasz of Purdue 6-0, 3-6, 6-4.  I had thought that the ITA was going to start using the Universal Tennis Ratings to help with seeding, or at least for making decisions on who is in qualifying and the main draw, but that isn't the case, with two players among the top 10 in UTR rankings, John McNally of Ohio State and Alberto Barroso-Campos of South Florida, in qualifying, not the main draw.  Vale is also among the Top 25 in UTR.  That doesn't mean that upsets won't happen--Barroso-Campos lost in the first round of qualifying today to Texas A&M freshman Juan Carlos Aguilar--but it would provide a opportunity to play the more competitive matches later in the tournament.  Bobby Knight has more, including the UTRs of all players in the qualifying draw, at College Tennis Today.

Qualifying starts on Tuesday for the women at the All-American in Pacific Palisades, with six of the eight pre-qualifiers freshmen and all six of them 9-16 seeds, the only seeds to qualify.  The University of Georgia is the only school with two qualifiers, freshman Katarina Jokic and Marta Gonzalez.  One of the top freshman in the country will be out after the first round of qualifying, with Jokic playing fellow pre-qualifier Alexandra Sanford of North Carolina on Tuesday.  Meible Chi of Duke is the top seed in qualifying, with North Carolina's Jessie Aney No. 2. The women play two rounds of qualifying on Tuesday.