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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Smyczek Clinches Australian Open Wild Card; Liu Makes Norman $25K Quarterfinals; Grant Reaches Pensacola Futures Quarterfinal; Sock Moves on at World Tour Finals; Osuigwe, Noel Advance to Grade A Semifinals in Mexico


Tim Smyczek earned his way into the Australian Open main draw today at the $75,000 Champaign Challenger, defeating top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4.  Smyczek, the No. 7 seed, won the Charlottesville Challenger two weeks ago to take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge and once he advanced to the semifinals this week, no one else still playing in Champaign could catch him.  The 29-year-old from Wisconsin had played the main draw in Australia four years running from 2013-2016, but this year he lost in the final round of qualifying to Frances Tiafoe.

In the Champaign semifinals, Smyczek will play No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie, who beat Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 6-0.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, who was eliminated from the wild card race today, could still qualify for the main draw of the Australian Open if he wins the tournament. For the second time this week, Fratangelo was on the brink of defeat, but recovered, beating Knoxville champion Filip Peliwo of Canada 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(4).  Today Fratangelo trailed 4-6, 2-4 0-40, although he was not quite as far down as he was in the first round against Sebastian Fanselow, when he trailed by a set and two breaks before winning in three.  Fratangelo will face No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, who reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 3-0 retired victory over No. 8 seed Tommy Paul.  Paul had treatment for a back problem and retired after Fritz earned a second break of serve.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Norman Oklahoma, Wimbledon girls champion Claire Liu, who has not played since September, has reached the quarterfinals, where she'll face top seed Sonya Kenin.  Liu defeated Connie Hsu of Taiwan 6-1, 6-4, while Kenin dismissed Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-2, 6-3. Liu and Kenin have played four times on the ITF Circuits, with Kenin winning the two junior matches and Liu winning the two pro matches, with the most recent win coming this spring at a $25,000 tournament in Florida.  Other US players to advance to the quarterfinals are Danielle Collins[3], Maria Sanchez, Chiara Scholl and Sachia Vickery[2].

The Futures event this week is again a $15,000 tournament, this time in Pensacola Florida.  Sixteen-year-old Will Grant earned his first ATP point with a win over fellow wild card Collin Johns in a first round match on Tuesday, then got two more points today via a victory over top seed Sekou Bangoura.  Bangoura retired in the match trailing 7-5, 2-1.  Other Americans reaching the quarterfinals are wild card Jonathan Chang and No. 5 seed Ulises Blanch.  Florida freshman Duarte Vale of Portugal, a qualifier, beat No. 2 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-0.  ITA Fall National champion Nuno Borges of Mississippi State, the No. 4 seed, has also advanced to the quarterfinals, beating last week's Futures champion Patrick Kypson 6-4, 6-2 today.

At the ATP World Tour Finals in London today, Jack Sock, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to advance out of his round robin group and into the semifinals, where he'll play No. 6 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.  The other semifinal will feature top seed Roger Federer and the winner of the Dominic Thiem-David Goffin match on Friday. For more on Sock's win today, see the ATP website's article.

The girls semifinals are set at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with Americans Whitney Osuigwe and Alexa Noel into the final four.  Top seed Osuigwe had to come from behind to beat unseeded Peyton Stearns, but posted a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory and will face No. 5 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland.  The unseeded Noel, who like Osuigwe is 15 years old, has yet to lose a set this week, beating Diae El Jardi of Morocco 6-4, 6-4 in today's quarterfinal.  Noel will face another surprise semifinalist in 17-year-old Andreea Prisacariu of Romania, who beat No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer 6-0, 6-2.

Two American boys have advanced to the quarterfinals in Mexico City, top seed Sebastian Korda and unseeded Drew Baird.  Korda defeated wild card Eliot Spizzirri 6-2, 6-0 in today's third round and will play No. 8 seed Stefan Palosi of Romania, who beat qualifier Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-2. Baird downed wild card Alan Magadan of Mexico 6-2, 6-3 and will face No. 9 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Four US Girls Advance to Quarterfinals at Grade A Abierto Juvenil; Paul and Fritz Meet in Champaign Challenger Quarterfinals; Fratangelo, Sandgren, Smyczek and McDonald Also Advance

The girls quarterfinals are set at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, with four US girls still in the running for the title.  Top seed Whitney Osuigwe defeated No. 13 seed Diane Parry of France 6-1, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with unseeded Peyton Stearns. Stearns defeated doubles partner Dalayna Hewitt 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3 to reach her first Grade A quarterfinal.

Natasha Subhash, the No. 4 seed, lost to No. 15 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi  7-5, 6-4.  The two US girls in the bottom half of the draw do not play each other, with unseeded Alexa Noel facing unseeded Diae El Jardi of Morocco and No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer playing unseeded Andreea Prisacariu of Romania.  Prisacariu defeated No. 2 seed Maria Carle of Argentina, who had taken a wild card into the tournament, 6-3, 7-5 and is known for her prowess on clay. Mossmer also reached the quarterfinals in Mexico City last year before falling to Amanda Anisimova.

Fifteen-year-old Noel, who has not played a tournament since July's USTA Clay Courts, will be playing in her first Grade A quarterfinal. She advanced with a 6-2, 6-0 win over 2016 finalist Ellie Douglas, the No. 3 seed.

The boys are a round behind, with the round of 16 matchups now set. Six US boys have advanced, but five of them are in the top half.  Top seed Sebastian Korda will face wild card Eliot Spizzirri in the only all-American contest.  Qualifier Jaycer Lyeons defeated No. 12 seed Leonid Sheyngezikht of Bulgaria 7-6(10), 6-2.  No. 16 seed Axel Nefve and No. 10 seed Sangeet Sridhar moved into the third round with straight-sets wins.

The only American boy in the bottom half is unseeded Drew Baird. No. 3 seed Andrew Fenty, who was awarded a wild card into the event, lost to unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany 6-1, 7-6(3).

Live scoring is available here. 


I've completed my brief trip to the $75,000 ATP Champaign Challenger, where six of the quarterfinalist are Americans.  Top seed Tennys Sandgren, who told me he played this week in spite of his ranking of 85 because he has finalist points coming off from last year's Columbus Challenger and wants to make sure he is safe for main draw for the Australian Open.  Sandgren has played seven of the last eight weeks, going 17-6 in that span, so getting a walkover from Christian Harrison today, which was announced after the warm-up, was a break for him.  He plays No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek, who beat wild card Dennis Nevolo 6-3, 7-6(4). Smyczek is in the driver's seat for the USTA's Australian Open wild card, having won the title in Charlottesville over Sandgren in the final. I believe that if Smyczek wins Thursday, he'll clinch the wild card.

If Smyczek doesn't win Thursday, Bjorn Fratangelo still has an opportunity to tie him and Fratangelo wins the tiebreaker, which is ATP ranking. But taking the title, which Fratangelo has to do, would probably boost Fratangelo's ranking high enough so he wouldn't need the wild card.  Fratangelo defeated Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-4 today, getting his second win over the 2010 NCAA singles champion this year.

"It's always difficult to play a really good friend," said Fratangelo, the No. 5 seed. "Brad's probably one of my best friends out here, but I know his game well and I match up pretty well with him. I just tried to execute, and I think it was a pretty straightforward match."

Fratangelo will face Filip Peliwo of Canada, last week's champion at the Knoxville Challenger, after Peliwo ousted two-time defending champion Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 7-5. 

No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 8 seed Tommy Paul will renew their rivalry in the quarterfinals after advancing in opposite fashion.  Fritz did not face a break point in his 6-4, 6-3 win over qualifier Ronnie Schneider, while Paul was pushed to the limit by qualifier Mikael Ymer of Sweden before taking a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(0) decision.  Nothing separated Paul, the 2015 French Open boys champion, and Ymer, the 2015 Wimbledon boys finalist, until the final set tiebreaker, and suddenly the errors Ymer avoided down the stretch appeared.  Down 3-0, Ymer double faulted and the errors snowballed from there, providing a letdown of an ending to the nearly three-hour contest.

Paul's title in Paris came over Fritz, who then returned the favor in the final of the US Open boys championship in 2015.  They played in the round of 16 of the Winnetka Challenger this summer, with Paul earning a 7-6(7), 7-5 victory. 

The fourth quarterfinal will feature Mackenzie McDonald and No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie. McDonald defeated JP Smith of Australia 7-5, 7-6(5) and Norrie eliminated wild card Jared Hiltzik 6-2, 6-4.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wild Card Hiltzik Saves Three Match Points to Defeat Krueger at Champaign Challenger; Fritz Eyes Australian Open Main Draw


©Colette Lewis 2017--
Champaign-Urbana IL--

Jared Hiltzik fought his way back into his match against Mitchell Krueger Tuesday evening in the first round of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Champaign, and it was a battle of wills in the final set, with both players getting service hold after service hold. The scores of orange-clad fans cheering the former Illini All-American at the Atkins Tennis Center didn't make much noise when he fell behind 0-40 serving at 5-6 in the third set, however.  If that silence bothered Hiltzik, he showed no sign of it, hitting one of his six third-set aces to save the first match point.

Hiltzik saved the second match point with a forehand pass and the third and last match point he saved with a backhand pass. After one more deuce Hiltzik forced the tiebreaker and he ran away with that final game to post a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) victory.

"I think you play better when you're down," said the 23-year-old from Illinois, who had lost to Krueger in all four of their previous Pro Circuit contests. "You have no other choice than to play free. I got pretty lucky today, but I fought hard."

Although he appreciated the efficiency of an ace in that crucial situation, Hiltzik said the two winning passes he made to save the second and third match points were won on instinct.

"He doesn't really give you a chance to think," said Hiltzik, who has recently bought a house in Orlando and is now training at the USTA National Campus. "You react, and I got lucky there."

In the tiebreaker, Krueger lost the first three points on his serve, all on forehand errors and Hiltzik ran out to a 6-0 lead.

"I think that kind of carried over from that previous game," Hiltzik said. "It's a tough thing to do. I've been there, when you have a chance to break to win the match, it's really tough."

Hiltzik, who received a wild card into the main draw, said winning a match at his former home courts always feels good.

"I've had many here before and to be given the opportunity to continue to play here is pretty special."

Hiltzik will face No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who defeated another Illinois wild card, senior Aleks Vukic of Australia, 6-2, 6-3. 

While Hiltzik was playing on Court 2, another former Illinois star who also received a wild card, Dennis Nevolo, was fashioning his own comeback against qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada in his 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. After failing to serve out the second set at 5-3 despite earning a set point, Nevolo broke the former standout at the University of Indiana in the next game to even the match. Once the third set began, Nevolo found his form, while Monette was finding it difficult to move to balls he had easily tracked down before. Nevolo held, broke and held to take a 3-0 lead, and ended the match by winning the final 15 points.

Nevolo's second round opponent is No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek, who defeated qualifier Alex Ward of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in a high-quality match that featured an abundance of lengthy rallies.

The day's shortest match was No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz's 6-2, 6-1 win over Alex Sarkissian, which lasted just 42 minutes.  The 20-year-old Californian had 11 aces and no double faults, and has been happy with his play over the past few weeks.

"I usually play pretty well indoors, I think," said Fritz, who reached the final of the 2015 Champaign Challenger. "The ball moves through the court here and it's easier to serve, hit winners. It's not too fast, it's like medium, so it's easy for me to put the ball away."

Fritz is currently at 110 in the rankings, so his performance this week will go a long way to deciding whether he gets into the main draw of the Australian Open, but he is confident now that he's returned to the racquet he had used prior to this year.

"I've been playing well over the past two weeks," Fritz said. "Last week I thought I was playing really well; unfortunately I played Peliwo who was way too good last week, to be honest. He was incredible. I played great. I switched back to my old racquet. I was using a heavier racquet all this year. I've always been with Head, and it was the same racquet, just added some weight for this year. I've had an ok year, but it just didn't feel right and after Vietnam [Challenger] I said that's it. I don't think I can control the ball off the ground, it's too heavy and I'm late on my shots. So I switched back, had a training week at Carson and it's been great since. Better than ever."

Fritz will play qualifier Ronnie Schneider, who claimed his second ATP Challenger victory, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 decision over Bruno Santanna of Brazil.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo versus Bradley Klahn and No. 1 seed Tennys Sandgren versus Christian Harrison are the other two all-American second round matches Wednesday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Osuigwe, Korda Top Seeds in Grade A Abierto Juvenil; NLI Announcements Continue; Georgia's Hodge in Plea Deal; Duke's Furman Provisionally Suspended by ITF Anti-Doping


The first round of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City is underway, with Americans at the top of both draws.  ITF No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe, who has set a goal of being the 2017 World Junior Champion, took a wild card into the tournament and is, of course, the No. 1 seed. Sebastian Korda, who has not played a junior event since the US Open, is the boys top seed.  Both Osuigwe and Korda earned straight-sets wins in their first round matches today.

Andrew Fenty also received a wild card into the tournament and is the No. 3 seed. Eliot Spizzirri, who reached the final of the Grade 2 in Bolivia last week, also received a wild card.  Other US boys who are seeded: Sangeet Sridhar[10], Brian Shi[14] and Axel Nefve[16].  US girls who are seeded in addition to Osuigwe: Ellie Douglas[3], Natasha Subhash[4], Nicole Mossmer[8], Elli Mandlik[12], Lea Ma[16].  In all, there were 23 US boys and 21 US girls in the 64-player singles draws at the start of play today.. 

Maria Carle of Argentina, the No. 2 seed, also accepted a wild card into the event.

Live scoring is available at the Tennis Ticker.

The early signing announcements are continuing, with those below in addition to the links I posted on Wednesday and Friday. If no country is given, the player is from the US.

MEN:

Brigham Young has signed Brigham Andrus.

Duke has signed Robert Maciag.

Florida has signed Sam Riffice and Lukas Greif.

Florida State has signed Sebastian Arcila and Jorge Martinez Martinez of Spain.

Indiana has signed Carson Haskins and Patrick Fletchall.

Iowa has signed Oliver Okonkwo of Great Britain.

Louisville has signed Alex Wesbrooks.

LSU has signed Boris Kozlov.

Michigan has signed Andrew Fenty, Steven Forman, Ryan Fu and Patrick Maloney.

Mississippi State has signed Gregor Ramskogler of Austria.

North Carolina has signed Brian Cernoch.

Oklahoma State has signed Emile Hudd of Great Britain.

South Florida has signed Niels Van Noord of Canada, Sergio Gomez-Montesa of Spain and Ivan Yatsuk.

Southern California has signed Jake Sands and Bradley Frye.

WOMEN:

Arizona has signed Csenge Furak of Hungary.

Arkansas has signed Thea Rice.

Florida has signed McCartney Kessler, who will start in January, and Marlee Zein.

Georgia has signed Meg Kowalski.

Indiana has signed Somer Henry.

Iowa has signed Michelle Bacalla and Samantha Mannix.

Kentucky has signed Yang Lee of Taiwan and  Alexis Merrill. Diana Tkachenko is transferring in January, after Evansville dropped their women's program this fall.

Minnesota has signed Isabella Lambert.

Nebraska has signed Jessica Aragon.

North Carolina has signed Cameron Morra.

North Carolina State has signed Helene Grimm of Germany, who will start in January.

Ole Miss has signed Isolde de Jong of the Netherlands.

Rice has signed twins Anastasia and Victoria Smirnova of Belgium.

Tennessee has signed Kaitlin Staines of Australia.

Texas A&M has signed Brindtha Ramasamy of Canada, Jayci Goldsmith and Katya Townsend.

Texas Tech has added Denise-Antonella Stoica of Romania to their previously announced recruits Sydney Jones, Nell Miller and Olivia Peet.

UCLA has signed Elysia Bolton.

Wake Forest has signed Anna Brylin and Peyton Pesavento.

Washington has signed Sedona Gallagher.

In less happy news in college tennis, former Georgia men's associate head coach Bo Hodge has pleaded guilty to possession of a schedule II controlled substance, a felony.  Sentenced as first time offender, Hodge was given three years of probation and must undergo a rehabilitation program. He is banned from coaching college tennis for 12 months.  See the Athens Banner-Herald for more on the sentencing.  The controlled substance in question is said to be Adderall.

Spencer Furman, a sophomore on the Duke team, has been provisionally suspended by the ITF for failing a drug test earlier this fall. Furman, who was competing in the qualifying of the Cary Challenger back in September, was found to have the stimulant Damphetamine in his system.  I have been told that Furman has a prescription for the medication, commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, but did not have the required Theraputic Use Exemption on file.  The ITF's new commitment to transparency, which has been in response to the awkward "silent bans" of the past, means that failing a test will be reported, regardless of the circumstances. 

In any case, Furman's predicament, which will not affect his collegiate eligibility, is a lesson for all players who are just beginning to play pro events and may not have read the regulations pertaining to this facet of the sport.  It's imperative to understand what the anti-doping rules require of you if you are taking any medication or you could face a lengthy suspension from ITF sanctioned events.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Kypson Wins Niceville Futures; Townsend Claims Waco Title; US Women Capture First Fed Cup Since 2000

A first Futures title is a milestone for any tennis player, and today at the $15,000 tournament in Niceville Florida, 18-year-old Patrick Kypson met the challenge of his first Futures final, beating top seed Sekou Bangoura 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.  The reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion and 2015 Kalamazoo 16s champion had needed nearly three hours to advance in his second round and quarterfinal matches, and today he approached that length again, but a 29-minute third set ended the suspense sooner rather than later.  Kypson is entered in the $15,000 Futures in Pensacola Florida that begins Tuesday.

At the $80,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Waco Texas, Taylor Townsend won the biggest title of her career, with the top seed beating unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.  Townsend made more than 80% of her first serves in the opening set and that was just too much for the 24-year-old Tomljanovic, but Tomljanovic played much more aggressively in the second set to even the match.  Townsend held on to her break in the third set, but not without saving numerous break points, then broke Tomljanovic, who was up 40-0 in the game, to claim the title. The 21-year-old Townsend will win the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, but she will move into the WTA Top 100 tomorrow, so she will not need it. Kristie Ahn will finish in second place and will receive the wild card if she needs it when the December 4 Australian Open main draw entries are announced.

Canadian Filip Peliwo won his first ATP Challenger title today at the $75,000 tournament in Knoxville, beating Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-2. Peliwo, the 2012 ITF World Junior Champion, had never reached a Challenger final before, but even though he had three qualifying matches just to reach the main draw, the 23-year-old looked fresh and determined throughout the hour it took him to claim the title. The 2012 Wimbledon and US Open boys champion will move into the ATP Top 200 for the first time. With Kudla's loss, Tim Smyczek will retain his lead in the men's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with one week left.

Top seeds Leander Paes and Purav Raja of India won the doubles title, beating former Tennessee Volunteer JP Smith of Australia and James Cerretani, the No. 2 seeds, 7-6(4), 7-6(4).

Former Stanford star Carol Zhao won the biggest title of her career Sunday at the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Shenzhen China.  The 22-year-old Canadian, who was unseeded, defeated No. 4 seed Liu Fangzhou of China 7-5, 6-2 in the final.  The 2015 NCAA singles finalist will move into the WTA Top 200 for the first time with the title, assuring her a place in the Australian Open qualifying next January.

Former Arizona State star Jacqueline Cako won the doubles title, with Nina Stojanovic of Serbia.  The No. 2 seeds defeated top seeds Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Yang Zhaoxuan of China 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Cako and Stojanovic also won a $60,000 title last month in China, and Cako made a third final with Laura Robson of Great Britain two weeks ago at another $60,000 event in China.  Cako's doubles ranking, already in the Top 100, will continue to rise.

Kathy Rinaldi, CoCo Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers, Alison Riske
photo courtesy USTA
In Belarus, the USA Fed Cup team captured its first championship since 2000, beating the host country 3-2.  CoCo Vandeweghe was the star of the United States' entire year in Fed Cup, going 8-0, and she won both her singles matches this weekend, then clinched the title with Shelby Rogers in the deciding doubles match.  Kathy Rinaldi, in her first year as Fed Cup Captain, made all the right choices throughout the year and her experience as a Junior Fed Cup Captain in previous years helped make her transition to the senior version a smooth one. For more on today's matches, see the Fed Cup website.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Kypson, Townsend, Kudla Reach Pro Circuit Finals; Boyer Takes ITF Grade 2, Navarro Also Wins Another Title; Chung Claims ATP Next Gen Championship

Reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson has reached his first Futures final, beating Luis Patino of Mexico 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinal match at the $15,000 event in Niceville Florida.  Kypson, who recently turned 18, had played two consecutive three-hour matches to advance to the semifinals, but he needed just over an hour to prevail today.  Kypson will face top seed Sekou Bangoura, who defeated No. 3 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 7-5, 7-6(7), despite being broke four times in the second set.

In the doubles final, Julian Lenz of Germany and Juan Benitez of Colombia, former Baylor stars, beat top seeds Nick Chappell(TCU) and Boris Arias(LSU) 7-5, 4-6, 10-7.

Speaking of Waco, Taylor Townsend[1] defeated Sonya Kenin[3] 6-1, 6-4 to advance to the final of the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event there. Townsend should return to the WTA Top 100 with her win today, so she may not need the Australian Open wild card that she would earn with a victory on Sunday. That won't be determined until the December 4th rankings cutoff provides the main draw entries for the Australian Open, but Kristie Ahn, who is currently leading the race after winning last week's tournament in Tyler, would be next in line for the wild card. Townsend will play unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-3, 6-3 in Saturday's other semifinal.

Kenin did get some revenge on Townsend in the doubles final. Kenin, whose first pro doubles title came earlier this year, partnered with Anastasiya Komardina of Russia to beat Townsend and Jessica Pegula, last week's champions, 7-5, 5-7, 11-9.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee, Denis Kudla won the all-American battle with Bradley Klahn 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 to advance to Sunday's final, where he'll meet Canadian Filip Peliwo.  The 23-year-old Peliwo, a qualifier, defeated No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 6-0 to reach his first Challenger final. The 2012 ITF World Junior Champion, Peliwo reached all four junior slam finals in 2012, winning Wimbledon and the US Open.

Tristan Boyer, who two weeks ago won his first ITF title at a Grade 2 in Japan, won both the singles and doubles championships at the Grade 2 in Israel today.  The 16-year-old Boyer, who was the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Yanki Erel of Turkey 6-3, 6-4 in the final.  Boyer and Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands, the top seeds, won the doubles title with a 6-2, 6-3 win in the final over No. 7 seeds Baran Cengiz and Bora Sengul of Turkey. Boyer, who moved into the ITF Junior Top 100 after his title in Japan, should move into the Top 50 with this week's titles.


Emma Navarro, who won the Grade 4 in her home state of South Carolina last week, kept her winning streak going in Florida, claiming the singles title at the ITF Grade 4 in Boca Raton.  Navarro, the No. 12 seed, started the tournament with a 6-0, 6-0 win and finished it with the same score, defeating No. 9 seed Michelle Sorokko in the final. Navarro has committed to Duke, although she is just a sophomore. Sorokko did win the doubles title; with partner Dasha Kourkina, the No. 3 seeds beat No. 2 seeds Jennifer Gadalov and Luba Vasilyuk 6-4, 6-0.

Fifteen-year-old Marcus McDaniel won his first ITF singles title in Boca, with the unseeded Californian beating No. 11 seed Toby Kodat 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. McDaniel defeated four seeds, including last week's champion JanMagnus Johnson, for the title.  McDaniel fell just short of a sweep, losing in the doubles final with partner Alex Lee.  Unseeded Jordi Redelijk and Michael Sun defeated the No. 4 seeds 7-6(3), 1-6, 10-4.

At the Grade 2 in Bolivia, No. 7 seed Elliott Spizzirri lost to No. 13 seed Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 in the boys singles final.

At the Grade 5 in Costa Rica, Midori Castillo Meza, who turns 14 next week, won both the singles and doubles titles.  The No. 2 seed won the all-American singles final with a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Sara Seivane Torres, to give Castillo her second career ITF singles title. In the doubles final, Castillo and Mexico's Lizette Reding, the No. 4 seeds, beat No. 3 seeds Sara Cruz of El Salvador and Anna Markvartova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1.  Michael Agee reached the final of the boys singles.

At the Grade 5 in Jamaica, top seed Blaise Bicknell won his second ITF Junior Circuit singles title, beating No. 3 seed Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Top seeds Kennedy Bridgforth and Najah Dawson won the doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Mireille Moreau and Elodie Petrecca of Canada 6-3, 6-4. Dawson, the top seed in singles, lost in the final to No. 2 seed Alexandra Anttila of Finland.

At the Grade 5 in Canada, Americans took both doubles titles.  Mackenzie Clark and Marcella Cruz, the No. 2 seeds, beat Maryam Ahmad and Jenna Defalco 6-2, 7-5.  Ahmad reached the final of singles unseeded, but fell to No. 6 seed Alexandra Mikhailuk of Canada. No. 3 seeds Matthew Che and Andrew Dale won the boys doubles final 6-3, 6-1 over Sebastian Gima of Romania and Trey Stinchcomb, the No. 6 seeds.

The ATP's Next Gen finals were played today in Milan, with Korea's Hyeon Chung beating Russia's Andrey Rublev 3-4(5), 4-3(2), 4-2, 4-2. Chung, 21, went undefeated in the competition, winning all three of his round robin matches, then the semifinal and the final. For more on the championship match, see this article from the ATP website.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Qualifying Begins Saturday at ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City; Kypson Reaches Semifinals at Niceville Futures; More NLI Signings

Qualifying begins Saturday at the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City, the first of four consecutive major ITF Junior Circuit events held on clay.

Eight US boys are in the 64-player qualifying draw, which has four byes.  Two of those byes belong to Americans: No. 2 seed Jaycer Lyeons and No. 4seed Emilio Nava, who reached the finals of the Grade B1 Pan American Closed last month.  The other Americans participating in the boys qualifying are Max Wild[5], Anuj Watane, Trinity Grear[13], Samuel Rubell[15], Alex Bancila and Hayden Postin.

Only 42 girls are entered in the girls qualifying, including three Americans: Shelly Yaloz[2], Megan Polnet[6] and Maia Sung.  As is normally the case in Mexico, most of those attempting to qualify are from the home country.

Three rounds of qualifying will be played over the weekend, with the main draw beginning on Monday. Qualifiers will not play until Tuesday.


At the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Niceville Florida, 2017 Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson has reached his second career Futures semifinal with another marathon victory. After beating Roberto Cid in 2 hours and 55 minutes on Thursday, Kypson took out Wil Spencer in 3 hours and 5 minutes today, earning a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 win. Kypson's previous Futures semifinal was last year in the same series of tournaments on the Har-Tru courts of the Florida Panhandle.[correction: Kypson also reached a third Futures final this past January in Florida]. He will face unseeded Luis Patino of Mexico in the semifinals.  Patino defeated wild card Christopher Haworth 6-4, 6-3. Top seed Sekou Bangoura won the battle of Florida Gators, with the former Florida star beating freshman Oliver Crawford 7-6(3), 6-0.  Bangoura will play No. 3 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy in the semifinals.

Kayla Day, who won the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenger last year was eliminated from the race today at the $80,000 Waco Pro Circuit tournament, losing to Croatia's Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 6-2. No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin defeated Danielle Lao 6-4, 6-3 to eliminate Lao from the race and Kenin will play top seed Taylor Townsend. Townsend has dominated in her first three matches, losing only two games total, and today beat No. 5 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-0. Kenin and Townsend will probably get into the Australian Open main draw on their own rankings with their performances this week. If they do, current race leader Kristie Ahn will get the wild card.  Kenin and Townsend have also reached the doubles semifinals, with Anastasiya Komardina of Russia and Jessica Pegula, respectively.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville, unseeded Bradley Klahn and Denis Kudla will play for a place in the final tomorrow after Klahn defeated Ed Corrie of Great Britain 6-3, 7-6(3) and Kudla ousted No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals.  Filip Peliwo of Canada beat No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz 7-6(7), 6-1 and will face No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who beat Tim Smyczek 7-6(1), 6-4.

More Division I early signings were announced today. Below are links to several releases. If there is no country given, the player is from the United States.

Women:
Michigan has signed Alyvia Jones and Anca Craicun of Canada.

Duke has signed Maria Mateas and Hannah Zhao. Zhao will start in January.

Oklahoma has signed Martina Capurro of Argentina, Jasmine Asghar of Great Britain, Laura Rico-Garcia of Colombia, Ivana Corley and Kianah Motosono.  Capurro and Asghar will start in January.

Southern California has signed Salma Ewing.

LSU has signed Ann Li and Luba Vasilyuk. Vasilyuk will start in January.

TCU signs Kate Paulus.

Men:
Texas A&M has signed Austin Abrrat, Alejandro Vedri Asensi of Spain, Guido Marson of Italy, Jack Pulliam and Noah Schachter.

Illinois has signed Lucas Horve and Keenan Mayo.

Oklahoma has signed Max Stewart of Great Britain, Mason Beiler and Matthew Rodriguez.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Australian Open Wild Card Race Heats Up in Waco; Crawford, Kypson Reach Futures Quarterfinals; Five Americans Advance at Charlottesville Challenger; Cheong in Tokyo $100K Quarterfinals

The final three days of the $80,000 Pro Circuit event in Waco Texas will decide USTA Women's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge with several women still in a position to pass Kristie Ahn, the current leader.
Due to illness, Ahn had to retire up 5-0 in her match yesterday with An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, so her point total is set at 116.

Four Americans have advanced to Friday's quarterfinals, with top seed Taylor Townsend, No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin, Kayla Day and Danielle Lao still in the running.  By my calculations, all have to win the title to pass Ahn, and Lao and Kenin play each other Friday, so one of them will be eliminated.  Complicating all this is possibility that Ahn, Townsend and Kenin could receive direct acceptance into the Australian Open, with their current live rankings all between 104 and 111.  The ranking deadline is December 4th for the main draw.

The best Lao can do is tie Ahn, and Ahn would win the tiebreaker with a higher WTA ranking, but if Ahn gets in on her own, Lao would then earn the wild card. Danielle Collins, who is tied for second and not playing Waco, and Vicky Duval, who lost in the first round this week and is tied with Collins, are not mathematically eliminated until someone passes them or it turns out Ahn doesn't need the wild card.  Day will face Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat No. 2 seed Nicole Gibbs today.  Townsend, who has lost one game in two matches, will play No. 5 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia next.

At the $15,000 Futures in Niceville Florida, teenagers Oliver Crawford and Patrick Kypson have advanced to the quarterfinals.  Crawford, the University of Florida freshman who received a wild card, defeated No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3. Kypson, who received entry by virtue of his ATP ranking, took out last week's Futures champion Roberto Cid of the Dominican Republic 7-5, 5-7 6-4 in 2 hours and 55 minutes.  Crawford will face top seed Sekou Bangoura and Kypson will play unseeded Wil Spencer, who defeated No. 2 seed Matias Zukas of Argentina 3-6, 6-0, 7-5 in another nearly three-hour match.  Wild card Christopher Haworth, who played at Oklahoma State, is the fifth American reaching the quarterfinals.

The $75,000 ATP Challenger in Knoxville Tennessee also has five American in the quarterfinals, with just two of them seeded.  No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz defeated Noah Rubin tonight 7-6(5), 6-1 and No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo beat qualifier Mats Moraing of Germany 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.  Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla and Charlottesville champion Tim Smyczek are the other Americans advancing, with Kudla and Fratangelo meeting on Friday.


Fifteen-year-old Naomi Cheong, who has played only two junior events this year while concentrating on her WTA ranking, has reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Tokyo.  After not dropping a set in qualifying, Cheong beat a wild card in the first round, then took out Mayo Hibi of Japan 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.  Cheong, who was a finalist at the Girls 14s Junior Orange Bowl in 2015, now plays No. 6 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary, who won the US Open girls title in 2015.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

National Letter of Intent Early Signing Period Begins; ITA Releases Division III Individual Rankings

Today is the first day that high school seniors can sign Division I and Division II National Letters of Intent for the 2018 academic year.  The Tennis Recruiting Network is, as always, closely following the signings and is publishing multiple articles on high profile recruits each day this week. Today's articles featured Sara Choy, who will sign with Stanford, Sophia Graver, who is headed to Auburn, and an update on Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson, a senior who will not be making a decision this fall. For more on the National Letter of Intent itself and what it means, visit this website.

I will be periodically doing a roundup of major Division I signings, with links to the announcements on the school's website or twitter account, so let's get to the first batch. (If nationality is not mentioned, the player is from the US).

Men:

Alabama has signed Patrick Kaukovalta of Finland.

Tennessee has signed Nicaise Muamba of Canada, who will begin in January 2018.

Nebraska has signed Mason Meier, William Gleason and Victor Moreno Lozano of Spain.

Texas A&M has signed Noah Schachter and Austin Abbrat.

UCLA has announced the signings of Roscoe Bellamy, Eric Hahn Matthew Tsolakyan and Max Wild.  Bellamy, one of the country's top 14-year-olds in 2014, has been plagued by injuries the past several years.


Women:

Arizona State has signed Cali Jankowski.

Auburn has signed Sophia Graver.

Boise State has signed Emily Strande.

Boston College has signed Laura Lopez Giese of Spain.

Colorado has signed Megan Forster of Great Britain.

Brianna Lashway is transferring from Missouri to Nebraska for her senior year.

Notre Dame has signed Maeve Koscielski.

Oklahoma has signed Jasmine Asghar of Great Britain, Kianah Motosono, Martina Capurro of Argentina and Ivana Corley.

Texas Tech has signed Olivia Peet of Great Britain and Nell Miller of Great Britain.


The ITA released the Division III singles and doubles rankings, the only national rankings compiled for the fall.  To no one's surprise, three-time NCAA singles champion Eudice Chong of Wesleyan is No. 1. It's odd not to see Williams' Julie Raventos near the top however. Click on the headings to see the complete list.

Women's singles Top 10:
1.Eudice Chong, Wesleyan
2. Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, Emory
3. Catherine Allen, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
4. Clare Handa, Chicago
5. Briana Hartmann, Gustavus Adolphus
6. Kate Daugherty, Southwestern
7. Bridget Harding, Emory
8. Rachel Summers, Mary Washington
9. Libby Rickeman, MIT
10. Camille Smukler, Amherst

Women's doubles Top 5:
1. Eudice Chong and Victoria Yu, Wesleyan
2. Bridget Harding and Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico, Emory
3. Kate Daugherty and Esther Bowers, Southwestern
4. Emily Chen and Maryann Zhao, Pomona-Pitzer
5. Vinaya Rao andMelissa Strome, Carnegie Mellon

Men's singles Top 10:
1. Mohanad Alhouni, Gustavus Adolphus
2. Daniel Levine, Carnegie Mellon
3. Brian Grodecki, Williams
4. Jonathan Jemison, Emory
5. Chase Lipscomb, Redlands
6. Jeremy Yuan, Chicago
7. Andrew Finkleman, Wesleyan
8. Austin Barr, Williams
9. Lubomir Cuba, Middlebury
10. JT Wynne, Skidmore

Men's doubles Top 5:
1. Tyler Raclin and Jeremy Yuan, Chicago
2. Grant Urken and Luke Tercek, Bowdoin
3. Robert Carter and Zach Hewlin, Whitman
4. JT Wynne and Steven Koulouris, Skidmore
5. Adrian Bouchet and Will Wanner, Emory

The ITA release is available here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Seeds Ousted at Evert ITF Grade 4; Geller Moves to No. 1 in ITF Junior Rankings; Withdrawals Deplete Mexico Grade A Girls Field; Next Gen Finals Underway in Milan

This week's ITF Grade 4 at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton Florida is the third of three hard court tournaments before the ITF Junior Circuit shifts to clay in Mexico and Florida for the remainder of 2017.  In today's second round, both top seeds--2017 USTA 16s champion Angelica Blake and 2016 Les Petits As champion Stefan Leustian--were eliminated.

Blake lost to 16-year-old Anika Yarlagadda 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 and Leustian was beaten by 17-year-old Robert Hammond 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, in Hammond's first competition since May.

The No. 2 seeds are also both gone.  Nicholas Ionel of Romania lost in the first round on Monday, and girls No. 2 seed Jennifer Gadalov was beaten by Wu Mei Xu of China in today's second round.  Last week's champions in South Carolina, Emma Navarro[12] and JanMagnus Johnson[10], advanced to Wednesday's third round.


This week's ITF Junior ranking release saw Stanford freshman Axel Geller of Argentina take over the No. 1 spot from US Open boys champion Wu Yibing of China.  None of the top 5 boys in the rankings are entered in the final four major junior tournaments of the year, so Geller definitely has an excellent chance of finishing the year as ITF World Junior champion, since he is not defending any points the rest of the year.  Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic, last year's World Junior Champion, played all four of the season-ending tournaments and won three of them to earn the ITF award, but that kind of a run won't be happening this year.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I can't recall any player ranked No. 1 by the ITF who went on to play college tennis. Ryan Sweeting, who won the US Open boys title in 2005 and went on to play briefly at Florida, reached No. 2 that year, but none of the players, boys or girls, who ended the year as No. 1 since the ITF began the award in 1978 went to college.

The Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City is next week, but the fields have been dwindling since the acceptances were first announced several weeks ago.  Top Americans Taylor Johnson, Sofia Sewing and Hurricane Tyra Black have withdrawn, and the main draw ranking cutoff, initially at 196, is now at 550.  Sebastian Korda, who is playing the Niceville Futures this week in Florida is still entered, but the boys cutoff, initially 256, is now at 452.

The ATP's NextGen Finals have begun in Milan, with the first matches in the round robin portion of the tournament complete.  Hyeon Chung of Korea defeated Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Andrey Rublev of Russia defeated Italian wild card Gianluigi Quinzi, Borna Coric of Croatia defeated Jared Donaldson and Daniil Medvedev defeated Karen Khachanov in an all-Russia match.  The tournament is not only a showcase for the best 21-and-under players, but something of a laboratory, with a long list of experiments.  These are the innovations being tested in this week's matches:

  1. Best of five sets, with number of games to win not 6, but 4
  2. Tiebreaker not at 6-all, but at 3-all
  3. No-ad, with server's choice, not receiver's
  4. Lets played on serves
  5. 25-second serve clock
  6. Maximum of one medical timeout per player per match
  7. Chair umpire but no lines people, Hawkeye used for all calls
  8. Coaching allowed via headset at end of each set
  9. Match begins 5 minutes after second player comes on court for warmup
  10. Fans are allowed to move around during play, if not behind the baseline

I don't like 1, 2, or 3, and I think Hawkeye for all lines is not economically feasible, and probably not desirable either.  The rest of the innovations are fine by me, but rather than polling fans or medium on these changes, I am much more interested in what all pro players think of the changes.

Highlights of today's matches can be found at the ATP website.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Longtime Kalamazoo Nationals Photographer Helen Handelsman Passes Away; USTA Australian Open Wild Card Standings

The USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships lost one of its most recognizable and significant supporters late last month, when photographer Helen Handelsman passed away at age 85.  For 47 years, Handelsman and her Nikon captured not only the on-court drama and action of the country's most revered USTA tournament, but what the tournament meant to the Kalamazoo community. The volunteers, the picnics, the sponsor receptions; the Player of the Day awards, the opening ceremonies, the sportsmanship awards; the efforts of the ballrunners, the officials, the maintenance staff--all were woven into a tapestry that could be viewed every year in the elaborate and yet free program that the tournament produces every year.

After raising her family in Kalamazoo, Handelsman moved to San Francisco in the 1980s, but returned to Stowe Stadium every summer to chronicle the nation's top junior tennis players as they navigated a rite of passage in their tennis careers.

Handelsman was in her early 80s when her illness forced her to relinquish the grueling job to YourGameFace.com, but her love of the tournament kept her coming back to spend time as a tower assistant and to reconnect with the friends she had made over the decades.

I'll always remember how much Handelsman enjoyed getting to know the players and how fond she was of them, both as a group and individually. Working in tandem with Dr. Don Flesche, who in addition to his work as the Voice of the Tournament, is responsible for organizing the program, Handelsman took the job of archiving the event seriously, understanding what the tens of thousands of photographs contributed to the sport and its history.

Former Kalamazoo tournament director Timon Corwin called Handelsman a pillar of the tournament, and I think that's exactly the right word. Reinforcements have been added since she retired, but the support she provided for decades will continue to be part of the tournament's structure.

The obituary that appeared in yesterday's Kalamazoo Gazette is available here.

The USTA released the standings for its Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with the women's race wrapping up this week at the $80,000 tournament in Waco Texas.  Kristie Ahn, who leads after winning the Tyler tournament title yesterday, is entered in Waco, but Danielle Collins, who is tied for second with Vicky Duval, is not.  Duval is in qualifying in Waco, facing 18s National champion Ashley Kratzer for a place in the main draw on Tuesday.   The men are in their second week of the race, with most of the contenders in at the $75,00 Knoxville Challenger, including leader Tim Smyczek and second place Tennys Sandgren.  Other tournaments are also being counted for the men, and Austin Krajicek is playing in a Challenger in Japan this week.

Women's standings:


Men's standings:


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lazaro, Borges Claim ITA National Fall Titles; Ahn, Smyczek Win, Take Australian Open Wild Card Lead; Sock Wins Paris Masters; Johnson, Navarro, Sieg Capture ITF Junior Titles


Top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State and unseeded Andrea Lazaro of Florida International won singles titles at the inaugural ITA National Fall Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Sunday.

Borges, who received a wild card into the event, defeated No. 3 seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest 7-5, 6-3 and Lazaro, who received her entry based on her semifinal showing at last month's All-American Championships, came back to defeat No. 11 seed Samantha Harris of Duke 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Borges was having much less difficulty holding serve in the first set, and although Chrysochos saved two set points serving at 4-5, Borges got three more opportunities at 5-6, and converted the second.  Borges, a junior from Portugal, won a deciding point on serve to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, got the only break he needed to go up 3-1 and managed to keep it, serving for the match at 5-3.  He had to save two break points in that game, but he hit a good first serve on the deciding point to win the first ITA national title since Thomas Dupre won the All-American title back in 1996.

Harris served for the first set at 5-3, was broken at love, but managed to break Lazaro for the set.  Lazaro began to find her range in the second set, and after an early exchange of breaks, it was Lazaro who captured the big points, and she closed out the set with a break.

The third set was similar to the second, with Lazaro getting the first break, giving it back, but breaking again. Lazaro, a senior from Spain, won a deciding point serving at 4-2 to keep her one break lead and broke Harris to claim the title, the first ITA title for a Florida International player.

Chrysochos had another opportunity for a title on Sunday and he converted it, winning the men's doubles title with Skander Mansouri. The unseeded pair, who were playing together for the first time, defeated No. 8 seeds Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles of Texas 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

The women's doubles champions were also unseeded, with Stanford's  Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon beating Alexa Bortles and Arianne Hartono of Ole MIss 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Anna Danilina of Florida, the No. 1 seed, won the women's consolation tournament for those losing in the first round.  Danilina defeated Anna Bright of Cal 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 in today's final.  Alex Knight of Michigan won the men's consolation title, beating Giovanni Oradini of Mississippi State 6-4, 6-2.

The ITA recap of today's finals is here.

Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her career today at the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas.  The former Stanford star defeated Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-4 to take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.  Ahn may not need the wild card however. The 25-year-old from New Jersey is now up to a new career high of 106 in the rankings with this title, close to the usual cutoff for the main draw. The final tournament in the women's wild card race is in Waco Texas this coming week. For more on today's final, see this article from the tournament.

Unseeded Tim Smyczek won his first Challenger title since 2015 today in Charlottesville, beating top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the $75,000 event. Smyczek takes the lead in the men's Australian Open wild card race, with two weeks left.

DJ Thomas and Denis Kudla won the doubles title in the worst possible way.  Mikelis Libietis and Jarryd Chaplin were leading Thomas and Kudla 7-6(4), 4-1 when Libietis tore his Achilles tendon, a serious injury that resulted in his being carried off the court after a long delay. The former Tennessee star and 2014 NCAA doubles champion is looking at a very long recovery.

At the $15,000 Futures in Birmingham Alabama, former South Florida All-American Roberto Cid won his first title since January.  The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 3 seed Fabrizio Ornago of Italy 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  Raleigh Smith and Wil Spencer won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Nick Chappell and Boris Arias 6-2, 7-6(3).

Jack Sock won the ATP Paris Masters, beating qualifier Filip Krajinovic of Serbia 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 in today's final.  With the title, Sock qualified for the World Tour Finals in London, moved into the Top 10 for the first time, and will end the year as the top-ranked American, ending John Isner's run.  He is also the first American to win a Masters title since Andy Roddick won Miami in 2010. For more on Sock's title, see this article from the ATP website.

Emma Navarro and JanMagnus Johnson won singles titles at the ITF Grade 4 in South Carolina, with Navarro also capturing the doubles title.  The 17-year-old Johnson, seeded No. 11, defeated No. 13 seed Yeudy Villar of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  It's the second ITF title for Johnson.  Navarro, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 5 seed Kylie Collins 6-0, 6-1 in the final.  The 16-year-old Easter Bowl 16s champion, who has verbally committed to Duke, had won ITF doubles titles before, but this is her first title in singles.  Top seeds in doubles, Navarro and Chloe Beck beat Collins and Sophia Patel 6-4, 6-4, the fourth ITF doubles title for South Carolina residents Navarro and Beck.  The boys doubles title went to No. 8 seeds Maxwell Giddens and Julian Steinhausen, who beat Brandon and Nicholas McKinney 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 5 in the Cayman Islands, 14-year-old Madison Sieg won her first ITF title, in her first ITF tournament.  Obviously unseeded in her debut, Sieg defeated unseeded Catherine Aulia 6-1, 6-2 in the final.  In the boys final, Keshav Chopra[9], lost to No. 3 seed Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Canada, Bill Duo won the doubles title, and reached the finals in singles. Duo, who has committed to Princeton for 2018, partnered with Andrew Rezaev of Canada to take the doubles championship, with the unseeded pair beating No. 2 seeds Razvan Baiant and Nick Lagaev of Canada 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Duo, seeded No. 8, lost to the unseeded Lagaev in the singles final 7-6(3), 7-6(6).
Haley Giavara partnered with Jada Bui of Canada to take the girls doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating unseeded Alisia Manolescu and Corina Spasojevic of Canada 6-3, 6-1 in the final.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Finals Set at ITA National Fall Championships; Collins and Ahn, Sandgren and Smyczek Face Off in Pro Circuit Events; Sock and Vandeweghe Reach ATP/WTA Finals

Seniors Andrea Lazaro of Florida International and Samantha Harris of Duke have advanced to the women's final of the inaugural ITA National Fall Championships, while Nuno Borges of Mississippi State and Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest will meet for the men's title Sunday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The unseeded Lazaro, a semifinalist at last month's ITA All-American Championships, won a grueling battle with All-American champion Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4. Lazaro, who celebrates her 23rd birthday today, was down a break in the seesaw second set, then went ahead 4-2 and lost that break. She played an outstanding tiebreaker however, using her forehand to dominate, and then kept the momentum going in the third set, taking a 3-1 lead.  That too disappeared, but at 4-all, the Barcelona native broke the No. 13 seed and went on to hold serve to secure the win.

No. 11 seed Harris's 6-4, 6-3 win over unseeded Bianca Turati wasn't streamed but it was much less complicated than Lazaro's.

Wild card Borges, the top seed, came from 4-1 down in the second set to defeat Martin Redlicki of UCLA 6-2, 6-4. The junior from Portugal won a deciding point with Redlicki serving at 4-all in the second set, then held at 40-30, with a drop shot skimming the net cord and dropping over on Redlicki's side.

Chrysochos, the 2016 All-American champion, will play for two titles on Sunday. The junior from Cyprus defeated No. 16 Thomas Laurent of Oregon 6-2, 6-2 to reach the singles final, then teamed with Skander Mansouri to advance to the doubles championship match.  The unseeded Chrysochos and Mansouri defeated No. 4 seeds Chris Kougoucheff  and Parker Wynn of Louisville 6-3, 6-1 to set up a meeting with No. 8 seeds Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles of Texas. Banzer and Telles had their hands full with unseeded Joseph Dodridge and Chema Carranza of Wisconsin, but converted their fourth match point to earn a 6-2, 3-6, 12-10 victory.

The women's doubles final will feature two unseeded teams, with Alexa Bortles and Arianne Hartono of Ole Miss facing Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon of Stanford. Bortles and Hartono defeated No. 7 seeds Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones of Georgia Tech 6-2, 7-6(5) and Arbuthnott and Gordon beat No. 3 seeds Harris and Kelly Chen of Duke 6-1, 7-5 in today's semifinals.

The singles finals will be streamed, free, back-to-back on Sunday, with Kaitlyn Ray and Mark Bey providing commentary. With Chrysochos in both finals, I imagine the men's singles will be first on, at 10:00 am Pacific, 1 pm Eastern.  The stream is available at the ITA tournament page.

While no Americans are in the ITA finals, six are in professional level finals Sunday around the world.

At the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas, unseeded Danielle Collins and No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn advanced to the final, with Collins taking out No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin 6-1, 7-6(10) and Ahn beating Irina Falconi 7-5, 6-3.  Collins has not won a title above the $25,000 level, while Ahn is looking for her second $60K and above title of this year.  Ahn beat Collins in three sets this summer in the quarterfinals of a $60K in Sacramento.  The winner will take the lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, but Ahn is getting close to the top 100 now, so she may qualify on her own ranking.

Taylor Townsend and Jessica Pegula won the Tyler doubles title today, beating Jamie Loeb and Sweden's Rebecca Peterson 6-4, 6-1. It is the second title of the year for Townsend and Pegula as a team.

At the $60,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Toronto, Ohio State junior Francesca Di Lorenzo fell in the semifinals to No. 2 seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.  Two-time NCAA doubles champion Erin Routliffe(Alabama) won the doubles title, with former Crimson Tide star Alexa Guarachi Mathison.  They defeated Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico and Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-4 in today's final. Bonaventure will play Schnyder for the singles title on Sunday.

The final of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville will feature top seed Tennys Sandgren and unseeded Tim Smyczek.  Sandgren, who has been dominant all week, beat No. 7 seed Michael Mmoh 6-4 6-4, while Smyczek took out No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.  The winner of tomorrow's match will take the lead in the men's USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, with two more weeks to go.

Unseeded DJ Thomas and Denis Kudla advanced to the doubles final with a 7-5, 6-1 win over former UVA stars Thai Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard. They will face former Tennessee teammates Jarryd Chaplin and Mikelis Libietis, the No. 4 seeds, for the title.


Two former US Open junior champions will play for big pro titles on Sunday.  CoCo Vandeweghe reached the final of the last significant WTA tournament of the year in Zhuhai.  The No. 2 seed defeated Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-3, 6-3 in today's semifinal and will face No. 7 seed Julia Goerges of Germany for the title. Vandeweghe, currently at a career-high ranking of 12, is looking for her first title of the year, after reaching both the Australian Open and US Open semifinals.  She won the US Open girls title back in 2008.

Jack Sock, who won the US Open boys title in 2010, reached his first ATP Masters final in Paris, defeating French wild card Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-2.  Sock, seeded 16th, will face qualifier Filip Krajinovic of Serbia in the final, after Krajinovic defeated No. 9 seed John Isner 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(5). Sock will earn a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals in London and his first appearance in the Top 10 if he wins the title.

Friday, November 3, 2017

October Aces; Semifinals Set at ITA Fall Nationals; Girls 18s Clay Courts Moving to South Carolina; All-American Semifinals at Tyler $80K, Charlottesville Challenger; Scott, Wen Win Les Petits As Playoffs

My monthly column looking back on the top junior and college performances is up now at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with 18 players featured. It should have been 20; somehow I failed to include 2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, who won the $25,000 Houston Futures and 2016 NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald, who won the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger.  That was the week I was in Tulsa, but that's no excuse, and I apologize for overlooking them.

The singles semifinals are set for the ITA Fall National Championships in Indian Wells after two rounds were played today.  The women's draw has been unpredictable from the first day, and two unseeded players have advanced to the semifinals.  Texas's Bianca Turati defeated No. 12 seed Michaela Gordon of Stanford and No. 8 seed Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech and will meet No. 11 seed Samantha Harris of Duke in Saturday's semifinal.  Harris advanced with straight-sets wins over Julia O'Loughlin of Denver and No. 3 seed Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine. Unseeded Andrea Lazaro of Florida International defeated Vladica Babic of Oklahoma State and No. 5 seed Alle Sanford of North Carolina and will face No. 13 seed Fernanda Contreras of Vanderbilt in the semifinals. Contreras, the All-American champion, beat Veronica Miroshnichenko of Loyola Marymount and Marie Leduc of Clemson today. Like Turati, she has not yet dropped a set.

All four of the men's semifinalists are seeded, with top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi, a wild card, facing no. 5 seed Martin Redlicki of UCLA and No. 3 seed Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest meeting No. 16 seed Thomas Laurent of Oregon.  Borges, who has yet to drop a set, defeated Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame and No. 6 seed Emil Reinberg of Georgia, while Redlicki twice came back from a set down to advance, beating Timo Stodder of Tennessee 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1 and No. 4 seed Skander Mansouri of Wake Forest 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4). Chrysochos beat No. 10 seed JJ Wolf of Ohio State in three sets and No. 9 seed Alfredo Perez of Florida in two to advance.  Laurent beat Aswin Lizen of Virginia and NAIA champion Kevin Konfederak of Georgia Gwinnett, with Laurent taking the quarterfinal match by a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) score.

Streaming will be available on two courts, and the ITA announced today that Mark Bey and Kaitlin Ray will be doing commentary. The two courts being streamed have not had commentary the first three days.

The sanctions for USTA National Level 1 tournaments have been approved recently, and the Girls 18s Clay Courts will be moving in 2018 from Memphis to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, outside Charleston. The winner of the tournament will receive a main draw wild card into the Volvo Car Open in the spring of 2019. When Memphis had a combined ATP/WTA tournament, the Clay Court champion received a wild card, but when the WTA event moved that ended. I would imagine that wild card was one of the reasons for awarding the tournament sanction to Charleston. For more on the move, see this article from Charleston's The Post and Courier.

The semifinals are set for the $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tyler Texas, with all four participants Americans.  Danielle Collins will face No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin and No. 4 seed Kristie Ahn will meet No. 7 seed Irina Falconi.  Collins beat qualifier Ashley Kratzer 7-5, 6-1 and Kenin took out Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey 7-5, 6-4.  Ahn outlasted Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 and Falconi downed No. 2 seed Taylor Townsend 6-4, 7-6(6). 

Francesca Di Lorenzo has reached the semifinals of the $60,000 ITF Womens' Pro Circuit tournament in Toronto, advancing when Tammy Hendler of Belgium retired trailing 4-0 in the first set.  Di Lorenzo will face No. 2 seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland on Saturday.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Charlottesville, top seed Tennys Sandgren, No. 7 seed Michael Mmoh, No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov and unseeded Tim Smyczek have advanced to Saturday's semifinals.  Sandgren defeated Brayden Schnurr of Canada 6-1, 6-2 and will face Mmoh, who beat qualifier Ruan Roelofse of South Africa 7-6(4), 6-4.  Roelofse had upset No. 3 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in the second round.  Kozlov beat Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-4, while Smyczek advanced to the semifinals when No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland retired trailed 7-6(2), 2-1.


The final matches in the USA's Les Petits As playoffs were played today, with Katrina Scott and Evan Wen the champions. The finalists will play in the main draw of the prestigious 14-and-under tournament, with the third place finishers assured of at least a qualifying berth. The US will receive a third main draw spot, with who fills that to be determined.

Final: Katrina Scott[4] def. Katja Wiersholm[2] 6-2, 6-4
Third place: Vivian Ovrootsky[1] def. Robin Montgomery[3] 7-6(11), 6-0

Final: Evan Wen[1] def. John Kim 7-6(4), 7-5
Third place: Victor Lilov[3]  def. Jonah Braswell 6-2, 3-1, ret.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Kratzer Takes Out Top Seed Gibbs at Tyler $80K; Second Seed Holt Upset at ITA Fall Nationals; Finals Set at USA Les Petits As Playoffs


USTA National 18s champion Ashley Kratzer, who has qualified for the last two $80,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit events, got yet another impressive win today in Tyler Texas, beating top seed Nicole Gibbs 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 in second round action.  In yesterday's first round, the 18-year-old left-hander defeated Macon champion Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 7-6(0) and last week, Kratzer got her first WTA top 100 victory over No. 2 seed Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine.  Krazter will face two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins, one of six Americans through to the quarterfinals.  The others are Taylor Townsend[2], Sonya Kenin[3], Kristie Ahn[4] and Irina Falconi[7]. Kenin avenged her loss this spring to Amanda Anisimova at the Dothan $60K, beating the US Open girls champion 6-4, 6-3.

With Vicky Duval losing today, all six have an opportunity to make up ground on the current leader of the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

At the $60,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Toronto, 20-year-old Francesca Di Lorenzo defeated 38-year-old Greta Arn of Hungary 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. Di Lorenzo, the Ohio State junior, has reached the quarterfinals of the last three tournaments she's played. She will face qualifier Tammy Hendler of Belgium next.

At the ITA Fall Championships in Indian Wells, two more men's seeds and five women's seeds were eliminated in the second round, leaving just 6 of 16 men's seeds and 7 of 16 women's seeds in Friday's round of 16.

ITA Oracle Masters champion Brandon Holt of USC, the No. 2 seed, lost to Lucas Poullain of Florida State 6-3, 6-4 and No. 8 seed Johannes Schretter of Baylor was beaten by Aswin Lizen of Virginia 6-0, 6-2.

Top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Ryo Matsumura of Kentucky and Wake Forest's No. 3 and 4 seeds, Petros Chrysochos and Skander Mansouri, moved into the round of 16 with straight-sets victories.

Unseeded Kevin Konfederak, the NAIA champion from Georgia Gwinett, has advanced to the round of 16.

No. 4 seed Ena Shibahara of UCLA joined No. 1 seed Anna Danilina and No. 3 seed Karla Popovic of Cal on the sidelines, falling to Bianca Turati of Texas 7-6(4), 6-2.  No. 6 seed Katarina Jokic of Georgia, No. 7 seed Sinead Lohan of Miami, No. 10 seed Anastasia Rychagova of Kansas and No. 15 seed Mayar Ahmed of Pepperdine also lost in Thursday's second round.

Two rounds of singles will be played on Friday. See the ITA tournament page for links to draws, live scoring and live streaming.

The finals are set for the USA's Les Petits As playoffs, but those matches will be a bit anticlimactic, with the finalists both receiving main draw entries into next January's 14-and-under event in Tarbes France. No. 4 seed Katrina Scott and No. 2 seed Katja Wiersholm will be making the trip, as will No. 1 boys seed Evan Wen and unseeded John Kim. Wiersholm's brother Henrik, now a senior at Virginia, won the Les Petits As title back in 2011.

In past years, the US always received four main draw entries, but now it only gets three.  The third place finishers will receive at a least a qualifying entry, but I'm told the third main draw spot could go to another US player, as of yet to be determined.  If Coco Gauff wished to play, and she is still age-eligible, she would certainly be given a main draw spot.

Today's semifinal results:

Katrina Scott[4] def. Vivian Ovrootsky[1] 7-5, 6-1
Katja Wiersholm[2] def. Robin Montgomery[3] 1-6, 6-1, 6-2

Evan Wen[1] def. Jonah Braswell 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-1
John Kim def. Victor Lilov[3] 7-5, 7-5

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Top Seed Danilina Falls to Babic in Opening Round of ITA Fall Championships; Oracle Sponsors New Pro Events; Les Petits As Playoff Semifinals Set; Eddie Herr Acceptances

The first day of the ITA Fall National Championships in Indian Wells had its share of upsets, especially on the women's side, with two of the top three seeds eliminated.  Top seed Anna Danilina of Florida lost to Vladica Babic of Oklahoma State 6-3, 6-1 and No. 3 seed Karla Popovic of Cal was defeated by Arianne Hartono of Ole Miss 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.  Danilina was runner-up in her regional; Popovic was an at-large selection, while both Babic and Hartono won their region's titles.

The top two seeds in women's doubles also went out this afternoon, with Georgia's Mariana Gould and Katarina Jokic beating No. 1 seeds Ellyse Hamlin and Kaitlyn McCarthy of Duke 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 and Jada Hart and Gabby Andrews defeating No. 2 seeds Sarah Dvorak and Sabrina Federici of Texas Tech 6-4, 6-3.

Four men's seeds exited in the first round today, but none of the Top 10.  No. 11 seed Michael Geerts of Arizona State lost to Jackie Tang of Columbia 6-1, 3-6, 6-2; No. 12 seed Johannes Ingildsen of Florida lost to Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame 6-1, 7-5; No. 13 seed Walker Duncan of Georgia lost to Kyle Seelig of Ohio State 7-6(0), 6-2; and No. 14 seed Wayne Montgomery of Georgia lost to wild card Bjoern Petersen of Baylor 6-4, 6-3.

Men's first round doubles action is still ongoing as of 9:00 p.m. EDT.  Live scoring is available here.  Live streaming of two courts at Indian Wells can be found on the ITA tournament page.

Indian Wells was also in the news today when it was announced that Oracle would be sponsoring four big new tournaments this coming winter as part of the Oracle Challenge series.  The two men's $100,000 Challengers and two women's $125,000 tournaments will be played as combined events in Newport Beach, California January 20-28 and Indian Wells, California, February 24-March 4, with the American man and woman who accumulate the most points in those two weeks earning a main draw wild card into the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells next March. Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, who played tennis at Baylor, has been instrumental in providing funding for ITA events, and that generosity is now being extended to pro events.

The quarterfinals of the USA's Les Petits As playoff were held today in Florida, with the results below.  All four girls seeds advanced to Thursday's semifinals, while only two of the four boys seeds are in the final four.

Vivian Ovrootsky[1] def. Violet Martinez 6-2, 6-0
Katrina Scott[4] def. Alexis Blokhina 6-2, 6-3
Robin Montgomery[3] def. Sonya Macavei 6-3, 6-2
Katja Wiersholm[2] def. Eleana Yu 6-1, 4-6, 6-3

Evan Wen[1] def. Bruno Kuzuhara 6-2, 6-2
Jonah Braswell def. Herrick Legaspi[4] 6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Victor Lilov[3] def. Ozan Colak 7-5, 6-0
John Kim def. Nishesh Basavareddy[2] 6-2, 6-2

Complete results and Friday's order of play is available at the tournament website.

The ITF Eddie Herr Grade 1 acceptances were released today, with eight US boys and 11 US girls receiving entry into the main draw.  Sebastian Baez of Argentina is the only Top 10 boy entered; the girls entry list has No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe, No. 8 Carson Branstine of Canada and No. 10 Maria Carle of Argentina, the defending champion. The ranking cutoff for the boys draw as of now is an impressive 138, actually higher than the Grade A Orange Bowl the following week. The girls ranking cutoff was 108, slightly lower than the Orange Bowl's.

The US girls in the main draw: Osuigwe, Sofia Sewing, Caty McNally, Ellie Douglas, Nastasha Subhash, Hailey Baptiste, Hurricane Tyra Black, Nicole Mossmer, Elli Mandlik, Katie Volynets and Lea Ma.

The US boys in the main draw: Sebastian Korda, Andrew Fenty, Alexandre Rotsaert, Tristan Boyer, Sangeet Sridhar, Brian Shi, Axel Nefve and Govind Nanda.

The tournament runs from November 27- December 3 and I will again be covering it on site.