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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Collins, Mmoh Advance at Miami Open; Eastern Michigan Cuts Women's Tennis: Barry Men, Hawaii Pacific Women Top ITA Division II Rankings; Johnson Verbally Commits to UCLA

Danielle Collins broke into the WTA Top 100 this week, after reaching the fourth round at the BNP Parbias Open.  Although she has a long history of training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, the two-time NCAA singles champion from St. Petersburg Florida did not receive a wild card into the Miami Open (owned by IMG), so she had to make her way through qualifying. She defeated Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic and Jana Cepelova of Slovakia in straight sets to reach the main draw, and in today's first round match, her third in three days, she breezed past Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, ranked 37th, 6-1, 6-1. Currently ranked 93, Collins, who didn't face a break point in the match, will play No. 16 seed CoCo Vandeweghe next.

Michael Mmoh, now 20 years old, earned his first ATP Masters 1000 win today, beating wild card Chris Eubanks 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Mmoh, an IMG client, had received a main draw wild card the past two years but had to qualify this year. He didn't drop a set in his wins over Ramkumar Ramanathan of India and Mirza Basic of Bosnia.  Mmoh will play No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the second round.

Other Americans winning first round matches today include Varvara Lepchenko, Alison Riske, Sonya Kenin and Jared Donaldson.

Division I Eastern Michigan University announced on Tuesday that it was cutting four sports, including women's tennis. The MAC school, located in Ypsilanti, cut men's tennis back in 2000.  This Detroit News provides details on the funding levels, not including scholarships, for each of the four sports, with the tennis number the lowest.

The ITA's Division II rankings are out, with the computer responsible beginning today and for the rest of the season.  The Barry men and Hawaii Pacific women are No. 1 in the team rankings.  In singles, Sonja Larsen of Barry tops the women's rankings and Thomas Grinberg of St. Leo tops the men's rankings.

The USTA weekly poll continues to have the Wake Forest men and North Carolina women at the No. 1 spot. There are few changes in the Top 10s.

USTA Team Top 10 Men:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Texas A&M (4)
5. Ohio State (5)
6. North Carolina (6)
7. USC  (7)
8. Illinois (10)
9. Florida State (11)
10. Texas (9)

USTA Team Top 10 Women:
1. North Carolina(1)
2. Pepperdine (2)
3. Duke (4)
4. Vanderbilt (3)
5. Georgia Tech (7)
6. Georgia (6)
7. Oklahoma State (9)
8. South Carolina (T11)
9. Texas Tech (5)
10. Florida (8)

The entire Top 25 poll is available at here.

Rain in Southern California has washed out play at the $25,000 Futures in Calabasas, and likely has disrupted the schedule at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach.

Southern Californian Taylor Johnson announced on twitter a few days ago that she has verbally committed to UCLA for 2019.  Johnson, who's been as high as 8 in the ITF junior rankings, has been out with an injury since last September. She has withdrawn from both the Easter Bowl and the ISC in Carson.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Five Americans Qualify for Miami Open, Liu, Anisimova Post First Round Wins; Top Seeds Out at ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach; UNC Women, Wake Men Remain No. 1

Five Americans advanced to the main draw of the Miami Open today in Key Biscayne: Bjorn Fratangelo, Michael Mmoh, Sonya Kenin, Alison Riske and Danielle Collins.

Fratangelo, the No. 11 seed, beat No. 20 seed Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 7-6(6), 6-4 and Mmoh defeated No. 2 seed seed Mirza Basic of Bosnia, who has a current ATP ranking of 75, 7-5, 7-6(2).  Patrick Kypson lost to Cameron Norrie of Great Britain 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-1, Denis Kudla lost to Calvin Hemery of France 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, Ernesto Escobedo lost to John Millman of Australia 6-1, 6-2 and Mackenzie McDonald lost to Darian King of Barbados 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Riske advanced when Oceane Dodin of France retired trailing 6-1, Collins defeated Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 7-6(3), 6-4 and Kenin came back for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium. Nicole Gibbs lost to Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 7-6(3), 6-4.

Four American women played their first round main draw matches today, and all advanced.  Claire Liu picked up her first WTA main draw win (not counting WTA 125 events) against fellow teenager and wild card Whitney Osuigwe 6-3, 6-1.  Liu, the reigning Wimbledon girls champion, beat Osuigwe last spring in the Easter Bowl ITF semifinals, but had lost to her twice since then, in the French Open girls final and the quarterfinals of the USTA National 18s in San Diego.

Amanda Anisimova, the reigning US Open girls champion, defeated Qiang Wang of China 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to record her fourth WTA Premier level victory of the month. Next up for the 16-year-old Floridian is No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Christina McHale advanced when Kaia Kanepi of Estonia had to retire leading 3-1 in the first set due to an injury.  Wild card Bernarda Pera beat Lara Arruabarrena of Spain 7-5, 6-4.

The ITF Junior Circuit returns to the United States this week for the first time since December's Orange Bowl, with a Grade 4 in Newport Beach California.  As is frequently the case with this event, which used to precede the International Spring Championships, but is now the week before the Easter Bowl, the seeding doesn't have much predictive power. Many top Southern Californian juniors don't play ITF tournaments, so they don't have the requisite rankings for seeding, but are competitive with those who do.  Both No. 1 seeds lost in the first round on Monday, with wild card Siem Woldeab beating Daniel Moreno of Mexico 7-5, 6-1 and Vivian Ovrootsky defeating top seed Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador 7-5, 6-4.

The latest ITA Division I team and individual rankings are out, with the North Carolina women and Wake Forest men remaining on top. The TCU men have made a big jump this week, going from 32 to 11 and they are currently playing No. 6 Texas A&M in College Station.  Martin Redlicki of UCLA has returned to the top spot in singles. 

The Texas women have moved into the Top 10 this week at No. 8, with Bianca Turati of Texas retaining her No. 1 position in the singles rankings.  Mississippi State, unranked last week, moved up to 24 on the basis of the wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones of Georgia Tech have taken over the top spot in the women's doubles rankings.

Women’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team March 20, 2018 (previous ranking of March 13 in parentheses)
1. North Carolina (1)
2. Pepperdine (4)
3. Vanderbilt (2)
4. Duke (3)
5. Northwestern (5)
6. Georgia Tech (6)
7. Illinois (7)
8. Texas (12)
9. Georgia (8)
10. South Carolina (10)

Women’s Singles: (previous ranking of March 6 in parentheses)
1. Bianca Turati, Texas (1)
2. Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, Florida Atlantic (6)
3. Anastasia Rychagova, Kansas (3)
4. Andrea Lazaro, Florida International (4)
5. Fernanda Contreras, Vanderbilt (5)
6. Katarina Jokic, Georgia (2)
7. Samantha Harris, Duke (7)
8. Gabriela Knutson, Syracuse (11)
9. Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (18)
10. Michaela Gordon, Stanford (17)

Women’s Doubles:
1. Paige Hourigan and Kenya Jones, Georgia Tech (4)
2. Jessie Aney and Alexa Graham, North Carolina (2)
3. Emily Arbuthnott and Michaela Gordon, Stanford (3)
4. Erin Larner and Maddie Lipp, Northwestern (1)
5. Samantha Harris and Kelly Chen, Duke (6)

Men’s ITA Division I Top 10 Team March 13, 2018 (previous ranking of March 6 in parentheses)
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. Ohio State (4)
3. Stanford (2)
4. UCLA (3)
5. North Carolina (5)
6. Texas A&M (6)
7. Illinois (7)
8. Michigan (8)
9. Florida (12)
10. USC (11)

Men’s Singles: (previous ranking of March 6 in parentheses)
1. Martin Redlicki, UCLA (3)
2. William Blumberg, North Carolina (1)
3. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (4)
4. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (2)
5. Alex Knight, Michigan (5)
6. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (10)
7. Petros Chrysochos, (8)
8. Alfredo Perez, Florida (7)
9. Brandon Holt, USC (12)
10. Tom Fawcett, Stanford (11)

Men’s Doubles:
1. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida (1)
2. Petros Chrysochos and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (5)
3. William Blumberg and Robert Kelly, North Carolina (6)
4. Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles, Texas (3)
5. Chema Carranza and Josef Dodridge, Wisconsin (4)

Monday, March 19, 2018

USTA Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge Begins Next Month; Kypson Downs Smyczek in Miami Open Qualifying; Calabasas $25K Futures Qualifying Complete

The USTA has announced the dates of its seventh annual Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge, which it holds every year to determine the recipient of the USTA's reciprocal wild card. The American man and woman collecting the most ATP and WTA points during the Challenge, using the best two results, will receive entry into the main draw in Paris this spring.

As has been the case for the women since the Wild Card Challenge's inception, four upcoming tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit will serve as designated events:

Week of April 9: $60,000 Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.
Week of April 16: $80,000 Dothan, Ala.
Week of April 23: $80,000 Charlottesville, Va.
Week of April 30: $80,000 Charleston, S.C.

The American player who earns the most WTA points in two of these events will be awarded the wild card, with the tiebreaker the player with the higher WTA ranking.  Last year Amanda Anisimova won the wild card.  The women's fact sheet is available here.

The men's Wild Card Challenge changed last year from designated USTA Pro Circuit events to any ATP event, Tour or Challenger level being held during the four-week period. This year those events must be on red or green clay.  The four weeks this year begin April 9th and end with tournaments starting on April 30th.  Tennys Sandgren won the wild card last year. The men's fact sheet is available here.

I mentioned in last night's post the beginning of the women's qualifying at the Miami Open, but because the men's qualifying draw had not yet been released, I wasn't aware that the men's qualifying was also beginning today. 

Mackenzie McDonald[24] had a tough first round, drawing 17-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, who qualified and won a round at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this month, but the 2016 NCAA champion managed to earn a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) victory.

Patrick Kypson, the reigning Kalamazoo 18s champion and a freshman at Texas A&M, received a wild card into qualifying and made good use of it, defeating Tim Smyczek[18] 6-4, 6-3.  Kypson, currently ranked 729, has only played one ATP Top 100 player in his career, and while Smyczek was outside that at 117, it is Kypson's best win by ranking by more than 200 spots.  Kypson will play Great Britain's Cameron Norrie[10], the former TCU star for a place in the main draw.  Norrie advanced when Stefan Kozlov retired trailing 6-1, 2-0.  Michael Mmoh beat No. 22 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 7-6(4), 6-4 and No. 13 seed Ernesto Escobedo defeated Gleb Sakharov of France 6-0, 6-3. Bjorn Fratangelo was supposed to play Tommy Paul in the opening round of qualifying, but Paul, who hasn't played since the Dallas Challenger at the end of January, was replaced by Pedja Krstin of Serbia. Fratangelo, the No. 11 seed, beat Krstin 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.  Denis Kudla, who won the Drummondville Challenger title yesterday, had a long trip south for his first round qualifying match, but it was worth it when he defeated No. 5 seed Gastao Elias of Portugal 7-5, 6-4 tonight.

Stanford freshman and 2017 ITF World Junior champion Axel Geller received a wild card into qualifying and drew Alex de Minaur of Australia.  In a rematch of the 2013 Junior Orange Bowl 14s final, de Minaur got his revenge today, beating the 18-year-old from Argentina 6-4, 6-0.

In women's qualifying, Danielle Collins[23], Nicole Gibbs[24], Alison Riske[14] and Sonya Kenin[12] advanced, with Kenin beating wild card Ann Li 6-2, 7-5. Sachia Vickery[10] is still on court.

The qualifying is complete at the $25,000 Calabasas California Futures, with six Americans advancing to the main draw.  Martin Redlicki[3], a senior at UCLA, defeated teammate Evan Zhu[10] 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-2 to reach the main draw, while brother Michael defeated Cornell freshman Alafia Ayeni 6-3, 6-2.  Georgia recruit Trent Bryde beat 17-year-old Govind Nanda 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, and Henry Craig[5] defeated 17-year-old Jenson Brooksby 6-3, 6-3. Harrison Adams[16] downed Or Ram-Harel[6] of Israel 6-4, 6-4 and Isaiah Strode beat Sem Verbeek[12] of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1. Like all qualifiers except for Strode, the two non-Americans have college ties.  Former Cal star Andre Goransson of Sweden beat top seed Sebastian Fanselow of Germany 7-6(4), 7-6(6) and Ruan Roelofse[4] of South Africa defeated USC recruit Jake Sands 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The top seed in Calabasas is last week's champion in Bakersfield, Matias Bourgue of France, with Alex Sarkissian seeded No. 2.  Wild cards were given to Stanford senior Tom Fawcett; high school junior Jacob Bullard, a Texas recruit; Marcos Giron, who is the No. 4 seed; and Calabasas junior Bruno Krenn.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Miami Open Women's Qualifying Begins Monday; Stewart Wins Tampa $15K; Kudla Takes Drummondville Challenger Title; Division I Upsets Continue

The women's qualifying draw is out for the Miami Open, with matches beginning at 10 a.m. Monday. Former two-time NCAA champions Nicole Gibbs and Danielle Collins are in the draw, as is Wimbledon girls finalist Ann Li, who plays 2015 USTA 18s champion Sonya Kenin.  Kristie Ahn, Taylor Townsend, Alison Riske, Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery are the other Americans in the qualifying draw.

The women's main draw was also revealed today, with 16-year-old wild card Amanda Anisimova drawing Qiang Wang of China and wild cards Claire Liu and Whitney Osuigwe meeting in a rematch of the 2017 French Open girls final.

Madison Keys[14], Sloane Stephens[13], Venus Williams[8] and CoCo Vandeweghe[16] are the seeded American women with byes.  Serena Williams, who is unseeded in her second tournament back after having a baby, has drawn Naomi Osaka of Japan in the first round. Osaka won the BNP Parbias Open today in Indian Wells, beating fellow 20-year-old Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-2.  Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer in a thrilling men's final, 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(2) to claim his first ATP Masters title.  Jack Sock and John Isner won the men's doubles title Saturday night, beating the Bryan brothers 7-6(4), 7-6(2).

In other tournament finals in North America, Katerina Stewart won her first title of 2018 at the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tampa Florida. The No. 2 seed, now 20 years old, defeated No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-0 in the final. It's Stewart's tenth career title; nine have come on clay.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Drummondville Canada, Denis Kudla picked up his first Challenger title since 2015.  Kudla, the No. 5 seed, beat unseeded Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-0, 7-5 and will move back into the ATP Top 150 with the title.

The champion at the $150,000 ATP Challenger in Irving Texas is Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, who beat Matteo Berrettini of Italy 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in today's final.

At the $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Mexico, 2014 US Open girls champion Maria Bouzkova of the Czech Republic won the singles title.  The 19-year-old, seeded No. 3, beat unseeded Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, the 2007 US Open girls champion, 6-4, 6-0.  Former Alabama stars Alexa Guarachi Matheson of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand won the doubles title, with the unseeded pair defeating top seeds Desirae Krawczyk (Arizona State) and Mexico's Giuliana Olmos(USC) 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.

I neglected to mention last week's sweep of ITF Women's Circuit titles by Ellie Halbauer, who began playing again in late January after months off due to injury. The 20-year-old Halbauer, the No. 8 seed, beat No. 3 seed Lucrezia Stefanini of Italy 6-3, 6-3 in the $15,000 Tunisia tournament's singles final and partnered with Julia Stamatova of Bulgaria for the doubles title.

The $25,000 Bakersfield Futures finished today, with top seed Mathias Bourgue of France beating No. 3 seed Jan Choinski of Germany 6-2, 6-3 for the singles title.  The doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Bernardo Saraiva(San Francisco) of Portugal and Sem Verbeek(Pacific) of the Netherlands beating top seeds Boris Arias(LSU) and Federico Zeballos of Bolivia 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final.

It was an eventful weekend in Division I college tennis, with the parity that's been evident throughout the season continuing.

The Arkansas men, ranked 49th, beat No. 14 Georgia 4-3, coming from 3-1 down in Fayetteville and unranked Virginia (can't say I've typed that before) beat No. 18 Notre Dame 5-2 in Charlottesville. TCU, currently ranked 32, blanked No. 9 Columbia in Fort Worth, earning its third straight Top 20 win.

No. 3 seed Cal won the men's Oracle Collegiate Challenge, which takes place at Indian Wells on the final weekend of the BNP Paribas Open. The Bears, ranked 39th, defeated Purdue, Baylor and Arizona State for the title.

Top-ranked Wake Forest took down No. 11 USC at home 4-1, with the Trojans not having Brandon Holt or Daniel Cukierman, their top two players, in the lineup due to injury.

In women's action, No. 10 South Carolina beat No. 8 Georgia 4-1 in Athens despite losing the doubles point. South Carolina got wins in the straight-sets wins at the top three singles positions and at No. 6.  Georgia had beaten No. 18 Florida 4-1 on Friday.  Unranked Mississippi State followed up its 4-3 victory Thursday over No. 2 Vanderbilt with a 4-0 win over No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday.  South Carolina is the only women's team still undefeated in SEC play, so they are in the driver's seat, although as Mississippi State has shown, there are few easy wins in the conference.

The top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels were taken to the limit by No. 22 Florida State today in Tallahassee, but UNC's Alexa Graham won in a third set at No. 4 singles, the only match to go three sets, to get the 4-3 victory.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

McNally Claims Second Straight Pro Circuit Doubles Title in Tampa, Pegula and Stewart in All-US Final in Singles; Dale Wins ITF Grade 4 in Panama

Caty McNally is only 16 years old, but she has already won four ITF Pro Circuit doubles titles including two in the last two weeks, with two different partners.

McNally, who has reached the Wimbledon girls doubles final the past two years, won the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit doubles title in Tampa Florida today.  With University of Virginia recruit Natasha Subhash, a regular partner of McNally's during her junior career, McNally defeated No. 4 seeds Rasheeda McAdoo and Katerina Stewart 3-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the final.

The first set was the only set the unseeded pair lost in the tournament, and last week in Orlando, with Whitney Osuigwe, another regular junior partner, McNally took the doubles title without the loss of a set.  Prior to this month, McNally has won two other $15,000 tournament titles, with Emily Appleton of Great Britain.

McNally reached the quarterfinals of the singles in Tampa, falling to No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula, who will play in the final on Sunday.  Pegula defeated former Syracuse standout Amanda Rodgers, the No. 6 seed, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in today's semifinals and will face No. 2 seed Katarina Stewart, who beat unseeded Ilona Kremen of Belarus 6-1, 6-0.

The singles final of the $25,000 men's Futures in Bakersfield California will feature No. 1 seed Mathias Bourgue of France and No. 3 seed Jan Choinski of Germany.  Wake Forest sophomore Borna Gojo reached the semifinals, but fell in a second match today to Choinski.  Rain kept the quarterfinal round from being completed on Friday.

Denis Kudla[5] has advanced to the final of the $75,000 ATP Drummondville Challenger, where he'll face unseeded Benjamin Bonzi of France.

Steve Johnson[3] was the last American standing at the $150,000 ATP 
Challenger in Irving Texas, but he lost today to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.  The unseeded Kukushkin will face alternate Mateo Berrettini of Italy in the final.

Andrew Dale, who played for the USTA National Spring Team Champions the Titans last week in Mobile, went to Panama for an ITF Grade 4 tournament this week and came away with his fourth ITF singles title.  The 16-year-old left-hander, seeded No. 2, defeated top seed Vikash Singh of India 6-4, 6-0 in the final. Dale's previous three ITF junior titles were in Grade 5 tournaments.

Camille Townsend, the No. 2 seed, lost to No. 3 seed Jada Bui of Canada in the girls final, 6-2, 6-0.  Top seeds Bui and Townsend lost in the doubles final to No. 3 seeds Jackeline Lopez and El Salvador's Sara Cruz Bonilla 6-2, 2-6, 10-7.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Malaysia, Skyler Grishuk reached the singles quarterfinals, and at the ITF Grade 2 in Spain, Zane Khan advanced to the singles semifinals.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Article on Trice Pickens' Commitment to Northwestern; Easter Bowl ITF B1 Wild Cards; Di Lorenzo and Eubanks Receive Oracle $100K Grants

While I was in Mobile, I had an opportunity to talk with two top juniors who have committed to Big Ten schools for Tennis Recruiting Network features. The first, five-star Trice Pickens of North Carolina, is heading northwest to Northwestern University this fall .  Next week, blue chip Andrea Cerdan will detail her reasons for selecting Michigan, joining the Wolverines in 2019. I always enjoy speaking with juniors about their college choice and the process they employed to make that important decision.

I mentioned in Thursday's post that the Easter Bowl ITF wild cards hadn't been announced, but I did receive that information today, along with the names of those who received 16s wild cards. With more than a week before the start of the tournament, these will likely change some with late withdrawals, but here's the list as of now:

Boys Easter Bowl ITF main draw wild cards:
Jenson Brooksby
Stefan Dostanic
Jake Sands
Ryder Jackson

Boys ITF qualifying wild cards:
Steven Sun (has already moved into qualifying)
Alex Bancila (has already moved into qualifying)
Milledge Cossu
Julian Steinhausen
Andre Saleh (has already moved into qualifying)

Girls Easter Bowl ITF main draw wild cards:
Jaeden Brown
Imani Graham
Elvina Kalieva
Charlotte Owensby
Alexandra Yepifanova
Sara Choy

Girls ITF qualifying wild cards:
Elaine Chervinsky
Nina Gulbransen
Isabelle Kouzmanov
Maya Rukosuev (has already moved into qualifying)
Kennedy Bridgforth

The 16s wild cards are:
Carson Tanguilig
Danielle Benabraham
Gianna Pielet
Nika Vesley

Andrew Chang
Jameson Corsillo
Alex Lin

Today Oracle announced the recipients of its annual grants to a men's and women's college player.  Ohio State's Francesca Di Lorenzo, who turned pro last year after two years in Columbus, and Georgia Tech's Christopher Eubanks, who turned pro this fall with one year of eligibility left, each will receive $100,000 grants to assist them in their transition to the professional tours.  

This is the second year these grants have been awarded. The first recipients were Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald. 

The complete release, which includes the names of the members of the committee that choose the recipients, is available here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Easter Bowl, International Spring Acceptances; McNally Reaches Another Quarterfinal at Tampa $15K; New ITA Rankings for D-III, NAIA, JUCO

The acceptance lists for the upcoming Easter Bowl and International Spring Championships have been up since early this month, and with the tournaments switching places on the calendar this year, I'll be starting my onsite coverage with the Easter Bowl.  The 12s, 14s and 16s will again be a gold ball event this year in the Palm Springs area, with the 12s and 14s beginning on Saturday, March 24.  The 16s begin on Monday the 26th, ending on Saturday March 31st, and ITF B1, which also begins on Monday, ends on Sunday, April 1st. 

The TennisLink site lists the participants; it appears wild cards have been distributed as the competitors' lists all contain 63 or 64 players.

Tristan Boyer, who qualified for the $25,000 Futures in Bakersfield this week but fell short in his attempt for his first ATP point today against fellow qualifier Isaiah Strode, leads the boys field, along with Drew Baird and Andrew Fenty, also in the ITF junior Top 15.

Alexa Noel, No. 10 in the current ITF junior rankings, leads the girls field, followed by Orange Bowl finalist Margaryta Bilokin and Caty McNally. Coco Gauff is not entered nor are Elysia Bolton and Dalayna Hewitt, who had good results at the Australian Open Juniors this year.

16s Easter Bowl champions Emma Navarro and Brandon Nakashima are both playing the ITF tournament this year.

The complete acceptance lists are at the ITF Junior tournament website.

For more on the tournament schedule, practice and competition sites and the Team USA meeting for coaches on Sunday March 25, see the Easter Bowl website.

The International Spring Championships in Carson, usually the week before the Easter Bowl, is now the week after, running from April 2-8. Unlike the Easter Bowl, which is allows only US players, the ISC is a Grade 1 tournament open to all.  Uisung Park of Korea, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton is the top-ranked ITF player as of the acceptance date, with Baird, Boyer and Fenty next on the list.  In the girls entries, Noel is missing, with Bilokin and Lea Ma the top ITF players.  Taylor Johnson, who hasn't played since last year's US Open Juniors, is on the acceptance list, but she entered and withdrew from the Easter Bowl, and the Carson withdrawal date isn't until next Tuesday.

Caty McNally, who is not entered in Carson, is warming up for the Easter Bowl at the $15,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit tournament in Tampa this week, where she has reached the quarterfinals. The 16-year-old from Ohio, who is the No. 8 seed, defeated former Georgia Tech standout Rasheeda McAdoo 6-3, 6-4 to advance to her third $15K quarterfinal of the year and fourth of her career. She will look for her first semifinal appearance when she takes on No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula on Friday.  Ingrid Neel[7] and Katarina Stewart[2] will face off in another all-USA quarterfinal, with No. 6 seed Amanda Rodgers the fifth American to advance to the final eight.  McNally and Natasha Subhash have advanced to the semifinals in doubles, as have the teams of McAdoo and Stewart and Neel and Quinn Gleason.

The ITA released its new Division III team rankings, along with NAIA men's and women's singles and doubles rankings and JUCO men's and women's team rankings. Emory remains No. 1 in both men's and women's D-III rankings, but Bowdoin has moved into the No. 2 position in the men's rankings.

Division III Men’s Top 10 Rankings, March 15, 2018 (previous ranking of March 8 in parentheses)

1. Emory University (1)
2. Bowdoin College (4)
3. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (2)
4. Middlebury University (3)
5. University of Chicago (6)
6. Amherst College (9)
7. Gustavus Adolphus (10)
8. Carnegie Mellon University (12)
9. Washington University-St.Louis (7)
10. Wesleyan University(5)

Division III Top 10 Women’s Rankings, March 15, 2018 (previous ranking of March 8 in parentheses)

1. Emory University (1)
2. Williams College (2)
3. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (3)
4. Middlebury College (4)
5. Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (6)
6. Carnegie Mellon University (9)
7. Bowdoin College (5)
8. Tufts University (7)
9. Wesleyan University (8)
10. University of Chicago (10)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Osuigwe, Anisimova, Liu Receive Miami Open Wild Cards; Chrysochos Gets ATP Top 100 Win at Irving Challenger; Few Changes in USTA College Poll

The Miami Open, which begins with qualifying on Monday March 19, announced its wild card recipients today.  The last three girls junior slam champions have received main draw wild cards: Whitney Osuigwe(French Open), Claire Liu(Wimbledon) and Amanda Anisimova(US Open). Osuigwe, 15, will be making her WTA main draw debut; Liu, 17, received a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open last week and at the Stanford tournament last year, as well as qualifying for the US Open in 2017.  Anisimova, 16, received a wild card into the main draw at last year's Miami Open, played the French Open with the wild card she earned in the USTA's Challenge and made the fourth round of the current BNP Paribas Open.

The other women's main draw wild cards:
Serena Williams
Victoria Azarenka(BLR)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Bernarda Pera
Alja Tomljanovic(AUS)
Roberta Vinci(ITA) (changed to qualifying wild card)

The men's main draw wild cards include former Georgia Tech star Christopher Eubanks, 2016 ITF World Junior champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, Nicola Kuhn of Spain, Mikael Ymer of Sweden and Nicolas Jarry of Chile.

The men's qualifying wild cards are Stanford freshman Axel Geller of Argentina, Texas A&M freshman Patrick Kypson, Michael Mmoh, Elias Ymer of Sweden, Casper Ruud of Norway and Joao Souza of Brazil.

The women's qualifying wild cards are Ann Li, Antonia Lottner of Germany, Katie Boulter of Great Britain, Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic, Allie Kiick, Emiliana Arango of Colombia and Xiyu Wang of China.

Wake Forest junior Petros Chrysochos picked up his first win over a player in the ATP Top 100 today at the $150,000 Irving Texas Challenger, beating No. 77 Thomas Fabbiano of Italy, the No. 8 seed, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.  Chrysochos, from Cyprus, had previously faced a Top 100 opponent twice, in Davis Cup back in 2013, and at the Winston-Salem Open last fall.  He will play Texas A&M senior Arthur Rinderknech of France, who advanced to the second round with a win yesterday over fellow qualifier Or Ram-Harel of Israel.

The USTA's Division I college poll continues to have the Wake Forest men and North Carolina women at No. 1, the same as the current ITA rankings.  There are few changes from last week's poll, although it is notable that the Stanford women, still languishing outside the Top 20 in the ITA computer rankings, are No. 10 in the voting done by college tennis experts. Florida, another perennial (and reigning) NCAA champion, is No. 8 in the USTA rankings and No. 18 in the ITA computer rankings. Northwestern, No. 5 in the ITA rankings, is No. 15 in the USTA poll.

USTA Men's Division I Top 10 (previous week's ranking in parentheses)

1. Wake Forest (1)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Stanford (4)
4. Texas A&M (5)
5. Ohio State (3)
6. North Carolina (6)
7. USC (7)
8. Columbia (8)
9. Texas (T9)
10. Illinois (11)

USTA Women's Division I Top 10

1. North Carolina (1)
2. Pepperdine (2)
3. Vanderbilt (3)
4. Duke (4)
5. Texas Tech (6)
6. Georgia (7)
7. Georgia Tech (5)
8. Florida (10)
9. Oklahoma State (9)
10. Stanford (14)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wake Forest Men, North Carolina Women Remain No. 1; New Faces Qualify for Tampa $15K; Ken Flach Passes Away

There are no changes at the top of this week's ITA Division I team rankings, with the North Carolina women and Wake Forest men still No. 1.  There was some shuffling in the Top 10, with Vanderbilt moving to No. 2 in the women's rankings, and Northwestern, which wasn't in the Top 25 in the initial poll back in January up to No. 5.  Ohio State, blanked by Georgia last week, fell from No. 2 to No. 4 in the men's rankings, while Stanford moved into the second spot.

There are no new individual rankings this week.

Women’s ITA Division I Top 10 March 13, 2018 (previous ranking of March 6 in parentheses)

1. North Carolina (1)

2. Vanderbilt (4)

3. Duke (3)

4. Pepperdine (2)

5. Northwestern (8)

6. Georgia Tech (5)

7. Illinois (6)

8. Georgia (7)

9. Texas Tech (9)

10. South Carolina (11)

Men’s ITA Division I Top 10 March 13, 2018 (previous ranking of March 6 in parentheses)

1. Wake Forest (1)

2. Stanford (3)

3. UCLA (4)

4. Ohio State (2)

5. North Carolina (8)

6. Texas A&M (5)

7. Illinois (6)

8. Michigan (7)

9. Columbia (11)

10. Texas (10)

The qualifying is complete at the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Tampa, with 16-year-olds Hailey Baptiste and Natasha Subhash and 15-year-old Jaleesa Leslie advancing to the main draw with wins today.  Baptiste and Leslie will be making their Pro Circuit main draw debuts Wednesday, with Baptiste facing No. 4 seed Quinn Gleason, the former Notre Dame standout, and Leslie playing Anca Cracuin of Canada. Subhash, who qualified last year in Tampa but lost in the first round, will play qualifier Emannuelle Salas of France.

Sad news today, when word of the death of Ken Flach was made public. The former Southern Illinois-Edwardsville star, six-time Grand Slam doubles champion, Olympic gold medalist and former Vanderbilt head coach passed away at the age of 54 from complications due to pneumonia.

The ATP published a lengthy obituary today, and Vanderbilt also released a statement focusing on Flach's contributions to the men's program there. Flach was inducted into the ITA College Tennis Hall of Fame, along with longtime doubles partner Robert Seguso, in 1998.

Amanda Anisimova lost 6-1, 7-6(2) to No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in today's fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indiana Wells.  Venus Williams, who beat sister Serena last night, defeated Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 7-6(6), 6-4 tonight to move into the quarterfinals.  Sam Querrey[18] beat Yuki Bhambri of India 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the round of 16.

Danielle Collins and Jack Sock[8] have yet to take the court for their Tuesday evening matches. Querrey will play the winner of the Sock match with Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Collins, Fritz Reach Round of 16 at BNP Paribas Open; Qualifying Complete at Bakersfield $25K Futures, Irving Challenger

Wild cards Danielle Collins and Sofya Zhuk had met in the final of January's Oracle Challenger Series, a WTA 125 event in Newport Beach California. Collins was forced to fight back after dropping the first set to the 2015 Wimbledon girls champion, beating the 19-year-old Russian 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.  Today at the BNP Parbias Open in Indian Wells, Collins didn't need three sets, beating Zhuk 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the round of 16, where she will play Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. The 24-year-old Floridian, who graduated from Virginia in 2016, after winning her second NCAA singles title that year, should move into the WTA Top 100 with her recent results.  Courtney Nguyen of the WTA Tour spoke to Collins after her win over Madison Keys two days ago for the tour's "Getting to Know" feature, and Collins discusses why she went to college in the first place and why she stayed to get her degree after winning the NCAAs the first time in 2014.

Taylor Fritz, who won the Easter Bowl at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden three years ago,  has advanced to the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time in his career, defeating Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(1). Fritz failed to convert two match points with Verdasco serving at 15-40, 4-5 in the third set, but he showed no sign of frustration after that and played an excellent tiebreaker to defeat the Spanish veteran. Fritz will play Borna Coric of Croatia, who has been impressive in his first three wins, including today's 6-1, 6-3 beatdown of No. 13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

The USTA Pro Circuit is back for the men this week, with a $25,000 Futures in Bakersfield California.  Sixteen-year-old Tristan Boyer is among the Americans qualifying. He joins Sekou Bangoura[2], Tyler Lu[9] and Isaiah Strode[10] in the main draw.

The men also have a $150,000 ATP Challenger in Irving Texas this week, but it hasn't drawn the players one would expect for that kind of prize money.  Only 10 places in the 16-player qualifying draw were filled, meaning most played only one match to qualify and earn 5 ATP points. And in the main draw, although the top two players--Yuichi Sugita of Japan and Jared Donaldson--are in the ATP Top 50, 10 players received entry as alternates.  Three current college players qualified: Texas A&M's Arthur Rinderknech and Patrick Kypson and Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos. 

In addition to Bakersfield, another reason for the sparse field in Irving is another ATP Challenger this week in Drummondville Canada, this one featuring $75,000 in prize money.  The only Top 100 ATP player in the draw is top seed Vasek Pospisil of Canada. North Carolina freshman Benjamin Sigouin received a wild card; Illinois senior Aleks Vukic[6] won three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw.

The women have moved west from Orlando to Tampa for another $15,000 Pro Circuit event.  Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito and Katerina Stewart are the top two seeds. Wild cards were given to Elli Mandlik, Emory's Daniella Moreno-Kaste, Victoria Hu and 2017 Orange Bowl finalist Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine, who has not played since falling to Whitney Osuigwe in the championship match in December. Qualifying will be completed on Tuesday.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Anisimova Beats Kvitova in Indian Wells; Koepfer Claims Futures Title in Canada; Chang Wins Orlando $15K; Cataldi Takes Another ITF Grade 5 Title

Wild card Amanda Anisimova earned her first WTA Top 10 victory today in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, beating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the No. 9 seed, 6-2. 6-4.  The Czech left-hander didn't play well, with her serve the primary reason, but she had won two Premier events this year and with a 14-match winning streak, she was certainly confident coming in.  Anisimova demonstrated that, like Kvitova, she can beat anyone when she is playing well, and the 16-year-old Floridian will now face a third consecutive seed and a second straight Top 10 opponent when she plays No. 5 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic Tuesday.  According to the WTA, Anisimova is the first 16-year-old to reach the fourth round of the tournament since 2005.

Caroline Dolehide, who beat No. 30 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Friday, came close to a huge upset against top seed and world No. 1 Simona Halep of Romania tonight, but Halep recovered for a 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 victory.  Sloane Stephens and Sam Querrey posted victories today, with the No. 13-seeded Stephens defeating Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-1, 7-5 and the No. 18-seeded Querrey downing Mischa Zverev of Germany 6-4, 7-5.

At the $25,000 Futures in Canada, former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany won his fourth career Futures title, beating qualifier Michael Redlicki 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-2. 

At the $15,000 Futures in Japan, former USC star Daniel Nguyen won his first title of the year and the 12th of career, with the No. 3 seed beating No. 5 seed Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul of Thailand 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Sophie Chang won the first singles title of her career, with the 20 year-old claiming the winner's trophy at the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Orlando.  The third-seeded Chang defeated Vanderbilt senior Astra Sharma of Australia, the No. 6 seed, 6-3, 7-6(6).

Fourteen-year-old Californian Taylor Cataldi won the first ITF Junior Circuit tournament she played back in January and this week won her second tournament in as many attempts, taking the Grade 5 in Zimbabwe.  Cataldi, the No. 2 seed, beat top seed MJ Changwereza of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2 in the final. She also won the doubles title, with Mieke Van Deventer of South Africa.

At the ITF Grade B1 for South American players, top seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia and No. 13 seed Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil swept the titles, with Osorio Serrano beating No. 2 seed Maria Carle of Argentina in the singles final, while partnering with Carle for the doubles championship.  Soares Klier Junior, who beat top seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina in the singles final, partnered with Natan Rodrigues of Brazil for the boys doubles title.  Osorio Serrano has now won five Grade 1 titles this year and is 29-1 in ITF Junior Circuit matches.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Vickery, Anisimova, Dolehide, Collins and Fritz Beat Seeds to Advance to BNP Paribas Open Third Round; McNally and Osuigwe Win Doubles Title at Orlando $15K; Redlicki Makes Canadian Futures Final; Kingsley and Evans Take ITF Grade 3 Costa Rica Titles

On Friday night, 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova and 19-year-old Caroline Dolehide defeated seeded players to advance to the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells California.  Anisimova, the reigning US Open girls champion, needed just one hour to beat No. 23 seed Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-4, 6-1 and she will face No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Sunday.  Dolehide got past No. 30 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to earn a third round contest with top seed Simona Halep of Romania. Sachia Vickery, newly into the Top 100 for the first time in her career, came from a set and 3-0 down to defeat No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 and will play Naomi Osaka of Japan on Sunday.

On Saturday, two-time NCAA champion Danielle Collins earned the best win of her pro career, beating No. 15 seed Madison Keys 6-3, 7-6(1) for her first WTA Top 20 win.  Collins, ranked 117, broke Keys in the opening game of the match and then again to take the set. Keys wasn't sharp and wasn't getting many free points on her serve, but Collins, who graduated from Virginia last year, hit with pace and depth to keep Keys from dictating the points.  Collins fell behind a break early in the second set, and Keys served for the set at 5-4 and 6-5, but untimely double faults and some impressive defense by Collins kept her in several important points that she eventually won.  The tiebreaker was all Collins, staying in the points until Keys made an error.  Collins will face 19-year-old Sofya Zhuk of Russia in the third round. The two played in the final of the Newport Beach Oracle WTA 125 back in January, with Collins coming back for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. That win helped get Collins the main draw wild card at Indian Wells, and certainly helped Zhuk's case as well, although she wasn't announced as a wild card until the day before the qualifying began.

On Friday, wild card Ernesto Escobedo defeated Delray Beach Open champion Frances Tiafoe 7-5, 6-3, his third pro level win over Tiafoe, to advance to a second round meeting with No. 28 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain.  Tennys Sandgren also advanced to the second round with a win Friday, as did 17-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, who got his first ATP victory over fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil.

Mitchell Krueger is still on court tonight, but Taylor Fritz has already booked his spot in the third round.  Like Collins, Fritz won the Newport Beach Oracle Challenger, but he ended up not needing the wild card.  After a win over Reilly Opelka in the first round, Fritz came up against another NextGen star in No. 27 seed Andrey Rublev and he rode the Southern California crowd support to a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory.  Rublev broke Fritz to go up 5-4, but Fritz played an outstanding game to break back and kept his level high in the tiebreaker.  He will play the winner of tonight's match between Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the No. 3 seed, and Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

The singles final is set for the $15,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Orlando, with No. 3 seed Sophie Chang facing No. 6 seed Astra Sharma of Australia, the Vanderbilt senior.  Change beat No. 2 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa 6-1, 6-3, while Sharma took down No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula 6-4, 6-4. 

In the doubles final, 16-year-old Caty McNally and 15-year-old Whitney Osuigwe continued their dominance, with the No. 3 seeds beating top seeds Ilona Kremen of Belarus and Dia Evtimova of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-3. McNally and Osuigwe did not drop a set all week in earning their first pro title as a team.

Qualifier Michael Redlicki will face No. 5 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany in the final of the $25,000 Futures in Canada Sunday. Koepfer defeated JC Aragone 7-6(4), 6-3, while Redlicki edged Brayden Schnur of Canada 7-6(4), 7-6(0).  Former Memphis standout Joe Salisbury won the doubles with fellow British player Luke Bambridge. The top seeds beat the unseeded team of Adrien Bossel of Switzerland and Joris De Loore of Belgium 6-3, 7-5 in the final.

At the ITF Grade 3 in Costa Rica, 15-year-old Kailey Evans and 16-year-old Cannon Kingsley won all-American finals.  Evans, a qualifier, defeated 14-year-old Elvina Kalieva, also a qualifier, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to earn her first ITF Junior Circuit singles title.  Kingsley, unseeded, beat No. 6 seed Alex Lee 6-1, 6-2 to capture his third ITF Junior Circuit singles title.

Lee did earn a title, taking the doubles with Ronan Jachuck.  The No. 1 seeds beat George Davis of Great Britain and Alan Sau Franco of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in the final.  Evans and her partner Savannah Broadus, who were unseeded, beat top seeds Niluka Madurawe and Addison Guevara 6-3, 6-3 to claim the girls doubles title.

Friday, March 9, 2018

USTA National Spring Team Championships Recap; All-Collegiate Semifinals at $25K Futures in Canada; Osuigwe and McNally into Doubles Final at Orlando $15K

My review of the USTA Spring Team Championships in Mobile is now up at the Tennis Recruiting Network. If you weren't able to follow during the four day event, this is a good opportunity to get a feel for one of the most popular USTA national junior events of the year. Although there are other team events in the summer months, this one is unique, because players from all parts of the country are assigned a team and a coach. In other events, juniors are usually are representing their sections, so this provides a different experience and perspective, allowing everyone to test their comfort levels as they prepare for college tennis.

Saturday's semifinals at the $25,000 Futures in Sherbrooke Canada will feature four former collegians: JC Aragone, Michael Redlicki, Brayden Schnur of Canada and Dominik Koepfer of Germany. The unseeded Aragone, who graduated from Virginia last year, defeated top seed and ATP 158 Gleb Sakharov of France in a third-set tiebreaker in the opening round and beat Joris De Loore of Belgium 7-5, 7-5 in today's quarterfinals.  He will face No. 5 seed Koepfer, the former Tulane star, who advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Ugo Humbert of France, who won the $25K Futures in Canada last week.  No. 3 seed Schnur, who left North Carolina after his junior year in 2016, took a wild card into this week's tournament and beat No. 6 seed Christopher Eubanks in today's quarterfinal 7-6(4), 6-4.  Schnur will play qualifier Michael Redlicki, who completed his graduate degree at Arkansas late last year and is playing in just his third tournament of the year.  The 24-year-old Redlicki beat No. 2 seed and ATP 186 Filip Peliwo of Canada 6-7(4), 6-2 7-6(5) in today's quarterfinals.

The semifinals are set at the $15,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Orlando, with two Americans and one current collegian in the final four.  Vanderbilt senior Astra Sharma of Australia defeated ITF Junior No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(6), even though Sharma actually won three fewer points than the 15-year-old Floridian.  Sharma, the No. 6 seed, will face No. 8 seed Jessica Pegula, who beat top seed Usue Arconada 6-4, 6-3 in a two-hour two-setter. In the bottom half, No. 3 seed Sophie Chang defeated No. 7 seed Katerina Stewart 7-6(5), 6-4 to earn a meeting with No. 2 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa.  Simmonds defeated Florida Atlantic sophomore Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-2.

Osuigwe may have lost in today's quarterfinals, but she and Caty McNally have reached the doubles final without much resistance.  The No. 3 seeds have lost eight games total in their three victories this week.  They will face No. 1 seeds Dia Evtimova of Bulgaria and Ilona Kremen of Belarus for the title. Although they have won many significant junior titles, McNally and Osuigwe have yet to win a title on the Pro Circuit.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Young Americans Advance at BNP Paribas Open; All-USA Semifinals at ITF Costa Rica Grade 3; Emory Women Top New Division III Rankings

Due to my coverage of the USTA Spring Team Championships, I haven't been able to keep close tabs on what is going on in the tennis world the past few days.

The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells is the only ATP/WTA event this week, with main draw action beginning yesterday for the women and today for the men.  Seven young US women have advanced to the second round, including three wild cards and two qualifiers.  Sixteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova, the reigning US Open girls champion, received a wild card for her performance in the Oracle Challenger Series, and used it to get her first WTA main draw win (not including the WTA 125 events) on Wednesday, defeating Pauline Parmentier of France 6-2, 6-2. Nineteen-year-old Caroline Dolehide defeated Shelby Rogers 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3, 22-year-old qualifier Sachia Vickery beat wild card Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-3, 6-4, and 19-year-old qualifier Sonya Kenin breezed past wild card Claire Liu 6-2, 6-0 on Wednesday.

Today, 24-year-old Danielle Collins picked up her first WTA main draw win (not including WTA 125 events), beating qualifier Taylor Townsend 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, while 22-year-old Jennifer Brady also came from a set down to post a win, beating Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.  Cici Bellis, who will turn 19 next month, took out qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-0, 6-3.

Taylor Fritz earned his second win this year over friend Reilly Opelka in the opening round of men's action today, saving a match point in his 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.  Fritz had beaten Opelka in the semifinals of the Newport Beach Challenger back in January.  Qualifier Mitchell Krueger defeated ATP No. 46 Benoit Paire of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. It's the 24-year-old Texan's second ATP main draw win, with his first also coming against Paire last summer in Cincinnati.

The semifinals are set for the ITF Grade 3 in Costa Rica, with an American champion already assured in both boys and girls draws.

Alex Lee[6] will take on Ronan Jachuck[5] for a place in the final, with unseeded Cannon Kingsley and qualifier Phillip Jordan meeting in the bottom half semifinal.  Jordan defeated No. 2 seed Axel Nefve 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, while Kingsley beat Blaise Bicknell 6-2, 7-5.  Bicknell had avenged his loss in the Guatemala Grade 4 final to William Woodall in the second round, snapping Woodall's winning streak at 11.

In the girls semifinals, unseeded Kylie Collins will play qualifier Kailey Evans in the top half. Collins defeated top seed Sabina Dadicu 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(8), while Evans topped No. 5 seed Sanyukta Gawande 6-2, 6-2.  The only seeded girl in the semifinals, No. 2 Niluka Madurawe, will play qualifier Elvina Kalieva, the reigning 14s Junior Orange Bowl champion.

The ITA released its women's Division III rankings today, with Emory taking over the top spot from Williams.  Emory won the National Team Indoor title on Sunday, with Williams not participating in that event.

Top Ten in Division III Women’s Rankings, March 8, 2018 (previous ranking of January 18 in parentheses)
1. Emory University (2)
2. Williams College (1)
3. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (3)
4. Middlebury College (4)
5. Bowdoin College (5)
6. Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (6)
7. Tufts University (7)
8. Wesleyan University (8)
9. Carnegie Mellon University (10)
10. University of Chicago (9)

The ITA Division I weekly rankings came out Tuesday, with the North Carolina women and Wake Forest men staying at No. 1.  William Blumberg of North Carolina kept his place at the top of the men's singles rankings, but there is a new women's No. 1: Bianca Turati of Texas.

The USTA rankings, which were released yesterday, also had the North Carolina women and Wake Forest men at No. 1.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dominant Titans Claim Boys Title at USTA National Spring Team Championships

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Mobile, AL--

Titans (left to right): Coach Jason Kinder, Jeremie Casabon, Patrick Fletchall,
Braden Shick, Tali Jarmond, Dillon Blake, Andrew Dale
Temperatures were in the low 50s with a brisk breeze for the boys final of the USTA National Spring Team Championships, but that didn't cool off the Titans, who took a 6-1 decision over the Eagles Wednesday morning at the Mobile Tennis Center.

The Titans lost only five points in their four victories, with one of those the doubles point in their opening round match against the Raiders. That may not have been the start coach Jason Kinder wanted, but he certainly wasn't complaining about the finish.

"In the back of my head, I just wanted us to get to the top eight," said Kinder, who was not able to arrive in time for the team's practice day due to last week's storm on the East Coast.  "Getting here late, losing the doubles point, but then being able to take five of the singles in that first match, it was great to be able to get through it."

In the final, the Titans 18s doubles team of Andrew Dale and Patrick Fletchall fell quickly to Eagles Michael Sun and Maxwell McKennon 6-1, but the Titans had earned early breaks in the 14s and 16s doubles, which are one set, no-ad, with a tiebreaker at 5-all.  Titans 16s Jeremie Casabon and Dillon Blake defeated Graydon Lair and Riley Odell 6-2 to even the score and Braden Shick and Tali Jarmond clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 win over John Lasanajak and Alexander Chang in the 14s.

The Eagles had lost the doubles point in their 4-3 win over the Seahawks in the semifinals, but they could only win three first sets in singles against the Titans and were unable to quickly pull even, as they had on Tuesday. 

Casabon made it 2-0 for the Titans with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Lair at No. 1 16s, and Shick followed shortly thereafter with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Lasanajak at No. 1 14s, making it 3-0 Titans. 

Titans No. 1 18s Fletchall had earned a split with Sun and was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, a win that would have clinched the match for his team, but Sun, the hero for the Eagles in the semifinals, broke back for 5-5 and broke again for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory, making the score 3-1.

The Eagles were unable to hold on to the other two leads they had, with Dale forcing a third set from McKennon at No. 2 18s and Blake getting to a third against Odell at No. 2 16s.  The third match remaining on court was still in the second set, with the Eagles Chang hoping to force a split with Jarmond at No. 2 14s, but it was Jarmond who got the late break and he served out the match and the Titans title 7-5, 7-5.

Both Blake and Dale kept their perfect singles records intact by earning come-from-behind victories, with Blake beating Odell 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and Dale defeating McKennon in the battle of left-handers 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

They joined Casabon and Shick, who also went undefeated in singles play throughout the tournament, leaving Kinder unable to choose his most valuable player.

"All the kids worked," said Kinder, Director of Tennis at ACAC
Fitness and Wellness in Midlothian Virginia. "No matter if it was my No. 1 guy in 18s or my No. 2 guy in 14s, it didn't matter. They were all working so hard to try to get a result. They're all great players, and I just knew as long as they stayed out there, we'd have a shot to win."

Kinder, who was participating in this event for the first time, but has coached junior teams for the Mid-Atlantic section, said his own contribution depends on keeping his perspective.

"I just tried to stay quiet and stay focused on coaching the kids," Kinder said. "Not get too wrapped up in the potential results and trying to predetermine the outcome. As a coach, I just wanted to stay focused on them, help them when they needed help and be quiet when they needed me to be quiet. Sometimes you just pat them on the back and walk away."

Dale said the Titans were a cohesive unit from the beginning.

"The first practice with them was great and we kind of clicked immediately," said the 16-year-old from Leesburg Virginia, who was playing in the tournament for the second time. "It was just great. I knew, whatever happened in the tournament, that we'd be a close team and always be at each others' side. That was what I thought was one of the best qualities about my team."

Eagles coach Ron Dyson, whose team had fashioned three consecutive 4-3 victories to reach the final, praised the Titans' performance.

"It was a tough one this time, but all and all it was a great tournament for the kids," said Dyson, who coaches in Rochester New York. "The Titans were good today, they were the better team today."

In the third place match, the Broncos defeated the Seahawks 4-3.

The Sportsmanship and Team Spirit awards were announced this afternoon, with Marcus McDaniel of the Seahawks and the Buccaneers named the boys winners.  Last night at the girls closing ceremony, the Ninjas received the Team Spirit award and Katherine Nguyen of the Blue Jays received the Sportsmanship award.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Stingrays Defeat Diamondbacks for Girls USTA Spring Team Title; Eagles and Titans Play for Boys Title Wednesday

©Colette Lewis 2018—
Mobile AL—

The Stingrays, left to right: Coach Mariel Tinnirello, Catherine Broerman, Makayla Mills, Savanna Kollock, Katherine Wurster, Ivana Corley, Jessi Muljat

Jessi Muljat can attest to the difference one point makes.

Down match point at 4-5 in the third set of the first round of the USTA National Spring Team Championships the match that would decide which team would advance, Muljat saved it, and four matches later her team, the Stingrays, were the champions, earning a 4-3 victory over the Diamondbacks in Tuesday evening’s final.

“I can’t believe that just one point and we would have lost first round, we wouldn't be here,” said the 17-year-old from Sacramento California, who went on to take that game and the next two. “It was about a ten-ball rally and she hit an approach shot and came to the net. I hit a passing shot at her feet and she missed a volley. Following that, I hit a backhand down the line, around the net post winner to get a game point and it was the best shot of my entire life; I don’t even know how I hit it.”

Muljat, who played No. 2 18s singles, said that win catapulted the team forward, with two less dramatic victories preceding tonight’s final.

“We were all nervous in that first match,” said Muljat. “We weren’t playing our best tennis, and it just gave us so much confidence. It definitely took some pressure off and we believed in ourselves more after that.”

The final between the Stingrays and the Diamondbacks, which started in the late afternoon and finished under the Mobile Tennis Center lights due to morning rain, was close from the start.

The 18s doubles match went to the Stingray team of Muljat and Ivana Corley 6-1 over Lana Mavor and Callie Creath, but the point was decided in tiebreakers, with the Diamondbacks team of Priya Nelson and Madison Smith beating Savannah Kollock and Katherine Wurster 6-5(3) in the 14s. That left the point up to the 16s, with Makayla Mills and Catherine Broerman claiming it with a 6-5(2) win over Kelsey Mize and Jennifer Riester.

Diamondbacks coach Daniel Caballero Valcarcel would have liked to start the singles with a lead.

“Definitely coming from a point down was difficult,” Caballero said. “We knew their 18s were tough. But in the end they played better. I’m really proud of the team; they fought. The tiebreaks were really close. But in the end, I told them you don’t lose the final. You just win second place.”

In singles, each team won three first sets, with the Diamondbacks winning the first point to tie it, with Nelson beating Kollock 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 14s.  At No. 1 18s, the Stingrays’ Corley saved a set point with a backhand winner at 3-5 in her match with Mavor, taking the final four games of the match for a 6-2, 7-5 win and a 2-1 Stingrays lead. Muljat made it 3-1, beating Creath 7-5, 6-1 at No. 2 18s, but the Diamondbacks posted the next point, with Rieister beating Broerman 6-3, 7-5 at No. 2 16s. After Riester’s win, the Stingrays’ Wurster earned a match point in her second set tiebreaker with Smith at No. 2 14s, but Smith saved it and won the tiebreaker, meaning that all attention went to another second set tiebreaker between the Stingrays’ Mills and Diamondbacks’ Mize at No. 1 16s.  Mize had served for the second set at 5-4, but Mills came back to force a tiebreaker.  She fell behind 4-1 in the tiebreaker, but Mize double faulted twice in the late stages, then made an unforced error to give Mills two match points. Mills clinched the team title with her sixth straight point, with Mize missing a return to hand Mills the 6-2, 7-6(4) win.  Smith went on to beat Wurster 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-1 to make the final score 4-3, but by then Mills had already been mobbed by her four other teammates.

“It's my first time playing this event and it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had,” said Mills, a 16-year-old from Wilmington North Carolina. “Being able to win the match which won the match for my team. They were right behind me (outside the fence) and I was thinking, play this point, and when I won it, I was so happy and I turned around and they were all there. It was a group hug, and it was the best feeling."

Stingrays coach Mariel Tinnirello, like both Muljat and Mills, are participating in the event, now in its fifth year, for the first time, but that lack of experience never fazed them, at least not when it mattered most.

"They were all pretty nervous," said Tinnirello, who is a coach at Newk's Tennis Academy in Texas. "It was probably one of our shakiest doubles. The 18s did really well but the 16s and 14s, it was one of their most nervous performances. I think because we sat around all day, waiting to play. But winning that doubles point kind of made them relax and we came out stronger in singles."

Tinnirello, who played college tennis at Idaho and then went on to serve as assistant coach there, enjoys coaching at team events.

"I definitely want to come back next year," Tinnirello said. "It was an awesome experience for me. I was an assistant coach after I graduated and I loved it, but I hadn't really done any of that until this year. I think we had a really good team; we were really close to each other, hanging out a lot off the court as well. It was a lot of fun."

The boys final will take place on Wednesday morning, after the Titans and the Eagles advanced in contrasting fashion Tuesday afternoon.

The doubles points for the semifinals were played on Monday afternoon in order to get a jump on the predicted rain, with the Titans and the Seahawks leading 1-0 heading into Tuesday's six singles matches.  The Titans, who had won a squeaker of a doubles point, saving a match point in the tiebreaker at 18s doubles, kept their momentum overnight, methodically taking down the Broncos 6-1.

Titans coach Jason Kinder said doubles has been a focus of his team throughout the tournament.

"What's stood out is how important the doubles point is," said Kinder, who coaches at the Atlantic Coach Tennis Club in Richmond, Virginia. "Even though we haven't had much practice, a lot of our practice has been geared towards doubles and being better doubles players, because that takes a little pressure off in singles."

The Titans, who had dominated in singles in the first and second round, winning 5-2 and 6-1, continued that theme Tuesday, with Patrick Fletchall at No. 1 18s, Andrew Dale at No. 2 18s and Jeremie Casabon at No. 1 16s getting straight sets wins to clinch the match.  Dillon Blake, at No. 2 16s, and Braden Shick, at No. 1 14s, made it 6-0 Titans before Waleed Qadir salvaged a point for the Broncos at No. 2 14s.

Kinder, who is coaching in this tournament for the first time, said he will focus on the physical side of preparation for Wednesday's final, while also emphasize a break from thinking about tennis.

"We're going to hydrate, we're going to roll, we're going to work on our bodies," Kinder said. "My guys are fit and haven't complained one bit about any aches and pains. I want them to get rest tonight, but make sure to do something fun, something they want to do, to stay fresh in their mind. But fitness is such a big part of the game now."

While the Titans have not needed to come up with any last-match-on heroics, the Eagles are well versed in that pressure, with all three of their wins of that variety.  Today's victory over the Seahawks was no different, with the Eagles coming back from dropping the doubles point to post four singles wins, with Michael Sun clinching for his team at No. 1 18s.

The Eagles took five first sets in singles to put the Seahawks on the defensive, and three Eagles posted straight-sets victories. Alexander Chang, who had clinched the last match on in the first round at No. 2 14s, earned their first point, and Riley Odell, who had clinched the last match on in the second round at No. 2 16s, made it 2-1 Eagles.  But the Seahawks answered with Zachery Lin's victory at No. 1 16s to tie it at 2.  The Eagles took a 3-2 lead with John Lasanajak's win at No. 1 14s, but the Seahawks' Maxwell Giddens tied it with a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Maxwell McKennon at No. 2 18s.  That left it up to Sun, who was playing 15-year-old Marcus McDaniel.

It looked dire for Sun when he fell behind 3-0 and two breaks in the third set, but he won the final six games of the match from a tired looking McDaniel to seal a 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-3 victory and a place in the final for his team.

Eagles coach Ron Dyson was a calming presence for Sun when every shot seemed to sail on him early in the third set.

"We go back and we fight, one point at a time, and we truly believe in ourselves," said Dyson, who coaches in Rochester New York. "I told him, if I believe in you, you have to believe in you. I told him we had the right man in the right spot. He was our captain, our leader, our No. 1 18s player. So if he believes, we've got his back."

Dyson said he was confident in his team from the beginning.

"I told them if they kept doing what they were doing something special would happen," said Dyson, who is also coaching in the tournament for the first time this year. "This is great development, great experience and they should really be excited about doing something like this. This is what you want to see them doing, playing with great passion, with sportsmanship and having fun. These guys epitomize having fun, and I'm having a great time doing this."

The boys final is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. start, with doubles followed by singles.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Diamondbacks and Stingrays Advance to Girls USTA National Spring Team Championship Match, Completion of Boys Semifinals Scheduled for Tuesday; Kratzer Defeats Top Seed in First Round of BNP Paribas Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Mobile, AL--

The coaches of the Diamondbacks and the Stingrays, who advanced to the final of the girls USTA National Spring Team Championships with victories today, are making their debuts at the tournament after being encouraged by those who had experience at the 16-team, college-format event in its previous four years.

Diamondbacks coach Daniel Caballero Valcarcel of Puerto Rico was prompted to apply by parents who had been to the tournament.

"A few players from Puerto Rico always come over here and I was talking to one of the parents and they said, 'hey, you should apply'," said Caballero, who serves as a USTA Net Generation ambassador from the Caribbean Section. "There's never been a coach from Puerto Rico here, and I was happy to receive a notice that I was selected."

Caballero's team has had an impressive run in the first two days, winning their three matches by scores of 6-1, 5-2, and in today's semifinal against the Angels 5-2.

"I think I'm very lucky about the team that I have," Caballero said. "They're very good girls, very well trained, so I'm enjoying the moment.

Caballero said the unorthodox schedule that has been required to get ahead of the anticipated rain Tuesday hasn't been a problem for his team.

"We've been lucky that we've practicing and warming up for the match at the same time every day," Caballero said. "We've done the meetings at the same time, we pray before playing, which is something the girls really love, and we have great cheering. I also keep them busy. They have their own assignments: you are going to take of the cheering, you are going to take care of where we're dining tonight, so they're always engaged in the group thing. I'm happy they became friends right away."

Caballero was one of several coaches who were responsible for two teams on the first day, with the coach of the Bears, a boys team, unable to get out of the Northeast due to the big storm there.

"I was assisting them the first day, but the coach came on the second day," Caballero said. "I still go and watch some of their matches, because it was a good group of kids and I clicked with them really well."

Caballero said the small club where he works in Puerto Rico is down to two courts after last fall's Hurricane Maria, but he is confident the island will rebound.

"It's getting better, but it's going to take a long time to recover," Caballero said. "The good thing about Puerto Ricans is that they're very resilient. It's going to take more than a year, maybe more than two years to get back to the way we're used to, but we're still fighting. I have four courts at my club and two are closed. There are only three people who work on courts. There are clubs that have two, three courts available out of four or five, so it's getting better."

In Tuesday's semifinal match, the Diamondbacks won the doubles point with 18s Lana Mavor and Callie Creath clinching it over Sedona Gallagher and Caroline Scheufler 6-5(5).  The Diamondbacks took a 3-0 lead with wins at No. 2 18s and No. 1 14s. The Angels got on the board with a win at No. 2 14s, but Kelsey Mize quickly followed with a win at No. 1 16s to put the match out of reach for the Angels.

The Stingrays followed a similar path to the final, taking the doubles point 2 matches to 1 over the Ninjas and jumping out to a 3-0 lead with singles wins by Makayla Mills at No. 1 16s and Catherine Broerman at No. 2 16s.  The Ninjas made it 3-1 with Ava Krug's victory at No. 2 14s, but the Stingrays earned their place in the final when Didi Canizares retired down 7-5, 5-4 to the Stingrays Savanna Kollock at No. 1 14s.

Stingrays coach Mariel Tinnirello was persuaded to apply for a coaching position by several junior players she coaches at the Newcombe Tennis Ranch in Texas.

"I had some players play it last year and they told me how awesome it was," Tinnirello said. "They said, 'you should go as a coach', so I gave it a try this year."

Tinnirello said her team is now hearing that they are an awesome team, but Tinnirello didn't have any premonition that they would end up in the final.

"They were all pretty solid, but I figured everyone at this tournament would be good," Tinnirello said. "I didn't think we had a better team, but they were all really solid from the start."

Although their last two matches have been 5-2 victories, Tinnirello's team had a close call in the opening round against the Bengals, with Jessi Muljat saving a match point in a 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 win at No. 2 18s in the last match on.

"That was huge," Tinnirello said. "The girls are super excited to be in the final. It's a great tournament and we're pumped."

Depending on the weather, which is expected to improve later in the day on Tuesday, the girls final could be played in the late afternoon or evening, after the boys complete their semifinal matches. Due to the more precise forecast for Tuesday, it was decided that the boys would only play the doubles in their third round.  They had played their second round singles matches in the morning, with the Broncos beating the Bears 7-0, the Titans defeating the Saints 6-1, the Seahawks downing the Lions 6-1 and, in the only match to reach a last match on situation, the Eagles beat the Jaguars 4-3.  The Eagles' Riley Odell beat Sam Feldman at No. 2 16s to send his team into the semifinals.

In the semifinals, the Titans collected the doubles point by taking 2 matches to the Broncos' 1, with the Titans 18s, Patrick Fletchall and Andrew Dale, saving a match point at 6-7 in the tiebreaker to beat the Broncos' Nevin Arimilli and Cole Groetsch 6-5(7).

The Seahawks took the doubles point from the Eagles, with the 16s and 18s winning the first two matches that were decided, both by 6-4 scores.

The boys will complete their semifinal matches on Tuesday, with the final set to be played on Wednesday.  See the tournament website for updates on the weather Tuesday.

Qualifying is underway at the BNP Paribas Open, with women taking the courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden today.  Seven American women have advanced, including wild card Ashley Kratzer, the 2017 USTA National 18s champion. Kratzer, 19, got the best ranking win of her career today, beating WTA No. 62 and top qualifying seed Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 6-4, 6-1.  She received her wild card into the qualifying by winning the annual pre-qualifying tournament.  Other US women to advance today are Sachia Vickery[15], Madison Brengle[5], Kristie Ahn[22], Bernarda Pera[16], Taylor Townsend[11] and Sonya Kenin[17].  Two wins are necessary to qualify into the 96-player main draw, with 12 women making it through.  The women's main draw was released today, with 16 US women receiving entry via wild card or by ranking.

The men's qualifying begins tomorrow, although the draw has not yet been released. It should be up in a few hours and available at the ATP website.