Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bellis Defeats Seed in Carlsbad $125K; College Players Dominate Waco Futures; USTA's October Honor Roll; ITA Division II, III and NAIA Fall Rankings

Sixteen-year-old CiCi Bellis returned to competition for the first time since the US Open women's qualifying today at the $125,000 WTA Carlsbad, California tournament, beating No. 6 seed Julia Glushko of Israel 6-3, 6-4. Bellis, who has been injured, will play Katerina Stewart next. The 18-year-old Floridian advanced to the second round with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Paula Goncalves of Brazil Monday. Bellis and Stewart have played four times, twice in juniors and twice in Pro Circuit events last October, with Bellis going 4-0.

Other Americans advancing to the round of 16 include Kristie Ahn, Samantha Crawford, Jennifer Brady and No. 5 seed Nicole Gibbs. Gibbs won in unusual fashion on Monday, when her opponent, Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia, was defaulted with Gibbs leading 6-3, 3-2 after apparently for unsportsmanlike conduct. She apologized on twitter, specifically to Gibbs and to her doubles partner, Vania King, calling her behavior "unacceptable." Defaults for misconduct put the player out of the tournament, so King was unable to compete in doubles with an alternate team taking their place.

At the $15,000 Waco Futures, 12 of the 16 players remaining in the draw are current or former college players.

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois),  who defeated top seed Daniel Nguyen(USC) yesterday, will play Texas A&M sophomore Arthur Rinderknech, a qualifier;  TCU sophomore Cameron Norrie will face No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov; No. 4 seed Tom Jomby(Kentucky) will play qualifier Jacob Sude(Oklahoma State); Clay Thompson(UCLA) meets No. 5 seed Sekou Bangoura(Florida); qualifier Robbie Mudge(North Carolina State) plays No. 8 seed Maximiliano Estevez of Argentina; Baylor senior Julian Lenz faces No. 3 seed Nick Meister(UCLA); TCU sophomore Guillermo Nunez plays No. 7 seed Tigre Hank of Mexico and Baylor junior Maxime Tchoutakian faces Champaign Challenger champion, No. 2 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland.

The USTA posts an Honor Roll every month of the top performances by US players aged 20 and under, recognizing both the player and their coaches.  Although I try to mention as many of these achievements as I can for those 18-and-under, I do miss a few, so please check out this detailed list.

The ITA released the NAIA fall rankings today, with Kevin Konfederak and Jordan Cox of Georgia Gwinnett No. 1 and No. 2. Georgia Gwinnett also has the top-ranked women in NAIA, Valeria Podda.

In the Division II rankings, released yesterday, Alejandra Cisneros of Armstrong State is the top-ranked woman, and Jan Meyer of Azusa Pacific is No. 1 in the men's rankings.

The Division III fall rankings came out earlier this month, with Eudice Chong of Wesleyan and Noah Farrell of Middlebury No. 1 in singles.

The links to the complete lists for all divisions can be found at the ITA rankings page.

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Conversation with Austin Krajicek; College Commitments Galore

While I was at the Champaign Challenger last week, I had an opportunity to catch up with Austin Krajicek, who reached the quarterfinals in singles and the final in doubles there. Krajicek, who won the Kalamazoo 18s title in 2008 and the NCAA doubles title with Jeff Dadamo in 2011, his last year at Texas A&M, explained how he has made the transition to the pro game in the past four years. Now just outside the Top 100, Krajicek has been as high 94, having reached the quarterfinals of an ATP 500 event in Tokyo last month. My interview with Krajicek is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Now that the early signing period for 2016 is over, many schools have posted their releases on their incoming recruits.  I've been collecting links of those I've seen on Twitter, and I'm providing them below. I apologize if I've missed some.


The University of Georgia has announced the signings of Nathan Ponwith, Robert Loeb, Alex Phillips and Alex Diaz.

The University of Tennessee has announced the signing of Steven Karl.

LSU has announced the signings of Agustin Moreno and Nikola Samardzic.

Texas A&M has announced the signing of Hady Habib.

Vanderbilt has announced the signing of Billy Rowe.

The University of Washington has announced the signing of Amit Batta.

The University of Oregon has announced the signing of Ty Gentry.

The University of Arizona has announced the signing of Andres Reyes.

The University of Utah has announced the signings of Jon Dollahite and RJ Parker.

Indiana University has announced the signings of Bennett Crane and Zac Brodney.

The University of Illinois has announced the signings of Zeke Clark and Gui Gomes.

The University of Michigan has announced the signings of Nick Beaty and Connor Johnston.

The University of Wisconsin has announced the signings of Chase Colton and Osgar O'Hoisin.

The University of Nebraska has announced the signings of Dylan Bednarczyk and Chris Dean.

Georgia Tech has announced the signing of Christopher Yun.

Florida State has announced the signing of Guy Orly Iradukunda.

Duke University has announced the signings of Robert Levine and Nick Stachowiak.

North Carolina State has announced the signing of Sean Burnette.

The University of Louisville has announced the signing of Parker Wynn.

The University of Texas has announced the signing of Yuya Ito.

Texas Tech has announced the signing of Augusto Stodart.

Brigham Young  has announced the signings of Brocton Andrus and Garret Vincent.

The University of Michigan has announced the signing of Chiara Lommer.

The University of Nebraska has announced the signings of Jeannie Lozowski, M’Balia Bangoura, Hayley Haakenstad and Emma Worley.

Michigan State  has announced the signing of Samantha Memije.

The University of Wisconsin has announced the signing of Michelle Linden, Melissa Pick and Christina Zordani.

The University of Minnesota has announced the signings of Tina Kreinis and Karyna Bihel.

The University of New Mexico has announced the signing of Alexandra Chung.

Boise State has announced the signings of Lilian PolingJovana Kuljanin and Wilhelmina Palmer.

Utah State has announced the signings of Sophia Haleas, Ellee Bullock and Hannah Jones.

Tulane has announced the signing of Christina Sisti.

Middle Tennessee State has announced the signings of Lidia Burrows and Holly Horsfall.

Old Dominion has announced the signing of Holly Hutchinson.

North Texas has announced the signing of Kalani Soli.

Brigham Young has announced the signings of Natella Nabieva Samantha Smith and Kate Cusick.

The University of Tennessee has announced the signings of Mary Caroline Meredith and Ariadna Riley.

Auburn University has announced the signings of Taylor Russo and Roos Van Der Zwaan.

The University of Missouri has announced the signings of Mackenzy Middlebrooks and Tate Schroeder.

The University of Mississippi has announced the signing of Anna Vrbenska.

Texas A&M has announced the signing of Constance Branstine.

The University of Florida has announced the signing of Ingrid Neel.

The University of Georgia has announced the signing of Marta Gonzalez Encinas.

LSU has announced the signings of Rebecca Weissman, Jade Lewis and Raveena Kingsley.

The University of Alabama has announced the signings of Makenna Jones and Madison Pothoff.

Vanderbilt has announced the signing of Christina Rosca.

The University of Oregon has announced the signing of Julia Eschet.

The University of California has announced the signing of Alexis Nelson.

The University of Washington has announced the signings of Katarina Kopcalic and Lana Slavica.

The University of Arizona has announced the signing of Paris Corley.

Arizona State has announced the signing of Savannah Slaysman.

UCLA has announced the signing of Ena Shibahara.

Southern Cal has announced the signing of Angela Kulikov.

The University of Utah has announced the signing of Emily Maxfield.

Florida State has announced the signings of Nandini Das and Mary Haffey.

Notre Dame has announced the signings of Zoe Spence and Bess Waldram.

Clemson has announced the signing of Sydney Riley.

Georgia Tech has announced the signings of Kenya Jones, Nadia Gizdova and Nami Otsuka.

The University of North Carolina has announced the signings of Alexandra Sanford and Sarah Daavettila.

North Carolina State has announced the signings of Anna Rogers and Adriana Reami.

The University of Virginia has announced the signings of Hunter Bleser, Camille Favero and Chloe Gullickson.

The University of Oklahoma has announced the signings of Ann Selim and Julie Byrne.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Anisimova Defeats Swan in Girls Singles Final in Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, Olivieri Wins Boys Title; Wiersholm Claims Pensacola Futures Championship

Amanda Anisimova's first ITF junior title was a big one, with the 14-year-old from Florida defeating No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 to capture the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano title.

Ranked 368 last week, Anisimova beat the sixth-ranked Swan by weathering several storms along the way.  Trailing 5-2 in the first set, with Swan's first serve clicking, Anisimova finally began to return better and find her forehand in the eighth game.  Saving a set point with a forehand winner at 2-5, 30-40, Anisimova broke Swan at 30-40 with a forehand winner. Yet another forehand winner ended Anismova's service game, bringing the set back to even at 5 and she broke Swan on her third break point of the game, with a, you guessed it, forehand winner.  Anisimova closed out the first set on her third set point, when her backhand forced an error from Swan.

Anismiova went up 2-0 in the second set, winning seven straight games from 5-2 down it the first set, but it was Swan who fought back and took control, running off five straight games of her own before Anisimova held for 5-3 after saving three set points at 0-40.  Swan needed two more set points on her own serve, but finally converted and immediately broke Anisimova to start the third, helped by a inadvertent drop shot winner. But Swan's 2-0 lead disappeared as it had for Anisimova in the second set, with a long game, which included a pair of double fault/ace sequences, eventually going the way of Anisimova on her sixth break point.

Anisimova held and broke at love for a 4-2 lead, then saved a break point to hold for 5-2, with Swan saving a match point in the next game, but forcing Anisimova to serve it out.  Getting three first serves in, Anisimova went up 40-0, but then double faulted for 40-15. She missed another first serve on match point number two, but Swan netted a backhand return to end the match.

It was sweet revenge for Anismova, who had lost to Swan, the Australian Open girls finalist, at the Easter Bowl back in April by a 6-2 6-3 score.  She said after the match that she hopes to do well enough in the remaining three tournaments of the year to receive Australian Open entry in January, but the 250 points she earned this week are probably enough regardless.

Anisimova is among the 24 American girls in the main draw of the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup, which begins Monday. Five US boys are in the main draw.

The boys singles championship at the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano went to unseeded Genaro Olivieri of Argentina, who defeated No. 13 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

At the $10,000 Pensacola Futures, qualifier Henrik Wiersholm won the battle of the 18-year-olds, beating Alex Rybakov 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.  The University of Virginia sophomore won nine matches in ten days, picking up his first ATP point with a win on Wednesday and rolling from there. Rybakov saved one break point serving at 3-4 in the third set, but Wiersholm converted the second and held to 30 to close out the title. It was the second straight week that Rybakov, the TCU recruit, had come up short in a Futures final.

There are no men's Pro Circuit events the rest of the year in the United States, but there are two more $15,000 ITF Men's Futures tournaments, one in Waco this coming week, and one in Tallahassee the following week.

The last women's event in the United States is a WTA $125K series event, new this year, in Carlsbad, California. CiCi Bellis is returning to competition after an injury, with Katerina Stewart, Samantha Crawford, Kristie Ahn, Grace Min, Nicole Gibbs(5), Jennifer Brady and Sachia Vickery(7) among the young Americans in the draw.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anisimova Reaches Grade A Final in Mexico; Fritz Falls, Giving Australian Open Wild Card to Rubin; Rybakov and Wiersholm Advance to Pensacola Futures Final

Fourteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova's only previous appearance in a Grade A tournament was in September's US Open, where she qualified, but lost in the first round.  This week on the red clay of the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano in Mexico City, the unseeded Anisimova has swept through the draw, advancing to Sunday's final with a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory over No. 7 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Russia.  Anisimova will face Australian Open girls finalist Katie Swan of Great Britain, who defeated Alexandra Sanford 7-6(6), 7-6(3).  Swan, the No. 3 seed, served for the first set at 6-5, but was broken; Sanford, the No. 11 seed, served for the second set at 6-5, but she too was unable to close it out.  Swan was just slightly better on the big points in both tiebreakers, with Sanford making errors on the final points of both sets.

The boys final will feature unseeded Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina against No. 13 seed Youssef Hossam of Eygpt.  The 17-year-old Olivieri is playing in only his second Grade A main draw, while Hossam, also 17, hadn't won a Grade A match in three attempts prior to this week.

The doubles titles were decided today, with No. 3 seeds Jay Clarke of Great Britain and Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia defeating No. 5 seeds Geoffrey Blancaneaux and Ugo Humbert of France 6-4, 6-4 in the boys final.

Levashova and Anna Blinkova of Russia, the No. 2 seeds, took the girls doubles title, beating top seeds Swan and Sonya Kenin 7-5, 6-4.

Sunday's finals will be streamed, beginning with the girls final at noon Eastern, at

Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen won the $50,000 Champaign Challenger, defeating Taylor Fritz 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 this afternoon. The 23-year-old's first Challenger title gives the USTA's Australian Open wild card to Noah Rubin, who won the first of the three Challengers in the race in Charlottesville earlier this month.  Rubin, who would not have made the qualifying draw in Australia, will be playing in his second slam main draw. He played at last year's US Open as the Kalamazoo 18s champion. Fritz, along with Donaldson and Tiafoe and possibly Tommy Paul, are US teens who will receive entry into the Australian Open qualifying based on their rankings.

Fritz, who had saved 28 consecutive break points over four matches, saw his luck run out in the second and third sets, as he could not find his serve (31% first serves in the second set, 41% for the match) and Laaksonen consistently attacked his second serve. Laakson was down a set in his previous three matches, so he had no reason to panic after dropping the first set, and he played at a consistently high level throughout the match. Based on his performance in Champaign this week, Fritz will move into the ATP Top 200 for the first time.

Former Memphis teammates David O'Hare of Ireland and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain won the doubles title, defeating top seeds Austin Krajicek and Nick Monroe 6-1, 6-4 in the final.  O'Hare and Salisbury, who completed their collegiate eligibility in 2014, were unseeded, but had also reached the semifinals of the Charlottesville Challenger. The pair have seven Futures titles together, with this their first Challenger title.

An eighteen-year-old will win his first Futures title tomorrow, with unseeded Alex Rybakov taking on qualifier Henrik Wiersholm at the $10,000 Pensacola Futures. Wiersholm had the easier time advancing, beating 16-year-old qualifier Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-2, 6-2, which ended Wiersholm's streak of 6-0 sets at four.  Rybakov, who will start at TCU in January, needed over two hours to get past No. 6 seed Maximiliano Estevez of Argentina 6-1, 3-6, 7-5. Rybakov was a finalist last week in Niceville, his first Futures final.  Wiersholm, a sophomore at Virginia, had not earned an ATP point until this week, but could collect 17 if he wins Sunday.

Shapovalov split his matches on Saturday, taking the doubles title with former Texas A&M-Corpus Christi standout Peter Nagy of Hungary.  Nagy and Shapovalov, who won the US Open boys doubles title this year with Felix Auger-Aliassime, defeated wild cards Christopher Ephron, a Northwestern recruit from Pensacola, and former West Florida player Bruno Savi of Brazil 6-3, 6-2 in the final.

Friday, November 20, 2015

How I'd Change Lineups in College Tennis; Fritz into Champaign Challenger Final; Anisimova, Sanford into Grade A Semifinal in Mexico; Three Teens in Pensacola Semis

Last month Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today wrote a guest post here providing his suggestions for growing college tennis. Only a couple of Bobby's excellent proposals mentioned lineups or format, but I've developed a pet concept of my own about lineup selection that I detailed today for the Tennis Recruiting Network. With drafts now a regular part of the sports landscape, why not set lineups for each dual match in a similar fashion, rather than a exceedingly hard to define and police "order of strength"?  I would love to hear from you, pro or con, on what I've proposed. What are the drawbacks? How could it be improved? Does it promote parity, favor stronger teams, or is it neutral?

Taylor Fritz has reached his third Challenger final since October, defeating qualifier Mackenzie McDonald 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2 in a two-hour battle at the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign.  Fritz, who saved 15 of 15 break points tonight, will play unseeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland in Saturday's final, after Laaksonen outlasted qualifier Clay Thompson 5-7 ,6-3, 7-6(2).  After a week of multiple scenarios for the distribution of the USTA's Australian Open wild card, it is now simple: if Fritz wins the title, he will when the wild card. If Laaksonen, who will be playing in his first Challenger final, wins it, the wild card will go to Charlottesville champion Noah Rubin.

The doubles final will be between top seeds Austin Krajicek and Nick Monroe and unseeded David O'Hare of Ireland and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, former University of Memphis players.  That begins at 1 p.m. eastern Saturday, with the singles final to follow. Live streaming is available at the ATP Challenger website.

For additional coverage of the Champaign Challenger, visit Jonathan Kelley's On The Rise Tennis blog. He spoke with Clay Thompson after his quarterfinal win last in this post.

Two US girls have reached the semifinals of the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano: unseeded Amanda Anisimova and No. 11 seed Alexandra Sanford.  Anisimova defeated fellow 14-year-old Abigail Desiatnikov 6-3, 6-2 and has yet to lose a set in just her second Grade A tournament.  She will play No. 7 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Russia, who took out top seed Sonya Kenin 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. The 16-year-old Sanford, who is into her first Grade A semifinal, beat unseeded Hanna Chang 6-1, 7-6(2) and will play No. 3 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain. Swan survived against Sofia Sewing 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.

Swan and Kenin, the top seeds in doubles, reached the final, where they will play No. 2 seeds Levashova and Anna Blinkova, also of Russia.

No. 8 seed Ulises Blanch, the last US boy still alive, lost to unseeded Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina 2-6 6-3, 6-4.  The boys top seed, Mate Valkusz of Hungary, also lost today, falling to No. 12 seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Live scores, live streaming, draws and schedules can be found at the tournament website.

Three teenagers have reached the semifinals at the $10,000 Futures in Pensacola: 18-year-olds Henrik Wiersholm and Alex Rybakov and 16-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Canada. Wiersholm, the University of Virginia sophomore, won his second straight 6-0, 6-0 match, beating No. 3 seed Evan King today after blanking Andrew Carter on Thursday. Wiersholm will put that streak of 6-0 sets to the test in Saturday's semifinal against fellow qualifier Denis Shapovalov, who beat Denis Nguyen(Harvard), also a qualifier, 6-0, 6-3 in today's quarterfinal.

Rybakov will be looking for his second straight Futures final when he takes on 26-year-old Maximiliano Estevez of Argentina, the No. 6 seed, Saturdya. Estevez defeated Nick Chappell 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4, while Rybakov took out No. 4 seed Wil Spencer 6-2, 6-4.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thompson, McDonald, Fritz Reach Champaign Challenger Semifinals; Six US Girls, One US Boy into Quarterfinals at Grade A in Mexico; Junior Boys and Pro Success; Kingsley to LSU

The Champaign Challenger semifinals Friday will feature three Americans, qualifiers Clay Thompson and Mackenzie McDonald and Taylor Fritz.

Fritz, who defeated top seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-2, 6-1 this evening for his third win over a Top 100 player, will face McDonald in the semifinals, after the UCLA junior downed Mitchell Krueger 7-5, 6-1 to advance to his second career Challenger semifinal.

The winner of that match will have a chance to earn the Australian Open wild card with a victory in the final, but a loss will give the wild card to Noah Rubin, the Charlottesville Challenger champion, who currently leads in the race. McDonald and Fritz met back in January in the second round of the Los Angeles Futures, with Fritz winning 6-3, 6-4.

Thompson, who beat No. 2 seed Austin Krajicek 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to continue his outstanding run (which includes his first Challenger win, his first Challenger quarterfinal and now his first Challenger semifinal) will play the only international player left in the draw, unseeded Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland, who defeated Eric Quigley 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 today. Thompson cannot win the Australian Open wild card because his he can only tie Rubin with a title, and the tiebreaker is ATP ranking, with McDonald and Fritz winning that tie, but Thompson coming up short.

For more on the Champaign Challenger, check out Jonathan Kelley's On The Rise Tennis blog.

US girls continue to dominate at the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, with six of them through to the quarterfinals.  Top seed Sonya Kenin and No. 11 seed Alexandra Sanford are joined in the final eight by unseeded Sofia Sewing, Amanda Anisimova, Abigail Desiatnikov and Hanna Chang.  Anisimova and Desiatnikov, both 14, play each other, as do Sanford and Chang.  Chang defeated No. 2 seed and Wimbledon girls finalist Anna Blinkova of Russia 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-5 in today's third round.

Three of the four teams in the girls doubles semifinals also feature Americans.

No. 8 seed Ulises Blanch is the only US boy still in either draw. He will face unseeded Genaro Alberto Olivieri of Argentina in the singles quarterfinals.

Links to live scoring, live streaming, draws and Friday's order of play can be found at the tournament website., which specializes in data journalism, published an article today on the likelihood that the current crop of American junior boys will reach the top echelon of the pro game.  Perhaps even more interesting is the investigation into the reasons why so few teenagers are breaking into the Top 100 these days, which can be summed up quite simply: the players already there just won't leave. The aging of the Top 100/50/25 has been a trend for some time now and here are a few of the specific findings:

A player in the top 100 today is on average 2.3 years older than he was in 2005; a player in the top 50 is now 3.1 years older; and a player in the top 25 is 4.1 years older. Today’s top 10 pros have spent, on average, 11 years in the top 100, 7 years in the top 10 and 4.5 years in the top 5.

This trend can't continue indefinitely, but it's anybody's guess when the pendulum will begin to swing the other way. For many years, the stars of pro golf were in their 30s and 40s, but now the best players in the world are in their 20s. Tennis certainly requires more athleticism and is more physically demanding, but so far that hasn't kept those in their 30s from staying at the top of the game.

A big Division I signing was announced today, with LSU getting a National Letter of Intent from Raveena Kingsley, the No. 2 recruit in the Tennis Recruiting Network's class of 2016.  Kingsley has a WTA ranking of 613 and has been ranked as high as 22 in the ITF junior rankings. She joins Jade Lewis and Rebecca Weissmann to give LSU three blue chip recruits for the class of 2016.