IMG

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kozlov Defeats Harrison for First Challenger Win; Qualifying Underway at ITA All-American Championships



Sixteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov received a wild card into the main draw of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, and he made the most of it, defeating Ryan Harrison 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a first round match today.  Kozlov had won a qualifying match this year at the US Open, beating Mitchell Frank of Virginia in the first round, and he had won a qualifying match at the Lexington Challenger this summer, but he had not posted a main draw win above the Futures level in his career until today. 

Harrison, who lost to 17-year-old Jared Donaldson last week, is in a terrible slump, having won only two matches since April-one in the Nottingham Challenger and one in the Winston-Salem 250.  His ATP ranking, at 106 this time last year, has fallen to 183. 

Kozlov's second round opponent is the winner of Tuesday's match between JP Smith(Tennessee) and Bradley Klahn(Stanford).  In the final round of qualifying today, Mitchell Frank and Alexander Ritschard of Virginia lost, with Liam Broady, Eric Quigley(Kentucky), Dimitar Kutrovsky(Texas) and Marcos Giron(UCLA) reaching the main draw.  Other first round winners were Denis Kudla, James Magee(NC State) and Rhyne Williams(Tennessee).  Sam Querrey and Tim Smyczek, last week's finalists in Napa, are the top two seeds again this week in Sacramento.

The only women's Pro Circuit action in the United States this week is the $10,000 tournament in Hilton Head.  Qualifying is still underway there, but the draw is out, with 20-year-old Jessica Pegula making her first appearance of the year after being out due to knee surgery. She is the No. 4 seed. 

Prequalifying finished yesterday for the ITA Riviera All-American in California and the St. Francis All-American in Oklahoma, and the men began their qualifying today, with a 128-draw that will produce 16 qualifiers by Wednesday.  The pre qualifying draw was 256, with some of the competitors required to win four matches in two days just to get into the qualifying.  Eleven of those 16 went on to win their first qualifying match today, and they will be right back on the courts Tuesday for another round.  Three of the top four qualifying seeds lost in today's first round: No. 1 Jeremy Efferding(Texas A&M), No. 2 Max DeVroome(USC) and No. 4 Ben Wagland(Georgia).  Wayne Montgomery, who was not seeded but had been undefeated in his brief career at Georgia this fall, lost to Ben Lott of Drake.

Complete draws can be found at the ITA hub page.

The women's draw is smaller, with a 64-draw for the pre qualifying, but no byes for seeds.  Of the eight pre qualifiers on the women's side, only one, top seed Lynn Kiro of Texas Tech, managed to win three matches over the weekend to earn a spot in the qualifying. The women had today off, with their three rounds of qualifying starting on Tuesday. Two matches will be played Tuesday and the final round will be Wednesday, with eight qualifiers reaching the main draw.  The women's main draw is a 32-draw; the men's is 64. Ronit Yurovsky of Michigan and Taylor Davidson of Stanford are the top two seeds in qualifying.

Complete draws can be found on the ITA hub page.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

US Teams Sweep Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Titles; Neel Wins Amelia Island $10K; Nevolo Claims Irvine Futures Title

Sweeping both titles at the Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup competitions is a rare occurrence. Prior to today, it had only happened four times since the 16-and-under competitions began in 1985.  In 2008, the United States won both, and matched that today, with the girls defeating unseeded Slovakia 3-0 and the boys taking out No. 4 seed Korea by the same score.

The 2008 teams--Christina McHale, Kristie Ahn and Sloane Stephens, seeded No. 1; Evan King, Denis Kudla and Raymond Sarmiento, seeded No. 3--didn't lose a match the entire tournament, which features three round robin matches to reach the semifinals of the knockout round. The 2014 teams were similarly dominating, with the top-seeded girls going 15-0 in their matches and the second-seeded boys doing the same, with all five victories clinched before the doubles match was played.

William Blumberg started the day with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Chan-yeong Oh at No. 2 singles, getting a break in the third game of each set and never relinquishing it. Blumberg mixed up his attack, coming in occasionally to keep Oh guessing. He also served better than Oh, showing few nerves until the final game.  Even then, although he made two errors on his two match points, he recovered to win the next point both times and on the third match point, it was Oh who missed, sending a forehand wide.

The No. 1 singles match was expected to be a close one, with Michael Mmoh having suffered a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) loss to Yunseong Chung in the first round of the US Open junior championships earlier this month. Mmoh's 6-2, 6-2 victory started that way, with four holds of serve, but Chung was broken when Mmoh's defense induced an overhead error from Chung on game point. Mmoh held and broke again, and leading 5-2, claimed the set with a forehand winner on his third set point.

Mmoh fell behind 2-0 in the second set, but got the break right back and broke Chung the next two times to take a 5-2 lead. Serving extremely well in the final game, Mmoh took a 40-0 lead, but had to save a break point before collecting the win. Blumberg ran to give him an exuberant shoulder bump in celebration of the second ITF World title they have won together.  Blumberg, Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe captured the World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition Championship in 2012.

Tornado Alicia Black, Kathy Rinaldi, CiCi Bellis, Sonya Kenin
(photo via Twitter)
At the same time, the girls final was also being contested.  Tornado Alicia Black was broken at 4-4 in the first set by Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, but Mihalikova was unable to finish the set off and it went to a tiebreaker.  Black saved a set point with a good serve at 5-6 and got her chance with a good slice approach shot that Mihalikova got to but sent the reply long.  Mihalikova missed a forehand wide to give Black the set, and after over an hour of play, Black had edged ahead. She kept her level, but Mihalikova did not, and with Black's 7-6(6), 6-0 victory, the US could look to Bellis to clinch, just as she had done to win the World Junior Tennis title last year.

Viktoria Kuzmova started poorly, barely winning any points to start the match, while Bellis was playing patient but aggressive tennis and making few unforced errors. Twenty-four minutes later, Bellis had taken the first set 6-0, and shortly thereafter was serving at 2-1 in the second set. She lost that game and the next six, with Kuzmova taking a 2-0 lead in the third set.  Kuzmova had put any nerves behind her and was in control of the match at that point, but Bellis didn't concede, breaking Kuzmova two consecutive times to take a 3-2 lead. She was broken back for 3-all, but Bellis received a couple of gifts from Kuzmova in the next game in the form of a missed routine volley and a double fault on game point.

Bellis held at love and Kuzmova would have to hold for the first time since the first game of the set to stay in the match. Kuzmova had two game points, but couldn't convert either and after saving one match point with a forcing backhand, she netted a forehand to give Bellis her second match point. A Kuzmova forehand went long and Bellis fell to the ground on the baseline, celebrating her second ITF team title in as many years.

Congratulations to USTA coaches Kathy Rinaldi and Eric Nunez for their roles in putting US junior tennis at the top of the world today.

For my post on the 2008 Junior Davis and Junior Fed Cup titles (ITF link no longer works), click here.

Sandy Harwitt had quotes from the US boys in this article for the ITF junior website.  The article with quotes from the US girls is here. The complete results from the competition are at the ITF tournament site.


Ingrid Neel had to win seven matches just to reach the final of the $10,000 Amelia Island Pro Circuit event--three in qualifying and four in the main draw--but she didn't have to play a full eighth.  Unseeded wild card Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania retired at 4-4 in the first set of the rain-delayed final to give the 16-year-old from Minnesota her first title at that level.

At the $10,000 Irvine Futures, No. 2 seed Dennis Nevolo won his second Futures title in three weeks, defeating 2014 NCAA finalist Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) 6-7(17), 7-5, 6-3.  The first set was nearly 90 minutes long with that amazing tiebreaker, but the former Illinois All American recovered, not only from that disappointment, but from failing to serve out the set at 5-3 in the second set to get the win. He converted 6 of 8 break point chances to deny the seventh-seeded Sarkissian his second title of the year.

Top seed Sam Querrey and No. 4 seed Madison Brengle finished an excellent day for American tennis by capturing $50,000 tournament titles in Napa Valley and Las Vegas.  Querrey defeated No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek 6-3, 6-1, and Brengle downed Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-1, 6-4.  Querrey's win will put him back in the ATP top 50, and Brengle should crack the WTA Top 100 for the first time with her title.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

McKenzie, Storrie Win Waco ITF Titles; Neel into Amelia Island $10K Final; Nevolo and Sarkissian Meet for Irvine Futures Title

The ITF Grade 5 in Waco, Texas wrapped up today, with Kylie McKenzie and Ryan Storrie winning titles.


The 15-year-old McKenzie, the current National 16s champion, was seeded No. 14, but she lost only one set in her six victories, and in the semifinals and final, dropped only two games total.  In today's final, the Arizona resident defeated No. 6 seed Abigail Desiatnikov, a wild card entry, 6-2, 6-0, claiming her second ITF singles title.


The 16-year-old Storrie, who is from Great Britain but trains in Southern California, was seeded 15th, but he too lost only one set en route to his first ITF title.  Storrie defeated qualifier Joshua Sheehy 6-4, 6-1 in today's singles championship match.

No. 2 seeds Kayla Day and Alexandra Sanford won the girls doubles title, beating No. 6 seeds Emerald Able and Jada Hart  4-6, 7-5, 13-11. The boys doubles title went to Sheehy and his partner Parker Wynn, with the unseeded team defeating No. 2 seeds Vasil Kirkov and Trent Bryde 6-4, 4-6, 12-10.

In other ITF finals involving American juniors, No. 3 seed Madison Bourguignon lost in the championship match at the ITF Grade 2 tournament in Uruguay.  She was beaten by No. 5 seed Julieta Estable 6-2, 7-6(2).   At the Grade 5 in Puerto Rico, unseeded 15-year-old Victoria Emma defeated fellow unseeded American Nami Otsuka 7-6(6), 6-0 in the final, picking up her first ITF singles title.  Emma won the doubles title too, with she and Elene Tsokilauri defeating top seeds Natalia Barbery of Bolivia and Sofia Munera Sanchez of Colombia 4-6, 6-2, 10-3.  The boys singles champion, Jake Gabay, also swept the titles in Puerto Rico.  Gabay, seeded No. 5, defeated unseeded Robert Loeb 6-2, 6-2 to win the singles title. He also teamed with Gabriel Pilones to take the doubles title, with the top seeds defeating No. 2 seeds Boris Kozlov (Stefan's younger brother) and Franz Luna Lavidalie of Guatemala 7-5, 6-4.

Sixteen-year-old qualifier Ingrid Neel moved into the final of the $10,000 Amelia Island tournament, defeating No. 6 seed Emma Flood of Norway 6-3, 1-6, 6-2. Neel, who is playing in her first final at the Pro Circuit level, will meet 29-year-old wild card Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania, who beat US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. It is Gallovits-Hall's first final since April of 2012, when she lost to Camilia Giorgi of Italy in the championship match of the $50,000 tournament in Dothan, Alabama, but she hadn't played at all since January of 2013 before her appearance this week.

The doubles title went to top seeds Keri Wong(Clemson) and Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil, who beat teenagers Sophie Chang and Andie Daniell 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in today's final.

At the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger, top seed Sam Querrey and No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek will meet in Sunday's final. Querrey downed unseeded Alex Bolt of Australia 6-2, 6-3 and Smyczek ended the run of Jared Donaldson, beating the 17-year-old 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

In Las Vegas, No. 4 seed Madison Brengle will play for the title of the $50,000 Red Rock Open after her 6-2, 6-4 win over qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in today's semifinals. Brengle will face No. 8 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who stopped the winning streak of No. 3 seed Anna Tatishvili with a 6-3, 7-5 victory in the semifinals.

The final of the $10,000 Futures in Irvine, California will feature two former collegiate All-Americans in No. 2 seed Dennis Nevolo(Illinois) and No. 7 seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine).  Nevolo defeated No. 6 seed Greg Jones of Australia 7-6(5), 6-2 and Sarkissian ousted top seed Jason Jung(Michigan) 6-3, 6-1.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Conversation with Nicole Gibbs; USA Teams Reach Junior Davis and Fed Cup Finals; Donaldson into Napa Challenger Semifinals

I hadn't spoken to Nicole Gibbs since she won the NCAA singles title back in 2013, so I made sure not to miss the opportunity to catch up with her at this year's US Open, where she made the third round as a wild card.  Although she was obviously disappointed to have lost her match to Flavia Pennetta an hour or so earlier, she gave her usual thoughtful and candid answers to my series of questions about her first 15 months on the WTA tour.  She also had some strong words against the format changes proposed in Division I tennis.  The full interview is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

At the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competition in San Luis Potosi Mexico today, both teams from the United States advanced to Sunday's finals, again by the scores of 3-0.  Against No. 4 seed Russia, Tornado Alicia Black took the first point, defeating Anna Blinkova 6-3, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.  CiCi Bellis secured the victory at No. 1 singles, but it wasn't easy for the ITF World No. 1.  She led Anna Kalinskaya 6-1, 4-2 only to see Kalinskaya win five of the next six games to force a third set.  Up a break at 3-2 in the third set, Bellis was broken in a four-deuce game, but that would be the last game she would lose, as she won the final three games for a 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 victory.

Bellis, who anchored the US team that won the 14-and-under ITF World Junior Tennis team competition last year, has not played doubles, with Black and Sonya Kenin getting that duty. The doubles point has not been necessary in any of the top seed's four wins, but they won it again today, beating Blinkova and Aleksandra Pospelova 6-2, 6-3.

The girls will play unseeded Slovakia in the final. Slovakia ousted No. 2 seeds Hungary 2-1, with Tereza Mihalikova defeating Dalma Galfi and Viktoria Kuzmova downing Fanni Stollar in singles.

The No. 2 seeded boys team won over No. 3 Japan, with William Blumberg beating Shohei Chikami 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles for the first point, and, at No. 1 singles, Michael Mmoh defeating Renta Tokuda 6-2, 6-2 to clinch the win.  Blumberg and Gianni Ross won the superfluous doubles point, beating Chikami and Riki Oshima 7-5, 1-6, 6-1.  Ross was on the ITF World Junior Tennis team that lost 2-1 in the final to Russia last year.

The US boys will play No. 4 seed Korea in the final, after the 2013 Junior Davis Cup finalists defeated top seed France 2-1.  Chan-Yeong Oh and Yunseong Chung won both singles matches, with France salvaging the doubles point.  Chung and Mmoh will now have a rematch of their first round US Open match earlier this month, which Chung won over the No. 10 seed, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).  Blumberg had the shot of the day on match point against Chikami, below.


For complete results from today's Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup matches, see the ITF tournament page.

In Pro Circuit action today, Jared Donaldson reached the semifinals of the $50,000 Napa Valley Challenger, defeating qualifier Julian Lenz of Baylor 7-6(4), 6-3.  He will play No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek, who beat Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1.  Sam Querrey, the top seed, will meet Alex Bolt of Australia in the other semifinal.  After Donaldson's win over Wayne Odesnik, Paul Bauman conducted a lengthy interview with Donaldson for this blog post.

At the Amelia Island $10,000 women's event, 16-year-old qualifier Ingrid Neel has reached the semifinals, defeating No. 5 seed Ellie Halbauer 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.  Neel will play No. 6 seed Emma Flood of Norway for a place in the final.  US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic will face 29-year-old wild card Edina Gallovits-Hall of Romania in the other semifinal.  Gallovits-Hall has a WTA career-high ranking of 54 back in 2008.  Teens Sophie Chang and Andie Daniell will play for the doubles title against top seeds Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil and Keri Wong (Clemson).

Jennifer Brady's run at the $50,000 Las Vegas tournament came to an end today, as the unseeded wild card lost in the quarterfinals to No. 3 seed Anna Tatishvili, who won the Albuquerque $75K last week. Brady served for the match at 5-3 in the third, but Tatishvili came back, winning the final four games for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory.   No. 4 seed Madison Brengle defeated Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, returning from a four-year break from the game this month, 6-4, 6-3 to also reach the semifinals.

At the Irvine $10,000 Futures, top seed Jason Jung(Michigan) will play No. 7 seed Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) in one semifinal and unseeded Greg Jones of Australia will play No. 2 seed Dennis Nevolo(Illinois). Jones defeated 16-year-old Taylor Fritz 7-6(3), 7-6(1) in the quarterfinals today.  Jones picked up the doubles title with Greg Ouellette(Florida), with the pair defeating Carsten Ball and Junior Ore(Texas A&M) 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

US Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup Teams Reach Semifinals; Brady Defeats Oudin in Las Vegas $50K; Fritz, Valdes, Halbauer, Neel in $10K Quarterfinals

The top-seeded US girls and second-seeded US boys had no difficulty advancing to Friday's Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup semifinals, with both teams posting 3-0 victories. The girls breezed past No. 6 seed Belarus, with Tornado Alicia Black defeating Aryna Sabalenka 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles and CiCi Bellis downing Ulyana Grib by the same score at No. 1 singles. Black and Sonya Kenin then completed the sweep with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Sabalenka and Grib in the doubles match, finishing atop round robin Group A.  Bellis, by the way, has withdrawn from the upcoming ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed.

The US team's opponent in the semifinals will be No. 4 seed Russia, who swept through Paraguay to finish undefeated in Group B. Unseeded Slovakia will play No. 2 seed Hungary in the other Junior Fed Cup semifinal.

The boys had a more difficult time with No. 8 seed Germany, but managed to win all three hard-fought matches.  William Blumberg defeated Valentin Guenther 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to give the US a 1-0 lead and Michael Mmoh clinched the match with a 6-2, 7-6(1) win at No. 1 singles over Louis Wessels.  Blumberg and Gianni Ross then downed Guenther and Tim Ruehl 3-6, 6-2, 6-3  in the doubles competition.

The US will play No. 3 seed Japan in the Junior Davis Cup semifinals after Japan took the doubles point from No. 5 seed Argentina to record a 2-1 victory.

No. 4 seed Korea will play top seed France in the other JDC semifinal.

Today's results can be found at the ITF tournament page.

Jennifer Brady's excellent September continued today, with the UCLA sophomore, who is taking the fall off to compete in professional events as an amateur, moving into the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Las Vegas Pro Circuit event.  Wild card Brady, who won the $25,000 tournament in Redding, California two weeks ago, defeated No. 6 seed and WTA No. 124 Melanie Oudin 7-6(6), 7-6(3)  and is now 7-0 in Pro Circuit events this month.  She will play No. 3 seed Anna Tatishvili, who downed Irina Falconi (Georgia Tech) for the second time in five days. Qualifier Ema Burgic of Baylor saw her run end in the second round, but No. 8 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal needed a third set tiebreaker to do it. Larcher de Brito won the match 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).


At the Amelia Island $10,000 women's tournament, Ingrid Neel defeated fellow 16-year-old qualifier Nicole Frenkel 7-6(4), 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals.  Other young Americans to reach the final eight are No. 5 seed Ellie Halbauer and USC recruit Rianna Valdes. US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic defeated No. 2 seed Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil 6-2, 6-4 and will play Valdes next.  Valdes won their previous meeting at the $10K in Orlando this past spring, with Bouzkova trailing 6-0, 3-1 when she retired.

The only junior remaining in the $10,000 Irvine Futures is wild card Taylor Fritz, who reached his second career Futures quarterfinal with a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory over No. 3 seed Jeff Dadamo(Texas A&M).  Stefan Kozlov lost to Kyle McMorrow(Washington) 6-1, 6-4.  Illinois senior Farris Gosea, who won the $15,000 Futures in Canada last week, kept his winning streak going with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Sebastian Rivera of Ecuador. Gosea will play NCAA finalist Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine), the No. 7 seed, in Friday's quarterfinals.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

USA's Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup Teams Post 3-0 Wins; Quarterfinals Set at Waco ITF; Lenz, Donaldson Advance to Napa Challenger Quarterfinals; Puetz Upsets Kohlschreiber

The Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup teams from the United States will play for semifinal berths on Thursday in San Luis Potosi Mexico after both posted 3-0 victories over their opponents in the second of three round robin matches. CiCi Bellis, Tornado Alicia Black and Sonya Kenin lost only two games total in three matches against Peru, with Black losing both in her singles match. The top seeds will play No. 6 seed Belarus Thursday, with the winner advancing to the semifinals.

William Blumberg and Michael Mmoh won their singles matches against Bolivia in straight sets, with Mmoh and Gianni Ross completing the sweep with a 6-2, 6-0 win in doubles. The No. 2 seeds play No. 8 Germany on Thursday and will advance to the semifinals with a win.

Except for No. 3 girls seeds France, which is 0-2 after a loss to No. 7 seed Japan today, the top four seeds in each division remain in contention to reach the semifinals.

Complete results from today can be found here.

The Grade 5 ITF tournament in Waco this week, the start of the fall ITF swing in the United States is down to the quarterfinals. Neither of the top seeds are still alive, and as is frequently the case with these lower grades, some unfamiliar names (to me at least) have popped up including 13-year-old Lea Ma and 17-year-old Joshua Sheehy, both unseeded quarterfinalists.

At the $10,000 Pro Circuit women's tournament in Amelia Island, Florida, qualifier Ingrid Neel defeated top seed and WTA No. 368 Nathalia Rossi of Brazil 6-2, 6-4 to set up a second round encounter with fellow 16-year-old Nicole Frenkel, who also qualified.  Frenkel defeated Anastasia Kharchenko of Ukraine 7-6(4), 6-3. Ellie Halbauer, qualifier Jessica Ho and US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic also posted first round wins today.

At the $50,000 Las Vegas women's tournament, qualifier Ema Burgic of Baylor reached the second round, with the senior from Bosnia defeating WTA No. 170 Gioia Barbieri of Italy 6-4, 6-0.


Jared Donaldson, who will be 18 next month, reached his first Challenger level quarterfinal today with a win over Wayne Odesnik in the $50,000 Napa Challenger.  Donaldson was leading 6-2, 3-1 when Odesnik retired with an ankle injury.  Next up for the 2013 Kalamazoo finalist is Baylor junior Julian Lenz, who defeated qualifier Daniel Nguyen(USC) 7-6(4), 6-2.  The ITA preseason No. 1 is also making his first appearance in a Challenger quarterfinal.

And at the €106,500 Challenger in Orleans France, former Auburn All-American and 2010 NCAA semfinalist Tim Puetz of Germany picked up the biggest win of his career. Puetz, currently at 210 in the ATP rankings, beat No. 24 and top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 7-6(3), 6-1 in the first round today.  Puetz will play another German, Dustin Brown, in Thursday's second round.