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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ojai Amazes; US Junior Teams All Post Shutouts in ITF North and Central American Team Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA

I had heard so many good things about Ojai, the Southern California festival of tennis now in its 117th year, that I was dubious it could live it to my expectations.  It managed to exceed them, with perfect weather, and a community obviously dedicated to putting on the best tennis show possible for juniors, collegians, pros and fans.


I started at the Ojai Valley Inn, where the opening matches of the Men's Open were taking place. I saw several of the Pac-12 men's coaches there, looking at possible recruits or those who will be joining them in 2017.  I watched Keegan Smith, who will start at UCLA in the fall, play Errol Smith, a Loyola Marymount junior, with Smith earning a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

Smith, who reached the semifinals of the Bakersfield Futures last month as a qualifier, said he decided to do the opposite of what many players do once they make their college commitment.

"Me and my dad talked about that a lot," said Smith, the nephew of USC head coach Peter Smith. "A lot of seniors commit and then their senior year they're not really training. My dad said, let's do the opposite. Let's home school, and really just go for it. I want to play high in the lineup once I get there."

Smith, who works with the USTA in Carson, with Angel Lopez and with Christian Groh, is playing the Open tournament for the first time, having played the previous two years in the CIF doubles for high school boys.  Although the prize money, $5300 of which goes to the men's singles winner, is a consideration, Smith said that's not the main reason for playing.

"It's nice, but I'm out here because I love tennis," Smith said. "It's fun and I like competing. Obviously the money's nice, but there's a lot of good players here and I can get some good matches. If at the end, you get some money, that's an added bonus."

Smith's 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Bradley Klahn in Bakersfield was the most memorable match in his recent surge.

"I was injured a little bit with my knee, and when I got back, I upped my training," Smith said. "I played well in those tournaments. [Against Klahn], I was seeing it big, I was serving well. With my game, I've just got to get my first serves in and take chances on the returns. That's my game style."

Smith, seeded fourth, won his second round match later in the day, and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Private court in Ojai
My next stop was Thacher School, where some of the boys CIF and the junior singles were being played. Although I didn't see him, Wayne Gretzky was reportedly there watching his daughter Emma in the 14s division. She lost in the first round.  After the trip to Thacher School, I had an opportunity to see one of the private courts Ojai is famous for, with girls 18s top seed Cali Jankowski getting a 6-0, 6-0 win at one of the most scenic tennis courts I've ever seen.  Then it was on to the Weil Academy and the Ojai Athletic Club, where other junior matches and the Pac-12 women's team event, the first conference team event for women in Pac-12 history, were being contested.

Then it was on to the famous Libbey Park, with the hundreds of photos of winners from years past, the wall of fame, with names of those who have played Ojai and gone on to win slams, with the complimentary hot tea in china cups served by volunteers, closing with the annual Thursday barbecue, which this year included a chat with honorary guest Rod Laver.

Oh, and there was tennis going on all day too, with big crowds watching Stanford defeat Oregon 4-2 and USC blank Utah 4-0 to reach the men's semifinals Friday, where they will play UCLA and Cal, respectively, with the Bruins and Bears getting byes into the semifinals.

The women's semifinals will feature USC, a 4-3 winner over Arizona State, against Cal, who beat Washington 5-0, and Stanford, a 4-0 winner over Utah, against Oregon, who upset UCLA 4-3.

For links to all the draws, see the tournament website.

At the ITF North and Central American qualifying for Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup and the World Junior Tennis competition in Mexico, the USA teams went 4-0, with all the wins shutouts.

The results are below:

JUNIOR FED CUP

USA def. Guatemala 3-0

Singles:

Whitney Osuigwe def. Rut Galindo (GUA) 6-1, 6-1

Caty McNally def. Gabriela Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-0

Doubles:

McNally/Subhash def. Galindo/Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-2


JUNIOR DAVIS CUP 

USA def. Mexico 3-0

Singles:

Govind Nanda def. Sergio Molina (MEX) 6-2, 6-2

William Grant def. Rafael de Alba (MEX) 6-3, 6-4

Doubles:

Boyer/Nanda def. Corro/Molina (MEX) 6-1, 7-5


WJT – GIRLS 14s

USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0

Singles:

Cori Gauff def. Sara Snyder (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Charlotte Owensby def. Yadalis Rodriguez (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Doubles:

Gauff/Owensby def. Gonzalez/Rodriguez (PUR) 6-2, 6-1


WJT – BOYS 14s


USA def. Costa Rica 3-0

Singles:

Martin Damm def. Christian Winstead 6-0,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Alberto Sierra 6-1,6-0

Doubles:

Damm/Kodat def. Lozano/Sierra 6-1,6-0

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easter Bowl ITF, 16s Slideshow; Videos

I'm heading to Ojai today to experience that legendary Southern California tennis event for the first time, so that means a long day of travel and an early post.

This wraps up the adidas Easter Bowl, with a slideshow of the 16s and 18s and videos of the four finals.  (The 12s and 14s slideshow and videos are here). Replays of three of the finals are available on Livestream, with the boys ITF here, the girls ITF here, some of the boys 16s here and here. The girls 16s final does not appear in the archives, but there is a video of the postmatch ceremony.





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gullikson Retires from USTA Player Development; Florida Women Stay No. 1 Despite Second Loss to Vanderbilt, Wake Forest Remains Atop Men's Rankings, TCU's Norrie Moves to No. 1 in Singles; Pro Circuit Update


The USTA announced today that Tom Gullikson, currently serving as Player Development's Lead National Coach of men's pro tennis, is retiring from full-time coaching effective June 2. Gullikson, 65, is a former ATP Top 40 player who first joined the USTA in 1988, serving in the USTA's initial Player Development department until 1997. He was Davis Cup captain in 1995, when the USA won the Davis Cup and also coached the US Olympic team in 1996. Gullikson then served as Director of Coaching at the USTA, leaving the organization in 2001.  He returned in 2009, and has served in a variety of roles in Player Development in the past eight years.  Knowing him as I do, I would not expect him to retire from tennis, and I don't think the USTA expects that either, with their pointed use of the "full-time" adjective.  The full USTA release is here.

Three years ago, I had an opportunity to interview Gullikson for the Tennis Recruiting Network at the USTA Spring Team Championships in Mobile.  We talked about team competition, college tennis as a pathway, what's changed over the years in the sport and what's stayed the same, the prospects for American men's tennis and other topics. I learned a lot, and that was just during a 30 minute conversation, so I assume the players that he's coached and mentored have collected his wisdom to a much greater degree.  He's part of the institutional memory of American tennis and all of us will miss regular access to that connection.

The new ITA Division I rankings are out, with the Florida women staying at No. 1 despite losing for the second time in eight days to Vanderbilt.  I think this is the point where the human poll that the USTA conducts will start to show its value; Vanderbilt is still suffering from a poor showing at the National Team Indoor, which Florida won.  In the long run, the NCAA championships settle the dispute, and next week's rankings are the last published by the ITA until after the tournament. (But we have College Tennis Today and Texas College Tennis helping us out with rankings in the week leading up to the NCAAs and they have discovered some errors affecting this weeks rankings).  In the singles rankings, Francesca Di Lorenzo continues at No. 1, and there were almost no changes in the Top 10, other than LSU freshman Jade Lewis's big jump from 22 to 10.

Women's Team Top 10: (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. Florida (1)
2. Vanderbilt (2)
3. Georgia (4)
4. Ohio State (5)
5. North Carolina (3)
6. Stanford (8)
7. Texas Tech (7)
8. Georgia Tech (6)
9. Oklahoma State (9)
10. Michigan (10)

1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (1)
2. Hayley Carter, North Carolina (2)
3. Ena Shibahara, UCLA (3)
4. Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt (4)
5. Blair Shankle, Baylor University (5)
6. Belinda Woolcock, Florida (7)
7. Viktoriya Lushkova, Oklahoma State (6)
8. Jasmine Lee, Mississippi State (10)
9. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech (9)
10. Jade Lewis, LSU (22)

1. Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney, North Carolina (1)
2. Astra Sharma and Emily Smith, Vanderbilt (3)
3. Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux, Mississippi State (5)
4. Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson, Georgia (4)
5. Erin Routliffe and Maddie Pothoff, Alabama (8)

The men's No. 1 continues to be Wake Forest and they have a large lead over Ohio State at No. 2.  TCU is all the way up to No. 4 after not being ranked in the Top 50 back in February.  Another plus for the Horned Frogs comes in singles, where Cameron Norrie has dislodged Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State from his No. 1 spot in the rankings.

Men's team Top 10:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. Ohio State University (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. TCU (9)
5. UCLA (8)
6. Baylor University (4)
7. Southern California (6)
8. Oklahoma State (5)
9. Texas (7)
10. Cal (11)

1. Cameron Norrie, TCU (2)
2. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (1)
3. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (4)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest University (3)
5. Aleks Vukic, Illinois (5)
6. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (6)
7. Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech (7)
8. Alfredo Perez, Florida (9)
9. Hugo Di Feo, Ohio State (8)
10. Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (10)

1. Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (1)
2. Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb, Georgia (3)
3. Jose Salazar and Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (8)
4. Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat, California (2)
5. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida (6)

The qualifying is complete at the two USTA Pro Circuit events this week.  At the men's $15,000 Futures in Vero Beach, Sam Riffice, Alexandre Rotsaert and Oliver Crawford are among those earning their way into the main draw with wins today. Wild cards were given to Junior Ore, Vasil Kirkov, Patrick Kypson and 16-year-old Ivan Yatsuk. Calvin Hemery of France is the top seed.

At the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event, Robin Anderson and Canada's Carol Zhao advanced to the main draw, with Julia Elbaba getting in as a lucky loser.  She will play former Virginia teammate Danielle Collins in the first round.  Wild cards were given to Claire Liu, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia (whose sister Hana played at UVA) and Maria Sanchez.  Madison Brengle is the top seed.

At the ATP Challenger in Tallahassee, top seed and Sarasota Challenger winner Frances Tiafoe withdrew and No. 2 seed Darian King of Barbados lost today.  Sarasota finalist Tennys Sandgren fell in his first round match, but wild card Bradley Klahn, Dennis Novikov, Mitchell Krueger and Christian Harrison are Americans who have advanced to the second round.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gauff, Heller Win US Wild Card Tournament for French Open Juniors; Sandgren, Anisimova Lead USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge; Kalamazoo College Wins 79th Consecutive Conference Title, More


Last week, Longines sponsored a tournament giving US juniors an opportunity to play for a French Open Junior Championship wild card. Held on red clay at the Boca West Country Club from April 19-22, the tournament is one of six the French Tennis Federation is sponsoring, with winners from the tournaments in Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and India advancing to playoffs in France. After round robin competition on May 26th, the finals will be the following day, with the winner getting a wild card into the French Open Junior Championships, scheduled for June 4-10.

The United States will be represented by two Floridians: Cori (CoCo) Gauff and Michael Heller. Gauff, who just last month turned 13, the age required to compete in ITF tournaments, defeated 18-year-old Victoria Flores 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Heller, who will turn 17 next month, defeated Matthew Tsolakyan 6-4, 6-3 to earn his trip to Paris.

For more on the event, see this article from tennis.com.

The USTA distributed updated standings for the men's and women's main draw wild cards for the French Open.  With two weeks left to go, Amanda Anisimova and Tennys Sandgren are on top of the standings. Neither Anisimova nor Kristie Ahn, who is second place, are playing the $60,000 tournament in Charlottesville VA this week.  Sandgren is entered in the $75,000 Tallahassee Challenger this week, but No. 2 Denis Kudla is not.

The women's current standings are here; the men's current standings are here.

The Kalamazoo College men's tennis team just won its 79th consecutive MIAA conference title this weekend, a streak that dates back to when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a first-term president.  It's the longest conference title streak in college sports.  Prior to K's win over Albion this weekend, which clinched the conference title outright, the Detroit News published this article on the program's mind-boggling accomplishment.

Did you know NBA star Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz concentrated on tennis for most of his youth?  Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal looks back on the growth spurt that changed his focus in this article. Hayward even had a Tennis Recruiting Network profile, with Purdue listed as his school of choice. As Perotta explains, Hayward ended up at Butler, thinking he would play both sports, but ended up concentrating on basketball.

Sixteen-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who hasn't played a junior event since reaching the final of the Wimbledon juniors last July, picked up her first WTA victory today, beating No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic of Germany 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Istanbul.  It was also the first Top 100 victory for Yastremska, ranked 420. For more, see the WTA website.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ahn Wins Dothan $60K; Tiafoe Captures Sarasota Challenger Title; US Fed Cup Team Advances to Final; Vanderbilt Beats Florida Again to Claim SEC Conference Tournament Title


Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her pro career today, beating 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the $60,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan AL.  The match, delayed for several hours by rain, saw the unseeded Anisimova do no wrong in the opening set, especially returning serve, with No. 8 seed Ahn able to win only 30 percent of her first serve points.

In the final game of the first set, with Anisimova serving at 5-1, the tenor of the match began to change. Although Anisimova ended up holding serve, she needed 16 points to do so, as Ahn began to eliminate her unforced errors.  After Ahn saved three break points to hold serve and go up 2-1 in the second set, Anisimova left the court after a medical timeout for what looked to be a problem with her right hip or thigh. She won only one game in the set after that, while Ahn's improved serving continued into the third set. Ahn went up 2-0, lost that break, but finished off the match by taking the last four games.

It's the sixth ITF Women's Pro Circuit title of the Stanford graduate's career, with her previous three at the $25,000 level and the first two at the $10,000 level.  She will move to a career-high of around 155 in Monday's WTA rankings and keeps the race for the USTA's French Open wild card interesting with two more tournaments yet to be played. Anisimova is now 0-3 in ITF finals, all of them since late February. She will move to around 260 in the WTA rankings.

Ahn also reached the doubles title in Dothan, but she and partner Lizette Cabrera of Australia lost to Sanaz Marand and Emina Bektas 6-3, 1-6, 10-2 in tonight's final.  It's the third doubles title of the year for Marand and Bektas, following their wins at the $15K in Orlando and the $25K last week in Pelham.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Orange Park Florida, unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia took the title, beating top seed Calvin Hemery of France 6-2, 6-4.

Frances Tiafoe won his third ATP Challenger title in another all-American final today at the $100,000 tournament in Sarasota Florida. No. 3 seed Tiafoe, who had outlasted Jurgen Melzer of Austria in last night's semifinal 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), beat Tennys Sandgren in today's final 6-3, 6-4. With the title, his first this year, the 19-year-old will move into the ATP Top 75 for the first time.  Melzer and Scott Lipsky won the doubles title, beating Peter Polansky of Canada and Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4.

The US Fed Cup team defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in Wesley Chapel Florida to advance to the final in November, where they will play Belarus for their first Fed Cup title since 2000.

CoCo Vandeweghe played a part in all three US points, beating 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday. Siniakova had beaten Shelby Rogers on Saturday and Vondrousova forced a deciding doubles match by beating Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in the fourth singles match.  The doubles team of Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a formidable one, and they earned the USA's first trip to the Fed Cup final since 2010 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Kristyna Pliskova and Siniakova.  For more on today's action, see this USTA article.

Most of the major conference championships begin later this week, but the SEC women's finished today, with the nation's No. 2 team Vanderbilt beating the nation's No. 1 team Florida 4-3 in Nashville. Vanderbilt won its first regular season conference title by knocking off Florida 4-3 last Sunday, also in Nashville. Vanderbilt won the tournament title today after dropping the doubles point (they had won the point a week earlier), getting singles wins from Astra Sharma at line 1, Sydney Campbell at line 2, Christina Rosca at line 3. Fernanda Contreras clinched for the Commodores at line 6.  Florida played today without Josie Kuhlman, who was scratched due to a stomach virus. See the Vanderbilt website for more on today's match.

For more on all this weekend's college results, see College Tennis Today.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anisimova, Ahn Reach Dothan $60K Final; Sandgren Advances to Sarasota Challenger Final; Madurawe, Inoue Claim ITF Titles in Caribbean


Amanda Anisimova reached the final last week at the $80,000 Indian Harbour Beach USTA Pro Circuit event and has followed that up this week with another trip to the championship match, her third in three ITF Women's Circuit tournaments this year.  The 15-year-old from Florida defeated 18-year-old Sonya Kenin 6-3, 6-0 in today's $60,000 Dothan Alabama semifinal and will face No. 8 seed Kristie Ahn in the final. Ahn defeated unseeded Barbara Haas of Austria 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal. Ahn is looking for the biggest title of her pro career and her first since 2015. The 24-year-old, who graduated from Stanford in 2014, will reach her career high in the WTA rankings regardless of the result on Sunday.  Should Anisimova win the title , she will put herself in a commanding position in the USTA French Open Wild Card Challenge, even with two more tournaments still on the schedule.  Live streaming of the final will be available via this link.

Both US men in the semifinals of the $15,000 Orange Park Florida Futures lost today.  Qualifier Gianni Ross's string of victories ended at six, when he lost 6-4, 6-2 to top seed Calvin Hemery of France.  No. 2 seed Evan King led 5-3 in the second set against unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia, but Mantilla won the final four games of the match to earn a place in the final.

Tennys Sandgren has had an outstanding start to 2017, and the former Tennessee Volunteer stayed on that track today, beating Vincent Millot of France 6-4, 6-1 to advance to the final of the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Sarasota.  Sandgren, now at a career high of 156 in the ATP rankings, will face the winner of tonight's match between No. 3 seed Frances Tiafoe and former ATP Top 10 player Jurgen Melzer of Austria. A free live stream of the match is available at the ATP Challenger website.

In ITF junior action, US juniors Niluka Madurawe and Hina Inoue won titles, with Madurawe capturing the championship at the Grade 4 in Trinidad and Tobago and Inoue claiming the title at the Grade 5 in Guadeloupe. No. 8 seed Madurawe's  6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Dakota Fordham gave the 17-year-old her second singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit, with the first earlier this year in Guatemala. Qualifier Inoue, just 13, defeated unseeded Selena Janicijevic of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final to win the first ITF junior tournament she has played.

Ronan Jachuck was the second American to pick up a title in Trinidad, taking the doubles championship with Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Ignacio Garcia and Rafael Grovas of Puerto Rico 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final.

Several US juniors are already in Europe, with Amanda Meyer reaching the singles semifinals and Nicole Mossmer advancing to the quarterfinals in singles and final in doubles at the Grade 2 in France.
At the Grade 2 in Italy, Easter Bowl champion Alafia Ayeni was the top seed but lost in the quarterfinals to Matias Soto of Chile. He did take the doubles title, however, with Soto as his partner. The top seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Francesco Forti and Mattia Frinzi of Italy 4-6, 6-2, 10-3 in the final.