Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Orange Bowl Acceptances Include Xu, Bellis, Ostapenko, Bouzkova, Rublev and Kozlov; Harrington and Wagner Top Seeds at USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational

The acceptances for the Metropolia Orange Bowl were released today, with the initial girls field an exceptionally strong one. The top three girls in the ITF Junior rankings--Shilin Xu of China, CiCi Bellis and Wimbledon girls champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia--have all entered, as has US Open girls champion Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.

In addition to Bellis, other US girls in the main draw are Raveena Kingsley, Usue Arconada, 2013 Orange Bowl semifinalist Sonya Kenin, Dasha Ivanova, Michaela Gordon, Jessica Ho and Mia Horvit.  Tornado Alicia Black is not entered, although she could always request a wild card should she decide to play. Although both are still age-eligible, neither of last year's finalists--champion Varvara Flink of Russia and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia--has entered.

Two years ago the Orange Bowl results decided the ITF World Junior champion, with Taylor Townsend clinching it there, and this year's champion could also come down to the 2014 calendar's last Grade A.

This feature on Xu from China Daily says she is scheduled to play the Eddie Herr (although that tournament is a week earlier, the entry deadline is a week later than the Orange Bowl) and will also be defending her singles and doubles titles at the Grade B1 in Korea next month.  Xu is not entered in the Abierto Juvenil Grade A in Mexico City next month however, so Bellis can gain ground there, but as of right now there are way too many tournaments left to even speculate that the top spot will come down to those two players.  But it does make for an interesting six weeks coming up.

Current boys No. 1 is Andrey Rublev of Russia, and he is entered in both upcoming Grade As. 2013 Orange Bowl finalist Stefan Kozlov, a frequent doubles partner of Rublev, is now No. 4 in the ITF rankings and he is entered only in the Orange Bowl.  Rublev, who won the French this year, is the only junior slam champion in the field, with Alexander Zverev of Germany, Noah Rubin and Omar Jasika of Australia not playing.  Defending champion Francis Tiafoe is also not entered in either Grade A, so his current ITF ranking of 7 will drop. Rublev is not defending any points the rest of the year except in doubles, so he is in the good position to retain the top spot.

Other US boys who received direct acceptance into the Orange Bowl are Taylor Fritz, Michael Mmoh, Alex Rybakov, Henrik Wiersholm, Dennis Uspensky, Sameer Kumar, Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg and Kalman Boyd.

The USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational begins tomorrow in Orlando, with live streaming available at ESPN3 beginning at 8 a.m. There is no streaming for Friday and Saturday's matches, but the coverage will return for the finals on Sunday. Clemson's Hunter Harrington and Miami's Stephanie Wagner are the top seeds.  See the Florida State page for links to the draws with match times.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Complete Fields Announced for Next Month's USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships; Results of No-Ad Poll

Virginia's Julia Elbaba, who qualified today in the Texas Challenger,
received a wild card into the Indoor Championships

The complete fields for next week's USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York were released today.  Many of the participants were already known based on the results of the ITA All-American Championships and the USTA/ITA Regional Championships, but there are wild cards and at-large bids added.

Men's singles:
Harrison Adams, Texas A&M (at large)
Axel Alvarez Llamas, Oklahoma (Central regional winner)
Nicolas Alvarez, Duke (All-American quarterfinalist)
Gonzales Austin, Vanderbilt (at large)
Fernando Borgajo, Armstrong State (small college Super Bowl winner)
Romain Bogaerts, Wake Forest (All-American semifinalist)
Roberto Cid, South Florida (ITA wild card)
Amerigo Contini, Virginia Tech (at large)
Henry Craig, Denver (Mountain regional winner)
Tom Fawcett, Stanford, (Northwest regional winner)
Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal (All-American finalist)
Soren Hess-Olesen, Texas (at large)
Jared Hiltzik, Illinois (at large)
Dominik Koepfer, Tulane (All-American quarterfinalist)
Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia (All-American semifinalist)
Julian Lenz, Baylor, (All-American quarterfinalist)
Winston Lin, Columbia (Northeast regional winner)
Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA (All-American consolation winner)
Ashok Narayana, Columbia (host wild card)
Cameron Norrie, TCU (Texas regional winner)
Lukas Ollert, Auburn (Southern regional winner)
Nathan Pasha, Georgia (All-American quarterfinalist)
Brayden Schnur, North Carolina (Carolina regional winner)
Ryan Shane, Virginia (Atlantic regional winner)
Austin Smith, Georgia (Southeast regional winner)
Sebastian Stiefelmeyer, Louisville (All-American winner)
Jason Tahir, Duke (USTA wild card)
Leandro Toledo, Minnestoa (ITA wild card)
Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (Midwest regional winner)
Jonny Wang, Southern Cal (Southwest regional finalist)
Andrew Watson, Memphis (Ohio Valley regional winner)
Dane Webb, Oklahoma (at large)

Women's singles:
Brooke Austin, Florida (All-American semifinalist)
Natalie Beazant, Rice (at large)
Emina Bektas, Michigan (Midwest regional winner)
Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt (Ohio Valley regional winner)
Hayley Carter, North Carolina, (All-American semifinalist)
Lynn Chi, Cal (at large)
Danielle Collins, Virginia (USTA wild card)
Courtney Colton, Vanderbilt (at large)
Valentine Confalonieri, Lynn (small college Super Bowl winner)
McKenzie Davis, Utah State (Mountain regional winner)
Julia Elbaba, Virginia (ITA wild card)
Saska Gavrilovska, Texas A&M (ITA wild card)
Lorraine Guillermo, Pepperdine (at large)
Julia Jones, Mississippi (Southern regional winner)
Josie Kuhlman, Florida (Southeast regional winner)
Jamie Loeb, North Carolina (All-American consolation winner)
Viktoriya Lushkova, Oklahoma State (Central regional winner)
Maegan Manasse, Cal (at large)
Brianna Morgan, Florida (at large)
Stephanie Nauta, Virginia (Atlantic regional winner)
Giuliana Olmos, Southern Cal (at large)
Caroline Price, North Carolina (Carolina regional winner)
Zoe Scandalis, Southern Cal (Southwest regional winner)
Blair Shankle, Baylor (at large)
Ilinca Stoica, Virginia Tech (at large)
Zsofi Susanyi, Cal (ITA wild card)
Kanika Vaidya, Columbia (host wild card)
Chanelle Van Nguyen, UCLA (All-American finalist)
Despoina Vogasari, Houston (Texas regional winner)
Jessica Wacnik, Boston College (Northeast regional winner)
Stephanie Wagner, Miami (at large)
Ronit Yurovsky, Michigan (at large)

The doubles teams participating can be found at the ITA website.

Two notable women who qualified for the Indoor are not playing: Northwest regional winner Carol Zhao of Stanford and All-American winner Robin Anderson of UCLA.   Anderson, who won the Indoor in 2012, is not injured, as she received a wild card into the $50,000 Pro Circuit event this week in New Braunfels, Texas and plays her first round match against Irina Falconi on Wednesday.

Speaking of New Braunfels, Julia Elbaba of Virginia qualified into the main draw, defeating former WTA No. 7 Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in today's final round of qualifying.  Former Stanford star Kristie Ahn also earned a place in the main draw with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Katerina Stewart.

I will not be going to the Indoor for the first time since 2003 because it is being played in the no-ad format.  The blog Chalk Flew Up conducted a poll earlier this month to gauge the support among those outside the college tennis coaching community and those results are available. Although it is a small sample size of just 58, nearly 75% of those taking the poll are against the no-ad format.  In addition to the poll, the post also includes comments from some of the respondents.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Odds and Ends From Everywhere

With the big wins by Michael Mmoh and Taylor Fritz yesterday, I didn't get a chance to review some of the other news, with a few additional items surfacing today. So here are some quick links:

Elias Ymer, the 18-year-old from Sweden, was once again a Davis Cup hero this past weekend, winning the fifth rubber against Latvia to keep his country in the Europe/Africa Group 1.  Ymer had also won a fifth rubber last fall against Denmark in another relegation playoff. NCAA doubles champion Mikelis Libietis of Tennessee was on the Latvian team, but saw action only in the doubles match, which Sweden's Robert Lindstedt(Pepperdine) and Johan Brunstrom(SMU) won in five sets.

At the Grade 5 tournament in Burlington, Ontario last week, 16-year-old Matthew Gamble of New York won his first ITF junior tournament, having played only one ITF tournament previously--the same tournament last year. The unseeded Gamble defeated second seed, Felix Auger Aliassime of Canada, who is 14, 7-5, 6-0.  Gamble had defeated top seed Elijah Ogilvy of Canada in the semifinals.

This week the ITF Junior Circuit in the US begins its late fall run at the Grade 4 in Atlanta, with Andie Daniell and Emil Reinberg as the top seeds. 2013 girls champion Kennedy Shaffer is also in the field.

Naomi Cavaday of Great Britain had retired, but at age 25, she is returning to tennis. In this article from the Mail, Cavaday describes her struggles with bulimia and depression as she attempted to deal with the pressures of a professional career. In addition to the $10,000 event in Egypt the article mentions, Cavaday just won another $10K tournament last week in Sweden.

As I mentioned yesterday, CiCi Bellis has been supplanted at the top of the ITF Junior rankings by Osaka Mayor's Cup champion Shilin Xu of China.  But as Jonathan Kelley notes in his weekly post for his On The Rise blog, Bellis is moving up in the WTA rankings after her two $25K titles this month. She is at a career-high 257. Macon finalist Grace Min is also at a career-high of  102.  Min leads in the USTA Australian Open wild card race, with the current standing below.  The final round of qualifying for the second women's $50K tournament of the three, in New Braunfels Texas, is Tuesday.  University of Virginia junior Julia Elbaba and University of Florida freshman Josie Kuhlman are among those still alive for a main draw berth.  Anna Tatishvili and Min are the top two seeds.

Qualifying was completed today at the first men's Challenger in the Wild Card series, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Kevin King(Georgia Tech), Daniel Nguyen(USC), France's Laurent Lokoli and Denmark's Frederik Nielsen are the four qualifiers.  The big news of the day however, was the defaulting of Darian King of Barbados, who angrily slammed his racquet at the back curtain near a line judge after losing a point to Ed Corrie. The line judge went down--in the slow motion it looks like the racquet bounced off the curtain and hit her--and he was immediately defaulted.  The video is below.

Daniel Rayl, who has committed to Notre Dame for next year, won the Indiana State High School singles title for the second straight year. With Ronnie Schneider winning the title in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and Rayl in 2013 and 2014, Bryan Smith has coached the last five champions.  For more on Rayl's victory this year, see this article in the Indianapolis Star.

The USTA has announced that the Collegiate Clay Court Championships this weekend in Orlando will again be streamed on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.  Times and dates for that streaming can be found here. There is no mention of juniors in the release, so I assume they are not playing this year as they did last year.

The Junior Team Tennis 18 and under National Championships were won by the North Richland Hills, Texas(Advanced) and Yardley, Pennsylvania (Intermediate) teams.  For more on the competition last weekend in South Carolina, see the USTA website.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fritz Claims Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup; Mmoh Wins Brownsville Futures; Liu, Caruana Take USTA Masters Titles

Taylor Fritz gave himself an early birthday present today, capturing his first ITF Grade A title in Japan. The No. 4 seed, who turns 17 on Tuesday, defeated No. 3 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 7-6(2), 6-3 in the Osaka Mayor's Cup final.  Fritz told me in Tulsa that he was playing in Japan for a couple of reasons: to attempt to finish the season in the Top 10, and to play a Grade A on a hard court (he pointed out that Australia, US Open and Osaka are the only Grade A tournaments on the surface, which he prefers to clay, the surface of five of the other six Grade As).  With that mission accomplished, he might skip the Grade A next month on clay in Mexico City, although he will still need a good showing at the Orange Bowl to secure a place in the Top 10.

Top seed Shilin Xu of China won the girls title, beating No. 3 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia 7-5, 6-3. If my math is right (a big if), Youth Olympic gold medalist Xu, who also won the doubles title in Osaka, will take over the No. 1 spot in the ITF junior rankings from CiCi Bellis.

Last year's Osaka Mayor's Cup winner Michael Mmoh did not defend his title, but can hardly be regretting that after capturing his first Futures title today at the $15,000 tournament in Brownsville, Texas.  The 16-year-old Mmoh, a wild card, defeated 2012 Kalamazoo 18s champion Dennis Novikov 7-6(5), 6-1 in the final to become the youngest USTA men's Pro Circuit champion since Rhyne Williams won the Pittsburgh Futures back in 2007.

Mmoh was down a break in the first set to the former UCLA star twice, but both times he immediately broke back, including when the third-seeded Novikov was serving for the set at 6-5.  In the tiebreaker, Mmoh lost a point on serve to go down a minibreak at 5-3, but hit an ace on the next point. Novikov still had the match on his racquet, but lost both points on his serve and Mmoh closed it out.  Mmoh then broke Novikov in the opening game of the second set and that was it. When the 27 ATP ranking points are added in eight days, Mmoh, currently ranked 1433, should be in the 600s.

At the $50,000 Macon women's event, qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine defeated No. 4 seed Grace Min 6-4, 7-5 in the final. Madison Brengle and Alexa Glatch won the doubles title, beating Anna Tatishvili and Ashley Weinhold 6-0, 7-5.

Qualifying has begun at the $50,000 women's tournament in New Braunfels, Texas, the second leg of the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.

As I mentioned on Saturday, the men are in Charlottesville for the $50,000 Challenger there, with the final round of qualifying on Monday. A PDF of the qualifying draw is here.

The USTA's inaugural Masters event finished today, with Claire Liu and Liam Caruana winning the titles.  The 14-year-old Liu, who was entered in the 18s draw and seeded second, beat one of the 16s qualifiers, Victoria Flores, 6-2, 6-2 in the final match.  Sixteen-year-old Caruana, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Emil Reinberg 6-0, 6-1 in the final. The Texas recruit lost a total of 11 games in his four victories this weekend.  Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mmoh Saves Match Points, Advances to Brownsville Futures Final; Fritz Reaches Final at Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup

Sixteen-year-old Michael Mmoh has reached his first Futures final after a dramatic 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(2)win in today's Brownsville semifinals against 18-year-old Deiton Baughman.

Mmoh breezed through the first set, but Baughman fought back to force a third. leading most of the way in the final set.  With Mmoh serving at 3-5 in the final set, he saved two match points, held and then broke Baughman at love to make it 5-all.  After a love hold by Mmoh, who won 12 consecutive points from match point down, Baughman had to hold just to reach the tiebreaker, which he did, after saving a match point at 30-40.  Mmoh started the final tiebreaker with an ace and dominated from there to earn his place in the final.

Mmoh will meet No. 3 seed Dennis Novikov, the former UCLA star and 2012 Kalamazoo 18s champion, in the final.  Novikov defeated top seed Henrique Cunha, the former Duke All-American from Brazil, 6-3, 6-3.  Novikov is seeking his third singles title in a $15,000 Futures this year, with the 20-year-old at a career-high of 417 in the ATP rankings.

Borna Coric's run in the ATP Swiss Indoors in Basel came to an end at the hands of David Goffin 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and at the $10,000 ITF women's event in Colombia, qualifier Nicole Frenkel lost to top seed Andrea Koch-Benvenuto of Chile 7-6(1), 6-2.

At the $50,000 Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Macon, No. 4 seed Grace Min defeated No. 8 seed Irina Falconi 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the finals.  The 20-year-old Min will face former WTA Top 30 player Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine, who is coming back to the tour after the birth of a daughter and has been winning a ton of qualifying matches this year, including two this week.  The doubles final Sunday in Macon will be between two unseeded American pairs; Ashley Weinhold and Anna Tatishvili against wild cards Alexa Glatch and Madison Brengle.

The Macon tournament is the first of the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge for the women, the men's first opportunity to collect ATP points in the race is this coming week's Charlottesville Challenger. Qualifying began today and continues through Monday.  Sam Groth of Australia and Tim Smyczek are the top seeds.  Wild cards went to Stefan Kozlov, Ernesto Escobedo, Mitchell Frank and Mac Styslinger.

Mmoh won the Osaka Mayor's Cup last year, his first big ITF junior title and Taylor Fritz will be trying to do the same Sunday (later tonight, actually) when the No. 4 seed meets No. 3 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea.  Fritz lost his first set of the tournament in the quarterfinals against Seong Chan Hong of Korea but came back for a 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 win and cruised by Corentin Moutet of France 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals.

The girls Osaka final will feature top seed Shilin Xu of China, who has remarkably dropped only one game in four of her five wins (in the second round Xu had a tough 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Emmanuelle Salas of France) and No. 3 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia.

The boys doubles title went to No. 4 seeds Corentin Denolly of France and Johan Nikles of Switzerland, who beat No. 3 seeds Yusuka Takahashi and Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan 6-4, 1-6, 10-4.   The girls doubles champions are top seeds Xu and Sara Tomic of Australia, who beat No. 5 seeds Emily Arbuthnott of Great Britain and Emilie Francati of Denmark 6-1, 6-0 (again with that score for Xu).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coric Defeats Nadal in Basel; Mmoh vs Baughman in Brownsville Semis; Finals Set in 16s at USTA Masters

Seventeen-year-old Borna Coric defeated Rafael Nadal today in Basel 6-2, 7-6(4), assuring himself a place in the ATP Top 100 next week.  Coric has put together a great year--reaching two ATP quarterfinals, qualifying and winning a round at the US Open, taking a big Challenger title last month--but with this win he has put himself in a rare place.  Just how rare Jeff Sackmann of Tennis Abstract details in his tweets this afternoon.

After the match Nadal, who admittedly played poorly, particularly in the opening set and in the last few points of the tiebreaker, announced he would not be playing any more this year, missing the Paris Masters and the World Tour Finals in London.

In the semifinals, the Croatian will play David Goffin of Belgium, who has lost all of two matches since Wimbledon and today beat No. 4 seed Milos Raonic of Canada 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4.  For more on how Coric, an emotional player as a junior, handled his nerves and the pressure of today's match, see this analysis from the Tennis Island website. Additional coverage is available on the ATP website.

Coric, of course, won a US Open junior singles title last year, as did his compatriot Ana Konjuh. The now 16-year-old Konjuh had her signature win back in January, when she beat top seed and WTA No. 14 Roberta Vinci in the first round of the Auckland tournament, and she has also posted three other Top 50 wins this year. She added to that total today, defeating top seed and No. 50 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-4, 7-6(3) in the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Challenger in Poitiers, France. Ranked 101 right now, Konjuh is most likely to already be in the main draw of the Australian Open, where she qualified last year, but her performance this week will move her well into the Top 100.

At the Brownsville $15,000 Futures, both Deiton Baughman and Michael Mmoh advanced to the semifinals, where they will play each other. Mmoh, who reached the semifinals last week in Mansfield, defeated qualifier Vullnet Tashi of Switzerland 6-1, 7-5 after trailing 4-1 and 5-3 in the second set.  Baughman defeated qualifier Tom Jomby(Kentucky) 6-4, 6-1 to reach the first semifinal of his pro career.  The top half of the draw has gone according to form, with top seed Henrique Cunha(Duke) facing No. 3 seed Dennis Novikov(UCLA) in that semifinal. 

At the Macon $50,000 tournament, Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech) and Grace Min picked up wins today, beating Madison Brengle and Sanaz Marand(UNC) respectively, and will play each other in Saturday's semifinal.  Min is close to qualifying for the main draw in Australia ranked 117, so with her play this week could get in without having to rely on the USTA's wild card, which is based on performances in two of three tournaments, the first of which is Macon.

Nicole Frenkel has reached her first ITF women's circuit final in the $10,000 ITF Women's tournament in Colombia.  The 16-year-old left-hander, a qualifier, beat No. 3 seed Victoria Bosio of Argentina 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the semifinals and will play top seed Andrea Koch-Benvenuto of Chile in the final.

No. 4 seed Taylor Fritz is the sole American junior remaining in the draw at the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup. He will play both his quarterfinal and semifinal singles matches on Saturday.  Top seed Duck Hee Lee of Korea was upset in the third round by Corentin Moutet of France. Fritz beat No. 13 seed Makoto Ochi of Japan 6-3, 7-5.

At the USTA's Masters event in Boca Raton, Blake Croyder and Whitney Osuigwe(a late addition) won the 14s and were given a place in the 16s draw.  Osuigwe beat top 16s seed Grace Joyce, but lost to Ally Bojczuk in the second round. Victoria Flores also reached the 18s draw.  Croyder also won his first 16s match, but then fell to JJ Wolf, who earned his way into the 18s draw by reaching the 16s final.  The 18s draws haven't been posted yet, but will be at the TennisLink site.