Sunday, May 29, 2016

Collins and Carter Meet for Women's D-I Singles Title; McDonald and Torpegaard in Men's Championship Match; US Girls 6-0 in First Day of French Junior Championships

Virginia's Danielle Collins won her first NCAA Division I women's singles title in 2014 and will play for a second in Tulsa on Monday against North Carolina's Hayley Carter.  Collins, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 7 seed Luisa Stefani of Pepperdine 7-6(7), 6-4, while Carter, the top seed, saved a match point in her 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Sinead Lohan of Miami.

Collins didn't make it easy on herself in either set, getting big leads in both, only to see Stefani fight back.

In the first set, Collins served for the set at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5, unable to close, but outlasted the freshman from Brazil in the tiebreaker. In the second set, Collins built a 4-0 and 5-1 lead, but Stefani won three games in a row and was up 40-15 serving at 4-5.  Collins got the game to deuce and blistered a forehand return on the deciding point to close out the match.

Collins' press conference after the match can be found here.

Carter trailed 6-1, 5-4, when Lohan served for the match. After Lohan went down 15-40, she had a match point on the deuce point, but Carter won it, the second of the six straight games she would take from the sophomore from Ireland. Lohan would get that break back, but Carter took over after winning a deciding point at 2-all, closing out the match by taking four straight games.

Carter's press conference after the match can be found here.

Collins and Carter, both playing No. 1 for their teams, met three times this year, with Carter winning the March dual match meeting 7-6(5) 6-3 in Charlottesville. In the semifinals of the ACC tournament, Collins lead 6-3, 2-2 when North Carolina clinched the dual match. Carter was leading 6-4, 2-6, 5-4 with match points when Virginia clinched the round of 16 match in the team event in Tulsa a week ago Thursday, leaving that match unfinished.  Back in the September, they were set to meet in the final of the Oracle Masters in Malibu, but Carter was unable to compete due to an injury.

The winner of Monday's match is expected to get a main draw wild card into the US Open, the usual protocol for the USTA if the champion is an American.

In the men's final, No. 6 seed Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA will face
top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State after both won matches completed indoors due to lightning in the area.

Torpegaard, a sophomore from Denmark, and No. 5 seed Cameron Norrie of TCU were on serve at 3-4 in the first set when play was halted, although Norrie was down 0-30 on his serve. Torpegaard broke and held for the first set, then broke Norrie to open the second set. Torpegaard gave the break back on a deciding point to make it 3-3, but won a deciding point at 4-4 to break Norrie and served out the match.

Torpegaard's press conference is here.

McDonald had more difficulty with Virginia Tech's Joao Monteiro, a 9-16 seed, before posting a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory.  McDonald had secured the first set, winning three straight deciding points from 3-2 up, when the match was moved inside. Monteiro appeared to adjust more quickly and claimed the second set, then took a 2-0 lead in the third. But McDonald won a deciding point to get it back to 2-2, then won three straight games with some aggressive ground strokes that eventually wore Monteiro down. The senior from Portugal held on a deciding point/ match point at 5-2, but McDonald earned three more with a great backhand winner for 40-15 and the junior from California closed it out on his third match point.

McDonald will also play for the doubles title on Monday with partner Martin Redlicki. In a match played outdoors, that finished after 9:30 p.m. local time, the No. 2 seeds defeated unseeded Alex Lawson and Quentin Monaghan of Notre Dame 7-5, 6-7(5), 10-8.  McDonald and Redlicki will play unseeded Arthur Rinderknech and Jackson Withrow of Texas A&M, who beat unseeded David Biosca and Rogerio Ribeiro of East Tennessee State, 6-2, 5-7, 10-7.

The women's doubles final could have, but will not feature one of the singles finalists, after Carter and Whitney Kay, the top seeds, lost to No. 4 seeds Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr of Cal 6-4, 4-6, 10-7.  Manasse and Starr will play No. 3 seeds Brooke Austin and Kourtney Keegan of Florida, who defeated No. 5 seeds Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips of UCLA 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.

The finals will be streamed on, with commentary, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Complete results can be found on the Tulsa tournament central page.

In the first day of the French Open Junior Championships, all six US girls who played advanced to the second round.  No. 9 seed Usue Arconada defeated Tatiana Pieri of Italy 1-6, 6-4, 6-0; Caty McNally took out No. 6 seed Katie Swan 6-4, 6-3; No. 3 seed Kayla Day downed Loudmilla Bencheikh of France 6-2, 6-3; Claire Liu beat Sandra Bozinovic of France 6-1, 6-1; Alexandra Sanford defeated Emiliana Arango of Colombia 6-2, 6-1 and Morgan Coppoc ousted No. 11 seed and Wimbledon girls champion Sofya Zhuk of Russia 6-1, 6-0.

The US boys won three and lost three.  JJ Wolf fell to Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, the No. 11 seed, 6-2, 6-1; Brandon Holt lost to Juan Carlos Aguilar of Bolivia 6-3, 6-2 and Vasil Kirkov, who served for the match at 5-4 in the third, lost to No. 12 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.  No. 3 seed Ulises Blanch defeated Duarte Vale of Portugal 6-2, 6-2, Nathan Ponwith took out No. 16 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt 7-6(5), 6-4 and qualifier Gianni Ross prevailed over Yuta Shimizu of Japan 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

Americans playing their first round matches Monday are Maria Mateas, No. 10 seed Sonya Kenin, Michaela Gordon, No. 2 seed Amanda Anisimova, No. 15 seed John McNally and Sam Riffice.  All of today's winners play their second round matches Monday, except for Sanford. The schedule for Monday is here.

The doubles draws were released today, with Arconada and Day the No. 2 seeds in the girls draw.  Blanch and Mate Valkusz of Hungary are the top seeds in the boys draw.

The ITF's article on the first day of play is available here.

John Roddick Leaving Oklahoma to Become Director of Tennis and Men's Coach at University of Central Florida

After seven years as head coach of the University of Oklahoma, John Roddick is leaving Norman to become Director of Tennis and men's coach at the University of Central Florida.

The University of Central Florida is in the American Athletic Conference, which includes, among its strong tennis schools, South Florida, Tulsa, Tulane and Memphis. But it is not one of the Power 5 conferences, so leaving the Big 12 for a mid major is a move bound to surprise those who follow college tennis closely.

I spoke to Roddick this evening, after the UCF announcement, and he explained that being a part of the USTA's new Home of American Tennis in Lake Nona, where UCF will play their home matches, was a significant factor.

"At the end of the day, I'm a tennis coach, and I think we're going to be able to provide an opportunity for the elite players in our country, and some from around the world, but I really want to focus on trying to get the elite players from our country to buy into what we can do there," said Roddick. "The unique opportunity they're going to have to play pro events right in their back yard, not even in their back yard, but in their home. It will just open up so many doors on dates and things like that, just the technicalities of our job."

"UCF is a very innovative school, from an academic standpoint. They offer a lot of online things, do a lot of progressive things, and they want to provide the student-athletes with the best options for them, for whatever their goals are. I think with them having that mindset, it's going to be something that a lot of tennis players are going to want to take advantage of."

Roddick mentioned the televising of matches, the opportunity to train with pros based at the USTA's 100-court facility and the access to all the training and conditioning options, which will include Playsight technology on all courts.  As a former top international junior who was on the fence about turning pro or going to college, the former Georgia Bulldog believes he would have been attracted to the options that UCF will be able to offer in conjunction with the USTA.

I asked if building a program was the motive for the change, as he made an immediate impact when taking the job at Oklahoma, and with three consecutive appearances in the NCAA finals the past three years and a National Indoor Championship in 2015, Roddick has taken the program to the top Division 1 level in a remarkably short time.

"To be honest, I don't look at it as building or not building. Each year you want to put the best team you can out there. Then the next year you want to have a better team and a better team. I don't look back on OU and think all I did was build. We were able to get to the [NCAA] quarters my first year, be a top 20 team the next year, and then from that point forward we were one of the national elite teams for the most part. So I don't look at it as building, I look at it as an opportunity."

"I haven't spoken yet with team members at Central Florida, I do that tomorrow probably, but I have to see where we're at and make sure the guys there want to work hard. I'm not in a hurry to do it fast. I think it's a great opportunity for kids and I'm the tennis coach, so as long as they want to work hard and do the right things in tennis, on and off the court, and keep their grades up, then they have an opportunity there. I know it's going to take some time and we'll just do it one step at a time. I don't look at it as building or anything like that. You just want to help tennis players get better at the sport they want to play, and I just want to keep putting a better team out there every year."

The announcement from the University of Oklahoma is here.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Butts Overcomes Crowd, Metzler to Take Men's D-III Singles Title; Chong Repeats as Women's Champion; D-I Semis Set; French Open Junior Championships Begin Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Kalamazoo, MI

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps senior Skyler Butts had to deal with hundreds of his opponent's fans and classmates roaring on every point. Wesleyan sophomore Eudice Chong had to face the only player who had beaten her in Division III competition. But both made their experience in the big moment work for them, with Butts defeating Kalamazoo College's Branden Metzler 6-2, 6-7(0), 6-2 and Chong downing Juli Raventos of Williams 6-2, 7-5 to claim the 2016 NCAA Division III singles titles Saturday at Stowe Stadium.

Metzler's run to the final had drawn large crowds of students and local tennis fans and despite the holiday weekend, more than 400 showed up to clap, chant and encourage the No. 7 seed.  Butts, who had reached the final in 2015, losing to teammate Warren Wood, was able to tune them out, even after failing to convert two match points at 6-2, 5-3.

The fourth-seeded Butts played a nearly flawless first set, while Metzler admitted his emotions were scattered.

"It was a little bit of nerves, being out here, never playing in an NCAA finals, and I think Skyler had a little advantage there," said the junior from Rockford, Illinois. "That's not an excuse. Good players come out and play when they need to, and Skyler played a great first set."

Metzler steadied himself in the second set, with three straight holds, but a rare missed overhead from Metzler gave Butts a 4-3 lead. Butts held for 5-3 and four points into his own serve, Metzler found himself down two match points. Butts missed a volley on the first, and Metzler cracked a service winner on the second, with the crowd finding a new decibel level when he closed out the game.

Butts made a couple of errors attempting to serve out the match, with Metzler also pressuring him. Butts saved two break points, but double faulted to give Metzler another one and an unforced error on the forehand sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Metzler was broken in the next game, but again he came out firing with Butts serving for the match. Two forehand winners by Metzler sandwiched around a netted Butts backhand and Metzler had two break points, converting the second to send the match to a tiebreaker.  The tiebreaker was no contest, with winners coming in bunches off Metzler's racquet, and he had evened the match.

Butts said it wasn't nerves that kept him from serving out the match.

"He kind of took it to me, I felt," Butts said. "I dropped the ball short a little more, and I maybe had a lapse in energy. I wasn't moving quite as well. But he played well. He took his chances when he had them and then hit a bunch of winners, so credit to him. He was amped up from the crowd, and saving match points, that gets everyone excited. I played a good match, it was just his time right there."

Butts said his strategy to regain the momentum was a simple one.

"I just tried to focus on getting ahead in each game," said the 22-year-old, who grew up in Hong Kong before moving to California at age 16. "Until 5-3, I'd been giving myself great looks by winning the first point, he gets a little tighter, so I tried to keep my focus on that, rather than the match points I had."

Butts won his first two service games in the third set at love, and his game plan began to again pay dividends when he broke Metzler for a 4-2 lead.

"I kind of felt like his backhand was a bit of a liability," said Butts. "Not that he missed it a lot, but he would roll it and wouldn't really be able to hurt me. He moves great to the forehand though, so I just tried to limit that."

Metzler, who had made a habit of coming from 4-2 down in sets during his four previous victories, was unable to do it in the finals, in spite of someone in the crowd yelling, 'you've got him right where you want him,' after Metzler was broken. Butts held for 5-2 and Metzler final game was a poor one, giving Butts the title that had eluded him last year.

"He's a good player and he made less mistakes than me in the third," Metzler said. "I gave him too many free points. I just ran out of gas."

After the final point, the crowd gave Metzler a standing ovation lasting more than a minute.

"I won't ever forget that," said Metzler, who vowed to work on his fitness for next year. "Playing in front of my home crowd, I just can't put it into words. My mom was able to come, so many people here, I can't even process it now."

Butts said he was happy to add the NCAA singles title to the team title CMS won last year, but said there was no comparison for him.

"Team is better," said Butts. "It means so much more. You come together as one unit really. You strive for that goal, for us it was three years, and it was a major breakthrough. And it's a lot more fun to share it with people."

Chong now has an impressive ten-match winning streak in NCAA singles play, after collecting her second straight title with the win over top seed Raventos.

Despite her status as defending champion, Chong was seeded second due to her loss to Raventos in April. Neither had lost a set in reaching the final, and after the semifinals, Chong had predicted a long battle for the title.

But Chong was the sharper of the two in the first set, getting the only two holds of serve in the eight games,  Raventos, who was playing her fifth singles matches in three days, didn’t look as sharp as she had during the team tournament as the week wore on, and Chong was able to dictate many of the points.

With their previous meeting indoors, the recently resurfaced Stowe Stadium courts and the warm and humid conditions provided a contrast.

"The courts were a little faster, so it was slightly different the last time we played,” said the 20-year-old from Hong Kong. “But generally, not much changed. We both played well, I was just lucky enough to do well and get the important points. I did well today to stay aggressive, stay on top of it. But she made me work very hard at this and I’m really happy I came through today.”

Chong was behind 3-1 in the second set, but won the next four games and served for the match at 5-3. She didn’t get to match point however, and Raventos held to make it 5-5.

“She played a really good game,” Chong said, explaining her inability to serve out the match. “I think she hit like two winners off the forehand. I did well to just come back in the next game, fighting, and not giving up.”

Chong held for 6-5 and played a really good game herself, connecting on three straight winners to close out the championship.

“Eudice played very well, she was very solid, made few mistakes,” said Raventos, a 20-year-old from Costa Rica. “She pressured me from the start, so it was really hard.”

Raventos had become a crowd favorite during the tournament, and when they weren’t roaring for Metzler, shouts of ‘Go Juli’ could be heard coming from the stands.

“They started cheering for me yesterday, and I really liked it, so they kept cheering for me,” said Raventos. “I hope they stick around for the doubles.”

Chong admitted that beating the only Division III player that she had lost to was particularly satisfying.

“I wouldn’t say it was extra special, but it gave me motivation to try harder,” said Chong. “I knew I’d lost to her a couple of times before. I used that as motivation to make myself work harder, keeping my feet moving.”

Raventos did capture a title Saturday however, or rather retained one, as she and Linda Shin defended their doubles title with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 win over top seeds Katie Kuosman and Caroline Ward of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Raventos and Shin were unseeded last year when they beat Kuosman and Ward for the title; this year they were seeded second to the CMS pair due to a loss to them earlier in the season.

"They're a great team, very good doubles players," said Raventos, who played nine matches over the past three days. "It's a lot of fun to play them. They're awesome, we really like them."

"We look forward to playing them because they're very nice, they hit the ball very well," said Shin, a junior from Georgia. 

"In the individual tournament they go into looking to have a lot of fun," said Williams coach Alison Swain. "That's how they approached it last year and you can see on court that they're enjoying themselves out there. Today's match was a lot of fun for me to watch because it was just such good aggressive doubles all the way around."

With school out for the summer at Williams, Raventos and Shin can recover from the grueling six days they spent on the Stowe Stadium courts, playing two and three matches a day.

"Now they get to relax," said Swain. "Now it's actually summer," said Raventos.

The men’s doubles title went to unseeded Sam Geier and Tristan Kaye of Kenyon, who defeated No. 4 seed Palmer Campbell and Hamid Derbani of Middlebury.

Geier and Kaye opened the day’s doubles action with a 7-6(1), 6-1 win over unseeded Benjamin Forhan and Matthew Heinrich of Stevens in the semifinals, while Derbani and Campbell took out top seeds CJ Krimbill and Louis Stuerke of Case Western Reserve 6-1, 6-3.  

Geier, a senior from Indiana, and Kaye, a junior from Tampa, did not have any expectations coming into the tournament, but once they won their opening match, a national title started to come into focus.

“We had a lot of confidence after our first match and we knew we were playing really, really well,” said Geier. “To win the first match was a big thing,” said Kaye. “We just played free, and in two of the matches this tournament we didn’t get broken, so that was huge. Big serving, putting volleys away, bread and butter stuff really.”

“We knew we could do it after we won that first match,” said Geier, who was seeded No. 2 in the singles tournament, falling in the quarterfinals. “It was a bit disappointing in singles, but I think I bounced back well. I couldn’t have asked for better matches and Tristan played amazing.”

As for his last collegiate match resulting in a championship, Geier couldn’t have been more satisfied. 

“I really couldn’t ask for anything better, honestly,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling, it really is.”

Complete draws can be found at the Kalamazoo College tournament central page.

At the Division I individual championships in Tulsa, the singles and doubles semifinals are set for Sunday.

Men's Singles:
[1] Mikael Torpegaard (Ohio St.) vs [5] Cameron Norrie (TCU)           [9-16] Joao Monteiro (Virginia Tech) vs [6] Mackenzie McDonald (UCLA)
Women's Singles:
[1] Hayley Carter (North Carolina) vs [8] Sinead Lohan (Miami)
[7] Luisa Stefani (Pepperdine) vs  [2] Danielle Collins (Virginia) 

Men's Doubles
David Biosca-Rogerio Ribeiro (ETSU) vs Arthur Rinderknech-Jackson Withrow (Texas A&M)
Alex Lawson-Quentin Monaghan (Notre Dame) vs [2] Mackenzie McDonald-Martin Redlicki (UCLA)

Women's Doubles
[1] Hayley Carter-Whitney Kay (North Carolina) vs [4] Maegan Manasse-Denise Starr (California)  
[3] Brooke Austin-Kourtney Keegan vs  [5-8] Catherine Harrison-Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) 

The French Open Junior Championships begin Sunday in Paris, with 18 US juniors in the draw. In the girls draw: Usue Arconada(9), Alexandra Sanford, Kayla Day(3), Morgan Coppoc, Claire Liu, Caty McNally, Maria Mateas, Sonya Kenin(10), Michaela Gordon, Amanda Anisimova(2). The first six are on Sunday's schedule.  

US juniors in the boys draw: Nathan Ponwith, Gianni Ross, Brandon Holt, JJ Wolf, Ulises Blanch(3), Vasil Kirkov, John McNally(15), Sam Riffice.  The first six on are Sunday's schedule. 

Top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece won his second Futures title of the month and fourth of his career today in Italy. In between those two Futures titles, he won the Grade A in Milan, so if he's not exhausted, he's a definite favorite for the championship. Girls Milan winner Olesya Pervushina of Russia is the top girls seed at Roland Garros.  The Tennis Recruiting Network has published its probabilities for the tournament here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Kalamazoo's Metzler Reaches NCAA Division III Singles Final Against Butts; Raventos and Chong Meet for Women's Title; My D-III Team Recap; Ross Qualifies for French Open Juniors

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Branden Metzler of Kalamazoo College rode the wave of local support Friday to reach the men's Division III singles final Saturday against 2015 finalist Skyler Butts of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Metzler's first challenge of the day came in the form of top seed Noah Farrell of Middlebury. The seventh-seeded Metzler, a junior from Rockford, Illinois, had gotten off to slow starts in his first two rounds, but he came out ready against Farrell, taking a 3-0 lead and finishing the first set with a break. Metzler lost his serve to open the second set, but Farrell gave the break right back, only to go up a break at 3-2 with some excellent returning. Again, Farrell was unable to hold the lead, and Metzler went on one of his patented runs, winning the final four games of the match for a 6-3, 6-3 victory, with the crowd of more than 400 roaring with every point he won.

Metzler's opponent in the semifinals was unseeded Zach Hewlin of Whitman, who had surprised No. 3 seed Rafe Mosetick of Emory 0-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Metzler again took an early lead and although he was unable to serve out the first set at 5-2, he broke the sophomore from California with a laser backhand down the line to take it 6-3.

Again Metzler was broken to start the second set, and given Hewlin's comeback against Mosetick, a similar scenario wasn't out of the question. But again Metzler broke back, fell behind again, and down 4-2 won the next four games to close out the match.  Metzler saved a break point at 4-all and in the final game, Hewlin saved three match points and managed two game points. But on each game point, he double faulted, and when he netted a forehand, Metzler had a fourth match point. The crowd was in full voice when he converted it by sending a forehand deep into the corner that forced Hewlin to throw up a defensive lob, which drifted long. Shortly after the final point, the chants of B Metz, B Metz, echoed throughout Stowe Stadium.

Metzler said he felt much more comfortable on the court today than he had been in the first two rounds Thursday.

"I felt much more pressure yesterday, being seeded and being at home, and everything," said Metzler, who acknowledged that the crowd was a significant factor in his performance. "Today, I felt I had nothing to lose, and I was swinging freely. I mean, playing the No. 1 seed, I had nothing to lose and I could go for my shots. I said I had to bring my A game today, and I did."

Metzler said he was gratified to be able to play his best, and ecstatic that he had an opportunity to join Kalamazoo College's six previous NCAA Division III singles champions, the most recent being Seth Denawetz in 1994.

"It's not every day you get to play for a national championship," said Metzler.

No. 4 seed Butts, his opponent in the final, has another opportunity to play for a national championship, in circumstances that couldn't be any different from those he faced last year, when he played teammate Warren Wood.

Butts advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Ben Rosen of Bates, then outlasted unseeded Abhishek Alla of Carnegie Mellon 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.  Alla, who had a grueling 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 2 seed Sam Geier of Kenyon, was cramping by the middle of the second set against Butts.

Butts, who said he was feeling great physically throughout both matches he played today, was not changing his game to capitalize on Alla's cramping for the simple reason that he had already changed his game to counteract Alla's style.

"That whole match was about me staying away from my game," said Butts, a senior from Santa Ana, California. "He loves my kind of game. I usually don't hit that many slice backhands, but I was really trying to keep him off balance. He's probably one of the best ball strikers I've ever seen. So he likes my usual heavier ball off both sides, so I tried to chip it short, give him the high looper. I had to maintain my focus throughout really."

Butts will be forced to do the same in Saturday morning's final, and although he has never played Metzler before, he knows what to expect from the atmosphere, having played a match on the next court while the crowd was erupting regularly for Metzler.

"I'm excited. I think I'll thrive with a big crowd," said Butts, who mentioned a similar feeling when CMS hosted the tournament two years ago. "I'll come out with a lot of energy, and hope to use his home crowd against him. I think it'll fire me up and I'll be ready to go in the morning."

The women's final will feature the two top seeds, with defending champion Eudice Chong of Wesleyan, the No. 2 seed, against top seed Juli Raventos of Williams.

Both advanced through their quarterfinal and semifinal matches in straight sets, although Raventos was down two breaks in the first set of her quarterfinal match with unseeded Alexandra Fields of Middlebury before posting a 7-5, 6-1 win.  Raventos also had something of a slow start against unseeded Caroline Casper of Pomona-Pitzer, but found her form for a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

Raventos, who played six singles and doubles matches in the team event in three days and has played six singles and doubles matches in two days in the individual tournament, was looking at the positives of so much tennis.

"The individual tournament is obviously more tiring because I played those three days, but it's a lot of fun," said the sophomore from Costa Rica. "They're good matches and I'm happy to be here. It's hard to have two or three matches every day, but I guess I just look forward to each match, because everybody here is so good."

Chong's team did not make the Final Eight, but she has six matches in two days under her belt before taking on Raventos in the final Saturday morning, including a win in the quarterfinals over Joulia Likhanskaia of Bowdoin, who Chong defeated in last year's final 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Today Chong had no such difficulty, beating Likhanskaia 6-1, 6-0, then overcoming a tough first set to knock out No. 3 seed Ria Gerger of Middlebury 7-6(7), 6-2.

"Winning the first set, because it was so close, was big," said Chong, a sophomore from Hong Kong. "The mindset of being up a set, instead of losing a close set. I think I did well to stay on top of the ball and stay aggressive and keep moving in the second set. In the first set, I think I may have been a little flat. But then again, Ria played really well in the first set."

Chong's only loss of the year came at the hands of Raventos in an April dual match, with their other contest earlier this month going unfinished with Chong up a set.

"I think it's going to be a good match tomorrow and a long one," said Chong. "Juli's such a good player. She changes the rhythm a lot and she comes in, so it's going to be a tough match but it'll be a good one."

Raventos, who reached the NCAA semifinals last year, is looking forward to the match.

"She's just very solid, very tough mentally," said Raventos. "She'll fight for every point."

Chong and Raventos are also both through to the doubles semifinals, which will take place after the singles final, with the doubles final also on Saturday's schedule.

Chong and her partner Aashli Budhiraja, the No. 3 seeds, will play top seeds Kathleen Kuosman and Caroline Ward of CMS.  Raventos and Linda Shin, the defending NCAA champions at No. 2 seeds, will play No. 4 seeds Tiffany Cheng and Likhanskaia of Bowdoin.

The men's doubles semifinals will feature top seeds Christopher Krimbill and Louis Stuerke of Case Western Reserve against No. 4 seeds Palmer Campbell and Hamid Derbani of Middlebury.  Both teams in the bottom half of the draw are unseeded with Geier and Tristan Kaye of Kenyon playing Benjamin Foran and Matthew Heinrich of Stevens.

The singles finals both begin at 10 a.m.  For draws and links to live streaming, see the Kalamazoo College tournament central page.

The quarterfinals are set for the NCAA Division I singles and doubles championships in Tulsa, with two US men and four US women still in the running for a possible US Open main draw wild card. UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald and Virginia's Thai Kwiatkowski are the men; the women are Kennedy Shaffer of Georgia, Breaunna Addison of Texas and the top two seeds, North Carolina's Hayley Carter and Virginia's Danielle Collins. Bobby Knight has updated results at College Tennis Today.

I hope you followed my daily coverage of the Division III Team Championships earlier in the week, but if you prefer a less detailed overview, check out my recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

At the French Open junior qualifying, Easter Bowl champion Gianni Ross has advanced to the main draw, beating No. 12 seed Mattias Siimar of Estonia 6-1, 6-0.  Oliver Crawford fell in three sets to Yshai Oliel of Israel in his final round qualifying match.  The main singles draws should be out Saturday.

John McNally lost in the semifinals of the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl in Belgium today, beaten by Ryan Storrie of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Comeback for Kalamazoo's Metzler Highlights D-III Singles Second Round; Ross, Crawford Advance to French Junior Qualifying Final Round; McNally Reaches Grade 1 Semifinals in Belgium

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Kalamazoo, MI--

When Stowe Stadium is packed for a USTA Nationals 18s final, the crowds can be big and loud and enthusiastic. But today, the legendary venue exuded a different kind of excitement, as Kalamazoo College's Branden Metzler rode the wave of support from his fellow students to a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory and a place in the men's singles quarterfinals.

Metzler, a junior from Illinois, had advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Matthew Heinrich of Stevens Institute of Technology in the morning, but it wasn't until Metzler needed a boost in his second round match against Daniel Levine of Carnegie Mellon that the crowd's energy made a noticeable difference.

Metzler was down 6-3, 2-0 before winning six straight games to level the match in the unseasonable midday heat and humidity. The No. 7 seed had the momentum, with his supporters voicing their approval on every point he won, regardless of how he won it. But Metzler was immediately broken to start the third set and had to request a medical timeout.

"I was cramping in my quads, cramping the whole time," Metzler said. "It never went away, but mentally I just tried to block it out. I took some ibuprofen and some electrolyte tablets just to try to keep myself going."

Metzler immediately broke Levine, but serving at 2-2, he made a couple of costly errors and Levine held for 4-2. Metzler held at love with a strong service game, and when Levine double faulted to open his service game at 4-3, the crowd sensed an opportunity.  After he won the next point, for 15-all, Levine began to cramp, and he took a medical timeout.  The freshman from Illinois, who trained at the Evert Academy in Florida, saved a break point with a forehand winner and two more in the four-deuce game. But Metzler earned a fourth break point by jumping on a second serve return with a huge forehand, and this time Levine couldn't save it, double faulting for 4-4.

Metzler held for 5-4 without difficulty to put the pressure back on Levine, who seemed to view his situation--great winners greeted with silence, double faults applauded, cramping moving to his hand-- with amusement rather than the irritation most players would have shown.

Metzler started the game with a perfect offensive lob winner, and when Levin made an error for 0-30, the crowd of a couple of hundred, which did several versions of the wave during Levine's medical time out, reached a new level of noise and excitement.  Levine quieted them a bit by winning the next three points, but he couldn't close out the game, with Metzler claiming the next three to send the crowd to its feet and Metzler into the arms of his coach, Kalamazoo tournament director Mark Riley.

"It's really cool having everyone out here supporting me," Metzler said, unable to recall ever playing in a similar atmosphere. "It was really nice and I think it got me through that third set. The crowd just pumped me up to keep going and going. I didn't want to let them down."

Metzler, the first singles All-American at Kalamazoo College since Julian Seelan in 2006, said his first-round loss in the 2014 NCAAs motivated him.

"My first year [at the NCAAs], I kind of let myself down, losing in the first round, so in the off season I worked really hard, pushed myself," said Metzler. "It's paid off a lot."

Metzler will face top seed Noah Farrell of Middlebury in Friday's quarterfinals.

"I've never played him but I know he's a good player," said Metzler. "I know I have to come in with my A game. I can't play my B game. I have to push myself to push him."

The other men's quarterfinals:
No. 3 seed Rafe Mosetick of Emory vs Zachary Hewlin of Whitman
Ben Rose of Bates vs No. 4 seed Skyler Butts of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Abhishek Alla of Carnegie Mellon vs No. 2 seed Sam Geier of Kenyon

The women's quarterfinals will also feature all four top seeds:
No. 1 seed Juli Raventos of Williams vs Alexandra Fields of Middlebury
No. 4 seed Bridget Harding of Emory vs Carolina Casper of Pomona-Pitzer
No. 7 seed Rebecca Ho of Washington St. Louis vs No. 3 seed Ria Gerger of Middlebury
No. 5 seed Joulia Likhanskaia of Bowdoin vs No. 2 seed Eudice Chong of Wesleyan(CT)

The first round of doubles was also played today, meaning Harding and Raventos, who were in the team final yesterday afternoon, played three regular-scoring, best-of-three matches today, and could do the same on Friday, when the quarterfinals of singles and doubles and the singles semifinals are played.

For all singles and doubles results and draws, see the Kalamazoo College tournament central page. A link to the live video (no commentary, but sound) on the front three courts is also available there.

Qualifying for the French Open Junior Championships began today, with both US boys competing, Gianni Ross and Oliver Crawford, posting victories, while the two US girls in the draw, Ellie Douglas and Natasha Subhash, lost their first round matches. Ross and Crawford will play tomorrow for a place in the main draw.  Live scoring is available at the Tennis Ticker.  The USTA announced today that Claire Liu received a special exemption into the main draw due to reaching the quarterfinals in the Belgium Grade 1, where she lost today.  Also, Brandon Holt was awarded a reciprocal wild card the USTA is now trading with France for their junior slams.  The complete USTA release on the American juniors participating in Paris is here.

At the Grade 1 in Belgium, John McNally has continued his fine European clay results, following a quarterfinal showing at the Grade A in Milan with a semifinal at this week's Astrid Bowl. McNally, the No. 5 seed, will play No. 7 seed Ryan Storrie of Great Britain in Friday's semifinal.

The second round of singles and first round of doubles is complete at the NCAA Division I individual championships in Tulsa, with most of the top seeds surviving.  The only Top 4 seed out in either the men's or women's draw is Florida's Brooke Austin, the fourth seed, who lost to Rice's Katherine Ip in the first round yesterday.  Today was All-American day in the singles, with anyone not seeded in the tournament given that honor if they won their second round match today, with 11 players earning that designation.  Bobby Knight's College Tennis Today is the best place to find results.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bowdoin Men Defeat Middlebury for School's First Men's NCAA Championship in Any Sport; Emory Women Down Williams 5-4 for Seventh Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Playing in the program's first NCAA final, in warm and humid conditions, against an experienced team that had beaten them 5-1 less than three weeks ago, No. 4 seed Bowdoin had every reason to let the occasion overwhelm them.  But it was the Polar Bears who did the overwhelming, sweeping the doubles points and securing two straight-set singles matches to defeat No. 3 seed Middlebury 5-0 Wednesday at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium.

After two exhausting 5-4 wins in the quarterfinals Monday against Johns Hopkins and the semifinals Tuesday against top seed Emory, Bowdoin would have been forgiven for getting off to a slow start, but they went up 6-3 on all three doubles courts and closed out all three with a minimum of fuss.

Bowdoin coach Conor Smith wasn't sure how to react to that start.

"It was weird, I think I was more uncomfortable today having the lead, does that make sense?" said Smith, whose team came back from a 3-0 deficit in doubles to beat Johns Hopkins and a 2-1 deficit against Emory. "I almost like playing from behind, so today was nerve-wracking, being up was very nerve-wracking."

Bowdoin took four first sets in singles, so Middlebury, who reached the final last year, had an uphill climb.  Tuesday's hero in the Emory victory, Luke Trinka, was the first off the court, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Palmer Campbell, who had clinched Middlebury's 5-2 win over Chicago in the semifinals.  The fifth point looked like it would come from Gil Roddy at line 5, with Roddy up 4-2 over Hamid Derbani.  A break at love gave Roddy a 5-2 lead, a two-break cushion that comes in handy when serving out a championship.  In his first attempt, the sophomore from Massachusetts got to 40-30, but he didn't convert, when a mishit backhand from Derbani caught the far sideline.

"I kind of knew it was going to come down to my match when everyone starting filling up behind me," said Roddy, noticeably hoarse from all the vocal encouragement required in the past three days. "My match point, the shank backhand that landed on the line, it had to happen. Stuff like that has to happen. It was tough. His service game went by pretty quickly, I didn't put up much of a fight in that game, but coming out, at 5-4, that first point was everything."

In his second attempt to serve it out, Roddy put away an overhead, then got a backhand error from Derbani for 30-0.  On the next point, Roddy hit deft backhand volley that drew rousing cheers from the Bowdoin faithful.

"The stab backhand volley was just lucky," said Roddy. "I guessed right, I guess. I was just trying to make first serves in the last game and put pressure on him."

Roddy closed out the championship with a first serve when Derbani's return floated long, Bowdoin had the first men's sports national championship in school history.

Just beating Middlebury, let alone for a national championship, was memorable for Roddy.

"We haven't beaten them since I've been here, the last five times, they've beaten us, three last year, two this year," Roddy said. "But the stage, it's an equalizer. Everyone has the same nerves. They were in the finals last year, but it's a much different setting. This was our match, and we just thought about it that way, rather than it's Mid."

Smith said the 5-1 loss in the NESCAC conference final was in no way discouraging.

"That was close," said Smith, a recipient of the obligatory water and ice cooler shower after the match. "There were a lot of close singles matches and Mid played really good doubles, hit us in the mouth early a couple of weeks ago. The singles matches were all battles and it was closer and more competitive than the first time we played them when it was 5-4.  So it actually boosted our confidence, made us more ready for today."

Smith credited the relaxed attitude of his team for their performance today.

"The guys were so loose, and I'm not like that, I'm not loose at all," said Smith, in his fifth year at Bowdoin. "It's just the identity and persona of this team. They just have fun with everything, and we really needed that to be able to win today, to pull it off in these kind of circumstances and pressure."

Middlebury coach Bob Hansen credited Bowdoin for their performance, while he continued processing the loss.

"We're a bit perplexed," said Hansen, who won seven team titles while at UC-Santa Cruz before taking over Middlebury five years ago. "We're still trying to digest it, still scratching our heads. We knew they were a good team, a well-coached team and I give them a lot of credit. They played hard, they played well and they were the better team today. We're still trying to find the perspective, but it's hard a way to end a season."

While Bowdoin was a newcomer to the Division III team finals scene, the women's championship was a battle between longtime rivals.  After losing to Williams 5-4 in the 2015 final in Mason, Ohio, Emory reversed the result in Kalamazoo, taking their second title in the last three years by that same 5-4 score.

As the score indicates, nothing would come easy for the Eagles. In the doubles, Williams was up a break on all three courts, and went on to expand their leads at lines 1 and 2.  But Emory's Paula Castro and Michelle Satterfield broke back to 4-4 in their match with Maya Hart and Giulia McDonell Nieto del Rio at line 3 then broke again for a 6-4 lead, and held on, giving Emory a much needed point.

"We needed to come out with one doubles point," Emory coach Amy Bryant said. "It was a match-changer, honestly. We felt we had the potential to do it no matter what, but it was quite a relief for me as a coach, getting that one doubles point."

In singles, Emory began asserting itself on the back three courts, although line 5 provided an important momentum shift for the Eagles. Williams' Hannah Atkinson served for the first set at 5-4 against Madison Gordon, but could not close, with Gordon taking the opening set 7-5, the fourth first set Emory would claim.

If Emory could close out those four matches, they would be champions, but keeping a team as talented as Williams out of a third set is a difficult task.  As soon as Emory tied the match with Castro's 6-3, 6-1 win over Julia Cancio at line 4, Williams reclaimed the lead, with Linda Shin defeating Beatrice Rosen 6-1, 6-0 at line 3 to make it 3-2 Williams.

In the space of just a few minutes, Katarina Su of Emory won 6-2, 6-2 over Leah Bush at line 6 for 3-3, and but the Ephs regained the lead with Juli Raventos' 6-1, 6-2 win over Bridget Harding at line 1.  But in the final two matches, at lines 5 and 2, Emory had taken the first sets, so Williams had to earn splits to extend the match.

Gordon was up 5-0 at line 5, having won nine straight games from Atkinson, while Satterfield had just broken Mia Gancayco for a 6-2, 5-3 lead at line 2.  Gordon closed out Atkinson for a 7-5, 6-0 win to make it 4-all, and Satterfield could end it with all the attention on Kalamazoo's George Acker court.

Satterfield, who kept the pressure off by making first serves in the final game, still fell behind 15-30 after a forehand error, but Gancayco missed a backhand wide in one of the pair's many lengthy points to make it 30-30. Satterfield didn't get tentative on the next point, putting away a forehand, so she stepped to the line with championship point on her racquet. Another first serve, and a forehand inches from the line proved too much for Gancayco, with Satterfield delivering the seventh NCAA team title for the Eagles.

"Once I knew it was down to me, I was just going to will myself to win," said the junior from Arizona, who played in both the 2014 and 2015 finals for the Eagles. "I was just telling myself that I am going to keep being aggressive, because if I'm going to win, I'm going to have to take it."

Satterfield did not instantly know that her last forehand would be a winner.

"Honestly, I hit it and I was like, she's going to get there, and I got ready for the next ball," said Satterfield, who had lost to Gancayco in three sets in Emory's 5-4 win over Williams earlier this year. "I didn't even process it until everyone ran on the court and I was suffocating."

For Bryant, seeing Satterfield on the court in that position was reassuring.

"I was completely confident in Michelle," said Bryant, who has now won six team titles in her 16 years at Emory. "Michelle's a great competitor and she has been since day one, so out of anyone on the team, that's the one person I would want in that position, so we were real fortunate it turned out that way. But she couldn't have done it without the support of her teammates; every other player who was out there competing fueled her performance. So it was a great day for all of us."

Although Bryant had her team focused in the present, the loss to Williams in last year's final did play a role.

"I think the motivation from last year fueled our entire season," said Bryant, who acknowledged that it felt good to come out on top against Williams, who had won the title seven of the past eight years. "And then once we got here, it's like, focus on today, that's it. Nothing else matters, the rivalry, none of that stuff mattered today. The only thing that mattered was the ball in front of us."

Williams coach Alison Swain had said she was expecting an amazing match with Emory after Tuesday's semifinal win over Bowdoin, and she got it.

"It was definitely an exciting match," said Swain, in her ninth year at Williams. "I'm really proud of our team. I know they're disappointed in this moment, but to get here is a huge accomplishment and to do it year after year and handle the pressure of the legacy of Williams tennis so well is really phenomenal credit to them. Credit to Emory. They're a great team, really talented this year and they played really well in the singles. I know it's an awesome, exciting moment for them, and I'm really proud of our team for everything we've put together this season."

The Division III individual tournament begins Thursday with first and second round matches at Stowe Stadium and Western Michigan University.  Juli Raventos of Williams and Noah Farrell of Middlebury are the top seeds in singles.  Links to the draws can be found at the Kalamazoo college tournament central page.

NCAA Division III Men’s Team Championship
#4 Bowdoin 5, #3 Middlebury 0
May 25, 2016
Kalamazoo College

1. Luke Tercek/Luke Trinka (BOW-M) def. Palmer Campbell/Hamid Derbani (MIDDMT) 8-4
2. Jerry Jiang/Kyle Wolfe (BOW-M) def. Noah Farrell/Ari Smolyar (MIDDMT) 8-3
3. Gil Roddy/Grant Urken (BOW-M) def. William de Quant/Kyle Schlanger (MIDDMT) 8-4
Order of finish: 2, 1, 3

1. Noah Farrell (MIDDMT) vs. Luke Tercek (BOW-M) 6-2, 2-6, 1-3, unfinished
2. Ari Smolyar (MIDDMT) vs. Kyle Wolfe (BOW-M) 6-7(7), 2-4, unfinished
3. Luke Trinka (BOW-M) def. Palmer Campbell (MIDDMT) 6-2, 6-3
4. William de Quant (MIDDMT) vs. Jerry Jiang (BOW-M) 7-5, 5-3, unfinished
5. Gil Roddy (BOW-M) def. Hamid Derbani (MIDDMT) 6-4, 6-4
6. Kyle Schlanger (MIDDMT) vs. Grant Urken (BOW-M) 6-7(4), 6-4, 1-1, unfinished
Order of finish: 3, 5

Match Notes
Bowdoin 20-3; National ranking #4
Middlebury 20-3; National ranking #3
NCAA Division III Women’s Team Championship
#1 Emory University 5, #2 Williams 4

1. Juli Raventos/Linda Shin (WILLIAMS) def. Anna Fuhr/Madison Gordon (EUW) 8-2
2. Hannah Atkinson/Julia Cancio (WILLIAMS) def. Bridget Harding/Katarina Su (EUW) 8-3
3. Paula Castro/Michelle Satterfield (EUW) def. Maya Hart/G. McDonnell Nieto (WILLIAMS) 8-5
Order of finish: 1, 2, 3

1. Juli Raventos (WILLIAMS) def. Bridget Harding (EUW) 6-1, 6-2
2. Michelle Satterfield (EUW) def. Mia Gancayco (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 6-3
3. Linda Shin (WILLIAMS) def. Beatrice Rosen (EUW) 6-1, 6-0
4. Paula Castro (EUW) def. Julia Cancio (WILLIAMS) 6-3, 6-1
5. Madison Gordon (EUW) def. Hannah Atkinson (WILLIAMS) 7-5, 6-0
6. Katarina Su (EUW) def. Leah Bush (WILLIAMS) 6-2, 6-2
Order of finish: 4, 3, 6, 1, 5, 2

Match Notes
Williams 22-4; National ranking #2
Emory University 28-5; National ranking #1