Saturday, January 31, 2015

Safiullin, Mihalikova Capture Australian Open Junior Titles; Les Petits As Finals Set; Pro Circuit Update

View image | Tereza Mihalikova

Roman Safiullin of Russia and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia became the first players from their countries to raise the winners trophies at the Australian Open Junior Championships Saturday in Melbourne.

The unseeded Mihalikova defeated No. 14 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-1, 6-4 capping a run that saw her grow in confidence with each win.  After defeating No. 2 seed Jil Teichmann of Switzerland 5-7, 7-5(5), 7-5 in the second round and unseeded Sara Tomic of Australia 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 in the third round, the 16-year-old Slovak played with increasing confidence, defeating two unseeded players--Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada and Greet Minnen of Belgium--in straight sets to face Swan.

Swan's gritty comeback in the semifinals against No. 5 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary, in which Swan saved three match points, may have left her without the physical tools to challenge Mihalikova in the final, and Swan, a 15-year-old who lives in Wichita Kansas, did require a lengthy medical timeout just when she had seized the momentum in the second set, leading 3-0.  Mihalikova won the next five games, and Swan could be seen testing her leg after any point requiring more than a couple of shots.  Swan held after saving two match points in the ninth game, but despite Mihalikova going down 0-30, the Slovak recovered with some good first serves. On her third match point, and the first one of her serve, Mihalikova hit a good first serve that Swan could only return feebly, and a forehand winner ended the match.

In addition to Swan's physical problems, or maybe because of them, she made more errors than usual, while Mihalikova was able to hit more winners, particularly when she came in, winning 17 of 22 of her points at the net.  Mihalikova is the third straight unseeded girl to win a slam title, and she had to qualify to get into the main draw of the US Open Junior Championships just six months ago.

Highlights of the girls final can be found at the tournament website. Swan discusses her fine run at the tournament with the BBC here.

View image |   Roman Safiullin

While Mihalikova was certainly an unexpected winner, having never been past the quarterfinals at a Grade 1 or Grade A tournament, Safiullin was a clear favorite for the title with his six Futures titles in 2014, although he had never gone past the third round in his previous three junior slams.

The 17-year-old was facing an in-form Seong Chan Hong of Korea, seeded No. 7, who won the Grade 1 Traralgon warmup the week before.  Although slight of build, Hong is fast and creative, and his defense and return have frustrated many a bigger and more powerful opponent.  Safiullin came away with a 7-5, 7-6(2) victory, but the 17-year-old Hong made him earn it.

Safiullin broke in the fifth game of the first set, but he was unable to serve it out at 5-4.  Hong had a point to take a 6-5 lead, but lost the next three points and given a second chance, Safiullin took it, hitting good serves and clean winners to hold easily. He hit one serve at 130 mph (212 kmh) and averaged nearly 10 mph more on his serves than Hong.

Hong was broken to start the second set, but again Safiullin couldn't hold on to his break, losing it with a loose sixth game.  Serving to reach a tiebreaker at 5-6, Safiullin double faulted to give Hong a set point at 30-40, but Hong sent a routine forehand long and Safiullin closed out the game with two big serves.

Safiullin started the tiebreaker with an aggressive volley winner and took control and a 5-1 lead by keeping the pressure on.  Safiullin committed his only unforced error, a netted forehand, on the next point, but Hong's missed pass gave the Russian a match point, which he won when Hong's backhand sailed long.

Safiullin, already 338 in the ATP rankings, is in the main draw of the $50,000 Burnie Australia Challenger next week, so he'll have little time to savor his junior slam title.  For more on the finals, see the ITF website.

Roman Safiullin earlier in the week (courtesy photo)
Congratulations to Serena Williams on slam title number 19, moving her past Martina Navrilatova and Chris Evert into second place behind Steffi Graf's 22 (in the Open era).  Chris Clarey of the New York Times has more on her 6-3, 7-6(5) win over Maria Sharapova in this article.

The finals are set for Les Petits As, with top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who has already won the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 14s in the past month, facing No. 4 seed Olga Danilovic of Serbia in the girls championship match.  Potapova defeated No.14 seed Kamilla Rakhimova, also of Russia, 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals, while Danilovic stopped No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-0.  Potapova can already claim one Les Petits As title, as she and partner Maria Novikova, the No. 7 seeds, defeated No. 4 seeds Siwatek and partner Maja Chwalinska 6-4, 6-3 in the girls doubles final.

The boys singles final has wild card Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, the No. 5 seed, playing No. 2 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia.  Tseng, who has not lost a set, and only 17 games in five victories, beat No. 11 seed Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals, while Skatov needed three sets to get by No. 9 seed Nini Dica of Romania.

Dica and partner Filip Jianu, the No. 2 seeds, won the boys doubles championship over the unseeded team of Tseng and Wociech Marek of Poland 7-5, 5-7, 10-7.

Live streaming of the finals should be available through the tournament website beginning around 8 a.m. Eastern time.

Sachia Vickery, who won her first pro title at the $25,000 tournament in Plantation two weeks ago, has an opportunity for a second Sunday when she meets 18-year-old Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo in the $25,000 Sunrise final. The 19-year-old Vickery, the No. 7 seed, beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while Sorribes Tormo defeated Darya Kasatkina of Russia, who beat her last week, 6-0, 6-0.

Katerina Stewart and Anna Kalinskaya of Russia won the doubles title, beating Paula Goncalves and Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 7-6(6), 5-7, 10-6 in the final.

Tommy Paul lost to Patricio Heras of Argentina 7-6(3), 7-6(6) in the semifinals of the Palm Coast Futures, and No. 2 seed Connor Smith was beaten by Benjamin Balleret of Monaco 6-1, 6-0.

At the $10,000 ITF women's circuit event in Guadeloupe, unseeded Nicole Frenkel has reached the final, defeating Dasha Ivanova 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in today's semifinal. She will play No. 2 seed Sherazad Reix of France for the title.

The qualifying draws for two big Pro Circuit challengers next week are out, with the men's Dallas $100,000 qualifying beginning today, and the women's Midland $100,000 qualifying beginning on Sunday.  I will be in Midland for several days beginning Monday to cover that event. Three wild cards were announced today, with Lauren Embree, Bernarda Pera and Caroline Dolehide joining Sara Daavettila, who won the wild card tournament, in the main draw.

The main draw wild cards in Dallas went to Connor Smith, Eric Quigley, Thai Kwiatkowski and Ryan Sweeting.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Swan and Mihalikova in Girls Australian Open Final; Safiullin, Hong to Decide Boys Title; Paul Reaches Futures Semifinal; Americans Out at Les Petits As

The finals are set for the Australian Open junior championships, which will be held on Rod Laver Arena Saturday (later tonight in the US). Fifteen-year-old Katie Swan of Great Britain, who lives in Kansas, saved three match points, with the No. 14 seed coming back to defeat No. 5 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary 0-6, 7-6(5), 7-5. She will face unseeded Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, who beat unseeded Greet Minnen of Belgium 6-4, 7-5.  The two finalists have not played before.

Swan, who was down 6-0, 4-2, is the first British girl in the final since Laura Robson made back to back appearances in 2009 and 2010. Mihalikova is the first Slovakian to reach the final since Katarina Basternakova in 1999. For more on Swan's comeback, which including cramping in the third set, see this article from the BBC.

Top seed Roman Safiullin lost his first set of the tournament in Friday's semifinal with unseeded Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan, but advanced with a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory.  He will face, for the first time, No. 7 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea, who defeated No. 16 seed Akira Santillan of Australia 6-2, 7-6(2).  Russia has not had an Australian Open boys finalist since Mikhail Youzhny in 1999; Korea's last boys finalist in Melbourne was Sun-Yong Kim in 2005.  For more on the semifinals, see the ITF junior website.

The junior singles finals have been streamed the past several years. See the tournament website for a link.

The doubles champions were crowned Friday, with Australians Jake Delaney and Marc Polmans coming through in their home country to take the boys title.  The unseeded pair defeated No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Alex Molcan of Slovakia 0-6, 6-2, 10-8. They are the third straight team with at least one Australian member to win the boys doubles title.

The girls title went to No. 2 seeds Miriam Kolodziejova and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who defeated the unseeded team of Minnen and Katharina Hobgarski of Germany 7-5, 6-4.

Complete draws are at the tournament website.

And congratulations to Bethanie Mattek-Sands for her second grand slam doubles title.  The 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles champion won the women's doubles title Friday with Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic. In their first time playing together, the unseeded Safarova and Mattek-Sands won a lot of close matches, culminating with 6-4, 7-6(5) win over No. 14 seeds Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan and Jie Zheng of China. For more, see this article from the tournament website.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador, both Gianni Ross and Vasil Kirkov lost their semifinal matches in singles, but Francesca Di Lorenzo and Meghan Kelley, the No. 6 seeds, advanced to the doubles final, beating top seeds Mira Antonitsch of Austria and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 2-6, 6-4, 13-11.

Two of the three 17-year-olds in action in the Palm Coast Futures quarterfinals lost, but Tommy Paul advanced, reaching his second career Futures semifinal, with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 win over top seed Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador. It is the second straight week that Paul has beaten the top seed in a Futures tournament, having taken out Christian Lindell of Sweden in the second round last week in Weston. Paul will play unseeded Patricio Heras of Argentina in the semifinals.

For the third week in a row, Francis Tiafoe lost to 32-year-old Benjamin Balleret of Monaco, this time dropping a 7-6(5), 6-2 decision, after losing to Balleret in the semifinals and finals in the previous two Futures in Florida.  Reilly Opelka lost to No. 2 seed Connor Smith, despite 18 aces, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, getting his only two break points in the opening set. Smith, who had no aces, was only two of 10 on his break chances, but it was enough to take the final two sets.

One American woman reached the semifinals of the $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Sunrise, Florida, No. 7 seed Sachia Vickery, who at 19 is the oldest semifinalist.  Vickery will play 17-year-old qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, who beat Maria Sanchez 6-3, 6-1 today. In the top half, 18-year-old Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain will play 17-year-old Darya Kasatkina of Russia, who is on an eight-match winning streak after taking the title last week in Daytona Beach. The French girls champion defeated Sorribes Tormo in the semifinals last week 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

At Les Petits As in Tarbes, France, both No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova and unseeded Govind Nanda lost their quarterfinal matches in singles, so no Americans will be competing this weekend. Anisimova lost to No. 4 seed Olga Danilovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-1 and Nanda lost to No. 11 seed Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain 6-3, 6-4.

Alvarez Varona will play No. 5 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, a wild card, in one semifinal, while the other will feature No. 9 seed Nini Dica of Romania against No. 2 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia.

In the girls semifinals, top seed Anastasia Potapova will face fellow Russian Kamilla Rakhimova, the No. 14 seed, after both came from a set down to win in the quarterfinals.  Danilovic will face No. 2 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in the other semifinal, so a rematch of the dramatic semifinal of the Junior Orange Bowl last month could still take place on Sunday, should both Potapova and Swiatek win.

For complete results, see the tournament page at Tennis Europe.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Junior Semifinals Set at Australian Open; Nanda Defeats Top Seed at Les Petits As; Ross, Kirkov Reach Semifinals in Ecuador Grade 1; Teens Advance to Futures and Challenger Quarterfinals

The results from the Australian Open on Thursday were not good for the US juniors, with all three still remaining dropping their matches.

No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz lost to No. 7 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea in a battle neither are likely to forget, with Hong claiming a 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-0 victory, his first in three meetings with the 17-year-old Californian.  Hong led 5-1 40-0 in the second set, but Fritz saved eight set points to pull even at 5-5, but dropped the tiebreaker and was unable to recover in the third set.  In the semifinals, Hong will play Australian Akira Santillan, the No. 16 seed, who prevented a all-Korean meeting with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Duck Hee Lee.  Hong and Santillan split two close matches in their previous two meetings last year.

Top seed Roman Safiullin eliminated unseeded Marc Polmans of Australia 6-4, 6-2 and will face another unseeded player in the semifinals after Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan came back to defeat No. 14 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

No. 11 seed Raveena Kingsley was defeated by No. 14 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3, with Swan looking to take out a third straight higher seed when she meets No. 5 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary.  Galfi downed No. 4 seed Ailona Bolsova Zadoinova of Spain 6-1, 7-6(4).  The other girls semifinal features two unseeded players, both of whom advanced by scores of 6-2, 6-2.  Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia defeated Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada and Greet Minnen of Belgium defeated Manca Pislak of Slovenia.  Hong and Santillan are the only pair of semifinalists to have met previously in ITF junior events. For more on Katie Swan, see this BBC article.

Minnen is the only player still in both singles and doubles, and she will go for her first title Friday, when she and Katharina Hobgarski of Germany, who are unseeded, will play No. 2 seeds Marketa Vondrousova and Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic.

In the boys doubles final, unseeded Jake Delaney and Polmans will play No. 8 seeds Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Alex Molcan of Slovakia. Delaney and Polmans defeated Mate Valkusz of Hungary and Louis Wessels of Germany 2-6, 6-1, 11-9.  No. 3 seeds Michael Mmoh and Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia struggled in their final two tiebreakers after saving nine set points to take the first one, falling 6-7(9), 7-6(0), 10-2.

The draws are available at the tournament website.

At Les Petits As, unseeded Govind Nanda defeated top seed Jack Draper of Great Britain 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(7) to advance to the quarterfinals.  No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova, a finalist last week at the Nike Teen Tennis event in Bolton, also reached the quarterfinals, defeating No. 11 seed Taisya Pachkaleva of Russia 6-1, 6-3.  Teen Tennis champion Caty McNally lost however, with the No. 3 seed going out to No. 14 seed Kamilla Rakhimova of Russia 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3.

All three US team in the doubles quarterfinals lost, including Anisimova and McNally, the top seeds. They went out to No. 7 seeds aria Novikova and Anastasia Potapova of Russia 5-7, 7-6(5), 15-13.  In a match tiebreaker that long, whoever wins is going to have saved match points and I believe the Russians saved four beginning at 8-9 down.

For results, see the Tennis Europe tournament page.

Two US qualifiers have reached the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador.  Gianni Ross, who turns 16 next week, won his second straight match in a third set tiebreaker today, defeating No. 7 seed Nuno Borges of Portugal 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(3).  Vasil Kirkov, who turns 16 in March, had beaten No. 5 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel 6-2, 6-0 in the quarterfinals and reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over unseeded Benjamin Sigouin of Canada today.   No. 7 seed Francesca DiLorenzo, the only US girls to reach the quarterfinals, lost to No. 16 seed Jaqueline Christian of Romania 6-0, 6-2.

Young US players continue to post good results at Futures events in Florida this year, with wild cards Francis Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka and special exempt entry Tommy Paul, all 17 years old, reaching the quarterfinals of the Palm Coast $10,000 tournament.  Tiafoe defeated No. 8 seed Daniel Dutra da Silva of Brazil 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 to set up yet another meeting with Benjamin Balleret of Monaco, who has defeated him in the previous two Futures, in the semifinals and last week, in the finals. Opelka defeated Facundo Mena of Argentina 6-3, 6-0 and Paul outlasted Romain Arneodo of Monaco 7-5, 4-6, 7-5. Paul will play top seed Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador, the former Tulsa star, and Opelka gets No. 2 seed Connor Smith, the Ohio State standout.

US teenagers are having another good week in the Caribbean, at the $10,000 tournament in Guadeloupe.  Last week's champion Usue Arconada, Nicole Frenkel and Dasha Ivanova advanced to the quarterfinals, as did former Alabama All-American Alexa Guarachi.  Frenkel and Arconada, both 16, will play each other on Friday.

At the Pro Circuit women's $25,000 tournament in Sunrise, Florida, qualifier CiCi Bellis lost to French Open champion Darya Kasatkina of Russia 6-4, 6-1 and Katerina Stewart fell to Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.  The only US women to make it to the quarterfinals are Maria Sanchez and No. 7 seed Sachia Vickery. 

The Maui Challenger has also showcased some of the top teenaged talent from the United States. Eighteen-year-old Jared Donaldson defeated No. 7 seed Chase Buchanan 6-1, 6-3 and Stefan Kozlov, who will be 17 next week, beat No. 3 seed Michael Russell 7-6(2), 6-3.  Nick Meister and Dennis Novikov, former teammates at UCLA, also both advanced to the quarterfinals, as did No. 2 seed Bradley Klahn.  Top seed Denis Kudla was upset by qualifier Takanyi Garanganga of Zimbabwe 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The USTA announced on Wednesday that both Donaldson and Kozlov had received main draw wild cards into the upcoming ATP tournament in Memphis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Swan Ousts Top Seed Xu, Fritz and Kingsley Reach Australian Junior Quarterfinals; Three Americans Through to Third Round at Les Petits As; Bellis, Tiafoe, Opelka Win Openers in Florida Pro Circuit Events

No. 14 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain defeated top seed Shilin Xu of China 6-2, 6-2 Wednesday in the third round of the Australian Open Junior Championships to earn her second appearance in a Grade A quarterfinal against Raveena Kingsley, who will be making her first.   Kingsley, the No. 11 seed, defeated unseeded Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-1, in a performance that contrasted with her previous 9-7 in third set win over Vera Lapko of Belarus.  Kingsley saved all seven of the break points against her, while converting three of the four break points Kuzmova gave her.

No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz will represent the US in the boys quarterfinals after his 6-1, 6-1 win over Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland, which took only 39 minutes, but saw Fritz get only 35% of his first serves in and get broken in the two games he lost.  Fritz will play No. 7 seed Seong Chan Hong  Thursday (tonight in the US), having beaten the 17-year-old Korean in their previous two meetings in the Osaka Grade A quarterfinals and the Roehampton Grade 1 quarterfinals.

Sameer Kumar lost a tough match to No. 6 seed Duck Hee Lee of Korea, losing nine straight games in the second and third sets, but battling back to tie the third set at 5-5, only to drop serve in the final game of Lee's 2-6, 6-0, 7-5 victory.

Michael Mmoh and his partner Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia are into the doubles semifinals after defeating Yuya Ito and Yusuke Takahashi of Japn 6-2, 6-2.  The No. 3 seeds will now play No. 8 seeds Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and Alex Molcan of Slovakia, after Hurkacz and Molcan eliminated No. 2 seed Will Blumberg and Orlando Luz of Brazil 6-2, 7-6(2).

Raquel Pedraza and her partner Wushuang Zheng of China lost to No. 4 seeds Xu and  Sara Tomic of Australia 6-4, 1-6, 11-9.

Zheng and Xu are featured in this article from the Associated Press about China's search for a tennis player who can follow in the footsteps of recently retired two-time slam winner Li Na.

For draws, see the tournament website.

In the women's draw, unseeded Madison Keys, who turns 20 next month, will take on top seed Serena Williams tonight after beating Venus Williams 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in Wednesday's quarterfinal. Louisa Thomas of Grantland looks at Keys game and the maturation of it, both physically and mentally. She also proposes that Keys was fortunate to avoid The Future of American Tennis label until now, which is partly due to the sheer number of young American women excelling and partly due to her steady but not spectacular results since that stunning win over a Top 100 player at a tour event when Keys was just 14 years old.

At Les Petits As, three US players have reached the third round, with No. 3 seed Caty McNally, No. 5 seed Amanda Anisimova and unseeded Govind Nanda picking up straight-set wins.  Nanda defeated No. 14 seed Raphael Vonnet Flores of France 6-4, 6-0 and will take on top seed Jack Draper of Great Britain in the round of 16.  Both Whitney Osuigwe and Hurricane Tyra Black lost their singles matches to seeded players, but they had a big win in doubles, taking out No. 2 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Taisya Pachkaleva of Russia 6-7(5), 6-3, 10-6. McNally and Anisimova, the top seeds are through to the quarterfinals of doubles, as are No. 4 seeds Nanda and Nathan Han.

Draws are available at the Tennis Europe tournament page.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Sunrise, Florida, qualifier CiCi Bellis defeated No. 4 seed Tatjana Maria of Germany 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the first round, and will play last week's winner Darya Kasatkina of Russia.  Bellis and Kasatkina played twice last year late in major ITF junior tournaments, with each winning once.

Farther north in Palm Coast, at the $10,000 Futures, Reilly Opelka and Francis Tiafoe won their opening matches.  Wild card Opelka defeated Florent Diep, the former University of Florida No.1, 7-5, 6-1, while Tiafoe came back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over fellow wild card Alexios Halebian.  They join fellow 17-year-old Tommy Paul, who won yesterday, in the second round.

Chuck Kriese's Final Push to Retain Traditional Scoring for Division I College Tennis

I received this email yesterday from current Citadel and longtime Clemson men's head coach Chuck Kriese regarding format change, which he is not against, and scoring change, which he does object to.  Here is his document, in its entirety. I have included links to the Bloemendaal position paper and the list of NCAA Cabinet member emails addresses at the bottom of the post. 

‘A square peg in a round hole’ 

January 26, 2015

American College Tennis Coaches have been battling about scoring systems and formats for too many years. The Solution might be quite manageable if two fundamental points were considered:

1. Tennis is: ‘An individual sport that has some team opportunities; whereas, we have wrongfully approached tennis as ‘A team sport looking for individual opportunities.’ We have not made significant headway in either team or individual areas. We have therefore become a ‘Tweener’ as administrators do not see our relevance and player development has become secondary. Potential has been missed.
2. Scoring System and Format are two completely different issues - Each of these should be addressed with unique perspective and considered separately. The Scoring system is a world-wide sacred tradition of our sport and should be honored as such! Formats don’t need to be; Modifications are easily agreed upon.

“In matters of Principle, stand like a rock; In matters of method, flow with the stream” --Thomas Jefferson

It has always been about ‘Education vs. Entertainment’ - The Battle is between Education and Entertainment priority. Differences of perspective run much deeper than just a quick-fix to get more people in the stands. This is a great battle of the Ideologies between ‘traditions vs. trends.’

Catering to trends for the sake of mere excitement will not sustain interest nor promote the excellence that is sought for the longevity of our sport. It is only in the honoring of its heritage and its educational intangibles that will ultimately build interest that will last. Educators see the sport of tennis for its great depth and teaching opportunities. Another focus sees the potential to promote through trends of entertainment. These two ideologies do not have to be exclusive and can hopefully be inclusive. However, when both cannot be achieved, a decision has to be made! Each and every coach should have the right to interpret what the best approach for his/her school’s own interests and needs to be relevant. The recent overreach by USTA and ITA causes great concern. The heritage of tennis and time honored traditions of our sport need to be honored and protected. We ask them to do this first and foremost.

Opposing points of view have now come to a head as mandates and directives have been pushed by ITA. Transparency to their decision making process has come into question. It is known that the Power 5 conferences of the SEC, the ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 12 and the Big 12 (only 6 men’s teams are in the Big 12) now have conference TV stations. This provides great opportunity for these tennis programs.
Their priorities are quite different from those schools without such promotional tools.

The ITA has forcefully presumed the power to push forward a format and scoring system that is a widely different from the traditional/educational scoring system of tennis that has been used world-wide for years. Opposition to its implementation is large and continues to grow. The USTA has also been in knee-jerk mode in reaction to the loss of tennis popularity in the U.S.A. The USTA has also leveraged the ITA toward entertainment objectives of the abbreviated formats while attempting to persuade everyone that education will be a natural byproduct. In their overreach, both organizations have not honored the traditions of our sport! The mandates and directives to force abbreviated scoring systems forward are extremely dangerous to the core fundamentals of tennis. Both education and entertainment objectives are in danger of being dismantled in the process.

The disregard for the educational opportunity and the depth of our sport is troubling. Also wrong are the skewed results for multiple matches that experimental formats cause. Immediate parity which is not based on skill-set is a wrong approach for any sport if learning and longevity are the goals. It remains puzzling why a simple TV format for special televised matches could not be used as a compromise for all. This question should be asked.

“An unjust law is no law at all”--St. Augustine

There is absolutely no excuse for the ITA’s ongoing disregard for coaches and players points of view. A planned agenda has been pushed through. The ITA is a voluntary, dues paying, coaches organization. Their mission is to advise and serve coaches and to present recommendations to make a good learning environment for our players. It is their duty to listen to all concerns and points of views of all; especially when that view is different than theirs! They have acted inappropriately.

Please Consider:

• In 2012, nearly 10,000 signatures were expressed on-line against a format change that was initiated after 2012 NCAA Tournament scheduling problems. Time issues had nothing to do with scoring systems. There were simply too many teams being at the final site. The unprecedented pushback by players, coaches and fans was temporarily acknowledged; however, USTA/ITA morphed their approach and presented it again.

• In December 2013, the men coaches at the ITA convention voted 21-19 after 5 hours of discussion. The final vote favored keeping traditional scoring with simple adjustments for the 2014 winter season. This vote was ignored by ITA board and different course of action was drawn up in private meeting that same evening. That non-debated format was forced on teams and mandated to be used for the first 6 weeks of the 2014 season. Many skewed results occurred with impact to several teams and coaches.

• In ITA’s own poll of 2014 spring, 81% of college tennis players voted to not change singles and 85% voted to not change doubles. These votes were ignored. The significance of this poll was not acknowledged.

• One of the Top Players of college tennis conducted an independent petition of collegiate players in fall of 2014. There were 1347 signatures to oppose scoring changes. This was ignored.

• A petition was sent out to women’s coaches by a well-respected and veteran coach of 40+ years in late summer of 2014. In response, 194 women’s coaches voted to require ITA to have 2/3 majority to make fundamental changes that significantly impact collegiate tennis. The importance of this petition was opposed by ITA. This well-respected coach received strong criticism from ITA board members.

• An MDTA (Men's Division I Tennis Association) poll was conducted in summer of 2014. The vote was 67-11 in favor traditional scoring and to not change to abbreviated format. This vote was ignored.

• After tremendous pushback from coaches and players in summer of 2014, the NCAA cabinet tabled the ITA/USTA move to abbreviate the format. The ITA director sent out 3 emails within an 8-day period with directives to all coaches to use abbreviated format for fall events anyway.

• ITA has recently promoted that their coaches are unanimous for abbreviated scoring. This is an inaccurate assessment. It is based on ITA’s own board vote and their promotions. Multiple coaches were not involved and there were many abstentions to their board’s vote. ITA has recently sent out a latest directive to use abbreviated format for non-conference play. This goes against a long-standing procedure used for years in non-conference play: “When two coaches agree, they can choose to play an experimental format.” For 6 weeks in spring 2014; The fall 2014 and now in the spring of 2015, the ITA has treated their abbreviated format as the norm and traditional scoring as the novel. This is a slight-of-hand and should not be accepted. Their non-conference directive actually has taken it a step further.

• At this time, the results of the NCAA poll sent out by NCAA in the fall of 2014 have not been circulated.

As Coaches, we should note the following:

1. The ITA is a voluntary coaches organization! Expensive dues are required for their services. They are a reference for college tennis information and conduct tournaments and polls. Their power is implied. It is not absolute! Mandates should not be made by ITA and a minimum 2/3 support from coaches should be required for such fundamental changes in tennis legislation. ITA has acted inappropriately.

2. Just as the NCAA does not have the right nor the power to directly influence decisions made by the USTA, the USTA does not have the right nor power to directly influence the direction of NCAA sports and welfare of Student-Athletes who participate in the sport of tennis.

3. The USTA is a greatly respected organization that is of great service to our youth; however, their finances to the ITA and the pressure (presumed or actual) to push forward their own agendas is a wrong thing to do.

Here are suggestions to consider that will help to keep unity in our coaching ranks: (it is understood that all collegiate coaches have similar suggestions!)

1) Make a simply TV format for college tennis when someone actually does get on TV.

2) We could split our season into a ‘Team Season’ and an ‘Individual Season’. Our sport would again be a developmental situation for players and administrators would have two sports for the price of one. (See Coach Randy Bloemendaal’s position paper)

3) Format and scoring system are two completely different issues!!! Appropriate team format changes could easily be acceptable if traditional scoring is honored and not placed in jeopardy.

4) ITA needs to be completely transparent. They should honor and respect their position of being a service organization first and foremost. Politics and policy making should be secondary and only done when 2/3 majority of coaches agree on an action.

5) Although the USTA’s support of our collegiate programs is appreciated, they need to stay out of the legislative business of college tennis. They should not lobby for influence.

For the Love of our sport,

Chuck Kriese
Randy Bloemendaal
Gene Orlando

Bloemendaal position paper link
February 11 NCAA Cabinet meeting call to action link

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kumar, Fritz Reach Third Round of Australian Open Juniors; 15 Americans in Second Round at Ecuador Grade 1; Pro Circuit Update; Men's Recruiting Class Rankings

Sameer Kumar joined Raveena Kingsley and Taylor Fritz in the third round of the Australian Open Junior Championships, while Raquel Pedraza, Michael Mmoh and Will Blumberg have advanced to the quarterfinals in doubles, with all six in action Wednesday (Tuesday night here in the United States).

Kumar needed more than two hours and four match points before eliminating No. 9 seed Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.  That has earned the Stanford recruit a meeting with another seed, No. 6 Duck Hee Lee of Korea, who beat Kumar in the first round of the US Open last summer. For more on Kumar's win and his experience as a spectator in the Tim Smyczek - Rafael Nadal match, see this Stuart Fraser report for the ITF junior website.  Fraser also spoke to Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, who knocked out No. 2 seed Jill Teichmann of Switzerland 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-5.

Other girls seeds to lose in the second round Tuesday were No. 9 Luisa Stefani of Brazil,  who fell to Canadian Charlotte Robillard-Millette 7-5, 6-1, and No. 15 seed Mariam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic, who was eliminated by Australian Destanee Aiava 6-3, 7-6(5).  With Teichmann and Stefani's losses, No. 6 seed Kimberly Birrell of Australia is the only remaining seed in the bottom half of the draw.

Fritz defeated Mandresy Rakotomalala of France 6-1, 6-2 Tuesday to advance against Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland. Osmakcic, who received entry via a special exemption for being in the doubles final at Traralgon, took out No. 13 seed Juan Jose Rosas of Peru 6-1, 6-2.

Kingsley, who won her second round on Monday, will play Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia for a place in the quarterfinals.

Pedraza and her partner Wushuang Zheng of China defeated the eighth-seeded team of Mia Lumsden and Katie Swan 0-6, 6-4, 10-5 to advance to the quarterfinals against No. 4 seeds Sara Tomic of Australia and Shilin Xu of China.  Top girls seeds Anna Blinkova of Russia and Dalma Galfi of Hungary lost to Xinyu Gao of China and Olivia Tjandramulia of Australia 7-6(5), 6-4.

Mmoh, partnering Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, and Blumberg, partnering Orlando Luz of Brazil, will play each other in the semifinals if the No. 3 seeds and No. 2 seeds pick up wins in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

The draws at the ITF junior website weren't updated for two days for the Grade 1 in Ecuador, but they have been now, with the first round complete.  Ten US boys and five US girls are into the second round, with any seeded player getting a bye.  Boys winning their first round matches include qualifiers Gianni Ross, Vasil Kirkov and Patrick Kypson, Mwendwa Mbithi, and Sam Riffice, who is playing his first tournament since sweeping the 16s Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl titles last month. The seeded US boys are Ulises Blanch(2), Emil Reinberg(3), Anudeep Kodali(10), Liam Caruana(14) and Hady Habib(16).

There are five US girls through to the second round, with Meghan Kelley, Sofia Sewing and lucky loser Delaney Edwards winning their opening match.  Francesca Di Lorenzo(7) and Alexandra Sanford(11) had first round byes.

No US players were in action in singles today at Les Petits As.  The seven remaining will play second round singles matches on Wednesday.

At the $10,000 Pro Circuit Futures in Palm Coast, Florida, Tommy Paul, a special exempt entry, reached the second round with a 7-6(5), 6-1 win over Markus Eriksson of Sweden.  Francis Tiafoe, last week's Weston finalist, will play fellow wild card Alexios Halebian Wednesday. Reilly Opelka, who also received a wild card, plays former Florida No. 1 Florent Diep, a qualifier, and Nathan Ponwith, who qualified, plays No. 8 seed Daniel Dutra da Silva of Brazil. Northwestern sophomore Konrad Zieba, who won a wild card tournament to receive entry, lost to No. 2 seed Connor Smith 6-2, 6-3.  Former Tulsa star Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador is the top seed.

The qualifying was completed today at the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Sunrise, Florida, with CiCi Bellis the only American winning in the final round.  Wild card Katerina Stewart defeated No. 4 seed Allie Kiick 6-3, 6-3, and former USC star Maria Sanchez defeated No. 3 seed Dinah Pfitzenmaier of Germany 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5.  For the third week in a row, Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal is the top seed in a Florida $25,000 tournament. She takes on Orange Bowl champion Sonya Kenin, a wild card, in the first round. Louisa Chirico and 16-year-old Anna Kalinskaya of Russia also received wild cards.

The $50,000 Maui Challenger is underway, and live streaming is available at  Rhyne Williams and Jared Donaldson have already posted first round wins.

The Tennis Recruiting Network has published its winter recruiting class rankings for men, with Duke finishing atop the poll, followed by Stanford, Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt.  For the complete list, click here.