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Monday, August 21, 2017

A Dozen Seeds Exit in First Round of ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; 50 Americans in US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
College Park, MD--

The solar eclipse was the story of the day Monday outside the confines of the junior tennis world, and its impact was felt inside the competition too, as play was halted for over two and a half hours during the first round of the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

For Brian Shi, whose 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(7) win over No. 4 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil spanned six hours, the challenge was maintaining his focus during the suspension of play.

"Even when you're not playing, you're thinking about the match," said the 17-year-old Shi, who has verbally committed to Harvard. "I called my coach and he told me to mentally stay in it, especially when I come back on court, to try to stay on top of things."

That advice from his coach, former Oklahoma star Andrei Daescu, didn't have the impact Shi would have hoped, as he dropped the second set after play resumed around 4 p.m.  But Shi kept his cool in the 92 degree heat, managing to overcome the disappointment of losing two match points with Seyboth Wild serving at 3-5 and failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third.

"The first match point he hit an ace, and the second the ball clipped the top of the net," said Shi. "He played pretty well that game. I thought I could have done better but I couldn't let it affect me."

Seyboth Wild held and with Shi serving to force a tiebreaker, he pulled out a second serve ace at 40-30.

"I've been working on that a lot," Shi said. "Second serves, going for more, mixing it up. I just went for it."

Shi suffered two double faults in the ensuing tiebreaker, which he attributed to the first signs of cramping.

"Earlier in the day it was brutal," Shi said of the 92 degree temperatures, with a heat index of 102. "It was really humid, so I was sweating a lot and in the last tiebreak I was starting to cramp up a little bit and on one double fault, my calf just tightened up."

Eight of the first ten points in the tiebreaker went to the returner, but Shi hit a good first serve to earn a third match point at 6-5.  Seyboth Wild hit a big forehand that forced an error to save the match point, then hammered a backhand winner to earn his first match point. Seyboth Wild and his coach thought he had won the match with another backhand, but Shi called the ball out, and the roving umpire on court confirmed Shi's call.

"It was definitely out and I called it as soon as it bounced," said Shi. "But it definitely played with his mind in the last two points. He was calling a lot of tight calls in the first and second set, so I didn't feel guilty about it, because it was definitely out."

Seyboth Wild made two more backhand errors in the next two points and Shi had his second ITF Top 20 win, after beating top seed Trent Bryde in the first round of the International Spring Championships in Carson back in April.

Seyboth Wild was one of five boys seeds to fall in the first round.  No. 5 seed Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi of Argentina lost to qualifier Garrett Johns 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 at the University of Maryland courts; No. 14 seed Aidan McHugh went out to qualifier Ronan Jachuck 6-3, 6-2, also at the University of Maryland.  Wild card Siem Woldeab, who finished third in the 16s at Kalamazoo, made his ITF Junior Circuit debut a memorable one, beating No. 15 seed Mohamed Ali Bellalouna of Turkey 6-1, 6-4, and Lorenzo Musetti of Italy defeated No. 16 seed Andrew Fenty, who trains at the JTCC, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.

Top seed Axel Geller of Argentina got off to a slow start against Will Grant, but won ten of the last 11 games for a 6-4, 6-1 victory.  Geller, who has been training in at the IMG Academy in Bradenton since reaching the final of the Wimbledon Juniors last month, had beaten Grant in the second round of the Grade 1 in Colombia back in January, so he said he knew what to expect.  But dealing with being the top seed in a Grade 1 tournament required an adjustment.

"Before I didn't play many matches so my ranking was low," said Geller, who will start at Stanford after the US Open juniors next month. "I was one of the guys who could win the tournaments, but I was never the one seed. Now I am supposed to win, so that's something that played on my mind at the beginning of the match. I lost my serve in the first game--I played really, really tight and very bad--but I got used to the conditions. He started playing really good, didn't give me many chances on his serve. Then I didn't do much either. He just started missing, and in the second set I played good."

Geller said he received many congratulations after his run to the Wimbledon boys final, but a substantial portion were not for his results, but for his decision to go to Stanford rather than immediately begin a pro career.

"Obviously, I played very good and they were congratulating me because of that, but also because of the decision," Geller said. "I appeared a lot on TV and stuff. Many people texted me and they were congratulating me about college, which makes me happy, makes me see that it's a good choice that I made."

Geller said he will play next week's Grade 1 in Canada, with his visa status a factor in that.

"I have two visas, a tourist and a student, and you've got a limit of time," Geller said.  "As a student you get in 30 days before you start your classes, and I've been here before, so I need to get out, and get in with that new one. So after the US Open, I start school. It's a week, then my first orientation."

Girls top seed Elena Rybakina had a much tougher journey to the second round, defeating qualifier Sophia Graver 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 as darkness fell around the grounds of the Junior Tennis Champions Center.  Rybakina led 3-0 in the third set, only to see Graver win the next three games. The ITF World No. 4 saved a break point at 3-3, the only opportunity for either player until Graver, a rising senior from New York, was broken serving at 5-6 in the final set.

No. 3 seed Sofia Sewing was the highest seed to fall, going out to Anna Laguza of Ukraine 7-5, 7-6(2).  No. 4 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia lost to Malkia Ngounoue (formerly Menguene) 6-2, 7-6(2) and No. 8 seed Caty McNally was beaten by Naho Sato of Japan 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.  Qualifier Peyton Stearns defeated No. 9 seed Maria Carle of Argentina 4-6, 6-2, 6-4; Alana Smith beat No. 10 seed Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; Abigail Forbes eliminated No. 13 seed Anhzelika Isaeva of Russia 6-0, 6-4 and Hurricane Tyra Black downed No. 16 seed Mihika Yadav of India 6-3, 6-3.

Doubles will begin on Tuesday, with the top boys seeds Geller and Alexandre Rotsaert and the top girls seeds Taylor Johnson and Sewing.

For complete draws and the order of play for Tuesday, see the tournament website.

Qualifying draws for the US Open were released today, with 22 US men and 28 US women competing for places in the main draw.

The US men in qualifying:

Dennis Novikov*
Denis Kudla*
Mackenzie McDonald*
Marcos Giron
JC Aragone (WC)*
Noah Rubin*
Bradley Klahn*
Stefan Kozlov[29]*
Sekou Bangoura (WC)*
Reilly Opelka*
Alexander Sarkissian*
Christian Harrison*
Jared Hiltzik (WC)
JJ Wolf (WC)
Mitchell Krueger
Evan King (WC)
William Blumberg (WC)
Michael Mmoh[31]
Austin Krajicek (WC)
Daniel Nguyen (WC)
Tim Smyczek
Raymond Sarmiento (WC)

Opelka and Sarkissian are the only two Americans playing each other in the first round.

The US women in qualifying:
Kelly Chen (WC)*
Samantha Crawford*
Louisa Chirico[30]*
Jacqueline Cako
Danielle Collins
Amanda Anisimova
Alexa Glatch*
Grace Min*
Sachia Vickery*
Jamie Loeb*
Danielle Lao*
Ann Li (WC)
Caroline Dolehide
Claire Liu (WC)
Kristie Ahn[9]*
Katerina Stewart (WC)*
Ashley Lahey (WC)*
Caty McNally (WC)
Whitney Osuigwe (WC)*
Bernarda Pera[31]*
Usue Arconada
Vicky Duval (WC)*
Allie Kiick*
Asia Muhammad[24]*
Nicole Gibbs[14]
Francesca Di Lorenzo (WC)
Jessica Pegula
Irina Falconi*

Crawford and Chirico, Dolehide and Liu, Stewart and Ahn, and Gibbs and Di Lorenzo are the all-American matches in the first round.

The order of play for Tuesday features 28 Americans. Those playing Tuesday have asterisks next to the names above.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

ITF Grade 1 Begins Monday in College Park; Kalamazoo Photos, Videos

The draws are out for the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships, which begin on Monday at 8 a.m. at the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the University of Maryland courts in College Park Maryland.  I will be on site covering the tournament for the fourth consecutive year.  Wimbledon finalist Axel Geller of Argentina is the boys No. 1 seed and Elena Rybakina of Russia is the girls No. 1 seed.  Americans Trent Bryde and Taylor Johnson are the No. 2 seeds this week.

Qualifying was completed today, with six US boys and eight US girls earning main draw berths.

The boys:
Jaycer Lyeons
Blaise Bicknell
Ronan Jachuck
Pierce Rollins
Noah Schachter
Garrett Johns

The girls:
Peyton Stearns
Sophia Graver
Anika Yarlagadda
Charlotte Owensby
Gabby Price
Alexanddra Yepifanova
Zoe Hitt
Nicole Hammond

With Owensby and Price qualifying and Cori Gauff getting a wild card, the entire USA team which won the ITF World Junior Tennis Champions two weeks ago in the Czech Republic is in the main draw.

I'm wrapping up my Kalamazoo coverage today, with photos and videos. Recaps for the 16s and the 18s are available at Tennis Recruiting Network. YouTube is discontinuing its photo slideshow option next month, so I decided to dispense with the slideshow and just post all the photos of the top finishers in Kalamazoo singles and doubles in one post.  A few video highlights from the finals are also available below.

Andy Roddick and Sam Riffice in doubles exhibition
Huge crowd for 75th Anniversary Celebration with Roddick and Mike Russell
Leighton Allen, 16s quarterfinalist
Sam Riffice, 18s 5th place

Britton Johnston, 18s sixth place

Sebastian Korda, 18s quarterfinals

JJ Wolf, 18s finalist

Ryan Goetz, 18s semifinalist

DJ Thomas, 18s quarterfinalist and Allen Stowe Sportsmanship winner

Patrick Kypson, 18s champion

John McNally, 18s quarterfinalist

Alex Lee, 16s quarterfinalist

Carolyn Binder and Hap Haasch of Public Media Network on live stream call

Garrett Johns, 16s quarterfinalist, Bobby Kaplan Sportsmanship winner

WMU site director Paul Ballard & Wes Richards Feed-In Sportsmanship winner Timothy Sah

Andrew Dale, 16s sixth place

Vasil Kirkov and DJ Thomas, 18s doubles champions

Nathan Perrone and Jake Van Emburgh, 18s doubles semifinalists
Patrick Kypson and Oliver Crawford, 18s doubles finalists

Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker, 16 doubles semifinalists

Siem Woldeab and Eshan Talluri, 16s doubles finalists

JJ Wolf and John McNally, 18s doubles third place

Siem Woldeab, 16s third place

Will Grant, 16s semifinalist

Tyler Zink and Will Grant, 16s doubles champions

Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson, 16s doubles third place

Brandon Nakashima, 16s champion

Stefan Dostanic, 16s finalist

Alafia Ayeni, 18s semifinalist

Tournament Director Mark Riley with 16s fifth place finisher Cannon Kingsley

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spizzirri and Breunich Earn ITF Grade 5 Titles in St. Vincent; Oudin Retires; Gojo Beats Bemelmans in WInston-Salem Qualifying

American juniors earned singles titles today at the ITF Grade 5 tournament in St. Vincent. 

The top-seeded Eliot Spizzirri, who exactly a week ago played in the third place 16s doubles match in Kalamazoo, won his second ITF singles title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Diego Gonzalez of Venezuela in the final. The 15-year-old from Connecticut won his first singles title at the Grade 5 in Martinique last April.

Sixteen-year-old Willa Bay Breunich, also the No. 1 seed, won her first ITF singles title when Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador retired trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Both Spizzirri and Breunich also reached the doubles finals, but both lost, with Spizzirri and Roger Lyn giving a walkover to their opponents, while Breunich and Sofia Rojas retired up 6-3, 1-2.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Mexico, Nathan Han, who also played Kalamazoo, won the doubles title and lost in the singles final.  Han and Blu Baker of Great Britain, seeded No. 1, defeated Alvaro Gonzalez of Mexico and Sasha Pachnev of Canada 6-0, 6-1 for the doubles championship.  Han, the No. 2 seed, lost to top seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the singles final.

Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin won the US Open Mixed Doubles title in 2011
Melanie Oudin announced her retirement from professional tennis yesterday at the age of 25.  Oudin, whose amazing run to the quarterfinals of the US Open as a 17-year-old back in 2009 was one of the most unexpected and exciting sports stories of that summer, suffered from injury and illness for most of the last five years.  I watched Oudin come up through the juniors and she was talented, modest, hard-working and competitive. She was fun to watch and made the most of what she had; it's a shame her health didn't allow her to display those qualities the past several years. For more on Oudin's retirement, see the WTA website.

At the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, the last two Americans bowed out in today's semifinals, with wild card Sloane Stephens dropping a 6-2, 6-1 decision to No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania and No. 14 seed John Isner falling to No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6(4), 7-6(10).  Both should be encouraged by their results this week however, as they look ahead to the US Open.

At the men's Winston-Salem Open, Wake Forest rising sophomore Borna Gojo played his first match against an ATP Top 100 player and got his first Top 100 win, beating No. 3 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(3),3-6, 7-6(6). Wild card Gojo, of Croatia, will face No. 8 seed Alex Bolt of Australia for a place in the main draw.  Former Georgia Tech star Kevin King defeated 18-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia, the No. 5 seed, 6-1, 6-2 and will face Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the final round of qualifying.

At the WTA's Connecticut Open, Christina McHale is the only American who made it through this weekend's qualifying (Correction: there were three rounds of qualifying and she lost in the final round). Sloane Stephens and Lauren Davis are the only Americans in the main draw. Rising Yale freshman Samantha Martinelli lost in the first round of qualifying, but she spoke with the media about her experience in this article from the New Haven Register.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Kalamazoo 18s Recap; Isner Downs Donaldson to Reach Cincinnati Semis; Wild Cards Announced for ITF Grade 1 in College Park

The Tennis Recruiting Network completed its review of all last week's National Championships, and as has been the case for many years, I contributed the articles on the Boys 16s and the Boys 18s from Kalamazoo.  Today's article recounts the run of Patrick Kypson, who added the 18s title to the 16s title he won two years ago and he will make his ATP level debut at the US Open late this month.

I am currently in Cincinnati for the Midwest Section's semi-annual meeting, where I will be receiving the Fred Burns media award at a luncheon tomorrow. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to attend the Western & Southern Open for the first time in several years, and I was able to watch the quarterfinal match between John Isner and Jared Donaldson, as well as the Bryan brothers match with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France.

Donaldson stayed with Isner throughout the first set, but two double faults and an unforced error from Donaldson in the tiebreaker gave Isner the first set 7-6(4). Isner continued to serve well--he had 25 aces and I saw one that hit 140 on the serve gun--but he couldn't shake Donaldson until 5-5, when he converted his first break point of the match thanks to a Donaldson backhand into the net.  The final game was a formality, with Isner ending it with an ace.

I had an opportunity to chat with coach Mark Bey prior to the Bryan brothers match. Bey, who usually does the commentary for the live stream of the Kalamazoo finals, was not able to make it this year due to two of the girls he coaches being the doubles semifinals in San Diego. So we had a lot to share about the respective National Championships and many other topics.  Bey was inducted into the USPTA Midwest section's Hall of Fame on Thursday night and was an on-court presenter this morning at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, in addition to helping coach the Bryans this week. I'm sure he was as disappointed as the thousands of fans on Stadium Court 3 Friday night when the Bryans twice failed to consolidate breaks in the second set and lost to Herbert and Mahut 4-6, 7-5, 10-8.

From Cincinnati, I will be heading to the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships in College Park Maryland, which I'll be covering for the fourth straight year. The wild cards for the tournament have been announced, with the qualifying beginning on Saturday.

Boys main draw wild cards:
Finn Garner, Wild Card Challenge winner
Saud Alhogbani
Brandon Perez
Trinity Grear
Alex Lee
Cannon Kingsley
Siem Woldeab
Tyler Zink

Girls main draw wild cards:
Lauren Anzalotta
Lexi Merrill
Malkia Ngounoue, Wild Card Challenge winner
Mackenzie Clark
Katie Volynets
Cori Gauff
Sedona Gallagher
Abigail Forbes

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Kalamazoo 16s Recap; Chrysochos Receives ATP Winston-Salem Open Wild Card; Donaldson and Isner to Meet in Cincinnati Quarterfinals

My review of Brandon Nakashima's title run at the USTA 16s National Championships in Kalamazoo is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I think it's a good overview of the week, especially if you were busy playing, watching or coaching at one of the other National Championships last week.  Make sure to read all the Tennis Recruiting Network's coverage of the 12s, 14s and 16s, with the 18s articles closing out Championship Week on Friday. Links to all articles are available here.

Chrysochos won the ITA All-American title last fall in Tulsa

The final ATP and WTA tournaments before the US Open, the Winston-Salem Open and the Connecticut Open, both end next Saturday due to the Open, so news is already surfacing from them.  Winston-Salem, which begins Sunday, announced its main draw wild cards.  In addition to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis, Croatia's Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz, who has reached the quarterfinals at the $100,000 Vancouver Challenger, the tournament has awarded a wild card to rising Wake Forest junior Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus.  Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, rising seniors at Wake Forest, received a doubles wild card. They finished No. 2 in the final ITA national rankings.  The release announcing the wild cards (and Sam Querrey's withdrawal) quotes tournament director Bill Oakes as saying Chrysochos was "the best player in college tennis last season," an assertion that would no doubt draw an argument from fans at TCU, Ohio State and Virginia. It doesn't appear that North Carolina resident and newly crowned Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson received a qualifying wild card, with Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Wake Forest sophomore Borna Gojo of Croatia announced as the only qualifying wild cards.

The qualifying draw of the Connecticut Open has been released, with playing beginning on Friday. NCAA champion Brienne Minor received a wild card and drew top seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last month.  Maria Mateas, who lives in New England, received a qualifying wild card, as did Yale rising freshman Samantha Martinelli.  Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba and Sonya Kenin are the other Americans receiving wild cards.  Other Americans in qualifying are Kayla Day, Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale and Shelby Rogers.

The playoff for the US Open reciprocal wild card that Tennis Australia is conducting is also at the Connecticut Open, with the draw for that event available here.

Rain has been a problem all day in at the Western and Southern Open Cincinnati, where I'm heading tomorrow.  John Isner and Jared Donaldson managed to get their matches finished however, with No. 14 seed Isner defeating Frances Tiafoe 7-6(4), 7-5 and Donaldson beating Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4, 7-6(4).  They will play each other for a semifinal berth.  It's the first ATP quarterfinal for Donaldson, who had gone 0-13 in ATP round of 16 matches prior to today. For more on Donaldson's win, see the ATP website.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

American Collegiate Invitational Fields Announced; Tiafoe, Donaldson Reach Round of 16 at Cincinnati Masters

The USTA announced the participants of the fourth annual American Collegiate Invitational to be held September 7-9, during the second week of US Open, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Eight American men and eight American women, who are either in college or have recently completed their eligibility, are invited to participate in the single elimination tournament according to their collegiate or professional rankings.

The criteria for selection:
  • The top two players in the ATP/WTA rankings as of August 7th
  • Top five American players in the year-end ITA rankings, including at least two graduating seniors
  • USTA wild cards
The men:
JC Aragone, Virginia (ATP)
William Blumberg, North Carolina
Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech(ATP)
Tom Fawcett, Stanford
Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
Alfredo Perez, Florida
Michael Redlicki, Arkansas
Alex Rybakov, TCU (wild card)

Brandon Holt is ranked above Rybakov in the final ITA list, so I assume he declined the invitation.

The women:
Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt
Hayley Carter, North Carolina
Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (WTA)
Alexa Graham, North Carolina (wild card)
Brienne Minor, Michigan
Ingrid Neel, Florida (WTA)
Ena Shibahara, UCLA

Campbell and Carter are the two graduating seniors in the group and neither are expected to play the Pro Circuit, so this may be their last competitive tennis match for some time.

Blair Shankle of Baylor would have been eligible based on her ITA ranking, but she must have decided against playing.  Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey also would have been eligible by ranking, but I'm guessing she has opted to play the US Open juniors instead, although she will need a wild card.

This year's tournament will again feature the serve clock, which was introduced last year at the event. Coaching will be allowed for the first time this year.  For a look at the other innovations being tested at the ACI (and the US Open Junior Championships), see my post from Monday.

The winners receive qualifying wild cards into the US Open next year, but neither of the 2016 ACI champions needed them.  Kwiatkowski won the NCAAs and so received a main draw wild card. Danielle Collins earned her way into qualifying on her own ranking, but fell short of the 120 ranking that is required to get a wild card into the main draw for the ACI champions.

Wednesday was a big day for young American men at the ATP Masters in Cincinnati, with both 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe and 20-year-old Jared Donaldson advancing to the round of 16.  

Tiafoe, the 2015 Kalamazoo champion, earned his first ATP Top 10 victory, beating No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.  He will play No. 14 seed John Isner next.  Donaldson took out lucky loser Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and will face Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in Thursday's round of 16.  No. 15 seed Sam Querrey, the only other American man still in singles, plays later tonight.  For more on Tiafoe's win, see the ATP website.