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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rain Disrupts Wimbledon Qualifying; Maureen Connolly Trophy Challenge Begins Thursday; Three USTA Pro Circuit Events Underway; Tulane Hires Brito to Lead Women's Program

Only 12 women's first round matches were completed today at Roehampton, the site of Wimbledon qualifying, before rain washed out play for the day.  Four American women finished their matches, with Irina Falconi and Kristie Ahn advancing and Grace Min and Taylor Townsend falling.

Ahn, the No. 6 seed, needed only 53 minutes to defeat Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-2, 6-1, while Falconi took out Tara Moore of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2. Min lost to Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 6-2, 6-3 and Townsend, the No. 9 seed, was beaten by Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-6(7), 6-3.  The Wimbledon website has more details on Hercog's comeback in this article.

There were two notable junior results, with British wild card Katie Swan falling to Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-3, 5-7, 6-0 and 2016 Wimbledon girls champion and ITF junior No. 1 Anastasia Potapova of Russia beating No. 7 seed Patricia Tig of Romania 7-6(1), 6-3.

The annual Maureen Connolly Trophy Challenge, which features US junior girls against their British counterparts in eight singles and four doubles matches, begins Thursday in Southsea, where an ITF $100,000 women's tournament is taking place.

The British team is Emily Appleton, Francesca Jones, Holly Fischer and Emma Raducanu. The US team is Whitney Osuigwe, Claire Liu, Sofia Sewing and Taylor Johnson.  Johnson didn't enter Wimbledon, but is in the acceptances for the Grade 1 in Roehampton next week.   Two other girls, Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste, are also traveling with the US team.  The US captains are Jamea Jackson and Erik Kortland; the British captains are Anne Keothavong and Jane O'Donoghue.

The USTA Pro Circuit again features two men's Futures and one women's $25K this week.  The men are on green clay in Pittsburgh for a $15,000 Futures, with last week's Rochester champion Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark the top seed.  He will play Ohio State teammate Kyle Seelig, who qualified, in the first round on Wednesday. A third Buckeye is also in the main draw, with Hugo Di Feo of Canada getting through qualifying; John McNally, who will join Ohio State this fall, lost his opening round match today.

After two weeks in North Carolina, the men have left Wake Forest for Tulsa, the site of a $25,000 Futures.  Austin Krajicek is the top seed. NCAA finalist William Blumberg received a wild card and picked up his first ATP point, beating Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-2.  Two other wild cards also picked up first round wins, with Oklahoma graduate Spencer Papa and Illinois rising sophomore Zeke Clark advancing in three-setters.

The women are in Auburn this week, with Baton Rouge champion Nicole Gibbs again taking a wild card card and the top seed.  Eighteen-year-old Jada Robinson and 16-year-old Emiliana Arango of Colombia reached the main draw through qualifying today.  The other six qualifiers all have college ties: rising Florida freshman McCartney Kessler, Florida's Josie Kuhlman, Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani(BRA)and Ashley Lahey, Georgia Tech's Paige Hourigan(NZL) and Alabama's Andie Daniell.  Auburn's Alizee Michaud, North Carolina's Alexandra Sanford and UCLA's Ena Shibahara received wild cards.

There is also a $25,000 Futures in British Columbia Canada this week, with Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine) and Marcos Giron(UCLA) the top two seeds.

Tulane has announced its new women's head coach: Maria Brito. Brito has served as the assistant coach at Clemson, her alma mater, for the past four years. Briton replaces Terri Sisk, who resigned in April.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ten US Men Advance to Second Round of Wimbledon Qualifying; 12 US Women Scheduled to Open Qualifying Tuesday; Norrie Claims First ATP Win; Life on the Pro Circuit

The first round of Wimbledon qualifying got off to a good start for American men today, with 10 of 13 advancing to Tuesday's second round.

Two of those three losses came in all-American matches, with Rajeev Ram taking out No. 17 seed and 2015 boys champion Reilly Opelka 7-6(6), 7-6(5) and No. 3 seed Tennys Sandgren eliminating Michael Mmoh 6-3, 7-5.  Mitchell Krueger was the only US man to lose to an international player, with the 23-year-old Texan falling to Mathias Bourgue of France 6-3, 6-4.

Other US winners today were Taylor Fritz[21], Tim Smyczek, Bradley Klahn, Mackenzie McDonald, Bjorn Fratangelo[22], Dennis Novikov, Stefan Kozlov[32] and Denis Kudla.

Kudla's win was the most dramatic, with the 24-year-old saving two match points in a 5-7, 7-5, 13-11 victory over Akira Santillan of Japan that took two hours and 45 minutes to complete.

Novikov and Kozlov will face off tomorrow assuring that at least one American will be in the final round of qualifying. In this Wimbledon article on the American men's success, which includes a long discussion with Fritz on his knee pain, training blocks and decision to skip clay, Kozlov is quoted as saying he suffered an injury during today's match and may not play.

The women begin play on Tuesday to determine who will fill the 12 main draw spots available to qualifiers. A dozen US women are in contention: Danielle Collins, Sachia Vickery, Asia Muhammad[17], Sonya Kenin, Kristie Ahn[6], Grace Min, Jamie Loeb, Louisa Chirico, Irina Falconi, Taylor Townsend[9], Kayla Day[10] and Jacqueline Cako. Loeb vs Chirico is the only all-US match in the first round. Day will face fellow 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu, with whom she already has quite a history.  Day and Andreescu have played five times in the past two years, with Andreescu leading the head-to-head 3-2.  Day won a big match in the semifinals of last year's US Open Junior Championships 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, but Andreescu won their last meeting, the final of February's $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe tournament, 6-4, 6-1.

I believe Watch ESPN is streaming all matches scheduled on Court 11 throughout qualifying. Replay of the four matches on that court today, including Kudla's win, is available here. For the complete order of play for Tuesday, see the Wimbledon website.

Cameron Norrie, who completed his third year of eligibility at TCU last month and turned pro, earned his first ATP main draw win today at Eastbourne. The 21-year-old British wild card also picked up his first ATP Top 50 win with his 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over No. 28 49 Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. Earlier this month Norrie had posted his first ATP Top 100 win by beating No. 71 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia at the Surbiton Challenger. Next up for Norrie, who was awarded a Wimbledon main draw wild card, is No. 2 seed Gael Monfils of France.

Norrie is undoubtedly hoping to move quickly into the main draw Challenger level, where the outlay and the income is more conducive to financial solvency.  In today's New York Times, David Waldstein looks at how two players at different stages of their pro careers--29-year-old Aleksandra Wozniack of Canada and 18-year-old Fanni Stollar of Hungary--cope with life on the lower levels of professional tennis.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Gibbs, Paul, Graham Win Pro Circuit Titles; 13 Americans in Wimbledon Men's Qualifying Monday; Seggerman Sweeps Titles at ITF Grade 4

Nicole Gibbs won her first title since 2014 today in Baton Rouge Louisiana, beating Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event.  Gibbs took a wild card into the tournament, and although she had several tough matches, particularly against Vicky Duval in Saturday's semifinal, the two-time NCAA singles champion has to be happy with her title and the number of matches she played as she prepares for the North American hard court season. Di Lorenzo, seeded No. 4, is now 0-2 in finals the past two weeks, but playing Gibbs, with a WTA ranking of 124,  gives the Ohio State rising junior an opportunity to assess how her game stacks up against the next level.

Had you told Christopher Eubanks he would get 81% of his first serves in and have eight aces and no double faults, he probably would have liked his chances to beat Tommy Paul to claim his second consecutive $25,000 Futures title in Winston-Salem.  But the Georgia Tech rising senior was able to get a break point against Paul only once, which he converted to pull even at 4-4 in the second set, only to get broken in the next game, with Paul serving out a 6-4, 6-4 victory.  It's Paul's first Futures title since January of this year, but after a first round loss to qualifier Felix Corwin at last week's Futures at Winston-Salem, it's especially gratifying for the 20-year-old from North Carolina.

North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham won her second career title on the Pro Circuit today, with the unseeded New Yorker defeating No. 2 seed Tori Kinard 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the $15,000 tournament in British Columbia.  It's the 18-year-old's first title since she won the $10,000 Hilton Head tournament back in 2015.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Rochester New York, top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark added the singles title to the doubles title he won Friday.  The rising Ohio State senior defeated qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada 6-2, 6-4 in today's final to earn his third title, with the most recent title at the Challenger level last fall in Columbus. Torpegaard did not lose a set in his five singles and four doubles victories.

The men's qualifying draw was posted today at Wimbledon.com, with 13 Americans playing their opening round matches on Monday.

Two matches feature American vs American, with Tennys Sandgren, the No. 3 seed, playing Michael Mmoh and Reilly Opelka, the No. 17 seed, facing Rajeev Ram.  The other US men in qualifying are Taylor Fritz[21], Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek, Bradley Klahn, Mitchell Krueger, Mackenzie McDonald, Bjorn Fratangelo[22], Dennis Novikov and Stefan Kozlov[32].

Watch ESPN is providing coverage of four qualifying matches each day for the first time this year.

In ITF Junior competition this week, Southern Californian Ryan Seggerman, a blue chip who will be playing for Princeton this fall, swept the titles at the Grade 4 in Fiji.  No. 12 seed Seggerman, whose only previous ITF junior competition was at the 2016 and 2017 Easter Bowls, didn't drop a set all week, beating No. 3 seed Hiroki Sakagawa of Japan 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Seggerman won the doubles title with Kiev Moores, with the No. 6 seeds beating unseeded Chen Dong and Philip Sekulic of Australia 7-5, 1-6, 10-4 in the final.

At the Grade 4 in Tunisia, Will Grant and Tomas Kopczynski won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds taking down top seeds Mert Alkaya and Bora Sengul of Turkey 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the final.

At the Grade 4 in Denmark, No. 2 seed Skyler Grishuk reached the singles final, falling 7-6(3), 6-1 to fellow 14-year-old Dasha Lopatetskaya of Ukraine 7-6(3), 6-1. Lopatetskaya won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title back in 2015.

Rudolf Molleker of Germany claimed his second consecutive Grade 1 title in this home country today, with the No. 2 seed beating unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania 6-4, 6-2 in the Berlin final.  The 16-year-old Molleker did not lose a set in capturing the title last week in Offenbach or in this week in Berlin.  No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier of Germany won the girls title, beating No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine 6-1, 7-5.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eubanks, Di Lorenzo Advance to Pro Circuit Finals for Second Straight Week; Graham Aims for Title in Canada; Goetz and Nefve Win Doubles Championship at Berlin Grade 1

Georgia Tech's Christopher Eubanks and Ohio State's Francesca Di Lorenzo will play their second singles finals in the past eight days on Sunday after picking up victories today at $25,000 events in Winston-Salem North Carolina and Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Eubanks is a rising senior who won the singles title at last week's $25,000 Winston-Salem Futures in a third set tiebreaker against Georgia Tech alum and volunteer assistant coach Kevin King. Today the pair of unseeded Yellow Jackets, who won the doubles title on Friday, met in the semifinals with Eubanks again coming out the winner by virtue of a third set tiebreaker, beating King 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(2).  Eubanks will play unseeded Tommy Paul in Sunday's final, after Paul took out top seed Austin Krajicek 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Paul, who just turned 20, and Eubanks, who just turned 21, met in the first round of qualifying at the BB&T Open in Atlanta last year, with Eubanks winning 6-2, 7-5.

Di Lorenzo, 19, dropped the Sumter South Carolina final last week to Ashley Lahey, an unseeded wild card, who is on the opposite end of the pro experience spectrum of Di Lorenzo's opponent on Sunday, top seed Nicole Gibbs.  No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to that meeting with a third consecutive win over No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa, this time by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  Gibbs, 24, took a wild card to play in Baton Rouge after injuries and slump had left her winless on the WTA tour since reaching the third round at the Australian Open.  Gibbs trailed Vicky Duval 3-1 and 4-2 in the final set of their semifinal match today, but fought back to secure a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory and set up her first meeting with Di Lorenzo.

The doubles title in Baton Rouge went to Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani of Brazil and Georgia's Ellen Perez of Australia, who beat Di Lorenzo and Virginia alum Julia Elbaba 6-3, 6-4.

A third all-American final will take place on Sunday in British Columbia, where unseeded Alexa Graham, a rising sophomore at North Carolina, will face No. 2 seed Tori Kinard at the $15,000 event in Canada.  Graham, who turns 19 next month, defeated Virginia rising sophomore Rosie Johanson of Canada 7-6(3), 6-4 in the semifinals, while Kinard, 29, outlasted recent Penn graduate Kana Daniel 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1).  It's Graham's third Pro Circuit final, with one win and one loss in championship matches at $10,000 events back in 2015.

This week's Grade 1 in Berlin Germany was disappointing for the 11 Americans in the singles draws, with none of them advancing past the second round.  But the US did manage a title, with the unseeded team of Ryan Goetz and Axel Nefve beating top seeds Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France and Naoki Tajima of Japan 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-5.

The boys singles final will feature No. 2 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany, who won last week's title in Offenbach, and unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania.  The girls finals will also feature a German, No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier, against No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine.

At the WTA's Mallorca Open, CiCi Bellis's opportunity to play in her first WTA final was denied by Julia Goerges of Germany, who rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Goerges will face No. 2 seed  Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in
the final. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Duo Commits to Princeton; Americans Dominate USTA Pro Circuit $25K Semifinals; Bellis Reaches Mallorca Semifinals; K-College Conference Winning Streak Ends Due to NCAA Violations

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network looks at Kalamazoo area blue chip Bill Duo's choice of Princeton for 2018.  Duo, a rising senior at Portage Central High School, is the latest in a long line of Kalamazoo area juniors who have been coached by Tom Walker. Unfortunately for Kalamazoo tennis, Walker moved to a new position at Court One in Lansing several years ago, so Duo has been making that 75-minute commute three or four times a week.  I spoke to both of them at the West Michigan qualifier earlier this month at Western Michigan University about the recruiting process, how they began working together and why they've continued, even with the extra burden of that distance.

All four semifinalists at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures are Americans, with last week's winner and finalist Christopher Eubanks and Kevin King meeting again a round earlier after victories today. Eubanks beat qualifier Riley Smith 7-6(2), 6-4 and King eliminated qualifier Henry Craig 6-2, 6-4.  The other semifinal will feature Tommy Paul, who beat Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-3 and top seed Austin Krajicek, who defeated No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Eubanks and King lost in last week's doubles final, but this week they came away with the winners' trophies when the No. 4 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Dominik Koepfer of Germany and Luis Martinez of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match.  It's the first pro doubles title for Eubanks, while King now can claim 11 Futures and Challenger doubles titles.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Baton Rouge are Americans, with No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa the only international.  Simmonds, who beat qualifier Quinn Gleason 6-4, 6-1, will play No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo, who defeated wild card Ashley Kratzer 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kratzer served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Di Lorenzo was able to break hold and break to force a third set in the nearly three-hour contest. Di Lorenzo beat Simmonds last week in three sets en route to the Sumter final and has another win over Simmonds in Macon last year.

The other semifinal will feature top seed Nicole Gibbs against Vicky Duval.  Gibbs ended the run of last week's champion Ashley Lahey, beating the 17-year-old 7-6(0), 6-1, while Duval, playing in just her third tournament since last year's Wimbledon, defeated Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-1. Gibbs and Duval have split their two previous meetings, with Duval winning in Wimbledon qualifying back in 2014 and Gibbs winning in Vancouver qualifying way back in 2012, when Gibbs was still at Stanford.

The results for Americans at this week's $15,000 Futures in Rochester New York couldn't have been any worse.  It began with No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian giving a walkover to qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada. NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski[5] was beaten by No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-3, 6-1, Cameron Silverman went out to No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-2, 6-2 and qualifier Alex Knight retired trailing top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 4-0.   The doubles title also eluded the US team, with Kwiatkowski and Virginia teammate Luca Corinteli falling to Torpegaard and Ohio State teammate Huge Di Feo 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in British Columbia, North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham has advanced to the semifinals after beating top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-4, 6-0. She will play unseeded Canadian Rosie Johanson, who is a rising sophomore at Virginia.

CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA semifinal (not counting the 125 level WTA tournament she won last November in Honolulu) at the Mallorca Open, an international level tournament.  Bellis, playing in her first WTA tournament on grass, defeated Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals and will face unseeded Julia Goerges of Germany in Saturday's semifinals.  For more details on Bellis' win today and comments from the 18-year-old, see this article from the WTA website.

Kalamazoo College's men's tennis team had a streak of conference championships that extended to a remarkable 79 years, but that's over now after the MIAA vacated previous titles and banned the school from participating in the 2018 conference championships due to NCAA violations.  The violations involve the school's process of rewarding of financial aid and are not specific to any particular sport, but because they have the most noteworthy accomplishment ending with this decision, men's tennis will feel the sanctions more keenly than some of the other programs.  For more details on the violations and sanctions, see this Kalamazoo Gazette article, which also provides the first public mention that athletic director Kristen Smith will be leaving her position.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Qualifiers Advance to Quarterfinals in Three USTA Pro Circuit Events; Potapova Out of Wimbledon Juniors; Hodge Out at Georgia

All three USTA Pro Circuit events this week will still have their No. 1 seeds in action after today's matches, but the No. 2 seeds have all been eliminated, and qualifiers have picked up some big wins.

At the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina, only two seeds remain: No. 1 seed Austin Krajicek and No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand, who will play Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Last week's champion Christopher Eubanks, the rising Georgia Tech senior, continued his run with a  7-6(3), 7-5 win over 2012 NCAA finalist Eric Quigley and will meet USC rising sophomore Riley Smith, son of USC coach Peter Smith. Smith, a qualifier who beat No. 4 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada in the first round, took out North Carolina graduate Ronnie Schneider 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Futures quarterfinal.  Tommy Paul beat No. 5 seed Philip Bester of Canada 6-2, 6-2 and will play Wil Spencer, who advanced via a walkover from qualifier Brandon Holt.  The other quarterfinal will feature last week's finalist Kevin King(Georgia Tech) and qualifier Henry Craig.  Craig beat 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-6(3), 6-3 today, with Shane having beaten No. 2 seed Alex Sarkissian, the 2014 NCAA finalist, in two tiebreakers.  It's the 22-year-old Denver graduate's second career Futures quarterfinal.

University of Michigan rising senior Alex Knight earned his first ATP point yesterday at the $15,000 Rochester Futures with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, but the 20-year-old qualifier didn't stop there. Today Knight defeated Ohio State recruit John McNally 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the rising Ohio State senior.

Knight is one of two qualifiers into the quarterfinals in Rochester, with former Indiana standout Samuel Monette of Canada joining him by virtue of a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Dennis Nevolo.  Monette will face No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian.

NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, seeded fifth, needed over three hours to get by Alex Rybakov, last week's champion in Buffalo, 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 6-2 in yesterday's first round. Today the recent Virginia graduate defeated qualifier Sasha Gozun, a recent South Florida graduate, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan.

Former Elon star Cameron Silverman advanced to his second straight Futures quarterfinal with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Adam El Mihdawy.  Silverman meets No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile next.

The only qualifier still remaining at the $25,000 women's tournament in Baton Rouge is former Notre Dame star Quinn Gleason.  The 22-year-old Gleason beat No. 2 seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the first round yesterday and today she took out fellow qualifier Raveena Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(8).  Gleason will play No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa next.

Top seed Nicole Gibbs faces last week's Sumter champion Ashley Lahey in one of the top half quarterfinals. In the other, Julia Elbaba plays Vicky Duval.  In the other bottom half quarterfinal, wild card Ashley Kratzer will face last week's Sumter finalist, No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo.

Yesterday 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova of Russia received a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon and the 2016 Wimbledon girls champion also withdrew from this year's junior championships.  She joins Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu of Canada as prominent junior girls who have withdrawn since the initial acceptance list was posted.  By not defending her title, Potapova will relinquish her No. 1 ranking.

The Macon Telegraph is reporting that Georgia men's assistant Bo Hodge, who was suspended during an ongoing police investigation into missing drugs, will not return to the team.  The article says the University has posted the assistant coach's position as of this morning. The article makes no mention of the status of women's associate head coach Drake Bernstein, who was also suspended last month for reasons yet to be publicly acknowledged by the school.