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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Wolf, Zhu Come Back to Reach Harlingen Futures Final; Osuigwe Advances to Osaka Grade A Final; Bellis Named WTA Newcomer of the Year

Qualifier Evan Zhu and wild card JJ Wolf will meet for the singles title Sunday at the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen Texas, after both staged impressive comebacks in Saturday's semifinal matches.  The 18-year-old Wolf, a sophomore at Ohio State, trailed qualifier Strong Kirchheimer, a recent Northwestern graduate, 6-3, 5-2 before reversing his fortunes for a3-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory.  Kirchheimer had played a four-hour singles match on Thursday, so winning a straight sets was almost a necessity for him.  Wolf, who earned his first ATP points just last month at the Columbus Challenger, is missing the Midwest Regional this week, where he was the top seed.

Zhu, who reached the final of a $10,000 California Futures last year fall, trailed No. 5 seed Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 6-3, 4-2 before rebounding top post a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 win.  Zhu is taking the fall off from UCLA after playing the spring season, mostly at line 3, this year.

At the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Florence South Carolina, top seed Taylor Townsend saved a match point to defeat No. 3 seed Danielle Collins 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(6) and will play for her second consecutive title on Sunday against Belgium's Ysaline Bonaventure. Collins broke at 5-all and served for the match at 6-5 in the third, but didn't earn a match point until the tiebreaker.  Townsend won the first five points of the tiebreaker, Collins won the next six to get to match point, but Townsend took the last three to claim the 2-hour 24-minute victory.  Bonaventure, the No. 8 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-2, 6-2. 

Townsend and Maria Sanchez, the No. 1 seeds, won the doubles title, beating No. 4 seeds Tara Moore of Great Britain and Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2.  It's Townsend's 14th pro doubles title and second in as many weeks.  Sanchez now has 20 pro doubles titles since graduating from USC in 2012.

At the $50,000+Hospitality Challenger in Las Vegas, 19-year-old Stefan Kozlov defeated top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-3, 7-6(6) to advance to his fifth career Challenger final. He will be going for his second title against Great Britain's unseeded Liam Broady, who defeated Evan King 6-4, 7-5.

Top Whitney Osuigwe has reached the final at the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup against No. 2 seed Xin Yu Wang of China.  Osuigwe defeated Qinwen Zheng of China 7-6(0), 6-2 in the quarterfinals, then got a walkover from No. 3 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan in the second match of the day.  The No. 1 and 2 seeds will also play for the boys title, with top seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan facing No. 2 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia.  Shimizu ended unseeded Tristan Boyer's run in the semifinals 7-5, 7-6(3).

The girls doubles championship went to unseeded Sohyun Park of Korea and Himari Sator of Japan, who received a walkover from No. 3 seeds Pei Hsuan Chen of Taiwan and Xiyu Wang of China.

The WTA announced its year-end awards yesterday, with 18-year-old CiCi Bellis receiving Newcomer of the Year accolades.  Bellis, the 2014 ITF World Junior Champion, is currently ranked 44 in the WTA rankings. For more on her accomplishments this year, see the WTA's announcement.

US Open champion Sloane Stephens was named Comeback Player of the Year.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Zhu, Wolf Reach Harlingen Futures Semis; Townsend and Collins Meet in Florence Semis; Three Americans in Las Vegas Semis; Acceptances for Mexico's Grade A

College sophomores Evan Zhu of UCLA and JJ Wolf of Ohio State have advanced to the semifinals of this week's $25,000 Futures in Harlingen Texas.  Zhu, a qualifier, beat top seed Nik Scholtz, the former Ole Miss star from South Africa, in Thursday's second round. Today the 19-year-old advanced to his second career Futures semifinal with a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over French Open boys champion Alexei Popyrin of Australia.  Zhu, who is taking the fall off, but is expected to return to UCLA in the spring, will face No. 5 seed Luke Bambridge of Great Britain, who defeated No. 4 seed Ryan Shane 7-6(7), 7-5.

The 18-year-old Wolf, a wild card, earned his first Futures semifinal appearance with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 7 seed Ulises Blanch. The 2017 Kalamazoo finalist earned his first ATP points last month, at the Columbus Challenger, and had played very little at the Futures level until now.  Wolf will play qualifier Strong Kirchheimer, the 22-year-old Northwestern graduate, who outlasted 36-year-old Ryan Haviland(Stanford) 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-4 in a match that lasted four hours and 16 minutes. Wolf's match today took an hour and eight minutes to complete.

An American finalist is also assured in the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Florence South Carolina, with top seed Taylor Townsend meeting No. 3 seed Danielle Collins.  Townsend defeated No. 6 seed Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico 7-6(3), 7-5 for her eighth straight win,
while Collins beat No. 7 seed Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3. Townsend won their previous Pro Circuit meeting last year in Scottsdale 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

The other semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden against No. 8 seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium.

Three Americans are through to the semifinals at the $50,000 Las Vegas Challenger, again guaranteeing an American in the final, with No. 1 seed Tennys Sandgren facing No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov Saturday.  Sandgren defeated qualifier Jan Choinski of Germany 6-1, 6-0 and Kozlov beat Kevin King 6-2, 6-3.  In the bottom half, Evan King defeated Bradley Klahn 7-6(7), 7-6(6) to reach his first Challenger level semifinal; the 25-year-old Michigan graduate had been 0-6 in Challenger quarterfinals until today's win.  King will play Great Britain's Liam Broady, who beat No. 8 seed Reilly Opelka 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4.

Rain has delayed the singles quarterfinals of the ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan, with top seed Whitney Osuigwe and Tristan Boyer the Americans still alive in singles. The schedule has two rounds of play indoors on Saturday, with no-ad scoring and a match tiebreaker as the format. 

Acceptances for the ITF Grade A in Mexico City November 13-19 came out earlier this month, with 13 US boys and 15 US girls on the initial acceptance list.  There are no boys in the ITF Top 25, with Sebastian Korda the highest ranking player on the list at No. 26.  Other US boys in the main draw are: Sangeet Sridhar, Brian Shi, Axel Nefve, Tomas Kopczynski, Boris Kozlov, Nathan Han, Keenan Mayo, Drew Baird, Ronan Jachuck, William Woodall, Tyler Zink and Sumit Sakar.  The boys main draw cutoff was Sakar, at 256.

The girls field is stronger, with the cutoff 196, and the top five girls in the acceptances are all from the US: defending champion Taylor Johnson, Sofia Sewing, 2016 finalist Ellie Douglas, Natasha Subhash and Hurricane Tyra Black.  Other US girls in the main draw are: Nicole Mossmer, Dalayna Hewitt, Lea Ma, Elli Mandlik, Sabina Dadaciu, Vanessa Ong, Alexa Noel, Kianah Motosono, Katya Townsend and Peyton Stearns.

The acceptances for the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup and the Grade A Orange Bowl should be out next week.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

ITF Pan American Closed Recap, Videos, Photos

Today marks the conclusion of this year's coverage of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa, with my written recap of Andrew Fenty and Whitney Osuigwe's titles available at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  With their titles, Osuigwe moved to No. 1 in the ITF Junior rankings and Fenty rose to 33, which is his career high.

The videos of the finals, which were played at the same time, are below, as are photos of the singles quarterfinalists and doubles semifinalists.

Michael Case Tennis Center, University of Tulsa
Abigail Forbes, USA, quarterfinalist
Niluka Madurawe, USA, quarterfinalist
Katie Volynets, USA, quarterfinalist
Alexandra Yepifanova, USA, quarterfinalist
Aidan Mayo, USA, quarterfinalist
Govind Nanda, USA, quarterfinalist
Axel Nefve, USA, quarterfinalist
Noah Schachter, USA, quarterfinalist
Margaryta Bilokin, Ukraine, semifinalist
Marlee Zein, USA, semifinalist
Nick Hardt, DOM, semifinalist
Jaycer Lyeons, USA, semifinalist
Nick Hardt, DOM and Brandon Perez, VEN, semfinalists
Brian Shi and Drew Baird, USA, semifinalists
Natasha Subhash and Lea Ma, USA, semifinalists
Alexandra Vagramov and Ariana Arseneault, CAN, semifinalists
Natasha Subhash, USA, finalist
Emilio Nava, USA, finalist
Sabina Dadaciu and Hailey Baptiste, USA, finalists
Andrew Fenty and William Woodall, USA, finalists
Peyton Stearns and Nicole Mossmer, USA, champions
Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda, USA, champions
Whitney Osuigwe, USA, champion
Andrew Fenty, USA, champion

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

ITF Features Next Week's Junior Masters Competitors; Osuigwe, Boyer Advance at Grade A Osaka Cup; Wu Yibing's Challenges; Evansville Cutting Women's Tennis

The International Tennis Federation has been running a series on the 16 competitors for next week's Junior Masters in Chengdu China.  Each of the eight boys and eight girls will be profiled separately, with a detailed look at their best results in both junior and ITF Pro Circuit events.  So far, two of the three US girls and the lone US boy have been profiled, with Sofia Sewing's article here, Taylor Johnson's article here, and Trent Bryde's article here.  An article on Whitney Osuigwe, who is also playing the Junior Masters, has not yet appeared.

The participants:

Yibing Wu (CHN)
Axel Geller (ARG)
Yu Hsiou Hsu (TPE)
Jurij Rodionov (AUT)
Marko Miladinovic (SRB)
Sebastian Baez (ARG)
Trent Bryde (USA)
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN)

Whitney Osuigwe (USA)
Marta Kostyuk (UKR)
Elena Rybakina (RUS)
Kaja Juvan (SLO)
Sofia Sewing (USA)
Xin Yu Wang (CHN)
Maria Lourdes Carle (ARG)
Taylor Johnson (USA)

Osuigwe is playing the ITF Grade A Mayor's Cup in Osaka Japan this week, as is Wang, but they are the only two in the draws, boys or girls, who are playing the Junior Masters beginning next Wednesday. 

Both have advanced to the round of 16, which will get underway soon. Osuigwe will face No. 16 seed Oona Orpana of Finland, and Wang will play No. 13 seed Viktoriia Dema of Ukraine.  Americans Dalayna Hewitt and Hina Inoue lost their second round matches.

Sixteen-year-old Tristan Boyer, who like Osuigwe played the Pan American Closed last week, has advanced to the round of 16, his first third round appearance at a Grade A.  He will meet unseeded Stefan Storch of Australia next.  While 15 of 16 girls seeds advanced to the third round, only 10 of the 16 boys seeds did.  Top seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan and No. 2 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia are among those 10 who advanced.

US Open boys champion Wu Yibing of China will be playing the ITF Junior Masters next week after competing in the $125,000 ATP Challenger in Ningbo China. Wu, a wild card, lost in the first round to qualifier Jurij Rodionov of Austria, who also is in the Junior Masters field.  Since winning the title in New York, Wu has received wild cards into a Challenger, which he won, then an ATP 250, the Shanghai Masters and this week's Challenger. He has not won a match in those three events, which may help keep the attention away from him.  But becoming an ATP Top 100 player is Wu's goal, so he can expect to continue to receive more articles like this one from CNN, which explores why the Chinese women have been more successful than the Chinese men in breaking into the top levels of the pro game.

The elimination of a Division I tennis program never comes at a good time, but the University of Evansville made a particularly poor choice in its decision to cut the women's program now, in the midst of the fall season.  This leaves the players with few options as far as transferring, although their scholarships will be honored if they choose to stay. They just won't be able to play varsity tennis.  For more on the decision to cut the program, see this article.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Seven Division I ITA Regional Champions Crowned; Di Lorenzo Beats No. 2 Seed Schmiedlova in Florence $25K; American Men Move on in Las Vegas Challenger, Harlingen Futures

The Division I ITA Regional Championships began last weekend, with five women's championships and two men's championships now in the books, with 17 remaining to be completed by next Monday. The winners receive automatic entry into the Oracle Fall Championships next month in Indian Wells. The results of the finals are below, with links to complete draws available at the ITA's webpage.

Women Singles/Doubles:

Marianna Petrei, Idaho, def. Linda Huang, Colorado 7-5, 6-4
Julia O'Laughlin and Hada Chang, Denver def. Marianna Petrei and Lucia Badillos, Idaho 6-3, 6-3

Ohio Valley:
Justina Mikulskyte, Kentucky def. Silvia Ambrosio, Purdue 7-6(9), 6-3
Mami Adachi and Akvile Parazinskaite, Kentucky def. Justina Mikulskyte and Lesedi Jacobs, Kentucky 6-4, 3-6, 10-8

Chiara Lommer, Michigan def. Shiori Fukudu, Ohio State 6-0, 6-4
Erin Larner and Madeline Lipp, Northwestern def. Lee Or and Alexandria Chatt, Northwestern 8-4 (I don't know why this regional did not play three sets in the final)

Natalie Novotna, Virginia Tech def. Rose Johanson, Virginia 6-1 6-4
Meghan Kelley and Rosie Johanson, Virginia def. Cassie Mercer and Teodora Radosavljevic, Virginia 6-7(5), 6-3, 10-7

Bianca Turati, Texas def. Petra Granic, Texas 7-5, 6-3
Lindsey Hodge and Wendy Zhang, Rice def. Marta Perez Mur and Dani Wagland, Texas 3-6, 6-4, 10-8

Men Singles/Doubles

Walker Duncan, Georgia def. Wayne Montgomery, Georgia 6-2, 6-3
Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski, Georgia def. Oliver Crawford and Chase Perez-Blanco, Florida 6-4, 6-2

Carolina: Henry Patten, UNC-Asheville def. Alex Favarot, Clemson 6-3, 6-1
Christian Seraphim and Julian Zlobinsky, Wake Forest def. Alexis Galarneau and Michael Ogden, NC State 2-6, 6-3, 10-0

The USTA Pro Circuit has three events this week, with a $25,000 women's event in Florence South Carolina, a $25,000 men's Futures in Harlingen Texas and a $50,000 Challenger in Las Vegas Nevada.

A complete rainout on Monday meant the women still in qualifying had to play two matches today, but the qualifying is now complete. Jada Robinson, Hanna Chang, and Sabrina Santamaria(USC) are the Americans through to the main draw, with former Alabama star Erin Routliffe of New Zealand also advancing.

Five main draw matches were also played today, with Ohio State junior Francesca Di Lorenzo beating No. 2 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.  The 23-year-old Schmiedlova, now 163, has been as high as 26 in the WTA rankings, but struggled to win matches on the tour last year and has been playing on the ITF Pro Circuit this year.  Taylor Townsend, last week's champion in Sumter, is the top seed and will face Wimbledon finalist Ann Li, a wild card, in the first round Wednesday.

The first round is complete in Las Vegas, with nine American men through to the second round: Tennys Sandgren[1], Stefan Kozlov[4], Kevin King, Marcos Giron, Michael Mmoh[6], Bradley Klahn, Evan King, Reilly Opelka[8] and qualifier Jared Hiltzik.  Great Britain's Cameron Norrie, who took last week off after winning two consecutive $100,000 Challengers in Northern California, is the No. 2 seed.  Fairfield Challenger champion Mackenzie McDonald withdrew with a hamstring injury.

In Harlingen, former Ole Miss star Nik Scholtz of South Africa is the No. 1 seed, with No. 2 seed Dennis Nevolo(Illinois) already through to the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 win over wild card DJ Thomas.  Ohio State sophomore JJ Wolf, another wild card, also advanced as did Illinois senior Aron Hiltzik and No. 7 seed Ulises Blanch.  Texas A&M senior Jordi Arconada received a wild card and Sebastian Korda, a finalist last week in Houston, received a special exemption into the main draw.  They, like unseeded Houston champion Thai Kwiatkowski, play their first round matches Wednesday.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Grade A Osaka Cup Underway in Japan; Americans Claim ITF Titles in South America and Caribbean

The main draw of ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan begins Tuesday (tonight here in the US) with three American girls and two American boys competing.  Pan American Closed champion Whitney Osuigwe, who is, of course, the No. 1 seed as the top-ranked ITF junior, had little time to overcome jet lag after leaving Tulsa on Sunday and arriving in Japan on Monday.  The other US girls in the draw are Dalayna Hewitt and Hina Inoue, both unseeded.  The top seed in the boys draw is Yuta Shimizu of Japan, with unseeded Tristan Boyer and Anuj Watane the two Americans in the 64-player draw.

In addition to the Grade B1 Pan American Closed last week, there were many other lower-level events, and while most Americans entered Tulsa, some found success elsewhere on the circuit.

At the Grade 5 in Curacao, 15-year-old Jennifer Kida claimed both the singles and doubles titles, losing just six games in her four singles victories. Kida, the top seed, defeated No. 6 seed Afrika Smith of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-1 for her second ITF junior title.  Although she has only been playing the ITF Junior Circuit since March, she earned her first title the day before, when She and Fiorella Bolona Medina, the No. 1 seeds, defeated the home country's team of Zima Gomez Osorio and Ana Sofia Jaramillo 6-1, 6-3 in the doubles final.

American juniors took three of the four titles at the Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, with 16-year-old Gia Cohen and 15-year-old Andrew Dale claiming the singles championships and Kyra Foster winning the girls doubles.  The seventh-seeded Cohen, who had lost in the final of the previous week's Grade 5 in the Dominican Republic, won her first title with a 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-4 win over 15-year-old American Jackeline Lopez, the No. 4 seed.  Dale took his first ITF junior circuit title, with the No. 10 seed beating No. 8 seed Mateo Gomez of Colombia 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Foster and Cora Barber of Germany, the No. 7 seeds, won the doubles title with a 2-6, 6-2, 10-4 win over No. 4 seeds Isabella Perez of Venezuela and Eva Tasdemir of Turkey.

Fifteen-year-old Jaedan Brown won her second straight title this week at a Grade 4 in Brazil. Two weeks ago, after receiving a wild card into qualifying, Brown won her first ITF title without dropping a set. Last week, after earning entry via a special exemption, she again blitzed through the draw without dropping a set, beating top seed Nathalia Wolf Gasparin of Brazil 6-1, 6-0 in the final. Brown's only previous match in the  ITF Junior Circuit main draw (before these last two tournaments in Brazil) was a second round loss at the Grade 4 in Newport Beach California.

At the Grade 2 in Chile, Kacie Harvey won the doubles title, with partner Ana Makatsaria of Georgia.  The No. 5 seeds defeated No. 4 seeds Marina Figueiredo of Brazil and Jimar Gerald Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

USTA National 14s champion Saud Alhogbani, who lives in Virginia and trains in College Park Maryland but plays under the flag of Saudi Arabia, won his first ITF junior title last week at the Grade 5 in Kuwait.  The unseeded 14-year-old defeated top seed Viktor Jovic of Serbia 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals and qualifier Raphael Collignon of Belgium 7-5, 6-1 in the final.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Americans McDonald, Kwiatkowski and Townsend Win Pro Circuit Titles; Small College Champions Crowned at Oracle Cup

2016 NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald won the first Challenger of his career today at the $100,0000 ATP tournament in Fairfield California, defeating 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn 6-4 6-2.  The 22-year-old from Piedmont California, which is less than an hour away from Fairfield, had been a regular at the quarterfinals and semifinal stages of Challengers since (and even before) leaving UCLA after his junior year last spring.  But this was his first final, capping an impressive week that saw him defeat No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov in the first round and No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals.  Klahn, who has been ranked as high as 63 before injuries set him back, is also displaying excellent form, making his second consecutive final at $100,000 Challengers this week.  McDonald will move past his previous career high of 196 to around 164.

David O'Hare of Ireland, who competed in college at Memphis, won the doubles title with Great Britain's Luke Bambridge.  The No. 2 seeds beat the wild card team of  Akram El Sallaly of Egypt and Bernardo Oliveira of Brazil 6-4, 6-2 in the final. El Sallaly and Oliveira are members of the University of the Pacific men's team.

At the $25,000 Futures tournament in Houston, 2017 NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski claimed his second career Futures title, beating 17-year-old Sebastian Korda 6-2, 6-2 in another final between unseeded players.  Kwiatkowski, who graduated from Virginia this spring, won his first title late last year in Puerto Rico, but hadn't gotten past the quarterfinals in any event this year.  This week the 22-year-old from North Carolina didn't lose a set and took out three seeds, including top seed Austin Krajicek in the semifinals.  Korda reached his first Futures final with an impressive 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Lucas Miedler of Austria. His best showing at a Futures until this week was a quarterfinal back in January.

The unseeded team of Dennis Nevolo and Aron Hiltzik, former and current University of Illinois standouts, won the doubles title, beating top seeds Kwiatkowski and Krajicek 7-6(3), 6-3. It's the first Pro Circuit title for Hiltzik, a senior at Illinois.

Unlike the men's USTA Pro Circuit events, the women's final at the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina featured two seeded players, with top seed Taylor Townsend taking the title.  Townsend, who didn't lose a set all week, defeated No. 7 seed Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway 6-1, 6-2 in the singles final today. Townsend also won the doubles title Saturday, with Jessica Pegula. The unseeded pair beat top seeds Alexandra Mueller and Caitlin Whoriskey 4-6, 7-5, 10-5 in the final. It's Townsend's 13th career doubles title on the Pro Circuit, but her first this year.

The Oracle Cup, the ITA's National Championships for the Small Colleges, concluded today in Rome Georgia with the doubles playoffs.
Yesterday the singles champions were decided for Junior College, NAIA, Division II and Division III, with all eight winners receiving entry into next month's National Fall Championships in Indian Wells.  Previously, only the playoff winner, decided in a competition between the four champions, would advance to the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, but now that the tournament is a 64 draw, not 32, all four singles champions will earn a spot in the draw.  The doubles champions did have a playoff, with only one men's and one women's team receiving entry into the Fall Championships.  Those teams were decided today, with NAIA Georgia Gwinnett's Kevin Konfederak and Gilad Berman winning the men's overall doubles title and Division III's Eudice Chong and Victoria Yu of Wesleyan taking the women's overall doubles title.

The singles champions who will advance to Indian Wells:

NAIA: Kevin Konfederak, Georgia Gwinnett
Division II: Kiranpal Pannu, Columbus State
Division III: Mohanad Al Houni, Gustavus Adolphus
Junior College: Marcus Walters, Tyler JC

NAIA: Camille Gbaguidi, Savannah College of Art and Design
Division II: Sonja Larsen, Barry
Division III: Eudice Chong, Wesleyan
Junior College: Tamara Arnold, Tyler JC

The ITA's recap of Saturday's singles finals is available here.  The recap of the doubles playoffs is here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty Claim ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Whitney Osuigwe and Andrew Fenty arrived at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed as the top seeds. Saturday, they left the University of Tulsa's Michael Case Tennis Center with the winners' trophies after earning straight-sets wins in the finals.

On a warm and increasingly breezy morning, Osuigwe defeated No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash 6-4, 6-3, just a few minutes before Fenty completed his 6-2, 7-5 victory over unseeded Emilio Nava.

Osuigwe started out quickly against Subhash, taking a 5-1 lead in the first set, holding serve easily, while Subhash lost consecutive two four-deuce games on her serve.

"I think I just started a little bit slow," said Subhash, who didn't think nerves played a role in her lackluster start.  "But once I got used to it, I picked it up a little more."

After getting three easy holds to take the 5-1 lead, Osuigwe served for the set twice, but didn't get to set point either time.  Both girls were not pleased with the chair umpire's calls throughout the first set, and Osuigwe seemed to lose patience serving at 5-3, particularly when what she thought were good first serves were called out.

But Subhash was unable to get a hold serving at 4-5, with Osuigwe breaking at love to take the 52-minute first set.

"I think I let my emotions get to me when I felt the ref made a couple of bad calls," Osuigwe said. "She started playing better, and everything rolled over, but I kept trying to keep my focus and it wound up working for me at 5-4. I broke her earlier in the set, and I was coming close almost every single time on her serve, so I knew I just had to take care of the important points."

Subhash rebounded quickly from the poor game that ended the first set, breaking Osuigwe for a 2-1 lead, then holding for 3-1. Given her previous success in breaking Subhash however, Osuigwe wasn't too concerned about that deficit.

"I was only down a break, so all I had to do was keep holding my serve and just break her once," said Osuigwe, who got the break back and held for a 4-3 lead.

Subhash came back from 0-30 down serving at 3-4, but double faulted at 30-all to give Osuigwe a chance to break, and a Subhash backhand error gave Osuigwe the game.

"I think I backed off a little," Subhash said of her performance in the final few games of her first Grade 1 final. "She raised her level, so it was both probably."

Unlike the first set, Osuigwe finished off the second set and match without any further complications, a victory that will return her to the No. 1 position in the ITF World Junior rankings, a position she occupied for just one week this summer.

"I'm playing a couple more tournaments, so hopefully I can get ahead by more, but I think I should be there for a little bit longer this time," said Osuigwe, who didn't lose more than four games in any set all week.

The next two weeks are important for Osuigwe's goal of finishing the year as the ITF World Junior Champion.  She plays the Grade A in Osaka Japan and the ITF Junior Masters in Chengdu China, with an opportunity to extend her lead in the rankings, which will determine her schedule the rest of the year.

Osuigwe acknowledges that making her goal public could add to the pressure to the year's final tournaments, but she doesn't dwell on that aspect of it.

"I'm a pretty free player, I'd say," said the 15-year-old IMG Academy student, who won the French Open girls title this year. "Obviously it's in the back of my mind, and I just try and forget about it while I'm playing."

Fenty's win over Nava provided a different narrative from his previous two matches, where he dropped the first set and was down a break in the second before securing those victories.

At 2-2 in the first set, Fenty got a break, then got a second, as Nava had difficulty keeping his shots in the court. Up 5-2, Fenty was down 0-40 serving for the set, but he saved those three break points and one other before closing out his first set point with a good first serve.

"In the first set I was missing a little too much," said Nava, a 15-year-old playing in his first ITF Grade 1 tournament. "I should have made just one more extra ball then."

Having never played Nava before, Fenty wasn't sure whether Nava's unforced errors would continue.

"I was really confused," said Fenty. "They were simple misses, and I didn't know if he was like, tight and then he would start making it, that he was tight, but that he would heat up.  But I just got really comfortable, too comfortable."

In the second set, Fenty went up a break twice in the early going but gave both breaks back. He broke for a third time to take a 4-3 lead and held easily for 5-3, but in the next game, Fenty admitted he let his mind drift to victory.

"I made a mistake," admitted the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "It was 6-2, 5-3, 30-0 and I literally started thinking about the win."

Nava brought it back to 30-all, but a forehand winner from Fenty brought about the first match point. Nava saved that with several strong forehands that led to a backhand winner, but he missed a backhand volley on the next point to give Fenty another match point. Nava saved that when Fenty's return went long, and he won the next two points to force Fenty to serve out the match at 5-4.

With a double fault to start the game, Fenty couldn't get back on track. Nava forced an error for 15-40 and then hit a backhand volley winner to bring himself back even. Serving at 5-5, Nava had three game points in the four-deuce game, but Fenty's defense wore him down, with Fenty breaking on his second opportunity.

"I had a chance to hold at 5-all, a couple of game points, but he played some great defense," Nava said. "I was inside the court and he was just back there making balls in and I got a little too crazy, went for shots, when I should have just kept moving him around. But he's a great player, a great defender, a great offensive player too--strong, with great weapons."

Fenty had played well when he was down in his earlier matches, and he admitted that he got that back-to-the-wall feeling in the 5-all game, but he knew the outcome of the match was up to him.

"He was playing the same way, though he played better at the end a little bit, but still, everything that happened was my fault," Fenty said. "The match was in my hands."

Serving for the match a second time, Fenty served well, closing it out on a good first serve to secure his first Grade 1 title, a relief rather than a triumph in his view.

"I haven't played my best tennis all week," Fenty said. "I've just been super tight, super nervous. I don't really like the courts and the conditions, but I can't complain. I just won."

Fenty is returning to his base at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland before next month's Grade A and Grade 1 in Mexico.

After a short rest period, Fenty was back on the court for the boys doubles title, but he and partner William Woodall fell short in the championship match.  The number two seeds fell 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 to top seeds Govind Nanda and Trey Hilderbrand, who were playing together for the first time.

Hilderbrand has an ab injury, which forced him to serve underhand throughout the match.

"I got worse throughout the week," said Hilderbrand, who lost in the opening round of singles as the No. 2 seed. "As the week went on, it got pretty bad, but somehow, we were able to win."

"I think we just fought," said Nanda. "I think we believed in ourselves throughout the whole tournament."

"We competed the whole tournament," said Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old from San Antonio. "Got through three 10-point busters and somehow did it."

Up 5-1 at the first changeover of the match tiebreaker, Nanda and Hilderbrand had to withstand Fenty and Woodall's comeback, which saw them win five of the next six points to make it 6-6. With Fenty serving at 8-8, Nanda was able to put away short ball off a second serve and Nanda converted the first match point on his serve, with a forehand forcing an error.

"We both like coming in and we both like returning, and playing aggressive at the net;  I think that's what helped us." said Nanda, a 16-year-old from Cerritos California.  "It's a good combo," said Hilderbrand, who plans to take the next few weeks off to get healthy.

Nanda will play Futures tournaments in Florida next month, with the pair planning to reunite at the Orange Bowl in December.

Girls doubles champions Peyton Stearns and Nicole Mossmer were also taking the court together as a team for the first time, but the No. 4 seeds looked extremely comfortable in their 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  At least they looked comfortable after overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the first set.

"I whiffed an overhead in the first game, so I was like, oh my god, this might not go very well," said Mossmer, a 17-year-old from La Jolla California. "But then I started playing really well at the net, and Peyton was feeling her forehand, ripping the ball, so it worked out well."

Stearns and Mossmer trailed 16s National Champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redeljik 6-4, 3-0 in the quarterfinals before rebounding for a 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 victory.

"On the bench, we were just like, let's just play, let's play tennis," said Stearns, a 16-year-old from Mason Ohio, of that turnaround. "We came back, and we gained some confidence and that really helped our game there."

Stearns, who ended up with Mossmer after her original partner withdrew, believes their contrasting styles provide them with an advantage.

"Our games mix really well because we have two different kind of balls," Stearns said. "I feel like that's really hard for the other players to get a rhythm off of."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Osuigwe and Subhash Reach Grade B1 Pan American Closed Final; Fenty and Nava in Boys Championship Match

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Unseeded Emilio Nava lost in the second round of the ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi last week, but the 15-year-old has found his form this week, winning five consecutive matches in straight sets at the Grade B1 Pan American Closed to reach Saturday's final.

Nava defeated Corpus Christi champion Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's semifinal, ending Lyeons' winning streak at 10, to set up his first meeting with top seed Andrew Fenty, who advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 4-0, ret. win over No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic.

Nava, competing in his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament at the Grade 1 level, was down 3-1 in the second set before winning the final five games on an unseasonably warm day at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

"When I got broken, I was like, ok, it's fine, just keep fighting, you'll get your chance," Nava said. "And that's what happened. I just stayed strong, stayed focused and I broke him back in the very next game. When I held at 2-3, I saw that he got a little down on himself, and I just built off that, and I finished off the match strong."

Nava knows his ability to stay upbeat when facing adversity can demoralize his opponents.

"When they see that you're super positive and you're right there fighting, and you're never giving up, you can see them getting negative and then you just build on that," said the Woodland Hills California resident. "You can see them getting down and it feels really good, I love it."

Nava admits that after Corpus Christi, he didn't expect this kind of run.

"I wasn't really sure where my game was," Nava said. "My coach just told me to just make a lot of balls, stay in there with them. But I'm pretty surprised.  I'm playing pretty well though, so tomorrow will be a big day."

For the second straight day, Fenty found himself down a set and a break, but his mantra of just needing to hit more balls again brought him back.

"I have a lot of confidence in my game that I can turn things around," said the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "I'm confident I'm in way better shape than my opponents. I knew for a fact, the longer the match was, the better for me. I told myself all you need is more hitting, more time, and the third set, it was five minutes."

Fenty began his comeback with Hardt serving at 3-2 in the second. Hardt saved one break point with a good first serve, but Fenty hit a tricky forehand volley winner on the second to get the break back. After a routine hold for 4-3, Fenty broke again, then saved a beak point serving for the set with a wide-kicking ace.  On his first set point, Fenty executed another difficult volley, this time on the backhand side, to take the set and the momentum.

He broke Hardt at love, as the 17-year-old Dominican's forehand began to break down, with his errors ending most of the longer rallies.  Another break and hold made it 4-0, and when Hardt went down 15-40 serving at 0-4, he walked to the net while announcing to the umpire that he was injured.

"He just left," said Fenty. "He wasn't going to win, but it does bother me a little bit. My coach tells me not to worry about it, but I don't think that's very good sportsmanship."

Fenty is also playing in his first Grade 1 final, but he has much more experience at the higher levels of the ITF Junior Circuit than Nava.

"I'm just going to play my game," Fenty said. "Maybe not get off to a slow start, but if I do, I'm prepared for everything. It's a final. You better enjoy being in a final."

A third player will be making a Grade 1 final debut with No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash earning her first trip with a 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Marlee Zein.  Subhash had back-to-back three-setters in the third round and quarterfinals, but she found her form against Abigail Forbes in the second and third sets on Thursday, winning 12 of the match's last 13 games.

"I think I've been playing overall pretty good," said the 16-year-old from Washington D.C. "Today I probably played my best, and I'm playing consistently better each match."

Subhash won the first nine games against Zein, who couldn't find any rhythm, with unforced errors preventing her from getting any momentum. Zein had come from a set down in her quarterfinal win over Niluka Madurawe, but Subhash gave her nothing to work with Friday.

"I kept the ball in the court," Subhash said. "I started strong and I was consistent for the entire match. She didn't really play her best."

Subhash will take on top seed Whitney Osuigwe in the final, after Osuigwe defeated No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2.

Osuigwe had beaten Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 last month in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships, so she was prepared for this contest between IMG Academy students.

"I feel like I knew her game better, I knew what she was going to do," the 15-year-old Floridian said. "Second set at the Open, I struggled a little bit because I lost my focus, but here, I kept my focus the entire time."

Osuigwe broke to open the first set and got a second break to give her the chance to serve it out. She had to save three break points in that eighth game, but served well when she needed to and converted her second set point.

Bilokin surrendered a break at 2-2 in the second set, and Osuigwe had all the margin she needed, closing out the match by taking the last four games.

Osuigwe and Subhash haven't played on the ITF Junior Circuit, with their most recent meeting in the semifinals of the 2015 USTA National 16s Championships in San Diego, with Osuigwe winning in three sets.

"She played the Junior Fed Cup qualifier, so we got to spend some time together there, as a team," Osuigwe said. "I haven't played her in a while. I don't know much about her; I know she has a good serve and is an aggressive baseliner."

"She hits the ball big," Subhash said when asked what she knew about Osuigwe's game. "She serves big, her ground strokes are big, so I think I just have to be consistent and keep the ball deep, don't let her attack it."

The doubles finals are scheduled for Saturday after the singles final, with Fenty the only singles finalist appearing in both.  He and partner William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, received a walkover into the final. They will play top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda, who beat No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi 7-6(5), 1-6, 10-8. 

The girls doubles final will feature No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns and No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada 6-0, 6-2, while Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 1 seeds Subhash and Lea Ma 7-5, 7-6(4).  Subhash was going for her third straight doubles final in Tulsa, having won the title in 2015 and finishing as runner-up last year, both times with Ann Li as her partner.

My Interview with Chicago's Jay Tee on Division III Recruiting; Korda into Houston Futures Quarterfinals; Brady Reaches WTA Hong Kong Semis

Before the start of the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed today, I wanted to post a brief update on what's going on in college and junior tennis away from Tulsa.

The Tennis Recruiting Network has begun its annual Countdown to Signing Week, and my contribution this week is a conversation I had with University of Chicago men's and women's coach Jay Tee about the Division III recruiting process. I learned a lot from that interview, and I hope those interested in what Division III can offer a top junior player check it out.

Sebastian Korda could have played the Pan American Closed this week, but instead, the 17-year-old received a wild card into the $25,000 Futures in Houston, where he has reached the quarterfinals.  Korda defeated No. 4 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan in the first round and took out Argentina's Alan Kohen, a qualifier, yesterday.  He plays former Northwestern standout Samuel Shropshire, a qualifier, today. Chris Eubanks, Thai Kwiatkowski and top seed Austin Krajicek are the other Americans through to the quarterfinals.

The USTA Women's Pro Circuit is in Sumter South Carolina, with top seed Taylor Townsend and qualifier Jessica Pegula, who play each other today, the only Americans remaining in the $25,000 tournament's quarterfinals.

The $100,000 Fairfield California ATP Challenger this week has been impacted by the deadly wildfires in the area, but has managed to stay on schedule, with the quarterfinals today.  Bradley Klahn, Bjorn Fratangelo[3], Mackenzie McDonald and Tennys Sandgren[2] are the Americans in the final eight, with McDonald and Sandgren meeting today.

Former UCLA star Jennifer Brady is through to her first WTA International semifinal in Hong Kong after beating Nicole Gibbs 7-5, 6-4.  Brady will face No. 7 seed Daria Gavrilova of Australia next.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Semifinals Feature Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

To most observers, top seed Andrew Fenty's chances of advancing to the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed appeared bleak after he dropped the first set to No. 10 seed Govind Nanda 6-0 and was broken to go down 2-1 in the second set.  Fenty, however, had a different view of his situation.

"I've played a lot of matches where I've had a horrific first set," said Fenty, who went on to post a 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on a warm and sunny day at the Michael Case Tennis Center. "I knew it was going to be a different second. You just have to find yourself and just play. I just needed to play more points. The more you play, you figure it out."

After Fenty took the second set, he and Nanda had completed two sets in 70 minutes, but in the third set, the pace of play slowed considerably, as the points got longer and deuce games were commonplace.

"In the first set, I felt like he was playing really fast," said the 17-year-old from Washington DC. "I thought it was going to be long points, and he came out playing super fast, rushing the net and stuff. It caught me off guard."

Fenty went up 3-1 in the third set, but Nanda came back, winning the next three games. Fenty faced a break point serving at 3-4, but he saved it with a dipping crosscourt forehand pass that Nanda could only watch angle away from him.

"That was a good one, it was whipped, and cut," said Fenty, who had to be reminded of the importance of that particular shot. "But if you didn't tell me that, I wouldn't have thought of it. But that was actually a huge point, he would have been up 5-3. "

Nanda was broken in the next game, with Fenty hitting a backhand winner from down on one knee to go up 15-40, then chipping and charging to force an error from Nanda to get the break.  The final game was as tense as most of the others in the third set, with Fenty netting a backhand at 40-30.  But a good drop shot gave him a second match point, and he converted with a forehand deep in the corner forcing an error from Nanda.

"I was playing the more aggressive tennis," said Fenty, who lost to Nanda in a Grade 3 final last year. "I always felt, in the third set, that I was dictating points. That's where he might have made the mistake."

In Friday's semifinals, Fenty will face No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic, who defeated No. 5 seed Axel Nefve 7-6(6), 6-2.

The other boys semifinals will feature Jaycer Lyeons and Emilio Nava.  Lyeons came back to beat Noah Schachter 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 and Nava ended the run of 14-year-old Aidan Mayo 6-3, 6-1. Lyeons, whose winning streak is up to 10 after last week's title at the Grade 4 in Corpus Christi, defeated Nava last year in the quarterfinals of the Grade 5 in Austin.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe faced her toughest test against No. 9 seed Katie Volynets, but came through with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Osuigwe, who beat Volynets in three sets at the Easter Bowl and in two tight sets at the Nationals in San Diego this year, changed her strategy in Thursday's match.

"I wasn't as defensive as I usually am with her, given that she's a counterpuncher," Osuigwe said. "I just tried to step in for my shots. I knew I was going to spray some, but in the end it paid off."

After going down a break midway through the second set, Volynets got it back to pull even at 4, only to lose her next service game. Osuigwe was able to close out the match in the next game, with Volynets making several costly errors in those final two games.

Osuigwe's opponent in the semifinals is No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine.  Bilokin, down 4-1 in the first set, beat 14-year-old Alexandra Yepifanova 7-6(4), 6-2, with that first set taking over an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

"She trains at IMG as well," said Osuigwe, who beat Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships last month. "We've practiced together a few times, but I haven't been there the same time as she has, so not recently. But she's a fighter."

Osuigwe is headed to Osaka Japan for next week's Grade A and will play the ITF Junior Masters in China the following week, which explains why she is not playing doubles this week in Tulsa. 

"I have two more tournaments ahead of me, so I just wanted to rest," said the 15-year-old French Open girls champion, who has her sights set on the year-end No. 1 ranking.

The two semifinalists from the bottom half had to fight back from a set down to advance.  No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash defeated unseeded Abigail Forbes 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 and will face No. 14 seed Marlee Zein, who beat No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Subhash has also reached the doubles semifinals, with partner Lea Ma. The top seeds defeated No. 5 seeds Chloe Beck and Bilokin 7-6(3), 6-3 and will face No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu. Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 7 seeds Sanyukta Gawande and Tara Malik 6-2, 6-2. 

The other girls doubles semifinal has No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns against No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated USTA National 16s doubles champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redelijk 4-6, 7-5, 10-4 and Arseneault and Vagramov beat No. 2 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Elli Mandlik 7-5, 4-6, 11-9.

One finalist is already known in the boys doubles, with Fenty and William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, getting a walkover into the championship match.  No. 5 seeds Hardt and Brandon Perez of Venezuela beat No. 4 seeds Keenan Mayo and Axel Nefve 6-7(6), 6-3, 10-8, but Perez withdrew after the match, citing injury.  Fenty and Woodall defeated No. 7 seeds Nathan Han and Pierce Rollins 3-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the quarterfinals.

The other doubles semifinal will feature top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Nanda, who beat unseeded Alex Lee and Marcus McDaniel 6-3, 5-7, 10-6, and No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi, who defeated No. 6 seeds Will Grant and Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-1.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty Move into Quarterfinals at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Schachter Eliminates Last Seed in Bottom Half of Boys Draw

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Top seed girls seed Whitney Osuigwe and top boys seed Andrew Fenty have advanced to the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, with each earning a straight-sets victory on a cool and sunny day on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

Osuigwe defeated No. 16 seed Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-3, while Fenty beat doubles partner and friend William Woodall, the No. 15 seed, 6-4, 6-1.

Osuigwe will face fellow 15-year-old Katie Volynets, the No. 9 seed, who beat No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 7-5.  Volynets trailed 4-1 in the second set, but won six of the last seven games to set up a meeting with the French Open champion and the No. 2 player in the ITF Junior world rankings.

"She started playing better in the second set and I made a few more errors in the beginning," said Volynets, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships last month. "But I got my groove again and started playing better and that helped me to get back up."

Volynets and Osuigwe played in the round of 16 at USTA National Championships in San Diego in August, with Osuigwe winning 7-5, 7-6(3). Despite that recent experience, Volynets has yet to formulate her strategy for Thursday's match, although she said she is "super excited."

"I haven't really thought much about this match yet," Volynets said. "I will probably analyze more tonight, but I've just been focusing on each of my matches. No, I'll definitely analyze more tonight."

After making history last December by winning the Eddie Herr 16 and Orange Bowl 16s back-to-back, Volynets was determined not to lose sight of her ultimate goal, which has nothing to do with her performance as a junior.

"I remember that after one good spot, I'm closer to my ultimate goal, but I'm not there yet." Volynets said. "I still have a lot to do to get to the ultimate goal: to be a top pro player. I make sure I look at where I want to be."

The other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw features No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine against unseeded 14-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova. Bilokin defeated Kylie Collins 6-4, 6-3, while Yepifanova defeated No. 13 seed Chloe Beck 6-4, 6-2.

The second unseeded girl in the quarterfinals is Abigail Forbes, who beat Malkia Ngounoue 6-1, 6-2. She will play No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash, who survived a nearly three-and-a-half-hour battle with Meg Kowalski before earning a 6-1, 6-7(5), 7-5 win.  Subhash faced a break point at 4-4 in the third set, after a great display of defense from Kowalski ended with a lob winner.  Subhash didn't get a first serve in on the break point, but she stayed aggressive in the long rally and ultimately won it with an overhead to take a 5-4 lead.  Both players held their next two service games, but serving at 5-6 down, Kowalski double faulted and then hit a backhand long to make it 0-30.  The Georgia recruit hit a forehand winner for 15-30, but Subhash made it 15-40 with a forehand that forced an error from Kowalski. Kowalski saved the first match point with a forehand winner, but Subhash converted the second, hitting a backhand return winner to close out the victory.

That wasn't quite the longest match of the day however.  That distinction went to No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe's 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-3 win over Elle Christensen, which began at 11:20 a.m. and finished at 2:55 p.m.  Madurawe will face No. 14 seed Marlee Zein, who spent considerably less time on court in her 6-2, 6-2 win over Alexandra Vagramov of Canada.

Only one boys round of 16 match went three sets, with unseeded Noah Schachter defeating the last seed in the bottom half, No. 4 Brian Shi, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

"It was a really physical match," said the 18-year-old from Wesley Chapel Florida. "We had a lot of long points. I think at the end, I just took care of my serve really well and that was the difference."

Schachter did have to save a break point after Shi fought off three match points, but Schachter's serve again came through for him.

"I was up 40-0 and he got it all the way back to break point," Schachter said. "I was shaking in my legs, I did not want it to be 5-4."

Schachter said getting free points from his serve is a new development.

"It used to be my biggest weakness, but now it's become a strength," said Schachter, who will play in his first Grade 1 quarterfinal on Thursday. "I have been doing a lot of extra serves in practice, going to the gym, getting stronger and maybe a little bit because I've been growing too."

Schachter has trained at Saddlebrook for five years, and he said rubbing shoulders with the pros there has helped him improve.

"There's a bunch of pros there, Isner, Kudla, Smyczek, and also some that come for weeks at a time," Schachter said. "It helps you, because you're playing right next to them, you realize they are normal people, but you can copy some of the stuff they do, their routines. I've also had the chance to hit with some of them too, so yeah, I think it's great to see that every day."

Schachter's opponent in the quarterfinals is Jaycer Lyeons, whose ninth straight win was a 6-2, 6-3 decision over Cannon Kingsley.  Lyeons won the Grade 4 last week in Corpus Christi and has yet to drop a set in Tulsa.

Fourteen-year-old Aidan Mayo, playing in his first Grade 1, had a big win over No. 2 seed Trey Hilderbrand on Monday, and he has kept on rolling. He defeated Mark Mandlik 7-5, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals against Emilio Nava, who downed Anuj Watane 7-5, 6-2.

Fenty's opponent in the quarterfinals is No. 10 seed Govind Nanda, who beat Stefan Leustian 6-0, 6-2.  The only non-US player still in the boys draw is No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic. He beat No. 13 seed Tristan Boyer 6-4, 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 5 seed Axel Nefve, who defeated Maximilian Wild 6-2, 6-0.

The top seeds in doubles took the court for the first time today after receiving first round byes.  Girls No. 1s Lea Ma and Subhash advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Kylie Collins and Meg Kowalski, while No. 2 seeds Black and Elli Mandlik blanked Dyane Barcena Del Bosque of Mexico and Raphaelle Lacasse of Canada.

Boys No. 1s Hilderbrand and Nanda beat Garrett Johns and Jose Galvez 6-3, 6-3 and No. 2 seeds Fenty and Woodall beat Kingsley and Sumit Sarkar 6-2, 7-5.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Only One Seed Remains in Bottom Half of Boys Draw at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed; Christensen Beats Mossmer in Girls Second Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

After a late night of indoor tennis due to rain and lightning Monday, Tuesday dawned cold and gray, with hooded sweatshirts, down jackets and knit hats employed to counteract temperatures in the low 50s. Those conditions proved challenging for all concerned in the second round of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, but several players will remember their wins over seeded opponents rather than the refrigerator-like setting at the Michael Case Tennis Center.

Seeds in the bottom half of the boys draw were particularly susceptible, with four of the five seeds remaining eliminated today.  Noah Schachter had little trouble in his 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Ronan Jachuck, but the other three unseeded players had considerably more drama in their victories.  Anuj Watane defeated No. 8 seed and local favorite Nathan Han 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, Mark Mandlik beat No. 16 seed Brandon Perez 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-5 and Emilio Nava took out No. 11 seed Drew Baird 6-4, 7-5.

Baird served for the second set at 5-4, but when Nava broke him at love, Nava could sense a change in Baird's attitude.

"In the second set, I got broken in the first game, but I kept positive. I just kept fighting and competing," said the 15-year-old from Southern California. "After he lost that game, I kind of saw him down, he wasn't as positive as he was throughout the set, and I built on that. I was playing pretty well."

Nava, the younger brother of Diego and Eduardo Nava, trains in Los Angeles with his mother, and with 20-year-old Eduardo, who will be transferring to Wake Forest from TCU.  Nava says he is starting to see the benefits of that training and a recent growth spurt.

"I've definitely improved my consistency," Nava said. "Making more balls, getting to more balls, hitting them deep, making them hit one more extra shot.  And my serve has really improved. I grew a couple of inches and I'm getting out of trouble with my serve now."

The only seed remaining in the bottom half of the boys draw is No. 4 Brian Shi, who played a 90-minute first set with Jordi Redelijk, but breezed through the second for a 7-6(11), 6-0 victory.

Last week's Grade 4 champion in Corpus Christi, Jaycer Lyeons, ran his winning streak to eight with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Karl Poling.

Only one seed lost in the top half, with No. 6 seed Will Grant going out to Stefan Leustian 6-1, 6-4.  Top seed Andrew Fenty saved a set point at 5-4 in the first against Britton Johnson, then proceeded to win the next eight games after that one for a 7-5, 6-0 victory.  Fenty will play friend and training partner William Woodall, the No. 15 seed, who led 6-3, 5-0 before dropping nine straight games to Cleeve Harper of Canada.  Woodall managed a surge of his own however, taking the final six games of the match for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 victory.

Two Top 8 seeds were eliminated today in the girls draw, with Kylie Collins beating No. 7 seed Lea Ma 6-1, 6-3 and Elle Christensen defeating No. 6 seed Nicole Mossmer 6-3, 6-2.

Christensen only began playing ITF Junior Circuit events in June, but the 17-year-old from Southern California won a Grade 5 in Fiji soon after.  Against Mossmer, a player with much more international experience, Christensen was able to take advantage of an off day from her opponent.

"Today was about who was a little bit more warmed up," said Christensen, who played late into the evening on Monday due to the rain. "It was really cold out there and the ball was dying.  She served good today, she aced me quite a few times, so I decided to take the pace off the ball a little bit and angle it more. It worked out for me today."

Christensen, a left-hander, knows about spin and angles.

"I do like to take advantage of being left-handed," said Christensen, who trains with Gerald Matthews in Calabasas. "The ball definitely spins the other way, because when I play lefties, it's a little trickier."

Christensen will face No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe, who beat Savannah Broadus 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Whitney Osuigwe advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam and will play No. 16 seed Peyton Stearns, who beat lucky loser Megan Polnet 7-5, 6-4. 

Fourteen-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova, who beat No. 4 seed Hailey Baptiste in the first round, advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over USTA National 16s champion Angelica Blake.

The first round of doubles was played today, but the top three seeds in the girls draw and the top four seeds in the boys draw received byes and will play their first matches on Wednesday.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Blumberg Wins ITA All-American Title; Mayo Upsets Hilderbrand in Opening Round of Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

The ITA St. Francis Health Systems All-American Championships concluded on Monday with North Carolina's Will Blumberg winning the singles title and the Florida team of Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez claiming the doubles championship.

Blumberg, the No. 4 seed, defeated UCLA senior Martin Redlicki, a 9-16 seed, 6-4, 6-4, on an unseasonably warm morning at the Michael Case Tennis Center.  The sophomore from Connecticut earned the only two breaks of the match while facing only one break point, on a deuce point at 3-2, and saving that.  Blumberg credited his serving as the biggest reason he was able to claim his first collegiate major in his second collegiate final.

"I think I served really smartly," said the 19-year-old 2017 NCAA singles finalist. "Martin's a tricky player, really tricky. He has a really good serve, a really good forehand, backhand's solid. He can slice, he can come in. I actually felt I was serving him well wide, which allowed me to get a lot of free points on my serve. That kind of relaxed me, I got in a service groove and it allowed me to be a little bit more free on his service games, so my ability to let loose and try some things, move forward. I thought I stuck to my game plan, thanks to Tripp (Phillips, associate head coach) and I've been mentally solid all week. My body has felt great, and I'm happy about that."

Blumberg's success in his first two semesters of playing college tennis naturally leads to questions as to how long he is going to stay in college.  He is talking to Cameron Norrie, who has made a huge leap in the ATP rankings since leaving TCU in May, after his junior year, to get some idea of what's required for that kind of success.

"I've become pretty good friends with Cam Norrie, who has been tearing it up," said Blumberg, who is 616 in the ATP rankings now.  "I ask him a lot of questions, what things to look for, and one of the things is to be fully mentally ready. I don't think I'm currently at that point. I don't think a bell is going to tell me when that is, you know what I mean, but I know there are a lot of things I have to work through, on the court and off the court to ensure success in professional tennis."

A couple of hours after capturing the singles championship, Blumberg took the court for the doubles final, but he and partner Robert Kelly were not able to make it two North Carolina titles in the same day, with Ingildsen and Perez earning a 7-6(6), 3-6, 10-7.  The fourth-seeded Gators led 4-1 in the opening set, only to see the No. 3 seeds take four straight games and serve for the set. Florida got the break and took a tense tiebreaker, before the Tar Heels fought back for the second set.  Florida led throughout the deciding match tiebreaker, going up 8-4 and 9-6 before closing out the title.

While the ITA All-American tournament was finishing up, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed was just getting started, with 64 first round singles matches on the schedule.  The boys began the day's action, and top seed Andrew Fenty had no difficulty getting past qualifier Alex Bancila 6-1, 6-2.  Will Grant, the No. 6 seed, had his hands full with Tyler Zink, his good friend and frequent doubles partner, eventually coming away with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory.  It was a particularly bad draw for both, and not just because of their friendship; Zink was the highest-ranked player in the draw who was not seeded.

Two 14-year-olds pulled off upsets on Monday, with wild card Alex Bernard beating No. 7 seed Boris Kozlov 6-4, 6-4 and Aidan Mayo defeating No. 2 seed Trey Hilderbrand 6-4, 6-3.

Bernard, who has only been playing ITF Junior Circuit events since June, had reached the quarterfinals of the two Texas warmup tournaments, a Grade 5 and Grade 4, which helped give him match play and confidence coming into his first Grade 1 main draw.

"I lost in the quarters in both, to some good players, but overall I felt I had won some good matches there and was getting confident and ready for this one," said the Naples Florida resident, who turned 14 last month.

Bernard hadn't played Kozlov before, but the left-hander came up with a strategy that proved successful.

"His backhand's really good, but I tried to serve there so I could attack his forehand a little bit," Bernard said. "It looked like he got a little bit tired and he started going for a lot, but overall it was a good match."

Bernard has seen improvement in his forehand and in moving in to finish at the net.  "My serve has been getting better, but it still needs some work."

Mayo has also been playing the ITF Junior Circuit for a short time, with a singles semifinal and doubles final at a Grade 5 this summer his best result.  Although Mayo gave up well over a foot in height to his opponent, he knew he had the advantage of Hilderbrand being less that 100 percent healthy.

"He was a little bit injured and I knew that coming in," Mayo said. "His serve was definitely a problem for him, but I think he was fine other than that. I had a good game plan and executed it well. I played well in the big points and served well when I had to."

Seeing his name in the draw one line from the bottom was not what Mayo was hoping for.

"It's tough to be positive about it, but you can look at it like a great experience," Mayo said. "I knew he's had great results this last year. and I was excited to get out there and play him. He's one of the best 17-year-olds in the nation and in the world, so I shouldn't really be getting through that match, but I knew it was possible."

Down 5-1 in the final set, Hilderbrand began to approach the net more often, but Mayo wasn't bothered by that strategy.

"I prefer people coming in, I feel like I have good passing shots and lobs and good anticipation," said Mayo, who was broken on his first attempt to serve out the match, but converted on his second opportunity. "I was kind of liking it when he came forward."

Jaycer Lyeons defeated No. 12 seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 6-3, 7-5 and Maximilian Wild took out No. 9 seed Keenan Mayo, Aidan's older brother, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe rolled past Imani Graham 6-1, 6-0, but No. 4 seed Hailey Baptiste lost, to 14-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova, 6-2, 6-3.  It was a late night for the girls in the bottom half of the draw, however, with eight matches yet to go on and 12 matches in progress when rain suspended play at around 6 p.m. local time. Thunderstorms in the area continued during the evening, so matches were moved to the six indoor courts at the Case Tennis Center and were still underway at 10 p.m.

Doubles will begin on Tuesday, with Lea Ma and Natasha Subhash the top girls seeds and Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda the top boys seeds.