Monday, August 22, 2016

Wimbledon Girls Champion Potapova Returns to Competition with Win at Grade 1 International Hard Courts, Eight Seeds Fall in Opening Round; 38 Americans in US Open Qualifying; Fritz Tops Tiafoe at ATP Winston-Salem

©Colette Lewis 2016--
College Park, MD--

The top four seeds in the boys and girls draws at the International Hard Court Championships posted straight-sets victories Monday in the opening round of the Grade 1 tournament at the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the University of Maryland.

Ideal weather, with low humidity, partly cloudy skies and a light breeze, provided a perfect backdrop for the competition, which ended Monday evening with five seeded girls and three seeded boys eliminated.

No. 1 girls seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia was tested by 14-year-old Whitney Osuigwe before claiming a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.

Potapova served for the first set at 5-3, but could not convert, with Osuigwe handling the pace and depth of Potapova's shots, staying in the points long enough to benefit from errors.   Osuigwe saved two set points serving at 4-5 and 5-6, with Potapova failing to get second serves back in play.

In the tiebreaker, Potapova went up 5-1, only to lose three straight points, putting Osuigwe back on serve, but Potapova earned two more set points with a backhand winner.  Osuigwe saved one with a sharply angled forehand crosscourt winner, but her backhand went long on the next point to give Potapova the set.

Potapova began to find her form midway in the second set, breaking and holding for a 4-2 lead and closing out the match with another break of serve.

The 15-year-old Russian had not played since winning the Wimbledon girls championship last month, taking a week off after Wimbledon, then spending the next few weeks training in Moscow.

"The first round is always so tough," Potapova said. "I just got here two days ago. I was trying to play my game, but I just can't do it, and my opponent today was so good, I just tried not to do mistakes."

Potapova agreed that she had played "a little bit" better in the second set, but was glad to finish in straight sets.

"Now I want to sleep so much," said Potapova, who is playing the US Open Juniors, but not the Grade 1 in Canada next week. "Because in Russia now, it's middle of the night."

In Tuesday's second round, Potapova faces another player younger than she it, in 13-year-old wild card Alexa Noel, who beat Jia Qi Ren of China 6-3, 6-2.

No. 2 seed Claire Liu advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Victoria Emma, No. 3 seed Ioana Minca of Romania defeated wild card Gabriella Price 6-2, 6-0 and No. 4 seed Maria Mateas topped wild card Ayana Akli 6-1, 6-0.

No. 6 seed Malene Helgo of Norway was beaten by Alana Smith 6-0, 6-3; No. 8 seed Zhima Du of China fell to Victoria Hu 3-6, 6-1, 6-1; No. 15 seed Natasha Subhash was beaten by Malkia Menguene 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3 and No. 12 seed Maria Carle of Argentina lost to wild card Sophia Hatton 6-3, 6-2.

The fifth girls seed to fall was No. 9 Taylor Johnson, who lost to Carson Branstine 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.  The two had played in the first round of the International Spring Championships in Carson back in March, with Branstine again taking a three-set victory, with Johnson seeded eighth then.

Monday's match was again a long, tense struggle, with Branstine unable to consolidate her breaks at 2-1 and 3-2 in the third set, but serving out the match at love after getting a break at 4-all.

"I think the beginning of the match was higher quality from both of us," said the 15-year-old from Orange, California. "It was a little bit ugly from both of us, a lot of errors, doubles faults. But both of us were kind of figuring out ways to correct things we were doing wrong and today, I guess I solved the problems a little bit better."

Branstine had little reaction when Johnson's backhand went wide on the first match point.

"When it's against one of your closest friends, you don't want to celebrate too much, because of course you want the best for them," said Branstine, who finished third at the USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego. "But you want to win at the same time. So I just keep to myself how happy I was."

Boys top seed Genaro Olivieri of Argentina cruised past Nathan Perrone 6-1, 6-0 and No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia defeated Sangeet Sridhar 6-3, 6-0.  No. 3 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt got by Andrew Fenty 6-3, 6-2 and No. 4 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia eased past Sebastian Korda 6-3, 6-3.

Three boys seeds fell, with No. 13 seed Lingxi Zhao of China defeated by qualifier Adam Neff 6-1, 6-1, No. 11 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal lost to Alexandre Rotsaert 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 and No. 15 seed Jonas Eriksson Ziverts of Sweden was beaten by Brian Cernoch 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The second round of singles and first round of doubles is set for Tuesday.  See the tournament page for complete draws and the order of play.

Qualifying for the US Open begins tomorrow in New York, with 16 Americans on Tuesday's schedule, which features half of the first round matches.  In total 38 US players are competing for a place in the main draw, 19 men and 19 women.  Below are all those in the draws, and you'll notice a few changes from the initial wild card announcement, with junior Usue Arconada and Caroline Dolehide added in place of Jamie Loeb, who got in on her own ranking, and Raveena Kingsley, who withdrew.  Christopher Eubanks, the Georgia Tech junior, received a wild card when Mitchell Krueger moved into the qualifying on his own ranking.

Christian Harrison (wild card)
Austin Krajicek(23)
Noah Rubin
Stefan Kozlov
*Tennys Sandgren (wild card)
*Christopher Eubanks (wild card)
Tommy Paul
*Vasil Kirkov (wild card)
Daniel Nguyen
*Tim Smyczek(10)
*Alexander Sarkissian
*Ryan Harrison(11)
*Thai Kwiatkowski (wild card)
Ryan Shane (wild card)
* Dennis Novikov(13)
* Mitchell Krueger
Jared Donaldson(14)
Reilly Opelka (wild card)
Sekou Bangoura (wild card)

Sachia Vickery
Usue Arconada (wild card)
Jamie Loeb
*Robin Anderson
*Francesca Di Lorenzo (wild card)
*Kristie Ahn
*Amanda Anisimova
CiCi Bellis
Grace Min
Julia Boserup(21)
Taylor Townsend
*Jessica Pegula(28)
Jennifer Brady(18)
*Ellie Halbauer (wild card)
*Asia Muhammad
Caroline Dolehide (wild card)
Melanie Oudin (wild card)
Nicole Frenkel (wild card)
Sophie Chang (won US Open National Playoffs today)

*on Tuesday's schedule

It's somewhat surprising that none of the 19 US men have drawn another American as a first round qualifying opponent, while three all-US women matches are slated for the first round: Dolehide v. Oudin, Di Lorenzo v. Ahn and Min v. Boserup.

Women's draw is here.  Men's draw is here.

All three remaining US women lost at the WTA Connecticut Open, with qualifiers Louisa Chirico and Nicole Gibbs and lucky loser Kayla Day falling in today's first round matches.

At the ATP Winston-Salem Open, Taylor Fritz earned his first win over Frances Tiafoe, with Fritz taking a 6-1, 6-4 decision in their first round match.  Tiafoe had beaten Fritz in their previous junior meetings and in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 this March.  Bjorn Fratangelo and Donald Young have also picked up first round wins, with Steve Johnson(4) and Sam Querrey(6) getting first round byes.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Georgia's Perez Earns US Open Main Draw Wild Card; Draws for ITF Grade 1 in Maryland; Finals Set at USO National Playoffs; Day Makes WTA Debut as Lucky Loser

University of Georgia junior Ellen Perez won the US Open main draw wild card that Tennis Australia receives in trade with the USTA at a tournament held this weekend at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.  Perez defeated Naiktha Bains 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, top seed Arina Rodionova, also by a 6-2, 6-2 score, in the semifinals, and today claimed the wild card with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Ashleigh Barty.  Perez has been playing $10,000 tournaments in Europe this summer (she was a July Ace for winning one singles and three doubles titles last month), so the US Open will be a huge step up for her, but the 20-year-old has previous experience at a slam, having played the main draw in women's doubles at the Australian Open this year.  Perez finished her sophomore year No. 5 in singles and No. 10 in doubles in the ITA Division I national rankings. For more on Perez, see this article from georgiadogs.com.

I'll begin my coverage of the ITF Grade 1 Prince Georges County International Hard Court Championships Monday, with the main draw getting underway at 9 a.m. at the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the University of Maryland Tennis Courts in College Park.   Wimbledon champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia is the top seed in the tournament; last year she lost here in the first round to Amanda Anisimova, who is playing US Open qualifying this week.   Potapova has another intriguing first round match this year with 14-year-old Whitney Osuigwe, who led the USA's 14-and-under team to a runner-up finish at the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic earlier this month.  No. 2 seed Claire Liu plays Victoria Emma in the first round. Other US girls seeds are Maria Mateas(4), Taylor Johnson(9), Caty McNally(10), Morgan Coppoc(11) and Natasha Subhash(15).  Johnson has a tough first rounder with friend and occasional doubles partner Carson Branstine, who finished third at the recent USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego.

The top six seeds in the boys draw are international players, led by No. 1 seed Genaro Olivieri of Argentina. Sam Riffice(7), Gianni Ross(12), Trenty Bryde(14) and Oliver Crawford(16) are the US boys seeded.

Qualifying was completed today. The boys qualifiers are Zummy Bauer, Jordan Nickerson, Jaycer Lyeons, Adam Neff, Vasyl Kiselyov(UKR), Austen Huang, Boris Kozlov and Drew Baird.  The girls qualifiers are Victoria Hu, Jada Robinson, Mackenzie Clark, Abigail Forbes, Victoria Flores, Rachel Lim, Allison Bojczuk and Mccartney Kessler.

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

The singles finals are set at the US Open National Playoffs, with No. 1 seed Nick Meister taking on No. 4 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand.  Meister defeated UCLA senior Gage Brymer 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, while Statham beat No. 2 seed Evan King 6-3, 6-2.  The women's singles final will feature unseeded Sophie Chang against No. 2 seed Sanaz Marand.  Chang defeated Nika Kukharchuk 7-5, 6-2 in the semifinals, while Marand eliminated Julia Elbaba 6-4, 6-4.   The men's and women's doubles competitions are also underway, with draws here.

Kayla Day lost her final round qualifying match to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-2 but with all the late withdrawals at the WTA Connecticut Open, she received a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. She will play qualifier Ana Konjuh of Croatia.  Nicole Gibbs and Louisa Chirico advanced through qualifying, with Chirico drawing No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, and Gibbs playing Sevastova.  The fourth American in the draw, wild card Shelby Rogers, won her opening round match today, beating Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-1, 6-1.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Semifinals Set in US Open National Playoffs; Day Posts Another WTA Top 100 Win in Connecticut; Qualifying Ends Sunday at Grade 1 in College Park

Two rounds are complete in the US Open National Playoffs, with just four players in both the men's and women's events still alive in the quest for the US Open qualifying wild card that goes to the champion.

The women's draw has just one seed remaining, No. 2 Sanaz Marand, who will play Julia Elbaba, last year's finalist, in the semifinals.  In the top half of the draw, Nika Kukharchuk will play Sophie Chang for the other place in the final.

Three of the four top seeds in the men's draw are through to the semifinals, with No. 1 Nick Meister taking on Gage Brymer in a match between a former and current UCLA star. No. 2 seed Evan King will face No. 4 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand, who eliminated last year's winner Jesse Witten 7-6(3), 3-6, 7-6(6).

The women's doubles competition, with a main draw wild card on the line, started today, with the men's doubles beginning on Sunday.

Also in Connecticut, last week's USTA 18s National champion Kayla Day won her second qualifying match at the WTA Connecticut Open, beating No. 10 seed and WTA No. 60 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. In order to qualify, Day will need a third straight Top 100 win, as she faces No. 5 seed and WTA No. 52 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia Sunday.   Nicole Gibbs and Louisa Chirico have also advanced to the final round of qualifying.  NCAA champion Danielle Collins fell to No. 2 seed Annika Beck of Germany 7-5, 7-5.

In the Winston-Salem ATP event, Kalamazoo 18s champion Michael Mmoh lost his first round qualifying match 6-3, 6-4 to No. 4 seed James Duckworth of Australia. Mackenzie McDonald, Wil Spencer and Dennis Uspensky also lost. The only players with college ties still in qualifying are Wake Forest sophomore Petros Chrysochos, who advanced when Alejandro Falla of Colombia retired after losing the first set 6-4, and North Carolina State alum James McGee, who beat McDonald.

Sunday I'm on my way to College Park, Maryland for the ITF Grade 1 Prince Georges County International Hard Court Championships, with the main draw beginning on Monday.  The final round of qualifying is set for Sunday, with the order of play available here.

The main draw wild cards for the tournament:

Christian Alshon
Michael Heller
Josh Keitelman
Trey Hilderbrand
Alexander Stater
Arvan Dhingra
William Woodall
Ian Witmer

Alexa Noel
Lea Ma
Gabriella Price
Sophia Hatton
Nicole Hammond
Ayana Akli
Maria Adiaconitei

Friday, August 19, 2016

Kalamazoo 18s Recap, Slideshow, Videos; Collins, Day Post Top 100 Wins in Connecticut Qualifying; Mmoh, McDonald in Winston-Salem Qualifying

My recap of Michael Mmoh's title at the USTA 18s Nationals in Kalamazoo is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with Rhiannon Potkey providing a summary of Kayla Day's win in the girls 18s here.

The Kalamazoo slide show and videos are below. Google finally made good on their threat to shut down Picasa and the only alternative I could locate for the slideshow today is not ideal.  I was unable to order the slideshow, so all photos are randomly shuffled, and I could not make corrections, additions either, once I titled a photo.  I hope I can find a better alternative, but I may have to return to my old, old system, which I abandoned due to poor photo quality.  For a direct link to the photos from this year's Kalamazoo, click here

cglewprball's  album on Photobucket

In the first round of qualifying at the WTA's Connecticut Open, wilds cards Danielle Collins and Kayla Day both earned their first WTA Top 100 wins with impressive victories. Two-time and current NCAA champion Collins defeated No. 99 Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-3, 6-7(9), 6-3, while 18s National champion Day beat No. 81 Naomi Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3. Collins and Day will need two more wins to advance to the main draw. The qualifying draw is here.

The qualifying for the ATP's Winston-Salem Open begins on Saturday, with Kalamazoo champion Mmoh in the 16-player draw, along with Mackenzie McDonald, Wake Forest's Skander Mansouri, Petros Chrysochos and Dennis Uspensky. Along with McDonald, Wil Spencer and James McGee are the former collegians in the qualifying draw.

Bjorn Fratangelo, Rajeev Ram and Frances Tiafoe all received main draw wild cards; Tiafoe will play Taylor Fritz in a rematch of their BNP Paribas Open meeting in Indian Wells this year, which Tiafoe won.

The Winston-Salem draws can be found here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Kalamazoo 16s Recap; Collegiate Invitational Fields for US Open Announced; Johnson Beats Tsonga, Reaches Cincinnati Quarterfinals; US Open National Playoff Draws

The Tennis Recruiting Network has posted recaps of the 12s and 14s USTA National Championships the past two days, and today the 16s articles have been posted. Links to these recaps can be found here.  My summary of Lukas Greif's second consecutive 16s National Championship can be found here.

The USTA announced the participants for the third American Collegiate Invitational, which takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the second week of the US Open.  Invitations are based on ATP and ITA rankings, with at least two of the competitors needing to have exhausted their college eligibility to comply with NCAA rules.

The winners of the eight-player fields receive either a qualifying wild card or a main draw wild card for the following year's US Open.  Last year the ranking necessary to receive a main draw wild card was 120; this year's ranking is more obtainable, with the men's winner needing an ATP ranking of 250, the women's winner, 150.  [CORRECTION: The USTA made an error in the release, the main draw wild card criteria is unfortunately the same as last year, 120]. The winners also receive wild cards into two USTA Pro Circuit events, while the finalist will receive one.

As in the past two years, the tournament will use the regular, best-of-three-tiebreak-sets scoring format.

Christopher Eubanks at this year's BB&T Open in Atlanta

Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech
Tom Fawcett, Stanford
Jared Hiltzik, Illinois
Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
Paul Oosterbaan, Georgia (wild card)
Mike Redlicki, Arkansas
Ryan Shane, Virginia
Austin Smith, Georgia

Eubanks also has received a US Open men's qualifying wild card, with Mitchell Krueger, who was in the USTA release as a qualifying wild card, moving into qualifying on his own ranking.

Breaunna Addison, Texas
Brooke Austin, Florida
Hayley Carter, North Carolina
Danielle Collins, Virginia
Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State
Maegan Manasse, Cal
Kennedy Shaffer, Georgia (wild card)
Ronit Yurovsky, Michigan

Admission to the US Open grounds is free on September 8, 2016, and fans can watch all eight collegiate matches as well as the junior championships and men's and women's doubles semifinals. 

For more on all the new courts and amenities at the US Open, see this release.

Steve Johnson defeated No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-3, 7-6(5), coming from 6-3 down in the second set tiebreaker to reach the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Johnson's first ATP Masters quarterfinal.  With the win, Johnson also moved past John Isner, who lost Wednesday, to become the top-ranked American. On Friday, the two-time NCAA singles champion plays unseeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, whom he beat in the third round of Wimbledon last month.   For more on Johnson's win and move to US No. 1, see this article from the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The US Open National Playoffs begin Friday at the Connecticut Open in New Haven, with 16 singles matches.  The draws have been released, with Ayaka Okuna of Japan the No. 1 seed in the 16-player women's draw, with Sanaz Marand No. 2.  Okuna lost to Oklahoma State's Kelsey Laurente in the Northern sectional final, but with only 15 sectional tournaments, there is a need for one finalist to fill the draw. The men's "extra" also went to the Northern finalist, Evan King, who is seeded second in the men's draw.  He lost in the Northern final to Nick Meister, who is the No. 1 seed. Gage Brymer, the Northern California finalist, take over the spot of winner (and UCLA teammate) Logan Staggs, while Ena Shibahara is apparently concentrating on the main draw doubles wild card she earned in San Diego and will not play in Connecticut, with Magda Okruashvili of Georgia, the Intermountain finalist, taking her place in the singles draw. The winners of the singles tournaments in New Haven receive a qualifying wild card into the US Open. The doubles and mixed doubles winners are awarded US Open main draw wild cards.  For more about each player, see this release.

The order of play for the US Open National Playoffs is included in the WTA Connecticut Open schedule.  Julia Elbaba's name appears twice, as the recent Virginia graduate received a qualifying wild card into the WTA event and is participating in the USONP as the Eastern sectional winner, so she will play two matches Friday.  Other young Americans receiving qualifying wild cards into the WTA event are Elbaba's teammate Danielle Collins, Sonya Kenin, Kayla Day, Lauren Davis, and Duke's Ellyse Hamlin, a resident of Fairfield, Connecticut.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Crawford to Florida; Catching Up on Other News

Blue chip Oliver Crawford has posted to his Instagram account that he has made verbal commitment to the University of Florida.  I admit to being surprised by this, not because it's Florida, rather because when I spoke to Crawford last week in Kalamazoo, he gave no indication he was close to making a decision.

Crawford, No. 5 in this week's Tennis Recruiting Network's rankings for the Class of 2017, was vague about what schools he was interested in.

"I don't know yet," Crawford told me when I asked about his college plans and whether he'd taken any unofficial visits. "I haven't taken any unofficials, I haven't done anything yet. Maybe I'll be looking at that later, because I'm not sure yet."

In other news that I've missed over the last several weeks, Jimmy Arias has been named assistant coach at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  The Sarasota resident, who was ranked as high as No. 5 on the ATP tour, has been working as a television commentator since retiring from professional tennis.  For more on Arias's background, see the South Florida website.

A couple of weeks ago, the USTA announced that Eric Butorac was retiring from professional tennis and would be joining the federation as Director, Professional Tennis Operations and Player Relations. NCAA Division III champion Butorac's unique path to the top doubles level of men's professional tennis is explored in detail in this feature article about the Butorac family published by the Rochester Minnesota Post-Bulletin.

Although no details have been released regarding participants or draw size, the ITA schedule for the upcoming collegiate season includes a new tournament, the Hall of Fame/ITA Grass Court Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, September 16-18, 2016.

The USTA Collegiate Team relies on the expertise of college coaches during the summer, and this article from the Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review provides a look at their responsibilities, with University of Virginia Associate Head Coach Dustin Taylor the focal point.

At the recent BB&T Open in Atlanta, Lisa Stone had an opportunity to talk with Reilly Opelka and his family about his junior career and his transition to professional tennis in this article at Parentingaces.com.

Although most of the talk about new tennis facilities in the United States have been centered on the USTA's campus in Lake Nona, Florida, a 60-court facility is now up and running in Rome, Georgia. This News-Tribune article explains how and why the project took eight years before becoming a reality.