Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Cal Women Move to Top Spot in ITA DI Team Rankings; Di Lorenzo Rises to No. 1 in Singles Rankings; Carson Branstine and Hurricane Tyra Black Selected for BNP Paribas Showdown

As has been the case for as long as I can remember, the winner of the ITA Team Indoor Championships moves to the No.1 spot in the rankings that week. and this week is no exception, with the Cal women taking over the No. 1 spot from Vanderbilt. Because the computer rankings don't start until February 22nd this year, and are always at least a week after the Team Indoor, the coaches casting ballots can see to it that the indoor champion gets to No. 1. (Jonathan Kelley, who did such a great job covering the WTI for zootennis, has bestowed his awards from the weekend in Madison at his blog On The Rise).

The Florida, Stanford and USC women elected to skip the Team Indoor this year, a frequent choice for the first two, but not for USC, which has always played previously.  USC travelled to Gainesville over the weekend and lost to Florida 7-0 and fell from No. 4 to No. 11 in the process.  Ohio State moved from 16 to 6 after beating Vanderbilt, which fell all the way to No. 5.  Texas A&M, who was surprisingly seeded in Madison based on last week's unpublished rankings, went 1-2 on the weekend and fell to 16.


Feb 10                                          Jan 27
    North Carolina
    Ohio State
    Texas Tech
With the Men's Team Indoor this weekend, the men's rankings are unpublished so the rankings you will see in the results from Charlottesville will be those of February 3.

Both men and women do have new singles and doubles rankings, and these are computer rankings.

Ohio State freshman Francesca Di Lorenzo, who went 3-0 in Madison, moved from No. 2 to No 1., while the previous No. 1, Joana Eidukonyte of Clemson, fell to 11.
Top 10 Women's Singles:
1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State
2. Danielle Collins, Virginia
3. Hayley Carter, North Carolina
4. Belinda Woolcock, Florida
5. Klara Fabikova, Cal
6. Suisa Stefani, Pepperdine
7. Sinead Lohan, Miami
8. Breaunna Addison, Texas
9. Jasmine Lee, Mississippi State
10. Stephanie Wagner, Miami

Top 5 Women's Doubles:
1. Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay, North Carolina
2. Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr, Cal
3. Matea Cutura and Christine Maddox, Pepperdine
4. Aldila Sutjiadi and Mami Adachi, Kentucky
5. Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle, Stanford

Dominik Koepfer of Tulane retained his place at the top of the men's singles rankings, and Virginia's Thai Kwiatkowski remains at No. 2. But there were plenty of notable moves, with Roberto Cid of South Florida breaking into the Top 10 and Jared Hiltzik of Illinois going from 21 to 10.  Hiltzik's teammate Aleks Vukic went from no ranking to No. 12 and Kentucky's William Bushamuka rose from 79 to 25.

Top 10 Men's Singles:
1. Dominik Koepfer, Tulane
2. Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
3. Tom Fawcett, Stanford
4. Andre Goransson, Cal
5. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State
6. Cameron Norrie, TCU
7. Roberto Cid, South Florida
8. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M
9. Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech
10. Jared Hiltzik, Illinois

Top 5 Men's Doubles:
1. Gordon Watson and Diego Hidalgo, Florida
2. Hugo Dojas and Felipe Soares, Texas Tech
3. Brett Clark and Robert Kelly, North Carolina
4. Mac Styslinger and Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
5. Arjun Kadhe and Julian Cash, Oklahoma State

Complete rankings can be found at the ITA rankings page

The annual BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York, is scheduled for March 8, and once again two juniors will be part of the exhibition, which features pros Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka.  Like last year, the juniors participating this year are girls: Southern California's Carson Branstine and Florida's Hurricane Tyra Black. 

This release has errors, the most obvious of which is the dates of the junior participants, with Opelka and Tiafoe playing in 2014 and Price and Gauff in 2015.  And there's no such thing as an 18s national team, but I assume the reference is to the 18s sectional team competition in August. Branstine did play on the Southern California team, which won the title.  At any rate, it's great for juniors to have an opportunity to play in an event of that magnitude, and I'm sure they'll never forget the experience.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Restructuring at USTA Player Development Creates Team USA-Pro; Men's Team Indoor Draws; Nefve, Mandlik Win Grade 4 Titles in Mexico; Fritz Defeats Mmoh in Memphis

The USTA announced a restructuring of Player Development, which includes a new division specifically created for professional players ranked from 100-500. Tom Gullikson will head the men's division, and Kathy Rinaldi will lead the women's division. Geoff Russell will move from Player ID and Development to become the Team USA-Pro operations administrator.

From the release:
The Team USA – Pro department was created to provide professional players ranked between Nos. 100 and 500 resources and assistance similar to what has been available to junior players since USTA Player Development first began to incorporate the Team USA philosophy into its junior development structure in 2014.

Additionally, the USTA National Coaching structure will change, with coaches assigned to pro, collegiate or junior teams.  Andy Brandi (see my recent interview with Brandi here) and Richard Ashby will lead the junior divisions, Brandi for the boys and Ashby for the girls.

I have heard complaints that the USTA doesn't support young pros who need funding as they try to work their way up the rankings, so I gather from this initiative that Player Development has heard these complaints as well. How this translates into dollars and cents, or coaching hours, remains to be seen, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

The complete release, with quotes from Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman, Head of Men's Tennis Jay Berger, Head of Women's Tennis Ola Malmqvist and Jose Higueras, Director of Coaching, can be found here.

The draw has been released for the ITA Men's Team Indoor, which begins Friday in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Unlike the women's draw, all teams are given a seeding. Here are the top 8, based on unpublished rankings from today. Oklahoma is the defending champion.

1. Virginia
2. Texas A&M
3. North Carolina
4. USC
5. TCU
6. Ohio State
8. Oklahoma

Unlike Wisconsin, the host of the Women's Team Indoor, Virginia will have live streaming on six courts. Links will be available at the ITA's tournament website. The lineups for the 16 teams are here.

With Midland and the Women's Team Indoor, I neglected the junior results most of last week.  The tournaments featuring the most US juniors were the Grade 2 in Peru and the Grade 4 in Mexico.  Taylor Johnson(2) and Morgan Coppoc(4) reached the semifinals of the Grade 2 Inka Bowl.  Lara Escauriza of Paraguay, the No. 3 seed, defeated Orange Bowl 16s champion, No. 8 seed Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the girls final.

In the boys draw, JJ Wolf, the No. 2 seed, lost in the third round; No. 12 seed Sangeet Sridhar reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to eventual champion Yuta Shimizu of Japan, the No. 4 seed.

Dalayna Hewitt and Kariann Pierre-Louis won the doubles title, beating Viktoria Morvayova of Slovakia and Anri Nagata of Japan 6-4, 6-3 in a final between two unseeded teams.

At the Grade 4 in Mexico, the US came away with two champions, with Axel Nefve and Elli Mandlik winning their first ITF junior titles.  The 15-year-old Nefve, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 12 seed Tomas Kopczynski 6-3, 7-5 in the all-American boys final.

The 14-year-old Mandlik, daughter of four-time slam singles champion Hana Mandlikova, defeated top seed Alexia Coutina Castillo of Mexico 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Mandlik was the No. 10 seed.

This week's Grade 4 in Mexico also has an array of Americans in both the boys and girls draws. Three American girls are through to the third round of the Grade 2 in this week in Bolivia.

Tonight at the Memphis Open, Taylor Fritz won his second ATP level match in two attempts, beating Michael Mmoh 6-3, 6-4.  Fritz had 10 aces and saved all three break points he faced. Fritz, who won his first ATP match last summer in Nottingham, had beaten Mmoh 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of Kalamazoo last August.  Mmoh was making his ATP tour debut after qualifying.  Fritz will play No. 2 seed Steve Johnson in the second round. For more on the match, see this article from the ATP website.

Tommy Paul, who, like Fritz, received a wild card, will play former Baylor NCAA champion Benjamin Becker of Germany later this evening.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Freshman Hauger gives California Women First National Team Title at ITA Indoor

©Jonathan Kelley for Zootennis--
Madison, Wisconsin--

The University of California women's tennis team won its first national championship on Monday, beating defending champion University of North Carolina 4-3 in the final of the 2016 ITA National Women's Team Indoors in Madison, Wisconsin.

Head coach Amanda Augustus, who starred at Cal in the late 90s, was thrilled to get the win, particularly after her team lost in the ITA Indoor semifinals the past two years. "Just really proud of this team. We made Cal history today," said Augustus. "They fought hard all week, they fought as a team, and we're just so excited to bring the trophy back to Berkeley."

The final was the second 4-3 win in as many days for the Golden Bears, and the second time a young player at the bottom of the line-up came through to win a tense third set. Today's heroine was the highly touted freshman from Oklahoma, Olivia Hauger, who came within two points of losing before winning the last four games of the match to beat UNC sophomore Marika Akkerman 7-5 2-6 7-5.

"It's absolutely incredible," said Hauger of clinching her team's first national title. "I mean, this week -- we knew we could do it, but saying that and doing that are two very different things, so I'm just really proud of my team and how we've come out here as a team, competed really hard, and we've won together. And everybody has been crucial this week."

Cal started the day in a bit of a hole. As it had all week, UNC won the doubles point, in this case 2-0. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle rolled over #43 Klara Fabikova/Hauger 6-1 at #2 while at #3, Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer defeated Maria Smith/Lynn Chi 6-4. In all, UNC went 8-1 in doubles this week, while Cal went 4-4 including 0-4 in its semifinal and final matches. ("We're going to go home and work on doubles," Augustus said with a laugh.)

Cal went out very strong in singles, winning 4 of the 6 first sets and forcing UNC to play catch-up for much of the afternoon. Hauger's was the only match that went to a deciding set, but it was far from the only result that was in doubt until the end.

UNC and Cal split convincing wins at lines #1 and #2. At 2, California senior #10 Klara Fabikova got out to a dominant 6-1 lead and went up a break at 2*-1 against #88 Whitney Kay. The crafty Kay tried to mount her second comeback in as many days, immediately breaking back and then breaking again at 4-3* to serve for the set. But Fabikova's power proved too much, and she won the last 4 games of the match, dropping only 2 points in the last 3 games.

Meanwhile at 1, Tar Heel Hayley Carter, ranked #6 in singles, completed a tremendous tournament with a 6-2 6-2 win over #5 Maegan Manasse. Carter finished 3-0 in singles and 3-0 in doubles, playing at #1 in both disciplines. Her win put UNC up 2-1.

At line 6, Cal's semifinal hero, Karla Popovic, got a solid win over UNC's semifinal (and quarterfinal) hero, freshman Chloe Ouellet-Pizer. Ouellet-Pizer had had a phenomenal tournament, with the two clinches in singles and three doubles point clinches with Dai. But it just wasn't working for her in singles today. She went down 1-6 0-4* to Popovic, losing all 5 deciding points along the way. Finally on her 6th deciding point, she benefited from a Popovic double fault to get on the board at 1*-4. The players traded three holds (with Ouellet-Pizer saving 5 break points, including two deciding points and three match points, in her two service games). When it came time for Popovic to serve it out at 6-1 5*-3, she went down 15-40 and it looked like the lefty Tar Heel might have another miracle comeback in her. But an aggressive Popovic hit a forehand down the line winner to save the first, and a swinging volley winner to get to deciding point/match point. When Ouellet-Pizer hit a forehand into the net, Cal was even at 2-2.

Immediately thereafter, Cal senior Lynn Chi served out her match against Kate Vialle 6-2 7-5. What looked to be another runaway got "a little hairy" at the end, as Chi chuckled afterward. Like Popovic, she raced out to a set and 4-0 lead, and was up 0-30 on Vialle's serve, but the Tar Heel won the next seven points and eventually a deciding point to get to 2*-4. However, she was broken at love in the next game to give Chi the opportunity to serve at 6-2 5*-2. Then out of nowhere, Chi got tight, and was broken at love. In Vialle's next service game, Chi got 2 match points but couldn't covert. This happened on deciding point/match point:

Chi served for the match again at 5*-4 and hit an ace to get to deciding point, but Vialle again saved match point and the set was even at 5-5. But a newly relaxed Chi closed out the match with a break on deciding point and a hold at 30.

It was 3-2 Cal with lines 4 and 5 outstanding.

And both matches were indeed outstanding. At 4, UNC freshman #68 Jessie Aney had an improbable first set win after going down 0-3* and then surviving Cal's Starr attempts to serve out the set at 5*-4 and 6*-5. The set featured 7 consecutive deciding points and 8 breaks in 12 games. Aney dominated the tiebreak 7-1 and then went up 1*0 in the second set (on, you guessed it, another deciding point). Remarkably, that was the last break of the match as the two players went a combined 12-12 in saving break points (including 5 more deciding points) in the final 9 games. The last two games were the most dramatic. Serving at 3*-5, Starr went down 0-40 to give Aney four match points, but saved all four, the penultimate one with an impressive backhand crosscourt winner. Starr made it seven points in a row as Aney went down 0-40 herself at 5*-4, with Starr hit one of the shots of the tournament, a running forehand crosscourt dipping pass that gave her four break-back points. But Aney showed impressive resolve and on deciding point/match point, hit a stretch backhand stick volley to win 7-6(1) 6-4 and tie the dual at 3-3.

So it was all down to Hauger/Akkerman on 5. The #81-ranked Hauger had been stellar all tournament, winning her first three matches without losing more than 4 games in any set. Against Akkerman, it looked like that pattern would repeat itself as she broke the Carolina sophomore at love to serve for the first set at 5*-3. But Akkerman stepped it up, breaking Hauger at 15 and then holding at 30 to even the set at 5-5. The next game went to deciding point, at which point Hauger hit a big serve that Akkerman couldn't get back. Hauger then broke to take her 7th consecutive set of the tournament.

The next set started with 5 breaks until Akkerman finally held to go up 4-2* and cruised to a 6-2 set win. Thus the only match to go to a third set would end with the deciding set of the tournament. After 4 holds to start the set, Hauger went up 40-15 but tossed in some errors and was broken. At this point, Aney's win meant the entire building gathered to watch the last match. Every point elicited a big cheer from one team or the other and from one set of fans or the other.

Serving up 3*-2, Akkerman started with a double fault and another in a plethora of great Hauger defensive points put the Tar Heel down 0-30. At 15-40, Akkerman served to Hauger's forehand, and couldn't handle the massive return. Hauger went up 30-0 in the next game but an error-filled game ended with a Cal backhand error on deciding point and UNC was up 4*-3. Akkerman played a great game to hold for 5-3*, but that would be the last game she would win on the day. 7 of the next 11 points were Akkerman unforced errors, including a framed backhand that hit the roof at 5*-4 15-15 and forehand long on break point.

The match was now even at 5-5 but Hauger had all the momentum. She held at 30 to put the pressure squarely on Akkerman, now serving to try to take it to a third set tiebreak. Akkerman had three chances to do just that, getting to 40-15 with some inspired play, but then two unforced errors put things at deuce. Deciding point. Match point.

Like she did back at 3*-2 15-40, Akkerman served out wide. Hauger moved to her right and hit perhaps the biggest single shot in California women's tennis history: a down the line winner. Game, set, match, championship.
"Honestly I wasn't that nervous," said Hauger about the end of her match. "I was trying to tell myself to have fun and recognize how great of an opportunity this is, and how great of an experience we've had." From 3-5 down, "I started hitting out on the ball a bit more at the right times."

Cal, the only PAC 12 school to make the trip to Madison, is the third PAC 10/PAC 12 school to win the ITA Indoors in the tournament's 29-year history. UCLA won the tournament in 2012 and Stanford has won it 10 times, most recently in 2011. (Stanford beat Cal 8-0 in the Bears' only other appearance at the ITA Indoors final in 2000.)

The win was especially sweet for seniors Chi and Fabikova, who won in their last chance at this title after past disappointments. "Happy to make history with this one next to me," said Fabikova of Chi.

"ITA Indoors is such a huge honor to win," said Chi. "The fact that we won the first team national championship for our school, that's a great feeling, because we've had our chances in the past. Especially for both of us to get the singles wins today makes it all the sweeter."

As for having to watch a freshman close out the match, Chi said it was "quite stressful, but I mean, Olivia has competed so well here, and we had so much confidence in her. Even when she got down 3-5, we know she had the right game plan and she would go for what she needed to. We're just so proud of her, and she will have that experience for the rest of her life."

"It was an unbelievable match," said UNC head coach Brian Kalbas. "I don't think that we lost it, I think that definitely Cal won it. You can tell by the last shot: on a big point they stepped up and played fearless, and I give them all the credit."

"They put us on our heels and won a bunch of first sets, and we did a really good job of fighting back and putting us in a position to win the match," said Kalbas. "We've got a new team and players who haven't been in these positions before, so it was great" to have them experience those moments.

Both teams will soon turn their attention toward their conference schedules, and then the NCAAs in May in Tulsa where they will likely be among the favorites. Both teams are seeking their first NCAA team title.

But for now, Augustus and her team will relish the moment. Augustus had one final message for Cal fans everywhere: "Go Bears!"

February 8, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Final, Madison, Wisc.

No. 4 seed California 4, No. 3 seed North Carolina 3
1. #6 Hayley Carter (NC) def. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 6-2, 6-2
2. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. #88 Whitney Kay (NC) 6-2, 7-5
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Kate Vialle (NC) 6-3, 7-5
4. #68 Jessie Aney (NC) def. Denise Starr (CAL) 7-6 (7-1), 6-4
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Marika Akkerman (NC) 7-5, 2-6, 7-5
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. #112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) 6-1, 6-3
1. #2 Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) vs. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) 5-4, unfinished
2. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) def. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) 6-1
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) 6-4
Match Notes:
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (2,1,6,3,4,5)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cal Wins Thriller to Join UNC in the ITA Women's Team Indoor Final; Bellis and Neel Win Midland Doubles Title; Mmoh Qualifies for ATP Memphis Open

©Jonathan Kelley for Zootennis--
Madison, WI--

The University of California Golden Bears will try to dethrone defending champion University of North Carolina on Monday at the 2016 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Women's Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. #4 seed California ended the Cinderella run of #8 seed Ohio State University with a heart-stopping 4-3 victory, while #3 seed North Carolina beat the #2 seed University of Georgia 4-2 in a rematch of last year's final.

This is only the second ITA Team Indoor final for Cal, which lost to Stanford 8-0 in 2000, but the Bears did reach the ITA Indoors semifinals the last two years. UNC is into their 4th final in 7 years, and is looking for their third title in the last four years.

"It was just a great match," said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. "Credit to Ohio State, they battled us until the very last point of every match, singles and doubles. Our team, that's something we like to be known for -- competing really hard -- and I was just really, really proud of the effort of our team today and how hard they competed to find their way out of some really tough matches on a lot of courts."

From Ohio State's perspective, the semifinal loss to Cal was almost a mirror image of their upset quarterfinal win against #1 Vanderbilt. Against Vandy, OSU lost the doubles point when #6 Anna Sanford and Miho Kowase couldn't convert match points at #1. But they used that loss to motivate them in the singles, where they won 4 of 6 matches including big wins by Olivia Sneed at #6 and the epic clinch by Kowase at #4.

Against Cal, OSU won the doubles point. Sanford/Kowase broke the #3-ranked team of Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr when the latter was serving for the match, and then took a tight tiebreaker 7-5. But this time, Cal used its doubles loss as motivation in singles, and won 4 of 6 matches, with Starr beating Kowase at #4 and Karla Popovic clinching against Sneed at #6.

Cal got its first point at #2 singles, with #10-ranked Klara Fabikova routing Gabriella De Santis 6-2 6-1. But as she did all tournament #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo got a win for OSU, this one by a score of 6-2 7-6(2) over #5 Manasse at line 1 to put OSU up 2-1. Di Lorenzo, who was the Individual Indoor champion in November, finished the ITA Team Indoor 6-0 in singles and doubles.

The second set of the Di Lorenzo/Manasse match featured a bit of everything. Manasse was down 2 match points at 3*-5 30-40 but managed to hold for 4-5*. Serving for the match, Di Lorenzo double faulted at 30-30 to give Manasse two break points. She saved the first, and on deciding point/match point, Di Lorenzo called a ball long and strutted toward the net in victory. However, the call was overturned by the chair umpire, and the score was tied at 5-5.

Di Lorenzo broke right back and on the first point of her 6*-5 game, played two terrific volleys that left Manasse scrambling. As the second volley was about to bounce twice, Di Lorenzo let out a big "COME ON!" and walked back toward her baseline. However, a scrambling Manasse got her racquet on the ball, and even though she didn't have much of a play on it, the chair umpire determined that because she got to it, Di Lorenzo's yell amounted to a hindrance. Manasse then turned on her power and broke Di Lorenzo at 15 to set up the tiebreaker, which the Buckeye won handily.

Cal freshman Olivia Hauger (ranked #81) got a huge 6-4 6-4 win over Ferny Angeles Paz at line 5 to even the match at 2-2, with all three remaining matches in third sets.

At line 3, OSU's Anna Sanford found herself down a set and twice down a break in the second set against Lynn Chi. But she clawed back to win the second 6-4. In the third set, Sanford again went down a break at 1*-3 but found a way to win the last five games of the match to win 4-6 6-4 6-3. Remarkably, all five games were won in deciding points. Not only that, but Chi had 40-30 at 3*-2, and 40-15 (3 game or break points) at 3-3*, 3*-4, and 3-5*.

Given that result, the Buckeyes surely thought destiny was on their side. But destiny had other ideas.

Following the result on 3, both of the last two matches became super intense affairs. At 4, Starr was down an early break in the 3rd set at 1-2* but Kowase started her next service game with 2 double faults and was quickly broken to even the match at 2-2 and Starr then consolidated for 3-2. In the next game, a Kowase error at 30-40 gave Starr the break and a 4-2 lead.

Simultaneously, Sneed at 6 won two consecutive deciding points to narrow her deficit from 0-4* to 2-4* meaning both matches had identical scores. In the next game, Sneed got to yet another deciding point/break point -- this one to get back on serve. But she hit a backhand wide and Popovic was up 5-2*. Seconds later, on yet another deciding point/break point to get back on serve, Sneed's teammate Kowase hit a backhand wide and Starr was up 5-2*.

Serving to stay in the match, Kowase went up 30-0 but Starr won the next three points to get to match point. Kowase saved the first but lost yet another deciding point and with it, the match 1-6 6-4 6-3. All the focus shifted to 6, where Sneed held from 30-40, saving two match points and putting the pressure on Popovic.

Popovic served well in the game, going up 40-15 -- three more match points. On the first, she double faulted, but on the second she worked the point long enough until Sneed hit a forehand into the net, and Popovic's teammates stormed the court.

"It was amazing," Popovic said. "Especially being the first time I clinched as the last match on, it was definitely incredible."

When asked what she said to her team, OSU coach Melissa Shaub said, "I just told them to keep their heads up. This loss today takes nothing away from the tournament we had. Going into the season, our goal was to get here, and we did that and had a good win yesterday and a good run. I just think obviously it's heartbreaking today but they need to be proud of what they've done so far this season and look ahead to the rest of the year."

UNC Heels the Dawgs

The match between UNC and Georgia was a bit more anticlimactic, but was still highly competitive throughout.

UNC took the doubles point 2-1, coming back from a 0-6 loss at line 2 by #16 Jessie Aney and Kate Vialle to unranked Silvia Garcia and Caroline Brinson. (The scoreline at 2 was even more surprising given that Aney and Vialle had won their first two matches by identical 6-0 scores.) But #2-ranked Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay beat #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould 6-4, coming back from down 2*-4 30-40 and benefitting from a missed Georgia overhead on the deciding point. ("We got a little lucky," said UNC head coach Brian Kalbas.) Ashley Dai and Chloe Ouellet-Pizer finished things off against Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer 6-3 at line 3.

The Tar Heels lost two major parts of their ITA Indoors title team in Jamie Loeb and Caroline Price, but they gained two players who have proved essential in their run to this year's final. Aney, playing #3 singles, got UNC's second point by beating #82 Garcia 6-0 6-4, while at #6, #112 Ouellet-Pizer got a 6-1 2-6 6-4 win over Patterson. The two freshmen are undefeated in singles play this week.

Georgia got big wins at #4 and #5 singles with #109 Shaffer beating #68 Vialle 6-1 6-2 and Gould beating Marika Akkerman 7-6(3) 6-2, saving a set point at 6-6 deuce in the first set. But that was it for the Bulldogs. #88 Whitney Kay beat #22 Caroline Brinson 1-6 6-1 6-3 at line 2, winning 6 of 7 deciding points in the last 2 sets to put UNC within a point, and Ouellet-Pizer clinched things shortly thereafter.

After her breadstick first set, Ouellet-Pizer said, "I kind of lost my game and lost the feel of it. I was really tight and my arms were like shaking." In the third set, she went down 1*4 0-40 when she turned things around. "I don't even know what changed. I thought I was going to lose. But I hit a winner at 0-40, and then we had a really long point and when I got it to 30-40, I thought, 'If I can win this game, I can totally win the match.'" And she did. In the next game she broke Patterson at 30 to get back on serve, and during the ensuing changeover, volunteer assistant coach Shinann Featherstone told her, "You can win every point if you play your game, and I was like, 'Yeah, you're right, I can.'" And she nearly did, losing only one more point for the rest of the match.

As for getting her second clinch in as many days, Ouellet-Pizer laughed and said, "I don't know how that happens two days in a row."
The #1 singles match between #6 Carter (UNC) and #12 Perez (UGA) was abandoned.

"It's really exciting," said Brian Kalbas, now in his 13th year as UNC head coach. "This team is fun to coach, fun to be around. They work hard, probably the hardest working team I've had and it's nice to see that hard work pay off."

The final will take place on Monday at 11:00 a.m. CST. It will be the first match in several years between the two teams, and will feature five Top 10 singles players and doubles teams. Follow me on Twitter at @jokelley_tennis for live updates during the match.

 February 7, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Semifinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 4 seed California 4, No. 8 seed Ohio State 3
1. #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 6-2, 7-6 (7-2)
2. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 6-2, 6-1
3. Anna Sanford (OSU) def. Lynn Chi (CAL) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Miho Kowase (OSU) 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) 6-4, 6-4
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Olivia Sneed (OSU) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
1. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) def. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) 7-6 (7-5)
2. Gabriella De Santis/Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) vs. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) 5-5, unfinished
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) 6-4
Match Notes:
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (2,1,5,3,4,6)
February 7, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Semifinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, No. 2 seed Georgia 2
1. #6 Hayley Carter (NC) vs. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) 7-5, 4-6, 1-2, unfinished
2. #88 Whitney Kay (NC) def. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) 1-6, 6-1, 6-3
3. Jessie Aney (NC) def. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) 6-0, 6-4
4. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. #68 Kate Vialle (NC) 6-1, 6-2
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Marika Akkerman (NC) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
6. #112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Laura Patterson (UGA) 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
1. #2 Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) def. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) 6-4
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) 6-3
Match Notes:
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (4,3,2,5,6)


At the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Great Britain's Naomi Broady defeated wild card Robin Anderson 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-2 to win the title and move into the WTA Top 100 for the first time.

The first set, over an hour long, was as close as the score would suggest, and the second was not quite as lopsided as it would appear, but there's no doubt Broady played outstanding tennis in the final two sets. Her backhand was erratic in the first set, but once she got that shot under control, there was precious little Anderson could do.  Broady's serve was the weapon of the week and she had 15 aces in today's final. And even when she wasn't hitting aces, her serve was producing defensive returns that gave her a chance to put away her big forehand.  Anderson stayed calm, but wasn't getting the depth she needed to be aggressive and spent too much time defending in the final two sets.

Broady had to settle for one title Sunday, with the wild card team of Ingrid Neel and CiCi Bellis winning the doubles title over No. 2 seeds Broady and Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-4.  Neel, 17, and Bellis 16, beat the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 2 seeds in succession to win the title.  Neel is the reigning USTA National 18s doubles champion (with Tornado Alicia Black), and already has a title at a $25,000 Pro Circuit tournament to her credit this year, along with two last year at the $10,000 level.  Bellis has one doubles title on the pro circuit, at the $10,000 level, but there wasn't anything to indicate they would handle the caliber of competition they would face at this level. They lost only one set, to No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend in the semifinals.

At the ATP Memphis Open qualifying, Michael Mmoh earned his first ATP main draw berth with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6) win over Bjorn Fratangelo.  Fratangelo served for the match at 6-5 in the third set of the nearly three-hour match, but Mmoh, who had had two match points with Fratangelo serving at 4-5 in the third, broke, then went up 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Fratangelo saved all three of those match points, but Mmoh finally converted on his sixth.  The 18-year-old joins wild cards Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul in the draw, with Mmoh drawing Fritz has his first round opponent.  Jared Donaldson made it five US teenagers in the main draw when he defeated Ireland's James McGee 6-0, 7-6(0) in the day's last match.

Tiafoe will play Ryan Harrison in a Monday night match; Paul has drawn Benjamin Becker of Germany.  Donaldson plays fellow qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on Monday.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ohio State Stuns Top Seed Vanderbilt to Advance to Women's Team Indoor Semifinals; Anderson Reaches Midland $100K Final

©Jonathan Kelley for
Madison, Wisconsin

The Ohio State University advanced to its first-ever ITA Women's Team Indoor Championship semifinal by beating the #1 team in the country, Vanderbilt, in a thrilling 4-3 dual match. It was a big upset for the #16-ranked Buckeyes, which has only one ranked player in its lineup.

Head coach Melissa Schaub said the win was "huge" for her program. 
"I just couldn't be happier for our players. They're a special group, and they're a good team. I think they've been good for a long time and I don't think that they've believed it. And so we've gotten into some of these big matches and it just didn't go our way. So today to get over that hump and for them to believe that they can play with anyone in the country is just an amazing feeling."

Ohio State put themselves behind the 8-ball early. After the two teams split 6-2 doubles matches at #2 and #3, OSU had two match points at #1 with Vanderbilt's Sydney Campbell serving at 4*-5 30-40. They saved one match point and on the second, Campbell's partner Courtney Colton hit a brilliant lob winner to get the match to 5-5. In the next game, OSU went down 0-40 and on break point, Miho Kowase hit a double fault. Colton then served out the next game at 15 to give Vanderbilt what seemed to be a crucial first point. Kowase and Colton then headed to court 4 for their singles match.

"We played a little bit tight," said Schaub. "They're the number one team in the country for a reason. They played the big points really well."

However, the Buckeyes came out firing in singles, going up a set at #2 (Gabriella De Santis), #5 (Ferny Angeles Paz), and #6 (Olivia Sneed). When #2-ranked freshman Francesca Di Lorenzo won her first set at #1 against #24 Sydney Campbell, OSU had four first sets, compared to two for the Commodores.

But Vanderbilt has built a resilient program. #33 Astra Sharma gave them a 2-0 lead with a 6-2 6-2 win at #3 singles over Anna Sanford, while Campbell won her second set 6-1 and #15 Frances Altick evened things up at #2 at a set apiece.

OSU's Sneed closed things out at #6 with a 6-0 6-3 win over Ellie Yates to pull OSU to within 2-1. And at #4, Kowase evened her match with Colton 2-6 6-4. And that's when things got intense.

First at #5: Vanderbilt's Georgina Sellyn, serving at 1-6 4-5, saved a deciding point/match point. After Paz held for 6-5, Sellyn saved two more match points to send the set to a tiebreaker. Things were looking great for Sellyn as she sprinted to a 5-1 lead at the changeover, and had 4 set points at 6-2. But Paz saved them all, and it was 6-6 at the next changeover. Sellyn got three more set points at 7-6, 8-7, 9-8, and 10-9 but Paz was undeterred. Paz got to her 4th match point at 11-10, and finally at 12-11, Paz hit an inside-out forehand winner to get the match and the dual was tied at 2-2.

Then came #1: Di Lorenzo broke Campbell for 5-3 and served out the match to give OSU its first lead of the match. "Francesca just has so much grit, so much heart. I'll take her against anyone in the country," said Schaub.

But at #2, Altick went up 5-2* and broke De Santis to even everything at 3-3.

So it was all down to #4. Colton, who had helped clinch the doubles point with that lob over Kowase, was serving down 1*-5 in the third set. The senior went up 40-0 but three points later it was deciding point/match point. That's when Colton hit a huge crosscourt backhand to force the junior from Tokyo to serve for the match. Impressively, Kowase held at 15, with the only lost point a double fault, and gave her team the biggest win in the program's history.

"I couldn't believe it at first. I just couldn't believe it," said Kowase. "And then I saw all my teammates' faces and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we won. We beat them.' We worked so hard for this tournament, I think it paid off pretty well."

Vanderbilt head coach Geoff MacDonald maintained a positive outlook after the loss. "What an exciting, great dual. Phenomenal competition, hats off to Ohio State, they played a great match. We were down a lot and I was just really pleased with the way we competed, but I just commend them. They played great."

The Buckeyes will play the 4th seed University of California, a 4-1 winner over the University of Virginia.

Cal won the doubles point handily with a 6-3 win by Lynn Chi and Maria Smith at #3 followed by a 6-2 win by Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr at #1. The Bears added a quick win at #6 singles as Karla Popovic took down late replacement Taylor Wingo 6-0 6-1. 

The Cavaliers were looking stronger at the top: #4-ranked Danielle Collins secured a 6-3 6-1 win over #5 Manasse on line 1, while #8 Julia Elbaba was up a set and served for the match at 5*-4 in the second against Klara Fabikova. However, nothing much came easy for UVA today. Elbaba had 4 match points at 40-0 but Fabikova came up strong on each one to even the set at 5-5.

Meanwhile, California got its third point when freshman Olivia Hauger defeated yesterday's UVA clincher, freshman Meghan Kelley, 6-4 6-4, and earned its final point when Denise Starr won the lone three-setter of the dual, 6-0 3-6 6-3 over Victoria Olivarez.

Amanda Augustus, California's head coach, thought Fabikova extending her match was big. 

"I thought the tennis on courts 1 and 2 was just outstanding. You have four Top Ten players battling it out. They're all great competitors. Klara never gives up (neither does Julia). She loves the big matches and she really felt that if it got to a third set she could prevail." As for Hauger, Augustus said, "Olivia's great. She loves to compete, she works really hard, she's a great teammate. It's exciting, because she's just starting out and she's already so comfortable in this setting."

In the first matches of the day, #2 seed University of Georgia beat the University of Michigan 4-1 and #3 seed University of North Carolina beat Louisiana State University by the same score. Both winning teams won the doubles point 2-0.

UNC got big wins by Hayley Carter at #1 (6-1 6-1 over Joana Vale Costa) and by Whitney Kay at #2 (6-3 6-1 over Jessica Golovin) to take a 3-0 lead and put all the pressure on the Tigers. LSU's Skyler Kuykendall rescued a point at #3 singles with a 6-2 6-4 win over Kate Vialle, and things were heating up at #4, where LSU's Ryann Foster came back to force a third set against Jessie Aney, and at #5, where Abigail Owens was a game away from doing the same against UNC's Marika Akkerman.

It was at #6 where the clinch came for UNC. Freshman Chloe Ouellet-Pizer had a see-saw match against senior Ella Taylor (who clinched LSU's first round match). The Tarheel went up 5*-0 and had deciding point/set point in the first set only to see her lead nearly evaporate, but she served it out for 6-4. In the second, she went down 1*-4 but won the final 5 games of the match to get her first college clinch.

UNC head coach Brian Kalbas was impressed by Ouellet-Pizer's ability to close out her first clinch, and demurred at the suggestion a third set would provide an occasion to see how she would react to that situation. "I think there's going to be plenty of opportunities for that. I think at this stage at this tournament, you want to stay fresh and get off the court as quickly as you can."

Ouellet-Pizer, who hails from Chapel Hill, said, "It felt amazing. I really didn't think I was going to get [the opportunity to clinch], because I was down 1-4 in the second, but our coach always tells us to believe that you're going to be the last match on, that you're going to be the clinching match, so that helped me today."

LSU co-head coach Julia Sell took positives from the close loss. "I think we're capable of being a Top 5 team and beating a Top 5 team," she said.

Against Georgia, Michigan got its only point at #2 singles, where #19 Brienne Minor had a convincing 6-3 6-1 win over #22 Caroline Brinson. Michigan also was looking good at #1 where #17 Ronit Yurovsky fought back against #12 Ellen Perez to take their match to a third set. But Georgia showed its strength lower down in the line-up: the Wolverines didn't win a set at 3, 4, 5, or 6. Sophomore Kennedy Shaffer (#109) got the clinch at #3 with a 6-2 6-4 win over #107 Kate Fahey.

North Carolina and Georgia will have a rematch of last year's ITA Indoors title match. UNC won the 2015 edition of the competition, but key players from that match are gone -- UNC lost both the national singles champion Jamie Loeb and last year's clinching player, senior Caroline Price, while UGA graduated its best player in Lauren Herring.

Both Kalbas and Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said they were looking forward to the rematch. It's a safe bet that the same can be said for fans of women's college tennis everywhere.
February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, LSU 1
1. Hayley Carter (NC) def. Joana Vale Costa (LSU) 6-1, 6-1
2. Whitney Kay (NC) def. Jessica Golovin (LSU) 6-3, 6-1
3. Skylar Kuykendall (LSU) def. Kate Vialle (NC) 6-2, 6-4
4. Ryann Foster (LSU) vs. Jessie Aney (NC) 3-6, 6-2, 1-2, unfinished
5. Abigail Owens (LSU) vs. Marika Akkerman (NC) 3-6, 6-5, unfinished
6. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-4, 6-4
1. Joana Vale Costa/Ryann Foster (LSU) vs. Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) 5-4, unfinished
2. Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) def. Skylar Kuykendall/Abigail Owens (LSU) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Skylar Holloway/Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-3
Match Notes:
North Carolina 8-0; National ranking #5
LSU 6-0; National ranking #18
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (2,1,3,6)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 2 seed Georgia 4,  Michigan 1
1. #17 Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) vs. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) 2-6, 6-4, 1-1, unfinished
2. #19 Brienne Minor (MICH) def. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) 6-3, 6-1
3. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. #107 Kate Fahey (MICH) 6-2, 6-4
4. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) 6-2, 6-3
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-4, 6-4
6. Teona Velehorschi (MICH) vs. Laura Patterson (UGA) 5-7, 2-3, unfinished
1. Mira Ruder-Hook/Brienne Minor (MICH) vs. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) 4-5, unfinished
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Ronit Yurovsky/Kate Fahey (MICH) 6-3
3. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Kara Hall/Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-2
Match Notes:
Georgia 4-0; National ranking #2
Michigan 3-1; National ranking #12
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (2,4,5,3)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 4 seed California 4, Virginia 1
1. #4 Danielle Collins (VA) def. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 6-3, 6-1
2. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) vs. #8 Julia Elbaba (VA) 3-6, 6-5, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) vs. #30 Stephanie Nauta (VA) 7-6 (7-1), 4-4, unfinished
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Victoria Olivarez (VA) 6-0, 3-6, 6-3
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Meghan Kelley (VA) 6-4, 6-4
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Taylor Wingo (VA) 6-0, 6-1
1. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) def. Danielle Collins/Meghan Kelley (VA) 6-2
2. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) vs. Julia Elbaba/Stephanie Nauta (VA) 5-2, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) def. Victoria Olivarez/Erica Susi (VA) 6-3
Match Notes:
Virginia 4-1; National ranking #7
California 3-0; National ranking #6
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (6,1,5,4)

February 6, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Quarterfinals, Madison, Wisc.

No. 8 seed Ohio State 4, No. 1 seed Vanderbilt 3
1. #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. #24 Sydney Campbell (VANDY) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
2. #15 Frances Altick (VANDY) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
3. #33 Astra Sharma (VANDY) def. Anna Sanford (OSU) 6-2, 6-2
4. Miho Kowase (OSU) def. Courtney Colton (VANDY) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
5. Ferny Angeles Paz (OSU) def. Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 6-1, 7-6 (13-11)
6. Olivia Sneed (OSU) def. Ellie Yates (VANDY) 6-0, 6-3

1. #11 Courtney Colton/Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) 7-5
2. Astra Sharma/Ellie Yates (VANDY) def. Gabriella De Santis/Ferny Angeles Paz (OSU) 6-2
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Frances Altick/Fernanda Contreras (VANDY) 6-2

Match Notes:
Ohio State 7-0; National ranking #16
Vanderbilt 4-1; National ranking #1
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (3,6,5,1,2,4)

At the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, wild card Robin Anderson won her first match of the week against a player older than she was.  The 22-year-old from New Jersey, who graduated from UCLA last spring, beat 25-year-old Irina Falconi 6-3, 6-4 in tonight's feature match at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.

I wrote quite a bit about 2015 NCAA champion Jamie Loeb's struggles in the past six months, but although ITA Player of the Year Anderson had an excellent fall on the Pro Circuit, ending with a semifinal appearance at the $50,000 event in Scottsdale, she had started this year without a win.  At the three $25,000 tournaments on Florida clay, Anderson lost in the first round to the above mentioned Di Lorenzo, Lauren Embree and Chiara Scholl.

Her first win of the year came this week in Midland, against 16-year-old Michaela Gordon; her second was over 16-year-old CiCi Bellis, and her third, a nearly three-hour marathon Friday, saw her outlast 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford.

In her meeting with the third-seeded Falconi, Anderson showed no fatigue from the match with Sanford, who has a completely different game style from Falconi.  In place of the raw power Sanford possesses, Falconi maneuvers for her winners, but that change of pace didn't bother Anderson. She made few errors, played her usual stellar defense and also struck the ball aggressively, especially with her backhand, which has never been her strength.  She broke Falconi to take a 4-2 lead in the first set, but gave the break right back. Another break gave Anderson a chance to serve out the set and she did.

Falconi was down a set and an early break to Loeb in Friday night's quarterfinal, so there was no sense that she was out of the match when she was broken in the first game. Right on cue, Falconi got the break back, but she lost the next service game too, and this time Anderson did not waiver. She faced no break points after the second game of the second set and converted her second match point after taking a 40-0 lead.

The win over Falconi, ranked 76th, is Anderson's best, although she has another WTA Top 100 victory on her record, over Virginie Razzano of France, then No. 92, in August of 2013.

Anderson's opponent in the final will be Naomi Broady of Great Britain, who spoiled an all-American final with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over Shelby Rogers Saturday afternoon.

Anderson and Broady have played three times, with Broady winning back in 2011, Anderson winning in 2013, and Broady taking the title at the $25,000 Landisville event last August with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) victory over Anderson.

Broady will be aiming for two titles on Sunday, as she and Rogers have reached the doubles final.  Their opponents will be Bellis and 17-year-old Ingrid Neel,  a wild card team, who defeated No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend 3-6, 6-3, 10-6.

An American was also assured of winning the doubles title at the $100,000 Dallas Challenger, and it was the wild card team that came out ahead.  Nick Meister and Eric Quigley took the doubles championship, beating No. 2 seeds Dean O'Brien of South Africa and Sekou Bangoura 6-1, 6-1 in the final.  The singles final, was an all-British affair, with No. 2 seed Kyle Edmund against Dan Evans.

In the qualifying for the Memphis Open, Michael Mmoh defeated Dennis Novikov 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to Sunday's final round of qualifying against Bjorn Fratangelo.  Jared Donaldson downed Tennys Sandgren 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 and will play James McGee of Ireland in the final round of qualifying.

And in a followup to the Chicago Tribune article earlier in the week saying Australian Open tournament director was a candidate for the position of Athletic Director at the University of Illinois, here is Tiley himself denying that in this article from the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette.

Friday, February 5, 2016

January Aces; Anderson, Falconi End Qualifiers Runs in Midland; Top Seeds Breeze into Quarterfinals at ITA Women's Team Indoor, but Three Unseeded Teams Also Advance

My review of 15 of last month's top performances went up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network. And for a review of the Winter National Champions, who are not included in my January Aces, check out this post.

The semifinals are set at the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, with three Americans reaching the final four.  Friday's quarterfinals were the end of the road for two qualifiers, with 17-year-old Alexandra Sanford and 20-year-old Jamie Loeb falling in three sets in their sixth match in six days.

Wild card Robin Anderson defeated Sanford 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4, with the match featuring high level offense, superb defense and many twists and turns.

Sanford trailed most of the first set and saved a set point at 5-3 in the first set with one of her many lethal forehand winners. The North Carolina recruit held, then broke again, with Anderson's backhand letting her down in that game. Sanford served out the set and when she broke Anderson to open the second set, Anderson could have gotten discouraged. She didn't. The 22-year-old from New Jersey stayed calm, got the break back for 3-3 and kept the pressure on Sanford's service games.

In the tiebreaker, Sanford took a 3-0 lead, but her unforced errors allowed Anderson to get back even and two unforced errors on the forehand side on the final two points of the tiebreaker were the difference.

The third set featured no breaks, although Anderson was having a much easier time holding. Sanford saved six break points, but her first serve just wasn't helping her, and she served only 52% in the match. Sanford's second serve was impressive--she hit 66 of them and made 63--but she was unable to be as aggressive off the first ball as she would have liked when defending her second serve so much.  At 4-all, having saved two break points, Sanford surrendered on the third, with a forehand long giving Anderson a chance to serve out the match.

Anderson was getting more than 80% of her first serves in during the final set (she finished at 71% for the match), but the final game, predictably, was her toughest test.  At 30-30, Sanford blasted a forehand winner to earn her first break point of the set. Anderson saved it, coming forward for a forehand volley winner. She hit a backhand volley winner to earn match point, and she converted it when Sanford netted a backhand.

At two hours and 52 minutes, the match was certainly a grind, but the level of shot-making by both women, and their mental toughness, made for some serious entertainment.

Anderson will play No. 3 seed Irina Falconi in the semifinals Saturday. In the featured night match, Falconi defeated Loeb 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.  Loeb came out blazing, making few errors and aiming for the lines, while Falconi was having difficulty getting into any rhythm and fell behind 3-1.  But the 25-year-old saved a break point to hold for 3-2, then broke Loeb, who double faulted twice in the game.  But Falconi still was struggling with unforced errors and at 4-4 she was broken. Loeb couldn't serve out the set the first time, but she broke Falconi again for a 6-5 lead and did finish it on her second chance.

Falconi went down 2-0 in the second set, but began to play better, while Loeb's level dropped. Loeb won only one of the next seven games, and that was a break of serve, not a hold.

Falconi began the third set with a break, but Loeb broke back immediately. Whether it was fatigue or just the improved play of Falconi, who was hanging in the rallies much longer than she had in the first half of the match, Loeb missed shots she was making in the first set, and Falconi took the final three games and the match.

In the top half of the draw, Naomi Broady defeated top seed Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3 and will play Shelby Rogers, a 6-1, 7-6(4) winner over Mayo Hibi of Japan.

In the final match of the night session, CiCi Bellis and Ingrid Neel defeated top seeds Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the doubles semifinals. They will play No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend on Saturday.

Draws and a link to the live streaming are available at the tournament website.

Jonathan Kelley is covering the ITA Women's National Team Indoor for, and this is his report from the first day of action in Madison:

Top seeds sail through ITA Women's Team Indoor first round
by Jonathan Kelley
Madison, Wisconsin--

Things went according to form for the top seeds, but upsets were the rule of the day for the rest on day 1 of the 2016 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.

The top four seeds all had shut-outs. Defending ITA Indoor champion, #3 seed North Carolina opened the day's action with a 4-0 win over Alabama, without dropping more than 4 games in any of the 10 completed sets. #4 California blanked host Wisconsin in similarly dominant fashion (with the exception of line 1, where #66 Lauren Chypyha took the first set from #5 Maegan Manasse 7-5).

Things were a bit tighter for #2 seed Georgia against Texas Tech. After securing the doubles point, the Bulldogs got a quick win at 2 singles, with #22-ranked Caroline Brinson's 6-0 6-0 victory over Lynn Kiro. Georgia closed with two wins by sophomores: #12 Ellen Perez d. #77 Gabriela Talaba 6-1 6-2 at #1 and #109 Kennedy Shaffer d. Sabrina Federici 6-2 6-3 at #4. Significantly, Texas Tech did win two sets, both by freshmen in unfinished matches: Alex Valenstein was up 6-4 4-1 against Mariana Gould at #5 while Felicity Maltby led Laura Patterson 6-2 5-5 at #6.

Defending NCAA national champion Vanderbilt and top seed also pitched a shut-out, but that didn't tell the full story. After splitting breadstick matches at #1 doubles (won by Vanderbilt) and #3 doubles (won by Duke), it came down to #2, where Astra Sharma was serving down 4-5 0-40 -- four match points. Sharma, the hero of Vanderbilt's championship run last spring in Waco, kept her cool and her partner Ellie Yates cleaned up at the net, and they held. After two more holds of serve, Vanderbilt ran away with the tiebreaker, 7-1.

"I just really wanted to take it one point at a time, and set up my partner," said Sharma.  "We'd been winning most of those [close] games before, so I was strangely a bit confident that if we played the right ball we could get back into it."

The doubles point may have made the difference in the match. Sharma at #2 singles and Sydney Campbell at the top of the lineup each had solid wins, but Vandy's Georgina Sellyn and Duke's Ellyse Hamlin had split sets at #5, while senior Yates was locked in a battle against freshman Jessica Ho at #6. It all came down to lines #3 and #4. On 3, Vandy senior Frances Altick had saved 3 match points against Chalena Scholl but was down 3 more match points serving at 4-5 in the second set. But as she was gathering balls to serve, her teammate Courtney Colton closed out Samantha Harris on the adjacent court, 6-4 , 6-4. 

Vanderbilt head coach Geoff MacDonald said it was an "incredibly close match against a great Duke team. That's a 4-3 either way match played out. It broke our way with some of the really close results, but that's a fantastic team, and we feel like it's a really good win."

Asked to reflect on his team's first NCAA title, MacDonald said, "I felt privileged to be part of it. It was the longest peak experience of my life, and to do it with those kids was one of the highlights of my life."

Unseeded teams prevail

Three of the four lower seeds lost today in close matches.

The best finish of the day belonged to Louisiana State University, coached in tandem by Julia Sell and former Monica Seles and John Isner coach Mike Sell. The only 4-3 match of the day, LSU came back from 2-3 but was up a set in its last two matches. After #23 Joana Vale Costa finished off her match against #27 Katarina Adamovic 7-5 6-4, the match came down to #6 singles, where senior Ella Taylor beat Oklahoma State University's Carla Tur Mari 7-5 7-5.

Taylor, from Guernsey (the same island that Heather Watson hails from), didn't realize for most of the match that she was in clinching position. "I actually had it wrong, for a lot of that match," she said. "I thought that a few of my teammates that lost had won, so I was pretty calm the whole match, until obviously everybody was on my court so I kind of gathered it was down to me. But I've been in that situation before so I just tried to focus really hard, play my game, take the support from my team." She was especially pleased because her coaches had agreed to take the team to Texas de Brazil if they won their first round.

The most intense moments of the day came between two of the Cinderella teams.  Fresno State and #8 seed Ohio State are both making their ITA Team Indoor National Championship debuts this week, and their doubles point was an incredible introduction to the event.

After freshman sensation Francesca Di Lorenzo and partner Olivia Sneed won 6-4 at #3, attention shifted to the other two courts, where the Fresno State's British senior twins Anneka and Sophie Watts were match point up at #2 while simultaneously, Egyptian sisters Mayar and Rana Sherif Ahmed were match point down in a tiebreak at #1. The Wattses, who had serve for it at 5-4, won a deciding point at 6-5 to clinch the victory; while the Sherif Ahmeds, who had already saved 5 match points prior to the tiebreaker, went down 3-6 but rallied to 6-6. They then went down 2 more match points at 6-7 and 8-9 but held on for the emotional win.

Bulldog coach Ryan Stotland speculated that the win might have been too emotional. The Buckeyes stormed out of the gate in singles, dropping just 10 combined games in their singles matches at #1 (Di Lorenzo), #5 (Femy Angeles Paz), and #6 (Sneed), leaving them just one win short. That was taken care of at #3 by Anna Sanford, who beat the elder Sherif Ahmad, Rana, 7-6 6-1. (Sanford's sister Alexandra had a breakout week by qualifying for the $100,000 ITF tournament in Midland, Michigan. Unfortunately, I had to break the news to her that her sister lost her quarterfinal match to Robin Anderson a couple of hours beforehand.)

The University of Michigan beat #7 seed University of Miami 4-2. Senior Ronit Yurovsky clinched the match with an impressive 4-6 6-3 6-4 comeback win over #7 ranked Sinead Lohan. Yurovsky served for the match at 5-3 in the third, and had 40-30, but lost the first point and on deciding point double faulted. When asked what was going through her mind, the Pennsylvanian laughed and said, "I can't really say." She added that she was a little nervous toward the end, but credited assistant coach Teryn Ashley-Fitch with helping her refocus and break Lohan for the win.

In the final match of the day, the University of Virginia, which had suspended several players for last week's loss to South Carolina, overcame Texas A&M 4-1. It was an emotional win for UVA, which two weeks ago suspended five players for misconduct. On Monday, however, some of the players were reinstated and made the trip to Madison. One of those players, freshman Meghan Kelley, clinched the win with a 7-5 6-1 win over fellow freshman Domenica Gonzalez at #5 singles.

"I came out a little slow in the first set," said Kelley. She was on fire, I got down 4-1 quickly. Then [head coach] Mark [Guilbeau] helped me out a lot," in particular by targeting her opponent's backhand and encouraging her to serve bigger.  She added, "My teammates were cheering and really helped me out, and I kind of caught my stride. I came back, won the set 7-5, and hung in there, really stuck to my game plan and won 6-2 in the second set."

I spoke with Guilbeau after the match. I will post the interview on my blog, On the Rise (a tennis blog), on Saturday morning.

Complete box scores are below:
February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, Alabama 0
1. #6 Hayley Carter (NC) def. #63 Erin Routliffe (UA) 6-1, 6-3
2. #88 Whitney Kay (NC) vs. #41 Andie Daniell (UA) 6-2, 3-4, unfinished
3. Kate Vialle (NC) vs. Joanna Nena Savva (UA) 6-4, 3-2, unfinished
4. #68 Jessie Aney (NC) def. Danielle Spielmann (UA) 6-0, 6-3
5. Marika Akkerman (NC) vs. Natalia Maynetto (UA) 6-6, unfinished
6. #112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Aryn Greene (UA) 6-2, 6-2
1. #2 Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) def. #48 Erin Routliffe/Andie Daniell (UA) 6-2
2. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) def. Danielle Spielmann/Joanna Nena Savva (UA) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) vs. Bennett Dunn/Aryn Greene (UA) 5-3, unfinished
Match Notes:
Alabama 2-0; National ranking #13
North Carolina 7-0; National ranking #5
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (4,6,1)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
LSU 4, No. 6 seed Oklahoma State 3
1. #23 Joana Vale Costa (LSU) def. #27 Katarina Adamovic (OKST) 7-5, 6-4
2. #38 Vladica Babic (OKST) def. #52 Jessica Golovin (LSU) 2-6, 6-4, 6-2
3. #46 Viktoriya Lushkova (OKST) def. #93 Skylar Kuykendall (LSU) 6-3, 6-4
4. Ryann Foster (LSU) def. #89 Kelsey Laurente (OKST) 6-1, 6-3
5. Abigail Owens (LSU) def. Katarina Stresnakova (OKST) 6-1, 7-6 (7-3)
6. Ella Taylor (LSU) def. Carla Tur Mari (OKST) 7-5, 7-5
1. #9 Kelsey Laurente/Maria Alvarez (OKST) vs. Joana Vale Costa/Ryann Foster (LSU) 4-4, unfinished
2. #23 Viktoriya Lushkova/Carla Tur Mari (OKST) def. Skylar Kuykendall/Abigail Owens (LSU) 6-1
3. Katarina Adamovic/Vladica Babic (OKST) def. Skylar Holloway/Ella Taylor (LSU) 6-3
Match Notes:
LSU 6-0; National ranking #18
Oklahoma State 6-1; National ranking #10
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (4,3,5,2,1,6)
2016 ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship - First Round

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 2 seed Georgia 4, Texas Tech 0
1. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) def. #77 Gabriela Talaba (TT) 6-1, 6-2
2. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Lynn Kiro (TT) 6-0, 6-0
3. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) vs. Sarah Dvorak (TT) 6-2, 2-5, unfinished
4. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Sabrina Federici (TT) 6-2, 6-3
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) vs. Alex Valenstein (TT) 4-6, 1-4, unfinished
6. Laura Patterson (UGA) vs. Felicity Maltby (TT) 2-6, 5-5, unfinished
1. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) vs. Lynn Kiro/Gabriela Talaba (TT) 6-5, unfinished
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. Sarah Dvorak/Alex Valenstein (TT) 6-3
3. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. Sabrina Federici/Felicity Maltby (TT) 6-4
Match Notes:
Texas Tech 4-1; National ranking #17
Georgia 4-0; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (2,1,4)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
Michigan 4, No. 7 seed Miami 2
1. #17 Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) def. #7 Sinead Lohan (UM) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2. #19 Brienne Minor (MICH) def. #9 Stephanie Wagner (UM) 6-2, 6-4
3. #107 Kate Fahey (MICH) def. Clementina Riobueno (UM) 7-5, 6-3
4. #80 Wendy Zhang (UM) vs. Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) 4-6, 6-4, 1-3, unfinished
5. Clara Tanielian (UM) def. Alex Najarian (MICH) 6-4, 6-2
6. Silvia Fuentes (UM) def. Teona Velehorschi (MICH) 6-2, 6-1
1. Brienne Minor/Mira Ruder-Hook (MICH) def. Stephanie Wagner/Wendy Zhang (UM) 6-1
2. Kate Fahey/Ronit Yurovsky (MICH) def. Sinead Lohan/Ana Madcur (UM) 6-2
3. Silvia Fuentes/Clementina Riobueno (UM) def. Alex Najarian/Sara Remynse (MICH) 6-0
Match Notes:
Michigan 3-1; National ranking #12
Miami 3-1; National ranking #11
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,5,2,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 1 seed Vanderbilt 4, Duke 0
1. #24 Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #28 Beatrice Capra (DU) 6-3, 6-1
2. #15 Astra Sharma (VANDY) def. #29 Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 6-4, 6-2
3. #79 Chalena Scholl (DU) vs. #33 Frances Altick (VANDY) 6-3, 5-3, unfinished
4. Courtney Colton (VANDY) def. Samantha Harris (DU) 6-4, 6-4
5. #70 Ellyse Hamlin (DU) vs. Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 2-6, 6-4, 0-1, unfinished
6. Jessica Ho (DU) vs. Ellie Yates (VANDY) 4-6, 4-4, unfinished
1. #11 Courtney Colton/Sydney Campbell (VANDY) def. #26 Beatrice Capra/Ellyse Hamlin (DU) 6-1
2. Astra Sharma/Ellie Yates (VANDY) def. Samantha Harris/Kaitlyn McCarthy (DU) 7-6 (7-1)
3. Chalena Scholl/Alyssa Smith (DU) def. Frances Altick/Georgina Sellyn (VANDY) 6-1
Match Notes:
Vanderbilt 3-0; National ranking #1
Duke 4-0; National ranking #14
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (2,1,4)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 8 seed Ohio State 4, Fresno State 2
1. Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Mayar Sherif Ahmed (FRST) 6-2, 6-1
2. Sophie Watts (FRST) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 6-3, 6-3
3. Anna Sanford (OSU) def. Rana Sherif Ahmed (FRST) 7-6 (7-2), 6-1
4. Galia Bykova (FRST) vs. Miho Kowase (OSU) 2-6, 4-5, unfinished
5. Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) def. Emma Wilson (FRST) 6-3, 6-0
6. Olivia Sneed (OSU) def. Anneka Watts (FRST) 6-2, 6-2
1. Mayar Sherif Ahmed/Rana Sherif Ahmed (FRST) def. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) 7-6 (11-9)
2. #58 Sophie Watts/Anneka Watts (FRST) def. Gabriella De Santis/Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) 7-5
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Sofya Maylsheva/Olivia Noble (FRST) 6-4
Match Notes:
Ohio State 5-0; National ranking #16
Fresno State 2-1; National ranking #30
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,6,1,2,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
No. 4 seed California 4, Wisconsin 0
1. #66 Lauren Chypyha (WIS) vs. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 7-5, 1-1, unfinished
2. Ekaterina Stepanova (WIS) vs. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) 0-6, 5-4, unfinished
3. Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Kendall Kirsch (WIS) 6-3, 6-1
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Maria Avgerinos (WIS) 6-1, 6-1
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Sydney Rider (WIS) 6-1, 6-1
6. Lauren Burich (WIS) vs. Karla Popovic (CAL) 1-6, 1-4, unfinished
1. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) def. Lauren Chypyha/Kendall Kirsch (WIS) 6-2
2. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Sydney Rider/Ekaterina Stepanova (WIS) 6-3
3. Lauren Burich/Kelsey Grambeau (WIS) vs. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) 3-5, unfinished
Match Notes:
California 2-0; National ranking #6
Wisconsin 2-0
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (4,5,3)

February 5, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor First Round, Madison, Wisc.
Virginia 4, No. 5 seed Texas A&M 1
1. #4 Danielle Collins (VA) vs. #53 Saska Gavrilovska (A&M) 1-6, 7-5, 1-0, unfinished
2. #8 Julia Elbaba (VA) def. #58 Rachel Pierson (A&M) 6-2, 6-4
3. #30 Stephanie Nauta (VA) def. #106 Rutuja Bhosale (A&M) 6-4, 6-1
4. Eva Paalma (A&M) def. Victoria Olivarez (VA) 6-3, 6-3
5. Meghan Kelley (VA) def. Domenica Gonzalez (A&M) 7-5, 6-2
6. Erica Susi (VA) vs. Ines Deheza (A&M) 7-6 (7-4), 1-3, unfinished
1. #19 Danielle Collins/Meghan Kelley (VA) def. Rachel Pierson/Eva Paalma (A&M) 6-3
2. Julia Elbaba/Stephanie Nauta (VA) def. Rutuja Bhosale/Anna Mamalat (A&M) 7-6 (7-5)
3. Saska Gavrilovska/Domenica Gonzalez (A&M) def. Victoria Olivarez/Taylor Wingo (VA) 6-4
Match Notes:
Texas A&M 3-1; National ranking #9
Virginia 3-1; National ranking #7
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,4,3,5)