Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reviewing ITF Junior Circuit Changes for 2015

Back in January, I noted several of the major changes to the ITF Junior Circuit rules and regulations, but I want to go into a bit more detail on these changes before the spring junior tennis season is in full swing.

The full pdf of this year's ITF Junior Rules and Regulations can be found here, with the changes from 2014 underlined.  Some are wording clarification, while others are more administrative. The items below, with the page number where it can be found proceeding the change, are what I consider to be most important, but it is not meant to be a comprehensive review.

Page 15: After many years at 550 and 350, the ATP and WTA rankings for direct entry into the main draw of the junior slam (or any tournament, but rarely used outside slams) are now less restrictive. Beginning this year, a player ranked ATP 750 or better and WTA 400 or better on the Monday prior to the entry deadline will be given a place in the main draw.

A place is qualifying is guaranteed to those 751-850 ATP and 401-500 WTA. The 500 cutoff for giris the same as it had been, but the boys previously cut off at 750.

Page 20: No sign-in for Grade 1 tournaments

Page 24: Players with ATP and WTA rankings added to lucky loser pool

Page 29: Chair umpire required for all Grade 1 matches*; chair umpire required for final in Grades 4 and 5

Page 32: Four balls now the minimum for Grade 1 tournaments

Page 37: Ball change at 11 and 13 games for Grade A tournaments

Page 66: Extreme weather conditions update

Appendix P: Data rights

* I had initially thought this new requirement that all matches at Grade 1 tournaments be chaired would apply to the B1 Easter Bowl and Pan American Closed, but in reading the regulations again, it appears Grade B1s are not subject to this new regulation.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BNP Paribas Wild Cards Announced; US Open Adds Main Draw Doubles Wild Cards to National Playoffs This Year; Pacific Coast Doubles Championships This Weekend; Smith, Bellis Features

The BNP Paribas Open, which begins next week in Indian Wells, announced its wild cards today.

Serena Williams had announced she was accepting a wild card last month. Women receiving main draw wild cards today are: Americans Nicole Gibbs(Stanford), Grace Min, Taylor Townsend, Louisa Chirico, Sachia Vickery and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Croatia's Donna Vekic also received a main draw wild card.

Women's qualifying wild cards went to Julia Boserup, Maria Sanchez(Southern Cal), Alicia Tornado Black, Allie Kiick and Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei. Another will be given to the winner of the pre-qualifying challenge underway now.

Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, returning from another wrist surgery, received a men's main draw wild card.  Americans received the other four wild cards: Austin Krajick(Texas A&M), Tim Smyczek, Ryan Harrison and Denis Kudla.

Men's qualifying wild cards were given to Yannick Hanfmann(Southern Cal), Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) and junior Taylor Fritz. Last year five qualifying wild cards were awarded, so in addition to the pre-qualifying challenge winner, one more is still available.

The tournament's complete release is available here.

The US Open today announced its sixth annual National Playoffs, which provide any USTA member an opportunity to complete for a qualifying wild card through a sectional event that leads to a national playoff this summer.  Registration begins March 15th.

The big news in today's release is the addition of men's and women's doubles competition, which will earn the winners a main draw wild card. Mixed doubles competition, which also has awarded a main draw wild card to the winners the past five years, will continue.

The Pacific Coast Doubles tournament, one of the oldest tennis competitions in the United States, begins Thursday in La Jolla, California, with Southern Cal's Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz the top collegiate seeds and Denis Kudla and John Kelly are the top non-collegiate seeds.

Southern Cal head coach Peter Smith is seeded No. 3, with 2008 NCAA doubles champion Kaes Van't Hof, leaving his sons Riley and Tanner to find other partners.  This article by Josh Rey, on Smith and his family, includes the competition that exists between the teenagers to secure their father's services for the USTA Father and Son Nationals.

The draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

CiCi Bellis and her family have been wary of too much publicity surrounding her success at such a young age, but Doug Robson was able to uncover some of her strengths and challenges while going easy on the hype in this article for

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Oklahoma Men, North Carolina Women Top This Week's Rankings; Hauger Lone American Left at Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl; Eubanks, Amritraj Interviews; BNP Paribas Challenge

The Oklahoma Sooners are back at No. 1
The new team rankings were released today by the ITA, with the Oklahoma men returning to the top spot and the North Carolina women retaining their No. 1 ranking.

Oklahoma benefited from previous No. 1 Southern Cal's Saturday loss to Tulsa, returning to the No. 1 ranking they relinquished with their own surprising loss to Texas A&M on February 20th. The Sooners have another big non-conference road match on Friday against No. 8 Ohio State. Should Oklahoma win that match, it will snap the Buckeyes' NCAA record (for all sports) 200-match home winning streak.

The men's Top 10 this week:
1. Oklahoma
2. Duke
3. Illinois
4. Georgia
5. Baylor
6. Southern Cal
7. Texas
8. Ohio State
9. Mississippi
10. Texas A&M

If you would like more detail on how the men's rankings work on a week to week basis, see this post from the College Tennis Today blog.

Like Oklahoma, North Carolina took over the top spot after winning the Team Indoor, but the Tar Heels have kept their No. 1 ranking, going 4-0 since then.  Georgia dropped from No. 2 to 6 despite going 3-0 since the Team Indoor finals loss to North Carolina, but they have a chance to pick up a big road win this Friday at No. 9 Alabama. Oklahoma State vaulted into No. 8, the program's highest ranking ever.

The women's Top 10 this week:
1. North Carolina
2. Florida
3. Southern Cal
4. Baylor
5. Virginia
6. Georgia
7. Cal
8. Oklahoma State
9. Alabama
10. Stanford

There were no individual rankings released this week. For the complete team rankings, see the ITA website.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, 19 American juniors were in the draws of the ITF Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay, but after two rounds of singles, just one, No. 10 seed Olivia Hauger, remains.  Last week's Grade 2 champion Nathan Ponwith, seeded 15th this week, lost to Maxime Mora of France, with No. 8 seed Sameer Kumar and No. 5 seed Emil Reinberg also unable to win a match, having had byes in the first round.  Two girls seeds--No. 16 Ndindi Mwaruka and No. 11 Gabby Pollner also went out in their opening matches.

The news is better in the doubles draw, where three boys teams have reached the quarterfinals, including Sam Riffice and Vasil Kirkov, who beat No. 2 seeds Bogdan Bobrov of Russia and Felipe Cunha Silva of Portugal in the second round.

The ITF Junior website is not being updated, but results can be found at the COSAT website, with links to pdf draws at the bottom of this page.

Two interviews of interest were posted today.  Jonathan Kelley of the On the Rise blog met USTA National Collegiate Coach Stephen Amritraj last month in Chicago at the Team Indoor, with Amritraj agreeing to an email interview, which can be found here.

Lisa Stone of the Parenting Aces blog spoke to five-star recruit Christopher Eubanks, a freshman who plays No. 2 at Georgia Tech, about adjusting to college tennis in this interview for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The BNP Paribas Challenge at Indian Wells, which earns the winner a qualifying wild card, began yesterday, with Chase Buchanan, the top seed in the men's draw, winning two matches Monday without dropping a game. Melanie Oudin, the top seed in the women's draw, gave a walkover to her opponent as did Ellie Halbauer(12), Jacqueline Cako(13), Alexa Glatch(11), Laura Gulbe(16) and Jessica Failla(19). The tournament has always been plagued by no shows and walkovers, which I guess is always going to happen when there are no points and no money to be gained be competing in it, unless of course, you win it.

The draws, which haven't been updated with Tuesday's results yet, are available here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bellis Wins $25,000 Pro Circuit Tournament in Rancho Santa Fe; Grade 1 in Uruguay Underway; Tennis Recruiting Reveals Stars for Spring; Free Admission to Family Circle Cup for Juniors

Postponed from Sunday due to rain, the final of the $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe women's tournament was played today, with No. 6 seed CiCi Bellis beating No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez 6-2, 6-0 to win her third Pro Circuit title at that prize money level.

Bellis, who turns 16 next month, is now 3-0 in Pro Circuit finals, and it occurred to me that she rarely loses a final if she gets there.  I looked at her record in pro and junior events in 2014, and my instinct was correct.  She reached eight finals last year, at ITF Junior Grade 1s or above and the two $25,000 Pro Circuit events, and she won seven of them, with the only loss to Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the Grade 1 in Santa Croce, Italy.

She is now approaching the WTA Top 200, which is around the cutoff for the women's qualifying at Roland Garros, and with just two points to defend between now and September, she is likely to make at least the qualifying draw of the other two slams this year. (A wild card into the US Open main draw seems likely given her performance there last year).  Bellis is blogging for the ITF junior website, with the focal point of part 2 on her love of team competition.

Sanchez also had a good week, and she too is moving up in the rankings to that magical place that assures entry into slam qualifying.

Nineteen US juniors are in the main draw of this week's Grade 1 in Uruguay, ten boys and nine girls.

The boys are Sam Riffice, Trent Bryde, Emil Reinberg(5) Nathan Ponwith(15), Vasil Kirkov, Sameer Kumar(8), Sami Kirberg, Anudeep Kodali, qualifier Jakub Wojcik and Liam Caruana.  The top seed in the draw is Bogdan Bobrov of Russia.

The US girls are: Ndindi Mwaruka(16), Andrea Kevakian, qualifier Luciana Rabines, Abigail Desiatnikov, Olivia Hauger(10), Gabby Pollner(11), Anna Dollar, qualifier Jaclyn Switkes and Ally Miller-Krasilnikov.  The top seed in the draw is Great Britain's Maia Lumsden.

Anyone who is desperate for a sign of spring can find one today at the Tennis Recruiting Network, when they announced their most recent star prospects rankings. While other rankings are updated there weekly, the star ratings change only twice a year and determine who is considered a blue chip, 5-star, etc.

I received an email today from the WTA Family Circle Cup announcing free admission to all juniors 15 and under and a tennis lesson to go along with it during the tournament April 4-12. This is a great initiative, so if you can, take the opportunity to show a young tennis player, or one who wants to be, the top level of the sport.  The complete release:

Tournament partnering with SunTrust and MW Tennis to offer free junior tickets 
to the Family Circle Cup along with a free lesson

Social Media: The @FamilyCircleCup is partnering w/ @SunTrust to offer kids 15 & under free admission all week to the tournament, April 4-12.

DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. – The Family Circle Cup tennis tournament has made its 2015 mission to grow the game of tennis, starting with its junior fans. In partnership with SunTrust, kids 15 and under will receive free admission all week to the Family Circle Cup, April 4 – 12, 2015, in Charleston, SC on Daniel Island. In addition every junior that takes advantage of the free ticket will be provided one free lesson from MWTennis during the year at the Family Circle Tennis Center.

“It’s important for our tournament to create a program to inspire juniors to get out and play the game of tennis, and to expand that relationship beyond the nine days of the tournament,” said Bob Moran, Family Circle Cup Tournament Director. “We want the Family Circle Cup and the Family Circle Tennis Center to become a vehicle for kids to fall in love with the sport all yearlong.  SunTrust continues to be a fantastic partner to the Family Circle Cup and the Charleston community.  This gesture shows how committed they are to making a difference.”

“At SunTrust, we are proud of our partnership with the Family Circle Cup for eight years,” said Mark Lattanzio, SunTrust’s Charleston Region President. “This youth outreach initiative to expand tennis participation in the Lowcountry is important as a way to help encourage the health and well-being of the future generations of our community.  Not only will the junior players have a chance to enjoy and learn about tennis at the tournament, but the financial support to them is impactful.” 

Free junior tickets can be redeemed via or at the Box Office. To sign-up for a free lesson with MWTennis, visit the academy’s booth on-site during the tournament.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saving Time in Sports; It May Be March, but Indoor Tennis Continues; Cal Women Down Stanford in Palo Alto; Johns Hopkins Threepeats at Team Indoor Championships

In today's New York Times, Christopher Clarey looks into the current push to speed up games in various sports.  The decision to play no-ad in Division I tennis isn't mentioned, but the recently introduced Fast4 format for tennis is, along with other initiatives to keep the broadcast window predictable and younger fans engaged.

Rain in San Diego has delayed the singles final of the women's $25,000 Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe. No. 6 seed CiCi Bellis and No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez have been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday.  The doubles final was completed Saturday night, with top seeds Samantha Crawford and Asia Muhammad beating No. 3 seeds Ipek Soylu of Turkey and Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-0, 6-3.

The completion of the Division I Team Indoor Championships usually signals the start of outdoor tennis for the southern half of the country, but this long, cold winner has seen the indoor season extended almost everywhere.

The Virginia and Wake Forest men went to Texas for non conference matches today, but if they were hoping for nice weather, they didn't get it, nor did either pick up a win.

For the second time in two weeks, Virginia, now No. 11, lost to No. 5 Baylor indoors 5-2.  Virginia played without top-ranked Thai Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard. Baylor won the doubles point and got singles wins from Julian Lenz at 1, Vince Schneider at 4, Mate Zsiga at 5 and Felipe Rios at 6.  Mitchell Frank and Collin Altamirano collected Virginia's two victories.  For complete results, see the Baylor release.

No. 12 Wake Forest traveled to No. 6 Texas, and in a match also played indoors, the Longhorns prevailed 4-3.  Noah Rubin did not play for the Demon Deacons.  Texas senior Soren Hess-Olesen is establishing himself as a favorite for the NCAA championships in May, keeping his dual match record perfect with a 6-3 6-2 win over Romain Bogaerts at line 1.

At Texas A&M, where there is no indoor facility, the conference match between the Aggies and Tennessee was suspended and will be resumed Monday morning. Texas A&M won the doubles point and most of the singles matches were early in the second set when play was called for the day.

No. 10 Ole Miss defeated No. 16 Vanderbilt 4-0 indoors in the three-court facility in Oxford. Nik Scholtz, currently ranked an inaccurate 60, defeated No. 9 Gonzales Austin 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 to clinch for the Rebels.

No. 51 Tulsa kept the momentum from their shock upset of No. 1 Southern Cal on Saturday going, beating No. 53 Pepperdine 4-3.

See College Tennis Today for more on today's men's action.

Of the several Top 20 matches today on the women's side, one was a Top 10 contest, with No. 8 Cal defeating No. 7 Stanford 4-3 in Palo Alto.  The Bears, still playing without NCAA finalist Lynn Chi in the singles lineup, won the doubles point and got wins from Zsofi Susanyi at 4, Klara Fabikova at 2 and in the clincher, Cecilia Estlander at 6 for the victory.

No. 13 Vanderbilt defeated No. 15 Ole Miss 6-1 in Nashville, and No. 20 Miami blanked No. 14 Clemson 7-0  in Coral Gables.  In Columbus, No. 6 Baylor got a road win, beating No. 19 Ohio State 4-0.

No. 2 Georgia defeated unranked Texas A&M 5-2 indoors in Athens. The Aggies have yet to post a ranked win, but are likely to make their way back up in the rankings now that they've begun their conference schedule.

No. 3 Florida extended its home winning streak to 139 with a 4-1 win over No. 9 Alabama Friday night, then reached 140 with a 5-0 win over Auburn today.

At the Division III Women's Team Indoor Championships hosted by DePauw, top seed Johns Hopkins captured its third consecutive title, defeating No. 2 seed Carnegie Mellon 5-2.  Jody Law clinched all three victories this weekend for Johns Hopkins.  For the ITA recap of the final, click here.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Part Two of My Conversation with Michael Joyce; Tulsa Shocks Top-ranked Southern Cal; Ponwith Takes Grade 2 Title in Argentina; Bellis and Sanchez Reach $25K Final

Part Two of my conversation with coach Michael Joyce is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Joyce discusses his view of the USTA's role in player development, explains how his father taught him to think like a coach, and how he grew to appreciate David Foster Wallace's famous magazine article about him.

A huge upset in college tennis today, with the top-ranked Southern California men falling to No. 51 Tulsa 4-3 in Los Angeles. The Trojans won the doubles point, but playing without Eric Johnson and Nick Crystal, they could only muster two singles wins. Jonny Wang, playing at line 3, won over Tulsa's Juan Matias Gonzalez, but at No. 1  Yannick Hanfmann lost to Or Ram-Harel and at No. 2 Roberto Quiroz lost to Alejandro Espejo, both in straight sets. Rob Bellamy and Connor Farren, playing No. 5 and No. 6 for USC, both lost in third set tiebreakers to Carlos Bautista and Mitchell Pritchard respectively, which secured the Tulsa upset. Max de Vroome won his match at No. 4 to give USC its third point after the match was clinched.   College Tennis Today has the singles scores posted. (there is some question about who was playing whom, but CTT has clarified that in his recap).

At the ITF Grade 2 in Argentina, No. 6 seed Nathan Ponwith added a singles title to his doubles championship, defeating top seed Ulises Blanch 6-3, 6-4 in an all-American final.  Ponwith, whose other two ITF junior titles were at the Grade 4 level, didn't lose a set in the tournament.  Girls top seed Julieta Estable of Argentina took the girls singles title, beating No. 4 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada 6-3, 6-1.

Next week is a big one on the ITF Junior Circuit, with three Grade 1s-- in Russia, Paraguay and Thailand. The US juniors have all opted for the Paraguay Grade 1.

At the Grade 4 in El Salvador, Canadians swept the singles titles. Fourteen-year-old Nicaise Muamba, the No. 14 seed, beat No. 4 seed Salvador Mijares of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the boys final. The girls title went to 14-year-old Brindtha Ramasamy, who beat No. 2 seed Alexia Coutino Castillo of Mexico 6-2, 6-3.

Ally Miller-Krasilnikov won the doubles title with Camila Ramazzini of Guatemala. The top seeds beat No. 4 seeds Ramasamy and Tiffany Lagarde 6-4, 7-5 in the final. Muamba won the doubles title with compatriot Dan Martin.

In the Norway Grade 4, qualifier Roscoe Bellamy suffered his first loss in eight matches in the final, falling to unseeded Maxence Broville of France 7-6(5), 6-2.

At the $25,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Rancho Santa Fe California, two Americans will meet for the title on Sunday.  Unseeded 15-year-old CiCi Bellis defeated 18-year-old Ipek Soylu of Turkey 6-2, 6-4 to advanced to her third $25,000 level final, but first this year.  No. 4 seed Maria Sanchez, ten years older than Bellis, reached a $50,000 final and a $25,000 last year, but hasn't won a singles title since 2012, her first full year on tour after graduating from Southern Cal. Today she defeated Sanaz Marand 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the final.  Bellis has won the title in each of her two previous appearances in a final.