Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rain Mars First Day of Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Competition; Beltrame Wins Napa Shootout; Lenz, Donaldson Advance in Napa Challenger, Other Pro Circuit News

Rain has delayed the completion of today's first of the round robin matches at the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competition in San Luis Potosi Mexico.  According to this update on the ITF Junior site, the first matches began three hours late, and the rain made other appearances in the afternoon, although according to the ITF tournament page, Tornado Alicia Black did complete her first round singles match against Shu Yue Ma of China, winning it 6-0, 6-2.  (The live scoring, which is supposed to be here, isn't working for me.) The US boys were playing Taiwan, and William Blumberg won his match over Chien-Hsun Lo 7-5, 6-2. The tournament page shows Michael Mmoh winning 3-0, ret. over Tung-Lin Wu.

Live streaming is showing the Junior Davis Cup tie between Mexico and Korea still going, so perhaps the results on the tournament page will be updated in the next few hours.

At the Porsche Napa Valley Tennis Classic, the Solinco Wild Card Shootout was won by Sebastian Beltrame of Harvard, who beat teammate Nicky Hu 10-4 to win a main draw wild card into a Pro Circuit event. Beltrame, a sophomore, went undefeated in the three-day event.  For complete results from the tournament, see this pdf from the Cal website.

Baylor's Julian Lenz continued his excellent run at the $50,000 Napa Challenger, winning his first round match after posting three qualifying wins the previous three days. The ITA preseason No. 1, a junior from Germany, defeated former ITA No. 1, Australia's JP Smith of Tennessee, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to advance to a second round match against former USC standout Daniel Nguyen. Nguyen, who also qualified, upset No. 8 seed Frank Dancevic of Canada 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3. For more on Lenz's win, see this from the Baylor website.

Jared Donaldson defeated Ryan Harrison 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the second round, joining top seed Sam Querrey, Rhyne Williams(Tennessee), Dennis Novikov(UCLA) and 18-year-old Elias Ymer of Sweden. NCAA champion Marcos Giron lost to No. 3 seed Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-3, 6-2.

Another Baylor athlete doing well on the professional level this week is senior Emma Burgic of Bosnia, who has qualified for the $50,000 women's Pro Circuit tournament in Las Vegas. Burgic defeated WTA No. 292 Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-2, 7-6(4) in today's third round of qualifying.

Jennifer Brady of UCLA, who received a wild card into the main draw, continued her hot streak, beating Amandine Hess of France 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-3 in the first round.

The $10,000 Amelia Island women's tournament also had rain disruptions today, but Caroline Dolehide and Andie Daniell were among the first round winners there.

At the $10,000 Irvine Futures, 2014 NCAA finalist Alex Sarkissian(Pepperdine), Stefan Kozlov, Deiton Baughman, Taylor Fritz, Gage Brymer(UCLA) and Lucas Gomez of Mexico won first round matches.  Sarkissian, seeded No. 7, was the only seed to play today, with the other seven scheduled for Wednesday.

Monday, September 22, 2014

USA's Junior Fed Cup Team Receives Top Seed, USA Boys No. 2; Good News for Duval; Lenz Qualifies in Napa; Ho Wins D3 Central Regional

The Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams from the United States have been cast in the role of favorites for the competition, which begins tomorrow in San Luis Potosi Mexico.  The USA's Junior Fed Cup team of CiCi Bellis, Tornado Alicia Black and Sonya Kenin is seeded No. 1, with Hungary, France and Russia also expected to win their round robin groups and advance to the semifinals.  The USA's Junior Davis Cup team of Michael Mmoh, Gianni Ross and William Blumberg is the No. 2 seed, behind France, with Japan and Korea projected to win their groups and reach the semifinals.  For more on the seeds, see this article from the ITF junior website.

The competition is also going to be live streamed for the first time, with that option available here.

I mentioned by in the summer that Vicky Duval had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and would be undergoing treatment.  She has been tweeting about her treatments and condition for the past two months, and announced over the weekend she is now cancer free.  For more, see the WTA website.

The qualifying is complete at the $50,000 Napa Challenger and ITA preseason No. 1 Julian Lenz of Baylor has made the main draw.  Lenz won three matches the past three days, all of them in straight sets, beating Mico Santiago 6-2, 6-1 in today's final qualifying round.  Live streaming for Napa and for the $50,000 women's event this week in Las Vegas can be found here.

I spent the morning at the Division III women's central regional final, where Washington University-St. Louis sophomore Rebecca Ho defeated University of Chicago freshman Ariana Iranpour 7-5, 6-2 to earn her place in the ITA Small College National Championships next month in Sumter, South Carolina. 

Iranapour led 5-3 and had a set point in the first set with Ho serving at 3-5, but Ho held and won the next seven games before Iranapour recovered.

"She's a really tough opponent, so I knew I had to raise my level," said Ho, the No. 4 seed. "And as time went along I was able to do that."

Trailing 3-0 in the second set, Iranpour held and broke, but she couldn't pull even, losing her next service game.

"I started getting really nervous when that happened," said the Santa Clarita, California resident. "She was upping her game too, so I knew I had to really dig in and try really hard the next few games to pull it out."

Ho was playing with the index finger on her left hand wrapped after dislocating it in a fall during a doubles match earlier in the month.

"I thought it was really going to affect my play, but actually there was almost no effect at all," Ho said. "I know that it's there but I knew I had to work around it and I was able to do that."

Ho was not even sure where the Small College National Championships are being held. 

"I thought I'd get through this match and then I'll think about it," Ho said.

Iranpour didn't leave Kalamazoo without a title however, as she and Megan Tan won the doubles title on Saturday.

For the complete draws, see the Kalamazoo College website.  For an update on other regionals around the country, see the ITA's hub page.

In other college fall tournament news, Wayne Montgomery of Georgia has begun his collegiate career with a bang, winning both the Southern Intercollegiate Championships last weekend and yesterday, the Cajun Classic.  He will have to go through qualifying to get into the All-American Championships main draw however, as it doesn't appear any of the freshmen/newcomers received a wild card, as has been granted in the past.

At the men's SEC Classic in Gainesville, all four of the semifinalists were Gators, with sophomore Elliott Orkin taking the title.  Orkin, Gordon Watson and Maxx Lipman, two other semifinalists, are all in the qualifying tournament at the All-American Championships. Diego Hidalgo, who Orkin defeated in the finals today, is in prequalifying.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Coric Takes Challenger Title, Barty Takes Break; Gosea, Jenkins Earn Futures Titles, Tatishvili Wins Albuquerque $75K

Croatia's Borna Coric, who won't turn 18 until November, won his first Challenger title today in Turkey, defeating top seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-4 in the final of the €106,500 tournament. The 2013 US Open boys champion showed some mental toughness in the third set after letting five match points slip away in the second set, including a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker.

Josh Meiseles, who it the ATP's resident Challenger expert, reports in this article that this is one of just four years when more than one 17-year-old has won a Challenger (Alexander Zverev of Germany is the other this year).   Coric is one of five teenagers to win a Challenger this year joining Nick Kyrgios of Australia, Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, Hyeon Chung of Korea and Zverev.  With the title Coric will break into the ATP Top 150.

While one junior grand slam champion is moving into the spotlight, another is walking away from it.  Australia's Ashleigh Barty, who won the Wimbledon girls title in 2011 and reached three senior slam finals in doubles last year, is leaving the game, according to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Only 18, Barty has not given any time frame for a return, saying in a statement only that "it is best for me to take a break from professional tennis."

University of Illinois senior Farris Gosea won his first title on the ITF men's circuit today at the $15,000 Futures in Canada.  Gosea, who is from Wales and competes under the Great Britain flag, defeated No. 6 seed Phillip Bester of Canada 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-4.  For more on Gosea's victory, see this article from the University of Illinois website.

2013 NCAA singles finalist and doubles champion Jarmere Jenkins won his third Futures title, defeating Dennis Novikov, formerly of UCLA, 6-4, 6-2 in the $10,000 event in Costa Mesa, California. Novikov had beaten Jenkins in their previous meeting in a Futures final last summer, but the former Cavalier won a rematch the following week in the quarterfinals, and including the NCAA team finals in 2013, is now 3-1 against Novikov.

“I don’t think he played his game today, by far,” Jenkins told Joel Beer, the media liasion for the tournament. “I just got some breaks early and that helped me keep up my momentum.”

Jenkins earned $1,440 for the victory and will pick up 17 points toward his world ranking. He entered the event ranked 280th in the world.

The next five weeks, his focus with be playing Futures events in Australia.

“The circuit in America is usually the top American players beating up on each other, so it’s good to get away and see different players in a new atmosphere,” Jenkins told Beers.

The title will no doubt help Jenkins feel a little bit better about this fall, which took place yesterday in his semifinal match with Tennys Sandgren. Jenkins linked to it on his twitter account, and ESPN has noted it for its Not Top Ten feature.

Former Texas A&M player Junior Ore and former San Diego State player Jeremy Hunter Nicholas won the doubles title in Costa Mesa, defeating current UCLA teammates Mackenzie McDonald and Martin Redlicki 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.

At the $75,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Albuquerque, top seed Anna Tatishvili defeated Irina Falconi 6-2, 6-4 in the singles final. Melanie Oudin and Jan Abaza won the doubles title, defeating No. 4 seeds Nicole Melichar and former Gator All-American Allie Will 6-2, 6-3.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

USTA Junior Teams Beat New Mexico; Napa Valley Tennis Classic Underway; Jenkins Meets Novikov in Costa Mesa Futures Final; Gosea Aims for First Title in Canada

The Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup teams defeated the University of New Mexico team 5-2 yesterday, with CiCi Bellis, Tornado Alicia Black and Sonya Kenin sweeping their singles matches, and somewhat surprisingly, the juniors winning all three doubles matches.  The Lobos won two of the three men's singles matches, but it wasn't enough.   The results:

1) CiCi Bellis/Alicia Black(USTA) def. Gabrielle Otero/Natasha Smith (UNM), 8-1
2) Michael Mmoh/William Blumberg (USTA) def. Samir Iftikhar/James Hignett (UNM), 8-4
3) Sonya Kenin/Gianni Ross (USTA) def. Sharon Coone/Rodolfo Jauregui
(UNM), 8-7

1) Bellis (USTA) def. Otero (UNM), 6-3, 6-2
2) Black (USTA) def. Smith (UNM), 6-2, 6-1
3) Kenin (USTA def. Olivier (UNM), 6-2, 7-5
4) Iftikhar (UNM) def. Mmoh (USTA), 6-4, 6-2
5) Blumberg (USTA) def. Jauregui (UNM), 6-2, 6-4
6) Hignett (UNM) def. Ross (USTA), 6-3, 6-1

The USTA has again sent a boys team to the Porsche(formerly Land Rover) Napa Valley Tennis Classic at Meadowood Resort, but before they competed against players from Tulsa, Stanford, Cal, North Carolina, Texas and Harvard, they played the Cal men's team, falling to the Bears 8-4 on Wednesday.  The juniors competing in Berkeley and in Napa are Kalman Boyd, Walker Duncan, Jacob Brumm, Sam Riffice, Connor Hance, Timothy Sah, Sameer Kumar and Alfredo Perez. Neither Steve Pratt nor I am in Napa covering the event this year, but results are available on the Cal website.

In addition to the college/junior event in Napa, the qualifying has begun for next week's Challenger. In one of the intriguing first round qualifying matches today, preseason No. 1 Julian Lenz of Baylor defeated Kalamazoo and Wimbledon boys champion Noah Rubin 6-4, 6-2. Spencer Papa won his first round qualifying match today, as did former USC star Daniel Nguyen (over Tommy Paul) and Oklahoma Sooners Dane Webb and Andrew Harris.  Sam Querrey, who received a wild card, is the top seed in the $50,000 event, with other wild cards going to NCAA champion Marcos Giron,(UCLA) Giron's former teammate Dennis Novikov, and former three-time NCAA D-III singles champion Matt Seeberger (UC-Santa Cruz). Denis Kudla is back after being out for two months with mono.

Novikov today reached the finals of the $10,000 Costa Mesa Futures, defeating Jeff Dadamo (Texas A&M) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.  Former Bruin Novikov, the No. 5 seed, will play No. 2 seed Jarmere Jenkins, the 2014 NCAA finalist while at Virginia. Jenkins saved a match point at 5-6 in the third set tiebreaker to defeat Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(6). Sunday's Costa Mesa final will be a rematch of the contest at No. 1 singles in the 2013 NCAA Team Championships, which Jenkins won 7-6(3), 6-3.

The final at the $75,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Albuquerque will also feature two Americans, with Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech) facing top seed Anna Tatishvili. In today's semifinals, Falconi beat 18-year-old Louisa Chirico 6-3, 7-6(5) and Tatishvili defeated No. 3 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).

University of Illinois senior Farris Gosea of Great Britain has reached his first Futures final at the $15,000 tournament this week in Canada. The unseeded Gosea beat top seed Jason Jung (Michigan) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in today's semifinal, and will face No. 6 seed Philip Bester of Canada in Sunday's final. The doubles title went to Seeberger and his partner Rudy Siwy, the former Fresno State star and current Santa Clara men's assistant coach. The top seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Filip Peliwo of Canada and Daniel Skripnik of Israel 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

Friday, September 19, 2014

American Collegiate Invitational Recap; Update on the 16 Participants

My recap of the first American Collegiate Invitational is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  After talking with tournament director Bill Mountford and US Open tournament director David Brewer, it sounds as if will be back in 2015, with some tweaks, of course.

As I mentioned in my post last week on how top college players feel about the no-ad format, I talked to all 16 competitors at the American Collegiate Invitational two weeks ago. So instead of a slide show, I'm passing along individual photos with a brief update on their plans for the coming months.

The UCLA sophomore is taking the fall off to compete in USTA Pro Circuit tournaments. Brady won her first ITF Women's Circuit singles title at last week's $25K in Redding

Cercone, who graduated from Florida in May, is planning to continue competing on the Pro Circuit and will play in the upcoming ITF Women's tournaments in Mexico
Andrews is currently working on a masters in accounting at Notre Dame, but will train with the team, and continue play when he can, saying he's not ready to give it up.
Carter is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, and with a preseason ranking of 3. She was out most of the summer with an injury, but reached the final of the $10K in Fort Worth, her 1st tournament since the NCAAs
The sophomore at UCLA returns to school in October after playing 10 events this summer. McDonald, 13 in the preseason rankings, reached the semis of the Winnetka Challenger and Tulsa Futures and will play the Napa Challenger next week.
Ahn, who graduated from Stanford with a degree in Science, Technology and Society, is now training in Boca Raton, although not with the USTA. She plans to play professional tennis for at least a couple of years.
Sarkissian, the NCAA finalist in 2014, won a Futures title in Canada this summer. The Pepperdine graduate plans to compete on the professional circuit full time.
The 2014 NCAA champion, a junior at Virginia, is No. 10 in the preseason rankings. She had wrist surgery after the NCAAs, returning to competition in August and winning a set from WTA No. 2 Simona Halep in the first round of the US Open.
Thompson expressed disappointment with his results this summer, his first as a professional, citing confidence issues. But the former UCLA Bruin did reach the quarterfinals of this week's Futures in Costa Mesa
The Virginia junior is No. 5 in the preseason rankings and expressed excitement about the upcoming ITA Riviera All-American Championships, where she reached the final as a pre-qualifier her freshman year. She plans to play Pro Circuit events this fall as well.
The Ohio State graduate is currently in Sweden, where he has reached the final of a Futures there. He has won 5 doubles titles since starting his pro career in June, all outside the US, and said he has enjoyed the extensive traveling he's done.
No. 1 in the preseason rankings, the North Carolina sophomore is playing the ITA Riviera All-American championships and the Las Vegas, Florence and New Braunfels Pro Circuit events. Says she definitely wants to turn pro, but has no timetable other than 'near future'.
Now a pro after three years at UCLA, Giron is expected to sign a management agreement with the CAA agency soon. He is playing the Napa Challenger next week, and says he gained confidence from qualifying at August's ATP Winston Salem event.
Former Gator Janowicz is dealing with a stress fracture in her foot, but if she heals sufficiently, she will give the professional tour a try.
Sarmiento is finishing his degree this semester at USC and will begin playing the Pro Circuit full time in January of 2015

Hiltzik strained his hip flexor this summer, but is back healthy and ready for his junior season at the University of Illinois. His preseason ranking is 6.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

More on USTA Player Development's Course, 10 and Under Tennis; Tiafoe and the Hype Machine

Since posting my article on what I'd like to see from USTA Player Development going forward, I've come across several others.  This one, from New York magazine, "Ten Ways to Make the Next Great American Tennis Star" provides perspectives from a wide variety of people, including Jeff Tarango, Katerina Stewart, Mats Wilander and others. My esteem for The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.and its author Daniel Coyle, who wrote this perceptive piece on the value of "crummy" facilities, makes No. 3, on the new Lake Nona complex, particularly interesting to me.'s Kamakshi Tandon provides thoughts on Player Development from the Bryan brothers, who spoke after the announcement that Patrick McEnroe was leaving his position as its General Manager. They confirmed their agreement with the above article's suggestion No. 7.

7. Keep Local Coaches Involved
One criticism of the current player development program is that local coaches felt the USTA were poaching talent and removing juniors from environments where they were thriving. “Help the local coach,” Wilander says. “When a coach knows a player that well and you take them away, it’s really dangerous. You should literally try and keep them home as long as possible.”

Here's Mike Bryan:
"I mean, it's tough to hand pick kids and put them in a center and say they're going to all be champions. I think just the best chances are to let the coaches do their jobs."

And Bob:
".... So why not help out those coaches and those programs instead of taking kids out of their comfortable environment and sticking them in a center without their parents and trying to make them pros in an uncomfortable environment—these are formative years [for] teenagers and young adults."

Before there was the firestorm of the recent Junior Competition restructuring, there was another unpopular USTA mandate, 10-and-under Tennis, formerly known as QuickStart.  The New York Times recently looked at the program, how and why it was introduced, and the criticism it has faced since. "Saving parents from themselves" probably isn't a goal the USTA should voice publicly, even if they privately view that as one of their roles.

And, although I tweeted a link to this several days ago, I don't think I posted it here.  Francis Tiafoe, who has plenty of company as a bright American 16-and-under prospect, is the subject of this Grantland article, which revolves around the interest Jay Z's Roc Nation sports department has in signing him to a professional contract. The article also attempts to explain why Tiafoe is "the world's most famous junior tennis player," and the pressures he faces because of that. Having lived through Donald Young's junior career, I don't see the any good coming from Tiafoe being in this position, and I hope his peers can help deflect some of the attention. But just the fact that this article was written tells me that being famous only engenders more attention, that it's reason enough to put a microscope on a child and his family. I'm not so sure about that.