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Monday, October 23, 2017

Eubanks Turns Pro; Junior Masters Draws Released Minus Taylor Johnson; ITF Grade 4 Begins in Atlanta; Donations Help with Black's Surgery

Georgia Tech senior Christopher Eubanks announced today that he was foregoing his final year of collegiate eligibility to pursue a career in professional tennis. The 21-year-old from Atlanta, currently 309 in the ATP rankings, was taking the fall off while he decided whether to return to Georgia Tech for his final dual match season.  When I spoke to Eubanks in New York, after the American Collegiate Invitational, he said he had 24 or 25 more credits to take before graduating.  Eubanks went 31-6 last year, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals and was twice a semifinalist at the National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York.  For comments from Eubanks and Georgia Tech head coach Kenny Thorne, see this article from the Georgia Tech website.  In a separate article, Eubanks conveys his thanks to those who have assisted him as a student-athlete.

The ITF Junior Masters begins Wednesday (tomorrow night here in the U.S.) with the round robin groups revealed today.  I hadn't noticed that American Taylor Johnson was no longer in the field, but apparently she withdrew some time ago, with Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia replacing her.  That was revealed in this ITF article about Osorio, just two days after the Johnson article was posted. (There's a mistake in the Osorio article where it claims she is the youngest player in the field. She is older than both Whitney Osuigwe and Marta Kostyuk, although all three are 15 right now). The top two players in each group advance to the semifinals.

The girls round robin groups:

Group Liang:
Whitney Osuigwe(USA)
Elena Rybakina(RUS)
Maria Carle(ARG)
Sofia Sewing(USA)

Group Li:

Wang Xin Yu(CHN)
Marta Kostyuk(UKR)
Kaja Juvan(SLO)
Maria Osorio Serrano(COL)

The boys round robin groups:

Group Shuai:
Yu Wibing(CHN)
Jurij Rodionov(AUT)
Marko Miladinovic(SRB)
Emil Ruusuvuori(FIN)

Group Yong:
Axel Geller(ARG)
Sebastian Baez(ARG)
Trent Bryde(USA)
Hsu Yu Hsiou(TPE)

The ITF tournament preview is available here.

The ITF Junior Circuit resumes in the United States this week with a Grade 4 in Atlanta.  Rain sent the girls first round of singles indoors today, with the boys scheduled to play their first round of singles on Tuesday. I don't know if they will play through Sunday now, or double up later in the week.  Top girls seeds Addison Guevara and Tara Malik advanced, with No. 4 seed Sofia Rojas the highest seed eliminated. She lost to qualifier Nikita Vishwase 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.  The top seed in the boys draw is Vikash Singh of India, with Tyler Zink the No. 2 seed. 

The New York Times' David Waldstein has an update on 19-year-old Tornado Alicia Black and her quest to resume her tennis career, which had been derailed by a need for hip surgery, which she could not afford. A gofundme campaign and two large personal donations have resulted in the funds necessary to have the surgery and pay her expenses while recovering. She will not be able to coach, her current source of income, during her rehabilitation. For more on Black's immediate and long term plans, read the article

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wolf Wins First Futures Title; Townsend Claims Second Straight Sweep in Florence; Kozlov is Champion at Las Vegas Challenger; Americans Sweep Titles in Bermuda Grade 5

Ohio State sophomore JJ Wolf may have missed his opportunity for the ITA Midwest Regional Championships this weekend, but the 2017 Kalamazoo 18s finalist more than made up for it by winning his first USTA Pro Circuit title at the $25,000 Futures in Harlingen Texas.  For the second consecutive day, the 18-year-old from Cincinnati dropped the first set, but fought back, with the wild card defeating qualifier Evan Zhu, a 19-year-old UCLA sophomore, 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

Unseeded twins Hunter and Yates Johnson(SMU) won the doubles title in Harlingen, beating former Texas A&M teammates Harrison Adams and Shane Vinsant, the No. 3 seeds, 7-6(2), 6-3. It's the fourth Pro Circuit title for the 23-year-old Johnsons together. Yates has a fifth title, with Adams as his partner.

For the second straight week, Taylor Townsend swept the titles at a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in South Carolina. A week after taking the singles and doubles titles at the Sumter tournament, top seed Townsend won her fourth title in eight days in the singles final at Florence, beating No. 8 seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-1, 7-5.  Townsend won the doubles title with Maria Sanchez yesterday.

Another Kalamazoo 18s finalist won a title today, with 2015 runner-up Stefan Kozlov taking his second ATP Challenger title at the $50,000 event in Las Vegas.  The 19-year-old fourth seed defeated unseeded Liam Broady of Great Britain 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, despite failing to convert two match points serving for it at 5-3 40-15 in the third set.

Top seeds Brydan Klein and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain won the doubles title in Las Vegas, beating No. 3 seeds Hans Hach Verdugo(Abilene Christian) of Mexico and Dennis Novikov(UCLA) 6-3, 4-6, 10-3.

For more on Kozlov's win in the final, see this article from tournament press aide Steve Pratt.

At the 43,000 ATP Challenger in his home country of Germany, former USC star Yannick Hanfmann won his first title at that level, with the No. 3 seed beating unseeded Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in the final.  Hanfmann will move to an ATP career high of 114 with the title.

The ITF Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan is complete, with top seed Whitney Osuigwe falling to No. 2 seed Xin Yu Wang of China 6-4, 6-4 in the final.  Top boys seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan won the boys title, beating No. 2 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia 6-3, 7-6(5).  I believe the boys doubles title went to No. 8 seeds Admir Kalender of Croatia and Valentin Royer of France, who beat No. 3 seeds Jaimee Angele of France and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 7-6(4), 4-6, 10-4.  That result is not entirely clear, with the ITF recap of the final day giving Angele and Mejia as the champions.

Americans swept the titles at the ITF Grade 5 in Bermuda this week, with 15-year-old Andrew Dale claiming his second singles title in two weeks. Dale, who opted for Grade 5s in the Dominican Republic and Bermuda instead of playing the Grade B1 in Tulsa, has earned 60 points from singles titles these past two weeks; he would have needed to reach the quarterfinals of the Pan American Closed to earn that amount in that tournament.  Dale, the No. 5 seed, lost his first set in his winning streak in the final, beating No. 1 seed Alexander Kiefer 6-3, 6-7(0), 6-3 in the all-American final.

Marcella Cruz won the girls title, with the No. 4 seed needing to win just four matches, with only 13 girls in the main draw (Dale also won just four matches, due to a bye). The 17-year-old won her first ITF singles title with a 7-5, 6-2 decision over No. 2 seed Annali Olivelle of Great Britain.

Cruz also won the doubles title, with Nicole Hammond, needing just two win for that championship.  The top seeds beat No. 2 seeds Olivell and Charlotte Russell of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

The boys title went to top seeds Kiefer and Jeffrey Fradkin, who beat No. 3 seeds Dale and Benjamin Kittay 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

ITF Pan American Closed Recap, Videos, Photos

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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

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

The participants:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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