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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Higueras to Transition to Consulting at USTA; BNP Paribas Challenge Semifinals Set; New ITA Division III Rankings; Women's D-III Indoor Begins Friday

The USTA announced today that Jose Higueras will be leaving his position as Director of Coaching by year-end but will continue to work with the the USTA as Master Coach Consultant, Development and Planning.  The 64-year-old Palm Springs resident was hired by the USTA in 2008, shortly after Patrick McEnroe was named General Manager of Player Development. The release explains what Higueras will do as a consultant, which doesn't sound that much different from his current duties, but perhaps the future responsibilities and travel will not take up as much of his time as the current ones do.  I have not heard if the position of Director of Coaching will be filled, but it appears that if it is, it won't be right away.  The release, with comments from USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith and GM of Player Development Martin Blackman, can be found here.

The semifinals are set for the BNP Paribas Challenge, the pre-qualifying event for a wild card into next week's BNP Paribas Open qualifying in Indian Wells.  The men's semifinals will feature the top four seeds, with former UCLA teammates Marcos Giron[1] and Clay Thompson[4] playing in one semifinal and No. 3 seed Evan Song and No. 2 seed Michael Geerts facing off in the other.

The women's draw played out much less predictably, with No. 7 seed Maria Sanchez the highest seed, and the oldest player, remaining. The 27-year-old Sanchez will play No. 14 seed Allie Sanford, who beat fellow 18-year-old Sonya Kenin[2] 6-3, 6-2 in the round of 16 and 16-year-old Salma Ewing[22] 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.  Sanford, the 2016 Easter Bowl champion, is obviously comfortable on the Indian Wells courts.  The other semifinal will feature 18-year-old Ashley Kratzer, the No. 11 seed, against 16-year-old Claire Liu, the No. 13 seed, who won the Easter Bowl title on the same courts back in 2015. Kratzer took out No. 5 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

The first ITA Division III team rankings since November were released today, with National Indoor Champion Emory moving into the top spot of the men's rankings, while the Emory women stayed at No. 1. Click on the headings to go to the full list.

Men's Top 10 Team: (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. Emory University (2)
2. Bowdoin College (1)
3. Middlebury University (3)
4. University of Chicago (5)
5. Washington University - St. Louis (4)
6. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (6)
7. Carnegie Mellon University (7)
8. Whitman College (24)
9. Pomona-Pitzer (9)
10. Case Western Reserve University (8)

Women's Top 10 Team:
1. Emory University (1)
2. Williams College (2)
3. Middlebury College (3)
4. Bowdoin College (4)
5. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (5)
6. Pomona-Pitzer (6)
7. Amherst College (7)
8. Wesleyan University (8)
9. Tufts University (9)
10. Univ. of Chicago (10)

It's obvious which gender has already held its Team Indoor, with none of the women's positions changing at all.  The women's Team Indoor begins Friday in Murfreesboro Tennessee, with Sewanee: University of the South serving as host. Pomona-Pitzer is the defending champion. Friday's quarterfinal matches, which are available via subscription to FloTennis, are as follows:

Emory[1] vs Mary Washington[8] 4:30 p.m.
Carnegie Mellon[5] vs Washington St. Lous[4] 8:30 a.m.
University of Chicago[3] vs Sewanee[6] 2:00 p.m.
Johns Hopkins[7] vs Pomona-Pitzer[2] 11:30 a.m.

The ITA preview is here.

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