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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eubanks, Di Lorenzo Advance to Pro Circuit Finals for Second Straight Week; Graham Aims for Title in Canada; Goetz and Nefve Win Doubles Championship at Berlin Grade 1

Georgia Tech's Christopher Eubanks and Ohio State's Francesca Di Lorenzo will play their second singles finals in the past eight days on Sunday after picking up victories today at $25,000 events in Winston-Salem North Carolina and Baton Rouge Louisiana.

Eubanks, a rising senior who won the singles title at last week's $25,000 Winston-Salem Futures in a third set tiebreaker against Georgia Tech alum and volunteer assistant coach Kevin King. Today the pair of unseeded Yellow Jackets, who won the doubles title on Friday, met in the semifinals with Eubanks again coming out the winner by virtue of a third set tiebreaker, beating King 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(2).  Eubanks will play unseeded Tommy Paul in Sunday's final, after Paul took out top seed Austin Krajicek 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Paul, who just turned 20, and Eubanks, who just turned 21, met in the first round of qualifying at the BB&T Open in Atlanta last year, with Eubanks winning 6-2, 7-5.

Di Lorenzo, 19, dropped the Sumter South Carolina final last week to Ashley Lahey, an unseeded wild card, who is on the opposite end of the pro experience spectrum of Di Lorenzo's opponent on Sunday, top seed Nicole Gibbs.  No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to that meeting with a third consecutive win over No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa, this time by a score of 6-3, 6-2.  Gibbs, 24, took a wild card to play in Baton Rouge after injuries and slump had left her winless on the WTA tour since reaching the third round at the Australian Open.  Gibbs trailed Vicky Duval 3-1 and 4-2 in the final set of their semifinal match today, but fought back to secure a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory and set up her first meeting with Di Lorenzo.

The doubles title in Baton Rouge went to Pepperdine's Luisa Stefani of Brazil and Georgia's Ellen Perez of Australia, who beat Di Lorenzo and Virginia alum Julia Elbaba 6-3, 6-4.

A third all-American final will take place on Sunday in British Columbia, where unseeded Alexa Graham, a rising sophomore at North Carolina, will face No. 2 seed Tori Kinard at the $15,000 event in Canada.  Graham, who turns 19 next month, defeated Virginia rising sophomore Rosie Johanson of Canada 7-6(3), 6-4 in the semifinals, while Kinard, 29, outlasted recent Penn graduate Kana Daniel 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(1).  It's Graham's third Pro Circuit final, with one win and one loss in championship matches at $10,000 events back in 2015.

This week's Grade 1 in Berlin Germany was disappointing for the 11 Americans in the singles draws, with none of them advancing past the second round.  But the US did manage a title, with the unseeded team of Ryan Goetz and Axel Nefve beating top seeds Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France and Naoki Tajima of Japan 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-5.

The boys singles final will feature No. 2 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany, who won last week's title in Offenbach, and unseeded Stefan Palosi of Romania.  The girls finals will also feature a German, No. 8 seed Jule Niemeier, against No. 10 seed Anna Laguza of Ukraine.

At the WTA's Mallorca Open, CiCi Bellis's opportunity to play in her first WTA final was denied by Julia Goerges of Germany, who rolled to a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Goerges will face No. 2 seed  Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in
the final. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Duo Commits to Princeton; Americans Dominate USTA Pro Circuit $25K Semifinals; Bellis Reaches Mallorca Semifinals; K-College Conference Winning Streak Ends Due to NCAA Violations

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network looks at Kalamazoo area blue chip Bill Duo's choice of Princeton for 2018.  Duo, a rising senior at Portage Central High School, is the latest in a long line of Kalamazoo area juniors who have been coached by Tom Walker. Unfortunately for Kalamazoo tennis, Walker moved to a new position at Court One in Lansing several years ago, so Duo has been making that 75-minute commute three or four times a week.  I spoke to both of them at the West Michigan qualifier earlier this month at Western Michigan University about the recruiting process, how they began working together and why they've continued, even with the extra burden of that distance.

All four semifinalists at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures are Americans, with last week's winner and finalist Christopher Eubanks and Kevin King meeting again a round earlier after victories today. Eubanks beat qualifier Riley Smith 7-6(2), 6-4 and King eliminated qualifier Henry Craig 6-2, 6-4.  The other semifinal will feature Tommy Paul, who beat Wil Spencer 7-5, 6-3 and top seed Austin Krajicek, who defeated No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Eubanks and King lost in last week's doubles final, but this week they came away with the winners' trophies when the No. 4 seeds defeated No. 2 seeds Dominik Koepfer of Germany and Luis Martinez of Venezuela 6-3, 6-4 in the championship match.  It's the first pro doubles title for Eubanks, while King now can claim 11 Futures and Challenger doubles titles.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $25,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Baton Rouge are Americans, with No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa the only international.  Simmonds, who beat qualifier Quinn Gleason 6-4, 6-1, will play No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo, who defeated wild card Ashley Kratzer 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kratzer served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Di Lorenzo was able to break hold and break to force a third set in the nearly three-hour contest. Di Lorenzo beat Simmonds last week in three sets en route to the Sumter final and has another win over Simmonds in Macon last year.

The other semifinal will feature top seed Nicole Gibbs against Vicky Duval.  Gibbs ended the run of last week's champion Ashley Lahey, beating the 17-year-old 7-6(0), 6-1, while Duval, playing in just her third tournament since last year's Wimbledon, defeated Julia Elbaba 7-5, 6-1. Gibbs and Duval have split their two previous meetings, with Duval winning in Wimbledon qualifying back in 2014 and Gibbs winning in Vancouver qualifying way back in 2012, when Gibbs was still at Stanford.

The results for Americans at this week's $15,000 Futures in Rochester New York couldn't have been any worse.  It began with No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian giving a walkover to qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada. NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski[5] was beaten by No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan 6-3, 6-1, Cameron Silverman went out to No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-2, 6-2 and qualifier Alex Knight retired trailing top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark 4-0.   The doubles title also eluded the US team, with Kwiatkowski and Virginia teammate Luca Corinteli falling to Torpegaard and Ohio State teammate Huge Di Feo 7-6(5), 6-4.

At the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in British Columbia, North Carolina rising sophomore Alexa Graham has advanced to the semifinals after beating top seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-4, 6-0. She will play unseeded Canadian Rosie Johanson, who is a rising sophomore at Virginia.

CiCi Bellis reached her first WTA semifinal (not counting the 125 level WTA tournament she won last November in Honolulu) at the Mallorca Open, an international level tournament.  Bellis, playing in her first WTA tournament on grass, defeated Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals and will face unseeded Julia Goerges of Germany in Saturday's semifinals.  For more details on Bellis' win today and comments from the 18-year-old, see this article from the WTA website.

Kalamazoo College's men's tennis team had a streak of conference championships that extended to a remarkable 79 years, but that's over now after the MIAA vacated previous titles and banned the school from participating in the 2018 conference championships due to NCAA violations.  The violations involve the school's process of rewarding of financial aid and are not specific to any particular sport, but because they have the most noteworthy accomplishment ending with this decision, men's tennis will feel the sanctions more keenly than some of the other programs.  For more details on the violations and sanctions, see this Kalamazoo Gazette article, which also provides the first public mention that athletic director Kristen Smith will be leaving her position.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Qualifiers Advance to Quarterfinals in Three USTA Pro Circuit Events; Potapova Out of Wimbledon Juniors; Hodge Out at Georgia

All three USTA Pro Circuit events this week will still have their No. 1 seeds in action after today's matches, but the No. 2 seeds have all been eliminated, and qualifiers have picked up some big wins.

At the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina, only two seeds remain: No. 1 seed Austin Krajicek and No. 8 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand, who will play Friday for a place in the semifinals.

Last week's champion Christopher Eubanks, the rising Georgia Tech senior, continued his run with a  7-6(3), 7-5 win over 2012 NCAA finalist Eric Quigley and will meet USC rising sophomore Riley Smith, son of USC coach Peter Smith. Smith, a qualifier who beat No. 4 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada in the first round, took out North Carolina graduate Ronnie Schneider 6-3, 6-2 to reach his first Futures quarterfinal.  Tommy Paul beat No. 5 seed Philip Bester of Canada 6-2, 6-2 and will play Wil Spencer, who advanced via a walkover from qualifier Brandon Holt.  The other quarterfinal will feature last week's finalist Kevin King(Georgia Tech) and qualifier Henry Craig.  Craig beat 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-6(3), 6-3 today, with Shane having beaten No. 2 seed Alex Sarkissian, the 2014 NCAA finalist, in two tiebreakers.  It's the 22-year-old Denver graduate's second career Futures quarterfinal.

University of Michigan rising senior Alex Knight earned his first ATP point yesterday at the $15,000 Rochester Futures with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, but the 20-year-old qualifier didn't stop there. Today Knight defeated Ohio State recruit John McNally 6-3, 7-6(5) to reach a quarterfinal meeting with top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, the rising Ohio State senior.

Knight is one of two qualifiers into the quarterfinals in Rochester, with former Indiana standout Samuel Monette of Canada joining him by virtue of a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Dennis Nevolo.  Monette will face No. 7 seed Alexios Halebian.

NCAA champion Thai Kwiatkowski, seeded fifth, needed over three hours to get by Alex Rybakov, last week's champion in Buffalo, 6-7(5), 7-6(9), 6-2 in yesterday's first round. Today the recent Virginia graduate defeated qualifier Sasha Gozun, a recent South Florida graduate, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to a meeting with No. 3 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan.

Former Elon star Cameron Silverman advanced to his second straight Futures quarterfinal with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Adam El Mihdawy.  Silverman meets No. 8 seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile next.

The only qualifier still remaining at the $25,000 women's tournament in Baton Rouge is former Notre Dame star Quinn Gleason.  The 22-year-old Gleason beat No. 2 seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia in the first round yesterday and today she took out fellow qualifier Raveena Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(8).  Gleason will play No. 6 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa next.

Top seed Nicole Gibbs faces last week's Sumter champion Ashley Lahey in one of the top half quarterfinals. In the other, Julia Elbaba plays Vicky Duval.  In the other bottom half quarterfinal, wild card Ashley Kratzer will face last week's Sumter finalist, No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo.

Yesterday 16-year-old Anastasia Potapova of Russia received a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon and the 2016 Wimbledon girls champion also withdrew from this year's junior championships.  She joins Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu of Canada as prominent junior girls who have withdrawn since the initial acceptance list was posted.  By not defending her title, Potapova will relinquish her No. 1 ranking.

The Macon Telegraph is reporting that Georgia men's assistant Bo Hodge, who was suspended during an ongoing police investigation into missing drugs, will not return to the team.  The article says the University has posted the assistant coach's position as of this morning. The article makes no mention of the status of women's associate head coach Drake Bernstein, who was also suspended last month for reasons yet to be publicly acknowledged by the school.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Shapovalov and Norrie Awarded Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards; Bellis Reaches WTA Mallorca Quarterfinals; Gooch, Morton Win WCs for Citi Open Qualifying: USTA Hires New Director of Performance

2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov 
Wimbledon announced its first wild cards today, with both 2016 Wimbledon boys champion Denis Shapovalov of Canada and TCU star Cameron Norrie of Great Britain selected to compete in the main draw. Ranked in the ATP Top 200, Shapovalov is already in qualifying, which is the usual wild card given to the previous year's junior champion.

The men's main draw wild cards:
Tommy Haas(GER)
Denis Shapovalov(CAN)
Cameron Norrie(GBR)
Brydan Klein(GBR)
James Ward(GBR)

The other three wild cards will be announced later this week, with qualifying set to begin next week.

The women's main draw wild cards:
Katie Boulter(GBR)
Naomi Broady(GBR)
Heather Watson(GBR)
Laura Robson(GBR)
Zarina Diyas(KAZ)

Again, three more wild cards are likely to be distributed after this week's tournament results.

The men's qualifying wild cards include two former Texas Longhorns, Ed Corrie and Lloyd Glasspool.

The men's qualifying wild cards:
Liam Broady(GBR)
Ed Corrie(GBR)
Lloyd Glasspool(GBR)
Jay Clarke(GBR)
Marcus Willis(GBR)

Two more will be announced and the final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

The women's qualifying wild cards:
Freya Christie(GBR)
Harriet Dart(GBR)
Katy Dunne(GBR)
Anastasia Potapova(RUS)
Katie Swan(GBR)
Gabriella Taylor(GBR)

Final two are reserved for the wild card playoff.

Potapova received her wild card as the previous year's junior champion. Swan, now 18, received a main draw wild card last year and a qualifying wild card in 2015.  Click on the link in the first sentence to see the doubles wild cards.

Today at the WTA event in Mallorca Spain, CiCi Bellis reached the quarterfinals with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over Germany's Mona Barthel, the 18-year-old's third quarterfinal appearance in 2017.  She will play unseeded Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic for her first WTA semifinal appearance.

The Citi Open, a combined ATP/WTA event scheduled for next month in Washington DC, held a wild card tournament this week, with former Elon standout Damon Gooch of South Africa and former Virginia star Skyler Morton earning qualifying wild cards.  Both were top seeds, with Gooch defeating 17-year-old Andrew Fenty, the No. 2 seed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 and Morton beating No. 2 seed and current Virginia rising senior Cassie Mercer 7-6(6), 6-2 in the finals.  For more on the finals, see this Washington Post article.  For the complete results, see the TennisLink site. 

The USTA today announced the hiring of Brent Salazar as Director of Performance.  Salazar, who played college tennis at New Mexico, has been an assistant strength coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and last year was head of strength and conditioning for the Minnesota Vikings. Salazar will be based at the USTA's new National Campus in Lake Nona Florida.  The complete release can be found here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Again This Week; Another ITF Grade 1 in Germany; Bellis, Kozlov Post WTA, ATP Wins on Grass

This week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are very much like last week's USTA Pro Circuit tournaments, with only one of the three this week moving to a different state.

Winston-Salem North Carolina is the site of a second consecutive $25,000 Futures, with last week's champion, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, earning another win in today's first round, beating wild card Jonathan Ho, a Wake Forest alum, 6-4, 6-2.  The other three wild cards, all American juniors, also went out in the opening round, with Gianni Ross falling to top seed Austin Krajicek, Trent Bryde losing to Jose Statham[8] of New Zealand and Alexandre Rotsaert beaten by Tommy Paul, all in straight sets.

A notable first round winner today is Deiton Baughman, who spent the past collegiate season as a volunteer assistant at USC.  Once ranked as high as 341, the 21-year-old from California started his professional competition for 2017 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Harrison Adams(Texas A&M).  He and Ho also won their first round doubles matches, beating top seeds Krajicek and Jackson Withrow 7-6(6), 5-7, 10-7.

The other Futures this week moved an hour east from last week's $15,000 tournament in Buffalo, to Rochester New York.  Top seed is Ohio State senior Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark, with wild cards going to John Speicher, Jenson Brooksby, Roy Smith and Josh Silverstein, none of whom played in today's opening round action.  John McNally, who is no longer eligible for ITF junior events but can still compete this year in Kalamazoo, received entry via his year-end Top 20 ITF junior ranking and won his first round match today.

The women moved from Sumter South Carolina to Baton Rouge Louisiana for their second straight $25,000 tournament, with Sumter champion Ashley Lahey receiving a special exemption into the main draw.  The surprise top seed is Nicole Gibbs, whose only two wins this year were at the Australian Open.  Gibbs, who had been out for all of April with an injury and decided not to play the grass season, has not played a $25,000 level event since March of 2014.  In addition to Gibbs, wild cards were given to Ryann Foster, a senior at LSU, and Ashley Kratzer.

The second consecutive Grade 1 in Germany, this one in Berlin, will have a different girls champion, with last week's winner, Victoria Flores, falling in her first round match today.  Flores, the No. 12 seed, was beaten by German wild card Anica Stabel 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.  Katya Townsend and Lea Ma also lost their first round matches today, while Alexa Noel, Elli Mandlik and Hurricane Tyra Black advanced to the second round.  Xiyu Wang of China, the top seed, was upset in her first round match by Melis Yasar of Sweden.

Five US boys--Boris Kozlov, Axel Nefve, Ryan Goetz, Tristan Boyer and Christian Alshon--were in the main draw and none advanced to the second round.  Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France is the top boys seed, with last week's champion Rudolf Molleker of Germany the No. 2 seed.

Stefan Kozlov has five wins in ATP main draws in his career and all five have come on grass.  Today the 19-year-old qualifier, who reached the final of the 2014 Wimbledon Junior Championships, earned his first ATP win at the 500 level, by defeating Steve Johnson 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 at London's Queens Club tournament.  Next for Kozlov will be Marin Cilic, who beat John Isner 7-5, 6-3.

Eighteen-year-old CiCi Bellis picked up her first WTA win on grass today at the International-level tournament in Mallorca. Bellis defeated No. 4 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 7-5 and will face Germany's Mona Barthel in the second round.

At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit grass tournament in Ilkley Great Britain, 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide and former USC star Maria Sanchez won three qualifying matches and will begin main draw play on Wednesday, with Dolehide taking on Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium and Sanchez facing Xinyun Han of China.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Balance High School Championships Move to Ojai; HBO Real Sports Features Frances Tiafoe; ITA Summer Circuit Begins Friday

Now in its fourth year, the New Balance High School Championships will be held at a new venue, the Weil Academy in Ojai California.  After three years in Boston, the world headquarters of the athletic shoe company, the tournament for those who play high school tennis will now be close to the high school tennis hotbed of Southern California. One of the pioneers of using UTR ratings for entry into junior tournaments, the High School Championships have settled into a prominent place on the junior competitive calendar, with this year's tournament scheduled for July 24-27.  A compass draw ensures four matches for all 64 players selected in each boys and girls draw, and there is also a mixed doubles competition being added this year.

Registration, which closes on June 30, 2017, is available through the TennisLink site.  For more on the tournament, see this preview from the UTR blog.

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 20, at 10:00 PM EDT, 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe will be featured in a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Mary Carillo will be exploring the 19-year-old's rise from a young spectator of lessons at the Junior Tennis Champions Center to his current place in the ATP Top 100.

I had an opportunity to view a preview of the piece, and it emphasizes just how unlikely that rise has been, with his father's maintenance job at the JTCC leading Frances (and twin brother Franklin) into tennis. JTCC's Frank Salazar describes Frances' fascination with the sport from the beginning, and Carillo details how this affinity for tennis never wavered. The life his parents led in Sierra Leone and the reasons they immigrated to the United States is also explored. HBO provided this YouTube trailer in advance of tomorrow night's show.

The first series of tournaments of the ITA Summer Circuit begin on Friday, with events continuing throughout July and culminating in the National finals August 12-15 at TCU.  These tournaments are an opportunity for junior and college players to compete in three- or four-day events on college campuses, with several of this year's tournaments part of a pilot program to incorporate Universal Tennis Ratings. For a list of tournaments around the country, see this page from the ITA.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Current Collegians Rybakov, Eubanks and Lahey Earn Pro Circuit Titles; Flores Claims Grade 1 in Germany; Kopczynski Takes Grade 4 Title; Auger-Aliassime Wins Challenger; Kozlov Qualifies for Queens

Sunday was quite a day for current collegiate players, with TCU junior Alex Rybakov, Georgia Tech senior Christopher Eubanks and Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey all unseeded, winning their first Pro Circuit titles.

Rybakov, who had reached two Futures finals, won the $15,000 Buffalo Futures with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed and fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan.  The left-hander from Florida defeated the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds for the title.

Eubanks took out fellow Yellow Jacket and doubles partner Kevin King 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(6) in a two-hour and 30-minute nailbiter at the $25,000 Wake Forest Futures.  Eubanks reached the semifinals of the Champaign Challenger last November, and qualified for the ATP tournament in Atlanta last summer, but has not competed often at the Futures level.  It has already been announced that Eubanks has received a main draw wild card for next month's BB&T in Atlanta.

Lahey, still just 17, had played in just one other ITF Pro Circuit event main draw prior to this week's $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, but she made the most of her wild card, beating Ohio State junior Francesca Di Lorenzo, the No. 4 seed, 6-3, 7-6(4) for the title. Di Lorenzo led 5-1 in the second set and served for the set three times, at 5-2, 5-4, and 6-5, but she couldn't close it out and Lahey took the tiebreaker by claiming the final three points.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, Victoria Flores followed up her doubles title on Saturday with her first ITF junior singles title, beating No. 15 seed Qinwen Zheng of China 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.  The 18-year-old Flores has had excellent results on clay this year, reaching two quarterfinals and a semifinal at Grade 1 tournaments prior to this week's title.  Top seed Rudolf Molleker won the boys title, beating No. 7 seed and fellow German Marvin Moeller 6-4, 4-3, ret.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Tunisia, 17-year-old Tomas Kopczynski[5] won his first ITF junior singles title, beating Will Grant[2] 7-6(5), 6-4 in an all-USA final.  No. 2 seeds Grant and Kopczynski lost in the doubles final to unseeded Harry Butler and Barney Fitzpatrick of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4).

US Open boys champion Felix Auger-Aliassime, still just 16, won his first Challenger title today in Lyon France, beating Mathias Bourgue of France 6-4, 6-1. At 16 years, 10 months, Auger-Aliassime is the seventh youngest player to win an ATP Challenger title and will be the youngest player to break into the ATP Top 250 since Juan Martin del Potro in 2005.  For more on Auger-Aliassime's place in the ATP record books, see this article.

The Next Gen American men haven't had much to show for the grass court season so far, but Stefan Kozlov has advanced to the main draw of next week's ATP 500 Queen's Club tournament in London.  The 19-year-old defeated No. 3 qualifying seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-4, 6-2 in today's final round.  He will play Steve Johnson for a third time in the past 12 months, having beaten Johnson last year in 's-Hertogenbosch and lost to Johnson this year at Delray Beach.

TCU All-American Cameron Norrie of Great Britain received a wild card into Queens and will face Sam Querrey in the opening round. For more on Norrie's background and goals now that he has turned pro, see this article from The Herald.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Two All-Collegiate USTA Pro Circuit Finals Set; Flores Ousts Top Seed to Reach Grade 1 Final in Germany; Beck, Baird Claim ITF Grade 4 Grass Court Titles; Han, Madurawe Win Grade 4s in Guatemala

Four of the six finalists in the three USTA Pro Circuit championship matches Sunday are current college players: Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine sophomore), Francesca Di Lorenzo(Ohio State junior), Alex Rybakov(TCU junior) and Chris Eubanks(Georgia Tech senior).

Wild card Lahey and No. 4 seed Di Lorenzo advanced to the final of the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, with Di Lorenzo beating No. 6 seed Robin Anderson 6-4, 6-4 and Lahey saving a match point in her 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(2) win over No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan.  Lahey needed three hours and 5 minutes to advance today, after being on court for three hours and 26 minutes in her semifinal win over Julia Elbaba, so that could be a factor in tomorrow's final, which is a career-first for Lahey.  Di Lorenzo won a $25,000 tournament last summer.

The doubles title went to former USC teammates Kaitlyn Christian and Mexico's Giuilana Olmos who beat Australian Ellen Perez(Georgia) and Brazilian Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) 6-3, 2-6, 10-7 in the final. Both teams were unseeded.

Rybakov advanced to his third Futures final and first since 2015 with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 3 seed Dennis Nevolo at the $15,000 tournament in Buffalo.  Rybakov will face fellow 20-year-old Naoki Nakagawa of Japan, the No. 4 seed, who beat No. 2 seed Kaichi Uchida, also of Japan, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.  Rybakov is looking for his first Futures title, while Nakagawa is aiming for his second, but first since 2013.

The singles final at the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem North Carolina will be an all-Georgia Tech affair. Eubanks will take on Kevin King, a former Yellow Jacket All-American who served as volunteer assistant the past two years while recovering from hip surgeries. Eubanks defeated Andrew Harris of Australia 6-3, 6-2 in today's semifinals, while King downed No. 8 seed Wil Spencer 6-2, 6-4. Eubanks is seeking his first pro title, while King has four Futures titles, the most recent last month in Mexico.

Recent Virginia graduate JC Aragone will play for his first title on the Pro Circuit tomorrow at the $15,000 Futures in Spain. The unseeded Aragone, who turns 22 next week, defeated unseeded Lucas Ruepke of Germany 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to advance against No. 8 seed Carlos Gomez-Herrera of Spain.  Gomez-Herrera defeated Andres Artunedo Martinavarr of Spain 6-4, 6-3.  Evan King(Michigan) and Robert Galloway(Wofford) took the doubles title, beating Aragone and Daniel Nolan of Australia 6-4, 6-4 in the final between two unseeded teams.

Victoria Flores[10] ousted top seed Xin Yu Wang of China 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 today at the ITF tournament in Offenbach Germany to reach her first Grade 1 final. She will face 14-year-old Qinwen Zheng of China, the No. 15 seed, for the title.  Flores, who has committed to Georgia Tech for this fall, has already claimed the doubles title. She and Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil, seeded No. 3, beat No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Ukraine's Viktoriya Petrenko 6-2, 6-4 in the final.

The boys singles final will feature top seed Rudolf Molleker against fellow German Marvin Moeller, the No. 7 seed.  Moeller has one win against Molleker in the bank this week, with he and partner Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine of France beating Molleker and Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

The ITF Grade 4 International Grass Court Championships were completed Friday in Philadelphia, with Drew Baird and Chloe Beck earning three of the four titles.  The 16-year-old Baird, seeded fifth, defeated top seed Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 to earn his first ITF junior singles title.

Beck, the No. 3 seed, also took out the top seed, beating Alana Smith 7-6(4), 6-3 in the final.  It's the third Grade 4 title for the 15-year-old Beck, who also claimed the doubles crown in Philadelphia.  No. 3 seeds Beck and Emma Navarro defeated top seeds Smith and Malkia Menguene 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 in the final.

Baird fell just short of the sweep, as he and Tyler Zink, the No. 1 seeds, lost to No. 4 seeds Jeffrey Fradkin and Eliot Spizzirri 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-8 in the boys doubles final.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Guatemala, 16-year-old Nathan Han swept the titles, winning his first ITF junior singles title with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) decision over qualifier Antonio March of Ecuador and partnering with Pierce Rollins for the doubles title.  Unseeded 17-year-old Niluka Madurawe won her third ITF singles title, all this year, beating No. 6 seed Charlotte Chavatipon of Guam 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  No. 2 seeds Kacie Harvey and Peru's Kianah Motosono won the girls doubles, beating Madurawe and Luba Vasilyuk 2-6, 6-0, 12-10 in the final.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresen, Yarlagadda Win at Inaugural USTA College Combine; Lahey Reaches Sumter $25K Semifinals; Flores into Offenbach Grade 1 Final Four; Thompson Named to Lead Minnesota Women's Program

The first annual USTA All-American College Combine finished today at the USTA Campus in Lake Nona, with 16-year-old RJ Fresen and 15-year-old Anika Yarlagadda claiming the USTA Pro Circuit wild cards set aside for the competition's winners.  For more on the tournament, including a slideshow, see this usta.com article.  Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

A year ago, Ashley Lahey was in Europe, where she reached ITF Junior Circuit Grade 1 and Grade 2 finals and another Grade 1 semifinal. After her freshman year at Pepperdine, where the 17-year-old earned All-America honors,  she received a wild card into this week's $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Sumter South Carolina and she has advanced to the semifinals.  Lahey and 2016 Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba battled for three hours and 26 minutes in today's quarterfinal before Lahey secured the 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-4 victory and her first appearance in a Pro Circuit semifinal.   She will play No. 7 seed Connie Hsu of Taiwan in the semifinals.  The other semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo and No. 6 seed Robin Anderson. The Ohio State rising junior and the 2015 UCLA graduate, both National Indoor champions, played last year in a $25,000 tournament with De Lorenzo winning 7-5, 6-3.

Lahey still has two more years of eligibility for the USTA 18s Nationals in August, and Usue Arconada, who reached her first semifinal above the $25,000 level today at a $60,000 Pro Circuit event in Spain, will still be eligible for this year's Nationals.

At the $25,000 men's Futures at Wake Forest, Chris Eubanks, the Georgia Tech rising senior, will face recent Oklahoma graduate Andrew Harris in one semifinal.  In the other, former Georgia Tech star Kevin King will face No. 8 seed Wil Spencer, a Georgia graduate.  The doubles final was played today, with rising USC sophomores Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, who were unseeded, beating No. 3 seeds Eubanks and King 7-6(4), 6-3.  It is the second Pro Circuit title for Holt and Smith, who did not play a match tiebreaker all week.

In Buffalo, former Illinois star Dennis Nevolo[3] and TCU rising junior Alex Rybakov will meet in one semifinal of the $15,000 Futures there, while Naoki Nakagawa[4] and Kaichi Uchida[2] of Japan face off in the other.  In the doubles final, recent South Florida graduate Sasha Gozun of Moldova and former UT-San Antonio standout Tomas Stillman defeated Canadians David Volfson(Cornell) and Christian Lakoseljac(Penn State) 6-4, 6-3.  Neither team was seeded.

Victoria Flores has reached the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Offenbach Germany, with the No. 10 seed beating No. 13 seed Anastasia Kulikova of Russia 6-1, 6-2 in today's quarterfinals.  Flores will face top seed Xin Yu Wang of China on Saturday.  In addition, Flores has reached the doubles final, where she and partner Thaisa Peretti of Brazil, the No. 3 seeds, will play No. 7 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and her partner Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine.

The last Power Five conference job was filled today, with the announcement that Catrina Thompson has been hired to lead the University of Minnesota women's program.  Thompson, a former all-American at Notre Dame, had served as an assistant coach at her alma mater the past four seasons.  Thompson replaces Chuck Merzbacher, who announced his retirement in April.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pro Circuit Quarterfinals Set; Kwiatkowski, Venus Features; Flores Advances at ITF Grade 1; Midwest College Showcase Next Friday

The quarterfinals are set at all three USTA Pro Circuit events this week, with current and former college stars making up the majority of those in the final eight.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Buffalo, TCU rising junior Alex Rybakov defeated top seed Gonzalo Lama of Chile 6-3, 7-6(6) to join former collegians Dennis Nevolo[3] (Illinois), Raleigh Smith (Northwestern), Cameron Silverman (Elon) and Samuel Monette (Indiana) in the quarterfinals. Rybakov will face wild card Maksim Tikhomirov, who advanced when Great Britain's Farris Gosea[7] (Illinois) retired.

Seven of the eight quarterfinalists at the $25,000 Futures at Wake Forest have college ties.  USC's Brandon Holt, a qualifier, reached his first Futures quarterfinal, saving two match points in his 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-5 win over fellow rising sophomore Borna Gojo of Wake Forest. Holt will play Kevin King (Georgia Tech) who advanced by a walkover from No. 3 seed Christian Harrison. Georgia Tech rising senior Christopher Eubanks will face No. 5 seed Jared Hiltzik (Illinois); Isiah Strode will face Australian qualifier Andrew Harris, a recent Oklahoma graduate; No. 8 seed Wil Spencer (Georgia) plays Jesse Witten (Kentucky). Eubanks and King will face Holt and Riley Smith, Holt's doubles partner at USC, for the doubles championship on Friday.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina, Allie Kiick, in her second tournament back after nearly two years out with illness and surgery, advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 2 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in just under three hours.  Kiick will face No. 6 seed Robin Anderson (UCLA); Ohio State rising junior Francesca Di Lorenzo[4] will play No. 5 seed Chanel Simmonds of South Africa; Ashley Kratzer meets No. 7 seed Connie Hsu (Penn) of Taiwan; and Julia Elbaba (Virginia) will take on Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey, a wild card.

NCAA singles champion Thai Kwiatkowski discusses how college tennis helped him mature, with some candid comments on how far he had to progress in his four years, in this article from the University of Virginia.

"I don't think the fourth-year Thai would be friends with first-year Thai," Kwiatkowski said last week. "I'm very proud and grateful for the person I am today, because so many people have impacted my life, from coaches to professors to my team to just friends at the University. I was able to grow up in this place. I'm leaving it, but I'll always be back."

Former LSU star Michael Venus, who won the French Open men's doubles title last week, is the subject of this feature, which focuses on his possible need for a doubles partner for Wimbledon. Ryan Harrison, his partner at the French, is not certain to play Wimbledon, where the format is best-of-five. But they are now in the running for the ATP Championships at year-end, so that may change their schedule in the upcoming months.

The singles quarterfinals and doubles semifinals are set at the ITF Grade 1 this week in Germany.  Victoria Flores[10], the Georgia Tech rising freshman, has advanced to the quarterfinals in singles and the semifinals in doubles, where she is playing with Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil.  Hurricane Tyra Black is also in the doubles semifinals, playing with Viktoriya Petrenko of Ukraine.

The USTA Midwest section is having their annual college showcase in conjunction with the Midwest Closed 16s and 18s in Indianapolis next week.  The showcase, which costs $75.00, is Friday June 23rd. The deadline to register is Tuesday, June 20th.  For more information, click here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Conversation with French Open Champion Whitney Osuigwe; Qualifiers Carter, Corwin Upset Seeds on USTA Pro Circuit; Ahn into WTA Quarterfinals; Spencer Named NC State Men's Coach

My article this week for the Tennis Recruiting Network is based on a phone interview I did with French Open girls champion Whitney Osuigwe Monday, after she returned to the United States. I've been watching the 15-year-old play since she was 11 and have talked to her often during that time after her big wins or titles, so I'm happy I was able to do so again, even if I couldn't be in Paris for the final.  As with all girls who win a junior slam early, Osuigwe can't move directly into pro tennis, due to the age restrictions the WTA imposes based on age. With the limits on the number of pro events she can play, Osuigwe probably will continue to compete in some major junior events next year, and she is planning to play both Wimbledon and US Open Junior Championships this year.

The upsets keep on coming in the $25,000 Futures in Winston-Salem. A day after top seed Filip Peliwo of Canada and No. 2 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany were eliminated in the first round, No. 4 seed Tommy Paul was beaten by qualifier Felix Corwin, a rising senior at Minnesota, 6-4, 6-4.  Corwin, the son of former Kalamazoo Nationals tournament director Timon Corwin, was 1-4 in main draw matches at the Futures level last summer, with that one win over Darian King of Barbados, who is now ranked 113.  Paul, who has been ranked as high as 191 back in April of last year, is currently 399 in the ATP rankings.

Qualifier Brandon Holt, the USC rising sophomore, also took out a seed today, beating No. 7 seed and 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane 7-5, 6-2.

Hayley Carter, the 2016 NCAA singles finalist and the ACC's all-time leader in singles wins, started her pro career by dropping just three games in three qualifying matches to move into the main draw at the $25,000 tournament in Sumter South Carolina.  In her first round match today, the first she's played on the USTA Pro Circuit since last September, Carter defeated top seed Olivia Rogowska of Australia 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.  Rogowska's current WTA ranking is 233. Carter's best win by ranking before today was back in 2013, when she defeated Ashley Weinhold, then ranked 377.

Carter was one of three qualifiers to advance to the second round, with Stanford recruit Michaela Gordon and Vanderbilt's Astra Sharma of Australia also posting wins.  Carter's teammate Sara Daavettila, who received a wild card, beat Sabrina Santamaria 6-1, 6-4.

At the WTA International tournament in Nottingham, former Stanford star Kristie Ahn defeated Magda Linette of Poland 6-1, 6-3 to reach her first WTA quarterfinal.  The 24-year-old from New Jersey, who qualified this week and is currently ranked a career-high 131, moves closer to the Top 100 with every victory. She will play the winner of Thursday's match between Alison Riske[4] and Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

North Carolina State named Kyle Spencer to head its men's program today. The former University of Maryland head coach, who also was an assistant at USC and Baylor, was most recently an assistant for the men's program at SMU.  He takes over from Jon Choboy, who stepped down in May after his 15th season.

That leaves the Minnesota women's program as the sole Power Five conference job still vacant.

The ITA announced its College All-Star Team today, which includes players from all five Divisions: I, II, III, NAIA and Junior College. The complete list, with the accomplishments of all those named to the team, is available in the ITA's release.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Andy Brandi Leaves USTA for LSU; Craig Surprises Top Seed Peliwo in Winston-Salem; WaPo Feature on Brienne Minor; Sportime Tryouts, College Combine

LSU announced today that Andy Brandi and his son, Chris Brandi, have been named co-coaches of the men's program, replacing Jeff Brown, who resigned this spring. Unlike many college hirings, this one doesn't leave a vacancy at another school, but rather at the USTA, where Andy has been employed in Player Development since 2010.  Recently Brandi had been serving as the coordinator of all junior boys tennis, so new USTA head of men's tennis Brian Boland and Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman will have a major vacancy to fill in the next few weeks.

Andy coached the University of Florida women from 1985-2001, winning three NCAA team championships and six National team Indoor titles, so he is well acquainted with the top level of Division I college tennis. His son Chris had served as an assistant at both Baylor and Wake Forest, so he too has experience at college's top level.

The LSU women's team co-coaches Mike and Julia Sell have their own connections with Andy Brandi. The former Julia Scaringe played under Brandi at Florida, while Mike Sell and Brandi were USTA National Coaches together for several years before Sell departed.

I've gotten to know Brandi over the years while covering junior events (he wrote a regular Coaches Q and A column for me when he was in the private sector) and I know the respect he has among all coaches, whether they coach in college, the private sector or for federations.  As excited as LSU undoubtedly is to hire someone of Brandi's resume and stature, the USTA will find it challenging to replace someone with his reputation.

While in Ojai, I interviewed University of Denver graduate Henry Craig about the transition from college to pro tennis, and in observing the Men's Open there, I learned how important those money tournaments are to players trying to fund their own travel on the Pro Circuit.  Craig won that Men's Open, beating top seed Philip Bester of Canada in the final, but he hadn't played a Pro Circuit event since then.

Today at the $25,000 Futures tournament in Winston-Salem, Craig defeated top seed Filip Peliwo of Canada, who had won two Futures in Israel last month and is currently ranked 312 by the ATP, by a 6-3, 7-6(6) score.  Both Peliwo and Craig were born in 1994, but their junior careers were wildly different.  Peliwo made all four junior slam finals in 2012, winning two, and he was the ITF World Junior champion that year. Craig's ITF junior ranked peaked at 278 and he never won an ITF junior event, but in today's match, he was the better player.

No. 2 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany, the former Tulane star, also was beaten in the first round, dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision to 34-year-old veteran Jesse Witten, who seldom plays now, with his last Pro Circuit appearance last summer.

The Washington Post spoke with NCAA singles champion Brienne Minor of Michigan about her title for this feature, which focuses on her status as the first African-American woman to win the Division I singles title. I interviewed Minor for this Tennis Recruiting Network article last week.

One of my advertisers, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, is conducting two events later this month that may be of interest to some of my readers.  Scholarship tryouts are this Saturday, June 17, in Syosset Long Island, with information about registration and the schedule here.  The second annual College Combine is next weekend, June 24 and 25 at the Randall's Island facility.  For more on that event, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

O'Leary Hired to Lead Virginia Women's Program; Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments This Week; ITF Grade 4 International Grass Courts Underway in Philadelphia, Grade 1 in Germany Draws a Dozen American Juniors

The University of Virginia announced today that Sara O'Leary, the former North Carolina assistant who has been head coach at Davidson the past three years, has been hired to lead the women's program in Charlottesville.

O'Leary, whose maiden name was Anundsen, played at North Carolina and won the NCAA doubles title with Jenna Long in 2007.  She served as an assistant for one year at Princeton following graduation, then joined her alma mater as an assistant from 2009-2014. After the 2014 season Anundsen left to become head coach at Davidson, where she compiled a 45-21 record in the Atlantic 10 conference.  For O'Leary's complete biography, see the Virginia website.

That leaves just two Power Five conference head coaching jobs open: North Carolina State men and Minnesota women.  The LSU men's job has been filled, with the official announcement expected on Tuesday.

After little action on the USTA Pro Circuit the past three weeks, things have picked up this week with two men's Futures and a women's $25,000 tournament.

One of the Futures is also a $25,000 event, in Winston-Salem, with the qualifying completed today.  Five American collegians, four of them currently in school, advanced to the main draw through qualifying: Riley Smith and Brandon Holt(USC), Felix Corwin(Minnesota), Korey Lovett(Central Florida) and Jarryd Woog(Memphis).

Top seed in Winston-Salem is two-time junior slam champion Filip Peliwo of Canada, one of only eight international players in the draw. Peliwo has won two consecutive Futures tournaments in Israel coming into this event.

The other men's Futures is $15,000 tournament in Buffalo, on green clay, with qualifying scheduled to be completed tonight. Gonzalo Lama of Chile is the top seed.

Qualifying will not be complete until Tuesday for the women's tournament in Sumter South Carolina, but the main draw has been posted.  Olivia Rogowska of Australia is the top seed, and wild cards went to Alexa Graham and Sara Daavettila of North Carolina, Ashley Lahey of Pepperdine and Andie Daniell of Alabama.

Today at the WTA International tournament in Nottingham, qualifier Kristie Ahn defeated No. 8 seed Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-1 to earn just her second WTA main draw win.  Julia Boserup also won her opening round match.

The International Grass Court ITF Grade 4, the only junior grass court tournament in the United States, is underway this week at the Merion Cricket Club in Philadelphia. Kirac Bekisoglu of Turkey is the top boys seed; Alana Smith is the No. 1 seed in the girls draw.

After a week without a Grade 1 tournament on the ITF Junior Circuit, this week there is a Grade 1 in Germany.  It has attracted four US boys and eight US girls, with Ryan Goetz, Skyler Grishuk and Peyton Stearns earning a place in the main draw via qualifying.  The other direct entries from the US:  Axel Nefve, Alafia Ayeni[3], Christian Alshon, Lea Ma[14], Alexa Noel, Victoria Flores[10], Hurricane Tyra Black[4], Katya Townsend and Elli Mandlik.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Collins Wins Bethany Beach $25K Title; Mattek-Sands Claims Third Straight Slam Doubles Title; Russell is Singles Champion at ITF Grade 5 in Canada

2014 and 2016 NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins has been on the professional circuit for almost exactly a year, and today the University of Virginia graduate won her second Pro Circuit title since turning pro at the $25,000 tournament in Bethany Beach Delaware.  Collins, the top seed, defeated former Florida teammate Lauren Embree 6-1, 6-0, finishing the tournament by losing just three games in her last two matches.

Collins had reached the finals of two tournaments recently, a $60,000 tournament in Charleston and a $25,000 tournament in Naples, so the Floridian was undoubtedly pleased to win the championship match this time.  The points won't go on until next week, but 23-year-old from St. Petersburg, already 194 in the WTA rankings and into the Wimbledon qualifying draw, should move to around 160 when they are added.  

Collins is on the entry list for the $100,000 grass court tournament beginning June 19th in Ilkley England, where she'll compete in qualifying in preparation for Wimbledon.

Two Americans have qualified for the other grass events coming up this week on the WTA, with Kristie Ahn and Grace Min advancing to the main draw of the WTA's International-level event in Nottingham.  Other Americans in the field in Nottingham are Lauren Davis[4], Shelby Rogers[6], Julia Boserup, Christina McHale and Alison Riske. 

At the joint ATP/WTA event in S'Hertogenbosch the Netherlands, the US women in the draw are CoCo Vandeweghe[4], Madison Brengle and Varvara Lepchenko.  The US men in the the draw are Stefan Kozlov, a wild card, qualifier Dennis Novikov and Ernesto Escobedo.  

At the ATP 250 in Stuttgart, Steve Johnson[5] is the only American in the draw.  Former USC star Yannick Hanfmann of Germany qualified for the main draw and will be looking to add another ATP win to the two he recorded last month in Munich.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands gave the US its third French Open title (Ryan Harrison in men's doubles and Whitney Osuigwe in girls singles) today, partnering with Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to claim a 6-1, 6-2 win over Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua of Australia in the women's doubles final.  It's the third straight slam victory for Mattek-Sands and Safarova, who were the top seeds. For more on their win, see this article from the WTA website. 

At the ITF Grade 5 in Calgary Canada this week, unseeded Conrad Russell won his first ITF singles title.  The 18-year-old from California beat 14-year-old Joshua Lapadat of Canada 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the championship match.  Stefan Leustian and Niroop Vallabhaneni, the No. 3 seeds, beat No. 4 seeds Cleeve Harperand Oscar Yang of Canada 6-3, 6-2 to take the boys doubles title.  Meg Kowalski, playing with Adelaide Lavery of Canada and seeded fourth, lost in the girls doubles final to No. 2 seeds Andreea Craciun of Canada and Risa Fukutoku of Japan 6-2, 0-6, 10-6.

The results are not yet posted for the final matches at the ITF Grade 4 in El Salvador, other than to show Garrett Johns retiring in the boys singles final to Isaac Arevalo of Mexico, and Jenna Dean retiring in the final of the girls doubles.  Blaise Bicknell is in the boys doubles final and Najah Dawson is in the girls singles final. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Osuigwe Beats Liu to Claim French Open Girls Title, Popyrin Wins Boys Championship; Venus and Harrison Take Men's Doubles; Ostapenko Adds French Women's Title to Wimbledon Junior Crown; Embree vs Collins in Bethany Beach Final

Although Claire Liu was the No. 6 seed and Whitney Osuigwe the No. 7 seed, Osuigwe's 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 win in today's French Open Junior Championships was a bigger surprise than the seeding would indicate.
At 15, Osuigwe is two years younger than Liu, and was playing in only her second junior slam, while Liu was playing her eighth.  Throw in Liu's 6-1, 6-1 demolition of Osuigwe in the semifinals of the Easter Bowl in early April, and Liu's two consecutive $25,000 tournament titles coming into the French and there's little argument about who was the favorite.

After Osuigwe fell behind 3-1 in the opening set, Liu's prospects for a sixth consecutive straight-sets win looked promising, but Osuigwe got the break right back, held, broke and held to go up 5-3.  Serving for the set, Osuigwe saved a break point and closed it out.

Osuigwe was twice up a break in the second set, and served for the match at 5-4, but was broken at 15.  Serving at 5-6, Osuigwe saved two set points to force a tiebreaker, in which she led 4-2, but Liu won five of the next six points to send it to a third set.

Rather than get frustrated, Osuigwe took inspiration from the three three-set matches she had won earlier in the week.

"...My first three rounds were three-setters, and I was down in most of them," Osuigwe said in her post-match press conference. "I just told myself to keep fighting and I did what I did and pulled it."

It wasn't quite that simple, with Osuigwe taking a 5-1 lead in the third set, and Liu fighting back, saving two match points with Osuigwe serving at 40-15, then saving two more from 15-40 down on her own serve to make it 5-3.  But on her third opportunity to serve out the match, Osuigwe didn't falter, holding at love to claim the first French Open girls title for the United States since Jennifer Capriati won it in 1989.

Osuigwe has said many times that clay is her favorite surface, and with two ITF Grade 1 titles and this one, her results have shown it.

"It slows the ball down so I'm able to get to more balls," Osuigwe said when asked why she preferred it.  "I like sliding...I mean, I think it's more the movement. I'm fast, but I can't get everything back. But on clay it allows me to get more balls back than I could on grass or hard."

Liu said she was not surprised at the turnaround from the Easter Bowl result.

"I was expecting it," Liu said. "I mean, I beat her, like, fast at Easter Bowl, but that was on hard. And I knew she would learn from that match. So I was expecting her to play well, and she did."

With the title, Osuigwe will move to No. 2 in the ITF junior rankings. 

The boys title went to No. 3 seed Alexei Popryin of Australia, who defeated No. 11 seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain 7-6(5), 6-3 to become the first Australian boy since Phil Dent in 1968 to win the junior championship.  For more on both of the finals, see the Roland Garros website and the ITF junior website.

Kuhn did leave Paris with a title however, winning the boys doubles championship with Zsombor Piros of Hungary.  The top seeds defeated unseeded Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas 6-4, 6-4, with Kirkov and Thomas constantly called on to win deciding points on their own serves to keep the match close. The Americans finally got to a deciding point on their opponents serve with Kuhn and Piros serving at 5-4 in the second set, but that was after they had had failed to convert three break points, and they lost that fourth one to give the title to Kuhn and Piros.

The girls doubles title went to top seeds Carson Branstine and Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who beat No. 2 seed Anastasia Potapova and Olesya Pervushina of Russia 6-1, 6-3.  The Canadians have now won both junior slams played this year, but Andreescu has said she is done with junior tournaments, so a grand slam in the juniors may not go any farther than these two titles.

Former LSU star Michael Venus of New Zealand and Ryan Harrison, longtime friends, but relatively recent doubles partners, won the men's doubles title, beating Mexico's Santiago Gonzalez and Donald Young 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-3 in the final between unseeded teams.  It was the sixth consecutive three-set win for Venus and Harrison. For more on their friendship, see this article from the tournament website.

Unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia won the women's title, becoming the first woman to follow up a junior slam with a women's championships since Victoria Azarenka, who won the second of her two junior slam titles at the US Open in 2005.  It took Azarenka seven years to win her first title at the Australian Open in 2012, while the 20-year-old Ostapenko won the Wimbledon girls title less than three years ago, in 2014.

The singles final is set at the $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Bethany Beach Delaware, with top seed Danielle Collins facing unseeded Lauren Embree for the title.  Collins defeated Alexandra Mueller 6-2, 6-0 and Embree beat Ashley Kratzer 6-3, 6-2. This is Collins' third final since the beginning of May, but she has lost the last two. It's Embree's first final since she returned to the tour after retiring briefly last year. Embree and Collins were teammates at Florida for one season, 2012-2013, when Collins was a freshman and Embree was a senior. Collins didn't play much in dual matches that year before transferring to Virginia; Embree was the Gators' No. 1 player that year.

In the doubles final, No. 4 seeds Sabrina Santamaria and Abigail Tere-Apisah beat top seeds Mueller and Sophie Chang 6-4, 6-0.  It's the eighth pro doubles title for Santamaria, the 2013 NCAA doubles champion, the second for Papua New Guinea's Tere-Apisah, and their first as a team.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Liu and Osuigwe Meet Saturday for French Open Girls Title, Kirkov and Thomas in Boys Doubles Final; Day Advances to Marseille $100K Semifinals; All-USA Semis in Bethany Beach $25K

For the first time since 1989, when 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati claimed it, there will be a US girl holding the winner's trophy at the French Open Junior Championships.  That certainty was established on Friday, when No. 6 seed Claire Liu and No. 7 seed Whitney Osuigwe recorded straight-set semifinal victories in Paris.

The 17-year-old Liu continued her domination of the field, beating unseeded Marta Paigina of Russia, who had ousted top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia earlier, 6-2, 6-0 in 49 minutes.  Liu has lost only 20 games in her five victories this week and has not lost a match since early May, with two ITF Women's Circuit $25K titles since.

Osuigwe, 15, didn't face a break point in the first set against No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina of Russia, but she was broken early in the second set and fell behind 4-2 before reeling off the final four games of the match for a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

With two years separating them in age, Liu and Osuigwe have met only once, back in early April in the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl.  Liu, who had really found her form in the quarterfinals against Caty McNally, blew past Osuigwe 6-1, 6-1 and went on to take the title with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Ellie Douglas.

Two years ago, when Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz met in the boys final at Roland Garros, Tennis Channel covered the match, airing it in its entirety on tape delay, if I recall correctly.  I haven't seen any indication that they will be doing that for this girls final, but we can hope.

For more on Liu and Osuigwe, see the ITF junior website.

The boys final will feature No. 11 seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain against No. 3 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia.  Kuhn outlasted top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-6(4), and the competitiveness of that match surprised no one, with their previous two meetings, including Kecmanovic's win over Kuhn in last year's US Open quarterfinals, also going three sets.

Kuhn's opponent will be No. 3 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia, who prevented an all-Spain final with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Kuhn will play for a second French Open junior title on Saturday in doubles after he and Zsombor Piros of Hungary, the top seeds, defeated unseeded Sam Riffice and Gianni Ross 6-4, 6-4 to prevent an all-US final.  Earlier, unseeded Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas had beaten their third seeded team in a row, taking out No. 4 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic 6-3, 2-6, 10-8.

The girls doubles final will feature top seeds and Australian Open champions Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine of Canada against No. 2 seeds Olesya Pervushina and Potapova of Russia.

As with the girls singles, an American champion is guaranteed in men's doubles, after Ryan Harrison and New Zealand's Michael Venus(LSU) defeated No. 16 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah(USC) of Colombia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in today's semifinal.  Donald Young and Mexico's Santiago Gonzalez had reached the final with a win on Thursday.

Day in action at Dow Tennis Classic February 2017
Reigning US Open girls champion Kayla Day withdrew from the French Junior Championships to play in the $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Marseille France this week and that's proven to be a good decision.  The 17-year-old defeated qualifier Priscilla Heise of France 6-4, 6-0 to move into Saturday's semifinal against top seed Tatjana Maria of Germany.  Maria beat Day 6-3, 6-1 earlier this year on indoor hard courts in the second round of the $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland, so Day knows what's she up against on Saturday.

At the USTA Women's Pro Circuit $25,000 tournament in Bethany Beach Delaware, four Americans have reached the semifinals, including Ashley Kratzer, who beat fellow 18-year-old Raveena Kingsley 6-2, 6-1 in today's quarterfinals.  The unseeded Kratzer will face former Florida star Lauren Embree, also unseeded, while top seed Danielle Collins(Florida/UVA) will take on unseeded Alexandra Mueller. Top seeds Mueller and Sophie Chang will play No. 4 seeds Sabrina Santamaria(USC) and Papua New Guinea's Abigail Tere-Apisah (Georgia State) in the doubles championship.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Liu, Osuigwe and Two US Boys Doubles Teams Reach Semifinals at French Open; Day Advances to Quarterfinals in Marseille $100K; ITA Announces All-America Teams; Men's D-I Kickoff Weekend Draft

Claire Liu has been on an impressive run since winning the Easter Bowl ITF for the second time back in early April.  The 17-year-old from Southern California has lost only twice since then, to Jamie Loeb and Madison Brengle in $60,000 Pro Circuit events, while winning 28 matches (including qualifying). Only the last four wins have been in an ITF junior event, this week's French Open Junior Championships, and she has yet to drop more than three games in a set.  Liu's 6-3, 6-3 win over Bianca Andreescu of Canada was particularly impressive, in that she had lost their previous two meetings, one just a few months ago, and she was down 3-0, two breaks of serve, before winning the final six games of the match.  Liu will face unseeded Marta Paigina of Russia in the semifinals, after the 18-year-old defeated No. 5 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-2, 6-3.

Fifteen-year-old Whitney Osuigwe is playing in just her second junior slam, but she is already a semifinalist, after defeating unseeded Caty McNally 6-3, 6-3. Osuigwe's opponent on Friday will be No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina of Russia, who beat 2016 finalist Amanda Anisimova 7-6(7), 6-4.  For more on Osuigwe's win, see the ITF junior website.

While neither of the girls semifinals features a rematch of any kind, both pairs in the semifinals do have history.  Top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who came from behind to eliminate Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals, will face No. 11 seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain. Kuhn, who reached the semifinals here last year, disposed of unseeded Australian Blake Ellis 6-0, 6-3 to set up a third match with Kecmanovic. Kuhn won their first meeting, in three sets, but lost their most recent encounter, also in three sets, in the quarterfinals of the 2016 US Open Junior Championships.

Another Spanish junior has reached the semifinals, with unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina beating wild card Clement Tabur of France 6-1, 6-0 to set up a meeting with No. 3 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia. Popyrin defeated unseeded Gianni Ross 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, getting a late break and a hold from 0-30 down in the final game to advance. Popyrin, who won the Grade A in Milan last month, lost to Davidovich Fokina at that same tournament last year.

The doubles semifinals are also set for Friday, with two teams of American boys still alive. The unseeded team of  Ross and Sam Riffice will play top seeds Kuhn and Zsombor Piros of Hungary, and unseeded Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas will take on No. 4 seeds Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of Czech Republic. Kirkov and Thomas have already defeated the No. 2 and No. 5 seeded teams without needing a third set (match tiebreaker).

In the men's doubles semifinals, Donald Young has advanced to his first slam final.  He and Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico defeated Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-3 in today's semifinals.  Young and Gonzalez will face the winner of tomorrow's semifinal between Robert Farah and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia and Michael Venus of New Zealand and Ryan Harrison.

At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Marseille France, No. 7 seed Kayla Day saved three match points to defeat Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia 5-7, 7-6(7), 6-3 and move into the quarterfinals, where she will face qualifier Priscilla Heise of France.

At the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Bethany Beach Delaware, 18-year-old Raveena Kingsley defeated No. 2 seed seed Ellie Halbauer 7-6(4), 0-6, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. Kingsley is playing her first tournament since February.  Teens Ashley Krazter and Maria Mateas have also reached the quarterfinals.

The ITA announced its All-America teams today, for all Divisions.
The Division I list is here.
The Division II list is here.
The Division III list is here.
The NAIA list is here.
The Junior College list is here.

The men's Division I Kickoff Weekend draft was held today, with some regionals filling up fast and others taking much longer. As I mentioned yesterday regarding the women's draft, there are many factors that go into a team selecting one site over another, but the most interesting aspect is the handicapping of teams hosting who may not be as strong next season as they were this season.  Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today pointed out the four men's teams that were losing three singles starters and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Cal and Virginia, were the first regionals to fill up. Ohio State, on the other hand, had no takers until the very end, with the Buckeyes hosting three non-Top 50 teams in Columbus in January.  Florida is the only other host to have more than one non-Top 50 team, perhaps due to the Gators strong incoming recruiting class, which features both Oliver Crawford and Duarte Vale, who reached the third round of the French Open Junior Championships this week.

The complete draft is available here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Conversation with NCAA Champion Brienne Minor; Top Seed Potapova Out, Four US Girls, Ross Reach Quarterfinals at French Open; Swain Hired at USC; Women's Kickoff Weekend Draft

Although NCAA singles champion Brienne Minor has been to the USTA's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center twice, both times to compete at the USTA/ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Championships held there, she has never been to the US Open as a junior competitor or as a spectator.

Her first experience of it will be as a competitor in the women's draw, this August, with the wild card she will receive from the USTA as an American NCAA champion.  I spoke to Minor about her surprising title last week in Athens--what led to it, whether she had doubts, why she didn't feel pressure--for this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network. Because Minor did not play ITF junior events with any regularity, many don't know much about her, yet the rising University of Michigan junior didn't skip a beat in the transition to Division I college tennis, being named an All-American as both a freshman and sophomore. We discussed her pathway, her inspirations, her physical struggles and her hidden talent, plus several other topics, in the interview.

Four US girls reached the quarterfinals of the French Open Junior Championships today, with Claire Liu, Whitney Osuigwe, Caty McNally and Amanda Anisimova earning victories.  Liu, the No. 6 seed, defeated former ITF Junior No. 1 Olesya Pervushina of Russia, the No. 12 seed, 6-3, 6-3 and will play No. 3 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada in the quarterfinals.  Andreescu has beaten Liu both times they have played, in the 2015 Orange Bowl and this February in a USTA Pro Circuit event in Surprise.  Liu has not been tested in her three wins, but Osuigwe has needed three sets each time, beating unseeded Xin Yu Wang of China 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 today.  She will play friend and doubles partner Caty McNally, who defeated Amina Anshba of Russia 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. No. 2 seed Anisimova beat No. 15 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia 6-2, 6-4 and will play No. 11 seed Elna Rybakina of Russia in the quarterfinals. Rybakina beat unseeded Hailey Baptiste 6-2, 6-4.

Top seed Anastasia Potapova was ousted today, beaten by fellow Russian Marta Paigina 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.  The 18-year-old Paigina has played regularly on the ITF Pro Circuit, with this just her second junior slam.  She will play No. 5 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in the quarterfinals. For more on Paigina's win today, see the ITF junior website. The article also states that Andreescu is playing her last junior slam this week, although she is still showing as entered in the Wimbledon Junior Championships.

Paigina and McNally are the only two unseeded girls in the quarterfinals, but five quarterfinalists in the boys draw are unseeded. Australian Open champion and No. 4 seed Zsombor Piros of Hungary lost to Blake Ellis of Australia 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; No. 12 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria lost to Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4 and wild card Clement Tabur beat No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.  With Crawford's loss, the only American boy remaining is Gianni Ross, who beat Sebastian Korda 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. Ross will face No. 3 seed Alexey Popyrin of Australia in Thursday's quarterfinals.

The boys and girls singles quarterfinals are all scheduled for Thursday, along with seven doubles matches in each draw.  Still behind due to rain on Tuesday, three boys and three girls doubles teams will play two rounds of doubles Thursday.  American boys teams still in are Ross and Sam Riffice, Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas, Crawford and Patrick Kypson, as well as Korda, playing with Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Alexandre Rotsaert, playing with Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands.

US girls still in the doubles draw include Liu and Taylor Johnson[3] and Osuigwe and McNally[8]. Ellie Douglas is also still in doubles, with Colombia's Emiliana Arango.

One of the Power Five conference head coaching jobs was filled today with the announcement that Alison Swain, the Williams head coach, has been hired at the University of Southern California.  Swain, who has led the Ephs to eight NCAA Division III titles in the past ten years, replaces Richard Gallien, who was let go this spring. For more on Swain's departure from Williams, her alma mater, see this article.

The draft for the ITA Women's Kickoff Weekend was held today, with non-host teams selecting which of the 15 regionals they would like to travel to. Not all top teams participate in the Kickoff Weekend, which is a qualifying regional for the Team Indoors, with Stanford again opting out, along with Texas A&M and Baylor. There are many factors that go into a team selecting one site over another, but the most interesting aspect is the handicapping of teams hosting who may not be as strong next season as they were this season. Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Kentucky and South Carolina were the first regions to fill up, while Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida were the last to fill, with the Tar Heels and Gators not attracting any teams ranked in the Top 50.  The full draft is available here.

The men's draft is Thursday, with the ITA using Facebook Live to stream it in real time.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Five US Girls, Three US Boys Advance to French Open Round of 16; Kiick Returns at Bethany Beach $25K

Tuesday was a frustrating day at the French Open Junior Championships, with several rain delays, but the second round of singles was finished, with three US girls and two US boys joining the three Americans who advanced to the third round on Monday.

Unseeded Sebastian Korda defeated qualifier Uisung Park of Korea 6-4, 7-6(4) and will play unseeded Gianni Ross, who beat No. 9 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan, the winner of last week's Grade 1 in Belgium, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4.  Korda, who will be 17 next month, and Ross, who turned 18 in February, have trained together often, but have not played each other before.  The winner will have earned his place in a junior slam quarterfinal for the first time.  The ITF junior website has more from Korda on his win today.

No. 8 seed Trent Bryde and Alexandre Rotsaert were beaten in second round matches today. No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford had advanced to the third round with a win on Monday and will play unseeded French wild card Clement Tabur on Wednesday.

The boys draw did lose one of its top seeds and favorites, with No. 2 seed Corentin Moutet of France, who won a Futures tournament last month, falling to Alexey Zakharov of Russia 7-6(6), 0-6, 6-2. No. 7 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel was beaten by Thiago Seyboth-Wild of Brazil 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 leaving only seven seeds in the boys draw and just two in the bottom half.

US girls went 3-1 today, with unseeded Caty McNally, No. 6 seed Claire Liu and No. 2 seed Amanda Anisimova posting wins.  Elysia Bolton lost to top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-3, 6-0, with McNally taking out the only girls seed to lose Tuesday.  McNally defeated No. 16 seed Mai Hontama of Japan 6-3, 7-6(4).   McNally will face unseeded Amina Anshba of Russia, who beat Australian Open champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the second round Monday.  Liu's opponent in the third round is Russian Olesya Pervushina, the No 12 seed, while Anisimova plays No. 15 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia.

Unseeded Hailey Baptiste, who advanced to the third round on Monday, also plays a Russian, no surprise, with five US girls and six Russian girls still in the field. Baptiste will face Elena Rybakina, the No. 11 seed, who recently won the Grade A in Milan.  No. 7 seed Whitney Osuigwe, who also advanced to the third round with a win on Monday, plays unseeded Xin Yu Wang of China. There are nine seeds remaining in the girls draw, with Liu the only American in the top half.

Many junior doubles matches on the schedule were cancelled, with three girls first round matches and five boys first round matches yet to be started.  Unseeded Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas did post a US win today.

In men's doubles, Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus of New Zealand advanced to the semifinals, beating No. 7 seed Marcel Granollers of Spain and Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Harrison and Venus will face the Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah for a place in the final.  Farah, the 2008 NCAA doubles champion while at USC, is also in the mixed doubles semifinals, with Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany. They will face Rajeev Ram and Australia's Casey Dellacqua.

After a two-week break, the USTA Pro Circuit has resumed with a $25,000 women's tournament in Bethany Beach Delaware. Now in its seventh year, the tournament was previously a $10,000-level.

Allie Kiick, who has been unable to compete for almost two years due to skin cancer and multiple knee surgeries, is back, with the 21-year-old Floridian using a protected ranking to get into the main draw.

The qualifying was completed today, with juniors Abigail Forbes, Alexa Noel and Safiya Carrington advancing to the main draw.  Carrington, who turns 16 later this month, had played in nine ITF Pro Circuit qualifying tournaments in 2016 and seven this year before finally earning a place in the main draw with a final round qualifying win today in her eighth tournament of 2017.  Other Americans qualifying are North Carolina's Jessie Aney, Alabama's Andie Daniell and Syracuse's Amanda Rodgers.  The top seed is Danielle Collins, with Ellie Halbauer the No. 2 seed. First round singles action begins on Wednesday.

Due to rain, there was no play today at the $100,000 tournaments in Surbiton.  At the $100,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Marseille France, No. 7 seed Kayla Day won her first round match, beating Cristina Dinu of Romania 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-2.  Taylor Townsend[4] and Grace Min, the only other American women electing to stay on clay this week, lost their opening round matches.