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Friday, April 28, 2017

UCLA and USC Meet for Pac-12 Men's Title, Stanford and Cal in Women's Championship Match; Semifinals Set for Men's and Women's Opens; US Junior Teams Continue to Roll in ITF North and Central American Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

Friday was another busy day at the 117th edition of The Ojai, with the Pac-12 men's semifinals taking place at Libbey Park, the women's semifinals at the Weil Academy and Ojai Athletic Club and a steady stream of Men's and Women's Open matches filling the courts at the Ojai Valley Inn.


The men have now been playing a Pac-12 conference tournament for six years and after today's results, five of the finals will have been between UCLA and USC. UCLA, who had a bye into the semifinals, was the first to earn its place in the final, beating Stanford 4-0 in a match devoid of suspense.  USC and Cal then took the courts, and although Cal was the team that had gotten a bye into the semifinals, the Trojans won a close doubles point and went on to post a 4-1 win.  The three singles points came from Riley Smith at line 6, Jack Jaede at line 4 and Nick Crystal at line 2.  UCLA has won two of the three previous meetings between the crosstown rivals this year, with the last meeting a 4-1 decision for the Bruins just last week.

This is the first year for the Pac-12 women's team event, and close matches have been the theme, although Stanford has managed to avoid that trend.  The Cardinal defeated Oregon 4-0 today, but had to wait to see who they would play in the final, with USC and Cal going down to the wire, before the Bears posted a 4-3 victory. Maya Jansen clinched for Cal, beating Angela Kulikov 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 at line 5 to secure the victory.

Both finals will be held at Libbey Park on Saturday and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.  The women's final begins at 3 p.m., with the men's final at 6 p.m.  For more on the Pac-12 tournament, see the conference website.

The other finals to be played on Saturday at Libbey Park are the CIF (Southern California High School) boys singles and doubles, with the semifinals in the morning and the finals around noon.  Defending champion Connor Hance will face Jake Sands in the top half semifinal, with Stefan Dostanic playing Ryan Seggerman in the bottom half semifinal.

The Men’s Open semifinals are set for Saturday at Libbey Park, with top seed Philip Bester taking on No. 5 seed Haythem Abid and No. 3 seed Clay Thompson facing unseeded Henry Craig.

Bester’s win over Ojai regular Cecil Mamiit was not easy, with the 28-year-old Canadian taking early leads in both sets before USC's 1996 NCAA singles champion fought back.  Bester, with a current ATP ranking of 341, was too strong on the forehand however, and he closed out the match 6-4, 6-3.

Abid’s 7-6(4), 7-5 win over No. 4 seed Keegan Smith was the longest of the quarterfinals, while Craig was looking to be first off the court against Cal recruit Jacob Brumm after taking a 6-2, 5-1 lead.  But Craig was unable to serve it out in either of his opportunities, and he needed to break Brumm at 4-5 to post the 6-2, 6-4 victory.

“He started playing a lot better,” said Craig, a December 2016 graduate of the University of Denver, who lives in the San Diego area. “He was hitting really short for pretty much the whole match and I think his legs were a little tired from yesterday and he was struggling a little bit. But then at 5-1, he really stepped it up, started hitting deep and I was kind of surprised, but I ended up closing it out.”

The Women’s Open, with a 16-player draw, started early in the morning, with two matches on their schedule Friday.


For No. 3 seed Gail Brodsky, who now lives in the Seattle area, returning to Ojai is something of a homecoming, after training for years at Ojai's Weil Academy.

“It feels like family,” said the 25-year-old, who now has a two-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl. “I think I’ve played this tournament six times.”

Brodsky had begun a comeback after her son was born and won a $10,000 event in Canada in 2015, but that had to be put on hold when she became pregnant again, “a good reason,” she said, for another break from tennis.  She and her husband, Mark Hanson are coaches at Northwest High Performance Tennis in Kirkland Washington, and Brodsky is playing doubles with NWPT student Paiton Wagner, an Oregon recruit.

Brodsky defeated Holly Verner 6-0, 6-1 in the first round and reached Saturday's semifinals with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jwany Sherif.

For links to draws for all events, see the tournament website.

At the North and Central American qualifying for the Junior Davis Cup, Junior Fed Cup and World Junior Tennis events, all four US teams blanked their opponents for the second day in a row.  Results are below.

JUNIOR FED CUP

USA def. Mexico 3-0

Singles:

Caty McNally defeated Romary Cardenas 6-0,6-0

Natasha Subhash defeated Daira Cardenas 6-2,6-0

Doubles:

Caty McNally/Whitney Osuigwe defeated Aida Garcia Mendez/Daira Cardenas 6-3,6-2

JUNIOR DAVIS CUP

USA def. Guatemala 3-0

Singles:

Tristan Boyer def. Alejandro Solares (GUA) 6-0, 6-0

William Grant def. Sebastian Dominguez (GUA) 6-1, 6-2

Doubles:

Boyer/Nanda def. Padilla/Solares (GUA) 6-1, 6-1


WJT – GIRLS 14s

USA def. Mexico 3-0

Singles:

Cori Gauff def. Midori Castillo (MEX) 7-5, 6-1

Gabriella Price def. Julia Garcia (MEX) 6-4, 6-1

Doubles:

Owensby/Price def. Castillo/Chavez (MEX) 6-3, 6-2


WJT – BOYS 14s

USA def. Canada 3-0

Singles:

Martin Damm def. Berk Tunali (CAN) 6-3,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Marko Stakusic (CAN) 6-1,6-0

Doubles:

Bernard/Kodat def. Stakusic/Tunali (CAN) 6-0,6-1

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ojai Amazes; US Junior Teams All Post Shutouts in ITF North and Central American Team Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA

I had heard so many good things about Ojai, the Southern California festival of tennis now in its 117th year, that I was dubious it could live it to my expectations.  It managed to exceed them, with perfect weather, and a community obviously dedicated to putting on the best tennis show possible for juniors, collegians, pros and fans.


I started at the Ojai Valley Inn, where the opening matches of the Men's Open were taking place. I saw several of the Pac-12 men's coaches there, looking at possible recruits or those who will be joining them in 2017.  I watched Keegan Smith, who will start at UCLA in the fall, play Errol Smith, a Loyola Marymount junior, with Smith earning a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

Smith, who reached the semifinals of the Bakersfield Futures last month as a qualifier, said he decided to do the opposite of what many players do once they make their college commitment.

"Me and my dad talked about that a lot," said Smith, the nephew of USC head coach Peter Smith. "A lot of seniors commit and then their senior year they're not really training. My dad said, let's do the opposite. Let's home school, and really just go for it. I want to play high in the lineup once I get there."

Smith, who works with the USTA in Carson, with Angel Lopez and with Christian Groh, is playing the Open tournament for the first time, having played the previous two years in the CIF doubles for high school boys.  Although the prize money, $5300 of which goes to the men's singles winner, is a consideration, Smith said that's not the main reason for playing.

"It's nice, but I'm out here because I love tennis," Smith said. "It's fun and I like competing. Obviously the money's nice, but there's a lot of good players here and I can get some good matches. If at the end, you get some money, that's an added bonus."

Smith's 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Bradley Klahn in Bakersfield was the most memorable match in his recent surge.

"I was injured a little bit with my knee, and when I got back, I upped my training," Smith said. "I played well in those tournaments. [Against Klahn], I was seeing it big, I was serving well. With my game, I've just got to get my first serves in and take chances on the returns. That's my game style."

Smith, seeded fourth, won his second round match later in the day, and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Private court in Ojai
My next stop was Thacher School, where some of the boys CIF and the junior singles were being played. Although I didn't see him, Wayne Gretzky was reportedly there watching his daughter Emma in the 14s division. She lost in the first round.  After the trip to Thacher School, I had an opportunity to see one of the private courts Ojai is famous for, with girls 18s top seed Cali Jankowski getting a 6-0, 6-0 win at one of the most scenic tennis courts I've ever seen.  Then it was on to the Weil Academy and the Ojai Athletic Club, where other junior matches and the Pac-12 women's team event, the first conference team event for women in Pac-12 history, were being contested.

Then it was on to the famous Libbey Park, with the hundreds of photos of winners from years past, the wall of fame, with names of those who have played Ojai and gone on to win slams, with the complimentary hot tea in china cups served by volunteers, closing with the annual Thursday barbecue, which this year included a chat with honorary guest Rod Laver.

Oh, and there was tennis going on all day too, with big crowds watching Stanford defeat Oregon 4-2 and USC blank Utah 4-0 to reach the men's semifinals Friday, where they will play UCLA and Cal, respectively, with the Bruins and Bears getting byes into the semifinals.

The women's semifinals will feature USC, a 4-3 winner over Arizona State, against Cal, who beat Washington 5-0, and Stanford, a 4-0 winner over Utah, against Oregon, who upset UCLA 4-3.

For links to all the draws, see the tournament website.

At the ITF North and Central American qualifying for Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup and the World Junior Tennis competition in Mexico, the USA teams went 4-0, with all the wins shutouts.

The results are below:

JUNIOR FED CUP

USA def. Guatemala 3-0

Singles:

Whitney Osuigwe def. Rut Galindo (GUA) 6-1, 6-1

Caty McNally def. Gabriela Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-0

Doubles:

McNally/Subhash def. Galindo/Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-2


JUNIOR DAVIS CUP 

USA def. Mexico 3-0

Singles:

Govind Nanda def. Sergio Molina (MEX) 6-2, 6-2

William Grant def. Rafael de Alba (MEX) 6-3, 6-4

Doubles:

Boyer/Nanda def. Corro/Molina (MEX) 6-1, 7-5


WJT – GIRLS 14s

USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0

Singles:

Cori Gauff def. Sara Snyder (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Charlotte Owensby def. Yadalis Rodriguez (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Doubles:

Gauff/Owensby def. Gonzalez/Rodriguez (PUR) 6-2, 6-1


WJT – BOYS 14s

USA def. Costa Rica 3-0

Singles:

Martin Damm def. Christian Winstead 6-0,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Alberto Sierra 6-1,6-0

Doubles:

Damm/Kodat def. Lozano/Sierra 6-1,6-0

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easter Bowl ITF, 16s Slideshow; Videos

I'm heading to Ojai today to experience that legendary Southern California tennis event for the first time, so that means a long day of travel and an early post.

This wraps up the adidas Easter Bowl, with a slideshow of the 16s and 18s and videos of the four finals.  (The 12s and 14s slideshow and videos are here). Replays of three of the finals are available on Livestream, with the boys ITF here, the girls ITF here, some of the boys 16s here and here. The girls 16s final does not appear in the archives, but there is a video of the postmatch ceremony.





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gullikson Retires from USTA Player Development; Florida Women Stay No. 1 Despite Second Loss to Vanderbilt, Wake Forest Remains Atop Men's Rankings, TCU's Norrie Moves to No. 1 in Singles; Pro Circuit Update


The USTA announced today that Tom Gullikson, currently serving as Player Development's Lead National Coach of men's pro tennis, is retiring from full-time coaching effective June 2. Gullikson, 65, is a former ATP Top 40 player who first joined the USTA in 1988, serving in the USTA's initial Player Development department until 1997. He was Davis Cup captain in 1995, when the USA won the Davis Cup and also coached the US Olympic team in 1996. Gullikson then served as Director of Coaching at the USTA, leaving the organization in 2001.  He returned in 2009, and has served in a variety of roles in Player Development in the past eight years.  Knowing him as I do, I would not expect him to retire from tennis, and I don't think the USTA expects that either, with their pointed use of the "full-time" adjective.  The full USTA release is here.

Three years ago, I had an opportunity to interview Gullikson for the Tennis Recruiting Network at the USTA Spring Team Championships in Mobile.  We talked about team competition, college tennis as a pathway, what's changed over the years in the sport and what's stayed the same, the prospects for American men's tennis and other topics. I learned a lot, and that was just during a 30 minute conversation, so I assume the players that he's coached and mentored have collected his wisdom to a much greater degree.  He's part of the institutional memory of American tennis and all of us will miss regular access to that connection.

The new ITA Division I rankings are out, with the Florida women staying at No. 1 despite losing for the second time in eight days to Vanderbilt.  I think this is the point where the human poll that the USTA conducts will start to show its value; Vanderbilt is still suffering from a poor showing at the National Team Indoor, which Florida won.  In the long run, the NCAA championships settle the dispute, and next week's rankings are the last published by the ITA until after the tournament. (But we have College Tennis Today and Texas College Tennis helping us out with rankings in the week leading up to the NCAAs and they have discovered some errors affecting this weeks rankings).  In the singles rankings, Francesca Di Lorenzo continues at No. 1, and there were almost no changes in the Top 10, other than LSU freshman Jade Lewis's big jump from 22 to 10.

Women's Team Top 10: (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. Florida (1)
2. Vanderbilt (2)
3. Georgia (4)
4. Ohio State (5)
5. North Carolina (3)
6. Stanford (8)
7. Texas Tech (7)
8. Georgia Tech (6)
9. Oklahoma State (9)
10. Michigan (10)

1. Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (1)
2. Hayley Carter, North Carolina (2)
3. Ena Shibahara, UCLA (3)
4. Astra Sharma, Vanderbilt (4)
5. Blair Shankle, Baylor University (5)
6. Belinda Woolcock, Florida (7)
7. Viktoriya Lushkova, Oklahoma State (6)
8. Jasmine Lee, Mississippi State (10)
9. Gabriela Talaba, Texas Tech (9)
10. Jade Lewis, LSU (22)

1. Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney, North Carolina (1)
2. Astra Sharma and Emily Smith, Vanderbilt (3)
3. Jasmine Lee and Lisa Marie Rioux, Mississippi State (5)
4. Ellen Perez and Caroline Brinson, Georgia (4)
5. Erin Routliffe and Maddie Pothoff, Alabama (8)

The men's No. 1 continues to be Wake Forest and they have a large lead over Ohio State at No. 2.  TCU is all the way up to No. 4 after not being ranked in the Top 50 back in February.  Another plus for the Horned Frogs comes in singles, where Cameron Norrie has dislodged Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State from his No. 1 spot in the rankings.

Men's team Top 10:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. Ohio State University (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. TCU (9)
5. UCLA (8)
6. Baylor University (4)
7. Southern California (6)
8. Oklahoma State (5)
9. Texas (7)
10. Cal (11)

1. Cameron Norrie, TCU (2)
2. Mikael Torpegaard, Ohio State (1)
3. Nuno Borges, Mississippi State (4)
4. Petros Chrysochos, Wake Forest University (3)
5. Aleks Vukic, Illinois (5)
6. Arthur Rinderknech, Texas A&M (6)
7. Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech (7)
8. Alfredo Perez, Florida (9)
9. Hugo Di Feo, Ohio State (8)
10. Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (10)

1. Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, Wake Forest (1)
2. Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb, Georgia (3)
3. Jose Salazar and Michael Redlicki, Arkansas (8)
4. Filip Bergevi and Florian Lakat, California (2)
5. Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez, Florida (6)

The qualifying is complete at the two USTA Pro Circuit events this week.  At the men's $15,000 Futures in Vero Beach, Sam Riffice, Alexandre Rotsaert and Oliver Crawford are among those earning their way into the main draw with wins today. Wild cards were given to Junior Ore, Vasil Kirkov, Patrick Kypson and 16-year-old Ivan Yatsuk. Calvin Hemery of France is the top seed.

At the $60,000 Women's Pro Circuit event, Robin Anderson and Canada's Carol Zhao advanced to the main draw, with Julia Elbaba getting in as a lucky loser.  She will play former Virginia teammate Danielle Collins in the first round.  Wild cards were given to Claire Liu, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia (whose sister Hana played at UVA) and Maria Sanchez.  Madison Brengle is the top seed.

At the ATP Challenger in Tallahassee, top seed and Sarasota Challenger winner Frances Tiafoe withdrew and No. 2 seed Darian King of Barbados lost today.  Sarasota finalist Tennys Sandgren fell in his first round match, but wild card Bradley Klahn, Dennis Novikov, Mitchell Krueger and Christian Harrison are Americans who have advanced to the second round.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gauff, Heller Win US Wild Card Tournament for French Open Juniors; Sandgren, Anisimova Lead USTA's French Open Wild Card Challenge; Kalamazoo College Wins 79th Consecutive Conference Title, More


Last week, Longines sponsored a tournament giving US juniors an opportunity to play for a French Open Junior Championship wild card. Held on red clay at the Boca West Country Club from April 19-22, the tournament is one of six the French Tennis Federation is sponsoring, with winners from the tournaments in Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and India advancing to playoffs in France. After round robin competition on May 26th, the finals will be the following day, with the winner getting a wild card into the French Open Junior Championships, scheduled for June 4-10.

The United States will be represented by two Floridians: Cori (CoCo) Gauff and Michael Heller. Gauff, who just last month turned 13, the age required to compete in ITF tournaments, defeated 18-year-old Victoria Flores 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Heller, who will turn 17 next month, defeated Matthew Tsolakyan 6-4, 6-3 to earn his trip to Paris.

For more on the event, see this article from tennis.com.

The USTA distributed updated standings for the men's and women's main draw wild cards for the French Open.  With two weeks left to go, Amanda Anisimova and Tennys Sandgren are on top of the standings. Neither Anisimova nor Kristie Ahn, who is second place, are playing the $60,000 tournament in Charlottesville VA this week.  Sandgren is entered in the $75,000 Tallahassee Challenger this week, but No. 2 Denis Kudla is not.

The women's current standings are here; the men's current standings are here.

The Kalamazoo College men's tennis team just won its 79th consecutive MIAA conference title this weekend, a streak that dates back to when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a first-term president.  It's the longest conference title streak in college sports.  Prior to K's win over Albion this weekend, which clinched the conference title outright, the Detroit News published this article on the program's mind-boggling accomplishment.

Did you know NBA star Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz concentrated on tennis for most of his youth?  Tom Perotta of the Wall Street Journal looks back on the growth spurt that changed his focus in this article. Hayward even had a Tennis Recruiting Network profile, with Purdue listed as his school of choice. As Perotta explains, Hayward ended up at Butler, thinking he would play both sports, but ended up concentrating on basketball.

Sixteen-year-old Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, who hasn't played a junior event since reaching the final of the Wimbledon juniors last July, picked up her first WTA victory today, beating No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic of Germany 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in Istanbul.  It was also the first Top 100 victory for Yastremska, ranked 420. For more, see the WTA website.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ahn Wins Dothan $60K; Tiafoe Captures Sarasota Challenger Title; US Fed Cup Team Advances to Final; Vanderbilt Beats Florida Again to Claim SEC Conference Tournament Title


Kristie Ahn won the biggest title of her pro career today, beating 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the $60,000 Women's USTA Pro Circuit event in Dothan AL.  The match, delayed for several hours by rain, saw the unseeded Anisimova do no wrong in the opening set, especially returning serve, with No. 8 seed Ahn able to win only 30 percent of her first serve points.

In the final game of the first set, with Anisimova serving at 5-1, the tenor of the match began to change. Although Anisimova ended up holding serve, she needed 16 points to do so, as Ahn began to eliminate her unforced errors.  After Ahn saved three break points to hold serve and go up 2-1 in the second set, Anisimova left the court after a medical timeout for what looked to be a problem with her right hip or thigh. She won only one game in the set after that, while Ahn's improved serving continued into the third set. Ahn went up 2-0, lost that break, but finished off the match by taking the last four games.

It's the sixth ITF Women's Pro Circuit title of the Stanford graduate's career, with her previous three at the $25,000 level and the first two at the $10,000 level.  She will move to a career-high of around 155 in Monday's WTA rankings and keeps the race for the USTA's French Open wild card interesting with two more tournaments yet to be played. Anisimova is now 0-3 in ITF finals, all of them since late February. She will move to around 260 in the WTA rankings.

Ahn also reached the doubles title in Dothan, but she and partner Lizette Cabrera of Australia lost to Sanaz Marand and Emina Bektas 6-3, 1-6, 10-2 in tonight's final.  It's the third doubles title of the year for Marand and Bektas, following their wins at the $15K in Orlando and the $25K last week in Pelham.

At the $15,000 men's Futures in Orange Park Florida, unseeded Felipe Mantilla of Colombia took the title, beating top seed Calvin Hemery of France 6-2, 6-4.

Frances Tiafoe won his third ATP Challenger title in another all-American final today at the $100,000 tournament in Sarasota Florida. No. 3 seed Tiafoe, who had outlasted Jurgen Melzer of Austria in last night's semifinal 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), beat Tennys Sandgren in today's final 6-3, 6-4. With the title, his first this year, the 19-year-old will move into the ATP Top 75 for the first time.  Melzer and Scott Lipsky won the doubles title, beating Peter Polansky of Canada and Stefan Kozlov 6-2, 6-4.

The US Fed Cup team defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in Wesley Chapel Florida to advance to the final in November, where they will play Belarus for their first Fed Cup title since 2000.

CoCo Vandeweghe played a part in all three US points, beating 17-year-old Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday and Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-0 on Sunday. Siniakova had beaten Shelby Rogers on Saturday and Vondrousova forced a deciding doubles match by beating Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-5 in the fourth singles match.  The doubles team of Vandeweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands is a formidable one, and they earned the USA's first trip to the Fed Cup final since 2010 with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Kristyna Pliskova and Siniakova.  For more on today's action, see this USTA article.

Most of the major conference championships begin later this week, but the SEC women's finished today, with the nation's No. 2 team Vanderbilt beating the nation's No. 1 team Florida 4-3 in Nashville. Vanderbilt won its first regular season conference title by knocking off Florida 4-3 last Sunday, also in Nashville. Vanderbilt won the tournament title today after dropping the doubles point (they had won the point a week earlier), getting singles wins from Astra Sharma at line 1, Sydney Campbell at line 2, Christina Rosca at line 3. Fernanda Contreras clinched for the Commodores at line 6.  Florida played today without Josie Kuhlman, who was scratched due to a stomach virus. See the Vanderbilt website for more on today's match.

For more on all this weekend's college results, see College Tennis Today.