Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Review: American Teenagers (ATP)

This is a follow up to the 10 American Teenagers to Watch in 2015 (ATP).  So how did they do?  Continue reading to find out.
Jared Donaldson © LangTennis

Jared Donaldson 

Age: 19 (09 Oct 1996)
Height: 6-3
Plays: Right Handed (Double Handed Backhand)
2015 Year End ATP Ranking: 135
2014 Year End ATP Ranking: 260
Career High ATP Ranking: 133 (11/02/15)

2015 Highlights: The year of firsts for the lanky Rhode Island teenager.  Donaldson continued his momentum from 2014 and rose 125 spots to finish inside the ATP 150 for the first time.  He captured his first challenger title at the $50K Maui, won his first ATP tour level match at the Memphis Open, won his first masters match in Cincinnati and beating American veteran Tim Smyczek for the first time after losing three straight matches the year before.  Jared went 4-7 at the ATP tour level and 29-15 at the challenger level in 2015.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Inaugural Cary Challenger in NC!

Another super late post.  Wanted to get this out of the way before my hiatus!

Finally, there was a challenger event close to me!  The $50K tournament held the week after the US Open in Cary (North Carolina), along with the later debutantes ($50K Columbus and $50K Las Vegas), was not part of the USTA Pro Circuit; thus, no commentating provided by the popular Mike Cation.  Per the tournament director (I think), they were approached by the USTA (United States Tennis Association) late in May.  With only a few months of preparation, I was impressed by the organization.  Besides the main attraction, there were several sideshows such as the fast serve contests, silent auctions (raised $1200 for charity), and food tents.  The whole community seemed to be involved.  Numerous kids volunteered to be ball carriers (they rotated ball kids every changeover during the weekend, partly to protect them from the scorching heat).

Center Court

Monday, September 28, 2015

Better Late Than Never: Pictures from Tuesday (Winston-Salem Open)

Fifth post from the ATP Winsotn-Salem coverage.  I know, should have done it long ago.  But with the US Open ascendancy, I was distracted.

Trying to recall.  Majority of  my day was spent watching second round matches between Frances Tiafoe and Thomaz Bellucci and Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Teymuraz Gabashvili.

 The 17 year old American was up a break in the final set (if my memory is good), but couldn't hold on to his advantage.  He ended up losing 7-6(2) in the third set to the Brazilian No.6 seed. 

Large crowd supporting Tiafoe

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

ATP Winston-Salem: Monday Pictures

This is the 4th installment of the ATP Winston-Salem Open coverage.  For previous posts, click here.

I didn't get to watch much on Monday because of the rain delays so I'm going to keep this post short and just post pictures.

Donald Young and his practice partner on PC1.

Donald Young

Donald Young's hitting partner

Spotted Sekou Bangoura, still can't figure out what's sticking out of his hair.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Winston-Salem Open Sunday Recap: Jared Donaldson vs Sam Groth

The 2015 Winston-Salem Open first round match between 18 year old American wildcard, Jared Donaldson, and World No.54 Sam Groth of Australia was a roller coaster ride.  The encounter lasted almost three hours with the big serving Aussie triumphing in three tiebreaks.

Evening match on Stadium Court

Some of my readers are aware that I have been following Donaldson's career for a long time since he was a 16 year old playing juniors in South America.  I have watched him countless times on the streams, but this was my first time witnessing his match in person.  Even though it was not the outcome I had hoped for, it was an entertaining battle filled with some great shot-making and theatrical moments.

Monday, August 24, 2015

ATP Winston-Salem Open: Saturday Part II

This is Part II of the Winston-Salem Open Saturday coverage.  ICYMI Part I.

Saw the beginning of Mischa Zverev and Sanam Singh match but didn't stay long because Court 5 had no place to sit (standing room only).  Per the qualifying draw, Mischa retired trailing 6-4 3-1.

Sanam Singh and Mischa Zverev getting ready for their match

Sanam Singh

Sunday, August 23, 2015

ATP Winston-Salem Open Qualies - Saturday Part I

It has been a while since my last post, slacking I know.  Yesterday, I made my annual trip to the ATP 250 event in Winston-Salem.  If you recall, it is at the same facility as the Winston-Salem futures held earlier this summer.  But unlike the lower tournament, this event is much better organized, has bigger crowd and higher profile players. World No.11 and WC recipient, Gilles Simon of France is the top seed and 18 year old Croatian Borna Coric rounds out the Top 8 with an ATP ranking of 38.  The other three wildcards went to former World No.2 Tommy Haas of Germany, 2nd seed Kevin Anderson (RSA), and 18 year old American Jared Donaldson.  For full draw.

Map of the tournament

Qualifying Saturday is the best day of the tournament in my opinion.  Both Qualifying Round 1 and 2 are played on the same day so spectators get their money's worth.  However, because there are so many matches going on at the same time, five to be exact, it is tough to watch everything.  So I made a list of what I wanted to see beforehand.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Semifinal Saturday: Winston Salem Futures

My third and final installment of the 2015 Winston-Salem futures series.

To be honest, I didn't plan on attending the semifinals but these came in the mail earlier than expected.

Pictured key chains of Rhyne Williams and Tennys Sandgren during their time at the University of Tennessee. "Sift" is one of their favorite hashtags. Originally, I planned to give them to the former teammates at the Charlottesville Challenger in November.  When I first followed Rhyne and Tennys, I was fascinated by their friendships and was/still am envied of it.  Hadn't seen anything quite like it.  They even had their own language.  (They lost in the doubles final yesterday, but it was nice to see them playing with each other like old times).

Friday, June 5, 2015

Thursday In Pictures: Winston-Salem Futures

This is the second post on the Wake Forest futures.  ICYM the first one: My First Futures Experience at $15K Winston-Salem.  

They had chairs this time, first come first serve. Three courts in action on the left and one on the right for the second round matches.  A cool and breezy day.

The best thing about attending futures (and challengers) is getting to see the players up close.  Smaller crowd makes it easier to spot and interact with the athletes  Also, they are free of charge most of the time.

Brian Baker and Rhyne Williams watching Tennys Sandgren and Noah Rubin

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My First Futures Experience at $15K Winston-Salem

While eyes were on the clay grand slam yesterday, I experienced my first futures at the $15K Winston-Salem (first Men's ITF event in the state of North Carolina that I know of. Edit: according to @jaredmckiernan, they used to have a futures in Elkin years ago).  The on-going event is held at the Wake Forest University Tennis Complex, also home to the ATP Winston-Salem Open in August.  I attended the 250 event every year since 2012 and hope to return again this summer.

Futures are the lowest pro circuit events where players can earn ATP points.  They are not glamorous like the ATP level tournaments and sometimes lack amenities found in challengers (next tier up).  But all players start their career there (stepping stone).  Most spectators are friends, family, players, and hard core tennis fans.  Wouldn't be suprised if I was the only "fan" to show up yesterday.

Playing Courts (a.k.a the practice courts of ATP Winston Salem Open)

Unlike the ATP event, there were no proper sitting arrangements at this ITF tourney.  Viewers either stood or sat on the grass unless they brought chairs with them like Brian Baker (pictured below).

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Julia Boserup advances to the $25K Raleigh final after a bizarre match, plays Samantha Crawford for the title.

On a warm humid Saturday, Julia Boserup and Samantha Crawford triumphed in their respective matches to set up an All-American final at the $25K Raleigh, a Har-Tru clay ITF tournament in North Carolina. Third seeded Boserup downed the top seed from Argentina, Florencia Molinero, 6-7(5) 6-4 6-0 while Crawford defeated fellow American Allie Kiick 6-4 6-3.

Julia Boserup
I actually missed the first semifinal. On my way to the North Hills Club, I took a detour to Target to buy sunscreen (something I didn’t do on Monday and ended up with sunburns). While there, I found myself in the entertainment section and well…lost track of time. The match was pretty much over by the time I left the store. However, I did make the second semifinal.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May Rankings, March & April In Review

Previous Rankings: None (Skipped April, was busy).

ATP - Top 15 Americans

Notable Changes/Results
  • John Isner is back inside the Top 20 with a much needed semifinal run at the Miami Masters and R16 in Monte Carlo.
  • Congrats to your new American No.2, Jack Sock, on his maiden ATP in Houston.
  • Also in April, Rajeev Ram won the $100K Guadalajara Challenger (defeated 1st time finalist and University of Michigan alumni Jason Jung) to become the MVP in Racket Rally during that title clinching week...thanks Raj for the court coins.
  • Prior to the breakthrough in Mexico, Jung won the $15K Little Rock futures the previous week and is currently at a career high of ATP 194.
  • Bjorn Fratangelo continued his good form, reaching SF and QF of Savannah and Tallahassee challengers respectively.
  • Jared Donaldson also had a good start to the clay season, reaching QF of Sarasota and Savannah, as well as reaching the SF of Tallahassee.
  • Congrats to former Cal Poly Mustang, Andre Dome, on his maiden title at the Thailand F2.
  • Dennis Novikov broke into the top 200 for the first time after winning his 6th futures title in Calabasas, CA.

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Rankings: Young, Harrison, Fratangelo, Chirico Moving Up

Previous Rankings: February. 

ATP - Top 15 Americans

Notable Changes
  •  Sam Querrey reclaims the No. 2 spot by reaching the semifinals of ATP Memphis.
  • Despite dropping a spot, Stevie Johnson continues his strong 2015 campaign with back to back quarterfinal showings at Memphis and Delray Beach Open.
  • Donald Young continues his rise with a semifinal at Memphis and second career ATP final at Delray Beach Open (l. Karlovic).
  • Also in Memphis, Austin Krajicek reached first career ATP quarterfinal losing to top seed, Kei Nishikori, in 3 sets.
  • Ryan Harrison jumps 56 spots since the last monthly ranking.  The 22 year old qualified and made the semifinals of ATP Acapulco, a 500 level tournament.  Along the way, he defeated Young, Grigor Dimitrov (1st Top 10 win in 23 tries), and Ivo Karlovic before falling to World No. 9 David Ferrer who went on to capture the title.   Harrison attributes his resurgence to the rehiring of coach Grant Doyle and the mentorship of Andy Roddick.
  • Tim Smyczek reenters the Top 100 by lifting the title at the $100K Challenger of Dallas taking down fellow American Rajeev Ram.
  • Bjorn Fratangelo makes his debut on the list, coming in at No. 12, after winning maiden challenger title in Launceston, Australia. The 2011 Roland Garros Boys champion defeated talented 18 year old Hyeon Chung of Korea in 3 sets.
  • Jared Donaldson won his first ATP main draw over fellow wildcard, Stefan Kozlov, in Memphis. ICYMI his Q&A for us, here is the link
  • The Bryan brothers won their first doubles title of the year, 104th overall, in Delray Beach.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Q&A with Jared Donaldson

18 year old Jared Donaldson claimed his maiden challenger titles two weeks ago in Maui, sweeping the Singles and Doubles (partnering fellow teen Stefan Kozlov).  And earlier this week, the American won his first career ATP match in Memphis (defeated Kozlov) before falling to compatriot and former Top 20 player, Sam Querrey.  The Rhode Island native was kind enough to give up his time to do a Question&Answer for us.  Continue reading to see what JD had to say about his game, memorable experiences, career approach and more!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Over The Weekend: Louisa Chirico, Andrey Rublev, Tim Smyczek

Over the weekend, 18 year old Louisa Chirico reached the $100K final in Midland.  The final was the biggest of her young career.  Prior to this, the teenager made three $25K finals (1-2) and won the $10K Sumter as a 16 year old.  Chirico defeated Maria Sakkari (GRE), Naomi Cavaday (GBR), Naomi Osaka (JPN) and Katerina Vankova (CZE) before falling to German No. 6 seed Tatjana Maria 6-2 6-0.  The veteran proved too experienced and crafty for the youngster at this time, but the American showed promise in her game.  With this result, Chirico is at a new career high of 149.

Louisa Chirico

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February Rankings: Serena Claimed 19th Slam Title, New Career High For Keys and Donaldson

 ATP - Top 15 Americans

Notable Changes
  •  Steve Johnson takes over the No. 2 spot from Sam Querrey.
  • Jared Donaldson makes his debut on the Top 15 List at No. 15 with the aid of his maiden challenger title at the $50K Maui over fellow first-time American finalist Nicolas Meister (former UCLA Bruin).
  • Ryan Harrison is back on the list at No. 11 with the Happy Valley Challenger title run.
  • Alex Kuznetsov and Jarmere Jenkins are bumped off the list despite minimal changes from the January ATP rankings.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jared Donaldson Wins First Challenger Title, Youngest American Winner Since Donald Young

Jared Donaldson, one of the Just Drop The Ball's 10 American teenagers to watch in 2015, wins his first career challenger title in Maui today to become the youngest American titlist since Donald Young in 2007 (Aptos).  At 18 years, 3 months, and 23 days old, the teenager is the 55th youngest challenger champion.  American Michael Chang holds the record at 15 years and 7 months when he captured the Las Vegas crown in 1987, roughly 9 years before Donaldson was born.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Mixture Of Veterans And Youths, Four Women Into The Second Week (2015 AO)

American women found success at the first grand slam of the year. A mixture of veterans and new faces, led by the Williams sisters, reached the second week of the Australian Open. 

Eighteen-time grand slam champion, Serena Williams, and her older sister, Venus, once again made the fourth round of a grand slam.  A first appearance at this stage for Venus in the singles since 2011, the year she was diagnosed with Sj√∂gren's syndrome.  On the brink of defeat in the previous round, the 34 year old showed resilience in a comeback over the big hitting Italian, Camila Giorgi.  Trailing a set and a point from double-break disadvantage, Williams fought off multiple break points to take the second set tiebreak before cruising in the decider to a 4-6 7-6(3) 6-1 victory.  The nearly 2.5 hour encounter was physical and emotional for the former World No. 1 trying to make her way back to the top echelon of tennis.  "It's definitely been a lot of work and a lot of learning and a lot of perseverance.  It will continue to be that for me.  Just have to come to terms with it", said Williams.  With the win, she is projected to rise to No. 12 in the WTA ranking and is slated to play No. 6 Agnieszka Radwanska who defeated American Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 AO Qualifying in Pictures

Fourteen American men and four American women participated in the 2015 Australian Open qualifications, but only three successfully made it to the main draw.  Thirty-six year old Michael Russell, who declared 2015 as his last professional season,  27 year old Tim Smyczek, and the former Georgian representative, Anna Tatishvili, won three matches for a chance to compete with the best.  Nine men and three women claimed 1st round victories, six advanced to the final qualifying round including Jarmere Jenkins, Alex Kuznetsov, Chase Buchanan, and Alexa Glatch.  In the main draw, Smyczek draws wildcard and 2012 Junior AO winner, Luke Saville of Australia.  Russell gets No. 20 David Goffin (BEL) and Tatishvili opens her campaign against 44 year old Japanese, Kimiko Date-Krumm.  USA has a total of 24 players (7 men and 17 women) in the singles main events, spearhead by John Isner and World No. 1 Serena Williams.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Decent Start to the 2015 American Campaign

Not a bad start to the new season from the American bunch highlighted by Venus Williams' victory in Auckland and the Hopman Final.  The ATP performance may not be as good as the WTA's, but there were some nice results at the lower tour events including a surprising start for Ryan Harrison and strong showings by the teenagers on the futures tour.

In the first week of the 2015 season, Venus Williams claimed her 46th title at the ASB Classic in Auckland.  The 34 year old upended fellow former World No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, 2-6 6-3 6-3.  With the victory, Williams is back up at No.18 on the WTA tour ranking.  Also in New Zealand, 21 year old Lauren Davis reached her first career semifinal coming back from 1st set deficient each time.  She defeated fellow Americans, Shelby Rogers and Sloane Stephens, as well as Pole Urszula Radwanska before falling to Williams.  CoCo Vandeweghe also made the quarterfinals.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 ITF World Junior Rankings

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has released the first edition of its' 2015 World Junior Rankings this week.  After the removal of the no longer eligible 1996 born players, the United States is left with fourteen boys and fourteen girls in the Top 100, the most of any nation.  Russia has the next highest total, with twenty-one players, followed by Australia with fourteen.  Stefan Kozlov and Catherine Cartan Bellis lead the USA's contingent.

Joining the 3rd ranked Kozlov, who was as highest as No.2, in the Top 10 Boys club are Taylor Harry Fritz (5) and Michael Mmoh (8).  Former World Junior No.2, Francis Tiafoe, Alex Rybakov, and Reilly Opelka round up the Top 25.  Other players inside the Top 50 include Henrik Wiersholm, William Blumberg, Tommy Paul, and Sameer Kumar.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

First American Rankings of 2015: ATP, WTA, 21&Under (January)

At the start of each month, I will try to update the ATP and WTA Top 15 American and 21&Under Rankings.  The January edition is as follow.  Also included are the Australian Open main draw and qualifying lists.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Q&A With Junior Standout: Taylor Harry Fritz

Taylor Harry Fritz is one of America's top prospects to watch in 2015.  The 17 year old Californian is coached by his former pro dad, Guy Fritz.  His mom, Kathy May Fritz, is a former WTA Top 10 player.  2014 is a break out year in the juniors for Taylor, who has ended the season at No.6 on the ITF Junior Ranking.  Continue reading to learn more about Taylor including his game, favorite surface, and plans for the new season.

Taylor Fritz in semifinal action at Junior Wimbledon

Questions and Answers

Can you tell us a little bit about your game style?

My game style can change around, depending on my opponent, but ideally I like to be as aggressive as possible when I get the chance.