Monday, June 29, 2015

New USA Career-High Rankings, June 29, 2015

Each week I will bring you a list of USAmerican players who have reached a new career-high ranking (CHR). This list covers all players in the Top 1000. Any player outside the Top 1000 will not be included unless they actually have earned at least one point from their previous career-high ranking. See all the CHR posts.

New WTA Career-High Rankings, June 29, 2015

Player name
Last wk
*= previous   CHR
+  from last week
If prior to last wk
Date achieved
If prior to last wk
Irina Falconi
Lauren Embree

Alexa Graham

Michaela Gordon
Kristina Smith
Malika Rose
Jaeda Daniel

Kayla Day

Madeleine Kobelt

Alexandra Valenstein

A relatively quiet week for both women and men, with few Challengers/high-level ITFs due to Wimbledon qualies. So most of what we'll see will be from Futures/low-level ITFs from the prior week. And away ... we ... go!

Irina Falconi lost today in a tough first round Wimbledon match against #11 Karolina Pliskova, but she had two Top 100 wins in qualifying at the Eastbourne Premier 700 event last week, 3-6 6-3 6-3 over former Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens and 7-6(5) 6-3 over #80 Ajla Tomljanovic - and then another one over Alexandra Dulgheru in the main draw. She got handled in the second round by eventual finalist Aga Radwanska, but she's put herself into a fine position for the summer. She'll want some decent draws, however, if she wants to get into that Top 50.

At the Sumter, S.C. $25K Mayo Hibi (JPN) took the top prize but Lauren Embree's run to the final let her crack the Top 250 for the first time. She still has a good amount of work to do before she's in the range of US Open qualies -- it'll be fun to watch her as the summer ITFs roll around. Also in Sumter, three teens won reached new highs: 16-year-old Alexa Graham upset top seed Taylor Townsend in the first round, 15-year-old Michaela Gordon won her first round match against fellow qualifier Kourtney Keegan, and 15-year-old Kayla Day got a point for qualifying to make her WTA rankings debut.

Victoria, B.C. $10K - Kristina Smith reached her first pro semifinal, while Malika Rose reached the quarters, losing a tough one to eventual champion Gail Brodsky 7-6(7) 5-7 1-6. (Speaking of Brodsky, she's up to #903 after taking nearly 3 years off, and having a kid, then winning her first tournament back - in a third set tiebreak in the final.) Alexandra Valenstein also won a round.

Manzanillo, Mex $10K - Madeleine Kobelt picked up a point with a first round win over fellow American Desirae Krawczyk.

Grand Baie La Croisette, Mauritius $10K - 15-year-old Jaeda Daniel, playing in the first leg of the Mary Pierce Indian Ocean Series of $10K events, picked up 2 points to add to her 7 from the prior week's final in Madagascar and another point from last October, giving her both the minimum number of points (10) for a guaranteed ranking and the minimum number of tournaments in which points were earned in a 12-month period (3).

New ATP Career-High Rankings, June 29, 2015

Player name
Last wk
*= pvs CHR
+  from last wk
If prior to last wk
Date achieved
If prior to last wk
Taylor Fritz

Clay Thompson
Collin Johns

Nathan Pasha
Winston Lin
Dennis Uspensky
Raleigh Smith

Gabe Tishman

Anderson Reed

Taylor Fritz is the star this week, winning his first-ever ATP match in his first-ever ATP main draw appearance - a dominating 6-1 6-4 win over Pablo Carreno Busta. Even though he lost a 3&3 encounter with World #16 Feliciano Lopez later that day, he announced his arrival.

The rest are Futures results:

MEX F7/Manzanillo - Clay Thompson, as reported quite well by Parsa last week, got sick off of lobster and then won his maiden pro title, vaulting him into the Top 1000 - nay, the Top 800. Clay is defending nothing this summer so, assuming better health, we could see him and his big ol' serve inch even higher come September. In the same tournament, Collin Johns won his first round match.

USA F17/Buffalo - Winston Lin, the wildcard from Columbia University, won three three-set matches to reach his first career semifinal and make the biggest jump of the crowd. University of Georgia's Nathan Pasha lost to Lin in the quarters, while Dennis Uspenksy won a third-set tiebreak against Hunter Harrington to pick up a point. University of Michigan recruit Gabe Tishman was a Lucky Loser who advanced with a win over a Chilean qualifier.

ISR F9/Tel Aviv - Northwestern alum Raleigh Smith beat Tal Goldengoren (ISR) in three sets to pick up a point.

ZIM F2/Harare: Former FSU Seminole Anderson Reed has won plenty of doubles matches this past 12 months but secured his first singles win 6-1 7-5 over Australia's Jeremy Beale.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This Week in American Tennis: 5 Takeaways

1. Let us now talk about Sam. Sam Austin Querrey is a tremendously gifted tennis player. He can serve lights out (#8 in aces on the year), hits big from both sides (yes even the backhand) and is, as the saying goes, a decent mover for his size (6'6"). He's won 7 singles titles - including on clay, grass, outdoor hard and indoor hard - and has wins over Djokovic, Wawrinka, and Murray. He's had the second-best American male career since the Very Good Roddick/Blake/Fish generation after John Isner, having spent 42 weeks in the Top 20, a ranking no other American born since 1985 has achieved (in fact, only Jack Sock has reached the Top 30).

For all his gifts and achievements, however, Sam has been criticized - often - for his questionable dedication to his craft, drive to achieve greatness, and mental strength in tight moments. As my midyear awards post demonstrated, he had a disproportionate number of matches this year in which he lost from a winning position.

So this week in Nottingham, it was to the amazement, and delight, of many as Querrey turned the tables, and won four matches to reach the final of the 250-level tournament. Most impressively, twice he came back from a set and a break down to win. In the quarterfinal, he saved match point against world #13 Gilles Simon to win 5-7 7-6(8) 6-4 then in the semis, he tripped up Alexandr Dolgopolov to win 4-6 6-3 7-5. He served out the match ace ace ace ace to make his second ATP final of 2015, more than any other American.

Then came the final. I didn't watch. But I saw Querrey down a set, and this time two breaks (returning at 2-5*), and I wasn't hopeful. But then he broke. And held and broke! And held!! And although Istomin held to take it to the second tiebreak of the match, Sam went up 5-1 and surely with his serve ..........

No. Sam lost 6-7(1) 6-7(6). Same ol' Ol' Sam?

2. Sloane now 0-6 in semifinals. Sloane Stephens - still your blog proprietor's favorite player despite everything - lost in the semis of the Aegon Whateverthisoneis in Eastbourne, 1-6 7-6(3) 2-6 to Aga Radwanska. (Yes, it's okay to have favorites, unless they're your kids, in which case you can have them but for God's sake don't blog about it.) This is the sixth chance she's had to reach a final, and her sixth loss in those matches. This is vexing.

To reach the Eastbourne semis, she had to overcome a game Naomi Broady in a third set tiebreak. Then she recorded her first Top 10 win since 2013 with 6-1 7-5 rout of Carla Suarez Navarro, and then made quick work of former bete noir Heather Watson. She caught a break with a walkover from Daria Gavrilova, and then came Aga.

Aga had always been a bit of a bother for Sloane. Three times before they'd faced each other. Twice, the match went to three sets while the other time Sloane lost 1-6 6-7(2). She always seemed to have a chance, but never trump the crafty Pole. But Aga has struggled this season. So you kind of thought, maybe? And after she blew TEN break points in her first two return games and went on to eat a breadstick in the set - and then Aga served for the match at 6*-5 in the second set - you thought, maybe not. But Sloane broke right back, thoroughly controlled the tiebreak, and you though, maybe?

But the wind picked up and so did Aga's level, and Sloane's dropped, and that was that. Here are highlights.

Beyond the disappointment, here are two notable things about this tournament. First, it's the second straight non-slam event at which Ms. Stephens has reached a semifinal after going 39 consecutive non-slam tournaments without a semi. It's true she lucked out in her quarterfinals - a retirement for Jelena Jankovic in Strasbourg and the walkover this week - but after going 0 for her last 8 in quarters, she'll take it. Second, it really does seem like she's as positive and proactive about her game as she has been at any time since early 2013. Going into Wimbledon and the summer hardcourt season, that's very promising news.

3. Futures frustration. US men have done quite well in Futures tournaments this year, with 18 titles from 13 guys. And this week, with 9 men in 4 Futures semifinals, it seemed quite likely we would get at least one more. But boy, did hope turn to sorrow quickly. First, in Harare, Evan King (ZIM F1 champion) led in both sets against South African Lloyd Harris only to fall 4-6 5-7 in the ZIM F2 semis. Then in Richmond, B.C., Alexios Halebian and Eric Quigley both won their CAN F3 semifinal first sets but lost in three to Canadians Philip Bester and Brayden Schnur, respectively.

(The Halebian loss hurt perhaps more because Bester shouldn't have even been there. I mean, I don't like to use the world "should" very often in tennis - things happen or they don't happen, there is no should. But back in the second round, Eric Johnson (USC) led Bester 5-1 40*-0 in the third set. Perhaps this was some sort of national revenge for Bester, who had three match points in April against Wil Spencer only to lose their USA F12 quarterfinal, and who was up a break in the third against Jarmere Jenkins in the Drummondville Challenger in March only to lose 10-8 in the third set tiebreak. But still: BOOOOOO!)

Then there were the two USA Futures: F18 in Rochester, N.Y. and F19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the former, 7 of the 8 quarterfinalists were American but the winner was #1 seed Emilio Gomez (ECU), who pulled double duty in beating both Alex Rybakov and Sekou Bangoura on Sunday. In the latter, 14 of the Round of 16ers were American but the winner was #1 seed Darian King (BAR). King didn't lose a set in his first four matches (all against Americans) but was down 2-6 3-5* to Noah Rubin only to win the last 10 games of the match to win 6-2 7-5 6-0. King has been dominant on the Futures circuit this year, winning 32 of 40 matches en route to 4 singles titles (only his 0-3 mark against Frances Tiafoe has besmirched his Futures record). Unfortunately for the Barbadian, he struggles mightily in Challengers, reaching only 1 quarterfinal in his career. But he'll be Top 200 now, or right around there, and he really needs to play those moving forward. So we'll see how that goes.

4. Danielle Lao!!! US women did somewhat better on their ITF circuit, with Jaeda Daniel reaching her second career $10K final in the Indian Ocean and four women making the semis of the $25K in Baton Rouge. Danielle Lao won the thing, her second career title, both in 2015. Here's a nice article, framed with a local Baton Rouge connection, after she claimed the title over qualifier Brooke Austin (who has to be chuffed about her week).

Lao is closing in on the Top 300 now, and is making good on her appellation as The Little Giant.
A photo posted by Danielle Lao (@thelittlegiant) on

5. Wimbledon qualies turns out to be a mixed bag. First, the good news - two American women qualified for Wimbledon: Sachia Vickery, who will be making her SW19 debut (and is closing in on that Top 100 debut) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was clearly inspired by Jon Wertheim's suggestion she quit singles and won all six of her sets. Additionally Louisa Chirico won her first two qualies matches and was drawn first by BMS-victim Shahar Peer in a depressing Lucky Loser draw. However, as of the posting of this post, no woman has withdrawn. But hope springs eternal (or will until Tuesday).
The menfolk though. We knew it would be tough when we looked at their draws and indeed it was. Only one fellow, Bjorn Fratangelo, won a round (his first grass match as a pro!) and he lost against the very tough J.P. Smith in the second round. So he'll have to wait until New York to make his Grand Slam main draw debut. Austin Krajicek and Ryan Harrison lost winnable matches in third sets, Dennis Novikov lost to veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu in three sets, Jared Donaldson fell to Ivan Dodig (recent Wimby 4th rounder) in straights, Jarmere Jenkins lost to Evgeny Donskoy in two, and Chase Buchanan lost 6-1 2-1 (ret.) against Tristan Lamasine. Note that Buchanan was UP 6-1 2-1 when he had to retire, which just underlines how sucky tennis can be, and how tough Chase's year has been.

And of course, this had to be an historically bad qualies for US guys:

It's weird that that was the case - since qualies are a bit of a crapshoot, and you're talking about guys in the 100-250 range, in which Americans are pretty well represented. But it is what it is.

Gold Stars (given in addition to those highlighted above): Usue Arconada (Baton Rouge SF), Samantha Crawford (Baton Rouge SF and doubles final title), Emily Harman (Baton Rouge doubles final title), Zoe Scandalis (Manzanillo $10K SF and doubles title), Bernarda Pera (Helsingborg $25K SF and doubles title), Taylor Fritz (first ATP win, in Nottingham), Deiton Baughman (BEL F3 doubles title), Raymond Sarmiento & Hunter Nicholas (CAN F3 doubles title), Dominic Cotrone & Quinton Vega (USA F18 doubles title), Andre Dome (USA F19 SF and doubles title), Jean-Yves Aubone (USA F19 doubles title), and Tennys Sandgren (USA F19 SF).

A look ahead: Wimbledon. Seven USA men are in the main draw, and this blog has optimistically estimated 9 wins for them. We think they'll go 6-1 in the first round (with only Donald Young losing) and 3-3 in the second round (with Isner, Sock, and Denis Kudla winning). However, we have those three losing to Marin Cilic, Roger Federer, and Kei Nishikori in those 3rd round matches. It doesn't sound great but even 6 wins would be one more than the last two years. For this year, at least, nine would be divine.

Sixteen USA women are in the main draw. This blog has Serena Williams winning and completing the Serena Slam, and putting herself 7 matches away from the calendar Grand Slam. We have her beating Venus Williams in the 4th Round, who in turn beats Madison Brengle in the first round. We also have Madison Keys progressing to the quarterfinals and Stephens into the Round of 16. Beyond that, we don't have any 3rd rounders predicted but boy howdy are we hopeful!

Women's ITFs - Taylor Townsend, who is struggling mightily, is scheduled to play the El Paso $25K this coming week along with Jennifer Brady (who had to withdraw from Baton Rouge due to food poisoning), Asia Muhammad, Crawford, and Sanaz Marand.

Men's Futures - Again, two American Futures; again, both stacked with Americans. Darian King will be top seed at the Wichita $15K with Mitchell Krueger, Sandgren, Stefan Kozlov, Nicolas Meister, Mackenzie McDonald, Dome, Spencer Papa and Rubin among many in the main draw. In Pittsburgh, a $10K will feature Rybakov and Halebian, with plenty of other Americans playing as well.

In Canada, Quigley, Marcos Giron, and at least 7 other Americans are on the acceptance list. In Zimbabwe, Evan King, Evan Song, and Michael Grant are in the main draw. Colombia: Kevin King. Netherlands: Greg Ouellette and qualifier Mitchell Stewart. Spain: Peter Kobelt (3rd seed) and Eduardo Nava. Belgium: Deiton Baughman is the #3 seed.

Roehampton - The Grade 1 grass-court warm-up features 8 American boys (who went 7-1 in the first round, with Fritz as top seed) and 8 American girls (who went 4-3 in the first round, with Sofia Kenin's match postponed in the second set). Zootennis, of course, will have all your Roehampton results all week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New USA Career-High Rankings, June 22, 2015

Each week I will bring you a list of USAmerican players who have reached a new career-high ranking (CHR). This list covers all players in the Top 1000. Any player outside the Top 1000 will not be included unless they actually have earned at least one point from their previous career-high ranking. See all the CHR posts.

New ATP Career-High Rankings, June 22, 2015

Player name
Last wk
*= pvs CHR
+  from last wk
If prior to last wk
Date achieved
If prior to last wk
Alexander Sarkissian

Deiton Baughman
Tommy Paul

Andre Dome

Michael Mmoh
Raymond Sarmiento

Mico Santiago

Hunter Nicholas

Thai-Son Kwiatkowski

Cameron Silverman

Frederick Saba
Raleigh Smith

Nicolas Podesta
Quentin Monaghan

Not included: Collin Johns (1038 / +1)

There was not much going on at the ATP level for American men last week - John Isner beating Jared Donaldson 7-6(11) 6-4 then Feliciano Lopez 7-6(5) 6-7(9) 7-6(4) was about it - and Denis Kudla's Challenger title got him to #104, a bit off his career high of #90. So to the Futures we go!

Hong Kong F1: Alexander Sarkissian reached the final, retiring down 1-4 to Ti Chen of Taiwan. However, all that work was only worth 10 points, and thus just the two ranking spots. Looking like Sark's days in the Futures may be a thing of the Past, for now at least.

Bosnia & Herzegovina F5: Deiton Baughman had a brilliant week, picking up his first second pro title in Sarajevo, on clay no less! The #6 seed dropped just 12 games in his first three matches, then beat top seed Nils Langer after dropping the first sets, and finally came from a break down in the third to win the final. Unfortunately Baughman lost first round twice since then (once in the Netherlands, once in Belgium) - just showing how tough the grind can be for youngsters out there.

USA F16B: Tennys Sandgren took the title in Charlottesville and the other three semifinalists (Collin Altamirano, Ryan Haviland, and Ernesto Escobedo) didn't match their career highs - although Escobedo is just 7 off. However a few first round wins did make a difference: Mico Santiago over an Aussie qualifier, Raymond Sarmiento over an American qualifier, and qualifier Quentin Monaghan (Notre Dame) over Andrew Carter to pick up his first career ATP point.

Mexico F6: Andre Dome reached the semis in Manzanillo but withdrew before his semifinal against eventual champion Tigre Hank. Hopefully it's not too serious - he's only defending three points until December. Great, great opportunities to continue his upward climb.

Israel F8: Cameron Silverman picked up a win against an Israeli qualifier, while Raleigh Smith beat an Israeli wild card.

Lebanon F2: Frederick Saba (Duke) reached his first career quarterfinal.

Turkey F23: 18-year-old Nicolas Podesta beat a Turkish wild card in the first round.

Tommy Paul, Michael Mmoh, Hunter Nicholas and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski all advanced when others fell.

New WTA Career-High Rankings, June 22, 2015

Player name
Last wk
*= previous   CHR
+  from last week
If prior to last wk
Date achieved
If prior to last wk
Katerina Stewart

Lauren Embree

Alexa Graham

Erica Oosterhout

Marie Norris

Dasha Ivanova

Caroline Price

Madeleine Kobelt

Tiny moves all the way down to Dasha Ivanova, who got 2 points by virtue of two wins at the Manzanillo, Mexico $10K before retiring in the quarters. Madeleine Kobelt qualified and picked up a win in the same tournament. Both women lost to top seed Fernanda Brita (CHI), who herself lost the semifinal to USC's Giuliana Olmos (MEX).

And then there's Caroline Price. In only her third career pro main draw, the recent UNC Tarheel (now pro) won her first five career main draw matches to take the $10K title in Charlotte, NC, where her dad is a basketball coach. 12 huge points for the tall lefty. Here is a great interview with her prior to her amazing week.