Make it Eight Straight Sets for Duque-Marino as she advances to TinsleyClassic Final in Charlottesville
Mariana Duque-Marino made it four straight matches without dropping a set at the 2018 Boyd Tinsley Women’s Clay Court Classic in Charlottesville, Virginia with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over American Jennifer Brady. Both players came out tentatively, and Duque-Marino even gave up a break on a
double-fault before settling down to take the first set and the match. “I think I did a lot of double faults because she was pressuring me with her forehand,” she told me after the match. “So if I didn’t put the first serve on the court, I would have to run–a lot. That’s why I was trying to force the second serve a little bit,” she continued. “My forehand was very good and with my slice, very happy today.”
Boyd Tinsley Women’s Clay Court Classic Trophy
Duque-Marino will put her 8 set win streak on the line tomorrow against either Taylor Townsend or Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. Townsend beat Duque-Marino in 3 sets last week in the Dothan final. I pointed out the Boar’s Head trophy, which stood nearby and asked if she’d like to take the glass and metal violin trophy home with her tomorrow.
“It’s different. I never had one of those ones, but tomorrow I hope to play the same like the matches before.” she said with a smile.
Rain delayed the start of Friday’s quarterfinals, but the action got underway just after noon and the opening matches weren’t particularly close. Jennifer Brady and Katerina Stewart both tortured each other with drop shots until Brady prevailed 6-3, 7-5. Brady faces 4 seed Mariana Duque-Marino in today’s semifinal as Duque-Marino won her third match in straight sets in 26 hours, a 6-4, 6-1 drubbing over the listless Grace Min, who played well yesterday.
The afternoon quarterfinals matches offered a little more action for the fans. Mari Osaka was a tiny giant awakened after losing the first set and down two breaks in the second set against Anhelina Kalinina. The Ukrainian, a former US Open Juniors finalist and an Australian Open Girls Doubles Champion, had a powerful forehand that started to stray, but she found her game long enough to get through the third set and the match, 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5.
Sesil Karatantcheva raced to a 6-3 first set against Roland Garros Wild Card leader Taylor Townsend, then watched as the Houdini in Townsend made another appearance. Townsend took the second, 6-4, and then the two traded breaks in the third. By the time they were playing the third set tiebreak, the American crowd had little doubt as to who would win. Taylor won the tiebreak at 2.
Jen Brady, 2018 Boyd Tinsley Women’s Clay Court Classic
When the weather cooperates, the Boyd Tinsley Women’s Tennis Classic in Charlottesville, VA, is one of the best tennis experiences in the world. I’ve been through monsoons here and I’ve been through beautiful spring days. And Thursday was a beautiful day on the Har-Tru at the Boar’s Head Sports Resort. 16 first round matches and 8 second round matches were on order due to Wednesday’s rainout. It was perfect for the fans and for the dogs. I saw more dogs today at a tournament than I have ever seen before. It’s called “growing the sport.”
Conditions were a little doggy for the players in the early going. For the first players on the courts on Thursday, the surface played very slow. After Allie Kiick beat Louisa Chirico before 11 a.m., she told me that “we were both hitting” dropshots and that “for two whole games, we had nothing but dropshots.”
Jen Brady and Allie Kiick needed three sets to open the day, with both staging comeback wins over Irina Falconi and Louisa Chirico respectively. In the 2nd round, it was all Jen Brady from the start and she advanced to a quarterfinal match today against Katerina Stewart.
Camilla Rosatello needed little time to dispatch Olga Ianchuk, who immediately went behind the court and sobbed into a phone call after the match. Cheer up, Olga! Mariana Duque-Marino spoiled my debut of Iga Swiatek 7-6(3), 6-3, and in the nightcap, Duque-Marino proved the tougher competitor in a 6-2, 6-3 sweep of Rosatello. She’ll face the plucky Grace Min today for a spot in the semis.
As for Min, she beat an error-prone Jamie Loeb yesterday morning before taking out Sophie Chang in the nightcap. Chang continued to impress since Charleston with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Victoria Duval earlier in the day.
Top seed Madison Brengle looked out of form, in all of her talking to herself idiosyncratic ways and plaintively looking at her mother in the stands all day. She wasted little time taking out American Maria Sanchez in straights in the first round and then completely fell apart in the round of 16, losing 6-2, 6-1 to Mari Osaka. Osaka plays Anhelina Kalinina later today.
Speaking of dogs: Ashley Kratzer celebrated with her dog, Koa, after a win over Lizette Cabrera in the morning. In late afternoon, she faced Sesil Karatantcheva. That’s when Krasher’s real dog days began. Karantantcheva advanced to play Taylor Townsend, 6-2, 7-6(5).
And then there’s Taylor Townsend. Inching ever closer to the Roland Garros Wild Card, she made another big step forward yesterday to make the quarters at this $80,000.00 event. The window is closing on other Americans to step up and make it a race. With Brady, Stewart and Min the only other Americans still standing at Charlottesville, a semis showing here should nearly wrap it up for Townsend. She showed yesterday that she is heads above the talent field at this level and it’s good to see her succeed.
I had a strange dream. I dreamt I went to Charlottesville, like I do every year for the ATP Challenger. I stayed at the same hotel as I always do. I went to the same brewpubs I always do. I watched some hard court indoor tennis like I always do. Then, I realized the players in the Challenger were women and I woke up.
Boyd Tinsley Classic (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Days of constant rain in Virginia turned the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic into the spring indoor classic. Madison Brengle, the tournament’s top seed at #100, dispensed shopping tips to the younger players on tour as she sat near the entrance of the facility all weekend talking about which tournaments offer the best hospitality on the road. (Correction: It was all about shopping, I later learned).
Boyd Tinsley Classic (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
I love qualifying, perhaps because the crowds are lighter or because the players are hungrier. As usual, I was one of two fans in the stands, with a smattering of players, coaches and tournament volunteers scattered throughout the giant Boar’s Head Resort’s indoor facility.
Sunday’s qualifying found the pros relegated to the dungeon courts, where there was no access to watch anything but the match near the net. The University of Virginia women’s team was hosting and they got first dibs on the indoor show courts.
I came for the surface. After Charleston, I can’t just jerk back to hard courts. But Mother Nature had other ideas. And so it was that I didn’t see a single point or practice on the clay.
I did see some ferocious competition in the likes of Julia Elbaba, playing on her alma mater terra sancta and almost qualifying on will alone, or the awkward effectiveness and endurance of Elizaveta Ianchuk (the Ukranian who’s been here three years in a row) or the punchy counter-attacking of Robin Anderson. Or how about 18-year-old racket tosser Ashley Kratzer, ferocious on court like Barbora Strycova but as quiet and mild-mannered as a teen-ager can be off court. How about the quiet clapping of Carol Zhao’s parents, overjoyed by their daughter’s wins but clapping so softly, as if their own parents were in an adjoining bedroom? On another note, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a 9:00 a.m. match start before at a tournament. Some players are barely awake.
The good news, if you live within three hours of Charlottesville is that the weather forecast is about to break wide open as spring’s wild variations usually do. In two days, no one will remember the constant rain in Charlottesville. I will. It can be so lonely on the tour. The rain has a way of incessantly reminding you of that loneliness. And then you look down on court where a 26-year-old is looking back at her coach after an unforced error, and you’re sitting next to him. And she looks almost right at you, asking “why am I doing this?” It makes you question why any of them don’t hang it up if they haven’t reached the top 100 by the time they’re 24. Regardless, they soldier on. That doesn’t take away from the pain in their eyes, the second-guessing, the constant moving about to cheap hotel rooms, traveling like a band of one where nobody’s ever heard their hit song. You have to remind yourself that these players are here by choice. For the most part, they’re adults. You have to remind yourself that these players aren’t forced into this lifestyle by an authoritarian government. But sometimes, that doesn’t seem apparent at first glance. May the heavens shine down on them and make all of them top 20 players someday.
The sun can’t shine soon enough on Charlottesville and the determined women at the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic. Today is forecast to be partly cloudy and 79 degrees.
.@ReillyOpelka Wins Charlottesville @CMPChallenger, Gets Early Jump on @USTA @AustralianOpen Wild Card Challenge Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
He says he doesn’t care about the whole Wild Card Challenge, but world #276 Reilly Opelka got a huge early jump on the Australian Open wild card awarded by the USTA with a nail-biting 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5) third set tiebreak over Ruben Bemelmans to win the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger in Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday afternoon.
“You definitely played like you deserved to win,” Opelka said of opponent Ruben Bemelmans”. “I felt like I got lucky in the breaker,” he continued. “I want to thank Diego Moyano, my coach for the week. This tournament’s awesome. We play Challengers all over and this is my favorite one,” he said. Since it’s first pro title, it’s natural for him to feel that way.
Reilly Opelka, 2016 Charlottesville Champion
Throughout the week, Opelka was a wrecking crew against his fellow Americans, knocking out Sekou Bangoura, Michael Mmoh, Mackenzie McDonald and 2012 Charlottesville champion Denis Kudla.
Reilly Opelka Stencils the W Before a First Round Match in Charlottesville (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Bemelmans also helped Opelka keep other Americans down in the hunt for the wild card. He beat Bjorn Fratangelo and Tim Smyczek before facing Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen in the semifinal.
The men now move on to Knoxville before concluding the wild card campaign in Champaign, Illinois. The best two results from the three-tiered event will earn one American player direct entry into the main draw in Melbourne next January.
If You Don’t Like American Tennis, You’ll Hate The @CMPChallenger in Charlottesville Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOV 2–Like the headline says.
But first, almost-local boy done good, Denis Kudla.
If there’s such a thing as a home court advantage, it might belong to Denis Kudla more than the entire contingent of UVA tennis players, past and present, in the main draw. It certainly looks like Kudla’s Castle after a breezy 6-1, 6-2, 56 minute victory on Tuesday over Tommy Paul at the USTA $50,000 Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger at the Boar’s Head resort in Virginia.
“Maybe a little bit of a home court advantage (at the Boar’s Head resort). I’ve come here and practiced a lot, so I’ve really gotten used to these courts. I love playing here. I’ve told a lot of people and a lot of people know, this is probably the best court for me in the world. Maybe on grass courts too, but on this court, I play my best tennis. I am so comfortable. I am really happy here.”
Kudla draws UVA recruit Carl Soderlund from Stockholm in the 2nd round.
“The UVA Freshman is really good and I look forward to the challenge,” he said.
US main draw direct entry players at the Challenger are an astounding 12-5, which doesn’t sound astounding until you figure that four of the losses were to OTHER American players. Noah Rubin, last year’s USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge champ, was the only direct entry American to lose a match against a non-American, so the record is more like 12-1. That’s Solid Gold. We’re used to all these American ATP 250s that hand out Wild Cards like funny money to local celebrities and they all get destroyed in the first round.
Austin Krajicek defeated Great Britain’s Edmund Corrie, 7-6(3), 6-4 and Brian Baker took out Tim Van Reithoven of the Netherlands, 6-4, 6-2 in less than an hour.
Broady defeated US qualifier J.C. Aragone, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, and was kind enough to venture down a dangerous trail with us in discussing the US Presidential election and Brexit’s impact on British players.
Peter Polansky, 2016 Charlottesville Challenger (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Peter Polansky showed up late for his match against 2016 USTA Australian Open Wild Card champion Noah Rubin and dealt the Long Island native an early setback in his hopes of repeating the feat in 2017. Since the USTA format allows for the best two scores in the three round event, Rubin can still repeat with strong showings in Knoxville and Champaign.
Bjorn Fratangelo dug himself a huge first set hole before battling back for a straight sets win over Belgium’s Joris De Loore, 7-6(3), 6-2. He spoke with us after the match.
Later, Michael Mmoh won a convincing match over compatriot Dennis Novikov 6-3, 6-2. Mmoh has roots in the Washington area, and is pleased to advance here in Charlottesville.
Tim Smyczek: What can you say about him? Love the guy, but at this point, he’s just knocking off young, often-American talent and he needs to go be a great coach. In this case, Tim’s victim was Thai “Favorite” Son Kwiatkowski of UVA, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
Top seed Frances Tiafoe prevailed over UVA’s Ryan Shane in three, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. He will play fellow American Mackenzie McDonald, a winner over American Gonzales Austin, 7-6(0), 7-6(2).
In the ONLY singles match not involving at least one American yesterday, Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen defeated qualifier Yuki Bhambri, 6-3, 7-6(3).
Seeing a trend here? This is the most American event of American events ever. And I, for one, welcome our new American Tennis Overlords.
Consensus in Charlottesville: Go Cubs, Australian Open Wild Card Who? Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOVEMBER 1–Just 6 days from the 2016 Presidential Election, it’s hard to find consensus in America these days. But at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger at the Boar’s Head Resort in Virginia, there are two things on which all of the players agree: they hope for the Chicago Cubs to win their first World Series in 108 years and they really, really don’t care about the USTA Australian Open Wild Card…yet.
Of the dozen or more players I asked, everyone hoped for a Cubs win but saw a tough Indians tribe more likely to prevail. The most anti-Cubs response I could get was from Brian Baker, who said “I’m a Cardinals fan. I’m not a Cubs fan, but I can rally behind people who get behind them because it’s been so long since they won.”
More unanimity for the current lack of interest in even thinking about the Australian Open Wild Card granted by the USTA for the best results here in Charlottesville and then in Knoxville and Champaign. I also asked Baker if he ever thought about the WC.
“Not a ton,” he said. “I mean, if you go deeper in some tournaments, then you probably start thinking about it more but I think in the first tournament, you’re just here to do your best.”
Tennys Sandgren told me that “there are tons of good reasons to win matches at this point. When you come down to one or two matches to earn it, yeah. At this point, it’s so early in the race. Champaign, if you’re in the race and in the hunt, it’s in the back of your mind. You know you have to had good weeks to possibly get it so you’re just trying to have those good weeks.”
Reilly Opelka put it blunty. “Not really, I don’t really care about it to be honest.”
See if these guys admit to caring about it in a few weeks when they’re a couple of matches away from the first round of the Australian Open.
First Round’s Rolling at the Charlottesville Challenger Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It was like they were getting the band back together after Tennys Sandgren’s first round win at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger. Sandgren and Rhyne Williams, former roommates at the University of Tennessee, did everything except break into a rendition of “Old Rocky Top”.
They might as well sing “God Bless America” all week long, because this is a tournament loaded with ‘Mericans.
Sandgren, Reilly Opelka and Jared Donaldson, who all won yesterday, join 16 other Americans in the 32 player draw. It’s the most American, and possibly most talented field in the history of the event.
Rhyne Williams Congratulates Tennys Sandgren After First Round Victory in Charlottesville (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Sandgren reflected on a good season after the win over Brydan Klein. “Quarters and a semi this fall and I had chances in all those matches. I feel like I’m playing well and I feel like I’m giving myself a chance to go deep every match”, he told me.
Reilly Opelka showed big-league composure as he battled bad calls and native son Sekou Bangoura in a three set comeback win. A bad line call at 30-all and 5-5 in the second set could’ve cost him the match, but he stayed composed and survived to advance, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.
Reilly Opelka Stencils the W Before a First Round Match in Charlottesville (Photo: TennisAtlantic.com)
Later, Jared Donaldson faced an onslaught from Switzerland’s Alexander Ritschard but prevailed, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
The qualifiers are placed. Gonzales Austin was another comeback winner yesterday. The former Vanderbilt Tennis standout told me that “sometimes when I get down, I lose a little bit of belief. Today, I came out in the 5-2 game (2nd set) and I was still fighting and I think that sends a message to my opponent that I’m not going to go away and it puts a little more pressure on him.”
Austin closed out Aron Hiltzik, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), and advances to face Mackenzie McDonald.
The Champion of Charlottesville: Denis Kudla Returns For Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Denis Kudla says it’s great to be back in Charlottesville.
“I was on the ATP tour main circuit pretty much all of last year, playing a lot of tour events and my ranking dropped a little bit,” he told me on Sunday in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I’m glad to be back here. I know I’ve played well here in the last couple of years I’ve played and I really look forward to getting going.”
Played well is an understatement for Kudla. The Arlington, Virginia native won the Petit A’s tournament here when he was 9 years old, and won the grown-up version of the tournament, the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Challenger, when he was 20.
Kudla Win the Challenger in 2012
“It’s strange that I won my very first tournament here in Charlottesvile when I was 9 years old,” he reflected. “I’m 24 now and still back here playing. It’s pretty special.”
He was practicing with fellow Junior Tennis Champions Center alum Frances Tiafoe before our interview. Kudla was a JTCC prodigy while Tiafoe was a kid growing up in and around the facility. This year, Tiafoe is the tournament’s top seed. I wondered if Tiafoe saw him as a big brother.
“I would say I’ve been around him his whole life,” he replied. “I wouldn’t say big brother, but I definitely try to be some kind of mentor. He’s playing unbelievable and I’m still learning stuff from him.”
Goals for 2017 involve “trying to get back in the top 100 and solidify my spot there again, try to stay healthy, that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “It’s a long road, lots of up and downs, just try to stay away from the downs.”
Cubs or Indians in the World Series?
“I want the Cubs to win, but I think the Indians are going to take it.”
A long-time Philadelphia Eagles fan, Kudla also shared his thoughts on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. “I like him. He came out a little too hot, but he came back to Earth. I think he’s got a great future.”
Sounds like my assessment of some of the guys on the tour. Kudla opens the tournament against Tommy Paul tomorrow afternoon on courts he’s known since a babe.
2016 @ITATennis All-Indoor Mens’ National Standouts Jeff McMillan, Tennis Atlantic
The men’s ITA Indoor National Championships have come and gone and what a tournament it was. Several great matches took place, with the finale being the best of all. The North Carolina Tar Heels stunned the college tennis world by taking out the heavily favored Virginia Cavaliers on their home courts in Charlottesville 4-2 in a match that had two 3rd set tiebreakers and one match decided at 7-5 in the 3rd. It was an explosive end to an overall electric event.
I have selected an All-Indoor Team for the MVP of the tournament in each position. Several were tough to select while a few were fairly simple selections. See what you think of my All-Indoor Team and if you agree with my choices.
1. Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA – The #1 position was probably the toughest to select an MVP from. No player was completely dominant in Charlottesville. I chose McDonald because he re-established himself as a top national player this weekend and had an important win for his team by coming back from a set down to defeat Wayne Montgomery of Georgia. He also had a straight sets win over Brayden Schnur. He did not lose a match over the weekend as his 3rd match with Arthur Rinderknech went unfinished.
2. Alex Rybakov, TCU – Rybakov gets the nod here at #2, just barely over Petros Chysochos of Wake, based on his dramatic 3rd set breaker win over Max De Vroome that gave TCU the 4-3 win over Southern Cal. His win turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole weekend. He also routinely neat Jared Hiltzik in the round of 16, confirming his spot as one of the nation’s top #2 players. He was in a tight match with Thai-Son Kwiatkowski before it was ended due to Virginia’s 4-1 win. Excellent weekend from the Freshman.
3. Colin Altamirano, Virginia – Dropped a total of 13 games in Virginia’s 1st three matches on their march towards the final. He blasted Filip Vittek of San Diego, Jonathan Ho of Wake Forest and Guillermo Nunez of TCU giving Virginia a quick point in each of those matches, huge for momentum. He would have been the MVP of the entire tournament regardless of position had he finished off Brett Clark of North Carolina in the final. He never got that chance due to his Virginia being unable to win one of the two tiebreaks on courts 1 & 2. If it was 3-3, you would have had to have liked Altamirano’s chances vs Clark late in the 3rd.
4. Jack Murray, UNC – Murray is the selection at #4 over several other candidates (Bogaerts of Wake, Cailleau of Texas Tech and Sell of UCLA) because the last image of the entire event features Murray triumphantly capturing the championship for his Tar Heels with a 6-4 0-6 7-5 win over Mac Styslinger of Virginia. Sometimes a single victory is more important than an entire event worth of results. But Murray was no slouch the rest of the event either, he crushed Herkko Pollanen of Ohio State 6-2 6-3 in the quarterfinals and did not lose his other two matches, splitting sets with other candidates for this selection Karue Sell and Jolan Cailleau before they were abandoned.
5. JC Aragone, Virginia – Virginia did not win the Championship this year but it was in no way the fault of JC Aragone who brought his best stuff in UVA’s toughest matches in the event. In both of Virginia’s 4-3 matches (the win over Wake and the loss vs UNC) Aragone obliterated his opponent at #5. Both of these destructions were very important for Virginia. In the Wake match it was critical to get a point on the board quick after losing doubles and in the UNC match it was big to extend the lead to 2-0 after a short amount of time. His results this week show that he is one of the top lower lineup players in America.
6. Anudeep Kodali, North Carolina – The Freshman gets the selection based on his play in the later critical stages of the ITA indoor championships. He started the event with a 6-1 6-3 win over Bjorn Thompson of Texas Tech. He did take one on the chin vs Ohio State but bounced back admirably. He was a critical point for the Tar Heels vs UCLA in his one set down rally defeat of Austin Rapp. But the true reason he makes the All-Indoor team is the way he dismantled Henrik Wiersholm of Virginia 6-2 6-2. Wiersholm had been playing great tennis and was the prime candidate for this selection before this match. UVA was considered to be a big favorite at #6, nobody really though Kodali would challenge Wiersholm, let alone beat him, let alone destroy him! That point set a tone and showed that UNC was there to play.
Martin Redlicki/Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA – 3-0 for the weekend for this pair of Bruins. Beating 2 top 15 doubles teams 6-3 is quite impressive, as well as a close clincher win over Texas A&M to give UCLA the doubles point. Definitely the doubles stars of the indoor event.
Alex Sendegeya/Bjorn Thompson, Texas Tech – 2 big wins for this combo. A 6-1 destruction of Baylor and a 7-6 win over UNC that gave Texas Tech the doubles point as they attempted to pull off the upset.
Romain Bogaerts/Dennis Uspensky, Wake Forest – Had a dominating win over Soutern Cal and a critical 7-6(3) victory over the Virginia doubles team of Altamirano and Aragone which gave Wake Forest the critical doubles point in that match.