Frances Tiafoe celebrates winning a crucial point against Grigor Dimitrov during their 4th round clash at the Australian Open
Anna Kalinskaya had an easy peasy day yesterday in taking two titles at the ITF International Hardcourts in College Park, Maryland. First up was a two set 6-2, 2-1 win in retirement against Romanian Elena Ruse. The tournament’s top seed, she followed up the singles win with a 6-3, 7-5 doubles title with teammate Evgeniya Levashova, besting the American team of Gabrielle Andrews and Mia Horvit.
After the match, Kalinskaya told me that the timing of the title was fortuitous. “It’s great, because I feel more confident now for the US Open.” She admitted it was a nice treat to have more energy for the doubles match to follow than she normally would.
Her opponent, Elena Ruse, who retired, was still in very good spirits and clutched a Wimbledon towel, a spoil of war from her semifinal run through the junior tournament this summer. Ruse, whose middle name is Gabriela, prefers to be known as Gabby.
“My leg was bad”, she explained. “In the second round, I felt something in my leg, put on some tape and everything was good. Today, I felt so bad. I hope I will be much better for US Open”.
And what about that Wimbledon towel?
“It was my second Grand Slam and I played amazing. I love grass courts and I hope I will be there next year”.
Does she hope to have a special US Open towel to remind her of a great run through New York? “Of course”, she said.
Reilly Opelka, an unseeded American, posted an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) comeback win over Tim Van Rijthoven to capture the boys title. Both players did a nice job of holding serve throughout. Opelka’s serve really bailed him out in the final two stanzas. I missed the end of the match, but I was impressed with the resolve of both players. Opelka reminds me a little of Sam Querrey or John Isner.
Let me give you some reminders about junior tournaments:
1) They hang towels anywhere they can: There’s no one to hand your towel to, so you hang it yourself: from a fence post, for example. But if you’re playing indoors, there is no fence. Then, you find something else. A door knob or a fire alarm will do.
2) The delays of chasing down running balls: They aren’t a bunch of time-wasters in the Juniors like they are in the pros. In fact, they often quick-pitch and sometimes opponents have to tell the player on the other side of the net to slow down. No commercial breaks and speedy changeovers means the matches move quickly. The balls are the one impediment to the smooth progress of the game. No ball kids means everyone is a ball-kid: fans, line judges, and even the Chair will occasionally hop down to kick a nearby ball in a server’s direction. Imagine that in a pro match.
Also, players who want to slow down the pace of a match can do just that depending on how passively they gather up the balls before service. A player about to return serve can also slow down the game depending on how quickly or not they return the ball from their side of the net. It’s a moment to catch your breath, if nothing else.
3) Keep your own score: Just like when you’re playing your buddy on the concrete courts behind the middle school. Like a broken clock, the flip scoreboard is only accurate once every two games when the players flip it on the changeover. We all take electronic scoreboards for granted until they’re gone. Or, you could always ask Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.com. She keeps a reporter’s note book up-to-date with score and stats.
3) The Fans: They’re aren’t too many of them at a match, and they are probably related to the player on court, so watch what you say. Yesterday was unusual in terms of light turnout. The stars of the host Junior Tennis Champions Center had been eliminated in the semis, and the torrential downpour moved the finals inside. And by inside, I mean you had to walk through four buildings to find the courts. I walked through two buildings full of tennis lessons in progress, each time saying thinking, ‘No, this can’t be it’. Finally, I walked into the last tennis barn on the property, saw Colette Lewis, and knew I had arrived!
It was a pleasure to watch Colette at work yesterday. There’s no one like her in the world of tennis, and everything I learned about junior tennis, I learned from her. She also has a very diligent assistant, when he’s not busy with other duties.
For me, this Saturday used to be about Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day in New York. After watching title-match tennis a short drive from home, this seemed like a much better way to spend the Saturday before the US Open instead.
—Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Francis Tiafoe has every reason to be proud after a close loss to Evgeny Donskoy at the Citi Open in Washington, DC tonight. Though he lost 4 & 4, his big serve looked great. He fired up the crowd and they fired him up right back. In addition to his parents and family, his debut match was witnessed by players, friends and the extended family known as Every Serious Tennis Fan in Washington.
The 16-year-old got his first break of serve on Donskoy early in the second set, and the Junior Tennis Champions Center prodigy was never out of a set or the match until the final point of each. The Baltimore-born Tiafoe has trained at the College Park, Maryland training facility since he was a child and attended Citi Open every year since he was 9. Tiafoe saved 9 break points and other than a few double faults, it didn’t appear that the big stage made him nervous. In fact, he seemed to feed on the energy from the partisan crowd.
Donskoy said of his opponent, “I know this guy has a great future”.
After the match, he said “I just hope I can come back here” (to the Citi Open). I’m pretty sure that can be arranged, Francis. In fact, I’m very sure. Thanks for making everyone around here proud, Big Foe.
Blink and You’ll Miss It: Jordi Arconada of @TheJTCC Wins Pro Debut in 18 Minutes @CitiOpen
Stephan Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
I was thrilled when he won his first game and then proceeded to grab his first break of serve against tour veteran Michael Llodra. I thought the match would go on for quite some time. This was not going to be a typical blow-out qualifying win by an experienced player over a crafty young upstart. I saw on my phone that Kozlov and Groth were headed for a second set tiebreak and decided to duck over to Stadium Court for a few.
I’m now wishing I hadn’t.
A game later, Llodra called for the trainer and called it quits. Arconada got the win in retirement by a score of 3-2.
A win is definitely a win, especially when you’ve made a total of $104 on the ATP tour and your opponent has banked $8.45 million.
He’s one match away from joining his very good friend, Francis Tiafoe, in the main draw.
Tomorrow, Arconada takes on another tour vet in Alex Kuznetsov in an All-American affair. OK, an All-Americas affair. Though they reside in Maryland and sister Usue now represents the USA, Jordi is still very Argentinian. The ‘Neymar’ jerseys in the crowd should have given that away. (Tip o’ the pen to @ARhyneMoment)
Kuznetsov will be wondering why no one is cheering him on.
Nothing personal, Alex. But this is Big Jordi Country now.
FRANCIS TIAFOE AWARDED WILD CARD ENTRY TO CITI OPEN® TOURNAMENT MAIN DRAW
Three Other Top Juniors Receiving Wild Card Entries to Qualifying Rounds
WASHINGTON — Francis Tiafoe, the No. 6 ranked junior in International Tennis Federation, has received a wild card entry to the main draw of the Citi Open® Tournament. It will be the College Park, Md., native’s first foray into an ATP World Tour tournament’s main draw.
Tiafoe, 16, won the Citi Open® Wild Card Challenge in June and earned his spot with a wild card entry in the qualifying rounds. Tournament officials, however, decided that main draw play would be more fitting for the hometown player.
“We’re excited to watch Francis in his first main draw match,” said Jeff Newman, tournament director. “This is his hometown and this is where he trains, so we expect a great crowd to come out and support him.”
Tiafoe trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, one of the leading training programs in the country. In 2012, he became the youngest winner of the Orange Bowl Championship, and earlier this year, played at both French Open Juniors and Wimbledon Juniors.
“I’m so excited to play in my first main draw ATP event and I can’t imagine a better place to play than in front of my hometown crowd,” Tiafoe said. “I’m so thankful to the Citi Open® for giving me this great opportunity.”
Three other juniors will receive a wild card entry into the qualifying rounds, beginning Saturday, July 26. Stefan Kozlov, 16, the current No. 2 ranked junior in the world, reached the finals of both Australian Open Juniors and Wimbledon Juniors this year. University of Virginia junior Ryan Shane, 20, helped the Cavaliers win the NCAA championship in 2013, and was recently named “Player to Watch” by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Jordi Arconada, 17, the runner-up in the Wild Card Challenge, will take Tiafoe’s place in the qualifying rounds.
—S. Pegarido, Citi Open
INTERNATIONAL TENNIS FEDERATION JUNIOR TOURNAMENT TO RETURN TO JUNIOR TENNIS CHAMPIONS CENTER IN AUGUST
Prince George’s County Announced as Official Title Sponsor
(College Park, MD) July 15, 2014 — Today the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) announced that Prince George’s County will become the official title sponsor of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 1 Junior Tournament, which returns to College Park, Md. for the third consecutive year. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships will take place at the College Park Tennis Club.
“Hosting a premier international junior sporting event for the third straight year is consistent with the Junior Tennis Champions Center’s pursuit of excellence” said JTCC Chief Executive Officer, Ray Benton. “We are thrilled to be able to showcase our stellar facility and again serve as the North American host venue.”
The tournament will take place two weeks prior to the junior US Open tournament, and will attract the finest male and female junior players from around the world. Some of the players who will be competing in this event are top world ranked juniors: Francis Tiafoe, Usue Arconada and Raveena Kingsley. The Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships is slated to begin with the local wildcard qualifying tournament from Aug. 11 to Aug. 13, which will lead into the Qualifying tournament from Aug. 16 to Aug 17. The main draw will kick off on Aug. 18 and conclude on Aug. 24.
“Prince George’s County is quickly becoming known throughout the world as Tennis County USA, thanks to the amazing work of the Junior Tennis Champions Center,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III. “We are proud to support one of the United States Tennis Association’s premier tennis tournament and we welcome this year’s cadre of players from around the world to College Park. This tournament is another example of why Prince George’s County is the place to be!”
Additional sponsors of the Prince George’s County International Junior Tennis Championships include the United States Tennis Association (USTA), International Tennis Federation (ITF), Laurel Springs School and Holiday Inn of College Park.
—B. Brand, JTCC
Award-winning Junior Tennis Champions Center Fitting Backdrop For Young Talent Search
Steve Fogleman, Tennis East Coast
Yesterday, the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland hosted its 15th annual Tennis Day to evaluate local children for summer camp scholarships at their USTA award-winning facility.
I’ve been to dozens of kids tennis events, but this one is so different. Kids are always sizing up adults, but the tables turn in this tennis fun house.
This is the time JTCC coaches take a look at the local crop of kids, some of whom might possess that obvious gift. It may be speed, coordination, strength or a combination thereof, but if they like what they see, the child is invited to the Center’s summer camp program at no cost to parents.
It’s like an old Yakov Smirnoff joke. In my country, people watch tennis. At Junior Tennis Champions Center, tennis watch you.
The younger kids are completely oblivious that they are being judged on their performances at the various drills set up on court at the College Park Tennis Center.
As a parent, it’s great to get a free assessment on your kids potential abilities in tennis. It’s easy to gauge results, too.
I saw a tiny 4-year-old run faster than most 5-year-olds, including my daughter, yesterday.
And that’s probably the best part of an event like this one. You’re almost certain one of these cute, little kids will be an NCAA champion someday or play at the professional level.
And you just don’t know which one yet, but you’re excited for that kid. And you’re excited for the ones who will attend the JTCC camps.
To get trained at a place like this, with coaches like these, is such an enormous blessing.
And keep your eye out for participant #202. She will probably never play pro tennis, but she might ‘commentate’ on it someday. Likely on ESPN9, when that channel is launched in 2028.