College Night at the BB&T Atlanta Open

My day at the tournament started a little earlier than usual. I had met Andrew Carter, who was here as a player in the Qualies, the day before when we wound up sitting next to each other on Stadium Court. As we chatted, I realized his story was one I wanted to share, so I invited him to be my guest on the ParentingAces Radio Show. Thankfully, he agreed! We met in the lobby of the Twelve Hotel at Atlantic Station just before air-time, and had a great conversation about Andrew’s development through the juniors, his 4 years playing at the University of Louisville, and his life as a professional tennis player. Be sure to check out the podcast here.

After the show, I headed over to the courts and got to see some great battles! But, when the rain started moving in, it seemed to be a spoiler alert for the much-anticipated College Night festivities at the BB&T Atlanta Open. The radar looked like a bad acid trip, so I decided to head home to wait out the weather and an announcement from the tournament about whether the matches would be played or rescheduled. As it turned out, the weather cleared, the amazing tournament operations folks got the courts dry, and play resumed late in the afternoon.

The crowd on Stadium Court was full of red and black as UGA recent grad Austin Smith was slated to play Young Gun Taylor Fritz in the first match of the evening. Austin got his lone ace of the match in the first game, but Taylor jumped out to a quick double-break lead before Austin made his way onto the scoreboard. Neither guy was playing his best tennis – and the Hawkeye system certainly didn’t help Austin as he made a couple of incorrect challenges at key moments in the match – but Taylor was able to close out the match with an ace to take it 6-2 6-2 despite the rowdy fans cheering on the Bulldog. “It’s tough when you’re playing a wildcard and the whole stadium is against you,” said Fritz. “It makes it tough, but I was really happy I was able to play within myself and do what I had to do to get the match done in straight sets.” Taylor will play American Bjorn Fratangelo, who is currently ranked just outside the top 100, in the 2nd round tonight.

ricky tweet

With the backup caused by the rain, tournament officials decided to move the other College Night match – a doubles battle between locals Chris Eubanks of Georgia Tech and Zack Kennedy of Georgia State vs. Thiago Monteiro (who Chris beat in the final round of Qualies) and Yoshihito Nishioka. It looked like the Brazilian-Japanese team was going to run away with the match, but our college guys buckled in for the long haul, forcing a second set tiebreak then winning the 3rd set Superbreaker 10-8. As you can imagine with that score, the stats were pretty even throughout the match, so I can only attribute the W to Chris and Zack’s hunger to help Zack earn his first ATP ranking point. For those of you who follow this tournament, you may remember that Chris earned HIS very first ATP point here last summer, partnering with his friend Donald Young to reach the semis of the doubles draw.

Here are the complete results from yesterday along with the schedule for today:

RESULTS – AUGUST 02, 2016

Singles – First Round

[5] F. Verdasco (ESP) d D. Lajovic (SRB) 76(2) 64

H. Zeballos (ARG) d [6] G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 63 67(5) 64

[8] T. Fritz (USA) d [WC] A. Smith (USA) 62 62

B. Fratangelo (USA) d I. Sijsling (NED) 61 76(2)

[LL] T. Kamke (GER) d S. Stakhovsky (UKR) 76(7) 76(2)

Y. Nishioka (JPN) d D. Evans (GBR) 62 67(2) 76(4)

[PR] J. Benneteau (FRA) d [Q] J. Smith (AUS) 64 62

Doubles – First Round

[WC] C. Eubanks (USA) / Z. Kennedy (USA) d [Alt] T. Monteiro (BRA) / Y. Nishioka (JPN) 36 76(6) 10-8

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 03, 2016

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

A. Molteni (ARG) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs [2] R. Lindstedt (SWE) / M. Pavic (CRO)

Not Before 2:00 pm

[3] K. Anderson (RSA) vs [WC] R. Opelka (USA)

Not Before 3:30 pm

T. Smyczek (USA) vs [7] D. Young (USA)

Not Before 6:00 pm

[1] J. Isner (USA) vs A. Mannarino (FRA)

B. Fratangelo (USA) vs [8] T. Fritz (USA)

AJC GRANDSTAND COURT start 12:00 noon

[Alt] D. O’Brien (RSA) / R. Roelofse (RSA) vs J. Brunstrom (SWE) / A. Siljestrom (SWE)

P. Raja (IND) / D. Sharan (IND) vs [4] J. Erlich (ISR) / M. Fyrstenberg (POL)

[1] I. Dodig (CRO) / A. Qureshi (PAK) vs J. Marray (GBR) / A. Shamasdin (CAN)

D. Evans (GBR) / K. Skupski (GBR) vs N. Monroe (USA) / A. Sitak (NZL)

American Young Guns On Court Today

bbt skylineToday marks the first day of the Main Draw for the BB&T Atlanta Open, and we’ll have several Young Guns competing for a spot in Round 2!

First up will be Jared Donaldson taking on big-serving Aussie Sam Groth. Jared took a non-traditional route in his junior years, foregoing many of the USTA tournaments to develop his game in South America, which seems to be paying off in spades now that he’s on the pro tour. The 19-year-old is currently ranked 123 in the world which gives him direct entry into many of the ATP events. I haven’t seen him play since last summer, so I’m really looking forward to today’s match!

The other Young Gun match of the day will be qualifier Chris Eubanks (click here to read about Chris’s road to the Main Draw) taking on 18-year-old Reilly Opelka (ranked 556). This one will be a battle of the big serve-big forehand style of play as both guys are REALLY TALL and have REALLY BIG strokes! Chris stands at 6’7″ while Reilly clocks in at 6’11’ which definitely gives them both some extra pop when they step up to the service line. These two have followed very different paths with their tennis, Chris choosing to go the college route (he’s a rising junior at Georgia Tech) while Reilly went straight from juniors to the pro tour.

I’ll be out at the tournament most of the day and evening – you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram for periodic updates throughout the week. Also, be sure to follow the tournament itself on social media: @BBTatlantaopen. If you’re out at Atlantic Station, please come find me and say hello!

Here is a complete list of yesterday’s results and today’s schedule of play:

Qualifying Singles – Second Round

Qualifying – [WC] C. Eubanks (USA) d [1] T. Monteiro (BRA) 64 75

Qualifying – [7] J. Smith (AUS) d [2] T. Kamke (GER) 76(4) 63

Qualifying – [3] A. Krajicek (USA) d [5] J. Duckworth (AUS) 36 76(5) 76(5)

Qualifying – [4] M. Zverev (GER) d N. Meister (USA) 76(5) 75

ORDER OF PLAY – MONDAY, AUGUST 01, 2016

STADIUM COURT start 12:00 noon

[LL] T. Monteiro (BRA) vs T. Smyczek (USA)

S. Groth (AUS) vs [WC] J. Donaldson (USA)

Not Before 4:00 pm

[Q] A. Krajicek (USA) vs [7] D. Young (USA)

Not Before 6:00 pm

[Q] C. Eubanks (USA) vs [WC] R. Opelka (USA)

A. Dolgopolov (UKR) / S. Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [WC] J. Frawley (AUS) / N. Kyrgios (AUS)

AJC GRANDSTAND COURT start 2:00 pm

T. Kamke (GER) / D. Lajovic (SRB) vs M. Demoliner (BRA) / G. Garcia-Lopez (ESP)

A. Mannarino (FRA) vs [Q] M. Zverev (GER)

Interview with Stanford’s Taylor Davidson

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This afternoon, I had the thrill of watching 2 amazing women’s tennis matches at the NCAA Championships. Luckily for me, it was raining in Athens early in the day, so 2 of the Round of 16 matches were moved to the indoor courts at Georgia Tech which is way closer to my house than UGA. And, by the way, big kudos to the folks at Georgia Tech for stepping in to help out on what could’ve been a really complicated scheduling challenge for the tournament organizers!

The first match was between UNC and Texas A&M. I missed the doubles but got there in time for the start of the singles where the UNC women were in control from start to finish.

Next up were Stanford vs. University of California Berkeley. What a match! It all came down to 3rd sets on the final two courts (courts 4 and 6) – on court 4, the Stanford player, Taylor Davidson, started cramping at the beginning of the 3rd set and looked like she might have to retire the match. But, she stayed tough and battled her way to a 3rd set win, tying the Stanford women at 3 with Cal. On court 6, Caroline Doyle of Stanford fought her way into a 3rd set tiebreaker then stormed to a 7-0 finish, giving her team the win and a spot in the Elite 8 on Saturday.

Here is my short interview with Stanford’s Taylor Davidson, who just so happens to be a friend of my son’s!

 

Summer 2013 Version: The Ins & Outs of TennisRecruiting.Net

Below is a re-print of my June 13, 2012, article on TennisRecruiting.net.  Twice a year, TennisRecruiting.net updates its Top Prospect ratings – sometimes known as “The Stars”. The next update to the Top Prospects comes in September 2013.  This week, TRN announced a change to their ratings process – starting with this rating period, ratings will be based on a player’s second-highest rankings during the eight-week period from July 23 through September 11.  Why is TRN making this change?  According to their most recent newsletter, it is so they can avoid errors due to mis-reported scores or results.  Be sure to take a look at TRN’s new National Showcase Series of tournaments – these events may not count toward a player’s USTA ranking but will count toward his/her TRN ranking and rating.

By now, most of my readers are probably very familiar with the TennisRecruiting.net website.  Well, I recently discovered that the creators of the site, Julie and Doug Wrege, live about a mile and half from my house (!), so I figured I would pick their brains a bit about how the site came into existence as well as the way parents and players should be using the information available on the site to their best advantage.

The first thing to note is that Julie and Doug are not now, nor have they ever been, Tennis Parents; that is to say, none of their children played tournament tennis.  However, Julie is a very accomplished player and college coach in her own right – she started the very successful women’s tennis program at Georgia Tech – and Doug is an internet technology guru – he wrote the very first tennis-related software, Tournament Management System, in the 1980s and was the first to put tournament draws on the Web.  As a result of Julie’s extensive college coaching experience, she knew what the coaches needed to see in terms of player records and rankings, and she wanted to create something better for them to use.  In 2004, with Doug’s help, TennisRecruiting.net was born!

Now, the basics of TRN and its Star Rating System . . .

The TRN ratings, done by graduating class, go from Blue Chip (highest) to 1 star (lowest) as follows:

Blue Chip:  top 25 players in the class

5-Star:  players ranked 26-75

4-Star:  players ranked 76-200

3-Star:  players ranked 201-400

2-Star:  players ranked 401 up to a number based on a percentage of the size of that class

1-Star:  a player with any qualifying ranking

TRN looks at 6th graders through 12th graders and ranks 16,000 boys each year out of the approximately 34,000 male junior players currently playing and competing.  They rank about the same number of girls.  Therefore, even a 1-Star player is better than more than half the juniors currently playing tournaments.  Ratings are based solely upon a player’s position within his own high school graduating class year; for example, a 14-year-old high school freshman would be rated independently of a 14-year-old 8th grader even though they are both eligible to play in the 14-and-under age division.

In order to be ranked on TRN, a junior must play in a minimum of 3 TRN-eligible tournaments and win a minimum of 3 matches (2 of which must be over other eligible players). Ratings happen twice a year – at the end of February and the Tuesday after Labor Day in September. Ratings are preceded by an 8-week rating period. The player’s highest ranking during the 8-week rating period will determine that player’s Star Rating per the chart above*.

All matches from TRN-eligible events in a one year window are used to compute a player’s ranking, independent of age division or class of the players. In addition, TRN looks at a player’s 8 best wins during that period, averages them, then uses that as one of several complicated (understatement of the year!) mathematical components to determine the final ranking. Ratings, age, and graduation year of a player’s opponents are not used in the calculation. Previous rankings are not used to determine current rankings – TRN starts from scratch for each week’s ranking. It is important to note that wins never hurt a player’s ranking and losses never help it.  Also, “retirement” of a match counts as a loss but a “walkover” does not.

Matches are weighed according to when they were played.  A win today counts more than a win against the same opponent six months ago.  This is one way that TRN makes it very difficult to “play” their rating system or “buy” rankings.  For your player to improve his ranking on TRN, he should be sure to enter tournaments where he can win some matches but NOT where he is, by far, the best player in the draw.  As Doug says, “Winning makes you feel good.  Losing makes you learn something.”  Because of the extensive analysis that goes into the TRN rankings, college coaches consider them to be a better predictor of player quality and who’s going to beat whom in head-to-head competition.

How should players and parents use TRN?  During the Middle School years, TRN is just another tool at players’ fingertips to track their progress and that of their peers.  Parents should check their child’s profile using the Free Account option and make sure all the information is correct – if it’s not, then you can either make the corrections yourself or contact TRN if you have any questions or problems.  There are also some very useful articles on the TRN site written by experts in the junior tennis world – take advantage of this free tool to educate yourself and your child during these important developmental years.

Once a player enters High School, you might want to consider buying a TRN Recruiting Advantage membership so you can see which college coaches are looking at your child’s Player Profile.  The membership also allows you to upload gallery photos, videos, and article references mentioning your child.  It is well worth the $49.95 annual fee!  But, here’s a great tip from Doug:  if you have multiple tennis players in your family or are on a limited budget, pay only for a membership for your oldest child then use that account to do everything on the website for all of your children except see the coach visits and upload the photos, videos, and articles.  Once the oldest graduates high school, cancel the account and get one for the next child.  Another great tip from Doug is that you can buy a monthly membership (which renews automatically), load all the information you want during that first month, then cancel the account.  The information will stay on your child’s profile, but you will no longer be paying the monthly membership fee.  To cancel the account, simply click on the Member Services link at the top of the page then un-check the “Auto Renew” option.  Voila!

Given that Doug is giving away these money-saving tips, let me share how TennisRecruiting.net generates its revenue.  Initially, TRN’s biggest source of income came from players signing up for an enriched profile with the Recruiting Advantage membership.  On top of that, the college coaches pay TRN to have access to the player information.  Very recently, however, TRN started selling advertising on its website, which has now become its largest source of revenue.  If you’re a user of TRN, please consider using the advertiser links on the site in order to help TRN continue to offer its free services!

I want to emphasize that TRN is about much more than player rankings.  Doug and Julie are working tirelessly in the junior tennis community to ensure that more kids have the opportunity for cross-sectional play and that they have the opportunity to play college tennis if that’s their goal.  With the recent changes in the USTA National Tournament Schedule and smaller draw sizes, the Wreges have their work cut out for them.  They are currently working with tournament directors around the US to encourage more open events, even if it won’t impact the player’s USTA ranking, by designating tournaments as “Historically Strong” so that the players have an opportunity to improve their TRN ranking and become a TRN “National Player” (one who has won a match in a USTA National Level 1-3 event or other event that counts toward a USTA national ranking).  The upcoming Georgia State Junior Open will be the first of these tournaments – information on that tourney is online here.

This is a lot of information to digest – I know! – but please do yourself and your child a favor and do some poking around on the TRN site.  Familiarize yourself with their ratings and rankings.  Read the articles, especially the Q&As with the different college coaches if that’s your child’s goal.  Make sure your child’s information and player record are correct.  If your child is in high school, upgrade to the paid membership, at least for a period of time.  It will be time and money well-spent.

*UPDATE September 2014: TRN now takes a player’s top two weekly rankings during the bi-annual rating periods in order to determine Star Rating.