By Larry Bivins
As I sat emotionally caught up in the touching embrace between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys following their milestone US Open championship match, I thought to myself it couldn’t get any better than this for black tennis fans as a wrap to the biggest Grand Slam tournament of them all.
But, the next day, it got a little better…well, almost. A day after Sloane and Madison added a new highlight to black tennis history as the only African-American women to face off for a US Open singles title since Serena and Venus Williams in 2002, Cori Gauff had a chance to become the first African-American girls champion since Zina Garrison won in 1981.
While Cori fell short of achieving that distinction, she did make the record books as the youngest girl ever to play in the final at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY. She is 13. Having not dropped a set leading up to the final, Cori lost it in straight sets, 0-6, 2-6, to another American, Amanda Anisimova, who turned 16 during the tournament and has announced she will turn pro.
Thirteen-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff aims to be the best player tennis has ever seen.
Cori “CoCo” Gauff aspires to be the greatest tennis player ever, and she just may have the game, moxie and perfect role model to make it happen. For now, though, the Atlanta native who now lives in Delray Beach, Fla., has her sights set on winning another prestigious Orange Bowl title in December. She won her first at the end of last year at age 12. I watched Cori’s US Open post-match interview on YouTube and was impressed by the poise of this girl who became a teenager only six months ago.
I also was struck by how much the long-limbed junior reminded me of Venus. Cori, who was playing in her first Grand Slam main draw as a wild-card entry, said she savored the experience on and off the court.
“Every single part of it was so much fun, being on site…just being at the US Open in New York was the most fun. I enjoyed every single part of being here.” “I’ll definitely be back here,” she added. At 5’10” and presumably still growing, Cori has natural athleticism.
Her father, Corey, played basketball for Georgia State University; mother, Candi, was a gymnast and ran track at Florida State University. It comes as no surprise that this young black tennis phenom idolizes Serena, as do so many black girls who have taken up the sport.
She has trained at the French academy run by Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and has met her favorite player there. Cori already exudes the confidence of the Williams sisters, who have 30 Grand Slam singles titles between them, with Serena becoming the all-time modern-era champion in January when she won No. 23 at the Australian Open. Following her US Open semi-final victory, Cori emphasized anything less than the title would be a disappointment. “Every tournament I play, I play to win,” she said. “I don’t limit myself to reaching the second or third round.”
Cori and Anisimova are two of the young stars that have United States Tennis Association officials excited about the future of American tennis. But she is no newcomer to Martin Blackman, the USTA’s general manager for player development. When she was 8 years old, Cori was one of Blackman’s pupils at a Florida tennis academy. “The first thing I noticed was her attitude and character,” Blackman told ESPN.com. “She was an amazing athlete and already very hardworking, really wanted to learn.” Unless the WTA’s age limits change, Cori will have to wait until she is 14 to turn pro. And even then, the number of tournaments in which she can play will be limited. More immediate are school obligations for the eighth-grader who studies online. She cites science, writing and math as her favorite subjects. College is in her plans, but she makes it clear she already has chosen her career path.
“I’m definitely going to go to college,” she said in her post-match interview, “but I probably will do online and just go pro.” During an interview in April with tennis.com, she responded with blunt confidence when asked about her professional goals. “I want to be the greatest of all time,” she said.
Baptiste, Montgomery & Scott headline USTA Nationals
TOURNAMENT OFFICIALS ANNOUNCE SEEDS FOR USTA for BILLIE JEAN KING GIRLS’ 16s & 18s NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Opening Ceremony Set for Saturday, August 3, 2019 at Barnes Tennis Center
SAN DIEGO – (August 2, 2019) – Tournament officials have announced the seeded players for the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King Girls’ 16s and 18s National Championships scheduled for August 3-11, 2019 at the Barnes Tennis Center, 4490 W. Point Loma Blvd., San Diego, CA 92107.
The top singles seed in the Girls’ 18s division is Hailey Baptiste of Washington, D.C. Other top Girls’ 18s seeds include second-seeded Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek, Calif., third-seeded Emma Navarro of Charleston, S.C., and fourth-seeded Alexa Noel of Summit, N.J.
The 17-year-old Baptiste has spent most of the year playing on the USTA Pro Circuit. She is currently ranked No. 283 in the Women’s Tennis Association singles rankings. Earlier this week, she upset 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., before falling to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the second round.
Volynets has also spent much of 2019 competing in USTA Pro Circuit events. The 17-year-old is ranked No. 387 in the WTA singles rankings. Navarro, 18, was a Girls’ singles finalist at this year’s French Open. She is currently ranked No. 4 in the ITF junior rankings. Noel, 16, reached the Wimbledon Girls’ Singles final last month and is No. 7 in the latest ITF junior rankings.
In the Girls’ 16s division, Valencia Xu of Livingston, N.J., is the top singles seed. The 16-year-old Xu, who competes in International Tennis Federation and USTA junior events, captured the singles title at the USTA International Grass Court Championship in Haverford, Pa., this past June.
“We have very strong draws in both divisions for this year’s National Championships,” said Tournament Director Lornie Kuhle. “There are many talented players coming from across the country to compete in this event. I invite fans to come and watch the future of American women’s tennis. It’s going to be a great week of high-level junior tennis.”
For the complete list of seeded players, click here.
For complete draws for the Girls’ 16s and 18s divisions, click here.
Over 400 of the top junior tennis players in the country, aged 16 and 18 and under, will compete for the title of National Champion, as well as a wild card entry into the Women’s Singles main draw of the 2019 US Open (for the 18s Champion) and a wild card into the 2019 US Open Junior Championships (for the 16s Champion). The 18s Doubles Champions will also receive a wild card into the US Open Women’s Doubles main draw.
The Girls’ 16s event will begin on Saturday, August 3 and conclude with the singles and doubles finals on Saturday August 10. The Girls’ 18s tournament will get underway on Sunday, August 4 and conclude with the 18s singles championship on Sunday, August 11. Both divisions will feature 256-player singles draws with the top 32 players receiving a first-round bye. There will also be 128-team doubles draws with the top 16 teams getting first-round byes.
The starting times for each day of the tournament are as follows:
Saturday, August 3 through Wednesday, August 7 – 8 a.m.
Thursday, August 8 – 8:30 a.m.
Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10 – 9 a.m.
Sunday, August 11 – 10 a.m.
(All times PDT)
The Opening Ceremony for the USTA National Girls’ 16s & 18s National Championships is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, August 3 at the Barnes Tennis Center.
Early-round tournament matches will also be played at San Diego State University’s Aztec Tennis Center, 5375 Remington Rd., San Diego, CA 92115 from Saturday, August 3 through Thursday, August 8 and at the Balboa Tennis Club, 2221 Morley Field Drive, San Diego, CA 92104 from Saturday, August 3 through Tuesday, August 6.
Admission and on-site parking at the Barnes Tennis Center is free each day of the tournament. For fans watching matches at SDSU and the Balboa Tennis Club, admission is free. There is a nominal charge for on-campus parking at SDSU. Parking regulations at the university will be strictly enforced. Parking is free at the Balboa Tennis Club.
Tennis Channel will broadcast the Girls’ 16s singles final from 1-3 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday, August 10 and the Girls’ 18s singles final from 2-4 p.m. (PDT) on Sunday, August 11.
All tournament matches played on Stadium Court at the Barnes Tennis Center will be streamed live at www.ustagirlsnationals.com beginning Saturday, August 3 through Friday, August 9.
To view the official tournament website, please click here.
About USTA Billie Jean King Girls’ 16s & 18s Nationals
The USTA Billie Jean King Girls’ 16s & 18s National Championships are the premiere hard court tennis tournaments for amateur and professional American girls aged 16 and 18 and under in the United States. In 2010, both age groups began playing their events concurrently at San Diego’s Barnes Tennis Center. Tournament participants, who represent nearly every state in the United States, have been endorsed by their respective USTA Section or have received USTA special exemptions based on their results in qualifying tournaments, junior rankings, or results on the WTA Tour or International Tennis Federation Junior Circuit. Past tournament champions include Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Andrea Jaeger, Zina Garrison, Mary Jo Fernandez, Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport.
Seeded Player List:
Wimbledon Junior Champions fly under radar
By Editorial Team
Savannah Broadus and Abigail Forbes defeated Bartone and Selekhmeteva in a three set battle to win the Wimbledon Junior Doubles Championships.
Forbes is currently attending UCLA as an incoming freshman in the Fall and Broadus is a Dallas native that was able to break through the Texas Tennis Association ladder. These two were not caught up in the junior hype over the last few years as Gauff, McNally, Baptiste and Navaro dominated major media outlets with their impressive singles play.
This year Forbes sported a top 25 ITF junior ranking, but 15 year old Robin Montgomery and the rapidly rising Sada Nahimana who won the Wimbledon warm up in Nottingham had most of the buzz going into this year’s Championships.
With the US Open just around the corner, Savannah and Abigail can test their skill on the hard courts again, but now with some spotlight attached to their names.
Last year Gauff and McNally (currently top 200 WTA ranked pros) were able to take the US Open title against Baptiste and Hewitt in straight sets. This year Savannah and Abigail are favorites in the draw. Most doubles champions move on to great pro careers as Marta Kostyuk and Bianca Andreescu were able to boost their careers with solid performances in WTA singles events following strong doubles performances.
Only time will tell if this doubles team is ready for the WTA Tour, but for now fans should support and lift them up as champions and the future of black tennis.
African hopeful, Sada Nahimana, captures Nottingham Junior International Championship
By Editorial Team
Sada Nahimana was able to rally to win both singles and doubles titles on grass this week in Nottingham leading into the Roehamption Championships next week.
Sada of Burundi, Africa sliced through the singles draw with ease as the 4th seed. In what was projected to be a tough encounter with American Tyra Black actually resulted in a one set thumping 6-4, 2-1 after Tyra mysteriously withdrew from the match.
The title win here gives Sada a leg up going into the prestigious Roehamption event where Cori Gauff was able to win the title last year.
The professional ranks are definitely calling Sada as she prepares for the last two junior grand slams. After an early first round loss she is hoping that European grass courts continue to bring her luck through the hard court season and the US Open juniors.