HOUSTON, TEXAS. November 17, 2018 – The men’s draw for Oracle Challenger Series Houston started with an impressive 17 Americans – players ranging from seasoned players like Tennys Sandgren to newcomers to the tour like Harrison Adams, and everyone in between. This week, which has already seen eight all-American men’s matchups is about to see one more as Oracle Challenger Series veteran Bradley Klahn faces off against one of the Tour’s newest members, Roy Smith.
Klahn is no stranger to the ATP Challenger Tour and has seen great success at Oracle Challenger Series events in particular, making the finals in Newport Beach and receiving one of the 2018 BNP Paribas Open wild cards. The California native’s winning streak continued today as he eliminated German Dominik Koepfer in two sets: 63 64. Klahn is currently ranked inside the top 100 at World No. 97 and looks to gain even more points, as well as a healthy lead in the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard.
Klahn’s opponent on Sunday is 19-year-old Baylor University sophomore and tournament wild card, Roy Smith. Smith has been surprising fans and players alike this week, with his strong serve and his impressive on court power. New to the Challenger Tour, Smith celebrated his first ever Tour win at the beginning of this week and very well may celebrate his first championship by the end. The New Haven, CT native and World No. 870 battled past Darian King, Harrison Adams and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski to reach the semifinals today, where he won in a walkover (his opponent Kamil Majchrzak retired in the middle of the second set, 64 23). Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, this event is sure to have a profound impact on Smith’s ATP rankings.
By reaching the Houston event finals, both Klahn and Smith are currently tied in first place with Chicago finalist Reilly Opelka in the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard, with the winner of tomorrow’s men’s finals match one of them will pull ahead in the race to the BNP Paribas Open.
Gauff wins first WTA title in Linz
By Editorial Team
Cori “CoCo” Gauff made a huge turnaround at the Linz Open this week after losing in the final qualifying round to now reach the main draw finals.
Putting the “luck” in lucky-loser, CoCo was able to inherit Maria Sakkari’s draw and defeat the number one seeded, KiKi Bertens in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.
Coco was the favorite going into today’s final against Jelena Ostapenko, but it was not easy as Jelena had been playing inspired tennis over the last couple weeks after defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-5 in the third set at the R64 China Open last month.
CoCo had to grind out the win in three long sets to capture the final round against Jelena 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
This was the first encounter for these two on tour, but CoCo had the slight advantage as the more steady player. Jalena is known for up and down roller coaster play from match to match making the former French Open champion the underdog in this final.
Jalena must now recover in Linz as she must face CoCo’s doubles partner, Caty McNally, next in the first round of the Luxembourg Open early next week. Its assumed that this doubles team (Linz Open semifinalists) will definitely be sharing notes on Jalena’s game over the next couple of days.
The key to CoCo’s success were mixed balls with flat power and slices, a high first serve percentage and being calm under pressure. With this win today, Coco became the youngest American WTA Tour title winner since Jennifer Capriati in Puerto Rico (1990).
Coco is sure to break more records while on her path to winning her first grand slam, but for now she can celebrate a huge Tour title win before she prepares for the holiday season.
When asked about her recent success in Linz, CoCo’s response was accurate and simply put,
How Naomi Got Her Groove Back
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka seems to have found her rhythm late in the season after letting go of her most recent coach, Jermaine Jenkins. After several rumors, now it appears that her Dad, Leonard Francois, has the right formula for success after winning two major WTA events in a row – Japan Open and China Open.
Naomi did it in dramatic fashion as she defeated the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and world number 1 Ashly Barty both in tough 3 set matches.
Many feared that coaching changes and off-court distractions may have ruined what appeared to be a great season for Naomi after winning the Australian Open in January. The sports community questioned the decision to part ways with Sascha Bajin after back to back wins in an abrupt fashion after leaving Australia with the championship trophy.
The general media was not informed of any scandal or rationale for the change. Jermaine was thought to have been a good substitute after being the right-hand man for Serena over the last several years on tour. But not all was peachy for Naomi as she was not able to fulfill her true potential under the direction of Jermain.
Rolling into the Asian swing, Naomi appeared to have been mailing it in and preparing for her next coaching transition heading into the 2020 season – choosing her Dad as a bridge.
It was evident that maybe Naomi needed time to unwind from the structure of a tradition coaching team. Unforced errors and patience were added to her stellar shot making ability especially down the stretch late in the third set.
Regrouping after being a set down and making adjustments when needed against the Tour’s top ranked players are definite signs that Naomi has her sights set on regaining her position as world number one.
The way forward should be filled with opportunity for Naomi. With a new home in Los Angeles, CA and some time off after the WTA Finals should enable her to totally regroup for the 2020 season.
Osaka and Keys in QF at Japan Women’s Open
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka is on pace for a much needed title after an early R16 loss in the US Open. Her quest for the first title of the year began with a win over Viktoriya Tomova 7-5, 6-3 today. With a inconsistent ground game, Naomi is looking to iron out weaknesses with new coach Wim Fissette who is a proven WTA professional with Azarenka, Kerber and Clijsters as former students of his. Recent news broke five days ago on Twitter announcing the split with Jermaine Jenkins after a slew of poor results in major grand slam events this season.
Sloane Stephens is also riding the coaching change wave after accepting Kamau Murray back into her team. The two have earned multiple titles in 2017/2018 so it can only be upside from here as she now faces Camila Giorgi in the R16 of the Japan Women’s Open. This will be a tough test for Sloane as the aggressive Italian has been on a roll with her most recent final run (losing to Magda Linette in 3 sets) at the New York Open that lead into the US Open late last month.
Update: Sloane fell 6-0, 6-3 to Camila in the R16 match which did not live up to the hype. Sloane will look to recover quickly as she prepares for the WTA Finals later this year.
Madison Keys is a favorite to win here in Osaka Japan, but she has to get past the high ranking vet, Angelique Kerber. Madison has a 8:2 win/loss record against Kerber and is healthy enough to get her third win against such a quality opponent. Madison most recently defeated Kerber in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last month 6-4 in the third set.
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