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May Aces Feature College, Clay Court Champions

The month that features the NCAA championships and the start of the French Open is always a busy one, and this May 18 different players, ages 14 through 25 are in the spotlight, thanks to their performances on red clay, green clay and hard courts.

Amanda Anisimova
The 15-year-old from Florida already had a pedigree at the French Open after reaching the 2016 girls final, but few expected her to return to Paris as a main draw entrant so soon. After reaching the finals of two $60,000 Pro Circuit tournaments in April, Anisimova earned the lead in USTA's Wild Card Challenge. When no one caught her, Anisimova made her slam debut last month in Paris, and although she lost in the first round to Kurumi Nara of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, the WTA's No. 267 proved she is competitive at the top level of the game.
Tennys Sandgren
Sandgren claimed the men's French Open wild card in the USTA's Challenge, reaching the final of the Sarasota Challenger and winning the title in Savannah with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Joao Sorgi of Brazil. Although the 25-year-old from Tennessee also lost in the opening round at Roland Garros, falling in straight sets to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, his results on the Challenger circuit have moved his ATP ranking to a career-high of 112.
Marketa Vondrousova
The 17-year-old from the Czech Republic has been a perennial ace in 2017, with a WTA title in April figuring to be the highlight of her spring. But in May, she won a $100,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Slovakia without dropping a set, and easily qualified for her first slam at Roland Garros, dropping just seven games in her three wins. The former ITF Junior No. 1 then claimed her first main draw slam victory, beating French wild card Amandine Hesse 6-1, 6-0. Already in the WTA Top 100, Vondrousova's ranking will continue to climb.
Marta Kostyuk
The reigning Australian Open girls champion doesn't turn 15 until later this month, but last month picked up her first ITF Women's Circuit title at a $25,000 tournament in Hungary. The Ukrainian wild card, playing in only her fifth pro event, didn't lose a set during the week while beating three seeds, including top seed Ipek Soylu of Turkey, en route to the final. Kostyuk, who won the Les Petits As title last year, defeated Bernarda Pera of the United States 6-4, 6-3 in the final and is already knocking on the door of the WTA Top 500.
Iga Swiatek
Swiatek, who turned 16 two days ago, already had two ITF Women's Pro Circuit titles on her resume when she added another last month at the $15,000 tournament in Hungary. The unseeded Polish teenager faced only one seed in capturing the title, beating qualifier Gabriela Horackova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2 in the final. She then returned to competition on the ITF Junior Circuit and reached the final of the Grade A in Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, boosting her junior ranking to 6, a career high.
Miomir Kecmanovic
Still No. 1 in the ITF junior rankings, the 17-year-old from Serbia has spent all of this year building his ATP ranking. The two-time Orange Bowl champion, still in search of his first junior slam title, is entered in the French Open Junior Championships next week, and he'll arrive in Paris in fine form after winning a $15,000 Futures in Turkey, the second Futures singles title of his career. The third-seeded Kecmanovic didn't drop a set in last week's tournament, beating No. 5 seed Alessandro Petrone of Italy 6-0, 6-4 in the final. When those points are added, Kecmanovic will move just outside the ATP Top 400.
Corentin Moutet
Another favorite for the French Junior Championships this year is 18-year-old French left-hander Moutet, who won his third career Futures title early last month at a $15,000 tournament in France. The wild card, seeded seventh, dropped only one set during the week, beating top seed Gregoire Barrere of France 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 seed Alexandre Muller of France 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Moutet, now ranked 348 on the ATP Tour, reached the semifinals of the Australian Junior Championships in January.
Claire Liu
The Californian, who turned 17 last week, has been on a tear since winning the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl title for the second time back in April. She reached the quarterfinals and semifinals of consecutive $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit events, then captured the title at the $25,000 tournament in Naples Florida as a qualifier. Liu defeated four seeds, three of them fellow US teenagers, for the title, beating No. 7 seed Danielle Collins 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Liu then flew to Italy to prepare for the French Junior Championships and won another $25,000 title unseeded, beating Paula Bados Gibert of Spain 6-3, 6-3 in the final. When those points are added, Liu will be well inside the WTA Top 300.
Nicola Kuhn
The 17-year-old from Spain claimed his first Futures title last month at a $15,000 tournament in Hungary. Kuhn, who reached the semifinals last year at the French Junior Championships, will be playing his first junior tournament of the year there this year after going 7-1 in Futures main draw matches last month. Kuhn, who was unseeded, defeated top seed Attila Balazs of Hungary 6-4, 6-0 in the final, moving his ATP ranking to a career-high of 530.
Sofya Zhuk
The former Wimbledon girls champion, still just 17 years old, has left junior tennis behind in the past year and a half, with her success on the ITF Pro Circuit taking her WTA ranking from 775 last March to 203 now. Last month the Russian teenager won her fifth career Pro Circuit title at the $25,000 tournament in Naples Florida, twice coming from a set down to advance. The No. 2 seed defeated top seed Taylor Townsend 6-4, 7-6(3) in the final, with the title putting her in position to enter qualifying for the women's draw at Wimbledon just two years after claiming the junior title.
Marcos Giron
The 23-year-old American claimed his second $25,000 Futures title of the year last week in China, a week after reaching the final of another $25,000 tournament in China. Seeded No. 4, Giron defeated No. 2 seed Alexander Sarkissian 7-5, 6-4 in the final, a rematch of the 2014 NCAA singles championship match, also won by Giron. When the points from his title are added, the former UCLA Bruin will be at an ATP career high around 300.
Margaryta Bilokin
Last month's ITF Junior Circuit on South Florida's green clay belonged to the 16-year-old from Ukraine, who took not one, not two, but three singles titles at Grade 4 tournaments. She didn't drop a set until the final in the first, in Delray Beach, beating Angelica Blake 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. The following week in Coral Gables, Bilokin didn't lose a set, beating Abigail Forbes 6-4, 6-2 in the final and also reaching the championship match in doubles. She closed out her 18-0 singles run in Plantation, dropping two sets early, but beating McCartney Kessler 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Bilokin is now up to 163 in the ITF Junior rankings.
Emina Bektas
The former Michigan Wolverine also claimed three titles in May, all in doubles, after ending April with a championship at a $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Charlottesville. The 24-year-old, an All-American in both singles and doubles, won two titles with former Alabama star Alexa Guarachi Mathison, one at the $60,000 level and another at the $25,000 level. In between she won another at the $25,000 level with former North Carolina star Sanaz Marand, her partner in the April title in Charlottesville. Bektas is 31-8 in pro doubles play this year and is now up to 150 in the WTA doubles rankings.
Eudice Chong
Unlike Bilokin and Bektas, Chong's three titles in May are from different years, with the Wesleyan junior capturing her third consecutive Division III singles title last month in Chattanooga Tennessee. The 21-year-old from Hong Kong, seeded No. 1, beat No. 2 seed Rebecca Ho of Washington-St. Louis 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in the final to become the first Division III player to win three consecutive NCAA singles titles. Later that same day, Chong partnered with Victoria Yu to win the doubles championship. Chong finished the season 25-1 in singles and 22-0 in doubles.

© Bill Kallenberg
Belinda Woolcock
The University of Florida senior led her team to its seventh NCAA Division I championship last month in Athens, with the 22-year-old Australian going undefeated in singles and doubles in the Gators' four victories at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex to earn the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. Woolcock then set aside her mental and physical fatigue to compete in the individual tournament, where as the No. 6 seed, she reached the final, the first Florida woman to do so since 2002.

© Bill Kallenberg
Brienne Minor
The unseeded University of Michigan sophomore was the surprise of the NCAA Division I singles tournament last month, taking on the best competition in the country and coming away with the first women's NCAA title in Michigan history. The 19-year-old from Illinois, who played primarily at line 2 for the Wolverines, beat two 9-16 seeds, Gabriela Talaba of Texas Tech and Sydney Campbell of Vanderbilt before taking on the much more experienced Woolcock in the final. But getting off to a good start and keeping her composure as the match tightened gave Minor all the margin she needed in her 6-3, 6-3 victory. Minor is the first African-American woman to win the NCAA singles title.

© Bill Kallenberg
William Blumberg
The North Carolina freshman didn't start classes in Chapel Hill until this January, but his adjustment period was brief, as he went 31-3 in singles, mostly at line 2, leading him to the ITA National Rookie of the Year honor. In Athens last month, Blumberg led the Tar Heels to the NCAA team final for the first time in their history and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after going undefeated in singles and doubles. Blumberg then set aside the disappointment of losing the team final to compete in the individual tournament, where he reached the doubles quarterfinals and singles final. Although the 19-year-old from Connecticut lost to Thai Kwiatkowski of Virginia, he established himself as one of the top players in Division I tennis.
Thai Kwiatkowski
The University of Virginia senior had plenty of experience with the transition between the NCAA team final and the individual tournament the past three years. The Cavaliers won the team title in 2015 and 2016, and he was able to reach the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively in the singles competition, but this year he was able to complete the double, capturing the singles title with a 6-4, 7-6(5) win over UNC's William Blumberg. The 22-year-old from North Carolina had lost to Blumberg twice during the dual match season, but turned the tables Monday, ending his collegiate career with three team and one individual NCAA championship.

Editors Note: Except where otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of ZooTennis.com.


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More Aces Series Articles

College Stars Lead April Aces
Former college stars lead the review of last month's top performances with championships at ATP, Challenger and Futures events. Teens excelled too, with a former ITF junior No. 1 snagging a WTA title.

March Aces
Last month's notable performances led to big moves in the WTA and ATP rankings for top international juniors, while former college stars wrapped up titles on the USTA Pro Circuit. And the quartet who took home singles titles at the ITF International Spring Championships in California executed the transition from winter to spring with impressive performances.

February Aces
February's spotlight always falls on the Team Indoor champions in college tennis, with three top seeds collecting National Championships last month. But a dozen juniors and former college players also deserve recognition for their achievements, which include plenty of titles for US teens on the red clay of South America.

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About Colette Lewis

Colette Lewis has covered topflight U.S. and international junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Her work has appeared in Tennis magazine, the Tennis Championships magazine and the US Open program, and she provides monthly content for USTA Florida. Lewis is active on Twitter, and she writes a weekly column right here at TennisRecruiting.net. She was named Junior Tennis Champion for 2016 by Tennis Industry Magazine.

Lewis, based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has seen every National Championship final played since 1977, and her work on the tournament's ustaboys.com website led her to establish ZooTennis, where she comments on junior and college tennis daily.

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6/24 Eubanks, Di Lorenzo Advance to Pro Circuit Finals for Second Straight Week; Graham Aims for Title in Canada; Goetz and Nefve Win Doubles Championship at Berlin Grade 1
6/23 Duo Commits to Princeton; Americans Dominate USTA Pro Circuit $25K Semifinals; Bellis Reaches Mallorca Semifinals; K-College Conference Winning Streak Ends Due to NCAA Violations
6/22 Qualifiers Advance to Quarterfinals in Three USTA Pro Circuit Events; Potapova Out of Wimbledon Juniors; Hodge Out at Georgia
6/21 Shapovalov and Norrie Awarded Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards; Bellis Reaches WTA Mallorca Quarterfinals; Gooch, Morton Win WCs for Citi Open Qualifying: USTA Hires New Director of Performance
6/20 Three USTA Pro Circuit Tournaments Again This Week; Another ITF Grade 1 in Germany; Bellis, Kozlov Post WTA, ATP Wins on Grass
Colette Lewis has covered topflight junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Read her weekly column, follow her on Twitter, and and find more of her daily commentary at ZooTennis.

Page updated on Friday, June 16, 2017
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