Osuigwe among ITF 2017 world champions

Save

Florida’s Whitney Osuigwe, the 15-year-old who won the French Open junior girls’ title and has posted up an impressive number of wins this season, is the ITF junior world champion for 2017 on the girls’ side.

Osuigwe had just cracked the top 100 in the ITF junior girls’ rankings when the 2017 season began. She ends it at No. 1 and is still alive in singles and doubles at this week’s Orange Bowl in Florida.

She won both the 18s girls singles and doubles titles last week at the Eddie Herr tournament. That’s a home event for her as it’s held at the IMG Academy where she trains.

Countrywoman Catherine Bellis won the award in 2014 and Taylor Townsend in 2012. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Zina Garrison and Gretchen Rush in 1981 and 1982.

On the boys’ side, Axel Geller becomes first junior from Argentina to be named ITF world champion in 22 years. (Mariano Zabaleta and Federico Browne won the award back-to-back in 1994 and 1995).

He reached the singles final at both the French and US Opens, and took the doubles title in Paris.

Recent winners have included Taylor Fritz (2015), Andrey Rublev (2014) and Alexander Zverev (2013). Good crop.

All-Spain on the pro side 

Osuigwe
The all-Spanish double honor as ITF World Champions for 2017 is the first since Americans Davenport and Sampras both won in 1998.

On the pro side, ATP No. 1 Rafael Nadal and WTA No. 2 Garbiñe Muguruza have been named world champions for 2017.

Muguruza is just 40 points out of the No. 1 spot in the WTA Tour rankings, just behind Simona Halep. But unlike Halep, Muguruza is a Slam champion, having won Wimbledon this year. The ITF awards weight the Slams (which it has jurisdiction over) more than other tournaments.

According to the ITF, it’s the first time both winners have come from the same country since Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras were named ITF world champions in 1998.

It’s the third time Nadal has been so honored. Time flies: he’s the oldest-ever to be honored, at age 31.

“Becoming ITF World Champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me and is even more special because Rafa has also been awarded on the men’s side. He is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain,” Muguruza said in a statement.

“I knew that putting in the hard work would pay off eventually and it made winning Wimbledon and achieving the No. 1 ranking so special. I’m motivated to take everything I’ve learned this year and apply it to my work next season.”

Final accolade for Hingis

The doubles champions are Marcelo Melo (Brazil) and Lukasz Kubot (Poland) on the men’s side, and Yung-Jan Chan (Taipei) and Martina Hingis (Switzerland) on the women’s side.

Osuigwe

Melo and Kubot won the ATP Tour Finals last month, one of six titles that included Wimbledon, in their first season together.

Hingis, who retired at the end of the season, gets one more accolade.

She and Chan made nine finals – and won all of them. 

David Wagner, 43, was named the first-ever ITF Quad Wheelchair World Champion, a long overdue accolade after he finished No. 1 in the year-end rankings for the eighth time.  Gustavo Fernandez, 23 is the ITF Wheelchair champion on the men’s side and Yui Kamiji – also 23 – was honored on the women’s side. 

Kamiji won three of the four major titles in 2017, all but Wimbledon. 

The awards will be handed out at the French Open next June.

Regional managers, ITF meet in London

Save

The International Tennis Federation met with the presidents, general secretaries and managers of its regional associations last week, at the ITF headquarters in Roehampton.

Among the issues covered were development programs for 2018, as well as the planned 2019 ITF transition tour.

 “This was an important opportunity to freely discuss key strategic and operational matters in order that the ITF and our Regional Associations can find new ways to develop and grow the game together,” ITF president David Haggerty said in a statement.

From the group photo, that’s quite the diverse group.

Sabatini, Nalbandian named role models

Save

The next Youth Olympics will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina Oct. 6-18, 2018.

And Argentine tennis legends Gabriela Sabatini and David Nalbandian will represent the sport as “athlete role models”.

The tennis event, for players 18-and-under, will be played on clay at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club (love the contradiction of that club name).

There are singles, doubles and mixed events.

At the last Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, 37 countries took part in the tennis event. Jelena Ostapenko, Daria Kasatkina, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev were among the medalists.

Fed Cup final a sellout in Minsk

Save

Some of the biggest names in tennis will be missing for the Fed Cup final between the U.S. and Belarus this weekend in Minsk.

But the International Tennis Federation announced Monday that the Chizhovska Arena (capacity 8,807) is a sellout.

Great news.

This is the first year Belarus even made the World Group. It’s only the country’s sixth home tie – ever.

The ITF says the organizers are contemplating the installation of a giant screen outside the stadium for additional fans to be part of the atmosphere. 

Average high temperatures in Minsk Nov. 11 hover around 39F. Brrrr.

Bencic comeback going gangbusters

Save

Belinda Bencic’s late-season comeback continues, even if the WTA season is over.

In Poitiers, France last week, the 20-year-old from Switzerland reached the semis in singles and won the doubles with Yanina Wickmayer.

She is 16-4 in singles with two doubles titles in four tournaments since returning from left wrist surgery and a five-month absence.

Ranked No. 7 in Feb. 2016, Bencic was down to No. 318 when her comeback began after the US Open. 

She’s already at No. 163. And not done. Bencic is entered in $125Ks in Hua Hin and Taipei, and a $100K event in Dubai in mid-December.

Adrian Barbu gets provisional suspension

Save

Who is Adrian Barbu, you ask?

Well, he’s a 34-year-old Romanian currently ranked No. 505 in doubles.

His career high of No. 265 came all the way back in 2005. He has no singles ranking; his best of No. 752 also came back in 2005.

And the ITF has announced that he has received a provisional suspension for a positive doping test.

It’s for the serious stuff: nandrolone metabolite (19-norandrosterone) and methenolone (metenolone) metabolites. 

It’s been about a year since the ITF began announcing provisional suspensions, to combat the perception that some players were serving so-called “silent bans”.

They apply only to mandatory provisional suspensions, and those that are accepted voluntarily.

Per the ITF, Barbu chose not to exercise his right to appeal the provisional suspension. As little prize money as he has earned in 2017 (about $3,500 US), hiring a lawyer seems impractical.

The suspension went into effect Oct. 22, pending a full hearing which likely would determine the length of the official suspension.

Challenger level led to dope testing

Barbu’s positive sample came on Aug. 16, 2017, at the Challenger in Meerbusch, Germany.

At that tournament, he was given a solid by his much higher-ranked countryman Florin Mergea, as they got direct entry into the draw.

They lost in the first round.

Mergea is ranked in the top 50 on the ATP Tour in doubles, and was in the top 10 just two years ago.

He also partnered his countryman for a series of four Futures events in Romania over the summer. They won two and reached another final, which allowed Barbu to raise his ranking from outside the top 800.

Barbu would have to forfeit about $1,200 in earnings and, more importantly, 28 precious ATP Tour ranking points. That would drop him out of the top 600, assuming it’s an issue on the back end of the potential suspension.

The announcement continues the ITF’s trend of catching only guppies in the professional tennis pond. But it does offer a window into where the players are being tested.

Barbu played 10 Futures events between May and early August. And nothing positive came up, assuming there was even any drug testing going on. But in his first tournament at the Challenger level, the Romanian got dinged.

He had basically been retired for more than a decade. Between July, 2006 and this past May, Barbu had played just one Futures event – all the way back in 2011.

Rebecca Marino back in three months

Save

Great news for Canadian Rebecca Marino.

The 26-year-old Canadian decided to return to play after nearly five years in retirement.

But because of the anti-doping rules regarding reinstatement – rules she wasn’t aware of – she was unable to play in this week’s ITF tournament in Saguenay, Quebec.

A six-month period in the anti-doping required is required before a retired play can be reinstated.

But the ITF told Tennis.Life Monday that in Marino’s case, the period will only be three months.

Marino has filed for reinstatement Friday, and will be eligible to return on Jan. 20, 2018.

That’s great news; originally, it appeared she could only return in April at the earliest.

The waiting period was extended to six months as of Jan. 1, 2015, according to the revised WADA code. Per the ITF, that six-month period applies only to players who retired after that date. 

There’s a doctor on court in Linz

Save

Tennis players know a lot of doctors. They don’t often play against one.

Mihaela Buzarnescu is an exception. The 29-year-old Romanian lefty received her PhD in Physical Education and Sport last December.

And she’s having best year of her career after a decade at the lowest ITF levels.

Buzarnescu qualified for her first major at the US Open. And she qualified for her first WTA Tour main draw this week in Linz. She upset No. 4 seed Anett Kontaveit in the first round and is in the quarters.

From No. 351 in January, she’ll break into the top 100.

Match-point retirement for Stevenson

Save

Nearly 37 and ranked No. 715, American Alexandra Stevenson keeps soldiering on.

But if there’s anything that has marked her career in the days since she was so promising, it’s the number of times she has retired in matches.

With her latest, in the final round of qualifying at a $25K in Australia this week, our unofficial count has her at 70 for her career (in singles). 

But this one was extra-special.

A Twitter follower noted the late ending to the match and sure enough, Stevenson stopped when she was match point down.

Integrity Unit gets another small fish

Save

The Tennis Integrity Unit’s latest catch is Samuel Ribeiro Navarrete, a 24-year-old Spaniard with no current ranking.

Ribeiro Navarrete received an eight-month suspension and a $1000 fine. The TIU found he placed 28 bets on tennis online between January and March, 2013. None were on his own matches. 

The TIU’s last suspension came in August when Marius Frosa of Romania, 21, received the same sanctions. He had three accounts, and placed 12 bets during a one-year period ending June, 2015 – none of them on himself. 

Frosa was ranked outside the top 2,000 at the time. His career earnings are $2,320.