Rain, rankings revolution at the Tour Championship
THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP 2023
Sept 9-10: THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Last year 34 players competed in multiple groups for the Tour Championship, and it was the Tennis Central Junior Circuit's largest UTR event. It grew to 45 participants aiming for seven year-end No. 1 prizes, a major championship, and free sessions with the yearlong high-performance training program coaches at Incubator.
Rain pushed back the Saturday start an hour and caused an intermission in Sunday's playoff rounds that led to an almost US Open-style finish into the night. In the end seven champions were crowned, and every match had high stakes that affected at least one of the races for year-end No. 1---and sometimes all five of them.
The smallest group with some of the largest shots heard round the world, in terms of the No. 1 rankings, kicked off a round robin on Saturday that finished in a de facto final on Sunday morning. Shiloh Auzoux sat atop the 10U rankings and was eyeing the 12U top spot as well. Finn Jackson had other plans, but would they be enough?
It was a surprising end, it turned out. Jackson won handily against Auzoux in the opener. Auzoux then squeaked by Zachary Mills, who has proved his mettle on older tours, to get to 1-1, taking the tiebreaker 7-0 in the first. But Mills put up a stalwart defense in the last match against Jackson. A threeway 1-1 tie would have ushered in tiebreaking procedures. But Finn closed out the tight second set 5-3 to claim the championship.
Jackson's 200-point haul and major title placed him second in the 10U rankings. He just could not catch Shiloh Auzoux and his frenetic pace of entering tournaments. With many titles and points taken from even older age groups, too much for anyone to catch him, Auzoux ends the year as No. 1 not only here, but on another list as well.
Mills, for his part, finished the year tied for No. 7, seventy points behind Deniz Ozenci.
All were glad to see the 10U superpower Arnav Nadikatla enter the 16U event, where he performed mightily and closed at No. 5 at 10U.
The most unorthodox grouping inspired by the World Cups of the 1980s and early 1990s---and the most controversial group finish---pitted nine girls against each other in three groups. The three group winners would advance to the semis, leaving one place open for the top-finishing second-placed player.
Second place players were both likely to be 1-1, so it would come down to set difference to decide the matter. Siena Auzoux defeated Bridget Zimmermann 10-5 in a third-set tiebreak and win Group A. When Zimmermann rolled past Shannon Bu dropping only two games, her 3-2 set record looked good to qualify for the semis.
Meanwhile, in Group C, Lara Dabney and Kamsiyonna Udejiofor were both 1-0 and fighting for the top spot as Zimmermann kept tabs from afar on Sunday morning. Dabney pulled out a 7-1 tiebreaker to win in straight sets, meaning Udejiofor's set record after winning in straight sets on Saturday was 2-2. Zimmermann went through to the semis.
The controversy came with the winner of Group B, Petrina Bailey, unavailable for a 1 pm semifinal start on Sunday. Officials placed the next-highest finisher in her group, Annastasiya Uneze, into the semis. But rain pushed back the start of the semifinal, and perhaps Bailey could have made it. She still earned semifinal points on the Tour and completes the year 12th at 10U, fourth among girls.
It took Dabney a tiebreaker in the first set to get past Uneze. She met Zimmermann in a thrilling final that went 11-9 in the match tiebreak to decide the major champion.
Siena Auzoux's semifinal performance kept her in the top three on the 10U Tour, and she finishes as the top girl, behind only her brother and Jackson. Zimmermann moves up to 16th in the 14U rankings, with Dabney just behind Auzoux at 4th.
Elijah Park announced his arrival loudly. The 3.23-UTR player dropped only two games in the three group matches, all to Arnav Nemarugommula in what ended up as the final on Sunday morning.
Nemarugommula finished second by defeating Alex Yu quickly on Saturday. Archer Pollak, the group's fourth, still had much to be proud of---his 25 Tour Championship points launched him just one shy of the overall top ranking for 12U. In the tightest year-long race of the Tour, Shiloh Auzoux's final appearance at 10U gave him the slightest edge over Pollak for No. 1.
Park, for his part, ends the year solidly in the top ten.
A more traditional group and knockout tournament set the stage for the rest of the age groups. The top two from each group advanced to the semifinals.
It meant, here, that two players would meet twice, once in the group stage, and again in the final. Logan Lyons emerged victorious in both, though in each match there were moments the outcome was in doubt. David Gong placed second in his group after Lyons won in two tight sets, then received a welcome walkover from a withdrawing group winner and title favorite Arthur Rosenstein.
The final between Lyons and Gong went 4-2, 5-3. Had he won the match, Gong would have upended Jon Ozenci's No. 1 hopes. But as it stood, he finished 45 points behind his rival for the year-end championship. Lyons takes his first major championship and rides the wave to No. 10 on the Tour.
After leading three of the older divisions most of the year, 14U would be the only one Ozenci could hold onto after missing the Tour Championship.
Likitha Gaddipati is the story of resilience that keeps on giving. After entering many tournaments and encountering defeat, she found more and more success, qualified for the year-end championships, and won the major title in a fantastic 10-7 tiebreak.
She met Liv Hoffman in the final having won her group over Alina Fernandez and Isabella Sofia Martelli. Hoffman had not dropped a set in her road to the final and took the first set 5-3. But Gaddipati steeled herself for a 4-2 second set and marched on from there.
The win brings her to No. 4 in the 16U rankings, behind only Atlee Hilliard as the group's top girls.
The dreaded Group of Death found its spot here among the 16U boys. Solomon Ravitz, who led the tour half of the year at No. 1, was surrounded by all 4+ UTR players in Gabriel Gorbach, Diego Levi, and Braden Walter.
Gorbach's toughest challenge en route to winning the group was Levi, whom he defeated 5-3, 4-2. The only player to stand in the way of a rematch for the final turned out to be 10U player Arnav Nadikatla, fresh from winning the Little Mo's tournament in New Jersey.
Nadikatla won his semifinal against Levi convincingly, setting up what could be a sparkling final against Gorbach. But the champion kept the youngster from imposing his game and marched to a straight-sets win.
In one tournament, Gorbach places himself just one slot and twelve points behind Nadikatla in the top ten of the 16U rankings.
Atlee Hilliard proved just too good and ends the year outranking all other players at 16U and 18U. She is the overall No. 1 for the Tennis Central Junior Circuit.
The much anticipated showdown between recent tournament champions Hilliard and Honor Saxe fulfilled its promise. Hilliard took the final in straight sets.
Serena Provinse, the losing semifinalist to the champion, emerged all the richer as well from the 50-point performance and qualifying out of her group. She ends the year the No. 1 girl on the 14U Tour and fourth overall. At 18U, she's sixth.
2024 Points Change
A change to the points applied to higher-level tournaments from lower levels should reflect ages and skills better from now on. It used to be that all points were halved when applied to a higher age group's rankings. Now, the points are halved each step up the ladder, not just once.
So a player can no longer earn 80 points at 10U and count them as 40 at 16U. They would be halved at 12U (40 points), again at 14U (20 points), then again at 16U (10 points). It provides the incentive without disrupting the older players' earnings too much.
However, a younger player earning points in an older tournament, much as Arnav Nadikatla did in this Tour Championship edition, is still a sure way to rise faster in those rankings.
Remember the newly added feature to the rankings: the Plus / Minus, which will tell you how far up or down the player has moved within the last week.
10U Boys: Finn Jackson
10-12U Girls: Bridget Zimmermann
12U Boys: Elijah Park
14U Boys: Logan Lyons
14-16U Girls: Likitha Gaddipati
16U Boys: Gabriel Gorbach
16-18U Girls: Atlee Hilliard
Tennis Central Junior Circuit Year-End No. 1
10U Overall: Shiloh Auzoux
10U Girls: Siena Auzoux
12U Overall: Shiloh Auzoux
12U Girls: Likitha Gaddipati
14U Overall: Jon Ozenci
14U Girls: Serena Provinse
16U Overall: Atlee Hilliard
16U Boys: Solomon Ravitz
18U Overall: Atlee Hilliard
18U Boys: Jon Ozenci
The full tables now look like this.
Each weekend this spring and summer, Tennis Central is bringing you USTA and UTR tournaments at Holton-Arms School. Earn points for advancing through each round, just like on the pro tours, and qualify for the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP at season's end.
Bigger events offer more points, with the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP offering the most, as well as prizes.
Check here for updates each week to the Tennis Central Tour Rankings, a 52-week points system based on the pro tours, as well as recaps of all the action and photos.
Sept 17: USTA 10U Coed Green & Orange
Sept 24: 16U UTR - Tenniscentral.us Cup
Oct 15: USTA 10U Coed Green & Orange
Oct 21: USTA 10U Coed Green & Orange
Oct 22: 16U UTR - Yann Auzoux Open
Oct 28: 12U & 16U UTR - Halloween Open
Nov 19: 16U UTR
Dec 9: UTR Fall Finals (200-point Major)