For the second week in a row a former Stanford Cardinal claimed a singles title as Carol Zhao won the biggest singles title of her pro career at the ITF $100K event in Shenzhen, China. Zhao started off the week with a 6-4 (ret.) win over the No. 7 seed Anna Zaja and then in the second round she came back from a 5-1 third set deficit to defeat former top 30 player Laura Robson 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. Zhao defeated Xu Liu Sun 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals and then in the semifinals she won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 over Yuxuan Zhang. In the final, Zhao ousted the No. 4 seed Fangzhou Liu 7-5, 6-2 in 1 hour and 19 minutes. The singles title is the second of Zhao's career with the other coming back in August at a $25K event in Japan.
Zhao entered the week with a WTA ranking of 221 but with the title and corresponding 140 points she moved up 71 spots to a new career high of 150. Zhao also picked up a nice payday of $15,200. Zhao's former teammate Kristie Ahn won an $80K event last week in Tyler, Texas.
The last vacant Power Five head coaching position was filled on Friday when Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced the hiring of Catrina Thompson as the new women's head coach of the Gophers. Thompson comes to Minneapolis from South Bend where she has been the women's assistant coach for the last four years. Thompson played at Notre Dame from 2003 to 2007 and also coached at Yale and Boise State. Thompson replaces Chuck Merzbacher who retired after 28 years as a head coach with the final five coming at Minnesota. Below are some quotes from Minnesota's recap:
"As an assistant coach, Catrina has contributed to significant academic and athletic success for her student-athletes during the past seven seasons. She is a person of great substance, and her dedication to the total collegiate experience is exactly what we want from all of our head coaches," said Athletics Director Mark Coyle. "Catrina was an All-American and a professional athlete before becoming a coach. She's competed, coached and won at the highest levels. That experience will serve her and our student-athletes well."
"I am thrilled to be a part of the Gopher family. I am looking forward to helping Gopher student-athletes develop and reach their goals on and off the court, and also building on the success and tradition that the University of Minnesota embodies," said Thompson. "I am humbled by this incredible opportunity with which I have been entrusted. I want to thank Mark and everyone at Minnesota for this honor and responsibility, and I'd also like to thank Jay Louderback and Beck Roghaar for their mentorship throughout my college coaching career."
The Skupski Brothers, Ken (LSU 07) and Neal (LSU '12), won their 14th career doubles title as a team with a tough three set win over Purav Raja and Divij Sharan in the finals of the $85K Slovakia Challenger in Bratislava. The Skupskis got broken to start the match and ended up dropping the opening set 6-4 but they rallied in the second set and after opening up a 3-0 lead they took the set 6-3. In the third set supertiebreak, the Skupski Brothers went up a mini-break at 3-1 and would never trail again as they closed it out 10-5. Ken's ATP doubles ranking is up to #77 while Neal's is at #85.
Last weekend was a very successful weekend on the Pro Circuit as seven former collegians won pro titles while another eleven finished as runner-up.
The third seed #502 Connor Smith (Ohio State '13) swept both the singles and doubles titles at the $10K Israel F11 Futures in Herzliya. Smith won his first singles title of the year, fifth of his career, with a straight set win over the top seed #321 Yannick Jankovits. There were no breaks of serve in the opening set but Smith earned a mini-break to start the tiebreak and managed to pull it out 8-6. The only break of the second set came when Smith broke from 15/40 to go ahead 5-3 and then he served it out from 40/30 to win it 7-6(6), 6-3.