Riffice, Crawford headline 2015 Team USA National Junior Team

July 10, 2015 09:19 AM

By Sally Milano, USTA.com

Top-ranked 16-year-olds Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif., and Oliver Crawford of Spartanburg, S.C., along with Junior Davis Cup champion Gianni Ross of La Grange, Ill., are among the eight junior boys selected for the 2015 Team USA National Junior Team, a training program designed to give America’s best young players opportunities to train together during the summer and to compete against top junior competition around the world. The girls’ team was selected in May.

Players were selected for the team based on automatic qualifying criteria or through results in a qualifying playoff, held in early July at the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. Complete information on the selection criteria can be found here.

In addition to Riffice, Crawford (pictured above) and Ross, the other boys named to the team include Trent Bryde, 15, from Suwanee, Ga.; William Howells, 16, from Boca Raton, Fla.; Vasil Kirkov, 16, from Tampa, Fla.; Alexandre Rotsaert, 15, from Boca Raton, Fla.; and Brian Shi, 15, from Jericho, N.Y.

Kirkov and Riffice were automatic qualifiers for the team, while Bryde, Crawford, Howells, Ross, Rotsaert and Shi qualified through the playoff.

USTA Player Development will provide coaching and travel assistance to select events throughout the summer, including the junior US Open and the USTA Boys’ 16s and 18s National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“All eight boys have tremendous potential and are on track to become good players," said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman. "What is most encouraging is the relationship that we have developed with their primary coaches. Our national coaches Sylvain Guichard and Jay Devashetty have done a great job of managing and cultivating the relationships. The primary coaches of these players are among the best in the country and are the type of coaches we need as partners in our mission to develop world-class players. A big thank you and congratulations to them from all of us at the USTA.”

Riffice is ranked No. 1 in the USTA’s Boys’ 16s singles rankings and is the top-rated prospect in the Class of 2018 by TennisRecruiting.net. Last December, he won the 16s singles titles at the prestigious Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl Junior Championships, joining current world No. 11 Grigor Dimitrov as the only boys to do so.

Crawford, the No. 2 player in the USTA Boys’ 16s rankings, swept the 16s titles at the Easter Bowl and International Spring Championships this spring. Ross was a singles semifinalist at last summer’s USTA Boys’ 16s National Championships and helped the U.S. win its third Junior Davis Cup title in September 2014, with world Top-10 juniors Michael Mmoh and William Blumberg.

Kirkov, the No. 2-rated prospect in the Class of 2018 on TennisRecruiting.net, reached the 16s semifinals at both the Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr last December. Rotsaert won his first two ITF junior singles titles this year, in May at the Grade 4 Metropolia Open in Coral Gables, Fla., and in June at the Grade 3 Bytom Cup in Poland.

In June, Bryde advanced to the final round of the BB&T Atlanta Open Wild Card Challenge and later this month will play in a four-man playoff for a spot in qualifying at the Emirates Airline US Open Series event. Shi was a Boys’ 14s singles and doubles finalist at the Eddie Herr Junior Championships last winter, while Howells won several ITF-level junior doubles titles last fall.