Sponsored by IMG Academy

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Southern California Girls Shake Up Draws at International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Carson, CA--

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Lee of Los Angeles and 15-year-old Alyssa Smith of Laguna Nigel are just two of the many Southern Californian juniors who have excelled this week at the International Spring Championships, the ITF Grade 1 being played at the Home Depot Center and USTA Training Center-West.

Lee, a lucky loser who got into the 18s draw when wild card Kaitlyn Christian withdrew due to an injury, continued her run by upsetting No. 2 seed Grace Min, a finalist at the ISC in 2009, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Lee took a 4-0 lead in the opening set, with Min unable to find her form, especially with Lee's drop shots keeping her off balance. Min seemed to take the momentum with a decisive second set, but Lee kept battling and came away with the win, earning a quarterfinal encounter with unseeded Juliana Gajic of Canada, who ended the singles tournament for qualifier Lynda Xepoleas by a 6-1, 6-3 score.

In the girls 16s, Smith, the No. 10 seed, absorbed a blistering first set from top seed Brooke Austin and went on to record a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 win. Smith was eager for a rematch with Austin, after the 14-year-old from Indianapolis beat her in the consolation final of the 16s Winter Nationals last December.

"It was a really close match and I lost it after having three match points," Smith said of her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 loss. "That's something that I've always had in the back of my mind--that I should have won that match. So when I came out here today, I was ready to go--I wanted to play her. I was looking forward to another chance to get revenge."

Once Smith began to keep her ground strokes deeper, she allowed Austin less time to control the points. With Smith serving for the match at 5-3 in the third, Austin let three break points get away; Smith saved one with a first serve winner, but Austin made errors on the other two. After a third unforced error gave Smith her first match point, she rushed a forehand and it went well wide, but despite her recent history with Austin, Smith wasn't concerned.

"When I had that first match point, I was like, whatever, just brush it off," Smith said. "It doesn't matter, it's still deuce, I'm still in control. It's not like it's a big drop, one point."

After Austin made another forehand error, Smith had her second match point, and displaying stamina and patience, she waited until Austin was on the defensive before crushing a clean forehand winner to end it.

Smith meets unseeded Kiah Generette, who is from nearby Long Beach, in Friday's semifinals. Generette outlasted No. 16 seed Sivan Krems 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3. The sole non-Californian in the girls 16s semis is No. 6 seed Mia King, who is from North Carolina, and trains with the USTA in Boca Raton. King defeated training partner Spencer Liang, the No. 4 seed, 6-2, 6-1 in Thursday's quarterfinals. She will play No. 7 seed Mayo Hibi of Irvine, who downed No. 13 seed Amanda Lin 6-1, 6-1.

Boys 16 top seed Tyler Gardiner also was eliminated on Thursday, with No. 11 seed Thai Kwiatkowski earning a 6-2, 6-1 decision. Kwiatkowski's semifinal opponent is No. 8 seed TJ Pura, who came back from a set down for the second day in a row, defeating No. 4 seed Maxx Lipman 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. In the bottom half, No. 9 seed Jordan Daigle, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Tyler Pham in the quarterfinals, will meet wild card Luca Corinteli in the other semifinal. Corinteli powered past No. 2 seed Anthony Tsodikov 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.

The two top seeds in the 18s, Katarena Paliivets of Canada and Raymond Sarmiento of Fontana, Calif., didn't have it easy, but both advanced to Friday's quarterfinals. Paliivets, who called for a trainer leading 4-3 in the third set against No. 15 seed Ellen Tsay and appeared to be in pain when she resumed play, managed to break Tsay at love to take a 5-3 lead, serving it out thanks to several errors from Tsay. Paliivets will play No. 5 seed Madison Keys in the quarterfinals, and is no doubt hoping to put up a better fight than in their most recent meeting, when Keys defeated her 6-0, 6-1 in the second round of the Dunlop Orange Bowl. On Thursday, Keys beat unseeded Karyna Alesha of Belarus 6-2, 6-1. That was also the score of wild card Krista Hardebeck's win over unseeded Ashley Dai. Hardebeck, the 2009 ISC 16s champion, will meet No. 6 seed Monica Turewicz, who advanced to the quarterfinals when No. 10 seed Rio Kitagawa retired trailing 4-1.

No. 8 seed Sachia Vickery is the only seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw. Vickery blanked No. 12 seed Lauren Herring 6-0, 6-0 and will meet wild card Emina Bektas, who beat unseeded Gabrielle DeSimone 6-3, 7-6(2). Lee and Gajic are the other two girls 18s quarterfinalists.

Sarmiento dropped his first set of the tournament to No. 16 seed Emmett Egger, but went on to claim a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win. His opponent Friday is wild card Daniel Kosakowski, who streamrolled unseeded Jeremy Efferding 6-1, 6-1 Thursday morning. Their match could be a prelude to a college rivalry, as Kosakowski has committed to UCLA and Sarmiento to USC. The only other seeded player in the boys 18s quarterfinals is No. 6 Nick Chappell. Chappell defeated unseeded Chase Curry 6-2, 6-4, and will play unseeded Gonzales Austin, who downed No. 13 seed Shaun Bernstein 6-4, 7-6(1).

An unseeded boys 18s finalist is assured, with all four quarterfinalists in the bottom half unseeded. Clay Thompson overcame stomach problems late in the second set to top No. 3 seed Dane Webb 7-6(4), 7-6(3) and set up a meeting with unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo. Fratangelo, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, eliminated the last international player in the boys draw, taking out Malaysia's Christian Lee 6-3, 6-0.

The fourth pairing features Daniel McCall against wild card Spencer Newman. Newman downed unseeded Mac Styslinger 6-1, 6-4, while McCall battled past unseeded Wyatt McCoy 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

In the doubles, boys 18s top seeds Darian King and Sarmiento came back to down unseeded Rickey Baylon and Dennis Mkrtchian 4-6, 7-5 10-7. The girls top seeds, Herring and Min, also needed a match tiebreaker to advance, beating Sabrina Santamaria and Lacey Smyth 0-6, 6-3, 10-6.

For complete draws, and Friday's order of play, see the tournament website.