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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Top Seeds in 16s Division Survive Upset Bids in Easter Bowl Third Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

The top seeds in the 16s division experienced their first adversity Wednesday at the Easter Bowl, but both Jamie Loeb and TJ Pura, the reigning USTA Winter National champions, overcame the loss of the first set to move on to the fourth round. Loeb defeated Lexi Borr, a 17 seed 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, while Pura outlasted Yannik Mahlangu 1-6, 6-0, 6-4.

Pura had played Mahlangu a few months ago, so he had an idea of what to expect, but there wasn't much he could do in the first set.

"He came out and was playing really well, not making any unforced errors at all," Pura said. "I wasn't really surprised, because I knew he was a really good player. But he came out on fire, and I was just saying, whoa. But I tried not to get down on myself, because I realized I wasn't doing too many things wrong at all, and he was just playing way better than me."

Pura turned the tables on Mahlangu in the second set, eliminated the unforced errors from his own game, while Mahlangu saw his level drop considerably. Pura took leads of 3-1 and 4-2 in the third set, but couldn't hold either one. Pura held for 5-4, and it looked bleak for Mahlangu when he went down 0-40, with a Pura forehand winner sandwiched between an unforced error and a double fault. Pura hit a forehand long on match point No. 1, and Mahlangu saved the second with a scorching backhand winner down the line from three feet behind the baseline. Mahlangu couldn't save the third however, as Pura's big forehand forced the issue, and Mahlangu couldn't get his desperate reply over the net.

Asked about the pressure of playing as the top seed, Pura admitted it isn't a position he is accustomed to.

"It's kind of a new thing for me to be honest," Pura said. "I not really used to it. But I try to every match as an individual match, not worry about what I'm supposed to do, or that I'm expected to win."

On Thursday, Pura will play No. 11 seed Spencer Papa, who won their most recent meeting in the second round of the Clay Courts last year.

"He beat me pretty handily, but I feel I've improved a lot since then, and I look forward to it. I'm very excited."

Loeb's battle with Borr came down to consistency, which she said she didn't exhibit during the first set. Yet even after taking a 4-0 lead in the final set, Loeb found that Borr was not willing to concede the match.

"I was up 4-0 really fast, then it was 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-4," said Loeb, who ended up securing the match when Borr double faulted after a long game at 4-5. "She just stayed steady and it was a little windy, so I needed to be a little bit more consistent."

Loeb knew that being the No. 1 seed wasn't going to help her close out the match.

"I just have to keep focus," said Loeb. "Anyone can win out here, it's not like I have an advantage. It's whoever plays better, more consistent, and at the end, I guess I was."

Loeb's opponent in the Round of 16 will be unseeded Francis Dean, who won a marathon match of her own, defeating Sierra Stone 3-6, 6-2, 7-5.

The girls 18s quarterfinals are set with only one of Thursday's matches involving two seeds. No. 4 seed Stephanie Nauta barely survived a challenge from unseeded Mayo Hibi, eking out a 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(2) victory, and will play No. 9 seed Gabrielle Andrews, who was leading 7-6(2), 3-0 when No. 6 seed Hannah King retired.

Top seed Grace Min will play unseeded Samantha Crawford, who beat Min in the International Spring Championships last week in Carson. Min rolled past Stephanie Vlad 6-1, 6-2, while Crawford had a second straight three-set win, beating Taylor Townsend 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 12 seed Kelsey Laurente will meet unseeded Allie Kiick. Laurente beat Mia King 7-6(3), 6-2; and Kiick outlasted No. 16 seed Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, in a battle of Orange Bowl champions. Kiick won the title last year; Van Nguyen in 2008. Kiick, who will be 16 in June, has made a smooth transition from the younger age division this year, and is finding the 18s more to her liking.

"I actually like the 18s better because they're more mature," Kiick said. "The line calls are better, everything's just pretty much better. In the younger groups, they're kind of immature, they scream c'mon on, and it's just annoying. So I've been liking it so far."

2008 Easter Bowl 16s champion Ellen Tsay has returned to her favorite tournament, and although unseeded, is a threat to capture another title. Tsay, who beat Skylar Morton 6-3, 6-2 in Wednesday's third round, has been playing Pro Circuit events in 2011, and hasn't played a junior tournament since last year's US Open.

"I'm trying to play some more pro tournaments," said the 17-year-old Stanford recruit. "The junior tournaments I'm playing this year are just going to be the Easter Bowl and the Hard Courts, then I'm off to college."

Asked why she chose the Easter Bowl as one of her two junior tournaments, Tsay had several reasons.

"Easter Bowl has always been my favorite tournament," Tsay said. "Obviously, it's Level 1, so it's a big tournament, and there's always a lot of strong players coming here to play. The whole setting, I just really like it."

"It's close to home too," said the Pleasanton, Calif. resident. "So we could drive here. Of course, having won the 16s always helps."

Tsay's quarterfinal opponent is No. 13 seed Kyle McPhillips, who beat unseeded Lorraine Guillermo 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday. Tsay defeated McPhillips 6-0, 6-2 in the $25,000 Plantation Pro Circuit event in January, on clay.

"I played really well that day," Tsay said.

In the boys 18s, top seed Bjorn Fratangelo defeated Gregory Scott 6-2, 6-3, while the other International Spring Championship finalist, winner Marcos Giron, also advanced, defeating David Doehring 6-4, 6-2, in a rematch of the Claremont Grade 4 ITF final. Next up for Giron is No. 5 seed Mitchell Krueger, who came back from two breaks down in the opening set to win a tense tiebreaker from Nick Wood. Krueger then took control for a 7-6(9), 6-1 victory.

Thai Kwiatkowski defeated No. 10 seed William Kwok 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-1, and Andrew Adams beat No. 15 seed Anthony Delcore 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

The 18s TennisLink site is here.

The 16s and 14s TennisLink site is here.


simonsaystennis said...

Colette, do you know why Mayo Hibi is allowed to play USTA events, but more specifically the Easter Bowl? According to the ITF website she represents Japan. I thought GB1 tournaments like the Easter Bowl are closed to non-American players.