Comeback From Serious Illness Continues for JC Aragone, Who Reaches Third Round at Pan American Closed
©Colette Lewis 2012--
It was cold and windy Tuesday for the second round of the ITF B1 Pan American Closed, but after what JC Aragone has been through in the past eight months, such irritations hardly registered.
Back in January, Aragone, a 17-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif. had an allergic reaction to drugs he was given, which resulted in liver and kidney failure and several lengthy stays in the hospital.
"While I was in Florida training I had a reaction to the medication the doctors gave me for the flu," said Aragone. "It's all better now, but it was pretty rough for a while."
Aragone, who reached the semifinals of the 16s in Kalamazoo in 2011, returned to action there this year as a wild card recipient, but had another setback to his health then.
"After my second match in Kalamazoo I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes from all the medication I was on," said Aragone. "It's one of the side effects, so now I'm kind of dealing with that."
Aragone says he's not 100 percent yet, as he learns to cope with the medications he's been given.
"Because I had liver and kidney failure, I take medication they give transplant patients, so it just keeps it better. And then I'm like on steroids to keep down the inflammation, because my organs are all inflamed."
Aragone played a several Futures qualifying events last month in Southern California, but this is only the second junior tournament that he's played since last year's Orange Bowl. He won his opening round match Monday, and today defeated No. 13 seed Carter Lin 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the round of 16.
"It was windy out there so it was a little difficult, but I just kind of got the ball in play," Aragone said. "My opponent was missing a little, the wind was annoying him, so I took advantage of that."
After dealing with a life-threatening condition, Aragone noticed some changes in his perspective on a tennis court.
"I'm obviously having a lot more fun out there now, appreciating it a little more," he said. "I have a little less pressure on myself right now, so that's nice, but I'm still the same player as before--always focused on winning."
Aragone plans to play as many events as he can to try to get his ITF junior ranking high enough for entry into next year's junior slams.
"It's kind of nice to be out here, and at least I'm playing well up to now, so we'll try to keep it going." Aragone said.
Aragone's win over Lin was one of four victories by unseeded boys over their favored opponents. Roy Lederman downed No. 8 seed Diego Pedraza of Colombia 7-5, 6-2, 14-year-old Francis Tiafoe defeated No. 14 seed Ivar Aramburu Contreras of Mexico 6-4, 6-2 and Henry Craig ousted No. 15 seed Farzin Danny Amiri 6-2, 6-0.
The top three seeds, Noah Rubin, Spencer Papa and Thai Kwiatkowski all posted straight-set wins.
Girls top seed Carol Zhao of Canada defeated 14-year-old Kaitlyn McCarthy 6-0, 6-2, but it was more competitive that the score would indicate, with most of the games going to deuce.
"The match was for sure closer than the score line," said the 17-year-old from Ontario. "I think I just handled the conditions better than she did, and played the big points better. I didn't know too much about her, and had only watched her play once."
Last year Zhao arrived in Tulsa as the No. 3 seed and was beaten in the first round in both singles and doubles.
"That wasn't a great tournament for me, for sure," Zhao said. "Last year I didn't feel great at all, but this year, I think I've improved my game, so I'm focusing on that."
Zhao, who is currently 15th in the ITF World Junior rankings, wants to keep her junior ranking high enough to play the slams next year, but will focus on her WTA ranking as much as possible.
"Next year I'm focusing more on playing challengers and more pro events to get my ranking up," said Zhao, who currently is 678 on the WTA computers.
As for her position as top seed, Zhao hasn't given it much thought.
"You have to work your way through the tournament just like everyone else," Zhao said. "This is the first time I've been a number one seed in a few years. But I'm just taking it match by match, not taking that as too big of a consideration."
The only seeded girl to lose in Tuesday's second round was No. 16 Marika Akkerman of Canada, who fell to Alexandra Morozova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. No. 2 seed Francoise Abanda did not have to play to advance to the third round, when Nicole Frenkel retired during the warm-up due to a sprained ankle. Third seed Christina Makarova, a finalist at the Pan American in 2010, also advanced to the third round.
Zhao and partner Erin Routliffe are the top seeds in doubles, and they advanced to the second round, as did No. 2 seeds Tornado Black and Rasheeda McAdoo.
The top two seeds in the boys doubles Martin Redlicki and Noah Rubin and Hugo DiFeo and Brayden Schnur of Canada are also through to round two, which will be played on Wednesday.
For draws and Wednesday's order of play, see the tournament page at usta.com.