Higuchi Defeats No. 4 Seed Swan, Blumberg Tops No. 5 Seed Opelka in Third Round of Pan American Closed
Seeded players continued to move on at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Wednesday, with seeds taking all eight quarterfinal spots in the boys draw and five of the eight quarterfinal spots in the girls draw.
The top four boys seeds all advanced in straight sets on another warm day at the University of Tulsa's Michael D. Case Tennis Center, but No. 5 seed Reilly Opelka fell to No. 9 seed William Blumberg 7-6(1), 6-3.
It was Blumberg's second win in two meetings with the 6-foot-9 Opelka, having collected his first in the third round of the Easter Bowl Grade B1 back in April.
"My strategy when I play Reilly is to keep him off balance a bit," said the 16-year-old from Connecticut. "I try to change up pace. Reilly is an unbelievable player--he's got an unbelievable serve and really solid ground strokes and good volleys. So if I can keep the ball up, keep him off balance, have him question what's happening, make him come to the net, make him hit some volleys, overheads, I even got a couple of lobs over his head. That was my strategy, and then I hope to get a couple of lucky breaks."
Blumberg dominated the tiebreaker, with Opelka not getting first serves in play and double faulting twice. In the second set, the only break came in the eighth game, when Opelka netted a backhand volley to give Blumberg a break point. In the second set, Blumberg had had success in dipping the ball low when Opelka was at the net, and on the break point he again got the result he wanted when Opelka netted a volley when trying to handle the low ball at his feet, giving Blumberg the opportunity to serve out the match.
Despite failing to make a first serve in the final game, Blumberg got to 40-0 on three Opelka errors. A drop volley winner and a backhand on the baseline by Opelka saved two of the match points, but on the third Opelka's backhand return went wide and Blumberg was through to the quarterfinals.
Blumberg, who was undefeated in Junior Davis Cup play last month in Mexico, said his success at the ITF World 16-and-under team title with Michael Mmoh and Gianni Ross has carried over into this week's tournament.
"For me, coming off Kalamazoo (where he lost in the 16s third round) was a little rough, a bit of a wakeup call," Blumberg said. "I got back to work, worked on my forehand a lot, and all I needed was some confidence. Then I went to Mexico and played a bunch of good matches, served well, and coming here felt pretty good."
Blumberg will play No. 4 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada in Thursday's quarterfinals after Tabilo defeated Emil Reinberg 6-2, 6-0. In the other quarterfinal in the bottom half, No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz will play No. 7 seed Kalman Boyd. Fritz defeated unseeded Alfredo Perez 6-3, 6-4, while Boyd outlasted No. 12 seed Catalin Mateas 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 in the only three-set match of the day in the boys draw.
Boyd and Mateas were both struggling physically at the end of the match and after six holds to start the third set, there were five consecutive breaks after that. Boyd failed to earn a match point serving for it at 5-4, but at 6-5 he overcame a 0-30 start, closing it out on his second match point with a good first serve.
Top seed Michael Mmoh defeated No. 15 seed Walker Duncan 6-4, 6-4 to set up a meeting with No. 10 seed Tommy Paul. Paul defeated his doubles partner, No. 6 seed Nathan Ponwith 6-3, 6-3, avenging his second round Easter Bowl loss to Ponwith back in April.
The other quarterfinal will feature No. 3 seed Sameer Kumar against No. 11 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada. Kumar downed No. 13 seed Anudeep Kodali 6-4, 6-1 after trailing 3-0 in the opening set. Shapovalov ended the run of qualifier Alex Phillips 6-3, 6-3.
The girls draw lost No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin in the first round, and No. 4 seed Katie Swan of Great Britain went out Wednesday, with No. 15 seed Emma Higuchi posting a 6-3, 6-1 win over the Easter Bowl finalist.
"She's had a great year and I was really excited to play her," said the 16-year-old from Southern California, who beat Swan in the Wichita Falls Grade 4 semifinals in 2013. "I've never really gone far in a Grade 1. Last year at Eddie Herr I got to the third round and lost, so this is my first time in the quarters, so I'm really excited. I've been a little up and down all year, so I'm really glad all the hard work is paying off right now."
Higuchi mentioned her patience, variety and serve as factors in her win, but also acknowledged Swan's role in the result.
"I don't think she played that well," Higuchi said. "I think her serve is usually a big weapon of hers, and her first serve percentage was pretty low. I was really concentrating on my returns and getting it back deep."
Higuchi meets another USTA Carson player in the quarterfinals Thursday in 14-year-old Claire Liu, who defeated No. 10 seed Kelly Chen 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 in the only three-set match in the girls draw Wednesday.
The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will also feature an unseeded player against a seed with No. 12 seed Charlotte Robillard-Millette facing unseeded wild card Kylie McKenzie. Robillard-Millette beat unseeded Sofia Sewing 6-4, 6-2, while McKenzie ended the run of wild card Maria Mateas, her doubles partner, 6-4, 6-3.
Top seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico again had a long, tough match that isn't indicated by the score, with the 2013 semifinalist defeating qualifier Ellie Douglas 6-3, 6-1. Zarazua will play No. 7 seed Michaela Gordon, who eliminated No. 11 seed Ellyse Hamlin 6-2, 6-2.
No. 3 seed Raveena Kingsley, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over No. 16 seed Abi Altick Wednesday, will play unseeded Kayla Day, who beat No. 5 seed Katherine Sebov 6-2, 6-1. Day defeated Kingsley 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of the Easter Bowl back in April.
The doubles quarterfinals are also scheduled for Thursday, with top seeds Mmoh and Fritz and No. 2 seeds Paul and Ponwith still alive in the boys draw. Zarazua and Gordon, the girls No. 1 seeds, and Kingsley and Sebov, the No. 2 seeds, also advanced with straight-set victories Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday's order of play is here.
Live scoring can be found here.
Draws have been updated on the ITF Junior website.