Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Holt, Desiatnikov Take Alternate Routes in Ousting Seeds in Second Round of ITF Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Tulsa, Oklahoma--

The weather for Tuesday's second round of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed featured clear blue skies, light winds and temperatures in the mid 80s, but the perfect conditions didn't seem to suit the seeds, with seven losing, including No. 4 boys seed Vasil Kirkov and No. 5 seed Jade Lewis.

Kirkov, who played on the USA's Junior Davis Cup team two weeks ago in Spain, was beaten by Brandon Holt 6-3, 6-4. Holt, playing in only his fourth ITF junior event, has had a whirlwind of a summer and fall. After winning the Southern California CIF High School tournament and the Sectional Championships in June, the 17-year-old son of Scott Holt and Tracy Austin reached the round of 16 in Kalamazoo and won the bronze ball in doubles there with Riley Smith.

Given a wild card into the doubles draw of the US Open Junior Championships, Holt and Smith reached the final in New York, then won a Futures title at Laguna Niguel earlier this month, also as a wild card entry. Holt, a wild card entry this week, is taking advantage of the opportunities.

"I've been working hard lately, and I feel I'm playing really well right now," said Holt. "I can't say I was expecting to do this well, but it's not surprising to me."

Holt has a goal of playing the junior slams next year, and is planning to play the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl to help him reach it. But his recent results have presented him with a common dilemma.

"I have no idea how this is going to work with school," said Holt, a senior at Palos Verdes High School. "I've missed so much school. Hopefully it works out. But I'm going to start playing more ITFs, it's good competition, a lot of good matches. I don't know if I'll play any more SoCal tournaments, maybe sectionals again next year, but other than that just the big national tournaments and ITFs and Futures."

Holt, who is playing doubles with Kirkov this week, with Kirkov's regular partner Sam Riffice out with an injury, had never played with him or against him until today.

"I don't think I've even ever hit with him," Holt said. "Today, both of us started off a little bit slow, four breaks in the first four games. Then I started playing a little bit better and the level picked up. The second set was really tight, it went back and forth, and I played really well to close it out."

Holt's opponent in the round of 16 is another wild card, Danny Thomas, who defeated qualifier Mac Kiger 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.  Holt, who defeated Thomas in the second round of the 16s in Kalamazoo last year, was on the USTA junior team that competed in the Napa Valley Tennis Classic with Thomas.

"It was a lot of fun," said Southern Cal recruit Holt, who went 2-1 in his round robin group with three collegians. "I liked the kids on my team and I really like the team tournaments; they're a lot more fun to me, socially fun. It was awesome, playing against college kids and college coaches."

Holt and Thomas are among the 11 unseeded players remaining in the boys round of 16.  John McNally defeated No. 8 seed Andres Andrade of Ecuador  6-3, 6-1, Johnathan Small cruised past No. 11 seed Trent Bryde 6-1, 6-0, JJ Wolf beat No. 5 seed Mwendwa Mbithi 6-1, 6-4 and Kyrylo Tsygura overcame No. 14 seed Luis Morfin of Mexico 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, one of only three boys matches that went the distance.

No. 2 seed Jack Mingjie Lin of Canada had his hands full with Jakub Wojcik, but he survived to post a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory.  Top seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada had a tough first set with qualifier Alexander Brown, but the second set was all his in a 7-6(7), 6-0 victory.

Lin and Sigouin, the No. 1 seeds in doubles, lost to Sebastian Korda, the son of Petr Korda, and Jason Legall, 6-4, 2-6, 14-12.

While Holt's win over Kirkov was of the standard straight-set variety, Abigail Desiatnikov's 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Lewis was anything but.  Over three hours and 20 minutes after it began, the match ended with Desiatnikov converting her fourth match point by putting away a forehand into the open court.  But the tension was there until the very end, as the 14-year-old from Ohio, now training in Atlanta, had failed to serve out the match up 5-4 and 6-5, and had missed converting two match points.

"At 5-3 in the third set, my body completely broke down," said Desiatnikov. "It was hardly mental, it was physical. But then I brought myself back up, at 5-5 got strength. I think I handled it well, not closing it out those times. I could have handled it way worse, broke down mentally, but I thought, there's always going to be another chance, so I kept fighting."

Lewis, who is from New Zealand, but has immigration status that allows her to play in closed US ITF tournaments, hit plenty of moonballs to keep Desiatnikov from getting a rhythm.

"I don't like that game," the petite Desiatnikov said. "I hate playing it, I hate doing it, but it's smart. She's a really smart player and I think it was the right thing to do against me, because I hate moon balls and everybody knows that. She changed the pace, sliced, hit moon balls."

Lewis had been given a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the second set, when she told the chair umpire he had cheated her for the fifth time. The tournament referee was in the vicinity, and because she had been warned previously, she was assessed a point.

"She kind of broke down there," said Desiatnikov, who is working with Grant Stafford and Brian de Villiers in the Atlanta area.  "I think I handled it pretty well. It's tough. I got frustrated but I never screamed at the ref or fought with the ref, I never took it out on the ref."

As for the frustration of seeing two match points elude her in the 12th game of the third set, Desiatnikov said, "Ugh. Those were bad points. I missed easy shots. But I just focused on the tiebreaker. When you lose that game, you always have so many points to play, you can still do it. So I focused, and I did it."

Desiatnikov will play an opponent younger than she is in the next round, Natasha Subhash, who turned 14 just last month. Subhash defeated Canadian wild card Layne Sleeth 6-3, 6-1.

The only other seed to fall on the girls side on Tuesday was No. 8 seed Maria Portillo of Mexico, who lost to Hanna Chang 6-2, 6-4.

Top seed Usue Arconada ended the 13-match winning streak of Ellie Douglas by a 6-2, 6-3 score, and will play qualifier Ashley Lahey in the third round.  No. 2 seed Kayla Day blitzed Isabelle Boulais of Canada, who had saved six match points in her late-night, 7-6 in-the-the-third-win Monday, 6-0, 6-1.  No. 3 seed Maria Mateas also got through, beating Nicole Conard 6-4, 6-3.

In doubles, top seeds Arconada and Kylie McKenzie advanced, but No. 2 seeds Kelly Chen and Alexandra Sanford lost to Christiana McDonald and  Ashley Zhu of Canada 6-2, 6-3.

Draws and the order of play for Wednesday can be found at the ITF Junior website.