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Friday, April 1, 2016

Second Seed Day, No. 11 Seed Caruana Advance to ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Semifinals; 16s Finals Set for Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Carson, CA--

None of the eight quarterfinal matches played on a sunny Friday at the Stubhub Center went to three sets, but most of the winners would admit to being fortunate to escape in two sets.

Top seed Amanda Anisimova was certainly put to the test by unseeded Carson Branstine before taking a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory.

Anisimova's opponent in the semifinals will be No. 5 seed Claire Liu, who beat N. 14 seed Abigail Desiatnikov 6-2, 6-2.

Liu, who played the qualifying for the Miami Open two weeks ago and lost to Donna Vekic of Croatia 5-7 6-1, 6-0, has returned to junior tennis with knowledge she didn't have before.

"It was such a good experience just to be with the pros," said the 15-year-old from Thousand Oaks, California. "Playing against them is really fun; it tells me where my game is at and what I need to improve on. Older, more experienced players can expose things that maybe juniors can't, or that you can mask. It just helps to improve your game."

Liu lost in the second round here last year, to Emma Higuchi, who this year had her down 6-4, 4-2 in their third round match Thursday.

"Yesterday I was not playing well at all, and I just found a way to get back and win the match," said Liu, who went on to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. "So today I played a little freer. I was really close to losing yesterday, so it just for me to play my game today, and play a lot better."

Liu, who went on to win the Easter Bowl Grade B1 last year after her early exit in Carson, is defending her title there next week with an eye on securing main draw entry into the junior slams.

"I need to get into the grand slams," said Liu, who has played the US Open juniors three times and played the Wimbledon juniors last year. "I'm not trying to reach a specific ranking; I'm just trying to keep improving my game: dealing with nerves, breathing and all that stuff, just trying to play better."

Second seed Kayla Day, who defeated No. 6 seed Michaela Gordon 6-4, 7-5 in today's quarterfinals, is using this week in Carson as preparation for next week's ITF Junior Masters in China, an invitational event for eight of the top ranked juniors at the end of 2015.

"I wanted to play this because I haven't played any juniors," said the 16-year-old from Santa Barbara. "I thought it was a really good warmup with a lot of good matches and it's a big tournament, close to where I live. It would be a different story, if it were like in New York or something."

Against Gordon, Day trailed 4-2 in both sets, yet those deficits didn't discourage her.

"It was even in the beginning, then she took the lead in both sets," said Day. "I think I was getting a little bit mentally frustrated in those games, but I kind of regrouped in both sets when I was down. I was able to play really well when I was behind. That happens a lot when I'm down, I start playing better. I was really happy with the way I played at the end."

Day will play unseeded Meible Chi in the semifinals, with Chi eliminating Rosie Johanson of Canada, also unseeded, 6-3, 6-2. Johanson was the last non-American still in the draw.

The boys semifinals would be all-American had Liam Caruana not recently switched to representing Italy.  The No. 11 seed, who reached the semifinals with a 6-2, 7-6(1) win over unseeded Patrick Kypson, said he made the decision to represent Italy when he turned 18.

"I have an Italian passport and both of my parents are Italian," said Caruana, who has a green card from the United States and will play the Easter Bowl B1 Closed next week. "It's more about the tennis. The Italian Federation is helping me a little bit. I've lived most of my life in the US, so it's hard not to feel kind of American, but I'm Italian."

Caruana knew that Kypson, who had beaten Caruana's doubles partner, top seed Ulises Blanch, in the second round, was a dangerous opponent.

"It was really important to get the first set," said Caruana. "Patrick's a really good player, he has a lot of weapons and can finish points from everywhere. In the first set and a half, he didn't play his best--he was making a lot of unforced, but when I was up 6-2, 4-2, I got a little nervous. He started making some really good shots, stop missing as much, and we found ourselves in a battle in the second."

Caruana saved at break point at 5-5 with a good first serve followed by a strong overhead, then held to force Kypson to serve for the tiebreaker. Kypson saved a match point at 30-40 and held, but the tiebreaker was all Caruana, as Kypson saw his serve vanish, hitting two consecutive double faults to put Caruana up 6-1. 

"The first serve was the key today," said Caruana. "When I made it, I won a lot of points and when I didn't, he attacked my second serve. Whether he won the point or not, he put a lot of pressure on me on the second, so I started double faulting a little bit, just stepping back."

Kypson also attempted a couple of drop shots in the late stages of the second set, which is risky when facing an opponent as quick as Caruana.

"I'm pretty fast," Caruana agreed when asked about the wisdom of the drop shot against him. "He hit a couple of good drop shots, and I got a little lucky, but yeah, I definitely like running for drop shots."

Caruana will play No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford, who defeated unseeded Alafia Ayeni 7-6(1), 6-3.  Crawford fought off two set points serving at 4-5 in the first, then dominated the tiebreaker.  He fell behind 2-0 in the second set, but earned his first break of serve in the match to pull even at two, winning five straight games before Ayeni held for 5-3. 

"He plays very aggressive and when he's on, he's on," said 2015 16s champion Crawford, who now has a 10-match winning streak at the tournament.  "Whenever he's hitting out on the ball and it's going in, it's going to be tough to beat him. I've played him a few times. I played him in a playoff(for the USTA National Summer Team) and I played him in Kalamazoo a few years ago. He played the same, but a bit better."

Crawford picked up his first ATP point in Plantation in February, and made the semifinals of the Grade 1 Banana Bowl last month, both on clay, but he is happy to be back on hard courts.

"I'm enjoying it and playing well," said the 16-year-old from South Carolina, who prefers hard courts to clay. "It's tough getting used to hard off the bat, but once I got my feet under myself, it was fine."

Caruana and Crawford will be meeting for the first time in Saturday's semifinals.

That isn't the case for the other boys semifinalists, with No. 4 seed Sam Riffice and No. 2 seed William Blumberg have met three times last year alone.  Riffice lost to Blumberg in the third round here last year, but won the rematch the following week in the semifinals of the Easter Bowl. The third meeting, at the Grade A in Milan, ended with a Riffice retirement.

Riffice advanced to the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 5 seed Duarte Vale of Portugal.  The first set featured a 3-0 Riffice lead at the beginning then five straight breaks of serve in the middle, with Riffice failing to serve it out at 5-3.  After three straight breaks of serve, Riffice finally held for a 6-5 lead, and broke Vale, hitting an excellent backhand approach at 30-40 that caused Vale to net his passing shot attempt.

In the second set, Riffice again took a 3-0 lead, but this time he held onto it and a break of Vale serving at 1-4 sealed it for the 17-year-old from Northern California.

Defending champion Blumberg needed only 50 minutes to dismiss No. 12 seed Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico, showing no signs of rust despite playing in his first tournament since last year's US Open junior championships.

Blumberg and Riffice will also play each other in the boys doubles final. Top seeds Blumberg and Nathan Ponwith defeated Vale and Andres Andrade of Eucador 7-5, 6-2 to advance to the doubles final for the second consecutive year.  Riffice and Brian Cernoch, the No. 5 seeds, saved nine set points after trailing No. 3 seeds Brandon Holt and Crawford 5-1 in the first set and went on to post a 7-5, 6-4 win. Cernoch won the 16s doubles championship (with Crawford) last year.

Another player going for a second straight ISC doubles title is Ena Shibahara, who won the 18s last year with Caroline Dolehide. Shibahara, playing this year with Hurricane Tyra Black returned to the final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over unseeded Dalayna Hewitt and Kariann Pierre-Louis. 

Shibahara and Black will play No. 7 seeds Carson Branstine and Taylor Johnson, who defeated No. 4 seeds Morgan Coppoc and Raquel Pedraza 2-6, 6-2, 10-5.

The 16s finals are set for Saturday in both singles and doubles.

In the girls final, No. 14 seed Jessi Muljat will play No. 15 seed Katie Volynets.  Muljat outlasted unseeded local favorite Eryn Cayetano 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in a two-hour and 15-minute semifinal, while Volynets took out No. 10 seed Hailey Baptiste 6-0, 6-2.

The boys final will feature No. 6 seed Adam Neff against No. 2 seed Axel Nefve with their semifinal wins also coming in contrasting fashion.

Neff got himself out of a 3-0 hole in the second set to beat No. 5 seed Vikash Singh of India 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 15 minutes.  Nefve had barely started his second set against No. 12 seed Eric Hahn in that length of time, but the 24-minute third set in Nefve's 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 win kept the match under two and a half hours.

Neff will play in the doubles final as well Saturday, after he and Tyler Zink, the No. 2 seeds, beat Hahn and Maximilian Wild 6-3, 6-1.  Their opponents will be No. 6 seeds Brandon Nakashima and Jake Sands, who beat No. 1 seeds Nefve and William Grant 6-1 ,6-4.

The girls doubles final will feature No. 6 seeds Baptiste and Mackenzie Clark and No. 3 seeds Dasha Kourkina and Michelle Sorokko after both came from behind to win their semifinal contests.

Baptiste and Clark beat No. 8 seeds Ali Despain and Alexis Merrill 4-6, 6-3, 10-5 and Kourkina and Sorokko defeated No. 2 seeds Addison Guevara and Luba Vasilyuk 2-6, 6-3, 10-6.

The order of play for Saturday is available at the tournament web page.

Complete results from Friday are below:

Boys' 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Duarte Vale (Portugal)  7-5, 6-1
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT)  def.  Sebastian Arcila (Puerto Rico)  6-1, 6-1
Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  Alafia Ayeni (San Diego, CA)  7-6(1), 6-3
Liam Caruana (Italy)  def.  Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  6-2, 7-6(1)

Boys' 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT) / Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Andres Andrade (Ecuador) / Duarte Vale (Portugal)  7-5, 6-2
Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD) / Sam Riffice (Granite Bay, CA)  def.  Oliver Crawford (Spartanburg, SC) / Brandon Holt (Rolling Hills, CA)  7-5, 6-4

Girls' 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Meible Chi (Weston, FL)  def.  Rosie Johanson (Canada)  6-3, 6-2
Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA)  def.  Michaela Gordon (Saratoga, CA)  6-4, 7-5
Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, CA)  def.  Abigail Desiatnikov (Atlanta, GA)  6-2, 6-2
Amanda Anisimova (Hallandale Beach, FL)  def.  Carson Branstine (Orange, CA)  7-6(5), 7-5

Girls' 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Hurricane Tyra Black (Boca Raton, FL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  def.  Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH) / Kariann Pierre Louis (Miami, FL)  6-3, 6-4
Carson Branstine (Orange, CA) / Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, CA)  def.  Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK) / Raquel Pedraza (Claremont, CA)  2-6, 6-2, 10-5

Boys' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, IL)  def.  Eric Hahn (Fullerton, CA)  6-4, 3-6, 6-0
Adam Neff (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Vikash Singh (India)  6-2, 6-3

Boys' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Brandon Nakashima (San Diego, CA) / Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA)  def.  William Grant (Bronxville, NY) / Axel Nefve (Hinsdale, IL)  6-1, 6-4
Adam Neff (Bradenton, FL) / Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Eric Hahn (Fullerton, CA) / Maximilian Wild (Murrieta, CA)  6-3, 6-1

Girls' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Jessi Muljat (Sacramento, CA)  def.  Eryn Cayetano (Corona, CA)  6-3, 4-6, 6-1
Katie Volynets (Walnut Creek, CA)  def.  Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD)  6-0, 6-2

Girls' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD) / Mackenzie Clark (College Park, MD)  def.  Ali Despain (Murrells Inlet, SC) / Alexis Merrill (Fairfax, VA)  6-4, 3-6, 10-5
Dasha Kourkina (Brooklyn, NY) / Michelle Sorokko (Little Neck, NY)  def.  Addison Guevara (Keller, TX) / Luba  Vasilyuk (Frisco, TX)  2-6, 6-3, 10-6


Wondering said...

Since Caruana now officially represents Italy and can play the Easter Bowl, can he also still play Kalamazoo?

Colette Lewis said...

Yes, but I don't believe he is eligible for any wild cards to the US Open.

Friends said...

Looking Forward to Seeing Marcos Giron Back on the TOUR…."GET UP , MARCOS…"