Day Returns to Tulsa with Year-End No. 1 as Goal; Chrysochos Delivers Wake Forest's First Singles Major at Men's All-American Championships
©Colette Lewis 2016--
One month ago, Kayla Day was playing on the US Open Grandstand Court, with a full crew of officials, Hawkeye, a DJ and thousands of fans watching her win the girls singles title, both in person and via online streaming.
Fast forward to today in Tulsa, when Day, now the No. 1 junior in the world, was playing qualifier Jessica Aragon, ranked 2243 in the ITF juniors on obscure court five, with no chair umpire, at 8 a.m. in the first round of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed.
Day, who managed to record a 6-4, 6-4 victory after being down a break in both sets, was back to defend her title, where her path to the world's top spot began last October, in hopes of holding on to the No. 1 spot when the season finishes in December.
"I want to finish No. 1," said Day, who wasn't aware that she would take that position immediately after she won the girls US Open title. "I won this last year, so I have points to defend and if I finish No. 1, I get more pro tournaments. Because I'm 17, I only get a certain amount. I playing this, Mexico City (Grade A) and Orange Bowl."
Day admitted it was hard to come back after the success she enjoyed over the summer, winning the USTA 18s Nationals, and with the wild card she received from that, making the second round of the women's US Open, and then following that with her first junior slam title. But she gave Aragon credit for making her work for the win.
"She definitely made a lot of balls and she made me construct points," Day said of her 17-year-old opponent. "I thought my serve was a little off. And she was a lefty too," said Day, who usually is the one with that advantage. "So it's always a little trickier to play lefties, I think. I think in the beginning of both sets, I was trying to go too big on my returns. Towards the end, I just managed to just start off the point and build up to more."
Day said she has noticed people are more aware of her tennis accomplishments post-US Open, especially those in her home town of Santa Barbara, California.
"Now a lot of people know who I am, especially at home," Day said. "They're like, oh, I saw you in the paper. You won the US Open. Before they just knew I played tennis. And now I get like ten questions a day -- are you going pro, or are you going to college?"
Day was among 14 girls seeds who advanced to Tuesday's second round, with only No. 14 seed Alana Smith and No. 4 seed Maria Jose Portillo Ramirez of Mexico eliminated. Smith lost to 14-year-old wild card Katie Volynets 7-5, 6-1, and Portillo Ramirez retired at 1-6, 6-4 to Chloe Hamlin. Portillo Ramirez also withdrew from doubles due to her injury.
No. 2 seed Natasha Subhash defeated Madeline Meredith 6-4, 7-6(3), while No. 3 seed Morgan Coppoc, a Tulsa resident, needed nearly three hours to advance over 14-year-old wild card Victoria Hu.
The boys lost only one seed in first round action, which extended past 8:30 p.m., with the Case Tennis Center lights getting a workout.
No. 14 seed Caleb Chakravarthi was beaten by Kalamazoo 16s champion Lukas Greif, a wild card, 7-5, 6-2.
Top seed Liam Caruana of Italy defeated Ronan Jachuck 7-5, 6-2 and No. 2 seed Trent Bryde ousted wild card Christian Alshon 6-4, 7-5. Mexico's Alan Rubio Fierros, the No. 3 seed, defeated wild card Jarod Hing 6-3, 6-4 and No. 4 seed Brian Cernoch eliminated qualifier Jayman Jhattu 6-3, 6-1.
Second round action begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday with eight boys matches and four girls matches.
Doubles first round action is also scheduled for Tuesday, with Trent Bryde and Brian Cernoch the top-seeded boys team, and Kayla Day and Sofia Sewing the No. 1 seeds in the girls doubles.
One dangerous unseeded team in the boys doubles draw is Danny Thomas and Lukas Grief. Thomas, the No. 11 seed in singles, came back for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 win over wild card Adam Neff in one of the last matches to finish Monday, with his two recent Futures doubles titles giving him confidence.
"I just figured if I'm going to lose it, why not lose it the way I want to play," said Thomas, who was serving down a set and 3-4, 15-40 before recovering. "I just wanted to go out swinging."
Thomas said last month's trip to Israel and the two titles with former Ohio State Buckeye Connor Smith was "a lot of fun."
"It was a great experience, I loved it out there," said Thomas, who will be 17 next month. "The atmosphere, being out there knowing I'm playing with guys 400, 500 in the world. It was really exciting."
Thomas, who also won his first Futures doubles title earlier this year with Smith, admitted he is now in demand as a doubles partner, and he and Greif have played together before. "We used to play a lot together in the 12s," Thomas said.
While junior matches were going on all around them on Monday morning, the top men's college players were deciding the Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships.
Wake Forest sophomore Petros Chrysochos defeated Ohio State junior Hugo Di Feo 6-4, 6-0, getting on a roll late in the opening set and keeping the momentum to deliver the first major collegiate singles title in the program's history. The No. 6 seed lost only one set in his six victories and took down top seed Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
In the doubles final, No. 2 seeds Filip Begevi and Florian Lakat of Cal defeated unseeded Jack Findel-Hawkins and Lasse Muscheites of North Florida 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Both teams earned places in the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships next month.
USC freshman Brandon Holt won the consolation title for those losing in the first round, beating Ronnie Schneider of North Carolina 6-3, 6-4. Holt joins the eight singles quarterfinalists with automatic bids into the Indoor Championship draw.
For more on today's finals, see the ITA recap.