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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Greif Defeats Top Seed Caruana as Rain Forces Play Indoors at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Tulsa, OK--

All third round singles matches were played indoors on Wednesday

Rain that began around the starting time of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed's third round resulted in a three-hour delay before matches were moved to the six indoor courts at the Michael Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa.  All 16 matches were completed inside, with just a few girls matches starting and barely seeing games completed outside before rain forced them inside to wait their turn for courts.


Lukas Greif provided the story of the day, with the reigning Kalamazoo 16s champion taking down top seed Liam Caruana of Italy 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in a tense and well-played contest.

Wild card Greif, playing in just his fifth ITF junior tournament, was pleased with his performance.

"I'm playing really well," said the 16-year-old from Evansville, Indiana. "Today was my best match of the tournament so far. I played really solid and really good on key points."

Greif fell behind 4-0 and 5-1 in the first set tiebreaker, but won six straight points after the change of ends, finishing with a forehand volley winner to give himself a set point, and a crosscourt forehand winner to convert it.

Caruana, an 18-year-old who was playing at the University of Texas at this time last year, destroyed his racquet after dropping that first set, and his anger carried over into the first game of the second set, immediately dropping serve. But he composed himself in the lengthy second game, breaking Greif back, and repeated that after falling behind a break at 4-3.

"He for sure raised his level on his return games," Greif said. "He picked up his level to break back and I kind of let down a little bit, but he played well to get back on serve."

Caruana survived a tough service game at 4-all, saving four break points, but that was the last drama until the tiebreaker.  Up 3-0, Greif lost three straight points but got an unforced error to take a 4-3 lead, then won both points on Caruana's serve to earn three match points. After failing to convert the first with a netted forehand, Greif had another chance on his serve and this time it was Caruana's forehand that found the net.

Greif had never played Caruana before, but said he had seen Caruana play at the International Spring Championships in Carson, which Caruana won.

"I knew a little bit about him," said Greif. "I feel like we play similar games. We're both not the biggest, and we both are solid off both sides, return pretty well. So yeah, I felt like it was a similar matchup, and I just played well on the important points."

Next up for Greif will be Paul Barretto, who took out No. 5 seed Kyrylo Tsygura 6-4, 6-3.  In the other quarterfinal in the top half, No. 4 seed Brian Cernoch will play No. 7 seed Juan Hernandez Serrano of Mexico. Hernandez Serrano defeated No. 10 seed Andrew Fenty 6-3, 6-3, while Cernoch ousted qualifier Boris Kozlov 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Two boys in the bottom half of the draw advanced by claiming third set tiebreakers.  No. 6 seed Nicolas Mejia defeated doubles partner Sebastian Korda, the No. 9 seed, 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-6(4) and will play No. 3 seed Alan Rubio Fierros of Mexico, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 13 seed Brian Shi.

No. 11 seed Danny Thomas got by unseeded Tristan McCormick 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) and will face unseeded Alex Brown, who defeated Tristan Boyer, also unseeded 7-5, 6-1.

Only two unseeded players remain in the girls draw: Lea Ma and Ann Li, who will play each other in Thursday's quarterfinals.

Ma took out Whitney Osuigwe 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in a tense encounter featuring many lengthy points, while Li overcame No. 12 seed Hailey Baptiste 7-6(8), 6-0, with the first set featuring every kind of offense and defense imaginable on a tennis court.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will feature top seed Kayla Day against No. 10 seed Abigail Desiatnikov. Day eliminated 14-year-old Katie Volynets 6-1, 6-2, while Desiatnikov outlasted No. 7 seed Sofia Sewing 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Day and Desiatnikov played last year in a memorable semifinal match here in Tulsa, with Day saving two match points in a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory, but even with Day now the No. 1 junior in the world, Desiatnikov is looking forward to the rematch.

"I think I have even less pressure this year," said Desiatnikov. "She has this title to defend. I'm just going to go out there and play like I've been training. I'm not going to prepare any different than I have been preparing for any other matches. I'm just going to go out there and give it my all and try my best."

Desiatnikov, who is now training with Jim Madrigal in Nashville, said she can see the improvements in Day's game in the past year.

"She's definitely gotten a lot better," the 15-year-old said. "She's fitter, and overall, just a way better player. But I've also progressed my game. I'm doing a lot harder training, harder fitness. At the end of the (training) day my legs are just so tired and that's how you need to feel."

No. 5 seed Ellie Douglas ended the winning streak of last week's Grade 4 Wichita Falls champion Salma Ewing 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 and will play No. 13 seed Elysia Bolton, who edged friend Kolie Allen, a qualifier, 3-6, 7-6(7).

Rounding out the girls quarterfinals are No. 11 seed Dalayna Hewitt and No. 2 seed Natasha Subhash.  Hewitt got her first straight-sets win of the week, defeating unseeded Sabina Dadaciu 6-2, 6-3, while Subhash, for the second match in a row, needed three sets to advance, beating No. 16 seed Elli Mandlik 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 to close out singles play Wednesday night.

The second round of doubles was completed, with matches played both indoors and outdoors, and with temperatures in the mid-50s and a cold breeze, playing indoors was much more comfortable.  The top seeds in both the girls and boys draws advanced to Thursday's quarterfinals, with Day and Sewing beating Sydney Jones and Janice Shin 6-2, 6-4 and Trent Bryde and Cernoch defeating Joshua Bode and Tomas Kopczynski 6-4, 6-4.

Quarterfinal matches begin Thursday at 10 a.m. CDT, with temperatures expected to reach only the mid 60s, and a chance of rain is in the forecast as well.

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