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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Henry Craig and Salma Ewing Claim Open Singles Titles at Ojai; Jankowski Captures Girls 18s Championship; Teen Teams Win Open Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA--

The final day of the 117th edition of The Ojai saw 22 championship matches played on the courts of Libbey Park on yet another cloudless day in the Valley. The Men's and Women's Open finals are the usual Sunday focus, according to the many Ojai regulars, but this year the junior finals were moved from Saturday to Sunday, adding to the packed schedule.

Yet with all those finals to choose from, the match generating the most buzz was the Men's Open final, where unseeded Henry Craig came back to defeat top seed Philip Bester 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2).

Although Craig was unseeded, that was due to his late entry into the tournament. The 22-year-old University of Denver graduate was placed into the main draw when USC volunteer assistant Deiton Baughman withdrew just prior to the start of the tournament.

"I missed the deadline and I emailed the director a ton of times to try to get in," said the San Diego area resident, who graduated last December. "She said, I can't get you in main draw, so I said just put me in the qualifying draw. I'll qualify if I have to. The day before qualifying she emails me, saying I'm in the main draw. I was so mad I missed the deadline, but now I'm here and winning it, so it's pretty exciting."

The first two sets were decided by just one break of serve.

"My serve was off for one game in the first set and he served so well, that was enough," Craig said. "In the second set, he had one slightly loose service game and that set was over. The third set was obviously a battle."

Craig got the precious break in the third set with Bester serving at 3-3, converting his third break point with a forehand winner, and held for a 5-3 lead. But after Bester held for 5-4, Craig was broken at love and the 28-year-old Canadian held at love, reeling off 11 points in a row.

"I was definitely tight at 5-4, to hold it out," Craig said. "But he was returning really deep, he didn't miss a ball. I went for slightly too much and got a little nervous."

Craig lost his 12th straight point serving to force a tiebreaker, but at 0-15, he won what he believes was the point that altered the course of the match.

"He came to the net and we played that boom, boom, boom, volley, volley, volley and I passed him with a backhand," Craig said. "That was the one point that changed the momentum of the match. It was a huge one."

Craig held with a forehand winner, took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker, then deflated Bester for good with a backhand return winner for a 6-2 lead. Bester, who had served his way out of many a tight spot in the third set, then double faulted to give Craig the win.

"I was just blacking out in the tiebreaker," said Craig, who had played The Ojai just once previously, in the CIF division. "Just see ball, hit ball. I hit the good return at 2-5 and he kind of mentally checked out. Four match points, that's tough to come back from."

Craig, who won a men's Open tournament the previous week, said his check for $5300 was the most he'd earned in his brief career, but he valued the title not primarily for the money, or for playing well in front of a large and appreciative crowd. Rather it was the beating an opponent the calibre of Bester that was most satisfying.

"He's such a great player," Craig said. "He's my biggest win yet, in my career. He just got to the final of the (Little Rock Futures) tournament I lost first round in...he's a great player. That's why I was more nervous than anything. Not the money, not the crowd--I love the crowd--but just the fact that he was such a distinguished player."

Sixteen-year-old Salma Ewing won the Women's Open singles title, beating top seed Megan McCray 7-6(4), 6-0.

Ewing was unable to serve out the first set at 6-5, but she was the steadier of the two in the tiebreaker, and she carried that form throughout the second set, as the 21-year-old McCray, who played for Oklahoma State for one year, saw her unforced error count grow.

"I felt like I stayed steady and she made more errors," said Ewing, who trains with the USTA in Carson and with Mitch Bridge and Peter Smith at the Southern California Tennis Academy in Long Beach. "In the first set she was staying in the rallies, hitting more winners. The first set was very physical, so I really wanted to make it two sets."

Ewing's first trip to Ojai was as a tennis novice six years ago.

"I had started playing tennis for a little bit, maybe a year or two,"  said Ewing, who ran track and cross country before focusing on tennis. "We wanted to come to the tennis and we watched Cal play, Nicole Gibbs and Sachia Vickery. But last year was the first year I played Ojai and I beat Olga Puchkova, the 2 seed, then I lost in the second round. This means a lot to me, to win it just means the world to me."

Ewing said she is going to try to save the $2000 check she received for winning the Open, but she does have travel to fund in the next few weeks.

"I'm going to play Naples, the $25K this weekend, there are two of them," Ewing said. "I'm probably going to go to Europe for the French Open Juniors."

Although raised on the California hard courts, Ewing is comfortable on clay.

"I love clay, I feel I play better on clay actually," Ewing said. "I have some of my best results on clay."

While Ewing will make her debut on the Ojai's famous photo boards next year, girls 18s champion Cali Jankowski is already able to trace her progress there, having reached the girls 14s final back in 2014.

Jankowski, the top seed, defeated No. 2 seed Charlotte Chavatipon 6-1, 6-4, claiming her fifth straight-set victory of the week.

"I think we both came out a little nervous and then we both got our groove," said Jankowski, who has verbally committed to Arizona State for 2018. "Obviously the second set was a little tighter. She started serving better, making more shots and she put me on the ropes a little bit to get it back on serve, so yeah, it was really good."

Jankowski played the 18s in 2016, and now that she has captured a junior title, is ready to move up to the Open.

"I'm a big believer in playing tournaments as a one seed, when everyone is going to be kind of gunning for you," said the Carlsbad resident. "Seeing if you can handle the pressure, when people play outrageous because they have nothing to lose. So now that I feel I've mastered that, yeah, definitely next year I'll go up to the Women's Open."

In contrast to the singles tournaments, the Open doubles titles went to the No. 1 seeds, high school seniors all, in match tiebreakers.

Georgia recruit Annette Goulak and North Carolina State recruit Dominique Schaefer defeated unseeded Gail Brodsky and Paiton Wagner 3-6, 6-3, 10-4 for the Women's Open doubles title.

UCLA recruit Keegan Smith and Stanford recruit Timothy Sah followed a similar pattern, taking out unseeded Haythem Abid and Rylan Rizza 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4.

Smith and Sah could not manage to break the two former Ojai Open doubles champions, but once they won the second set tiebreaker, the teens from San Diego raised their level, with Abid and Rizza unable to follow suit.

The complete finals results from all divisions are below.  Links to full draws are available at the tournament website.

Pac-12 Men’s Team Championship: No. 3 USC def. No. 1 UCLA, 4-3

Pac-12 Women’s Team Championship: No. 1 Stanford def. No. 2 California, 4-1

CIF Boys Singles: Jake Sands (Palisades HS) d. Stefan Dostanic (Woodbridge HS), 4-6, 7-5, 6-0

CIF Boys Doubles: Connor Lee/Bryce Pereira (San Marino HS) d. Jed Kronenberg/Adam Sraberg (Harvard-Westlake HS), 6-4, 6-1

Boys’ 14 Singles: Ryan Morgan (Pasadena, CA) d. Takeyasu Tekiguchi (Ojai, CA), 6-4, 7-6(4)

Girls’ 14 Singles: Leyden Games (Newport Beach, CA) d. Kenadee Semenik (Las Vegas, NV), 6-0, 6-0

Boys’ 16 Singles: Sahm Irvine (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) d. Fernando Fonseca (Ojai, CA), 6-3, 6-0

Girls’ 16 Singles: Elle Christensen (Los Angeles) d. Eryn Cayetano (Corona, CA), 6-3, 2-6, 6-4

Girls’ 18 Singles: Cali Jankowski (Carlsbad, CA) d. Charlotte Chavatipon (Fullerton, CA), 6-1, 6-4

Girls’ 18 Doubles: Amanda Chan (Pasadena, CA)/Lauren Ko (Temple City, CA) d. Cade Sorensen (Solvang, CA)/Mikala Triplett (Goleta, CA), 6-2, 6-1

Men’s Open Singles: Henry Craig (Murrieta, CA) d. Philip Bester (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2)

Men’s Open Doubles: Timothy Sah/Keegan Smith (San Diego) d. Haythem Abid (Los Angeles)/Rylan Rizza (Redondo Beach, CA), 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4

Women’s Open Singles: Salma Ewing (Long Beach, CA) d. Megan McCray (Oceanside, CA), 7-6(4), 6-0

Women’s Open Doubles: Annette Goulak (Oak Park, CA)/Dominique Schaefer (Newbury Park, CA) d. Gail Brodsky (Woodinville, WA)/Paiton Wagner (Cashmere, WA) d. 3-6, 6-3, 10-4

Men’s Division III West Singles: Nikolai Parodi (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Daniel Morkovine (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps), 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

Men’s Division III West Doubles: Nikolai Parodi/Daniel Morkovine (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps) d. Joey Dulle/Jake Ly (Redlands), 6-3, 6-1

Men’s Independent College Singles: Joshua Sheehy (Abilene Christian) d. Jonathan Sheehy (Abilene Christian), 7-5, 6-1

Men’s Independent College Doubles: Henry Adams/Nico Agritelley (Abilene Christian) d. Joshua Sheehy/Jonathan Sheehy (Abilene Christian), 4-6, 7-6 (6), 13-11

Women’s Independent College Singles: Lucile Pothier (Abilene Christian) d. Whitney Williams (Abilene Christian), 6-1, 6-2

Women’s Independent College Doubles: Whitney Williams/Lucile Pothier (Abilene Christian) d. Sarah Adams/Erin Walker (Abilene Christian), 6-2, 6-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: Irvine Valley College d. American River College, 5-1

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Dual Team State Championship: Orange Coast College d. De Anza College, 5-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Singles: Javi Callejo Velasco (Irvine Valley) d. Vincent Reynaud (Cypress), 6-3, 6-4

Men’s California Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Javi Callejo Velasco/Lucas Lesoeur (Irvine Valley) d. Nikita Katsnelson/Sasha Krasnov (Cerritos), 6-2, 6-4

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Singles: Danielle Garrido (San Diego Mesa) d. Clarissa Colling (Orange Coast), 7-5, 6-1

Women’s California Community College Athletic Association Doubles: Mayra Jovic/Abby Mullins (Santa Monica) d. Veronika Galstyan/Tsukimi Ono (Glendale), 6-4, 6-3


David said...

It was great to see you at Ojai. This tournament is a gem!