Sponsored by IMG Academy

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ojai Amazes; US Junior Teams All Post Shutouts in ITF North and Central American Team Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Ojai, CA

I had heard so many good things about Ojai, the Southern California festival of tennis now in its 117th year, that I was dubious it could live it to my expectations.  It managed to exceed them, with perfect weather, and a community obviously dedicated to putting on the best tennis show possible for juniors, collegians, pros and fans.

I started at the Ojai Valley Inn, where the opening matches of the Men's Open were taking place. I saw several of the Pac-12 men's coaches there, looking at possible recruits or those who will be joining them in 2017.  I watched Keegan Smith, who will start at UCLA in the fall, play Errol Smith, a Loyola Marymount junior, with Smith earning a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

Smith, who reached the semifinals of the Bakersfield Futures last month as a qualifier, said he decided to do the opposite of what many players do once they make their college commitment.

"Me and my dad talked about that a lot," said Smith, the nephew of USC head coach Peter Smith. "A lot of seniors commit and then their senior year they're not really training. My dad said, let's do the opposite. Let's home school, and really just go for it. I want to play high in the lineup once I get there."

Smith, who works with the USTA in Carson, with Angel Lopez and with Christian Groh, is playing the Open tournament for the first time, having played the previous two years in the CIF doubles for high school boys.  Although the prize money, $5300 of which goes to the men's singles winner, is a consideration, Smith said that's not the main reason for playing.

"It's nice, but I'm out here because I love tennis," Smith said. "It's fun and I like competing. Obviously the money's nice, but there's a lot of good players here and I can get some good matches. If at the end, you get some money, that's an added bonus."

Smith's 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Bradley Klahn in Bakersfield was the most memorable match in his recent surge.

"I was injured a little bit with my knee, and when I got back, I upped my training," Smith said. "I played well in those tournaments. [Against Klahn], I was seeing it big, I was serving well. With my game, I've just got to get my first serves in and take chances on the returns. That's my game style."

Smith, seeded fourth, won his second round match later in the day, and will play in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Private court in Ojai
My next stop was Thacher School, where some of the boys CIF and the junior singles were being played. Although I didn't see him, Wayne Gretzky was reportedly there watching his daughter Emma in the 14s division. She lost in the first round.  After the trip to Thacher School, I had an opportunity to see one of the private courts Ojai is famous for, with girls 18s top seed Cali Jankowski getting a 6-0, 6-0 win at one of the most scenic tennis courts I've ever seen.  Then it was on to the Weil Academy and the Ojai Athletic Club, where other junior matches and the Pac-12 women's team event, the first conference team event for women in Pac-12 history, were being contested.

Then it was on to the famous Libbey Park, with the hundreds of photos of winners from years past, the wall of fame, with names of those who have played Ojai and gone on to win slams, with the complimentary hot tea in china cups served by volunteers, closing with the annual Thursday barbecue, which this year included a chat with honorary guest Rod Laver.

Oh, and there was tennis going on all day too, with big crowds watching Stanford defeat Oregon 4-2 and USC blank Utah 4-0 to reach the men's semifinals Friday, where they will play UCLA and Cal, respectively, with the Bruins and Bears getting byes into the semifinals.

The women's semifinals will feature USC, a 4-3 winner over Arizona State, against Cal, who beat Washington 5-0, and Stanford, a 4-0 winner over Utah, against Oregon, who upset UCLA 4-3.

For links to all the draws, see the tournament website.

At the ITF North and Central American qualifying for Junior Fed Cup, Junior Davis Cup and the World Junior Tennis competition in Mexico, the USA teams went 4-0, with all the wins shutouts.

The results are below:


USA def. Guatemala 3-0


Whitney Osuigwe def. Rut Galindo (GUA) 6-1, 6-1

Caty McNally def. Gabriela Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-0


McNally/Subhash def. Galindo/Rivera (GUA) 6-2, 6-2


USA def. Mexico 3-0


Govind Nanda def. Sergio Molina (MEX) 6-2, 6-2

William Grant def. Rafael de Alba (MEX) 6-3, 6-4


Boyer/Nanda def. Corro/Molina (MEX) 6-1, 7-5


USA def. Puerto Rico 3-0


Cori Gauff def. Sara Snyder (PUR) 6-0, 6-1

Charlotte Owensby def. Yadalis Rodriguez (PUR) 6-0, 6-1


Gauff/Owensby def. Gonzalez/Rodriguez (PUR) 6-2, 6-1

WJT – BOYS 14s

USA def. Costa Rica 3-0


Martin Damm def. Christian Winstead 6-0,6-0

Toby Kodat def. Alberto Sierra 6-1,6-0


Damm/Kodat def. Lozano/Sierra 6-1,6-0


Tom Martin said...

Welcome to Ojai, Colette! It's quite a place; make sure you have time to explore the town and the northern hills. I was sorry to see the PAC-12 women follow the men's example by changing from an individual competition to a team format but I guess it was beneficial to the players. Have you heard whether attendance is down due to the decision? There are so many events it should make little difference.