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Monday, October 9, 2017

Blumberg Wins ITA All-American Title; Mayo Upsets Hilderbrand in Opening Round of Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

The ITA St. Francis Health Systems All-American Championships concluded on Monday with North Carolina's Will Blumberg winning the singles title and the Florida team of Johannes Ingildsen and Alfredo Perez claiming the doubles championship.

Blumberg, the No. 4 seed, defeated UCLA senior Martin Redlicki, a 9-16 seed, 6-4, 6-4, on an unseasonably warm morning at the Michael Case Tennis Center.  The sophomore from Connecticut earned the only two breaks of the match while facing only one break point, on a deuce point at 3-2, and saving that.  Blumberg credited his serving as the biggest reason he was able to claim his first collegiate major in his second collegiate final.

"I think I served really smartly," said the 19-year-old 2017 NCAA singles finalist. "Martin's a tricky player, really tricky. He has a really good serve, a really good forehand, backhand's solid. He can slice, he can come in. I actually felt I was serving him well wide, which allowed me to get a lot of free points on my serve. That kind of relaxed me, I got in a service groove and it allowed me to be a little bit more free on his service games, so my ability to let loose and try some things, move forward. I thought I stuck to my game plan, thanks to Tripp (Phillips, associate head coach) and I've been mentally solid all week. My body has felt great, and I'm happy about that."

Blumberg's success in his first two semesters of playing college tennis naturally leads to questions as to how long he is going to stay in college.  He is talking to Cameron Norrie, who has made a huge leap in the ATP rankings since leaving TCU in May, after his junior year, to get some idea of what's required for that kind of success.

"I've become pretty good friends with Cam Norrie, who has been tearing it up," said Blumberg, who is 616 in the ATP rankings now.  "I ask him a lot of questions, what things to look for, and one of the things is to be fully mentally ready. I don't think I'm currently at that point. I don't think a bell is going to tell me when that is, you know what I mean, but I know there are a lot of things I have to work through, on the court and off the court to ensure success in professional tennis."

A couple of hours after capturing the singles championship, Blumberg took the court for the doubles final, but he and partner Robert Kelly were not able to make it two North Carolina titles in the same day, with Ingildsen and Perez earning a 7-6(6), 3-6, 10-7.  The fourth-seeded Gators led 4-1 in the opening set, only to see the No. 3 seeds take four straight games and serve for the set. Florida got the break and took a tense tiebreaker, before the Tar Heels fought back for the second set.  Florida led throughout the deciding match tiebreaker, going up 8-4 and 9-6 before closing out the title.

While the ITA All-American tournament was finishing up, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed was just getting started, with 64 first round singles matches on the schedule.  The boys began the day's action, and top seed Andrew Fenty had no difficulty getting past qualifier Alex Bancila 6-1, 6-2.  Will Grant, the No. 6 seed, had his hands full with Tyler Zink, his good friend and frequent doubles partner, eventually coming away with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory.  It was a particularly bad draw for both, and not just because of their friendship; Zink was the highest-ranked player in the draw who was not seeded.

Two 14-year-olds pulled off upsets on Monday, with wild card Alex Bernard beating No. 7 seed Boris Kozlov 6-4, 6-4 and Aidan Mayo defeating No. 2 seed Trey Hilderbrand 6-4, 6-3.

Bernard, who has only been playing ITF Junior Circuit events since June, had reached the quarterfinals of the two Texas warmup tournaments, a Grade 5 and Grade 4, which helped give him match play and confidence coming into his first Grade 1 main draw.

"I lost in the quarters in both, to some good players, but overall I felt I had won some good matches there and was getting confident and ready for this one," said the Naples Florida resident, who turned 14 last month.

Bernard hadn't played Kozlov before, but the left-hander came up with a strategy that proved successful.

"His backhand's really good, but I tried to serve there so I could attack his forehand a little bit," Bernard said. "It looked like he got a little bit tired and he started going for a lot, but overall it was a good match."

Bernard has seen improvement in his forehand and in moving in to finish at the net.  "My serve has been getting better, but it still needs some work."

Mayo has also been playing the ITF Junior Circuit for a short time, with a singles semifinal and doubles final at a Grade 5 this summer his best result.  Although Mayo gave up well over a foot in height to his opponent, he knew he had the advantage of Hilderbrand being less that 100 percent healthy.

"He was a little bit injured and I knew that coming in," Mayo said. "His serve was definitely a problem for him, but I think he was fine other than that. I had a good game plan and executed it well. I played well in the big points and served well when I had to."

Seeing his name in the draw one line from the bottom was not what Mayo was hoping for.

"It's tough to be positive about it, but you can look at it like a great experience," Mayo said. "I knew he's had great results this last year. and I was excited to get out there and play him. He's one of the best 17-year-olds in the nation and in the world, so I shouldn't really be getting through that match, but I knew it was possible."

Down 5-1 in the final set, Hilderbrand began to approach the net more often, but Mayo wasn't bothered by that strategy.

"I prefer people coming in, I feel like I have good passing shots and lobs and good anticipation," said Mayo, who was broken on his first attempt to serve out the match, but converted on his second opportunity. "I was kind of liking it when he came forward."

Jaycer Lyeons defeated No. 12 seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 6-3, 7-5 and Maximilian Wild took out No. 9 seed Keenan Mayo, Aidan's older brother, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe rolled past Imani Graham 6-1, 6-0, but No. 4 seed Hailey Baptiste lost, to 14-year-old wild card Alexandra Yepifanova, 6-2, 6-3.  It was a late night for the girls in the bottom half of the draw, however, with eight matches yet to go on and 12 matches in progress when rain suspended play at around 6 p.m. local time. Thunderstorms in the area continued during the evening, so matches were moved to the six indoor courts at the Case Tennis Center and were still underway at 10 p.m.

Doubles will begin on Tuesday, with Lea Ma and Natasha Subhash the top girls seeds and Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda the top boys seeds.