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Thursday, October 12, 2017

ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Semifinals Feature Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

To most observers, top seed Andrew Fenty's chances of advancing to the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed appeared bleak after he dropped the first set to No. 10 seed Govind Nanda 6-0 and was broken to go down 2-1 in the second set.  Fenty, however, had a different view of his situation.

"I've played a lot of matches where I've had a horrific first set," said Fenty, who went on to post a 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory on a warm and sunny day at the Michael Case Tennis Center. "I knew it was going to be a different second. You just have to find yourself and just play. I just needed to play more points. The more you play, you figure it out."

After Fenty took the second set, he and Nanda had completed two sets in 70 minutes, but in the third set, the pace of play slowed considerably, as the points got longer and deuce games were commonplace.

"In the first set, I felt like he was playing really fast," said the 17-year-old from Washington DC. "I thought it was going to be long points, and he came out playing super fast, rushing the net and stuff. It caught me off guard."

Fenty went up 3-1 in the third set, but Nanda came back, winning the next three games. Fenty faced a break point serving at 3-4, but he saved it with a dipping crosscourt forehand pass that Nanda could only watch angle away from him.

"That was a good one, it was whipped, and cut," said Fenty, who had to be reminded of the importance of that particular shot. "But if you didn't tell me that, I wouldn't have thought of it. But that was actually a huge point, he would have been up 5-3. "

Nanda was broken in the next game, with Fenty hitting a backhand winner from down on one knee to go up 15-40, then chipping and charging to force an error from Nanda to get the break.  The final game was as tense as most of the others in the third set, with Fenty netting a backhand at 40-30.  But a good drop shot gave him a second match point, and he converted with a forehand deep in the corner forcing an error from Nanda.

"I was playing the more aggressive tennis," said Fenty, who lost to Nanda in a Grade 3 final last year. "I always felt, in the third set, that I was dictating points. That's where he might have made the mistake."

In Friday's semifinals, Fenty will face No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic, who defeated No. 5 seed Axel Nefve 7-6(6), 6-2.

The other boys semifinals will feature Jaycer Lyeons and Emilio Nava.  Lyeons came back to beat Noah Schachter 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 and Nava ended the run of 14-year-old Aidan Mayo 6-3, 6-1. Lyeons, whose winning streak is up to 10 after last week's title at the Grade 4 in Corpus Christi, defeated Nava last year in the quarterfinals of the Grade 5 in Austin.

Girls top seed Whitney Osuigwe faced her toughest test against No. 9 seed Katie Volynets, but came through with a 6-1, 6-4 victory. Osuigwe, who beat Volynets in three sets at the Easter Bowl and in two tight sets at the Nationals in San Diego this year, changed her strategy in Thursday's match.

"I wasn't as defensive as I usually am with her, given that she's a counterpuncher," Osuigwe said. "I just tried to step in for my shots. I knew I was going to spray some, but in the end it paid off."

After going down a break midway through the second set, Volynets got it back to pull even at 4, only to lose her next service game. Osuigwe was able to close out the match in the next game, with Volynets making several costly errors in those final two games.

Osuigwe's opponent in the semifinals is No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine.  Bilokin, down 4-1 in the first set, beat 14-year-old Alexandra Yepifanova 7-6(4), 6-2, with that first set taking over an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

"She trains at IMG as well," said Osuigwe, who beat Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships last month. "We've practiced together a few times, but I haven't been there the same time as she has, so not recently. But she's a fighter."

Osuigwe is headed to Osaka Japan for next week's Grade A and will play the ITF Junior Masters in China the following week, which explains why she is not playing doubles this week in Tulsa. 

"I have two more tournaments ahead of me, so I just wanted to rest," said the 15-year-old French Open girls champion, who has her sights set on the year-end No. 1 ranking.

The two semifinalists from the bottom half had to fight back from a set down to advance.  No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash defeated unseeded Abigail Forbes 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 and will face No. 14 seed Marlee Zein, who beat No. 12 seed Niluka Madurawe 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Subhash has also reached the doubles semifinals, with partner Lea Ma. The top seeds defeated No. 5 seeds Chloe Beck and Bilokin 7-6(3), 6-3 and will face No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu. Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 7 seeds Sanyukta Gawande and Tara Malik 6-2, 6-2. 

The other girls doubles semifinal has No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns against No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated USTA National 16s doubles champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redelijk 4-6, 7-5, 10-4 and Arseneault and Vagramov beat No. 2 seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Elli Mandlik 7-5, 4-6, 11-9.

One finalist is already known in the boys doubles, with Fenty and William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, getting a walkover into the championship match.  No. 5 seeds Hardt and Brandon Perez of Venezuela beat No. 4 seeds Keenan Mayo and Axel Nefve 6-7(6), 6-3, 10-8, but Perez withdrew after the match, citing injury.  Fenty and Woodall defeated No. 7 seeds Nathan Han and Pierce Rollins 3-6, 6-2, 10-7 in the quarterfinals.

The other doubles semifinal will feature top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Nanda, who beat unseeded Alex Lee and Marcus McDaniel 6-3, 5-7, 10-6, and No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi, who defeated No. 6 seeds Will Grant and Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-1.