Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, October 13, 2017

Osuigwe and Subhash Reach Grade B1 Pan American Closed Final; Fenty and Nava in Boys Championship Match

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Unseeded Emilio Nava lost in the second round of the ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi last week, but the 15-year-old has found his form this week, winning five consecutive matches in straight sets at the Grade B1 Pan American Closed to reach Saturday's final.

Nava defeated Corpus Christi champion Jaycer Lyeons 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's semifinal, ending Lyeons' winning streak at 10, to set up his first meeting with top seed Andrew Fenty, who advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 4-0, ret. win over No. 3 seed Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic.

Nava, competing in his first ITF Junior Circuit tournament at the Grade 1 level, was down 3-1 in the second set before winning the final five games on an unseasonably warm day at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

"When I got broken, I was like, ok, it's fine, just keep fighting, you'll get your chance," Nava said. "And that's what happened. I just stayed strong, stayed focused and I broke him back in the very next game. When I held at 2-3, I saw that he got a little down on himself, and I just built off that, and I finished off the match strong."

Nava knows his ability to stay upbeat when facing adversity can demoralize his opponents.

"When they see that you're super positive and you're right there fighting, and you're never giving up, you can see them getting negative and then you just build on that," said the Woodland Hills California resident. "You can see them getting down and it feels really good, I love it."

Nava admits that after Corpus Christi, he didn't expect this kind of run.

"I wasn't really sure where my game was," Nava said. "My coach just told me to just make a lot of balls, stay in there with them. But I'm pretty surprised.  I'm playing pretty well though, so tomorrow will be a big day."

For the second straight day, Fenty found himself down a set and a break, but his mantra of just needing to hit more balls again brought him back.

"I have a lot of confidence in my game that I can turn things around," said the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "I'm confident I'm in way better shape than my opponents. I knew for a fact, the longer the match was, the better for me. I told myself all you need is more hitting, more time, and the third set, it was five minutes."

Fenty began his comeback with Hardt serving at 3-2 in the second. Hardt saved one break point with a good first serve, but Fenty hit a tricky forehand volley winner on the second to get the break back. After a routine hold for 4-3, Fenty broke again, then saved a beak point serving for the set with a wide-kicking ace.  On his first set point, Fenty executed another difficult volley, this time on the backhand side, to take the set and the momentum.

He broke Hardt at love, as the 17-year-old Dominican's forehand began to break down, with his errors ending most of the longer rallies.  Another break and hold made it 4-0, and when Hardt went down 15-40 serving at 0-4, he walked to the net while announcing to the umpire that he was injured.

"He just left," said Fenty. "He wasn't going to win, but it does bother me a little bit. My coach tells me not to worry about it, but I don't think that's very good sportsmanship."

Fenty is also playing in his first Grade 1 final, but he has much more experience at the higher levels of the ITF Junior Circuit than Nava.

"I'm just going to play my game," Fenty said. "Maybe not get off to a slow start, but if I do, I'm prepared for everything. It's a final. You better enjoy being in a final."

A third player will be making a Grade 1 final debut with No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash earning her first trip with a 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 14 seed Marlee Zein.  Subhash had back-to-back three-setters in the third round and quarterfinals, but she found her form against Abigail Forbes in the second and third sets on Thursday, winning 12 of the match's last 13 games.

"I think I've been playing overall pretty good," said the 16-year-old from Washington D.C. "Today I probably played my best, and I'm playing consistently better each match."

Subhash won the first nine games against Zein, who couldn't find any rhythm, with unforced errors preventing her from getting any momentum. Zein had come from a set down in her quarterfinal win over Niluka Madurawe, but Subhash gave her nothing to work with Friday.

"I kept the ball in the court," Subhash said. "I started strong and I was consistent for the entire match. She didn't really play her best."

Subhash will take on top seed Whitney Osuigwe in the final, after Osuigwe defeated No. 10 seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2.

Osuigwe had beaten Bilokin 6-1, 6-4 last month in the first round of the US Open Junior Championships, so she was prepared for this contest between IMG Academy students.

"I feel like I knew her game better, I knew what she was going to do," the 15-year-old Floridian said. "Second set at the Open, I struggled a little bit because I lost my focus, but here, I kept my focus the entire time."

Osuigwe broke to open the first set and got a second break to give her the chance to serve it out. She had to save three break points in that eighth game, but served well when she needed to and converted her second set point.

Bilokin surrendered a break at 2-2 in the second set, and Osuigwe had all the margin she needed, closing out the match by taking the last four games.

Osuigwe and Subhash haven't played on the ITF Junior Circuit, with their most recent meeting in the semifinals of the 2015 USTA National 16s Championships in San Diego, with Osuigwe winning in three sets.

"She played the Junior Fed Cup qualifier, so we got to spend some time together there, as a team," Osuigwe said. "I haven't played her in a while. I don't know much about her; I know she has a good serve and is an aggressive baseliner."

"She hits the ball big," Subhash said when asked what she knew about Osuigwe's game. "She serves big, her ground strokes are big, so I think I just have to be consistent and keep the ball deep, don't let her attack it."

The doubles finals are scheduled for Saturday after the singles final, with Fenty the only singles finalist appearing in both.  He and partner William Woodall, the No. 2 seeds, received a walkover into the final. They will play top seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda, who beat No. 3 seeds Drew Baird and Brian Shi 7-6(5), 1-6, 10-8. 

The girls doubles final will feature No. 4 seeds Nicole Mossmer and Peyton Stearns and No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  Mossmer and Stearns defeated No. 8 seeds Ariana Arseneault and Alexandra Vagramov of Canada 6-0, 6-2, while Baptiste and Dadaciu took out No. 1 seeds Subhash and Lea Ma 7-5, 7-6(4).  Subhash was going for her third straight doubles final in Tulsa, having won the title in 2015 and finishing as runner-up last year, both times with Ann Li as her partner.