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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Hurricane Tyra Black, Brandon Nakashima Claim First ITF Grade 1 TItles Sunday at International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Carson, CA--

Thirteen was the lucky number for International Spring Championships winners Hurricane Tyra Black and Brandon Nakashima, with the two Americans with that seeding claiming their first ITF Grade 1 titles Sunday at the USTA Player Development West courts at the Stubhub Center.

Black earned her title the hard way, coming from a set down for the second straight day to defeat No. 5 seed Georgia Drummy of Ireland 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-1, while Nakashima needed just over an hour to blank No. 2 seed Tristan Boyer 6-0, 6-0.

Both Black and Drummy served for the first set, Black at 5-4 and Drummy at 6-5, but the first set point came with Black leading 6-5 in the tiebreaker.  Drummy, a 17-year-old left-hander, saved the set point with a tough forehand volley winner, and after Black double faulted, Drummy hit a good first serve to claim the hour-long set.

A key game in the second set came with Black serving down 0-1. It took six deuces and five game points before Black finally held, with Drummy missing her two chances to take a 2-0 lead in the set.

"That was a very important game," said Black, a 17-year-old from Florida. "It probably changed a lot for me and for her when we had so many points where we didn't close it out, so it probably put some stuff in our head."

Black had to save another break point serving at 2-3, hitting a forehand winner to get out of trouble, and coming up with a good second serve to hold for 3-3.  Black's serve was quite effective throughout the match, and her first serve percentage helped her control points from the beginning.

"It felt a lot better than yesterday," said Black, who beat top seed Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. "My string actually broke and I was using a different racquet, so I was a little nervous about my serve, but it felt pretty good. I was hitting a few aces, and hitting it a lot better."

At 4-all in the second, Drummy was up 40-15, but her forehand, which can be a huge point generator, let her down. Black won four straight points for the break, with Drummy netting a forehand on game point. Black went up 40-0 to earn three set points, but a double fault and a good return from Drummy made it 40-30 before Black managed to close out the set.

In the third set, Black ran out to a 4-0 lead before Drummy finally got on the board, and when Black overcame a double fault that brought the 4-1 game to deuce and won the next two points, she was able to relax. Drummy's errors, which were more prevalent as the match wore on, surfaced regularly in the final set and she was broken at love to end the match.

Black's slice, especially on the forehand side, kept Drummy from repeatedly hitting her big ground strokes for winners.

"Today I had to slice a little bit more because she likes to put the balls away," said Black. "So I didn't want to put it in her strike zone. I went for a few more slices, so she really couldn't get a rhythm. That's what I was trying to do and it worked."

"She slices a lot," said Drummy, who had never played Black before. "Most girls don't play too many slices, it's more a flatter ball, so a lot of the time it was tripping me up. I hit some good shots, and she'd slice again and jam it into to me."

Black was able to overcome several line calls she didn't like, with her recent work on her mental game paying off.

"The past two years I've kind of been in this little rut in my matches, and I realized it was my attitude," said Black, who trains with Lawrence Carpio at LAT Academy in Boynton Beach Florida. "Him and my dad have been helping me, telling me to stay focused in my matches and I didn't listen so well a year or two ago, but I see all these other players doing so well around me, who are my age, I realized it's the mental thing. I realized I had to stay focused in all my matches, and they helped me through it."

Black is unsure whether she will play the ITF Junior Circuit in Europe for the upcoming clay season or go to Thailand, where her father Sly Black is now coaching, to compete in the ITF Women's Pro Circuit events there late this month and in May.

Drummy is setting her sights on the red clay of Paris.

"I think I'm going to Belgium at the end of May, and hopefully my ranking now moves up, so I'm going to try for the French," said Drummy, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton Florida.  "It wasn't my best tennis today, but overall I'm happy with my performance in this tournament, I just wish I could have pulled through and played a better match."

Nakashima could hardly have hoped to play a better match, but he said his performance in the final was indicative of his level all week.

"I thought it would be a closer match, but I played really solid today," said Nakashima, who didn't lose more than four games in any of the 12 sets he won. "I could see he wasn't playing his best tennis like he was the whole tournament, but I just stayed focused. It was pretty similar to how I played the whole tournament, every match. Maybe today wasn't his best day, but I think I played similar to all the other matches, played well."

Nakashima, who is from San Diego, had difficulty finding someone to warm him up this morning, finally securing the services of Phillip Simmonds, a former top junior who reached 219 in the ATP rankings back in 2006.

"Last night I couldn't find anyone to warm up and I was just asking a lot of people, a couple of guys who live around here if they knew anybody," said the 16-year-old, who is coached by Christian Groh and Larry Stefanki. "They recommended Phillip and it worked out pretty good."

Boyer appeared a step slow during the final, which could have been the result of the eight consecutive three-set singles matches he played during the Easter Bowl and this week, plus a run to the doubles final in Carson.

"All credit is to Brandon, he's a very solid player," said Boyer, an Altadena California resident who turns 17 later this month. "He's playing very well. I don't know if playing 12 matches in the last 13 days affected that, maybe it did, maybe it didn't, I don't know. He had three less matches than I did at Easter Bowl, but it's too good from him, he played very, very solid tennis."

Boyer had a couple of game points in the last game of the first set and one in the long final game of the match, but Nakashima kept him from coming forward to finish points with his pace and depth.  Boyer saved two match points serving in the last game, but the match ended on a bizarre note, with Nakashima's defensive lob landing on the line right under the umpire's chair.  The line judge called the ball out, but the umpire overruled him, ordering the point be replayed. Boyer then had a conversation with the umpire that resulted in his getting a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, which ended the match. (Unfortunately the clip below ends with the umpire's overrule).

"I hit a pretty good shot and he shanked it and it landed probably three or four feet from the net on the sideline closest to the chair," said Boyer, who is coached by Zibu Ncube. "Clearly, I would have won the point, and the ref even admitted that. The sideline judge from the other side of the net called the ball out, and it was clearly in. If the ref didn't overrule, I probably would have. But it was clear I would have won the point. But I understand that saying things like that is inexcusable and I apologized to the ref, and will also, to her face."

Boyer now is looking forward to the clay season, with the Grade A Milan his next stop on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Nakashima is hoping his title raises his ITF junior ranking enough to consider competing in the junior slams this summer, but right now his mind is on another challenge, this one academic.

"Next Saturday I'm taking the ACT for college," said Nakashima, a junior who is considering Stanford, USC and UCLA. "So I have to prepare for that. That's pretty much all I'm thinking about the next week. I'm definitely more comfortable in math and science. Writing essays, I struggle with that sometimes, so I have to focus on those."

Complete draws are available at the tournament website.