Thursday, April 2, 2015

Higuchi Posts Another Comeback Win to Reach International Spring Quarterfinals; Qualifier Small into Boys Final Eight; 16s Semifinals Set

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Carson, CA--

Emma Higuchi didn't have to think back very far for inspiration when she trailed No. 8 seed Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 4-1.  Higuchi was down 4-1 in the third set against No. 12 seed Claire Liu in Wednesday's third round of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, but had come back to win 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

"I thought, well, you've done it once, so you can do it again," said the 17-year-old from Los Angeles, who went on to defeat Dolehide 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) on another breezy and cloudless day at the StubHub Center.

Higuchi had lost badly to Liu in their previous meeting last fall, and was also soundly beaten by Dolehide at the Eddie Herr, but those loses didn't discourage her.

"At Eddie Herr I lost to Caroline like 2 and 1 and I really couldn't do anything," said Higuchi, who trains at the USTA Player Development Center courts where the tournament is held. "But this time it was on hard courts, so I thought maybe this time I have a chance. I think I've improved on a couple of things since I lost to Claire."

Dolehide lost six straight games from 4-1 up in the second set, with her serve not providing any free points, and Higuchi keeping the ball deep and away from the dangerous Dolehide forehand.

Dolehide recovered in the third set, taking a 4-2 lead, but Higuchi kept getting balls back and Dolehide couldn't sustain any momentum. She was broken serving at 4-3, and Higuchi stayed ahead until the tiebreaker where again, she came from behind. Dolehide led 3-0, but Higuchi won six consecutive points, one a devastating net cord winner to make it 5-3. A perfect backhand pass gave her three match points, with Dolehide's forehand saving the first, but Higuchi hit a forehand winner of her own on the second match point to secure the win.

Higuchi will play No. 2 seed Sonya Kenin in Friday's quarterfinal, who beat No. 15 seed Maria Mateas 6-4, 6-3.

"I'm just really excited to play her," said Higuchi, who remembers losing to Kenin when up 4-1 in the third set many years ago. "I think it will be another really good match."

The other unseeded girl in the quarterfinals is Kelly Chen, who defeated No. 5 seed Francesca Di Lorenzo in the only other three-setter of the girls third round, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3.

Chen had four set points serving for the first set at 5-4, but she double faulted on three of them and made an error on the fourth.

In the first set tiebreaker, the server held only three times, but Di Lorenzo had two of those holds, enough to give her the set.

"I had played her a couple years ago, so I knew she was going to grind," said Chen, who turns 16 next month. "I was prepared this time for a long match. I got a little bit tense at the end of the tiebreaker, but the second and third sets were better. It was just all about fight. I knew she was a fighter--she's a very good player--she does not give up, so I had to fight back, get everything back. Overall, I thought I played pretty well."

Chen will play No. 4 seed Fanni Stollar of Hungary in the quarterfinals, after Stollar defeated Jade Lewis of New Zealand 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Usue Arconada again struggled to close out an opponent, but she came away with a 7-6(0), 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Sofia Sewing. Arconada served for the first set at 5-4 and 6-5, and served for the match at 5-1 and 5-3, but didn't get to match point either time, hitting three consecutive double faults at 5-1, 15-all, and missing a forehand at 5-3, 30-40.  Arconada was able to break Sewing to win it on her third match point, and will play No. 7 seed Ingrid Neel in the quarterfinals. Neel defeated lucky loser Taylor Russo 6-1, 7-5.

The fourth girls quarterfinal will feature No. 6 seed Katherine Sebov of of Canada against No. 3 seed Michaela Gordon.  Gordon rolled over Claremont ITF champion Victoria Emma 6-0, 6-0 in less than an hour, while Sebov eliminated No. 9 seed Kayla Day 6-3, 6-2.

Five seeded boys remain in the draw, including the top two seeds, William Blumberg and Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.  Blumberg defeated unseeded Sam Riffice 6-4, 7-6(4), and Kecmanovic also had a tough straight-set victory, beating No. 13 seed Liam Caruana 6-3, 7-6(2).

Kecmanovic will play wild card Jake Van Emburgh, who upset No. 6 seed Emil Reinberg 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3, and Blumberg will meet qualifier Johnathan Small, who defeated the other remaining wild card, John McNally, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

McNally, last year's 16s champion, seemed in control of the match, leading 4-2 in the final set, but two backhand errors at 4-3, 30-30 put Small right back into it.  Small, a 17-year-old from Indiana, held for 4-4, then broke McNally again, with McNally donating most of the points.

"I just kept fighting, I really didn't do anything that special," said Small, who has committed to Notre Dame. "He definitely tried to overplay a little bit and that's just because throughout the whole match, I made him hit another ball. I don't think I did anything that special; I think he just broke down."

McNally complained aloud that he didn't have any energy, but Small never suffered from that problem, and some of Small's celebrations were not well received by McNally.  When Small closed out the match, with two McNally returns going long to end it, they met at the net and McNally vocally expressed his unhappiness with Small. The chair umpire put an end to the exchange of words, which continued as they made their way to their bags, but McNally's anger was unmistakable.

"We have a bit of a history," Small said. "We don't really like each other very much. I didn't expect it to be that violent, but we definitely don't like each other. We haven't liked each other just as tennis players. He doesn't think I hit the ball, and I think he misses too much, and he's arrogant. But I didn't think we hated each other that much. That was strange. But whatever, move on."

Small reached the semifinals in Claremont and won the doubles title, so he is not surprised by his results this week.

"I haven't played that many ITF tournaments, but I've played all these kids before and I knew I could beat them," said Small. "I had the confidence, I just needed a couple of results."

Small has not played Blumberg however.

"It'll be a fun match," Small said. "He's obviously done really well lately, but it'll be a battle. Expect another long one."

No. 4 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada will meet No. 5 seed Nathan Ponwith in the other top half quarterfinal, with unseeded Kalman Boyd taking on No. 16 seed Robert Levine in the other bottom half quarterfinal.

The semifinals are set in the 16s, with three seeded and one unseeded player remaining in each of the draws.

Unseeded 12-year-old Alex Noel continued her run, defeating No. 5 seed Nicole Conard 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, and will play No. 4 seed Victoria Flores, who beat No. 11 seed Sydney Jones 6-2, 6-2.  No. 2 seed Alexandra Belaya defeated No. 7 seed Elysia Bolton 7-6(5), 6-3 to set up a meeting with No. 15 seed Natasha Subhash, a 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3 winner over Salma Ewing.

Unseeded Ryan Goetz reached the semifinals with a 7-6(4), 6-4 win over Keenan Mayo. Goetz will play No. 5 seed Andrew Fenty, who defeated fellow Junior Tennis Champions Center student, No. 4 seed Brian Cernoch, 7-5, 6-3.  Oliver Crawford, the No. 6 seed, has lost only seven games in his three wins this week, beating No. 14 seed Kevin Ma 6-2, 6-1. He will play No. 8 seed Austen Huang, who beat Ryan Seggerman 6-4, 6-3.

The doubles semifinals are set, with the scores from today's quarterfinal matches below.

Links to the draws, order of play, live scoring and radio streaming can be found at the tournament page.

Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Robert Levine (16) (Bedford, NY)  def.  John Jorgeson (Bradenton, FL)  6-0, 6-0
William Blumberg (1) (Greenwich, CT)  def.  Sam Riffice (Roseville, CA)  6-4, 7-6(4)
Alejandro Tabilo (4) (Etobicoke, Ontairo) def.  Mwendwa Mbithi (14) (Deerfield Beach, FL)  6-2, 6-4
Miomir Kecmanovic (2) (Boca Raton, FL)  def.  Liam Caruana (13) (New Braunfels, TX)  6-3, 7-6(2)
Nathan Ponwith (5) (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Sangeet Sridhar (Glendale, AZ)  6-3, 6-0
Kalman Boyd (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)  def.  Michael Genender (Los Angeles, CA)  7-6(2), 6-4
Johnathan Small (Zionsville, IN)  def.  John McNally (Cincinnati, OH)  4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Jake Van Emburgh (Verona, WI)  def.  Emil Reinberg (6) (Atlanta, GA)  6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3

Boys' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Robert Levine (Bedford, NY) / Catalin Mateas (6) (Braintree, MA)  def.  Miomir Kecmanovic (Boca Raton, FL) / Bjorn Thomson (4)  4-6, 6-3, 10-8
William Blumberg (Greenwich, CT) / Nathan Ponwith (1) (Scottsdale, AZ)  def.  Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA) / Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC)  7-5, 6-3
Benjamin Hannestad / Alejandro Tabilo (3) (Etobicoke, Ontario) def.  Hady Habib (Bradenton, FL) / Anudeep Kodali (5) (Durham, NC)  6-7(3), 6-2, 10-4
Ulises Blanch (Deerfield Beach, FL) / Liam Caruana (2) (New Braunfels, TX)  def.  Michael Genender (Los Angeles, CA) / Emil Reinberg (7) (Atlanta, GA)  6-4, 5-7, 10-7

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA)  def.  Caroline Dolehide (8) (Hinsdale, IL)  3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4)
Katherine Sebov (6) (Woodbridge, ON)  def.  Kayla Day (9) (Santa Barbara, CA)  6-3, 6-2
Fanni Stollar (4)  def.  Jade Lewis (Hilton Head Island, SC)  6-2, 6-2
Michaela Gordon (3) (Saratoga, CA)  def.  Victoria Emma (Naples, FL)  6-0, 6-0
Ingrid Neel (7) (Bradenton, FL)  def.  Taylor Russo (Deerfield Beach, FL)  6-1, 7-5
Sofia Kenin (2) (Pembroke Pines, FL)  def.  Maria Mateas (15) (Braintree, MA)  6-4, 6-3
Kelly Chen (Cerritos, CA)  def.  Francesca Dilorenzo (5) (New Albany, OH)  6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3
Usue Arconada (1) (Rio Piedras, PR)  def.  Sofia Sewing (16) (Doral, FL)  7-6(0), 6-4

Girls' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Michaela Gordon (Saratoga, CA) / Raquel Pedraza (4) (Claremont, CA)  def.  Anna Dollar (Lancaster, PA) / Veronica  Miroshnichenko (Aventura, FL)  7-5, 6-2
Kayla Day (Santa Barbara, CA) / Sofia Kenin (3) (Pembroke Pines, FL)  def.  Helen Altick (Monroe, LA) / Caroline Lampl (Bluemont, VA)  6-2, 7-6(4)
Emma Higuchi (Los Angeles, CA) / Katherine  Sebov (5) (Woodbridge, ON) def. Alexis Nelson (Saint Paul, MN) / Savannah Slaysman (Phoenix, AZ) 2-6, 6-2, 10-7
Caroline Dolehide (Hinsdale, IL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)  def.  Meghan Kelley (Falmouth, ME) / Gabriella Pollner (7) (Boca Raton, FL)  6-2, 6-3

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Andrew Fenty (5) (Washington, DC)  def.  Brian Cernoch (4) (North Bethesda, MD)  7-5, 6-3
Ryan Goetz (Greenlawn, NY)  def.  Keenan Mayo (Roseville, CA)  7-6(4), 6-4
Austen Huang (8) (Elk Grove, CA)  def.  Ryan Seggerman (Coronado, CA)  6-4, 6-3
Oliver Crawford (6) (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  Kevin Ma (14) (San Ramon, CA)  6-2, 6-1

Boys' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Danny Thomas (Pickerington, OH) / Maximilian Wild (Carmel, IN)  def.  Andrew Fenty (Washington, DC) / William Woodall (4) (Washington, DC)  7-5, 6-4
Brian Cernoch (North Bethesda, MD) / Oliver Crawford (1) (Spartanburg, SC)  def.  William Grant (Santa Barbara, CA) / Govind  Nanda (6) (Redlands, CA)  6-3, 6-3
Ryan Goetz (Greenlawn, NY) / Ryan Seggerman (Coronado, CA)  def.  Cody Lin (Thousand Oaks, CA) / Kento Perera (7) (Santa Barbara, CA)  6-2, 7-5, 10-4
Adam Sraberg (Los Angeles, CA) / Matthew Tsolakyan (Glendale, CA)  def.  Robert Baylon (Buena Park, CA) / Jack  Pulliam (2) (Manhattan Beach, CA)  7-5, 7-5
Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Natasha Subhash (15) (Fairfax, VA) def. Salma Ewing (Long Beach, CA) 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3
Alexa Noel (Summit, NJ) def. Nicole Conard (5) (Boca Raton, FL) 6-1, 5-7, 6-3
Victoria Flores (4) (Fort Dodge, IA) def. Sydney Jones (11) (Carrollton, TX) 6-2, 6-2
Alexandra Belaya (2) (Melbourne, FL) def. Elysia Bolton (7) (Lake Forest, IL) 7-5(5), 6-3

Girls' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinal Round)
Elysia Bolton (Lake Forest, IL) / Ann Li (3) (Devon, PA)  def.  Jessica Aragon (Plano, TX) / Sydney  Jones (7) (Carrollton, TX)  6-3, 6-4
Marcella Cruz (Marlboro, NJ) / Alexa Noel (5) (Summit, NJ)  def.  Madison Hwang (Frisco, TX) / McCartney  Kessler (4) (Calhoun, GA)  6-1, 3-6, 10-4
Jessica Anzo (Temecula, CA) / Jenna Moustafa (8) (Los Angeles, CA)  def.  Victoria Flores (Fort Dodge, IA) / Maria  Ross (2) (Lakewood Ranch, FL)  7-6(3), 4-6, 10-4
Alexandra Belaya (Melbourne, FL) / Emma Decoste (1) (Stuart, FL)  def.  Abigail Forbes (Raleigh, NC) / Luba  Vasilyuk (Frisco, TX)  6-3, 6-1