Friday, March 24, 2017

Bolton Celebrates Birthday with Quarterfinal Win at International Spring Championships, Rotsaert Rolls On; Stein Wins Girls 16s Title via Retirement; Gallien Out at Southern Cal

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Carson, CA--

Blowing four match points is not an ideal way to celebrate a birthday, and No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton was obviously frustrated when she was unable to close out Amanda Meyer in the second set of their ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championship quarterfinal Friday at the Stubhub Center. In her first day as a 17-year-old, Bolton regrouped, earning a tense 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory.

Meyer, seeded No. 14, saved two match points serving at 3-5 in the second set, with Bolton missing forehands to end both rallies. Bolton then had two match points on her own serve at 40-15, but two more missed forehands and an untimely double fault and the end of the match was no longer imminent.  Meyer then went on to take the tiebreaker, leaving Bolton understandably frustrated.

"I got a little tight," Bolton said. "I went to the bathroom, splashed a little water on my face and gave myself a little pep talk in the mirror. I came out and decided I'm not going to let this slip from me."

Her first test came early, in the first game of the third set, when she saved three break points in a nine-deuce game to take a 1-0 lead.

"It was big to come out, after losing four match points, I knew getting that game was really important," said Bolton. "To not have her break me, that could swing the momentum a lot. So I was just staying in it, doing what I could."

Bolton held for a 2-1 lead, then broke Meyer to go up 3-1, and broke again for a 5-1 lead.  Although Bolton had seen a 4-0 lead disappear in the first set, she did not falter in the third, closing out the match on her fifth match point when Meyer netted a backhand.

Bolton will be playing in her first Grade 1 semifinal on Saturday, although she has reached a Grade A semifinal, earlier this year. Her opponent Saturday will be No. 2 seed Carson Branstine of Canada, who defeated friend Nicole Mossmer, the No. 10 seed, 6-0, 7-6(4).

Bolton and Branstine have split two ITF junior matches, both in 2015.

"She has a big serve and a big forehand," Bolton said. "I'll have to weather the storm and make sure I'm playing my game and try not to focus too much on what's going on on the other side of the court."

The other girls semifinal will feature top seed Taylor Johnson against No. 11 seed Hurricane Tyra Black.  Johnson was down a break in the first set against No. 12 seed Dominique Schaefer of Peru, but found her form in the first set tiebreaker and went on to record a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory.  Black, who took out No. 3 seed Emiliana Arango of Colombia 6-2, 6-4, defeated Johnson in their only ITF junior meeting, nearly two years ago in the Grade 4 final in Delray Beach.

Tenth seed Alexandre Rotsaert continued his impressive results this week with a 6-2, 6-2 win over unseeded Brian Shi, who had beaten top seed Trent Bryde in the first round.  Rotsaert, who has dropped only 15 games in four matches, said his recent training block has paid dividends this week.

"I had two, three really good weeks before coming here," said the 17-year-old from Florida. "I changed my serve a bit, and am trying to play more aggressive, take the ball more on the rise, especially on these hard courts. And I'm trying to play a bit more free."

After playing qualifying at the Orlando Futures, where he lost in the final round, went back home to Boca Raton to prepare for the California ITF swing.

"I trained with my coach, Ernesto Ruiz, for, I think it was three weeks, at my house, just grinding, long sessions, four or five hours, just to keep my concentration," Rotsaert said. "It was the first time I had three real good weeks of practice. I really believed that what I was doing was helping, just feeling it inside."

Rotsaert's opponent in the semifinals is unseeded Axel Nefve, last year's 16s champion, who came back to defeat unseeded Jenson Brooksby 1-6, 6-2, 6-1.

"I've never played him," said Rotsaert. "We've hit before in practice, but I don't remember the last time we've played a set. He likes these courts, I remember watching him in the finals last year. He's a really good player, good lefty. I think it's going to be a fun match; I'm looking forward to it."

In the other boys semifinal, No. 3 seed Gianni Ross will take on No. 5 seed Oliver Crawford.  Ross defeated No. 9 seed Patrick Kypson 6-3, 6-2, while Crawford took out future University of Florida teammate Duarte Vale of Portugal, the No. 2 seed, 7-6(7), 6-4.  Crawford and Ross met in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 last August in College Park Maryland, with Crawford earning a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 victory.

The 16s finalists were determined today, and the girls 16s champion was decided, although not in the hoped for manner.

Unseeded Vivian Ovrootsky, the reigning 12s USTA Winter Nationals Champion, defeated top seed Skyler Grishuk 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour in today's semifinal.  But she is playing the USTA Easter Bowl in the 14s division, and that tournament begins Saturday in Palm Springs. According to the referee, Ovrootsky played one point against No. 2 seed Lauren Stein and retired, with Stein going in the record books as the girls 16s champion.  Stein had defeated No. 3 seed Tara Malik 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.

The boys 16s final will be played on Saturday, with unseeded Siem Woldeab meeting No. 6 seed Andrew Dale for the title.  Dale defeated No. 8 seed Stefan Leustian 6-1, 6-2 in a match much closer than that score indicates.  Woldeab took out No. 5 seed Faris Khan 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4 in a match that took nearly three hours to complete.  It was the second consecutive match that Woldeab won after dropping the first set.

The 16s doubles semifinals and finals were played on Friday, with both the girls and boys finals decided in match tiebreakers.

In the girls final, No. 8 seeds Maxi Duncan and Jamilah Snells defeated No. 5 seeds Britt Pursell and Rachel Wagner 2-6, 6-1, 12-10.  From 5-4 in the match tiebreaker, neither team trailed nor led by more than one point, with Pursell and Wagner saving match points at 9-8 and 10-9. At 11-10, Duncan and Snells were able to convert their third match point.

In the boys final, No. 6 seeds Russell Berdusco and Theo Winegar defeated unseeded Hunter Heck and Alexander Petrov 2-6, 6-1, 11-9.

For Saturday's order of play, see the tournament website.

The University of Southern California announced today that Richard Gallien would be leaving as women's coach after the completion of this season. Although the release does not mention the fates of associate head coach West Nott and volunteer assistant Zoe Scandalis, I am told they are not finishing the season.