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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Nanda and Mandlik Perform Double Duty to Claim ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Titles; France's Gaston Wins Youth Olympic Games Boys Singles Gold

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Charlotte NC--

The No. 2 seeds emerged as champions at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Saturday, with both Govind Nanda and Elli Mandlik collecting two straight-sets victories to take home their first Grade 1 titles.

Nanda defeated unseeded Andres Martin 6-2, 7-6(2) in the semifinals and No. 3 seed Eliot Spizzirri 6-2, 6-1 in the final, while Mandlik took out No. 3 seed Chloe Beck 6-3, 6-4 in their semifinal and beat No. 11 seed Savannah Broadus 6-1, 6-3 in the final.

A week that began with rain and included the washout of two entire days ended with sunny skies and cool temperatures at the Jeff Adams Tennis Center, a public facility that served as the site on the final day,
due to football homecoming at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the tournament's host.

With all the disruptions throughout the week, doubles were cancelled, and  four rounds of boys singles and five rounds of girls singles were completed in the final two days, with match tiebreakers played for a third set Friday and Saturday.

Mandlik played three matches on Friday, earning her place in Saturday's semifinal with a 6-3, 4-6, 10-7 victory over No. 7 seed Vanessa Ong.  Nanda and Martin had the option to play their semifinal match on Friday, after playing only two matches earlier in the day, but they decided to wait until Saturday morning.

That proved an advantage when it became clear that the Jeff Adams courts were significantly faster than those at UNC-Charlotte. Spizzirri had played his semifinal against Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico on Friday at UNCC, so he did not have a match under his belt as Nanda did.

"These courts are really, really fast and playing a match on it before definitely helped me a lot," said Nanda, a 17-year-old from Cerritos, California. "I could tell he was struggling with that, catching a lot of balls late, not getting to a lot of balls that he would usually get to."

"The courts were pretty fast and a little bit of a change from the rest of the week," said Spizzirri, a 16-year-old from Greenwich Connecticut. "We were playing on slower courts before, and his game is suited pretty well for this. When he's timing the ball well, he's just cracking backhand winners left and right, so it's tough to get the ball out in front on these fast courts, when he's hitting so low and flat. He played really well."

The final was close for the first four games, but after Nanda broke for a 3-2 lead, he stayed in the zone, finishing a long week with a 55-minute victory.

"Early on in the match it was pretty tight," Nanda said. "But I think after I got that break, I just broke free a little bit. I started playing a little better and he started playing a little worse."

Nanda did not have an opportunity to defend his 2017 Pan American Closed doubles title, so he was grateful to have the champion's singles points to help with his 2019 junior ranking.

"I'm not going to be able to play juniors at the start [of 2019]," said Nanda, who is joining the UCLA Bruins in January. "So this is pretty big for me. Hopefully I can keep it going through Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl."

Spizzirri, who is also playing Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl with an eye toward improving his ranking enough to qualify for the junior slams, admitted that the week was unlike any he had encountered.

"It's been pretty chaotic," Spizzirri said. "I haven't had a tournament that's gone like this in forever; this is the first one I think. The change of sites, the hurricane, finding indoor places 45 minutes away, it was kind of hectic. But we've worked through it. Obviously, it's not the best thing that we had to play on different courts for the finals, but it happens, and you've just got to deal with it."

Mandlik said she tried to get a feel for the courts while warming up
with her brother Mark, but she still needed more time to adjust before she could feel comfortable in her semifinal with Beck.

"I couldn't see the ball too good because of the shadows from the trees," said Mandlik, the daughter of four-time slam winner Hana Mandlikova. "And because it was a different court, I didn't feel the ball like I did at the other site. I warmed up with my brother before the match and I didn't get it yet. And then I went on the court and it took me like three games to finally feel it."

Broadus came back from 4-0 down in the second set to defeat No. 9 seed Kylie Collins, an experience the 16-year-old from Carrollton Texas found draining in several ways.

"It was tough," Broadus said of playing the semifinals and finals back-to-back. "My semi was physically and mentally challenging, because I was playing a good friend of mine. I had never done [back-to-back] before, so it was tough, but I'll learn from my experience. I think I'll be prepared if it happens again."

In the final, Broadus could not find the free swinging power that she had used to win the final six games of her match against Collins, with Mandlik determined to keep Broadus off balance.

"I watched her during the tournament," said Mandlik, who had never played Broadus before. "I know she's a big hitter. I tried to put space over the net, so it wasn't in her strike zone, so she doesn't hit the ball flat and blow me off the court."

Mandlik took a 5-2 lead in the second set, but she couldn't get to match point serving for it. At 5-3, Broadus had three game points to put the pressure back on Mandlik, but she had trouble getting a first serve in, and Mandlik converted her first match point when Broadus sent a forehand long.

Mandlik, No. 47 in the ITF Junior rankings prior to this week's title, is eager to secure her place in the junior slams next summer.

"I wanted next year to be safe to play all the grand slams," said the Bradenton Florida resident, who probably won't play Australia, but would like to play the other three. "So I'm playing the Grade A on clay in Yucatan, then Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl."

As for all the twists and turns of the week, Mandlik could look back on them without frustration.

"It turned out good," Mandlik said. "But I thought it was going to be worse. Yesterday was three matches and my legs and body were hurting. I almost lost in the quarters, I was in the tiebreaker, but I thought I played good both matches today."

Broadus agreed.

"She played really well," said Broadus, who is also playing all three clay tournaments to end the ITF Junior Circuit season. "I made a lot of errors, I could have made more balls, but she definitely played really well."

At the ITF Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France disappointed the home crowd by defeating No. 8 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina 6-4, 7-5 for the gold medal.  The gold medal in girls doubles went to No. 2 seeds Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Iga Swiatek of Poland, who defeated No. 4 seeds Yuki Naito and Naho Sato of Japan 6-7(5), 7-5, 10-4.  Juvan will play for the singles gold on Sunday against Clara Burel of France.  The boys doubles final between Diaz Acosta and Sebastian Baez and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Rinky Hijikata of Australia is also Sunday, as is the mixed doubles final between Naoki Tajima and Naito of Japan and Maria Osorio Serrano and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia.