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Thursday, October 7, 2021

Unseeded Kotzen Ousts No. 2 Seed Colak, Lopez Drops No. 1 Seed Xu in ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Quarterfinals; Both Top Seeds Beaten at ITA All-American Championships; Trio of UCLA Bruins Advance at Indian Wells

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Nicholasville KY--

Thursday's quarterfinals at the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed produced three notable results on the court, plus a default, as the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds in the girls draw and the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds in the boys draw were sidelined.

No. 5 seed Qavia Lopez took out top seed Annabella Xu of Canada 6-4, 6-0 to reach her first J1 semifinal, breaking open a close match late in the first set.

Up 4-1 in the first set, Lopez let that advantage slip away and couldn't serve out the set at 5-3, but the 16-year-old was able to break Xu for the fourth time in the set to take it 6-4.

"I feel like I lost a bit of my focus there," Lopez said of her first set lead. "But from then on, I was really trying to turn it on, be super focused, not lose any points because of emotions, keep myself steady. I had to really focus on the tennis and after I won the first set 6-4 I was just cruising, playing well, and I was happy with how I played."

Lopez held serve to start the second set, then won a four-deuce game to break for a 2-0 lead. When she got a second break to go up 4-0, Lopez sensed that Xu was not going to mount a comeback.

"She started off well, started off strong, but after I was up 4-0, I felt she kind of lost it a little bit, was just feeling down," Lopez said. "The last couple of games, it wasn't easy, it was still a struggle, but she did give me a few free points after it was 4-0."

Lopez, who lives in Delray Beach, is now being coached by former University of Kentucky star Tom Jomby. After splitting with her previous coach this summer, Lopez has been pleased with the results they have had as a team.

"He's got more energy than my previous coach, which I like, to help me bring my practices up, my intensity," Lopez said. "And he focuses on the details of my stokes more, so he brings some good things to the table."

Lopez will face her doubles partner, No. 4 seed Marina Stakusic of Canada, who defeated No. 8 seed Gracie Epps 7-6(3), 6-3.

"I haven't really thought about it much, but she's a good player and I've practiced with her a lot," Lopez said. "I kind of know how she plays and she knows how I play, so it'll be a good, competitive match."

The other girls semifinal will also feature an American and a Canadian, with No. 12 seed Liv Hovde facing No. 2 seed Victoria Mboko. 

Hovde got revenge today for a loss this spring, beating No. 3 seed Kayla Cross of Canada 6-2, 6-2.  Cross had defeated Hovde 6-3, 7-5 in the second round at the San Diego J1 in March, the only loss Hovde suffered in that two-week stretch, as she went on to win the JB1 Easter Bowl the following week.

"I was really hoping to win today," said Hovde, who turns 16 later this month. "And I played really well I thought. I was making a lot of first serves and hitting my second well. She's just a solid player, gets a lot of balls back and as a lefty, she has some good tricky shots, but I just played my game and it turned out well."

Cross had come back from losing the first set in her previous two wins, so Hovde was on her guard to start the second set. Quickly up 2-0, Hovde faced her biggest threat in the sixth game, when she fell behind 15-40, but came back to win the game.

"She started serving and volleying and coming in and that was a little shocking," Hovde said. "But I ended up winning that game to keep it going."

Hovde will face her third straight Canadian opponent Friday, No. 2 seed Victoria Mboko, who defeated No. 6 seed Mia Kupres of Canada 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Unseeded Nick Kotzen had a great day serving against No. 2 seed Ozan Colak to earn a 6-3, 6-1 win and a spot in his first J1 semifinal. 

"My serve has been really good this week," said the 18-year-old from New Jersey. "I'm playing really well; my forehand's been really good, my two-handed backhand, my slice and my volleys, everything's feeling good."

Colak was not able to put any pressure on Kotzen with so many of those shots going in.

"He played well in the first set, but he missed more in the second," said Kotzen, who has committed to Columbia for fall of 2022. "He was mentally kind of fading. But he's still tricky when he isn't on; he has a good forehand and sometimes a good serve, so it's kind of awkward to play him sometimes. He comes forward and is good at the net. He's a good player and a really nice guy, and it was tough playing him, but I'm happy I got through."

Kotzen has played in only four ITF Junior Circuit events, all J1s, because he goes to regular school.

"Right now I'm missing school," Kotzen said. "I'm getting off the court, going back doing homework, because I don't do online school. This, and Orange Bowl, are the only two tournaments I can play this semester because my school's pretty strict with how many days I miss. But I'm making the most of my time away from school."

Kotzen will play No. 3 seed Jack Anthrop, who defeated No. 9 seed Sebastian Sec 6-4, 6-1. Anthrop, who has lost just 10 games in his three matches, and Kotzen will be meeting for the first time in Friday's semifinal.

Canadian Jaden Weekes, who defeated top seed Ethan Quinn in three sets Wednesday, had another nail-biter today, beating No. 8 seed Cooper Williams 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.  Weekes, the No. 13 seed, served for the match after breaking Williams at 3-4, but some bad luck and some nerves cost him. Williams got a netcord winner for 15-all, then Weekes broke a string and hit a volley wide for 15-30. A good first serve brought him to 30-all, but a double fault gave Williams a break point. When Weekes hit a forehand long, Williams was right back in the match, but Weekes set the tone in the next point, scrambling from offense to defense and back again. Both players hit enough great shots to fill a highlight reel, but it was Weekes who hit the point-ending winner, and he went on to win three of the next four points to earn the victory.

Weekes will play unseeded Michael Zheng, who advanced to the semifinals when No. 4 seed Ryan Colby was defaulted. The default, which was based on a reported off-court incident, is currently under review by the ITF, and is not expected to result in a suspension.

The doubles finals are set for Friday, with girls top seeds Cross and Mboko taking on No. 2 seeds Lopez and Stakusic. Cross and Mboko defeated No. 3 seeds Xu and Sonya Macavei 7-6(3), 6-3, while Lopez and Stakusic eased past No. 4 seeds Kupres and Olivia Lincer 3-6, 6-2, 10-7.

Top seeds Colak and Colby were eliminated due to the default, putting No. 6 seeds Weekes and Marko Stakusic in the boys doubles final. They will play No. 2 seeds Jack Anthrop and Benjamin Kittay, who beat No. 8 seeds Evan Lee and Timothy Phung 6-3, 6-4.

The ITA All-American Championships produced a host of surprises today, with the top two seeds in the women's tournament in Charleston going out, along with the top seed in the men's event in Tulsa.

Pepperdine's Taisiya Pachkaleva defeated Abbey Forbes of UCLA 6-3, 6-3 to advance to Friday's quarterfinals, while Eryn Cayetano of USC defeated No. 2 seed Janice Tjen of Pepperdine 6-0, 6-3.

Kalamazoo 18s finalist Ben Shelton of Florida advanced to the round of 16 when 2021 NCAA singles finalist Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina retired with an injury trailing 6-3, 2-0.  The men play both the round of 16 and quarterfinal matches on Friday.

The men's singles draw is here.  The women's singles draw is here.

It was a great day for former UCLA Bruins at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, with Mackenzie McDonald, Marcos Giron and qualifier Maxime Cressy all winning their first matches today.
McDonald defeated James Duckworth of Australia 6-3, 6-3, Giron beat Botic Van De Zandschulp of the Netherlands 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4 and Cressy downed Laslo Djere of Serbia 6-7(3), 6-1, 7-5. 

Tommy Paul and Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) have also advanced today in men's first round singles action. All the US women are playing later this evening in the desert.