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Thursday, March 23, 2023

All-USA Semifinals Set for Friday at ITF J300 Youth Tennis San Diego; Easter Bowl 12s and 14s Seeds and Draws Out for Saturday's Opening Day

©Colette Lewis 2023--
San Diego CA--

Thursday was another day with another delayed start at the ITF J300 Youth Tennis San Diego tournament at the Barnes Tennis Center, but when all of the quarterfinals were completed in the afternoon, eight Americans had advanced to the semifinals.

The girls quarterfinals went as the seedings would have predicted, with the top four seeds advancing in straight sets. No. 1 Iva Jovic defeated friend and doubles partner Tyra Grant, the No. 12 seed, 6-3, 6-3 to set up a first meeting with No. 3 seed Tatum Evans. Evans defeated No. 9 seed Yujin Kim of Korea 6-1, 6-1.

In the bottom half, No. 4 seed Ariana Pursoo ended the run of unseeded Raphaelle Leroux of Canada 6-3, 6-1 and will play No. 2 seed Clervie Ngounoue, who defeated No. 10 seed Alanis Hamilton 6-3, 6-3. Pursoo and Ngounoue met in the J500 final last November in Mexico, with Ngounoue earning a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

The top three boys seeds reached Friday's semifinals, but their paths were not as direct.  No. 1 seed Kaylan Bigun handled unseeded Matisse Farzam for the second time in two weeks 6-4, 6-0, and will face No. 3 seed Alex Razeghi, who defeated No. 7 seed and Indian Wells J300 finalist Oliver Bonding of Great Britain 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Down 6-2, 2-0, Razeghi recognized that if Bonding continued to play at the level he displayed in the first set, he had no chance to come back.

"I got up 2-0 in the first set and then he started playing some ridiculous tennis, very good tennis that I could only nod my head to," said the 16-year-old left-hander from Texas. "I couldn't get too down on myself, because if he just did that the whole match, it's just too good. But I had a feeling he was going to slow down at one point and after I fought for that 0-2 game, I had more belief in myself."

Razeghi said the key was getting Bonding's serve back in play.

"His serve is really big, so whenever I make that back, I would really like to win that point," said Razeghi, who lost to Bonding 7-6(5), 6-3 in the first round of the J300 in Colombia last month. "He gets so many free points on serve and he's such a big guy, that when he's at the net, it's really tough to pass him. I make more balls than him, but he hits more winners than I do; it's a weird matchup."

After beating Cyrus Mahjoob, who had beaten him at the ITF J300 in Indian Wells, in the third round Wednesday, and avenging his loss in Colombia to Bonding today, Razeghi finds himself with the shoe on the other foot in the semifinals. Bigun and Razeghi met in the final of the J300 in Ecuador last month, with Razeghi getting a 6-3, 6-0 victory.

"We're really close, almost best friends, we talk every day, so it's good to play someone like that," Razeghi said. "We have a lot of respect for each other, and I know he's going to want to beat me now. He's like Oliver, he can go on stretches when he takes the racquet out of your hand, hit some really, really good shots. He's a little more consistent, but with a little smaller serve. So it's a similar matchup, but just a lefty. My first two rounds here I played lefties, so that's a good thing."

While Bigun will be seeking revenge in the semfinals, so will No. 2 seed Roy Horovitz, who defeated No. 5 seed Atakan Karahan 7-6(4), 6-4. Horovitz's opponent will be No. 13 seed Max Exsted, who beat the top-seeded Horovitz last summer in round of 16 at the USTA Boys 16s Nationals in Kalamazoo.

Exsted got an opportunity to play Horovitz again with a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory over No. 6 seed Hoyoung Roh of Korea. Both players had set points in the first, with Exsted taking the 75-minute set with two tricky overhead winners.

There were no breaks in the second set until Roh lost his serve at 4-all, with Exsted closing out the victory with some excellent serving.

"I made all four first serves and getting ahead in that game was really important," Exsted said. "Playing free and playing to win."

Exsted had gotten off to a good start, but Roh got the break back and stayed with Exsted from then on.

"I was up 4-1 in the first, but he is a very good opponent, he finds his forehand well off his serve," said the 16-year-old from Minnesota, who trains at the USTA National Campus with Razeghi and Horovitz. "So I had to be sharp, make sure to keep the ball deep and try to find ways to pressure him. His weakness is probably his speed and net game, because in his groundstrokes, it's really tough to push him off the baseline. I tried to find ways to bring him in, because his forehand was on fire today, and it worked."

As for playing Horovitz, Exsted says he's looking forward to it.

"We're good buddies, we train together, so it should be a fun one," Exsted said. "That Kalamazoo match was kind of a bad memory for both of us, it was not a good match. We're both playing well now, so tomorrow's match should be good."

Friday's schedule starts with the boys singles semifinals at 10 a.m., followed by the girls singles semifinals. The boys are a round behind in doubles due to all the rain, so they will play their doubles quarterfinals after the girls singles. The girls doubles semifinals will follow, then the boys were play their doubles semfinals to close out the day.  There is just a 10% chance of rain Friday.

The girls doubles semifinals will feature No. 1 seeds Grant and Jovic against No. 5 seeds Piper Charney and Anya Murthy, with the bottom half semfinal a rematch of last week's final at the Indian Wells J300. Unseeded Kayla Chung and Hamilton will face No. 2 seeds and Indian Wells champions Qavia Lopez and Ngounoue.

The top seeds in the boys doubles, Indian Wells finalists Horovitz and Razeghi, lost to unseeded Mitchell Lee and Meecah Bigun 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 in second round action.

The FILA Easter Bowl begins Saturday with the 12s and 14s divisions and the draws have been posted. The top 8 seeds are below. The 16s and 18s divisions begin play on Monday/ The complete schedule is here, and a preview of the event is available at the tournament website.

1. Zesen Wang
2. Dylan Meineke
3. Luca Queiroz
4. Carter Jauffret
5. Adrian Sharma
6. Jason Eigbedion
7. Advay Singh
8. Danile Gardality

1. Colin McPeek
2. Liam Alvarez
3. Ryan Cozad
4. Ilias Bouzoubaa
5. Navneet Raghuram
6. Joseph Nau
7. Roshan Santhosh
8. Erik Schinnerer

1. Grace Hong (withdrew)
2. Caroline Shao
3. Allison Wang
4. Raya Kotseva
5. Daniela Del Mastro
6. Michelle Lee
7. Aarini Bhattacharya
8. Enya Hamilton

1. Carrie-Anne Hoo
2. Nancy Lee
3. Isabelle DeLuccia
4. Abigail Gordon
5. Anita Tu
6. Alyson Shannon
7. Ireland O'Brien
8. Anna Bugaienko