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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Fourth Seed Evans Survives Three-Hour 18-Minute Challenge from Guichard; Mahjoob Posts Comeback Win Over No. 3 Seed Razeghi to Reach FILA International Junior Championships Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Indian Wells CA--

There is never a good time to get a time violation penalty, but Tatum Evans could hardly have gotten one at a worse time. The No. 4 seed was docked a first serve at 7-all in the second set tiebreaker in her third round match against unseeded Ahmani Guichard Thursday at the ITF J300 FILA International Junior Championships

Evans made her second serve, but Guichard won the subsequent rally and the tiebreaker to force a third set before Evans took control in the third for a 7-5, 6-7(7), 6-3 victory.

"I tend to get quite a few time violations, because I do play slowly," the 17-year-old from Virginia admitted. "But I have my routines, and it's a little frustrating for me, but it's definitely something I'm going to continue working on, so I can minimize those, because it used to be a lot worse. But I definitely wasn't happy."

Evans said she was particularly distressed at the loss of a first serve for an additional reason.

"It's a second serve, she has a very good return, so I'm like shoot, that's not working to my advantage," Evans said. "Especially because I was really feeling my serve, my serves were feeling really good, so it was unfortunate. But it's okay, although I'd be saying something very different if I lost, trust me."

The match was already two hours and 42 minutes in length when that second set ended, but the third set took only 36 more minutes, with Evans attributing that to the physical nature of the first two sets.

"It was quick points because I think we were both tired and just trying to finish points quickly," said Evans, who is partnering with good friend Guichard in doubles this week. "We were both trying to step into balls, play forward and aggressively. Literally we were just stepping in and it goes in or it goes out."

Evans agrees with the general consensus among the juniors that the courts are very slow, and as someone who prefers fast hard courts, she is surprised at how much she likes playing on them.

"I actually love these courts, but I don't pay that much attention to the surface, to be honest with you," Evans said. "I love it because you look around and it's the mountains and the palm trees, it's beautiful, so I love the courts for the surroundings, it's so peaceful, even when you're playing a grueling third set. I'm looking around, and that's probably why I got so many time violations."

Evans will face another friend and a future University of North Carolina teammate in the quarterfinals, after No. 7 seed Theadora Rabman defeated Shannon Lam 6-1, 6-4. That is a rematch of the 2021 Easter Bowl 16s final, which Rabman won.

Top seed Iva Jovic cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 16 seed Victoria Osuigwe and will face No. 9 seed Alanis Hamilton, who beat No. 6 seed Ashton Bowers by the same score. The two 15-year-olds met in the semifinals of the J300 in Costa Rica in January, with Jovic winning 6-4, 6-4.

No. 3 seed Clervie Ngounoue, a 6-2, 6-3 winner today over No. 15 seed Tyra Grant, will play No. 12 seed Maya Joint, who beat No. 8 seed Anya Murthy 6-1, 6-1.

Second seed Kaitlin Quevedo needed over two hours to defeat unseeded 14-year-old Thea Frodin, who served for the first set, 7-6(1), 6-2. Quevedo will take on wild card Valerie Glozman, who beat qualifier Susanna Maltby 6-2, 6-1.

Roy Horovitz, the No. 2 seed in the boys draw, rebounded from a slow start to defeat unseeded Mitchell Lee 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. All four matches in the bottom half of the draw went to three sets, with No. 5 seed Oliver Bonding of Great Britain defeating No. 9 seed Stiles Brockett 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, No. 8 seed Duncan Chan of Canada beating No. 10 seed Maxwell Exsted 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 and in the big upset of the day, No. 13 seed Cyrus Mahjoob coming back for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 3 seed Alexander Razeghi.

Mahjoob played the J500 Banana Bowl in Brazil last week, losing in the third round, but he didn't find the quick turnaround, five time zones away, to be any problem.

"I love it," said Mahjoob, a 17-year-old from Maryland. "I know it sounds weird, but traveling from tournament to tournament, cutting it close, playing a lot of matches, it's what I enjoy doing, so it makes it a little easier. And it was a lot hotter there, so I can handle it the heat here in Tennis Paradise."

The transition from clay wasn't a problem for Mahjoob either.

"I think these courts suit him, he likes to grind, but I also love to grind, I can move all day," said Mahjoob, he recently committed to the University of Michigan for this fall. "I have a good bit of variety, and I think these slow courts actually benefit me as well. I can move faster than the ball most of the time and I can get my back foot behind every ball, stay in points and he's not going to burn too many winners past me. I think coming from clay put me in the right mindset, that I could just be here all day and make every ball, just bother people."

Mahjoob has played the Easter Bowl on these Indian Wells Tennis Garden courts, but to be on site during the BNP Paribas Open when Frances Tiafoe is in the semifinals makes it an especially thrilling experience.

"He comes from my academy (Junior Tennis Champions Center), I hit with him sometimes when I'm there," Mahjoob said. "It's pretty awesome seeing someone that close to me get that far, it lets you know that anyone can do it, you just have to put the work in. He's done a great job recently doing whatever it takes, so it's unreal for him, and gives me motivation."

In the top half, No. 1 seed Kaylan Bigun fought through a tough first set to defeat qualifier Matisse Farzam 7-6(5), 6-3 and will face the only unseeded player left in the boys draw, wild card Rudy Quan. Quan took out 14-year-old wild card Jack Kennedy 6-1, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Keegan Rice of Canada defeated unseeded Dylan Charlap 6-1, 6-1 to set up a meeting with No. 11 seed Cooper Woestendick. Woestendick defeated wild card Connor Church of Canada 6-3, 6-2.

The doubles semifinals are set for Friday, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in both draws still in the running for the title.

Top seeds Razeghi and Horovitz defeated No. 6 seeds Bonding and Lee 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 and will face No. 8 seeds Woestendick and Matthew Forbes. Woestendick and Forbes beat No. 4 seeds Nikita Filin and Exsted 5-7, 6-4, 10-4.

Chan and Rice, the No. 2 seeds, defeated wild cards Noah Johnston and Calvin Wang 6-4, 6-2 to set up a semifinal contest with unseeded Jagger Leach and Joseph Oyebog. In a demonstrative match in front of a engaged crowd, Leach and Oyebog defeated Quan and Krish Arora 7-6(8), 1-6, 11-9.

Girls top seeds Qavia Lopez and Ngounoue breezed past Jessica Bernales and Ava Bruno 6-0, 6-1 in 42 minutes and will face unseeded Murthy and Glozman, 6-4, 7-6(3) winners over No. 6 seeds Evans and Guichard.  No. 2 seeds Grant and Jovic defeated Shannon Lam and Kate Fakih 6-3, 6-3 and will play unseeded Kayla Chung and Hamilton, who beat No. 4 seeds Ava Krug and Rabman 6-1, 2-6, 10-7.

Matches begin with the girls quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Pacific time, followed by the boys quarterfinals, the girls doubles semifinals and the boys doubles semifinals.