Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Joint Sweeps ITF J300 Pan American Closed Titles with Comebacks in Singles and Doubles; Frusina Claims First J300 Title at Home

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Houston Texas--

Alex Frusina was surrounded by friends and family all week at the ITF J300 Pan American Closed Championships at the Giammalva Racquet Club, as was his opponent in Saturday's final, Alex Razeghi, with both at home for a tournament for the first time in many years. All those supporters, and many other interested spectators who knew the two 17-year-olds when they trained at the club as novices, were on hand again on a hot and steamy morning to see who would take the title.

Top seed Frusina prevailed, defeating No. 2 seed Razeghi 7-5, 6-2, to cap an impressive run in his last three tournaments with his first J300 title.

"This tournament was just like a dream, being able to play at home," said Frusina, who reached the semifinals of the J300 in College Park last month and the quarterfinals of the US Open earlier this month. "I know in my lifetime we haven't had such a big scale tournament in our city here, and for them to be able to get this tournament, and to play in it, it was a privilege and really exciting."

The first set started with nerves from both, with back-to-back breaks, but after that, neither had a break point until 5-all, with Frusina converting his second opportunity that game with what he called "good fortune."

"I hit a passing shot as he came to the net, and he stumbled a bit because it bounced off the top," said Frusina. "But I was pretty elated with the way I dealt with the situations today. I think it was a really good bounce back match for me after yesterday."

Razeghi had a visit from the trainer in the first set for his leg, which he said had begun bothering him a few days ago.

"I felt fine, but in the middle of the first set my leg started to get painful," Razeghi said. "Not taking anything away from him, he played really well, was the better player and deserved to win. I feel like if I took that first set maybe it would have been different. At that point I wasn't feeling too good, but I told myself I had to fight to the last point, and I did that, but he came out on top."

Razeghi was broken to start the second set, but managed to hold from break points down in his next service game to keep within range. Yet Frusina, who was not happy about his serving performance in the his three-set semifinal win over Jagger Leach, had found that part of his game today, giving Razeghi little hope of a comeback.

"I definitely served much better today," Frusina said. "I was honestly taking a lot more of my pace off; it was a little bit strategic also. I put a lot of first serves in today and that gave me the confidence to open up and go for a few more lower percentage serves in some moments, which still ended up working out."

Frusina broke Razeghi to go up 4-1 and with his serve working had no trouble closing it out, hitting two aces, including on match point.

Frusina, who turns 18 in December, will turn his attention to the USTA Pro Circuit in the months ahead, beginning with a tournament in Ithaca New York the first week of October, although he will spend next week taking campus visits to gather information for his college choice.

"I have some availability to boost my pro ranking before college, and that's always been my goal, to play pro tennis," Frusina said. "I know the ITF has a junior exemption program, and in terms of these next couple of months, I'm going to focus on smaller pro events, the $15Ks. I'm definitely in quite a good rhythm right now and we'll see how long it lasts."

Razeghi is heading to the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Albuquerque New Mexico next week, along with Roy Horovitz and Maxwell Exsted and then he will begin setting up his college visits, with trips to Texas, USC, Virginia and Georgia on his list of prospective schools.

Like Frusina, girls champion Maya Joint of Australia earned her first ITF J300 singles title, but unlike the boys champion, she earned it with an improbable comeback.

Trailing top seed Tyra Grant 6-1, 5-3, Joint kept her composure in the blazing midday sun, rebounding for a 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.

Several hours later, No. 2 seed Joint was still at a loss to explain how she turned the match around.

"I don't really know myself," said the 17-year-old Joint, who changed her country affiliation from the United States to Australia earlier this year.  "The whole time in the first set and kind of in the second, I didn't feel like I had a foot in the match. The points were very short, I wasn't really on top of the point, I wasn't in control. In the second set, I started to win my service games more and started to get a little bit more confident."

Grant, whose serve is one of her biggest strengths, lost touch with that shot when she needed it most. Serving for the match at 5-4 and again at 6-5 the 15-year-old from Florida couldn't get to a match point after leading 30-0 in both games, and she put the blame squarely on her serve.

"Those two games I served really bad," said Grant, who was playing in her second tournament after being forced to withdraw prior to her second round match at the Wimbledon Junior Championships with a bone bruise. "I hit a few double faults and she took advantage of my bad serves and stepped up."

Joint began to find her rhythm as Grant began playing more tentatively, although the match was very much up for grabs at 4-4 in the final set.

As in the previous two games in the second set when Grant was serving for the match, Grant went up 30-0 serving at 4-all, but then double faulted twice and two points later, Joint was serving for the match and her first J300 title.

"I was just trying to get a start in the game, make my first serves," Joint said. "Once I got up 30-0, I could see Tyra lose a little bit of energy and I could feel myself getting a little more confident, so I stayed aggressive kept my foot on the gas, so she couldn't get back in it."

Joint got an error on match point, and admitted her satisfaction in fighting through a subpar first half of the match.

"I started off without my A game," said Joint. "But that's part of tennis, trying to get through the tough matches when you're not playing your best and hope that your A game does come out at the end. And I think it did today."

Joint is heading to Australia to train and compete over the country's spring and summer, and said she is playing the J500 in Osaka next month. She will be back in the United States next year, certainly in advance of joining the University of Texas in the fall of 2024.

Grant expressed disappointment with her performance in today's final, but hopes with time, she'll look at the week differently.

"Obviously it's hard to see the positives after today," said Grant, who is planning to play two $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournaments next month. "But I think I'll be looking back at this tournament in a few weeks or a few months really understand that it was a positive tournament for me."

Joint added her second ITF J300 title several hours later, partnering with Ariana Pursoo to take the girls doubles championship, again coming from behind. The top seeds defeated No. 4 seeds Alanis Hamilton and Claire An 6-7(3), 7-5, 10-7 in a two-hour contest that hinged on a handful of points.

At 4-4 in the second set, Joint and Pursoo fell behind 15-40 with Joint serving, but they saved all three break points, then grabbed the set with An serving at 5-6, 30-40.

Joint and Pursoo led throughout the tiebreaker, but Hamilton and An kept in range, and at 9-6 Hamilton hit a volley winner to save their first match point. But Joint, after nearly five hours on court in the 95 degree heat, hit a great first serve claim the championship, one that didn't come easy.

Down a set and a break to No. 3 seeds Victoria Osuigwe and Mia Slama in the semifinals, Joint and Pursoo pulled out another 7-5 second set and a match tiebreaker, so the pressure of trailing today was nothing new.

"I think that's what comes from trusting each other," said Pursoo, who will also be joining the Texas Longhorns in the fall of 2024. "We trust each other's games and our ability to find a way to come back and problem solve in the match. We're constantly pumping each other up, staying positive, trusting each other's abilities."

While Pursoo and Joint have played together often and have an ITF J200 title as a team, the boys champions were just in their third tournament together.

No. 5 seeds Jagger Leach and Matisse Farzam played the 16s Orange Bowl last December and the Junior Davis Cup qualifying in Lake Nona this spring, but everything clicked for the two 16-year-olds this week, with a 1-6, 6-2, 10-8 win over unseeded Noah Johnston and Benjamin Willwerth in the championship match.

Leach and Farzam won three of their four matches in match tiebreakers, but it was their 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal win over No. 4 seeds Frusina and Mitchell Lee that convinced them they were contenders for the title.

"It was tough at first, but we gradually found it," said Farzam, who hadn't won an ITF Junior Circuit doubles title at any level until today. "Our quarterfinal match was a huge confidence booster, big win against Frusina and Mitchell, and we thought we definitely have a shot at winning this. Yesterday we were out there for two hours, and today was a little quicker, but it could have gone either way, so we're happy to have gotten it done."

After a slow start in the final, Farzam and Leach rebounded in the second set, then took control of the match tiebreaker, leading 9-4. But four of those match points came and went, two on Leach's serve, and they hung on for the win.

"Things almost got away from us," said Leach, who won an ITF J300 doubles title in Indian Wells with Joseph Oyebog this spring. "Returning at 9-8 I couldn't move, I was so nervous. We ended up winning that point and it was just pure relief and happiness."