Junior News

IOSC: Two #TeamSoCal Doubles champs crowned; teammates will both play for singles titles Saturday

Friday, March 26

#TeamSoCal got it done in doubles action at the IOSC in San Diego, where both Kimmi Hance and Sebastian Gorzny captured ITF titles on Friday.

The Girls final took overtime to decide, ending in a strong closeout performance by Hance and teammate Reese Brantmeier, 6-4, 3-6, 10-3. Hance & Brantmeier, who together won the Orange Bowl in December, nearly collapsed from a sizeable lead in the first set as opponents Clervie Ngounoue & Victoria Mboko quickly gained momentum late in the set. While the eventual champions held on, Ngounoue/Mboko refused to relinquish the edge throughout the second set. Just as quickly, the tide turned to Hance, a future UCLA Bruin, and Brantmeier, who will play in Saturday’s singles final with a chance to sweep the Girls’ trophies this week.

“We do a really good job of managing our stress,” Brantmeier said after the win. “With our history of success we do a good job of balancing each other out. Sometimes she gets a little stressed and I say, ‘It’s OK, we got it.’ But in this match I kept saying, ‘We’re doing great.’ I think coming off the Orange Bowl we just had so much confidence that we could get it done.”

On the Boys’ side, Sebastian Gorzny & Nathan Cox were simply too much for the upstarts Nicholas Godsick & Ethan Quinn. The champs looked fresh in the opening games, and while Godsick & Quinn stayed close, the match belonged to Fountain Valley’s Gorzny and Cox, the top prospect of the Gulf states.

“I think we played great,” Gorzny said afterwards. “It was one of the best matches we played all tournament. We didn’t have our serve broken.”

SINGLES FINALISTS SET

Samir Banerjee has hovered under the radar this week in San Diego.

In his first two matches, Banerjee escaped two three-setters entering the quarterfinals. Against the #4 seed Jack Anthrop, Banerjee enjoyed the luxury of playing only seven games before his opponent retired. The rest seemed to help the New Jersey native, who came out firing against top seed Bruno Kuzuhara in the first Boys’ semi on Friday.

While both Kuzuhara and Banerjee had faced elimination earlier in the event, each coming back from a set behind to advance, Friday action saw Kuzuhara stumble in the first set to open the door for Banerjee. The #8 seed with a crisp backhand used the weapon to fire winners past the top seed, eliminating Kuzuhara in three sets to advance into Saturday’s final. It was the fourth time the two have met, with Banerjee finally solving the puzzle of how to beat Kuzuhara on Stadium Court. 

“I think I’ve developed a lot as a player, and he has too,” said Banerjee, who won the Easter Bowl 16s in 2019. “I thought I played a really smart match and did everything right.”

Banerjee, from Basking Ridge, N.J., won the Alanya Cup in Turkey last winter, and started 2021 with a victory at the SVB Men’s Open in Florida. He faces Ethan Quinn, an unranked ITF player making his first Level 1 tournament appearance. Quinn, a blue chip junior who won in San Antonio last month, toppled the #6 seed earlier this week in San Diego to power his way through the bracket. He made the most of his premiere in the second semifinal, a 6-4, 6-1 win against Braden Shick, the N.C. State commit from Greensboro.

Quinn and Banerjee have also met before, with the former recalling an Easter Bowl match in which he fell to Banerjee. “It was my first Easter Bowl and I had an upset in the first round,” Quinn said. “He didn’t really know me too well then and I kind of came in a little loose. I got up on him early and he was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ But he knows me now.”

The Girls singles championship match is set, as top seed Alexandra Yepifanova quickly advanced over Elisabeth Jones in straight sets. Jones, from Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., is a Michigan commit as a blue chip junior. But the masterful performance of Yepifanova was simply too much, as she controlled the contest from beginning to end. Point after point, her immaculate first serve set the tone for a 6-2, 6-1 win to move into Saturday’s final.

“I feel like in my first round match, I had a really good first set,” Yepifanova said of her service game, which was spot-on in her semifinal today. “Then in the second set, I started to lose a little bit of focus, and my first serve percentage dropped significantly. That was crucial. (My serve) really plays a huge role.”

Yepifanova, a Stanford commit, will meet Reese Brantmeier in the Girls singles finale. Brantmeier, the former USTA Girls 16s national champion from Whitewater, Wisc., played a long semifinal against Canada’s Kayla Cross on Thursday ahead of her doubles final triumph.

“I came out playing really well,” she said of her 6-4, 3-6 (10-3) win. “Props to Kayla. She didn’t go away in the second (set), and … she just got a lot of momentum going, which carried on into the third (set). I just tried to stay positive, keep my energy up, and try to channel what I was doing in the first set.”

Brantmeier and Yepifanova are good friends and have played a couple times previously. “She’s beaten me in the past,” Brantmeier said. “I’m really looking forward to getting another shot at her.”

Thursday, March 25

The field narrowed today in San Diego as semifinalists were determined at the International Open of Southern California, highlighted by the convincing performance by Girls top seed Alexandra Yepifanova. The future Stanford Cardinal continued her dominance in the singles draw, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over 14-year old upstart Clervie Ngounoue.

Yepifanova moves on to meet Elisabeth Jones on Friday. Jones, a qualifier and the only unseeded player remaining in the Girls’ draw, won her third third-set quarterfinal to advance to the semis in dramatic fashion upsetting #3 Julia Garcia of Mexico. A University of Michigan recruit, Jones found herself down 5-1 in the third-set tiebreaker before storming back to win six straight points and clinch the win, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

The second semifinal will feature Kayla Cross and Reese Brantmeier. Underdog Cross, the #12 seed from Canada, recovered from a rough start to earn a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over #4 Ashlyn Krueger. Brantmeier also needed three sets to punch her ticket to the semis, losing the first set to Elvina Kalieva before controlling a second set tiebreak and then the third, in a 4-6, 7-6(1), 6-1 win.

Boys’ top seed Bruno Kuzuhara lost his first set of the IOSC tournament, but it was only a minor blemish on an impressive performance against #7 Victor Lilov. Lilov’s power and poise kept Kuzuhara on the move throughout, culminating in a lengthy deuce game to end the contest, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. Next in line for Kuzuhara is Samir Banerjee, who cruised through his quarterfinal with Jack Anthrop, 6-2, 6-3.

Fresno’s Ethan Quinn continues to make the most of his USTA wild card, upsetting #2 Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. Braden Shick will be Quinn’s opponent in the semifinals. Shick ousted Nathan Cox in three sets, including a deciding tiebreak, by coming back from a set down.

“I’m definitely not that well-known as some of the other players,” Quinn said, “and feel like I’m playing a little looser because of that.” Quinn is coached by ATP Pro Tommy Paul’s coach Brad Stine.

DOUBLES FINALS SET

In his very first ITF J1 tournament, Quinn also moved into Friday’s doubles final with partner Nicholas Godsick when their opponents, Ryan Colby & Ekansh Kumar, retired late in the first set. They meet SoCal favorite Sebastian Gorzny & Nathan Cox, who waited out a rain delay on Thursday to secure the second finalist slot over Samir Banerjee & Benjamin Kittay.

The Girls doubles final will feature singles semifinalist Reese Brantmeier & Kimmi Hance when they meet Victoria Mboko & Clervie Ngounoue. Incoming UCLA Bruin Hance, from Torrance, and Brantmeier were too consistent in the opening set before rolling in the second, 6-3, 6-0. Mboko & Ngounoue eliminated Gracie Epps & Audrey Nisbet in the semis. The two finalists have never faced each other, and the match-up promises to be a fitting finale to Girls doubles.

Wednesday, March 24

With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, the field narrowed at Barnes Tennis Center on Wednesday as the midway point of the International Open of Southern California produced the tournament’s next round of potential champions. Top seeds Alexandra Yepifanova and Bruno Kuzuhara advanced, while a bevy of local favorites fell ahead of the Round of 8.

Yepifanova was especially impressive on stadium court, dismantling Karsyn Evans with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep. Yet there was plenty of chatter about her quarterfinal opponent, 14-year old Chervie Ngounoue, who ousted SoCal’s Kimmi Hance in dominant fashion, 6-0, 6-3. Hance remains TeamSoCal’s remaining hope, this time in doubles, as she returns on Thursday with teammate Reese Brantmeier in the Girls’ tandems draw. Brantmeier, who eliminated Madeleine Jessup on Wednesday morning, won the Girls 16s Nationals at Barnes Tennis Center in 2019.

As for Kuzuhara, he continued his spirited play with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Jayden Templeman to advance. He meets #7 Victor Lilov in the quarterfinals. But Kuzuhara and teammate Aidan Kim, the #2 seeds in the Boys doubles draw, were upset on Wednesday by upstarts Nicholas Godsick & Ethan Quinn in a third set tiebreak, 2-6, 6-3, (10-8). Godsick & Quinn will meet Ryan Colby & Ekansh Kumar next; Colby & Kumar previously upended the #3 seed to stay alive in the draw.

Overall, it was a tough day for top seeds in doubles, as both teams succumbed today. Sebastian Gorzny & Nathan Cox solved #1 Bernard/Lilov in straight sets, while Ngounoue teamed with Victoria Mboko to eliminate Girls’ top seeds Yepafanova/Kalieva – making the Ngounoue/Yepifanova quarterfinal even more intriguing when play resumes on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 23

It’s called “show court” for a reason, and on Tuesday top seed Bruno Kuzuhara put on a show with Fountain Valley native Sebastian Gorzny in the main stadium at the International Open of Southern California in San Diego.

Florida’s Kuzuhara is among the top recruits in the nation as a high school-level junior. He has reached the final in three of his last four tournaments and has won 20 of his last 24 matches, hoisting the Asuncion Bowl title in Paraguay along the way. Kuzuhara traded late breaks with Gorzny in their opening set and served for the set at 5-4. Gorzny persevered and pushed the top seed to a tiebreak, ripping clean winners to stay on par before Kuzuhara captured the tiebreak, and ultimately the match, 7-6(4), 6-3.

Kuzuhara meets Jayden Templeman of Canada on Wednesday.

Just one court away, Alex Michelsen and Aidan Mayo battled in a loud and at times volatile match, with Junior Sectionals champion Michelsen responding to Mayo’s charge to close out a 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4 win and advance over the #5 seed.

“During the match I felt pretty good,” Michelsen said. “I was serving better than I usually do, and thought I kept my composure pretty well. I just have to focus on myself, keep focusing, and play my game.”

La Mesa’s Rohan Murali, a tournament wild card, continued his spirited play on Tuesday with a straight set upset over Japan’s Yamato Sueoka, the #11 seed. With the 7-6, 6-3 win, Murali advances to meet another seeded player, #7 Victor Lilov, in the third round.

Girls top seed Alexandra Yepifanova of Florida was challenged late by Canada’s Martyna Ostrzygalo, but still opened her IOSC campaign with a 6-2, 7-5 win. Yepifanova committed to Stanford as the nation’s top ranked junior prospect. She meets Karsyn Evans next.

Earlier in the day, Kimmi Hance moved on in the Girls draw with an upset win of her own. The UCLA Bruin commit posted a 7-5, 6-4 victory over #5 Annabelle Xu of Canada. She next meets #9 Clervie Ngounoue.

Madeleine Jessup advances with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win over Switzerland’s Chelsea Fontenel, the #8 seed. She faces #10 Reese Brantmeier of Wisconsin on Wednesday. Brantmeier is on comfortable ground in San Diego – she won the USTA Girls 16s Nationals at Barnes in 2019.

In tonight’s doubles action, Hance & Brantmeier joined forces to advance with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Isabella Chhiv & Karsyn Evans. Reigning Junior Sectionals champion Rebecca Lynn moved on with teammate Chelsea Fontanel as they posted a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win under the lights opposite Grubor/Stoiana.

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Monday, March 23

Katie Codd continued her charge into San Diego this week with an opening round upset over Leyden Games Monday as the opening rounds of the International Open of Southern California began at Barnes Tennis Center.

Codd, of Carlsbad, Calif., and Games played three methodic and lengthy sets on show court, with Codd rebounding to emerge from a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory. She moves on to play the #9 seed Clervie Ngounoue on Tuesday.

Wild card Rohan Murali of San Diego notched his first win of the tournament, a routine performance over qualifier John Kim of Northern California. Murali was a finalist at last year’s L2 OC/Yamasaki tournament in Anaheim.

Kimmi Hance responded to a first set stumble to notch a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win on stadium court over Charlotte Owensby. Hance was a finalist at the L1 in Las Vegas last week; she faces #5 Annabelle Xu on Tuesday.

Another Las Vegas finalist, Sebastian Gorzny continues to play spirited tennis after emerging from the qualifier to enter the main draw. Gorzny has played almost constantly since the beginning of March and has yet to drop a set since arriving in San Diego. He defeated Poland’s Borys Zgola 6-3, 6-2 to advance and will meet top seed Bruno Kuzuhara in tomorrow’s spotlight match.

Gorzny also teamed with Nathan Cox to win their first round doubles match.

For full results, visit iosocal.com.

In other first round doubles action, Isabella Chhiv followed her singles victory by advancing with Sara Valentina Cruz Bonilla in three sets over Evans/Ovrootsky. Qualifier top seed Gracie Epps teamed with Aubrey Nisbet to move on with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Hodve/Krug. Midori Castillo Meza & Maddy Zampardo posted a strong 6-3, 6-0 win to advance over Li/Motlagh.