There were three big singles titles awarded on Sunday. Rafael Nadal won the first of course, but in Southern California all eyes were on the championship round of the Oracle ITA Masters in San Diego. The afternoon kicked off with the much-anticipated women’s final between two USC Trojans, veteran fifth year senior Angela Kulikov and sophomore Eryn Cayetano. It did not disappoint.
In rather unusual fashion, the teammates and friends chatted on the sidelines before warming up together for nearly an hour before retreating to their respective sides of the net for the championship match. Cayetano started slowly, perhaps showing early nerves and trying to manage a menacing crosswind as Kulikov raced out to an early 3-0 lead. The sophomore broke for 2-3 to start a trend of broken service games, but Kulikov ultimately used that strong start to her advantage and captured the first set.
In the second, Cayetano turned the tide on her fellow Trojan, storming out to an early lead while launching winning backhands corner to corner. Cayetano slowly began to assert her service game, playing consistently on the offensive and garnering the second set.
Then, in a 10-point tiebreaker to decide the match, Cayetano’s early advantage was erased as the two traded points until the young Long Beach native regained the lead at 9-8. Cayetano had a swing for the match, but the return sailed wide. Again the two traded points to 12-11, but this time Kulikov struck an unfortunate second serve in to the net, leaving Cayetano stunned in the far court.
In an impressive moment of sportsmanship, the two embraced at the net after what was a very memorable women’s final, with Eryn Cayetano raising the trophy.
Despite the name recognition in the men’s final, the afternoon finale went to Brandon Holt over Ohio State’s Cannon Kingsley. Kinglsey was never able to gain any kind of momentum early against the cool and collected Holt. Falling down a break in the first set, Kingsley did not recover as Holt played methodic tennis to secure the win.
Holt, who graduated from USC last spring, was eligible for a fifth year due to the pandemic-stricken season, but the four time All-American opted instead to go pro and follow in the footsteps of his Hall of Fame mom, Tracy Austin.
That wraps up the Oracle ITA Masters at Barnes Tennis Center, a superb three-day event that showcased some of SoCal’s best junior talent in Kyle Kang and Anne Lutkemeyer, and the immense talent of champions and #TeamSoCal favorites Brandon Holt and Eryn Cayetano.
This afternoon’s Oracle ITA Masters finals (ESPNU, 2pm) will conclude an impressive three days of competition at Barnes Tennis Center. The drama involves three USC Trojans and one of the nation’s top college players, all in search of a Masters title.
On Saturday, Angela Kulikov emerged from a semifinal battle to advance. Her first post-match priority was to settle in for the second semi, featuring her USC teammate Eryn Cayetano. and offer support for her friend and Trojan compatriot. When Cayetano earned the winning point, the two celebrated on center court knowing they’d return about 24 hours later on opposite sides of the court. It will be an emotional final for both, and the tennis should be top notch. No doubt USC head coach Alison Swain will be watching as her students fight on for a title in San Diego.
The third Trojan, fresh alum Brandon Holt, is known in tennis circles as Tracy Austin’s son. But he’s been making a name for himself since arriving at USC four years ago. Now a professional, Holt is on his way to bigger and better things. An ITA title this weekend would be another pinnacle in Holt’s young career, but Ohio State’s Cannon Kingsley stands in his way. Kingsley interrupted the chances for an all-SoCal Sunday by upending UCLA’s Govind Nanda, and the 2020 ITA All-American Rookie of the Year will hope to continue the upward trend against Holt.
Now, we wait for the matches to begin. Please note that while there is no fan attendance at this event, ESPNU will broadcast both finals live beginning at 2pm PST.
The finals are set at the 2020 Oracle ITA Masters in San Diego, and if the semifinals were any indication, tomorrow’s finale could give Rafa and Novak a run for their money. Every semifinal went the distance on Saturday afternoon, leaving four tiebreakers to decide who will play for the Masters titles.
The first to secure a spot in the final was Brandon Holt, the recent USC grad. In traditional SoCal fashion, Holt met UCLA’s Keegan Smith on center court in yet another Trojans vs. Bruins showdown. Smith came out firing, locking up the first set before Holt responded with a fury. Into the tiebreaker, Holt maintained command to close out the 6-7, 6-2, 1-0 (5) victory.
As dusk fell over Barnes Tennis Center, UCLA’s Govind Nanda met Cannon Kingsley of Ohio State. Nanda looked fresh in the opening set, but as was the standard on this day, Kingsley replied by locking up the second and forcing the 10-point decider. With match point on his racquet Kingsley double-faulted, leaving the door open for Nanda. But the Buckeye was too crafty, finally wrapping up the 5-7, 7-6, 1-0 (9) win to move into Sunday’s final with Holt.
In the earlier women’s draw, there was high drama at the close of a thrilling semifinal between USC’s Angela Kulikov and Alexa Ryngler of Pepperdine. Locked in a long and riveting throwdown, Kulikov and Ryngler traded sets before captivating onlookers with a decisive tiebreaker. Ryngler held the edge late with match point in hand, but an overturned line call worked against her and left the door open for Kulikov, who moments later powered her way to victory, 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (11).
A short time later, Kulikov anxiously watched her Trojan teammate Eryn Cayetano break out to a surprisingly dominant lead over top seed Sophie Whittle. The Gonzaga alum was quick to respond, breaking Cayetano’s serve early in the second set. Cayetano broke back late, but Whittle responded in kind to force the tiebreaker. Again Cayetano took control, racing out to an early lead she would not relinquish ahead of a 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 (6) win, ultimately producing what will be an entertaining final between two good friends – the elder Kulikov and the rising star Cayetano – on Sunday afternoon.
Remember, the finals air live on ESPNU beginning Sunday at 2pm PST!
Brandon Holt had four All-American years of USC tennis under his belt, enough to turn back the challenge of current Trojan Bradley Frye on center court at the Oracle ITA Masters this morning in San Diego. Frye captured the first set, but Holt responded by securing the second and taking quick control of the tiebreaker.
Holt will meet Keegan Smith in this afternoon’s first semifinal. Smith dispatched Ohio State’s Kyle Seelig in straight sets this morning. The UCLA Bruin also won the Barnes September Championships earlier this fall and has tallied wins in 16 of his last 17 matches.
Also in the quarters, Govind Nanda proved too much for upstart wild card Kyle Kang, notching a late break in the first set to capture the early momentum and a route to the semifinals. Nanda, who was 13-4 with UCLA during the shortened 2019-20 season, sets up a semifinal meeting with Ohio State’s Cannon Kingsley, who defeated Isaiah Strode in a third set tiebreak.
Pepperdine and USC will clash in the first women’s semifinal. Angela Kulikov ended the impressive run of Irvine’s Anne Lutkemeyer with a solid victory early Saturday, while incoming Waves frosh Alexa Ryngler was dominant in her win over Carlsbad’s Katie Codd.
USC’s Eryn Cayetano took the fight to Pepperdine’s Jessica Failla, showing her trademark grittiness in an impressive QF win. A Trojan sophomore, was 11-4 in the shortened season, her debut in collegiate tennis, and she’ll need plenty of firepower to overcome the top seed Sophie Whittle to reach the final.
Whittle, the former Gonzaga University star, has quietly cruised through the draw at Barnes. She was an ITA All-American in her senior year and the 2019 WCC Player of the Year. She reached the quarterfinals of her most recent ITA event back in March at Las Vegas, and won her QF today against USD’s Solymar Colling.
Good morning from San Diego! What a great array of talent on the docket today at Barnes Tennis Center. Here are your quarterfinals (in order of play), with the semis slated for afternoon play.
Kyle Seelig vs. Keegan Smith
Bradley Frye vs. Brandon Holt
Katie Codd vs. Alexa Ryngler
Angela Kulikov vs. Anne Lutkemeyer
Sophie Whittle vs. Solymar Colling
Jessica Failla vs Eryn Cayetano
Kyle Kang vs. Govind Nanda
Cannon Kingsley vs. Isaiah Strode
In a tournament packed with the stars of college tennis, two SoCal juniors have risen to the challenge and stolen the spotlight from the top names at the Oracle ITA Masters, ongoing in San Diego this weekend.
In the old days they’d call it gusto, and whatever the term in modern times, Kyle Kang and Anne Lutkemeyer brought plenty of it on Friday. Both have advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals after posting stunning upsets this afternoon.
Kang, the 16-year old wild card entry, shocked top-seeded Raymond Sarmiento by eliminating the seasoned veteran in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5. Kang, having already dispatched LMU’s Diego Nava, performed light years ahead of his time by matching the former Trojan Sarmiento shot by shot. As word spread that the young sophomore was making noise on a far court, a small crowd gathered to witness Kang scrambling with ease across the baseline and delivering knockdown punches when opportunities arose.
On Saturday, Kang faces another experienced opponent in Govind Nanda. Nanda, a UCLA Bruin who defeated Jake Sands on Friday to advance, has junior Grand Slam experience and is among the top players on Billy Martin’s Bruin squad. The two will play at noon tomorrow.
Women’s top seed Sophie Whittle moves on to Saturday’s quarterfinals after blanking Pepperdine’s Nikki Redelijk in the second round, but it was Anne Lutkemeyer who shook up the draw with her ousting of #2 Ashley Lahey in the Round of 16.
Lutkemeyer, well known in SoCal junior tennis circles and a product of Jackson Bridge Academy, battled the great Pepperdine star Ashley Lahey to a third set deciding tiebreak, overcoming the favored Lahey to set up a meeting with five-year USC standout Angela Kulikov.
Other notable winners on Friday include Carlsbad’s Katie Codd, USD’s Solymar Colling, former Trojan Brandon Holt, former Open Sectionals champion Isaiah Strode, and three-time UCLA All-American Keegan Smith. Play resumes Saturday at 10am.
Nothing but excellent tennis at Barnes so far today, with the top seeds moving forward and the rest of the pack working hard to keep pace at the Oracle ITA Masters.
Sophie Whittle, the top seed on the women’s side, was impressive in her opening match against wild card Tsehay Driscoll. Whittle, a grad from Gonzaga, returns this afternoon to meet incoming Pepperdine freshman Nikki Redelijk.
Raymond Sarmiento, the men’s top seed, was impressive in his win over Joseph Guillin. The former Trojan will be in the spotlight later today when he meets wild card Kyle Kang, who made his tournament debut in grand style by ousting LMU’s Diego Nava in straight sets.
Local favorites Brandon Holt and Ashley Lahey both advanced, along with Jessica Failla, Anne Lutkemeyer, Princeton’s Ryan Seggerman, Haley Giavara of Cal, and both Jake Sands of USC and Govind Nanda from UCLA, who meet in the second round.
Along with Sarmiento/Kang, notable afternoon matches include Giavara opposite USD’s Solymar Colling, and Brandon Holt meets new UCLA Bruin Sam Feit.
Good morning from San Diego! (Fri)
The players are ready to begin competition at the 2020 Oracle ITA Masters, highlighted by former USC standouts Brandon Holt and Raymond Sarmiento, along with the Pepperdine duo of Ashley Lahey and Jessica Failla. With such a deep pool of talent placed in the 32-player draws, there’s a likely chance of early upsets as many of SoCal’s best do battle at Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.
Friday morning highlights include Coronado’s Ryan Seggerman, who returns from Princeton to play on home turf against former USC Trojan Logan Smith. Smith has played sporadically on the ITF circuit over the two years, while Seggerman was 13-10 in singles play for the Tigers.
Tim Sah, the well respected SoCal sportsman from San Diego, is a senior at Stanford and returns home this weekend to meet USC’s Bradley Frye. The Cardinal ranked #8 in the nation behind Frye’s Trojans, the nation’s top college team in 2019-2020.
Solymar Colling meets Camille Kiss in a first round women’s match. Colling finished her shortened sophomore season as the #65 ranked player on the ITA circuit after earning All-American honors as a freshman. She’ll face a challenge from UCSB’s freshman Kiss, the talented junior standout from Redlands.
Yet another Trojan, Eryn Cayetano, draws Leyden Games in the opening round. Games is a two-time finalist this summer in Livermore and Newport Beach. Highly touted recruit Vivann Ovrootsky of NorCal pairs against Pepperdine’s star Ashley Lahey, the #2 seed, in what should be a thrilling Friday morning match-up.
Holt and Sophie Whittle of Nipomo are the top seeds.
More from Barnes Tennis Center throughout the day at USTAsocal.com and on our social channels @USTASoCal.