SoCal Talent Heads Home: Players Represented at San Diego Open and BNP Paribas Open - USTA Southern California

SOCAL TALENT HEADS HOME: PLAYERS REPRESENTED
AT SAN DIEGO OPEN AND BNP PARIBAS OPEN

PRO TENNIS  |  USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

MARCH 22, 2024  |  BRENDEN FISHER

Stevie Johnson

SOCAL TALENT HEADS HOME: PLAYERS REPRESENTED AT SAN DIEGO OPEN AND BNP PARIBAS OPEN

USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

MARCH 22, 2024
BRENDEN FISHER

Taylor Fritz
Stevie Johnson
Taylor Fritz
Ena Shibahara and Asia Muhammad
Ryan Seggerman and Patrik Trhac

Top: Stevie Johnson waves to the crowd at the BNP Paribas Open after his final professional singles match. (Photo – Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal).

Middle #1: Taylor Fritz celebrates after winning a point in Tennis Paradise. (Photo – Lexie Wanninger/USTA SoCal)

Middle #2: Ena Shibahara and Asia Muhammad advanced to the women’s doubles semifinals in Indian Wells. (Photo – Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

Bottom: San Diego’s Ryan Seggerman and Patrik Trhac won their first ATP Tour-level doubles match. (Photo – Lexie Wanninger/USTA SoCal)

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As the days in February subsided and gave way to March, tennis action heated up in Southern California with two of the most anticipated professional events in the state taking place.

SAN DIEGO OPEN – Starting a three-week series of matches in SoCal, the Cymbiotika San Diego Open launched its qualifying rounds on February 26th. As a WTA 500 event, top women’s tennis professionals gathered at Barnes Tennis Center to vie for a share of over $900,000 in prize money.

Southern California showcased strong representation in singles and doubles, featuring local talent, current college players, and alumni from regional universities. In singles, Alyssa Ahn (San Diego), Kayla Day (Santa Barbara), Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks), Hanna Chang (Fontana), Madison Sieg (USC), and Hailey Giavara (San Diego) competed in the qualifying draw, while Katherine Hui (San Diego) secured a spot in her first WTA main draw.

Despite the abundance of talent, no SoCal players advanced to the main draw. Day and Liu secured victories on the first day of qualifying matches, with Day defeating Sieg 6-3, 6-3, and Liu besting Canada’s Stacey Fung 6-3, 6-4.

Although singles play didn’t favor the locals, doubles saw a quick turnaround. Emily Deming (Fallbrook), Giuliana Olmos (USC), and Desirae Krawczyk (Palm Desert) joined Day and Liu as the five SoCal representatives in doubles.

Olmos teamed with Hao-Ching Chan (No. 26) and were impressive early. Picking up a first round win, the pair defeated Anna Blinkova (No. 44) and Daria Saville (No. 110) in a three-set thriller 6-7(2), 6-4, 10-5. Taking on Ulrikke Eikeri (No. 29) and Hanyu Guo (No. 35), the pair found themselves in another three-set showdown, yet this time on the losing end.

Playing alongside one another, Day (No. 421) and Liu (No. 298) had their work cut out for them early as they took on a very tough team in the form of Despina Papamichail (No. 104) and Valeriya Strakhova (No. 107). In an almost two-hour long contest, the Americans pulled off the first-round upset, winning in a third set match tiebreaker 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 10-7. Following the match, the duo found themselves in the quarterfinals against another all-American team of Jessica Pegula and SoCal’s Desirae Krawczyk. 

Pegula (No.10) and Krawczyk (No. 15) earned a hard-fought victory in their previous match as they took down Shuko Ayoama (No. 23) and Fang-Hsien Wu (No. 60) 4-6, 6-3, 10-2. With three SoCal players sharing the court, fans were treated to a spectacle, with the top seed of Pegula and Krawczyk pulling out the victory. Although on the wrong side of defeat, Day and Liu capped off their impressive showing by taking the favorites to three sets, with the final score ending 6-3, 3-6, 10-7. In the semifinals, Pegula and Krawczyk secured a triumphant 6-1, 6-1 victory over Eikeri and Guo. With only one team standing between them and glory, Pegula and Krawczyk faced their toughest challenge yet in the form of two top-ten ranked doubles players. The third-seeded duo of Nicole Melichar-Martinez (No. 7) and Ellen Perez (No. 8) were too much for the Americans, taking home the doubles’ title and downing Pegula and Kraqczyk by a score of 6-1, 6-2.

BNP PARIBAS OPEN – Following the conclusion of the San Diego Open on March 3rd, the BNP Paribas Open (BNP) wasted no time, starting its qualifying matches the same day. Tennis Paradise, the pinnacle of professional tennis in California, hosted top talent for two weeks, many with connections to the area or greater SoCal region.

SoCal talent shone at the BNP, with ten players in singles qualifying, six in the singles main draw, and five in doubles. Among the women, Giavara, Day, and Liu, joined 16-year-old Iva Jovic (Torrance) who received a wild card into the qualifying draw. In the men’s qualifying draw, Stefan Dostanic (Irvine/USC), Steve Johnson (Orange/USC), Emilio Nava (West Hills), Zach Svajda (La Jolla), Maxime Cressy (UCLA), Nicolas Moreno De Alboran (UCSB), and Yannick Hanfmann (USC) represented SoCal. Giavara and Dostanic secured their spots in the BNP qualifying draw by winning the Race to Indian Wells during the SoCal Pro Series last summer, showcasing their impressive performances over the past year.

The qualifying draw had a plethora of major storylines, with one of the largest pieces of news hailing from the SoCal section. 

After competing in doubles with Tommy Paul, Steve Johnson stepped off the court for the last time, choosing to end his career at Indian Wells, a place he frequented with his family in his childhood. With his family present, he believed no other place was more fitting for his final tournament, considering it a culmination of his career. Climbing the Southern California junior rankings, Johnson amassed four Junior Sectionals singles titles and two CIF Championship singles titles, leaving a significant impact on the sport in his home state. Attending college not far from where he grew up, Johnson became one of the best men’s college players ever, winning NCAA Men’s Singles Championships in his junior and senior years at USC and leading the program to four consecutive NCAA Team Titles. Among his professional highlights are winning a Bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, clinching four ATP Tour-level titles, achieving career-high rankings of No. 21 in singles and No. 39 in doubles, and reaching the Fourth Round of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships where he played Roger Federer. Now 34 years old, the Trojan alum leaves behind a resume that many can only dream of.

In addition to this announcement, SoCal players claimed multiple victories, with a few finding their way into the main draw. Securing wins in the qualifying draw were Day, Liu, Moreno De Alboran, Nava, and Svajda. Moreno De Alboran (No. 158) picked up two critical victories over Felipe Alves (No. 134) and Jurij Rodionov (No. 91), advancing him into the main draw. As a Lucky Loser, Day also found herself in the main Draw as well. Day (No. 86) claimed the win in her first match of the qualifying rounds, taking down Alycia Parks (No. 124).

In the singles main draw, Venus Williams (Lynwood) and Mayar Sherif (Pepperdine) represented the women, while Marcos Giron (Thousand Oaks/UCLA), Taylor Fritz (Rancho Santa Fe), Alex Michelsen (Aliso Viejo), and Brandon Nakashima (San Diego) represented the men.

Alex Michelsen, rising through the SoCal junior ranks and graduating high school just last year, has had an extraordinary journey. He captured the 2022 Easter Bowl singles and doubles titles, as well as the 2022 Wimbledon Boys’ doubles title. Making the jump to the ATP Tour, Michelsen continued to impress as he took home a pair of Challenger titles, defeated top professional talent and made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open. Now as he has broken into the top-100 in the singles’ ranks, the young phenom made his Indian Wells debut against Jaume Munar (No. 72). In one of the largest victories of his career, Michelsen bested the vet in convincing fashion, winning by a score of 6-2, 6-3. Though he would face defeat in his next match, this is just the beginning for Michelsen, who looks to someday hoist the trophy back on home soil.

Joining Michelsen with victories in the main draw were San Diego locals Brandon Nakashima and 2022 BNP Paribas Open champion Taylor Fritz. Fritz reached the round of 16 and Nakashima won his first round match against fellow American Chris Eubanks.

In the doubles’ draw, Krawczyk, Olmos, Ena Shibahara (UCLA), and Luisa Stefani (Pepperdine) duked it out on the women’s side, while Johnson, Fritz, Ryan Seggerman (San Diego), and Patrik Thrac (San Diego) represented the men. With upset victories from Shibahara and the duo of Seggerman/Thrac, doubles proved to be extremely successful for the Southern Californian’s.

A top doubles player in the world, Ena Shibahara (No. 20) looked to leave her mark in the desert once again, and that she most certainly did. In her fourth time playing at the BNP, the Bruin alum teamed up with Asia Muhammad (No. 41) and quickly made waves. Playing alongside one another in 2022, the duo went on a historic run, leaving the desert as doubles’ finalists. This time around, they were dominant early on once again, claiming their first victory over Olmos and Chan via a score of 7-6(6), 6-0. In the round of 16, the pair went toe to toe with the second seed of the draw, that being Erin Routliffe (No. 5) and Gabriela Dabrowski (No. 4). In one of the biggest upsets from a SoCal player, Shibahara and Muhammad pulled out the win in a three-set thriller. Claiming victory in an intense back-and-forth contest, the ladies dug deep and clinched the win in the third set, winning 7-6(3), 2-6, 12-10. Reaching the round of 16, the pair pulled off another upset win. This time, the ladies took down the American powerhouse of Coco Gauff (No. 12) and Jessica Pegula (No. 10) by a final of 6-2, 6-4. Reaching her fourth consecutive BNP semifinal, Shibahara’s run came to an end, losing to the third seeded team. While unable to repeat their 2022 glory, the duo’s remarkable wins did not go unnoticed.

A key to the two’s success this year and looking back on 2022 was their chemistry and mindset throughout matches. “We’ve always had good chemistry on court with our all around game,” Shibahara stated. “So with our communication and our experiences, we’re able to really be on the same page and have the same mindset that helps us get through tough times.”

One of the biggest stories of the event came from two players that the SoCal section and Indian Wells are extremely familiar with, Ryan Seggerman and Patrik Thrac. After compiling a historic resume together with major victories in ATP Challengers and owning a record of 49-5 as a team, Seggerman and Thrac did not initially know if they would even qualify for the event. With both having aspirations of playing at the BNP, they submitted a bid for a wild card entry and ultimately received the nod.

Receiving that wild card was such a dream come true just to come to terms with the fact that we were going to get to play in such a prestigious event and one that each of us had been ballkids at 12 years ago,” Seggerman stated. “When we got news that we got the wild card, we were coming off of two difficult weeks in Tenerife, but it was crazy how quickly that shifted our mood and our focus into just pure positivity and excitement for the opportunity ahead.”

What jolted the duo into this position was the phenomenal run they made during the two weeks of the inaugural Southern California Open. The pair went undefeated over two straight weeks in Palm Desert en route to winning back to back doubles’ titles.

Now back at Indian Wells on one of tennis’ grandest stages, the pair faced one of, if not, their toughest opponents to date. Taking on Maximo Gonzalez (No. 14) and Andres Molteni (No. 14) in the round of 32, the duo put the world on notice, shocking the veterans and pulling off the upset. In the most significant victory of their young careers, Seggerman and Thrac won a comeback thriller by a score of 3-6, 7-5, 10-8.

“The crowd was amazing and gave us so much energy,” added Seggerman. “For Pat to seal it with the return that he hit on what was probably the biggest point of our lives, it was just surreal. It felt like the ending of one of those underdog movies like Miracle on Ice, or Rudy.”

Ryan and Patrik’s first round win was spectacular to watch,” stated USTA SoCal’s Head of Marketing, Gailor Large. “It is hard to imagine a more dream scenario than getting a wild card into the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open and then upsetting a seed in front of family, friends, and a hometown SoCal crowd.” 

“This has been one of those California dreams and a story that will continue to be told as we move through 2024 and beyond,” shared USTA SoCal’s Executive Director, Trevor Kronemann. “Ryan and Patrik’s meteoric rise should be shouted across the rooftops, they have arrived and can compete with the best teams in the world. It is refreshing to witness from the ground level the possibilities and opportunities that these two young men have in front of them.”

While facing defeat in the round of 16, the duo etched their names into the history books with a win that neither of them will ever forget. With their rankings now at the highest they have ever been, the sky’s the limit for Seggerman (No. 156) and Thrac (No.153) as they continue their journey as a team. With an appearance under their belt, the duo is more eager than ever to get back to this position once again, and make these prestigious events a more regular occurrence.

“That week and experience of competing on one of the biggest stages in the tennis world was so motivating for Pat and I,” Ryan shared. “We are extremely fired up to keep working and keep improving our ranking so that we can hopefully be there next year and make those kinds of tournaments part of our normal schedule. It will be difficult to beat the experience of that first ATP win, but hopefully it’s just one of many amazing moments in our career.”

Alongside these three players in clinching wins in doubles were Desirae Krawczyk and Luisa Stefani. Krawczyk and Caroline Doelhide claimed a first round win while Stefani and partner Demi Schuurs reached the round of 16 with two dominant wins.

FILA INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS – While the professionals faced off, the next generation of tennis superstars looked to make their own mark in the desert as they competed for a junior title on the very same courts. SoCal made its presence felt on home soil, taking home both the boys’ singles championship and the girls’ doubles championship.

Rudy Quan (Thousand Oaks) captured the boys’ singles title after fighting his way through an intense field. Kicking off his time in the desert, Quan dominated in his first round matchup, besting Cesar Cruz 6-2, 6-0. Then taking on the eleventh seeded Noah Johnston, Quan fought back after dropping the first set, claiming the win 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. He would then win both of his next two matches in just two sets a piece, taking down eighth seed Jagger Leach and Bernardo. Munk Mesa. Now sitting in the semifinals, Quan faced his toughest opponent yet in the form of Kaylan Bigun. In an almost three-hour long affair, Quan got the best of the top seed, taking him down by a score of 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5. The finale was set for Quan who went up against tenth seeded Jack Kennedy. While losing the first set, Quan did not panic as he came back and won the next two convincingly, earning him the championship. Quan’s stellar performance ended with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 triumph. The soon-to-be UCLA Bruin, Quan’s future on the court is extremely bright, now with a title to add to his resume.

The team of Alyssa Ahn and Bianca Molnar (Ladera Ranch) took home the hardware in girls’ doubles. Only dropping two sets throughout their entirety of play, the girls were a force to be reckoned with. The duo took care of Raphaelle Leroux and Anita Tu via a final of 6-1, 7-5 in their first match of the event. Dropping their first set to third seeded duo of Monika Ekstrand and Aspen Schuman, the ladies quickly found their footing, coming back to win an incredibly tight match. With a score of 2-6, 6-3, 12-10, Ahn and Molnar advanced to the quarterfinals where they took on Sarah Fajmonova and Nadia Lagaev. Taking care of the match in two sets with a score of 7-6(4), 6-2, the SoCal pairing found themselves in the championship. Taking on the fifth seeded all-American team of Claire An and Alanis Hamilton, the ladies had their work cut out for them. Dropping the first set, Ahn and Molnar clawed their way back and dominated in the final set, etching their names into the history books and earning them a doubles title. Winning by a score of 5-7, 6-3, 10-4, Ahn and Molnar’s incredible run was complete. Molnar’s victory adds an impressive championship to her junior resume before heading off to Notre Dame in the fall. As for Ahn who does not graduate high school for another year, she has a chance to make even more history on the junior circuit following this win.

Capping off impressive runs of their own were SoCal’s Thea Frodin (Woodland Hills) and Iva Jovic, both of whom reached the semifinals in singles play.

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