Irvine's Learner Tien Overcomes Torrance’s Karue Sell to Complete SoCal Pro Series Singles and Doubles Sweep - USTA Southern California




Learner Tien



JUNE 3, 2024

Learner Tien
Karue Sell
Haley Giavara and Kelly Keller

Top: Irvine’s Learner Tien won the men’s singles title at the first SoCal Pro Series event of the summer. (Photo – Lexie Wanninger/USTA SoCal)

Middle: Former UCLA Bruin Karue Sell finished as the singles runner up to Tien in San Diego. (Photo – Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

Bottom: San Diego’s Haley Giavara and Laguna Beach’s Kelly Keller grabbed the women’s doubles title at Barnes Tennis Center. (Photo – Lexie Wanninger/USTA SoCal)


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Karue Sell’s return to professional tennis over the past nine months has proven a noble career renaissance for the Torrance resident. However, some chapters to the former UCLA star’s comeback story won’t necessarily end happily ever going against one of American tennis’ most elite teenagers who is in the early stages of writing his tennis story and, for now, could serve to become the protagonist of the 2024 SoCal Pro Series.

Sell’s recent return from four years off from professional tennis was set back for one week by Irvine resident Learner Tien’s own comeback – a return to the court for the first time in over three months following injury and his resurgent form.

Top-seeded Tien outlasted No. 2 seed Sell, 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-2, on Sunday at Barnes Tennis Center to win the opening week of the collection of seven consecutive $15,000-purse ITF World Tour/USTA Pro Circuit tournaments in Southern California that comprise the SoCal Pro Series.

Tien (No. 434 ATP ranking) collected his fourth ITF World Tour/USTA Pro Circuit men’s singles title, all within the last year and dating back to his first SoCal Pro Series in Irvine in June 2023.

Tien doubled up on his championship haul in Saturday’s men’s doubles final as he partnered with childhood friend Sebastian Gorzny to rally past North Carolina State teammates Robin Catry and Braden Shick, 1-6, 6-3, 10-1 (third-set, 10-point tiebreaker). It was Tien’s fourth ITF/USTA Pro Circuit doubles title in the last 19 months.

“I’m pretty happy with how I’m playing. I was a little surprised how easily I kind of felt like I integrated back into playing after being out for a while,” Tien said while reporting no ill effects of his injury during the week. “I’m just happy that I’ve kind of held up playing singles and doubles this week. I’ve had some longer matches.”

Tien, 18, is using the SoCal Pro Series to get back into the swing of things as the left-hander recently recovered from a fractured rib on his left side that first came about in January and shelved him from tournament play in mid-February.

While Tien has registered for every SoCal Pro Series event, and he returns to Barnes Tennis Center for Week 2 of the series, he said he’ll work in a break for his body.

“I’ll probably play four or five (SoCal Pro Series events), if I had to guess. I’m not sure what couple of weeks I’ll take off. I’m going to be staying at home for all of these tournaments so it’s pretty convenient. My coaches all get to be here. It’s just easy and it’s not often you get to play tournaments staying at home.  

“I have higher expectations for how deep I’ll get into tournaments. Obviously, I want to do as well as I can, but it all comes down to just playing matches. Just kind of applying the stuff I’ve been working on and just putting myself back out there.”

Tien collected 15 ATP singles ranking points and a $2,160 winner’s prize while Sell, a vital cog on many national powerhouse UCLA teams from 2012-16, notched eight ATP ranking points and a $1,272 check as runner-up.

Ranked as high as No. 371 in July 2018, Sell reintroduced himself to the pro ranks in September with a goal of becoming a Challenger Tour regular and eventually surpassing that career-best world ranking to a point high enough to receive consideration for the qualifying stages at ATP Tour events and Grand Slams.

Sell (ATP No. 509), won in his second tournament back, in October, at a $15,000 ITF event in Mexico. His 2024 campaign opened with a $25,000 ITF tournament victory in New York. He made a $25,000 ITF semifinal in February in Portugal, and returned to his native Brazil in May and reached a $50,000 Challenger quarterfinal.

He stopped playing pro tennis in October 2019 because he could no longer afford to fund his career.

Said Sell: “The tour is a really brutal lifestyle, 11 months a year. It is very demanding, psychologically. I was kind of ready for being home and starting to work, starting to figure out my life at the time, at 25, 26. Then I did a lot of things in tennis. I was a hitting partner, I coached, and I played a good amount still. And then I started my (YouTube) channel and that kind of grew faster than I expected.”

Sell enlisted the help of nearby friends and former Bruins teammates Marcos Giron (ATP No. 50 world ranking) and Clay Thompson to boost him back into the pro game. He leans on Giron for his tennis – he plans to train with Giron this upcoming week – and on Thompson on the business end.

He turned to social media to partially solve the financial dilemma by creating a YouTube vlog – My Tennis HQ (131,000 subscribers). Towards that end, he mounted a camera to film his matches during the past week.

“After some time off, last year, I was working with Marcos Giron. I was training with him and hitting a lot … and I was kind of playing well. So I figured why not give it one more try. I’m 30, I got five more years, maybe, of playing a really high level, and I just wanted to just kind of give it my best before it starts going downhill.

“It’s nice to have Marcos. We talk a lot of tennis. We’re like five minutes away from each other. We train more by sending each other videos than necessarily hitting all the time. It’s good to have someone who has made it and has had to work through every level to make it like him.

“And now (what if) I’d be able to somehow stay afloat on tour and share that story on YouTube. I’m able to have a sponsor, from Clay Thompson. He’s running an app called MprooV. We have a collaboration together and they’ve been able to help me stay on tour. Still able to afford it for now. Really just enjoying the process, enjoying playing.”

Sell wishes this was not one of those weeks to find Tien’s name next to his in the draw and while he understood Tien’s scheduling game plan to rehabilitate his game after injury, he does not expect to see Tien playing at this level much longer.

“I think he’ll get through this Futures level pretty quickly,” Sell said. “He’ll get through these (SoCal Pro Series events) with hopefully no injuries, and he’ll start playing a lot more Challengers.

“Watching him play, it’s like, his blood pressure, it’s like he’s just chilling on the couch. He sees the court so well. He plays the geometry of the court very well. He just has a high tennis IQ. It’s a mental challenge to be able to, point by point, execute in a way that makes him a bit uncomfortable.”

The past two weeks have become a glorious whirlwind of landmark tennis moments for Gorzny. He won the decisive singles match to clinch the first NCAA Division I national team championship for Texas Christian University on May 19 before winning his first pro tournament on Saturday.

Tien and Gorzny gained 15 ATP doubles ranking points each and split a $930 champion’s prize, while runners-up Catry and Shick banked eight ATP doubles ranking points each and split a $540 check.

Said Gorzny: “NCAA’s was unbelievable. It’s hard to reach another high like that, especially so soon. Here, I’m having a great time playing with Learner, coming back to Southern California and just enjoying myself. It’s nice to know that I can win at this level and hopefully we can do the same thing next week.”

Gorzny said he and Tien have known each other since he was about 5 or 6 years old and that the two grew up about a five-minute drive apart in Irvine. Gorzny initiated their first pro doubles partnership, and both will partner again at Barnes Tennis Center for Week 2 of the SoCal Pro Series.

San Diego resident Haley Giavara, a 2019 Serra High School and 2023 UC Berkeley (Cal) graduate, and Laguna Beach resident Kelly Keller, who recently completed her NCAA career at Arkansas, rallied from a set down to defeat top-seeded Dasha Ivanova and Lisa Zaar, 2-6, 6-2, 10-5 (third-set, 10-point tiebreaker), and capture the first women’s doubles crown on the 2024 SoCal Pro Series.

Giavara, the 2023 Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Scholar Athlete of the Year, won her third professional doubles title on the ITF World Tour in 2024, her second in a row after winning a $50,000 Challenger doubles event in China, and her fifth in the last year (her first came on the SoCal Pro Series in June 2023). Keller won her first professional tennis championship.

The duo earned 15 WTA doubles ranking points each for their triumph and split a $955 winner’s check. Ivanova and Zaar collected 10 WTA doubles ranking points each and split a $515 runner-up prize.

“Haley’s a stud,” said Keller, a Laguna Beach High graduate who intends to play Weeks 3-7 on the SoCal Pro Series. “I’ve made doubles semifinals so it’s really nice to finally break through and win one. It helps when you’re good friends with your partner and everything’s fun. I just finished my fifth year in college so it’s nice, two weeks later, to come out with a pro title. And I’m from around here, so that’s special as well.”

For Giavara, the victory atoned for a 3-6, 3-6 singles semifinal defeat to South African qualifier and North Carolina State sophomore-to-be Gabriella Broadfoot immediately before taking the court for the doubles championship.

“It was just exciting to play in the final in my hometown, have some support,” said Giavara, who said there were too many family members, friends and tennis acquaintances in the crowd for her to count. “I love any chance there is to play in SoCal. There is nothing like it.”

Giavara will return to the SoCal Pro Series in one week, when the series shifts to the University of San Diego. She’s been waiting for the 2024 return of the SoCal Pro Series, which afforded her the highlight of her young pro career — a wild card into qualifying in March’s BNP Paribas Open by virtue of being named the top female performer over the entirety of last year’s series.

Said Giavara: “Oh my god! It made me so motivated to just try and break into that realm of level. That was my first time at Indian Wells so, going the first time as a player, that was really special. I remember everything. I kept going back after (losing in qualifying), too, to watch because I was just learning a lot, just from watching the other girls practice and being able to hit with some of the players in the tournament.”

Broadfoot, 19, went on to capture her first ITF singles championship on Sunday with a 6-2, 7-6 (2) victory over Zaar. She won seven matches in seven days and, being that she had never won a match in four previous ITF main draw appearances, garnered her first 15 WTA singles world ranking points and a $2,352 prize. Zaar received 10 WTA world ranking points and a $1,470 runner-up share.

Six more weeks remain on the SoCal Pro Series (free admission), where fans can get a sneak peek of much of Southern California’s elite junior and collegiate talent aspiring to fast track themselves toward future pro careers on the ATP and WTA Tours.


  • June 3-9 – Barnes Tennis Center
  • June 10-16 – University of San Diego, San Diego
  • June 17-23 – Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club, Rancho Santa Fe
  • June 24-30 – Jack Kramer Club, Rolling Hills Estates
  • July 1-7 – Lakewood Tennis Center, Lakewood
  • July 8-14 – Lakewood Tennis Center, Lakewood

The SoCal Pro Series gives Southern California players the chance to earn valuable ATP and WTA world ranking points. Main draw and qualifying wild cards are made available to U.S. citizens who are Southern California residents or full-time Southern California college students.

Each SoCal Pro Series tournament week features men’s and women’s singles and doubles qualifying on Mondays and Tuesdays, first-round main draw play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, doubles finals on Saturday and singles finals on Sundays.

Follow along with the SoCal Pro Series on Instagram and Facebook.


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