Tennis News

#TeamSoCal US Open Blog: Still alive in doubles, SoCal with shot at three titles before the dust settles in NYC

Our final entry ahead of championship weekend…

Double trouble if you’re facing a tandem with #TeamSoCal roots at the US Open this week. Steve Johnson & Sam Querrey are on to the semifinals of Men’s doubles, and Desirae Krawczyk is in the hunt for two doubles crowns as the final Grand Slam of the year winds down.

First, Palm Desert’s Krawczyk, who reached the women’s semis today with teammate Alexa Guarachi, over Niculescu/Ruse in three sets. Krawczyk/Guarachi reached the French Open final last year, and Krawczyk herself is looking for her third mixed doubles Grand Slam title of the year with trophies already earned at the French and Wimbledon. Now, she’s in line to add another notch – one on hardcourt – alongside Joe Salisbury this week.

Salisbury has a similar path to multiple victories at the Open, but in men’s doubles he’ll need to hurdle Johnson & Querrey in the semis. The Americans lost their first set in Round 1 and never looked back, locking up eight consecutive sets to reach the semis, where Salisbury and Rajeev Ram, the #4 seeds, await.

FUN FACT: Apparent Joe Salisbury learned his lesson. After winning the French with Desirae, he instead teamed with Harriet Dart at Wimbledon and lost in the final – to Desirae! Now they are back on the same side of the net, and collectively dominating mixed doubles tennis on the biggest stages.

TUESDAY 9/7: Locals make unexpected surge into men’s doubles quarters

On the slate today, two #TeamSoCal favorites have made a rather unexpected advance into the Men’s doubles quarterfinals. Steve Johnson & Sam Querrey have carved comparable singles careers but neither is a proven commodity on the doubles circuit. That changed over the past week, as the duo sits only two wins away from a shot at a Grand Slam title. Tonight they meet #6 seeded Kevin Krawietz & Horia Tecau on Armstrong.

Desirae Krawczyk & Alexa Guarachi, the #7 seed, are also into the quarters in women’s doubles, to face the Romanian duo Niculescu/Ruse this afternoon.

Sam Stosur & Zhang upset favored Ena Shibahara & Shuko Aoyama to reach the quarters. Top seeds Hsieh/Mertens remain atop the draw.

Aidan Mayo hopes to upend the top seed in Boys singles when he meets China’s Juncheng Shang in the second round of junior competition.

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MONDAY 9/6: Doubles hopes still alive for women’s seeds; Juniors set to open play Monday

We’re approaching the Round of 16 in women’s doubles, which features prominent #TeamSoCal names still in the mix, including Ena Shibahara and Desirae Krawczyk.

Shibabara, the former UCLA star, and teammate Shuko Aoyama are the #3 seeds in New Yoek this week. They face their first big test against another seeded team, Stosur/Zhang (14), in the next round. Stoser/Zhang moved into R16 by eliminating SoCal’s Sabrina Santamaria & Miyu Kato in straight sets.

Palm Desert’s Desirae Krawczyk, a two time mixed doubles Slam champion, is seeking her first women’s Grand Slam title in New York alongside Alexa Guarachi as the #7 seeds. They are into R16 after cruising through the first two rounds, but they too face a seeded opponent for the first time, with Olaru/Kichenok (12) next in line. Interestingly enough, both Krawczyk and Guarachi are into the mixed doubles quarters and if both advance, they will meet in the semis.

In men’s doubles action, Steve Johnson & Sam Querrey are on the same side of the net in the quarterfinals, a superb run for the tour veterans. They meet Krawietz/Tecau, the #6 seed, in the quarters.

We’re also watching the junior draws, which are soon to begin in Flushing Meadows. Roseville native Aidan Mayo meets Portugal’s Miguel Gomez in the opening round, the winner to meet top seed Juncheng Shang. Fullerton’s Kyle Kang faces Paraguay’s Adolfo Daniel Vallejo to begin play.

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FRIDAY, 9/03: After singles struggles, the women of SoCal aim for doubles glory in New York

The US Open journey for #TeamSoCal shifts now to doubles, as the second round of play in New York proved to be a rocky road for local favorites vying for a Grand Slam title.

Yesterday’s action was not without drama. Taylor Fritz opened his second rounder with Jenson Brooksby with a tiebreaker to capture the first set before Brooksby did exactly the same in the second before locking up the win in four sets. Steve Johnson split the first two sets with Gael Monfils before the popular Frenchman secured his spot in the third round. Zach Svajda put up a fight, trading tiebreakers before World #16 Jannik Sinner emerged victorious. Ernesto Escobedo had no solution for Lloyd Harris an fell in three sets, while the Bruin trifecta of Marcos Giron, Max Cressy, and Mackenzie McDonald was halted before the third round.

There remains hope in doubles competition, where on Thursday Sabrina Santamaria advanced with teammate Miyu Kato of Japan. The duo secured a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kuzmova/Rus to move ahead. Santamaria (Los Angeles) is a former USC star who ranks #62 in the world in women’s doubles. The pair will face #14 Stozur/Zhang in the second round.

Ena Shibahara, the UCLA Bruin alum, continues her ascent in women’s tandem play with teammate Shuko Aoyama. The team won in straight sets over fellow SoCal favorite Claire Liu and partner Madison Brengle. Shibahara (Mountain View) is the #9 ranked doubles player in the world, and together with Aoyama won the Cleveland title as a US Open tune-up last week. The face Hozumi/Rosolska in their next match.

As the #7 seed, Desirae Krawczyk and teammate Alexa Guarachi are into the second round with a solid 6-3, 6-4 victory over Danilina/Shvedova. Krawczyk (Palm Desert), the #19 doubles player on tour and a two-time Slam winner in mixed doubles, teamed with Guarachi to reach the French Open final in 2020. They face off with Kovinic/Peterson in the next round.

AROUND THE OPEN: Frances Tiafoe had to work hard against his first round singles opponent Chris Eubanks. While Tiafoe hurdled his friend to move ahead in the draw, Eubanks and doubles mate Bjorn Fratengelo got a measure of revenge in doubles by edging Tiafoe and Nick Monroe to begin play in doubles. The #7 team of Murray/Soares is next for young Eubanks, who has impressed as much with his booming serve as his friendly persona.

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WEDNESDAY, 9/01

The intriguing match on Tuesday between Taylor Fritz and Britain’s Alex de Minaur could have been a first round stunner for the young American from Rancho Palos Verdes. Instead, Fritz owned the court at Flushing Meadows to lock up his spot in the second round later this week. While the opener was not exactly smooth sailing for Fritz – he escaped a first set tiebreaker and zoned out for much of the third – he mixed in ten timely aces to walk away victorious in four sets and will next meet Jenson Brooksby.

A trio of UCLA Bruins remain in the mix, headlined by Maxime Cressy’s stunning upset of #9 Pablo Carreno Busta. Down two sets on Tuesday, Cressy owned the net game to dominate the third and earn the four set, resulting in a dramatic deciding set that went the distance, and then some. Cressy finally secured the overtime tiebreaker at 9-7 to punch his ticket to the second round, where he meets Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Another of Bruin coach Billy Martin’s alums, Mackenzie McDonald, upended the #27 seed David Goffin in the first round. McDonald is now two years removed from a hamstring injury that limited his play in 2019 and enjoying a healthy resurgence on the ATP circuit. Now at #61 in the world, McDonald had little trouble with Goffin in the straight set win. The former NCAA champion meets Kei Nishikori in the second round.

And Marcos Giron, to date the most accomplished of the Bruin trio, will join Cressy and McDonald as the Open continues. With his win Monday against Antoine Hoang, the world #64 meets Daniel Evans on Wednesday.

On the women’s side, yet another Bruin succumbed to an undesired result when Jennifer Brady, the tournament’s #13 seed, withdrew from her opening match with a knee injury. On a tough day for #TeamSoCal in the women’s draw, Claire Liu and Coco Vandeweghe both fell in their opening match. Local favorite Sloane Stephens, fresh off a 2017 redux win over Madison Keys, will meet popular upstart Coco Gauff on Wednesday.

Doubles play begins today as well, adding #TeamSoCal’s Kaitlyn Christian, Desirae Krawczyk, Sabrina Santamaria, and Ena Shibahara to the mix.

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TUESDAY, 8/31: David Over Goliath as Nakashima topples Isner to advance

He was described by the television announcers as a seasoned pro, but 20-year old Brandon Nakashima still feels very young on the ATP Tour. That youthfulness showed on Monday as the San Diegan dispatched #19 seed John Isner in straight sets to advance at the US Open.

Nakashima has previously split two career meetings with veteran Isner, both this year, before capturing the rubber match with tenacity and style. The tenacity was dialed up to deal with Isner’s booming serve, though it was Nakashima’s 16 aces that helped him overcome Isner’s challenge at every turn. Style, on the other hand, was on full display as Nakashima ripped running forehands and played himself into points after chipping away at Isner’s service game.

With the 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory, Nakashima awaits Alex Molcan in the second round on Wednesday.

Marcos Giron (Thousand Oaks) posted a first round win on Monday over Antoine Hoang in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Giron took full advantage of six double faults by his opponent, then peppered in eight aces to maintain control. The former NCAA singles champion from UCLA next meets Daniel Evans, the #24 seed.

Look for the remainder of #TeamSoCal on Tuesday as the opening round continues, including Steve Johnson, Claire Liu, and Coco Vandeweghe.

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MONDAY 8/30: Hometown favs poised to make plenty of impact as Grand Slam play begins in New York

Whether home grown or a product of the region’s top collegiate programs, a huge contingent of Southern California favorites will kick off their quest for a US Open championship on Monday as the year’s final Grand Slam opens in New York.

The men’s draw is chock full of #TeamSoCal veterans and young guns, including two featured in first round match-ups are sure to capture the Manhattan spotlight. Taylor Fritz (Rancho Palos Verdes) began his summer campaign with solid outings at Wimbledon as well as Los Cabos, then reached the semifinals in Atlanta. But he’s since lost three consecutive matches ahead of the Open, leading to his first round match with Britain’s Alex de Minaur, the #13 seed. The young Brit, now 22 years old, is unbeaten in three career matches with Fritz.

In Atlanta, Fritz fell in the semifinals to fellow American John Isner, who was pushed to the brink by San Diego’s emerging ATP star Brandon Nakashima. The two will meet again in New York’s opening round, a rubber match after splitting two meetings earlier this year. Nakashima overcame the powerful Isner serve in the semis at Los Cabos, and their match in Atlanta was an all-out nailbiter. Now, the 20-year old looks to regain the advantage and bounce the #19 seed. Nakashima has played marvelous tennis in 2021, recently earning his career high ranking (82) and climbing steadily among the world’s best.

Three of #TeamSoCal’s young guns return to Flushing Meadows this week, with Emilio Nava, Ernesto Escobedo, and Zach Svajda among those seeking to catapult in to the second round.

The 19-year old Nava (West Hills) also reached his career high ranking this summer (381) and plays only his second tournament on American soil this year. He’s also captured his first ITF title and reached the final of another – both in Spain – and he’ll meet fellow teen Lorenzo Musetti of Italy in the opening round.

At #178 in the world, West Covina’s Ernesto Escobedo fell in the first round of qualifying at Wimbledon in June but rebounded with exceptional performances in Mexico and Kentucky to position himself for a US Open run. Escobedo reached the quarters in Los Cabos and the semis of a Challenger event in Lexington ahead of his arrival in New York, where he’ll face tour veteran and world #101 Pablo Cuevas for the first time.

With his repeat win at Boys Nationals in Kalamazoo, San Diegan Zachary Svajda returns to the Open after capturing headlines in his first foray two years ago. The 18-year old was a mere youngster when he pushed Paolo Lorenzi to a fifth set in 2019, winning the first two sets before fully realizing what it takes to advance in a Grand Slam, both mentally and physically. Experience will benefit Svajda in his return, where he’ll oppose Italian Marcs Cecchinato, the #81 player on tour.

Also on the men’s side, Marcos Giron (Thousand Oaks) is back in Flushing Meadows to face Antoine Hoang of France. Giron has equaled his career high ranking (64) this year, and a strong showing in New York would push the former NCAA champion to new heights. Another NCAA legend, Redondo Beach’s Steve Johnson, faces Max Marterer to kick off the Open. The two have played only once, way back in 2017 when Johnson dispatched the young German in three sets.

Expect more than just the ol’ college try from Max Cressy and Mackie McDonald, both protégés of Billy Martin at UCLA who continue to carry their Bruin spirit on the world circuit. McDonald will battle #27 David Goffin while Cressy draws #9 Pablo Carreno Busta.

In other intriguing first rounders, Frances Tiafoe and Chris Eubanks will meet in an all-American match-up, and Sam Querrey looks to upset #4 Alexander Zverev.

THE WOMEN’S DRAW

The headline was to be Serena’s quest for the record, but that story will have to wait as she recovers alongside her sister Venus, who also withdrew with injury. Fans will eagerly await their return to Flushing Meadows, where they will undoubtedly receive a long-awaited welcome and, in due time, a proper farewell.

Their absence leaves avenues of opportunity for a select few #TeamSoCal stars like Claire Liu, who meets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei to begin play in New York. Liu, a former world #1 in junior competition, enters the tournament squarely at #100 on the WTA rankings list. The 21-year old from Thousand Oaks is coming off a semifinal run in Chicago last week. She’s already won two consecutive ITF titles earlier in 2021, her most impressive pro streak to date.

In Chicago, Liu fell to finalist Raducanu, who draws #13 Jennifer Brady at the Open. Brady, the UCLA standout, enjoyed a marvelous 2020 season that overlapped into the new year by reaching the Australian open final. She’ll look to bookend her Grand Slam calendar with a return to the final in New York.

Coco Vandeweghe is back in New York, resuming her emergence as a leader in US tennis. The former world #9 currently sits at #160 and meets Italy’s Martina Trevisan in the opening round. Vandeweghe is a two-time semifinalist at both hardcourt Slams.

Perhaps the most unexpected encounters in the first round will be between former finalists Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. The two good friends famously met in the final of the 2017, with Stephens earning her first Slam title. On Monday, they’ll decide who gets a shot to win the crown in 2021.