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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Crawley, Alshon Claim Winter National 18s Titles, Pielet and Chopra are 16s Champions

The weather today in Orlando put the winter in the USTA Winter National Championships finals, with temperatures in the low 50s and winds of 15 mph taking the wind chills in the 30s.  The few spectators who braved those conditions at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona were dressed as if for a December NFL football game in Green Bay, and as miserable as it was for fans, it was equally frustrating for the players, who were unable to do much more than survive.

The 16s finals were played this morning, when the wind might have been less of an issue, with No. 8 seed Keshav Chopra beating No. 6 seed Harsh Parikh 6-4, 6-2 for the boys title and top seed Gianna Pielet taking the girls title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 8 seed Eryn Cayetano.

Parikh got off to a good start in the boys final, taking leads of 3-0 and 4-2, but Chopra found his form to take the next four games and played much more consistent and error-free tennis in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead and closing out the title with little drama.

Pielet, who won the Winter Nationals 12s three years ago, went down a break early in both sets, but immediately broke back, reeling off the final four games of the first set and the final five games of the second set.

The 18s finals were advertised as being shown live on the Tennis Channel, but they were not. Instead, at 3:30 p.m. the boys final was shown in its entirety, tape-delayed, while the girls final was shown this evening, although the first five games of the second set were cut.

No. 16 seed Christian Alshon, who won the Winter National 16s two years ago, added the 18s title today with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 win over No. 12 seed Bradley Frye. Frye, who had beaten No. 4 seed Jared Pratt in a third-set tiebreaker indoor Monday evening, led 4-2 in the opening set. Alshon got the break back on a double fault and held for 5-4, and the final game of the first set was long and tense affair, with eight deuces.  Frye had three game points, Alshon had five set points, converting the last when Frye sent a forehand into the net.

After breaking Alshon for a 5-4 lead in the second set, Frye had to fight off three break points, but he finally earned a set point and a converted it with a good first serve.  After those two sets, the third set was disappointing, with the only competitive games the first and last games, with Alshon at one stage winning 19 of 20 points in taking a 5-0 lead.

Fifteen-year-old Fiona Crawley, a 17 seed, won the girls 18s title, beating  No. 3 seed Sophia Graver 6-1, 7-5.  Graver struggled with the wind, and Crawley, who loves clay, having won the 16s Clay Courts and reached the final of last month's 16s Orange Bowl, adjusted much better in the opening set.  Crawley went up a break at least twice in the second set (I don't know what happened in the first five games), but Graver took a 5-4 lead, only to see Crawley hold, break and hold to claim the title.

My frustration with the Tennis Channel tape-delaying the finals is based mostly on the misleading claim that they would be showing it live (See yesterday's post for the USTA press release saying it would be live).  But aside from that, even with the awful weather, it was fantastic to watch the matches from home, with knowledgeable commentators (Jimmy Arias and Sam Gore) providing information and insight. I hope the USTA continues to partner with Tennis Channel for more coverage of junior events; it is an important part of getting young athletes interested in the game at an early age.

For the complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

The weather in Tucson for the 12s and 14s finals was much better.  Below are photos of the winners, with the result of each final in the caption.  Special thanks to YourGameFace.com for providing two of the photos.
G12s: Stephanie Yakoff[1] def. Brooklyn Olson[3] 6-3, 6-0
B12s: Rudy Quan[7] def. Kaylan Bigun[9] 6-4, 6-0
G14s: Midori Castillo def. Priya Nelson[7] 6-2, 6-2
G14s: Samir Banerjee[3] def. Jixai Ma[13] 6-2, 6-3


David said...

This tournament never should have left the Phoenix area. The weather is consistently nicer in Phoenix as compared to Orlando.