Only two short weeks ago, a keen eye focused on the US Open and the emergence of Southern California’s growing roster of young players poised to lead the forthcoming charge of US Tennis. With champions in both Men’s and Women’s doubles, plus finalists in both Boy’s doubles and Wheelchair Quads, Southern California is again a hotbed of talent on the verge of breaking in to the national (and international) spotlight.
This week, the second of four USTA Pro Circuit events in September is underway at Laguna Niguel Tennis Center, showcasing some of this TeamSoCal potential. First, a matinee on Thursday between Emilio Nava and the #3 seed, Japan’s Takuto Niki, set the stage for a dominant performance by the 16-year old from Woodland Hills. Nava is coming off an impressive second place showing in Boy’s doubles at Flushing Meadows, where he and Axel Nefve were mere points away from securing a tiebreaker in the deciding set before settling for a superb runner-up finish. Playing with poise and confidence in Laguna Niguel, Nava ripped powerful groundstrokes with ease and dispatched Niki, 6-3, 6-1.
Even more impressive was Nava’s ability to raise the level of his game without suffering emotional hangover from the thrill of a championship final on Court Six at the Open – something that often plagues pro athletes who compete in career-defining events like the Olympics.
“This is where I grew up, in Southern California,” Nava said after his second round win, appreciative of the locals who come out during the week to enjoy some homegrown tennis. “This is my home.”
As for his match with Niki, in which the Japanese talent suffered from ongoing frustration with his racquet strings, Nava remarked, “I just came into the match hoping to play my game and stay positive. I wanted to keep at him, move him around.”
Nava meets Alan Cohen of Argentina in the next round on Friday.
Later in the day, San Diego’s Brandon Nakashima logged a full day’s worth of hard work opposite Dominick Kellovsky (CZE). Nakashima, who reached the Boy’s singles quarterfinals at the US Open, went the distance with #7 Kellovsky and dominated two tiebreakers to notch a 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-6(2) victory. He plays Martin Redlicki on Thursday.
“He hit a lot of big serves, and a lot of big groundstrokes,” Nakashima said following the win. “I like it when they hit hard and flat. It feeds right into my strike zone.”
Like Nava, the 17-year old Wild Card recipient downplayed the shift from Grand Slam stage to quaint California tennis club. “I just want to play more matches,” he said. “Every match is pretty much the same for me.”
In other action, Cerritos’ Govind Nanda was impressive despite a second round loss to Murrieta native Henry Craig, the #2 seed. Nanda looked comfortable on court with the more experienced opponent, but Craig’s pace and ability to strike timely winners made the difference and the win, 6-3, 6-2. Craig faces Alessandro-Damiano Ventre (BRA) in the quarters.
And Redlicki, the recent UCLA graduate who finished second in last week’s Pro Futures event at Claremont, moved on after a lengthy straight set win over Jacob Brumm. Redlicki also tallied a win in doubles with teammate Nicolas Meister, an entertaining affair that finished in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(4).
The USTA Pro Circuit continues through Sunday at Laguna Niguel, and moves to Fountain Valley next week. The women’s Pro Circuit comes to Templeton beginning September 23.
For more, visit southerncaliforniatennis.org.