By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
ST. HELENA, Calif. – Playing the big points loose, including two championship points against him, Georgia sophomore Nathan Pasha captured the 12th Annual Audi Napa Classic at the Meadowood Resort on Sunday, beating Texas sophomore Soren Hess-Olesen in the final of the PlayBrave Shootout, 16-14.
Down 11-10 on the first match point, the 20-year-old Pasha hit a net cord and rushed to the net, giving Hess-Olesen just a bit too much time to think about it, as he couldn’t convert the forehand, hitting it wide.
Hess-Olesen survived four match points against him in the final, much to the delight of the Meadowood fans, extending the match in the tournament’s most exciting final to date.
"I just wanted to play the points loose and not tighten up," said Pasha, who went 3-0 in pool play and won three 10-point tiebreakers on Sunday. "It’s weird because, when you’re down in a tiebreaker, it’s almost like a nothing-to-lose mentality, and you just go for it. On his match point, I ended up coming in somehow, and fortunately I ended up winning it.
"It was on my match points where I was playing it tentative and he ended up playing aggressive. I was finally able to just pull it out when that final match point came."
With the win in the unique USTA Player Development/collegiate event hosted by Meadowood’s Doug King and 20th-year Cal Coach Peter Wright, Pasha will be awarded a USTA Pro Circuit wild card to a future event. He also was named the Norma Miner Most Outstanding Player, winning his three pool-play matches while dropping just five games in each of his two-out-three-set wins.
"The whole tournament I wasn’t thinking about the wild card… until the tiebreakers," Pasha said. "I guess that’ll do it to do you every time. I did a good job of just managing my thoughts and managing my emotions where I could compete under that type of pressure."
The 2010 USTA Boys’ 18s National Hardcourt champion in doubles at Kalamazoo, Mich., had nothing but praise for the USTA’s eight juniors, who won four of seven matches contested in the final round on Sunday.
"The USTA kids are good," said Pasha, from Atlanta, whose only loss over the weekend came in doubles to the USTA’s Deiton Baughman and T.J. Pura, 8-4. "I knew they were going to be good. I was a USTA kid from 15 to 18, so I know what it’s like for them. And I know a lot of the guys and what they’re capable of. They’re all battlers, and the USTA does a good job with them."
Hess-Olesen, 21, from Aarhus, Denmark, had never played in a format like the Audi Napa Classic. "It was fun, he said. "It’s such a fun format, staying on the court from the quarters to the semis and then the final. You really have to be there from the first point."
Hess-Olesen, who has an identical twin brother, Esben, who is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, added, "There were a lot of good players here. I think it’s a great tournament for the juniors to see where their games are at and if they’re going to college or go pro."
Pasha, who made the All-SEC Freshman team last year, hung on to beat USTA junior Joseph DiGiulio in the semifinals, 10-8.
It was the second straight year the USTA team had a player advance to the semifinals of the Shootout, as Alexios Haleiban and Connor Farren lost in the final-four round last year.
Earlier in the day, DiGiulio beat Stanford’s Alex Steinroeder, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5, to finish 3-0 and win his pool. He then beat Cal’s Chris Konigstedt in the first quarterfinal tiebreaker, 10-7.
"The tiebreakers were just a couple of points here and there," said DiGiulio, 17. "I felt good in each of them because I knew how much pressure was on them compared to me. So I liked that part of it. But to lose to such a great player like Nathan, who wins the whole tournament, is fine."
DiGiulio, from Lakewood, Calif., just south of Los Angeles, has received a main-draw wild card into this week’s USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Irvine starting Tuesday.
"Joe really battled and made a ton of balls today and just kept pushing the other guy," said USTA coach Nick Fustar of the USTA Regional Training Center Eagle Fustar Tennis Academy in Santa Clara. "Pasha just played a great tiebreaker. In these tiebreakers, once you get down early, it’s tough to come back."
Fustar said he was happy with the way the juniors improved each day. "We really did play better each day," he said. "Even though some of the guys knew they weren’t going to play in the Shootout, I think they came out and still performed great and were able to get us a couple of wins."
Also getting wins for the USTA on Sunday were Baughman, Pura and Jack Murray.
Stanford head coach John Whitlinger and his Cardinal team played the event for the first time. "What a fabulous weekend and experience," Whitlinger said. "We just loved playing it. I was really impressed with the way the USTA guys competed, fought hard and battled. And they were all very respectful. It was good to see the juniors and where they are. We look forward to coming back. It’s really just a win-win for everyone."
Sunday’s Singles Scores:
Soren Hess-Olesen (Texas) def. Ben McLachlan (Cal), 6-4, 6-3
Olesen wins Group 1 with 2-1 record advancing with best percentage sets won.
Deiton Baughman (USTA) def. Denis Nguyen (Harvard), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Nathan Pasha (Georgia) def. Matt Kandath (Stanford), 6-3, 6-2
Pasha wins Group 2 with 3-0 record.
John Morrissey (Stanford) def. Daniel Whitehead (Texas), 6-3, 6-3
Chris Konigsfeldt (Cal) def. Gage Brymer (USTA), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Konigsfeldt wins Group 3 with 3-0 record.
Ben Wagland (Georgia) def. Shaun Chaudhuri (Harvard), 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4
Wagland wins Group 4 with 3-0 record.
Joseph DiGiulio (USTA) def. Alex Steinroeder (Harvard), 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-5
DiGiulio wins Group 5 with 3-0 record.
Mads Engsted (Cal) def. Eric Diaz (Georgia), 6-2, 6-1
Engsted wins Group 6 with 3-0 record.
Lloyd Glasspool (Texas) def. Daniel Ho (Stanford), 6-0, 6-2
Glasspool wins Group 7 with 3-0 record.
Riki McLachlan (Cal) def. Casey MacMaster (Harvard), walkover (inj.)
McLachlan wins Group 8 with 3-0 record.
Stephen Hoh (Illinois) def. Robert Bellamy (USTA), 6-4, 6-1
T.J. Pura (USTA) def. Robert Stineman (Stanford), 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Sudawa Sitaram (Texas) def. Tim Kopinski (Illinois), 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
Garrett Brasseaux (Georgia) def. Konrad Zieba (USTA), 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (8)
Jack Murray (USTA) def. Brian Page (Illinois), 7-6 (3), 6-4
Henry Craig (USTA) def. Farris Gosea (Illinois), walkover
PlayBrave Shootout Quarterfinals:
Hess-Olesen (Texas) def. R. McLachlan (Cal), 10-4
Wagland (Georgia) def. Engstedt (Cal), 10-4
DiGiulio (USTA) def. Konigstedt (Cal), 10-7
Pasha (Georgia) def. Glasspool (Texas), 10-8
PlayBrave Shootout Semifinals:
Hess-Olesen (Texas) def. Wagland (Georgia), 10-8
Pasha (Georgia) def. DiGiulio (USTA), 10-8
PlayBrave Shootout Final:
Pasha (Georgia) def. Hess-Olesen (Texas), 16-14
2011 Final Results:
Nick Andrews (Cal) def. Ben McLachlan (Cal), 10-7
2010 Final Results:
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Eric Quigley (Kentucky), 10-7