Semifinals set at USTA International Spring Championships

April 4, 2015 06:51 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

CARSON, Calif. – It was a long day on the courts for three of the four girls who moved on to the semifinals at the ITF Grade 1 USTA International Spring Championships at the StubHub Center on Friday.

It was especially long for Michaela Gordon and Sofia Kenin in the girls’ 18s, as both players needed three sets to advance in the singles draw and then later played in quarterfinal doubles matches, with Gordon, from Saratoga, Calif., advancing to both the singles semifinals and the doubles final, which will be played Saturday.

Fifteen-year-old Gordon, seeded third in singles, beat No. 6 Katherine Sebov of Canada, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, and will face Kenin in one of Saturday’s semifinal matches. Kenin also needed three sets to take out unseeded Emma Higuchi, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, but later fell in her doubles quarterfinal.

In the other 18s semifinal, No. 7 Ingrid Neel (pictured above) of Bradenton, Fla., will take on her IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis program rival, No. 4 seed Fanni Stollar of Hungary. The two have never faced each other in a tournament match.

“We’ve never played each other, but we train together a lot,” said Neel, 16, originally from Rochester, Minn. “It’ll be a little bit of both fun and tough. I’m going to try and have as much fun as I can and try to win. It will be a battle, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Neel played great down the stretch to upset top-seeded Usue Arconada, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. Just two weeks ago, Neel surprised many with a huge win in the WTA Miami Open qualifying draw, where she beat No. 7 seed and world No. 85 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-2.

“I’m so glad I was able to have that experience,” she said. “Miami was just so great, and I’m so glad I had a chance to do it so early in my career. With the pros and juniors, there is just such a big difference. In the pros, they just don’t give you a point, and I’ve been trying to concentrate on that here. Just act like a pro a little bit.”

Gordon won her first ITF junior title in January, beating Kenin in three sets in the semifinals of the Grade 1 Costa Rica event.

“There are so many good players here,” said Gordon, beaten in the first round at Carson by Arconada in 2013 and by Jessica Ho in the round of 16 last year. “I’ve been playing aggressive and getting better as I go. (Sebov) played so good from the start. There was nothing I could do at the beginning. I thought if she beats me this way, it’s fine. She was playing like a Top-50 pro player. She was hitting winners everywhere.”

Gordon, traditionally known as a defensive player, says she has added more offense to her game.

“Now I’m starting to change my game so I have both offense and defense,” she said. “If I would have just defended today, there was no way. I’m starting to be more aggressive.”

Top-seeded boys’ 18s player William Blumberg of Greenwich, Conn., didn’t need much time to dispatch unseeded Notre Dame-bound Johnathan Small of Zionsville, Ind., 6-1, 6-0. He will face No. 5 Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Ariz., in one semifinal.

Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, the No. 2 seed, takes on future USC Trojan Kalman Boyd of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., in the other semifinal.

In Saturday's boys’ 16s final, No. 5 Andrew Fenty of Washington, D.C., will face No. 6 Oliver Crawford of Spartanburg, S.C.

The girls’ 16s final will feature No. 4 Victoria Flores of Fort Dodge, Iowa, against No. 15 Natasha Subhash of Fairfax, Va.

To follow all the action this week at Carson, log on to for Ken Thomas’ commentary and interviews. To follow the live scores online, go to For a complete run down of news, photos, scores and updated draws, log onto the website at