By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
CARSON, Calif. – Top-seeded and world junior No. 7 Francis Tiafoe got an assist from an unlikely source on Friday at the 10th annual USTA International Spring Championships taking place at the StubHub Center.
Halfway through his quarterfinal match against Sameer Kumar, the bottom of the front part of the sole of 16-year-old Tiafoe’s shoe began to peel off, limiting his movement. After showing his coach and others that he could no longer continue to move without causing potential injury, RadioTennis.com commentator Ken Thomas, who was broadcasting his podcast live at a table about six feet from the baseline, offered up his size 10 Adidas shoes for Tiafoe to wear.
Tiafoe slipped on the new shoes and, after a slight adjustment period, took the match from the No. 8-seeded Kumar, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“The radio guy helped me huge,” said Tiafoe, who last December became the youngest boys' 18s champion in the 67-year history of the Orange Bowl. “It was awful. I couldn’t move to my right it and it was all peeled back. And they were Adidias, my company, so that was huge.”
Thomas, who played college tennis at the University of Wisconsin, said nothing like that ever happened to him before. “He asked what size and I said a 10,” Thomas said. “No one was helping the kid. You can hurt yourself. That was pretty wild. I would have done the same for Kumar.”
In a new pair of shoes on Saturday, Tiafoe will meet Daniel Kerznerman, the No. 9 seed from Brooklyn, N.Y., who advanced with a win over 2013 finalist Henrik Wiersholm, the No. 4 seed from Kirkland, Wash. In a quarterfinal here last year, Tiafoe beat Kerznerman in a third-set tiebreak. The other semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan against No. 7 seed Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
On this day, Tiafoe wasn't the only pupil from the Junior Tennis Champions Center, a USTA Certified Regional Training Center based in College Park, Md., to advance. In the girls' 18s semifinals on Saturday, two JTTC players – Usue Arconada and Ravenna Kingsley – will square off. The No. 9-seeded Kingsley beat No. 4 Arconada in straight sets when the two 15-year-old rivals met for third place last August at the USTA Hardcourt Nationals in San Diego.
The other semifinal will pit two Californians, as No. 5 seed CiCi Bellis of Atherton faces unseeded Kelly Chen of nearby Cerritos.
In the boys’ 16s final, it will be No. 11 Patrick Kypson of Greenville, N.C., who took out No. 14 Jacob Brumm of Rancho Santa Fe in three sets on Friday, against No. 9 John McNally of Cincinnati, who outlasted Alex Phillips of Peachtree City, Ga., 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
Kypson, just 14, said after the match that he beat last year’s 14s ASICS Easter Bowl finalist McNally in the only match they’ve played, three years ago in the semifinals of the Clay Court Nationals.
In the girls’ 16s final, it will be Kalani Soli of Carson taking on Alaina Miller of Saratoga, Calif.
For a complete run down of Friday’s scores and updated draws, as well as live streaming, visit the International Spring Championships homepage.