Top juniors set for USTA International Spring Championships

March 27, 2015 02:14 PM

By Steve Pratt, special to

CARSON, Calif. – Just two weeks after capturing her first USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 Futures title in Florida, Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is back home and ready to take on a strong field in the girls’ 18s singles draw at the 11th annual USTA International Spring Championships, which starts this weekend at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Fourteen-year-old Liu (pictured above) trains with personal coach Mike Gennette and USTA national coaches Leo Azevedo and Adam Peterson out of the USTA Training Center – West, the site of the tournament. Liu has represented the U.S. in international junior play, winning gold at the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition in 2013.

Liu was a girls' 16s finalist at the International Spring Championships in 2013 and fell, 6-4 in the third set, in the round of 16 to No. 2-seeded Sofia Kenin in the 18s last year. Kenin, currently No. 22 in the ITF World Junior Rankings, is back again this year. The 16-year-old won the Metropolia Orange Bowl Junior Orange Bowl at the end of 2014 and also has a $10,000 ITF Pro Circuit runner-up finish on her resume in 2015.

Also entered is Usue Arconada. The 16-year-old is currently ranked No. 8 in the world junior rankings and is 15-1 this year in Grade 1 and Grade A ITF junior events. A semifinalist at Carson in 2014, Arconada lost to last year’s 18s winner CiCi Bellis, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event last month in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Arconada captured a $10,000 ITF pro event in the Caribbean in January and currently holds a WTA ranking of No. 663. She most recently won the Grade A Campeonato Internacional in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and the prestigious Banana Bowl a week before that, beating the nation’s top girls’ recruit, Francesca Di Lorenzo from Ohio, in a three-set final. Di Lorenzo, who will play for Ohio State next fall, will be seeded at Carson; she was listed at No. 34 in the latest ITF World Junior Rankings.

Michaela Gordon (No. 30), Ingrid Neel (No. 50) and Caroline Dolehide (No. 56) are other top players to watch on the girls’ side. Neel recently made headlines by shocking No. 7 seed and WTA No. 85 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-2, at the WTA Miami Open qualifying tournament, while Dolehide was a US Open junior semifinalist last fall.

In the boys’ 18s, William Blumberg of Greenwich, Conn., is the highest ITF world-ranked player, moving up from No. 33 to No. 15 after an appearance in the final of the Grade A Campeonato Internacional. Following him on the boys’ side are Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia at No. 26 and Americans Ulises Blanch (No. 38), Nathan Ponwith (No. 49), Emil Reinberg (No. 61) and Sameer Kumar (No. 76).

Notable wild cards on the boys’ 18s side include Jake DeVine, last year’s 16s champion, John McNally and Patrick Kypson. The girls’ 18s notable wild cards include Caty McNally, Rachel Lim, 2013 16s winner Ena Shibahara and USC-bound Jessica Failla.

In the girls’ 16s, top players include Emma Decoste, Alexandra Belaya, Taylor Johnson and Victoria Flores. On the boys’ side in the 16s, look for Jack Pullman, William Peters, William Grant and Brian Cernoch.

Past champions of the event include Sam Querrey (2005), Bradley Klahn (2008), Sloane Stephens (2009) and Melanie Oudin (2008), just a few names who have gone on to bigger and better things on the pro and collegiate circuit.

Other notable past participants who have gone on to reach the world's Top 100 include Milos Raonic, Madison Keys, Steve Johnson, Christina McHale, Madison Brengle, Vania King, Ryan Harrison, Nicole Gibbs, CoCo Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis and Taylor Townsend.

Singles qualifying will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and March 29, with main-draw matches beginning on Monday, March 30. The finals will take place in the boys’ and girls’ 16s on Saturday, April 4, with the boys’ and girls’ 18s championships set for Sunday, April 5.

The tournament director is John Lansville.

For the International Spring Championships homepage, click here.