Top seeds advance on opening day in Carson

March 29, 2016 09:05 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

CARSON, Calif. – University of Georgia-bound Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Ariz., battled fierce winds and cold conditions on the first day of main-draw play at the 12th annual USTA International Spring Championships, opening his tournament with a straight-sets win on Monday.

Play was delayed a little more than two hours because of wet courts from a light early-morning rain on a busy day of the boys’ and girls’ ITF 16s and 18s event, an ITF Level 1 tournament being played at StubHub Center, home of the USTA Training Center – West.

The top seeds held true to form but not without a little struggle on the boys’ side, as top-seeded Ulises Blanch of Pompano Beach, Fla, the International Tennis Federation’s No. 9-ranked junior player in the world, defeated Tristan McCormick of Berwyn, Pa., 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. On the girls’ side, No. 1 Amanda Anisimova, the No. 11 ITF-ranked junior from Hallandale Beach, Fla., got past Paris Corley from Grants, N.M., 6-4, 6-1.

No. 3 seed Ponwith (pictured above), 17, battled the 40-mph gusts of wind and turned away Jason Legall of Palm Coast, Fla., 6-4, 6-1.

“It was very windy and picked up later in the first set,” said Ponwith, who will earn his high school diploma after this semester from Connections Academy Online School before traveling to Athens, Ga., in the fall. “I’m not really used to wind in the desert. I don’t think you could ever really get used to it. It was so windy.”

Tournament Director John Lansville said the forecast looked favorable and skies should be clear and sunny for the weekend finals.

Last year, Ponwith was eliminated in the ISC semifinals by eventual winner and this year’s No. 2 seed, William Blumberg. A week later, Ponwith fell again in the semifinals of the ASICS Easter Bowl, losing to winner Taylor Fritz.

“At least I’m losing to the right people,” said Ponwith, who fell to Frances Tiafoe in the 2014 ASICS Easter Bowl final and could face Blumberg again in this year’s Carson semifinals if both keep winning. “The draw is just as strong this year as last year.”

Blumberg opened up his title defense with a routine 6-1, 6-1 win over Robert Loeb of Hilton Head Island, S.C., 6-1, 6-1.

Others 18s winners Monday included No. 5 Claire Liu, a 7-5, 6-2 winner over Chiara Lommer, and No. 4 Sam Riffice, who beat Jake Van Emburgh, 6-3, 6-3. In an all-Southern California matchup on the girls’ side, No. 11-seeded Kelly Chen of Cerritos was taken out by Claremont’s Raquel Pedraza, 6-4, 6-3.

Local residents Ena Shibahara of nearby Rancho Palos Verdes and Brandon Holt from Rolling Hills Estates also posted straight-sets wins in the 18s.

The top two seeds in the boys’ 16s, Govind Nanda and Axel Nefve, and the top two in the girls’ 16s, Kacie Harvey and Marcella Cruz, will be in action on Tuesday.

All matches can be followed via live scoring through Tennis Ticker, the ITF’s official live scoring company.

For complete information on the tournament, click here.