World No. 6 Arconada battles to reach Carson round of 16

April 2, 2015 07:01 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

CARSON, Calif. – Usue Arconada has a clear goal – to finish this year as the No. 1-ranked junior tennis player in the world. If she keeps playing like she has the first three months of 2015, she’s likely to get there.

Arconada (pictured above) advanced to the round of 16 on Day 3 of the girls’ 18s singles event at the Grade 1 USTA International Spring Championships with a hard-fought, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over Ulyana Shirokova of Boca Raton, Fla.

With her Junior Tennis Champions Center (College Park, Md.) coach Frank Salazar watching, the 16-year-old Arconada was able to advance and next faces Sofia Sewing, the No. 16 seed from Doral, Fla., Thursday at the StubHub Center here in Carson.

Arconada is now 17-1 in junior matches on the year.

“I don’t want to put pressure on myself, so I just try to take it match by match and concentrate on every point,” said Arconada, from Rio Piedras, P.R. “I’d like to finish the year No. 1. Someone told me yesterday I had moved up two spots to No. 6, so that’s really awesome. I’m coming off two really good tournaments in Brazil, so I’m really happy about that.”

Arconada won the singles title and reached the doubles final at the Grade A Campeonato Internacional Juvenil de Tenis de Porto Alegre in Brazil. She has also played several ITF Pro Circuit matches this year and really sees it benefiting her game.

“It’s so much tougher playing the pros, but it has really helped me in the juniors,” she said.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan Ponwith, the No. 5 seed from Scottsdale, Ariz., advanced to the boys' 18s round of 16 with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Alexander Lebedev of Island Park, N.Y.

Last year at the ASICS Easter Bowl, Ponwith advanced to the final, only to fall to top-seeded Francis Tiafoe.

“Hopefully I can keep playing well,” Ponwith said. “There are a lot of good players here. I had a really good Easter Bowl last year, making the final. These are two really great tournaments back-to-back. There are a lot of good opportunities for me out here.”

The first week of January, Ponwith qualified and reached the quarterfinals of the Southern California USTA Pro Futures, a $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event held on the campus of USC.

The Ponwith family was recently recognized as the USTA Family of the Year. Father Jess, mother Pam and sons James and Nathan will be honored at the USTA Annual Meeting and Conference, April 11-13, in Boca Raton, Fla.

In another close girls' 18s match Wednesday, unseeded Emma Higuchi of Los Angeles eliminated No. 12-seeded Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

Unseeded John Jorgeson of Bradenton, Fla., got past No. 3 seed Ulises Blanch of Deerfield Beach, Fla., 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, in the boys' 18s.

In the girls’ 16s, Alexa Noel of Summit, N.J., pulled off an upset, as well, downing top-seeded Emma Decoste of Stuart, Fla., 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

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