Nation's finest juniors hit courts at USTA International Spring Championships

April 1, 2011 02:33 PM
By Steve Pratt, special to
CARSON, Calif.
– Victoria Duval won her first match as a professional back in February at the $100,000 Midland, Mich., USTA Pro Circuit event, beating veteran Mashona Washington. Bjorn Fratangelo is the reigning USTA National Clay Court and Easter Bowl champion and currently ranked No. 17 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.
Both Duval, 15, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Fratangelo, 17, of Pittsburgh, are the top-seeded girls’ and boys’ 18-and-under players, respectively, once the seventh annual USTA International Spring Championships, an ITF Grade 1 tournament being held at the USTA Training Center – West at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., begins main-draw play on Monday.
Duval is a student of famed junior tennis coach Nick Bollettieri at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. After going 32-11 in singles on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2010, Duval will play her share of professional events this year and selected junior tournaments, including Carson, the French Open and Wimbledon.
Same goes for Fratangelo, who is coached by his father Mario, who gave him the name of his favorite player, a guy also known as Borg who owns 11 Grand Slam singles trophies.
The player Fratangelo beat in the final of the Clay Court Nationals last summer is Southern Californian Alexios Halebian of Glendale, who will be the No. 3-seeded player and is currently No. 32 in the ITF rankings.
Sandwiched between Fratangelo and Halebian in the seedings is Serbia’s Nikola Milojevic (No. 22 ITF ranking). After Halebian comes 2009 Easter Bowl 16s champion Shane Vinsant (No. 34) of Keller, Texas; Dennis Novikov (No. 37) of Boca Raton, Fla., and Mitchell Krueger (No. 39) of Aledo, Texas.
"I really see Bjorn and Alexios being the top two guys on the boys’ side," said John Lansville, the tournament director who also serves as the director of the USTA Training Center – West. "But Nikola is only 15, and to already be ranked No. 22 in the world, he’s going to be one to keep an eye on."
The same should be said for No. 3-seeded 16-year-old Madison Keys (No. 36 ITF), who already owns a No. 421 WTA ranking. Just last week, Keys received a wild card into the Sony Ericsson WTA event, where she took a set off Patty Schnyder of Switzerland before losing in a third-set tiebreaker.
"Madison is a big, strong girl who is destined to be a top professional," Lansville said. "There are a handful of girls who can win here next week, with Madison being one of them."
Grace Min (ITF No. 39) of Duluth, Ga., is the No. 2-seeded player and currently holds down a No. 606 WTA world ranking. San Diego’s Christina Makarova (No. 44) will be seeded No. 4 behind Keys and is just 14 years old, while Sweden’s Ellen Allgurin (No. 52) is No. 5 and Lauren Herring (No. 72) of Greenville, N.C., No. 6.
Other girls to watch include Carson ISC 2008 16s winner Rancho Santa Fe’s Gabrielle DeSimone (No. 153); last year’s 16s Easter Bowl runner-up and Brooke Austin (No. 171), of Indianapolis; last year’s Easter Bowl 14s winner 14-year-old Gabby Andrews (No. 194) from Pomona, Calif., and Kyle McPhillips (No. 197) of Willoughby, Ohio, last year’s Easter Bowl 16s winner.
The boys’ 16s top-seeded players include Luka Corinteli, Alexandria, Va.; Spencer Papa, Edmond, Okla.; George Goldoff, The Woodlands, Texas; and Joseph Di Giulio, Newport Beach, Calif. The girls’ 16s top-seeded players include Katrine Steffensen, Scarsdale, N.Y.; Adi Milstein, Boca Raton, Fla.; Julia O’Loughlin, Lighthouse Point, Fla.; and Maria Smth, Houston, Texas.
The boys’ 18s wild cards as of Friday included Dennis Mkrtchian, T.J. Pura and Jordan Daigle. The girls’ 18s wild cards are Allie Kiick, Taylor Townsend, Sabrina Santamaria, Chalena Scholl, Mia King, Jacqueline Crawford and Alyssa Smith.
Past champions of the event include Sam Querrey (2005), Vania King (2005), Ryan Thacher (2007), Bradley Klahn (2008), Sloane Stephens (2009) and Melanie Oudin (2008), just a few who have gone on to bigger and better things on the pro and collegiate circuit.
Wild-card Daniel Kosawkoski was last year’s boys’ 18s winner, as he beat his future UCLA roommate Clay Thompson, 6-1, 6-2. In the girls’ 18s final, Krista Hardebeck of Santa Ana came back to win after losing the first set 6-0, beating 14-year-old Vickery, 0-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Singles qualifying will take place this Saturday and Sunday, with main-draw matches beginning on Monday. The finals will take place in the boys’ and girls’ 16s on Saturday, April 9, and boys’ and girls’ 18s on Sunday, April 10.
For more information on the tournament log onto the website at