International Spring Championships to showcase world’s top juniors

March 28, 2014 07:09 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to

CARSON, Calif. – Many of the world’s top junior tennis players – including six boys and five girls ranked in the International Tennis Federation's Top 60 – will converge at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., next week, as the 10th annual USTA International Spring Championships kick off Monday .

Francis Tiafoe, 16, from College Park, Md., is the player to watch, as the current No. 7-ranked player in the ITF World Junior Rankings will be the tournament's top seed. Last December, Tiafoe became the youngest boys' 18s champion in the 67-year history of the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Championships. The win skyrocketed him to international acclaim and quickly had tennis writers from all over tabbing him as the next great American player.

“This year’s tournament continues to showcase the best up-and-coming U.S. talent and top competitors from all over the world," said Tournament Director John Lansville. "We look forward to seeing the continued improvement in results for American players.

New for this year, Courts 4 and 5 will be streamed live from the tournament website, Also, Ken Thomas will be audio broadcasting the event from his site,
Top juniors from Japan, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Great Britain and China will be represented in the boys’ 18s ITF Grade 1 event. Naoki Nakagawa of Japan (No. 28 ITF rank) and Americans Alex Rybakov (No. 54) and 2013 finalist Henrik Wiersholm (No. 55) round out the top three players behind Tiafoe.

Logan Smith (No. 58) of Carlsbad, Calif., is the highest-seeded local player. He is joined in the draw by fellow SoCal player Taylor Fritz (No. 83) of Rancho Santa Fe. Other players to watch include 17-year-old Deiton Baughman of Carson, Calif., and wild card Reilly Opelka, 16, who played Tiafoe in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden in New York on World Tennis Day at the start of the month.

Sandra Samir of Egypt, who trains at Advantage Tennis in Orange County, will be the top seed in the girls’ 18s draw. The 16-year-old is ranked No. 16 in the world and has played in all four junior Grand Slam tournaments. She is also 3-0 for the Egyptian Fed Cup team and last year won the 16-and-under African Junior Championships.

Johnnise Renaud (No. 37) of North Miami, Fla.; Usue Arconada (No. 49) of College Park, Md.; CiCi Bellis (No. 51) of Atherton, Calif.; Naiktha Bains (No. 64) of Australia; and Michaela Gordon (No. 66) of Los Altos Hills, Calif., are the next top players in the draw. Local favorites to watch include Christina Makarova of San Diego and Gabby Andrews of Pomona, Calif., as well as Emma Higuchi, 16, and Claire Liu, 13, who train at the USTA Training Center-West in Carson.

In the girls’ 16s, the top-seeded player will be Alexa Corcoleotes from Northern California. Other players to watch, according to Lansville, are USTA Training Center-West players Kayla Day and Ryan Peus, both natives of Santa Barbara, Calif., as well as Jada Robinson, who trains at Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., and Riley McQuaid of Tustin, who is with RAMP Tennis Academy.

On the boys’ side in the 16s, it’s an all-American draw as far as seedings go, except for Russian Svyatoslav Shainyan. The top four seeded players are: Evan Zhu of Greenbelt, Md.; Zeke Clark of Tulsa, Okla.; Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif.; and Nathan Perrone of Mount Laurel, N.J.

Past champions at the International Spring Championships include Sam Querrey (2005), Ryan Thacher (2007), Bradley Klahn (2008), Melanie Oudin (2008) and Sloane Stephens (2009).

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 5, and boys’ and girls’ 18s on Sunday, April 6.