SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 15, 2022 (by Damian Secore)
The SoCal Pro Circuit continues this week with its third, and final, tournament in San Diego at Barnes Tennis Center. Combining the finalists from the first two weeks of the new series with a new infusion of Southern California’s premium teenage tennis talent, the men’s singles draw looks to give San Diego and its attending fans a hotly contested, dramatic send-off.
Men’s and women’s main draw play in singles (32 players) and doubles (16 teams) for the ITF World Tennis Tour and USTA Pro Circuit event began on Tuesday following the conclusion of singles qualifying. The event is open to the public with free admission.
Barnes Tennis Center hosts Aliso Viejo resident Alex Michelsen, 17, for his maiden voyage on the SoCal Pro Circuit. It has been a breakthrough year for Michelsen, who has committed to play collegiately at Georgia before his senior year of high school.
He recently returned home from the French Open Juniors tournament, reaching the quarterfinals in boys doubles. In January, Michelsen played in his first Junior Grand Slam and reached the Australian Open boys doubles final. In April, Michelsen won the heralded Boys’ 18s singles championship at the Easter Bowl in Indian Wells.
Together with Learner Tien, the two Orange County aces are ranked Nos. 1 (Tien) and 6 (Michelsen) in the USTA’s national Junior rankings (USTA Boys’ 18s) and are the top two ranked Juniors in California. In fact, they are playing together in this week’s men’s doubles draw and play brothers Isaiah and Elijah Strode, of El Cajon, on Wednesday.
Michelsen meets Coronado resident and Princeton graduate Ryan Seggerman, 22, in Wednesday’s first round of the men’s singles draw. Seggerman, hoping to best last week’s semifinal run in his first SoCal Pro Circuit event at the University of San Diego, qualified for the main draw on Tuesday after defeating Australian Mitchell Harper, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 10-8.
While Michelsen begins a new path on the SoCal Pro Circuit, this week marks the end of the road for University of San Diego standout August Holmgren on this series. He embarked on his final SoCal Pro Circuit appearance Tuesday with a 7-5, 6-2 first-round victory over Rancho Santa Fe’s Kalman Boyd.
Holmgren, 24, completed his remarkable University of San Diego career by finishing as the 2022 NCAA Division I men’s singles national runner-up on May 28. The very next week, Holmgren turned pro and impressively won the singles and doubles titles at the inaugural SoCal Pro Circuit event, the Rancho Santa Fe Open.
The Torero is set to depart San Diego after this week for his native home, Denmark, and will continue his professional tennis career in Europe. Having left a lasting legacy on the San Diego tennis scene this year, Holmgren hopes to leave his adopted U.S. home while enjoying one last hurrah this week on the SoCal Pro Circuit.
In perhaps Wednesday’s most intriguing first-round match, the 16-year-old Tien draws No. 2 seed and past UCLA No. 1 player Gage Brymer, 27, in an all-Irvine duel for bragging rights in their hometown.
“Known him for a long time but we’ve never played,” Brymer stated. “Should be a fun one.”
Tien, who makes his second consecutive SoCal Pro Circuit appearance, and Brymer reached the quarterfinals in last week’s University of San Diego Open. In the two weeks prior to last week on the ITF World Tennis Tour, Brymer won in Tunisia and reached the final of the Rancho Santa Fe Open.
This week’s tournament features all men’s singles finalists from the SoCal Pro Circuit’s first two weeks with Rancho Santa Fe Open champion Holmgren and runner-up Brymer, and University of San Diego Open winner Duarte Vale (No. 4 seed), a 2021 NCAA champion at Florida, and runner-up Nathan Ponwith (No. 5 seed).
San Diego native Zachary Svajda, 19, took some time off the ITF/USTA Challenger circuit to make his SoCal Pro Circuit debut Tuesday at Barnes Tennis Center as its highest world-ranked player (ATP No. 393) to play the series thus far. Though he was anointed this week’s No. 1 seed, Colin Markes, a 2019 NCAA champion at Texas, ruined Svajda’s homecoming with a 6-3, 6-3 first-round triumph.
In an all-San Diego County matchup in Tuesday’s first round, No. 7 seed Isaiah Strode ousted San Diego resident and wild card Timothy Sah, 6-4, 6-2.
On the women’s side, Sunday’s University of San Diego Open finalists Jiangxue Han of China, and Ya Yi Yang of Chinese Taipei, are entered in this week’s singles draw and begin play Wednesday.
Han, a returning sophomore to USC’s women’s tennis team, faces a difficult first-round encounter against Thailand’s Bunyawi Thamchaiwat, a 2021 ITA All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year at Oklahoma State who spent this past season at San Diego State and will move on to play at Pepperdine as a graduate student next season. Yang, the No. 2 seed who only turned 18 two weeks ago, opens against qualifier Anna Campana.
The first round got underway Tuesday with No. 7 seed Kimmi Hance, a Torrance resident and returning UCLA sophomore, tallying a 6-2, 6-2 win over 15-year-old San Diego resident Alyssa Ahn, who won this past year’s CIF-San Diego Section singles crown as a Torrey Pines High School freshman.
Australia’s Catherine Aulia notched a 6-2, 6-2 victory over wild card Elena Zhao, a 14-year-old San Diegan who was the 2021 Easter Bowl Girls’ 14s singles runner-up.
More San Diego County residents preparing for action in Wednesday’s first round include third-seeded Sabastiani Leon, who plays her first SoCal Pro Circuit match against qualifier Makenna Jones (a 2021 NCAA doubles national champion at North Carolina and doubles champ in the SoCal Pro Circuit event at USD last Saturday), and No. 4 seed and USD Torero Solymar Colling squaring off against Duke-bound Katie Codd, of Carlsbad.
Southern California players who advanced through Tuesday’s second round of singles qualifying into the main draw include Rancho Santa Fe’s Jacob Brumm (SoCal Pro Circuit doubles champion last week), Del Mar’s Bryce Nakashima, the 16-year-old brother of American ATP Tour star Brandon Nakashima, San Diego State ace Joe Tyler, Brea’s Brandy Walker and Oceanside’s Megan McCray, who has played in each of the SoCal Pro Circuit’s first three events.
The singles semifinals and doubles finals are on Saturday, June 18, and singles finals are on Sunday, June 19. Weekend semifinals and finals matches will be live-streamed on YouTube.