How tough are the Southern California Junior Sectional Championships?
So tough that Maureen Diaz of Glendale found herself playing a second-round match on Thursday against the same girl she faced in the final of the Easter Bowl tournament in April.
That time, Diaz lost the girls' 16-and-under title to Candice Fuchs of San Diego in straight sets.
This time, with both girls playing in the 18-and-under division, the match was a little closer but the result was the same--a 6-4, 6-4 victory for Fuchs at the Los Caballeros Sports Village.
"She's a tough player," Diaz said. "I was surprised to see her [so early in the tournament]."
That's what can happen at this annual event, which serves as a qualifier for the USTA national championships later this summer.
In the rich tennis environment of Southern California, the draws are packed with talent.
"There are no easy brackets," Diaz, 16, said.
Her rematch with Fuchs proceeded as expected, with Diaz sticking to the baseline and Fuchs attacking when the opportunity arose.
"I got a lot of short balls," Fuchs said.
She also created opportunities by stretching Diaz wide. Throughout the afternoon, it was Fuchs who swung more freely, more aggressively.
"You're playing scared," she goaded herself in the first set. "Just hit the darn ball."
Diaz fought gamely, breaking back from 2-5 in the second set and surviving four match points the next game.
But Fuchs held at 5-4 to advance to the quarterfinals today.
The end came quickly and painfully for Darren Joe of Thousand Oaks. Though unseeded in the boys' 18, he hoped for a sentimental run through this, the final sectional of his junior career.
But after a stirring three-set victory on Wednesday, Joe lost to fourth-seeded Derek Miller of San Diego, 6-2, 6-1, in the round of 16.
"It was like he was hitting the ball so hard that I couldn't find a rhythm," said Joe, who starred at Westlake High. "I got blown off the court."
Ryan Redondo of Ojai came up with a bit of magic in his 6-2, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Jason Pongsrikul of San Diego.
Midway through the boys' 16 match, a skillful lob by Pongsrikul sent Redondo scrambling back to the baseline. In one blurry motion, he spun around and hit a crosscourt overhead that was so sharply angled Pongsrikul could only watch it bounce past.
"It was unbelievable," said Skip Redondo, Ryan's father and coach. "He can do things like that."
Explained Ryan: "I was just having fun with it."
Seventh-seeded Sean O'Connor of Sylmar advanced to the boys' 18 quarterfinal by defeating John Paul Fruttero of San Marino, 6-3, 0-6, 7-5.
In boys' 16, top-seeded Phil Sheng of Thousand Oaks defeated Robert Chu of Anaheim, 6-3, 6-2. Second-seeded Travis Rettenmaier of Camarillo defeated Paul Warkentin of Santa Barbara, 6-2, 6-3. Third-seeded Nicholas Weiss, a former Calabasas High player, defeated Daniel Clemens of Upland, 6-3, 6-0.
In boys' 14, third-seeded Robert Yim defeated David Goodman of Victorville, 6-1, 6-1. Fourth-seeded Stephen Amritraj of Calabasas defeated Daniel Andrus of Fallbrook, 6-1, 6-4.
In boys' 12, second-seeded Sergy Vagramian of Glendale defeated Ryan Malawy of Huntington Beach, 6-2, 6-3.
In girls' 16, sixth-seeded Jieun Jacobs of Valencia defeated Kristen Grady of Murrieta, 6-1, 6-3.
In girls' 14, third-seeded Lori Stern of Ojai defeated Shilpa Joshi of Palos Verdes Estates, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)
In girls' 12, top-seeded Erica Sauer of Somis defeated Nazlie Ghazal of Temecula, 6-1, 6-0.