FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Austin Di Giulio's coach gave him encouragement Monday as the first set ended at Los Cabelleros Racquet & Sports Club.
"Let's go, underdog!" Brandon Fallon called out to Di Giulio, who was not only the lower seed but gave away several inches of height to his opponent, Ryan Nuno of Sylmar.
If he was the underdog, he certainly battled gamely. But things did not get better for Di Giulio, a Newport Beach resident, in the second set.
No. 2-seeded Nuno finished off a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 5-seeded Di Giulio, winning the boys' 12 singles title at the 110th annual Southern California Junior Sectional tennis championships.
Nuno was able to hit the ball with more pace, resulting in more winners than the scrappy Di Giulio, who was moved around the court at times in the 90-minute match.
"He was in control of most of the points," said Di Giulio, who was trying to win his first Junior Sectional title in his first final appearance.
It was the third meeting between Di Giulio and Nuno, and they had split the previous two. In Monday's match, Di Giulio had a tough call go against him in the first set.
The chair umpire lost track of the score with Di Giulio serving at 1-3. He called the score at 30-40 when Di Giulio was actually up, 40-30, in the game.
It became problematic after Di Giulio lost the next point. The umpire said Nuno won the game, giving him a 4-1 advantage, when it should have been deuce, still on Di Giulio's serve.
Fallon was puzzled. So was Di Giulio's younger brother Perry, 6, who was keeping track of every point with a smart phone application. Austin appealed to the umpire but the call was not overturned. He was visibly upset, but he also was suddenly down two breaks of serve.
"[Nuno] got a lot of momentum from that," Di Giulio said. "It would have been deuce, and I would have had a good chance to win the game. I could have made it [2-3], and I went on to win two games. I could have been up, 4-3. He basically got a free game."
Fallon said he liked the way that Di Giulio bounced back. Di Giulio immediately broke Nuno's serve back and then held, narrowing the deficit to 4-3. But he would not get closer against Nuno, who is ranked No. 3 in Southern California in the 12s and did not drop a set in the tournament.
Di Giulio, ranked No. 13 in Southern California in the 12s, broke Nuno's serve to open the second set. Nuno, however, won six of the next seven games to close the match strong.
Di Giulio saved three match points serving at 2-5, rallying from love-40 to get back to deuce. But Nuno won the next two points to clinch the match.
Things ended on court No. 19, the show court at Los Cab. Soon after that on an adjacent court, Di Giulio's older brother, Joseph, lost the boys' 18 singles consolation title match to Abraham Hewko of Palm Desert, 6-3, 4-6, and 10-7 in a third-set super-tiebreaker.
Joseph has won three singles titles at the prestigious Junior Sectionals, while Austin is still searching for his first. But the 12-year-old saw positives from his run to the championship match.
"It was a good tournament," said Austin Di Giulio, who trains and is home-schooled at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine. "I'll probably move up to the top 10 [in Southern California]."
The Di Giulios' father, Paul, said Austin will likely play locally next month in the War by the Shore and the Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic tournaments.
In other results: No. 2-seeded Newport Coast resident Max Pham was defeated in the boys' 14 singles third-place match by No. 5-seeded Connor Hance, 6-0, 6-2.