Ojai Tennis Tournament: Adamson into semis

OJAI — Corona del Mar High senior Alec Adamson is the last Newport-Mesa athlete still in contention at the prestigious 113th annual Ojai Tennis Tournament.

But Adamson still strives for more. He'll be playing at the tournament's showcase venue, Libbey Park, on Saturday. The goal is a title.

No. 2-seeded Adamson advanced to the CIF singles division semifinals after a pair of impressive victories Friday. He topped Stefan Doehler of Foothill, 6-1, 6-3, on Friday morning at Libbey Park. He later beat Teague Hamilton of Laguna Beach, 6-3, 6-2, in a quarterfinal match.

Adamson plays Torrey Pines freshman phenom Taylor Fritz in a semifinal at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Libbey Park South. No CdM player has made the Ojai singles championship match since Mike Briggs won the tournament in 1987.

Adamson certainly has a shot to make that history, although Fritz is ranked No. 5 in the nation by the United States Tennis Assn. in the boys' 16s. Adamson beat him, 8-3, at the La Jolla tournament earlier this year.

"He's playing great tennis, smart tennis," CdM Coach Jamie Gresh said of Adamson. "He's winning a variety of ways. Even when his serve hasn't been great, he's still holding, because his ground strokes have been solid. He defends the court well, but he's also looking to come in and force pressure when he can. I think he's playing a really strong all-court game right now. I just have the utmost confidence in Alec when he goes out on the court, because he's going to figure it out."

Top-seeded University High senior Gage Brymer, the two-time defending Ojai CIF singles champion, plays James Wade of San Marino in the other semifinal. The championship match is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Libbey Park. Brymer is trying to become the first three-time champion since Bobby Riggs in 1934-36.

Other locals weren't as fortunate. CdM's doubles team of juniors Carson Williams and Josh Kliger battled to get to the quarterfinals before they were topped by San Marino's Robert Carter and Daniel Gealer, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Williams and Kliger had previously beaten Christopher Lees and Daniel Minami of Thousand Oaks, 6-7 (4-7), 6-0, 6-2.

Newport Harbor High sophomore Reese Stalder had an off day in the boys' 16s competition. No. 5-seeded Stalder fell to No. 9-seeded Julian Gordy of Tarzana, 6-1, 6-2, in a round of 16 match.

Fabian Matthews, the former CdM and UC Irvine standout, lost in a men's open division quarterfinal to Cecil Mamiit of South Pasadena, 6-3, 6-4. Matthews was the No. 3 seed, and Mamiit the No. 5 seed.

Orange Coast College's Dillon Nguyen and Andrew Pham lost a men's community college round of 32 match to a team from College of the Desert, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 11-9. The Pirates' Krystal Hernandez and Madelyn Koehly fell to a team from Mt. San Antonio College in a women's community college round of 16 match, 4-6, 7-5, 10-6.

Adamson, who had beaten Laguna's Hamilton in a tight set when their teams met in a nonleague match earlier this year, broke out to a 4-1 lead in the first set Friday. He also earned an early break of serve in the second set.

"He likes to dictate with his forehand, but I was just trying to keep him back and not let him go for his shots," said the UC Davis-bound Adamson, who bettered his round of 16 showing from a year ago. "I thought I played well. I played the right game plan … I beat two good players today. I'm really excited to be in the semis."

A championship match against the UCLA-bound Brymer would be a rematch of a standout set the two played in the teams' first league meeting last month. Brymer rallied for a 6-4 victory then.

"Everyone would want a shot at Gage, regardless of the seeding," Gresh said. "I think he's just got to stay the course and focus on Fritz. It's a match that if you get there, you have nothing to lose. Gage is the two-time defending champion. You go out there and play your game and roll the dice."

Williams and Kliger played two marathon matches Friday, each lasting about two-and-a-half hours. In the end, they lost to the same San Marino duo that beat CdM's Alex Murray and Zach Williams in the Ojai round of 16 last year.

The CdM pairing rallied to win the first set. Kliger was down love-40 serving at 6-5, but he somehow rallied to win the game and give CdM the set.

Williams and Kliger were on-serve at 2-3 in the second set, before Gealer and Carter rattled off six straight games. The streak lasted into the third set.

"The first and third sets were kind of the same exact sets, but in the first we won those important points, and the third we didn't," Williams said. "Every single game [in the third set] was either 30-all or deuce. Close games. We just didn't capitalize on the important points."

Gresh said he was impressed with the poise his two juniors showed. After the match, he issued a challenge to them to come back and win the tournament next year.

"I was very impressed with their focus and intensity," Gresh said. "This tournament heightens your senses and makes you aware of how many great players are around, not just the high school kids but the college kids. It inspires you to play great tennis, because everyone wants to make the semis and make it to Libbey. That's the goal, and the doubles didn't get there, but they fought extremely hard."

Stalder, who plays at No. 1 singles for Newport Harbor, did not have a Friday to remember. He never really found his footing against Gordy, who recently won the Harper Ink tournament in San Diego. It was disappointing for Stalder, who had played well Thursday in winning his first two matches.

"I didn't double fault in four sets [Thursday], and I probably had at least eight of them [Friday]," Stalder said. "You can't expect to win like that … I just got clobbered. He was playing really well. His game was solid, and I just didn't take advantage of my opportunities."

Stalder will look to rebound next week, when the Sailors finish Sunset League play against Los Alamitos on Monday before the league individuals tournament. Stalder is among the favorites to win the league singles title. He's lost just twice in league.

"I like my chances," Stalder said. "I know I can win it. That's obviously my goal, but not [playing like I did today]."

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