Di Giulio brothers like Ojai

OJAI — The Di Giulio family of Newport Beach did a lot of winning Friday at the 114th annual Ojai Tennis Tournament.

Austin Di Giulio is an eighth grader. Joseph is a freshman at UCLA. But "The Ojai" is varied enough that both had their time to shine. And it was no accident that Paul and April Di Giulio wore UCLA clothing as they watched their sons play, while younger brother Perry, 8, donned a UCLA cap.

Austin moved into the semifinals of the Ojai boys' 14s tournament Friday afternoon after outlasting William Grant of Santa Barbara, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, at The Thacher School. A few miles away, Joseph was helping UCLA top Oregon, 4-0, in a Pac-12 Conference Men's semifinal match at Libbey Park.

"My parents wanted to watch Joe, and it's a prestigious tournament," said Austin, who is playing at Ojai for the first time. "It worked out perfectly."

Both brothers have the chance to play for a title Saturday. Austin Di Giulio, seeded No. 2, will play No. 5 Jake Sands of Pacific Palisades in a 14s semifinal match at 8 a.m. The championship match is scheduled for noon, at Libbey Park.

Joseph and the No. 2-seeded Bruins face rival and top-seeded USC for the Pac-12 team title at 4 p.m. Saturday, also at Libbey Park. Joseph Di Giulio has been playing both singles and doubles for UCLA, with Clay Thompson. Di Giulio and Thompson beat Oregon's Jayson Amos and Daniel Sardu at No. 3 doubles in Friday's match, 8-5.

An Orange Coast College women's doubles team is still in contention in the Community College Championships at Ojai. No. 2-seeded Nikki Thornberg and Hali Dickson won twice on Friday, including a 6-3, 6-4 round of 16 victory over a team from Grossmont, to advance. Thornberg and Dickson play No. 3-seeded Chelsea Corby and Suzanne Lin of Diablo Valley in a quarterfinal match at 2 p.m. Saturday, at Ojai Valley Athletic Club.

Other locals fell Friday. Newport Harbor High junior Reese Stalder lost to Ryan Shen of Newbury Park, 6-1, 6-2, in a CIF singles division round of 16 match. CdM's Siena Sharf and Jasie Dunk fell to top-seeded Ilana Oleynik and Otilia Popa, 6-2, 6-3, in a girls' 18 singles quarterfinal match.

The CdM boys in the CIF divisions had lost Thursday. Sophomore Bjorn Hoffmann fell in the singles second round to Connor Hance of Peninsula, 6-3, 6-3, while seniors Josh Kliger and Carson Williams were upset in the doubles first round by Christian Francisco and Michael White of Vista Murrieta, 6-4, 7-6.

Austin Di Giulio has been hot lately. He won the Harper Ink tournament in San Diego, as well as the Woodbridge Tennis Club tournament. He's currently on a 16-match winning streak and is ranked No. 16 in Southern California in the 14s.

He beat David Ramirez of Murrieta, 6-0, 6-3, in his first match Friday, but the win over Grant certainly wasn't as easy. Grant was more of a hard-hitter and was able to dictate play at times with his ground strokes and big serve.

After the players split the first two sets. Di Giulio went up an early break in the third set after winning a marathon second game. From there, he was able to close the match out.

'The second set, he wasn't missing a ball," said Austin Di Giulio, who is schooled through Irvine's Advantage Tennis Academy. "There was nothing I could do. The third set, I came out and started hitting it a little deeper, with a little more spin. I think he liked it when I hit with him. Once I started mixing it up a little, he started missing a lot more, and I think I was able to get command."

Di Giulio beat his semifinal opponent, Sands, by a 6-1, 6-1 score in the semifinals of the Harper Ink. But he also beat Grant by a similarly lopsided score in that tournament. He is taking nothing for granted.

"I just want to take it one match at a time,' he said.

Stalder also won the title at the Harper Ink, but was unable to figure out Shen in the CIF singles round of 16 match earlier Friday. The surprisingly lopsided match lasted just 65 minutes.

Shen won many of the longer points and was more steady, as Stalder yelled at himself a couple of times to focus.

"What a pitiful performance," Stalder said aloud at the end of the match before shaking Shen's hand.

"I made way too many errors, and he's a guy you can't do that against," Stalder said. "I just haven't really been myself since I pulled my stomach muscle [at the Easter Bowl]. Serving is probably my biggest weapon, and without that, it kind of has affected multiple aspects of my game. Once I get it back, I'll be fine, but it was incredible how bad I played. I mean, I played really poorly the first two rounds too."

"I just wasn't feeling my aggressive, first ball strike tennis, and [Shen] is not a guy you can make those types of errors against. He made me pay today."

One of the quirks of the Ojai tournament is that matches are played all over town, even at private residences. CdM's Sharf and Dunk played at one Friday morning, but were unable to conquer the top-seeded team in the 16-team girls' 18 doubles draw.

Sharf's mother, Tracey, and Dunk's father Chris, who both played tennis for Foothill High, watched the action. They also both played in "The Ojai" growing up.

"I think we tried our hardest, but we made too many unforced errors," Siena Sharf said. "Even though we lost, it was a fun two days."

University High senior Drew Dawson, contending for his third straight CIF doubles title at Ojai, is still alive. Dawson and partner Arash Hafezi won twice Friday, including a 6-1, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over Mason Hansen and Josh Milla of San Luis Obispo.

Dawson and Hafezi play San Marino's Robert Carter and Ryan Cheng in a semifinal match at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Libbey Park South. The championship match is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Libbey Park.

Nobody has won three straight CIF doubles titles at the Ojai since Charles Rogers in 1907-09.

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