Di Giulio a champion

OJAI — Austin Di Giulio waited and waited Saturday afternoon. Then, he waited some more.

The 14-year-old from Newport Beach was scheduled to play in the Ojai Tennis Tournament boys' 14s championship match at noon at Libbey Park. That became 2 p.m. when his finals opponent, Gavin Dail of North Hollywood, had a lengthy semifinal match Saturday morning.

Then, that became 3:30 p.m. as each of the four courts on Upper Libbey had marathon matches of their own.

Di Giulio ultimately didn't mind. Winning at "The Ojai" is definitely worth the wait.

The No. 2-seeded Di Giulio topped No. 9-seeded Dail to win the title at the 114th annual event, 6-0, 6-3.

"It's a really big tournament, so I'm really happy about [winning]," Di Giulio said. "It's an honor to be put on the list of all of those top players. There's a lot of players that have won Grand Slams, and my name's going to be on that list."

Later Saturday, Di Giulio's older brother Joseph, a freshman at UCLA, tried to help the Bruins win the Pac-12 Conference men's team title at Libbey Park. Di Giulio and partner Clay Thompson fell in doubles but the Bruins beat USC, 4-2, to win their second straight Pac-12 title. Gage Brymer, a University High graduate who won his third straight CIF singles division title last year at The Ojai, contributed a singles win for UCLA.

University senior Drew Dawson, meanwhile, was denied his own shot at history by the smallest of margins. Dawson and partner Arash Hafezi fell to the Palos Verdes tandem of Boston College-bound senior Kent Mukai and sophomore Brandon Holt in the CIF doubles title match, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5. The Notre Dame-bound Dawson was trying to become the first person to win three CIF doubles titles at The Ojai since Charles Rogers of Los Angeles High in 1907-09.

In other action, Orange Coast College's women's doubles team of Hali Dickson and Nikki Thornburg advanced to the semifinals of the California Community College Championships. Dickson and Thornburg, the No. 2 seeds, topped No. 3-seeded Chelsea Corby and Suzanne Lin of Diablo Valley, 6-3, 6-3.

Dickson and Thornburg play the top-seeded team of Stephanie Ramos and Jacquelin Ward of Sierra in the semifinals, at 8 a.m. Sunday at Libbey Park South. The championship match is at 3 p.m. at Libbey Park.

Austin Di Giulio remained hot. He won his third straight tournament and has won 18 straight matches overall. His day Saturday included a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 5-seeded Jake Sands of Pacific Palisades in the semifinals.

In the championship match, Di Giulio was cheered on by UCLA men's tennis players as they walked by, including his older brother. UCLA Coach Billy Martin came on court after Austin Di Giulio won to congratulate him.

After blanking Dail in the first set, Di Giulio faced some adversity in the second. He fell behind 2-1 before winning three straight games.

Dail held serve to pull within 4-3, but Di Giulio won the final two games to claim the title.

"I was trying to move him, because I knew he had a couple of long matches earlier in the tournament," Di Giulio said. "I was just trying to be steady, and keep it deep. He was missing a little bit, and then he started coming to the net in the second set. It was pretty tough to pass him, but I think after a while I started getting used to it."

Top-seeded Dawson and Hafezi won their semifinal match Saturday morning over Daniel Carter and Ryan Cheng of San Marino, 6-3, 7-5. In the championship match at Libbey Park, they ran into the No. 2-seeded Holt and Cheng. Holt is the son of two-time U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin, who also was a two-time winner at The Ojai.

Austin attended her son's match, wearing Palos Verdes red. So did Wayne Bryan, the father of top-ranked men's doubles team Bob and Mike Bryan. Wayne Bryan had been working with the Palos Verdes players this week.

The result of the match, which took nearly three hours, was tough for the University tandem to take. Both teams played at a very high level. Dawson was trying to win his third CIF doubles title in Ojai with his third different partner.

"You can't win every match," University Coach John Kessler said. "I don't mind losing if someone plays great, and you have to give Brandon and Kent total credit for winning that match. With the enormity of the history, it's just too bad. And then there's the pressure on Arash. Drew picks him to play, the kid's got the weight of the world on his shoulders … and he was a warrior. I'm proud of them. It was great tennis."

Dawson and Hafezi won the first set and were up 4-1 in the second set, but Mukai and Holt refused to fold. They won four straight games and eventually captured the tiebreaker.

University also took a 3-1 lead in the third set, but Dawson's serve was broken in the sixth game to level the set at 3-3. At 4-5, Dawson won a long service game to again level the set, saving two match points in the process.

Mukai held, and the match was on Hafezi's serve. He fell behind 0-40 but clawed back to deuce, saving three more match points. Then Holt hit a return winner up the line, giving Palos Verdes another match point.

Mukai's service return clipped the tape and went over, and Dawson's shot went into the net as the match ended.

"To be honest, for me, it's a little bit of a relief," Dawson said. "This whole tournament, I enjoyed myself, but at the same time knowing that there's so much pressure on me … it's obviously very disappointing, but that's all you can do, leave it all out there. It's as close as it gets. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way.

"I tried not to think about [winning three in a row], but it was always in the back of my mind. When we were up 4-1 in the second set here, it was like, 'So close, so close.' You can't think that. You have to play it one point at a time, but I think we did a good job. We fought every point."

Austin Rapp of Palm Desert outlasted Michael Genender of Harvard-Westlake, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, to capture the CIF singles division title. Palm Desert and Harvard-Westlake shared the Griggs Cup, awarded to the team that had the most combined points in singles and doubles competition.

University had won the Griggs Cup for four straight years prior to this year.

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