Black, Nakashima win 18s titles at
Steve Pratt | April 9, 2018
Hurricane Tyra Black and Brandon Nakashima took vastly different routes in capturing USTA International Spring Championships 18s singles titles over higher-seeded players Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
The newly turned 17-year-old Black, from Boca Raton, Fla., came back to beat neighbor and No. 5-seeded Georgia Drummy of Ireland, who trains at the Evert Academy in Black’s hometown, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-1, for her first ITF Grade 1 title.
Nakashima downed fellow Southern California 16-year-old and No. 2-seeded Tristan Boyer, 6-0, 6-0, as Boyer simply ran out of gas in the final after playing eight consecutive three-set singles matches before that streak ended in a straight-sets semifinal win over Tyler Zink on Saturday. Boyer also reached the final last week at the adidas Easter Bowl. ADVERTISEMENT
Black and Nakashima were both seeded No. 13 in the tournament, which proved to be not so unlucky, as they each won their titles on a warm, 82-degree day at the South Bay facility that is the home to the USTA Training Center – West.
Black and Nakashima join a list of impressive past champions of the event, which includes the first boys’ winner Sam Querrey (2005), Bradley Klahn (2008), Sloane Stephens (2009) and Melanie Oudin (2008). Other notable past participants who have gone on to reach the world's Top 100 include Milos Raonic, Belinda Bencic, Madison Keys, Steve Johnson, Christina McHale, Madison Brengle, Vania King, Ryan Harrison, Nicole Gibbs, CoCo Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis and Taylor Townsend.
“I felt a little bit tight at the end, but I’m just happy I was able to not let anything I can’t control bother me,” said Black, who held a 5-3 first-set lead and also let a set point slip away up 6-5 in the first-set tiebreak. “I just tried to stay focused through the entire match.”
Black seemed irritated over what she thought were missed line calls but said she has been working on staying calm in tense situations with her father, as well as longtime LAT Tennis Academy Coach Lawrence Carpio, who was with her all week in Carson.
“In the past, I would have gotten angrier, but again that’s one of the things that you can’t control,” Black said of line calls. “I tried to stay calm and focused this week.”
In the second set, Drummy led 4-3 on serve, but Black held and then broke Drummy’s serve for a huge 5-4 lead, quickly jumping out to a 40-love lead on her serve and eventually sending the match to a third set.
In the final set, Black continued an effective forehand slice and defensive play that kept Drummy off balance.
“I did have to slice more today because she likes to put the ball away, and I didn’t want to leave it in her strike zone,” said Black, the younger sister of currently injured USTA Pro Circuit player Tornado Alicia Black, a former Top-5 world-ranked junior and 2013 US Open girls’ finalist, who is attempting a comeback from hip surgery. “I tried to hit a few more slices so she couldn’t get a rhythm. She’s a really good player, and I was just doing my best to keep her from hitting all those winners she’s so good at.”
Drummy, 17, said she wasn’t used to playing someone who slices the ball so much.
“It wasn’t my best tennis today, but overall I’m happy with my performance in the tournament,” she said. “I wish I could have pulled through and played a better match, but it wasn’t my day today.”
Drummy said she hopes her new ITF junior world ranking Monday morning would be good enough to get her into the French Open junior main draw.
Black said she will likely join her father, who is currently coaching some pro players in Thailand, over the next few weeks and play some high-level ITF junior events overseas.
“This is my first Grade 1 win,” said Black, who needed three sets to beat the top-seeded Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine in the semifinals on Saturday. “It makes me really happy to win this and to finally break through with some good wins so far this year.”
As a 14-year-old two years ago, Black participated in World Tennis Day festivities at the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in an exhibition match against Southern Californian Carson Branstine. Later that evening, she watched as 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams played former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka took on French star Gael Monfils in exhibition matches.
There was a familiar former professional tennis face seen warming up Nakashima before his match on Sunday morning, as four-time Pro Circuit singles winner and ATP player Phillip Simmonds got the job.
“Last night, I couldn’t find anyone to warm me up, so I reached out to some people, and they recommended Phil,” said Nakashima, who said he enjoyed the workout with the new Los Angeles-area resident, who reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 219 in the mid-2000s.
Simmonds formerly coached current ATP World Tour pro Noah Rubin and worked at John McEnroe’s Academy on Randall’s Island in New York City.
Simmonds knows a little bit about high-level junior tennis, as he and Scott Oudsema won the 2003 Australian Open boys' doubles title, the first American male pairing to win that championship in Melbourne. Also in 2003, he reached the boys' doubles semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon, partnering with Brian Baker. Simmonds was given a singles wild card into the 2006 US Open and fell to Richard Gasquet in the first round.
Nakashima played solid tennis, knowing that Boyer was a step slower, having played three more singles matches than he did at last week’s Easter Bowl.
“I thought it would be a lot closer,” Nakashima said. “I could see he wasn’t playing his best tennis like he was the whole tournament. I just tried to stay focused and play my best. It’s a little bit of a distraction when he’s not playing his best because you can think of other stuff.”
Sunday’s match ended regrettably without a ball being struck, as Nakashima was awarded a point after Boyer was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct point penalty on an overruled call by the chair umpire.
“I was down 6-0, 5-0, ad-out, and a call was missed by the line judge and overruled by the chair umpire,” said Boyer, who was told the point would have to be replayed instead of an easy put-away at the net that would have sent the game back to deuce. “I said some things I shouldn’t have said, and I’m sorry. It was a ridiculous call, and I understand the overrule. Saying stuff after the point is inexcusable, and I apologized to the chair umpire.”
Newly ranked in the ITF world Top 10 last week, Boyer said he will play ITF clay-court junior events in Europe, starting with Milan, Italy, before heading to the French Open.
Nakashima, last year’s USTA Boys’ National Kalamazoo 16s champion, said he will weigh his options over the coming weeks on whether he will travel to Europe to play the French Open junior event, as his ITF junior world ranking will likely be in the Top 60 when the new rankings are released.
In the meantime, he said he will prepare this week for next Saturday’s ACT college-entrance exam, as he is focused on playing college tennis at one of California’s top Pac-12 schools, including front-runners UCLA, USC and Stanford University.
UCLA men’s coach Billy Martin was on hand to watch both Nakashima and Boyer’s match on Sunday.
For final draws and results from the 2018 USTA International Spring Championships, click here.
Pictured: Georgia Drummy (left) and Hurricane Tyra Black following the girls' 18s singles final. Credit: Steve Pratt