Brooklyn's Kourkina Among Top Juniors Playing in International Spring Championships

The top juniors in the world will descend on Carson, California for this weekend's International Spring Championships.
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Defending champion William Blumberg and 15-year-old Southern California resident Claire Liu are among the favorites to win the 12th annual USTA International Spring Championships starting this weekend at StubHub Center, home of the USTA Training Center – West.

But it’s a pair of Florida residents who have locked down the top-seeded positions as Ulises Blanch of Pompano Beach, Fla., and 14-year-old Amanda Anisimova of Hallandale Beach, Fla., are ranked No. 9 and No. 11, respectively, in the current International Tennis Federation Junior world rankings.

Last year, Blumberg, who will be seeded No. 2 with a No. 13 ITF ranking in Carson, dominated play as the top-seeded player en route to the Carson ITF Grade 1 title in the Boys’ 18s division. A week later he was upset by Sam Riffice of Roseville, Calif., in the semifinals at the ASICS Easter Bowl. The 17-year-old Riffice (ITF No. 44) has been training with an elite group of USTA juniors in Boca Raton, Fla., and will be seeded No. 4.

Both Riffice and Nathan Ponwith (No. 3; No. 27 ITF) of Scottsdale, Ariz., were eliminated from the Easter Bowl by current ATP World Tour ranked No. 81 Taylor Fritzlast year. Other top-seeded American boys in Carson will be No. 5 Vasil Kirkov (No. 56) from Tampa, Fla., No. 6 Zeke Clark (No. 66) of Tulsa, Okla., and Rolling Hills’ No. 7 Brandon Holt No. 76, the son of tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin.

The Carson No. 5-seeded Liu was just 14-years-old last year when she won the Easter Bowl, and recently took a set off of WTA pro Donna Vekic (highest WTA rank No. 62) at the Miami Open qualifying event.

Anisimova leapfrogged Santa Barbara’s Kayla Day in the ITF rankings for the Carson No. 1 seed after she made the finals of the Porto Alegre Grade A in Brazil just last week. 

Day is right behind her at No. 2 at Carson and No. 12 in the world, followed by No. 3 Maria Mateas (No. 29) from Braintree, Mass.

A year ago, Kylie McKenzie was not the decorated junior player she is today. Ranked No. 36 in the ITF junior world rankings, McKenzie of Anthem, Ariz., upset last year’s ISC 18s champ Sonya Kenin a week after Carson. She went on to make the quarterfinals at the US Open and then unseeded won the prestigious Eddie Herr Junior Internationals in December.

Next in the seedings behind No. 4 McKenzie is reigning Easter Bowl champion Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., at No. 5 (No. 37 ITF), followed by No. 6 Michaela Gordon (No. 43) of Los Altos Hills, Calif., No. 7 Morgan Coppoc (No. 44) of Tulsa, Okla., and No. 8 Taylor Johnson (No. 57) of Redondo Beach, Calif.

Boys’ 18s wild cards are: Keenan Mayo of Roseville, Calif., Connor Hance of Torrance, Calif.,  Sebastian Korda of Bradenton, Fla., Sean Sculley of Hilton Head Island, S.C., and Trey Hilderbrand of San Antonio.

Girls’ 18s wild cards are: Nicole Mossmer of La Jolla, Calif., Ena Shibahara of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Dalayna Hewitt of Pepper Pike, Ohio, Alexa Noel of Summit, N.J., and Alexandra Sanford of Columbus, Ohio.

Govind Nanda of nearby Cerritos, Calif., is the top-seeded player in the boys’ 16s, followed by Axel Nefve of Hinsdale, Ill., William Grant of Boca Raton, Fla., Tyler Zink of Lakewood Ranch, Fla., and Adam Neff of Bradenton, Fla. The 16s wild card is San Diego’s Brandon Nakashima.

Fourteen-year-old Kacie Harvey of Braintree, Mass., will be the top-seeded player in the girls’ 16s, followed by Marcella Cruz of Marlboro, N.J., Niluka Madurawe of Sunnyvale, Calif., Dasha Kourkina of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Peyton Stearns of Mason, Ohio.

Girls’ 16s wild cards include Mae Fmar Canete of Los Angeles, Christine Inah Canete of Venice, Calif., and Gabby Price of Montebello, N.Y.

Past champions of the event include Sam Querrey (2005), Bradley Klahn (2008), Sloane Stephens (2009) and Melanie Oudin (2008), just a few who have gone on to bigger and better things on the pro and collegiate circuit.

Other notable past participants who have gone on to reach the world top 100 include: Milos Raonic, Madison Keys, Steve Johnson, Christina McHale, Madison Brengle, Vania King, Ryan Harrison, Nicole Gibbs, CoCo Vandeweghe, Lauren Davis, Taylor Townsend and Jessie Levine.

Singles qualifying will take place this Saturday and Sunday with main-draw matches beginning on Monday. The finals will take place in the boys’ and girls’ 16s onSaturday, April 2, and boys’ and girls’ 18s on Sunday, April 3. The tournament director is once again John Lansville.

All matches can be followed via Live Scoring through Tennis Ticker, the ITF’s official live scoring company.

For more information on the tournament, log onto the website at www.usta.com/isc.