Future, Present And Former UCLA Bruins Fill Up Draws At Jack Kramer Club SoCal Pro Series Event

Spencer Johnson (photo: Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, June 27, 2024 (by Steve Pratt)

Everywhere you looked on Wednesday during the first round of play at the fifth consecutive stop on the SoCal Pro Series at the Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates, there were Bruins – as in UCLA Bruins.

First up was UCLA sophomore Spencer Johnson from Ladera Ranch, Calif., who took advantage of his wild card to beat Israel’s Arda Azkara from Turkey, 7-6 (5), 6-1. It was just a few weeks back that Johnson was given a qualifying wild card into the series’ first event at Barnes Tennis Center, won two rounds and then beat Azkara for his first ATP point before falling in the second round.

“I’ll keep playing them if I can keep getting in,” said Johnson, when asked about possibly playing the final two weeks in Lakewood of the ITF World Tennis Tour $15,000 men’s and women’s events. “I’m so thankful for the wild cards by the USTA SoCal. It’s been a great opportunity and fun to see the other UCLA players out here – both on the men’s and women’s side.”

Seeded winners on Wednesday included No. 5 former Pepperdine Wave Victoria Flores, who narrowly escaped her first round winning a third-set tiebreaker over a qualifier, and No. 3 seed former University of Michigan standout Amy Zhu on the women’s side.

Last week’s SoCal Pro Series singles finalist Kimmi Hance, a UCLA junior, and her Bruin teammate and doubles partner Anne-Christine Lutkemeyer, both had rocky first rounds. A day after falling in the doubles, Hance lost in singles to Florida Gator junior Rachel Gailis, 6-3, 6-2 and Lutkemeyer also fell in straight sets to Vietnam’s Savanna Ly-Nguyen, 6-2, 6-4.

A two-time doubles All American at UCLA, senior Elise Wagle from New York, also had a tough day on the courts as she fell to top-seeded Sahaja Yamalapalli of India in two tiebreakers and then teamed with former USC All American Eryn Cayetano, who two years ago won the singles title at this Kramer Club stop on the SoCal Pro Series, as the pairing dropped a super tiebreaker in doubles action.

And just to add another Bruin into the mix, former UCLA national champion and No. 4 seeded Keegan Smith took out fellow American Braden Schick dropping just four games in total on Wednesday.

UCLA junior Azuma Visaya fell in the first round of qualifying to San Diego’s Bryce Nakashima, the younger brother of ATP pro Brandon Nakashima. A future Bruin also lost in qualifying on the women’s side as recent San Marino High graduate Olivia Center fell to the top-seed on Monday, but remains alive in doubles with her partner Kate Fakih. Fakih scored an impressive first-round singles win over qualifier Ema Burgic, 6-4, 6-1. On Monday, the team of Center and Fakih upset the top-seeded doubles team of Yamalapalli and Jessica Failla.

Just last week, UCLA junior Aadarsh Tripathi from Northern California picked up his first ATP points with a huge first-round upset over Arizona No. 1 player Colton Smith before falling to Smith’s former Wildcat teammate Jay Friend 7-6 in the quarterfinals.

“This is what I want to do – to be a pro tennis player. So it’s great to have these events right here in Southern California,” Tripathi said.

Smith turned in the result of the day on Wednesday upsetting No. 2 seed and former SoCal Pro Series winner from last year Andre Ilagan, 6-2, 6-3.

Johnson said his fellow UCLA Bruins – current, past and future – have loved playing the SoCal Pro Series.  “We are all right here in California so it makes sense we play these,” he said.

On Tuesday, 14-year-old high school freshman Sophie Suh from Orange had a great draw facing fellow wild card Parker Fry and won her first WTA pro ranking point with a 7-6 (1), 6-1 win. She’ll face a tough test next as she meets No. 2 seed and former Pepperdine star Jessica Failla in the second round.