Brandy Walker Keeps Pro Tennis Dreams Alive

Brandy Walker (photo: Lexie Wanninger

LAKEWOOD, Calif., July 5, 2024 (by Steve Pratt)

The SoCal Pro Series was created for players like Brandy Walker.

For the sixth consecutive week the 27-year-old Walker, who grew up in Brea, has competed in ITF World Tennis Tour tournaments from San Diego to the South Bay put on by the USTA Southern California for the past three summers.

And although Walker came up short in the singles quarterfinals on a scorching Friday at the Lakewood Tennis Center falling to qualifier India Houghton from San Francisco, 6-3, 7-5, the former Northern Arizona University player continues to follow her pro tennis dream earning valuable ranking points on the WTA Tour.

“Overall it went OK; I just wasn’t able to put four points together when I needed to,” said Walker, who jumped out to a 5-0 second-set lead against Houghton, a Stanford senior. “I mean, I did a lot better than last week, so I just keep trying to improve and hopefully do a little bit better next week.”

Ranked No. 1,220 in the world, Walker played in 14 ITF pro events in 2023, including five of the seven tourneys on the SoCal Pro Series. In February Walker did what a lot of local players do as they start their pro careers and spent a month in Monastir, Tunisia, and played four Futures events there recording eight total wins and four losses and reaching the quarterfinals in her best showing.

In fact, on Friday Walker was playing in her seventh career pro quarterfinal but has yet to ever make it past the final eight.

“I think the SoCal Pro Series has really been great for me because you get all these events back-to-back in such a close period of time,” Walker said. “I think it’s very helpful and really the only place in the United States that does so many of these events.”

Walker made it to the finals in the doubles at the Rancho Santa Fe event two weeks ago playing in her fifth career ITF doubles final having yet to get that elusive first pro title. “The more finals you get to, the closer you get to winning one so I’m going to keep trying,” she said.

Seven of the eight women’s players were unseeded going into Friday’s quarterfinals, including qualifier Charlotte Chavatipon from Fullerton. The 22-year-old helped lead the University of Texas women to the NCAA title in 2023 and Chavatipon was coming off an upset against top-seeded Jenna Defalco in the second round.

Chavatipon, who was trying to advance to her fifth semifinal on the pro tour, fell to University of Florida junior Rachel Gailis, 7-5, 6-3.

In a matchup of two players from Northern California who recently completed their sophomore year of high school, 16-year-old qualifier Alexis Nguyen from El Dorado Hills beat 17-year-old Aspen Schuman of Menlo Park, 6-2, 6-4. Nguyen has taken full advantage of the SoCal Pro Series playing five of the six events so far. She trains with Josephy Gilbert, the former coach of current NorCal pros Katie Volynets and Jenson Brooksby.

Chloe Noel, 20, the No. 5 seed from France and a sophomore at Oklahoma was taken to the limit against qualifier Malaika Rapolu, 21, a former University of Texas teammate of Chavatipon from Cedar Park, Texas, before prevailing, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (5).

On the men’s side, top-seeded Karue Sell beat wild card and UCLA sophomore Emon van Loben Sels 6-2, 6-3. A former Bruin, Sell will face a fellow UCLA alum, Govind Nanda, in Saturday’s semifinals. Nanda beat Ohio State’s Jack Anthrop, 6-4, 6-4. In the other semifinal, No. 3 Stefan Dostanic from Irvine will play Turkey’s Arda Azkara in the match to follow.

“It was the hottest day of the week, but it seemed because of that the match played a little bit fast,” Sell said. “The serves are going bigger and you just have to hang in there and wait for your opportunity.”

Sell, who graduated from UCLA in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography, is now 30 years old and has won five ITF pro singles titles in his career. This week is his 13th event of the year, which began in January with Sell winning the Ithaca ITF World Tennis Tour M25 event.

In the men’s doubles final to follow the singles, the No. 1 seeded team of former UCLA All-American Keegan Smith and Nathan Ponwith will take on the No. 3 team of Newbury Park’s Wally Thayne and Joshua Charlton from Australia. In the women’s doubles final, a pair of unseeded teams will battle for the title as four players with college ties meet when Carolyn Ansari (Auburn) and Gabriella Broadfoot (N.C. State) face Rapolu (Texas) and Anita Sahdiieva (Baylor by way of Ukraine).

To learn more about the SoCal Pro Series, go to: