Nanda Clinches Title At SoCal Pro Series Lakewood Event

Stefan Dostnic and Govind Nanda (photo: Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

LAKEWOOD, Calif., July 8, 2024 (by Steve Pratt)

It’s been said injuries are the cruelest thing to deal with in all of sports.

Just ask Govind Nanda and Stefan Dostanic – and on Sunday at Wimbledon American Madison Keys would definitely agree – who happen to be two of Southern California’s rising pro tennis prospects. This past week at the sixth stop on the SoCal Pro Series taking place at the Lakewood Tennis Center both players produced high-level tennis that showed they are back from serious injuries that kept them sidelined, and they both showed they are ready to resume their climb up the ATP rankings.

The former UCLA No. 1 Nanda, 23, took out his one-time junior rival and former USC No. 1 Dostanic, 22, in an entertaining three-set men’s singles final as Govind won his seventh match in seven days as a qualifying wild card, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.

“I don’t think I’ve played that many matches in that many days since the juniors,” said Nanda, of winning his first $15,000 level title with the four others coming at $25K. “The first time I played three matches a row in a year was a few weeks ago in Tulsa.”

Nanda, who served for the match up 5-4 in the second set and held two match points that Dostanic saved, reached as high as No. 339 in the world rankings in 2022 before he was relegated to the sidelines with tendinitis in his knee, a stress fracture in his foot and partially torn ligaments in his ankle.

It was kind of back-to-back-to-back, so I was just dealing with that,” said Nanda, who grew up in Redlands. “It was pretty tough, and it put me in a pretty dark place.”

Before this past season, Nanda last played for UCLA in 2020-21 but in the spring utilized an additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to Covid as he continued to recover from injury and qualified for the NCAA Individual Singles tournament.

A finalist in doubles at Junior Wimbledon, Nanda has played in the main draw of the US Open (2022 with Brandon Holt via a wild card).

Irvine’s No. 3 seeded Dostanic won the Lakewood stop on the SoCal Pro Series last year before injuries sidelined him (abdominal surgery in October and ankle surgery in March) and this was his first event back since playing in BNP Paribas Open qualifying in March.

“Govind and I trained together from ages 10 to 17 so I knew what to expect,” Dostanic said. “It was a good, hard-fought match.”

Rachel Gailis earns women’s title

Rachel Gailis, India Houghton, SoCal Pro Series, Lakewood

India Houghton and Rachel Gailis (photo: Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

In the women’s singles final, University of Florida junior Rachel Gailis said the familiarity of playing on the Lakewood courts as a junior propelled her to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Stanford’s India Houghton for her first career pro title.

“I played the 12s, the 14s, Sectionals, I played them all,” said Gailis, who lost in straight-set finals three times at $15,000-level events in Cancun, Mexico. “I’ve been to this site a million times. It’s all a blur but I remember playing here and won a few titles here.”

Gailis was born in Studio City, speaks fluent Russian and her parents are Latvian. She moved to Delray Beach, Fla., at age 14 because “there’s a tennis academy on every corner.”

Both Gailis and Dostanic are coached by Florida’s Vahe Assadourian, who they met when both were juniors training at USTA Training Center West in Carson. As both finals were contested at the same time, Assadourian was seated at Gailis’ court, but kept a close eye on Dostanic’s match.

Houghton played two of the SoCal Pro Series events in San Diego before heading back to Palo Alto to graduate with her class. She has one more year of eligibility and will play for the Cardinal next season.

“I was a little bit disappointed with how I played but was able to come into the net a little which I’ve been trying to do more,” said Houghton, 22, who grew up in Tiburon in Northern California.

All four singles finalists said they plan to play in the SoCal Pro Series’ final Week 7 at Lakewood, which begins on Monday with qualifying.

In the men’s doubles final played on Saturday, the No. 1 seeded team of former UCLA All-American Keegan Smith and Nathan Ponwith (Georiga/Arizona) beat the No. 3 team of Newbury Park’s Wally Thayne (BYU/Utah) and Joshua Charlton (Oregon by way of Australia), 6-4, 6-4. In the women’s doubles final, Malaika Rapolu (Texas) and Anita Sahdiieva (Baylor/LSU by way of Ukraine) barely got past the fellow unseeded team of Carolyn Ansari (Auburn) and Gabriella Broadfoot (N.C. State), 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.

For completed men’s and women’s draws, check out the tournament home page.