Quan, Tien Advance To Second Round At Final SoCal Pro Series Event In Lakewood

Rudy Quan (photo: Jon Mulvey/USTA SoCal)

LAKEWOOD, Calif., July 10, 2024 (by Steve Pratt)

On a day when Learner Tien made his return to the SoCal Pro Series and won his 21st straight match, he was joined by some of Southern California’s top teenagers Wednesday in moving on to the second round of the tour’s final stop at the Lakewood Tennis Center.

The 18-year-old Tien of Irvine, who broke into the world top 270 by way of his first ATP Challenger Tour title on Sunday, dispatched of 17-year-old Torrey Pines High senior wild card William Kleege, 6-0, 6-1, to move on to face former Irvine resident Alex Petrov in the second round on Thursday. Petrov trained at the Brymer Lewis Academy in Irvine as a junior before a successful college career at the University of Illinois.

Arriving on-site 10 minutes before the start of his match, Tien was asked why he chose to come back and play the ITF World Tennis Tour $15,000 Lakewood event after winning three straight SoCal Pro Series tourneys in San Diego and 75 ranking points at the Michigan Challenger. “It’s close to home,” said Tien, considered the No. 1 junior tennis player (18-and-under) in the world.

Kleege, 17, smiled when asked what he thought when he saw his name under the top-seeded Tien when the draw was released on Monday. “I was excited, actually,” said Kleege. “I just wanted to play aggressive and had nothing to lose. He hits a crazy passing shot, just an unbelievable passing shot. He’s just a great player.”

Tien’s fellow 18-year-old peer and rival from Southern Cal – No. 8 seeded Rudy Quan of Thousand Oaks – had a tougher time on court eliminating qualifier and former Baylor and Duke University player Ryan Dickerson after losing the first set, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

He hit a heavy ball and was very physical,” said Quan, who will play for UCLA and was watched by his longtime coach Mike Gennette. “In the second set I settled down and was able to figure some things out.”

If Quan can beat qualifier Preston Stearns Thursday in the second round and Tien beats Petrov the two would meet in the quarterfinals Friday. It would be a rematch as Tien beat Quan, 6-4, 6-3, last summer in the Irvine SoCal Pro Series event.

As for Tien’s winning streak, count Quan as impressed. “He’s just such a great player,” he said. “Winning 21 matches in a row would give anyone confidence.” 

Fullerton 19-year-old Kyle Kang was the third men’s SoCal teenager to join Tien and Quan into the second round as the Stanford sophomore beat recent Arizona State graduate Max McKennon, 6-4, 6-4, in a match played on Tuesday.

Two 17-year-olds won hard-fought three-set matches on the women’s side to advance.

Pasadena’s Kate Fakih beat fellow 17-year-old and No. 8 seeded Aspen Schuman from Menlo Park, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, and has taken full advantage of the opportunity of playing the SoCal Pro Series as she was a quarterfinalist last week at the Kramer Club losing to the eventual champion. Last year, Fakih went 8-3 on the SoCal Pro Series in singles.

It was a revenge match for Fakih, who said afterwards she recalled losing to Schuman in the 12s as a junior. “It was at Stanford and that’s why I remember it – because I lost,” she said. “In the second set she adjusted really well, and I was standing back and she was able to attack.”

A qualifier this week, San Marino’s Tianmei Wang, also 17, is a high school senior who has verbally committed to playing her college tennis at Harvard University.

Wang, considered one of the nation’s top juniors who won the USTA Winternationals and the Easter Bowl this year for two USTA gold balls, beat her second former USC player this summer coming back to beat former Trojan Salma Ewing, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

“I was able to physically just outlast her,” Wang said. “I had never played her before, but I remember watching her and Eryn (Cayetano) play doubles a few years ago at USC.”

Just five weeks ago it was Cayetano who Wang beat to record her first WTA ranking point and win on the pro level. On Thursday, Wang will face last week’s singles finalist India Houghton from Tiburon.

Last week’s Lakewood men’s singles winner Govind Nanda continued his comeback from injuries as the wild card beat No. 5 Alan Rubio Fierros from Mexico, 6-4, 6-2. Last week’s women’s winner Rachel Gailis was forced to withdraw in the third set of her match against Toni Kinard because of injury. The No. 2 seeded Irvine’s Stefan Dostanic, last week’s men’s singles finalist, never made it onto the court as he pulled out an hour before his match against UCLA’s Spencer Johnson because of a sore right shoulder.

For complete men’s and women’s draws and results and order of play, check the tournament home page here.