SURPRISE, Ariz. – With the sun setting on a picture-perfect opening day of competition on Wednesday at the 2018 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex in Surprise, Arizona, UCLA’s women’s doubles pairing of Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart turned heads with their stellar play.
Facing defending Oracle ITA National Fall Championships women’s doubles champions and top-seeded Michaela Gordon and Emily Arbuthott of Stanford, the Bruins jumped out to a quick start and never looked back, scoring a straight set 6-4, 6-2 upset to advance to Friday’s Round of 16.
“We came out pretty strong and were able to keep the momentum throughout the match,” said Hart, a redshirt junior.
Based on their post-match interactions, you wouldn’t know Bolton and Hart hadn’t played many matches together.
“Communication is key and spending a lot of time off the court helps, too,” said Hart.
“We spend a lot of time together,” said Bolton.
“Too much time,” joked Hart. “It’s quality time so we know each other better and what works best for our game styles.”
Hart, who missed the beginning of the fall season with an injury, is happy to be back out on the court competing.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” said Hart. “It was a medium process and took a while before the pain slowly started to go away. It’s good that I’m fully healthy and able to compete with Elysia in doubles.”
For the freshman Bolton, she’s relishing the opportunity to compete for UCLA.
“I’ve been committed here for two years, so it’s nice to finally be able to play for UCLA,” said Bolton, the No. 13 seed in the singles draw. She won her opening round contest against Princeton’s Stephanie Schrage 6-3, 6-2. “I’ve had a lot of fun and I’m learning a lot from my upperclassmen.”
Two other women’s doubles seeded teams went down on Wednesday, as Arizona State’s Ilze Hattingh and Lauryn John Baptiste defeated the No. 5 seed from Kansas, Nina Khmeltickaia and Janet Koch 3-6, 7-5, 1-0 (2). Maria Kononova and Tamuna Kutubidze of North Texas turned back seventh-seeded Sofia Blanco and Lisa Marie Rioux of Oklahoma State 7-5, 6-1.
The top four seeds in the men’s doubles draw went down on Wednesday. Drake’s Vinny Gillespie and Barny Thorold defeated Columbia’s No. 1-seeded duo of Jack Mingjie Lin and Wil Matheson 6-4, 7-6 (4), while Washington’s Jack Davis and Piers Foley turned back Baylor’s second-seeded Sven Lah and Jimmy Bendeck 6-2, 7-6 (5).
Yuta Kikuchi and Jacob Brumm of California topped the No. 3 seed from Ohio State, Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt 6-3, 7-6 (4). UNC Asheville’s Oli Nolan and Henry Patten also scored a big upset victory on Wednesday, topping Ohio State’s No. 4-seeded team of Martin Joyce and Hunter Tubert 6-1, 3-6, 1-0 (7).
Harrison Scott of Texas admittedly hadn’t been playing his best tennis entering the 2018 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships.
Knowing that, Scott felt that his attitude and how he was going to approach each day would be key to his success.
“I was happy to be here, so knew I had nothing to lose,” said Scott. “I woke up (on Wednesday) and said ‘I’m playing the number four seed. I’m just going to go for it and lay it all on the line.’ I think I did that, and I’m very happy with my performance.”
Scott had good reason to be proud of his effort after he outlasted No. 4 seed Brandon Holt of USC in a physical and highly entertaining three-set match 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 on the spacious stadium court.
“You have to keep competing hard,” said Scott on what it took to prevail in the match. “Brandon’s a great player and I knew he wasn’t going to give up. I had to go one point at a time, reset and win this particular point and go for it.”
Scott said having his teammates, Yuya Ito and Christian Sigsgaard in Surprise, is a benefit.
“I like being able to look over and see two of my teammates there cheering me on, and I think they appreciate it, too, when they’re playing. I think it’s good for all of us,” said Scott.
In other men’s singles action, David Volfson of Cornell defeated No. 16 seed Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Baylor’s Will Little toppled No. 13 seed Aziz Kijametovic of Old Dominion 6-3, 6-2 and Niclas Braun of Mississippi State bested No. 14 Jake Van Emburgh of Oklahoma 6-3, 6-4.
There’s fast starts, and then there’s fast starts.
In her opening round match against Cal’s Olivia Hauger at the 2018 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships Wisconsin’s Sara Castellano sprinted out of the gates, grabbing the opening set 6-0.
The Wisconsin senior knew that while the first set went as well as one could expect, the second set was going to be a battle.
“The first thing my coach told me was to expect (your opponent) to fight back, so I was expecting it and she definitely did,” said Castellano.
Knotted 4-4 in the second set, Castellano managed to close out the set and match by winning the next two games to advance to Thursday’s Round of 32 with a 6-0, 6-4 victory.
“I knew I had to be aggressive, trying to take a few more risks and playing a little faster,” said Castellano.
Castellano, a senior, won the 2018 Oracle ITA National Summer Championships Powered by MyUTR. That victory earned Castellano a wild card into the main draw of the 2018 Riviera ITA Women’s All-American Championships, which she parlayed into a consolation finals appearance, and that result earned her a spot in the field at Surprise.
“I’ve been working really hard and I felt ready coming into this tournament,” said Castellano.
Castellano will face seventh-seeded Meible Chi of Duke in Thursday’s Round of 32. Chi scored a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Florida State’s Carla Touly in the opening round.
Pepperdine’s Jessica Failla scored the biggest upset of the day in the women’s singles draw, topping No. 4 seed and 2018 Riviera ITA Women’s All-American Championships singles champion, Sophie Whittle of Gonzaga 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. Purdue’s Silvia Ambrosio also scored a win over a seeded player, defeating No. 14 seed Michaela Gordon of Stanford 6-3, 6-2.
Draws, schedule of play, daily recaps and a photo gallery can be found on the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships event page . Live scoring via Tennis Ticker will be available, while TempuZ will provide live streaming coverage from two courts at the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex. Links to both live scoring and streaming are also available on the event page. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter by following @ITA_Tennis and @OracleTennis and using the hashtag #ITAFallNats.