By Lawrence Sherwin and Jim Collins
The Oracle Challenger Series returned to the Newport Beach Tennis Club this week.
Dubbed the “Road to Indian Wells,” matches kicked off on Monday at the Eastbluff club and play continued through the week as the young hopefuls vied for a spot at the BNP Paribas Open.
Canadian Katherine Sebov, after defeating U.S. player Haley Giavara on Monday, continued her winning steak by beating out crowd favorite Sofya Zhuk of Russia, with two sets of 6-2 and 6-3, on Wednesday.
Sebov’s victories came to a halt Thursday when American Nicole Gibbs easily dominated the match with sets of 6-1, 6-2. Gibbs, who played for the Orange County Breakers in Newport last year in the World Team Tennis league, advanced to the quarter finals.
Dennis Novikov of the U.S., following his defeat of Ante Pavic of Croatia on Monday, kept the success going through Wednesday with three sets against fellow American Christopher Eubanks, ultimately winning 4-6, 6-1, and 7-6. On Thursday, Jason Jung of Taiwan powered through a tough match to beat Novikov 4-6, 6-4, and 7-5.
On Wednesday, men’s number one seed Californian, Taylor Fritz scraped by fellow American Marcos Giron in three sets: 2-6, 7-6, and 7-6. Fritz, ranked 50 by the Association of Tennis Professionals, went on to beat Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador in two easy sets of 6-3 and 6-3 on Thursday.
Highlights from Thursday’s round of 16 play saw top seeded players from the women’s and men’s side advance.
Number one seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden (WTA ranked 64) defeated American Claire Liu 7-6 and 7-6, in a seemingly endless two set match in which neither player could control their service games with regularity.
Canadian and number three seed, Eugenie Bouchard (WTA ranked 79), won with ease over Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, WTA ranked 148, in two sets of 6-2, 6-2.
Another Canadian, Brayden Schnur, dominated over the higher ranked American Mackenzie McDonald, 6-2, 6-4.
Also on Thursday, Jessica Pegula took down fellow American Allie Kiick 7-5, 6-3.
Each tournament in the Series is classified as WTA 125 and ATP World Tour Challenger events, with prize money allocated equally at $150,000 per Tour per event, officials explain on the website. Both the men’s and women’s events consist of 32-player singles and 16-team doubles draws. The top two American women’s and men’s points-getters over the course of the Series receive wildcards into their respective singles main draws at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March, one of the most prestigious events in professional tennis, the site reads.
Play continues through this weekend. All Oracle Challenger Series tournaments are free and open to the public.
For more information, visit oraclechallengerseries.com.