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Tournament Summary
Caruana and Day Claim Titles at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Nefve and Muljat Win 16s Division

The week started seasonably windy and unseasonably cold for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships last week in Carson, California, but when it was over, No. 11 seed Liam Caruana and No. 2 seed Kayla Day were basking in warm sunshine as they held their crystal championship trophies.

ITF Singles Champion Liam Caruana
© Zoo Tennis
Caruana did not lose a set in the tournament until the final, where he met No. 4 Sam Riffice for the first time in more than three years. Riffice had advanced with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over No. 2 seed and defending champion William Blumberg in the semifinals, while Caruana had posted a 6-0, 6-0 decision over No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford, who was limping throughout their semifinal encounter due to foot blisters.

Caruana, an 18-year-old who grew up in Texas, spent one semester at the University of Texas in Austin last fall before leaving at the beginning of this year to play junior and professional events. Hoping to secure a main draw berth in the junior slams this summer, Caruana needed to go deep in the two California ITF junior majors this month.

The draw had opened up for him when unseeded Patrick Kypson eliminated top seed Ulises Blanch in the second round, and Caruana took advantage, beating No. 8 seed Brandon Holt, Kypson and Crawford in succession to make his first Grade 1 final.

Riffice had also not dropped a set en route to the final, and when he ran out to a 4-0 lead against Caruana, he appeared to be poised for yet another easy victory in a week full of them.

But trailing 5-2, Caruana took a medical timeout, and never looked back in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory.

"Earlier in the tournament I strained my ab and I carried that throughout the tournament," said Caruana, who admitted nerves and low energy were also part of his slow start. "It wasn't an injury where I had to pull out, but it definitely hurt when I was serving. After that medical, I just basically told myself to play loose and free, because if not, I was just getting destroyed."

The tension Caruana felt at the start of the match resulted in a multitude of unforced errors, but he found his form in the eighth game, saving two set points to break Riffice. Riffice held on to take the set, but there was no question Caruana was back in the match.

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Page updated on Monday, March 09, 2020
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