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Tiafoe Moves Into Semifinals at USTA ISC

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Top-seeded and International Tennis Federation world No. 7-ranked junior tennis player Francis Tiafoe got an assist from an unlikely source on Friday at the 10th annual USTA International Spring Championships taking place at the StubHub Center.

Halfway through his quarterfinal match against Sameer Kumar, the bottom of the front part of the sole of 16-year-old Tiafoe’s shoe began to peel off limiting his movement. After showing his coach and others that he could no longer continue to move without causing potential injury, commentator Ken Thomas, who was broadcasting his podcast live at a table about six feet from the baseline, offered up his size 10 Adidas shoes for Tiafoe to wear, which he slipped on and proceeded to use for the rest of the match. Tiafoe needed some time to get used to his new shoes, but ended up taking the match from the No. 8-seeded Kumar, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“The radio guy helped me huge,” said Tiafoe, who last December became the youngest boys' 18s champion in the 67-year history of the Orange Bowl International Championships. “It was awful. I couldn’t move to my right it and it was all peeled back. And they were Adidias, my company. So that was huge.”

Thomas, who played college tennis at the University of Wisconsin, said nothing like that ever happened to him before. “He asked what size and I said a 10,” Thomas said. “No one was helping the kid. You can hurt yourself. That was pretty wild. I would have done the same for Kumar.”

In a new pair of shoes on Saturday, Tiafoe will meet Daniel Kerznerman, the No. 9-seed from Brooklyn, N.Y. In a quarterfinal last year here, Tiafoe beat Kerznerman 7-6 in a third set. Kerznerman beat last year’s 18s finalist Henrik Wiersholm, the No. 4 seed from Kirkland, Wash. In the other semifinal it will be No. 2-seeded Japanese player Naoki Nakagawa vs. unseeded Tommy Paul of Coconut Creek, Fla.

College Park, Md., Junior Tennis Champions Center CEO Ray Benton liked what he saw watching Tiafoe and fellow JTCC player Usue Arconada and Ravenna Kingsley. The latter two will face off in a Girls’ 18s semifinal on Saturday.

The No. 9-seeded Kingsley beat No. 4 Arconada in straight sets the last time the two 15-year-old rivals met for third-place last August at the USTA Hardcourt Nationals in San Diego. In the other semifinal it will be two Californians doing battle as No. 5-seeded CiCi Bellis of Atherton faces unseeded Kelly Chen of nearby Cerritos.

In the boys’ 16s final, it will be No. 11 Patrick Kypson of Greenville, N.C., who took out No. 14 Jacob Brumm of Rancho Santa Fe in three sets, against No. 9 John McNally of Cincinnati, who outlasted Alex Phillips of Peachtree City, Ga., 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

Kypson, just 14, said after the match that he beat last year’s 14s ASICS Easter Bowl finalist McNally in the only match they’ve played three years ago in the semifinals of the Clay Court Nationals.

In the girls’ 16s final, it will be Kalani Soli of Carson taking on Alaina Miller of Saratoga, Calif.