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Young guns and SoCal players turn up the heat at Claremont Club Pro Classic tournament

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There was a distinct Southern California feel in the air during Thursday’s play at the Claremont Club Pro Classic as four of the eight singles winners who moved into the quarterfinals have SoCal ties.

Carson’s Deiton Baughman, UCLA junior Mackenzie McDonald, West Covina’s Ernesto Escobedo and former Pepperdine star Sebastian Faneslow each recorded Round of 16 wins and moved on at the USTA Pro Circuit $10,000 Futures tournament taking place at the Claremont Club. 

The No. 2-seeded Baughman turned professional a year ago. He recorded his second consecutive straight-set win beating Northern California resident Farzin Amiri, 6-3, 6-4. Baughman is one of those players who can remember just about every junior opponent he’s faced, and sometimes even the score. “We played in the first round of the Easter Bowl a few years back and I beat him 1 and 6,” Baughman said. “So I knew a little bit of what to expect. I knew he’d fight.”

Both Baughman and Amiri are just 19 years old, and were two of six of the final 16 players who started the day that are age 19, with two others age 20.

Baughman, who was weighing a college scholarship to USC before he turned pro, said he hasn’t regretted his decision. “It did happen to me a lot last year, especially when I would lose early,” he admitted of having second thoughts about not going to college. “But you can’t base everything on one match. I’ve always wanted to go pro so I said, ‘Let’s just do it.’

Baughman made his decision while still age 17 about 18 months ago. He said young U.S. juniors who have turned pro like Tommy Paul, Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz have at times come to him for advice on that big decision.

“I was training at the USTA and had a chance to spend time with some of those guys, and they would ask me about it,” he said. “At 17, I can afford to take a loss here or there, but it’s a lot tougher to do a 23 or 24. When you’re 17 or 18, the guys on the pro tour don’t have any respect for you, so you kind of learn to battle.”

He added: “I think guys like Tommy and Reilly and Frances made the decision on their own, but here I was 18 who had turned pro and they were looking at me. I had a good start to my year and they saw that. It was basically me, Jared (Donaldson), Ernesto (Escobedo) and Stefan (Kozlov) who were the only ones of note who had turned pro in the past five years. So now you have a group who just this year have decided to turn pro like Frances, Michael Mmoh, Tommy, Reilly, and now Taylor who turned pro, and it all happened right after me and Jared turned pro last year. I feel like being around those guys full-time like I was last year really influenced their decision. We now have a strong group of American teenagers who can put American tennis back on the map.”

McDonald also won in straight sets on Thursday, as did Escobedo. The 23-year-old former Pepperdine star Faneslow won the battle of Germany as he beat Azusa Pacific qualifier Jan Meyer, 6-3, 6-2. Faneslow enjoyed living in Malibu so much, he stuck around for an extra year to be the volunteer assistant coach in 2014.

In Friday’s doubles final, Jean-Yves Aubone and Gonzales Austin will face Junior Ore and Hunter Nicholas.

Thursday’s Round of 16 Singles Results:

Tom Fawcett, U.S. (q), def. Jean-Yves Aubone, U.S. (3), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4

Mackenzie McDonald, U.S., def. Hunter Nicholas, U.S., 7-5, 7-5

Sebastian Faneslow, Germany, def. Jan Meyer, Germany (q), 6-3, 6-2

Collin Altamirano, U.S., def. Martin Redlicki, U.S. (q), 6-4, 3-6, 6-0

Daniel Garza, Mexico (5), def. Junior Ore, U.S. (q), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Deiton Baughman, U.S. (2), def. Farzin Amiri, U.S., 6-3, 6-4

Gonzales Austin, U.S., def. Tyler Hochwalt, U.S., 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2

Ernesto Escobedo, U.S., def. David Wilczynski, U.S. (q), 6-3, 6-1


Thursday’s Semifinal Doubles Results:

Jean-Yves Aubone, U.S. / Gonzales Austin, U.S. (2), def. Sebastian Faneslow, Germany / Alejandro Moreno Figueroa, Mexico, 6-2, 3-6, 10-6

Junior Ore, U.S. / Hunter Nicholas, U.S. (1), def. Mackenzie McDonald, U.S. / Martin Redlicki, U.S. (4), 6-3, 6-4