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Branstine upsets doubles partner Johnson to advance in Carson

March 30, 2016 10:15 AM

By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com

CARSON, Calif. – Playing one of your best friends in singles is never easy, especially if you have to come back later in the day to play with her in doubles.

But it’s what Carson Branstine of Orange, Calif., was faced with Tuesday on Day 2 of the 12th Annual USTA International Spring Championships, an ITF Level 1 tournament being played at the StubHub Center in Carson.

Branstine (pictured above) handled the situation calmly and collectively, eliminating No. 8 seed Taylor Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3, in singles and coming back later in the day to team with Johnson to beat their first-round opponents in a super-tiebreak, 4-6, 7-5, [10-6].

“She’s such a good friend, so it was hard,” said the unseeded Branstine, who had several match points she let get away in the second-set tiebreak. “I was trying not to think about it. I got a little bit relaxed. She’s one of the best players out there, and I knew she would keep fighting. In the second set, I definitely fell off with my level of play.”

Earlier this year, Branstine qualified for a $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., before falling to Asia Muhammad in the first round of the main draw in what was her first pro event.

Just 15 years old and now part of a growing number of players entered in the Carson tournament who were born in the 2000s, Branstine last week won the 18s singles title at the ITF Grade 4 Newport Beach Bowl, where she won five of seven three-set matches, including the final, where she beat American Ann Li, 7-6 (1), in the third.

The tournament was played at the Tennis Club at Newport Beach, where she trains with the Grand Slam Tennis Academy.

Last month, Branstine was invited by the USTA to play in an exhibition match against fellow junior and another good friend Hurricane Tyra Black at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Their match opened World Tennis Day festivities and took place before the annual BNP Paribas Showdown, which this year featured world No. 1 and 21-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams against former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and ATP star Gael Monfils vs. No. 4 Stan Wawrinka.

“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Branstine said. “I played in front of 8- or 10,000 people. It was pretty cool. I wasn’t that nervous because I figured they didn't come to watch me.”

The boys' Newport Beach winner wasn’t as fortunate in his first-round match on Tuesday, as Keenan Mayo of Roseville, Calif., fell to Alafia Ayeni of San Diego, 6-3, 6-2.

Late Monday night, boys' 18s No. 7 seed Zeke Clark from Tulsa, Okla., finished up his first round close to 10 p.m., with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Brian Shi of Jericho, N.Y.

Clark is currently a senior at Riverfield Country Day School in Tulsa and trains at the Trent Tucker Tennis Academy. He is set to play on scholarship next fall at the University of Illinois.

“These are two tournaments you look forward to all year, Carson and the ASICS Easter Bowl,” said Clark, who played in the main draw of the junior Australian Open in January. “Having that experience, you want to do that again. Hopefully I can do that and do well here and get my ranking up there to get into the French Open and Wimbledon. If I don’t, then I’ll play qualies.

"A few good weeks and maybe we can make that happen,” added Clark, who is currently ranked No. 66 in the world ITF rankings.

In the Girls’ 16s, Eryn Cayetano of Corona, Calif., who trains with the RAMP Tennis Academy at StubHub, felt right at home with her 6-4, 6-1 upset over top-seeded Kacie Harvey in the second round.

All matches can be followed via live scoring through Tennis Ticker, the ITF’s official live scoring company.

For complete information on the tournament, click here.