Wednesday, February 17, 2016

NorCal sweeps boys No. 1 rankings, earns five overall

Roger Federer posed with Sam Riffice, far left, five years
ago at the La Quinta resort in the Palm Springs area. Riffice,
12 at the time, is now over 6 feet tall. Also shown are Riffice's
coach, Amine Khaldi, second from left, and Khaldi's friend
Steve Mohibi. Photo courtesy of Amine Khaldi.
   Northern California, tennis capital of the United States?
   Not long ago, the notion would have been laughable. Now, though, NorCal can make a strong claim to that title.
   In a stunning achievement, Northern California has swept the No. 1 boys national singles rankings and earned five of the eight top spots overall.
   Even more surprising, three of the four top-ranked boys are from the Sacramento region rather than the far more populous San Francisco Bay Area.
   Heading the USTA boys rankings are Sam Riffice of Granite Bay in the 18s, Austen Huang of Elk Grove in the 16s, Stefan Leustian of Mather in the 14s and Hugo Hashimoto of San Jose in the 12s.
   Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek is ranked No. 1 in the girls 14s, and Sara Choy of Palo Alto is No. 2 in the girls 16s.
   Also, CiCi Bellis of Atherton in the Bay Area ended 2014 as the world's top junior, and the Cal women head the college rankings.
   Riffice, who will turn 17 on March 1, swept the boys 18 singles and doubles titles in the USTA Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla., last July and reached the boys 18 quarterfinals of the prestigious Orange Bowl on clay in Plantation, Fla., in December. He trains at the USTA center in Boca Raton, Fla.
   Huang won the boys 16 singles title in the USTA National Winter Championships in late December and early January in Scottsdale, Ariz.
   Leustian earned the boys 14s singles crown in the recent Les Petits As (Small Champions) in Tarbes, France, and advanced to the boys 14 singles final in the Winter Championships in Tucson, Ariz.
   Past winners of Les Petits As, for 12s and 14s, include Rafael Nadal, Michael Chang, Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters.
   Hashimoto won the boys 12s consolation singles title in the Winter Nationals.
   Volynets took the girls 14s singles crown in the USTA National Championships in Peachtree City, Ga., last August. Choy captured the girls 16s singles title in the Winter Nationals in Scottsdale.
   Other girls earning national No. 1 singles rankings were Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., in the 18s, Natasha Subhash of Fairfax, Va., in the 16s and Elvina Kalieva of Pembroke Pines in the 12s.  

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