Monday, June 18, 2018

Despite soft serve, Rai claims Sectional girls 14 title

Rhea Rai, left, defeated Gayathri Krishnan to win the girls 14
title in the NorCal Junior Sectionals. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Give Rhea Rai credit for honesty.
   When asked after winning the NorCal 14s Junior Sectional Championships if she likes to mix up her serve, Rai said, "No, I just don't have a really good serve that goes in a lot, and the sun was in my eyes all the time over there, so I had to just (toss the ball low and softly slice it).
   "I've practiced that serve a lot, which is why it goes in. Otherwise, my serve isn't that good."
   Compensating with strong groundstrokes, the top-seeded Rai beat fifth-seeded Gayathri Krishnan 6-2, 6-2 today at the Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa in a matchup of left-handers from Cupertino (near San Jose). It was Rai's first sectional title.
   "I'm really happy because I (rarely) get first place," gushed Rai, ranked No. 8 in Northern California and No. 189 nationally in the 14s. "I usually get second or third place.
   "I've been training a lot recently. Last week, I did more than I usually do (to prepare for the Sectionals). And because summer (vacation) started, I want to start training more."
   Top-seeded Nicholas Chen of Oakland won the boys 14 title, outplaying third-seeded Dylan Tsoi of El Dorado Hills in the Sacramento area 6-3, 6-3. Chen also won the fall sectional crown two years ago in the 12s in Stockton.
Nicholas Chen, right, beat Dylan Tsoi for the
 boys 14 title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   In both of today's finals, the older, bigger, more powerful player won. Rai and Chen will be freshmen in high school in the fall, and Krishnan and Tsoi will be eight-graders.
   Like Rai, Tsoi was candid afterward.
   "(Chen) has a way bigger server than me, so breaking him is a lot harder and he can easily break me by just hitting my second serves," conceded Tsoi, ranked No. 14 in NorCal and No. 208 nationally in the 14s.
   Both champions said their final was closer than the score indicated.
  "I wouldn't call it easy," Rai said. "A lot of games went to deuce. I guess I was able to convert them. She's a really good player, though."
   The boys final featured many long, athletic rallies.
   "We had a ton of deuce games, so it could have gone either way," said Chen, ranked No. 3 in NorCal and No. 56 nationally in the 14s. "Even though it was 6-3, 6-3, it was pretty tight. Just a couple of games (made the difference)."
   The final was Chen's closest match in the tournament. Rai lost one set en route to the final.
   Rai said she does not know Krishnan well, "but she goes to the same school as my friend, and I played her once or twice (before). I've never practiced with her."
   Rai is getting to know Krishnan better, though. And working on her serve.
Boys 14
At Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa in Sacramento
Singles final
   Nicholas Chen (1), Oakland, def. Dylan Tsoi (3), El Dorado Hills, 6-3, 6-3.
Doubles final
   Nicholas Chen, Oakland, and Emon van Loben Sels (1), Sacramento, def. Jason Lew and Patrick Toman (2), Pleasant Hill, 6-4, 6-2.
Girls 14
At Arden Hills Resort Club & Spa in Sacramento
Singles final
   Rhea Rai (1), Cupertino, def. Gayathri Krishnan (5), Cupertino, 6-2, 6-2.
Doubles final
   Maryia Hrynashka (1), Rancho Cordova, and Lauren Joyce (1), Lodi, def. Ava Martin, Menlo Park, and Natasha Rajaram (4), Cupertino, 6-1, 6-4.
Boys 12
At University of the Pacific in Stockton
Singles final
   Kosei Ogata (1), Saratoga, def. Min Htun (5), Sacramento, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Doubles semifinals
   Nav Dayal, Roseville, and Karthikeya Gannavarapu (1), Pleasanton, def. Ted Nguyen, Elk Grove, and Daniel Wu (3), El Dorado Hills, 6-0, 6-2.
   Min Htun, Sacramento, and Luke Stratakos (2), Saratoga, def. Kosei Ogata and Somei Ogata (5), Saratoga, 7-5, 6-4.
Doubles final
   Min Htun, Sacramento, and Luke Stratakos (2), Saratoga, def. Nav Dayal, Roseville, and Karthikeya Gannavarapu (1), Pleasanton, 3-6, 6-1 [14-12].
Girls 12
At University of the Pacific in Stockton
Singles final
   Aspen Schuman (1), Menlo Park, def. Penelope Wong (9), Mountain View, 6-0, 6-0.
Doubles final
   Anushka Jaiswal, Fremont, and Aspen Schuman (1), Menlo Park, def. Varsha Jawadi, San Mateo, and Mila Mulready, Burlingame, 1-6, 7-6 (2) [10-6].

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