By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
For more than two decades now, the Palisades Tennis Center has been the training ground for some of the top juniors in California. Last week, 26 of the best players in the country took to the public courts off Alma Real Drive to participate in one of three USA Playoffs Lacoste Series qualifiers for “Les Petits As” in Tarbes, France.
The single-elimination tournament for boys and girls ages 13 and under consisted of 16-player boys and girls draws, with the winners advancing to the national finals Oct. 5-9, where the top eight will qualify for “Les Petits As.”
“It’s based on points, so these are some of the highest-ranked players in their age group,” said PTC director Mike Tomas, who presented trophies to the finalists Thursday afternoon. “The level of tennis has been unbelievable.”
In the boys final, Brandon Vu of Chino Hills outlasted Abhinav Chunduru of Plano, Texas, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Court 1.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” said Vu, who turned 13 in April. “Using my inside-out forehand was the key. He’s very solid from both sides. Last time I played baseline to baseline so I had to go net more. I felt a little nervous in the first set. I play mostly 14s so I don’t win a lot of singles tournaments. I like the courts here. My first two matches I thought they were fast but I adjusted. A lot is mental.”
Chunduru hurt his left arm while serving at 4-4 in the third set and took a medical timeout. He decided to continue, but was broken and Vu subsequently held serve to win the match.
“I played him about one year ago in the Zimmerman [at Stanford] and won in three sets,” said the 12-year-old Chunduru, who has won three gold balls in doubles with twin brother Prathinav. “I like this facility. These courts are good quality, they have wind blockers, so overall it’s good.”
On Court 3, the girls final also went to three sets before Paisha Douglas from Las Vegas ultimately prevailed over Maren Urata of La Canada, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
“I was here [in California] for the Zonals in July and won two matches,” said Douglas, who attends Doral Academy. “This is my best win. I’ve never been to Florida or traveled out of the country, so I’m excited. I want to play pro. My favorite player is [U.S. Open champion] Bianca Andreescu.”