Chen, Kratzer to Meet In All-SoCal Nationals Final Sunday

Duke University-bound Kelly Chen of Cerritos continued her amazing run at the USTA Girls’ 16s and 18s National Championships taking place at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego on Saturday.

The 18-year-old Chen, seeded No. 33, won her seventh consecutive match with a strong performance and another win against a higher seeded player as she defeated Cincinnati’s Caty McNally, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and is now one victory away from winning a coveted spot in the main draw of the season’s final Grand Slam the US Open.

“I really surprised myself,” an elated Chen told SCTA.com right after the match. “I’m not even supposed to have gotten this far.”

Kelly Chen Photo by Fred Sidhu

Playing in her final junior tournament, Chen, who is coached by former WTA player Debbie Graham, said she was able to power through even though she was fatigued heading into the third set. “This is it for me so I figured I should just leave it all out there. Why not?” Chen said.

Chen will next face Newport Beach 18-year-old Ashley Kratzer in an all-Southern California final on Sunday at 1 p.m.

In the doubles final to follow, Thousand Oaks’ Claire Liu and Redondo Beach’s Taylor Johnson will vie for a main-draw wild card into the US Open if they can get past fellow 18s finalists Hailey Baptiste and Ellie Douglas.

Chen cited in a pre-tournament questionnaire that San Diego is her favorite city to play in.

Although they live just 35 miles from each other, Chen has never faced No. 3-seed Kratzer, who is currently ranked No. 341 in the WTA Tour world rankings, officially turned pro back in December. The left-handed Kratzer turned up her game in the second set against No. 8-seed Whitney Osuigwe in her 7-6 (8), 6-0 win.

“It feels great to be in the final,” said Kratzer, who has never played an ITF junior tournament and has only played two USTA Nationals in the juniors. “It’s been all pro tennis for me. It’s so different on the pro level.”

Ninth-seeded Angelica Blake of Boca Raton, Fla., used two late service breaks to win the singles title at the USTA Girls’ 16s National Championships as she defeated her close friend and doubles partner Nikki Redelijk of Windermere, Fla., 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Playing before a large crowd on Stadium Court at the Barnes Tennis Center and a Tennis Channel television audience, Blake and the 14th seeded Redelijk split the first two sets and were locked in a 3-3 tie in the third set.

Redelijk broke serve to take a 4-3 lead and appeared to have the momentum. However, Blake took control as she came back to break serve twice and win the final three games of the match to clinch the championship.

Following the match, Blake, native of Philadelphia, was awarded a USTA gold ball and will receive and wild card into this year’s US Open girls’ singles draw.

“The third set was filled with lots of ups and down, breaks and holds. We were trying so hard and we were both so tight, but I think we ended up playing pretty well. It was a competitive match. I just thought, ‘Go out there and go for it,’” Blake said.

The 16-year-old Blake admitted feeling nervous at the beginning of the well-attended match.

“It was very intimidating. I’m not going to lie. I felt like I was playing a pro match, which I’ve never done before. I’ve been on a court with line officials before, but the atmosphere with Tennis Channel and everyone watching, it was very nerve-wracking,” she said. “I just focused and played my game and got through it. Playing in front of all of those people was very special.”

Tennis Channel will broadcast the Girls’ 18s singles final on Sunday, from 1-3 p.m. PT immediately following the Rogers Cup and Western & Southern first round.

Sunday’s schedule will begin at 9 a.m. (PDT). Admission and on-site parking at the Barnes Tennis Center is free.

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