Back from three weeks of traveling the south of France as chaperone/coach with five Southern California teen-age playing tennis players, Warren Wood is ready to swing back into action on the hard courts of the Lakewood Tennis Center once play continues this week at the 132nd Annual Southern California Open Sectionals.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Sectionals,” said Del Mar’s Wood said earlier this week. “I played on hard courts for the first time the other day and shanked a bunch of balls because it was so fast. But I’ve got a few more days to get ready.”
Two weeks before the European red clay adventure, Wood hurt his wrist and didn’t play until his court was called for his first of three tournaments in Cannes, Nice and Menton, France. “It went OK, but the first week I was dead and lost first round in two tournaments before I finally won a round,” said Wood, who won the Open Sectionals in singles in 2017. “It was fun of fun, an adventure.”
Wood traveled with SoCal’s Ian Freer, Eshan Talluri, Henry Lovett, Wally Thane and Christian Settles, the son of Paul Settles, Wood’s former college coach at Claremont Mudd Scripps College.
Wood currently teaches at Tennis Mechanix in Burbank run by former NCAA singles champion from USC Cecil Mamiit.
Back in 2015, Wood had one of the most memorable collegiate seasons imaginable as he won the Division III Triple Crown as a senior, clinching the final point for the team title, and then winning the singles and doubles for CMS.
“I think I played 18 matches in like seven or eight days,” Wood recalled, winning all of the matches. “I played fast so I finished every one of the team matches. It just felt like I played a ton of tennis my senior year. It was really all a blur. But it’s all good and I went out on a high note.”
Thanks to Solinco’s KT Kim and Norman Tam, following graduation Wood kept the racquet in the closet for over a year and worked a desk job in sales and marketing for the SoCal-based stringing company.
But Wood felt the pull back to the courts following more than a year at Solinco and went out on tour in the summer of 2017. “I was just playing for fun and ended up going on a tear winning Open Sectionals and qualifying for some Futures events.”
An injury to his wrist shortly after sidelined Wood for another year. “I haven’t got back to the same level, but I’m back and training now so we’ll see. I like coaching and it’s fun to play these tournaments. I just want to keep competing and playing.”
Wood’s first-round opponent in the Sectionals is Murietta’s Max Wild, a 19-year-old who – like his UCLA freshman roommate Roscoe Bellamy – won two qualifying matches on Monday to slide into the main draw of the competitive men’s singles field.
Wild beat the Naval Academy’s Matthew Lee and then took out Rice University sophomore Adam Oscislawski, dropping just three games to qualify.
Like Wood, Wild also returned recently from a tennis-focused trip as he visited his former home state of Indiana and renowned coach Brian Smith (Sameer Kumar, Rajeev Ram and Ronnie Schneider).
Wild’s father Dr. Robert Wild is a cancer research doctor and the family made the move from Indiana to Southern California before Wild’s freshman year of high school.
“I’m really, really excited to be in the main draw of Sectionals because playing in such a competitive section as Southern Cal, even the players in qualifying are all really good,” said Wild, who works with personal coach Justin Montgomery in Temecula.
Wild said it’s exciting to see a young crop of players he formed rivalries with the last four years entered in Sectionals including guys like No. 2 seeded Riley Smith (USC) of Long Beach, No. 3 Ryan Seggerman (Princeton) of Coronado and Ivan Thama (UC Davis) of San Diego.
Wild is top-seeded with his father in the Sectional Father-Son event.
“We’ve never played a tournament together,” Wild said. “He loves to play and has been wanting to do this for a while.”
Wild said the pair signed up last minute and will use Sectionals as a tune-up for Father-Son Nationals Grasscourts in Boston, followed by National Clay Courts in Cincinnati later this month.
“It’s should be fun,” said Wild, who plans to play as many Open tournaments this summer as he can, including Manhattan Beach, Santa Maria and Conejo Valley Days.
Isaiah Strode of El Cajon is top-seeded this week with fellow teens Kai Brady and Aditya Gupta also in the main draw on the men’s singles side.
USC transfer Ana Neffa de los Rios, originally from Paraguay, is top-seeded in the Women’s Open division and begins play Thursday. Huntington Beach’s Jwany Sherif is No. 2 and Midori Castillo of Bonita is third-seeded. Neffa’s father, Gustavo Neffa, was a professional soccer player, and her mother, Rossana de los Ríos, was a professional tennis player. They met at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona while they were both competing in the Games for Paraguay.