By Lisa Stone
MALIBU, Calif. – The inaugural Oracle ITA Junior Masters tournament, held at the Malibu Racquet Club, crowned its champions in both the girls and boys draw after long 3-set battles.
Julia Deming (10.10) and Rena Lin (9.73) both hail from Southern California and have played each other numerous times throughout the juniors. Lin, a 5-star recruit in the Class of 2019, started Sunday's final very strong, breaking Deming early and looking like she would run away with the opening set. Deming came alive quickly, though, and took the lead to close out the first set 6-3.
Both players worked the points throughout the second set, but it was Lin who snuck ahead and forced a deciding set. As the players walked off court for the mandatory 10-minute break before starting the third set, they were smiling and chatting with each other – not the usual demeanor of junior competitors in a tight battle for a title. It was very refreshing to see.
Lin got up an early break in the third set. Deming, also a 5-star recruit though in the Class of 2018, put up a great fight, but Lin was able to close out the match, taking the title 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
In her post-match interview, Lin said she decided to play in this event due to the strong field of competitors.
“A lot of the players are really mature and it's really cool to see how you play against people of all ages,” said Lin.
When asked about playing no-ad scoring, Lin shared that she didn't feel she played too well on the deciding points.
“Usually you just kind of relax on the deuce points; I couldn't do that here,” said Lin. “But it was cool to play with college rules.”
She went on to say that she will definitely play this event again next year and loved the overall feel of the tournament.
On the boys side, unseeded Robert Baylon (12.62) of Buena Park, CA, defeated the No. 3-seed Mason Beiler (13.01), a Blue-Chip recruit from Palm Harbor Fla., in three long sets to win the tournament.
Beiler's one-handed backhand and powerful forehand looked to be enough to overcome Baylon's steadiness. However, Beiler's strokes began to let him down just long enough for Baylon to close out the first set 6-4.
Beiler came on strong from the start of the second set and took advantage of a service break to win it 6-3.
After the 10-minute rest period, both players were ready to do battle for the title. Baylon proved just a little tougher today, though, and was able to take the deciding set for a final score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
“This tournament was really a great tournament to play. I loved the environment. It was the perfect location, right next to the beach with the ocean breeze, not too hot or too cold,” said Baylon.
When asked about the off-court activities that title sponsor Oracle provided, such as the photo booth and the personalized water bottles, Baylon responded, “I loved it. It was a great way to keep the players entertained while they're waiting for their matches. We could hang out outside with our friends, take some fun pictures, and make memories. It was great.”
Baylon, a 5-star junior in high school, recently verbally committed to the Air Force Academy, so perhaps he'll have the opportunity to play in the collegiate event in future years.
Congratulations to our champions and finalists and all who participated in the first Junior Masters. We look forward to growing the event and finding even more ways to integrate the junior and college players on and off the court.