Richard Steele reasserted his mastery over Daniel Kang after prevailing in the boys U14 title showdown in the 2018 CNMI National Junior Tennis Championships yesterday at the American Memorial Park tennis courts.
Steele, who defeated Kang in the same age group finals in the 2018 Coconut Tennis Class last February, 6-3, 6-0, made it two wins in a row after squeezing out a 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory in their rematch. The No. 1 seed Steele advanced to his third straight finals appearance in the boys U14 singles in the 2017-2018 season (his first was in the 2017 TanHoldings Tennis Classic) after eliminating two other opponents over the weekend. He ousted Anthony Gregoire in the quarterfinals last Friday, 6-3, 7-5, and then downed Isaac Heo in the semis last Saturday, 6-1, 6-1, to notch the finals ticket at the upper half of the draw.
At the lower half of the draw, the No. 2 seed Kang swept Hyunmin Cho in the Round of 8, 6-0, 6-4, and also took two sets to beat Andy Kim in the semis, 6-2, 6-2, to arrange another title duel against Steele.
Kim, a 6-0, 6-0 winner over Brandon Lee in the quarterfinals, joined Steele and Kang in the Top 3 after outclassing Heo in the consolation game, 8-2. Anthony Gregoire, who eliminated Danny Lee before bowing to Steele also won his consolation match (for fifth place) against Brandon Lee, 8-3.
Meanwhile, it was double celebration for Steele yesterday, as he also took the boys U14 doubles crown with Andy Kim.
After his singles championship game against Kang in the morning, Steele returned to the AMP courts in the afternoon to challenge the former and Seung Won Lee. Steele and Kim went on to sweep Kang and Lee in the finals, 6-1, 6-1. The eventual champions moved into the finale following a 6-1, 6-0 triumph over Hyunmin Cho and Eu Bin Park—winners against Minji Jung and Brandon Lee, 6-1, 6-2.
Kang and Seung Won, on the other hand, defeated Gregoire and David Kwon in their semis tiff, 6-3, 6-2. Kwon and Gregoire marched into the Final Four after pulling off a 7-5, 2-6, 10-3 victory against Heo and Danny Lee.
Kwon after falling short in his doubles bid, did not go home empty-handed as he took the boys U12 singles championship after easing past Chun Cheol Hwang in the finals, 6-0, 6-1. Kwon made it to the finals following a 6-1, 6-0 win over Akash Rai, while Hwang followed suit, as he blanked Ruma Lee in the other semis pairing. Lee settled for the third place honors after edging Rai, 9-7.
In other results, Ken Song and Andy Lee clinched the championship in their respective age groups after earning perfect records in the round-robin tournament.
Andy posted a 3-0 mark in the boys U10 singles, securing the title after shutting down Min Seop Lee yesterday, 8-0. Andy’s two other victories were against Eugene Kim, 8-5, and Cojiro Kaga, 8-5. Kim got the runner-up honors, as he finished the tournament with a 2-1 slate following a deciding 9-8 win over Kaga yesterday. Kaga placed third, as he won over Min Seop, 8-1, in Week 1 of the competition.
Song recorded one win in the opening week against Seung Jin Paik, 7-5, 6-3, and went 2-0 this weekend to get the boys U18 singles title. He sealed the championship after rallying past Ji Min Woo yesterday, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4. Song’s other win this weekend was against Sean Lee last Saturday, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Lee, Woo, and Paik finished the tournament with similar 1-2 records, but the former won the tiebreak for second place.