SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 20, 2022 (by Damian Secore)
The SoCal Pro Circuit’s three-tournament run in San Diego, concluding Sunday at the Barnes Tennis Center Open, was the intersection of two Southern California tennis players – Oceanside resident Megan McCray and University of San Diego graduate August Holmgren – going in opposite directions.
For McCray, Sunday’s women’s singles final represented a homecoming that was meant to complete her tennis comeback with a first taste of glory on the ITF World Tennis Tour. Holmgren, meanwhile, had designs on a second SoCal Pro Circuit men’s singles championship serving as his fond farewell to San Diego.
However, Makena Jones and Ethan Quinn had their own visions of how Sunday’s last act in San Diego would end. The Americans won their first ITF singles titles Sunday at Barnes Tennis Center, with South Carolina native Jones, 24, rallying for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over McCray.
Then Fresno resident Quinn, 18, saved five match points through a second-set tiebreaker and pulled off an improbable 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4) victory over Holmgren. Quinn called Sunday’s final a “top three” win in his life on the tennis court.
“Winning a 15K (ITF tournament) wasn’t in my realm of possibilities in my mind of what I could accomplish so quickly,” said Quinn, who will play at the University of Georgia as a freshman next school year and plans to play the last three events on the SoCal Pro Circuit. “Getting the win against August, who is a very well-established player on the Futures level. He won one (on the SoCal Pro Circuit) two weeks ago and was in the final of the NCAAs. Definitely one of my best wins. It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence. I feel really good at Barnes. I feel really good in California.”
Upon the completion of her collegiate career at North Carolina last year, Jones is looking for a full time on the ITF and USTA Pro Circuit. She has played all three SoCal Pro Circuit events thus far – the first time she’s ever played ITF events in consecutive weeks – and plans to play the last three tournaments as the circuit shifts to Los Angeles and Orange County after a week off.
“I saw (SoCal Pro Circuit sponsor) Bruce Kleege one of the days and I just thanked him because this is amazing to have these tournaments all in one location. It’s been an incredible three weeks,” said Jones, who dropped her racket, kneeled on the court and shed tears of joy upon prevailing on match point.
“I really couldn’t believe it, and still really can’t. Each day felt like a gift, I guess, continuing to play. I came from qualis so I’ve been grinding for seven days now. Every day was just more and more surreal. It’s a good start. It’s a journey and so we’re just beginning. So definitely my first sprint at it.”
Conversely, McCray has a marathon-like history with the ITF Tour as Sunday wrapped up her 36th ITF singles event dating back to 2011.
McCray’s first final came on the heels of playing these past three weeks on the SoCal Pro Circuit, which constituted her first ITF main draw competition in over two years, mostly due to the and a lack of Southern California-based events on the ITF/ USTA Pro Circuit schedule.
“I took quite a bit of time off and to be back after two years and reach my first pro final is amazing,” McCray said. “And even more amazing to do that right in my backyard, basically, in San Diego, and at a place I grew up playing at so that means a whole lot to me. And I’m playing well so I’m just excited to keep going on the new SoCal Pro Circuit. I’m definitely trying to move up the ranks. Get into bigger tournaments, starting here.”
Sunday was the final tournament for Holmgren, who spent his first three weeks as a pro on the SoCal Pro Circuit. He will soon return to his native Denmark to continue his budding tennis career in Europe.
After five years of stellar play at USD, Holmgren leaves the Toreros as a West Coast Conference champion and the 2022 NCAA Division I national runner-up in singles. Off the court, Holmgren said he will miss his friends and the surfing the most.
Said Holmgren: “It’s the relationships I’ve built here throughout the past five years that mean the most to me. I really want to get back here at some point.”
Holmgren is grateful to having embarked on the start of his pro career on the SoCal Pro Circuit. His immediate goals in returning to Denmark include seeking out a schedule of 25K Futures events with a view towards qualifying for the Challenger Tour.
“I’ve come away with a lot of (ATP ranking) points, which will be helpful for the future,” Holmgren said. “I got 17 points in three weeks, which is almost doubling my points from before. It’s huge for me. Especially to have some tournaments in a place where I know I’m comfortable is really cool and it’s really helped me start this next chapter of my life.”
Quinn garnered 15 ATP Tour ranking points and $2,160 of the $15,000 purse for his victory, while Holmgren gained eight ATP Tour ranking points and $1,272 in prize money. Jones earned 15 WTA Tour ranking points and $2,352 in prize money while McCray notched eight WTA Tour ranking points and collected $1,470.
The Barnes Tennis Center Open’s doubles championships were settled on Saturday as Quinn and Jones reached those finals as well.
La Mesa resident and Helix High School graduate Siem Woldeab21, and Quinn fell in their bid for a first ITF doubles title, losing to top-seeded Zhe Li of China and Tsung-Hua Yang from Chinese Taipei, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8.
Woldeab and Quinn earned eight ATP Tour ranking points and split $540 in prize money. Woldeab also reached the singles quarterfinals this week to wrap up his two-week run in the SoCal Pro Circuit, which began at the University of San Diego Open.
“It’s always fun being out here in my home club, Barnes Tennis Center, playing in front of people I know,” said Woldeab, who competed for the University of Texas in last month’s 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Doubles Tournament as a sophomore.
“SoCal Pro Circuit has treated me great these past two weeks and I’m excited for next year. I didn’t have an ATP ranking before these two weeks and (USTA) SoCal graciously gave me a wild card into the main draw for both events. I think I used it well. There’s great competition out here and it almost makes you raise your level, compared to what you’re used to seeing at the college level. SoCal Pro Circuit has got awesome players playing in it.”
Thailand’s Bunyawi Thamchaiwat and 18-year-old Ya Yi Yang of Chinese Taipei, defeated American Sara Daavettila and Jones (a 2021 NCAA Division I women’s doubles national champion), 6-3, 6-4, in capturing the women’s doubles crown. Thamchaiwat recently finished her collegiate tennis at San Diego State and will play at Pepperdine as a graduate student next season.
The SoCal Pro Circuit resumes June 27-July 3 at Jack Kramer Club in Rolling Hills Estates before moving onto Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley July 4-10, and concluding July 11-17 at Lakewood Tennis Center in Lakewood.