FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Reese Stalder and Joseph Di Giulio both won titles last November at the Southern California Junior Sectional Doubles Championships, Stalder in the 16s and Di Giulio in the 18s.
Both players had matches back then that were close. Stalder and his partner beat Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe and Riley Smith of Long Beach in a three-set semifinal match on their way to the title. Di Giulio and his partner topped a team featuring Gregory Garcia of Poway in the championship match.
These players got a measure of revenge on Stalder and Di Giulio at the Junior Sectionals on Monday. Both saw their hopes for another doubles title vanish in the span of about 10 minutes at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club, after they lost round of 16 matches.
There are no more Newport-Mesa contenders in doubles after No. 6-seeded Fritz and Smith defeated No. 9-seeded Stalder and partner Austin Rapp, 6-4, 3-6, and 10-8 in a third-set super-tiebreaker. Moments earlier, Garcia and partner JC Aragone defeated Di Giulio and partner Logan Smith, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
How close were the matches? Stalder and Rapp were up 6-1 in the super-tiebreaker before their opponents rallied. And Di Giulio and Smith had two set points in the second set before Aragone rallied to hold serve.
"We took our foot off the gas a little bit, and they made some good shots, some big serves," Stalder said. "We had a great start; we just didn't capitalize."
Stalder, finishing up his sophomore year at Newport Harbor, was close with the players on the other side of the net. He and Smith will be playing big tournaments next month, including a national open tournament in Lakewood and the national clay court championships in Delray Beach, Fla.
Monday's match was high-quality stuff. Stalder and Rapp jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set, but Fritz and Smith rallied to take it. The second set was on-serve until Fritz's serve was broken in a long deuce game for a 5-3 lead. Stalder then held serve, sending the match to the super-tiebreaker.
Stalder and Rapp were up 6-1, four points away from victory, but couldn't finish it off. Fritz and Smith won seven straight points, and eventually the match. Fritz, who is ranked No. 1 in Southern California 16s in both singles and doubles, said he and Smith started going for their shots more.
"We started becoming more aggressive," Fritz said. "They were both beating us by beating aggressive … It happened fast, too. When we switched [sides] at 5-1, I was like, 'Wow.' We went down 5-1 in about 30 seconds. It happened really quick."
Soon Stalder was out of the tournament really quick in disappointing fashion. But his uncle – UC Irvine women's tennis coach Mike Edles – and cousin Ellie Edles were there to tell him he played well. Ellie Edles, a former Estancia High standout, finished up her four-year career at UC Davis this year and said she's set to graduate in December.
The UCLA-bound Di Giulio, a Newport Beach resident, had similar chances in his doubles match. But he and Smith saw a 4-1 first-set lead vanish, before they couldn't convert those set points in the second set.
"We had a lot of chances," Di Giulio said. "It just slipped away. We had a pretty tough draw, though."
Stalder and Di Giulio still have singles aspirations at the tournament. Stalder is the No. 6 seed in boys' 16s, for which the main draw begins with the round of 64 on Friday. Di Giulio is the No. 5 seed in boys' 18s, and he also has a round of 64 match on Friday.
"I've been playing pretty well lately," Stalder said. "If I keep it up, there's no reason why I can't go pretty far."
Other locals beginning main draw play Thursday include Diego Fernandez, Thomas Day and Max McKennon (boys' 12s); Austin Di Giulio (boys' 14s); Nicole Knickerbocker (girls' 12s); No. 7-seeded Jenna Moustafa and Danielle Willson (girls' 14s).
Locals beginning main draw play Friday also include Annie Radeva (girls' 16s); Samantha Stalder and Ashley Kratzer (girls' 18s); No. 3-seeded Chaz Downing, No. 8-seeded Max Pham, Bjorn Hoffmann and Pedro Fernandez (boys' 16s); and No. 6-seeded Alec Adamson (boys' 18s).