By Steve Pratt
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. — Two-time U.S. Open champion Tracy Austin and five-time NCAA champion winning USC men’s coach Peter Smith both watched as their sons upset the No. 6-seeded team to advance to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Junior Doubles Championships on Wednesday at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.
Future USC teammates and U.S Open wild cards Brandon Holt of Rolling Hills and Riley Smith of Los Alamitos finally converted on their seventh match point to upset Corentin Denolly of France and Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 10-6. The pair face unseeded Lukas Klein of Slovakia and Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic on Thursday.
At 17, Holt is actually a year old than Austin was when she won the Open at age 16 back in 1979. The International tennis Hall of Famer said she “almost had a heart attack” watching the boys lose the second set after being up 6-5, 40-love.
“It was cooler seeing him win here at the U.S. Open than it was for me to win the U.S. Open,” Austin said.
There weren’t many, if any at all, in the media center who knew of the connection between the players and their noteworthy tennis parents following their first-round win on Monday.
“I’ve come here every year since I was 1,” Holt said. “To be able to win a match here, let alone play, is a real dream come true.”
Holt and Smith were at times dominating as they beat Russians Alexey Aleschev and Denys Klok 6-4, 6-0 in the first round. Interestingly, all eight teams remaining in the boys’ doubles draw are unseeded, and two are American wild card teams, including Holt, Smith and the team of Vasil Kirkov and Sam Riffice.
Smith said his father doesn’t put much pressure on him, letting him set his own tennis schedule. Asked how it will be to play for him next year, Smith said, “It will be easier than playing against him.”
Both Smith and Holt’s older brothers are part of the USC tennis team and roommates at USC currently.
“I just feel I’m in a normal tennis family,” said Holt, who received a USTA wild card into the tournament. “The only time it is different is when I come to events like this and everyone is asking me about my mom, and that’s only a few weeks out of the year.”
Austin has kept a low-profile about her son following in her footsteps, and attended both the matches at the Open. “She helps me a lot,” said Holt, the middle child of three boys in the family. “She keeps me focused and I look up to her and how played when she was a player.”
Austin, a Tennis Channel commentator, grew up in the South Bay and in 1979 became the youngest women’s Open champion as a 16-year-old, later reaching No. 1 in the world. She was known for her mental toughness and laser focus.
“I think I have that a little bit,” Holt said. “Even now she is probably the most focused person I know. She was born with that. My dad is definitely a little more laid back.”
Holt resides in Rolling Hills and is a Palos Verdes High senior, the same high school Pete Sampras attended. Smith lives in Los Alamitos and plays on the Los Alamitos High team. Last spring, Holt won the CIF Southern Section Individual Championship in singles, the first Palos Verdes High player to do so since the 14-time major winner Sampras did it in 1987.