Day one at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach presented by RBC Wealth Management saw a bevy of American men advance to the second round, where the top 16 seeds await.
Ernesto Escobedo kicked off the action with the first win of the event, a 6-1, 7-5 victory over former World No.21 Thomaz Bellucci. Bellucci is known for his big lefty groundstrokes that pop off the court with immense topspin. But Escobedo wasn’t fazed.
“I like playing lefties for some reason,” he said after the match. “I like my backhand to their forehand rallies.”
Escobedo raced to a 6-1 first set, but the second was a close affair.
“He’s a great player, he’s been up there in the rankings for a long time and I knew even after I won the first set 6-1 he wasn’t going to quit.”
A late break sealed the deal for the American, who will face his fellow countryman Bradley Klahn in the second round.
Another big winner was Sebastian Korda, son of former World No.2 and Australian Open Champion Petr Korda. The 19-year-old faced a tough test from Swiss Sandro Ehrat but pulled through 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
“I played solid the whole match, just had a bad game at 4-4 in the second to get broken,” said Korda. “But other than that, it was a great match and a good win. I was dictating the point well and not giving him too many chances.”
A couple of University of Virginia teammates faced off in the first round, as well, with Thai-Son Kwiatkowski taking out Colin Altamirano 6-1, 6-3.
“Since we played in college together, we know each other really well,” said Kwiatkowski. “We know each other’s games inside and out. He kicked my butt last summer, so really it’s just whoever’s playing well that day is going to win. I played really well, and I’m happy with my form. First rounds are always tough regardless of who you play, and even tougher when you have to play a friend.”
The American used his power game, especially in the first couple shots of a rally to dictate play and not let his fellow Cavalier into the points.
“I served well today, and if I serve well, it helps a lot with my game to shorten points.”
He will have to continue that good form as he faces a tough test in the second round against No.11 seed and former USC Trojan Emilio Gomez.
Among other American men to advance were 2019 Oracle US Tennis Award recipient JC Aragone, who moved past Kaichi Uchida in straight sets; Sekou Bangoura, who survived three grueling sets to upend Dmitry Popko; Michael Redlick, who spoiled compatriot Ryan Harrison’s return to the tour; and Series veteran and past Road to Indian Wells wild card winner Donald Young, who fought back from a set deficit to eliminate red-hot 18-year-old and Oracle Pro Series Rancho Santa Fe champion Brandon Nakashima.