Early in the second set, Francis Tiafoe ripped a forehand winner down the line after a weak return from his opponent, eliciting applause and appreciative head nods from the few dozen spectators gathered to watch him play.
Tiafoe, the top seed at the Citi Open wild-card qualifying challenge, eased into the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-3 win over George Cartledge of Roanoke on Sunday afternoon at College Park Tennis Club.
In the women’s draw, top-seeded Kateryna Yergina of Woodbridge rolled to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Taylor Perz of Gibsonia, Pa., a rising junior at Georgetown, to reach the quarterfinals.
Winners of the men’s and women’s singles titles will receive a wild-card entry to the two-day Citi Open qualifying tournament held July 26-27, immediately before the main draw begins July 28 at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Northwest.
Tiafoe, 16, of Riverdale Park was the top seed at the French Open junior tournament last month, but lost in the second round. He welcomed a return to the Junior Tennis Champions Center, where he has trained year round since he was 5 years old.
“It feels good to be back on the hard court,” said Tiafoe, the eighth-ranked junior player in the world. “I definitely feel relaxed and comfortable here.”
Tiafoe thrilled the crowd with his booming forehand winners that left Cartledge, a Virginia Tech redshirt freshman, flat-footed and by chasing down shots lesser players would have conceded.
“If I can get a good look on my forehand, it’s pretty dangerous,” he said.
Tiafoe next will play first-team All-Met Jacob Walker of Bethesda, a rising junior at Sidwell Friends, on Monday in the quarterfinals.
Yergina, who represents her native Ukraine in tournaments, will face Bullis rising senior and first-team All-Met Ines Vias in the quarterfinals.
The 23-year-old was a four-year starter at Virginia Commonwealth and has been playing in ITF Futures tournaments to help build her pro ranking. She is ranked No. 726 by the WTA and hopes to reach the top 400 by the end of the year.
“It would be my highest achievement in my tennis career,” Yergina said of the prospects of winning the tournament. “I’ve been to the Citi Open to watch the past five years. Playing there will be a very different experience.”
The men’s second seed, former Virginia Tech player Patrick Daciek of Wesley Chapel, Fla., rallied to beat South Carolina commit Harrison O’Keefe of Salem, Va., 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and gets Vanderbilt graduate Vijay Paul of the District in the next round.
No. 2 women’s seed Usue Maitane Arconada of Puerto Rico also advanced by beating Minnesota rising junior Kendall Heitzner, 6-2, 6-2, and will play Leslie Hansen of Fairfax in the quarterfinals.
Arconada, 15, won her first professional match in last year’s Citi Open qualifiers, where she was given the wild card she is attempting to win in this tournament.