Holt, Smith advance to US Junior Open finals

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Palos Verdes’ High’s  Brandon Holt and partner Riley Smith compete in the doubles final  Doubles Final at the U.S. Open Junior Championships. Photo USTA

Palos Verdes’ High’s Brandon Holt and partner Riley Smith compete in the doubles final Doubles Final at the U.S. Open Junior Championships. Photo USTA

Palos Verdes High tennis player plays center court on tennis’ biggest stage

by Steve Pratt

Brandon Holt and Riley Smith made people forget who their tennis noteworthy parents are, and made names for themselves at this year’s U.S. Open.

Holt, 17, a Palos Verdes High, is the son of tennis legend and Hall of Famer Tracy Austin and Scott Holt of Rolling Hills. His 18-year-old doubles partner is Riley Smith of Los Alamitos. Smith’s dad Peter Smith is one of the all-time winningest coaches in collegiate tennis, history having won five of the last seven NCAA team titles at USC.

Holt and Smith were given a wildcard into the U.S. Open Junior Championships by the USTA   and made it all the way to the doubles final, coming up just short of winning the year’s final Grand Slam event at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Holt and Smith were taken out by the Canadian tandem of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, 7-5, 7-6 (3), on Sunday, September 14.

“I think she’s really proud,” Holt said of his mom, who won the U.S. Open in 1979 as a 16-year-old and again in 1981. “She’s really supportive and following our matches when she has more important things to do like warm up for her match. She’s watching us.”

Being back-to-back on an order of play sheet with your mom does not happen very often, especially at a Grand Slam. Perhaps inspired by her son, Austin on Friday followed the Holt-Smith semifinal and with partner Gigi Fernandez posted a super tiebreaker win of her own over Martina Navratilova and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in the legends division.

Holt said he spent his younger years playing video games, eating candy and drinking Coke in the players’ lounge while at the U.S. Open with his mom, a tennis commentator for many years. “I would just sit in the suites and not really care about watching the tennis. I really like playing tennis, but not watching it,” he said.

Austin was a ball of nerves watching the team play all week. After one of the early-round matches, she told Inside Tennis, “It was cooler seeing Brandon win here at the U.S. Open than it was for me to win the U.S. Open.”

Added Holt: “I’ve come here every year since I was 1. To be able to win a match here, let alone play, is a real dream come true.”

Austin has kept a low-profile about her son following in her footsteps. “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 she played when she was a player.”

Austin grew up in Palos Verdes and was known for her mental toughness and laser focus.

“Even now, she is probably the most focused person I know. She was born with that. I have a little bit of it. My dad is definitely more laid back,” Holt said.

Holt plays for  for Palos Verdes High. Last spring he won the CIF Southern Section Individual Championships in singles, the first Palos Verdes High player to do so since since the 14-time major winner Pete Sampras did it in 1987.