©Colette Lewis 2007--
Rancho Mirage, CA--
No. 6 seed Gail Brodsky and unseeded Nadja Gilchrist will decide the girls 18s Easter Bowl title on Saturday, but the two New Yorkers, who have never played, are both dismissing the disparity in their rankings as irrelevant.
"I don’t think seeding means anything, really," said the 16-year-old Gilchrist, who overpowered New Jersey’s Lauren McHale 6-2, 6-3 in Friday’s semifinal on Center Court at Rancho Las Palmas. "It means they have a lot of points, they play a lot of tournaments, that's all. My parents always told me it doesn’t mean a thing."
The fifteen-year-old Brodsky, who had a much tougher semifinal win, needing three sets to overcome unseeded Allie Will, agreed.
"Starting from the quarterfinals on, I don’t know if there were any favorites," said Brodsky, who trains at the Weil Academy in Ojai, Calif. "Everyone was very good, very equal."
Will, the Orange Bowl girls 16s champion in 2006, had beaten the No. 10, the No. 7 and the No. 4 seeds in straight sets, so Brodsky, who went three sets in three of her four matches, knew she was in for a battle, and she got it, advancing with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory.
"From day one I didn’t have easy matches; you know my easiest match was 7-6, 7-5," Brodsky laughed.
When Will took the first set, Brodsky kept her focus.
"I started playing a little better at the end of the first set," said Brodsky of her dominance in the second set, "and it just kind of continued on."
But the match was really decided at 1-1 in the third, when Will, who was celebrating her 16th birthday, rolled her right ankle, and went down on the court in tears. The trainer was called, and after a medical timeout in which the brace she was wearing on the ankle was removed and replaced with tape, Will resumed play, but she won only one game after that.
"I knew it was going to be tough for me to keep my focus," said Brodsky who practiced her strokes on court while Will received treatment. "I had to play every point like nothing happened, just keep fighting. I wasn’t going to feel bad because something happened to her."
"It wasn’t a very good birthday present," said Will, whose ankle was red and swollen when she returned to the site to watch a friend’s match. "I’m disappointed, of course."
Gilchrist’s victory over McHale was much more straightforward. Gilchrist broke McHale, also unseeded, in the first game of each set, and her confidence grew as her deep and powerful strokes kept McHale scrambling to stay in nearly every point.
"I played really well," said Gilchrist, who has trained at the Smith-Stearns Academy in Hilton Head, S.C. for the past three years. "I didn’t go out there thinking that I could beat her, that I could win easily, but I said if I play my game I can do this, and when I won the first set I thought, 'I’ve got this, this girl can’t beat me.' I was hitting it to her backhand and going for the open court."
The boys 14s and the girls 14s finalists were also decided on Friday. Top seed Emmett Egger earned another hard-fought 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over his frequent rival, No. 4 seed Mika DeCoster. Egger will face No. 17 seed Sean Berman, who recorded a 6-2, 6-4 win over Dennis Novikov.
It will be the battle of the lightly-regarded Laurens in the girls 14s championship match. Unseeded Lauren Herring downed No. 5 seed Sabrina Santamaria 6-4, 7-5 and will meet No. 17 seed Lauren Davis, who defeated No. 14 seed Belinda Niu 6-4, 6-2.
Both boys and girls 16s and boys 18s completed their quarterfinal matches Friday.
The highlight of the 16s competition was No. 5 seed Nicole Gibbs’ 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory over No. 4 seed Catherine Isip. Gibbs served for the match at 5-4, but Isip used her punishing forehand to even it, and in the tiebreak she kept striking it with abandon. A couple winners and a couple of errors later she faced two match points; she slammed a backhand winner to stay in it, but her next forehand was just long to give Gibbs the semifinal spot.
Another notable girls 16s match saw last year’s 14s Easter Bowl champion Beatrice Capra, unseeded this year, outlast No. 3 seed Hanna Mar 7-6 (11), 6-3. The first set alone took over an hour and a half to complete.
The boys 18s quarterfinals featured three three-setters. No. 13 seed Bradley Klahn emerged with a 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 decision over No. 6 seed Austin Krajicek and Dennis Lajola, the No. 4 seed, escaped with a 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over unseed Jeff Dadamo. Dadamo was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but couldn’t hold, giving Lajola new life, and he took advantage of it, winning the tiebreak and then breaking Dadamo in the seventh game of the final set.
No. 5 seed Rhyne Williams, a finalist at last week’s International Spring Championships in Carson, cruised over Mateusz Kecki, the No. 2 seed 6-4, 6-2.
The fourth match, between No. 3 seed Johnny Hamui and No. 8 seed Jarmere Jenkins, didn’t finish before the raindrops began to fall in the Coachella valley. Jenkins won the first set 6-3, Hamui the second 6-4. In the third, Hamui hung on to an early break and when play was suspended, Jenkins was serving 3-5, 40-0. But the delay certainly didn’t help Jenkins—when the players returned to the court, Jenkins double faulted three times, the last of which was on match point to put Hamui in the semifinals.
The girls doubles final will be played Saturday afternoon, with Chloe Jones and Asia Muhammad, seeded No. 9, against No. 4 seeds Mallory Cecil and Kristy Frilling.
For 18s draws, click here.
For 14s and 16s, click here.
Friday, April 20, 2007