©Colette Lewis 2007—
Rancho Mirage, CA—
The 40th Easter Bowl crowned three singles champions on a clear, calm and temperate day at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, the tournament’s new host site.
No. 6 seed Gail Brodsky of Brooklyn, New York captured her first ITF Grade 1 event with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over unseeded Nadja Gilchrist in the girls 18s. In the 14s, top seed Emmett Egger defeated No. 17 seed Sean Berman 6-1, 6-3 to take the boys title, and unseeded Lauren Herring won the girls championship by a 6-4, 6-0 score over No. 17 seed Lauren Davis.
Brodsky, 15, has recently been been working on her consistency with her coaches at Weil Academy in Ojai, Calif. where she trains during the winter months, and it helped her take the first seven games of the match.
"I tried to stay consistent," Brodsky said, "because she couldn’t be very consistent. She couldn’t keep many balls in play. I used to be a really big hitter, try to go for everything and hit a winner off the first shot. Now I’m the one who’s trying to make the points longer."
The 16-year-old Gilchrist, who has considerably less tournament experience than Brodsky, admitted to some jitters.
"I was a little nervous when I came on the court," said Gilchrist, who trains at the Smith Stearns Academy in Hiilton Head, SC. "Gail played really well, it was definitely her day today. I could have played better."
Brodsky gave Gilchrist some different looks in the return game, and it often led to control of the point.
"She played really smart," said Gilchrist. "She knew how to dictate, and I had an off day today."
The girls 14s champion also took the court with a game plan and didn’t stray from it.
"I just went out there with the attitude to play long points, grind every point, and that’s what I did," said the 13-year-old Herring, of Greenville, NC. "It was strategic, to hit the ball, throw in some loopers and pin her back, then come in to net behind some good balls. I wasn’t going to lose, no matter what I did; I just said, I’m not going to lose."
But the much smaller Davis, from Gates Mills, Ohio, had other ideas, and even down a set and 5-0, she continued to fight, earning a game point in the long final game, and forcing the action. But it wasn’t enough.
"She kept the ball in play more than I did," said Davis, also 13. "I made a lot of errors compared to her."
The boys 14s champion, Emmett Egger of Issaquah, Wash., certainly kept his errors to a minimum, and used his volleying skills to maximum effect against Berman, who seldom approaches the net.
"I was serving well, hitting my groundies big, executing my volleys," said Egger, who lost to Berman the last time they played and with the win evened his record against the native of New Zealand now living in Irvine, Calif.
The match began with Egger holding after a long game in which he faced several break points. The 14-year-old right-hander picked his spots to approach the net, but when he did, he won the point, either knocking off a volley, or forcing an error from Berman on attempted passing shots. After that, Egger rolled through the next four games before Berman got on the board.
"He played really well today," said Berman, 14. "I was a bit flat today. Never played my best. I guess he was just too good for me today."
Although all three finals were straight-set wins that were light on drama, there was one match on Saturday that had spectators riveted: the boys 18s semifinal match between No. 4 seed Dennis Lajola and No. 5 seed Rhyne Williams, which ultimately went to Williams 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6).
Just as he had been in his semifinal match with Jeff Dadamo, Lajola, a finalist in last year’s Easter Bowl, was down a set and a break, but clawed his way back. Breaking Williams when he was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second, Lajola went on to take the ensuing tiebreak, hitting an exquisite drop volley winner at set point.
Back-to-back breaks opened the third set, but there were none thereafter, and in the final tiebreak, neither player had more than a one-point lead. But at 5-4, Williams had two serves coming, so the Tennessean was poised to finish it, only to lose both, one on a forehand winner by Lajola and the next when his forehand found the net. So it was Lajola who stepped to the baseline with the match on his racquet.
"He missed his first serve," the-16-year-old Williams recounted. "I ran around and hit a forehand, and then it was back and forth. I came in to the net and he missed a passing shot on the run. It was a pretty tough shot for him to make, especially at match point."
"I had a good look at a pass, and just missed it wide," said Lajola, of Aiea, Hawaii, who estimated that the shot was a couple of inches out.
After Lajola netted a forehand on the next point, it was Williams’ chance to end the match and he didn’t falter.
"I picked the right ball to go for it," said Williams of the forehand winner that put him in his second final of the past two weeks. "It was a perfect opportunity and it was open, so I went for it all out, hit a perfect shot."
"It’s what you practice and train for, when it comes down to the third set tiebreak," said Lajola. "That’s what makes it fun. If you don’t like being in a close match, then this sport’s not for you."
Williams’ win earns him a rematch with Johnny Hamui, who defeated Williams in three sets in the round of 16 at the 2006 Easter Bowl. Hamui, seeded third, earned his place in the final with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 12 seed Brad Klahn.
"I came into this tournament wanting to win one round," said Hamui, who lost in the first round at the International Spring Championships last week. "With the spring I’ve had so far, I wasn’t doing very well, and tomorrow I get to play for the championship."
The boys 16s final will feature No. 1 seed Bo Seal against unseeded Lawrence Formentera. Seal beat Matthew Spindler 6-1, 6-3 while Formentera upset No. 2 seed and 2006 Easter Bowl 14s champion Evan King 7-6 (6), 6-1. The girls 2006 Easter Bowl 14s champion is still alive however, as unseeded Beatrice Capra earned her way back to center court with a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Zoe De Bruycker. In a rematch of a 2006 Easter Bowl 14s semifinal, Capra will play No. 5 seed Nicole Gibbs, who took a 6-2, 6-4 decision from unseeded Kate Fuller.
There were three doubles titles decided on Saturday.
Mallory Cecil and Kristy Frilling, seeded fourth, defeated unseeded Chloe Jones and Asia Muhammad 7-6 (4), 6-3 to take the girls 18s title.
In the boys 14s, the No. 2 seeded team of Nick Chappell and Shane Vinsant downed Egger and Christian Harrison, the No. 1 seeds, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1.
The girls 14s doubles champions are Herring and Grace Min, the third seeds, who defeated Noel Scott and Erin Stephens, the No. 4 seeds, 6-4, 6-0. The singles and doubles victories earned Herring her fifth and sixth gold balls.
For complete results in the 14s and 16s, including third place and consolation matches, click here.
For 18s draws, click here.
Saturday, April 21, 2007