Unseeded Formentera Wins Boys 16s in Third-set Tiebreak at Easter Bowl; Gibbs, Williams also Earn Championships
©Colette Lewis 2007—
Rancho Mirage, CA—
Finals featuring third set-tiebreaks are rare, but probably not as unusual as an unseeded player defeating the third, second and first seeds in a tournament to win his first gold ball in only his third national event.
But that describes Lawrence Formentera, who blazed his way to the boys 16s Easter Bowl title with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4) victory over top seed Bo Seal on a picture-perfect day at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage.
Formentera, who lives in Colton, about an hour’s drive from the Palm Springs area, was something of a mystery to those outside Southern California.
“I’ve always been playing up,” said the 15-year-old, “and I never had the ranking to play nationals.”
But his father decided to change coaches when that strategy failed to produce victories or development, and once Formentera found his competitive level, the tournament wins came in bunches.
Any of the spectators at Sunday afternoon’s match can tell you how he did it—with pace, depth and an absolute laser of a forehand.
“He had an amazing forehand,” said Seal. “really flat and hard. He was able to hit winners on either side of the court, cross court or down the line. He had one of the best forehands I’ve ever played.”
Both players were on their games in the first set, with no breaks through the first nine games. But with Seal serving at 4-5, 30-40, Formentera used his power game to work his way to the net and hit a sublime backhand overhead to take the first set.
In the second set, Seal was down 3-0, facing a break point in the fourth game, but he regained his equilibrium, while Formentera had a letdown, and lost the next six games and the set.
“I thought it was over already,” said Formentera of his lead in the second set. “But the guy’s a fighter. I was just being an idiot.”
The vocal Seal, whose “c’mons” often sound like they have five or six syllables, was using the expression often during the third set, when he took a 3-1 lead. But this time it was Formentera who fought back to even it at 3-3, then 4-4. In the ninth game, which featured eight deuces, Seal saved two break points and put the pressure back on Formentera, who needed a couple of ads on the next game to even it at 5-5.
After Seal held for 6-5, Formentera was down 0-30, but two forehand winners later, he was out of trouble. But the sword cut both ways, and two forehand errors later, it was match point for Seal.
“He forced me to miss the shot,” said Seal of the Formentera forehand that produced the backhand error, “and then he played a great tiebreaker and came up with the goods.”
“I just miss or hit a winner,” said Formentera of his go-for-broke style. “I’ve been doing that my whole life. It’s just another match. Even though there’s a bunch of people watching and it’s going on TV, it’s just another match.”
For Fourteen-year-old Nicole Gibbs, the final against her friend Beatrice Capra, wasn’t just another match. It was an opportunity to chalk up her first win against her rival, which she accomplished by outlasting her 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to win the girls 16s Easter Bowl title.
“I went in with a different strategy this time,” said the fifth-seeded Gibbs, from Cleveland, Ohio. “In previous matches, I had played both sides equally, and I think her backhand is probably a stronger side, so I played her forehand a little more.”
In the first set of the nearly three-hour match, Gibbs went up 4-2, but the unseeded Capra, last year’s 14s Easter Bowl champion, reeled off four straight games.
“I was a little frustrated with how I played in the first set,” Gibbs said. “But I focused in and said all right, I’m going to win the first game, get up early this set and see what I could do.”
It was an effective pep talk, because she won the first three games, and held on to even the match.
The 16s take a mandatory 10-minute rest break, and Gibbs and her coach zeroed in on moving her feet and getting her energy level up.
She was broken in the first game of the third set, but broke back the next game, a pattern that would continue throughout the final set.
“I’ve been having trouble with my serve,” said Capra, of Ellicott City, Maryland. “That’s why I was pumped up to win the next game. I knew if I lost serve, I had to win the next game.”
That pattern held until 5-5 in the third, when Gibbs held for 6-5, but Capra wasn’t able to earn the game she needed for a tiebreak.
“I was hoping I could win it again, but I came up short,” said Capra, whose Easter Bowl 13-match winning streak came to end. “Next year though.”
Gibbs complimented her friend on how she coped with the disappointment of such a close loss.
“Tricee is such a good sport, and I was really impressed by that match today,” Gibbs said. “She just handled it so well—smiling an congratulating me. That means a lot.”
The boys 18s match was the least competitive of the finals played on Sunday, with No. 5 seed Rhyne Williams defeating third seed Johnny Hamui 6-4, 6-2.
“Last week was pretty satisfying, getting to the finals,” Williams said of the International Spring Championships in Carson, Calif. “But I got to the finals here, and I thought, I’m out here, I might as well try to win the whole thing.”
Using a big serve and forehand to keep Hamui on the defensive, Williams twice broke Hamui late in the first set. After three straight breaks to open the third set, Hamui asked for a trainer, and was treated for a blister on his foot.
“My feet weren’t working today,” said Hamui, of Wesley Chapel, Florida. “My legs were very heavy, my back was a little tight. My game plan was to try to move him around, make him hit a lot of balls, but I wasn’t able to get to that second or third ball, because I was one step slow.”
Although Williams was up 2-1 when Hamui received treatment, the delay didn’t bother him.
“It was pretty hot out there,” said Williams. “I kind of needed a break too. I wasn’t complaining. I saw that it was his foot, and your feet are what you need most to play tennis, so the next few games I was really going to make him work, make him run. But fortunately the points were pretty short after that.”
In the first game after the timeout, Williams blasted four big serves by Hamui and when Hamui was broken in the next game, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“In the second set it was unbelievable," said Hamui, 18, who expects to sign with the University of Florida soon. “He was painting the lines.”
The win was especially satisfying for Williams, who along with Hamui, will be heading to Europe for the ITF junior clay season, because Hamui had knocked him out of last year’s Easter Bowl in the round of 16.
“Revenge is sweet,” said Williams, of Knoxville Tennessee. “He did beat me last year, in a pretty long match, and I remembered that, but I just went out there and had fun today.”
Devin Britton won his second consecutive Easter Bowl doubles title, teaming with Brad Cox to squeak by Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3). Amazingly, Britton and Cox saved four match points with Cox serving at 5-6 in the third set, exactly the same number that Jenkins and Krajicek had saved in their semifinal win over Britton and Cox at the International Spring Championships last week.
“We’re both serve and volleyers,” said Britton, who won the 16s Easter Bowl titles with Chase Buchanan last year, explaining the eighth-seeded pair's recent success. "We were hoping we were going to get them this week again," said Cox of the 2006 US Open Junior finalists, who were seeded third. "We were glad it was in the final."
The girls 16s doubles champions are No. 2 seeds Alexandra Cercone and Jacqueline Kasler, who came back to defeat Jessica Alexander and Brooke Bolender, the fifth seeds, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Seal and partner Ryan Noble, the top seeds in the 16s division, fell to the fifth seeded team of Walker Kehrer and Kyle McMorrow 6-3, 6-4.
For 18s draws, click here.
For 14s and 16s, click here.