©Colette Lewis 2009--
Rancho Mirage, CA--
When Evan King and Tennys Sandgren met last week in an International Spring Championships semifinal it was, like most of their meetings, a long, tough match, when which to King in three sets. More of the same was expected in today's Easter Bowl final, but this time, the fourth-seeded King dominated, taking his second Easter Bowl singles title 6-2. 6-2.
The temperature at the Rancho Mirage Resort and Spa was over 100 degrees when the two took the court at midday, but Sandgren wasn't about to blame the conditions for his loss.
"It wasn't that hot really," the 17-year-old Sandgren said. "It's not humid here, so it doesn't feel very hot. Evan played very well. He served well--he made a few unforced errors, because our points were short and I wasn't giving him a lot of rhythm, just missing a lot. "
King earned his first break in the third game, hitting a backhand winner on the fourth break point. The first set was decided when King broke Sandgren for the second time at 4-2, when Sandgren double faulted at 30-40. King held at love, and in the first game of the second set, a struggling Sandgren once again double faulted on break point.
With Sandgren was broken yet again, to give King a 3-0 lead in the second set, the match's outcome seemed a formality, but Sandgren showed some signs of life when he broke King to make it 3-1. He was immediately broken again however and King was not challenged on his serve in the final three games of the match, closing out his first championship point with a blazing backhand winner.
King's reputation as an adroit defender was certainly upheld, and even Sandgren's laser-like forehand wasn't able to blast him off the court.
"I hit some really strong balls, and he would just take them early and hit them back really deep," said Sandgren, 17. "He played well and served well."
King was pleased with the way his first shot set up the points.
"When I made a lot of first serves, I got shorter replies," the 2006 Easter Bowl 14s champion said. "Whereas with second serves the points were grindy, long. Tennys is really good at taking advantage of weaker replies. I've been serving well all week. I've barely gotten broken all week, and I think it was definitely a factor in my win today."
After a trip to Brazil last month, and the two major ITF tournaments the past two weeks, both King and Sandgren are ready for a break before heading off for the European ITF Junior clay events, including Roland Garros.
"I'm at least going to take a week off, at least," said Sandgren, who will return home to Gallatin, Tennessee. "I don't want to injure myself, and I'm close right now to injuring something badly."
King, who is from Chicago, but is currently at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., will take some time off, but he is hoping to duplicate the feat of 2008 Easter Bowl boys 18 champion Chase Buchanan, who won a Futures tournament shortly after his win last year in Rancho Mirage.
"I'll probably take a week off, rest, my groin's been bothering me a little, but I'm playing in the qualifying of two Futures in Florida," King said. "I'm going to try to do what Chase did, but I don't even have a (ATP) point, so I want to get an ATP point."
The boys 18s doubles championship went the No. 3 seeded team of Denis Kudla and JT Sundling, when the pair defeated unseeded Fred Saba and Jack Sock 6-3, 6-7(2), 10-8 in the tiebreaker. It was balm for the wounds of early exits in the singles, as Kudla, the top seed, lost in the first round to Raymond Sarmiento, and Sundling, seeded 12th, fell in the second round to Lawrence Formentera.
"I'm very happy especially after the disappointing first round loss in singles," Kudla said. "At least I got something."
"It feels good to go out strong," said Sundling, the 2005 14s Easter Bowl champion, who is in his final year of eligibility. "I wasn't feeling too good after my singles, but to win the doubles feels good."
The girls 16s singles welcomed a new junior star to the national stage, with No. 5 seed Caroline Price taking her first gold singles ball with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 win over her doubles partner, No. 2 seed Whitney Kay.
Price, 16, is the daughter of former NBA All-star Mark Price, who was unable to attend the final because he is working with the Atlanta Hawks as they begin the playoffs.
The 5-foot-11-inch left-hander showed off an impressive serve and the ability to punish any short ball, but she knew better than to relax when she won the first set.
"Whitney's a great player," Price said. "I actually played her last week in a long three-set match, and I knew I couldn't let down, she's such a good player. But I was so nervous, I just had to calm myself down, breathe, walk back to the fence when I missed a couple."
Kay, who had twice come back from a set down this week, took control of the second set, breaking Price three times, the final time when Price was serving at 4-5. Kay knew she had an advantage when she could keep Price from playing first strike tennis, and the 15-year-old from Alpharetta, Ga. did just that in the set, extending the points and outlasting Price off the ground.
"I was trying to hit to her backhand mostly, because she has a pretty strong forehand, and stay in the points longer," said Kay, who lost that recent meeting, also in three sets. "She's got a big serve."
In the third set, Price got a two consecutive breaks to take a 5-2 lead, but some of her nerves and inexperience were revealed when she was broken serving for the match, throwing in two double faults, and never reaching match point.
But with the luxury of that second break, Price could hit out when Kay served at 3-5, and actually managed to hit a backhand winner with a broken string to make it 15-30. The girls exchanged forehand errors, giving Price her first match point, but again her forehand floated long. It was then that Kay's serve that let her down, with a double fault leading to match point number two. This time Price found the range with her forehand, hitting the far sideline with a clean winner to earn the Easter Bowl championship.
"This was my last 16s tournament," said Price, who turned 16 last month. "So I was just going to come out and see how I would finish it off. I was so surprised, I didn't expect it at all. I just came out to have fun."
Price collected her second gold ball of the day when she and Kay teamed for the girls 16s doubles title. The top seeds outlasted No. 3 seeds Lorraine Guillermo and Desirae Krawczyk 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to bring their set count for the day to six.
In the boys 16s singles, the third time was a charm for top seed Shane Vinsant of Keller, Texas, who had lost in a singles final the previous two weekends. At the College Station ITF Grade 4 two weeks ago, Vinsant lost to Jeremy Efferding in the final; at last week's International Spring Championships, he lost to Dennis Mkrtchian in the championship match. This week at the Easter Bowl, however, he avenged his losses to Efferding and Mkrtchian in the semifinals and quarterfinals respectively, and on Sunday rolled past No. 2 seed Marcos Giron 6-3, 6-0.
"I played pretty well today," said Vinsant, who rated his performance as an 8 or 9 on a scale of 10. "It was good quality. I don't think Marcus played as well as he normally does."
Giron held his own against Vinsant until 3-3 in the first set, but he didn't hold serve after that.
"He was keeping the balls deep and not letting me attack," said Giron, who lives in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "He was being more consistent than me and sometimes I probably went for shots I shouldn't have gone for."
Vinsant, 15, who lost only one set in his seven matches this week, was making up for his absence from the Easter Bowl last year, when he mistakenly failed to enter, and then spent several fruitless days onsite, hoping to get in as an alternate.
"It feels great," Vinsant said of his first Easter Bowl title. "I've got to keep working, but it feels good."
The sportsmanship awards were given to:
Spencer Papa, boys 14s
Spencer Liang, girls 14s
Jeremy Efferding, boys 16s
For complete results of the 18s, click here.
For the draws and results of the 14s and 16s, including consolation and third and fourth place matches, see the TennisLink site.
For additional coverage of the Easter Bowl, see easterbowl.com.