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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fratangelo Wins ITF Easter Bowl Championship; McPhillips and Watson Claim 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Bjorn Fratangelo has had a spring to remember. Last month the 16-year-old from Pittsburgh captured the USTA 18s Spring National Championship in Mobile, and on Sunday he added another important title to his resume, claiming the ITF Easter Bowl with a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over No. 4 seed Nick Chappell.

Fratangelo was unseeded coming into the Easter Bowl, and was drawn to play No. 1 seed Raymond Sarmiento in the first round, but illness forced Sarmiento to withdraw, with a lucky loser taking his place.

"You could say I got lucky. I'd never played Raymond before and I was up for it; I really wanted to play him," Fratangelo said. "I think he's a great player, he has a great game and is really fun to watch. In that match I would have worried just about getting games. I dodged a bullet there."

Fratangelo dropped a set against doubles partner Jeremy Efferding in the third round, and it looked as if he would need another comeback against Chappell in the final, when he went down 4-1 and two breaks in the opening set. In the third game of the match, Fratangelo double faulted three consecutive points to lose the game, yet somehow he dug his way out of that trough.

"I didn't feel that great in the beginning of the match," said Fratangelo, who lost in the quarterfinals of the International Spring Championships last week in Carson. "It's been a long two weeks, and I trained hard leading up to it, and it's really hot. They put us right in the heat of the day and it kind of got to me in the beginning, I just felt exhausted, overwhelmed, felt anxiety, but I was able to get through it one point at a time."

Chappell was serving for the set at 5-4, but didn't have a set point, and in the tiebreaker, it was Fratangelo that raised his level of play. He got his forehand deep in the court and made no unforced errors, while Chappell seemed more reluctant to take an aggressive approach.

Chappell was broken in the third game of the second set, but he got the break right back, then held at love to take a 3-2 lead.

"I thought I could keep on holding and take the second set after that," said the 17-year-old left-hander from Indianapolis. "But he picked up his play after he got broken there. I got a little upset, and he started playing better. It's pretty simple."

Despite some good serving, Chappell was broken in the seventh game, then went down 0-40 serving at 3-5. He saved two match points, but double faulted on the third to give Fratangelo his second major junior title in a month.

Fratangelo will see where his win puts him in the ITF rankings before deciding whether he will play the French Open juniors, although he is not likely to play unless he is accepted into the main draw.

"I think I have time to enter for the French, which I may do now," Fratangelo said. "It's not a major thing for me right now. It's just about improving my game."


In the boys 16s championships match, tenth seed Gordon Watson used his forehand to roll past top seed Nolan Paige 6-3, 6-1.

"It was firing today," said Watson, from Naples, Fla.. "I wish someone would have had a count on how many backhands I hit--it wasn't very many."

The match started with four holds of serve, but then the wheels came off for the 16-year-old from Connecticut. He was on the defensive from then on, and didn't hold serve again until down 5-0 in the second set.

"I couldn't get in a rhythm, because he was hitting his big forehands," said Paige, who was playing in his first USTA National Level 1 final. "I had a chance in the first set, if I had gotten a break at one point, I would have maybe gotten into it more, but he played really well."

Watson, who won the USTA Boys 12 Hard Court title in 2006, was happy to back in the upper echelons of junior tennis after a lengthy bout with Lyme disease left him without the necessary stamina to compete effectively.

"I had Lyme disease when I was 15 and I heard people say, no, he's not going to do it, he can't do it again, but I can't wait to slap them across the face," Watson joked. "I was playing, but I'd last thirty minutes on the court and I was done."

Watson, who will be 17 in September, felt that he peaked at just the right time during the Easter Bowl.

"In the third round against Ian Van Cott, it kind of scared me. I lost the first set 6-1 or 2 or something, but every match I started getting better and better and today I was just unconscious."

Girls 16s champion Kyle McPhillips is delighted that her 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Brooke Austin has allowed her to graduate from the 16s age division.

"I've kind of got the monkey off my back and I'm ready for the 18s," said the top-seeded McPhillips, who lost in the 14s final in 2008, and in the first round of the 18s last year, a defeat that prompted a return to the younger age division.

Brooke Austin, a 14-year-old from Indianapolis who won the Easter Bowl last year, was testing her game at the next level, and the No. 2 seed went on an impressive run in the opening set of the final.

Trailing 3-0, Austin won five games in a row, using her flat ground strokes and stepping inside the court to keep McPhillips on the defensive. But serving for the set, Austin faltered and she couldn't convert her set point with McPhillips serving at 5-6, 30-40.

In the tiebreaker, McPhillips played very steadily, while Austin took more chances--and made more errors.

"She was serving well, and that helped her," said Austin. "And she started attacking my serve more in the tiebreaker, and I was on the defensive more than I was in the middle of the set."

At 4-4 in the second set, McPhillips really found her form, hitting two aces and a service winner to hold at love. Austin fell behind 0-40 serving at 4-5, but kept right on hitting out, saving two of the match points with well-executed forehands. But she was unable to get a serve in play at 30-40, and McPhillips had her Easter Bowl title.

"It feels really good, because if I would have lost today, I would have come to the Easter Bowl next year, and I would have felt even more pressure to win it."

For a celebration, McPhillips was eyeing a jump in the Rancho Las Palmas resort pool, but only after her doubles final Sunday afternoon. When she and partner Skylar Morton, the top seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Alyssa Smith 6-3, 6-1, all four took the plunge. With the doubles win, McPhillips, of Willoughby, Ohio, now has six gold balls in her collection.

In the boys ITF doubles, No. 8 seeds Chappell and Marcos Giron saved two match points in the second set and went on to claim the championship with a 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-8 victory over top seeds Mitchell Krueger and Dane Webb.

With Giron serving at 3-5 in the second set, they survived both the 30-40 and deciding point, and broke Krueger in the next game, when he was serving for the match. In the match tiebreaker, Chappell and Giron ran out to a 9-4 lead, but Krueger and Webb won four straight points to make it interesting, before Chappell and Giron closed it out. It was their fourth match tiebreak win in five matches during the tournament.

Playing as a team for only the second time since winning the Kalamazoo 16s doubles title last year, Chappell and Giron are making plans for another run at the Nationals this year.

"Kalamazoo is probably our next tournament," said Giron.

After Chappell's loss in singles this year, and Giron's loss in the 16s final last year, the pair were glad to be leaving the Easter Bowl as winners.

"A good rebound win," said Chappell. "Last year I left not happy, but this year, I'm going back happy," said Giron.

For complete results, see the TennisLink sites for ITF and USTA tournaments.