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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Seeds Survive Chilly Winds and Tough Opponents at Easter Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

The weather was the story at the Easter Bowl Wednesday, beginning with an unusual rain delay, then continuing with temperatures in the 60s and occasional sprinkles throughout the day. In the afternoon, the wind, which is no stranger to the Coachella Valley, began to blow after three calm days, causing plenty of frustration but few upsets.

Number 4 seed Alexios Halebian and No. 3 seed Mackenzie McDonald were among those on court when the predicted winds began to blow.

Halebian couldn't blame the weather for his slow start against George Goldhoff however, as the winds picked up at the end of the second set of his 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

"It was a struggle most of the first set until I got some more rhythm," said the 17-year-old left-hander. "It was very up and down the whole match."

Halebian, who had never played Goldhoff before, was surprised by his game.

"He played with more spin on his forehand and flattened it through the court with his backhand," said Halebian. "It's tougher to see because rightys usually don't play that way."

Once the wind came up in the third set, holding serve was difficult, with four breaks early, but when Halebian got one at 3-3, he held, then broke Goldhoff at love to finish the match.

"It was just one of those days, I guess," said Halebian. "I'm relieved to get the W, but I definitely have to play better tomorrow, that's for sure."

McDonald's 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 win over Nikko Madregallejo was the same outcome as the 2009 Easter Bowl boys 14 final, although that was a straight-set win for McDonald. It was, surprisingly, the last time the two friends had played, although McDonald's bout with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, which kept him out of competition for eight months, is partly responsible for that oddity.

Madregallejo had a a frustrating flurry of unforced errors in the opening set, but picked up his level of play considerably in the second, breaking McDonald at 4-4 and holding to level the match.

In the third set, which was exceptionally well-played given the weather conditions, McDonald faced a break point serving at 4-4, but he took a little off his first serve and Madregallejo's return found the net.

"That was crucial," said McDonald. "That was exactly what happened in the second set, so I didn't want that to happen again."

After McDonald held, Madregallejo faced the task of holding serve just to stay in the match. He made two forehand errors before and after a backhand winner, and when McDonald hit a second serve backhand return winner, Madregallejo faced two match points. He saved the initial one with a good first serve, but the second one belonged to McDonald after a backhand volley winner.

"I focused on what I did in the first set, coming forward and playing aggressive and sticking it to him," said McDonald. "I tried not to let the wind get to me, focus on what I should do to beat him."

Not that it was easy for McDonald.

"Nikko's one of my closest friends," he said. "No one's your friend on the court, but it was tough today, the first set, for both of us. It was kind of a warm up set for both of us, I guess, and then we both kind of put ourselves out there, fighting like dogs, so that was good."

Top seed Mitchell Krueger and second seed Noah Rubin advanced to the third round with straight-set victories over Grant Solomon and Brian Page, respectively.

The quarterfinals are set in the girls ITF, with two particularly interesting contests. No. 2 seed and defending champion Kyle McPhillips faces Brooke Austin in a rematch of the 2010 girls 16s final, which McPhillips won. McPhillips picked up her 17th consecutive win at the Easter Bowl Wednesday, beating No. 15 seed Denise Starr 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, while Austin defeated unseeded Dasha Ivanova 7-6(5), 6-0.

A rematch of last week's International Spring Championship final is also on tap, with No. 3 seed Chalena Scholl hoping to avenge her loss to No. 7 seed Allie Kiick. Kiick beat No. 9 seed Stephanie Nauta 6-1, 6-1 in Wednesday's third round, while Scholl downed wild card Kiah Generette 6-1, 6-2.

Top seed Taylor Townsend, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Rasheeda McAdoo, will play No. 10 seed Kelsey Laurente, who had a considerably tougher time with her third round opponent Zoe Katz, coming back for a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

The fourth quarterfinal features two unseeded players, with Caroline Doyle playing May Hibi. Doyle downed unseeded Maegan Manasse 6-0, 6-1, and Hibi beat Breaunna Addison, also unseeded, 7-5, 7-6(1).

It wasn't a good day for No. 3 seeds in the boys 14s and 16s. Third seed Elliott Sprecher lost to unseeded Logan Staggs 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in the older division, and No. 14 seed William Blumberg got by the third seed in the 14s, Taylor Fritz, 6-1, 7-5.

Girls 14s top seed Emma Higuchi had her hands full with 2012 Eddie Herr 12s champion Dominique Schaefer before getting through by a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 score. Boys 14s top seed Anudeep Kodali also was challenged by No. 9 seed Victor Pham before emerging with a 6-2, 7-6(7) win.

In the 16s, top seed Yale Goldberg earned another straight set win, but in the girls 16s, the pattern of upsets continued. Fourth seed Alexandria Chatt lost to Meghan Kelley 6-4, 6-2, leaving third seed Elizabeth Profitt as the only Top 4 seed in the fourth round.

Kelley had played Chatt before, losing in their last encounter over a year ago, but she had a strategy in mind to reverse that result.

"I wanted to mix it up a lot, just not give her the same ball twice," said Kelley, from Falmouth, Maine. "And get to everything I could, and I did that pretty well."

As for the wind, Kelley is the rare player who doesn't mind it.

"I just like playing in the wind," said Kelley, who said she hopes the forecast for more wind this week is accurate. "I think it's more fun."

In the boys 16s, No. 4 seed Henrik Wiersholm injured his ankle in a Tuesday night doubles match and withdrew from singles competition. Wiersholm was a finalist in the 2011 boys 14s division.

For the 14s and 16s results, click here.

For the ITF results, click here.