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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Austin Saves Match Points in Ousting Top Seed Loeb, Brymer Outlasts Papa at Easter Bowl ITF

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Rancho Mirage, CA--

Tuesday's Coachella valley weather was in stark contrast to Monday's disruptive winds, but the ideal conditions didn't help girls top seed Jamie Loeb or boys No. 4 seed Spencer Papa, as both fell to accomplished opponents with impressive Easter Bowl resumes at the Sunrise Country Club.

2012 finalist Brooke Austin, the No. 1 player in the USTA rankings but unseeded in the ITF B1 tournament, beat Jamie Loeb, No. 2 in the USTA rankings, but the top seed in this Easter Bowl 5-7, 7-6(7), 6-3, saving three match points in the second set.

Austin, who had drawn eventual champion Mayo Hibi in the first round at the International Spring Championships, beat Jessica Ho 6-2, 76(3) in Monday's hurricane-like winds, while Loeb, who lost in the ISC final, had a bye.

"Yesterday was just the sort of day when you've to find a way to win, in spite of the wind," said Austin, 17. "Today, I just tried to play aggressive. The balls fly a little more here, because I think there's a little bit of altitude, so I just tried to play my game and be as consistent as I could. Every time we've played, it's gone three sets, like since we were 12."

Austin faced a match point at 4-5 in the second set, and saved it.

"Believe it or not, I hit a volley," said Austin, known for her line-painting ground strokes, not her net game. "It was like an angle backhand volley and it went in, barely."

In the tiebreaker, Austin saved two more match points, with Loeb making uncharacteristic errors.

"In the tiebreaker, I was just, come on Brooke, keep fighting."

In the third set, Austin broke Loeb for a 2-1 lead, gave the break back immediately, but then got another for a 3-2 lead. Consolidating the break, Austin continued to hit winners or force errors with her pace and angles.  With Austin leading 5-3, Loeb had a 40-15 lead in her service game with a chance to make Austin serve it out. But Austin unleashed a series of forehand winners, including on match point, to retain her hopes of another Easter Bowl title to add to her 2009 Girls 14s title.

Gage Brymer won the 2011 Boys 16s title, and he too has faced some difficult draws the last two weeks. As a wild card at Carson's ISC last week, Brymer lost to top seed Noah Rubin in the second round, and was drawn to face No. 4 seed Spencer Papa in the first round of boys 18s play Tuesday at Sunrise Country Club.

"I don't have much of an ITF ranking, so I've been getting tough rounds in Carson, and now Spencer in the first round," said Brymer, who will be joining the UCLA Bruins in the fall. "That's a bad draw for both of us. It's just unlucky, but that's how it goes. You have to beat him sometime in the draw, so it's just unlucky he had to go out in the first round."

It looked as if Brymer would be the one going out in the first round, not Papa, after he lost the first set 6-1. But Brymer came back, got the one crucial break in the third set, and posted a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

"All he had to do was keep balls in play in the first set, and I'd miss early," said Brymer. "In the second set, I got myself together and just tried to keep as many balls as I could in. I figured that was all I could do to shake those nerves and get going with the match."

Although most of the rallies were long and punishing baseline exchanges, a scrambling defensive lob proved pivotal for Brymer.

With Papa serving at 3-3 in the third, he had a game point and control of the point. Brymer chased down an offensive lob from Papa and pulled off an even better defensive one, which improbably landed deep and near the baseline behind Papa for the winner. After getting the break, Brymer held for 5-3, and Papa held to force Brymer to serve it out.  He did, but not without some drama. He double faulted to go down 30-40, but Papa let him off the hook with a forehand long. Brymer got his first match point when Papa hit a second serve return out, but Brymer made an error of his own to send it back to deuce. Brymer saved a second break point with a forehand volley winner, then got a second match point with a forehand winner. This time, Brymer converted, with Papa netting a forehand.

"I got tight again in the final game," admitted Brymer. "It was so close and going back and forth, and I had a couple tight serves. I was really
trying to breathe and loosen myself up and get in. On the next couple of serves, I just loosened up and spun them in instead of trying to go for a big tight serve."

"I have good memories here in Palm Springs, at this tournament," Brymer said. "So I'm looking to make some big things happen in this tournament."

Brymer will play Grant Solomon in the second round on Wednesday.

The only other seed to fall in 18s play on Tuesday was No. 7 seed Rianna Valdes, who was beaten by Monica Robinson 6-3, 7-5.

The top seeds in the 16s, Sameer Kumar and Francesca Dilorenzo, won in straight sets, as did the top seeds in the 14s, John McNally and Claire Liu.

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

For the 18s draws and results, click here.