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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brymer Takes Second Easter Bowl Title, This Time in 18s; Bellis and Kumar Claim 16s Championships

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

It's not a narrative he can explain, nor does he have a history of  comebacks, but Gage Brymer won the Asics Easter Bowl ITF Grade B1 title in what is now predictable fashion Sunday afternoon at the Sunrise Country Club.

Down a set and a break, the unseeded 18-year-old roared back to defeat No. 3 seed Luca Corinteli 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, his fifth three-set win of his six victories this week, and the fourth from a set down.

"What's funny is that this is the first tournament where that's really been the case," said Brymer, an 18-year-old from Irvine, Calif. "It's not like I'm known for losing the first set. That's just been this week, but it's not too disheartening when I lose the first set now.  I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I'll never count myself out in that second now, but it might be a bad thing because I'm having so many long matches."

Corinteli began the match determined not to engage Brymer in a baseline slug fest. He served and volleyed, hit drop shots and angles and played defense, never allowing Brymer to find a rhythm. Although Corinteli is built like a linebacker and does have the requisite serve of someone his size, the 17-year-old from Alexandria, Va. believed he needed to take advantage of his other skills.

"He stands really far back behind the baseline," said Corinteli, who will be joining the Virginia Cavaliers this fall. "I don't know if it's a tactic because I'm serving pretty big and the balls are kind of flying off these courts. I thought it would be a good idea to serve slice wide, kick wide and come in, use the angles of the court. If someone's standing really far back, you don't want to bang with him, because I don't think he'll miss a ball. I thought it would be a good idea, it's something I'm comfortable with and I do it a lot and it was definitely a part of my game plan the whole week.  I'm not completely a serve and volley type of player, but it's something that's in my toolbox and something I can use in the future for sure."

Corinteli saw three set points come and go in the opening set, with a perfect backhand volley finally securing it.  In the second set, Brymer needed seven deuces before he held in the first game, but he was broken for 2-1 in the second and went down 3-1 when Corinteli held. Brymer took the next two games, and then demonstrated his tenacity serving at 3-3, winning another seven-deuce game to go up 4-3.  After two more holds, Corinteli played his worst game of the match serving at 4-5, double faulting twice, including on game point, and missing a volley and netting a backhand to get broken at love.

The start of the third set went no better for Corinteli. He double faulted on game point again to go down 2-0, and it was 5-0 before he finally held, ending a seven-game losing streak.

Brymer said that seeing the finish line and yet maintaining his focus was difficult at that stage.

"I think it's an incredibly tough place to be, 5-0, 5-1, 5-2," said Brymer, who will be joining the UCLA Bruins this fall. "It's much harder to close it out than it is to get up 5-0. Those last couple of games are very tough, and to be honest, I got nervous at 5-0 and 5-1. But I did the best I could to shake off the nerves and pull out that last game at 5-1."

Corinteli saved two match points and had a break point in the final game, but Brymer held on for the victory, adding an Easter Bowl ITF title to the 16s championship he won in 2011.

Brymer is not planning a lengthy celebration, however, as he returns to school at University High in Irvine on Monday and will play a match with his team there on Tuesday.

"I have a little bit of a break tomorrow, but then I've got to get right back on the horse,"  said Brymer, who is the third consecutive UCLA recruit to win the Easter Bowl ITF, joining Marcos Giron and Mackenzie McDonald. "I'm looking to close out my senior year with a really good high school season as well. It means a lot."

The tournament's last day provided ideal conditions for excellent tennis, with temperatures in the upper 70s and no wind, with 14-year-old CiCi Bellis making the most of her second straight trip to an Easter Bowl final, this time in the 16s division.

Bellis, the No. 8 seed, who had lost in the 14s championship match in 2012, put that disappointment out of her mind with a 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 7 seed Caroline Dolehide.

"I thought about it a little bit before the match," said Bellis, from Atherton, Calif. "I obviously wanted to win today, but I really didn't want to think about that. I tried my hardest and it just didn't happen."

Bellis had several better memories to draw on, as she had swept the European 14-and-under majors at Teen Tennis in England and Les Petits As in France this year, taking all four titles in singles and doubles. Bellis believed that her experience in Tarbes helped her on the Sunrise Country Club stadium court Sunday.

"There they had umpires to call the lines and ball kids and everything too," said Bellis. "I feel that gave me a lot more experience for this. I really love that--playing in front of people, playing on center court, everything."

Bellis started the match with all the poise of a longtime veteran, but Dolehide came back from two breaks down to even the first set at 4-4. Serving at 4-all, Dolehide, a 14-year-old from Hinsdale, Ill., had a game point for a 5-4 lead, but Bellis came up with the shots she needed to break, then held for the first set.

"I had a game point and she just hit a winner on that," said Dolehide. "I didn't feel tired, but I felt I needed to pick it up to stay with her. She's pretty consistent and all her balls are pretty deep. I missed a little bit too much to stay in the match."

Although Dolehide was down early in the second set, falling behind 3-0, the games were long and the points entertaining. The 5-foot-8-1/2-inch Dolehide used her serve and her power to keep Bellis from dictating the points, but it was Bellis who managed to find ways to win those close games.

"She was actually the one being aggressive there," Bellis said of the first few games of the second set. "Her serve is really good so I just had to try to get that back, and if there was a second serve, I had to attack it."

Bellis came close to seeing another 4-1 lead erode, but after saving a break point and surviving  a couple of deuces, she held for 5-1, and broke Dolehide for the win.

After a family dinner to celebrate, Bellis will return to competition, concentrating on ITFs and the 18s division in USTA events.

The boys 16s singles final, which closed the tournament Sunday afternoon, was not a competitive match, with 16s Winter National champion and top seed Sameer Kumar adding an Easter Bowl title to his resume with a 6-0, 6-0 rout of No. 17 seed Kalman Boyd.

Kumar, a 15-year-old from Carmel, Ind., hadn't played on stadium court throughout the week, so he and his coach Bryan Smith came out to practice on it after Saturday's matches in preparation for the final.

"We hit here to kind of get a feel for the court, get used to it, see the conditions, see how the wind was," said Kumar. "I think that helped quite a bit today."

Kumar dominated Boyd, who was playing in his first USTA Level 1 final, allowing him only 19 points total and finishing the match in 45 minutes.

"After a tough match yesterday (winning 7-5 in the third over No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz) I thought I recovered very well," said Kumar. "I felt physically perfect. I felt I could go for hours."

Boyd, who had reached the semifinals in the 16s division at the International Spring Championships in Carson, couldn't match Kumar's energy and resilience.

"I just couldn't hang with him," said Boyd, of Rancho Sante Fe, Calif. "I just got way too tired after each point and he was fresh. I guess he was more mentally tough or something, because after each point I was dead, just trying to recover. He played better today."

Kumar is undecided about which age division he'll play at this summer's USTA Clay Courts, but he is definitely going for the 16s title in Kalamazoo this summer.

"That's the goal for the year," said Kumar. "That's been the goal since the beginning of the year, to win Kalamazoo. I think I'm well on my way to that."

The boys 18s doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Spencer Papa and Jordi Arconada of Argentina, who defeated No. 4 seeds Mackenzie McDonald and JC Aragone 6-1, 7-5.

Papa had originally planned to play with Stefan Kozlov, with the pair already two-time doubles champions during the South American swing, but when Kozlov withdrew after winning the International Spring Championships in Carson, Papa had little time to find a replacement. Arconada, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., didn't have a partner, so they agreed to join forces for the first time.

They went to a match tiebreaker in their opening match, but that was all the time they needed to feel comfortable.

"The first match we kind of struggled a little," said Arconada. "But we pulled through, 10-7 in the breaker. The guy's a beast."

"By the second match we were playing pretty well," said Papa, who trains with the USTA in Boca Raton.

Against McDonald and Aragone, Papa and Arconada were forced to find way over and around their opponents.

"They were both coming to the net pretty well and volleying pretty well, so we had to find little holes to pass them," said Papa. "Jordi did a good job with that, finding the down the line. We were being really aggressive with a lot of energy."

"In the second set, we had a lot of chances, deuce points, but they definitely stepped it up," said Arconada. "They played much better in the second set."

After her loss in singles Sunday morning, Dolehide had a second chance at a gold ball in the afternoon and she grabbed it, winning the 16s doubles with Brienne Minor. Dolehide and Minor, the No. 1 seeds, beat No. 3 seeds Emma Higuchi and Rebecca Weissman 1-6, 6-4, 6-2.

For complete 16s results, see the TennisLink site.

The 18s ITF results are here.