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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hibi Adds Easter Bowl ITF B1 Singles Championship to Last Week's ISC Title; Corinteli and Brymer Set for Boys 18s Clash Sunday

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

Mayo Hibi has played an ITF Grade 1 singles match 12 of the past 13 days, but she made it as easy as she possibly could on herself by winning them all in straight sets.

On a hot and sunny afternoon in the Coachella Valley, the 13th-seeded Hibi showed no sign of mental or physical fatigue, taking a 6-3, 6-2 decision from No. 6 seed Tornado Alicia Black in the ITF Grade B1 girls final.

Black, who will be 15 next month, had survived two matches of nearly three hours in length in the quarterfinals and semifinals, and she admitted those wins took their toll.

"I was really exhausted from yesterday and the day before," said Black, who is now training at L'Academie de Tennis in Boynton Beach, Florida after over a year at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton.   "I thought I could have done a lot better today, come out to the match more prepared."

Hibi said she was a bit taken aback by the atmosphere for the final, which included ballrunners carrying the players' bags to the court for them.

"I was really, really nervous in the beginning," said Hibi, who turned 17 last week. "In the beginning you walk out and you don't have your bag, they're taking pictures, you have ball kids, everything was so different. There was a huge crowd out there, it was also really hot and we had to wait a while because of the 14s final and at first I didn't feel like it was really in the match."

The first four games were all breaks of serve, with Black failing to win a point in her first two service games.  After three holds, Hibi got another break and held to take the first set.

Black makes very few errors regardless of her opponent's pace or placement, and she handled Hibi's slice and changes of spin and pace with little trouble. But Black's serve was a definite liability, and Hibi stepped in and took control when she was presented with an especially soft offering.

Hibi took an early 3-0 lead in the second set, with two breaks, but Black got one of them back, only to lose her serve yet again.  Again Hibi couldn't quite close the door, losing her serve on a double fault on game point, but Black again lost her serve and Hibi held in the next game for the win.

"I was getting pretty tired in the first and second round of the Easter Bowl, and I wasn't sure if my body was going to hold up," said Hibi, a Japanese citizen who has lived in Irvine, Calif. since before she began playing tennis. "I'm happy it did, and now I can finally rest."

Hibi is waiting to see where her ITF ranking lands on Monday before deciding on playing the junior slams, but she is planning to play Pro Circuit events on clay in Florida and North Carolina.

With a couple of days off before she begins training on clay, Hibi will finally have time for a delayed birthday celebration.

"I actually haven't celebrated my birthday yet, because I had Carson," said Hibi. "My mom will bake my cake--she's a good cook and baker. And we always have this deal that when you win a tournament you get ice cream."

Gage Brymer may also be from Irvine, California, but he has taken a contrasting path to the boys 18s final.  While Hibi did not lose a set this week, Brymer has won four matches in three sets, coming from a set down in three of them.

"It's not intentional, I promise," said Brymer, who defeated No. 5 seed Martin Redlicki 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinal. "I just start off a little shaky and the other guy starts off playing his game, and I'm missing too much in that first set. I don't know if it's because of nerves--I feel tight here and there, but it's not all the way through the set. But once I find my groove in the second set, I find my game and once I start rolling and get into a third, I play the same way."

Brymer, the 2011 Easter Bowl 16s champion, will play No. 3 seed Luca Corinteli in the final, after Corinteli took out top seed Noah Rubin 7-6(6), 6-1 in the semifinals Saturday. The last time the two played was in that 2011 Easter Bowl, with Brymer beating Cortineli 6-4, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

"He beat me up pretty good," said Corinteli. "I was trying to play a big man's game. I was still big, but I was very immature at the time, so he kind of dissected me and broke me down. I think I've matured a lot in the last two years and I'm sure he has as well. He's fighting really hard and I think we're both competing really well this week."

Corinteli came into the Easter Bowl knowing he would have to perform well to make the field at the junior slams this summer, since he failed to defend his semifinal points at Carson last week.

"It could have been a negative," Corinteli said of the pressure that scenario created. "If I would have looked at like oh, if I play tight, if I lose, I'm not going to make the slams in my last year of juniors. But my dad kind of helped me prepare for this, waking up early, getting in a routine, getting up at the same time, hitting with the same kids, and I think I prepared really well for this week."

The girls 18s doubles title went to unseeded Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter, who defeated Josie Kuhlman and Katerina Stewart, also unseeded, 6-4, 6-4.

Liang and Porter were playing together for the first time, but they were not surprised at their success.

"We meshed really well from the first match," said Porter. "We just read each other really well and we have similar games, so I think we can predict what the other is going to do."

"We just have great chemistry," said Liang. "It worked out really well from the first point."

In Friday's semifinals, Liang and Porter trailed ISC champions Jamie Loeb and Maegan Manasse 6-2 in the match tiebreaker, but went on to win the last eight points of the match.

There was nothing quite as dramatic as that in Saturday's final against the Florida pair, but Liang and Porter did need to win a deciding point at 5-4 in the first set to keep from losing a 5-0 lead.

Now that they've collected their first ITF Grade 1 titles, Liang and Porter are planning to stay together for the major USTA events this summer at the Clay Courts in Memphis and the Hard Courts in San Diego.

For complete ITF results, see the TennisLink site.