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Friday, April 10, 2015

Crawford, Martinelli Claim Easter Bowl 16s Titles; Unseeded McKenzie Ousts Carson Champion Kenin in ITF Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Indian Wells, CA--

Top seed Oliver Crawford came through a daunting draw in the early rounds of the Easter Bowl 16s tournament, completing an impressive two weeks with back-to-back titles by defeating No. 11 seed Brian Cernoch 6-2, 6-1 Friday morning at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Crawford was in an opening foursome that included Andrew Fenty, who Crawford beat in the International Spring Championships finals last Saturday, Keenan Mayo, who had upset the top seed in Carson, and Christian Alshon, who went on to win the Easter Bowl consolation tournament.  Crawford defeated both Mayo and Alshon is straight sets, as he did his next four opponents, but said the difficulty of his opening matches helped him.

"It was a bit tough, but I played well from the beginning," said Crawford,  who won 12 singles matches in the past 12 days, losing only one set, to Fenty, in the Carson final.  "It was for sure good to have a few good matches at the beginning of the tournament."

With Jose Higueras, USTA Director of Coaching, and Jay Berger, USTA Head of Men's Tennis, looking on, Crawford dominated Cernoch, although Crawford was broken once, after taking a 3-1 lead in the first set, when the outcome was still in doubt.  But Crawford broke right back, saved two break points in a five-deuce game to go up 5-2, and Cernoch could manage only one game after that.

"I didn't play my best, but he played an unbelievable match," said Cernoch, a 15-year-old left-hander, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. "He dictates with his forehand very well and makes you play very far back from the baseline. He is more aggressive."

Crawford said his approach to the Easter Bowl final differed from his final in Carson.

"I played a bit more confidently today, I feel," said Crawford, who works with Anthony Stewart at the Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg, SC and Furman men's coach Kelly Jones. "I was a bit nervous in the final before, just because I had never played in one of those, so I was a bit more confident and I kept the confidence from last week to this week."

With two major 16s titles now secured, Crawford, who turns 16 later this month, will move into the 18s in USTA tournaments and begin playing ITF Junior tournaments, starting with the Florida Grade 4s coming up.

While Crawford was able to secure the Carson-Easter Bowl double, Natasha Subhash fell one match short of becoming the first girl to accomplish that, falling to No. 2 seed Samantha Martinelli 7-5, 6-3.

Martinelli was down 4-2 in the opening set, but she got the break back and took the set with another break of the Subhash serve in a long, tough game.

Martinelli, a 16-year-old from Colorado who trains with Tim Blenkiron at the No Quit Tennis Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, said a renewed commitment to her game six months ago was responsible for her title.

"The last six months I've just been training my butt off," said Martinelli, who also won the doubles title on Thursday, with Delaney Nothaft. "Four hours a day, pretty much nothing else but playing, and it's finally paying off, all the hard work. It feels good. I was surprised at how good I felt throughout the week, because normally, by the end, I'm limping and staggering around, but I felt pretty good for the match. I guess it was all the training.  I always wanted to win one of these, so it feels really, really good. I'm kind of shaky right now, really excited."

Subhash, who is just 13, said Martinelli did everything better than she did in the final.

"Her ground strokes were good and she could hit them anywhere she wanted to," Subhash said.

Subhash, who won 11 matches in a row over the past two weeks, said she was most proud of her two wins over Victoria Flores, whom she defeated in the Carson final and again in the quarterfinals in the Easter Bowl.

"My wins against Vicky were really good, because just a few months ago, in my opinion, she was a lot better than me, so it was really surprising to me that I could put up a fight and beat her twice."

With the 16s finals complete, the attention this weekend will turn completely to the ITF Grade B1 tournament, which decided its singles semifinalists and doubles finalists on Friday.

Top seed Taylor Fritz needed another comeback to advance, although it wasn't quite as dramatic as his win over Patrick Kypson on Thursday, when he came back from 6-4, 5-0 down.  Against unseeded Cameron Klinger, Fritz served for the match twice, at 6-0, 5-4 and 6-5, and was up 40-15 in his second attempt, but ended up needing a third set comeback to post a 6-0, 6-7(5), 63 victory.  Klinger won the last four points of the 12th game to force a tiebreaker, which he dominated, going up 6-0, only to see Fritz come back to make it 6-5.  But on his sixth set point, Klinger converted to send the match to a third set.

Fritz was broken the first two times he served, but from 3-1 down, he won the final five games of the match to set up a meeting with 2014 finalist Nathan Ponwith, who has a 3-0 record against Fritz in USTA events, although the most recent result was in 2013.

Ponwith, the No. 4 seed, defeated No. 7 seed Hady Habib 6-2, 6-4.

Carson champion and No. 2 seed William Blumberg had his work cut out for him Friday against No. 8 seed Catalin Mateas, but he managed to keep it to two sets, albeit long ones, for a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory.  The first set took 85 minutes to complete, and serving for the second set at 5-3, Blumberg was broken, but he broke Mateas to secure the win.

Blumberg will play No. 14 seed Sam Riffice for the second time in two weeks, after Riffice defeated No. 10 seed Mwendwa Mbithi 6-1, 7-5.  Blumberg and Riffice met in the third round at the ITF Grade 1 last week in Carson, with Blumberg winning 7-6(4), 6-4.

The semifinal in the top half of the girls draw will be a rematch of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed final last October, with No. 4 seed Raveena Kinglsey trying to defeat No. 12 seed Claire Liu for a third time since last summer.

Liu defeated unseeded Abi Altick 6-1, 6-2, while Kingsley avenged her Eddie Herr quarterfinal loss to Caroline Dolehide, seeded eighth, 6-4, 6-4.

Kingsley, who did not play the Carson ITF, where she was a finalist in 2014, believes she is a much improved player from the one who lost in the first round of the Easter Bowl last year.

"I've just been working on every aspect of my game," said the 16-year-old Kingsley, who was seen hitting with Taylor Dent, her current coach, after her Thursday match. "I think I've improved so much since Carson and Easter Bowl last year, and I'm more fit."

Last year's finalist Katie Swan, the No. 2 seed this year, trailed No. 9 seed Kayla Day in the opening set, but came back to post a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Swan will play unseeded Kylie McKenzie, who shocked Carson champion and No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

McKenzie's confidence grew as the match wore on, with Kenin struggling with her serve, and McKenzie's power off the ground too much for even Kenin's stout defense.

"I don't think I played my best in the first set, I thought I was a little tight, not hitting out on the ball as much," said McKenzie, who, like Ponwith, works in Arizona with former Arizona State coach Lou Belkin. "I was making more loose errors than I would like to. So in the second set I focused on getting extra physical with my legs, being more consistent in a good way, and getting my rhythm back to being more aggressive at the end."

The USTA 16s champion, whose ITF ranking is 279, compared to Kenin's ranking of 11, said she's seen noticeable improvements in her game the past few months.

"This year, I have been playing better, training a lot, and I think the last few weeks I've really seen myself playing better, my game coming together a little more," said McKenzie, who also trains with the USTA in Boca Raton. "I've physically gotten stronger too, so all in all, I'm doing better."

There will be live streaming of two of Saturday's semifinals at easterbowl.com. Ken Thomas, the voice of radiotennis.com, is doing the commentary.

The doubles finals will be played on Saturday, with three of the singles semifinalists going for titles.  Top seeds Swan and Kenin will play Carson champions Ena Shibahara and Caroline Dolehide, who are unseeded, in the girls final. Riffice and Vasil Kirkov, the No. 6 seeds, will play unseeded Ponwith and Klinger in the boys final.
Boys' 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Taylor Fritz (1) (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) def. Cameron Klinger (Elk Grove, CA) 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-3
Nathan Ponwith (4) (Scottsdale, AZ) def. Hady Habib (7) (Bradenton, FL) 6-2, 6-4
Sam Riffice (14) (Roseville, CA) def. Mwendwa Mbithi (10) (Deerfield Beach, FL) 6-1, 7-5
William Blumberg (2) (Greenwich, CT) def. Catalin Mateas (8) (Braintree, MA) 7-6(3), 6-4

Girls' 18 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Claire Liu (12) (Thousand Oaks, CA) def. Helen Altick (Monroe, LA) 6-1, 6-2
Raveena Kingsley (4) (Fulton, MD) def. Caroline Dolehide (8) (Hinsdale, IL) 6-4, 6-4
Kylie McKenzie (Anthem, AZ) def. Sofia Kenin (3) (Pembroke Pines, FL) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Katie Swan (2) (Wichita, KS) def. Kayla Day (9) (Santa Barbara, CA) 7-5, 6-3
Boys' 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Cameron Klinger (Elk Grove, CA) / Nathan Ponwith (Scottsdale,
AZ) def. Jake DeVine (Los Altos Hills, CA) / Patrick Kypson (Greenville, NC) 6-4, 6-4
Vasil Kirkov (Tampa, FL) / Sam Riffice (6) (Roseville, CA) def. Trent Bryde (Suwanee, GA) / Emil Reinberg (5) (Atlanta, GA) 7-6(5), 6-3

Girls' 18 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Sonya Kenin (Pembroke Pines, FL) / Katie Swan (1) (Wichita, KS) def. Morgan Coppoc (Tulsa, OK) / Alexandra Sanford (8) (Westerville, OH) 7-6(6), 6-3
Caroline Dolehide (Hinsdale, IL) / Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA) def. Usue Arconada (Rio Piedras, PR) / Francesca Di Lorenzo (2) (New Albany, OH) 6-7(9), 6-4, 10-8

Boys' 16 Singles (Final Round)
Oliver Crawford (1) (Spartanburg, SC) def. Brian Cernoch (11) (North Bethesda, MD) 6-2, 6-1

Boys' 16 Singles Consolation (Semifinal Round)
Brady Draheim (Omaha, NE) def. Conrad Russell (Palo Alto, CA) 6-2, 6-3
Christian Alshon (Boca Raton, FL) def. Steven Sun (Boca Raton, FL) 6-3, 6-3

Boys' 16 Singles Consolation (Final Round)
Christian Alshon (Boca Raton, FL) def. Brady Draheim (Omaha, NE) 6-1, 6-0

Boys' 16 Singles (Playoff Final)
Danny Thomas (Pickerington, OH) def. Abhijeet Joshi (6) (Millington, NJ) 6-3, 6-2

Boys' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Jason Lui (7) (Bellevue, WA) def. Sean Sculley (3) (Hilton Head Island, SC) 6-3, 6-4

Girls' 16 Singles (Final Round)
Samantha Martinelli (2) (Denver, CO) def. Natasha Subhash (Fairfax, VA) 7-5, 6-3

Girls' 16 Singles Consolation (Semifinal Round)
Taylor Bridges (Mesa, AZ) def. Nadia Gizdova (5) (Columbia, MD) 6-3, 4-6, 10-4
Isabella Lorenzini (10) (Clarendon Hills, IL) def. Dalayna Hewitt (Pepper Pike, OH) 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-7

Girls' 16 Singles Consolation (Final Round)
Isabella Lorenzini (10) (Clarendon Hills, IL) def. Taylor Bridges (Mesa, AZ) 1-6, 6-1, 10-6

Girls' 16 Singles (Playoff Final)
Victoria Flores (4) (Fort Dodge, IA) def. Victoria Emma (12) (Naples, FL) Wo (inj)

Girls' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Hannah Lairmore (14) (Mobile, AL) def. Stephanie Schrage (Millburn, NJ) 6-3, 6-4



Dave said...

With all the discussion of improving the fan experience, some better website maintenance could really help. Easter Bowl site's "schedule" currently links to 2013 Easter Bowl. Order of play for Saturday's semis still not posted when the matches were started. Webcams showing empty courts. Complete carelessness. This is the 2nd biggest junior tournament in the country.