McNally Upsets Top Seed Arconada; Neff, Osuigwe Stage Impressive Comebacks to Take 14s Easter Bowl Titles; Price, Heck Win 12s Championships
©Colette Lewis 2015--
Indian Wells, CA--
Thirteen-year-old wild card Caty McNally took out top seed Usue Arconada in second round play at the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl Wednesday, while champions were crowned in the 12s and 14s divisions under the sunny skies of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Neff looked down and out against Calleros, who played confident and aggressive tennis from the outset, while Neff was making too many errors to provide a challenge. But the 13-year-old from Bradenton changed his strategy, which helped him take a dramatic 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
"I said, just change your game plan, just try and grind, not try to outhit him," said Neff, who deemed the comeback the best of his junior career. "And that ended up working, and I found my rhythm more, and then I could go back to my old game plan, so it [getting behind by that much] was really a blessing in disguise. Changing the game plan was really the turning point in that match."
After winning the final five games of the second set, Neff got an early break in the third, but Texan Calleros got it right back. Neff got a second break to go up 5-3 and he completed the comeback by holding to secure the title.
Neff, who had an injury that kept him out for four months, was able to mount his comeback despite breaking a string five times during the match.
"I had popped five strings in the match, and I ended up having to use some person in the crowd's racquet," Neff said. "I ended up being up 2-1 in the third with that racquet, and then I got [his racquet, restrung) and lost two straight games. I couldn't find the rhythm with my normal racquet. I was using a Blade, but I don't know what strings were in it," Neff added, whose racquet of choice is a Wilson Pro Staff 95.
As for celebrating his victory, Neff hoped to share his good news with Go4theGoal Foundation, a pediatric cancer charity he supports and tries to raise awareness for.
Noel's self-talk is loud and uniformly negative and after failing to convert the second match point, she wailed "I'm going to lose this match."
She lost her second chance to serve for the match without getting to match point, but at 5-5, Osuigwe was broken again, with her overhead letting her down twice.
The points--long and often included moonballing--were more often ended by errors than winners, and in her third attempt to serve out the match, Noel, a 12-year-old from New Jersey, was broken again, meaning a tiebreaker would decide the match.
Despite her troubles with her overhead previously, Osuigwe continued to commit to them when appropriate and she hit two winners in that fashion in the tiebreaker, the second to give herself two match points.
She only needed one, crushing a forehand winner to seal the improbably comeback, and erase some bad memories from last year's Easter Bowl.
"It was long and hard," said Osuigwe, who will be 13 later this month. "I was up 5-2 last year in the 12s, in the quarterfinals, and [Kacie Harvey, the eventual champion] came back on me, so I kind of used that as a learning lesson of how she came back."
As for Noel's outbursts, Osuigwe had a simple view of all the drama.
"It doesn't help her, so it helps me," said the IMG Academy student. "I think I still have the match in my hands and I can go on and win it."
Price, who was invited to participate in the World Tennis Day exhibition in Madison Square Garden last month with Cori Gauff, was obviously not overwhelmed by the occasion, which included the live streaming of her match.
"I played before Federer played, with Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini," said Price, a New Yorker who now trains with Rick Macci in Florida. "So today was kind of like the same, but of course, not as many people. But they had my name on the scoreboard, so that was really cool."
Price, who said she was more excited than nervous in the final, was able to capitalize on Jackson's problems with her serve throughout the match.
"I feel I played pretty well," the 11-year-old Price said. "She was missing a lot, so I took advantage of her serve, because she was double faulting a lot. I was just trying to be consistent and be aggressive at the same time."
Heck, a seventh grader from Minnesota, said he began the match with some nerves, but overcame them quickly.
"I definitely was [nervous] going into the match, but usually after a couple of games, I lose the nerves and just start playing well, playing freely," said Heck, whose only outdoor tennis this spring in Minnesota was as a member of his local high school team.
Heck, playing in his second Easter Bowl, said taking the title felt "amazing. It's really fun. It was really hot last year, but the weather's nice and it's fun to play in."
While the younger players were getting their time in the spotlight, McNally, not much older than those competing in the 12s and 14s, was posting an major upset in the ITF Grade B1 tournament, defeating top seed Usue Arconada, No. 6 in the world junior rankings, 6-4, 7-5.
McNally served for the match at 5-4, but was broken at love. If she had any doubt about her ability to complete the upset after that game she didn't show it, immediately breaking back for a 6-5 lead. Given a second chance, she took it, as Arconada was not able to put any pressure on McNally when she hit a second serve.
"I played really well," said McNally. "I got out to a really good lead in the first set and I think she was really tight. She fought back, playing more aggressive, and she's a really good player."
"My serve was a really big factor," McNally said. "Last week in Carson it wasn't too good. So it really helped me in my match, serve plus one."
McNally traces her confidence to compete with the older, more experienced girls to her trip to Europe this past winter, where she won the prestigious Nike Teen Tennis tournament in England.
"I got to go out of the country and play international tournaments and I won one," said McNally, who is playing in just her second ITF tournament. "That gives me a lot of confidence, shows me I can play with all these other girls."
The only other girls seed to lose in Wednesday's second round was No. 11 seed Jessica Ho, who fell to Kylie McKenzie 6-2, 6-3, although No. 5 seed Michaela Gordon was forced to withdraw with an injury, giving Emma Higuchi a walkover.
The boys draw saw No. 5 seed Emil Reinberg eliminated by Jacob Brum 6-1, 7-5, No. 12 seed Anudeep Kodali go out to JJ Wolf 6-2, 6-3, and No. 15 seed Zeke Clark fall to Patrick Kypson 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. The boys also lost a seed to injury, with No. 11 Robert Levine unable to play, giving Nicholas Borchenko a walkover in the third round.
Top seed Taylor Fritz and No. 2 seed Will Blumberg lost a total of five games between them in reaching the third round.
The 16s age division will move to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with the semifinals scheduled for Thursday and the finals to be held on Friday.
Links to the draws and live streaming can be found at the easterbowl.com website.