©Colette Lewis 2016--
Indian Wells, California--
A rain delay is a rare occurrence in the desert, but Caty McNally beating the top seed at the Easter Bowl is not. Last year McNally, then 13, defeated No. 1 seed Usue Arconada 6-4, 7-5 in the second round. Today, just before the second rain shower of the day moved into the area, McNally took out top seed Maria Mateas 6-4, 6-4.
"I love it here," said McNally, the tournament's ninth seed. "I just love playing here. When I play the top seed, or anybody, there's just nothing to lose really, so I just play with no pressure."
Up 2-0 in the second set, after serving out the first, McNally lost the lead when broken serving at 2-1. But the Cincinnati resident regrouped and immediately broke Mateas again to retake the lead.
"I stayed really focused, and when I'm playing the top players, that's really helpful," said McNally, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. "I thought she played played pretty well. It was a battle and I thought just a few shots here and there changed the whole match. I thought I served pretty well, served pretty big in big moments and I was really aggressive. I didn't let her control the court."
Sprinkles of rain while McNally was attempting to close out the match added urgency to the normal tension of sealing a win.
"When the lines were getting slippery, I'm like oh my god no," said McNally, as the rain began to get heavier. "I do not want to stop. I was playing pretty well, I just did not want to stop and have a rain delay."
McNally will play No. 13 seed Ellie Douglas, who defeated unseeded Ena Shibahara 6-3, 6-2 in the other girls 18s match that finished before the rain arrived.
Angelica Blake was also fortunate to get off the court before the rain, defeating Abigail Forbes 6-2, 7-6(3) in the girls 16s final.
Blake, the No. 7 seed, took the first set in 45 minutes, with Forbes, the No. 8 seed, not able to capitalize on the chances she had to keep the set close.
"I started off well in the first set, but in the second set she started off playing better, so I had to step up my game late," said the 15-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida, who had beaten Forbes in a match tiebreaker to take fifth place at the Winter Nationals. "I had to be more aggressive and be more courageous in order to win the second set."
Forbes was up a break at 3-2 and 4-3 in the second set, but both times Blake broke right back. When Forbes got yet another break to take a 6-5 lead, she was unable to win a point when trying to serve out the set.
"In the tiebreak, I think I played pretty solidly, made a lot of balls back, hit some good volleys, putaways," said Blake, who trains at the Saviano High Performance Academy in Plantation, although she travels to tournaments with Philadelphia-based coach Eric Riley. "I think the fact that I fought to the very end, even though I was down 6-5, really helped in the win today."
"I was definitely playing great," the 15-year-old Forbes said of her second set resurgence. "I was trying to come to net more because I knew she was a great baseliner; she was good from the baseline east to west. So I was trying to move forward, finish more points off at the net."
"It was great to play her in the finals," said Blake. "She's a great player, a great friend of mine. I had a great time, and I'll be back next year."
Top seed Carson Haskins, who won the boys 16s title with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 decision over No. 11 seed Lukas Greif, had to deal with the three-hour rain delay shortly after he had won the second set. But even with the disruption, Haskins felt he benefited when the sun came out and sent the temperature higher than it had been in the morning.
"Before it rained, I thought we were kind of even, but once we came back it got kind of hot, my serve was working for me, so that helped a whole lot," said Haskins, who is from Ballwin, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.
Up 3-1 in the third set, Haskins, who is normally looking to control a point, showed amazing defensive skill to secure a second break, with Greif serving at 30-40.
"He hit kind of a good shot, caught me off guard and I threw up a lob," said Haskins, who turns 17 in August. "He hit an overhead, and I got that back with a lob that hit the line. As it was in the air, I was like, is that going to go in? And it went in. He hit a shorter shot and I put it away, and I was like, wow, OK, I'll take it."
Up 4-1 Haskins held, then broke for the championship, with Greif hitting a forehand long to end the two and a half hour match.
"He just came out better," said the 16-year-old Greif, who trains with Bryan Smith and Stephanie Hazlett at the Smith Tennis Academy in Indianapolis. "He came out hitting some unbelievable shots down the stretch on important points and that's what did it."
Haskins said he had looked over the past champions list on the Easter Bowl website on Thursday, seeing Jack Sock, Sam Querrey and Andy Roddick among those who had won the 16s title.
"It's weird," said Haskins, who has a special affinity for Sock, who is also from the Missouri Valley section and, like Haskins, played high school tennis. "I remember two years ago I was here in the 14s and I was watching the 16s finals with Zeke Clark and John McNally. And I was like, oh my gosh, these players are so good. I had won a couple of rounds, and I was like, OK, I did pretty good. If you would have asked me two years ago if I would be winning this tournament, I would have said you were crazy."
Haskins, who trains with Mike Miller at the Miller Tennis Academy, said he learned from his loss in January's USTA Winter Nationals final.
"When I got to that final, I was just playing the match, but I wasn't really focusing on anything, I was really tight," said Haskins, who called his performance in the finals his best of the tournament. "When I came out here, I knew I shouldn't play like that and I just started hitting the ball better. I thought it was a good match, I played really good and my opponent played really good too. I was really happy with what I did on the court today."
The boys 18s all played after the rain delay, with three of the four matches finishing in straight sets.
No. 4 seed John McNally joined his sister Caty in the semifinals, defeating No. 10 seed and Carson champion Liam Caruana 6-4, 7-5. McNally wasn't able to serve out the match at 5-4, but he broke Caruana to give himself a second chance. Down a break point at 30-40, McNally hit a good second serve to save it, and an ace gave him a match point. The 17-year-old from Cincinnati converted it when Caruana's forehand went long, putting McNally into the semifinal against No. 6 seed Vasil Kirkov.
Kirkov prevented the all-Ohio semifinal by beating No. 2 seed JJ Wolf 6-3, 6-4. Kirkov got off to a good start, playing well throughout the first set and a half, but barely survived a furious comeback by Wolf, who saved match points in the 1-5 and 5-2 service games.
"At 5-1 I had two match points, but he served pretty well on both," said Kirkov, a 17-year-old from Tampa, Florida. "I had a match point at 5-2 serving, and I got a little tight, hit a backhand into the net. But I think I regrouped after that."
Like many of the players here currently outside the Top 50, Kirkov is hoping a good showing this week will secure his place in the main draw of the summer's junior slams.
"It's borderline between French Open main and qualies," said Kirkov, currently ranked 63. "We'll see. I'll probably check later tonight, but I'm not worried too much about that. I just want to play well and keep it going tomorrow."
The top half semifinal will feature No. 3 seed Nathan Ponwith, who was a ITF finalist in 2014 and a semifinalist last year, and Gianni Ross, the only unseeded player still alive. Ponwith defeated No. 4 seed Sam Riffice, last year's finalist 6-4, 6-4. Ross got past No. 13 seed Trent Bryde 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in the day's final singles match.
The bottom half of the girls draw has unseeded Hanna Chang facing No. 8 seed Alexandra Sanford for a place in the final. Chang, into her first Grade 1 semifinal, beat wild card Marlee Zein 6-7(5) 6-4, 6-4 in a rain-delayed match. Sanford, also into her first Grade 1 semifinal, defeated No. 4 seed Michaela Gordon 7-5, 6-3. Sanford was serving up 3-2 when the rain began, but immediately dropped her serve when the match resumed. But the 17-year-old from Ohio went on to win the final three games to close out Gordon.
The complete results from Friday are below, with 16s draws available at the TennisLink site.
The 18s results are available at the ITF Junior site, with links to live streaming for the semifinals at Easterbowl.com.
Boys' ITF Singles (Quarterfinals)
Vasil KIRKOV (USA)  def. J.J. WOLF (USA)  6-3 6-4
Nathan PONWITH (USA)  def. Sam RIFFICE (USA)  6-4 6-4
John MCNALLY (USA)  def. Liam CARUANA (ITA)  6-4 7-5
Gianni ROSS (USA) def. Trent BRYDE (USA)  7-5 5-7 6-2
Boys’ ITF Doubles (Quaterfinals)
Nathan PONWITH (USA) / Jake VAN EMBURGH (USA)  def. Caleb CHAKRAVARTHI (USA) / Gui GOMES (USA) 6-1, 6-7 (4) [10-7]
John MCNALLY (USA) / J.J. WOLF (USA)  def. Amit BATTA (USA) / Bryce PEREIRA (USA) 6-1 6-1
Oliver CRAWFORD (USA)  / Brandon HOLT (USA) def. Gianni ROSS (USA) / Alexandre ROTSAERT  6-1, 6-4
Vasil KIRKOV (USA) / Sebastian KORDA (USA) def. Alexander BROWN (USA) / Sean SCULLEY (USA) 6-4, 6-2
Girls' ITF Singles (Quarterfinals)
Caty MCNALLY (USA)  def. Maria MATEAS (USA)  6-4 6-4
Ellie DOUGLAS (USA)  def. Ena SHIBAHARA (USA) 6-3 6-2
Alexandra SANFORD (USA)  def. Michaela GORDON (USA)  7-5 6-3
Hanna CHANG (USA) def. Marlee ZEIN (USA) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4
Girls' ITF Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Victoria EMMA (USA)  / Sofia SEWING (USA) def. Meible CHI (USA) / Alexis NELSON (USA) 6-7(3) 6-2 [10-3]
Elysia BOLTON (USA) / Chiara LOMMER (USA) def. Devon JACK (USA) / Kalani SOLI (USA) 1-0 Ret.
Kate PAULUS (USA) / Alana SMITH (USA) def. Nicole CONARD (USA) / Malkia MENGUENE (USA) 6-1 6-2
Michaela GORDON (USA) / Ena SHIBAHARA (USA) def. Hurricane Tyra BLACK (USA)  / Caty McNALLY 6-2 6-2
Boys' 16 Singles (Final)
Carson Haskins (1) (Ballwin, MO) def. Lukas Greif (1) (Newburgh, IN) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Boys' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Kevin Zhu (3) (Pearland, TX) def. Trey Hilderbrand (5) (San Antonio, TX) 6-1, 1-6, 6-2
Boys' 16 Singles Consolation (Semifinal Round)
Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL) def. Ajai Shekhera (9) (Campbell, CA) Wo (inj)
Drew Baird (7) (Holly Springs, NC) def. William Grant (Boca Raton, FL) 6-4, 2-6, 10-8
Boys' 16 Singles Consolation (Final)
Drew Baird (7) (Holly Springs, NC) def. Tyler Zink (Bradenton, FL) 6-3, 6-4
Boys' 16 Singles Consolation (Playoff Final)
Jaycer Lyeons (6) (San Antonio, TX) def. Robert Maciag (4) (Sterling, VA) 6-1, 6-4
Girls' 16 Singles (Final Round)
Angelica Blake (7) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Abigail Forbes (8) (Raleigh, NC) 6-2, 7-6(3)
Girls' 16 Singles (Playoff)
Rachel Eason (6) (Union City, CA) def. Hailey Baptiste (Takoma Park, MD) 6-1, 7-5
Girls' 16 Singles Consolation (Playoff Final)
Chloe Beck (15) (Watkinsville, GA) def. Anika Yarlagadda (16) (West Bloomfield, MI) 6-4, 3-3 Ret (pc)
Girls' 16 Singles Consolation (Semifinal Round)
Alexa Noel (12) (Summit, NJ) def. Carolyn Campana (Hillsborough, CA) 6-3, 6-0
Cali Jankowski (10) (Carlsbad, CA) def. Meg Kowalski (5) (La Grange, IL) 7-5, 6-1
Girls' 16 Singles Consolation (Final)
Alexa Noel (12) (Summit, NJ) def. Cali Jankowski(10) (Carlsbad, CA) 7-5, 7-6(6).