Friday, March 30, 2018

Both No. 2 Seeds Fall to Unseeded Opponents in Easter Bowl ITF Quarterfinals; 16s Finals Set for Saturday; Qualifying Begins Saturday at ITF Grade 1 in Carson

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Indian Wells, CA--

Temperatures again climbed into the mid-90s for the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Adidas Easter Bowl, but it was the highly seeded players who melted Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Both No. 2 seeds lost to unseeded players, with Drew Baird going out to last week's ITF Grade 4 Newport Beach champion Siem Woldeab 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-3 and Margaryta Bilokin falling to 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-4.

Navarro, who is now on a 10-match Easter Bowl winning streak, said the conditions in the desert suit her.

"I do love it out here," said the 16-year-old from Charleston South Carolina. "The dry heat I really like, and the ball moves better. I can hit it harder, it travels farther and I really like that."

Navarro, who has yet to drop a set this week, said she was both confident and nervous when she arrived to play the ITF event for the first time.

"I was a little nervous coming into 18s, but I got a good first few rounds that weren't too tough," said Navarro. "So I worked my way into the tournament and I felt good this match."

Navarro, who has verbally committed to Duke, was playing another Duke recruit in Bilokin, a 17-year-old from Ukraine, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida, but they haven't spoken much about being teammates in the future. 

Navarro earned a late break in the first set, then held to secure it. In the second set, Navarro let an early break get away, but she broke for a 4-3 lead and was able to hold at love serving for the match, with two backhand winners too much for Bilokin to handle.

While she is delighted to have reached the semifinals, Navarro said her mindset coming into the match was not about the result.

"I try not to focus too much on winning and losing," Navarro said. "I set out goals before the match, three or four goals that I'm going to focus on and today I was working on finishing my shots well, getting low and recovering really well. I've been working on my second serve a lot and I thought it was better today than it has been. I thought I moved really well and played good defense."

Navarro's hometown is hosting a premier WTA event next week, the Volvo Open, but she won't be part of that tournament's qualifying weekend.

"I'm kind of disappointed in that, but I'm excited that I'm here," Navarro said. "It's worth it."

Navarro will face No. 15 seed Katie Volynets, who advanced to the semifinals without hitting a ball. No. 11 seed Chloe Beck suffered a back injury and withdrew from both singles and doubles.  Volynets won the only previous meeting between the two in back in 2016.

The other girls semifinal will feature top seed Alexa Noel, who beat No. 10 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-2, and No. 8 seed Gabby Price, who eliminated unseeded Savannah Broadus 7-5, 6-1.  The 14-year-old Price, who won the 12s Easter Bowl title in 2015, has lost three of four previous meetings with Noel, the last two coming in ITF Junior Circuit tournaments.

Woldeab, playing in only his third ITF Junior Circuit event, cited his stamina as a key reason for his victory over the 14th-ranked Baird.

"I just tried to make the points a little bit longer, make him more uncomfortable," said the 16-year-old from Southern California, ranked 967. "I wanted the match to be more physical, I felt more dominant in that area. It was obviously a very tough match, but I played well in the high leverage moments."

Woldeab went up 3-0 in the third set, when Baird called for a trainer for his knee.  After treatment he held serve and broke Woldeab to make it 3-2, but Woldeab got another break for a 4-2 lead.  In his final two service games, Woldeab was down 15-30, but he won the last three points in both games to claim the win.

"I felt I had to get my first serves in that situation and I did," Woldeab said of the seventh game. "Then I hit a couple of good approach shots. At 5-3, I wasn't making my first serves that well, but I just dug deep and hit a really, really good passing shot at 30-all. Then at 40-30 he just missed a return."

Woldeab considers today's win his best, and he credits his title in Newport last week as a key reason he was prepared to achieve it.

"Newport gave me a lot of confidence," Woldeab said. "The courts were a lot faster than these so I had to adjust to that, but as for a winning streak, it got me good match play and the confidence for a bigger tournament and a bigger stage. I'm playing well right now."

Woldeab will face unseeded wild card Jenson Brooksby in Saturday's semifinals, after Brooksby defeated No. 11 seed Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-3.  Brooksby's level started high and stayed there, as he won long, grueling rallies and kept his errors to a bare minimum in taking out the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion. 

Top seed Tristan Boyer is the only seed left in the boys draw, after he came back to defeat No. 12 seed William Woodall 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.  Boyer served for the match at 5-2 and got to 40-15, but two errors gave Woodall life. Boyer had a third match point in that game, but another error again cost him and Woodall would break, then hold.  In his second opportunity to serve out the match, Boyer converted, going up 40-0 and converting his fourth match point when Woodall forehand sailed wide. 

Boyer will face unseeded Cannon Kingsley in the semifinals, after Kingsley saved a match point in his 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6) win over Andres Martin.  Boyer and Kingsley have played once before in ITF Junior Circuit competition, with Kingsley winning in the Grade 2 in Canada last September.

The 16s finals are set for Saturday, with the top two seeds meeting for the boys title.

No. 1 seed Keshav Chopra has been taken to three sets in three of his five victories this week, and in today's semifinal, he was forced to come back from a set down, but he managed to reach his second consecutive USTA National Level 1 final with a 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Harsh Parikh.  Chopra, who won the Winter National 16s title back in January, will face No. 2 seed Maxwell McKennon, who beat No. 8 seed Logan Zapp 6-2, 7-6(6).

The girls 16s singles final will feature unseeded India Houghton and No. 11 seed Anessa Lee.  Houghton defeated unseeded Hibah Shaikh 6-1, 6-3 and Lee got past No. 8 seed Chidimma Okpara 6-2, 6-4.

The girls 16s doubles final will feature Amanda Chan and Okpara, the No. 3 seeds, against No. 4 seeds Maribella and Allura Zamarripa.

Playing in the boys 16s double final are top seeds Chopra and Coy Simon against No. 3 seed Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch.

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Both 16s singles finals will be played at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with streaming available at Easterbowl.com.

Qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson California will begin on Saturday.  Draws and the order of play are available at the tournament website.