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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Chopra, Lee Claim Adidas Easter Bowl 16s Championships; Boyer and Brooksby Reach ITF Boys Final; Noel and Volynets to Decide Girls ITF Title

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

Top seed Keshav Chopra came into the Adidas Easter Bowl 16s as the player to beat after winning the Winter Nationals title in January, yet the 16-year-old from Georgia had concerns with his form after a first round loss at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach last week.

"I had a bit of a rough tournament before this," said Chopra, who defeated No. 2 seed Max McKennon 7-5, 7-6(4) in the final Saturday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. "I definitely wanted to bounce back here. I definitely didn't do well preparing for the ITF before, so I wanted to get here early, get used to the courts, acclimate myself to the conditions."

Chopra was forced to three sets in three separate matches, including his third round 7-6 in the third win over friend Benjamin Koch, but those matches helped him stay calm in the tense moments of the final.

The first set saw no breaks of serve until Chopra broke at 5-all and held at love, hitting an ace on his first set point.

McKennon trailed 4-2 in the second set, but he got his first break of the match when Chopra double faulted twice in a row down 15-30 to make it 4-all.

"I was feeling a bit nervous," said Chopra, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida. "I tried to keep loose, but that happened and tough things are going to happen, not everything is going to go your way, I wanted to focus on the next game, the first point."

McKennon went down 0-40 in that next game, but scrambled back to take the next five points for a 5-4 lead.

"I did think I had the momentum," said the 15-year-old from Newport Beach, California of his hold in that game. "And then I had 30-15 on his serve, but he played some good points and got it back to 5-all."

After three holds, with the match nearing the two-and-a-half hour mark, the players reached a tiebreaker, with Chopra falling behind 2-0 after a double fault. But he got back on serve, with the score 3-all at the change of ends and won the next two points for a 5-3 lead. McKennon hit a good serve to close the gap to 5-4, but he made a backhand error on the next point to give Chopra two match points. He only needed one, with McKennon sending a backhand long to give Chopra his second consecutive USTA National Level 1 tournament title.

"I think I definitely stayed more consistent and forced him to make more errors," Chopra said. "I was relaxed that I got it to 6-all and I started to play better from 4-all and everything was feeling good."

Even with all his hard-fought wins earlier in the week, Chopra was happy to finish this one in straight sets, particularly given the 90-degree temperatures.

"I definitely was relieved when he hit that last backhand long," Chopra said. "It was a lot of mixed up feelings, but I was very happy."

McKennon, who did not feel well on the drive to the courts and was sick in the parking lot, refused to use that as an excuse for his loss.

"It didn't affect me that much, and he played a great match, it was a great tournament for him, and that's no excuse," said McKennon, who is coached by former Easter Bowl 18s finalist Carsten Ball. "He outplayed me. He outplayed me today."

The girls championship match featured unseeded India Houghton and No. 11 seed Anessa Lee, both playing in their first USTA National Level 1 singles final. It was Lee who got a handle on her nerves first, and she earned her first gold ball with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

"At first the ball kids kind of threw me off, and I got a little nervous," said the 16-year-old from San Marino California. "But after a couple of games I got used to it, got the nerves out."

Entering the tournament Lee was hoping to get to the third round, where her seeding would project her, and after her poor start in the first round, even that seemed an ambitious goal.

"I just wanted to live up to my seeding, which was the round of 16," said the 16-year-old, who is coached by Kal Moranon. "When I reached there, I thought, that's good. The first round was pretty tough; I started the tournament down 4-0 in the first set."

Lee faced a couple of break points in her first service game, but she was able to take advantage of Houghton's erratic play after that, taking a 5-1 lead before Houghton finally held serve.

"She was playing really aggressive and every time that my ball landed just a little short, she would really attack it," said Houghton, a 15-year-old left-hander from Tiburon California. "She barely missed then and I was very impressed by that."

Houghton said she began to settle her nerves at the end of the first set and although she went down a break early in the second set, she broke back with some good returns and took a 3-2 lead before Lee reeled off the next four games.

"I tried not to think about the score too much, because it just gets in my head and I start missing a lot," Lee said. "So when I was down, I just told myself to be aggressive, play your game, and it will all come to you."

That self-talk worked perfectly, with Lee winning 13 of the next 14 points, forcing most of the errors that Houghton contributed.

"I feel like I played aggressive pretty well," Lee said. "We hadn't played before, but that's just my game to attack."

Lee, who won a silver ball in doubles at the Winter Nationals in January, said she would celebrate her first gold ball by getting behind the wheel for the two-hour drive home.

"I just got my permit," Lee said. "So I'm driving home."

The 16s doubles finals were played Saturday afternoon, with the fourth-seeded Zamarripa twins, Maribella and Allura, taking the gold ball with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Amanda Chan and Chidimma Okpara.

Chopra was going for his fourth gold ball of 2018 in the boys doubles final, but he wasn't able to sweep the titles, as he did at the Winter Nationals.  Chopra and Coy Simon, the top seeds, lost to Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 6-3.

The bronze ball in the girls 16s went to Lana Mavor and Robin Montgomery, who beat Rosie Garcia Gross and Elizabeth Goldsmith 7-5, 6-4.

The bronze ball in boys 16s singles went to Harsh Parikh, who beat Logan Zapp 6-4, 7-5.  Hibah Shaikh won the bronze ball in the girls 16s singles with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Okpara.

The boys 16s consolation winner was Aryan Chaudhary, who beat Alexander Bernard 6-1, 7-6(3). That was a rematch of last year's boys 14s final, won by Bernard.

Lauren Anzalotta took fifth place in the girls 16s, with Karina Miller giving her a walkover in the consolation final.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

The finals are set in singles and doubles for the Easter Bowl ITF Grade B1 tournament, with both of the top seeds advancing to the championship match.

Alexa Noel defeated former practice partner Gabby Price, the No. 8 seed, 6-3, 6-0 in her best performance of the tournament.

"We know each other so well," Noel said of the 14-year-old Price, who trained at the Rick Macci Academy in Florida for many years. "When I started going to Macci's we used to practice almost every day together. I know her game so well and I'm sure she knows mine. I knew exactly what she was going to do, and I just tried to do the best I could to not let her execute her game plan."

Noel dropped a set in her first round match on Tuesday, but she has worked her way into better form in subsequent matches.

"The further the tournament went on, I definitely started playing a lot better, but the conditions on Tuesday were just crazy," said the 15-year-old from New Jersey. "I'd rather it was hot, because I have the confidence that I'm in good enough shape to last longer than my opponent."

Noel, who lost in the 14s Easter Bowl final in 2015, will face no. 15 seed Katie Volynets, another former Easter Bowl finalist.  Volynets, who lost in the 12s final back in 2014, defeated unseeded Emma Navarro, the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.  Volynets led 6-2, 4-2, but Navarro stepped up her game, while Volynets thought her own game became too passive.

"She definitely started playing better and I think I stopped being as aggressive at that point," said the 16-year-old from Walnut Creek California. "That's why it went a little bit downhill for me. I needed to play more aggressively, like I did in the first set and a half, go for my shots."

In the third set, Volynets took a 3-0 lead, but Navarro had break point opportunities in the fifth and seventh games, which she could not convert.

"I kept my focus well on the important points," Volynets said. "I made sure to go into every point with a plan and with focus."

Volynets and Noel have played in the younger age divisions, with Noel winning in the semifinals of the 2015 14s tournament, and Volynets taking both matches back in 2014, in the quarterfinals of the 12s Clay Courts and Hard Courts.

"I haven't played her in I think two years," Volynets said when asked about dealing with Noel's frequent slices. "So tomorrow I'll see, and try to figure it out. But good placement is key."

Unlike Noel, top boys seed Tristan Boyer has seen his tournament path get rougher, not easier as the week has progressed. For the second day in a row, Boyer had to come from a set down, this time against unseeded Cannon Kingsley, earning a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that was in doubt until the final ball was struck.

Up 4-2 in the first set, Boyer lost four straight games, with Kingsley playing an aggressive and error-free game that caught Boyer unprepared.

"I made a few small errors that he took advantage of," Boyer said. "He did play well, credit to him."

In the second set, Boyer let a 40-0 lead get away serving up 2-1, but at 3-all, Kingsley played a poor game, getting broken at love, and Boyer held on to that break to win the set.

The third set started off well for Boyer, who led 3-1, but he was broken at love to make it 3-all and broke in the next game, with Kingsley's backhand producing some errors.  Boyer had to save four break points to keep his lead, but he held for 5-3, and Kingsley couldn't hold in his next service game, double faulting twice to go done 0-40.  He saved one match point, but not a second, with Boyer's volley after a lengthy rally too much for Kingsley.

"I tried to play simple and make him hit a good shot," said the Southern Californian. "Just constant pressure is hopefully what did it."

Boyer will face unseeded Jenson Brooksby, who once again cruised to the next round, beating unseeded Siem Woldeab 6-0, 6-3.

Brooksby, who hasn't lost more than four games in any set or more than five games in any match, was consistently keeping Woldeab under pressure.

"I scouted his game," said Brooksby. "He's a steady player but I felt like the forehand was a little bit weaker, so I could break that down a little bit."

Like Boyer, who also lost in the first round last year, Brooksby is excited to reach the final just 12 months later.

"It's one of the biggest junior events," said the 17-year-old from Northern California. "This and Kalamazoo, I feel like are the biggest. It's convenient in the schedule and I always look forward to the Easter Bowl, so I wanted to play it. Last year I didn't do well, so I am really looking forward to tomorrow's match."

The girls final is set for 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the boys final to follow.  Both will be streamed at Easterbowl.com.

The doubles finals will both be played at 9 a.m., but will not be streamed.

The boys final will feature the unseeded team of Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink against No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda.

Top seeds Hailey Baptiste and Caty McNally will play unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins for the girls doubles championship.


Go Bulldogs! said...

Isner gets a visit from the bunny.... 32 yr old takes the 32 yr old( and last at the Key)Miami Open..-6,4,4! 😎🍺🎾