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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Easter Bowl 12s and 14s Finals Set for Thursday; Few Upsets in Second Round of ITF; Collins Beats Venus Williams to Reach Miami Open Semifinals

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

Three USTA Winter National Champions will be aiming for another gold ball Thursday at the Easter Bowl USTA National Spring Championships, with Stephanie Yakoff, Rudy Quan and Samir Banerjee advancing with semifinal victories Wednesday on the courts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The only final featuring the top two seeds is in the girls 12s, where No. 1 seed Yakoff will play doubles partner and No. 2 seed Clervie Ngounoue, after both earned straight-sets victories on a hot and sunny day in the Coachella Valley. Yakoff defeated No. 8 seed Elisabeth Dunac 6-3, 6-1 and Ngounoue took out No. 3 seed Brooklyn Olson 6-3, 6-4.

No. 2 seed Quan reached his second consecutive USTA Level 1 National final with a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 15 seed Meecah Bigun and will play No. 10 seed Raghav Jangbahadur, who beat unseeded Alexander Frusina 7-5, 1-6, 10-4.

The girls 14s final will showcase last year's Easter Bowl 12s finalist Eleana Yu, the No. 3 seed, who overcame No. 2 seed Alexandra Torre 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 in a three-hour plus semifinal.  Yu will face No.  7 seed Sophie Williams, who ousted top seed Reese Brantmeier 6-4, 6-4.

Winter Nationals champion Samir Banerjee won the most dramatic match of the day, with the top seed saving a match point late in the third set against a cramping Jiaxi Ma to escape with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory.

Ma, the No. 7 seed, began struggling with his movement at the beginning of the third set and received a medical timeout, which was eventually ruled as a calf muscle problem, not cramping. 

But after going up 5-3 and earning a match point at 40-30, Ma suffered a hand cramp during a long rally, and was unable to grip the racquet as Banerjee hit a forehand deep in the corner to save it.  Ma received a point penalty for a time violation as he struggled with his hand and legs, and he lost the game. The chair umpire didn't allow another medical timeout at the changeover, but when Ma went down on the ground with Banerjee serving at 5-4, the referee was called to the court and he received treatment after losing the game. 

Ma was able to move in the next two games, although not well, and he occasionally just hit the ball as hard as he could to end the point one way or another.

"I don't think he wanted to get into really long points, so he was trying to finish it quick," said Banerjee. "I just wanted to prolong the point as long as I could. I tried to make him move and I tried to get to his forehand more, because I knew his right hand was cramping."

Banerjee couldn't recall having an opponent cramping that way before, and he was expecting a retirement that never came.

"I thought he was going to pull out," said Banerjee, "but he played the whole match, so I commend him on that. It was good fighting."

Banerjee knows there's a formidable opponent between him and another gold ball in Kuzuhara.

"I've never beaten him," said Banerjee, who lost in the first round of the Easter Bowl last year. "I lost to him in a National [level] 2 and in the back draw of the Hard Courts. He's a really good player and I've seen him play a lot. He plays a really intense game, really fired up and he gets to a lot of balls. I'm just going to try coming up with a new game plan."

The doubles finals in the 12s and 14s division will also be played on Thursday afternoon, after the singles finals in the morning.

Boys 12s doubles final: Nicholas Mangiapane and Andrew Salu[1] vs Adhithya Ganesan and Maxim Michaels[5]

Boys 14s doubles final: Alexander Karman and Isaac Smith[6] vs Samir Banerjee and Evan Wen[2]

Girls 12s doubles final: Brooklyn Olson and Natalia Perez[1] vs Clervie Ngounoue and Stephanie Yakoff [2]

Girls 14s doubles final: Ann Guerry and Kate Sharabura[3] vs Anushka Khune and Tomi Main[6]

The 16s quarterfinals are set for Thursday, with all results from today's action at other sites available at the TennisLink page.

The Easter Bowl Grade B1 ITF second round featured few surprises, with the top two seeds in both the boys and girls draws into the round of 16 with straight-sets wins.  Top seed Tristan Boyer beat Blaise Bicknell 6-3, 7-6(2) and No. 2 seed Drew Baird got past Omni Kumar 7-6(2), 6-2.  Girls top seed Alexa Noel, who struggled in the wind yesterday, took advantage of calmer conditions Wednesday to post a 6-4, 6-3 win over Marlee Zein. No. 2 seed Margaryta Bilokin beat wild card Jaedan Brown 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the third round.

Several lower seeds did fall on Wednesday, with No. 9 seed Kacie Harvey going out to 2017 16s champion Emma Navarro 6-1, 6-2.  Savannah Broadus beat No. 14 seed Sabina Dadaciu 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 and Boys No. 9 seed Keenan Mayo lost to Siem Woldeab 6-0, 7-5.  No. 15 seed Sangeet Sridhar was beaten 6-4, 6-0 by Jenson Brooksby, with Brooksby admitting his game was on throughout the match.

"It was a tough first set and Sangeet has been playing pretty well," said the 17-year-old, who has played primarily on the USTA Pro Circuit in the past six months. "He is a great competitor and never gives up, so I was fortunate to get a break early and hold him off in the first set. He kept fighting throughout the whole second set, but I was just playing really well today. I feel like I was hitting the ball cleaner today and moving him around."

Brooksby says he is more disciplined in approaching the game due to his experience on the Pro Circuit, while he has worked to improve his serve.

His third round opponent is Trey Hilderbrand, the No. 4 seed, who beat qualifier Neel Rajesh 7-6(5), 6-3.

"I played him in Kalamazoo two years ago," said Brooksby, who won that quarterfinal match in three sets and went on to reach the 16s final. "It was a close match and this should be a good match too."

The top seeds in boys doubles were defeated in Wednesday evening's second round, with Tristan Boyer and Eliot Spizzirri losing to Tyler Zink and Christian Alshon 6-1, 6-2.

Links to streaming on four courts are available at Easterbowl.com.

The magical run of NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins continued at the Miami Open, with the 24-year-old Floridian beating No. 8 seed Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3 to become the first qualifier to reach the semifinals of the Miami Open.  Collins will face No. 6 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia Thursday night for a place in the final.  Sloane Stephens[13] will play Victoria Azarenka in the other semifinal Thursday afternoon.  Steve Tignor has this account of Collins' win over Williams at tennis.com.