Sponsored by IMG Academy

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Yu, Kuzuhara Win 14s Easter Bowl Titles, Quan and Ngounoue Claim 12s Crowns at Indian Wells Tennis Garden; 16s Semifinals, ITF Quarterfinals Set

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

Temperatures soared into the mid 90s Thursday for the 12s and 14s Easter Bowl finals, but the champions will remember more than the heat after collecting their gold balls for a USTA National Championship.

All four of the finals were played at the same time, and three were decided in straight sets, with only the Boys 14s final, played on show court 2 and extending past the two-hour mark.

No. 3 seed Eleana Yu, a finalist last year in the 12s, needed just over an hour to dispatch No. 7 seed Sophie Williams 6-1, 6-0.

Yu made very few errors, and with Williams having difficulty finding her targets, Yu decided playing it safe was her best strategy.

"I tried to keep a little more consistent," said the 13-year-old from Mason, Ohio. "She's a great player and I thought that would be the best way to try to win that match."

Yu had a three-hour win in the semifinals over No. 2 seed Alexandra Torre on Wednesday, so she was surprised at her energy level in the final.

"I was feeling better than I expected," said Yu, who trains with Brian Schubert and Matt Dektas at Five Season Tennis in Cincinnati. "It was a really, really close match and could have gone either way."

Williams had an opportunity to put pressure on Yu in the second set, with Yu, serving at 3-0, going down 0-40 and needing three deuces before finally claiming the game. Once she secured that, the 2017 USTA Girls 12s National champion sensed victory.

"I was pretty confident in the rest of the match after that," said Yu.

Williams agreed that was her chance, which she didn't take.

"I made dumb errors, like I did the whole match," said the 14-year-old left-hander from Charleston, South Carolina. "I just didn't feel my greatest when we started. It was a good tournament and it was a good learning experience."

Having been on the losing side of an Easter Bowl final just a year ago, Yu was especially happy to have won the title with her brother Kevin, a freshman on the Cal Tech team, attending.

"I want to thank my parents and my coaches for everything, and I want to really, really thank my brother for coming out, because he goes to school in LA," Yu said. "And I like to thank my friend Abby. We played doubles together, but she stayed here all week to support me."

While Yu was taking a step forward in Easter Bowl results, 12s finalists Clervie Ngounoue and Stephanie Yakoff made even greater strides year-to-year. In 2017, Yakoff defeated Ngounoue in the first round of the 12s; this year, Ngounoue's  6-3, 6-2 win over her doubles partner was for the championship.

"I knew I had to be consistent to beat her," said No. 2 seed Ngounoue, an 11-year-old who trains with her father Aime at Sportfit Bowie in Maryland. "I couldn't just blast balls everywhere, I knew I had to keep my patience to get the shot I wanted."

Ngounoue had lost to Yakoff twice, including last year's Easter Bowl meeting, while beating her once, so she was expecting a tough match.

"I knew my game plan, I knew how I had to play this person," said Ngounoue, who collected her first gold ball with the win. "Stephanie played really well, but I held my mental game, and I knew that I had to hold it to get far."

The top-seeded Yakoff, who won the USTA Winter Nationals in January, was impressed by Ngounoue's level.

"I think I played better in the first set than the second, and Clervie also played really well in the match, so it was hard for me to win," said the 12-year-old from New Jersey. "I guess it was Clervie's turn to win."

While Yakoff fell one match short of adding an Easter Bowl title to her Winter Nationals championship, Rudy Quan did accomplish that feat in the boys 12s, beating Raghav Jangbahadur 6-1, 6-4.

The No. 2 seed, who turned 12 just last month, said he had an advantage in experience, with Jangbahadur playing in his first National Level 1 final.

"In my first National I was nervous," said Quan, who trains with Mike Gennette at Total Tennis in Thousand Oaks, California. "It's a lot different experience than an Open or something like that. But I knew he was going to be a hard opponent to beat, and I would have to play my best to beat him. I just stayed calm and I played my game."

Quan is now facing a decision about whether to continue to play 12s or to move up to 14s.

"I kind of want to keep playing 12s, but maybe mix it up with some 14s," Quan said.

Jangbahadur, seeded No. 10, was determined to learn from his loss in the final.

"It was a good tournament and now I have a few things to work on," said the 12-year-old Californian, who admitted that nerves kept him from executing his game plan in the opening set. "I just have a few technical things to work on--my backhand and my forehand, just little things to work on."

As the three other finals wrapped up, the boys 14s final was just getting interesting, with top seed Samir Banerjee and No. 10 seed Bruno Kuzuhara beginning a third set.

Banerjee had won the first three games of the match, with Kuzuhara getting the next three, and Banerjee the last three of the first set to take 6-3.  Kuzuhara saw a 4-1 lead evaporate in the second set, but, as Banerjee had done in the first set, he got a late break to take the second set 6-4.

After a welcome 10-minute break after nearly two hours of play, Kuzuhara took a 4-1 lead, and although Banerjee threaten to get that break back at both 3-1 and 4-2, it was Kuzuhara who managed to win the crucial points in his 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Banerjee had never beaten Kuzuhara and was determined to try a different strategy against him.

"I executed at first, but then as the match went on, and I got a little more tired, it was harder to," said the 14-year-old from New Jersey, who won the USTA Winter Nationals in January. "My game plan was to stay on top of the baseline, because he hits a heavy ball and I didn't want to get pushed back, so at the beginning I was taking balls early, then it just became hard."

With his previous success against Banerjee, Kuzuhara was confident, but he recognized his opponent was attempting a different strategy.

"I felt like he was playing more aggressive, stepping in, punishing me if I gave him any short balls," said the 13-year-old from Coconut Creek Florida, who trains with Michael Bennett at Dillon Tennis Center. "But in the second set, I was able to win a couple of big points, the majority of the key points, especially to go up 5-4 and I felt like after that I was able to settle in and know what I had to do in the third set."

Although Kuzuhara was a finalist at the 2016 Junior Orange Bowl 12s, this was his first championship match at a USTA National Level 1.

"I thought I handled it pretty well," Kuzuhara said. "In the beginning, I felt a little bit nervous, but after that I felt like I just got into a groove. I felt like I was able to use my forehand really well, move him from side to side, not let him step in, keep him off balance."

Kuzuhara said he is pleased to win his first gold ball and join the list of Easter Bowl champions, mentioning two current ATP professionals.

"It feels like a really good honor, especially with champions like [Frances] Tiafoe, I think Jack Sock won, so it's an honor," Kuzuhara said.

The doubles titles in the 12s and 14s were decided Thursday afternoon, with the results below.

Boys 12s doubles final: Nicholas Mangiapane and Andrew Salu[1] def. Adhithya Ganesan and Maxim Michaels[5] 6-2, 6-1.

Boys 14s doubles final: Alexander Karman and Isaac Smith[6] vs Samir Banerjee and Evan Wen[2] 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(3).

Girls 12s doubles final: Clervie Ngounoue and Stephanie Yakoff [2] def. Brooklyn Olson and Natalia Perez[1] 6-4, 6-0.

Girls 14s doubles final: Ann Guerry and Kate Sharabura[3] def. Anushka Khune and Tomi Main[6] 6-2, 7-5.

The 16s semifinals are set for Friday, with the quarterfinals being played mostly at Palm Valley Country Club Thursday. Quarterfinal results for the 16s are below, with complete draws available at the TennisLink site.

Girls 16s quarterfinal results:

India Houghton def. Kimberly Hance 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Hibah Shaikh def. Allura Zamarripa 6-1, 6-4
Chidimma Okpara[8] def. Karina Miller[3] 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
Anessa Lee[11] def. Anna Ross 6-3, 3-6, 6-4

Boys 16s quarterfinal results:

Keshav Copra[1] def. Aryan Chaudhary[11] 6-2, 6-3
Harsh Parikh[4] def. Aditya Gupta 5-7, 6-4, 6-0
Logan Zapp[8] def. Welsh Hotard[3] 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2
Maxwell McKennon[2] def. Alexander Bernard 6-1, 6-1

In the ITF Grade B1 third round, two top four seeds were eliminated, with No. 4 seed Trey Hilderbrand falling to unseeded Jenson Brooksby 6-1, 6-2 and No. 3 seed Caty McNally going out to No. 15 seed Katie Volynets 6-2, 6-4.

Volynets played in the hottest part of the afternoon, with temperatures around 95 and little breeze, but the 16-year-old didn't let it bother her.

"I felt good physically," Volynets. "I just did my usual routine, going to the towel, doing my my practice swings."

Volynets went up a break three times in the second set, but after the third instance, to take a 5-4 lead, Volynets was ready to close out the match.

"On that particular side the sun wasn't as challenging, so I felt really confident serving it out," Volynets said. "At the changeover, I imagined myself serving well, and that really helped."

Volynets will face No. 11 seed Chloe Beck in Friday's quarterfinals, after Beck defeated No. 7 seed Hailey Baptiste 6-4, 7-5.

Top boys seed Tristan Boyer outlasted No. 13 seed Brian Shi 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 and will face No. 12 seed William Woodall, who earned a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Govind Nanda.

Top girls seed Alexa Noel defeated unseeded Ava Hrastar, the 2016 14s Easter Bowl champion, 6-0, 6-4 and will face No. 10 seed Hurricane Tyra Black, who beat unseeded Nikki Redelijk 6-3, 6-3.

Both singles and doubles quarterfinals are on Friday's schedule for the ITF tournament.


Collins quote on College said...

WTA Insider: Did you always know when you were set to graduate that you were going to go pro?

Collins: My freshman year I didn't even play that much at the University of Florida. I was basically a benchwarmer. I transferred to the University of Virginia after my freshman year, which was the best decision because I was with coaches who believed in me and worked with me.