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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Qualifier Hohmann's Dream Run Ends with Adidas Easter Bowl ITF Title; Navarro Claims Second Easter Bowl Singles Championship with Girls ITF Title

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

Ron Hohmann had a week junior tennis dreams are made of. The 17-year-old New Yorker traveled across the country to compete against the best juniors in the country this week, playing in only his third ITF Junior Circuit event at the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl. As the No. 10 seed in qualifying, he managed to win three qualifying matches in two days to make the main draw, already exceeding the expectations of his 1114 ITF junior ranking.

Hohmann then proceeded to defeat four seeded players in his five victories leading up to the final, and he finished the tournament with a fairy tale ending, beating No. 3 seed Martin Damm from a set down, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 Sunday afternoon at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Hohmann, who trains at Todd Widom Tennis in Coral Springs Florida, took advantage of the new ITF junior rule that allows coaching consultations on changeovers if a chair umpire is presiding over the match. After taking the second set on his fourth set point, an 81 mph ace down the T, Hohmann requested a visit from coach Pierre Arnold, who works with Widom and is traveling with Hohmann this week.

Hohmann and coach Pierre Arnold talk on a changeover
"When I called for him the first time, I literally told him, I'm so tired, I can't move," said Hohmann, who has committed to LSU for this fall. "But he just told me the game plan of what to do, be consistent, don't waste your energy on stupid things, and I converted my energy very well."

Hohmann needed to save three break points serving at 2-3, with Damm failing to get returns in play on two of those occasions to let Hohmann off the hook, and he held with a 96 mph ace. Damm was broken in the next game, with a double fault and unforced forehand error giving Hohmann the points he needed to take the lead.

When Damm called the trainer for work on his thigh at the 3-4 changeover,  Hohmann and Arnold had another discussion on the bench, and the delay didn't appear to slow Hohmann's momentum. He came up with another big first serve to hold at 40-30 and he was not concerned about the result of Damm's next service game at 3-5, which Damm won at love.

"I knew I could serve it out," said Hohmann. "And I didn't want to waste any more energy because if that would have gone three more games, I wouldn't have been able walk."

For all his confidence that he could serve out the match at 5-4, Hohmann was down 15-40 after Damm hit a winner on the sideline that Hohmann was certain was out. But Hohmann hit a good first serve to save the first break point, and Damm missed a second serve return well long on the second.

Hohmann took matters into his own hands after that gift, hitting a forehand winner to reach match point.

"I was pretty nervous, and I just said to myself, get some first serves in," Hohmann said of that last game. "When I was loading up to hit the shot (at deuce), I was like, please, don't miss this shot. So I made the margin bigger and hit it with a lot of space."

Hohmann did not allow himself any margin of error on the next forehand winner. After he turned a good Damm second-serve return into offense, Hohmann found himself with a short ball and ripped a forehand that caught the sideline, putting an exclamation point on his improbable run.

Although Hohmann gives away eight or nine inches to the 6-foot-6 Damm, he noted the parallels in their approach to the game.

"His game style and mine are very similar, even though he's bigger," said Hohmann, who is the first qualifier to win the Easter Bowl since qualifying began in 2014. "I'm a smaller guy, but I'm very aggressive. I don't like to have 100-ball rallies. I love when it's like, boom."

Damm acknowledged his inability to capitalize on his opportunities, but he gave credit to Hohmann for taking control from the first ball in many of the rallies.

"I had a lot of chances, for sure," said Damm, a 15-year-old from Bradenton Florida. "There were so many chances where I could have gotten back in the match. But those winners were coming left and right, nothing I could have really done about that. He hits the crap out of ball from anywhere and it's really hard to get timing on that. I honestly think he was just playing free and making winners from every part of the court and there was no stopping him."

As the champion Hohmann has earned wild cards into an ATP Challenger and a $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event, as well as a US Open Junior Championships wild card.

"My hometown," said Hohmann of playing at the US Open Juniors. "It's going to be cool, staying at my own house."

Hohmann is headed back to New York for a few days with his family before returning to Florida to resume his training. He will look at the schedule and decide on the best place to use his two professional level wild cards, with the Kalamazoo Nationals also on his list of events for this summer.

As a finalist, Damm also earned wild cards to both a $25,000 and a $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour events, but he has more tennis to play in Southern California first, with next week's ITF Grade 1 in Carson starting Monday.

"It's behind me already," Damm said of his loss to Hohmann. "Tomorrow or Tuesday is another match, a new tournament, so I'm looking forward to that."

Girls champion Emma Navarro is not going to be playing Carson for a very good reason. The 17-year-old from Charleston South Carolina is returning home to participate in the WTA Volvo Open next week, using the wild cards she earned for winning the singles and doubles there.

But before she could focus on that opportunity, Navarro had to devote herself to the task at hand, the final of the Easter Bowl ITF. She kept her concentration through an easy first set and a difficult second one, defeating 14-year-old Robin Montgomery 6-0, 7-6(2) under bright and sunny skies Sunday morning.

Navarro, the No. 3 seed, was familiar with the pressure of the Easter Bowl final, having won the title in the 16s division two years ago and she displayed no sign of nerves in the opening set.  Montgomery, however, was not comfortable, and it showed in her game, with the powerful left-hander unable to find the court for the first five games.

"First final at a big tournament and there were refs everywhere, ball kids...I could hear what the (live stream) commentators said and that made a bit more tight," the 14th-seeded Montgomery said. "She came out firing, and once again I started out slow."

Navarro's strength is her consistency, and she was able to play well, even when Montgomery continued to spray balls.

"She wasn't playing her best in the first set and I knew she was going to come out swinging at some point, so I was ready for it," said Navarro, who beat Montgomery in the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl last December 7-6(1), 6-3. "Especially after the 5-0 game, she started playing well in that game, so I knew it was going to be tough in the second set."

Montgomery gathered herself after the first set, broke Navarro in the opening game and took a 5-2 lead, but she was unable to serve out the set either time, or even reach a set point. Navarro took four straight games to take a 6-5 lead, but Montgomery did hold on to force a tiebreaker.

Navarro was 2-0 this week in tiebreakers coming into this one, but isn't sure why she excels in that situation.

"I've been trying to figure out why I've been doing so well in tiebreakers," said Navarro, who didn't drop a set all week. "I really don't know. I definitely focus well in tiebreakers, I know it's high stakes, every shot is big, it's important and it matters."

The answer to that puzzle in today's tiebreaker revolved around Navarro's serve. She had an ace to start out and missed only one first serve in the tiebreaker, while Montgomery couldn't match that level on her serve.

"Since I missed a lot first serves, I was probably playing it a bit safe, so I could get my first serves in," said Montgomery, who had hit several serves over 110 mph in her semifinal win over Lea Ma Saturday. "I tried to pop a few here and there, but I wasn't doing necessarily what I was supposed to do."


Navarro, who is the eighth player in the tournament's 52-year history to win both the 16s and 18s title, said her game has come a long way since that 2017 16s title.

"I'd say everything has changed, mostly for the better," said Navarro who is coached by Peter Ayers. "My movement is definitely improved a lot; that was a big thing I've been working on. I'm hitting bigger, heavier and my serve has really improved. It used to be just a shot I would use to start the point, but now it's actually a weapon I can use."

Montgomery heads to Carson next week, while Navarro readies herself for a Volvo Open match with Germany's Laura Siegemund, a former WTA Top 30 player.

Replays of this week's live streamed matches are available at Vimeo.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Damm and Hohmann Reach Adidas Easter Bowl ITF Boys Final; Navarro and Montgomery Play for Girls ITF Championship Sunday; Ovrootsky and Banerjee Claim 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

Fourteen-year-old Robin Montgomery and 15-year-old Martin Damm would have been eligible to compete in younger age divisions at the Adidas Easter Bowl, but they have displayed tennis skills beyond their years this week, with victories Saturday earning them spots in the 18-and-under ITF Grade B1 finals at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

For the second day in a row, Montgomery came from a set down, this time against No. 5 seed Lea Ma, overpowering the world's 37th ranked junior 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 to reach her first Grade 1 final.

Montgomery, seeded 14th, recognizes that her age helps keep the pressure off her and on her opponent.

"Once the first set was done, I figured I really had nothing to lose," Montgomery said. "I had lost the first set and she probably feels tighter because she's closer than me. I came out swinging, more pumped. At the beginning I was playing at her pace, walking slow, letting her take time and I think in the second and third sets, I started moving faster and made her move fast, and I don't think she likes moving fast. I probably got her out of her comfort zone."

Montgomery's pace on her ground strokes and pop on her serve--she hit 115 on the serve speed indicator on Center Court today--often put opponents on the defensive, and Ma could not find a way to get Montgomery out of her comfort zone once she found it.

Montgomery will take on No. 3 Emma Navarro, the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion, who beat unseeded Ellie Coleman 7-6(1) 6-2.

Navarro, who has a main draw wild card waiting for her at the WTA Volvo Open next week in her hometown of Charleston after winning last year's USTA 18s Clay Courts title, wasn't able to convert her chances to close out the first set when serving for it at 5-3, or when Coleman served at 5-6, but she dominated the tiebreaker and picked up her play in the second set.

"She was good," Navarro said of the 16-year-old Coleman, whom she hadn't played before. "It was good to play someone who doesn't hit flat and hard every shot, a good mix, and it was tough. She played good offense and defense, good from both sides."

Navarro and Montgomery met in the quarterfinals at the Grade A Orange Bowl in December, with Navarro earning a 7-6(1), 6-3 win.

"We had a really tough match last time, she played really well," said the 17-year-old Navarro. "I'm excited."

Navarro, who reached the ITF semifinals here last year, said her previous success at Indian Wells the past two years gives her confidence.

"Yeah, I'm just more comfortable, because I've been here before," Navarro said.

Montgomery said the change in surface from clay at the Orange Bowl to the hard courts here could help her against Navarro.

"I can sometimes be considered a better hard court player," said Montgomery. "It can go either way tomorrow, so I just have to come out and play my best."

Like Navarro, Damm is the No. 3 seed, but his opponent Sunday will be older, not younger.  Damm defeated friend and No. 14 seed Mark Mandlik 6-1, 6-4 to set up a final against 17-year-old qualifier Ron Hohmann, who beat No. 13 seed Jacob Bullard 6-2, 6-1.

The six-foot-six-inch Damm, who reached the final of the Grade A last month in Brazil, grew up with Mandlik at the IMG Academy, until Mandlik moved to the other side of the state.

"It was pretty tough," said Damm, the son of former ATP Top 50 pro of the same name. "We basically grew up with each other, we've known each other since we were six years old, we've trained together for like four years. We hung out every weekend, we did stupid stuff as little kids and now we're here. It was tough playing him, but obviously happy I got the W."

Damm was up 6-1, 4-1, but Mandlik got the break back and brought it to 4-4.  Damm rebounded to hold for 5-4, closing out the game with a 123 mph serve, then broke Mandlik to win it.

"I was aware of the mental collapse I had the day before," said Damm, who dropped the second set against Andrew Dale in the quarterfinals. "He [Mandlik] fought hard and I gave it to him a little bit in the game when I was up 4-1. But he fought hard and I knew I had to finish it on my own, that he wasn't going to give it to me."

Hohmann, who has now won eight matches in eight days, fell behind early, but needed less than an hour to take out Bullard.

"He broke me first game of the match and I thought to myself, oh god, this is going to be one of those days," Hohmann said. "But once I broke back and held, I just took it to him from there. I played tremendously well. I'm not missing anything, it's crazy."

Hohmann, who averages one ITF junior event per year, said he is tired, but is happy to be playing so well.

"I wasn't even supposed to qualify, based on the qualifying seeds," said Hohmann, who was the No. 10 seed in qualifying, which began with two matches last Saturday.

With the USTA providing new ITF World Tennis Tour wild cards tied to the results at this year's Easter Bowl, Hohmann and Damm will be playing for a main wild card into an ATP Challenger event, while already securing a wild card into the main draw of a $25,000 WTT tournament as finalists. The girls ITF Easter Bowl winner will also receive a wild card into a $60,000 tournament.

"I noticed that yesterday," Hohmann said. "I didn't even notice that until yesterday when I looked on the website. So I just have to go out there and have fun in the final, just go for it."

Damm said he is familiar with Hohmann and knows he's dangerous despite his long journey to the final.

"I played a playoff with him at the USTA campus, so I know of him, know he's a very good player," Damm said. "He beat [Zachary] Svajda second round, who I personally think is a very good player as well, so obviously the kid knows how to play. He may have played eight matches, he could be tired, but he's very confident and used to these courts, so it's not going to be anything easy."

The schedule for Sunday will begin with the girls final at 10 a.m., followed by the boys final. Both matches will be streamed, with commentary by Ken Thomas, at easterbowl.com.

The 16s champions were crowned Saturday morning, with with Vivian Ovrootsky extending her winning streak with a 6-3, 6-4 win over DJ Bennett for the girls title and Samir Banerjee going one step further than last year, beating JJ Tracy 7-6(4), 7-5 for the boys title.

Ovrootsky won last week's ITF Grade 4 in Irvine, so has had only one day off, last Sunday, in two weeks, but what she lacked in rest, she made up for with confidence.

"I felt really confident heading in," said the 14-year-old from San Jose, who trains with Nick Fustar at the Eagle Fustar Academy. "I know I didn't play my best tennis in the match that I could've, but DJ was playing unbelievable tennis, her forehand was great. I just had to get through the match there, take offense when I had the opportunity and I think that's what I did."

Ovrootsky took a 5-2 lead in the first set, but she was unable to close it out on her serve in the next game, despite two set points. She converted her third set point with Bennett serving in the next game, however, with Ovrootsky taking advantage of Bennett's low first serve percentage.

"I was definitely was attacking her second serve when I had the opportunity," said Ovrootsky. "My first serve percentage wasn't that high either and she was attacking my second serve, but I feel I defended pretty well, which gave me a little edge."

"My serve wasn't the best," said Bennett, a 15-year-old who trains at Tampa's Saddlebrook Academy and wears a Roger Federer hat when she plays. "I missed a lot of first serves and I was defending a lot because of my second serves. She would be really aggressive off that."

Bennett got her first lead of the match when she broke Ovrootsky to go up 2-1, but Ovrootsky broke right back and the pair stayed on serve until the final game. With Bennett serving to stay in the match, she missed a couple of forehands to go down 15-40. She saved the first match point, but Ovrootsky crushed a second serve return winner to collect her third USTA gold ball.



Bennett's silver was her first USTA ball, so the nerves she admitted she felt during the first few games were understandable.

"I didn't really expect to get this far in the tournament," Bennett said. "I think she played great. She was really consistent. I didn't play as good as I wanted to. But I'm really happy for her."

Ovrootsky also received the USTA 16s sportsmanship award, which she did not expect.

"Last night we were at dinner, my coach and the girl I'm traveling with, and I go, if I ever win the sportsmanship award, that's just got to be the most random selection of all time," Ovrootsky said. "And less than 24 hours later, I'm holding a sportsmanship award."

Boys 16s champion Banerjee won the first set of the 2018 boys 14s final last year against Bruno Kuzuhara, but lost the next two, a scenario he did not want to see repeated.

"In last year's final I came back from a break down in the second, just like I did in this final," said Banerjee, who trailed Tracy 3-1 in the second set. "I didn't break again last year, but I broke here and I just couldn't serve it out, and then in the last game, I almost couldn't serve it out, so I'm relieved."

Tracy had his opportunity in the first set, when, after eight holds to start the match, he broke Banerjee, who donated two backhand errors at 30-30 to give Tracy an opportunity to serve out the set. Tracy played his worse game of the set however, with a double fault, a backhand unforced error and a poor drop shot.

"I tried not to rush it, and I ended up rushing it," said the 16-year-old Tracy, who trains at the Smith-Stearns Academy in Hilton Head SC. "I missed a few opportunities in the first set, that one, but he played well."

Banerjee took a 5-4 lead in the second set, but never got to match point in that service game. After earning another chance with a high backhand volley winner at 30-40 on Tracy's serve, he did get to match point, but two match points came and went, on a double fault and a backhand error. Banerjee then had to save two break points, but he eventually earned a third match point and converted it with a backhand winner.


Banerjee's willingness to come to the net in tight spots paid off both in that final game and throughout the match.

"If I stay back too long, who knows what could happen," said Banerjee, who trains at Center Court Academy and Garden State Academy in New Jersey. "I'm comfortable at the net, so I think if they are under pressure too, they might put up an easy one that I can put away."

Banerjee, who now has two USTA gold balls in singles and ten gold, silver and bronze balls overall, has earned a wild card into a $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour tournament with the title.

"That's crazy," said Banerjee, who wasn't aware of the wild card on the line. "I did say I was looking for some stiffer competition."
The doubles championships in the 16s and the ITF divisions were decided Saturday afternoon, with No. 2 seeds Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro winning the girls ITF title and No. 3 seeds Will Grant and Tyler Zink taking the boys ITF title.

Beck and Navarro beat top seeds Lea Ma and Hurricane Tyra Black 6-4, 6-4, winning four of six deciding points, including the one that decided the match.

Beck and Navarro, who have been playing together four or five years now, had lost a deciding point with Ma serving at 3-5 in the second set, but they have learned through the years not to exaggerate the importance of that point.

"It's a different feeling on a no-ad point, and we've definitely gotten better with it, doing it for a few years now," said Navarro. "It used to be, like, the most important point in the world is right now, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but now we've learned to relax and embrace it."

Beck said their different strengths are key to their success.

"We're the most comfortable when Emma's ripping ground strokes and I can take over the net," Beck said.

That formula worked on the final deciding point, with Navarro hitting a good first serve and Beck putting away the volley at the net.

"We decided on I formation, which was working best," Navarro said. "It's easy to be hesitant on it, especially since we already lost one deuce point match point. But what we picked worked well."

Beck and Navarro have received a main draw wild card into next week's WTA Volvo Open, so are pleased to be going into that tournament with a title.

"We've had a lot of good close matches," said Navarro, of their run this week. "We haven't played together since January, so it was good to get a little warmup tournament."
Grant and Zink defeated top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat 7-6(3), 0-6, 11-9, saving a match point to earn their second gold ball as a team.

The 2017 USTA Kalamazoo 16s champions were able to put the quick loss of the second set out of their minds as they focused on the upcoming match tiebreaker.

"I think we just sort of lost that energy in the second set," Grant said. "We knew that if we just kept our energy and kept firing on all cylinders that we would have come through and it was just tight at the end."

Down 7-5 in the match tiebreaker, with Damm serving, Grant and Zink got the mini-break back, but still faced a match point with Zink serving at 9-8. Grant hit a volley winner to save it, and another to give them a match point, with Zink then hitting the volley winner that delivered the title.

"I was really nervous, honestly," said Grant. "I think that was why I was getting super pumped up. He [Zink] came up big on that point too, it just happened all so fast, so it really could have gone either way, honestly."

"Going into the match, we knew Martin was going to serve the way he does and we were just looking for our chances here and there," Zink said. "Luckily one went our way, and we really used the momentum off that to win the match."

Grant and Zink are planning to play together again at the Grade 1 in Carson next week.

The 16s doubles finals and the third place match results are below:
Boys 16s: Frank Thompson(Blacksburg, VA) and Thomas Paulsell (Seattle, WA) (3)  def. Alex Finkelstein (Raynham, MA) and Nathan Mao (1) (Topsham, ME) 6-2, 6-2
Girls 16s:  Sydni Ratliff and (Gahanna, OH) and Ava Catanzarite (Pittsburgh, PA)(1) def. Whitley Pate (Daniel Island, SC) and Sophia Strugnell (Summerfield, NC) 6-2, 4-6, 6-0
Third Place Boys' 16 Doubles: 
Jake Sweeney (Fayetteville, AR) and Gavin Young (4) (Apple Valley, MN) def. Aryan Chaudhary (Santa Clara, CA) and Timothy Li (5) (Valley Village, CA) 7-5; 6-2

Third Place Boys' 16 Singles: 
Thomas Paulsell (4) (Seattle, WA) def. Aryan Chaudhary (1) (Santa Clara, CA) 6-3; 4-6; 6-3

Third Place Girls' 16 Doubles:
Carrie Beckman (Louisville, KY) and Emma Charney (3) (Prospect, KY) def. Katherine Hui (San Diego, CA) and Eleana Yu (Mason, OH) 6-2; 7-5

Third Place Girls' 16 Singles:
Gracie Epps (Norman, OK) def. Daniella Benabraham (12) (New York, NY) 6-3; 6-3

Friday, March 29, 2019

Qualifer Hohmann, Unseeded Coleman Advance to Adidas Easter Bowl ITF Semis; Banerjee Tops 16s No. 1 Seed to Make Second Straight Easter Bowl Final

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

Seven wins at a tournament is usually enough to secure a title, but Ron Hohmann still needs two more if he is going to claim the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl. Hohmann, who took down his third seed of the week today in the quarterfinals when he defeated No. 11 seed Ronan Jachuck 7-6(5), 6-1, played three qualifying matches on Saturday and Sunday.

"I didn't know I was going to be in qualifying, I thought I was going to be in main draw, but I saw myself in qualifying," said the 17-year-old from New York, who is playing in his first ITF Grade 1 tournament. "I was like, okay, I feel I can do well in the tournament, so I'll come out here and see what I can do. I was feeling great before the tournament started."

Hohmann took out No. 15 seed Hunter Heck in the first round and wild card Zachary Svajda in the second round 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5.

"I lost the first set, (against Svajda) and went down a break in the second set but just stayed mentally tough," said Hohmann, who has committed to LSU for this fall. "In the third set, I just took it to him, played very well."

Hohmann defeated No. 2 seed Tyler Zink, again in three sets, on Thursday.

"Tyler is a very good player too," Hohmann said. "I just stayed with it, just doing the same things I'm doing match after match, keeping the same routines, keeping mentally tough. A lot of people were cheering for Tyler in that match, 10 people or so. I had one, my coach. So it was a little tough. But I channeled all that out and just focused on one point at a time."

In today's match, Hohmann was able to withstand a barrage of aces from Jachuck in the opening set in Friday's quarterfinal and hold on to take the first set in a tiebreaker, then rolled in the second set.

"I broke the first game of the match, went up serving 30-0 in the second, but he broke me back," said Hohmann. "He was hitting aces left and right. We kept holding until the tiebreak, when I got lucky with a let, and I'll take it."

That let gave Hohmann a 6-2 lead and he needed that margin, losing three straight points before Jachuck double faulted on the fourth.

Hohmann will face No. 13 seed Jacob Bullard, who defeated No. 9 seed Blaise Bicknell 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-1.

The other boys semifinal match will feature the offspring of two former top professional players from the Czech Republic, both of whom are in Indian Wells this week.  No. 3 seed Martin Damm, the son of the former Top 50 player with the same name, defeated No. 10 seed Andrew Dale 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.  No. 14 seed Mark Mandlik, the son of four-time slam champion Hana Mandlikova, defeated unseeded Marcus McDaniel 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.  Damm and Mandlik trained together for many years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, but have not played on the ITF Junior Circuit.
The girls semifinals will also feature an unseeded player, with 16-year-old Ellie Coleman prevailing in a third set tiebreaker for the second time this week against No. 16 seed Alexandra Yepifanova, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4).

"It helps for sure," Coleman said of her previous experience with that pressure in her 7-6(10), 4-6, 7-6(5) second round win over Nikki Redelijk. "In the tight points, you can think back to a couple of matches ago, when it was tight and I know I pulled it out before. Taking that confidence, being able to not play tight and play through any pressure."

Coleman was up a break twice in the third set, including serving for the match at 6-5, but she couldn't close out Yepifanova, who came up with three forehand winners to force the tiebreaker.

Coleman said she fought off the impulse to get frustrated by losing the last four points of that 12th game.

"I was trying to stay as calm as possible," said the Midland Michigan resident, who has reached a Grade 1 semifinal for the first time this week. "I knew if I got worked up, it wouldn't work in my favor. So I just tried to stay calm and take the next point, no matter if I won the point before that or lost it; focus on what I could do better in the next point."

Coleman will face No. 3 seed Emma Navarro, who cruised past No. 10 seed Charlotte Owensby 6-2, 6-1. Navarro, the 2017 16s champion, reached the ITF Easter Bowl semifinals last year, losing to eventual champion Katie Volynets.

The other girls semifinal will feature No. 5 seed Lea Ma against No. 14 seed Robin Montgomery.

Ma defeated No. 13 seed Emma Jackson 6-3, 6-2, while Montgomery survived a tough test from unseeded Fiona Crawley 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-3.

"I think honestly, maybe she came out stronger than I thought she would, " said the 14-year-old from Washington DC. "I'm going to be honest, I kind of underestimated her a little bit. She came out swinging, I was making lots of errors and the set went by so fast, it was kind of hard for me to process what I needed to do. In my own mind, I wasn't fully locked into the match in the first set."

Montgomery singled out a point, with Crawley serving at 3-4 in the third as pivotal to her win.

"At 4-3, my break point, it was one of the longest points of the match," Montgomery said of rally that featured great offense and defense by both she and Crawley. "I think since I was able to win that point I was able to keep the momentum, but if I had lost that point, I think the match would have been different, but luckily I was able to pull it out."

Montgomery, who reached the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 in Carson as a 13-year-old last year, said she has learned to shed the expectations that she placed on herself. "I just started playing more freely. When I was younger, I used to put lots of pressure on myself for no reason. I can tend to be the person to put lots of pressure on myself, so I've learned not to overthink it. At the end of the day, it's all just a game. I mean yes, I would like to make it my life, but it's just a game."

Montgomery and Ma have not played on the ITF Junior Circuit, but she and Ma did play practice matches at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland before Ma left for the IMG Academy.

"Last time I played a practice match against her, I got a clean wax, 1 and 1," said Montgomery. "So I'm hoping I can do better tomorrow. I know that she's a solid player, strong at the baseline, lots of experience. At the same time, I feel I have nothing to lose; 14 years old and in the semifinals. I have lots more tennis ahead of me."

The doubles finals are set for Saturday, with the top two seeds meeting for the girls ITF championship. No. 1 seeds Ma and Hurricane Tyra Black will face No. 2 seeds Navarro and Chloe Beck.

In the boys finals, top seeds Damm and Toby Kodat will play No. 3 seeds Tyler Zink and Will Grant.

The 16s finals are set for Saturday morning, with Samir Banerjee, last year's 14s finalist, earning a second consecutive shot at an Easter Bowl title. Banerjee, the No. 3 seed, beat top seed Aryan Chaudhary 7-6(9), 2-6, 6-4 in just under three hours Friday morning at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Banerjee will face No. 9 seed JJ Tracy, who needed less than half that time to down No. 4 seed Thomas Paulsell 6-2, 6-1.

No. 9 seed Vivian Ovrootsky also found herself in a three-hour semifinal battle, but the 14-year-old prevailed over unseeded Gracie Epps 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4. Ovrootsky's opponent in the final is No. 10 seed DJ Bennett, who defeated No. 12 seed Daniella Benabraham 6-2, 6-4.

See the TennisLink site for complete 16s results from today, including consolation matches.

Saturday's matches should all be streamed, beginning with the 16s finals, at easterbowl.com

Boys’ 18s Singles Quarterfinal Results:
Martin DAMM [3] def. Andrew DALE [10] 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Ronald HOHMANN def. Ronan JACHUCK [11] 7-6(5), 6-1
Jacob BULLARD [13] def. Blaise BICKNELL [9] 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-1
Mark MANDLIK [14] def. Marcus MCDANIEL 7-5, 4-6, 6-1

Girls’ 18s Singles Quarterfinal Results:
Emma NAVARRO [3] def. Charlotte OWENSBY [10] 6-2, 6-1
Lea MA [5] def. Emma JACKSON [13] 6-3, 6-2
Robin MONTGOMERY [14] def. Fiona CRAWLEY 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-3
Elizabeth COLEMAN def. Alexandra YEPIFANOVA [16] 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4)

Boys’ 18s Doubles Semifinal Results:
William GRANT/Tyler ZINK [3] def. Adam NEFF/Eliot SPIZZIRRI [2] 6-3, 6-2
Martin DAMM/Toby Alex KODAT [1] def. Ronan JACHUCK/Mark MANDLIK [5] 7-6 (9), 6-4

Girls’ 18s Doubles Semifinal Results:
Hurricane Tyra BLACK/Lea MA [1] def. Savannah BROADUS /Kylie COLLINS [3] 6-1, 6-4
Chloe BECK/Emma NAVARRO [2] def. Jaedan BROWN/ Fiona CRAWLEY 6-1, 6-3

Boys' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Samir Banerjee (3) (Basking Ridge, NJ) def. Aryan Chaudhary (1) (Santa Clara, CA) 7-6(9); 2-6; 6-4 
JJ Tracy (9) (Hilton Head Island, SC) def. Thomas Paulsell (4) (Seattle, WA) 6-2; 6-1

Girls' 16 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Vivian Ovrootsky (9) (San Jose, CA) def. Gracie Epps (Norman, OK) 6-2; 6-7(6); 6-4
DJ Bennett (10) (Belleview, FL) def. Daniella Benabraham (12) (New York, NY) 6-2; 6-4

Boys' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Thomas Paulsell (Seattle, WA)/Frank Thompson (3) (Blacksburg, VA) def. Aryan Chaudhary (Santa Clara, CA)/Timothy Li (5) (Valley Village, CA) 6-0; 6-4

Alex Finkelstein (Raynham, MA)/Nathan Mao (1) (Topsham, ME) def. Jake Sweeney (Fayetteville, AR)/Gavin Young (4) (Apple Valley, MN) 2-6; 6-3; 6-4

Girls' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Whitley Pate (Daniel Island, SC)/Sophia Strugnell (Summerfield, NC) def. Carrie Beckman (Louisville, KY)/Emma Charney (3) (Prospect, KY) 6-2; 3-6; 6-3

Ava Catanzarite (Pittsburgh, PA)/Sydni Ratliff (1) (Gahanna, OH) def. Katherine Hui (San Diego, CA)/Eleana Yu (Mason, OH) 4-6; 6-2; 6-0

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Latak and Thorat Claim Adidas Easter Bowl 12s Titles; Shang Captures Boys 14s, Driscoll Sweeps Girls 14s; Jackson Beats Top Seed Black, Yepifanova Upsets No. 2 Mandlik in ITF Third Round

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

Eleven-year-old Thea Latak's first Easter Bowl in 2018 was a disaster, when she and her family drove from Chicago to the Coachella Valley only to suffer first round losses in the singles, doubles and consolation draw. This year, Latak returned as the top seed, and she erased those bad memories with the title, beating unseeded Daniela Borruel 7-6(3), 6-3.

In contrast, 12-year-old Abhishek Thorat's first Easter Bowl couldn't have gone much better, with the No. 13 seed taking the title, beating No. 2 seed Cooper Woestendick 6-4, 6-1 Thursday morning at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Latak had her share of close matches, twice coming from a set down to win in pressure-packed match tiebreakers, which serve as third sets in the 12s divisions.

Against Borruel, Latak took a 4-2 lead in the first set, but saw three set points slip away serving for it at 5-4, 40-0.

"I didn't want to get nervous and down on myself, so I kept on trying to keep calm and getting it back," said Latak, who got the only hold of serve in the first set tiebreaker to go up 2-0, and that was enough to take the hour-long set.

Latak took an early lead in the second set and led most of the match, again going up 4-2, losing the break, but breaking back to earn a 5-3 lead and the opportunity to serve for the match. Borruel saved the first match point with a forehand winner, but missed a forehand volley to give Latak a second. Borruel approached the net after a short volley, but Latak sent up a lob that Borruel could not handle to secure the title.



Borruel said that although she was disappointed with the result, she was happy with her strategy.

"I liked how I played," said the 12-year-old from Buena Park California. "I was coming up to the net, trying to finish the points. She was pretty consistent and when I came up, she would pass. Her serve was pretty good and I could have done a bit better on my returns."

Borruel, who has recently begun attending the First Break Academy in Carson, California, admitted she was nervous at the start of the match.

"I was pretty nervous, trying to get my rhythm," Borruel said. "But by the third game, I loosened up and just started playing better, going for my shots a little bit more."

Latak said the aggressive play by Borruel didn't bother her, and she was pleased with how she handled the pressure of being a top seed.

"I loved how everyone tried their hardest when they played me, gave their best effort," said Latak, who trains with Jack Sharpe at the Hinsdale Racquet Club. "That made me want to give the best effort that I can, and helped me realize I could do things I didn't think I could do, could handle that I'm the 1 seed."

Thorat took out top seed Maxwell Exsted 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals and ran out to a 5-0 first-set lead against Woestendick, but he was not about to relax.

"I came in here playing pretty good and I know that Cooper's a great player and he's going to adjust, he's going to find a way to come back," said the Tampa resident. "So I just needed to stay focused, stay in it."

Woestendick did indeed come back, winning four straight games before Thorat final held on his third opportunity for the set.

"He played a good service game," said Woestendick. "It was hard to keep up with him. Abhishek hit huge and hit bigger than me."

Woestendick had saved three match points in his three-hour and 40-minute win over Darren Huang in the semifinals Wednesday afternoon, and he admitted that took its toll.

"I wasn't moving fast at all, I couldn't really move as well," Woestendick said. "But Abhishek played a great match."

Thorat admitted that his nerves came not from the crowd and the chair umpire but rather knowing his match was being live streamed.

"If I don't play good, and it's getting recorded, I can't let people see that," said Thorat, who trains at the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center with Paul Segodo and Alex and Andrew Golub. "After I started swinging and hit the ball, it gets better."

Thorat again jumped out to a big lead in the second set, and this time he kept his distance, closing out Woestendick 6-4, 6-1.
Thorat doesn't have any immediate plans to celebrate, but is looking forward to an Alaskan family cruise in May.

Boys 14s champion Juncheng (Jerry) Shang has an even longer trip ahead, as he is China-bound with another gold ball in tow. The 2018 USTA National 14s Hard Court champion defeated Lucas Brown 6-3, 6-3 Thursday afternoon in a battle between two hard-hitting 14-year-olds.

No. 12 seed Shang played nearly flawless tennis in the opening set, getting the first break to go up 3-2 and closing out No. 3 seed Brown with a second break to end the set.

A tall left-hander who is comfortable finishing at the net, Shang appeared to be cruising when he had points to take a 4-0 lead in the second set, but Brown held, got his first break of the match, then held again to get right back in it.

"I was kind of tight," Shang admitted. "At 3-0 l had many break points, then he broke me. He did a great job on my serve, he was coming in a lot."

Shang said he was pretty confident that he could get through that challenge and he did, breaking Brown at love to go up 5-3 and serving it out.

"When I was down 3-0, I said, if I'm going to win this, I've got to play really, really well," said Brown, who trains with private coach David Miller in Plano Texas. "So I just started going after it. Unfortunately you can't really play that way for more than three games apparently. After three games, all those shots that were going in started flying out."

Despite being the higher seed, Brown had no illusions that the player across the net from him today was an underdog.

"He pops in every now and then and just wrecks everybody," Brown said. "I wouldn't really call him a 12 seed."


Shang was happy to put the memory of last year's second round Easter Bowl loss out of his mind.

"I'm more experienced now," said Shang, who lives and trains at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples Florida with coach Victor Camargo. "I was kind of nervous in the beginning, but I got my confidence after the first set, and he was missing a lot."

Shang, who came to the United States three years ago, will head back to China in the coming weeks to play ITF junior events there before returning for the USTA National Championships this summer.

The only three-set final of the day was in the girls 14s, with No. 3 seed Tsehay Driscoll coming back to defeat No. 2 seed Ria Bhakta 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

At age 13, Driscoll is already playing in her fourth Easter Bowl, but after two first round and one second round loss, this title was especially sweet.

"I didn't want to make a fourth time in a row having a bad tournament,"  said Driscoll, a Southern Californian who trains with former NCAA champion Cecil Mamiit at the Burbank Tennis Center. "I was way more determined than the other years, to do really well this year."

After losing her first set of the tournament and squandering a 3-1 first set lead, Driscoll made some adjustments.

"I adjusted and I was really determined," Driscoll said. "I played the next two sets using my brain a lot. I've always loved coming to net, I feel more comfortable at net. I don't like when I'm behind the baseline like six feet."


Bhakta had saved five match points in a grueling semifinal battle with Qavia Lopez Wednesday, but she didn't feel that played any role in the final stages of the match.

"Toward the end of the match you're always going to feel tired, at the end of three sets, nothing unusual," said reigning 14s Winter National champion Bhakta, who trains with her father Raj in Saratoga California. "It was a good match. She played really well, but next time I play her it may be different."

Driscoll's gold ball count reached four with the singles title, and she added a fifth in the doubles final. She and partner Madison Smith, the No. 2 seeds, defeated top seeds Natalie Block and Lara Smejkal 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Driscoll also took home the Sportsmanship Award.
Although the 12s and 14s finals took center stage, upsets abounded in the third round of the ITF Grade B1, with girls top seed Hurricane Tyra Black and girls No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik and boys No. 2 seed Tyler Zink all bowing out.

Zink lost to qualifier Ronald Hohmann 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, and No. 4 seed Toby Kodat was eliminated by No. 13 seed Jacob Bullard 7-6(8), 6-3.

No. 13 seed Emma Jackson, who beat Black 6-4, 7-6(2), managed to overcome the disappointment of failing to serve out the match at 5-4 and 6-5.

"I was very discouraged; I had two match points," said Jackson, a 16-year-old from Illinois. "I was just, I can't get frustrated now, I have an opportunity. I didn't want it to go longer, because it was starting to get really hot and the wind and dust were kicking up. I just wanted to get it over with."

Jackson won the final five games of the first set, after getting accustomed to Black's unconventional forehand.

"I started out 1-4 down," Jackson said. "I thought I just have to be patient with her. I've never really played someone who uses only a slice forehand, so I just tried to stay as positive and focused as I could in the moment. In the tiebreaker, I played like I wanted it, and she just made some errors and I used them."

No. 16 seed Alexandra Yepifanova has been working on her court positioning recently and she put those lessons to good use in her 6-3, 6-4 win over Mandlik.

"For me, what I've been trying to improve on, my goal, is really stepping into the court," said the 16-year-old from Florida. "Taking the ball on the rise and just moving quicker inside the court. But also stepping back, realizing where the ball is and where I should be in court. I think I've been doing a pretty good job of that the past couple of days. All three of my matches were against really good opponents and could have gone either way, but because I was focused on playing quicker, the score went my way."

Fourteen-year-old Robin Montgomery, seed 14th, beat No. 4 seed Savannah Broadus 6-4, 6-2 and Ellie Coleman defeated No. 7 seed Chloe Beck 7-5, 7-5.

The 12s and 14s doubles champions were also crowned with the results in the photo captions.
G12s:  Rebecca Kong (San Diego, CA)/Daniela Borruel (Buena Park, CA) def. Thea Latak (Darien, IL) / Natasha Rajaram (2) (Cupertino, CA)  6-3; 6-1

B14s: Lucas Brown (Plano, TX /Aidan Kim (1) (Milford, MI) def. Waleed Qadir (Greenville, NC)/Cooper Williams (4) (New York, NY) 6-3; 6-2 

G14s: Madison Smith (2) (Bountiful, UT)/Tsehay Driscoll (La Canada Flintridge, CA) def. Natalie Block (Plantation, FL/Lara Smejkal (1) (Boca Raton, FL) 6-2; 7-5
 
 
B12s: Abhinav Chunduru (Plano, TX)/Prathinav Chunduru (2) (Plano, TX) def. Andrew Ena (Rego Park, NY)/Mark Krupkin (4) (Millburn, NJ) 7-5; 6-4 

Adidas Easter Bowl Sportsmanship Winners:

Overall Jackie Cooper Torey Fretz Sportsmanship winner: Kelsey Mize

Boys’ 12s: Heath Waters

Girls’ 12s: Natasha Rajaram

Boys’ 14s: Learner Tien

Girls’ 14s: Tsehay Driscoll

The 16s semifinals are set for Friday, with today's quarterfinals results below:

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Aryan Chaudhary (1) (Santa Clara, CA) def. Gabrielius Guzauskas (6) (Hinsdale, IL 2-6; 6-3; 6-4
Samir Banerjee (3) (Basking Ridge, NJ) def. Victor Lilov (16) (Raleigh, NC) 6-1; 3-6; 7-5
Thomas Paulsell (4) (Seattle, WA) def. Jake Sweeney (Fayetteville, AR) 6-4; 6-2
JJ Tracy (9) (Hilton Head Island, SC) def. Adit Sinha (North Brunswick, NJ) 6-1; 6-1

Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Vivian Ovrootsky (9) (San Jose, CA) def. Sophia Fornaris (14) (Pinecrest, FL) 6-0; 6-2
Gracie Epps (Norman, OK) def. Emma Charney (Prospect, KY) 6-1; 1-6; 6-2
DJ Bennett (10) (Belleview, FL) def. Julia Fliegner (3) (Clarkston, MI) 3-6; 6-0; 6-1
Daniella Benabraham (12) (New York, NY) def. Reese Brantmeier (Whitewater, WI) 6-1; 6-2

Complete results at the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tran Ousts No. 6 Seed Forbes; No. 4 Seed Kodat Survives Third Set Tiebreaker to Move into Adidas Easter Bowl ITF Third Round; Woestendick and Bhakta Save Match Points to Make Finals in 12s and 14s Divisions; Top Seed Maslova Falls in 16s

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

After the girls draw lost only one seed in the first round Tuesday at the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl, things changed in Wednesday's second round, with four seeds exiting, including two of the top 8.

Reilly Tran pulled off the biggest upset, with the 17-year-old left-hander from Virginia taking out No. 6 seed Abigail Forbes 6-4, 7-6(4) in just her second ITF Junior Circuit tournament.

Despite her unfamiliarity with the ITF Junior Circuit scene, Tran wasn't stressed about playing a seeded player on the Center court.

"I felt so relaxed when I was out there, I wasn't even thinking about the score," said Tran, a junior who has verbally committed to North Carolina. "It was probably good that they (the live streaming crew) was keeping score. I just focused on doing my shots and I didn't let anything bother me too much. Even when I missed, I still felt like I was in there. I wasn't getting too down or anything."

Tran showed that composure in the second set tiebreaker, when she made an unforced error with a 5-3 lead. With Forbes back on serve, Tran stepped up, hitting her two-handed forehand for winners on the next two points to close out the win.

Tran understands the limitations of her two-handed forehand, but has determined that is how she wants to play the game.

"I've played tennis since I was five, and started out with two hands," Tran said. "The place I was at, they wanted me to change, because it's a really big disadvantage running-wise, but I was small, and I wanted to hit hard. So I was like, you know what, I'm going to do it this way. I know it's going to be hard, and I'll have obstacles and people aren't going to like it, but it's the way I want to play."

Tran didn't have to be prompted to name a player with a similar approach to the game.

"Monica Seles has obviously been my biggest inspiration, and [Marion] Bartoli," Tran said. "I watch her matches and it's really inspiring to have those people up there playing with two hands so I feel like I can do it."

Tran was out for a long stretch at the beginning of 2018 after having hip surgery and did not return to action until August.

"I've just been training a lot, trying to get my stamina back where I want it to be," Tran said. "I go to regular school, so I don't really travel for ITFs. This is my second ITF, first ITF main draw, so it's been a great experience."

Top seed Hurricane Tyra Black was leading Anna Zhang 6-4, 4-1, but lost five straight games to find herself in a third set. She regained her form however, and went on to post a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.  No. 2 seed Elli Mandlik defeated Natasha Subhash 7-5, 6-4.

No. 8 seed Charlotte Chavatipon lost to Fiona Crawley 7-5, 6-3; No. 9 seed Kylie Collins lost to Sanyukta Gawande 6-3, 6-4 and No. 11 seed Lauren Anzalotta of Puerto Rico lost to wild card Kimmi Hance 7-6(3), 6-3.
The boys second round didn't produce any major upsets, although No. 4 seed Toby Kodat was on the brink against unseeded Stefan Dostanic before pulling out a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4) victory.  Kodat saw a 3-0 lead get away in the third set.

"I was up in the beginning, but I let him back in," said Kodat. "It came down to just a couple of points in the end that decided it."

One of those points came with Dostanic serving at 3-3 in the third set tiebreaker, when Kodat's slice, which looked certain to catch the tape, skimmed over it, catching Dostanic completely off guard.

"Yeah that slice, I was surprised it went over too, and he didn't play it," said Kodat, 16. "It was a lucky shot."

Kodat then followed with a more conventional forehand winner, then dropped a soft short forehand over the net to give him a 6-3 lead. He didn't convert his first match point, but Kodat got the win on his second opportunity, with Dostanic netting a forehand to end it.

"He was a aggressive player," said Kodat, who found himself playing plenty of his one-handed backhands, as Dostanic kept attacking that corner. "So I needed to defend well."

Kodat wasn't done with stress-filled matches, as he and partner Martin Damm, the top seeds in doubles, saved two match points after coming back from 8-4 in the match tiebreaker to beat Saiprakash Goli and Presley Thieneman 6-0, 6-7(4), 15-13 in the second round.

2018 16s Easter Bowl champion Keshav Chopra, the No. 12 seed, was beaten by wild card Aidan Mayo 6-2, 7-6(4).

The finals are set for Thursday in the 12s and 14s divisions, with two players getting there by saving multiple match points.

Boys 12s second seed Cooper Woestendick saved three match points and needed three hours and 40 minutes to subdue No. 3 seed Darren Huang 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-7.  Points were often minutes long, as moonballs were a common strategy for both players, with Woestendick occasionally trying to sneak in to take Huang's high loopers out of the air. In the match tiebreaker, Woestendick went up 9-3, but made a couple of uncharacteristic errors and began to get nervous when Huang got it to 9-7. But Woestendick opted to be aggressive on the next point and drove a winner past Huang. The boys embraced, exhausted, at the net.  Woestendick will face No. 13 seed Abhishek Thorat, who overpowered top seed Maxwell Exsted 6-2, 6-2.

The other player saving match points was Girls 14s No. 2 seed Ria Bhakta, who turned away five in her 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over No. 15 seed Qavia Lopez. Bhakta will play No. 3 seed Tsehay Driscoll, who beat top seed Stephanie Yakoff 7-5, 6-3.

The boys 14s final will feature No. 12 seed Juncheng (Jerry) Shang and No. 3 seed Lucas Brown.  Shang defeated top seed Aidan Kim 6-0, 6-2 and Brown got by No. 15 seed Learner Tien 6-4, 7-5.

The lone No. 1 seed playing for a singles title on Thursday is Girls 12s Thea Latak, who advanced to the final with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Emily Deming. Latak will face unseeded Daniela Borruel, who beat No. 14 seed Annika Renganathan 6-3, 6-2.

Live streaming will be available for the 12s and 14s singles finals at Easterbowl.com

The 12s and 14s doubles finals are also set for Thursday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. See below for the results from today's semifinals.

Boys' 12 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Abhinav Chunduru (Plano, TX)/Prathinav Chunduru (2) (Plano, TX) def. Brandon Vu (Chino Hills, CA)/Vincent Yang (3) (Kirkland, WA) 6-3; 6-3
Andrew Ena (Rego Park, NY)/Mark Krupkin (4) (Millburn, NJ) def. Maxwell Exsted (Savage, MN)/Cooper Woestendick (1) (Olathe, KS) 6-1; 3-6; 1-0(5)

Boys' 14 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Lucas Brown (Plano, TX)/Aidan Kim (1) (Milford, MI) def. Andrew Delgado (High Point, NC)/Quang Duong (Manhattan Beach, CA) 6-3; 6-2
Waleed Qadir (Greenville, NC)/Cooper Williams (4) (New York, NY) def. Nicholas Godsick (Chagrin Falls, OH)/John Lasanajak (2) (Lawrenceville, GA) 6-4; 1-6; 1-0(7)

Girls' 12 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Thea Latak (Darien, IL)/Natasha Rajaram (2) (Cupertino, CA) def. Fiona Lee (Ladera Ranch, CA)/Krisha Mahendran (Oak Park, CA) 6-2; 6-2
Daniela Borruel (Buena Park, CA)/Rebecca Kong (San Diego, CA) def. Bianca Molnar (Ladera Ranch, CA)/Aspen Schuman (5) (Menlo Park, CA) 6-3; 6-2

Girls' 14 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Tsehay Driscoll (La Canada Flintridge, CA)/Madison Smith (2) (Bountiful, UT) def. Grace Levelston (Vero Beach, FL)/Maddy Zampardo (Grosse Pointe Farms, MI) 6-4; 2-6; 1-0(5)
Natalie Block (Plantation, FL)/Lara Smejkal (1) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Lauren Joyce (Lodi, CA)/Madison Weekley (5) (Alamo, CA) 6-4; 6-4

The quarterfinals are set in the 16s division, with girls top seed Nadejda Maslova falling to No. 9 seed Vivian Ovrootsky 7-5, 7-5 in today's round of 16 matches at Palm Valley Country Club.  Ovrootsky won the ITF Grade 4 in Irvine last week.

The results from today's 16s third round singles are below.

Boys' 16 Singles (Round of 16)
Aryan Chaudhary (1) def. Luke Neal (14) 6-3; 6-7(1); 7-5
Gabrielius Guzauskas (6) def. Sundeep Chakladar 6-3; 6-2
Samir Banerjee (3) def. Ethan Quinn 6-3; 6-3
Victor Lilov (16) def. Jake Krug 6-4; 6-2
Jake Sweeney def. Daniel Schmelka (10) 6-2; 6-2
Thomas Paulsell (4) def. Evan Wen 5-7; 6-1; 7-6(3)
JJ Tracy (9) def. Kyle Kang 6-2; 5-7; 6-4
Adit Sinha def. Andrew Chang 4-6; 6-3; 6-1

Girls' 16 Singles (Round of 16)
Vivian Ovrootsky (9) def. Nadejda Maslova (1) 7-5; 7-5
Sophia Fornaris (14) def. Jennifer Riester (8) 7-6(2); 6-4
Gracie Epps def. Sydni Ratliff (11) 6-2; 6-1
Emma Charney def. Ava Catanzarite (15) 6-3; 7-5
DJ Bennett (10) def. Katherine Hui 6-1; 6-0
Julia Fliegner (3) def. Gavriella Smith (16) 3-6; 6-1; 6-4
Daniella Benabraham (12) def. Eleana Yu (7) 2-6; 6-2; 6-3
Reese Brantmeier def. Brooke Killingsworth (13) 6-3; 6-3

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Second Seed Mandlik Survives Tough Test to Advance at Adidas Easter Bowl ITF; Semifinals Set for 12s and 14s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--


After spending the first three months of 2019 playing ITF World Tennis Tour events, 17-year-old Elli Mandlik is competing in her first junior event of the year at the Adidas Easter Bowl's ITF Grade B1. As the No. 2 seed, fresh off her first pro title at two weeks ago at the $15,000 tournament in Arcadia California, Mandlik was not anticipating the test she faced in her opening match against Kelsey Mize.

"I looked at her name and thought she was just a regular USTA girl, and I didn't expect it to be that tough first round," said Mandlik, who eventually earned a 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 win. "In the first set she was just playing lights out. I wasn't prepared at all. I was prepared for a rally-type of match and she was just hitting winner, winner, aces everywhere."

Mandlik decided to stay away from the Mize forehand and her adjustment in strategy helped her earn seven straight games after dropping the first set.

"I was trying to hit more to her backhand, because that was her weaker side," Mandlik said. "I put more spin on the ball, so she had to hit over her head, not in her strike zone. And I made her run more for balls."

Mize, a 17-year-old from Tulsa Oklahoma, was down break points serving at 0-1 in the third set, but she saved them and got her rhythm back. She had a break point with Mandlik serving at 3-all in the third, but Mandlik saved it with an ace, then immediately hit another and went on to take a 4-3 lead.

"I thought my serve had been working, not at the beginning of the match, but since then, and I thought, it's working so just use it," Mandlik said. "At 3-3, I said just hit it as hard as you can, and it worked. I rely on my first serve in tight spots, because my second serve is pretty weak at times. I think I have a loose motion and I just go and swing and so in tight situations, I know I can rely on it."

Mandlik broke Mize in the next game, but her serve wasn't there for her in that game and Mize broke back. With Mize serving at 4-5, Mandlik won the first three points, but Mize saved all three and then another, with a combination of Mandlik errors and two forehand winners from Mize. On her fifth match point, Mandlik finally converted, with Mize sending a forehand long to end it.

Mandlik said coming back to play juniors was "very tough, because you have a lot of expectations. But I was just thinking every match is to improve, so if you lose, you lose. It's tough to go from pro to juniors, because it's a totally different game style. But today, it was maybe more like a pro match, I would say."

Mandlik, who reached the Easter Bowl ITF quarterfinals last year, is back both to maintain her junior ranking for this summer's junior slams and to have a crack at the two new WTT wild cards that the USTA has promised to the winner.

"I want to play all the grand slams, keep my ranking for that," Mandlik said. "And the wild cards if you win it, I wanted to get those as well. There's a $25K and a $60K."

Top seed Hurricane Tyra Black had less drama in her win, beating qualifier Malaika Rapolu 6-2, 6-1. After six seeds, including No. 1 Eliot Spizzirri, lost in the boys ITF first round Monday, the girls only had one go out today in their first round action, with Ellie Coleman beating 2018 semifinalist Gabby Price, the No. 12 seed, 5-7, 6-3, 7-5.

The boys played their first round of doubles Tuesday afternoon, with top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat and No. 2 seeds Adam Neff and Spizzirri winning their matches in straight sets.

The second round of 16s singles saw top seeds Nadejda Maslova and Aryan Chaudhary get through in straight sets, but girls No. 2 seed Misa Malkin lost to Reese Brantmeier 6-2, 6-4. Brantmeier, who is 14, was on the USA's third-place World Junior Tennis team last summer in the Czech Republic and has been playing more in the 18s than in the 16s since then. She is definitely a player who could have been seeded in the 16s draw. The boys 16s lost their second seed, Luke Casper, before the tournament began.

The semifinals of the 12s and 14s are scheduled for Wednesday morning at Indian Wells, with all four No. 1 seeds still in the hunt for the title.  Today's quarterfinal results are available below, with full draws at the TennisLink site. Live streaming can be found at Easterbowl.com

Boys' 12 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Maxwell Exsted (1) (Savage, MN) def. Vincent Yang (9) (Kirkland, WA) 7-6(4); 7-6(4)
Abhishek Thorat (13) (Lithia, FL) def. Abhinav Chunduru (4) (Plano, TX) 4-6; 6-3; 10-6
Darren Huang (3) (Whitestone, NY) def. Ritwik Hota (Leesburg, VA) 6-4; 6-2
Cooper Woestendick (2) (Olathe, KS) def. Joseph Hobbs (6) (Virginia Beach, VA) 6-1; 6-3

Boys' 14 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Aidan Kim (1) (Milford, MI) def. Garen Spicka (14) (Las Vegas, NV) 6-4; 6-1
Juncheng Shang (12) (Naples, FL) def. Brayden Michna (6) (Taylor, TX) 7-6; 1-6; 6-0
Lucas Brown (3) (Plano, TX) def. Kurt Miller (7) (Los Gatos, CA) 5-7; 6-4; 6-1
Learner Tien (15) (Irvine, CA) def. Nicholas Godsick (11) (Chagrin Falls, OH) 7-5; 4-6; 6-3

Girls' 12 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Thea Latak (1) (Darien, IL) def. Olivia Manson (Chicago, IL) 6-2; 3-6; 10-7
Emily Deming (4) (Fallbrook, CA) def. Natasha Rajaram (7) (Cupertino, CA) 6-2; 6-4
Annika Renganathan (14) (Sammamish, WA) def. Bianca Molnar (10) (Ladera Ranch, CA) 4-6; 6-3; 10-7
Daniela Borruel (Buena Park, CA) def. Adriana Sciara (Mountain Brk, AL) 6-1; 6-3

Girls' 14 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Stephanie Yakoff (1) (Fort Lee, NJ) def. Alexia Harmon (8) (Las Vegas, NV) 5-7; 6-3; 6-3
Tsehay Driscoll (3) (La Canada Flintridge, CA) def. Liv Hovde (12) (McKinney, TX) 6-4; 6-3
Qavia Lopez (15) (Grand Rapids, MI) def. Natalie Block (4) (Plantation, FL) 6-2; 6-4
Ria Bhakta (2) (Saratoga, CA) def. Madison Weekley (10) (Alamo, CA) 6-1; 6-1

Monday, March 25, 2019

Harvard Recruits Topple No. 1 and No. 5 Seeds in Easter Bowl ITF Opening Round; Top Seeds Advance to Quarterfinals in 12s and 14s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Indian Wells, CA--

When Daniel Milavsky stunned top seed Eliot Spizzirri 7-6(5), 6-3 in the first round of the ITF Easter Bowl early Monday afternoon, David Lins was there to see the upset unfold.

Both are headed to Harvard in the fall of 2020, and Lins felt compelled to step up his game later that afternoon against No. 5 seed Dali Blanch. Inspired, the 17-year-old from Boca Raton Florida came away with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win that closed out the first round of boys singles Monday evening.

"I told him sick match as he came off the court," Lins said. "And I told him he also put all the pressure on me. I couldn't get embarrassed after what he just did."

Milvasky was mentally preparing to play the No. 1 seed even before the draw was released.

"Before the tournament, my friend asked me who I wanted to play, and I said Eliot," said Milavsky, a Massachusetts resident who is five days younger than Lins. "When it came up in the draw, I was ready to do everything I can to get that W."

Milavsky cited his forehand and his serve as his go-to shots and said both were "on point" against Spizzirri. He also said he played smart and disciplined, which was evident when he revealed he hadn't looked to the serve speed display on the tournament's center court, even after a particularly big serve.

"I was way too focused for that," said Milavsky, who trains at the Manchester Athletic Club in Boston.

Milavsky called his win over Spizzirri the best of his career.

"Years ago, I never thought I'd even be here," Milavsky said. "I'm just living the dream."
While Milavsky had played a number of ITF Junior Circuit events prior to this week, Lins was playing his first. After winning three qualifying matches on Saturday and Sunday, he was fighting fatigue as well as a Top 100 opponent.

"It was all just building up from the qualies matches, which were not easy," Lins said.

His victory over Blanch also came with its share of challenges. Lins broke to go up 4-3 in the second set, but was unable to consolidate, throwing in two doubles faults and getting broken at love in what he said to himself on the court was "the worst game of my life."

"When you play a top player like that, there's no room for error," Lins said. "You have to stay on your game constantly and I had a mental lapse there at 4-3 and it cost me the set."

In the third set, Lins again got a break to go up 4-3, and this time he was able to consolidate it.

"I definitely thought I was playing a little too tentative in the second set in that game I got broken," Lins said. "So I tried to hit my first serve big, hit my spots and play my game solid."

Blanch held for 5-4, putting the pressure back on Lins, but he got five first serves in the final game, and although Blanch saved one match point with a forehand winner, his return on the second match point went long to end it.

"It was a lot a pressure, but I had to just go for it," said Lins, who trains at the Magallan Tennis Academy. "I had nothing to lose, came out here for qualies, first ITF. I go to school, so I really can't miss weeks at a time. I'm so far behind right now, but I'll have to deal with that when I get back."

Milavsky and Lins were not the only Harvard recruits to post victories, with No. 11 seed Ronan Jachuck, who starts school there this coming fall, getting a 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3 win over 2018 Easter Bowl 16s finalist Max McKennon.

Spizzirri was one of five seeds to lose in the opening round. No. 7 seed Will Grant lost to Frank Barnett 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-1; No. 8 seed Adam Neff lost to Irvine Grade 4 champion Micah Braswell 6-2, 6-0; No. 15 seed Hunter Heck lost to qualifier Ron Hohmann 7-6(0), 6-2 and No. 16 seed Tom Leblanc Claverie of France lost to Spencer Whitaker 7-5, 6-2.

The girls take the courts on Tuesday for their first round of singles matches, with the boys scheduled only for doubles. The girls first round doubles were played this afternoon, with top seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Lea Ma beating Josie Frazier and Ashley Yeah 3-6, 6-1, 10-3 and No. 2 seeds Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro defeating Nikita Vishwase and Katja Wiersholm 7-6(9), 6-2.

Live streaming on two courts is available at Easterbowl.com. Ken Thomas at radiotennis.com is also providing coverage on Tuesday.

The top seeds in the 16s both played at Indian Wells to open their tournaments and both were taken to three sets. Nadejda Maslova, the reigning Winter Nationals 16s champion, dropped the first set to Makenna Thiel, but came back to earn a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. Boys No. 1 seed Aryan Chaudhary got by Zachery Foster 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

The 12s and 14s divisions played their third round matches Monday, with the quarterfinals set for Tuesday.  Top seeds Aidan Kim, Maxwell Exsted, Stephanie Yakoff and Thea Latak are still in the running for Easter Bowl titles.  Below are Monday's third round results. Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Girls' 14 Singles (Round of 16)
Stephanie Yakoff (1) (Fort Lee, NJ) def. Natalia Perez (9) (Guaynabo, PR) 6-2; 6-4
Alexia Harmon (8) (Las Vegas, NV) def. Ava Krug (16) (Lakewood Ranch, FL) 6-1; 6-2
Tsehay Driscoll (3) (La Canada Flintridge, CA) def. Grace Levelston (Vero Beach, FL) 6-4; 6-4
Liv Hovde (12) (McKinney, TX) def. Maddy Zampardo (Grosse Pointe Farms, MI) 2-6; 6-4; 6-1
Qavia Lopez (15) (Grand Rapids, MI) def. Lara Smejkal (Boca Raton, FL) 6-1; 7-5
Natalie Block (4) (Plantation, FL) def. Isabella Chhiv (Irvine, CA) 7-6(5); 6-1
Madison Weekley (10) (Alamo, CA) def. Lamija Avdic (7) (Kirkland, WA) 6-3; 6-1
Ria Bhakta (2) (Saratoga, CA) def. Valeria Ray (Doral, FL) 6-1; 2-6; 6-4

Boys' 14 Singles (Round of 16)
Aidan Kim (1) (Milford, MI) def. Waleed Qadir (10) (Greenville, NC) 6-1; 4-2 Ret (inj)
Garen Spicka (14) (Las Vegas, NV) def. Chase Thompson (Mission Viejo, CA) 6-4; 6-3
Juncheng Shang (12) (Naples, FL) def. Will Mayew (4) (Cary, NC) 7-5; 6-3
Brayden Michna (6) (Taylor, TX) def. John Lasanajak (16) (Lawrenceville, GA) 6-4; 6-4
Kurt Miller (7) (Los Gatos, CA) def. David Saye (Charlotte, NC) 6-4; 6-1
Lucas Brown (3) (Plano, TX) def. Cooper Williams (9) (New York, NY) 6-2; 6-1
Nicholas Godsick (11) (Chagrin Falls, OH) def. Joseph Phillips (Alpharetta, GA) 6-2; 7-5
Learner Tien (15) (Irvine, CA) def. Yannik Rahman (2) (Miami, FL) 6-1; 6-2

Girls' 12 Singles (Round of 16)
Thea Latak (1) (Darien, IL) def. Tianmei Wang (13) (San Marino, CA) 6-0; 6-1
Olivia Manson (Chicago, IL) def. Jessica Bernales (Las Vegas, NV) 6-0; 7-6(4)
Emily Deming (4) (Fallbrook, CA) def. Atra Biria (Leawood, KS) 6-0; 6-1
Natasha Rajaram (7) (Cupertino, CA) def. Alexis Nguyen (El Dorado Hills, CA) 5-7; 6-1; 1-0(6)
Annika Renganathan (14) (Sammamish, WA) def. Polina Krumkachev (8) (Scottsdale, AZ) 3-0 Ret (inj) 
Bianca Molnar (10) (Ladera Ranch, CA) def. Valerie Gomez (Las Vegas, NV) 6-4; 6-0
Adriana Sciara (Mountain Brk, AL) def. Mariana Shulman (6) (Newton, MA) 6-0; 6-2 
Daniela Borruel (Buena Park, CA) def. Kavitha Gowda (Rochester Hills, MI) 6-0; 6-2

Boys' 12 Singles (Round of 16)
Maxwell Exsted (1) (Savage, MN) def. Roman Sancilio (15) (Henrico, VA) 6-3; 6-4
Vincent Yang (9) (Kirkland, WA) def. A Filer (5) (South Bend, IN) 6-1; 6-4
Abhinav Chunduru (4) (Plano, TX) def. Hughes Peus (Palos Verdes Estates, CA) 6-3; 6-1 
Abhishek Thorat (13) (Lithia, FL) def. Heath Waters (8) (Alpharetta, GA) 6-2; 7-6(3) 
Ritwik Hota (Leesburg, VA) def. Kase Schinnerer (11) (Lewisburg, PA) 6-4; 1-6; 1-0(10) 
Darren Huang (3) (Whitestone, NY) def. Cassius Chinlund (14) (Los Angeles, CA) 6-4; 6-3 
Joseph Hobbs (6) (Virginia Beach, VA) def. Francisco Salmain (Houston, TX) 6-1; 6-4 
Cooper Woestendick (2) (Olathe, KS) def. Braeden Gelletich (Goshen, NY) 6-3; 6-1