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Friday, March 31, 2017

Top Four Girls Seeds Advance to ITF Semifinals at Adidas Easter Bowl; Kypson Ousts Top Seed Bryde in Boys ITF Quarterfinals; 16s Finals Set for Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Indian Wells, CA--

The wind that caused an abbreviated Day Four at the adidas Easter Bowl ITF tournament on Thursday exited overnight, ushering in cooler temperatures and much better conditions for the quarterfinals.

Top seed Claire Liu was trailing Elli Mandlik 4-6, 3-1 when play resumed in the third round match this morning, but she was able to hold off the daughter of former WTA star Hana Mandlikova to record a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory and move into the quarterfinals. Her second match of the day was less taxing, with Liu beating No. 6 seed Caty McNally 6-2, 6-1.

Liu faces No. 3 seed Whitney Osuigwe, who outlasted No. 11 seed Ann Li 7-5, 7-6(5). Osuigwe, who turns 15 next month, saved three set points with Li serving at 6-5 in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker after an eight-deuce game. The tiebreaker was as close as the match, but it was Li who blinked at 5-all, hitting a forehand wide to give Osuigwe a match point, which she converted when Li netted a forehand.

"I knew I wasn't playing my best, but I knew if I kept fighting I would get through it," said Osuigwe, who didn't play last week's International Spring Championships in Carson because she could only play one more ITF junior event before her 15th birthday, deciding to make that one the Easter Bowl. "She also wasn't playing her best either, but she was hitting some good serves, so I knew there was nothing I could do."

Osuigwe had the advantage of playing on the court where she won the 14s title in 2015.

"It brought back good memories," Osuigwe said. "I told my dad (Desmond, who is also her coach) before I played that this was the court I won it on."

Osuigwe's favorite surface is clay, with the back-to-back Grade 1 titles on that surface in South America this winter boosting her confidence and her ranking.

"I definitely came in here confident," said Osuigwe, who also reached the Orange Bowl semifinals on the green clay in Plantation. "But anything can happen on any given day."

No. 4 seed Ellie Douglas, who reached the final last year, defeated No. 10 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting with No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson. Johnson defeated Douglas 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final of the Grade A in Mexico City last November.

Johnson was two points from defeat against No. 5 seed Hailey Baptiste at 5-5 in the second set tiebreaker, but an ill-advised attempt at a drop shot, which fell well short, gave Johnson an opportunity to even the match, and she did so, hitting a good first serve that Baptiste couldn't get back in play.  Johnson went up a break in the third set, lost it, but then reeled off four straight games to claim a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.

No. 6 seed Patrick Kypson has yet to drop a set this week at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden and he reached his first ITF Grade 1 semifinal with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over top seed Trent Bryde.

Kypson will face No. 8 seed Alafia Ayeni, who also earned his first Grade 1 semifinal with a tense 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over No. 14 seed Kyrylo Tsygura.

Tsygura served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but was thrown off by line calls he did not agree with, and Ayeni won the final three games of the match.

"In the heat of the moment everyone says a bunch of stuff," said the 17-year-old from San Diego. "There were a couple of calls from the ref that I think Kyrylo thought were against him at 5-4 and then at 5-all there a couple of calls I thought were suspect as well, but that's kind of how the game goes. I think he chose to focus on that, rather than try to get back into the match and that cost him the next game and pretty much the match."

Ayeni can recall beating Kypson only once previously, although he said they have played "many, many times."

"He is a very solid player," Ayeni said. "He's a complete player. He's developed his game very well. He had a strong base and he's built on it over the years. He's very talented and his ranking right now is really not an indication of how good he is. I respect him a lot as player and as a person. We're pretty good friends."

The other boys semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Sam Riffice, a finalist in the 2015 Easter Bowl ITF tournament, who beat No. 7 seed Brian Cernoch 6-1, 7-6(3).  Riffice will face No. 10 seed Sebastian Korda, who eliminated the last unseeded player in the draw with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Jake Sands.  Riffice and Korda have played three times in the past 12 months, with Riffice winning all three contests.

The doubles finals are set after the quarterfinals and semifinals were completed today (and tonight).  Top girls seeds McNally and Osuigwe defeated No. 3 seeds Douglas and Natasha Subhash 2-6, 6-2, 11-9 to reached the final against No. 2 seeds Johnson and Li.  Johnson and Li finished their 7-6(3), 6-3 semifinal win over Baptiste and Black after 8 p.m.   The boys final will have No. 3 seeds Oliver Crawford and Kypson facing No. 2 seeds Cernoch and Riffice.  Crawford and Kypson beat top seeds Ayeni and Bryde 6-3, 6-3 and Cernoch and Riffice took out unseeded Austen Huang and Ryan Seggerman by the same score.

The order of play for Saturday's singles semifinals and doubles finals and live streaming can be found at Easterbowl.com.

The 16s singles finals are set for Saturday at 9 a.m.  Top seed Brandon Nakashima will play No. 13 seed Stefan Dostanic for the boys title and unseeded Fiona Crawley will face No. 5 seed Emma Navarro for the girls championship.

The gold balls in boys 16s doubles went to unseeded Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker, who defeated No. 4 seeds Leighton Allen and Garrett Johns 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.

The girls 16s doubles final finished after 9 p.m., with unseeded Sedona Gallagher and Jillian Taggart beating No. 4 seeds Gabriella Cusano and Jayci Goldsmith 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 7-6(5).

For complete results from the 16s action today, including consolation matches, see the TennisLink site.

Friday March 31 results:

Boys’ ITF 18s Singles (Quarterfinals)
Patrick Kypson (6) (Greenville, NC) def. Trent Bryde (1) (Suwanee, GA) 6-4, 6-3
Alafia Ayeni (8) (San Diego, CA) def.  Kyrylo Tsygura (14) (North Potomac, MD) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
Sam Riffice (4) (Orlando, FL) def. Brian Cernoch (7) (Deerfield Beach, FL) 6-1, 7-6(3)
Sebastian Korda (10) (Bradenton, FL) def. Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA) 4-6, 6-1, 6-0

Boys' ITF 18s Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Alafia Ayeni / Trent Bryde (1) def. Lukas Greif / William Woodall (7) 4-6, 6-2, 13-11 Oliver Crawford / Patrick Kypson (3) def. Jenson Brooksby / Sebastian Mermersky 6-1, 6-1 
Austen Huang / Ryan Seggerman def. Vasil Kirkov / Sebastian Korda (4) Wo (inj) 
Brian Cernoch / Sam Riffice (2) def. Keenan Mayo / Timothy Sah (8) 6-2, 7-6(2)

Boys' ITF 18s Doubles (Semifinals)
Oliver Crawford / Patrick Kypson (3) def. Alafia Ayeni / Trent Bryde (1) 6-3, 6-3
Brian Cernoch / Sam Riffice (2) def. Austen Huang / Ryan Seggerman 6-3, 6-3

Girls' ITF 18s Singles (Round of 16)
Resumed from Thursday:
Claire Liu (1) (Thousand Oaks, CA) def. Elli Mandlik (16) (Bradenton, FL) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Hailey Baptiste (5) (Washington, DC) def. Amanda Meyer (12) (Delray Beach, FL) 6-3, 1-6, 6-1

Girls' ITF 18s Singles (Quarterfinals)
Claire Liu (1) (Thousand Oaks, CA) def. Caty McNally (6) (Cincinnati, OH) 6-2, 6-1
Whitney Osuigwe (3) (Bradenton, FL) def. Ann Li (11) (Devon, PA) 7-5, 7-6(5)
Ellie Douglas (4) (McKinney, TX) def. Hurricane Tyra Black (10) (Boca Raton, FL) 6-3, 6-3
Taylor Johnson (2) (Redondo Beach, CA) def. Hailey Baptiste (5) (Washington, DC) 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2

Girls' ITF 18s Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Whitney Osuigwe / Caty McNally (1) def. Victoria Flores / Amanda Meyer (6) 6-3 Ret (inj)
Ellie Douglas / Natasha Subhash (3) def,.Jimena Rodriguez-Benito / Marlee Zein 6-4, 6-4
Hailey Baptiste / Hurricane Tyra Black (4) def. Imani Graham / Lea Ma (8) 7-5, 3-6, 10-4
Taylor Johnson / Ann Li (2) def. Elysia Bolton / Nicole Mossmer (5) 2-6, 6-3, 10-7

Girls' ITF 18s Doubles (Semifinals)
Whitney Osuigwe / Caty McNally (1) def. Ellie Douglas / Natasha Subhash (3), 2-6, 6-2, 11-9
Taylor Johnson / Ann Li (2) def. Hailey Baptiste / Hurricane Tyra Black (4), 7-6(3), 6-3 

Boys' 16 Singles (Semifinals)
Stefan Dostanic (13) (Irvine, CA) def. Ryder Jackson (8) (Nicasio, CA), 6-1, 6-1
Brandon Nakashima (1) (San Diego, CA) def. Andrew Dale (4) (Leesburg, VA), 6-1, 6-4

Boys' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
Eliot Spizzirri / Spencer Whitaker def. Leighton Allen / Garrett Johns (4) 6-4, 5-7, 6-1

Boys' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Eliot Spizzirri / Spencer Whitaker def. Robert Cash / J J Mercer (1) 6-3, 6-4
Leighton Allen / Garrett Johns (4) def. Spencer Brachman / Jeffrey Fradkin 6-3, 6-0

Boys' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
Robert Cash / J J Mercer (1) def. Spencer Brachman / Jeffrey Fradkin 6-0, 6-1

Girls' 16 Singles (Semifinals)
Fiona Crawley (San Antonio, TX) def. Sedona Gallagher (3) (Henderson, NV), 6-4, 6-4
Emma Navarro (5) (Charleston, SC) def. Dasha Kourkina (2) (Brooklyn, N,Y,), 6-4, 6-4

Girls' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
Sedona Gallagher / Jillian Taggart def. Gabriella Cusano / Jayci Goldsmith (4) 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 7-6(5)

Girls' 16 Doubles (Semifinal Round)
Gabriella Cusano / Jayci Goldsmith (4) def. Audrey Boch-Collins / Britt Pursell 6-2, 7-6(4)
Sedona Gallagher / Jillian Taggart def. Najah Dawson / Rachel Wagner 6-4, 7-5

Girls' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
Audrey Boch-Collins / Britt Pursell def. Najah Dawson / Rachel Wagner 6-4, 6-4

My ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Recap; Q and A with New USTA Head of Men's Tennis Brian Boland

With three more days left in the adidas Easter Bowl, we're down to the 16s and 18s, with the champions in 12s and 14s crowned on Thursday. Before the ITF quarterfinals and 16 semifinals begin today, here's my Tennis Recruiting Network article wrapping up last week's tournament at the International Spring Championships in Carson.

Also, the USTA has posted an interview with University of Virginia's men's coach Brian Boland, who will replace Jay Berger as the USTA's head of men's tennis in June.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kang and Nelson Win Adidas Easter Bowl 12s Titles; Bernard Takes Boys 14s, Owensby Saves Seven Match Points for Girls 14s Championship; Sands Beats Defending ITF Champion Ross

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Indian Wells, CA--

Before high winds and blowing sand suspended play at the adidas Easter Bowl Thursday afternoon, the 12s and 14s champions earned their gold balls at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Kyle Kang won the boys 12s title over Nishesh Basavareddy 6-2, 6-4 and Priya Nelson took the girls 12s championship match by a 6-1, 6-3 score over Eleana Yu.  No. 9 seed Alexander Bernard made it three straight-sets finals, beating No. 2 seed Aryan Chaudhary 6-4, 6-2 in the boys 14s final, leaving the drama to the girls 14s, where No. 8 seed Charlotte Owensby saved seven match points to defeat top seed Gianna Pielet 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

Owensby trailed Pielet 5-2 in the third set, giving Pielet two opportunities to serve out the match. Pielet didn't get to match point serving at 5-2, but she had four chances to finish it off with Owensby serving at 5-3.  Pielet converted none of those, but she went up 40-0 serving for the match a second time, and that's when Owensby began to think her luck might have run out.

"When it was 5-4, and she went up 40-0 I definitely thought I was done," said the 14-year-old Owensby, who couldn't think of any previous match where she had come back from that far down.  "But I just took it one point at a time, and when I got it to 5-all, I just focused on that game and when I won that game, I thought I could win the match."

Owensby made almost no unforced errors in the final five games, while Pielet had trouble staying in points as her lead dwindled.  Owensby took a 6-5 lead, assured of no worse than a final tiebreaker, and the next game was a disaster for Pielet, who double faulted twice and made two unforced errors, including a netted backhand on the first match point against her.

Pielet, the reigning Eddie Herr 14s and USTA girls 14s national champion, had plenty of experience on the big stage, but she couldn't shake her nerves.

"It was definitely my nerves," said Pielet, an eighth-grader from El Paso Texas, whose father Doug won the 14s and 16s Easter Bowl titles in 1979 and 1981. "The crowd, the umpire, the live [stream], I think that's why we both didn't play very well."

"I think we were both really nervous," said Owensby, who added her first gold ball in singles to a gold ball she won in doubles at the 2015 Clay Courts. "I tried to focus more on my plan of getting her off the court and when that started working, she got more nervous and started to make more errors. And then I got more confident and started to come into net or hit a couple winners."

Owensby, who is based in Boca Raton Florida, is coached there by former WTA Top 100 player Yuliya Beygelzimer of Ukraine.

"We started working together about a year ago for about five months and then we parted because she had to play more pro tournaments to keep her visa," Owensby said. "We've been back together now for the last few months."

Owensby spoke to Beygelzimer during the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, where coaching is allowed by USTA rules.

"My coach was kind of upset with me then," said Owensby. "She said I was talking too much and talking myself out of the match. She told me I needed to stay quiet and focus on a point at a time."

Owensby's plans in April will include a trip to the ITF World Junior Tennis North/Central America team qualifying in Campeche Mexico.

Bernard will be another Easter Bowl champion from Florida representing the United States in the ITF World Junior Tennis qualifying.  After a successful trip to Europe this winter, where he reached the semifinals at both the Nike International in Bolton and Les Petits As, Bernard was not a surprising winner, despite being seeded ninth.

"I learned a lot over there," said the 13-year-old left-hander from Naples. "This was a big court, but it wasn't the biggest, so I wasn't as nervous. I went out expecting what was there, nothing new really."

Bernard went down 3-1 in the first set, but broke Chaudhary in his next two service games and made the second break stand up.

"I started out making too many mistakes, but I tightened those mistakes up, and started moving him around the court pretty well," said Bernard, who trains with Rene Gomez at the Gomez Tennis Academy in Naples. "He played well, but I moved him around a lot."

Chaudhary said the setting wasn't intimidating for him either.

"I felt great, I felt like this is where I'm meant to be," said Chaudhary, who won a gold ball in doubles Wednesday evening. "I felt I played up to my potential today, but Alex was just one step ahead."

The second set featured a slew of breaks, with six of the first seven games going to the receiver, but Bernard was able to crack a couple of big backhands from 5-2 30-all to collect the final game and his first gold ball.

Bernard had a Thursday evening flight back to Florida, so he said his celebration plans might be nothing more than a trip to McDonald's.

"Or In-N-Out," he said of the famous Southern California hamburger chain. "I've never had one, I should try it."

Although she was a Little Mo champion, Nelson had not played for a gold ball before and was making her Easter Bowl debut.  But the 12-year-old from Sacramento felt no jitters in her win over Yu, who was also unseeded in the girls 12s field.

Not only did Nelson say she was not nervous and seldom is when she plays, she said she was not worried when Yu cut her lead from 4-1 to 4-3 in the second set.

"No, not at all," Nelson said when asked if she was concerned about dropping those two games. "I knew I could win."

The confident Nelson, who trains with Joe Gilbert and the JMG Tennis Academy in Sacramento, has split her time between the 14s and 12s division, but she said she wasn't afraid of any of the seeds, three of whom she defeated en route to the final.

As for a celebration, Nelson, who turns 12 in June, won't have much time for one.

"I'm going home tonight, and I have practice tomorrow, then I have another tournament this weekend," Nelson said.

Yu gave credit to Nelson, but felt her own game was short on execution.

"I had the right plan, I just didn't execute it as well as I thought I could," the 12-year-old Yu said. "The nerves got to me. I definitely learned a lot this week and I think I can apply it to my practices."

Boys 12s champion Kang admitted that the occasion also overwhelmed him a bit at the start of Thursday's final.  But after falling behind 2-0 to open the match, he reeled off six straight games to take the set, using his dangerous forehand to control and finish points.

"I just focused and I was able to hit my shots," Kang said when asked how he dealt with his nerves.

At 4-4 in the second set, Kang saved a break point, immediately putting the pressure back on Basavareddy. Kang couldn't convert his first match point, hitting a backhand long, but he crushed a forehand winner on his second match point to claim the championship.

"My heart was racing when I won," admitted the 12-year-old Kang, who trains at Fullerton Tennis Center.

Basavareddy said Kang's ability to control points made it difficult for him.

"He started playing good and he was moving me a lot," said the 11-year-old from Indiana, who won a gold ball in singles at the Winter Nationals two years ago and another last night in doubles. "He was just staying consistent and moving me around."

The 18s and 16s were playing in the shadow of the two younger age divisions, so the upset of defending champion and No. 2 seed Gianni Ross was not the news it might have been on a non-finals day.  Ross, who reached the final last week at the International Spring Championships in Carson, lost to unseeded Jake Sands 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the only three-set match in the boys draw.

Carson champion Alexandre Rotsaert saw his winning streak end at eight, when he lost a rematch of the 2015 Kalamazoo final to Patrick Kypson 6-3, 6-1.  Kypson, the No. 6 seed, knew that he had to be sharp if he was going to get by a confident Rotsaert.

"I hadn't play him since then," said Kypson, who took that 2015 contest by a 6-3, 6-3 score. "Obviously he won last week and he beat the snot out of someone yesterday, so I was prepared for a battle.  I know when he plays well, he plays me well, so it was a good win."

Kypson, who lost to Ross in the quarterfinals last week, was happy with his level today.

"I played well, strategically played pretty smart and solid," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I kept my head together, so that was good. I needed to play my style of tennis, big hitting and serving well."

Kypson wil play top seed Trent Bryde in Friday's quarterfinals, after Bryde defeated unseeded Paul Barretto 7-5, 6-2.

"We haven't played in like three years," Kypson said. "Trent's like my brother, so it will be fun to go out there and compete. We'll both compete really hard and see who comes out on top."

While all seven boys matches on the schedule were completed, the girls did not finish before play was stopped around 2:30 p.m. due to winds exceeding 30 mph and blowing dust and sand.

No. 5 seed Hailey Baptiste was leading No. 12 seed Amanda Meyer 6-3, 1-6, 5-0 and top seed Claire Liu was trailing No. 16 seed Elli Mandlik 6-4, 1-3 when play was halted. Their matches will be first on the main show courts at 9 a.m. Friday. The winds are expected to subside this evening.

No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson defeated No. 14 seed Vanessa Ong 6-3, 6-2 and No. 3 seed Whitney Osuigwe, the 2015 Easter Bowl 14s champion, beat Katie Volynets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The 16s semifinals are set in the boys draw and three girls quarterfinals winners are known, but not the fourth.  See below for the results from today.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Boys’ ITF 18s Singles (Round of 16)
Jake Sands (Pacific Palisades, CA) def. Gianni Ross (2) (Orlando, FL) 4-6, 6-4, 6-2
Sebastian Korda (10) (Bradenton, FL) def. Oliver Crawford (5) (Spartanburg, SC) 6-2, 6-3
Sam Riffice (4) (Orlando, FL) def. Trey Hilderbrand (San Antonio, TX) 6-2, 6-3
Brian Cernoch (7) (Deerfield Beach, FL) def. William Grant (Boca Raton, FL) 6-2, 6-3
Alafia Ayeni (8) (San Diego, CA) def. Lukas Greif (11) (Evansville, IN) 6-4, 6-2
Patrick Kypson (6) (Greenville, NC) def. Alexandre Rotsaert (9) (Boca Raton, FL) 6-3, 6-1
Trent Bryde (1) (Suwanee, GA) def. Paul Barretto (Tiburon, CA) 7-5, 6-2

Girls' ITF 18s Singles (Round of 16)
Caty McNally (6) (Cincinnati, OH) def. Alexa Noel (Summit, NJ) 6-2, 6-1
Ann Li (11) (Devon, PA) def. Rachel Lim (Briarcliff Manor, NY) 6-0, 6-1
Whitney Osuigwe (3) (Bradenton, FL) def. Katie Volynets (Walnut Creek, CA) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Hurricane Tyra Black (10) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Cali Jankowski (Carlsbad, CA) 6-1, 6-3
Ellie Douglas (4) (McKinney, TX) def. McCartney Kessler (Calhoun, GA) 2-6, 6-3, 6-1
Taylor Johnson (2) (Redondo Beach, CA) def. Vanessa Ong (14) (Oklahoma City, OK) 6-3, 6-2
Elizabeth Mandlik (Boynton Beach, FL) (16) leads Claire Liu (1) (Thousand Oaks, CA) 6-4, 1-3
Hailey Baptiste (Washington D.C.) (5) leads Amanda Meyer (Delray Beach, FL) (12) 6-3, 1-6, 5-0

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinals)
Ryder Jackson (8) (Nicasio, CA) def. Alex Lee (11) (Oak Brook, IL) 7-5, 7-6(4)
Stefan Dostanic (13) (Irvine, CA) def. Jacob Bullard (Calabasas, CA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Andrew Dale (4) (Leesburg, VA) def. Nathan Arimilli (10) (Austin, TX) 4-6, 7-5, 6-1
Brandon Nakashima (1) (San Diego, CA) def. Leighton Allen (6) (Austin, TX) 6-3, 6-2

Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Fiona Crawley (San Antonio, TX) def. Audrey Boch-Collins (11) (Las Vegas, NV) 6-4, 6-1
Sedona Gallagher (3) (Henderson, NV) def. Ava Hrastar (8) (Duluth, GA) 6-0, 7-5
Emma Navarro (5) (Charleston, SC) def. Jayci Goldsmith (9) (Dripping Springs, TX) 6-1, 6-3

Boys' 14 Singles (Final Round)
Alexander Bernard (9) (Bonita Springs, FL) def. Aryan Chaudhary (2) (Santa Clara, CA) 6-4, 6-2
Boys' 14 Singles (Playoff)
Martin Damm (Bradenton, FL) def. Maxwell McKennon (1) (Newport Beach, CA) 6-2, 6-4

Girls' 14 Singles (Final Round)
Charlotte Owensby (8) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Gianna Pielet (1) (El Paso, TX) 6-4, 2-6, 7-5
Girls' 14 Singles (Playoff)
Connie Ma (14) (Dublin, CA) def. Kailey Evans (6) (Ennis, TX) Wo (inj)

Boys' 12 Singles (Final Round)
Kyle Kang (Fullerton, CA) def. Nishesh Basavareddy (Carmel, IN) 6-2, 6-4
Boys' 12 Singles (Playoff)
Lucas Brown (3) (Plano, TX) def. Cooper Williams (4) (New York, NY) 6-4, 6-2

Girls' 12 Singles (Final Round)
Priya Nelson (Sacramento, CA) def. Eleana Yu (Mason, OH) 6-1, 6-3
Girls' 12 Singles (Playoff)
Matilyn Wang (1) (Scottsdale, AZ) def. Violeta Martinez (9) (Port Saint Lucie, FL) 6-3, 6-2

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kirkov Survives Tough Second Round at Adidas Easter Bowl ITF, then Withdraws with Injury; Tsygura on Boland's Departure; Finals Set for 12s and 14s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Indian Wells, CA--

Temperatures rose into the 90s for the second round of the adidas Easter Bowl ITF tournament Wednesday, but the energy-sapping heat didn't result in any major upsets.

Unseeded Paul Barretto took down No. 16 seed Keenan Mayo 6-0, 6-3 in the only match a seeded boy lost Wednesday; two seeded girls were eliminated, with Alexa Noel taking out Natasha Subhash 6-2, 7-6(1) and Rachel Lim, the 2014 girls 14s champion, beating No. 8 seed Nicole Mossmer 7-6(5), 6-2.

No. 3 seed Vasil Kirkov was on the verge of being upset by Blake Croyder, two points from elimination serving at 4-5 in the third set, but Kirkov managed to survive by winning several key points near the end to take a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory. It was the only three-set match of the 16 played in the boys draw.

"He was playing really relaxed, as if he had nothing to lose," said Kirkov. "He was just going out swinging. We're good friends, we've played a lot of junior tournaments together and trained at Boca. In the first set, I played all right, maybe I was trying to force a little too much early on."

Kirkov is suffering from a sprained finger on his right hand, and he used a medical timeout to get treatment on it after the first set. Kirkov then went on a run, winning eight of the next nine games, to take a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Croyder wasn't done, getting the break back. Both players held, with Kirkov using some good serving to get out of that 4-5 0-30 hole.

"I hit some good services, one ace, a couple of unreturnables," Kirkov said. "Maybe he felt a little pressure after that, that he missed his chance a little bit. At 5-all he made a couple of mistakes, but I felt I did a good job of making him play."

Croyder missed a volley to go down 30-40 and then netted a forehand to give Kirkov the break. He closed out the match with more good serving, finishing it on his first match point, with a good first serve and forehand in the corner."

Kirkov played the qualifying for the Miami Open two weeks ago, going three sets with Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.  The finger sprain was an issue back then as well, and Kirkov considered dropping out of the Easter Bowl due to the persistent pain, but decided to try to play knowing he is not 100 percent.

"I'm not expecting a lot of myself," said Kirkov, who pulled out of the second round of doubles today. "I thought why not, everything's paid for already, so I might as well give it a try, but it's probably not going to work out."

Later in the day, Kirkov withdrew from singles as well, giving No. 14 seed Kyrylo Tsygura a walkover into to the quarterfinals.

Tsygura advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Austen Huang, focusing well despite his surprise upon learning that the coach he thought he would be playing for at the University of Virginia next year, Brian Boland, was leaving to head men's tennis at the USTA.

"I was pretty surprised because I didn't hear anything about it," said Tsygura, who saw the news on twitter Tuesday night, but wasn't certain until this morning, when he received a call from Boland."The team was doing so good, and everything seemed to be going so good, it just kind of shocked me, I guess."

Tsygura, who turns 18 in May, said that Boland was a "super important" part of his decision to commit to Virginia.

"He was one of the best coaches in college tennis," Tsygura said. "After we met him, my parents, they loved him too. I was looking forward to working with him for the next few years. Now it's getting ready to who is coming in and adjust for that. Four seniors are leaving, coach Boland is leaving, so it will be a fresh start almost."

Although Tsygura is disappointed that he won't be coached by Boland in the next few years, he understands why Boland chose to leave.

"I told him I was really happy for him," Tsygura said. "He's so outgoing and resourceful and he knows so many people, I think he can really help the USTA. I'm sure he'll know what to do, because he's been with juniors and college and all those guys for so long."

Top seed Trent Bryde defeated Ryan Goetz 6-3, 6-4 to advance against Barretto.  A rematch of the 2015 Kalamazoo 16s final will be played Thursday, with No. 9 seed Alexandre Rotsaert taking on No. 6 seed Patrick Kypson.  Rotsaert defeated Bill Duo 6-0, 6-1, while Kypson came from two breaks down in the first set to defeated Axel Nefve 7-5, 6-2.

Top seed Claire Liu beat Malkia Menguene 6-4, 6-3 and will play No. 16 seed Elli Mandlik Thursday.  No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson kept the drama to a minimum in her rematch with Kelly Chen, after Chen had failed to convert a match point in the second round last week in Carson. Johnson won today 6-3, 6-2, and will play No. 14 seed Vanessa Ong on Thursday.

The most exciting finish of a girls match today was No. 12 seed Amanda Meyer's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(1) win over Janice Shin.  Meyer was broken serving for the match at 5-4 in the third without getting a match point, but she raised her level dramatically in the tiebreaker, hitting winners and forcing errors from Shin.  Meyer will play No. 5 seed Hailey Baptiste, who also came from a set down, beating Salma Ewing 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.

The draws can be found at the ITF junior website.  The order of play is available at the Easter Bowl website.

The singles finals for the 12s and 14s divisions will be played Thursday morning at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The boys 14s championship match will feature No. 9 seed Alexander Bernard and No. 2 seed Aryan Chaudhary. The girls 14s title will be decided between top seed Gianna Pielet and No. 8 seed Charlotte Owensby.

In the boys 12s, Nishesh Basavareddy and Kyle Kang will play for the championship, while the girls 12s final will feature Priya Nelson and Eleana Yu. None of the 12s finalists are seeded.

The doubles finals were played Wednesday evening, with Pielet, Basavareddy and Chaudhary winning gold balls in advance of their singles finals Thursday.  Below are photos of the winners.  Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Boys' 12 Doubles (Final): Landon Ardila/Nishesh Basavareddy def. Brock Anderson/John Kim 6-3, 7-6(4)

Girls' 12 Doubles (Final): Gracie Epps/Ireland Simme (5) def. Phoebe Peus/Matilyn Wang 6-3, 2-6, 10-6

Boys' 14 Doubles (Final): Timothy Li/ Aryan Chaudhary (3) def. Martin Damm/Aidan Mayo 7-5, 6-1

Girls' 14 Doubles (Final): Kylie Collins/Gianna Pielet (1) def. Avery Durham/Allie Gretkowski 6-0, 6-4

Boys' 14 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Alexander Bernard (9) (Bonita Springs, FL) def. Maxwell McKennon (1) (Newport Beach, CA) 6-3, 6-1
Aryan Chaudhary (2) (Santa Clara, CA) def. Martin Damm (Bradenton, FL) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3

Boys' 14 Doubles (Third Place)
Jameson Corsillo / Maxwell McKennon def. Grant Durham / Isaac Smith 6-1, 6-3

Girls' 14 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Gianna Pielet (1) (El Paso, TX) def. Kailey Evans (6) (Ennis, TX) Wo (inj)
Charlotte Owensby (8) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Connie Ma (14) (Dublin, CA) 6-3, 6-3

Girls' 14 Doubles (Third Place)
Amber Fuller / Sophia Strugnell def. Kailey Evans / Katherine Petty (2) Wo (inj)

Boys' 12 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Kyle Kang (Fullerton, CA) def. Lucas Brown (3) (Plano, TX) 4-6, 6-1, 10-5
Nishesh Basavareddy (Carmel, IN) def. Cooper Williams (4) (New York, NY) 6-2, 6-4

Boys' 12 Doubles (Third Place)
Jelani Sarr/Cooper Williams (1) def. James Rico/Learner Tien (5) 6-2, 6-4

Girls' 12 Singles (Semifinal Round)
Priya Nelson (Sacramento, CA) def. Violeta Martinez (9) (Port Saint Lucie, FL) 6-4, 2-6, 10-2
Eleana Yu (Mason, OH) def. Matilyn Wang (1) (Scottsdale, AZ) 6-4, 6-2

Girls' 12s Doubles (Third Place)
Jaiden McKee/Stephanie Yakoff (5) def. Daria Smetannikov/Elizabeth Tkachenko 6-4, 6-4

University of Virginia's Brian Boland Succeeds Jay Berger as Head of USTA Men's Tennis

The USTA announced this morning that Brian Boland, head coach at the University of Virginia, will join its Player Development staff as head of men's tennis after the current collegiate season concludes.  Boland succeeds Jay Berger, who announced he was leaving the position ten days ago.

The complete USTA release is below.  The University of Virginia also posted a release that includes additional comments from Boland, as well as comments from University of Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage. It says a national search will be conducted, although associate head coach Dustin Taylor is obviously a top contender.  After winning three NCAA team titles in the past four seasons, Boland leaves some big shoes to fill.


Renowned University of Virginia Men’s Head Coach to Succeed Jay Berger Following the Conclusion of the 2017 College Season

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., March 29, 2017 – The USTA today announced that University of Virginia men’s head coach Brian Boland has been named as USTA Player Development’s next Head of Men’s Tennis. Boland will report directly to USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman out of the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla.

As Head of Men’s Tennis, Boland will oversee all training and coaching of male juniors, collegians and pros by USTA Player Development and will manage all USTA National Coaches on the men’s side, in the Team USA – Pro, Collegiate and Junior bands.

Boland replaces Jay Berger, who chose to step down this year after nine years in the position. Berger will remain in the role through June to assist with the transition, as Boland finishes the collegiate season with the reigning NCAA champion Cavaliers.

"Brian brings a unique skill set to Player Development, a combination of management and coaching expertise, which enabled him to build a championship culture at the University of Virginia,” Blackman said. “He's long been an innovative leader in the world of college tennis and athletics and is the right person at the right time – a person who can build on the great foundation that has been laid by Jay Berger and our men’s coaches and take us to the next level."

Boland has been the head men’s coach at Virginia since 2002 and has guided the Cavaliers to a 419-57 record (prior to this season) and three NCAA team championships (2013, 2015-16). Boland has been the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Coach of the Year twice (2008, 2016) and has coached his players to three NCAA singles titles, three NCAA doubles titles, three ITA National Player of the Year and 42 ITA All-American honors. Boland’s Virginia teams have been ranked No. 1 in 10 different seasons and have reached the NCAA title match five out of the last six years. From April 2006 to February 2016, Boland’s Cavaliers won 140 straight matches against ACC opponents, the longest winning streak by any team in any sport in ACC history.

Prior to Virginia, Boland was the head men’s coach at his alma mater Indiana State for five seasons, going 121-32, giving him a 540-89 record (prior to this season) as a college head coach.

"This is an incredible opportunity for me and my family, and I feel honored and privileged to lead our Men's National Coaches and serve all of Team USA," Boland said. "This is a very exciting time for American tennis. I believe wholeheartedly that Team USA is blessed with the brightest coaches in the game, a pipeline of players that merit our support and a sense of urgency nationwide to propel American tennis to the top of our global sport. I look forward to building close and trusting relationships with the entire Player Development team and building on the great foundation that has been laid by Jay Berger, in working together with the private sector to grow the game and develop the future of American men's tennis."

In January, USTA Player Development relocated its headquarters from Boca Raton, Fla., to the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, where its adidas Performance Center features eight outdoor hard courts, six European red clay courts and six indoor hard courts, as well as a state of the art athletic training area and a player lodge, which can house up to 40 players participating in Player Development programs. Additionally, the National Campus features a ‘Team USA’ area, where coaches and players from each of the USTA’s 17 sections can utilize to work collaboratively with Player Development.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bilokin Beats Bolton for Belated Birthday Gift; Top Seed Bryde Begins Quest for Adidas Easter Bowl Title with First Round Win; Semis Set for 12s and 14s

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Indian Wells, CA--

Margaryta Bilokin wasn't scheduled to play her opening round match at the adidas Easter Bowl ITF until Tuesday, a bit of luck that allowed her to have her 16th birthday celebration Monday with the stress of a tennis match. The Ukrainian native gave herself a belated present today, beating No. 7 seed and International Spring Championships semifinalist Elysia Bolton 6-2, 7-6(2) at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Bilokin was pleased with her preparation and strategy in the match.

"I tried to keep it deep and play aggressive at the same time, and hit it more to her backhand," said Bilokin, who recently moved from Connecticut to the IMG Academy in Florida. "I did my homework, I was well prepared for the match and I stayed focused."

Even with that mindset, Bilokin was beginning to worry after she failed to convert four match points prior to the the tiebreaker.

"I was getting a little nervous because I wasn't really playing during those points the way I played the whole match," Bilokin said. "But eventually in the tiebreaker, I was able to come back to my game."

Bilokin is playing in her first Easter Bowl this year and the tournament has made a good first impression.  "I like the facility, I like the tennis courts, and everything is well organized."

Bolton was the only seed playing today who failed to advance to Wednesday's second round. No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson defeated qualifier Chloe Hamlin 6-1, 6-0 and 2016 finalist and No. 4 seed Ellie Douglas beat Jessica Anzo 6-3, 6-0.  Johnson will play wild card Kelly Chen, who she also met in the second round last week in Carson, with Johnson saving a match point in her nearly four-hour 7-6(3), 5-7, 7-6(3) victory.

The top three seeds in the boys ITF draw were in action Tuesday, with No. 3 seed Vasil Kirkov and 2016 champion Gianni Ross, the No. 2 seed, earning straight-sets victories over Alexander Brown and Conrad Russell respectively.  Top seed Trent Bryde defeated qualifier Benjamin Gollin 6-1, 7-6(4), a match he was happy to win after suffering a first round defeat last week as the top seed in the International Spring Championships in Carson.

"I had never heard of him," Bryde said. "I just wanted to play my game, after the tough first round last week, I just wanted to get through it.  I played solid and I was up 6-1, 4-1, a double break, and the balls were getting a little old and he was able to tee off a little more because the balls were a little slower. So it took some adjusting for me. I was down 5-4 and saved a set point, then I was up 6-5, 40-15, but he fought his way back. But in the breaker, I just played really solid."

Bryde won the first ITF single title of his career last month in Brazil, at the Grade A in Porto Alegre, moving his ranking into the ITF Top 10 for the first time. Although Bryde has played on the South American clay numerous times, he admitted his preparation for that tournament was unconventional.

"A couple of months before that and even going to Australia, I wasn't having good results," said Bryde, who trains at Lifetime Fitness in the Atlanta area. "I wasn't too confident in my game at all, actually. I was originally supposed to play the Grade 1 (Banana Bowl) before, but after Australia, I said no, I don't even want to go, I'm playing not good, I just want to train a little bit. So I didn't go in with much expectation and a lot of things went right for me.  I actually didn't train on even green clay before. I trained on indoor hard to get ready for it.  I was hitting with Donald Young, because he had Memphis coming up on indoor hard.  So when I got [to Brazil] it didn't feel bad, the ball felt slower after playing with Donald and playing indoors, so that helped me a little bit. I felt like I had a lot of time."

Bryde said hitting with Young and former NC State star James McGee, who is ranked 212, has benefited him in countless ways.

"Honestly, just hitting against those guys and asking questions, they want nothing but to just help you," said Bryde, a junior who has yet to begin exploring any college options. "They give you a lot of guidance and are really helpful and to see the ball at that high level is really incredible. It's really good for me."

Bryde and Alafia Ayeni are seeded no. 1 in doubles and they opened doubles play today with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Nevin Arimilli and Bill Duo. Girls top seeds Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe received a first round bye.

For complete results from today, see the ITF junior website.

Links to the live stream and Wednesday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

The semifinals are set for the 12s and 14s divisions, with the results from the quarterfinals below.  The doubles finals are to follow the singles semifinals Wednesday.  Complete draws are available at the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, March 28
Boys' 12 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Nishesh Basavareddy (Carmel, IN) def. Nicholas Godsick (Chagrin Falls, OH) 6-3; 6-2
Cooper Williams (4) (New York, NY) def. John Kim (Sunnyvale, CA) 0-6; 6-0; 10-3
Lucas Brown (3) (Plano, TX) def. Ethan Schiffman (Rancho Santa Fe, CA) 6-1; 6-2
Kyle Kang (Fullerton, CA) def. Will Mayew (5) (Chapel Hill, NC) 6-4; 6-1

Boys' 14 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Maxwell McKennon (1) (Newport Beach, CA) def. Griffin Daehnke (6) (San Clemente, CA) 3-6; 6-4; 6-3
Alexander Bernard (9) (Bonita Springs, FL) def. Noah Gampel (15) (Calabasas, CA) 7-6(5); 6-0
Martin Damm (Bradenton, FL) def. Timothy Li (16) (Valley Village, CA) 6-3; 6-4
Aryan Chaudhary (2) (Santa Clara, CA) def. Alex Lin (7) (Gold River, CA) 7-6(7); 6-4

Girls' 12 Singles (Quarterfinal Round)
Matilyn Wang (1) (Scottsdale, AZ) def. Lamija Avdic (Kirkland, WA) 6-3; 6-4
Eleana Yu (Mason, OH) def. Reese Brantmeier (Whitewater, WI) 7-5; 6-4
Violeta Martinez (9) (Port Saint Lucie, FL) def. Alexis Blokhina (15) (Plantation, FL) 6-3; 3-6; 10-8
Priya Nelson (Sacramento, CA) def. Ava Krug (12) (Lakewood Ranch, FL) 6-3; 6-1

Girls' 14 Singles (Quarterfinal Round) 
Gianna Pielet (1) (El Paso, TX) def. Kimberly Hance (Torrance, CA) 6-2; 6-1
Kailey Evans (6) (Ennis, TX) def. Jennifer Kida (9) (Wilmington, CA) 6-1; 6-1
Connie Ma (14) (Dublin, CA) def. Emma Jackson (4) (LA Grange Park, IL) 6-0; 6-1
Charlotte Owensby (8) (Boca Raton, FL) def. Hina Inoue (Huntington Beach, CA) 6-1; 6-4

Monday, March 27, 2017

Former Champion Claire Liu Takes Wild Card into Adidas Easter Bowl ITF; Upsets in 12s and 16s Divisions; Team USA Developmental Coaches Awards Announced

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Indian Wells, CA--

The wind blew in the desert Monday for the opening day of the adidas Easter Bowl ITF tournament, but the challenging conditions didn't faze 2015 champion Claire Liu, who loves playing in the Coachella Valley.

Liu, the top seed in the tournament after accepting a wild card, defeated Chloe Beck 6-1, 6-1, her first match since her previous trip to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where she reached the final of the BNP Paribas Challenge pre-qualifying tournament and played in the first round of qualifying at the WTA Premier event.

"I think I played pretty well," said Liu, who will turn 17 in May. "I was training for like three weeks after Indian Wells and I did all the things I practiced so I am pretty happy about that."

Liu said she needed a wild card due to a late entry. The points she was losing from reaching the final last year at Carson and her upcoming schedule made playing this week her best option.

"I'm losing points from ISC and I'm not going to play the junior tournaments before the French, so I was going to lose some doubles points from that, so I just wanted to keep my ranking up, and get some more matches."

Liu didn't lack for matches earlier this month at the BNP Paribas Challenge, winning six of them before falling to Maria Sanchez in the final. She said she continued to work on her game in those matches, while enjoying the chance to compete at her favorite venue.

"I always love this tournament because I've done so well here," 2014 16s finalist Liu said, then adding, under her breath, "except for last year. I love this tournament, I love Palm Springs and Indian Wells. Easter Bowl and Indian Wells (BNP Paribas Open) are my favorite tournaments."

Other top girls seeds in action Monday included No. 3 seed Whitney Osuigwe, who defeated Jimena Rodriguez-Benito 6-1, 6-1 and 2016 semifinalist Caty McNally, who got past Sara Choy 6-2, 6-4.

In boys first round action, 2015 finalist Sam Riffice, the No. 4 seed, defeated Robert Maciag 7-6(6), 6-0, No. 6 seed Patrick Kypson advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Nevin Arimilli and No. 8 seed Alafia Ayeni beat Robert Baylon 6-3, 6-4.

The boys 12s division lost its two top seeds in today's third round. Nicholas Godsick, the son of Mary Joe Fernandez defeated top seed Learner Tien 6-4, 6-1 and Kyle Kang beat Jelani Sarr 6-2, 2-6, 10-8.

In the boys 16s, Carson champion Siem Woldeab, the No. 3 seed, retired from his first round match with Nicholas Garcia trailing 6-2, 3-2. Woldeab said after winning the title last week that was suffering back issues during the tournament.

In the girls 16s, top seed Briana Crowley lost to Fiona Crawley 6-2, 7-6(3) in the first round.

See the Easter Bowl website for links to all the draws, as well as the live streaming of the stadium court.

Team USA Coaches Reception and Panel Discussion
photo by Dave Kenas for the adidas Easter Bowl

On Sunday night, the USTA held its annual Team USA coaches reception, honoring outstanding developmental and legendary coaches and programs.  See the release below for more on this year's winners:


Smith Tennis in Indianapolis Recognized as Developmental Program of the Year

USTA Northern California Named Player Development Section of the Year

Billie Jean King, Rick Macci, Dan Magill Honored as Team USA Legendary Coaches

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., March 27, 2017 – The USTA today announced that Mike Gennette, coach of top juniors Claire Liu and Austen Huang, and Henner Nehles, coach of rising American 17-year old Kayla Day, were named as the 2016 Team USA Developmental Coaches of the Year as part of USTA Player Development’s annual Team USA Coaching Awards. Smith Tennis in Indianapolis was recognized as the 2016 Team USA Developmental Program of the Year, while USTA Northern California was named the 2016 Team USA Player Development Section of the Year. Tennis icon Billie Jean King, renowned coach Rick Macci and University of Georgia legend Dan Magill were also honored with Team USA Legendary Coaching Awards. All honorees were recognized at an awards reception on Sunday at the Easter Bowl junior tournament in Indian Wells, Calif.

Mike Gennette has been the primary coach for one of America’s most promising juniors in Claire Liu. Liu won the girls’ doubles title and reached the singles quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2016, and followed that by sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the Grade 1 ITF International Hard Court Junior Championships in College Park, Md. She peaked at No. 8 in the world junior rankings in the fall. Gennette also worked with Kayla Day through June 2016, and also coached Austen Huang, who ascended to the No. 1 USTA Boys’ 18s national ranking – one of 10 players Gennette has coached to a No. 1 USTA national ranking in his career. Gennette completed his 23rd season as head men’s tennis coach at NCAA Division III Cal Lutheran University in 2016 and continues to run the Total Tennis Academy in Southern California, where he lives in Newbury Park.

"Mike Gennette is one of the premier junior coaches in Southern California, and the list of great juniors he has taught and coached over the years more than speaks for itself," said USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman. "The relationship between Mike and our National Coaches is strong; his and Henner Nehles’ work with Kayla Day is a great example of collaboration between a private-sector coach and a USTA National Coach.”

Henner Nehles, a USTA National Coach based out of the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., coached one of the world’s fastest-rising teenagers in Kayla Day in 2016. Day reached the world No. 1 junior ranking this past fall after winning the girls’ singles title and reaching the doubles final at the US Open and advancing to the girls’ singles semis at Wimbledon. She also won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship to earn a wild card into the US Open women’s draw, where she advanced to the second round, and then captured the USTA Pro Circuit’s Australian Open Wild Card Challenge to earn a main draw wild card into January’s Australian Open. She finished the year as the youngest player in the WTA Top 200. Additionally, Nehles assisted Lou Belkin in coaching former Eddie Herr Girls’ 18s champion Kylie McKenzie, and coached Easter Bowl Girls’ 18s champion Alexandra Sanford.

“Henner Nehles has done a tremendous job of working with our country's top private sector coaches and is an asset to American tennis as a National Coach who exemplifies what it means to be part of an inclusive Team USA,” Blackman said. “Henner has had a positive developmental impact on many of our top junior girls.”

Billie Jean King is the personification of a visionary, innovator and champion. Born in Long Beach, Calif., King won 39 Grand Slam titles – 12 singles, 16 doubles, 11 mixed doubles – between 1965 and 1980 and defeated Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes in 1973, which is widely considered one of the most significant moments in American sports history. She was one of the original nine women’s players who broke away from the tennis establishment in 1970, which led to the founding of what is now the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour. She also founded the Women’s Sports Foundation and co-founded Mylan World TeamTennis, where she played and coached for many years. Her name graces the home of the US Open – the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and in 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama. As a coach, King led the U.S. to four Fed Cup championships and a 22-5 record over nine years as captain, and coached Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to Olympic Gold Medals in 1996. She also served as a personal coach to both Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte in the 1990s.

Rick Macci has coached and influenced a veritable “who’s who” of tennis stars on both the men’s and women’s tours, including Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Capriati , Andy Roddick, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Mary Pierce, Anastasia Myskina, Christian Ruud, Karim Alami and Byron Black, along with current up-and-comers like Sofia Kenin, Vicky Duval and Tornado Alicia and Hurricane Tyra Black. A seven-time USPTA Coach of the Year and USPTA Florida Hall of Fame inductee, Macci is renowned for his technical, strategic and mental expertise, and regularly does motivational speaking and media appearances. A USPTA Master Professional, Macci owns and operates the Rick Macci Tennis Academy out of Boca Raton, Fla., where he continues to coach students of all ages and levels.

Dan Magill is regarded as one of the most influential people in collegiate tennis history. During a 34-year career as the University of Georgia’s head men’s tennis coach, Magill became the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I tennis history, leading the Bulldogs to a 706-183 record, two NCAA team national championships and a combined 21 conference titles (13 outdoor, 8 indoor). He helped produce five national collegiate individual champions, including back-to-back NCAA champion Mikael Pernfors. Magill was also a longtime Sports Information Director at Georgia, and his name graces both the Dan Magill Tennis Complex and the press box inside Georgia’s football stadium. Magill has been inducted into the UGA Circle of Honor, National Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Southern Tennis Hall of Fame.

"What more can possibly be said about this year's Legendary Coach Award recipients – three true experts of our game,” Blackman said. “Billie Jean King's achievements as a player, pioneer and activist have transcended tennis and her resume as a coach – as U.S. Fed Cup Captain and coach for World TeamTennis and for Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte – deserves its own celebration.

“Rick Macci is one of our sport's greatest coaching minds, proven by the almost surreal list of champions he has coached and influenced,” Blackman said. “Rick's expertise and passion for teaching continues to keep him as one of the world's foremost instructors.

“Dan Magill’s accomplishments at Georgia assured that his legacy will never be forgotten,” Blackman said. “Dan is on the Mount Rushmore of college tennis; the longevity of his teams' and players' success is matched only by the lasting impact he made on those who played for him."

Jeff Smith, Bryan Smith, and Stephanie Hazlett, of Smith Tennis in Indianapolis – currently a USTA Certified Regional Training Center and a TEAM USA Host Site for both TEAM USA Sectional and Regional camps – are the primary coaches for a number of players who had exceptional results in 2016, including: Rajeev Ram, who reached a career-high No. 56 in singles, won a Silver medal in mixed doubles at the Rio Olympics, reached the Wimbledon doubles semis and the ATP World Doubles Championship finals, in addition to the US Open mixed doubles final; Brooke Austin, who was the NCAA women’s doubles champion, an ITA All-American and SEC Player of the Year at the University of Florida; Ronnie Schneider, who was an ITA All-American as a junior at North Carolina and MVP of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships; Lukas Greif, who was the USTA Boys’ 16s National Hard and Clay Court Champion and also reached the 16s final of the Easter Bowl; Emily Desai, a USTA Girls’ 14s National Championships semifinalist; and Nishesh Basavareddy, one of the top 12-and-under players in the country. Smith Tennis also assisted in coaching Sara Daavettila, who was the ITA’s top-ranked freshman, at North Carolina, and sent 22 players to the USTA National Championships in August. Bryan serves as the Midwest Coaches Commission Chair, and all three coaches are active in the Midwest Section and TEAM USA.

“Smith Tennis had an amazing year at every level of the game - juniors, collegiate and professional.  Their players won trophies and medals at the Olympics, Grand Slams, NCAAs, USTA National Championships and at the Easter Bowl,” said Kent Kinnear, Director, Player ID and Development, USTA Player Development. “Jeff, Bryan and Stephanie have created an incredible training environment and have built up tremendous competitors as well as sportsmanship winners. They also are true leaders in the Midwest Section and nationally with their role as a USTA Regional Training Center and their support and involvement with TEAM USA Sectional, Regional and National Camps, as well as the Midwest Coaches Commission. They are true team players and we want to congratulate them on a tremendous 2016, and thank them for the impact they are making not only in the Midwest Section but also nationally as part of TEAM USA."

Players developed in the Northern California Section had outstanding results in 2016: Mackenzie McDonald won the 2016 NCAA singles and doubles titles at UCLA; Stefan Leustian won the prestigious Les Petits As 14-and-under event in Tarbes, France; Katie Volynets won the 16s singles titles at both the Eddie Herr and Metropolia Orange Bowl junior tournaments. Northern California is also the home Section of CiCi Bellis, who finished the year at No. 91 in the world, the youngest player in the Top 100. Player Development Manager Summer Verhoeven led the Section in executing all of its Early Development Camps (EDCs), a TEAM USA Sectional and Regional Camp at Stanford University and two EDC Coach Training Workshops.

“The Northern California Section had an incredible year providing opportunities to their players and coaches, which was proven by the success on the court by their players regionally, nationally and internationally last year,” Kinnear said. “CiCi Bellis, Mackie McDonald and Katie Volynets are just a few of their players who had tremendous success at the highest levels of the game.  And on top of their players' success in tournaments, they also invested a tremendous amount of effort into their youngest players between the ages of 7 and 13 with their leadership in Early Development Camps, ‘Train the Trainer’ Workshops for 10-and-Under coaches and their TEAM USA Sectional and Regional Camps that they hosted. A big congratulations to Steve Leube, Summer Verhoeven, Beth Workeneh, and their entire team for an outstanding 2016."  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rotsaert Claims International ITF Grade 1 Spring Championships Boys Title, Branstine Sweeps Girls Titles; Easter Bowl Grade B1 Qualifying Complete

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Carson, CA--

Carson Branstine and Alexandre Rotsaert were competing in their first Grade 1 finals Sunday morning at the International Spring Championships, and both left the Stubhub Center with their first titles. No. 2 seed Branstine defeated top seed Taylor Johnson 6-4, 6-3, while No. 10 seed Rotsaert took out No. 3 seed Gianni Ross 6-3, 6-3.

Rotsaert's record in important finals was not a good one, with the 17-year-old Floridian settling for the silver ball in the 18s Clay Courts the past two years and the Kalamazoo 16s in 2015.

"I was trying to go out and just play well," Rotsaert said.  "In those last finals, one of those against Sam (Riffice), I started out well but the others I started out pretty bad, so I went out there with the mentality of playing my game and playing aggressive."

Rotsaert worked through his nerves in the first game, held in the second game, and after saving a break point in the sixth game, won the final three games of the set, ending it with a forehand volley.

"I've been practicing coming in and stepping forward," said Rotsaert, who didn't lose more than four games in any set his six victories and was not broken in the final. "I think at 1-all in the second, I had two break points against me, and I hit two really good volleys, one a reaching drop shot volley I was really happy with.  What was good, was when I got a bit nervous, and started making a couple of unforced errors, I was able to calm myself down and use my techniques to really let myself play."

Rotsaert's level was such that Ross was not particularly disappointed in his own play.

"He played really well, it was a good day for him," Ross said. "He hit me off the court, finished points, did well at the net, served well, it was a very solid match from him.  It was tough for me to pressure him. He was always on me, always making me play one extra shot. I'm not going to say I played bad, maybe a little bit too many errors, but I played well."

With the title, Rotsaert has boosted his chances of playing in the junior slams this summer, in his final year of eligibility.

"We'll see in the rankings, I didn't really calculate," said Rotsaert. "But this was pretty much my last tournament, this  and Easter Bowl was my last chance, so I'm really happy I stepped up this tournament. If I wasn't going to be in the main [draw], I wasn't going to go to Europe, I think I was going to maybe focus on Futures, so I'm really happy to have the opportunity and honor to play those tournaments."

Ross is defending champion at the Easter Bowl, and he knows that carries extra weight.

"I'm a little depressed right now, obviously when you lose," Ross said. "But I'll be better by Easter Bowl. I'll learn from my mistakes in this match and move on. I'm defending a lot there, so I'll be playing with a little more pressure, maybe I'll play better with that pressure. It's a new tournament."

Rotsaert, after finishing in first, not second as he did in those other major finals, is determined to go into the Easter Bowl unfazed by this week's title.

"I don't really feel different," Rotsaert said. "When you think of winning a tournament, you think it's going to be amazing, but it doesn't change anything, and it's the same when you lose. Your life doesn't change, that's something I learned. So I'll go to Easter Bowl, try to take tomorrow off--I think I'm getting a Tuesday start--and hopefully take it match by match and try to start again."

Branstine was not only playing in her first Grade 1 final, but also her first tournament as a Canadian.  The 16-year-old Orange California native, whose mother is Canadian, accepted Tennis Canada's offer of assistance last year, and the paperwork was recently completed, resulting in the Maple Leaf flag next to her name.  Her rivalries will still be with US juniors however, given her Southern California roots, and she was playing her friend Taylor Johnson for the sixth time today.

Branstine had won all five previous encounters on the ITF Junior Circuit, with all but one of those matches going three sets, and it looked as if another one would go the distance when Johnson took a 3-1 lead in the second set.  But Branstine reeled off the final five games of the match, using her serve and forehand to maximum advantage.

In the opening set, neither player faced a break point until Johnson faced a set point serving at 4-5 30-40.  Johnson had served and volleyed regularly and effectively, no doubt determined to try a different strategy to get a win over Branstine.  But she missed a volley to drop the first set, and by then Branstine had begun to adjust her game.

"She probably wanted to keep the points short as much as she could," Branstine said. "I thought that was smart. It's something she's really, really good at and has mastered in her game. She does it better than most girls that play tennis, I think. So it definitely wasn't easy, but I kind of figured out how to get the point started, and to break her."

"That's kind of my game style, so I have to stick to it during the match," Johnson said, although she had not used it as consistently in her previous matches this tournament. "I didn't serve as well in the second set, as I did in the first, so it was easier to break."

Johnson, a 16-year-old left-hander from nearby Redondo Beach, couldn't cite any specific reason why Branstine has won so many of their meetings.

"She's just a good player all around," said Johnson, whose rivalry with Branstine goes back to the 12s division. "We've gone back and forth, back and forth. She's come out on top the last times, and today, I think she just played too good."

Branstine can be her own harshest critic, but she didn't find much to fault in her performance Sunday.

"I'm happy with the way I played," said Branstine. "There's of course a few things I'd like to improve on, but that's every match. I thought I served well."

Johnson agreed that facet of Branstine's game was a key factor in the result.

"Carson was serving really well, I have to give her a lot of credit," said Johnson, who is coached by former WTA star Rosie Casals, and had Billie Jean King watching her semifinal and final performances. "She came out firing and she played really well."

Johnson moves on to the Easter Bowl, but Branstine, although eligible to play the  ITF B1 Closed event next week in the desert, is returning to Montreal to train.  She'll do so having won both girls championships, closing out the tournament by taking the doubles title with Ellie Douglas.

The top seeds, playing together for the first time, defeated No. 5 seeds Emiliana Arango of Colombia and Elli Mandlik 6-1, 6-1 in the final, needing just over 50 minutes.

Douglas and Branstine were dominant all week, losing only 20 games in their five wins, with nine of those games coming in a 7-6(1), 6-3 quarterfinal win over Annette Goulak and Dominique Schaefer of Peru.

"Honestly, I think we just have great energy on the court," said Branstine, who reached the doubles final last year with Johnson. "We really get along, hit the ball pretty big, so it works really well."

"This is definitely my favorite partner that I've ever had," said Douglas, a 16-year-old from Texas. "She has a great serve and I love my volleys, so it's a good combo. And she's just so fun to play with. We had a great time."

Douglas and Branstine are planning to play together next at the Grade A Italian Open in May.

See the ITF junior website for complete draws.

The Easter Bowl begins on Monday, and although the draws are not yet posted on the ITF junior website, the qualifying is complete. Those results are below.