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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