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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Chopra, Lee Claim Adidas Easter Bowl 16s Championships; Boyer and Brooksby Reach ITF Boys Final; Noel and Volynets to Decide Girls ITF Title

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

Top seed Keshav Chopra came into the Adidas Easter Bowl 16s as the player to beat after winning the Winter Nationals title in January, yet the 16-year-old from Georgia had concerns with his form after a first round loss at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach last week.

"I had a bit of a rough tournament before this," said Chopra, who defeated No. 2 seed Max McKennon 7-5, 7-6(4) in the final Saturday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. "I definitely wanted to bounce back here. I definitely didn't do well preparing for the ITF before, so I wanted to get here early, get used to the courts, acclimate myself to the conditions."

Chopra was forced to three sets in three separate matches, including his third round 7-6 in the third win over friend Benjamin Koch, but those matches helped him stay calm in the tense moments of the final.

The first set saw no breaks of serve until Chopra broke at 5-all and held at love, hitting an ace on his first set point.

McKennon trailed 4-2 in the second set, but he got his first break of the match when Chopra double faulted twice in a row down 15-30 to make it 4-all.

"I was feeling a bit nervous," said Chopra, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida. "I tried to keep loose, but that happened and tough things are going to happen, not everything is going to go your way, I wanted to focus on the next game, the first point."

McKennon went down 0-40 in that next game, but scrambled back to take the next five points for a 5-4 lead.

"I did think I had the momentum," said the 15-year-old from Newport Beach, California of his hold in that game. "And then I had 30-15 on his serve, but he played some good points and got it back to 5-all."

After three holds, with the match nearing the two-and-a-half hour mark, the players reached a tiebreaker, with Chopra falling behind 2-0 after a double fault. But he got back on serve, with the score 3-all at the change of ends and won the next two points for a 5-3 lead. McKennon hit a good serve to close the gap to 5-4, but he made a backhand error on the next point to give Chopra two match points. He only needed one, with McKennon sending a backhand long to give Chopra his second consecutive USTA National Level 1 tournament title.

"I think I definitely stayed more consistent and forced him to make more errors," Chopra said. "I was relaxed that I got it to 6-all and I started to play better from 4-all and everything was feeling good."

Even with all his hard-fought wins earlier in the week, Chopra was happy to finish this one in straight sets, particularly given the 90-degree temperatures.

"I definitely was relieved when he hit that last backhand long," Chopra said. "It was a lot of mixed up feelings, but I was very happy."

McKennon, who did not feel well on the drive to the courts and was sick in the parking lot, refused to use that as an excuse for his loss.

"It didn't affect me that much, and he played a great match, it was a great tournament for him, and that's no excuse," said McKennon, who is coached by former Easter Bowl 18s finalist Carsten Ball. "He outplayed me. He outplayed me today."

The girls championship match featured unseeded India Houghton and No. 11 seed Anessa Lee, both playing in their first USTA National Level 1 singles final. It was Lee who got a handle on her nerves first, and she earned her first gold ball with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.

"At first the ball kids kind of threw me off, and I got a little nervous," said the 16-year-old from San Marino California. "But after a couple of games I got used to it, got the nerves out."

Entering the tournament Lee was hoping to get to the third round, where her seeding would project her, and after her poor start in the first round, even that seemed an ambitious goal.

"I just wanted to live up to my seeding, which was the round of 16," said the 16-year-old, who is coached by Kal Moranon. "When I reached there, I thought, that's good. The first round was pretty tough; I started the tournament down 4-0 in the first set."

Lee faced a couple of break points in her first service game, but she was able to take advantage of Houghton's erratic play after that, taking a 5-1 lead before Houghton finally held serve.

"She was playing really aggressive and every time that my ball landed just a little short, she would really attack it," said Houghton, a 15-year-old left-hander from Tiburon California. "She barely missed then and I was very impressed by that."

Houghton said she began to settle her nerves at the end of the first set and although she went down a break early in the second set, she broke back with some good returns and took a 3-2 lead before Lee reeled off the next four games.

"I tried not to think about the score too much, because it just gets in my head and I start missing a lot," Lee said. "So when I was down, I just told myself to be aggressive, play your game, and it will all come to you."

That self-talk worked perfectly, with Lee winning 13 of the next 14 points, forcing most of the errors that Houghton contributed.

"I feel like I played aggressive pretty well," Lee said. "We hadn't played before, but that's just my game to attack."

Lee, who won a silver ball in doubles at the Winter Nationals in January, said she would celebrate her first gold ball by getting behind the wheel for the two-hour drive home.

"I just got my permit," Lee said. "So I'm driving home."

The 16s doubles finals were played Saturday afternoon, with the fourth-seeded Zamarripa twins, Maribella and Allura, taking the gold ball with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Amanda Chan and Chidimma Okpara.

Chopra was going for his fourth gold ball of 2018 in the boys doubles final, but he wasn't able to sweep the titles, as he did at the Winter Nationals.  Chopra and Coy Simon, the top seeds, lost to Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch, the No. 3 seed, 6-3, 6-3.

The bronze ball in the girls 16s went to Lana Mavor and Robin Montgomery, who beat Rosie Garcia Gross and Elizabeth Goldsmith 7-5, 6-4.

The bronze ball in boys 16s singles went to Harsh Parikh, who beat Logan Zapp 6-4, 7-5.  Hibah Shaikh won the bronze ball in the girls 16s singles with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Okpara.

The boys 16s consolation winner was Aryan Chaudhary, who beat Alexander Bernard 6-1, 7-6(3). That was a rematch of last year's boys 14s final, won by Bernard.

Lauren Anzalotta took fifth place in the girls 16s, with Karina Miller giving her a walkover in the consolation final.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

The finals are set in singles and doubles for the Easter Bowl ITF Grade B1 tournament, with both of the top seeds advancing to the championship match.

Alexa Noel defeated former practice partner Gabby Price, the No. 8 seed, 6-3, 6-0 in her best performance of the tournament.

"We know each other so well," Noel said of the 14-year-old Price, who trained at the Rick Macci Academy in Florida for many years. "When I started going to Macci's we used to practice almost every day together. I know her game so well and I'm sure she knows mine. I knew exactly what she was going to do, and I just tried to do the best I could to not let her execute her game plan."

Noel dropped a set in her first round match on Tuesday, but she has worked her way into better form in subsequent matches.

"The further the tournament went on, I definitely started playing a lot better, but the conditions on Tuesday were just crazy," said the 15-year-old from New Jersey. "I'd rather it was hot, because I have the confidence that I'm in good enough shape to last longer than my opponent."

Noel, who lost in the 14s Easter Bowl final in 2015, will face no. 15 seed Katie Volynets, another former Easter Bowl finalist.  Volynets, who lost in the 12s final back in 2014, defeated unseeded Emma Navarro, the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.  Volynets led 6-2, 4-2, but Navarro stepped up her game, while Volynets thought her own game became too passive.

"She definitely started playing better and I think I stopped being as aggressive at that point," said the 16-year-old from Walnut Creek California. "That's why it went a little bit downhill for me. I needed to play more aggressively, like I did in the first set and a half, go for my shots."

In the third set, Volynets took a 3-0 lead, but Navarro had break point opportunities in the fifth and seventh games, which she could not convert.

"I kept my focus well on the important points," Volynets said. "I made sure to go into every point with a plan and with focus."

Volynets and Noel have played in the younger age divisions, with Noel winning in the semifinals of the 2015 14s tournament, and Volynets taking both matches back in 2014, in the quarterfinals of the 12s Clay Courts and Hard Courts.

"I haven't played her in I think two years," Volynets said when asked about dealing with Noel's frequent slices. "So tomorrow I'll see, and try to figure it out. But good placement is key."

Unlike Noel, top boys seed Tristan Boyer has seen his tournament path get rougher, not easier as the week has progressed. For the second day in a row, Boyer had to come from a set down, this time against unseeded Cannon Kingsley, earning a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory that was in doubt until the final ball was struck.

Up 4-2 in the first set, Boyer lost four straight games, with Kingsley playing an aggressive and error-free game that caught Boyer unprepared.

"I made a few small errors that he took advantage of," Boyer said. "He did play well, credit to him."

In the second set, Boyer let a 40-0 lead get away serving up 2-1, but at 3-all, Kingsley played a poor game, getting broken at love, and Boyer held on to that break to win the set.

The third set started off well for Boyer, who led 3-1, but he was broken at love to make it 3-all and broke in the next game, with Kingsley's backhand producing some errors.  Boyer had to save four break points to keep his lead, but he held for 5-3, and Kingsley couldn't hold in his next service game, double faulting twice to go done 0-40.  He saved one match point, but not a second, with Boyer's volley after a lengthy rally too much for Kingsley.

"I tried to play simple and make him hit a good shot," said the Southern Californian. "Just constant pressure is hopefully what did it."

Boyer will face unseeded Jenson Brooksby, who once again cruised to the next round, beating unseeded Siem Woldeab 6-0, 6-3.

Brooksby, who hasn't lost more than four games in any set or more than five games in any match, was consistently keeping Woldeab under pressure.

"I scouted his game," said Brooksby. "He's a steady player but I felt like the forehand was a little bit weaker, so I could break that down a little bit."

Like Boyer, who also lost in the first round last year, Brooksby is excited to reach the final just 12 months later.

"It's one of the biggest junior events," said the 17-year-old from Northern California. "This and Kalamazoo, I feel like are the biggest. It's convenient in the schedule and I always look forward to the Easter Bowl, so I wanted to play it. Last year I didn't do well, so I am really looking forward to tomorrow's match."

The girls final is set for 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the boys final to follow.  Both will be streamed at Easterbowl.com.

The doubles finals will both be played at 9 a.m., but will not be streamed.

The boys final will feature the unseeded team of Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink against No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda.

Top seeds Hailey Baptiste and Caty McNally will play unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins for the girls doubles championship.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Both No. 2 Seeds Fall to Unseeded Opponents in Easter Bowl ITF Quarterfinals; 16s Finals Set for Saturday; Qualifying Begins Saturday at ITF Grade 1 in Carson

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

Temperatures again climbed into the mid-90s for the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Adidas Easter Bowl, but it was the highly seeded players who melted Friday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Both No. 2 seeds lost to unseeded players, with Drew Baird going out to last week's ITF Grade 4 Newport Beach champion Siem Woldeab 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-3 and Margaryta Bilokin falling to 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-4.

Navarro, who is now on a 10-match Easter Bowl winning streak, said the conditions in the desert suit her.

"I do love it out here," said the 16-year-old from Charleston South Carolina. "The dry heat I really like, and the ball moves better. I can hit it harder, it travels farther and I really like that."

Navarro, who has yet to drop a set this week, said she was both confident and nervous when she arrived to play the ITF event for the first time.

"I was a little nervous coming into 18s, but I got a good first few rounds that weren't too tough," said Navarro. "So I worked my way into the tournament and I felt good this match."

Navarro, who has verbally committed to Duke, was playing another Duke recruit in Bilokin, a 17-year-old from Ukraine, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida, but they haven't spoken much about being teammates in the future. 

Navarro earned a late break in the first set, then held to secure it. In the second set, Navarro let an early break get away, but she broke for a 4-3 lead and was able to hold at love serving for the match, with two backhand winners too much for Bilokin to handle.

While she is delighted to have reached the semifinals, Navarro said her mindset coming into the match was not about the result.

"I try not to focus too much on winning and losing," Navarro said. "I set out goals before the match, three or four goals that I'm going to focus on and today I was working on finishing my shots well, getting low and recovering really well. I've been working on my second serve a lot and I thought it was better today than it has been. I thought I moved really well and played good defense."

Navarro's hometown is hosting a premier WTA event next week, the Volvo Open, but she won't be part of that tournament's qualifying weekend.

"I'm kind of disappointed in that, but I'm excited that I'm here," Navarro said. "It's worth it."

Navarro will face No. 15 seed Katie Volynets, who advanced to the semifinals without hitting a ball. No. 11 seed Chloe Beck suffered a back injury and withdrew from both singles and doubles.  Volynets won the only previous meeting between the two in back in 2016.

The other girls semifinal will feature top seed Alexa Noel, who beat No. 10 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-2, and No. 8 seed Gabby Price, who eliminated unseeded Savannah Broadus 7-5, 6-1.  The 14-year-old Price, who won the 12s Easter Bowl title in 2015, has lost three of four previous meetings with Noel, the last two coming in ITF Junior Circuit tournaments.

Woldeab, playing in only his third ITF Junior Circuit event, cited his stamina as a key reason for his victory over the 14th-ranked Baird.

"I just tried to make the points a little bit longer, make him more uncomfortable," said the 16-year-old from Southern California, ranked 967. "I wanted the match to be more physical, I felt more dominant in that area. It was obviously a very tough match, but I played well in the high leverage moments."

Woldeab went up 3-0 in the third set, when Baird called for a trainer for his knee.  After treatment he held serve and broke Woldeab to make it 3-2, but Woldeab got another break for a 4-2 lead.  In his final two service games, Woldeab was down 15-30, but he won the last three points in both games to claim the win.

"I felt I had to get my first serves in that situation and I did," Woldeab said of the seventh game. "Then I hit a couple of good approach shots. At 5-3, I wasn't making my first serves that well, but I just dug deep and hit a really, really good passing shot at 30-all. Then at 40-30 he just missed a return."

Woldeab considers today's win his best, and he credits his title in Newport last week as a key reason he was prepared to achieve it.

"Newport gave me a lot of confidence," Woldeab said. "The courts were a lot faster than these so I had to adjust to that, but as for a winning streak, it got me good match play and the confidence for a bigger tournament and a bigger stage. I'm playing well right now."

Woldeab will face unseeded wild card Jenson Brooksby in Saturday's semifinals, after Brooksby defeated No. 11 seed Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-3.  Brooksby's level started high and stayed there, as he won long, grueling rallies and kept his errors to a bare minimum in taking out the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champion. 

Top seed Tristan Boyer is the only seed left in the boys draw, after he came back to defeat No. 12 seed William Woodall 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.  Boyer served for the match at 5-2 and got to 40-15, but two errors gave Woodall life. Boyer had a third match point in that game, but another error again cost him and Woodall would break, then hold.  In his second opportunity to serve out the match, Boyer converted, going up 40-0 and converting his fourth match point when Woodall forehand sailed wide. 

Boyer will face unseeded Cannon Kingsley in the semifinals, after Kingsley saved a match point in his 6-1, 3-6, 7-6(6) win over Andres Martin.  Boyer and Kingsley have played once before in ITF Junior Circuit competition, with Kingsley winning in the Grade 2 in Canada last September.

The 16s finals are set for Saturday, with the top two seeds meeting for the boys title.

No. 1 seed Keshav Chopra has been taken to three sets in three of his five victories this week, and in today's semifinal, he was forced to come back from a set down, but he managed to reach his second consecutive USTA National Level 1 final with a 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Harsh Parikh.  Chopra, who won the Winter National 16s title back in January, will face No. 2 seed Maxwell McKennon, who beat No. 8 seed Logan Zapp 6-2, 7-6(6).

The girls 16s singles final will feature unseeded India Houghton and No. 11 seed Anessa Lee.  Houghton defeated unseeded Hibah Shaikh 6-1, 6-3 and Lee got past No. 8 seed Chidimma Okpara 6-2, 6-4.

The girls 16s doubles final will feature Amanda Chan and Okpara, the No. 3 seeds, against No. 4 seeds Maribella and Allura Zamarripa.

Playing in the boys 16s double final are top seeds Chopra and Coy Simon against No. 3 seed Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch.

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Both 16s singles finals will be played at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with streaming available at Easterbowl.com.

Qualifying for the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson California will begin on Saturday.  Draws and the order of play are available at the tournament website.

March Aces; ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships Wild Cards

Before the start of the Easter Bowl 16s semifinals and ITF quarterfinals today, I wanted to link to my monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network that highlights the top performances from March. Thirteen players and one team are among the 14 who are featured, with Danielle Collins heading the list.

Court at Stubhub Center, site of ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

I have also received a list of the wild cards for next week's ITF Grade 1 in Carson California.

Boys ITF Main Draw:

1. Jacob Bullard

2. Jake Sands

3. Anuj Watane

4. Jeffrey Fradkin

5. Kevin Zhu

6. EB Result

7. EB Result

Boys ITF Qualifying:

1. Quinn McLeod

2. Andre Saleh

3. Mark Sverdlov

Girls ITF Main Draw:

1. Kailey Evans

2. Kimberly Hance

3. Elizabeth Coleman

4. Katja Wiersholm

5. Elise Wagle

6. Elvina Kalieva

7. Vivian Ovrootsky

Girls ITF Qualifying:

1. Maya Rukosuev

2. Eryn Cayetano

3. Sara Choy

4. Margaret Polk

5. Jennamarie Gordon

Girls 16s Main Draw:

1. Katherine Hui

2. Ria Bhakta

3. Anna Christine Lutkemeyer

4. Anushka Khune

Boys 16s:
No wild card awarded

Thursday, March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girls 16s quarterfinal results:

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

Boys 16s quarterfinal results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top Seeds Noel, Boyer Advance with ITF Easter Bowl First Round Now Complete; Semifinals Set in 12s and 14s; Girls 16s Top Seeds Pielet, Xu Eliminated

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

After eight seeds were eliminated on the opening day of the Adidas ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl Monday, Tuesday's first round matches went more to form, although girls top seed Alexa Noel was taken to a third set before subduing qualifier Katrina Scott 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Boys top seed Tristan Boyer also faced a qualifier in his first round match, earning a straightforward 6-1, 6-3 victory on a clear and breezy day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Noel, currently No. 11 in the ITF World Junior rankings, didn't feel she handled the conditions well.

"The wind on the side furthest was so with me that every time I accelerated through the ball, it would just kind of fly," said the 15-year-old from New Jersey. "She dealt well with it, I think I could have adjusted better, but I'm just happy I found a way. I've got to play a lot better tomorrow."

Although Noel was not happy with her level of play, she gave credit to the 13-year-old Scott.

"She's a good player too, you know," Noel said. "She's young and she has a lot of potential. It sucks we had to play first round, because it was a really close match."

Noel will face Marlee Zein in Wednesday's second round.

Boyer was able to take advantage of a shaky start by James Ignatowich, but the match tightened considerably in the second set.

"I think maybe he was a little bit nervous or something," said the 16-year-old, currently No. 14 in the ITF World Junior rankings. "He started to make a few more balls and I had a little bit of a lapse of focus. He has a pretty good serve, so if you're not really locked in, you're not going to break him."

Boyer let an early break of serve in the second set get away, but he didn't show any frustration or negative emotion, a sign of the improvement in his mental approach that has been a priority in the past six months.

"A lot has changed since then. I'm kind of a different player and I've worked a lot on that side of my game," said Boyer, who received a game penalty in the third set of the final round of qualifying at last year's US Open Junior championships, which cost him the match.  "Now I think it's one of, if not my biggest, strengths on the court, so you're probably not going to see that anymore."

Boyer, who earlier this month qualified for the $25,000 Futures tournament in Bakersfield, also had the opportunity to play in the qualifying of the BNP Paribas Open, losing to ATP No. 116 Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 6-1, 7-6(3).

"I played prequalies and lost in the semis to Henry Craig," Boyer said. "Something happened with the guy who was supposed to get it, and I ended up getting the wild card, and it was just a really, really fun experience."

Boyer said he was encouraged by his performance.

"Obviously I have a lot of work to do before I can actually beat those guys, but I felt like it was a promising result, for sure," Boyer said. "I found out only like 24 hours before, so it was kind of like a shock and I practiced here at like 9 p.m. the night before so I was really happy with the way I played given the situation."

Boyer will face Blaise Bicknell in the second round Wednesday.

Both of the 2017 Easter Bowl 16s champions advanced to the second round with wins on Tuesday.  Emma Navarro defeated qualifier Marcela Cruz 6-3, 6-0 and No. 11 seed Brandon Nakashima downed qualifier Luke Vandecasteele 6-0, 7-6(0).

The only seed to lose on Tuesday was No. 16 seed Tomas Kopczynski, who fell to qualifier Roger Chou 6-3, 6-1.

The second round of the girls 16s produced two major upsets, with top seed Gianna Pielet falling to India Houghton 6-4, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Valencia Xu going out to Mary Grace Armistead 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The semifinals are set for the 12s and 14s, with the quarterfinal results below.  See the TennisLink site for the singles and doubles draws and times for Wednesday.

Live streaming is available for Court No. 2 at Easterbowl.com.

Tuesday 12s and 14s quarterfinal singles results:

Boys 14s:
Samir Banerjee[1] d. John Kim [5] 7-6(4), 6-4
Jiaxi Ma[7] d. Max Fardanesh[3] 6-4, 6-2
Bruno Kuzuhara[10] d. Louis Cloud[8] 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3
Evan Wen[6] d. Kurt Miller 6-1, 6-2

Boys 12s:
Raghav Jangbahadur[10] d. Kaylan Bigun[7] 6-3, 6-3
Alexander Frusina d. Adam Sun[6] 7-5, 6-1
Meecah Bigun[15] d. Lucas Coriaty[8] 7-6, 6-2
Rudy Quan[2] d. Adhithya Ganesan[13] 6-4, 6-1

Girls 14s:
Reese Brantmeier[1] d. Carri Hayes 3-6, 6-3, 6-1
Sophie Williams[7] d. Priya Nelson[4] 7-5, 2-6, 6-1
Elena Yu[3] d. Alexis Blokhina[16] 6-3, 6-2
Alexandra Torre[2] d. Tomi Main[11] 6-1, 6-4

Girls 12s:
Stephanie Yakoff[1] d. Natalia Perez[5] 6-2, 6-1
Elisabeth Dunac[8] d. Madeleine Jessup[4] 1-6, 7-5, 10-2
Brooklyn Olson[3] d. Gayathri Krishnan 6-3, 6-4
Clervie Ngounoue[2] d. Grace Levelston[7] 6-4, 6-1

Monday, March 26, 2018

Eight Seeds Fall on Easter Bowl ITF Opening Day; Boys 12s Top Seed Mangiapane Out; Collins Beats Puig to Make Miami Open Quarterfinals

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

Seeds did not fare well on the opening day of the ITF Grade B1 Adidas Easter Bowl championships, with eight of them falling on a sunny and breezy day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Charlotte Owensby, who saved seven match points to claim the Easter Bowl title in the 14s last year, received a wild card into the ITF tournament this year and kept her winning streak going with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 4 seed Natasha Subhash.

“I came in knowing there was no pressure because she is obviously the higher ranked player and she is older,” Owensby told Easter Bowl press aide Steve Pratt. “So I knew that she’d be a little nervous. I’ve been training differently recently than I have been in past years, so I knew I was ready and just wanted to start off strong from the beginning.”

Owensby wasn't the only player to pull off an upset on Court 1, with Nikki Redeljik preceding Owensby with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Peyton Stearns and Jake Sands following Owensby with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Emilio Nava.

No. 3 seed Andrew Fenty was the highest seed to fall, with the Michigan recruit dropping a 6-3, 6-4 decision to Cannon Kingsley, who has recently made a verbal commitment to Ohio State. 

“I thought I played one of my best matches in a while," said Kingsley, who won the ITF Grade 3 in Costa Rica earlier this month. 
"I got a little bit tight at the end, but it was good overall and I was able to close it out in straight sets.” 

Although Kingsley had never played Fenty before, he was did have some idea what to expect. "I knew his game a little bit," Kinglsey told Pratt. "He has a interesting game, good backhand and a good forehand so I just went into hoping for the best and see what happens, and it was a pretty good result."

No. 5 seed Lea Ma lost to USTA 18s Winter National Champion Fiona Crawley, retiring down 6-3, 3-1.  Boys No. 8 seed Eliot Spizzirri was beaten by Michael Sun 6-2, 6-1 and No. 10 seed Axel Nefve lost to Stefan Leustian 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1. 

The final match to finish, with the light fading, saw Jacob Bullard take out No. 5 seed Tyler Zink by a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 score.  Bullard, a 17-year-old from Calabasas California, said he was happy to get the victory in his first ITF Grade 1 event, particularly under the circumstances.

"Mentally it was really tough with the wind today," said the left-hander. "I was almost out of there. He won a tight first set and was up 4-3 in the second and I was serving down 0-40. I just decided to go for it and it really paid off today, I thought."

Zink moves forward to end points at the net often, but Bullard thought that strategy was difficult to sustain given the conditions.

"That style is pretty tiring I think and I started to get more looks," Bullard said. "The wind let his approaches set up a little bit more and I thought I was able to pass him towards the end of the second set and throughout the third. To get a win like that against a player like Tyler, in these conditions, it's really good for my confidence and I think it will help me a lot through the rest of the tournament."

Bullard, who played in the 16s division here last year, has verbally committed to Texas for 2019.

"When I took a visit, I immediately knew that it was the place for me," Bullard said. "It really felt like home there and I felt it was the best balance of school and tennis for me. I think I've been playing the best tennis of my life since I committed there. I've had a great start to 2018 and I'm super excited with everything it has to offer."

The champions of last week's Grade 4 at Newport Beach were on today's schedule, with boys winner Siem Woldeab advancing when Boris Kozlov retired trailing 6-3, 5-0.  Girls champion Elvina Kalieva was not able to continue a Southern California winning streak however, falling to fellow wild card Jaedan Brown 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Brown avenged her quarterfinal loss to Kalieva last week in Newport Beach, where cramps sabotaged her opportunity to close out the match in straight sets.

"I was up 7-6, 3-2 when I started to cramp, and she took over from there." said Brown, who lost 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-1. "In this match, I knew that I could win, I just had to stay healthy and hydrated and I knew I could do it."

Even down 6-2, 4-1, Brown said she didn't doubt she could win the match.

"I was still believing in myself," said the 15-year-old, who trains at the Lakeland Tennis Academy in Niles, Michigan. "I knew I had to get on the offensive side more, because she was taking over the points. I was definitely not moving my feet, and I got that changed."

Brown was up 4-1 in the third set, but Kalieva brought it back to 4-4. Brown played flawlessly in the final two games however, holding and breaking, all the while attacking when she got an opportunity. She closed out the match with a deep approach and a perfect forehand volley, a tactic she is trying to incorporate into her game with more regularity.

"My coach at home and the USTA too, that's something they're trying to get me to do more, transition to the net," Brown said. "She's really good at staying in those hard-hitting rallies, so I was trying to show her some different shots."

Brown was excited to get her first Grade 1 win at the site of the BNP Paribas Open.

"It's exciting. I'm just happy to be here," Brown said. "It's really cool playing Indian Wells, it's so pretty."

The remaining 18 singles matches are on Tuesday's schedule, with top seeds Alexa Noel and Tristan Boyer taking the court for the first time. The first round of doubles will follow, with Boyer and Spizzirri the top boys seeds and Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste the top girls seeds.

The third round of the 12s and 14s were played Monday, with boys 12s No. 1 seed Nicholas Mangiapane dropping his match to No. 10 seed Raghav Jangbahadur by a 7-5, 6-1 score.  Girls 12s top seed Stephanie Yakoff and girls 14s top seed Reese Brantmeier advanced to the quarterfinals, as did boys 14s top seed Samir Banerjee. Complete results are available at the TennisLink site.

2014 and 2016 NCAA singles champion Danielle Collins has reached the Miami Open quarterfinals, defeating Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.  Collins, whose ranking will now move into the WTA Top 70, will face No. 8 seed Venus Williams in the quarterfinals. Sloane Stephens[13] defeated No. 3 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain to advance to the quarterfinals against No. 10 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Easter Bowl ITF Qualifying Complete, Main Draw Begins Monday; Coaches Reception, Adidas Party Kick Off Tournament; Collins Advances at Miami Open; Aragone Wins Calabasas Futures

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

A beautiful day in the desert saw 16 players reach the main draw of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl on the courts of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, while the evening's highlights included the adidas Jam player's party and the Team USA coaches reception.

Thirteen-year-old Katrina Scott followed up her win over top seed Kylie Collins Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jessica Anzo to qualify for her first Grade 1 event.  Also qualifying were Kennedy Bridgforth[2], Elaine Chervinsky[15], Jessi Muljat, Julia Andreach, Jenna Defalco, Maxi Duncan[14] and Marcella Cruz[8].

The top seed in boys qualifying, Milledge Cossu lost to No. 10 seed James Ignatowich 6-3, 6-1. The only unseeded player in qualifying to advance to the main draw was Luke Vandecasteele, although the only Top 8 seed to make it through was No. 7 seed Alex Bancila. Other qualifiers are Ritik Sundaram[11], Roger Chou[15], Spencer Gray[12], Neel Rajesh[14] and Samuel Rubell.

None of the qualifiers will play on Monday, nor will the top seeds, Alexa Noel and Tristan Boyer, who are not among the 46 singles matches scheduled for the first day. No. 2 seed Margaryta Bilokin faces Cali Jankowski and No. 3 seed Caty McNally will take on Jayci Goldsmith. In the boys draw, No. 2 seed Drew Baird will play Mark Mandlik and No. 3 seed Andrew Fenty, a Michigan recruit, will face Cannon Kingsley, who has committed to Ohio State. The Buckeyes defeated the Wolverines today 6-1 in a Top 10 battle in Columbus.

The 16s will begin play on Monday, with the entire first round on the schedule. Keshav Chopra and Gianna Pielet are the top seeds.  In Sunday's second round of the 12s and 14s divisions, one of the Top 2 seeds was eliminated. with Noelle Ampong, No. 2 in the boys 14s, losing to Kurt Miller 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.  See the TennisLink site for results and times for Monday's third round.

The ice cream station at the adidas Jam was always busy
The adidas Jam was a huge hit, with the sponsor providing custom-screened T-shirts, adidas apparel, ping pong tables, a DJ, a photo booth, and a food court with made-to-order pizza, tacos and ice cream.  While players and parents were enjoying the Jam, coaches were gathering in the the BNP Paribas Players Lounge for the fifth annual Team USA Coaches Reception.  Kent Kinnear, the USTA's Director of Player ID and Development, introduced the 2017 Team USA Coaching Award winners.

Developmental Program of the Year: the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland

Developmental Coach of the Year: Konstantin Anisimov, Aventura Florida

USTA Player Development Section of the Year: USTA Florida

Team USA Coaching Legends Awards:
Ricardo Acuna
Andy Brandi
Tom Gullikson

Acuna, who is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease, could not attend, but his wife Kim gave an emotional acceptance speech about what tennis has meant to him as a coach and a player.  Brandi and Gullikson were both in attendance and after brief speeches, the pair answered questions from the audience about their coaching philosophies, teaching young players, coaching younger coaches, adapting to individual players' strengths, how coaching women and men can require different approaches, grip recommendations and other questions that drew on their decades of experience.

Qualifier Danielle Collins continued her impressive results in March, reaching the round of 16 at the Miami Open with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Donna Vekic of Croatia.  Collins, who also reached the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open as a wild card, will face fellow 24-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico Monday. John Isner[14] and Venus Williams[8] were the other Americans advancing on Sunday.

JC Aragone won his first professional title Sunday at the $25,000 Calabasas Futures, beating Marcos Giron 6-2, 6-4 in the final.  For more on the final, see the recap from press aide Steve Pratt below:

J.C. Aragone Beats Marcos Giron in USTA Men’s Pro Tennis
Championships Of Calabasas Singles Final

CALABASAS, Calif., -- J.C. Aragone battled two opponents in the final of the USTA Men’s Pro Tennis Championships of Calabasas.

The 22-year-old pro circuit rookie and University of Virginia graduate beat former NCAA singles champion and hometown hero Marcos Giron, 6-2, 6-4, to win his first professional title, a USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 Pro Futures event that concluded on Sunday at the Calabasas Tennis & Swim Center.

Aragone may be from Southern California, but Yorba Linda in Orange County felt a lot farther than 70 miles away, as Grion’s high school tennis coach joined in with about 150 other enthusiastic supporters and cheered his every move.

Aragone addressed the crowd after the match in an on-court interview with tournament director Jeff Richards. After telling them it was his first pro title, he got a nice ovation, at last. “That was the most clapping I got from you all day,” Aragone said with a smile. “I get it, he’s a good looking guy. But come on already. I’m going to try and come back next year but you guys are going to have to do a little better for me.”

The pro-Giron fans appreciated the high level of tennis exchanged by both players. Aragone, who won three NCAA team titles at Virginia, got an early break in both the first and second sets and played aggressive tennis throughout to take his second win over Giron in the past six weeks as Aragone registered a third-set tiebreaker win over Giron in the San Francisco Challenger.

Giron was kept behind the baseline for most of the match, and couldn’t solve Aragone’s big serve and constant pressure. “J.C. played amazing tennis and kept the pressure on me,” said Giron, the 2014 Calabasas champion. “Just too good today. He qualified for the US Open so we know he can play great tennis.”

He added: “I always love playing here in front of my family and friends and wish I could have won here again. Next time.”

Leading 5-4 and looking to close Giron out on his serve, Aragone tightened up a few times in the 10th game, including serving two double faults on match points. In fact, it wasn’t until the sixth match point that Aragone was finally able to hit a big serve down the T which Giron hit into the bottom of the next to give him his first title.

“I don’t know if you guy realize this, but don’t play Marcos’ running forehand. Ever,” Aragone told the crowd. “I don’t know why I kept going there. It was a tough week having to play two matches a day, both physically and mentally.”

Aragone later said he got nervous on his few match points, but was able to grind it out, even though the crowd was cheering Giron’s every move. “Marcos played unbelievable on the match points,” Ararone said. “I mean, yeah, I threw in two doubles, but he was putting so much pressure on me. I would come up with a huge shot, and he would come up with something bigger. The game plan was to be aggressive. Marcos can be pretty aggressive if you let him.”

He said he wasn’t annoyed by the crowd, just worried it might ultimately make him lose focus. “It’s tough to play an opponent and the entire crowd,” Aragone said. “I was hitting like outrageous sights and just crickets [from the crowd]. I was like, ‘what is going on?’ It’s usually even. It was definitely tough.”

After four straight weeks of tournaments, Aragone said he’s ready to relax. “Where do I go from here? I’m going to rest. I’m going to Miami Beach and going to sit on the beach. And then I start training for the clay court season.”

In the doubles final Sunday, former UC-Berkeley teammates Andre Goransson of Sweden and Florian Lakat of France snapped the seven-match streak of No. 2 seeded Bernardo Saraiva of Portugal and Sam Verbeek of the Netherlands, 6-2, 7-6 (3). Saraiva and Verbeek were coming off a win in last week’s Bakersfield Futures.

Sunday’s Final Singles Score
J.C. Aragone, U.S. (7), def. Marcos Giron, U.S. (4), 6-2, 6-4

Sunday’s Final Doubles Score
Andre Goransson, Sweden / Florian Lakat, France, def. Bernardo Saraiva, Portugal / Sam Verbeek, Netherlands (2), 6-2, 7-6 (3)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Woldeab, Kalieva Win Newport Beach Grade 4 Titles; Rojas Sweeps Grade 4 Titles in Puerto Rico; Giron and Aragone in Calabasas Futures Final; Tiafoe Beats Edmund in Miami; Scott Beats Top Seed Collins in Easter Bowl ITF Qualifying

I spent the day at Indian Wells, where two rounds of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl qualifying were played today, but there's other news to tennis news to cover from around Southern California, Puerto Rico and Florida.

At the Grade 4 in Newport Beach, 16-year-old Siem Woldeab won his first ITF Junior Circuit title, beating fellow wild card Zachery Lim 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Woldeab, whose only other appearance in an ITF tournament came last year at the Grade 1 in College Park, where he reached the third round, beat top seed Daniel Moreno of Mexico in the first round and lost only one set in his six victories.  Reigning 14s Junior Orange Bowl champion Elvina Kalieva, still just 14, won her first ITF junior singles title.  The No. 15 seed beat unseeded Julia Haynes 7-6(6), 6-1 in the final. 

At the ITF Grade 4 in Puerto Rico, 15-year-old Sofia Rojas won her first junior circuit singles title and added the doubles title as well. Rojas, the No. 2 seeds, defeated unseeded Sonya Macavei 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Rojas and Sasha Wood won the doubles title, beating No. 4 seeds Elan Mnatsakanov and Emma Staker 7-6(4), 6-2.  Top seed Blu Baker of Great Britain won both boys titles, beating Spencer Whitaker 6-2, 6-3 in the singles final.

The finals are set for the $25,000 Futures in Calabasas California, with JC Aragone winning two matches today to reach the final against Marcos Giron, a former Calabasas champion.  Aragone, who didn't play his first round match until Friday, had two singles matches Friday and two today, beating Deiton Baughman in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-4 and former Virginia teammate Collin Altamirano 6-0, 6-4 in the semifinals. Giron downed Stanford senior Tom Fawcett 6-2, 6-1, unable to continue the form that saw him beat top seed Mathias Bourgue of  France in the quarterfinals. 

For more on Giron's quest for a second Calabasas title and Aragone's win over Altamirano, see this recap from press aide Steve Pratt.

At the Miami Open, four American men advanced to the third round, including 2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe, who beat No. 21 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5).  Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey[11] and Jack Sock[8] join Michael Mmoh, John Isner[14] and Jared Donaldson, who advanced to the third round with wins Friday.

Sloane Stephens[13] is the only American woman who reached the fourth round with a win today. Venus Williams[8], Sonya Kenin and Danielle Collins hope to join her with victories on Sunday.

In college tennis, the sixth-ranked Georgia Tech women defeated No. 1 North Carolina 4-3, taking the doubles point and the first three singles points earned, with wins from No. 1 Paige Hourigan, No. 5 Naomi Otsuka and No. 3 Kenya Jones.  For more on Georgia Tech's road victory, see this article.

When I looked at the draws for the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl qualifying, I was intrigued by the possibility of a second round match between 13-year-old Katrina Scott and top seed Kylie Collins.  Scott and Evans played twice in 2017, with Scott winning both matches. Five of the six sets they played went to tiebreakers, and although I didn't see the first one, at the Grade 5 in Austin last fall, I did watch much of their Eddie Herr 16s semifinal, in which Scott, who went on to win the title, came from 6-0, 4-0 down, saving four match points in a 0-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) victory.  Today's match was not nearly as dramatic, with Scott claiming a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory, but it was a battle nonetheless.

Evans went up 5-2 in the first set, with Scott not quite dialed in on her ground strokes, but Scott broke Collins serving for the set at 5-2 and held, demonstrating she was far from out of the set.  Collins did manage to hold to claim the first set, but after a bathroom break, Scott went up 3-0 and broke Collins two more times to take the second set. After another bathroom break, with both players leaving the court both times, Collins broke in the opening game of the third set.  But the 15-year-old began to have trouble with her serve, double faulting on break point to give the break back and double faulting twice in her next service game to give Scott a 3-1 lead. Scott saved a break point at 30-40 in her service game, with the roving umpire overruling Collins on a ball she called out, but the umpire said was on the line. Scott went on to hold for 4-1 and 5-2 and she broke Collins to take the match. Scott won the Easter Bowl 12s title in 2016.

Collins was far from the only seed to fall in the second round of qualifying, with No. 4 seed Jennifer Gadalov, No. 5 seed Nicole Hammond, No. 6 seed Victoria Hu and No. 7 seed Zoe Hitt also exiting in their first matches.

Boys qualifying top seeds Milledge Cossu and Jericho Grollman advanced, but No. 3 seed Quinn McLeod was beaten by Steven Sun, who has played very little since last year's Easter Bowl. Sun won the boys 14s Easter Bowl title in 2014.

The top two seeds in the boys 12s and 14s and girls 12s and 14s all won their first round matches today at sites around the Coachella Valley. Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Friday, March 23, 2018

My Feature on Michigan Recruit Cerdan; Qualifiers Mmoh, Collins and Kenin Down Seeds at Miami Open; Finals Set at ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach; Easter Bowl ITF Qualifying Begins Saturday

While I was in Mobile for the USTA National Spring Team Championships, I spoke to Andrea Cerdan about her verbal commitment to the University of Michigan in 2019.  The junior at Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey only began playing national events as a freshman in high school, and doesn't play the ITF junior circuit, so I hadn't seen much of her until recently.  As a blue chip, Cerdan had many options, including the Ivy League, but three factors were instrumental in her decision to attend Michigan. My article on what led up to that choice is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Three American qualifiers earned wins over seeds today at the Miami Open.  Sonya Kenin, the 2015 USTA 18s National Champion and US Open finalist, defeated No. 19 seed and BNP Parbias Open finalist Daria Kasatkina of Russia 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Kenin, 19, broke into the WTA Top 100 for the first time after qualifying and winning a round in Indian Wells. This is Kenin's best win by ranking, although she will get an opportunity to top it when she plays No. 9 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Danielle Collins continued her outstanding play this year, beating No. 16 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 to claim her second Top 20 win of the month. Collins beat Madison Keys earlier in the month at the BNP Paribas Open.  She will face unseeded Donna Vekic of Croatia in the third round.

Michael Mmoh got his first ATP Top 20 win today, beating No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-4, coming back from a break down in the final set.  Mmoh will play No. 19 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea in the third round.

Jared Donaldson also took out a seed today, beating No. 25 seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain 6-4, 6-2. He will play unseeded Joao Sousa of Portugal in the third round.

John Isner, the No. 14 seed, advanced in three sets over Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic.

The singles finals are set for the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach. Wild cards Siem Woldeab and Zachery Lim for the boys title and Julia Haynes will play Elvina Kalieva[15] for the girls title.  Woldeab beat Michael Sun 6-4, 6-2 and Lim advanced when Matthew Tsolakyan retired trailing 7-5, 3-0.  Haynes defeated Julia Deming  6-4, 6-4 and Kalieva downed Maxi Duncan[13] 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. 

The doubles semifinals and finals were played today, with top seeds Bradley Frye and Max Wild taking the boys title and unseeded Jaedan Brown and Ellie Coleman claiming the girls title. Frye and Wild beat No. 3 seed Max Giddens and and Julian Steinhausen 7-6(4), 1-6, 10-5; Brown and Coleman defeated unseeded Annika Bassey and Katherine Nguyen 6-2, 7-6(1).

Qualifying for the Easter Bowl ITF gets underway on Saturday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.  Draws and the order of play are available at the ITF Junior tournament page.  The 12s and 14s also begin main draw play on Saturday at various sites in the Palm Desert area.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Easter Bowl Seeds, Draws Posted for 12s, 14s, 16s; Tiafoe Among US Winners at Miami Open

The seeds and draws have been posted for the Easter Bowl's 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions, with play beginning on Saturday for the 12s and 14s and Monday for the 16s (as well as the ITF B1). I'll be in Indian Wells covering the tournament beginning Saturday.  The top eight seeds are listed below.

Girls 16s:
1. Gianna Pielet
2. Valencia Xu
3. Karina Miller
4. Rosie Garcia Gross
5. Carmen Corley
6. Zoe Howard
7. Lana Mavor
8. Chidimma Okpara

Girls 14s:
1. Reese Brantmeier
2. Alexandra Torre
3. Eleana Yu
4. Priya Nelson
5. Daria Smetannikov
6. Elisabeth Jones
7. Sophie Williams
8. Bridget Stammel

Girls 12s:
1. Stephanie Yakoff
2. Clervie Ngounoue
3. Brooklyn Olson
4. Madeleine Jessup
5. Natalia Perez
6. Ariel Madatali
7. Grace Levelston
8. Elisabether Dunac

Boys 16s:
1. Keshav Chopra
2. Maxwell McKennon
3. Welsh Hotard
4. Harsh Parikh
5. JJ Tracy
6. Ishaan Ravichander
7. Jeremie Casabon
8. Logan Zapp

Boys 14s:
1. Samir Banerjee
2. Noelle Ampong
3. Max Fardanesh
4. Eli Gordon
5. John Kim
6. Evan Wen
7. Jiaxi Ma
8. Louis Cloud

 Boys 12s:
1. Nicholas Mangiapane
2. Rudy Quan
3. Andrew Salu
4. Andrew Delgado
5. Thomas Faurel
6. Adam Sun
7. Kaylan Bigun
8. Lucas Coriaty

Rain again washed out play at the $25,000 Futures in Calabasas California, with one first round singles match still not begun: JC Aragone vs Ulises Blanch.  The other 15 1st round singles matches were played on Tuesday. Weather conditions are expected to improve on Friday.  The Newport Beach ITF Grade 4 completed two rounds of singles on Wednesday, but did not play today, with the semifinals set for Friday.  Siem Woldeab will face Michael Sun in one boys semifinal, with Matthew Tsolakyan and Zachery Lim in the other. None are seeded.  In the girls semifinals, Maxi Duncan[13] meets Elivina Kalieva[15] and Julia Haynes plays qualifier Julia Deming.

2015 Kalamazoo 18s champion Frances Tiafoe defeated Nicolas Kicker of Argentina 6-3, 7-6(4) to close out Thursday's action at the Miami Open. Tiafoe will face No. 21 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the second round.  Steve Johnson was the only other American man to win today. 

Qualifier Alison Riske defeated No. 7 seed Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-1 to win her fourth match in four days.  She will play fellow qualifier Yafan Wang of China in the third round.  Christina McHale defeated No. 25 seed Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4 to advance to a third round meeting with No. 3 seed Gabine Muguruza of Spain, who got a walkover from Amanda Anisimova due to injury. No. 13 seed Sloane Stephens also advanced to the third round today, beating wild card Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia 6-1, 6-3.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Collins, Mmoh Advance at Miami Open; Eastern Michigan Cuts Women's Tennis: Barry Men, Hawaii Pacific Women Top ITA Division II Rankings; Johnson Verbally Commits to UCLA

Danielle Collins broke into the WTA Top 100 this week, after reaching the fourth round at the BNP Parbias Open.  Although she has a long history of training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, the two-time NCAA singles champion from St. Petersburg Florida did not receive a wild card into the Miami Open (owned by IMG), so she had to make her way through qualifying. She defeated Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic and Jana Cepelova of Slovakia in straight sets to reach the main draw, and in today's first round match, her third in three days, she breezed past Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, ranked 37th, 6-1, 6-1. Currently ranked 93, Collins, who didn't face a break point in the match, will play No. 16 seed CoCo Vandeweghe next.

Michael Mmoh, now 20 years old, earned his first ATP Masters 1000 win today, beating wild card Chris Eubanks 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Mmoh, an IMG client, had received a main draw wild card the past two years but had to qualify this year. He didn't drop a set in his wins over Ramkumar Ramanathan of India and Mirza Basic of Bosnia.  Mmoh will play No. 12 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in the second round.

Other Americans winning first round matches today include Varvara Lepchenko, Alison Riske, Sonya Kenin and Jared Donaldson.

Division I Eastern Michigan University announced on Tuesday that it was cutting four sports, including women's tennis. The MAC school, located in Ypsilanti, cut men's tennis back in 2000.  This Detroit News provides details on the funding levels, not including scholarships, for each of the four sports, with the tennis number the lowest.

The ITA's Division II rankings are out, with the computer responsible beginning today and for the rest of the season.  The Barry men and Hawaii Pacific women are No. 1 in the team rankings.  In singles, Sonja Larsen of Barry tops the women's rankings and Thomas Grinberg of St. Leo tops the men's rankings.

The USTA weekly poll continues to have the Wake Forest men and North Carolina women at the No. 1 spot. There are few changes in the Top 10s.

USTA Team Top 10 Men:
1. Wake Forest (1)
2. UCLA (2)
3. Stanford (3)
4. Texas A&M (4)
5. Ohio State (5)
6. North Carolina (6)
7. USC  (7)
8. Illinois (10)
9. Florida State (11)
10. Texas (9)

USTA Team Top 10 Women:
1. North Carolina(1)
2. Pepperdine (2)
3. Duke (4)
4. Vanderbilt (3)
5. Georgia Tech (7)
6. Georgia (6)
7. Oklahoma State (9)
8. South Carolina (T11)
9. Texas Tech (5)
10. Florida (8)

The entire Top 25 poll is available at here.

Rain in Southern California has washed out play at the $25,000 Futures in Calabasas, and likely has disrupted the schedule at the ITF Grade 4 in Newport Beach.

Southern Californian Taylor Johnson announced on twitter a few days ago that she has verbally committed to UCLA for 2019.  Johnson, who's been as high as 8 in the ITF junior rankings, has been out with an injury since last September. She has withdrawn from both the Easter Bowl and the ISC in Carson.