Sunday, March 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


John Sxhaeffer said...

It was shocking to watch this match on live streaming with commentary from Indian Wells. The commentators had never heard of Ronnie Hohmann. They didn’t know who coached him, they didn’t know that he is a incoming freshman at Louisiana State University, they didn’t mention that he had won the Eddie Herr 16s last year. All they kept repeating was that he was from Oyster Bay, New York. Ronnie hasn’t lived nor trained in Oyster Bay for about three years. Announcers should learn about Google Search. Cudos to Ronnie and his coaches Todd Widom and Pierre Arnold in Coral Springs FL

Tennis Fan said...

Congrats to RH...fyi...have him change his tennis recruiting page....announcers probably didn't receive the updated memo...states he is from Oyster Bay NY...oops...It's the juniors....at least they have a live stream and broadcast...good luck to ronnie in the sec at lsu next yr..i am sure he will get his share of press in baton rouge..I thought the broadcasts were fine.