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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Kotseva, Eigbedion, Santhosh and Lee Crowned Champions in 12s and 14s Divisions Thursday at FILA Easter Bowl; Frey Defeats Top Seed Hill in Girls 16s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Indian Wells CA--

Twelve USTA gold balls were awarded today at the 2023 FILA Easter Bowl, with singles and doubles champions crowned on a cool and changeable day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Jason Eigbedion and Raya Kotseva swept the 12s gold balls, claiming the singles and doubles titles, while the 14s champions both earned their first Easter Bowl titles by coming back from a set down.

The sixth-seeded Eigbedion defeated No. 7 seed Advay Singh 6-4, 6-2, for the second time in a USTA National Level 1 event, having recorded a 6-2, 6-0 victory last summer at the Clay Courts.

"He was a lot better than he was when I played him last time, this time was a lot tougher," said the 12-year-old from Duluth Georgia, who agreed he has also improved in the past eight months. "He's overall a pretty consistent player, and I was just trying to go for my shots, play my normal game. But I think I had to be more aggressive than last time."

Singh, who was playing in his first Level 1 final, provided a concise analysis of his loss.

"He was hitting his backhand really deep, and he could get a lot of short balls that way," said the 12-year-old from Frisco Texas. "He was taking control of the points really well; even when I had him on the run, somehow he found a way to hit a shot that would make me uncomfortable and he would have an easier shot the next time. He's just really good."

Eigbedion went deep in the USTA 12s Nationals last summer, and drew inspiration from watching the final.

"In August in Alabama, I saw the final, and saw that they got a gold ball," said Eigbedion, who trains at with Carlos Cobos at the Greater Atlanta Christian School Tennis Academy. "I thought I really want a gold ball, it would be really cool if I got a gold ball."

Eigbedion is now planning to move up to the 14s divisions for the Level 1s this summer, although he does not turn 13 until September.

A first gold ball was the goal for Roshan Santhosh, who was playing in his last 14s tournament this week, and he achieved it, with the No. 7 seed defeating No. 3 seed Ryan Cozad 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Santhosh got off to a dismal start, dropping the first four games, but he got back into the first set, and then began to play how he had envisioned.

"In the beginning I think I was nervous," said the 14-year-old from Thousand Oaks California, who joins Sam Querrey, Marcos Giron and Claire Liu as Easter Bowl champions from that city. "But I realized after the first set that if I played nervous it wouldn't help me. So I just loosened up and started playing my game."

Santhosh, the reigning SoCal sectional champion, hadn't played Cozad before, but figured out what he needed to do to keep Cozad on defense.

"He was an aggressive player, so I didn't want him to attack first," said Santhosh, who began playing tennis under the tutelage of Rita Pichardo, and still works with her on occasion, although he trains regularly with the USTA coaches in Carson California. "So I started attacking before he did and that worked."

Cozad said once Santhosh began making first serves, he had trouble finding ways to attack.

"He was missing a lot at first," said the 14-year-old from Alpharetta Georgia, who saw himself playing defense more than he would have liked. "But he played better and it was hard for me to be aggressive. And he made a lot of first serves too."

Santhosh had been disappointed in his previous performances in USTA Level 1 events, and believes he knows why he was able to free himself up to play better throughout the week.

"I just had more motivation, because it was my last 14s tournament," said Santhosh, who is planning to play Kalamazoo this summer. "I just wanted to do good in this and move out of the 14s."

Kotseva, the No. 4 seed, did not drop a set in securing her first gold ball in singles, but she came close in Thursday's final on Stadium 4, with her opponent Camilla Kostik serving for the second set at 5-4.

Kostik didn't get to set point in that game however, and Kotseva found her way back, taking the final four games in her 6-2, 7-5 victory by not dwelling on the deficit she faced.

"I was just forgetting the past points, just thinking on trying my best on the new points," said the 12-year-old Kotseva, who was born in Bulgaria and now lives in Las Vegas, where her sister Iren and husband Scott Schneider operate the All In Academy. "I was very focused on each point."

Kostik was frustrated that she was unable to send the match to a third set. 

"I was really disappointed," said the 12-year-old, who is from New York and trains in Florida. "I had a lot of chances in the second set to close it, and it was unfortunate I couldn't. She played really well though, so credit to her. If you hit it even a little short, she's up to it, ready to transition and go forward. Her balls are really hard, so it's hard to get it back deep and she just crushes it."

Kotseva was equally generous in her praise of Kostik. 

"She was very consistent, hit it deep, didn't miss and her serve was very good," said Kotseva, who will play on the Tennis Europe junior circuit this summer. "It was hard to beat her, but it was an amazing match. This tournament is the best one I've ever played. I was very focused and didn't care about winning, just about trying my best."

The longest final of the day was No. 2 seed Nancy Lee's 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 5 seed Anita Tu, which took three hours and multiple match points to secure, with some bizarre weather descending on the Coachella Valley during the late stages of the match.

"In the first set I was going for too much," said the 13-year-old Lee, who trains at the MAC Academy in the Boston area. "Second set, I toned it down a bit, stayed more consistent and waited for the opportunity to attack instead of just going for broke."

Up 5-2 in the third set, Lee couldn't close out the tenacious Tu, who had played almost four hours in her semifinal with Aishi Bisht Thursday. 

"I had like six or seven match points in that game," Lee said. "I was up 40-0, and then it became really windy all of a sudden. Super windy and I double faulted three times. I think the first double fault was nerves, but the wind for the others."

Tu held for 5-4, and Lee had another chance to end it, as the skies darkened and drops of rain were blown about by the wind. She didn't get close, quickly losing four points to make it 5-5.

"I was playing tight because I had a lot of match points and didn't convert," Lee said. "And she kind of got back into the match, she was there mentally, but at 5-all I was like, I can't lose, you know, I can't lose."

Lee broke to give herself a third chance to serve out the championship, and this time she did not use her big serve or heavy ground strokes, choosing instead to try the changeup.

"I wasn't making a lot of them," Lee said of her big serves. "And when I did, she was returning them well. So instead of trying to smash my serve, I decided to play a little bit smarter. It was windy and I needed to make my first serve, because she attacked my second serve."

Tu admitted that Lee's tactic caught her off guard.

"I was just not prepared for that, so I didn't adjust well," said the 13-year-old Floridian, who trains at the Doral in Miami. "I wasn't consistent enough to deal with that, and she controlled the points better."

Although Lee won a gold ball in singles at the last USTA Level 1 in Tucson in January, she was delighted to taste her first success at the Easter Bowl.

"This is my third Easter Bowl and in the previous two I lost in the first round," said Lee, who has yet to decide whether she'll play 14s or 16s in this summer's USTA Level 1s.

Girls 12s Doubles final: Raya Kotseva and Jordyn Hazelitt[1] d. Surabhi Raghavendra and Valerie Machikawa[2] 6-3, 6-2

Boys 12s Doubles final: 
Jason Eigbedion and Dylan Meineke [2] d. Gareth Kurowski and Raghav Narayanan 6-1, 6-1

G14s doubles final:
Catherine Rennard and Isabelle DeLuccia[2] d. Alyson Shannon and Kori Montoya[1] 6-2, 6-2 

B14s Doubles final:
Yannik Alvarez and Ryan Cozad[1] d. Joseph Nau and Wesley Cotton[2] 6-2, 1-6, 6-1

While the 12s and 14s finals were being contested on the outside stadium courts, the practice courts were full of 16s and 18s quarterfinal and consolation matches. The results are below, with the most notable the 6-4, 6-2 win by Anna Frey over 16s top seed Claire Hill.

"I stayed patient and then when it was time to attack I went for my shots with a big target," said Frey, 15-year-old from Salt Lake City Utah. "I think making a lot of first serves helped me out too, serve plus-ones."

Frey, who lost in the first round of the 14s at the Easter Bowl last year, said she has been playing well throughout the week.

"I've been playing pretty well, came here a few days early to get used to the altitude," Frey said. "It's been pretty fun."

Results from today's quarterfinals in the 16s and 18s are below:

Emon van Loben Sels[7] d. Greyson Casey 6-0, ret. inj 
Krish Arora[WC] d. Mitchell Lee[WC]] 2-6, 6-3, 6-3

Marko Mesarovic[8] d. Alex Fuchs[4] 6-2, 6-1
Cassius Chinlund[5] d. Stephan Gershfeld[2] 7-5, 6-4

Sebastian Bielen[WC] d. James Weber 7-6(4), 6-0
Ian Bracks[4] d. Jack Kennedy[WC] 6-4, 1-6, 6-1

Braeden Gelletich[9] d. Winston Lee[9] 6-1, 6-3
Cooper Han[9] d. Sachiv Kumar 3-6, 6-4, 6-0

Valerie Glozman[1] d. Riley Crowder[9] 6-0, 6-0
Shannon Lam d. Esha Velaga[8] 7-5, 6-1

Aspen Schuman[5] d. Maddy Zampardo[4] 6-4, 6-2
Capucine Jauffret[7] d. Tianmei Wang[2] 6-3, 6-2

Anna Frey[9] d. Claire Hill[1] 6-4, 6-2
Claire An[8] d. Kenzie Nguyen 7-5, 4-6, 6-1

Alanis Hamilton[3] d. Rachel Lee[6] 1-6, 6-4, 6-3
Leena Friedman[2] d. Campbell Ricci[9] 6-2, 6-2

Live streaming of Stadium 4 is available here.