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Saturday, March 30, 2024

Manning, Wang and Payne Capture Titles in Early Morning Easter Bowl Finals; Collins Claims Miami Open Women's Singles Championship

©Colette Lewis 2024--
Indian Wells California--

Officials, players, coaches and families all breathed a sigh of relief Saturday morning when the last ball was struck at the FILA Easter Bowl at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, with the skies darkening and the threat of rain increasing by the minute. Those competing on the final day, who had gotten up early in the morning in an attempt to beat the rain, were walking to the parking lot when the sprinkles began around 10 a.m., with their trophies in their bags and new Easter Bowl experiences in their memory banks.

For boys 18s champion William Manning, his last junior tournament delivered his first USTA gold ball, with the 2022 16s Easter Bowl finalist defeated unseeded Ronit Karki 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

A 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman at North Carolina State, Manning reached the final of the 16s division at Indian Wells in 2022, and he brought lessons from that experience into today's final.

"Two years ago, when I played in the finals, I think I was thinking about [a gold ball] too much," said the 18-year-old from Raleigh, who didn't lose a set in his six victories. "So going into this tournament, I knew it was going to be my last USTA, so I just wanted to enjoy every single moment, have fun. I think I did a really good job of just focusing on each point and not the outcome, and that really helped me."

Manning's serve, which exceeded 125 mph several times on the show court's speed display, was reliable throughout the final, although Karki did manage to get to deuce in three separate games, two of them in the first set.

"I had my chances to break in the first set, but I couldn't quite convert," said Karki, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, who played three matches on Friday, including the doubles title, which went past 8 p.m. "But he definitely locked in and played well on all the tight points, so hats off to him for that."

Manning's first few months as a member of the Wolfpack provided him with advantages and required adjustments when he returned to junior tennis this week.

"The intense training and hitting with bigger, stronger players has really helped me," said the No. 2 seed, who trains at the Raleigh Racquet Club, also the home of 16s champion Gavin Goode. "When you're in juniors, the balls aren't coming as fast, so adjusting to that was actually a little bit difficult at the beginning, because I wasn't used to the slow ball. But then I just decided to step into the court and play bigger tennis."

Manning, who said he's added 17 or 18 mph to his serve with the five inches he's grown since 2022, will now concentrate on lower level pro tennis this summer, with his 19th birthday in July making him ineligible for the Clay Courts and Kalamazoo.

"My main focus is Futures, trying to get into those, UTR tournaments and some of the PTTs maybe as well," said Manning, who plans on celebrating his first gold ball with Goode, who won his first in singles Friday afternoon.

Karki, who played three straight weeks, competing in the Indian Wells ITF J300, the San Diego ITF J300 and this week, is going to take some well-earned time off next month.

"I've played a lot of tournaments lately, so I'll probably just rest and go on a training block right now," said Karki, who trains at the Gooding Todero Academy in Orlando. "I'm looking forward to learning from this final and work on the things I want to work on."

While Manning earned his first gold ball, girls 18s champion Tianmei Wang collected her third, adding to those she won at the January 2023 18s Winter Nationals and 2021 14s Clay Courts when she defeated fellow No. 9 seed Daniela Borruel 6-4, 6-0.

Like Manning, Wang didn't drop a set in her six victories, posting five 6-0 sets; unlike Manning, it was not her serve, but her groundstrokes that did most of the damage throughout the event.

Wang admitted to being nervous to start, and although the first set began with four consecutive breaks, every game was full of lengthy rallies, with Borruel holding another deuce game for a 4-3 lead.  Wang saved a break point in her next service game and that sent her on a nine-game run to the championship.

"I was playing a little bit tight and she was pouncing on the short balls and I felt I was letting a lot of opportunities go, because I was a little nervous," said Wang, who turned 17 last week. "At 3-4, I told myself to get on the baseline, take the ball early and to run, because at the beginning my feet were kind of stuck to the ground."

Borruel had played for over three hours in her semifinal win over No. 2 seed Addison Lanton Friday afternoon, but didn't think that was responsible for her loss.

"I've had a lot of matches that have gone three hours in this tournament, so I'm kind of used to it," said the 17-year-old from Buena Park, who has played Wang often in Southern California sectional tournaments. "I was trying to stay with it, stick with it all the way through, but I don't think it had a significant impact on how I played."

Borruel, a high school junior who has verbally committed to USC for 2025, plans to play hard courts this year, but doesn't compete as much as the juniors who are enrolled in online school.

"I haven't been playing tournaments as much, because I go to public school, so I have to manage my schedule a lot more, but I'm going to try to play as much as I can and I think I'll play more women's ITFs," said Borruel, who was an Easter Bowl finalist in the 12s in 2019. 

"I always looked back at 12s, where I got to the finals of both doubles and singles, and I was like, oh man that was such a great tournament," said Borruel, who has been coached by her mother for years, but now has David Garcia helping her as well. "And now I have something new and different to remember the Easter Bowl by. It's a good way to remember that I'm still here, still developing my tennis."

Wang, who also attends regular school and has committed to Harvard for 2025, went out in the first round, to eventual champion Valerie Glozman, in the ITF J300 two weeks ago here in Indian Wells and lost in the second round of the ITF J300 in San Diego last week to Aspen Schuman.

"I think playing the ITFs before this really gave me a perspective on what level top players play at," said Wang, who is coached by former USC star and 1996 NCAA singles champion Cecil Mamiit in Burbank. "I try to channel what Valerie and Aspen did and I learned a lot from those matches."

Wang is considering competing at the Clay Courts in July, feeling the surface suits her game, and the Hard Courts in San Diego, where she had her best result in the Easter Bowl.

"When I was in 14s I got third, but that was the year it was held at Barnes(2021, due to the pandemic)," Wang said. "I usually play way better at Barnes."

While three of the four singles champions in the 12s and 14s also won the doubles title at the Easter Bowl, just one of the four in the 16s and 18s accomplished that feat: top seed Bella Payne.

Payne defeated No. 5 seed Isabelle DeLuccia 7-5, 6-0, after letting a 5-2 lead slip away in the first set, closing out the championship by winning the final eight games.

"I started playing less aggressive, hitting the ball a little shorter and giving her an opportunity to step in and rip it," said Payne, who didn't get to set point in her 5-2 service game and hit a drop shot wide on her one set point at 5-4. "She also started playing much better, hitting winners and taking control."

Down 15-40 in DeLuccia's 5-6 service game, Payne fought back to take the game and was able to close out the set on her third opportunity.

The second set went quickly, with DeLuccia attributing Payne's run to the pressure she was under.

"I had to play pretty perfectly, otherwise she would come in and take it, just rip the ball, said the 15-year-old New Jersey resident, who trains at the Garden State Tennis Center. "I had to go for a lot, and I just ended up making more errors than she did."

Payne, a left-hander who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, will be 17 in September, so she has the option of competing in the 16s at the Hard Courts in San Diego in August, and is leaning toward that, rather than the 18s. DeLuccia is also expecting to play the 16s as well.

After her recent run at USTA Level 1s, claiming the title at the USTA Winter Nationals in January, and sweeping singles and doubles here, Payne needed a minute to count up the number of gold balls she has earned in her junior career.

"Gold? Seven?" Payne said, not entirely confidently, but thrilled to have added two more to her total this week. "I definitely got a lot better as the week went on;  I think the conditions got easier to play in, the wind, and I got used to it and was able to read it a lot better."

For more on the boys 16s singles final and all four doubles finals, played Friday due to the forecast for rain Saturday, see my post from last night.

Complete results from 1-6 in singles and 1-4 in doubles here:

Singles Finals

B12s: Jiarui Zhang[2] d. Nathan Lee 6-2, 7-5

B14s: Andrew Johnson[2] d. Izyan Ahmad[4] 6-0, 6-2

B16s: Gavin Goode[2] d. Gus Grumet[1] 6-2, 6-1

B18s: William Manning[2] d. Ronit Karki 6-4, 6-1

G12s: Nikol Davletshina[1] d. Savannah Schmitz[9] 6-2, 6-2

G14s: Raya Kotseva[6] d. Anjani Vickneswaran[3] 6-0, 7-5

G16s: Bella Payne[1] d. Isabelle DeLuccia[5] 7-5, 6-0

G18s: Tianmei Wang[9] d. Daniela Borruel[9] 6-4, 6-0

3rd Place Matches

B12s: Rex Kulman[3] d. James Borchard[5] 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(6)

B14s: Safir Azam[1] d. Akshay Mirmira[7] 6-3, 6-0

B16s: Lukas Phimvongsa[3] d. Andrew Li Wo [inj]

B18s: Saahith Jayaraman[8] d. Jack Satterfield Wo [pc]

G12s: Nadia Poznick[2] d. Isabelle Nguyen 6-1, 6-0

G14s: Julia Seversen d. Kingsley Wolf 6-0, 6-2

G16s: Ava Rodriguez[9] d. Ellery Mendell 6-1, 6-2

G18s: Claire Hill[5] d. Addison Lanton[2] 5-7, 6-4, 6-1

Consolation Finals

B12s: Alexander Anderson[9] d. Daniel Gardality[4] 6-3, 4-6, [10-7]

B14s: Tabb Tuck[9] d. Luca Sevim[9] 6-4, 6-4

B16s: Liam Alvarez d. Vihaan Reddy 6-3, 6-3

B18s: Ian Bracks d. Callum Markowitz[9] 6-4, 6-3

G12s: Tanvi Pandey[9] d. Sophia Khomoutov[9] 6-0, 6-2

G14s: Reiley Rhodes[1] d. Boating Xu[8] 6-3, 6-7(5), [10-5]

G16s: Sena Yoon d. Carrie-Ann Hoo[6] 5-7, 6-3, [10-4]

G18s: Avery Nguyen[6] d. Sophia Webster 2-6, 7-5, [10-4]

Doubles Finals

B12s: James Borchard & Taiki Bortolin[1] d. Daniel Gardality & Andy Wu[2] 6-4, 6-2

B14s: Andrew Johnson & Izyan Ahmad[1] d. Gadin Arun & Paxton Au[3] 6-1, 6-1

B16s: Tyler Lee & Brayden Tallakson d. Adrien Abarca & Justin Riley Anson[5] 6-3, 6-3

B18s: Ronit Karki & Jack Satterfield[5] d. Krish Gupta & Rithvik Katpelly 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-5

G12s: Isha Manchala & Nikol Davletshina[1] d. Audrey Dussault & Olivia Lin 6-4, 7-5

G14s: Raya Kotseva & Jordyn Hazelitt[4] d. Shaya Jovanovic & Julia Seversen[3] 6-4, 6-2

G16s: Bella Payne & Ava Rodriguez[2] d. Zimora McKnight & Anna Bugiaenko 6-4, 6-2

G18s: Sophia Webster & Olivia Center[5] d. Maren Urata & Sabrina Lin[5] 6-1, 3-6, 7-5

Doubles 3rd Place

B12s: Ashton Morey & Jason Zhao[3] d. Tanmay Konduri & Smyan Thuta[5] 1-6, 6-0, 6-2

B14s: Kahven Singh & Ryan Corcoran[4] d. Tabb Tuck & Arjun Krishnan 6-3, 6-0

B16s: Joseph Nau & Bryan Assi d. James Quattro & Yashwin Krishnakumar[5] 6-1, 7-6(4)

B18s: Cassius Chinlund & Dylan Jaen[5] d. John Cross & Niels Hoffmann 6-3, 6-0

G12s: Sophia Khomoutov & Tanvi Pandey d. Wendy Fan & Reena Alavalapati[4] 6-2, 6-2

G14s: Raina Kim & Madeleine Bridges[1] d. Bella Arwood & Reiley Rhodes 7-6(2), 6-3

G16s: Calla McGill & Georgia Kulevich[5] d. JoAnna Kennedy & Alyson Shannon[3] 7-5, 6-4

G18s: Katiana Gonzalez & Lani Brotman d. Kenzie Nguyen & Emily Deming 6-2, 6-1

Danielle Collins, who announced at the Australian Open that this would be her final year on tour, won her first WTA Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open in her home state. The 2014 and 2016 NCAA champion while competing for the University of Virginia, the 30-year-old Floridian is the lowest-ranked woman to ever win a Miami Open title. For more on her 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina in today's final, see this article.