At the 2014 ASICS Easter Bowl at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was the Boys’ 14s top-seeded player, 13-year-old Steven Sun of Glen Cove, N.Y., defeating Keenan Mayo, the second-seeded player from Roseville, Calif., 6-0, 4-6, 6-1, to capture his second Super National previously having won the 12s Clays.
“This was a lot tougher and I played better opponents,” said Sun, who overcame a semifinal match on Saturday where he was down 6-1, 3-1, but came back to win.
Another New Yorker, the third seeded Rachel Lim of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., took out unseeded Ashley Yeah of Los Gatos, Calif., 6-1, 7-6 (2) to win the Girls’ 14s. Lim trains at the USTA National Tennis Center – East in Flushing Meadows.
“It’s amazing to win the Easter Bowl,” said Lim, who lost in the Round of 16 last year. “It’s been a tiring week, but it’s a good kind of tiring.”
With his ultimate goal of winning an ASICS Easter Bowl finally complete, 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe said his focus will now turn to the junior Grand Slam events in the coming months, including the French Open and Wimbledon.
Tiafoe joined the fourth-seeded CiCi Bellis (pictured right) of Atherton, Calif., as the big ITF 18s winners as the 47th annual event ended with rave reviews from players, parents and coaches being played for the first time in Indian Wells.
The top-seeded Tiafoe of College Park, Md., nearly let an early 5-2 first-set lead slip away, and needed three sets to beat Nathan Ponwith of Scottsdale, Ariz., 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2. Bellis had an easier time beating good friend Katie Swan of Wichita, Kan., 6-3, 6-1.
“I definitely could have made that a little easier,” Tiafoe said. “I was up in the first set and we were both playing ugly tennis.”
After dropping the second set, Tiafoe was able to pull out two long games to open the third and deciding set. “The first game of the third set is always huge. Always,” Tiafoe said. “I could have easily been down 0-2, but I was up 2-0. Where would you rather be?”
Tiafoe was told by his traveling coach Frank Salazar after the match that he would move up from seventh in the ITF world junior rankings to number two, becoming the highest ranked U.S. junior in the world.
“That would be huge if I’m number two in the world,” Tiafoe said. “If I am I’d be very happy.”
Tiafoe wore a silver crown necklace a parent in College Park gave him after he won the Orange Bowl International in December, and it’s become a good luck charm.
“Some people think I’m getting a big head for it,” Tiafoe explained. “But he said ‘you’re the king now,’ and I wasn’t going to say no to it.”
Tiafoe can’t wait to get on the red clay in Paris once the French Open starts May 25.
“That’s some place, and I’m really looking forward to being there,” he said. “I’ve been watching that tournament on TV since I was 6 years old. I plan to get on the grounds early and hit with guys like Sam (Querrey), Stevie (Johnson) and Jack (Sock)."
Bellis, who sat with Swan and watched the Tiafoe-Ponwith match before they took to the court, is also looking to head to Europe for the junior Slams, as well as the Italian Open.
“I can’t wait to get on the red clay,” said Bellis. “I love it.”
The win marked the second straight ASICS Easter Bowl title for Bellis, as she won the 16s last year.
“I’m happy she won. I mean, if it was going to be anyone I’m glad it’s her," said Swan. "She’s a great player.”
John McNally (pictured left), who won the 16s at the Carson International Spring Championships last week, was victorious on his second straight Sunday, avenging a heartbreaking loss in last year’s ASICS Easter Bowl 14s final. The number nine seed from Cincinnati defeated the second-seeded Zeke Clark of Tulsa, Okla. 6-3, 7-6 (4).
McNally learned to play tennis with a balloon and a mini racquet while watching his mother Lynn Nabors McNally teach tennis lessons. Lynn was a nationally-ranked junior and played at Northwestern University at the same time as Katrina Adams, the USTA first vice president, who was on hand watching and commentating for the Tennis Channel ASICS Easter Bowl show.
In last year’s 14s final against Connor Hance, McNally let a match point slip away, up 6-4, 5-4 and 40-30.
On Sunday with McNally leading 6-3, 5-4, 40-love lead and serving, Clark was somehow able to get it back to deuce, and broke McNally to tie it up 5-all. But the big-serving McNally on his next service game was able to hold and then won the tiebreaker with the help of two big aces.
“Yeah, that was big,” he said, adding that he was clocked by the court speed gun serving 120 mph. “Just to be able to pull out this match is like a huge sigh of relief. I’m still shaking. As soon as I lost that game to make it 5-all I just I just said focus on the next game and hold serve.”
What did he think after Clark battled back to tie it up and letting three match points slip away? “I was in shock,” he said. “It was getting hard to breathe after losing those match points. I was pretty worried. But everybody has match points and blows them. I said in my interview last year that all good players bounce back after losing match points and I bounced back this year to win the title.”
Girls’ 16s top-seeded player Katerina Stewart (pictured right) of Coral Gables, Fla., did not drop a set in the tournament, beating unseeded Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks, Calif., 6-3, 6-3, in the final.
“It feels good,” Stewart said. “This is my last 16s tournament. I’ll play the 18s National Clay Courts and Hardcourts and try to get the wild card into the U.S. Open.”
Unseeded Daniel Sharygin of Newburgh, Ind., won the Boys’ 12s title with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over num,ber 16 Ronan Jachuck of Slingerlands, N.Y. Sharygin battled back from being down 5-3 and then 6-5, love-30, in the first set.
“I was extremely nervous today,” Sharygin said. Sharygin said he knew all about the history of the ASICS Easter Bowl as he is coached by Stephanie Hazlett, who won the 1995 Girls’ 16s title.
Kacie Harvey, number nine from Braintree, Mass., edged out the sixth-seeded Katie Volynets of Walnut Creek, Calif., in a nearly two-hour match that was closer than the 6-2, 6-1 Girls’ 12s final score indicated.
“She was a really good runner so I had to really be smart with my shots,” said Harvey. “I usually had to hit a few extra shots than I’m used to. This is my best tournament result. I usually lose like in the third round. My parents aren’t here, but it feels like they are because they keep texting me and calling me.”
Bellis was awarded the overall girls’ Jackie Cooper-Tory Fretz Sportsmanship Award while Ponwith won it on the boys’ side.
Boys' 18 Singles (Final Round)
►Tiafoe, Francis (1) (College Park, MD) def. Ponwith, Nathan (Scottsdale, AZ) 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2
Girls' 18 Singles (Final Round)
►Bellis, CiCi (4) (Atherton, CA) def. Swan, Katie (11) (Wichita, KS) 6-3, 6-1
Boys' 16 Singles (Final Round)
►McNally, John (9) (Cincinnati, OH) def. Clark, Zeke (2) (Tulsa, OK) 6-3, 7-6(4)
Boys' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
►Chakravarthi, Caleb (Newtown, PA) / Zhu, Evan (Greenbelt, MD) def. Vasat, Mark (Camas, WA) / Volk, Brenden (Dix Hills, NY) 8-4
Boys' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
►McNally, John (Cincinnati, OH) / Ross, Gianni (3) (Burr Ridge, IL) def. Gentry, Ty (Olympia, WA) / Kirkov, Vasil (Tampa, FL) Wo (pc)
Girls' 16 Singles (Final Round)
►Stewart, Katerina (1) (Coral Gables, FL) def. Liu, Claire (Thousand Oaks, CA) 6-3, 6-3
Girls' 16 Doubles (Final Round)
►Chang, Katie (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) / Liu, Claire (3) (Thousand Oaks, CA) def. Chiu, Abigail (Austin, TX) / Porter, Elizabeth (4) (Dallas, TX) 8-3
Girls' 16 Doubles (Playoff)
►Reami, Adriana (Miami, FL) / Stewart, Katerina (2) (Coral Gables, FL) def. Ferrari, Paulina (San Diego, CA) / Soli, Kalani (Carson, CA) 8-4
Boys' 14 Singles (Final Round)
►Sun, Steven (1) (Glen Cove, NY) def. Mayo, Keenan (2) (Roseville, CA) 6-0, 4-6, 6-1
Boys' 14 Doubles (Final Round)
►Barretto, Paul (Tiburon, CA) / Sah, Timothy (5) (San Diego, CA) def. Lin, Cody (Thousand Oaks, CA) / Perera, Kento (Santa Barbara, CA) 8-2
Boys' 14 Doubles (Playoff)
►Thomas, Danny (Pickerington, OH) / Ton, Andrew (7) (Milpitas, CA) def. Alshon, Christian (Boca Raton, FL) / Benkaim, Russell (2) (Osprey, FL) Wo (ill)
Girls' 14 Singles (Final Round)
►Lim, Rachel (3) (Briarcliff Manor, NY) def. Yeah, Ashley (Los Gatos, CA) 6-1, 7-6(2)
Girls' 14 Doubles (Final Round)
►Menguene, Malkia (College Park, MD) / Subhash, Natasha (Fairfax, VA) def. Allen, Kolie (Lombard, IL) / Kowalski, Meg (6) (La Grange, IL) 8-4
Girls' 14 Doubles (Playoff)
►Jones, Sydney (Carrollton, TX) / Reddy, Sophia (7) (Eden Prairie, MN) def. Hwang, Madison (Frisco, TX) / Kessler, McCartney (8) (Calhoun, GA) 8-3
Boys' 12 Singles (Final Round)
►Sharygin, Daniel (Newburgh, IN) def. Jachuck, Ronan (16) (Slingerlands, NY) 7-6(4), 6-2
Boys' 12 Doubles (Final Round)
►Arimilli, Nathan (Austin, TX) / Fu, Connor (2) (Andover, MA) def. Spizzirri, Eliot (Greenwich, CT) / Suarez, Billy (4) (Huntington, NY) 9-7
Boys' 12 Doubles (Playoff)
►Dostanic, Stefan (Irvine, CA) / Jachuck, Ronan (6) (Slingerlands, NY) def. Brachman, Spencer (Commack, NY) / Vallabhaneni, Niroop (7) (Paradise Valley, AZ)
Girls' 12 Singles (Final Round)
►Harvey, Kacie (9) (Braintree, MA) def. Volynets, Katie (6) (Walnut Creek, CA) 6-2, 6-1
Girls' 12 Doubles (Final Round)
►Corley, Carmen (Sandia Park, NM) / Hochstatter, Amber (Anthem, AZ) def. Harvison, Isabella (Cardiff, CA) / Taggart, Jillian (Fair Oaks, CA) 8-6
Girls' 12 Doubles (Playoff)
►Chan, Amanda (Pasadena, CA) / Volynets, Katie (2) (Walnut Creek, CA) def. Goldsmith, Elizabeth (Chula Vista, CA) / Hayer, Giulia (4) (San Diego, CA) 8-1